Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Last spring we took advantage of a great Amazon Local deal to get a family ticket to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard which, like all their tickets, was valid for a year.  Throughout the past year we have made numerous visits to the Historic Dockyard and would wholeheartedly say that our visits there have been fantastic.

Whenever we have visited the Historic Dockyard we have always used the Park and Ride which is so simple and convenient and gives added excitement to the children who love going on the double decker bus.  The bus stops right by the Historic Dockyard and is an ideal way to get into the centre of the city.  It is also situated close to Gunwharf Quays which we have sometimes visited for a meal or a quick bit of shopping after our visit to the Historic Dockyard.

On our first visit, the boys were captivated by the sight of HMS Warrior as we first arrived.  To them it looked like a real pirate ship and they were desperate to go on board.  As well as HMS Warrior, you can also look around HMS Victory (Lord Nelson’s Flagship and my personal favourite) as well as The Mary Rose.

Alongside visiting the ships, there are plenty of other things to do at the Historic Dockyard.  A huge favourite of the boys was Action Stations which had many interactive things for them to play on.  They loved Sky Tykes, a small rope course, as well as the climbing wall and a helicopter simulator.

On our final visit with the annual pass, we took advantage of the Waterbus to the Submarine Museum at Gosport.  Both the Waterbus and the Submarine Museum were included in the annual pass so there was no extra cost.  We really enjoyed having a look around the submarine and the adjacent museum and the boys especially enjoyed trying out real periscopes!  The Waterbus across to Gosport was so enjoyable that we also went on a Harbour Tour, again included in the price of the ticket.  This was a great way to see some of the modern navy boats around and get an insight into some of the navy buildings you can see from the harbour.  For example, the 100 foot deep swimming pool used in submariner training.

We have just about managed to see everything we wanted to before our tickets expired.  I am certain that in the future we will look to get another annual pass as the boys (and us) have got so much out of our visits to the Historic Dockyard.


Book Review: Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline


Over the last few months I have been reading Becky Bailey’s Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline.  Central to Bailey’s message is the need for us to reevaluate the way we as adults behave and discipline ourselves.  Bailey asserts that the way we treat ourselves will have a direct impact on the way we treat our children and the way they learn to treat themselves.

Bailey highlights some useful ways in which we can communicate effectively with children.  There is a lot in her book which complements some of the other books I have read such as How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk and Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting.  She includes an excellent summary of her teaching in the epilogue:

  • Give children the communication skills they need to solve problems rather than getting them to act or be “nice.”
  • Give children encouragement by attributing positive motives to all their acts rather than forcing them to feel bad in order to behave better.
  • Give children lifelong skills they will need to contribute to society rather than getting them to behave in ways that impress others.
  • Give children a model of happy, loving, responsible living rather than getting them to “act like they should.”

There are a number of things I have been attempting to apply in my own parenting as I’ve been reading Bailey’s book.  For example, encouraging my children to be more assertive rather than running to me to tell tales.  If one of the boys pushes the other, their first reaction is generally to come running to me to tell me about it.  I will now ask whether they have said, ‘Don’t push me, I don’t like it’ to the offender before coming running to me.  Many parenting books encourage you to let your children sort out their problems for themselves and Bailey has helped to equip me with effective tools to help make this happen.

Despite the fact that what Bailey says is rooted in really valuable advice and I desperately wanted to like this book, I confess that I found it quite a slog to get through.  At times I found her style of writing to be too wordy and in parts critical and demoralising.  I can’t help but feel that her key messages could have been shared more concisely and this would be more useful for busy parents.  She has a lot of good lessons for us to learn but I would suggest going to other books such as How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk before this one.


Easter Holidays

Despite the fact I’ve had a horrible virus over the Easter holidays, we’ve done our best to make the most of the boys’ break from school and pre-school.  They’ve enjoyed a couple of day trips with Chris to the farm at the Countryside Education Trust in Beaulieu and to Adventure Wonderland.  Last weekend we also went to Moors Valley Country Park.

As well as a few day trips, we have loved spending time with a number of visitors including Chris’ parents and his aunt and grandmother.  Another of our guests was a hamster called Alfie who came to stay for a few days.


We also did a bit of baking…


Yesterday Chris took part in the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive and cycled nearly 70 miles around the New Forest.  We loved cheering him on at the start and finish line and at Beaulieu half way round.  In this picture you can see Daniel clapping him as he crosses the finish line.


The Easter holidays have passed all too quickly and I am looking forward to the next school holiday when hopefully I’ll be up to getting out and about a bit more with the boys.

Mother’s Day Cards

Our Mother’s Day cards for Nanny and Grandma this year were inspired by one of Chris’ favourite paintings, Kandinsky’s Concentric Circles.  The cards were extremely easy to make but I think they look really effective.  I simply asked the boys to cut some circles of different sizes out of different coloured sheets of paper.  We then arranged these and Josh helped to glue them onto the card.  They were great for involving the children in practical ways and practising their scissor skills!  I like them so much I think we’ll make some to go in our Articulate Frames.


Mother’s Day Questions

I have had a nice Mother’s Day today despite the fact Josh was sick early this morning.  As usual, I love hearing the boys’ answers to questions about me!


