We went to the British Museum today,  with one of YoungMan’s classmates.  I _love_ UK museums being funded by the government and donations,  so that anyone can go any time,  and keep on going back to catch stuff you missed previously.

Today was mostly about the Ancient Egyptians (with an occasional Assyrian for variation),  to fit in with this term’s history syllabus. See what a good Mummy I am?

We went to the British Museum today, with one of YoungMan’s classmates. I _love_ UK museums being funded by the government and donations, so that anyone can go any time, and keep on going back to catch stuff you missed previously.

Today was mostly about the Ancient Egyptians (with an occasional Assyrian for variation), to fit in with this term’s history syllabus. See what a good Mummy I am?

Lost in the mists of time

Sometimes YoungMan’s memory surprises me.  While he conveniently forgets anything chore-related,  his ability to summon up things from his dim and distant past is uncanny.  It’s not always stuff you _want_ him to remember,  mind you.

He made reference the other day to a trip we took with my mother and an old family friend in 2010 (more than half of YoungMan’s life ago) to France,  Belgium and the Netherlands…  of course,  it would be the one controversial moment of the whole trip that glued itself into his memory.  Road trips,  eh?

My mother was disappointed that that’s the bit he remembers most - we did a whole bunch of cool stuff on that trip.  YoungMan got to ride ponies in Angers (he had to ride each of the four of them so none felt left out!),  he saw the Bayeux Tapestry and learned all about it with a great kids’ audio guide (thoroughly recommend this!),  explored the fantastic le Mont-Saint-Michel and ate salt marsh lamb at a restaurant nearby,  saw chocolate being made in Ghent and went on carousels there (actually,  we found awesome carousels most places,  which made him very happy!),  Apache the horse took us (with some help from his carter) on a cart ride around Gent,  played with SpyMaster at his house in the Netherlands,  and got to try out go karting with SpyMaster.  Although YoungMan wasn’t personally interested in the champagne we got to see being made in Épernay,  he liked the old machinery in the museum…

I talked to him about the other stuff we’d done (as listed above),  and showed him my old blog so he could see video of some of it.  He was torn between wanting to do it all again,  and mortification at how tiny he was (compared with how ancient he is now,  you understand).

I suppose,  when you look at it from his perspective,  he was younger then than my older Work Child is now - and YoungMan finds Work Child slightly on the young and tedious side…  but this is prejudiced by Work Child’s completely lack of interest in football!  

Last year,  YoungMan’s leaving gift from his mates at his old school was the sponsorship of a lemur at Whipsnade Zoo.  Said sponsorship came with a voucher for YoungMan to have free entry to Whipsnade within the year.  For assorted reasons,  we’d held off going - and given the glorious weather we had today,  I’m glad we did.

Foggy did the magic trick of turning loyalty points with a major supermarket into tokens to get in at vastly reduced prices,  and he took a day off to be able to come along.  Lightning and WeatherForDucks met us there - and arrived only five minutes after us,  despite coming from a completely different direction,  which gave me a chance for a quick cuppa while YoungMan took Foggy in hunt of “his” lemur,  before we headed off together to see the other animals.

I’m a bit unsure about what to make of zoos generally - I’m not at all convinced it’s kind to animals to be kept caged or fenced into spaces much smaller than their natural habitats,  but given the conservation work done at ZSL,  and the reintroduction of some zoo animals to the wild where they’d been wiped out by over hunting,  on balance it’s probably reasonably neutral.  

Lucky YoungMan got to help feed the brown bears at the very first enclosure we visited together,  and then see a whole bunch of other cool animals including a wolverine,  zebras,  cheetahs,  giraffes,  elephants,  deer,  sloth bears,  tigers…  I’m sure there were others,  but the highlight of the day was seeing his lemur,  in the enclosure when we arrived and as we left (they’re just by the gates).

I liked the sloth bears - I hadn’t known such a thing existed before today,  and hadn’t realised Baloo in The Jungle Book wasn’t just lazy but is officially a sloth bear.  They’re small and cute,  but their claws (which don’t retract) look pretty lethal so I wouldn’t want to get too close to them!

