Saturday 31 August 2013

The Day of the Skydive

Most days I am woken with kisses, hair pulling, or a cruel combination of the two. Today, I was woken by the sound of my underused alarm. At 6am, I crept out of bed without waking ebony, and scurried to get ready.
At 6:25am, I pulled pyjamas over ebony's warm, sleepy head, and carried her to the car. The assumption was, that by waking her up so much earlier than usual, it would guarantee a sleep-filled journey.
This didnt work, and despite being woken three hours early, ebony was bright and cheery on the journey to Lancaster.

After months of anticipation, the day had finally arrived for laurie's skydive. In my pre-Ebony days I worked for a fantastic charity called the Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS for short), and Laurie had (been) volunteered (by me) to take part in their fundraising skydive.
CAPS campaigns to end the use of tigers in circuses, to stop people keeping monkeys as pets and to stop zoos culling adult animals to make room for the crowd-drawing baby animals. Through undercover investigations, research and expertise, CAPS works towards a world without cages.
Their most recent campaign, the kind of campaign that has on occasion forced me to wonder whether I made the right decision to stay home with Ebony, exposed the wide spread practice of pinioning to prevent captive birds from flying. These birds who, to most zoo visitors, appear free to leave at any time, are in fact mutilated at a few days old, to prevent them from leaving the zoo (and the paying crowds) behind.
Laurie was due to jump with a group of CAPS fundraisers at the Black Knight Parachute Centre in Lancaster. In true Laurie-style, we discovered at 11pm last night that, because he hasn't bothered to read any of the skydive information in advance, he was not prepared for the event. He didn't have a medical form or any gloves to wear. We also discovered that if weather conditions were bad, we could end up hanging around at the centre all day which didn't sound much fun with a 19 month old.

Places on the day were allocated on first come first served basis, so we decided to be prompt. I think this is the first time we have ever left the house on time without an argument.
After some waiting around, Laurie was called up to go in the first plane load of jumpers. We caught a quick glimpse of him in his be-wedgied jumpsuit before he boarded the plane, and then he was gone. Ebony has only seen planes in the sky before, so it took a while for her to understand that the "byar" (car) in a nearby field was actually a plane.
About 10 minutes later, we started to see teeny tiny people flying through the air. It was impossible to tell which one was laurie, although I was pretty sure he would turn out to be the one heading in the wrong direction. The tiny dots grew bigger, and it became obvious which was Laurie when I saw him manically waving from above.

We went to meet him at the gate. He hadn't been worried about the skydive, in fact I'm not sure I've ever seen him really worry about anything. He is a logical, calm, laid back chap, and always has been. But as he pulled his sweaty head out of his helmet, he admitted that it had been a terrifying experience.
I was proud of him for doing the skydive, there's no way I would ever dare to do something like that, and I'm really proud that he raised money for such an important - and underfunded - cause.
There's still time to donate, if you so wish.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Three Parcel Challenge: Showing You Care

Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this post, but all inspiration, words and postage stamps are my own.

I am probably a bit of a social media addict. I check Facebook throughout the day, and I found the 24 twitter silence difficult. For me, social media plugs up otherwise boring parts of the day. It does mean, though, that I know what friends are up to without having to contact them. While in some ways this is good, I also think it’s a bit of a shame. It means that there are some people I don’t speak to as often anymore, because we can both see what the other one is up to via social media.

Since having Ebony, I’ve struggled to keep in touch with people. Where before, I may have had time to ring friends while walking home, I’m now entertaining a toddler. In the past, I had evenings free to catch up with friends, but now I spend them trying to get Ebony to sleep. Days, weeks and even months pass so fast. I can manage the odd short email, text and Facebook message, but I struggle with phone calls, lengthy emails and detailed letters. On the rare occasions I’m not with Ebony, I’m usually working.

I always mean to let people know I’m thinking of them, but I rarely get round to it. It’s so lovely when you receive unexpected post, especially if its a little present or note from a long lost friend, so I thought I’d force myself. I’ve set myself the challenge to send parcels to three unsuspecting friends this week, to show them that I care.
First up, my friend Emma. I have been friends with Emma for almost a decade (I almost vomited writing that, when did I get so old?) We met at uni, and have stayed friends ever since. She is my go-to person whenever I need help. She comes over to watch Ebony when I need to get things done, she has offered many a shoulder to cry on and always gives good advice. I always mean to send her thank you presents whenever she helps me out, but life usually gets in the way and I forget. So I decided she should receive one of my surprise parcels. I checked her Amazon wish list, because I am basically akin to a private investigator, and decided to get her a book from her selection. I also included a card to say thank you, because she is truly the most helpful friend on the planet.

Next, my friend Kate. I met Kate in Bristol, and we were very close friends. Since leaving Bristol, she moved up to Glasgow and though I visited her a couple of times, I then fell pregnant and haven’t made it up since. Having Ebony makes it more difficult to visit far away friends because where I could once have slept on a sofa, I now need to fork out for a hotel. Kate has been down a few times to visit Ebony, and has sent her many an amazing gift (like this awesome Icelandic story book). The last time Kate was in the area, Ebony was ill so we couldn’t go to meet her which I was really sad about. She’s in Manchester again next month, but we will be in Brighton for the week. It’s such a shame because I would love to see her. I decided to send her a parcel too, so she knows I’m thinking of her. I sent her a sketch book, and chose this pretty one by Rob Ryan.

Finally, my friend Sarah. I met Sarah when we were in a show together at Youth Theatre. We bonded over Shout magazine (in my defence, we were 11). Shout magazine always had amazing letters on the problem pages - things like “my electric toothbrush is stuck in my vagina”, and the letters were usually signed “Anon”, which Sarah thought was weird because she hadn’t even heard that name before. Sarah lives in Glasgow now, and I only get to see her a couple of times a year. We do, however, stay in touch by having long monthly chats on the phone. I decided to send Sarah the current issue of shout magazine (because I’m interested to know whether teenage girls are still misplacing their toothbrush heads) which featured some rather glittery nail varnish as a free gift.

I’ve really enjoyed this self-imposed postal challenge. It was nice choosing who to send things to and why, and then deciding what to send them was even better. I like that they will wake up one morning and receive a surprise parcel telling them how much they mean to me. If you would also like to spread some unexpected joy amongst your own friends, please do. It doesn’t matter whether you send them by Rapid Parcel, red letter box or deliver them by hand, you can send them however you like. All you need to do is choose three friends, and send them something to show you care. You don’t need to buy them all presents like I did, I would have loved to make them something buy at the moment I barely have time to make a cup of tea so I opted for money spending instead. Let me know if you join in, and what you send and why! If you blog about, please share the link in the comments.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #14

It was beautiful weather yesterday, so (after eventually sort of recovering from our hangovers) the husband and I decided to head out into the great outdoors to make the most of the bank holiday. 

We went to Vernon Park in Bredbury, because it is particularly beautiful on sunny days. Vernon Park doesn't have a playground, so it's especially good for great adventures because I know we can explore at will without worrying about Ebony seeing a slide glistening in the distance. Slides are basically crack cocaine to toddlers. 

We went for a walk around the park, exploring things we found along the way. We'd left our bag, and the snacks it contained, in the car and Ebony was soon asking for food. She has had a cold this week and so isn't quite herself, and has been quick to cry this weekend. Sure enough, she started to cry because we didn't have any bananas with us. As I was trying to soothe her, Laurie appeared with some blackberries he had found in the bush. Ebony was happy, momentarily, until the blackberries ran out. 

I bought Laurie this book on foraging for Christmas, but we haven't managed to get much use out of it yet. We've foraged a few blackberries over the past few weeks while out walking, but the ones at Vernon Park weren't quite ready yet. We spent the next half hour scrambling around in the bushes, and climbing steep hills, trying to pick enough blackberries to keep Ebony satisfied. 

Ebony had fun searching the undergrowth to find berries, and picked quite a few herself -although I had to keep an eye on her to make sure she wasn't going for the lighter ones.

I like that Ebony now knows where blackberries come from, and doesn't think they appear by magic on supermarket shelves. I'm going to have a look through the foraging book, and see what else we can search for on our great adventures. 

