Four and a Dog

A blog about family life

Archive for the category “family”

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone! Apologies for the long silence. Life just keeps happening to us and, unfortunately, I never have the time to write about it.

As an example, I will share with you our wild and crazy New Year celebrations. We had originally discussed trying to meet up with friends, or invite friends to come to us. That didn’t happen.

Location: home.
People present: Mummy, Hubby, Diva Bruiser & Uncle M.

5.30 pm- I lay out a selection of delicious toppings for a New Year pizza party! The kids come and add whatever they like to their pizzas ready to go in the oven.
6.00pm- We all sit down together to eat our delicious pizzas. Unfortunately Diva decides she doesn’t actually like any of her chosen toppings so picks them all off and just eats the base (fussy eating phase). Bruiser loves his toppings but is not very keen on the base so tries to sneak that to Uncle M.
6.30pm- Bruiser plays his new game of running away anytime we want to get him dressed or undressed. Diva ‘sings’ some songs she has made up about snow and saying please.
6.40pm- Both children are finally in the bath.
6.50pm- Diva is refusing to get out of the bath and Bruiser is refusing to get ready for bed.
7.10pm- Bruiser briefly protests about the cruelty of being made to go to sleep and then realises that sleep might not be that bad after all, but that’s only because he wants to and has nothing to do with the fact that I suggested it.
7.20pm- Hubby tries to reason with Diva who is insisting on wearing her monitors (earmuffs) to bed. Her final argument is, “You and Mummy go downstairs and talk and stop me from going to sleep and I need my monitors to stop the noise from you and the wind and the rain”. This child can sleep through her brother’s crying, I think she’s okay.
7.30pm- I tidy up the kitchen and Hubby braves the cold to walk Uncle M.
7.32pm- Hubby returns with a slightly crazed and barking Uncle M due to fireworks- seriously!
7.45pm- Kitchen is cleaned. Children are in bed. Uncle M is safely in the kitchen with a chew, listening to radio 4. What to do…? I begin to clear through some drawers and Hubby tries to fix some technical gadgetry.
9.00pm- We debate whether this is even more pathetic than last year when we played Words With Friends. We look for something to watch on TV that is vaguely related to New Years celebrations.
9.05pm- We watch some episodes of Revenge instead. I clear another drawer.
11.00pm- Is it really still not 2013? We decide to open the (fake) champagne anyway. I go and get some scissors out of my reorganised drawers for no reason other than to prove I know exactly where they are.
11.55pm- We watch other people celebrating in London.
12.00am- We have another drink.
12.10am- We go to bed.
12.30am- Bruiser wakes up.

Funnily enough, it was actually a really nice evening. You have no idea how happy a newly organised drawer makes me.

Bruiser Turns One

I can’t quite believe it, but it is true. Somehow we seem to have made it round the Sun again and Bruiser has officially been with us all the way. He has changed from a floppy, ever feeding bundle in need of constant carrying; to a waddling, ever feeding toddler in need of constant watching. He is full of smiles and love, and we feel very lucky to have him as part of our little family. The love and adoration between Diva and Bruiser is especially perfect. Not to mention all the love and wonderfulness of the fabulous family and friends who all came to help us celebrate. People are great…or at least the people we like are great…I’m not sure about the rest of them.

To celebrate the momentous occasion of Bruiser’s first year we decided to have a party. We also like to multi-task so we combined his first birthday with a Welcome Ceremony (non-religious alternative to a Christening). The planning for this began a long time ago and involved many different things that should not be attempted by a non-party planner on a limited budget. But when we like to dream in this family, we like to dream big! We also like to dream of dinosaurs, fairies and rectangles, according to Diva.

I stole the concept from a friend of mine who had arranged a circus theme for her son’s first birthday. We chose to do a traditional funfair idea and I made a variety of games for the children and adults to enjoy. We had a tin can alley, face painting, bean bag toss, hook-a-duck, candy and popcorn stand, a home made photo booth and a ball pool. We also had balloons and bunting and prizes. For the adults there was proper afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches, scones and cake….so much cake.

The idea was that we would arrive at the hall half an hour before the guests to set up, the kids would play for a bit, we would make speeches, everyone would eat stuff, there would be photos, I’d do a puppet show (I do that sometimes…ask anyone), everyone would help tidy up to be nice and we’d go home.

The reality was that our morning birthday brunch we’d arranged over ran and everybody arrived while we were still setting up. I immediately put everyone to work and had the teenage sons of one friend untangling the five bunches of balloons I’d brought. Other friends and family were made to hang up bunting and fill a tub of water for plastic ducks. My poor parents spent the entire party preparing cream scones, serving tea and collecting empty cups.

