Last week I wound up not too far from Reading in the course of doing important but dull business. YoungMan was with me and together, we decided we would reward ourselves for getting dull stuff out of the way, by going to Ed’s Easy Diner for lunch.

Fortified by hot dogs and malted milkshakes, YoungMan had a choice: Jurassic Park-themed mini golf or swimming in the school pool. Smart kid made the right choice - just as we completed the course (I finished with a very unexpected hole in one!), we got a phone call from Foggy, who said a friend of YoungMan’s had just turned up with his lovely mum, were we coming to join them?

Cue a prompt carpark exit, drive to school via dashing home for togs, and YoungMan’s bewildered “I thought you said I had to choose?” giving way to delighted splashing about. All told, a good holiday day out!

Registration complete

Finally!!!

:-)

Now I can open for business… I have my first clients already - the boys I have been nannying - and a neighbour of theirs wants me to look after their three year old girl for a week in the school holidays… Small beginning, but better than no clients at all!

Yesterday was the annual Kohanga fundraising Hangi at Hinemihi,  at Clandon House.  I offered to assuage my not-as-frequent-as-I-would-like Kohanga appearances by coordinating the cake stall.

I sent out emails imploring people to provide baked goods,  packaged ready to sell,  and labelled for allergens,  with suggested prices.  I got one response. 

A further plea (expressing concern at the lack of offers!) got a much better response and promises of all sorts of “Kiwi” items:  Anzac biscuits,  Afghans,  kumara bread,  coconut ice,  and I offered lolly cake,  safe in the knowledge AncientUncle had brought me supplies of “proper” malt biscuits and fruit puffs when he was here last month.

Well,  could I find them on Friday,  when I went looking?  Nope,  nowhere to be found!  Despite turning the house upside down in an effort to find where they were stashed,  they remained elusive.

A phone call to my mother (asking what quantities she’d sent so I could work out how big a bag was missing) and several Facebook messages with AncientUncle later,  I finally found them on Saturday morning,  lurking under a bag of unused electrical goods in the bottom-most corner of the pantry.

I decided not to do all four packets of biscuits,  worried that it might not sell. I clearly lack ambition,  they sold extremely well and not a single person argued paying £1 for two slices (I had pre-packaged them in cling film),  and there were disappointed customers who’d seen the price lists and got all excited,  only to find we’d sold out.  Job well done :-)

The cake stall did very well - we sold everything we’d been given and I think we raised about £275,  so I am well pleased with that.  It’s not as much as previous years but donations of baked goods were down a bit as some of the promised baking hadn’t eventuated and I could only sell what was given!!  My share (cupcakes too) cost about £15 to produce but raised £35,  so I am giving myself a small pat on the back.

Yesterday was the annual Kohanga fundraising Hangi at Hinemihi, at Clandon House. I offered to assuage my not-as-frequent-as-I-would-like Kohanga appearances by coordinating the cake stall.

I sent out emails imploring people to provide baked goods, packaged ready to sell, and labelled for allergens, with suggested prices. I got one response.

A further plea (expressing concern at the lack of offers!) got a much better response and promises of all sorts of “Kiwi” items: Anzac biscuits, Afghans, kumara bread, coconut ice, and I offered lolly cake, safe in the knowledge AncientUncle had brought me supplies of “proper” malt biscuits and fruit puffs when he was here last month.

Well, could I find them on Friday, when I went looking? Nope, nowhere to be found! Despite turning the house upside down in an effort to find where they were stashed, they remained elusive.

A phone call to my mother (asking what quantities she’d sent so I could work out how big a bag was missing) and several Facebook messages with AncientUncle later, I finally found them on Saturday morning, lurking under a bag of unused electrical goods in the bottom-most corner of the pantry.

I decided not to do all four packets of biscuits, worried that it might not sell. I clearly lack ambition, they sold extremely well and not a single person argued paying £1 for two slices (I had pre-packaged them in cling film), and there were disappointed customers who’d seen the price lists and got all excited, only to find we’d sold out. Job well done :-)

The cake stall did very well - we sold everything we’d been given and I think we raised about £275, so I am well pleased with that. It’s not as much as previous years but donations of baked goods were down a bit as some of the promised baking hadn’t eventuated and I could only sell what was given!! My share (cupcakes too) cost about £15 to produce but raised £35, so I am giving myself a small pat on the back.

