Category Archives: Children

A letter to my 10 year old on his birthday

Darling boy, today is your 10th birthday and although I’ve known for some time that today you’d be waking up a whole year older, it’s a bit of a blow to realise that I’m now the parent of a human being in double figures. A ten year old no less!

2020 has been quite the year, mostly for reasons we would probably rather forget. You’ve endured this year with your characteristic cheerfulness and always been the one to crack a joke at the gloomiest moment and have us all laughing again.

This year has been a challenge for us all, you’ve tried your hardest during those long months of home schooling, which I’m sorry to say, we all grew to hate. You’ve been brilliantly brave about not seeing your friends, and not spending time with anyone but your fairly boring 40 something year old parents for months on end.

A letter to my 10 year old on his birthday

It shouldn’t be this way. You should be out in the park with all your friends after school, you should be huddled in the playground swapping Pokémon cards and going on Cub camps and all of those kind of things. Instead you are making the best of things and I’m incredibly proud of you.

It’s not been easy, being back at school has made a huge difference to you and your happiness and we’ve talked endlessly about your birthday plans. I’m sorry my love, there will be no traditional birthday party, but instead it’s a zoom party with some of your friends, and that’s fine.

We can’t even gather the whole family around the table for cake and celebrations. Instead there will be a socially distanced walk around the park with your Cousin and your favourite takeaway curry for tea. Of course your Dad and I will make a fuss of you and you can expect the biggest, most colourful cake you can imagine. But it won’t be the same.

I will make this up to you. I promise.

A letter to my 10 year old on his birthday

It’s hard to find some highlights to remember for this year. For me it’s been the small things, or what may seem small to anyone else. Being able to spend so much extra time with you has been brilliant. During lockdown we read more, did crafts together, went on walks, we baked and snuggled down to watch films together. Most importantly we laughed together and that saved me and I hope it helped you too.

Every day I’ve spent as your mum has been an absolute privilege. You are the brightest bean, you’re full of love and care and kindness for everyone you meet. I couldn’t imagine a day without a cuddle from my squidgy little baby. Although these days my squidgy little baby is almost as tall as me and has legs that go on forever.

Of course, with your new great age comes new responsibilities. Now you are ten we will expect you to tidy up after yourself, brush your teeth without complaint, help cook our evening meals and be able to find your own shoes in the morning (they’re normally where you threw them the night before).

When you were born, I wanted to raise a kind boy, full of care for others, and I think we’ve managed that. You are not perfect (a quick glance at your bedroom can confirm that); but you have all of the qualities which I hope will help you become a lovely and loving adult. I wish you believed in yourself and your abilities as much as we do, and as much as your teachers do too. You are brilliant.

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that my little baby is 10. Where did the time go? Thank you for filling the last ten years with love and laughter. I hope you have the best birthday we can manage during lockdown. If 2020 has taught me anything; it’s that stripping everything back to basics can make us appreciate everything all the more. And that life is sweet, especially with you in it.

Happy birthday to my best boy xxx

A letter to my 10 year old on his birthday

Back to Hogwarts – back to school in style with Hogwarts

AD – PR Sample, we were sent some Harry Potter Hogwarts back to school accessories for the purposes of this review. All images and opinions are our own.

I am happy to hold my hands up to say that I hate all the back to school shopping. All the queuing around shopping centres to get the equipment he needs and all of the uniform faff. These days I’m very happy to order it all online and have done with it. I tend to leave buying things until the last minute, lest he has a sudden and unexpected growth spurt. Whilst his uniform is fairly generic, it’s in his accessories where he likes to express himself. This year, Hogwarts is the favoured theme.

Back to Hogwarts - back to school in style with Hogwarts

We’ve long been fans of Harry Potter, and the perennial question of which Hogwarts House would the sorting hat choose for us is one which we continue to argue about. I’ve taken all the online quizzes and I get a different answer each time, you might a well shove me in Slytherin and throw away the key. The boy however is Hufflepuff, or at least he is this week.

Hogwarts House Backpack

Every Harry Potter fan needs a backpack for school and the new Hogwarts Houses backpacks are brilliant. Each one comes in the House colour with the coat of arms too. They look very smart, they’re vegan and big enough to carry everything he needs for the school day. In fact, they’re the perfect size for my work day too, so once I settle on a House (the Ravenclaw one is a beautiful colour), I will be getting a new one for work. They cost £14 and are padded in all the right places. I’m a big fan.

Back to Hogwarts - back to school in style with Hogwarts

Harry Potter Lunch Bag & Water Bottle

The Harry Potter lunch bag is also a big hit. The very cute cartoon figures of Harry, Hermione and Ron are really eye catching, so I know he’ll be able to find his lunch in a pile of other bags and boxes. The bag comes with a carry handle, yellow piping around the zip closure and a handy name tag section on the back. There’s plenty of room inside for a hearty lunch for a budding wizard. The lunch bag costs £7, but is currently £6 at ASDA.

Alongside the lunch bag, there’s a distinctive water bottle. In school, everyone has their own water bottle in class which they fill up every day. This has a 473ml capacity, and all over print design with a yellow screw-on lid featuring a flip up spout and carry handle. The water bottle is £4 but currently £3 at ASDA.

Harry Potter Stationery

Everyone loves stationery and ASDA have an awful love of the Harry Potter range available. We have the pencil case which comes with a pen, a pencil, a ruler, a rubber and a pencil sharpener. It costs just £2 and apart from the need for spares, that’s everything my son needs for his school year. At that price I’d be tempted to buy a couple and keep one for spares when he loses bits and pieces. ASDA also have notebooks, pens, pencils, pretty much everything you could think of for the return to school.

Back to Hogwarts - back to school in style with Hogwarts

Thankfully, apart from school shoes, he is all set for going back to school this week. I’m not sure how much he is looking forward to it, these are strange times we are living in and school will be quite a bit different for him. We’ve been filling the last few days before he goes back with fun things. We’ve spent a couple of days building the new LEGO Hedwig figure, which is suitable for ages 10+. It’s quite a complicated build, but very satisfying. Once it’s finished, his wings will flap when you turn the handle. It’s only £34.97, but it’s kept us both quiet for a couple of days. Brilliant fun.

Back to Hogwarts - back to school in style with Hogwarts

What do you think of the new Hogwarts back to school range? Which Hogwarts House would you be in?

Putting Trutex School Uniform to the test

We were sent these items from Trutex for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

My son grows like a weed. Every couple of months he seems to shoot up another inch and he needs a whole new school uniform. With him also enjoying the rough and tumble of school life, he also needs a school uniform which will stand up to the rigours of crawling about in the playground, or a boil wash after an especially beany school dinner. Over the last few weeks we’ve been putting his new Trutex school uniform through its paces.

Putting Trutex School Uniform to the test

We have had Trutex school uniforms before and they’ve always been warm and comfortable, they’ve washed well and tolerated the beating my son manages to give his clothes during the average school day.

School trousers

For us, we are regular buyers of school trousers, his legs seem to grow quicker than anything and before long they’re half-mast and in need of replacing. We chose a pair of the charcoal sturdy fit trouser with internal adjuster. I’m a big fan of the internal adjuster; the tape inside the waistband which you can adjust to tighten or loosen the waistband. I think all trousers should have this, even adult trousers. The trousers come with “TrutexStay Smart technology” which makes washing and ironing easier, the trouser creases are permanent and they have a stain resistant finish. There’s also a hidden side pocket to zip up small valuables; valuables to my boy are mostly marbles and conkers, but it’s handy to have. These trousers cost £16.99 per pair, my son has been wearing them since Christmas and they look as good as new.

Putting Trutex School Uniform to the test

School jumpers

We are lucky that my son’s school lets children wear uniform which doesn’t have the school badge on. This makes shopping for jumpers a lot easier and cheaper too. The crew neck sweatshirt from Trutex costs £9.99 but will likely last a whole year before he grows out of it (legs are the fast growing danger-zone in our house). At £9.99 a jumper we usually get 2 or 3 to last the year and hope he doesn’t have any major wardrobe malfunctions while he’s wearing it.

