Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Once upon a time in London town...

It's been a while since we've been able to participate in Country Kids so it was with great delight that last week during half term me and the boy went for a day out in blazing sunshine and had some outdoor adventures.

We were invited to an event where the children took part in storytelling activities and dressed up as characters. My boy loved his cape and tried on many hats during the morning.

On our way back to King's Cross Station we discovered these beautiful fountains - it's so nice to find a treat like this hidden behind somewhere you've been so many times.

Even better as we had a little bit of time to spare when we did get to St Pancras station I asked if my boy wanted to go on this swing that was right in the station forecourt. It was like a big birdcage and with the sun streaming through the bars it was just lovely.

Of course being my boy, he decided that the bars made a perfect fireman's pole to slide down. I'll say this much for my boy, he's single-minded in his career pursuits.

Finally on our way back home we had a sneaky look behind this sign - it was no more exciting than a broken down escalator, but my boy still wanted to check it out.

It was so much fun to enjoy the sun and spend the day out and about with my boy. We're all back at school and work this week so I'm glad we made the most of the chance last week. 

This post is shared with the Country Kids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Sunday, 22 February 2015

I'm a mother: you'd better believe it !!

This afternoon we went to our first Build-a-Bear workshop party and my boy made a fabulous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (or Ginger Turtle as he called it) bear complete with fighting swords. It was great fun - we even managed to sneak some stuffing into his bedraggled old bear so he now looks less like the 'before' bear story and more like he used to in his glory days. 

At the pizzeria afterwards there was an incident with hot tea and me running over to a sink carrying my 4 year old boy to run cold water over his arms to prevent scalding. All the other parents were watching and one lovely Mum stood close by with her tiny baby reassuring me that he was ok - afterwards I realised that she is a medical professional. 

At the tram stop going home I was shaking as I phoned Hubbie to tell him what had happened. As soon as I rang off I burst into tears. I crouched down to my son's level and kept repeating over and over, "I'm so sorry." He touched my face and said, "It's ok Mummy, don't cry."

When I have to be I'm tough, practical and have the strength of Hercules. What I am all the time is my son's mother. More than any other time I feel the need to listen to this song tonight:

Friday, 20 February 2015

Friday I'm in love - with my magical boy

This afternoon I made that error that isn't the end of the world but makes you feel a bit cross when it happens. I was in the queue that looked shortest, but turned out to be a woman who was paying separately for 4 loads of shopping. While I sighed, told my boy for the 15th time to stop climbing onto the shopping trolley and pondered how I'd managed to visit Sainsburys 3 times in two days I spotted a familiar woman at the next till. She wasn't looking over so I had a good look to see if she was who I thought she was. Her hair was blonder and she looked a bit heavier than when I last saw her (we both are), but it was definitely her. We worked in the same office in Wimbledon in 1995 - I used to stop and talk to her on reception on the way to my desk. K was glamorous and I remember her dark bobbed hair and bright red lipstick. She was like a friendlier Magenta Devine.

As I packed my shopping my son kept calling over, "Mummy, Mummy, look over here. Look over here Mummy," as he stood in front of the kiddy vending machines festooned with pictures of Minions, Elsa and assorted other characters. I noticed that K was still there too so decided to wait and talk to her when she had also finished packing. As she did I called over, "K ? We used to work together a while back. It's Swazi." She smiled, but clearly didn't remember me. Well it was 20 years ago so it's hardly surprising really. We pushed our trollies outside the store and stood chatting - all the while my son was climbing onto the side of my trolly and I kept telling him not to.

I asked her how she was and it all flooded back to me. Her husband B and how they were struggling to have a baby. How I went to her house for waxing as part of her training to be a beautician and she told me about their difficulties conceiving and that their Christian faith gave them strength to cope. As we talked today and she told me about the failed IVF and how they eventually accepted they would not have children and they settled on a 'selfish' life. This lovely woman who wasn't in the least bit selfish then and still isn't. As we said goodbye we hugged and my boy gave her a cuddle that she was kind enough to be delighted by. It was a salutary lesson for me.

