Parental Leave: Week 7


This post starts off where the previous one left off, with us on holiday in Croyde, North Devon, so this has turned into a bit of a travel blog too.

Monday mornings are a lot better when you are on holiday, even if you get woken up at 3:00. This time it wasn’t Owen, just heavy rain on the roof of our chalet. When I got woken up again, this time at 6:30 by Owen, the rain wasn’t as bad, but it was still windy. Not ideal weather for a seaside holiday, but to be expected in the UK. We weren’t going to be able to go back to the beach, so instead we took Owen to the soft play centre in Barnstaple. He is still a bit too young to fully apreciate it, but did enjoy playing in the ball pit. All the excitement must have tired him out, as he fell asleep in the car, scuppering our plans to stop for lunch in Braunton (again), instead we got some pasties and brought them back to the chalet. The rain let up a bit in the afternoon, so we went out for a walk, once again with Owen in the baby carrier on my back. We got to the far end of the beach and wimped out of doing the full route, going straight to Blue Groove for a white chocolate milkshake and some cake. Whist in the village I bought some Croyde Cycle maps, I didn’t need them for this trip, as the chalet had one, but they are brilliantly detailed and I am a bit of a map geek. I’m sure I’ll be able to make use of them on a future trip anyway. As the weather was still miserable, even if it wasn’t raining, we settled into the chalet for the evening. This gave me to chance to read Guy Martin’s latest book “Worms to catch”, which I recieved as a Christmas present, but hadn’t been able to read. I especially liked it as it was more about mountain biking than motorcycle racing. However I felt like I was reading it a bit late, because Guy made a big thing in it about not wanting to return to motorcycle racing, yet between the book being published and me reading it he has got back into racing.

Tuesday was a slow morning, the weather was even worse than Monday and I think Jen was getting cabin fever, so we went out in the car, without much of a plan of where we would end up. I decided on Lynmouth, as we’d been there last year and knew that there was a cafe serving a pasty/cream tea meal deal, with free parking outside. By the time we’d finished lunch (yes, I did go for the pasty and cream tea) the rain had just about stopped, so we took the funicular up to Lynton and had a walk around. I must admit that the ride on the funicular was the highlight (there wasn’t much in Lynton), especially the views looking back towards Exmoor. Owen seemed to enjoy it, especially going up the hill when he was right at the front of the carriage. We took a detour to look at Damien Hirst’s Verity statue in Ilfracombe, then back to Croyde via Mortehoe. The fog had really come in around Mortehoe and it was easy to see how in the past ships could get lost, then crash on the rocks, leading Mortehoe to become notorious for “wreckers”. Once back at the chalet Owen’s Nanny joined us, and looked after Owen for the evening so that Jen and I could go out just the two of us. We went back to Blue Groove and ordered what I’m sure we order every year, beef enchilada for me and moules mariniere for Jen. The food was good, and it was nice to have an evening just the two of us.

Wednesday was notable because Owen had four poos, two of which breached the nappy! I think it must be something to do with what he’s eating or drinking down here. We’ve changed him on to pre-mixed formula, rather than the powdered formula he drinks at home, and he seems to be drinking more of it. Owen also had his first ride on a train, a steam train no less! It was only a short run on the part of the Lynton and Barnstaple railway which has been restored, however his granddad seemed very proud. In the afternoon the weather had started to improve, so we had a short stroll around the village, before heading to The Thatch for dinner. The food was tasty and Owen was on great form, flirting with the waitresses and stealing my chips.

Owen’s late night at The Thatch must have tired him out, as he slept in until past 8:00 on Thursday, either that, or he knew that I had plans to head to the beach for some early morning photography when he woke up. I was a little bit later setting off than planned, but am pleased with the photographs I took, based on an initial review on my laptop. I was back on the beach late morning, this time with Owen and Jen. We timed it to be on the beach at high tide so that we could take Owen for a paddle without a long walk to the sea. Owen loved the beach, especially destroying sandcastles and crawling around on the sand. Given how cold the sea was, I was surprised at how little it seemed to bother Owen, his giggling when the waves came in and splashed him was so cute. The excitement of the beach tired him out, he actually fell asleep in Jen’s arms whilst I was packing up the tent. Owen’s Auntie Heather arrived in Croyde on Thursday afternoon, so we took her to the National Trust tea room at Sandleigh, where we spent a lovely afternoon in the sunshine eating cakes. Unfortunately Owen had a nappy disaster of epic proportions. Not only did the poo breach the nappy, it also breached his vest and shorts – all whilst he was sitting there smiling at us. This was the worst possible time to discover that the the only spare item of clothing in the changing back was a t-shirt – the only item Owen was wearing to have escaped the poo explosion. It was a nice sunny day, so a nappy and t-shirt combination wasn’t too much of a disaster, except that Owen’s new favourite game is to undo his nappy when he isn’t wearing a vest. Obviously this has potentially disasterous consquences. I ended up tying the spare t-shirt round his waist, to prevent him getting to the tabs of his nappy, which I am glad to say worked well, and we got Owen back to the chalet without any further mess. After Owen went to bed, the girls went down to Billy Budds to get some pizzas and I walked up to Down End car park to get some nachos from Calaca Loca and we had a takeaway feast back at the chalet. I’d done over 15,000 steps on Thursday so felt like I’d earned my pizza!

Jen went out for a run on Friday morning, which justified us all going to the Thatch for breakfast! As I hadn’t been for a run, I only ordered a bacon and egg sandwhich, although the pancakes that Jen ordered looked much better! As the weather was nice again we went down to the beach. Gill and Heather came with us, so as there were plenty of people to wrangle Owen I hired a surf board. The waves weren’t quite as good as earlier in the week, but I still managed to catch a few decent waves, after two years off a surfboard I am glad that I could still surf. For some reason Owen didn’t seem to enjoy the beach as much as his previous visits, but I think he may have been tired. We spent the afternoon in the village, then went back to Blue Groove for dinner. I had octopus and chips, which was nicer than it probably sounds. Once again, Owen was on top form, making friends with the staff. Despite it being past his bed time he was really well behaved, especially when there were chips to steal. When we got him home, he drank all his milk and went to bed straight away. It was our last full day in Croyde, and it had been a great day.

Saturday morning was spent packing up the chalet. It was raining, so at least we weren’t tempted to head out for a walk or anything. However, I had made the schoolboy error of leaving my wetsuit out to dry overnight, and I’m sure it was wetter than when I took it off. With the BMW eventually loaded up, we set off to Cribbs Causway for our pitstop/lunch and made good time. Owen slept most of the way. We had some tasty burritos for lunch, then had a wander around the shops. Owen had his feet measured in Clarks and we ended up buying him some cute, but expensive little shoes. Even walking round the shops afterwards I was paranoid that Owen was going to take his shoes off and lose them, hopefully he’ll manage to get some wear out of them before losing or outgrowing them. The rest of the drive back to Coventry was uneventful and Owen seemed pleased to be home. As we’d had some windows fitted whilst we were away there was a bit of tidying up to do, I also had to re-hang the curtains in Owen’s room. By the time all of the jobs were done it was way past Owen’s bedtime, not that he seemed to mind after sleeping so much in the car. He slept well back in his own cot, which allowed me to crack on with processing the photos I took in Croyde.

When I stepped on my Withings scales for the dreaded post holiday weigh in, I had put on over 2kg, taking me back over 90kg (one of my goals for the year was to get my weight under 90kg and keep it under 90kg), although my body fat percentage had gone down and muscle mass had gone up, so it can’t have been all down to the cream teas and cider. Maybe the brown skin on my face and arms is heavier…

On Sunday morning I was back up my ladder painting the veranda. I am happy to say that I have now got all of the main framework painted, although I still need to do the bases and Jen is going to prep and paint the detail sections. I wasn’t the only one climbing, Owen has come back from holiday with new found confidence and we caught him starting to climb the stairs. We will need to be careful about leaving him unattended downstairs and making sure that doors are shut! He also clapped his hands together, something we haven’t seen him do before either. It is hard to say if it is normal 11 month old learning, or if our holiday has helped with his development. I’ve certainly come back re-energised and ready for my final two weeks of parental leave.

Parental Leave: Week 6

Fmily Holiday SelfieOur week started with a bit of a panic, Jen left for work and the power steering failed on her car. Fortunately I had decided to drive the MR2 this week and had already moved the car seat over, so she was able to take the BMW. As my friend Richard pointed out on Facebook – there always seems to be something wrong with one of our cars! It must have just been dodgy Italian electrics, as the car was fine when I tested it later in the day. Owen and I enjoyed being back out in the MR2, he had been really sleepy during his breakfast, so I bundled him straight into the MR2 to drive to my Mum and Dad’s house. Being in the MR2 perked him up and I had lots of smiles and giggles from the passenger seat, until he eventually drifted off to sleep. We had a lovely time with my Mum and Dad, Owen seems to have learned some new skills too – waving and drinking from his cup without any help!

On Tuesday Owen had some more firsts – I needed to do some more DIY, so Jen’s Mum came to look after Owen. They went for a walk to the park, where Owen enjoyed the playground, incuding trying the slide for the first time, then they came home on the bus – Owen’s first bus trip! When he got back Owen seemed content watching me paint – finding it funny when I was up the ladder waving down at him.

This is sounding a lot like my parental leave is just handing Owen over to grandparents to be looked after, whilst I crack on with something else – which isn’t the case. I guess the routine stuff, like battling with him eat his breakfast, changing nappies and playing peekaboo just seem normal to me now, so tend not to mention them. It isn’t all bad, as Owen does love hanging out with both his Grandma and Nanny. He always has huge smiles for them when they walk in the door and I’m sure he’s on his best behaviour when they are in charge!

Wednesday was a Daddy and Owen day, we mostly hung out at home, our only trip out was to the supermarket, taking the long way home, as it was a nice day and we were in the MR2. I still find it funny how small the MR2 looks, parked next to all the SUVs and people carriers in the parent and child spaces. On Thursday we were out in the MR2 again, to go swimming – this week we even made it on time! Owen did a lot of splashing when we got into the pool, he splashed himself, the other babies and parents, the teacher, but mostly he splashed me. After his initial excitement, he didn’t seem to enjoy the lesson as much as usual. I think that he was tired, as he didn’t have a pre-swim nap – probably why we made it to the lesson on time. He went straight to sleep when we got home, allowing me to get some jobs done, then have an uninterupted lunch with Jen! In the afternoon Jen took Owen to buggy workout, leaving me free to get out on my bike. With all the veranda painting it felt like I hadn’t had a proper ride in ages, so it was good to be out again, even if I had to do some more painting when I got home.

Whilst I was painting Jen took a phonecall that would slightly change our plans for the rest of the week – our holiday rental in Croyde would be ready for us on the Friday, rather than the Saturday. Naturally we jumped at the opportunity to have an extra night in our favourite place. Friday morning was spent packing, whilst waiting for the health visitor to come for Owen’s twelve month development check – of course Owen fell asleep just before she arrived and had to be woken up to be measure and weighed. He apears to be doing fine though, he is above the 75th centile for weight and 90th centile for length, when corrected for being born 6 weeks early. We had a few final errands to run before we could hit the road – Owen even cooperated and fell asleep in the car for the exact amount of time it took me to remove the bike carriers.