We took a ride on a steam train to see some of the animals,  as we hadn’t taken the car into the zoo to do drive-thru stylee viewing.  I hadn’t even realised that you _could_,  but I don’t think it would have added much to the experience.  If anything,  it would be annoying to have to shuttle back and forth to the car.

It also turns out they have little pods where you can sleep over at the zoo…  the “experience” comes with two days’ zoo admission,  dinner the first night and a full English breakfast the morning after,  and two special tours (one evening,  one early morning) with the keepers.  Sounds awesome,  right?  If you’re into glamping,  anyway,  the loos and showers are in a block nearby!

Anyhow,  we swapped YoungMan and his carseat for WeatherForDucks on the way home,  as YoungMan will be at Thunder and Lightning’s for the next couple of days,  while Foggy and I work during his school holidays.  The weather forecast is good,  so Lightning’s threatening to take him down to a local park with a football and his goalie gloves (her indulgent auntie present to him last weekend) and not do much other than get some sunshine and fresh air.  Cheap and cheerful - just the way we like it!

The last photo doesn’t quite go - it was from yesterday’s London Irish match (beat Newcastle handily,  woohoo).  Of all of the random groups you could have at a match,  there was a visiting rugby team from Minnesota dressed up at cows.  I wouldn’t normally associate cows with urban Minneapolis,  but hey,  they had a theme going and they stuck to it.

YoungMan was disappointed not to receive a soft toy cow/ catapult he’d seen given to another child in the crowd,  so the woman in the picture gave him her cow hat instead…  He is *just* young enough to think about saying “no thanks,  I just wanted a catapult”,  but reined himself in just in time and thanked her nicely for her kindness.  Yay,  we’re getting there on when to activate the internal censor!!!

Work update

I know some of you are curious what’s happening with my work situation - the answer,  unfortunately,  is not much.  

I am getting very frustrated at the basic errors being made by the official body in question - I spelled out JoeKennedy’s email address,  checked with them they had it correct,  changed the “V for Victor” they had to “B for Bravo” and _still_ they managed to get it wrong and so,  strangely enough,  he hasn’t been able to reply to an email request for a reference which he never received!!

Similar story with the rest of the information they are waiting to receive…  They were so emphatic I couldn’t speed up the reference process by hand delivering the request form and getting it filled in,  that it didn’t occur to me to ask if I could speed up the request for information from another government organisation.  Turns out,  I can.  So I did.

Despite a school friend who works for said organisation saying “They have probably lost the file;  they do it all the time”,  the woman to whom I spoke found us on the system in about ten seconds,  asked me to confirmed the address (she gave the building name,  I gave the number and postcode) and Bob’s your uncle.  Better yet,  the person who filed the original report still works for that organisation and although she was on holiday last week,  the person on the phone took copious notes and seemed really keen that the message should be passed on correctly,  to help me out.  I just hope that’s what’s happened and as I type now,  it is being done.  Cross your fingers!

Meanwhile,  the Kennedys are out of the country for a week but JoeKennedy promises to email me Friday when they return,  to give me an update.  He’s as good as his word,  so I am confident things are moving there,  finally,  too.  So,  still a waiting game,  but hopefully with a bit less of a wait.  Time to start revising for my inspection visit,  I think!

In between all that,  we have been rearranging storage in the house.  We had stored a lot of stuff in the garage,  but winter (and such a wet one!) has taught us that anything made of natural fibres - wood,  cardboard,  cloth,  etc - will go mouldy in there.  However,  after buying a seriously industrial ladder to get proper access to the loft,  we’ve made the happy discovery that not only is it dry up there (witnessed by the discovery of a working no-name Scalextric track,  much to YoungMan’s delight.  He thinks we’ve been hiding it from him all along,  poor kid!!),  but it is also already half-boarded so boxes can be stored up there easily.

Foggy has been transferring less-frequently used items to the loft in the evenings,  and I suddenly have the most amazing amount of storage space available for airtight plastic bins (preferred method,  see post from months ago when I first started sorting stuff out) and can find things easily and quickly without tripping over anything.  Bonus!

