Time to take a bath…

I never want to sit in a puddle of time wondering where it all went.

At home, we’ve got a huge bath and it takes an age to fill, but it also has a slightly dodgy plug which allows the water to slowly ebb away. It’s not noticeable straight away when you’re sitting in it. It’s one of those jobs we’ll ‘get round to’.

But, last week, as I sat in my bath I realised, without me noticing, the water was a puddle around me – it struck a chord. How like time it is. How like the sudden realisation we’re half way through our bath and time is trickling away.

It was Arthur’s fourth birthday earlier this month and so many people said, as we all do: “Where did the time go?” “It doesn’t five minutes ago he was a baby”. So much is dictated by time. Do we have enough, have we used it wisely. It’s the one sure thing we can do little about.

Time will never stand still or offer respite from its tireless journey. We need to beat it at its own game. Embrace time and never allow that final puddle to be a surprise. The one sure thing it’s we all have a finite amount, a time when time says ‘time up’ and all those faded clichés become your truth.

So for me and my boy, I’m going to embrace the clichés, grab each moment as best I can. Sometimes I won’t be able to, sometimes I’ll forget but time is the only thing I can’t control, it’s also the only thing of which I’m sure.

Time will end, so I’m going to make it one hell of a bubble bath.

Mama and More

Thank you NHS

chrimbo5I kept meaning to write this post but time seemed to pass so quickly. But I told myself I wanted to say a thank you and I needed to find the time.

On his fourth birthday Arthur ended up in hospital with a raging temperature and difficulty breathing. Diagnosed with croup and a bronchial tract infection he was home within the day. What amazed me was the service we received.

From the moment I anxiously picked up the phone to call 111- filled with scepticism it has to be said, to the moment we left the hospital. I was left with no doubt that he was getting what he needed.Thankfully I’ve never had to spend much time with a sick child in hospital but I do know it was a scary out of control, feeling. I only glimpsed this for a few hours.

I wanted to put down in words how grateful I feel to live somewhere that gave me peace of mind within hours. Somewhere I didn’t have to worry about affording to make sure my boy was ok. Somewhere where his welfare was immediately the most important thing for the doctors and nurses.

i called 111 around 10.30pm after a horrible few hours. The operator talked calmly and clearly to me. Within moments I was speaking to a nurse and less that 20 minutes later I had a first response vehicle at my door.

After a quick assessment they decided he needed to go to hosital and far quicker than  I ever imagined, he was whisked away by ambulance with daddy, while I drive frantically behind. ( Jonathan had had a couple of beers ).

We arrived in A and E on a busy Saturday night surrounded by the walking wounded, the paralytic and the somewhat strange that emerge in the small hours. Arthur was scared but they took him straight to a side room and made him, and us, calm.

It was a long few hours but who cares-the nurse and the doctor dealing with him were wonderful and ridiculously busy. I know it’s not everybody’s experience of the NHS. But it was ours and it was fantastic and next time I moan about paying my tax I’ll stop, take a moment and be thankful that my boy lives here.

Amazona Zoo – a little bit of South America in Norfolk!

On a bright and breezy Friday morning I took Arthur and his buddy, Leo, on a South American adventure. My budget didn’t quite stretch to the real thing but wow, we enjoyed a lovely day at Amazona Zoo. A small zoo in Cromer which focuses on animals from across South America.

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It was very quiet on the day we went but that suited us fine as the boys could run around and discover without worrying about them causing too much mayhem!

The first glorious animal we came across were the beautiful Jaguars. Stunning and the boys loved watching the ‘big giant cats’.They both stood, enthralled as the Jaguars prowled around the enclosure.

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Next up it was the parrots, their colourful plumes really are amazing and the boys loved them as they are exactly like the characters in Rio, the movie!

The zoo has easy, buggy accessible paths throughout, each path having it’s own foot prints to follow – a lovely touch. The children’s playground has recently been upgraded and now has two amazing bouncy pillows. They are such fun and I have to say I was wholly disappointed the age limit was six! It was a little chilly but they boys bounced around for ages and I can imagine in the summer these will be a real crowd pleaser.

