Family Days Out Are a Big Mistake #10: A (Bubble) Solution!

Contrary to the tradition of family days out being a BAD idea, last year we had a gloriously sunny day at the Fairyland Trust Fairy Fair in Holt. I know! It doesn’t normally happen to us, but I have proof! Filled with the miracle of such an occurrence we decided it was wise to do it again.

  
Like we could ever be that lucky twice!

First Boo got grumpy on the Treasure Hunt because Teflon Man took over the hunting for her (as she pointed out, she’s a big girl now and can do things for herself, thank you very much – a fact I’ll remind her of when she’s 18 and turning to Bank of Mum & Dad/Mum’s Taxi Co.) and Noodles had a meltdown because I couldn’t carry him through the woods any more without dying on my feet. He’s getting both big but also lazy!

  
He wasn’t impressed.

And then, because it’s bank holiday weekend and it’s England, the heavens opened.

 
That’s one rain-soaked picnic right there. Luckily Boo found a tree.

 
She declared it to be her favourite part of the day.

Stiff upper lips though, we weren’t going without a fight. Actually, Noodles would have left at that moment. ‘Time to go home now? Go home now. Go home now!’

Sorry, buddy.

But do you know what’s guaranteed to turn a toddler’s mood around? BUBBLES!!!

The search for bubbles was, to be honest though, fraught, what with TM offering their purchase as a placating tool prior to ascertaining whether or not there were any pots of bubble solution available. It was, after all, a fairy fair, so there were numerous stalls selling wings, vials of glitter, sorry fairy dust (the magic being how much they can get away with charging) and wands. Felt animals – ten a penny (well, one for £6.50, but still they were literally everywhere) – lucky dips and fairy-related trinkets. But no pots of bubble mix. The opportunities were getting slimmer, the rain heavier. The search was getting a little frantic.

‘Bubbles! Bubbles! BUBBLES!!!’

And then, mercifully – BINGO!

One stall had pots of Frozen bubble mix. I could’ve kissed the stall holder. Noodles perked up in a heartbeat.

He no longer needed carrying, happy instead to chase the trail of bubbles settled on the wet grass. And he played happily with them for the best part of an hour whilst Boo took part in a crown-making workshop.

   
  

  
 What a difference a pot of bubbles makes!

Moreover, I quickly became The Bubble Lady. With every flurry there’d be an excited cry of ‘Bubbles!‘ from a child as they rounded the corner and they’d join Noodles in the chase. I loved how universally appealing something so simple could be. I pointed various parents in the direction of the stall.

If I had any savings I’d seriously consider investing in vast quantities of Fairy Liquid and research into the perfect bubble mix as I swear there’s a killing to be made. For all the fairy fun the joy brought by the bubbles was the most magic part of the day. Although, actually, Boo’s fairy crown was pretty impressive:

  
Still, it was surely the best £1 ever spent and from now on they’ll be as essential a part of my day out armoury as the baby wipes! (Actually, looking at the state of Noodles’ face today, the bubbles might actually get more use!)

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Family Days Out Are a Big Mistake #6: Collective Accountability

Collective thoughts of the Gluestick family earlier in the week: Oh bugger! We’ve frittered the summer holidays away working/lazing around in pjs all day waiting for some sun. Better squeeze some fun in now!

Which is how come yesterday we came to do BOTH the model village at Beaconsfield AND the Roald Dahl museum at Great Missenden. Both great family attractions and the museum would get us brownie points for being parents who go the extra mile Boo some brownie points at school for being the kid whose read ahead. BUT both in the same day? Was that wise? Not so, really.

But we were ALL to blame for the minor disasters of the day. (Still, at least at any family attraction you get to eavesdrop on the complaints and whinges, scoldings and under-the-breath-mutterings of other families, which is always a reassurance.)

• GRANDY

Whilst driving it’s possibly not the best idea to put the deaf member of the family in the back of the car thus defaulting childcare responsibilities to them.

Noodles: Juice. Juice.

Grandy:

Noodles: Juice! JUICE!

Grandy: Kindle?

Noddles: *Howl!!!*

• NOODLES

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Noodles has at last realised that ice cream should be eaten, not just carried like some melting trophy. (Or dropped in deer poo.) But he also hasn’t quite figured out that just shoving your face in it whilst it melts isn’t the best idea. Cue ice-cream covered wailing when we try to sort him out and a t-shirt that later didn’t really fit in with the Great Missenden sartorial ethic. (To be honest, he looked like he’d had some misadventures in Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory to such an extent other visitors were probably wondering where they’d hidden the exhibit!)

Baby wipes, however: Best. Invention. EVER.

