New York – with kids in tow!

A few years ago the husband and I had a childfree break to New York – and it was fantastic! This time we took some of the kids with us – which had to lend itself to a ‘how a trip to New York differs when you take the kids’ blog post!

  1. Never trust a bargain airport aparthotel!!
    When the husband and I have had an early flight we’ve always stayed on airport.  But travelling with the kids meant it would have to be 2 hotel rooms – or try an apartment.  Yeah – I failed with that one.  The on site parking was good (although an additional overnight charge which I must have missed in the booking) but the slashed sofas / smashed window / ripped sheets / non functioning in room phone were all not the best – and cost almost £300.  But hey ho, you live and learn, and we definitely won’t stay there ever ever again!!
  2.  They will find the free wifi EVERYWHERE – so can be relied upon to provide this information quickly – be it the free airport wifi before the lounge, the lounge, the airport waiting for the baggage, the hotel whilst waiting to check in, random shops etc etc.  Lack of availability of free wifi and the possibility that their social media streaks may fail is seemingly a fate worse than death.
  3. Travelling in the back of a New York taxi in a heatwave is unbearably hot!  Now I don’t know this personally – because I always had the front seat (a ‘benefit’ of horrible travel sickness!)  but the drivers and I were always lovely and airconned.  However, the plastic screen between the front and the back means the cold air does not circulate – and so the back is ROASTING! We did find one driver who had improvised his aircon – which was very welcome!


    I can also say that it would appear New York cabbies don’t like taking 4 customers!  The huffing involved with removing things from the front seat seemed a regular occurrence.  We are also spoilt with taxi drivers in the UK – and especially London – knowing their way about – it would appear that anyone can drive a cab in New York, even with minimal grasp of English let alone any ‘knowledge’ at all!
  4. Siblings will always fight over who has the best bedroom!!  We stayed at The London last time – and after some research, found that their 2 bedroom suites were cheaper than 2 separate rooms in other hotels – so went for that!  Actually the living room was big enough to house a roll out bed – so once child could be in there and one in the separate bedroom to avoid fighting!   The only downside was that the 2 bedroom suites don’t have the view of Central Park that our one bedroom had last time – but that wasn’t a major issue.  Sadly we didn’t celeb spot anyone in the lift this time! (Telling Billy Idol about working in WHSmiths in Acocks Green still ranks as one of the most surreal and random moments ever!!)
  5. Sights that can be Snapchatted / Instagrammed are key to the children!  (I should have guessed this after a dog Snapchat filter was applied to the Mona Lisa in February!) They could tell what shops were nearby by the available Snapchat filters (who knew?  Well, who over 40 knew?!)

  6. You can take kids to lovely restaurants (The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, the King Cole Bar in the St Regis Hotel) – but they’d be just as happy at McDonalds or Burger King. #heathens

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    Helping his Dad with the world famous crab cakes!
  7. For us and people of our age you can remember exactly where you were when 9/11 happened (the husband was having lunch in The Sports Bar on Broad Street, Birmingham – I was at the office of the aerospace company I’d started working for 10 days before) but for the kids it’s history.  We went to the memorial and the museum – which are both really well done – but the emotions for the kids were very different than for us.

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  8. Things end up REALLY expensive when you have to double up – so, for example, taking a bike ride round Central Park.  We were right royally screwed by the 5$ per minute and 25 minute ride (which included the fighting amongst the drivers about whose fare we were, the stopping so we could walk through Strawberry Fields and then stopping at traffic lights IN THE PARK!)  Anyway – 250$ later, and me moaning about thieving robdogs to 2 large Eritrean gentlemen and the lesson has been learned!  Oh well – at least we got to pose in front of the fountain from Friends……..

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  9. You can’t wing it with Broadway tickets!  When the husband and I went to New York previously we watched The Book Of Mormon – which was BRILLIANT – but possibly the least child friendly musical ever!  So we planned ahead and booked tickets for School of Rock – which is equally awesome (but with a lot less swearing and rude stuff!!)

