It’s Tomorrow

It’s half term and the kids get a week off for good behaviour, while I get a week’s hard labour for my sins.

Because keeping four children, aged 7-13, fed, watered and alive for a week can be challenging. I’m not the sort of mum who lays on entertainment 24/7 ; I get them out of the house to walk the dogs for at least an hour a day, we have screen breaks and take time to do music practice and homework. We  do some reading and the pool’s now working, so they will spend time in that. But basically I leave them to do what they want, as long as no one is bleeding or crying too loudly.

With four children, someone always want feeding and our food bill increases when they aren’t at school. I will be doing a lot of refereeing. By the end of next week I will be gasping for some ‘me’ time.

I know these things from experience, but this half term will be different. This coming week I will only have three children to wrangle. Sometimes three is easier than four, sometimes it’s harder.

DD1 is off to France to go sailing for a week. My baby is going overseas without me. Of course, she’s 13 now, so not technically a baby. But if you are a mum reading this you’ll know what I mean; they will be always our babies, won’t they?

This activity week has been looming on the horizon for months, then weeks , then days and suddenly it’s tomorrow! Tomorrow she’s going to be getting on a coach with about 60 other boys and girls and heading across the channel for a week on the water and sleeping in tents.

She’s off for 8 days- Saturday to Saturday. 7 nights! She’ll ‘sleep’ two of those nights on the coach. I guess it’s good practice for those inevitable  18-30 coach tours to Europe but they are expected to be up for a full days sailing when they arrive at the campsite 18 hours after they leave. I guess the teachers want them to sleep well the next night.

DD is a bit nervous, but she has a friend with her for company. I know she’ll have a fabulous time and will come home just that little bit more independent.

And I am pleased she has the gumption to learn a new skill and do something like this, but I’m going to miss her. When I get a moment to remember I’m missing one, I’ll be thinking of her a lot.

I also know from experience that when DD gets back home, she’ll be so tired that we’ll be lucky to see her for the next day or two. If we are unlucky, she will make her presence felt by squeezing a week’s worth of arguments into 36 hours.

But before we know it, she’ll be back at school and half term will be over.

I’ll have the house to myself again, along with an empty fridge and a lot of washing. And there will be only 7 weeks to go until Summer.

Sailing picos

Feel At Home in Spain With Three

Some people are good with languages and some are not. I have always believed that I fall into the latter category.

The basis of this belief is a mostly forgotten memory of the three years I spent in secondary school in NZ trying to learn German. I’m not sure who was most frustrated by this exercise, me or my poor teacher. Let’s just say nothing came naturally to me in that subject and I was relieved to give it up. Good riddance, I thought, and when am I ever going to use a foreign language?

Now, of course, I live in England and our holiday travel plans can depend on who speaks what. Luckily DH gets by with French, and so far I’ve managed to stumble my way through the German speaking countries. But this summer, we are probably heading down through France to Spain, which means that someone has to learn Spanish.

So when I was offered a chance to try out some ‘Learn To Speak  Spanish’ Apps, available on both iPhones and iPads, I decided to give it  a go. There were a lot of Apps to choose from, so I chose the first three that popped up. Mainly I concentrated on Duolingo as I have used it before. But I also used the Busuu Spanish Course, which is designed to help you learn the language while you are actually in the country. I can see this might be useful during our travels but in the meantime, I’ll keep on plodding along at home too. I’m not sure I’m making any progress but it’s only been 2 weeks since I started learning.

Something that will be very useful in our travels through Europe is Three’s Feel At Home offer, where you can use a Three network phone in Spain (and other countries) at no extra cost. This page gives you a list if the countries included and shows you how much money you can save by taking advantage of this offer.

I’m not that hopeful about being able to make myself understood while travelling around Spain any time soon but I have a secret weapon in DD1, who is luckily learning Spanish at school. She has found the Apps very useful in revising for her school exams so they won’t be wasted.

And with Three’s data roaming package, then at least I’ll be able to access a translation App on my phone without bankrupting myself.

Three sent us a ‘Learn Spanish Like A Boss’ pack  in return for this post, but all thoughts above are my own.


The Gallery: Animals

When I say our house is a bit of a zoo, people immediately assume I’m referring to our children’s behaviour.

They may have a point, but usually I’m talking about the number of pets we have. At the moment the number stands at 8; 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 rats, a hamster and a snake. Yes, they do require a fair bit of  feeding, exercise, cleaning out and playing with but as a rule the animals are much less trouble than the kids.

On Tuesday, we almost added another to that number. I was out walking the dogs in the local woods, when the New Dog put his head  into  the grass at the side of the path and pulled out this little fellow.

Thank goodness it was him and not our other dog, as when the duckling wriggled and peeped in alarm, he simply dropped it. Our older dog would have gone ‘Chomp’ and that would have been that.

