Saturday, 31 August 2013

Six Years Married

Last year I wrote a round up of all the things that had happened in the 5 years since I had married my Other Half.  So this year I obviously needed to come up with something a bit better!!

As I was thinking it over I remembered one of my favourite quotes about marriage:

'I love being married.  It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.' Rita Rudner

I can't remember where I first heard it, but I smile every time I think of it, because it's so true.  I don't think there is anyone who gets under my skin quite like my Other Half.  I think he would say the same about me!

Anyway, I digress...I have written and rewritten this post several times wondering whether I should share my thoughts on marriage.  Some people may agree with some of what I've shared and disagree with other parts.  Some people may disagree with the whole lot!  But this is what marriage is to me:

Marriage is more than finding the person you want to grow old with.  It's happiness, tenacity, passion, tribulation and more joy than you ever thought possible all rolled into one and that doesn't even scratch the surface!

Marriage is hard work.  A challenge all on it's own.  Blending your life with another person's is never simple but it's so worth it.

Marriage is a blessing.  The knowledge that you will come home every day to someone who loves you in all your flawed glory.  Who knows you are not perfect but adores you anyway.  The person who picks you up when you're down, who makes you laugh just because, who is your greatest advocate when you've had enough.

Marriage is a choice.  One you make every time you disagree or fall out.  When that habit that gets under your skin and drives you to the point of insanity looks like it's never going to change.  When you have those 'if only' moments about your life.  

Marriage is a privilege.  To hold someone's heart in your hand, to treasure and care for it.  To never break it.

Marriage is a journey.  An opportunity to grow alongside someone else, to be their challenger and to be challenged by them.

Marriage is trust.  Knowing without a shadow of a doubt that if you fall, someone will catch you.

Marriage is fun!  Who else will dance around the living room singing cheesy songs with you at 11pm?!?

Marriage is love.  Real love.  Love that lasts beyond the first zing, the first crackle of attraction.  Love that upholds, endorses and protects.

I am so lucky that I got to marry my best friend.  Sometimes I forget how much when he does things like leaving a wet towel in the middle of the bedroom floor or changing his plans at the last minute without telling me (I don't handle change well!) but then I remember that it's my decision to work through the times when he makes me really really mad because of all the reasons he is so great: his enthusiasm for life, his ability to make me laugh like no one else, his loyalty to people he loves, how hard he works for the sake of his family.  Just a teeny tiny snapshot of the reasons why I love him.

So I suppose I can just about forgive him when his alarm goes off at 6am and he lies in bed staring at his phone unable to remember how to turn it off until I help him...every single morning!  

Because who else is going to watch Pitch Perfect with me a hundred times and laugh at the same jokes?!?

Happy six years James!

Everybody be cool, it's just a normal day.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Playground Talk: Making Friends

On Wednesday evening we visited a local pub for our dinner.  Not entirely unsurprisingly, Meg and Eli were really fidgety when they were waiting for their meals to arrive and I'm not sure all the couples who were there sans children were quite charmed by Eli's loud rendition of 'round and round is the name of the game'

Luckily there was a small playground at the back of the pub so I valiantly volunteered to take them both outside to burn off their energy whilst we waited.

There were 2 other children playing in the park when we got there, 2 girls.  Meg and Eli instantly took off, running round and round shrieking.  The 2 girls seemed to be with each other and were playing quite nicely and calmly when another little girl arrived.  She went around the climbing frame two or three times before approaching one of the original girls and saying 'I'm 6, how old are you?'  The other girl answered and Little Miss 6 said 'shall we be friends?' to which she received a nod of assent and Little Miss 6 was included in whatever game the original girls had been playing.  

Is it really that easy to make friends I wondered?  

I think I had forgotten how seamlessly children can blend and play together.

Whilst this exchange was going on, another little girl arrived.  She seemed a bit more hesitant and slowly made her way around, carefully evaluating the threesome of girls playing and then Meg.  She obviously decided Meg was her best bet and approached her, again leading in with the question 'how old are you?'

This time though, the exchange was entirely different.

Meg answered '4' and carried on playing her game.  The little girl crouched down next to her and said, 'I'm 5, I like your headband.'  Meg looked at her for a minute said 'I know' and ran off to carry on her game.  

Now, I have heard from various sources that Meg is very sociable and makes friends easily but I was as bemused as Miss 5 year old when Meg just took off.  There was no other engagement from Meg, no polite response or attempt to build a friendship.  It made me think of how differently Meg will behave after a year or so at school.  At the moment, she's not really interested in making friends, she will play with children if they are willing to join in with the game she is playing, but she doesn't think beyond that, doesn't think to creating a group of friends.  

I certainly hope she's different as I can't see how she will make any friends if she keeps ignoring them!

I pulled Meg over to one side and explained to her that Miss 5 year old was trying to make friends with her and perhaps she could ask her what she was called.  Meg considered this for a minute and then marched over to the little girl and said, 'what's your name?'  Miss 5 year old replied, 'Sophie' and smiled hopefully.  Unfortunately, remit fulfilled Meg simply nodded her head and walked away.  After all, she'd done what I asked hadn't she?  We were saved by the announcement that our dinner had arrived and I made sure to cover for Meg and tell Sophie that she had a very pretty name.

