Tag Archives: Children

The Grizzly Death of the Frozen Mouse

When you have children, it is nothing, if not informative!

Joshua, our eldest, is 11 and animal mad. He had been begging us for ages to allow him to get a reptile of some sort and while happy to do this, the initial expense of setting up was deferred to a birthday / Christmas present. This also gave him the opportunity to firm up on a decision as to what he actually wanted to get.

Having been through chameleons and geckos, and a variety of other scaly, legged creatures he eventually decided on a snake of some sort and after a lot of research which we insisted that he did, he settled on a corn snake as they are quite ‘sociable’ animals and have quite a lot of character – apparently πŸ˜‰

As luck would have it, there is a reptile centre no more than 5 miles or so away, so before Christmas we visited and obtained all the kit he needed, so that he could set it up for his birthday, which he duly did, taking much care over the positioning of the lamp, substrate and log which we hoped would provide his new friend with a nice environment in which to live. After we came back from holiday we went back to the shop and he came out as the proud owner of lilac corn snake.

They are definitely animals full of character as the assistant in the shop informed us; Joshua’s snake, Casian (kay-sian), is more than happy to be held and when it gets bigger will drape itself across your shoulders, should you give it the chance of course. Whenever it is brought out it is interested and sniffs the air constantly to build up a picture of its surroundings and despite only having been with us for less than a month, has already amazed us with its skin shedding and the piΓ¨ce_de_rΓ©sistance, eating a (previously) frozen mouse which seems unimaginably bigger than itself.

We have all heard stories of giant snakes in Africa swallowing buck, crocodiles and the occasional unlucky stray native villager, but to actually see this small juvenile snake devouring a mouse twice the thickness of its own body is a sight to behold.

Maybe next time I’ll try to get a video for YouTube πŸ™‚

Babysitter Required

Liz had been away to South Africa to help her mum since Wednesday evening and I had been attempting to balance looking after the children, working, looking after the house and running at the same time. Not easy and more often than not something had to give.

I didn’t run Thursday as the electrician had been round for most of the day doing electrical tests on our house – there were a number of issues, mainly (he said) with the work done by previous electricians. It’s amazing how workmen always blame the previous electrician / plumber / fitter, etc. when they come up against issues.

Savannah on Ice
Savannah on Ice

Anyway, after getting the children through Thursday evening without too much difficulty it was on to Friday and with the school run over I worked for the morning, then popped out for a cheeky 10 miles during lunchtime while the children were at school in order to loosen up and in fact had a really good pace run along the trails, although admittedly this was without a backpack. My reckoning is that a mere 6kg will impact your pace times over longer distances by 25-30% because of the change in gait, balance and the increased effort to keep yourself moving forwards (although that is strange since the extra weight should give more momentum, so I’ll probably have to investigate that theory a little further)

So, Friday came and went and Saturday was a non-running blur of children’s meals and taxiing to their various different activities and by the end of the day, I probably couldn’t have run anywhere anyway!

On Sunday, it was a different matter though. Tim, Liz’s brother, had very kindly offered to come round to babysit while I had a long run; and even more kindly had agreed I could make arrangements to run at my normal time, so I had made plans with John to meet 7:15.

Luke on Ice
Luke on Ice

I quietly got ready from about 5:30 but typically all the children were awake by 6am, so by the time Tim arrived at 6:15 even though I told them to go back to bed for a bit, I realised it was to no avail and I left him shortly after, having the basics of Skylanders explained to him by Joshua and I’ve no doubt was shortly followed by the rest of the crowd.

Another dark start, but not as foggy as last week, so the route up to and along Pewley Down was quite enjoyable as I made my way up to Newland’s corner in the dark as usual, but then immediately turned down to John’s.

For a change, we ran around Jacob’s Well, Sutton Green and Worplesdon but in the reverse of the way that we normally approach it. It was quite interesting when you see a route you know so well and yet merely by changing the direction you get to see a totally different perspective! On the other hand I think we are creatures of habit and although I occasionally find myself trying different paths, roads, lanes and spurs, in general it is comforting to know how far you have been and more importantly how far you have left to go just by the familiarity of the routes you use.

I got back after just under 19 miles, about 9 of which was with John, and all had gone well at home. The little ones were just starting to get lively but they had waited for breakfast, which we duly attended to and then Tim took the opportunity to give the children some belated Christmas presents. Β Thanks Tim.

In the afternoon I took the children to ice skating which I had promised them and then we all went down the pub for supper.

Liz is back tomorrow πŸ˜€

The First Steps

All of a sudden, it seems that there have been a lot more things to do than blog, so I’ve not really had the chance to record my daily musings on various subjects. So here’s a bit of a round up from the last couple of weeks.

I finally got around to doing my schedule, fitting together a keenly carved plan to allow me rest every third week, while ramping up my mileage no more than 5% per week. This also takes into account a couple of races I have planned as ‘test’ runs – mainly to get myself ready for the rigours of the MdS as I don’t really want to be finding out new things about race preparation in the middle of the Sahara! More about the schedule later.

Talking about entering races, the Centurion Running guys had another crack at the whip as they had promised, after the technical problems they’d had with their web registration, due to the popularity of their planned 2013 SDW100 along the South Downs. The race in mid-June goes from Winchester to Eastbourne, passing only a few miles south of Guildford so should be ideal for me. This time (2nd Oct) everything hung together on the website and I, and nearly 150 others, registered in the first hour. The race was sold out by the end of the week. I am looking forward to doing this as it should be a treat, similar to the Cotswolds race I competed in, what seems many years ago now!

Last week, the EBRD IT dept had our team retreat. In the past this has been a rather more social event than was planned for this time, primarily due to senior management changes, but on Thursday I duly made my way across to Frimley, only about 20 minutes drive, to meet up with a good proportion of the team. Being a ‘service’ dept for the Bank, it is always impossible for attendance to be 100%, but I couldn’t help feeling that the threat of ‘work oriented, strategic discussions’ was perhaps too much for some people to bear the thought! In the end it was actually quite a good session, as a team meeting, with the usual brief focus on self-analysis (Briggs-Myers type casting for conflict resolution!) before we got onto the future focussed strategic discussion.

St Peter’s, Guildford

Unfortunately, although the social side started at 5:30 after the day’s work, i had to leave as there was an open evening at one of the local schools which we are looking at for Joshua. Over the last couple of weeks we have been to two other senior schools, and this was to be the last for the moment, but the most important as this is the Christian school and hence has the right ethos that we are keen on for Joshua. Luckily he was also keen on it as well from the point of view of the size and subjects and facilities they offer.

This was all after really not feeling 100% as well. No sympathy needed, but I had spent e previous day pretty much in a preemptive attempt to stop a cold developing, which seemed to be successful up to the point that I had a relapse on Friday where it transmuted to full blown man-flu! My gorgeous wife looked after me on both days, while I snuffled in bed, to such an extent that I felt 80% and well enough to go for a long run on Sunday.

But more of that shortly.

Popular Session

Back to work after a wet Sunday indoors.

After returning from the wedding we had a lot more chores to do and the day seemed to slip away quite quickly. I found a problem with my iTunes music store as well, so had so spend a little time doing this in the late hours of the evening.

The weather had not improved much by the morning, although I had managed to find my lightweight waterproof jacket to pop in my bag, which came in handy for the 10 minute walk from Bank station first thing. I’m sure this will come in handy over the next few months as the winter approaches πŸ™

Pilates on a Monday with Mila, is turning into an extremely popular session. So much so that there was barely enough room to stand on your toes and roll down (vertebrae by vertebrae) let alone to stretch sideways, or lay down for the 100’s. It was actually a good session though. Perhaps because in the restricted space, Mila had to improvise the normal routine which gave it a bit of variety from normal. Moves are afoot to add in an extra session from 2:00-3:00 as a trial for the next month at the Virgin Active in Broadgate, although I seriously doubt this is going to be convenient for the majority and it will therefore not be used.

Hamstring

The afternoon went quickly as I normally fill my Monday’s with project status discussions and 1-2-1s with my team and today was no different, now we are back in September and out of the holiday absentee silly season.

Physio was the next order of the day, and after my visit to Mr Elliot last week, it was time to see Stuart for a checkup and test. Everything turned out to be pretty normal, although my left hamstring seems to be stronger, proportionally, than my left quad, which he thinks is what is causing the issue in my ‘butt’ area (my sit bone) He has given me some preventative exercises for this and given me the go ahead to increase mileage again as well as his blessing for the Marathon des Sables!

Then I found that LIz was waiting outside for me, as arranged. She was off to a special talk at church on Mary’s house in Turkey, and I have changed my swimming time to 40 minutes earlier – ordinarily more convenient to actually have a bit of an evening and not get home and have supper at 10:00pm – but today it meant I was taking the children with me to ‘babysit’ from the water’s edge (with me IN the pool that is!) Although sunset is around 7:00pm at the moment, they were keen to play outside in the playground as I was swimming, and so long as I continued to hear the shrieks of delight as they chased each other (ghost games!) I surmised that all was more or less well.

A good session and we were on our way home. To an empty house 😯

St Nicolas’ where Liz had gone is very high church and they were praying at the end, hail marys, etc. although they are not Catholic (I was a bit confused about that) and had apparently locked all the doors, so she was a captive until they had finished. Eventually she managed to find her way out though, and of course we assume the doors were closed to keep people out at that time of night, rather that keep the audience in.

What a day!

Meeting Old friends

We had a busy day planned this Saturday, but were having a bit of a treat as well.

With all the normal chores, swimming, etc, we were off to see some colleagues at the wedding of a friend I used to work with a Vodafone in Newbury. Neil and Nic had been together for about 6 years and had finally decided to tie the knot. We didn’t really know Nic that well as I had left VF before they had met, but Neil was one of my peers in the team I first joined at the massive telecoms company some 16 years ago.

That was for later though.

First, we had decided to have a breakfast out, at a small cafΓ© that had awarded Luke a ‘cake and coffee’ as an award for good work towards the end of last term. (And before anyone reports us to the Child Protection Agency, it wasn’t actually coffee, more like hot milk with a sprinkling of chocolate powder on top to look like a cappuccino!). After a while looking at the weird and wonderful food on offer (what? No cornflakes?) they found some plain croissants and pain au chocolat to keep them occupied, while my pig-witch (bacon sandwich) was being cooked – so much for being vegetarian πŸ™‚

On the way down the hill after the aforementioned chores, we stopped for a while to watch a street magician, who involved and entertained the children for a good 15 minutes. We would have stayed longer but it was already 12:00 and we needed to get the children to swimming and have lunch, and pack, etc., before leaving at an optimistic 3:00pm! He was very entertaining though, not so much because of his magic skills, which were very clever, but basic, but more because of the instant rapport he built with the ever growing crowd and the speed with which his wit was delivered on many levels, for both the adults and the children.

Luke and Morgan helped him out on a particular trick at the end he made a balloon dog, after Morgan had suggested a spider, but the way he handled it was highly amusing. We gave him a donation for his entertainment and then were on our way.

Luke had not swum since we were in America, and was a little apprehensive when we got to the pool but Zelda, as always, put him at ease and they are both now getting on very well.

We threw some clothes together after I got back, and Liz was still baking bread and banana loaf for the neighbours for the evening. It was Johannan’s Birthday party and Benji and Cecilia had kindly offered to look after our four with a sleepover, in addition to the bowling outing they had arranged at The Guildford Spectrum for their son. They had started to make tracks over to the bowling on scooters as even they did not have an MPV big enough for 8 children! They apparently all had a great time anyway, so we owe them one!

The journey to the Sevenoaks area was simple, a quick jaunt round the south side of the M25 and the hotel was also easy enough to find, so me had a couple of hours to relax before getting ready and took full advantage of the pool and jacuzzi, although I would not have been surprised if the latter also doubled as a test bed for spare parts for the fountains at the Bellagio, given the ferocity with which the water jets were emerging from the surface.

After we had got ourselves ready in unusually smart, yet casual, clothes, we were on our way to the venue through a very cool evening (it is the end of September, after all). We met up with Neil and Nic, who had had a great day, along with Martin and Jo, Trevor and Chris and Bryan and Elaine. Although there are many ‘networks’ with which you can (and we do) keep in touch with people (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc) it is still great to meet up with people you have not seen for such a long time to catch up. Neil and Nic had very thoughtfully put a ‘Candy Cart’ together, and gave us instructions to take what we wanted for the children – which we did, and they were very excited about this the next day!

Marwell Zoo visit

A couple of weeks ago we had ventured to Legoland for Morgan’s Birthday ‘party’. Today it was Joshua’s turn and he had chosen to take a couple of friends to Marwell zoo for the day.

Snow Leopards

Given the recent record of wet weather, we had pretty low expectations for having a dry day walking around an open zoo environment, but in the end we were pleasantly surprised. BTW, the water companies have finally lifted the ‘hosepipe ban’ which they brought in after three years of mild winters. Apparently, we have had enough rain in the last three months to make up for that!

So another early start was on the cards to pick up Jack and Leo, and then wend our way south west towards Winchester. On the way we went through the new tunnel that has been built through the Devil’s punch bowl to bypass the notorious traffic-jam spot at Hindhead, which was quite exciting for all of us – yes, Liz and I really need to get out more πŸ™‚ We soon found our way though the back country roads to Owlesbury, where Marwell is located.

They have a good selection of animals in relatively happy environments at Marwell and first on the route round the park were the penguins (one of whom had a jacket on?!?), many variety of antelope which was teasingly opposite the cheetah enclosure, before we listened to a quick talk at the giraffe house

The children were very excited and were rushing around from one fence to the next straining their little necks to see what was hiding around this clump of bushes and behind that tuft of long grass, and they were over the moon when they actually spotted something more than a sparrow. At around midday we listened to another talk at the meerkat mounds and then stopped for lunch at a very muddy playground on the site.

Things were too exciting to waste time eating though and they very quickly wolfed their food and were back on the swings!

We did bugs and bats, leopards and lemurs for the next couple of hours after our break and then with some very tired children made our way back home.

We stopped off at Pizza Express in Alresford on the way home, where they continued to run and play around outside for every free second, before, in between and after each of the courses and it was then that we realised it wasn’t the children that were tired πŸ™‚

The Wild Place

Today was another mixed day, mainly because I only worked half a day, then had the afternoon off to spend a couple of hours with Savannah at school.

American independence day had for some weeks had a greater significance for me, and my team at work, as a long planned internal governance committee meeting was planned to decide upon the priority of my larger projects for the rest of the year. Having provided all of the input I could feasibly achieve over the last few weeks, there was little point in me being around for the actual event (the discussion was not taking place at the level of mere mortals like me) so I did not feel guilty about taking the afternoon off with Savannah.

Indeed, it was probably the best distraction I could have arranged!

The original arrangement for the afternoon was to take the reception class to a site they refer to as ‘The Wild Place’ which perhaps conjures up images of overgrown forests and hard to reach coastal caves, but in reality it is a wooded area off the edge of some local allotments on the top of Pewley Down, close to the school. For 4-6 year old minds it is ‘wild’ and exciting though, being out of the classroom, and the teachers regularly have an excursion for them to explore nature, find bugs and generally let off some steam. Perfect πŸ™‚

Unfortunately, the place was closed due to a fallen tree, or something (I wonder if anyone saw that) so today’s energy expenditure involved a trek to the senior school, Holy Trinity, where they have a similar, but smaller, nature trail to explore.

I was paired up with Savannah, her friend Tew, and four other reception children who seemed to sense my apprehension, as the small impromptu groups were pointed off in various directions.

I’ve never seen children disappear so quickly 😯 and my attempts to corral my small group back into some semblance of unity was largely superfluous. Eventually, I calmed down a bit only to find them trying to descend the steepest, muddiest corner of the trail down to the skull cracking Tarmac below; my attempts to convince them of the virtues of the gentler slope to the side which “makes it a lot easier to get down” seemed destined to fall on deaf ears.

Once down to the Tarmac safely, they spotted the long jump sand pit (okay, we must be slightly off the nature trail by now) and of course this was one temptation too many. They all had a few goes at imitating Bob Beaman after I realised the sandpit had not become an impromptu quagmire after all the recent rain and then, my nightmare continued as they spotted the dipping pond!

I am quite familiar with our four children dipping into ponds and rock pools. In fact they will dip in any patch of water more than a feeler gauge in depth, but their curiosity is generally confined to the ecosystem of life forms contained within said volumes of water. I had not, however, really considered the approach other, shall we say, less naturalistically inclined children might take to a pond full of water. While half my group were interested to spot the water-boatmen, tadpoles and a few other types of water-nymphs, the other half decided to explore Archimedes’ Principle with a few badly positioned logs and tree stumps, while making waves on the surface which would have excited tsunami chasers from all around world, had they been present at the opportune moment. Still, no one fell in πŸ™‚

Finally, after a couple of pit-stops, we ended up at a play area; even this seemed a potential disaster scenario to me though, since we were at the senior school and the bars and climbing wall were, understandably, designed for children with a slightly longer reach, and slightly stronger fingers, arms and legs in general. Even a couple of the teachers had to keep reminding them they were not allowed to play on one particularly high climbing frame – so of course, you can imagine what they all wanted to play on.

The call to muster and start our return journey was a welcome relief after the stress of the last 90 minutes and I now have a newfound respect for junior school teachers πŸ™‚

Father’s Day

Father’s day today, but no let up with the training – albeit still cross-training at the moment.

I was not up too early this morning as the alarm was set for just before 6:30am, but it was a bright and light morning, so it was difficult not to get up anyway! This is about the time that the children get up (at the weekends) so they were already downstairs playing by the time I’d got all my bike clobber together and was ready to get out the door. I was better prepared this week, as we’d bought some gels while we were out yesterday and my supply of isotonic drink seems to be lasting forever (I bought that back in July 2010!)

I wanted to get a few extra miles in today, so had a plan to augment the beginning and end of my route from last week. This is easy to do, but mean that I am heading (ultimately) for a two circuit route around the hills of Guildford. I’ll have to think about that as I’m not that keen on loops. In the end it was easy enough to get 10k in at the start and a similar amount at the end, with another couple of hills for good measure as well, without too much difficulty.

I have noticed that a couple of the roads that I run and cycle on have yellow sign boards up, indicating they are to be closed at the end of July. Upon investigation, it turns out that they are to be used for the Olympic Cycle route. That should be quite exciting – since 100 mile ultramarathons are not yet an Olympic sport; maybe I should start a petition πŸ™‚ so I’ll have to see if there is a good place to watch from which is going to be accessible!

Still, back to reality and my 47 miles were done, but more to the point the uphills are great strengthening exercises for my quads and knee stability, which should hold me in good stead in a couple of months time. The distance and time was more than sufficient for me to feel I had earned my ‘Goodness Shakes’ today as well, which didn’t last long when I reached home.

The family returned home from church shortly after I had sorted out my ‘breakfast’ and showered.

We did another couple of additions to the you tube gallery before lunch, which Liz very kindly made for me for Father’s day; a traditional roast chicken with all the trimmings πŸ˜‰

These videos are a little bit more like something they used to do in ‘Vision On’ or ‘Take Hart’ for those of you that remember children’s television from the seventies, and there is not a Lego character in sight. The beauty of this type of thing is that they have as much fun making them as they do watching them again afterwards, with shouts of ‘Mummy, always watch me’ and shrieks of delight as they see what effect their movements had in the finished product.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voGHQVCJnpI&feature=youtube_gdata_player

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR5wI0ROsBM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

The Court Movie Studio

There’s an App for that πŸ˜‰

I have tinkered with animation, as I suspect most people have in one way or another – flicking pages in the corner of a book, stop motion and even CGI ray tracing animations in the past, mainly just to experiment with the art form, not for any commercial or role based reasons – just for fun.

We did a time-lapse movie of the children a couple of years ago which was fun, but not entirely satisfactory from a ‘control’ point of view, so today I found an App for my iPhone and iPad which makes Stop-Motion animation so simple it is unbelievable, and they have therefore been having fun bringing their Lego characters to life all day.

So, without further ado, here are the results of our first day’s filming.

Morgan concentrated on a couple of figures ‘interacting’.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mk9fcy8lKhU&feature=plcp

The Joshua made his AT-AT skate across the table like Bambi on ice!

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCezDlowfXo&feature=plcp

Morgan’s Second attempt involved more character work – watch out for the yawn, the sigh of relief and the aggressive behaviour πŸ™‚

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tiAOP4Cw7c&feature=plcp

Luke did a very quick test

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQtrHeHudxI&feature=plcp

before getting involved with Morgan and Joshua on a couple of scenes

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRSQzEs8kdk&feature=plcp

Β And the finale….

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ounnZQ6dzCE&feature=plcp

Great fun was had by all and it is amazing how long they can be occupied when given constructive tasks like this to do! They spent hours planning, building and filming today. Lego is our saviour πŸ™‚

Quiet Week

It has been a quiet week (hence the blogging silence), mainly because I had a lot of projects paperwork, specifically project budget analysis for our governance committee.

Bentley Copse

Still, Morgan is home from a field trip this evening, and it is the weekend.

He has been out on a school trip for the last few days, where they have camped and done activities at a place called Bentley Copse, which is a local scout camp. I’m sure he will write it up in his blog in the near future.

We have no plans for the weekend either, as we are waiting to hear what will happen with our house chain, as it collapsed earlier in the week. Our buyer’s buyer dropped out a few days ago and so now we have to sit tight and see if she can find another buyer (or if we can). It is a frustrating business, but there is nothing we can do about it as it is largely out of our control, so I generally feel there is little point in worrying about it too much.

That doesn’t stop it being frustrating though.