Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Can't see the wood for the trees...

I am still trying to blog our recent holiday which is really getting in the way of my actual day to day blogging. Tonight though, I just *need* to get it all written down. I know I have already forgotten so much of what we have been doing lately but I think its so important to try and blog about it so I remember it.

We have been re-involving ourselves within the home ed community here in Yorkshire, it comes with its own ups and downs and reminds me that whatever my issues and insecurities are its not about me or how I feel but about the children and their needs. So even when there are times when I'd rather be doing other things I have to see past my self and do what they need me too. Sounds so simple when I say that out loud but its not always quite so easy.

Several different things occurred to me today-all things that are probably face slappingly obvious but as the title of today's blog suggests-sometimes I am rubbish at seeing the wood for the trees..

This morning I woke up to sun streaming through the window (I am trying to wake up earlier at the moment and find I am waking before my alarm which is rather nice, I am also sleeping so much better for getting up at the same time each day), we were supposed to attend another HE meet up for the first time that a friend of mine organises but being indoors just felt wasted today in what could be the last of the sun for a good few days. So, something that is rare for hubby and I, we did something spontaneous! Bailey has been revising hard for his upcoming exams and hasn't been out with us much at all so I thought he could do with a break too.

Having wanted to pay a visit to the outdoor swimming pool at Hathersage in the Peak District for years, today we finally made it there. When we arrived it was quiet but our four were the only children there so we stuck out like sore thumbs. For the first 15 minutes or so the stares really annoyed me and I found myself staring back and feeling very self conscious of the children making too much noise/splashing etc. Before I realised something that I had told myself a while back-these people do not matter to me, I will never see them again, what matters is seeing my children enjoy themselves and be happy. The children or me will not look back in years to come and give a flying hoot what these people were thinking when they were staring at us they WILL however remember being in an outdoor pool in the middle of the Peak District on a sunny May day when the majority of kids their age were in school.

After I had given myself an invisible slap I really started to enjoy myself, the sun was out, the pool was warm, I was swimming lengths up an down with my hubby/best friend and my two funny girls and watching my two boys being silly in the water (neither of them actually do swimming!) and there was nothing I needed to worry about in that moment so I didn't, I just really enjoyed myself and the company of my husband and children.

Of late, and I do think this has affected my ability to blog, things have been more stressful than usual. Life with two teens, nearly three teens, a very energetic 10 year old, home educating, dealing with upcoming exams for the first time ever for Bailey, running a business, anxiety, hormones, housework, finances, family, friendships has been very overwhelming. I think if someone had offered me a home on the other side of the world I would have snapped their hands off-I could have just left it all behind (well not hubby and the kids obviously). I had forgotten what a day could feel like without arguments, door slamming, repeating myself a gazillion times, tension headaches, exhaustion etc, etc, etc.

BUT  the last few days I have remembered what it feels like again to enjoy everyone's company and not dread the next argument. I feel more relaxed, less tense, exhausted and overwhelmed by everything.

We headed into Bakewell for ice creams by the River Wye and a game of American Football-which has become a daily activity in this house of late- we were silly, we laughed, the children were all loud and shouty and I didn't care who looked our way all I cared about was how much fun we were having as a family and what wonderful characters my children are turning into.

I noticed something else today, not for the first time, and that is the way in which people respond to children of different ages. I saw the cold stares when we entered the pool today and only 30 minutes later the same people coo over a small baby who entered the pool with her parents. Then in Bakewell I noticed the same thing, stares our way from lots of older people and the *melts* of those same people when they saw a toddler. Sadly, I know this is not just from strangers but within our own family too. I wonder if people realise that they are missing one of the best parts of children? The pre-teen and teen ages are so much fun, I love how they see the world, how they see things I miss, the ease of their company, their ever increasing confidence. Not that I didn't enjoy the other ages and stages because I have loved it all but what a shame everyone else seems to be overlooking it. How much fun and interesting conversations they are missing out on, time that isn't going to be repeated. How I feel so sorry for all these people and I glad I feel for myself that I seem to know something they don't.

I'm going to stop bogging myself down with the thoughts and feelings of people that don't matter to me, its draining my good energy, I am going to enjoy what I have right now.


Saturday, 10 May 2014

Ghent


We parked a little further away from the centre of Ghent which meant we had to walk a bit further into town. We should have realised as the parking was only 1.50 euros for two hours parking. Still its not everyday you see a group of men playing golf on the streets outside a science museum!



Really love Belgian architecture, its so romantic. Four Pesky Hobbits enjoying their last day in Belgium:


You can just see the top of the castle in this photo:


Over a little bridge...


Would have loved to explore Ghent more, there were so many pretty shops but by the time we had a little walk around and bought some handmade Belgian chocolates for friends and family., it was time to walk back towards the car.







The drive back to the Eurotunnel was pretty straightforward and no traffic, I love the ease of Eurotunnel. Back home to heavy rain by 12pm. Have loved our little taste of Northern Europe, Belgium is high on my lists of places to return to, I love the buildings, atmosphere and especially the food. I'd really love to spend Christmas here with all the Christmas markets....watch this space...

Brussels-3 Capital Cities in 6 days!

Our last day and the weather was really atrocious, heavy downpours and windy, we sat in all the traffic to the centre of Brussels with the very real thought of passing an hour in this weather. We popped into a supermarket on the outskirts to buy an umbrella for a silly mum who had not brought her raincoat...was a little taken back to find everything in French! That's the quirky thing about Belgium-it doesn't actually have its own language-half speak Dutch and half speak French. Apart from Merci I had totally forgotten all the French I had learnt on last years holiday! Total mind blank. Thankfully the woman on the till was friendly enough for us to understand each other, I was also given a beautiful cream, single rose in a cellophane wrapper-no idea why as the man in front of us didn't one but then we noticed it was Mothering Sunday in Europe the next day so I'm presuming because of that?? Was a nice surprise though and nearly made up for the super grumpy toilet attendent who kept chasing hubby for money when we had already paid to use the toilet! That is one thing I am not going to miss in Europe-the paying for toilets...

A funny thing happened when we arrived in the centre, we got parked straight away on the road for only 5 euros and it turned out we were a 5 minute walk from The Royal Palace-bonus! Also the rain stopped after 10 minutes-double bonus!!


The palace was rather imposing and reminded us a lot of Buckingham Palace but the children joked that they could have easily jumped over the walls of this palace as there didn't seem to be any guards. Quite different to our palace. Looks like the King was home too as the flag was flying..

Four Pesky Hobbits looking very saturated with their dad...


There are so many beautiful buildings in Brussels-just around from the palace was this huge square, with huge palatial buildings all decorated with gold leaf. Not sure who the statue is in the middle though?


Loved this statue outside the Museum of Ancient Art


Would love to come back here one day for a look around, the outside of the museum was so very grand.


From around the corner of the museum, Brussels just opened up to this beautiful view:


We bought some fries and mayo for lunch with hubby and Ruben deciding instead on waffles before walking towards the most amazing square! Its actually considered to be one of the most beautiful squares in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its called The Grand Place and lives up to its name. It was packed with tourists from around the world all taking photos. I saw one dad taking a panoramic shot on his phone of his wife and 4 daughters, impossible not to be in or take photos of other people in our photos because it was so busy. But an awesome place to stop and have our lunch....

I thought this was a cathedral but its actually the town hall, a couple appeared on the balcony and everyone (including us) cheered and waved. What a totally fabulous place to get married.



Opposite the town hall is this magnificent gothic baroque building, no idea what it was but it looked like it belonged in a film about Dracula!


There were lots of important looking people out on the balconies of these buildings too, must have been really cool looking out on the square form above there. The gold designs on the buildings were so bright and clean they looked like they had just been painted.


This is the building we stood in front of for lunch..

