Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Moments that make me smile

Taking Zak to toddler group and watching him give his all to doing the hoola hoop. Love hearing his shouts of "Look Mummy look!!"

My ever so caring and devoted daughter ask to stop the pushchair as we are walking, just so she can talk to Bennie and make him smile.

Seeing three little baby boys born within weeks of each other wriggle around on a carpet.

Seeing these two little munchkins giggle and laugh at the same little game we play every night. "I'm a turtle Mummy" ... "awww I love my little turtles... tickle tickle tickle" .

Listening to Aniah tell me how much she loves pink... "look, I have pink bowl, hat, nightie and cup... I love pink!"

Watching my sons face as he delightedly places number 5 sticker on his reward chart and chooses the spider man sticker book that he's been asking about for days!

Looking at these three monkeys faces, and knowing they are mine. I couldn't ask for more.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Using the environment to teach and learn

After training as a teacher, I started to become very aware of certain responsibilities I had as a parent. In particular my role as partner in my children's learning. Too often in the classes I taught, I found parents who saw education as solely a teacher's responsibility. 

Unfortunately, from speaking with other practitioners I discovered this is not an uncommon problem. Teacher's can only do so much while they are in a classroom with 30 odd children. Parents and children need to realise that learning can and should be encouraged and sought after no matter what the location or situation. 

Since she started school, I have tried to go on this new journey with Aniah. It's actually incredibly hard to get any feedback from her at the end of the day. I'm totally desperate for her to go into every detail about her day... Who did she play with? What new thing did she learn? Did she play nicely with the other children? 

In order to try and get involved in the learning, one thing I have started doing is talking about the new sound she is doing each day. During our trips to the park, we try and make the sound using our body...

Without prompting, Aniah then started spotting the shape 'C' all around... in climbing frames -

Making an 'a' out of twigs -

This spotting game is great to play with 2D shapes. You'd be surprised at how many shapes you suddenly start seeing when you look for them!

Then we moved on to sculptures and building -

Zak built a fire and Aniah made a piano...

On the letters and sounds learning, Zak is just at the stage that he is recognizing the letters in his own name. So on a Saturday, we have pancakes for breakfast and the kids help make the letters from their name with the batter.

Zak got pretty upset one time because the 'Z' had gone a tad blobby and " no look like my name now mummy"

Growing up so fast

I say it all the time, and I know it's one of those over used cliches... but it needs to be said... this little man is growing up so fast!

We took our family to The Harvester that's just opened in Telford, and I saw him sitting there all sweetly and figured he's just about old enough to join in the food party now. So her he is getting his first taste of proper food (it was a roll, which he gummed to death).

While we're on the subject of our little Bennie... here are some more piccies that make my heart melt.

I hope these kids are best friends growing up...

And these two (cousin Joey)..

First time in the ball pit...

Soooo munchable!!!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Our volcano experience

I wonder who else was totally inspired by the vinegar and bicarb of soda experiment in school? I remember seeing the reaction and being totally amazed by it. 

I'm always looking for new ways of getting my kids talking and using new vocabulary. One of the ways we did this recently was by carrying out a volcano exploration morning. 

To make the volcano, I covered an old jam jar with play dough and sat it  in an baking tray.
I then used:
  • Vinegar, 5 tablespoons
  • Water, 1/3 cup
  • Baking soda, 4 teaspoons
  • Washig up liquid, 2 teaspoons (more if you want extra foam)
  • Red food coloring (optional, if you want to make the lava look more authentic), 3 drops

Before we carried out the experiment, I showed the kids a little clip off you tube showing a volcano erupting. I then told them what we would be doing and they got very excited.
We talked about the ingredients going into the volcano and they described how it looked and smelt  - "It smell spikey mummy" - Zak (I presume the vinegar).

Then the magic happened as we watched it erupt.  Lots of exited squeals and shouts. We talked about what they saw happening, what it looked like etc. Aniah used lots of hand gestures but was struggling to find the words to describe the sight.

They then had a turn doing their own volcano. They were given the chance to mix the ingredients and add the food colouring with bicarb.


After we cleared up from the experiment, I got the kids to act out what had happened. We started down low, then bubbled up and exploded...

We finished off the morning by mixing colours and painting what had happened to our volcano...

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Popping to see Pip

On the 28th of August my sister Bethany and her husband Lewis welcomed their little baby girl Philippa Emma into the world. 
Photo: Lewis & I would like to welcome our baby girl, "Philippa Emma Wirgman Smith". She was born at 4:42pm 28th August 2014, weighing 7lbs 9oz. She was a waterbirth at St.Peters Hospital in the Birth Centre. I was very blessed to have a very speedy delivery :) We love her to pieces, and are in awe.

I am so happy for them both and am certain they will both make amazing parents. 

During the first two weeks of her life, poor little Philippa has had to deal with eye infections, a dangerous rash, being on antibiotics and has had difficulty feeding. But she is a little fighter and is now coming through the other side.

Today, Gareth and I decided we wanted to take a little drive over to meet their new little one and give them some prezzies. To try and minimise the possibility of catching any infections from our little ones, we went on a walk round a local forest. It was lovely to have a chat and let the kids explore. 

Little Philippa is joining a truly lovely family and I can't wait till she's old enough to start playing with our Bennie :)

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Matt and Tat's wedding

When I found out this amazing couple were going to tie the knot, I was completely delighted - 

I love my big brother Matt to bits (as I do with all of my siblings for different reasons). He is a person that holds my complete adoration and respect for many reasons, including his loyalty, kindness and sense of adventure. I always wanted to see him find the right girl to marry. When I met Tatiana, a really sweet lass from Russia (who he met while working in Dubai), I knew he'd found a keeper.

Due to the locations of both families, the couple opted for a wedding in Santorini (Greece). 

As Gareth had been asked to be best man, we decided we both wanted to fly out to be there. However, as it was Aniah's first week of school Nanny Liz and Auntie Lillian came to watch both her and Zak for 5 days (Bennie is too young to be left still so came with us).

After writing copious notes detailing their routines, phone numbers, post codes etc and briefing on behaviour charts, allergies, school pick ups and drop offs, I was reminded kindly not to worry... both had been parents before and that they would be fine.

Feeling sad and nervous about leaving the kids, but equally excited and happy to be leaving to get to the plane to Greece, we finally made our way to the airport.

Throughout the journey to Greece, this little man was a little angel.

So was this one ;) Sam caught the same flight  as us and kept both Gareth and I highly entertained the whole way with his completely bonkers sense of humor!

I'm always a bit nervous about taking kids on a plane, but bless his sweet little cotton socks... this lad was awesome.

After a very straightforward flight and taxi ride, we arrived at our hotel - Milos Villas. It was set away a bit from the centre of Fira (the cluster of white to the left is where most of our other family and friends were staying). We actually liked the quiet location as it made for very tranquil and relaxing place to go back to each day. The panoramic photo below is the view from our balcony. Just gorgeous!

Every morning and evening, we would hear a gentle tinkling of bells. Not far from where we stayed was the place they kept the donkeys that would take the long walk up to the very top of Fira to help carry luggage and tourists too and from the cruise ships.

We were in love with the pool as soon as we saw it. And another added bonus was it was always dead quiet - a stark contrast to the crazy free for all's we had experienced when trying to secure a sun lounger at many other holiday resorts.

The first morning, we enjoyed a lovely relaxing few hours by the pool. It was so rejuvenating being able to spend quality time with my man in such a beautiful location.

After getting in touch with the other friends and family across the island, everyone arranged a meet up at a local beach. Gareth went off with Matt to sort a few wedding things out, while I went with my mum,sisters and older brother Seth to catch a bus to the beach.
After a few complications, involving some very rude tourists resulting in a full bus (really - who pushes past two women with small children trying to put pushchairs on the bus to secure a seat for themselves leaving said women to wait for next bus. Can you tell I'm still fuming about it?)

We finally found the gang and enjoyed a bit of a chat, fun and frolics on the beach.

