Tag Archives: kids

No Roses or Violets

I was in a supermarket last week and it took me a few minutes to work out why the store in question was promoting boxes of chocolates so heavily – St Valentine’s day.

I’m probably going to sound like an old bore, but my wife and I no longer buy each other gifts or send each other cards at this time of year.  It’s not that we’ve fallen out or that the ‘magic’ has gone, we just feel that, with four kids, there are other things we could be spending our money on.

We do buy each other gifts at other points in the year – my other half loves flowers and I like to buy them for her, I’d just rather do it when she is least expects it rather than because card shops or florists are telling me I should.

I’m not knocking February 14th altogether – for younger couples or those who have recently started dating, it can be a special time.  It’s just that, for an old married couple of 8 years, it’s not as high on our list of priorities as it once was.


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A Full Christmas

I’m sure I’m like many parents when I say that I have mixed emotions regarding the build-up to Christmas.  There’s no doubting it’s a great time of year: Christmas lists, nativity plays and putting up the tree are great opportunities to spend time with the kids as their excitement levels steadily increase.

The downside, for us, is trying to organise presents for four kids.  We have to identify suitable gifts, then find time to order them (thank goodness for the internet) or buy them and when all of that’s done, we need to store them all somewhere.  That’s before we even consider extended family.

Thankfully we (ok, my wife) are on top of things this year and at the time of writing we only have one or two purchases to make.

On a personal level, this is probably my eagerly anticipated festive period of recent years.  Due to job, and the unsociable hours which go with it, this will be first Christmas Day off in three years.  I have the added bonus of also being on days off on Christmas Eve and Hogmanay, though New Year does little for me.

I’m sure for many, working on Christmas Day is second nature, but I still find it a bit weird, despite having done so several times.  While the first-half of the day is great – the opening of presents etc – as early evening approaches I start to think ahead and I’m careful not to eat too much or become too relaxed.

So this year will be a pleasant change.  Having 24th December off too means I will wake up fresh on the big day, though if previous years are anything to go by, the kids will be up as early as 6am.  There will be no appeasing them either, if they know Santa has been and gone.

On Christmas Eve, the six of us will be attending the afternoon show of a pantomime.  Christmas Day itself will mean a meal at home and seeing other family at different points during the day.

While the whole day will be a wonderful experience, I’m also looking forward to night-time.  When the kids finally go to sleep, I’ll be lazing on the couch watching TV and eating junk, rather than going to work.

Merry Christmas.

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Other Priorities

This will be my last post this month.  Writing has dropped down my list of priorities over the past week – my wife is suffering from a chest infection and I’m in charge of the kids.

I’m doing fine (I think) but between caring for my other half and the little ones, while still going to work, I’m shattered.  I have to admit to be really concerned for a couple of days but now, thankfully, she seems to be over the worst.  I didn’t need to be reminded, but these last few days have been yet another example of how much work my wife has to put in to look after our little monsters.

I do have a couple of new posts just about complete.  However, with my senior proof-reader feeling poorly, it will be next month before they see the light of day.

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Our Camping Jinx

I recently enjoyed a much needed – and in my opinion well deserved – weeks holiday from work.  We had a great time spending plenty of time as a family on daytrips, going out for lunch and even just lazing around the house.  On a personal level, I also enjoyed being made a fuss of on my birthday, where I turned thirty-, well that’s not important.

We haven’t let the disappointing weather get us down, though the regular rainfall has, for the second year running, stopped us from following a new pursuit.

When we bought a tent last year, we expected camping trips to become a regular feature in our calendar.  In would be an extra, inexpensive chance to get away for a few days, in addition to our regular holidays…or vacations for any American readers.

However, it seems that anytime I’m off work and we even think of packing up the tent, it brings out the worst in the weather.

When we do go for the first time, we are hoping the conditions will be perfect…or as close as you can get to perfect in the UK.  We don’t expect warm temperatures and glorious sunshine, but we do need dry conditions: if we want the kids to be keen on going on regular camping trips then spending time in a muddy field first time around isn’t likely to sell it to them.

I’ve never been camping but like the idea of a couple of nights at a time in the fresh air, without home comforts.  The chance to spend time together as a family is always welcome, as is the opportunity to visit new places.

With four kids, we had to buy a tent that was slightly larger than average.  Our holds up to eight people and when assembled it looks like a small cottage.  When booking to stay at a site, we will probably have to pay extra because of the amount of space it will take up.

