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.

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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.

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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!

In recent weeks, I have seen Monster go from strength to strength and it is interesting watching them learn and how quickly they pick up things, it reminds me of how long it takes adults to learn. I complete at least one course or qualification per year and even I am noticing that it is not as simple to retain information as it once was.

There is one thing I have found consistent over the last year and that is the growth patterns of Monster and the money it costs. Ok, I admit, I like buying toddler clothing, and toys, and, well anything I can find an excuse to justify that I might like, but of course is really for Monster. Not to mention the items I find myself hiding at my mother’s so Jack doesn’t find out.

Trousers seem to be the quickest item of clothing that needs to be changed. Luckily, we are at that time of year where trousers can be just long shorts, but overall they seem to be the item that needs to be replaced first. Also, Monster is now reaching that point where their growth has stabilised, at last! Well until they have a spontaneous growth spurt.

Even though Monster was a petite baby, they have grown to be very long and skinny which is fine, but when replacing a pair of trousers, the next size up means that the leg length works but, then there is a massive gap around the waist, and if the trousers have a cord, you cannot put them to tighten them because the cord is a choking hazard, they are just there for decoration.

Brushing teeth

Monster is a rather determined character, I might have said this once or twice before. At fourteen months, they have decided that they will only brush their teeth, no one else. Granted this has been so for several months, ever since Monster could grasp things, but I now understand when people say that you can ruin a toddlers’ day by asking them to put shoes on. I ruin my toddler’s day by wrestling their toothbrush out of their hands.

And they are really strong hands!

Monster see Monster do and what does this thing on your head do?

I feel that nothing is your own when you have a child, for example, Jack and I both wear Bluetooth headsets when listening to music, they are actually the same headsets called Mpow Cheetah and can be found on Amazon.

I foolishly left mine on a low surface the other day, and Monster grabbed it within seconds. I turned around to see that in those same seconds, Monster has fitted it perfectly to their head with the earbuds in place.

Monster then proceeded to bob their head to music, even though nothing was playing.

iSwim!

Monster is starting to walk and like most parents I am hoping it is when I am around to see it for the first time. Even though Monster lacks the required foot coordination and balance (well I say that, I think they do know how to walk, they will just do it when they want to), Monster is a very good swimmer, a little too good in fact. As soon as they see the water, they are flapping their arms and legs around like a fish out of water – excuse the pun. Complete with water wings, all I need to do now is ensure that my hand is in the water beneath Monster as they swim along, just in case they run out of steam and need to rest, but look at the post I put on Facebook, I don’t think there is any issue with their water developments. Though I need to ensure that both armbands are blown up to the same inflation, otherwise Monster swims down on one side and spirals – which can be quite amusing at times.

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Let me put that away for you…even though you are playing with it.

We felt the need to seek some additional child care due to our recent change in jobs. This process was more difficult than I expected as most nurseries finish at 18:30, and the earliest I get home is 19:00, not to mention Jack’s hours are all over the place. My mother normally fills in the gaps but some weeks we could be looking at Monster being with her for four days. When dealing with an over-energetic (happy) child, this can be a bit too much, for anyone really.

We think we may have found someone who is perfect. They have a child who is has a very similar personality to Monster and they all seem to get along really well.

Lately I have been teaching Monster to put their toys away before bed, not only does it promote good behaviour (hopefully), but also it increases the ‘quiet time’ Jack and I have together in the evening. Well I think Monster was a little confused the other day as they began putting the toys away around the childminder’s house, which sparked confusion with the childminder’s toddler. Monster would put the toys away and the childminder’s toddler would take them back out again.

It kept them occupied for all of ….. 10 minutes.

“Would you like your drink?” “No!” *Pushes flask away with hand*

On the same topic, when Monster was going through the settling in sessions with the childminder, she asked Monster if they wanted some of their drink, well Monster was not exactly in the happiest moods that day and quite bluntly told her ‘No’. Keep in mind that Monster has only said the odd word, and as above with the working, it is on their terms.

Finally, I am starting to think that children nowadays have short attention spans, or perhaps we just give them too many over cognitive development, activity toys?

I regularly go to the charity shops to find toys, it is something my sister-in-law also does. While it is good on the purse, on the flip side, it also means you buy more. I have limited it down to one-two toys per month and ensure that one is educational, but the other is fun. For example, we went to a wildlife park recently and so I bought Monster a cuddly toy lemur (further detail on that comical day are to follow in another post). Did Monster really need the lemur, no of course not, so I suppose it is a mixture of unnecessary buying and toys nowadays which are created with the aim to do everything.

Additionally, the question can also be asked, do we push our children too far, particularly with technology related toys?

If you look at any toy, the description on the box will focus on particular developmental areas. I think that many toys are now trying to concentrate on multiple areas so you buy fewer, not to mention the competitive edge between the toy companies. While this sounds economical from a practicality aspect, does this mean that we are pushing children to learn certain things too early, or pushing them to learn quicker? As a reflex, if a child learns too quickly, then where does it stop, and does this mean that we, and the toy companies, are inadvertently making our children unhappy and constantly needing more items to keep their attention spans active? This in turn rules out the theory of needing few toys.

A very contradictory thought process, but then again so is the subject matter. I would be interested to hear other opinions on this. Overall, where toys are concerned, do we go too far nowadays?

Anyone who has a Monster knows that when you are unwell and the child is also unwell that you just have to suck it up and carry on. There is no other way around it. A few weeks ago we took Monster to their first family Easter egg hunt. Clearly someone had been ill because several days after many family members came down with a sickness bug. This sickness bug had been doing the rounds in the area the Easter egg hunt had taken place, there were even notices displayed in the surrounding surgeries about how bad it was.

The first member of the household to come down with this dreaded bug was Monster, given that Monster has a good immune system, it was interesting to see them get ill first. Then it was me and finally Jack which was even more surprising given that Jack has the constitution of a rhino, and he had it worse than all of the family members affected.

As a result, our brand-new kitchen sink was christened several times, as we couldn’t get upstairs quick enough, and we were a household of unwell for a week.

A further note is that Monster did develop a rash, it was not ‘the rash’ that we all must be aware of, it was a viral infection due to being ill. A very reassuring sign is when you gently spread the skin and the rash disappears or of course, press a tumbler glass over the affected area.

Another skill a parent picks up is the art of distraction, especially when children are becoming mobile and are ill at the same time. You continuously baby proof and keep the dangerous objects out of their way and it is typical that a child can be surrounded with the world of toys but they would rather go and play with a plug socket instead.

In the kitchen, Monster’s food was kept in a cupboard which was accessible, so now that they are mobile, we knew that something had to be done. In retrospect it was conflicting making it Monster’s cupboard with said child knowing full well their food and snacks were in there and then being told they cannot go near it.

The cupboard in question is short with two large doors at the front and a draw on the top. Monster can easily open cupboard doors and take things out we spent most of our time putting the contents back in as well as there being a never-ending sea of ‘Nos’! Therefore, a few weekends ago, I emptied the cupboard and put the food into our kitchen cupboards and refilled the cupboard with Monster’s toys.

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This worked in two ways; firstly, it meant that Monster did not run the risk of picking up glass jars of food and dropping them, and secondly, Monster could get the toys out of the cupboard any time they wanted, and it meant that the ‘restricted section’ of the kitchen (where the cooker is etc) was easier to maintain and keep Monster out of because they were distracted.

Naturally as they were now allowed to go into the cupboard the novelty wore off quickly and now they don’t go near it. They are just spending the time trying to find out where mummy hid the food.

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Another point that I have learnt since Monster has been more mobile is their pursuit of more independence. So I try and get them involved as much as possible which is useful when trying to clean and do the dreaded household chores. Needless to say that distraction and diversion are your best friends when having a child. Some also say that negotiation is a friend but I choose to believe in compromise. Monster is crafty and the last thing I want is them to think they can outsmart Mummy and Daddy.

Lastly, I thought I would share another toy to make it on the most wanted hit list. The Monster obscure toy of the month goes to a Kitten and its carrier.

While it makes a nice addition to the interesting toy collection, the sounds it makes it literally like a cat is being strangled. It does have the educational aspect as they all do, because children cannot have toys these days it seems without numbers or the alphabet included as standard. This toy did make a good conversation piece at work and a colleague lunch recently, as the toy was delivered to my workplace, it meant we all got to test it out before hand, so by the time Monster had the toy is was…. Well…. second hand.

On the flipside, a task that I am gaining more gratification out of is the VW Beetle ‘ride-on’ that we acquired. It was in need of a paint job, but very good for its age.

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Jack primed the body, the colours were picked and now we are in the process of painting it and it is looking good I must say. I have even ordered personalised number plates for it and some VW badges as the finishing touches. Fingers crossed Monster likes they end result, they are already having fun rolling it across the floor when Mummy is trying to masking tape it up.

Watch this space for more updates.