The one difficulty is the futon - because it’s wooden,  the garage is not the best place for it…  but the loft is impossible (the hatch is too small for something that big! and it’s used on the ground floor,  so taking it up and downstairs unnecessarily seems more than a bit mad).  I removed it from the playroom for taking up too much floor space in the first place,  but it’s now taking up too much space in the nap room instead.  Sensible ideas on the back of a postcard,  please!

YoungMan, the rock star, round three… I didn’t know the band were going to invite him to join them on stage, or I’d have had my “proper” camera, ie the DSLR, at hand. As it was, this footage is from my phone. The sound isn’t too bad, considering.

He was delighted to go up on stage - I wondered if he might have become a little more awed by the crowd at his advanced age, but nope, the adrenaline kicked in and he had to go and burn it off by having a bounce on a trampoline - one of the ones where you’re harnessed to a bungee so you can do better flips and tricks.

I am more than a bit frustrated at the moment by the lack of progress on registration. I’m still waiting for the same people who’ve done _nothing_ since November (and possibly earlier) to pull finger, but so far, so bad.

So, how to feel like I’m achieving _something_ in the meantime? I try to improve what we have, to make it more enticing for parents to leave their kids with me.

As you see in the top picture, shoes used to live on a rack in the utility room. Hang on, you can’t see the rack? That’s because it was full to overflowing, meaning YoungMan’s shoes would be scattered haphazardly next to the rack and spilled out into the hallway. Gentle reader, it offended the eye.

Yesterday, after doing some careful measuring, I made the trek to IKEA, where I discovered they had a bookshelf that would fit neatly into our hall (boiler) cupboard. Yes, there was a Billy to suit our precise needs and it came in a range of colours.

The best one to match our floors was the oak veneer, which handily had extra shelves available (more shoes, more neatly. Winner!) in the right size _and_ was the cheapest… But do you think I could find the extra shelf anywhere???


Oh, look, they had birch veneer extra shelves, and the bookshelf, so I went to get that instead. Hang on, more than double the price for a minor change in colour? I don’t think so!

Since the minor OCD that meant Foggy and I both had issues with how YoungMan’s shoes were arranged (in the photo above) meant it would inconceivable to get a birch veneer extra shelf (£1 more than the oak) to go with an oak bookshelf hidden in a closet, the only other option at the basic price was white… And so white, it was.

I bought a few other things - it’s IKEA after all, it’s virtually impossible not to find a few cheap frivolities. A laundry hamper to replace the ugly bag we’ve been using? Check. Some plastic bins which fit neatly under our bed to free up space in my drawers? Check. Same size plastic bin to neatly use gap on top of the wardrobe in our room and improve ease of access to stuff up there? Check. A towel to round out the dozen I _thought_ I bought last time I was at IKEA? Check. Finally making it through the queue at the tills, I headed home via coffee (actually freshly squeezed juice) with my boss and her kids at a new club we wanted to check out - and school, to collect YoungMan.

Having built the bookshelf myself - ok, I know it’s not such a massive achievement to put a bookshelf together but I was pleased - it was the moment of truth: my measurements were accurate but there was _no_ margin for error and I will admit that it took Foggy’s assistance to position the bookshelf in the cupboard… ok, wedge it in!

It _did_ fit, though (just!!!) and now look at our neatly arranged shoes - and how the utility room looks _way_ better for not having shoes all over the place! It is now more obviously a safe place for babies to crawl around and explore, and less hazardous for them to learn to walk. Hurrah, another step in the right direction… and fingers crossed I have good news soon!

Ha. Here’s one he won’t thank me for when he’s older…  Just as well I don’t post his name so people can’t search for it,  eh?

We went to Hobbycraft on Thursday as they had an event in store promoting the new range of seasonal goods,  so YoungMan made himself an Easter bonnet while we were there,  and helped himself to several mini donuts. YoungMan _loves_ Hobbycraft;  I wonder why? ;-)

In other news,   We set up an email account for him over the weekend. He’s been keen to get on the computer ever since to check his email but the stated aim of this (improving his typing skills by encouraging him to reply to messages) hasn’t yet got up to full speed as he gets distracted by the thought of playing games…!  Will have to keep working on it.

Ha. Here’s one he won’t thank me for when he’s older… Just as well I don’t post his name so people can’t search for it, eh?

We went to Hobbycraft on Thursday as they had an event in store promoting the new range of seasonal goods, so YoungMan made himself an Easter bonnet while we were there, and helped himself to several mini donuts. YoungMan _loves_ Hobbycraft; I wonder why? ;-)

In other news, We set up an email account for him over the weekend. He’s been keen to get on the computer ever since to check his email but the stated aim of this (improving his typing skills by encouraging him to reply to messages) hasn’t yet got up to full speed as he gets distracted by the thought of playing games…! Will have to keep working on it.

Tags: typing crafts

Study of a boy in blue…  He had a bath earlier and grabbed my phone while I gave him a bit of a pedicure.  When I’d finished making him presentable,  he refused to hand the phone back over and then got the giggles at my threats of imminent,  dire punishment for same.

My bad, I didn’t update for ten days again. Well, a fairly random collection of photos later, you can see what we’ve been up to…

1. Talking to London Irish players again, in this case Myles Dorrian. He was kind enough to sponsor YoungMan to run a mile for Sport Relief, and other players followed his example.

2. My birthday, complete with cards from YoungMan proclaiming I’m “wondurfl” and Scrabble letters on the card from Foggy. Cute!!

3. Fixing the car. Yes, I know it’s a photo of me with curls - that’s because the suspension took so long to be fixed, and there was little to do in the small town where I waited for the repairs to be done… except go to the coffee shop or the hairdressers. I went to both!!

4. Back to birthday celebrations. Breakfast with mums from YoungMan’s school, lunch with mums from his old school. The intended hostess got gastroenteritis so we went gastropub instead. I miss this place!!

5. We finished my birthday by meeting for supper at Pizza Express (well, they offered a free bottle of Prosecco so it seemed rude not to!) and then had front row seats at the National Theatre to see Emil and the Detectives, which was fabulous. As we crossed from Southbank back to Charing Cross after the show, I took a touristy pic of YoungMan with St. Paul’s Cathedral lit up in the background.

6. The following night, London Irish was the theme again - they had a “Pint with a player” event at Waxy O’Connor’s, followed by the BibleCode Sundays playing. Tomás O’Leary was very entertaining company.

7. When the celebrations are all over, it’s easy to feel a bit flat - so we entertained ourselves at work on Friday by making gingerbread men. Best recipe ever, delicious to eat…

It’s been half term this week but due to work,  I’ve barely seen YoungMan. 

Monday was the only full day we spent together.  We had heard good things about the Lego movie,  so booked that for the 1:30 screening,  which gave us just enough of an excuse to go out for lunch next door to the cinema. 

The restaurant is a chain,  and not exactly upmarket - but they kept YoungMan entertained with an activity pack until the food arrived,  and it was all fairly tasty when it did.  We were out at exactly the right time to arrive at the cinema,  so I was happy. 

As for the movie,  there was plenty in it to keep adults entertained. I have fairly low expectations for kids’ movies and I’m delighted when one comes along that genuinely entertains all ages.  The plot makes some valid points about conformity vs originality of thought and the importance of play,  with admirable restraint.

Both YoungMan and I came away singing “Everything is awesome”…  I may have to check iTunes and surprise him by playing it in the car when I collect him from football camp later!

It’s been half term this week but due to work, I’ve barely seen YoungMan.

Monday was the only full day we spent together. We had heard good things about the Lego movie, so booked that for the 1:30 screening, which gave us just enough of an excuse to go out for lunch next door to the cinema.

The restaurant is a chain, and not exactly upmarket - but they kept YoungMan entertained with an activity pack until the food arrived, and it was all fairly tasty when it did. We were out at exactly the right time to arrive at the cinema, so I was happy.

As for the movie, there was plenty in it to keep adults entertained. I have fairly low expectations for kids’ movies and I’m delighted when one comes along that genuinely entertains all ages. The plot makes some valid points about conformity vs originality of thought and the importance of play, with admirable restraint.

Both YoungMan and I came away singing “Everything is awesome”… I may have to check iTunes and surprise him by playing it in the car when I collect him from football camp later!

