I’ve worked incredibly hard on my little blog over the past few months, and as I mentioned recently on my two year ‘blog birthday’, my confidence has increased massively. So much so, that on Saturday I found myself catching a train down to London to go to the massively anticipated Blogfest, hosted by Mumsnet.
A couple of months ago we reviewed the shopping list game from Orchard Toys. It’s become a firm favourite and a great way of keeping the kids entertained for half an hour, so we were pleased when we were sent another game to review – this time a festive themed one.
I live in one of the best cities to live in if you are a chocoholic. Only twenty minutes down the road from us is the world famous Cadbury World. I’ve been several times, both as a child and as an adult and always had a great day. We hadn’t got round to taking the kids yet, so when we had an email inviting us to spend the day at Cadbury World, we were really excited. We didn’t tell the kids until the night before, and they were really looking forward to going to see a real life chocolate factory – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is their favourite film at the moment!
When we think of Autumn, we often think of Pinterest worthy images – Pumpkin spice lattes, cosy scarves and cardigans, and crunching through brightly coloured leaves in the park.
For many people, the reality is so much different. According to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association, as much as 20% of the UK population suffers from mild symptoms of SAD, and it usually starts around September, when the nights start drawing in. For 2% of SAD sufferers, it amounts to a seriously disabling illness, leaving them dreading this time of year.
We have always been really lucky because none of the boys have ever really suffered with nappy rash. Sure, we have had the occasional sore bum, but a bit of Bepanthum nappy cream and it has cleared up pretty quickly. A lot of it is down to pure luck, but we have also done what we can to prevent nappy rash happening in the first place. Here are a few tips we have picked up over the years:
One thing I am always concious about since having children is the temperature of the house. I sometimes wonder if I have my own personal central heating system, as I’m always really warm even when everyone else is dithering. It’s a bit of a bone of contention in our house. Graham turns the heating up, I turn it down. He thinks it is too cold for the kids, I think it is too warm. I know that the recommended temperature is about 17 – 20°c, but we never know when is that temperature.
When Electronic Temperature Instruments Ltd got in touch and asked if we wanted to review one of their nursery thermometers, we jumped at the chance. Maybe we could finally find the right temperature in order for us to all be comfortable!
Yesterday was a bit of a milestone for me, as anyone who follows me on Facebook will have noticed – it was my blog’s 2nd birthday.
Well, it was technically two years since I started blogging. When I first started in November 2013, I started as Activities4Kidz, and blogged predominately about, well, activities for kids. By May 2014, I realised I had so much more I wanted to write about, and that’s how Parenthood Highs and Lows came about.
Messy play is something that we have always loved doing. It’s not about the end product, it’s about all the processes involved which is so much more important. One of our favourite messy play activities is conker rolling – an activity we have done both at home and with the children at playgroup. It is a bit of a seasonal adaptation of the good old marble rolling activity, and a great way of using all of those conkers that the kids seem to collect.
The kids have been asking if they can do some conker rolling, but we’ve run out of conkers. A quick look in the box showed us that we had rather a lot of pine cones to do something with. A-ha!! Pine cone painting it was…
As both someone who used to be a teacher, and now as a parent I am aware of how difficult it can be to buy a gift at Christmas for a teacher. Whilst you don’t want to spend a fortune, especially if there are other adults in the school that help your child, you also want to get them something that shows your appreciation. I know Harrison’s teacher and teaching assistant work incredibly hard, and go above and beyond their job descriptions!
From a teachers point of view, I can honestly say that a gift is never ever expected but every single gift is always appreciated. It sounds like a cliche, but homemade gifts and cards are always the nicest to receive. If you do want to go out and buy a gift, and don’t want to resort to chocolates and toiletries, here are a few ideas.
The idea for this post came after a bit of an observation at one of the playgroups that we go to. I was sitting at the side, drinking my coffee. Alex was at a table a few feet away doing a jigsaw puzzle, and Benjamin was off doing his own thing. Another mum sitting nearby asked me where Ben was. I pointed to him – he was the other side of the room, happily playing with a toy saucepan. She asked me if he was okay on his own, which of course he was.
Now, I know this mum quite well and I know her asking me was not meant to be any sort of criticism of my parenting, and nor did I take it as such. She was completely surprised, and as she then went on to admit, slightly envious of the fact that my 11 month old could play completely independently at the other side of the rather large room – and that I was relaxed enough to let him. She thought it was great that he could do that, as she has to follow her two year old son everywhere.
When it comes to buying presents for the boys, I always ask other parents for their recommendations. I try, as far as possible, to stay away from the latest craze or character toys (although that is getting harder as the boys get older!), looking for toys and gifts that will stand the test of time. All of these items are things we have reviewed in the past year or so, or are things we have bought for the boys – all are personally recommended by us!
Our kids have never been into nursery rhymes. In fact, we were often the ones who crept out of playgroups just before the singing bit at the end because they didn’t want to sit down and sing.
In the last few weeks however, both Harrison and Alex have taken an interest in singing them, to the point that I dread the morning school run because they insist on singing song after song in the car. I’d never thought about the lyrics of nursery rhymes before, but after being forced to sing ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring’ six times in a row, I realised just how dark and downright weird the lyrics to nursery rhymes are.
We are huge fans, and I mean HUGE fans of Costa coffee in our house. We have one just two minutes walk away, which is lethal. Harrison also loves his hot chocolates, and it is our Friday after school treat. I *may* have an extra couple of treats in the form of a skinny vanilla latte with an extra shot of espresso each week.
