Muddy Beginnings

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails
That’s what little boys are made of

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice
That’s what little girls are made of…..

Right?

Definitely not when it comes to my two little monsters. Having two girls I stereotypically imagined it would be all about pink and princesses, not mud and monsters! However I wouldn’t have it any other way. My daughters Ruby and Aria are at their happiest when out exploring the countryside, or serving up mud pies in the mud kitchen their Grandad made for them. When they are not out jumping in puddles, rainy days are best spent watching their favourite film Monsters Inc. in a bear cave under the dining table. Life is fun but a challenge being a stay at home mum looking after my two little wildlings, so I decided to start a blog to document some of our adventures and to share ideas (and tips to stay some what sane) with other parents. Childhood is fleeting and I hope I can make it as fun and as magical as possible, even when the tantrums and the sleepless nights drive me mad…

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Eggcellent Easter!

We have had a lovely Easter weekend this year so I thought I would share with you some of the Easter inspired magic that we squeezed in.

The Easter Bunny

When the girls are asleep the night before Easter Sunday, a long eared, bushy tailed, magical visitor hops around our garden and hides eggs containing chocolate treats for them to find in the morning. He leaves behind magical footprints on the patio as evidence for them to discover. For this I cut out a rough stencil of a bunny shaped footprint on some card then shake over some talcum powder or flour and then hope it doesn’t rain! As we live in England and it’s pretty much always raining I usually have to  sneak out in my PJs at the crack of dawn before the girls wake up to carry out this secret mission (pretty sure the neighbours think I’m crazy!). This year Ruby decided she wanted to leave the Easter Bunny one of her Peppa Pig cupcakes that we had made (I burnt them as usual) just like she does for Santa. I wasn’t sure that rabbits are that fond of cake but I figured that he is not your average bunny so he probably has a sweet tooth, considering all the chocolate eggs he delivers. We thought we would cover all bases and leave him a carrot too, which they were amazed to discover had been nibbled on. Buddy (Our Christmas elf on the shelf) even showed up at the elf door for a Easter quick visit and a brought a couple of kinder eggs to add to the Easter egg hoard.

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Crafts

Each year I try and think of some Easter themed crafts to keep them busy (with the help of pinterest of course!). I had some eggs that were out of date so I hard boiled them and let them decorate them. Being under 5 the girls won’t be winning any egg decorating contests with their artistic talents but they had fun mixing all the paint into one murky colour and coating the eggs in it. Another fun and quick idea is squeezing some paint on paper plates and letting them use a potato masher to make egg shaped prints. To make Easter bunny prints we taped three toilet roll holders together and used them as a stamp and then Ruby drew on faces when it was dry. Last year I cut out egg shapes out of paper and they decorated them by dipping pom poms clipped in pegs and cotton buds in different colours.

 

Days Out

It’s becoming an Easter tradition to visit Little Jack’s Farm, which is a lovely little place not far from where we live (Nottinghamshire). It’s very reasonably priced and not only does it have some beautiful animals but also lots of indoor and outdoor play space to keep the little ones busy. We were also lucky enough to meet the real Easter Bunny, and after completing their Easter trail he gave us some more chocolate eggs! Chocolate fuelled toddlers in soft play is my idea of hell especially when I’m made to climb right to the top, crawl through tunnels and wade through ball pits. Now my oldest is nearly 4 she is becoming more confident to play by herself which is great, however I still found myself doing all of the above to try and stop my dare devil almost two year old from throwing herself down every slide and set of steps..upside down. (This kid has no fear!). We also found time to take the dog for a walk and do some fairy hunting. We found plenty of evidence of our fairy friends in the form of fairy dust on tree stumps (glitter!) and we even found a real pixie inside a hollow tree which we took home and added to our collection.

Easter is always a fun time of year, and we see it as a celebration of spring. The girls love to see and learn all about the baby animals and birds that are starting to be born. Ruby’s nursery is on a farm and she was lucky enough to see some sheep actually give birth and little lambs take their first steps. She was slightly grossed out and told me all about it in graphic detail, describing the babies as being ‘pooed out’ and the mummy sheep licking the ‘blood and guts’ off the baby. However she found it fascinating and it was a wonderful experience for her. I hope next year we will have lots more Easter fun and the Easter bunny will continue his visits for many more years yet, it is so magical to seem truly believe.

 

Muddy Boots and Muddy Paws

I have always had pets and I am sure I always will. In the first few years of my life we had a German shepherd called Lincoln who was my best buddy, my partner in crime, and my fierce protector. I have vivid memories of playing with him, and feeding him coco pops at my toy kitchen when no one was looking. In the last few months of his life a stray ginger cat I named Samuel Whiskers took up residence in my Wendy house, determined to upgrade to the main house despite almost being eaten by Lincoln on several occasions. The day Lincoln died he strolled in without a care in the world and laid down on the rug, deciding for us that we were now cat people, rather than dog owners. Over the years I talked my parents into letting me have a menagerie of other pets such as rabbits, budgies and goldfish and this instilled in me a love of animals that I hope that my girls will have too.

