3 weeks into our 10 things challenge and we have crossed a few items off the list.

So far we have….

…Grown some butterflies.

caterpillars! butterflies

After waiting patiently for the package to arrive from Insect Lore we got very excited when it appeared and we could set the caterpillars off on their growth adventure.  They grow a lot quicker than you think – it seems slow for the first two days but then oh my – they are like super growing caterpillars (made me feel a little itchy to be honest)

It wasn’t long and they became cocoons – just 5 days later – and then before we knew it we were sat watching them hatch out of their cocoons, unfolding their wings and fluttering around their temporary enclosure (which is in essentially a small pop up laundry basket!)

Our 4 year old loved this and so did we – releasing them was a bit of an anti-climax as it is so quick (and they don’t land on you like they do in the advert – which upset my son a little) but a really good item to have on your 10 things challenge.  Take a look here and order up your kit.

See how fast they grow! From start to finish just two weeks.

…Cooked a meal.

cookies pizza

We opted for Pizza and banana oat cookies.  YUMMY! Made on separate days, I have to admit, but nothing like cooking with your child and seeing how proud they are of themselves when they eat what they have made.

….Built a den.

densLove building dens! I remember as a child hogging the dining room and making the whole room a den, having all sorts of things in there (including my mums record player which had a tape recorder and microphone – I used to record my own radio show!) for a wonderfully self-contained home for me and little brother for hours
on end.  My sons den was no different although maybe a little more modern.  iPad for the TV, CD player, bed and space for everything he needed – toys, drink, relaxing…

Since the first den we have had two more – each getting a bit better and bit bigger each time. Love it! Probably only time your child will ever be happy with you taking a snooze while playing  as the bed area is the only place you can fit – so you have to snooze, it’s the rules!

So we have the following 7 items left on our list to complete before school starts;

  1. Grow some butterflies (sons idea)
  2. Camp in the garden (my idea)
  3. Cook a meal – main and dessert ( a mixture – I say cook he says bake)
  4. Build a den using things we already have at home
  5. Go to the theatre
  6. Grow something we can eat
  7. Climb a tree
  8. Create something from cardboard boxes
  9. All play in the park like children, like REALLY play like children all of us
  10. Face painting DIY style

We have two trips to the theater booked in – can’t really not when it’s Kids week at London theaters, and we have bought a tent for camping in the garden and have face paints ready to go.

Let us know how you are getting on with your 10 things.  I hope you’re enjoying your challenge as much as we are – roll on camping in the garden!

Toodlepip until next time

x

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lego man headstand

I’m feeling a mix of emotion right now. Happiness, worry, sadness and excitement.  Our little boy is starting school in September and although I’m excited for him, as he is very excited himself, I’m also sad that my little one is growing up and worried about him being OK.  He will of course be just fine as children are a lot more robust and resilient than we sometimes give them credit for, but before all that there are the holidays to contend with which is new territory for us as parents, juggling time off work and childcare. I also want to make sure we spend the quality time together which the school holidays offer and with that in mind we have set ourselves a bit of a challenge ticking off all ten things from our list of ‘Ten things to do with Mummy and/or Daddy before I start school’ *high five*   (it doesn’t involve standing on our heads like our friend Lego man, we just liked the photo, in case you were wondering.)

Our list of ten things, a mixture of what we as parents think would be pretty cool (we will see if our son thinks the same when we come to it) and what our son thinks  would be wicked (his word, I can’t even begin to think what word will mean ‘good’ when grandchildren arrive – cool, wicked….I digress)

Our ten things are…

  • ‘Grow’ some butterflies (sons idea)
  • Camp in the garden (my idea)
  • Cook a meal – main and dessert ( a mixture – I say cook he says bake)
  • Build a den using things we already have at home (a mixture – he wants to build a den and I’m already thinking about what we can use in the house that we can put back again afterwards)
  • Go to the theater (my idea. It’s Kids Week – it is actually a month but it’s called Kids Week – in August at London theaters- take a look!)
  • Grow something we can eat (a mixture – he wants to grow things and eating them would be pretty cool and maybe a way to get him to eat more veg?)
  • Climb a tree (sons idea with help from daddy)
  • Create something from cardboard boxes
  • All play in the park like children, like REALLY play like children, all of us (daddy’s idea – he tends to do this anyway!)
  • Face painting DIY style (a mixture – sons wants his face painting and I think well I’m going to have to have a go at that then)

With our list in hand we start our challenge. First up, ‘grow’ some butterflies. We are all excited about this one, although I’m feeling slightly itchy at the thought of little caterpillars in the house. We order the pack and wait for the post…..

Follow my blog to see how we got on and we challenge you to set your own 10 things and let us know how it’s going!!

I’m off to sit by the front door with our son waiting for the post to arrive and I look forward to hearing from you.

Finally the time has arrived for the movie we have all been waiting for and it’s frankly very yellow and everything you would expect from a movie with the Minions in it.

Considering those little yellow squidgy creatures get everywhere and the trailers have been hard to get away from, the plot is surprising with twists galore!! Some not so great but they are forgiven as it’s the Minions.  Even when I set foot into work I can’t get away from them!

Minions BBC R1

See what they got up to .

I don’t really want to give too much away and I don’t think I need to give you a rundown of the synopsis, the trailers do their job, all you really need to know is that it is the better-than-Despicable-Me prequel to Despicable Me.  Sandra Bullock as Scarlet Overkill is positioned just right – scary enough but seemingly nice enough too, to start off with.  She also takes the best line of the movie ‘work for me and all your dreams come true – respect, power…. Banana!!’ oh, and Bob becomes King of England, for a while.

This movie is also for the adults with references to many iconic moments, the Beetles Abbey Road album cover being one of them and many moments in history from evolution and the dinosaurs to the swinging 60’s and the birth of TV.

Just one jump in the seat moment for my 4 year old which was right at the start when the T-Rex makes his first appearance.  A lot of use of weapons Minion style from lava lamp guns and missile launching skirts so lots to chat about with your little one.  My son was most interested in the fact that Scarlett Overkill seemed nice (SPOILER ALERT) but ended up not being so nice to the Minions in the end.  When asked what his favourite bit was he said the (SPOILER ALERT) part in the dungeon – where Kevin, Stuart and Bob were to be tortured, but ended up having a great time!

The typical English caricature portrayal of the Queen is nothing more than brilliant from the teeth to the night spent in the pub. What I will say is the larger than life twist near the end (you’ll know it when it hits you) was a bit well, overkill, but maybe that was the point?  But the ending leads brilliantly into the frist Despicable Me movie.

The marketing and awareness around this film has been huge – minions appearing on suncream to yogurts and clothing and many other brands you would never have thought of – Vogue? They are reaching all audiences and all age ranges. The Minions are in fact also fashion designers don’t you know?  I personally love these Rupert Sanderson court shoe part of a larger range.

RUPERT-SANDERSON-L

Overall a 4 out of 5 – mainly as I think we have a soft spot for the minions and have rose tinted glasses so they need a slight come down no? And on that note I’m off shopping…..

young_reader***

Have you ever thought what you would want to learn or what you would have paid more attention to at school if you were a child again?  Children absorb information a lot easier than adults as anyone learning a language later in life will tell you, but so many of us no longer seek out information or we feel daunted by learning.

A couple of weeks ago I took an exam.  It brought back many memories of taking GCSE’s and A-levels but it just wasn’t as stressful – it was just another task I needed to do as part of my day.  This was most likely as I took the choice to take the exam as part of the Open University degree I’m studying for in my ‘spare’ time.  I start another module in October – I’m hooked!

When I finished formal education, I thought “That’s it I will never write another essay or sit another exam ever ever again – WHOOP!”  but I realised just before I had my son nearly 5 years ago (and 7 years after finishing university) that there was so much more out there that I wanted to learn about and know about.

Realising this just before having a baby was probably not great timing in the same way as moving house when pregnant, it’s not great but it always seems to happen that way, but I digress. As I sat in our flat, beached on the sofa like a whale, I was studying for a certificate in event planning. After that I started to take modules with the Open University, just picking any that I was interested in and after a time it turned out that I could build my own BA with the modules I had done (plus a couple more).

There are also those free online courses, they call them MOOC’s – Massive Open Online Courses.  They are really good and they can be done from anywhere in the world. Look up Futurelearn and you can do a course for free in anything from branding to cyber safety and from psychology to coding.  They can last 2 weeks to 10 weeks and the courses are run by UK universities. Ooo and workshops and talks – they are great! Talks and learning events like the Work and Family show or Stylist Live – I’m really looking forward to that one coming in October!! (For those in the UK check it out Stylist Live or if you’re not in the UK – come on over for a trip! Stay a while and pop in to say hi)

I guess in our own way we are all constantly learning. My husband likes to visit castles and explore the surrounding areas working out the history and imagining how it used to be (now I’ve written that down it looks so much more geeky than it sounded in my head).  But we are all children at heart and we all like to learn in our own ways.  We can learn a lot from each other and we live for the most part in a world where people are very happy to impart their knowledge and we should use this vast and amazing resource.

Just remember, you are never too old to learn and it is never too late to start.  There is nothing to stop you, make the time. Money is no object as some courses are free or for those that aren’t you can pay bit by bit in most cases (OUSBA does this for the OU).

Go for it, you never know what you might learn.

***Author: Young Reader by Francisco Farias Jr

Kid meets kid, kids wants to be friends with kid, the other kid doesn’t want to be friends with said kid, they are forced together by circumstances beyond their control and the unlikely pair become the best of friends and put themselves on the line for each other. Two by Two has the same kind of story line that runs through a lot of children’s films and I have to be honest I was bored to start with – although my 4 year old wasn’t which is what counts – but this turned out to be a great film with a twist I should have seen coming but didn’t expect.  This films has some bad reviews in the press but for the less critical and more-about-the-kids-as-it-is-a-kids-film-after-all types then it’s a pretty good one.

Underdeveloped … Two by Two

As you may have guessed from the title, this is the story of Noah’s Ark and the animals preparing for a forty day and forty night flood. But if you’re not on the list then you’re not allowed to board the Ark, which is captained by the king of the animals, the Lion. Unfortunately for Finny and his Dad, Nestrian’s are not on the list and although they manage to sneak on board their adventure is only just beginning. Finny and his new reluctant friend Leah find themselves over board as the Ark sets sail and they must work together to survive the flood as their parents must do, setting aside their differences, to turn the Ark around and rescue their children.

Rated U this film has a bit of kung fu comic violence and mild threat as the carnivores share a Ark with the herbivores and Leah and Finny outsmart predators on their journey to high ground. A random use of computer games at one point which has a punch em up feel to it and Tetris makes a cameo which was all a bit out of place but maybe I’m missing something – it wasn’t bad just, well, random. My 4 year old jumped once throughout the whole film and he was so cute when his bottom lip came out and he cried when (SPOILER ALERT) Finny drowns, or so it seems.

Two by Two official trailer

In all a great film with issues to discuss around bullying as Leah is less than happy with the friends they make along the way and upsets them with her comments. My son asked why Leah’s mum didn’t want to be friends with Finny’s dad when he was being nice to her and trying to help so a discussion around stereotyping and judging people without knowing them ensued, on a 4 year olds level of course.

Definitely one to go see and even one for the DVD collection too, maybe. 4 out of 5.

A Minion = A squidgy looking lovably funny one or two eyed yellow little creature in overalls that can be depended on, if you’re villainous enough.

Ever since Despicable Me hit our screens and then Despicable Me 2 it’s not the villains and the little girls that have captured our attention – although Margo, Edith and Agnes are rather cute, they just aren’t as lovable as the Minions. They have stolen the show and so it’s no great surprise that later this year the Minions movie will hit our screens – a prequel to the Despicable films (BG – Before Gru).  After being unsuccessful at keeping their villainous masters, the Minions find themselves in trouble and so Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob (there is just something really funny about Minions with regular names!) go on an exciting mission to find the most despicable master, which leads them Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock).

MINIONS

The film is out on 26th June but over the past few weeks our 4 year old has rediscovered Despicable Me. Probably as he has seen the trailers & adverts for Minions – I’d forgotten how brilliant these films are BANANA!!!! and I’d also forgotten about the merchandising onslaught that no doubt will follow.  Somehow we have managed to avoid any kind of major merchandising for anything and the majority of things our son does have, have been bought by family for him and so cover a range of films.  They tend to be pyjamas and a couple of toys, our son’s room doesn’t look like a shrine to a film.  But the Minions merchandising doesn’t seem to bother me as much as some other films, maybe as I’ve fallen for it or maybe as I find them just so damn cute! Or maybe as our lives are not yet overrun with it, as merchandising can take over your child’s and therefore our lives.

The one and only item our son does have is a pair of Minion slippers, which I probably need to go and find in readiness for the Minions film release.  What would be great is if I had my own Minion to go and find them for me – BLISS!! BANANA!!

