Wednesday, 20 May 2015

I think I've got the terrible twos

The day started with me literally crying over spilled milk - it's a boring story so I won't go into it. Most days begin with some minor drama these days and often tears - mine.

The other day I was cried while swimming

Another day I burst into tears parking the car at Waitrose

Then there were tears while I was waiting for Hubbie to get home from work and relieve me from childcare

I've told a few people that I think I'm having a breakdown and they either nod or change the topic. I'm not sure if they think I'm joking or if it is just to difficult to respond to that kind of honesty.

This is not what I expected.

When we spent all those years wishing and wanting to have a child and then he came along and it was just amazing, but hard work. Then we tried for another and the road was longer and even harder than before, but here we are parents to two amazing and beautiful boys. I posted status updates with those sappy comments about how hard it would be, but worth it.

So why doesn't this feel better ? Why does it feel like I'm going into battle every single day ? I love my children and my every waking thought is about keeping them safe and making them happy. Yet, I look forward to packing my older boy off to school and count the minutes until the baby is down for his nap so I can just have some time not being shouted at or having my hair pulled or asking, "what did you do to make your brother cry ?" My normal volume these days is always 'shouty Mummy.'

Frankly I don't think I'm cut out for this. I keep reminding myself what other Mums tell me and hold onto the pearls of wisdom they've gained from being where I am right now.

"There will be shouting, a lot of it." - Yasmin, mum to 2 boys

"You have 2 children under 5, you are doing a great job." - Shirley mum to 2 grown up boys 

"Boys are like dogs, you need to run them around every day or they will tear your house up." - Christine, mother of 2 grown up boys 

"When they grow up they have fewer problems, but the problems are bigger." - Martin, father to 2 grown up boys 

Then tonight before I taught yoga I sat with big boy and we 'played lego' then he asked if we could watch 'the internet is made of cats' - google it, honestly you won't be sorry. We laughed and played together and it made me believe - just for a moment - that I might just be doing something right.

I'm working on having more 'lego and internet cats' moments and fewer of the 'spilled milk' ones.

Wish me luck :) 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Our adventure on the high seas - part two

I promised when we were on the Anthem of the Seas that I would give you a detailed review of what we saw and did on the ship. It's taken me a while to formulate this and to take in all of the things we did. I was talking to my boy the other day about our 'mini-cruise' and he said, "Can we go on another cruise please Mummy ? On another ship next time ?" Well, I can't promise, but it certainly made an impression on the little chap and you can see why.

We arrived at the Southampton station to take the free transfer to the dock and popped our bags into the luggage hold and settled back. It took only a few minutes and when we arrived it took very little time to go through the airport style security as we had checked in already online. Armed with his Trunki and my wheelie luggage (borrowed from the in-laws) we made our way to board the ship. There was another check point before boarding and as soon as we were on board staff very kindly helped us with bags and directed us to the lifts to find our stateroom. It was ready for us and we had these groovy wristbands to use to unlock the doors and to pay for anything on board as they were registered to my account on board. My boy loved his band so much he wouldn't take it off at all !

We decided to explore the ship and found the Seaplex zone where my boy fell in love with this seat made of skateboards and we admired the bumper cars. He was too young to go on them as he's under 5, but riding in the static ones parked outside the rink still made him happy. We went to check what the age restriction was on the skydiving and he was old enough to take part so we both did it. He told me afterwards that it was quite scary, but I told him how brave he was and that I was very proud of him for trying something new.

We went to sign up for the kids club on board and despite it being partially open my boy still had a great time when I dropped him off there in the evening. If anything he was reluctant to leave ! I wanted him to get to sleep as I knew what adventures we had to come the following day.

I was booked in for a fantastic hot stone massage at 9am so we went for breakfast early and my boy barely touched his food he was so keen to get back to the kids club activities. I dropped him off and went to the salon and had the most relaxing time I think I can remember for a long time. 

I had a lull in the late morning so I decided to give the circus school a go and went on the trapeze - it was exhilarating and I'm so glad I did it, although I'm not a natural acrobat ! With a little bit of time to spare I took another stroll around the ship and found the gym and fitness class area where they have regular classes for all levels. Now that I can see I'd enjoy on a longer trip.


When I went to pick my boy up for lunch he wasn't even that bothered as he was having such a good time with his friends. The staff told me that they were taking the children for dinner at 5pm if he wanted to eat with his friends - silly question, of course he did ! We had a lovely lunch at Jamie's Italian and when I asked him if he fancied a swim with me before going back to see his friends at Kids' Club he said he just wanted to go back to Adventure Ocean ! 

