Turning Five, Finally.

IMG_8472

“Who are important people?” Freya asked the other day.

It was ridiculously hot and we were sat on deckchairs on our balcony, trying to cool down. As her question was a bit out of the blue I thought for a few seconds and then said: “The prime minister, doctors and nurses, suffragettes…erm….”

“What about Barry Scott?”

The name was vaguely familiar but I couldn’t quite place him. I frowned.

“Who?”

“The man on tv?”

“Wait, the cleaning man. Cillet Bang?”

At that moment we both said: “Bang! And the stain is gone.”

After we had finished chuckling I added: “Well, I guess he’s important to people who like cleaning?”

“I like a clean house,” she said, with what I thought was more than a hint of criticism.

We don’t use any of those products (I’m more a white vinegar type of girl) but I’ve seen the advert on the children’s channel that is sometimes on in the background. I’ve never seen Freya really pay attention to it, she’s not one for tv or sitting still in general, but he’s loud and enthusiastic – a bit like a children’s tv presenter. Maybe that’s what grabbed her attention?

What I’m learning about just turned five years olds is that they take in much more than we (I) give them credit for.

IMG_9233

That realisation has come in little sharp shocks.

No more having conversations in front of her, especially ones where you try and spell out the word you don’t want her to know.

“Ooooh park, yes I would really like to go.” She looks up, expectantly.

Then there are the deep questions, it started off with the odd one here and there but now most things she asks require proper thought – especially as I realise what she is asking often seems to be unrelated to what she actually wants to know.

If my brain was a television it would have been on standby mode for most of the last five years but it’s like someone has just accidentally sat on the remote and it has come back to life at full volume, making everyone jump.

She’s not going easy, we’ve had many of the big ones. Death, God, crime, homelessness, racism, how did she get in my tummy?

As difficult as I sometimes find them, it’s these random conversations that I’m going to miss now she’s back at school.

Year 1.

How did that happen?

IMG_9010

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was looking down at the calendar I had just made -and still can’t quite bring myself to take down – wondering how I was going to fill the six-week summer holiday.

While it wasn’t without its days that seemed neverending (and not in a good way), on the whole I’d give it a thumbs up.

We were lucky enough to spend some time away from home, which I think helped break things up – for me at least. Freya would probably have been just as happy going to the local park every day (where we made some lovely new friends). I had one of those moments, watching her dance in and out of the water at the splash park, squealing with delight, where I thought: ‘Yes, this could be one of those perfect childhood memories.’

And, of course, at the end of the holidays, she finally, FINALLY had her birthday. I’m not sure why it seems such a landmark, probably because she’s made it so by counting down from January.

As, one by one, all of her school friends started blowing out their candles, Freya grew impatient for her own celebration. She had a long wait. We all did.

Finally five.

I really hope it’s as good as she thinks it’s going to be.

Little Hearts, Big Love

 

Advertisements

Our First Family Road Trip To Wales.

IMG_8482

While I love living in Norfolk, my head has well and truly been turned by North Wales – especially the hills.

Oh, the hills. We’re just back from a trip to the wild, wild west and it feels a little like I left something behind – possibly some fingernails from gripping on to anything and everything when going up and down unfamiliar mountain passes.

I’m sure you already know this but Norfolk doesn’t have many hills and apart from visits to my parents in neighbouring Suffolk, also hill-less, I haven’t left our home county since before Freya was born. That’s five years!

IMG_8764

That’s not to say we haven’t explored. In some ways it’s been brilliant getting to know Norfolk and the many and varied places under its big, endless sky better but I have missed hills.

It is with good reason that we stayed close to home. At first, Freya’s reflux meant even a 10 minute car ride to the train station to pick up my parents was torture for her (and me).

The curve of the car seat seemed to make her problems worse so I avoided the car and walked as much as possible. Even once all that horrible stuff came to a gradual end, we still had the lack of sleep to contend with.

All in all, it just seemed like too much effort to go far – especially as she was likely too young to remember it anyway.

IMG_8229
Llanrwst.
IMG_8260
Llanrwst.

This summer with, it has to be said, some trepidation, we decided to take the plunge and venture further afield.

And it turned out better than any of us expected.

IMG_8205
Betws-y-Coed.

Even getting to the top of Snowdon, via the train, to find visibility almost nil and gusts of wind that meant Mark and I had to cling to each other for fear of being blown off the summit, was more thrilling than disappointing (don’t worry, Freya stayed in the visitor centre with Mark’s parents).

IMG_8314 2

IMG_8808

IMG_8809
At the top. What a view!

We stayed three nights at the fantastic Meadowsweet Hotel in Llanrwst, winner of an episode of the tv programme Four In the Bed (I told my mum this and for some reason she got confused at thought we all had to sleep in the same bed).

IMG_8280 2

IMG_8779

IMG_8866

From there we visited many places including Betws-y-Coed, Snowdon, Caernarfon, Colwyn Bay and Harlech, before driving back to the Midlands, which is where Mark is originally from.

IMG_8407
Caernarfon.

IMG_8746

IMG_2682
Betws-y-Coed.
IMG_8857
Harlech.

Here are some things I discovered along the way:

* Even when we thought we were saying place names correctly, we weren’t. One nice lady repeated Betws-y-Coed four times and I still couldn’t get it.

* I’ll be happy if I never have to see a public toilet again.

* I was so busy packing for Freya that I forgot to take myself shampoo, soap and enough knickers to last the week – thank goodness for travel wash (for my pants, not hair or body).

* It is unlikely that I would ever get fed up of taking photos of hills in Wales. I literally made Mark stop about 500 times every day so I could take (950) photos. Not even kidding.

* Freya is far better at travelling than I ever gave her credit for.

* Self catering would have been less stressful.

* I will be going back.

IMG_8865

We are more than half way through the school holidays now and there are only another couple of weeks left before Freya starts Year 1.

She’s very excited about the prospect at the moment and already loves her new teacher but, naturally, I’m worried – especially as she doesn’t turn five until this weekend. She still seems really young to be starting proper school.

I think she might struggle with a less play based environment but her teachers have been very reassuring and I know they don’t just start them learning algebra on day one. Hopefully she will have time to settle in and enjoy it.

IMG_8593 2
Swallow Falls.
IMG_8529 3
Swallow Falls.

Going on this trip, seeing Freya embrace new experiences has done us all the world of good.

Here’s to more road trips in the future, especially to Wales.

IMG_8425

A Trip Down Memory Lane at Ipswich Museum.

IMG_7152

I drove by my grandad’s old house, simply because I could.

Usually when we go back to my home town of Ipswich it’s just for a couple of hours to visit my parents or, even when we go back for several days, we have plans. There’s normally no time for a trip down memory lane but this occasion was different. I had time between dropping my mum off at the hospital to visit my poorly dad and picking her up again, so I went the long way home.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. The same deep purple window ledges, the name ‘Sorrento’ engraved on a wooden plaque above the front door, colourful prize-winning dahlias peeping over the garden fence.

What I saw was almost unrecognisable. Aside from the structure of the house everything was different. The windows had been replaced, the colour-scheme gone. They’d even taken down the porch on the side of the house.

To be fair, it has been more than 20 years since he died so perhaps some change is inevitable but nothing seemed to be the same anymore – and not just his house.

Old friends have left, their parents moved from houses once as familiar as my own, my high school has been demolished, even my childhood bedroom has been replaced by an en suite (not that I’m bitter, much). With my previously indestructible dad in hospital, I was looking for something familiar to cling on to but it all seemed to have drifted off on the tide of time.

Until we went to Ipswich Museum. (Please excuse the quality of the photos, I only had my phone and wasn’t really thinking about blogging so was just randomly snapping things.)

IMG_7153

I dropped my mum at the hospital at 10am (Freya was too young to visit so my mum went up a couple of times in the day and then I went to see him at night while she watched Freya) and drove straight into town with a couple of hours to play with.

Having visited another childhood haunt, Christchurch Mansion, on a previous trip, I had always planned to take Freya to Ipswich Museum but had never found the time. My mum tells me she used to take me to the museum almost every week when I was small and I do have a strong memories, particularly of this fellow who seemed even bigger than I remember.

IMG_7144

Yes, he is a wooly mammoth! Or a life-size model, anyway. The species is believed to have lived in the area a long, LONG time ago. Freya was just as in awe as I used to be (ok, as I still was).

IMG_7146

Seeing him seemed to set something off inside me. I gleefully roamed the museum, pointing out things I remembered.

History.
Founded in 1846 at a property in Museum Street, its aim was to ‘educate the working classes in natural history’. It was originally run by a committee on behalf of subscribers but, after financial troubles in 1852, it was adopted by the Corporation in 1853. When the original building became too small, it moved to its current location in the High Street, opening in 1881. For a more detailed history visit the Wiki entry here.

It takes you on a “journey through Suffolk’s past from Iron Age to Romans and Saxons” and beyond.

IMG_7150

Galleries include Victorian Natural History, the Ogilvie British Bird Gallery, Suffolk Wildlife Gallery, British Mammal Gallery and the Suffolk Geology Gallery.

IMG_7149

I’d say the Victorian Gallery, with its exotic animals, was Freya’s favourite. She didn’t like the stuffed birds but we both enjoyed seeing the huge whale skull hanging above our heads, which was frankly mind-blowing, and the fascinating fossils. She spent some time looking at the human skeleton and also seemed to enjoy the treasures from abroad.

For me, it was more about the feeling I was left with. In stormy seas, it felt like an anchor. A very enjoyable anchor too.

It’s free to visit (although we left a donation). For opening times please click here.