Online estate agents

I thought the whole point of online estate agents was that they were all online? Turns out I was wrong!

I’ve had experiences with two different online only estate agents over the past few weeks and I’ve got to say they’re a NIGHTMARE!

Company number 1 – From a buyer’s perspective

First and foremost there was no app or online log in system. They obviously use one as I got a tonne of auto generated lettera and stuff from them. So to get an update meant I had to contact them. Luckily that communication was by email. 

What I don’t understand is why I was emailing 1 person and getting random calls from random people asking random things. I can’t take calls during the day because, you know, I have a job! So they went unanswered, they left a message and before I’d had chance to call them back they tried to call me again!

It also quickly became apparent that they didn’t really know their arse from their elbow. They were just passes messages between me and the seller. Considering their job title was “sales negotiater” they didn’t actually do any negotiating!

Every time they asked us how things were progressing we gave them an update and tried to get things moving until they came out with “I’d hate for the seller to remarket the property because your mortgage application was slow”. It was like a red rag to a bull and it quickly deteriorated from there. Especially as the electrical report came back and said it needed a full rewire and the seller wasn’t prepared to negotiate on the price. So guess what? We pulled out. 

Absolutely no attempt was made to either convince us to proceed or the seller to drop the price. 

Within 10 minutes it was back up for sale. 10 days later, it’s still up for sale and we’ve bought somewhere else.

I’m also friends with someone who has now sold their property through the same agents and same sales “negotiator” and their experience was no better!

Company number 2 – again from a buyer’s perspective

This one has both an app and a website you can log in to. Which is great because you don’t actually need to talk to anyone to book a viewing, re-arrange a viewing, make an offer, message the seller etc.

Up to the point of the offer being accepted I couldn’t fault their hands off approach.

However…as soon as your offer is accepted they become absolute pests.

Our offer was accepted on a Sunday at 10:30am. Within 10 minutes I had a call (which luckily I missed) to offer me their solicitor services. I also got an email. And a text.

I emailed back to say I worked for a solicitors so we were covered, thanks. 

So within 20 minutes I’d received:

  • x1 call
  • x1 text
  • x1 email

Within 24 hours that increased to:

  • x6 calls
  • x2 texts
  • x8 emails

As well as trying to flog convenyancing services they tried to flog me their legal advice and a surveyor. Before I’d even had chance to respond they’d passed my details to the 3rd party surveyor…who emailed and called me.

Now I’m not an unreasonable person, I get it. They’re just looking to upsell but FFS leave me alone! 

I was polite in all of my correspondence but they wouldn’t take a polite no for an anserr without trying to weedle more information out of me to try and offer a comparative quote. 

So I’m now 36 hours post offer being accepted and I’ve had a gut full of them already. Even my phone offered to block their number as spam! 

Overall opinion

Buying a house is stressful enough without online estate agents constantly trying to flog you shit you’ve told them you don’t need.

I’m a pretty straight forward person and know how to say no to people but there are others who could be easily pressured into parting with money before making an informed decision.

I can see the appeal in online estate agents; they’re cheap. Really cheap. But sadly you do get what you pay for. Buying / selling a house is so bloody expensive so of course people will look to see where they can save money. But I’m not sure the added stress is worth it!

So in short…wish me luck folks!

Advertisements

Being a Dementia Friend

Today I became a Dementia Friend.

Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer’s Society initiative. The idea behind is it to give people some understanding about what dementia is, what it’s like to live with dementia and how we as a society can use that understanding to help people with dementia live better.

The Dementia Friends site here explains it better as well as providing all the information you need to become one yourself. You don’t really need me to explain the ins and outs of it, just know that they’re not asking people to volunteer all of their time and money.

I knew very little about dementia before today and I decided to join in because of that reason and because I do come into contact with elderly clients sometimes working as a legal secretary. My employer offered it to everyone so I figured why not?

I’m not going to go into all of the details of the training as you can find it on the dementia friends website here, but it is really simple and not very time consuming at all. 

Instead I’ll share some statistics, some info, two really good analogies, some examples of what dementia does to people, how we can help people and famous people who have had dementia.

First some stats and info!

So unbeknownst to me there are actually 100 different kinds of dementia as it’s a brain disease that can affect the 4 different cortexs of the brain in different ways. 

If you want to learn more about the different kinds of dementia then the Alzheimer’s Society has a great link here.

There are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. That number is set to rise to over 1 million by 2025 and 2 million by 2051. 

1 in 14 people over the age of 65 will be affected by some kind of dementia.

That rises to 1 in 2 of people with downs syndrome.

Dementia is typically seen as an old persons disease. The youngest person to be diagnosed was actually in their 20’s. Carla Bramall, a mum of 2, was diagnosed at the age of 30 and now aged 39 is bedbound. You can find more about her story here.

Dementia can be genetic. The exact causes of dementia are uncertain but as well as being genetic, people who abuse alcohol and drugs are more susceptible to dementia later in life.

Analogies

I wanted to share these as they helped me understand dementia a lot better than oodles of info on the internet ever could.

Fairy lights

Imagine a long string of fairy lights. Each light represents a brain function or skill you’ve acquired. Thinhs such ch as breathing, moving, sleeping, talking, eating, being able to tie laces and get yourself dressed etc. Dementia is a progressive disease so first it attacks just one or two of those lights. It doesn’t switch those lights off completely, just makes them flicker on and off. After flicking those lights it then moves on and finds more lights to attack. And repeats the same thing over and over until there are so many lights constantly flicking on and off that some of them turn off completely. Eventually, the constant attacks from the disease just get too much and it shuts everything off.

Bookcase

Imagine your brain is a bookcase.

One half of the bookcase is made of solid oak and is very sturdy. This side houses your emotions.

The other half is very flimsy and houses your personality and your memory.

