Holiday Countdown

Choosing a holiday is a nerve wracking thing when you’ve got a tiny humans to consider – suddenly it’s not all about wine, fun and sleep. You’ve got to think about entertainment, meal options, sleeping arrangements and the possibility that you are about to spend a whole bunch of hard earned cash on a potential disaster. If that doesn’t make you crack open a bottle of wine then I don’t know what will……..

But help is out there and with a bit of searching around good deals can be found and ideal locations can be sought.

This year we are going for the hotel holiday instead of our usual self catering event. The last time we stayed in a hotel with Miss MIP she was 11 months old and when we arrived at the hotel it was still in the process of being built so we are coming at it with a postive foundation that anything has to be better than the last hotel we stayed in!

After much deliberation we’ve decided to go to the Aliathon Holiday Village and booked it through First Choice. We wanted a proven brand for this special break and are hoping First Choice will provide that extra reassurance.

So far the process has been great – the online booking was easy and there were plenty of photos to give an idea of what to expect. The thing that appealed to us most was the choice of rooms though – Miss MIP has a fragile relationship with sleep at the best of times and the Aliathon Holiday Village gave us the option of a room with a separate kids den for her to sleep in. This is perfect because we know from past experience that Miss MIP cannot, will not and shall not sleep in the same room as us. She just gets too excited and sits on our head singing Moana songs for 12 hours and frankly that’s not my idea of a holiday.

The hotel has lots of food options and we’ve gone all inclusive so I can drink cocktails, Mr MIP can drink a cold beer and the tiny human can consume her body weight in ice cream. It’s got a splash pool, a big swimming pool, a kids club and lots of activities aimed at keeping her asleep at night!

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With only a couple of weeks to go I’m now looking at packing lists and what to take. This will also be our first holiday without Miss MIP in any kind of nappy which is super exciting! Our little girl is growing up fast and we are looking forward to this next adventure with her.

So off we go to Cyprus – if you have any packing hacks, must see places or travel tips I’d love to hear about them!

In the meantime I’m off to start a list. Maybe in Excel. With colours………….

Our first family camping experience……

Before Miss MIP came along hubby and I would often spend weekends camping away – it was a quick, cheap and easy way to make the most of a weekend and we really wanted to carry on when Baby MIP arrived. Sadly it became quickly apparent that Baby MIP and sleep were not going to be the best of friends and canvas wouldn’t contain her or her noise so we put it off…..and put it off…..and put it off.

She’s now four and while her and sleep aren’t friends they are at least mild acquaintances that are willing to occasionally be in each others presence. With that in mind we dusted off our camping gear from the garage and started to get excited at the prospect of spending weekends in sunny fields again.

Our tent needed replacing as it had gone to war with high winds in Snowdonia and was utterly defeated so while we were at the Outdoor Adventure and Camping show we brought a brand new inflatable Kampa tent which looked perfect for our needs. I do love a gadget and short of having wifi or bluetooth (maybe the next one?) this tent ticked all the boxes for us.

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Then we started to look around for a small and local campsite that we could test the camping water with. We hit the jackpot with the campsite at Watercress Lodges – it was less than an hour away so easy enough to abort Mission Camp if it turned out to be a 3am disaster, family owned, excellent facilities and in a great location. The booking process was easy and with a one night stay for less than £30 for the three of us very reasonable as well.

We packed up the car with a truly stunning amount of kit and drove through the pretty Hampshire countryside to the site.

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It was smaller than I expected from the website but just perfect for what we wanted – it meant no over crowded pitches and no noise from large groups. It was in an excellent location right in front of the Watercress Line – Miss MIP ran to the front of the tent to wave at the trains every time they went past even though they couldn’t see her. The bridge just down from Ropley station was the place to be if you wanted to wave at the train drivers and get a ‘toot toot’ from them and that was less than a 3 minute walk away so great for little legs.

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The facilities on site were great – spacious hot showers, wheelchair accessible toilets and button operated doors, lots of sink space and hairdryers that were free to use.

