Monday, 29 June 2015

"Are we nearly there yet ?" repeat to fade....

Someone hit my car (with me and Baby Boy in it) on Friday. As a result we missed a great friend's wedding at the weekend and I still feel terrible about it. Then I realised that I had been given the gift of an extra day with my boys. It was an unscheduled Sunday at home that started with waffles for breakfast and hanging out together with no plans. I'm not used to days that like so it was a real bonus.

It turned out to be great practice for being on holiday. Years ago I wasn't able to relax at all, then I met Hubbie. Before we met I'd have a long list of expectations from my holiday and would feel like a failure if I hadn't done all of them by the end. It meant I'd stick to the itinerary regardless and not be spontaneous at all. As a result I'd have tonnes of photos, but I wouldn't necessarily have had a great time. It was when we were in Rome and I was feeling guilty about wanting to have a lie in that he said, "Rome will still be there tomorrow. Relax. That's what a holiday is for." This was before we had kids - of course. In the days when it's about taking it easy, wandering round the souks in Marrakesh and buying ethnic tat, riding the Gondolas at the Venetian casino in Las Vegas as a birthday treat and drinking martinis at lunchtime because we could. Now the thought of being able to go out for dinner in the evening on holiday is like a distant dream that I aspire to when the kids leave home. Being on holiday with kids is at worse an endurance exercise, at best a chance to see how many activities you can fit in to wear them out enough to get some quiet time in the evening to sit outside and have a drink in peace or watch a movie that isn't animated.

As we prefer to take our holidays in the UK we also have a fair bit of driving to contend with. I always plan ahead with snacks and drinks, movies and plenty of things to do with stops on the way to make sure we don't have any panic about needing to go to the toilet. It's our first break with Baby Boy too so this year I've called in reinforcements to assist with this aspect of the journey. We have a bigger car than usual to keep the boys apart so they don't try to thump each other when they get bored - good luck with that. Sun shades for when it's too bright outside the window, a seat back mirror that plays nursery tunes - including a night mode - for Baby Boy and a seat back organiser for Big Boy that he can keep his games and toys in so he doesn't lose them in the car. I've also got them both a 'snack pod' that has a no spill compartment for snacks and a cup holder. With the no spill cups that I've got for them both I hope this means we won't have too much back seat drama.

Of course there are no guarantees that the boys won't get bored, fight, spill stuff or generally create havoc, but with all these helpers I'm hoping to stave off at least some of the risks. Wish me luck.

What do you find helps keep your kids busy on holiday ?

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Munchkin sent us some of their fab travel helpers to make the car journey easier.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Brit mums live 2015 - in photos

So much happened at Britmums Live last weekend that it would take me weeks to process it all so I've put together some of my favourite memories to tide us over until I get to finding actual words. Suffice it to say I had a wonderful weekend talking to grown ups and drank every cup of tea I was given - neither of which never happens when I'm home. I was caffeinated to the max and I met and chatted to so many lovely blogger friends - some for the first time in real life. 

So in no particular order here's what happened:

As you already know my dream destination is Hawaii so in preparation I had my photo taken with a boogie board and lai - dream it to become it right ? 

Me holding a boogie board and wearing a lai - Hawaiian style

After the craziness of the ice breaker where I was wrapped in toilet paper in a world record attempt to wrap the most mummies (as mummies - get it ?) we found out we had done it and here I am with the certificate to prove it: 

Holding the official Guinness World Records certificate

On Saturday morning we talked pants with Carol Smilie - her new venture is Diary Doll pants for women and girls - a fantastic idea that isn't being talked about in mainstream media because it's about icky stuff that's about women things and periods. How ridiculous ! 

Carol Smilie and her talking pants session

So in the afternoon I decided to take some time out to do some knitting. All accompanied by these lovely singers. I have learned to knit cable - I am beyond proud of that - thanks to the lovely Helen from Coats and the ladies from Lady Sew and Sew.

me knitting vintage dressed singing group

The lovely Pippa from Story of Mum led my favourite session 'Embrace Happy' where we made gratitude hearts. I loved this activity and it was so nice to think about the things that make me happy and to give thanks for the people who I am grateful for.

craft heart made by me

That's all for now, but I'm still working on my cable knit cowl so I'll let you know when it's finished :)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Boys, your Daddy really is the best

Baby boy and Daddy watching the washing machine
Watching the washing machine
When we go to the card shops you know those cards that say 'Dad you're the best' or, 'My Daddy is awesome.' Well, they have never been my style and I don't really feel the sentiment in them for myself. I do, however, think you have every reason to give them to your Daddy and here's why:

Daddy is kind, caring and always puts us first - he wants you to be happy. 

Chocolate and cake make him happy beyond belief. Cake made of chocolate is... well, awesome ! 

Spending time with you boys is Daddy's idea of a great time. 

Baby boy, Daddy and Big boy holding hands at the Transport Museum
The London Transport Museum is our happy place 

I know how much he wishes he could be there for school assembly every week. So you cannot imagine how he felt last Friday when he saw Big Boy receive a silver star for helping a friend. I know that he was the proudest parent in the room. 

People think I'm the strong one, but I'm not. Daddy is the foundation of our family and he makes us all strong and keeps us safe.

Daddy is the silliest, funniest and cleverest man I know.

Daddy making a silly face while drinking through a straw
Daddy is a very serious man

He makes up songs to amuse you - he's been doing this since before Big Boy was born.

Peppa Pig is his favourite TV show.

There are so many reasons why Daddy is the best, but I can give you my number one reason. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have you two.

Happy Father's Day 

Friday, 19 June 2015

Guess where I was today ?

I was wrapped up in toilet paper for a world record attempt - I can now say with not a little pride that I am in the Guinness Book Of World Records for two different records. This one was for the most 'mummies' wrapped in toilet paper in 3 minutes. See what they did there ? Mummies and Mummies ? Very clever. Which is more than I can say for how I looked !

A mummified Mummy (yes it is me in there)
My personal highlight was actually meeting and being photographed with the Twirlywoos. If you don't have pre-school age children this will mean nothing to you. The names Great Big Hoo, Toodloo, Chickedy and Chick are like family members in our houses so my boys will b e delighted that I not only met them, but got my photo taken with them too. If you do, I bet you're jealous right now aren't you ?

I am far too excited about this

Lastly the fabulous camaraderie and catching up of the drinks reception in the early evening sun. I never manage to get any photos of this bit. but loads of others do. I did have my badge though so I waved it in front of anyone I'd not met before.

Ok the jig is up - I'm at Britmums Live 2015

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

White is the new black - apparently

So Rachel Dolezal doesn't understand the question, "Are you African American ?" Maybe it's the very fact that someone had to ask her that is baffling. I mean most of us who have darker pigmentation have no choice but to be 'outed' as of an ethnic origin other than white. It's not like I have what Americans call 'plausible deniability' on my side when it comes to ethnicity. It is pretty obvious (visually at least) that I am not white so the only reason someone would ask would be to clarify my exact ethnicity, not to check whether I am white or not.

In case you missed this furore Rachel is an American academic whose ethnicity has become an issue since her parents have publicly announced that she is not a black woman as she has supposedly been claiming to be for many years. In case you wonder why this matters, it may well not. Except that as a civil rights activist she has referred to her own experiences of being treated unfairly because of her race.

Cultural appropriation is nothing new. Ali G was hilarious precisely for saying, "is it cuz I is black ?" when it was obvious he was anything but. I went to school with a lot of Asian lads who wanted to be black and their faux Jamaican accents were a bit sad, but hardly harmful. Equally I have never understood why people spend so much effort and money on fake tanning to look darker when they have a natural skin colour that means they don't get harassed or hassled for something they can do nothing about. 

You see saying you 'feel black' is not enough. It's not all the cliches like enjoying R 'n' B or jerk chicken or even having an embarrassing turn of phrase that sounds a bit black. Is it possible for someone who has been born white to have any concept of how it feels to actually be of another ethnicity ? I have no choice. My skin is this colour and my ethnicity is what it is. I don't get to choose to be white. Mia Farrow suggested it might be possible to be 'transracial' and to be born one ethnicity while identifying with another. I've written before about how I wished and aspired to be blonde and blue eyed when I was a child. It was not an aspiration that could be fulfilled realistically as I have always been and always will be brown skinned so even with bleached hair and contact lenses I'm not able to pass myself off as a white woman. 

I have no concept of living a life in which my skin colour is not an issue. I cannot experience any mistreatment by others without wondering if it is due to my ethnicity. Like the man who wound down his car window to spit in my face while I was having a driving lesson. The restaurant in Little Italy that turned us away during our honeymoon when there were more than enough seats inside. Being stopped every time I fly anywhere and having my bags searched. It may well be an over-reaction and it may have nothing to do with my skin colour, but I never know for sure. 

