Leaving the house with a baby and toddler

LEAVING THE HOUSE WITH A BABY AND TODDLER

Sometimes I get insanely jealous of people who don’t have children and their ability to just leave the house whenever they feel like it, most times with just one bag and a set of keys in their hands. I love my kids to bits, I do, but god they make life hard sometimes – so hard in fact, there are days when it’s just too much effort to go anywhere as a collective unit.

When it comes to exiting a building at a set time I often feel as though I’m living a horrible nightmare, where time passes quickly yet I’m doing everything in slow-mo. No matter how hard I try, something, or someone, always hampers my efforts to just get out of the bloody front door. From last minute poos, to common assault (none of which I’m guilty of), it seems as though the universe is constantly conspiring against me and my bid for freedom.

As a rule of thumb, I generally turn up to wherever I’m meant to be about two hours later than planned, incredibly apologetic and looking like a completely harassed, sweaty mess.

The nightmare unfolds…

Preparation 

Make a list of everything you need to take with you (don’t forget to include the actual children in this list, very important).

Spend 20 minutes looking for the list, only to discover a child has part-eaten it. Scrap the list. You’re going rogue.

Pack the emergency bag – clothes, dummies, Calpol, milk, first aid kit, thermometer, snow shovel, flares etc – don’t forget to pack litres of sterilised water too, just in case where you are going for three hours is ripe with typhoid, or you’re off to outer Africa.

Pack the snacks – I’m talking about a ‘bag for life’ size container of food. Apples, bananas, raisins, half-eaten packs of now-soggy rice cakes etc. DO NOT FORGET THIS BAG OR THEY’LL LOSE THEIR SHIT.

Clothing

Dress the children – seems like a relatively easy task, right? WRONG. It takes at least half an hour to pin them down, force rigid arms into ridiculously small armholes and convince them to wear socks.

*Allow another 15 minutes for redressing the toddler, who, for no reason other than just to irritate you, is now buck naked and running around the house using their trousers as a cape.

Locate their shoes. Have a 10 minute debate about which shoes they are wearing and which feet they actually go on. Lose debate spectacularly and allow them to put on shoes two sizes too small, and on the wrong feet, just because it’s quicker.

Pack a variety of coats, wellies and spare shoes (for when they can no longer feel their toes in their current shoes). You now have enough stuff with you to go on holiday for a week. To clarify, you’re going five miles down the road and are planning to be out for three hours.

Loading the car

Discover your keys are nowhere to be found. Immediately blame the baby who has previous for this sort of malevolent behaviour.

“WHERE ARE THEY KEYS?”

“Keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeysh”

“Yes, keys. WHERE ARE THEY?!”

“Keeeeeeeeeeeeeeysh bye bye”

Text the people you are meeting / visiting – tell them you are on your way. That is a lie. You are nowhere near the car. You still can’t find the bloody keys.

Eventually find keys in fridge, next to all the things you threw in after breakfast. Apologise profusely to the baby.

Baby metaphorically sticks two fingers up at you by having the world’s largest shit. It’s of epic proportions. You’re 30 wet wipes in and it’s just EVERYWHERE. Cut your losses and head to the bath.

You should have left the house 45 minutes ago but now you’re in a hot sweat and dousing a screaming child with Johnsons No More Tears, which is pretty ironic considering they are going bat-shit crazy. WHY, WHY, WHY is this so HARD?!

Wrestle the baby back into clothes and head downstairs to load the car.

You are greeted by your toddler, who, inspired by the baby, decides they too now want a poo. Spend the next 15 minutes shouting “Have you finished yet?” through a door.

“No, it’s a big poo mummy!”

Make a mental note to cut their portion sizes down.

You finally get the whole contents of your house into the car. Now, time for the kids…

Attempt #1

The toddler, now half a stone lighter, decides they can’t possibly leave the house without a toy. A toy that hasn’t been seen in over SIX months. Stupidly ask them to consider taking another…

“NO. I. WAAAAAAAAAAAANT. THAT. TOY!”

Bribe them with a biscuit and shoo them towards the front door.