There was a platform a lot of people were doings cliff jumping from. It was pretty high. No joke.
 I have always wanted to do it, and am always game for a bit of a laugh. However, once I got to the top I realized it was a lot higher than it looked from the beach. I wasn't about to chicken out once up there... so off I went. Damn, it felt good. The wedgy I sustained as a result not so good.

Many of the folks staying out there (those without children), opted for quad bikes to get them from A to B. It looked like a LOT of fun!

Those of us with kids, had to use the bus or walk.

The night before the wedding some of the gang met up for a meal and ice creams...

I stupidly ordered a prawn dish, but ended up giving all the sea food on my plate to Gareth. I really hate eating anything with a head still attached! 

The morning of the wedding Matt came over to our hotel to get ready while I went to Esther and Martha's hotel and got ready with them.

The boys made their own entertainment while the girls got ready!

After the shuttle bus collected us, we were driven to the venue for the ceremony. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of that place. It was picturesque. I'll let the photos speak for themselves...

Matt was looking very dapper in his wedding outfit...

These lads have been great friends since their teens.

My handsome brothers -

Some of Tatiana's friends and family -

Love Matt's face as he saw Tats approaching :)

She looked stunning...

**Photo courtesy of Danas Villas photography**

**Photo courtesy of Danas Villas photography**

**Photo courtesy of Danas Villas photography**

**Photo courtesy of Danas Villas photography**
**Photo courtesy of Danas Villas photography**

After a few group shots, we all headed to the shuttle bus which would take us to the reception venue.

So glad there were some willing blokes to help carry Bennie back... there were sooo many steps!

Over at the reception, all the guests enjoyed a relaxing chat with drinks while the bride and groom went to take more photos.

Finally, after a long wait... Mr and Mrs Wilkins arrived to applause and cheering!

Matt, who had been very patient with all the photos, was very keen to usher us all to get seated for the food!

The tables were very tastefully decorated. All the guests were given a beautiful traditional matryoshka doll (is that right Tats?).

Gareth, who had been carrying around very heavy photography equipment  for quite some time, was looking very red faced. But was pleased to show me the free hat he'd acquired for his troubles.

I cannot rave enough about this food. Like seriously. It was exquisite! Those potatoes.... salivating just thinking about them...

After Matt's very lovely speech (where he'd secretly learnt how to say it in Russian as well as English to the delight of all the Russian contingent), and Gareth's best man speech (frequently punctuated with shouts of 'MIRSTA BOY' from Tat's Aunt - 'we are with you'), there was a quirky Russian tradition that started. Everyone was told that the bride had been taken away, and the only way to get her back was by answering a series of questions and performing challenges put forward by the bride's family. One of which can be seen here... Matt performs his best Russian dance moves...

After a donkey was led in bride-less, Matt had to then go and rescue his new wife.

Then came the first dance, set to one of my favorite songs 'Thousand years'.

After the first dance, everyone was free to socialize and dance...

Bennie got to have lots of cuddles from everyone, then promptly fell asleep (much to my delight!)

How gorgeous was our view?!

They cut the cake as the sun set!... perfect in every way!

Catching the bouquet...

And the garter...

This place was just stunning, I couldn't stop taking photos!

The dancing that evening proved most entertaining. Re-enactments from Dirty dancing and goodness knows what else!

After an incredible day, the couple headed off at midnight and the last of the guests made their way home.

The next day, many of the people over for the wedding had to catch flights home. But those of us who were staying an extra day had time for some more fun on the beach...

Gareth saw some of the local boys jumping from a ridiculously high point, but Gareth being Gareth could not pass the opportunity to give it a go too.

Gideon managed to get this fantastic shot mid jump...

Everyone watched rather incredulously from the beach. 

The boys who had been jumping took a shine to Bennie and all came over for a cuddle.

I gave Bennie his first paddle in the sea...

The whole holiday was a fantastic experience. We got to spend time with the people we love and be a part of such a special day. Thanks Matt and Tat for such a great day and for giving us all a reason to meet at such a spectacular place!