     
We walked further in through the streets, and through the beautiful glass roofed Galeries St Hubert-some amazing chocolate boutiques. It was the first shopping arcade in Europe built in 1847. No photos as it was so busy inside, probably due to the weather.

We walked through town to try and find the famous peeing boy fountain, passing along some fab comic and graphic art shops, toy shops, brilliant geek shops on the way. I loved the street art:


There was a huge crowd around the fountain which was rather small-think we were expecting something much grander, it was kind of slotted on the corner of two streets but was very popular. He was wearing some kind of suit, according to our guide book the Brussels museum houses all 760 plus of his outfits, which include an Elvis jumpsuit! Its become tradition for visiting heads of state donate outfits for him.

Its so funny as you walk down the adjoining street because there are huge statues of him made out of chocolate and even one of him eating waffles!

Brussels is such a stunning place and so deserves more of our time so its gone on our visit in the near future list! The drive out was pretty stressful, trying to find our way back to the motorway and it took around 45 minutes to get on the right road but as a total plus point we drove past the huge Atomium, would have loved to go inside and see the museum and ride all the way from the top in between the nine atoms but definitely next time!






Friday, 9 May 2014

Visiting Amsterdam with kids!

We had heard so many mixed reports about Amsterdam from lots of different people that we did think about giving it a miss but we like to make our own mind up about places. After all, one persons perception of a place can be very different to another person's...

We ended up driving into the city, Hubby has gotten very brave at driving into capital cities especially considering he only passed his driving test a year and a half ago. The streets were quite narrow and it was busy with lots of construction work but we managed to find a parking spot only 5 minutes walk from the centre.

One of the first buildings we spotted was the clock tower from the BBC's Anne Frank series we watched a few years ago. Bailey and the girls did quite a bit of work on WW2 and in particular the Holocaust and Anne Frank, we even visited an exhibition in Chester Cathedral all about Anne's diary, which was incredibly sad but opened up a lot of different things such as prejudice, hatred and human rights from countries around the world. Ruben has asked lots of questions about it and I think it might be a good time when we get home to rewatch the BBC series as he was too young the first time to understand.




There were so many beautiful buildings in Amsterdam, I think this was the prettiest toy shop building I've ever seen. Sadly it was hard to get a good picture with all the construction and city centre traffic!


We loved walking in and out of all the canals, they were so pretty and Ruben got to wave at all the boats again so he was happy.


Trying to find toilets in Amsterdam was a bit tricky but we headed toward the Museum of Amsterdam and found some toilets to use that were only 50 cents each (half the price of the earlier shopping centre toilets we'd used !). We would have loved to go into the museum itself but for 6 of us it was quite pricey, it makes you realise why so many tourists visit the London museums, such amazing museums and all for free or donations. We could visit one part of the museum for free though and they had this amazingly huge statue of David & Goliath:


We had a walk around the quieter streets and even found a playground for Ruben, which was located right next to a supermarket so we stocked up on snacks and iced coffees. Its amazing how much food four children can consume when you are sightseeing. We loved walking around the quieter streets and looking at the building shapes and sizes, I love how the end buildings are slightly leaning:


And the bicycles are just everywhere! I think I could pass a day with a nice coffee just watching all the cyclists as some of them are properly bonkers! We saw an elderly lady cycling with a new garden chair strapped to her handlebars and a man cycling whilst holding a new boxed printer to the back of his bike with one hand!! Crazy but fascinating.

More leaning buildings..


A rare shot of Cordelia as she is usually on the other side of the camera...


#familyselfie


We had plans to go to the Anne Frank house/museum but when we actually got there the queue was huge and as we only had a short time in Amsterdam we decided to leave it. The girls had already said they didn't want to go in as they thought it would just be too sad, which is completely understandable, Ruben said he would go in with me as I really would have liked to see it but I am going to put it on my list of places to visit in the future. To be honest it felt sad enough just seeing her statue outside with flowers laid beneath..


And the outside of the house:


It has made me think about doing some more work with the children about the Holocaust, I think there is a museum close to home that I might look at, Ruben is now the same age the girls were when we first read Anne's book so it might be a good time. This year is also the centenary of WW1 so it might be the right time to get back into it. Its also made me think about visiting some of the trenches and memorial's in Northern France, Hubby has a great grandfather buried in one of them. We would liked to have visited some on this trip but the weather has just been too bad. Maybe next time?

Amsterdam was incredibly busy whilst we were there but we really enjoyed it, the are lots of wonderful shops, the girls found a brilliant clothing shop that was full of fairy statues and some really cool dresses. We found some great geeky shops that sold Superhero t-shirts and Adventure Time bags, hats and t-shirts. We had lots of conversations with the children about the cannabis coffee shops and even the red light area-although we didn't visit there. I think its important to be honest with them and answer their questions, its all part of experiencing different cultures in different cities. I like bringing the children to different places because I think it all helps widen their knowledge and understanding of the world and also helps them appreciate different cultures. We are lucky that Europe is easily accessible from where we live and we hope to be able to have lots more European adventures to come...

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Breda

Breda wasn't too far from where we were staying, the weather was pretty torrential and we were all feeling a bit tired so we thought a wander around Breda would be nice.

The cathedral was very impressive:


It was very quiet-probably due to the rain-but for the hour we walked around we had a brief respite from the heavy rain. Not sure what this building was exactly as the sign was in Dutch but we think it might have been some kind of military building as we spotted a Eurofighter plane in the grounds-Bailey was impressed!



There were some older buildings, which was nice to see as so much of Holland felt really new and modern, the roads, the buildings, the houses.


Another beautiful cathedral not far from the first one:




The rain started again so we bought some lunch and ate it in the car before deciding to visit the supermarket and head back to the campsite. Visiting supermarkets in other countries is always a fun experience! An easy tea of pizzas-not a patch on hubby's homemade pizzas and some fried chips and mayo, not that I'm hooked on chips and mayo or anything. We also picked up some toast sprinkles-they had a huge selection in the supermarket- for breakfast....

Back at the camp Hubby took Cordelia and Ruben for a swim at the pool complex whilst Bailey, Piper and I all chilled out and read our books. Hubby has taught all of the kids to play poker whilst we have been here and so its become a bit of an evening ritual :)

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Visiting The Hague

I have to admit to not actually knowing that much at all about The Hague, I think the only photo I had ever seen was on Pointless! This is Noordeinde Palace:


Its right in the middle of a busy street with lots of very nice boutique shops but still very far removed from Buckingham Palace, although the Royal family don't actually live here its called "the working palace".

Statue of Prince Willem Van Oranje outside the palace:


The back of the Palace overlooks a very pretty park with a playground-Ruben took 5 minutes with his new Red Panda friend to have a go on the slide-whilst Piper and I had a walk around to have a closer look at the back of the palace:


We spent a while trying to work out the Roman numerals over the windows, the palace was built in the 16th century.



Some very pretty architecture from the parliamentary area of the city.


I expected more of this kind of architecture but The Hague is a very modern city, lots of tall glass buildings and big name shops.


We popped into McDonald's for lunch and to use their loo's-all six of us using the toilets in Holland cost us quite a bit! We estimate we spent around £30! We took the children into a huge toy store where Piper bought a new Top Model book-cheaper than at home-and Ruben bought an Ironfist action figure.

After getting a bit lost we eventually found The Hague's beautiful coastline and the sun came out too :)


The children were a bit weary, I think from yesterdays safari park trip, so we didn't actually do too much walking. We loved exploring the fairy tale themed statues along the seafront and trying to guess which stories they were based on.




The beach was very pretty and clean and there were lots of super cool cafes beachside and the usual seaside shops. We visited a fantastic coffee shop on the way back to the car and had a white mocha-best coffee I have ever had, was delicious!

These are Cordelia's photographs of the day:

This photo was because of a game we played last night where Piper named something Sue and so they all found it very funny when we walked past this gallery: