Category Archives: Children

Our summer – living with lovely chaos

This morning my son went off to spend the day with his cousin. There’s not a lot that’s unusual about this, but it’s been a date which has been in my diary for weeks. It’s been a little beacon of peace in what has been quite a busy summer. I’ve been looking forward to today for ages. I had grand plans to catch up on some work, do a bit of life admin, tidy up a bit and maybe just sit and watch something on TV, something which isn’t Horrid Henry!

I’ve done most of my work, I’ve done my life admin and drunk some still hot when I got to them drinks. It’s been very useful, but I’ve not loved it. I went on Twitter and just tweeted about my day, I described our days together as lovely chaos, and in that I think I perfectly described him and us and our family life.

Family Festival Review: Just So Festival 2019

Like many family homes a late night walk to the bathroom means you run the gauntlet of discarded toys. There’s still an element of paddling when you go to the loo, the dining table is covered with half made crafts, science experiments, and drawings he has done or is doing. I don’t have a living room, I have a room which is given over to a wonderfully complex wooden train set which I’m pretty much forbidden to touch, lest I do something wrong.

The kitchen is a mess, mostly of his making. His constant school holiday hunger is driving me close to bankruptcy. I can’t make, bake or buy enough food to fill his belly each day. His favourite snack is toast which he’s recently learned to make himself. My kitchen is now given over to shifting dunes of toast crumbs and sticky surfaces where he’s dolloped honey or jam.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

This summer hasn’t always felt like my favourite. He’s pushed back a bit, he’s trying to assert himself and I’m giving way where I need to, he’s 8 now and needs room to grow into himself. Equally, he’s 8 now and needs to stop thinking he is king of the house and my direct line manager. He needs to learn to give and take and to listen to me. Like the time I told him not to walk into ankle deep mud whilst wearing the only shoes he had with him for the weekend.

Glamping at Camp Katur, North Yorkshire

The house seems too quiet, too tidy and too big without him. He goes back to school next week and I’m getting a little taste of my days without his lovely chaos. I will miss him and all the really ace stuff we’ve been doing, but he needs to get back into a routine. I need to start cracking on with my life and it would be nice to get my house back to something approaching tidy.

I’ve loved my summer of lovely chaos with my boy, the highs have been high and the lows thankfully not too low. We’ve been on adventures, we’ve done a million things, but being with my boy, learning with him and about him is the loveliest thing of all.

What my son’s school report doesn’t tell me

I’ve just had a message from school to say that your school report will be coming home tomorrow. This is perhaps my least favourite day of your school year.

I see a child who has made incredible leaps since September. I see a boy who loves reading, and writes me notes about how much he loves me. My boy is someone who skips down the road shouting out his three times table. I see a boy who needs extra help, but tries so hard to help himself.

Your school report will tell me facts, facts that I’m not that interested in really. It will tell me your scores for tests which mean nothing to me, you or your future. It will tell me where you’re expected to be at this age and where you actually are. What it won’t tell me is how happy you are at school. It won’t tell me about the kind things you did to make the new boy feel welcome, or that time you reeled off a huge list of Viking facts the rest of your class, and perhaps even your teacher hadn’t learned about yet.

It won’t uplift and shine a light on the huge efforts you’ve made with your writing this year and how you’ve gone from hating everything about writing to scribbling notes on every available scrap of paper, and sometimes even my walls. Your report won’t tell me about how you’ve grown to love drawing and even got pretty good at it. It won’t tell me about how good you are at swimming and martial arts, or how you are learning to identify all the different trees we pass on our walks.

Your school report will tell me in bald terms how you match up against your peers and where you are lagging behind. There may be passing mention of some of what makes you my bold, brilliant, funny, kind and interested boy, but your school report doesn’t define you to me.

Your school report is largely a time consuming tick box exercise for your teacher. It needs to be done, but its contents are of little or no interest to me. To me you are an individual with a million strengths. You are a unique and wonderful personality. I have no idea where you will go in life, what you will be, even who you will be. All I care about is that you are happy and healthy, that you are kind and you are liked and that you try hard. Not everyone can be good at everything, we’ve got to try a lot of things to find our strengths and you have a great many of those my darling, and most of them won’t be listed in your school report.

I won’t show you the report, it’ll be read and then put in a box for a future us to read. Maybe in ten or twenty years you will find it and read it. I hope when you do you will remember the boy who tried hard above all else and a boy who was happy and loved.

I have spoken to your teachers and met with them regularly. They know and love you as the enthusiastic and interested individual you are. They do know your strengths and your capabilities, they do know the giant leaps you have made this year. But this will not come across in your school report. If you read it, do not take it to heart my dear boy; you are all I could have wished you to be and more. I’d change nothing about you, except your ability to tidy your own room.

Four pieces of paper do not define you to me; they do not define your future or anything of any serious consequence. Keep being brilliant and interested in the world; please keep learning and wanting to learn. Keep trying hard, because that is all I could ever ask of you, my brilliant darling boy.

What my son's school report doesn't tell me

30 Interesting Ideas for Kids’ Birthday Parties

I love organising my son’s birthday party each year, and I also absolutely dread it. It can be hard to come up with ideas for fun, interesting and unique birthday parties; something a bit different from everyone else in the class, but something that’s lots of fun and not too much of an organisational headache.

Over the years my son has had some great parties and some not so great parties. He’s had soft play parties, laser quest, science parties, parties on steam trains and parties at home; all with lashings of jelly and ice cream, party bags and lots of fun and fuss.

But if you’re sitting down to plan a party and you want to do something a bit different, I’ve gathered a list of 30 interesting ideas for kids’ birthday parties to get you started. Some of them might offer the full package; from food and drinks, to entertainment and party bags. Some venues you might need to take packed lunches, or party bags. It’s best to contact them to see what they can offer.

Legoland Manchester birthday party

30 interesting ideas for kids’ birthday parties

  1. Adventure Golf
  2. Afternoon Tea
  3. Animal Handling
  4. Bowling
  5. Build a Bear parties
  6. Cake Decorating
  7. Chill Factore – snow park party, snowboarding etc in Manchester
  8. Cinema
  9. Climbing Wall
  10. Craft
  11. Farm Parties
  12. Football
  13. Go Karting
  14. Gymnastics Party
  15. Ice skating
  16. Indoor Skydiving
  17. Laser Quest
  18. Legoland Discovery Centre
  19. Magician
  20. Outdoor Adventure
  21. Pamper Parties
  22. Party Bus
  23. Pottery Party
  24. Pizza Party (make your own)
  25. Princess Party
  26. Roller Skating
  27. Sea Life Centre
  28. Silent Disco
  29. Soft play
  30. Trampoline Park

I live in Manchester and these kinds of parties are all available to book locally, so something similar should be available in most large towns and cities. Once you’ve got an idea for the kind of party you want, you can search from something suitable which is local to you.

I’m not sure what his birthday party this year will be. What kind of parties do your kids enjoy?

30 Interesting Ideas for Kids' Birthday Parties

A letter to my 8 year old on his birthday

I remember holding you in my arms when you were first born. You were all soft and delicate and people said “treasure every minute, they grow up so fast”. And here we are, about three minutes later and you’re 8 years old.

Days Out: Autumn at Warwick Castle

You were never really that delicate and fragile. You were born weighing 8lbs, 15oz and I remember when you were a day old, you lay on my tummy and lifted your head to look me in the eye. Babies are not supposed to do that, but you did. You’ve been amazing me in big and small ways ever since.

Your life seems to be rushing by in the blink of an eye, but when I sit and think of all the things you’ve done, the places you’ve visited and the things you’ve achieved in the last twelve months, it seems like such a lot.

How we've helped our son reach for the stars, and beyond!

What have you done? You’ve been to Beaver camp twice, you’ve got your first mixed martial arts belt, you’ve done SATs even though you didn’t know you were doing them.

You’re reading chapter books, you’ve done really well with your swimming and you’re moving up to another level soon. You’ve been on a million adventures with us, we’ve been glamping in yurts and pods, we’ve had holidays with friends and just our family. You’ve grown tall and strong and you’re healthy, which I thank the universe for every day.

You are funny and cheeky and so full of love and care. You’re more brilliant than you’ll ever know. I just wish I could give you the confidence you need. Believe in yourself more Sunshine, you CAN do things, you can do anything you want as long as you try.

Little Sports Coaching - learn new footballing skills

I always say, all I ever want from you is to try your best. Be the best Ben you can be and you’ll not go far wrong. You still want to be a Ninja Scientist and although that’s probably a pretty tricky dream to achieve, with some hard work and luck, you could get there.

Be brave Ben, be bold. Carry on being kind and funny, with a smile full of half grown teeth and cheeks deep with dimples. Happy 8th birthday to my best boy. You don’t half make your Mama proud.

October Update - What's going on with us?

Review: Petit Ferdinand Customised Labels

Since my son started school four years ago, I’ve lost count of the number of hours I’ve lost rummaging through the school lost property box. One week he managed to lose three jumpers! The school are generally pretty good; as long as things are clearly labelled, they usually end up finding their way back home.

Four years ago I invested in some sew on labels. This was a big mistake, having to sit and sew on labels on all his polo shirts, jumpers, trousers, PE kit and coats took far longer than I anticipated; but I soon discovered iron on labels and better still, stick on labels. These are complete game changers and save hours and hours of my time every year.

Review: Petit Ferdinand Customised Labels

My latest batch of name labels have come from Petit Ferdinand and I opted for the £30 value pack which includes; 20 stick-on clothing name labels, 20 iron-on clothing name labels, 40 stick-on item name labels, 10 stick-on shoe labels, 30 stick-on item name labels and 20 stick-on item name labels. That’s 140 name labels in total.

You can customise your labels with different colours, fonts and images; which all help them to stand out in a pile of lost property. The value pack comes in a booklet which keeps them all together. There are simple instructions on how to apply them and make them stick to clothes, shoes or bits of kit like water bottles.

Review: Petit Ferdinand Customised Labels

They’re easy to use and really help my son spot his jumper in a pile of identical school jumpers. This pack from Petit Ferdinand will last us at least two years and I think they’re excellent value.

I’ve moved on from the dark days of those dreadful sew on labels. I absolutely refuse to go back to laboriously sewing them into clothes; stick-on name labels are the future and for £30 for 140 name labels you can’t really go wrong.

Review: Petit Ferdinand Customised Labels

For more information about Petit Ferdinand, or to order some name labels, visit their website.

Disclaimer: I was sent a value pack of Petit Ferdinand name labels for review purposes. All images and opinions are my own.

Easter Weekend: Cadbury Easter Eggs and tall tales

Hurrah! The Easter weekend is finally here! We’ve been busy getting ready for our own Easter Egg hunt and we are excited to be spending a long weekend together as a family. Easter is a really special time of year for us, we have a weekend full of family traditions ahead of us and of course the biggest tradition of all – eating lots of Cadbury Easter Eggs!

Twenty years after Cadbury first published The Tale of The Great Easter Bunny, singer-songwriter and mum of two, Frankie Bridge from The Saturdays has adapted this famous Easter story book for modern readers. To celebrate this, Cadbury have made it available as a free download on their website, the perfect Easter story for little egg hunters!

Easter Traditions: Cadbury Easter Eggs and tall tales

The story follows the adventures of brother and sister Jack and Molly. They discover a series of mysterious clues and embark on an exciting Easter Egg Hunt with their parents, Tom and Sarah. What the family don’t know is that there is a secret, hidden rabbit-hole at the bottom of their garden. Is that where the Easter Bunny really lives?

I will be reading this lovely story to my son on Saturday night so he can go to sleep getting in the mood for our Easter egg hunt on Sunday morning. If you want to join an Easter egg hunt; Cadbury have partnered with the National Trust again this year and there are over 300 hunts to choose from across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; guaranteeing a fun-filled Easter for everyone!  To find the nearest hunt to you, visit cadbury.co.uk/Easter.

Of course, for us, Easter wouldn’t be Easter if the Easter Bunny didn’t pay us a visit and hide lots of Cadbury Easter Eggs around our garden, in our wellies and under our beds. Easter egg hunts are the most fun, and you get to eat what you find too! Happy Easter!