When I first moved in with my now husband there was a brief period where we had no pets. Our first home was a tiny flat that was strictly no pets allowed and it wasn’t long before I was itching to break the rules. It just didn’t feel right without a pet, the place felt decidedly empty. My husband worked at a pub at the time and one night he came home from work with a pet rat, gigantic cage and all. Apparently one of his regular customers could no longer care for it and he volunteered us to be its new owners. I was against the idea at first, thinking of the brown little creatures that scurry through the sewers. However Homer the rat quickly changed my opinion and I suddenly had a tiny best friend that would curl up and sleep in my pocket. He was such a character, he was more like a dog than a rodent. We would let him go for a supervised wander out of his cage and if he ventured too far he would come running back when you called him. One day I got home from work and was horrified to discover that his cage was open and he was nowhere to be seen. A few minutes later I found him fast asleep behind a cushion on the sofa.

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When the time had come to move to a house with a garden I knew I wanted to get a dog. That is when my beautiful rescue dog Judy came into our lives. She was really poorly treated by previous owners and found it difficult to trust people, but she gave me a chance and we quickly became inseparable. It is a cliché to say a dog is a man’s best friend but Judy really was. We went everywhere together -she even came to our wedding! She was the most loyal and loving dog and helped me through some really tough times. We had three wonderful years with her before cancer took her away from me too soon. It was like losing a family member and hit me pretty hard. A few months later I found out I was pregnant with Ruby and I was devastated that she never got to meet her. Not long after Judy died Holly the Jack Russell bounded into our lives. She is totally different in personality to Judy, she is bursting with energy and has so much love to give to anyone that stops to say hello. The girls love her and she is so patient and happy to have two little playmates. Not only are we dog owners we also have a tabby cat called Princess, another homeless fur baby we couldn’t say no to. It is utter chaos in our house with two toddlers fighting like ‘cat and dog’ AND the actual dog and cat chasing each other around, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! We also currently have two rescued guinea pigs named Mike and Sully after my daughter’s favourite film monsters Inc. Over the years we have had all sorts of furry lodgers from Trevor the abandoned rabbit with a wonky leg to daffy the lost duckling. There will always be room in our house and our hearts for animals in need (regardless of what the tenancy says…shh!)

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I believe that having animals around will be a positive influence on my girls as they grow up. Pets give love unconditionally, and will always be there with a non-judgemental ear when they need comfort. Not only that, but having a pet around can teach kids about empathy and responsibility. They begin to recognise when the pet is scared, perhaps of a loud noise or when they are hungry or need to go outside. As they grow they can help look after them by taking them for walks or giving them food. Even as young babies pets can help them socialise, and become a stimulus for practicing their verbal skills as they learn to talk. Having pets can even boost their immune system, in the same way as playing outside in the dirt. When they are exposed to microbes their bodies learn to become resistant to them.

I am so happy that my girls will grow up having little furry friends to share in their fun just like I did. Our animals are members of our family and I can’t imagine not having them with us. Seeing the girls enjoying long muddy walks with Holly or snuggling up watching a film with princess warms my heart and I hope we have many more years of happy memories to make.

      walk holly   holly ruby

 

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Sunshine Blogger Award

I’ve been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by diaryofazombiemum Thank you so much! Please check out her blog.

The Rules for The Sunshine Blogger Award are:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog.

2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.

3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

4. List the rules and display The Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or in your blog

My questions from diaryofazombiemum:

1. Who is your blogging idol?

My blogging idol would have to be Family Days Tried and Tested. I have followed their blog and Facebook page for years.  I have gotten so many ideas for keeping the girls entertained from their posts, and everything is so simple and doesn’t take a lot of time and money to set up. Even before I had kids I read their blog posts and hoped that one day I could help make childhood as magical as they do.

2. Who is your favourite fictional character?

That is a tough one, but I think I’d choose Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones. She is such a strong woman and I wish I was even just a fraction of how tough she is.

3. What is your silliest regret?

Right now my silliest regret is ever showing my kids an episode of Masha and the Bear. Now they are obsessed and they want to watch it every single day! Haha.

4. If you could live in any time period (other than now) when would you like to live?

I would live in the 1960s as it was an amazing time of change. There was a social and cultural shift and young people began to be able to express themselves individually through fashion, music and cinema.

5. What is your favourite item of clothing?

It has got to be the onesie! There is nothing better that snuggling up in that and watching rubbish TV, when the kids have finally given up and gone to sleep. Glass of wine in hand too of course!