Of course, getting there is only half the battle.  On arrival, there is still that dreaded moment where we will have to put the tent up for the first time.  We’ve had a practice run in my in-laws’ garden and we got the job done…eventually.  However it’s different when you have to do it for real, in front of established campers.  We’ve been told by more than one person that the ‘newbies’ stand out a mile – usually they have confused looks and bits of tent sticking out or collapsed inward where they shouldn’t.

When we do finally get away it will be a case of learning from our mistakes – what equipment could we do without and more importantly, what do we need for next time.  We already have some extras but with four kids also making the trip, there’s only so much we can fit into (and on top of) the car.

I really hope we manage even a couple of nights camping before the summer turns to autumn.  The idea of staying in a tent in a remote location without any luxuries really appeals to me – as long as there’s a decent takeaway or chip shop nearby.


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If Your Name’s Not Down…

My oldest child has just turned seven years old.  It seems like just a matter of minutes since I was a new dad, clueless and scared out of my wits, yet MM is well on the way to double figures.

As was the case in previous years, our daughter wanted a party this time round.  We booked a local soft play area suitable for slightly older kids – think less ball pools but more trampolines and other bouncy stuff – and those in attendance weren’t disappointed.

Our one issue was numbers.  With a limit at the venue of 25 kids, we had our work cut out.  As well as our three other children, we had to consider their cousins, our friends’ little ones, and of course, MM’s classmates from school.

This last group posed a dilemma.  When we asked MM if she was inviting the whole class, she wasn’t keen on the idea.  Instead, she wanted to handpick who was coming and who wasn’t.

On one hand we understood where she was coming from – after all, who wants to invite someone they don’t like to a party.  Then our opinions, rightly or wrongly, come into play.  If there are any parents or kids who we don’t like, we’re hardly going to go out of our way to include them in our daughter’s big day.

However it’s not that simple.  When the invitations are handed out at school, it’s normally done by the teacher.  Imagine the excitement in a class of 25 pupils, where most of those present have been asked to a party – at our kids’ school they often come running out at home time, with the pieces of paper still in their hands.  Contrast that image with the feelings of a handful of kids if they are left out, excluded while most of their peers are included.  No child deserves that.

Therefore, everyone in MM’s class was invited.  As it turned out, one or two couldn’t make it and others just didn’t come.  However, the friends she did want there all showed up and a good time was had by all.  We’re glad MM made what we believe, is the right decision – she ensured nobody felt left out.

We only wish that was all of the kids birthday’s over with for the year, but alas, no – in just a few weeks the twins turn four.

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It’s Really Not Good To Be Back

I really couldn’t be bothered this past week.

I’ve been even less in the mood for work than usual and even the thought of going running hasn’t appealed to me.  My lethargy is the result of returning home from a week abroad.  We spent our holiday in a villa, with our own swimming pool and glorious sunshine with the weather warm but not too hot.  Perfect.

For my wife and me, this was our first overseas jaunt for several years.  We used to go on foreign holidays regularly but hadn’t done so since when MM was a baby.  As you can imagine, four young children aren’t quite as portable as one.

However, when my in-laws suggested a week in the sun, we decided to give it a go.  If nothing else it would be a change from caravans and holiday parks.

With regards to travel, we had no real concerns for the kids – they can just about behave most of the time and we knew we could keep them occupied during the flight.  We boarded the plane armed with two portable DVD players, a Nintendo DS and enough colouring books and pens to last a month.  For the boys, the excitement of their first time on a plane was enough in itself.

The biggest issue was the twins’ egg allergy.  I’ve written previously about this problem and while never far from our thoughts, it was always going to be one of the best challenges we faced when going abroad.

It was also one of the reasons we opted for a villa – as well as the obvious benefits of privacy, extra living space and our own pool, we also had facilities to cook our own meals.  This meant we didn’t have to ask restaurant staff about the ingredients of each meal – and didn’t have to rely on their knowledge and/or honesty.

There was an added bonus in that our place was equipped with a pretty impressive barbecue – I wonder when will be the next time I dine outdoors?

Our other concern was the swimming pool.  Four overexcited little ones running around on wet tiles close to a pool is a recipe for disaster.  At least one adult had to be on ‘lifeguard’ duty at all times, though to their credit, the kids were surprisingly well behaved.  Unfortunately the pool was not guarded or fenced off in any way, though it’s location to the side of the property did help.

Once these challenges were overcome, we never looked back.  Lazy days were spent at the beach or by the pool, with lots of eating and the ‘occasional’ drink thrown in.  In the evening we took the kids to local fairgrounds and then for a game of pool in a local pub where the staff went out of their way to make our four monsters feel at home.