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Miss MIP mostly cooperated – she was very confused at going to bed when the sun was still up so I think we need to bear that in mind for next time. She woke a few times between 12:00 and 3:00 but Mr MIP and I agreed that was more because it got very cold (6c and one point) and she was waking up in an unfamiliar place. She adored the experience though – especially being able to bounce around on her space hopper without worry of cars, drinking from her special tin camping mug and wielding a mallet to get the pegs in!

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The experience also showed us how much older she is getting now – she really wanted to help out and be part of the team and enjoyed the responsibility of the ‘jobs’ we gave her.

Spending time outdoors as a family is so important to us – it gives Miss MIP the experiences that we had as children and the chance to live a bit more ‘free range’ than she is able to at home due to school, her speech therapy and constant assessments on her development. When she is running around outside it doesn’t matter that she can’t meet those targets or isn’t quite the same as some other children – she’s just a little girl playing in the sunshine with her Mummy and Daddy.

In 2017 we are going to spend more time in the outdoors as a family and I feel sure that Miss MIP will only be better for it – and so will we.

If you are looking for that first step camping I couldn’t recommend Watercress Lodges and Camping highly enough. The site is friendly, well planned out, accessible and great for both experience and novice campers. We had a great time and I can guarantee we’ll be back……and maybe in one of these snazzy safari tents they’ve got!

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Details

Watercress Lodges and Camping – http://www.watercresslodges.co.uk/

Watercress Line – http://www.watercressline.co.uk/ 

Kampa Tents – https://www.kampa.co.uk/ 

Happy Camper Mugs – http://www.poundland.co.uk (brought from Petersfield store)

Unicorn Sleeping Pod – http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk

N.B – I was offered a one night stay for in return for a review of the campsite. All views and opinions are my own and I was not paid for this review

Cover photo credit – Watercress Lodges

 

The Outdoor Adventure and Camping Show – Review

As your children get older you start to return to the things you had to stop doing when they arrived. We’ve always loved camping but Miss MIP has never been a good sleeper so begrudgingly we had to leave one of our favourite pastimes behind for a few years. Now she is starting to become slightly more acquainted with the idea of sleeping we are looking forward to spending more time outdoors.

To kick off our year of Outdoor Adventures we visited the Outdoor Adventure and Camping Show at London Excel in February and as it was billed as a family event we took Miss MIP with us.

We decided to drive up as there is an abundance of parking at Excel and the train and tube would have taken much longer than Miss MIP would have put up with! Parking is £15 which isn’t cheap but so much cheaper than train and tube tickets for us all still. We moved very easily from the car park and followed the very clear signage to the event hall.

The Outdoor Adventure and Camping show is enormous – there are over 300 exhibitors, around 50 guest speakers and over the four days it runs over 50,000 people will visit the show. The Telegraph Outdoor Adventure and Camping show is the UK’s largest outdoors show and offers people the chance to explore new activities. If you have a ticket you also get access to the London Bike Show and the Triathlon Show: London which makes it excellent value for money.

Miss MIP had a ball – she built butterfly feeders at the RSBP stand, had an amazing virtual reality experience aboard the Clipper Race , played pretend house and picnics with everything at the Blacks Outdoor sale area and had a truly wonderful time in the Incredible Oceans Live space.

We watched bikes fly at the Air to the Throne, were inspired to travel by Laura Bingham and Ash Bhardwaj and brought a Kampa tent from the lovely chaps at PJ Outdoors.

If you have the chance to go along you should definitely go. Excellent value for money, very family friendly and lots to learn from some very personable experts. While the idea of going to an exhibition might not be the first thing that comes to mind for a family day out we all had such a fun time. It was so good to go somewhere that showed us an entire wealth of opportunities open to us as a family and a brilliant start to our year of outdoor fun.

A big thank you to Fusion Media for arranging press passes for us.

I will not be afraid.

I will not be afraid. I will be proud of the people who ran to help, I will be proud of the police who reacted instantly despite a colleague being attacked, I’ll be proud of the ambulance, fire crews and security services who helped when people needed them. I’ll be so proud of the people who stayed and offered help, comfort and assistance when every instinct would have told them to run.

Don’t listen to stories of propaganda but listen to stories of people who opened their doors, people who helped and people who will not be cowed. We will not be afraid. We will not hide. We will not live in fear of what might happen.

