Recently I part took in jury service. It was not something I was particularly looking forward to, but you often find that with people who have a legal backgrounds. I still stand by that the exemption for legally trained individuals to be jurors should have never been lifted. It is not that we have an unfair advantage, far from it, but we do know what constitutes as evidence, and even after the Judge had given their instructions, there were still members of the jury who refused to believe that testimony was evidence and deliberations became heated.

Many will be scared and anxious about reaching a guilty verdict, you are determining the fate of other people, but this is how the English legal system works, or doesn’t work, as several of us on the panel decreed.

I cannot go into further details, but just when you think you have seen everything and nothing else could shock you, I wouldn’t say this experience has shocked me, but it has definitely opened my eyes.

During the service, I woke up one morning to find Monster standing over my bed playing with a foil wrapper of some sorts. I looked closer to see that it was a Kit Kat wrapper. I casually called out to my husband who was in the other room as to where Monster might have got it from. He came in and sheepishly took it from them, telling them that they were supposed to dispose of the evidence not play with it.

Yes, a 16 month old was going to dispose of a chocolate bar wrapper and not play with it!?!

Last weekend there was a dog show going on at Hever Castle, it was just Monster and I, Monster loves dogs, so why not.

My husband and I have been under the impression for several weeks now that Monster can walk, they are just choosing not to. Even the child-minder mentioned it. I have seen Monster walking across the room several times, but Jack hadn’t until that very same weekend. Our suspicions were confirmed when Monster made it up to the top of Hever Castle using the stone spiral stairs, and we managed to get out of there without Monster putting their own stamp on any of the artifacts found in one of history’s most renowned households.

So if you are planning on Monster rearing any time soon, there will be a book released hopefully by the end of the year called “The Perfect Brownie”. It is a comical true story, written by my mother Diane Foxhall about me. Pre-ordering will be available in the coming months so watch this space.

For now, I will leave you with a little rhyme called  ‘When you have a baby you become a ninja’

When babies sleep you know which floorboards squeak
You hide behind corners trying not to sneeze;
You try different methods to keep them sweet; and
being stealth is crucial if YOU want to sleep!

K J Foxhall

The fourth installment of the original (before anyone else named their books with the same title),The Dragon Realm Chronicles “Imogen Claire” is going to be released in 2017. To read books one-three, please see below.

A few months ago I was bitten by what I was told, during a diagnoses by my doctor, to be either an ant or spider bite. It was then followed up with “Did something get into your bed while you were sleeping?” This comforted me no end considering several years ago, one night, I actually shared the bed with a spider so big not only did it have a hair do like Elvis, but also I thought it was someone’s pet, or that it had escaped from a wildlife facility for giant animals, or a lab and so on.

What surprised me more than anything was the pain of the cluster of bites and how quickly they grew and expanded across my back. Just as quickly, they then reduced and slowly disappeared.

It took a month for me to be 90% healed, but that did not stop me from spraying Dettol around the bed along with anything citrus I could find (they hate citrus).

However, I am of the mindset that this particular critter got me while I was on the train doing my daily commute. I have read reports about the cleanliness of trains and what one would find if they really looked hard enough is shocking and unsurprising at the same time.

The same doctor responded to the train theory with “oh, are you going to get on the train again?” I don’t know how she thought I was going to get to and from work, but I suppose it was a valid question.

Needless to say, it is speculation as to what bit me, but if it was a spider *shudders at the thought*, that bit me, hopefully it is scared away never to return ever again.
I did demand for a while to be called Super Spider Woman, and I produced a sketch to that affect too, though it is part rendered so I will have to upload that another time.

Watch this space!

Caterpillars that code

I have been looking into coding toys for Monster recently. There are not many things we agree on nowadays, but one very beneficial thing my mother-in-law did for my husband and brother-in-law when they were children, was to put them through a touch typing course predicting that that was the way society and the world was going. It paid off, and I have the same theory about coding and programming.

It is something that has been introduced into the core curriculum in schools, apparently, and something that toy manufacturing companies seem to be getting on the band wagon to produce, so I did some research.