6. Which achievement are you most proud of?

My daughters are by far my biggest achievement. The last 4 years have been the hardest but the best of my life. No one quite prepares you for how tough it is having screaming new-borns and tantruming toddlers, but I am so proud of the beautiful little girls they are.

7. Cats or dogs?

That one is tough because I have a cat AND a dog so I don’t think it would be fair to choose a side on that one!

8. What is your favourite recipe?

I have to admit I’m not the most accomplished chef. My daughters are the pickiest eaters in the world and are happiest eating pizza and chicken nuggets! However I do enjoy making Mexican dishes… with a little help from Old El Paso haha!

9. Are we alone in the universe?

I’m pretty open minded on this one. I have yet to see any compelling evidence of the existence of aliens or other worldly creatures so if I had to say one way or the other I would say yes we are alone. However I’d like to be proven wrong, I find the paranormal fascinating.

10. Where is your favourite place in the world?

Definitely Whitby in North Yorkshire. I had brilliant family holidays there when I was young, I used to call it ‘little town Whitby’. We had our honeymoon there and have been on family holidays with our girls. There is just something magical about it with the ancient abbey ruins on the cliff top overlooking all the quaint little shops, pubs and cobbled streets, 

11. What TV gameshow would you most like to go on?

My husband and I recently watched The Hunted on channel 4. I’d like to think I could live in the wilderness for a month to win £100,000. Avoiding capture would be the scary part!

 

My questions for my nominees:

 

1.      You have a free day all to yourself, how would you spend it?

2.      If you could visit anywhere in the world and money was no object where would you go?

3.      Do you prefer cosy nights in or crazy nights out?

4.      What is your favourite time of year?

5.      Who is your favourite blogger at the moment?

6.      What is the last book you read?

7.      What could you not live without? (Other than the basics like food, water and air etc)

8.      Do you prefer country living or the big city?

9.      What TV show are you hooked on right now?

10.  If you could meet anyone famous, who would it be?

11.  If you could give any advice to your younger self, what would it be?

 

My nominees are:

1. @HappyMotherNature

2.@Lindsayrose

3. @Sophieharringtonpoems

4. @samanthamurdochblog

5. @oldhouseintheshires

6. @projecturbanwildling

7. @butterscotchandcognac

8. @mummuddlingthrough

9. @mrsmotherdirt

10. @Kidsofthewild

11. @mommycoach

 

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Snowed in… Ideas for Indoor Activities

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My muddy monsters love to play outside but recently we’ve found ourselves stuck indoors as both the girls have been poorly with chicken pox. Now the Beast from the East is upon us and the wind chill is -13 outside, which means fingers and toes need defrosting and we can’t play outside for long. I’ve been trying my best to think of ways to keep them entertained (other than cbeebies!) and I thought I’d share with you some of our ideas (and some credit to Pinterest!)

Indoor Den Building

This is great way to keep them occupied for ages with minimal set up time. Something as simple as a blanket over the dining table can become a bear cave or an igloo. I shove some blankets and cushions under there and some battery operated lights. When I’ve got more time I might make something more elaborate such as tying string from the curtain poles and draping sheets over to make a giant den over the sofa. We’ve also used big cardboard boxes as dens, once creating a castle by cutting out turrets on the top, then cutting out a door and using string to make a drawbridge. We are currently in the process of making the ultimate den in Aria’s room, by turning the storage cupboard in there into a mermaid lagoon hideout. We had a big sort out and managed to get rid of most of the junk in there. So far we have freshened it up with paint and added a drape on the ceiling, foam alphabet puzzle flooring, fairy lights and cushions.  den2

 

Bringing the Outside In

Ruby a.k.a. Queen Elsa is an ice queen and doesn’t seem to feel the cold at all. She would quite happily play outside all day in the snow despite the plummeting temperatures and strong winds. Princess Anna on the other hand is not so fond of the cold snap and can only spend a little while outside before she is desperate to go back in. This is when I had the idea to bring the outside in. I collected up some buckets of snow and put them in a plastic box inside, with some spades and animals to play in it. We created our own little Eskimo village before the snow melted without Aria suffering in the icy wind. We have also used cotton wool as snow when little fingers get too cold. We have fun with nature indoors all year round, doing crafts with autumn leaves or conkers, or flowers in the summer.

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Playdoh Creations

I’m not the biggest fan of playdoh, it always seems to go everywhere and they mix all the colours together until you are left with a pile of murky greenish brown goo. However I have to admit it does keep them quiet! They have enjoyed making animals with pasta pieces and googly eyes. We also went out and collected some snail shells, and then made playdoh snails with real shells. You can also mould playdoh into mermaid tails around the legs of little plastic lego people. We have then decorated them with sequins. Another idea is to take a blob of playdoh and stick some uncooked spaghetti pasta in it, I then got my youngest to try and thread pasta tubes and Cheerios onto the sticks which kept her busy and helped with her hand eye coordination. Another fun idea is to put dinosaurs or other plastic animals inside a ball of playdoh and let them try and help the creatures get out of their ‘eggs’.

