Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Too much (choice), too young

Having a text conversation with a friend from S's school today.  S is driving me bonkers at the moment.  Why?  Well, she can't decide if she wants to go to the school disco or not.  I despair. It's an easy choice surely.  Go or don't go. But no, every day seems to be different. Yes, no, maybe, no, get my drift.

Today, my friend's daughter, M, spoke to S on my phone (how cute was that) asking her to come to the disco. She wanted her friend there.  Ahh...S agreed.  Whoopie! Dress sorted and ready for tomorrow. S went to bed.  Five minutes into bedtime, she's stressed out. She doesn't want to go to the disco again. Argh....don't go...I really don't mind or care - BUT MAKE A DECISION!  In fact, it doesn't matter if you make the decision 2 minutes before the disco tomorrow as I've already paid your entrance ticket.  That's how relaxed I am about it but all this too-ing and fro-ing is driving me nuts.

Another few text messages between M's mum and I and something pinged in my brain with what our conversation was discussing. Not the disco as such, but the stress in decision making that our children were finding.  I began to think.

Now, at school they are allowed to choose their activities all day - more or less - with structured time in between. They can choose to play outside or inside and use lots of different learning tools. I know that will change quite a bit in Year 1 come September, but decision making is part of their lives at the moment.  Their day is in their hands, well, pretty much.

The girls want to do activities. S does 4 and N does 2.  When I was a child, we could do one activity outside of school plus one extra activity at school. I did recorder group in school and guides outside of it.  That was it.  I think when I was around 9 mum relented and let me do swimming too as I still couldn't really swim at that point and I recall having a crack at gymnastics and doing those BAGA award badge things. I'm sure that was in school too though - no overly expensive gymnastics clubs for us.  Oh, I did ballet too for about a term (they cut my ribbons in a performance when I was a piece of pink sugar and it upset me so much I didn't want to go back).

S asks me every day what we're having for dinner that night. Half the time I've not decided myself (I'm not good in the mornings and planning dinner when I'm trying to eat breakfast isn't my best decision making time).  She wants to know about activities weeks in advance and then, inevitably, worries about them causing stress at bedtime.  I've tried not telling her about things but, of course, being at school means that things are talked about between the children. Moving up to Year 1 was a bit of a stresser for her for a while and that was weeks before she'd even met her teacher or seen her new class.

N is a bit more laid back. Her school (she's at nursery still) have a choice for lunch.  She handles choices much better.  She chooses her lunch daily and her play as well.  She seems less phased by what's going on around her and just kind of 'cracks on with it'.

I recall my home life was relatively stress free.  Mum prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner and we all ate what we were given.  TV was normally dictated by dad after around 5.30pm but we could watch some kids TV before then.  I must have been older than S before my clothes for the day were not laid out for me.  I was never asked if I wanted a bath - I was given one once a week whether I needed it or not! ;-)  Mum bought me books that she thought I'd enjoy reading (I loved reading so they were all fantastic presents) and although I expressed desires for certain toys advertised on TV or friends had, I did not have a Wish List on Amazon (Amazon - what was that?).

So, I wonder. Do we give young children too much choice?  Should we just decide things for them more as their parents?

I'd be really interested to hear other parents thoughts on this.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Not the Perfect Parent? One or two realities

Of course we are all going to be perfect parents aren't we?  We read the countless books on parenting before we have our first child. We buy weekly magazines showing us the best way to give birth, what our baby will need, ideal nursery furniture and snippets about how our bodies will change.  We smile. Take it all in our stride and have our plans.  And we all know what happens to those best laid plans don't we....

I put up my youngest two girls' school photos today in their bedroom. No, I'm not mean, but a whole class shot doesn't interest me as I have no desire to display a lot of children my daughters do not mix with or even know that well upon my walls. Therefore, individual photos go on the hall and lounge walls.  Class shots go on their bedroom wall.  Simples!

Anyway, I digress.  As I was hammering in the  picture hooks with a hammer that was clearly too small for the job, I realised that a lot of what I had read about being a parent was, well, quite frankly, bollocks slightly over-simplistically put and full of scaremongering too many things to worry a newbie parent.  Let me give you a few examples.