I've been beating myself up a lot lately for being a rubbish parent. For getting angry, for not being around enough, for not cooking proper meals, well just everything really. Even today I was losing patience with my boy as he tried on school shoes and moaned that he was too tired to put his own shoes back on. I found it all a bit much that he asked me to save his wedges so he could eat them later and when we got back in the car he'd changed his mind so we sat in a car that smelled like fried food. On the ride home he burst into tears as I switched over the radio station so I could listen to the Archers repeat because he wanted to hear his 'favourite song.'* Sigh.

For all that I complain about how bad I am at parenting or how annoying my boy is - or worry that Hubbie sustained a head injury last week and hasn't been quite himself since - I'm grateful that I have both of them. That I have the good fortune to have found a mini packet of love hearts in the car that made my boy so very happy when I said he could eat them. That my lovely neighbour popped round for our weekly cup of tea and a catch up and brought a Tonka fire rescue truck for my boy.

Mostly I'm glad I stopped to talk to K and that I remembered what we had shared. When I knew her me and Hubbie hadn't even met yet. She opened up to me about the pain and heartache of infertility and I had no idea that years later I would be in exactly the same situation in my own marriage. I've thought of her occasionally over the years since and wondered what had happened to her and B. I had no idea I'd ever see her again, with my son, on a day that I felt overwhelmed and underpowered.

The son that for a long time I thought I'd never have. Who I love with a ferocity and a joy that I didn't know was possible. This boy who made K's face light up today when he beamed at her and waved goodbye with a cheery, "Bye, see you later."

It's like he's magic.

*mostly Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg or anything else that gets played incessantly on XFM.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

How to have a happy half-term

You may have noticed I've been a bit quieter than usual on here. If not then why not ? Self-involved much ? Anyway, the combination of working full time and half term have been pretty challenging. Not helped by a last minute cancellation of one of the activities we had been relying on to help us with childcare. So, I've been thinking about how to keep the boy occupied, not least as a warm up for the longer Easter break and then the even longer summer holiday. Family have been amazing and he stayed with my parents and his auntie and uncle for a few days. They kept him very busy and he came home happy and tired, but he also missed us (yay !).

We always love to do things like going to kids club movies, craft activities and even the occasional outdoor trip. However, I also want him to have a proper break from school so some days we just want to hang around at home and do things that are fun, but don't involve travel. 

You will probably already know about Snapfish. They are the company that produce photo gifts, cards, wall art and calendars that when we first had our son we bombarded our family with. That first Christmas each family member got a photo album of photos of our beloved first born and in subsequent years they've had calendars, canvas collages, mugs and even t-shirts with photos on. The print quality is great and they arrive really quickly so I'm a big fan. All our thank you cards were from Snapfish this year with a collage of images of our son and a lovely thank you message in chalkboard style on the back. I also made a lovely valentine's card using images of me and Hubbie from the last ten years and I've designed mother's day cards for both grandmothers containing lovely photos of their favourite (and currently only) grandson and ordered some glossy copies of his school photos for them to keep and treasure too. All of these were delivered to me within a week, but for for an additional charge they will deliver direct to your recipient. 

In case you're not sure what this has to do with half term they also do some great - and completely free - printables online. These include characters and themes (eg. princes and princesses) and even some party kits so you can produce everything from invitations and thank you cards to bunting and personalised items like pirate or princess themed accessories for guests. They also have a range of printable cards so you can make and print at home if you can't wait. 

I'm going to drop some heavy hints that I'd like Hubbie to do some of the Mother's Day activities with our boy. These include origami flowers and a very tempting French country breakfast in bed kit. I think they can multi-task just this once can't they ? 