We set off at 17:30, half an hour later than planned, mostly due to Owen being fussy about eating his dinner. Jen drove the first stint through the Friday rush hour traffic on the M42 to Glocester services, where we stopped for dinner/milk and a crawl round the play area. I took over for a long second stint all the way to Croyde, by this time the traffic had cleared and we made good progress. The downside to the late arrival was missing the view across Croyde Bay when driving round Down End Point, one of my favourite views anywhere in the world. We could just about tell that the tide was in, but couldn’t see much else. We found our chalet, complete with cot already set up for Owen, so all we had to do was transfer him from his car seat to the cot. It didn’t quite go to plan though, Owen woke up, and was keen to explore his new surroundings. He slept well when he drifted back off to sleep, and had a bit of a lie in.

The fun really started when he’d had his morning milk and realised that he had the full run of the chalet – heated laminate floors and no stairs must be perfect for crawling around, as Owen looked to be enjoying himself immensly. He then found the springy door stoppers, hours of noisy fun for a little boy! Due to getting to Croyde a day early, and our early morning wake up call, Jen decided to do Parkrun in Barnstaple. It was a lovely morning, so Owen and I expolored the park whilst Jen ran. The plan had been to stop off for breakfast in Braunton on the way home, but Owen fell asleep in the car on the way, so we carried on back to Croyde and went to Blue Groove instead. This was no hardship as it is one of our favourite places to eat anywhere  in the world. We spent the afternoon walking around Croyde and seeing what had changed since our last visit, then chilling at the chalet during nap time. We visited Squires fish and chip shop in Braunton, another of our favourite haunts, for dinner and Owen had his first taste of fish and chips. He didn’t quite get the concept, as he only seemed to want the chips.

Sunday started with another lie in (we now class 7:00 as a lie in), but as this was forecast to be the last sunny day of our trip we wanted to make the most of it. We started off with a walk to the National Trust tea room at Sandleigh, which after extensive testing Jen and I have declared to do the best cream tea Devon. Pete and Gill (Owen’s Nanny and Granddad) joined us for the walk, and we had a lovely morning. After Owen’s lunch we took him down to the beach – this was his first chance to play in the sand, as last time he was only a few months old! Rather than taking the pushchair to the beach we used the baby carrier, which hadn’t been used since last summer, when Owen was a lot smaller. He went on my back and seemed to enjoy the walk down to the beach. We set up a tent to shelter us all from the wind and sun. Owen was happy to stay in the tent to start with, so I took a stroll to the sea, and by the time I got back (it was long way due to it being low tide) he had ventured out and was fearlessly crawling over the sand. I built some sandcastles, but Owen was destroying them quicker than I could build them, maybe my Dad is correct in thinking that Owen wants to become a demolition engineer…

Owen seemed to enjoy the beach and did really well with not eating sand until just as we were packed up and about to leave, when he somehow ended up with a big face full of sand and cried most of the walk back – I’ve never had such a noisy rucksack! After desanding ourselves we all went for Sunday lunch at the Manor House Inn, followed by an ice cream from the little ice cream shop, introducing Owen to more of our Croyde traditions. After Owen had gone to sleep I went back out with my camera, planning to take a photo of the sunset, however it wasn’t to be, the sun dipped below the horizon, but there wasn’t even the faintest glow of orange in the sky. It was still good to get out with my camera, as I haven’t had much of a chance to do landscape photography recently.

We have got more of the same planned for next week, although the weather forecast doesn’t look as nice. Whatever we get up to it is nice to spend a decent amount of time together as a family and hopefully Owen will benefit from it.

Family Portrait 

Family portrait

As I mentioned in my last post, we were at Richard and Anna’s wedding this weekend. My friend Ali took this photo before the ceremony, it is my favourite from the weekend – we scrub up well, don’t we!

It was a lovely day, we were well fed and the new Mr & Mrs Long make a great couple. Owen was on his best behaviour and everyone commented on how good he looked in his outfit.

Ali seems to have a natural talent for photography, whenever I hand him a camera and ask him to take a photo of me I get back some of my favourite photos of me. This one from mountain biking in Wales is a case in point.