Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Linkin Park

I'm so excited!  Hubby and I are off to see Linkin Park at the O2 in November!  I love the new album - The Hunting Party - and have to say there's not a bad song on it.  Below you'll find a couple of tracks I watched on their MTV channel today.

The first is 'A light that never comes' and is a remix which is fantastic (love the video too).

The second is from their latest album The Hunting Party and is called 'Final Masquerade'.  Another tremendous video and amazing song.  Unfortunately the video doesn't want to upload (thanks YouTube for allowing all the junk ones but not the official one) but you can see it HERE.


Monday, 28 July 2014

Lego - Movie and Bricks

We decided to watch The Lego Movie with our dinner yesterday.  We settled down in front of the TV for a change and off we went.  I was tempted to buy it as I'd heard good things about it from other people, particularly adults. I have to say, I'm glad that I didn't.  It's definitely not a second viewer in this house!

It reminded me of Team America - but for children.

Here's a great write up on the story:

The wizard Vitruvius attempts to protect the "Kragle", a superweapon, from the evil Lord Business. He fails to do so, but warns Lord Business of a prophecy where a person called the "Special" will find the Piece of Resistance capable of stopping the Kragle.

8 and a half years later, Emmet Joe Brickowski, an ordinary construction worker with no special qualities, comes across a woman, Wyldstyle, who is searching for something after hours at Emmet's construction site. When he investigates, Emmet falls into a hole and finds the Piece of Resistance. Compelled to touch it, Emmet experiences vivid visions and passes out. He awakens elsewhere, with the Piece of Resistance attached to his back, in the custody of Bad Cop, Lord Business' lieutenant (whose head sometimes turns around to reveal his other side, Good Cop). There, Emmet learns Business' plans to destroy the world with the Kragle. Wyldstyle rescues Emmet and takes him to Vitruvius, who explains that he and Wyldstyle are "Master Builders" capable of building anything they need, both with great speed and without instruction manuals. Years ago, Lord Business rose to power, his disapproval of such anarchic creativity resulting in him capturing many of them. As the "Special", Emmet is destined to defeat him, yet Wyldstyle and Vitruvius are disappointed to find Emmet displays no creativity.

Lord Business plans to use the Kragle (a tube of Krazy Glue with some of the logo's letters rubbed out) to freeze the universe perfectly in place. Bad Cop tracks down Emmet and Wyldstyle, who are rescued by her boyfriend, Batman. He takes them to a meeting of the remaining Master Builders. Unimpressed with Emmet, they refuse to fight Lord Business. Bad Cop and his forces attack and capture all the Master Builders except for Emmet and a few others. Emmet believes the Master Builders' weakness is that their individual creativity prevents them from working together. He devises a team plan to infiltrate Lord Business' headquarters. As Emmet and his allies are captured and imprisoned, Vitruvius attempts to fight back but is killed; with his dying words he admits the prophecy was made up. Business throws the Piece of Resistance off the edge of the universe, sets his headquarters to self-destruct, and leaves with the Kragle while leaving Bad Cop behind. Vitruvius' ghost tells Emmet that even if the prophecy isn't real, Emmet can still save the world. Emmet, tied to the self-destruct mechanism's battery, sacrifices himself for his friends, flinging himself off the edge of the universe.

Inspired, the Master Builders escape and rally with the help of Bad Cop. Soon, Lego people across the universe are building their own creative weapons. The Master Builders lead the charge against Business.

Emmet finds himself in the real world, where the events of the story are being played out within the imagination of a boy, Finn. His father "The Man Upstairs" chastises his son for ruining his father's Lego set by mixing characters with the wrong playsets, and originating hodgepodge creations. Finn argues that Lego are for children, but his father prefers to Krazy Glue his perceived perfect creations together permanently, as this is how adults play with Lego. In the Lego world, Lord Business' forces gain the upper hand. Realizing the father will glue all the Lego in place, Emmet wills himself to move and falls off the table, gaining Finn's attention. Finn returns Emmet to the Lego set, where Emmet builds a massive robot to assist his friends before confronting Lord Business. In the real world, Finn's father looks at his son's creations again and finds himself impressed. Realizing his son based the evil Lord Business on him, the father has a change of heart and allows his son to play with his Lego however he sees fit. In the Lego world, Emmet convinces Lord Business that Business, too, is special, as is everyone. Moved by Emmet's speech, Business destroys the Kragle and unfreezes his victims.

With the world saved, Emmet celebrates with his friends, and Wyldstyle, whose real name is Lucy, becomes his girlfriend. However, alien Duplo beings beam down, announcing their intentions to invade, due to the father allowing Finn's little sister to play with his Lego set as well. Then at the end they get captured by the Duplo toys.

Some of the adult gags were hilarious. However, whilst there were a lot of quite funny bits, the really funny gags were few and far between.  As for our children - the real target of this movie - they were unimpressed and said on more than one occasion that the film was just plain "strange", "odd", "weird" and "boring".  We persevered and watched the whole thing though, even with them becoming fidgety.  The end bit where it moves to the 'real world' is where the film really does begin the downward spiral to ultimate fail.

I know that almost everyone is raving about this film but I'm sorry, I just don't get it.  I love movies like Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, The Croods, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the like, as do the children who will sit happily watching those without stirring for 90 minutes.  But this? Nope.

While watching the Lego movie, I did remember that we had a tub of 'regular' sized Lego that we had bought in error a few years ago instead of Duplo stuff.  Today I dug that out and gave it to the girls to see how they got along with it.  Easy was the word. They loved it, making all sorts of things. I therefore decided to order another base plate from Amazon and a 1kg bag of Lego pieces from a seller on eBay.  It was then I saw on a local Facebook page that someone just down the road was also selling some so I bought a tub from her for £5.  This is the result:

The knees are hubby who is also having a great time. He tells me he is just helping the girls 'sort it out' but we know differently don't we ;-)

I dread to think how much Lego we will have when the rest arrives in a few days.  I hope the tub I have is big enough to hold it all!

I loved Lego as a child (although it was nothing like it is today - much more basic) so I am glad that the girls are thoroughly enjoying playing with it.  The only downside is that I managed to get Duplo stuck in my instep enough so I dread to think what will happen with this lot.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Windsor Carriage Ride

We headed off to Windsor today, originally to do some geocaching.  I'd found a few we could try and find along the riverside so we packed some nibbles into the rucksack and away we went.  Had a cursory look for Sidetracked Windsor as we walked past but nothing spotted despite a good feel around so we carried on our way, promising the girls we'd be back to play at the park before we went home.

We walked down to Thames Path - Windsor Bridge and made the spot very quickly thanks to J's eagle eyes while the girls watched the boats go past.  Log signed and we carried on to the Eton side and down to the riverbank. It was almost lunchtime so we stopped by some moored up boats and had a sandwich and drink in the sunshine while the swans waiting for a crust or two.

We carried on our walk down to just opposite the Leisure Centre, having a cursory look for a few caches as we went past but it wasn't too pleasant with all the dog mess around so we decided not to rummage too much, as muggles were everywhere too.  Turning around, we walked back over the bridge having bought an ice cream each first and then headed up towards the castle.

As we rounded the corner, there was a horse and carriage there. I suddenly thought what fun it would be to have a ride.  Chatting to the carriage driver he said 30 minutes was £40 so we thought, what the heck, let's do it.  Girls got in as I went to the cashpoint ;-)  We were going to go down The Long Walk and apparently he's the only one with permission to do this.  Excellent.  If you're interested in going on a Horse Drawn Carriage Ride, here's the website for the Orchard Poyle organisation (I found them on Google and yes, they are the only licensed horse-drawn taxi in Windsor!).

Off we went.  The two horses were old boys, brothers aged 30 and 31 he told us.  The plodded or trotted along a path they've probably done a million times before. It was glorious in the sunshine and the smiles on the girls faces said it all.  We turned at the end near where the road crosses and began to head back.

As we came back into Windsor, there were drums beating ahead of us.  A local reenactment society were out and made quite a sight.  A little loud for the horses though who did twitch around a bit.

What a lovely way to travel and give our weary feet a rest.  We then headed back to the car via the playground as promised.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Schools out for Summer

Another year over.  School year that is.

I simply cannot believe that my 3 girls have completed a whole school year!  Where has the time gone?  N is at nursery, S at primary and J at secondary.  To think, this time next year, J will have left school!  Goodness me.

I am so looking forward to the summer holidays.  Being very fortunate in that I am a stay-at-home-mum/full-time postgraduate student means that I get to spend the entire summer holidays with my little gang of girls. Of course hubby is having some time off too and we have some days out planned and friends to visit or coming to us so I'm sure it will be a fun packed 6 weeks.

We're not off on holiday anywhere as, well, we simply can't afford it this year.  Not to worry, we'll have lots of fun in the garden too with the climbing frame, swings, trampoline and, of course, new paddling pool!

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.