The Gallery: My Favourite Place

I was going to post a picture yesterday morning of one of the woods I walk the dogs in. I love it, especially at this time of the year. It’s all green leaves and bluebells; you can almost see spring unfurling in front of your eyes.

But I didn’t have time to post before we left the house yesterday. DH is off work this week, so I was determined that we were going to drive to one of our nearest beaches, West Wittering.  I’ve only been there once before, about 7 years ago and I wanted to return with the whole family this time.

The first time I went by myself with a 4 year old, a 3 year old and a 9 month year old.  All I can remember is watching the older two go further and further out  in the shallow water , while I wrestled with breastfeeding a sand-phobic crawler.  What was I thinking? I don’t think I really enjoyed the experience, but as a Kiwi-in-the-UK I feel somewhat guilty that my children’s lives so far have involved very few days on the beach. Beaches featured very strongly in my less than ideal childhood but I do remember feeling very calm and settled whenever I was near the ocean. The beach used to be my very favourite place.

So, yesterday;  the weather forecast was for blue skies and sunshine although it was going to be a bit nippy. I still wanted to go, so bullied DH and the kids into some appropriate clothing, got together sandals and crocs and chucked some food into a cool bag, then hustled everyone into the car.

It took us two hours to get there and when we did arrive we found it was a lot cooler than it had been at home. But the kids loved it.

We bought buckets and spades and the kids set straight to work digging holes and making castles that eventually sucuumbed to the incoming tide.

Buckets and spades
Eventually, the call of the sea was too great and they downed their tools and went paddling. Fully clothed.

Paddling at Easter

And then they came racing out, screaming it was cold.

Coming out of the cold sea

And then they got into their togs and spent the rest of the day getting wet, coming back to the towels to warm up, then going back in the sea again. In April! Crazy kids.

After all the earlier rushing around, I just sat and watched my children play on the beach, the way I had as a child, all those years ago and almost 12 000 miles away. At the end of the day we ended up driving for 6 hours to get 3 hours of beach time, but it was totally worth it.

It seems the beach is still my favourite place.

For more Favourite Places, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.




Screen Time, Scream Time

In our house we have too many screens.

We have too many Nintendo DSs, 3 smart phones, 5 tablets, 3 desk tops, a WiiU, an Xbox360, two TVs and a couple of laptops. Our children have plenty of screens and games to chose from and our challenge is usually, not to keep them entertained, but to limit their screen time.

Usually we say no games or Youtube during the school week; we save these for for Friday nights and weekends. And then we try and limit their time for a couple of hours at a time. But it can be hard work keeping them to these limits; they always want ’5 more minutes’ and getting them to put the screens away can often feel like more trouble than it’s worth.

But every now and again, usually during the school holidays, we throw caution to the wind and declare it a screen-time pyjama day.  The rule is that as long as they behave themselves, don’t argue or upset anyone else, they can play on whatever screen they desire, for as long as they want to.

You would think the kids would be ecstatic about this, wouldn’t you? You’d think they would be eternally grateful, plug themselves into their chosen device, and lose themselves in the digital world for the rest of the day.

But no. In our house, we have peace and quiet for a couple of hours max. Then they inevitably  stop for a snack and a run around outside, and when they come back to their screens they start fighting.

‘It’s my turn on the Xbox’, ‘ I want to be controller number one’, ‘I want to play something else’, ‘She’s killing all my cats’.

At which point I get cross and turn off all the screens and all hell breaks loose.

Screen days in this house often end with four grumpy, disillusioned children who are too under exercised and too over stimulated to go to bed nicely.

I need to remember this next time I suggest a ‘Screen Day’. It’s a bit like childbirth, and I keep forgetting the pain involved.

Kids on screens


The Gallery: A Photo I’m Proud Of

Sunset at Swakopmund
In August 2012 our summer holiday took us to Namibia and South Africa, where we  hired a car and drove around on deserted gravel roads for 3 weeks.

It was quite an adventure and I had many great photo opportunities, but I think this is my favourite photo. I’ve posted it before but I still get a kick out of looking at it.

We were staying Swakopmund, a small city on the East Coast of the African Continent, for a few days.  It was a winter there, and because it’s surrounded by desert on three sides, you get this sea mist that rolls in off the Atlantic ocean most mornings but usually clears up later in the day. The temperature often started off in the mornings at around 10C, which was quite chilly after the warmer days we’d gotten used to. We were pleased we’d  bothered to pack our fleeces after all.

In the evening we wandered down to the beach front and watched the sun go down. It always looked enormous  and there was a concrete viewing platform that allowed a good view. One night the kids were in the playground, and I was on the beach watching the sunset, when a lone figure wandered out onto the platform. I quickly moved along the sand a little, so the figure looked like they were standing right in the middle of the sun and took a few different shots.

I liked this one especially, because of the mural/graffiti on the wall by the platform and newly lit streetlamp to the left of the picture.

After I took the photo, the figure walked down past the playground and proved to be a teenage girl. I approached her and gave her my email, and said I would send her a copy of the photos if she contacted me, but she never has.

To see more photos that make people proud, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.


Brace Watch; 12/14 Months On

Another late one, which means there will be another update along very soon.

DD1 went back to the Orthodontist at the beginning of February; a year after her braces first went on. The Orthodontist felt that her canines weren’t coming down the way they should, so she removed DD’s wire completely, and left her with just the brackets.

