Friday, 20 June 2014

Camping with Kids Revisited

When Callum was 20 months old, I thought I would surprise Stuart and I took us all camping. In secret, I booked the pitch at a campsite on the Kent-Sussex border, packed the tent and all the gear into the back of the car and instructed Stuart to come home early from work on the Friday of the May Day Bank Holiday and off we went to Romney.

I was so excited.

However, it was pretty much a disaster. We arrived after Callum’s bedtime, it took me an hour to boil pasta for our dinner due to the cold and wind, it rained most of the time, the nights were freezing, Callum refused to sleep between us on the blow up (plus there wasn’t really enough room) and Stuart vowed never to take a child camping again and definitely never to go camping in May!

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I was a little less deterred and chalked it down as a learning experience. That said, I was in less of a hurry to repeat the experience with Millie.

Yet, along came May just after Millie turned 21 months and Stuart and I found ourselves in a camping shop looking at tents and planning a May bank-holiday camping trip!

But this time was going to be different!

We were actually planning the camping trip for a week in August but were keen to purchase this new style of tent which you inflate instead of using poles which means it can be put up in a matter of minutes and by one person. We were also going Super-size! Our memory of our previous camping trip with Callum not entirely forgotten, we figured it’d be a good idea to take the tent for a tester trip for a weekend close to home.

We decided on the, potential to be slightly warmer, Whitsun bank-holiday and we headed less than 30 miles away to a town near Swanage called Langton Matravers. We took the ferry so we could pretend it was like a ‘proper’ holiday in a different country and not just down the road in the same county!

Due to me being out on the Friday night, we also left it until the Saturday morning to go so there were no over-tired and over-excited children waiting for their tea and not going to sleep!

We were still nervous as the weather was ‘iffy’ and this was to be the first time Millie would be sleeping in a ready-bed.

We arrived at the basic but clean Acton Field Campsite. It already looked busy and we struggled to find a pitch big and flat enough for our huge new 8 man tent that was the required 6 meters away from neighbouring tents but we finally settled on somewhere which had an amazing view too.

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The weather was holding (despite the torrential downpour that was flooding our back garden earlier that morning) and after shopping for some supplies I managed to cook a dinner of rice and chicken curry in 30 minutes and just before the rains returned.

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Come bed time, Millie was asleep in record time whereas the excitement for Callum was making him want the wee every 5 minutes, resulting in several trips to the loos in the pouring rain. By this time it was amazing how busy the campsite had got. Our previously dismissed pitches which we had considered too bumpy were now home for campers and tents of all shapes and sizes and many were still arriving or having to leave due to lack of space and tents were being erected in the pouring rain.

It was a very cold night and Callum woke the once then being the first to wake at 6am who woke his sister shortly after as he had to get the wipes from her room (yes she had her own room – they both did!). I hadn’t slept well at all due to the cold and the slope causing me to roll into Stuart until he got fed up and I perched on the edge of the mattress using all my muscles to stay put. Every muscle ached by morning! We didn’t hear a peep from Millie.

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The Sunday was much better weather and we had an enjoyable day at nearby Putlake Adventure Farm.

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That evening, we attempted a bbq with a disposable I had bought ‘just in case’ the previous year but the absence of matches and the old bbq meant that weren’t gonna happen (even after borrowing a lighter from a neighbour) so it was fried burgers and sausages instead and an enjoyable chill out with a glass of vino as the sun went down.

Callum had made a friend with an older girl (check him out!) in a nearby caravan and I was reminded of my own childhood enjoying the freedom and friends that camping and caravanning promoted.

As a nice surprise, friends of ours had also pitched up at the same campsite with their camper van so we enjoyed a tipple or two with them before settling in for our night 2. Millie hadn’t gone to sleep quite so easily that night and when we thought she had gone quiet some time later, discovered she had instead decided to investigate her travel bag and discovered the face softening powers of sudocreme (or she thought Christmas had come early, it is hard to say!)

