Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Old enough for play dates?!

 I love where we live.
As a child I was allowed to visit as many friends as I wished as long as I never crossed the road.
And it may have taken a lot longer to get there but because of the way our estate was laid out it was possible to reach most friends on this basis.
I think where we live can pretty much allow us to operate the same principle.
Although there's a few years to go before any of our children will be able to walk alone to their friend's house.

The onset of our first proper 'summer holidays' was accompanied by the shock of remembering how difficult three children under one roof can be.
It's great when you have plans further afield.
And it's fantastic when the weather's good.
But it's still a shock to the system to know there's no playschool or nursery.

Thankfully in the run up to the holidays a lovely mum said "Miss A and Squeaks will have to meet up in the holidays".

And so it has begun.
Last week Miss A invited Squeaks around for a mornings play.
And we reciprocated with slave labour by way of cake decorating.

Whilst it is a complete joy to listen to my child playing contentedly with a child she so obviously adores.
And it is a fantastic source of motivation for Squeaks to do things in the hope she might get to spend some tie with Miss A.
It is so scary.
I feel like a missed out the stage of supervised visits.
We drop her off, and a couple of hours later she returns home.
And for those 24 hours which surround the meet up, she is on cloud nine.
The thought of not being able to see Miss A results in distress.
The excitement which surrounds a play date is a source of fantastically good behaviour.

And now more than anything Squeaks would like a sleepover.
I love the fact this is generating fantastic bedtime routines.
But I am so far away from entertaining sleepovers.
My nerves wouldn't take it!

Monday, 29 July 2013

The best of weekends

Do you ever get it?
The ridiculous pressure of feeling you have to live up to something.
Knowing the reality, that no-one will think any worse of you.
But nonetheless.

On Sunday our children were baptised.
And as these things do, it became exactly that, a lot more, but exactly that.

It was something we'd always intended.
My brother deciding to return home for a week set the date.
And then it came about that he wouldn't be able to make it.
But after all the waiting we decided to go ahead.
And then Mr J's best mate couldn't be here.
And we gritted our teeth and agreed it was for our children more so than anyone else.

And then things turned.
Five of Mr J's bestest mates completely threw us off guard by announcing they'd be coming.
And Mr J's cousin and her family said they were making the journey too.
And on Friday evening I arrived at my parents to collect the boys.
And my older brother was sitting there.
Like he'd never been away.

And so this is my snapshot from Sunday.
I'm hoping to get some photos from their service to write a post.
And sort the photos from the celebration to show in spite of everything the beach theme worked!

But for now, this is about family and friends.
That despite everything.
In spite of our lack of effort.
In spite of a couple of hundred miles.
And in spite of the day to day pretense of priorities.

My family were there.
I couldn't believe the Church was full.
That everyone made the effort to be there to witness the promises made to our children.

That Mr J's friends and family were there.
There is no grudge that he's absconded to Wales.

That the besties who have seen me through everything
Put up with my non-communicative behaviour.
And held my hand, and reminded me to take photos.

And Mr J is reminded of why he has to make the effort.
20 months away felt like 20 hours to me.
Despite being in another country (it is!) everyone just fell into old ways, and old roles.

I remembered that I'd try and get back to Wales once a month when I was away.
And yet Mr J hasn't been home for nearly a year.
And yes, he is fortunate to have more than one place to lay his hat.

It was odd seeing friends who've not seen the boys crawl, walk or run.
And watch as old bonds were re-established.

This weekend was about promises to our children.
But in doing so we've realised we need to make promises as a family.

Family and friendship.
Does it get any better?

Friday, 26 July 2013

When 'Congratulations' doesn't rock it

Today we (Warning: Work related post!) received some really 'great' news.
Maybe my reaction is just a reflection of how much my work life priorities are moving more and more towards life.
We've been sworn to secrecy on the outcome.
But on the basis I won't give away too many clues (because I don't have the answers) I'm sure I won't land myself in too much trouble.

So, flashback to early 2012, I worked my butt off. We were working till all hours of the morning to get a proposal in.
We got it in. And I felt like I'd had a nervous breakdown in the process.
We were promised a response by July.
We found out in September we'd been successful.
I really was over the moon, how much of this was relief versus happiness is anyones guess.

As of November 1st I added a £15m project to my repertoire.

January we decided to work on another proposal.
With the benefit of having learned so much.
It was easier in some respects, being definitive about our abilities.
We lost a few of my lovely companies along the way, and I was gutted.
I knew their rationale was robust, but I knew our stance was the only way we could be successful and not fail superbly.
Following my 'dragons den' (type) experience I secured the support from my employer to go ahead.
The proposal was submitted.

