Showing posts with label four under five. Show all posts
Showing posts with label four under five. Show all posts

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Does it get easier? Four aged four and under, an update

When Cora was born, Dylan was still four and I had six weeks of four children aged four and under.  I had two babies as Finn at 16 months old was still two months away from his first steps and it was logistically tricky as well as completely exhausting having two children up in the night. As the children have got a bit bigger I have had lots of comments about 'having my hands full' as well as questions about whether it is getting easier.

And the truth is that it is, and it isn't.  The baby stage will always be my favourite, I love having a newborn and I find there is something so comforting about knowing that they stay exactly where you put them.  When Cora was little she would nap most of the day and Finn was still having an afternoon sleep too.  They both sat happily in a pushchair or a sling when we were out and I had my hands free for the bigger boys.  

Of course it was tricky as newborns want to feed a lot and I was often pinned to the sofa whilst a baby, a toddler and a 4 year old wanted my attention and help.  I was juggling twice as many children as I had arms on very minimal sleep and I couldn't leave the house without taking a giant bag and a pushchair and a sling.  

Now the children are 6,5, 3 and 20 months and things have changed a lot.  There is only one that still wakes up in the night and I am trying to convince myself that we are on the verge of sleeping through.  They can all walk, they can all run and they can all play without needing me.  I spend more time sat on the sofa with a hot cup of tea than ever as they are old enough to entertain each other, to play independently and having four means there is always a playmate.  Even if they start to squabble, they can switch up and things remain calm.  

On the flip side, they can all walk and run, which means they often do so, in the opposite direction from one another.  They are not so content to stay in a pushchair, but the little two are not always very compliant when we are out and I am often seen herding them in the right direction.  Finn doesn't nap very often and Cora's are sporadic and unpredictable and instead of napping the pair of them can often be found causing mischief and plotting to take over the world.  

These four are noisier and messier than they were but we have settled in and adjusted to the new dynamics and worked out how to be a six.  It is easier, with the big two at school and the little two able to occupy themselves but it is definitely trickier at times too! 

Ask me again when I have four teenagers and I am sure I will long for the days of four little ones!

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Monday, 20 November 2017

I Think We Are Done

It felt like this day would never come, and in some ways I think I will always be broody.  As I see women walk past me, their prominent bumps ahead of them I feel excited for them, a little envious that they are at the beginning of this journey, they still have all the best bits to come.  I cuddle a newborn, and sniff that beautifully milky scent on the top of their head, hold them with their head resting in the palm of my hand, feel the weight of them curled up on my chest, and I feel desperate to hold my own baby in that way again.

But it isn't a new baby I want anymore.  It is the babies I already have.  I would love to go back in time just for a little bit, to savour those final moments of pregnancy, knowing how everything is about to change.  I would love to hold my newborn sons and daughter again, to take in all the small details that I may have missed the first time.  To feel the warmth of them, to watch their tiny fingers curl around mine.

I would love to be back in that new baby bubble, where nothing else matters, where you lose hours a day just watching them sleep. 

But I don't want to give up what we have now.  As Cora started taking steps, using her voice and becoming more independent, we are moving on to a new stage.  The end of nappies and buggies, slings and cribs is in sight, even if still a long way off, and new adventures will soon be possible. I want to visit new countries, watch our children enjoy and explore them without the limits of a baby.  I want to go on days out, visit theme parks without a pushchair in tow and I want to watch my children develop their sibling relationships just as they are.

Four is busy and loud but it isn't too busy or too loud.  We fit in our car and in our house, we can remember each child's name (although we may have to say the other three first). They always have a playmate or a partner in crime and it feels just right for us.  As much as I would love to do it all again in some ways, I don't want any more children, I think four is our number.

I am going to try and enjoy these final months of having toddlers in the house, celebrate those lasts because I have so many memories of the firsts, and the seconds and the middle ones too.  I know we have new adventures ahead of us and I can't wait to see what they are.

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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Our Adventure at Combe Haven

I knew exactly what I was looking for when I booked our recent trip to Combe Haven and we had a brilliant break at this caravan park. Travelling with four aged five and under can be challenging but the park seemed set up for families like ours and we loved how easy everything was, how much there was to do and how we had the weather on our side for once!