One of the things that signify the countdown to Christmas for me is when Costa bring out their Christmas cups. I always have my drinks in take-away cups, and sometimes they never seem as pretty in plain take away cups. This all changes when there is a cute snowman or Santa on my cup!
I was absolutely over the moon when Costa sent us these adorable ceramic ‘take away’ Christmas cups – I could have all the fun of the cute cups whilst drinking my boring instant coffee at home!
On Wednesday we had Harrison’s first reception parents evening. My mum and dad watched the kids so Graham could come along. He didn’t make it to any of Harrison’s nursery ones, and I don’t think he quite knew what to expect – he was really nervous about it!
Our appointment was at 6.20pm, and we got there a few minutes early. We had a chance to look through Harrison’s books to see what he has been up to. I know from my own teaching days that children in reception do work, but to see that Harrison, our own baby, does ‘proper’ work was weird! He’s quite cagey about what he does at school – he may tell us he did some writing or some painting, but that’s all we get, so it was interesting to look at.
Now that Halloween is out of the way, many people’s thoughts have turned towards planning and shopping for Christmas,
Before I had kids, and even up until last year really, I never planned ahead to Christmas. I used to go out at some point during December, grab everyone’s presents, go to the pub and then wrap them all up (not after the pub, that could have got a bit messy!) whilst listening to some Christmas tunes. Now, with kids, it takes a little bit more planning. We’ve never had to worry about Christmas foods, because we go to my mums for Christmas day, but this year we are going to have a proper Christmas dinner at home on Boxing day, so we will have a little taste of planning that side of it!
Forever Friends have been around pretty much my entire life, and I remember absolutely loving the cute and cuddly bears as a child – in fact my mum knitted me an absolutely amazing Forever Friends jumper which is still hanging in my wardrobe!! I’m really pleased to see it is still going strong, and is around for my own children to love.
One of the things that came up in Harrison’s school report and parents evening earlier this year was his ability to build and construct fantastic things out of Lego. We did consider buying him Lego for his birthday, but with Ben crawling about I was a little bit nervous of him putting it into his mouth. However, Ben is now getting older and we have shelves where Lego can be stored out of reach, so we have bitten the bullet and ordered some from House of Fraser for Christmas.
It seems that in recent years, Lego has moved away from free building and more to playsets. I’m sure that as Harrison gets older, he will love those, but for now we just want to encourage him to develop his imagination and make whatever he wants. I was really pleased to see that there are now boxes of classic Lego in a variety of colours – all the components for free-building.
I could write about all the wonderful and unusual places we drink milk, or come up with some fantastic recipes involving milk, but in reality, how do we enjoy milk in our house?
We like it exactly as it is. Straight from the fridge.
I’ve written before about how we are a household of milk drinkers, drinking 40+ pints of the white stuff a week. As a family, it is our favourite drink. Lots of people relax with a pint of lager and a glass of wine. Not us…
I have always been a great believer in everything in moderation. I have no problem with any of the kids eating a bit of chocolate or a few sweets now and then. They are obsessed with brushing their teeth, and at their last dental check up the dentist commented on how beautiful and healthy their teeth are.
Sadly, this isn’t the case for all children, A recent report shows that almost half of all eight year olds and a fifth of all five year olds have visible signs of tooth decay. That’s not a nice statistic. It costs the NHS over £30 million a year, but more to the point, those children have to suffer a life time of bad dental health.
I love buying from independent businesses and shops rather than the big chains, and Just Kids Things is an online shop that I have recently fallen in love with. It’s one of those places where you can all sorts of baby and toddler products, from pushchairs and car seats, to toys and clothes.
We were sent a pair of Blade & Rose monster leggings for Benjamin. Blade & Rose are an upcoming brand in the UK, and Just Kids Things stock a wide range of their cute legging, and the matching socks. I love babies and toddlers in leggings – they are much more comfortable and practical for having fun in, not to mention adorable!
Whether you agree with it or disagree with it, children get homework. Even Harrison, who is only 4 and in reception brings phonics work home, which we do every night as well as reading.
I am actually all for homework in moderation. I don’t believe for one minute that children should be studying for hours after school, but I do believe that 20 minutes or so of homework each night for children is absolutely fine. I think it helps to consolidate learning, and encourages parents to sit down with their children and get involved and be a part of their education. However, sometimes homework can prove really stressful for both children and parents, and it really is no fun at home. In fact, when this happens it becomes a really negative experience and completely wipes out all of the benefits.
We regularly hear about how scheduling in some ‘me time’ is important, but let’s face it, when you’re juggling work, a house and children, there’s often just no time to go out and be pampered. I occasionally get round to the beauty salon round the corner to have my eyebrows waxed once a month, and that’s about the extent of it. The logistics of anything else make it sometimes seem more hassle then it is worth.
Fortunately, there seems to be more companies taking this into consideration, and make it easier to access their services by coming to you, rather than you having to go to them. Urban Massage are one such company.
When Travelodge got in touch and asked me to share what I think are Birmingham’s hidden gems, I turned to Facebook to see what my fellow Brummies thought. The list was endless – a real diverse mix of parks. attractions, shops, bars and restaurants – proving that there really is something in the second city for everybody.
Here are just a few that born and bred Brummies would recommend: