Sunday, 30 June 2013

Playing Out, A Lesson In Life

Both Thomas and Amy have been out a lot today. Tom has been playing with his friends and Amy has been to her friend's house.

I don't know about other mums but I find this fear of letting children play out in case something dreadful happens to them very sad. There are millions of children in this country and whilst a small minority do come to harm, thankfully the majority stay safe.  

We're not afraid to let ours play out. Of course there are certain rules and we've had the 'stranger danger' talk but we try not to go overboard and instil the fear of God into them. Playing out is supposed to be fun! 
Amy's too old for 'playing out' now, but she goes to friends houses or into town and as long as I know where she is and who's she's with I'm pretty OK with that. Of course, I'm not naive. I was a teenager once, but she's a sensible girl and I trust her. She's not very streetwise though and I think that's my biggest worry with her.

There's a small group of children who live just across the road and around the corner from us and Thomas' best friend lives right next to the grassy area where they all play.  I'm friendly with his Mum and when he's over there she keeps an eye on him, but I always stress that she's not responsible for Thomas just because he's playing next to her house.
Thomas ready to play army. The sunglasses are actually his night vision goggles. Don't you just love kid's imagination.

So, why do I think playing out is a good lesson in life?

Well, firstly, Thomas has only been playing out on his own for about 3 months. All the other children go to the same school and some are in the same class, so he's had to join a group that was already formed. I think making new friends and being able to talk to different people is always a good thing.

Secondly, road safety. We live on a quiet road, but cars do pass our house and weekends can be fairly busy. After the first couple of lessons on road safety he's now allowed to cross on his own.

Then there's confidence, something Thomas has lacked in the past. At first I had to knock on his friend's door with him but he's now gained the independence and confidence to do this by himself.

Some plans also need organisation and he rings his friends to see what they are doing. Listening to them make arrangements is really funny. But organising is a good skill to learn, as is remembering what the arrangements are!

Of course, sometimes there's trouble. He's been pushed over by a couple of older girls, so we've had to speak to him about standing up for himself.  I'm afraid neither of us agree with the 'don't hit back' philosophy. Don't get me wrong, we don't condone violence and mine would get a right roasting if they hit anybody first, but there's not always going to be somebody in their life to deal with the bullies and sort their problems out for them. They need to learn how to stand up for themselves, verbally and physically and also more importantly, when to walk away from trouble.

His friends are a lovely bunch of lads and they can be out for hours playing typical boys games; football, army, dens & dodgeball. I don't think any of them will be bored in the holidays.

And surely, this is how childhood should be. I often wonder whether children really do prefer to be indoors or whether if they were given a little bit of freedom they would actually rather be outside.


Saturday, 29 June 2013

On the property ladder

Do you remember when you bought your first property?  The excitement, the ideas, the financial responsibility suddenly hitting you.

It's not so easy for young people to get their foot on the ladder anymore, so it seems more of an achievement when they actually succeed. 

Matthew moved into his first property on Wednesday. He has now entered the world of mortgages, insurance, utility bills and council tax. I expect he's also about to realise money doesn't go very far. But he is absolutely buzzing with excitement about his new house.

He's saved hard for the deposit with a little help from his Mum. We've not been able to help out as much financially, but we've done what we can. We've also helped in other ways where we could. Like a lot of families we had 2 cars, but after giving up work and having the dreaded H.A. mine was stood still more than it was moving. Matthew was selling his to raise money for the deposit, so we taxed and insured mine for him and he now has it on permanent loan. 

Mark also has a very good friend who is a dab hand at electrics, gas & plumbing, so we've put them in touch with each other and I'm sure Matthew will get a very good price for any work that needs doing.

The thing I love about Matthew is he expects nothing from either set of parents. He would rather make his own way in life, but like most parents we like to be able to give a helping hand when we can.

Anyway, we went to see the house today. It's a small cottage dating from the 1800's and is accessed down a narrow cobbled street.
It's just his sort of thing. He likes properties with a bit of character and this certainly fits the bill.

It's quite compact but so cute!  He has grand plans for a new kitchen, spiral staircases and an attic conversion.

