Bowhead whales are big. Check. Check.

Whale lovers and fans of Octonauts will, I’m sure, already know that Bowhead whales are big. You may also know that the Artic is where they live. These are just some of the wonderful things I am learning with George. Every day, my little boy tells me something new he’s learned. Often they are things that I knew already but there’s plenty in-between that in the course of growing up I seem to have forgotten. There’s always a chance that I never found out the first time round. mamma-plays-guitar

But that’s the best bit. With George I get to go back and learn all over again. I can press pause on the adulting administration machine and instead immerse myself in the interesting things in life, like music and literature. I can play hide and seek in history and go exploring in geography. I can find out how big a Stegosaurus was, what it ate for dinner and what its favourite television programme was. I can read ‘Oi Frog’ in my best Ray Winstone accent, pretend my paintings are like Jackson Pollock’s and sing songs in public whenever it suits me.

You see, I have the best teacher there is. And he’s always there to inspire me and to remind me that those things I sometimes spend too long doing (or worrying about) when he’s in bed are really not that important or indeed half as fun as the adventures we go on together when he’s awake. George has taught me to spend more time doing the things I love, the things that interest me and make me who I am. And, just as important, he’s taught me not to worry about what I might look like, or how or if I might fail. Of course, he’s reflecting back at me all the lessons I am teaching him and there’s no better way to reinforce those lessons by practising them yourself.

This year, I have taught myself to play guitar (badly), I’ve read more books and had the confidence to say ‘no’ when being asked to do something I didn’t want to do or had no time for. Without the guilt that I so often used to feel. And my life is so much richer for it.

Thank you to the greatest teacher of all, Master George Harris. Instead of worrying about not sending out those change of address cards this evening, I will be navigating a ship through the icy waters of the Artic, in search of a Bowhead whale. I’ll tell you how I got on when you wake up.

Love your best student, Mamma x

 

Before you go to school

Before you go to school, George, I just wanted to tell you again how much I love you and how proud I am of the little boy you have become.

I want to tell you that, even though I’ve had four and a bit years to prepare for this day, I’m still not ready. The truth is, I don’t think I’d ever be ready to let a little piece of my heart wander off on its own. How could I be?

Mamma and George love to snuggle.
Mamma and George love to snuggle.

But, the rest of my heart knows you are ready and that the road awaits you. You have been preparing for this day better than I have. You have packed your super powers and set your Bat signal for school.

And, as much as I am sad to let you go, I am so excited for what you will discover whilst you are out there. I cannot wait to hear your ideas about the world and how you think it all fits together. I’m still trying to figure that out myself…

I have no doubt that you will find all of the answers and will continue to be the kind, caring and clever kid that you are. Your curiosity will carry you on to ever more exciting and challenging adventures. *And will you succeed? 98 and 3/4 per cent guaranteed.

I can’t wait to see your imagination grow beyond the walls of the classrooms you will learn in and unfold into the world you wish to create. I hope that you will always be recognised for what makes you great, whatever your grades, and for your kindness and compassion towards others. If you take just one lesson with you to school, I hope that it is to always be kind. Be Batman when you need to be, but always a kind Batman.

When I leave you in your new classroom tomorrow, I know I will spend the day feeling as though a little piece of me is missing. But I will be brave and look on with immense pride and joy. Wherever that little piece of my heart roams, I know that it will always be a part of me.

Good luck, George. It’s time to go and discover who you’re going to be when you grow up.

Love always,

Mamma x

*From our favourite story of all, Oh The Places You Will Go, by Dr Seuss

 

Now you are four

Happy Birthday, George. Today you are four.
Being three was amazing but with four comes more.

Before you set off, leaving your baby years behind,
let’s stop and look back. It’s time to rewind.

August (swing)

Back through the past 12 months and all the fun we had.
What a pleasure it’s been for Mamma and Da Dad.

To spend another year on an adventure with you.
Flying kites, riding bikes and visiting the zoo.

You sung along to Brett, to Bowie and Blondie.
You’ve definitely inherited our love for Indie.

You dressed in green and went to your first game of Rugby.
You became an art ninja and helped paint a paper mache piggie.

You grew butterflies and set them free on the Moor.
And camped near a beach where there was more wildlife to explore.

You visited Monkey World and learnt to run like a gibbon.
And discovered new places, some of ’em hidden.

You skated with a penguin at the Natural History Museum.
You drank vanilla milkshakes and ate lots of ice cream.

You picked apples, planted potatoes and made a treasure map.
You grew like a bean and decided there’s no time to nap.