Here is what I found:

Learning Resources Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set

For ages 5 years and above, this game has 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and it describes itself as an early introduction to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). It introduces hands-on coding skills, 10 activity cards and 30 coding cards. You can program the mouse to perform a sequence of steps to race through a variety of maze formations to get the cheese. Ummmm cheese!

Fisher-Price Code-a-pillar™ Toy

It’s Fisher Price so it has to be good right?

Well it has 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, it develop skills like sequencing, critical thinking, reasoning, discovery, memory, problem solving and experimentation. The idea is to put the easy to connect segments of the caterpillar together and then send it on its way. Okay, so I was paraphrasing from the description above, but it looks like a sturdy educational toy for three years and above.

LEGO 17101 Boost Creative Toolbox Toy

You had me at LEGO!

This one is for the older kids (ages 7-12 years), and also has 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. It includes over 840 LEGO pieces, plus a LEGO move hub, interactive motor and a colour and distance sensor. You can rotate Vernie the robot’s head to activate its shoulder-mounted spring-loaded shooter. You can also learn how to play a song and rock out with the Guitar4000, build the M.T.R.4 (Multi-Tooled Rover 4) and try out the different tool and customisation attachments to prepare the vehicle for an array of exciting activities.

Move Hub features Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity, two encoded motors, activation button, internal tilt sensor and a light. You do need to have a bit more equipment for this one though, a tablet running iOS 10.3 and newer/Android 5.0 or above is required and if you are in any doubt, you can visit the Lego site to check compatibility LEGO.com/DeviceCheck.

And, for those of us born in the 80s, doesn’t the robot resemble “Johnny 5”

Which one I will opt for, I am not sure (Lego, Lego, Lego….). Given the age range above and that Monster is under 18 months, I still have some time.

At the moment I see Monster being more musical than anything, but if that is their chosen area they will still need to get through the other core subjects at school, so why not try and implant it in them young, and try and make it fun along the way.
My coding knowledge is “well to do”, in the sense that I can get by at work, so if I can learn something as well – bonus!

I’m starting to think my Monster is a speed freak, though with two petrol-headed parents it’s not surprising.

In a bid to wear out my over-active little energiser bunny, I took them to the park with their ride-on tou my mother bought them. Monster found a hill to go down, and decided to lift their legs up, gripped hold of the wheel and squeeled with excitement, leaving me to run behind to try and mitigate any near crashes, (which very nearly happened), and also left my mother trailing behind us roaring with laughter.

I have since purchased Monster another ride on which is Paw patrol themed from Amazon for £11.99. This is their favorite show and so I thought it would be nice for Monster to have one at our house and another at my mum’s. Monster is nearly walking and so it gives them the independence they need in the meantime.

Paw Patrol Ride On

Above is Larry the lemur showing off Monster’s Ride On. Larry is from Wingham Wildlife Park in Canterbury Kent.

Additionally, another sign that Monster enjoys speed, whenever I accelerate on the motorway I can hear Monster in the back giggling and throwing their arms up in the air. This child has no fear, and with that the car keys go in a locked draw at night.

Blackberry surprise!

I was in the process of upgrading my phone recently, when the sales representative on the call mentioned how surprised she was that I was still using Blackberry. In that last year we are seeing more of a diversion away from Blackberry now that Samsung have become a favorite in the workplace and they have the attached keyboard. In business this is quite a key factor as my colleagues and I measured the speed of emailing when using a Blackberry in comparison to a touch screen. One of my previous firms changed to iPhone and we noticed an increase in the time it took to to send a one lined email to a client.

The time increased from under a minute to 6 minutes. Granted there were other aspects to consider here such as connectivity, and the inexperience of not using a keyboard, but for me personally, given that I have such severe dermatitis, I cannot use a touch screen. The keys do not register, and I confess that there are times when I am walking from one meeting room to another and emailing. To do this efficiently and quickly, I need to have a raised keyboard so my fingers can feel the keys as I walk. Otherwise I will be knocking into things.

