Monday, 25 August 2014

Top Ten Tips for Lazy Mums

September is almost upon us, gone are the lazy lie in's, the mornings spent watching Disney Movies, the lackadasical attitude to bedtime and routine. We're approaching the time of year where mornings are spent rummaging through the ironing pile frantically hunting for the elsuive school jumper while simultaneosuly hollering "just eat your breakfast, you're going to be late."

If like me you've enjoyed the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer and are thinking this back to school malarky sounds a bit too much like work, here's my top ten tips for lazy mums to try to make life just that little bit.....well....lazier!

1.  Convince your children that odd socks are cool….you’ll never have to pair their socks again.

odd socks are cool!

2.   Play lego on an old tablecloth. When it comes time to put it away you just pick up the four corners and pop the whole lot back in the box.

3.   When you do cook: cook twice as much as you need then freeze half. By keeping a stock in the freezer like this you can just defrost on busy days and have a meal without having to cook or resort to takeaway.

cook 'too much' and freeze some

4.   If you have boys who regularly “miss” the toilet; get yourself one of those mops that you can wring out without needing a bucket, and keep it in your bathroom with some watered down detergent. Rather than filling a bucket of soapy water you can just spray the pee, wipe up with the mop and rinse the mop in the sink, takes about two  minutes.

5.   Getting the paddling pool out at weekend? Put bubble bath in it the kids will think it’s great fun having bubbles in the pool and you’ll get them clean without having to give them a bath that night

Bubble Bath in the paddling pool.

6.   Put bedding straight on the bed from the dryer or washing line to avoid having to iron it.

7.   Another one you can eek out before the weather turns: if you can, dine al fresco- the birds (or local cats) will clear up the mess off the floor for you and there’s no walls to get splattered!

Dining Al Fresco needn't be fancy

8.   Going on a picnic? Don’t put your sandwiches in boxes, instead wrap them in tin foil. Don’t take flasks, take cartons of juice, make sure everything you take is in a disposable wrapper/container. That way when you’ve finished your picnic the whole lot goes in the bin and you have nothing to carry for the rest of the day. Do this with school packed lunches too and you won't have to find yourself cleaning the mouldy sandwich box they forgot to bring home for a week. 

9.   Serve everyone’s meal on one plate when you can…..sandwiches, nachos, pizza are all good things to stick in the middle of the table on a big board and let everyone dig in. It helps your children learn to share, it’s a lovely communal activity and more importantly it saves on washing up. (learning lots of one pan recipes also saves on washing up)

Encourage sharing and save on washing up

10. And one for Back to School:  Sewing in name labels? Seriously, who has time for this? Get a sharpie!

The humble Sharpie: Lazy Mum's Best Friend. 
Have you got any Lazy Mum tips you can share? I'd love to read them. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

"You don't need eyes to see, you need vision."

(Maxi Jazz)

As the pads were removed from my eyes I felt as though a whole new world were opening up to me. The world was suddenly brighter, clearer and stunning as I saw for the first time the beautiful intricacy of the natural world.

I was born with cataracts and in my late twenties I opted to have them removed. Had I realised the difference it would make to my life I’d have done it sooner, but having only ever lived a life with partial sight I had no conception of what real vision was. 

At first many things about the world shocked me; the first time I properly saw my hands I had to be told that everybody’s palms have lines on them and they didn’t look ‘wrinkly’ as I thought. I remember being fascinated by simple things like tiles on roofs and leaves on trees. I saw the world in a detail I never imagined.

Trees were no longer a blur of brown and green; I could see the texture of the bark, the beauty and depth of colour in the leaves, the sheer number of delicate tiny little twigs on every tree. The world literally came alive to me, both in it’s grandeur and it’s delicacy. As we drove along for the first few weeks after the surgery I’d stare out of the car window in wonder of the intricate pictures whizzing past me. I was aghast and suddenly appreciative of this new found gift of vision I imagine I’d have just taken for granted if I’d always had it. I suddenly enjoyed reading and devoured books and I spent all my spare time and spare money learning to drive, something I never believed I’d be able to do. 