I managed to grab the poor baby before either of the now excited dogs went in for a second attempt. The duckling didn’t seem to be broken at all, but it was shivering and calling for its mum, so I put the dogs on leads and we waited to see if  Mother duck would show up.

As a rule Mother Ducks do tend to come running if they are in earshot of one of their babies calling for them, but they are not the best mothers and it’s not unusual for them to leave a duckling or two behind as they take their family cross country between bodies of water. After about 10 minutes of frantic peeping from the duckling, it was obvious he had been left behind and was now my problem.

If you find a duckling out and about without its mother and just leave it, it is unlikely to survive. If you leave it where it is, it will probably get eaten by something, attacked by another mother duck or even drown if left in water. I couldn’t bring myself to abandon this one, so I did the only thing I could think of and popped it in my jacket pocket while I headed home. It immediately went quiet and I was able to get it home safely, where I popped it in a cat carrier and decided what to do with it.

I did think briefly about keeping it as I have some experience with domestic ducks, but we live in a London suburb, not a farm and the dogs and cats were far too interested. Plus it was a wild animal and needed to be with other ducklings. Ducks are social and very messy.

Google provided me with the number for St Tiggywinkles, and the lady I spoke to confirmed that we could bring it up to them any time of the night or day. The wildlife hospital was about an hour away, so I was going to have to drive up in the evening, once my husband got home to stay with the kids.

In the meantime, I gave the duckling something to eat ( a finely chopped mini scotch egg!), a little dish of water to dabble in and put him in the kitchen where the dogs couldn’t get him. The kids came home and were enamored. All of them cried when I said we couldn’t keep him and DD1 insisted on coming with me to drop him off.

St Tiggywinkles is in the middle of nowhere, but the people were lovely and told us that ‘Alex’, the duck, would stay with them in a group of similarly aged ducklings until they were adults. At that point the whole group would be released back into the wild. DD sobbed when we left him; she is 13 and very susceptible to any kind of cuteness.

We plan to go and ‘visit’ Alex over half term. Of course we won’t be able to tell which one he is, but  I’m sure it won’t stop us trying.

This post was written as part of the theme over at Sticky Fingers this week. If you want to check out photos of other animals, then head on over.


Review: Flair Plasticine

When you have kids of a certain age, there are a number of arts and crafts materials that you learn to keep in the cupboard for a rainy day.

Pens and paper, sticker books, coloured card, googly eyes, foam shapes and plasticine live in ours. These items have been incorporated into many a school project and craft session, but to be honest our plasticine had seen better days.

We no longer had blocks of different coloured modelling clay, instead we had a rather hairy lump of grey green stuff that lived in a plastic container at the back of our craft cupboard. I didn’t blame the kids for not wanting to play with it and when we were offered a selection of bright and colourful plasticine sets from Flair I  accepted gratefully on their behalf.

Plasticine by Flair
DD3 and DS were pretty happy to see these packs; I think they’d forgotten that plasticine actually came in different colours!

My two youngest had a day off school on Election Day, and spent a happy hour at our kitchen table making different models. DS has hypermobility in his hands so playing with modelling clay is especially good for the muscles around his fingers.

This was his creation. It’s a Minecraft inspired farm block- or something. DS is 7, so I’m just happy to see him away from a screen. But maybe someone needs to bring out a Minecraft themed plasticine pack to inspire him further?

Plasticine Minecraft
DD3 is 9 and she loves animals. She made these two little creatures by herself. I especially like the Penguin.

Penguin and tiger plasticine

Since these packs were opened, they have been played with pretty much every day. The two older girls have had a go too, although they wouldn’t let me photograph them or their creations, and even I have sat down and had a quick creative moment.

Flair’s packs of plasticine range in price from RRP £1.46-£6.99 and are suitable for children ( and adults) from age 3+

Flair sent us some Plasticine pack s in return for this post, but all thoughts above are my own. The models are my children’s.

Guest Post: Dear Mr Cameron…

Yesterday was a bad day for many of us for a variety of reasons, but this post will help you see why parents of disabled children fear their families will be especially affected by the people who will now run our country for the next five years.

Liz has been a friend  for over a decade, and blogs occasionally over at A Dash Of…. Her  eldest son Adam, has autism, ADHD and some learning difficulties but she knows that with the right support he has the ability to contribute to society in the future. But as you’ll see, a lot depends on the  attitude of  those in Westminster.

This is a brilliant piece of writing and as a parent of a daughter with ASD, I wanted to share it on my blog.

You can click through and read her post here and with her permission I’ve also reproduced in full below.

If this post resonates with you in any  way, please share it and maybe, just maybe, her intended recipient will read it.