Last time we came along I was fascinated by the Mara which wandered ( or hopped, I’m still not sure!) around the open spaces. I was pleased to see this magic little creature again. It’s something I’ve never seen at another zoo and I love the fact he or she was out, lounging in the winter sun and paying not the least bit of interest to us.zoomara

We wandered past the bright pink Flamingoes and both boys spent ages trying desperately to stand on one leg – with varied success!

Next up were by far the favourite animals of the day – the Capuchin Tufted Monkies. After naming them Freddy and Freddy Sweet Treat, Arthur and Leo were literally mesmerised. Watching them climb and swing and generally monkey around!

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In the inside enclosure we discovered lizards and Caimans and, perched on top, the guinea pigs! But don’t worry, they have a brand new home built for them outside but it was a little cold for them just yet. In summer I suspect we’ll see them scurrying around outside in their custom build homes.

After a good wander around we spent some time in Jungle Tots. A great little soft play area perfect for rainy moments or just a change of scenery. It was clean, bright and perfect for pre- schoolers of all ages, from tiny toddlers to my slightly raucous four-year-olds. Arthur and Leo especially loved the huge blower and the slide – a great addition to Amazona.

You can also pick up snacks and lunch at the Lakeside Cafe – on a warm day it would be fantastic to sit outside, we did this last year and it was lovely.

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We had a lovely day and I would highly recommend this as a great day out. Smaller than most zoos it has a lovely family feel. It works for all ages, is easy to walk round and to top it off, very importantly for children, it has large and very clean loos which are never far away!

*If you fancy taking a trip then don’t forget mums go free on Mothers Day.

Pensthorpe – a fantastic family day out

On Sunday we headed off for a day at Pensthorpe National Park It was a bright day but blimey it was cold so with hats, gloves and scarves at the ready we took on the elements and emerged triumphant!

Pensthorpe is quite simply stunning and manages to bring together some amazing scenery, wonderful wildlife and a sense of adventure and exploration often missing from family days out.We were there on the last day of the Bee an Explorer event for children during half term, where you could discover yet more about nature on the coloured sign-posts dotted around and all three loved spotting the coloured hedgehogs around the reserve. We stopped off to make our very own hedgehogs out of playdough and to top it off, got to meet a real life little hog – fresh from hibernation.
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Freddy the hedgehog was a huge hit and I have to mention the fantastic chap who gave us a talk all about Freddy. It’s no mean feat to keep two active nearly four-year-old boys and a five-year-old girl interested but he managed it. He was engaging, great with the children and just came across as someone who loved his job.In fact this was true throughout the day – there was a sense that everyone wanted to be there and cared passionately – it’s not something you always come across so hat’s off Pensthorpe!

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As it was rather chilly and wet we didn’t get to do a big walk but having been before I know there are some great walks with the stamp trail being a big hit with my son last summer. Children can build dens, spot the amazing array of wildlife and the wonderful carved wood and metal animals punctuating the walks. This time we were lucky enough to see the red squirrels too – Arthur thought they were amazing as they basically look exactly like Squirrel Nutkin in Peter Rabbit!

You can even see flamingos and they stand out magnificently this time of year against the vast grey skies and muted browns and greens of late winter.

We stopped to refuel at the lovely Courtyard Café – so pretty and I loved the feeling of bringing the outside in with exposed brick walls and huge open windows. The boys loved sitting and watching the birds at the feeders while they tucked into sausage and chips. It had a relaxed vibe with bare wooden tables, plenty of room and a sense that no one was going to rush you.

The children all had sausage and chips and it was great to hear the meat was from a butcher literally five minutes from the reserve. They really champion local produce and it’s a lovely tie-in to the whole ethos of the reserve. Grown-ups had haddock and chunky chips with peas and it was delicious – fresh, well-cooked with crispy chips. There was loads of choice and daily specials and they also have a dedicated hot and cold children’s menu.

imageThe selection of cakes was too tempting to miss so we had a slice of coffee and walnut and a chocolate oat slice, again delicious and generously portioned. Again the feeling the staff really cared about what they were doing shone through and I had a lovely chat with the girl who served us on the til – it’s these moments that make the day sometimes.