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Well if you can’t beat them, join them eh?

She did eventually drift off and they both slept to a respectable 7.30am for what was a much warmer night.

Monday meant time for home so we packed up the tent which, after the joys of being a one man job to put up, proved to be a more involved and challenging job to put down and squeeze back into the bag from which it came.

We joined our friends for a pasty and pint over at The Star and Compass in nearby Worth Matravers before making our way back home after, what we considered a much more successful camping trip though still came away with lessons learnt for next time. But confident there would still be a next time…in August!

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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Cat's in the Cradle

I love music, but what I love more than music is the lyrics. The story they tell swallows me up and spits me out either smiling or in tears or sometimes leaves me determined, powerful, ready to make a stand. 

I have an amazing ability to store lyrics in my head. If only I realised when I did my exams that if I'd put my revision in to music I would've remembered the lot! 

I come from a musical family and I have had exposure to a wide range of tastes and flavours which has left me with my own eclectic music taste across many genres and generations. 

Seriously, anything from Neil Diamond, The Carpenters, to Brian Adams, to BonJovi, The Killers, Green Day, Paolo Nutini, Adele, to Trance, Psytrance, Hard House, Techno to....er...Gene Pitney! Yeah! I know but it reminds me of my mum and happy memories. That's what music does, evoke memories.

Then every once in a while, I realise I've been listening to a song, I know I like it and I've more than likely (anyone who knows me knows what I'm like) sung along but haven't actually 'listened' to the words. 

Well, this has been a long intro to say today I did just that. The song was 'Cats in the Cradle' by many artists, the original being Harry Chapin.

If you haven't heard it, first, make sure you go and listen now, and if you need persuading, this is what it is about.

A man has a baby but is so caught up with being busy with life and work he misses his son growing up. Not stopping to spend time and play with his son but his son doesn't mind or know any different and idolises his dad wanting to be like his dad when he grows up. Then, before the man knows it, his son has grown up and gone to college and has no time for his dad because he has his own life then when the dad has time and wants to spend it with his son, his son is too busy with his own family and own life. Life has come full circle and indeed the boy who wanted to grow up to be just like his dad has done just that.

This song really touched me today. 

How many times have the parents amongst us dismissed their child who wants to play this, read that, do whatever, just wants to spend time with us and yet we are too busy doing probably something that is nowhere near as important as we think it is at the time. All we do is complain about time going so fast and before we know it our little ones will be grown up and moving away and gone. 

My own Dad and I recently shared a conversation about what I do for a job. He said it was the first time he had had a proper conversation with me about what I actually do for a living and finally an opportunity to get to know me. I'm 34 and my Dad feels he has only just stopped to have that conversation. 

"I'm gonna be like him, yeah, You know I'm gonna be like him"

Friday, 4 April 2014

Key Worker Translator

I love going into nursery to pick up Millie and listening to her key worker and other nursery staff tell me what a great day my daughter has had…who doesn’t love to hear good things about their kids, especially when I miss so much of her day. Then recently I realised that maybe their smile was a little bit pinched at the corners, and the teeth a little bit gritted and maybe they weren’t being entirely truthful – well not all the time.

So I’ve thought a bit more about what they are telling me and remembering back to when Callum was at nursery and think possibly nursery workers are clever at disguising what they really mean. But I think I’ve worked out their translation! Below are things I have heard nursery workers say about Millie, Callum and other children too and I’ve translated what I think they are really saying.

“She knows what she wants, doesn’t she?”
She is stubborn, bossy and spoilt

“Does she play rough with Callum?”
She is the nursery bully

“She is such a little character”
She is a little madam

“His teddy has been well loved”
It’s so filthy it must be harbouring all sort of undiscovered life

“S/He likes his food and eats everything we give him”
We only give them small portions so we can tell you that and so they go home and eat your food instead of ours

“He got a bit over-excited at play time”
He purposefully pushed her over

“He loves sitting on the double bike while Little Jonny loves to peddle him round the garden”
He is lazy and Little Jonny is a mug

3.30pm on a Friday: “she’s not herself and has a temperature”
It’s Friday and I want to go home early to crack open the wine

“You’re early today”
You’re early for once

“I was just about to change her nappy, would you like to do it?”
You’re her mummy, you should do it…plus it’s a stinky one!

What do they say at your child’s nursery or childcare centre?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

M is for Millie…and Mischief

Maybe as time has past, my memory has blurred. We do tend to pick out the bits we like or are more eventful in life. However, how I remember Callum is that he rarely had the aspiration to get up to too much mischief.

We had a cat yet only twice did he show an interest with playing sandcastles with the cat litter and never showed any desire to eat cat food or squidge it between his fingers. If we nipped to the loo, we could leave him playing safe in the knowledge he would highly likely be exactly where we left him when we returned. There was a period where he found it much fun to pull out all the CDs in the CD rack about 100 times a day but I do not recall any other relentless mischief!

Then along came Millie!

Don’t be fooled by that butter wouldn’t melt cheeky smile!

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Yeah that one!

From before she could move we could tell that knowing look in her eye that as soon as she would learn to crawl she would be into EVERYTHING! And she was, except she became a bottom shuffler rather than a crawler. It was a wonder it took her so long to bottom shuffle with her insatiable curiosity!

Callum quite quickly grew out of the insistent throwing of food on the floor but no, Millie still finds it fascinating to see the reaction (even when I’m determined not to give her one) of throwing food, cutlery, plastic bowls, not so plastic bowls…oooh look, they don’t bounce!

Also, I never knew how fascinating it could be to see what happens when you tip bottles and cups upside down. You may not quite notice the first time, or the second, or even the third, fourth or fifth for that matter. In fact, maybe you should try it fifty times and you get an even better reaction if you pour it over your Daddy’s head.

It’s so lovely that she likes to draw and colour so much. Callum was never interested in colouring really, only getting into it in the last year. She has mastered the tripod grip on a pencil, I was so proud…until she decided to decorate the carpet, the toilet seat, the bedside table, the dressing table stool, the door…need I go on! And the continuous temptation of Callum’s felt tip pens is too great – queue big tantrums dare we deny her!

The latest game is seeing what happens when the dry cat food is thrown into the water bowl!

And the most infuriating thing is, you just can’t be cross! We’ve tried! Many a time! But she just looks and laughs and pulls the most adorable faces and your eyebrows start to quiver, your cheek twitches then before you know it you are hiding a giggle behind your hand!

She is relentless, exhausting, infuriating, but goddamn bloody cute and adorable too! Rah!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Half Term Adventures: Friday

Day Five and Callum and my last day of the half term holidays together and we had been invited for a Play Date. A perfect way to finish off our week. I always feel guilty that Callum doesn’t see more of his friends in his spare time and since starting work, there has been less time for play dates. It was going to be great for Callum to let off some energy with a friends! I’d actually hoped to see more of his friends over half term (and maybe mine too) but a week just isn’t enough!

Edward is a friend from Callum’s old nursery from before he started school. I hit it off quite quickly with his mum at kiddy birthday parties and then when we randomly bumped into each other in Asda (for some reason I seem to bump into everyone I know in Asda! Things have changed!) where we had another good natter. Unfortunately, Callum had to miss Edward’s birthday party because he was poorly so I had previously invited them over for a playdate at our house so Callum could give Edward his present. So this was to be our second playdate and George (Edward’s Mummy) had suggested Moors Valley Country Park and Forest.

