The One About Starting School

So the little girl I’ve done all this writing about over the last few years starts school tomorrow. Every parent says it . . . it’s mandatory at this stage in their little life . . . “WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?” She has taken it in her stride and seems infinitely thrilled by the fact that there are chickens at her school for the reception class to look after. She likes her uniform. She knows she has to go everyday, and she is excited about making new friends as she won’t know any other children. . . so I guess it’s just me doing all the worrying then. 

 

The thing is – I know I won’t be one of the parents sobbing at the school gate, or even feeling tearful about the fact she is starting school. I am anxious, of course I am, about too many things to list. But I am also excited for her because she is SO ready for this. That little sponge of a brain is working at a rate I have found increasingly harder to saturate. She questions everything. She is frustrated that she cannot read properly. She challenges ab-so-lut-ly every action or instruction and puts across some pretty convincing arguments. Here’s a conversation we had as accurately as I can remember it after a car had to slam on it’s brakes for her and I almost had heart failure: 

“Grace do NOT run off from Mummy, especially on a car park!”

“Well where can I run off from you then?”

“No-where Grace. Do NOT run off from Mummy.”

“But I can run off from Daddy . . . or Grandma?”

“No. In fact, you can’t run off from any grown-ups.”

Pause. I can almost hear the cogs whirring away in that little head.

“Can I run off from strangers? Because they are grown-ups!”

“Oh . . . er . . . yes, ok. You can run off from strangers.”

“Can I run off from a grown-up if they are starting a race and I am running in the race?”

. . . and so it goes on. 

Grace wakes up and talks/sings/asks things/shouts/plays/talks/laughs/talks some more. She does not stop until her head hits the pillow at night. She is wonderfully exhausting . . . her behaviour and her glorious stubbornness has at times been hard to parent, but my goodness, these are no bad qualities to have in life. It is, after all,  the people that DO question the status quo and challenge authority that seem to make a difference in this world.

She feels things so deeply too – that is one thing I sometimes wish I could change. Not only a sponge for soaking up new information it would seem, but a sponge for other’s emotions too, and especially mine. If things could wash over her a little more easily, I guess I could worry less about her feeling things so keenly, but that’s just Grace. I know only too well that over thinking can be the biggest enemy of a  happy state of mind. I’m guilty of it myself, although I am learning as I get older to calm my thoughts and tell myself to shut the hell up. I hope Grace can learn to use her very deep thinking for positive things, and learn sooner than I did how and when to switch it off.

She loves to make her friends and peers laugh with a funny face or a silly dance and she usually succeeds. She is very knowledgeable about animals, nature, and loves dinosaurs and princesses in equal measure. She has a very strong attachment to an inflatable sit-on cow. She loves the Mr Bean animations and copies the dance at the beginning of every episode. She is very competitive. She thinks it’s funny to repeat everything we say when we tell her off. She says the word “easily” a lot and has a thing about the number 14.

I love the stage she is at now and I will miss it as she gets older – Our bond is strong and she wants to be with me constantly. I know fine well that whilst there are times that I just desperately need time to myslef – there will also be a time when I am not her world. (Far from it, judging by a lot of teenagers opinion of their mothers!) So yes – I appreciate so much the awesome, loving, fiesty little person she is now, probably more than any age that has preceded. And yes, I am looking forward to see the girl and eventually woman she will become. 

But I won’t be crying at the school gates. Because the pride and excitement I will feel will overcome any hankering for the baby she was. I will carry some sadness with me tomorrow, but more for the people who I can’t share this milestone with. My Mum would just be bursting with pride. 

But if you spend all your time looking back, you will miss what’s going on right under you nose. And sometimes – it’s really good.

I am SO proud of you my beautiful girl . . . go knock’em dead, kid :-) xxx

Grace's School Uniform

 

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Why She Thinks Frozen Is “a bit rubbish”

“Mummy can I watch Peter Pan?”

Again Gibby? Really?”

“Yes please, I love Peter Pan.”

“How about Frozen? You’ve only watched that once or twice since we got it. Shall we watch Frozen?”