When you suddenly find yourself removed from a dark place into the brightness and wonder of our beautiful world it is nothing short of life changing. Just like I didn’t realise how blurry and dim my vision was before I had my surgery I didn’t realise how sad and empty my life felt before I left my husband. I always thought I couldn’t imagine living a full life without him but what I didn’t realise was that in reality I was only living half a life with him. I had no idea how numb I had become, how little joy and excitement I felt in my life, how repressed my other relationships were. I had no idea the difference freeing myself from abuse would make to my life. I actually thought I was happy, in truth I had forgotten what happiness felt like.

Now from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed I feel alive, the sun is brighter, the air is fresher, the flowers are prettier my children are cuter- everything, the whole world is just more beautiful. I had no idea how fun life could be and how many amazing and fulfilling friendships I could have. I get up now and smile, I do something fun with my family not on special occasions but every single day and every single day something makes me laugh, makes me smile and makes me feel grateful, even on bad days. I have a ton more energy than I ever had and I feel able to do anything: I feel I could take on the world. I really am amazed daily at how much richer, fuller and more joyful my life is compared to how it was only 18 months ago. 

When the pads were first removed from my eyes the world seemed a daunting place, it took a lot of getting used to and was even painful for a little while. But it was most certainly worth it. If you’re in a dark place, don’t delay, seek the light, crawl your way out, even if it’s slow and painful I promise you won’t regret it.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Dream a little dream...

When I am old, well not old; that age where your children have flown the nest but you’re not yet an old lady. That age, whatever it is, I have plans for it. I’m going to get a houseboat.

I always dreamed of retiring and living on a houseboat, but my husband was not only HUGE he was also a bit of a kleptomaniac. Enormous hoarders who feel cooped up easily and tiny houseboats don’t really mix. So I’d shelved that idea, after all I planned to grow old with this guy. I figured when we were older we’d live in a ‘nice’ suburban semi somewhere where he’d tinker with many cars, it didn’t float my boat but I liked the idea of him at peace happily under a bonnet without all the worries and stresses he seemed to carry.

I gave up a lot of dreams for my husband, this was probably the least of them. Some of them I either can’t get back because I’m just not nineteen anymore or I just don’t want to get back that badly because I’ve changed. But my houseboat; I like that one. I’m going to work on it and enjoy it. One day you might find yourself meandering along a canal and you’ll see a delightful little boat called “Sally Hope” you’ll wonder “Is that the woman whose blog I used to read?”- do pop in for a brew, the kettle will always be on and the door will always be open

The kettle will always be on, there’ll always be tea in the pot. When my time is more leisurely I will brew pots of tea and sit on the deck of my boat watching the world go by sipping from kitsch china teacups. (yep you read that right, I will have china on a boat!) I’ll read more, I always intend to now but never seem to find the time. I’ll write too. In the evenings I’ll curl up in a corner of my boat, comfortable among my many brightly coloured squishy cushions, watching old eighties and nineties action movies, passers by will be bemused by cries of “Yippee Ki Ay Motherfucker!” coming from the pretty yellow houseboat with delicate sweet scented flowers adorning it’s roof.

There may or may not be a Mr Sally Hope sharing this houseboat with me, but whether there is or not it will not be the home of a lonely old lady. It will be filled everyday with friends popping in to say ‘hi’ to check out what latest crazy incongruent thing I’ve done to decorate or just because….. Some of the other canal residents won’t like my boat, because it looks silly, or because it’s loud, there’ll be regular howls of laughter to be heard from it and I hope grandchildren, great nieces and nephews and local neighbourhood rapscallion kids getting into all kinds of mischief, never egged on by me of course.

