This family does Center Parcs……Holland style.

We recently embarked on our annual trip to Center parcs in Holland. Now there are plus points going to a Center Parcs abroad as its a lot cheaper, the car trip and ferry is exciting for the kids (maybe not so much the parents) as you can treat it like a mini cruise.

So over the last four years of holidaying with children I have now accepted it’s not going to be relaxing, next year we are definitely going somewhere with a kids club! I brought these “This Mama does” milestones cards to capture the highs and the lows.

Scorchio/Rain rain go away – It definitely was not hot, but this actually didn’t really matter as when you are at Center Parcs there is loads to do inside and the trees are a good shelter, there is also nothing like whipping out your mum’s borrowed pac-a-mac in all of its purple patterned glory.

Happy Campers – Holidays are about doing stuff but sometimes everybody needs some “down time” so the iPad can be brought out, which in our house is a holiday treat.

Are we there yet? – The classic car trip to holiday but it all adds to the fun, the excitement building up in the car as you cruise through Europe listening to French radio (Joe fm). Even if the sat nav says 10 more miles add on an extra 7 miles for the detour round the small villages that the sat nav has sent you on to avoid that 30 second traffic jam.

Scream for Ice Cream – The whole family could scream for this but this year we were more scream for M&M’s that Joe and Grace enjoyed helping themselves to in the fridge door.

Picnic Party – No picnics on this holiday, the ground was too wet or covered in bugs so it was a packet of mini cheddars in the villa.

A bit of culture/Day Tripping – It would seem Grace is not on the blogging corporation band wagon yet and can not hold a card. We did visit a national park in Holland called De Hoge Veluwe where there is free bike hire, and a museum with Van Gogh paintings, obviously we didn’t get to go in there but the restaurant and play park were great.

Water babies – Joe and Grace enjoyed a jacuzzi bath every night and even made the seat bits into their own slide. I would like to say I enjoyed a jacuzzi bath but it was a bit loud and would have woken the kids as it sounded like a plane taking off.

And Chill – For about 43 mins then you end up falling asleep as you are so knackered but it is quite nice because you don’t have the daily things to do and that endless to do list can wait.

Living the dream – Having a BBQ is living the dream for Joe, so off we went to the nearest town to purchase a disposable BBQ for €1.99 and Joe’s dream came true.

No washing up – We did venture out one night to the buffet that meant no washing up and the chocolate fountain and the ice cream machine were amazing.

This is not relaxing – We waited for 15 mins with the mini carousel going round and round but they loved it, even though myself and husband where on catch Grace when she tries to jump off duty.

Happy Hour – Clearly we were not going to be taking advantage of the happy hour but breakfast was our happy hour it consisted of bacon, sugar, honey, lemons and blueberry pancakes.

Holidays are go – When your kids go on safari and try to drive a small jeep round a dirt track, everyone’s patience was tested but actually pleasantly surprised and I think Joe might be a better driver than me.

 

 

 

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Adopt a cow? Yep you “herd” it right.

 

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Yep that’s right the guys over at Cadbury’s UK have started a campaign to adopt one of the cows that supplies the delicious milk that goes into Cadbury’s chocolate buttons. Cadbury’s conducted some research and found that some city kids believed a cow was either the size of a double decker bus or as small as a cat. In response to this they made a robotic cow with two puppeteers inside and called her “Buttons”.

Myself and Joe were invited to meet Buttons and she was pretty amazing and maybe a bit too realistic for Joe. He was a little unsure but after some careful persuasion with actual chocolate buttons he did get a bit closer.  Buttons is an animatronic life sized cow that a team of 20 prop specialists have created working 500 hours to prefect Buttons and she really was amazing.

 

During our visit we got to participate in a Pi – Cow – So (Clever, eh?) drawing class with the renowned artist Rose Blake, she had created an easy step by step guide on how to draw Buttons. It was very similar to an art class with easels surrounding Buttons as she posed to be drawn.