What I do know is that my parents have been treated with racism - of the old fashioned open and hostile variety - for many years. My father worked in an office with a woman who would hold her nose and make childish remarks about how the smell of curry was really strong when he was nearby. My mum was overlooked for promotion repeatedly at work in favour of younger white colleagues who she would then have to support to deliver the job they were not qualified to do. My sister lived in a town where people would shout racist taunts at her in the street for no reason other than they could.

So, while you may well identify with black people it doesn't mean you can pass yourself off as black. Rachel cannot claim to have an authentic experience of what it is to be black in America. She will never know what it is like to commit the crime 'guilty of being black.' It is terribly flattering that you want to be black Rachel. It's ever so good of you to try so hard to identify with a group that has suffered so much. It is also, however, deeply crass to pretend to be something you never will be. To be photographed with a black man and say that he is your father. To claim to have been a victim of racism. To deny your own privilege and wear blackness like clothing.  

It's not flattering Rachel. It's shameful, inauthentic, offensive. 

I'll let Maya Angelou - who knew plenty about the reality of being a black woman and civil rights activist - have the last word.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Miffy is 60 !!

I am a big fan of birthdays. Any excuse to celebrate and you will see me bring out a cake, candles and balloons. So you can imagine how excited I was to find out that it's the big birthday of one of my favourite characters from childhood. Yes, Miffy is 60 this year and I'm absolutely delighted to have been chosen to be a Miffy Mum in honour of this special birthday year.

I've loved Miffy since I was an actual child and have Miffy books, soft toys, t-shirts, fridge magnets and even pin badges. One year - when I was old enough to know better - my lovely friends bought me a sweatshirt with Miffy on as a birthday present - I knew my Miffy obsession had gone public !

A few years ago there was an exhibition at Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood where they had original artwork by Dick Bruna and lots of vintage memorabilia of Miffy. I went with Hubbie and it was just wonderful. The simplicity of this little rabbit and her friends has appealed to so many children over the generations and I'm so happy that I can share the stories with my children now. 

We will be celebrating throughout the year and we have been sent some pretty bunting and I've even got my special rabbit ears which I'll make sure I'm wearing to celebrate the big day itself. Even more exciting there is a special Miffy Movie coming out which we're lucky enough to be seeing next week - I will tell you all about it after the event of course. 

Do you have any childhood memories of Miffy the rabbit ?

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Today I'm working with gratitude

Today has been a very difficult day. I'm not going to go into detail about why. I would prefer to put it behind me. Instead I'm working on celebrating what is going well right now. So I've been stockpiling the good bits to look back on for a while now just for a moment like this.

Last year my sister shared this idea to keep a 'gratitude jar' where you write down when something good happens. You do this for a whole year then on New Year's eve you sit and read them so you can remind yourself of all the wonderful moments that you might otherwise forget. As a blogger I have this space to record such things, but it's still a good discipline to write a physical note and pop it in the jar. I have a clean peanut butter jar. a pretty pen and some small strips of paper on which to write my happiest moments.
my gratitude jar 

In a virtual version of my 'gratitude jar' here are the small notes I'll be keeping about this week.

  • Hubbie dressed baby boy in a pique polo shirt that I haven't seen before and he looked so cute we called him the 'baby mod' 
  • Big Boy rushed outside when my sister came over at the weekend to help her carry the bags from her car 
  • Mum sent some lovely homemade food with my sister so I didn't have to cook for the boys for a couple of days 
  • Lovely friends came to visit at the weekend and I saw my boys through their eyes - as polite, kind and thoughtful 

Saving water - the greatest gift ever ? 

  • So many reasons to love Hubbie, but the main one right now is that he got this for our kitchen sink - a water saving swivel tap head. Don't judge, I love it ! 
  • This afternoon I took the boys to the park after school pick up. It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon. They had ice cream and played and for a little while it all felt ok. 
I'm going to keep working with gratitude in the hope that there will be more to write and keep in the jar and less to try and forget. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Give the gift of Fire on Father's Day

You've probably seen the adverts already suggesting gifts for Dads and Grandads. I've got grand plans to get the boys to make (or at the very least decorate) a card for Hubbie for Father's Day. We also have a special gift to give him which I think  he's going to like a lot more than the usual after-shave and t-shirt combo that we get him every year. 
Now I know I risk spoiling he surprise, but wanted to share what we have planned to give you time to look into getting it too if you like the sound of it. The Amazon Fire TV stick takes the original idea of the Amazon Fire TV and makes it even smaller - which will appeal to Hubbie - and makes it even more snazzy while still giving you a wealth of programmes, movies and box sets to watch. 