We had one of those lovely laid back days today where we did lots of good stuff without really trying.

This morning, we went to the Lido and the lifeguards struck just the right balance between too relaxed to be appropriately safety-conscious, and officious killjoys.

On the way back to the car, we discovered this charming waterfall. Lots of kids were splashing in the shallow water at the bottom and YoungMan was most put out to be dragged home for lunch instead of joining in the fun.

After lunch, YoungMan and I left Foggy (and his dodgy knee) at home preparing supper and with the laundry ready to be hung out to dry in the glorious sunshine.

BakedGoods and her kids met us at a nearby National Trust property and the kids had a ball, nothing major and serious - a slide here, some football there, drinks and ice cream for afternoon tea, a tree to be climbed… Just simple things everyone enjoyed.

I am heartened that YoungMan doesn’t yet equate money spent with how good a time he had… and hope he never does. Of course some of the things for which I have fond memories didn’t come cheap (my 30th birthday party, my sister’s wedding, Christmas with the family 18 months ago) but the common factor in all of them was that it was about spending time with people we like. I am pretty sure Little Mr Sociable _gets_ that, bless him.

Inspection

Well, it’s been a couple of days since my Ofsted inspection and I’m still in recovery.

It wasn’t awful, but it was intense and it took 4.5 hours to cover everything - my suitability to work as a childminder (DBS certificates, my health, previous experience etc), the Early Years Foundation Stage, the Two Year Progress Check, Development Matters, Safeguarding and Welfare, and last but not least, premises check.

The inspector herself was very pleasant and gave me plenty of opportunities to clarify and expand on my original answers if I’d given a broad outline as an initial response to a question.

The main reason it takes so long is that she was typing frantically as I spoke, so she had a transcript of our conversation, in order to back up her decisions as to whether or not I meet the requirements to register.

Thankfully she was kind enough to say before she left that she considers that I _do_ fulfil all of the requirements, and as such, she would recommend to Ofsted that they register me as a childminder.

It is possible they will want to confirm a detail or two before doing so (she said her notes were deliberately as comprehensive as possible to attempt to avoid that happening) but if they concur with her inspection, they will probably just issue me with a certificate of registration, which should arrive by post within a couple of weeks.

I am holding back on any big celebrations until it’s definite, but folks, it’s looking pretty darned good :-)

Party yesterday.  Birthday tomorrow.  Eight years has gone by awfully quickly for me,  and at a snail’s pace as far as he’s concerned!

Everyone has been extraordinarily generous - YoungMan has £100 in assorted tokens,  vouchers and cold hard cash to spend,  several new boxes of Lego, assorted remote controlled cars,  a subscription to a fabulous kids’ magazine (educational enough to please me,  fun enough to please him!),  a pop up two man tent (he wanted to camp in the garden tonight!),  a butterfly garden,  football cards and a World Cup football…  and I’m quite sure that’s not all,  but the rest escapes me for now. 

We are looking forward to a FaceTime call with Moose and Bear tomorrow morning,  before YoungMan heads to school for Day One of exam week:  science and maths. Just what you want on your birthday,  right?

Party yesterday. Birthday tomorrow. Eight years has gone by awfully quickly for me, and at a snail’s pace as far as he’s concerned!

Everyone has been extraordinarily generous - YoungMan has £100 in assorted tokens, vouchers and cold hard cash to spend, several new boxes of Lego, assorted remote controlled cars, a subscription to a fabulous kids’ magazine (educational enough to please me, fun enough to please him!), a pop up two man tent (he wanted to camp in the garden tonight!), a butterfly garden, football cards and a World Cup football… and I’m quite sure that’s not all, but the rest escapes me for now.

We are looking forward to a FaceTime call with Moose and Bear tomorrow morning, before YoungMan heads to school for Day One of exam week: science and maths. Just what you want on your birthday, right?

Inspection awaits

The call came this morning: I will be inspected on June 17. It is somewhat ironic that it is the day after YoungMan will turn eight, and therefore not count in the “allowed number” of children for me to look after. Will he need any less care and attention one day after his eighth birthday than one day before? I can’t see it, myself, but who am I to argue the rules??

The best part is, from my perspective, that I will have an answer before YoungMan finishes school for the summer, so I can (assuming the inspection goes to plan!!!) work from home, which will be excellent.

It will also give me the opportunity to save up some money for a car, too - during the school holidays, I won’t have the school run to worry about, so can rely on public transport for exciting trips to Hobbycraft for activities, and the pet shop to see the animals, or the shopping centre for the cinema or ten pin bowling… and if we ask Foggy reeeeeeally nicely, he might nominate one day of the week where we can have the car and he takes public transport to work, so we can do other outings.

Other exciting plans for the summer include a quick visit from my mother, a week in Exmouth (staying at the same beautiful flat we went to last summer) and of course, YoungMan’s birthday! No rest for the wicked, right?

Well,   I kind of buried it in the post a few days ago,  but Ofsted finally have all the information they need from other people…  and once they’ve looked at it all and concluded that I’m probably a half-decent person,  they will order an inspection.  Someone calls me to make an appointment,  and then comes to the house to look at all our lovely resources and equipment (buggies,  cots,  stairgates etc) and will ask me lots of searching questions to check I actually know what I’m doing.  They will check all my policy statements (I _hate_ writing those!) and contracts,  see whether I have things like fire blankets,  a first aid kid,  car insurance which is appropriate for transporting other people’s kids in our car…  you get the idea.  The interrogation *ahem* appointment takes 3-5 hours on average (I suspect it will take on the longer side with me.  There are a LOT of resources to check!) and then finally,  if I survive all that without seeming like too big a doofus,  then they will decide that I am fit to registered as a childminder.

It’s only taken close on a year since I started this,  and it’s been a busy and stressful year,  more so because of the delays with various bits of the process! but I finally feel like I am getting somewhere and soon - hopefully before the summer holidays start July 4 - I will be able to hang out my shingle and tout for clients.

I have discussed website design with my sister - how fancy or otherwise it needs to be - and I am wondering if I need to have a facebook page so people can recommend me on there.  I took the photos above not just to give you all a sneak peak at how the play and nap rooms look,  but also with the intention of using them for marketing purposes.  I need to get some photos of the garden as well,  but was busy making the cute animal chairs and setting up the easel today,  so that’s a job for another day,  probably next weekend.

So,  what do you all think?  Please email me and give feedback,  everyone who’s helped (DomesticGod and Foggy built the bookshelves,  f’r instance) will be delighted to hear if you think it’s great…  and I’d love any constructive criticism/ sensible queries if you think there’s something I’ve overlooked.  It may just be I haven’t shown it in the photos - I’m sure you’ve all seen a loo before,  I promise we have one available! - or it may be something I need to get sorted before Ofsted arrive,  so let me know!

I turn up on my own blog - who’d a thunk?  Foggy found a fun miniature railway event last weekend and off we went. At £1/adult and 50p/child,  it was hardly an expensive day out,  even considering the beer festival we found next door. YoungMan joined in a game of football with a group of teenagers and wanted us to stay and stay and stay…!

Since then,  it’s been a busy old week. AncientUncle returned from Minsk Tuesday and we had dinner with The Headhunter,  Wednesday I found out my registration is finally about to be processed:  I am hoping to be open for business for the summer holidays. Yesterday,  we had friends over for dinner and today AncientUncle goes back to New Zealand. 

The exciting bit is that he’ll be back next year - and there’s no chance he’ll change his mind as the other thing that happened yesterday was that we managed to get tickets to a great pool stage match for RWC2015:  All Blacks vs Argentina,  for me,  Foggy,  YoungMan and AncientUncle…  and,  better yet,  two tickets to the Final.  No way is AncientUncle missing that one!!!

I turn up on my own blog - who’d a thunk? Foggy found a fun miniature railway event last weekend and off we went. At £1/adult and 50p/child, it was hardly an expensive day out, even considering the beer festival we found next door. YoungMan joined in a game of football with a group of teenagers and wanted us to stay and stay and stay…!

Since then, it’s been a busy old week. AncientUncle returned from Minsk Tuesday and we had dinner with The Headhunter, Wednesday I found out my registration is finally about to be processed: I am hoping to be open for business for the summer holidays. Yesterday, we had friends over for dinner and today AncientUncle goes back to New Zealand.

The exciting bit is that he’ll be back next year - and there’s no chance he’ll change his mind as the other thing that happened yesterday was that we managed to get tickets to a great pool stage match for RWC2015: All Blacks vs Argentina, for me, Foggy, YoungMan and AncientUncle… and, better yet, two tickets to the Final. No way is AncientUncle missing that one!!!

See the sign to the right of the darts board?  Not the blackboard for scoring,  the one above and right of that…   The one that says “no one under the age of 16 may be allowed to use this dartboard”…  Yeah ,  that.

See the sign to the right of the darts board? Not the blackboard for scoring, the one above and right of that… The one that says “no one under the age of 16 may be allowed to use this dartboard”… Yeah , that.

On Thursday,  YoungMan had a school trip to Hatfield House to learn more about the Tudor period.  I had the day off as I had worked Monday,  so I was around at BakedGoods’ house for a class coffee morning.  It was all going swimmingly till Foggy rang…  YoungMan had taken ill,  could I please go and collect him?

A 40 minute drive later,  and much as I suspected:  by the time I got there,  YoungMan was absolutely fine. Moreover,  he was extremely disappointed to be dragged away from gory tales of what happened to Tudor traitors (not pretty,  I’m so glad we live in the 21st century!),  absolutely gutted he was denied the chance to spend money in the gift shop and furious that he was missing out on a second go at the fantastic adventure playground. 

His teacher admitted to me she thought YoungMan was well enough to stay but school policy with regard to vomiting and diarrhoea prevented her from allowing it in case he was contagious…

However,  I was sure then and I’m even more certain now he was not contagious. Poor YoungMan has apparently inherited my allergy to pineapple. I have learned my reaction to it is not as bad as kiwi fruit,  but I can only ever eat a couple of small pieces of fresh pineapple and no more if I want to avoid nasty side effects.  Having missed out on a fabulous activity,  YoungMan accepts that he also must refuse to eat something he really likes for fear of the reaction some hours later,  which is pretty rotten. 

Since his stomach had settled when I collected him,  and on the advice of his teacher,  I took YoungMan back to the adventure playground for half an hour before leaving. Although I know it would be extremely anti-social to allow him to spread disease if he was actually ill,  nor did I want to drive the hour home with YoungMan being ill in the car,  so I was pleased for the confirmation he was back to his normal self before setting off again!

On Thursday, YoungMan had a school trip to Hatfield House to learn more about the Tudor period. I had the day off as I had worked Monday, so I was around at BakedGoods’ house for a class coffee morning. It was all going swimmingly till Foggy rang… YoungMan had taken ill, could I please go and collect him?

A 40 minute drive later, and much as I suspected: by the time I got there, YoungMan was absolutely fine. Moreover, he was extremely disappointed to be dragged away from gory tales of what happened to Tudor traitors (not pretty, I’m so glad we live in the 21st century!), absolutely gutted he was denied the chance to spend money in the gift shop and furious that he was missing out on a second go at the fantastic adventure playground.

His teacher admitted to me she thought YoungMan was well enough to stay but school policy with regard to vomiting and diarrhoea prevented her from allowing it in case he was contagious…

However, I was sure then and I’m even more certain now he was not contagious. Poor YoungMan has apparently inherited my allergy to pineapple. I have learned my reaction to it is not as bad as kiwi fruit, but I can only ever eat a couple of small pieces of fresh pineapple and no more if I want to avoid nasty side effects. Having missed out on a fabulous activity, YoungMan accepts that he also must refuse to eat something he really likes for fear of the reaction some hours later, which is pretty rotten.

Since his stomach had settled when I collected him, and on the advice of his teacher, I took YoungMan back to the adventure playground for half an hour before leaving. Although I know it would be extremely anti-social to allow him to spread disease if he was actually ill, nor did I want to drive the hour home with YoungMan being ill in the car, so I was pleased for the confirmation he was back to his normal self before setting off again!

Poor YoungMan…  There he was on Saturday,  slaving over his prep on a computer,  nursing a bashed-up elbow,  while Mummy,  Daddy and AncientUncle were off carousing at “Farewell to The Avenue”,  the event marking London Irish’s move to a new training facility…

Well,  I’m sure that’s how YoungMan would tell it,  but it wouldn’t be the whole truth!

In fact,  we’d gone to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake on Friday evening (the production is widely known for casting all male dancers to be the swans,  though there are women dancing too) and found it very entertaining.  WeatherForDucks and Lightning then took YoungMan back to Foggy’s parents’ house and looked after him till Sunday morning. 

All right,  he bopped his elbow a good one - but I gather he slipped in the paddling pool in the park where they’d taken him,  which kept him otherwise entertained for hours. This was _after_ they’d taken him shopping for new tennis shoes and goalie gloves (remarkably,  the others have worn out after about six weeks’ use),  so don’t go feeling too sorry for him now. 

Meanwhile,  I took full advantage of the babysitting to catch up with lots of people I haven’t seen for a while, and watched some rugby.  See Facebook for me and Provocateur posing for photos with assorted players,  and the “scrum machine” pix. Note I am not the hooker ;-)

We came home with an empty picnic bag,  an empty cupcake case (whoops,  forgot to take photos,  but there were 36 cupcakes taken along for BigWig’s birthday),  and empty wallets - or,  in my case,  no wallet at all as I’d accidentally left my whole handbag at home!!  Just as well I didn’t need my asthma inhaler and that Foggy and AncientUncle helped out with drinks over the course of the day,  then,  eh?

Poor YoungMan… There he was on Saturday, slaving over his prep on a computer, nursing a bashed-up elbow, while Mummy, Daddy and AncientUncle were off carousing at “Farewell to The Avenue”, the event marking London Irish’s move to a new training facility…

Well, I’m sure that’s how YoungMan would tell it, but it wouldn’t be the whole truth!

In fact, we’d gone to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake on Friday evening (the production is widely known for casting all male dancers to be the swans, though there are women dancing too) and found it very entertaining. WeatherForDucks and Lightning then took YoungMan back to Foggy’s parents’ house and looked after him till Sunday morning.

All right, he bopped his elbow a good one - but I gather he slipped in the paddling pool in the park where they’d taken him, which kept him otherwise entertained for hours. This was _after_ they’d taken him shopping for new tennis shoes and goalie gloves (remarkably, the others have worn out after about six weeks’ use), so don’t go feeling too sorry for him now.

Meanwhile, I took full advantage of the babysitting to catch up with lots of people I haven’t seen for a while, and watched some rugby. See Facebook for me and Provocateur posing for photos with assorted players, and the “scrum machine” pix. Note I am not the hooker ;-)

We came home with an empty picnic bag, an empty cupcake case (whoops, forgot to take photos, but there were 36 cupcakes taken along for BigWig’s birthday), and empty wallets - or, in my case, no wallet at all as I’d accidentally left my whole handbag at home!! Just as well I didn’t need my asthma inhaler and that Foggy and AncientUncle helped out with drinks over the course of the day, then, eh?

The End of Season is a big event at the local rugby club.  We were warned by several people that it would involve a water fight,  and so YoungMan was sent to training appropriately armed.  You can tell how hard he’s concentrating in the photos above - see how many have him biting his lip,  which is his “fully focused” face…

The boys had a great time at training - unlike other year groups,  our lads actually did play in the final session - before the weaponry came out and it was a free-for-all.  The boys were fairly alert to the likelihood of having them confiscated if they shot unwilling adults (some adults had brought water pistols too) so stuck to shooting one another,  which pleased me.

We had a barbecue between the waterfight and the awards ceremony,  and I’d taken along some lolly cake and chocolate chip cookies,  which made me fairly popular - as did the promise of photos for other parents from our Norfolk trip.  As Foggy says,  we’ve eaten more lolly cake recently than we would’ve done if we actually lived in NZ!

YoungMan didn’t win any awards,  but was nicknamed Topsy Ojo (his favourite London Irish player) after scoring two interception tries in training,  so he left rather pleased with himself in any case.  He was even more pleased when another water pistol identical to his was left behind - we picked it up as a civic duty *ahem* and have waited for the email which asks if anyone has it…  but for now,  it has a small and enthusiastic custodian,  all set for backyard battles with his friends over summer.

More pix from Norfolk - Sunday,  this time.  I’ve tried posting this three times and tumblr’s not playing ball,  so not too much by way of commentary this time…  I’ll trust you all to work it all out yourselves.

We spent last weekend in Norfolk - I know,  it seems like we haven’t spent a weekend at home in aaaaages,  but we are actually home now (and as it’s a bank holiday weekend,  it counts for more,  right?),  believe it or not.

We were lucky enough to stay with Foggy’s paternal aunt,  who was an excellent hostess - we’d explained that the “official” purpose of the weekend was for YoungMan to play in a rugby tournament,  but actually we managed to spend a significant period of time with family.

I arranged for YoungMan to skive off school after lunch Friday and Foggy convinced his boss to follow suit,  so we set off at 1:15pm,  thinking we’d make the (according to Google Maps) 3 hour drive without significant delays.  Ha.  We hadn’t counted on there being a serious crash on the M25 that brought us to a standstill - I actually turned the motor off! - about half a mile shy of an exit.  No problem though,  just reprogrammed the satnag and as the crash was just beyond the junction (but causing delays of well over an hour) we managed to re-route and off we went.  More delays on the A11,  but hey ho,  we made it shortly after 5:30pm.

Upon arrival,  YoungMan took one look at the hostess’ huge Alsatian and swore “I am not getting out of this car in a million years with _that_ dog there!”  Sure enough,  he was out of it only three minutes later and as his initial trepidation turned out to be unfounded (the dog didn’t attempt to eat him),  they soon made friends.

Better yet,  Foggy’s cousin turned up for supper with her two children (see top picture) and the children got on like a house on fire,  despite not having seen one another since we had a holiday in Norfolk in summer 2012.  Promises were made that we must not let it get to almost two years before we see them again,  so fingers crossed we work something out!

On Saturday,  our hostess made bacon and eggs for breakfast (we will go back to that restaurant!) and after the children all had a go at the computer games and the adults had a cup of tea or five,  off we went to the rugby tournament.  The hosts put on a proper party:  hog roast,  bouncy castle,  bucking bronco ride,  bungee running,  inflatable slide…  and were kind enough to let our lads win,  too.  Fabulous!

We were having a great time but Foggy’s aunt had promised lamb for supper (much banter at the tournament about how she’d feel if the whole team turned up to enjoy it) so we headed for home and bed,  which beckoned rather more strongly than usual for YoungMan,  who hadn’t stopped moving all day.  The tournament being over hadn’t stopped him - all of the above entertainments had kept him busy before he started playing rugby again,  with a bunch of kids from U7s to the U12s (who tackle!)…  No surprise that he was asleep seconds after supper,  then,  while the adults got a peaceful evening!

I will save what we did on the Sunday for another post,  as I’ve lots of photos to go with the stories…  If I’ve time tomorrow,  I’ll upload them then.  Wish me luck,  though,  as it’s the end of season awards at rugby and apparently this involves water pistols and everyone being drenched.  I am not looking forward to that bit.  YoungMan had a tiny water pistol from a goodie bag,  floating around somewhere,  but this clearly would not do for an organised event of this nature.

Sooooo…  he is now the delighted owner of a massive Super Soaker:  2.4l reservoir,  shoots up to 11.5m,  beast of a water pistol.  When I revealed the big purchase to YoungMan - it had been hidden in the boot of the car since I got it yesterday morning,  until I was satisfied he’d done his prep properly - he looked at it in shock and awe that such a piece of sophisticated weaponry should fall into his hands…  and said “When did Daddy get it?”  Ha!  Of course in his mind,  Mummy disapproves of guns and would not dream of buying such a thing.

He has yet to work out Mummy has a perverse streak a mile wide and has taken part in water battles in the past which made perfectly clear to me that in this arena,  size and power really do matter…  so short of organising a helicopter and storm bucket for him to command,  I made the decision that if I was going to get him a water pistol,  I would get him a _proper_ one,  of which his godfather and uncles would approve.

A sneaky small voice in my head also suggests that 2.4 litres of water is a lot to lug around,  so it might slow him down a bit.  That’s only fair,  right?  As for my strategy not to get soaked,  fingers crossed it works:  I got some really good photos of the Norfolk trip and have emailed all of the parents of the U8s,  saying I had my camera at the tournament and would they like pix of their lovely lads…?  I ended with the post script:  I may have my camera again Sunday and as it’s not waterproof,  would appreciate weaponry being deployed elsewhere!  Feel free to soak YoungMan though,  he’s looking forward to it