Sunday, 22 September 2013

Maggot Moon - Sally Gardiner #50books2013

A thought provoking read, covering difficult topics such as Fascism and conspiracy theories. I enjoyed it, and was gripped, but it was also disturbing. Although ostensibly a children's book, there are some scenes that are brutal and violent, and also some swearing, so I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers. It would make an interesting read alongside The Diary of Anne Frank (if they still study it in school!) for a more mature reader.

I would always recommend parents read along when children are attempting books like this so you can all discuss the difficult topics when they arise.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Under Pressure - Activities for tots

When I was on maternity leave with Harry I had no issues with how to fill my time. I visited the Children's Centre most days, along with walks around time, trips to the park and visits to the museum and library. We also enjoyed 'pay as you go' swimming lessons that we made it to most weeks.

When I returned to work this changed a bit, but was punctuated by 'play dates' and less of the 'baby' stuff. I had the odd wonder if I should be extolling him in to something a little more stimulating, but I just wasn't sure so never committed.

When Archie came along, things were a little different. I couldn't drag Harry along to baby groups but we found the odd thing that suited them both and I took Archie along to things like cooking and craft clubs - it was great for Harry, and Archie got to make a mess!

Now I've returned to work and I'm feeling the pressure. I have two days a week at home with them and in this time have to also get on top of the housework, washing, meal planning and shopping. There's a toddler group I haven't made it to yet on one of the days, and rhyme time at the library on the other... 

I can't shake the feeling that I should be doing something more - a friend mentioned gymnastics, another suggested football, swimming is obviously a major life skill - then there's the cute rugby tots kit in the picture a friend popped up on Facebook last week. What to do? They'd love it, I'm sure. More friends, learning skills, having fun, less time fighting over toys at home... All great positives!

So why am I left with a sinking feeling in the bottom of my tummy? I think it's because the thought of committing to something weekly just fills me with dread. I have these two precious days with my boys each week to just... Be. We don't get much chance to meet up with playmates these days as its difficult with other parents' working schedules but it's nice to have the option. There aren't any groups at the Children's Centre on those days at the moment, but if any come up I'd like the choice. I like it if Harry asks to make gingerbread and we can just do it (like we did yesterday).

I think the pressure on us to do everything and be everything is massive and it's something I'm susceptible to, so I'm now mindful. The boys have a busy week whilst I am at work with the childminder, pre school and a couple of school runs each day. I'm taking a step back. There's no rush. I'm sure Harry's rugby career won't be stilted by starting at 4 rather than 3. We will make sure they can swim by hook or by crook over the next few years, and to be honest Archie's gymnastic ability is currently quite advanced enough for me at the moment! 

More importantly, we've got a wander through the meadow and some blackberry picking to do...

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Free School Meals

Why did my heart sink when I heard the news about Free School Meals for all infants? Surely it's a good thing that more kids in these poverty-striken times (and no, I don't think I am exaggerating there - so many families are struggling right now) are getting at least one decent meal a day?

However, I just don't think this is the best way to spend £600 million pounds! For starters this blanket spending on all families is in no way targeting the individuals who are struggling. In fact, if they wanted to support families of young children, why not contribute more to child benefit or food vouchers? Will this really help those who are struggling when providing a packed lunch of whole meal sandwich, piece of fruit, some veg sticks and some snacks is probably one of the cheaper meals to buy? 

I also worry, even in this day and age of Jamie's School Dinners that school meals leave a lot to be desired. And I work in a school! Yes, my first school had a resident chef who provided well-cooked and exciting meals, but that is not the norm, I can tell you. In fact many primary schools, severely strapped for space - they can't even fit in the kids - have no facilities for cooking meals so this will all be out sourced to private companies. Who is going to benefit most, I wonder?

We always aim to eat together as a family each night. I think it's vital that we sit down as a family, no TV, and chat about our day. Our boys are served up with the same meal as us, and although I wouldn't say they are that adventurous yet, they are getting there. A now eats curry, dipping in his naan bread and eating with a spoon. Harry's favourite is pasta. I'd like to know what happens to our family meal when the boys are having a cooked dinner at school? No doubt they will want something lighter, which will remove the family feel to out meal times.

How about puddings? I'm not going to lie , our boys often have a pudding in the evening. This ranges from fromage frais, fruit, jelly to the odd cake or ice cream. Some are more healthy than others. However, I'm not keen on the traditional 'school dinner puddings' of stodgy sponge drenched in custard and syrup, which I understand are still commonplace. I don't really like the idea of my four-year-old filling up on that, especially when I don't know what else he has had. Equally I'm perhaps contradicting myself, but I wouldn't be happy with someone who is not his parent 'punishing' him by not allowing him to eat a pudding because he doesn't  like the dinner. And when he comes home after a full meal and pudding at school, am I still going to feel free to enjoy our baking escapades or will
I worry about what he's already had that week?

And there lies the real root of the matter for me. I am the parent in this equation. I wish to retain autonomy and responsibility. I want to send a lunchbox and see the evidence of what he has and hasn't eaten. If he hasn't eaten much fruit and veg that week I want to know. If he's feeling under the weather I want to send his favourites. I resent an arbitrary decision being made in the capital claiming to be 'levelling' society. I am confident in my abilities of a parent and there are far worse things the government *should* be worrying about than what I give my kids for lunch.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Bobchat - Hippo

H - Mummy, in that story there was a thing just like a hippo but it was a pototamus...

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Bobchat - Eyes

On being called upstairs to Harry after bedtime
H - Mummy, my eyes are stopped working
M - What do you mean your eyes aren't working?
H - They not do this (shuts eyes) any more

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Camp Bestival - Family Fun in Threes


I was lucky enough to win tickets to Camp Bestival after entering a competition on Twitter with +notonthehighstreet.com - we found out on the Monday and that gave us *just* enough time to get together all our camping gear, organise last minute holiday from work (husband not me!) and rearrange our lives slightly to enable us to go. It was fantastic and it was an experience I was so glad to be able to give my two little boys. We are off on a camping holiday in France at the end of the month, so it was great to give camping a trial run too (although, honestly, I hope that none of our pitches in France will be quite as sloping, and I'm also hoping for flushing loos!).

There's so much to say about Camp Bestival - it's such an amazing family experience. There are very few people who go without kids, so you really feel like you are part of one extended family. There's no shushing if your little ones get over excited, there's no tutting if they decide to have a tantrum, and there's always someone on hand with baby wipes if you can't lay your hands on your own. My little ones aren't really the type to run off - but if there were I imagine it would be slightly less stress-inducing knowing that they are surrounded by 'mummies and daddies' who have little people of their own.

In fact, there's so much I could say about Camp Bestival, I'm going to have to reign myself in a little - we could be here until next year's event otherwise! So I've grouped a few of our favourites into 'Top Threes' to give you an idea of the variety of things we enjoyed!


Top Three Experiences
1. Camping
We've camped with Harry before, but it was before he was 2 and I don't think he remembered anything about it. There's something about sleeping under canvas that is so special. We arrived at the camp Thursday evening and there wasn't a huge amount of choice of pitch left - we ended up on the least-sloping pitch we could fine, but it wasn't exactly level. We later found that there were a few pitches closer to the festival that might have been better, but as new festival-goers, we just went with what we could get! The first night saw me moving in with Harry as he was rolling all over the place. This was actually one of the best bits for me - I seldom get to lie and cuddle my biggest boy, and this was the perfect opportunity :-)
2. Festival Feel
This was the first festival for all of us. I suppose it was as we expected - you see festivals on TV and it always looks so fantastic - but you can't really describe the atmosphere when you get there. We were blessed with some lovely weather, especially on Saturday, and the lowering sun behind the flapping flags thronged with happy people is something I will never forget.
3. The Freedom
Seeing our little ones hare around, whilst knowing they were completely safe was wonderful - Archie, who has only been walking for the past couple of months particularly enjoyed the freedom!


Top Three Activities
1. Dingly Dell
With two under 5s, Dingly Dell was a great draw for us, it was a fairy forest full of crafts and story telling - perfect for our little ones. Harry made a wish on the wish tree, and was even enticed into doing some craft! He really wanted to know where the fairies were and why they weren't in their houses and went hunting with a magnifying glass for them. There was also a play park with swings and a slide, which Harry really enjoyed. Archie was entranced by the fiery lights when we visited after dark.
2. Camera Obscura
It seems amazing that in this digital age a Camera Obscura can still be so entrancing. After all, many of us hold devices with the ability to make instant videos in the palms of our hands. However, nothing can beat being in that dark little room observing those outside, who are completely oblivious. If you've never visited one, you must!
3. The Percussion Orchestra
The Royal Albert Hall 'Percussion Orchestra' was a big favourite with the boys, and the way they created a whole piece of music with the little ones was just amazing - all interspersed with some great classic tunes. The boys loved it and so did I!