If ever you are visiting down this way or if you live here and haven’t yet ventured, do check out this place it is great! The parking is a little pricey but George and Edward have the yearly parking permit (which is well worth getting). There are countless forest walks and activities to do on the walks, two great parks (one of them on sand), a lake and picnic area, a ride on train, fun activities in the school holidays, cycle hire, Go Ape for older/big kids, a cafe…the list goes on. I previously blogged about going there when they had the Gruffalo trail (it was The Stick Man this winter but I think it is about to finish this week). If going in school holidays I’d recommend going early as it gets busy quick!

George had kindly offered to drive us all so we took one car and because they had the yearly parking (it is done on number plate recognition – pretty cool!) so Callum and I walked to their house shortly after dropping Millie at nursery to get there for 9.30am where an eager Edward was already waiting in the car, excited to get on his way.

When we arrived, the car park was already pretty full and the park buzzing with activity. We headed to the parks first of all where they both heart-stoppingly showed us how well they could climb to the top of the Witches Hat! We then headed over to the little steam train station to buy our tickets for a ride on the train and we warmed up a little with some hot chocolate. After the train ride, it was back to the park for a bit before time for lunch!  By now it was time for lunch so we headed over to the cafe. After lunch we had a peak in the barn where they had some half term activities – face painting (which we didn’t do), a nature table full of animal skulls, hides, nests and other such stuff, colouring in table and a nature video. Following that, we went on a walk through the forest including the Tree Top Trail and a few of the wooden apparatus they have dotted around (as part of the Play Trail – we didn’t do it all, just the activities on the route we walked).

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After all the rain we have had recently, we were prepared with wet weather gear and wellies and the boys, Edward especially, loved jumping in the muddy puddles and exploring the woody areas. Callum managed to fall splat in a number of muddy areas in true Callum style!

Edward was keen for Callum to see his bedroom so after our walk we thought it was a good time to head back to George and Edward’s house for a cup of tea while the boys played some more with Edward’s toys. Of course, Superhero dressing up was the favoured activity!

It was a lovely day – the boys got on really well and I felt like I had some mummy time getting to chat to George too. She is so easy to talk to! Will look forward to the next playdate!

Half Term Adventures: Thursday

Sorry, time ran away with me toward the end of half term there and I didn’t find the time to blog. So where was I? Thursday? Oh yes, Thursday! We made fossils!

In light of Callum’s homework…sorry home learning we are supposed to call it aren’t we?…anyway, in light of what he had been asked to do by the school over half term, create something on the theme of dinosaurs, and with minds full of the exciting things seen at the museum the day before, I we decided to make fossils! Actually, the fantastic idea came from a Twitter friend @Kellit1085. She suggested we make some salt dough and use Callum’s toy dinosaurs pushed into the dough to make the fossils.

I’d forgotten about Callum’s dinosaurs and, what was better, part of his collection included a skeleton dinosaur as his set was part of a archaeology themed set. Perfect! With that, we also visited our shell collections (Callum has his chosen shells and stones and then I have my own special collection haha) to look for ones that would make good fossil like impressions.

Check me out! Twice in one week I’m crafting with my child in a stress free manner – not to mention the baking also achieved! I’m going to need a holiday after this half term!

Of course the fun starts at the dough making stage, getting fingers all sticky and then beating up needing the dough. Following a tip from this site I’d found on the internet, we also added food colouring to make the dough a browny colour.

Once smooth, I broke off a piece and shaped it and Callum (with maybe a little guidance from me) pushed one of his smaller dinosaurs and the skeleton dinosaur into the dough. Then we tested out all the shells too. I classed this first one as our Callum’s practice fossil. The remaining dough I split in 2 and tried very hard to let Callum do what he liked with one of the pieces while I possessively made my own fossil impressions in the other piece.

When we were happy with our creations, I baked them in the oven for about 1.5 hours at 200 degrees (hotter than I’d usually bake salt dough for but the advice in the above site was a higher temp and I figured it might add to the authentic brown look) then I left them in the oven for another hour while the oven cooled.

Here are our finished fossil creations:

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Callum has taken them into school today. I’m so excited about them, I wish I was there to see how they are received.