Let me know your thoughts on merchandising and how you deal with it in your home.

Since my son turned 3 we have been going to the theatre every so often. I didn’t realise, until it was pointed out to me by my mother in law, that there were theatre productions aimed at children and to be honest what a numpty – why wouldn’t there be!

I have to be honest, the first time we went to the theatre I was a bit apprehensive. I was worried that our son and also daddy would be bored but I was very wrong. Even some productions we have been to since which haven’t been great have still kept my sons attention and daddy’s too!

The first production we ever went to was Room on the Broom (courtesy of my mother in law) and to this day it is still the best production we have ever seen, and unfortunately for all other theatre productions has set the bar rather high. With just four people to play the witch, the cat, the dog, the bird and the frog this is an ingenious and colourful way of using puppets to cover all roles. The hour went by so very quickly and with all children’s production there is a level of interaction that you just don’t get with adult productions. The cast got a bit of the giggles at one point as one child in the audience decided to copy the howling of the dog and wouldn’t stop but it was all handled very well. A definite must see if you get the chance. 10 out of 10.

The latest production we have seen is Cat in the Hat at the Palace Theatre in Southend. It seemed a bit chaotic – but then I guess Cat in the Hat is. It looked great and was exactly as you would expect from the book but some of the scenes of chaos went on a bit too long with a repetition of action that even my 4 year old got bored of. He also kept jumping quite lot as it was very loud where were sitting – the downfalls of theatre – be careful to pick your seats well. There was a lot of interaction with this production which was great but only for those sat in the seats in front of the stage and not for those in the circle above the stage and so some of the time it was not possible to see what was going on at all. We expected more and although the hour went quickly, the chocolate buttons saved us some of the time. A take it or leave it production unless your child is really into Cat in the Hat. 5 out of 10.

As for what is next …… we really want to see Dinosaur Zoo!! Using life-like dinosaur puppets it looks like a highly interactive dinosaur adventure for ages 3 and over. Unfortunately it is only showing on weekdays near to us (not great for those who work during the week) so we may have to wait until it comes around to us again – which we hope is soon!

My 4 year old son has been dancing around saying ‘my arms are in the air like I just don’t care!’ since we first saw the trailer for Home, oh so long ago.

Directed by Tim Johnson and from the creators of The Croods and How to Train your Dragon, this Dreamworks animation stars Rhianna as Tip, Jennifer Lopez as Tip’s mum and Jim Parsons as Oh. This obviously meant that Rhianna released a concept album for the soundtrack so you can imagine what the tunes sound like. But even if you don’t rate Rhianna’s music you really can’t help but wave your arms in the air like you just do not care!

When an alien race called the Boov conquer earth and relocates the human population to the far corner of the world (you can imagine where that far flung place might be), all apart from Tip (Rhianna) who managed to hide from the aliens during the relocation process, a great friendship forms when Tip meets fugitive Boov Oh (Jim Parsons). We soon realise that Oh is not like his alien comrades and Oh realises that humans are not as simple as their leader has led them to believe and they form a great friendship and set out to find Tip’s mum (Jennifer Lopez). Along the way they get a little side tracked as they learn that the Boov’s enemies the Gorg are on their way to destroy earth which is all Oh’s fault…… maybe.

Running at 98 minutes this was a great film for ages 3 and up. The film isn’t scary even though aliens take over the earth (there was one moment when my 4 year old jumped) and it’s especially good for those who are learning and can understand emotion. With every Boov wearing their emotions all over their bodies as they change colour with how they feel which allows for some great moments around telling fibs and being ‘sad mad’.

Home official trailer

We really wanted to love this film and maybe our expectations were too high as it is a goodie but it was just lacking in a little……something. About an hour in my son was more interested in finding number 4 on the seats as the pace reduced but 10 minutes later and he was interested again. It wasn’t lacking any fun or one liners….. there are some great one liners that to be honest only a parent will like and probably use from now on – I will! When it looks like Oh may not keep his promise Tips face turns to anger and is met with ‘what is the purpose of your face?’ and Oh feels that ‘I do not fit in, I fit out’ – we all know how that feels…

This film is great for showing kids emotions and also about how people can’t be judged by the way they look – the Gorg, who are a bit scary to look at (SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT) are not anywhere near as scary as they seem and it turns out that they have a very good reason for following the Boov everywhere they go. Great for conversations around keeping promises, owning up to mistakes and not taking what isn’t yours.

Home is released on 20th March – go see it! All in all a good watch but just missing a little something….

12th May is a big day for me – I’m doing a very very high abseil down Spinnaker tower in Portsmouth. I’m not afraid of heights but considering the only abseil I’ve ever done was down a 10ft wall when I was 12 and going over the top of that was scary, the prospect of abseiling spinnaker tower is a little, erm….. nerve racking and frightening. What made me do it?

Spinnaker Tower

Well, it’s for a the Queen Alexander Hospital Home and our disabled ex-service men and women – that is a pretty good reason to put my nerves to the test as well as my fears as let’s face it, what our service men and women do and have done day in and day out is pretty much at the top of conquering everything their bodies are probably telling them they shouldn’t and that’s even before they set foot in a war zone and go on tour.

This is something that is close to my heart.  My husband is ex-army and hearing how hard he found it not being able to go about his army duties as he had been training so hard to do and the difficulties of getting back to ‘civi street’, I can only imagine how tough it is to get back to a life that has been far removed from what you have been used to, and then add into that the challenges that a disability brings.

All our ex-service men and women need and deserve our support especially those that have to deal with a life changing disability that has taken everything they have known away from them both inside the services and outside.

So all that I ask you to do today when you read this is to pledge just a couple of pounds and sponsor me.  Don’t have a coffee from your favourite coffee shop just for today and pledge that money instead.  Don’t spend that money on that takeaway or magazine just once this month and pledge the money instead.  That pair of shoes or that gadget that you don’t really need – sponsor me instead and the money will go to people who really need and deserve it, not just one day this week or month or for a few times that you will wear those shoes or use that gadget but to help them for the rest of their lives.  If you can’t sponsor me then spend a little time and ask everyone you know to sponsor me instead.

SPONSORSHIP PAGE

I know that I may not know you but if there is one great thing you do today that can make a difference, make it this.

Thank you x

SPONSORSHIP PAGE

I’ve heard Big Hero 6 being referred to as Frozen for boys. Why there has to be a gender differentiation I don’t know (that is a whole other blog post) but boy or girl Big Hero 6 has got to be the best film out of Walt Disney Studios in a long time. Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams and created by the team behind Frozen and Wreck it Ralph this action packed 102 minutes was not disappointing. My 4 year old was on the edge of his seat and at one point even got up and walked down the isle a little to be closer to the action.

The similarities to Frozen? Younger brother Hiro has his older brother taken away from him when he dies akin to how Elsa has her older sister taken away from her when Ana hides herself away from from the world. The obligatory group of friends help Hiro deal with the adventure he is thrown into as Elsa is by Olaf and Hans and the siblings are orphaned when their parents are in an accident, but that’s where the similarities end. There is no singing, but the soundtrack scored by Henry Jackman is Disney Epic, as you would expect and theme by Fall Out Boy adds to the greatness. The animation is right up there at the top and makes Frozen look bland in comparison.

An action-packed comedy, there is nothing more brilliant than an oversized inflatable huggable robot named Baymax, programmed to give top priority to human healthcare not wanting anyone to be hurt, embroiled in a superhero vs villain adventure full of chases, tight spaces and a teenage boy going through puberty. That in itself is enough to go see the film on but add the storyline, the emotion, watching 4 geeks, Baymax and Hiro turning into Superhero’s and then just add the names of Hiro’s friends and it gives you even more reason.

There are some themes to talk through with your child depending on their age. Death, losing someone, anger, revenge and why the bad man wanted to hurt the good guys are the main ones that my 4 year old asked about but it’s a fast paced colourful entertaining watch and for the likes of you and me it’s one that can be watched over and over again as many times as your child wants (with no songs to get stuck in your head). No jump in your seat moments that we noticed but there is a little fighting which comes with a superhero vs villain storyline but it’s ‘Disney fighting’ and the weapons are not your usual variety. My son wants to know if I can make him enough play dough that he can stick Daddy’s feet to the floor so he can’t walk anywhere.

Big Hero 6 Official Trailer

So would we rather watch Frozen or Big Hero 6 over and over again in our house? Big Hero 6 for sure!! I’ve already started planning the robot/superhero party for my sons next birthday and the cake will be pretty easy – big white robot, but then I guess that’s pretty similar to an Olaf cake it’s just that a Baymax will be a bit more epic.

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