Tots 100 Blog Camp

Saturday 25th April saw around one hundred bloggers gather at The Studio in Birmingham for the Tots 100 Blog Camp. Blog Camp is a free blogging conference – a chance to meet up and socialise with other bloggers, with plenty of workshops and talks to help up your game. The event was sponsored by Cow and Gate.

Blog Camp is the first blogging conference I’ve ever been to. I booked the tickets back in February, and although I have been incredibly excited, I’ve also been really nervous. I’m not too good with massive groups of people, and compared to many, I’m a relative newbie in the blogging world.

I needn’t have worried. I arranged to meet with Zara from Mojo Blogs, who I’ve met before, and Sharon from Teen Tween Toddler, who I’ve been virtual friends with for ages. Knowing I’d be going with some familiar faces put me at ease. We arranged to meet in Costa at New Street Station with a couple of others -, Nikki from Keeping Strong and Moving Forward, Kirsty from Miss Pork Pie and Michaela from Two Little Paines. I jumped on the bus at 8.45am – the benefits of living so close to Birmingham City Centre, and by 9.15am was drinking a latte with Zara. One by one, the group got bigger, and off we set to The Studio.

I did brush my hair before leaving the house - honest!
I did brush my hair before leaving the house – honest!

We grabbed our badges, a coffee and a pastry and plonked ourselves down at a table. We were surrounded by all the usual blogger paraphernalia – notebooks, pens, cameras and the all important mobile phones for tweeting and Instagramming. No one tells you off for being on your phone here – it’s actively encouraged!!

table 2
Blogging essentials

The first session I attended was one on professional blogging. It was incredibly inspiring (yes, that sounds clichéd!) and I came away with a few ideas in my head – watch this space!

The amazing Becky from Baby Budgeting and Penny from Parentshaped
The amazing Becky from Baby Budgeting and Penny from Parentshaped

We then headed to a product photography session and picked up a couple of useful hints and tips (a spotlight with a blue film over mimics sunlight for photos!)

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Learning how to take amazing product photos

Then it was time for lunch, which was amazing. Like all good bloggers, we took photos of our food and Instagrammed it (#blogcampuk) before eating.

Yum!!!
Yum!!

Over lunch, we sat chatting about our kids and why we started blogging. It was incredible how a group of strangers can click so easily – I felt I’d known those ladies forever!

After lunch we headed off to another photography session, led by Lindy. This one was based around photo styling, and was really hands on. We practised taking photos of various props from different angles.

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Playing with light and angles

The next session I went to was on writing, followed by the final session on working with brands. This was particularly interesting as it was led by a panel of professional bloggers and PR’s, all with different opinions. The one thing they all agreed on was the need to be professional!

Learning from the pro's!
Learning from the pro’s!

I came away from the event feeling inspired and full of ideas, but more importantly I came away feeling like I had made some friends!

sharon
With Sharon from Teen Tween Toddler

Thank you to Sally, Lindy and the team at Tots100 for putting on a fantastic event – I can’t wait for the next one!

Project 365: Week 17

Week 17 already? I’m sure Christmas was just last week! Here’s our week in photos.

19th April

day 108We had a really lovely day today – it was a MASSIVE day for our local football team (Aston Villa) –  they got into the FA Cup Semi Finals at Wembley. We had some friends come round for the game. The kids lost interest pretty quickly and went outside to play ‘magic shows’ – I love this photo of them! Villa won by the way!

20th April

day 109We have very slowly started to wean Ben, and today he tried plum. He is a bit young to hold it himself yet, but he kept pulling my mums hand back. He ended up demolishing the entire thing!!

21st April

day 110Today I had some really boring work to catch up on. I always draft stuff on paper first, and using pretty coloured pens always makes it a little bit more interesting!

22nd April

day 111Another beautifully sunny day today – I love these shorts on Benjamin!

23rd April

day 112A couple of weeks ago I won a box of fantastic bits and pieces, which included some phone cases, tablet cases and these cute headphones. They’re for kids so only go up to a certain volume. We introduced Benjamin to a bit of Ed Sheerhan in the sunshine and he seemed to enjoy it!

24th Aprilday 113

 

We are about to swap rooms with the boys, and then decorate their new room in a Spiderman/Marvel theme. We are doing it on a budget and will be blogging about it very soon. Today I had a go at making a canvas to go on their wall!

25th April

DAY 114

 

Today was AMAZING. I went to my first blogging conference in Birmingham. I’ll be writing all about it in detail next week, but it was fantastic to pick up some handy blogging tips, but more importantly to socialise with some other fab bloggers!

 

WIN!! The Ultimate Girls Night in Bundle

Reading this post on Huffington Post yesterday about going on a night out made me realise just how much I don’t miss going out. Choosing an outfit, the queues, paying a fiver for a drink, the sticky dancefloor – nah!! I would much rather have a girly night in with my friends, a DVD and bottle of wine or three.

I’ve teamed up with Paddy Power to offer one lucky reader the chance to win the ultimate girls night in bundle, which includes:

  • A copy of ‘Blended’ and ‘The Other Woman’ on DVD
  • Four face masks
  • A Bingo board game
  • A £10 supermarket voucher for a shop of your choice

competitionTo enter:

  • Fill in the Rafflecopter widget below to verify your entries
  • Complete the mandatory entry first – answer the question- comments that do not answer the question will not be counted! Comments may not appear immediately due to moderation.
  • You can come back and enter every day for bonus entries on Facebook and Twitter.
  • The closing date is Friday 15th May 2015
  • All terms and conditions can be found here.

Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Beebies Wishlist Spring 2015

As regular readers will know, I’m very proud to be an ambassador for the rather fabulous Beebies Baby Store, Beebies stocks all sorts of things for mums to be, babies and toddlers, and constantly has new things added to the site. Last year, it won the Loved By Parents award for Best Independent Retailer, showing that Ami, the owner, knows what she is talking about!

The last wishlist I did was back in November, just a week before Benjamin was born. The boys adore the kitchen that they had for Christmas, and I will be writing about that very soon. I thought it was about time I shared with you some more of the things I love from Beebies.

We Love Beebies

Feed Me Compact Highchair – Bertie Bear

We have started to wean Benjamin very slowly, and in around a months time he will be joining us at the table for meals. We need a lightweight and compact highchair that we can fold up when not in use – this one is perfect!