We chose a 3 bedroom prestige caravan which had plenty of space for the six of us.  The double bedroom had space for Cora's carrycot bed in and the two twin bedrooms were completely adequate for the boys.  We had one of the beds taken out to make space for Finn's travel cot and the staff were happy for us to bring our own. (If you want to hire one then you do need to book in advance as they are unable to accomodate you on the day).

The biggest issue we had was that although the caravan can sleep 8, there were only 4 chairs and four glasses for drinks, so we couldn't all sit around the table at once.  We made do though as well as eating picnic style on our blanket outside as the weather was nice.

The caravan had a great sized living area, perfect for scattering Lego duplo everywhere and for providing Cora with somewhere to lie and kick around whilst her brothers scooted outside.  Our caravan backed on to a small common area with logs and rocks where all the children from the local caravans played and it was brilliant to watch the boys scooting about with their new friends.  It was the community and friendships they made that reminded me so much of my own holidays growing up.

We picked a park with a decent sized indoor and outdoor pool although we only used the inside as it was a little chilly outside! Around half the pool is flat and suitable for children to stand up in and although it was busy the boys loved it.  The staff were happy for us to wheel the pushchair in so that when one of the babies was asleep they could stay on the pool side for us to keep an eye on them.  The pool sold all sorts of floats and rubber rings and we had a great time splashing and swimming.  (Cameras are not allowed by the water)

The boys need space to run and climb and Combe Haven provided it.  There were two main play parks, one set in the heart of the park with a ship climbing frame, zip wire and toddler area, and the other close to the entertainment hub and based around a large climbing pyramid.  Whilst the latter was less suitable for Finn in some ways, the sand floor meant he was happy digging and playing whilst his brothers climbed. 

Combe Haven also has lots of nature areas including a pond and bat boxes.  There are regular activities throughout the day including bug hunts for all ages and clubs for the older children like den building (Ours were a bit too young).  We ran out of time to explore properly, but we loved that there was something a bit different to do.

One of the biggest draws for me was the fact that Combe Haven run both fencing and archery classes for 3-5 year olds.  Many parks seem to seperate children as under 4 or over, but my 3 and 5 year olds are most confident together.  They absolutely loved the new experiences, it was easy to book onto, free to do and very quiet as well.  We tried out the messy art session too but the staff seemed to be getting a little bored of the activities so I don't know if they had been doing the same thing all summer.  The boys both enjoying creating though and proudly took home their fish and mobile.

We attempted to go along to the evening entertainment, but we arrived a little late and couldn't get seats.  It was so busy and with a newborn and an 18 month old as well as the bigger two boys, it just wasn't working out for us.  The boys were not too bothered to be missing out.

The entertainment complex included a Burger King and Papa John's as well as a pub style restaraunt and we enjoyed eating out at all three.  The arcades were a huge hit with both boys and they loved spending their pennies (and pounds) in the evenings.

There was a Spar shop on the premises too which was great value and we could pick up everything we needed for lunches, snacks and ice creams (they even sold multi packs of ice creams which saved us a lot of money!)

Whilst we wanted to make the most of the park and everything that was included in our stay, we also wanted to explore a little locally so we headed to Hastings for the day.  It is quite a large seaside town with a pebble beach and new pier (built after the previous one burnt down).  We had a quick wander around the town centre before disovering an underground skate park where we could watch older kids skate and scoot.  We went to the pier for a go on the carousel and to look out over the sea.  It was a windy day and the place was pretty much deserted and we loved having the space to run around.  

We really enjoyed our stay with Combe Haven.  There was so much to do and see in the park without spending any money and there were plenty of activities for older kids available at a surcharge.  The water walkers and pedal boats looked great fun and I know that in a few years it will be the climbing wall and den building that takes their fancy.  The age ranges varied with some clubs being for over 4,6,7 or 8.  Our holiday was relaxing, exciting and entertaining and we made memories that we will keep hold of.  I will definitely be booking to stay with Haven again and we would definitely consider revisiting the same park as it was a great set up for a young family like ours.

I decided to try something new and made a little video with clips from our trip

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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Holidaying with Four Children

We have recently returned from our first holiday with four children and we had a wonderful time.  I never expected to write this post feeling rested and refreshed but actually our short break was exactly what we all needed and I have come home with happy memories and significantly less stressed!  