The other lifesaving half term helper we have discovered has been Amazon Fire TV. We set it up in our bedroom as the reception in there has always been poor so we thought having an online streaming service would be a better option. It's linked to my Amazon account so I can download apps to it online and as we have a Amazon Prime subscription there are lots of shows and movies that we can access for free too. The kit itself is compact and very sleek. I've been having great fun using the voice activated remote to choose programmes. We haven't tried to gaming controller yet, but I suspect that will be on the cards at some point during half term. 

It's proven to be a great decision to use this upstairs and in the morning when we aren't at work or school we can all lie in bed and watch movies or shows together with a better picture quality than we ever had before. The best feature for me is the memory as I rarely watch something in one sitting (I get to see about 5-10 minutes a day which isn't really the best way to watch a movie is it ?) so being able to go back and pick up where I left off is really helpful. At the moment I'm part way through 'The Watch' and my boy is back to back viewing 'Justin and the knights of valour' and they are both saved where we last left off watching. It's great having so many choices to watch and you can save up things to watch later. 

I think we'll be pretty prepared for the Easter break and look forward to even more fun with my boy both in and out of the house. 

The lovely folks and Snapfish sent us a voucher code to try out their products.
The lovely folks at Amazon Fire TV sent us the kit to try out.
All views are honest and no payment has been received. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Not so much hearts and flowers as bolognese and bowling

So, after taking Hubbie breakfast in bed and going for run, I helped my boy make some valentines:


He carefully and precisely glued on some beautiful hearts and wrote lovely messages on the back.

My mini Mr Maker

We also made some chocolate crispy cake and the boy decorated then with mini marshmallows and glittery sprinkles:

Lucky lovely ladies

We all had a romantic spaghetti bolognese for dinner then the valentines were given to his lovely babysitters. Meanwhile me and Hubbie went bowling:

Snazzy shoes 

Hubbie made a strong start:

Let's Bowl !! 

Then this happened - yep I got a double strike !! 

Well, blow me down !

I'm pretty sure it's this sporty stance that worked in my favour: 

Watch me go !!

What do you know ? I won the game !!

Yep, that's me - the winner !!

Despite this face Hubbie was not - in fact - a sore loser :)

So not gloating that I won (ok, yes I am gloating) 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Everything I've learned about love - and cats.

Ok, so it's Valentine's Day this weekend tacked helpfully in front of half term. On the basis that you probably love someone (whether you are with them or not) and that you love your kids (if you have them) this is a pretty big week for love. To that end I've been doing my research about love and what's it all about and what do you know someone shared a little gem on Facebook about the four types of love according to Tony Robbins. You know him. He's the life coach who looks like a man mountain and in the movie Shallow Hal he showed Jack Black the error of his ways in judging women by their appearances. Anyway, he appeared on Oprah talking about these four main types of love and I was fascinated so I thought I'd share them with you.

Baby love: Ok it sounds lovely, but this is where someone's love is all about them and so long as you give them whatever they want they will love you. Only as long as you keep giving them what they want. It's forgivable when the person doing it is small and cute and looks like you - or someone you love who made the small person with you. Narcissism and Oxytocin ensure that newborn babies don't get left out in the cold to starve when all they do is demand milk, cuddles, nappy changing and generally deprive their loved ones of sleep and sanity. When a grown person does it it's manipulative and unkind. When a cat does it no one says a thing because, well it's a cat.

Go ahead son, demand all you want.
Horsetrading: Loving someone in return for something. So you will be loved by this person so long as they know that there is a payoff in it for them somewhere along the line. Now, Tony also calls this whoring, but I think that's a bit harsh. In the beginning of a relationship you are placing a lot of trust in the other person that they will be honest with you and that they will put as much into the relationship as you do. In some instances you are putting yourself out there and taking risks knowing it might not pay off. If you've never been in a relationship that hasn't paid off then you are one lucky soul. Or, you've never lived with a cat.

True Love: The one where you are equal and love each other with no agenda. Ok, maybe it's not perfect, but it's pretty much as good as it gets. When me and Hubbie celebrated our first Christmas we had only been seeing each other for a few months so it was with some shock that we realised that we'd both bought each other the same number of gifts and almost exactly the same sorts of things. We both bought each other books about music, an item of hardware (please don't ask) and some other things that we were really amazed at having got the same of. I think it was a pretty good sign that we were meant to be. (ok, ok, sick bags away now). A cat will convince you that they truly love you until you realise they also say that to the lovely lady two doors down from you.

The look of love - or something :)
Spiritual Love: Tony describes this as epitomised by Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Someone who is able to send love to those who have hurt them and the ones they love. It's not being walked all over, but it's a level of love that surpasses what most of us can deal with unless we are very magnanimous indeed. I aspire to being able to love those who have hurt me. I am nowhere near that yet, but if I get there I will be sure to let you know. A cat will make you think it's forgiven you for stepping on it's tail earlier in the day and then when you least expect it you'll get a swipe - claws and all - or find a pile of sick by the front door. Thanks cat - I still love you. Oh look, I'm there :)

So, now we know what love is we can go forth into this big love weekend fully armed with all the information. I tried to describe Valentine's Day to my son as he wrote cards for his teachers and enclosed a chocolate heart inside each one. He gleefully handed them to the teachers today saying, "it's got a chocolate inside. You can eat it."

I think he has a pretty good handle on this love stuff :)

The perfect motto for life

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

£200 for a bunch of flowers ? No thanks.

I know there's a cynical school of thought that says Valentine's Day is a rip off designed to part gullible lovebirds from their money. To be fair it is a bit hinky that restaurants pretty much force you to have a set menu instead of the food you usually eat when you go there and charge you double for the privilege. It's also the biggest day of the year (it's a close run thing with Mothering Sunday) for florists with all the red roses being flown in specially from Africa to ensure that there are plenty of dozens to go round. I was horrified to see one bouquet on sale in a store I love very much for £200 !!!

If you need to spell it out
(Wilko Word Love £6) 
Anyway, all that said we do try to do something nice and we do buy gifts for each other. A friend of ours once said, " you two are so lovely dovey" which made us laugh as we don't think we are especially. However, we do make a point of having regular 'date nights' and we do nice things for each other. Over the years we've been together we've accumulated some things we use every year like our heart embossed flutes that were bought for a joke and are now a tradition. The tiny heart shaped lights that freak the cat out and any number of Love Heart themed gifts - that's Love Hearts the sweets from the seventies of course.

So many hearts
(Wilko Wooden Heart Frame £12)
However, don't despair if you haven't already bought something nice for someone - or for yourself - you still have time. The lovely folks at Wilko sent us some items from their love collection. I particularly liked the snack bowls shaped like hearts. I'd use them for sweets, but I think you can use them for dips too. The photo frame in the shape of a heart is big and has lots of different apertures so you can create a collage of images for your loved one. If you want to spell out how much you love them you can also get the fabric letters that come complete with velcro tabs to put them up on the wall.  None of these gifts are pricey or require a loved one to give them to, you can treat yourself. After all, Whitney Houston did say that learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

Sweet treats
(Wilko Heart Dip bowls and Tray Set £4.50)
We don't usually go out on Valentine's Day, but this year we have babysitting for Saturday evening and for a while there we had no idea what to do. All the restaurants we like are doing set menus - so that's a no then - and we considered standing down our neighbour in favour of dim sum at home. Then inspiration struck - tenpin bowling !! Hubbie took our boy bowling a few weeks back and I was so jealous as we haven't been for years and I do love it. So, it's booked and we'll be wearing silly shoes and breaking nails - well mostly that's just me really.

Cheers :) 
I'd say that's the height of romance wouldn't you ?

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Wilko sent us some gift items free of charge - they are all available to buy in store or online.