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  10. You might have the kids with you – but your husband will always be the biggest kid of them all!

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    Fountains at Battery Park
  11. You can persuade them to walk further when it’s something interesting – in this case, walking the Highline!  The 12 year old was insistent we did complete end to end too (he is slightly obsessive about such things – but it increased my steps for the day!!)

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  12. Even when your kids are 14 and 12 it’s still really annoying when the flight home is delayed – but at least they managed to sleep on the floor!!

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In summary New York was still so good they named it twice – just different going with the kids in tow – but so lovely to make memories. Also, when you’re used to 4 kids, going away with 2 was surprisingly easy – and we’ve already told the little 2 we’ll take them in a few years time.  I wonder what will have changed in New York by then (this is said with the context that when I went in 1999 I didn’t go to the top of the World Trade Centre as I wanted to go to the shopping mall underneath – and said I’d do ‘Windows on the World’ next time I went………………)

 

 

 

Athletics Angst

My eldest daughter is incredibly academic and conscientious.  Her school reports for both attainment and effort are always really high marks – except for one subject – PE.  She is definitely her mother’s daughter in that department – and just as in my 1980s school reports, she doesn’t get the best grades for physical education.  But hey – you can’t be good at everything, right?!

Today was a Year 9 athletics competition against their rival school (co-incidentally the one her younger brother attends!) and she’d been selected to compete in the javelin and shot put.  Interestingly I remember also being allocated the shot put during my school days – and back then, I didn’t resemble a Russian shot putter in stature, that’s been 30 years in the development …..

Her opening gambit as she got into the car after school was ‘Mum, you won’t believe it, I didn’t come last in the javelin or shot put’ – and I was suitably incredulous – this was excellent, if somewhat surprising, news.

She added that she’d thrown the javelin without killing anyone  – which is always a bonus – and out of 8 throws had only had one disallowed (this harks back to her Year 8 sports day, when her Dad and I were both busy at work, and so couldn’t attend to watch her compete in the long jump.  I’d felt the suitable working mother guilt until she confessed her 3 jumps had all resulted in foul jumps – so I hadn’t missed much!!!)

She also now has a sporting nickname – something I could only ever aspire to – although this is based upon her Brummie accent in a school where most people are from Worcestershire not Birmingham – she’s now ‘the chav with the jav’

I’m not sure she’s quite the successor to Jessica Ennis-Hill – but all in all, a great sporting day #shedidntcomelast

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Scummy Mummies by Helen Thorn and Ellie Gibson

I have been ill for the last fortnight.  There have not been many silver linings to this but I can think of two:

  1. I have powered through a load of books for my Reading Challenge 2017, and
  2. My lovely Auntie sent me a Don’t Buy Her Flowers package.  I’ve sent these to LOADS of people before, but it was really nice to receive one of my own (we can’t count the Mother’s Day one last year as I emailed the link to my husband directly!!)

DBHF

You can tailor the contents of the package for the recipient – and I am very impressed with Auntie Heather’s choices (although I’ve been so ill I can’t face the prosecco yet #shocker)

I’ve already read a couple of the book options – so Scummy Mummies was an excellent choice (although I hope it wasn’t because my Auntie thinks I’m a Scummy Mummy all the time?!?)

Scummy Mummies

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“A celebration of parenting failures, hilarious confessions, fish fingers and wine!

This is a book for anyone who’s ever dealt with a poo in the pool, cleaned up a sick in the supermarket, or gone to an important meeting without realising there’s weetabix stuck to their bum.

Because let’s be honest no matter how much we love our kids, or how good we are at parenting, everyone’s a Scummy Mummy sometimes.”

This book is hilarious!  Proper laugh out loud funny at times.  In fact I had to stop reading in bed last night as I was concerned my shaking with mirth was going to wake the sleeping husband up and he’d think his luck was in!

