time flies when you're being a mum

2015 - the year we saw all the castles in Northumberland and here they are!

11 Jan, 2016

A year ago today I started a challenge; The castle challenge, where I aimed to see all the castles in Northumberland with Reuben and anyone else who cared to join us.

The Castle Challenge - the year we saw all 40 of the Northumberland Castles

Over the year, Reuben and I, and our motley crew of friends, family and people we didn’t know, visited over 40 castles. We saw all 20 of the “true” castles, which, according to my book/castle bible, Castle of Northumberland, “are the great medieval fortresses of the Norman Barons and their descendants.” We also saw another 20 of the castles, such as Aydon, which were fortified houses, manor houses, and follies.

Oh my, the fun we have had! (more…)

19 comments.

My favourite bits from 2015

31 Dec, 2015

It’s the last day of 2015 and while we’re are up in the Alps learning to Ski (more on that to come), all this fresh air has had me contemplating the last year and my journey in Parenthood.

Top 5 parenthood highlights - Skiing in Serre Chevalier in our Protest Gear

Reuben turned 3 in August and is developing into quite the cheeky chap. In fact he has tested me to my limits this year!

He’s also been the best and cutest company I could ever hope for.

Top 5 parenthood highlights - on the beach at Druridge Bay

So, here are my top 5 moments in Parenthood for 2015.

Starting preschool

We moved house in February, which meant a total change in childcare. Up until this point Reuben had been going to my next-door neighbour, who is a child minder, for 2 days a week.

Top 5 parenthood highlights - moving house and starting Pre-school

Breakfast in our new kitchen

I tend to rely on childcare experts quite heavily for advice and reassurance as I think my natural instinct for knowing what to do with my children is a bit broken! So, I was very close with my neighbour and would call her if anything seemed even a little wrong with Reuben.

After the move, he started at a local pre-school – lots of children his own age and a complete change for him from being the centre of the world! He would have to learn to share.

Top 5 parenthood highlights - starting Pre-school

Reuben’s new peg

It’s been great for him. I really like all of his ‘lady teachers’, as he called them today, they are such naturals with childcare. So calm, reassuring and full of fun ideas. He also loves his new friends – it took a little while for him to fit in as he was one of the youngest, plus he is incredibly forceful with his opinion of how things should be done… and, worst of all, he’s a biter. Which I’ll come to in a minute.

It’s also been lovely for me as I’ve finally made some local mum friends! It was quite isolating in Blyth as I didn’t know anyone. Here I have friends. Real friends who live near me! It took a few months to meet my crowd but it’s quite a change that I’m really enjoying.

Potty Training

I wanted to pretend that potty training didn’t exist. However, as Reuben approached his 3rd year I started to feel the pang of guilt mixed with not wanting to feel judged; Probably not the best place to come from when you’re trying to introduce a totally new concept to your child. You both kind of need to be in a happy place, surely?!

Well, I’m not sure you will ever be in that perfect place when it comes to potty training and despite reading a book and getting a LOT of advice on the subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right way to do it.

Oh, and I’ve realized it really isn’t that bad.

I basically decided on the 1st day of the Summer Holidays that he wouldn’t wear nappies at home. For the most part, he got the hang of it. There were jubilant moments where he announced with gusto a wee in the middle of the floor, but over time that stopped.

However, it took a full month until I was ready to take him out the house without a nappy. It was always the wrong time – we were driving a long way, we were out all day, etc.

It was actually his nursery that pushed me to commit. So one day in the new term, that’s just what we did. I packed 5 changes of clothes and they all came back wet, but they were happy with him and felt he was ready. The next day he came back with 2 wet trousers, and the next day 1. Within a week he was dry all day.

I think for me, I just needed that external support and reassurance from his school, so I’m really thankful to them for that.

The biggest surprise was nighttime. From that very first day at nursery he has been dry overnight. I had no idea. I expected him to need pull-ups overnight for years. He may well have a relapse, what do I know?! But so far so good, touch wood!

Top 5 parenthood highlights

Getting over the biting Phase

Now, I thought we were over this having had a good month or two without incident but there was a relapse on the last week of term. Gutted doesn’t cover it.

I’m not really sure how it started. He did get bitten once at school but I don’t think I can really blame that – either way, finding out your son is a little thug biting kids is mortifying.

I had a conversation with one mum to apologise – she told me it was a really bad bite but not to worry as long as it doesn’t happen again. He wasn’t even 3 at this point so I didn’t know what I was going to do. I figured cry and then see if I can come up with something.

Top 5 parenthood highlights - getting over the biting phase

In the end, what seemed to work was every morning I would say to Reuben the following…

“If anyone makes you cross or won’t share a toy, you must go and tell a grown up {I listed their names to be sure}. Do not bite them, you must be kind to your friends OK? Deal?”

“Deal,” he’d say and we’d shake on it.

It had worked so I stopped saying it. I think the relapse was partly due to the run up to Christmas being bonkers for children. But I’ll be giving him my little talk in the New Year, just to be on the safe side.

Learning to swim

Top 5 parenthood highlights - learning to swim at the Holiday Village in Tenerife

Over the summer and Reuben’s 3rd Birthday we went to Tenerife for 10 days and spent every afternoon in the pool.

From day 1 Reuben was throwing himself in and I had to catch him. Thank god for waterproof mascara.

He’d never worn goggles before and once he had put them on, he got a surge of confidence and I was able to move further and further away.

He can now swim about half the width of the pool but he’s not quite got the knack of breathing so if you go too far he gets very cross with you! I think with some lessons in the New Year, he’ll be a fully-fledged swimmer.

Northumberland Castles

In 2015 we took on the challenge to see all the castles in Northumberland. We saw all 40 castles; all 20 of the ‘true’ castles and a further 20 of the other castles (houses that were made to look like castles!).

Top 5 parenthood highlights - Northumberland Castles Challenge, Morpeth Castle in December

Morpeth Castle in December – our 40th Castle

I wrote an article for the Huffington Post about the motivation behind the challenge, but basically I had a bit of anxiety about going out with Reuben on our days together, so I wanted a project that would get us out of the house and doing something fun in our beautiful county.

Top 5 parenthood highlights - Northumberland Castles Challenge, Edlingham Castle in February

It has been an absolute blast and such a fun thing to do with my boy and our friends. I just need to quickly think of a new challenge for next year…only 8 months until he starts school!!!

Those are my 2015 highlights in parenthood, what are yours?!

I’d love to hear in the comments below or come and join the conversation on the Mums’ Days Facebook Page

6 comments.

Northumberland Castles Challenge

22 Dec, 2015

Well. That’s it. It’s all over! Morpeth Castle was the last of 40 Northumberland Castles that Reuben and I will visit this year.

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

I feel quite emotional about it. 40 castles?!

Before I go on a massive gush about all the castles we’ve visited, what it’s taught me, my favourite bits, my least favourite bits and my wonderful family and friends who have come on the journey with us…I want to share our final castle in a bit more detail because it was quite frankly a real bonza!

Morpeth Castle

The biggest difference between Morpeth Castle and all the other ones we’ve visited is that it is, for all intents and purposes, a holiday cottage! It has been excellently renovated and is now leased from the Council and run by the Landmark Trust.

So, on Friday afternoon, we set off at 3pm to get there at 4pm (which is the earliest  you can check in). Unfortunately this meant that we were finding a castle, hidden in a housing estate, with a postcode that sends you to the wrong place, in the dark…but once we did find it up a secret winding cobbled path, it was really exciting! This huge castle appearing like magic, looming dark and large over us.

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

This was actually at sunrise…imagine this appearing but in the dark!

After a bit more fumbling in the dark to find the key, we explored our home for the weekend.

With 3 stories, the first floor has a kitchen and living space, with a large dining room table and seating area for lots of guests. Then there is a double room and twin on the middle floor and another twin and a single room on the top floor.

Gabby decided she would share with Reuben on the middle floor in the room next to us. I didn’t blame her…it was kind of creepy arriving in the dark like that. I don’t think Morpeth Castle is meant to be haunted…but let’s say you could certainly feel the history!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

The next morning in eerily warm temperatures, we explored the grounds in the daylight and did lots of playing hide and seek!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

Gabby working on her photography skills!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

Mike calling out of the window to see who wants what for breakfast. From a castle. Like you do.

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

The castle is right in the middle of Morpeth but I had never noticed it as it’s pretty much hidden in a forrest.

It’s a short walk down the hill to Carlisle Park, which has some lovely facilities for kids, the Railway Station and the town centre for shopping. So we nipped to the shops to stock up for our many guests who would be coming for a mini-celebration for the end of our Castle Challenge.

First up were Emily and Beau, and Cath with Isabella and Baby Sam. They arrived just in time for lunch, more hide and seek and a trip to the roof (which is a bit terrifying with little ones)!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

You wouldn’t think it was December – look at those t-shirts!!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

After all that excitement, the mums needed a rest with a cuppa. However, there was something about the castle that made all three our of toddlers go a bit bonkers, so after some running around and screaming, we decided it was time to bring out the iPad for 5 minutes rest before they had to back off home.

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

After dinner, my parents and Brother arrived with their 2 big dogs for the night. As there was no TV (much to Gabby’s surprise!) I had instructed my parents to bring games. So for the rest of the evening we played mini pool, indoor boules and the dreaded Monopoly! Gabriella now LOVES monopoly.

The next morning we did another swap over – my parents left and my older brother, who had just arrived  from Japan to spent Christmas in the UK, arrived with his family!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

My Brother with my Newphew, Rowan – an expert photo taken by Reuben!

We spent another lovely afternoon exploring the grounds with them and cooking up a feast in the kitchen. And yet more Monopoly!

The next morning we had the most wonderful sunrise, so I got myself out to get a few more photos (the two photos at the top of this post were taken then). The sky went from the deepest pink to the brightest orange in a matter of minutes. Really spectacular.

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

Then after a few more cuddles with these two, we had to set about tidying up for our 10am kick out time!

Morpeth Castle, Northumberland Castles Challenge. Castle number 40 of a year of castle hunting!

Such a fabulous weekend and an amazing way to finish off a year of castle hunting with my darling boy, family and friends!

I’m planning on doing a bit of an epic round up of all our visits between now and the New Year, it may take some time but it’ll be worth it. What a year!

I’m linking up with Em and Aby for Point and Shoot.

9 comments.

Our misty half term trip to Holy Island, Lindisfarne Castle and Bamburgh Castle - Plus Regatta competition for the whole family!

04 Nov, 2015

Halfterm meant only one thing in the Mums’ Days household – castle hunting! Cue eye rolling from Gabriella who really does think she’s had enough (despite loving them while we’re there!). And our destination this time was up the Northumberland Coast to Bamburgh Castle and, on Holy Island, the National Trust’s Lindisfarne Castle. The weather was terrible, but because we had our wonderful Regatta jackets it really didn’t matter.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes, right?! If you would like to win jackets for your family, please scroll down to the bottom of this (rather epic) post!

Coast and Castles

This is what Bamburgh Castle and Lindisfarne Castle look like on a good day…

Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castles (more…)

24 comments.

20 Oct, 2015

Our Northumberland Castle Challenge has finally brought us to Alnwick Castle, arguably the most famous of the Northumberland Castles, not least for it’s roles in the Harry Potter films as Hogwarts and the Downton Abbey Christmas special as Brancaster Castle!

The home of the Percy family for over 700 years, one of the largest inhabited castles in the UK. There has been a castle on this site for over 1000 years, it was the birthplace of England’s most famous knight, Harry Hotsper, and even one of Anne Boleyn’s lovers was a Percy (you can read more of the family’s rich history here). This castle promised to be a good one.

Alnwick Castle - 5 reasons your kids will love it (where Harry Potter was filmed!)

Last Friday Reuben and I joined Emily and Beau, and Cath, Isabella and baby Sam up in Alnwick. Once the kids had donned their regatta puddle suits (which got no less than 3 compliments!) we set off. While it was a grey and drizzly day, it was loads of fun and here’s why… (more…)

21 comments.

Next Page »