This is what her teeth looked like before treatment started in January 2013.

impacted canine teeth upper jaw
And this  is her mouth now, at the beginning of April 2014.

retained canines. 12 months of braces

You can see that DD’s canines have come right down now after a couple of months of no wire attached to the brackets. Hopefully the wire will go back on to start the job of straightening again, at her next appointment which is…well, who knows?

We had an appointment for last week which we had to cancel, so are now on the ‘waiting list’ for an appointment. Last time this happened DD didn’t get seen for 4 months. The joys of NHS treatment, eh?

The possible good news is that our Orthodontist is leaving and we are getting a new one. She’s supposed to be very nice, which will make a change as the one we have at the moment is very brusque and not at all empathetic when DD gets worried about some aspect of her treatment.

But we’ll see. Right now, we are just holding out for another appointment with whoever we can get, after which I will update ‘Brace Watch’ promptly for a change.

Review: An FM Transmitter That Works!

I spend a lot of time in the car.

I use it to get to places suitable for walking our dogs, to pick up and drop off children to activities and parties, and our holidays, which often involve a fair bit of driving.

If the kids are in the car with me, I like  to chat to them about their day and where we are going, but sometimes it’s just me by myself ( or with the dogs!). I usually spend the time listening to the radio but have often wondered if there was a way of making better use of that time. The answer to that appears to be yes, there is.

A friend has just introduced me to Audible, an App that lets you listen to audio books on your computer, tablet or MP3 player. I love it but I don’t like wearing headphones while driving the car; it doesn’t seem safe.

Recently I was contacted by My Trendy Phone, an online store that sells all kinds of mobile devices and associated accessories. They asked if I’d like to review an accessory of my choice, and as one of our dogs had just eaten my mobile phone car charger, I asked if they had a replacement one  I could try.

They had a variety of in-car chargers to choose from but in the end I went for something a bit different. I chose this car charger that comes with four different adapters, so it can be used with a wide variety of mobile devices. But that’s not all; this charger also functions as an FM transmitter, which means that you can listen to anything that you have stored on your phone or mobile device.

fm transmitter/car charger

We bought a different brand of FM transmitter a few years ago for a long drive from the UK to the Alps, and were distinctly underwhelmed. It really didn’t work very well at all, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. But I figured that if it didn’t work, then at least I could use it as a charger.

I was pleasantly surprised. It works well. You have to make sure the FM frequency you have the LED screen set to is not near the frequency of the radio station you are listening to otherwise you do get some static, but the device charges up my Samsung Galaxy Note II very nicely.

But the best thing about this product is that the FM transmitter works too. The sound is not crystal clear in my car; I have to turn the volume up quite loud to be able to hear whatever I am playing from my phone, and there is quite a bit of white noise as a result, but it’s perfectly enjoyable. I started out by listening to music, but then I realised I could listen to  books being read to me through the Audible App. Now when I’m in the car by myself, that’s all I do. My time on the road is now filled with all those books I’ll never get around to reading otherwise.

This FM transmitter/ Phone Charger is a great little gadget and will come in very handy when we go away on our next driving holiday. I’ve only used it with my Galaxy phone but it also works with iAnythings and most other mobile devices.

It retails for £12.60  from My Trendy Phone and works straight out of the packet. Just don’t forget to turn the volume down before you switch the radio back on.

I was sent this FM transmitter/Charger in return for this review but the opinion expressed above is my honest opinion.


Exam Nerves

There is only one thing more terrifying than having to sit an exam yourself. And that is to have your child take a test or an exam.

All that practice, all that revising, all that time and money spent on the subject and they only get one chance. It’s only 1 small fraction of a day for your offspring to demonstrate all they know. Will they bomb? Will they sail through? Only time will tell.

Lots of  careful preparation may increase the odds but it’s no guarantee of a good end result. Too much work may put them off the subject for life. And in the end it’s completely out of your hands and everything is up to your child. You have to trust them to keep a clear head and do their best. It’s scary.

On Monday DD3 sat her Grade 1 piano exam. She’s eight, so has been learning for a couple of years and there is no doubt she is musical, but her learning curve has flattened out over the last few months. Learning three relatively complex pieces, a handful of scales/broken chords, practicing sight reading and aural tests is a far cry from trotting out a couple of John Thompson tunes a week.

DD3 is a bright girl, who has managed to get through school so far without having to try very hard at all. This is why learning a musical instrument is so good for her. She has had to discipline herself to practice and get everything ready for that 12 minute slot a couple of days ago. She has struggled a bit; one of her pieces is quite weak, but she plays the other two nicely, knows all her scales and chords, is an excellent sight reader and her aural tests come naturally to her, so we are fairly sure she will pass.

She was very anxious but I took her out of school early for a quick practice and a snack, then got to the exam centre in plenty of time. We sat out in the car for a bit, listening to some of her favourite songs and chatting and didn’t head into wait until the very last minute. She seemed fine when she went in and did okay.

I think. I don’t know for sure as the room the exam was in is RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the waiting area and I could hear everything! I couldn’t stand it and went back outside to the car. One of her friends was sitting as well, and her mum said DD sounded fine so fingers crossed. DD keeps talking about the possibility of a distinction but I don’t think so;  going by how she was playing at home she’s more likely to end up with a good pass, or possibly a low merit.

Whatever happens, she’s got her first formal exam under her belt and next time should be easier for her.

I’m a different story, I think my nerves get worse each time!

supervising kitten