Travelling to festival family shot

Travelling to festival car selfie

We camped out at a local festival, The Stendhal Festival of Art, for the second year in a row, something which has  became a firm favourite new family tradition. This time with five month old Max in tow.

When I say camping it wasn’t strictly camping, we were lucky enough to borrow my dad’s campervan which he cleverly converted from a community Ambulance- complete with everything you could possibly need, including space for us all to sleep, a cooker and a much coveted toilet!

After a morning of intense excitement in our house, we all ate a hearty brunch,  packed the car up to the roof  (we really did have so much stuff) and headed off. But not before getting our festival glam on complete with plaits and hair flowers.

besutiful Cora

Eve hair

After we set up camp  we grabbed a quick snack before queuing up to get our weekend family wrist passes. Along the way we watched in admiration at the groups of families around us working together putting up their tents.

setting up camp

I must admit I felt a pang of nostalgia, remembering the days my own family fought helped eachother pitch up the tents at our caravan and felt that I had missed out abit in not going for the fully fledged tent experience. But the luxury of having our own toilet and cooking facilities was beyond comparison, especially with a five month old baby.

Waiting in the queue we got a real sense of the different mix of people that attend festivals, from the young loved up couples, the groups of fun loving friends, the hip crew, the first timers, to all the different types and sizes of families. I was impressed to discover this festival includes the option of a family ticket for single parents and their kids too.

Putting on the wrist bands really got us excited and we went straight off to explore the festival site, getting bogged down in heaps of mud on the way much to the kids’ delight!

Eve jumping in muddy puddles

There is nothing quite like getting out into the fresh country air and this is a fab excuse like no other to do just that. Eve and Luca were in their element, jumping and literally rolling about in the mud! They had the time of their lives relishing in their new found freedom.

Festival Must Haves 

We learnt from being at Stendhal festival last year that wellies are an absolute must when roaming around the fields, listening to the many live music acts.

camp boots

This time we took a three wheeler double all terrain pram, which inevitably got completely covered in mud too. By the end of the weekend it even had clumps of hay clinging off it too!

Max and Luca in pram

I brought along my beloved Lillebaby buckle  carrier too as I knew little Max would want to get out and have a look around him, it enabled him to enjoy the festival experience much more too.

I was so glad I’d invested in a waterproof rainsuit for the kids as this was an absolute saviour for us. It meant Eve and Luca could splash and squelch about in the muddy puddles all they liked without us adults getting cross and without fear of ruining their clothes! I got Max one too so that when he was in the sling he wouldn’t get wet if it rained, he should still fit into it next year as I got it in a bigger size, so double bonus!

Eve and Luca in waterproof suits

We all had such fun from beginning to end! Meeting up with friends we enjoyed watching the kids play together. There was so much for of them to see and do, especially at the free arts and crafts events, catering for all ages of kids. From designing and making boats out of corks, making Pokemon bouncy balls using clay, to playing in a sensory centre using lots of different materials, playing with sand, climbing trees and most of all using their imaginations.

Luca doing arts and crafts

Max 1 playing

Luca playing sensory tent

Eve's boat

Eve’s boat

There were plenty of takeaway food vans on site to suit everyone’s tastes and we were never hungry with a wide choice of food from burgers, chips, pizzas crepes and ice cream plus soft and alcoholic drinks.

The breastfeeding caravan and sensory tent came in very handy for us as Max is at the stage where he gets too easily distracted and it was nice to sit down and chill for a while away from all the noise. The ladies were very welcoming, even giving me a cool drink and strawberries while I fed Max.

In the afternoons we let the kids have some downtime at the campervan, as we cooked some food and ate al fresco.

Eve eating outside campervan

Then we wrapped them up in caps, cosy blankets and ear defenders, before setting out to listen to the live bands. We brought glow sticks along and put them all over the pram and on the kids so they would be easily identifiable when darkness descended. I also bought mini torches so we could see our way back to the camper easily at nightime.

Max ear defenders

PORTS playing the main stage

PORTS playing the main stage

Eve and Wee Cora

Cabin Fever

However it wasn’t always plain sailing  – there were times when the camping situation was a bit difficult, like when Max woke up at 4am crying inconsolably and for five whole minutes I couldn’t get him to stop! The stress! Nobody complained about the noise, but I felt guilty and lots of pressure to try to get him to stop as soon as possible.

