Wednesday 30 August 2017

5 Reasons To Take Your Kids To The Park

When Ebony was younger, the park was one of our favourite places to hang out. We would take a wander into the village, swing by the charity shops and then head to the park for a couple of hours before walking back home. Now that she’s in school, there isn’t as much time for trips to the park, but we try to go after school when the weather is nice.

Now that Ember is officially a toddler (sob), she loves the park. It’s almost not worth taking her because she cries so much when it’s time to leave. Her days of being stuck in a swing watching the bigger kids have fun are behind her, now she can stomp around clambering on the equipment by herself. I sometimes take her for a little play straight after we drop Ebony off at school. The park is usually quiet then so she has the playground all to herself. But she’s happiest when her sister is at the park with her so she can follow her around from slide to swing, demanding to play with her.

Here are five reasons why you should take your kids to the park:

1. It provides plenty of opportunities for risk taking
We live in a risk averse society, we’re all scared of everything all the time and this is having an impact on our kids. Older generations love to go on about how much freedom they had as kids, climbing trees and going on day-long bike rides all by themselves. And it’s true, kids these days do have a lot less freedom. Places are more built up, roads are busier, and the media is full of horror stories of child-snatchers. Helicopter parenting means kids are taking fewer risks than ever before, many parents seem terrified of letting their kids suffer a grazed knee or bumped head.

Risk-taking is important, especially during the early years. Kids who play organised sports are less likely to engage in risky behaviours off the field. Why? Because they’re taking risks during games and enjoying a natural high that way. Early years risk taking is just as important. Children need to climb trees, fall over, tackle the big slide, and swing so high they feel like they’re flying. By giving your children the freedom to explore the park, you’re allowing your child to take risks in a safe environment.

2. Kids need to exercise
Childhood health can be a risk factor for adult obesity. Kids who have unhealthy diets and spend time cooped up indoors staring at screens rather than running around in the fresh air are more likely to be obese in later life. One in three children are now overweight, which is a pretty scary statistic if you think about what the future impact of that will be. If you want your kids to grow up into people who value exercise and health, you need to instill that belief now. That doesn’t mean you have to fork out for costly organised sports, a simple trip to the park could be all you need to get the blood flowing and show your kid that exercise is fun. Climbing the huge climbing equipment, jumping off the swings and running towards the next piece of equipment are all simple exercises your kids will enjoy during a trip to the park. For a bit of extra exercise, take a ball and play a game of football while you’re there.

3. It’s good for their development
You might be surprised at just how valuable a trip to the park can be for your child’s development. For younger kids, playing at the park allows them to build on their motor skills. Kids learn through play and while your kid is busy trying to go down the big slide, she’s learning how to climb and how to balance. Coordination is a really important skill and you can’t beat a trip to the park for mastering that important skill. As your kids grow, so too do the number of development opportunities at the playground. Balancing upside, swinging on the monkey bars, balancing on the trim trail - there are loads of different skills involved in each of these activities.

4. They’ll learn social skills
Going to the park encourages your child to mix with other children. They will make new friends, speak to new people and navigate complicated social situations (read: deal with the awkward kid who won’t budge from the top of the slide). The best way to teach your child social skills is to create plenty of opportunities for them to socialise with different children. The park is an easy place to do this because it is usually filled with children of various ages.

5. Fresh air is good for all of us
Today’s kids spend less time outdoors than previous generations. We’re at risk of raising a generation of vitamin D deficient kids who only want to sit indoors and stare at computer screens. Time spent in green spaces improves mental health, lifts your mood and promotes good health. For more tips on how to improve your mental health, take a look at BetterHelp. Fresh air is also famous for helping kids to sleep at night. When Ebony was younger and bedtime was a battle, I made sure we always spent a couple of hours outside. The fresh air seemed to make all the difference because she would come home exhausted and ready for sleep. That in itself is enough of a reason to try a trip to the park today.

This is a collaborative post.

