The Gallery: Spring

In our house, spring usually means two things. Cherry tree blossoms and opening our swimming pool.

Sadly, neither of these things has happened this year. Yet.

There are blossoms on some of the trees down our street, but the trees with the really big flowers that rain down petals on you when you shake the branches, are not yet at the blossom snow stage.

Blossom snow

We walked past the tree in the photo above today and found only buds. But give it a week or two and it’ll be ripe for shaking.

If this current spell of niceish weather persists we’ll also have our pool open at about the same time.

Swimming Pool

Yes, we live in the UK and have an outdoor pool in our garden. It’s quite old and we’ve had to replace and repair quite a few bits since we bought it along with the house. We have an automatic safety cover on it so we don’t have to worry about anyone falling in accidentally, and the cover keeps the water clean as well.

We keep the water temperature quite warm and usually swim from Easter to October. We keep saying that one winter we are going to heat it up for Christmas Day and take a dip.

This Easter, we’ve been waiting for some work to be done on the boiler. It turns out that it’s more complicated than the pool boiler repair guys initially thought but it’s almost sorted now.

And once it’s done, there will be no keeping the kids out.

Spring will have really arrived.

This post was written in response to this week’s Gallery theme over at Sticky Fingers.



Royal Parks Treasure Trail Review

We discovered Treasure Trails last November and I’ve been hanging out for the weather to improve enough to do another one. It’s been such a long, gloomy winter that I’d forgotten all about them.

But on Easter Monday, I was thoroughly sick of chocolate and sitting around indoors and was racking my brain for something to do with four kids aged 7-13 when I remembered how much fun we’d had doing a Treasure Trail last year. The beauty of them is that they are engaging for a wide variety of ages.

I spent 10 minutes perusing the list of trails in Greater London and the Royal Parks of London Trail caught my eye. We all love Hyde and Kensington Parks but tend to always go to the same places; this trail looked a great way of showing us some different parts of these parks.

Planning in front of the Albert Memorial

Standard Treasure Trails are all £6.99 to download and you can print out multiple copies of instructions so everyone can have their own. I suggest you print out one extra as someone always loses or defaces theirs.

Our kids are going through a bit of a sluggish stage and they weren’t that thrilled with the idea of going into London and walking around the Parks, so I made sure I blanked out the bit at the front that stated the length of the trail ( 5 miles) and expected duration ( 3 hours). When they asked, I lied and halved the time but I’d failed to black out this information further inside the booklet and there was a small revolution from my offspring on the Metropolitan Line. In the end I promised them ice cream if they completed the trail. I know it’s not a great way to parent but I needed to get these kids out of the house.

Anyhow, my children’s lack of enthusiasm wasn’t the Treasure Trail’s teams fault. The Royal Parks Trail  is presented as a murder mystery with a number of different suspects and murder weapons. Each location you find gives you clues which help you eliminate someone or something and at the end of the trail you are left with one suspect and one murder weapon.

The kids may have been slow to warm up but thanks to the sometimes tricky, often amusing clues that drew us from one part of the park to the next, they were soon running ahead and scouting the horizon for the next clue.

It did take us 7 hours in the end but that was because  every location had to be run around, climbed over and explored. We spent almost an hour by the Diana memorial and the two little kids sat down in it.

wet clothes after Diana memorial

I had to strip off their soaking trousers and they spent a couple of hours running around Kensington Park with bare legs which earned us some very odd looks.

We also stopped for lunch, then ice creams half way around and then I had to thwart a sit down protest with 8 clues to go. We had to text for one clue as we overshot the location and the kids refused to go back. And we found the last clue before the second to last one but it didn’t matter in the end.

What mattered was that we pulled it together and finished the trail. This is the moment that we found the last clue and DD1 solved the mystery.

Australian memorial hyde park

She had to be reminded it was Not A Competition.

Despite it taking us the entire day, we’d recommend  this Treasure Trail. It’s good value for money and you’ll get to discover some interesting bits of  London’s Royal Parks. It’s a good opportunity to take the kids for a long walk while having toilets and food stalls to hand and will pretty much guarantee they will sleep well that night.

I’m already planning our next Treasure Trail but may look for something a little shorter next time.

The Curse Of The Three Week Long Easter Holiday

We have two child in primary school and two in secondary school at the moment. The two schools are in different counties but usually this doesn’t cause a problem when it comes to holidays.

However this year, and next, our schools’ Easter holidays overlap. So DD3 and DS finished school a week ago and the older two finished school on this Thursday just gone.

This means that this year ( and next) I have three weeks of school holidays to contend with.

At first, this may sound like a good thing. It’s tricky trying to find activities that will suit a teen, a tween and a couple of under tens. So surely it’s a positive thing to only have one week to take all the different ages into account. And surely  fewer children means less squabbling?