“No thank you – it’s a bit rubbish.”

“Is it?! Why’s it a bit rubbish?”
***Deep sigh. Starts to count out reasons on her fingers.***

- “It’s not got any pirates.
– It’s not got any fairies.
– It’s not got anybody flying in it.
– There’s no sword fighting.
– There’s no mermaids.
– It’s not got Red Indians.
– It’s not got a funny crocodile.
– AND it’s a bit cold.”

She has a point I guess. Peter Pan it is.

All together now . . . “When there’s a smile in your heart . . . ”

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Dorothy and Jim

Jim was tall and very handsome, with thick red hair and a long straight nose. Dorothy had platinum blonde hair – so blonde it was nearly white. She was extremely pretty. They bumped into eachother outside Grimsby cinema after a showing one evening, and fell in love.

Jim was from the slums of Hull, one of twelve other brothers and sisters. A poor family in a rough neighbourhood.

Dorothy was from a well-to-do family in Grimsby, with just one sister and a nice family home.

The story goes that when Dorothy visited Jim, people on his crowded street would actually come out of their house to get a good look at her walking past, with her nice clothes and striking good looks.

World war two broke out. Jim proposed to Dorothy, she said yes. He had to go overseas after joining the army, but they agreed to marry on his return.

Dorothy stayed in Lincolnshire and served in the fire service. Grimsby being a regular target due to its docks. Years passed, and she did not hear from Jim, until recieving a telegram in 1942 informing her that he was missing in action, presumed dead.

Dorothy found love again in a dashing R.A.F officer named Robert. They got married in a little local church, and they were happy.

Jim had been captured at the fall of Singapore - considered one of the greatest defeats in the history of the British Army. He was captured by the Japanese and forced to work as a prisoner for many years on the infamous “Death Railway”, building a long and labourius railway track through Burma and Thailand, including the Bridge over the River Kwai. Conditions were horrendous. Torture and extreme punishments were rife. It was, and is, a part of the war people are reluctant to talk about, and was kept hidden from public knowledge for many years.

It was hell on earth.

One prisoner died for every sleeper that is laid. Jim eventually became so weak and ill from malaria, that he was taken from hard labour and given “light duties” – burying his dead friends. There was no way Dorothy could have known the horrors that her fiance was going through.

On completion of the railway, the few remaining prisoners were packed onto a Japanese ship and taken to sea. They were not told why or where they were going. Not realising that allied prisoners were on board, the ship was bombed by American pilots and Jim spent three days and four nights in the shark infested waters, clinging for life to a piece of the wreckage. He believed he was going to die, and prayed.

An American submarine picked him up and brought him home. He was in his early twenties, weighed 6 stone, had none of his natural teeth left, bamboo injuries to to limbs from beatings, skin cancer and malaria. He was taken back home to Hull with no money, no “help for heros”, no thanks. He was advised not to speak of his ordeal.

Jim tracked down Dorothy who immediately divorced Robert and married Jim. It was not an easy marriage, but it did last. Jim had deep scars both mentally and physically. How do you get over something like that? Can you get over something like that? I doubt it. He was hurt and extremely jealous of the love affair between Dorothy and Robert in his absence, and it is hard to say whether he ever truely forgave her deep down, but they muddled on, found love again, and had a family of their own.

The only evidence the marriage of Dorothy and Robert happened at all, is her marital status on Dorothy and Jim’s wedding certificate (divorced) and a pair of silver candlesticks given to Dorothy by Robert’s family as a wedding gift.

Dorothy and Jim were my grandparents. The impact of what he went through still resonates through our family today. We were very close, although I never heard him speak about it. Jim died of lung cancer when I was 16 – sadly when he bacame very ill, he thought he was back on death railway.

Dorothy . . . Nan . . . died when I was 21 from a sudden heart attack. They were amazing Grandparents and are still much missed.

The candle sticks now sit on my mantle piece, their elaborate beauty a veneer for the story of broken hearts they tell.

Poor Robert. I sometimes wonder if he is still alive.

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Pet as Therapy

If you read my pet blog (www.furrbuddies.wordpress.com) then you’ll know that our rescue lurcher,Annabel, had passed her assessment to be a Pets As Therapy dog. Well i’m sharing this particular post on here too as they’re such a great charity and deserve more awareness.

Well, we didn’t waste much time, and started our venture together today at the local nursing home. I am pleased to report that Annabel was a super star and did her new job to perfection. I was pretty sure I’d enjoy the experience, but I was unprepared for how moving it was.

It was a lovely establishment, with wonderful staff and a nice atmosphere. I was nervous signing in and going through into the day room, but the faces that lighted up on seeing my girl trot in to say hello melted away the nerves in a heartbeat.

L has bright blue eyes and a lovely smile. He was thrilled when Annabel put her head on his lap, calling over the nurse to have a look “She likes me! See?” and telling me all about the Labrador he had as a young married man.

D is a happy soul but doesn’t retain much short-term memory or new information. She forgets my name every few seconds and asks the same questions over and over again. D is really friendly and I instantly like her. “I can’t stroke her lovey,” she tells me “my hands are twisted, look” and she shows me her hands in a fixed position, I imagine due to arthritis. “Perfect for tickling her head with D. She likes that.” D smiles and tickles Annabel’s head. Annabel does indeed like it, and grunts appreciatively making D laugh.

We are then taken by a nurse to visit some private rooms, where I meet a wonderfully sharp and well dressed lady I could’ve talked to for hours, who is fascinated by the charity and the work we do. A few rooms down is a resident who seems totally in her own world. This second lady doesn’t speak to me, but spends a long time very slowly stroking Annabel’s head and whispering in her ear. I wonder what they were talking about? None of my business.

The last person in a private room we see is a very frail looking, tiny women curled in her bed and sighing deeply. Bless her, I think. In we go . . . Annabel wags her tail and puts her head onto the bed, and the lady springs to life making me jump a little. She is literally squealing with delight and laughing out loud at my lovely lurcher’s gentle hand-licks. “Fantastic!” She cries out. “Ooooh, isn’t she lovely. OOoh ‘hello beautiful!’”

As we travel back down with the nurse in the lift, she agrees that seeing the faces light up as we introduce ourselves is a very special thing, and I am surprised to feel a little emotional.

Back in the day room for a quick goodbye, some family have arrived to visit some of the residents, who point to Annabel and introduce her to their loved ones, seemingly enjoying being the giver of some different news rather that the receiver. As we are walking out the door D shouts over “Bye bye Annabel.”

And that’s why it works. Pets As Therapy give people in nursing homes the chance to be the one to impart care for a change. They give people the pleasure and chance of an unconditional cuddle, or chat that does not require a response. They make people smile. They encourage reminiscence of previous dogs the client may have owned and loved, and comfort those who may have had to give up a pet to be there. As the charity themselves put it:

“These dogs bring everyday life closer and with it all the happy associations for them of home comforts. The constant companionship of an undemanding animal, that gives unconditional love, is often one of the most missed aspects of their lives. Pets As Therapy was formed to help make this loss more bearable.” – P.A.T

We are going back next Saturday.

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Butlins in the Rain

Ok so day one of our Butlins break was undeniably a thumbs up. The sun was shining, the beach was fab, the outdoor facilities were plentiful and not too crowded. Good times.

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Day two and three of our break haven’t been as much fun, but that was largely due to the weather. We’re not talking pleasant summer showers here, we’re talking relentless pouring down and a cold chilly wind. The thing is, yes – there are undoubtably a wide range of indoor activities for when the weather is bad. BUT without the dilution of guests splitting themselves between inside and out . . . oh my goodness it’s busy!! You must be prepared to queue for pretty much everything. My brother, sister in law, niece and nephew came to visit us for the day and only stayed for a couple of hours. As my sister in law so aptly put it “It’s Britiain! Surely they could have something in place for the outdoor stuff in the rain? A few tarpaulins or something?”