The presentation is just lovely and I have to admit to not wanting to unbox it to use as it looks so pretty - while still being macho enough for Hubbie of course. The device itself is the size of a memory stick and the remote is not much bigger. You don't have to use an additional power source, but it is recommended. Otherwise it's as simple as plugging into a HDMi port and popping batteries into the teeny remote control. Then you are free to watch a wealth of programmes and movies and you can also set a pin so that younger family members can't access anything they shouldn't or run up a bill on your account. 

We use it to access BBC iPlayer, Netflix and (of course) Amazon Prime and only today found some movies that Big Boy enjoys watching. I'm sure Hubbie will find some box sets of shows he likes and as he can set it up on the bigger TV downstairs he will get the benefit of the great reception without the buffering that can spoil your viewing experience on other devices.

Amazon Fire is a big hit in our house and with this newer compact version it's about to be even more popular with everyone. As a Father's Day gift I'd say this is pretty cool and I hope Hubbie thinks so too. 

Disclosure: the lovely folks at Amazon sent us an Amazon Fire TV stick to try out and review 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

From here to fertility

Earlier in the week I was listening to a feature on Woman's Hour about infertility and IVF in particular. As woman after woman phoned in with their stories about cycle after cycle, some with tales of repeated failure and others with eventual success. It was a hard listen as it took me back to our journey to becoming parents. 

The day we were told it was unlikely to happen for us and we sat in the corridor and cried for what felt like days. Then wiped our tears and Hubbie went to work and I sat on the train so numb I don't recall where I went and what I did.  

Attending infertility appointments sitting in the same waiting room as pregnant women - feeling like a failure, ashamed, angry and wishing I was anywhere but there.

Turning up for an appointment having left work early to be told there was no consultant there that day and to rearrange. I felt invisible. 

The last appointment we ever went to - we both arrived first thing waited for almost 3 hours as every other woman was seen and finally they told us they'd lost our file. That's how little we mattered. 

Deciding that this was just not for us - if our marriage was going to be all about pills and tests and embryos and waiting and wishing for a maybe. 

The invasive process of being assessed for adoption. Having strangers walk through our home and tell us it wasn't big enough. Answering questions about past relationships, being interviewed by a panel of 13 people who would decide if we were 'suitable' to be parents. 

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. 

Making peace with the reality of never being parents. In as much as you can do that. 

Falling pregnant with Big Boy. Joy at last. Family finally admitting how much it meant to them too. 

Trying - and failing - to repeat the miracle. 


Going through the adoption merry-go-round all over again. This time with the added consideration of how this would affect our boy. 

Meeting Baby Boy. Knowing immediately that this was our second son. 

Now we feel like a family. Finally. 

That was what the programme reminded me about. It never goes away. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Move aside make way, for a half term Fire Station visit

As you probably know we are big fans of the fire service and I had promised my boys a visit to the fire station during half term. It was all because the lovely guys from our local fire station had been in our street a few months ago and they had said to pop in any time to have a look around.

Is it Big Boy or Darth Vader ?
Big boy was so excited - even more so, because his friend A was coming along again and they are both big fans of fire engines. Baby boy was visiting for the first time and despite his initial reservations he got stuck in and had a drive of the engine too. Big boy wore his Fire Officer outfit to the station - it was so funny seeing him in the kit room surrounded by grown up uniforms wearing his teeny tiny Early Learning Centre version.

It was very rainy on the day we went, but the guys were amazing and let the children open the big doors of the firehouse and play with the hoses outside. I was very glad that big boy was wearing his waterproof outfit I can tell you !

It was this Fire Officer's first day - no joke !
As they drove the engine outside the children sat inside and were very excited to have a ride. At one point we were inside the control room and saw the engine driving off the station forecourt and I joked, "the kids aren't still inside are they ?" Apparently they were and as it disappeared from view I considered escaping for a cup of tea with A's mum and the baby siblings. As it turns out they were just taking the engine round to the back of the station to refill the hoses with water as they'd been so liberal with the target practice earlier.

Just checking out the dials
We were invited back on a sunnier day to have lots more fun with the hoses and I was advised to bring a change of clothes for big boy in case he got carried away.

I can highly recommend a visit to the fire station as the officers are so kind and always really happy to see children and to show them around. It's definitely something we'll be doing again.

This post is being shared as part of the fab #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill.

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall