Thursday, 29 July 2010

Sunderland International Airshow 2010

What a weekend, what a fantastic time we have all had.  This was my first experience of the Sunderland International Airshow and I can safely say we will be there next year.  

We went on Saturday with mum and found a great spot on the promenade grass for us all to sit.  We packed a picnic and flasks and drinks and had a super afternoon watching all the planes.  

Mum took the boys to the beach and they made a volcano and sandcastles and I went down to join them before the tide came in.

Sunderland Airshow i Europe's largest free airshow and all you pay for is parking at the park and ride. Sunderland is such a great place as there are plenty of places to sit and watch and you get great views of the planes pretty much where ever you may be.  The programme only cost £3.00 and you really do need one to find out what is on when and it also tells you all about the aircraft and pilots.

The boys loved it, so much so that the boys begged to go back again on the Sunday.  So we packed up a picnic again and set off.  The weather was colder and more overcast, so I was glad that I packed a blanket for us all to cuddles under.  I also took some colouring for the boys for in between the planes.

The highlights of the weekend for us all were the Hawker Hunter, who was called Miss Demeanour on Saturday, she had such a cool paint job and the boys loved her.  MadDad really loved the Typhoon, which Mini also declared the best as it was the loudest!
On Sunday Team Breitling were something else, we were in awe of the lady wingwalkers and the Red Arrows put on a fantastic 20 minute display to end the show.  They were out of this world and spectacular just doesn't cover it.

The only down side was getting out of the car park and home on Sunday evening.  It took 2 hours to goo 100 yards and by this time the boys were very tetchy and tired.  We didn't get home till 8.30 and then it was straight to bed for them.

Top tips for next year:
  • Arrive early to go round the aircraft on the cliff and look round the stalls.
  • Take a beach tent to pitch on the grass area in case of rain.
  • Get lost children wrist bands for the boys and agree a meeting area if lost.
  • Take buckets, spades, swimwear and towels for the boys.
  • Take an extra flask.
  • Take colouring etc for the boys.
  • Take a good picnic.
  • Leave 15 mins before the end, so you can get out of the car park!


Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Gallery - Nature or Nuture

What can I say, well today I took the boys to the local woodland centre, where the plan was to collect shells and small stones on the beach to make jam jar lanterns.

We actually spent far to long on the beech to get them made so will have to do them tomorrow at home, but boys being boys they didn't want shells on their jam jars, oh no they wanted dead crabs....

So as much as I nurture their artistic and creative sides, sometimes the force of nature is just to great!


Monday, 26 July 2010

A few of my recent makes

A gorgeous table setting mat for children which is washable and backed with towelling, also available in blue - £8.00 plus postage 

A selection of girls back to school hair slides and bobbles.  Can be customised, just ask.  Prices from £2.75 to £4.50

A variety of hair grips and clips, made with stunning buttons.  Prices range from £1.50 to £2.75

I have committed (or should that be need committed) to holding a stall on Sunday at the Gala at my SIL and Brothers Social Club - hmm, must get busy making, which wont be easy with the boys at home too!


Legoland July 2010 - Top Tips

A couple of weeks back we took the boys on what appears to be an annual trip to legoland, so here are my top tips:

  • Use Tesco vouchers to pay for your entrance tickets, or keep an eye out on the two for one deals.
  • Pack hats and sun screen!
  • Arrive early, the park opens at 10am, but the shop and entrance open earlier, avoid the queue and turn up early.
  • Pick up a lost parent sticker at the guest services area.
  • Start a back of the park and work forward, this way you will get on more rides.
  • Take a picnic - the food in the park is overpriced and not very nice at all.  We ordered pizza, garlic bread and chips and it was tasteless cardboard and the boys didn't eat it.
  • Take swimwear and a towel.  The splash area in Duplo world is great for little ones.  We went at about 3pm for an hour and it was fab, I even managed to drink a cup of tea!
  • The Clutch Powers 4D show is a must see, we all loved it.  We went at lunch time when the sun was at it its hottest (join the queue early to get good seats)
  • The boys laughed and laughed at the pirate show, a great time and place to eat your picnic!
  • The boys are too small for a lot of the bigger rides, which seemed to have the large queues, when they get bigger I may consider the qbot.  Take treats for the queues as it does get a little boring for children waiting.
  • We did the water rides just before going to the water area at Duplo World, giving the boys clothes time to dry out whilst they enjoyed the water.
  • Remember to get a parking ticket on your way out - yes you now pay £1 for parking.
  • Leave 15 mins before the park closes, or you will get stuck in the traffic leaving the park.


