Summer fun with Ember, Destiny and Kieran

You know its hot when you can sit in the shade without reaching for a jumper and today was one of those days.  As luck would have it, it was also the day Em had invited us over to her in-laws to make use of their pool and wonderful garden.

Em (or Ember) and I go back a long way having met as leaders with 4th Purbrook Guides back in 1997 where we developed a close friendship and now enjoy spending time together with our young families.  In case you were wondering Ember is a nick-name for Emma as a result of the endless happy hours we spent watching the embers of the camp fire flicker.  Some of you will also recognise her as our wedding photographer!!

My good friend Ember

So, after allowing Megan and Kieran to have their usual morning naps, we met at 1pm for a picnic lunch before our dip in the pool.  I decided to try Megan on egg and watercress sandwiches which seemed to be a hit, followed by some blueberries, strawberries, mango and grape and finally a yogurt.  It was nice to see Megan’s appetite return after a few days of cautious eating.

After lunch we set up a rug on the lawn to have a play and let lunch go down.  Destiny is an excellent big sister and did a fabulous job of entertaining Megan and Kieran and didn’t even grumble when they decided to pin her to the floor…

Megan and Kieran pin down Dee

I find it fascinating watching Kieran, who is just 6 months older than Megan, as it is exciting seeing what she will soon be doing, although I rather hope that his current taste for soil and cat food is a boy thing that will bypass her!!  He is a very inquisitive chap and can get about as quick as a flash so Em really does need eyes in the back of her head.  Here, he was fascinated with the camera and much preferred trying to get his hands on that rather than sit and listen to Dee read the elephant story.

Kieran after the camera

 We then enjoyed splashing about in the pool (sorry no photos this time as my hands were full) before heading home after a fabulous day out.

NCT BBQ

Taking a chance with the unpredictable British weather we had invited our NCT (National Childcare Trust) friends and their babies over for a BBQ.  This was planned earlier in the month following the success of a similar event hosted by Noelle, Ross and Neve.  Whilst the weather forecast looked promising, Megan had been struck down with a 24 hour sickness bug that had us wondering whether to cancel.  However, after a good nights sleep and over 12 hours free from sickness, Megan appeared to be well on the road to recovery and the decision was made to continue with the get together.

It is wonderful when we manage to meet up with all of our NCT friends as we have shared such a significant part of our lives with them all since our first meeting about a year ago when our babies were all eagerly anticipated bumps.  Our babies are all of a similar age so we tend to spend much time swapping stories of how our own babies are developing.  The trials and tribulations of feeding seem to be quite an ‘in’ topic at the moment.

Unfortunately Ollie was not able to join us today, but let me introduce you to the rest of Megan’s friends….

First of all there is Ted.  He is the oldest baby in our goup, although that was a surprise for all of us, not least of all his parents Lyndsey and Chris, as he put in an appearance 6 weeks before he was due.  He is now into everything, is really mobile and looks like his top front teeth are just about to pop through.

Ted looking rather dapper in his DJ bib

Next, we have Joshua, Sarah and Dave’s little boy.  He kept his parents waiting before he was finally born on the day before Megan.  He is a incredibly tall (like his mum and dad) and has lots and lots of teeth.  He has mastered crawling so Sarah and Dave need eyes in the back of their heads now.

The handsome Joshua

 Then there is Jack, Claire and Jim’s little boy, who shares a birthday with me!!  He wants to be up and about on his feet all the time which keeps his parents on their toes and his latest party trick is being able to drink water from a sports bottle – clever boy!!

Jack looking very intellectual

Last, but not least, we have Neve, daughter of Noelle and Ross.  She is the youngest of the group and is exactly a month younger than Megan.  She has found her voice and enjoys chatting away to her mum and dad with a whole range of different sounds.  She is sitting well now and I am sure it won’t be long before she is chasing after all those boys!

The photogenic Neve

Anyhow, once everyone had arrived, we spread out rugs on the lawn where the babies could play safely away from the heat and hustle of the BBQ. 

The chef

 Whilst Lay set about cooking the mountain of food that had been brought by our guests the babies were suitably entertained on the lawn.

Claire and Dave hold the fort
Claire has her hands full

It wasnt long before Ross’s homemade burgers and the rest of the feast were being served and everyone was tucking in.  Ted however, had decided that now would be a good time for a nap so Lyndsey threw on a sling and grabbed the chance for a bite to eat whilst the food was still hot!!

Lyndsey grabbing a quick burger while Ted sleeps

The seconds and possibly thirds were consumed whilst the babies enjoyed playing together and we all caught up with each others news. 

Who left the dads in charge?
Ted, Joshua and Megan

Before we knew it, it was time for people to leave so they were home in time for bedtime routines, which gave Megan a chance to demonstrate her newly gained waving skills.   All in all a fun and successful afternoon was had.  Hopefully we will have the chance for all of us to meet up again in the not too distant future.

Luxury Camping

We are about to embark on a whole new world of camping and have invested in a new tent (or more appropriately given its size it could be called our second home).  We have opted for an Outwell Vermont XL, which is an absolutely fantastic tent with oodles of space for a growing family, including an area to get off wet kit and boots before entering the carpeted (yes that’s right – carpeted) inner tent with walk-in wardrobe!!!!

We need to head down to the local recreation ground to have a trial run at pitching the tent before our first trip as it is too big for our garden – so keep an eye out for photos of this.

We are planning our first family camping holiday in June, where we will be heading off to the New Forest with Helen, Rob and Thomas, but I am sure camping will be featuring a great deal in the Harker Family holiday plans so watch this space…

Starfish 3

This week we caught up on swimming lessons missed whilst we were on holiday and Megan is now a fully fledged Starfish 3.  Here is her badge…

Starfish 3 Badge

Our catch up lesson was on Friday afternoon, which gave Lay a rare opportunity to come along.  It was a lovely day so we decided to cycle there.  Megan is very happy in her bike seat and she holds on to the back of my trousers so I never forget she is there!!  Lay declined the opportunity to get wet himself, instead he opted to take some photos from the poolside which provide a nice record of just how well she is doing.

Megan, Ready, Go!!!
Kick, Kick, Kick
Reach and hold
Megan almonst going solo

The catch up class we attended was a Starfish 5 class.  It is nice to see the skills Megan will develop over the next few classes.  The babies in this class were waiting on the side and then jumping in the water unaided, having piggy back rides from the parents (a good life saving skill) and using a float for buoyancy when moving around the pool,so its much more hands off from the parents and letting the babies do more for themselves.

Progress is slow, but when you look ahead just a few classes you notice the difference in confidence and ability of the children so it is worth continuing.  So… we booked up to do Starfish 4 next term, which will be the last course before the summer holidays and then we will have to see how the lessons fit in with me returning to work although I really enjoy going so hope to be able to continue.

Crawling update

Megan is showing great determination to be on her feet and is focusing on that rather than crawling.  She can now be seen on a fairly frequent basis with her bum in the air and her hands and feet on the floor.  She doesn’t move very far like this and gets quite frustrated as she is not yet able to either stand up or sit back down from this position, but if you offer her a hand she stands quite easily.  She is also making great progress walking with assistance and she is starting to get to grips with the trundle truck Grannie Annie and Grandad Morgan gave her and is starting to cruise along the sofa without assistance.

So…. crawling seems to have been put on hold whilst being on her feet takes priority.

Homeward Bound

You will be relieved to read that I am not going to describe our journey in great detail as it was on the whole a rather long and boring journey. However, there are a couple of moments over the two days of travelling that are worth noting so here goes…

After waving goodbye to 25 Valasay at 9:45am, we made out way to Tarbert where we were booked on the Ferry back to the Isle of Skye.  The weather for our journey was bright and sunny and we were able to venture outside to wave goodbye to the Outer Hebrides and stretch our legs before our long journey south.

Daddy and Megan on the boat back to Skye

Once we hit mainland Scotland we noticed a dramatic increase in temperature and as we made our way south we noticed that more and more layers of clothes seemed to be being removed as people basked in the sunshine and cooled off in any available water.

We made stops in Glencoe and Glasgow before arriving at the Premier Inn at Killington Lake on the M6 where we were spending the night.  Not only were we greeted with the same high quality service we had received on our outward journey, Killington Lake is a wonderful setting and as we opened our curtains to the views overlooking the lake it was possible to forget you were actually on the M6.  We were both disappointed that we hadn’t been able to call in to see Clare and Tony on this occasion but the the timings of our journey prohibited an overnight stop and although sorely tempted to make the detour in the morning and spend a day in the Lakes basking in sunshine we made the sensible choice to drive on past junction 36 and get home sooner rather than later.

Megan was perfect throughout the journey.  She seems content to sit in her car seat and sleep or play with her toys until it is time for some food, which made such a long journey entirely manageable.  We are so lucky.

We finally turned into our drive at about 4.30pm where it was wonderful to arrive home to find the house in perfect order, with flowers on the table and the fridge stocked with meals to see us through the next few days, not to mention the tidy garden.  It was everything we could wish for to make our arrival home special and mark the end of a perfect honeymoon.  With temperatures still in the high 20’s we decided to give Megan a well earned treat and immediately set up the paddling pool in the garden for her to have a splash about before tea which she seemed to thoroughly enjoy. 

Paddling pool fun
Splashing about

All that remained was for us to unpack the car and have tea before we crashed out and settled back into life as the Harker family, when we could start to reflect on what a wonderful few weeks we had shared together.

All good things have to come to an end…

Today we celebrated our fortnight anniversary (any excuse for one more bottle of bubbly) but we were tinged with sadness that our honeymoon was drawing to a close and we would soon be waving goodbye to Valasay and the Isle of Lewis.  Knowing what an epic journey lay ahead we wanted to have a relaxing day for Megan so after spending the morning clearing the decks, washing and packing whilst Megan played and then napped we headed into Stornaway to have another session in the pool.  Megan had a great time splashing about in the baby pool and we were entertained by a group of people practicing abandoning a ship, followed by righting and clambering inside an inflatable life raft.  It looks like hard work in a pool and suspect it takes considerable expertise to do this in a true emergency in rough seas.

We then met up with my friend Christine, a Lewis local who I met during my MSc in Derby, who filled us in on all the peculiarities of island life that we had been wondering about during our stay and who’s inspiring photos of the wonderful sunsets and landscapes we would see was one of the reasons we chose to visit these beautiful islands.  Unfortunately, we were not able to take a stroll together in the evening to see the sunsets as Megan was always sleeping soundly by this point, but Lay did venture out a few times when the skys were starting to look dramatic to get some pictures. To give you an idea of how spectacular they can get here is a photo of one of the best sunsets we witnessed during our stay…

Sunset over Valasay

We have had an amazing holiday and whilst we haven’t done as much in the hills as we usually would in a place like this, we have enjoyed spending time as a family, playing with Megan and watching her learn new skills as well as touring the island from top to bottom and doing some great walks along the way.

South Harris

After two days at home we decided the weather should not be an excuse not to go out again. We had been advised that the beaches on the south of Harris were spectacular and a ‘must do’ during our stay. We had also had similar recommendations about a place called Rodel, the southern most point of Harris with a picturesque harbour. So without dilly dallying about we got into the car after breakfast and made the 75 mile journey to South Harris. The further south we travelled the lower the cloud base got until we were well and truly in the thick of it and could barely see 10 metres ahead. We made it to Rodel and drove round the peninsular to the harbour – at least we assume it was there and the harbour walls didn’t vanish as they headed out to sea!! Ever optimistic we had spotted a tea-room a few miles back up the coast and decided that if we had a timely cuppa whilst we fed Megan the cloud may have lifted. However, despite dragging out the coffee for as long as we could, taking it in turns to look round the visitor centre the weather was remaining remarkably stubborn.

During our coffee stop, we witnessed the noon rush on fruit and veg as they arrived on the island from the ferry.  We later discovered the significance of these deliveries as other than the small local shops, the folk from the south of Harris have to make as long as a 200 mile round trip to the supermarket in Stornoway if they want to stock up on a wider range of groceries. A journey which many people do by bus with the supermarkets offering a drop off service for your purchases.

We decided that as it was not going to be a day for admiring the view we may as well experience some of the local arts and crafts and followed signs to various galleries and local shops to find that these were literally small cottage businesses in peoples homes. My quest to find a harris tweed knitting yarn supplier failed, however, we did come across one gallery where we met the artist Willie Fulton who was particularly taken by Megan and told us of his move to the Isles some years ago to teach at a local school when his children were of a similar age.  He did make it sound truely idillic although I think the lack of shops and the huge supermarket trip would wear abit thin for me after a while.  After admiring his collection of atmospheric oil paintings we continued our journey northwards ‘up the road’.

Reflecting on our day of island culture we returned to Valasay where it looked like the better weather had been hiding.  Shame we didn’t get to see South Harris in all its glory, but you have to save something for another day!!!!