Top Three Music
1. Proclaimers
Watching our little boys with their Scottish heritage dancing along to '500 miles' has got to be one of the highlights of the weekend :-)
2. Levellers
We weren't sure if we were going to catch The Levellers - a band Ian was keen to watch. We hadn't invested in a trolley and ear defenders like many of the more serious music fans, deciding instead that we would just cut our losses and head back to the tent if we needed to. However, with the little one asleep in the buggy and the big one happy to snuggle on the picnic blanket we were able to catch some of their set, which was great.
3. Ady Suleiman
We caught this guy's dulcet tones as we were finishing up an evening play in the sand pit. We were both drawn in and really enjoyed the end of his set, definitely a great chill out for a summer's evening with a drink in hand.

Top Three Food
1. Mexican
It was a bit tricky thinking of things to buy for our slightly fussy two. We brought enough supplies of cheese sandwiches to see us through lunches, so at least they gobbled that up! However, Nachos were certainly a real hit - although we did fairly quickly scrape off the jalepeno dip. I'm not sure that would have been such a big hit.
2. Churros and Chocolate
What could be better of a summer evening that some tasty, sugary doughnuts dipped in chocolate? Not much, I think - and the boys agreed.
3. Fish and Chips
The food at Bestival was great - it wasn't your usual scuzzy burger van, but high end, delicious and well cooked food. The fish and chips were no exception. Scrummy!


Top Three Souvenirs
1. Programme
The programme was £10, but it was definitely essential. It all came in a lovely bag, which we proceeded to use for snacks and contained an almanac, a handy programme on a lanyard, a colouring book - and, most essentially - a CBeebies magazine - a great hit with H.
2. Guardian Bags
The Guardian were giving away great, brightly coloured canvas rucksacks when you purchased a copy of the paper. They also had a handy kids magazine contained- again, a great idea for some down time for the kids. We couldn't resist getting all three bags. However, with 2 little ones, we're still working on reading all the content!
3. Camp Bestival T Shirt
We couldn't resist buying H a t shirt to commemorate his first festival. We chose the one with the artists names on the back. We were going to get navy (I don't buy white for myself or my children as we have a propensity for getting grubby and my laundry skills aren't up to it) but they'd sold out so we got pink. My boy looks lovely in pink so we were really pleased when we saw it on him. He gets called a girl everywhere we go any way, so a pink T shirt isn't going to make any difference!


Harry's Top Three
1. Dressing Up
Harry's not always the biggest fan of dressing up, but he got into the festival spirit and refused to attend without his pirate outfit! Unfortunately this did mean we lost his little foam sword (woe - it was my fault :-( ) I guess losing things and knowing they are gone for good is a lesson to be learnt and he did quite well bless him, shedding just a few bitter tears.
2. Sand Pit
Without a doubt Harry's favourite place at the festival was the massive sand pit. He spent hours here digging, building and generally getting covered in sand!
3. Bubbles
We loved watching the bubble stand at the festival, especially the smoke bubbles. Amazing!


Archie's Top Three
1. Dancing
Archie grooving away as we listened to the sing a long Jungle Book is a sight I will never forget!
2. Percussion Band
Banging noisily and being ALLOWED to? Win/win!
3. Dingly Dell at Night
Archie was mesmerised by the lights and fire in the Dingly Dell at night. We had to wait in a MASSIVE queue to get in, but it was really worth it.

Friday, 9 August 2013

10 Cheap or Free Summer Activities

Despite not having school age children myself, as a teacher I still have the 6 weeks holiday to enjoy with my gorgeous boys who don't stay in childcare over the summer. What I have found is that a lot of the toddler groups that we would usually attend during term time stop over the holidays, and also some of the places that we may pay to go to as a treat become very busy during the holidays - also, if we paid for them regularly it would soon add up! So here is my list of things we do week to week during the summer - all free or very cheap and great fun for little ones!

1. Picnics
Pretty much every morning I make our lunch whilst the boys are eating breakfast and it gets packed into a coolbag. With two under 5s, it can feel like I spend half my day sweeping up and cleaning in the kitchen - picnics are a fun way to avoid this! We love to visit our local parks - sometimes the large central one, but remember that there will be lots of little play areas hidden around your town, and it can be great fun to discover somewhere new. Try looking on Google maps to spot where there might be somewhere new to visit!

2. The Library
We are lucky enough to have a fantastic library with a huge children's section. We can spend a whole morning there (with a picnic on the way home!) we read, research and join in with any activities they might have - we have a Bookstart 'passport' with which we gather stamps each visit. Our library also keeps running its Rhyme Time sessions throughout the holidays, unlike some of the toddler activities which stop over the summer break.

3. The Museum
Museums have a very unfair reputation of being boring. Remember, you don't have to look at every exhibit, and you don't have to read every plaque. I've found that my 3 year old now asks me questions about the exhibits, and it's great to chat about them. Check out your local museums, ours has a treasure trail, castle, blocks for building, school, fire engine, shop... it's a great place to spend some time and they also run free craft activities for older children during the holidays.

4. Fly a Kite
This comes under the 'cheap', as you do require some materials to either make a kite or some pennies to buy one. A basic one is fine for little ones and they can be got for less than a fiver. Stunt kites are great fun, but rather tricky to get the hang of. Remember to follow all safety advice - find somewhere high, windy and clear of obstacles and give it a go!

5. Water Play
To be honest, my boys don't much like the paddling pool even when it's super hot. Besides, buying a paddling pool isn't exactly 'free', although my 3-ring pool was £3.99. However, water play doesn't have to mean paddling pool. Buckets, pans, plastic cups, bath toys and washing up liquid will all do the job. Set up the water play in an area of the garden that is suffering from lack of rain and your watering is done too! Mine really enjoy sticking foam letters onto the patio doors, giving H the chance to practise his phonic too!

6. Road Trip
I haven't yet done this, but it's on my list of things to do. This will cost you a few pounds, but it's a small cost compared to a day out at an attraction. Find a bus stop and jump on the bus! If you live in a city, take a trip to a different area - or if you're in the country perhaps to the next town. Even better if you have scoped out a new play area/park and have your picnic with you. If your little ones are younger enough you'll just be paying the price of any adults in the party so it shouldn't be too costly. A train trip might cost more but is even more exciting!

7. Field Trip
Give your child a sheet of paper and write or draw some things for them to spot as you take a walk around your local area. Perhaps a spider, a buttercup, some lavender - or for more urban areas a mini, a bus and a motorbike. Your little ones will get a great sense of satisfaction as they find the items and the longer the list, the longer you can keep them entertained for. This is also a fantastic trick for shopping - pictures on a sheet of the things that your pre-schooler can safely grab off the shelves themselves and pop into the trolley.

9. Beginner's Orienteering
Orienteering is perhaps a bit ambitious here, but if you have an older pre-schooler they might enjoy following a simple map (hand drawn or printed off the internet) or directions that you can read to them. Take them on a little journey around the area you live in, using landmarks to help them find their way, do your best to let them take control - they can tick off each step as they follow it.

10. Collections
This can be done in the garden or out and about. You'll need to change the parameters depending on where you are. If you're lucky enough to be near the sea, try collecting shells of a certain type or colour, pebbles or seaweed. In the park, pinecones, flowers and interesting leaves. In the garden you might be able to find beetles and snails (they are easy to return to their home), or perhaps a treasure hunt of some of your child's toys (remember where you've hidden them! We've all tried Easter Egg hunts only to find some of the precious eggs in the undergrowth much later)

I'd love to hear any of your ideas of things to you with little ones below - what do you get up to in the summer months?

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Bobchat - Earth

Looking at the weather map in TV.

H - 'mummy where <childminder> live?'
M - 'She lives in <our town> just like us?'
H - 'Do she live on a planet up in the sky?'
M - 'She lives on Earth - we all live on Earth!'
H - pauses to think. 'Mummy, do <best friend> live on Earth?'

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Night Rainbow by Claire King #50books2013

I'm pretty sure that any review I write is not going to do this book justice. In fact, any plot summary is going to sound desperately miserable. Poor, neglected Peony - a depressed, pregnant mother who has already lost one baby, a father who has died leaving them both bereft and grieving - what's to enjoy? But I'm telling you, I don't like miserable books, and I LOVED this one.

The author captures Pea's voice so perfectly. I'm not sure I've ever read a book where the narrator was so beautifully created. Narrating an entire novel from the perspective of a 5 year old is never going to be easy - or so you'd think - but King makes it seem effortless.

If you've ever visited the French countryside, or stayed in a Gite, you'll be gripped by the beautiful descriptions. Pea is restricted to the area immediately surrounding her house, but this is an entire fantasy world she explores with her playmate Margot. They run wild, collecting 'specimins', doing their best to do housework and getting into minor (and not so minor) scrapes.

Scary-looking Claude and his magical dog, Merlin who hears for him. Witchy Josette. These are fairytale characters in a real world, and we learn all about them through Pea's innocent eyes.

I was, simply, captivated by this novel - perhaps it helped that I was reading it during a heatwave, echoing the hot, steamy atmosphere of the story, but I'd recommend it to anyone.

Friday, 19 July 2013

I AM a Full Time Mum

I think I do appreciate, to some extent, the frustrations of the Stay-At-Home-Mums out there. Having been lucky enough to have two year-long maternity leaves in recent years I know that sometimes life with small children can be exhausting, stressful and - dare I say it? - lonely. I've even found myself hankering after a bit of adult time in the form of work. The grass is always greener, don't they say?

But, there is one phrase that really gets to me, and that's 'Full Time Mum'. I've really been struggling recently - I've been back at work a few months, I've been working hard - really hard. But in the background, I'm always mum. I get up (usually around 5am thanks to a certain little one), get the boys dressed and breakfasted - get myself dressed and breakfasted (this is usually more of a challenge) and get us out of the door - hopefully having had time to do a quick wipe round of the kitchen (the sight of hardened shreddies to be scraped off the floor after a long day at work is never a welcome one).

I get to work and it's time to focus on everyone else's children - and I do. But I'm Mum now -  you just can't stop yourself thinking of your own little ones. In some ways I'd love to be back to my old 'work from7 til 7' days - time to plan lessons with my colleagues, discuss how things are going and - most importantly, speak to another adult at some point in the day. But I don't have this luxury. I've become much more time-efficient - every spare minute is used marking and planning. The boys are with the childminder 8-5 and any work that has to be done in school must be done within those hours. I might feel like a flake when I have to leave meetings at 4.45 on the dot, but I'm Mum now, I'm not the master of my own time.

When I pick up the boys, they're exhausted. All Archie wants is milkas and a cuddle and Harry wants to veg on the sofa and tell me about his day. But I'm Mum now, I need to do those things AND get dinner in the oven. This is my 'witching hour' - Daddy gets home between 6 and 6.30 so with a heavy 14 month old on my hip I get going, feeling stiff and uncomfortable in the work clothes I haven't had a chance to change out of yet.

Daddy gets home - hopefully to dinner on the table - and we eat. Sometimes it's lovely and we talk to Harry about his day, sometimes it's stressful as the boys don't want to eat what's in front of them. It's ALWAYS messy! After the dinner is 'me' time for half an hour as Daddy takes the boys to play and I clean the kitchen. Who'd have thought I'd find a shiny sink so rewarding! Then of course comes bath time, books and bedtime. I'm so lucky to have Daddy there to double team, but it's often close to 9pm before we collapse on the sofa. This is my time to catch up on any marking or planning I haven't completed during my precious minutes at school, but it's not like the old days when I would be coming to it fresh - by now I'm exhausted and it's not easy.

Being a working mum is a struggle. Scratch that - being a mum is a struggle. You never quite feel like you are doing enough, and now I'm back to work, I never feel quite enough there either. Don't even ask about keeping up with blogging! But these days I'm trying to remember - being good enough is good enough - and I AM a full time mum (even when I'm working).

Friday, 12 July 2013

Archie Antics - caught red handed!

Bobchat - Coach

On the way to the Safari Park on our pre school outing...

M - (singing) The wheels on the bus go round and round...
H - No, Mummy! You should sing the wheels on the COACH go round and round!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Bobchat - golf

H - Daddy stop tickling me!
D - That's what daddies do!
H - That's not what daddies do!
D - What do daddies do then?
H - Daddies play golf!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Archie Antics - The Key

Can no longer leave the key in the back door as Archie removes it and secretes it in such useful hiding places as the washing machine...

Friday, 21 June 2013

#TigersInRedWeather #50books2013

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussman

I really enjoyed reading this novel. Although set in a different era, it has echoes of The Great Gatsby, and the indulgence of the American upper classes - although in European terms probably considered the 'Noveau Riche' - is an evident theme in the novel. I loved every moment of it, but it wasn't quite one of those 'can't put it down' novels. I was almost relieved at this - recently having read 'Gone Girl' and 'How to be a Good Wife' - both powerfully gripping thrillers - it felt great to have a novel that was going to last me more than a few nights and wouldn't have me up until 3am reading (not great these days when little A has me up for the day at 5...)

The novel is focalised through several different characters: Nick, Helena (her cousin and best friend), Hughes (her husband), Daisy (her daughter) and finally Ed (Helena's son). This means that you can view the complex familial relationships from different perspectives throughout, your sympathies changing as you realise the depths of each character and the difficulties they face. As a reader, you sense that this is the 'point' of the novel. Really, the details and events of the novel are irrelevant - first and foremost it's an exploration of character.

Except, that as you get towards the end of the novel you realise this isn't quite everything. It's not just detailed character profiles. You realise that throughout Klaussman has been leaving you clever clues leading to the climax of the novel and the uneasy resolution. Although I'd noticed some of the clues throughout I still found the ending surprising, gripping and - ultimately - satisfying. I'm a bit fussy with endings of books - I don't generally like cliffhangers (thanks, 'How to be a Good Wife'), unhappy endings ('Gone Girl'!)or ones that lack a desirable sense of closure for the characters (both!) Tigers in Red Weather was perfect for me. I'd really recommend it as a great read!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

#50books2013 How to be a Good Wife - Emma Chapman

Marta lives with her husband, Hector. They married in strange circumstances - she was 20 years younger and so ill he had to nurse her back to health. Marta lives her married life following the rules of the book 'How to be a Good Wife' - a wedding gift from her mother-in-law.

Marta remembers practically nothing from her 'previous' life - that is, until she stops taking her medication. All of a sudden her life becomes a disorientating whirl - she has only a tenuous grasp on the here and now as what she believes to be memories - including visions and hallucinations - take a hold on her.

With Marta as narrator we, the readers, experience this roller coaster first hand. If you enjoyed 'Before I Go to Sleep' then you'll recognise a similar storyline - a thriller with a narrator who is just as clueless and confused as the readers.

[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the novel is how Marta's character remains unreliable throughout - there are things about the story that just don't add up and the mystery is never really resolved. Even the ending is somewhat unresolved. The result is an unnerving and, at times, disturbing story which leaves you questioning all the characters of the novel, wondering if what you believe to be true actually is...

I enjoyed the book, and it was certainly a page turner, I finished it in just a few days (no mean feat with a boy clinging to each ankle, although the kindle app on my phone helps!) I have to say though, it didn't always hit the spot for me. Maybe I just didn't empathise quite enough with Marta, or maybe I just wanted a bit more closure, but there was something about the novel that didn't leave me feeling satisfied. On further reflection though that's probably exactly what the author intended, so I guess she achieved her goal!

Archie Antics - The Marriage Course

Worrying when you switch on the TV to see 'The Marriage Course' is on series link - how to fix your marriage using the Bible's teachings.

Archie's had the controller most recently - maybe he's trying to tell us something?

Friday, 7 June 2013

'Delicious' swamp cakes


Ok, they're not pretty, it's gotta be said. Mind you, they were tasty!

#50books2013 - Midnighters Series by Scott Westerfeld

Despite my less than glowing review of 'Extras' earlier this year, I couldn't resist downloading this series onto my Kindle. It's great to have a light read to hand on my Kindle and the Kindle app on my phone for those times when I'm stuck on the sofa nursing Archie or the boys are sleeping in the car and I'm stuck on the driveway (mums, we've all done that, right?!) I also like to claim that reading books intended for teens is some kind of research for work so I can recommend books to reluctant readers (yeah right).