Sorting Games

We are trying to teach Aria her colours at the moment so we collected some cardboard toilet roll holders then wrote a different colour on each one. I then taped them to the door and put paper cups underneath. Next I gave them a bag of different colour pom poms and asked them to put the right colour pom pom in each tube. Ruby loved this game because she found it easy, and basically took over from Aria when she got impatient with her putting them in the wrong ones. So I will have to try this again when Ruby is at nursery. We have also done the same with lego, sorting the right colours onto the right colour paper. Another sorting game involves printing out pictures of different animals onto card, I then asked Aria to put the right toy animal on the corresponding picture. We have a letter sorting game where I hide plastic letters inside a tub of sand or flour and then they have to dig around until they find one. They then have to put the letter on the corresponding letter I have written on a piece of paper, today we did this with snow. Even something as simple as sorting different coins into piles before putting them back in a money box gives me five minutes to get some housework done.

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Doctors and Nurses

Ruby loves pretending to be a nurse and tells us that’s what she wants to be when she grows up (as well as a marine biologist apparently – Octonauts superfan!). So I bought her some real bandages and plasters and set up her own little hospital with her dolls using the wooden bunk beds that her Grandad made her and her dolls prams. Her sister, my husband and I also had to be patients and poor Aria ended up covered in plasters. One dolly had a particularly bad accident when she fell from her pram, so we took her to x-ray. I googled broken leg x-ray pictures and put one on my computer screen. Ruby then pretended to scan her and then decided after looking at the results that her leg was definitely broken and she needed a cast. To make this we mixed a little PVA glue and water then dipped a bandage into the mixture. We then wrapped it around the dolls leg and waited for it to dry. Once dry nurse Ruby signed her name on the cast for the dolly. 

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Treasure Hunts

My girls love treasure hunts, I often do themed one depending on the time of year or what they are in to but they are easy to set up and all you need is a pen and paper and a prize at the end (I usually use chocolate). While they are busy watching TV I will write some clues and hide them around the house, with each clue leading to the next one until they find the goodies. One of their favourites was a pirate themed one where they had to follow the clues and hunt down chocolate coins. I did this one at Christmas time with Buddy the Elf.  

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The girls enjoy playing inside but I can’t wait for the weather to warm up a bit. This freak cold weather will hopefully pass soon as spring is just around the corner and my little explorers are desperate to get outside and play.

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Imaginary Friends and The Sixth Sense

I’ve always been pretty open minded when it comes to the paranormal, I find it fascinating but I am also cynical in the sense that I believe that more often than not there is a rational explanation for strange phenomena. I won’t jump to conclusions and call in the ghostbusters but a part of me enjoys the mystery and wonders if there really are things that go bump in the night. I can definitively say I have never seen a ‘ghost’, but I have definitely experienced a few hair raising moments. The creepiest of all since the birth of my oldest daughter Ruby. Around her first birthday when she was beginning to communicate better she began having nightmares. She would wake up in the middle of the night terrified of something that I couldn’t see. Although it was disturbing I wasn’t concerned as I know that night terrors are common and I certainly didn’t attribute it to the paranormal. However things got spookier when she woke in a similar way one night and I glanced at the video baby monitor. A little circular light was hovering above her head, and flittered up down her cot. This time she settled herself and lay back down to sleep but the light stayed for several minutes, moving in random directions. I peeked in her room but I couldn’t see any obvious source, and being home alone that night I began letting my imagination run away with me and found myself googling ‘orbs’ at 1am.  I talked myself into believing it was some sort of reflection, or dust particle and NOT a sphere of energy from the spirit realm.

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Although I had a possible logical explanations it was still unsettling, and a month or so later it happened again. Ruby began crying hysterically out of the blue so I picked up the monitor and my heart nearly burst out of my chest when I saw the light again. Typically I was once again alone, and this time it was even more terrifying as Ruby was watching the light, her eyes following it as it hovered over her. She began to shout No! Away! So I raced up the stairs and flung open the door. Once again there was nothing to be seen. It was pitch black outside and no one was around, Ruby’s bedroom is at the back of the house so there was no possibility of it being car headlights as we back on to open fields. This happened a few more times, each time coinciding with her waking in the night. However since her younger sister has been using the monitor weirdly it has not returned.

Once she turned two and was able to express herself better she would say the strangest things. When talking to Ruby about my grandparents I referred to them as GG (Great Grandma/Grandad). Ruby never got to meet one of my Grandmas as she died before she was born but when looking at old photographs she would pick my Grandma out, pointing to her and saying GG.  My mum has a small photo in a frame of my grandma when she was a young, and one day Ruby picked it up and said GG, which no one could believe, as she looked very different from the photos Ruby had seen of her as an old lady. Stranger still she would out of the blue start waving and smiling as if she was looking at someone across the room. When we asked her who it was she would always say GG. I remember feeling a shiver up my spine one day when we were alone in the house, it was very quiet and Ruby was playing while I put clean clothes away in her bedroom. All of a sudden she said matter-of-factly “GG’s here”. I asked her where and she pointed through the doorway and began smiling and waving before going back to her toys as if nothing was amiss. It all seemed very innocent at first and whether imaginary or not she didn’t seem bothered by it in the daytime. But it was beginning to become a problem at night with the strange lights and the night terrors. I remember saying to my husband, if it really is my grandparents visiting her, I wish they wouldn’t because it is terrifying. The weirdest thing of all is that, coincidence or not, is that ever since I said that, she never mentioned seeing ‘GG’ again.

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Things took a strange turn however after my step-grandad died. I had not mentioned it to Ruby as we weren’t in contact and she had only met him a couple of times as a small baby. Before his funeral we were sitting reading a book before bed when all of a sudden she started acting strange and hiding behind me.  When I asked her what the matter was she kept peeking out and looking across the room and began crying hysterically. Finally she came out with ‘I don’t like that man over there’. My blood ran cold and I quickly turned the main light on, to show her there was no one else in the room. After sobbing for a few minutes and screaming for her daddy I was completely freaked out as well so I took her downstairs for a little while to calm down. The next day I asked her if she remembered it and what she saw, and she said it was a ‘Ga Ga me me’. When she was little she called my dad Ga Ga because she couldn’t say Grandad and me me meant people or person. We had several more incidents of her being terrified to go to bed until the funeral, and afterwards she never mentioned it again.

Since she turned three the apparent uninvited visits from my other worldly relatives seemed to have stopped and instead we have a new intermittent member of the household, Lola. Lola is Ruby’s imaginary friend – Or so we hope. I will hear her chattering away, and playing elaborate games all with an imaginary 4 year old who is apparently from Scotland. It’s not all plain sailing having an imaginary friend, Lola quite often won’t do as she is told and Ruby will tell her off, and chase her down the garden. As she can’t speak for herself poor Lola often gets the blame for naughty behaviour, and sometimes they have conversations so in depth that I am told not to interrupt. However I have noticed that Lola is not around as often anymore, now my youngest Aria is able to play and join in with Ruby’s games. I have encouraged Ruby and played along with her vivid interactions as I believe pretend imaginative play will boost her confidence and creativity which can only be a good thing in her development. Perhaps Lola is not imaginary after all, and is also a visitor from the spirit world, maybe Ruby has a ‘sixth sense’ and can communicate with those that have passed on. This is not something that I believe, but it is an interesting thought as my youngest daughter is coming up to her second birthday and she has yet to experience anything out of the ordinary.

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Spiritualists would argue that children are more susceptible to the supernatural as they have not yet been conditioned by society to believe that the afterlife is impossible. Most young children don’t really have a concept of death, and see life as infinite. Therefore an adult will ignore and explain away paranormal phenomena, but a child’s curiosity will embrace it. That being said, a similar stance can be taken from a psychological point of view. The child’s imagination is rapidly developing, so any weird noise or strange light can be thrown rapidly out of proportion. Their imagination then joins the dots and creates a whole other world, as they don’t have preconceived boundaries on what is possible and what is impossible. The sensible part of me would see Ruby’s behaviour from a psychological perspective. Children go through a lot in their early years, soaking up the world around them like a sponge and developing a sense of self identity. They must learn to communicate their thoughts and feelings all while establishing a reality that they attempt to separate from their growing imagination. It is no wonder that they may be confused as to what they have really seen or heard and what they have made up in their head. Also life events and adult conversations they may have listened in on may play on their minds and can lead to night terrors or manifest as things like monsters under the bed or ghosts in the corner. As the oldest child Ruby spent more time by herself, and her imaginary friend came along after her sister was born. It is possible that she created Lola when feeling a decrease in attention once we had a new-born to care for. Despite accepting this explanation I do have a great intrigue for the supernatural, and a small part of me can’t help but wonder what if.

