Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Will they keep him in?

After trying to get Sam to understand we would like him NOT to attempt a second escape into the main play area today I reminded him this morning when dropping him off at Breakfast Club, 'Now, you do know that you're not allowed to climb the fence.  So, promise me you won't do it again.'

Cue big eyes, cheeky grin, big giggle and 'Well, I might have another little try'.

Alcatraz would have nothing on this kid.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tom, Dick or Harry

Before I had kids I always said I never minded what I had, but I would be especially happy if I had a real, proper naughty mischevious little boy. Sometimes it's really not good to wish for these things.  Today, on only his second day at Foundation Stage, Andy and I were greeted with a chuckling teacher explaining to us that Sam had attempted to escape.

It transpires he was outside in the play area, which is right next to the main school field and playground.  It is fenced off with an approximatey 6 feet high chain link fence, with gaps in the wires just big enough for four year old little feet.  Seeing his older sister Eleanor on the other side on the field, and no doubt, knowing Eleanor, she probaby added a bit of encouragement, he proceeded to stack the milk crates to make a handy set of steps so he could bunk one over the top and head off into the main school playground to join her playtime.  It seems the grass was greener.....until he was noticed by the teacher.  When asked what he was doing he tried to justify his actions by explaining 'I was only popping my head over the top'.

He thinks it's hilarious.  I hope they check for tunnels tomorrow.

Fun Days

Most people with kids know these days that trips out as a family are expensive.  Nowhere seems to offer a fun day out at a decent price and even then, if you do get through the gates relatively unharmed in the wallet area, surprises are usually lurking inside on stalls that are outrageously overpriced for naff returns.

This past weekend Berkshire Agricultural College opened for their lambing weekend.  They've been doing it for years, and for years I have planned to take the kids, then forgotten and scolded myself for having to wait another year for a countryside style day out.  This year I remembered and Saturday morning I packed four kids and a big picnic in the car and headed off towards Burchetts Green.  It was a gloriously sunny day and I was so thankful to God for giving us such beautiful weather.  The open day was 100% outdoors and would have been a disaster had it rained.  Such was the beauty of the early summer day the children enjoyed running around in T-shirts, eating ice-creams and picnicing by the side of the small fenced off show area where falconry and sheepdog shows were put on for small crowd entertainment.

It was also a thrill to enjoy a day where as a parent I didn't feel ripped off or pressured to spend lots of money.  The majority of stalls that offered raffles, tombolas and lucky dips were virtually free, merely asking for a donation in the discreetly placed bucket by the side of the table.  Some stalls offered five goes for £1.00 which is a stark contrast to most places where you pay £1.00 per go per person and come away disappointed.  The marquee behind the sheepdog area offered free face painting and the children queued up happy to wait their turn at having their faces transformed.  A simple table nearby with five paint trays and a white tablecloth where the children could paint their hands and make prints, then write their names by the side.  Small tractors for little people to ride alongside the path for a few pence in the bucket.

Animals were on show all around the college grounds, sheep were sheared, lambs bounced alongside their mothers, pot bellied pigs snuffled around snorting contentedly whilst wallowing in the cool mud.  Shire horses pulling wagons along the grass and even a ferret racing area where Sam won 20p for backing the winner!  Free tractor rides around the perimeter of neighbouring fields overlooking acres of farmland, free of modern day invasion, releasing your mind to the imagery of the pages from Tess and other Hardy novels.

Leaving the grounds we visited the Farmers Market.  Delicious smells wafted through the air of homebaked pies, hog roasts, bacon butties and rows upon rows of home made fudge and turkish delight, to tempt us as we headed back towards the car.

Six hours of fun and fresh air, four happy, but very tired kids and one happy Mum.  All for the bargain price of a tenner per car to get in.  It's definitely in the diary for next year.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

When Jesus Speaks

The children were discussing in the car today how they knew Jesus was speaking to them.  Have you noticed how I have a lot of these sorts of discussions in the car?  I suppose it's the only time I can keep them all confined to one place long enough to talk - other than the dinner table.

They talked about having feelings, ideas popping in their heads and conscience.  But I liked Eleanor's explanation.  It has a valid train of thought, considering it's from a six year old.

"Jesus talks to my heart, my heart talks to my brain, then my brain talks to me.  That's how I know".

Monday, 12 April 2010

13 Years Ago Today


Today, the children abandoned modern games consules and resorted to good old fashioned 'play', by building bunkers and dens in the lounge.  Safely hidden in their trenches they then bombed each other with the plastic balls from the old ball pit Andy dug out from the garage during a weekend tidy out.

Pillows became sand bags, teddy bears were guards on duty and boxes formed walls.

My only role in all this was to randomly shout out 'gas attack', whereby the children dived under blankets to escape the effect of the fumes.

The standard of PPE wasn't enough for Bombardier Eleanor who then deserted her post, went AWOL and came back with five flannels, a box of pegs and a request for a gas-mask to be made.  Clearly she understands the troops dire need for better equipment in the line of duty.

We Didn't Get Much Sleep - Over

Joshua's birthday sleepover went off really well.  After assuring many bemused parents in the reception area of the local pool, that yes, we really could manage 13 kids swimming at the local pool and 12 overnight at our place, we thanked them for their concern, urged them to enjoy their evening of freedom and allowed the madness to commence.  Sleeping bags, pillows and overnight kits were dumped in our car, presents tucked under the bags and lots of noise and commotion sorting out regular members, non-members, free swim members .......

Two hours of swimming and a walk home later the children all settled into their various zones in the house and hours of gaming, giggling, eating and having fun followed.

Papa Johns, who deliver the best pizzas in the area did good by delivering a leaflet offering buy one get one free on any size pizza the day before the party - yay!!!  We'll have TWO XXL large ones then please! 

Followed by a large slice of Dad's expertly baked chocolate fudge cake.  Previous years traditions have seen this covered in Smarties, Flakes and Maltesers.  This year was the turn of the Rolo.

Lilos were inflated and beds made up around 10.30pm ready for late night DVDs and midnight feast.

At 1.00am the final request to go to sleep was issued (although we found out the following morning they finally settled at 2.30am!)

Weary souls fuelled on just under five hours sleep, copious amounts of pizza, nuggets, chips, chocolate fudge cake and midnght goodies still managed to dive into the mammoth breakfast fry-up.

At 10.30am parents arrived, friends left and we flopped!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Birthday Gaming

Joshua's 11th birthday arrived quite early yesterday morning.  After teasing him mercilessly that his much wanted and long awaited PS3 was out of stock in town (only partly true as Game truly had run out, but we 'forgot' to mention HMV had them in), we managed to convince him we'd arranged a special courier delivery service to have it at the house by 9.00am.  This was our feeble and very wishful attempt at not being woken at some unearthly hour by a boy who for the last two weeks has established a 5.30am waking habit because he's so excited about the big day.  He didn't need to know the 'courier' was Dad, delivering it from the wardrobe in our bedroom.

At 7.30am it was plugged in and ready to go.  He was plugged in and ready to go two weeks ago when he found out that Grandparents hadn't bought him presents as they had contributed to it too.

But in addition to being the Birthday Boy and really rather special for the day he was also tagged with the label of Most Awesome Big Brother by Eleanor and Sam who have now inherited 'free of charge' his now redundant PS2.  Sam's already picked up some pretty nifty moves with the Ratchet and Clank games and is now teaching Eleanor how to work through the levels. 

So, a quiet, but happy gaming day for him, followed by a chocolate birthday cake and Chinese delivery.  We still can't get us all in one car so a trip to a local restaurant was out of the question. But not being ones to let a thing like that get us down, we decided a bit of the restaurant would come to us instead.

So yesterday, Andy and I were the best parents ever. I'm going to remind him later today that we still are - it doesn't hurt a kid to be reminded of basic facts like that :-)

The real party is tomorrow night.  Six of his friends meeting him at the swimming pool for a couple of hours swimming, back to ours for gaming, pizza, DVD, midnight feast and sleepover.

The girls have friends over too. Lilos have been brought down from the loft, extra pillows have been plumped up, stocks of goodies stashed in the kitchen, another birthday cake baked by Dad and the Sega Game Gear dug out for the retro gaming corner.

It's gonna be a fun one!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Current Issues - Past Thoughts

I've noticed on the television lately the new advert encouraging people to become organ donors by gentle manipulation of the 'you'd take an organ, so consider giving one' stance.

Being reminded of a blog post I wrote over a year back I realised I need to register - I lost my donor card ages ago. It's funny how things come back to you and remind you to take action. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

What the eye sees

I've always been very thankful that my children have been blessed with good health over the years, with just the odd little ailment, cough, cold or tummy bug.  Dentist visits have always been successful, in and out of doctors surgeries with basic prescriptions and head denting visits by Joshua to A&E thankfully resulting in nothing more than a bit of glue and plenty of calpol.  Eye tests have been perfect...

... apart from Eleanor's.
Eleanor hasn't been so lucky.  We noticed her left eye pulling in ever so slightly when she was a few months old.  It happens with children's eyes, wonky one minute, fine the next.  But it didn't straighten.  After pointing it out to the Health Visitor and being told it would correct itself by the age of 2 we ignorantly took this on board believing it to be the case (note aside, Health Visitors are now not my favourite people when it comes to giving 'advice' on childcare).  So, the months passed and still her eye didn't improve.

On a routine visit to the hospital with Maddie to diagnose and treat a rather bad case of blepharitis, the opthalmic registrar noticed how bad Eleanor's eye was.  Maddie was quickly dealt with but within an hour, Eleanor had been pulled to the top of the waiting list, pushed through opthalmics and eye clinic, diagnosed with hyperopia, amblyopia, astigmatism and strabismus (in laymen's terms: long sight, lazy eye, squint and cross-eye).  Urged very strongly to have her glasses prescription made up that very day, Andy and I left the hospital feeling very let down, hurt and angry, more for our daughter than ourselves. 

I remember being at the opticians that afternoon and asking the assistant to set up the lenses to the way Eleanor could see.  When I put them on I was horrified.  All I could see was blobs.  A red bus drove past the window and it's only because I knew by the size and shape that it was a bus.  It explained so clearly to me why Eleanor had never picked up a book, never wanted to watch TV and only wanted to play on large toys outside and why she never had an interest in catching a ball.  She simply couldn't see them.

So, hence the patching commenced.  Nearly three years of having her good eye covered for six hours a day in order to force the bad eye to work.  Throughout our visits I have learned that it's not actually her eye at fault.  It's the brain.  The eye doesn't send a good focused picture to the brain, so the brain sends a signal to effectively shut down the eye and force the other one to work instead.  The patching seeks to correct this by giving the false impression the good eye is now not functioning, thus forcing the other exposed eye to work.  All very clever .... and effective.

At the start of her treatment her sight was so bad that when she had the glasses we had to hold her hands down the stairs.  The focus was so sharp, so she had to readjust to everything being visible for a change.  Within a month she was watching TV, opening books and starting to pick up pens and paper.  She progressed from looking at shapes and identifying them, to going into school and learning her letters in order to do proper eye charts.  She improved from seeing a haze of blur to seeing pictures from dots hidden within other coloured dots.  She managed to get her left eye above the line required for driving visibility.  All was good.

Whilst all this treatment was going on, we also opted for her to have squint surgery.  Now here, I have to confess and be totally honest that in the past when I have seen people with cross eye or eyes wandering outwards, I have always found it rather visually amusing.  Not anymore.  The thought of people staring and ridiculing my little girl was too much and rather than have her exposed to taunts about her looks, we requested corrective surgery to straighten her eye to give her a normal appearance.  I don't like referring to it as plastic surgery.  That's when people alter their normality to abnormality, this was the other way round.  So, aged 3 she underwent her very first surgery.  I don't regret for one minute being vain about my daughter's appearance.  She doesn't even remember having it done.

Over a year ago, she was allowed to remove the patches and go a year without them.  She was ecstatic.  Her eye had improved so much that she had levelled to the vision of the right eye.  Her right eye is long sighted too, but without the additional complications of the left one.

Last week we returned to opthalmics for her eye test and in walked a confident happy little girl.  Out walked a thoroughly devastated, upset and hurt little girl.  Her eyes had deteriorated again so badly that she has to start patching again.  Not for one or two hours, but again for the full six hours daily.  This time, no amount of telling her how beautiful she is, or explaining that her eyes will improve will make her feel any less of, in her own words, 'a freak'.  It was hard to hold back tears with her sobbing on my lap when she explained that all the boys at school would hate her, how the girls would be nasty and call her names and how she won't be able to see her work and how the teachers would get cross.  A six year old brain is a very confused little brain when assumptions are made on appearance alone. 