When dementia attacks, your emotions remain fine in the oak side (the part of the brain responsible for emotion is much more resilient to dementia). But the books containing your memories and your personality start rocking. Your top shelf is your most recent memories; what you had for breakfast, what your partner and children are called, the film you saw at the cinema last week. The shelves then go down by decades with the bottom shelf being your first years.

When dementia attacks, it rocks the flimsy side so that some of your top shelf books / memories fall out of the bookcase. But they find themselves back in the bookcase before too long and you’re fine again.

There’s only so many times the books can work their way back onto the shelves and eventually the books are lost forever. So you move to the next level in your bookcase and start reading those books. Except those books are from 10 years ago.

The same thing happens to those books so you move down to the next shelf, then the nect shelf, then the next shelf until you find yourself stuck reading the same set of books over and over again.

Step into their reality

What dementia friends is hoping to achieve is to make people understand that it makes people happier if you step into their reality rather than trying to drag them kicking and screaming into yours.

Most people with dementia revert to a time in their 20’s and 30’s when they had children, were working and were happy.

It’s always better to leave someone with dementia happy than upset and confuses.

Can you imagine how hard it must be to be constantly told that your husband / wife is dead and has been for a long time when in your reality you waved them off to work that morning? 

You can’t change a dementia sufferers reality, so don’t try. Step into their instead.

How you can help dementia sufferers

First and foremost remember that dementia is a disease and there’s more to a person than just their disease.

Understand that one of the issues with dementia is that it can alter the sufferers perception. You know those big round mats in supermarkets? Some sufferers see those as blackholes. Blue carpet? Water to someone whose afraid of drowning. 

Instead of trying to change their reality, understand what theirs is. I was told about an elderly lady who carries a doll with her and holds it to her breast to feed it because to her that baby is real and she’s feeding her child. I was also told about a man who hadn’t spoken for 2 years, everyone assumed he was a mute. In actual fact he was Polish and the dementia had attacked his ability to understand and speak English.

If someone has dementia it’s important to dig deeper because there’s always a way you can help them it’s just finding out how. 

Abbeyfield House

I know there are more examples of dementia care homes thinking outside of the box but Abbeyfield House in Surrey is the one I’m sharing.

You can find out more here. But they’ve designed the whole facility with the fact that most residents believing they’re in the 50’s in mind. It’s not decorated to modern tastes, there are no mirrors to remind them of their actual age, there’s a dedicated nursery for those who still think they’re nursing and taking care of their babies. There’s a reason that the majority of their residents aren’t on any kind of drugs; they’re allowed to live happily in their own reality.

Terry Pratchett

I love Terry Pratchett’s discworld and he’s a really good example of how dementia affects different people in different ways.

Terry didn’t have memory loss problems. He had a rare form of demetia that affected his vision instead. He was diagnosed in 2007 and continued writing right up to his death in 2015. 2 weeks before he sadly died he did a radio interview. Terry didn’t have a problem with communicating but whilst he could do that interview with ease, he had a problem with sequencing so couldn’t dress himself. 

Robin Williams

I loved Robin Williams growing up. Mork and Mindy. Mrs Doubtfire. Aladdin. I loved them. As I grew up I still appreciated both his work (jumanji and patch adams are firm faves) and who he was as a person.

So when he died I was genuinely sad. I was even more surprised when it came out that he suffered with depression, anxiety, paranoia and had the onset of Parkinsons disease. All of these things were just some of the unpredictable symptoms of DLB or Dementia with Lewy Bodies which was only diagnosed after his death. So severe was his DLB that in the months leading up to his death he was totally and utterly confused. So paranoid was he about his state of mind and what was happening to him that he took his own life.

These are just 2 well known examples, but this and more is happening to people we know and love. I have no doubt that most of the people who read this blog with either have first hand experience of dementia or know of someone whose had it. 

The reason I’ve written this blog is because becoming a Dementia Friend is all about taking action.

I can’t volunteer to help people with dementia. I can’t support someone who has dementia. But what I can do is share the important message that as a community, if we had a better understanding of what dementia is we could help sufferers live well. Instead of being frustrated, angry and confused we can make their last years happy.

So my action is to help people understand that to help dementia sufferers we need to step i to their reality. If you see someone struggling with their pin number, ask them if they’re ok and need any help instead of getting frustrated and holding up the queue. If you see someone who looks lost, ask them where they’re going and if they need any help. If you see someone who looks confused in their surroundings, stay with them and distract them with chit chat until they’re less confused.

It’s easy to say “it’s not my problem” but you could be the 1 in 14 and wouldn’t you want the same understanding that these people need now?

Links

Dementia Friends information

Become a dementia friend

Types of dementia

Carla’s story

More about Terry Pratchett’s dementia

Robin William’s widow explains more about the months leading up to his death

What not to say to a dementia sufferer
Donate to Alzheimer’s Research UK

To my little boy

I’m not the mum I thought I’d be.

I’m not always the mum I want to be.

I’m not always the mum you need me to be.

But I will always be your mum, come hell or high water I’ll be your mum.

I struggle with parenthood. I’m forever doubting myself, feeling guilty, feeling selfish, feeling bad that I can’t always be what you need me to be.

But I am when it matters.

When you hurt yourself.

When you cry in the night.

When you need to be brave.

I’m always there. Just being your mum.

I shout more than I should, more than I’d like but when I’m tired, frustrated and you don’t listen it’s the first place I go.

But every night before you go to sleep, we hug, we kiss and I tell you how much I love you. How tomorrow will be better. I will be better. And sometimes I break that promise and sometimes I don’t.

I don’t always do the fun stuff you want me to do and sometimes I hope you’ll forget the fun thing you want to do just so I can sit and do nothing. 

Other days I push through my own tiredness, my own frustration and do what you want us to do.