You will need locks on cupboards in your kitchen or your child will crawl up, open the cupboard and drink all your bleach.  No.  #1 cupboard locks are the biggest pain in the arse neck for parents to (a) put on properly and (b) use.  They have a knack of trapping your fingers when you do get them working but before that, you have to try and fit the stupid things.  #2 why would you allow your child in the kitchen to get to the cupboards in the first place?  So, cupboard locks play on our newbie parent paranoia.  Simple solution - put a gate up by the kitchen door.  They can't get in.  You can still open cupboards one-handed while cooking.

Baby monitors.  A necessary evil for most of us but oh boy, are those companies now ripping us off playing on our newbie parent paranoia that something awful will befall our child safely tucked into their cot.  For my first daughter, a simple monitor was fine. I switched it on in her room, had the second unit plugged in in the lounge or bedroom and that was it.  I could hear her rustling around.  No, I could not hear her breathing but it made me feel safe and kind of fluffy. I was being a good parent.  For my 2nd daughter (and third who inherited almost everything from basket to cot, toy, clothes and wellies) the monitor had become so much more complex expensive now having settings for motion/sound and how hot the room was. I could clip it to my belt (if I was a sad enough individual to wear a belt) and it could hear my baby sleeping from 200m away (how big do these manufacturers think my estate is - Sandringham?).  That was perfectly sufficient for my two but before you could say "what more can they add to make the cost higher?" they come out with a pad that you now lay under your baby and a 'babyCam' that you can watch them with too.  Oh FFS!  If you are *THAT* paranoid, just pull up a chair beside the cot and watch them in shifts 24/7.  If they don't move on the pad, then you'll be running up and down stairs checking every two minutes so pull up a chair.... and if they look odd in the darkened room on the webcam..sorry, babyCam, then you'll be checking every two minutes so pull up a get my drift.    Now, don't get me wrong, if your baby has complications I'm sure these things are fabulous for you but for the average parent, they are a means to destroy the last semblance of reality and cause stress induced paranoia.  Do yourselves a favour, buy a simple monitor and relax. Pop in every now and again to watch your child (as all new parents do anyway) and lean over the cot to hear them breathing or touch their tummy to feel it (yes, we all do that too) but don't drive yourself insane with a viewing/movement/temperature induced neurosis.

I weaned my eldest at 12 weeks, I know, shocking isn't it. How could I confess such a hideous crime against my child (shoot me now!) and not keep her on pretty much milk for 6 months.  But guess what? She's had no problems from being weaned early. Back then, (15 years ago) it was the done thing.  See, they (who are *they*?) say that's wrong now. Paranoia sets in again.  She was always a great eater, she still is (except she currently hates mushrooms she informs me - well honey, if you can pick them out, you can leave them on the side of your plate).

She also refused to be breastfeed as a baby, so she had formula from birth (shoot me again) and certainly hasn't suffered illnesses/lack of immunity or any such things poor newbie parents are warned about than my youngest two who were breastfeed for the best part of 5 months (as is the 'new' way of thinking - yeah, right).  In fact, my middle one wanted more than just milk earlier than the 20+ suggested weeks so I started to wean her early. Did I ask 'permission' to do so from the health visitors?  Did I heck!  I just got on with it.

My youngest breastfeed almost constantly.  I recall taking her to be weighed for the 2nd (and last) time with a health visitor who commented - and you'll laugh here - that she was "getting a bit overweight and you need to watch just how much you are feeding her mummy".  I told her straight she was BFsolely and her comment was utterly ridiculous.  I never went back. Don't be pushed into changing what's right for you baby by anyone who doesn't know the full story.  Most mums will know when things are right so stick to your guns.

I have to laugh to myself when I think back to plans I had, 'advice' I was given (most very good, much total tosh) and worries I had.  Take a piece of advice, look up about becoming a newbie parent to get some ideas then go with the flow and try not to let the paranoia that manufacturers selling a product (yes, remember they want to sell you these things, not give them to you for the health of your baby) try to instil into you. You'll do just fine.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Fiddle Sticks

My teen and I decided to collect a cache on the way home today.  We stopped just outside Maidenhead to collect one which was a super size (and great cache container) to pop a travel bug into (and collect one too) and then headed off for the original one we were going to try - Fiddle Stick.

