I’VE set myself a few challenges for 2017 – for myself, for us as a family and for my blog. One of these is to try and be more consistent with what and when I post here. To try and help this along, one of the things I plan to do is join in with
AFTER nearly six months I feel like I’m finally getting into the swing of getting out of the house with two little people – and even being spontaneous. For a while I only went places with both Santi and Ezra if Stew was with us or if we were meeting friends so I wasn’t alone. It was a confidence thing – I was worried I would struggle with both boys on my own, and felt that I needed someone else with us as back-up.
Even little things like getting from the house to the car are a mission when you have a toddler, baby in a car seat, pram and changing bag with what seems like a month’s worth of things. Staying at home is definitely the easier option.
Recently though, I’ve been making sure we get out and about just the three of us. It’s a combination of knowing I’ll be back in work soon and don’t want to regret not making the most of my time with the boys while they’re so small, and that once winter sets in properly we won’t have much chance to be outside.
Santi goes to nursery two days a week, and when I pick him up we only have an hour or so before we have to fetch Stew from work. It can be difficult thinking of something to do to pass the time, and we usually end up just coming home and watching some TV before heading out in the car again, which is such a waste. Anyone with a toddler will tell you that being stuck indoors will just drive you crazy, and we’ve had a run of dry, sunny days recently, so it’s been lovely to wrap up warm and go for a little walk instead of coming home. It’s really nice picking Santi up and asking him where he’d like to go, rather than what programme he’d like to watch.
A little while ago I would have been too nervous to do that – being outnumbered by children is daunting, to say the least. Now though, I’ve worked out how to get us all from the car to the park with no drama (the key is putting Ezra in the pram first while Santi is still in his car seat so he can’t run off!) and because it starts to get dark by 4.30pm Santi knows when it’s time to leave and doesn’t make a fuss about wanting to stay longer.
I’m lucky that Ezra is such a content baby and he’s happy to sit and watch while we play. There’s a lovely new play area at the park we go to, and Santi loves pretending to be pirates on the wooden ship. Ok, so he did once slip under the fence into the old park, which was being refurbished, but that shows his adventurous spirit, right?!
I take some snacks and a drink to tide us over until tea time, and would usually panic a bit if I forgot something. One day last week I didn’t pack Santi’s juice bottle and he started to complain that he was thirsty. Rather than abandoning our plans, we popped through the McDonald’s drive-thru for a Fruit Shoot and a Diet Coke … crisis averted! Santi now thinks McDonald’s is an emergency drinks shop, so nobody let on that they sell chips or we’ll never be able to drive past again. It’s not something I’ll make a habit of, although I have discovered their Christmas coffees, which could be dangerous.
I’ve also been a bit braver recently on full days when I have the two boys on my own. We would usually spend an hour or so at a soft play place and the rest of the day at home. But again, knowing how dark and cold the days will soon be I’ve been keen to get out while we can.
It’s funny how when you have two children you realise how easy life was with just the one and I do wonder now why I wasn’t more confident to do things with Santi before Ezra was born. You live and learn I guess. Having said that, I’m still only brave enough to venture to enclosed places where I know Santi can’t run too far ahead and we only have a short walk from the car, but that’s a start.
One day last week we spontaneously popped to the wetlands centre. I say popped, but we ended up staying for nearly four hours! We fed the ducks, followed the Lego trail through the grounds and even sat in the cafe for a drink and a biscuit. I wouldn’t usually attempt a hot drink because you never know how long Santi will sit still for, but it was so nice having a chat with him about the Christmas decorations the staff were putting up and what ducks we had seen (luckily they do takeaway cups so I wouldn’t waste my coffee if he decided to make a break for it!).
The sun was low in the sky and cast a beautiful light over the grounds – perfect for me to take far too many photos and annoy Santi with the camera the whole way around. There was hardly anyone else there and Ezra fell asleep in the pram so it was nice to have some one-on-one time with my biggest boy. He’s so funny – he started off saying he was scared of the geese (they are nearly the same size as him, so it’s fair enough), but it wasn’t long before he was racing them and telling them off for not coming through the gates with us.
It might sound daft, but I was quite proud of myself for spending so long out of the house just the three of us with no major mishaps … just the one little incident where a certain toddler ran off with a huge cylinder from the soft play area, which he abandoned in the shop in favour of a duck-shaped lollipop, but I’ll let that one lie…
FROM the minute the plane touched down at Nice Airport I became obsessed with the light in the Provence Alps Cote D’Azur region. The sun cast the most beautiful glow, especially during the early morning and late afternoon, so landing at 5pm was perfect timing. I think I drove Stew a bit mad as he tried to navigate his way through the French countryside to our Eurocamp site and I kept harping on about the light coming through the trees and how pretty it was. But honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it – it was stunning – and my rambling about it lasted the whole week of our Eurocamp holiday.
A bit of Googling taught me that the golden hour – when the sun is low in the sky just after sunrise and before sunset – is an actual thing that photographers swear by for beautiful photos, so not something I was imagining. I’d bought a new camera (an Olympus Pen) just before we went away, as I was getting frustrated with how difficult my old one was to use and not getting the quality of photos I wanted from my iPhone, and was determined to get some photos we would treasure from our first holiday as a family of four. So, my quest for a golden hour photoshoot began.
Our Eurocamp site – Domaine des Naiades in Port Grimaud – was surrounded by vineyards and little rustic towns, the perfect backdrop for beautiful photos. We spent most of the week exploring, and somehow seemed to always be in the car when the light was right (both boys tend to fall asleep while we’re driving, and there was no point in waking them and having grumpy photos).
But on the last day – after a particularly stressful Sunday spent hunting down a Western Union to pick up money after losing our last few Euros in a wallet that vanished – there was no way I was missing out. We’d spent an entire day sitting outside a shop near Cannes waiting for our money transfer, and I really didn’t want that to be the lasting memory of our week away. So, as we whiled away the last few hours before our flight, I insisted that Stew pulled over alongside a random little vineyard, and we snuck in to take some photos. Typically, the sun disappeared behind some clouds, and the angle of quite a few of our shots weren’t quite right, but we managed to get some lovely photos that I will definitely treasure…
Our biggest boy came on leaps and bounds while we were away – I think he thrives having both me and Stew around. Not only did he develop a love of petanque, but he picked up some French and happily said bonjour and merci beaucoup (or his version – messy cuckoo) to everyone we met. He loved running around all the little towns, and we were lucky that it was rural enough not to have to worry about busy streets and could leave him to wander quite freely.
We also had a massive achievement in managing to get rid of the dummy and nighttime bottle while we were away … woohoo! I can’t tell you how pleased I am that the dummy has gone as I felt we’d left it way too long.
The littlest, of course, had no idea where we were, but the change of surroundings didn’t faze him at all. He’s such a chilled out little thing and he was content being carried in our BabyBJÖRN (a saviour when you’re travelling) and nosing around. It was funny as we got the impression people didn’t come across many young families in the towns we visited as so many locals came over to make a fuss. We had lots of comments like “oh you have two boys, how lovely” and people saying how cute they were (me being able speak and understand French fairly well came in handy to thank them for their compliments).
He also slept better while we were away than he does at home … I tried to convince Stew that moving to France was a good idea so we could be more rested, but he was having none of it. Quel dommage.
Having said that, I think Stew was sold on the region during the week (for a holiday, not for life), and he really hadn’t been keen on going to France when I suggested it. I don’t think people – us included – realise what a beautiful country it is, and I definitely want to see more of it now.
I’m not usually a fan of candid photos as I tend to have my eyes half shut or a daft expression, but I really like these two of me. I actually told Stew off for taking the second one as I was crouching down to help Santi up and thought it would be horrendous, but it’s not too bad!
While we were away I realised that a really nice thing about having two children fairly close together is that your first is still young while you’re on maternity leave with the second. Of course it can be hard work having two so small, but when you work full time you feel like you’re missing out on your little one growing up, so it’s been lovely to have bonus time off with Santi too.
I love how he’s looking at his little brother here – in every photo one of them is looking at the other … they’re going to be trouble in a few years!
I’ve still got quite a way to go before my photography skills are where I’d like them to be (and before I brave any manual settings), but I really do like this little set of pics … not too bad for a random stop-off at the side of the road!
For more of our photos, check out our Instagram feed
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