‘Dear Mr Cameron

Last night I kissed my sleeping son when I went to bed knowing he would be able to vote in the next election and wondering, as he enters adulthood, what sort of world that will be. I woke up this morning and did something I have never done before the morning after an election. I cried, cried for my son’s future. You see, Mr Cameron, my son is autistic. He has ADHD and some learning difficulties and is vulnerable. I already lose too much sleep worrying about the prospects for his future adult life but this morning that sense of fear and dread intensified. Whilst friends were bemoaning the end of the NHS or the education system as we know it my fears were focused purely on that sleeping child and the life that may have to endure in the future. My son is not disabled enough that he will automatically be cared for by the state but neither is he able enough to be able to live truly independently. My son is quiet, he is passive and his life is driven be anxiety.  Will he be told he is fit for work because he can walk 100 metres and pick up 4 litres of milk? Will he be deemed ‘not disabled’ enough for PIP benefits or enhanced social care because an assessor has little understanding of autism or the impact of mental health difficulties? Will your collective horror at the prospect of a minority of ‘lazy scroungers’ claiming benefits mean he, and the other deserving vulnerable, will be unfairly penalised by the draconian measures that have been enforced. I am ashamed to live in a society where a pledge to reduce the welfare budget by £12billion is lauded yet you remain surprisingly quiet on your plans to tackle the scroungers at the other end of economic scale. The welfare state was created to help those at time of need and whilst our hope is for our son to be able to work and support himself, I fear that should his need increase, he will be simply abandoned.


Will there be an NHS service in five years time or will health care be reduced to a series of tenders where services are stripped to the bare bone and profit is put above patient care? Will you still be feeding us the line that no front line services will be cut? Will there be an adult autism or decent quality mental health service that my son can access in adulthood? The current state of mental health services is abysmal and any further erosion of this will lead to services becoming untenable.


Mr Cameron, what ever happened to your vision of a ‘big society’? Will all the voluntary groups and organisations who do so much to make the lives of the vulnerable that little bit easier still exist? Only yesterday I received an email saying that funding had been pulled from a local football group for disabled teenagers. Do you have any idea of the importance of such groups and schemes? So many disabled children cannot access mainstream activities and these give them opportunities that are otherwise denied to them due to their disabilities. Opportunities to socialise, to make friends, to improve their sense of wellbeing and emotional health, to be physically active, to develop new skills, to develop an interest or passion that they can take into adult life and help integrate them into society.


I will do all I can to fight for and protect my child and to equip him as best I can to deal with adult life. However his disability is life long, it is invisible and often poorly understood. I will not always be here to watch over him and I have utterly no confidence that the society we are building will care for my child, and others like him, as he reaches maturity.  I weep for the life I fear he may lead when I am no longer here. I am mindful of Gandhi’s famous quote ‘The True Measure of Any Society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members’ and wonder how that applies to you, Mr Cameron and the choices you will make?  I pray that my tears are unfounded and that compassion returns to the heart of this government. You speak of a promise of a good life and a better future today. When my son goes to the ballot box in five years will you have made good on this assurance to the most vulnerable in society? Can you promise me that, Mr Cameron? That will be my judgment of you.’


How Not To Clean Up A Broken Fluorescent Light Bulb.

A couple of days ago, the New Dog went out the kitchen door and his constantly wagging tail caught an old fluorescent tube that had been left propped up in a corner the kitchen. Obviously,  this is a stupid place to keep a dead UV light tube.

It made such a noise as it smashed that I thought he must have gone through the suroom window. I was very surprised when they proved to be intact.

But  instead, when I looked down the 4 foot tube was lying on the floor, reduced to an intact 2 foot long piece and two feet of smashed, super thin and super fragile glass pieces. It was a mess.

I shut the kitchen doors ( both internal and external) to stop the pets and kids going in and out, and grabbed the intact half of the tube to chuck it to a rubbish bag. There was a sliding sound and a heap of white dust slid out of it, onto the mat we have by the back door.

Shouting at the kids to stay in the living room, I grabbed the hoover and started to clean up the mess. But shutting the room up and hoovering are the WRONG things to do if you accidentally break a fluorescent tube or bulb.

Fluorescent clean up

Fluorescent bulbs should be cleaned up carefully if they break, because they contain a small amount of mercury. The amount is tiny but may present a risk  to small children or pregnant women, thankfully neither of which were present in our house when a tube was broken.

So how should I have cleaned up the mess? WikiHow gives a good review of the recommended procedure.

First of all I should have ventilated the kitchen for at least 15 minutes, then cleaned up the pieces while wearing gloves, using  damp paper towel and duct tape. All rubbish should have been put in a sturdy container and double bagged before being disposed off in the appropriate area of a rubbish tip.

Eventually I Googled to find out whether the broken light could go in the normal rubbish and that’s when I realised what a mistake I’d made.

Luckily  DH came home quite soon after so he cleaned up the rest of the mess appropriately while I Googled to find out how likely it was I was going to die of mercury poisoning. The hoover bag was removed and double bagged with the rest of the rubbish and we also threw out the mat ( brand new last month) that the dust had spilled out on.

So if you’ve broken a fluorescent tube or bulb, don’t panic. It isn’t hard to clean it up properly, but what ever you do, don’t reach for the hoover!