As it says up front – this is not a parenting manual at all – but it is a ‘we’re all in this together’ type read.  I also liked the fact that as their children are older it deals with playground politics as well as NCT ones.  The hipster Dads and ‘experts’ sections are very amusing – as are the quotes from parents that the Scummy Mummies have collected on their social media, podcast and stand up travels.

There is quite a lot of swearing – which is bloody fine by me, but could put some people off (but if you’re not good with swearing, I suspect some of the rest of the content would have you reaching for your smelling salts too!)

So that’s ‘A Book With Multiple Authors’ ticked off the list.  Although I did toy with ‘A Book With Career Advice’ purely for the section about not getting dressed for work until after you’ve fed the children breakfast………

Under 16s Writing Competition for PDSA

I wrote some weeks ago about my eldest daughter having her lost purse returned to her because of the brilliant people at PDSA Pet Protectors who gave the station staff our contact details.  Well, she is going to be featured in their June magazine (although based on the photo it does like it should be a ‘woe is me’ newspaper feature!)

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I exchanged emails with the lovely lady at PDSA who sorted the purse out – and showed her my blog post – and she asked if I would be happy to blog about their children’s writing competition – and how could I refuse?!

PDSA

Firstly some background on PDSA:

“At PDSA we believe that every pet deserves a happy and healthy life. We strive to improve pet welfare through preventive care, emergency treatment and education work. We provide charitable vet care across the UK through our 51 Pet Hospitals and 380 Pet Practices, and we help around 470,000 pets every single year. For more information visit www.pdsa.org.uk

And now their competition:

“To celebrate World Book Day’s 20th anniversary on 2 March we have teamed up with award-winning children’s writer Hilary Robinson to launch our annual writing competition.

The competition is open to budding young writers, aged 16 or under, and this year’s theme is Animal Heroes. To help this year’s entrants, Hilary has started the story of Buddy: a pet who comes to live with twins Jess and James when their grandma moves into a care home. It’s now up to the young writers to complete the story – more details can be found at www.petprotectors.org.uk/writing.  

The winner – judged by Hilary – will receive an Amazon Kindle, a signed set of Hilary’s books, and a VIP tour with Hilary at a PDSA Pet Hospital. Three runners-up will each win a signed copy of Hilary’s latest book Flo of the Somme and a special PDSA Pet Protectors goodie bag.

Entries should be around 1,000 words and can be emailed to petprotectors@pdsa.org.uk or posted to: Young Writers Competition, PDSA Head Office, Whitechapel Way, Priorslee, Telford, Shropshire, TF2 9PQ. The closing date is 26 May 2017 and entrants should give their full name, date of birth, email address, plus their membership number if they are already a Pet Protector (our kids club).”

And for those of you not familiar with Hilary – or World Book Day (bane of the life of parents everywhere who have to send their children into school as characters from their favourite book!!) :

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“Hilary, who is an author, radio producer, broadcaster and feature writer, has written over 50 books for children and is perhaps best known for Mixed Up Fairytales as well as her WWI picture book series, created with War Horse illustrator Martin Impey.  For more information on Hilary Robinson, visit www.hilaryrobinson.co.uk.

World Book Day is designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of and is observed in over 100 countries. It is the biggest celebration of its kind and helps to encourage millions of children to explore the pleasure of books and reading. For more information visit www.worldbookday

I thought it might be a nice thing for kids to do over the Easter holidays – particularly if the weather is pants – and the deadline isn’t until near the end of May, so still plenty of time to get writing!

Now to persuade my 4 under 16s that they want to enter…….

Good luck kids!

 

 

 

 

 

Kisses for Oreos!

The other night the husband was putting the 6 year old to bed…

Daddy “Can I have a kiss goodnight?”

E, thinks for a moment, “Only if you bring me an Oreo”

Daddy “Well, if I can have a kiss now I’ll go and get the Oreo for you”

E “Nope, no kiss until I actually have the Oreo”

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I’m not sure whether to be impressed or concerned for the future…..

#kissesfororeos

There are good people out there!

