Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Spot the Difference... // Me and Mine in August

I was super organised this month and took our Me and Mine photos early... at one of our favourite haunts in Norway. I think we've come out to this little village every time we've been since Dave's parents moved back out there... there's something about the  way the fjord meets the mountains, the picturesque houses and the cutest little cafe...

I came here for the very first time back in 2010. Dave and I had just celebrated our 2 year anniversary. We were in our early twenties, fresh-faced and fancy-free. Having just completed our first year of teaching we were ready for a break, and six long weeks of freedom stretched out before us. It's kind of hard to remember what life was like back then!

Same spot, six years earlier!

It's sometimes easy to long for the simplicity of life back then... for the long lie-ins, the peace and quiet, the freedom and lack of responsibility. But do you know what? I wouldn't change things now for the world. Each little gift God has given us has stretched and challenged me, revealed things about me I never knew about myself (some of them, not so pleasant!) and given me new perspective and insight... I love these three little people with all my heart... their quirks and intricacies, their talents and struggles, their personalities and pitfalls.

Parenting has been the most wonderful adventure, but also the toughest challenge of my life so far. There's not a day goes by where I'm not worrying about one of them, or questioning my reactions and responses. Parenting is hard... Purposeful parenting even harder, and when I catch myself trying to prepare them for every eventuality, trying to cover every base, it's then that I'm so grateful that it's not me who decides their futures. That no amount of preparation, and no lack on my part will be the decisive factor in their... That is God's role! And oh! The pressure that relieves!

I'm so grateful for the gift of our little brood, and honoured to be chosen to steward them through these little years. It's no small feat when you're knee deep in washing and trying to parent through the third tantrum of the day, but those moments are countered by the glorious golden moments too. It's then that I breath deep and savour it all up.

Me and Mine in August.

The Me and Mine Project

And just because we took a couple of extras this month too... and I kind of love them as well!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A Circus Birthday Party // Ava Turns 5!

Saturday dawned, and so began preparations for Ava's long-awaited Circus party! We have been knee-deep in painting our loft-conversion, welcoming our new little nephew into the world and family birthdays galore, and so, this particular party felt like a bit of a last minute affair. Over time, I am learning that throwing children's parties doesn't have to be a huge project, but with a few ideas, a little bit of creativity and an hour or so on Pinterest, anything is possible!

It was also a slightly smaller affair... now that Ava is at school, parties can explode to ridiculously huge proportions, so we cut right back, and just had a few of her closest little friends. It felt like a little bit of a milestone, I suppose, but I will admit, having 9 little friends made things much easier in the party planning department!

Ava came up with the Circus as a theme a few weeks ago, and so we have been coming up with ideas aplenty ever since. In Norway, I gathered a few bits and bobs - party bags and animal skewers - from one of my favourite stores out there (you can check them out here... I've just discovered there's one in Nottingham! Schedule a little visit next time we're in the Midlands!) and started pinning a few ideas on Pinterest...

And slowly but surely, Ava's 5th Circus Party started to come together!

The Activities

We had so much fun with this one... here's what we got up to!

1. Clown Masks
I spotted this idea on Pinterest, and after scouring Amazon and not finding what I wanted, I stumbled across this little online shop who happened to have everything I needed! Lolly stick faces, googly eyes and red pom pom noses. I'm getting nothing for saying this at all, but if you're planning a themed party, they have pretty much everything, are very reasonable, and there is just something lovely about supporting small businesses! The children had a blast making them, and lots of them made more than one!

2. Animal Hunt
The circus animals had all escaped! I had stuck little pictures of circus animals all over the garden, and the children's job was to find them all! They took their job very seriously, spotting them amongst flowers, on fences, behind tents... they had good fun hunting them down! We had so much fun, I didn't take a single photograph... oops!

3. The Clown Race
Just a good old-fashioned dress up race. Two teams, wellies, a scarf and a hat... ready, steady, go!

4. The Ring of Fire
I sat on my parents lawn on Saturday morning, sticking tissue paper to a hoop and wondering why on earth I was wasting time doing something that was purely for the aesthetic... it was a bit gimmicky, and I had no plan of action for how to use it... oh boy... it was pretty much the most successful part of the whole party! The children went round and round, following each other across the stepping stones, over the high beam and through that ring of fire and having a whale of a time! (Picture credit to Dave on these ones!)

5. Free play
Hula hoops, stilts, beams, and inflatable punch bag (Strong Man training, you understand) and tunnels... plenty for busy little bodies to be getting on with while parents chatted!

The Food

Always so much fun to be had with party food... and can be so inexpensive!

So here's what we had on the menu...

Hot dogs
Strong Man Weights (Marshmallow dumb bells)
Flying discs (crisps)
Clown Noses (cherry tomatoes)
Circus Animal Food (fruit kebabs)
Big Top Birthday Cake (self-explanatory!)

And a little sneak peek...

It was really good fun... Ava had such a lovely time with her little friends, and even our littlest boy enjoyed himself (freedom to roam and explore is always a winner in his book!)

I filled little party bags with circus stickers, bubbles and some sweeties... a little memento of a fun-filled afternoon for everyone involved!

And off they went... though there was one little acrobat who stayed behind, beaming from ear to ear!

Happy 5th Birthday Ava M!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Snapshot Norway // A Photo Diary Week 4

It's been almost a week now, since we returned from Norway, and it is amazing how quickly you adapt back to British life... our last few days in Norway were magnificent. The sunshine finally appeared for the last three days, and though it was late coming, it made us all the more thankful for it. We spent our final weekend with some of Dave's cousins and their families and it was so lovely to watch the kids have a blast together... I'm always so thankful we went down this multilingual route when I see the children playing carefree with their Norwegian cousins without any language barriers or confusion. It is such a gift.

We are home now with so many memories. Beautiful, invigorating, inspiring... I am so thankful to God for the gift of going back there every summer, and for the amazing wild and free childhood we are able to offer our children while we are there. It is idyllic... and I do realise how blessed we are to have family out there. We miss it already.

So here are few photos from our final week (and watch for the change in the weather as the photos go on...!)




And this... watching my boy, sitting in a tiny tide pool, covered in water and mud and having the time of his life...

This is what summers are for...