It was interesting when we went back into the park after our dinner.  There was just one other boy playing who must have been about 7 or 8.  Meg instantly reverted back to the game she had been playing before we left and Eli started running round.  The boy began to chase Eli, pretending to be a monkey and a lion and helping him up the ladders and across the bridge.  There was no verbal exchange, no acknowledgement of how old they were or what they were called, just a simple acceptance that they were going to play together and that was that.

How different boys and girls are!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

My 99p Summer Challenge

I was very excited (possibly a bit too excited to be honest) when I received £10 worth of vouchers from the 99p store in the post for the #my99psummer challenge.  I had been in to our local store the week before to pick up some bits for our Under the Sea Sensory Play and I had spotted some very attractive looking outdoor games that I thought Meg and Eli would really enjoy.

Of course, you'd think I would have remembered that this is England and so the minute anyone starts to actually enjoy themselves in the sun, the rain clouds gather.  Boo hiss.  By the time I got to the 99p store, the heatwave had ended and it was set to rain for the next few years weeks.  Luckily, the 99p store also had a good variety of things for Meg and Eli to do indoors, so all was not lost and I have actually been able to keep them occupied on the days when the weather man was correct and the heavens have opened.

For Meg there was only ever going to be one option: crafting.  I bought everything in sight which was pink, girlie and required some level of craft.  Eli isn't so much into that, although I did manage to get one afternoon of painting from him, so for him I stuck to the toy section.

Activity One: The Crown
I was a bit unsure whether Meg would have the patience for this, the age suggestion was 5+ but I thought she'd be intrigued by the amount of sparkly bits.  That was until I opened the box and saw that there were hundreds of tiny little sparkly bits!

It was a stick by numbers type of activity and you had to attach a sticky square to the back of the jewel and then attach it where relevant on the crown.  I had to do the first part for Meg as it was too fiddly for her, but she was very good at putting the jewels onto the crown and we managed to have a good chat whilst she was concentrating which was lovely.

Needless to say she was very proud of her creation and has modelled it round the house on several occasions. 

Activity Two: Canvas Making
This was my favourite activity of everything we did this summer.  I had been inspired by some canvasses I had seen in a friend's house, made by her two little boys and was really keen to give this a go.  I picked up the two canvasses, the finger paints, the sparkly glitter and the stick on jewels from the 99p store which was all that we used.

Both Meg and Eli really enjoyed this activity, I think mostly because they got to stick their fingers into the paint!  Although the canvas instructions said to use acrylic paint, we didn't have any problems with the paint we used, it seems to have worked just fine.

The play apron I picked up also came in handy here.  Up until now the kids have shared Meg's pink one but now Eli has his own.  He was very proud of the little front pockets and kept stashing stick on jewels in there as 'treasure!'

I still need to print out a little name and date tag so we can hang them up and it's a nice little keepsake for us to have.  I love that they have both put their individual marks onto the canvas and Meg in particular took it very seriously and has asked several times to hang it on her wall by her bed.

Activity Three & Four: Fairy Scene and Helicopters
When Meg asked to do her plaster of paris fairy scene, I knew that Eli was never going to let us get on with in peace, so in order to keep him quiet I brought out the aeroplane and helicopter set as well as the set of diggers for him to play with.  He spent the whole time playing with them, no other distraction would have worked half as well.  I thought the toys were good for the price and they have travelled up and down the country with us this summer, being the perfect size for Eli's pocket!

I haven't done plaster of paris since I was at school but the instructions were really easy to follow.  Meg had great fun painting them, although she didn't quite stick to the brief and went for the multicoloured finish!

Activity Five: Sensory Play
We used some soap and glitter from the 99p store in the fairy mud sensory play we recently tried out.  Follow the link to read more about how to make it.  Whilst at the time they didn't seem too keen on joining in, Meg has asked me twice since if we can make the mud so she must have actually enjoyed herself!

Thanks to the 99p store we had lots of fun this summer and managed to stay sane on the days when we couldn't go outside to play!

Disclaimer: We were sent £10 worth of vouchers from the 99p store for the purpose of this post.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Let's Play: Fairy Mud

After our successful trip to the National Space Centre last week, I had wanted to dedicate this week to some more space activities.  The plan had been to make some papier mache planets yesterday afternoon but unfortunately Eli was unwell and as a result was incredibly clingy.  He even went into total meltdown when I set him down on the sofa and went to make myself a cup of tea.  It was not a fun day!  

So, with the planets shelved for the afternoon, I decided to try and create a simple sensory activity that he might want to engage with rather than just have him clinging to me on the sofa for the whole day.  He usually loves sensory play so I thought it was worth a shot.

I'd been keen to try out some fairy mud since I spotted the idea on Pinterest some months ago, and had bought the items in preparation for it at the start of the summer holidays.  

You find the recipe for it here.  I didn't have any pink soap, just normal white coloured but we mixed in some purple glitter and that was enough to turn the mixture a pale pinkish colour.

Meg got stuck in straight away ripping the toilet paper into little pieces.  She did a great job considering Alfie was auditioning to be the next Andrex puppy and get trying to make off with it as she was tearing.  I used our tuff spot tray but in hindsight, I wish I'd used our much smaller plastic box as the mixture didn't cover the tuff spot by a long shot.  It looked a little bit sad in the centre, and not very inviting.

In fact, neither Meg nor Eli wanted to get involved until I got down and started to play and show them what to do.  Meg kept saying 'yuck, it's too sticky' and Eli just wanted to cling to my legs.  I managed to prise him off and get him mixing some more water and tissue paper in a bowl. which he enjoyed and once I'd showed Meg what she could do with the fairy mud, she did start to get involved but they mostly just enjoyed making a mountain out of the mud and sticking fairies into it, they weren't so bothered for getting creative.  Maybe it was the wrong time for it, I think I'll give it another go at a later date before striking it from our messy play ideas list.

They both enjoyed the smell sensory element however, and for the rest of the afternoon Meg kept commenting on how lovely everyone's hands smelled.

I think next time, I will either double up the mixture or use a smaller container so that it looks a bit more attractive!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Get Good Summer - Final Update

So, I have to say a huge apology to Claire, the lovely hostess of the Get Good Summer linky, as I have just failed to join in regularly with this.  Sorry!!

I think the lack of routine over the summer holidays, and losing our childcare just threw everything up in the air and we lost all our structure and routine.  It's been totally chaotic and we have just been flying around by the seat of our pants, which I am not generally very good at.

So, here is our final update for how we got on over the summer.

Finish the garden
We didn't manage to do this one, if anything our garden is rapidly sliding backwards.  It was really my Other Half's job for the summer and he just hasn't had time.  I'm hopeful that once he has settled into his new job and we've all adjusted to the routine, he will be able to give it some attention throughout the autumn.  

Family days out
This one we had much more success with.  Once Meg had her stitches removed and was able to run around with as much enthusiasm as usual, we managed to visit some friends in Norfolk, visit Pleasurewood Hills Amusement Park and the National Space Centre.  We've also spent the last two weekends Geocaching as a family which has been a lot of fun.  So I think we can comfortably say that we've made time to spend together as a family and have some really great memories from the summer.

Read 2 challenging books
I think, mostly due to the fact that I don't thrive in a chaotic environment, I have lost my reading mojo this summer.  Usually if I have a spare 30 seconds, I have my head stuck in a book but I have barely read anything.  I can't settle into a book and whereas I used to only be able to concentrate on one book at once and never give up on a book, I've now stopped and started 3 different books and not made it past the first couple of chapters with any of them.  I hope I get it back soon!

Make every week count
I hope I have managed to do this for Meg.  We've done a fair bit of sensory and themed play with our Under the Sea week, our Farm week and this week we're concentrating on Space play after Meg was so enthusiastic about our trip to the Space Centre.  More on this next week!

Despite the fact that I didn't quite succeed with all of my goals, I've really enjoyed having something to work towards.  I couldn't have predicted that circumstances would work against us and I think had it all gone to plan, I probably would have managed to get everything done that I wanted to.  But that's life!!

Thanks so much to Claire for organising the linky in the first place.  I hope she organises it next year and I promise to be so much better at joining in!!

Monday, 26 August 2013

What's The Story: Baby Mac

I was incredibly disappointed when we attended our 21 week scan for our first baby, and were told that due to their frog like position, the sonographer was unable to determine the sex of the baby.  I don't think it had occurred to me up until that point that they might not be able to tell us what we were having.  I had gone into the scan certain that we would leave knowing whether we were team blue or team pink.

My Other Half was convinced we were having a boy and said it didn't matter but, as any woman who has been pregnant can identify with, hormones and emotions run high and just accepting that I would have to wait wasn't enough for me!

So, one Saturday morning, when I was 27 weeks pregnant, we caught the train and went for a 4D scan.  I had seen pictures of what 4D scans looked like but I don't think anything can prepare you for how real your baby looks.  On the black and white grainy pictures you get from the hospital, you are really just seeing the outline of your baby.  On a 4D scan, you can see actual features.

I completely forgot that we were there to find out the gender of Baby Mac and instead just sat staring as they wrinkled their nose and sucked their thumb, blissfully asleep and unaware.  The sonographer wanted us to see them with their eyes open to get the full experience (and our money's worth), so she sent me for a walk and for a cold sugary drink to give them a buzz.  When we came back, the baby was awake and moving around and it was amazing.  We have a video with footage of them moving around, waving their arms and legs and it's like nothing I had ever seen before.  All that was going on inside of me?

The best part, and the purpose of the trip, was obviously to find out the gender and we did.  The original plan had then been to keep it a secret and only have the two of us know but my Other Half didn't quite manage that.  I think his best failing moment was when he said to some friends of ours who were also pregnant, 'yes, we do know what we're having.  We aren't telling anyone though.  Although we can tell you all our boys names now'  Erm...great, thanks!

Remarkably, and for all the cynics out there, Meg did arrive looking very similar to her 4D it's not just any baby you are seeing!

I am cheating a little bit this week as well and showing two photos, as I couldn't pick between them.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Day Out: The National Space Centre

On Wednesday I decided to brave the school holiday crowds and take Meg and Eli to the National Space Centre.  I went online to check the prices the night before and was really pleased to see that under 5's were free (not many places offer that any more) and that if I booked my ticket online and gift aided, we would automatically get annual passes.  I thought this was brilliant as it cost me £13 for my ticket so that works out at just over £4 each for the three of us for the year.  Not bad!

As Meg and Eli were so excited about becoming astronauts for the day, I thought it would be better to go first thing.  I'm really glad I did.  We arrived around 10am and were one of only a handful of people there which meant we had the run of the place and I didn't have to worry too much about losing sight of one of the kids.  By about 12pm there were several large groups of children and we weren't able to look at some of the more interactive things as there were just too many people around.  Top Tip: Head there early!

We walked around all the exhibits and again, I was really pleased to see that there were things specifically for the under 5's.  There were a handful of dressing up stations dotted around where they could be aliens, the sun or an astronaut and consideration had also been taken for taller exhibits with stepping stools being provided so they could get up and have a go.  I thought this was a really great touch.  It's a nightmare if you have more than one child and you are trying to lift one up to see an exhibit whilst trying to keep eyes on the other!

To be honest, I can't comment much on the quality of the information displayed around as I didn't get much chance to stop and read but I thought it all looked very good, was clear and easy to see and would be a brilliant place to visit if you have a space lover in the family.

Eli's favourite part was a little showing booth you could go and sit in to learn about the planets.  You select a planet by pressing one of the buttons around the booth and then look up at the screen above as the details are read out.  I don't think he was able to understand the finer scientific points but he loved the visual side of it and seemed to charm everyone with his exclamations of 'wow' every few minutes.

One of my favourite parts of the day was when we climbed the tower.  The different levels of the tower were three different stages of the space race.  On one you could go into a red room with a circular table and hear about the Soviets involvement.  When the voice started the countdown (in a Russian accent) both Meg and Eli started jumping up and down shouting 'the minions are coming, the minions are coming!' - they thought Despicable Me was coming on to the screens!

Meg absolutely loved the astronaut section, she LOVED sitting in the 'rocket' (I know that probably isn't the right term for what it was), dressing up as an astronaut and going in the real-size space station.  I think next time we will have to take Daddy along as he knows a lot more about this topic than I do and she was really keen to learn and understand about the various parts of the day.  She really didn't want to come home!

Eli, on the other hand, wouldn't get into any of the rockets/space things.  I couldn't work out why he was so terrified of having a go until I realised that he actually thought it meant he'd have to go into space.  I have no idea where or what he thinks 'space' is, but he wasn't willing to risk it.  I possibly have an over-imaginative 2 year old on my hands!

There aren't really any negatives I can say, I was disappointed we didn't get to have a go at the Tranquility Base and become trainee astronauts but that is located on the way out and by the time we came to leave it was just far too busy.  I think when we return (and we will) that will be the first place we go to.  We also didn't visit the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium show as I didn't think the kids would sit through it, I think that is one to try out when it's just me and my Other Half (and I'm sure that will happen too!)

Really the only other thing I could say that I felt a bit let down by was the gift shop.  I had hoped to be able to buy Eli a toy rocket or something similar but they didn't have anything suitable for his age group.  There was a baby section with rattles and the like and then there seemed to be a big jump with the next level being various stationary items.  I could have bought an American airline plane, but that seemed out of place in the Space Centre.  I'm the only one complaining about that however, I think my Other Half breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't spend a fortune.

Seal of Approval?
Under 3's: There is a lot for this age group to see and experience.  I would have liked to see a few more sensory items for them to touch and engage with but overall I think it's really great.  Better to go when it is quiet though as it's very easy to lose sight of small children!  If you have a couple of hours to kill then this would make a great option, now we have the annual pass there's no excuse not to go.

4+: Meg thought this was brilliant and I can only see her enthusiasm growing she gets older and can understand more of what she is seeing.  It would have been great if my Other Half had been able to come along as we could have dedicated some more time to explaining what she was seeing and hearing.  In particular things like finding a telescope's heat spot completely fascinated her, but I didn't have the time to go through it all and put it onto her level.  This is not a criticism of the Space Centre, just that there is a lot to explain!

Overall: As you can probably tell, we consider this a really great family day out in Leicestershire.  Perfect if you are local and have a few hours to spare and suitable for all ages groups.  Also worth travelling for if you have a space enthusiast in the family.  

Disclaimer: We were not asked to write this review and have not been provided with any compensation.  This is part of a series of blog posts we are compiling on suitable days out for preschool children.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Our First Geocaching Adventure

After reading Actually Mummy's post yesterday about finding THE whomping willow from the Harry Potter films, I was full of enthusiasm and determined to give geocaching a go.  I downloaded the app, and told my Other Half that when he got home from work we'd be going out for a little adventure.

On the app you can only see the three closest routes to where you actually are, so we drove up towards our local woods and then chose from the three suggested to us.  One of them was at a reservoir so deciding that it looked simple enough we parked up and set off.

I thought it would be a little bit more technical than just following a flashing blue dot along a red line, I think I expected there to be treasure hunt clues or something.  I was even more perplexed when we couldn't find anything, I was standing right on the dot!  It was perhaps a bit of a shame that the place the cache was meant to be hidden was right behind a man fishing so my Other Half felt silly rooting around in the bushes and abandoned me at the first attempt.  I'll admit, he did look at me like I'd lost the plot when I reached into the hedge to grab hold of the shiny plastic thing that had caught my eye and came out brandishing a Lucozade bottle!

After a few minutes it became obvious that the box wasn't there so we decided to just enjoy our walk around the rest of the reservoir, talking to the few people who were fishing.  Whilst walking round I decided to have just one more look at the app and saw that there was another cache hidden just behind the car park we had pulled up in, so I convinced my Other Half to give it one more go and have a look for that one.

Unfortunately, we didn't find anything the second time either!  Although there was a hint, which did help to focus our search it appeared to be somewhere on a busy country route and with cars racing past at 70mph we couldn't spend more than a few minutes looking for it.  Nor did I manage to take any photos of our hunt as we had to keep all eyes on Eli and make sure he didn't bolt for the road.  As it turns out (according to the website), due to the coverage of trees the dot showing where the box is, is actually incorrect and you need to go into some kind of field to get it, which would have been helpful to know at the time!

I think we need to research our routes a bit better before we tell the kids what we are looking for, or maybe scout them out beforehand.  Meg went home feeling really deflated that we hadn't found what we were looking for and my Other Half is now convinced it's all a big sham.  I will be working hard to make sure we don't give up!  I think next time, I might take some of our own 'treasure' so that the kids don't have to leave empty handed if we are unsuccessful again.

Despite the fact we didn't find what we were looking for, we still had a lovely walk in the fresh air, in a place we hadn't been to before, so I wouldn't consider the experience a total loss!

Have you ever been geocaching?  Have you got any tips to share with us newbies?

I am linking this post up with Coombe Mill's Country Kids linky.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Day Out: Pleasurewood Hills Amusement Park

As I mentioned in A Tale of Three Counties, the weekend before last we visited Pleasurewood Hills Amusement Park.  Meg loves thrill rides and was beyond excitement when we got into the car.  Her intensity did wane a bit when the maps app we were using on my phone got us a bit lost, according to the map we were right by the theme park, with no theme park in sight!  Luckily, my Other Half also has a sat nav app and that guided us right to the front door.  Crisis avoided!

The park opened at 10am and we arrived at about 9.50am.  I was surprised by how many cars there were already in the car park, we hadn't expected it to be so busy on a Monday and began to worry a bit about queue length.  Parking up was simple, there were attendants signalling the way making it very straightforward.

We made our way to the pre-booked tickets booth to collect our wristbands and then walked straight through the barriers.  Despite the number of cars, there didn't seem to be many people and we didn't have to queue to get in, which had been our fear so that was good.

We headed for the Kiddie Zone first, with a quick stop at the Pirate Ship as that was located as you come through the gates and Meg was chomping at the bit to go on the bigger rides.  The Kiddie Zone was really quiet and there was only one lady attending the rides so we had to follow her from one to the next with only one operating at a time.  This wasn't a problem though and when we came back to the Kiddie Zone after lunchtime it was a lot busier.  I'm glad we went there first thing.

Meg really enjoyed the Pleasurewood Ponies ride and we had to come back and go on that again later in the day.

Once we'd exhausted the Kiddie Zone, we walked around the park a bit to try and get our bearings and then we made our way to the picnic and play area.  This was slightly disappointing - whilst the play areas themselves were really good, there were three altogether, two next to each other and one across the path.  None of the play areas were gated and there were hedges at various places between the play areas and the picnic benches.  This meant that you had to be down at the play area to watch your children and you couldn't sit at a picnic bench and see the play areas.  Not a problem for older children who can probably be relied upon not to run away but with a 2 year old who will escape at the first sniff of free reign, it was quite difficult to watch both Eli and Meg.  It also meant that when my Other Half went to buy food, I had to leave our pushchair at the picnic bench so we didn't lose it and stand in the middle of the path so I could try to watch both play areas and make sure Meg and Eli didn't run off anywhere.

We ate our lunch a bit earlier as there was a Sea Lion show on at 12pm which we knew the kids would love.  We were right, it was really great and they both managed to sit still through the whole thing which really rarely happens.  I did feel a bit sorry for the gentleman sat next to us who had to put up with Eli's excited squeals and foot stamps every time the Sea Lion did a trick!  The show was really fluid and moved quickly from one thing to the next which is ideal when you have young children as their attention spans aren't that long and they easily become distracted.  It wasn't boring though and I appreciated it as much as Meg and Eli did.

After that Meg went on Enigma, which was the only 'big' rollercoaster she was able to go on, much to her disappointment!  She had been determined to go on Wipeout the 50mph one(!) but was 20cm too short.  That wasn't necessarily a bad thing though as I don't think my nerves could have handled it!  Despite the queue not looking particularly long, it took my Other Half and Meg an hour and a half to get on the ride which was disappointing as there are only 8 seats on the ride.  I stood with Eli whilst he napped and waited for them and heard many people make the assumption that it wouldn't take them long to get on the ride due to the length of the queue, only to leave after 10-15 minutes when they realised they'd be there a while!  I think queue estimate times wouldn't go amiss on a ride like that.

All in all we had a really nice day, Meg was able to go on most of the things she wanted to go on (there were some other rides she didn't spot!) apart from Wipeout, and she absolutely had a ball.

If you are the parent of a young child, I would take into consideration that there aren't many rides they can go on.  The minimum height for most of the family rides was 0.9m which Eli isn't, and that was a shame as he was old enough to know that he wanted to go on, but couldn't.  Although children under 1m get in for free, it isn't much of a fun day out for them if they are almost at the height limit but not quite.  I know it would be similar in most other amusement parks so it wasn't too much of a surprise.  Just a shame.

The day was not entirely lost for Eli though as we did manage to find a train to ride on!  I think we were all in agreement (except maybe Meg!) that it was the best thing we did.  The track runs all round the park and goes through some 'scary' woods where you have to spot the fairy houses, toadstools, crocodiles and lions...a bit of an odd assortment with no real explanation but Eli thought it was amazing!  There is a larger train which we also would have liked to go on but after standing at one of the stations for 15mins with no train in sight, and no visible timetable we gave that up.

Pleasurewood Hills also have a new attraction, HoBs Pit, which is said to be one of the scariest rides in the UK.  We gave this a miss as it wouldn't have been suitable, but it's worth checking out if you are into that kind of thing!

On the journey home we had two very worn out children which to me always signals a good day has been had and which made the 3 hour drive a lot quieter!!

Seal of Approval?
Under 3's: Although they would probably get free entry (unless tall!) there isn't much for the littlies to do here.  Very small children would probably appreciate the Kiddie Zone and there are enough things to occupy them.  Unfortunately for Eli he was old enough to know that he wanted to do something but then wasn't tall enough to do it, which was a shame for him.  Just something to bear in mind when making your decision.

4+: Great especially if they are over 1m.  Loads to do.  The older your children, the better.

Overall: Wouldn't recommend this as a day out if you are looking for somewhere to take young children as the facilities and rides are limited but for older children or for a family trip it would be a fantastic day out.

Disclaimer: We were provided with wristbands for Pleasurewood Hills Amusement Park for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A Tale of Three Counties...

Last weekend we had the lovely opportunity to visit some friends in Norfolk.  Just over a year ago they took the brave decision to move and although we miss them terribly, we try and catch up when we can.

So on Saturday, after a slight delay, we left our home in Leicestershire and headed over to Norfolk.  Anyone who has done that particular journey will know it can take a long long time, especially when you come close to King's Lynn but we managed to take a back route and didn't get delayed which was great.  Meg and Eli are becoming quite accustomed to long car journeys too and didn't make a peep, which is always a plus!

After a hot drink and a catch up, we headed out to the beach.  Despite the fact that it wasn't at all warm, both Meg and Eli went paddling in the sea.  Eli even managed to get knocked over by a wave and ended up lying on his back, fully clothed in the sea.  Apart from a bit of shivering he didn't seem all that bothered.

After our paddle we had a walk down the pier and my Other Half managed to take a beautiful panoramic shot.  It's just a shame that two of the children were trying to escape over the barricade as he was doing it!!

On Sunday we visited Redwings Horse Sanctuary.  It looked fairly new and there weren't too many horses to see but the kids really enjoyed it.  Their favourite bit was the playground which they tested out thoroughly.  If you've got a couple of hours to spare it's a good place to go, they don't charge for entry but ask for donations.

On Monday we left our friends and headed into Suffolk for a day out at Pleasurewood Hills.  A full review of this will be coming soon but it was a really nice day.  We discovered that Eli is terrified of ALL rides and that Meg is terrified of none.  The only tantrum we had from her all day was when she realised she couldn't go on the really big thrill ride because she was too small!

After our day out we drove all the way home to Leicestershire, where we all literally collapsed in a heap, thoroughly worn out by our exciting weekend in three counties!

Monday, 19 August 2013

What's The Story: Stargazing in the Sinai Desert

In September 2008 we went on holiday to Na'ama Bay, Sharm El Sheikh with some friends.  I was about 9 weeks pregnant with Meg at the time and had a mixed experience.  I was quite lucky that I was only really hit by nausea in the middle of the day when it became unbearably hot.  One of our party caught the 'pharoah's curse' and was ill for quite a few days!

One of the things that we arranged to do whilst there was a Bedouin Stargazing night.  We were picked up from our hotel by a minibus and driven out into the desert.  I had to decline the offer of a camel ride to the Bedouin camp (I was overly cautious with being pregnant!) and instead walked.  I'm glad we did, as we were able to stop and take some stunning photos of the desert hills.

When we reached the camp we were able to see how the Bedouin's make bread over a camp fire, experience their local delicacies and smoke a shisha pipe.  I must admit I did partake, as I was advised it was totally harmless strawberry flavoured steam!