This was as far as I was prepared to venture. Everybody else, including Thomas  was more than happy to jump over missing floorboards but not me!
With all the enthusiasm of the young he's already ripped most of the wardrobes etc. out. He teaches in a Pupil Referral Unit and I think a bit of manual work helps relieve some of the stress.
There's a shed under all that ivy somewhere.
Great excitement when a bottle of wine and a Clarice Cliff piece of pottery was found.  We've left him looking up a price on e-bay, although I doubt he's going to be a millionaire as it was date stamped 2000!
The 'garden' seems to have become a dumping ground for everybody's bins. I'm sure that will change in weeks to come.

So, my lovely stepson now has a place of his own and I'm so pleased for him.  Can't wait for a steady girlfriend and babies to arrive!


Heart Attack - Worst Side Effect

One of the more horrible side effects of my medication is that I feel sick most days, all day. It's like having constant morning sickness. The only relief I have is between waking up and taking my tablets in the morning. Within 15 minutes of swallowing the little blighters the nausea starts to wash over me. 

Strangely enough it doesn't put me off food and is only eased by eating something. And after each meal or snack I seem to get about 20 minutes of relief before it starts all over again. 

Some days it can really wear me down. These are the days where I'm suffering with other side effects as well.  Other days, when I'm feeling a bit brighter and I'm out and about doing things, it doesn't bother me as much.

I try to eat as healthily as I can and aim for my 5 a day every day. I also try to resist the temptation of stuffing something into my mouth every half hour to ease the sickly feeling. I need to watch my weight and could really do with losing a few pounds.

So typically a day of food for me might be:

Breakfast - Weetabix & tablets
Morning snack - some crackers or fruit

Lunch - homemade soup or sandwich, yoghurt and fruit

Afternoon - a cup of tea with a couple of biscuits or a piece of cake

Dinner - Salmon, potatoes & veg (oops! forgot to take picture)

Supper - A couple of slices of toast and more tablets

Bedtime - Gaviscon to ease the indigestion, (I love the taste of this)

I really should go to the Docs to see if there is some sort of anti-sickness tablet, but I keep putting this off always hoping that tomorrow I won't feel as bad. There are other side effects from the tablets but I think this one, along with the constant indigestion, is probably one of the worst.

I am very grateful though that we live in a country where health care and medication is freely available, so as my lovely old Nan would say, 'I'm not complaining, just explaining'.


Thursday, 27 June 2013

Fibs & Frothy Coffee

Oxford Dictionary definition of fib:  'a lie, typically an unimportant one'

Oxford Dictionary definition of barista: 'a person who serves coffee in a bar'  Origin: Italy.

Today Thomas is in school and Amy is at home because of the teacher's strike. Thomas isn't daft though and he wanted to know why Amy was still in her PJ's when he was leaving. Anticipating he would ask this, we'd all agreed last night on a united  'fib'"Because Amy has an exam today and doesn't need to go in til later" just rolled off our tongues.  It worked. He went off to school no problem. We really are very bad parents at times!

Now, apologies in advance if you're a coffee lover, but I just don't  understand the necessity for all this frothing and chocolate dusting that goes on in cafes these days.

We popped into a cafe today for a quick cuppa. We were second in the queue and the order in front of us was for 4 cappuccinos, which immediately made my heart sink - they always seem to take ages to make.

It soon became obvious though that the machine wasn't working properly. The coffee dribbled out even more slowly than usual and the frothing machine wouldn't froth the milk. But this didn't seem to phase the waitress stood quietly behind the counter as she suddenly became a woman on a mission. You could tell by the look on her face that the frother was not going to beat her. All that barista training she'd received was not going to go to waste and she persevered like a trooper. For the first 2 minutes I felt complete admiration for her and wished I had a fraction of her determination.

But there comes a point when defeat should be accepted graciously and after a good 5 minutes of half full cups and still no frothy milk, it was all I could do to refrain myself from shouting, 'Just put the bloody kettle on and open the Nescafe'. 


I was also mentally willing the customer waiting for the coffee to say 'don't worry, it doesn't matter', which being impatient yet easy going, I would have done after the first 2 minutes. But she seemed as hell bent on getting that frothy coffee as the waitress was on producing it. Thankfully the chocolate dusting bit was done by hand or I'm sure I'd still be stood there. 

