Hooray for sunny beach days with friends! Hooray for scintillating adult conversation, children playing in the water with reckless abandon, teeny tiny babies with wide-eyed pensive looks (well, just one baby), and not-so-minuscule babies wanting to play in the water and wet sand but freaking out over enormous bathing suit bottoms! Hooray for jaffa cake ice-cream and the little person having his first bite of proper ice-cream and loving it so much that I was secretly getting protective over my share of it (it’s mine, after all)! And at the end of it all, even the tiniest hooray for very tired, non-napping child who wanted to walk everywhere.
We made an impromptu trip to New Brighton, where Raspberry and Ares played in the sand, dug through the treasure chest (and discovered dinosaurs, now named Limousine and Desk), climbed on rocks, and eschewed ice-cream. And near the end of it, Ares started actively seeking out sand to eat because he was exhausted and he seems to get a massive oral fixation when he’s tired. We also found a 1972 copy of Enid Blyton’s The Children of Cherry Tree Farm at Literally, originally presented to one Craig Dixon by Mereside Methodist Church in 1974 for his regular attendance. It all made for a pretty decent day.
– Ares’ first time in the sand. He was so taken by the experience that every time he saw me approaching him with arms outstretched, he’d crawl backward or crawl away as quickly as a baby possibly can through soft sand. He even tried to do a headstand in the sand, something he’d only started doing a few days prior. He kept looking at his sand-caked hands and after I taught him how to brush the sand off his hands, he started doing it himself. No first trip to the beach is complete without the requisite sand-eating and naturally, Ares was no exception, much to my chagrin (you can see him eating sand in one of the above pictures).
– Homemade ice-cream: Ferrero Rocher-flavoured ice-cream beats Turkish Delight-flavoured ice-cream hands-down. There is just something too up-in-the-clouds, artificial about the latter. It must be the pink.
– One of my favourite second-hand bookstores is Literally, in New Brighton. The owner is delightful and charms kids with puppets and sea-faring tales. She also gives them paper boats made from map pages. I’ve found a number of vintage kids’ books there, including an old copy of Dick Bruna’s The Apple (with thankfully non-rhyming verse!), an old edition of Pippi Goes Abroad (yes, Pippi, of Longstocking fame), and a vintage copy of Enid Blyton’s The Naughtiest Girl Again. I’m a sucker for old books. And the best part is, I paid only 25p each for them. Score!
– The second time we went was on a sunny but extremely gusty day. The beach was busy, as unlike the first time, it was Easter break, and the windiness didn’t deter many people from dressing skimpily or in bathing suits. I’m certain they’re insane… or just English. Meanwhile, I’d stupidly under-dressed both Ares and Raspberry and they were both cold. Because of this, Ares didn’t play in the sand for very long, preferring to huddle up against me in the baby carrier. The wind was so strong that I watched as the sand just blew into my bag without any other help. I had to keep emptying my messenger bag for fear the sand would get into my cameras.
– Raspberry lost her fourth tooth (the bottom right incisor) while having her rocky road ice-cream. She accidentally swallowed the tooth, thinking it was a nut, and was in tears. I felt awful for her, as I know she treasures every tooth she loses. I half-jokingly suggested we could make her puke up her ice-cream or search her poop for it. She wisely declined both suggestions. When we got home, she drew and cut out a replacement tooth for her collection.
– We went back to Literally, in search of more vintage Naughtiest Girl books but came up empty-handed. I did, however, find a Little Golden Book (Funny Bunny). Those are hard to find in the UK. We have a collection of Little Golden Books but most of them stayed in Canada, so it’s nice to occasionally come across them here.
It’s Raspberry’s half-birthday today, so she’s officially six-and-a-half. We’ve been celebrating her half-birthday since she was born, initially with banana bread and then as she got older, cupcakes, but it’s never really been much of a big deal beyond that. This year however, she’d been planning a big day at the beach since December. On numerous occasions (often on our long walks home from a day out), she’d talk endlessly about who she was going to invite, what kind of supplies she’d need, what she would give out in loot bags (at one point, she thought seeds to plant would be a good idea), you know, all the party planning details that I, as a virgin party-planner, am utterly clueless about.
She sort of got her wish for a beach day on Wednesday. Some of our friends whom we invited couldn’t make it, so it ended up just being Zsofi and us going to New Brighton on what began as a very wet day. But it cleared up nicely (even though the wind was relentless), and the kids had a grand time climbing on rocks and playing on the pirate ship. The usual cupcakes were replaced with ice-cream from Caffe Cream where Raspberry picked out a scoop of Sparkle Sprinkle in a chocolate-dipped cone while I couldn’t decide among all the amazing flavours and settled with tiramisu. It was also there that Zsofi had what she considers real coffee, her first in a while. I feel a little bad that Raspberry didn’t get the big beach bash she’d so been hoping for for months, but she did enjoy her day.
Last night, I set out Raspberry’s half-birthday gift on the coffee table, hoping she’d be surprised beyond words when she saw it this morning. For the past few months, I’d been slowly and secretly building up this gift for her. So many times, I was thoroughly tempted to excavate it from its hiding spot so I can look at it. We’ve never done half-birthday gifts before, so it was to be a complete surprise for her. I gotten her a dress, two cat buttons, some glitter glue, a lunchbox, a postcard of the dog from when the giants were in town, a wooden skeleton to put together, and six books (two Ivy and Bean books — The Ghost that Had to Go and Ivy and Bean Take the Case; Illustration School’s Let’s Draw Cute Animals; The Squirrel’s Birthday and Other Parties; Nicholas; and Free to Be You and Me,which unfortunately hasn’t arrived yet). The unpackaged gift can be seen here. It’s way more than we’ve ever gotten her for her six past birthdays combined and I was really excited to give it to her (I love giving people gifts). When she awoke, Lucas sent her out to the living room on the pretext of getting his watch, and she saw the wrapped gift on the table but didn’t seem to know what to make of it. I thought she’d be bouncing with excitement. Interestingly, she opened the gift in a very subdued manner, quite unbecoming of someone who’s just received an unexpected present, and after examining it, proceeded to alternately arrange it all in piles or spread out on the table. I kept waiting for her to burst out in excited chatter or to start hopping around but neither happened. When I asked her about it later, she said she wasn’t expecting it but she wasn’t surprised either. Well, then!
We spent the morning at the park and picking blackberries, a recent favourite activity of hers. We’d promised her she could pick some yesterday on the way home from Aurelie’s but due to a change in plans, we couldn’t, so we decided to do so today. She even climbed over a fence and got more than usual, filling the plastic tupperware we brought almost to the brim. At the park, she spent a long time working out at the exercise machines (“I’m extracising! It’s different from exercising.”) and at the playground, climbed rungs up to the play structure for the first time ever. She’s never really been physically adventurous and has always been afraid to climb ladders like that. I was quietly surprised and so proud of her. At home, during various intervals through the day, she worked with Lucas to put together the wooden skeleton. I think he was as excited as she was to work on it, if not more. At this moment, the skeleton remains limbless, but it’ll probably be blessed with them tomorrow.
The day went surprisingly swimmingly. It’s the first time in months that I genuinely felt like Raspberry and I had a good day together (I’ve been having a tough time connecting with her since Ares was born… more on that in another post I’ve been meaning to write). Patience came more easily than usual and I actually had fun. I’m not sure how today differed from other days, beyond the fact that it was her half-birthday, but I can only hope this is a turning point and our days will be smoother from here. Cross your fingers for me.
A couple of weeks ago, Raspberry and I were lured to New Brighton under false promises of sunny skies and warm weather in the teens. They were lies, all lies… damn you, meteorologists. It was cold and foggy, but it ended up being rather fun. The beach was, as expected, rather quiet, with the odd dog-walker here and there (and much to my chagrin, the odd bit of dog poop camouflaged in the sand). We walked in the opposite direction from where we normally go and came across the lighthouse and Fort Perch Rock. We didn’t go into the fort but walked around the perimeter, scaling some very bumpy algae-covered rocks. I wanted to make it all the way to the lighthouse but Raspberry was reluctant. She did, however, have a field day climbing and jumping off rocks and collecting shells and mussels. She found a mermaid’s purse and one, then two, then three (and so on) whelk egg cases and wanted to bring them all home. I’d forgotten to bring something she could put her finds in, so I gave her the plastic bag that held the clean diapers. We went toward where the pirate ship used to be, and found several guys working hard at constructing a new one. One of the guys had a dog, Scooby, who was wandering the beach as he worked, and seemed to take a liking to us. It followed Raspberry around as she climbed and hid among the rocks, drew and dug in the sand. She discovered it seemed to like flying sand and made a little game out of kicking sand up, making the dog jump excitedly. Watching her with the dog, you’d never have guessed that she used to have an almost-paralyzing fear of dogs just a few years ago. The tide was out, and Raspberry wanted to go to the water’s edge but it was dangerous because of the mudflats. There was a warning spray-painted onto the rocks and as Raspberry ran toward the mud, one of the guys working on the ship yelled toward us to come back. In the summer, she’d gotten a little stuck in the mud and Lucas had to rescue her. This time, she said she was a tiny bit stuck but was able to lift herself out.
When the guys working on the pirate ship were done for the day, they said Raspberry could climb up and steer if she wanted, which she did. When the previous pirate ship was still there last summer, she showed little interest in playing on it, but I suspect that might’ve been because it was crowded with kids (and their accompanying adults, ready with their cameras and camera phones). Now, there was just her on this partially-reconstructed ship and she’d be able to play on it without hassle. She pretended to be Pippi Longstocking and I somehow found myself being the horse, who was only allowed to say “neigh.” Ares, snug in the wrap, was Mr. Nilsson, the monkey.
Fun as it was being on a quiet beach, it did get cold eventually. I was thankful that we could go into the Floral Pavilion to warm up. It was also a good place to do a diaper change, something I hadn’t actually considered before making the trip (somehow, I thought I could just change Ares’ diaper on the beach… rightttt. I really need to remember that things aren’t as easy as just having an older kid). Despite the grey skies and not-as-warm-as-we-thought temperatures, I had a nice, slow day, and it was nice to be able to let Raspberry do her thing without having to rush her off because of the baby. And now I can say I’ve been to the beach in the winter, something I’d probably never do in Canada (well, not for extremely long periods of time anyway).
Yesterday, Lucas completed his first ever 10K run from Liverpool to New Brighton. While he went off to the start of his race, Raspberry and I took the train to New Brighton to meet him at the finish line, which had been very ambiguously stated on the information sheet about the race. As we stood outside the train station trying to figure out which way to go, we encountered a lady trying to map her location on her phone and seeing that we had the same race sheet, she followed us. A man and boy also followed. Unfortunately, while it might make sense to follow the person with the physical map, it doesn’t really make sense to follow the person who probably has the poorest sense of direction. As it turned out, I had led everyone in the wrong direction. Oops. The man was able to pinpoint our location on his phone and led us the right way and once the lady figured out which way we were going, she started walking way faster than us. We started seeing runners with numbers pinned to their shirts and figured out we were going in the right direction. One runner helpfully pointed us the right way. As we neared the park where the finish line was, the man and I started chatting. His partner was running in the race and while he used to run, he developed issues with his knees and was living vicariously through his partner. The boy, Adam, whom I assumed was his son, was the same age as Raspberry (actually born exactly a week before her) and they started climbing the ledges at the park together. As we neared the finish line, the kids played on these exercise machines at the park and the man phoned his partner to meet them there. Unfortunately, we’d told Lucas we’d meet him at the finish line so we bid Adam and his dad adieu. I felt bad doing so, as Raspberry was just started to play with Adam and she’s not usually very social.
Anyway, we wove through a massive crowd of spectators and runners in our attempt to get to the finish line, Raspberry’s hand tightly in mine as I was certain she’d disappear among the sea of people if we weren’t linked. I had no idea how I was going to see Lucas among all the people but somehow we stumbled upon him sitting by the railing overlooking the water. I’d hoped to actually see him run and finish the race but a combination of getting lost from the train station and the lengthier-than-expected walk to the finish line rendered that impossible. He was tired but happy that he’d run and made a better time than he’d expected. I’m so proud of him and glad he did this, as he’s wanted to run in a race for a while. He said he might run again in another race, but will probably take a short break from running now that this is done. For his efforts, like all the other runners, he was bestowed a neon orange shirt and a medal ([*cough*]celebrating mediocrity[*cough*]).
We sat on the grass, near the exercise machines were, and Raspberry ran everywhere picking flowers and playing on the machines. On account of our early breakfast, an early lunch was in order. We sat, watching people slathering oil on themselves and sunbathing and barbecuing and kids playing. Lucas mentioned how the announcer at the race cautioned that it was to be a hot 20°C and to have lots of water. We laughed at how such a temperature is considered hot here and that people were sunbathing, while in Canada, 20°C at this time of year would hardly be considered that balmy. Raspberry mentioned wanting to be at a playground and we were able to locate one. She played for a little while but much of her time was spent in a baby swing that resembled a cage (I don’t understand the use of metal seats for swings here, rather than the tires that were so common in playgrounds in Canada).
To make the best use of our time in New Brighton, we’d planned to go to the beach, although the beach we’d initially wanted to go to was rather far from the park we were at. We decided to take a walk along the water to see if we’d come upon a beach and lo and behold, of course there was one. I’d somewhat prepared for a beach trip by bringing along some old plastic containers and a spoon for Raspberry to dig in the sand with but that was about the extent of my preparation. I’d neglected to bring a bathing suit (although the thought did briefly cross my mind but I forgot) and sunscreen. Regardless, Raspberry had a grand time digging in the sand with a container and filling it with water to make mud, and dipping her toes (and then her ankles, and then her calves, and then her knees) in the medium tide. She was in a t-shirt and a skirt initially but the skirt came off as the tide started coming in. Tired from his run and the early morning, Lucas sat in the rocks watching her and I walked around the beach, taking pictures and getting copious amounts of sand in my shoes (I did say we weren’t prepared). Every time I returned to where Lucas was, I’d sit on a rock and empty a massive pile of sand out of my shoes. It was rather comical.
As much fun as Raspberry was having, we had to pull her away at some point to catch the train home. If I had my way, we’d have spent all afternoon there but we weren’t adequately prepared for it and being in the sun for such a long time was getting tiring. Lucas was getting a little sunburned too, although it was hard to tell what was the burn and what was the reflection off his neon orange shirt. Very reluctantly, Raspberry dragged herself away from the beach and we made our way to the train station, walking uphill through a residential area. We promised Raspberry that since New Brighton is only a twenty-three minute train ride away, that we’d return to the beach again soon enough, and certainly more prepared the next time around. I’m hoping that since we have a rail pass, we’ll be able to get to the beach at least a couple of times this summer, given that the weather holds up of course. It’d definitely be a different kind of summer than what we’ve been used to.