HALF-TERM - how did that sneak up so quickly? 

It only felt like a moment ago that I was packing off my youngest in her shiny new shoes and pristine summer dress. She joined her older brother at primary school this September, and although I feel considerably richer not having to pay extortionate nursery fees, it does mean that BOTH of them are off during school holidays. 

Seven weeks have zipped by in a flash and now everything has turned spooky and cold. My daughter's school shoes are ruined - not only scuffed on the toes, but they have also lost the ornamental diamonds and my gosh do they stink. Turns out Mary Jane shoes, which are all the rage and seemingly the only style any school shoe seller wants to sell, are not great for splashing in puddles. 

And, I have a sneaking suspicion that either they have shrunk from all the puddle water, or her feet have also grown, so it's back off to Clarks this half-term holiday (I can see that nursery fee money slipping away again...)

Any parent of more than one child will tell you that having one child is almost non-parenting. When one of them is busy, at a party or some kind of activity and the fluke occurs when there's only one, it's a walk in the park. There's no fighting, no bickering, no hyperactivity - it's a whole lot calmer and quieter. Nobody is competing for attention and it's like they've been bodysnatched and sitting there is the perfect child, full of manners and grace. 

Throw the other into the mix and it's bedlam. Heaven only knows how people with three, or more cope. Hats off to you. 

So here we are, we've arrived at the first holiday with both off and we have started with the Halloween activities. Everywhere you look is spooky, there are fake cobwebs strung up from every doorframe and people have really embraced the season. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Birdworld's pumpkin patch Birdworld's pumpkin patch (Image: Birdworld Farnham)

We spent an excellent day at Birdworld near Farnham for the first day. I've driven past the signs countless times and finally made the trip on Saturday. There's lots to see, and despite the rain, we had a great time. Turns out penguins don't really mind the weather - nor do four-year-olds especially when there are puddles. The attraction has also gone to town on the Halloween decorations and it has installed a pumpkin patch complete with crafts undercover in the barn. The kids enjoyed a thoroughly fun afternoon decorating pumpkins and then looking at birds. 

If that had not worn the kids out enough, on Sunday we visited Warwick Castle. A bit of a drive, but again, there's so much for the kids to do. A playground centred around the Julia Donaldson story Zog and a maze based on Horrible Histories were two of the highlights. As well as the castle itself, there were plenty of shows, including a fantastic birds of prey display. There are witches, ghosts and enough activities and shows to fill more than a day. Everybody was zonked - but happy - in the car home. 

My other half had the kids for day three - a cinema trip to see the latest PawPatrol instalment - while I did some work and then my mum has offered to step into the trenches - she'll be helping to preoccupy them for the last half of the holiday so I can carry on the usually juggling act of seven newspapers, two kids, a partner and some kind of life for myself. 

With an extra adult roped in, it might even mean that me and my other half get to see each other and slip out on a date night. The swanky restaurant is booked, and we might just be able to stay awake long enough and get past all the Halloween decorations to make it through to the reservation...