When we go an adventure I let you take the lead. You pick our direction, wherever it takes us, it’s up to you. Not because it’s easier but because you love to be the leader. And I don’t want you to lose that quality.

I don’t always do your homework with you. Sometimes I rush through the story at bedtime. But it doesn’t stop you. Nothing stops you…apart from being tired. Then you become an emotional wreck just like me.

But you’re also just like daddy; you have a thirst for knowledge and you’re developing your own sense of wit and humour. At 3.5 it’s funny to see and hear the things your brain comes up with, strange to think all of the things it’s yet to learn.

I’m not the best mummy, but I am trying to be the best mummy I can be. Sometimes I succeed and some days I fail. And that’s OK too. It’s another lesson you’ll have to learn as you get older.

Just as you’ll have to learn to navigate the perils of school, and work and relationships. But I’ll be there to guide you through. Through the issues with friends, through tests and exams, through the awkward teenage years, through the difficult decisions, through the good relationships and the bad. I’ll be there. Whether you want me to be or not. Because you’re stuck with me now and I wouldn’t want it any other way xxx

When life gives you lemons…eat peanut butter!

Yesterday I’d reached my limit. I’d had enough. Life was just all too much.

So whilst preparing tea I looked at the carrot sticks and the jar of peanut butter and said “fuck it”. I stuffed my fat face on the premise that carrots are one of my 5 a day and anyone who says anything about the peanut butter can kiss my ass.

As you can probably tell I’m not in a good place.

I should be…should be.

After looking for a house for 6 months and missing out on plenty we’ve finally found one! The offer has been accepted and the process has begun.

Josh likes it. We like it. It needs some work doing but once it’s done it’ll be amazeballs.

In readiness for this we’ve been gutting the house. So far we’ve removed 12 bin bags of crap from upstairs and only have downstairs and the loft to do. 

We’re making good progress and feeling happier for it.

But I hadn’t appreciated how stressful it would be not knowing what the feck we’re supposed to be doing! We’ve never bought a house before, we don’t really get how it all works. But my solicitor boss dealing with our conveyancing and we’ve got a mortgage advisor sorting the mortgage out. So right now I’m just waiting for someone to tell me to do something!

But as well as doing one of the most stressful things you can as a couple, we have so much other “stuff” going on.

  • J not sleeping through

I know there will be mums out there who haven’t got a kid that sleeps through and I feep for you I really do. Up until 2 months J did sleep through…now he doesn’t. And I’ll be honest this is the biggest problem

He was waking up 3-4 times after having nightmares but that was resolved by rousing him before I went to bed. Breaking the sleep cycle then stopped the nightmares. I now think he’s so used to waking up that it’s just a habit. To say I’m exhausted would be an under statement. We both work full time but Mr D could sleep through a hurricane so he never wakes up and by the time he would, if I shoved him awake, I could have settled J and would still be awake anyway.

I don’t cope well when I’m sleep deprived at the best of times but I’ll be honest this is taking the piss now.

  • Family illness

As well as Josh not sleeping we’ve had Mr D’s auntie in hospital with septicemia and the impact of that on both Mr D’s mum and his grandpa. So that was a worrying time.

We also have another family member who needs to have an operation in a few weeks which carries pretty serious risks with it. So naturally we’re worried about that even though it’s totally out of our hands.

  • The mum saga

I’ve had to remove myself from the whole situation with my mum because it was causing too many problems.

I don’t know how she’s doing, just that a leopard never changes its spots even when that leopard has been close to death!

You can read more about that here.

  • Issues with our rented house

We haven’t given advance notice of our notice to quit our current tenancy because we don’t want to risk our landlords being strange about it.

The problem we have is that since we’ve moved in there’s been problem with the bathroom.leaking water into the kitchen. We thought it had been resolved when they replaced all the tiles just before J was born but periodically it does still leak.

And tonight we’ve gone to clean another leak and there’s a dent in the plaster and water dribbling down the wall and through the taps.

Last time the landlord was here he tried to say that sealant is really a tenant responsibility even though in the 5.5 years we’ve been here we’ve never replaced the sealant.  

They’ve never called out a plumber just whacked more sealant on which obviously doesn’t work.

So we get worked up over that wondering what they’re going to say about it this time!

  • The diet

On top of everything else I just couldn’t hack the slimfast. I was hungry constantly.

Being hungry and tired just makes me hangry all the time.

I am not in the right frame of mind to be restricting myself to 1400 calories a day even if it does mean losing 3lbs a week.

So until I get back in the right mindset I’ll eat a bloody pie if I want one!

Then…last night J only woke up once and my outlook on life totally changed.

I no longer felt the need to eat peanut butter straight from the pot.

I no longer wanted to cry my face off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still tired just not exhausted!

What I’ve realised over the last few years is that it’s OK to not be OK.

So I’ll keep taking photos like this

Just to show people that sometimes being a parent SUCKS but that’s fine to admit it!

My alcoholic mum and me

I received a text today from one of my younger sisters. A text that I’ve dreaded getting because I didn’t know what my reaction would be and how I’d deal with it.

Mum’s in hospital. Serious condition on the critical ward.

Most people would drop everything and go. Except we’re not most people.

You see I haven’t spoken to my mum for over 8 years. She doesn’t know where I live. I don’t know where she lives. She’s never met J. I’ve never met her fiance who by now could be her husband. 

Most people would think I’m a monster. But most people don’t have an alcoholic mother.

Growing up I knew no different…until I hit my teens. I wasn’t a “bad” kid. I was in top set for everything at high school, got x10 A-C grade GCSE’s. Did I do bad things? Of course I did. I lied about staying over at friends houses when actually we were roaming the streets all night, but who didn’t? Bit of underage drinking and smoking, but who didn’t? There was only one time that I really got into trouble and that was when I went out, got smashed and didn’t go home. I passed out at a male friends house and was woken up by the police! After a stern telling off and a grounding I didn’t do that again! That was the naughtiest thing I did. 

