Tuesday, 2 September 2014

“The quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable.” ~ Lane Olinghouse

It has been a fantastic summer holidays for us and is now only t-minus 24hrs until minibrum returns to school, but first today is 10hrs of babysitting. My favourite mum friend has returned to her life as a teacher today and as her two eldest ( masterbrum-6 and littlebrum-4) are coming to ours for the day to play.
  Now ,all three of the children are delightful, they are also very, very stubborn. And today I am alone with them. I figure the only way through is to semi-live blog this play date and then post it for your enjoyment while I take a very long bath in vodka.
   7.55am- Arrival. 7.56am- first request for snack appears. 7.58am-second request for snack appears, sent away and told to build an appetite for snack through play. 8.15am-littlebrum appears and tells me she is 'definitely' dying of hiccoughs as her body is moving. 8.30am- All three children appear with playdoh creations for judging. Ask if children have kept playdoh on wooden floor as requested and not on mini's brand new rug. Bedroom door is slammed hurriedly. This does not bode well.
  8.45am- remember I haven't had breakfast yet. Make toast. Masterbrum appears to query if I am having snack behind their back. Looks very suspicious at my denial. New request for snack made. Denied.

  8.50am, check room... purple rug now has orange playdoh blob decoration. Jigsaws, teddies, playdoh and Sylvanian teddies obliterate rug. Order tidy up before more games commence. Re-told to tidy 4 times. Threaten to throw snacks in bin. Room tidied double quick. Rug still orange.
 9.05am. Children decide to play loom bands. 9.06am No child can remember how to do loom bands. 9.07am I hide in living room to avoid admitting I cannot make loom bands either! 9.25am. First request to release the cat, say no as cat sleeping. Real reason, cat does not need the terror. Also am saving the cat for 3pm when I run out of ideas. Order 30mins of no requests if they want snack at 10am. Miraculous silence!

 10.05am snack given, only sound of chewing remains for around two seconds. Room now covered in Lego, I am informed they cannot tidy the Lego as it is actually minibrums bones and she must be re-assembled in the doctors game first. Leave room and hear them start new game called 'zombie snakes' I guess my daughter remain de-boned.  10.20am first tears! (bet it is not the last) Enter hallway, Operation lies on floor with masterbrum hogging, minibrum sobbing and littlebrum desperate to grass them both up. Force a toilet break to stop the moodiness. Backfires into fight over order of weeing. First time out actioned.
  10.50am colouring gets pulled out along with the magic scissor sets. This is a winner!
  Peace abounds until 11.20am when minibrum gets smacked with a flag. I did not know we owned this particular flag (apparently I am missing the point). I request second tidy up. Request denied. Pulling out big guns I take the park/playground off the table until room is tidy. Two out of three children comply. In rotation. Other child taking it in turns to get told off. 11.40 I pull out the box of junk that has no other position in mini's room. This game must hold them until the cottage pie is complete. I give a series of key words that they must put in the scenario of play and use every toy in the box. There is a tiara on the t-rex and a pair of build a bear flip flops on a gorilla. I sneak out to cook.

12pm ask the children to decide between themselves which movie they would like to watch during dinner and when dinner is 'going down' pre playground visit. What a rookie error!! The ensuing 'discussion' makes question time look like a  zingzillas sing along. Enchanted, Mrs Doubtfire and Lego Movie on the table.. I go to finish mash... Now Mulan, Croods and Night at the Museum is under debate!! At least no-one mentioned Frozen yet.
12.20pm Despicable Me 2 goes on.  My choice. Two children declare lunch amazing, of course third is not so sure! (I will await Mr.H's deciding vote later)
13.34pm Gru is fab, children are in a post lunch daze. 7 minutes quiet! Then request for snack.

2pm Park, worth taking my book ?
2.12pm nope. watch this, watch this WATCH THIS MUUUUUM!!!

3.25pm.. When did it get so hot?! All the kids have come back sweltering and complaining about the heat in their jeans. The living room and bedroom have been slowly burning up. Mini has no problems here grabbing a skirt ,but in desperation Master is now strolling around in some blue scallop edged shorts and Littlebrum is in an old summer school dress of Mini's that is sliding off her! Just told them they were all pirates now and off they run to walk the plank!

3.42pm When they come in and start with 'this is the truth i am telling now' or 'w-w-what happened isssss' I know trouble is brewing. I'm shutting them down with a vimto ice lolly. My parenting is immense today.

3.50pm Blowing bubbles and playing dragons and princes is the next best winner of the day, taking us until 4.20pm when they are beyond fatigued with each other and apparently the entire world. I read them a story with my best voices for eight pages. Look up, they are pulling faces at each other and pointing at the TV! (repeats mantra.. school tomorrow,less than two hours now)

4.45pm Cat is pulled out of emergency box (my bedroom) I gave her a go-get-em tiger salute and pelted away before she realised the full extent of my treachery. I will be forced to hand over many many chicken pieces to this animal later.

5.03pm I switch kettle on with a cuppa, the small click sets off the alarm in every child's brain that mum may be  winding now. I am faced with tales of deep betrayal of the siblings and the grand love of minibrum and masterbrum. It will never last, neither of them like a vacuum!

5.32pm.. Rescued by the new brums Dad, both of us repeating the school tomorrow mantra. All children distraught at the end of 'the most fabulous day'.

5.45pm Minibrum waved off to her own Dad's for the night, clutching a card she made with the magic scissors. On it is a picture of his wedding to his girlfriend (that he has not yet proposed to) with some suggestions for a dress.

5.50pm. Is it too early for a drink?

 Here ends the day.. Anyone know how to get playdoh out of the rug ? 

Friday, 29 August 2014

''Why is there a pair of pants on your ear ''- Me

Minibrum went to a party on Monday.. Apparently a patient zero was there handing out the gifts of vomiting bug. As such while she (and 28 of the 30 kids at the party ouch!) recover you get my waffle on life rather than my waffle on days out.

  Given how amazingly organised and together I appear in these blogs ( pause for laughter) it may come as a surprise to hear that I am one of those women who only discovers they are pregnant late on... 24 weeks late on to be precise. A strange series of hospitalisation and illness meant I only realised when the kicking could no longer feasibly be put down to indigestion. Still, we got very clear ultrasound pics!

When telling all my friends and family of my rather unexpected ( but still happily wanted) pregnancy I ended each chat with 'Well, we will never be this surprised again! .. How wrong I was.  Having a child is continually the most surprising thing I have ever done. Those who knew me before pregnancy may lean towards saying I was...  stubborn tenacious and a pain in the ass challenging and yet post pregnancy I was so mellow yellow I was nearly beige. So after cuddling minibrum and talking her through  baby pics while she recovers I have remembered some of the mortifying unusual things she has said to me, and the most unexpected things I have had to say to her ...


After having fashion explained to her
'Why don't you have any sense of style yet Mum?'

This outfit started style-gate. 

On being asked what she wanted be when she grew up
'A teacher, as the kids are doing ALL the work in my class'

Explaining her Step Parents to a friend on a Play Date 
'It means Santa comes to two houses and I get a double lot of love... and presents.'

During a discussion about music I loved growing up 
'Was it the first or second world war happening then Mum?'

On being asked why if she is in charge of the cat she does not sort the litter tray
'You told me it was not your job to tidy my room just because you look after me...so.... same with cat'
Strong opinions on cleaning!

On her own future parenting after being refused chocolate
'My kids will be allowed to do whatever they want as adults forget that kids know best'

On Naughty Words 
Mini: 'I heard you say the Naughty S word'
Me : (panicky)' What is the naughty S word then?'
Mini: 'Stupid, you told me to always say silly. '
Me: 'Phew! '

Eating in a nice restaurant
'Will one of these servants not bring me ketchup?, they do on Television!'
 On playing wild animals
'I stopped it eating nanny in the village so now I am subduing it!'
Thankfully we have outgrown this game

To her teacher after slipping off a stool in a satin dress whilst drinking lemonade while we drank wine in Portugal
 'Mum got me drunk on holiday until I fell over'

My own favourite parenting moments :

After I left her birthday cake on the sofa while I picked up rubbish  
'Where is the other half of that cake ?!'

Caught chocolate handed

After the doorbell rang while I was looking for clothes in the hall 
'Do not open the front door to the postman until I have a towel wrapped around me'

When I foolishly had a nap after she saw what a hairdresser did 
'Is that my hair on the floor?'

When I wondered why it was so quiet when she was playing wash day
'Why is the cat in the washing machine?'

The escape!

When I told her she was not old enough to learn how to put on makeup

'Glue is for crafts not for your eyelids'

At my Dad's car door after a day on the beach
'That jellyfish is not coming home with us'

During the silence after the question "If any of you has reasons why these two should not be married, speak now''

Good job she was cute.
I'd better go, it is suspiciously quiet in the bedroom..

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

''Someone told me It’s all happening at the zoo''- Paul Simon

It was a girls day for today's post.. Great Nanny and Great Aunt of minibrum took us out for the day on Sunday to Twycross Zoo! This was a nice surprise for us and madness on their part as they only took mini to Weston-Super-Mare on Friday! They are  Gluttons for exhustion fun!
   Well, the quote in the title  could not be more apt, it was all going on! On top of their regular activities, Twycross was also hosting a Sci-Fi event this weekend.    
 Dressing up got you 25% off entrance into the Zoo (we decided it against it as we had an 83 year old  out with us and she was not. keen. AT . ALL! Shame as she would have made a great Leia!! ) Inside there were members from the UKGarrison of 501st legion , dressed as Stormtroopers and Apes from Planet of the Apes. They held characters amazingly well and were pretty fabulous all day, really adding to our experience!

Also there was a life sized  TARDIS from Doctor Who  courtesy of PropsDropUk making my nerdy self  and minibrum very happy! It would have made Mr.H's day but he was at home with his knee injury after celebrating the Warwickshire Birmingham Bears win at cricket!

Added to the dressing up of the public was the excitement of a lot of patrons over the Twycross Zoo photography competition.There are now as time of writing only 5 days left to enter this competition and boy were a lot of people making use of their cameras and phones. Ah the irony as I now post a million pictures myself... Here... see....

Ok,.. On to the animals ! Twycross is a world primate centre and there are plenty of different species to keep everyone happy. The animals seem comfortable and well adjusted here and There was a lot of activity going on in enclosures that had minibrum in stitches. Particularly this moody cutie who led her a merry dance.

Great Aunt found her happy place with the penguins who watched aeroplanes overhead in unison to the delight of the crowd.

The Orangutans fascinated me (as always) to the point I lost my family as they just wandered off without me ..

 As evidenced above currently there are also a good amount of 'Zoo Babies', Twycross has done a great job of highlighting them on the map given out on entry to the enclosures. 
 The map also clearly labels twice the feeding and exhibition times of the animals; first on the pictures of the animals and then in a full time listing so you can plan your day accordingly. My favourite baby was the Elephant who was having a grand old time trying to (unsuccessfully) balance on a rickety log and generally being the funniest cutie around! 

Minibrum was roaring over the adult Meerkats protecting their baby with a good old stink eye!

  Since the last time we went last October the Zoo had three great new added areas. First was the Lorikeet Landing which was I loved! Set in a large indoor protected and netted area you can purchase a little pot of nectar for £1 and the birds will fly down and feed whilst sitting on you. Now, the greats refused to even come inside once they realised this. Minibrum was initially quite brave but once inside panicked and thrust her nectar in my hand (and up my arm) and her arms around my waist, which lead to me juggling her with a Lorikeet on my head and one on each hand. Photo's of this experience are sadly unavailable as Mr.H would have paid good money for this view ! The birds are extremely light and I found it a great experience to have them so lively and so close.  I recommend it highly despite the excitement! They really are very beautiful.

Second is a Butterfly Forest. We went through this as the last bit of our day and it was such a relaxing time I am glad we did it on the wind down. Again protected and netted it is warm inside and slightly humid to suit the butterflies. They are free floating again and gosh they love to settle on people. This had the effect in their of pushing a sweet connection with everyone inside chatting while they watched the creatures sitting on you.
  There is a huge variety of Butterflies inside and the staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about them all. Before I went in I was skeptical that this was the right move for a zoo with so many exotic and amazing animals but after watching mini with another child sharing a butterfly and a hug I am a definitely converted! It was Great Nan's pick of the day on the way home too.

 Finally is the opening of a soft play inside the Himalayas which the cafe and shop area. This is a great structure and minibrum had a great time while we had a cuppa but the cost didn't quite pan out for me. £4.50 for the full two hours she could have taken would have been good but as it was just a pause for us she didn't really make the most of it. Last time we went was a freezing October day for mini's birthday ( we missed the softplay opening by two weeks!) and I feel we all would have gotten a lot more out of it during the colder weather.
 If the soft play is not your thing, no worries as the zoo has plenty of space for running around! Also on offer was face painting and a bouncy castle so there is something for every child to plead for!

 If you have a child like minibrum, who thinks mentioning they need the toilet should only be done in the last nanosecond possible before disaster then Twycross is the place for you. If you played Zoo Tycoon as much as me in the 90's then you will be happy with the layouts here! Toilets, rest areas and drink/snack stops are everywhere around the zoo as are playareas for when you need a break! Our day out here was wonderful and was a fun packed end to 'big events' of our summer holidays. We barely heard an upset child all day and this is definitely worth entrance fee in my book. Details on the zoo can be found here. Seriously, who wouldn't enjoy looking at this :

 This week now is a wind down for us as we look forward to the start of mini's first SAT's year (eek!) and the rain is neverending so the next blog will probably cover something slightly more sedate... Now if you'll excuse me I am off to dig out Zoo Tycoon to see if I can make a gorilla happy ..

Friday, 22 August 2014

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.” ― Anatole France

 Hello! My post today is going to be the first in a mini series over the next few weeks all about Sutton Park. Set over nearly 2500 acres there is plenty to keep everyone in the family happy here.
 I grew up visiting this park weekly so now my family gets a great kick out of watching minibrum do all the things I did a few (ahem) years ago!
Which makes it fitting then that this blog is all about something neither of us had ever done in the park before.... Visiting The Donkey Sanctuary.
 Mini and I left Mr H at home, washing up and went off with  for a morning out. Oh yes all we had a lovely time! The Donkey Sanctuary is less than a ten minute walk from the Town Gate entrance to the park, which is itself a five minute walk from Sutton Coldfield Town Centre.This was our first view....
 There are lots of great things about the sanctuary, large fields, super cute donkeys ( with a couple of very sweet dogs lolling around too) and best of all the sanctuary also operates as an assisted therapy centre for children with additional needs. There is an outdoor play area, a sensory room, and an indoor riding arena for the children to experience structured planned rides or cart rides with the most appropriate donkey for each individual. More information on the opportunities here
 Following the wishes of the sanctuary I didn't take any photos of these sections so have another cute donkey pic .. 
 Although riding the donkeys and cart is restricted to therapy everyone is welcome to come along and look around. Minibrum spent a good long time stroking all the donkeys before a lovely and patient  member of staff taught her to use a brush and clean her favourite ( Oscar). If only she was this good at cleaning at home! The donkeys are so docile this will suit all ages of children.
There is an extremely peaceful atmosphere when you are with the donkeys and the staff could not be nicer here. There is a small table of assorted things related to donkeys to buy and donate to the sanctuary. Mini helped out with some donkey ears and promptly went off into  'Who is that funky looking donkey' quoting ( Everyone is sick of Frozen now right ? ) For adults you can adopt one of the donkeys for a year for yourself or dedicated to someone as a present. They can watch their donkeys online daily!!  More information here

 Overall this is a gentle way to spend a couple of hours and it is very hard not to love the donkeys as they all have quite distinct personalities. The image of them looking soulfully out in the distance is humorous and they are very interested in having a bit of fuss if you can give it. (BrumHour can testify to the softness of donkey ears!)
 There is plenty of factual information about the animals dotted around walls to learn something as well...

