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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A sweet, sunny, spring evening

I'm really enjoying the Easter holiday, and having both kids at home. I'm very aware of quality time with Jellybean now that he's at school, and after the holiday Midget Gem is going to be in pre-school for his free, fifteen hours a week - three afternoon sessions initially. 

So I'm going to have less time with both of them - and entire afternoons alone are opening up before me like vast, empty, child free spaces. 

I was looking forward to the time - and being able to take on more work and fill the time with earning, contributing, and being a grown up - but more than that, now it's so close, the time feels empty, and lonely, and like it got here too quickly. 

I can't believe my babies got so big. I can't believe they've grown so much, so fast, and that we're here already. How?! How did they get so big?!?!

This is the last week we'll have like this, and soon they'll be at school, and gone, away from me, and I'll have to start another whole new chapter alongside them, starting theirs. 

Time flies. 

But time doesn't fly as quickly as my boys, on their vehicle of choice, racing around the block! 

Check out THESE speed demons!

   









Daddytwo thought that getting the dog to pull the go-kart would be fun - but he didn't like the idea, and got a bit scared. Almost as much as me! I imagine my face looked the same! Poor Dukey!


I had to wait in the front garden for the last lap to see who could win the race - and it was a fair race, each picked their vehicle - Jellybean on the go-kart, Midget Gem on his little blue scooter, and off they raced - Dukey stayed safe beside me, examining the plants sprouting up now that it's spring, and we listened to the banter as they did their lap. 

Here they come on the final straight before the swoop to the house! 


Midget Gem is definitely in the lead, with Jellynbean behind trying to find a way past, shouting "It's not FAIR!" (he's a DREADFUL loser, can't think which side of the family he gets that from!) 

The triumphant winner! 


A celebratory pose for the victor 


And a cheeky photo bomb of his poor brother's shot! 


A very grouchy boy insisting he wasn't even RACING anyway, because races are STUPID. 


Before he dived inside, said he won the getting-into-the-house race, and insisted they both got prizes. What better prize than brotherly love and a rocket ice lolly?!



Monday, 14 April 2014

Our little holiday

My last post was over a week ago - and was all about packing for a caravan holiday - our first ever one. 

And it was brilliant! 

I have to admit to forgetting a few vital things; my waterproof coat, bin bags and - worst of all - the coffee pot. *shudder* luckily it was just a few short days before my husband came back to join us - and brought the coffee pot with him. He forgot my coat, too - but I didn't care as much when I could have good coffee! 

I didn't go on holiday as a blogger, I went on holiday FROM blogging, so there aren't very many photos of the trip! I know, I know, shocking - but I just needed a proper holiday with my kids. 

I spent the week cuddling, reading stories, walking around a muddy campsite in wellies, blowing bubbles, reading more stories, giving more cuddles, walking in more mud, exploring. We walked along the canal path, we played in the playground, we told the dog to shut up over and over and over and over again. 

We started the trip with a damp day at Little Fun Fest - brilliant, as always - but how could it be anything but!? The kids loved the rides, stared in silence at Rapunzel and Finn until they gave up, chased Spiderman around, laughed at Alex Winters gunging Farmer Johnny, slept through Doctor Ranj's stage show and chased Cat around, joining in her stories. They made crowns, got muddy bottoms, soaked their socks bouncing on a wet bouncy castle, and had a brilliant day. 

The boys befriended the children in the next caravan and were INSTANT best friends, they ran around like a wild pack of mud creatures, played outside all day, returning for food and to pilfer from the sweetie stash, got red cheeks and windblown hair, and had a great time. 

I read two entire books, listened to a lot of radio 3, went to sleep early (right after when the kids fell asleep every day) and had a week of total relaxation and chilling, enjoying my babies and laughing with them. 


When Daddytwo joined us it was even better - even more relaxing and reading, more cuddling with the kids, lots of playing games - and lots of watching the kids play with their new friends while we drank coffee and read books in the caravan! 

It was a proper, much needed, fantastic holiday - and we've all come home feeling very chilled and happy. I'm glad that we have another week of Easter holidays to enjoy, that Jellybean gets another week of playing in the garden, reading his stories, playing with his toys - and turning FIVE! 

I didn't take my camera on holiday, and didn't take many pictures on my phone - and if you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen most of them - but here's a few highlights! 