We finally got good enough weather and a well-enough drained pitch for YoungMan to play his first rugby in weeks yesterday.  He loved it,  and all of the coaches were pleasantly surprised how little the boys had forgotten during their downtime.

The first photo was taken individually,  and the rest were a series starting with YoungMan getting the ball,  through to him _thinking_ he’d scored a try - he’d actually been tagged,  hence the big jump in the air (trying to avoid the tag initially,  then as part of the “can take one step after tagging to score a try” rule they play in minis) and then dive.  His face in the last photo really is a picture!!

Tags: rugby sunshine

Another day,  another cake for work…  Yesterday was Brio (Work Child the Elder)’s birthday and I had offered to make cake for his party,  which pleased my boss.  As Brio is mad keen on trains,  I suggested making train shaped cupcakes (ok,  I have a silicon bakeware tray in the shape of trains,  so sue me) and she said that sounded fabulous…

Well,  it did until someone in her office suggested a cousin (professional baker) who would make a cake depicting the scene in Polar Express - Brio’s favourite film - where the Polar Express climbs the mountain.  If you’ve seen the film,  you’ll know the scene I mean.  She looked so wistful in talking about it and how much Brio would love it that I said I’d give it a go.  Then,  I started stressing about how to achieve it.

Luckily,  one of YoungMan’s schoolfriends has a mother who is a professional cake maker.  She was telling me some of her client list and they are names you would recognise (discretion prevents me from repeating them,  but world-class footballer and well-known actor amongst them),  so I discussed it with her as to how best to achieve a mountain shape and make it stay up! as well as how to achieve the train - we originally thought we would have access to a model Polar Express train but that turned out to be inaccurate,  so a Polar Express of some sort had to be created for the cake.

I know I could have modelled stuff from fondant icing but all of us loathe the stuff - it looks good but tastes like chewy plastic - so the decision was taken eventually to make the trains from gingerbread,  then curve them around the mountainside,  which minimised the need for width/ an actual track between layers.

The finished product looks deceptively simple.  It took ages to cut out the gingerbread and as for curving it - well,  let’s just say I’ll be better prepared for _that_ technical challenge next time!  Foggy came to my rescue when I howled from the kitchen for an extra pair of hands to balance the casserole around which I was shaping the gingerbread as it came out of the oven…  YoungMan,  meanwhile,  took shameless advantage of my inattention to attempt to watch far more tv than is good for him.  Foggy was onto that,  too.

As they say,  what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  The stress (a lot of stress) about all the different elements of the cake which could fail - the cake could taste bad (it didn’t),  be too dry from the long baking time required to achieve the height necessary (marginal but just moist enough), or simply have collapsed (it was structurally sound,  phew! The lack of moisture was definitely an advantage here),  the gingerbread could have not be recognisable as the Polar Express (Brio certainly knew what it was and loved it),  something could have happened to it on the way to the party (you’ve never seen me drive more carefully in my life!!) - made for an extremely long day and huge relief once the party was over.

As I said to CakeBaker when I sent her an email with pictures of the finished product (she lent me the glitter for the snowy sparkle and the cake tins for the top cake),  at all of the parties I’ve attended,  there has always been at least one person  who won’t have cake,  mostly mummies on a diet.  At Brio’s party yesterday,  every single person took a slice,  all but one (a child) finished theirs,  and some people had seconds.  I am taking that as a compliment.

Tags: cake work stress

How robonanny is this then,  huh?  You may have noticed tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. Work Child the Elder is having a couple of girlfriends over after school. I promised their mums the playdate would not be total mayhem…  So here is one of the activities I’ve prepared for them. 

There will be other messy play opportunities involving hanging heart ornaments,  glitter,  glue and glitter glue.  Then my boss arrives home and I get to shove off leaving her with the mess…  Oh,  no,  wait.  She still thinks I _am_ robonanny.  

*snaps fingers*

Foiled again!  Of course I’ll clean up - then,  on Valentine’s Day,  she will love me…  In that “I have an awesome employee” kind of way,  which always looks good on references ;-)

How robonanny is this then, huh? You may have noticed tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. Work Child the Elder is having a couple of girlfriends over after school. I promised their mums the playdate would not be total mayhem… So here is one of the activities I’ve prepared for them.

There will be other messy play opportunities involving hanging heart ornaments, glitter, glue and glitter glue. Then my boss arrives home and I get to shove off leaving her with the mess… Oh, no, wait. She still thinks I _am_ robonanny.

*snaps fingers*

Foiled again! Of course I’ll clean up - then, on Valentine’s Day, she will love me… In that “I have an awesome employee” kind of way, which always looks good on references ;-)

Weather with you

Initially, when it started raining, I didn’t really pay attention. I live in the UK. It rains here. Nothing to see, move on.

Then, flooding started. It didn’t really impact on me, though I felt bad for those it was happening to. It seemed like it was a bigger deal in foreign media than here.

It kept raining. YoungMan hasn’t had rugby in weeks due to waterlogged pitches. However, at least (unlike some) they were not actually flooded, they just weren’t drying because of the constant rain.

Now, though, as the floods get closer and closer, I have friends who love nearby whose homes are threatened. Train lines are badly damaged and commuters who normally get squeezed onto a 07:42 with hundreds of others, can’t get to work.

We’re relatively lucky in all this. We live on a hillside, and we drive a short distance to work. There has been some surface flooding on the main road we take, but nothing deeper than about 15cm.

Having said that, I am thoroughly over the rain. I’d like to do the school run without being soaked for a change. I’d like to be able to drive around corners without worrying I’m going to do a “Doctor Foster” and disappear into a huge puddle, never to be seen again. I’d like my friends to be able to move back into their homes and get to their jobs and generally have life run smoothly.

I wasn’t the first to say it and I’m sure I won’t be the last… In fact, you could join in with me here: rain, rain, go away!

(Btw, it’s not working yet. It’s _still_ raining!)

I take the trouble to read terms and conditions… Tumblr - thank goodness! - make it entertaining to do so. I like them telling those under 13 to “try books”, it made me giggle.

As for the photos… YoungMan spent some of his Christmas money on a box of Star Wars Lego on Saturday. He was awfully keen to get it and gutted he didn’t have the money on him. WeatherForDucks and I were charmed by his not thinking to ask to borrow it from me…

He was delighted when I offered to give it to him on promise of repayment when we got home, so the purchase was then made post-haste and YoungMan bounced home, Lego clutched to his chest.

What he doesn’t know is that I knew new Lego would keep him occupied for hours - and since Foggy and I were off to rugby without YoungMan (complicated babysitting arrangements brought on by Foggy’s birthday celebrations), it seemed only kind to WeatherForDucks to give YoungMan something productive to do with that time!

As for me being productive, while Foggy and YoungMan went for a swim on Sunday morning, WeatherForDucks and I “popped into” a charity shop to look for yarn before going to get lunch ingredients… The charity shop turned out to be a proper Aladdin’s cave and I found a portacot in extremely good condition for £10. When I took it out of its bag to check it worked properly (mine is missing at least one screw. Ofsted won’t like it), a passing member of staff told me everything was half the marked price “today only”. £5 for a portacot in excellent condition?? Yes, please!

We wandered a bit more and I wondered - I needed a sofa for the playroom and wanted a small one so as to leave maximum floor space for play… There were several from which to choose, but I am convinced I got the best of the lot. It’s the right height and depth - I need it not to be too low or you can’t stand up easily when you’re holding a child, which means our futon (while a comfortable sofa/ guest bed) was unsuitable, and the sofa is in very good condition considering I paid the vast sum of £25 for it!!

Of course, delivery costs doubled the price but still… I’d have cheerfully paid for a new sofa if necessary and had intended to do so, so have saved myself several hundred pounds in short order. The only difficulties were in confessing to the lads why we hadn’t got lunch yet, and telling Foggy I’d bought a fairly major piece of furniture without his input. He was good enough to suspend judgment till it arrived. Luckily he agrees with YoungMan that the sofa is very comfortable, and with me that it was a good buy. Phew!! Better yet, there’s still room for the futon in the playroom/ guest bedroom even with the sofa there, so guests should find themselves accommodated in comfort :-)