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).


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:


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

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Half Term Adventures: Day 3

On Wednesday, we went to the National History Museum in London. I’d already suggested to Stuart that it would be nice to spend a family day going to London to the museums. I have wanted to take Callum to see the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum for ages so that’s primarily what we had decided on and if there was time maybe we’d visit another – Ha! Anyway, as luck would have it, Callum came home with his homework book and the latest project which was to be dinosaurs! Bonus! This was one project and homework topic Callum and I could put some effort in – I confess we are a bit slack usually!

My memory of going to London museums when I was little was on a school trip that would be one museum in a whole day but would involve going around it several times answering questions etc and would obviously include the coach trip there and back and lunch. The other time I went was with my friends Grandma and we got on busses and went to a couple of museums in the same day. Things have changed! Yes it was half term but wow! The queue was snaking around, back and forth forever. We got there about 12noon so we decided to go and get some lunch instead and see whether the queue was any better afterwards.

When we came back we saw the queue for the accessible entrance (for wheelchairs and pushchairs) and thankfully it seemed a bit smaller and moving fairly quickly. The other queue was still huge and hardly moving. We ended up queuing for about 40 minutes. We had been warned that we needed to queue for the dinosaurs too so we headed straight there. Yep, the queue said an hour. Thankfully, it moved quickly and again I’d say it was for about 40 minutes.

We had splashed out the fiver for a guide too. They had a generic version and a special children’s version which had games in which was really nicely done and cost the same amount. This helped to keep Callum entertained in the queues. To be fair to Callum and Millie, they were both very very good and patient in the queues. (Wondering how many times I can use the word queue or queues in one blog post?)

Unfortunately, that wasnt it for the queues (not done yet) as, because we had a pushchair with us, we had to queue for the one-person-and-chair-at-a-time lift to the metal walkway.

The dinosaur exhibition was interesting enough for little ones and had facts at their level to read and understand and Millie loved pointing out the dinosaurs. Stuart and I did feel there was room for a bit of updating with the exhibitions – but then the main museum is free so I guess to do so would cost money. However, I would like to see what the Dorchester Dinosaur Museum is like in comparison.

We had enough time to see the dinosaurs, mammals, creepy crawlies, marine creatures and fishes then just before leaving Callum and Stuart headed into this volcano thing but Stuart said we didn’t miss anything (it was up an escalator so Millie and I didn’t go up with the buggy).

We left the museum and headed to High Street Kensington, near the hotel where we had parked the car (£18 for 9 hours parking) to find somewhere for dinner. We were concerned that we wouldn’t find anywhere suitable to take the kids, being as it was pricey High St Ken and in our experience London restaurants aren’t the most accommodating for children but thankfully Stuart spotted a ‘My Old Dutch’ restaurant, a pancake restaurant chain. We had previously been to the Holborn branch and it was perfect for the kids.

After dinner, we went back to the car, got them in the PJs and drove home. All of us exhausted!


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Half Term Adventures: Tuesday

Here we are, day two of half term and I don’t think I’ve counted another grey hair! Whoop!

The plan today was to bake bread and see The Lego Movie, with the added bonus of a cousin, Sofia, and Daddy joining us for the afternoon!

Sofia was expected about midday and the film was at 2.30pm. Sofia and Callum were all excited about the bread making when I decided to change the plan to see The Lego Movie so I had to try to get both activities in.

Therefore, after dropping Millie at nursery and Stuart at work, the first task was to make the dough (well actually, after the usual dishes, laundry and cat related chores…there are always chores to do first kids!).

Once more, I had to keep a lid on my inner-control-freak and remember ‘I was doing it for the kids!’ So Callum helped me measure out the ingredients and got his (clean) fingers stuck in to mixing – OK so there was a bit of “let me just see if it is all mixed” and “let me pull in the dry ingredients at the bottom” oh and “Ill start off the needing”…what? Neither of us got stressed. I count that as progress!

He helped need the dough a bit before he thankfully got bored. Then off we took it to the airing cupboard to prove.

That took us until 9.30…still another couple of hours or so until Sofia due, what next?

We played games (while I continued with the odd chore). We played Jenga (which I lostSad smile), then Walk the Plank (which I won Smile) and then I had to teach Callum about the difference between a good loser and a bad loser…

Soon it was lunchtime, ‘Fia arrived and then it was time to get back to the bread making!

They both loved it, treating the dough like play dough and making different shapes and…er…lumps of things. They got covered in flour, wrote their names in the flour and I may have started a flour fight. We each made one thing to put in the oven then the remaining dough I had intended keeping for myself to make another masterpiece *cough* but I relented and let them share it between them for more doughy fun.


After the bread had been baked there was just enough time for a quick taster before we had to head out to pick Stuart up and head to the cinema.

The movie was enjoyable enough – definitely only for those that share an affiliation with lego as the comedy moments are centred around the trials and tribulations of lego crafting. I thought they could’ve played more on those and had a few adult humour moments like they do in the Pixar animations but I found it enjoyable and Stuart had a couple of LOL (while I slunk down in my seat) moments. Callum, bless him, doesn’t get on too well with the glasses, or any glasses for that matter (we went to the 3D version) which I think is down to his little nose which doesn’t have much of a bridge to hold a pair of glasses. He kept taking them off which meant he didn’t get to appreciate the full experience and he seemed to struggle to retain interest for the last half hour but he says he really enjoyed it and that it was his favourite part of the day. Sofia also said she enjoyed it but I saw her fidgeting for the last 20 minutes too. At 5 and 7, I think it is still a long time to expect them to sit still and pay attention. I think what kept Callum’s attention was the inclusion of his favourite characters, Batman, Superman and ‘The Green Ninja’.

Overall, it has been another good day. I’m still surprised at just how upbeat I am after such a miserable winter (both my mood and the weather). Like they say ‘a change is as good as a rest’. That is proving so true this week!

Tomorrow it is the family outing (Stuart and Millie included) to London to check out the Natural History Museum which, despite me thinking of it before I saw Callum’s homework book, fits in nicely with Callum’s half term homework project!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Half-Term Adventures: Monday

It’s half term and, where I’d usually be filled with fear about how we were going to spend the time, keep busy and not just waste it looking out at the rain, struggling to muster up enough motivation to make a cup of tea, I’m actually really looking forward to this week.

I think the reason is because Millie (apart from Wednesday) will still be at nursery each day.

I don’t mean that to sound unfair to Millie. Since Millie was born, I’ve not had much opportunity for mother and son bonding. The odd day or trip to the park just the two of us or, more often, a trip to the supermarket (whoop whoop) while Millie naps at home with Daddy.

Therefore, I’m really looking forward to having fun with my boy and re-establishing the mother and son bond and thought it would be a good blogging opportunity write about our daily half-term activities.

It wont all be just the two of us, we have play dates with my niece and an old nursery friend of his in the pipeline but there’ll be plenty of bonding time.

I had intended to be proactive at making plans and to go out every day but I failed that on day one! The shopping was planned to arrive in the morning and when the weather is grey and wet (like it was today) I really struggle to get motivated to go out in the afternoons. But not all was lost and I think Callum really enjoyed our activity!

It started with the words “Can I keep this to make something with it” as Callum poured the last of a packet of cereal into his breakfast bowl and waved the empty box around.

Now I love the ‘idea’ of crafting! I love sparkly glitter and the opportunity to be creative but the reality of crafting with children rarely meets expectations. I’m too much of a control freak and lose interest when Callum doesn’t see  my ‘vision’ of what I thought we were going to create. Oh, ok, I also struggle to just ‘let go’ when the silver glitter gets mixed in with the gold glitter and he decides to use EVERY feather in the brand new pack, and no don’t put blue paint all over the lovely pretty picture you’ve just created, I don’t think it’s a good idea to make it ‘rain’! (there were a lot of ‘…’ words in that paragraph!)

However, today went well. As we were scrolling through ideas on the ipad, Callum spotted a guitar and I thought, actually, why the hell not!? I had an empty tube from wrapping paper too, I had wool, we could paint it – this could work!

There was enough ‘grown up’ bits that only I could do to meet my control freak fix plus enough that he could do on his own to nurture his creative flair. I’m also keen to encourage anything music related, whether for real or role play (yes, I hope to live my dreams through my child and yes, I do hope he’ll make us millions one day).