 It is so very easy to couple this with wearing your children out on the playground near to the park entrance or to have a good old stomp through the greenery surrounding the sanctuary ( more on this in the next post about the park) All of this, including entry to the sanctuary is free so you can have an ice cream from the hut next to the playground. This day was very wholesome, lots of fresh air and exercise for all of us!  After all, as I am told, even teddies need a play out !

Saturday, 16 August 2014

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ― Carl Sagan

  Today's post is about Thinktank in Birmingham. When I first envisioned this blog (under heavy slight duress from David M over at Brum Hour)  I thought I would avoid the bigger touristy bits of the city and focus on the bits people might not have visited.
 Then, one of my friends and a lifelong Brummie confessed that she had never been to either Thinktank or the Botanical Gardens because they were 'touristy'. Now, some places in Brum should definitely be avoided for those reasons ( I'm looking at you Sea life Centre.) but not these two!
    So, you are stuck with this today,  I promise we will be back to cheap, cheerful and semi forgotten next time!

 I put this photo here first because a. It illustrates the interactive nature of Thinktank and b. It will embarrass Mr.H. This is part of the ''Animate It! Studio section''. At the the time I was recording a number of stills on the computer out of shot while the 'shauns' bounced around to eventually make a film. This in itself is part of a larger section called Kids City, ostensibly aimed at under 7's, but fun as well for the 37 year old pictured!
  Exhibits like this are rife throughout the museum and although I have seen people say they could only spend half a day there, letting minibrum run free on these filled most of the day easily, plus bonus tired child at the end all ready for a chill out before bedtime..

 Split over four floors, Thinktank is easily labelled, easily manoeuvred and easily understood. Everywhere are bold and straightforward explanations of a myriad of subjects, with something to capture everyone's imagination.  Trip Advisor would have you believe that Thinktank is dumbed down or for kids only, but we have found it fantastic for launching conversation and debate and wonderful for carrying on learning outside of school in a fun environment.

That's a giant deer... more information here

 There is a great wet play area ( with overalls provided) explaining physics for younger children ( I also enjoyed splashing around in this, for the benefit of minibrum obviously) and a dress up section. We dressed as doctors, nurses, dentists and midwives. I have seriously struggled resisting  putting up the photo of minibrum midwifing Mr.H through the delivery of his first child!
 There is plenty on animals both current and extinct near the entrance and some very good visual exhibits here.

 Quick note, on this floor  there is a lot of interactive work with the human body, from digestive system to the path that sperm take to fertilisation.
  This is a very clearly labelled section but I was gazing in wonder at a large intestine when mini first had her eyes on the goggles that provide this view. Luckily we had done the basics and the display is very matter of fact and illustrated sensibly but it's one to watch out for if you are hoping to stave off those difficult questions a little longer!
 Upstairs on the top floor was my favourite section of the museum, all about space and robotics. We got a pair of robot arms to drum our rhythm, tried to get a space buggy to to take a photo of some rocks, dizzily got confused in a space buggy interaction and best of all programmed a robot. Apologies for the rubbish photo I was having way too much fun playing!
 Called RoboThespian, here you can programme speech, movement, facial expressions and even colouring to make the robot interact with you. We spent a long time taking turns here but if you go on a day when school trips may be visiting then leave plenty of time to get a look in here.
 On the top floor as well is the planetarium, a 360 experience showing 15minute shows daily. These are not to be missed and you should plan to arrive at them early to be seated! It really is out of this world!
 On the other two floors there are histories of a few subjects, leaving Mr.H in his element. A history of materials had minibrum pulling a face until she got to 'make' a rubber duck, a portrait of her 'jewellery' and to have a go a connecting an electrical system!
  Likewise I thought that I would be bored on the bottom floor with transport the main subject but with a  steam engine, lighthouse equipment and a full spitfire in attendance I was captivated. Much of the history on this floor heavily involves Birmingham and the Black Country, most especially Smethick Engine which was used to pump water to the top of a series of canal locks and many other things ( clicky)

It tips that water every seven minutes. I'd like to say I took this picture for you but I missed it once taking minibrum to the toilet, and missed it again because I left the lens cap on, so I just took this to prove I could.