Hmm, not in this house, no. I find the house is calmest with all four children around, as they can go and bother someone else if things get fraught between two individuals. If there are only two at home, there is no chance of a change of sibling to quieten things down.

We’ve also found that the children off school still get up at the same time as the ones that need to go to school. This has made for some very long days, and because the school run to both schools requires some input from me, I only get a week where I’m not having to drive/escort kids too/from school.

In the two weeks either end of our three week Easter break, I can’t even take the kids out for a long day anywhere as I have to be back in time to do the school pick up.

I’ll concede that there is a small advantage in only having two children to wrangle though, and it’s cheaper if I want to take them anywhere that charges a fee.

But despite this, I prefer it when the school holidays are in sync. Thank goodness it’s only the Easter holidays that overlap.



The Gallery: Girls

4 girls on a climbing frame

Here are my kids, dressed as ‘fairies and dancers’ about 6 years ago.

In this photo my eldest is 7, the same age as my youngest is now. My youngest is only about 18 months old, and yes, he’s a boy. This is what happens when you are too young to know any better and you have three older sisters who regard you as a life sized doll.

They all loved these outfits and spent hours running around the garden in them. Sometimes I even took them out of the house like this, when I couldn’t be bothered getting them to change. Yes, even DS. People used to tell me how cute they were and he used to dimple happily at them.

These days you couldn’t pay DS to get dressed up as a fairy, and you’d have a hard job persuading any of the girls to do so either. DD1 quite likes skirts and dresses but doesn’t do flounces, and DD2 and DD3 much prefer trousers. DS  just wants to wear shorts. None of them like pink.

Having three girls  and a boy has been interesting but I really haven’t seen that much difference between them as they are growing up. I’m told the teenage years will be the definitive ones as girls are stroppy and boys just withdraw and grunt. We’ve had plenty of the former already and it makes for a very noisy house, so I await the latter  state of affairs with eager anticipation.


Brace Watch Month 26/ Month 2

That’s right.

a/ I haven’t updated Brace Watch for almost a year, and
b/ I now have two daughters wearing braces.

First up, DD1. She’s now 13.

She was only supposed to have braces on for 2 years , but she’s probably got another 12-18 months to go thanks to a disinterested NHS orthodontist who left her without a wire on for about 4 months, and basically pissed around with her teeth.

Our new orthodontist has achieved more in the last 8 months than the previous one did in 16. Unfortunately, at our last appointment yesterday, she told us that she too is leaving. Who knows what the next one will be like?

This was DD1′s mouth after her last treatment with the old orthodontist last May.

Wire on braces 16 months

And this was her upper jaw yesterday, before she had her appointment.

Braces retain canines 26 months

Such a difference! Finally her canines have come down.

Also, in January DD2 , who is 11, had braces fitted for the same reason as her older sister. Dodgy canine teeth seem to run in our family.

DD2 has a couple of issues that make the fitting of braces a little tricky .

Firstly, she has ASD and some sensory issues, so I was worried how she was going to cope with the feel of braces on her teeth and in her mouth. I thought there was a possibility of her having to have them removed early, but figured it was probably worth a crack.

Secondly, she plays the trombone and braces can really interfere with a brass player’s technique.

The first week of her wearing braces was quite difficult for everyone but she did get used to them, and made no fuss at all about yesterday’s adjustments.

I forgot to get a photo specifically of her teeth before she had them fitted, but this close up gives you a good idea.

Retained canine smile


This is her bite after two months of treatment.

retained canines after two months of braces

retained canines braces 2 months

As her canines have moved down, her front tooth gap has closed too.

It’s so far, so good for us as far as braces are concerned and our next appointment isn’t until June. Fingers crossed that the surgery has a replacement orthodontist by then!




Beavers And The G-Word

Beaver Uniform

This is our son; last night he took his Beavers Promise and was invested into a new Beavers Group. I couldn’t be there as I was watching our elder two in their drama show so my husband went along instead.

Those of you who have children in Beavers may notice that DS has a lot of badges to be making his Promise!

This is because this is his second Investiture. He formerly attended a different Beavers colony that started later, was further away and had a different standard of behaviour expected. His new one suits us better, so we moved him.

DH took some video of DS taking his promise and in it you can hear him say the words clearly.

‘I promise to do my best, to be kind and helpful and to love our world’.

This is an alternative promise for Beavers who do not believe in God and don’t want to promise to love something they don’t believe in. The default promise given mentions God, but if this does not fit in with your family’s belief then you can ask for alternative wording.

We were not offered the alternatives as a matter of course but I think we should have been. I only discovered there were  options when chatting to some Scout leader friends on Face Book.

When DS did his first Promise about a year ago, he didn’t think twice about using the variation mentioning God. This time he asked why he was talking about a religion we didn’t follow.

If you have a child making a Beavers Promise and you, or they, are not comfortable with the wording, then talk to your leader as they will have another option that may suit you better.