Over the last couple of years we have become reasonably regular visitors to the refurbished Epstein Theatre in Liverpool – it’s such a lovely theatre to visit with the kids. Last Friday night we were lucky enough to be invited along to the first night of a brand-new musical comedy, SuperBooty. Written, directed and performed by the Epstein’s resident panto dame Michael Chapman – we knew we were in for a treat!
Ben and Chloe were thrilled to recognise some familiar faces on stage – in particular the talented Lewis Pryor who they’ve now seen in a couple of Epstein shows and the return of Jordan Davis (who in fairness adds little more to the show than his abs).
SuperBooty was billed as being “packed with non-stop knockabout naughtiness” – which it certainly was! One of the things I love most about Michael Chapman’s performances is just how close to the line they are, there’s so much cheek and adult humour which is done really carefully so as to go right over the kids’ heads. There were plenty of moments which had me roaring with laughter and then having to explain to Ben that it was a “grown up joke” which thankfully he just accepts.
A surprise highlight of the show for us was local Street Dance star Harry Barnes (aka Harry Popper) who absolutely wowed the audience with his popping and locking along with impressive performances from Anamal Dance Company. Ben has been attending Street Dance classes himself for almost a year now and watched open-mouthed as children of his own age executed perfectly synchronised performances on stage. He came away fully inspired to practice more.
One of the things I love most about taking my kids to the theatre is the conversation it generates over the coming days and weeks when they remember bits of a story or we talk about jokes that were made. Since watching SuperBooty, Ben and Chloe have spent lots of time shouting about Kevin Defrostus and “dabbing” – they’ve attempted to teach Amy with mixed results!
All in SuperBooty was a hit for us – and I’m only sorry that it’s short run has now finished so you can’t go and see it for yourselves! However, I suggest you check out what else is on offer at The Epstein Theatre over the coming months and keep an eye out for the Easter panto, Sleeping Beauty.
As a teacher, I guess I take having the school holidays off with my kids for granted. There are lots of ways in which teaching is most definitely not family friendly but the school holidays? Yes, they’re a win.
I’ve been working on supply for the best part of five years now and of course with that comes significant flexibility – I can choose exactly when I do and don’t work – which turns out to be really quite lucky as, for the first time ever, the school I’m currently working in has a different half term to my own children. I’m sure February half-term is usually pretty standard but I’ve found lots of my friends have different holidays to me this time.
For the sake of childcare but more because I actually want to spend time with my kids, I took this last week off work. Yes we’ve lost a few days pay which isn’t ideal but, due to the flexible nature of my work, I can always book a few days in a different school next week to catch up. As it is, if I don’t get anything booked in I will take advantage of the chance to get caught up on my freelance work and make up the money that way instead!
Half term is always a busy holiday for us – so many people we want to see or places to visit and just a handful of days to do it in – not helped this year by the disjointed break. I usually try to factor in a “Calm Down Day” where we chill out at home and relax and often there will be a day of childcare booked in to give the kids a change of scene and me a chance to keep on top of my blogging or the house work. This half term we were treated to a day with Daddy too!
The holidays have flown by and I’m going to be more than a little sad to see my dudes go back off to school again tomorrow! How many weeks is it till Easter?
The other day we got a large cube shaped package delivered to our house. This in itself is nothing new. Our house is a miniature Parcel Force depot most days of the week! On this occasion though the package felt….. interesting. I was intrigued. When Colette opened the package it revealed a large wooden box. Even more intriguing! Inside the box was a watch! A blinking wooden watch! Well, it wasn’t literally blinking, but Colette won’t let me swear on here so I’m sticking with blinking as an adjective! A wooden watch is something you don’t see every day. I have never seen one. It looks cool.
Colette had ordered a unisex JORD Frankie series watch for herself but as luck would have it, the face was a bit big for her wrist (as I kept telling her!) meaning she eventually, and grudgingly, passed it to me. Hand-me-downs are sometimes ace! Now as Colette had ordered it for herself she’d ordered the Dark Sandalwood & Smoke colour way. This has the potential to look a bit girly on a big burly man’s wrist, but luckily I’m in touch with my feminine side and I can rock a bit of rose gold. It matches my hair. And before you say ‘What’s left of it Dave!’ I mean my beard!
