Passport

Are holidays with young children worth it?

I was talking to a friend recently and she said that she’d never been on holiday with her daughter because she didn’t see how a holiday with a child was worth it. She thought that a holiday with a family was just doing the same things you usually would just in a different location. I couldn’t disagree with her more though – I think family holidays are a special and important time for people to step away from their normal busy lives and experience something different together.

We are in the lucky position to be able to afford to go on holiday each year and I know this isn’t the same for everyone but I don’t think family breaks have to be expensive. You can camp, hire a caravan, book onto a coach trip or book a package and if you can’t get time off work then a one night weekend trip is just as valuable as a 5* break to Mexico.

Because for me it isn’t about where you go – it’s about the fact you go together. You could stay one night somewhere half an hour from home but it is still an adventure. It doesn’t matter that beds still need to be made, it doesn’t matter than dinner still needs to be cooked and it doesn’t matter than tantrums will still be had. By spending that time somewhere new as a family you are creating out of the norm memories and those are the things you will remember.

I once slept in a tent with a river of water running under it from the monsoon of rain that had been released overnight on a camping holiday to France. At the time it felt like the greatest adventure I’d ever had – I walked on the bubbling tent groundsheet the next day and thought that this must be what it was like to walk on a rain cloud.  My Dad threatened to wash my hair in the river running under our tent if I didn’t go to the shower block with Mum and being sorely tempted to see if he actually would just because it sounded like so much fun.

I don’t remember us going on those holidays because they were cheap at the time – I remember my Dad being there every single day for an entire week. My Dad has always worked extreme hours so for him to be there every single day was incredible. Some of my happiest memories of my childhood involve being sat in a field with my Mum, my Dad and my brother while we ate cheese and bread carved up with my Dads swiss army knife. It doesn’t matter where those memories took place but the fact I’ve got them and want to recreate them with my own daughter shows how powerful they were to me.

We’ve been really lucky to see some amazing places in the world before we had a family and I look forward to taking our daughter swimming with the fish in the Maldives, to visit the ruins in Tulum in Mexico, on safari in Tanzania and snorkelling in Egypt but these are all bigger dreams. I’m just as excited to take her out on a boat with in Penzance to see the dolphins and basking sharks, to take her to cheddar gorge to see the views, to take her to Snowdonia to see the looming peaks and to take her to the New Forest to see the ponies.

These are all things I want to share with her and I want her to remember but mostly I want her to remember us spending time with her, exploring new places with her and trying new things together as a family. Because those memories are precious.

 

 

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Finding the joy in parenting

It’s very easy to get caught up in all the negatives that come with parenting – the exhaustion, the financial challenges and the constant self doubt – but it is just as important to recognise the positive changes being the owner of a tiny human can bring.

In the last four years I’ve learnt quite a lot about myself that I didn’t know before I was a Mum.

I’ve learned that I’m a lot more patient than I thought I was. This has come in really useful over the last 6 months when my daughter learned the word “why” and during potty training. You have no choice but learn to take deep breaths, learn to accept the limitations of that moment and just wait. You can’t loose your temper and there isn’t any point in trying to reason with them so you’ve just gotta bite down and bear it.

I make so much better use of my own time as well now. I work 19 hours a week, the tiny human is in nursery 28 hours a week and I spend 5 hours a week travelling to and from work. This leaves me with 4 hours a week at my own disposal to either go for a run, write this blog, get some  boring household chores done or watch TV with a cuppa. Four whole hours. I’ve been amazed at how much I can achieve in just these few hours and wish I’d learned to manage my time like this years ago!

I now have a very childish sense of humour. I find fart jokes hilarious, I think watching a preschooler eat jelly is the best form of slapstick comedy around and watching my daughter play imaginary games with her toys makes me laugh till I cry. It’s also fantastic hearing her say sit, can’t, ducks and sticks with her slight speech delay as all of them sound like mega swears. All the comedy without the actual fear of your child swearing – although frankly it’s a miracle it hasn’t happened yet.