Waterfall Maternity Cardigan – Red

Yes, it is a maternity cardigan. No, I’m not pregnant and won’t be again! However, there is absolutely no reason why a non- pregnant mum couldn’t wear this – I love it!

Navy Organic Denim Dungarees

Alex absolutely loves wearing ‘dungees’, and these retro flared ones are so cool!

Organic Rainbow Stars Baby Grow and Pixie Hat

I love seeing Benjamin in a babygrow, and I love the bright colours of this one. And that hat….!!!

Kidkraft Sling Book Shelf Unit – Primary

I’m a huge fan of KidKraft products – they’re fantastic quality. We are just about to swap rooms with the boys, and they are going to lose some book storage space. This would fit in their new room perfectly!

Caramel Moccasins

I’m not one for putting shoes on non-walkers, but when Benjamin starts cruising (which if he follows his brothers he will be at around six months), he will need something on his feet as we have hard laminate flooring. These look so cute but are also perfect for tiny developing feet!

Nova Harley California Changing Bag

The Nova Harley range is new to Beebies, and I am in love! I need a spacious changing bag – having a three year old, two year old and five month old means lots of things to lug around – nappies, wipes, snacks, bottles, spare clothes…as well as my usual handbag. This changing bag is incredibly stylish – I’d even use it on the rare occasions when I’m child-free!

Navy Stripe Reversible Trousers

I try to avoid putting Benjamin in jeans as much as possible – little leggings and loose trousers such as these look so much cuter and give babies more freedom to move about.
So there’s my Spring wishlist from Beebies!! Hopefully, I’ll be updating it very soon because Ami is going to be launching her very own range of B.Baby Clothing! You can read more and support her in her new venture here!

Crying it Out

When I was getting Benjamin weighed earlier this week, I overheard another mum telling the Health Visitor that her seven month old still didn’t sleep through the night, waking up once or twice for a bottle. The HV suggested leaving the baby to cry because ‘she should be sleeping through’. I was absolutely horrified! I’m not sure whether she meant to cry out indefinitely, or try ‘controlled crying’ (which I hate just as much), but as she said leave her to cry, I’m going to assume she meant the first option.

I’m not writing this post as a mum whose kids have slept for twelve hours a night since day one. I’m also aware that I haven’t had to deal with sleepless nights and then having to get up and go out to work. I’m writing this as a mum who has three children under the age of four, who has not had a full nights sleep in nearly four years. These are also my own thoughts and opinions, and I am aware that this is a topic that divides people.

Harrison started sleeping through just as I returned to work when he was nine months old, just as I found out I was pregnant again. Before that, he would wake up once or twice for a feed, or sometimes just a cuddle. Sometimes he didn’t want to settle on his own in his cot, and I found myself getting up and down several times. Eventually, one night he slept through, and has done ever since.I can count on one hand the amount of times Alex, who is now two and a half, has slept through the night. Obviously, he doesn’t need a feed during the night, but he fidgets so loses his bedcovers, and sometimes just needs to know one of us is there to go back to sleep. Benjamin, who is five months generally wakes up once a night for a bottle, although in the last few nights has woken up trying to practise his crawling skills, and has needed a cuddle to get him to go back to sleep.

One thing I promised myself was to never let my children cry if I could help it – obviously letting them cry whilst you pop to the loo or deal with your other kids is totally different. I’m talking about leaving them to cry through choice, when you can go and soothe them. I know that as hard as they are, these sleepless nights will pass eventually. Alex isn’t going to be fifteen and needing me to go in and cuddle him in the middle of the night (although if he does, I’d do it). I’m all for gently encouraging sleep when they’re ready – Fi at Childcare is Fun has some fantastic and gentle tips to encourage good sleeping habits, which you can read about here.

Babies don’t cry because they are manipulative. They cry because they are too hot or cold, because they are hungry, because they are tired, unwell or uncomfortable. Sometimes, they just need and want a cuddle. The world can be a confusing place for a baby. One minute they are in someones arms being cuddle, the next they are in a cot, alone and in the dark. Imagine how scary that must be for a baby. We know that they are safe, but they don’t realise that. Crying is the only way they can communicate.

We thought Ben was a ‘good’ sleeper as a newborn. He barely cried and at three weeks old was almost sleeping through the night. It turns out that the reason why he wasn’t crying was because he was seriously ill. He hadn’t got the strength in him to wake up to have the milk feeds that he very much needed. Knowing that makes me even more sad when babies are left to cry – they’re telling you they need something.

I’m almost thirty, and even when I have the opportunity, I don’t sleep through. I sometimes wake up needing a drink or to go the loo. Sometimes I’m too hot or too cold, or I’ve kicked the bed covers off. Sometimes I’ve been lying funny and I’m uncomfortable. Sometimes I’ve had a bad dream, or simply just need or want a cuddle to get back to sleep. How would we feel if we were just ignored when we needed something or someone?

I don’t even think crying it out, or any associated sleep training method really works. Yes, after a few nights they might stop crying and sleep. but has the method actually ‘taught’ them how to sleep, or has it taught them that there is no point crying because no one is coming? Personally, I think it is the latter, which makes me incredibly sad. It makes me think about that NSPCC advert – ‘Baby Miles doesn’t cry anymore because no one comes.

I don’t think we can teach a baby to self soothe. I think they can be taught not to call out or cry when they wake, and from that point they will eventually fall asleep – but have they actually soothed themselves? I doubt it. I think being able to self soothe is something that comes naturally as their brains and emotions develop. By making them feel safe and secure and attending to their cries makes that easier.

What are your thoughts on crying it out?

First Choice!

Last Thursday, like thousands of other parents up and down the country, we had the nail-biting wait to see if Harrison had got a place at his chosen primary school for September.

We were told that if we applied by email (which we did), we would get an email on Thursday with our place, followed by a letter on Friday. Wednesday night went very slowly, and I didn’t sleep particularly well.

When we applied for the school, we lived in the next road to it – we couldn’t get much closer if we tried. As he had settled so well into the nursery there, it made sense to put that as our first choice. Our second choice and third choice were two other local schools, both about a half an hour walk away.

Then we moved.