Toddler, not appeased by your idea of a compromise, then assaults the younger child in a fit of rage. Out of principle, you CANNOT let it slide. Jo Frost, aka ‘Supernanny’ would consider this ‘unasseptable’ behaviour… Toddler gets sent to the naughty corner. Younger child is hysterical and will only be calmed by an all singing, all dancing, completely over-the-top rendition of ‘Under the Sea.’

Text the people you are meeting and say you are stuck in traffic, whilst doing your best crab impression.

Tear-stained and shamed, finally the motley crew is at the front door. It’s there you realise you haven’t brushed either kids’ teeth yet. Have an internal debate about the fact they are going to lose those teeth anyway, you are so, so late now – it surely doesn’t matter just the once? You then remember the older one is pretty good at talking now and will probably drop you and your inadequate parenting methods in it at the first opportunity…

Bribe the older child with a biscuit if they promise to brush their teeth super fast. Pin the youngest down and spend five minutes brushing their lip and tongue. You get absolutely nowhere near a tooth.

Put everyone’s shoes back on. How the hell do they do they manage to do that so quickly?

Attempt #2

This is it, the end is in sight – you’re ready to get everyone in the car, again. You’re only an hour or so late at this point. New PB.

Time for car seats. The little one is starfishing and is as stiff as a board. “JUST BEND YOUR ARMS!!!”.

After repeating the words “wriggle your bum back!” twenty times to your toddler, they too are now restrained and ready to depart.

It’s then you hear the words every parent, who is in a rush, dreads…

“Mummy, I need a wee!”

SERIOUSLY?!!!!!!!!

“You’ve just been to the toilet. Didn’t you have a wee when you had a poo?!”

You’re now doing that thing where you are smiling but also shouting through gritted teeth.

“No… MUMMY, I NEED A WEE NOW!!!”

Take several deep breaths and fight back the tears. Unload everyone again and take them back into the house.

After waiting 10 minutes for the toddler to squeeze out two drops of urine –  you’re finally back in the car, albeit sweating and with slight heart palpitations.

Attempt #3

You’re off – you’ve done it! You can totally pass this lateness off on some sort of traffic related incident – animals in the road, that sort of thing. Five minutes into the journey, a little voice pipes up, “Mummy I’m hungry, where are the snacks?”

Good question. They are still on the f**king kitchen work top. Chuck a U-Turn, and leg it back into the house to retrieve a month’s worth of fruit and biscuits.

Attempt #4

With the children happily munching on fluorescent, carrot flavoured crisps you cry all the way to your destination and vow to never bother leaving the house EVER again. It’s just NOT WORTH IT. You also really need a wee.

Eventually arrive, two hours late, and stay for half an hour before heading home to put the little darlings in bed / have a giant gin, and a sob.

Center Parcs Woburn – A Ducking Good Family Holiday

Pre kids I was a Mauritius, Thailand, Australia vacay kind of girl. If someone had told my 20-something self that in 10 years time I’d be enjoying a ‘staycation’ five minutes away from junction 13 of the M1, I would have laughed, then cried, a lot. But, alas, times have changed and so have my attitudes towards long-haul flights when accompanied by creatures who consider wailing an actual hobby.

I was a little sceptical of our ‘great British getaway’ to Center Parcs Woburn – in my head it was going to be Butlins with trees…Never the less, off we headed down the M6 with a car full of Pomme Bears, the Frozen soundtrack and every single toy the kids owned.

Three hours and 20 renditions of ‘Let it Go’ later and we’d arrived. A McDonalds-esque drive through quickly saw us through the check-in process and after receiving our keys, in the form of snazzy boyband wristbands, we headed off to a giant car park in the rain. It was here my husband discovered he hadn’t packed the pram. Great start.

You can turn up onsite at 10am but official check-in isn’t until 3pm and as we hadn’t opted for the ‘early arrival’ package (which gets you in at 2pm, at a cost of around £30) we had to schlep off in biblical rain for something to eat, complete with an extremely soggy baby.

Accommodation

We’d booked a three bed executive cabin and once we were in, the kids were delighted with  their new home. “This is much nicer than our old house Mummy!”

