Four and a Dog

A blog about family life

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

14 in a House With no Wifi

Well it’s been awhile- sorry.

We’ve just got back from a holiday in Devon where Wifi was weak and free time was non-existent. However, the weather was unbelievably good, the company was wonderful and Bruiser even slept… sometimes.

My parents will be celebrating their Ruby wedding anniversary next week and decided that a holiday with the whole family would be the best way to celebrate. These days the whole family consists of two grandparents, three children and their partners, six grandchildren and a dog. On this occasion the house we were staying in did not allow dogs and so Uncle M got to go on a holiday of his own with a lovely lady who actually seems to like all his idiosyncrasies. The rest of us got to stay in a fabulous house in South Devon for a whole week.

It has been a very busy week during which Hubby had to leave and “talk to people about stars” according to Diva. What he was actually doing was attending the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester- same difference. Thankfully that was only for three days and he was back in time to help pack up and drive home.

I could write in great detail about everything we did but I’m sure you would soon become bored and switch to another channel. Instead I will regale you with some of my favourite moments of stress, hilarity and sentimentality.

It is very rare for us all to get together anymore. Everyone lives hours apart and has a multitude of responsibilities that take precedence over fun holidays in the countryside. It’s about time we all became independently wealthy so that our only responsibility was to attend village fetes, buy stuff and have a cause. Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely so we will have to settle for normal life with an occasional get together.

Amazingly we all managed very well during the week. There were the occasional disagreements but nothing that required a Jerry Springer intervention. At some time or another, everyone found that they had missed out on some vital piece of information about what was happening, but I spend a lot of my time being confused about what’s going on so am fairly used to this.

Mostly it was a fantastic opportunity to catch up and to see what wonderful little people all of our children are becoming. I only had one cousin growing up and we didn’t get to see each other very often. I love the fact that Diva and Bruiser have all these other cousins and that they all get on so well.

Or the trampoline if you want to be exact. There was one in the garden of the house and all the kids LOVED it. Usually there were four children, an adult and a whole heap of static electricity inside. Cousins I and G leapt about like crazy, performing some impressive falls and tackles. Cousin T had great fun crawling about, practising his balance and pinning the resident adult to the floor. Diva jumped a little bit and then performed a variety of elaborate falls followed by a selection of dramatic wails. These were normally the result of her cousins not doing as they were told.

On the Saturday we went to visit Crealy Adventure Park where apparently you are expected to have a, “Really, Crealy perfect day.” Diva has only been to a theme park once when she was one and there was nothing for her to do. She LOVED Crealy. It was absolutely perfect for her. There were a variety of indoor and outdoor playgrounds, a merry-go-round, animals, ice-cream, a child size village to terrorise and cars to drive. She didn’t stop talking from the second we arrived, “Wahoo! I want to go on that one, Mummy. I’m really, really excited, Daddy! Let’s do it!”

On the Sunday it was Cousin G’s 3rd birthday. There were presents and cake and picnics in the garden. Diva received some belated birthday presents too. It was a good day.

Old Friends
On the Monday we deserted the family to go and visit one of my old college friends. We haven’t seen each other in about twelve years and it was wonderful to see her and her lovely family. They have three gorgeous boys who were all very patient and kind to Diva. She thought she had died and gone to heaven with all their toys (I think Hubby did too). A perfect afternoon ended with fish & chips in a sun filled garden- bliss.

Is full of retired people, impressive buildings and pretty pebbles. I loved it.

Cot Sleeping
Not all night, but Bruiser has been sleeping in a cot. Hooray!

Easter Egg Fun
We made cards, decorated eggs and beat up a piƱata egg for treats. We also had an Easter egg hunt. In the morning we got all the kids to make an Easter head band with stickers, gems, pom-poms and eggs. Aunty J and Cousin I had made baskets for everyone to fill and Aunty C went to hide a selection of treat filled eggs all around the garden.

The children all responded differently to the hunt. Cousin T went with his daddy to the far end of the garden where he could manoeuvre his wheelchair a bit better and began filling his basket as it hung around his neck. Cousin G went off, Bruce Willis style in his blue vest, crashing through undergrowth and throwing eggs in to his basket. Once he felt the area was clear, he ran off back in to the house to devour his spoils before anyone could take them off him. Cousin I was systematic and thorough. She scoured all the surrounding area and hoovered up every treat in sight. Soon her basket was quite literally overflowing. Thankfully she is also very kind and started adding eggs to all her cousins’ baskets. Diva was late starting, due to a momentary lapse in good behaviour, found one egg and announced she was done. She then proceeded to find herself a comfortable spot to sit down and eat her egg. It took a lot of persuading to get her to join back in.

