Can you change a tyre?

Having two daughters I have written before how it can be all too easy to succumb to the pink sparkly stereotype of girliness. For whatever good it does I at least try to make sure they have a couple of cars and trains amongst their toys and that they dress up as pirates not just fairies. Yet I didn’t set them much of an example this week when they had to come with their dad to rescue me as I sat stranded with a flat tyre on the side of the motorway.
I was a total cliche from the moment my car first started to make an unusual noise, just turning the music up so I couldn’t hear it.
Even when it began to lose power, I kept hitting the accelerator thinking if I could just reach home everything would be ok. It was only when people started flashing me and I could smell smoke that I finally pulled into a layby and found my tyre ripped to shreds.
At first I thought my banger had had it, as after passing the 100,000 miles mark the old dear is about ready for her bus pass, so I was relieved to find it was just a tyre. At least I did manage to use the manual to get to the stage of jacking her up and trying to prise loose the wheel nuts, but I just couldn’t get them to budge.
But worse embarrassment was to come when I went to get a new tyre as the outside of my car looks like a Ferrari compared to the inside. When I saw the mechanic putting a plastic sheet on the seat I thought it was because he didn’t want to get grease on it. But then I realised he was actually pretty clean and I think he just thought it looked like a health hazard. Maybe he didn’t see the empty Haribo packets stuffed in the driver’s door that I pocketed out of the children’s party bags and ate myself. And I am sure he won’t have noticed the rotten apple core that I had been meaning to remove for the last few days or maybe a week, or the cheese sandwich crusts discarded on the floor of the backseats. But to my mortification he did see the opened tampon that my daughter had found in the glove compartment and as it kept her happy thinking it was mouse I had thought what the heck and let her keep playing with.
The one plus side of my tip of a car is that if I ever do break down with the children on board, at  least I could scrounge something edible or a long forgotten toy to play with buried somewhere under the seat.
However, this has been a wake up call. I have now practiced changing a wheel and cleaned out the inside and it looks semi-respectable. But I am not sure I should be let loose on the brake pads just yet.

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Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle

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Sometimes revisiting childhood memories can disappoint, not Lindisfarne. Had a wonderful day taking my daughters on their first visit. Can’t believe I have not been for so long. A magical place.

Practicalities: Pushchair friendly until you get to the castle summit although I did see a Phil & Teds at the top, baby change in the central car park.

Useful Links:

Check out the safe crossing times at http://www.northumberlandlife.org/holy-island/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lindisfarne-castle/

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/lindisfarne-priory/

http://www.yournorthumberland.co.uk/area-guides/holy-island

Autumn

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Time to swap the TV for the fish tank?

With my children I usually find that the only times they are quiet are when they are doing something they shouldn’t, like drawing on the walls, or, as has been in the news this week, watching TV.
New research reiterates claims that television is bad for children and should not be viewed at all by the under threes.
The author Dr Alan Sigman also accuses parents of using TV as “electronic babysitters”.
This story has been badly timed for me as struck down by a sickness bug we have been housebound for the last two days and to be honest without the help of babysitter TV I don’t know how I would have coped.
Does this mean my children are going to become like the American three-year-old, who after watching endless episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine could only speak in catch phrases such as “Well bust my buffers” and “silly old Gordon?”
Dr Sigman has been calling for guidelines on TV for children for years. But now he also mentions ‘screen time’ as now children are not just watching TV at home, they are watching DVDs in the car and on hand-held devices.
There was a case last month where a “heartless” thief stole an iphone from a one-year-old who was watching a cartoon in her pram. The police branded this a disgusting crime, but maybe he was just an old do-gooder who thought a toddler should be taking in the world around it rather than being glued to a cartoon?
They say it is not so bad if you sit and watch the program with your child, but I have tried to endure episodes of their favourite shows to see what damage is being done to their little minds but surprise surprise being an adult, I just don’t get most of it. The only thing I took a passing glance at was Mr Bloom’s Nursery and as I later discovered I am not alone, apparently there are internet sites dedicated to “Mr Bloom is hot”… Oh dear has it come to this?
In an age where many parents have no extended family to help out with childcare, a bit of TV while mum or dad get a few things done in peace must be less damaging for the child than bearing the brunt of a stressed-out adult? But TV viewing has been linked to everything from doing worse at school to increased waistlines and poorer performance in the long jump so maybe it’s time for some kind of official guideline as they have done in the US, Canada and Australia. Or perhaps I should just sell our TV and buy a fish tank and maybe a bit less screen time will be good for me too?

Northumberland fog on way to Kielder

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Childcare costs vs goodbye career = no win situation

Maths has never been my strong point. But I just can’t seem
to get my head around how much money I pay to people to look after my
children. I don’t begrudge the money earned by those who somehow
manage to control dozens of feral children every day, they deserve
more. But no matter how many times I punch the numbers into my
calculator I just can’t seem to believe what comes out. After
hearing  how our cool Scandinavian neighbours across the
North Sea do it, I am looking into how I can move to Sweden, the
country of beautiful blondes, Abba, saunas, Volvos, IKEA and now the
ambassadors of affordable childcare.
In the North East the annual cost for a full time nursery place
is around £9,000 after tax discounts. In Sweden parents pay a mere
£1,300. Once you have two children under three, or god-forbid twins,
you are into silly money. Your wallet gets a break after your child
turns three when they get 15 hours free a week, but read the small
print and this is not as much as you think. It is actually 12 hours over 52 weeks and can only be taken at my nursery in a maximum of 6 hours a day.
I know toddlers are difficult, but it is hard to save for your child’s
university education when you are already forking out the same cost as
university fees for them to play all day, although you could say that
is what they will end up doing at university anyway.
A few months back David Cameron has promised to sort the whole mess out. First tax breaks for nannies has been suggested, which doesn’t really sound
very helpful to the vast majority who would love but cannot afford
their own Mary Poppins. Now it is suggested parents are paid to stay at home. Nice idea if that’s what you want, but If I quit my job and stay at home, I am going to be deskilled by the time I return to the workplace and, as I am already seeing, colleagues who were my juniors are advancing ahead of me.  There are not many jobs in the North East to start with and I am really scared if I quit I won’t get as good a job again. I don’t know how childcare costs in this country don’t qualify as discrimination against parents, and it is the lowest paid who are hit the hardest as it is a bigger proportion of their wages.  I work three days a week on the equivalent full time salary of 24,000, but after I have paid childcare – even with the  free entitlement deducted, once I add travel costs I take home about 20 pounds a day, so I am working for less than 3 pounds an hour. It makes sense for people who want to and are able to work to be allowed to do so – meanwhile at the same time, people who want to work looking after children are able to run their businesses. Surely everyone can see Scandanavia has got it right, so why is nothing still being done?

Bad mother: Public shaming in the school newsletter

Do you ever find that you never seem to get away with anything when you have kids?
Give them some sneaky sweets and make them promise not to tell their dad and it is obviously an invite for them to blurt it out as soon as they get home.
And once they start speaking every inappropriate slip of the tongue is picked up and repeated back at you, requiring a quick imaginative correction. “No, I said erm… cheesy crisps… ” (not the son of God).
But last week took the biscuit when my error of judgement landed me in the naughty corner of the school newsletter.
Running 15 minutes late for my daughter’s afternoon nursery session, we screeched up to the school gates. Seeing my two-year-old flat out in her car seat after the birthday party we had been at that morning, I weighed up my options and with the clock ticking, scooped up her older sister and legged it to the front door to leaving her sleeping peacefully in the car. I couldn’t have even been a minute.
I then took her home, transferred her to bed and had a cup of tea and an hour’s peace and quiet. It was bliss.
But the next day, as I glanced through the newsletter my daughter brings home every day, with updates about school life and calls for parental volunteers, there was in big bold type a ticking off to the parents who have been “leaving very young children asleep in cars”. Oops. Some eagle-eyed mum or dad must have spotted and reported me. I felt sick. What would happen next, would I get a visit from social services? Of course these do-gooders are completely right, I shouldn’t have done it and I would never forgive myself if anything had happened to her – even I am not sure what exactly. Although I do remember reading in a newspaper once about a car thief who got more than he bargained for when he sped off with a baby in the back of a car. Anyway, it is the first day back at nursery since the incident tomorrow, so I will be keeping my head down – and definitely dragging my two-year-old into the playground for all to see, no matter how tired and grumpy. Has anyone else ever been tempted?

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