All in all a day out here is well worth the money. If you are going by bus you can get the  14 (stop BS7), 55/55A 90 or 94 (stop BS9)  or it is only about a 7 minute walk from the city centre
 If you are coming by train then take advantage of London Midland Great Days Out scheme which will get you 30% off entrance. Coffee and Tea were a reasonable price but we bought our own packed lunch so I couldn't comment on the rest of the food!

For more information visit their website which also has a section for science you can try at home for rainy days!

We heart this place!! 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes." — Arthur Conan Doyle

  As usual for Birmingham in the summer holidays, half of today was sunny and half was torrential rain and booming thunder. Guess which half of the day we filled with baking and which we went out geocaching ? At least we remembered our wellies!
  Last night was biscuit week on Great British Bake Off... All of us in the house love  a. fun art and b. gingerbread so today minibrum decided she wanted to try her own entitled 'teddy in space' ..I think she did pretty amazing !
  Baking gingerbread is fairly straightforward but due to the hob work involved it needs a good amount of supervision for younger children. The decorating kids can go wild with ! We halved the amounts from this recipe from BBC Good Food, but put an extra bit of ginger and some cinnamon in for an extra kick!Serve with a good hot chocolate...

After a messy morning and a tasty gingerbread snack we went out geocaching.
 For anyone who doesn't know, caching is basically a modern day treasure hunt. People hide a small plastic container or other cool bit filled with a log book and a couple of mini gifts and place the GPS co-ordinates for their hidden position, along with a couple of clues  on a website.
 You can then use a specific GPS machine or download an app to your phone. Find the cache, sign the log, take a mini thing leave a mini thing and go home feeling super awesome!

  I cannot recommend this as a hobby enough, you can do it almost anywhere, it is fantastic exercise, it adds a good level of excitement to walks and your whole family can do it. There are thousands of 'caches all over the UK and today we used it to our ( soggy ) advantage and stayed close to home. Pop in your postcode here, register and then read the guidelines here and off you go. Premium members pay but basic is free and just as wonderful.
 Just as a guide we live on the edge of farmland, a supermarket and an industrial estate ( all of which make for a lot of my nemesis : evil spiders ) and there are 10 caches within a mile of our house.
 On our way we like to make up stories around possible treasure and see what ( non spidery) creatures we can find !

Today we  found three and then the storm drove us home.

At least we had biscuits.

'' Awkward pauses are a great part of what it is to be human''. - Rainn Wilson, The Office


   Well then..Errrr.....So..... !

   Today I discovered that writing my first blog entry ranked highly on my own  awkward scale. For the record...  Ahead of explaining to a customer that their credit card was declined, but a fair way behind explaining conception at a pool bar to an inquisitive six year old.

 I'm Dawn H. You may have gathered from the title of this blog that I am a thirty...something mum in Birmingham, part of a recombined family with the aforementioned daughter, ( on this blog hereon in referred to as minibrum,!) and a pretty but  sneaky cat!

  This weekend we came back from a week around  Dumfries and Galloway. It was fantastic ( please don't leave us Scotland!) Yet holidays have that pesky way of ending!
 So I am going to make it my mission for the rest of this year at least to blog about the ace things to do both in Brum and at home. Hopefully in rediscovering my love for the area,(  dragging minibrum and sometimes Mr.H along for the ride) I can pass some of the love onto you ( my teeny tiny amount of readers) .

 After all, we are the fabulous second city  (...*gives narrow eyes to  Manchester and Liverpool*...).

 Oh and as we are a car free family ( I would like you to join me in pretending it is for the good of the environment. The real reasons involving entire weekends out having good times on a Saturday girl wage  aged 18 need not apply here.. Ah youth!) I will try and list the public transport used for visits.

As my current other loves involve photography, gbbo, reading vociferously and sewing you will probably see the odd mention of those sneaking in too... Okay awkward moment over ? Please feel free to throw me some places to visit in the comments!

See you soon, 

Dawn H