The series starts in a familiar way - think Harry Potter, Twilight, The Wizard of Oz - what child hasn't fantasised about being transported to a new world when they have untold power and influence? What misunderstood teen has never dreamt that they are just *different* from their parents, their family... In Midnighters, Jessica Day wakes in a strange and beautiful dreamscape of sparkling diamonds - but soon discovers it's not as idyllic as it first appears.

It soon falls to a small band of misfits to save the world (of course, what would such a book be without mortal peril?!)

I am being a bit flippant here though - Midnighters reminded me of what I liked about the Uglies series. Despite feeling disappointed by Extras, I do think Westerfeld is a skilled writer for teens and      the world and characters of The Midnighters series are well crafted; the narrative is gripping. I would certainly recommend this as a good young adult read and also a great series for those who have enjoyed 'crossover' novels between YA and Adult Fiction such as The Hunger Games, Matched and Twilight.

#50books2013 A Commonplace Killing - Sian Busby

There are no winners in this book - each narrator has a sad story to tell and Sian Busby's evocative style will draw you right into their lives. Set in bleak, grey post-war London, the characters are all doing their best to navigate themselves through the depressing, mutilated landscape of both London and their own emotions.

Lillian Frobisher lived a life of freedom during the war, only to be brought crashingly back to earth when her husband returned into a life of drudgery, struggling to make ends meet on meagre rations - always hankering after the forbidden luxuries denied to her whilst trying to remain respectable. In post-war Britain she is described by some as a scarlet woman, yet what she yearns for is what a modern woman would take for granted. The character of Policewoman Tring is perhaps a little more hopeful - although she is usually reduced to driving around the men of the force and, like Lillian, is expected to magic up sustenance (in the form of tea and sandwiches) from nowhere.

Busby also explores the scorn towards those men who did not go to war - who played a different part and the damage sustained by those who did. An unlikely parallel is drawn between Dennis, a criminal, and Cooper, the principal detective on the case. Two men both permanently damaged by their experiences of war, neither with any hope for the future. Rather like London itself, suffering under the weight of a crime wave as ordinary people struggle to gain some sense of self by turning to the black market for items advertised on billboards, unobtainable by legal means.

Although the novel liberally draws on the traditions of detective fiction - the lone detective figure, Cooper and some real noir elements - really  the novel is less about solving the mystery and more about communicating the bleak nature of post war London - and this is something Busby does expertly. It doesn't make for an uplifting read, it's got to be said, but if you want to really feel what it was like to long for something other than spam, powdered egg and stale bread - whislt fielding propaganda telling you that you should be happy to be at peace, eating the healthiest way you ever had then this is the place to start.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Archie Antics - Tesco

In Archie's mind, Tesco only exists to provide him with plenty of people to say hello to!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Archie Antics - Coaster


Archie Antics - Andrex

To Andrex (v) - to playfully toy with toilet paper, esp. small animals and children. Examples: Archie was andrexing in the en suite earlier. Archie andrexed the spare toilet rolls into the bath as it was running last night.

Bobchat - Flamingo

'Look! A flamingo!'

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Bobchat - Daisies

Sitting down to pick some daisies...
H - mummy? 
M - yes darling?
H - are you making a daisy train?

...one track mind, that boy!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Bear Antics - First Step

A took his first steps today and promptly applauded himself - cute is not the word! 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Bobchat - Dinosaur Train

Look mummy! I made a dinosaur train!

Bobchat - Bucket

(When getting out of the car)
H - Mummy! My bucket!
M - Your bucket? What bucket?
H - Mummy, do my bucket! (gestures madly at car seat fastener) Do my bucket!
M - Ohhhh! Your BUCKLE! 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Simple Pleasures of Mummyhood

Simple Pleasures of Mummyhood

Nestling into chubby baby necks,
Little bare feet stroking you under the blanket,
Toddler pride 'Mummy! Look at this!',
Singing 'Just one more song' at bedtime.

Hair curling crazily as it grows longer,
Manic giggling at first standing attempts,
Calling the seatbelt fastener a 'bucket',
Climbing a ladder for the first time.

Bittersweet moments as you kiss a bump,
Fierce tears when you are reunited,
Hearing stories of times when you weren't there,
Growing independence and a lump in the throat.

Hot cup of tea grabbed in a quiet moment,
Feeling guilty to be happy to be alone,
Knowing that in no time at all you'll be mummy again,
But that in no time at all they will be all grown.

Friday, 3 May 2013

First Child/Second Child

Before I had my first child, I guess I had a certain idea of how things were going to go. Of course, as all parents know, not everything works out as you plan - perhaps you get a baby who will only feed to sleep, or your child decides they don't like vegetables. Perhaps you find yourself with a climber, or a little one who doesn't walk until long after his buddies. However, these small issues with Child One were nothing compared to the differences between the first and second child. In fact, I'm kind of worried what would happen if we ever had a third...

Food:
First Child - no sugar or salt in anything until at least the age of one - this includes no advent calendar or Easter Egg, as the smallest amount will have dire consequences. Only 'baby' crisps, biscuits and snacks allowed.
Second Child - Forget trying to restrict snacks, Child One will kindly 'share' the most inappropriate well before the recommended weaning age. If this isn't done intentionally, Child Two's advanced foraging skills will soon come into play under the dinner table as soon as they are mobile. And we all know that they invented white chocolate because babies make such a mess with the usual stuff, right? So that must mean it's an approved weaning food...

Clothing:
First Child: Enjoy browsing baby shops whilst your little one is happily strapped into their thoughtfully-chosen pram and select the best of the best to suit their 'character'. Your baby will not only look ├╝ber-cute but also well ahead of the trends. Now where's the number for that baby-modelling company.
Second Child: Now you have both a baby and a toddler, you get away with what you can. It's not unknown for baby to be dressed in the same babygro for days (and nights) at a time - if it's avoided any major explosions from various orifices then it is practically a miracle and therefore should be enjoyed. Anyway, baby clothes are all the same - who can tell if it's pyjamas or not? When Child Two does graduate to clothes (with Child One this age was about 6 weeks, Child Two is lucky to be out of babygros by 18 months) he or she has to wear Child One's cast offs, sometimes regardless of gender (navy and red flowers are unisex, surely). New clothes shopping is no longer an option - you probably can't afford it, you know it will get wrecked eventually and in any case, any kind of shopping is rendered akin to purgatory now that Child One has hit toddler-hood. Once carefully selected designer lookalikes are now not only a couple of years out of date but also worn through at the knees and stained around the neck. Less baby modelling, more charity shop chic. Still, you tell yourself, no one knows if those stains are 2 hours old or 2 years old, right?

Social Life:
First Child: Before Child One was even born, you knew exactly how their social life was going to pan out. Weekly events include post natal group (otherwise known as peaceful babies surrounded by mums with cups of tea group), under ones groups and baby rhyme time. If a snotty toddler happened to be near your baby - or worse, snatch something from your baby - you would do an inward eye roll. Seriously, how difficult is it to keep them away from the little ones?
Second Child: There is no chance of peaceful baby time when Child Two comes along. This time you are the mum whose toddler runs wilfully away from you whilst you try to feed/comfort/change the baby. You screech after them, hoping that they aren't causing too much havoc and lever the baby under your arm to follow. In turn, you are much more relaxed with older children around Child Two. After all, it seems unlikely that any other child is going to be quite as 'loving' (rough) as his own sibling so he can probably take it. Child Two is lucky to have a couple of similar-aged buddies, but only because they happen to be the younger siblings of Child One's friends. At least when you get together you and the other mum can seek temporary solace in knowing you're not alone.

Mum-guilt strikes again - surely Child Two is disadvantaged by all this? Just think of the time and attention you lavished on Child One when it was just them... Then you stop and look. From birth Child Two has barely taken his eyes off his older sibling. He has learnt so much already (well, he has learnt how to give as good as he gets in hair-pulling contests anyway). They might drive you (and each other) crazy, but they will always have each other to rely on. That's why you wanted two children, right?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Days Out - Thomas Land at Drayton Manor

I decide just one post wasn't enough to cover Harry's fabulous birthday treat! The last post was about the Thomas-themed rooms at Drayton Manor Hotel - a big hit with the boys - however, the real treat was still to come - meeting the real Thomas and his friends!

