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This monkey is FIVE. Mr B the third, the last of my babies, full blown 5 years old, full time at school. It has snuck up on me this year, there has been a lot going on, and suddenly, birthday season was upon us again.


(I know dude, I did that face too.)

He’s hilarious, and a whirlwind, mad and wonderful and difficult all at once. He’s finally enjoying reading – slowly, carefully, with minimal patience, but enjoying it! He flies into everything, resulting in bumps and bruises (and most recently 3 VERY bashed teeth) and he gets up and carries on. He loves movies and popcorn, hot chocolate (once we convinced him to try it) and biscuits. IMG_2872[1]Almost as much as he loves vegetables in general, and broccoli in particular. He will always eat his veggies, and will happily help his brothers if they think they can get away with it. He loves school, and dinosaurs, and Lego, and anything that makes him the same as his big brothers.IMG_5621

He’s a carbon copy of Ethan. They have the same smile, the same face. It’s like an action replay of Ethan, five years later. Except they are not so alike in personality – Ethan is careful and gentle and thinks a lot, Henry is boistrous and rough and tumble and thinks afterwards. They get on like a house on fire though, most of the time, and they both get on well with Sam (again, most of the time. Hey, siblings. it’s never 100%.)

Speaking of Sam, he and Henry are alternately thick as thieves and mortal enemies. They are usually in whatever pickle is happening together (either allies or enemies), and probably 50% of the time when we go to bed we find either this, sometimes the pair of them in one of their beds. Or once, they swindled their grandparents and we came home and they were all asleep in Ethan’s room. My favourite memories with my sisters are silly things like this, I love seeing it in the boys.


He loves animals, any kind. He’s gentle with them in a way that, watching him in his normal interactions, you might not think possible. Even with that crazy look in his eyes! He dances, and sings, and laughs. He’s excited by small things, a sweet produced from a pocket, discovering children’s magazines for sale, a volcano made of mashed potato and gravy. He’s delighted by any gift he’s given, from the hot wheels set to the headphones just like his brother, to the super cheap knock-off lego dinosaurs that he can mix and match the legs for.IMG_5626So chocolate stufffed donut tower cakes, madness, whirlwinds, bruises and bumped teeth and all, We love you crazy monkey.  Happy Birthday, Five.

With Love, Mummy x

P.S. We are constantly telling him he’s not a baby anymore, but secretly, he always will be. I mean, look at this face. IMG_1941[1]


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Ten. My wonderful, kind, lovely, maddening, firstie is ten. How can it be that we’ve been at this whole mother-son thing for a decade?

My darling boy, let us see what Ten years makes.

Ten is Football. This one was a surprise, you are tall, and coordination doesn’t exactly come naturally, and you tend to gravitate towards tech. But you love football and football practise, and you work hard at it. Your first present request this year was goalie gloves (which we got for you), a football (which arrived in the mail, addressed to you, from Grandma and Grampa. Very exciting), and a football shirt (Thank you Grandma and Grandad).


Ten is Technology. Your favourite at school is computing and coding. I don’t understand a word of it (I have fallen behind you already), but you do, and every parents evening we are told that you excel at it and help others. It scares me a little, because I am not ready for this pre-teeny interest in tech and computers and the internet and all the stuff that that entails (but oh gosh do I have to stay ahead on this one).

Ten is Silliness. Ten is you learning the boundaries of how much silly is fun and how much silly will drive me crazy. You walk the line, alternately frustrating and hilarious in spades. You pun with the best of them, you’re quick at it too, quick to laugh, even at yourself, but you’re (mostly, you’re only a human ten year old boy) careful not to make fun at someone else’s expense. Which brings us to…


Ten is Kind and Gentle. Oh my goodness, do you know how to be kind. You are the first to check if someone is ok, particularly when I shout ouch (regularly. Your lack of coordination is clearly inherited), and you are always first to try and distract an upset younger brother. You held that chick for Henry when he wasn’t ready, and kept trying to help him. You tell me you love me, randomly and often, and also not randomly. You see when I am getting frustrated, and you tell me then. You see when I am tired, and you tell me again. You wont hug me at school anymore (I understand) but at home you do, and you ask for them. I love it, and I love you for it.


