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Pass me the manual!

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Baby books are an industry (a dubious one in my opinion but an industry none the less). I never quite understood how a mixed bag of contradictions with its own personality and unique take on life could be forced into a stereotype penned by some academic. But there’s a supposed answer to every question you could possibly think up about your little bundle of joy with helpful tips and hints on everything from breast feeding to sleeping through the night. However, it seems that as they grow we don’t need the advice anymore – when issues raise their head at 5, 6, 7, 8 and older you’re left alone with only the terrifying answers from Google to keep you awake at night.

Take my soon to be five year old. He’s been under a consultant at the local hospital since birth for a minor condition but due to long waiting lists and low staff numbers his last appointment (which had to be cancelled due to projectile vomiting on his part) has yet to be rescheduled. It was meant to be in August last year and we’re still waiting. His yearly check-ups give me reassurance and that’s all I want from this next elusive appointment so in the meantime where do I go? If he was younger I’d head off to the health visitor – a wonderful woman who helped me through so much when both kids were tiny. But he’s at school so is that appropriate? I don’t feel I can waste the GP’s time as it’s an ongoing thing so what can I do? Where’s the useful reference book about this with the smiling, reassuring mums of all ages and backgrounds on the cover?

Then there’s my eldest who has just got the date for her first residential school trip. She is definitely her mother’s daughter and the thought of being away has terrified her since she first discovered the trip was a possibility. Now it’s on the horizon and last night my very level headed and sensible girl spent over an hour sobbing hysterically at the thought of being away from home for two nights. It broke my heart. I really want her to go so she doesn’t miss out but I can’t force her on the bus and I don’t want her to make herself ill. What I could really do with is some advice…but guess what? There’s no manual on dealing with this! I know there are forums and chat rooms where mums can share ideas, feelings and experiences but how come new mums are allowed to walk into bookshop and browse the shelves looking for answers, visit the health visitor or a support group to feel the reassurance of real people in the same situation but when your kids are up and about you are supposed to know what to do or feel comfortable talking to complete strangers on the other side of the country about your worries?

When mine were babies I thought I knew how tough being a parent was – the lonely nights, the lack of sleep, the potty training etc but I am just beginning to realise that the going is about to get a whole lot tougher and this time it seems my and my husband our on our own!

 

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A passport to a great night of family fun

We have always had an amazing time at Disney on Ice at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena and I am so excited to find out more about this year’s show.
If you want a couple of hours of family fun, sprinkled with Disney magic I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Read more about it below and book your tickets NOW!!!!

 

JOIN A GLOBETROTTING TOUR OF DISNEY DESTINATIONS WHEN DISNEY ON ICE PRESENTS PASSPORT TO ADVENTURE COMES TO TO THE NORTH EAST

Tickets for Newcastles Metro Radio Arena on Sale 5 May
Pre-sale starts today Tuesday 25 April at 5pm

Disney On Ice is returning to Tyneside this October with a fun-filled tour of the imagination in Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure.
 
Families are invited to journey to the most memorable destinations with their favourite Disney characters and get swept away by classic tales that have captivated the world. This ice spectacular visits Newcastle from 3 8 October for ten performances at The Metro Radio Arena.
 
Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday 5 May. Disney priority customers can take advantage of the pre-sale window, which begins Tuesday 25 April at 5pm. 
 
To register as a priority customer, enabling show discounts and advance booking to get best seats prior to general public on-sale, go to http://www.prioritycustomer.co.uk.
 
Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure invites families to explore the African Pride Lands with Simba, Timon and Pumbaa, voyage deep under the sea to Ariel’s mystical underwater 
kingdom and tour London with Peter Pan and Wendy, before flying to Neverland to meet up with Tinker Bell. Guests will also be whisked away to the wintery wonderland of the number one animated feature film of all time, Disney’s Frozen, for an extraordinary adventure with sisters Anna and Elsa, rugged mountain man Kristoff and everyone’s favourite huggable snowman Olaf, as they journey to discover that true love is the most magical power of all. Plus, don’t miss the chance to warm up at the Fit to Dance pre-show featuring Zootropolis!
 
“It’s an extraordinary show and a family vacation all rolled into one incredible night,” says Producer Kenneth Feld. “You really get a sense you are traveling right alongside Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and their friends.”
 
“The arena will be filled with music and magic in every scene as you discover four unique landscapes filled with boisterous pirates, Caribbean beats and tender moments. With Academy Award® winning musical scores brought to life by world-class skating, Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure is an experience your family will cherish forever.”
 
Passport to Adventure was created by a team of industry experts known for their ability to convey the movements and designs needed to bring each Disney destination to life:
 
·         Jerry Bilik (Director) – Creative team member for 30 Disney On Ice shows; arranged music for a number of television series, including Starsky and Hutch and Charlie’s Angels; music     coordinator for The 31st Annual Emmy® Awards.
 
  • Patty Vincent (Director – Frozen section) – Directed numerous Feld Entertainment ice and stage shows including Disney On Ice presents Frozen, Magical Ice Festival and Dare to Dream; began her career at Feld Entertainment as a skater 31 years ago and has advanced in the company to become the Creative Director for all touring Disney On Ice productions. Additional credits include co-director of Playhouse Disney Live! and co-director of High School Musical Summer Celebration (stage show).
 
·         Cindy Stuart (Choreographer) –2016 Professional Skaters Association Choreographer of the Year Award winner and the 2014 Sonja Henie Award nominee; collaborated with Olympic Gold Medalist Robin Cousins on multiple projects; choreographed for US Champion Gracie Gold,  US Bronze Medalist Mirai Nagasu, World and Olympic Champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao and Olympic Champions Jamie Salé and David Pelletier; choreographer for several Disney On Ice productions, including Disney On Ice presents Frozen.
  
·         The Late Robert Smith (Production Designer) – Theater credits include the 2001 revival of Hair at the Wadsworth Theater; the world premiere of Bingo, an award-winning musical in Los Angeles and Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins and Dorian. Film credits include Session Man (Academy Award® winner) and Contact (Academy Award® nominee).
 
·         The Late Arthur Boccia (Costume Designer) – Worked 14 seasons as a top assistant to the late Don Foote, designer for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®; worked in film, television and on Broadway plays, including the Broadway revival of Pal Joey; designed costumes for 10 Disney On Ice productions.
  
·         Patrick Dierson (Lighting Designer) – Lighting credits include the MTV Video Music Awards and the world tour of Shakira; received an Emmy® Award nomination for his work on the post September 11th musical telethon America: A Tribute to Heroes.
 
Twitter: @DisneyOnIce #PassportToAdventure
Instagram: @DisneyOnIce
 
DISNEY ON ICE PRESENTS PASSPORT TO ADVENTURE
Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle upon Tyne
3-8 October 2017
Tickets from £19.80
Ticket Hotline: 0844 493 6666
Group Sales: 0191 2606006
 
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A Mother’s Day message to my kids

I am sure this Mother’s Day I will be greeted with some gorgeous homemade cards and some presents lovingly picked out by the kids (with the help of daddy’s wallet). I am looking forward to a trip to the cinema to see Beauty and the Beast and maybe a roast dinner (courtesy of the hubby who is housebound as he is on call for work).

I love Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day – I know some people see them as a cynical ploy by the card manufacturers to get us to spend a fortune but I am all for anything that makes us stop for a minute and appreciate those around us.

But this Mother’s Day what I really want is a few things that money can’t buy (and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone). So Megan and Henry this is what I’d really like on Sunday:

  • Can you please sleep in past 7? I know you can do it as I have to drag your bodies out of bed every weekday morning but come the weekend you have more energy than the Duracell bunny
  • Can I have a bowl of olives, bag of crisps, sandwich, chocolate bar or drink to myself? I know sharing is good but I literally get nothing to myself so today can you not ask to try whatever I am about to put in my mouth! 
  • Can you put your shoes on, coats on, clean your teeth and leave the house on the first time of asking?
  • Can you ask Dad to get you a drink, tie your shoes or reach you something from a high shelf? He is just as capable as me!
  • Can I have a bath (or even a wee!) without hearing a little knock on the door?
  • Can you stop dropping things on the floor when you have finished with them? Just for one day it would be nice to not have to pick up after you! If my back breaks you’ll be the ones pushing me around in my old age so it’s worth your while!

And finally can you give me an extra big hug and 20 extra kisses each because I love you both so much and you make me very proud to be your mummy.

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It just doesn’t add up!

 

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I was never very good at maths. I work in words and thank God every day that there’s a calculator close at hand. I knew I would find it hard when my kids started bringing home maths homework – testing my brain (and patience) as well as theirs.

What I hadn’t counted on was having a sobbing seven year old, distraught at not being able to do her times tables (especially under the timed test conditions they insist on at school). When we were at school we leant tables by rote – yes, it was boring but it worked and to this day I can pretty much get through the basics from memory. But my daughter’s school don’t teach it like that and my daughter, who lacks confidence at the best of times, has decided she can’t do it and as such as shut down her very capable brain to the idea of 8×8.