Now you can order your watch pre-adjusted to fit, however even though Colette used the guide to decide what size she needed, when it arrived it was very loose on her wrist and it was even a bit big when I got it. I removed one of the links and now it fits well. Not perfectly. My wrist is unfortunately between links which means it is a little loose but it’s always better to be a little bigger than smaller.
The JORD Frankie watch has a large face which is very much the fashion nowadays. It’s not an overly fussy face. There’s no extra dials to complicate the aesthetic. There’s just the one knob on the side to set the time. The face is gleaming and polished like a mirror meaning you can see the reflection of the hands moving, and the raised roman numerals around the outside of the face, in the lip on the inside of the face. This is something which I’m not sure anyone else would care about, but I really liked it and spent at least five minutes staring at the reflections from different angles. Maybe it was more like ten minutes. I should have timed myself really. The equipment was right there.
As I mentioned before, the colour way that Colette ordered has rose gold detailing, but against the dark wood of the strap and body of the watch I think the details look a bit copperish (much like me) and the contrast really makes the face stand out. It looks striking. No bad thing. So the looks are a win for me. The oddity of it being made from wood doesn’t end with the aesthetic though. The other thing you will notice is it’s astoundingly light! If you’re used to metal watches, as I am, then this will take a little while to become the norm but it does.
JORD provide you with care instructions. The watch is splash proof but not waterproof and you have to be careful of sudden changes in temperature as this can make the wood swell or contract. Possibly damaging the wood or the mechanisms. I don’t envisage the temperature changes being much of a problem in this country but if you lived somewhere really cold then maybe this wouldn’t be the greatest. The non-waterproofing will have to be managed as rain is a constant threat living in Manchester. It’s recommended that you treat the wooden parts every six months with a finishing oil.
So I’ve got a handsome timepiece but a slightly miffed missus. At least she gets to tell people she got it for me, which means she’s got good taste. We’re both winners really.
I realised the other day that I haven’t looked at our Winter Bucket List for some serious time, I think in part because it’s always so focused on Christmas and snow but as it’s almost time to start thinking about writing our Spring one I thought I’d better write a bit of an update! As it turns out – I haven’t written an update at all during Winter so settle in for a bit of a long one!
1. Snow related fun
Typical there just hasn’t been any snow again this year. Well I say that, we had a light flurry over night at some point in January which meant the kids went to school with their wellies on but it had all gone by lunch time. There was certainly no chance for snowmen, snowballs or snow angels . . . However this weekend we’re heading up to Chill Factore for the big two to enjoy an hour of sledging and so forth so I guess we can tick that one off the list!
2. See Father Christmas
We took our annual trip to Stockeld Park to see the big man at the start of December and had a great day out.
3. Write letters to Father Christmas
4. Festive up our house!
I must admit I was a bit lack lustre when it came to decorating the house for Christmas this year. Everything got really busy and we ran out of time – I felt like we just chucked the Christmas tree up in a spare hour rather than doing a proper job! I need to be more organised next year that’s for sure.
5. Buy new Christmas decorations
We didn’t spend a lot of money on new decs this year but the kids did choose a new bauble each on our trip to Stockeld Park.
6. Watch nativities for all three children
I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the flexible nature of my job means I get to watch all three nativities – I don’t have any photos or video of the big two doing theirs for obvious reasons but Chloe did some great singing in the choir and Ben was a fab angel (interesting casting there!). Amy had been asked to be Mary but she turned it down in favour of being an angel! I think she preferred the costume.
Vlogmas was some serious hard work but I’m so glad I did it – so many memories captured and I will definitely do it again!
9. Ice Skating
We love a good Butler / Burgess family tradition and ice skating is one we’ve managed for a few years now. After a couple of years of skating at the Selfridges Ice Rink at the Trafford Centre, we tried out the one in town this time. Ben was determined that he was going to be able to skate without support. I really didn’t think he would be able to do it but he proved me wrong! In fact by the end of the session both Ben and Chloe were having a good go at skating by themselves. (Dave wasn’t able to go on the ice having only just recovered from a broken elbow.)