We moved to a house that was literally 2 minutes (if that!) walk from our second choice school. We had the agonising decision whether to change the options, as our first choice was now a thirty minute walk. That’s not easy when you have two other little people to drag along as well. After much discussion we decided to keep our choices as they were – he was settled, he had made a good group of friends and I had built up a great circle of friends. Yes, it’s a pain in the arse sometimes to get to, but the benefits outweigh that. Obviously, when we moved house we had to phone the council to change our address on the preference form.

From midnight Thursday I found myself waking up every couple of hours to check whether the email had come through. At around 6.30am, I started getting texts from friends at the school saying they had their emails and everyone on Facebook was getting theirs. We had nothing. I wasn’t too worried about it even though we are out of catchment.  The school is a three form entry, and there are two nursery classes. I hoped that the fact he was in the nursery would go someway towards it. Lots of children from Harrison’s class had got a place at the local Catholic school, freeing up a few spaces, and another friend who lives even further from the school got a place. It was still nerve wracking though. We had been told that it could be anytime up to 3pm. My heart missed a beat everytime my phone beeped to say an email had come through (I get a lot!). By 2.45 I’d heard nothing. Someone pointed that because I’d made a change via telephone, I may have to wait until the letter came the next day. I couldn’t wait that long – our post doesn’t come until 1.30, so I phoned the council.

To my surprise I got through straight away. They didn’t know why I hadn’t had an email, but they gave me some good news: Harrison had been offered a place at our first choice. What a relief!

I know we have actually been quite lucky. A few friends haven’t been offered their first choice, and one of my friends didn’t get a place at any of her choices. Instead, she was offered a place at a school that has been deemed unsatisfactory by Ofsted. Needless to say, she is furious and is appealing – I don’t blame her!

We never did get the email, but the letter came the next day confirming it. Seeing it in black and white made me realise that Harrison is no longer a baby or a toddler. He’s growing up! I took him for a drink to Costa on Friday and left Alex and Ben with Graham. I want to make the most of the afternoons that we have together before he goes off to school every day. He suddenly seems really grown up, losing the silly behaviour and becoming so thoughtful and kind.

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Perfect Porridge: Chocolate, Banana and Coconut Smoothie

We were challenged by Flahavans to create three exciting breakfast recipes using their Irish porridge oats to combat the idea that porridge is a ‘boring’ breakfast option.We love porridge so were really excited about creating our perfect porridge, using this amazing set.

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Our first recipe is a smoothie. Smoothies are great for breakfast, especially if short on time. They take minutes to make and can be consumed on the go. We combined some of our favourite flavours to make a Chocolate, Banana and Coconut Oat Smoothie.

Chocolate, Banana and Coconut Smoothie

To make it we used Flahavan’s Porridge Oats, shredded coconut, cocoa nibs, full fat milk and half a banana (they always seem to work better when they’ve gone a bit mushy!). Don’t ask me how much of each ingredient we used – it’s just a bit trial and error!

11169834_10155453614355500_599579152898732245_n (1)I popped the ingredients into the blender, gave it a quick whizz and then poured it out. I like smoothies to have some texture so I left it quite thick and ‘bitty’, but you could blend for longer to make it really smooth.

It was really yummy and perfect for a quick breakfast or energy boost.

Watch out for another recipe for perfect porridge very soon!

*We were sent a selection of ingredients for this post.

 

Project 365: Week 16

April 12th

day 101We had a lazy Sunday today, just chilling out and watching films. We put on the old Masters of the Universe film and the boys were engrossed!

April 13th

day 102Today was a teacher training day so we made the most of it and headed into Solihull on the bus. Harrison grabbed one of the newspapers and sat reading it, much to the amusement of the old ladies on the bus!

April 14th

day 103Today was a beautiful, hot sunny day, so Benjamin had his little romper suit on. I’m really glad he had chance to wear this – I’d packed it away thinking he wouldn’t get the opportunity to wear it!

April 15th

day 104

 

Today was another hot and sunny day, and the kids spent most of the afternoon in the garden. We need to do a bit of work out there to make it really nice, but once it is done we will have quite a nice garden!

April 16th

day 105I’ve wanted some of these mini milk bottles for absolutely ages – so when I saw them for £4 on eBay I had to order some. They’re perfect size for the kids and are so much cuter than a normal drinking glass!

April 17th

day 106Yesterday we found out that Harrison had his first choice of primary school for September, which was a huge relief. It hit home that he will be off to full time school soon and I want to make the most of our afternoons together at the moment. We occasionally walk round to Costa and have a drink together, which we both love.

April 18th

day 107

 

Benjamin is teething like crazy at the moment, which is why he has his hand in his mouth. Luckily we were sent a set of bibs to review to keep the dribble off his clothes!

My Favourite Bloggers

Even before I started blogging, I read lots of blogs. I’m nosey, and love being able to have a little peep into other people’s lives. I also find blogs amazing places to find out about new products and brands, and if I want an honest review on something, the first place I will look is on a blog.

If you’re new to reading blogs, a great place to start and follow blogs is on BlogLovin’. I log into this most evenings to catch up with some of my favourite blogs, some of which I have shared with you below. If you want to take a peek, click on the titles!

Oh So Amelia

Kerry is mum to two gorgeous little ones, Amelia and Harrison. I love catching up with Harrison’s baby updates  (he’s just a few weeks younger than Benjamin), and looking at the beautiful photos that Kerry takes. I’m also incredibly jealous of her lovely home!

Edspire

I’m pretty sure Edspire was the first blog I ever read. Jennie is mum to twins William and Esther, angel baby Matilda and beautiful Bea. She blogs about life after losing Matilda, as well as all the fantastic educational and sensory activities she does with the twins. If you ever want to read something by an incredibly inspiring woman – this is it!!

Lived With Love

Kerry is mum to Sienna and little angel baby Rocco. I love reading about Sienna, and her fashion, beauty and healthy living posts!

The Dad Network

It’s not all about the mummy bloggers anymore – the daddy bloggers are getting in there. I follow quite a few daddy blogs because they’re usually fab to chat to over Twitter and seeing things from a dad’s perspective is great. I love this one in particular because a few different blokes contribute to it.

Mum in the Madhouse

Jen shares some AMAZING craft ideas, and whenever I’m at a loss for things to do with the kids, I check this blog out. It’s brilliant.

Mind Mood Mommy

Couldn’t let this one pass without a mention – as well as being a fab blogger and mum to Phoebe and Esme, Laura is also a friend from uni!

Mojo Blogs

I’ve met up with this crazy lady a couple of times and she is brilliant, giving me lots of advice and tips for which I am incredibly grateful.

You Baby Me Mummy

I love reading Aby’s posts about Baby and her incredible weight loss (Aby, not Baby!), and her blog tips and tutorials are really helpful.

What the Redhead Said

Donna blogs about her two beautiful kids and always has some fantastic competitions and reviews on her blog.

Brummy Mummy of 2

Fellow Brummy Emma is not afraid to delve into the not-so-nice bits of parenting, and is hilarious!!

 

So there are some of my favourite bloggers – go and check them out!!

A Funky Giraffe Giveaway


Since I started blogging I’ve come across lots of baby and children brands which I’ve fallen in love with, and wish I had discovered when Harrison and Alex were babies. One of these is Funky Giraffe.

Funky Giraffe stock a huge range of gorgeous bandana bibs,which unlike lots of traditional bibs actually look rather cool and add to an outfit.They don’t just look great but they are super absorbent – Benjamin gave them a thorough testing!

funky giraffe star bib

I’ve teamed up with Funky Giraffe to give one lucky reader the chance to win a selection of ten bibs. To be in with a chance, simply follow all the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below. Full terms and conditions can be found on the widget. The winner will be able to specify whether they want a selection of girls, boys or mixed designs, but the actual bibs sent out will be chosen by Funy Giraffe.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

The Space To Play

Although no one can guarantee the weather – especially in the UK – there are certain times of the year when we can be sure that we’ll be spending more time outdoors. The summer, with all its lush greenery and bright sunshine, all its promise and joy, is a beautiful time of the year, and no one wants to be kept inside, including, and especially, the kids!

Entertaining the little ones can be costly, both in terms of money and time, finding the balance between keeping them amused or happy and getting some much needed time to yourself can be a hard trick to master. Day trips are wonderful, and are fantastic for bonding, making memories, and generally making the most of the moment, but it’s just not possible to go somewhere every weekend in term time, or every day during the holidays. So what else can be done? You want your kids to be happy, to keep from becoming bored, to enjoy themselves, but your pocket and your own time constraints  mean that it’s not just possible to leave the home as often as they, and you, might like.

So don’t leave it; instead make it the ultimate place to be. Utilise your space, inside and out, so that it is the destination of choice for parties, play dates, and simply enjoying your time together as a family.

With the long summer holidays not far away, you’ll want to make the most of the space you have, giving your children the chance to enjoy the sunshine whilst it’s there, yet still give them room to play when it’s not. But how to ensure that you’ll be able to keep an eye on them when they are playing in the garden? Wouldn’t it be great to have that extra peace of mind that you can see what they’re up to and what games they are playing from the comfort of your living room (or dining room, conservatory, kitchen…)?

You can! Make your home a safe, secure haven for the little ones, whilst retaining that comfort you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

It’s as easy as putting in a door. A bi-folding door, to be exact; one that allows for whole walls to be pushed aside, and for sunshine to pour in when and where you need it the most. A door that gives you the best view in the house, and which allows your children the freedom they need to thrive.

Capture

Adding bi-folding doors to your home will give you the peace of mind you’re looking for when it comes to the kids. And it will give your children all the space they need to be able to have that all important learning and play time mix. Imagine being able to relax in your own home with your stunning new bi-fold doors open all the way, and allowing the garden to flow. With your bi-folding doors open to full stretch, you’ll have the perfect view of your little ones’ antics, as well as being able to feel the sun’s warmth. And the kids will love it too; they’ll have even more space to play, with the garden becoming a true extension of their home. Even on rainy days, these large glass panes will bring in light make whichever room you choose to have them feel bigger.

But it’s more than just a way to keep the kids safe and happy. These high quality, exceptionally versatile doors will give you the sense of space that you need to enjoy your summer to the fullest. Family barbecues, dinner parties, an impromptu night in with friends, however you like to entertain these doors can be put to good use. Both inside and outside spaces can be part of your get together or celebration, merging seamlessly to allow more comfort, more guests, and more merriment.

Designers are keen to impress just how important melding your inside and outside spaces is, and this inexpensive yet utterly revolutionary way of doing that is totally ‘on trend’. The doors come in any size ranging from 6ft to 16ft, and there are a number of exceptional materials to choose from, depending on your desired style and available budget. Aluminium, solid oak, and engineered hardwood are just a few. And all glass is fully UV protected (these are just some of the options I could see at Vufold at least).

The heady days of summer aren’t far away – make sure your family and friends can look back on it when the chill of winter descends and smile at the memories you helped to make simply by giving them – and you – the space to play!

*Guest Post

Playground Crazes

Having worked as a primary school teacher before the kids came along, I’ve seen my fair share of modern playground fads (loom bands anyone?!). Now that Harrison is about to start full time school and no doubt get caught up in whatever the latest craze is in the playground, it got me thinking about what we used to play with in the 1990’s – remember these?

Tamagotchi

These were little devices on a key chain and were the height of coolness in the 1990’s. We (or should I say our parents!) ended up spending hours caring for these damn things that needed attention every twenty seconds. A little bit like our kids…

Pogs

For anyone too young to remember these, they were little round cardboard discs with pictures on that we all collected, stacked up and then hit with a metal ‘slammer’

YoYo’s

These have been in and out of fashion ever since I can remember, but we were the first ones to have the cool light up flashing ones. My brother and me had a video (yes, remember those things?) that had all sorts of tricks to learn. I never progressed past the ‘up and down’ trick.

Panini Stickers

For girls, it was often the Spice Girls stickers which were the must haves. Boys went crazy for the football ones, buying packs of 6 for about a quid from the newsagents, and being gutted when you realised you already had them all. Did anyone actually complete their sticker book?

Alien Birth Pods

This is one I’m hoping NEVER comes back into fashion – those revolting slimy aliens that ‘gave birth’ when you squeezed them. Yuck.

Gummy Bands

Often known as ‘shag bands’, we all used to wear armfuls of them, not quite realising the less than innocent meaning behind each one!!

 

I don’t think playground crazes like these happen quite as often these days, and are usually banned from schools within days of them taking off. I know lots more schools are now installing playground equipment that we could only dream about as kids (climbing frames and slides and tennis courts  – in your school playground? AMAZING!!) in order to encourage children to be a bit more active. In my eyes, that’s not a bad thing at all – hopefully it means I won’t be left caring for any virtual pets or buying stickers anytime soon!

What playground crazes can you remember?

playground Image courtesy of www.hccourts.co.uk

 

*This is a collaborative post

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Vote

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you will know we are in the final run up to the General Election in the UK, which takes place on May 7th 2015.

As long as you are over 18, a citizen of Britain, Republic of Ireland or a Commonwealth country, and not in one of the excluded groups, you have the right to vote.Sadly, in 2010, almost 16 million people didn’t vote. That’s almost 16 million voices that went unheard, which is a real shame.

Why You Should Vote

I understand why many people are apathetic when it comes to politics and voting. It’s hard impossible to find a party which fully reflects your own views – I know who I am voting for but I certainly don’t agree with every single policy of theirs, far from it. If you don’t know who to vote for, think about what issues matter most to you and see what each party says about them.

Why Should You Vote?

It gives you a say – by voting, you get to have a say on who represents you in parliament. That person can then (hopefully!) make a difference. I’ve always been of the opinions that if you haven’t voted, you can’t complain about things. If you don’t vote, you might as well just say you don’t care about what happens to your country.

You will make a difference – this year’s election is set to be one of the closest ones yet. In 2010, one constituency had a majority of just 92 votes. That’s incredibly close. Every single vote counts.

You are privileged to have a vote – Less than a hundred years ago, people were dying in the struggle to win the right to vote for women. Black people in South Africa were unable to vote until the end of apartheid just 21 years ago. Even now, people all over the world are still denied this right. You are privileged to be a part of a democracy. Don’t waste that chance.

You will influence what happens in the future – We obviously have no idea who will be running our country in the future, but the choices made by governments now will have a knock on effect in the future, I’ve been thinking about the world I want my kids to grow up in – I want them to have a good education, good jobs, a good healthcare system and homes. This of course has influenced who I will be voting for.

Remember, you can’t vote unless you’ve registered. The deadline to register is 20th April, and you can do that by clicking here.

Project 365: Week 15

April 5th

1513702_10155400581610500_593661047971699209_nToday was Easter Day. We don’t go nuts at Easter – just an egg each from us, one from my parents and one from my brother. They had a little egg hunt at my parents as well which should keep them going in chocolate for a few weeks!

April 6th

day 95

Harrison climbed onto the sofa next to Benjamin and was telling him all about the giraffe – he’s such an amazing and caring big brother!

April 7th

day 96

It was a beautiful, warm,sunny day today, so we headed over to a park just ten minutes from our house that we hadn’t realised existed until a few days before. There’s acres of grass to play on and a fantastic play area. We only intended to go for a quick half an hour or so but ended up there for a few hours!

April 8th

Selfie with jason

Today Graham and I went to The Gadget Show Live at the NEC. It was absolutely fantastic, and getting a selfie with Jason was pretty awesome!

April 9th

day 98Today my mum and I went into Solihull for a wander round the shops without the kids. It was so lovely and sunny that it seemed rude not to stop and have a quick beer (mine was the half!). Even though neither of us bought anything it was a nice day!

April 10th

day 99

We had some fantastic news about this little one this week – the results from his nuclear kidney scan came back showing no damage was left to his little body after his illness at Christmas. We were so relieved!

April 11th

day 100

 

I spent the afternoon making two of these. They’re kits from The Works but were too fiddly for the kids and involved LOTS of sewing. I actually found it really therapeutic!

The Gadget Show Live 2015

On Wednesday, Graham and me went to The Gadget Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham, courtesy of Joe Blogs Network and Curry’s. We love the show on Channel 5 and were looking forward to checking out some gadgets.

We got there just after lunchtime and one of the first things that caught our eye was the Active Zone, where you can try out the latest in wearable technology – racing other visitors on stationary bikes hooked up to the big screen.

bike racing

There were so many incredible and innovative products, and I could write for hours about them, but here are a few of my favourites.

Panasonic Juicer

This Panasonic Juicer was amazing. I’ve been looking at juicers for a while and this one definitely looks the best so far!

juicer

iPad Covers

We don’t have an iPad but if we did I’d definitely be buying one of these adorable cases from Koooky. It protects it against bumps and drops, and the bloke demonstrated it by throwing it on the floor. My heart missed a beat but it survived!

ipad case

Paper Planes

Harrison and Alex love paper planes so would love this kit from Power Up which turns any sheet of A4 paper into a motorised plane. For bigger kids, there is a version which you can control via an app on your phone.

paper plane

Hair Straighteners

I’m hoping that my GHD’s have another couple of years left in them, but these ones from Donna Bella are just as good!! It took the woman about 2 minutes to straighten my mass of wavy hair, and then just another couple of minutes to curl it. The curls lasted all day, even in the humid heat!

straighteners

hait

Colour Change Pens

Remember those magic colour change pens when you were younger? Well, they were there!

We didn’t buy these but we did buy some funky stamper pens from the same stand for the boys – they’ve had hours of fun with them!

Origami Pushchair

This pushchair and the swinging chairs from 4 Moms weren’t cheap but were amazing – but just one touch of a button and they fold and unfold themselves – how cool is that?

Obviously, taking all the photos and videos absolutely hammered the battery on my phone but luckily I could give it a quick recharge whilst having a coffee!

PicMonkey Collage

The highlight of the show for us was the hour long live super theatre, where we were lucky enough to be sitting in the front row. Whilst we were waiting we were dead chuffed to see our selfie on the big screen!

selfie on sceen

It was fab to see Ortis, Jason, Jon and Amy. The atmosphere was amazing, with performances from some light dancers and an awesome musician (who sadly I can’t remember the name of).

There was the chance to win over £4000 of gadgets (we weren’t the lucky ones!) but the highlight for me was getting a silly selfie with Jason as part of a game!

Selfie with jason

 

We really enjoyed the show and discovered some great new products and brands – we can’t wait to go again next year!

*We were provided with tickets to the show in return for an honest and unbiased review

Top Ten: Songs

As a way to get to know me a little better, I thought I’d share with you my ten favourite songs at the moment. These are the songs I would choose if I was trapped on a desert island for the next month with only ten tracks to listen to. They’re not necessarily my favourites of all time, although number 1 will probably always remain on my list. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Time of My Life (Theme from Dirty Dancing) by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

Ever since I was little this has been my all time favourite song. Dirty Dancing is my favourite movie, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve watched it over 100 times.

2. Lay Me Down by Sam Smith

I’m not going to lie – I am a little bit obsessed with Sam Smith at the moment. I think he is really cute, seems like a lovely bloke and is an absolutely AMAZING singer. His voice gives me goosebumps and I love this song.

3. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran 

As well as Sam Smith, I’m also crazy about Ed Sheeran at the moment – a duet between them would be my idea of heaven!

4. Livin’ On A Prayer – Bon Jovi

I’ve always loved this song – it’s one of those songs that makes me want to dance, but it also reminds me of one of the best nights I’ve ever had. When I was at uni, we went to the Christmas Ball, and there was a Bon Jovi tribute band (who were amazing). We’d all had a bit to drink and were dancing and singing away to this. It was a fantastic night and Bon Jovi will always remind me of it.

4. Love Me Like You Do – Ellie Goulding

I loved the film 50 Shades of Grey (yes, I know!) and for some reason the helicopter scene, when this was playing was my favourite bit. I think Ellie Goulding is fab, and I love this song!!

6. Fast Car by Tracy Chapman

Another song I’ve loved for years. A few years ago, before we had the kids, Graham and me went for a very spontaneous weekend away in Felixstowe. It was a really hot and sunny weekend, we had all the windows open in the car and this came on the radio, and I fell in love with it there and then.

7. Wake Me Up by Avicii

This song always makes me want to go out , and I love the lyrics in it.

8. I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz

I love Jason Mraz, and I could listen to this song over and over again without getting bored.

9. Waves by Mr Probz

I absolutely LOVE this. It makes me feel so chilled out and summery!

10. Dilemma by Nelly and Kelly

Bit of old school rnb – I love Nelly, and I loved this track when it first came out. I was about 15 or 16, and listened to it on repeat!

 

So there is my top ten songs at the moment – what are yours?

InstaNatural Youth Express Vitamin C Moisturiser

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the InstaNatural Youth Express Eye Serum. I was really impressed by it, so I was pleased when I had the chance to try the InstaNatural Youth Express Vitamin C Moisturiser out.

InstaNatural Youth Express Vitamin C Moisturiser

The cream contains a powerful blend of ingredients to achieve youthful looking skin. The Vitamin C protects skin from the damaging effects of sun exposure, such as age spots, wrinkle and dryness.

I made a promise to myself at the beginning of this year to make more of an effort with my skincare. I’ve been a little bit hit and miss with it so far – I moisturise every day for a few days but then go a week without doing it at all. There’s just something about the faffing opening jars and bottles that bores me. This one is different. It has a pump action, which not only makes it easier but prolongs the shelf life and stops bacteria getting in.

InstaNatural Youth Express Vitamin C Moisturiser

There is no noticeable scent to the cream, which I like, and it feels lovely and lightweight. The only issue is that it does take some rubbing in, a little like sun screen, but once it is rubbed in, it feels really nice on the skin.

This, along with the serum, has definitely made looking after my skin that bit easier! It is available on the InstaNatural website and Amazon for £19.47.

*I received this product for free in exchange for a honest and unbiased review.

 

When Did Easter Become the New Christmas?

Easter has come and gone, and with it the photos on my Facebook and Instagram feeds of children knee deep in chocolate and presents. It got me thinking: when did Easter become the new Christmas?

As soon as Christmas is over we are bombarded with piles of over priced chocolate in the supermarkets, Easter trees, bunting, and just about everything you don’t need for the ‘perfect Easter’. I’m all for the celebration of Easter – if you’re a Christian it is the most important event in the religious calendar, but when did it become more than a day with your family with an Easter egg or two?

Harrison and Alex had one small egg off us, one off my parents and  one off my brother. My mum organised a little egg hunt in the garden for them so they have a few extra small ones, but no where near the £56 worth that is apparently the average. I thought that was an over exaggeration, but from what I saw this year, it clearly isn’t!

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What surprises me, and not in a good way if I’m perfectly honest, is the number of children who receive piles of toys and clothes for Easter, almost as if it was their birthday or Christmas. I’m not on about the odd fluffy toy or book, or even a nice outfit for the spring. I’m on about the Elsa dolls, the lego, the DVDs, the computer games. When did it become traditional to buy these for Easter?

I’m pretty sure that even a couple of years ago it wasn’t like this, but now it seems like another day for companies to exploit us, for parents to try to outdo one another on social media and for kids to be spoiled with things that they will probably cast aside within a few days. The amount of press releases I received for ‘alternative easter gifts’ full of toys was incredible. I get that parents want to spoil their kids, I really do – but why not spoil them with your time and attention? Spend the money on a day out as a family, do some Easter crafts, make some Easter cakes (and use all that chocolate!), organise an egg hunt in the garden. I bet that is the sort of thing that they will remember in the long term, not the toys.

I’d love to hear what you think. Do you think Easter has become over commercialised?

Project 365: Week 14

Happy Easter! I cannot believe we are in April already. Surely it was only just Christmas? Here is our week in photos.

March 29th

day 87

Harrison and Alex have never really been attached to anything. Harrison does like a ‘tag’ for naps and bedtime (just the label on an item of clothing), but no teddies or blankets. Benjamin loves this fluffy rabbit thing that I had in a goodie bag!

March 30th

day 88

Today, my friend and newbie blogger Julie from Menopause4Thought came over for a catch up (it’s been five years since we last met up) it’s and to share blogging tips and ideas. Whilst we were chatting, Harrison had a nap on the sofa, and Alex decided to use him as a carpark. He didn’t stir once!

31st March

day 89

This little monkey (who isn’t even 5 months old yet) has started to try and sit up on his own. He was in the corner of the sofa but was sitting forward on his own.

1st April

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Today we did some Easter- themed art, making these fab tape resist watercolour eggs. It’s the only easter crafts we’ve done this year – we’ve been so busy it crept up on us!

2nd April

day 91

 

We had the musical instruments out today. Ben loved bashing the tambourine!

March 3rd

day 92

My nan, mum, brothers, Graham and the kids went to Solihull today. I stayed at home to catch up with some work, so it was lovely when Harrison walked in with these for me – he knows how much I love daffodils!

April 4th

day 93

After football this morning, we made some chocolate cornflake cakes topped with mini eggs! We made 24 but I can’t see them lasting very long!

 

The White Stuff

Last week we bought and drank more than forty pints of milk.

Forty!!

The White Stuff

Ever since I was a child, I’ve drank a lot of milk. I absolutely love going to the fridge and pouring a big glass of ice cold (has to be ice cold!!) milk. Graham is the same, and it appears Harrison and Alex have inherited our love of the white stuff. In all three of my pregnancies, I’ve craved milk – I’d be drinking two or three litres a day, especially towards the end. We had to buy UHT cartons to keep in the cupboard so that we always had plenty to hand. Not long before Alex was born, Graham found me sitting on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night sobbing my eyes out. Why? Because I hadn’t put another carton of milk in the fridge, so had no cold milk to drink. To a very pregnant and hormonal woman that was the end of the world.

I haven’t always been able to drink cows milk. As a baby and young toddler I actually had a cows milk allergy – I had to have a soya based formula and had to avoid dairy products. Thankfully, I grew out of this by the time I was 2. Quite ironically, my dad used to be a milkman when me and my brothers were younger – you can imagine all the jokes about my mum running off with the milkman!

Forty pints of milk is about average for us. I knew we drink a ridiculous amount but this was the first time we actually kept a record of how much we used. I’m sure people wonder how on earth we get through so much between four of us!

The kids have a bowl of porridge most mornings made with milk. Sometimes they have a bowl before bed as well. Sometimes Graham and me might have a bowl for breakfast as well – that’s a huge amount of milk used up already.  Throughout the day both Graham and me drink quite a lot of coffee and tea with milk – it might only be a splash each time but with both of us drinking up to eight cups a day, it soon adds up, not to mention if we have visitors!

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Neither of us drink much pop. The only time we buy fizzy pop such as coke or lemonade is to use as a mixer for alcohol, and the kids certainly don’t have any. They drink squash sometimes – a couple of small cups a day (more in the summer obviously), but their drink of choice is cold milk. They both still like a beaker of milk for naptimes and bedtimes, even Harrison. Thankfully, their love of milk doesn’t affect their appetite.

Both Graham and I will sit and drink a glass of milk – Graham can easily drink a pint off the stuff in one go. We also use milk in cooking – last week I made cauliflower cheese for tea , and the cheese sauce used quite a lot of milk. We also make some milk based desserts – rice pudding and angel delight being the current favourites.

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I know some conditions, such as anaemia, can be associated with drinking lots of milk. I’ve mentioned my concerns to the health visitor and doctor, but because the boys are both healthy and strong, it’s fine – much better than drinking sugar – laden squash!!

I know when Benjamin is on cows milk the amount of milk we will buy will go through the roof – I’m sure it will be cheaper to keep a coupe of dairy cows in the back garden!

Tape Resist Watercolour Eggs

We’ve been a bit late with starting Easter crafts this year – I actually thought we had another week. It wasn’t until Wednesday that I realised it was this Sunday – woops! This activity, which we did last year as well is really quick and simple to set up.

Tape Resist Watercolour Eggs

You don’t have to use watercolours for this, any paint would work and I’ve seen it done with wet chalk which looks really effective.
We rarely use watercolours though. They’re usually less messy than normal paints but I think getting the right balance of water and paint so not to soak the paper is hard for younger children, and the colours get mixed up very easily. Still, without practise they’ll never learn so we just went for it.

I drew some egg shapes. These were done freehand so were a bit wonky. Rebecca, who blogs at Dillydrops came up with this genius idea of squishing a roll of sellotape to make an egg shape (she has lots of other fab ideas – check her out!). I didn’t have a big roll of sellotape and masking tape doesn’t work quite so well!

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We then chopped up pieces of masking tape and stuck them down to our eggs making all sorts of patterns. This was great for Harrison who has now learned how to use scissors, so we are now working on controlling his cutting and developing those important fine motor skills.

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Then came the fun bit – painting! We painted the egg shapes with the watercolours. It was a challenge to convince Harrison not to drench his paper with water! We then left them to dry by the window and peeled the masking tape off.

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We’re going to use ours to stick them on Easter cards. What would you use them for?

 

*This post is my entry to the Ocean Finance Easter Egg Fun Competition.

 

Baby Led Weaning with Organix

Benjamin is almost five months old, and very soon we will be thinking about weaning him.

Harrison was weaned at 17 weeks in the more traditional style of pureeing and mashing food style. He hated it, I hated it. We used a mix of jars and homemade food, but it was not a period I enjoyed, and in hindsight he wasn’t ready. He used to battle with it, and I hated the faffing and expense of buying jars or blending foods. Whenever we went out I had to make sure we had a jar and a spoon with us, and I was relieved when he eventually started eating ‘normal’ food.

When Alex was a baby, I’d heard about ‘baby led weaning’. I read up about it and talked to Graham about it and we both decided it sounded much easier and much healthier than the way we did it with Harrison. We waited until he was six months old and then gave him whatever we ate, in bit sized pieces. It was messy at times – especially when it came to things  with sauce, but was so much easier and so much calmer. We did feed him things like yoghurt and porridge – I didn’t want the entire house covered!

The one thing we used with both Harrison and Alex, and they both enjoyed, was food from the Organix range. Although I’m not a fan of most commercial baby food, Organix is one I didn’t mind using because there is no hidden nasties. We haven’t used many of their purees – just a few fruit pots with Harrison, but they both loved their finger foods. We always had some of their carrot sticks and sweetcorn rings in the changing bag for emergency snacks!

We have decided to wait until Ben is six months and go down the baby led weaning route again, so no doubt Organix snacks will soon find their way onto our shopping list. They sent us a selection of snacks for Harrison and Alex to try out, all in the name of research for their little brother.

Organix Fruit Bars

We received a box of their new Chunky Fruit Bars in Banana and Date flavour and Apple and Date. Like the rest of the Organix range, they’re organic, have no added nasties and even count as one of their five a day – win! Each bar is individually wrapped so they’re easy to chuck in your bag for emergency snacks. They are quite small, but perfect size for little ones. The boys loved these – they’re sweet but not overly (yes, I sampled one!). They’re quite sticky though, so have a baby wipe ready! They are soft enough for even the gummiest of babies (mine haven’t had teeth until they were nearly ten months old) to chomp through, and they can be easily broken up, perfect for baby led weaning and for older kids like Harrison and Alex.

Organix Carrot Sticks

We also received a bag of their Carrot Sticks, which have always been popular with Harrison and Alex. I always used to have a bag or two in the changing bag ready for them. They’re baked maize snacks with carrot powder and coriander. They’re nice and big for little fingers to hold, and can be gummed and sucked so again are perfect for baby led weaning. Harrison and Alex might be past weaning age, but they still love them!

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Watch out for some updates soon about our weaning experiences with Benjamin!

*I received these products for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Win a Pair of Tickets to the Birmingham Baby Show

 

The Baby Show Bham

Last year I attended my first ever baby show with my mum, at the NEC in Birmingham. I’d not long found out that I was pregnant with Benjamin, so it was perfect timing! I can’t wait to go again this year, minus the bump and with an almost six month old baby! It was perfect for checking out products – although I didn’t buy my pushchair there, it was where I saw it and fell in love!

This year, it is running from the 15th to the 17th May and has over 200 trusted brands attending, such as iCandy, Maxi Cosi, Tommee Tippee, Mothercare and Mamas & Papas. There a range of expert speakers, including Annabel Karmel and Jo Tatum. It’s child friendly (obvs!) with a creche, feeding area and changing room – perfect if you can’t escape from the kids for the day!

hThe Baby Show Birmingham

I have teamed up with the The Baby Show to give away a pair of tickets to the Birmingham Baby Show, worth £40 a pair. They’re valid on any day of the show. To enter, follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below. Please make sure you complete the mandatory entries carefully as not doing so will invalidate all your entries! All the terms and conditions can be found by clicking here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!

Spirituality

*This post is in collaboration with TheCircle

Last week, Harrison came home from nursery telling us all about Jesus and the Easter story. Although we are technically Christians, we don’t practise a religion, but was really pleased that school had taught him about it. This got me thinking about what I believe in, and how we will bring our children up in terms of religion and spirituality.

I don’t know if I believe in a god, which I guess makes me an agnostic. I struggle sometimes with the concept behind an organised religion. What I do believe in, however, is that there is something else ‘out there’. What that something else is, I don’t know. I really can’t get to grips with the idea that once you have died, that is it. I actually think that thought terrifies me.

My belief in there being something after death is reinforced by things that have happened in my parent’s house over the years. My mum and dad aren’t religious in the slightest, and are two of the most rational people I know, but even they experienced these events and can’t explain them.

When I was really young, I slept in the bedroom that is over the garage. Everyone has always said that there is a different ‘feel’ to this room. It’s much cooler than the rest of the house, which is more than likely down to the fact it is over the garage, but it does definitely feel different. My mum, not many years ago, told me that when I was in this room, as a toddler, I told her one morning that a lady in a white dress had been in my room in the night and asked me if I was ok. Clearly, it hadn’t frightened me. A few years later, me and my younger brother swapped bedrooms. He had only been a baby when my experience had happened, and my mum had never told him. One morning, he told my mum that a lady in a white dress had been talking to him in the night and asked him if he was ok. One child – an overactive imagination or a dream. Two children seeing and hearing the same thing? Makes me wonder.  Was this somebody from a spirit world watching over us?

Nothing else happened until I was about 16. Suddenly, to all of us, the house felt different. My mum and dad saw shadows walking behind the sofa in the mirror. Random cold patches appeared around the house. Both  parents saw what they describe as a mist swirling on the stairs at night. A friend of my parents who stayed on the sofa one night saw and felt things. At no point, however, did any one of us feel uneasy or frightened. There was a calm sense to the house. If there was someone or something there, it certainly wasn’t evil. Then, all of a sudden, it all stopped.  I think we all like to think that there was someone there to watch over us all.

One of the houses I have lived in with Graham had a horrible vibe to it. It never felt quite right, and I hated being alone in it. We were really unhappy living there, and moved out after eight months. Although we never experienced anything there, it just felt like the house itself was evil. Even my mum said how she hated it.  We now live in a house which feels good. It’s nothing special, but has a much better vibe to it, and we are happy here. I do honestly feel like everyone has a place where they are supposed to be and even something as physical as a building can reject or accept someone.

We now have to think about how we are going to raise our kids. Like I said, we aren’t religious, but if any of them do decide they want to follow a religion, we will support and encourage them. If they choose to believe in a different type of spirituality as both Graham and I do, we will do the same. If they choose to believe in neither, then that’s fine. For now, we will teach them to question things and the world around them, but also teach them that sometimes there aren’t any answers.

What are your beliefs? Do you think there are spirits out there helping us?

Binky Linky

The Next David Beckham?

Being fans of football, we have been quite keen to get Harrison into some sort of football club. He loves kicking a ball around in the garden, and loves watching it. I also think it is really important to try and get kids involved in some some sort of sport  (says the girl who hated PE and sport at school!) – the exercise and discipline involved is good for them – they have to listen carefully and follow instructions and rules. Most clubs around by us seem to take kids from around five years plus, so when an advert for a local club for children from nursery age upwards popped onto my Facebook feed, we asked him if he wanted to go – the answer was yes!

The club is only about twenty minutes walk from us, and one of Harrison’s friends was starting it as well. His best friend is starting soon so it’ll be a chance for them to see each other outside of school. We weren’t very well prepared. We all assumed for some reason it would be in the sports hall, and hadn’t checked the weather forecast. Thankfully, we chucked the rain cover under the pram but all I had on was a cardi. Half way there, the heavens opened! When we arrived we realised it was on the field and even torrential rain wasn’t going to put a stop to it. It didn’t stop raining until right at the end by which point we were absolutely soaked, covered in mud and frozen!

day 87

Harrison joined in for about half the session. At three years old he was the youngest and I think an hour might be a little too much to start with. He was joining in and doing his best to keep up with the older boys, but after half an hour the cold and rain got to him and his friend, so we headed home. He’s asked to go back next week which is good, and we will be much better prepared!!

PicMonkey Collage

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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