Monday, 21 November 2016

Our little camping trip in Norfolk this summer!

This summer we went camping for the first time, a 7 month pregnant me, the husband and Conner who is never away from his xbox for longer than ten minutes, and Noah who is nocturnal. This was going to be interesting to say the least! First obstacle was the actual lack of camping gear we owned, so we borrowed a tent and some other camping paraphernalia. We had prebooked at a newly opened campsite in Wells-next-the-sea in Norfolk, Blue Skies Campsite if you fancy a nosey. It is a family run site, and this summer was their first season, not that you would tell. 

If I am honest I didn't quite know what to expect, and I had no idea what facilities to expect at a campsite. I imagined grim toilets and an old concrete shower block but I couldn't have been more wrong. When you arrive at the site you drive in a gated entrance and the reception is a caravan with information notices outside and contact numbers for the staff, the site is staffed from first thing in the morning until late at night. There were quite a few pitches across two separate areas on teh site but the pitches were large and not all on top of each other. 

There was a large kitchen area with benches and green space, and the toilet and shower area. It was a pleasant surprise to find proper toilets rather than portaloos or cold unkept concrete toilets. And the showers were better than mine at home! For a camping virgin the facilities were excellent in my view. 

The trip itself went as all things do when we do them, we just winged it. I ran around chasing Noah as he fled like he were a caged animal grabbing his chance for freedom, while Andrew struggling trying to erect a tent all by himself. In the larger side of the site where our pitch was, they have kept the whole central area free of pitches and put some toys and play equipment and popped some bunting around to corden the area off. This served well at keeping the kids occupied and in sight. 

I must admit once Noah became obsessed with this swingball my life got a lot easier as I didn't have to run my pregnant self around the field and carry him back every time he made a bid for freedom. He just ran to the swingball and played nicely. Sleeping was a whole other issue!! My children are not natural campers let's just say that! We had Conner complaining he was cold, uncomfy, bored and scared. And Noah was running like a bull to a flag at the tent sides and generally being a ball of energy. We did consider just packing up and going home where he can be entertained by disney films and can bounce around his room as he always does, but we stuck it out. The remainder of the trip Andrew packed him in the car and drove around the Norfolk coastal roads to get him off and then carefully carried him into the tent and prayed he stayed asleep. 

Being the unprepared campers that we are we went to the next town along in the morning to get breakfast at Morrisons, but the next day we were better prepared and got some bits in for Andrew to cook us all bacon rolls! Might I add he hates bacon, tried it again in pure hunger, still hates bacon. I was a good wife though and done him some poached eggs for a sandwich, which is quite an accomplishment on a small camping stove in a square pan. 

Although we were poorly prepared for camping, we still had a lovely break and despite being 7 months pregnant at the time, I didn't sleep too badly. We spent loads of time down at the seafront enjoying the sunshine and sat on the quay wall and had a beer, well I had a coke but it was lovely all the same. 

We went crabbing whilst down at the sea wall, although the locals inform me that it is actually called gillying (who knew?!) either way the kids enjoyed watching Andrew catch crabs, as they didn't get a go, I don't know how much was because Andrew didn't want to share or that the kids couldn't be arsed! 

All in all, it was a lovely weekend away in the summer holidays. The campsite was fully booked all summer so we were glad we had booked early. The site has a family feel to it and they make everyone feel welcome and go above and beyond what is expected of them, like when our phones were flat, the site owner took our power bank home and charged it and brought it back later that evening. We would absolutely revisit and would urge you to book ahead for next summer. I will drop their info below if you fancy a nosey.

Blue Skies Campsite
Stiffkey Road
Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

NR23 1QB, UK

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Our visit to Twycross Zoo this summer

As a family we love going on days out, but with Noah and his communication difficulties, it is always relatively stressful and requires careful planning on our part. We wanted to take him out somewhere after his 3rd birthday in July and decided that given his current interest in animals, a zoo would be the best bet. We had previously visited Twycross Zoo in East Midlands in 2014 and absolutely loved it! Actually when it came to writing this post I realised that my blog picture was actually taken there when we visited in 2014. From our memory of our visit we particularly liked that the zoo covered such a vast space and it didn't feel particularly busy so we decided to make a return visit. We booked our tickets online which saved us a few pennies and while we printed our receipt off, the staff there are happy for you to provide them with your booking reference if you don't have a printer. 

As you enter the zoo using the entrance pictured above, there is a large indoor complex with multiple food stands, refreshments and a huge soft play area, and although there is a small additional charge for it, it does seem worth it. Unfortunately we were unable to make use of it and Noah was so exhausted after looking at all the animals that he fell asleep on the walk back to the zoo entrance! This is also where you find the gift shop, which is a haven for all things your kids will beg you for, and while it is no cheaper than any other attraction gift shop you would visit, it is clearly signed throughout the shop that all profits made from purchases in the gift shop go directly into the conservation programmes that Twycross are involved with.

Whenever we go anywhere we are careful to check whether the disabled parking states that it is reserved for blue badge holders only or whether it is just 'disabled parking'. Due to Noah only just turning 3, we haven't applied for a blue badge for him yet. Luckily for us the disabled provision at Twycross doesn't require you to show a blue badge and the signage states that it is disabled parking and not exclusively for blue badge holders. However, when we attempted to park the car in the disabled bays, our entry to the car park was obstructed by a member of staff on a golf kart style vehicle and he made hand gestures in a square shape to say that we needed a blue badge and motioned for us to turn around and pointing in the direction of the field parking whilst leaving his vehicle obstructing the entrance to the car park. Although we were disappointed that we weren't allowed to use the disabled parking, we turned around and headed to the field parking provision and parked up. When we had arrived at the zoo, my husband popped into guest services to ask why the signage does state that we must display a blue badge. Much to our surprise the staff in guest services said that as we had attended the zoo with a disabled guest and had provided the appropriate evidence for Noah to enter on a disabled child's ticket, we were free to use the disabled car park.

Happy that the parking issue was now resolved and clearly just a misunderstanding, I sent the husband off to fetch the car and park it in the disabled car park to make our return to the car easier. As you can imagine I was horrified to find that he had again been prevented from entering the car park, by the same member of staff and had to actually get out of the car and explain to the man that we had spoken to guest services and they have informed us that we are welcome to park there. It wouldn't have been as bad if he was allowed to then enter the car park, but the man was just as reluctant to move as he was before. In the end my husband actually had to say to him 'please move your vehicle because I will be parking my car here and if that is an issue you can take it up with your management'. Whilst this was the only issue we had on the day, it did put a downer on our visit and so much time was wasted at the start of our day trying to sort it out that it did set the mood for the visit, which is a shame as we do like the zoo itself. Upon our return home we telephoned guest services to explain what had taken place and naturally, express our disappointment. Andrew spoke directly to the head of guest services who was more than happy to explore the issue and offered us a complimentary return visit by way of apology, which we accepted. 

When we returned a couple of weeks later, we had no difficulty parking, we used the disabled parking and when we arrived we popped in to guest services to thank the man that had arranged for our return visit. He was very apologetic for our previous experience and let us know he would be available throughout our visit if we needed him for anything. It really felt like he cared whether we enjoyed our visit and was happy to help us.

One of our first stops this time was the butterfly house, and it was so worth it, even at 26 years old I found it magical. So many beautiful butterflies and they were not difficult to spot, we literally had to watch where we were walking and be careful not to step on any. The kids absolutely loved it, and it is so well kept in there, there was only one corner where by chance the husband was looking at caterpillars that he spotted a giant butterfly in a bit of trouble in a spider web, but sure enough when I sent Conner to get someone to assist, the butterfly was soon set free and unharmed. If it wasn't for the heat in there and the fact that I was heavily pregnant in August, I could have stayed in there all day. 

The thing I love the most about Twycross is that unlike some other zoos we have visited, the animals are spaced apart and there is plenty of green space and lots of room to walk around (and play!), when we visited we were told that there were approximately 50% more visitors than usual on an August Saturday, but if I am to be completely honest, I would never have noticed that the park was especially busy. We had no difficulty with queues for ice cream in the park, no problems viewing the animals. When we have some decent weather again we will definitely be making the trip again and are seriously considering getting an annual pass for the coming year. 

Thursday, 25 August 2016

For the crappy days (literally)

We are all guilty of editing our lives and putting a filter over things, sharing a snapshot of how perfect and lovely we want people to think our lives are. Since being a mum this is definitely something I do much, much more. Taking pictures of our darling children the first day of term, usually in front of the door where there is no mess, or putting mushy statuses on facebook about how wonderful our children are and what a dream they are to look after. And of course not forgetting the adorable (filtered) pictures on instagram that were actually the best of 20 snaps where they weren't smiling or even looking. 

Not all parents are brave enough to bare all about how being a mum or dad can be really crappy work, meant in the descriptive and literal sense. I think it is fair to say we have all had the pleasure of dealing with a 'poonami' you know, the one where your small baby does a poo and it goes all up their backs, down their legs and sometimes even in their hair. That is probably a sneak preview for parents of what grim tasks await them in the coming years. 

Actually, we have been fairly lucky with our two and don't have too many grim tales to tell but what happened to us the other day really topped them all, and I know we aren't the only ones to endure such an experience. 

Quite often, our nearly 3 year old will go and play in his room, he generally watches a bit of disney on now tv, or plays with his toys and is no trouble at all. Well, recently he has learnt to take off his clothes, and nappy. In the 10 minutes he was up there, he had managed to strip, remove nappy and poo. EVERYWHERE! I have never seen anything like it in my life, it was horrific. I am talking poo on the floor, poo on the bed and poo all over the child. This wasn't even something that could be dealt with using baby wipes, I just grabbed a poo free bit of child and carried him (at arms length!) to the bath.

It was at this point I thought back to a time in my life (obvs pre kids) where the thought of changing a nappy or wiping someone else's nose repulsed me, and here I am wiping bogeys off of my walls, mopping puddles of pee and at that very moment, scrubbing poo from the carpet. Maybe the most disturbing point is that when you have kids it doesn't even bother you that much, you just take it in your stride that children are disgusting beings and you will often find yourself cleaning up their bodily fluids. 

Because this, is what parenting really is, yes there are touching, beautiful moments but they are sandwiched between tantrums and pooey nappies.