As the twins head off to school to start their Reception year, I’ve been reflecting on this blog and how much has changed over the last five years since I started writing it as a new mum of twins in 2009. As well as providing me with a memoir for a time in my life that passed in such as blur I struggle to remember any significant details, Young & Younger has also led to some fantastic experiences, has introduced me to a wonderful online world, and, most importantly, has gifted me some incredible friendships with people that I hope will be lifelong friends.
I started my other blog, Growing Spaces in 2011 shortly after our move from London to Berkshire, as a place for me to write about my passion for interiors. Since then it’s always been a struggle to keep up with two blogs (or even just one blog if I’m honest), fit in work, and raise my gorgeous small people. Recently I’ve been mulling over the idea of merging the two blogs together to create a single, lifestyle blog, and the start of a new academic year which has seen me wave my babies off to full-time education seems like a pretty good time to take the leap. I will still continue to write about family life, kids’ crafts and family activities, but I’ll be doing it over at Growing Spaces instead.
Young & Younger will always be precious to me. It feels like the end of an era, but it’s time to move on and tackle new things. Thankyou so much for reading. The thrill of getting a new comment on a post hasn’t lessened in the last five years, and your comments have offered me invaluable support, advice and encouragement as I have faced the biggest challenge of my life – becoming a parent and surviving those incredibly overwhelming early years.
Please do join me over on Growing Spaces where there’ll be the posts you already know, plus family-friendly interiors ideas, travel and a bit of food. I’m no good at goodbyes, so I’m hoping I’ll see you there soon.
As well as the amazing general atmosphere at Just So, the festival programme is pretty rocking, too. We went through the programme together as a family before we arrived, starring our must-see shows, and we actually managed to do all of those and more. Here were our favourites of the weekend:
Little Wonder: This show combined acrobalance and physical theatre and really caught the imagination of the twins. We watched it first thing on the Saturday, and it was a great start to our day.
Lantern making: Ez got really into making a lantern. although I’m not sure we timed this activity brilliantly. We headed into the Spellbound Forest as soon as we arrived at the festival on the Friday, and the lantern-making tent was absolutely rammed. We made the frame outside in the woods, which was lovely, but had to brave the crowds to cover the frame with the paper. Next year I think we’ll make our frame and come back at a quieter time to cover it, or even take some materials back to our tent so we can do it in our own time.
Lantern parade: The sight of all the finished lanterns hanging in the trees ready for everyone to collect was really fabulous. We didn’t make one last year, so we loved having one to take part in the parade this year. Seeing all the lanterns lit up and the parade winding around the forest is really magical, and a real highlight of our festival.
Clay faces: This is an extremely popular activity in the programme. To get a place, you need to get there early and it’s well worth it. After a brief introduction, the kids are given a lump of clay and head into the forest to create their faces out of things that they can find on the forest floor. Ez and Fonz took great care with theirs and wanted photographs taken of their finished creations.
Imaginary Menagerie: This was the last show we caught of the weekend (a riotous spectacle of circus performers, puppets and music with tales loosely based on Aesop’s fables) and we LOVED it. It was fun, energetic, imaginative and creative. All four of us enjoyed every single minute and I think we’d all have liked to be able to watch it all over again.
Circus skills: After facing the twins’ immense disappointment when we discovered I needed to have booked them into the weekend’s circus workshops, we went along to one of the open circus skills sessions where the twins got to try diablo, plate spinning and juggling sticks which more than made up for it.
Pirate Training Camp: There was no tearing the twins away from this. The pirates organised lots of pirate-themed games for the kids, which kept them completely engaged despite the wind and drizzle on Sunday morning.
Something To Hold: Last year’s show by Pif Paf Theatre was stunning, but the twins were too young to be able to engage with it, and got bored quickly. This year was different, and they were completely entranced by the acrobatic display and the drama onstage in front of them. The story of an Astronomer who tries capture two stars was told through movement and aerial acrobatics, and was stunning to watch.
Mermaids: The first thing that Fonz said to me after he woke up the morning after we met the mermaids at the festival was “Mummy, we saw actual real mermaids, didn’t we?” The look of wonder when they saw them was amazing, and as well as looking incredible the mermaids were brilliantly entertaining – the mermaid high five, which involved getting the children to lie down with their feet in the air and then slapping their feet with their tales, was a huge hit.
Last year, the Just So Festival completely seduced me with its magic and originality. We all loved every second (eternal thanks to Kat for introducing me to this special festival), and it was an absolute given that we would want to experience it all again this year. Having been left with such a sense of wonder and happiness last year, there was a small part of me that was terrified that it wouldn’t live up to those memories, but as soon as we walked through the gates last Friday, the festival began to work its magic, and I was just as captivated as before. In fact, I think it felt even more wonderful this year because the twins, now a year older (nearly 5), were so completely engaged and enthralled and seeing it through their eyes was amazing.
Just So is spellbinding on so many levels – every aspect of the festival looks absolutely beautiful, the performances are always full of creativity, and the sense of community and togetherness is just so strong. It sets your imagination alight and leaves you tingling with excitement and inspiration.
I’m going to follow up with another post with a rundown of our favourite things we did at Just So Festival 2014, but for now I wanted to set the mood of the festival with a few of my favourite shots from the weekend…
Panicking about your tribal costumes for the Tribal Tournament at this year’s Just So Festival? Here are some super-easy costume ideas for all the tribes – fish, foxes, frogs, lions, owls and stags. Pick your tribe (Go Foxes! Go Owls!), and get creative. If you haven’t got time for a full costume, a set of face paints should sort you out…
It’s just four weeks until the twins turn five, and on that very day they’ll also head off for their first day at school. These are the sort of weeks that have wings. Wings that mean they soar past you with a whoosh that’s fun and exhilarating, but that leaves you dazed and short of breath.
Our days are packed and we seem to be ticking off milestones before I have time to take them in and savour them. This week alone has seen Fonz swim his first width (thanks to a week’s crash swimming course) and shoot off on his bike without stabilisers, while Ez sounds out words and can’t get enough of writing. All this is sandwiched into a hectic routine of meeting up with friends and playing out.
I’m sure I say it every year, but this has been our best year yet. This age quite simply rocks. They are just the best company, both for us as parents but also for each other. Sure they bicker, but they also offer each other the most fantastic companionship; seeing their bond deepen is an absolute privilege. They offer each other reassurance when they’re scared or anxious without even realising it. You can watch them edge physically closer to each other, and then maybe join hands or put an arm round each other. It’s completely unconscious. I can’t imagine that feeling of someone always having been there, and the total belief that they will always be there. I can’t help it, it brings a lump to my throat, and tears to my eyes every time I’m lucky enough to witness it.
These last weeks before I hand them over to school, before I have to share them, to relinquish so much of the time we spend together, seem so precious, and yet the pace of life means they’re slipping past in a blur. I have no doubt that this is a good thing. Our days are full of fun, and so I don’t have time to dwell on the sadness about our pre-school time coming to an end. When the emotion does take over, I scoop one or both of them up and make them promise to let me call them my babies forever (obviously they are hugely indignant at the suggestion they are babies), but they know me well enough to indulge me, and roll their eyes at each other at the daftness of their mum.
What can I say? My babies are growing up, and it’s exciting and heart-breaking in equal measure.