10 minutes later a rather defeated waitress produced 4 flat and sad looking cappuccinos to an obviously disappointed customer.

Now it was my turn.  'Two teas please' was my simple request. Into a pot went 2 teabags, hot water got poured on and a jug of milk was placed on the tray.  All in all this took less than 2 minutes. 

And I must admit my friends, that after all the effort, excitement and hopeful anticipation of the frothy cappuccinos escapade I couldn't help but feel a little cheated. 

So, are you a frothy coffee lover or like me, do you just not get the need for it?


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

My idea of heaven would be...

...getting locked in a library. I just absolutely love books. I love browsing through gardening books, cookery books, arts & crafts books and you just can't beat a good novel. Mark has offered to buy me a kindle but I really truly don't want one. I love everything about books; the cover design, the typeface, turning the pages; for me there's nothing quite like the feel of a 'real' book.

I would read all the time to the kids when they were younger and it's something I've always encouraged them both to do. I'm pleased to say they seem to have inherited my love of words.

Amy is a real bookworm. I don't know when she last watched a TV programme but she's always got her nose stuck in a book. Her favourites are Jacqueline Wilson & Cathy Cassidy. The only thing she does which I don't quite understand is read them over and over again. I can't see the point when you know what's coming but it doesn't seem to bother her. She can actually quote whole passages from her favourites.
The only book I've ever read more than once is 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. And I go to the extreme with this book as I've read it at least a dozen times. The first time was in my first year of English Lit O'level back in 1981 (I think) and it's just one of those books that I can read over and over again.
Mark isn't much of a reader. The only book he ever read through choice as a child was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. About once a year he'll find a book and read it. They generally have to be real life stories about prisons or drugs gangs though.

Thomas is just learning to enjoy picking a book up and reading a few pages by himself. He seems to like Roald Dahl and asked me to buy him Matilda, which I did this morning. On holiday we read The Magic Finger and Fantastic Mr Fox which he bought out of his holiday spends.
I never read Roald Dahl as a child. I was more an Enid Blyton kind of girl. I loved the whole 'it was the first day of the summer hols' ideal. Mark says I should have been born in the 50's in a village. The Secret Seven and Famous Five adventures were my favourites, with a bit of Mr Twiddle thrown in. I also loved the Faraway Tree series with moon-face, silky the fairy, the saucepan man & dame washalot.  Anybody remember those?          
As I 'matured' (all of 13 or 14!), I moved on to Danielle Steel. I can still remember discussing the sexy bits with my friends and thinking how grown up we all were! It was a long time before I realised what oral sex really was though - we all thought it was dirty talk! Then for years I would entertain nothing but autobiographies. These days I'll read pretty much anything but I always like to have a book on the go.

And as there's absolutely no realistic chance of ever being locked in a library I just have my own stash on the bedside cabinet. You can't beat a bit of a read at the end of the day.
So that's my idea of heaven. I wonder what yours would be? And what's everybody reading? Any recommendations?


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Making promises I can't keep

Promises are a big thing in our house. If we make a promise we mean it and we don't break it. But I've started to make promises to Thomas that I can't for sure follow through.  
I promise him that I won't die for a long time; not until I'm an old lady. 

Six months ago I'd have said this to him and believed it, but since my heart attack I'm not so sure. And it makes me feel sad. Sad that I promise something I have no control over, sad that I've had a heart attack and sad that my lovely little boy even thinks about me dying.

Sometimes when I'm putting Thomas to bed and we're having a chat he'll want to talk about what happened. To be honest on these nights there's not much talking, just a lot of sobbing from him and comments along the lines of 'I don't want you to die' and ' Is your heart mended now'. It's heartbreaking to listen to and it tears me apart hearing him crying and worrying about what might happen.

Of course, the down to earth mother in me realises that being tired at the end of the day plays a part in these emotions and that being frightened of dying is a normal phase for children to go through, but for Thomas it must all seem a real possibility. After all, he saw paramedics wire me up to monitors, heard frantic phone calls to family to come and get him and Amy and then saw me being driven away in an ambulance with the sirens blaring. And at that moment in time nobody knew what the outcome would be.