Sunday, 25 July 2010

Maxi's Foundation Stage Graduation

Thursday was Maxi's last day at school in Reception before he goes up to year one in September.

This year has been a amazing one for my little man, one that I hope will give him a great foundation to all the years of learning he has to come.  The biggest part of this year has been his wonderful teacher Mrs Sayer and her two wonderful teaching assistants (Mrs Holmes and Mrs Jackson)

Mrs Sayer has a wonderful way with the children and they all adore her, she brings learning to life through play and is the perfect Reception teacher (which is why I was overjoyed to find out Mini is in her class next year).  Not once has she pushed Maxi too hard, she has a great grasp of his abilities and keeps him challenged.

Anyway Wednesday night was his graduation and he had a great time and didn't want the party to end.
 Maxi running to us with his Math certificate

All the children got a certificate and a book and then Maxi got a certificate for being the best Mathematician.  We were very proud indeed.
Dancing the night away


Monday, 19 July 2010

Mini Makes Music

As you know the boys stayed at my mothers on Saturday night and when I went to pick them up yesterday we decided to go to the beach and have a picnic in a nearby park with my Niece.
 Little did we realise there was a council run event on at the park and it turned out to be a wonderful afternoon.

There as a wonderful couple who had a load of drums and were showing the children how to play them and Mini had a fab time.

He managed to keep in time (most of the time) and really didn't want to stop.  My niece also loved it.  Maxi decided he would rather play in the park with Grandma!

As we were leaving the chap came up to me and told me that Mini had a real talent.  I was ever so proud of him.


Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Boys are away and I don't want to play ......

My Mum has the MiniMads for only the second time in their life.  Yes this is the second evening me and MadDad have had to ourselves and we have no intentions of going out (not that we could afford to anyway).

Before we had children we swore we wouldn't become parent bores, you know the ones......  the people who have no other topic of conversation apart from their children and guess what we are turning into them.

We decide not to bother with the grand dinner I had planned to cook, instead we settled for some cheese on toast with a cup of tea, none of the sparking wine either, as we sat in front of the television to catch up on some of those shows we have filled our Sky+ with.

We sat in comfortable silence, snuggled under the throw, punctuated by random sentences about how weird it is for the children not to be here and how sad I was that sports day was cancelled and how will find the cash to pay for swimming lessons again, especially as it is the week before pay day.  Then back to the snuggling and silence.

We trotted off to bed an hour or so later than usual, no having to get up for the boys, but as we reached the top of the stairs we both felt the need to go in to their rooms.  You see we do this every night as we go to bed, we take turns to check on the boys, to tuck them in and stroke their foreheads and give them an extra kiss, oh and to just watch them sleep.

I woke this morning at 6.20, which is what time Maxi is usually up.  My body clock hadn't yet got the message that he wasn't here and I lay still, not moving, breathing evenly as not to wake MadDad.  Over and over in my head the thoughts that I was boring, didn't have anything other than the children to take about, that I wasn't witty that we didn't have intellectual debate and worse than that I didn't even know what was a number one in the Charts, let along who where the DJ's on radio one. 

How had it come to this?  When did I stop being a person in my own right and transform in to a mummy?  

MadDad it turns out had been laying there not moving too, awake, but not wanting to wake me up.  Oh how we laughed about that, we would rather let each other catch up on precious sleep than use the time making love, like we used to.  So we laid and cuddles and I talked about how I fell that I was a non-person, a mother.  That I had nothing intellectual  or interesting to say and that how our conversations revolved around the children.

"But the children are interesting to me and I love hearing how your day with them has been.  I want to know what they have been up to whilst I have been a work" MadDad told me.  Funny isn't it, I crave adult company and conversation, but when I get it, I have nothing to talk about other than the Children.  But then that is all I know nowadays really, that and the day to day issues of caring for a loved one as they get older (my mother).  

We do tend to stick to talking about the things we know about and experience and I don't want to bring every conversation down to my health (or lack of it), my mood (deep dark and scary), our finances (enough said) and as for politics (money again!).  So I talk about what I know, what I experience and  what I live and for me at this time in my life it is being a mum.

So we have resolved that if mum offers again to have the boys (and after speaking to her this morning, I am not sure she will be) then I will be more comfortable with things.  It doesn't mean that we wont miss them or go in to empty rooms to check on them though!


Thursday, 15 July 2010

Transition - We have hit a wall

I think we are reaching one, yes as I type. I have adored everyday I have been afforded as a stay at home mum of my two wonderful boys, but my oh my it has been hard. Not only mentally and physically with my health issues, but mainly financially and it looks like we have hit the wall.

We originally thought that we would manage on just one salary, but then illness came and smacked us in the face meaning that MadDad had to take unpaid leave to look after me and the children.  We were daft we relied on our credit cards to pay the bills over those very hard and tough months and we got in to a pickle.

We are still in that pickle and even though I try hard as I can I just can not make the budget work anymore.  What with two sets of school uniforms to pay for (done thanks to a car boot sale), clothes and shoes (yes the boys are growing at such a pace), swimming lessons, football lesson, school trips, cars to run and insure (yes I do need it, I have to look after mum as well as the boys and she lives in the next town and I live in a village that is even past the end of the train line).

We live a pretty frugal lifestyle.  I manage to feed us all on £50 per week, subsidised by the wonderful veg in the garden, but it is just not enough.
So I guess the transition we are in it that I have to finally accept that I need to find a job and it needs to be a job which will cover the child care and help pay the ever increasing bills and you know what, it scares me.  Yes for all the reasons I have blogged about before, but also for the fact that I didn't have my children to leave them with other people.  We never thought we would get in this pickle and it is killing me.  I am crying on the inside and the outside and working hard at hiding it from the boys.

The fact is a magic job isn't just going to appear, no one is going to come and offer me a great job writing for them whilst I remain at home.  I have looked for evening jobs, but I live in an unemployment black spot and the council closed applications for a position last week when the number of CVs they received hit 1000, yes 1000!

Yes I am bitter and upset about it all.  I have paid £13 in school trip money this month, just for Maxi and it is money I don't have, but how do you say that he can not go on them.  What really gets my goat is that Children on free school meals (we don't qualify) get to go on trips free and this will all double with Mini stating in September too.

We fall in to a forgotten category of people, who's mortgage is a chain around their necks, we are in a tied in deal and it is crippling us.  Add to that massive gas and electricity payments, council tax, TV licence, phone bills, food, insurance, and then the dreaded credit card payments (how could we be so stupid).

I am happy to take advertising on the blog and do sponsored posts (within reason).  I would love a small regular income from writing, as anything helps, but I am not sure it is going to be enough.

So I have bought the local paper, I am scouring the Internet, I have been in to Tesco's and I am making an appointment to go to the job centre.  I need a job.

This post is part of the writing workshop over at Sleep is for the week and inspired by prompt 4. Share your experience of a difficult transition. A moving ‘from’ to ‘something new’.


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Gallery - Can you see What it is yet? - The Reveal

The Reveal

The origional image is a crop of this image, which was taken when we were in  London.

Have you guessed what it is yet....  Look there are little people down below!

Yes it is the London Eye


The Gallery - Can you see What it is yet?

For this weeks Gallery over at Sticky Fingers you  have to take a photograph of something everyday, but take it at a different angle, from a different viewpoint, using a close-up zoom, whatever - something that makes that everyday object look totally different.

And we all have to guess what it is.

So this is my entry, if anyone gets it right, they might even be a small prize, you never know!


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Bringing out the Lioness in me

Just don't go upsetting my cubs in front of me, as it will bring out the lioness in me.  She has surfaced this week and I am still upset and angry about how my boys, Mini in particular has been treated.

Every Monday there is a youth group at the local church and although I don't attend church, I want the boys to have experience of church and the fact that this is help in the church itself, rather than a hall really appealed to me, in such that it demystifies such a quiet place.

So I registered the boys and they went for the first time a fortnight ago.  They had a great time, I collected them, no one said anything to me, apart from the fact that it wasn't on last week.  

So we got all ready to go this week, after taking Maxi to the doctors.  We arrived and I apologised for being slightly late (the GP ran over, nothing unusual there) and the boys went to play with their friends, when a lady stopped Mini and told him, he wasn't allowed to stay.

She brought him to me and told me he was too young and they went insured, but there are other four year olds attending, so I questioned her and said how could mini be too young and the others aren't?  She then went on to say that it is a health and safety issue and he asked for help in wiping his bottom.  At this point he burst in to tears.  Now he doesn't ask for help at school and yes occasionally at home he will ask for us to "check" his bottom (to be fait Maci does now and again too), so I said that it was possibly down to him being in a new environment.  To which she responded "we don't want him here and I have spoke to the Vicar".  I asked her why she hadn't telephoned me prior to our coming and that this wasn't an appropriate conversation to have in front of everyone, but she wouldn't budge.  She was happy for Maxi to stay, but not Mini.

So I took both boys home with me and it then took me an hour to calm Mini down.  All the time Maxi was telling him he would help wipe his bottom if that was all that stopped them from going.  Mini wanted to know why they don't want him, what has he done wrong, don't they like him?  I managed to hold it together until MadDad got in and then that was that I was in tears telling him what happened.

I couldn't find the Vicars number to discuss this with her, I was far too angry to go back and talk to the Youth group organiser, in fact I am still so upset about the way this has been handled.

I managed to speak to the Vicar last night and expressed my concerns over the way it has been handled and the inequality of it all, but I am waiting for her to come back to me.

And I am stewing, yes Mini is hard work, yes he can be challenging, loud, he doesn't always listen, he can be cheeky, insubordinate,  naughty, downright infuriating at times, but is this the reason that they don't want him there?  What have I done wrong?  He does come across as boisterous, but he is also loving, fun and a joy to be with.  I can not believe that they have made their decision based on one session with them.  It breaks my heart and I don't want Maxi to go without Mini and truth be told, neither of them understand what the problem is.
The longer it takes the Vicar to ring me back the more I think about it and reflect on the even, they are better ways to do this, without upsetting me and my children.


Monday, 12 July 2010

Children's Craft Showcase - How to make paper flowers

This is a really simple way to make flowers for someone special, not for any reason, just to say I love you.  They would also make a really great gift to say thank you to any teacher at this time of the year.


Tissue Paper
Heart Punch or template and scissors
Paper Straws (Art straws - 99p from The Works)
Paper brads


This is such a simple piece of craft, that Maxi actually made all of our flowers (roses) which we took with us to see The Wiggles and give to Dorothy.

Use the punch to make heart shapes out of tissue paper

With a single hole punch make a hole in each at the point end

Place you tissue paper petals on to the paper brad

Place you brad in to the end of your paper straw.

Keep going until you have a bunch of beautiful paper roses (we gave ours to Dorothy the Dinosaur, when the boys saw The Wiggles)


Saturday, 10 July 2010

Christmas with John Lewis

The institution that is John Lewis invited me to their Autumn/Winter and Christmas launch this week and I had a great big glimpse into what they think might be the next big thing and guess what I love it!

From a toy perspective, I was really pleased to see that there was a focus on traditional role play and musical instruments.  I have earmarked the fantastic electric guitar for Mini a snip at £35 when they get them in stock (well Grannie will be purchasing it for his Christmas present).  There was a lot of toy story on display too, in addition to a fab Lego camera and MP3 player.

I have always been a fan of John Lewis' Christmas section and was very impressed with their offerings for Christmas 2010.  I was really inspired by the crackers made from recycled newspaper.

I have to say though it was the home section that totally blew me away.  I loved the retro vibe of the connections fabrics and prints, which they had actually gone in to the JL archives for. 

The furniture was stunning, I especially liked the Mr Bright Chair, each of the buttons were a different colour.  If made my heart sing!  Rob Ryan has also done a fantastic collaboration too and they his and hers mugs are on my Christmas list.

Then  there was the haberdashery, how wonderful, so much eye candy.  Beautiful buttons, ribbon, fabric and  rickrack.  John Lewis are going to start stocking fat quarters and quilting fabric too.

So thank you to John Lewis for a great day.



Friday, 9 July 2010

Behind this Good Woman, is A Great Man

He stands behind with solid arms to catch me should I fall
His tender words, his comforting stance
The safety net in my world

He watches with a knowing eye that only time can bring
He is ever present, should I need him
Not pushy or making demands

He is the banks that my river flows through
The day to my night
ever present

He is the galaxy that makes my stars shine brighter
The oxygen in my air
The love of my life

He makes me smile a thousand suns
He is mine
Together we are one


Thursday, 8 July 2010

Lets make a list outdoor games

I was asked about outside games by the very funny Mr Shev and seen as I didnt have the answer, I asked him to write a post and said that I would throw open the floor to my wonderful readers.

