Monday, 19 November 2012


I know parenthood is a huge change in lifestyle for all those concerned and when I was pregnant I was excited about that new lifestyle, and now it's the lifestyle I'm living I do really enjoy it. I never expected that parenthood would be my sole lifestyle though. Don't get me wrong, my son is the love of my life, and if I could I'd spend every one of his waking hours with him (well maybe not the 5am mornings) I would. I'm sad to leave him in the mornings, and glad to pick him up, despite his persistant attempts to drive me insane on the way to and from pre-school. Hey, some of the time I loose hours just watching him in awe. I just never anticipated the feeling of being trapped that being his sole-carer has given me.

I ran out of toilet paper the other night, and Kit was asleep, it's a bizarre set of emotions that goes through you when you realise that you don't have access to something that is pretty essential. Before I'd been so used to a lifestyle where if you wanted a chocolate bar you could pop across the road to the shop and get one, if you ran out of toilet roll you could pop to the shop and get some more, if you were invited out for a drink you could just up and go. The only thing stopping me from doing those things was me. Now, I can't, well I could, but it's not really that easy is it. I miss being able to be dis-organised and spontaneous!

I had a bit of time where on odd Mondays I was able to go for a quick drink after work, or pop to the supermarket alone, but ironically I was trapped out of my own flat at these times, and strangely enough Monday isn't the best party night, especially when you have a curfew of 10pm and live at least an hour away from any of your pre-child friends. The end of October brought a change for me. Quite a big one really. It has started to give me time for me. It doesn't ease the toilet roll traumas, but it does lessen the emotions around them. Every other Sunday, while Kit has fun with his dad and his half-brother and -sister,  I can do all the things that I can't take a small child to. I can do the things that my small child doesn't enjoy doing. I can remember that I was someone before I had Kit, that he has made me a better person, but that there was a person there before and some of the bits about her were pretty good too. I still miss him like hell, and count down the hours until I get him back but when I do get him back I appreciate him that little bit more because I'm beginning to feel a little bit more me.

Monday, 12 November 2012

We're going on a bear hunt

Undeterred by the rain today we set off to one of our local country parks, High Elms. We were searching for Gruffalo's and bears, once we'd fuelled ourselves with beans on toast and cream tea. Kit even got to help the lady to hammer some of the post for a new weave fence that she was building in the nature trail behind the cafe. There are benefits of being a nosey three year old with a perchant for asking strangers what they are doing.

I think Kit thinks those glasses have super-powers. We didn't find a gruffalo or a bear, but we did find some imaginary foxes, owls and snakes. We went squelching through some mud, and climbing over tree stumps and sloshing through soggy leaves, casting spells on objects with stick wands and hiding under trees from the rain. We popped by the nearby garden centre on a detour to the way home to see the fish, and were greated by an animatronic reindeer and arctic fox. In case anyone is nearby and interested, Father Christmas arrives at Coolings on the 24th November at 11am, and it is free to see him arrive, I heard brilliant things about their grotto last year (which is an extension of the nature trail) and think we'll be going to visit him there at some point in December.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Make it work for single parents

Make it work

Gingerbread recently launched their new campaign Make it work for single parents. Their aim is to help to make it financially and logistically possible for single parents to work. Returning to work is a pretty big nightmare for a lot of parents, single or in couples. The financial strain of childcare and the inflexibility of working hours mean it is often a stressful and unrewarding time. The added strain of being the sole (or close enough to) provider of care and money in a family causes you to feel trapped in a situation where it doesn't always pay to work.

I've been fairly lucky in terms of work. The job I had when I was pregnant basically disappeared while I was on maternity leave and so I was given the option not to go back, which I chose. Logistically I couldn't anyway as my job was a full-time position in London and at this stage I was living with my parents on the South Coast. I waited out my maternity leave and then once I was unemployed I went on jobseekers and searched high and low for a part-time job, pretty much any part-time job. And there weren't many out there, and they didn't pay very well. I did get one though, I moved back up to London and I was excited about being able to work to provide for my son, even if the salary was less than my old job, and then pro-rata.

I couldn't afford to go back to work full-time, because of the cost of childcare (the limit for help with childcare is £175 a week - full-time childcare for Kit would have cost nearly £300 and that isn't the most expensive by far), add that to the sliding scale of other benefits I would have been worse off in a full-time better paid position than the part-time role I had. Having a job meant I could keep off income support and obviously job-seekers. I got tax credits to help with childcare and I get housing benefit. I'd like to be off benefits, I really would, but I simply can't afford to live without them and while I have to pay for childcare I can't afford to work more hours.

