Go Ape with teenagers

Your children get to a certain age and they pretty much don’t want to do anything with you. Because it’s:
Lame.
Or boring.
Not with their mates.
Or ‘are you joking?’

After years and years of days out together I’m not letting go. I’m that annoying mum who wants to grab and hold on to as many family days out as I possibly can before they head off into that big, wide world.
Sure we still walk the dog together. We’re big fans of the cinema and do that together a lot. But what else? Gone are the days of idyllic picnics at National Trust properties or visits to new parks or aquatic centres.

“Come and try a day out with us” Go Ape said. “Share your experience, let us know what you think.”

Wait a minute. Isn’t Go Ape a bit physical? Am I going to need oxygen at the end of it?
Am I going to regret ever signing up as I lose the feeling in all my fingertips and the skin off both knees?
Well sometimes you’ve just got to go for these things. so we went for it. The kids tried to moan that it was lame and couldn’t we take a friend and whhhhhhyyyy. But I gave them the Death Stare. The thought of actual bodily harm affords you that opportunity.

Turns out there are lots of activities you can take part in, including their famed Tree Top Adventure and Forest Segway. You can even make a day of it while you’re there and hire bikes or go off on a walking adventure (if you’ve got any energy left after!)
We opted for the Tree Top Adventure. Because it has trees in the title and I’m slightly tree obsessed.

So what is it?

Well it’s hell. Only on high so if you’ve got the slightest fear of heights you’ll have palpitations from the get go.
See those ladders up the sides of the tree? You’re harnessed up and sent up into the canopy to fend for yourself, Tarzan style.
Ahead of you are assault courses and swings and things to crawl through and on and over.
You will use muscles you never knew you had, find great wells of bravery, give yourself a good talking to and find yourself swinging through the branches as you descend to the ground once again on a huge zip wire.
That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

So what is it actually?

Well, it’s also the Best Fun Ever.
I mean, I achieved something. I kept up with the teenagers and my kids thought I was cool for achieving it.
All the wins right there.

Here’s how it works

We were walked through a strict briefing on how to use the equipment and the harnesses by one of the lovely assistants and she ‘held our hand’ for the first couple of platforms (actually she was a guardian angle for most of it, something we only discovered when a couple of times a ghostly voice from below shouted up ‘are you sure you want to clip that there Tara?‘!)

Then after a quick practice run at ground level, it’s on to the course.
First up you have to climb up to the platform, half way up a tree – a feat in itself as the ladders require every ounce of core strength to keep you straight! I’m starting to wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew as the kids race up like mice on a rope.

Once on your platform you face a series of ‘challenges’ to get to the other platform half way up another tree opposite you.
But here’s the thing. Once you get going you realise you’re harnessed up to the eyeballs and so you can actually run across that precarious looking plank bridge and if you slip you’ll just be left dangling and you can easily right yourself and get back on that bridge again.
So that’s what we did. We daredeviled our way around the course!

Standing on the top of those platforms is a little daunting but just look at the view. The highest platform is 14 metres and you really do feel like you’re up there in the canopy.
The kids admitted it totally wasn’t lame and I won a couple of parenting brownie points.
And the zip wires back down to ground level are awesome!

We were guests at the Go Ape at Cannock in the West Midlands but there are centres dotted all over the country. Just check they do the activity you’re interested in before visiting. And then you too could take a weird family photo at the end of it like this one *rolls eyes*.

NOTE:

  • I’d recommend you wear something comfortable as those harnesses aren’t fashion items and will be digging into intimate places. You are likely to get really dirty too, unless you can affect a perfect landing on the zip wire which every one of us found impossible.
  • Wear trainers if you can – you will be climbing, balancing, tightrope walking so you need the support and flexibility.
  • The course can take up to 3 hours (we made it round in about 2 trying to keep up with the teens!)
  • The minimum age for the Tree Top Adventure is 10 and the minimum height is 1.4 metres.
  • Parking wasn’t free at our centre so check out beforehand to see if you need to take change.
  • If you are afraid of heights you might want to consider the segways instead!
Posted in Days Out, Family Life, Reviews | Tagged | 7 Comments

9 harsh truths about being the mother of a teenage boy

They seem to go from your cute baby to a lanky thing that’s all limbs and taller than you in a matter of weeks.
It creeps up on you. Blink and you’ll miss it. Before you know it you have a darn teenager on your hands with a deep voice and hairy legs.

Seriously, the summer holidays? Prime growing season.
They come out of their bedroom one morning and you’re suddenly shoulder height and having to look up at them.
It’s quite a shock.
So what do you need to know when you become the mother of a teenage boy?

