Somewhere over the rainbow

It feels almost unreal to say this out loud and you probably won’t believe it as it was only two weeks ago that I told you we were emigrating and now I have more exciting news for you – our house is sold to a lovely young couple that I am so happy to welcome here! So much is changing so quickly and we are so grateful for the luck that has lead us to the position we are in today – to be able to book our flights and accommodation in Melbourne eeek!

People have had such mixed responses to our news – “you must be mad!”, “go for it!” and “you’re doing the right thing” amongst the phrases we are getting used to hearing and to be honest, I’m up one minute and down the next! I won’t miss waking the kids in the dark to drag them to school through the torrential rain that has poured for months while the twins scream and Ariana complains about how cold she is but I will miss my family and friends who always manage to put a smile on my face and just knowing they’re near, is a massive source of comfort to me.

And another thing I will miss is our house. I’m sitting on the sofa now – warm, cosy and grateful for the fun, luck and happy memories that this place has given to us over the past 7 years and I think our first family home deserves a post for us to look back on in years to come. I thought you might like to join me on a little trip through time too!

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^^^The before and after of our living room. I’m glad we had the foresight to rip out the cupboard under the stairs and create a space for the children to play in one day!^^^

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^^^Ah, our beautiful kitchen. I rememeber the absolute dread I felt during this stage in the renovations when all I had was an image in my mind and Ste spurring me on to the finish line!^^^

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^^^Ah, Ste worked so hard with no previous experience in D.I.Y, I am still super proud to this day of what we achieved!^^^

 

We bought our home in 2009, the first property we viewed we’d saved up enough deposit after our wedding the year previously. It needed a lot of work to get it to a standard that we both felt happy with and for 4 months, we worked on it between our full time jobs at every opportunity we could. Stripping layer upon layer of wallpaper, ripping off tiles from walls and floors and replacing woodwork to allow professionals to replaster, fit a kitchen, rewire, replace radiators, paint and decorate and most recently to fit a new bathroom. Every paint shade was chosen with love (wipeable – thank goodness!) and every inch of wallpaper selected with style in mind (Laura Ashley throughout!)

Photo 10-02-2016, 13 37 45 We knew we wanted children one day so with 2 spare bedrooms to fill, we set about doing just that. Although needing IVF was a huge mountain for us to climb, we were so lucky to fill our home with the sounds of three children within three years and the desperate times we spent visiting hospitals for treatment became a distant memory. The house swelled with love and before long the neutral colour scheme was replaced by an explosion of pink, our late night dinner parties were replaced by early morning strolls through the park and our disposable income was replaced by disposable nappies.

^^^Ah, I love this picture. It is of the Ste, Ariana and me on our first ever Mother’s Day, lying on the floor of Ariana’s bedroom after dressing her to take her for her first meal out at just 2 weeks old. ^^^

^^^Do you remember me mentioning the explosion of pink? I think you can see what I mean from this video of Ariana playing in her bedroom. Ah, she was so cute and how time flies!^^^

^^^The first time Ariana raised her head at tummy time was in the back garden during her first summer. She has always been so confident and determined, she amazes us every day.^^^

^^^The first night that Kian and Kaira came home from hospital, weighing just 4.7 (Kaira) and 4.3 (Kian) pounds. I could have wept with exhaustion and burst with pride the moment I took this picture of them snuggled together that cosy October night.^^^

^^^The first time Ariana attempted to play a game with her new brother and sister was in the front garden and it was hide and seek. I can remember her so clearly, hiding behind her hands and making Kian and Kaira laugh every time she shouted “Boo!”^^^

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^^^Rugged up and ready! The twins were so cute in their matching bear suits the first winter that they were born. We could walk the streets for hours while they took their afternoon nap in the fresh air and I worked off my baby weight!^^^

^^^The first time Ariana rode a bike was down the street outside our house. My dad took her to buy her first bike one day after pre-school and she was so proud in her princess helmet with her dinosaur in the basket.^^^

^^^Our first meal at the table together. Such a monumental occasion for me as the twins came out of their bouncy chairs where I used to spoon feed them at meal times, to big chairs with us. I would sit in the middle on a fold out chair and feed them both while my food went cold and everyone else enjoyed theirs while it was still warm but I couldn’t have been happier – our family was finally complete!^^^