Throughout the commotion Cousin A looked on with bemusement and Bruiser tried to eat his socks.

Lyme Regis
Another scorching day on Thursday so we headed to the beach. I am in love with Lyme Regis. I have always loved the beach and it would seem that Diva has very much inherited that bug. She couldn’t wait to get in the absolutely freezing water and had no issue with being covered in sand. In fact, she spent a good fifteen minutes practising comedy falls on to the sand.

When it was time to leave she flatly refused. We packed everything up, literally left the beach and she still wouldn’t come. I stood on the promenade watching her and waiting for her to realise I was no longer there. When she eventually did, there was about five seconds of wailing before she sat down in the sand and began playing again.

Grandma and Grandad
They haven’t stopped all week. They must be completely exhausted from being in such high demand. On the plus side, it must be very nice to know you’re in such high demand.

There are many other lovely things that happened but I need to go to bed now.

Thank you my lovely family for a lovely holiday.

Bath Time

Four cousins in a bath that ended with an untimely poo.

This may become the title of my first book.


Right now Bruiser looks at me with complete adoration. If we are apart for even a short time, as soon as I hold him, he strokes my face, beams at me and then tries to eat my hair.

At the moment, everything I do is marvellous to Bruiser. The other day I only had to walk past him to extract peals of laughter. Diva requires a bit more effort to get a reaction, such as colouring in between the lines, or making Netflix work, or jumping over a log:

“Woah! That is nice colouring, Mummy. I like your picture.”
“You fixed it!”
“You’re doing it, Mummy!”

Now that she is older the adoration is waning. It is being replaced with high expectations and anger when things are not going her way. But of course this happens. She knows no different. I have always been there, clothed her, fed her, entertained her, taught her, helped her, comforted her and supported her. It’s hardly surprising that this very quickly gets taken for granted. If something completely trivial does not go according to plan she is furious with me.

As far as I’m aware, this does not get better. I am reliably informed that this adoration will continue a rapid descent until we enter the pre-teen years, at which point it will become non-existent.

Jolly good.

Maybe if I take up juggling or shark wrestling I can make it last a bit longer.


My only solace is that now I’m all grown-up and dealing with my own children, it has made me appreciate much more what my parents did for me. The adoration is most definitely back and with it comes a substantial amount of admiration and gratitude.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go and stroke their faces and eat their hair.

Happy Mother’s Day

What makes a great Mother’s Day…

Having a great mother that comes to visit and helps look after your kids.

Getting to spend time with your own parents and your own kids.

Receiving a handmade card with a squiggle that is translated to mean, ‘I love you Mummy’.

Having your brother and his family arrive for a surprise visit.

Enjoying a fabulous lunch in the Hollybush in Witney.

Watching your daughter dance around in a coat and hat your grandma made for you when you were three years old, which makes her look like she’s starring in a costume drama.

A baby that decides to take a two hour nap.

Speaking to your own grandparents and your other brother and family via Skype.

Eating a giant Fondant Fancy.

Getting a laminator as a gift (Hubby knows me so well).

Rugby Commentary

My parents are visiting us again this weekend and Grandma decided it was time to train Diva up on Welsh rugby. For those of you not in the know, today was a Grand Slam match between Wales and France. Here is Diva’s commentary on the match.

After Grandma explained the teams…
We like the red ones. We don’t like the blue ones (said over and over again).

Referring to a French player…
Oh no the mean one has it!

Referring to another French player…
Oh no the naughty one has it!

Referring to yet another French player…
Oh no the ugly one has it!

Referring to a Welsh player…
He’s wearing a hat so they don’t pull his hair.

Referring to a scrum…
Uh oh, they’re fighting.

Referring to a try…
Oh no he dropped the ball!

Referring to a conversion…
He did it! Now he can put his hat back on.

30 minutes in to the match…
You need to read me a story now, Grandma.

After several stories with Grandma and a couple of games with Mummy…
Look they won! Yay! They have cuddles now.

I don’t know a lot about Rugby but she seems to have understood the gist. I’m sure Grandma feels very proud…apart from the rude remarks of course, they were unnecessary and not at all funny and we will be sure to tell her not to do that again.