It was exactly what we all needed - a real holiday, a proper break, and lots of time together, resting, playing, laughing and cuddling. 

Our caravan is amazing - and knowing we can do that all over again, whenever we want, is fantastic!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Packing for a caravan trip

You all know that we were given a caravan last weekend (I know, we're SUPER lucky, and very grateful!) and this weekend we're setting off for a week of Easter Holiday fun, camping in Cheshire. 

We're going to be hitting up Little Fun Fest (some last minute details if you're coming on their website today - and you can still get tickets on the gate if you haven't had time to book online!) and there's going to be a few days flying solo with the kids because Daddytwo has some big meetings so is working the beginning of the week - and we'll be unable to leave the site we've picked, so I won't be able to get to the shops for any top up things, and have to plan ahead about what we've got packed! 

I prepared a few lists of things we'd need, and thought I'd share them here - then come back at the end of the trip and share what things were useful, what things weren't, and what things I wished we'd taken! 




For the caravan.

A plug in fan heater (there's a gas heater inside, and a heated air system - but we couldn't work out how to get that going, and might not connect the gas at all because we'll have the electric hook up included in the price of our stay, so the fan heater is no extra expense to use - and will be useful in the awning if we don't need it inside.)

Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows and sheets - because obviously. I'm going to leave these in the caravan, and just wash and return the sheets/covers ASAP after the break. 
Tea/coffee/sugar/hot chocolate and squash - so everyone has drinks. These can live in the caravan, unless you plan not to use it for a few weeks/months.
Kettle (I forgot it last week - DISASTER) 
Pots and pans - there's an oven and I don't plan on eating cold food all week!
Plug in hob (the oven inside is gas, and as I said we might not want to connect it, or not be able to)
cleaning products (there's a dustpan and brush inside - I've packed cloths, bleach, surface spray, bleach wet wipes and kitchen towels, washing up liquid/sponges and zoflora.)
Small towels/cloths - to live in there for drying hands, hair after rain showers, etc. and for wiping up spills/washing faces before bed.
Milton - to run through the water pipes and so forth.
Dehumidifier thingies - there was one inside when we collected the caravan and it's kept damp at bay, so we've got a few replacements to keep in there.
Cards/games/books - a small selection of these and colouring books/pens will live in the caravan for each trip.
A first aid kit - we always make sure to have one in the car, but have made up another to keep in the caravan. Basics plasters and bandages, plus painkillers for us and the kids, antihistamines, after sun and sun cream, germoline, TCP, heartburn tablets (ha!) and sterile wipes. 
A sewing kit - just a tiny, travel one, in case of emergencies or boredom. 

For our week I have packed;

Lots of clothes - I've packed 5 changes each for the kids and 3 for me and Daddytwo - I don't want to take too much, and there's laundry facilities on site - but I want more than one spare set for the kids because there's bound to be mud. 
I've packed fleece onesies as PJ's so we're warm through the night, and thermal undies just in case. 

Food and drinks

I've done a normal shop - with long life milk in place of fresh and lots of tinned foods in place of the fresh produce, as the fridge is quite small and won't store a week's worth of things for us all. There's a small shop on site but I don't know what it stocks. 

Towels. One big one each, one for the dog, and a small one for my hair.

Laundry powder/conditioner - to keep on top of the inevitable laundry.

Wellies and waterproofs - for all of us, including waterproof trousers for the kids. We might get rain - but we won't be staying in the caravan all day! We'll strip all this off in the awning and keep the caravan itself a shoe-free zone - and hopefully manage to towel off the dog before he gets inside and jumps on the seats/bed! 

Footballs and tennis balls, a mini golf game, a catch game, other outside games, our bug hunting kit. 

Dog balls/bones/food/bowls and bedding - his place is NOT on the people bed, even when it's people seats, because he takes up all the room! 

Camping chairs - the folding/umbrella type - again, these can live in the caravan and will be great in the awning once we're set up. 

Batteries, lamps, torches. 

Slip on shoes - crocs - for getting to and from the loo/shower block (we have a little loo/shower but the big ones will be better for most times) 

A basket on wheels - for getting the dishes/laundry to the places we do those. 

Coffee press. Because. 

Wine. 

BECAUSE. 

Crochet. For me. 