Of course, first we enjoyed a lovely breakfast in the hotel and we headed over to the park at about 9.45 (it opened at 9.30). The rides didn't start until half past 10, so we probably could have left it a little bit longer before entering the park, but it was nice to orientate ourselves and figure out what rides we were going to go on when they did open! We left our lunch cool bag in the lockers near Emily's Play Area (a soft play area adjacent to the main part of Thomas Land) and headed off to the Zoo, which was open. Harry enjoyed looking at the animals, allthough I think he was a little bit confused about the zoo and theme park concepts. When we walked past the tiger he asked 'Is that a real one?!' to be followed by when we saw the exhibits on the prehistoric trail 'Are those real dinosaurs?!'

Just past the dinosaur trail was Spencer's Play Area. I love it when a play area is well judged and designed for its target audience and this one was perfect for 2-5 year olds, which is also prime age for Thomas fans I would guess. I am sure Harry would have been happy if this was the culmination of our day but we soon had to drag him (and Archie) off the play equipment to see what else this end of the park had to offer before heading back t the main part of the park on the train.

Harry was captivated by the magical Thomas exhibition in one of the nearby sheds. He thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the elements of the scene and waiting to spot his favourite trains come chuffing around the track. The Terrence Tractor Driving School is also in this area of the park, but sadly Harry was too small to drive his own tractor. This was probably our only disappointment of the day. We would have appreciated an option for te younger drivers - perhaps even just a Terrence model to climb on - but it was a minor disappointment in what was otherwise a wonderful day.

Before long there was an influx of new people which told us that a train must have arrived at the station, so we hot-footed it over there to find it was Percy, Harry's absolute favourite train! The train rides were, perhaps predictably, one of the highlightss of the day. Nothing beats wating on an actual platform, selecting your own carriage and riding the rails with your favourite trains. We were pleased to capture a usually camera-shy Harry standing next to his new best buddy, Percy the train.

The rides in Thomas Land are really well suited to Harry's age. In fact, at about 90cm, he was tall enough to go on even the bigger rides - the Troublesome Trucks rollercoaster and the Cranky ride. However, Harry didn't fancy those ones having never been on any rides before, and I don't really blame him - I'm sure they would provide plenty of fear factor for even an older child. He absolute favourite ride was the Vintage Car ride, which isn't specifically Thomas themed, but does fit well with the rest of the rides. Little ones sit in the car (accompanied by one adult) and 'drive' it along a track. Harry asked to go on this ride every other time! We were lucky to be there on a very quiet day, it meant that most rides were just waiting for people before starting, even your little family were the only passengers! Harry also loved the Diesel ride, and being able to ride the Blue Mountain Quarry trains. Again, because it wasn't busy he was able to ride on all his favourite trains by going on the rides multiple times. Archie also enjoyed the rides, but at 10 and a half months he was a little young for them. You aren't allowed to have children sitting on your lap, they have to sit on their own seat, which can be tricky with a wriggly crawler!

We ate our lunch on a picnic bench and although we'd held the soft play area in reserve, we decided just to go back and have a go on more of the rides. We also never made it into the main part of Drayton Manor. As we walked through it seemed like there were a few rides that the boys might have enjoyed, but, to be honest Thomas Land was more than enough for us for the one day. I couldn't recommend it enough for a great day out if you have a train- and vehicle-crazy little one like Harry. I think the memories are going to stay with him for a long time and it made his third birthday a really special one. Thank you, Drayton Manor!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Days Out - Drayton Manor Thomas-themed rooms

We really wanted to do something special for Harry's third birthday. In many ways I think the third birthday has been the first 'real' birthday for us. At one, he didn't really have a clue what was going on (although he did enjoy the cake!) At two he liked his presents, but in the end it was just another day (with cake!) However, three was a whole different ball game. In the couple of months preceding there was much talk of 'my birthday', 'when I'm a big boy', 'I'm two now but I'll be three on my birthday' etc etc. This led to us having a small party, which we weren't really planning on - but let's face it, every book and TV programme that has a birthday in it also has a party! However, the real special thing we were planning was a trip away to Thomas Land.

First off he woke up on his birthday - having whispered excitedly to me the night before 'Daddy says it's my birthday too-mo' - and opened some presents. His gran and grandad 'Peugeot' came over bearing a fantastic fire engine and he had a great time. As far as Harry was concerned that was it, birthday done. Little did he know what we had planned! After lunch we bundled him into the car instead of into bed for naptime and off we went up the motorway to Drayton Manor. Despite telling us he wanted to stay awake, Harry slept nearly the whole way. When we got to the hotel, he was delighted to see a model of a carousel with all his favourite Thomas characters in the foyer (how the receptionists put up with that music over and over I'll never know!) but the excitement was really still to come.


We followed the receptionist's directions to our room, only to find that before long the carpet design changed to tracks, leading the way! The room was fantastic, a lovely mural on the wall and ceiling, tracks on the floor, and of course the piece de resistance, the Thomas bunk beds, complete with DVD players in the headboard. At reception we had been leant two DVDs to watch (you can go back and swap them should you need to), and also given a Thomas welcome pack, containing slippers, a magazine with stickers, a book and some colouring pages and pencils. Of course the first thing Harry wanted to do was to sit on the top bunk and watch a DVD which he thoroughly enjoyed. Meanwhile Archie thoroughly enjoyed testing how baby-proof the room was (everything survived, although I did have to unplug the phone after one-too-many Archie-calls to reception).

After a few episodes of Thomas, and before heading out to dinner at Harry's favourite restaurant - Pizza Express, we decided to try the outside play area out. Although some of it was a bit tricky for Harry to do alone, he still had a fantastic time with Daddy's help. I'm sure that a slightly more adventurous three year old would have managed lots of it alone. In any case, it was great to have a run around after our drive, and a hotel with a play area is always fantastic when you have little ones.

After having dinner at the nearest Pizza Express (about 20 minutes away) we headed home and used the bath and the brilliant Percy bubbles (how they knew Percy was Harry's favourite engine, I don't know!) and as it was his birthday, we let Harry watch another DVD before bedtime (well, we had to get the most use we could out of those DVD players!)

 
The room was quite well thought out for a young family. The bunk beds are tucked around a corner so that your little ones won't be so distracted by mummy and daddy. However, the lighting wasn't that helpful. Although the bedside lights had a small reading spotlight as well as a lamp, you couldn't work them separately and even having the bedside light furthest away from Harry's bed still left the whole room pretty light. To counteract this I removed the bulb from my bedside lamp, as using the spotlight was enough for us to read and the boys to sleep in peace. Otherwise, I really couldn't fault the room at all. I think it was all Harry's dreams come true! That is - until the next day at Thomas Land...



Sunday, 28 April 2013

Bobchat - Father Christmas Sign

H - (looking at a wildlife warning sign with a picture of a deer) Look! That sign says 'watch out, Father Christmas is coming!'

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

#50books2013 Capital - John Lancaster

This book is pretty fat, and although I usually like fat books I was a bit concerned that in my current state of mind I would find it tricky to stick with. When I read the back of the book I was still concerned - the residents on 'Pepys Road' in London receive mysterious postcards simply with the words 'We want what you have' on the back. Sounded like a prolonged, and prehaps not particularly interesting 'whodunit'.

I should have had more faith. Despite not being much of a reader himself, my husband always seems to choose books I will enjoy and this was no exception. Of course, by then end of the novel you do find out 'whodunit', but not before you get completely sucked into the lives of the residents of Pepys Road. You get an interesting insight into the lives of a banker and his wife in the midst of the baking crisis; drawn into the familial relationships of the Indian family who own the shop and gripped by the growing relationship between the Polish builder and Hungarian nanny. Alongside these stories a Banksy-esque artist called Smitty and his grandmother tell their own intriguing stories. I found I couldn't put the book down. Although I sometimes became a little entangled and confused by the sheer number of characters (again, I blame my flaky state of mind at the time), I found many of them endearing and I loved the insight into many different elements of London - and British - society.

I'd really recommend this novel for an interesting, thought provoking and just simply good read.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

#mealplanmonday

Well, better late than never - right?

Monday - Chilli, rice and nachos
Tuesday - Salmon fillet and couscous parcels
Wednesday - Sausage and mash (or posibly hot dogs if this weather continues!)
Thursday - Sweet and sour pork
Friday - Pizza

Hopefully with this week's menu we can pretty much avoid chips, as I feel like nearly all our meals were becoming accompanied by oven chips. I'm really hoping that now I am starting to feel a bit better I can get a bit better at meal planning and cooking again. It feels like forever since I was organised in the kitchen and I really need to get my act together before I go back to work in a couple of weeks!

Monday, 8 April 2013

#50books2013 - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Pilgrimage? Not that interested to be honest. Religion definitely not my cup of tea. Harold Fry? He doesn't sound that interesting, does he.

Really, Harold Fry isn't that interesting. He lead a static, boring life with his wife down in Kingsbridge on the South Coast. He doesn't seem to particularly mind - that is until he receives a letter from an old friend who he feels he let down many years previously who has cancer - he goes to post a letter back and thus starts the pilgrimage.

This book is about Harold - a stereotypical English man walking through England and stereotypical English towns and villages, meeting gloriously and wonderfully drawn characters on the way. It is a novel of British Idiosyncrasies at its best - especially towards the beginning g of the novel. Sadly, although I loved the book, I did feel like it lost momentum as more and more people joined Harold on his pilgrimage. However, the novel as a whole was great and I loved the story of Harold and Maureen, his wife, left behind uncertain of what is happening.

Road numbers, a journey you can follow on a map, descriptions of places you remember of previous holidays - and ones you file away in your mind for future ones... I really enjoyed reading this novel and would definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

#50books2013 - 10 word reviews

So, I've been ill this month (in case you missed it, lol!) and that means I've read lots of books that I just haven't had the time or energy to review - I thought I'd give myself a challenge to review all the books I've read so far this year in 10 words or less...

1. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - Paul Torday
Too much fishing - not all it's cracked up to be.

2. Bright Young Things - Scarlett Thomas
Interesting take on a 'horror' scenario - would read again.

3. Extras - Scott Westerfeld
Bit boring - not as great as I remember the trilogy.

4. The Secret Supper Club - Dana Bate
OK for chic lit - liked the foody theme.

5. The Tent, The Bucket and Me - Emma Kennedy
Funny remembering camping trips - got a bit samey.

6. Between the Lines - Jodi Picoult
Disappointing - took me ages to plough through it.

7. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce
Great start, loved it - lost momentum later but good book.

8. Starters - Lissa Price
YA -  easy to read and gripping in parts.

9. The Forbidden Queen - Anne O'Brien
OK but not Philippa Gregory.

10. Thursdays in the Park - Hilary Boyd
Went on too long - chic lit overload.

11. Matched - Ally Condle
Gripping - good concept - the new Hunger Games?

12. Crossed - Ally Condle
Good second book - characters interesting and likeable.

13. Reached - Ally Condle
Satisfying end to the trilogy.

What Happened Next...

So I was sent home from hospital on the 1st March (not the 29th Feb as I wrote in my last post, as that didn't exist this year, lol)

Saturday - I woke feeling much worse, my face was swollen again. We watched and waited for a bit, but in the end decided to go into A&E. I was checked out by a very nice man, but my observations (temp, bp, heart rate) were fine, and he said I just didn't seem that ill to him, it was probably just because I was off the IV. We had asked to see ENT when we got in, but were only seen by someone in A&E and sent home.

Sunday - I woke even worse. Overnight my throat had closed up more, my chest was more swollen. Now when I tried to swallow water, it was coming ack up out of my nose. I was somehow still able to swallow tablets so was trying to keep taking my meds, but they weren't doing anything and I was terrified my airway would start to close up. Needless to say we headed into A&E that morning. I was put straight back onto IV fluids, antibiotics, steroids and painkillers. I was also put straight on the list for a CT scan, an operation was likely. We made it up to the ward about 12 ish I think, although I was pretty out of it. I was scanned maybe around 3, and put on the urgent theatre list for 7pm that night. Sometime inbetween the scan and the operation an anaesthetist came to see me, because my throat was so swollen and I couldn't open my mouth it was going to be hard to get an airway down. They would have to put a tube through my nose whilst I was still awake. That was probably the most horrible part of anything that happened in hospital. Of course, I knew it was necessary, but it was truly, truly horrible. As I was wheeled up to theatre we travelled through a part of the hospital that was dark, and felt somewhat like a multistorey carpark ramp - people were silhouetted in doorways with bright lights behind them - it was incredibly surreal and I'm glad Ian was with me or I might have found it a bit scary. When we arrived at theatre we had to wait for the surgeon who was coming over from Bristol to operate on me. Theatre was also surreal - just like on TV, and the anaesthetists were so jolly, joking with me - I guess that's what you do when you work with terrified people all day! Before long it was done and I awoke in a nearly-deserted room. My neck wasn't really painful - I guess it had been so swollen and sore before it probably felt like a relief - my nose, however was really sore, and I had a canula in my hand they must have put in during the operation that really hurt. The drains were in and I would continue to drain until it started to go  down.

The next few days are a bit of a blur. I had 4 nights in hospital, and I was moved 3 times (including the two times I was moved previously, that's 5 times in 6 nights). I felt vulnerable and lonely. I woke every morning hoping on the one hand they would send me home, but on the other hand terrified for a repeat of what had already happened - being sent home only to get sicker and sicker was a horrible experience. The day after the operation the doctors almost removed the drains - but decided to leave them in a little longer. This turned out to be a lucky decision as there was still a lot of infection in there. In fact it had travelled down to my chest and needed to be pushed towards the drains to help it to come out. In the end, the drains came out on Thursday, although they left the wound open and unstitched to allow it to drain further.

It's now the 20th of March - almost a month after I first felt ill. I'm still exhausted, although my parents were able to leave me to it and I am flying solo with the boys. It's great to be home of course, but terrifying how a month of your life can just be taken out of your hands with no warning. When I came home, Archie was a different boy! A boy, not a baby! Luckily, he is back nursing again and my milk is starting to come back in. I've found it scary being a mum again, I'm second guessing myself all the time, particularly where Archie is concerned. Is it right to start nursing him so much when he has taken to food so well? Is his sleeping worse when I'm around? I also feel terribly guilty that Ian has had to take on so much - the night wakes, washing, housework - I'm just still not quite up to doing everything I usually do. He has been fantastic - a support to me through everything and fulfilling the role of both parents to the boys. My parents, of course, were also amazing - dropping their lives to come to my side and to take over everything that Ian couldn't manage whilst he was trying to split himself between the hospital, work and home.

There's just one thing left to say - thank god it's all over. Or nearly all over - can't wait for my neck to heal up so I can wash my hair properly again!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Bobchat - beaster

H - look what I've got daddy, look! (Shows daddy a picture he found at toddlers) look- beaster eggs!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

My week - 23rd Feb - 29th Feb

I started writing this when in hospital, and I'm just getting around to finishing it - it might take a couple of posts...

Saturday - decided not to do my 5k run as I was feeling slightly coldly. Had Ian's parents and felt reasonably normal.

Sunday - went out to the park even though I was feeling rough and it was so so so freezing. I soon felt even worse. My throat became unbearably painful and I never thought I would make it home to be honest. We went to the coffee shop and I managed to swallow down the most painful hot chocolate ever and tried to eat some muffin but it was too hard. We to home and I basically went to bed for the rest of the day. My childminder Nicola kindly agreed to have Harry for the morning.

Monday - it was immediately clear that I was much worse. I seriously regretted not going to out of hours - it's much easier when you have little ones and one parent can watch the kids. Not only was there no way I was carrying Archie anywhere (I wasn't even safe going up and down stairs - I had to go on my bottom like a toddler, and once down Daddy brought is Harry's toddler bed mattress down so I could lie and watch the poor baby play. I couldn't talk, sing, smile or play poor treasure. I called the doctor and she prescribed co-codamol and an anaesthetis throat spray. Sadly, looking back I think these only served to mask the symptoms in this case and really made the matter worse. in hindsight I should have got my husband to take me to out of hours but the doctor's advice was not to
worry and I was so ill I didn't want to move. Ian came home early and I went to bed.

Tuesday - I woke feeling dreadful. My face was horrendously swollen and 'mumpy'. I got on the phone to NHS direct as soon as possible - they called me back at half 8 by which time I was on hold to my Doctor's Surgery. I managed to hear her say 'You must see the GP this morning and if they can't see you go straight to A &E - I suspect a quinsy' 'a what?' I think and quickly pass the information onto the receptionist who booked me in for 9.40, a perfect 10 minutes after dropping the big boy off to the childminder. He suspected mumps but still prescribed antibiotics as he wasn't sure. At least Ian was working from home but work means work and I had to give him a chance to do that. I tried to hard but had to give up. I went up to bed. My paretns agreed to come up.

Wednesday -  My dad took me to the doctor again. My chest had become red, puffy, painful and swollen. My throat was worse. The earliest I could get an appointment was 3pm. He called ENT and sent me to A&E. My husband met me there. I was admitted although the first doctor was a bit confused, saying 'We don't usually admit people who can swallow!' I had cameras stuck down my throat through my nose, a needle in my mouth to try to extract any infection and a canula inserted to have IV antibiotics, steroids and fluids. I had to huddle on a hard A&E trolley with no pillow (not nice with a horrendously swollen face) until they found me a bed. I finally got to a bed around 3am ish I think.

Thursday - I was in hospital getting pumped full of drugs. I was in the Medical Assessment Unit -   and to be honest, it's not the most pleasant place to spend time, but I was just relieved to be getting a little better. I was moved to a side room off another ward at 3am. I got a little bit of sleep before being woken at 6am for my antibiotics!

Friday - The doctors came around and I was much better - the swelling on my face and chest had receded. They decided to let me go home with oral antibiotics and painkillers and approved my discharge. I was asked to vacate the room asap and wait in the waiting room as they needed my bed so I had a wash and moved over waiting for my husband to arrive. We left at about lunch time and headed home where I went to bed. It was a massive relief to see my babies, and Archie nursed briefly. I was still too poorly to care for them much though. We were hopeful that we may still make one night of our holiday that was booked Saturday night-Monday night.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Recipe Review - Lamb Koftas

I've been loving the My Daddy Cooks Recipe book over the last couple of weeks, and I'll be really disappointed when I have to take it back to the library. In fact, I'm pretty sure that a copy will be winging its way to us very soon, as the recipes we have tried so far are definitely set to be family favourites.


The first recipe I am going to review is that for Lamb Koftas. My husband actually cooked these, so I'm afraid I can't comment too much on the process itself - other than he said they were quite easy - only shelling the pomegranate took time, and you could buy that prepared to speed things up. Certainly, the other recipes I have tried from the book are very simple to prepare and cook - I really think you can tell the book has been written by a parent of a small child!

I can, however comment on the taste. In fact, neither of us really like lamb, but we had bought it 'for a change' - and I am happy to say we are converted. The koftas were DELICIOUS - we loved being able to construct our own concoctions and the pomegranate was to die for. If you like things like fajitas where you build up your own meal, you will love this dish. Even the fussy toddler tried some (although he refused the pomegranate even though he would have loved it guaranteed, oh well, better luck next time).

I'll be reviewing the other recipes we tried - Sticky Baked Salmon, Mexican Lasagne and the delicious Peanut Butter Brownies very soon. And I can't wait to try his 'Fruit Popovers' one weekend for breakfast. But if the words 'Peanut Butter Brownies' don't persuade you to check out the book yourself, I'm not sure what else I can say!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Bobchat - trick

M - do you know where you are going today? You are going somewhere special with Nicola!
H - I going on a trick to see animals!
M - a trip, yes you're going on a trip!
H - no mummy, a trick!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

#TheGallery - Boys



 
This is my first time joining the 'gallery' linky, and I'm afraid it's really not a great photo! But I guess that's not what it's all about (although I will try to produce some better photos in the future - hand on heart I really will!) This photo sums up my little world right now though - proudd mum to two little boys - no longer mum to one boy and a baby. I could just as easily label this photo 'brothers'. Don't they look happy here - my two little partners in crime? But in five minutes time you could just as easily see a photo of Archie yanking Harry's hair, Harry pushing Archie away. Or maybe Harry trying to feed Archie something whilst he squirms in his seat desperate to get away.
 
Boys:
mischief-makers
food-stealers
car-players
cuddle-lovers
mess-creators
brother-pushers
mummy-kissers
daddy-worshippers
my boys
 
To see the blog hosting this linky and the other entries, head on over to Sticky Fingers.
 

Bobchat - fork truck

H - (arms under Archie) heave!
M - Harry, I've told you lots of times, you can't pick up Archie!

H looks at me with sad puppy-dog eyes.

H - I'm just trying to be a fork truck mummy.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Fun Lunches - Faces

Those of you with a fussy toddler will no doubt be adept at doing anything at all to get something other than a chocolate bar, chips or something that comes breaded and fried past their angelic little lips. I'm often so proud of my artistic concoctions that I take a photo and thought I'd post some here:

First up - the faces!

Homemade breaded turkey 'nuggets' made into burgers with sliced  brown bread. Sweet potato wedges for ears, banana nose and pear teeth.


A baby lunch - this was Archie's the other day - two butter puffs spread with cream cheese and raisins for the pupils, clementine segments arranged for hair and apple for a smile.
 
Face dinner - pizza toast with peas, banana and baby sweetcorn
 
Mushroom hair, tomato eyes, cooked chicken ears and sweetcorn nose and mouth on a scone pizza base.
 

Monday, 18 February 2013

#mealplanningmonday

Monday- Homemade Pizza and Dough Balls
Tuesday - Spaghetti Bolognese
Wednesday - Sausage and Mash
Thursday - Chilli Con Carne with Nachos and dips
Friday - Club Sandwiches
Saturday - Steak and Chips
Sunday - Roast

#snaphappybritmums - Milestones

My biggest boy starting to meet a pretty massive milestone earlier this year (we're still working on it ;-) )

Saturday, 16 February 2013

#MADBlogAwards

MAD Blog Awards

I made my nominations a couple of weeks ago. I thought long and hard about the blogs I most enjoy reading - the blogs that as an extremely new blogger I would love to emulate. I carefully considered the different categories and tried to fit my nominations to them.

And you know what? I am unbelievably proud that someone has done the same for me! I hope you are reading this post! Thank you so much.

I enjoy writing my blog, and that's the most important thing, but when people ask me why I blog (in that bemused manner I'm sure other bloggers will recognise), it's sometimes tricky to explain. I don't want to be famous, but it is a little more than just a record of our day to day activities - it's nice to know that there are a few readers out there - my friends, my family and also people I've never met - who enjoy reading what I have written. And nothing beats the buzz of my my phone notifying me of a new comment.

So thank you to my nominator! You've given me the confidence to keep going, and let me know that someone out there thinks that what I'm doing here is pretty good :-)

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Bobchat - bogey nose

Out in the kitchen making a cup of tea - Harry rushes in. I can hear Archie crying in the lounge.

M - what's wrong with Archie? Is he ok?
H - yes, I just picked his bogey nose.

*sigh* any idea how second and subsequent children survive the attention of their older siblings?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

#50books2013 Extras by Scott Westerfeld

I have just finished Extras by Scott Westerfeld. It is the fourth in the series also including Uglies, Pretties and Specials. They are Young Adult novels and are set in the future where bodymodification or 'surge' in the extreme is the norm. In fact, when you hit 16 you are transformed from an 'ugly' to a 'pretty'.

This concept allows Westerfeld to deal with many topics pertinent to today's teenagers, and Extras continues this exploration. In fact, Extras is particularly pertinent to my life right now as I have just started blogging and Extras is really a novel that focuses on social media and its effect on us. In Aya's world, your 'face rank' is all that is important. The city is run on a reputation economy - if you are famous you get what you want. It doesn't take a great stretch of the imagination to see what Westerfeld is saying about our own, real life, society.

I remember being completely hooked on the earlier novels when I read them a few years ago - they 'caught' me in a similar way to The Hunger Games trilogy. I just couldn't reignite that enthusiasm for Extras though. I'm not sure what it was - the writing style, the topic or perhaps that I am just not 'feeling' Young Adult fiction at the moment but I wasn't reaching for my book as frequently as I expected to. Of course, I did read to the end and I did enjoy it, but I just didn't really feel connected to the characters or even that involved in the storyline...

So, the series is worth a look if that's your sort of thing and you fancy a light read but maybe these ones are best left for the younger readers.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

#R2BC Reasons to be Cheerful - Silver Linings

I'm feeling like a good blogger this week - here I am again! I really don't know how I am going to keep up the blogging when I go back to work but hopefully I will be on a roll by then.

Yesterday was one of *those* days, but today we have got back into the swing of things and I know I have loads to be cheerful about this week - I've decided to blog about those two-sided things that are a bit ambivalent - let's call this a silver lining post.