Yesterday I got an 8am call from a crying 13 year old who had lost her purse on the way to school. She retraced her steps from Tescos to the station but couldn’t find it. She gave me details of what it looked like and the contents (Nando’s loyalty card, debit card, David Lloyd card and about £20 – in that order!) and I reported it online with both London Midland and lostproperty.org – but didn’t hold out much hope (the previous purse she lost on her school train journey didn’t ever turn up again!!)

Then, mid afternoon, I had an email from PDSA Pet Protectors. This is a club that all 4 kids belong to which is part of the PDSA charity for sick animals where they get the Animal Antics magazine every couple of months, and a free gift each year.  Anyway – they’d emailed to say the purse has been found!!

D had clearly missed her Pet Protectors membership card off the list of contents!!

So – there are lots of wonderful people out there to thank –

Firstly the person who found the purse and handed it in at the station with all of the contents intact, including the cash.

Secondly the staff at Worcester Foregate Street station who didn’t just chuck the purse in a lost property box, but went through it to try and track the owner down.

And finally the PDSA Pet Protectors staff who definitely went above and beyond their remit to track us down. They left a voicemail on the home phone – and emailed me too.

All in all there was a very happy 13 year old (although she doesn’t look that enamoured in the photo!) reunited with her purse!!

There are good people out there.

daisy

Parenting ‘Treats’

I’ve been a parent now for 13.5 years.  If you’d told me a decade and a half ago what I would now consider to be a ‘treat’ I would have laughed hysterically – but here goes!

Going to the toilet on your own.
Sounds simple – but happens rarely when your children are in the same house.  It’s like as soon as your bum hits the seat there is something that needs opening / closing / refereeing / discussing in great detail.

This Rosie Made A Thing card sums it up perfectly (she has some other EXCELLENT cards too, ideal for Mothers’ Day or my birthday next month!)

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Sleeping in your own bed with just your husband.
I drafted a large chunk of this blog post in my head last night whilst sharing a bed with a wriggly 5 year old who was really unsettled (last night before returning to school after half term probably being the main reason.)  In the last 13 years it’s been pretty rare to have an uninterrupted nights sleep where both the husband and I stay in the same bed ALL NIGHT.  On the rare occasion this does happen – it’s pretty much guaranteed that you won’t get 2 consecutive nights…

Wearing clean clothes.
Thankfully I’m pretty much past the vomit / snot / breast milk on clothes stage – but it was around for a long time.  I remember being asked in the hairdressers which was my coat – and I pointed out ‘the one with baby sick on the shoulder’. #classy

Going to the supermarket on your own.
Most of the time the weekly shop is conducted online – sometimes even from on the loo if you get a spare 5 minutes to yourself in there (see above!).  But on the odd occasion I get to wander around now it feels like I’ve been let out! And supermarkets now sell EVERYTHING – so you can pick up a nice, longline ‘Mum’ top with the kale and blueberries (ok, nuggets and oven chips!!)

Driving on your own
If we’re going on a family drive there has to be negotiations about whether we’re watching a DVD (Trolls is the incumbent at the moment) or listening to the radio.  Then there’s negotiations about what radio station it has to be.  None of this matters to the 12 year old who will be pretending he’s Stormzy listening to his phone and rapping along in the back anyway.  The 5 year old will have a melt down if anyone starts singing as she hates loud noise – and there will undoubtedly be a breakdown because a toy / snack / drink has been dropped and can not be retrieved. If the phone or Sat Nav dares interrupt a critical scene in the film or the chorus of a favourite track – then there is also likely to be stroppage.
So the BLISS of driving along alone with your favourite music blaring (generally Heart – don’t judge me!!) and the windows down is just fabulous.

[ETA – I was driving the big 2 home from the station tonight when Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey came on the aforementioned Heart  – and the 3 of us sang along at the tops of our voices. It was one of those real #winningatparenting moments – and better than being on my own most definitely.]