Have you been on any great adventures this week?

Read this post to find out what the great adventure is all about. 

Monday 26 August 2013

My Favourite New Baby Gifts

Disclaimer: I was compensated for writing this post, but all words and thoughts are my own.

When you have a new baby, you should expect to get to know your postman pretty well. For the first few weeks, every morning will see a new parcel or package arriving. Some mornings you may even answer the door with your bra hanging out, because breastfeeding and sleep deprivation are a dangerous combination.

Ebony got so many presents when she was born. Every guest brings presents, and those that live far away send them by post. We didn’t have Ebony christened because we’re not religious, but we had a huge party for her first birthday, and she got another truckload of presents then. I was thinking recently about the gifts that stand out, and will be treasured for years to come.

Homemade gifts
I am lucky to be surrounded by very talented and creative friends. I love homemade gifts, I think it’s really special to be given something unique made specially for you. My friend, Jo,  made ‘Leonard’ (the name for our sex-unknown developing foetus) a quilt when I was pregnant. I absolutely love it. I love the fabrics she used, the pattern of the quilt, and the fact that she spent time on it. We used it as a playmat when Ebony used to topple a lot, and now it takes pride of place in her room.

One of my other favourite gifts was a keepsake set given to use by my friend. The kit featured two little frames, some non-toxic ink and some paper to capture your baby’s hand and footprints. I finally got round to using it when Ebony was two weeks old, when I had finally convinced myself to be brave and cover my baby in ink. I managed to get a really great footprint, and a smudge where her handprint should be. In hindsight, I think you’re probably meant to attempt the handprint when the baby is sleeping. I think it’s a really special keepsake, and I can’t quite believe that Ebony’s feet were ever so tiny.

Personalised gifts
When I was little, I had a wooden spoon with my name, date and time of birth on. I still have it somewhere. I couldn’t ever get personalised things from gift shops because they never had ‘Fiona’, and I’m certain Ebony will face the same problem. One of my friends bought some brightly coloured hand-painted animal letters to spell out Ebony’s name. We don’t intend on staying in the house forever, so we haven’t put them up on her door, but they’re displayed on the mantelpiece in her bedroom. I think it’s nice to have personalised items, so these were one of my favourite gifts.

Sentimental gifts
A few people gave Ebony presents that reflected their own experiences. A friend gave her one of his favourite children’s books, another gave her a toy she remembered playing with from childhood. I think it’s nice that people bought Ebony gifts that they themselves enjoyed as children, for some reason it makes the gift feel even more special, because it is like passing something down to the next generation. There are so many experiences and traditions I want to pass on to Ebony, and it’s great that our friends and family want to do the same.

There are so many different new baby gifts to choose from, and you can easily spend hours wandering the aisles of tiny pink and blue outfits, trying to choose your favourite. Ebony was given so many amazing presents, I don’t think I could ever pick a favourite, but the ones listed above are definitely up there.

What was your favourite new baby present, and why?

Thursday 22 August 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #13

You may have noticed that this week's great adventure post is a little later than usual. We usually go on our great adventures at the weekend, but didn't have time last weekend. We didn't have any plans for today, so after Ebony's nap we decided to embark on an adventure.

We went to the canal near our house. It was a sunny day, and there were lots of cyclists and dog walkers about. We saw some sheep and a heron (or a 'dodo'), I can't remember seeing a heron so close before so that was quite exciting. The sheep were equally as exciting because Ebony said "moo" at them many times before realising they weren't cows.

We walked for about a mile and a half, and then turned back and walked the same route home. I spent a lot of the walk saying things like, "Let's stay on the path, not close to the water." and generally shitting myself that Ebony was going to fall in.

I think the highlight of the adventure for Ebony was seeing a barge go past. She waved the whole time it was in sight. Barges move very slowly. The barge passengers consisted of drunk middle aged men.

We used to walk along the canal lots when Ebony was tiny, and I would have her in the carrier. I finally feel that she's at an age where I can let her walk along the canal, so it was nice to revisit that route.

Have you been on any great adventures this week?