He's a very sensitive boy and the whole thing has obviously affected him. I mean, he carries on as normal, he plays out, he's not clingy and he can be a cheeky monkey - in fact a typical 7 year old. But he says things. For example, he enjoys school, has plenty of friends and is a bright little lad who does well in his lessons. But he tells me that sometimes he doesn't want to go because he's frightened of leaving me in case something happens. He also has to give me so many kisses and hugs in the morning before he leaves that we've had to bring our routine forward.
I don't know if I'm dealing with all this in the right way, but I'm led by him. We talk about it whenever he wants to and I try to reassure him that my heart is better and I'm going to be fine. He's seen the BHF advert and when he asks me about this, I explain as gently as I can that everybody dies and that some people die from poorly hearts. They are hard conversations to have though. Very hard.

So, Thomas, my post today is especially for you. Firstly, you must always remember that I love you. And I truly hope that one day, when I am an old lady, we'll sit down together and read this and I'll be able to say, 'See, I never break my promises'. 


Monday, 24 June 2013

Raring to Go

That's how I've felt today. Raring to go. I don't have many days like this so it's great to feel physically good and have some energy. 

There's definitely a pattern to how I feel since my heart attack. I can feel really bad for several days, chest cramps, tired, lethargic, nauseous, chronic indigestion, (oh boy, is that sickly feeling and indigestion horrible), then I'll wake up one morning and I'll feel perfectly fine and ready to take on the world. I'm having to learn to just go with the flow.

Anyway, today was a good day. By 10.30am the kids had been dropped at school, the dog had been taken to the vet and I'd been to Lidl and done the shopping. 
The vet appointment was to discuss having Sparky neutered, but she didn't think it was necessary. He's started to mark his territory indoors and for some reason has become really nervous over the past couple of months. She thinks he's suffering from separation anxiety. Apparently being with a dog all day can be just as bad as leaving them on their own all day. They become used to you being around and fret when you go out. So, I saved myself £220 on an operation and Sparky saved his 'manhood' - but I had to pay £29 for a diagnosis of  'neurotic dog'.

I've been quite the Cinderella today.  I've dusted, mopped, hoovered, cleaned mirrors and windows and finally moved a pile of stuff that's been sitting on the stairs since before we went on holiday. I also made my way through a LOT of ironing. And it feels so good to have been able to do all that. 

It's back to healthy eating again this week. Lunch today was tuna & cucumber baguette, melon, strawberries and dates. Delicious.

The strawberries are in honour of the first day at Wimbledon. If any of our 10 GBR entrants make it to the final I shall celebrate by having strawberries with the added naughtiness of a big dollop of clotted cream on top.



Sunday, 23 June 2013

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Oh my goodness, reality bit hard today. Very hard. There's been washing and drying everywhere. It seems to have taken over the whole house. Thankfully Amy & Thomas have clean school uniforms so I decided to just fold it all up and have a mammoth ironing session tomorrow when they are back at school.  
We had a new kitchen fitted a couple of years ago and I got my first dishwasher. We were a bit short on space though so I had to have a combo washer/dryer. It's OK, but I very rarely use it. I tend to hang stuff on the airer instead, which seems to be permanently up because of the rubbish weather we're having.

We had to return a pair of shorts to Sainsburys so I got some meat and veg while we were there. Tomorrow we'll be back at Lidl for our weekly shop. The total cost for four of us to eat Sunday lunch was about £10 which is a lot cheaper than what it would have cost us on holiday. In my opinion it tasted better than anything we've eaten all week as well!
It's been so dismal and dark today that I felt the need to do something colourful and creative so I got my crochet out. Amy asked me to make her a blanket a couple of months ago and chose these colours. 
I used to love pastels when I was younger but these days I prefer something more colourful like this one I made. If sleep really is connected to growth Amy should be a lot taller than she actually is!
I've been tired today and I've felt a bit nauseous (side effects of my tablets) so I'll be off to bed very soon with a new book 'Fat Girls & Fairy Cakes' by Sue Watson. My friend took me to a book reading at a lovely little tea shop in Prestwich for my birthday treat. The reading was part of the annual Prestwich Book Festival and you got to drink as much tea and eat as much cake as you wanted, so it was a perfect night out for me!