Diva Wisdom Part 2

1. I can’t eat my lunch yet, it’s too cold. I need to wait for it to warm up.
2. My flower has melted like snow.
3. Go to bed, Daddy. You need to have a little lie down.
4. I did everything yesterday. Let’s do it again tomorrow.
5. Mummy: What time is it?
Diva: It’s 5 minutes.
6. (Measuring a wall with a tape measure) Hmm…this is 22 minutes long.
7. Bruiser likes me. He’s so cute.
8. I have made you a flower at Nursery, Mummy. Shhh…it’s a secret.
9. (On a cloudy day) The sun is getting in my eyes. You need to buy me some sunglasses, Mummy.
10. (To a little boy in the park). Come here, I want to show you something. Behind that cloud the moon is hiding.

Happy Birthday Diva

This weekend was Diva’s third birthday. On Friday we travelled up to the Midlands for a birthday weekend with Hubby’s family. Diva was excited all week about the prospect of presents and cake. However, she promised that I could share her birthday- very generous considering she already shares her birthday with Uncle D.

We had debated having a party for Diva, but we still don’t have many friends where we live and I am mostly too tired to organise anything. Thankfully Hubby’s parents were willing to help out and Diva was having far too much fun to judge me on my lack of party planning.

Benefits of spending a birthday with Nana and Grampy:
1. Nana can make a much better cake.
2. Nana and Grampy have a very nice house with a very big garden.
3. Uncle M really likes going for adventures in the very big garden.
4. Diva likes taking Grampy on adventures in the very big garden while Mummy enjoys a cup of tea.
5. Uncle M has two other dog friends to torment and two cat friends to be confused and intrigued by.
6. Bruiser sometimes sleeps in a cot.
7. Cousin L and family can stay too.
8. Diva can play endlessly with her uncles and Cousin L.
9. The ratio of adults to children means that occasionally everyone gets a break.
10. Great food.

For Diva’s actual birthday we visited Ash End House Farm. This place is fantastic. On one side there is a great indoor play barn with excellent slides- I may have gone on once or twice. On the other side is a children’s farm with a schedule of fun farm events. We got to hold a chick, feed a lamb, pet an assortment of sheep and goats, hunt for an egg and sit on a pony. There was even a performance of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, but we had to leave that one early due to the scary troll.

We ended our visit with some time on the outdoor playground eating ice creams. Diva then used her birthday money to buy a hobby horse that resembled the pony she’d brushed and sat on. She proudly galloped said hobby horse out of the farm and back to the car. Her neighs were very authentic.

Once we had returned to Nana and Grampy’s house, Diva got to open her presents. Excited barely describes her reaction… apart from when she opened the educational calendar we got her. Give her time and she’ll grow to appreciate the joy of changing a fabric Monday to a fabric Tuesday. Plus, it’s reversible and the other side is in French! What’s not to love?

We also got her a toy medical kit. Foolish. As soon as she opened it, Nana and I had to lie on the floor to be cured by Diva and Cousin L. The cure involves being prodded with every plastic implement, having your pulse checked, receiving an injection, taking some pills and having a ten second rest. Since getting home, all the toys have been injured or sick. Due to the increase of patients, and the variety of conditions, we have had to introduce bandages to the game (a nice gingham ribbon) and make Uncle M a doctor. NHS bill be warned- this could be the future.

Diva loves all her gifts and has really enjoyed putting all her cards up. We all had such a fun weekend and are really grateful to our lovely family for making Diva’s third birthday so special. Thank you.

When the Naughty Spot Stops Working

I first heard about the naughty spot when watching Super Nanny. I’d used a similar technique with kids in school before, but had never given it a formal title or a time frame. As usual with any type of parenting technique, people either love or hate the naughty spot.

We started using it a little while ago and, as you can imagine, the scenes resembled those on Super Nanny. Diva would run, hide, pull faces and try to make it in to a game. Eventually she got the hang of it and the threat of it has been successful ever since (mostly). Once in awhile she decides to test us, just in case we’ve forgotten what it is, or it no longer exists, or she has broken our will. Thankfully, we are as persistent and stubborn as she is (something I’m really looking forward to in the teenage years). After a repeat of the original attempt, including the running, hiding and face pulling, we settle back in to the pattern of threats being enough.

Before she is sent to the naughty spot there is always a warning followed by a count to three. If the bad behaviour is still continuing after the number three is reached, she is swiftly marched to the spot, told why she is there and left to think about the fact that she purposefully poured a drink on the carpet.

This has all been fine until this week. The problem is that our daughter is clever. She also has a superb imagination. Tonights performance is an excellent example.

Once again, Diva had been tormenting the dog and had to take a trip to the naughty spot. I did my warning as usual, but couldn’t actually take her to the naughty spot because she was already there…laughing.

Seconds later she was up and running off. However, after a few bolts for it, she seemed to settle down.

Then she tried to claim she needed the toilet. Imagine her surprise when I returned her to the spot once she had finished! The second time I didn’t fall for it.

Then the singing started. The next bit of this tale should be sung to a made up tune. If you are familiar with the television show, ‘Wonderpets’, you’ll get the idea.

Diva: Oh No! I on the naughty spot.
Mummy has put me on the naughty spot.
I be naughty. On the naughty spot.
Someone help me!
This, is, serious.

She then got up and ran again. Each time I went to get her, she would dance back to the spot shouting, “Hold on to your hat!”. Once back on the spot the singing became a monologue.

Diva: I have to stay on the naughty spot. I be mean to Uncle M and now he sad. I sad because I on the naughty spot. Mummy being mean. She keeps putting me on the naughty spot. I no like the naughty spot.

Then the running began again. Followed by more singing.

Diva: I on the naughty spot.
This is the naughty spot.
There is the radiator. (Stop it door, you not my friend.)
I no like the naughty spot.

Eventually she stayed on the spot for her full two minutes. She apologised beautifully and was able to recount exactly why she was there. I have never wanted to laugh so much at my child as I have tonight. Hubby came home right at the end of all this and I had to try and fill him in without letting on to to Diva how funny it had all been.

This weekend she turns three and the naughty spot time is supposed to increase to three minutes. I’m not sure I can keep a straight face that long.

What techniques does everyone else use? Surely there is something that works on a clever kid.

Diva Wisdom

Diva is always uttering fantastic little gems of wisdom. She may only be two and eleven months but she definitely has her world sussed.

1. I can’t open my mouth to brush my teeth, my leg hurts.
2. Calm down Mummy (said after I asked her to stop jumping on the bed).
3. I can’t go in the river because I too little? (pause) I a bigger girl now, Mummy.
4. When I get littler I can play with the babies toys.
5. Daddy no have boobies.
6. People go in the people box and cars go in the car box.
7. When I a bigger girl I will be bigger.
8. I can’t balance without my skirt.
9. That moon is following me.
10. I like chocolate buttons. They are very nice…Can I have chocolate buttons?

Cursed Day

Sunday was a day we were not meant to enjoy. All powers conspired together to taunt us and laugh at our inability to succeed.

It began badly- a warning that we foolishly chose to ignore. Bruiser had kept me awake for a large section of the night due to his teething/cold/warped sense of humour. When I finally realised it actually was morning, I handed him over to Hubby and returned to bed (I should point out that Hubby is more than willing to help out during the night, but I feel that two exhausted parents dealing with a baby and toddler is far worse than one). Once I felt human again, I joined the family to discuss the days plan. We had already decided on two options: if it was dry we would go to the local farm; if it was wet we would go swimming. It was very, very wet with a touch of snow…

Swimming, it is. During the packing of swimming essentials Bruiser decided to scream and Diva decided to torment the dog enough to earn a trip to the naughty spot. Time was ticking on and the window for using the pool was rapidly diminishing. Then I realised my swimsuit was torn. I debated calling the whole thing off but felt determined to get everybody out. I sewed quickly and we left for the pool…

Which was full. After a brief panic and a calm explanation to an upset toddler we tried to think of an alternative plan…

Soft play. We drove quickly back to the house to grab baby food and headed off. The drive was calm and the children slept. We started to think that maybe our luck was changing. The soft play area is in a garden centre (of course it is) with a fairly nice restaurant. We started with lunch and then looked had a look around. During our time there, I angered one woman by accidentally bumping her daughter’s high chair with my buggy and another by being sat at a table which she thought was free. Clearly we were not the only ones to be having a bad day. Eventually we decided to brave the soft play…

Which was full. Apparently on busy days they operate a timetabled system which I have never seen before. There was no way we could tell Diva that yet another thing she loved to do was closed so we signed up for the next session 45 minutes later. We filled the time with cake bribery and games, but she was pretty fed up. As apparently was Bruiser, who started screaming so much that the entire world stared at us with judgmental eyes. Hubby decided to take him for a walk while I took Diva to join the queue for soft play…

Which was insane! There were people and buggies everywhere. I ended up in the soft play with Diva and we somehow managed to acquire a small gang of children whose parents were wise enough to stay outside. After over an hour of ‘fun’ it was time to go. Diva was pretty much the only child left. She tried to bury herself in the ball pool but Hubby spotted her hiding place and pulled her out.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty much standard. The usual pacing with Bruiser and calming Diva down for sleep. By bed time Hubby and I were both exhausted. Next weekend I’m phoning everywhere we plan on going in advance. Tickets will be booked and timetables will be made. All references to spontaneity will be growled at.

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