But I do remember realising that my mum wasn’t like other mums when I was teen. 

I never took friends home. I was out as often as I could be. Being at home wasn’t pleasant because you never knew which mum you were going to get.

In all honesty I can’t remember all the details and those that I can I don’t feel it’s fair to share. I have younger sisters who don’t have the same relationship with my mum that I do and her alcoholism has affected us all in different ways.

What I can tell you is exactly when our relationship imploded.

It was 6 months after I met Mr D when after another violent drunken rage she text me to say “you don’t live here anymore”. For her it was that simple. And ultimately I guess it was. I think she thought I’d crumble and either end up homeless or begging to stay. What actually happened is Mr D’s mum said I could move in with her and Mr D. A few days later one of our friends with a van helped us to move my few belongings. I didn’t crumble, I didn’t beg. I stood up and left. I went back to that house once afterwards and that was the last time I saw my mum.

Was I unscathed? Definitely not. 

I had to have counselling to deal with it because I thought that it was my fault. That if I’d been a better daughter she wouldn’t have needed to drink. If I’d been a better daughter she would have chosen her kids over booze. Somehow I thought it was my fault.

That counselling saved me(not to mention the love and understanding of Mr D and his family). It made me realise that I was the master of my own destiny just as she was with hers. And I made peace with it.

It’s now 8+ years later. I’m 31. I’m a mother myself. All she really taught me was how NOT to parent.

So I sit here nit really sure how to feel knowing that potentially my mum is dying. What I do know is that my sisters won’t think any less of me for not going to see her. All I can hope for now is that my sisters can deal with whatever life has to throw at them over the coming days and weeks. But for me, I’ve got nothing to make peace with so I won’t. My life carries on as it always has. 

So many people won’t understand but for those that do please remember there’s help out there for you too. It’s hard being a child of an addict, what’s harder is feeling alone.

 Action on Addiction is a charity who the Duchess of Cambridge is a patron for. I’m hoping that with her profile the charity can become wider known because it supports both addicts, their children and the wider family. It has a whole manner of support that people can access which includes counselling. If anyone wants to contact them their email is: forfamilies@actiononaddiction.org.uk

Remember that behind every addict is a family also trying to deal with it too x

Solo parenting for a few hours

I haven’t blogged for a few weeks as I didn’t have anything to write about. Nobody wants to read about relationship and house hunting woes!

That changed today…obviously.

Today we finally went to the Emergency Services Fun Day that I’d been threatening,  I mean using an incentive for J to be a good boy all week.

Is this good behaviour? No it’s not is it? Good boys don’t get to go to the fun day do they?

There were various iterations of this over the week. And on the whole, it totally worked!

Now before I tell you about the day we had I need to salute each and every single parent because I was solo parenting at the fun day for 4 hours and that was enough. J had a great time but I was stressed out, fraught, hot sweaty mess. When we got home the first thing I did was neck the rest of the strawberry lambrini (don’t judge) in the fridge. I don’t stress drink (I stress eat BIG time) for reasons I’ll go into on another blog. But those 4 hours drove me to drink! And it’s not because he’s mega naughty, because he’s not. I’m just a mega stressed out momma.

Anyway back to Sunday morning (day of the fun day) and of course it was piddling down with rain so I asked J whether he still wanted to go the fun day or would he prefer to go swimming instead. “Swimming” he said. Several times.

So I spent 20 minutes awkwardly shaving my legs in the bathroom to then be met with “I’ve changed my mind. Daddy says I have to tell you”. So through gritted teeth I asked again if he was sure he wanted to go to the fun day to see the fire engines, police cars and ambulances and he said yes. I reminded him that today was his treat for being a good boy so if that’s what he wanted, then that’s what we’d do. I then banged my head against the wall and went back into the bathroom.

So after spending another 20 minutes washing and drying my hair we were ready to go. I was determined to have a good time despite getting off to a bad start so gave myself a talking to and off we went.

First we went to McDonald’s for lunch because I figured it was better to do that than have to queue to food and find somewhere to sit and eat it at the park. Despite it taking 30 minutes, it definitely took the stress out of the unknown. 

After eating inside we then had to go through drive thru for Daddy who was staying at home. So after dropping his maccies off we were finally en route and I was already feeling a bit harrassed if I’m honest. It was 12pm and we’d made no progress whatsoever!

The Emergency Services Day was in Longton Park but they were providing free buses to and from the event from the bet365 Stadium (which I will forever call Britannia Stadium sorry!). So I decided to utilise that as J has never been on a bus and I hadn’t been on one for 11 years. And again, not being able to park somewhere is as stressful AF! 

So here we are having a great time…no seriously he loved it. 

It’s going fast mummy.

Ooh it’s a bit bumpy mummy.

Ooh mummy look at those cars there.

I like the bus.

So we hopped off the bus, which dropped us off right outside, and followed the crowds inside. I’d already explained on the bus that J needed to hold my hand because it was going to be busy and I didn’t want to lose him. So of course the second we got off the bus he refused to hold my hand.

He did however want to meet a giant teddy

And sit on a tiny bloodmobile

He was lucky to be given a fireman hat by a lovely lady who was showing us the display car they use for school demos. Then he watched a big fire crane at work.

Despite having a meltdown because he had to queue to go on the fire engine, he loved eventually getting on it.

We then headed to the funfair. Where he got me to pay £2.50 to go on an inflatable assault course that he then decided he was too small for. I was struggling at this point because he was getting quite demanding. I asked if he was tired and he said no. Which of course meant yes. But he loves the funfair so we agreed he could go on 3 rides.

We’re quite lucky with J because as long as you explain things in advance he’s fine with it. At bed time he gets a 20, 10 and 5 minute warning and he goes to bed with minimal fuss. So when I said “no more rides now” he didn’t kick up a fuss.

I’ll admit that I was really hot by this point. I had to wear my jacket because I needed the pockets for my phone and my purse and I couldn’t really carry it anyway. J’s coat was in the already full bag so that wasn’t an option. But it so muggy I was getting agitated.

J had insisted on picking this balloon up when we entered the competition for the lego creators beetle kit. But it was quickly passed to me with a request for me to carry it instead. Along with his fireman hat, and the bag with the coat in. Then he decided he wanted to hold my hand afterall! More agitation.

At this point I felt like a pack horse and was getting warmer and warmer whilst J was getting whingier and whingier! 

So I made an executive decision and decided to head for home, which again J was fine with because I’d said we’d take a walk through the park to get back to the bus stop and he got to splash in a puddle in the band stand.

The balloon came off the pole several times before reaching the bus stop and each time J was devastated. Then when we got to the bus stop, a bus had just pulled up but J had hold of the balloon and just as we were about to step on, the sodding balloon made a break for freedom. J had a complete mental breakdown so I had to run after it whilst resembling a deranged sweaty mess shouting J not to move as he stood screaming he wanted the bloody balloon back. Eventually we got on the bus with the sodding balloon but both a bit traumatised by the whole debacle!

This is when I realised that having 4 hands was so much easier than just 2. And it was only when I got home to reflect on it that I realised how grateful I am that this wasn’t our permanent reality. I still struggle trying to balance being a mum with being a partner and working full time. And I only manage it the way I do because there are two of us at home to tackle everything together. And sometimes I still don’t manage, particularly at the moment.

Days like today I do find stressful. I try really hard not to lose my patience and fail miserably every time. I try to give J nice experiences because I don’t remember ever doing these things as a kid myself. But doing them alone is so much harder. 

I then feel guilty for struggling on these odd occassions because for so many people they have no choice BUT to do these things on their own day in day out.

Then anxiety kicks in and I feel like a shit mum for not being able to manage these things on my own.

And do you know what snapped me out of that feeling? J having a complete mental breakdown screaming tantrum for 30 minutes as soon as we got home.

Seems he can’t hold his shit together all the time either! So we’ll just muddle through like we always do, keep doing what we do, going where we go, with and without daddy. And maybe at some point we’ll both find easier, we’ll both have a good time and we won’t be driven to drink / mega tantrums!

Birthday fun with the Alton Towers mid week special

I don’t know what’s brought this about, maybe it’s the nicer weather or maybe it’s because Master J is easier to take out and about these days, but I’ve been craving fun. So when it came to planning my birthday I wanted just that; fun fun more FUN! That’s when I happened upon an advert for Alton Towers. It’s almost like facebook could read my mind as it popped up at just the right time! 

So I had a nosey and lo and behold they have, what they call, a mid week special offer. I asked Mr D if we could go, arranged sleepovers for Master J, booked the days off work and booked the tickets! 

So what exactly is the mid-week special offer?

First and foremost, the price seems to change. I think we paid £120, but in July it’s only £109 so worth keeping an eye on!

The offer is valid Sunday – Thursday and is based on 2 adults with under 3’s going free. 

The price may change but the package doesn’t. Here’s what you get:

    • Theme park tickets for 2 days as they do a 2nd day free offer. You’d have to check out of your accomodation by 10am still but you could just keep your stuff in the car.
    • If you are much more organised than we were, you can actually access the park an hour before it opens to everyone else. So we could have missed out on the queuing if we’d got there super early. But we didn’t…so we didn’t!
    • Overnight stay in a woodland lodge in the Enchanted Village which you can’t check in to properly until 3pm but if you take your bags to the reception desk, with your printed confirmation and ID you can leave your bags there at any time and they’ll magically appear in your room once you do get to it! More about the lodges later!
    • Free parking! If you’re just going to the park for a day it’s £6 to park. But there’s a big car park a short walk or grassed parking right by the lodges.
    • Entertainment for the kids which appeared to be in every hotel as well as the Enchanted Vilage although with not having J we didn’t check it out.
    • Buffet all you can eat breakfast the following morning.

    Considering on the day park tickets are £52.80 per adult (or £32 if you book 5 days in advance) it’s a good deal.

    *Few things to note*

    If you want to eat at the rollercoaster restaurant you need to book it as soon as possible. I thought we’d be able to book it when we arrived but the next free table was 5 days later! Lunch time its a first come first served service.

    If we’d have taken J it would have been an additional £35. But it’s still the cheapest way to get 2 days theme park access and an overnight stay, which is what we needed after walking round for 6 miles.

    Download the Alton Towers app before you arrive. If you put your bluetooth on you can check ride waiting times!

    There’s a little shop in the Enchanted Village that’s open until 9pm and stocks snacks, drinks and some other basic supplies.

    Now you know about the deal itself, let’s get into my actual birthday…

    Birthday wake up

    Master J woke up and instead of wishing me happy birthday he insisted it was, in fact, daddy’s birthday. After finally being convinced it was MY birthday he screamed “happy birthday to you” several times in my face before we all headed downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of cake because you’re only 31 once!

    As you can see, J loved it! Although not as much as me as it’s been a sore point for years that I never get a birthday cake from Mr D.

    Anyways!

    We then got all of our stuff together, got ready, dropped J with Grandma and headed to Alton Towers.

    Checking In

    We decided to head for the woodland lodges first to get checked in.

    It wasn’t difficult to find as everything is signposted. Reception is really easy to find. To check in all you need is your booking confirmation and some photo ID.

    The staff were lovely and we utilised their offer to drop off our bags with them there and then and then have them delivered to our lodge when we could check in at after 3pm. As the park closes at 5pm that was fine.