It was a small affair, about 30 people there altogether, but it was great fun. Sue was a lovely bubbly person with a great sense of humour, who had us all laughing at her antics. I could have listened to her all night and I'm sure her book will be right up my street.

Anyway, that's me done for today. Goodnight All & Sweet dreams.


Saturday, 22 June 2013

Nearly back to reality

We're back at Number 38. I love going away but I really love coming home!

I'm taking advantage of the windy weather and I'm on my 3rd load of washing. Trying hard not to think about ironing it all tomorrow.
Last treat of the holiday, an Indian take-away. Same for me every time - chicken tikka, pilau rice, onion bhaji and a sauce, (I only eat about a third of what they deliver, Mark will eat the rest tomorrow). For himself, poppadoms, dips, chicken tikka balti and mushroom pilau. 
Tomorrow we're off shopping and it's back to the reality of a household budget again.                         

We all agreed though, it was fun while it lasted!


Friday, 21 June 2013

Our Last Day

It's our final day so we did a few 'lasts', until next time.

A last swim.
A last go at fishing on the lodges. We caught a massive one but it got away before I could get my camera out!
A last trip into Dawlish to buy some gifts.
 A last look at the sea.  It was a bit choppy today.
A last 'cake of the day' - back to healthy eating next week.

A last visit to the arcade.
A last walk down the country lane for our evening meal.
A last look at the two little streets that lead off the country lane on our way back

A last drink outside, listening to Amy & Thomas laughing in the park.
That was a busy day! The weather has teased us all week with sunshine one day and rain the next but we've still had a lovely time and I'm sure we'll be back again. 


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Our money is going nowhere!

The weather has been beautiful today so we decided to visit Teignmouth, a quaint little seaside town only a 10 minute drive down the road. It was absolutely beautiful. Thomas doesn't like sand between his toes but Amy went for a paddle.
And we all tried a bit of crab fishing off the pier. We forgot the bait though and the only thing I had was a packet of haribo sweets.  They obviously didn't like them as we didn't catch anything!
We've had lunch in the cottage every day so we decided we'd eat out today. We stopped at a lovely cafe on the promenade and ordered 2 bottles of water, a milkshake and a ginger beer plus a prawn baguette, 2 tuna sandwiches (one with a side order of chips) and a gingerbread man. The total cost was £28! The sandwiches came with a little side salad and a handful of crisps, but at the end of the day, to me, a sandwich is a sandwich is a sandwich. 

Obviously we could have chosen not to eat there, but it was a lovely setting with a great view of the promenade and sea. I've mentioned it because I'm realising on this holiday just how out of touch I am with how much it costs to eat out and wondered what you all thought. Would you find £28 for 3 sandwiches, a gingerbread man and 4 drinks expensive or not?  Thankfully we don't have lunch out on holiday very often!

Our evening meals are also averaging out at about £50-£60 every night. Amy is no longer classed as a child and prefers the choice on the adult menu anyway, so we're buying for 3 adults and a child.  We very rarely have starters and we never order desserts. The drinks really seem to bump up a bill though; 2 each and you can be looking at £15-£20 before food even comes into it.

All this talk of money leads me nicely onto spending money for the kids.

Every month I put £10 each in the bank for Amy and Thomas. This is for their spends when we go on holiday or the odd weekend away. I do this for several reasons:

1. I think it gives them a value of money and how to manage it. It's really interesting to see them deliberate over what to spend it on when it's coming out of their own purse and wallet.

2. We don't seem to accumulate as much 'plastic rubbish' when they've got to pay for it themselves.

3. It's hard to keep track of what they're spending when I keep dipping my hand into my purse. I've come to realise it's probably a lot more than if they're given their own spends to be in charge of.

4. The £20 isn't missed too much and it's one less holiday cost that needs to be found.

5. I've done this for 3 years now and there's always money 'rolled over' for the next year. So it's a way of saving a little bit for them as well.

This is what they decided to do with their money today.

A diving mask and snorkel for Thomas. He soon got the hang of this and stayed underwater in the pool for ages.
And a couple of notebooks for Amy.  She's a budding author and is constantly making notes for new stories.
I've typed all this while sitting outside in sun, chatting to Mark and watching Thomas play with his friends.  As they say, the best things in life are FREE!