This may be one of the last years, if not the last year for the Santa Special at Milton of Crathes railway, which has been our tradition since we moved to the village when Fraser was a baby (and pictures from 2010). Duncan’s a big kid now and part of the Santa magic but he loved it too, handing over his Santa letter with excitement. It’s these traditions that really make this feel like home.
I’ve been put off updating this site with the knowledge that I needed to spend a whole lot of time going through our Canada pictures from our October trip. Let’s just say that’s not going to happen anytime soon and move on …
September’s been a month of outdoor adventures, enjoying the warm weather and getting extremely muddy as often as possible. Last weekend I rode the 63km Scotland Cycletta down in Perth, my athletic goal for the year, and we turned it into a mini-holiday and spent the weekend staying in a wigwam on a farm. It’s like warm and dry camping – which was great considering the kids both managed to fall into the small creek surrounding the site numerous times. It was an Enid Blyton type of magical place, with boards and offcuts of wood just sitting there for the kids to build secret dens and paths.
I rode well too, even with high winds and lots of rain, with that feeling you get sometimes that you’re flying rather than your normal pedestrian efforts. And 63 km, or just under 2.5 hours, was enough time for me – I felt like I could ride it well without serious amounts of training that just doesn’t fit in to our lifestyle at the moment.
And then yesterday was that type of day that childhood memories are made of – walking in the woods at Drum castle with friends and watching and waiting while the kids explored and climbed trees. They came home covered in midgy bites, slightly filthy, and utterly happy and exhausted. It feels like how childhood should be, rather than one scheduled activity after another.
Of course there’s a few scheduled activities in there too – the boys had a rugby tournament on Saturday up in Huntly and they had a brilliant day playing micros (tag) rugby and running around playing between matches. Duncan is really be able to contribute to his team this year, scoring and being a part of most plays. This was Fraser’s first tournament so he didn’t get as much time on the field but was generally in the right position and is figuring out what he needs to do. But I think both liked the unofficial scrimmages and wrestling matches off the pitch best. My friend with two older girls describes my boys as just like two little puppies and they do seem that way as they play and roughhouse together (without anyone getting hurt at the tournament – over two hours wrestling for rugby balls didn’t lead to a single injury – it’s not rough play just physical).
We had an amazing long weekend in Innerleithen, mountain biking four out of five days at Glentress. The boys are now riding the blue trails confidently on the descents, but struggling with their small bikes, small legs, and in Fraser’s case lack of gears, on the ascents. I can see that it won’t be long before I’m the weak link in family mountain biking – I’ve been out for a lesson from a friend and that helped a lot (this another one of those never learn from your spouse things) but I lack confidence when riding over the bigger rocks and its humbling to realise Duncan is (braver? stupider?) better at riding over some things than I am.
Admittedly it was dark within the tree canopy, and the boys now ride fast, but somehow we managed to come home with zero pictures from the trails. In fact, the only photos we have are from the kids at the school play park on my iPhone. Parenting fail? I think we’ve got about an hour of video of everyone riding on the go-pro though.
What is the best way to handle videos? Photos are easy, they work on the web, I make photo books, we could occasionally print them. But what is the best way to catalogue and view videos?
The boys and I also embarked on a project this summer, reprinting a chest of drawers which I loved the shape of but had a rather ugly faux-old paint job. The amazing thing was that the boys were actually a great help. Both of them painted carefully, smoothly, and managed to make less of a mess than I did. These little kids that I have? They’ve turned into big kids overnight. Still, one set of drawers was enough, none of us has caught the restoration bug and we were thrilled to be finished. (Thank you Cory for sanding off the bottoms of the drawers that we’d carefully painted when they didn’t fit back in the frame – we were all sick of the drawers by then!)
We ended up swimming in the River Dee yesterday, warm and calm from two weeks of hot weather (both us and the river). How magic to live in such a beautiful spot, to walk home with wet clothes from a dip, to not need to go away to capture the feel of a holiday….
Seven is cool. It’s being in Beavers, the village swim club, and the rugby club. It’s going into Primary Three and learning times tables. Seven is mountain biking and badminton and board games. It’s chapter books and an interest in the world around you. It’s also sometimes being defiant as you develop your independence, but you’re still a caring boy who has a knack for knowing when I need a cuddle rather than attitude. I love how cool seven-year-old-Duncan is.
You really enjoy learning about things from people, like this photo of you making a wish at the environmental art installation as part of Giants in the Forest up at Drum Castle. It was great seeing how excited you got about the environmental art and how it fired up your imagination. I hope you always keep your desire to learn, to understand, and to figure things out. It’s one of your great traits that make you so cool.
And of course you’re cool when you’re a spy – wearing spy glasses no less!
The boys and I rode the 16km Bike Balmoral on Sunday, along with some of their best friends, and I think they all felt pretty proud of themselves at the finish. (The Dads did a great job on their 50km mountain bike ride as well). It’s absolutely amazing having these big kids in our lives who love adventure and are true speed demons on their bikes…
You’re five now (as you tell everyone regularly). It’s a bit the end of an era really. You start school in August and we’re no longer a family with little ones but a family with kids. Proper kids who get dirty, pick up bugs, ride their mountain bikes, have water fights with all the kids on the street…. there’s no wee little boy left here. We climbed Clachnaben as a family in April with you and your brother biking the approach. On the actual mountain you passed adults and bigger kids without a complaint – then once we were down whizzed back along the trail on your bike at top speed. Cory and I were walking way behind you and I think that’s the sign of times to come – us struggling to keep up with your energy and enthusiasm and speed as you hurtle through life.
Actually that’s not totally true that there’s no sweet wee boy left. Tucked in amidst the biking over jumps and nerf guns is still a lovely boy who loves to be called my angel and likes a good cuddle first thing in the morning. You and I spend a lot of special time together and the fact that you want to cuddle with me when we’re camping makes my heart swell. One of my favourite things this year has been reading The Secret Garden with you and then heading out to the walled garden at Crathes Castle to find our own secret garden spots and looking for the robin. You’re an absolute delight. I think the next few years are going to be absolutely amazing.
We do forget sometimes that you are still just five and on the small side for your age and ask you to mountain bike all day with us or keep up a busy schedule. You don’t complain though and just do your best until we turn around and find you falling asleep or collapsing with exhaustion. Tenacity is a good word for you – and I’m proud of your attitude when you achieve all these great things, you really are a star.
Things you love:
- spy kids and playing secret agents (check out the ‘stache – it was a secret agent themed birthday party this year)
- having friends over to play
- going out for curry in Aboyne
- Nanny Kirsty, who you love very much
- being grown up and five now
- your Mandeville stuffed toy
- water gun fights
- your brother (most of the time)
- the four of us being all together
- being outside and mucking about in the garden
- swimming (and a few years ago I didn’t think I’d ever say that)
and most of all…
- mountain biking, whether at Glentress, Balmoral, or just round the village
I’ve been in Spain on a field course – and although there was a few days of windy and wet weather, there was also hot dry days and even a chance to swim in the Mediterranean. I think the Indian Ocean is the only one I’m missing now, although I’m counting spray from riding in a rib as swimming in the Arctic.
As brilliant as it is to be away, being home is lovely too and today, with blue skies and the sheets hanging on the line, is my perfect day.
A belated update on our Easter holidays which took us to Glentress (near Peebles) for a week of mountain biking. Aside from unusual amounts of snow, which meant only the bottom trails were rideable, it was the perfect week. Pub lunches, lots of coffee, and plenty of time on the bikes. Both boys are noticeably better on the bikes after the week and I think Cory was in holiday heaven – he’ll never want to go anywhere else. Not that I’d mind that much…
Does anyone else feel pressure to be exciting on the weekend or night that the class stuffed mascot comes home? As much as it’d be fine for Puff the Magic Dragon to have done nothing more than played lego and eaten his tea, we found ourselves taking Puff golfing (where he made an excellent head cover) as well as letting him (and Duncan) sit on a friend’s horse. It made for good pictures in Puff’s journal. Peer pressure starts with the parents I’m afraid…
This was obviously a few weeks ago back when the weather was nice, since then we’ve had nothing but snow – including four more inches this morning which has fortunately melted already. If it was November or December, I’d have been out taking photos of how lovely the village and hills looked but since it’s March, I’m too busy grumping…