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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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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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.

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Also not weirdos. Maybe.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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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A family weekend

IMG_3543This weekend my niece Annabella was blessed. This is kind of like a christening but without the water, The baby is given her name (a formality, it’s not like you can’t name the baby before then!) and a personal blessing, usually from their father. It’s a special event for Mormons, in the same way that a christening would be. We got to see my family too and Jess’ best friend Cathy who I haven’t seen since Jess and Jonny’s wedding as she went off on a mission to Portugal and just got back, it was great to see her as she’s fab and fits in with us joking about and stuff. It was lovely, we had a nice lunch of soup and a ton of dessert, and just some nice quiet family time.

Then on Monday We went with Mum and Dad to Amners Farm, which is a working farm that they open at weekends in the spring for lambing season. The boys LOVED it. Puppies and chicks and lambs and ponies, sheep shearing, a trailer ride and a miniature train. Pics ahoy!

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Sam was ecstatic at all the fluffy things and the train. He nearly spontaneously combusted when he held both the puppy and the chick, but was very nervous about the pony, until it started moving. Ethan was the opposite, couldn’t wait to get on the pony, but was nervous about having the puppy on his lap. He was also less than impressed when a chick did a (thankfully solid) poop on his hand. Speaking of the puppy, they are both even more convinced that we need one now, even in spite of Ethan’s nervousness. To be fair, it was the cutest sleepiest little thing. They were for sale too, luckily we have the old “we can’t have pets in our house” excuse for now. Which is probably a good thing because they were SO cute, it was dangerous. While there we just missed that lamb above being born, but I did get to see it wobbling about trying to stand up, which was adorably funny. Henry was a grumpy guts most of the day as he missed his nap, but then had a bit of a sleep. The farm is fantastic, and not too expensive. We paid £20 for a family ticket, and £1 each for the pony ride and train ride, everything else is included. They have stalls there too with crafts and art, and a nice area you can sit for picnics. There was food for sale too, but I didn’t check it out as we’d brought snacks. My only problem with it is that it’s in Reading!

We later had a yummy barbeque and then faced the trek home, which wasn’t too awful thankfully.

The Big Buzz is fast approaching, and the total keeps growing! I’m so excited, and just a teeny bit nervous 🙂 I’ll try to do a ‘Before’ post next, with some of the questions I’ve been asked, so if you’ve got one, let me know!

http://www.justgiving.com/GoBaldForFelix

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Flow Rider Surfing

So, the surfing pictures are back!
We all had so much fun. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone thinking about it. It was Stella (Rich’s sister) and Carl’s 20th anniversary so they had a party. Both families were invited and as such we were split between the 2 wave machines, so I only have pictures of the Brown clan as we happened to split down the middle. There was a quick instruction video, and then off to get wetsuits.
Now, aside from Rich, none of the men had worn wetsuits before. Ethan had a fit of shyness and so asked to change in the shower cubicle. While they were in there, all the blokes got ready and came out. With their suits on backwards. Much fun was poked, particularly at Carl who though he has never worn one before, has a wife who can scuba and has her own suit, so we thought he’d at least remember that the zip goes up the back!
Our lovely instructor Tom showed us briefly how to bodyboard and get up onto our knees, and off we went.
 Stell with Tom
 After Stell’s first wipeout 🙂
 Big Sam (Rich’s younger brother) and you can just spot Rich biffing it at the back. We were shown how to glide fairly gracefully to the side to stop, but while it looked simple, it was very much not.
Hence my look of intense concentration! And here I am…
 It is my unfortunate privilege to inform you that in this position, with the water wooshing up and under the board, your…ahem…personal area… gets a little bashed. It wasn’t that big of a deal and not really painful but I am assured it was worse for the men. Sorry fellas. Still, an incentive to learn quickly how to get up on your knees!
Despite the look on my face, I really enjoyed it. Even if wetsuits are the least flattering piece of clothing in the entire world.
Rich above, and with his brother Big Sam below.
 I really didn’t expect much from Ethan, I thought he’d either refuse to try, or try once, fall off, and then refuse to try. However, he put us all to shame! He had several turns and wants to go again. I was really impressed with how brave he was as it’s not one of his strong points. He absolutely loved it and really wants to go again.
With help from the instructor, and on his own 🙂
Too fast to snap!
We were also shown how to do it standing up on special thin wooden boards – a little like skim boards on the beach. However there are no photos of this, even though I managed to stand up alone for a whole ooh… 15 seconds 😉
We did it at The Flowhouse at Xscape, Castleford, and we absolutely loved it, the water was warm enough that we didn’t get cold in between turns, and the instructors were friendly and helpful. Now, it’s a little pricey at £22-25 for kids and £30-35 for adults, and we were incredibly grateful to Stella and Carl for being so generous as to pay for everyone. There are group deals and multiple session deals, but still it’s a bit teeth-suck inducing. I still would go again though, it was tons of fun and for a special treat definitely worth it. And the look on Ethan’s face when he’d done it by himself was absolutely priceless.
So overall, I’d definitely recommend it, even with the price. Hang 10! Surf’s up! Kowabunga dude! Yeah, I’m not really pulling that off at all, am I.