Ten minutes in the children had played all the games that had taken me several hours to prepare and wanted to know what the prizes were. One of my lovely friends spent most of the party face painting after being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hubby had to make an emergency trip home when we discovered the kitchen had no cutlery and the ball pool was missing the pool. Bruiser had barely slept and needed to be taken for a walk so that he would stop screaming at kind relatives. We nearly forgot to do the toast after friends and family spent ages handing out plastic glasses of champagne. We did forget to do the photographs. I lost all feeling in my legs crouching behind a small puppet theatre. We forgot to bring bin bags to tidy up at the end.

I think people had a good time. I spoke to a couple of them and nobody was crying. Diva certainly had a good time playing with all her favourite people in the world. I loved having all my friends and family in one place and finally getting to introduce Bruiser to some people. Our chosen Godparents were marvellous and made me very proud of our awesome family, as well as our ability to delegate parental responsibility.

However, I think I’m definitely more of an ideas person. Next time I need to hire a full team to do all the actual work for me. This may require me to become substantially more rich than I currently am, so I guess I’d better work on the money making side of things too.

Bruiser also received some really lovely and thoughtful gifts. Thank you. Occasionally Diva lets him play with them.

Thank you everyone for helping to make Bruiser’s first birthday one to remember.

The Summer Starts Here

The problem with holidays is that eventually you have to come home. Nobody seems too impressed by this. Having spent three glorious weeks in France with access to a swimming pool, a beach, a play house and grandparents, Diva is particularly unimpressed with her lot.

Diva: We don’t have a swimming pool.
Mummy: No, we don’t.
Diva: Grandma and Grandad have a swimming pool.
Mummy: Yes, they do.
Diva: We don’t have a beach.
Mummy: Not near by, no.
Diva: Grandma and Grandad do.
Mummy: Yes, they do.
Diva: We had lots of adventures with Grandma and Grandad.
Mummy: Yes, we did.
Diva: I miss Grandma and Grandad.
Mummy: You have no idea.

Even Bruiser seems to be annoyed with me- probably because his diet of pine needles and apricots has come to an end.

Thankfully we had some distractions over the weekend, but today I was on my own, the first time in over three weeks. I had completely forgotten what it’s like to try and keep my children entertained for an entire day.

We were up and dressed by 7am and playing Peter Pan by 7.30am.

Diva/Peter Pan: Fly with me Wendy! let’s go get Cap’n ‘Ook.
Mummy/Wendy: Okay, Peter, but I don’t know how to fly.
Diva/Peter Pan: I will throw some Fairy stuff on you.
Mummy/Wendy: I can fly!
Diva/Peter Pan: Not too loud, you’ll wake the Pirates. Let’s go on the Pirate Ship. Uncle M can be Smee. Look we are on the Pirate Ship. Don’t touch anything or you will make the pirates cross.
Mummy/Wendy: Okay. Can we see some mermaids now?
Diva/Peter Pan: Yes, but they might pull you in the water so only talk to the nice ones. Here, they are next to the roller bears.
Mummy/Wendy: The roller bears?
Diva/Peter Pan: There they are in the water on their roller skates.

This game has continued ALL DAY. We went out on a long walk during which I had to swap between being Wendy and Cap’n ‘Ook. Several other members of the general public were randomly assigned pirate names and then were unknowingly made to walk the plank or chased back to their pirate ship. Bruiser had the pleasure of being Michael most of the day and I am genuinely convinced he now thinks this is his name.

We have been to a playground, done some colouring, played in the garden, hung out washing, made food together, watched TV, read some stories, walked for two miles and put all the toys to bed one at a time. It’s only day one! There is an entire summer ahead of us that I am going to need to fill. I clearly need to raise my game.

Who wants to help me make a pirate ship?


I’ve always loved the beach. I especially love swimming in a warm sea and building sandcastles. Diva also loves these things. She equally likes getting to eat ice-cream as it rapidly melts over her face and hands.

Bruiser loves kicking his feet in the sand and filling his chubby fists with sticky, wet sand. He also likes ramming big fistfuls of sand in to his mouth before anyone can stop him.

I do not like changing nappies full of sandy poos.

Le Village des Automates

If ever you find yourselves in Provence with children under the age of ten, or you just fancy going somewhere fabulously bizarre, take yourselves to Le Village des Automates. Here you will find an entire park of moving characters, dancing to an eclectic mix of music, alongside a superb array of adventure playground equipment.

The playground equipment really is in very good condition and includes zip wires, climbing frames, slides, tunnels, ball pit etc. There is also a lovely shaded cafe next to a child sized train that can be ridden for 1 euro. Everything else in the park is deliciously run down with some of the older exhibits housing puppets whose hands now lie decaying on the floor. Much like The Small World Ride in Disney, there are also some fantastic displays of racial stereotyping. All you need do is press a button to watch racially inappropriate puppets dance to strange songs that explain stories about pandas that eat too much bamboo…or something…my French isn’t great. Also, like Disney, there are some interesting liberties taken with traditional stories. Gulliver lounges in the forest whilst being fed by the seven dwarves and Pinocchio meets some unusual characters including a couple of people with dog faces… or maybe they were dogs with human hands…

There were also a couple of displays that I doubt Disney, even on his darkest day, would have thought to include in a Small World. My favourite was a set of elves/gnomes extracting another elf/gnome’s tooth with a piece of string. They all look very happy about the whole thing, even though they are stood next to a bucket of cotton wool stained with, what I hope is, fake blood. If that isn’t enough, there’s also an equally jolly set of elves/gnomes elbow deep in a surgical procedure.

I am not telling you any of this to put you off- far from it! I think this place is perfect for the whole family. Diva and Bruiser absolutely loved it! Bruiser’s favourite was a large furry dragon in Santa’s castle (you remember Santa’s castle right? It’s next to a four legged ant riding the Loch Ness Monster) and Diva pretty much loved it all. She travelled around the park in a Little Tikes car in which the owners had considerately added a floor for her feet and a handle for Grandad and Daddy to push with. She got to eat ice cream and run in a motion activated fountain. My Diva daughter, who regularly declares, “I can’t”, whenever she is faced with any kind of climbing (including stairs), climbed ropes, whizzed around on zip wires and scrambled through tunnels. The adults got to laugh, a lot, eat ice cream and enjoy the enjoyment of the children.

Diva has thanked me for her “adventure” every day and can not wait to go back. For those of you still not sure, look what you could be missing…


We Have a Crawler!

Bruiser has finally started to crawl. We have had been building up to this for several weeks and I am very pleased that he has done it just before he turns eight months. Why? Because I have been merrily declaring that he would be crawling by the time he reached eight months since he was about five months, and I hate to be wrong.

The build up to crawling is an odd one as, like everything to do with babies, they all seem to approach it in different ways. Diva showed no interest in moving for months. The most she would do was a circular bum shuffle. If she ever rolled on to her front, she would just cry until you put her back on her back or sat her up. Then suddenly one evening while we were getting her ready for a bath, she crawled along the landing. She then marked this momentous occasion by doing a large poo on the carpet.

Bruiser has accomplished crawling in very distinct stages. It’s almost like he’s been attending a training seminar that I don’t know about. Considering he spends nearly every second of every day attached to me, this is unlikely.

Stage one: Sitting. Bruiser liked being able to sit up. He could roll, he just didn’t like it. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of falling backwards and forwards depending on what he was trying to see/reach/eat. There would then follow the requisite crying until somebody came to help.

Stage 2: Rocking. Bruiser enjoyed rocking forwards and backwards. Eventually he learnt to put his hands down to prevent more face slams.

Stage 3: Hand balancing. Soon he was able to put his weight on to his hands for short periods of time. Often this would result in a parachute jump sprawl on the floor.

Stage 4: Bum shuffling. Bruiser learnt that by combining some rocking with some hand balancing, you could throw in a bum lift and achieve movement. It may only be movement in a circle, but it is movement.

Stage 5: Reaching. Once he had mastered the balancing, he began to reach for things and pull himself around. This is a particularly sneaky part of the process. Generally, you never see the movement in action, you just know that they are no longer in the same place that they started.

Stage 6: Backwards. For some reason, a lot of babies crawl backwards before they can go forwards. Bruiser was no exception. After reaching forwards, he would shuffle his way back until eventually he was sitting again. Sometimes he would look genuinely surprised that he’d moved.

Stage 7: Crawling. Finally Bruiser began to work out that his legs needed to move forwards as well as his arms. Currently he is still quite slow and a bit unstable, but he is definitely crawling.

Within a couple of hours I discovered a multitude of things that needed to be moved, cleaned, hidden. He may be slow at crawling but he is fast at finding things to choke on. We’re only a few days in and he’s already started to pull himself up on things. Now, instead of hitting his face on the floor, he is banging in to furniture.