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The Cottingley Fairies and the Importance of Imagination

One hundred years ago young cousins Elsie and Frances enjoyed playing by the stream at the bottom of Elsie’s garden in Cottingley, West Yorkshire. The girls spent so much time by the stream as they shared a secret that they would one day share with the world and fool not only other children but adults, many of whom were prominent and respected members of society. Elsie and Frances believed they could see fairies, and to prove it they took a series of photographs with Elsie’s father’s camera depicting themselves enjoying the company of the fairy folk. They maintained the validity of these photographs up until a few years before their death in the 1980s. They finally confessed that they had faked the photographs by copying fairy illustrations from a book and mounting them on cardboard. However they did not put the story completely to bed, as they still maintained the existence of the fairies, and claimed the 5th and final photograph was in fact genuine. Fast forward one hundred years and I watch my girls hunting for fairies while we take a walk through the woods. They jump up and down with excitement when they stumble across the ‘fairy dust’ I have discreetly placed on a tree stump. Ruby gasps and claims to have seen one fly past her into the trees, and it warms my heart to know she truly believes in magic. The power of imagination is infinite and I believe it is something that should run free during childhood, allowing creativity and open mindedness to flourish.

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In 1917 when Elsie and Frances first shared the photographs with their family they were totally dismissed by Elsie’s father however Elsie’s mother believed they were real and two years later she showed them to a society that explored unexplained phenomena. The photos began to gain attention and they were even examined by photography experts, several of whom concluded they were not fakes. The story takes a stranger twist when the photographs were defended by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes novels. Doyle was a spiritualist, and believed the photographs proved the existence of fairies. He used them in an article that was published by The Strand magazine in 1920, thrusting the images into the public eye. Public opinion was split on the authenticity of the photographs but it amazes me how two young girls could capture the imaginations of so many people. The buzz about the Cottingley fairies eventually died down, and the girls grew up and moved away. A journalist tracked Elsie down in 1966, and even as an adult she remained convinced about what she witnessed. She did admit however that the fairies could have been figments of their imagination and they had somehow managed to photograph their thoughts. I find it fascinating that even after their confession in their old age they still left room for intrigue by denying responsibility for the 5th photograph and still believing in the existence of fairies. It was as if they were leaving their story open to continue for future generations of children with big imaginations.

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The 5th and final picture the girls claim wasn’t faked. Photo credits: Wikipedia.

 

In modern times with the advancement of technology and belief systems it would be hard to replicate the excitement of the Cottingley fairies on a nationwide scale. However I love to create a little make believe world for my daughters to enjoy and I was able to make similar photographs of my girls hanging out with the fairies in about 5 minutes using an app on my phone (Fairy Lite). When I showed the girls they were amazed, and Ruby immediately told me that I had managed to capture the fairy that she had seen. We have invited the fairy folk into our house and garden with several fairy doors providing a portal to the fairy realm. The fairies come and go as they please and we often make them little gifts, and they leave us notes and gifts in return. We have also made a fairy garden outside in an old Belfast sink. Whenever we go out in the countryside we hunt for evidence of fairies, so I always have to be armed with fairy dust (glitter) and there is even an app where you can record a video of a fairy flittering around (ToothFairy). Ruby has a shelf with fairy ornaments on in her bedroom, and every night before bed we pop upstairs and move one in front of the fairy door in each of their bedrooms. This is great because we usually have no arguments about going to bed because they are eager to rush upstairs to find out if the fairies have moved.  See more about the fun we have here – Make Believe

 

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Ruby is only three but she already has the biggest imagination. She will tell me stories about how fairies visited her in the night, shrunk her down to fairy size with their magic powers and she crept through the fairy door for an adventure in fairyland. She will go into vivid detail about what everything looked like and what she got up to, and it amazes me how articulate she is. Imagination is so important in cognitive development, and imaginative play helps nurture creative problem solving abilities. Childhood is fleeting and it won’t seem long before they grow up and no longer believe in magic. So I want to make the most of it while they are small and let them believe that they really can see fairies, and maybe even grow wings and soar into the sky using their magic powers. If they grow up believing anything is possible they can never dream too big or aim to high in life. As they get older I hope that a small part of them still holds onto the magic like Elsie and Frances, and one day they can pass it on if they have children of their own.

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Disney magic and the trials and tribulations of holidays with toddlers

When you think of a holiday you might dream of kicking back by the pool, sipping cocktails in glorious sunshine. However holidays with toddlers are far from relaxing and can sometimes feel more like a boot camp than a break. We recently took a trip to Disneyland Paris, which was great for the girls, but also a fantastic experience for my husband Tom and I (we are big kids at heart!). Neither of us had been lucky enough to go before and with the girls being only 3 and 1 we thought taking them while they still believe Mickey Mouse is the real deal would be truly magical. And it was. Moments of it were everything I hoped for and more, but there were also moments I was ready to jump on an early ferry out of there! Seeing the look of wonder on their little faces came at a price… in the form of epic tantrums, torrential rain, and projectile vomiting.

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Let’s go to Disneyland Paris near Christmas I said, it will be magical I said. And after scrimping and saving for almost a year, spending hours planning, writing lists and jotting down tips from Disney pro’s the time to leave was almost upon us. The morning before we woke up to a blizzard, which at first filled me with all the joy of Christmas as I watched the girls build their first snow man (well it turned out to be a snow panda). That was until Tom pointed out that we had to leave in the early hours and drive 400 miles. Luckily the snow slowed down and we were relieved to reach the ferry with no problems. After a fun hour and a half chasing tired toddlers around a rocky boat, we felt sea sick but excited to finally arrive in France. We were not at all prepared for what we saw as we drove off the ferry. The previously described ‘blizzard’ back home was a small flurry compared to the total white out we now found ourselves in. Poor Tom had to contend with the snow storm, driving on the opposite side of the road and the Disney soundtrack was blaring to try and drown out the ‘are we nearly there yet’ chorus coming from the back. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse we came to a total stand still. A lorry had slid across the ice and was now blocking the road. After an hour and a half of trying to understand what French police wanted us to do while the girls screamed, and the toddler classic ‘I need a wee at the most inconvenient time’ drama we were finally on our way again even if it was at 20mph. We arrived at Disneyland 6 hours later than was planned so that day was a write off and as soon as we found our cabin at Davy Crockett Ranch it was straight to bed.

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We woke up the next morning to sunshine! Filled with optimism we planned to get there for the ‘extra magic hours’ before the park opened to everyone. Obviously that didn’t happen. (Why do toddlers never want to get dressed?). I had a tear in my eye when I saw the castle for the first time, whereas Tom was more concerned about lunch plans and Ruby refused to give me a smile for the camera, running in and out of shot while declaring she was bored. Yes Bored. In Disneyland! I would not be disheartened and we quickly jumped on a couple of rides in fantasy land which surprisingly had no queue. Suddenly the mood was lifted! Next we went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which was an experience, they don’t seem to have as many height and age restrictions on rides as they do at attractions in the UK. I was surprised when they said the ride was suitable for Aria too and even more shocked when we were enjoying a nice little boat trip to be suddenly thrust down a waterfall without warning in complete darkness. Aria was slightly traumatised but Ruby loved it, and it was her favourite ride by far. In fact it’s even got her into all things pirate since we’ve been home. Things would soon go south however when we went to Hakuna Matata for lunch and it was discovered they didn’t have barbecue sauce and Ruby threw one of her spectacular meltdowns (this girls lives for barbecue sauce!) Obviously Tom responds with one of his classic grand empty threats – ‘Right that’s it we are going home now, I don’t care’. After the car crash that was lunch we stumbled across Baloo and King Louie from Jungle book. We joined the queue to meet them and that was our first taste of the joy of queueing with toddlers. They don’t really understand the concept, as far as they are concerned they are the most important people in the line and everyone else should just step aside and let them through.

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Later we met Jack Skellington (My favourite!) Aria fell asleep in the queue for this one and there was no way I was waking her up. Luckily Ruby was easily bribed with snacks so that one was pretty smooth sailing. Next we saw the ‘Merry Stitchmas’ show which was fantastic. We had a pretty good view and the girls both had beaming smiles the whole way trough. There wasn’t a cloud in sky either. As this finished it was time for the parade which was equally as impressive, Ruby shouted and waved to all her favourite characters and the lunchtime dramas were a distant memory. We thought we would finish the day by watching the illuminations and we would ‘nip’ to McDonalds beforehand. There was definitely no nipping involved…that place was heaving! While I battled with two toddlers in the toilets Tom ordered the food, buying 10 extra barbecue sauce sachets to keep the threenager quiet at future meal times. By the time we got back to the castle the crowds were huge and we couldn’t get very close. Even so the light show and fireworks were truly amazing and I shed a tear or two, much to Tom’s amusement. We had got the girls out of the buggies and were holding them up so they could see the show so when it ended we were suddenly in the way of about 1000 people trying to leave, as we battled to get grumpy toddlers strapped in which was a fun experience.

The next morning we did not wake up to sunshine. It was raining. But not just drizzle, it was torrential rain of biblical proportions. To make matters worse we had forgotten the rain covers for the buggies. As we arrived at the park (late again of course) the girls screamed as what I can only describe as rain being blown sideways battered into us as we made the trek from car park. We were forced to part with about 20 euros to buy the girls plastic ponchos, which didn’t really do a lot. It really was miserable. We were saved however when we realised the queue to meet Mickey Mouse was inside. Regardless of the 80 minute wait time predicted we hurried in, determined to recapture the Disney magic of the previous day. When you see the queue in all its glory with all the twists and turns you know you are in it for the long haul. As the weather was so bad everyone had taken off all their layers and had hung them to dry on the railings. It was like people had literally set up camp. Now when queueing with a toddler you go through several stages. The first is denial. You hear yourself saying, ‘it can’t be that long’, ‘they will be fine’. This stage quickly fades when the first tantrum kicks off. The next is the fleeting lets make this fun stage. This never works, no amount of eye spy will relieve the boredom and you quickly find yourself in the bribery stage of dishing out the snacks to keep them quiet. When the snacks run out you enter the desperation stage, where you run round like a headless chicken after queue skipping toddlers, offering apologies and muttering threats of going back to the cabin or lack of sweets to them under your breath. This usually results in protest screaming. This is usually made worse by the model family in front with perfectly behaved children turning round to stare and you wonder why you doing this just to meet a random guy in a mouse suit. It turned out to be well worth the wait though, as the girls absolutely adored him. Especially Aria who sat on his lap and kept kissing his nose.