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Day two called for pretty much a full day in the Skyline – the large indoor tent where the vast majority of the entertainment is. Now we are an outdoor kind of family, so I am very mindful of the fact that whilst we weren’t Skyline fans per se – we spoke to plenty of families that come back year after year and love the place. There is certainly something to be said for so much under one roof – shows, shops, restaurants, rides – and if you can get a table somewhere, then you can just sit back whilst the kids enjoy the entertainment.

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I must admit – I did enjoy the arcades. A hark back to my youth of growing up on Cleethorpes seafront perhaps. Gibby LOVED the shove penny machines and we got a bit obsessive about winning a pirate ring. (It took about £4 in 2ps but don’t care – got the sucker!!) Sometimes it’s the simple things . . . .

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Day three was my pre booked visit to the spa and oh . . . My. . . Goodness did I feel ready for it. My husband took Gibby to see the Scooby Doo live show (which after managing to persuade a 4 year old to queue for over an hour, he got in by the skin of his teeth. Good work there stu!) whilst I went to de-stress.

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I had a long swim in a virtually empty and lovely pool, a sauna, jacuzzi, and steam room session followed by a facial, and one of the best massages I’ve ever had (I am a huge massage fan as I have back issues – this one beat some of the really high-end places I’d been to and paid twice as much for.)

Butlins have definitely got their spa spot on, and thank you to the staff and to Amy for saving my sanity that day!

Highlights -

Once they got in, I was told the Scooby Doo show was fabulous. It certainly made Gibby’s day! She still hasn’t stopped talking about it!

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The Ballet class with Angelina Ballerina. Super cute.

The breakfast and buffet dinner included in the premium dining package were lovely (busy of course, but really nice food and a huge variety.)

The Spa – bliss!

Titan the robot. A kids show Mum and Dad enjoyed just as much! Robots are cool. Fact.

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The Splash Waterworld. – Amazing pool! Small slides, big slides, water currents, starlit caves, waterfalls, fountains . . . Just fab.

The hire shop! Get yourself there and hire a buggy. We had great fun, even on the rain.

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The animal show we thought was particularly good and not as busy as some of the others.

The Lows

Queues queues queues. We queued for breakfast, shows, photo opportunities and the pool (awesome pool but horrendously busy in the changing rooms. Queued for a locker/ a changing room / a shower and a changing room again after the swim.)

Having one child age 4 means she’s done in by about 7pm. The evening entertainment was completely missed as we had to get her to bed. Good job the apartment is so nice!

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Butlins Skegness – First Impressions

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Butlins was not what I was expecting! I knew it’d been updated radically and I hoped I’d be pleasantly surprised, but what I didn’t expect was for it to be quite so charming!

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Our first day has been fab. Honestly it has. Check in was a breeze, parking was no problem, and although the numbering system on the apartments seems a bit bonkers, we found our gold accommodation with minimum fuss. Not only was the exterior of the apartments a big thumbs up, the inside was lovely too.

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Gibby ran around her “little house” with glee, and took an age to decide which bed she would be sleeping in. Everything was clean, fresh, modern and in marvellously good nick.

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Packing for Butlins, I ummed and ahhh’d over a few items, so for those who have booked an apartment and may be wondering what you may need to take, here is what you DON’T need as its already supplied in your accommodation:

Travel iron
Hair drier
Washing line/rack
Dish cloth
Washing up liquid (small amount supplied)
Tea/coffee/sugar/milk (small sachets/pots only)
Towels
Extra pillow. There are two each.
Basic toiletries – as you would expect in a hotel room.

Plastic cups, cutlery and plates etc are not provided for very young children so you may want to bring your own.

So after a brew and a freshen up, we head off into the unknown world of the Redcoats and our adventure begins!

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Oh my goodness there is a LOT to do. I’d recommend marking the events you think you might like on the guide you get when you check in (which is super user friendly) then see how you feel and how busy they are when you’re out and about, as you may find yourselves too distracted with the play areas, interactive water fountains, giant’s beach chair, outdoor activities, beach etc.

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***TOP TIP ALERT*** if you can help it, i’d try not to mention to young kids about the shows. We have kept shtum about the Scooby Doo show. She loves Scooby Doo so this may seem mean, but not half as mean as queuing for hours and then not getting a seat. (The queues can be looooooong. Especially for the “centre stage”.) Yes, they have a ‘B line’ system to ensure a good seat, but that’s expensive, and erks me a little to be honest. Not everyone’s budget can run to it, and they sell out pretty quickly anyway.

That said, we had no major trouble with over-crowding at the tots disco or the Mike The Knight show that followed it in the Skyline pavilion. It was busy, but not to the point where Gibby didn’t enjoy it. Perhaps not my cup of tea to be in the Pavillion for too much time (we ended up sending Dad for a Burger King for fear of losing a good table) but worth a visit or two for the kids as they have some lovely stuff for the little ones going on – shops, arcades, cinema etc as well as the shows.

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In other words – so far so good Butlins! The forecast for day two is awful, and I have family visiting for the day, so it’ll be a real test to keep the kids happy and the grown ups stress free. . . Watch this space!

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The Pre Butlins Post

I have packing to do this weekend! Ask me why . . . Go on.

Oh, ok I’ll tell you. WE’RE GOING TO BUTLINS! I know . . . Check us out with our retro-chic-old-school-why-go-abroad type of holiday choice!

For those that don’t remember, we were lucky enough to be chosen as official Butlins Ambassadors last year, which means we get to go and investigate exactly what a Butlins break entails these days, and then tell you guys all about it. I’m certainly curious as I never had a Butlins (or other holiday park) holiday when I was little. (I often liken my parents to Basil and Sybil Faulty – can you imagine a holiday park being their first choice for a week away? Exactly!)

Anyhoo – I will fess up and admit I have reservations – no pun intended there. I’m not one for crowds or queuing on a holiday, and I still can’t quite shake the mental picture I have of Hi-Di-Hi whenever I think of Butlins, so I’ll be reviewing as a complete and total novice to the whole experience – I think that may be a good thing though in terms of fresh eyes on a classic British institution and an honest reviewer.

The first thing my husband said when I told him we were going?

“BRILLIANT! Do they still do knobbly knees contests? I’d smash it!” (As someone who is privy to the sight of his pins on a daily basis, I can conform that he would indeed – “smash it”.)

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I’ve been doing some pre-holiday research and review reading before we go, and it’s made me laugh how many others have referred to the knobbly knees competitions of old. I guess this is why Butlins are getting the blogging community on board, to help spread the word about how much money has been spend on their sites and how far they have come since those days. When I have mentioned our forthcoming break to people who have actually been lately, the response has been massively favourable, and looking at the website, there’s no denying that it looks amazing for Gibby and not what I was expecting.

I’m personally excited about:

- The ballet class with Angelina Ballerina – toooooo cute!
– Splash Waterworld – looks amazing!

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- Meeting up with my family. My brother and family are Lincolnshire based and are coming over to see us. Great idea to allow visitors for the day!
– The sea. Oh I do like to be beside the seaside. I really, really do actually. There’s just something about a good old British seaside town! (Slight bias being from Cleethorpes!)
– The Scooby Doo show. Gibby loves a bit of Scooby.
– The spa! They have a spa and it looks sooooooo nice. Some Mummy time me things at some point.

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- Work has been so hectic both for me and Mr WaterBirthPlease lately. I’m excited about this one being all about Gibby and about being together as a family. (Apart from when I’m at the spa – obviously!)

I have reservations about:

- The queues for the shows, or not getting into them if its too busy. Nothing worse that a disappointed child – I am aware of the B-line scheme so may look into that (paying extra to be first in) but I personally find it a bit of a shame that budget dictates whether you get a good seat or not. Not everyone can stretch to the extra.

Actually – I guess that’s my only reservation so far! It’ll be interesting to see what happens with regard to that.

Other than that? Well if you’re reading this Butlins, maybe some kind of retro night would be in order? WE WANT OUR KNOBBLY KNEES CONTESTS, DAMN IT!

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