They were especially thrilled as Center Parcs had kindly arranged our own ‘pets’, in the form of two ducks and a squirrel… “Mummy, can we keep them?!”

“Yes sweetheart, if you want to contract Lyme Disease.”

Friendly Ducks at Centre Parcs Woburn

The three double rooms were a good size, clean, modern, and to our surprise all came with TVs and en-suite bathrooms (meaning no awkward poo moments with my father in-law. Amazing).

Bedrooms at Centre Parcs Woburn

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The spacious open plan lounge / kitchen had a large corner sofa, which was plenty big enough for all six of us to slob out on – there was even a log burner for a little added ambience. Smokeless logs were available to buy at the on-site supermarket, however, be prepared to re-mortgage your home if you want to buy them and a packet of Kettle Chips – decisions, decisions…

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A chalkboard door kept the kids entertained for hours, even though we have one at home that they NEVER touch. Apologies to the family in after us for the small and soggy chalk, the little one kept trying to eat them.

IMG_3218(Don’t ask… Some kind of giant caterpillar, dinosaur vs house on fire situation)

Outside we had a BBQ and even our own private sauna, however, I was too scared to use it just incase this dude rocked up to join me, sans towel…

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My only minor criticism of our lodge was the front door – it didn’t lock properly from the inside, so if a child were to pull on the handle (my one year old could reach it) then they’d just be able to wander outside. There was a chain right at the top so as long as it was on they couldn’t really get too far (didn’t stop me getting up three times a night to check it though).

Surroundings

Set in 365 acres of picturesque woodland the Woburn site is slightly smaller than other Center Parcs resorts – but don’t let its size deter you.

Because it’s not too vast, getting around by foot is fairly easy – bonus when you have a baby and your husband forgets to pack the pram. Nothing is more than a twenty-minute walk, and that was with me lugging a non-compliant one year old around.

The main Village and Plaza areas both have good selections of eateries, shops and, more importantly, Starbucks; clean and beautifully landscaped they are perfect destinations for early evening strolls.

The Village, Centre Parcs Woburn

Massive ‘big-up’ to Center Parcs’ resident ducks down on the lake – you MADE this holiday for our kids. I seriously don’t think they could have had a better holiday than if they’d had a trip to the Night Garden (I wouldn’t have been so pleased, reasons can be found here). Those birds are either extremely stupid, very tame or completely off their nut – either way I imagine staff have to pump them full of Valium each night just to take the edge off being relentlessly chased.

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Subtropical Swimming Paradise

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Or as I like to call it, hot humid hell. If you are, however, below the age of 10 and water slides are your thing then I imagine it’s very much like a wet, sweaty Disney Land. Having spent pretty much every day at the pool, I had to keep reminding myself it was a holiday for the kids – albeit paid for by an adult who had Monica’s ‘Barbados’ hair for four days straight.

Centre Parcs Woburn Subtropical Paradise

The main area for pre-schoolers and up is Venture Harbour. Nautically themed, it’s full to the brim with slides, water canons and parents screaming “WAIT YOUR TURN!” Babies who don’t fancy getting rugby tackled by mental four-year olds can hang out in the slightly less chaotic Venture Bay. With shallow water that’s perfect for paddling and three gentle slides, it’s an aquatic paradise for little mermaids and mermen alike.

Venture Harbour, Centre Parcs Woburn

Venture Bay, Centre Parcs Woburn Images courtesy of barrandwray.com

The outdoor rapids are a must – they look tame but really aren’t! Great fun for grown-ups or strong swimmers only – don’t go taking your toddler down them unless you want social services knocking on your door.

Same to be said about the ‘Typhoon’ and ‘Twister’ rides – I won’t ruin the surprise but I nearly lost my breakfast and bikini bottoms in one fellow swoop (lucky lifeguard).

Adults who fancy leisurely lengths of the pool, this ain’t for you – book a Sandals holiday to Mauritius (err, jealous much).