But she's doing well.  We have a few tears each morning when she has to pick out her patch.  We have requests every ten minutes to remove the patch and we have very challenging behaviour on a daily basis as she yearns to have attention to feel accepted and loved as she feels so different.  My patience is tested every single day as she can be extremely demanding wanting to be the centre of attention all the time.  She's a pretty loud and lively character at the best of times, but these last two weeks I've noticed a significant increase in sulkiness, petulence and general 'bratty' behaviour.

But I can see beyond the mask.  Underneath is a little girl who feels odd.  Who feels she's a freak and who doesn't understand why her eyes don't work properly.  Underneath is a little girl who I caught hitting her head in order to get her brain to tell her eyes to work.  Underneath is a little girl who was crying so much at being called a pirate at school, that the tears soaked away the sticky and she had to have a spare patch put on by her teacher.

It breaks my heart to see her with her patch on.  It breaks my heart that she struggles to see with it on and tells me that she has a special helper in class now to read to her in lessons.  It broke my heart she had to have it removed for a maths test, just so she could see the paper and it breaks my heart that I can't tell her when the patching will end.

So, we soldier on. She struggles and misbehaves in order to get attention and acceptance and I do my best to accept the behaviour to a limit before putting a halt to the persistent attention seeking. It's a fine balance and I don't know if I'm getting it right or not. But whatever I'm doing, I'm doing it because I love her immensely and see a wonderful, talented and beautiful little girl peering at me with a slightly better right eye and a rather modern hip pair of glasses.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Firstfruits of faith

It goes without saying that I'm very proud of my children.  But yesterday when clearing up pieces of paper from the study I found a draft letter my 9 year old daughter had written.  When I read it, I must admit it was a strange feeling to be proud yet incredibly humbled at the same time.

Simple, but powerful.  Sometimes us adults need to be reminded.  This puts me in mind of Luke 6:35-38.

Dear REInspired

I am writing to thank you for a great afternoon at your church.

My favourite part was when I went into Julie's group and watching the Narnia clip because when Julie read out the statements she found on the website about victims of crime it really gave me the knowledge of how important forgiveness is.

I learnt that forgivness is very important because when someone has done something to hurt you although forgiving is hard we will get nowhere if we try to hurt them back. 

Yours sincerely


The miracles of Haiti

When reading these stats today tears filled my eyes.  Tears of joy for their rescue and tears of sorrow for the fear and terror they must have been going through.  Tears for their loneliness and desperation, but also tears of hope for their future.


Darlene Etienne, 16 - rescued after 15 days

Rico Dibrivell, early 30s - rescued after 12 days

Wismond Exantus, 24, found after 11 days

Emmannuel Buso, 21 - rescued after 10 days

Marie Carida, 84 - saved after 10 days

Mendji Bahina Sanon, 11 - trapped for eight days

Lozama Hotteline, 25 - pulled out after seven days

Elisabeth Joassaint, 15 days - buried for seven days, half her life

Ena Zizi, 69 - rescued after seven days


Monday, 11 January 2010


Walking in the snow with a four year old in a buggy is surprisingly good exercise and should help keep one trim.

Shovelling snow from your road is good exercise and should help keep one trim.

Going to aqua when you've done the walking and shovelling is good exercise and should help keep one trim.

Now, where's that doughnut?

I've no idea where I'm going wrong.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Winding up the kids

I love winding the kids up with a goofy tale now and then.

This evening while sharing a tray of cheesy salsa nachos I entered into a conversation with Andy about how years ago, did he remember the scientific experiment held on a group of cows who were fed cocoa beans with their usual diet to see whether they would ferment in their udders to create chocolate milk?

Quickly catching on, he embraced the joke and heartily agreed it was a great experiment.  The children were fascinated.  Seeing them being gullibly drawn in I then extended the story  to include the cows that were found munching in a strawberry field, and how scientists were so impressed with the results of the cocoa bean batch they wondered if strawberry milk could be yielded from this group.

I was doing well, I was keeping a straight face.  It was a struggle.

I crumpled when I told them the banana experiment went wrong because the cows couldn't peel them with their hooves.

I adore their faces when they realise they've been pulled a fast one.

It was so much fun we went out again!

