Monday, 29 October 2012

Can I sit on your lap please?

Image courtesy of skyfall-movie.com
We were very excited yesterday. You see hubby and I don't often get out.  I don't mean we are housebound but with the two little ones, going anywhere as a couple is never easy as we do not have a glut of babysitters to choose from.  Yesterday, however, my lovely niece came down to look after S and N and off we went to the cinema to see the latest Bond outing - Skyfall.

We parked up and headed in to collect the tickets I had booked online last week.  Premier seats for the 6.30pm showing - well, why not treat ourselves to better seats.  Tickets printed and we collected an extortionately priced small popcorn along with some generally overpriced pick 'n' mix.  Well, it was a treat so we didn't smuggle any goodies in this time.

Off we went to Screen 3 to our premier seats, Row K, seats 5 and 6.  As we approached, there was a couple sitting in our seats.  I glanced at our tickets again to ensure it was the right seat number and row. Yep.  So I said "Excuse me, I think you may be in our seats". The chap said he didn't think so as they had tickets for Row K, Seats 5 and 6.  I showed him my tickets. He looked confused and said he had the same ones he was sure. His wife suggested he check so he got up and rummaged in his pockets and produced two tickets. You know it, Row K, seats 5 and 6, 6.30pm performance, Screen 3.  Oh dear.  Off we trotted to the chap who checks tickets. He called a supervisor and said not to worry they would sort it out.

Supervisor arrived and looked at our tickets.  Yes, both identical EXCEPT my ticket said 29th October - the following day.  Disaster.  Had I booked the wrong day?  We only had this one night for a babysitter so there was no chance of coming back the next day.

I said to the lady that I had definitely booked 28th.  I was doubting myself though but decided to play it cool and insist they were our seats.  She didn't bat an eyelid. "Oh yes, this has been happening a lot I'm afraid. If two people click on a booking at the same time, one will get the correct day and the other has all the same information presented to them but the system moves them to the next available day."  Seems this is what had happened here.  Mild relief.  She went on to say they had a contingency plan and had kept some seats back.  Another four people joined us to say that they had noticed their tickets had the wrong film time on them.  Not good.  We had premier seats so surely we'd be given first pick?

We went up to the tills and she checked the available seats. Only two premier left. Two of the other people had premier seats too.  Would it be a battle at the till for the seats?  However, they said they weren't worried where they sat.  Result!  It must have been my death gaze that did it.  We said would they mind if we have the premier seats as it was our first night out in ages.  High noon in the Odeon (ok, 6.20pm but it was close).  No problem they said.  Brilliant.  We were allocated seats the other side of the cinema and in we went. The four others came and sat behind us a bit later.  

Were the premier seats worth the extra £5 each. No.  Was the film good?  Fantastic! I love Daniel Craig as Bond. In the previous movies he brought Bond to life like no other actor has. Let's face it, Bond is a bit of a rebel and a bad boy in the books so his portrayal was brilliant.  This is a bit of a different outing for Bond which made the film stand out in its own right.

Hubby is sure I booked the wrong dates. It may be true. I have been a bit off with my dates/days this last week so it is highly likely.  I think we got out of it in true Bond style though, don't you?

You never know, we may manage another night out next year!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Two children only please

In the news today is the announcement that Iain Duncan Smith has suggested that Child Benefit should be limited to two children only.  Sound fair?

Of course, the majority of people will jump onto the bandwagon that this will mostly apply to those already sponging off the State. You know the sort - the more children they have, the more money they get, the bigger house they get, etc.  So, that is the argument I hear on the news this morning. "Let's stop poor people having more children".  I feel a shudder go down my spine.

I, for one, have three children.  My husband works bloody hard to support our family as I am a (mostly) stay-at-home mum right now with two girls under school age.

We will already be impacted when the new Child Benefit rules come in as my husband earns a fraction (and I mean fraction) over the lower limit.  Therefore, we will no longer get the full amount of Child Benefit paid to us.  I've seen people talking on the news saying that cutting the Child Benefit for people earning over this amount just saves "paying money to the rich who don't need it".  Ah, so we are RICH are we?  I had no idea!  Thank you for telling me that.  Maybe now I won't worry so much about how to make ends meet.  I won't stress about the rising costs of petrol/food/energy.  I can relax with a glass of champagne and have a foot massage.  Ridiculous!

What about those couples where both parents earn just under the amount?  They can effectively earn almost double what we do and STILL get their Child Benefit.  Fair?

So now, we, as a family, are going to be hammered again by the Government.   I have worked hard all my life up until the point that I stopped to look after my youngest two. I will go back to work.  My husband does copious amounts of overtime in order to look after us.  Tell you what, go the whole hog, pop around and ask me to decide which two I would like to dispose of as China does and just have done with it.
 
And what about those families who have met later in life. You know, divorced parents with children who get together all 'Brady Bunch' style.  What will they do if they have more than one child each?  

I am all for austerity measures. I understand that this country has to cut back but how come it is always targeted at people who are vulnerable or families already pushed to the limit just to survive.

What do you think? 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Yodeling toddler

Diddy

N decided to have a tantrum first thing to give me a good start to my day.  She left her dolly ‘Diddy’ at home as we headed to our local Waitrose to get a couple of bits.  Halfway there in the car she wanted her and, of course, I wasn’t about to turn around and come home to get her.  

Away she went, screaming in the car. 

We arrived and I got the pushchair out and she continued her tantrum.  She did the classic ‘ironing board’ stance that small children take when they do not want to be put into something like the pushchair or car seat.  I wedged her in quickly and off we went, still with her screaming.  

She proceeded to scream all the way around the shop, still trying to ‘plank’ as best she could and to add to it she kicked her wellies off in protest.  People were looking at us we walked around and a few knowing glances came my way, along with a few smiles.  

I collected the four items I wanted and went to the till and now everyone at the tills stared at us.  One woman made a kind of smacking gesture to her wizened old friend and mumbled something.  Another old man rolled his eyes and tutted.  I held my tongue as I assumed they were childless old farts had never had children.  

It does annoy me when people look at you like you can magically stop your toddler from having a tantrum.  Oh, yes, sorry, I forgot, I should tell her to “Stop please” and she will. Why didn’t I think of that instead of letting her scream all around the shop?  

Luckily we are known by a lot of the staff there and I got quite a few “not having a good day today then” remarks.  As for me, I just ignored her. It’s generally the best thing to do.  

Once we had paid, I wedged her back into her car seat and had the dulcet tones of her best yodeling voice all the way back home.   

Fortunately it was a short trip! 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Too little time with our children?

(Image from dreamstime.com)
This is a worrying development that has been on the news and in the newspapers today.  Apparently parents lack time with their children (see the Telegraph report) says the Family and Parenting Institute (who?).


"When parents were polled, one in 10 of those with children aged six to 10 said that they only gave their child their full attention “once or twice a week or less.  As children get older, parents spend even less quality time with them, with one in five parents of 10-year-olds admitting they only gave their child full attention once or twice a week."

But what is causing this?  The ‘long-hours culture’ that we have in the UK, particularly around London where the problem is at its worst.

Hang on a moment.  I would like to think about this.  If you go to work and perform your duties in your working day, why do you need to work any longer than your hours?  Whether you have children or not, one of the biggest issues I have with employers is that employees are expected to put in more hours to show they are dedicated staff.  For what though?  If an employer hires someone for a position, they need to ensure that the workload is sensible. If an employee needs to stay on excessive hours to complete their work, then surely the employer has made a fundamental mistake and rather than expecting someone to work beyond their hours (or a little extra, which I am sure is perfectly acceptable), they need to considering re-evaluating the workload or hiring a new person.

This is nothing new and has nothing to do with an ‘economic downturn’.

Ten years ago I worked for a company where the culture was very much (a) that your ‘working hours’ meant nothing and (b) your own time meant equally little.  For example, it was positively frowned upon if you worked your ‘hours’ (9am – 5.30pm).  If you left on time other people in the office would say things like “half day then?”  Ridiculous.  Most people were in (me included) by 7am and didn’t leave until at least 6pm.  What did I do then?  Well, I took my laptop home and continued to work until around 9-10pm.  My bosses would expect an answer from me if they emailed in the evening.  I would be asked to fly at weekends (so they could get better air fares) and yet I was never offered time off in lieu.  Often I was asked to stay on when overseas so that they could, again, fly me home at a weekend.  Charming.

So, you’re keen to know how this enhanced my career aren’t you.  You want to know that I marched up the ladder of success and did really well in the job.

Sorry to disappoint you.

It wrecked my marriage due to the long hours and arguments about me “never putting that bloody laptop down” and I missed out a huge amount of time with my, now, teenage daughter who was just 18 months when I started the role.  Why?  Well, I was at work before she woke in the mornings and home from work after she was asleep at night. 

So, what benefit did this give me within the company and for my career?  I can tell you.  It came to the first round of redundancies due to the company being over-valued by the Stock Market and I, along with 100 other people (out of 800 in the company) were made redundant.  Thanks for nothing. 

Would I ever work like that again?  Not a hope in hell. 

Would I ever sacrifice my family (which it was my choice to have remember) for a job.  No, never.   

Am I naive to say this?  Maybe from an employer’s point of view, yes but do you know what, I think if more people said enough is enough, then this culture would stop.  However, in the UK we are well known as sheep aren’t we.  We just follow what the rest of the herd does. 

People say they have to work long hours to keep on top of their workload or to ensure that their job is safe with all the competition just waiting to sit at their desk. Really?  There is job security out there?  Please tell me where it is as I’ve not seen it and I can provide you with a very long list of people I know who worked their socks off doing ridiculous hours for companies to just be cast aside when the cutbacks came. 

Your children are only young once.  Life is short.  Forget the emails for an extra evening.  Get home on time a few nights a week and spend time with them.  There is no point working yourself into an early grave if the outcome of that is that your own family hardly know you.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Cuddletwist Towel Review

Today is a review day.  Why?  Well, I've just bought a product that I am completely in love with.  What is it you may ask. Well, it's a towel.  Yep, you heard me right, a towel.  Not just any old towel though, oh no.  This one is for your hair.  Radical huh?

I was scouring around the web the other day looking for a towel that I was going to sell on eBay (yes, you heard me right, I sold a towel but, again, not just any old towel) that was a Cuddledry Giraffe Print Apron Towel originally bought for me when I had N.  It was made by Cuddledry and was absolutely gorgeous. I was delighted to see they still sold them (helped me price up my one to sell on) and that's when I noticed they had the Cuddletwist hair towel and I knew right then, I needed one (or two actually).

Today the towels arrived and they are simply wonderful.

I got them for my two girls as their hair hangs down after it's been washed and stays very wet until I blow dry it, even if I tie it up in a 'bobble' to try and keep it out of their faces and the bath.  I would prefer not to spend 10 minutes blow drying the hair of a pre-schooler as I think the heat probably doesn't do the hair a huge amount of good. If blow-drying was great, we'd not have all those adverts selling products to help us treat our 'heat damaged hair' now would we.  I digress.

Anyway, the girls loved the look of the towels and wanted them on immediately, as you can see by the picture of S here.  She needed to try it on and said it was great.

Tonight I washed their hair as usual and popped them both into their cuddletwists.  Another 10 minutes of playing in the bath, as usual, and out they came.

For once, S's pyjamas weren't all damp at the back from where her hair dripped or hung (no matter how much you just try and towel it off beforehand) and about 2 minutes of blow drying and it was done.  N's hair didn't need any drying at all.  One delighted mummy!

I think I am going to buy another for me teen as she has long hair too and they look pretty much 'one size fits all' to me.  I may even get one for myself!

There is only one drawback to these towels that I can see.  Shall I tell you what it is?  N will not take it off. Nope, no way will she have it removed from her head!  It's been on for 45 minutes now and despite my gentle "shall I take your towel off now sweetie?" requests, she just screams "NO!" and runs away.  Cuddledry, you have a lot to answer for ;-)

I have not been sponsored or sent any products to try for this review. It's just my own product purchase and delight that has made me write it!

Friday, 12 October 2012

There's a tagger about


N has found the art of graffiti.  Oh dear.  I had a minor experience of this with J when she decided to ‘tag’ everything in her bedroom about four years ago.  I suddenly noticed that the chest of drawers, duvet cover, windowsill and all manner of other things had her initials written on them – in permanent marker!  I was furious less than impressed.  

This is slightly less fervent but more damaging.  I know, hard to believe right?  

I’m quite certain that the graffiti artist is currently keen on swirling patterns.  S has progressed to  people and quite gorgeous drawings so unless J is having a relapse, there is another tagger in the house.  

Sadly, while I can remove the biro from the walls, the artistry on the dining room chair appears here to stay.  Worse still, I used a scourer on it trying to remove it and now all I have achieved is a dull, non-lacquered patch right in the middle of the seat.  Oh my goodness.  Not a happy bunny.  Had to put that chair in our bedroom for ‘emergency purposes’ only.  The one with the wobbly leg is now back by the table. 

I have had to put  every single biro, felt tip and crayon in the house on top of the filing cabinet or a very high shelf.  We now have pencil case ornaments.  Now they can only be brought out when we are all sitting around the dining table doing drawing.

Mind you, that didn’t stop her bashing a red brick on the wall and finding out it also leaves colour behind.

I need toy shelves six feet in the air it seems.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Quick cache and a go on the slide

We headed out on Sunday to our local Leisure Centre and Park to pick up one or two caches.  

The first was at this beautiful old tree.  Quite impressive isn't it.  I've not seen one so gnarled as that in years.

The family gathered around it pretending to look at all the holes and little insects in them.  J added a distraction to any passers-by by climbing the tree, much to S and N's delight. Although I think N would have rather liked to be up there with her.

Hubby stuck him arm in a few of the holes created by the branches and up into crevices.  There was little point poking around the holes themselves as they were each little ponds, full of water. I doubt the CO would have hidden it there!

I let hubby have a look then decided it was my turn.  Oh yeah!  Cache mamma does it again!  I spotted it instantly.  Nicely hidden in it's environment.  A quick retrieve giving the cache container to hubby and the bit of camo that had hidden it to N.  S took the wood louse that was inside and said she would keep it for a pet. It wasn't a long owner/pet relationship as she dropped it within 60 seconds and couldn't find it again. We're definitely not buying her a cat!

Log signed but it took a while to wind it back up again. I looked down and N was playing with the stone.  Where was the ideally sized piece of camo?  Oh no.  Nowhere to be found.  We spent longer looking for that than for the cache but fortunately J spotted it. All back safe and sound.

We had a walk around the playground and off to another cache but a muggle was reading on the bench so we could only have a cursory look about to see if we could instantly spot anything.  Nothing, except a large wasps nest!  A hasty retreat was made. We'll look for that another time then.

Off to the playground for the girls to have 20 minutes of fun before we headed home. Another tick in the yearly calendar for me :)

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sun's out. Caching anyone?

What a wonderful sunny day.  Must be time to head off and get a couple of caches. We've not been out for a while and have been suffering some minor withdrawal symptoms.  Mainly this has been to do with feeling completely lazy rubbish weather and colds.

We all need the fresh air that’s for sure so off we drove to a village not to far away from us called West Clandon.  

This is another area we have driven through hundreds of times but never stopped in so today was the day we were going to have a look around and pick up a few caches on the way. 

We didn’t have too long to go out today as S is off for her first swimming lesson this afternoon but we fancied a nice hours wander.

Parking up we decanted the car and headed off.  First cache was the West Clandon Dragon, a picture of which you can see here.  


I have to confess to never noticing this before. Isn’t it strange what you just don’t take in when driving through places.  A gorgeous piece of ironwork I think you’ll admit.  S and I went to do the retrieve.  


I lifted her up so she could get the cache.  She shouted to daddy how tiny it was.  Guess what N was doing at the time?  Yep, her usual - enjoying puffs in the pushchair – what else ;-)

This geocaching lark is hungry work
Cache safely back and we went down to the next one Sidetracked – Clandon.  I do enjoy the Sidetracked series and was hoping the container might just be big enough for me to drop my TB off as this would be an ideal place for him to start his journey.  We walked down to the station and were pleased that it was relatively quiet.  GPS settled at GZ but I was looking around a bit confused by the hint.  Read a couple of logs as I couldn’t spot anything obvious when hubby asked what the hint was again. I told him and he made an instant connection and it was right in front of us.  Brilliant hint I have to say J  S and I went to do the find and it took a little fingertip fiddling and bit of negotiation to make the retrieve. Sadly the container just wasn’t quite big enough for my little friend so we signed the log and popped it back.  What a lovely place to relax in the summer if you are waiting for a train.


All aboard and off we headed to the next one, In for a Penny.  We spotted a cottage called “Pound” on the other side of the road. Could it be around there? No, GPS was staying firmly on our pavement side then we found the ‘real’ pound.  Again, never noticed this in all the times we’ve gone past it.  Not sure I would trust it to look after any animals that were straying around but I am guessing it would be used for dogs or horses in the old days.  Lovely piece of history.  In we went to find the cache.  A few obvious looking objects but it wasn’t there.  A bit more of a look around and I spotted it. Yep, it was the cache.  S was delighted to see this as well and said it was a good hide.  Log signed and we couldn’t resist this picture.


We did take her home with us...honest!

We did think about doing the church micro but decided time was running out so we’d pop back another day to pick that up.  Back to the car and off home for a quick sandwich before swimming.  Isn’t it lovely what you can find when you take a few minutes to stop and enjoy the area.

Monday, 1 October 2012

How did we survive?

I was reading Lee Evan's book the other night in the bath (as you do) and began to laugh out loud.  He was talking about the estate he lived on and the things they got up to. This particular chapter centered around bonfire night.

It reminded me of many of the capers we got up to as well.  Not in a bad way, just making use of all kinds of things kids find on an estate.

Where I lived was a cul-de-sac with the closed in end at the top of the hill so, in effect, you could whizz down the hill knowing you only had to worry when you got to the end of the road. Another road crossed it here but, again, just a cul-de-sac road in it's own right and just for housing and one private school's traffic. If you overshot the end of our road, there was a conveniently situated cemetery you could land in if you could navigate the ferocious iron railings with the big spikes on the top (to keep who out or in??).

Many a time have I seen a friend (normal the male ones) whizzing down the road in an uncontrollable shopping trolley, hoping that they missed the hole in the road or the bit of gravel dropped by a truck.

We had roller skates (yes that’s what the picture is I kid you not).  Not the posh ones the kids have nowadays. None of this inline nonsense for us. We had ones where you put your trainer into a bent piece of metal around the toe and a couple of leather straps around your ankle.  Sound crap? Yes, but they were what we had so we loved them.  Then we upgrade to posher ones (shown on the right here).  These had a leather bit at the toe you put your trainer into. Then, no matter how hard you tried, you still would never be able to lace them up tight enough for them to actually STAY ON!  They could also be passed down the generations as with the help of a nifty little gizmo, you could adjust the length so even granddad could have a go if he wanted.  The amount of times they worked perfectly flew off your toe sending you face down into the tarmac whilst twisting your ankle were common.  What did we do when that happened?  We got up, strapped them back on, relocated our ankles and went down the hill again!
We found various pieces of old wood which we crafted into...well, ramps!  Have ramp can jump!  Didn’t matter what you jumped with – skates, skateboard, Chopper bike (oh, how I wanted one of those but the parents bought me a sodding girls one lovely Raleigh pink one as befits a young lady), home-made go-cart or anything else with wheels you could stand/sit on.  Yes, the shopping trolley is included in that.

We had fun!

We had a bin shed at the base of our flats.  It was about12-15 feet up and we would run and jump from the concrete roof onto (a) a slope towards the sheds, often sending you tumbling backwards into the brick wall or (b) a slope away from the sheds on the other side usually meaning you had to run at break-neck speed when you landed to avoid going head-over-heels and looking a prat.  This also normally involved some kind of flailing arms too.  As I reached about 10 years old, I never used the stairs to our flats (we were on the top floor, about 60 feet up – masionettes actually – we were posh council I’ll have you know) but climbed up the railings from the shed roof and did an up-and-over at the top to reach the landing.  Stairs were for old people....

We had a rec that we went to with swings, slide, monkey bars, roundabout and rocking horse.  This was serious, long lasting, metal stuff.  Here’s how we used the apparatus given to us:

Swing – swing as high as you can then jump off onto a grass bank with a slope back to concrete, preferably over the heads of some of your mates.  Get it wrong and you were also gifted with a jaw crunching jolt as you went off, biting your tongue nearly in half (not sure why so many of us did that).  You could also twist the thing around it’s metal chains so you had a small gap to get into it and then let it go, leaning as far out backwards as you could, trying to avoid hitting your head on the metal supports.

Slide – normally for running up and trying to slide down any way possible except on your bum.

Monkey Bars – two sorts here. One was 3 bars side by side (like parallel bars but..err...not parallel) stepping down in height from the ground. Great for hanging upside down from and practising the gymnastics you were taught at school.  The council kindly provided concrete under all of these things for us. None of this bouncy stuff kids have nowadays.  I remember doing some kind of front spin on the tallest bar and losing my grip on the shiny metal and landing right on my coccyx.  The pain was excruciating but after a few minutes sitting there hoping I’d not wet myself due to the impact, I got up and carried on.  Friends were only any good for laughing unless they could see blood or bone.  Even then, the former normally just got more laughs.

The other kind of monkey bars were the ones with the metal bars spaced evenly across the frame.  My understanding is you are supposed to hang from them and go along and back.  We clearly found that too easy and stood on the top of them walking along, making up games such as ‘you can only step on every other one’ or ‘you can only step on every third one’...you get the gist.

Roundabout – used to spin you as fast as possible (normally by some of the much bigger boys and girls) to make you feel sick and fall over when you got off as you were so dizzy.

Iron Rocking Horse – fantastic piece of workmanship (see picture). There is still one in park near us which I constantly warn my children to keep away from for fear of being (a) knocked out or (b) losing their teeth when someone is on it. You know the sort. Solid metal.  The one that you could get so high it almost came off it’s rocker and if it caught you, it sent you into next week with the impact.  The head had a habit of being beautifully positioned so that the mouth of the horse was at face height to you when you got it going. I’ve seen teeth go missing.  Yes, we laughed.

Then, every November, Bonfire Night was on the rec and all the locals put wood on and lots of things they probably shouldn’t and it was lit by some random person.  No barriers. No standing back from the fireworks.  Jumping Jacks thrown into the crowds for a laugh and throwing bangers at people.  Yes, you did hear about people getting hurt or burned but it never stopped anyone. 

I won’t even go into no seatbelts and no child seats....

We didn’t have endless Internet and TV finished in the evening and didn’t start again until the next day. There were no mobile phones and digital cameras, no computers at home and no games consoles.  We were out, in all weather freezing having fun.

So, how did we survive?  Heaven knows but we did.