So much to say about the pool I’ve thrown it into some bullet points:

Pros 

  • Warm shallow water for little ones to splash in for HOURS at a time
  • Good age appropriate slides for toddlers, pre-schoolers and up
  • Excellent changing facilities, plenty of family cubicles to go around
  • Lodge wristbands also worked on the lockers, so no need to worry about a pound coin (for baby brain sufferers, there’s also a nifty machine that reads your wristband and reminds you of your locker number)
  • Cots dotted around the pool area for when your baby is so overcome by heat and excitement they pass out
  • Complimentary baby and child life vests, so if you’re looking for some extra room in the case then leave yours at home
  • Cabanas are available to hire if you’re feeling particularly swanky, but not many so book in advance
  • For nut jobs who fancy a coffee in the 30-odd degree heat then there’s even a Starbucks at your disposal

Cons 

  • The heat, oh dear god, the heat. They could probably knock the thermostat down a degree or two without everyone freezing to death. Our one-year old had a face like an angry tomato the whole time she was there (which thanks to her four-year old brother was for about four hours every day)
  • Not much for adults. There’s the lazy river, above mentioned rapids and slides but nowhere to have a proper swim if you’re that way inclined. Realistically you don’t really holiday at Center Parcs unless you own a brood of hyperactive children, so I can’t imagine it’s too much of a draw back for that many people
  • Seating isn’t great – a literal handful of sun loungers next to the Starbucks, after that you’re perched on pretty uncomfortable plastic chairs
  • Good luck getting past the ice cream parlour and sweet shop on the way out…

Activities

Activities wise, we really didn’t do too much – on account of our son’s obsession with the subtropical swimming paradise.

The playgrounds were brilliant, lovely soft wood chippings to prevent them caving their heads in when they fell off swings etc. Also loads of soft play places dotted around in various restaurants (Sports Cafe and Pancake House to name a couple), so you can still wear them out if it’s raining and you just can’t face another day of Side Show Bob hair.

One of the playgrounds at Centre Parcs Woburn

More indoor activities to be had at ‘The Plaza’ – climbing walls, badminton / tennis courts, table tennis etc. Also craft rooms and face painting, along with what I imagine to be an extortionately priced ‘Build a Bear’ type money trap.

On another day of biblical rain we headed indoors for a spot of bowling, which went down a treat but as with everything in Center Parcs you have to book in advance in order to avoid disappointment.

Bowling at Centre Parcs Woburn

We decided against bike hire, mainly because the resort actually feels quite small and everything was pretty much within walking distance.

We did hire a boat on the lake, but to be honest, it wasn’t as fun as it looked. The ‘lake’ is more like a flooded puddle, it takes about 10 minutes to whiz round it in one of the electric boats – the kids were asking to get off after five. You’ll pay £20 for half an hour – if you’re in a large group then it’s worth splitting the time between you and sharing the costs.

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Food

We didn’t really have any intention of eating out during our stay – a four and one year old don’t make for a relaxing dining experience. That said, we ventured out twice, once to the Sports Cafe and another time to The Pancake House.

The Sports Cafe was fairly average and it took around 40 minutes for our food to arrive, that said, it was check-in day at lunch time so full of people whiling away the hours before they could get into their lodges.

The Pancake House was good, got in just before the lunchtime rush so super fast service – omelettes are available too if you can’t quite justify letting your kids OD on puddings for lunch.

The on-site ‘Parc Market’ is fairly well equipped (even managed to find some baby nail clippers), but pricey so make sure you stock up on all essentials before you arrive. Expect to pay double for what you’d normally part with for a loaf of bread.

Aqua Sana

I had every intention of visiting the Aqua Sana Spa, but I’m not overly fond on being touched by strangers and after a quick nosey at the price list I decided £85 was just too much for 55 minutes of awkwardness. There were cheaper options, facials or 25 minute massages, but to be honest I’d rather spend the money on shoes and let my husband go nuts with the olive oil.

Not keen on a treatment but want to check out the spa’s amazing facilities? A three-hour session will set you back about £40 (check out the different experiences here). In theory I really liked the idea of the sensory rain walk but as it was bucketing it down outside, I just went for a potter to the Parc Market.

If you fancy a swim in a pool that isn’t 50% water, 50% toddler pee then this might be the place for you.

The Verdict

Pleasantly surprised – not an over enthusiastic teenager in an ill-fitting, brightly coloured blazer in sight!

Would we come back for another family vacay? Definitely! In terms of what we needed for a holiday with small children, it ticked every box.

Yes once you’re in it’s a little on the expensive side – activities, food etc but you can easily minimise those costs by going self catering, using the pool facilities, taking your own bikes, walking, playgrounds, soft play etc.

At the end of the day, if your kids are anything like ours then they’ll be happy with the pool, the prospect of a grufflalo and a few daredevil ducks – none of which you have to book in advance.

Centre Parks Woburn Review

Tired ‘N Tested Rating:

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Prices and booking information can be found at www.centerparcs.co.uk

 

In the Night Garden: A Beginner’s Guide

Becoming a parent is full of first times. The first time you realise poo can be projectile, the first time you pull an all nighter without alcohol or glow sticks and the first time you experience the mind-bending and slightly terrifying world of children’s television.

More than likely the first programme you’ll be exposed to as a new parent will be ‘In the Night Garden’, and, wow, what an introduction it is.

in-the-night-garden-2Image courtesy of go.sky.com

Narrated by actual thespian, Derek Jacobi, it’s probably one of the trippiest shows on CBeebies. You’ll be faced with hypnotic, blossoming flowers, a raft of semi-mute and colourful characters with questionable names and, as this post will explore, even more questionable personality traits.

There’s singing, dancing, a touch of incest and more drama than your average Friday night in Walford.

So who’s who? And more importantly, what the hell is going on?

To help you on your path to enlightenment, here are all the need to know facts:

Igglepiggle

He’s the main man. Big, blue and has an unnatural obsession with a red blanket.

Every episode starts with him in a little sail boat, floating along in the ocean. No one knows why this blue, fleecy man, who can only communicate by squeaks, has been damned to a life of sea-based solitude. Is he in pre-school entertainment purgatory? Is he a Somalian pirate? Has he been banished to the brine for some abhorrent crime against humanity? Perhaps he’s in cahoots with the Man on the Moon from the John Lewis advert? Who knows…

WHAT DID YOU DO?

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His only form of escapism is to visit some trippy garden which, unlike the name suggests, is bathed in bright sunlight. Confusing much?

Whether it’s his own personal hell, or he’s taken some LSD to pass his time in exhile, we’ll never really know but you have to admit that it’s strangely captivating and the kids go nuts for it.

Upsy Daisy 

Loves dancing, kissing and lifting her skirt up every five minutes – also fallsies down and getsies up, then fallsies down again – a lot. I know what you’re thinking…Have you seen her on Geordie Shore? Quite possibly. She does carry a bed round with her at all times, you just never know when an opportunity will present itself…

1l6hy8Image courtesy of go.sky.com / Imgflip.com

Totally in love with Iggle, she throws herself at him at every opportunity. She seriously needs a friend intervention to awaken her to the fact it’s a relationship that can’t go anywhere, due his aforementioned exile issues. Even if, by some paranormal anomaly, she went to live on the boat with him she’d have fallen overboard within 20 minutes, or he’d have beaten her to death with a paddle because of her incessant whining for a chicken kebab.

Could do with laying off the shots (would help her stay on her feet a little more), that said, she does a mean slut drop.

You can find her tweeting about her latest lycra fashion collection on @UpsyDaisyGShore.

Makka Pakka

A hobbit with Stewie Griffin’s head, if Stewie Griffin’s head sprouted three, small,  circumcised penises.

Likes collecting stones, giving stones as gifts, cuddling stones and sleeping on stones. He has a stone thing.

IMG_2749So stoned right now.

A pro trumpet player, he pushes around a little cart like a homeless crack addict and is insistent on washing people’s faces with a dirty sponge. I don’t know why. Crack does strange things to people. #prayformakkapakka

That little junkie has a good song though and your little ones will clap along to it with glee. You’ll be humming it for days.

Tombliboos

Three of them, potentially incestuous siblings. They kiss a lot, their trousers fall down more times than I imagine is socially acceptable and they have an unnatural obsession with brushing their teeth (got to keep minty fresh for all the kissing, right?).

Incontinent too – those pesky trousers are always hanging up on the washing line. Nice.

Super noisy with zero musical prowess, they live in a topiary hedge built of Curly Wurleys and pretzels – you’ll be craving chocolaty, salty snacks for hours after. Yum.

MAS_0000000001768676_in_the_night_garden_s04_e63-ingestedImage courtesy of go.sky.com

Pontipines 

Somebody call social services immediately. These tiny and inept parents, who breed like rabbits, lose their children in every single episode they appear in. It’s not like it’s just the one either, they have eight offspring they regulalry manage to misplace.

maxresdefault-2I can’t help but feel like I’ve forgotten something…KEVIN!!!” (Image courtesy of OrchardShowsUS)

No one really likes the Pontipines, on account of their poor parenting skills. Find a new episode on the iPlayer – I recommend ‘Igglepiggle’s Mucky Patch’ or ‘Igglepiggle’s Tiddle’…

Wottingers 

Blue versions of their neighbours, the Pontipines. Also have eight children. Quite possibly engaged in some kind of wife swap scenario with their friends. Not even bothering with a photo – see above, but a different colour.

Titifers 

Colourful birds that hang around in the trees, and I imagine are responsible for littering the garden with those giant Swizzels Matlow rainbow droppings.

Hoopoe-Upupa-Epops-Tittifer.jpgImage courtesy of LazerHorse

They sing a little song and everyone goes to bed, apart from Iggle – he’s a rebellious little so and so. ‘Somebody’s not in bed…Igglepiggle’s not in bed.’ Shock. He’s probably waiting until everyone’s asleep so he can rob them blind and steal some Pontipine children (let’s face it, it’s not like their parents would notice).

Pinky Ponk 

An Nazi airship crossed with a Blackpool fun bus. With a pissed pilot at its helm, it’s an aerophobic’s worst nightmare – ricocheting from tree to tree it even has its own ‘ponk alert’ to notify passengers of certain death.

MAS_0000000001768702_in_the_night_garden_s04_e76-ingestedMAS_0000000001767983_in_the_night_garden_s01_e14-ingestedImages courtesy of go.sky.com

On the plus, it does serve in-flight drinks in the form of ‘Pinky Ponk Juice’ – which  I can only imagine is a panic quashing cocktail of vodka and diazepam.

Ninky Nonk

MAS_0000000001767961_in_the_night_garden_s01_e03-ingestedImage courtesy of go.sky.com

The rail replacement for when the Pinky Ponk is being doused in fire extinguishing foam. This alternative, but not any safer, mode of transport can travel up trees, along branches and even goes upside – perfect for settling the nerves of the traumatised Pinky Ponk passengers. Go Easy Jet people.

It’s a pretty fair assumption that walking seems the best option for most inhabitants of the Night Garden.

Haahoos

Really not sure… Five escapee bouncy castles, who lurk ominously in the peripheries. Fat, slow and lazy – they are generally just passing through, probably on their way to the Night Garden’s closest Maccy Ds. They don’t really get their own episodes, on account of their short life expectancy. Don’t worry yourself too much about them.

CK2w0j7UcAAwwajWe’re not fat, we have a thyroid problem...”

In Summary

So there you have it. A run down of all the major players. You can now sit back, relax and really get the most out of your early evening television experience…

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Not only will it turn your normally hyper kiddies into lovely, calm zombies – it’s also strangely relaxing for adults too. Last week I found myself completely absorbed by it only for my husband walk in and say, “Why are you sat on your own watching Night Garden? Where are the kids?” We then discovered they’d got bored half way through and had gone off to lick the dog and put our collection of Apple devices down the toilet.

What? Don’t you go comparing me to Mrs Pontipine – they were totally still inside the house, that time…

I think that’s about it. Night, night everyone. Sweet dreams…

WHAT DID YOU DO?

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