Browsing through the average toy shop, I sometimes wonder what kids did on a sunny day before NerfSupersoakers and themed paddling pools.

But then I realise that I do know because I grew up in a world without them and we had to invent our own entertainment. So, we played football, developed innovative ways to kill ants and trawled the streets looking for useful trash to transform into go-karts or even more sophisticated and intricate ways to kill ants (makes me sound like I came from a family of pikeys, but the kids toy market was not as sophisticated as it is today.)

I still don't know why we hated ants so much.

The reason that I have been ruminating about this is because this weekend my Darling Son reached the ripe old age of four. Being neurotically proud parents we went through emotional turmoil about what to buy him (a bike), what to feed him (his favourite: chicken wings), what to do with him (boat trip) and who to invite to his party (everyone). We decided, because the weather is so good, to have it at the park and do a barbecue.
We obviously organsied the ubiqitous, much maligned, steeped in corruption (with allegations of bribery): pass-the-parcel. The kids all knew what to do, even the really young ones. It's as if there is an infant internet using Leapfrogs or something and they all learn how to do it on web forums in the dead of night.

I did face-painting. *RANT ALERT* I searched high and low in both Swiss and French toyshops for decent facepaints and eventually found a box. They are the worst facepaints I have ever used. They are like proper make-up and if I (an animator, with 7 years of art school tuition and years of industry experience) can't paint a kid to look like a bloody dragon then no one can. ALSO, they supplied make-up remover because once this stuff goes on it stays on - try explaining that to a 2yr old as you're scrubbing their face for the third time. FFS.

Afterwards we hadn't organised a children's entertainer - NO! - or a ballon modeller - WHAT?! - or a travelling menagerie of animals - EVIL PARENTS! What we did was bring a football or two and left the kids to themselves - BAD, EVIL PARENTS! So, what did they do? Well...
  1. Stick-in-the Mud One person is 'it' and then have to run around like a nut-nut trying to tag a kid. However the difference with this is if you tag someone then they are 'stuck in the mud' and only their team-mates can free them. What happens, in reality, is that the kids go all Thatcherite and don't give a monkey's about anyone's skin but themselves and carry on running (in a pack!) away from the person who is it. You can play this in teams.
  2. Peep-Behind-the-Curtain Someone stands at a tree or a wall and all the children line up 20m away or so. They have to creep up on the 'peeper' and tag them. If the peeper sees someone moving then that someone is out. The first one to tag the peeper is the next peeper. Best to have a parent as a peeper as they can do slow-motion turnarounds that give the younger kids a chance to stop moving. If kids do it they end up turning around every second and it ends up looking like everyone is vogue-ing.Also, kids like nothing better than to become bonefide supergrasses and will stop at nothing to win. The little buggers.
  3. Wolves & Sheep This is, essentially, tag but when the person who is it (the wolf) tags a sheep then they become a wolf as well. Growling is is wearing wool.
  4. Runaway Train I don't know what this is called, but we coined it as this. Get a big picnic blanket (preferably one that you don't mind getting a bit trashed) and a Daddy runs around trailing the blanket behind them and the kids have to jump on and stay on. If you get more that two or three kids on you might need to get another couple of big lads involved to drag the weight. The kids go bananas for this.
After this lot we ran out of ideas and I wanted to put it to the people: what games do you know that involve minimal props and lots of kids? Explain the game, what it's called and the rules and let's compile a list!


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Mima with Maxi

Maxi's class were lucky enough to go to Mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) on a school trip and I managed to get MadDad to work from home that day so I could go to.

Now I am not sure I will be taking the boys back just yet, but it was a great, if not a little long day.  In between looking and thinking about the installations the children did get to do some art activities, but they were not allowed to touch anything and with a group of 4 and 5 year olds you can imagine how hard it was for them.

I was very proud of all the children, they were so well behaved and Maxi's teacher is such a gem.  She really understands reception children, so after a picnic lunch on the lawn, she got her class all playing games to let off steam.

There is currently an exhibition by Anish Kapoo which tested the children's don't touch capabilities, as well as mine too. 

Fantastic sculptures and pieces, which made them think, look and really explore what art can be.

The exhibition co-insides with the opening on Tememos in Middlesbrough, which the boys have seen from the car.

I really enjoyed the day and will be going back on my own for some quality me time.

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