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Ebony's First Dance Lesson

The other week, a friend suggested I take Ebony to the local dance school for their ‘mums and tots’ dance sessions. At the time, I tried politely to avoid heaving in her face, because the very thought of taking Ebony dancing made me want to die a bit. I used to go to youth theatre as a child, and I can remember the rows of dancing girls in their tight leotards, hair scraped back, full faces of makeup and vaselined teeth… it was a bit terrifying.

I certainly don’t want to be teaching Ebony to pout so I can apply her bright red lipstick any time soon. And she would only be mocked by the other toddlers for not having enough hair to even attempt a donut bun. No, I thought, dancing is not for us. 

Photo credit: Bina Sveda
But then we went to toddler yoga, and I saw a different side of Ebony. The baby who previously ignored instruction, didn’t listen to group leaders, and generally wanted to be doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, was now a little girl who joined in. As the yoga teacher sang the scarecrow song, Ebony lay flat on the ground and pretend to be asleep. As the yoga teacher shook her arms, so did Ebony.

We’ve only been to toddler yoga once, but it is now a daily occurrence at home that Ebony will lie down and pretend to sleep until I sing that bloody scarecrow song to her, at which point she will jump up (usually landing square on my faff) and start dancing (putting particular effort into stomping her feet, still on my faff).  

After a week of intense faff-bashing and the accompanying bruising, I decided perhaps it was worth taking her to a dance lesson.So yesterday, we headed down to the local dance school for our free taster session. The walls of the reception were adorned with photos of little girls with giant buns atop their overly made up faces.

Then the class started. Up until this point, I had imagined that Ebony would enjoy dancing in the same way she enjoyed yoga. I had vague visions of her mirroring the teacher’s movements, and excitedly showing off the moves she already knew.

The smiley, leotarded woman pressed play on the CD player, and said it was time to stretch. Ebony stared at her with disdain. The dance teacher sat on the floor and stretched out toward each toe. Ebony stared at her with contempt. The woman reached to the stars. Ebony stared at her in disbelief. The woman jumped up and began to lunge, Ebony stayed seated and smirked.

It’s important that at this point that I mention Ebony was the only child in the class. In the room there was me, my miserable child and the over smiley dance teacher. The teacher began to dance around the room. Ebony looked at me as if to say “Mummy, WTF?” Suddenly some more students arrived, a bit older than Ebony and clearly very keen.

The teacher announced that it was time to march around the room, and proceeded to do so. Suddenly she had Ebony’s attention. If there’s one thing Ebony can do, it’s a crazy wide-legged walk with a one-footed stomp, and so she followed the teacher around the room. Suddenly it was time to gallop, then skip, then tiptoe. Throughout all of this, as the teacher and the other pupils moved in unison around the dance floor, Ebony continued to march after them, occasionally stomping loudly with her right foot.

Then it was time to play sleeping bunnies. Another of Ebony’s top skills is the art of pretend sleeping. She thudded flat onto the floor, and proceeded to let out a wheezy snore. As the beat of the song picked up, the rest of the room leapt into the air and started to hop. Ebony, however, stayed quite still upon the floor, snoring loudly. Occasionally she would lift her head, glance around the room, and then continue with her performance. Ebony was still lying on the floor five minutes later, as all the other children were miming along to twinkle twinkle.

At this point I was worried that the teacher had lost Ebony for good, but like all good entertainers, she soon drew her back in. It was instrument time, and each child was asked to choose one instrument from the drawer and then go back to their place. The CD player started to play a shrill version of the music man as the children chose their desired instrument. Poor Ebony was unable to decide upon an item, and instead brought some over for me to inspect. By the end of the song, the drawer was empty, and I was being engulfed by a pile of brightly coloured cheap plastic musical toys.

As the dance teacher hastily moved all of her other drawers out of Ebony’s reach, all without missing a plie, Ebony noticed something glinting from the front of the room. By some miracle, a whole 20 minutes had passed without Ebony noticing that the entire wall was made of mirror.

For the final 20 minutes of the lesson, as the other children danced to their favourite nursery rhymes, Ebony stood alone at the front of the room. Occasionally she would glance back at the other children, then swing back to smile lovingly at her reflection. She laughed heartily, throwing her head back as she did, and even went in for the odd kiss.

She can't wait to go back next week.

Monday 19 August 2013

Five Tips for Travelling with a Baby

Disclaimer: I was compensated for writing this post, but all words and thoughts are my own.

Your first holiday as a new family can seem pretty daunting. You might be worried that your baby will scream through the whole flight, or that you won’t pack enough clothes, or that the heat will be too much and you’ll be stuck with a miserable baby. Most new parents will admit they are scared that it won’t feel much like a holiday, and they’ll arrive home more exhausted than when they left. While it’s true that it probably won’t be the same as a pre-baby holiday, they do say ‘a change is as good as a rest’. With that in mind, here are five tips to help you travel with a baby:

  1. Choose the right type of holiday - babies are generally quite adaptable, and will fit into most lifestyles, but there are some holidays you may find particularly hard work with a baby in tow. Fast moving adventure holidays may need to be toned down for something a little slower, for example. And clubbing holidays in Ibiza probably won’t be as fun if your bedtime is at 7pm. Think about your baby’s needs, and then try to find a holiday that will fit. Beach holidays, staycations and camping trips are all easy and enjoyable as a new family.

  2. Pack carefully - most importantly, pack light. Ok, maybe that’s a bit hopeful, but at least try not to ground the plane with your excess baggage allowance. When I had a newborn, I couldn’t even go to the local shops without taking six nappies (yes, you read that right), a full pack of wipes, two muslin cloths, a spare change of clothes and an assortment of toys. My changing bag was straining at the seams and, of course, I didn’t use most of what I was carrying. To avoid overpacking, work out what you can buy there, and what can be washed and reused. There’s no need to take every single outfit your baby has, just take a small bag of washing powder.
  3. Take a sling - slings are always great, but they’re especially useful on holidays. They take up a lot less room, and can easily be packed into a bag when not in use - no need to push an empty pram round all afternoon. Being in a new place, with new sounds, sights and smells, might be over stimulating, the sling will give your baby somewhere to feel safe. Snuggled into you, breathing your scent, and hiding their face from the world. It also means you have your hands free to do other things. You’ll be able to get stuck into the local culture, all the while knowing your baby is safely tucked into your chest. We love exploring the local countryside when we go away, and babywearing allows us to do this so much better than a pushchair could. We can clamber up steep steps, squeeze through kissing gates and shimmy down hills without a second thought. 


  4. Don’t over do it - remember, you have a baby now, and your holiday pace needs to reflect this. Maybe you used to see every city sight in a weekend, but now you will have to slow down a bit. Naps, Feeds and changes can easily slow you down a good few hours, so plan for this in your schedule - that way you won’t be disappointed at not seeing everything on your list.  if your baby always naps at a certain time, try to respect this is in your itinerary. There’s nothing worse than a crabby, overtired baby. If you’re not able to be in your room for nap times, slings are a great alternative. Ebony would always fall asleep in the sling when she was a baby, we spent so many afternoons with her cuddled into my chest as we trekked in the countryside.
  5. Be careful about sun exposure - keep your baby out of the sun during the hottest part of the day (11-3pm). Make sure you have a sun hat, sun lotion and sun glasses with you at all times to protect your baby from the sun. Remember to reapply sun lotion every few hours, or after a dip in the pool. Dress your baby in thin layer that can be removed or added easily depending on the weather. While it may be boiling outside, your baby might start to feel a bit chilly in a restaurant with a good air conditioning system. Heat can lead to dehydration, so your breastfed baby may want to feed more often.

The most important thing to remember when holidaying with a newborn, is to have fun and enjoy yourself. Whether you jet off somewhere far away, drive to France or take a cruise with a company like Cruise 1st, make sure you make the most of your time away. Take lots of photos, and make the most of every minute of your break. Try to immerse your baby in the local culture, and the accompanying sights and smells. Since having Ebony, we have mostly been on staycations - A weekend in Edinburgh, a week in Dorset and some time in Hebden Bridge. Next year, we’re going to head abroad to find some sunshine, and show Ebony a bit more of the world.

