Dinosaur swamp!


We’ve been loving the hot weather- the boys don’t seem too bothered by it and I’m in my element!  It has also meant that much of our play has been outside and it has been messy!

Last week, several of Toby’s friends came over to play and there were a few different things set up for them to play with:  we had dry, coloured rice (green) making up a farm-themed small world play with animals and tractors; a tent on the climbing frame for shade from the sun; the sandpit with various different containers and vehicles; and in the tuff spot?

A dinosaur swamp!


This is a picture from today, the swamp’s second outing, as I couldn’t get a pic of the first one before little hands got busy!

The dry land was made of a mix of oats, lentils and some stray green rice and the swamp was made with Gelli Baff.  If you’ve never come across this stuff before, you have to give it a try…if only once!  I saw several bloggers had used it for play on the ‘Messy Play for Matilda Mae’ linky hosted by Edspire and thought we’d try it.  I knew that Toby would not countenance the idea of his entire bath turning into jelly whilst he stood in it but I thought he might get stuck in from outside.  Not so the first time we used it, but with the dinosaur swamp, I made it thicker and added a secret ingredient….a bucket of soapy water next to the tuff spot!

IMG_2790This did the trick as all the children, whether mess-averse or not, enjoyed pushing the dinosaurs through the gloop and then dunking them in the bucket of water for a wash. Toby is wearing the beige hat…

IMG_2787 IMG_2789It occupied them for ages! And, as you can see, they were exploring different textures and mark-making.

Today, I recreated the scene to see what Toby would do the second time. From a bit of a reticent start:

IMG_2805we discovered that the dinos made footprints in the thick gloop before they all ended in the bucket!  Toby then played with his pirate ship for a bit before returning to the tuff spot for some genuinely child-led play.


He had added water to the swamp using one of his cups and then had redistributed piles of the stuff telling me that they were different lands.


The use of a cup distanced him from actually touching the stuff, but still allowed him to manipulate it

He then fished out a Mummy and Daddy dinosaur (his words, not mine!)


and asked for a baby dinosaur:

IMG_2817they then were given their dinner whilst we went in for ours!

IMG_2818After dinner, he went back to it and decided to get himself another tool from the sandpit to move the gloop from the tray into the bucket

IMG_2819 IMG_2820So although he didn’t actually put his hands into it, I’d say that was messy play! There was certainly quite a bit of tidying up…







To name but a few…


There are no great stories to accompany how we chose our children’s names, well, apart from the fact that they were both called Harry, at least for a few hours!
I had always liked the name Harry, but Dan wasn’t so easily convinced. To me, the name carried with it a certain amount of cheek; a happy sort of name. Dan could only think of a certain wizard when he heard it. Too bad, I thought when I had just given birth to number 1 son, who instantly became ‘Harry’ (I had just given birth…my choice, right?)! Dan’s first choice had been Toby, which I also liked but in a different sort of way – perhaps it was a little more enigmatic, I’m not sure.
Anyhow, that first, precious night with my first, precious baby, I looked at him and got to know his perfect little face and that little, new person told me that his name was not Harry! He just didn’t look like a Harry! I know that’s quite a peculiar thing to say, but I remember it very clearly. I didn’t just ‘settle’ for ‘Toby’, I knew, that first night, that it was his name and I have never felt any different.
We do, however, have a new baby card congratulating us on the birth of Harry! Word had got round and a card sent in the few hours before I changed my mind!

When second son was born, the name Harry cropped up again, but I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice! We had a standby with a very different feel and were prepared to wait and see what sort of a chap he appeared to be and name him when we were sure. He was born peacefully at home, but he did shock us all when he emerged with a true knot in his cord. The midwife said that perhaps that was a sign of things to come – that he would get into all sorts of pickles. Dan and I looked at each other and knew that his name was Harry! I hope that I haven’t placed expectations on him due to his name but at least its an adaptable one!

And then there’s little Rose, gone so very early but named so that we would think of her when we saw the beautiful blooms in our garden.

The old me…and me


The universe has been conspiring recently.  So many things have brought me up short and drawn my attention to times gone by.  Times that I don’t like to think about much.  Times that I don’t deny, or ignore but which I wish were not so.  

Old school friends who might read this will remember a very different Dani to the one writing this.  Others will also perhaps remember someone so miserable that it was uncomfortable to be near.  And I…I remember that girl too.  Except that I have tried to forget because it makes me so sad.  But thoughts have intruded, people have cropped up and quite suddenly, I’m in a reflective space and that little girl Dani is asking me to look at her and think.  

I’ve made contact with a few school friends, mainly through Facebook, but I feel so ashamed that in the most part, I don’t connect in the way I might like.  I know we all have baggage and don’t always like the teenager we once were, but to feel shame about feeling so desperately sad and the person that made me, well, that needs sorting.

Today, I met up with an old teacher of mine.  She was an inspiring teacher and someone who, when I was at my lowest, took me seriously and listened.  She couldn’t, of course, fill the gaping void that I was experiencing, but she helped me hang on and taught me that no matter how ugly things look, there is always hope and there will always be someone there.  I owe her a lot.  But meeting her for the first time in about 15 years forced me to think back to that point and I feel sad all over again.  

Not the aching, dreadful, fearful engulfing pain that I felt all those years ago, but a sense of feeling sorry.  The me that I am now feels sorry that I didn’t save that drowning girl sooner, that I let her become so broken, by herself and by others.  This Dani would not let that happen and it will not happen to my boys.  I missed out on the latter part of my childhood abusing myself and I missed out on my 20s letting someone else abuse me and now, in my 30s – well, this is my time.  

My husband is so wonderful that he has healed that void by part filling it and part allowing me to narrow it all by myself.  I owe him my life.  My children have taught me more about what I’m really capable of, when there is love, and I owe them their lives.  

So what I want to say is that I’m not going to hide that little, hurt Dani and I’m not going to feel ashamed any more.  I’m sorry if I wasn’t good to be around when you knew me, but I was not whole.  I still have my moments, but I have a lot to give these days; rather than sapping the life out of anyone within a 10 mile radius, I can be quite fun and care very deeply about those around me.  And if you only know the ‘new’ me, you now know that my past was dark and desperate but I can’t keep it under lock and key any more.  

I’m learning that with honesty comes freedom and I want to be honest with myself, my friends and my boys so that we can all have the freedom to live with an acceptance of each other, flaws and all.  

Your mummy was broken, but now she is not. 

Tuff love – elevating the spot


We love our tuff spot (or cement mixing tray, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily)! Thanks to Edspire for inspiring us and countless other mummies, the plastics company that make these things must be quids in!

We’ve been messy in our spot, we’ve had train tracks and painted with trains, we’ve had ice, foam and water but so far, it has all been on the floor. Whilst this has worked well, I noticed that for some forms of play, Toby looks quite awkward and not quite able to access the materials in the way that he would like.  So we lifted the tuff spot up.

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Here he is playing with the cloud dough/moon sand (whatever you want to call it) and his vehicles (with a few numbers thrown in!).  By having the spot on a low table, Toby was able to walk round easily and manipulate the diggers etc with both hands, rather than needing one hand to lean on.  Having said that, he is only using one hand in these pics! He seemed to sustain his play for longer.

I’ve seen plenty of nurseries and children’s centres use the tuff spots with stands to raise them but have somehow not thought about doing it at home or what the difference might be.  Obviously, sometimes its better to be on the floor when the play might include standing or sitting in the middle of it, but sometimes, a little height is a good thing!

It also meant that Harry could crawl underneath…

9 Months in, 9 months out


Harry is 9 months old today.  And I don’t know how I feel about that.

I feel so proud of him: how good natured he is; how he smiles at everyone (well,  most people); how he’s desperate to be on his feet and for so many more things.

I also feel very lucky.  Matilda Mae and her family were not lucky on this day of her life.  Not at all.  So, whilst acknowledging their grief and remembering how much their story has had an impact on our lives, I want to celebrate this little milestone: 9 months inside and 9 months earthside. Harry has been with us in anticipation and reality in equal measures.  And these past 9 months have been just the best.

He’s now starting to grow out of his baby days and into the toddler times and it’s going so fast. I don’t want to forget the way he claps his hands: only just making it with fingers still a bit curly, or the way that he cocks his head to the side with a coy little smile.  I savour every breastfeed, enjoying his little mannerisms and stroking his little hand as his eyes roll back and drift into sleep.  I love the way he flaps his arms and breaths rapidly when I go in to him after his nap – so excited to see me.  I also loves how he does the same when his Daddy gets in from work.  I adore seeing him and his brother interact and make each other laugh.

These are times to treasure and guard in my heart as they pass by in a flash.

In three months, he will be one

and there’ll be no stopping him!

Go Harry and thank you xx


Outside over there


I’ve borrowed the title of this post from one of the greatest writers for children, Maurice Sendak.  You only have to read ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ to see that there was an author and artist who really understood the relationship between the real and imagined worlds of children.  There’s too much to say about that book here, and its not what I want to write about, but it seems fitting to borrow a title of another of his books to describe a post about a boy, his play and the natural world.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a family holiday in Brittany where OH parents have a house.  It’s on the top of a hill with super views and even lovelier gardens, all lovingly created and tended over the years.  There’s lots of outside space including veggie patches, mature trees, lawned areas and an orchard.  Such space needs a lot of mowing and for that, Granny has a tractor!  This was little boy heaven!

tractorAs the tractor was parked right next to the house, Toby’s first job in the morning was to go out and make sure that it had enough petrol and to ‘drive’ it for a bit.  When Pops was up and about, he and Toby would spend hours loading the ‘trailer’ (really it was the grass cutting bit, but to T, it was simply the Trailer) with logs.  Together they talked about the different sizes of log and how, if they were knocked together, you could here if they were dry enough to burn.  They stacked according to size and shape and Toby felt that he had done a really important job by the time he came in for a snack.  This happened every day for 10 days!

Then there was the beach on a wet day with lots of digging, floating of toys and clambering over rocks.  We peered into the sea looking for fish and felt the seaweed between our fingers.

beach 1

  Then there was the land drain! Granny and pops had a rather long bit of pipe and a slopey garden, so what else would you do but run boules down it and catch them in a bucket!  Toby enjoyed hearing them thump into the big bucket but best of all was when we added a loop the loop and listened to them going down the tube before they jumped out of the end and into the bucket!  This, literally, had us all at it for hours. land drainThe outside fun did not stop there.  There were trees to climb and swings to swing, carvings to sit on and another tractor to play on…


There was also a sound sculpture that Granny had made:

IMG_2658 IMG_2660

Toby only came to this a couple of times but it all added to the sensory experience.

One of my best outings was to the local chateau where Toby just had a ball rampaging through the grounds and running up and down the ‘castle’ steps.  He thought it was amazing to be at a real castle and has since pointed out any building with a turret, calling it a castle (or ‘Carrsuwl’).  In the grounds there was an amazing living willow sculpture and lots of beautiful wooded and planted areas.  Toby and I had fun looking for the Gruffalo, creeping up on him and tip toeing past so as not to wake him!


Little Harry had lots of outdoor fun too…

HarryHe saw the sea for the first time

What an amazing outdoor adventure for two small boys.  Little things became big things and time was elongated.  Daddy was there to see both boys playing and learning and a great time was had by all!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Sound and water play


This is something we did a while ago but I am linking up with Jennie for ‘Messy Play for Matilda Mae’ and her theme this week is water play.  And yes, it got messy (well, my house was a bit soggy!).

Toby just loves water play and its a fail-safe way of keeping him busy for long periods.  This time I decided to spice it up by adding some yellow food colouring and a few drops of bergamot essential oil to create a citrusy feast for the senses. I used an Ikea underbed storage box raised on a small table.



In it I had put a range of containers, a colander and the metal plate that sits on my scales.  Toby wanted to add some his Playmobil people to make some stories: they ended up on a boat that was sinking (a plastic container that veg came in!).

I then extended his play by encouraging him to listen to the sounds that the objects made when struck with various implements.  So we hit the colander with the balloon whisk and tried the metal plate with a wooden spoon.  Through this we discovered that lowering the metal plate into the water whilst it was being hit altered the pitch of the sound.  Toby found this fascinating.


He also enjoyed the sound it made when he pushed it into the water at speed!


In his own play, he concentrated on pouring and story-telling, but this is something we will come back to.



Blogging…and me


I’ve been away.  Away from home on holiday in France and away from blogging.  

There was wifi in France and I’ve been back a week but I’ve lost my flow.

Instead of just writing, I’ve started thinking

and that’s the problem.

It’s not that I don’t think about blogging – I do.  But I end up composing blog posts in my head and then feel no particular desire to go over them again in order to commit them to screen.  

I’ve also started to worry.  I worry about who is reading my blog.  Not so much about complete strangers, more about people that I know.  It’s been made quite obvious how much I adapt what I say/how much I tell/ what slant the story has depending on who is listening.  With the blog, there can be no such adaptation; what is written is written.  So the question of ‘who is the audience for my writing’ becomes pertinent.  And I don’t know the answer.  When I started, I was fueled by the fervour to just write, to record the story of myself and my boys as we learn and grow as people and as a parent.  

But people judge

And I have an issue with feeling judged.

But I shouldn’t.  And so I am going to try and start blogging again.  For me and for my boys.


This is the first in what is to be a series of posts on themes and issues and how I feel about them.

So whoever you are and whatever you think, these are the ‘ ….and me’ pages.

Cracking the fear of mess…with very clean shaving foam!


I’ve mentioned before about how it seems that boys, certainly mine, are often more reticent about getting messy than their girl counterparts.  I haven’t had time to research whether this is anything more than anecdotal, but in any case, my little lad just couldn’t resist the temptation (and clean smell!) of shaving foam … eventually!

I started out by spraying the foam into the letters ‘T’, ‘M’, ‘D’ and ‘H’ and we talked about these (a current interest).  I’d also put out some implements for him to use to manipulate the foam, rather than having to use his hands, thanks to Ghostwritermummy and this post.

Toby immediately picked up a paintbrush and wiped out the letters, even daring to poke the brush with his finger to try it out.

IMG_2442 IMG_2444


He asked for me to get it off, but I said that I had some on my fingers and I thought it was fine, which satisfied him and he continued.  I made a T in the foam



But he wasn’t yet ready to make marks with his fingers himself.

After a bit more brushing, he got a bit bolder…

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…and then painted mummy…



…and then his knee!



He was then in the tuff spot and discovered how slippy the foam is.  This he found hilarious and particularly enjoyed making marks with his legs and feet while Daddy held him:

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I then took Edspire’s lead (here) and involved him in the tidy up bu giving him a bowl of warm soapy water and a sponge…

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…just as much fun and job done!

I’m feeling positive about our messy play today and am glad we are no longer shaving foam virgins!