Category Archives: family

It’s been a while!

Well it’s certainly been a while since I have been on here!

It’s not like there hasn’t been anything going on for me to write about it’s more like I haven’t had the urge to write, but lately that has been changing. So rather than bore you will loads of catch up posts I thought I would do a quick run through everything that has been going on.

So this year I have had more hospital imput for my M.E/ Fibromyalgia than I have over the last 8 years since being diagnosed. Finally I managed to get physio treatment for the Carpel Tunnel in my left hand which has helped ease some of the numbness at least. I have also been referred onto a pain management course due to start late September for 7 weeks and I hope that helps me with at least pacing any activity I do ( I am absolutely rubbish at saying ‘No’ to anyone and generally end up overdoing things and then crashing afterwards!). The course will run me up to almost Christmas when I have been told I may get referred onto an exercise class suitable to help with my illness.

Excitingly, earlier this year a ‘dream job’ sort of fell into my lap via a good friend of mine. Dream job in the fact I can do the job in my pj’s, at anytime of day, keeping my own time! Sounds bloody good eh? It comes in the form of running a social media account for a local clothing boutique called Kimmicass (would love you to come and give us a follow) that sells amazing womens clothing that you just cannot find in the high street shops (and will be looking to expand and sell online as well as open more shops too). This one account actually led to a second account for a London florist who lives locally but works independantly for clients like the V&A! This account is a slow burner and is not fully up and running but is definitely getting there and should be more active before Christmas. So how great is that? Literally a dream job for me as with my illness its difficult to predict health wise how I will be feeling on any particular day, but this job does not require me to be anywhere in particular for any length of time! So I get to work from home in my pj’s which I am loving ………….total result!

Also, we had an amazing surprise with my youngest’s sons GCSE results. His plan was originally to do a Level 3 Early years Childcare course at college which he needed 5 passes including English and Maths. Now hes a clever boy so we knew he would get the 5 passes unfortunately his worst subject is maths so we were extremely concerned ( as was he) that he wouldn’t pass that and therefore not be able to do his course. So the results morning was literally the most stressful time ever and I had lots of contingency plans running through my head should he not get his maths. Well talk about a total surprise, not only did he get a level 5 in his Maths ( the new marking system is numbered!) but he also passed ALL 10 GCSE’s and did so well was offered a place back at the school’s 6Th Form!! He was so gobsmacked he literally didn’t know what to do with himself and although he still went over to the college to enrol he ended up taking the place at 6th form to do A levels instead. As you could imagine it was total surprise all round so we ended up going out to his favourite restaurant to celebrate………….it would have been rude not to!

alex meal out

Then it was birthday celebrations for my husband who was turning 50 at the end of August…………….50!! Now he’s not one for big parties etc although is more than happy to go to others he hates being centre of attention himself. So I came up with a cunning plan to use the money that a big party would cost and instead take him away to somewhere I know he has wanted to go to for a long time- ROME! So I managed to find a little family run boutique hotel in the centre of Rome for 4 nights and booked that and some flights etc for early October for the two of us. However, because this was going to be his only present , except for a few bits from the boys, I wanted to make it a little special. So, I came up with the idea of putting some clues together to put inside a cabin size suitcase and then wrap it all up. So I numbered the clues…

  1. A picture of a fountain and some Euro coins (for the Trevy Fountain)
  2. A spanish style fan with a picture of some stone steps ( for the Spanish Steps)
  3. A rosary (hopefully making him think Catholic!)
  4. A dvd of Sparticus with a small Italian flag!! (The Colosseum obviously)

Each clue was wrapped up and numbered and then his present was a gift of 2 guide books for Rome with the flight tickets inside.

present box

suitcase clues

suitcase pic

Now my hubby is not one for showing emotion at ALL but as he opened the guide books his eyes did well up and his hands were physically shaking which showed me he literally had no clue up until that point of what his present was. I had even gone behind his back to one of his work colleagues to help me book his time off work and get it approved (he is in the police so it’s not an easy thing to do without him finding out)……………..BUT I BLOODY DID IT!

rich and present

It was a tough thing to make all the decisions on my own with regard to the flights, the hotel and when to go so I was actually quite relieved when it all seemed to work out. Thankfully now I can relax as I know he will sort everything else out from here- he has already done our medical cards and booked airport parking! The only time throughout that I gave myself a total heart attack was when my Mum asked me on the phone if our passports are in date! For anyone who doesn’t know us we never go away anywhere abroad as we cannot afford it normally and the last time i used my passport was when he took me to Venice for my 40th birthday 7 years ago……………………………………..SO THANKFULLY THEY WERE IN DATE!!

**So if anyone has any recommendations for Rome please let me know**

We also took my eldest back to uni last weekend (sobs) and helped him move into his new shared house ( which is a total state and will be another blog post on its own!) so I am missing him already sitting with us for dinner etc.

Next up is my youngest 17th birthday in a few weeks time before we can get really excited about our trip.

Anyway, it’s lovely to be back and have the urge to put things down in black and white again and would love to hear what you have all been up to. If

Teach your children not to live in fear

So, the last few months have seen us endure some pretty horrific terrorist attacks around the world as well and 3 in 3 months in this country alone, and I hear more and more people online sharing their fears for their children’s future in such a world. I too share those fears even though I have older teens now I wonder what will become their ‘normal’ in say the next 20 years with regards to terrorism, policing and our country’s safety. What will they be bringing their future children into in many years to come?

However, I am  from Belfast, born in 1970 and lived my youngest years into my teens throughout the height of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. The absolute full extent would probably never have been covered in the national media forums unless it involved the mainland itself, but still it continued on a very daily basis in my area as well as many others. My parents back then probably had the exact same fears about our future as children with armed police and the Army patrolling our streets and wondering where it would all end up.

Yet here I am! Old enough to have my own family and worry about their future in the way my parents did before me. Coming from a very loyalist area ( being Protestant) my parents never discussed religion or politics in front of us. We were never brought up with extremist views one way or the other. They never stopped us playing outside, or going anywhere or doing anything…………………life just carried on. We were never brought up to actively ‘hate’ anyone just because a paramilitary group had decided to plant a bomb,or  kill innocent people, or shoot a single person in retaliation for another attack. We were not brought up to think that ‘tit for tat’ killings where OK. As kids we had been segregated to either Protestant or Catholic areas to live and for schooling etc. Yet I remember how excited I was when I got my first part time job in Belfast city centre working inn Argos knowing that I would be ‘mixing’ with Catholics and working in a ‘mixed’ area. I had a blast in that job. The people I met and the friends I made just made my time there brilliant fun.

What I am trying to say is that my parents never made religion and the issues surrounding it in Northern Ireland and issue for us growing up. We were not brought up to ‘hate’ a person just because they were a different religion to ourselves.

So  if you are afraid of what the future holds for your children then teach them that not everyone of that race or religion believes the same as those extremists. I never once thought that all Catholics ( back in the days of The Troubles ) were affiliated or believed the same as the IRA and I can only thank my parents for that.

Do not get me wrong, my absolute heart goes out to each and every person who has been affected by these atrocities and yes I would love to see an end to them too, it’s a total heartbreak that most of us cannot even begin to imagine or understand what they must be going through.

It is a scary world, but do not pass on your adult fears to your children before they are able to comprehend or begin to understand. Instead, teach them to see and take everyone on face value, to not be afraid when they see armed police or possibly armed forces on the streets- these people are here to protect us. I was in my mid teens on holiday in Plymouth when I saw the very first policeman in shirt sleeves with no body armour, unarmed and on his own!! Until then armed police and Army on the streets was my normal- and yet here I am a normal person. I haven’t suffered any detrimental affects, all grown up with my own family.

Our world is always going to be scary with everything that is going on across the globe, but for your children’s sake concentrate on the everyday normality and the good. I have seen a great quote online telling us to ‘look for the helpers’ in those awful situations and it’s true. There will always be many more people willing to help than to harm. Never let those people affected be forgotten but celebrate those who go to selfless measures to help in the most awful situations regardless of the danger they put themselves in.

In short, I am proof along with many others, if you teach your children to live without adult fears and teach them not to hate a race of people or a religion because of the actions of a minority of extremists then your children will adapt and live normal lives too. It’s possible, we as adults have to make it possible.

 

Jump In, Tonbridge- Review

I have seen more and more of these style of trampoline parks popping up all over the place taking over (almost) from the generation of kids indoor playcentres, with the difference being that us adults can also now ‘pay and play’!

We were invited along to Jump In trampoline park Tonbridge in Kent over the half term,  which has just recently opened in fact. This one was on an industrial estate ( which most of these places are anyway) and although there was a decent sised sign on the outer gate we really had to look hard to make sure we were in the right place as this was the sign on the building itself….

jump-in-sign

We were advised to register everyone in our group that were actually going onto the trampolines and those under 18 need to be signed in by an adult on the waiver form.

As my eldest was home from uni we decided to all go on and try it ( yes even me!) but unfortunately for us we were restricted on our time that week and so were there around 3pm, and obviously at those times it was full of young children from toddlers up to teens. Thankfully we are not a family to be put off and we went on anyway. I am sure the later you go the older the kids/teens would be ( it is open until 9pm on weekdays and 10pm on weekends -Fri and Sat) but like I said we were a little restricted that week working around my eldest.

The venue itself you could tell had not been open long, the walls were a clean crisp grey and everything had that newly painted/ decorated feel. Once you register and book in and pay, you are given your grip socks which you need if you are going on the trampolines. The sessions are one hour long at £12 inc your grip socks with a second hour available for £6 (prices for under 5’s are reduced ). So at £12 a child it could be kind of expensive with more than one child- however, I guarantee you they will come off totally knackered…………… so worth it if you think about it! We were also given a coloured wrist band as it was peak time in half term and very busy, but I imagine this is the only way to actually keep a restriction on how many people they are allowed on at any one time. Then we were sent into a holding room to view a 4 minute ‘Do’s and Don’t’s’ video before entering the trampoline area itself.

There are small lockers available if you are all going on for you to pop your phones/ bags/ valuables etc into which you get your money back from each time.

As you walk through you are into the seating/ cafe area on the same level (think normal playcentre and you will get an idea of what to expect) and then if you are going on the trampoline area which is completely raised there is a ramp walkway to get on there. It is still easy to see your children from the cafe and there is a small walkway all along that you can go up to check on them if you want.

Like I say we all went on and had a ball. I lasted about 20-30 minutes before I was completely shattered and went for a coffee from the cafe ( ladies be warned Tena ladies would be very handy if you are jumping!! Just saying). Our 2 teens stayed on there the whole time! There was an area unfinished in the top corner which was bordered off from the rest of the park, it was set in lower and looked like it was going to be used for a dodge ball area ( I could be wrong on that but it did look like it). They also have a small 2 hoop basketball area which you queue for to go and have a try- using the trampolines to get the bounce and height to help you get the ball in the hoop- looked good fun. There is also an under 5’s small area bordered off near the cafe area. There is also an area at the top end where you have obstacles to get past over a pit filled with sponge blocks- string ladders to climb up and ‘gladiator’ style jousting on a slim walkway were you are given head gear to put on and bash your opponent with a large soft paddle to knock them off into the pit.

All in all we had a fun time, next time we would definitely book an evening slot so the age group would be older and more suitable for teens and adults alike without worrying that when you jump you are going to unknowingly fling a young child about 10ft in the air! They also run exercise classes which I imagine would be amazing fun and great exercise- my hubby and I can confirm our legs felt like lead the next day so this would be a great form of cardio exercise! It’s definitely something we all enjoyed and said e would do again……….and lets face it most teens don’t want to do anything with their parents so were pleased they said they would go back again.

Unlike normal playcentres though it is advisable to pre book your slot online before you go as once they reach their maximum amount of people at that time the slot will no longer be available for obvious health and safety reasons. You also get to keep your grip socks after the first time so a 1 hour slot reduces to £10 an hour when you bring those socks back to re use them each time.

If you fancy trying it then just check out their website here for more details on pricing/ times/ classes/ parties  etc.

 

My tips on preparing your teen for University

My eldest baby left us on 12th September this year to start his university adventures. I didn’t want to write about it straight away ( or before) as my head was literally all over the place with a huge mixture of emotions. Yes I was unbelievably proud of him, but I was, as most mum’s would be, absolutely terrified that he wasn’t going to cope! It was so hard to leave him there on his joining weekend although we are lucky enough to be relatively close enough to go there for a day visit- which we did the next day to take him for a final family meal before leaving him properly.

last-meal-pic-with-conor

Almost a month into his new independent life and I am super pleased to say that he is not only coping very well but he is also loving his new found freedom. He has done several weekly shops now ( he loves the fact that he has an Aldi near him) and also done a few clothes washes too…………….this probably amazes me the most. He has also got himself a part time promotions job as well so is now earning a few extra pounds here and there to boost his weekly spending amount.

We had discussed the importance for him to maybe look for a part time job to subsidise his money as we as parents are not in a position financially to heavily subsidise him on a weekly or monthly basis. He is a sensible boy money wise as both my boys have been taught to save for the more expensive things that they have wanted over the years, but they also are shrewd enough to buy dvd’s/ older video games pre-owned from places like CEX and Game to make their money go further.

When my son initially discussed going to uni my husband and I did worry hugely about the financial side of things until it was explained at one of the uni talks that he could apply for possible bursary and loans etc that were means tested. Thankfully my son fell within that particular category however, I know other parents have had to look at other methods of supporting their child such as personal loans, savings and even equity release in order to support and subsidise their teen as necessary.

In a very short period of time I have come to realise that:

  • they will not starve!
  • they will eventually find the launderette
  • they will learn very quickly that their money does NOT last
  • they will cope because they have too

So here is a few of my top tips that you can help prepare your teen for living away at uni

*Teach them a few simple dishes to cook. My son is a very plain eater but he could at least cook pizza, cook eggs and bacon, cook chicken breasts properly and make sure he wasn’t going to get food poisoning!

*show them which of their clothes can go into the washing machine together and that their precious white t-shirt does not go in with their black jeans.

*one of the best things we did when setting up his student account was to keep his normal current account open so he could agree a weekly amount he could transfer on a weekly Standing Order from his student loan account into his current account. That way he has an agreed weekly amount he needs to manage on without the fear of dipping into his loan unnecessarily and whittling away at the money without realising.

*get them used to normal security measures ie: make sure before they go away they are used to always taking house keys with them everywhere-even if you are going to be home when they get in. If they are used to always taking their keys when  going out they stand less chance of losing/ forgetting to take keys when they are at uni…………..sounds silly but uni’s charge the students a fortune to replace lost keys!!

*take them with you when buying all their essentials to take with them, that way they know exactly what they have with them and they don’t waste money buying things when they get to uni that they already have tucked away in a cupboard!

* teach them to self medicate when they feel unwell. My boys have been doing this since their early teens and have a very sensible approach to over the counter medications. They know how and when they can take things like paracetamol/ ibruprofen and how often, cough mixture, hayfever tablets etc. YOU WOULD BE VERY SURPRISED HOW MANY TEENS DO NOT KNOW THE BASICS!

I could go on but those are a at least a few of the basic necessities to getting your teen ready for their independent uni adventure. If you have boys they will tell you that they wont be calling everyday, but what they don’t realise that they will find themselves texting you to check things about the cooking, the washing machines, their food shopping without actually realising that they are doing it………………………………………so do not fret THEY WILL KEEP IN TOUCH!

A Level results and mixed emotions

Today my eldest son did the nervous walk to school to find out his results and ultimately if he was going to get to go to uni or not.

I really feel for the kids today as they seem to be under so much more pressure that we ever were at that age at school. Pressure from the school, pressure from their peers and even sometimes pressure from their parents.

Neither my husband or I went to university, my hubby went straight from school into a job working in a photographic lab, then on to the MOD and from there into the Royal Air Force ( where we met) and then for the last 20 yrs he has been in the Met Police………….not a bad career for someone with virtually no qualifications. I left school and did a Youth Training Scheme ( YTS- remember those….I am very old you know) as a teacher’s assistant before joining the Royal Air Force, I then worked for the London Ambulance service for many years before having my boys and leaving work. When they got older I trained to become a Driving Instructor which I did before my illness took over……….again not too bad for leaving school with only 5 O levels, although I do have 2 A levels which I did at night school while I was still in the Air Force.

Today’s kids though have it so much harder I think. They are pushed from school ( especially from grammar schools) towards the university route from the minute they join, it has almost become the ‘norm’ to go to uni for everyone. I personally love the fact that apprenticeships are making a huge comeback and some kids are choosing to go down that route themselves rather than get into the debt that uni will inevitably land them in. Apprenticeships allows them to use and learn life and work skills whilst earning a wage and is a great opportunity covering a range of careers in all walks of life.

My son got his results today and was overjoyed to get what he needed to go to his first choice uni (Sussex). Some of his friends did not get the qualifications they wanted but still got places, but there were a few who didn’t get anywhere near what they needed and have spent the day in the ‘hell’ that is clearing. It must be overwhelmingly stressful and heartbreaking for them to be in that position, for some it’s almost like the end of the world where they can see no way out.

We were happy for my son because he was happy he got what he wanted. Either way we would have been proud of him regardless of the outcome. For us as parents, if he is happy then we are happy. We made it clear to him well before his exams that he could only do his best and there are always options if things don’t work out the way he wanted.

As super proud as I am, I am totally unprepared mentally for him to be leaving in less than a month! I purposely did not start gathering anything he was going to need as there would be nothing worse than all the excitement of getting everything organised to then not get the results he required. Yes that will mean a rush to get him sorted but I would prefer it that way, however, that means mentally I am totally unprepared for him leaving. I cannot quite believe he will be gone in such a short space of time. It will probably whizz past in a total blur and I will be left after the 12th September weeping into my wine that my baby has gone!

I will miss him terribly but I know he is so excited to go and I am very proud he got the results he needed. MASSIVE MIXED EMOTIONS.

I don’t know how I will cope initially, I know I will get used to it but the start will be very hard for me. He’s my first born, my baby and I just want to keep him close but I know the time is right for him to spread his wings and cope on his own in a fairly safe environment with lots of others in the same position ( I just do not think he even has a clue of what is coming!).

My heart goes out to all of those who were disappointed today and just hope they can see that it is not the end of the world, that these things happen for a reason and that there is always a way forward for them even though it may not seem like it at the moment.

If anyone has any tips for me as a parent, or to help me get him organised with what he needs ( if you have been through this yourself) please let me know in the comments- I will welcome all advice.