We were told at the beginning of July we'd know by the end of the month.
I was having a conversation about the existing project on Tuesday, when it came about we should find out by the end of the week.
And in the contract management meeting for our existing project today I got out my blackberry to sort a date for our audit, and saw a missed call.
And an accompanying email.

The thing I've known throughout is I didn't know what good news would be.
A 'no' takes the decision out of my hands.
A 'yes' means we have learned from the past year, and don't have to relive the pain, but we do have to meet the unwieldy bureaucracy, to try and manage our customers who don't feel we fight their corner.
A 'yes' means I get to continue to develop my team in their secondment roles, and keep those we've recruited on fixed term with us.
A 'no' means I escape bureaucracy and return to the role I loved.

I travelled home from London (and there's another story) listening to Mumford & Sons and Blue October trying to figure out how I felt about the future.
I took this photo.
Because I was fortunate enough to be homeward bound.
And I get to go home to my family.
And know my world is a good place.
Come what may.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Preparations for Sunday

It hasn't really crept up on us.
We've been counting down the weeks.
Our new Reverend had her licencing last Tuesday.
Typically I was working away.
And she kindly agreed to visit our family on Friday.

It's that nerve wracking thing.
Do people just want to see our family.
Mess, chaos, disorder and all.
Or a well kept house, or routine, cleanliness, and order.

Thanks to my children it really is a 'take us or leave us'.
I know they can be the best and the worst children offer.
With the current weather, even as a parent I can't make them stay indoors.
And I wouldn't want to.

I think, and hope, Melanie (the new Reverend) was as nervous as me.
It can't be the easiest thing, coming into a new Parish.
Understand the why's and why for's.
And yet she had my children eating out of her hand.
Feigned shyness, and displays of affection.

I was so appreciative this Sunday when the boys behaved themselves in Sunday service.
And I was over the moon to find out all of Mr J's friends will be travelling down from Yorkshire for the service.
Albeit they are staying at ours.
But I'm leaving the mechanics of that with Mr J.

What I am grateful for?
I seem to be 'questioned' (I am not sure that's true or my paranoia) for my children having their own Godparents.
I think whether they are multiples or singletons, my children are individuals. So it is personal choice.
I seem to think my brothers and I were christened together and had the same Godparents.
And I know children who are christened separately may not.

Identity is so key to me, in my appreciation of having multiples, that I would like them each to gain from our friends who can treat them as individuals- where we may have no ability but to treat them as our children.
And so Sunday will see our friends and family making commitments to our children.
And with that, ahead of that, is our commitment.

I can't hide from the stigma of religion- the acceptance or resistance.
And yet I have yet to hear anyone disagree with the framework in which the Anglican religion bases itself.
Of the rights and wrongs which are so ably translated.

And that, whilst we accept and respect, that the fundamentals of religion, to me, of love, tolerance and respect, will see my children through.
And that with the will to want them to pursue their own paths, that our children will not be frowned upon for pursuing an alternate path.
My non-negotiable though is respect, that we do not have the power to hold anyone in judgement.
We have the right to represent our beliefs.
To respect others for theirs. Whether in agreement or not.
It is not our place to judge, to discriminate.

I remain in trepidation of Sunday.
I hope I can be the best for my children.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Making taste testers do the work

We've been having fun getting organised for our children's baptism this weekend. As part of a sponsored post for Collective Bias® we've been testing out how well Cadbury's works with our chocolate moulds.

We've been planning our children's baptism in earnest over the last couple of months.
It's been years in the making.
Like Kate going into labour, it's been a real "Will they? Won't they?"
But in years rather than in days.
An even though we had decided in the face of everything we would. Yesterday we got the biggest surprise.
My brother arrives in the UK on Friday.

It will be the first time he will meet our two lovely boys.

It makes Sunday so much more special.
So much more important to us.
My brother will be able to make his promises to one of our boys as Godparent in person.

And having thrown caution to the wind and deciding to invite our whole family.
It will be even more of an occasion having my brother home to see everyone.

And so, I scratch my head, that decision that we would sort all the food.
I know they're family they'll accept us warts and all.
But I am that much more excited, and that much more nervous.

We've decided on a beach theme, I don't know why, I just find it easier to focus with a theme.
I thought it was a good idea when we got our first breath of sunshine. I didn't think for a moment it would last.
And now I'm left wondering about melting icing on cakes, and warm drinks rather than ice cold.

I'm taking comfort from planning.
I know from our Pirate's party that it won't go to plan.
But at least this way I'll know what I haven't done!