Keeping six people entertained while in a small confined space in general wasn’t always easy, but luckily the weather held up great so there weren’t many times that we all had to be inside the van together. Next time I will definitely buy a tent for beside the campervan so the kids can go into it to let off a bit of steam while I cook. It will give us some extra space to store essentials too.

We were plagued by wasps the first day of the festival. Wasps are my biggest nightmare as I am allergic to their sting and even the faintest hint of a buzz has me screaming and heading for cover. The lovely ladies from the free kids crafts tent gave me some very helpful hints on how to keep them at bay – vicks vaper rub being one – who knew? Needless to say I’ve now stocked up!

Happy Campers

There is no other experience quite like getting outdoors together as a family and making memories.

Sharing food and drinks together, listening to music, we made new friends too, talking to people we would never have met otherwise.  There was lots of laughter throughout the weekend and just the experience of getting away from home and spending quality time together is like no other.

first night

We can’t wait to do it all again next year!

 

Fionnuala xo

 

 

 

Life with kids was never going to be easy, but when I discovered I was pregnant with my fourth child I went through a mixture of emotions, the overriding one being FEAR!

Luca had only recently turned one and I felt like I had finally made it over the hazy fog filled hump, that it was going to be relatively plain sailing from then on in. He had just started sleeping through the night and I had finally started having (a bit) of a life again.

worried-woman

Wakeful Worrying

The nearer it got to my due date I would lay awake at night worrying about how I was going to manage two young children. It was already difficult to get out of the house in the mornings, do the school drop off, then leave Luca to creche and get to work on time (well mostly on time).

The evenings were also hard going as it was a battle to get Eve to do her schoolwork with Luca at my ankles looking for attention. Cooking the dinner was stressful – trying to keep  a fast moving tot out of the kitchen was nearly impossible.

Bedtime was pretty nightmarish, I had to stay next to Luca to get him off to sleep, then do the dishes, tidy up and tuck the girls into bed before I got to my own.

I felt like I was just keeping my head above water most of the time.

The thought of doing it all over again so soon with another child made me rigid with fear.

I worried if I could ever possibly  love this baby as much as I loved my other kids. I seriously had so much anxiety about this I cannot explain.

However, I am now so glad to say that Max is so very welcome in our family and is every bit as loved as all my other children (phew!)

best brothers

Lives Changed Forever

From the moment my kids came into the hospital to visit Max for the first time, a wave of protectiveness towards my new baby surfaced.

As Luca  came blustering through the door he seemed like a big, clumsy giant compared to my teeny, fragile newborn and he needed watching at all times to ensure my baby’s safety. When he reached out to touch the baby I got this very unsettling sick feeling in the pit of my tummy. I didn’t want him too near the baby as he was just so rough! It was really confusing as before I had Max, Luca was s my tiny little boy, but that had all changed.

Luca cuddling Max

Little Luca was only 18 months old and didn’t understand why all of a sudden his momma who he had always had full reign over was suddenly preoccupied, with someone else.

Eve found it hard to adjust too, she knew my time with her was going to be even shorter still and she was only getting used to not being the baby when Luca came along.  We try to have little special time together now, just us.

First Few Weeks

Luca and 1 week old Max

The first few days were bittersweet. I was in a love bubble with the new baby, yet feeling guilty that I couldn’t give Luca the attention that he was used to and so clearly craved. Everytime Luca saw me with the baby he cried, a high pitched banshee like wail, like his little heart was breaking in two.

Each time he looked at me with the baby in my arms, he snuggled in closer to his dad, the beginning of what is now a very close bond between them both – one that he and I used to share.

Mark and Luca watching tv

Home Alone With My Two Sons

The first few weeks were alright as there were always plenty of visitors calling in and new midwives every few days, which was a nice distraction. But when his dad went back to work I was quickly dropped in at the deep end. The girls were at school, so my daytimes were spent with my boys.

I remember that first morning, I was secretly so so afraid. It felt like all my months of worry was finally being realised. That first morning I was like a woman on a mission, getting Eve her breakfast, getting Luca dressed and mercifully baby Max slept until it was nearly time to go. Then off we went.

I won’t lie I found it really tough (and the school is no more than a few miles away!) but in that short time Max woke up screaming his head off and then Luca began to cry and we were sitting in a queue of traffic and then there was nowhere to park, then I was faced with the dilemma of how to get all of us into the school.

Needless to say by the time I got it all sorted we were late and everyone was really upset. I was in tears by the time I got home. Then I had to sort the boys out, both had soiled their nappies and getting that sorted was a task in itself.

Luca was like glue to me, when I had to hold or feed Max (practically all the time as the little milk monster didn’t like to be put down) he would scream that ear piercing scream. He took up a guard dog like stance beside the chair I did all but sleep in for those first few months, he wouldn’t sit, insisting on standing instead.

Making lunch was again incredibly difficult, as Max wouldn’t sleep so he had to be held or he would scream. I soon learnt how useful a baby sling can be!

Getting to the toilet was hard. Luca could not be trusted to be left alone with Max for even a few seconds – proven by the multitude of tiny toys that I found in the Moses basket that Luca constantly flung into it – in the hope of hitting Max! To get a quick toilet visit I had to leave Max screaming his lungs out, while Luca and I raced to the toilet – at least if he was with me he couldn’t be getting up to any mischief!

Literally nothing got done around the house for the first three months. Every breathing second was spent holding one of the boys (or both) in my arms.

Survival With Support

We lived for three o’clock when my very kind and dear friend brought Eve home from school for me, despite the fact that she has three of her own kids to look after and had to go out of her way everyday to do so! Another lovely friend left Eve to school numerous times for me too.

cup of tea

I am forever in their debt. Just having their support was and will forever be priceless and I will never forget their kindness.  This was also my only adult company some days and I really, really longed for it so much! They will never understand how much their help meant to an exhausted, sleep deprived me.

Also my own mum’s daily phonecalls and visits on her days off from work were another saving grace. She would come and bring food and do my dishes. Just knowing she was there was such a comfort, someone much more responsible than me to listen to me moan or let me sleep or get a shower was amazing!

My partner helped when he could, but due to his work some weeks when I had all the kids by myself.  I really struggled, trying to juggle making the dinners, do the home-works and then bedtimes, sometimes I could manage and other days seemed like a crazy, endless nightmare.

Just A Little Jealous

For the first four months I despaired of Luca’s jealousy. One part of me felt so so sorry for him, he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t there for him like I used to, why I couldn’t carry him around, why I could no longer spend the night beside him in bed snuggling in like we used to always do. It was so hard.

So when he threw the first few toys at Max I understood – sort of. Of course I sat him down explained to him what he was doing was wrong as calmly and gently as possible. The day he threw his hard plastic chair onto little Max as he was sitting out in his bouncer chair was another matter, that day the protective mamma bear in me came out in full force and I shouted angrily at him.

eye of envy

Undeterred Luca has countless times continued to sit on top of Max when he is on my lap, trying to nudge poor little Max off with his bum! A few time he has fired his very hard toy chain saw right at Max’s head, or hugs Max, then secretly nips him!

Coming Round

As Max nears five months I feel Luca has finally began to accept him as part of the family. Now however, it is his daddy who Luca gets upset with, when I hand Max over to him when I need a break, the unmerciful scream of ‘nooooo’ that comes from Luca’s lips is hard for his dad to listen to.

But those early days of just me and my boys at home helped to cement and reconcile Luca and my relationship. We are nearly back to our old closeness. But he has over time got much more independent and now is more interested in going outside to play with his friends – under our close  supervision of course.

me and my boys

Best Friends Forever

There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Little Max is growing fast and is much more interesting and fun. He already absolutely adores his big brother – verging on hero worship.

Luca nursing Max big besties

The look that shines from little Max’s eyes when he sees his big brother is full of love, and mischief!

Luca now refers to him as”my Maxy” and hugs and kisses him several times a day and always last thing before going to bed at night!

Another thing in Max’s favour is that he can now pull Luca’s hair, so he is more able to stand up for himself.

 

Well not all the time….