Even better, I got to ‘try’ to teach him how to finger knit and also attempt to teach him how to play cats cradle (we didn’t get past the third step and then he lost interest) so more opportunity to regress for me.

Callum was chuffed with the result of his guitar and then enjoyed putting on a concert for me, pretending to play along to the CD player. Thankfully, no rock-star style guitar smashing moments – I think I would’ve cried and vowed never to craft again!


Aside from guitar making, we also had fun doing orange peel smiles and learning about dinosaurs for his homework book – Callum drew a picture and wrote how we are going to London to see dinosaurs. Future dinosaur related craft to come!


Tomorrow my niece, Sofia, is coming over and Stuart has the afternoon off work. Hoping to be able to squeeze in bread making and go to see The Lego Movie at the cinema. Will be back to blog about it tomorrow!

Happy Half Term Adventures All!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Sister

It’s moments like this which make me so pleased that we were able to provide a sister (or sibling) for Callum and that we decided to try in the first place. There were discussions as to whether we would count our blessings with one child or did we try for a brother or sister for Callum. Both having siblings ourselves, we decided we wanted to offer Callum the experiences a sibling can provide and a chance to learn many a lesson from each other.

Callum is so helpful with Millie and has recently been asking if he can help her with her coat and shoes. He struggles with the buckle of the shoes but can happily take her coat on or off, managing the buttons just fine.


(Sorry about the quality of photos – having to use camera on an old phone at the moment)

Callum really does look out for Millie. Over Christmas, I had to work a couple of days while Stuart looked after the children. One particular day, they had run rings round Stuart and he was at the end of his tether so when Millie picked up Callum’s milk and poured it over his head, he was not best pleased and got cross with Millie…actually, there were a couple of other times that day where Millie tested his patience.

So, as soon as I put my key in the door, Callum was there: “Daddy shouted at Millie 3 times today!”.

If ever we say Millie is being naughty, he’ll jump in to defend her saying she isn’t naughty.

It makes me look forward to the future and I hope this is what it will always be like for them – wanting to help one another, be there for one another, stick up for one another. Callum, though sometimes he does get cross with Millie himself, ultimately is the caring big brother.

In time, as Millie gets older, I hope that Millie appreciates what she has in a brother like Callum rather than resents it. Knowing how her personality is shining through all ready, she’ll use it to her advantage and have him wrapped around her little finger! The best I could wish for is that Millie is there to stick up for her brother in just the same way.

They may not be close in age now but as they get older those years will dissolve into nothing, feeling more like minutes rather than years. I hope they continue to grow closer too.

With this Post I’m excited to be joining up with Dear Beautiful’s Siblings Linky. Please do visit her and the other blogs that are part of this link too. It’s such a beautiful idea.
dear beautiful

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The outlook is holey!

Holes! In everything! Holes in socks, holes in the knees of trousers, holes in shoes, holes in his book bag!

I don’t know about you, but I like to send my children to school looking fairly decent! Of course, Callum is a boy (in case you hadn’t noticed) and boys will be boys. Climbing, scuffing, skimming across the playground. Many girls too, I imagine! IMG_20130918_080658

What started off on the first day of school as stark white shirt tucked in, neatly pressed collar out over slightly oversized school jumper, smart black shoes to finish it off (take a look at the picture) has turned into an off-white shirt with pen and food stains on, tatty trousers with holes in all the knees (3 out of 5 pairs – the 2 without were bought 2 weeks ago, then 2 pairs bought just before Christmas and the other 1 in September – one pair from September has been thrown away), shoes that now sport a sunroof to let the rain in and his bag has taken constant battering from being dragged along the floor!

Suspecting Callum might grow out of school clothes pretty quick, I didn’t splash out on anything expensive, I went to Asda! However, he hasn’t grown out of them size wise just worn through them. I, at least, thought the book bag would last until the end of the school year!

So maybe I should spend a bit more for quality and the clothes might last longer…is this true? If I apply this logic to the shoes we bought, we thought we’d invest in a decent pair of Clarks for his first pair of school shoes in the hope they’d last. Yet they look like they have been handed down through the generations. I certainly can’t afford to spend £45 on a pair of school shoes every 6 months!!! I desperately need work shoes myself but haven’t bought any because I can’t be spending that much on a pair of shoes but at least I’d know I was at least paying for material! In fact, I think my last pair of M&S shoes cost £25 – my last pair of shoes were £6!!