Books - lots, for us and the kids.


A trunkie full of toys - the kids will choose their own, it will mostly be a small train set, cars and anything that can pretend to be a weapon, as long as Mummy isn't looking. 

Magazines - for reading, doing puzzles, cutting up to make pictures out of when we're out of ideas to entertain the kids. 

Mobile/tablet and chargers. I'm leaving the laptop, and not working. I feel a bit panicked about that, but NEED to have a holiday with the kids. 

I think that's everything I packed. 

The best thing about packing to go away in the caravan, over packing to go to visit family like we normally do, is that we don't have to try to shoehorn it all into the car around us. I always end up with so much in my footwell that I'm in pain, cramped up and squashed, for the whole trip. Then Daddytwo hands me some more things to hold for him, then the kids want me to turn around and open their snack, or pick up the toy they just threw onto the floor, or some other awkward thing! 

We've put all the food into the caravan already. We've put the suitcase with the clothes, and a suitcase with the pans/pots etc, into the caravan already - and made sure that they're over the wheels, which is the best place for balance/ease of towing - it's important to load the caravan safely and properly when you're travelling, particularly over a long drive like our 5 hour journey will be. 

Don't forget your extended mirrors for the car, and to get a numberplate for the back of the caravan! 

See you next week - when I'll tell you how well we planned ahead! What did we forget?!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Tree Fu-tastic!

Midget Gem is a massive Tree Fu Tom fan - he does lots of 'tree fu' - where he does his own version of dance/kung fu blend moves and leaps off the sofa onto his brother, or the dog, or me - and it seems to involve a lot of shouting. 

We've had the same three episodes on our sky plus box forever and have watched them over and over and over and over and (you get the idea!) 

So when we were offered the Tree Fu Tom utility belt to review we certainly couldn't say no! 

The kit is brilliant. It doesn't just come with the belt, it also comes with a scarf and woggle (so many flashbacks to stealing my brother's Scouts woggles) a sapstone, a compass, a telescope like thing (check me out, all technical) and some fun cards that mostly get posted down the back of the sofa. 

The belt itself is pretty good quality - the strap is a comfortable one with just the front made of plastic (often the whole belt is plastic with things like this and they just snap) and it's survived some strenuous sofa dives. 

I tried to get a photo of it in action - but Midget Gem is the king of the forward roll and the pictures were awful (must stop using my phone for photos) but you can see the kit in the image below - and can get your own for £19.99 from Smyths (AKA kid heaven). 

There's a lot of imagination play, a lot of tie in with remembering and re-telling stories from episodes the children have watched, quite a lot of fighting over who gets to wear it (Midget Gem usually wins, with use of his mad Tree Fu skills - ie throwing himself at people until they get fed up of playing with him) and it's added another layer to the learning about nature, spring and bugs that we've been doing in our projects at home after other recent reviews including bug collecting items.

We're loving the fact that it ties in with other things we have, and it's awakened a great longing to play outside in the kids - and this is now one of the regular accessories we take along. 

It's going to come on our caravan trip next week, too - so if you're in the Cheshire area in the Easter Hols and are attacked by a kid with a broad Dorset accent shouting "Tree FU!" I apologise in advance! 


The funny little things they say

My kids are great. They're fun, kind, loving, clever, hilariously funny, smart, they have an answer for everything, and ten follow up questions. They're the most fun people I know, and I love spending time chatting with them - and listening to the stories they make up. 

I've been making notes of the things they say in their own special way this week because I know that, soon, they'll start correcting themselves and saying those words properly and I'll miss their own versions, and I don't want to forget them. 

Mazagine (magazine)
Fagni-nying glass (magnifying glass) 
Limbo (Limo)
Tiego (Diego, the cartoon) 
Beauti-fill (beautiful) 
Lenonade (lemonade) 
Tickling (fizzy) 
Butt-butt (bum)
Covers (any kind of blanket or duvet - always "put my covers on" or "let's get in the covers") 
Trumpet flowers (daffodils) 
Booby shirt (bra) 
Thunderpants (underpants) 
Colourings (felt pens)
Colour it in (colouring book - "have you seen my colour it in? I can't find it.")
Duckle-decker bus (double decker bus) 

There are a million more - but, as is always the way, once I sit down to make a list of them I can't remember them! 