As a parent you need to be able to find a silver lining. Yes today was rubbish and yes you’ve only had a few hours sleep but tomorrow could be better. Yes that was an enormous tantrum your little one had in the middle of a busy high street but you dealt with it and when you get home you can have a massive bar of tantrum as a reward for coping. Yes it is crap when the tiny human you took the time and effort to grow takes all their rage out on you but…..well actually that one is just crap and I recommend wine or chocolate as a reward.

Multitasking – I am now a multitasking genius. I can arrange a birthday party, a presentation and a house move all at the same time. Give me a family calendar and an excel spreadsheet and I can manage the world.

I now try to find the joy in most things. My daughter can’t hear music without having a little dance along, can’t see a feather without picking it up, can’t walk past a flower without trying to smell it or see a row of ants working without sitting down and watching them for a while. It’s a joy and an honour to be able to see her explore the world she lives in and I hope I never tire of it. It can be annoying if I’m in a hurry but even then she reminds me to stop rushing around all the time and take stock of a moment. If I could find the joy or get as excited as she does about some of the most mundane things I’d be the happiest person around.

The point is that it isn’t all bad. Yes it’s tough and being a mum has presented me with some of the biggest personal and professional challenges I’ve ever faced but I have faced them. I haven’t done it on my own and it’s taken a village but each day passes and each day I can find something new to smile about. Being a parent is so difficult but the rewards are enormous and even though life is very different to what it was 5 years ago I wouldn’t change a single thing.

Me

An Illusion of Fitness

Today I saw an overweight runner – she was clearly hot and tired and if I’m honest she looked utterly beaten. Her hair was windswept, her face was red and she was sweating buckets – her running kit didn’t fit well and she’d clearly had to force herself into her workout clothes.

It was me.

I’d caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window as I’d run past and I was horrified at what I had seen. I always imagined I looked free and in control as I ran – sometimes I even imagine I look strong and happy but that wasn’t what I saw in the mirror. I just looked tired, overweight and unhappy – I didn’t look healthy and I looked weak. I looked fat. Really fat.

I was about 3k into my run at this point and knew I had another 2k to go to reach my 5k target and at that point I pretty much just gave up. This wasn’t the sport for me – clearly I needed to go back home, sit on my sofa and stay where I belonged. The longer I stayed in one spot the more horrified by my own image I became. I could feel all the confidence I’d gained over the past couple of months slipping away and I nearly burst into tears right there on the high street.

Not being a fan of crying in public I walked away and headed down a different street. The further away I walked the better I felt – it was like the further I walked from that image the more I could visualise the me I wanted to be when I ran. I could restore that image I had of myself as a different person, a person who was slim, fit and strong. A person who was in control and who could do anything she set her mind to.

Because that’s the person I need to be when I run. I need that utterly false illusion of myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to keep moving. Only by keeping that illusion of myself intact can I ever actually be that person – if I’m a realist about my actual figure or level of fitness I’ll never change anything. My self confidence and inner demons will make sure I’m forever consigned to the sofa and I never change anything. Those inner demons who long for me to fail – those inner demons born years of bullying at school, crappy boyfriends poking fun at how I look and giving me crippling levels of self confidence and bad friends who made me feel like a second choice. Those people (and cake) helped to caused this situation in the first place and if I pay attention to those voices I’ll lose this fight.

So illusion me wins – yes it might not be how I actually look and it’s probably not healthy to recognise that and ignore it but that’s the way it is staying for the moment. Illusion me gets to stay so one day I might actually look and feel like I imagine I do.

In the meantime I’ll not be running past any shop windows until I can be sure I’ll be able to keep going past with a smile on my face.

Kindness

Teaching kindness

Blogging is a funny old thing – it means you spend a lot of time reading other blogs, keeping an eye on the news and new products for parents.

Sometimes it’s a lot of fun but other times having to read around the sheer amount of parent bashing can be tiresome and heartbreaking.

We are told we need to teach our children to be kind and accepting of others but sometimes I think parents need to be taught that as well. It seems sometimes we are so quick to judge on how babies are fed, how they are clothed, how they are weaned, where they sleep and it doesn’t stop at babies. Parents can be judged on childrens haircuts, how they are educated, whether they go to nursery, if the parents work, if the parents stay at home, what they eat or don’t eat, how they progress, how they sleep and it just goes on and on.

How are we supposed to teach our children to be open minded and to be kind to one another when we can be so quick to cut each other down. I see criticism of car seats, beds, shoes, uniforms, clothes and so much more. When does it stop?

So here is my promise to my daughter. This is a positive blog and I’ll do all I can to keep it that way – I promise to always try and situations from other people’s views and where possible find the positive. I promise to teach you kindness and acceptance through example and to learn from you how to see the world with open and unbiased eyes.

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Review – Qantas London to Auckland

So as some of you know we recently took a huge journey to visit family on the other side of the world in New Zealand. After much exploring we decided to take a non stop flight from London to Melbourne with Qantas, then another flight from Melbourne to Auckland (also with Qantas).

The flights with Qantas were £2,355 plus another £150 for seat booking -needless to say this was more than we’d ever spent out for flights for us all before and based on our research we had high hopes for our journey.

Now travelling for 35+ hours with a three year old is a daunting prospect at the best of times but being that I don’t much like flying it was always going to be a challenge.

Our booking process was really easy and Qantas were easy to reach by phone for our additional queries as well. We had some confusion about the flights as they were advertised as non stop but the receipt said that it had a stopover in Dubai – after a quick call we were reassured this would be a brief refuel stop and we’d hardly notice. This put my mind at ease as I didn’t relish the thought of 4 separate flights each way.

Once we’d booked we started to get excited – this was helped by the the Joey Playbox app which is designed for kids but if I’m honest we all enjoyed playing with. You can design your own airport, sticker up luggage with cool tags, design paper airplanes and play a game based on the old Nokia snake game where you collect baggage which my husband and I became quite competitive on! We were also promised a kids activity pack on the flight for the little one and we added this to the things for her to do mental tick list.

Before we knew it the few months between us booking and travelling had passed and it was time to go. We’d been able to print off our boarding passes quickly and easily and checking in with our luggage was great. We had a luggage allowance each of 30kg so 90kg between us which was plenty for our 10 days in NZ. The hand baggage allowance was slightly harder at 7kg per person and we found this a challenge – most bags weigh around 1kg or 2kg so this really cut the allowance down and when you are flying with a 3 year old the hand baggage is hugely important. On top of this hand baggage allowance you are also allowed to take on a small personal piece of luggage such as a handbag, laptop computer, overcoat, small camera, a reasonable amount of reading material or a small amount of duty free goods where permitted though. We made use of this extra bag but really a couple of extra kgs in hand luggage would have made all the difference.

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We were flying economy in an Airbus A380 and we weren’t overwhelmed by the legroom available – as with so many flights it was fine until someone reclined their seat and then we became very short on space. Even the smallest of our group struggled once the seats in front were reclined and as we were primarily on a night flight this was most of the time.

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The plus side to the flights are the staff – the Cabin Crew on Qantas were superb. They were constantly racing around answering calls and helping people out. We watched them help out a family with an unhappy child and a woman who was feeling very claustrophobic and they did this with a smile and without an ounce of panic or short temper. The service was friendly and felt as personal as it can be with hundreds of people for the team to try and please.

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Sadly the downsides did outweigh the good points for us though. Qantas have recently relaunched their menu and while none of us are fussy eaters but I have to say we did struggle. Particularly with the children’s menu – on all flights both outbound and inbound our daughter didn’t find one thing she enjoyed. It was all very bland and nondescript and we found the limited options quite challenging which is tough when you are on a long flight. The other thing was they never stopped feeding us! We said no to crisps, wraps and rolls many times as it was just a constant bombardment of meals and snacks. When you are already cramped on a plane the last thing you want is to be feeling all heavy and full as well.

The fact that 70% of the flight was at night is tough as well – I know this can’t really be helped but it meant we couldn’t walk around as much as we’d like and our daughter didn’t get an opportunity to play quietly and chat to us as much as we would have like. This created a difficulty later down the line as it’s impossible to ask a 3 year old to stay still and quiet for 13 hours!

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The other thing was the non stop element of the flight – the ‘brief fuel stop’ in Dubai turned out to be over 2 hours each time. This, to us, isn’t what we expected from a ‘brief fuel stop’ – it was a struggle to get everything off the plane for two hours to then come back to your seat afterwards. It might not sound like that much of a deal but with an overtired 3 year old at 10:30pm it really is hard work. We’d hoped for a route that would avoid lots of getting on and off of planes but this particular route couldn’t do that for us.

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So the crux of it is – would I fly Qantas again? The answer is yes but not back to New Zealand. The flight times make a long flight with a child even more hard work, there isn’t enough space in economy, the food isn’t good, the hand luggage allowance is restrictive when you are travelling as a family and the fuel stop is too long for the flight to ever be considered non stop.

Would I fly Qantas again anywhere else? Yes I would but only because of the staff – we’ve flown with many of the big airlines over the years and the thing that makes Qantas a success must be the friendly, approachable and incredibly professional staff.

So all in all – 2/5 for the flight but 5/5 for the crew.

If you have a flight with Qantas coming up and I can answer any questions or queries for you then get in touch using the comments or email me on muminpractice@gmail.com

 

The Referendum

I’m so bored of being shouted at. I’m so bored of the tantrums. I’m so bored of getting advice from all sides on how to deal with it.

Funny thing is I’m not talking about raising a four year old. I’m talking about grown bloody adults doing nothing but confusing people who are being forced to vote on something we shouldn’t even be voting on in the first place.

Let’s all go out tomorrow, get our votes cast and then wake up on Friday and hope the decision goes the way we wanted it to.

Maybe then we can get back to normal Facebook feeds featuring pictures of cats and babies. Maybe then we can go back to actually liking each other and being kind to each other rather than slinging hateful words and comments towards other people.

Maybe then the people who run this country can try and regain our respect or gain it in the first place. Maybe they can remember that we pay them to keep us safe and make decisions on things that the average joe public doesn’t understand like import and export, immigration and trade agreements between nations.

I cannot wait for this whole process to be over.

Lemon Sherbet Prosecco Cocktails

Fancy something sweet and marvellous on a Friday evening? Well if you are a fan of prosecco (who isn’t) then try this out.

Lemon Sherbet Prosecco Cocktail

First you need a bottle of prosecco – that one you’ve had chilling in the fridge will do just fine.

You’ll also need lemon sorbet and lime cordial, I’m posting this early enough so you’ll have time to pop to the shop and get some.

Parenting – we’re doing it right.

These only take a couple of seconds to make and they are delicious.

Pop one heaped teaspoon of lemon sorbet into the bottom of a tall flute glass. A wine glass is fine. So is a sippy cup or mug depending on what kind of day you’ve had.

Dash a couple of drops of the lime cordial over the sorbet and then stir quickly but gently. You want to mix TBD flavours a bit – not make it flat.

If you want to you can garnish it with a lemon slice but let’s be honest – who really has the time or inclination for a garnish on your drink when you’ve survived dinner and bedtime.

That’s it. Drink up and enjoy your tangy frothy refreshing beverage.

Enjoy!

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Run Report -10th June 2016

First run in two weeks this morning – all was going well until about 1.8km when I fell over a tree root and scraped my leg up. Tried to carry on but my leg, ankle, elbow and hands were hurting from the tumble and I just couldn’t find my pace again.

Very annoying as I’d run the 1.8km without any stops which was new for me as I’ve never made it over 1km without stopping before.

Trying to shake it off and find the positive though – had a nice time, the weather was good and the people were all nice and friendly today. Particularly the two incredibly fit chaps bouncing round the lake at 100mph while having a chat like it was no big deal! They smiled every time they passed me and that little bit of encouragement really helped keep me going.

Never underestimate how much a nod, a smile or a thumbs up can really pick you up when you are struggling. To have the encouragement and positivity from a total stranger is a lovely thing.

I’ll try to get out again on Sunday – but this time look where I’m going a bit more carefully!

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Butser

101 Ideas to Kick Your Summer Off in Style

With the glorious bank holiday sunshine sparking barbecues across the country, the kids half terms holidays acting as some serious inspiration and those big, long 6 week summer holidays just on the horizon you will no doubt be thinking about starting to plan your big summer adventure.

If, like me, your bank account starts to have a panic attack at the mere suggestion of  all things Legoland then you need to take a look at this excellent new free ebook.  Put together with help of 101 of the best of British bloggers, the ebook is full to the brim with budget activities, fun destinations and just general fun for both you and children to enjoy this summer.

As part of helping put the book together my suggestion was Butser Hill in Hampshire. I wrote;

“It’s a huge space where we can all run around, play games, have picnics and fly kites without having to worry about anything else. Butser Hill on a windy day blows all the cobwebs and worries away – we always come home smiling and feeling like we’ve enjoyed time together.”

Another of the ideas I really enjoyed was White Water Teamwork by Emma at emmaand3.com. She wrote

“I enjoy giving the children challenging experiences where we work together as a team and have family fun. A recent example included white water rafting. Such a fun activity to do when you have older children. You could also try go ape.”

White water rafting does sound like super fun and a great way to bond with the family, but I may have to wait a few years just yet!

Let me know your favourite activity or destination from the ebook!

The Cincinnati Zoo shot and killed a western lowland gorilla on Saturday after a 4-year-old boy slipped into the animal's enclosure, a zoo official said at a news conference.

Parents aren’t perfect

I’m annoyed again this week and once again it’s the fault of perfect bloody parents.

I am an avid conservationist and I was hugely saddened to hear the news about Haracombe the 17 year old silver back gorilla who was shot in Cincinnati this week. I was sad that this glorious animal had lost his life in a tragic accident and I felt for the keepers who would have had to make that awful decision.

I use the word accident on purpose because that is exactly what it was. An accident. Some could say it was an accident waiting to happen as the fences were too low, some could say it was an accident because the child ran off, some could say it was an accident because the parents weren’t watching but you can safely say it was an accident.

We won’t know exactly what happened that enabled that child to be unsupervised for the time it would have taken him to get through that barrier but it could just as easily have happened to me.

I love my daughter. She is the light of my life and one of the best things to ever happen to me but that doesn’t make me blind to her faults. She’s a runner, she doesn’t listen and she is constantly pushing the boundaries we set her. This weekend she opened the front door and walked round the side of the house – if she’d walked forward instead of turning she could have ended up in the road and if she’d gone the other way she could have ended up in the fast flowing stream by the house. We usually have the front door locked but I took my eye off the ball for a split second while I was loading the washing machine and the next thing I knew my husband was walking her back in the front room.

I’m not a negligent mum – I know she is a runner and I constantly keep an eye out for her and have become an expert in likely outcomes and seeing disasters that could happen but I made a mistake. I took my eye off the ball for a few seconds and I was lucky she didn’t get hurt.

The internet is now full of parents shouting words like neglect, abuse, child endangerment and prosecution – people who are obviously perfect parents and have never had a child just disappear before their very eyes. I’m not saying the parents aren’t at fault here – of course they are but I think to start screaming child endangerment and saying the accident is obviously a reflection on the family’s home situation is a little presumptive.

A magnificent animal tragically lost its life this week, a young child was very lucky and the parents will never ever ever stop living with that guilt or get away from the ‘what if’ factor.

To all those perfect parents shouting that the adults should be looking at the children every single second I ask them – have you never ever taken your eyes off your children? If you have more than one child how do you pick which one to stare at and which one to leave to the dangers of the world? Have you never had that heart stopping moment where you realise your child has stepped out of your sight? Have you never had your child not listen to you when you ask them to stay close and not run off?

Parents aren’t perfect and children are mischievous, clever, sneaky and have no idea why we set the rules they do. They have no idea why we don’t want them to run off so they do it anyway.

Parents aren’t perfect, children aren’t perfect and accidents happen.