We decided for our first trip with four aged five and under that we would stay in the UK and we picked a caravan park down in Sussex for a Monday to Friday break.  Being a family of six, caravans become one of the easiest places to stay as we can all fit in one unit, we have the space to eat our own meals and spend some down time and we can put the children to bed and still stay up together as a couple.

I chose Combe Haven site for many reasons, the location, the facilities and the fact it had a couple of clubs that worked for both the big boys ages.  I will be writing more about that soon though.  The boys love caravans and so they were really excited when we revealed where we were off to and they loved the lifestyle of a caravan park - having the doors open so they could come in and out, scooting around with new friends, eating bbq's outside and having all the ammenities within walking distance.

One of the best ways we found to enjoy holidaying with four small children was just to relax.  Usually I like to plan all sorts into our days so that we make the most of our time away, but we took it slower this time and followed their lead more and it made everyone a bit more relaxed.  We made the most of everything we had paid for already - the holiday clubs, the swimming pools and parks and the big open spaces that come with being on  a caravan site.

It was Cora's first holiday and being only 2 months old it is rather hard to say whether she enjoyed it or not.  Her brothers loved having her around though and asked for cuddles even more than usual.  In the absense of play mats and toys we put her down on a duvet on the floor or in her carrycot and they enjoyed having her as part of their play.  She had her first experience swimming and she was relaxed and content in the water and she slept really well in the caravan so we are considering it a good holiday for her too!

So after 5 days experience, I thought I would share my top tips for travelling with lots of little people.

1) Don't plan too much into your days.  Some days the boys just wanted to explore where we were, or they needed a lie in, or they just wanted to spend some time together without really doing much.  We went out and did something every day, but keeping it simple kept everyone happier.

2) Choose your accommodation wisely.  We went for the three bedroom above the two even though both would fit us all in and we upgraded to the prestige caravan too as I wanted us to be comfortable and to have space to spread out.  Obviously if you are planning to be out all day every day then it isn't so important but if you are just after a change of scenery and are planning on making the most of where you are then it is worth going for the best you can stretch to.

3)You don't have to go far to get away.  We ended up chosing somewhere that was less than a two hour drive from our home.  It meant that we didn't have to worry about a long car journey with a newborn but it felt far enough from home to be novel and we enjoyed exploring somewhere none of us had been before.  The boys would have happily had a holiday in the same town we live in, as they were just excited to have our undivided attention and a new home for the week.

4) Let the children pack their own bag.  Ours took a trunki and although I found the contents rather random (apparently they needed one pretend egg with them), they loved the build up excitement of packing and the toys all got played with (even the egg).  I added in some extra Lego Duplo which was a great idea as all three boys could play with it when they wanted some time inside.

5) Matching clothes are actually really useful for keeping an eye on them all and to help locate any children that have a tendency to wander off (Archie).  I can't resist a bit of matching anyway but I feel like I have a real excuse when we are on holiday! I pack one outfit for each of them into a fabric bag before we go so that each morning I just grab a different bag and know that I have everything I need to get all four ready for the day.

6) Whilst you have come away to enjoy family time, divide and conquer is still a great motto.  With four it isn't easy to give any of them one on one time, but there were evenings when one of us would stay at home with the babies whilst the other took the bigger boys to the arcade so that they could have different experiences. 

7) Staggered bedtimes can work really well.  Ours normally go to bed at the same time at home, but the small caravan bedrooms meant it was easier to put them to bed one at a time as they were not going to go to bed nicely if they went together.  It worked out quite well as they all had a little one on one time whilst one of us read them a story and tucked them in.  Each night the order changed depending on who seemed the most tired.

8) Try and pick one thing each to fit into your holiday.  You can't please everyone all the time, but everyone getting an input makes it a holiday for all.  Dylan was desperate to go to the arcades, Finn wanted  to swim and Archie loved the park.  Ed wanted to have a bbq together outside and I wanted to have a little time to sit outside and just read my book (Cora was too young to express her wishes but she loved having her naps in the pram outside during the day)

9) Time things right and make use of nap times to do things with the older children.   We went swimming a couple of times and never had to take all four in the water as there was always one asleep.  We were allowed to take the buggy on the side of the pool which made it so much easier and meant that the child to adult ratio was more favourable!

10) Relax and enjoy it.  It will never be as easy or relaxing as holidaying with one or two, but watching them explore and bond and enjoy themselves is amazing and having four children is no reason not to go away.  

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A Little Sister

The school holidays have been an adjustment for us all - six weeks of having four children full time.  A new baby to challenge and develop existing relationships, so much time together, so many opportunities.  The boys have always been close, but they are used to their time apart, to spending time with other children and in different situations.  This summer has been about us.

Dylan and Archie are the best of friends, of course they fight like only brothers can, but they play so well together, they chat and giggle and create and bond.  There are 18 months between them and that age gap shrinks the longer they are together.  Finn has always been the baby, but since Cora arrived he has had to step up, and he is changing so much now, desperate to join in with his brothers, determined in everything he does.

And these three boys of mine, they have a baby sister.  They are learning all over again, finding their place in the new dynamics of our family and having to share me with another (demanding) little person.

They adore her, all three of them and I am so thankful that her entrance has been so smooth.  Dylan regularly declares her to be his best friend and he lays next to her, his hand on hers as he sucks his thumb and stares at her.  He is convinced that he is her favourite as she gives him the most smiles and talks about the things he will do with her.

Archie's caring side comes out around Cora and he starts singing her nursery rhymes as soon as she starts crying.  He is curious about her and asks to have her on his lap the most.  Sometimes he is a little too curious and tries to lift her up, not entirely gently but mostly he strokes her lovingly.

And Finn, the boy who has been our baby for so long, and who loved his role as the youngest has surprised me with his lack of jealousy.  As soon as Cora is low enough for him to reach he crawls or toddles over with the biggest grin on his face to give her kisses.  He is gentle, he pats her, strokes her hair and kisses her on the forehead.  He may try and crawl over her at times, or give her the biggest cuddles when she is just trying to get some sleep, but you can see how desperate he is for her to be bigger and more responsive.  He loves an audience and he is going to be the star of the show once his little sister is able to give him more attention.

When Cora is awake, they are less interested in each other and more interested in her, each one vying for a space in her eye line.  She watches them calmly and with interest, sharing more of her smiles with her brothers than she does with me.  They don't have to work as hard or be there at the right time of the day.  At 8 weeks old she is already used to the chaos that comes with being the youngest of four and she is happy (so far) with her place in this family.

These boys of mine have taken to their baby sister so naturally,  they have made the transition from three to four so much easier and she is a lucky little girl to have three big brothers.  I never imagined a little girl in our future but it feels like she has been around forever already. 

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Friday, 5 August 2016

What the Kids Wore - Duns Puffins

Life with 4 is busy but I am not letting being completely and utterly outnumbered stop us from getting out.  I find myself doing head counts quite regularly and I am really appreciating the benefits of bright clothes and dressing the boys in matching.

When this Puffin print came out from one of my favourite kids clothing brands, Duns Sweden, I knew I needed something for one of the boys but the fact that the print comes in three different colours and so many different items means I couldn't resist ordering for all four of the children.

Dylan has a t-shirt in blue and Archie in yellow.  Finn has a summer romper suit in the same blue and I chose a footless sleepsuit for Cora in white and orange.  Their older child sizing is really generous and I did the super geeky thing of ordering a dress in a child's age 13 which seems to be roughly an adult size 10.

I love how unisex all these items are, the bright colours that stand out in a busy park and the wonderfully soft organic cotton.  

I ended up ordering from several retailers in order to find all the items I wanted in the right sizes - Funky Little People, Uni and Jack, Heimoose and JuicyTots

 It won't be long until they refuse to wear matching but for now it makes days out easier and they just look so sweet together!  There will be no questioning that they are all mine anyway.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Four Under Five

Four, three, sixteen months and newborn.  When I tell people the age of my children I am often met with the same shocked impression and a variety of  'wow, you are crazy', 'You have your hands full' and 'rather you than me'.  There is the odd person who says something positive, about how wonderful it will be to have them growing up so close.  All of these things are true, I am a little crazy, my hands are most definitely full, rather me than them and it is amazing seeing how close these babies of mine are.