^^^On the morning of Kian and Kaira’s first birthday they followed me to our bedroom and fought over biscuits, getting crumbs all over our bed while I attempted to put on makeup and dry my hair! We had a little party at home then a bigger one in a playcentre with a special visit from Granddad dressed as Iggle Piggle who Kaira was terrified of when he walked into the room!^^^

^^^I’ll never forget Kian and Kaira learning to walk just after they turned 1 in our living room. After a couple of weeks like this, they were well away and a few months after that, I wondered why we were so keen to get them onto their feet as every cupboard, door and table top needed child-proofing! Kian had only been walking for 2 weeks when he used a dining chair to push it to the other side of the kitchen and climb to reach food down from the worktop!^^^

What a busy seven years we have had with so many firsts that are emblazoned on my memory forever. What firsts the next property that we call home will host, we have yet to discover but I will be certain to post them here for you if you would like to share this journey over the rainbow with us. Melbourne, we are coming for you!

Love from Leyla

 

A sleepover with Santa!

What are your family’s Christmas traditions – A visit to see Santa? A Christmas meal? A pantomime? Well, they are ours for sure and we managed to combine them all in one weekend at Alton Towers and I’ll tell you all about it here, with a little film at the end if you’d like to see!

A little bit about last week. I have been soooooooo busy, I haven’t had enough time to blog as much lately and credit to anyone who does it more regularly and still manages to have a clean home, entertained children and an addiction to online shopping (or is that just me?) but seriously, time has flown and it’s mid-December already! We had a pretty disastrous attempt at decorating a Christmas tree and I’m still not sure what we were thinking trying to put a massive ‘mess with me’ toy flashing in the corner of our living room with two terrors toddlers in the house so we opted for fibre optic again like last year.

We’ve also been busy making Christmas pretty magical for the kids too. A friend of ours recommended the Sleepover with Santa and explained that it was a weekend of free food, fun and festivities (seriously, they had me at food!) so within an hour, I’d been online and booked it (I mentioned my online shopping addiction didn’t I?)


For us, the drive there took about 1.5 hours (with no toilet stop offs – result!) and when we arrived, the kids faces lit up with the twinkling Christmas trees, fountains and random Cbeebies characters wandering around the Splash Landings Hotel we were staying at. On booking, we were told that we couldn’t check in until 3pm, but we were there before 12 so we enquired if there were any rooms available to leave our luggage and luckily there was so we got to show the kids their bunk beds surprise (as in the little film below) and they were thrilled!

It was the worst kind of weather for me – rain, wind and freezing cold but the kids didn’t flinch. It could have been tropical heat and they wouldn’t have noticed with the amount of fun they had at Cbeebies Land. Mr Tumble’s voice greeted us as we entered the sensory garden and we hunted for Iggle Piggle and Upsie Daisy who were hiding amongst the rides.

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Daddy didn’t have to work on encouraging Ariana to go on the Octonauts roller coaster for long, she was well up for it and very proud of her bravery we were too!

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What two year old boy wouldn’t love to have a drive of Postman pat’s van?!

After riding every ride we could, we headed to the outdoor stage area and awaited a visit from Iggle Piggle as promised by some staff. He didn’t arrive unfortunately (not sure why!) so we headed to the Sealife Centre that was also included in our park entry. It was better than I expected, to be honest. The glass walk way thrilled the kids with the sharks swimming past and of course Ariana got to experience what it’s like for “Aerial living under the sea!” and it was WARM, which made me happy!

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Our visit to see “Santa” (as he’s been upgraded to from “Father Christmas” since this weekend) was superb! He was the most genuine version of the big man I’ve ever seen, sat in a cosy wooden house complete with a flame effect fire, which we were lead to by ‘elves’ through a maze of Christmas trees. I was honestly as delighted as the children when he reminded them to be good, to eat their greens and not whinge at mummy THANK YOU SANTA!

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We had a little down time in the afternoon. Kian and Kaira still enjoy an afternoon nap so Ste drove them around for an hour while Ariana and I relaxed in the ample sized room with a Christmas film on TV and the snacks I’d taken with us (sandwiches, crisps and Blue Ribands!) The hotel gave paper to the children to write their Christmas lists to Santa and post them, which was such a cute idea! Ariana put ‘big girl shoes’ on her list and with a tap on the door, they arrived – he works pretty fast at Santa Land 😉 I had packed lovely Christmas outfits for the kids with the intention of getting everyone dressed up for the evening but there were Blue Ribands and hot tea and Blue Ribands and I got a bit distracted…

Photo 06-12-2015 16 29 39The panto started at 5pm, which gave us enough time to relax before heading out to the activities again. I wasn’t expecting much of a production, but what a lovely surprise it was to enjoy such a fantastic show! The kids had bean bags at the front of the stage to sit on and with a running time of 50 minutes, it was perfect for theirs (and their daddy’s) short attention spans. We watched Cinderella and I would have taken some pictures for you but the use of flash photography was “strictly prohibited” (*yawn) so you’ll have to use your imagination! Our kids haven’t stopped shouting “he’s behind you!” since.

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Dinner was outside the hotel at their Crooked Spoon restaurant. We were told availability was only at 8pm when we booked but the staff were so accommodating when we arrived, as we explained that would be far too late to feed the children so they found us a table at 6pm. The restaurant was superb! The food was a three course meal with a buffet serving beef, turkey, chicken or all three with seasonal vegetables and a table filled with desert to help ourselves to, which gave the kids a Christmas treat I don’t think they’ll forget in a hurry. We really enjoyed it!

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We headed back to the hotel for the evening entertainment after dinner. There was a bar for the grown ups to wish they could enjoy and a little disco going on for the kids to actually enjoy. The atmosphere had such a holiday vibe, we were amazed!

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 The sleeping arrangements…ahhh the sleeping arrangements (insert exhausted, ‘what was I thinking?’ emoticon!) 3 kids in a bunk bead with a double bed for mummy and daddy at the side, could have only meant one thing in any sane persons mind – disaster – and for the two hours it took for us to calm them down and put them back into bed when they climbed out and tried to make a run for it around 200 times (*approx), it almost was! I think I cried “I want to go home!” at one point! But with daddy’s steely determination to replace every rampant escapee back into bed, they gave up and passed out around 10pm, then it was only the sounds of everyone else’s children driving their parents crazy that kept us awake until we fell into a disturbed sleep at around midnight – kids cages may be a better idea if you’re reading this Alton Towers 😉

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We gave up and got up at around 7am. Ariana’s response letter from Santa was waiting under the door, so we got ready and headed for breakfast.

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^^^Christmas jumpers with flashing snowman noses courtesy of Next! And a Push To Exit button on the hotel corridors to prevent parents from escaping^^^

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The girls like to help their brother at every opportunity and he doesn’t mind one bit!

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Breakfast was a buffet style with as much bacon, egg and beans as you could possibly eat and pastries and coffee for the exhausted parents on hand too.

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We spent the morning in the Splash Landings water park and what an adventure that was! There were pools with slides for the twins and larger slides, climbing frames and rides with inflatables for our big girl (and daddy). We swam outside too, which is a first for me in December! There was a cafe at the side of the pool, where people hung around in their swimsuits drinking milkshakes and eating hot dogs, it was such a holiday atmosphere!

Other than the noise at bedtime to deal with as it was so busy, we had an amazing time at Alton Towers and highly recommend it to any family that is looking for a Christmas adventure to get their family in the mood for the holiday season. We paid £220 for our room including evening meal, breakfast, entry to Cbeebies Land and the water park and I would have paid double for the fun we all had. I think the kids will be talking about our trip for a very long time. Here’s a film I put together if you’d like to see, it’s a new format for me so please let me know what you think in the comments box below! Apologies in advance for the Tweenies – it’s Ariana’s favourite Christmas song (you know the one that has to be on in the car EVERY time you get into it and keeps you awake all night long? Yeah, that one! – you’re welcome!)

Have a lovely Christmas!

Love from Leyla