You met Bay Max, the Minions and the Good Dinosaur.
And animals on strings at the Little Puppet Theatre.

You created superheroes and solved crimes with Mamma.
You laughed every day and in winter brought us summer.

You’re a little boy now, George, and we love you more each day.
Never forget to be you, just you, in every special way.

Mamma and Daddy x

Watch George From 3 to 4, a celebration of his year.

 

 

A farm fit for a prince

IMG_0094Bucklebury Farm in Berkshire had a visit from another prince this week  – Prince George of Chesham. Reportedly a regular stomping ground for Prince George of Cambridge (Middleton Manor is close by), Prince George of Chesham was keen to see if the farmyard was fit for his own princely playtime.

With animals, playgrounds, nature trails and a giant ‘Bounce Mat’ (picture a huge inflatable pillow), there’s so much to do here and lots of ways to keep little ones entertained. The farm is also set in 74 acres so there’s no chance of feeling penned in.

The little prince kicked off playtime on the Astro slide (serious fun for Mamma and Daddy, too) before heading outdoors to explore the adventure playground, which he could observe from the castle – a fitting touch for a prince.

IMG_3747George was really impressed by the play equipment provided and counted a couple of tractors and a combine harvester in among all the usual suspects you would expect to find in a playground. There’s also a double decker play bus, a sandpit and space to build dens. The queue for the Bounce Mat was a little long, so the prince declared it was time to go and feed the lambs.

On our way over to the lamb shed, we passed by bunnies, goats, llamas, pigs, two turkeys called Tom and Terry and three donkeys, who are apparently on diets.

Feeding the lambs was a real highlight for us all – kids get given a small bottle of milk and (with adult supervision) are free to head into the barn and choose which lambs they wish to feed. It felt a little more relaxed here than other farms we’ve visited, which made it all the more fun.

To finish off our visit, we tackled the wooden assault course. George was able to do most of the obstacles with help from us and will have lots of fun navigating this on his own when he’s a little older.

Sadly, it was too muddy for the tractors to go out so we weren’t able to take advantage of the deer excursions which are included in the ticket price. But that gives us an excuse to go back in summer. There’s also some lovely walking trails we’ll be able to explore, and if the donkeys have slimmed down a bit we’ll be able to feed them too.

Prince George of Chesham and his parents were very amused.

The important stuff

  • How much does it cost? Ticket prices aren’t cheap (£9.45 for adults, £8.45 for kids, under 2s are free) but they are good value for money, as there’s so much to do and you could spend all day here. The tractor rides are free, as is feeding the lambs.
  • Eating and drinking – there are some lovely cafes with reasonably priced food and plenty of picnic benches. We brought our own lunch but we were very tempted by the delicious scents wafting our way.
  • Fun rating – We give it 8/10.
  • Plan your visit at Bucklebury Farm

Life begins in spring

Daffodils
George and Peso Duck (the penguin) pick up pine cones in the daffodils

Spring has officially arrived in the Harris household. And we’ve greeted it with a grin. We’ve washed away winter and spruced ourselves up for the new season.

Spring suits us, you see. A time for renewal and, more recently, a time to reflect on the moment our adventure with George began that fine spring day back in 2012. Our very own spring chicken. Fresh and beautiful and well, full of the joys of spring.

And he’s still full of those joys. A slightly bigger chicken, now, with a smile to match and the power to sniff a thousand daffodils.

And we will be celebrating every day of spring with George. You will find us dancing among those daffodils and wandering through the bluebell woods, full of hope and love and happiness. Because life really does begin again in spring.

Top five Harris things to do in spring

  1. Celebrate George’s Birthday – George was certain this should be at number 1;
  2. Spot, sniff and dance in the daffodils;
  3. Bounce around in the bluebells;
  4. Grow stuff. This year we are growing potatoes. ‘Gary’ is expecting babies;
  5. Dress as superheroes.

 

 

 

The Finding of Martha Lost

Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. Roald Dahl

This evening something quite magical is going to happen. A very special friend of ours is launching her new novel, The Finding of Martha Lost. And the most magical part of all? The story has a character called George Harris in it.

George and MarthaAndy and I were so honoured when Caroline asked us if she could name a character after George. Caroline Smailes is one of the most talented writers around. The countless reviews of The Drowning of Arthur Braxton, which is currently being made into a film, confirm just how brilliant she is. But most of all, Caroline is a dear friend and has been a part of our lives ever since our meeting at a reading of In Search of Adam almost ten years ago.

And what a wonderful friend she is to wave her magic wand and create a character for her new novel who is kind and strong and loyal, just the man we are raising George to be.