10. A nighttime adventure to see the Christmas lights and markets in Manchester
This was a bit of an epic fail – in part due to the awful weather through December and also just due to being really busy. Typically on any night we happened to be free it was pouring down so we swerved this one!
11. Write Christmas cards
Erm. . . I bought them? Whoops.
12. Pantomime fun!
Ben, Chloe and I had a great time watching Aladdin at The Epstein – it was a really late night but so worth it!
13. Enjoy a Christmas back in York
Christmas just isn’t Christmas for me if I don’t spend it at my parents!
14. Enjoy Christmas films
Whilst I think the kids watched quite a few Christmassy bits I didn’t really manage it myself. I felt a bit let down by the selection on Netflix – how can you not have The Holiday or Love Actually?! Anyway, I didn’t really watch any in the end!
15. Our annual New Year walk in Heaton Park
Although in the past we’ve done this on New Year’s Eve, this year we did it a bit earlier in the week and then again on January 2nd. Both times it was flipping freezing which made it hard work but it did us good to get some fresh air in our lungs!
So that’s it, the middle of February and we’ve pretty much nailed our Winter Bucket List despite me forgetting about it for weeks on end. The days are getting longer and it feels like Spring is on the way, it was actually pretty much light when we got up at half seven this morning and I can’t tell how you excited I was by that! I feel like we’ve pretty much hibernated our way through January, spending our weekends working on the house and our evenings snuggled up in our dressing gowns watching TV so I’m really excited to write out Spring Bucket List and start to think about getting out a bit more!
1. Snow related fun – I say this every year and every year the weather man fails me. I just good couple of days of proper snow. However, should that fail we’re planning a trip to Chill Factore in the new year so there will be some snow action!
2. See Father Christmas – Our annual trip to Stockeld Park (we’ve actually already done this, it will be written up this week)
3. Write letters to Father Christmas – again we’ve already done this and you can watch our video here
4. Festive up our house!
5. Buy new Christmas decorations
6. Watch nativities for all three children – it’s Amy’s first one this year!
February half term can be a tricky one when it comes to planning adventures – it’s still cold and the weather can be decidedly unpredictable which isn’t necessarily conducive to long days spent outdoors! To combat this, Sale Waterside Theatre have a packed schedule of family friendly shows and we made our way down there on Tuesday morning.
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Sale Waterside Theatre is literally just over the road from the tram stop so rather than messing about with parking we decided to hop the tram into Manchester and back out to Sale (meaning we could easily stop in Manchester for lunch on the way home!) We arrived at the theatre a little early and spent some time exploring the Aardman Studios exhibition before popping into the bar area for a very reasonably priced coffee.
Our last trip to Sale Waterside Theatre had been one evening before Christmas and I must admit that Amy had been a bit of a pain, she didn’t want to sit still and I’m not sure she completely understood what was going on. Puss in Boots however is billed as being ideal of the first time theatre-goer so I was hopeful that this, combined with a late morning showing, would mean she really enjoyed the performance!
Puss in Boots is a one man show performed by Cbeebies actor, Patrick Lynch. A sloping stage and an array of clever (and occasionally random) props, costume changes and puppets cleverly tell the well-known tale of a miller’s son and his talking cat. Now I must admit that I couldn’t actually remember the full story (I think it had been blotted out by the Shrek character in my head) and whilst Ben was confident that he knew the tale I don’t think the girls knew it at all.
All five of us were fully engaged throughout the performance, though I would suggest Ben was probably at the upper end of the target audience being as how he spent most of the show trying to figure out all the different stage tricks that were used whereas the girls were just immersed in the magic of the story.
Amy, at 3, wasn’t so keen on the “scary bits” which involved filling the stage with smoke and some loud ogre sound-effects but it didn’t spoil her enjoyment of the show. Chloe said her favourite bit was “the way the flowers stood up” – which was reference to some clever props at the end!
