Questions for my teenagers. June 2017

My children are 17 and 15. One is in the sixth form studying for A’ Levels and the other is just finishing Year 10 and the first year of GCSE’s. I have a daughter and a son and they are both really great people.

They have agreed to help me with this blog post! I thought it would be a fun idea to get their views on certain things. I can be quite opinionated with some saying I have a “strong” character but I’d like to think that my children have their own voice and we encourage discussion and differing views in the Old House. I would also like to think that they can talk to me about anything as that is really important.

I asked the children separately to see what their opinions apart from each other.

1.  What is your greatest fear at the moment?

Daughter: Getting my mock English Literature result back! Terrorism could be something but honestly, if it’s my time it’s my time.I don’t want to stop doing the things I like because of stupid terrorists. It doesn’t worry me and nothing scares me except those scary mazes in you get in horror movies!

Son: Being alone. I don’t worry about anything really.

Me: I fear for my children in this ever turbulent and unsettled world. It’s interesting that they do not worry about that really. Then I think back and remember that when I was a child there was unrest and acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland. I didn’t even consider what this meant to me until I was an adult. Perhaps youth protects us from the harsh realities of the world around us or perhaps age opens our eyes to it? I don’t know.

2. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

Daughter: Having a job, living alone with a cat. (My son thinks she will become a crazy cat woman from The Simpsons!! My daughter just really loves animals and thought she would grow up to be a cat until she was 3. She’s a very caring person.)

Son: Travelling.

Me: I hope to be travelling too but with Uni fees looming I expect I won’t be!

3. If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and why?

Daughter: Socrates. He had such developed ideas about the world; he talked about such amazing ideas such as particles. He was killed because people were frightened of him. (My daughter is studying Classics A Level and is really enjoying it. I wonder if she will study this at University?)

Son: Joseph Goebbels because he was an interesting character. He was obviously crazy but he would be interesting to talk too I think and see how his mind works.

(My son is studying history GCSE and loves it. It will be interesting to see what he chooses for A Levels.)

Me: I’ve often pondered this question. I think it would have to be someone like Elizabeth the first who got me interested in history in the first place or Shakespeare. I would like to meet Elizabeth as she comes over as such a strong woman in a man’s world. Shakespeare, there is some thought that he didn’t write all of his plays, that perhaps a woman did, I would like to see and meet him.

4. What makes you angry and why?

Daughter: People who think they are better than others. Cruelty to animals.

Son: People who think that they know everything.

(They were very similar in their answers here)

Me: I have to agree with my children! Especially cruelty to animals. I would add environmental issues too but, as an adult, I’m more able to see that just “don’t cut down trees to save the orangutans” is too simplistic. It is a much wider and complex issue. That’s why I champion local environmental projects and ways of living. Help your local wildlife first.

5. Do you believe in having a soul mate and true love?

Daughter: Because of my parents! (Ahhhhhh…..x)

Son: No, I don’t think I do. (He didn’t know why….)

Me: yes I do. x

6. What is the best and worst part of being a teenager?

Daughter: The best bit is not having to pay any bills. The worst is having bad skin when I was about 14. I hated it but it cleared up with antibiotics.

Son: The best bit is having no worries. The worst but is some other teenagers who are annoying. (My son is quite mature for his age and gets cross with others that are “like little kids.”)

Me: When I was a teenager, the best bit was the freedom I had, especially with money. What I earned went straight into my pocket! The worst was friendships or boy issues although I can’t remember a specific issue interestingly.

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7. What would be your perfect day?

Daughter: Going to a festival or concert.

Son: Playing sport all day and then being with my friends in the evening.

(This sums both up pretty well! My daughter was upset at not going to Glastonbury this year but may go to Reading.)

Me: time with my family or in the garden.

8. If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

Daughter: I would put it in the bank so that it can earn interest. I would pay for my university fees and then buy a house. I would go on a brilliant holiday. I would give some to charity and share it with other family members.

Son: Spend it and not tell anyone!

(I can tell that my daughter is sooo like her dad when it comes to money and my son is very, very like me! I laughed so much at his response here!)

