a north-eastern holiday.

Forget the middle-east…Dubai can wait! The north-east is where it’s at for a family holiday these days!

Now, don’t get me wrong, put me on a plane to Dubai and face me with seven star service and uninterrupted sunshine for a week and I would probably choose that over Alnwick, Northumberland, BUT – we have just returned from a wonderful five days of family time and I can honestly say we would highly recommend it.

We booked a little house called Red Door via cottages.com – a website we use quite regularly, especially since having the children.

It wasn’t the best, being totally honest. But it was clean and a good base from which to travel around Northumberland. And since it took us almost a month to decide what we wanted to do and finally get round to booking something, we were lucky to find anything at all that didn’t cost us a month’s mortgage payment!

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Mr O’s family are from Northumberland, and he spent much of his childhood holidaying in the area – something that prompted him to want to take our children up there. So we tootled on up the A1 and found ourselves in Alnwick – a beautiful little market town on the South Bank of the River Aln.

If you’ve never been to Northumberland, you could probably be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is all about. Why would you head so close to Scotland and not cross the border? What is there up there but old coal mines? And you probably think it’s all just about Lindisfarne?

You would be wrong!

We spent the whole week cooing over scenery (OK, I spent the whole week cooing over scenery), enjoying miles of glorious beaches, walking through picturesque little fishing villages, eating the most amazing seafood and discovering history we never even knew existed – it was just fabulous.

The best day by far, in my opinion, was the day that we spent at Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden.

Mr O would disagree – he would say it was the day spent on the beach at Seahouses…but since I HATE sand (see previous post here for more info!) I will not agree with him, even though I felt myself the most relaxed I’ve been in a while on that beach.

It was, actually, if I dare admit it, blissful.

The Alnwick Castle and Garden experience, whilst quite expensive, was a full day of brilliant family fun. We spent hours and hours outdoors (yep, the small ones slept well that night!!) exploring gardens, finding out names for plants, wading through fallen blossom with Ruby taking the opportunity to throw it at us at every turn of the path, and laughing our socks off at the silly court jester who threw fire and genuinely made Ruby fear for her safety – hilarious to see!!

I quite fancied the ‘On Location’ tour, which showed you all the bits of the castle that had been used in films such as Harry Potter and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves – but since that took place at 3.30pm and Ruby had had all of her fun already, she deemed it “too boring” and so we hot footed it out of there before a huge wobbly/major embarrassment kicked in.

That evening we ate out at a place called The Jolly Fisherman in a teeny little village called Crastor. We tried Oysters for the very first time (and we weren’t sick!) and enjoyed gorgeous fresh fish and lobster in beautiful surroundings – with lashings of Alnwick Gin!

We saved money where we could by making sandwiches for lunch and we ate in the house a couple of evenings, which actually worked out quite well all in all.

If you’ve seen my Instagram feed you will know I’ve already said that I need another holiday to get over this one though.

Whilst my brain switched from overdrive to relax, my body is shattered. We didn’t sleep very well at all with Henry in our room – and not at all most nights as he decided that he couldn’t be without me and clung to me like a limpet (an after-effect of his operation?).

Still – it was a brilliant holiday, and we crammed in enough to make the memories last for some time, I hope.

Worn out but very happy.

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A good summary for a lovely time with the family.

Roll on the next staycation…Devon in July!

Speak soon,
K x

the waiting game.

Tomorrow our son, Henry, goes into hospital for an operation.

When he was just 3 months old Henry contracted Bacterial Meningitis (read about it and learn the signs & symptoms here…), which was horrific to put it mildly.

Thankfully, he came out of it the other side relatively unscathed.

However, at a routine post-Meningitis hearing check, the Audiology team discovered a hearing loss and, six tests later, that hearing loss isn’t getting any better.

So tomorrow, Henry heads into surgery to have grommets inserted.

Grommets are, for anyone that is wondering, very small tubes (like cotton reels) that help to drain away excess fluid building up in the middle ear.

Here’s a helpful handy diagram to show you exactly what I mean!*

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We’re hopeful that the grommets will drain away the fluid and that he will then pass his hearing tests – as the Audiology team believe that it’s the pressure of the fluid that is causing his hearing loss.

And, to be honest, that’s what I’m banking on – because otherwise, it’s likely that the Meningitis has damaged Henry’s hearing and so, if he doesn’t pass after the grommets have fallen out then we’ll need to consider hearing aids for him – and that, being completely honest, for some reason, makes me feel very uneasy.

Now, in my rational mind I know that this is a simple and straightforward procedure.

I know that he will be fine. That it’s routine and done hundreds of times a week. And that if, after it all he needs hearing aids then that is NOT a problem.

But yet I still feel like my world is spinning.

I feel sick. I’m worried. I’m nervous. I’m tired.

So, so tired.

Henry on the other hand, thankfully, is full of beans. He’s his usual belligerent self, shouting at his sister, raiding the fridge any chance he gets and stomping about the place wittering on to himself and anyone that will listen (and pretend to understand what he’s going on about!).

Tomorrow is unknown. I don’t have a clue what to expect. And I think that’s half of the problem.

I am, as you now know, a planner.

I’m strengthened by structure, and lists, and details.

Tomorrow makes me VERY nervous.

Once again, I’ll be on that ward.
The ward I had really hoped we’d never have to return to.

And once again, my baby will be handed off to someone else to take care of.

My control of the situation will be gone and, for a short time, so will my beautiful, smiley, happy son.

If you have any experience of this, or you can offer any pearls of wisdom to help me through then please feel free to comment.

Here’s to a quick and easy procedure, and to never having to go through this again!

But for now, we wait…

Speak soon,
K x

*Image supplied by afairgo.net

arguments with a four year old.

Our daughter, as many of you will already know, is four.

Our daughter, as many of you will know, is also very strong-willed and a feisty little creature.

This basically means the following things:

  1. She knows best
  2. She doesn’t listen to a word we say
  3. She will pretend to listen whilst rolling her eyes at you
  4. She knows best
  5. She throws monumental, melodramatic (and somewhat hilarious) strops from time to time
  6. She flicks from loving her brother to wishing he wasn’t around faster than you can blink
  7. She knows best

She’s a teeny weeny wolf in the most angelic of sheep’s clothing. With a head bob and plenty of “sass” that comes from one too many episodes of My Little Pony!

She’s awesome. She’s kind. She’s clever. She’s frustrating.

She’s Ruby.

There are the usual little arguments that I’m pretty sure are standard for any parent of a four year old…you know the ones, no you can’t have chocolate for breakfast, too much TV will make your brain mushy, no you can’t have chocolate for breakfast, please put your shoes on, I’m sorry but Jamie can’t come to live with us as his mummy would miss him too much, no you can’t have any more chocolate as you’ll be sick…and so on and so forth.

#totalbrokenrecord

But last night, and I have to admit quite often recently, her sass turned into being just plain mean to her baby brother.

And as a result, last night we had an argument that was bigger than the usual ones.

Last night she ended up in her bedroom in tears.

And last night I felt more guilt than I have ever felt after an argument with her. Ever.

Why?

Because I lost my cool. Because she cried so hard and because, last night she looked at me and said, “Does this mean you don’t love me?”.

And that, quite simply, broke my heart because oh Lord, do I love her.

I love her so, so much.

But the thing is…when I see her nastily growling in the face of her baby brother, or snatching toys from his hands just because he is enjoying himself, or laughing when he falls over, it kind of makes me cross.

And it makes me sad, because I don’t understand where that comes from. Is it normal?!

Ruby has never been that child you see. Sure there have been moments, but in general she’s had glowing reports about how good she is at sharing and we are always being told how kind she is. So why is it then, that all of a sudden she seems to have designated Henry as public enemy number 1?

Listen to me please. Stop doing that. Behave yourself.
You’re doing so well at sharing. That was so kind. Thankyou for being nice to Henry.

I’ve tried all the tactics, and I could spout ToddlerCalm, How to Encourage Sharing…all the parenting books you like… back at you, but I’m still no closer to cracking this one.

And this is the one that causes me to have arguments that make my four year old think I don’t love her!

Help!

So much has happened to our little family over the last 19 months since Henry arrived. Meningitis, starting school, we’ve moved house, I’ve gone back to work…and I guess all of these things are taking a toll on all of us.

I don’t know if how I parent is the best way to do things. I tell her I love her every single day. I worry constantly about what she thinks and feels. I spend ages explaining why we’re doing things the way we are. I talk with her after every falling out and we forgive and forget. I wonder every time we fall out how much of all of this she will remember, and how it’s affecting her “future self”. I fret about whether we should spend more time with her on her own, without Henry around. I worry about their future relationship – I want so much for them to be friends. I feel incredibly guilty about arguing with her – shouldn’t I just be loving every single minute I have with her instead!?

Shouldn’t I find it easy to take the upper-hand and just let it all go?

Maybe? Probably? Definitely?

There are lots of things that I don’t know about our four year old and how best to parent her, now and in the future. And I am hoping that this, like other triggers for arguments, is just a phase.

One thing I do know for sure is that I love her so much. I am so proud of her and how she has handled all the changes that have come her way recently.

And that will never change, no matter how many times she rolls her eyes at me!

Any advice? Sibling rivalry getting you down too? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Speak soon x

the struggle.

Hi. My name is Kathryn. And it has been exactly four months since my last blog.

Oops.

You see, I started oliphantum way back in March 2016 with the intention of blogging regularly and creating a little world through which I could get back a bit of “me”. Find my humour and get my creativity going again after having two children and spending a lot of time being poorly and at home.

But it wasn’t always that easy.

Two children is hard.

And why is it that, just like with birth and the first baby, no one actually bothers to tell you exactly how hard!?

No one tells you that sleep deprivation from two small people that don’t sleep feels like pins being consistently stuck into your eyes.

No one tells you that your first born will, at some stage, turn into a miniature Tasmanian devil and try to smother your newborn baby either with love or a pillow!

No one tells you that whilst you thought keeping up with laundry for three people was hell on earth, that doing it for four people will nearly kill you.

No one tells you that what little you had left of your former intelligence will most definitely stick two fingers up at you and leave at the first chance it gets, leaving you a blithering idiot that can only do one thing at a time and talk about nappies for approximately 19 months (I am at this point now – I may be wrong, and I may still be a blithering idiot!).

No one tells you that you will cry more after your second child. Perhaps because no one likes to talk about that part – but they should!!

Then there was my eldest starting school, me starting a new job AND a big house move…just because life didn’t seem hard enough!

Yep, the second half of 2016 was pretty much a disaster.
A really big struggle.

This isn’t a pity party. I’m not looking for sympathy. It just sometimes helps to actually tell people that it’s been hard work.

And that I haven’t coped very well with it.

At times I coped pretty darn badly to be honest.
Craaaaaaaazy woman would be a good name for me, and I’m sure that Mr O would agree.

Thankfully all the poorly in the world, all the stress, upheaval and general ridiculousness has helped me to see things a bit more clearly.

Two children is still going to be hard throughout 2017. Especially because Henry has now turned into a beast that likes to scream at me whenever I even suggest his nappy needs changing and Ruby has decided that she knows everything in the whole world and that I, actually, know nothing.

I don’t do resolutions as a rule. I am never going to give up chocolate and running is alright, but only in summer. So for 2017, here is my annual List of Stuff To Remember:

  • My children are not trying to (purposefully) drive me insane
  • I’ve had a toddler before and survived unscathed
  • Chocolate is good, but in moderation
  • My four year old is the most loving, kind and clever girl – everything we wished she would be
  • Siblings fight and argue, it’s normal
  • Gin and Tonic is my friend
  • Work, although important, is not the be all and end all
  • Find the time to write my blog, because it’s fun and I enjoy it

But mostly I think I need to remember to count my blessings.

I need to remember that I am loved and that I love my family and friends so much. Nothing is worth forgetting that for. Not ever.

Here’s to a fantastic 2017.
Let me know what’s on your Stuff to Remember list in the comments!

Speak soon x

driving me crazy.

Travelling in the car is to us what having your nappy changed is to a weeny one. Natural, necessary yet a little bit annoying.

Mr O and I have spent our entire life together travelling up and down motorways as we’ve journeyed from Luton to Doncaster, Blackburn, Lichfield, Coventry, Liverpool, London and many other places in between…and sadly, because of this, we now know the M6, M1, M62 and M18 motorways (and if you know Mr O, the toilets at each service station!) like the backs of our hands.

Our children, being only small are somewhat lacking in the car travel experience department and are, understandably I guess, not really very happy about us trying to provide such a wonderful, joyous education for them.

Take our most recent car journey as an example…

Our best friends live in Leighton Buzzard. Of course they do. Everyone knows that it’s the rule that your best friends must live at least 1.5 hours away down a very busy motorway!

So it started off very well, with the promise of a little nap (sadly not me!) and a sing song before we reached our destination.

In reality it wasn’t any of this. It was a mixture of awful and even worse.

Henry and Ruby took it in turns to be annoyed. Henry would scream and cry, and then when he’d given up, resigned to his fate once more, Ruby would pick up the baton and start whining about us not being there yet, that she wasn’t actually sleepy, that the nursery rhymes weren’t on loud enough, that the radio was too loud (she was trying to sleep after all!)…

It was certainly one of our most interesting car journeys of recent times.

And then there is this:

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Oh, look, another 50mph zone!

The circular sign of doom.

The mark of killer traffic jams, lane creepers, idiots on cruise control…and the fact that our entire motorway network is just full of them, all at the same time, is soul destroying.

We have spent the last 2-3 years filtering slowly through 50mph zones, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually spotted people working. What are they actually doing anyway!? And why has it suddenly become en-vogue to remove crash barriers and replace them with massive concrete walls!? How is that safe!?

Crazy.

So, good people, here are my very special top tips for travelling with small people and how not to end up looking like this:

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Oh dear…

  1. Be prepared – tell them in advance that it will be a long journey
  2. Get them just the right amount of excited – too much excitement will result in endless “Are we nearly there yet?” situations that will make you want to hurl yourself from the moving vehicle. You need them excited to get there but also excited about the getting there itself (the promise of a treat at the half way point usually helps!)
  3. Take stuff with you – no matter how long or short the journey, let them take as much “stuff” as they want. It will keep them occupied and avoid a tantrum when told they can’t take their “stuff” with them
  4. Play nursery rhymes – but do a deal with them first, as a parent you simply cannot listen to nursery rhymes for the entire journey as your ears will bleed. Take it in turns to be in charge of the music!
  5. Spelling games – spot the signs coming up and ask them to tell you how many letters they can see, it usually ends up with them shouting that you’re driving too fast, but it’s a great distraction technique
  6. Counting games – how many red cars can you count etc. etc. will keep them busy for at least 10 minutes
  7. Snacks – doesn’t have to be sweets, can be anything at all. But try to individually wrap things or put them in challenging pots that keep them occupied…sneaky, sneaky mummy!
  8. Don’t engage in small talk – and by this, I mean the talk of the smalls. Just let them witter at you. It’s easier and you can pretend to be a unicorn or something. Or, better still, pretend to be a mute…it angers Ruby, but it might work with your little one!
  9. Pretend to be asleep – you will be shouted at, you will have things thrown at your head, but if you can keep your face straight you are guaranteed at least 15mins of time with your own inane thoughts
  10. Tell stories about your life – if all else fails, use your trump card. Ruby loves hearing stories about me, about Daddy, about our parents and about her Uncles. Tell them everything you can. Teach them about your past, and about the past of your family…they will love it.

I’m hopeful that as they get older things will become easier on the travel front…

They certainly can’t get any worse! Or can they!?!

Share your best and worst travel stories with me…I’d love to hear them.

Speak soon, x