Easter Traditions: Cadbury Easter Eggs and tall tales

We were sent a selection of Cadbury Easter Eggs and a copy of The Tale of The Great Easter Bunny in return for this post.

A letter to my son on his 7th birthday

Each year on my son’s birthday I like to write a blog post for him to look back on in later life. Today my son is 7 and growing up fast. He’s changing in a thousand different ways each day and each week. It’s hard to capture all the changes and all of our adventures in a few paragraphs, but I’ll try.

Dear Ben,

Today you are seven years old and growing up fast. I couldn’t be prouder to be your mum. In the last year we’ve had some grand adventures and I hope we will have many many more.

A letter to my son on his 7th birthday

Being six hasn’t always been easy, we’ve been learning to live without your Grandad and we’ve said goodbye to a few special people who I know you miss. You’ve been brave at hospital appointments and you’ve taken everything in your stride. You are a star and I wish I could take every needle and test for you, but I can’t.

Seven. I can’t believe my tiny baby is now a seven year old boy. You’ve grown tall, you’ve grown strong and you’re growing into a funny, charming, chatty boy. You’re working hard at school and I can’t ask for anything more than for you to try hard and listen to your teachers.

We’ve done such fun things while you were six. Penny the crazy puppy burst into our lives and we’ve watched her grow up. We had that brilliant holiday in Ribby Hall, just the two of us, remember? We went to Lapland UK and met Father Christmas. We’ve been rock-pooling, we’ve met sharks and otters, we had that great break in Blackpool where we saw the circus, danced on the prom, rode a donkey and just had a brilliant time together. Shall we do that again?

Keep having brilliant times, keep making brilliant memories and keep being brilliant.

A letter to my son on his 7th birthday

We’ve got so many hopes and dreams for you this year my love. We want you to work hard and try hard at school and to carry on reading and learn to love books as much as I did at your age. We’d like you to recognise how special you are, how kind, caring, lovely and funny you are. We want you to be confident and happy in yourself. We want you to know, really know that you are loved and adored by us.

I want you to be happy, I want you to love life and enjoy everything about it. Enjoy being seven Ben, it’s a great age to be and I hope you’ll let me join you on a few of your adventures this year.

Happy birthday my beautiful boy!

All my love, Mummy xxx

The BlogOn Xmas Jumper Linky - Who am I?

Win a Mini Hornit – Lights & Sounds for Bikes and Scooters

With the winter nights drawing in I’ve been thinking about how to keep my son safe on his scooter. He wears a helmet as standard, but he really needs a light for it too. Having seen the Mini Hornit on Dragons Den, I thought we’d give this fun light and multi-sound horn a try.

The Mini Hornit is “the ultimate lights and sound effects accessory for children’s bikes and scooters”. It has 25 sounds to choose from and white and green lights, which can flash or stay static depending on your needs. The Mini Hornit comes with 2 AAA batteries already inserted, but these are demo batteries and will likely need replacing after a little while.

Mini Hornit - Lights & Sounds for Bikes and Scooters

One of the best features (apart from the lights and sounds) is how easy the Mini Hornit can be fixed onto the scooter or bike. It has flexible rubber “wings” which click together around the handlebars. This means that if he decides to go out on his bike instead of his scooter, I can very quickly change it over with zero fiddling about and no muttering under my breath.

The wings are also adjustable, so they can fit onto thicker or thinner handlebars if need be. With the Mini Hornit being so easy to fit, you can also take it off your bike if you’re parked up for a while and don’t want anyone to walk off with it.

The weather proof Mini Hornit comes in a broad range of colours to match your bike or scooter. There is also a remote trigger which plugs into the Hornit and is designed for use with bikes. The idea being you don’t have to let go of the handlebar to operate the Mini Hornit.

Mini Hornit - Lights & Sounds for Bikes and Scooters

The light comes with 5 different modes – both white or green lights have three modes – constant, slow flash and fast flash. The light is bright enough to be used on the dark pavements of Manchester.

The sounds include – bike bell; racing cars; police siren; motorbike; laser; helicopter; fire engine; fart; magic spell; aeroplane; hooter; burp; wolf; rooster; lion; elephant; horse; hornet; magic carpet; bomb drop; reversing truck; train; klaxon and zapper.

