Dear Harley ~ as you start school

My gorgeous boy, 

We have just found out that you have been offered a place at our favoured school.

School.

How are you already old enough to go to school? My precious little bundle of love that was always content from the minute we brought you home from hospital? My beautiful boy. My Harley.

These 4 years have been the best of my life. I burst with pride knowing that you are mine.

You are truly beautiful inside and out.

Grandma always says how polite you are. You are so well mannered. You even thank me every day for the food I make you. I have never asked you to do that.

You enjoy the simple things. Being outside. I struggle to keep up with you. But I always will be, right by your side.

I remember the first time you said those words, totally unprompted, “I love you, Mummy.”

I cried.

My heart couldn’t have felt more full.

And now, I feel like ‘our’ time is running out. These early years are just not long enough. By any stretch.

I don’t doubt for a minute that you are ready for school. You are excited. I know that. I know that you are looking forward to riding your scooter to school. I know how excited you are to do P.E and how you want us to go and buy your little green uniform, right now!

I don’t doubt for a minute that you will grow up even more between now and September. And then you will be 5. You will be one of the eldest so I hope you will look out for your younger peers.

You won’t know anybody to start with. This was a decision that Mummy and Daddy thought long and hard about. Whether to separate you from your preschool friends? We don’t doubt that your happy, sunny nature will allow you to make new friends very easily. We are sure your social group will grow and you will have lots of friends.

I often find my mind drifting to the future. Kissing you goodbye as I see your little legs running off to find your friends in the playground. Waiting at the school gate, watching you walk towards me with your rosy cheeks, shirt untucked and grass stains on your trousers. You carrying your little lunchbox and book bag.

So my advice and hopes for when you start school:

Always be kind ~ show your friends and even those that aren’t, the caring side that we see everyday with your brothers and sister.

Share your belongings and your time ~ like when all you want to do is play with your Lego and you put your half built spaceship to one side so that you can play ‘Row, row, row your boat’ with Lola.

Be brave ~ don’t be afraid to try new things. It’s ok to fail and make mistakes. This will only make you learn better.

Be bold ~ use your voice; speak out; ask for help; join in and take part.

Never say you’re bored ~ only boring people say they are bored. Look forward to playtime if you need to. But enjoy each day.

Just do your best ~ it will always be enough.

Dream big ~ just like I do, for you. You can achieve anything.  And I know that you will.

I love you, Harley. I’m beyond proud of you.

Love Mummy

xxx

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A Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt

Now that I’m a blogger, I often do things or visit places, that immediately make me want to blog about them, if I think my readers will be interested.

I simply had to share the egg hunt that my sister set up for us last weekend.

A glow in the dark egg hunt, no less.

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It was pretty spectacular and the kids adored it.

All you need are some plastic eggs, glow sticks, baskets and treats.

You need to make sure that you time it right as it takes a little while to prepare the eggs and of course, it needs to be dark!

Simply snap and shake a glow stick to get it glowing and twist it or wrap it around itself so that it fits inside the plastic egg. Depending on the size of the plastic eggs that you have, you could always keep the glow stick together with an elastic band.

Then place a treat inside the egg. We used small chocolate treats and marshmallows.

Make sure that the glow sticks colour coordinate with the colour of the egg.

We also had matching coloured plastic baskets so each child knew which coloured eggs they were hunting for. If you have any glow sticks left over, we threaded them through the holes in the baskets so that the baskets glowed up too.

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It was a gorgeous sight in the garden, to see the coloured eggs, glowing brightly, hidden among the plants, in the bushes, in the rockery and there was even a large bonus egg, hidden in the playhouse that they were all trying to find!

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and afterwards, the kids enjoyed wearing the glow sticks

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and we even had some sparklers

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and the grown ups enjoyed toasting marshmallows on the fire pit

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Such a brilliant idea and a lovely twist on the traditional Easter egg hunt.

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Easter Sun Fun

Happy Holidays, everyone.

For some, I hope you have had a lovely two weeks, for others, enjoy one more week of the Easter hols. For us, it’s a weird one. My 2 step sons are staying with us for a week, however Ethan is back to school on Monday but Connor still has another week off. Despite the schools only being a 10 minute drive from each other, the different school holiday dates have made it a bit tricky for us, this year. Nevertheless we have tried to cram in as much as possible, to make the time off, one to cherish.

And hasn’t this week’s weather been stunning. T-shirts, sunglasses, suncream, washing on the line, and oh how pleased my feet were to see some flipflops. It’s been truly glorious.

Here is the first week of our holiday, with just some of my favourite pictures:

We were really fortunate to be given a chalet at Pontins for a few nights. You can imagine, Harley was in his absolute element; staying away from home, staying up late at the Disco! There were so many activities for him to do. He tried skateboarding down full size ramps and up jumps, for the first time and loved it:

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He beat me at the Crazy Golf; we all went swimming (such a lovely, warm pool, perfect for Lola) and went on the Go Karts but I think Daddy secretly had the most fun!

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It was so lovely to spend some time together, just doing things for the kids. And the best bit, it didn’t cost us a penny but Harley will remember it forever. And you know what, so will I.

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We have also enjoyed the stunning weather, down the beach. We are spoilt for choice with our beautiful beaches here but as always, it confirms why we live here.

I love this photo of them together:

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and this one, mid fall!

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We also spent a lovely day at Moors Valley Country Park. It’s such a brilliant place for the whole family. The boys love doing the Adventure Trail walk, which is perfect as it encourages them to have a long walk through the forest, whilst stopping off at various play zones and wooden climbing frames. Ethan is 11 and Harley is 4, there’s not many places that we can go where all of the boys have so much fun, but this is one of them.

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We had a picnic on the wooden toadstools and yes, I too question what I was thinking letting Harley go out in white shorts!

But I do secretly love seeing grubby hands and muddy knees … it’s a sign of innocent childhood fun, in my mind.

Here’s to another week of fun, next week. Let’s hope the sun continues to shine.

I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to.

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Harley’s Garden Bucket List

We have lived in our house for 4 years now. Having done lots to it, we’ve really made it our own.

I love our home.

It’s so versatile that it’s enabled us to grow into it and to move space around as and when we have needed it.

The garage was converted into a proper room when we moved in. We made it into a playroom for a few years but we noticed that the children weren’t really using it in the winter as it is not attached to the house, so got pretty cold. So now, it houses some gym equipment and has an office area. Our conservatory is now the playroom and it’s lovely to see it in constant use. It’s wonderful to be able to shut the door and close the curtains at night to hide all of the toys. And we get to keep our lounge space free from Lego, dolls, footballs and jigsaw pieces!

But there is still one space that has been somewhat neglected; one space that gets more use than any room in the house but it’s the one space that we’ve done nothing to.

The garden.

As Spring has most definitely sprung, we thought we would grasp the opportunity to make a start on our garden makeover.

It’s early days but we’ve started by removing the wooden bar area that houses our BBQ. It meant that we could pull up some of the paving slabs to create more lawn space. Harley has thoroughly enjoyed helping to ‘smash’ up the slabs, complete with safety specs!

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Even though part of the garden is given over to our outdoor conservatory furniture, it’s really important to us that we create a family outdoor space. A space that’s used. A space that’s played in. A space that’s an extension of our home.

So I asked Harley what would be in his ideal garden:

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His somewhat humble list fortunately contains a few of the things we have already. Our waterslide comes out in the Summer and the boys love it. Having races against each other.

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Their love of football means we always have a football goal set up, ready to receive some shots.

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We have kindly been given a trampoline from a family member whose son has outgrown it. Harley will soon be copying his older step brother’s tricks so we can tick that one off the list, also:

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We are big fans of Tesco direct and a browse through their Swings, Slides and Seesaws could make the rest of Harley’s Garden Bucket List an affordable reality.

As our garden is not overly big, I would love a unit that is compact enough to hold a few different play stations. I recommend Plum Tamarin Wooden Playcentre:

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We are all for encouraging agile and active play.

I love this Little Tikes Buckingham Climb ‘n Slide Swing Set with its feature swings and climbing tower, if we had a little more space.

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And for Lola, we have bought her the Little Tikes My First Slide from Tesco. A bargain at only £23.99. It arrived in 2 days and can be folded away when not in use:

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She can’t quite manage the steps on her own yet but she can grow into it.

I know Harley’s desire for a playhouse is thanks to his cousins who have just built this one in their back garden, isn’t it gorgeous:

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So I don’t think we are too far off our kid’s dream garden. And for the parts we don’t yet have. I know just where to go.

Pop back in a few weeks time to see how our garden makeover is going.

Disclaimer: This post is written for Tesco.

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Easter Treat Bags

Every single year, we always have lots of left over chocolate, for months after Easter (unless it’s Cadburys then it doesn’t last long in our house!)

