Holidays with children …..

It seems only appropriate that whilst I sit here, at 11.30pm at night, trying to download photos and videos from phone, getting increasingly frustrated, that I should write about the complete and utter disconnect between our expectations of a holiday with children and the ensuing reality.

I don’t know about you, but Lovely Bloke and I are deluded. Year after year, we have these lofty ideas of harmonious playing, co-operation and a can do attitude from the moment we step out of our front doors to go on holiday to the moment we get back. The reality, is somewhat different. Before we have even left the house, we’ve resorted to outright bribery.

We’ve promised our offspring a magazine at the airport if they go through check in nicely – without pulling faces at the check in desks, without asking the policeman with a gun if there’s really a bullet in it and daring him to test it. We pray that they won’t repeat what they did last time, when you were unpacking your laptop, two ipads and phones and all associated cables and paraphernalia, which is to strip to their pants for screening because they were told to “take them off” – the person meant their shoes, not everything that they were wearing as well.

Then there’s the treat of having breakfast at the airport. It’s the most surreal thing ever. You’re all excited – but you also have to contain yourselves, knowing that there’s a confined space ahead, where you must all share the two pieces of precious IT kit known as The Blessed iPads. The fact that there’s only one pair of earphones, and that neither of your children want to put the buds in their ears, is irrelevant because everyone else on the flight is in the same position that you are. They are willing your children to well and truly act up and throw the Mother Of All Tantrums, because it will make their youngest flinging food with his fork as a catapult seem tame in comparison.

Anyway, once you and your Other Half have both knocked a couple of Gins and a glass of wine, you’ll be ready for the next bit – known as the Gateway To An Alternate Universe – it’s the bit where you get off the plane and breathe a sigh of relief, before going through another customs check and start to play the “Stand Still Whilst I Chase Our Luggage Around The Carousel” Game. If you’re a family like ours, it will appear to be so much fun that your children will be desperate to play it with you. And your other half, feeling that they want the distance between themselves and the children too, will be keen to join in and act as a wingman for this activity. The latter results in the simmering tensions generated through being nice to each other for a 4 hour flight bubbling to the surface when you both lunge for the same piece of luggage and wrestle to claim the victory of grabbing it. Only to realise that it’s not even yours in the first place.

Anyway, moving swiftly on. At this point, you’re ready to start your holiday. Oh wait, you’re not. You’re ready to get on the coach with two children who could not be dressed any more inappropriately for the climate if you’d tried. It’s the stuff that Michael McIntyre sketches are made of. You’re losing it. Your team mate lost it whilst circling the luggage belt and your children have sensed that they are nearly at the destination, so they’d better gear up to full throttle, to ensure maximum havoc is reached on the final assault towards the Holiday of Heaven.

Yes, it’s the coach. The final hurdle to overcome before you really start your holiday. If you are lucky, you’ll be on a coach that’s big enough for your sobbing and your children’s hysterically tired shrieking to be drowned out by the other families in the same boat. If you’re unlucky it will be a small, quiet coach, where your family are the highlight of everyone else’s eyebrow raising, quiet sighs whilst you are given the title of Those Whom We Must Not Speak To At Any Cost. You can guess which type we usually seem to end up on, can’t you?

Disclaimer – some bits of this piece are not true. Sadly, the majority of it is. I don’t know if you will disown me and never read this blog again if I tell you which is which. We’re currently on holiday at Levante, Rhodes, with Mark Warner and I’m writing about all the brilliant, strange and fabulous things that happen to families when they go on holiday. 

#MyWeek – getting organised on holiday

Pool-Kit-Swimming-DivingNo really, that’s a photo of a ball that floats on water, torpedoes, pair of trainers, more goggles than we have pairs of eyes in our family, a snorkel and a plastic bag for additional detritus that we seem to collect each day.