My son really liked how different this is. He’s had standard lights and bike bells before, but the Mini Hornit is really fun. The sounds are loud enough to make him known, but not too loud so they startle or annoy people. I like the different light settings too. I’m very pleased with this, it’s very well designed and I can see us buying more of these in the future. I wonder if they do adult ones for my husbands bike?

The Mini Hornit costs around £14.99. For more information about the Mini Hornit, visit their website.

Mini Hornit - Lights & Sounds for Bikes and Scooters

WIN A Mini hornet worth £14.99

To be in with a chance to win a 12 month subscription to a Mini Hornet (colour may vary) worth £14.99, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

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Review: Storytime Magazine for kids

Sometime last year we were given a copy of Storytime Magazine to read with the boy. I was immediately impressed with the beautiful illustrations and the stories which were just the right length for a bedtime story. Each issue was filled with stand alone stories with some related activities. The boy recently picked up a copy and with his new-found confidence with independent reading, read it over and over and over, to the point of near obsession.

At first I wasn’t sure how he would feel about reading a magazine instead of a book (because he can be a bit funny like that sometimes), but he went nuts for it. Every night he would race to bed so we could read several stories together. Each story was the perfect length for a bedtime story and beautifully illustrated. Overnight, Storytime Magazine became a firm favourite with us both.

Giveaway & Review: Storytime Magazine for kids

Storytime Magazine is a kids’ magazine full of great stories. It’s packed with fairy tales, myths, poems, and much more; all of which are beautifully written and illustrated, with puzzles, games and colouring in too. What I really like about it is there are no adverts. I always find adverts quite distracting, so it’s nice not to have to fend off an attack of the I wants when you’re reading together.

I feel like we’ve stuck gold with Storytime Magazine. Every story is interesting, exciting and seems very different to his school books, but at the same time it’s all linked to his curriculum. At this point reading, all reading is great for him and if we can instill a love of reading then it opens up wonderful, fantastical worlds for him to discover.

Giveaway & Review: Storytime Magazine for kids

My son really loves his Storytime Magazine. He likes to flick through and really study the illustrations before picking out a story for us to read. We’ve always enjoyed reading together. These magazines are a bit different and in a world full of school books and reading schemes. Reading these stories together isn’t a chore, or like homework. It just feels like we’re reading for pleasure and that is such a lovely gift to share with your child.

For more information or to subscribe to Storytime Magazine, visit their website.

I contacted Storytime Magazine and told them how much we loved them. They kindly send us two issues of Storytime for the boy with no obligation to review them. All images and opinions are our own.

Living Arrows: My Smiler of the Week

My son is known for his smile; in particular his huge dimples which if you fell into you may never be seen again. He is a smiler. A smiley boy and I hope the world never sees fit to wipe the beautiful smile off his face.

Last week at school he was awarded “Smiler of the Week”. This is not as you may think an award for just having a lovely smile. It is something you get nominated for if you’ve done something particularly kind or helpful that week. 

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

We will never know what he did that was kind or helpful. He either can’t remember or if he can he’s not telling. But whatever it was, it was good enough for him to win the award and stand up in front of the school to receive his round of applause. 

I really like the fact that his school celebrates kindness and helpfulness. If the world was a kinder, more helpful place wouldn’t it be wonderful?

If I can blow our own trumpet for a paragraph or two; one of the things we have really focused on at home is kindness and consideration. I feel like I’m a kind person with lots of empathy. Whilst that can mean I do sometimes get taken advantage of, it does mean that in many ways my life is richer for the kindness I show and share with others. 

I didn’t want to raise a child who would barge through life running roughshod over other people and being unsympathetic to their feelings. People often comment on how kind and helpful he is. I am so pleased that it’s evident to other people too. As some wise owl once said “Manners cost nothing, but get you everything”.

Ordinary Moments: Smiler of the Week

I just want him to be a decent human being. In a world which seems to be increasingly full of tyrants and darkness, a little bit of kindness can go a long way.

Well done Ben. You’ve made me so incredibly proud of you, my Smiler of the Week!

Living Arrows