There is no interval for this performance and I was really surprised when it ended to find that we had been there for an hour, time had gone so quickly and I was utterly convinced that we must have only been there for about half an hour. Pleasingly, Amy had sat still for pretty much the entirety of this (with the help of some snacks of course!).
Amy has been swimming with Puddle Ducks for quite some time and Colette tells me that she’s really been making progress. I’ve taken her swimming twice before this and they were good but not great. The first time I went I felt a bit out of my depth (metaphorically not physically, the pool is not that deep!). There’s quite a bit going on in the lessons, what with all the songs to learn and me trying to understand exactly what I’m supposed to be doing during all the games and trying to get the actions right. The first time I took Amy swimming it was quite early in her lessons and she was still a bit nervous. This nervousness wasn’t helped by me, mistakenly dunking her a bit further under the water than she was comfortable with without giving her the proper signal! She was fine, but she was noticeably more clingy after that incident. As you would be if a loved one had tried to drown you!
Anyway the second time I took her was far better, on my part, but unfortunately Amy was a bit under the weather at the time and possibly still hadn’t forgiven me for the ‘incident’. So she was still very clingy and not nearly as brave and adventurous as I’d been told she usually was.
Recently Amy has missed a few lessons through illness and our, at times, frantically busy schedules. Luckily Puddle Ducks provide you with the opportunity to book ‘Catch up lessons’ if there’s a space in another session at a time and place convenient to you! As there were a few of these ‘Catch up lessons’ to be had and the only convenient times available were at the weekend, Colette and I decided it would be a good thing if I took Amy and we had a bit of “Bo and Bear” time.
We’ve noticed that Amy has been very much a ‘Mummy’s girl’ of late. Sometimes to the point of her being hysterical if Colette has gone out and she’s left with me. I think this is fairly normal given how much time that Amy spends with Colette. More time than Ben or Chloe had ever spent with Colette by this point in their lives anyway. I can remember going through a similar phase when I was very young and annoying my Mum something fierce. So as an antidote to this we thought more time spent with just Amy and I would be a good thing.
The ‘Catch up lessons’ we’ve been going to are at the Aqua Nurture site in Hyde, Manchester. This is an old pub which Gary and Suzanne have renovated and turned into a pub. It’s a lovely place and a really good place to do Puddle Ducks lessons as you are in your own pool, not a sectioned off area of a larger pool, and as it’s designed for little ones the water is kept a bit warmer than a normal pool. Temperature being something which Amy has struggled with in the past, she don’t like the cold much like her Mother! As the lessons are in a different place, we are swimming with a different teacher than Amy’s usual one. This is not a problem though as Sarah was Amy’s teacher when she first started swimming with Puddle Ducks so Amy’s always happy to see her.
The Puddle Ducks lessons are structured through a series of games that help Amy in becoming confident in the water and then help her to actually learn to swim. Every game has a song that you sing to your ‘Little Dipper’, which is what they call swimmers of Amy’s age and ability, including a song about getting into the pool in a safe way. When I first went with Amy I didn’t know any of the songs and felt a bit awkward, but I’m far more confident now and I don’t have to focus quite so acutely to make sure I’m not doing anything wrong. This means I can actually enjoy the lessons now rather than concentrate on keeping up.
Amy has really come in on in the last four ‘catch-up’ lessons. For the first ‘catch-up’ lesson Colette and the big two came to watch, and when we’d got out Colette was a bit miffed that Amy was not showing me all the things she could do. The leap in Amy’s ability is, I think, in part because she’s grown in confidence that I know what I’m doing (partly true) but also because she’s just been showing me all the things she’s learnt over the past 8 months since I last took her swimming. The difference is remarkable. Yesterday Amy swam across the pool four times with the use of two woggles (thin cylindrical floats) under her arms without me touching the floats at all! I was just showing her that my hands were there in case she needed me. In our last lesson she swam on her back with me only holding her head very lightly. She was doing all the work, kicking her legs the whole way. It was wonderful to see.
The other major change I’ve noticed is during a game where Amy has to swim through a hoop while reaching for a single woggle. The teacher takes Amy and holds her on one side of the hoop while I wait on the other side of the hoop with the woggle. Amy is passed through the hoop and reaches for the woggle. Depending on the confidence of your swimmer the teacher pushes them across the gap under the water or on top of the water. Yesterday I left a really big gap between the teacher and me meaning that Amy had to reach for a long period of time and float without anyone touching her. She did brilliantly and was smiling when she reached the woggle. She’s so much more confident now.
The lessons are half an hour long which is just right for Amy I think. Once the lesson is done we get changed and then go through to the cafe area. The cafe at Aqua Nurture is lovely with a big window through into the pool area so you can watch the lessons while having a brew. After the lessons me and Amy have taken to having a cake and a drink if we’ve earned it. Unsurprisingly we always earn it! Amy likes to play with the toys in the cafe section and look at the books provided before we set off home.
There’s still a few ‘catch-up’ lessons for Amy and I to do and I’m very much looking forward to them. The more the merrier I say. They’re good fun and they’re definitely lessening the ‘Mummy’s girl’ aspects Amy’s been showing. Amy’s growing in confidence and ability and I’m loving seeing my little girl turning into a swimmer.
*Amy swims with Puddle Ducks free of charge for the purposes of review. All thoughts and opinions remain our own*
As a mum of three, there is always the worry that someone will be left out. That one child won’t be part of the game, understand the joke or know the secrets. For the most part this isn’t something that happens in our house. For the most part they are a team. They play together. They laugh together. They love together.
This month, for the first time, I’ve been more aware of the big two choosing to play games that they don’t want Amy to play, of them not wanting Amy to come in their rooms and “mess things up”. Whether this is more evident because it’s actually happening more or often or if it’s just that she’s wanting to join in more than she has before so it feels more obvious I’m not honestly sure. I’m not overly concerned about it, I know things will come good again and it’s not a constant state, just happening more at the moment than it usually does.
We are lucky that, being so close in age, they do mostly like to do the same things. They don’t argue too much over the TV (though obviously Ben would rather be watching CBBC than Cbeebies these days) and they enjoy the same sort of things when we we go on an adventure. Their needs are fairly similar. They argue and bicker like most siblings do I’m sure but it’s not their default setting. Their default setting is one of love and laughter.
I can’t tell you how hard it was to get my Siblings photos this month – We’ve spent a lot of time indoors over the last few weeks and I purposely left them till the last minute knowing that it should be easy to get some photos at half term, especially as we’d be out and the weather should be ok. What is it they say about best laid plans?
Gorgeous lighting, gorgeous setting and one small hangry child who really didn’t want to have her photo taken thanks very much.
“Right ok Amy, lunch then photos?”
“Yep Mummy, I’m just sad. We can do photos after lunch.”
Thanks to a bit of a feast at Jamie’s Italian (kids eat free in half term whoop!) Amy was in a much better mood when we tried again but still didn’t really want to comply! She was full of beans (or perhaps sugar) and just wanted to chase around in pretty much the opposite direction to Ben and Chloe who were trying their best to just get the photos done. Anyway, thanks to Ben we finally managed to get them all in the same place and I think this set of photos says it all – Chloe with her “Quick, just get the shot” face and Amy giggling away at all the fuss she’s caused . . .
Only the other month did I say they were getting really good at cracking on and having their photo taken . . . never again will I utter those words!
Welcome to another Tuesday, and Happy Valentines Day!
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Money. It isn’t all that romantic. And in fact can be the source of many an argument. Dave and I don’t fall out often but when we do, financial stress is often the root cause of it.
For a good while after we moved in together our finances were kept separate bar the mortgage (which is obviously in both our names) and we just paid halves on everything with whatever was left over in our own accounts being our own money to spend as we wished. Over time our financial relationship has evolved, mainly as a result of my being on maternity leave and then leaving full time employment as our incomes were no longer equal and pressure on our outgoings was high. As such all money is now “ours” and we budget carefully each month with whatever we know we’ve got coming in to ensure that all our financial commitments are covered and that we have money available for things that we need or have planned. At some point, we’d both like to have a little “spending fund” budgeted for within that as, apart from anything else it’s impossible to plan surprises or treats for each other when you’ve got entirely shared funds!