So pop over to https://adoptacow.cadbury.co.uk/ to get the kids involved in adopting a cow, there are loads of facts and games to play as well. There is also a chance to win an overnight trip to meet your adopted cow!

Sorry, I’m really shit at goodbyes

So for some reason I’m really shit at saying goodbye. The end of an era fills me with fear, not because I haven’t enjoyed our time together at school, work or a holiday, it’s just I don’t want to do it and cry and when I say cry I mean sob like a baby.

For example I recently left my job, not to go to another job but to look after the family full time, so there was no reason to be nervous right? Firstly when I handed in my notice I was trying to be all adult about it but needless to say I sat down in front of my bosses and cried even before I had actually said why, they thought someone had died. From that moment I wanted to slip away as if I never existed at work. This wasn’t because I didn’t like the people I worked with, quite the opposite it was because it was like leaving my second family. So as my “low key” leaving do approached I dreaded it, with tears welling up on the train on the way in and walking to work for the last time. Anyway the day came and after an emotional outburst in the pub the week before (again it could of been like someone had died) I felt getting a bit tiddly woo was the way forward. Previous to this I had made a quick “leaving do” playlist on spotify that I thought summed me up. To start with “Simply the best” by Tina Tuner (nothing like a bit of self praise) “Working 9-5” by Dolly Patron, however as a parent you actually work 5-9. As the average age in my office is 23 and the choker was making a big come back I put some “cool” tunes on there, well what I consider cool anyway like “Waves” by Robin Schulz and finally for a bit of inspiration and to make it slightly liberating  “Go your on way” by Fleetwood mac. By 6:43pm it was like that scene out of Bridget Jones diary at the Christmas party with the lighters, with people swaying and me looking like a dick.

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How to parent like its the summer of 1986

Ahh the 80’s, my childhood, I don’t remember endless day trips, we just hung out in the park, did DIY bonfire nights and renditions of various musicals, so here are my top tips on how to parent like the 80’s.

Head to the park

No need to pack up the car simply get a bat and ball and head to the park. It’s free and there is loads of room to run, run, run. Various games can include Piggy in the middle, Catch (so simple but SO good), you could pretend you were Boris Becker and play “Tennis” all day. Rounders was always a favourite, it’s not summer without a jumper for a stump and a plastic cricket bat and who doesn’t love shouting OUT!

When the days were not so bright whip out a vinyl of your children’s favourite musical.

Joseph and the Technicolor Coloured dreamcoat is a good choice (this came out in 1991 but you get my drift). All day  they will spend preparing a master piece obviously serving justice to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. This would also provided some evening entertainment for the whole family who would be forced to sit through the “hits” of show with your child appearing from the curtains that covered the french patio doors (now  bi-folds!)

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Stop sibling rivalry: How to get yourself noticed as the 2nd child

When you are the second child things are tough, you are sharing your parents with another equally needy (in different ways) sibling. Here is a 16 months old top tips on how to get noticed as the second child.

  • Be a good sleeper at first, this will lure your parents into thinking they are totally winning at the parenting game. Anyway as you are the second child they won’t get up to every sniff and snuffle as they know you are fine, so just grab yourself a jellycat and snuggle up. Sleeping also gives your parents energy to do lots of fun things, parents are much more fun when they are not staring into space most of the day and shaking from the caffeine intake.

 

  • Build up a bond with your sibling or siblings as this makes  your life a lot easier and your parents will notice you more as you are hanging out with the one that they focus all their attention on.

 

  • Spend the first five months in your bouncy chair observing what your sibling does on a day-to-day basis, ensure you note their weaknesses. For example my parents clearly would love my brother to sit down and colour and create beautiful artwork worthy of framing and becoming part of the family home, so once you are fit enough start showing an interest in colouring, showing off you ability to sit down and hold a crayon and make a mark on the page.  Your parents will think you are genius and start muttering things like “look she might be a sit down and colour kind of child”

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Winging it, returning to work with two children.