Ten is Bacon Sandwiches for birthday breakfast, thanks to your Dad. I was panicking about my exam (and mornings are not my strong point), so we sat together quietly at the table, eating our bacon sandwiches, me with ketchup and you with barbeque sauce (to you bbq sauce is life) and I thought, HOW are you ten? how have you become so much, when I made you from scratch what feels like not so long ago? And we smiled at each other, finished our breakfast, and carried on the day.

Ten is also a donut stack cake, again courtesy of your Dad, as mishaps meant I was in A&E with Henry (he’s fine), but you understood, and ate donuts, and stayed up a little late, and planned your birthday sleepover.


So Happy Birthday Mr Ten, you clever, funny, wonderful, kind boy. You will always be my firstie, no matter how big you get. We must be doing something right.

I love you,

Mummy x


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Happy 4th Birthday Sam

Sorry! We’ve had internet trouble with switching providers, and before that I had a serious case of writer’s block. In October Sam turned 4 and was as insane as ever.


For his birthday her got numerous trains and train related items, and was incredibly happy about it. For his actual birthday he didn’t have cake, he had a birthday stack of doughnuts.


He was very impressed, as was I, because I was already doing two cakes. Those are Sainsbury’s lower fat doughnuts, and they are delicious. not too greasy and very light!

Cake number one was for his family birthday dinner at Grandma and Grandad’s, and he requested Olaf.


I really enjoyed making him actually. It’s not as easy as it looks though, carving the shapes from cake is crumbly! Also it looks like it’s going to look terrible right up until you get the arms, hair and eyebrows on.IMG_4865

His nose was my favourite part. Side note, if you need black icing, even if it’s a small amount, for the love of all that is sweet and delicious, buy black icing. I had a huge bag of white and thought nah, it’ll be fine, I’ve got gel colouring! It was not fine. It took forever to mix. It also dyed my hands grey. He’s lumpier than I hoped, but I think that could be remedied by either having thicker icing, or a layer of marzipan under it. We’re not huge fans of icing or marzipan though, so we skipped it.

For his birthday party he took some friends to Kirklees Light Railway, which was a big hit. They provide a hostess, food and a (stationary) party train carriage, the return train ride for 10 kids and 4 adults, and some games at the other end, so there’s minimal preparation for me! It was just under £100, though you can add on party bags. We chose to do our own though.


The party carriage also has the drivers cabin in the end with lots of controls to fiddle with, and the boys all loved it.

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For the cake Sam decided he wanted to pick a shop cake this time, and after having several projects running recently I was more than happy with that!


He even had his own birthday express train! There were other passengers, but he had a separate carriage. I can’t fault the service there either, they’re all fab and great with the kids.


All in all, he had a lovely birthday and is growing up fast. He loves nursery school and has some firm friends, and he loves to play on the tablet, but mostly, he loves trains, singing, and dogs. He will sing anything and everything, and comes home from school happiest when they’ve done a new song. If there’s a dog on the street we have to stop and stroke him. On the same day as his party we also took him to a nearby dog show and he LOVED it. Almost as much as me!

Love you Sam, keep up your mental enthusiasm 🙂

Next time – Ethan’s first try at cosplay!

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Brown paper packages tied up with string


I love The Sound of Music. It’s a classic, and which is the most well-known song, if not My Favourite Things?

When you think about the song, you think of the brown paper packages, and the roses, and the crisp apple strudel. That’s the point, you don’t think about the storm crashing around you.

Life with three small, slightly wild boys can most definitely be described as a storm. It’s not terrifying (until there is an eerie silence), but it can be bewildering and sometimes it knocks you on your butt, figuratively and occasionally literally. I’ve decided though, that I need to focus more on the packages and strudel and less on the storm, so here are just a few of my favourite things.


Sam picked this flower for me on a whim, it’s from a garden up the street (he picked before I could stop him) and I love them, with their tiny flash of purple. Also the fact that he picked it totally unprompted.


We have a farm shop near us and they have an animal area. These oddly coloured squirrels are new, and made Henry squeal with delight as they scurried up and down the cage front.