I know many people dread the crawling phase, but here we are loving it! Since he has begun to crawl, Bruiser has stopped wanting to be carried everywhere and has been sleeping better at night. This makes crawling the best thing ever. A crawling household, is a happy household (unless it’s one full of bugs).

Flying Solo

As I mentioned before, Hubby is currently away with work this week. He’s in foreign lands arguing about intergalactic space problems and stuff (my words, not his). Meanwhile, I am experiencing my first try at looking after both kids, and dog, on my own. This is my third night alone and I think I can definitely divide my time between a series of successes and…unsuccesses (failures seems too mean).

We are all still alive.
Bruiser has had two daytime naps in his cot.
Uncle M has been for a walk.
We had a lovely visit from Aunty J and the kids.
The kitchen and living room are pretty clean.
Hoovering even occurred.
I have finished three cups of tea.
Diva made it to Nursery on time and was collected on time.
I have had some enjoyable phone conversations.
All of Diva’s toys ate their breakfast.
There has been painting, on purpose.
There has been chocolate.
Everybody has had food at some point in the day.

Uncle M, Diva and Bruiser have all kicked off at regular intervals during the night resulting in a distinct lack of sleep.
Bruiser has chosen this week to discover falling forwards whilst sitting.
Bruiser is teething, again.
There was a brief stand off between Diva and cousin L over Mr. Tumble’s bag, but I think that may have been resolved- does that mean it should be in successes?
No jobs have been ticked off my ever expanding list of jobs.
I have been battling a threatening migraine for 24 hours and the outcome does not look good.
I have resorted to enough bribery that News of the World employees would blush.
All food eaten has been out of a freezer or tin.
I have let six cups of tea go cold.
Uncle M has only been on one walk.
The upstairs of the house is a complete disaster of fallen clothes and discarded toys.

All in all, things have gone better than I expected. The days have been fine, other than the fact that I am exhausted, and the nights have been awful. More than anything, I miss having Hubby to share the humour and the stresses each evening.

Unfortunately he’s only back a few days before he’s off again for even longer. I have already booked in to stay with his parents. I may be proud of surviving this week, but I have no wish to repeat it quite so soon. I also know that there are lots of people who do this all the time. I’d rather not.


Hubby is away for a few days with work. This will be my first attempt at managing the kids on my own. I don’t like my chances.

Bruiser is still very unsettled through the night and most of our evenings are punctuated with regular visits upstairs to get him back to sleep.

Tonight, during one of our re-settling sessions, I forgot to close the stair gate behind me and Uncle M took the opportunity to sneak upstairs. While I was rocking Bruiser to sleep, Uncle M was hiding out in the spare room. Once I got downstairs and realised he was missing, I went back up to find him.

Not wanting to wake up sleeping children, I began a hunt in the dark. Without a torch, I used the glow of my IPad screen to try and locate him. I’m sure this is what Steve intended them for.

At some point he must have snuck out of the spare room and in to mine. Bruiser was sleeping peacefully in his cot while Uncle M was nestled nicely amongst my pillows. The bed is white and Uncle M is white. I think he knows this.

He stayed impressively still and it took me a good few seconds to realise he wasn’t just another pillow. He tried to resist when I eventually found his collar and I was forced to carry him down the stairs.

Right now Uncle M is sat on the end of the sofa with his back to me. Once in awhile he sighs.

A Diva Party

Today Diva invited me to her party.

In order to attend the party I had to wear a mask like this one:


And speak in a high pitched, posh voice (let the record state that she started it first).

“Would you like to come to my party? There will be all sorts of things. Here is your mask.”

“Thank you, I would love to come to your party and we…”

“No, not like that Mummy. Talk like me!”

“Sorry…Yes, I would truly love to attend your elegant party. How terribly kind of you to ask.”

I was then invited to join Diva in the kitchen where there would be lots of people dancing. Not wanting to ruin her game, I immediately began spinning about with Bruiser whilst humming a rendition of ‘I’m in the mood for dancing’.

“No more dancing, Mummy.”

I was then offered some refreshments,

“Would you like a lemon and some sweets?”

After I had ‘eaten’ my refreshments, I was told to go home.

Diva hasn’t been to many parties but I really don’t recall any of them being like this.

Not a Princess

This morning I can confirm that I am definitely not a princess. Rather than being kept awake last night by a small, green pea under a pile of mattresses, I slept soundly on a hungry caterpillar, a pair of toddler socks and a plastic chicken.

Oh well, I guess I’ll cancel that appointment to view the castle for sale later then.

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