Still, it could have been worse. I feared he’d not realise the importance of railings and would ransack through the tiny houses of the model village. Thankfully instead he chose to weld himself to one particular spot to watch the model railway trains.

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Apologies though to the little girl whom he had a bit of a scrap with when she wanted a look too. And to the family who got a shot of full-blast wailing when their son stood in Noodles’ spot.

• HUSBAND

When trying to squeeze two attractions into one day it’s always best to minimise travelling time. So why Husband preferred to guide us round the back roads of Buckinghamshire when he didn’t know where to go rather than let me use the sat-nav is beyond me.

Sweet moment of the day: him admitting defeat and me getting to turn the TomTom on. Guess who got us there better?

• ME

The model village had been on our summer holidays to do list from the beginning. The museum was a new addition to the list after Boo enjoyed a performance by them at the Lollibop festival. 2 for 1 tickets bolstered that incentive.

So, it wasn’t a great moment, at the admissions desk, to realise that although I’d definitely packed the discount voucher, I’d also unpacked it by taking my diary out of my bag (because I wouldn’t need it, so why carry it around all day?) with the slip inside of it. A loss of two admission fees and 10% off in the gift shop. Sorry, Husband.

• BOO

Ok, it had been a long day, but if you’re sat in an intimate food-themed poetry workshop presented by published kids’ author and all-round really nice chap, James Carter, it’s best not to sit there with a face that says ‘I want to go home.’ Even more so, best not to say ‘But Mummy, I want to go home,’ out loud!

That said, James won her over and she eagerly read out her poem and five-word story to the assembled collective at the end.

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Her food-based poetry:

I have a friend
Her name is Hollie.
Her favourite pud
Is rainbow lollies.

And:

The elephant’s stew was scrummy.

And my effort (based on the fact that James kept showing guinea pig photos whilst the poor boy from the museum was trying to do the ‘in event of a fire’ talk):

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Don’t put your guinea in a sandwich
As the Peruvians like to do.
They’re far too hairy
The claws are just scary
And there’s far too much to chew.

To be honest, both attractions were brilliant. But too much for one day. Next time we’ll be less ambitious, but also hopefully more organised too. Or maybe not. We are the Gluestick family after all. It’s always going to be sticky.

Family Days Out Are a Big Mistake. #3: The Zoo

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Husband came home last night clutching a bundle of leaflets.

‘I think we should take Noodles to the zoo. He likes animals. It would be fun.’

As if on cue Noodles gave his best elephant impression, waving his arm from his nose, ‘Brrrrrrrrrrrrrppppppphhhhhhh.’

Husband may have a point. Noodles would probably love it at the zoo. Except:

• At Whipsnade Zoo monkeys threw poo at my grandad. Funny for us kids. Not so funny for my grandad.

• At Edinburgh Zoo it rained so hard for so long that our jeans had soaked water up to our thighs by the time we left.

• At Port Lympne Wild Animal Park I left Boo’s shoes at home. A fiercely independent 2-year-old, she was less than happy at being constrained to her buggy all day, constantly scolding ‘Silly Mummy – shoes!’ throughout the day.

• At Pettitts Animal Adventure Park a goat took a good munch at Boo’s skirt in the petting area, causing much hysterical screaming and tears.

• At Chester Zoo Boo fell over whilst scampering along the path to see the meerkats. Her screams sent the meerkats scattering back to their burrows to the disappointment of the crowd.
It then took us half an hour for zoo staff to locate a first aider and a pile of paperwork for them to administer a Band-Aid.

• At London Zoo Boo got lost. That heart-stopping, gut-wrenching moment when you turn around to find your child very much not there.
Several decades before, as a child, my mum also got lost at London Zoo whilst in the reptile room. It gave her a lifelong fear of snakes. Thankfully Boo was found stuck on some play equipment, but hasn’t since developed a fear of slides.

• At Longleat Safari Park the car started to overheat whilst stuck in a jam in the lion’s enclosure. The twins got excited every time a lion stretched a limb in our direction. I was freaking out, wishing I had a flare on me.

• At Banham Zoo we saw the zebras getting it on. Cue lots of awkward questions from the twins, then 3, and their nursery school friends about why ‘that zebra is trying to get on the back of that other one.’

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So, Husband, yes – let’s take Noodles to the zoo. BUT let’s pick a fine day, but not one so hot that the car’s likely to break down. Let’s stay clear of monkeys and goats. And YOU can take full responsibility for packing (remember shoes and distress flares) and for keeping an eye on the children, restraining them if need be. AND for answering any questions about life, death and sex that might result from the day.

Family Days Out Are a Big Mistake. #2: Legoland

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Miniland. Not the normal place to have an emotional breakdown.

A friend (the same one who caught her finger in the car door) has ventured forth on a family break to Legoland Windsor.

‘Oooh, we love Legoland,’ the dance mums cooed.

‘I cried in Miniland,’ I warned.

It turns out my friend has more in common with me than the other dance mums. I texted her last night to find out how it was going.

A bit stressy, you know. Hotel 3 miles from Legoland….1hr!!! Another hour queue to get into park. The boy has been in & out of the buggy waiting for the girl. Every ride 60/90/120min queue, worse than Disney. But the girl is enjoying it. Back again tomorrow. :-/

I felt her pain. I’ve only been to Legoland once. The twins were 12 at the time, Boo just a couple of months old, so it was a while ago. I know Boo would enjoy it now, yet I haven’t been in any mind to rush back, despite the gushing from everyone else.

I think our major problem was to do with my Husband’s tendency towards tight-fistedness. (A lot of our family issues stem from this, so it shouldn’t really have come as a surprise.)

We live a good couple of hours away from Windsor. Sensible people would have booked a hotel for the previous night, like my friend, especially as Premier Inn were doing family rooms for £29 a night. That was £29 Husband was keeping firmly in his pocket. It meant we had to be up at the crack of dawn to pile in the car.

Stopping to feed Boo en route we pulled into a Tesco’s car park.

‘I’ll nip in and get some sandwiches for lunch,’ Husband offered. ‘The food’s always over-priced in theme parks.’

This was to be a huge mistake.

We made our way to the M25 without too much trouble. Getting off the motorway was more of a problem though. We sat. We queued. We waited. Boo cried. We could do nothing. We sat, we queued, we waited, we listened to her yowls. I’d hoped that by going in the chilly October half-term others would be put off and we’d be swapping the cold for an absence of others. I was wrong. From the traffic it was clear that half the country were intent on spending the day surrounded by plastic bricks.

More queuing and we weren’t even through the gates yet.

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Maybe it would have been better if the sky had been as blue the day we visited. So few people would have been better too.

Now, Tom Cruise has many flaws – Scientology and public displays of sofa-bouncing might be deal-breakers for some. But he hires out entire theme parks for his family to visit. I could pretend to have alien ancestry if it meant I didn’t have to deal with other people in theme park queues. The worst part was that with Boo being so tiny I couldn’t actually ride on anything. So I just waited, in the cold, for the others to have fun.

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At least Indy was having a good time.

I did become very familiar with one part of the park: the baby feeding and changing rooms. Because there’s nothing better than repeatedly sitting in a room where stinking nappies are changed to feed your baby. That thing they claim that you stop noticing a smell after 15 minutes? Not true when it comes to a bin of baby poo.

Still, at least it was warm. Those feeds were the only times of the day when I wasn’t chilled to the bone. Even if it did mean I missed out on the fireworks at the end of the day, that we’d purposefully hung around for long after we’d had enough if the cold and the queues.

‘Wow! Those fireworks were even better than Disney!’ Husband enthused as I emerged once more from the little hut, just as the crowds started to disperse.

Sometimes I wonder how he’s still living and breathing.

But it was lunchtime in Miniland that caused my meltdown. Husband and the twins emerged from yet another ride whilst I’d meandered around trying to stave off extreme boredom.

‘Let’s find a bench and have lunch,’ Husband suggested. A little bit of my soul cracked at the thought of sitting outside with a pre-packed sandwich, instead of inside, with the benefit of central heating and a hot drink.

Husband fished around in the Tesco’s bag. ‘Here, I got you this…’

A low-calorie chicken salad sandwich. A sandwich void of flavour.

And what did he mean by getting me a Weight-Watcher’s version? Was my post-baby body so hideous that I had to eat ghastly flavourless food?

So, I’m ashamed to say that hormonal, cold, bored and insulted, I cried. Not a delicate tear wiped quickly away before anyone noticed, but big ugly sobs, right by the mini London Eye. Yes, I got some odd looks. I was certainly the only grown woman I saw crying in Miniland that day (although I suspect I’ve not been the only one ever). But I didn’t care.

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Little girl to Indy: Why’s your mum sobbing behind the camera?

Looking back, I had the car keys. I wonder why I didn’t just take the hell off and go shopping in Windsor instead where there’d have been nicer cafés and fewer people.

I hope my friend is having a better time today. Although, I guess if she doesn’t at least I’ll have a fellow member of the Legoland Disappointment Support Group. Maybe I should text her and suggest she makes a bid for freedom to save her day from being a total bust.

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It seems Boo enjoyed it as much as me.

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A belated victory, I get to embarrass Eve and Indy with a photo if them looking very little. I’m not sure it’s reward enough for the experience of the day though.