I know it’s important that she knows this stuff so I am trying to build her back up and find a way to help her but it is so tough especially when all I want to shout is IT’S NOT THAT IMPORTANAT! She’s seven for god sake. She works so hard at school and is never off sick so when she comes home she should be jumping ‘til she’s sick on her trampoline, making up games with her little brother, dancing ‘til she’s exhausted in her bedroom and experimenting with her make up on her Barbie dolls. She shouldn’t be sobbing herself to sleep because 9×8 is a mystery to her.

I support schools 100% in everything they do, educating kids is hard, especially when you have to find a way of helping 30 kids at different levels reach the same goals. But what I find hard is this pressure that is uniformly put on these tiny souls. It might work for the confident kids who thrive on competition but some, like my daughter, are breaking under the pressure and it’s heart breaking.

As a parent I want to help her (and support the school) but I’m not a teacher – I don’t have the tools or the patience to understand how I can help. Ideas sent from school to try at home are all well and good but trying to tell my daughter ‘this is fun’ when she has tears running down her face is just too difficult for us both. We have post it notes round the house reminding her of the basics, have watched some very groovy teachers singing their way through the tables on You Tube and still we are no nearer ‘getting it’.

I don’t know what the answer is but this definitely isn’t it! Any suggestions of how to help get these blooming times tables off the pages and into my daughter’s head would be gratefully received!

 

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Confused and (not) crafty

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I come from a very arts and craft family. My grandad, uncle and brother are exceptional artists. My sister-in-law is a great cake decorator, my mother-in-law is the craftiest woman you could ever meet (if you know what I mean…) and my husband takes more care wrapping one present than I would wallpapering a room (if I had any idea where to start). Sadly all these artistic genes passed me by.

I have great ideas but trying to put them into practice is another matter entirely. I am not exaggerating when I say I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. I can’t sew or knit and regular readers of this blog will know how far from Mary Berry my attempts at baking are.

Somehow I have managed to reach the ripe old age of 42 without a single arty bone in my body but since having kids, this lack of natural flair has become more of a problem. This is yet another thing they don’t tell you about having kids – suddenly you are expected to be able to paint, draw and craft like a first rate member of the WI!

My daughter, like most little girls, loves craft and is obsessed by Blue Peter. My son’s adoration of Mr Maker, Matilda Ramsey and I Can Cook is unrivalled. We have had many aborted attempts at creating what they have seen on TV throughout the years, but things always reach a peak at Christmas and birthdays when very kind, generous and well-meaning people buy them craft sets.

My kids look at me with fear as we open another box and I try to make sense of the instructions which are clearly aimed at under-12s. Bless them, my two have got used to the disappointment of never seeing the finished product or making do with some botched attempt that bears no resemblance to the picture on the box. So here’s a rundown of what I helped ruin this Christmas:

  1. A cardboard model of Big Ben WITH NO INSTRUCTIONS. Yes all the pieces were numbered so they could slot together but the only place this was slotted was the recycling bin
  2. Grow a fairy garden – no sign of grass seed sprouting so fairies may have to live in a mud bath
  3. Santa and snowman pompoms – created the world’s smallest pompoms and how do you successfully glue oversized felt features onto wool?
  4. Nail art. Daughter’s tiny nails, fat nail brush and me – was always going to end in disaster
  5. Wonky Rudolph ears – I just don’t have the patience for neat cutting out
  6. French knitting – a very English mass of knotted wool and some very choice muttered phrases (which may well have been French)
  7. Glitter by numbers – glitter does not go where you want it to no matter how gently you shake it!
  8. Make your own friendship bracelets – another mess of threads and a set of instructions which bore no resemblance to the equipment provided
  9. Hair crayons – this was quite successful and daughter ended up with blue streaks in her hair – we also had blue streaks on both of our clothes and all over one of my good towels (when did I become someone with best towels???????)

So my New Year’s resolution is to stop helping and let the kids get on with these art projects on their own. They may not get it right but they can’t get it as wrong as me!

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Google has killed Santa!

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Megan is only seven so I didn’t expect to be having ‘the talk’ for a few years yet. I hadn’t really thought about how I would approach the subject or answer her questions and I am yet to discuss with my husband how we present a united front when things get tricky.  So I was far from prepared when she innocently asked the other day “Mummy is Santa real?” My heart stopped, my mouth went dry and I reacted with a knee jerk “Of course he is! Who else could it be?”

My mind was racing as I tried to work out how and why she’d discovered the unmagical truth so early. It turns out she’d overheard some older kids at school (she has my journalistic ability to be tuned into one conversation whilst deeply engrossed in another) saying that the man in red was really your mum and dad.