After about a moment's hesitation and feeling a bit neglected - so much for bonding with my boy - I decided to go and watch a show and spent 2 hours singing along to We Will Rock You (apparently I know all the words to Queen songs !) I also realised that the guy who had been in front of us in a cafe the day before was the lead in the show. Everyone was amazing and had it not been for the movement of the ship I could have been in the West End. 

Knowing that the boy was eating with his friends I still went to check and see if he missed me - big fat no ! So feeling not at all guilty I put on a pretty frock and some make up and went for dinner. The food was very good and if I ate so well every day I'd need to be in the gym a lot, but it was only for a couple of days so I let myself relax a bit. When I went to pick up the boy he was tired, but very happy and went to sleep almost immediately. Bliss !

I practically had to peel my boy out of bed in the morning and as we had to disembark soon and I wanted to make sure we had something to eat and took one last stroll around the ship. It was much quieter and we enjoyed our breakfast with a view of Southampton and the other ships in dock. With a bit of time to spare he started watching Annie on the TV in our stateroom, but we didn't get to finish watching so I promised to get it for him when we got back. The movies were great and I watched The Imitation Game and he also watched Big Hero 6 while we were on board. It was so handy having access to movies in the room. With so much to do you can still have some time just relaxing and watching the ocean out of the balcony or a movie in the room.

We loved the quirky little touches on the ship - like the funky animal pictures in the lifts and these hands on the bar - is that the literal interpretation of 'all hands on deck ?'  We had a wonderful taste of what a cruise might be like and I can see us enjoying a holiday on a cruise ship as a family. There is so much to do and it just is not possible to get bored. In just a couple of days I was able to relax, learn new things, spend time with my son and we both got to make new friends. I can only imagine how much more we would do in a week or even longer.

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Royal Caribbean invited us to try out their latest ship, Anthem of the Seas on a 'shakedown' cruise. Thanks also to Mumsnet for inviting us. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Skateboarding, sunshine and searching for dinosaurs...

I've mentioned before that big boy really wants a skateboard. Ever since he watched Firehouse Dog the first time and he saw Shane (Josh Hutcherson) riding on one he has asked if he can have one when he's older. When we were staying at Coombe Mill he saw skateboards belonging to the bigger children and desperately wanted to have a go on them. I've always said he has to be at least 8 before we'd consider it, but I may reconsider this previous decision. 

On Saturday there was a skate demo in a local park where children were invited to try out skateboarding and to have a go at doing some tricks. The idea was to introduce them safely to the skills, but also to show them how to use the facilities in the park including ramps and jumps. 


As our boy is more used to his scooter he tried that first then had a tutorial on the much longed for skateboard. He did really well and continues to amaze me with how incredibly brave and daring he is, trying new things without fear. I think he really looks the part doesn't he ? 

My little skateboarder

What a professional !

Then on Monday I took both boys to Crystal Palace park to see the dinosaur trail. Big boy has been to the park before, but he hasn't seen the dinosaurs so he was quite surprised to see so many of them lurking around the park. Little boy was less impressed, but he still enjoyed being outdoors on a sunny day with his brother. 

Dinosaurs in the water 

Dinosaurs hiding amongst the trees

As you will know from previous outdoor kids posts big boy is really into climbing trees right now so he made an attempt to climb onto this one, but it was too high up for him to reach.  He still enjoyed trying and I suspect it won't be long before he is tall enough to reach. 

Big boy - bigger tree

It's not only the boys who have been enjoying the sunshine this week - Neo has also been making the most of the weather and taken to sunbathing on the front doorstep most of the day. Here is a rare image of him awake and communing with nature.

Nature cat
This post is being shared with the fab #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Being savvy now could help you be happy later

This afternoon I was in the garden and I heard our next door neighbour cutting back the high trees in the back garden. I called over to him, "are you practising for your retirement Martin ?" and he said he was getting used to being free and able to spend more time gardening. He is retiring next year and as a company director he has a pension and probably savings too. Our situation is not as fortunate and like many others I do wonder what the prospects are for me and Hubbie compared with our own retired parents and neighbours. I often joke about how I'll spend my retirement years doing all the things I don't have time to now. A bit of gardening, some travel, lots of swimming, yoga and running and plenty of writing and radio shows. In actual fact I have no idea what resources I will have to live on as like a lot of women I've taken time off from my working life to raise children and this has implications for my pension. 