  1. The smell
    If it’s not teenage boy sweaty smell, its a fog of Lynx you have to fight through just to get in his room.
    You either have one that never washes or one that is in the shower ALL THE TIME. I have the latter and spend all my time moaning about wet towels being left on the floor, so don’t go assuming I’ve got the winning end of the stick here.
  2. The clothes washing
    They put everything in the wash basket even when it’s been worn for 30 seconds. “I sweated lots in it” Really? Did you run a race against Usain Bolt because if you haven’t there’s no way you’ve sweated enough to warrant it going in the wash again. I’ve pulled a freshly balled up pair of socks out of the wash before now because it seems to be easier to dump them in the wash basket than back in the drawer.
  3. Social media
    Listen, I get it. It’s my job, I LOVE social media. However it’s 24-7 it never stops, they never switch off. He struggles to watch the TV exclusively without checking in on what’s happening on line. When you ask them to put. the. damn. phone. down you’re greeted with “one sec”.
    It’s never one sec.
  4. Family time
    We just don’t spend as much time together as I’d like. Granted I want us to do EVERYTHING together and granted I want him to be independent and spread his wings and go out with his own friends too…
    But still, a family walk wouldn’t hurt. WITHOUT the phone.
  5. Food
    There is literally never ever enough food in the house. Ever.
    I cannot believe how much money I spend on fresh food only to have the ‘there’s no food in the house’ whine.
    I swear he inhales food it goes so fast. WHERE does it all go, he’s skinny as anything.
  6. Holding hands is now social suicide
  7. Crap
    You thought plastic toy crap was expensive? Pft, this has gone up another level. I’ve just had to spend £45 on a T-shirt. A T-SHIRT.
  8. Attitude
    I love that he’s feisty and questioning and willing to stand up for himself. BUT if he could just not do that to me that would be great!
  9. Growing Up
    One day they will have to learn how to shave and right there you can see your baby boy slipping away from you! Prepare for it now or it will hit you hard.
Posted in Dan & Mia, Lists | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Our home renovation. The update, the dust, the hair pulling, the dust. Did I mention the dust?

I scoffed when everyone told me our home renovation would mean every corner of our house would be filled with a constant layer of dust and it would send me into a mild rage.
Scoffed.

I’ve hardly blogged here because quite frankly I ignored everyone at my peril and it has  taken over my life.
Sure I’ve photographed the hell out of it all, but other than a few Instagram Stories here and there when I got super excited, I’ve kept away.
Here’s why.

On March 27th we embarked on a major home renovation and like good Scouts preparing for an impending challenge, we puffed out our chests, smiled and just got on with it.
Pft we said. We’ve been through stuff. We camp for goodness sake. We’re hardy.

Turns out we’re not as hardy as we thought.

For a while now we’ve been toying with the idea of moving house because as the kids have grown and changed so have our needs as a family. But we love our house and the environment we live in – so close to schools and friends – so we opted to renovate our home instead.
It started with ‘let’s update the ailing kitchen’. It moved on to ‘Well, if we’re going to do that, let’s replace the crap conservatory with a room’. And soon it was ‘let’s make the downstairs bigger’. ‘Well if we’re extending we may as well extend upstairs too . . . ‘ etc etc.

And so the major home renovation started.

I think the breaking point for me was when my husband declared to friends who were asking how it was all going 14 weeks in “it’s really not as hard as I thought it would be to be honest. In fact it’s been quite easy”.
I have spent weeks trying to keep the house something approaching hygenic, washing the bed sheets constantly so it doesn’t feel like they’re liberally dusted with dust and desperately trying to feed us all healthy ish meals with no cooker and no hob and no space to store anything. My prep table is the ironing board.
He’s either pretending it’s all a walk in the park or he really is THAT stupid.

So, basically the whole of the back of our house was being worked on. That’s the children’s bedrooms, the spare room, the kitchen and the dining room. We’ve pretty much lived in the lounge (although when I came home one day to find the new cooker and tubs of grout piled up in there I nearly lost it) and our bedroom.
For a while the kids had to sleep in a bunkbed in the dining room while their rooms and the spare room were being bricked up/plastered/overhauled.
That’s a teenager and a pre-teen in a bunkbed together. It could have been the stuff of nightmares, but they were ACE.

So the conservatory came down (and we managed to sell it as we’d taken really good care of it and it was in great condition), the patio was decimated, great gaping holes were dug and a new concrete floor went down.
It’s too small, I lamented to the Husband. What have we done? It’s so small.
The builder reassured us all was well.

Then the block work and the bricks started to go up and we could start to visualise what our renovated home would look like.
But the mess. Oh the mess. And they hadn’t even knocked through at this point.

Up up up the bricks went (no, she’s not supposed to be on the scaffolding. Yes I told her many many many times. Yes she thought it was her own personal gymnasium.
Soon they were in the bedrooms, putting the biggest beam you’ve ever seen in your life up there, creating new wardrobes, new space and KNOCKING THROUGH. Argh, the dust. 

Then the builders finished upstairs and we had to ship the kids back up to their rooms, then empty the dining room and the kitchen ready for them to knock through and create a whole new dust hurricane downstairs.
We did it all one Sunday afternoon and it nearly killed us.
Then I lost use of the kitchen and had to decamp to the pantry. Thank goodness for my big pantry. I used the ironing board as my work top!

It’s been a long, a really hard slog but I can finally I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I can see my beautiful kitchen taking shape (it’s wonderful and I feel like all my Christmases have come at once) and the concrete slab wasn’t too small after all!
The garden is still a builder’s yard and the new cooker is currently in my living room but apart from that we’re nearly there.
And I can’t wait to share it with you!

Our first meal in the new kitchen; got to be fish, chips and a curry sauce 🙂

Posted in Family Life | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments