Monthly Archives: September 2012

Day 3 of our pretend holiday – Cycling

After such a fab day yesterday I was really looking forward to Day 3. Unfortunately my hubby woke up feeling decidedly under the weather and groaning a lot, but we just had to get on with it and he would have been fed up at home so it was onwards and upwards.

We had a rather complicated setup ahead of us. We had decided to cycle from Twickenham to Richmond along the Thames path which was doable for our 4 year old on her little cycle. We had managed to borrow a bike with a child seat on it from a friend in Twicks and because I had a Brompton and had plans to do something in Richmond we had to park one of our cars nearby for me to stash the bike there rather than lock it up. Precious, I know, but it cost me £810 and I just wasn’t prepared to risk it. So, we both drove a car to Halfords to buy The Monster a bike helmet, then on to designated free parking in St Margaret’s to drop off my car. Then hubby dropped me and Pickle and our bikes at Twicks (are you keeping up?) and he drove on to our friends to get bike and cycle back to us.

Yes, fairly exhausting already.


Pickle and I rode up to the park where she had a lovely time and when the others arrived we cycled on to a park at the foot of Richmond bridge. Pickle did moan ALOT but I was expecting that and to be fair, she did ride the whole way. Another park, some more fun and some half eaten sandwiches and then I rode my bike to the car at St Margaret’s and left it in the boot. Then walked back to the park and Pickle and I left hubby and TM to ride back to Twickenham and we headed off to the cinema. Disaster occurred though as my carefully researched cinema times appeared to have addled my brain and the 1.20 showing was not on. Next showing was 3.45 and after panicked texting to hubby and some friends we were supposed to visit later, I bought the tickets and Pickle and I had 2 hours to kill.

Cycling – TICK

We visited a bookstore and wandered in a few shops before ending up in Starbucks with a tea, a babycino and a choc chip cookie. We had a lovely time actually, chatting and watching an artist sketch next to us. In the end the artist turned out to be a hairdresser and he chatted to the two of us about his artistic family and then told us about a basic art app for the phone. We promptly downloaded it and Pickle spent the next 20 minutes sketching on it.

THEN we watched Brave, the new Disney movie. Very scary in places but a fantastic movie that provides a good anecdote to the “princess gets rescued by the prince” storyline we are often subjected to. My daughter has fallen asleep tonight giggling about the boob swan dive. Watch it, it’s very good.

Washing – 1 emergency knicker wash.
wine – 0 tonight (I need a night off)

So Day 3 is over, which is a bit sad, but I’ve really enjoyed it so far. Bring on Day 4

Day 2 of our Pretend Holiday – Soft play and Arts and Crafts

Day 2 started much better than yesterday. I woke up hearing the sound of Pickle chatting to her daddy downstairs as he got ready to go to work (this is his only work day this week). I stayed in bed for another 20 min and then came down not too long after he left.

First on our list was soft play. There is a lot of soft play at Centerparcs and it’s just sort of there in every area of the park. I don’t do soft play because I’ve never had a good experience with it. Pickle has been to several boys parties at soft play and she inevitably ends up crying at least once, if not several times because she is pushed, punched, scratched or just generally overwhelmed. I want her to be a bit tougher and try not to make a deal of it, but she’s just like that and I have to understand that.

I chose a massive soft play at Syon Park that we’ve been to for parties and arrived not long after it opened. I deposited both of them in the 2-5yr old section as The Monster is pretty capable. They both had a fab time but Pickle got a bit bored after about 30 min and I suggested going to the big multi story part. We found a section (ball pit with slide) and after both seemed ok I sloped off for a catch up with an NCT friend I hadn’t seen since The Monster was born. I didn’t know she’d be there and we aren’t very close, but it was nice to see her.

After a while we all decamped to the outside area and they had a ball out there on an assault course. We then went back in for the opportunity for The Monster to go in the toddler area. Obviously Pickle dashed in too under strict instruction that the little ones have priority and she wasn’t to go on the bouncy castle if any other children other than her brother was on it. There was some sort of music/dance thing going on and Pickle was right in there, shimmying along. Exactly the sort of thing I would have paid for at Centerparcs. At midday we left after we bought a tractor for TM (£2.40) and a doll for P (£1.20)(we couldn’t eat our packed lunch in there) but rather than a picnic we went to the Garden Centre next door, had some yummy drinks and then finished it off by a trip around the fish section looking at Koi and other exotic fish. The kids thoroughly enjoyed this bit and I remember paying about £10 to see something similar on The Isle of Wight.

Softplay TICK

The Monster slept in the car in our garage when we were back and Pickle went off to play with the new doll and I sat on twitter for an hour, which was bliss.

In the afternoon we did a craft that I had per planned. TM wasn’t very keen and wandered off about 10 min (to do a massive squelchy poo, as it turned out) but P loved it. It was great to do this with her.


She then made an alien with the googly eyes and a piece of paper and then it was 4.30pm and I put ET on the telly and tidied up and made tea.

Craft Class TICK

I did do one lot of washing, but it was nappies and was needed. Had we been away I would have had paper nappies, but I was happy to chuck a wash in.

No washing. NO TICK

Glasses of wine TICK

Overall, its been my favourite day and its amazing how just having a holiday head on keeps you happy despite any challenges.
Day 3 has been a bit complicated in its planning, but I’m really looking forward to it.

Day 1 of our “pretend” holiday

Day 1 didn’t start on a great note. I woke at 6am with a leg cramp (I don’t usually get these) so I screamed out in pain. I then had my sleep in cut short because the children were playing with noisy toys and hubby didn’t shut the lounge door properly. At any rate, if we were heading off today to Centerparcs, it would have still happened but we would have had the stress of packing a car on top of it.

The first step on our plan for today was for The Monster to attend his first swimming lesson, Yes, at 20 months old it does seem a bit old (Pickle was 5 mths old) but as a 2nd child he is some what neglected, taking 2nd place to his sister. We all took our swimming costumes though and whilst hubby and he had the lesson, Pickle and I mucked about in the section next to them and then they joined us afterwards.

Swimming TICK.

We the had about 3 hrs to kill before Pickle’s swimming lesson and the original plan was still up in the air. Trip around Kew or to the London Wetland Center (we are members, so not a novelty, although it included Nature and a walk). In the end, hubby took the bull by the horns and suggested we go into central London to see the Olympic parade. It was only 19 min on the train from where we were so we did. The kids loved the train ride and the sights on the way although They were both quite moany. Thats not uncommon though. The parade was fab and emotional and I took lots of photos. We had to leave with just 3 buses left in order to make it back.

Unexpected trip to London with Olympians thrown in. TICK.

We got back to the swimming pool where Pickle started her first after-school lesson (although she hasn’t officially started school yet) and despite being tired she went in the pool without an instructor being in it, did overarm and jumped in the pool by herself. Result.

Back home and quick meal of pasta and pesto which we all ate and Hubby and I had a glass of wine. Thats two rules we’ve stuck to.

Day 1 has been marked a success. Wonder what Day 2 will bring.

PS: Pickle keeps referring to our holiday as The Pretend Holiday, hence the name now.

Centerparcs – at home (Super Scrimper holiday)

I recently realised that I had accumulated quite a few days holiday at work and with Pickle starting school much later than everyone else is (she starts on the 19th September) we thought it would be a good idea for us to do something as a family for a week.

We hadn’t been to Centerparcs since I found out I was pregnant with The Monster (20 months old now) so I thought it would be lovely to do that.  However I discovered that the cheapest price I could get for the accommodation  we wanted and a 4 day stay was £549.  (We once stayed in a comfort plus lodge which was so grotty we vowed to only ever go to the Woodland Lodge ones from then on).  Anyway, back to the cost!! £549!!!! I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend that much money on accommodation that I’m only going to sleep in and occasionally eat in.  Bearing in mind that this only includes access to the roads, the forest and the swimming pools.  We would still have to buy food, eat out, pay for activities, hire bikes etc..  Incidentally, I looked up the date of half term and it would cost £1149. A week later it’s £419.  I know you parents with school age kids have been moaning about this for a while, but I now get you.  I really get you.  Daylight robbery.  Any way I digress.

So we sat, sadly, thinking about what we could do. As hubby is working on the Tuesday we couldn’t consider going overseas.  After some though I then hit on a brain wave.  I wrote down all the things about Centerparcs that I like so much and then put together a list of activities on every day of the week that we could do that we would have done, had we been there.  We also chucked in some other activities that we would not have been able to do if we had been there.   I did some research, figured it all out and then wrote and email to my hubby with all the info on it.

I won’t share every days activity, because I’m thinking I may do a quickie blog daily about it, but here’s parts of that email that helped make some of the decisions.


Next weeks “Centerparcs at home”

What do I like about Centerparcs and do we achieve it next week?

1.         We have a home nearby TICK

2.         We cycle as a family TICK

3.         We go swimming TICK

4.         The kids can do creative things TICK

5.         Mummy can have a treatment. NO TICK

6.         Daddy can do something new NO TICK

7.         We can eat out a lot TICK

8.         We can do softplay TICK

9.         We can see some nature TICK

What else can we do that we can’t do at Centerparcs?

1.         See a movie on the big screen

2.         Go to a museum with dinosaurs

3.         Go to Legoland

<The itinerary, which I’m leaving out for this post>

What should the rules be when we are at home?

1.         No excessive tidying or cleaning in the house.

2.         Glass of wine to be poured at every opportunity.

3.         No clothes washing unless absolutely necessary

4.         Kids can stay up late

5.         We should watch some new movies on DVD together

6.         Easy meals……..either out or quick to cook.


So that is now our challenge.  To stick to my plan on each day and try to have a fabulous and partially stress free week as if we were away and living it up in Longleat.

What do you think?  Are we being too ambitious? Something you would consider doing (or have you already done it) or does it sound like hell on a stick?

Home visits – good or a waste of time?

We had our home visit today from Pickle’s reception teacher and Teaching Assistant.  We were both very excited about it and saw it as a great opportunity to properly introduce ourselves, our home and how we feel about school (both of us).  I haven’t always felt like this about home visits though and I know some of you aren’t big fans of the idea.

 Years ago, prior to having my children I remember a close friend discussing having a home visit for school.  I was aghast at the idea, feeling it was an invasion of privacy and also a complete waste of money of resource.  4 years down the line from having my daughter I’ve had time to come around to the idea, I’ve spoken to other mum’s who experienced it last year (when their children started a pre-school attached to a primary school) and everyone was quite positive about the experience.  I have since found myself looking forward to the opportunity to meet Pickle’s teacher and having 1 to 1 time (albeit only 30 minutes) which I feel I won’t get very often in the throes of a school term.   However, I know, through conversations I’ve eavesdropped on and ones I have had on twitter that many people find them odd, especially those from Wales, Ireland and Scotland where home visits are not done or from people whose school opted not to do them.

 I found this useful bit of feedback from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers about home visits which shed some light on the reason behind it. 

“For parents with no prior link to the school, entering school premises and meeting teachers can be a daunting prospect, particularly if their own experiences of education were less than positive. Parents may feel more secure and in control in their own homes, and therefore able to talk more freely. In familiar surroundings, they may also find it easier to remember important facts about their children’s medical history, their likes and dislikes and their routines”.

 It also highlights the idea to strengthen the link between school and home.

 “Practitioners working in the foundation stage are well aware of the importance of making links with children’s parents and families. Parents are their children’s first and most enduring educators, and so when practitioners work with them the results are hugely beneficial to children’s development and learning. Partnership is about sharing knowledge and understanding of children, both from the parents’ point of view and from the teacher’s.”

 there was a lot more information about in the document and you can read it here.

 I know some people are quite suspicious of home visits and I imagine under different circumstances than my own, some people may feel intimidated or embarrassed about having to host a teacher in their home.  I know that a teacher couldn’t help but notice and perhaps take note of those children being raised under difficult circumstances but from my perspective (which I know isn’t universal) I can only see that as a positive thing for a child.  If you’re teacher can recognise your background as a challenge then that can only mean they can put in more preparation or understanding during their schooling.

 Our visit was very useful.  We had filled in a booklet together about a week ago with basic information alongside favourite books, favourite things to do, sports, extracurricular activities and an opportunity for Pickle to write her name and draw a picture of herself.  Then when her teacher and TA arrived I sat down with her teacher whilst the TA took a picture of Pickle for the front of her book and then helped her to draw a picture of her family.  She loves drawing and colouring in, so she was in her element.  This gave me an opportunity to find out what I needed to do on the first day of school.  Where to take her, what to take (did she need her PE kit and book bag on the first day – the answer was no).  I found out whether most people were doing packed lunches or not, what was suitable, reminded to include two drinks (one for class and one with her lunch) and I was able to ask all those niggling stupid questions of a new school mum such as whether someone would help her open a Frube or similar dessert at lunchtime.  I was also able to tell her about the after school club she’d be attending for 2 days and this was noted down.

 Her teacher talked me through the different start times on the first two days she starts, talked about the opportunity for parents to help out in the classroom if they want to (they have a roster, but it isn’t a requirement to do it) and she gave me stickers to use to fill in whenever Pickle does something of academic note (e.g. She wrote the letter “K” without help, or she was able to add up 2 pieces of chocolate and 3 pieces of chocolate).  This helps the teacher know that information she may have taught in class is being used in application at home and she’ll stick the sticker in her school book.  I was also given a “Proud Sheet” as our school will have a weekly proud bench at the assembly and children will be commended for achievements they have made that may not be academic, such as being brave at the dentist, or helping mummy when a sibling is sick or learning to swim without armbands.  I was asked about allergies, restrictions to her diet and religious requirements as well.

 There were a few admin documents as well. Pickle and I had signed a Home/School agreement promising certain things and the teacher advised me on what to do if she was ill, who I had to call and any documentation I need.  Whilst I was doing all of this Pickle had taken the TA to the far end of the house to show her the chickens and tell her their names. My mother in law (who was looking after her when I headed off to work) also chatted with her.

 They were supposed to stay for 15 minutes but the whole visit took about 30 minutes and I feel so much happier for having it and I’m sure my daughter did too (I had to rush out the door to work, so will ask her tonight). 

 Did you have a home visit? Was yours as positive as mine?  Do you find the whole home visit a bit strange?

 Would love to hear your views on it.