Four under five is exciting, challenging, noisy and a constant learning experience.  We are only three weeks in to this new adventure and I won't pretend to know what I am doing, but I am feeling confident about the challenges ahead.

The boys absolutely adore their little sister which makes everything a bit easier.  They are used to sharing, used to life with siblings and one extra is exciting but not as world changing as getting a brother or sister for the first time.  They love to stroke her, cuddle her and cover her in kisses (Finn).  They hold her hand and sing her songs and interpret her squeaks and expressions.  Finn is still too little to understand the term gentle, but he is wonderful with his baby sister and his face lights up when she is put down within his reach and he crawls over to show her love.

We are very lucky in that the bloke works from home and his job has some flexibility.  The key to these early days for us is teamwork and for the three mornings a week where Archie is at nursery we split the school runs, I take the biggest and the baby to school and he takes the middle two on the nursery run.  Being able to divide and conquer, or to take all 4 for a short while whilst one of us cooks in peace makes things much easier.  

Planning is most definitely the best way to combat stress and taking them out on my own involves a very large bag, enough supplies for a small holiday and a double buggy.  Having more nappies and spare clothes than we can possibly get through seems sensible and having a large supply of snacks means we are prepared for all eventualities.  Cora is mostly in a sling at the moment, but having a double pushchair means I have the option to put her down should I want to and more space for storing the mountain of 'stuff' that we need.

The school holidays are looming close and I know things are going to be manic.  I am looking forward to the more laid back mornings as we won't have the school runs to force us out the house so early, and my plans involve meeting friends at the park and beach as well as plenty of playdates in confined gardens and houses.  Finn is the hardest work at the moment as he isn't yet walking but he just loves to climb so the biggest challenge will be keeping him happy and safe whilst looking after three other little people.

In these past three weeks we have discovered the best way to fit us all in the (new 7 seater) car, how to get all four in bed (well three as Cora stays up with me still) and we have even braved eating out as a family of six (it wasn't really any different as the littlest one slept through the entire meal).

I may be looking frazzled and tired this summer, but I think it is going to be a great one with my tribe of small people.
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Friday, 8 July 2016

The First 10 Days

10 days ago I gave birth, we welcomed a daughter, we became a six.  It was a wonderful homebirth,  It was calm, quiet and everything I hoped for.  Her first hours were spent on me, feeding, cuddling and having skin to skin.  Her first night she spent on my chest, something that felt natural to us both and I woke in disbelief that this perfect tiny girl was really mine.

These first ten days have gone fast, we have spent every moment together, every day attached and every night cuddled up together in my bed,  I have had the opportunity to do this my way, something that wasn't possible with Finn.  I spent his early days in fear, not knowing what was wrong, worrying for his future, watching him through his fish bowl, only allowed to hold him at certain times, not able to feed him myself.  With this new little baby of ours I have been able to hold her and feed her and enjoy these precious first days and I feel so thankful for that. 

After a few days we finally decided on her name - Cora Jayne.  She is the first of our babies to get her 'bump name' - the name I envisaged her having throughout the pregnancy and it feels just perfect for our little girl.  On day 9 we made it official and registered her birth.  The boys mostly still call her 'the new baby' but they also proudly tell people her name.

We have welcomed so many visitors and tried to find time to just be on our own too.  We have eaten cake every day and I have drunk more cups of tea in these 10 days than in the last 10 months.  We have cuddled up on the sofa together, had nap time together, gone out together and shared these early days.  I have hardly picked up my big camera, but I have taken so many phone snaps in these 10 days.  Every night I feel emotional that another day has passed, that she is that little bit older and bigger.

At 10 days old our baby girl is still a little limpet, happiest on her mama.  She is breastfeeding well after a few problems with her latch and she is sleeping most of the day with a few periods of being very alert.  She hasn't quite got the message that the crib is her bed and she much prefers being with me at night.  She wants to sleep on her tummy - turns out she can't read the books yet that tell us babies must sleep on their backs, and she loves being snug in the sling.  She is squishy and warm and just perfect and we are still in that wonderful newborn bubble.  Next Monday is the end of paternity leave and the start of our new normal and I am nervous and excited about the challenges that involves.  For now, I don't want to imagine her being any older than she is now, I don't want to wish away any time, I want to enjoy these precious and amazing early days where she is so new and we are learning so much about each other.

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