1. What makes Mummy happy?

D – Doing jewellery

J – Cuddles and kisses

2. How does Mummy make you laugh?

D – Tickling me

J – Tickling

3. What was Mummy like as a child?

D – Funny I would say

J – Like Mr Tumble

4. How old is Mummy?

D – 32

J – 51 (I’ve aged a lot – last year he said I was 7)

5. How tall is Mummy?

D – Don’t know

J – (Standing up and reaching up high) – This tall

6. What is Mummy’s favourite thing to do?

D – Jewellery again

J – Cuddles and kisses

7. What does Mummy do when you’re not around?

D – Do stuff with Josh of course

J – Work

8. What is Mummy really good at?

D – Sleeping

J – Teaching me

9. What is Mummy not very good at?

D – Football

J – Games

10. What is Mummy’s favourite food?

D – Red onion

J – Broccoli

11. What do you and Mummy do together?

D – Football Hama beads

J – Do puzzles and play games

12. Where is Mummy’s favourite place to go?

D – The park

J – I don’t know

13. What makes Mummy sad?

D – When me and Josh are naughty

J – Daddy

14. What does Mummy like most about Daddy?

D – Marrying

J – Cuddles

15. How do you know Mummy loves you?

D – She’s my mummy of course

J – Because she wants to have cuddles and kisses with me

16. What is Mummy’s job?

D – To work in a church

J – Working

17. What makes you proud of Mummy?

D – All her earrings she has

J – Cuddles and kisses

18. How are you and Mummy the same?

D – Hair – they’re the same colour

J – Because we’ve got straight hair

19. How are you and Mummy different?

D – Skin colour – yours is quite darker than mine

J – Because we are different ages

Half Term in Milton Keynes

Our half term holiday was a busy one. At the start of the week we were away with the youth group which, once again, the boys absolutely loved. After that we headed up to Milton Keynes to stay with my parents along with my brother and his family.

We managed to find plenty to do to occupy ourselves in the Milton Keynes area. We enjoyed a couple of pleasant walks around both Willen Lake and Caldecotte Lake. The paths were ideal for scooters and so Daniel, Josh and their cousin Rachel enjoyed scooting around. Both lakes also had play areas nearby for them to enjoy.

Another highlight of our week was a trip to Mr Mulligan’s Pirate Golf. You may recall that we loved Rascal Bay crazy golf in Brentwood. Well, Mr Mulligan’s Pirate Golf in Milton Keynes is very similar – joining Rascal Bay as one of the best crazy golf courses we have come across. Just like Rascal Bay, Mr Mulligan’s Pirate Golf has a range of interesting holes as well as rafts to travel on to get to different sections of the course. It was a fantastic morning out and we will definitely be returning!

On the Wednesday, which was a slightly wetter day, we visited Milton Keynes Museum which had good reviews on TripAdvisor. We could certainly see potential in the museum but it was extremely busy. As a consequence, we weren’t really able to enjoy all the different rooms in the museum as much as we would have liked to. However, the rooms which weren’t overcrowded and that we were able to spend some time in were very enjoyable. The boys’ favourite part was probably the Connected Earth Gallery where they were able to have a go on phones from throughout the ages. They also enjoyed toasting bread over a fire in the Edwardian farmhouse kitchen and Daniel had great fun playing the Victorian pianola.

Another thing that we did last week was visit Whipsnade Zoo. Although an expensive day out, all the children loved seeing the animals. A highlight for all of us was being in the right place at the right time when the giraffes were fed right in front of us. They were so graceful and put the children to shame in the way they took turns to feed from the buckets. We had taken the scooters with us and were glad we had as almost all of the younger visitors were on scooters but we wished we had put on wellies as the zoo was incredible muddy.

We were extremely fortunate with the weather last week meaning that we were able to get out and about a lot. There are lots of places we would like to visit again as well as some ideas of other places we might like to try next time.


Book Review: Reasons to Stay Alive


I haven’t really said much on my blog about Chris’ depression. However, if I’m being honest, the impact it has had on me and our family life is huge. Our experiences of Chris’ depression mean that my most frequent and most fervent prayer for Daniel and Joshua is that they don’t get depression.

The consequences of Chris’ most significant depressive episode were huge. Back at that time, in the summer of 2011, I looked for support groups or networks for those married to depressed spouses but found very little by way of support. People had all sorts of suggestions or groups for Chris, but I sometimes felt sidelined and insignificant. Had it not been for the absolutely incredible support of some of our friends and family, I could have felt extremely isolated.

Although Chris has read many books on the topic of depression, I confess that I have not. However, I recently heard about Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive and, due to the fact that many of the reviews spoke of hope, I was keen to read it.

Reasons to Stay Alive is an easy book to read, which is essential if it is to be accessible to those in the midst of depression. Each chapter is usually only a few pages long. Through reading the book I have both developed my understanding of depression and realised how little it is possible to know. Scientists do not understand depression and as such, attempts to treat it are really just stabs in the dark. Haig himself did not use anti-depressants but tells us some of the methods he used to help ‘treat’ his depression.

As well as deepening my understanding of depression and how the depressed person feels, perhaps the biggest impact this book had on me was showing me the person of Andrea, Haig’s girlfriend (now wife). Although the book is not written from her point of view, I could find myself identifying with her and sharing her pain. Haig’s ability to talk about the way in which Andrea helped him both inspired and challenged me to see the way I seek to help Chris through a depressed person’s eyes.

I would encourage anyone who is depressed or knows someone who is to read this book. It is informative, encouraging and challenging but, crucially for me, helps to remove some of the feeling of isolation that the depressed person or their family might be experiencing.

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