When the sun had set and we were suddenly plunged into total darkness, we walked a short way out into the desert and did some stargazing.  We were invited to lie down on some blankets and simply enjoy the night sky.  It was amazing to see so many stars, it's really not something you can appreciate when you are surrounded by artificial lights and we were also given the opportunity to look through a telescope.  I believe we were shown the planet Venus, although I can't remember!

It was definitely one of the highlights.  Whilst we didn't get to see 'traditional' Egypt which is on my dream holiday lists, it was still a fascinating and eye opening holiday.

I am linking this post up with What's the Story.  Head over to Charly's blog for more entries.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Love the Blog You Have....Part 2

I was overwhelmed by the number of comments I received on my blog post Love the Blog You Have and the support it got on my social media channels.  It was encouraging to see that so many bloggers agree with what I wrote, how important it is to stay true to the reasons why you began to write in the first place.

One of the comments left on the post, by Caro, really made me stop and think.  She wrote about those bloggers who are fantastic writers and photographers but who somehow fall through the cracks.  They don't get the exposure that some blogs get.

I've been thinking this over since she left the comment, about how we could come together as a community to really support those bloggers.  We all know how amazing it feels when you write a post, pouring your very heart and soul into it, and then you get comments affirming, agreeing, and supporting what you have written.  I still get a tingle when I see that someone has taken the time to not only read what I have put down, but to leave me a little note to say what they thought as well.

How can we make sure that we are sharing the blog love as much as possible?  Not everyone knows about the linkys that are available where you can share your best posts of the week.  These are great tools for finding new blogs but if you don't know they are out there, how could you join in?

This week alone I have found two new blogs which I simply love.  One is very new, and the other is quite a bit older but they are both quality blogs who don't have many followers.

I don't want to suggest a new linky as I think the blogging community is currently overrun with them.  My twitter timeline is forever awash with promotions of people who have joined in with various linkys, and that's okay, I just don't think there is call for any more.

The same goes for newbie showcases.  These are fantastic for getting your name 'out there' but only really apply if your blog is under a year old.  How about people who have been plugging away for longer than that?

I don't know...I'm simply spouting ideas and hoping not to offend the fabulous writers who run those particular linkys!

What I really want is to somehow find a way for us to discover those hidden gems and say hi, yes, you are being read, keep up what you are doing because it's really great.  Let's be honest, I bet there are times for us all when we feel like nobody is engaging with what we are sharing except for maybe family members.  That can be very discouraging and it can be hard to keep going.

So I'm throwing this out there, could we have some kind of showcase where we recommend great blogs we've found?  Or is there something like that already that we can link in with?  Maybe you think it's entirely unnecessary and we should just allow those blogs to keep going without being descended upon by the masses.  After all, something like this will only work if people get behind it.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Giveaway: Jack the Giant Slayer Blu-Ray & DVD Combo Pack

Warner Bros. is proud to announce the arrival of Jack the Giant Slayer on DVD & Blu-ray!

Unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost, forcing Jack (Nicholas Hoult), into the battle of this life to stop them. Fighting for a kingdom and its people, and the love of a brave princess, he comes face to face with the unstoppable warriors he thought only existed in legend... and gets the chance to become a legend himself! Directed by Brian Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns)

Starring: Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy), Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge!), and Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones).

I have a blu-ray and DVD Combo pack of Jack the Giant Slayer to give away to one lucky reader but the question is...are you courageous enough to rescue the princess? 

Are you brave like Jack? 

To win simply click on the link to the app, take the quiz, leave a comment with your answer and fill in the rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway  
 Terms and Conditions
1. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 or over
2. No bulk, third party or automated entries
3. The winner will be selected at random and will have until September 1st to provide their address.  If they fail to respond, another winner will be drawn,.
4. No PO Box addresses
5. The prize will be provided by the promoter, not me.

Disclaimer: I am working with Warner Bros. to offer this prize.  I have received no financial payment for the running of this giveaway.

Win competitions at

Friday, 16 August 2013

Dear Meg: I'm Not Ready

In two weeks time you start school.  It seems so soon now after just being an abstract idea for such a long time.  I think I've had my head buried in the sand a bit because as it comes ever closer I'm starting to feel a little bit unsure...okay, a lot unsure.

I don't think I'm ready for this.

In my mind you are still this helpless little baby, who looked to me to provide everything you needed.  I can't correlate that with the little person who stands in front of me and says 'actually Mummy, I think I'd like to play this game by myself.'  Who needs a certain amount of time alone each day to stop the tantrums and strops that come with feeling like I'm constantly looking over your shoulder.

You've been a presence at my side for the majority of the past 4 years and now you're going to be gone for 190 days a year.  Forgive me for sounding overly morbid, I'm writing this as though you will be gone forever, I know, but in a way it feels like I will be losing a part of you.  For the next 13 years of your life you will be in a school environment and there is a sense of 'that's it now' about it all.

I wonder what Eli will do without you to take charge and to entice him into mischief.  I will miss catching you both daily getting up to no good and being met with you, Little Miss Clever Clogs, immediately jumping on the defensive, "Mummy, I did not tell Eli how to open the gate by standing on the chair."  "Mummy, Eli wanted a biscuit, not me."  "Mummy, I didn't hit Eli, I just pushed him with my hand."  I hope you still retain the beautiful bond you have when you aren't spending all day together.

In the past month you have changed more than I could have thought possible.  Gone is the preschooler who would check over her shoulder just to make sure I was still there, still watching, who would need a little nod of reassurance before taking on a challenge.  A little girl has blossomed in her place.  Already a little girl who doesn't need me as much.

You are so ready for school.  Now you've finished at preschool you wake up every morning asking if it's time to go.  You are bright beyond your years and will really flourish at school, of that I'm sure.  We laugh at your strong-willed attitude and your reluctance to let other children join in with your games but I know you are a social butterfly really, and I'm excited for the long-lasting friendships you will build and the things you will learn along the way.

But there's still a part of me that doesn't want to let my baby go.  I want to surround you and protect you and keep you next to me and stop you from having to face negative situations.  It makes me feel panicky to think that you might have to deal with a really tough situation and I won't be there to hold your hand through it, to tell you it will be alright.  I hope you will always tell me of these things afterwards, that our relationship won't alter as you begin to grow up and break away.

You are precious, Meg, and I hope you always know and believe that about yourself.

I don't think I'm ready for this.

Love Mummy xx

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Love the Blog You Have...

I have been blogging for about 16 months now.  By no means am I a super blogtastic know it all, not even by a far stretch of the imagination.  When I started out I really had very little clue what it all entailed...I had a friend, the lovely Kylie Hodges, whose blog I read regularly and that was about it.

So one day, I sat down and I started to write, a little awkwardly.  It took me a while to find my online voice and to start making connections with other people.  To realise that there is a whole world of other bloggers out there.

I have definitely been a sideliner; I have seen some people (who are obviously more savvy than me), start a blog and watch it explode into the stars.  They run successful linky parties, they are featured on blog networking sites, they get invites to the best PR events and become ambassadors for fabulous companies.  Some started only a few months ago and already have a trillion visitors each month.

That can be hard to swallow when you have only just broken the 1,000 unique visitors per month mark and it is a reminder to me constantly how easy it can be to get sucked into the cycle of blog stats and blog networks and making sure you get the best reviews.  Recently I joined some blogger groups on Facebook and it made me really uncomfortable to watch as people scrambled for PR contacts and asked for advice on how to get free stuff.  Then to hear and see the flip side of that as other, dear bloggers, whose words I have read faithfully and daily, start to get disheartened because they aren't getting the approaches that others are.

I have become angry at watching 'blaggers' who don't take the time to consider whether what they are writing is even grammatically correct, never mind clicking on a little spellcheck button, get freebie after freebie.  I rant at my Other Half about the unfairness of it and then he reminds me, that that is not the reason why I write.

I love my little corner of the cyber-world.  I have made some fantastic friends and I *fingers crossed* am going to actually get to meet some of them this year.  I have been inspired, brought to tears and laughed my socks off at some of the things I have seen written by other people.  It has opened my eyes in a big way to just how many different lives are led out there, and how amazing some people truly are.   I love that I get to share this platform with them, and that some of them take the time to come and visit little old me.

Before I started blogging I had no idea of the hard work and effort that went into it.  I literally spend every day either writing something, taking photos for a post I'm going to write, or thinking of new and exciting ideas.

It saddens me that increasingly what I hear are people who have become disillusioned with blogging because the pressure is too much.  They haven't got the time to post every day, to join every blog-hop or to come up with creative things to share with their readers.  To watch as people become caught up in the popularity contest, trying to befriend the big wigs and get onto their radars.  I have given up trying.  As in life, so in the blogosphere...I am never going to be the one that everyone wants to know, and you know what?  That is ok with me!  My blog is MY blog and I write what I want, regardless of whether that gets me shunned by the community or loses me PR opportunities.  Those are a perk of the hard work I put in, but they are not the bread and butter of Catch A Single Thought.  I don't say this to be arrogant, but to protect myself from feeling like I'm not stacking up, that what I write isn't blowing the pants off people out there and maybe I should be trying harder.  So the next time I realise I have fallen off someone's 'blogs I read' list, it doesn't shake my foundations and make me cry (ok...that part is probably not 100% accurate...)

The same goes for the number of people who read my blog, whether I ever get picked as 'fantabulous voice of the month' for a blog network, whether I ever understand how to optimise my posts for search engines(!) or simply just continue to tick along as I have been doing, grateful for the things that do come my way but mostly enjoying the space this gives me to share my thoughts and ideas.
So, why am I writing all of this?

Well, in light of all the negativity I have seen bandied about recently, I have decided to start my own little campaign called 'Love the Blog You Have' - you don't have to sign up, post, wear a badge or anything like that.  Just give yourself a break and love the blog you have.  Remember the relationships you've built, the opportunities you may have had, and don't undervalue your contribution on the internet.  You really don't know who might be reading your blog.  Not too long ago I was contacted by a lady who said that I had really fantastic way of writing and she loved to read my posts.  I don't think she's ever left me a comment so that brightened my day beyond belief.  Had she not thought to send me a message, I would never have known.

Love the blog you have.

Yes, work hard to achieve what you want your blog to look like but let's stop giving ourselves a hard time about it!