For me it is a shame that Blackberry look to be meeting their match, but if all other requirements for me (or even three quarters) are satisfied then I am happy. It is not about ‘how easy to use’ the phone is, I don’t know why but when I mention that I don’t like iPhones, people naturally say ‘but they are so easy to use’. I understand that, but I require a device that meets my needs, not something that is just simple to use.
I will stress that I do respect from an engineering process the brilliance of iPhone, it just doesn’t fit in with my needs.

Personally I hope Blackberry to continue. I am not an app person, I use my device to write blog posts, articles, fill in gaps on my books and so on, the only improvement I would like is a better camera.

Also you can still get groovy cases for the Blackberry Classic. This is the one I am using at the moment:

Being part of the VW scene does have its perks, for example, last year for free, we were given an old VW beetle ride on for Monster. Given that Monster was only four months at the time they could just about sit in it properly.

This was predominantly Jack’s project but other life priorities took over and he then found himself without the time to overhaul the toy. We knew we couldn’t keep putting it off otherwise Monster would have outgrown it by the time it was finished.

When Jack picked it up, it was a primer colour grey with blue wheel caps. It was aged but still in very usable condition and the idea of refurbishing an older toy always appeals. It adds the personal touch and it is not that often I get to be creative. I still have the pictures for the book The Last Dragon in draft that need to be finished sometime, though Monster may be well into their teens when that happens.

To be true to form Jack purchased actual VW colours and had settled on a colour scheme, so as far as I was concerned, all I had to do was paint the car.

I began to paint the car with the spray and then soon ran into difficulties. By that point the masking tape sectioning off area had been on for several months and so it was sticking and took quite a bit to get it off. In fact, I think some is still on there. I also had the issue that the spray cans were not equipped to deal with an area so small, and they were not the right spray equipment to use anyway. So after several weeks, and as a last resort, I changed the style and went to good old fashioned paint brushes and paint with no masking tape and carried out the refurbishments freehand. I changed the paint to Plastikote enamel paint which is better suited for toys, and it was also quick drying.

A quick trip to Ebay sourced the finishing touches of a personalised number plate and genuine VW badges.

I moved the ride-on in side the house as I was no longer spray painting and it completely transformed before my eyes. I am not the type of person to give up on a project unless absolutely necessary, but I am really happy with the end result. Jack sent a picture to the previous owners and they were over the moon with it, so overall a brilliant result.
So what was Monster’s reaction, well Monster felt the need to just push it around for a bit. I think they are still trying to get used to the idea of an actual seat rather than a ride on.

IMG_20170513_10173519601579_10213300376526381_5115937530805891645_n19601388_10213300376566382_6190748837009064224_n

Here are some of the items I purchased from Amazon to complete this project:

Nut brown paint:

I also ordered two red and one black.

This post will no doubt remind those who have seen Michael Mcintyre’s “People without kids think they know” sketch – having said that, those that have children or have access to children in general will fully understand this.

When you are ill with a cold or a stomach bug and don’t have children, you can go and curl up in a ball somewhere and get over it in your own time, you may have to look at your Blackberry every now and then if you work in a particular industry, but other than that you can recover at your rate.

If you have children it is a different ball game entirely.

Kids can become ill in the blink of an eye, but on the flipside they can also recover just as quick. Thank the heavens for Calpol.

We were at a friends BBQ last weekend, they are also Monster’s honorary godparents Gary and Jane.

Jane is a stunning, goth creative type with a way with words that are as attractive as her looks. Gary is our gentle giant.

Jane was holding Monster and found herself in a dilemma. Broodiness, which is not something I or any of my friends tend to suffer from. Well this was short lived when my suspicions about Monster’s health were confirmed (as they had not been responding much to food), and Monster threw up all over Jane. Jack jumped in to try and rescue, he grabbed Monster and took them over the other side of the garden who proceeded to throw up repeatedly. And I asked the question that every parent asks – “how does so much come out of such a small person”.

Needless to say, Monster’s awesome outfit had to be changed as they were covered, so was Jack and so was Jane.

Here is part of the awesome outfit (which I found on Amazon), Big Bang Theory fans will understand this.

