The last few weeks have been so busy and exhausting. Every single day we had multiple things going on and a whole bunch of commitments seemed to land on the same few days. Thankfully, we had booked a trip to the Peak District a while ago and I needed the break so much! Outside the hotel, there was little to no reception and not having to check emails or texts was so relaxing. I always love staying in a hotel but it is even nicer with kids, breakfast, laundry and dinner are all dealt with by someone else-bliss!
The main reason we visited the area was to see Chatsworth House. I have always wanted to visit after reading about the house and seeing it so many films.
I was so proud of the babies. We went into the house but Sam and I were ready to take them out if they got bored, especially Harry. As it was, we got to spend well over an hour viewing the house! Leila loved the 'princess' bedrooms and getting to choose a postcard after! I'd love to go back and get a guided tour, the snippets I caught as I passed through were fascinating.
Family time is the very best. They were so thrilled to have TWO extra days with daddy. Neither of them could get enough cuddles or stories from him!
The weather was glorious so we had a picnic by the cascade. The weather was so lovely that we got to see most of the grounds, which the kids loved. Leila loved climbing up the rock garden and Harry was delighted by the 'falfas' (flowers). The house and gardens were beautiful and I love how they've made a huge, costly house work as a thriving business.
After such a busy day, they both fell asleep in the car so Sam and I went for a long drive all through the peak district. We managed to see Eyam and Bakewell, and would love to go back to explore more about Eyam's history. The scenery as we drove was stunning and it was hard to believe that it was only a few hours away from London.
The kids loved our hotel. We had dinner there after Chatsworth but breakfast each morning was their favourite by a long shot! They loved just ordering whatever they wanted (Harry is especially fond of French toast) and getting waited on. We haven't been away as a family for a year and it was crazy to see the difference in them and how much easier travelling is now. They were so well-behaved the whole time, polite in the restaurant and patient with the wait for breakfast and dinner. We had a family suite but we were worried that they'd be distracted by us in the room, actually they went to bed fine and Sam and I were able to watch movies and TV without any hassle.
The next day we went to Ilam and Dovedale. I remembered this so well from visiting my grandparents and it was great to take the kids to visit. We had a lovely lunch by the river and a nice walk down to the stepping stones.
We stopped at Ilam Hall from an ice-cream too and had a little walk around the village and church. It was the loveliest mini-holiday and so relaxing. I would love to go back and do the northern part of the Peak District as it is just so beautiful.
2014 is going down in the record books as the fastest year of all time. At my volunteer job, we have already produced and distributed all the brochures for the rest of 2014. I've been writing about the Christmas pantomime and seeing what's planned for 2015. It is scary how quickly time is passing, the summer holidays haven't even started but already I'm booking things into the diary for December. Leila's friends are already planning their birthday parties for the beginning of the autumn term and a lot of her close friends, born before September, are getting their uniform together for starting school. Leila and Harry seem like they are growing taller and smarter every day. Leila was walking up the road in front of me the other day and she looked SO grown-up, with her bag and her confident stride. At our school sale on Friday, my friend got this picture of Harry and her own toddler peering into the school while their big siblings and friends peered back. Next September, Harry will be on the other side of that door and it will be me lying on the floor desperate to see what they're doing!!
I've talked before about how much Albi loves Leila and this picture just expresses how much they adore each other. So beautiful. I want to get this framed for her room so that when she grows up, she'll remember her first pet and how much he loved his girl.
She is such a little mummy, always telling Harry what to do and not to do! We cross a tiny park between Leila's pool and the car park and on Friday she was insisting they hold hands in case it was dangerous. He is more obedient with her than me, and held on! I could look at those little clasped hands forever.
Yesterday we went to the Buckinhamshire Railway to visit Thomas the Tank Engine! Mum saw the event advertised and got us tickets. We had such a fun day, despite the torrential rain! We got to ride on Thomas himself which the kids thought was 'mazing!', a turn on a miniature railway, a Thomas film and Leila got her face painted.
They loved going on the steam train and waving at the other visitors. They are so awed by everything that taking them anywhere is so much fun. Sam teases me because I want them to 'believe' for as long as possible. Leila is always telling me about the fairies she sees, they discuss what Santa will make for them and are so trusting. They have decades ahead of them to be cynical so I am going to encourage make-believe for as long as I can!
At around 1pm, Harry was starting to twist his hair (a sure sign of tiredness) so we left to go get lunch at Leila's 'favourite restaurant, Obbadonalds'. They both dozed off in the car home and were so excited to tell Daddy all about their day out when they got home.
Blogging has kind of slipped down the priority list at the moment. Harry had his induction for preschool this week (weeps) so I have been making the most of the precious mornings we have left to have some mummy-Harry coffee and cake dates. Leila is completing her first year of preschool and goes for a stay-and-play session at 'big girl' preschool next week. We have an end of year bake sale, our first sports day and a mini-holiday all coming up in the next few weeks.
The summer has been glorious so far and suddenly, the babies are not babies, and going out is much easier than it used to be. We got a new car with a gigantic boot (hurrah!) and we've been loading up the bike and Albi most Sundays and setting off for walks in the sunshine.
After a few busy years of new babies and new homes, it feels good to be settled into our home and life here. The house is (mostly) how we want it, we have incredibly good friends who live only seconds away and the babies are growing into adorable, kind and loving children.
Years at my wonderful, ambitious school taught me to strive for an exciting, dramatic life but every decision we make as a family leads us towards something different. I like the routine of an early morning walk with Albi, I like that a date night with Sam involves a lemonade and watching the sunset from St Marys on the hill. I am surprised to find myself living the calm life but it suits me just fine.
What a crazy weekend! On Saturday, Leila went to football in her kit for the first time-she is getting better at football every week. Not only is she the only girl on the team but the newest member so sometimes they play a new game that she doesn't know yet. However, the other parents are all so enoucraging and she always gets a big cheer when she finally scores her goal. One dad commented that she looks like she is riding her invisible unicorn because she gallops around, beaming and waving like a queen....my princess footballer!
Sam took Harry for a haircut too in the morning, he went with a baby...
....and came back with a little boy. He looks about two years older suddenly! It was a new barber who cut it much shorter and I have to admit that I wasn't hugely impressed at first. I miss stroking those baby curls and watching him twist his hair as he falls asleep but it is nice getting to kiss more of that little head and neck.
On Sunday, we had such a great day out for Father's Day. We went into Covent Garden to visit the London Transport Museum and then for lunch at Wahaca.
The best daddy in the world with the most gorgeous children.
The kids loved the exhibits and all the things they could climb on. It was a very 'kid friendly' museum but there was lots for adults too. The tickets give you free entry for a year and so I'll definitely be heading back with the kids before Christmas!
Leila was so excited for 'Father's Day' and was so proud of the lovely card she'd made at preschool. Both kids painted him a lovely birds house as his gift, Harry tried to paint his half completely black so Leila and I had to 'cheer' it up a bit later by adding some white polka dots over the black.
The kids loved climbing into all the cars and trains and 'driving' them. Sometimes I get a glimpse of how the kids will look in the future-seeing Leila behind the wheel showed me EXACTLY what she'll look like in her first car.
It was so great seeing the old trains and buses. Depressingly, I remembered some of the carriages from my childhood! The carriage below was my favourite though, an old Metropolitan line train with individual booths in the carriages and a women's only carriage.
Harry with his huge lunch!
He eyed it up, issued himself a silent challenge and then demolished the whole thing.
We had such a lovely day out celebrating Sam. Dad is in France and Eric in Spain at the moment so we couldn't celebrate with them but I hope they both had a lovely Father's Day too.
After Harry's birthday, both kids came down with a nasty cold so we spent most of half-term snuggling up, blowing noses and watching it rain. Luckily, the weather improved as they got better and we've had a few nice days lately. On Saturday, Sam did his second triathlon and did so well. He completed in the top 10% so he is very happy! Since I couldn't go along to watch, he 'treated' me to a sneak preview of himself in his wetsuit. Dashing :)
Luckily the Mentzers were able to go and cheer him on as well as Jade (since James was racing too) so I had lots of people to keep me updated as to his progress. The rain was so heavy while he was in the water, I was happy to hear that he was out safely. I am so proud of him for completing the triathlon, with such a demanding job and two kids, I have no idea where he finds the energy to train as hard as he does!
Bar the rain storm on Saturday, we have spent most of our time lately outside enjoying the sun. They both love being in the garden, playing with the slide and sandpit or walking around 'watering' flowers or drawing on the easel chalkboard. We have two UK holidays planned for the summer, so I am hoping that we get a repeat of last year and can make the most of the gorgeous English countryside.
Harry's birthday present was installed at grandma and grandad's and has gone down a treat! Mum and dad had the kids for a night recently, which gave Sam and I some much needed time to get to work DIYing in the house. We have a friend coming to stay for a few weeks in autumn and although I am mostly satisfied with the house, there are few things I want to complete by the end of summer. I love having people to stay and it is such a good incentive for getting jobs done. We are doing up the bathroom as it was in a terrible state, although we are currently in that awkward in-between stage where we have ripped out the cabinet and shelves but not replaced them yet, so the shower is full of all our products and shower gels. We will get there eventually!
Our early morning walks with Albi have been lovely in the recent weather. As much as I love the winter season, I will be sorry when our dawn walks become dark, wet and cold again! He looks so happy when he is running in the sunshine, you can practically see his smile.
I am so looking forward to this summer as we have so much fun planned!
On Sunday, my precious little boy turned two years old! It was so strange giving him a bath and cuddle before bed on Saturday, knowing it was his last night as a one year old. These past two years have gone SO quickly. On Sunday morning we had pancakes for breakfast and Harry got to open all his presents-with some help from Leila!
We planned a very small party for Sunday afternoon with just a few friends and family. I had a little car theme since Harry loves cars at the moment and it was such an easy theme to have since we already have so many car toys and games. As with every party, I am so grateful to Margaret for getting all these wonderful pictures. Sam and I are the worst at remembering to take photos, and without Margaret I wouldn't have a single party photo. Thank you so much!
I got loads of inspiration from pinterest and just made up the rest. I bought way too much food but better too much than too little, plus the kids are loving all the junk food leftovers!
We were so lucky with the weather and it turned out to be the perfect day for a party. It was so warm and it meant the children could play outside. We considered getting an entertainer but I know Harry would get bored after a few minutes so I thought we'd just put out plenty of toys and games.
The sandpit was a huge hit! Harry is a budding gardener and loves to help me water the flowers so mum and dad got him some baby gardening tools, which came in handy for the sandpit during the party! The kids loved using the watering can and sieve.
Harry ate more sugar in one day than he's eating in the past two years. He sat there mooching chocolate muffins from everyone-he was having the best time!
Gorgeous boy-how is he two!?
Poor Leila came down with the worst cold. Her poor nose and eyes were just streaming. Luckily she was able to have a little nap on Sunday morning (unheard of for Leila!) and she was such a good girl at the party considering how poorly she felt. Even with a terrible cold, she is just too beautiful.
Sam did some last minute work on the garden on Sunday morning. While at Homebase, he bought some skittles, which turned out to be the kids favourite party game.
Harry loved all the cars he got as presents. He got the car above from his Nan and Pops, it drives by itself , has working headlights and plays music so I think its safe to say he's in love.
It was such a nice afternoon. We have been so lucky to meet some really kind and warm people in our area and spending time with them is always so fun and relaxing. They were all so good at looking after each other's kids (I think by the end of the party, every adult had a tissue specifically for wiping Leila's nose) and it is so lovely to know that so many of Leila's friends will be going into 'big girl' preschool in September with her.
Mum and dad were such stars. Mum came early to help set up while Dad babysat the dogs and then mum stuck around to help tidy after too. It was so nice to have them there, quietly rinsing out dishes or helping the kids and just getting on with things.
I have such an issue ordering cakes. I always assume everyone will eat about twelve slices and then we end up eating cake for a month. Luckily our favourite bakery never fails and even four days into this cake, I am still LOVING it.
On the way out, the kids got a traffic light party bag. We were so happy to have everyone there to celebrate our darling boy's birthday!