Formerly - A look at the ups and downs of life with a double pushchair!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Do you have a clipboard?

Is it me or have things become a lot more child friendly since we were kids?

I remember being dragged round museums and stately homes by my parents. Sometimes there was something interesting to see but often I just used to look forward to the picnic or the stop at the ice-cream van. Nowadays every attraction seems to be designed with children in mind and that ever exciting activity sheet to fill in. 

Since eldest daughter was born 8 years ago we have re-designed famous pieces of Art at the Tate modern, found out exactly what each dinosaur ate at the Natural History Museum and found out how to wrap a mummy at the British Museum. But it isn't just the large museums that provide activity sheets. Everywhere seems to have them these days. I do wonder when the day will come that we will enter Tesco or the Swimming Pool and be handed out a sheet to fill in.

And so it was on our sojourn to the new forest last week that we stumbled across the New Forest visitor centre in Lyndhurst and hidden in the corner of the gift shop was a door labelled museum. We had stopped for a picnic and to use the facilities and decided that perhaps the museum would be something to look at for half an hour or so. We didn't imagine it to be that interesting but as the saying goes "Never judge a book by its cover or a museum by its door".  Kids went in for free and at £3.50 per adult it seemed a bargain and at least we could get out of the rain.

On opening the door to the museum we were faced with a host of activity and colouring sheets, clipboards and pencils. The museum may have only been small - essentially one big area downstairs and a gallery upstairs but it was the best designed museum for kids I have ever been to. After an hour we had to send the dear husbands out to pay for more parking. There was so much to do. The kids could dress up in animal costumes, watch a nature film, do colouring, puzzles and a treasure hunt. There was even a beanbag area and megablocks and books for babies. We had no idea the New Forest could create so many ideas for a museum.

A couple of days later we visited Beaulieu and the activity sheet here covered the entire site. I felt it my duty as a parent to educate my children and make sure that we filled in all sections of the questionnaire in order that they could receive their certificate at the end. It covered the abbey, the stately home, the motor museum and even the gardens.

Setting off enthusiastically for the abbey we headed round the same small section 3 times in search of the specific floor tile shown on the guide and then we had a rather heated discussion about what the cloister was and how many arches we could see around it. Part of the motor museum was being re-developed so this made it all the more challenging as several of the cars had moved location so it made it all the more fun. I felt like I looked round the entire gallery just looking at the numberplates desperate to find out what vehicle had the plate ML570. I cheered so loudly when we found it the other visitors must have assumed I was a crazy lady.

By the end of our day at Beaulieu we felt proud that we had found all the items and educated our children about the grounds and Lord Montague himself  (whose flag was flying that day so we knew he was at home - question 7).  It's great to educate your own children.

When we asked them in the car what they remembered from the day eldest daughter said that the picnic had been fantastic and boy in the middle was very excited to have been to the home of King Monty View! Ah we can but do our best!!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Are we nearly there yet?

We took the advantage of having a different half term to the rest of the country and  went on a 2 night stay to the New Forest this week.

We weren't sure we would actually get there as we went self catering so had to load 6 people, a double stroller, luggage and food into a 7 seater car.  Eldest daughter happily resigned herself to the seat in the back row and boy in the middle had the seat fitting to his name - the middle seat in the middle row.  Dear husband was convinced that everything would fit in to the car and to give him credit everything did fit in. However when we opened the door next to Baby A, a blanket and bottle of milk fell out, when we opened the door next to Baby E, boy in the middle's trunky tried to escape and when the passenger door was opened a bag of snacks and some tin foil trays fell into the gutter. We didn't dare open the boot!

Going away in this country means spending a considerable amount of time in the car which is always fun. There is that fabulous initial period of time when the babies sleep, and the eldest two can entertain themselves with a book/computer game. Five minutes into our journey eldest daughter piped up from the back and asked "Are we nearly there yet?" An hour into the journey we had to delve into the snack bag and found ourselves telling the children that they couldn't have the tuna sandwich they wanted as it would make too much mess so we handed them chocolate instead.

We managed to avoid any major fights on the first day but this was the kids gearing up for the following day. Setting off to explore an owl and otter centre approximately 8 miles from the hotel, we were entirely reliant on our friends who were with us as they had all the directions on their iPhone. We set off for the short journey and boy in the middle decided he would entertain us all with a song. He doesn't really do singing though, most people would describe it as shouting. So he was sitting in the middle of the car shouting, I was trying to keep up with the silver toyota in front, Baby A and Baby E having had their morning sleep were munching away on crackers and eldest daughter in the back clearly felt left out and wasn't enjoying the shouting so she decided to whack her brother on the head to make him stop.

This then provoked a solid 5 minutes of screaming and crying from boy in the middle. Meanwhile I was trying hard to follow our friends who were now 4 cars in front of us. Needless to say we had to stop the car to check boy in the middle's head and to stop him from sobbing. We lost our friends but figured we would catch up with them. However all the roads in the new forest seem very similar. They are all flat with fields on either side and lots of wild horses meandering about. I then spotted a silver car that had turned onto another road and wondered if it was them. With no reception we couldn't contact them so I took the decision to follow the silver car. Obviously it wasn't them and the short 8 mile journey turned into a 45 minute disaster. I made 3 u-turns, asked 4 people for directions, almost drove the wrong way down a one way road, had to stop once to let a horse slowly cross the road, had to stop again to find pasta for Baby A and Baby E and then by some miracle we stumbled across the owl and otter centre in time for lunch.

Blaming the older two kids entirely for this unnecessarily long journey I had a plan for the way home - the new version of 400 green bottles hanging on the wall - that should keep us going!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Lewis Hamilton watch out!

Maybe it's in the genes. My Dad, Grandpa D, a mechanic by trade also used to race saloon cars back in the '60s. I grew up in a home where the TV was turned off if football was on, but if a motor-race was on then the noise of the cars flying around the tracks filtered through the house from the living room.

Baby A and Baby E may not be able to walk yet, but they have developed a fascination for their ride on trucks and have learnt to drive. They climb aboard, rev up for a few minutes and then the race starts. The only person who really thinks they are racing is boy in the middle who cheers them on and encourages them to take the lead. Baby A and Baby E don't seem to be that competitive yet and in fact they clap each other whether they go forwards or invariably backwards. They can pick up quite a speed across the kitchen floor and they are quite adept at maneovering around the hairpin bends made up of too many highchairs in their way.

Not only do they seem to be great drivers but great mechanics too. They enjoy checking out the rear wheel axles, testing to check if the horn works and are often found checking the oil levels with a breadstick!

Happy Driving girls! (Perhaps they will work out which way round they are supposed to sit on them soon!)

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Sink or swim!

Sometimes it is worth considering how much we really want to go out as a family. On Sunday we had a clear afternoon with no scheduled parties so decided that it would be fun to go swimming at our local healthclub.

We got all our stuff ready and if our neighbours had seen us loading up the car they may have thought we were going away for a few days. We had 2 large pink baby inflatable swimseats and 3 large gym bags containing an assortment of towels, dressing gowns, snacks, shampoo, change of clothes and various other essential items.
As we had put all the bags and both babies in the car and eldest daughter was pulling on her boots, boy in the middle announced that he didn't want to go as he had a tummy ache. Dear husband and I glanced at each other and assumed this was perhaps some phantom tummy ache and we persuaded him into the car. He did look a little on the pale side but we thought he would change his mind once we got to the pool.
Needless to say he genuinely didn't feel well and although he did get into his swimming trunks and dip his toe in the pool he started to shiver and we changed him back into his clothes. He then spent the next hour sitting by the side of the pool eating plain pasta that we had brought with for the babies and asking us if we could go home. The other three children did have a great time, so we felt we really had to go along with the enjoyment of the majority of our children.

We could almost describe it as a successful outing except for the fact that:
  • Of the two swimming pull ups I brought for the girls, one was ripped and so dear husband had to drip through the healthclub to purchase one from the reception
  • The bottle of shampoo that I had brought with to wash everyone's hair was entirely empty so they all had their hair washed with shower gel
  • As I was about to put both babies into their swimseats in the pool, boy in the middle needed the toilet so dear husband had to drip again and take him as I tried my best to get the two girls into their seats
  • Eldest daughter cried because I hadn't had a chance to swim just with her
  • As eldest daughter and I returned to the pool after we had showered, Baby A had just catapaulted out of the stroller headfirst onto the concrete and was looking a little woozy.
  • When 5 of us were changed and ready to go home, dear husband wondered if he would be allowed to get dressed or if he had to drive home dripping in his trunks (obviously a shower was out of the question)
We did make it home and 4 cups of milk later all the children went to bed. At least we succeeded in tiring them all out so they were asleep by the time the babysitter came and we could go out.

Unfortunately boy in the middle genuinely wasn't well and he has spent the last two days at home with a temperature.

Next time we have a free Sunday afternoon perhaps we will stay at home and watch a movie.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

If you throw in a penny it may make a wish come true!

I had to feel a little sorry for boy in the middle today. When Baby E notices the door to the playroom is open she either likes to head for the stairs and see how far she can get or she heads for the downstairs toilet and plays with the toothbrush and toothpaste belonging to the older two kids.

A couple of weeks ago I had retrieve a toothbrush from the toilet, bin it and then replace it. I always intend to put the toilet lid down and close the door to the toilet but it doesn't always happen and so it was today that I found a five pence piece at the bottom of the toilet. Boy in the middle had been given his pocket money this week in five pence pieces and I had seen that he had stored them safely where he thought no one would be able to get them under the kitchen table on the floor.

I can only imagine that Baby E picked it up, crawled with it to the toilet and dropped it in. I am thankful that she didn't swallow it but a little disappointed that at such a young age she feels the need to throw a coin into any water that she sees. I only wonder what wish she made.

When boy in the middle came home from school we discovered the coin in the toilet. He asked me if I could get it for him to which I asked him why he couldn't get it himself. He looked at me to see if I was serious and then asked me for a glove to put on his hand so he could get it. I did genuinely intend to remove the coin myself but he happily put on a disposable multi purpose glove and plunged his hand into the toilet water. I was concerned that the water would get inside the glove, but he stretched and reached and got his coin out of the toilet. I was rather impressed with this especially since I didn't have to get involved. He removed the glove, his hand was dry, he washed the coin and this time he stored it safely in his wallet.

As this was going on I noticed Baby E out of the corner of my eye. She may only be 1 but she was watching what was going on, smiling and clapping her hands and then I knew her wish had come true!