Argghhhh! I am an old romantic when it comes to Christmas, I love all the pomp and ceremony and traditions (new and old) and I am just not ready to let the Santa myth go yet.

The problem is Megan is very mature and has inherited more than a little of my cynicism so convincing her that Santa is real is going to take some doing. She’s also terrible as keeping secrets so once the cat’s out of the bag, Henry (4) will have his Christmas miracles shattered too.

So I laid it on thick about the magic, the elves and the Santa cam and how it would be impossible for mummy and daddy to get all the presents bought and wrapped without her knowing. At first I thought she’d bought it.

But then came the words that are enough to strike fear into any Christmas elf’s heart “I’m going to Google it!”

WTF!!!! When did kids get so savvy that when they doubt their parents they head to the PC? I suppose I’m lucky that she sticks to the rules and always tells me when she’s going online and what she’s going to do so I was able to forbid her inquisitive perusal of the popular search engine at least for one night.

Once she was on bed I thought I’d check out Google for myself. I was more than confident that those clever tech people who seem to work in a children’s playground would have pre-empted this question and at this time of year and would have done something clever to ensure the question was answered positively with a festive pop up or graphic. But sadly it seems the Christmas spirit hasn’t reached Google towers and the results make a very depressing read for a 42 year old mum, never mind a seven year old who would still like to believe.

So I am spending the next two weeks in a bizarre juggling act. Encouraging Henry to dream the dream about Santa whilst distracting Megan from thinking too much about it all (and keeping her off Google) I know they have to grow up but I had hoped the magic would last a bit longer and I’m disappointed that technology might just be helping to put a nail in Santa’s coffin.

How have you ensured the Santa myth continues just a little bit longer? I’d love to hear your stories.

 

 

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London – where the streets are paved with gold!

We have just returned from an exhausting but exhilarating first family trip to London. The kids have been asking for years to go and Henry, four, has been obsessed with Big Ben since he saw it on  the TV so they were very excited to be visiting the Big Smoke. We had the best time and so if you are planning a trip with little ones to the capital here are a few quick tips…

London can be a big place for little legs – jumping on a tour bus is a good way to see all the sights, or if you have a clear day The Eye gives you a bird’s eye view of the city. We only saw Buckingham Palace from the air but to be honest that was enough – next time we will do the whole Changing of the Guards thing but this time waving to HRH from the air was good enough for us.

Using the tube is a big adventure but it’s still tiring. Kids love trains so going on the underground is very exciting. Who needs the fairground when you have long escalators, loud trains and buskers? But be warned, there’s still a lot of walking to do when you get under ground and if the escalators are broken, the novelty can soon wear off.

Not everything costs a fortune. If you have a dry day head to the South Bank and just walk. There are loads of street entertainers (and we found them a lot friendly than the ones in Covent Garden), there’s play areas, market stalls, musicians and even the park benches are a work of art. You also get to see a lot of the famous sights wandering along and the kids will be so distracted they won’t have a clue how far they’ve walked.

It’s worth buying Corn Flakes – or whatever else you can find that has a buy-one-get-one free offer for the main attractions. You often see vouchers for the Shrek Experience, Madam Tussauds, Aquarium and the London Eye. If in doubt just cut them out and keep them. The attractions are fab but they cost a lot of money so any help you can get is well worth it. Blue Peter badge winners can also get in free (with a full price paying adult) to lots too.

Fill your bag with snacks and puzzles. If you are planning on doing the main attractions you will end up queuing. Even if you want priority tickets you have to queue to get them before joining a (smaller) queue to get in. Anything you can take with you to keep the little ones happy whilst you wait is a must. Mine were, on the whole, really good but when the inevitable moaning started I told them it was good practice for visiting Disneyland in a few years!

Learn to say ‘no’ to photographers. Most of the family attractions have photographers dotted around making sure they capture the moment as you pose in front of a blue screen backdrop. On your way out, they then attempt to sell you all the shots in various formats for a lot of money. If you like these posed cheesy shots then great – the photographers are very good at what they do but it doesn’t take long for the money to start adding up. The other issue is you can get stuck in queues waiting to have your photo done. When we went to the aquarium we were in a bit of a rush (train due and kids desperate to see the penguins) so I just told the lady in charge that we didn’t want our photo taken pretending to swim underwater and she ushered us through to the main attractions. It is nice for the kids to pose with characters but the blue screen thing can get a bit dull and expensive so don’t be afraid to say ‘no’!

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