10 Date Days - Summer Edition


I've called this post the 'Summer Edition' because I've blogged about our date days before and because in theory it is actually Summer. In reality we live in Northern Ireland so this post will be exactly the same as the 'Winter Edition'...but with added afternoon naps as uni is a distant memory.

Anyone who knows me will know that I'm very passionate about my date days with Reuben - we date hard. And it's not because I'm a total romantic and want to replace a boyfriend with my son (I probably have issues but I'm not that bad). I just love setting aside special time to spend with him, just the two of us. Otherwise a busy week has gone by and everyone has been fed, no one is dead, and the to-do list has been completed...but poor Reuben has had to fight for my attention in the midst of the busyness. 

Even though I convince myself otherwise, the drive on the way to Tescos with me singing/screeching 'Let it Go' to keep him from kicking my chair really doesn't count. Partly because I'm thinking of all the groceries I need to buy, figuring out what I can afford to buy, and I sometimes forget that my son is in the back seat. But mostly because we are both hating every moment. And if I'm honest with you, there have been lots of times when I've been selfish and chosen to meet people when it wasn't a necessity, purely because I didn't have the energy to deal with Reubs on my own. I'm sure it isn't that way for everyone, but my multitasking skills are mediocre at best so I love having date days where I can forget about everything else and focus on my little ball of craziness. 

I could probably blog about each date in itself (which I would love to get better at), but by the end of the date all I am capable of doing is passing out on the sofa... usually fully clothed and smelling of toddler sweat and chocolate (it's a very distinct smell). So here's what we've been getting up to on the days when we've skipped breakfast and left soggy nappies lying on the living room carpet...because sometimes time is too precious to be stuck in the house completing to do lists: 

After my exams had finished Reuben still had creche for a few days (praise the Lord, am I right?), so my days were spent bleaching and hoovering everything I could get my hands on. Including the little tearaway himself. Okay maybe not bleaching...don't call social services just yet - I didn't bleach my son. I did hoover crumbs off him at one point though, but his eyes didn't look away from 101 Dalmatians once. Until he finished for Summer, our date days were substituted with date evenings. The photos below were all taken in Botanic Gardens on separate days, just incase you noticed the different outfits - we love clothes but the student budget doesn't quite fund multiple wardrobe changes... even if Reubs is a diva with the ice cream spills. 

I imagined we'd do this every day for the rest of Summer/rest of our lives, you know, because toddlers love to repeat everything. But we haven't seen the sun since. And neither has the inside of my house because I'm too ashamed to open the blinds and let passersbys see the aftermath of a housebound Reuben who goes full 'Tazmanian Devil' and exerts his energy into wrecking anything he can get his hands on. I spend approx. 72 hours a week cleaning up after him. But it's totally fine. I'm not bitter at all...

1. Exhibit A is a typical photo of Reubs and I - me looking deliriously happy and perfectly innocent while really I'm sweating bucketfuls from chasing Reuben for a photo. My hand is holding him so tight he can't move (or breathe for that matter). Reuben has his typical 'I'd rather be back in creche than sit for this photo with my ma' face. Notice our football in the background - I had to start bringing our own ball to the park after Reuben got us into lots of trouble by stealing a football from a group of guys. And by that I mean, my mouth got us into lots of trouble when they refused to let Reuben play with their ball, even though they were lying sunbathing and hadn't used it all day! I've a feeling Reuben isn't going to invite me to his matches when he's a professional player.

2. The only thing I took away from this date is the memory of Reuben purchasing his ice-cream and staggering across the grass with his super-proud grin...and then falling flat on his face - for the 2nd time that week. In this photo he has his second ice-cream and is eating it very quietly, clearly with a bruised ego. If you ever see the ice-cream van in Botanic Gardens, please think of me and know that I have probably single singlehandedly funded his business. And if you don't see the ice-cream van, then you can assume that I have singlehandedly funded his early retirement in Lanzarote.

3. On the last day of creche we celebrated with pizza in the park because, as my dad lovingly told me the week before, no one thought we'd make it to the end of first year. Charming, I know. In the time it took us to eat one pizza, one man was arrested, one child was lost and then found, and I'm pretty sure one couple were trying to make a Reuben...if you catch my drift. No one can say I'm bringing Reubs up in a bubble - he has seen it all. But at least we have approx. 2 months to find a new park.

4. The Monday morning after our pizza/ice cream/chips consumption I decided we'd better do something that involved moving. Climbing Cavehill seemed like a good idea after my amazing and trustworthy friends told me it was 'so easy' and 'basically just a wee dander up a hill'. So I strapped Reubs into the Tula Carrier and off we went. At first I thought, 'Okay, yes, he is a little heavier than he was last Summer...but it's just a wee dander after all. No biggy'. HA. NO BIGGY.


I don't think I've sweated as much since P.E. classes in first year of Secondary School when I hadn't yet mastered how to forge my mum's 'sick notes' yet. You know you look rough when every person you come across reassures you, 'Don't worry love, you're nearly there'. I couldn't figure out if I'd accidentally taken the wrong route or if I was just a lot more unfit than I'd realised. Either way, I cursed my overly-optimistic/lying-friends the whole way to the top. Just as I was about to give up and go back down, Reuben poured water over my hair and as dramatically as ever, I decided to do it for him. And for all the kids in primary school who called me fat.

Kidding. I did it for the selfie at the top. And the view, of course.

You can be rest assured that I let Reubs walk by himself on the way back down. And by walk I mean he skidded pretty much the whole way down. But it was funny so we laughed it off. Well I laughed it off. He did this nervous little fake laugh and asked to go back in the carrier. We looked for lions and bears and stopped for chats with other hikers/runners/dog walkers who absolutely did not want to stop for chats. But when a 2 year old stops to tell you about the stick he just found - you listen.

I've constantly been saying our Summer will be filled with exciting adventures and days out... but the exhaustion from Cavehill was probably going to last about a month at least so I decided to cut my losses and move our adventure to the sofa with Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam, and Mickey Mouse. I ended up falling asleep and woke up to a concoction of yogurt and air freshener smeared all over the coffee table. I guess it is rude to fall asleep on a date after all.

5. Our next date day involved animals and tractors at Streamvale Open Farm. And every day since then Reubs has been trying to convince me to go back. And every day since then I've been trying to convince him that the farm moved to France. During my very short 3 month pregnancy people offered me all sorts of conflicting advice. I noticed that when older people didn't know how to respond with either 'congratulations' or 'I'm sorry for your loss', then they responded by telling me what to do. DON'T dye your hair or have an epidural. DO take your vitamins and walk a lot. One thing they all agreed on though, was that a child would turn my life upside down, but I wouldn't mind as long as he was happy. Apparently I'd do anything to put a smile on his face.

Well, you know what? I would do anything. Anything but go to a farm. ANYTHING BUT A FARM.

I try to love all of God's amazing creation but I just cannot relate to my son's love for animals. I mean, puppies are nice to look at. And goldfish are kind of funky. But when I look at animals all I see is responsibility. I've found him stroking dead flies and whimpering, 'Awww, wee fly'. I dread the day when he's older and I'll arrive home from work (provided I get a job after uni) to find him hiding in his bedroom with 3 cats, a goat, 2 dead flies, and 101 spotty dogs.

To be fair, this is cute. It kind of made the trip bearable. And the ice-cream - it helped too.
Later that evening we unashamedly raided the Asda reduced/probably-out-of-date section and came away with the ultimate Fat Friday ingredients (Fat Friday used to be our thing before we actually started to get fat). Reuben took one bite, looked me in the eye with his chocolate moustache and said 'Weuben wuvs mummy'. I always turn into such a mushy doe-eyed teenage girl when he says 'it' first. I mean, it is a wee bit offensive that out of everything I do for him, it's chocolate that floats his love boat... But at least that confirms he's definitely mine.

7. For our next date I didn't really know what we would do or where we would go. All I knew was that I needed to get our frazzled butts out of the house before I was one toddler tantrum away from leaving Reuben to make lunch and locking myself in my bedroom with a family sized bar of Cadbury's and a sleeping pill. I ended up driving towards to the Antrim Coast Road and after a romantic drive with Google Maps whilst Reubs slept off his bad attitude, we headed for Carnfunnock Country Park - the park of dreams for any parent who wants to put a smile on their child's face/pass a few hours until its time for fish and chips (despite taking a long hard look at myself that morning when the postman knocked the door and Reuben screamed PIZZA'S HERE). 

Some would say you're spoilt for choice at Carnfunnock with a playground, golf driving range, orienteering course, miniature railway, bouncy castle, bungee jump, trampolines... others (Reuben) would say none of that compares to throwing your picnic at the birds and joining in on someone else's barbeque. Especially when 'someone else' doesn't actually want a stranger-child and his deranged mother to join in on their intimate evening meal and politely asked said-mother to remove her child from their table. After I made some awkward apologies and some 'all kids are the same' (but really I know mine is worse) jokes, we got back in the car and drove to Glenarm and Carnlough where I spent so many childhood summers at the caravan. Reuben could have sat on that wall forever (whilst my bum was numb) watching the lighthouse, eating his chips, and pointing to what he thought was Africa. I told him how I remember watching the lighthouse & boats with my binoculars every single night when I was younger. I specifically remember asking my mum how old she was when boats were invented (I've clearly never had a filter). This was obviously before we got a caravan in Portrush when I was a teenager and I spent the rest of my summers making bad choices. The nostalgia was real.

P.S. We had to find a wall because apparently the water at the beach was 'too wet'
P.P.S. Reubs is wearing my fleece because I didn't bring coats. 
Maverick Mum clothing coming soon to a blog near you.

8. Along with dressing my child properly, baking is another mothering skill that I haven't quite got down to a tee yet. And by 'down to a tee' I mean not at all. There was the time I made Mars Bar Squares for church and left the chocolate melting on the hob and forgot about it/covered the house in smoke. Or there was the time I made Pancakes and Reuben took one look at them and brought me the bin over - we ended up having Dominoes Pizza for Pancake Tuesday. Or there was the time I tried to make Caramel Squares and again, I left the chocolate melting on the hob. And again I totally forgot and went out for the day, returning 6 hours later to find my my house covered in smoke (again) and my saucepan burnt to a crisp. 

This time we played it safe and made good old Rice Krispie buns, with orange chocolate for an added kick. This sounds like a really romantic mother-son-pinteresty date. But really it wasn't fun in the slightest and we only enjoyed the eating part. And the dinosaur bun cases ofcourse. Mostly because they cost an arm and a leg and I felt obligated to like them. 

N.B. We balanced out the chocolate guilt by making smoothies. One smoothie allows you to eat 6 buns (figures may not be accurate). 

Just incase you think all of our date days are spectacular, here's a photo of me
grabbing a quiet opportunity to scrub the toilet whilst Reuben licks the chocolate off himself in the bath. 
9. Saturday mornings for Reuben used to be for Rugbytots and Saturday mornings for me used to be for regretting getting him involved in Rugbytots. I assumed that once the semester ended we'd use the glorious free time for sleeping but instead Reubs has decided that Saturdays are for getting up 2 hours earlier than the time we firmly discussed the evening before. Ultimately the only way to not lose my sanity is to spend at least an hour making enough French Toast to feed all of South Belfast. And the only way to get through the rest of the sleep deprived day is to eat all of the French Toast myself.

Occasionally all date day ideas go out the window because 1. Belfast weather sucks sometimes and 2. Toddlers suck sometimes. I don’t own one of these state-of-the-art 2 year olds that like to sit at the table and do crafts, or cosy up for a 2 hour movie. So all of the typical ‘rainy day arty activities’ are useless to me. I have the kind of ready-for-action toddler who needs to be in wide open spaces and run for his life, or else he is ready to scale the walls of the house or jab dinosaurs into my backside every time my back is turned.

As a result, there is nothing more frustrating than weather that stops me from going out to let my dog/toddler burn off his energy. This morning I snuck away for 5 minutes, just FIVE MINUTES, to get dressed. It wasn’t long before I heard a smash and went downstairs to see 2 glasses in smithereens and Reuben who had already placed himself on the naughty chair.

What else would you do on a cold, wet, miserable afternoon in Belfast with a tantruming two year old? You go to Ikea. You get some Swedish pic n mix, some £2 meatballs, and you sit and watch planes take off. You also buy a fake plant because it would be a shame to waste the trip, but you also know that a 2 year old human is quite enough responsibility for now... never mind keeping a real plant alive.

10. This date day was a bucketlist date. We were going on a train!! (Bucketlists become a lot less exciting when you become a mother, okay?) The train journey from Coleraine to Derry is picturesque, soothing, and enjoyable. The train journey from Coleraine to Derry with Reuben on board is sweat-inducing, stressful, and embarassing. For some bewildered reason I thought he would be mesmerised by his very first train journey and would gaze out the window the whole time and I could pretend we were in a really cute movie. Instead he demanded he needed to run around, repeatedly banged the food tray (for an hour straight), and had to be told off by the old lady sitting in front of us (I think half of N.I. look at my parenting face and think 'this girl needs our help'). 

I have never been more relieved to step/collapse off a train and restrain Reubs to his pram, never to be let loose again. Just as I was about to slip Reuben some calpol and make a beeline for the nearest coffee shop with a sofa, I realised the Maritime festival was on. And I may not know what that boat-related festival is about, but I do know one thing - there was a continental market. And the only thing I'm more passionate about than our date days is the continental market. Okay maybe that's a sweeping statement. If I had to list the things I love most in order, it would be God, Reuben, cheese, the continental market, and our date days. You get the picture. It's a big deal. 

The rain may have poured down on us, and Reuben may have fallen off the moving carousel and nearly lost a leg, but nothing was going to ruin the beauty of German hotdogs and Dutch pancakes. I gathered my body weight/total bank account's worth of pic n mix and managed to stop Reuben from dropping his ice-cream, and we watched the world go by as we chatted about how we are definitely going to visit Germany some day.

Dinner Date in Derry with a dinosaur and a drowned rat. My dating standards
clearly arent very high.