I was asked to check out a new website called  Retire Savvy which was created by Skipton Building society to help people plan for retirement. The website isn't about just promoting their own products or services, it offers advice and answers questions about retirement planning and pensions in general. I did think at first sight that this was only aimed at older people as the only two menu options were 'are you retired ?' or ' are you approaching retirement ?' of which I am neither. On closer inspection it did have some useful information for me though.

I've changed jobs a fair amount in my working life and have paid into a number of pensions including a public sector one. I have never fully understood if this would pay out a reasonable amount in retirement and this site isn't about to answer that question, but it did help me find out how to amalgamate those small sums of money into a more manageable single investment fund. I also read found it interesting to see that range of 'frequently asked questions' asked about pensions aren't that different from mine. I don't feel nearly so silly any more.

Of course being a stay at home parent does impact highly on the potential income you can expect to have in retirement and a bit more around this would have been helpful. It is those of us who don't have a long history of consistent payments into a pension fund who will be most worried about what happens when we get to retire - whenever that will eventually be.

No one knows what will happen in later life. Hubbie has parents who both have a nice retired life with a good income and flashy holidays because father-in-law has always been pretty savvy with his investments and they both had good company pensions. We don't expect anything like as wealthy a retirement, but knowing that we have done our best to plan for it now is reassuring.

If you have questions about retirement planning this is a good place to start. They even have a jargon buster page so you can check out what all those terms in the small (and big) print mean.  It won't necessarily answer all your questions, but it's a good place to get some basics and for me it did spur me into looking at what I have already paid into and ensuring I don't lose it out of sheer incompetence. After all it's my money that I've paid in so I should check where it is and make sure it's working for me.

If I'm savvy about it now then I can spend more time enjoying retirement rather than worrying about it. 

I was asked to review by Skipton and the Mumsnet Bloggers Network. All views are my own. I was entered into a prize draw to win vouchers as a token of thanks for blogging. View other blogs on this topic here:

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The only thing on my birthday list that I really, really want is...

It's my birthday later this month and Hubbie has been asking what I would like as a present. He will also be asking on behalf of my lovely mother-in-law at some point. I'm so lucky to have received so many generous gifts over the years. Hubbie has given me beautiful jewellery, a flying lesson, beauty treatment vouchers, amazing meals out and so much more. Family have always been very kind too and I am throughly spoiled.

Most years we have a party / barbecue in the garden where we catch up with all the friends who we haven't seen all year and it's an excuse to wear a pretty dress and pop open some bottles of nice things to drink and for Hubbie to fire up the barbecue and do 'man cooking.' We have been so fortunate over the years that the weather has been lovely and we can spend all day outdoors with space for kids to run around and for adults to lounge and chat for as long as they like. The only down side is the washing up, but in recent years I've gone with paper plates so even that is sorted.

As I have been sorting and decluttering the house I've realised quite how much of everything we have. The kitchen gadgets that just don't get used - mostly because I've forgotten I have them - and the vast number of handbags that I couldn't possibly use. As a result I gave three bags of donations to my lovely neighbour today to take to the charity shop where she volunteers her time. I've freecycled as much as I can and have still more to go. The garage is a holding point for the items that have to go to the tip and I have a long term plan in my head of how to get it all sorted so that we have less junk and an actual functional home.

So, if I don't need any handbags, or clothes, or jewellery, or kitchen gadgets what is left ? Well, of course donations to charity are always welcome. Hubbie has kindly offered to treat me to hair and beauty the weekend before my birthday and we are taking the boys out on my actual birthday for a big bus tour in London. We adore buses and we all love London so it's a perfect day out for us.

However, I have also got one quite selfish request to make for my birthday this year. One that I hope will get some traction. I'd like the gift of time please. Yes, I'd like someone to give me some time out.

Me and Hubbie were given a voucher for a meal in a nice restaurant at Christmas. At the time I joked, "does it include babysitting ?" It wasn't a joke really. We haven't been able to use it yet and I don't know when we will. Hence he is going out to a gig on the evening of my birthday - I said it was ok - because it's unlikely we can go out together any time soon.

I'd love any of these vouchers:

"This entitles you to a child-free afternoon."

"With this voucher you can spend 3-4 hours doing anything you want knowing your children are in safe hands."

"Here is the gift of time - go on you deserve it."

I don't need anything else.

Well, maybe some cake. Yes, cake would be good.

Happy Birthday to me :)

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Grr, I'm a sleepasaurus

I'm typing this post with one hand - yes be impressed, its not easy. With the other hand I'm holding the cat's paw - he's asleep with his head hanging off the sofa and I'm thinking if he slips I can stop him falling off. Ok, you're not impressed any more are you ? It's alright for him - he spends more hours asleep than awake and when the kids are annoying he just leaves the house. I wish I could do that.

At the moment I'm sleep deprived to the point of hallucination and every screech from either of my boys or the cat sets my teeth on edge. I'm annoyed all the time and so clumsy it's not even funny. I have to double check I'm wearing actual shoes when I leave the house these days. I've developed that phantom hearing where I am convinced I can hear the sound of my kids even when the whole house is asleep and I'm not. How is it that when we're tired it's so difficult to actually fall asleep ?

Anyway, I've been forcing myself to go to sleep earlier every night to counteract the waking up to a screeching infant at 3am and 5am. Last night just before I peeled myself off the sofa to go to bed with a book that I never actually read I saw a link to this song. I played it and it took me back to my uni days - when sleep deprivation was voluntary. I have no memory of how it feels to have the luxury of choosing to stay up late and not having to wake up at dawn to attend to the needs of two boys, a cat and a husband. Mind you at this point I have no memory of what I ate for breakfast.

So, as I carry my sorry and tired self up to bed early I leave you with this little tune - with a warning that there is some language that you may not want your kids to hear in this.

Enjoy :)


Thursday, 30 April 2015

My bucket (and spade) list - boom boom !!

I love when I get to post about ambitions or dreams. It's nice to put it out there into the universe and you find out that what you might consider to be out there ideas are secretly shared by other people. The lovely folks at Transun have asked bloggers to share their 'bucket list' of three destinations they'd love to visit and it's taken me the longest time to whittle my list down to just 3 places. It's like when you have to choose favourite movies or music, the effort expended in choosing is only surpassed by the annoyance once you hit publish and realise that you have changed your mind or forgotten an obvious choice. So, bearing in mind that this list will change almost immediately that I finish it here goes:

I would take these to Hawaii

Hawaii: Ok, if you are a regular reader you will know that I am obsessed with visiting Hawaii mostly because of the TV show Hawaii 5-O and my love for Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Laughlin). It's also where I want me and Hubbie to renew our wedding vows on a beach in a schmaltzy ceremony that is nothing like the wedding we actually had. I know I have an idyllic view of Hawaii and have had ever since I watched Elvis in Blue Hawaii oh so many years ago. It's the thought of walking off a plane and being given a lovely garland of flowers and learning to hula properly - I think I have the hips for it. Yes it's a cliched version of what Hawaii is probably actually like, but what is a dream destination without some cliches ?

Proper English tea for my ex-pat friends 

Australia: I never had any interest in going here, but over the years it's become a favoured destination for me as friends have emigrated or returned here and Hubbie has family who we would love to visit. Including an elderly aunt who was a £10 pom all those years ago and who I love for her eccentricity and the fact that she sounds like Helen Daniels from Neighbours. Lovely friends who emigrated from Chester a few years ago having planned it for over 5 years and one of my London gal pals who met her husband when she was in Australia travelling and emigrated there and is ridiculously happy in Perth. I would also love to take my boys to Australia for a long holiday to experience the things I've read about in my Bill Bryson book. Bill is my go to travel writer and he is honest and warm about the places he has visited. I envy him his travels - even to the horrid places he has to write about.

Purple passport for my boy's bear

Minneapolis: Again regulars will know that I love Prince. No, that's not right, I adore Prince. The thought of being in his home town and being able to visit Paisley Park is one that fills me with joy and palpitations. When he did all those gigs at the O2 a few years ago I managed to get tickets that placed me as close as I've ever been to the man - a few feet at most. I was practically hyperventilating with the sheer exhilaration of it so if he was having an open day at his home - which he has done before - I would have to go and I'd most likely make a complete dork of myself if he was actually there. The Sky box in our house has only two things recorded on it that I would be distraught if we lost. One is a documentary about Prince and the other is an episode of New Girl that he is in as himself. Anyway, this is the fangirl / stalker destination choice for me.

If only I wasn't restricted to just three choices I would also mention Argentina which Hubbie loves and he wants to take the boys to watch Boca Juniors. With so much of the world that I would love to see, but today, at this time these are my choices. Don't ask me in an hour I'll probably change my mind :)

This post is my entry to win a trip to see the Northern Lights with Transun Holidays - find out more here

Is now the right time to share that I used to think the Northern Lights were the Blackpool illuminations ? No, I thought not.