And so this weekend, we tried to get the bulk of our shopping list ticked off through a trip to Asda, I was really pleased with our purchases. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief that so many items were ticked off the shopping list.

And so I could stop with the distraction of planning.
And turn to living.
And appreciate some fun time with the little people.
In this weather there's a balance to be drawn with outdoor time.
And making chocolate with moulds was a really quick and easy indoor activity with toddlers. Giving them a break from the beating sun.
Admittedly, it's something I want to do for next weekend, so it wasn't a true break away from planning.
But it's Cadbury's Dairy Milk. So reason can go out of the window.

I let the boys choose what they wanted to do.
Whilst Cheeky spent time comparing the moulds, Tiny quickly set his sights on the chocolate!
Preparing for chocolate moulds
 They all focused on the task at hand, breaking the chocolate for melting.
Breaking up Cadbury's Dairy Milk
Although Cheeky decided for efficiency it may be better to cut out the melting process and just get straight down to the eating.  Siphoning off the chocolate!
And became a trend setter in the process.
Enjoying Cadbury's Dairy Milk
I managed to turn them back to the task at hand. Turning the yumminess of Cadbury's Dairy Milk into something even better.
With the help of sprinkles...
Sprinkles and chocolate

Cadbury's and sprinkles
And sparkles!
Sparkles and Cadbury's
And fortunately everyone was patient.
Until the following morning, and the decision over mid-morning snacks.
The fridge door opened and the chocolate was handed to me.
And whilst the sprinkles and been submerged they still looked delicious.
Yummy chocolate hearts
Enjoying a chocolate heart
And nothing says chocolate yumminess better than messy hands!
Cadbury's chocolate yumminess
I wasn't sure whether how the boys would get on with eating sparkles.
And aware that this was turning into a chocolate kind of day, I was eager to hint at a balanced diet!
I couldn't believe how well strawberries and milk was received.
Cadbury's chocolate, milk and strawberries
And, of course, it was straight for the sparkles.
Snack time for toddlers

Enjoying strawberries and milk

Toddler loving milk
And seeing how much they enjoyed this very special snack, I couldn't help myself.
I prepared a grown up version.
For when Mr J got home from squash.
And knowing that he'd frown about the chocolate, I threw in lots of our 5-a-day, there was no way he could say no.
And he didn't.
This is what our family summer day looks like.
And I love them!

Monday, 22 July 2013

#QuinnyCasters - Becoming Mum

As I was left thinking about my favourite brands I realised just how much parenthood has changed me.

I thought about all my favourite brands, and one by one wrote them off, I am now much more flighty, I don't stick to one brand as 'me'. I love convenience shopping- online, I love sale shopping, and I'm known to use supermarkets for more or less everything when time is not on my side.

But I also realised where my children are concerned I'm a traditionalist, whilst I love craft fairs, flea markets, car boot sales and ebay for more decorative or unique items, every Christmas (it would seem without fail) main presents have been from Early Learning Centre.

And so I introduce our first brand.
I remember my mum taking us to Early Learning Centre as youngsters, and now it seems I have realised that a trusted brand it is. From understanding how it will support my child's learning, to trusting that it can withstand the enthusiasm of three children, to knowing it will be an item that will not be found at the back of a cupboard after a week.

And like most parents, my second brand continues this need to grab a child's imagination- Disney.
As a massive Disney fan it cheers me so to cuddle up on a sofa on a rainy Sunday afternoon to watch Toy Story.

I know they love Mickey's Clubhouse and Jake & the Neverland Pirates. I'm just holding my breath for the day they fall for Sully as we can add to our repertoire.

And finally, this is more for me, but because of them- Lakeland.

How I can while away a few hours on their website, or browse the shop and end with a basket full of ideas.
I have become a fan of creating baked treats.
I love the creation- that we come together as a family and make.
And the excitement as we wait for the oven to bake our wares.
And the patience as they cool.
And then the decoration. Which I actually think sometimes is more enjoyable than the eating.
But when you can use cake as a negotiator for good behaviour.
Well, it makes you go back to Lakeland for new ideas every time!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Garden fun

The boys and I popped to Asda yesterday, we were on the lookout for a gift for a birthday.
I was also on the lookout for a paddling pool.
Wave Rider from Asda to give some garden fun
Admittedly, the two for £10 offer seemed a little odd, but nonetheless the boys were eager to have one each (and it did say it was at a reduced price).

I couldn't believe the amount of fun we had when we got it home.
I must admit, on days like this I miss having the disregard of a child.
Yes, the water was from the cold tap, which would make me shiver.
And yet all three loved every minute with no reference to temperature.