Sunday 27 August 2017

Exactly One Year Ago

Exactly one year ago, I didn’t know you. We’d never met. I’d expected to meet you weeks earlier, but you hadn’t shown up. You’d kept me waiting, dragging out the pregnancy so that it felt it might never end. And, at some points, I genuinely worried it might never, that I might actually be the first woman to be pregnant forever. I can remember the patient look on the midwife’s face when she asked if I had an idea of when I might agree to induction, should labour not start on its own.


Exactly one year ago, I wrote you a letter pleading with you to come out. I was so ready to meet you, so ready to finally hold you in my arms and know that you were ok. I sat in an empty hospital room, waiting, but, for the first time in days, feeling hopeful that you would arrive soon.


Exactly one year ago, I realised you were on your way. Those pesky Braxton Hicks I had grown so accustomed to felt stronger, different somehow. I felt relaxed, even in my hospital bed, and I knew you were finally ready to make an appearance.


Exactly one year ago, I realised I might have been wrong, that perhaps you weren’t ready to make an appearance quite yet. You wanted to drag out the ending as much as you had dragged out the pregnancy. The hours passed quickly at first, then slowly, as though the entire world were on standstill with baited breath waiting for you to arrive. I watched the hands tick by on the wall clock as I sat in the pool, wishing you would hurry up. A lot of people had a lot of opinions on how you might best be coaxed into the world.

Exactly one year ago, you were born. You were caught by a motherly midwife who had supported women all over the world to give birth, all the way from the bright lights of Stepping Hill delivery suite to underfunded and ill equipped maternity units in developing countries. A little girl, pink and screaming, crying out for me. The midwife gathered you up and placed you on my chest, your head, the hair still damp with vernix, rested in the groove of my arm, as somebody draped a hospital blanket over us to keep us warm. You stared at me, your eyes deep and dark, as I fell in love, letting myself breathe in every bit of you. The little fingernails, the dark hair, the rolls of fat on your legs.

Exactly one year ago, I felt that familiar rush of becoming somebody’s mother. Only this time, there was no fear or self-doubt, it felt exactly as I knew it would. I knew you as soon as I saw you, as though I had known you forever.


Exactly one year ago, I held you to my breast and fed you, watching you drift gently to sleep as your tiny stomach grew content and full with milk. I wrapped you in a rainbow striped blanket I had knitted for you during the pregnancy, each stitch crafted with love and hope, then I gently placed you in the plastic see-through cot next to my bed, only inches away from where I slept. Your dad slept on the other side of me, hunched over in a chair, exhausted from the hours of stolen sleep the night before.


Exactly one year ago, I dressed you in a pink flowery romper your big sister had chosen for the unknown baby growing in my bump. I lifted you up gently and held you in my arms, savouring the smallness of you, and I followed your dad down the hospital corridor to where your sister was excitedly waiting. I carried you through the double doors and out into the waiting area to where your sister sat on a sofa. She was dressed in a red dress, a glittery headband sitting in her messy hair, her eyes heavy with bags and her mouth wide in amazement as she saw your pink romper and realised you were a girl, a little sister just for her. We sat next to her on the sofa and she leant in to whisper in your ear, telling you how much she loved you already. I placed you in her arms and she cradled you so carefully as though you were the most precious thing in the world.


Exactly one year ago, I carried you over the doorstep and into your new home. Your sister was waiting excitedly in the house your nanny had cleaned for your arrival, the fruit bowl overflowing with fresh fruit, piles of clean washing piled high in the utility room. I sat on the sofa and breathed you in as you slept against my chest, your sister cuddled up beside me as we started life as a family of four, all us together at last.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

A Family Party for a First Birthday

I still haven’t decided whether it’s better to be the first or second baby. Ebony had to put up with all my irrational fear and unrelenting anxieties around parenthood, and Ember hasn’t had to deal with any of that. But, equally, Ebony got a massive fuck off party to celebrate turning one and, erm, Ember didn’t.

It’s not that it doesn’t feel like a big deal, it does, of course. This year has gone faster than any other year of my life, I am genuinely scared I might have somehow altered time without realising. And it’s not that I don’t want to celebrate her birthday, I do. But, I guess, that first party, the one we said was for Ebony, I think maybe it was really for us. Maybe it was a way of making all of our friends and family celebrate the way we had survived that first year. Being a parent felt huge back then and now it feels like my default setting, I can’t imagine anything else.

