I’m sneaking a moment to type this. We’ve been on the go so much with weekend city trips and the girls’ busy schedule to make sure they participate in every free kids event that Reading has to offer that I’m finding myself squeezing every second to find time.

Ivy is sleeping on me right now, recovering from a day out in the fresh British air, and I can hear Eryn watching some of Cbeebies‘ fantastic programming and rustling a bag. She must be hungry and has either gotten into the cookies or a bag of chips.

That’s a parenting win right there.

Me flying the tenth Doctor's TARDIS. *haramswoon*

Me flying the tenth Doctor’s TARDIS. *haramswoon*

So it was my birthday last week and we celebrated by going to the Doctor Who Experience — a fabulous exhibition for any Whovian to enjoy. I was too excited, pouring over all of the props, costumes and monsters, and cheekily touched David Tennant’s clothes.

The “experience” bit of the Experience is to pretend that you’re taking part in an actual Doctor Who episode by helping the Doctor escape from a few classic baddies. There’s lots of smoke and lights, monsters, 3D effects and spinney, shiney things to play with. I coached Eryn for days just in case she got scared, since I knew there would be a real life element where we would come face-to-face with a monster robotic. She kept asking if it was “pretend or real” so we focused on the pretend and she was just fine. To my surprise, Ivy completely freaked out when we were attacked by giant Daleks — so I pulled a Gwen Cooper and breastfed while saving the universe.

spin

Spinning in the most amazing park. Ever.

I’m constantly in awe at all the children friendly activities and general family-oriented attitude we’ve come across in this little part of the UK. Every museum is free and has weekly “tots” drop-in sessions for story time or crafting. The local park is HUGE with literally everything a child could dream of — and a cafe with everything an exhausted caregiver could need. Never would I expect to relax with a cappuccino while my baby played with a pile of toys and a facilitator helped my toddler cook an omelette in the “little chef’s club.” Certainly not during a simple trip to the park.

We just don’t DO this in my neck of the woods, and I can’t imagine why.

Sure, local art galleries have kids’ events (for a fee and local means an hour of transit) and there are free drop-in play centres (but no coffee and you have to mind your child). And maybe I’ve been seduced by small city, vacation living — but here everyone brings their children to the posh eateries and strangers happily engage in conversation with cranky babies. Something that I rarely experience in Toronto. Score one for Reading.

gargoyles in oxford

Gargoyles looming overhead at Oxford.

Another thing that really blows my mind is the ease of travel. It’s become second nature for us to jump on a train and just explore. The girls are loving it of course, even though we keep going to a bunch of old churches and castles.

jummah with free babysitting

Just a little baby thieving at Jummah.

So after being thoroughly disappointed at our last Jummah in the city, we’ve since started going to the musallah on the Reading University campus. It’s a really wonderful community mashallah — with a large number of active women, a lovely prayer facility and that optimistic energy usually found among students. Everyone is super friendly, helpful and are just gushing over having the girls to play with.

Baby therapy and exam stress go hand in hand.

Mr Darcy

Starting Ivy on some fine literature.

Suffice it to say, we’re having a truly fantastic time here.

And Eryn got into the cookies. Which are now in a million pieces all over the floor.

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