Play centres; the good, the bad and the ugly

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Sarah enjoying herself in a local playcentre recently

Play Centres. I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are great for a rainy day when cabin fever strikes and outdoors isn’t an option. They are also a great place to meet fellow parents for a catch up because the adults can have a sit down, a chat and a coffee, while the little ones head off for a play.

However, so many of them leave a lot to be desired. Not all are overly clean, some aren’t even that practical, while the food and beverages served in some, well, is just downright vile.

I’ve been to play centres in Meath, Galway, Dublin and Kildare and all have their own merits.

In Kildare we’ve visited Joey’s, The Fun Factory and Jungle Den in Naas, we’ve been to Tricky Tricksters in Tougher’s Business Park and we’ve been to Playzone in Celbridge. Other establishments we’ve been to close by include Energy in Rathcoole and the Playhouse Cafe, which is in Lucan Sarsfields GAA Club but can’t really be classed as a playcentre.

So, what’s the lowdown, what are the good, the bad and the ugly? Well I’m not in the habit of simply having a go for the sake of it so I’m not going to target any of them individually because at the end of the day they all have good and bad points.

I’m going to start with the good. Top of the Kildare pile, by a mile, is Playzone in Celbridge. I’ve only been once but the place made a lasting impression. My friend Laura, who is mammy to the gorgeous Matthew, lives in Swords so we picked Celbridge as a halfway meeting point. Aside from the fact that there’s toddler events every morning and it’s spotless, Playzone has a lovely cafe and when they say they offer a healthy option for children’s meals, they do. Also their baby soft play area is the best around. Under twos aren’t allowed in, which is the case in a lot of places but the difference here is, they have a proper gate on it that, for the most part, can only be opened by adults.

One of my bugbears with other places is, there are always older and more boisterous kids in the baby area and it’s impossible to relax for fear of Sarah getting hurt. I really wish the staff in these places would enforce this rule because I always feel bad ordering older kids out. They are not mine to discipline at the end of the day.

Getting back to the food served in play centres. There’s a real divide here. Some are okay, some are downright disgusting and some are brilliant. I visited one play centre in Naas for the first time last week, and while the place itself was brilliant for playing, the food was horrendous. I ordered a panini and chips, Aidan had sausages and chips, while Sarah had lasagne and holy cow, the amount of grease on the food had to be seen to be believed. These days all Aidan eats is sausages and chips and even he turned up his nose at this fare.

There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting back with a cup of coffee or tea that has been served to you and while some of the local play centres serve up lovely hot beverages, others serve muck. And do you know what annoys the hell out of me? Maybe it’s commonplace but in one local play centre I ordered a herbal tea and they whipped out a packet of green tea bags from Aldi and brewed it up. Now there’s nothing at all wrong with the herbal tea range from Aldi but what is wrong is charging €1.50 for a cup of herbal tea when you could probably buy two whole packs of tea-bags for that price in Aldi.

Now that Sarah is over one, she’s actually knocking a bit of craic out of the soft play areas but when she was younger I loved going to centres that had baby bouncers and sit-in activity centres. Most are fine in this regard but there’s one place that offered dirty, ancient and ripped bouncers and activity centres. Is it too much to ask to keep them clean and replace them when they get a bit battered? Surely not.

It’s not all bad though. Joey’s in Naas is great as it’s much smaller than other places, meaning you can sit down with your coffee and still see the kids at all times. which is a great idea. As I mentioned Playzone, is just super, while most of them have toddler activities such as arts and crafts and music classes mid-week.

But to the not so great ones, please, please sort out the food situation, clean up your act, police the baby areas because I bet if you did you’d have even more heads through your doors.

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Operation playroom …..

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I love the Hemnes Daybed from IKEA. Washing basket optional!

A couple of weeks ago myself and Daddy Chambers decided to turn our spare room in to a playroom. The dining room was completely over loaded with toys and with Christmas imminent, it was only going to get worse.

Not wanting to be without a bed for guests we offloaded the double bed from the room and invested in a Hemnes Daybed from IKEA. I’m in love with it. It’s essentially a couch for the kids on a day-to-day basis but is also a single bed and pulls out in to a really comfortable king size bed.

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We also invested in a TV for the room and transferred our Apple TV in to the playroom so Aidan has access to all his favourite cartoons. We got a great Black Friday bargain on the TV; just €99.99 for a 32 inch flatscreen from Carphone Warehouse.

We’re almost finished it and already my pair, particularly Aidan, loves it. I need to pick up some of those foam floor mats to ease the pain of wobbles and falls. The ones in Smyth’s are quite small, does anyone know where I can get bigger ones without having to buy multiple packs?

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With an indoor trampoline, a dollhouse, a push-along train and God knows what else, on the Santa list, I think this ‘new’ room just might save my sanity!

x

R

 

I’m not keeping up with the Joneses

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No perfection in our house!

I’m a tad obsessed with social media. I use Twitter mostly for sports news, following sports writers and sports people, while I use Facebook on a more personal level. In the last two years I’ve started to get to grips with Instagram, an online mobile photo sharing site for those of you not familiar with it.  Continue reading

Toddlers and shopping don’t mix!

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Aidan in Navan Shopping Centre ‘using’ the internet point despite instructions not to!

When Daddy Chambers headed off to Westport for his friend’s stag party recently, I decided to take Aidan and Sarah to Navan to visit their granny O’Brien.

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Update: I’m getting Fit with Brid

Sarah with her wings on, dressed up as a fairy princess for Halloween and Daddy Chambers as mammy and Aidan went trick or treating and returned home with way too much junk.

Sarah with her wings on, dressed up as a fairy princess for Halloween and Daddy Chambers as mammy and Aidan went trick or treating and returned home with way too much junk.

A few weeks back I wrote about ‘Operation Lose the Spare Tyre’ and how I embarked on a journey to lose my baby weight. Except it wasn’t baby weight; it was I ate all the pies and subsequently sat on my arse weight! Well, as I write I am currently eight weeks into that journey so I said I’d update you all on how I’m getting on.  Continue reading

There’s another woman in our lives ….

Sarah about to head to the other woman's house for the very first time with her body guard!

Sarah about to head to the other woman’s house for the very first time with her body guard!

There’s another woman in our lives. She’s been a permanent fixture for almost two years now. My man goes to her house regularly. His sister knows her well too. Indeed he loves nothing more than to call to her house.

Before you all go lambasting Daddy Chambers, I am in fact talking about my little man and his other woman. I’m talking about Aidan and Sarah’s second mammy; their childminder, and a woman I quite simply couldn’t do without.

I’m not great at saying my feelings out loud sometimes but if I was I’d tell the other woman just how much she means to all us Chambers’.

As my maternity leave with Aidan neared an end I had to go in search of someone to look after him. Creches weren’t on my agenda so I went looking for a childminder and dreaded the thoughts of it. I met with two ladies; the first a perfectly lovely woman and then I came face-to-face with the ‘one’. I instantly knew she was the woman who would look after my precious first born. The freshly brewed coffee and homemade scones on her kitchen table sealed the deal! I was so relieved that my search wasn’t labourious.

Aidan has been with the other woman ever since and in June of this year she took Sarah under her wing. As a ten-month-old, my youngest isn’t quite proficient in verbal communication but each mid-week morning when the other woman opens her door Sarah outstretches her arms and almost leaps out of mine to get to her..

Aidan, on the other hand, is well able to talk. There are no mistaking his feelings for the other woman. He adores her. Luckily I’m not the sensitive sort because most evenings when I collect him he bawls his eyes out when he has to leave the other woman’s house. At weekends he frequently looks to go and visit her and cries if we pass by her neck of the woods without stopping.

The other woman is their second mammy. She doesn’t just mind Aidan and Sarah, she treats them like one of her own. And speaking of her own, her children have embraced my two like siblings.

In two years I don’t recall ever getting one phone call from her while at work. There’s never any drama. She’s cool and calm, which is no mean feat when you have Aidan to look after! She’s a natural. She juggles her own children, mine and others at times with remarkable ease. I’m literally dumbfounded by it sometimes. Nothing seems to be an issue.

One evening recently when I collected Aidan and Sarah she mentioned she had been out to do her weekly grocery shop earlier in the day. No big deal you might think. But she did it with six children in tow. Superwoman is actually alive and well in Newbridge! The thoughts of that has me breaking out in a cold sweat! At a push I bring one of mine to the supermarket!

When the weather is fine I hear Aidan out in her back garden playing when I pull up to collect them and he always seems to be roaring his head off laughing. I suppose that’s the bottom line; he’s so so happy there and I’m so happy he’s there.

The cost of childcare in Ireland is a hot topic and yes it’s is mega expensive but I personally won’t be searching for the lowest bidder.

So to you other woman, we are so amazingly thankful to have you in our lives. If Carlsberg did childminders …… well you know the rest!

Now, moving on and changing tack, last week I wrote about ‘operation lose the spare tyre’ and about how I’ve embarked on a twelve week fitness and healthy eating course with mammy fitness expert Brid McGill from Fit With Brid. Well, I’m pleased to say I’m still on course and I’m still managing to find time for my 40 minutes of exercise five days a week. I usually do it after the kids go to bed but last Saturday I attempted to do it while they were up so I could have an evening off to relax. Eh bad move!

Sarah, from the comfort of her highchair, thought I was hilarious as I buck leaped about the place in front of her. The other fella though wouldn’t give me a minutes peace. I finally gave up when he hopped on my back as I was mid-plank. Those bloody things are hard enough without adding a two-year-old in to the mix!

I’m never drinking again!

No rest for the wicked! Daddy Chambers in full daddy mode despite his crippling hangover.

No rest for the wicked! Daddy Chambers in full daddy mode despite his crippling hangover.

BC (before children) I loved a good night out. A few drinks at home before heading to the pub was a weekend ritual. I’d even go in search of a party after whatever establishment I was in called time.

When I got pregnant with Aidan in the Autumn of 2012 the weekly ritual ground to a halt. My tolerance levels for drunk people when I’m sober is non existent.

Three years on and nights out for myself and Daddy Chambers are as rare as a good Irish summer. However, when a neighbour asked us to join them for a Saturday night out recently, we jumped at the chance.

Another neighbour kindly offered to babysit Aidan and Sarah and gave us strict instructions to enjoy ourselves and not return before 2am. I’m not usually one to do as I’m told but on this occasion I followed said instructions, I won’t say to the letter because I’m not sure what time it was when I turned the key in the front door on my return!

At 7pm both Aidan and Sarah were tucked up for the night so myself and Daddy Chambers opened a bottle of wine. Two hours later our taxi arrived, we bid the babysitter au revoir and made our way to join the neighbours in the local public house.

After a couple of hours we moved on to another establishment. The rest of the night, if I’m honest, is a bit of a blur.

At least Daddy Chambers had a bit of sense and left early-ish to relieve the babysitter of her duties but sense was never my strong point. When we started a sing-song in the corner of the pub I think we tipped the barman over the edge and we found ourselves heading home pretty soon after. Except I didn’t go home. No, I thought it was a fine idea to head into the neighbour’s house for another beverage or two.

I eventually stumbled in to bed at crazy o’clock and conked it but not for very long. At 6am Aidan was out of the bed and calling for us. Daddy Chambers very kindly arose first to tend to him. An hour or so later I was abruptly woken by a toddler jumping on my head and screaming ‘good morning mammy’ in my face. This is one huge disadvantage of living in a bungalow. I envy you folks who can close the stair gate and get a lie in upstairs, oblivious to the chaos that goes on underneath you!

At that point there was no going back. When Daddy Chambers arrived in I could clearly see he was under the weather so he went back to bed when I took over.

First up there was a dirty nappy (the younger one) to contend with; not pretty at the best of times but 100 times worse with a hangover. Back in the sitting room I decided to stick on the telly in the hope it would keep Aidan entertained as I curled up in the fetal position on the sofa. I was wrong. No, he wanted to play ‘horsey’, a game where he climbs up on my back and I trot him round the house and make horse sounds. After that I had to don a toy hard hat and pretend I was on a building site, fake hammer and all, and fix things. You name it and I fixed it! I fixed the sofa, I fixed the curtains, I even fixed a pair of socks he had pulled out of the chest of drawers in his room.

When Daddy Chambers finally arose I suggested we go to a local play centre in the hope that Aidan would head off, make some little buddies and be entertained, without our help, for a couple of hours.

In fairness that’s exactly what happened but we didn’t think the plan through. The play centre was wedged, packed full of birthday parties and what with it raining outside it seemed like every child in Kildare was in the bloody place. The noise of screaming kids did nothing to help the hangover and the over twos who were illegally playing in the under twos soft play area did my head in as I attempted to shield Sarah from their over zealous antics.

When our hour and a half time slot was up Aidan had to be dragged literally kicking and screaming from the place, while the chase after him round the car park outside was soul destroying.

On the plus side though bedtime was nearing. My stomach churned as I set about making them dinner but thankfully they both ate it without incident and two hours later it was time to put them in their pajamas and load them into bed after what seemed like two days rolled into one. Lunches for the following day were then thrown together, bottles made up and finally it was time for myself and Daddy Chambers to retire.

“I’m never drinking again,” I muttered to myself as I made my way down the hall. Or at least I need to realise that I can’t go out and skull drink the way I did BC. I’m supposed to be a responsible adult, on paper I tick all the boxes anyway. I have a mortgage, two kids, a family car and a pension but on Saturday night I foolishly returned to my youth and paid a heavy price for it the day after!

So if anyone happens to see me out in the future and reckon I’ve had one too many please point me in the direction of home or at least come and mind the kids the next day! if you’re interested in the latter you can contact me to arrange collection!