They loved turn taking.
Admittedly, Squeaks is testing boundaries, deciding that she gets two goes for each of the boys one.
Some version of reverse logic. Or just being 4.

And, as usual, I was on hand with a camera and cuddle, as Mr J provided direction.
Of course, all we heard was "more, more, more".
Garden fun with water this summer
And, as the little people continue to learn from each other, and I continue to underestimate them.
It was Tiny that loved this ride the most, and competed with Squeaks for ever turn.
Loving the garden this summer with a wave rider

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Project #365 Week #29

Sunday: Party time
Monday: The difference after a nap- grumpy vs. re-energised
Tuesday: Planning for a party
Wednesday: It's so hot even Miller doesn't mind who he shares with
Thursday: Little Miss Attitude
Friday: Sleeping with daddy's squash coaching equipment
Saturday: Enjoying being tall

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Taking the beach in our stride with our Quinny Moodd

Since we've had our Quinny Moodd I've had the chance to do things I haven't done in forever! Visiting shops, the theatre, our favourite parks and our favourite coastal path.
So, we've done cobbles, streets, grass, stone paths, and muddy paths.... so we thought when discovering a hidden treasure... we'd put the Quinny Moodd through it's paces.... and went for sand.

If you're a fan of Gavin & Stacey I know Barry Island isn't so much of a hidden treasure. But I do think it has a tarnish, that tourist tarnish, which means local people tend to avoid it.

The thing we've discovered is that it's a matter of timing, and yes hot sunny days, hot sunny weekends will result in queuing traffic and fighting for a car parking spot.

But hey if you're local to Cardiff- look at is as the equivalent to softplay- go after school, take a picnic.... It's perfect... and if you take your picnic with you, potentially (as it is for us) it's completely free!
And when the weather's good- of course you want to make the most of the outdoors. And what's better to exhaust children than a bit of sea air?!
So, how did the Quinny Moodd fit in with our family treasure.
Well, I've never seen children choosing to sit in a pushchair.
And yet all three children love to take a bit of time out in the Moodd.
And one had a little adventure on our most recent visit as a swarm of seagulls swooped down on someone's fish'n'chips (completely putting us all off any thoughts of a chippy tea!).

And so to the Quinny Moodd. Where are we at?
We love the easy release from folded- one click and we're back where we left off.
I love the brakes- right: brake on, left: break off- I know this feature was designed for me!
We know it handles well, the steering is great. We love the adjustable handle which allows Mr J and I to have our time at the wheel.
And we know it can cope easily with on and off road territory.

But sand, sand really is a completely different.
As we made our way to the beach everyone was in high spirits.
We even stopped to smell the flowers.
As we made our way onto the beach.

The lovely sandy beach, I stopped, I was alone with three children, I had no idea.
Fortunately a lovely man offered to help. Being completely British, I declined his kind offer.
He advised me that either carrying the pushchair would allow us to get onto the beach, or some people (the few brave ones attempt backwards).
And he was so right, I didn't need an extra pair of hands, the Quinny Moodd was perfectly capable of getting across (a very sandy) beach backwards.
And mum was completely in control of the Moodd and the excited children.
And as soon as we got passed the very sandy the Moodd was more than capable of handling itself.

Fortunately by the time we came to leave Mr J had arrived. I advised him to travel backwards. He took my advice.
I asked him if he had any problems getting off the beach.
He mentioned he had sand in his crocs.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Take an exclusive look around Butlins’ newest waterpark

Butlins' Bognor Regis Fairground
Log onto a WebTV show at 2pm on Thursday 18th July when there will be the opening of the iconic British family holiday resort’s Splash WaterWorld

We love having fun swimming, Squeaks goes for lessons every week and has made lots of friends from outside of school through swimming both in class and for fun.
Whilst I'm not a keen swimmer it's hard to be a defeatist when faced with three tiny enthusiasts.

And so we are delighted to be in the latest Butlin's magazine promoting how much we enjoyed our experience of Splashworld.
Holidays give both children and their parents a chance to relax from the grind of everyday life, and research shows for kids, the best holiday is one in which they can simply spend time with their family and where everyone is happy and relaxed.

As we fondly remember summer days gone, by the sea or local swimming pool with our own parents, those special days are exactly the ones our own children will reflect on in the future, they are some of the best memory builders

But while our children’s lives may appear vastly different to our own childhood, the joy of jumping into a swimming pool will always be the same…

Butlins recognise this and has played a massive part in the history of our nation. While the resorts have come a long way since their beginnings in the 1930s and this summer the quintessentially British holiday company will open its newest waterpark.

Log on to our live interactive WebTV show where Spelbound will take you around the opening of the Butlins Splash Waterworld and have a sneak preview of the nation’s newest and most exciting waterpark.