I returned to work at the beginning of this year after chid number two and I can safety say that we have been winging it ever since. Over 3 years ago I returned to work after my first child and I can’t really remember it being a terrible time and we did decide on having another child so it must have been ok?

Returning to work the second time round I used all my keep in touch days, this meant when I went back I was up to speed with all the changes that had happened in the year. This helped me with the anxiety of returning and to get back in the loop.  I still remember how to type, seriously there were times when I had forgotten how to type.

It was a shock to me and my husband as we weren’t ready and suddenly for three days a week we had become like passing ships in the night. It has been known for my husband to walk out of the door as I walk in. Grace who has always been a good sleeper started to wake up at night and in desperation for sleep we had to started feed her. This sleep deprivation meant we were walking round like zombies. I kept thinking “why am I feeding her again?” but sleep was what was needed so a bottle is what she got.

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How to survive your first night out after having a baby

So you have grown a baby, your baby has come out one way or another, you have fed it, stayed up all night and day with it but now it’s time to get a small piece of your life back. The thought of going out on your own is daunting and going out at night with no children in the dark is scary but also exciting.

Here are some top tips on how to get yourself out there and how to survive it.

Select your crew

Don’t go out with your friends that still go out every weekend, these people have a tolerance for alcohol and never left the game, you wont be able to keep up with them and it’s going to end up messy. Pick your friends that know when to call it a night.

Plan the babysitter 

You need to get a babysitter that you can trust and you know can handle any situation, if you don’t you will be worrying all night. Ideally your other half is the best bet as they will know what they are doing. If possible try and get a lie in the next day or even better, a sleepover elsewhere.

Planning getting ready

It pretty much takes me 24 hours to get ready, this will involve a hair wash and a good hour of hair straightening the night before. Plan your outfit, work out what you can squeeze into and just go with it. You just need to cover the basics, clean hair, clean clothes and a bag that isn’t the baby’s changing bag (unless you are using you Tiba and Marl clutch). During nap time start the make up process and continue when you can after that.

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How to survive maternity leave in 10 easy steps 

Before you have a baby you visualise maternity leave as a year off and it can’t be that hard looking after a baby? I optimistically signed up for a tastecard as I thought I would be lunching out all the time, needless to say I never used that card once. Here are my tips on how to survive maternity leave.

Prep up

I stocked the house with everything so I didn’t have to leave the house in the early days, ok so this feels a bit over kill but it really helped, mainly because a trip to the shops with a baby can take all day and needs to be planned between feeds, nappy changes and general exhaustion. We had enough food and toiletries for 6 weeks!

Get yourself some Mum mates

You are not going to like everyone it’s best to find the ones that are similar to you and that make you happy. Unfortently your children are not going to always like each other and that’s ok too, this is normal. There are local Facebook groups, put yourself out there, what have you got the lose. Recently apps similar to Tinder for mum’s now exist like Mush, also playgroups are good, try it out it might not be your thing but hey you’ve given it a go.

Box sets

On maternity leave number two, I re-watched the whole of Desperate Housewives and all of Game of Thrones. At 1st I found the time whilst I was waiting for number 2 to arrive and then all the feeding and late nights provided more than enough time. 

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How to be child free in a world full of children 

Before I begin this guest spot I have a confession to make – I am child-free. Yep I’m not an official part of the gang: I don’t have a story about cracked nipples; my nether-regions are free from undue wear or repair; I regularly sleep for 8 hours a night; I can spend a day hung-over without having to watch CBeebies and between the hours of 6-8pm I’m not in the monotonous 10th circle of hell that is bath-time, story-time, bed-time. This may not be a forever affair; my husband and I are of the ‘never-say-never’ school of thought but it’s a current life choice that we can’t imagine changing anytime soon.

So, what am I doing here infiltrating the parenting blogosphere? Well this post is dedicated to all those people who, like me, happily enjoy their child-free-ness when surrounded by their friend’s child-full-ness. Yes! It’s time to celebrate our unique take-on being friends with parents.