The crew neck sweatshirt is available in a rainbow of colours. Our school is resolutely navy, so we plumped for that. It’s a soft, regular fit sweatshirt which has reinforced seams, to help withstand the school day. It’s a very solid uniform choice and I would happily buy and buy these until he leaves school.

Cosy Fleece Jacket

For my son, the star of the show is this Polar Fleece jacket from Trutex. Not only is it available in his school colours, it’s warm, cosy and comfortable. He often ditches his school jumper in favour of this, as he’s not a fan of too many layers. The jacket costs £13.99 and is so popular with my lad, I’m going to buy him another couple in different colours to wear out of school too. It’s stood the test of time and still looks as good as new. I’m a big fan of the school uniform fleece; especially for boys like mine who have some sensory needs and don’t always love to be bundled up in a jumper. Fleeces are such easy care too and dry almost instantly after a wash.  

Back to School: Putting Trutex School Uniform to the test

When it comes to school uniforms, we need well-made pieces which can stand up to rough play and frequent washing. My boy has been wearing his new uniform since Christmas, and after a few months of rough and tumble, it’s all still looking as good as new, we can’t fault it.

For more information about Trutex and to check out their range, visit their website.

Note: I originally wrote this post back in March 2020. Due to lockdown it has been sat in my drafts ever since. Good luck if you’re returning to school next month.

A letter to my son on his 9th birthday

Darling boy, it doesn’t seem like five minutes since you turned 8, and here we are a whole 365 days later blowing the candles out on your 9th birthday cake.

In many ways you’ve not changed all that much in the last 12 months. You’re still all about the lego, never too far away from a train set, you’re still kicking ass at martial arts; you love drawing, baking, gardening and you’re really into learning all about nature. You are curious about the world around you, and that’s such a lovely thing to experience with you.

You’re trying hard at school, your teachers tell me that you’re popular and you have lots of friends. You are brilliant at science and art; you love history and geography, as well as reading everything you can get your hands on. You have your challenges and areas where you could try a bit harder, but I know as well as anybody, it’s not always easy to try hard in a subject you don’t enjoy all that much. Keep trying though, because if nothing else, we never give up.

You’re growing tall and strong, you have a smile which really lights up the room and dimples we have to be careful we don’t fall into. You’re utterly charming and chatty, but most of all you are kind and thoughtful. I’ve had a tough few months, but you’ve always been generous with your hugs for me and spending time with you is always a good thing.

Now I’m working again, our time seems even more precious. I love that we have special things we share together; watching Strictly Come Dancing with you on a Saturday night, sharing a bag of popcorn and guessing what scores the judges will award is always a highlight. I like that we still bake together and you still reach for my hand when we are walking to school together in the mornings. I love when you squeeze my hand and let me know in our secret code that you love me, I squeeze it right back to return the love, and then some.

Your room still looks like it’s been ransacked by especially vindictive burglars and the daily shouting sessions we have about putting your shoes on are getting a little wearing. But none of us are perfect and there’s little point in trying to be. You are imperfect and all the more interesting and wonderful for those imperfections.

9th birthday

I look at you, my tall and gorgeous 9 year old boy and I see the man I think you will grow into. I think you will be the kindest person, you will have lots of friends, people will come to you when they need someone understanding to talk to. I think you can be whatever you want to be, but I see you working outdoors, maybe in some kind of conservation job or maybe as a farmer. Whatever you want to be, I will try my hardest to help make that come true for you.

When you were born, people said enjoy the baby years, they slip away all too quickly. Every year with you has been a joy. I’ve loved watching you grow and learn, and in turn I have grown and learned a lot about myself too. You’ve taught me so much about life and love and you’ve made me strong in ways I never thought I could be.

Being your mum has been the best thing I’ve ever done. Watching you grow into the brilliant boy you are has been nothing short of a privilege. This is your last year in single digits, you’re really going to start changing in all kinds of ways over the next few years. Keep being kind and caring, carry on being funny and silly and if you just try your best in all things you won’t go far wrong. I love you and there’s nothing you could do that will stop me being your biggest fan.

Happy 9th birthday my darling boy, blow out those candles, floss along to the birthday singing, have a brilliant time at your party, celebrate with the people who love you best, enjoy life. You only get one go at it, so live it in the best way you can. I love you xxx

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.