Is it all boys? Is it all children? How long do your children’s school clothes last? Do you splash out or buy bulk of cheap?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

There’s Only One Callum Bun


My little big boy is really blossoming into a lovely person. He has slotted into school life with no effort at all. I’d heard of other children struggling with the first term and their behaviour deteriorating and if Callum had gone to school in September 2012 I’m pretty sure he would’ve been the same but being the oldest in his year at the start of September 2013, he was so ready. Stuart and I went to a parent’s evening before Christmas and the teacher was happy with where he was at. His learning progress wasn’t anything to wow about (every parent wants to hear their child is a genius and the top of the class) but he was where his teacher expected him to be…for a boy! One thing I was proud of was his behaviour. He would sit and listen and would stick with something he was asked to do until he was finished. The other thing was that he had lots of friends. That was enough for us to squash any concerns we may have had!

I’ve recently started to notice a real improvement in his reading. He brings home a couple of books a week from school and carefully sounds out the words but is needing less and less help. Likewise, his writing is getting better and less HUGE. When he sees his homework book, he always wants to write something in it. We rarely follow the requested homework (bad mummy) as it often asks for Callum to draw a picture of what he has done and Callum, although loves putting pencil to paper as if to draw, is no artist! He rarely draws a recogniseable picture and prefers to scribble anything and tell you its a picture of something. Instead, we practice writing and counting and maths. We do it during the course of the day as a natural thing but don’t always document it in his book as by the time I get round to writing in it, I’ve forgotten what it was we’ve done. I’m pleased that his school doesn’t push the homework too much and rather just encourages you to complete it at this stage and the tasks are set more as ideas – well that’s my interpretation!

When I think about Callum, more than his educational progress, I think about his character, loving spirit and what a wonderful big brother he is.

For example, he baked cakes at his after school club the other week and was allowed to take 2 cakes home early (before decorating as they had more than they needed) so he tells me one is for him and the other is for Millie. A couple of days later, he brings home three decorated cakes who he announces are for him, Millie and Daddy. He doesn’t expect to eat them all himself and I don’t prompt him, he wants to share with others. If he has a banana and Millie wants some, he’ll often share it with her.

Of course, he will often say he is ‘helping’ Millie with her toys as an excuse to play with them himself and will hog the ‘best toys’ regardless of who they belong to, to himself but he does interact with her and play with her. But Millie will always want whatever Callum is playing with.

It always amazes me how someone is brought into their life and they are not told to love this new intrusion but somehow they do and it is clearly evident how much Callum loves Millie. When I pick Callum and Millie up from nursery (his after school club is attached to the nursery), I pick up Millie first then Callum. It isn’t me he runs to hug hello, it is Millie! He genuinely cares for her.

In many ways, he is a typical little boy – he whinges, as I said in Millie’s post, he is a wimp when he bumps himself (tough love mother!), he tries to get out of washing his face and cleaning his teeth, he drags everything out to take so much longer than necessary, especially when you are in a hurry. He has already developed the teenager trait of not wanting to get out of bed on a school day and has uttered the words “I hate you” (to which I unhelpfully laughed!). He loves Superheroes and PowerRangers and spends far too much time on the iPad!

These posts of Callum and Millie aren’t meant as boasts of ‘look how wonderful my child is’ but as parents is it so wrong to be proud of your child and look for their good traits. I’m sure we tell them off and moan about them enough too so it is good to praise them and ourselves when what they are doing is right, surely?

It is easy to get caught up in the bad moments sometimes, and only see them but if you take a step back and look at the overall picture, I can’t help but be proud of how he is turning out and hope that it is as a result of Stuart and my parenting…somewhere!

Then I look forward to the years ahead – he is going to pay me back when he gets to his teenage years isn’t he!?

You may have noticed that I’m last in line for cuddles (I do get lots) and that I may not be the one he wants to share his cakes with but when asked “Daddy or chips?” he chose chips! Laughing out loud