Category Archives: Children

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

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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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a code for a Mini Hornet worth £14.99.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 22nd November 2017.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
11. Your email address may be passed on to the promoter for marketing purposes, you may unsubscribe at any time.
12. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Giveaway & 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.

WIN Storytime Magazine bundle of 12 back issues worth £39.99

Catch up on what you’ve missed so far with 12 of the best issues from the Storytime Magazine back catalogue – with classic stories including Beauty and the Beast, Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, Three Billy Goats Gruff and many more!

To be in with a chance to win a Storytime Magazine bundle of 12 back issues worth £39.99, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a Storytime Magazine bundle of 12 back issues worth £39.99.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 12th November 2017.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
11. Your email address may be passed on to the promoter for marketing purposes, you may unsubscribe at any time.
12. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

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

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

The small boy, who these days is not so small, starts Year 2 in just under a fortnight (where has the time gone etc etc). He needs new school uniform, but the thought of spending hours of our precious summer together trawling through various shops buying various bits of uniform and kit fills me with horror. Better to buy it all, or almost all in the same place at the same time. Last week we popped to Debenhams and did just that. 

If I was fancy I’d talk about our Debenhams School Uniform “haul”, but I’m old-fashioned for that. Instead we just went shopping and bought a big bag of school uniform. Hopefully enough to see him through until his next growth spurt. Debenhams School Uniforms are currently 20% off in store and online, something we took full advantage of.

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

This will be his fourth “school year” (School Nursery, Reception, Year 1 etc) so this is not our first time at the school uniform rodeo. We know what he likes and what he doesn’t like.

We bought a new warm padded school coat (£18), 6 pristine white polo shirts (£5.60 for a pack of two), 2 pairs of slim fit trousers (£8.80), 2 pairs of flat fronted trousers (£9) and 10 new pairs of grey socks (£4 per pack of 5 pairs). All we need are a couple of jumpers with the school logo on and we are ready for the start of the year. Our shopping trip cost us just under £63, that’s including the 20% off!

I was really pleased to find some nice slim fit trousers. I always think the flat fronted ones make him look like a junior accountant, so we bought some slim fit to try out. Like most children, he is very hard on the knees of his trousers. If he’s not falling over and grazing his knees, he’s crawling along being a ninja superhero or something. 

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

He’s six and whilst he’s grasped the rudimentaries of getting himself dressed. If he’s rushing he can still get frustrated with fiddly buttons on trousers, especially if he’s getting himself changed for PE or nipping to the loo. We like to adjust the waistband on his trousers so they’re loose enough to just pull them up in a rush if he needs to, but not loose enough to fall down, obviously. Both the flat front and slim fit styles we chose have adjustable waistbands. Phew.

He is also very hard on the white polo shirts he has to wear for school. I’m enjoying them now in their pristine white state before term starts. His polo shirts get washed to death. We like to buy enough so he has a clean one each day and a couple of spares waiting to be brought into circulation once he starts destroying them.

We have tended to buy cheap supermarket polo shirts which often shrink in the wash a bit. I’m hopeful these will stand up to regular washing a bit better than their supermarket counterparts. They do feel like they’re a cut above in terms of quality and doesn’t he look smart (and clean)!

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

As for his new coat, it’s light to carry and nicely padded for the winter months. With an easy zip up the front and zipped pockets so his treasures won’t fall out. He’s thrilled with it and at £18 we have no complaints either. 

We have high hopes that our “haul” of Debenhams school uniform will last the year; or until he grows out of it. I am impressed with the price and quality. Everything seems well designed with sturdy stitching and made from good quality material. Even the socks are thicker, stretchier and more comfortable than the cheap supermarket ones I’ve made him wear. 

If I have one regret, it’s not buying more polo shirts, another couple of packets couldn’t hurt, could it?

Debenhams currently have 20% off school uniform online and in-store now. Visit their website to have a look at their range.

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

Note: This post is in collaboration with Debenhams as part of their Back to School Campaign. All images and opinions are our own.

Catch festival favourite Nick Cope on tour + Win a Nick Cope CD Bundle!

Summer is here and the festival season is upon us once more. Whether you’re off to Camp Bestival, Refract at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, or taking in the sights at the Edinburgh Fringe, you must (you really must) catch “indie-surrealist kids’ singer songwriter” Nick Cope this summer. Nick Cope is a professional singer and songwriter, who first enjoyed international success as lead singer and songwriter with The Candyskins in the 1990s. These days he is a much loved writer and performer of beautifully bonkers songs for kids.

On tour with festival favourite Nick Cope

Nick first came to my attention when I saw he was appearing at Refract at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale on Sunday 30th July (tickets available here). I looked him up on YouTube and I knew that my son would love his work, and he really really did.

Nick has a number of CDs, each one is full of his funny, whimsical songs for kids of all ages. I now have two of his CDs; The Pirate’s Breakfast and A Round of Applause for The Dinosaurs which I know will fill a few happy hours on the long drive to Cornwall and back this summer. The songs are simple, funny and really relatable. I would love to see Nick perform live and I’m going to make it my mission to catch one of his shows soon! 

Nick has also recently released a DVD – The Nick Cope Show which is an animated compilation of brand new and classic videos by Nick and his son Burt (Burt has done some of the animations for Nick’s songs). The DVD is narrated by a cartoon Nick and features favourites like – A round of applause for the dinosaurs, I’m a little lizard, Flower in the garden, the classic The baby’s done a poo and many more. This 25 minute film is available on DVD and iTunes download.

Nick performs all over the UK at all the major art and music festivals. If you want to see him this summer (or at any other time really), all of his gigs are listed here. He will be appearing at Camp Bestival, Refract at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale and the Edinburgh Fringe over the next month or so.

Nick is brilliant. We are big fans and I hope you will be too!

On tour with festival favourite Nick Cope + Win a Nick Cope CD Bundle!

WIN A Nick Cope CD & DVD Bundle

To be in with a chance to win a Nick Cope CD & DVD bundle, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a Nick Cope CD & DVD bundle.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 6th September 2017.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
11. Your email address may be passed on to the promoter for marketing purposes, you may unsubscribe at any time.
12. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Back to School: Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox

I know school is yet to break up for the summer holidays, but I’m already putting together a list of everything we will need for the new school year. One of the things he will need is a decent lunchbox, not least because he needs to take a packed lunch when he’s in the holiday club at school over the summer. He needs something which will stand out from the other lunch boxes, something practical and something cool. Step forward this Smiggle Lunchbox.

Back to School: Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox

The Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox includes two functional compartments with double zips, a name label, carry handle, an adjustable shoulder strap and a drinks bottle holder.

The larger of the two compartments is insulated, so you can keep your lunch cool. The smaller compartment is ideal for putting other things in, like a notebook and colouring pencils, so you can use this as a day bag, which makes it perfect for kids club over the summer.

Back to School: Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox

There’s plenty of room in the lunchbox for what he needs. I like that there’s a large side net to keep a water bottle. In the smaller compartment there’s a place for your to write your name and contact details. The front compartment also has a hard casing. It’s decorated with a cool 3D cartoon character and the styling certainly sets it apart from other lunch boxes.

Back to School: Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox

The cool zombie style prints on the back of the bag provide lots of interest and a welcome splash of colour. The small boy said it looked really cool and he was excited to have a stylish lunchbox of his own. If you like the styling of the Smiggle Says lunchbox, they also have a selection of stationery in that range including spikey pens and scented pencils.

The Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox costs £19 and is available from Smiggle stores and online too.

Note: We were sent this lunchbox for review purposes, all images and opinions are our own.

Living Arrows: The busy life of a six year old

When you’re six and the sun is shining, you want to throw off the shackles of school, homework and all the things you have to do each day and have fun. Much to my regret, my six year old has a busy life, a far too busy life. He has school and after school activities and not enough time sat at home chilling out and being six.

When he is at home we’re generally busy trying to get his homework done, or getting his dinner down him, or throwing him in the bath and bundling him into bed so he’s rested enough for the next busy day. I long for half term breaks, inset days and summer holidays so we can just be and we can just stop racing around for a few days and spend some precious time together.

Living Arrows: The busy life of a six year old

At Easter I took him away for a couple of days, just the two of us and it was fantastic. We had the best time together and we were both well rested and tired out by the time we got home. Maybe that’s what I need to do to be able to spend time with him, steal him away from everything for a few days. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. Sadly.

This last week has been phonics screening week at school. He’s had a lot of prep and pressure leading up to this. He’s worked hard but I’ve no idea how he’s got on, nor do I care particularly. He’s six and he’s doing just fine and he doesn’t need pressure from me on top of the pressure from everyone else. When did being six become so stressful?

Living Arrows: The busy life of a six year old

In the snatched moments we have together, when we’re not in a rush to go somewhere or do something, or finish some homework, we do crafts and baking, we go on nice walks and talk about nature. Sometimes we just sit and watch TV together and all of those things, all of them are just as valid as phonics, reading, homework, Beavers and football lessons.

We need to stop doing things and just be.

Living Arrows: The busy life of a six year old

Although there’s hardly any time at all to just be, this week we did manage a few snatched moments of time to just be six. Walking the dog, colouring in with his new Paw Patrol stationery kit and  we had a BBQ and I caught him gnawing away at a corn on the cob – a difficult task if you’re missing some teeth and nursing some wobbly ones! 

I love this boy and treasure every snatched moment with him.

Living Arrows

How to plan an Easter egg hunt at home

One of my favourite things to do on Easter Sunday is to set up an Easter egg hunt for my son. He’s 6 now, but he still believes in the Easter bunny and I have no wish at all to shatter his illusions. Easter egg hunts are pretty easy to put together and lots of fun to take part in. Here are my top tips for setting up an Easter egg hunt.

Step 1:
Buy some Easter eggs. I like to get a selection of sizes and colours to hide in the garden. Make sure you buy enough to share fairly equally between the Easter egg hunters. I tend to get a couple of medium sized eggs and then some smaller ones for the hunters to seek out. You don’t have to stick to Easter eggs, you can also mix things up and add some Easter sweets too.

Step 2:
Count the eggs and sweets before you hide them and try to make a mental note of where you’ve hidden them.

Step 3:
On Easter Sunday I am usually tasked with distracting the boy whilst my other half scurries around the garden hiding the eggs in obvious and not so obvious places. If you can do this just before the hunt without anyone noticing you’ve got a better chance of finding everything and it’s less likely that the local wildlife will find your goodies and eat them for you.

Step 4:
Don’t forget your bucket or basket to put your Easter bounty in.

Step 5:
Go hunting! Have fun, don’t forget to take some photographs. See if you can find an egg and get away with keeping it all to yourself.

Since last Easter we’ve got a new puppy and she is into absolutely everything. If you’ve got a new puppy, or an older dog it’s worth remembering that chocolate is very bad for them. So sadly our puppy, Penny will not be able to join in with the Easter egg hunt. She will have to stay on her lead just to make sure she doesn’t snaffle any goodies she shouldn’t have.

Will you have Easter egg hunt at home? What are your top tips for a successful hunt?

 
How to plan an Easter egg hunt at home

This is a collaborative post

Why I don’t need fuss on Mother’s Day

I know I’m a rare specimen, but I can live without too much fuss on Mother’s Day. I’m very content with a homemade card and a cuddle. I have a great relationship with my son and I feel loved, admired and appreciated by him every day. Plus I don’t want him to grow up feeling obligated to make a fuss when no fuss needs to be made.

Why I don't need fuss on Mother's Day

Nevertheless, I know at school there will be some card and gift making going on in readiness for Mothering Sunday. No doubt instructions for fuss making will also be issued from my husband.

My husband is prone to bouts of extravagance, so I have very firmly put in a request to go to our local community farm to see the baby animals. This is something we can all enjoy together. Ben and I can see the animals and meet the newborn lambs and calves. Daddy can walk the dog and then we can all go to the playground and have an ice cream. Sounds like a pretty good day out to me and one I’m really looking forward to.

Last night after dinner, I asked Ben some questions about Mother’s Day and got some surprisingly adorable answers. We’d been talking about the zoo, so both the zoo and walking the dog feature heavily; but I reckon this is worth three minutes of your time any day. 
 

I am so proud of my boy. Every day he brings sunshine and light into my life. We laugh and giggle an awful lot. He’s wonderfully creative and determined. He’s stubborn and wilful and as bright as a button. He wakes me up every morning with a kiss (because that’s how you wake a princess). Ben goes to bed every night insisting that we have a big family cuddle. He is kind and caring and I love the very bones of him.

Having him in my life is the best present I could wish for on Mother’s Day. Being a mum isn’t easy, not by a long chalk, but for me at least there are endless rewards.

What are your plans this Mother’s Day?