Now I don’t know where you may be in your child-free existence, if you have maintained your hold on a wild hedonistic lifestyle with friends that regularly indulge in late night parties, groggy mornings at work and the occasional awkward one-night stand this post might not be for you. My reality is very different. Over the past decade, I have become an Aunt to 6 little people and all (bar one) of my oldest most beautiful buddies have produced 12 even more beautiful children between them. That’s a lot of small humans I need, nay want, to have in my life. If you have swapped bonkers and boozy Friday nights out for Friday nights in at your best friend’s house, quietly creeping up the stairs and not flushing the toilet for fear of waking up their little ones – this post is for you! So here we have it, my top three tips for being child-free in a world full of children…

1) Surviving a Play Date

Fizz! Have plenty of it in your fridge. When you make a date to see your pal it is highly likely that little Johnny will be present, they are either still latching to the boob, clasping your fingers as they take their first tentative steps, crying in your face at anything and everything, interrupting any semblance of a conversation you may have going with incessant questions about barn-yard animals, bin lorries, Mr Tumble and dinosaurs or (and this is even more worrying) they have disappeared into your front room and are doing something quietly… A glass of fizz is proven to get you through all of these. More importantly pour one for your buddy before they have even taken their coat off, they need to know that with you they don’t have to be that clean-eating-non-boozy-100%-besotted-child-is-everything-magnificent-totally-in-control-I’ve-got-this-nailed Mama they pretend to be with their new NCT, play-group, pre-school parenting friends. You’ve seen them naked and star-fished passed out across their beds – with you they just need to be themselves – every boozed up, anxious, paranoid, confused and human bit of themselves.

Oh, and invest in a small toy-box to keep the little critters entertained while Mum shovels sandwiches into her mouth before their butter-wouldn’t-melt offspring wreaks further havoc on your home and whatever you do move every item of personal, breakable or monetary value out of reach for the next 10 years. You have to child-proof your houses too my friends!

2) Breastfeeding

However much you may have seen your best pals best bits before, prepare to see them MORE! There is no getting around the fact that you will now see your buddies in full on Mummy mode. Get used to it. The more shy among them may try to shield you from their enormous (and I mean massive) nipples with tiny scraps of cotton but most will just think fuck it. And you know what – Yep. Get those baps out ladies. Or not, use a bottle. Whatever floats your boat and feeds your baby is good with me. There is no pressure, no judgement, no breast-is-best argument from this corner. I want happy friends. Happy well fed babies makes for happy friends. End of.

3) The Night Out Out

Now if your friends are anything like mine they occasionally still want to feel and act like the young whipper-snappers they were before the kids came along. After months of diary planning; sorting babysitters; deciding on a bar that is sufficiently young but not so young the music’s too loud and we won’t get a seat (just as important to the child-free of my age as it is to you parents I might add); countless WhatsApp chats about what to wear and changing the date at the last minute because little Hattie has chicken-pox – you are all OUT. At the same time. Together. Without children. And no one is pregnant. This is big news people. Enjoy it.

And believe me you will, your Mama’s are on a mission. They haven’t been out for months, they’ve got their dancing shoes on, organised him-in-doors to be on the early morning shift and you better be able to keep up my friend! The slightest sign that you may be weakening will not be tolerated. If you even hint at being tired you will be laughed at incoherently and god-forbid you suggest going home before 11pm. This is the night for prosecco with everything, an eating-is-cheating mantra and tequila shots by 8pm. Prepare yourself for the inevitable tactical chunder, clear your diary for the next day and enjoy this moment with your ladies.

Yes the conversation will include discussions on the best make of pram, what weaning technique is currently in vogue, how outrageous the mother-in-law is with her care-free chocolate distribution, not to mention potty training, star charts and parental sleep deprivation. However much you may think “shit-in-hell I can’t have the school chat again” have another glass of wine and remember this is your friend’s new reality. It will soon pass and in another 15 years you can start planning that big trip to Bora Bora you promised each other. But right now, go get another bottle and listen to your buddies, you can even join in – do what you always used to do. Chat. Just ‘cos you don’t have kids doesn’t mean you don’t have an opinion. Give it. But pull back when confronted with the statement “As a Parent”. Yuck. Hideous. Anathema to any conversation. If this happens go get a round of Jager and enjoy the fact that as a non-parent you can stay in bed tomorrow drinking tea and reading the papers until noon. Bliss!

So, there we have it, my new reality involves embracing all that parenthood has thrown at my nearest and dearest. I have huge respect for how they are creating and moulding their little people to become hilarious, smart, daft, intelligent and friendly humans who I really enjoy spending time with. This is not a journey that I want to take, but I love my friends and I take huge pleasure seeing how they cope with it all. Yes, I may forget your kid’s names occasionally, I may not always make it on day trips, I may even refuse your kind offer to babysit the little dears but I will always be there for you and your small people.

And that’s the best advice I can give to all the child-free living in world full of children – revel in your friends new mad and remember it’s just a phase!

12 reason why I need my Children more than they need me

So I will be entering back into the world as a childless person 3 days a week in the new year and we have started the settling in sessions so I have had time on my hands, which feels a little strange I think I have worked out that I need my kids more than they need me, here’s why.

  • When you have a child/children the world is a friendlier place where people smile, they give loving looks to your baby and toddler and say things like, “I would love mine to be that age again” “Enjoy this time as they soon grow up”.  People stop and chat they even chuckle when they hear your toddlers funny comments, it could almost be compared to be walking around in a Mary Poppins type film. When you don’t have children with you no one smiles and god forbid any type of conversation, they give you the look of “you’ve let yourself go” which brings me onto my next point.
  • Your appearance is totally excused when you have children. Bad hair, no make up, bad nails, dirty clothes, generally looking harassed is all fine with kids attached to you somewhere. If on the odd occasion I make it out without the kids and I do happen to get into a conversation (which is rare) I make some reference to having children, mainly I do this in a gym class just to excuse appearance and lack of effort.
  • When you have children its totally acceptable to drive everywhere, even if its to the end of road because the hassle of getting the pushchair and buggy board (which is sometimes the best thing I have brought and sometimes the worst) out is just too much effort but just popping the kids in the car is easier and results in everyone being warm and dry.
  • Gives you motivation to go to the gym and enjoy it, yes when you only have 3 hrs a week spare there is no “I will go tomorrow” excuse as tomorrow everything could of fallen apart, illness could of struck, someone might be having a bad day.
  • You can park in massive spaces that have room around the edge, I’m really bad at parking, bit of a cliche but when I passed my driving test (which took 5 attempts) I got my car stuck in a multi storey car park and had to ask a stranger to move it for me! I have even worked out the best parking spaces for size to open doors with enough space to get the children out, I’m fully aware this is more of an elderly past time of liking to park in the same place but when you’ve got kids its just practical, right?
  • You can act like a bit of a tit by singing, dancing and watching loads disney/pixar films.
  • Mums love chatting to other mums, it’s like you have joined a club once you have given birth where you just chat as you are all in the same boat and sometimes you just need to off load. Its not often before I had children I would talk to a stranger about poo, sick, wee etc everyone is so open.
  • You can force your children to like Lego and anything you failed at as child, just get your children to do it to fulfil your dreams.
  • When the dentist asks if you floss everyday and you answer no, you can mention I just don’t have the time, I have kids.
  • I never really knew about anything cool before but now I have got the prefect excuse because I’ve got children its totally ok to be out of the loop. Boom (isn’t that how the cool kids communicate these days?)
  • It’s totally fine to have old ikea furniture from your pre children days because as far as I’m concerned until they grow up its a free for all and something will always get broken.
  • Probably the biggest thing is I wouldn’t have anything to blog about and laugh with about, because before children the memories are starting to fade but I was pretty much either drunk or hungover and always saying I will go to the gym tomorrow

 

 

Here’s to wearing the my mother jumper on my 1st day back just to make it crystal clear.