The toilets where big, clean and easily accessible even with three children – this is always important on family days out!

After lunch we hit Wildrootz – it’s just the best adventure play area I’ve been to. The children love it so much. With slides, wooden dens, sand galore and the magical, and it has to be said slightly addictive, musical instruments, it’s just a fab place to be. I was worried the cold would spoil it but they ran around so much it didn’t matter. Only when the rain started in earnest did they agree to head back to the car!

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The natural theme continues with animals carved in the benches and lovely bright fact boards throughout – I never new bats always fly left out of a cave. Or that rodent’s teeth never stop growing! They are in the middle of building a £1million indoor play are which will be a fantastic addition and I can’t wait to get back to try it out.

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On our way back we stopped off inside the viewing gallery to watch the birds being fed and listen to the ranger talk about the many species of birds, some of them are really rare.
That’s the real beauty of Pensthorpe, it has managed so successfully to merge nature with fun and education –they have listened, developed and continue to get better. It really does have a special place in my heart – if you’ve not been I can’t recommend it highly enough.

So are there any downsides to Pensthorpe:
I like to write honest reviews because I know families will take time and spend money going to these places. But it’s tough with somewhere like this.

  • It’s limited if the weather’s not great but the new indoor play area will help this.
  • It’s not cheap – but you’re helping to pay for the upkeep of this magnificent place
  • I like my coffee a little stronger!

Cult of the Slimming World

This week has been a somewhat ‘off piste’ Slimming World week.

My downward spiral began with steak and red wine with friends, followed closely by Malteser Cake and fish pie. I’ve carbed up so much I assuming I’m now at least 60% pasta. I can feel the hot breath of our esteemed SW leader, Jean, breathing down my neck – salivating at my despair.

But you see, there in lies the problem. I don’t despair. I really should, I can feign it like a sociopath feigns empathy. I can hang my head in shame and dutifully promise to fill in a food diary for next week. But, I know, I think she knows this is simply not going to happen.
So you might ask why I go each week – it’s a question I’ve pondered. I like the diet because it suits me. I like the fact I get a figure to work with each week. I love the fact the group is comedy gold and because there’s no way I’m giving up now!

I’m not in to the recipe sharing, I do get it but I can Google most of it. This week Sylvia shared her ‘speed soup’ recipe which, to be fair, was simply boiling veg in veg stock and pureeing. I managed not to gag when she said it does her for lunch Monday to Friday if you skim the top. I longed to urge her to throw in some pasta, crack open the chilli but some how I fear Sylvia is too far gone.

Our lovely, skinny Frenchman, Syed, arrived on a motorbike this week, very exotic and only something you can do once slim and agile. His ascent into two-wheeled deity status cemented by another 2lbs off this week. Barbed comments about not losing any more or you’ll ‘get all gaunt’ could be heard from ‘Curly Wurly hidden in jumpers’ woman.

It’s a cat and mouse mind game this Slimming World lark. There’s a dark undercurrent detectable only when I see the slight glimmer in Jean’s eyes when I’ve put on weight, or the even more annoying: “Well done, you’ve stayed the same.” Her claws digging further into my psyche. Once you’re part of this cult it is very hard to leave.

But of course I’m different…I can leave any time me.

Our Weekend Box review

There’s little better on a rainy Thursday afternoon than the postman bringing you a lovely little parcel of fun!

We were asked to review the Weekend Box and the timing was perfect. Ok, not technically a weekend but it was dark wet and we needed something to while a way a few hours.
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Each one is themed and this month it was Chinese New Year – I loved the fact the little cards gave you some facts and snippets of info to talk about with small people. We had a lovely chat about the colour red and what it means across the world – Arthur was intrigued and it opens his imagination and helped start our journey through the Weekend Box.

Each box has four activities aimed at 3-6 years old. Most need at least some supervision but there is plenty for little hands to enjoy. We made Chinese lanterns and Arthur loved using the red glitter paint. They even supplied a little paint brush so great attention to detail.

weekend3Next we spent an hour so so making the Chinese drum – a great idea and we even practiced writing New Year in Chinese – not sure it worked but it all added to the experience!

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The other two activities were making a Chinese dragon and fortune cookies. I’m saving these for next week when the rain falls or it’s just too cold to head out.

The boxes are all made from recycled card and each one can be coloured and made into a certificate – again fab attention to detail.

We had such a lovely afternoon, sitting together crafting and talking. The Weekend Box made it easy as everything is supplied and the bits you need are clearly marked on each activity. A fun, bright, enticing and brilliantly simple concept which we loved.

 

The boxes cost £7.50 fortnightly delivered straight to your door – great value.

If you fancy giving it a go then I have a cheeky little gift for you. Use this code MAMMA and you’ll be able to try out a FREE Weekend Box – come on, it would be rude not to!

My little b boy

Sunday I asked Arthur what he wanted to do. Maybe the sea, a muddy walk, a play on the park.

No, his response was a little unexpected!
” Mummy please can we go and see the graffiti.” So our Sunday was all about urban colour and the wonderful landscape of our local skate park…there’s beauty in everything.

My little urban b boy:

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Cold hard cash to quit the fags

So should we be bunging pregnant women some vouchers to stop them smoking? I say ‘we’ as the presumption is that this money will be from tax payers – but before you think I’m heading full throttle into a Dail Mail rant, let me say that yes, perhaps we should.

It’s all very easy for those of us who don’t smoke to espouse our outrage that anyone would need, what amounts to a cash, incentive to give up. Pregnant women should give up.

Of course they should, just as alcoholics should quit and heroin addicts should stop jacking up. But it’s not black and white. It’s a fag ash shade of grey – if it weren’t no one would continue with an addiction. We’d all be smuggy smugsville from smuggyland.

Smokers aren’t idiots per se, it’s a choice then an addiction. You’d hope they had the strength to stop because it’s revolting and dangerous for your baby but the sad fact is many don’t.

Our wonderful outrage isn’t going to change that but if the thought of cold cash does then absolutely we should do it. It’s not going to suddenly be the only weapon in the NHS’s armour – it’s just another approach. And if your cigarettes are a crutch you use because you’re knackered, alone and skint then perhaps the vouchers might just tip the scales in the favour of giving up.

We all know education should be at the heart of helping people give up or never start but this is ignoring a whole band of hardcore smokers who, maybe through social reasons, maybe because they like doing it, need something to turn their heads.

Sometimes relying on a moral compass is not enough. Be outraged they smoke when pregnant. Be annoyed we have to pay for it but that doesn’t make it wrong and if it does work then maybe we’ve found a way of getting to those mums and improving the health of those babies they’re growing.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Keeping safe on the roads

A couple of weeks ago we took our car in to get a bearing fixed. Little did we know we’d be walking out with four new tyres! All our tyres had a lot of wear and two were below the legal limit. It’s scary to say the least. We drive round in these big old metal boxes and sometimes it’s so easy to forget what’s at stake.

The mechanic was a lovely guy but said the tread on tyres has a huge impact on stopping distance, ability to drive in icy conditions and loads of other heart stopping stuff. We know this, of course we do. But I don’t about you, I’m so focussed on car seats and seat belts that I sometimes forget about the actual mechanics of keeping us safe. I’m keeping a few names and numbers handy, I guess they are as important as my dentist or my massage therapist! One of the leading tyre networks is Point S! They have a presence across the country from down south to Point S Leeds.

We do so much in the car as a family, holidays, camping, days out and the one place I really need to feel safe in in there. You can’t do anything about other drivers but you can make sure everything on your car in in tip top condition.

Last year I spend hours cruising the Internet looking for the right car seat – it’s hugely important but if there’s something I can do to stop us getting into an accident in the first place then that’s exactly what I’m going to do.we all go to places like Halfords for car seat fitting so why not pencil in a service or get them to check your tyres, while you’re there.

MOTs lull us into a false sense of security, it’s once a year – a lot can can happen in 12 month. So if there’s one thing I’m adding to my New Year’s resolutions this year it’s to think outside the box – big metal box I get in and drive around with my baby in the back. I’m going to get my tyres checked every six months – why wouldn’t I?