Occasionally people will come to visit and I’ll not be there, the boat won’t be there, we’ll have sailed off, china teacups rattling around, pretty flowers falling overboard because I’ve forgotten to bring them in. And the neighbours will enjoy the peace and quiet until I return from whatever crazy adventure I’ve taken myself off on.  

Friday, 1 August 2014

Alton Towers, Autism and no meltdowns.

I took my children to Alton Towers last week. My eldest son has autism and I had been putting the trip off for a long time because I really worried about how he’d cope, not just with queues but with the crowds and the high visual and auditory stimulation.

I needn’t have worried. Alton Towers seem to cater very well for disabled people. When we arrived we were able to get ride access passes on proof of disability which allows the disabled child to jump the queues for the rides. Unlike many other theme parks who only offer the pass to the disabled person and their carer, Alton Towers allow the disabled child to ride with three other people, the only stipulation being that one of these must be an adult. This made a huge difference because we went with friends, if my son had had to wait while his friends queued then the pass would have been a waste of time.

We also took my son’s friend who has diabetes, I was really impressed at the attentiveness of the staff who gave us the wristbands to notice he uses a pump system and proactively tell us he would need to disconnect it for some of the rides; they gave us a map where they marked those rides out.

The park also give out wristbands for all children that you can write your mobile number on, if they get lost a member of staff will be able to then remove their wristband and contact you. This gives peace of mind if you have a child prone to wander off, or if like me, you have several children to keep an eye on. There were lots of staff around and they were all friendly and helpful.

Alton Towers is huge with lots of quiet green spaces between the rides. In some ways this is a disadvantage because it takes ages to walk between the rides. But with a child with autism it’s a massive bonus, because the park doesn’t feel busy and there are lots of peaceful spots to rest in. The park was not too crowded and my son was happy and relaxed

Be warned though that Alton Towers will fleece you for every penny you have so save up and take a picnic if you go. I bought the children a hotdog at the end of the day. They were £4.95 each. A refillable drink is £7. I expected this though so didn’t mind too much, theme parks are after all notorious for their expensive food. What I found really annoying is that after charging upwards of £40 for a ticket they additionally charged £6 to park the car. Surely for that ticket price they could afford to include parking. They also do the usual thing of making you walk through a gift shop (and an arcade too after Oblivion) as you get off the rides, I found this particularly difficult with my son who is easily distracted by bright shiny things, in fact the only time we momentarily lost him was in the arcade after Oblivion.

We took several children with us, all different ages and sizes. Because Alton Towers is so huge it was difficult to make sure everyone got a good amount of rides because getting from the big rides to the small rides was time consuming. But if you do have to do this there really is something there for everyone and all the kids seemed to really enjoy themselves. The driving school was a hit with the little ones and the bigger ones loved Oblivion and 13. There were also plenty of things we could all go on together such as the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride which was a lot of fun, and Hex which frankly I didn’t like and the little ones found a bit boring as the build up to the ride (you watch videos telling a ghost story) was too long. We all had fun on those boats where you shoot each other with water and got very wet in the process. 

The ride attendants are very strict about the height restrictions. We had two children who were about half a cm too short for some rides and this did lead to some disappointment, irritatingly enough they measure you AFTER you have queued for the ride as well so if you don’t have ride access passes or choose not to use them for some rides this could lead to major disappointment if you have thought you’re tall enough and they say you’re not. Next time I go will be when the children have grown WAY past the height limits so there is no question.

The only other disappointing thing was that the rides close at 6pm. Because the park is so big it’s hard to fit in everything you want to do, and in the summer when the days are long it seems they could stay open another hour or two. But really this is a testament to how much fun we were having that we didn’t want the day to end.

Although for the cost Alton Towers has to be one of those big rare treats overall it’s a really fantastic fun filled day out that caters for everyone in the family with pretty much any need you can imagine. My son loved it and the only things he found difficult was dealing with not being able to get on rides due to height restrictions and the fact the day had ended. We found Alton Towers to be a really peaceful environment (well as peaceful as you can expect a theme park to be) with the ability to meet all our needs.