It’s fairly representative of one aspect of this holiday – the bit where you get uber organised to make it all happen smoothly. I’m starting my review of a week with Mark Warner in Levante, Rhodes, with this as Lovely Bloke will find it hilarious that my first thoughts are of practical recommendations. Regular readers will know that domestic tasks don’t feature highly on my radar when in the UK.

The range of photos that follow encapsulates everything I want to share with you right now. Why? Because to my mind, the best way to ensure that you have a really good week when you’re on a Mark Warner holiday, is getting organised – for yourself and your troops. Here’s my top tips on how you can do just that….

Briefings
I know it sounds really boring, but do go to the briefings. There’s one for each group of childcare and welcome drinks on the evening that you arrive. Lovely Bloke rates the Sangria and had two glasses – mine and his. I’m stuck on a lovely brand of lemonade called “Vap” – I kid you not. I was there to listen to what was on offer, where we needed to be and when. Mark Warner are very thorough in this area, because there’s so much to choose from and it’s a good idea to make a plan of what you’re going to do. Once you’ve been to the briefings and got two copies of each of the timetables of what is on offer, (one for you to keep safe and one for someone else to lose, even though they will insist that they will keep them safe…) you will know where you need to be, when and which person you are looking for, for each activity.

Kit – for all the family, Kids Club and for being at the pool

Rhodes-Levante-Mark-Warner-Pool-Kit

I know, you’d think there’s not much to say here, but there is lots that we are learning about this… I’ve taken these photos at the end of the first full day here. We’ve come back to the room and Lovely Bloke has taken the boy to children’s tea. I have set to work, taking everything – wet and seemingly dry and put them out out to have check in, and put onto their airer to get the fresh air and warm wind on them. You’d be surprised at how smelly things get when you’re not wearing them much!

I figured that by taking photos of it all laid out, it would be my best way of showing you what we are using each day:

Basic kit|

Adult-towels-rash-vestsOf course, there’s the basics – everyone needs a towel (they’re provided here in a sandy colour with the white ones being for in room only) and swimmers. You’ll put your swimmers on before you to go the pool, with some shorts and a t shirt over the top. After that, everyone needs a sun top / rash vest – to keep the sun off your shoulders and neck and also, for when you’re out on the water. It is good to have that between your skin and the buoyancy aids which have all sorts of clips and straps and potentially itchy bits on them. And finally, everyone also needs a hat – our boys have the hats from the Gap with the straps underneath. They are perfect for out on the boats, because they don’t blow off when the wind gets up.

Kids Club kit

Named-Suntan-Lotion-For-Children

Our boys are both going to Kids Club in the mornings and are in separate groups, so here’s what they each need for a session – morning or afternoon, in Club. They can’t share their kit, because they are different ages and so go to different places at different times…

A rucksack / back pack that they can carry themselves
A bottle of suntan lotion. We labelled ours using stickers and put their names on them.
A pair of shoes that are good to wear on the beach – crocs, flip flops or beach shoes.
A pair of trainers that are good for sports and playing games away from the beach.
A towel
A spare set of clothes, including undies. Ours have had the indignity of having to go commando more than once when we’ve forgotten and it cost us heavily in ice cream.

Everyone-needs-their-own-bag

And at the end of this list, here’s the good news…
They do not need money. There’s nothing for them to spend it on.
They do not need food. It’s not allowed at club, to ensure that allergies don’t flare up or cause a problem.

They don’t need to take water with them. Club provides them with water and writes their names on the bottles, every day. They give them water every morning, afternoon and evening – a fresh bottle, so don’t worry about returning the bottles or needing to replenish them. We still put one in their bags for in case they want a slurp before they’ve been given out, but they always come back full, so perhaps that’s overkill on our part.

For the rest of the time, here’s the other things that we take to the pool with us:

Pool-Kit-Games

Playing cards (not that we’ve had chance to use them in the daytime)
A book – for each of us. There’s points where it’s very hot so there’s nothing better than some time out with a book and a calippo at the bar.
Flippers and snorkel – our boys are just discovering the joys of snorkelling so we’ve caved and bought them…
Earplugs – the boots versions, made of what looks like clear plasticine or silicone are best. Not foam ones.
Waspeze and after bite – there’s only a couple of wasps around, but Elliott did stand on something in the grass and it left him with a big sting that had to be removed, so it’s good to carry it with you.

All our Family Kit goes in a huge waterproof bag – it’s the blue one in the pictures. The boys are using a rucksack each. And I’ve got a bag that I’m currently reviewing from Mint Velvet, so I’m using that because it’s got a great inner zip and keeps everything safe. With it being soft, I also put it under the towel and use as a pillow when I’m snoozing.

So, that’s it for now. I think. You will notice a lilo in the background – that is strictly contraband in my book, but Lovely Bloke and Elliott came back with one from the shop. Because it’s contraband, all three of the boys think it’s simply The Best Thing Ever, so I’m leaving it to pass whilst it’s keeping them quiet…

Anyway, it’s time for dinner soon, so I’m heading for the shower and thinking positive thoughts on the subject of hair detangling without me crying too much – pool and sea water all day long produces a wild, back combed look that I try to heal each night and usually, don’t make much progress with. Wish me luck.

PS. We are on holiday and using the #MyWeek – which thousands of people are using at the moment, to show different sides to their Mark Warner holiday. We’re here on review and have paid for some of out stay here, but not at the usual going rate. We stayed here totally under our own steam in June this year and had such a good time, and loved sharing everything that when the opportunity came to return, we took it with both hands and quickly packed our bags!!!

PPS. Hello House Sitters – hope that your little one isn’t eating too much of the Lego! Thank you for keeping our house safe whilst we are away x

Best changing bag

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Lovely Bloke models the bag as a messenger bag. At the train station #Glamour

Yes, I just wrote Best Changing Bag as the title of this blog post. And why, you may ask? Because I am reviewing the Baby Mule or is it BabyMule range of changing bags. They are out there as baby changing bags, but to me they are literally a changing bag – it changes all the time. I took it away with Lovely Bloke last weekend for an overnight in London. We got everything in there and used most of the compartments! The bottle insulator was perfect for my make up, pens and some painkillers in case we overdid it with the cocktails and the key fob was perfect to keep the car key safe. The secure little inner zip was great for His wallet and train tickets. And it was truly, perfect. I have also used it again this week with the boys – we had a picnic and I put the food out on the changing mat! So I am totally convinced that had I had this bag when the boys were small I’d be able to sing its praises even more than I can now. Seriously. Go and get one. They are totes amazeballs. And did I mention the little places to fit my mac and apple cables??? !!!!!

How do I love thee – let me count the ways!!!!

Screenshot 2014-08-22 16.53.03

Lovely Bloke with a rucksack full of overnight kit! #LostInLondon

Happy Sounds

I’m sat in the back lounge, listening to my two boys chatting away about loom bands with two other boys, who are here visiting. They both refer to each other as “special cousins” because although they aren’t linked by blood, they are special to each other. They are the sons of one of Lovely Bloke’s best friends. It’s truly lovely to just sit here listening to the commentary and observations they are making.

For my part, I daren’t go in and offer them a drink or snack – they’ve already had their breakfasts, because I don’t want to interrupt the happiness and cooperative playing. It’s special stuff. I should record their animated debates about the relative virtues of an underdog called ??? who has special powers. And which they would have if they were each the underdog.

Anyway, I’m off to find some more dissolvable asprin. I am unwell and feeling quite meh about it. It’s only August. I’m juicing. How can I be unwell? It just doesn’t add up. Grrrrrr

Mint Velvet – Rose Crescent, Cambridge.

