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A Muddy Day Out At Oakwell Hall

So this last weekend wasn’t the greatest of weekends weather-wise, but we still wanted to get out with the boys on Sunday despite the rain and clouds.

We headed to Oakwell Hall, an Elizabethan manor house in Birstall, also famous for becoming “Fieldhead” in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley, after she’d visited with local friends as a child. Parking is free, as is entry to the Country Park, with it’s extensive gardens, which the boys loved to walk around and explore, and acres of footpaths and fields for running around in.

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Having had our lunch from the newly refurbished café we headed off on our walk, soon coming across a stream which, after going off the trail down to it, the boys and mummy decided to walk along as far as it goes. They did really well not to fall, especially J-Bub, but they made it.

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After river walking we carried on along the path where we came across lots of wonderful muddy puddles – unsurprisingly there was an expectation that jumping in them would be fun. It was!

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At the end of our trail through the woods we got to the great playground, of which there are two, a typical park style one and one set in the woods, which was definitely the one that got the most attention from our two.

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And there was definitely ice-cream!

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We love a good family day out, and as far as (virtually) free days out go, Oakwell Hall is a great place to explore and have fun and muddy fun is a sure-fire way to forget about the gloom.

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A Fishy Day Out at The Deep

Last weekend we spent our Saturday at Hull’s fantastic submarium, The Deep. Helen and I actually went here on it’s opening weekend, where we queued around the car park to get in. Today the queue wasn’t anywhere near as bad and, after a quick photo and signing up for the annual pass that many places like this seem to do now, we were on our way in to check out the fishy action.

After walking down the first ramps, encountering all the prehistoric fishy stuff, we encountered the jaws of Megadon, NJ couldn’t believe how big the mouth must have been.

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Further on, as you make your way around the rest of the attraction there are simply loads of huge tanks, filled with just an amazing array of different fishes and other sea dwelling things. At one of the tanks NJ remarked to me that these were in fact the biggest fish he’d ever seen! I’m not sure how many fish he’s ever seen, but still, to him they were definitely massive!
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I’m not sure J-Bub had ever seen anything quite like the big colourful displays he was seeing right now. For a lot of them he just kind of sat or kneeled in front of them and stared.

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There was obviously the obligatory Nemo hunt.

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The boys were constantly in awe of how big the tanks were, there’s something like 2.5million litres of water in the whole place!
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We actually went round twice, with a break in the middle for lunch in The Observatory Cafe, with awesome views out over the Humber Estuary the food was about what you’d expect and reasonably priced.
On the way out both times we utilised the great lift that has a window in to the giant tank, pausing half way up so you get a real sense of being there, in amongst it! The boys loved it, although NJ thought it was a bit weird at first!
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Entry on the day cost us £34 – under 3’s are free and 3-15 year olds are £10 on the day. By giving your details and having your picture taken when purchasing you also get their Day Plus Pass, giving you up to 360 days access. Even if you’re likely to only go once again in the year it’s well worth it.

 

We had a great time and will definitely be heading back at some point this year.

#YorkshireFamily with Yorkshire Tots
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Spring Days Out

Spring is most definitely in the air, which means a few more sunnier and slightly less arctic days and you can step out more as a family on the weekend for some quality time together. We’ve done that in consecutive weekends now , which has been lovely. The first weekend we went to the spectacular Harewood House, with it’s magnificent gardens, tranquil lake, brilliantly noisy bird gardens and farm and the high-octane adventure playground.
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We enjoyed a lovely boat ride aboard Capability.
Sailor boys
 Capability
The second weekend, the one just gone, we headed out to Temple Newsam, also in Leeds, which is a great option for either a free or at least a reasonably priced day out. You can park for free and enter the extensive grounds for free, with literally acres and acres of room to the kids to run around ride their bikes and spread out for a picnic.
Temple Newsam rolling hills
If you don’t mind spending a little bit of loose change then you can purchase a ticket to the lovely Home Farm, a working farm full of life and charm. I let NJ take charge of my camera, and he loved taking pictures of the animals.
NJ's Sheep
There’s often crafts taking place on a weekend and there’s a large, second playground at the bottom of the farm. We had a lovely day both times and the kids were shattered by the time we hit the road home.
I love Spring days out with the family, tell me where you like to go.
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And so it begins… my daddy days are numbered

I didn’t think it would happen so soon. NJ growing up too fast has been one of my biggest worries probably since he was born. He’ll be 4 in a couple of months and over the last few weeks I’ve noticed a change in him that I’m really struggling to come to terms with. I don’t know where it’s come from, where he’s got it from and what’s driving the change, but he’s started referring to me as Dad, instead of Daddy!
He’s not yet 4 for the love of God!
This must surely be only a few months away from not wanting to hold my hand. Please let it slow down a bit. I love that he’s growing up, but in the same breath I hate it too.
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A great day out at Kirklees Light Railway

On Sunday, the pride and I headed for some lower-case steam train fun. We’d planned on doing something as a family and the weather was looking fine, so we headed off to the Kirklees Light Railway, in Clayton, near Huddersfield.

Not too far away from us, about a 40 minute drive,  and when we turned up in the sunshine, the big cub, NJ, was instantly interested when he saw the little train running around it’s circular track near the car park. Right next to that was the birthday party carriage and old Post Office carriage, all heightening his anticipation. As he hit the platform, the engine, Hawk, was waiting and boarding passengers, so I nipped in to the office to grab our tickets (£7.50 adults and £5.50 for NJ at 3. J-Bub travelled free as a baby). We boarded quickly, ready to be steamed the 3 1/2 miles up the track to Shelley Station. NJ loved it, the noises of the tracks, the hissing of the steam, the smell of the burning fuel, the steam that came floating past the windows, all served to make a small boy, who, if he loves anything as much as tractors and monster trucks, loves trains, a very happy boy. He could barely stop smiling the whole way up. Looking out the window was great for him too, seeing the fields going by, and the mast at Emley Moor dominating the landscape.

The cubs and our chariot, Hawk!

NJ and J-Bub waiting to board Hawk.

As we pulled in at Shelley Station NJ jumped out and loved watching the engine turn around on the turntable at the end, “just like Chuggington” and set off back down to the front of the carriages for it’s return journey.

The fun didn’t stop there though. We’d brought a picnic and made full use of the lovely weather by sitting on one of the several picnic tables outside the cafe. Whilst we got some coffee from inside the cafe, NJ found the Thomas the Tank Engine play set in there and amused himself, and others, for probably longer than I might normally let him, given the lovely weather outside! The views from up at Shelley were wonderful in the sunshine, and partnered with the relative tranquility made for a very relaxed afternoon. After our picnic lunch, NJ went to play in the playground – a tower to climb up and slide down, a train to drive and climb on and a sand pot to dig in and lay down and get covered in it in! He had a great time and didn’t really want to leave the playground.Tthe train enticed him though.

Heading back down to Clayton, we were a little delayed as the train was firstly late coming up due to an obstruction at Skelmanthorpe, but once that was cleared we were on our way back down. Not before NJ had a panicky moment as the platform announcer told us we were going to be setting off soon. NJ thought the train was leaving with me and J-Bub and I on it and not him or his mum. He was quite upset, bless him. Secretly inside, I felt quite nice that he was afraid of not seeing me again!

Back at the home station, we obviously had to visit the shop, where NJ bought a steam train and carriage to take home and remember the day by, followed by a trip around the small engine track outside (50p per person, tickets via the ticket office. You need this before riding, which isn’t obvious).

Another park finished the day off for us with NJ running around like a mad boy, tiring himself out nicely for a small kip on the way home!

All in all a really great day out. Even our 8 month baby, J-Bub, had a lovely day enjoying the sun, the new sounds and smells of the trains and the opportunity to sleep in his buggy in the sun at the top! We’ll definitely be coming back over the course of the year. It’s also worth noting the special events they run at Easter, through the summer and at Christmas.

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The dad complex.

Being a dad has without a doubt been one of the happiest and most fulfilling times of my life, and the journey has literally only just begun. NJ is just 18 months old and getting wiser and cheekier by the day. It’s getting harder to be away from him and coming home to him and his mum is definitely the highlight of every single day.

One thing about being a dad though, that I only half expected, is something that some might not have heard about. We go through quite distinct phases where he doesn’t really want to do anything with me and makes a fuss until his mum sorts him out!

As a baby this could have been during the night when he might wake up and cry and if I went to him he wouldn’t settle. Enter mummy stage left and peace returns. It can be quite soul destroying to try and try to quieten your baby only for mummy to come in, he reaches to her and instantly settles on her shoulder. I remember going back to bed several times upset at this during some nights in NJ’s first year.

Still now I can go in to him on a morning and the first thing he says is “No”, shakes his head and points out the door, past me and to where he knows his mum is! I take it less to heart these days though.

You just have to remember that it’ll all change at some point in the near future and to be honest it really makes the times he is into you all the more special. We’re going through a blossoming patch just now, or so it seems. I get regular kisses, he gets excited when he sees me coming home from work. You really have to soak every single moment up because you can’t get them back.

As an example of this I was chatting to my next door neighbour a couple of weeks ago and he was saying how he’d reached one of those moments with his eldest son, who I think is about 9 or 10. Whilst out one day he had reached for his son’s hand, as they had done for ever, and his son shook it off saying he was too old for that now! You can’t get that time back. Hand holding has gone for them now. He admitted to being a tad emosh!

Make the most of every moment you get to spend with your little ones. Even the hard times, when it seems they don’t want to be with you, because they all count. And you just can’t get them back.

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On Father’s Day it’s the little things.

I’d always had a feeling that I’d make a good dad and to be fair, growing up people had often told me that I probably would too. I’d had a good upbringing, was reasonably well educated, had a good perspective on life and right and wrong and all that. I had a good sense of fun and thought I could be both equal good and bad cop depending on the situation.

Fast forward a few years and there it was, the moment I got home and my wife, Helen, had the test on the bathroom shelf. It was game on!

Fast forward 9 months and she’s heavily involved in the story again, crying out to me as I lay in a separate bed, trying to shake off a cold I had. It was one hour past our due date and at 1am in the morning it’s pretty unsettling hearing your wife crying out to you. But it was good news. Waters had broken, and our firstborn was on the way. Showtime!

That was when the world around us changed and we met our son, NJ. He’s now 16 months old and developing his personality and all the things that begin to shape who we become later in life.

I’m writing this post in the few days leading up to Father’s Day and as I do I’m filled with pride about the way that little man makes me feel. But it’s not just the big showstopping numbers that he performs for us, it’s the little things he does that really make life as a dad worthwhile. Here’s a few:

Playing rough. He loves a good tickle! But it’s more than the tickle that I love, it’s the insanely hysterical laugh that he has when we’re doing it. And the smile on his face that tells me he’s having fun.

Leaving for work. It’s not normally something I’d enjoy doing, and in fairness it does make me want to stay home even more on a morning, but I love the way that when I leave for work in a morning now he’s just full of kisses and saying “Bye Bye”, waving and blowing kisses through the window! There’s really nothing that gives you a bigger skip in your step to start the day.

Coming home from work. Getting to see the cub again after a day at work is always going to be awesome, but when he’s stood in the window waiting for you it’s even better. And then the excitement in his face and realisation that he just shouted “Daddy” and waved at me is just magic.

Snuggles. Can anything ever beat snuggles when he’s tired and we’re reading a book together or watching the mesmerising In the Night Garden. I’m not sure it can.

Music time. There’s not much more satisfaction for a musician father than seeing your offspring appear to take at least a passing interest in your hobby/job. Queue NJ dancing like a maniac when I strum and sing an upbeat song to him with my guitar. At first he was afraid, he was petrified. He actually was scared of my mystical sound machine at first. But now he likes it so much he likes to strum it for himself.

My final thought is one of the smallest but most powerful things any human is capable of… smiling. Sometimes I just look at him and he smiles back at me. No words are spoken. Just a smile. Unconditional.

This is what I signed up for. This is why I’m here. Along with being a good husband I’m just meant to be a dad.
And I’m loving every.single.minute.

What are the little things that make it all worthwhile for you?