Not having to share your food
It doesn’t seem to matter what my kids order – they then decide what I’ve ordered looks way better.  The current case in point being chicken and cheese rolls from our local Chinese takeaway.  They are LUSH – so I ordered myself some as a treat.  The children had been asked what they wanted and at no point had mentioned chicken and cheese rolls – but of course, when they arrived they wanted them!  And being a good Mum (sometimes anyway) I let them have them.  So on the occasions I get to eat what I’ve ordered, it does feel like a treat (especially if I can actually savour it and if I’m not hiding in the utility room stuffing my face before anyone spots the food !!)

Watching an adult film at the cinema
And by ‘adult film’ I’m not meaning anything risque (hey, I’ve not even seen a Fifty Shades film!) – but anything that isn’t animated! A girls’ night out to see Bridget Jones was great – as I didn’t have to referee my friends as to who sat next to whom, there was no fighting over snacks, no wanting to swap seats or sit on my lap – and I didn’t have to take anyone out to the toilet half way through.  Perfect!

Packing for one
Usually my packing is for a family of 6.  The 13 year old will need to take at least 2 pairs of shoes per day.  The 12 year old will want to take his most recent remote controlled purchase.  Whilst the 6 and 5 year olds suddenly *NEED* every cuddly toy they’ve ever owned to come away with us. And the husband always packs loads of toiletries and belts (why anyone needs to take as many belts as him on holiday I do not know!)   Therefore I’m left with a corner of the case for my own things.  So packing for just me and the husband (and his belts) is great – but just for me is so decadent (and pretty rare!).

Reading a book
I remember ‘holidays past’ where half of my case would be taken up with books.  Obviously this is now a no-no (see above re packing!) and thank goodness for a Kindle which is a much more efficient use of space.  But many times the Kindle will return from a holiday fully charged due to lack of time to actually sit and read! The odd stolen afternoon with a mug of tea (or glass of wine) and a book or Kindle is just AMAZING!

I reckon most parents are pretty cheap dates now – with ‘treats’ not needing to be being wined and dined somewhere exotic, or splashing the cash wildly.  In fact based on the above I’d be happy in the Sainsbury’s cafe with my book for an hour, maybe stopping for a peaceful wee before heading home with the tunes cranked up in the car!!

Any ‘treats’ you’d like to ‘fess up to??

 

 

 

 

 

Finding E…….

This is like Finding Nemo or Dory – but with less fish and far more stressful for us!!

The other morning we’d all ventured down to the beach at our hotel in Dubai – not something we do that often – we’re more likely to be found by the pool – but everyone (me included, in fact, me especially) had been persuaded to brave the sand!

(I also had a stress about whether the swimsuit was Roxy or Quiksilver – which, let’s face it, wasn’t exactly the most important issue right at that point – but it’s amazing what’s racing through your mind.  The husband had told me subsequently that he was thinking about having to move to a cheaper hotel if we had to stay here for months looking for her – and he calls me the drama queen!!)

The boy and I were swimming in the sea whilst the husband and daughters played on the sand.  But as we came out of the sea the husband was waving frantically.  Our 6 year old, E, had gone to wash her hands in the showers – about 50 yards from where we were camped out on the beach – but she’d not come back.  At this point she’d been missing for just less than 10 minutes.

He’d not wanted to leave the 5 year old alone on the beach, so the 13 year old had done a full check of the route to and from the showers, and then checked around the pool to see if she was there – but no luck.  She then headed up to Beit al Bahar where our villa is situated to check that E hadn’t gone back up there and to alert the staff (who started checking the CCTV immediately, they were great).

I stayed put – frantically scanning the beach – whilst the son went one way on the beach and the husband headed off to the pool area.

I remembered I’d just taken this photo – and envisaged it being shown on Sky News

evie

The boy came back and couldn’t see her on the beach towards the bridge to the Burj – so I left him in charge of his littlest sister, with strict instructions not to move in case E headed back.

I ran up the beach (apologies to anyone who witnessed that – not pretty, and I was so stressed I didn’t even put my cover up on so was just in a swimming cossie which is unheard of for me!) asking people, staff and sunbathers, if they’d seen a 6 year old on her own – no one had.  People kept telling me not to worry as it’s a really safe hotel – but all I could think of (although thankfully didn’t shout at anyone), was ‘I bet that’s what the McCanns said’.  We were actually on the Algarve 15 minutes up the coast with a daughter 6 weeks younger than Madeleine McCann when she went missing – so it’s always been closer to home than I would like.

I decided to try some of the toilets – as the 13 year old had once got locked in a cubicle there – but no sign.  However – as I came out THERE SHE WAS – walking with an enormous man!  She wasn’t crying – although there was a bit of a wobbly lip when I scooped her up – and I thanked the man profusely but then ran off to let the rest of the family know she was ok – and to stand the hotel staff down on their searches.

Turns out E had washed her hands – but walked down onto the beach in a slightly different place to where she’d walked up –  I suspect onto the private Burj Al Arab section rather than the Jumeirah Beach Executive Pool section (can’t fault her aspirations!) and got confused when she couldn’t see us.  She said she’d looked for a bit – but then found a grown up to help (we’ve had a subsequent conversation about it being a member of staff in a uniform should she need help in the future).  The man had spoken to her in a different language (and when I’d spoken to him his English was very accented – I’m guessing he was Russian?) but she’d explained where she was staying and he’d offered to walk her back.  She’d also told him she was from England, and that she was on holiday with her parents and 3 siblings – and no doubt loads more!  The poor bloke probably had his ear bent for 10 minutes. We tried to find him afterwards to buy him a beer (or maybe a vodka if my suspicions on his nationality are correct) but haven’t found him – but we are so grateful to him.

It was such a huge relief that she was ok – and so sensible (whilst the rest of the family were being completely overdramatic) – and has prompted lots of conversations with her and her siblings about what to do if you get lost in the future.

The husband and I celebrated her safe return with pots of tea (as it was before midday and so no brandy was available!) which then got sand kicked over them.  Another good reason to stick to the pool!!

tea

 

 

 

Embarrassing mother award to me!!

The eldest daughter, about whom this tale is based, is mortified I’ve sent the below email – and her younger brother is embarrassed even though he goes to another school!  So what do I do??

Blog about it to see what everyone else thinks! I think I’m totes hilarious (which clearly is part of the problem for the teenager!!)

To set the scene, she started a new school in September in Year 9 (where most of the rest of the year have been there since Year 7) and has been put in the 2nd of 6 maths sets.  She has always enjoyed and been good at maths (definitely one of the many reasons it’s evident she’s my daughter) and is keen to do further maths GCSE – which you have to be in the top set to be allowed to sit.

maths

So here is an extract from my email to her maths teacher – embarrassing mother award to me or what?!?

“We were delighted to hear that D had done so well in the recent maths test (although will be asking her to explain the 6 of the 117 marks she lost!!!)

As we mentioned to you at parents’ evening, D is keen to do further maths at GCSE, but you said that was only possible if she was in top set.  I understand from D, which admittedly is only anecdotal evidence, and only from a small sample of the top set, that her result in this test far exceeded some of those in top set.  I also understand that in recent tests for the 2nd set, her results have been significantly higher than the mode, mean and median for the set!”

Contacts, contacts everywhere…..

I have 4 children (some would say 5 if you count the husband!) and that’s a lot of social lives to organise.  Because I rarely do the school run (God bless our nanny) I’m a bit rubbish with the names of the parents of my younger 2’s friends.  In fact, the older 2 have started new schools and get themselves to and from school once they’ve been dropped at the train station – so I’m quite rubbish with the parents of their new friends too!

I started saving all of their friend’s parents’ (generally Mums) names in my phone with a cross reference to the child’s name.  But now the kids have friends with the same names.  So I have to put in:

The Mum’s name
Their child’s name
The name of my child to whom this friend relates

Honestly – it’s logistically crazy, and my contacts are overflowing!