The Finding of Martha Lost follows the story of a sixteen year old who was abandoned in a suitcase on a train from Paris. Since then, Martha has waited in lost property at Lime Street Station, hopeful that someone will come for her. But who is Martha and who is George Harris?

This story is precious, not least because it has George Harris in it, but because it’s about finding your happy ever after whoever you are and whatever you have faced. Caroline’s fairy tale explores what it’s like to be lost and found. It reminds us that everyone is worthy of love and that sometimes you need to be a bit brave and look further afield to find it.

How special it is to have a character created in your name. And when George is old enough to truly understand what this means, I know he will treasure this tale forever. Thanks to our beautiful friend, Caroline, George Harris will live on in the hearts and minds of his family and friends but also in the world of literature.

The Finding of Matha Lost is published today under Caroline Wallace. Here’s Penguin’s synopsis of the story. Go read it and be inspired to seek out your own happy ever after.

Martha is lost.

She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in station lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful.

In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, the roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing.

But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property. Time is running out – if Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything…

The not so secret life of George Harris

It’s been a few months since George and I checked in and George wanted to update his fans on what he’s been up to.

Now that he can write, George has been keeping a few notes, a diary, if you like. The notes mainly say ‘George’, ‘Mamma’, ‘Daddy’ ‘Love’ and ‘Snow’, but there have been other references, too, to holidays, ‘BatJoseph’ and Christmas among other things. George was a little tired after a hard day’s work at preschool today, so he asked me if I would type up his notes for him.

So, here goes.

Family portrait
Portrait of Mamma, George and Daddy.

September: We went back to our treehouse in France. Beach, ice cream and bucket of water on Mamma’s head, every day. Best. Holiday. Ever! We also built quite a few sandcastles and knocked them down again. Splat! Started back at Bugby. Training for the Irish captaincy going well.

 

October: Went to watch Ireland play Italy in the Rugby World Cup. Me, Mamma and Daddy got out faces painted, sang ‘Ireland’s Call’ and shouted ‘Come on Ireland’ a lot. Charmed lots of women. Mamma gave all of them that look.

Something spooky called Halloween also happened this month and so I drew on some pumpkins. Apparently, that’s what you do. I refused to eat them, though. I can’t eat my pumpkin friends, that’s just wrong.

Mamma started her new job and we moved into a new house across the other side of town. Mamma and Daddy were worried I’d miss the old house, which I do a little, but my new bedroom is massive. I could fit the whole Justice League inside it and still have room for my penguins. It also has a big circus tent in it. I love hiding in here, especially when Mamma and Daddy are trying to rush off to work. They love that game, I can tell.

November: Fireworks. Bang! I don’t really like the loud noises but I like all the colours in the sky. I’m exploring colours a lot at the moment – my ‘arting’ has really taken off and I’m modelling myself on the masters. I like to think of myself as a cross between Mr Maker and Matisse. My speciality is superheroes. I’ve created a few of my own. You’ll all remember ‘Superdank’, of course, and now there’s also ‘Remerlin’. He shoots bolts and number 9s.

George waiting for Santa
Waiting for the Big Man.

December: IT WAS CHRISTMAS! Wow, that was one crazy sugar rush. I think I ate chocolate every single day. Don’t tell Mamma. (I didn’t really, Mamma, I just threw that in to see if you were paying attention). Where was I? Right yeah, it was also Daddy’s Birthday and we went ice skating at the dinosaur museum. I had a penguin to help but he wasn’t much use. A dinosaur would have been better. There was also this thing called a nativity. I was given the part of Joseph but I wanted to be Batman. The real saviour. ‘BatJoseph’ just wasn’t going to cut it so I gave the lead to someone else and took up my place as a shepherd next to my best friend. My favourite part was the singing. Me and Mamma practised Little Donkey and ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ together in my circus tent. The acoustics are great in there.

 

And, after waiting for what seemed like for ages, Father Christmas finally showed up. When I woke up on Christmas morning, I spotted a penguin peeking out from my stocking – another one to add to my collection. Peso Tank looked a little worried but Peso Duck reassured him that he would still get played with. I also got lots of superhero toys, including HULK BUSTER! Hulk has been on his best behaviour since HB has been in the house.

The best bit about Christmas, though, was spending lots of time playing with Mamma and Daddy. We watched lots of funny films, including ‘Elf’, which I thought was hilarious – BUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRPPPPPPPPPPPPPP! We made and ate lots of yummy food. We read funny books about Father Christmas needing a wee (he’s been drinking drinks since half past three) and we pretended to be superheroes.