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Ikea has their Christmas stuff out! We are a very Christmas family. The children have already started Santa lists and we have a canvas up with an ‘Elf’ quote on it because I couldn’t think where to put it without it being damaged, so I just left it on the wall. We bought three kinds of new tree decorations (we normally get a new one each year but got a bit excited) and two of their little reindeer. This year they had them in red and white/grey wool. They also had large ones that Sam kept riding.


We went for a walk on Sunday afternoon. Sam hid in a recess in a wall. He refused to acknowledge that we could see him when his eyes were closed. So much so in fact that it took a lot of cajoling to get him to continue, little nutter 🙂


Also with their Christmas lights out, B&Q. And I thank you, B&Q, for saving my bacon and waking up my snoozy boy enough so he didn’t fall asleep on the way home right before school run time.


This tomato, which Sam ran inside to tell me about when I had let him pick the ripe ones. “MUMMY!!!! It’s a Butt-tomato!”


This school photo. Oh school photographers, you do amuse me. First of all, my children are not some kind of boy band, or the cover of a comedy film. Ethan seems to be having a brilliant time though. All the individual photos were taken at a jaunty angle too, with their head in a corner. What are you thinking, school photographers? I’m yet to buy one, as even for the comedy factor, I’m not paying your prices.


And finally, this one. He’s a book lover you guys. Another one! I’m so pleased, they all love books. Henry is still at the enjoying the page turning and occasional pointing stage obviously, but this one captured him. It was Ethan’s school reading book, about Mrs Mog and her 26 cats. That was possible the pull for him, he loves cats and dogs.

And there we have it, the most recent favourite things. We’ve had a trying afternoon (Ah Henry, I understand the yearning to feed oneself, but please at least aim for your mouth), and this has distracted me back to the happy things. Now, I’m off to eye up my curtains for three matching pairs of Lederhosen.

Oh Julie Andrews, you have the answer to everything don’t you?


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September – We’re not weirdos.

I’m sorry, I’ve had a terrible case of writer’s block recently, along with getting back to school and routine, and a couple of real doozy tantrums from Sam, and I was NOT in the mood to write about them. To be honest I’m not particularly in the mood to share them now, but I’ll get to them at the end, along with a couple of things I did to cope.

First I took the children down to mum’s for a few days during which Henry and I went to Nanny’s funeral. For something with the word ‘fun’ in it, it sure does suck. We did however get to have some fun before and after, including the mega 4 hour drives there and back as I took Amy and her two with me to share petrol costs, so I got to learn about traumatic eye injuries and stuff. By the way, Amy is an A&E nurse Sister (I keep forgetting the promotion!) and also teaches lectures on the subject every now and then, we’re not just weirdos. I also got to see my sister Sheri over from New Zealand which is of course rare.


Also not weirdos. Maybe.

We had the return to school, which both boys were excited for, though not especially photogenic!



That’s better! They’ve settled in nicely and Ethan is enjoying being on school dinners this year. He’s enjoying seeing his friends again and as far as I can tell, enjoying lessons. The Headteacher took a lesson with him and mentioned to his uncle (who works at school) that he was very bright so that’s lovely to hear. Sam loves nursery, he’s got some new little friends already and we’ve even had two over for a play already. I was terrified it would be manic but they all played very nicely!

Then two days later, Ethan had his Orange Belt Grading at Tae Kwon Do. Unfortunately I had a brain fart and we were 20 minutes late as I thought it started at ten thirty, when in fact, it did not. They were very kind though and let him in anyway and he did brilliantly.


For some reason I didn’t take a picture of him actually breaking the board, but he did it first time! That’s Tony with him, who he thinks is the bees knees. As an aside, the school is absolutely fantastic. All the teachers are great with the kids and they have such fun, but without too much messing about. It’s Ossett Martial Arts and though it feels expensive as you pay monthly, you can go up to 12 times a month and so it works out at less that £5 a session. You do pay extra for grading but that happens at the most every 3 months. It’s a family run business, Brian and Tony are a father-son team and Brian’s wife Jan runs the office. We love it, so if anyone nearby is interested, tell them we sent you 😉

Slightly deer-in-the-headlights here, but he was so excited. The belt is of course massive.

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That same afternoon (understanding my slight exhaustion yet?) Sam had a birthday party at Ponderosa in Heckmondwike. It was fab! We got the reptile talk party and Sam loved it.


He was mesmerised by the snakes and bearded dragon, and had a lot of fun playing with his friends and riding a pony.


He decided the party hat was a unicorn horn. Also not a weirdo.

The next week we headed over to Accrington to see my brother-in-law Matt, his wife Mel and their new baby Caleb, who was being blessed (just remembered, I still need to transcribe that!) at church.


Isn’t he gorgeous?! I was sat behind them too so I got to steal him for many lovely snuggles. The boys were totally in love with him. Sam kept stroking his head and even Henry was ooh-ing at him. We’ll get to see them again in a couple of weeks which will be lovely, and I hear he is packing on the pounds, sounds familiar!

Then we headed back down to my parents again to bid them farewell on their mission. As there were lots of people we were in a hotel overnight and the boys found it very exciting.


I was impressed actually, it was only a Travelodge, but we had a kingsize bed, two full size pull out single beds, and a cotbed for Henry, and still had enough room to walk around them. The bath was ridiculously small, but the shower was fine. We took our own breakfast snacks and all was fine, except for the people in the room above us clomping about at all hours. You can’t have everything I guess! I also managed to forget my favourite facial scrub and shower gel, along with a jug we’d borrowed from mum but c’est la vie.

We’ve now sent them off for 18 months to New Zealand to serve the Church, where they’ll be helping oversee the building of a new camp which will be opening fairly soon, so not a holiday by any means! That was pretty much the end of the busy weekends though, so now we’ve been tackling the weekdays.

Sam. Oh Sam. Why must we do this? So many tantrums. You’ll be four in less than a month, but we are still entrenched in toddlerhood, it would seem. I assume it’s escalated with the return to school and such, but they’ve turned extra mean. And at pick up time, where everyone is watching. I love you little oddball, but you really must stop punching me. and screeching. Please.

I am desperately trying to be kind about it. We can’t keep fighting each other, we’re too similar. I try not to shout, I promise I do. Now, please try to stop shouting no at me and running away, and hitting. Ta muchly.

I’ve found several posts over at HandsfreeMama helpful, particularly the one about yelling  and one about jumping to conclusions and blame, and most of all, the about page, where she talks about the distractions of life and trying to put them aside and be more in the moment with your children. It’s a little too saccharine for me sometimes, but the points she makes are all spot on.

So, I’m trying to be less distracted. I’m putting the phone, and the lists, and the computer, down more. It’s harder than I thought, but it’s worth it.

So we can be not-weirdos together.

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Summer 2014 – Part 2

We had a chance to return to the caravan in Pwllheli for our family holiday, and we had a mostly lovely time. We had a couple of lovely days where we could go to the beach and had a lovely time. Henry decided he does in fact like sand, and it is tasty.


Apparently it’s a good topping on mini doughnuts.

The big boys loved it, lots of exploring and rock pools and swimming in the sea again, which was what I wanted.



Mer-Sam! Getting him to keep his feet still was a task and a half. Little monkey kept wiggling them with his cheeky little face on every time I tried to cover them up!


And Shark-boy Ethan, though the tail wasn’t ‘right’ according to him, he was fairly pleased in the end.

Towards the end of the week there was sickness, and exhaustion…


Everyone had a day where they were Not Good. Henry got away with a quick episode and then fine, luckily right after we got out of the car next to an Asda so we popped in and bought him new clothes and it was done, rather than a delightful stench in the car. Sam had a full day, while I took Ethan to play mini golf, and Ethan had a day, where Rich took Sam off. Rich got a night and a morning of it, and I had day from the wee small hours onward. Not so great. On our last day though, we stopped off at the beach after we packed up and I went for a quick dip.


After that Rich let Ethan steer the car on the almost-dead beach, and he LOVED it. Nice bit of Brown family tradition, as Rich was also allowed to ‘drive’ on this beach as a child.


And so our holiday was concluded. A bit up and down, but the first part was lovely. We also drove through some absolutely stunning countryside on the way back too, when we decided to shun the dual carriageway. Wales is just so beautiful and green, we absolutely love it.



Sadly while we were away, my beautiful Nanny died after having had a quite severe stroke a few days before. At 98 she had a pretty good innings but it was still a bigger shock to me than I was expecting. She was a wonderful woman, who despite not being my ‘real’ grandmother (she is my mum’s first husband’s mother), she always loved us. There was no question, she was our Nanny. She loved flowers and slowly took over Grandpa’s vegetable garden with them. She lived in London during the war and experienced the blitz twice before moving out to Oxford to temporary housing, that they shared with another family. She knitted toys for us, and had pictures all over of us and her other grand children and great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews and so on. She was in a nursing home for the last few years and being far away we didn’t see her nearly as much as I’d have liked, but I know she knew we loved her, just like I know she loved us.

So a mixed holiday really. Now we’re back and in routine and getting back to normal thankfully. Ethan and Sam are back at School and Nursery, and Ethan has taken his first Tae Kwon Do grading, so we’ll have more on that next time.

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Summer 2014, part 1

Dear internets,

I’m sorry. I totally abandoned you over the summer (again). Let me make up for it with a bit of a post dump!

We had a fab summer. The big boys stayed at Grandma and Grandad’s caravan for almost a week and then we took Henry down to pick them up and had a lovely long weekend. Upon their reunion, silliness ensued.


We took a day trip on the Friday to Barmouth, which was lovely. Lots of lovely little shops, including this:


I loved this shop. more than a normal amount. We had the kids with us so I didn’t get long to look, but I could have got lost in there. Look at all those boooooks!

And this fab sign outside a sort of pick ‘n’ mix shop with allsorts in.


Why thank you odd little welsh shop! I fear the scales disagree with you.

While there we took a little boat trip across the harbour to a miniature railway. The boys loved it. They had to walk a plank into and out of the boat, pirate style, and then of course Sam was very happy at the train situation.


Look at that floppy hair! It’s so cute, I always regret cutting it.


This one is just a bit mad. At the other end of the train ride there was a fab model railway, and a room full of toy trains. They were totally in their element and didn’t want to leave!

On Saturday we had a gorgeous day at the beach, with sand castles and swimming and ice creams and picnics and the lot. Henry enjoyed paddling with Grandad and smashing sandcastle, and the boys enjoyed going as deep as they dared with me. Ethan is a little more wary, Sam likes to charge in. More on that later. We had a wonderful time, and the weekend went far too quickly.



They were not happy to finish their holiday and come home, and neither were we!

I snapped this one while the boys were playing –


I love it when they randomly love each other 🙂 not long after we got back from Wales we got to meet Stella’s (my sister in law) new puppy Fitz.


He’s a miniature Schnauzer and I think I love him. He, however, saves his love for Sam. He is rather aloof towards me. I don’t mind (much) though, because look at Sam in this picture.


He ADORES Fitz. Also because of Fitz, Rich has come around to me getting a dog, now he knows I would be happy with a medium to small dog (I’ve always wanted a big one). So as soon as we move, that’s now on the table! Hurrah! I have wanted a dog since I was a child and never been able to have one, so the wheels are very tentatively in motion.

We also took a day trip to Pugney’s lake with Amy, Hayley and Austin.


There were ducks, and duck faces.

The big ones ran into the water and had lots of fun.


Then this happened.


Sam wandered a little too far in. He was still above water but started to panic a little. Luckily I was prepared with empty pockets and a watchful eye as this is not the first time he’s charged into water. Last time my dad was the one to charge into the water and scoop him out, and that time was scarier, but he is obviously fine as he continues to love the water! Lesson learned though and Amy and I had actually joked about who would run in for him before it happened.

I drove home wrapped in a towel. I’m so glad I wasn’t in an accident that day!

And I’ll leave you with that flattering picture. You’re welcome! Next time – our official family holiday (back at the caravan) and all that entailed.

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