My Radio Debut, Looking After Me, Fairlop Waters and Braintree Village

My diary post for last week is longer than expected. With just a couple of days out there shouldn't have been much to talk about, but it turns out there is. Read on to find out how I am feeling post holiday, our adventures in Fairlop, back to school shopping at Braintree Village Outlet Shops (AD) and me being on the radio!

Me pulling a silly excitable face in the BBC Essex studio

That Post Holiday Feeling

Coming home from holiday often takes a bit of adjustment. The change in weather, the return to the normal routine, not to mention all the washing. Well when I came back from holiday last week I didn’t feel like that. I had spent so long planning up to the holiday that afterwards felt like new year; a time to put new plans and ideas into action.

That lasted until Tuesday. I still had all the ideas and motivation, but I remembered it was the school holidays, my house was a mess and that I really don’t get much time with all three children here to write. I pulled my self together though and decided to implement one of the promises I had made to myself on holiday: to look after myself.

Like many parents of young children G and I tend to put the little people first. That’s fine, but I’ve started to worry about how much our health is suffering as a result. Neither of us exercise enough at the moment and at least in my case that isn’t going to change in the near future, but one thing we can change is our diet.

It can be hard to make healthy food when you have children who need a lot of attention. Chopping vegetables while holding a wriggling baby (or even babywearing) feels too high risk so weekdays I tend to eat little veg. I buy lots of fruit, but I let the children eat their fill before I have a nibble (there often isn’t much left). 

Worse still I have unconsciously stopped G eating any of the fruit and veg I do buy because he worries that I have bought it for the girls. This often ends up with the tomatoes, cucumber etc I have bought for him going off because we are both saving it for others.

So I decided we would eat better. I would buy (and eat) more fruit and veg as well as nuts, beans and seeds. I would also try and ensure I cooked enough dinner that there is some left for G when he wants to eat (often 4 or 5 hours later than me and the children).

I knew of a shop that sells lots of fruit and veg like you get in the market: reasonable prices and ripe. Handily it is across the road from Fairlop Waters Country Park in Ilford, a lake I could walk around with the girls to give them some exercise and some play time. We ended up buying 21 varieties of fruit and veg for just over £20 and for the rest of the week I managed to eat my five a day (pretty much unheard of).

Fairlop Waters  - Free Play Activities for Children 

Handily close to the Central Line tube station of the same name, but frustrating if you drive because you need to pay on the RingGo app, Fairlop Waters Country Park is the home to Owls playcentre (soft play), but it also has free activities that we took advantage of. If you walk clockwise around the lake from the Owls car park (there is another car park on the other side of the lake) you will find a play area and a little further round boulders for climbing. Knowing this I walked the girls round the lake anti-clockwise so they discovered the boulder park just as they were getting bored.

My nearly 8 year old enjoyed climbing to the top of several of the artificial boulders while my 3 year old preferred climbing on some small rocks. 

A bit further round the lake there are lots of bits of cut down tree you can climb on and explore and then finally they got to the play area. 

Since last time I was there they have introduced various fixed position keep fit equipment at intervals around the lake eg pull up bars. While these are aimed at adults, the girls enjoyed playing with many of them and it broke up the walk. The path is easy with a pushchair, although the gravel around the boulders is a pain. There are plenty of benches around the lake and there are toilets in the clubhouse next to the car park.

Children playing on parallel bars at Fairlop Waters Ilford

7 year old on top of an artificial climbing boulder at Fairlop Waters Country Park

M climb a boulder while Little looks on

The path round Fairlop Waters Has lots to play on for children

Some of the play area for children at Fairlop Waters country park

Me on The Radio!

On Wednesday G’s parents came and took the girls out. I had asked them to help out because I was going to be on the radio! BBC Essex invited me to be interviewed about my blog on their Essex Sounds segment which I'm still excited about. I was looking forward to it beforehand, but I was pretty nervous too so I hadn’t told anyone it was happening. I worried that knowing I had people listening to me would make me more likely to mess up, plus if no one I knew was ding it I could cover it up if I was awful. It went well though. I spoke fairly smoothly and didn’t say anything too strange (I hope). The presenter was really lovely and helped me through the interview. I was buzzing afterwards. 

For the next couple of weeks you can listen to my segment by downloading the BBC Sounds app and finding the "Your Essex" episode from 14th August called "Essex Sounds and The Maplesteads". I'm in the first half hour of the show. I've tried listening to it, but it made me cringe too much.

Me standing awkwardly next to the BBC Essex sign outside the Chelmsford based radio studio

Back to School shopping at Braintree Village (AD)

Thursday we headed to Braintree Village for some back to school shopping. We had been invited to go to the Clarks Outlet store and see what else we could get in Braintree Village to get school ready. In return we were gifted school shoes, a voucher and some food at Bill's Restaurant.

While I have bought most of our school shoes to date from Clarks I don’t think I have ever bought from their outlet stores. I have been in them on numerous occasions (I even used to go to Clarks Village as a child in the early days of it opening), but my memory of the shops is busy and disorganised. This visit changed my perception though.

Of course the last few weeks of August are going to be busy ones for school shoe buying and it can be pretty expensive. The Clarks Outlet shop was ready for this though. They actually have a gazebo outside where you get your children’s feet measured and then they write the size down on a piece of paper. Next you go into the store and look for the right size and get your child to pick the ones they want to try. Unlike a normal Clarks store where you choose your style then ask to find out if they have it in your size, at the outlet store the shoes are all on hangers so you can see exactly what they have in the required size. 

You select your shoes then head to the staff member with a clipboard who takes your name and gives you a ticket. We waited just a couple of minutes for a fitter to be free and in that time we tried on a few of the shoes which ruled out a few of the styles.

Little was easy, she decided what she liked and the fitter confirmed they fitted her well, M was a different story. We ruled out the lace up shoes quickly because she struggled to get them on, the next pair she found uncomfortable and then numerous other pairs she didn’t like the feel of or the expert fitter wasn’t happy with the fit of. 10 or so pairs down the line and she had decided that actually she did like the 3rd pair of shoes she had tried after all. There was a bit of a debate about sizing, but our fitter compromised with the suggestion of some inner soles. And we were sorted. The fitter was patient and kept track of it all, which was great because between Little running off round the shop and Baby Boy crying I was lost.

After Clarks we went for food at Bill’s. The girls were pretty awful and I very nearly forced them to leave without pudding. I even yelled at them in the toilets for their behaviour which included being generally over excited, pushing each other, drawing on the table, climbing around, dropping a glass and making too much noise. The staff in Bill’s however were brilliant and the food was lovely too. I will definitely be going back, maybe with someone else's children though.

We browsed the rest of the shops looking for other school bits. We couldn’t find a warm coat in the right size for M but we did get some trousers for Little in Gap, shirts for M in Marks & Spencer’s and hair bands for the girls in Claire’s Accessories.

Obviously the girls didn’t stop being annoying just because we left the restaurant. Fortunately we had been given a Dinosaur trail sheet at Guest Services so the girls had fun going round the shops to mark all of the pictures for those off on their sheets and then I let them play in the sand pit for a bit while I sat in a deck chair and fed Baby Boy. It's great that they have these activities during the summer holidays to make shopping with children that little bit easier.

All in all it wasn’t my most fun day out, but we did find some great savings (I was particularly impressed with the discounts on the Clarks shoes) and the girls had a fun time which isn’t normal for a shopping trip.

Getting childrens feet measured for school shoes at Clarks Outlet Shop Braintree Village

2 children completing the age of the dinosaur braintree village trail

Children colouring in dream sundae competition forms at Bill's Restaurant

The August 2019 Beach at Braintree Village Outlet Shops Essex

Down Time

I dropped M off at her Dad’s for a week when we were back from Braintree and started a few quieter days. I decided we would stay at home on Friday after a quick trip to the supermarket. G was out for the day watching cricket (and drinking) and the day really dragged with the knowledge that I probably wouldn't get adult company until late.

Miraculously I got both of the younger two to bed without much hassle although I had to resettle Baby Boy a few times. He woke up again though shortly before 11. I fed him as normal but he wasn’t interested in going back to sleep. I asked G to look after him so I could go back to sleep, but G decided it wasn’t safe for him to stay downstairs with Baby Boy so he kept Baby Boy in his cot and he cried. Helpful. I brought Baby Boy into bed where he stopped crying and became happy and wide awake again. G also came to bed and snored next to us while Baby Boy grabbed my nose and crawled around. Baby Boy eventually went to sleep around 1.30am. After more disturbed sleep I woke up on Saturday morning with a migraine which meant I achieved little that day.

On Sunday I was hoping to get a lot of work done, but I mostly did washing, cooking and feeding Baby Boy. G did take the two little ones out on his own for short periods both days which was helpful and a milestone. It was only for 90 minutes or less, but as they were first times Baby Boy had been out without me it feels like the start of something. 

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