The time of year also helped.  Not only was the temperature less than it’s summer peak, the holiday season was only starting so our resort was relatively quiet.

Of course good times like this never last, and we were given a swift dose of reality as our flight landed back home – big, angry black clouds and heavy showers.  We also realised that within the space of around six hours, the temperatures we were experiencing had dropped by around 20 degrees.

I don’t want to turn into one of those people who spend their life counting the days until their next holiday.  Sometimes, though, it’s hard not to.

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The Joys of Night-Shift

I had been planning on writing about working night-shift at some point – since it’s 4am and I haven’t slept for three hours, I might as well start now.  Yes, it’s my day off.

I’ve mentioned my job before in previous posts.  I’ve been there for nearly six years, and while it’s not exactly glamorous or in any way a career, it suits my, and our, circumstances.

I took the job when MM was a baby and at that point I worked back-shift.  However, when our four kids were all born and were ready for nursery and school, I decided that it was time for a change – the kids were going to be out in the mornings, and I wouldn’t be at home in the afternoons, so we would only see each other on weekend mornings or my days off.

So I applied, and was accepted, for a post in the same job, working nights on a rotating shift basis.  To be honest, working night-shift was something that had always appealed to me.  My late father had done the same for many years and the ‘anti-social’ hours didn’t phase me.

That was nearly two years ago, and it’s proven to be the right decision.  It’s not perfect though, so let’s deal with the negatives.

Sleep.  Obviously it’s an issue, probably the biggest.  Your whole body-clock is thrown out of kilter and it really takes some getting used to.  Personally, I would say it was probably a full six months before I adjusted to my new hours.

My biggest problem was in the second-half of my shift, I would find myself drifting off, particularly if I wasn’t busy.  There are various remedies: caffeine-filled energy drinks, going outside for some fresh air or splashing cold water on your face all work to varying degrees, but none of them are a match for getting a good sleep before you come to work.

My role involves me spending most of my time sitting at a desk – I’m not sure if this is more of a contributing factor than if, for instance, I worked in a job that was outdoors, or was more physically demanding.  I suppose it depends on the individual.

Back to that point about getting a decent sleep.  Our street is relatively quiet so I don’t do too badly, but it must be a nightmare for anyone living on main roads, in city centres or in busy blocks of flats or apartments.  People going about their lives during the day – whether it be family, kids or neighbours – can’t be expected to tiptoe around during daylight hours.

I also find it far easier to fall asleep in the dark mornings of winter, rather in the bright summer sun.

There have been a few occasions when, for one reason or another, I haven’t got enough sleep (I usually need minimum 5-6 hours).  Those nights at work can be tough, regardless of how many artificial stimulants you have at your disposal.

There are other drawbacks.  Sometimes when you look outside on a dark winter’s night, and it’s cold and wet, icy or snowing, you would give anything to be staying in.

Your first day off is not a full day either.  When I arrive home from my last shift, I need at least a couple of hours in bed to keep me going for the remainder of the day.

I think it could also be tough working nights if you are looking to climb the career ladder.  Very few professions are nights only and in many cases I think if it’s the hours that suit, then you may have to be content with just a ‘job’, rather than something a bit more challenging.

For parents though, I think there are far more positives.  I usually wake up around the time my two oldest kids are due to finish school, meaning I’m often able to collect them.  I then have the rest of the day to help with homework, sit down together for our evening meal, and generally spend time together.

Contrast that with a parent who works office hours and commutes – they may be lucky to see their kids for more than an hour a day.

Being at work during the wee small hours, I encounter far fewer managers than my counterparts who work ‘normal’ hours.  In my book, less management equals less office politics.

While sleeping in daylight may not be to everyone’s liking, it does allow for a degree of flexibility.  If one of the kids has an appointment or there’s a nativity or some other show at school or nursery, I can attend and sleep before and/or after.  My rotating shift pattern also means it’s nice to have the some days off during the week as well as weekends.

There is one other benefit for me, I have time to run to work and back.  Some people probably think I’m mad but I love it.  I feel more awake when I get to work and the return journey in the morning helps me to sleep.

These last couple of days off have been a bit strange.  I overslept on my first day off and haven’t really recovered meaning I’m feeling sleepy and waking up at bizarre times.

It’s clearly not for everyone, but for parents looking to achieve a suitable work-life balance, there are worse options than night-shift..

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