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As we returned to soaking wet buggies outside we managed to get organised in time to watch the Christmas parade which was lovely despite the rain. We then decided to abandon Disneyland for now and hop on a train to Paris. This seemed like a good idea until on board the train we realised it was over an hour away. Cue ‘I’m bored…are we nearly there yet..’ etc. Once there we took pictures near the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower then called it a day. Despite protests from Ruby there was no way I was tackling an accent to the top with two toddlers in tow. While getting lost trying to find the right train back we made the unfortunate discovery that most of Paris is not buggy friendly. There are stairs and escalators everywhere which made for a bumpy ride with the girls hanging on for dear life. Arriving back at Disneyland in darkness we decided to go to Annette’s Diner for dinner. I expected to queue for rides and character meet and greets but queueing 45 minutes in the rain to get in a restaurant took things to a new level of crazy. Once we finally got a table though the food was amazing and the girls somewhat behaved themselves for a change.


That night we went to bed with big plans for the following day, but I was awoken in the middle of the night to piercing screams. After rushing into the girls room I was overjoyed to see Ruby’s bed was covered in sick. I then spent the rest of the night watching back to back episodes of Sofia the first on the Disney channel while holding the sick bucket. I was convinced that the holiday was now ruined and we would all catch the bug and not be able to leave the cabin. Miraculously, she fell asleep for a couple of hours and woke up feeling fine. We gave it a couple of hours before cautiously venturing out into yet more torrential rain and into the Studios park. The first thing we saw was Goofy so we joined the queue, all the while I was paranoid that Ruby, or another one of us would start puking. Too much money and planning had gone into this holiday to let it stop us! Ruby was definitely back to her usual self, as she kicked off big style because we wouldn’t let her have any sweets. Tom took her out of the queue and I continued with Aria lulled into a false sense of security that she had been pretty good so far compared to her older sister. I got her out of her buggy and she amused herself trying to do up the straps. When we reached the front I took the straps out of her hand and she lost her mind, throwing a next level tantrum and even Goofy looked scared. Tom sneaked Ruby back in for a picture, who was also still screaming, so that is definitely not one for the photo album.

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At rock bottom we thought the day could only get better and luckily we were right. Although we didn’t get to meet Ruby’s hero Sully (apparently he doesn’t like rain!) we met Pluto, Woody and Jessie. The girls fell asleep in the queue to meet Woody, and after the dramas that morning there was no way I waking them up and dealing with tired and grumpy toddlers. We sneakily took a picture with Woody while they were asleep much to the amusement of everyone else in the queue. We then bought the girls a woody doll from the shop and when they woke up we told them that he sent it as a present and showed them the picture. They were amazed and couldn’t believe it! Meeting Jessie went smoothly too, the girls gave her the biggest cuddle and they thought it was hilarious when she danced with their woody doll and stroked Tom’s beard. (the flirt!) The highlight of the day for me was seeing the Frozen sing along show. The girls are Frozen mad and to see them clapping and singing away was magical. We ended the day by seeing the illuminations in the Studio park which were good, but would have been a lot better if it wasn’t for the torrential rain.


The final day arrived and we kicked it off by going on the Peter Pan ride and It’s a small world which Aria loved. Tom and I however were unable to get that bloody song out of our head all day! We had time to squeeze in one last thing before we left and we decided on the Mickey and Magician show which was brilliant and the girls loved it too. It was a great way to end the holiday seeing most of our favourite Disney characters on stage. After forcing the girls against their will to pose for some photos it was time to leave. As was the theme for the whole holiday it began to rain full pelt as we were trying to get everyone and everything in the car and Tom was subjected to the Disney cd again all the way to Calais.

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Despite the adverse weather, the tantrums and the illness it was a fantastic holiday. All the planning I did before hand went out the window, I don’t think I looked at my notebook once. Once you get there you are so overwhelmed you end up drifting from one thing to another and hours slip by in the blink of an eye. We will definitely have to go back as I feel like we barely scratched the surface, it really is a magical place. It might be hard work with little people but seeing them truly believe in magic makes up for all the stressful moments. Childhood holidays are adventures that create memories that last a lifetime, and I can’t wait to see what our next adventure will be.