After the children's friends had been collected by their Dad, we donned our wellies and headed out again. Walking through the Close to the back of the house we could hear the fun and very soon we were knee deep in the field with other families enjoying their day at home and making the most of sledging, snowballing and having fun.

It truly is a beautiful area and just spectacular in the snow. The lake next to it was previously frozen over and is now covered in a smooth layer of smush but still breathtaking all the same.

The snow was hard going for Sam.  Every ten minutes or so we had to stop, take his wellies off and empty them as the snow was so high on him it was going over the top.  The two pairs of socks we put on to keep his feet warm eventually surrendered and after an hour and a half we headed home - he did really well to keep going for that long.

But even though the children were starting to get wet, weary and cold, it still didn't dampen their enthusiasm to have fun.  On the way home they made faceprints in the snow and we caught snowflakes in our mouths.

However, the last little stretch home was just too much for Sam.  Completely wiped out and unable to take another step further he hitched a lift on Daddy's shoulders.

School is shut again tomorrow and I'm unsure whether the trains are running, so whether I get to stay home from work another day is a mystery.  I have accounts here to do when the kids are asleep.  Our children have two working parents and it's not often we have spontaneous days where we're thrown together and able to have so much fun.  In fact, it's not often that any family gets to spend a day like this.  I can imagine there were lots of Dads at home really enjoying an extra day with their kids and lots of Mums and wives who are usually working hard at home really cherishing the time too.  News reports are already forecasting what it costs the economy - but to young families a price can't be put on this kind of day.

And the snow came tumbling down

With yesterday's weather warning indicating we were in for another session of major snow Andy took the precaution to come to work slightly earlier to pick me up. What a Godsend that was, as had we been delayed by half hour or more then we would have been stuck in the awful traffic build up that so many poor commuters have had to endure.

So, last night, safely ensconsed in our lovely warm home we watched the snowfall arrive.  All the children, apart from Maddie wanted school shut.  She had a school trip today which has surprisingly been cancelled!  But the woe didn't last long as this morning was heralded with whoops of delight at the overnight accumulation.

We never made it out of the Close.  Plans were afoot to join a large gathering in the park, but the children were happy playing near the house.  With Joshua scooting round the corner to pick up his friend and his little sister, the creation of Hercules the Giant Snowman commenced.  I considered it a triumph when the snowball was so heavy even I couldn't push it and we had to call on the services of Dave opposite to push it onto the front lawn.  Our stranded location was smack bang in the middle of the road and I didn't fancy being responsible for the damage our structure would cause an unsuspecting car hotfooting it round the corner when the road had cleared but our snowball was still intact!

The children are all inside now nice and warm watching a DVD together, enjoying hot chocolate and popcorn.  What a wonderful day!

Friday, 1 January 2010


For my first post of 2010 I'd like to think I can write something worthwhile, but at the moment life is just so hectic my time for reflecting and posting on said reflections is limited.

2009 was a difficult year.  Not only for me, but for my family.  Broken marriage, fixed marriage, heartbroken children, happy children, financial strangulation, financial aid, broken friendships, strengthened friendships, trusts broken, trusts established.  A real roller coaster of a year.

So I enter 2010 with caution.  Not a pessimistic half glass empty type, but more of a slower paced, take everything in and evaluate it as I go along type of caution.  I enter it with a hope of strengthening my family.  Having us spend more time together larking around, parenting them wisely, watching my eldest son start senior school, watching my youngest son start infant school and watching my girls spend another year blossoming into beautiful young ladies.

I enter 2010 with a renewed vigour for my faith.  I swept a lot of cobwebs away last year and it's time to open the windows and let a bit of sun shine in. 

As for resolutions - I don't go in for them now.  In the past I've made the usual list of getting fit, losing weight, reading more, start this, give up that, blah blah blah.  But now, for myself, I find them foolish.  Waiting until a certain day of the year to establish something I should have started when I first thought of it seems a little pointless.  If something is worth starting, changing or ceasing, I'm erring towards feeling I'll be much more successful if I do it when it's appropriate.

Therefore today I started the year no different to any other day.  Time home with my family, bit of housework, watching tele and generally pootling about.  I have no hopes or dreams for 2010.  God will lead me through it, give me what I need and what will be will be His will, not mine.

I feel peaceful.

I feel good.

Happy New Year