Blowing the "fly things" off a "fwow-ler" 

What funny things do your kids say? 



Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The best present we've ever been given

Years ago, when Daddytwo and I first met, we went on a little holiday. We'd only been together a few weeks, we did it with no money, very spur of the moment (which is very like me, but not at all like him) and basically we either slept in his Punto or in a tent pitched on the moors. We trekked around the west country and stopped wherever the whim took us. 

Highlights were visiting Thomas Hardy's house (which is really close to where we now live - I'm a big Hardy fan, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit despite it being a small National Trust site with very little to do/see aside from a small farmhouse) watching the sun rise at Durdle Door and collecting shells from the beach (we basically slept on the beach the previous night) and realising that this was, definitely and without a shadow of a doubt, the man I was going to marry and spend my life with. It was that kind of a trip.

We loved every second - aside from the extreme discomfort of sleeping in a Punto or in a leaky tent. We promised ourselves on that trip that we would save and get a caravan instead. We planned, over and over (and have regularly done the same since) what our dream caravan would look like. What it would have inside. How we would decorate it, what things we would always keep stored in there so we could head off for a last minute weekend break at the drop of a hat. It's a fantasy we have returned to over and over and over again - but it's remained a fantasy because every time we started saving money, something came up. 

I got pregnant. We lost our jobs. We moved. Again. And again. And again. We had a wedding to pay for. We had another baby. We moved again. And again. And again. The washing machine broke. So did another. We needed a hoover. We accidentally got a dog, and he ate three dog beds. The dishwasher broke. Then the washing machine. The kids need new clothes. And again. And again. 

You know what it's like.

But on cold, wet days, when our tempers were short and we'd cried some tears, or when bickering interrupted our happiness, or we'd had a bad time at work, or fallen out with a friend - whenever anything bad or exhausting happened - we would lie in bed, cuddled up, holding hands - and talk about our caravan. 

It was a fantasy happy place. It was a dream that we thought we'd have to wait forever for - that we'd probably never reach. 

And then. 

And then a friend - a beautiful, kind, lovely friend - who is kinder than she accepts she is - asked, all casual, if anyone wanted a caravan. I asked what she wanted for it, thinking we wouldn't be able to afford it but wouldn't it have been nice, not just to have A caravan, but to have HER caravan, because I adore her. 

And she said "nothing". Nothing. She wanted NOTHING for the caravan. She just wanted to give it to someone who would be happy to have it. 

Oh my! 

And this weekend we drove from Dorset to Norfolk (only six hours, nothing major!) to see our beautiful friend and have the briefest of brief visits - and to collect the caravan! 

We spent a night in the caravan a twenty minute drive from where we collected it - so that it broke the drive up and so that we could have a miniature practice drive (we've never towed anything before. I say we, I mean Daddytwo - I'm not allowed to tow on my newer driving license) and with the kids and the dog all snuggled in, it was the best night EVER. I mean EVER. 

We all love the caravan - the boys adore the way the sofas turn into the bed, both think the tiny toilet is the most amazing thing they've ever seen, we are both just stunned that it's ours, and it's just BRILLIANT knowing that whenever we feel boxed in by the monotony of normal life we can say "Sod it, let's van this weekend" and boom, off we go! 

I don't think our lovely friend has any idea what this means to us - despite us thanking her so much it was embarrassing. She is WONDERFUL. 

Thank you Lara. For so much more than a caravan - for giving us a dream, for being so kind, for being such fun - and for being the best pen pal ever! 



Look - LOOK - we're TOWING A CARAVAN. Note; get extension mirrors. 



That's OURS, that is! Can you believe it?! We still can't! 


After a night sleeping in the caravan snuggled into my family I AM STILL TOO EXCITED and I can't even manage a pretty smile - I'm TOO HAPPY 


Cuddles and comfort and a picnic dinner - the best kind of evening!


The little table does slide down out of the area you sleep in - but the boys wanted to keep it there, so it stayed there! All cosy, ready to snuggle down. Within 3 minutes of this pic Daddytwo was asleep (before 8pm) the kids 10 minutes after that - I had a lovely, peaceful half hour of reading - and then I was asleep too!


There's even room for the very handsome Duke to lounge around.


I got some pretty, jewel coloured jars for tea/coffee etc - and they fit perfectly in the unit, because DESTINY. My excitement about this may have been a little over the top. BECAUSE DESTINY.


The table, slid out, makes the perfect breakfast seat for two small people - who were even more excited about that than the coco pops Daddytwo snuck into the caravan! 


I picked up the 'home' cushion in Primark the day before we collected the caravan - I thought red, cream and blue would be good colours for inside the caravan - and then Lara gave us some cushions in those colours with Union Jack flag designs on - and the littlest one says 'welcome' - welcome home! SEE, DESTINY! 


SEE


The boys (all of them, even the hairy one) love love LOVE the caravan - pure glee! (and I got that water thingy and the pump working all by myself - BOOM)


It's perfect :-D


TOTALLY PERFECT! 

Next weekend we're making another long trip - and driving 5 hours to just below Manchester - because Saturday and Sunday it's time for Little Fun Fest - and we can't WAIT to get there and see our friends, all the famous faces, play on the rides, watch the shows, and just cram the beginning of the Easter holidays with absolute brilliant joy and fun - have you got tickets yet? You TOTES should - we're hoping to meet up with lots of our friends (blogging friends, twitter friends, friends we know offline) and it's going to be blooming amazing. CANNOT WAIT. 

We're stopping on a caravan site about half an hour away - and we're going to stay there for EIGHT NIGHTS - and have a proper flipping holiday! Can you imagine how excited we are? Seriously - I might actually explode. BOOM.

Best. Present. EVER. 

(Even better than my Mont Blanc pen.) 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

How comfy is your bed?

There have been a few occasions in my life where I've been so upset, or angry, or worried, so off track, that I wasn't sure where I'd sleep that night because I absolutely couldn't be where I was. 

The reasons for all of that are complicated, but the result is the same - I didn't know where I'd sleep. 

I was really, really lucky. I was lucky because I had friends and family who, when I called, said I could stay with them, who gave me a space in their homes, where I could be warm and safe and comfortable.

But I have known more than a few people who, sometimes just for one night, sometimes for longer, didn't have that safety net - didn't have those people - and who didn't find a place to stay. 

And every night there are far, far too many people, in towns and cities all over the UK, sleeping rough. As I'm writing this, as you're reading this, there are people - young people, old people, children - shutting doors and walking quickly away, trying not to look over their shoulder, hearts pounding, as they walk away from somewhere they don't feel safe and who will spend the night outside tonight. Who will sleep on a bench, or in a doorway, or in the park, or under a bridge, in dark corners, damp spaces, frightened, alone. Who will try to sleep on stone or wood or damp earth. Who don't have a bed, or a safe place to be. 

Who have picked that because it's safer than where they came from. 



And that just shouldn't happen. And it doesn't just happen to other people. It could happen to someone you know, today. 

Like it happened to me. But I was lucky. 

There are a number of people who are sleeping rough tonight, sleeping under the grey, damp sky, in the wind and the rain, trying to shelter, to understand how long the night can be, how cold the cold can be, and how afraid you can really be when you're alone in the dark.


CEO Sleepout is a brand new charity set up to fight homelessness and poverty. Our fight is funded with money raised by executives who sleep outdoors for one night to raise sponsorship from their business contacts and friends. 

They are holding an event in Cardiff tonight - and our good friend, Alex Winters, of Cbeebies fame, is one of the people taking part. Cardiff is his home city and he is passionate about changing the lives of people who find themselves sleeping rough, without a safe place to go. 


For more information on the CEO Sleepout event in Cardiff, and on the charity and their nationwide campaigns, please go to this Just Giving page, where you can also donate to support Alex and help to make it so that nobody ever has to bed down on the streets, so that nobody ever feels that they don't have a safe place to go.


I spoke to Alex about why he wanted to do the CEO Sleepout. He said;

"I think that homelessness is often forgotten about as we don't always 'see' it, because we're generally lucky to be in our own homes at night.

After living in London for a year and seeing a huge homeless problem there, I jumped at the chance of being involved after being invited to take part in tonight's event in Cardiff."

Please sponsor Alex, and donate to the event tonight. Homelessness can and does effect people from anywhere, from any background, it could be happening now to someone you know, who is closing a door and walking into an unknown and frightening situation to escape something worse. 

And we can change that.