January: Mamma and Daddy headed back to wok  – Daddy has gone to work at the same place as Mamma. I think he was missing her too much. Those guys! I asked if I can work there, too, but Mamma and Daddy say it’s probably more fun at preschool.

Daddy was also asked to coach Bugby. I wasn’t sure about this at first. He’s my coach and I didn’t want to share him. But, I had a think about it and I decided to let Daddy coach all the kids. Daddy was really good at coaching and I could see how happy it made him, which made me happy too.

February: Still chilly but looking forward to spring. Because more light means more mischief outdoors. I saw a dog today. Have you seen a dog? You probably have.

Here’s a few snaps from the last few months for you to enjoy x

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken up, our family anthem

Music has always been a part of my life and has become more and more important to me as I’ve got older; if I haven’t listened to any tunes for more than a day, I start to crave it. I need it to move and to think and to put everything upside down back in place. I wouldn’t describe myself as musical. I can’t even clap in time (imagine a sea lion having a stroke), which makes learning to play the guitar all the more challenging. But I love listening to music, and dancing and singing aloud.

Music makes me feel alive and sometimes it saves me.

I listened to music throughout my pregnancy and when George was born. Having our playlist on at the hospital was the only part of my birth plan I did get to see through. The beautiful melodic sounds of Elbow’s One Day Like This helped to heal the wounds from what was essentially the most horrific experience of my life. Listening to this song reminds me of the beautiful boy who arrived that day, the boy who fought off Meningitis to come home and sing more songs with us.

George takes his music very seriously.
George takes his music very seriously.

Shake it out

On the way to hospital the night before George arrived, we listened to Florence and the Machine’s album Ceremonials, which has become one of my favourite albums. But after the fear of almost losing George, I couldn’t listen to it without bursting into tears. I have always strongly associate times in my life by the music that was playing and, strangely, the clothes I was wearing*. Hearing those songs became a reminder of what had happened during the birth and it took me several months to come to terms with it. But I did come to terms with it and the album soon became a message of courage and strength and all that fear I had inside gradually washed away. Shake it Out has sort of become my anthem and I listen to this song a lot when I am faced with challenges in my life that can sometimes seem insurmountable. It gives me strength and reminds me that I am not beaten.

It’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off.

Chicken up

It’s also now a song that I can sing along to with George. Like his Mamma and Daddy, George loves listening to music and this is his most requested song when we are driving in the car.

Except, he thinks it’s called ‘Chicken up’.

Chicken up, chicken up, whoa oh oh!

And so a new memory of this song has been made, another happy moment in my life to hold on to. Once again, my little boy has saved me.

*The night I went into labour, I was wearing Andy’s old school Liverpool football shirt and some blue, stretchy yoga pants. I’d also eaten a sausage sandwich.

Fun and games at the Olympic Park

On Sunday, we visited the Olympic Park in London, specifically to swim at the Aquatics Centre. In 2012, we missed out on tickets to the Games and so there was no chance for us to see any records being broken here or in any of the other venues. Having said that, George was born that year, and it’s unlikely that all three of us would have made it there anyway. Instead, Andy and I watched all the events unfold on our television screen, with our three-month old, champion bouncer beside us.

But three years on, we decided it was time to go and set a few records of our own. We started in the pool, which is open to swimmers of all abilities and cheaper to swim in than our local pools here in Chesham. It is, without doubt, the best swimming pool I have ever been in and I felt inspired treading the waters where Olympians had once ruled the waves.

George 'Rutherford' makes his mark at the Olympic Park.
George ‘Rutherford’ makes his mark at the Olympic Park.
George wasted no time in bouncing from one side of the shallow end to the other, in record toddler speed*, and seemed as at ease in the water as Michael Phelps. Whilst Andy helped George practice his toddler turns, I set off on my 100-metre breaststroke sprint, finishing in what was probably the slowest ever recorded time in an Olympic pool. Result!

Once we’d celebrated our triumphs in the water, we dried off and headed out for a wander around the Olympic Village. There are play parks galore for little ones and lots of reminders of the Olympic Giants who graced these parts not so long ago, including Greg Rutherford and his incredible 8.31m jump. You can have a go at this jump yourself, to see just how rubbish you are in comparison; George gave it his best shot but his little legs couldn’t quite carry him the distance.

Like us, you may have missed out on the Games in 2012 but there’s still so much to explore and take part in today. It’s a great day out for families and budding athletes alike and the Harris family will be back again to see if we can set a few more records along the way. We are growing our very own Olympian, after all.

*Time officially approved by the ITAC (International Toddler Athletics Committee)