Despite having been together for the best part of 15 years and living together for 10 of them, we have only just opened a joint bank account, it hasn’t really been necessary before now but we needed to open a new savings account so decided we might as well put both names on it.
According to research from credit checking service ClearScore, 11.7 million Brits have taken out a joint financial product with a partner they’ve now separated from. A joint bank account can be a significantly bigger commitment than you might think – in fact you will remain financially “linked” for six years, even after the joint product has been closed down.
I’ve been burned in the past after having a shared bank account which ended up severely affecting my credit rating and almost preventing Dave & I from getting our mortgage and I’m not alone in this. According to ClearScore, millions of us risk being turned down for mortgages, credit cards or other financial products because we are unknowingly “linked” to people with poor financial histories.
Justin Basini, ClearScore CEO commented, “Millions of people risk being haunted by the financial ghosts of partners past. Even if your own credit report and score are in rude health, the way you are viewed by lenders can be negatively affected by your ex partners. When a relationship ends, it’s your responsibility to ‘de-link’ your financial records. I’d advise anyone applying for credit to check their credit report and, if you’re still linked to someone whose financial behaviour you suspect could be detrimental, contact the credit reference agencies to request that your connection is severed.”
Have you experienced being refused credit as a result of being financially linked to someone else?
At Christmas, Chloe asked Granny and Aunty Nic if they’d like to have a girlie shopping day with her. Of course they didn’t decline her invitation and we arranged it for this weekend. Although Chloe hasn’t been a massive fan of shopping so far, the idea of lunch out with Granny and Aunty Nic and the promise of a new dress meant she was more than looking forward to her girlie day! Because Chlo does have a tendency to get a bit over excited in the run up to events, I didn’t tell her exactly when her day out had been arranged for until the night before!
Saturday morning saw us up and out fairly early doors, I think we left home at about half 9. Just being allowed to sit in the front of Daddy’s car was an exciting start to the day for Chloe and we had a lovely drive to Leeds playing ‘I Spy’ and chatting about the day ahead – we talked about what sort of dress she was going to look for (something she could wear day to day, not a party dress or a summer dress!) and how she mustn’t complain when the grown ups wanted to look at things too!
Leeds was wet and flipping freezing which, whilst not ideal for a good mooch around the shops, did at least seem to mean that town remained fairly quiet for a Saturday! After browsing a couple of shops we decided to make our way to Roast + Conch, a firm favourite for a girlie lunch but not somewhere Chloe had been before! We were extremely well looked after and whilst the grown ups enjoyed a cheeky prosecco, Chloe was treated to her very own chocolate cocktail – you can imagine how exciting it was for her to be drinking from a cocktail glass. She wasn’t quite sure how to hold it and I was convinced she was just going to pour it everywhere!
Poached egg, avocado and cherry tomatoes with extra bacon on sour dough toast made for the perfect lunch – light but satisfying and so tasty! Followed by a delicious chocolate orange scone (packed with the most enormous chocolate chunks) and a salted caramel hot chocolate. I didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day!
After a leisurely lunch, we made our way to the new Victoria Gate shopping centre – somewhere I definitely need to go back to to while away some child-free hours! The main focus of our trip was of course for Chloe to choose herself a new dress – she was like the proverbial pig prancing around John Lewis picking up dresses to go and try on in the changing rooms! I don’t think she’s ever tried things on in a shop before so she was in her element putting all the different dresses on, parading them around for Granny and Aunty Nic before checking out the twirl factor in the mirror!
Two (yes two!) dresses later, it was time to make our way home. Chloe was shopped out and it was starting to show! I was so impressed by how well she had behaved and what good company she had been. I’m sure that today’s girlie day out will have been the first of many! As a Mum of three, one to one time my babies is precious and has to be planned for – especially with the big two because they are at school – knowing that Chloe is now of an age where she will start to enjoy lunch dates and shopping makes it much easier to plan our outings!