Do you have any tips to add?

A Self-Indulgent WAHM Moan, Sorry

Earlier this year, I decided that instead of going back to work, I would stay at home with Ebony. I worked out that we had enough savings to get us through about six months of no income, and then I would start looking for work. Well, it has been six months, and I still think she is benefiting from me staying home with her, so that plan has gone out the window.

We haven’t had to spend a single penny of our savings either, because I decided to take on some freelance copywriting work. This has allowed us to have a bit of extra income, whilst not taking me away from Ebony, so it has been perfect. I work while Ebony naps, and anything left at the end of the day, I do when she’s in bed for the night.

I’m careful not to take on too much, because the whole point of freelancing was to let me stay with Ebony, so it’s not working if I’m having to spend lots of time away from her. When I first started freelancing, Ebony used to have two naps a day. A short 40 minute nap in the morning which I would spend getting dressed, tidying or writing, and then a two hour nap late in the afternoon. The two hour nap was amazing for work, and I would usually be able to get quite a lot of work done in that time. I would occasionally have to work the odd evening, but my weekends were mostly free to enjoy time as a family.

Now that Ebony is a little older, things are getting a bit more difficult. Her naps are unpredictable at best, and it makes it quite difficult for me to plan my work schedule. I have reduced the amount of work I take on, and while that does make things easier, I still have difficult weeks. Last week was a particularly difficult week, and has left me feeling quite stressed.

On the Wednesday, I didn’t manage to do as much work as usual because I needed to get ready to go into Manchester. On Thursday, we went on a long walk and Ebony fell asleep in the carrier 40 minutes from home. She slept the whole way home, and then woke as soon as we entered the house. I wasn’t able to do any work that day. On the Friday, Ebony had a later than usual nap and was overtired, so she only slept for 20 minutes all day. I didn’t get any work done then either. I hadn’t been able to do much work in the evenings because Laurie has been home later than usual for various reasons, and by the time it reached Friday night, I was feeling very stressed.

I’ve had too many late nights, too many unproductive days, and too many jobs on my to do list. And once I feel stressed, every little thing that happens seems to add to that. Not being able to drink a cup of tea while it’s hot, not having the time for a bath, and having a messy house are all things that have made me feel at breaking point this week. I wish I was the size of a toddler, and I had someone the size of a Mummy to give me a big, warm hug to make me feel better.

I love being able to stay home with Ebony, and I’m so pleased to have found a way to earn money while doing that, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a struggle sometimes to get everything done. If I’m up to date with work, we’re usually living in squalor. If the house is in order, I probably haven’t blogged for two weeks. If Ebony has been having the time of her life on exciting day trips, it probably means I haven’t replied to my work emails for a while.

I know motherhood is a juggling act, but does anyone have any advice for keeping all the balls in the air at once?

Sunday 18 August 2013

Review: Just So Festival

I first found out about Just So Festival when Ebony was a couple of months old. I really wanted to take her that year, but Laurie thought she would be too young to enjoy it. This time, I wasn’t going to let him talk me out of it. I booked our tickets months in advance. We decided to get day tickets because camping seemed like too much of an investment. We don’t have a tent or any camping equipment, so we would have ended up spending a small fortune.

The festival programme looked amazing, and there seemed to be lots of things to entertain toddlers. The festival opened at 9am, but we decided to go later to allow Ebony to nap in the car. She fell asleep almost as soon as we set off, and slept the whole way there so was full of energy when we arrived.

We headed straight to Peekaboo, the area designed specifically with babies and toddlers in mind. We went into the tent to see Carla Henry telling a story. We’ve seen her perform before, at Manchester Museum, and she’s really good. She really engages with her audience and uses lots of different techniques to hold their attention. Singing, instruments, puppets and props are all introduced as the tale is told. I would definitely recommend going to one of her sessions if you can.

Ebony usually eats after her nap, so we decided to walk to the food area and see what was on offer. Most of the stalls seemed to have vegan options, and there was a good selection of food types available. As we were trying to decide what to order, it started to rain heavily. Luckily for Ebony, she had a waterproof mac and wellies to keep her dry. I had a bedraggled umbrella, and Laurie had a short sleeved shirt. There was an eating area set up in a barn, but it smelt of wet dog (because of the wet people, there were no dogs) so we didn’t stay in there long. We found somewhere to sit, and ate our lunch by the stage. The stage had bands performing throughout the day. Ebony LOVED a band called The BarrowBand. They had songs about fruit and vegetables, I wouldn’t say Ebony has the most sophisticated musical taste at this point.

After eating, and watching Ebony enthusiastically dance to a song about broccoli, we decided to walk around the festival site. The whole festival is so beautifully decorated, and there is whimsy and magic to be found around every corner. All I could think was, I bet the people who designed this festival had very beautiful weddings. The trees are filled with birdcages and lampshades, each area is themed and decorated accordingly, even the signage is beautiful. There are picture perfect photo opportunities to be found around every corner.

I took my camera out of my bag, ready to capture some of the magic, and discovered that I had forgotten the memory card. I was so disappointed to have to take crappy iPhone photos, because they really don’t do justice to the wonder and amazement of the festival, but I’m afraid they will have to do.

One of the absolute festival highlights was taking Ebony to see her first show. A friend had recommended “Shiny” a few weeks ago, but we were unable to go when it was in Manchester. I was thrilled to discover it would be on at Just So Festival, because it sounded amazing. Shiny is a show designed for children aged 0-2, and it was amazing. We arrived early because I was worried the tent would fill up, and it soon did. People were peering from the back of the entrance, desperate to get a glimpse at what was going on. I’m pretty sure we had the best seats in the house so I was glad we got there early. The only downside to being eager beavers, was that it gave Ebony plenty of time to be weird on the stage. At one point she was simply lying down on her back, right in the middle of the performance area, I have no idea why. 

All of the kids in the audience were captivated by the production. There was dancing, audience participation and plenty of shiny things to touch, and Ebony loved it. At one point, one of the actors gave Ebony a prop to hold, and Laurie and I both held our breath in anticipation of Ebony refusing to return it. Luckily, she handed it straight back and the disaster was avoided, but they really took a risk with that one. As the name suggests, there were lots of shiny props involved in the production. Ebony had been eyeing up a mirror the whole time, and when she finally got her hands on it, she looked ecstatic. It was such an amazing production, please go and see it if you can!

Another highlight was clay babies, in the Peekaboo area they had a clay tent. Ebony was able to have a go on the clay wheel, and it was so lovely to watch her getting stuck in. Yeah, it would have been an ugly vase, but she seemed to really enjoy playing with the clay and trying to get it into the right shape. I’d love to take her to try pottery again sometime, so will have to look into clay classes for toddlers.

As I said before, the whole festival is beautiful. There was a beach with buckets and spades, dens filled with cushions and a maze of hand made flowers to explore. Ebony didn’t get bored once, she was really engaged and enjoying the festival. There was a yurt for bedtime lullabies, so we walked there for some songs. Unfortunately the yurt was tiny, so there wasn’t enough room for us to squeeze in, but a few metres away there was some singing by a campfire so we went there instead. Ebony loved the singing and actions, and pointing at the fire saying “hot!”.

After the singing was finished, we went back to the food area to get some dinner. Ebony had some pasta, and we sat down in the barn to eat. After that, we went to the stage and watched some more music performed by live bands. Ebony was having fun dancing, until she tripped and hit her nose on a rock. After a bit of a cry, we decided to go for another explore to cheer her up.

We ended up at the Jitterbug tent, and Ebony wanted to go inside for the 70s disco. She was still dancing at 8:30pm. After busting her moves on the dance floor, rolling around on the grass outside, and watching in amazement as the lantern parade passed, we decided it was time to head home.We finally left the site at 9pm, and Ebony slept the whole way home, exhausted after her exciting day.

The festival doesn’t have any huge sponsors, and I’m assuming this is an ethical choice because the whole festival seems to be run in an ethically minded way. I absolutely loved the festival. It’s such a great way to introduce your child to the arts, and we’ll definitely be attending again next year.

Did you attend Just So Festival this year, what did you think?

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