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ooooh, would you loooook at this????? Helllooooo Mint Velvet. I had a good look around in the shop today – their shop in Rose Cresent – near to Cellini’s and God Forbid I use the word – McDonalds ;) But anyway, it’s there and it’s lovely. It’s full of a huge range of clothes – and yes, lots of them are available in an 18, and there’s some patterns and strong stuff, mixed in with jumpers and vests and tops that I will be returning to purchase soon!!! I only had 30 mins today, and I met with their PR team, to find out about what they’ve got coming up locally. I’m going to write more about that soon but for now, well, hellooooooo Lovely Bag. I’ve opted to review this as it’s going to be perfect for my macbook and kit for when I wear my Baukjen silver pumps, silver bracelets and silver necklace. See the theme there – yup – silver….. Over and out for now.

This is not a sponsored post. This is not a required post or anything of the sort. I’m just excited to be reviewing this handbag and seeing how much I can fit into it x

 

 

 

See you soon, Grandma and Grumpy Grandad.

liz-weston

I have to say, that I’m feeling a bit meh tonight. My Mummy and Daddy have gone home, and I miss them already. E cried himself to sleep as no one is as good at football as Grumpy Grandad, and no one is as good and/or funny at trying to play tennis as Grandma.  And he’s right on both counts – my Dad diving to get to a pass and landing in the bikes, followed by my Mum’s endless patience – even when a pear lands on her head. There’s no one as good as them for that kind of thing.

I’ve promised him that we will go to Cambridge tomorrow, to Waterstones and buy him another book like the one he’s been reading to my Dad every night for the last 10 days. And that we might find a hot chocolate to share.

I have been trying to explain to him that it’s ok to feel sad, and miss people, because it means we are able to really appreciate and be excited and happy when we are reunited with them. But he’s 7 years old. So I don’t think it’s really helped much. How do you explain this kind of thing to your not little but not big ones?

How did that happen?

Where has another week and a bit – nearly two whole weeks of the summer holidays gone? I am bewildered, dazed and confused. This whole working and doing childcare thing is finishing me off. I said that I would not work so much in the holidays so that I could devote myself entirely to the boys. Well. a) work is coming in that I don’t want to turn down because it’s so exciting and cool that I want to mainline diet coke and work around the clock on it and b) my beloved boys, 24/7, are actually quite demanding. And I’m not the most patient person in the world with the latter.

Of course, I’m not supposed to admit that the summer hols are anything other than a walk in the park, but I am. This is my first summer of juggling and it really is hard work! When Lovely Bloke works an early shift and comes home at 3pm, I cannot start an 8 hour day then – I’m ruined from a full on day with the boys. And that’s without me actually cooking dinner for them. I’m that bad at being a Domestic Goddess. Whilst I remember, I have to share this with you – it’s my friend, the Domestic Gooddesque’s post on her FB page. It sums up my summer holiday experience so far, perfectly.

I’m taking a #mumbreak. No, this is not a microwave chocolate chip cookie. Or ice cream. Or a Diet Coke. I did not hide round the corner of the house like an employee on a fag break.

Kelly-Innes

The summer holidays – week one…

To be truthful, we’ve not even done a full week and it feels like they’ve been at home with us forever. But I want to document what we’ve been up to, so that I can wave this at them when they tell me they are bored and that we aren’t doing anything cool ;)

Wednesday – finish school, chocolate trip, swimming lesson with S for E, and Lovely Bloke and W swimming and splashing.

Thursday – AM – trip to Cherry Hinton splash park and picnic lunch with AKT and her girls, PM – pool duty at school, dinner out at Green Man in Trumpington

Friday – trip to Aldi made uber cool by us taking 15 month old nephew with us. Boys love him, he loves the boys – happiness all round. Daddy home from work and boys playing with him whilst I get some work done.

Saturday – play date with Mrs C and her two little ones. The boys show them their playframe and then, err, well, they introduce them to Power Rangers on netflix. And then a play at Shelford rec, where we see a friend from school who will kick a football about.

Sunday – playing at home. Lovely Bloke and I are pooped. I’m tidying the clothes and putting them away as we intend to re arrange rooms this week… More on that later.