Don’t let fear win and don’t give them the anger they need to continue to fuel the flames of fear, hatred and fury . Be kind, be helpful, be encouraging, be accepting, be open minded and be resilient.

Milestones Matter

Someone asked me today if I’d always known there was something different about Miss MIP and the answer is yes.

She sat up in good time, was weaned in good time, crawled in good time and walked in good time but the talking……that was always a bit off really. I know you aren’t supposed to compare your children to others but everyone does it don’t they? We always knew she wasn’t exactly the same but we always heard from everyone around us how children always caught up and before we knew it she’d be chattering away.

Except she didn’t.

Yes there were a few words here and there but she was always on the back foot when it came to her speech.

She’d try so hard though – we had so many tears and tantrums of frustrated rage as she tried to form words and sentences that just wouldn’t come. The words were there in her brain but she just couldn’t get them out of her mouth and that was heartbreaking to watch. No parent wants to watch their child struggle and to watch her just fall further and further behind other children her age was awful.

But still we waited for the leap to come. For it all to make sense to her in a sudden flash and she’d start chattering away like everyone promised.

Well she’s four now and despite speech therapy toddler groups, speech and language sessions with experts and an enormous amount assistance from her excellent school there has been no flash and no light. She makes small steps of improvement each week but we have to realistically acknowledge the steps need to be bigger for her to catch up and that’s just not going to happen.

We are lucky we have such a great support system but I can’t explain the levels of heartbreak you feel as a parent when children in school playground with your child. It’s not because she’s mean or she’s unkind but because she simply can’t play the role play and pretend games they do – she can’t be Elsa or Twilight Sparkle at the same speed or understanding they do. Generally the children at her school are so kind and understand that they need a bit of extra care but, through no fault of their own and totally understandably, sometimes they don’t want to slow down for her.

I can reason all this out but when I see her sat on her own on a bench when all the other children are running around and playing my heart shatters for her. Into a million pieces.

Miss MIP has a severe speech and language delay combined with a potential hearing problem and this causes her significant learning difficulties on a day to day basis. She can’t read that well because she can’t sound out letters and she struggles with maths because she can’t conceptualise what the numbers actually mean. Please just for a second try to imagine how hard this is for a four year old who has just started school.

She will be fine – we’ll give her everything we can to help, she has an incredible teacher and is surrounded by lovely children who are very kind but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of patience to get her through the next few years at school. We’ve explained to her that when she’s at school she needs to work hard and concentrate harder than some of the other children do. She nods very seriously but doesn’t understand – she doesn’t know that we have major concerns about her moving out of reception class, that no matter how many times she asks she is very unlikely to be Mary in next years nativity play and if we throw her a birthday party I really don’t have any idea how many of her classmates would actually come along.

Life with a child who has a learning difficulty is tough. It’s full of joy because we adore her, she’s funny, she’s kind and she’s brave but it’s also frustrating and so so hard.

So I’d beg of you – if you have serious doubts about your child meeting those pesky milestones please get help. The only reason we’ve made it this far is by pushing for help and annoying people into getting her into the places she needs to be. Don’t let people placate you with false promises that everything will get better – follow your instincts and speak to someone about your concerns over and over again until someone listens to you.

Done at one……

I saw a newborn baby this week and while I cooed appropriately I didn’t get that broody feeling that people talk about. I don’t think babies smell amazing, I think they smell like milk and vomit. I don’t get all fluffy at the thought of babies and I can’t even begin to explain how much I hated being pregnant.

Mr MIP and I are pretty happy with our little family. We aren’t outnumbered by a tiny army of our own creation, we all fit in one row on a plane and the house we have is a great size for the three of us.

I have severe doubts that a Tiny MIP will be heading our way anytime soon and I think I’m ok with that.

I’m 37 this year and I don’t know if I can be arsed to start again with a newborn when the child we’ve got is already such an interesting little puzzle. Miss MIP has her challenges like speech delay, language difficulties, potential hearing difficulties and she doesn’t like to sleep very much. What if we make another one that can’t sleep and can’t talk……. the one we’ve already got is hard work so two feels impossible.