Everyone had a change of clothes except me, and even though I had avoided the Monster spray, Monster really wanted a mummy cuddle. So I managed to get their hoodie off first but their trousers were covered. I had to wash my top under a tap and wear it semi wet – it is a good job I don’t feel the cold.

Jack had a change of clothes in the car, it was Jane’s house so all good there, though we had a running commentary while she was changing that she had to change EVERYTHING!

Monster felt a lot better and seemed to be back to their old selves again. There was one rather large episode again on the following day which resulted in Monster going under the shower but it was just the one. We thought it was over until early hours of Monday morning Jack starts vomiting.

‘‎No one wants me to sleep that is clear’ I thought as I could hear Jack in the other room. The toilet sits behind our bed headboard so I could hear the whole episode(s).

So Jack was down with this stomach bug, or whatever it was for the rest of the night and the following day which meant I was doing what I could around work, and with other family members chipping in.

The morning was interesting though, the bathroom may as well have had a turnstile, Jack threw up over Monster, then the floor, the stairs the walls, and there is me on my hands and knees scrubbing furnishings at 6.30am, trying to keep a toddler occupied at the same time who really just wanted to help – with Jack’s vomit in their hair.

I then played it safe and put Monster in the bath with me, at least they would be clean and got them ready for pick up by Granddad. By that time I’m trying to get ready, I accidentally left the lid turned to open on the talc and Monster got a hold of it. We were then yetis, so as usual two steps forwards and five back. You could tell by this point that Monster was feeling a lot better as their energy was nearly back to normal and of course we were all getting weaker. Oh the irony!

I thought I had escaped the bug but a few days later in the evening I started to feel ill. So I came home from work got changed and went to bed at 18:45 and didn’t wake up until 08:00.

I don’t think I have ever slept 13 hours in my life, but due to working on my eating plans and nutrition consistently, I tend to get over bugs really quickly. I actually go to the other extreme, where I have the illness in concentrated form, so I feel like death for a day and then I am virtually on the mend.

As this is the second stomach bug in a few months I think we need to be upping the immuno boosters.

Here are the ones I recommend. They are ‘fully loaded’ so can be taken every other day which spreads the cost.

For fear of this turning into a ‘Monster’ blog I thought I would post about other things for a change. Namely, what happened to my swim watch and the last, final, complete end to the series Reign.

About a month ago I realised that my Swimovate Poolmate watch had gone missing. Normally I am very organised and if I can’t find something then I usually retrace my steps. However, since having Monster (there they are again), I have been experiencing bad memory issues and as I continued to search for my lost watch with no avail, I went from slightly irriated to anxious.

I have owned this watch for over 6 years and it has been there for me helping me train for every event, so I have a sentimental attachment to it.

After checking with my local haunts, Eltham Leisure Centre and Charlton Lido, I had nearly given up hope and so I purchased a new watch because it felt strange swimming without one. I purchased the next model up, but went for the same look as I have skinny wrists and I knew it would fit, only this time it had a black face instead of blue. Luckily as I was part of the Channel swimmers for Heart Research UK last year Swimovate were, opportunly, running a discount for the charity’s swimmers.

Needless to say, the new watch arrived and there was still no sign of the old watch.

Then at the weekend, I was manoeuvring Monster’s trike out of the shed to pack the top section with some snacks for a trip to the park, because when going out with a toddler you can never pack too much, I checked the top storage compartment of the trike and oddly enough (mainly because I don’t remember putting it in there), there was my watch.

I was jumping up and down with joy which surprised‎ me as I didn’t know I could still jump for joy, nor could I be that lively considering I had been up since 5:00am.

So where this blog was supposed to say goodbye swim watch, it now says goodbye and hello. I was convinced it had been thrown out in a plastic bag I use in my swim kit to store wet items.‎ Needless to say, I now need to keep a close watch (excuse the pun) on where I put it.

In additional to swimming technology, I recently purchased a new underwater MP3 player. I have used several over the years and my favourite has been by far the Speedo Aquabeat (first generation), however we now have a very close rival.

It has flexible innovative memory wire on the headphones also they bend to the shape of your ear for a great fit under your swim cap (if you wear one that is). The sound quality is really good, I can’t complain (and I am the type to, trust me), clear large and easy to press buttons (particularly good under water), MP3/WMA/WAVformats, 8GB Memory, built in Rechargeable Battery with up to 12 hours of listening time. It is lightweight as one would expect, the dimensions are 36 x 51 x 19mm and the weight is 20.2g.

The only downfall, I must have missed the section where it says that it does not support Windows 10. Overall though, a nice bit of swimmers kit.

 Those who watch the series Reign on Netflix will have learnt that the ‎final final episode aired last Saturday. I didn’t actually realise it was the last one even though I know the story of the two Queens very well.

We, the audience, were approaching the point where King Darnley was about to meet his maker, but I was unsure where the Reign writers would take the series following Mary Stuart’s arrest. We know other things happened during Mary’s incarceration but the writers decided to end it and it was a very tear-jerking but also happy ending – contradictory I know.

I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it and if you haven’t watched the series at all, I strongly recommend it. If you liked The Tudors then you will like this series too. It is filled with exceptional actors, it keeps to the story we have in records (with a little creative writing in places of course), but if you want to watch an entertaining series that will invoke every emotion and will leave you wanting more then watch Reign. It will not only captivate you, but it will also remind you how far women and society in general have come, both in the British Monarchy and overall.

The work situation has changed recently in our household and so I thought it would be fun to take monster on a family outing last weekend. It is very difficult to choose a venue which contains animals when you are an animal rights campaigner. Often I have said ‘Empty the cages’ or ‘empty the tanks’ so the criteria is very tight. The establishment I take Monster to needs to be heavily involved in conservation, and you can often tell the mood of the animals by the vibe of the place. After all I do not want Monster to miss out on seeing the beauty of animals and wildlife, but at the same time if I could take Monster to an animal’s natural habitat I would.

I chose Wingham Wildlife Park which is near Canterbury. It is not too big, they are clearly very caring of the animals, the park is not overly big so the keepers can spend extra time with the animals, and the enclosures are reasonably spacious. There are also signs up everywhere about what not to do i.e. their lions were rescued from a French circus and so there was more signage asking the public not to make loud or sudden noises around them.

There were of course a few spectacles, one was the dinosaur area which was very informative, and I am really happy to say details the sixth extinction which I am sure not enough people are aware of. The animatronics were great, and it was times like that you realise just how fun being a parent can be. While one would think that the dinosaurs (which were full size so to speak), along with the noises would frighten a 13 month old, no, not my Monster.

Another feature which I have mixed feelings about is the open lemur enclosure where people can walk through. Humans need to keep to the path which was bordered by wooden posts, but there is nothing stopping the lemurs and small wallabies (I think they were wallabies anyway) from coming up to you and interacting if they wished. Of course the enclosure was guarded by a few keepers at all times.

My mother suggested that she stay outside with the push chair and I go in with Monster.
Knowing that we would be interacting with wild animals, I kept a hold of Monster and made sure they were standing upright and tall if they weren’t in my arms and here is what happened:

Politics blog

As you can see by the date this was the morning after the London attacks.

With regards to politics, a subject I really don’t like talking about, election day has come and gone and I was inclined to post something along the lines of ‘no matter what happens over the next few days, let’s play nice kiddies,’ but thought better of it. Instead, like many others have posted, I decided to stay away from Facebook and Twitter, and most of all the newspapers. Personally, the way I voted was the best of two evils, I didn’t want to vote for either Conservative or Labour, but looking at the numbers, and the uncertainty the UK is currently facing, it was going to be one of those two parties that were going to win.

Overall, due to the attacks and the elections of recent years, I have seen people who I considered to be friends act in unpredictable manners. This time around, it was completely the opposite to the reaction of Brexit. Whereas some who chose to Remain resorted to name calling, this time around there was a lot of pre-election banter but then when the results were announced, there was a lot of pessimism and mood deflation. I am not sure what the future will hold for us, but given the attacks against us let’s please play nice kiddies!