Parking up in the pub car park, we initially took the wrong Public Footpath. What idiot decides that two should be next to each other?!  Really....   Having expanded the map and seeing we were on the wrong one which was a bit overgrown anyway, we headed for the right one. J soon spotted the cache and in she went. Not much room for two in here but I was determined to see it.  Fantastic.  The cache was a piece of genius by JJEF (as have been his other caches that we have tried).  A very well made, clever container that needed more than one thing done to obtain the log to sign.  It took us a while to figure out but we soon did.  Log signed, and J put it all back again.

Unfortunately she felt a bit itchy afterwards and as we got back to the pub, right outside their kitchen window with two chefs inside, she had a screaming, shouting fit as had spotted a spider on her hoodie. Suffice to say she does not like spiders.  One of the chaps even came out to see if we were ok she was making such a fuss. I have to confess I borrowed her brush to do my hair as I was itching a bit at this point.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Chesham has lots of hills

Me and my bestie caching away
Last weekend my friend and I headed off to do some caching together around Chesham. We found a  nice pub to meet at (well, the car park as the pub was shut when we arrived) and had plans to try and beat our 25 caches in one day best.  We were going to aim for some of  the Chiltern 100 and had plans to make this a 50 cache day if we could.

Well, we all know how plans turn out...

We changed from fitflops into walking boots and away we went.  Me in jeans, G in shorts.

Ch051 Chiltern 100 - Chartridge Pond was our first of the day.  Nice easy find.  I had remembered I'd swapped from handbag to rucksack and had no pen so fortunately I had picked up the pencil that was in my car before we set off. No problem regarding a pen, said G, she had one.  She rummaged in her handbag to no avail. She was sure at least two were in there. We didn't want to cache with just a pencil in case the tip broke or we wore it down!  Back she went to the car whilst I took a pic of the cache.  I spotted her walking back towards me when she stopped, turned around and disappeared back into the pub car park.  Back she came after a few minutes minus any of her pens except a rather nice, expensive one that was also digital.  Looks like it'll be a pencil then.  Away we went to get the next one.  Bit of an interesting start to the day.  It had only taken us around 20 minutes to get this far - about 150 yards!

Ch052 - Chartridge Church was next.  Umm..lots of nettles, prickles, holly, and generally nasty stingy things around. I look at G in her shorts. Guess I'm going in then ;-)  We got it though.

Bellingdon & Asheridge - Just a Post was next. Nice hide and a good camo'd container but it wasn't about to elude us.  We do enjoy CaptainJack caches.

B&A - Just a Tree next.  Trampled the brambles to get to the cache and soon had it in hand. G was regretting the shorts. We'd applied the sunscreen she had brought and that's when we realised I'd forgotten mine. Fortunately I did have water, apples and crisps.  That's when G remembered she'd left the water she was going to bring on her kitchen table. How disorganised were we?  We were also in our usual good old natter mode and kept walking past the caches and having to go back. Must remember to look at phone more...must remember to look at phone more...must remember....

B&A - The Low Down was in our sights. No prickles! No stingers! Yeah!  Easy find.

B&A - In Plain View was a tricky find.  I suspect the reason for the difficulty was half of it wasn't there any more. Just the top was still in the branches, no sign of log of bottom of the container. As I touched the top, it came away in my hand.  We debated. Do we claim this as a find?  We've have found it after all.  We took a photo of it and claimed it.  Can't sign log as it's not there so decided it was no different to a log that was too wet to sign.  We logged a Needs Maintenance for the owner too.

Bellingdon - Could a Squirrel Crack this one? was around the corner.  Easy spot when you know what you're looking for.  Seen this before and had to give it a favourite but my log reads like this:

"Owch...I'll head in for...owch....this I'm sure I can...owch....see it as I've seen these...owch...before....owch. Forgot the...owchy-owch-owch...pen! We got there in the end though. Great cache. Have a favourite here!"

Next was Bellingdon - Jump.  Easy, peasey, lemon, squeezy.  Time for a drink from the one person who'd remembered to bring some (tee-hee) as it was getting hot now.  I tempted G with an apple too and crunching along, away we went to Bellingdon - Just a Tree.  Log was pretty soggy here but we still just about managed to sign it.  Yes, you guessed it, we had no replacement logs with us either. Call ourselves cachers?!

Ch66 - Bloomfield Farm was next.  I did a substantial amount of shouting and saying "owch" getting this little bugger of a cache.  The sun and rain we've had has clearly delighted the stingers and pricklers.  Got there in the end though. Blimey it's getting hot.

Ch67 - Two Gates Lane was a gonna. The clue item wasn't around either.  House has clearly replaced a fence and gate with brand new stuff so no cache here. Put a NM on the log.  Our first DNF but not really our fault.  Ch68 - Bellingdon Farm was our turning point at the top of the circuit.  This was an easy find for us but you clearly need to be in the right spot to make the find.  On to the next one.  Ch69 - Bellingdon was another DNF.  Seems the clue item was gone.  Lots of holly to investigate but we'd decided that we were not about to head too far in as surely no-one would expect us to do that?  Anyway, a good look around the edge of the holly turned up nothing.  Off we went.

Ch70 - Hilltop Farm.  Decided to give this one a miss as the thought of trying to fight through holly again was too much to bear.  Who was the cacher laying these? Some kind of prickly masochist?  We walked past and as we were turning the corner to head to our next one, realised there was a path the other side of the holly. we went.  A nice quick find when we got to GZ. No prickles here apart from a bramble that took a shine to my hair and clearly didn't want to let me go.  I escaped though!  This was my 700th cache!

Ch71 - Huge Farm presented us with a horse cunningly disguised as a zebra.  I wonder why?  Whilst zebra-horse looked on, we searched.  We had both seemingly given up with looking at our phones and were randomly walking around hunting through all sorts of objects.  Finally we decided to give up after a good 15 minute search passing a bemused zebar-horse a few times opening and shutting the gate. I'm sure he thought we were going to let him out each time.  As we wandered towards our next cache, we spotted this one.  Clearly the hint object was gone (perhaps zebra-horse had hidden it) but there was the cache. Hooray.

Zebra Horse - a rubbish disguise
Ch72 - Johnson's Farm.  I was having problems with the photo I was uploading of zebra-horse to the cache page.  It seemed despite being higher up now, the signal was naff to say the least. I am not a patient woman (as my husband will tell you) and so I got the hump with the phone really quickly.  I decided to shut the app down which would kill the upload that was happening. I was distracted.  I had the hump.  I deleted the app.  I was cross.  I swore - a lot.  I waved my phone around trying to get a signal.  Not sure why I did this as I couldn't get a sodding signal 2 minutes ago!!  Wild banshee was me.  We found the cache though.  Android 0, iOS 1.

Ch72 - Savecroft Farm.  I am now going along waving my phone about above my head (like the signal may just be that extra 2 feet higher than me right?) and still grumbling like crazy.  We have some more of my drink and eat the bag of crisps between us. I'm not even that keen on prawn cocktail but it's all there was in the cupboard at home.  G points out that let's hope her phone carries on ok as otherwise we'd be lost.  Oh dear, she's right. Neither of us have any idea where we are or how to get back. Yes, we have a vague idea but we've weaved around a bit so we'd have to just try and aim for somewhere downhill and hope we get to civilisation.  On the bright side, I have tick-twisters I've just found in my bag so we'd be tick free and lost!  We got the cache.

Ch74 - Asheridge Views.  No nettles. Happy cachers. What happened to Ch73 then?  I'm still waving my phone around in the vain hope 5 bars will appear.  Even 1 would do. I've stopped swearing now though.

Ch75 - Captain's Wood. A bunch of young hikers/orienteer-ers (is that a real thing?) appeared on the horizon as we darted in to make the find.  I needed a tinkle too.  Oh dear.  G kept watch whilst I tried to avoid a stung bottom.  I must have made the world record for fastest tiddle ;-)  Off we went to Ch76 - Tile Farm View.  The hill nearly finished us both off!  Bloody hell that was steep.  To really rain on our parade, the cache was nowhere to be found. Suspect from previous logs that it's a gonner.  We didn't talk much walking up the hill for the second half of it as we were both adjusting to the altitude.

Ch77 - Valley View.  I've put my phone in my rucksack now. I'm not even waving it around any more.  We found the cache though.  Ch78 - Asheridge Road was a DNF.  We didn't hang around though as we've drunk all of our drink and are now gasping.  There is real determination in our stride now as the pub shuts at 4.30pm and there wasn't a village shop around so we have a purpose.  Ch79 - Tile's Farm was another DNF. No concrete anywhere.  Annoying.

Ch80 - Tile's Farm View was a quick find.  We are both getting a little fed up with these caches now as everything seems to be under a ton of holly, brambles or nettles.  It's just no fun.  Plus we are thirsty.  Ch81 - Caravan Park was a bit tricky.  We had a good search but nothing.  Read clue.  7' up. We looked up everywhere. Nothing. Then G made the spot, 7" from the ground. Clue bad or it's fallen out of where it should be. Couldn't see anything obvious to put it back so left it were it was.

Ch82 - Raymond's Cottage was a quick find.  Thank goodness for nothing stingy again. The pub is calling.  We spotted somewhere that sold ice cream. In we went. It was a house with a set of freezers and chillers for drinks.  An honesty tin was there. We bought two ice creams and were in heaven strolling along with them.

Ch50 - Westdean Lane.  Followed the cachers paths but nothing to be seen.  A good rummage around but not very nice as quite a bit of litter and waist high stingers!  About to leave when we spotted it.  This was not going to be easy....

We arrived at the pub at 4pm. Brilliant!  As we approached, the staff all came out and shut the door. Nooooo!!!!!  We looked at the sign. It shuts at 4pm.  Noooo!!!!  I pushed the door and it opened. In we went. Some locals were there watching TV.  We said do we have time to get a drink still. They said we did.  The landlady was on the phone.  The locals were chatting to us and said after a while to help ourselves to a drink and leave the money there for when she got off the phone. At that point she appeared and we ordered a pint each - mine was orange juice and lemonade and G's was coke.  We're ladies we'll have you know ;-)  I think I must have drunk my drink in about 2 minutes flat.  The landlady let us jump onto the WiFi and I downloaded the app again. Phew. I was back in the game!  We sat there until about 4.30pm then set off to get a few more as we'd had some DNFs.  We both had aching legs though as we'd been walking for 5 hours straight so we decided no more hills were in order. G looked at the map (yep, I had no signal the moment I came off the WiFi, 2-0 to iOS) and we opted for another route a bit further up the road.  We trotted off.

Life Begins at... was our first of this next bit.  A nice easy find.  We had eaten two bags of crisps each (G bought mine for me and said not to say she never buys me lunch when we go out, ha, ha) so had to work off those calories ;-)

B&A - Twixt Tree and Fence was next.  Took a bit of hunting here and we were both searching. I finally spotted it. Another one off the list.  B&A - Ivy was next.  Much unnecessary clambering around was done here before we got it.  I didn't want to head up another hill - I don't think G would have appreciated carrying me back to the car if we did, so we turned around and decided to walk a bit further down the road and do an odd few more.  Both our legs were seriously aching now and we were both commenting that our feet hurt too.

Ch56 - Ashotts Lane South was a quick find. We were chatting so much again now (fuelled by fizz and crisps clearly) that we overshot it.  Ch57 - Ashotts Lane Northing was a DNF.  Nothing anywhere that we could see.  We were flagging.  We made the executive decision to go back to the other side of the main road and do the last couple around there  - on the flat!

Ch55 - Capps Lane North we overshot and neither of us could bear to go back so we didn't. We carried on to Ch54 - Capps Lane.  This was a bit of a hunt but we got there in the end.  GPS pointing to the wrong place but our cache senses were still working.  Ch53 Cogdells Farm was a DNF. We couldn't even spot the clue item but we did see the cricket team were playing.

We were now beat.  The last one we could have got we honestly didn't even feel like walking too. I'm not sure if it was the heat still or the amount of walking we had done (another nearly 1 1/2 hours had passed).  I was developing a headache so knew I was getting dehydrated again. It had been lovely though and I don't think we've ever walked so many hills but boy am I looking forward to putting my feet up tonight.

We parted company and have decided to come back in another couple of months to do some more around this area as it is so full of caches. We may look for somewhere slightly flatter next time though ;-)

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Baby Robin

We were out in the garden this afternoon when S called to me that she had spotted a baby bird in the bushes.  I went over carefully, keeping the girls away to spot this little fellow sitting looking at me.  What to do?  It looks like it had fallen from a nest and had some down on it still but where had it come from?

I called the RSPCA and had a chat to a lovely lady who said it may have been a fledgling or a nestling.  She suggested we carefully pick it up and pop it into a little box and someone would come and get it.  We did just that whilst she was on the phone, with J carefully scooping it up and popping it into one of the girls shoe boxes onto some toilet tissue.  The RSPCA lady said to pop it somewhere quiet (in this house?!) so I brought it indoors and said to her it looked like it's feathers on it's wings were formed but it had a lot of fluff elsewhere.  As I peeped at it, it flapped and tried to get out of the box.  I told the lady this so she suggested we pop the box up high on top of a bush or shrub and open it and see if mum and dad bird came back, then call back in a couple of hours.

We did just that.  We put him (I'll call our baby 'him') on top of the rhododendron and opened the lid.  He flapped and got onto the edge as we stepped back. He then flopped out onto the leaves. Within about 30 seconds he had plopped back onto the ground and hidden himself in the leaves again.  Within seconds, two Robins had arrived on the fence with food in their mouths and cautiously found him.  They fed him in shifts and it seems he is their only baby.

At one point, one of the Robins came with a bug in its mouth and flew down to the baby. He made the usual excited little noises waiting to be fed but the Robin just flew back onto the fence and kind of 'squeaked' at him. This was repeated about half a dozen times.  Finally the Robin fed him.  Was it trying to encourage him to fly?

Having watched him for 2 hours, I called the RSPCA back.  The lady advised that as mum and dad Robin were busy taking care of him, it was best to leave him alone. She said sometimes they even push them out of the nest to encourage them to fly.  I told her about the Robin 'teasing' him with food and she said that sounded a lot like they were wanting to get him flying.  I did say I was worried about cats as although we don't have any ourselves, a black and white one is always around our garden at night.  As she said, nature will take it's course.

I hope we have a little feathered friend who flies off later today or tomorrow and remains safe away from cats tonight.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Hoe Valley Geocaching

The weather has been a bit hit and miss over the past couple of days so we decided that as it's the first day of half term, we needed to get out.  Having a quick look on the map we spotted a few more caches appeared around the Hoe Valley and headed off to get them.

Parking up, we noticed that they seem to be doing some building work around here.  Looks like a bunch of houses going up. What a shame. It was such a lovely, green area with the stream and now a huge chunk of it has been hoarded up while multiple houses are built.  Can these councils not preserve anything anymore?

As we approached the first cache location, a muggle was leaning on the fence listening to music and, it seemed, waiting for someone. We loitered. He loitered longer. We left.  We'll try again on the way back ;-)

A nice walk along the stream to our second of the day, Bullet #8.  A nice location to stop for a moment but a bugger to find.  Oh come on, it must be here somewhere?!  Girls and hubby decided to eat the sandwiches whilst I carried on looking. Felt a bit obvious in my luminous pink coat!  Fortunately no-one about.  Finally I put my hand on it.  Hooray!  A well deserved sandwich afterwards on the bench.

Off we trotted to Troll to try out luck.  Looked both sides of the bridge (and under clearly). the clue.  Sure we knew what we were looking for as seen lots of these before. Disturbed every real one that was there but nothing else to find.  Fingertip search around beams and nought.  A DNF. Disappointing but never mind.  Girls enjoyed playing pooh-leaves (we had no sticks at this point) off the bridge.

Away we went past a basketball court that S described as "a small golf course". Did make us laugh.

A nice walk to Bullet #9 which gave us a good bit of searching.  We went to the wrong location at first then I wandered off ignoring the GPS and looked around others.  Soon spotted a likely hidey-place and called hubby over to delve.  Yes, I was right and he made the find.  The girls loved it and it got a favourite from us.

Some more games of pooh-sticks now in the stream with each of us choosing a stick and hubby throwing them all in.

Lovely walk back playing pooh-sticks or pooh-leaves at every bridge we came too.  We even found the world smallest park with a slide with no steps (just a very, very steep bank for the girls to clamber up) and one swing.  They enjoyed it though.

Final cache of the day was Chebarkul.  No-one around now so hubby went for a look.  No joy.  I then went and had a nose around.  Spotted it quickly but well hidden. No idea what the clue was all about but cache in hand which is all that matters.

Swans and Cygnets
Back to the car and got home just as the rain started again.