There is also the fact that things are just starting to get fun here. Miss MIP is old enough that we can all go out armed only with a water bottle, some snacks and a spare pair socks and shoes. We’ve said goodbye to nappies and don’t need bags of stuff to entertain her or feed her anymore. We can all go out for lunch together, to the cinema or just mooch around at home under a duvet.

We can also be a bit more selfish now she’s a bit older. I can work more hours now she’s at school and the extra money from that means we can have a bit more fun as a family. Mr MIP and I can also get away for a weekend as she’s old enough to understand that if she wakes in the night we won’t be here but she does get to have a fun sleep over with Nanny. Mr MIP feels less guilty about staying over night when he has to work away or if he has to work extra hours.

It’s amazing how all this logic doesn’t sit quite right still though. I somehow feel like I’m being a bit selfish by only having one child – like my job isn’t quite finished and somehow I’m letting some unknown, unidentifiable person down. As if just because my body has the capability to have children I’m somehow obligated to do .

Maybe our thoughts will change in the future but in the meantime I’m going to ignore those voices that whisper about how Miss MIP would love a sibling and just treasure the moments we have as a family of three.

Equality hurts no one

The sheer numbers of men, women and children taking part in #womensmarch all over the world gives me enormous hope for the future. It gives me hope that there is good in the world. It gives me hope that people can still pull together for the right cause. That people can see past race, religion and belief to stand together for something that matters to us all.

Women’s rights are human rights. There shouldn’t be men’s rights and women’s rights there should just be rights for people. The right to decide what happens to your body. The right to equal pay in the workplace. The right to not feel threatened. The right to equality and safety in the workplace, the home and in public.

I want our daughter to grow up in a world where she is offered the same jobs, wages and opportunities as men. I want her to be able to decide what (if any) birth control she chooses to take. What she wants to wear without worrying about if those clothes will make her feel unsafe. I want her to be able to assertive and authoritative in the workplace without being called bossy or a bitch. I want her not to have to choose between career or family. I want her to not ever have to be worried she can’t make her dreams come true because she’s a woman.

Although Trump isn’t my president his presidency threatens me as a woman. Because someone who can say such awful things about women has been voted in as a world leader and is now a serious contender in world politics. That man that made such vulgar, derogatory and awful comments about women is now being taken seriously and this (to some) means his comments can be taken seriously.

So well done to everyone involved. To all those marching and to all of those who want to be there but can’t be but are there in heart and spirit. I’m so so proud to call myself a feminist but make no mistake – that means I want equal rights for *everyone* not just for women. For every female plumber I want a male childcare assistant because we all have our struggles and the only way we’ll achieve them is to work together for an equal future for all.

MIP x x

Dear Nissan UK

First of all let me just say I love my Nissan Leaf – it’s everything I hoped an electric car would be and I truly love driving it. When we decided to go electric we wanted to use a well known name but also find something that would work as a family car and the Leaf has ticked all of those boxes. It’s comfortable to drive and as I have a charger at my house its convenient to charge and use – yes you have to plan any journey above 80 miles a bit better but I don’t do those kind of journeys very often. I love the fact I never have to queue at a petrol station again, I love the fact I can send it a text message and it will defrost itself on a cold morning and I love the little waves I get from other EV drivers when I go past them.

I’ve become a total convert to electric cars because of my Leaf and recently it’s safety rating was proved to me when it was in an accident. I was waiting at a crossing when someone didn’t notice I’d stopped and she hit the back of the car at high speed. Thankfully we all walked away all be it with some bumps, bruises, pain and knocks but we did all walk away which was the important thing. It was a major plus point for me to know that my Leaf could stand up to a high speed knock from a VW Golf and only have damage to the boot, bumper and boot floor.

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From the point it was picked up and taken to one of your approved repair centres though it hasn’t been such smooth sailing.

It landed with the garage on the 8th December and I was given the choice of either having it written off or having it repaired. Thinking that it would be easier to have it repaired I elected not to have it written off but have it fixed instead – apparently that was a mistake because it’s been nothing short of a nightmare since.