Bring on tomorrow and my mum and dad arriving for 10 days!!! It’s going to be a long 10 days as we annoy each other. But the boys will love it. And so will we x

“Hello Grandma! Now, what presents have you brought me????”.

It’s THE BIG DAY – Tour De France comes to Cambridge. But it doesn’t mean anything in our house at 6.30am. Instead, because we are having a very special day off school, William and I are knee deep in Lego. Literally. OK, well maybe ankle deep, but that doesn’t visualise as well, does it?

I used to spend my Saturday morning’s writing things about what he’d be doing whilst I tried and usually failed, to keep him quiet whilst Lovely Bloke and Elliott slept in. So this feels very de ja vu like – him making a Lego stand, and then throwing other bits of Lego at it, to knock them over. Like Angry Birds, but using Lego. I think. Whatever he’s doing, he’s happy. He’s wearing the necklace that Emily, his friend from school has made him. He loves it – pink, shiny and it has a shell in it !!!! He’s very impressed with it. So much so, that he’s made her a ring, with a “gem” in it. I asked Lovely Bloke what he’d actually produced – apparently it’s a piece of paper with something drawn on it. Lovely Bloke muttered something about his being happy with that, because it was keeping expectations real from an early age………

In other news, I have not published any posts on our fabulous week at Mark Warner’s Levante resort in Rhodes (it’s an island off Greece and I *totally* knew that before I booked it, honest). It was the best holiday we’ve ever had together as a family for all sorts of reasons and I totally recommend it to you – just not in August when it’s 6K a week, for 2 adults and 2 little people. As the boys at so little, I wonder if they’d let us go back with self catering for them and half board for us? I can live in hope I suppose.

But I digress, back to the main event. My mum and dad are here, sleeping upstairs. Elliott and Lovely Bloke are in another big bed together. And all feels right in the world. It’s hard to explain how I feel when my mum and dad come to visit. I just feel more relaxed. I like to know that they are nearby. I don’t even need to rush in to see them when they arrive. It’s just better knowing that they are there. The opposite prevails for the boys of course – stood on the drive, looking for Grandma and Grumpy – “Hello Grandma! <Big cuddles> Now, what presents have you brought me????”. For shame… Because my mum doesn’t see the boys every week, she buys bits and bobs for them and they think it’s Christmas whenever they visit. But she’s told me of a change in plans – she’s now putting money in a box for them, instead of buying bits and bobs. But I know she can’t help it – she’ll be putting money in a box and buying Horrible Histories mugs and notebooks as well. I hope that if I ever get to be a Grandma, I’ll be half as good as she is.

Later today, we’re off to Anna’s house, as she’s directly on the route for Tour De France – it’s going to be exciting, and also nerve wracking as I don’t want my boys to be the ones that make the TV for knocking anyone over. I did toy with the idea of putting a stake in her front garden, and tethering them to it with a piece of rope, but apparently that’s not the thing to do these days. Such a shame. So instead, I’m going to go down the bribery and corruption route. That usually works. Eventually.

Sticking with my roots and considering a road trip!

I have to update you all on this. I’m doing some stuff this summer, that’s about getting back to my roots. And I’m even considering a road trip. Some with my boys, some with my mum and dad, brother and his Mrs to be. And some, on my own. I’ve not got all the details sorted out yet. But I’m putting it out there for your input. How do you stick with your roots? Do you want to? Are you happy with your roots – where you came from?

I’m happy with a lot of it to be honest. It would be a much more interesting story if I’d had a pants childhood. But apart from being rubbish at being friends with girls as a teenager, and that being years of secondary school being the worst experience ever, I had a good one :)) Especially when I think back to swingball in the back garden, handstand competitions against the hallway wall of our house – I think there were 10 of them doing it at one point and water fights, and Chris’ dad dressing up as Father Christmas each year. Yes. There was lots of good stuff. And even more when I hit 15 / nearly 16 and met the first love of my life – Nick. So much fun. So many happy times. Yes. I had a good one, and want to do stuff to make sure I remember it!