And, of course, life was less chaotic back then. On the approach to Ebony’s first birthday, that milestone was all I could think about. I wasn’t working, I didn’t have other children to chase after, I was completely utterly focused on her birthday. It felt huge. The first of many. The celebration that would set the bar for all those that followed. I spent a long time organising it. Friends came from really far away. There was a giant cake. A room filled with friends and family. It was amazing. And stressful. Me and Laurie had terrible hangovers the next day. Worse hangovers than is socially acceptable for a first birthday party.

I don’t want any of that this time. I am working. I am busy. Time is flying by. I don’t have the opportunity to organise a big party and, even if I did, I wouldn’t want to. Ebony didn’t appreciate her first birthday party. She spent it coughing and sneezing, clinging to my arms, red circles under her eyes because she was sleepy and would rather have been in bed. One-year-olds don’t care about birthday parties. They don’t care about great aunts who have travelled miles or how long you spent on the playlist. As guest of honours go, they’re pretty unappreciative.

And so, this time, I’m not doing it. I just want to spend her birthday as a family. Me, Laurie, Ebony and Ember. Nobody else. No polite conversation, no buffet, no worrying about how to keep a room of small children entertained. Just us. I want to spend the weekend doing things she will enjoy but that we will enjoy as well. I want us all to have fun making memories as a family. It’s a bank holiday weekend which means we get an extra day to spend just the four of us and I can’t wait.

In lieu of a big celebration, we did have a tiny family party on Sunday. Just my parents and Laurie’s parents and my tiny Nanny who takes up very little room. The girls wore party dresses and we had pizza as party food. My amazing friend Becky who runs Becky’s Cake Boutique made a rainbow cake. We listened to Moana (Ebony’s request). There was bunting. It was simple, minimal, effortless. It was just enough to rid me of the mum guilt of not organising Ember a big first birthday without being so much as to feel like too much work. It was a celebration without being overwhelming. And, more importantly, it meant we saw everybody, it gave them the chance to celebrate Ember’s birthday, so that next weekend we can hang out just us. Ebony wants us to have a party, just the four of us, with loud music and dancing and jelly and ice-cream (or frozen banana, if you’re unfortunate enough to be the birthday girl who isn’t allowed sugary luxuries like jelly and ice-cream). And, to me, that sounds pretty much perfect.

ps, can you believe Ember is one on Sunday?!

Monday 21 August 2017

5 Ways To Keep Your Home Safe

When I was little, we arrived home from school one day to find that the living room window had been smashed at the back of the house. My mum quickly ushered us to a neighbour's house and then went to investigate. You will be relieved to hear that the burglars did not steal my guinea pigs, something which was a huge concern of mine at the time. Turns out burglars are more interested in cold hard cash. 

When I was a student, my friend's house was broken into by an axe-wielding burglar. Twice. But not before the burglar stole money, laptops and other bits. I am very paranoid about being burgled. I wake up a lot/rarely sleep and always hear mysterious noises that almost always turn out to be the cat. I hate the thought of somebody going through my things or taking things that don't belong to them. In the area I live in, burglaries seem to be on the up with burglaries becoming a common occurrence. There are things you can do to try and keep your home safe from burglaries, such as:

1. Installing home security cameras
Home security cameras are an obvious was to deter thieves, after all, they don't want to be caught in the act. The sight of a security camera can persuade burglars not to break into your home, that's why so many people invest in dummy cameras in the hope of achieving the same. And, if you do get broken into, your camera will probably have picked up some footage of the perpetrator. An outdoor camera like these Panasonic Home Security cameras could give you some much-needed peace of mind.  

2. Hide your car keys
When we first moved into our house, I bought a pretty little key hook to go on the wall by the front door, but I haven't put it up because I later found out about how regularly car keys are stolen thanks to the pretty key hooks so many home owners use. If you leave your car keys in sight, it's really easy for somebody to thread something through the letterbox and get hold of them. Now, I know nobody would ever want to steal our car (it's really messy and old and barely works. It's more similar to Fred Flintstone's car than a modern automobile), I feel safer knowing the keys aren't on show.