Recently I've switched jobs again. This time it was more to do with wanting a career change. I've been studying since Kit was born because I wasn't happy in the job I had before him and the career path I originally had planned out was never going to work (unless anyone would like to employ me as a museum curator?). Part of the reason for choosing the job I now have is because it is term-time only. Kit now goes to an all-day pre-school which closes in the holidays. Next year he'll be at school. I found life incredibly stressful whenever my childminder mentioned that she would be on holiday (and that was only 5 weeks of the year) I didn't want to have the stress of dealing with all the school holidays. And then there is the time that Kit is sick, and that gets taken off your holiday doesn't it and you can't plan for sickness. I know this is the same for all parents, but the difference for a single parent is that there isn't always two people to split the childcare/holiday allowance between. I ended up with £160 worth of childcare cost that hadn't budgeted for in August this year because you can't always rely on someone to pick up the extra days holiday you need.

As I stand I'm in the benefits trap. I can't save to get out of it (actually the benefits system penalises you for saving), and I can't afford to work more hours to get out of it. One of my big plans is to find more work that I can do while Kit is asleep, from home, or while my parents could babysit, so that I can fit more hours into the day and work myself off benefits outside of childcare issues. The problem is the gap between earning too much to be on benefits but not earning enough to live on. There is a gap between being on benefits and being financially independent, the question is if I can get across the shaky bridge quick enough and earn enough more to make it pay.

Check out other single parents stories on the Gingerbread website to see other experiences of work as a single parent. And get involved with Gingerbreads campaign to help create a more parent-friendly work market so that more single parents can go back to work without having to comprimise their career prospects and their families.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

There's no such thing as a Gruffal-oh

I think I might have mentioned, more than once, that I made a Gruffalo costume for Kit. And I might have promised to post a picture. So here it is.

I made it up as I went along but I reckon it came out ok. Kit likes it anyhow. Have plans to use some of what I figured out to do to make some other animal costumes, but think that will be after Christmas, as have lots of knitting to do before then.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Did you miss us?

So I went underground for a while. Not like a womble (although I do enjoy 'making good use of the things that we find, things that the everyday folks leave behind'). Underground like a scared rabbit. I briefly moved to here but I was completely de-motivated to post because it really felt like starting from scratch, and I love this blog, I didn't want to have to move it over.

Lifes changed a bit in the past few months, and it set to change more in the months to come, but we're still here and we won't let anything blow our metaphorical house down.

It was all about Halloween for the whole of October for Kit. He is now a very keen witch, and casts spells on a daily basis. Since I have to enrol him for school soon I'm trying to find out how one applys for Hogworts. We had to buy some plastic snakes from the charity shop today for his cauldron.

November he seems more interested in dressing as a pirate. But pirates can be witches too right?

I've just enjoyed my first school holiday from work. Back tomorrow. Not looking forward to the early morning pre-school run, you know that you are a fool commuting when you've had to ask to drop your child off at pre-school before it officially opens.

I finished my OU module and have started the next one. And I'm half-way to being trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter.

I've nearly actually caught up on the washing up, which is a monumentous time in this house, generally followed by one pot meals in an attempt to not increase it again.

Well we're back. I will post again before the week is out. Promise.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Halloween Outfit Review - Jokers' Masquerade

Ever since he asked to have his face painted as a witch at his birthday party Kit has been asking about halloween. He loves dressing up and the lovely people at Jokers' Masquerade offered us one of their halloween costumes to try out.

They have a huge range of both adult and child costumes (not just Halloween ones). We really struggled to pick an outfit, but in the end Kit tried out the Toddler Monster Halloween Costume which was basically a Frankenstein costume for 3-4year olds. I was really great and good value for money. The outfit consists of trousers, a vest, a jacket, Frankenstein hat/headmask and shoe covers. It's brilliant to be able to slip over clothes, or it makes a whole outfit on its own. It makes a really cute ensemble for your own little scary monster.

Kit has really enjoyed chasing me around the flat in it, and I'm sure that come Halloween he could scare all the neighbours into giving him treats!

Disclosure: We were given the outfit free of charge in return for an honest review. Opinions are our own.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Catching up (sort of)

I've been neglecting things here recently. Sorry.

I was busy looking for a new job. I found one. I start in September in a my first term-time only job. Heaven. No longer do I need to stress about what to do with Kit in the holidays, I can actually enjoy them with him. And the working hours mean that I'll have long weekends so expect more posts about things from outside London as we'll be going on lots more adventures, and be able to spend more time visiting friends. Not to mention I'm really looking forward to actually doing this job.

I've also been down South celebrating one of my best friends getting married, the hen-do and then the beautiful wedding. Yay. :)

I'm heading to neglect things again as we are off to France in a week and a bit. Thankfully Kit's passport arrived this afternoon. Excited as this will be Kit's first ever holiday, and my first holiday in 4 years.

I also have to work on a little something I'm making for a friend who is due to give birth in a few weeks. I'm not sure how it is going to work out, I think most of it will be done in France.

I will be back full-speed once we are back from our holidays, promise.

I'll pop up a few posts this week to catch up on the past few weeks.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Magpie Monday - Car-booting

I'm a huge charity shop fan (as I may have mentioned a few times before). But I'm not a very good car-booter. I've only been to shop once at a car-boot sale alone (i.e. since I was a child). Reading about other peoples treasures I thought that I needed to try it out again, so we headed off to Tripes Farm nr Orpington this weekend.

Kit wasn't on his best behaviour, despite attempts to bribe him with the offer of ice-cream for breakfast and the opportunity to get some toys or books, so I'm sure that I missed 90% of the bargains that I could have come away with. That was probably a good thing though as we are running out of room in the flat as it is. I did get two brilliant scores though. Firstly I managed to pick up the below ribbon lace and trimmings for £2 altogether. I have no idea how much is left on each of the cones but both the black and white thin ribbon originally had 250m, and I know the multi-coloured trim is 3m.

Secondly, I managed to get 12 Thompson and Morgan seed packets, all for different varieties of edible flowers for £5. That might not be the greatest price, because I'm guessing the seeds are out of date (they didn't have a date on them), but hopefully they will grow, but if I'd paid full-price for one it would have been £2.99 so if only two of the packets grow I've broken even! I've been so desperate to have an edible flower section in the allotment and had been struggling to find any variety of seeds so I'm stoked either way.

Kit did get an ice-cream, and then a trip out for egg on toast for brunch. He also came away with a pair of Converse (well worn but no holes) for £1.50, a Woody book (which has stuffed fabric arms and legs) for 50p, and a set of three Toy Story 49 piece jigsaws for £1.

I'm happy with what we came away with, I officially cannot haggle so I don't think I'd ever come away with huge bargains. We'll definitely be trying out another one before the season is over.
We are linking up with Me and My Shadow

Thursday, 2 August 2012

National Trust: 50 Things to do before you're 11 3/4

I don't think that Kit is quite suffering from 'Nature Deficit Disorder' yet, but as we are exploring National Trust properties we thought he could make an early start on the Fifty things to do before you're 11 3/4.

We started with a nice easy one.

Rolling down a really big hill (well it was really big for a just three-year-old)

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

National Trust: Ightham Mote

Carrying on from our National Trust exploring, it was Tudor day at Ightham Mote last Thursday, so we headed there to join in. It was a glorious day for lawn games and courtyard dancing. The house was beautiful and another jealousy-inducing vegetable patch. I need to hire a National Trust gardener. Kit enjoyed watching the dancing, and was quite put out that not all of the 'princesses' (as he called the dancers), were joining in for every dance.

One of the stewards in the house was very kind in letting Kit try out some of the chairs, as he was bemused with those with pinecones on (which he wasn't allowed to sit on). And he found a home of his own.

It was a bit too hot to dress up. I was impressed that the dancers could manage it in their thick costumes. But it's never to hot to try on some hats.

They have other events on over the holidays. I'll definitely keep an eye out next summer when Kit is a bit older, as my only disappointment was that the ladies who were providing crafting activities weren't keen on letting him join in, apparently assuming he wouldn't be able to stick googley eyes on as I don't think the other children at the table would have done their own cutting. Despite the disappointment of not being able to make a jester stick I think Kit had a fun time.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The predictable Olympic post

Despite living in London, and having previous lived very close to the Olympic site (in Bow) I didn't apply for tickets for anything. A few days in I'm fairly glad I didn't because in attempting to watch the mens gymnastic last night Kit was whining so much that he wanted to watch Toy Story, that I offered him the choice of watching the Olympics with me or bed. He chose bed. At 6.20pm. It seems I've saved myself sitting in an Olympic stadium with a grumbling pre-schooler.

We have tried to get into the Olympic spirit. I was lucky enough to be able to watch the flame go down the river from the window at my work on Friday.

And then after work I picked Kit up from the childminder and we headed into Bromley, to meet some friends, with the intention of watching the opening ceremony on the big screen at Queens Mead Rec. The Bromley churches had organise a great family event to help the community join together to watch the ceremony. Kit enjoyed making a medal, bouncing on more than one bouncy castle and free cake and ice-cream. Despite the excitement and the sugar boost, he didn't make it to stay awake to see anything past the flyover.

We went home and I enjoyed the rest in the warmth and dry. And we attempted some more Olympic spirit making a torch in the Glades shopping centre over the weekend.

I have plans to try to inspire the Olympic legacy into Kit at the swimming pool later in the week. I'll admit I'm a bit fearful of letting him watch any running in case he learns any more tricks, I already struggle to catch him. Maybe in 12 years time I'll have the next Usain Bolt.

Monday, 30 July 2012

National Trust: Knole

I took the plunge and joined the National Trust back when we visted Red House for Easter. We'd not managed to make it to anywhere else since, and really wanted to make the most of the membership, so we've started a bit of touring with my parents (who are long-standing members!).

We started a few weeks ago with Knole in Sevenoaks, not far from me. The Sevenoaks area has a lot to see and is only about a half hour drive from me and Kit so expect a lot from that area.

I have Tuesdays and Thursdays off work, and we are often busy at the weekends so we headed to Knole on a Tuesday. That meant that we could only look around the gardens as the house wasn't open, but that was plenty to keep us entertained. I think it was enough to just see deer up close. And they had some great vegetable patches that I was very jealous of (our allotment is not in a good way). We're planning to go back again soon, there is so much ground, it would be a lovely place for walking and picnicing.

The cafe was open. First of many National Trust cream teas.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

How One product could change the effect of your shopping

I hate grocery shopping. I used to love it when I was child-free, I could potter around for ages looking at new products etc. Now, once the novelty of helping carry the basket has worn off and Kit's grumbles of 'I'm hungry' (see food, need to eat food) starts to kick in I wish there wasn't choice. To avoid wasting time I now always stick to the same products every shop. I only buy one brand of any given item. No more label-reading.

I'd been missing out though. My staple brands have always been picked as to what I think is the most ethical and the healthiest for Kit. Now I've found one of the most fantastically ethical brand I've encountered. One that uses their profits to ensure that the products you buy pay for others to benefit from the same product you are paying for.

You see we were sent some One Careplast Plasters. I was inspired. The plasters were designed by school-children and the profits go to fund ambulance bicycles and medical boxes in Africa. I haven't done a 'proper' review because, thankfully we haven't needed to use them yet, but I will post one when we do.

Once I'd received the plasters though, I began to notice all the other 'One' products on the market. And whilst I know I've bought their water and their eggs before, I don't think I've ever looked properly at the labels and realised that they too fund projects in Africa.

So now I've been looking for One products, and thankfully our local Co-op stocks a few of them so we're using their toilet roll, bread, eggs and water. And when the time comes, we'll be using their plasters too.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Thank you cards

I posted after Christmas about sending out thank you cards, we weren't very good at it then. I wanted to be better prepared for Kit's birthday. I want him to be really grateful for any gifts and not expect them. He loves making cards. He often asks me to give him bits to make a card and occasionally we post them to people. I was contemplating what to do for thank you cards, but he obviously had decided already as he designed them himself (although I suggested the addition of googly eyes).

He's really into drawing faces with legs at the moment, they never have arms for some reason, although one of the later cards he introduced ears.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Party Bags (eco-friendly'ish')

This was the first time Kit has had a proper party for his birthday, so it was also the first time I'd considered party bags. He has received quite a few, the contents has ranged greatly. It's all about the cake really isn't it. I didn't feel that pressured as to what we put in, but at the same time I didn't want to go and buy a bunch of cheap plastic items and sweets, because that isn't who I am. We shared party bags with the other family so all the kids got the same bag. My contribution to the contents (was probably the boring part!).

Re-cycled crayons

Cress-head kits (cress seeds, cotton wool, googly eyes, instructions)

Knitted chickens

I also printed off some of the fold up cars to colour in, and some stickers.

What do all of you guys put in party bags?

Fancy dress

I used to love fancy dress. I had a fancy dress for my 18th birthday (and dressed as Mildred from the Worst Witch - that is the level of geek I am!). Kit loves to dress up. He had a joint party this year with a friend who was born the day after him. I didn't want to tell people that they had to dress up for his party because I know not all kids like to dress up, and noone really wants to have to get a costume together for a 3-year olds party. I thought I'd give a subtle offering of dressing up for the kids that came and crafted an assortment of head-dresses for them to pick from. (I didn't get a chance to take any photos at the party, and I don't generally like to post photos of anyone elses kids (unless I've specifically asked) so I got Kit to do a show for you.

I'd also made Kit a Gruffalo costume, which I haven't managed to get a photo of him in yet (I will aim to get it up for the weekend). And I made the other birthday girl a mermaid tail, as she loves The Little Mermaid.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday Kit!

It's Kit's birthday today.

3. Is that officially out of the baby/toddler stage? In the past few weeks we've gone from nappies to pants (24/7), and Kit has developed the attitude of a teenager so it definitely feels like we are out of the baby-stage now.

We had a party for him on Saturday, he's at 'school' today (although I'm picking him up early to go to a cafe for tea). I'll share some of the bits I did for his party over the next few days.

NB The cake also had a cardboard rocket with a plastic dinosaur driving it leaning against it, but I didn't get a photo of both together - it was Kit's request that his cake had a dinosaur in a rocket on it?!


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