It’s been 6 weeks now and the garage haven’t been able to make a single repair to it because they are waiting for a boot floor to be delivered. It had a delivery date of the 12th January so I was hoping to have the car back next week.

I called the garage today to check on progress and it turns out the part hasn’t even been delivered and here’s the kicker…..it’s not going to be delivered for another 4 weeks.

So with delivery time and the 40 hours repair work my car needs it’s likely to be at least 12 weeks until I’ve got the car back.

At least 12 weeks of driving a diesel, 12 weeks of paying a fortune for fuel, 12 weeks of frustration and 12 weeks of talking about this utter disappointment on social media.

How can the EV community persuade others to invest in this technology when parts have a 10 week wait on them? Where are those parts even coming from? If it was made in Australia and shipped here by boat that wouldn’t take 10 weeks so where is the delay?

And as for the people who have invested in your electric vehicle technology – should it not be if your Leaf gets damaged and is being repaired at a Nissan approved centre you get another Leaf to replace it? Why are you delivery times forcing people back into dino-fuelled cars? That’s 12 weeks of me driving a diesel when I’ve made a financial and moral commitment to electric cars

I’m angry, I’m disappointed and I’m frustrated to be put in this position. Your EV drivers deserve better than this Nissan and trust me when I say we are all talking about it. In our own groups and forums, on this blogs Facebook page, on Twitter and face to face – we are all trying to act responsibly and have chosen your company to do that. You should at least repay us with a decent service and parts replacement when we need it.

In the meantime I’m wondering when I’ll get to see my car again and if I made a mistake moving to Nissan when I could have just as easily gone to VW, Renault or BMW for the same type of car. Because it’s not just about the car – it’s the service and the brand I’ve brought into as well and at the moment I feel deeply short changed.

Being kind to yourself……

To all you lovely mums and dads,
Congratulations – you made entire human being! You created a life and you likely spend all your waking hours (and probably some sleeping ones) making sure that that tiny human you grew turns into a kind, tolerant and valued person.
That doesn’t mean that you need to forget about yourself though. You are still your own person and you need to make sure you make the time to remember that. Be kind to yourself and make sure you have a moment that is just for you.
Go to a coffee shop, go for a run, go to the cinema, just sit on the sofa and do nothing, take a walk, visit a library, go for a swim – do anything but please make sure you do something that’s just for you.
It’s so easy to get lost in the world of parenting. To feel that every moment has to be dedicated to your family or your work but you as a person deserve those moments as well. You don’t need to justify it to anyone, you don’t need to be sneaky about it and you don’t need to feel selfish for wanting to do something on your own or without any children present.
You are a parent but you are still a person. No matter if your child is a month old, 5 years old, 15 years old or 30 years old – you will always want to put your children first but you can set a great example for your children is that it’s ok to be as kind to yourself as you are to others.
So today give yourself a little treat – have an extra nice coffee, a sit down even though there is washing up to be done or upgrade your seat on the commuter train back home. Take a walk on your lunch break and call that friend you’ve been meaning to get back in touch with or just enjoy a bar of chocolate all to yourself without any tiny fingers trying to take it away from you!
Be kind to yourself. You made a human but that doesn’t mean your children have to replace you.
x

Am I still relevent?

My contract is nearly finished so I’m on the job hunt again and it’s got me to thinking about my professional skills.

I’m not really sure what I do anymore – I used to work in Human Resources but that was over four years ago. I currently work as a Volunteer Coordinator but that isn’t really what I ‘do’ either and as the contract is finishing I don’t have the option to continue it even though I’d like to.

I’ve been trying to find out what my professional edge is and asking myself if I still have any value in the commercial world. I’d like to think that the first 15 working years of my life before I grew a human still hold value but looking around at the market I’m just not sure. The part time options are limited to say the least.

Maybe it’s not the skills I’ve lost but my confidence – can I still add value to a workplace and can I still be a respected professional or do I have to start right at the beginning all over again? Do I need to take my career back 15 years and start all over again to build myself back up to being regarded as a professional?

I feel like the next few months are going to be made up of interesting decisions that could have a long term impact on my career and my confidence.

I think the main question is – what if no one wants me and those 15 years were for nothing?

Then what?