A few days after Monster turned one, the sun was shining and the wind levels were low so this meant the UK warm weather had begun. There was a high chance that it would be over in 48 hours so I took the opportunity to try Monster in Charlton lido which is my regular swimming haunt.

I have reservations taking a one year old to a lido at any time of year, irrelevant of the weather there are other risks to consider. For example, just because the weather is overcast, one can still get seriously sunburnt.

Like most swimmers, when I see someone enter the lido with a small child I am often prepared for screams, the water is after all much colder than indoor pools, but Monster gets frustrated with the indoor temperatures so I thought I would give it a try with the scope to come out of the water if it was too much.

My usual regime for this time of year (being an outdoor swimmer all year round), is to firstly check the UV rays and the outdoor temperature and I can dress and apply sunscreen accordingly.

I am olive skinned and Monster is blonde, but it looks like they may have the Foxhall skin, even if that is the case any outdoor activity demands the use of a waterproof respectable factor sunscreen. I use Ultrasun but it does contain alcohol, so I splashed out (excuse the pun) on a children’s brand which was non greasy, kind to eyes in case it runs, waterproof and a high factor. Whether you are olive skinned or not, you need to be protected from the sun’s rays, burning is not an option nowadays (especially if you are a Monster) and the water provides double exposure to the sun. By late summer I am always a lovely shade of brown, with swimsuit tan marks, which are hilarious but at least my skin is protected.

Given that Monster is nearly swimming by themselves, they are still not part taking in the level of activity needed to keep themselves warm in a lido, so the next step to consider is insulation.

Being a former Speedo tester, I am very particular as to what constitutes outdoor and indoor swimsuits. It is a personal preference but a normal indoor swimsuit is a one piece for a woman, and shorts or trunks (depending upon what country you are in) for men. For children this is the same.

For outdoor swimwear, you can then add full length sleeves or the zip up the front jobbies which are UV protected. For adults this is similar but we can wear rash vests and it has to be really cold before I will wear one as I like the freedom to move and I like feeling the rain on the back of my neck.

Speaking of the back of the neck, make sure this area as well as the ears are covered in sunscreen.

I dressed Monster in a long sleeved swim top and then a zip up the front long limbed suit over the top for double insulation. It was not insulated to wetsuit standard but it did the job. I am not one to become dependent on thick layers in the pool, if you can’t take the cold, don’t swim in it or gradually build yourself up.

To finish off, the outdoor suit came with a cap which Monster was determined not to keep on, as well as the arm bands which Monster is slowly getting used to.

A picture and link to the outdoor suit can be seen below and purchased from Amazon.

When we were finally dressed, which was a marathon in itself, I took Monster into the water. Normally I am fully kitted up in the lido, but as I was being a guide, I left the swim cap and goggles at home.

Before getting changed we stood at the front of the pool so I could see Monster’s reaction to this big bowl of water. As there were no adverse reactions I thought it was safe to proceed, my theory was correct as Monster was continuously intrigued the closer we got to the water. When we entered the water, the usual pre-dip excitement turned to uncertainty, but there were no tears, and after a few cuddles, Monster became animated and the arms and legs were going in every direction along with giggles and loud noises of excitement – which is the usual reaction to water.

By this time all eyes were on us. I was ‘that’ mother bringing a young child to the lido.

I did my usual temperature checks every few minutes by testing Monster’s back and neck. They are also very good in the sense that Monster cuddles into me if they get cold, which then results in my temperature dropping. When Monster’s temperature became consistently cooler I called an end to the session.

Not bad around 20-25 minutes.

Monster and I both have towelling robes with hoods, they are worth their weight in gold as a parent, child or swimmer. ‎My towel is a DryRobe (a favourite amongst long distance, outdoor swimmers and tri-athletes) and Monster has an over the head towelling poncho with the Marvel characters on (Monster is a fan of Captain America). I often pack additional towels but when we go swimming as soon as we are in the changing rooms I make sure Monster is bundled up I then put my DryRobe on the floor (if there is not a changing bench) and give them something to play with. I quickly get myself dressed and then get Monster dressed. By that point their temperature is nice and stable and so they don’t mind the few second of coldness while getting dressed.

Above are images and linked to the towelling robes Monster and I have which can also be purchased from online outlets such as Amazon.

If there is one thing I have learnt is that when you are wet your temperature can fluctuate in seconds, so after swimming it is always good to have warm clothing. For Monster I made sure the post swimming clothing consisted of an onesie and fleece jacket.

Since then Monster has successfully swum by themselves with arm bands which is great considering they are not even 13 months yet – proving that if you tap into swimming early you will most likely avoid stress further down the line…

…However watch this space!