It was my idea to spend £1200 between six adults and three children for a 4 bedroom lodge at Centre Parcs in Woburn for a weekend during half term in February. So I was feeling the pressure. What if it was shit? What if everyone hated it and I’d made them spend £400 each? As I was responsible for herding my family off to Woburn Forest I was desperately hoping that it would be worth every penny and impress us with its fabulousness. But did it?
Some people call it Sod’s Law, others Murphy’s Law, whichever one you use it generally means something really crap is happening when you really don’t want it to. And the more that you don’t want it to…the worse it will be. There should be a version of this for Mums called Mum’s Law so I’ve written a blog about it on HuffPost. Have a read and tell me if any of these sound familiar……!
In building my new blog I’ve been updating my old blogs. Here is the one where we nearly got divorced over swimming…….
For some time now I have been trying to get Norm to accompany me on the boring exercise routines that pregnant women are encouraged to carry out. So far he has accompanied me on one walk around the local park where he complained of being bored half way around and sat on a bench waiting for me to finish walking. This obviously led to a massive row and me crying in the street. Norm then started walking a lot faster to try and get away from me (note from the future: what a tool. I hated him so much that day).
When the pregnancy was first discovered 3 months ago he promised to come swimming once a week. But so far he has not been. To be fair he has been away a lot and not really had much opportunity but he was off work on Monday and therefore able to swim with me. So as soon as he was awake I said “will you come swimming?” and he unenthusiastically said “all right then”
The next few hours passed quickly with me researching an article and Norm playing on his PSP (his new PSP as he punched his old one right in the face for not working properly and broke the screen – effectively killing it) (PSP? I’d forgotten that they even existed! How far technology has come in 7 years). By about midday Norm had graduated onto the Wii and was playing tennis and boxing. That is when the warning signs began.
Norm: “Pass me a towel Dette”
I.e. look how hard I am working on this game.
Then a bit later.
Norm: “My arms are sore now. I have done loads of exercise today.”
I.e There is no need for me to go swimming.
I was ready for him. “We are not swimming for you, we are swimming for the baby. So have a rest ‘cos we are going at 3. And we are walking there.” (have a rest? This concept is hilarious now that we have two children. Come to think of it so is the idea that Norm can have mid week time off where he plays computer games all day)
Norm: “I am not walking home with wet hair. I just had a cold.” (pussy) Me: “Fine, I will walk up and meet you there.”
By 2.45 I was ready to go. Norm was still playing on the Wii, with no signs that he might leave the house. “I am going to measure the floorboards we need in the spare room now,” he said and put down the Wii controller as I picked up my swimming bag.
I saw red. The bastard was not going to come. He was going to pretend to meet me there and then not turn up. “Fine.” I shouted. “Dont come. I don’t need you. I don’t need you now and I don’t need you when the baby is born.” And I slammed the door so hard the windows shook. (I should have poured my half drunk cup of tea over his Wii)
By the time I got to the leisure centre I had my life as a single mother all planned out. I would live in my house up north. Pay my brother and Mum to babysit and earn lots of money and never be lonely and never miss Norm. And when people asked where the father was I would say “I had to leave him, he wouldn’t come swimming with me.”
Had I overreacted? Probably. But the point was quite serious. I just wanted a bit of support. Norm would hate it if I gained 5 stone and sat on the sofa eating cake.
I had calmed down by the time I got into the water and set off. Swimming is boring but it was nice to be weightless. And then 6 lengths in a miracle happened. Norm got into the pool. Hooray. He does love me after all I thought. He didn’t look very happy to be there, but he had come and after about 10 minutes I think he was enjoying it. It was much less boring and he tried to teach me to do handstands.
After we finished swimming I was very glad I didn’t have to walk home, it was freezing. Norm had redeemed himself and I didn’t have to leave him after all. (phew, the kids quite like him and he is pretty handy when the car breaks down)
My 6 year old son’s Christmas list is less of a list and more of a challenge. Does anyone know where I might be able to find a rock from the moon? Seriously.
Puppy (Never again. I’d rather die )
The connex big thing (I asked him what this is – “Santa knows” he said. Balls.)
Arsenal home kit socks (just the socks! hahahaha)
Football (because the 16 he already has are just not enough)
MK Dons red kit (Their kit is white. Arrrggghhhh)
A wild spider (Ha. Not a chance)
Chompling (Say what?)
Zomling (These are £1 in Tesco. Excellent)
Dresses for Nana, Mummy, Charlotte and Georgie (Nana’s name was written first. I think he loves her best today)
3D pens (See number 7)
A rock from the moon (more likely than getting a puppy)
Squashy dough (This won’t be saltdough that we can make or play dough that we can buy anywhere. It will be some specific generic stinking bright green chemical shit that is sold through phone in adverts on kids TV. Like the stuff we got him last year that is now welded to the carpet in his room. Just no)
Nintendo DS whatever has Mariocart 7 (he has been asking for this for 2 years and I have refused thus far for fear of him leaving this world and living in virtual reality)
As for the rock from the moon he doesn’t think this is unrealistic. “Santa goes right past it” he said. Maybe I should tell him the truth.
We were two independent, educated women who could add oil to the bloody engine all by ourselves. Except we couldn’t. Shit
Last weekend I went away with the girls for a leisurely 2 days of relaxing, drinking wine, sleeping for over 8 hours a night, having naps and eating food that I had not had to cook. It was blissful. I was feeling liberated after flying solo for 2 days but on the drive home the oil light started to flash on the car dashboard. What does that mean? I discussed the implications of the light with my co-pilot Jo, and then rang the husband, he is a mechanic after all. And as he is so fond of saying to me (in your face Norm): “You don’t get a dog then bark yourself.”
His advice was simple: “If it is orange stop at the next garage and put oil in. If it is red pull over now and stop the car,” he said. It was orange.
At the next garage I bought a litre of engine oil (£14.99 – what? Probably the same price as the pick and mix) and then the fun started. Where the hell was the button that pops open the hood? This was already embarrassing. Not only did I not know how to check the oil after 18 years of driving I couldn’t even open the bonnet to start to get it wrong. We even asked a stranger who fortunately couldn’t find it either. Then Jo demonstrated a flash of genius. “Where is the manual?” she said. Oh yes. I’d had the car since December and had not yet looked at the manual which was in the glovebox.
The manual told us that the bonnet button was just behind the fuel button, which it was but tucked around the inside of the panel down by the accelerator. Not obvious. Obviously.
We popped it open.
Next stop – the dipper, which we couldn’t miss because it was bright orange. We pulled it out and looked for the minimum and maximum lines. There were none. We looked harder. There were two tiny holes and the oil hadn’t even come up to the first one so it was definitely low. Excellent. This was not rocket science. Now which tank was the oil tank? “It usually has an oil lamp on it,” said Jo who, with her powers of practical deduction, was fast becoming my hero. To my mind there were three different openings that could have been the oil tank so I consulted the manual again. It was the black one, which once I wiped it clearly had an oil lamp in it. Bingo.
I tried to twist it. Nothing. Jo tried to twist it. Nothing. We alternated a few times and then looked at each other in dismay as the bloody thing refused to shift. We were on the final lap (of a very short race), we didn’t need a mechanic husband or anyone else for that matter, we were two independent, educated women who could add oil to the bloody engine all by ourselves. Except we couldn’t. Shit.
A few people had noticed our struggle most notably a bearded gentleman in overalls. We waved. He sauntered over and after a few seconds of explanation he reached down and immediately turned the cap which turned as easily as a child’s windmill in a strong breeze. “It has been over tightened,” he said kindly. Then he smiled, nodded and sauntered away as we thanked him, our politeness disguising the resentment that we had needed to ask in the first place. Fifteen minutes later we were back on the road feeling empowered. The car needs a service in January. Perhaps Norm would like me to do it instead……
There is something quite distasteful about arriving at a theme park and being told that you must pay £5 to park your car, despite the fact that an adult ticket cost £49 and a child admission is £45. It is like arriving at a nice restaurant and being told that you must hire a knife and fork. Even worse the cheery yellow lego man in his officious parking attendant uniform waving his grabby little claw hand demanding your fiver, is one of the first things that you see as you arrive. When you have been up since 6am getting three excited children ready, not had time for breakfast and spent 90 minutes singing Little Mix and Frozen songs to prevent your 3 year old having a meltdown during rush hour on the M40, the sight of that outstretched hand is enough to make you grab one of the sandwiches from your picnic and launch it at him.
However I had been promising to take my 6yr old for approximately two years and it was the highlight of his year – so I wasn’t going to let that grasping bastard ruin our day.
Arriving during half term in October meant that the park was busy, but we got there for opening time (10am) and moved through the (tired looking) entrance pretty quickly. Using the Kellogg’s Adults go free offer meant that we only had to pay for the three children and parking for two cars making the total cost to enter £145.00. The entrance is at the highest point so after walking in and past several shops (BIG shop, Star Wars shop and a clothes shop), you head down the hill and into the main park. The park and the rides are set out in several areas: Land of the Vikings (I had high hopes for this area – see Vikings TV show), Heartlake City, Pirate Shores, Miniland, Knights Kingdom, Lego City and so on.
Advice from experienced theme park aficionados is to head all the way across to the far side of the park immediately and go on rides that other people haven’t meandered over to yet. Like the Dragon rollercoaster which we didn’t go on because 3,5 and 6 year olds can’t queue for an hour. Of course we could have paid to queue jump by using the overly complicated QBot system which has three levels of pushing in available ranging from £20 to £75 per person. Yes – no need to get your reading glasses on. It does say £75. Who pays that? For our family of 6 this would have been £450. Equivalent to a whole month’s worth of chocolate for me (just kidding – I spend at least £1000pcm).
But heading to the end of the park to get started wasn’t possible for us because the kids wanted to go on everything that they walked past – including the many, many stalls and games that you have to pay for. Want three shots at getting this basketball through the irregular shaped hoop to win a massive minion? £5 please. Face painting like a fairy? £7 please. Burger? (£8.25 for a meal deal – take sandwiches). I spent a lot of time saying no to the kids – creating a sense of disappointment that was definitely not awesome. Thanks Legoland.
In the interests of balance and fairness I have to say that the kids loved the bits that we had already paid for. The adventure playground – also known as the Castaway Camp was a hit, along with the Atlantic submarine experience and the Vikings’ River Splash. They all did different driving experiences in Lego City and the 6 yr old loved the Jolly Roger pirate ship and even managed not to vomit on anyone #winning (he gets travel sick so the signs were not good).
Take sandwiches and snacks. Good ones so that they don’t reject them and beg for burgers making you into the worst parent ever (despite that fact that you have taken them to bloody LEGOLAND in the first place – ingrates)
Don’t leave at dusk/closing time. It took 1 hour to leave the immediate vicinity of the park. 90 minutes to arrive, 150 minutes to get home. Killer.
If you are visiting with children of varying ages take an adult per child and consider splitting up as they will definitely want to go on different rides to their siblings/friends. Try getting a 3yr old to queue for an hour for a rollercoaster that she is too small to go on. You are better off sticking your naked hand into a beehive and grabbing the Queen.
Don’t spend £3.95 on a bag of fruit pastilles. The audacity of the price will keep you awake at night for weeks afterwards.
Decide what you want to do most and go there first.
Now the cost for reading this is £20. And £5 for sitting in your chair while you do it. Sofas are £10…..
*Reading this back I feel like a tight fisted miserable bitch. I am glad I took the kids. I just wish I didn’t feel so exploited. And one the bright side I now know all the words to “Black Magic”. Karaoke anyone?
This isn’t what it looks like. Honestly. My 6 year old didn’t go on You Tube and download a video of “how to make a loom band penis” and then create this:
I know this because I have checked his tablet history. If someone had uploaded a clip on making extremely realistic loom band penises and this was available for children to watch then I had some complaining to do. But no. The coast was clear. He had obviously created this using his own imagination. Which is much worse.
Fortunately there is a simple explanation. You see he got pretty good at making things from loom bands after being in hospital having his tonsils out last year. We got him the loom kit to keep him occupied – and it did. These weird little elastic bands, the hook and the loom gave him something to concentrate on during that first 48 hours after the operation other than the sharp, unforgiving, raw agony of his cauterised throat. And so I am used to seeing him make bracelets, chains, key rings, webs and so on. This creation is:
Quite clearly a combination of a simple single loom bracelet with a more complicated ladder loom bracelet attached to it with a finger ring extension to make a Superhero fighting bracelet. He wears this all the time and thinks it is super cool and runs around firing webs at people. Of course he doesn’t know that he has created a very realistic replica male penis – so no one tell him!
There had been murmurs of dissent in the weeks leading up to the seatbelt standoff. Yelling from the back seat with shouts of “Mummy I can’t lie down” and “This seatbelt hurts my twinkle” were becoming increasingly common. Her arms were repeatedly coming out of the four point harness as she sought to burst her way out of the seat, grabbing on to the driver headrest to create more leverage. Every time she did this I would stop and explain that if we crashed she would be chopped in half or I would go to prison but none of this deterred my little madam from seeking to escape. “I don’t care if you go prison, as long as I have my freedom I don’t care about yours,” she would have said, if she could.
Usually once she realized that she didn’t have the strength to break out of the seat she would dissolve into tears, or I would manage to distract her with food or an episode of Team Umizoomi on my tablet, and we usually made it from A to B. But this was not the end of the matter. Like an evil genius she continued to plot her escape and one grey evening on the way home from nursery all hell broke lose.
It started the same way that it always did. “Mummy I can’t lie back,” she wailed as she sought to recline, tired after a hard day of playing. “I don’t want my seatbelt on,” she yelled and dragged her arms out of the straps. I firmly told her to put them back in. She ignored me. So I pulled over and put her arms back in.
As soon as I started driving again she yanked them back out. I stopped again. She tried to hit me. I tightened the straps as far as I could so that she couldn’t pull her arms out. “Mummy it is too tight”she wailed as we set off again.
And then it happened. She worked out how to pop the button that released the harness. Both thumbs and most of her bodyweight were needed for this operation and once her mission was accomplished she stood up defiantly and did a little victory dance. “Mum she has taken her seatbelt off,” yelled my 6 year old who was in raptures because
a) he was the good one
b) siblings getting into trouble is just utterly brilliant
c) he thinks she is really funny when she has a tantrum.
“Right. I am stopping the car and we are not going anywhere until you wear your seatbelt properly,” I said pulling over into a nearby car park. The standoff had begun.
At first she enjoyed the freedom, climbing into the front and giving me her biggest smile. I ignored it and told her that I was not happy because I wanted to go home. She began stroking my hair and trying to win me over with her massive cuteness. But I was not having it. “Get back into your seat so that we can go home.” I said. “And if you don’t Rainbow Bear is going back to the shop.”
This stopped her for a moment and she got into her seat. Rainbow Bear is the softest bear in the world and he sings “Let it Go”from Frozen. She could not love him more. I did a mental high five and gave her brother a knowing look as I fastened the seatbelt. No sooner had I started the ignition but she undid it.”Mummy the seat is itching me,” she wailed pulling at the seat cover and crying out as if in mortal agony from the pointed spikes that were surely ripping open her skin. Of course there was nothing wrong with the soft padded seat.
It was time for Plan B. I pulled out the chocolate that was in my bag and gave some to her brother for being so good. “You can have some too if you sit nicely and keep your seatbelt on,” I said. “No” she yelled. “NOOOOOOOO NOOOOOOOO.”
It was time for Plan C. The plan of last resort because it means admitting that I was being outwitted by a three year old. “Right that is it. I am getting Daddy to come and help me,” I said. “Unless you are going to be a good girl?” I asked daring to hope that she might decide to comply rather than face the wrath of no nonsense Dad. “NOOOOO” she screamed. Shit. I admitted defeat and rang The Husband.
Fortunately he was on his way home from work and made a detour to come and help. He would use his practical skills to fasten her in to the seat in such a way that she could not undo it. As soon as he arrived the three year old sensed that the tide was turning in favour of the parents and she was livid. The scenes that followed were like something from The Exorcist as she screamed in her Dad’s face and tried to batter him with her little fists. Her brother and I couldn’t help but laugh as she pounded her father with the ferocity of a rabid dog. She then spat at me for good measure.
As Dad got into his car and we set off home in convoy my daughter realised that she had only one weapon left in her arsenal: “Mummy I am going to wee on my seat,” she said in a sing song voice. “Don’t you dare,” I said. She dared. “I done it,” she declared. It was a liquid “fuck you” to her loving mum. “You may have won this battle,” she was saying with her urine, “but I will win the war.”
*Since writing this I purchased a Belt-Upp for £17.99 as recommended by a lovely friend. The three year old has therefore been an angel every time we have got into the car. She must know…..