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Harry Potter Day at Stockeld Park

Last weekend we headed up to Stockeld Park after a tip off from a friend that they were having a Harry Potter weekend. After checking it out online we thought the boys would enjoy it and there were a few free events, so off we popped.
We eventually decided (upon arriving) to get a family day pass to the park, as there was a show in one section and a maze in another that we’d have had to pay for. That was the only negative of the day really, that getting into all the parts of the park was a bit cha-ching, and it wasn’t really checked. We could definitely have gotten away with at the very least just buying a pass for me and Ethan. We were only checked twice, once on the way in to the ‘Enchanted Forest’ and once at the bean planting station (which would only have cost £1 without the pass). The maze and sorting weren’t checked at all, which was a bit irritating after we forked out for it!
Anyway, back to the good stuff!
First off we had broomstick training, with 2 wizards and a witch from Hogwarts. They were brilliant. An aside, all the… actors? characters? anyway, they were all from Make a Wish Entertainment (facebook here) and they were amazing. More about them later.
This is Wesley Wizzo, who looks and acts freakishly like my brother-in-law Jonny. So much so that Sam shouted his name. Ethan did some magic spells, the group fought a swamp monster, practised flying, and helped a wizard earn his golden hood.
 There he is flying around, with adults acting as quidditch hoops and the whomping willow. He had a blast, and it was good imagination exercise!
Next there was bean planting, with very dry sparkly soil – points for lack of mess – and a white bean, planted with a wish in a small pot. Simple and enjoyable.
In the same area was an animal rescue/welfare group who’d brought some owls along for the event, and they were lovely about the children touching the owls and they both even got to hold the smallest one.
I can’t adequately convey the pure joy this brought them, especially Sammy.
After this we stopped for a snack, and then went into the Maze. We were given a quiz and the answers were hidden in the maze, but, being Harry Potter questions, I knew them already 😉
We loved it, it wasn’t too difficult, if you looked at the maps posted here and there throughout. There were a couple of bridges and a tower to see the maze from above too, which was fun. We made it through in about 20 minutes, though we did pass an arguing family who’d been in there an hour!
 After the maze Ethan went for sorting, which was fab, the hat’s face moved and it spoke, and he loved it. He got Gryffindor, so was made up. After this we had the Harry Potter Catwalk, which I have no pictures of because I was Sam-wrangling. All the dressed up kids basically did a fashion parade, with a guy introducing each one. I was impressed that they both had a crack at it, Ethan struck a spell pose, and Sam raced up and down. They were both outdone however by the only girl dressed up as Luna Lovegood. She was spot on, stripey tights, tutu-esque skirt, sprectre specs. She strutted down the catwalk, turned, and dropped into a perfect split. Naturally, she won, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Quick stop to hug a reindeer (Sam is slightly obsessed with these kind of costumed people), and then off to the Harry and Hagrid show in the Enchanted Forest. The show was fun, though Rich had to take Sammy out. When Hagrid called on Harry, he kept shouting “No Hagrid, I Harry Potter!” So they went off to look at the lights in the forest and Ethan and I watched the show. It was great, the actors were absolutely spot on, little bit of magic and great rapport with the kids.
Ethan was so excited, it was very cute.
After we went through the Enchanted forest it was time to head home. There was a small ice skating rink, but it was busy and we needed to get back, which was a shame. Anyway, on our way out to the car, Harry and Hagrid were waiting for a pick up off somewhere else when we bumped into them and another witch (Polly Potions, from broomstick training) and the second we approached, they immediately turned it back on, and were more than happy to spend a few more minutes with the children. They were absolutely brilliant, and made the day. Very good with the children, really happy, enthusiastic and just seemed to really enjoy their work.
Then it was home to bed where two sleepy boys went to bed without Daddy washing off any Harry Potter scars 🙂
Make a Wish Entertainment apparently do parties and events, and I would absolutely recommend them and as soon as I can afford it I’ll book them to do a birthday for Ethan!

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Good days

I’ve had a lovely week 🙂 On Saturday, despite feeling like absolute rubbish still, I went to see Les Mis with Amy and some friends. It was so wonderful. Moving and beautiful. I was shocked at the bits I’d forgotten (nothing major plot-wise) though. I thought all the actors did an incredible job, to my untrained eye 😉 I’m not going to list them all, but Samantha Barks as Eponine was just amazing, A Little Fall of Rain was heart rending. 
As we came out someone behind us quietly said to his companions “I didn’t know it was a musical.” We stifled our giggles.
Sam did this:
And kissed and cuddled the baby for several minutes, which in Sam time must be about a decade.
He also asked that we make a snowman, and insisted he have a carrot nose.
 He was only little so it had to be a carrot-stick nose. He’s checked on him everyday at least once (we put him on the bin so he could be seen from the window) and says hello to him. And his eyes. And his buttons. And his carrot nose.
 I drew a moustache on my face for a friend.
 Never let it be said that I don’t give you anything, my dear (though I suspect near non-existent) readers.
And the pièce de résistance…

 Say hello to my little friend!
I had my 20 week scan today which I had to wait an extra 45 minutes for, with a full bladder. Thanks for that one, hospital. When I went in the sonographer apologised as there were staffing issues and people turning up late/not at all. I was not happy but did the completely British thing of saying “oh no, it’s alright.” Why do we do that?! I was cheesed off! I think I just got so grateful for an apology, and to be laying down, that I just went with it. She then also told me that the baby’s head was plowing right into my bladder, so even though it wasn’t very full (I cheat a bit on the amount of water they tell you to drink and when – thank goodness in this case)  that’s what caused it. Yes madam sonographer, I’m sure the 45 minute wait had nothing to do with it.
So.. we are cooking up a little boy! Ethan is ecstatic, He was rooting for a boy, who he decided would be called Rudolph. Sam is fairly uninterested, but we’re attempting to convey that an actual little brother will be materialising at some point in June. I can imagine it will still be a surprise. Rich had to stay out with the boys until the checks were completed, but as he came in apparently got a nice crotch shot and saw that it was a boy before I had been told 🙂
The little sausage has really begun kicking in earnest now, which is lovely and reassuring, though no fun for my bladder! 
Only 20 weeks to go, hopefully it’ll go as fast as the first 20 have!

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Harry Potter Studio Tour

We had an AMAZING time at the Studio Tour, absolutely brilliant. I went with Rich, Jess and Jonny, though I think it was a little wasted on the men!
Harry’s Cupboard – This is actually right at the start, at the side of where you queue to go in. Speaking of the queue, it looked very long, but went through quickly. You go through to a sort of holding area (lol) while you wait for the group before you to move on from the cinema, but even here there are screens with pictures and a guide giving light commentary and the very few rules. Then you go into the cinema. Another little bit by a tour guide, ours was quite funny. He told us all to take the seat belts from the left of our seats and strap in. dutifully, everyone went to do it, then looked confused when they couldn’t find it. He had a good chuckle! 
The short film was the only bit that I thought was a bit naff. There were nice behind the scenes clips and things, but there was a fair bit of waffling from Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. I was eager to get on!

 Doors to the Great Hall. If it’s your birthday when you go, you get to be the ones to push the doors! Then it’s into the great hall, which has amazing details that you never even see in the films, paintings on the walls and carvings. It seemed much narrower than on screen, but it was amazing, and filled with costumes and all sorts. We learnt that the floating candles weren’t all added digitally, they started with them all hanging from wires that were digitally removed. The candles were fake-ish – they were filled with oil that they burnt rather than an actual candle. They removed many of them though when they burned through the wires and fell on people! They still used some, but digitally added the rest.
 Neville’s cardigan! They also had Harry’s first robes, but I had to have a limit on photos!
 The detail on all the props and scenery was incredible, this lectern had amazing details right down to the floor.
 Ron’s bed. All the bedside tables had individual touches.
 The mirror of Erised
 Gryffindor common room. All the sets had information about them nearby. One of the paintings in the Gryffindor common room is of a young professor McGonagall. You’d never know from the movies, but everything has a little back story.
 The giant clock.This was swinging, and it is HUGE. And a teeny bit ominous.
 The stairs to Dumbledore’s office. This one was just the statue, but there was one built that functioned, with a 12 foot hole under it that the moving stairs came up out of.
 The door to the Chamber of Secrets. The snakes on it actually moved, when in front of it you can see the tracks. Next to it is a door from a Gringott’s vault, the parts of which also moved. The craftsmanship on them was so intricate, it was so cool.
 The Black Family Tree. It’s huge, it wrapped around the top of the room.
 The Marauder’s Map. This was in a case absolutely rammed with props, books, Weasley Wizard Wheezes, copies of The Daily Prophet and all sorts. Including Harry’s photo album from Hagrid.
 Tom Riddle Snr’s grave.
 The Potter house.
 Dobby. Jess noticed that though his sack/clothes were covered in blood, there’s no tear from the knife. Also I’ve just realised that surely by this film he should be wearing his odd assortment of clothes?
 Absolutely amazing concept art. There were walls and walls of it and it was all brilliant. When I’m a gazillionaire I’m going back to buy some.

 Giant Hogwarts at the end. Absolutely huge, and the lights change to reflect the differing lights of day and night, and little lights come on inside the windows and on little lanterns.
The time turner I chose in the gift shop. Ah, the gift shop. The snag in the brilliant afternoon. It was ridiculous. Very expensive, though that was sort of expected, no queueing system for the tills, things in multiple spots in the shop with no real order to it at all, skinny aisles, and basically no system at all. And a very grumpy woman who pushed in the queue because she was too stupid to look and see where she was supposed to go.
There was a refreshment place about halfway round selling a small selection of sandwiches and crisps and things, and there was also a butterbeer counter. It was disgusting. some kind of fruity fizzy drink with a sort of ice cream on top, only it just tasted like very cold cream. Jess liked it, I think Jonny thought it was ok, Rich refused to try it. I gave mine to Jess. But it was only £2.95, so I didn’t begrudge trying it. Much. 
The tour was great, but I think I missed some bits. It’s not laid out in a set way to walk around, which is good because you don’t get stuck in a line the whole way, but I think it was quite easy to miss bits. I wouldn’t take kids, we saw a few bored ones. I also wouldn’t take anyone not particularly mad about Harry Potter, the husbands got bored and wandered off LONG before we did. 
But my sister Amy didn’t get to come with us, so I’ll get another chance to go. Yay!

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