Spelbound and Nadine Hill from Juggle Mum will be live online.

Click here to submit questions before the show

Toddler love for books

The boys were delighted to receive two books to review from Parragon.
"Things You Never Knew About Dinosaurs" by Giles Paley-Phillips and illustrated by Liz Pichon found its way into the hands of the boys through Britmums Live. And I was the best mum in the world for bringing home a book about dinosaurs (Cue lots of "rawr" noises).

And of course, you never knew that dinosaurs love brushing their teeth, but you did know they love going into space (because who wouldn't?!).
And of course, the boys loved the rhythm and rhyme of the book.
And they loved the illustrations.
And couldn't keep their hands off it.

And it was timely that I had been to school and listened to the teachers as they recommended having books for bedtime, as well as the books to encourage reading through interaction- and in the case of the boys, raucous interaction.
"Goodnight Little One" by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Rebecca Elliott is the perfect book to turn two little terrors into sleeping babies.
Admittedly, two little toddlers did love to provide the story with the accompaniments of animal noises.
But loved to close their eyes in time.
For me, we love a good dinosaur book, and finding good quality dinosaur books- which support learning is more difficult, so the rhyming and the range of subjects makes this a great exploratory book.

Books for bedtime are more common. The illustrations within the book are gorgeous, and the boys loved the variety of animals and I loved the bedtime messages, along with the caring and loving themes.

So, yes, I am glad to have these books on our bookshelves. And would be glad to have received them as gifts.
As a mum, I would be more likely to seek the dinosaur books (given the boys love dinosaurs) but would definitely gift the goodnight book to a new baby.

Disclosure: I received these books from Parragon. The views contained are entirely our own.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Getting a bit of Home Sense

Last week I had the opportunity to visit HomeSense.
I have to admit to having driven past HomeSense a few times recently, to get to Jump, the leisure centre, and even Pets at Home.
I am kicking myself!

HomeSense is a sister company to TK Maxx, and on this I was sold.
Mr J is a massive TK Maxx fan, he can spend hours in the store.
I'm a little less patient, I liked it when I could buy clothes for Squeaks, but got frustrated as she got older and as for finding similar clothes for both boys- it was like digging for gold.
But I've loved TK Maxx for presents for the numerous birthday parties a four year old gets invited to, and for nic-nacs for the home, and since I've discovered the stationery section, and the baking section- there's been enough to keep me busy.

So, last week I was more than a little surprised to find I'd spend over an hour finding my way around Home Sense.
Home Sense focuses on the different rooms of your home, and is able to give that much more focus, and I of course had my work cut out.

When we put our house up for sale we first asked some estate agents for a valuation, we took on board the advice and did some cosmetic improvements, and tried again. Not only did we put over £30k on the asking price but we sold our house for that price within a week.

"You're a Visionary"
It's definitely worth checking out the HomeSense quiz to get an idea of what kind of shopper you are. 
As I chatted with Aaron, the fantastic HomeSense expert, I realised that whilst touch is important to me, I couldn't help but scan the store, and get drawn to certain things on sight.

We've been in our home for 18 months I know we think about improvements, now we got the feel of where we live and the house is truly ours.
And HomeSense allows you to do this. I got some fantastic inspiration, and of course a shopping list!

For me, I would love to add more to our walls. I know I need to sort my photo wall, but I loved these to add to it:
When thinking of others (to show willing and all!), there's a great children's section, and a pets section.
Did I mention stationery!
 And then I remembered the most important thing that was happening. (Why did I find the kitchen section?!). Our new oven! And I ended up spending far too much time eyeing up baking ideas.
 And I stumbled upon the most gorgeous crockery (Mr J, it's nearly my birthday!).
And our lounge could do with a bit of sprucing up! And we do live near the beach!!

And yet, these little people came first, so of course the baking section won me over and we spent the weekend breaking up time in the garden with making the most fantastic cakes!

Disclosure: I received a £30 gift card to spend in the store. And arrived home with a treasure trove of gifts!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Project #365 - Week #28

So, I do have some indoor shots this week.
And it seems so unfair when the weather's so good.
But here goes:

Sunday- helping daddy with his lobster pots.
Monday- the only way to cool off in this weather.
Tuesday- the lobster pot provides.
Project 356 summer fun

Wednesday- someone enjoyed their time at the beach.
The seagulls at Barry Island
Thursday- enjoying a choc ice (seemed surprised she had some on her face...)
Friday- a trip to the rock sea side.
Saturday- shout if you like the sunshine.
Summer fun with Johnson Babies

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky
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