Me: Pay off the mortgage, put it in the bank. Pay off loved ones mortgages and spend some on Uni fees, holidays and lives pleasures! I wouldn’t go and spend loads on houses and cars. I would set up an Educational Foundation to support Special Needs in schools. I would also like to give money to various environmental charities such as Wiltshire Wildlife.

My son is very mature for his age but interestingly, he found answering some of the questions tricky and wanted to find out what his sister had said.

You may want to ask your teenagers questions too. It’s really interesting to record their answers. I wonder what they would think of these answers in a few years time!

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After the Playground

How can I provide stimulating play opportunities for my young child?

Since I wrote my post on Helping my child learn to read here
I am aware that I should also write a post about developing other skills through play.

I remember when a Health Visitor told me that because my son wasn’t crawling and went straight to standing and walking, he would not be good at Maths. What?? I then spent months trying to get my son to crawl! Well that didn’t work! He was so heavy that it was just easier for him to stand up and walk. All he wanted to do was run! I have read about the benefits of crawling and how it is a vital stage. see more here but I’m not sure about it just being good for Maths! I understand what my Health Visitor was trying to say but I did worry for a while which was not needed.

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A child crawling.

When my children were young, I noticed a difference in the way my daughter and son played during the toddler years (aged 18 months to 3 years old). My daughter enjoyed putting things in bags, my son would line things up whilst they both loved to push wheeled toys and prams. These differences were clear to me as I am a teacher with a specialism in the Early Years but many parents think of these differences are just part of their child exploring or of their child’s gender. However, there is more to these behaviours that you may think! They are called Schemas and it’s useful to understand them so you can understand your child better. In this post, I will give you lots of play ideas to link to each schema which you could try with your toddler at home.

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Little children love playing in the sand.

What is a Schema?

Schemas are described as patterns of repeated behaviour which allow children to explore and express developing ideas and thoughts through their play and exploration. The repetitive actions of schematic play allow children to construct meaning in what they are doing. Knowing about schemas can really help educators and parents discover what a child loves to do and challenge them using what they love. By understanding schemas, parents can recognise and support these urges and developments. It is also helpful to know that your child is not necessarily being naughty when they throw their food all over the floor!

Lining things up or taking lids on and off things.

This is known as a Connecting or Containment Schema.

Give your child lots of different sized pans, pots with lids, spoons and spades in the sand or water. With supervision, try a tray of lentils, pasta or dried peas for variation. They may also like shape sorter toys, handbags of different sizes, boxes of different sizes to put themselves or toys in, painting boxes around shapes and drawing around objects, their hands or stencils. They may enjoy threading ribbon in the fence or using thread to connect things together.

Wrapping things up, getting into small spaces (this is the one where you find things in your dishwasher or CD player!)

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Some children love small spaces.

This is called an Enveloping or Enclosement Schema.

Try den making, providing different sized boxes and blankets to play with. Add soft toys of different sizes so that your child can add these in their beds etc. Dressing up clothes for themselves or for their dolls/teddies. In my experience, the dressing up clothes that are adult sized are the best (oh! and shoes!). Being able to paint themselves (use coloured water!) or try hand/feet painting. Children may also like to cover their paintings in one colour after they have painted it! This is typical behaviour and they are not “ruining” their picture! They may also like to bury heir hands and feet or hide their faces.

Throwing things, jumping off things or pouring and filling objects.

This is called a Trajectory Schema.

This can be a hard one as the child likes to throw things whilst they investigate forces! Take them outside and let them throw pine cones and balls. They would love a slide or hill to run down. Set up targets or play skittles. Invest in a trampoline (with a net guard) and let them bounce! Play in the bath or with a garden hose pouring water and letting it dribble between fingers and toes. Play with water or sand wheels in a tray of water or sand. Dribble paint all over a page. Play with guttering and old pipes outside in the rain or mud.

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A child playing in the sand.

Pushing prams, buggies and wheeled toys. Taking toys from one place to another.

This is called a Transporting Schema.

This is a very common one. Let children push prams around (boys too! This is nothing to do with gender) or wheeled toys. Toddlers love to transport things from one place to another. It could be anything, so keep jigsaw pieces or more precious toys packed away! Let them have a box of “bits and pieces” like soft toys, blocks, real spoons, natural materials like stones (not too small for fear of choking), pegs, plastic cups, plastic fruit and vegetables. Let them transport these from place to place. Make it imaginative by adding places such as the supermarket, a car wash…whatever your child likes. Let them play with diggers, buckets, spades in the sand tray.

Rolling down hills, spinning, winding things up.

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Children love to spin.

This is called a Rotational Schema and again, can be a tricky one.

This is a little more unusual. Your child will like to spin on the spot or continually wind things up. Invest in some cheap wind up toys and have a basket of them. When I led a Nursery, I would find old watches or real items and have a box of those! Again, best to get them outside and ride bicycles or wheeled toys. A wheel barrow is another good toy for this schema. Take them to the park and they would love the swings or roundabout. Try roller painting with giant DIY rollers (again, you can use coloured water if you can’t stand to have paint in your house!). The painting rollers are also great fun with water on a dry wall and this action is fabulous for developing arm and hand muscles!

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Some children love the sensation of swinging.

Mixing sand and water, playing with food and making mud pies

This is called a Transformation Schema.

Transformation schemas can be messy! They are when a child likes to mix things together to see what happens. This may be paint, mud, food, water, sand….poo. It’s our job to help a child find the things that are more acceptable! Let them experience cooking, the elements (like rain on their skin), make mud pies, petal potion, mix sand and paint, glue and glitter. Plant seeds. Dig holes. Make paint messes and let them use their fingers to feel the paint.

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Toddler playing in the sand box.

I hope you have found this post useful.
This site is amazing….click Here for more ideas.

I have lots of other ideas on my Pinterest pages which you can found at Sophie (oldhouseintheshires)

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My ovaries are hurting…..

I was chatting to my good friend, Marie. She is lovely and has children of a similar age to mine and she was asking if I was going to have any more children.

What!??! Urrrr noooooooo!!??

You get the picture!

She always thought that I would have more children you see -I have 2. In fact, I always thought I would have more children. It was just that there was never the right time. I even saved names for those children.

Hubbie didn’t want another when I did (when son was about 4). Then when I definitely could not see myself with another, he started to consider the thought! By then, the gap would have been 8 years between 2 and 3 and I just couldn’t imagine starting again. Anyway, I was working full time and I couldn’t imagine working, having 2 school aged children and a baby! I was only just managing with the routine I had. I remember a family member telling me that I didn’t want to get to 40 and regret it or that every baby was a blessing.

I reached 40 and decided that I did not want another baby. I was so happy and lucky to have the family I have.

But then my ovaries started hurting…..

I think it’s my bodies way of telling me this is my last chance. I mean, I’m 45 now so there is such a slim chance! This blogging malarky doesn’t help either as so many of you lovely people have such cute babies! And dont get me started on Instagram! OMG the cuteness!

BUT

I think my ovaries are hurting because I just miss my children being babies? Does that make sense? I miss me being a mummy of younger children I guess. I think that’s just part of my make-up; I’m a primary school teacher so enjoy this age group. That’s not to say I don’t love my teenagers….I just miss them as babies. Or, may be my ovaries are hurting because I’m perimenopausal?? Yeah, that’ll be it!

OH THE JOYS OF THE PERIMENOPAUSE (Yes! It’s a thing…….google it!)

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How to create a family friendly wildlife garden

I make no secret of the fact I love gardening and helping local wildlife in my garden. I love that we have hedgehogs, toads, frogs, newts, slow worms, butterflies, bats and bees in the old house garden. I do not use chemicals at all and always try to find other, organic ways to overcome pests or problems.

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A bee visiting a peony in the old house garden

Many people ask me how I created my wildlife friendly garden. Well, I didn’t! We have only lived in the old house for less than 2 years but in that time we have enhanced a previously overgrown and dark space into the beautiful garden it is today. The wildlife was here already but I like to think we are encouraging more creatures to come and visit.

I thought I would share with you my top tips for creating a wildlife garden that is also child friendly.

1. Save Water

Add a water butt to your garden will help in times of dry weather. You can even add sprinklers to some which children will love playing in! Use this water to fill up the paddling pool but add a teaspoon of Milton for very young children as the rain water could be dirty.

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The pond at the old house with a dog/ child proof fence

2. Ponds

Wildlife gardens are best with a pond but these can be very dangerous for young children. I went to a neighbours recently and was dismayed to see that they had poured sand into their pond as they were worried for their toddler. Whilst I understand this, I could only think of all the damage they had done to the pond’s ecosystem! Instead cover existing ponds with a good quality mesh above the pond or, better still, fence off your pond AND add a mesh. In this way creatures can still access your pond BUT your child will be safe. When your child is older or with supervision, you will be amazed at what creatures you can see together. Ponds are good for children to learn about life cycles and to see many animals from their books. Ponds attract a multitude of different animals but do not add a pump as this will only cause problems for tadpoles and other small creatures. For this reason, I would not add fish either as they eat tadpoles.

3. No Chemicals

I do not use any chemicals. Nothing to kill aphids. Nothing to prevent rose rust. Nothing to kill the weeds in my lawn. You really don’t need them. Add ladybird houses and encourage other insects into the garden will help to beat the pests. Make sure the soil is healthy by adding home grown compost. I will talk about other ideas in another post such as how to get rid of aphids the organic way! Chemicals are not just harmful to the garden ecosystem but also for our families.

4. Plant some seeds and give a patch to your children.

Give a patch of garden to your children to grow their own seeds on. It could be a pot or raised bed if you have a smaller garden. Children love to plant, water and care for plants. They don’t mind what kind of plant it is! I love growing sunflowers, nasturtiums, marigolds, sweet peas and nigellas with children as they are all easy to grow from seeds. If you want to plant some now, I love nasturtiums. The seeds are larger for young children to handle and they grow quickly producing lots of lovely orange/red/yellow flowers. They have the added bonus of attracting the cabbage white butterfly so you may get caterpillars too!

5. Grow your own food

There is nothing better than eating your own vegetables and fruits. It also helps children to see where their food comes from. You don’t need a garden to grow tomatoes; a window sill will do. You can buy small vegetable plants at this time of year which saves you growing from seed if you are a new gardener. We still do this sometimes as it saves space in the greenhouse! Easy vegetables to grow are cucumbers, peppers, peas, beans, onions, strawberries, carrots and pumpkins. I love growing pumpkins with children because they are always amazed at their size!

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6. Feed the birds

We have lots of different bird feeders in the garden and even with cats, get lots of visitors. Children love to watch the birds that come to the garden. We always do the Big Garden Bird Watch in school and the children are ALWAYS thrilled to see all the different birds! You can make bird cakes with children which are very easy -put a hole in a yoghurt pot and add a piece of string (so that you can hang your feeder). Then, melt lard in a pan and add birdseed to it. Add the mixture to the yoghurt pot and leave to cool before hanging. Make a area of your garden for birds and you may be lucky to see other visitors such as squirrels!

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Squirrel visiting the bird feeders

7. Create a den or “hide”

Children love making dens so make a permanent one in the garden where your children can hide and watch the birds! You can use bamboo plants as they grow quickly (but can be invasive) or you could make one from willow sticks. Even adding a den from materials and chairs is a great way to encourage children to sit quietly to watch wildlife (for about 5 minutes!)

8. Add animal homes

Add nesting boxes, ladybird houses, bat boxes and hedgehog homes to encourage wildlife to stay. Making a bee hotel is always a fun project to do with children and they are easy to make. Get lots of plastic drinking straws and let your child bundle the straws together and tie them using string or an elastic band. Then cut the straws to the size they want (great for snipping skills!). Hang these on a sunny wall and watch the solitary bees come to make their nests. Perhaps read stories about the animals and this will enable your child to see what they may look like.

9. Plant food for the insects

Planting a range of plants that flower throughout the year not only makes your garden look good, it also provided food all year round for bees, moths and other insects. My favourites are lavender, forget-me-nots, primroses, buddleja, sedums, sunflowers, clover, honeysuckle, jasmine, asters, black eyed susan, phlox and crab apple blossoms. Variety is key and personally, I love the cottage garden look anyway!

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Children looking at ladybirds! *

10. Don’t be too tidy!

The perfect wildlife gardens are a little untidy in places and have patches of nettles or wild bits! It’s tricky to do this in a small garden but I tend to think that if the grass is a little long or if there a few weeds, it doesn’t really matter. Enjoyment of our green spaces is key so that we can spend as much time outside in the fresh air as we can. If we can do that and help local wildlife as well, surely we will all live in a better world and will be teaching our children than wildlife matters.

Happy gardening everyone!

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How can I instill a love of books in my child?

I love reading.

I love books.

I love the classics, the tat you get to read on holidays, children’s fiction, novels and even gossip magazines.

I used to read more but in the age of the internet, social media and ((cough)) blogging, I just don’t read as much as I used to. This makes me sad and a little anxious that our children will lose the love of reading that I had as a child and teenager growing up. So how can we instill a love of books and reading in our children but in turn make sure they keep up with new technologies?

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  • Make books a priority

When your child is a baby buy simple, brightly coloured board books so that your child gets in the habit of seeing these books as equal to other toys. Buy the books that are age appropriate such as ones all about animals or colours. This will keep your baby and young child interested. Toddlers and Preschoolers love rhyme and alliteration so there are thousands of picture books out there to choose from. Make storytime part of your daily routine so that your child can see that they are a priority. Let your child see you read too. Then they can see that it’s an enjoyable activity.

  • Let them read whatever they want to.

We are all different and what your child likes to read may not be what you want them to read. I have heard parents complain that their child not reading Swallows and Amazons or that they don’t want them to read another fairy book. Well, firstly Swallows and Amazons may be a classic but modern children don’t always relate to the classics. I am not saying they shouldn’t read Swallows and Amazons but it may not be enjoyable to them right now. They may want to read another Fairy or Horrid Henry book. It’s safe for them and they understand them. Let them read these choices!

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Children reading
  • Don’t choose books that are just beyond them.

As a teacher I see this all the time. Parents want their child to read books that are challenging for their child however they forget that their child is only young. Some children at 7 could read War and Peace but they would not have any clue about what they were reading! Just because your child can read something doesn’t mean that they should or will. This is the reason why young readers get put off from reading because it becomes too tricky for them to follow the story or the topics are simply not in their comprehension. Simple stories are best at this early stage to encourage enjoyment and positive habits.

  • Read children’s books yourself.

There are so many books being written all the time that is tricky to make good choices when it comes to children’s books. Reading books before your child means that you can help them select books that you know that they would enjoy. Both my children were avid readers but used to get stuck reading the same authors. Whilst finding an author you love is important, it is easy to get stuck. There are so many great authors out there to discover! I also found that as my children got older they would increasingly want to read books with content I wasn’t necessarily happy with. By reading these books first, I could keep a little eye on what they were coming into contact with. Now they are teens, I obviously encourage them to read whatever they like.

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Boys sharing a book
  • Use technology

Reading is reading in my book so it doesn’t matter if it’s online or on a tablet. There are many great reading games that support reading at home that your child may love. Nothing beats the small of a new book and the crinkling of a page for me but your child may love screens as much! Just remember that screen time should be limited at a young age as they can be overstimulating at times.

My favourite books for each stage.

0-2 years

Anything with lift the flap surprises such as Where’s Spot? Dear Zoo or That’s not my dinosaur!

3-5 years

There are so many that I love but my favourites (and children’s favourites when reading to them in school) The Last Noo-Noo, Stick Man, We’re going on a Bear Hunt, Alfie gives a hand, Where’s my teddy? Superworm ( basically anything by Julia Donaldson; the woman is a genius and she lives near me!)

6-8 years

Some children at this age are ready to begin simple chapters books but they will also love to read their picture books that you have read to them up until now. My favourites are: The Worst witch, The cat in the hat, Horrid Henry, Fairytales, Rainbow magic fairy books, anything by Dick King Smith.

9-11 years

The gap between children that struggle and their classmates can really hinder a child at this age so it so important that they find something they love. Some of my favourites reflect this. I love Diary of a Wimpy kid, anything by Jacqueline Wilson, Charlie and the chocolate factory, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Gangsta Granny, Skulduggery Pleasant.

11-14 years

Getting this age group to read anything away from their phone is tricky but there are some great books out there. My favourites are: Cherub series, Tunnels series, Noughts and Crosses, The boy in the striped pyjamas, Girl Missing

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I hope you found this post informative. Thank you for reading!

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My Glorious Gardens series: Exbury Gardens in May.

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The prices and entry times

We decided to make the most of the Bank Holiday and take a trip to Exbury Gardens in the New Forest, Hampshire. My colleague at work was telling me that it was definitely worth the trip at this time of year to see The Rothschild collection of Camellias, Azaleas and Rhododendrons. Whether you are a horticulturist, amateur gardener, family or lover of colourful places and views, this is the place for you!

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The Steam Train which is a 20 minutes ride through the gardens.

Tickets for the gardens can be combined with a steam train ride which children would love. You can also take dogs so Dottie came too. Not surprisingly, the teens stayed at home…..revising apparently! The gardens are quite extensive so comfy shoes are a must but there are clearly marked paths and a map to help guide you. Children can take part in a family trail, there is a fantastic woodland play area plus various picnic sites to choose from. There are a few steps towards the lower part of the garden but a shuttle service is offered for a small price which can take you and pick you up from various places around the garden should you need it.

The gardens are absolutely stunning and now is definitely the time to go. There are so many acid loving plants here including my favourite Acer’s. The photographs show you better than I can describe it to you. All I can say is the smell was amazing!

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Stunning pink azaleas
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Peach Rhododendrons
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Dottie and I striding through the many paths
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Stunning yellows azaleas
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Lots of places to rest

In the centre of the garden is the Japanese Garden with bridge, cascades and ponds. This was the highlight for me as the plants were ablaze of colours.

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The Top pond in the Japanese Garden
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The pond in the Japanese Garden
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Acer’s in the Japanese Garden
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The Cascades in the Japanese Gardens

At the very end of the garden was an amazing view of the River Beaulieu and you can just see the Isle of Wight in the distance. It took about 11/2 hours of wandering to reach this part and marks the end of the garden. The benches offered a lovely rest and the views were worth the walk.

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Looking over the river Beaulieu
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You can almost see the Isle of Wight!
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Dottie admiring the view

After this we went to the Tea Room for a coffee and piece of cake which was very reasonable in price. You could also buy Toasties and Panini’s. At the entrance there is another restaurant which has a greater choice.

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Dottie waiting for scraps!

All in all this is a brilliant garden to visit and definitely worthy to be part of My Glorious Gardens Series!

I’ll leave you with my favourite Acer’s……

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How to be a bad parent.

Ok, so have you done any of the following?

  • Locked yourself in the toilet because you just wanted to check your Instagram account?
  • Gone through the laundry basket of dirty clothes looking for that school PE top that you are sure you washed but obviously didn’t?
  • Had “help yourself night” rather than cooking too many times in one week?
  • Been to Ikea just to feed the kids the cheap meatballs?
  • Both pretended to be asleep when your kid comes in at night for the hundredth time?
  • Sent the children to school a bit poorly when really they should be at home but you’ve had to go to work? (Shhh)
  • Let your child go out as Batman because you had no clean clothes?
  • Put that spare T-shirt on your child’s bottom because you forgot the nappy bag?
  • When their breakfast is toast and a water bottle in the car as you were late to get up?
  • Eaten your kids Easter eggs/sweets/party bag cake because they have too many and you needed sugar?
  • Not brushed your child’s hair for a week?
  • Let your child go to bed as Batman because he just won’t change into PJ’s?
  • Hidden toys under anything possible when your mum or mother-in-law is coming for a cuppa?
  • You’ve told your children that the Tooth Fairy must have been really busy as she didn’t come in the night (oops) Then loved the look on their faces when the Tooth Fairy came during breakfast -“yes, you must have just missed her!?”
  • Had a phone call from Nursery to find out where you were and you’ve lied about being in traffic when actually you were asleep?
  • Let your kids watch films back-to-back because you are just too tired?

Well I must be a bad parent because I’ve done all of these. My children have survived. It’s ok! Be a “bad” parent once in a while and your children may actually thank you for it. Being perfect is just too exhausting!

Have a great day!

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