    So we headed to the park for our day of fun.

      Our day at the theme park

      There is a bit of a walk to the main hotel where the monorail is to get to the main theme park entrance. And don’t put your booking confirmation and ID too far away as you’ll need them to get your tickets.

      What was really frustrating was that the queue for the pre-booked tickets was actually longer than every other queue. Seemed some people were having problems which was holding everything up. 

      Once we eventually got our tickets and got in through the gates, we headed to Costa. I know that once you’re inside they have the monopoly and I know we could have taken our own lunch but Mr D was a bit amazed at having to pay £15 for 2 pies, a latte and a hot chocolate. If you go as a family and not just a couple these kinds of costs can add up. One thing they do provide, which is good, is a refillable cup on a lanyard that you pay £7 for at the beginning of the day and just top up as and when you need to for that one fixed cost. 

      After checking out the map in the drizzling rain we set decided to head to the X sector first and work our way back round to the entrance from there.

      We hadn’t been for at least 8 years and it was a different experience to any previous visit for me. Maybe it’s because I have a stronger stomach since having a kid but there were no butterflies, no twisted stomach, no fear. Yes I screamed but not because I was scared but because it was fun. Seriously fun.

      We were a bit disappointed that Galactica wasn’t running as that’s the one we were looking forward to trying. But we still had an amazing day and Mr D found me to be a great source of enteetainment.

      The hour long wait for Oblivion turned out to be worth it as we ended up on the front row. And I did what I always do and screamed until I ran out of breath. Mr D was perplexed as to why I didn’t just breath in again but laughed all the same.

      On Enterprise he laughed at me for saying that my knees felt weird.

      On Th13teen he had to be my guide dog as you leave your bags then have to walk to the ride.

      On Nemesis however it was Mr D who was funny. Mainly because he was attempting to do the David Tennant eyebrow for the camera but it came out like this

      And on Hex we laughed at a grown man whose mind was obviously blown by the room spinning!

      I’m not sure why we went on Duel as I’m rubbish at it so of course Mr D beat me.

      But it was nice to see the cable cars had been upgraded and I managed to hit a pokestop from up there!

      As we were coming to the end of our day we decided to have a stroll around the sea life centre which I was really impressed with. It’s deceptively big and I loved the aquarium tunnel. We got to see starfish up close and personal for the first time. There’s lots of information about all the different fish and the staff were really engaging with younger visitors.

      The last thing we did before the park closed and we trudged back to the lodge was have a go on the Maurauders Mayhem – think grown up tea cups. Except as well the ride spinning round you have a wheel in the middle which spins the actual cart as well. We were pulling at it so hard that we kept sliding round inside the cart. Never laughed so hard!

      It was a great way to finish our day!

      The Woodland Lodge

      We got to the Woodland Lodge at 5:30pm and were suitably shattered. We’d made reservations for Flambo Jambos at 7pm so had just enough time for a quick snooze.

      So this is what the lodges look like from the outside. Super cute and kooky. There’s also little bits of play equipment for kids dotted about.

       We were then greeted with this lovely room.

      With lots of cute features.

      Like the chair with the towels and the freebie bathroom stuff

      The separate bedroom with bunkbeds (and a mattress underneath so you could easily fit 3 kids in here).

      Which had this beautiful tree on the whole opposite wall.

      There was a lovely book that you could read to the kids before bed.

      But my favourite feature was this cute little fairy door which doubled up as a night light!

      Tea time

      So after we had a nap and a freshen up we headed to Flambo Jambos. 

      The food was nice but at £21.50 per adult for all you can eat we were both expecting a littlw bit…more. We had refillable soft drinks so all in it was £50 for the two of us. Maybe we’re skint flints but it seemed a lot for what it was.

      Bed time

      By the time we got back the mild flu that mr D had been fighting all week hit him hard for all the fun and walking we’d done. So we curled up into bed and watched some programme about driverless cars then passed out!

      Breakfast

      After booking a table at 9am at the Crooked Spoon for breakfast we woke up at 8, had a shower and a quick tidy before heading over.

      There was lots of choice; typical hot breakfast help yourself food (bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns), bread and a toaster, cereals, fruit, yoghurt and pastries. 

      We ate so much we didn’t eat again until tea time!

      We checked out just before 10am and headed home.

      The Verdict

      Did we have fun? Yes, lots.

      Was it value for money? When you consider the prices of theme parks in general then yes. It’s the cost of food and drinks that bump it up but when there’s no competition it’s hardly surprising and is the same at any theme park. 

      Would we do it again? DEFINITELY

      Potty Training! ARGH!

      We’ve been putting off potty training for aaaaaages. I didn’t want to deal with it. I’d had a futile attempt at the beginning of the year but I caved when J pissed on the carpet 3 times in 5 minutes!

      We’d bought a 3 in 1 disney Cars seat about 18 months ago but we’d just been using it as a step in the bathroom. We’d also bought the combined seat and ladder thing which has been gathering dust in the downstairs loo.

      But he’s coming up to 3.5 years old and the signs have been there for a few weeks now; telling people after he’s done a wee, waiting for a clean pull up to do a poo, asking to sit on the toilet after a bath but most importantly with the hot weather his pull ups have been irritating his legs.

      I decided not to do my research for this as everything I had come across said you needed a full week at home to nail it. Unless you’re a stay at home mum who can do that? We certainly couldn’t! We hadn’t  had a weekend at home for months let alone a full week!

      This weekend circumstances meant the time had come.

      J has been ill and on antibiotics again this week and daddy seems to have caught whatever it is as well. We’ve done lots of fun things at the weekend over the last month or so, so we decided to have a chill out at home.

      Perfect! 2 solid days at home to give it a go. But be under no illusion it wasn’t at all planned.

      J woke up at 7:30am on Saturday. I decided to start potty training at 8am whilst daddy was at work.

      Not really knowing where to start I grabbed the potty, whipped his nappy off, put pants on and started repeating these few sentences:

      1. Are you going to be a big boy and wee on the potty instead of in your nappy?
      2. We don’t wee wee on the floor, we wee wee on the potty.
      3. Do you need a wee wee?
      4. Do you want to sit on the potty?
      5. Stop playing with your pinkle.

      He very quickly got pissed off with me constantly talking at him.

      Yes he wanted to be a big boy. Yes we wee on the potty. No I don’t need a wee. No I don’t want to sit on the potty. *Death stare*

      After 5 hours, 5 pairs of pants, 5 wees on the floor and a small poo in his pants, I was exhausted. Something had to give.

      So after a chat with my parenting guru Mrs C off came the pants and out came the bribery.

      Potty corner was set up with motivational white board, loo roll and protective floor covering “just in case”.

      J was then told every time he did a wee or a poo on the potty he could have a chocolate button and that was our turning point.

      In 5 hours he went from weeing on the floor to running from wherever he was to the potty shouting

      I NEED A WEE I NEED A WEE

      We then moved to the two chocolate button system:

      One for doing the wee on the potty and another one for helping me to empty said wee into the toilet, washing said potty and washing his hands!

      And that was how it was for the rest of the day.

      He jumped on the loo and did a big wee before going to bed with his nappy on. And that was the end of Day 1!

      I was astounded and so proud that he picked it up so easily. Mainly because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing!
      Then the anxiety kicked in.

      What about nursery on Monday? Is it too much too soon? How will he manage at Nanny’s and Grandma’s house? Do we have enough pants? Do we have enough trousers? What if he has an accident when he’s wearing shoes? What if I’m getting too cocky too soon? ARGH!

      I decided the best thing to do was to not worry and watch Glastonbury instead. Tomorrow was another day after all!

      So we’re currently 3/4 of the way through day 2 and I’ve decided to just roll with it.

      The board has been changed and J now has a box of pants!

      We’ve only had a slight dribble on the carpet and a big dribble on daddy but he’s quite happy to continue his usual activities with no pants on.

      We’ll just see how it goes now. I’m sure there will be lots of wee and anxiety ahead but for now I’m just going to share my favourite conversation of the weekend:

      J: It’s all big

      Me: What’s all big buddy?

      J: This *points to his pants*

      Me: Your pinkle’s all big?

      J: Yeah *laughs!

      Me: Don’t play with it then

      J: *laughs some more and walks off*

       

      Update: We’ve just had our first potty poo. Never been so excited to see shit before!

      Father’s Day Fun Times

      I always try to make a bit of an effort for Father’s Day but after we argued and nearly ruined Mother’s Day this year it really wouldn’t have taken much to beat my day! 

      This Father’s Day has been different because it’s been more of a weekend. A lot of it last minute and impromptu but amazing!

      Saturday evening we packed Master J off to Nanny’s for a sleepover (which he loves) so we could go to a Comedy and Curry night at a little community centre locally. It was a fundraising event for Ruff and Ruby. It’s an amazing small charity which has a range of programmes to help young people aged 13 and over boost their confidence, deal with anxiety, mentor them into work or anything else they need. They also have the Ruff and Ruby Rooms inside the intu Potteries (or as everyone local still calls it “the potteries shopping centre”). Which is an amazing space. They serve tea and cake, have a soft play set up, kids books, amazing second hand clothes. You should check out their facebook page for more information.

      The main reason we went was because we know the headline act Andy Kind. He’s the brother of our best friends. I’ve been with Mr D for 9.5 years and even though we see Andy (and usually his lovely wife and kids too) every 18 months or so, I’d never been to one of his gigs. It’s weird seeing someone you know do a comedy set because even though you know if their job you do see them in a different light. Andy won’t mind me saying (because I told him to his face afterwards) that I wasn’t sure what to expect because comedy is so subjective. But I had a really good time and laughed, genuinely laughed, alot. Andy’s style of comedy isn’t well rehearsed one liners or far fetched stories. His funny stories are relatable and I know there’s so much truth in them. But what really sets him apart for me is his ability to banter with the audience. To me, it takes a great skill to have a chat with people, find something funny to say totally off the cuff and keep coming back to them throughout the show. I know he’s been doing comedy for a long time but he really is genuinely funny so go check him out. He’s also written two books: Stand Up and Deliver and The Gig Delusional which you can buy from his website.

      So the curry was good, comedy was goos and a great night was had by all!

      Andy then asked us if he couls have a lift back to said best friends house. Mr and Mrs H (best friends) then text asking for “4 cans of stella and a bottle of Chianti”. Bargain Booze doesn’t do Chianti funnily enough so we had to settle for stella, a bottle of rioja, a bottle of strawberry lambrini (I’m so classy) and a 4 pack of apple shots (because it was Mrs H’s birthday weekend so why the hell not).

      We ended up trading the booze for a spare bed and stayed over even though they live approximately 12 minutes drive away. And we had the best time. It was just like the good old days where we had nowhere to be, nobody else to think about and if we got a text at 7pm asking if we wanted to nip round it wasn’t a failed military operation.

      The only thing that I definitely will never be doing again is taking a shot of grappa. I’m sure it was paint thinner / anti freeze / a mix of both. I know the Italians love the stuff but no, just no!

      Because Mr D had knocked back a few beera he was snoring…loudly. Even though he was conked out on the air bed on the floor and I was on the sofa! So I started the day shattered.

      It was then a bit of a mad rush. We left the H’s at 8:30am, went home, picked J up at 9:20am and got the cinema for 9:50am.

      I’d made Mr D wear his Father’s Day t shirt and as he hadn’t asked I’d assumed he had no odea about the rest of the surprise…turns out I was wrong. 1 minute away from Nanny’s house he pipes up and says

       Has J got a matching t shirt? I’ve just realised I look like a big version of him!

      No shit sherlock. I was gutted! We walked in and J was stood on the sofa, proud as punch and shouted

      Surprise. We match daddy

      And match they did!

      I’m really pleased with how they came out as I bought them weeks ago from eBay!

      So from Nanny’s we went to the cinema to take advantage of the Odeon Kids mornings. 

      Here we discovered J’s new “say cheese” face.

      We watched Lego Batman this time and N was really good…apart from when there was a bit of mild peril. Then he couldn’t cope and cried! He still said he enjoyed it when it had finished though.

      Considering there were 3 of us and a dad and his 2 kids in the whole screening, J made enough mess for every seat. Unbeknownst to me he’d been missing his mouth alot with the popcorn and they was a circle of it on the floor directlt in from of his seat. #sorryOdeonstaff

      From the cinema we went to Frankie and Bennys. Where I had an italiano starter platter all to myself for my main, whilst Daddy and J had burgers.

      It was at this point that I knew something wasn’t quite right with J as he hardly touched it.

      Not that you can tell from this photo though!

      The staff were lovely and friendly and offered to take this photo for me which is really sweet. There are so few photos of the 3 of us together.

      From the cinema we went to Morrisons to get some greenery for tea as we hadn’t seen anything healthy for a few days.

      We timed it just right as just as we were walking to Argos there was an evacuation!

      We couldn’t find what we wanted in Argos so went to Toys R Us instead and came home with this bad boy!

      But before we got it home we stopped off to see Mr D’d grandpa and J’s Great Grandpa.

      This photo sums up our visit perfectly.

      3 generations and 89 years between them but all so very happy!

      We then went home to put the pool up.

      It took 20 minutes to inflate and over an hour to fill. But we’d decided to jump in when there was enough to get your feet wet. 

      J eventually had a fab time. But he’s very much like me in that he hates getting water in his face. But as you can see he has no problem riding around on Daddy!

      After a few hours in the pool it was time for J to have a bath and us all to eat.

      It was only after we ate and J asked to go to bed that Mr D pointed out that he’d still not had his other father’s day gifts or cards. Oops! So we had to quick sort that before putting J to bed.

      Just as we were collapsing due to the heat…J fell out of bed. He was a sorry sight when I walked in. Totally perplexed sat in the middle of his bedroom floor.

      And that was the end of our Father’s Day weekend!

      What did everyone else get up to?


      “No mummy not you”

      May was tough for all of us with J being ill and a living nightmare but he’s turned a corner the last few weeks.

      His behaviour is better, his manners are better, he’s eating better and is generally a pleasure to spend time with. He’s got this annoying habit of completely ignoring you when you say his name then getting titsed off at you for repeating yourself but nobody is perfect I guess!

      But he’s also decided it’s all about daddy.

      I’m thirsty, can I have a drink? NO MUMMY NOT YOU DADDY DO IT.

      I’m hungry can I have a snack? NO MUMMY NOT YOU, DADDY DO IT

      I DON’T WANT TO SIT WITH YOU MUMMY, I WANT TO SIT WITH DADDY

      All direct quotes from Master J in 2 hours alone last week.

      It’s the first time that he’s been so vocal about preferring daddy to mummy. I don’t know where it’s come from as we’ve been doing loads of cool things together (with and without daddy).

      We’ve been to the funfair

      Been to the park and canal for breakfast oatcakes

      Been to the Canal Festival (you can read the full blog about that here)

      Explored another park and had a ride on the mini railway

      Maybe he’s just got bored of me? Who knows. So I’ll do what everyone else does when they don’t have a bloody clue why kids are doing something and put it down to being a phase.

      Saying that, he still loves a good photo op with me!

      But if this penchant for daddy had happened in the first 18 months he was born I know I’d have reacted so much differently. I was struggling with my mental health and being a good mum was one of the things that got me through. I needed to be a good mum, so that I had at least one thing I was good at whilst everything else felt like it was going tits up. If J didn’t want me then the way he doesn’t now I’d have been absolutely crushed.

      Now, however, I couldn’t give a rats ass. In fact, it’s brilliant. I get to sit on my fat arse a lot more whilst daddy does all the running round.

      And Daddy can’t make his mind up. He’s been moaning that J just wanted me and would only hit him. Now he’s all over him he doesn’t like that either. 

      It’s an all or nothing approach with J at the moment. It’s either mummy or daddy but it can’t be both.

      No mummy I’m playing football with daddy, you sit down

      Ok buddy!

      No mummy that’s my daddy don’t you hug him, I want to hug him

      Ok buddy!

      No mummy I love daddy

      Ok buddy!

      And it is OK because I’ve got to get used to this. He’s not always going to either need or want me. That much is evident when I drop him off to nursery and I have to drag him back for a quick hug to say goodbye. I’m torn between wanting him to want me and wanting him to be independent. It’s great that he goes off no problem but I still can’t help but feeling a bit sad when he waves me off without even looking at me!

      I’m not alone, although Mr D hasn’t always dealt with in the same way as me. There have been lots of occassions where he’s taken it so personally and at various points convinced himself that J just didn’t like him. It’s taken a lot of reassurance from me that he didn’t hate him he was just being a typical baby / toddler / little boy.

      I say all this but then tonight has hit me right in the guts because I’m not feeling very good and everything is worse when you’re feeling rather shitty.

      He did the usual “daddy put me to bed” routine but when I said I loved him he said

      But I love daddy

      Daddy tried in vain to tell him you can love more than one person but J was having none of that. So he’s gone to bed and I’m sulking on the sofa wondering if 8:36pm is too early for a 30 year old to go to bed on a Friday night?