1. As you can see from yesterday's post, Harry split his head open yesterday. I would be an evil mum if I was cheerful about that, right? Well... obviously I'm not happy he hurt himself (although your first trip to A and E is a bit of a milestone - and one he has beaten me to I think!) and aside from the 'I'm thankful it wasn't worse', I have actually found some things to be cheerful about! First, Harry was a absolute angel at the hospital. I was so, so proud of him! He was so grown up whilst the nurse cleaned him up and attached the steri strip. I really could have burst with pride - he is only two after all, and it must have been a bit scary. Even though I was trying to keep myself calm, I was, admittedly, in a bit of a state. Secondly, I was really reminded of the goodness of human nature yesterday. Really, the people working at Splodges Softplay could not have been kinder to me - dishing me up a 'crisis cup' of tea and really helping me calm down. Equally, the nurses at the hospital really took the time to check I was OK, and I'm sure that's not easy in a busy A and E department. So there was actually quite a lot to be cheerful about!

2. Archie destroyed and ate the Poinsettia that was in the fireplace yesterday. Please don't tell me they are poisonous as I am already feeling like a bad mother! Ian whipped the vacuum cleaner out (bless him) and cleared up for me as I imagine our white rug looked like it had seen better days. So, what makes me cheerful about him trashing the place? Well, it means my little tiny baby is growing up and getting independent - last night he demonstrated his commando crawling that he has been keeping sneakily under wraps (hence the poinsettia incident). That is, of course, bittersweet - but who doesn't want to see their little ones making leaps and bounds of progress?

I'm looking forward to reading everyone's Reasons to be Cheerful this week - please leave a comment here if you've read mine - especially if you have any silver lining reasons to be cheerful :-)

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Harry's First Trip to A&E

As there appears to be no page in Harry's baby book for 'My First Trip to A&E' or 'My First Serious Bump', I thought I'd better commemorate it here. Today was that day.

This morning we were sat at home with Harry going 'Mummy, what you got to tell me?' which translates to 'Mummy, what fabulous, fun and educational ideas do you have for activities today, that I will enjoy, relish and be enriched by?' and I just didn't have an answer. Luckily after a quick post on my birth board we had a play date with Harry's best bud lined up at one of the local soft plays - Splodges. It was our first visit, and it's a lovely place to go if you're local, it's small and best suited to younger ones I'd say with lots of toys suitable for under fives and a nice area for babies to play which Archie really appreciated.

Within 5 minutes Harry was up at the top of the soft play and wanted to go down the slide. Unfortunately this is a very fast slide, and god knows what happened, but he managed to bump himself on the head at the bottom. After a quick cuddle and kiss he jumped off and ran to play again. I can only guess that I was too quick to scoop him up and check him though as I totally missed that he had split the skin along his brow bone - the next time I saw him come around the corner I could see it was bleeding. The first aiders were on hand with a cold compress - but it you've even tried to hold a cold compress to the head of a 2 1/2 year old who feels absolutely fine and just wants to play with the cozy coupe then you'll know it's a pretty thankless task. I was persuaded that he was 'just fine' and off he ran to play. I, however, was a quivering wreck. Thank god for the friendly staff who settled me down with a cuppa and refused to let me pay.

Every time I saw him a felt the dreaded mum-guilt - what was I supposed to do? He was having a brilliant time, Archie was asleep and the thought of manhandling the two of them into the car filled me with horror. I have to say the idea of a long wait at A&E only to be told that he was fine wasn't exactly tempting either. However, in the end I did just let mummy-instinct take over and after a text to a friend who is a nurse I decided to get him lunch to go and head off to the hospital.

At the hospital I burst into tears, I felt so guilty I hadn't brought him as soon as it happened. But thank god for nurses, they were so, so lovely and assauged my guilt. At least we knew that Harry was acting completely normally and it wouldn't affect the healing process at all. Harry settled down to his takeaway lunch in the waiting room and before long a steristrip was adorning his eyebrow. He was an absolute angel whilst it was cleaned, and stayed nice and still whilst the strip was applied. And here he is enjoying the fromage frais that 5 minutes later was decorating the sofa *sigh*. A mummy's work is truly never done.



Monday, 4 February 2013

#mealplanmonday

Monday - Bacon, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Hash - (from a freebie mag I picked up in Sainsbury's last week)
Tuesday - Club Sandwiches (lazy freezer tea)
Wednesday - Chinese to celebrate Chinese New Year! (I know it's not the right date but this is the night hubby is home late and Harry sometimes eats separately to us so it's a good day to eat something he won't have)
Thursday - Pork Stroganoff (from My Daddy Cooks cook book - we didn't get around to it last week but everything we did do from the book was amazingly yummy)
Friday - Toad in the Hole
Saturday - Pizza and Popcorn Picnic
Sunday - Roast

Bobchat - Something to tell you...

H -  (Rushing in) Mummy, mummy I've got something to tell you!
M - What have you got to tell me?
H - Jacob's mummy... (tries to remember something that happened at toddlers earlier that day)
M - Yes?
H - Jacob's mummy wearing glasses, just like you mummy!

(OK then! That was super urgent :-/)

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Liebster Award

Julie from Mama Owl has kindly nominated me for the 'Liebster Award' - This award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers who deserve acknowledgement and encouragement to keep on blogging.

The rules are as follows:
List 11 facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions given to you.
Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
Choose 5 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.
Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award.

Facts:

1. I turned 30 last year (and actually don't feel too bad about that!)
2. I am one of 6 girls - the youngest.
3. I have 12 (nearly 13!) nieces and nephews, and they are all GORGEOUS.
4. I am an English Teacher.
5. I specialise in supporting students with Dyslexia.
6. I live in Wiltshire...
7. But come from Cornwall...
8. And I was born in Devon.
9. When I was a baby my parents took us to Australia for a year on a teaching exchange - I'd love to do something similar one day.
10. My favourite type of holiday is a camping holiday.
11. I always find the last item in a list the most difficult ;-)

1) Would you rather drink hot or cold drinks? I am a complete tea addict (although I rarely seem to get to drink a hot cup!)
2) What's your favourite type of blog to read? I love family blogs like Mama Owl - I love the variety of different posts. I also love cooking blogs like My Daddy Cooks and blogs that give my acitivity ideas for the kids - favourites are No Time For Flashcards and The Imagination Tree. I guess that's why my blog is becoming a mish mash of all 3.
3) What's your favourite type of blog to write? I like to write about things I have done with the boys, whether that by days out or activities. I also love #r2bc to give me some perspective on life.
4) What is your ideal night out? (Or night in if you prefer) We love to go out to eat as a family. Pizza Express is a real family fave.
5) Who inspires you the most? Gosh, probably got to be soppy and say the boys - who else can learn things at that rate and find the incredible in the mundane. Gotta love the little ones' perpective on life!
6) What's your favourite all time movie? Hmmm... I always love the movie Legally Blonde - it kept me smiling in a really tough time. Can't fight the memories I get when watching Bring It On. But WALLE is the best love story ever.
7) One amazing meal, it can be anything in the world, what would you have? Scallops and bacon to start, a perfectly cooked fillet steak and probably no pudding... but if I had to pick a pudding creme brulee.
8) The house is on fire! You can only grab 2 things, what would you take? (excluding family & pets) Photos if I could get to them and Harry's doggy.
9) Money and travel are no object, where in the world would you travel to? Australia and Hawaii for definite. We also really hope to take the boys to Yellowstone National Park one day.
10) If you were a superhero, what would your super-power be? To be able to turn back and slow time. (Where's Bernard's Watch when you need it?)
11) What is your favourite quote? Quote? Hmm. I don't have one to be honest and as soon as I picked one I'd find something I liked better, so I'm not going to commit to that here! I once read 'If you see someone who needs a friend, be one' - I really took that to heart, as there have been times in my life when I've really needed a friend. Sometimes someone has been there, and it has made all the difference. I'd like to make that difference to someone else.

Here are the 2 blogs I am nominating (I'm such a newbie to blogging myself I don't seem to know enough other bloggers to nominate the 5 I have been asked to!)  Beautiful Things and All Things Me.

EDIT also adding Strawberry Delight and Adventures of an Average Mummy

Here are your questions:
1. What's your favourite drink?
2. If you had £200 to spend on yourself, what would you spend it on right now?
3. What's your favourite season?
4. What's your favourite colour?
5. Who have you been closest to in your life?
6. Do you have a recurring dream? What is it?
7. What sort of bed do you have, and what is on it right now?
8. What's you favourite meal to cook for yourself?
9. Who was your celebrity crush as a teenager?
10. What is your secret talent?
11. Describe the last time you felt really happy.

Looking forward to reading your answers!