3. Get to know your neighbours
This is just something we should all do anyway, right? Because, community. My friend's childhood home got broken into but the burglars were disturbed by Jan from across the road (names may have been changed due to my memory problems) because she knew my friend's family well enough to know they weren't bearded men carrying loot sacks (again, this may be an exaggeration of the truth) and so phoned the police to report it. 

My across the road neighbours only know me as (I assume) the woman who always misses her Amazon delivery, I don't know that they would notice suspicious activity unless it was me answering the door to a delivery man. Knowing your neighbours and the people who live near you provides protection to you and them. If you know your local community, you are more likely to spot unusual activity.

4. Keep your property visible 
I love privacy but also I love not being burgled. Our house is quite open at the front, we live in an old terraced house which is ever so slightly set back from the road. There is a little wall in front, but, basically, old women stare in open mouthed as they walk back from the shops. It drove me so crazy that I switched the living room and playroom round so that I now have the nice private room at the back of the house and the world is forced to watch Ebony play Rapunzal for 12 hours a day. Much as I love privacy, I think shielding your house with shrubs and hedges actually puts you at risk of burglary because it gives burglars places to hide while also blocking the views of those open-mouthed old women who may one day notice something suspicious. 

5. Keep your house secure
My mum has always been nervy open unlocked doors and this is something I have had drilled into me from a young age. My inner voice is basically just my mum going, "Is the door locked? Have you locked the door? Just check it," indefinitely. This is also my outer voice because this is now what I say to Laurie endlessly. I'm also obsessive about making sure all the windows are closed and locked, even the one in the conservatory roof even though I'm pretty sure nobody could fit through that and, even if they could, they'd almost certainly fall through the roof trying. 

What steps do you take to keep your house secure?

This is a collaborative post. 

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

5 Things I Never Get Around To Doing

I always have great plans but very rarely find the time to actually carry them out. There’s just too much to do, isn’t there? It’s enough just trying to do my work, look after my kids, and keep the house from appearing on an episode of Hoarders. Life with small children is busy and chaotic, and, being an idiot, I have delayed me getting my life back by opting for a slightly bigger age gap between my kids. My friends with smaller age gaps are busy enjoying the freedom that comes with not having toddlers to care for, while I’m still firmly in the bum-wiping, toddler chasing, pasta sauce handprints stage of life.

I have Pinterest boards filled with craft activities I’ll never get around to, vegan cakes I’ll never find the time to bake and DIY projects I wouldn’t be able to attempt without the toddler swallowing at least one screw. And so, for now, I must embrace the fact that I can’t really do anything, that staying afloat is about all I can manage right now, safe in the knowledge that I will one day find the time to do things for myself again. Maybe.

On that note, here are five things I never get around to doing (even though I really want to do them):

1. Growing vegetables
When Ebony was a baby, Laurie grew some vegetables in planting bags in the garden of our old house. He grew the world’s tiniest carrots and a ridiculous number of courgettes so that 2012 will always taste of spiced courgette soup in my memory. We always said we would grow more the following year, but we haven’t yet found the time. We have a conservatory now, too, so we could probably grow tomatoes and cucumbers and all kinds of other foods that love warmer climates. We went to the garden centre last week and Laurie bought a couple of heavily discounted chili plants for the conservatory, but hopefully by next year we’ll be able to build some wooden planters and invest some time in growing vegetables (take a look at these growing guides for tips on how to grow your own vegetables).

2. Sorting the garden
Similarly, the garden is looking a little worse for wear this year. It’s just impossible to garden when you have a baby or toddler moving around. Our garden isn’t exactly child-friendly, I’m forever finding glass hidden amongst the flower beds. So we haven’t spent much time out there without me supervising Ember. When Ebony was about three, we would spend long days in the garden, her playing and me sorting out the weeds and making the garden pretty. I’m hoping that next year, when Ember may have finally cottoned onto what the word ‘no’ means, I’ll be able to do some gardening again.

3. Knitting
I am not very good at knitting, but I enjoy it nonetheless. I love sitting on the sofa on autumn evenings, a box set playing on the TV, while I knit. It keeps me busy and I get a great feeling of accomplishment when I finish something. I knitted a baby blanket when I was pregnant, well, two actually because I still hadn’t finished Ebony’s baby blanket by then. And, last year, I spent my evenings knitting winter hats to keep Ember’s tiny ears warm on cold winter days. I’m hoping to knit her a hat or two this year as well, though it’s difficult to find the time. I never know when Ember will wake up in the evenings so I’m always losing my place or forgetting where I’m up to.

4. Organising my photos
I have so many photos. So many. They’re all stored online but not in any useful way, it’s just an endless stream of uncategorised photos which, if I’m crazy, makes me feel stressed. I want folders, tagged photographs and neatly organised collections of images. I have thousands of photos so I know it would be a huge job, but I hope that one day I will find the time to do it. If you have any tips for organising digital photos, I’d love to hear them!

5. My tight drawer
I have a drawer filled with tights. Probably three pairs of them are the right size, free from ladders and in good condition. The rest are ripped or small or wearing away. Every time I need a pair of tights I have to rifle through the drawer, I end up trying on five pairs of tights before eventually finding some that fit, but I’m always in a rush so I never manage to throw out the useless pairs. And so the problem continues. One day, I will sort this out. If I did, I would probably save myself a lot of time and lateness if I would just throw out the damn tights.

This is a featured post.

Sunday 20 August 2017

Getting Ready For School With Debenhams

I am way organised when it comes to buying school uniform, in fact, this is the only area of my life where I excel at being ready on time. We are late for school most days, I never know which days are inset days and I often work frantically on deadline day, but, when it comes to school uniform, I have that sorted by the end of July. I think it is the fear of usually being behind that forces me to be so organised when it comes to uniform. If I wasn’t, there’s a good chance it would slip my mind altogether and Ebony would be forced to show up on her first day in scuffed shoes and ripped tights.

I buy her uniform from Debenhams. When she was in nursery, I bought bits from various shops and the Debenhams stuff seemed to last longer so that’s where I buy it all from now. She favours dresses over any other item, so I make sure we always have a couple of dresses. This dark grey bow applique pinafore dress (pictured) is just £9.60 and is my absolute favourite item, it just does not need ironing. Ever. It comes out of the dryer or off the maiden totally ready for school, which is exactly how I like it. The one she wore last year is still in really good condition so I’ve just bought one extra one for Year One (sob, how can she be going into Year One?!).

In the photos, you can also see the t-shirts I chose for her. I got the pack of two girls’ polo shirts which cost just £4, we still have lots of t-shirts from last year so I only bought one new pack. Although Ebony seems to have shot up over the summer holidays so I may live to regret that decision.

They have official school logo jumpers at Ebony’s school, but she’s not a big fan of them. I think she finds them too warm when she’s in class because they have the radiators on high most of the time. She much prefers taking cardigans although she rarely seems to wear them. I bought her a black V neck jumper from Debenhams for £4.80, it’s a better material than the official alternative so I’m hoping she’ll wear it to keep warm in the winter.

If you order this week, you'll get 25% Off* Schoolwear and School Shoes. The summer holidays are almost over, there’s just two weeks left, which is more than a little bit depressing. I’m loving having Ebony around all day, it’s beautiful watching her play with Ember all day long.

This is a collaborative post.

Thursday 17 August 2017

5 Things I Love About Other People's Houses

I am very much into real estate porn. I check Rightmove all the time even though I have no intention of moving. I just like to look at the houses. Normally I would worry that admitting this might make me seem weird, but I know plenty of other people have the same affliction so I am ignoring my shame. I am a house pervert, it’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s true. Admit it, you do it, too.

Here are five of the things I love about other people’s houses:

1. The kitchen diners
I don’t have one and so I lust after yours. Typical, isn’t it? I really love the spacious kitchen diners in modern houses, the ones with the huge windows that let light into the room. I would love to have a big dining table in the kitchen, somewhere Ebony could sit and draw while I cooked dinner, or I could sit and drink wine while Laurie cooked dinner. Our kitchen is lovely, but I wish it was more of a living space rather than somewhere just for cooking.

2. Extra staircases
I don’t know why, but I have a real thing about houses with three levels. I love the sight of the wooden spindled bannister twisting around to reveal another flight of stairs reaching up to a secret third level of the house. I guess it’s because it makes the house seem bigger, but it also makes the landing feel more useful. I would love to have an attic bedroom and the associated stairs to admire (is it just me who feels this way about stairs?).

3. The outdoor space
I love indoor-outdoor living spaces. I love when the house and garden flow seamlessly together, allowing you to move easily between the two. Our house and garden feel disconnected, at the moment, I think because there is a whacking great conservatory in the way (I am not a fan). I would much prefer huge doors that opened up onto the garden so that it felt more like part of our home. Our house is one of those weirdly long old terraces, so the garden just feels really far away when you’re sitting in the living room.

4. The bookcases
I love a good bookcase, there are few sights more pleasing than a tower of books reaching up towards the ceiling. I don’t know how people can use Kindles and not have actual physical copies of books to proudly display on their bookcases for years to come.

5. The personality
This is the best thing about homes, right? The little hints of personality that hint at what the family might be like. The gorgeous family photos of smiling kids on holiday, the colourful prints and the weird little ornaments displayed on shelves. I love seeing the artwork displayed on fridges, the wall hangings in the hallway and the collection of plants dotted around the house. I think the finishing touches are the things that really make a home.

This is a featured post.

Tuesday 15 August 2017

5 Ways I'm Not Good At Adulting

Firstly, I like that I exist in a time where ‘adulting’ is a word. I would have been no good in the 1950s when everybody was busy being adults and responsible and there were no hilarious Buzzfeed articles about why it was hard. I am glad to live in a world where it’s ok to admit you have no idea what you’re doing, where pretty much everyone finds life overwhelming and where those who don’t stand out for being a bit weird (who wants to be that organised, really?). Sometimes I think I’ve got this whole adulting thing down, then I realise that thinking that alone probably proves that I haven’t.

Here are five ways I’m not very good at adulting:

1. I don’t have any of the right tools
We never have the right tools, we usually end up borrowing them from my dad. Sometimes, after we borrow them, we lose them, and I can tell from my dad’s facial expression that he also thinks I am bad at adulting. The tools we do have, I can never find. It’s actually easier to borrow things from my dad than it is to try and make sense of our utility room. We don’t even have the right ladders for our house. Our ceilings are tall and our ladders are short. This is not good. When Laurie goes in the loft, he has to stand atop our tiny ladders and hope for the best as he leaps towards the loft entrance. I stand at the bottom, crossing my fingers tightly.

2. I never know when the inset days are
Why don’t they just include them in the list of when the school holidays are? Why are they separate, hidden away at the bottom of a long list of days off? It’s like a trap so they can work out which parents don’t know wtf they’re doing. As though the fact we forget to send the PE kit in and our children sometimes have unbrushed air isn’t making things obvious enough for them. We never get around to doing the homework they send home either unless it’s something particularly fun. We’re usually late in the morning and I’m often one of the last parents at pick up. I’m just not great at this whole school mum thing.

3. I can’t answer any of the big questions
I get asked all kinds of weird crap now that Ebony is older. She asks me about the solar system, about what happens when we die, about whether tigers are real (poor vegan kid who has never visited a zoo), about nerves. Nerves. How am I meant to know anything about nerves?! I know nothing. I can look things up on my phone, but that is it. What would I have done if I had been a parent before the internet existed? What did those people do?

4. I cannot budget
I try, I do, but I am still not good with a budget. I feel like I should be because I spent so long as a lowly paid charity working essentially existing on soup, but alas, I am rubbish. I usually overspend and I can never be sure how. I always think life will be easier if I write down what I spend money on, but then I’m busy with Ember and Ebony and many shopping bags and I just forget, then I have no idea where all my money went, again.

5. I stay up too late
My most adult weeks are the ones where I go to bed at 10pm and wake up the next day feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. These weeks are also my most rare. I am way more likely to still be sat on the sofa at midnight and wake up feeling like death. That’s not what adults do, is it?

This is a featured post.

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