So this year I wanted to make Harley and Lola some Easter Treat Bags, to add a bit of variety. There are some lovely children’s Easter gifts in the shops at the moment and I certainly didn’t spend a fourtune. In fact a lot of the items in their Treat Bags are from Home Bargains (my favourite bargain shop of the moment!) I’m not that mean though, they will still have a chocolate egg or two in their bags!

Harley’s Easter Bag

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DVD, book, cuddly chick puppet, egg shell with marshmallows, paint your own eggcup, Happy Easter biscuit, Easter mug, chocolate eggs, mini eggs and I couldn’t resist this Jelly Bean carrot:

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Lola’s Easter Bag

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Cuddly bunny puppet, book, chocolate Smartie animals, Easter chick biscuit, Weebles, a wind up chick, chocolate egg, egg shell with marshmallows and I adore these cute little Easter dungarees:

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Nothing in the bags cost over £2 (apart from the dungarees from Matalan, £8)

My little Easter bunnies are 4 and 1 but I’ve seen lots of lovely Easter bits for slightly older children if you are looking at doing something similar.

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I can’t wait to give them to them.

Do you give your children Easter treats or do you stick to Easter Eggs?

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Bike ride with a difference

 A few days ago, Harley saw a video of some boys on their bikes, doing stunts in a skate park. When I heard the inevitable “I want to do that, Mummy” I almost laughed it off.
But there was a huge part of me that didn’t want to suppress his desire to try something new; to draw on his confidence and sheer love of being on his bike.
We have a lovely new park nearby so we took a trip down, mid-week when we knew it would be quiet.
Well, I can only say that I was in awe of his determination and self belief.
I love this action shot of his bike mid-flight.
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At only 4, I don’t quite know how he has the strength in his little legs to drive himself up the steep slopes or shift his balance to accommodate the sloped angles. Thankfully his skills, matched his confidence and he loved every minute.
The first 10 minutes or so, he was getting to grips with the hills and speed at which he needed to approach the curved sides of the park. After that, he was in his element.
And you know the funny thing… I didn’t feel any nerves or apprehension at all.
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I managed to catch a little video of him.
He’s watched it over and over and already has set his sights on new things to try, next time!
He’s such a brilliant example of how stepping outside your comfort zone, will lead to progress and creativity. I think I need to take a leaf out of his book.
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What’s in a drawing?

Regular readers will know that Harley is more of an outdoors boys, preferring to be with a football or on his bike, than with a pen or glue stick in hand, being arts and crafty.

However, I have noticed more recently that he is independently, grabbing the box of crayons and paper to do some drawings.

I love keeping his ‘scribbles’ and have enjoyed seeing the scribbles turn into recognisable drawings.

This was his latest picture.

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I simply had to share it. The round knee caps make me chuckle.

It’s so funny how the world and it’s people are interpreted by our little people.

All parents know the personality traits of their children but there is a small part of me that is fascinated by the meaning behind children’s drawings. I’m pretty sure you can’t read too much into it, but I did like these facts, when Googling it, relating to Harley’s picture:

Choosing to draw in a Yellow/Orange colour, demonstrates intelligence and a sunny nature.

A child who places a drawing of a good size, prominently on the page is considered to be well-balanced and secure.

I would love to know what the little round knee caps, seemingly not attached to the legs, says about him. And also the straight line that Harley says, shows the forehead. Hmm, Daddy has lines on his forehead, so I’m going for that one!

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Through my child's eyes
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My Blog Stars Little Star

Over at 3 Princesses and 1 Dude! Becky runs a feature called Blog Stars Little Stars. The idea is that our little treasures steal the limelight (don’t they always?!) and share their answers to some questions about their mummy.

When I asked Harley if he wanted to take part, it was a resounding “Yes, yes, yes!”

For me, it was very refreshing, comforting and reassuring to hear his response to some of the questions. Some predictable, some extensions of the truth… honest, but some to make my heart completely full.

If you head over to Blog Stars Little Stars, you can see what Harley really thinks of me!!

…How old does he think I am?? Blimey, son!

Blog Stars Little Stars
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Creating Christmas Magic for a little while longer

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Since having children, Christmas has taken on a whole new level for me. The magic of Christmas is undoubtedly captured in the faces of our little ones when they see that they have indeed made it onto Santa’s Good List!

But I’m not oblivious to the fact that those magical years, are no where near long enough, so I intend to make the magic sparkle as much as I can, while the belief and wonderment still exists.

The following are just little things that we like to do to create a little magic in the build up to Christmas eve:

A Letter from Santa

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This weekend, Harley ran into the lounge, excited to see a bright red envelope with his name on it, pushed through the letterbox. It was a letter from Santa, that he believes the elves posted through the door.  My eyes welled up, reading the letter to him and seeing his face light up. We used My Letter from Santa Claus and you can read our review of the letter here. Because the letter is so personal, it’s truly lovely to hear how Santa knows everything them and knows exactly what they want for Christmas!

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We also make a personalised video using the Portable North Pole. Like the letter, you can add any information you like to make it special. There is an option to pay for an upgrade where you can add more detail but I just use the free version.

‘Santa is Coming to’ Book

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I love getting out the Christmas stories and reading them before bedtime throughout December. An old favourite of mine is ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ but we love the ‘Santa is coming to’ books written by Steve Smallman and published by Hometown World. They mention places local to your area and I love adding in the children’s names on the last page. As Harley can’t read yet, he really believes he features in the book.

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A visit to see Santa

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The magic really comes alive with a visit to see Santa. We usually go to Stewarts Garden Centre where they have real reindeer, but this year we were lucky enough to visit the Christmas Wonderland at Paultons Park. It was stunning. You can read our review of the Wonderland, here.

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On Christmas Eve …

Track Santa’s journey 

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We love using the Santa Tracker to see where Santa is on his journey and to watch him get ever closer.

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We like to leave a trail of glitter, down the steps that lead up to our front door, just to make sure Santa knows the way!

Treats for Santa

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Isn’t it amazing seeing your little one’s face light up when they see that Santa has eaten the mince pie or cookies they left out for him and drank the glass of milk…. or Rosé wine as the case may be, this year! We made our own plate for Santa by simply using Sharpie pens and baking the plate in the oven for 30 mins at 175ºC. I also love how it is a constant reminder of how Harley used to first write his name. I wrote Harley and Lola’s ages on the back of the plate as a reminder for years to come.

Reindeer Food

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We also leave out a carrot for Rudolph but just so that the other reindeers don’t feel left out, we like to leave them some reindeer food in the garden. We simply mix oats, granola and of course, glitter to make that all important reindeer food. We can’t have Dancer and Prancer missing out!

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Santa’s Footprints

This is a gorgeous idea that was actually hubby’s. We leave out Santa’s footprints walking away from the stockings. Simply cut out a shoe print template and sprinkle talcum powder around the edges. I didn’t get a photo of it last year but I love these ones from The Party Artisan:

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Magic key

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We always leave out a Magic Key for Santa to get through the door on Christmas Eve as we don’t have a chimney. The jingle bell is the sound of Santa’s sleigh approaching.

and finally…

I saw this on social media this week. We are definitely going to be on the lookout for Santa’s sleigh flying through the sky, so I thought I would share it with you:

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So are there any other things that you like to do, to create that magic of Father Christmas, that I can steal  borrow?

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How to mark Baby’s First Christmas?

And with what feels like a blink of an eye, my teeny tiny baby will soon be 11 months and celebrating her first Christmas. Christmas – that magical festive season of love, twinkly lights, over indulgence and beyond excited children. This year is made all the more special that we now have a gorgeous little girl to share it with. A baby’s first Christmas is always a moment to be cherished so I decided to come up with my must-haves for every baby’s first Christmas.

1. Take a special Christmas photo.

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We managed to capture a lovely photo of Harley when he was 3 months old, for his first Christmas. We loved this photo so much that we made it into some Christmas cards for friends and family that year. Despite the seasonal touch that unfortunately prevents me from having this photo on my wall, all year round, it is still one of my absolute favourites; a very special moment captured. You can click on my Pinterest Board below for some inspiration for that special photo opportunity.

2. Choose an ornament to mark the occasion

I love the idea of a special tree hanging ornament or decoration. I adore this personalised robin bauble from Hope and Willow on NotontheHighstreet, £19.

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and this gorgeously understated acrylic star by EdgeInspired on NotontheHighstreet, £3.75

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3. Christmas outfit

It has to be done, doesn’t it? With so many cute baby outfits out there, a baby’s first Christmas has to be the best excuse. We are yet to buy Lola’s Christmas outfit, my mind is a whirl as to what we shall dress her as… an angel, a reindeer maybe even a Christmas pudding. This was Harley’s Christmas outfit, we were so lucky to have it coincide with a couple of days of snow. It was truly magical:

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I love the delicate flakes of snow on his little face in this photo:

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4. Christmas PJs

Whether it’s a sleepsuit or a pair of pyjamas, I think there is something so lovely and cosy about a festive pair of pjs. For some reason, I think they are memorable too and Christmas time is definitely worthy of a special pair. I love these Gingerbread ones for Lola by George at Asda, £6.

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and this cute unisex twin pack from Mothercare, £14.

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5. Special keepsake gift

I always think that as they won’t remember what gifts they got for Christmas, it’s not worth forking out on lots of expensive gifts. We will make Lola a stocking which I know she will have so much fun unwrapping and perhaps one main toy from us. But I do like to mark the occasion with a special gift; perhaps it’s more for when they are older and they rummage through their memory box. I’m so lucky to have a very talented jeweller as a sister and  I know that she has made Lola a very special personalised gift for Christmas day. It’s so beautiful that I have to share it with you as it epitomises that special keepsake gift that is one of my must-haves.

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Tinysilver, £42.

6. Make a crafty memory

Cherish their tiny hand or footprints by crafting a piece of Christmas art. Press their handprint onto a plain bauble to hang on the tree; make and decorate footprint Christmas trees; make salt dough ornaments to hang on the tree or even use special paints to decorate a Christmas plate and use baby’s footprint to make the snowman’s nose. All of these craft ideas can be found on my Pinterest Board on the link below.

7. Snap, Snap, Snap

And perhaps inevitably, the most important one is to capture every precious moment on camera and video. We never feel like we film events enough, so this year we will be draining the battery of the video camera, continually. I love this cute little photo album, to store baby’s first Christmas photos, from MamasandPapas, £9.

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So these are my favourite ways to mark a baby’s first Christmas and we intend to do these with Lola. Take a look at my Pinterest Board here for some more extra lovely craft ideas, such as making Footprint Reindeers, keepsake hospital tag baubles and some inspiration for that all important photo opportunity.

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If you have a little one celebrating their first Christmas, I hope you have a truly wonderful time. What will you be doing to mark the occasion?

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Christmas Child Shoebox Appeal ~ Harley’s Shoebox

All of us are proud of our children but I burst with pride at how thoughtful and considerate Harley is, at only 4 years old. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that he is still only 4. I always ensure that Harley appreciates his lifestyle and the toys that he has. Only a couple of weeks ago, we went for a walk down the beach and we talked about how lucky we were to live in such a beautiful part of the UK. He couldn’t believe that some children had never been to a beach. I don’t want him to grow up taking things for granted; or to accept without question the number of toys in the playroom, for example.

Despite still being very young, I felt that he should understand that there are other children in other parts of the world who aren’t as fortunate as he is, especially with Christmas approaching. So I told him all about the Operation Christmas Child Appeal. He was so excited to create a shoebox full of small gifts that would be sent overseas to a child less fortunate. He loved the idea of his shoebox going on an aeroplane.

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Harley decided that he wanted to make his shoebox for a little boy aged between 2- 4 years old. I was so touched that he wanted to give away some of his beloved toys but I did explain that the items needed to be new! We popped to a few local shops to buy some gifts to pack our shoebox. Here are the contents of our box:

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Once we had collected all of our gifts (and checked that they would all fit in the box!) we wrapped the shoebox and its lid in Christmas wrapping paper.

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We then filled the box and included a donation of £3 which is asked to cover the cost of shipping.

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Harley wanted to include a short letter which I thought was a lovely idea.

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One of our local drop off points is the School where I work so Harley came in to drop off his box with the others.

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If you’re thinking of joining in and creating a Christmas Shoebox, you must first decide whether your box is going to be for a girl or a boy and for which age range, 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14 years old.

A few ideas for the contents are:

Toys: Dolls, toy trucks, balls, yo-yos, skipping ropes, puzzles

School equipment: Pens, pencils, crayons, felt tips, stamps, notepads, calculators, colouring books, pictures books

Hygiene items: Toothbrush, toothpaste, flannel, comb, hairbrush, wrapped soap

Other: Hat, cap, gloves, scarf, sunglasses, wrapped sweets, hair accessories, jewellery set

You should not include: used/damaged items, war related items, food, liquids, medicine, bubbles, marbles, sharp objects, glass, mirrors, handmade or knitted stuffed toys, clothing other than listed above.

You should stick the label on the box lid to indicate who your box is for. You can download copies of the label or for more information, click here.

You can find out your nearest Drop Off Point on the link above and note the deadline for the collection date.

So to the little boy who receives our box, we hope you enjoy the gifts inside and that they make you smile. We hope you have a really lovely Christmas.

Love from Harley and his Mummy. xx

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Bringing picture books to life

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Most of you will know by now that my 4 year old, Harley would rather run around outdoors (even in the rain) than sit down quietly with a book. He loves a story or 2 at bedtime and really enjoys talking about the characters or guessing what will happen next but I can’t for the life of me, get him to choose to sit with a book, during the day.

He will openly say that he doesn’t like it when they have to sit in the reading corner at pre-school, “It’s boring” is always his reply. In truth, this really upsets me. I want him to grow up getting lost in a story; I want him to swallow a wealth of vocabulary; I simply want him to enjoy reading.

I firmly believe that this is the age where we need to instill a love of reading, or perhaps a love of sitting with a book and following the pictures, if we want children to relish a good book when they are older.

I have to say that I have found a secret weapon, which I think will encourage Harley to run up to his bookshelf and readily pick a book for me to read to him!

Well, ok, maybe not me… but my favourite online shop Not On The High Street have come up with a nifty little app which truly does bring picture books to life.

Available for free download on the itunes app store, the team from notonthehighstreet say, “​Back in the Summer we launched an app ​for the iPhone ​called ‘Storytime Sounds’. The app is​ free to download from the app store and is designed to bring an extra element of fun to story​ ​time ​for families with kids aged 3-7​.”

The app consists of 6 different soundboards for different themes:

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The sounds are extremely clear and effective. In each soundboard the sounds are:

Fairytales

* magic spell  *galloping horse  * clap of thunder  * swords clashing  * witch’s cackle  * trumpet fanfare  * kissing a frog  * fire breathing dragon  * ‘Ta Dah’

Lost World

*  Elephant’s trumpet  * rattle snake  * monkey  * beating of a drum  * blow dart  * erupting volcano  * dinosaur roar  * dinosaur stamping  * dinosaur squawk

Monsters

* roar  * hiccups  * burp  * laugh  * bang  * stamp  * snap  *confused  * cry

Pirates 

* ‘Argghh’  * canon  * waves  * whale blowing water  * cutlass clashing  * parrot squawk  * treasure coins  * crab’s claws snipping  * rowing a boat

Space

* 3,2,1 lift off  * laser beam  * spaceship beam  * martian  * shooting star  * alien  * jetpack takeoff  * airlock  * ‘Roger that’

and the latest soundboard to be added is for

Halloween

* ‘Mwahaha’ Dracula  * creaking door  * ‘Oooh’ ghost  * bubbling cauldron  *rattling skeleton  * cat screeching  * flapping bats  * wolf howling  *Dracula’s organ

I deliberately didn’t tell Harley about the app before we used it. As it is nearly Halloween, we used this soundboard first for when we read a super Halloween picture book:

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Before using the soundboard, I quickly looked through the sound effects available and chose the ones that I thought would fit our story well. As we read the story together, I pressed the buttons to create the sound effects at aptly timed points throughout the story. Wow, I wish I could have captured every time his eyes lit up in sheer delight, as he heard the bats flapping around him, the skeleton bones rattling in the story and the ghostly noises coming from the book. It was magic.

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Once we had read the story, Harley inevitably wanted to press the buttons and have a go himself. He loved the creaking door and mimicked Dracula’s evil laugh for hours after!

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When he flicked through the other soundboards, he suddenly rushed upstairs to his room, totally unprompted and brought down another book that he wanted to read:

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‘The Pirate-Cruncher’, perfect for the pirate sound effects.

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The Storytime Sounds app is so easy to use and the sounds are extremely effective. Absolutely perfect for helping to bring a story to life.

As a teacher myself, I can really see the added benefits of an app such as this. My class are perhaps a little too old for this but if I was a teacher in a Preschool, Reception or a Key Stage 1 teacher, I would most certainly attach it to the speakers of an interactive whiteboard during storytime. That would be brilliant. You could also use the soundboards for role play to add sound effects to imaginative play.

The app is designed for iPhone or iPad and can be downloaded from iTunes if you click here.

What a fab little app, perfect for a range of story genres and catering for both genders.

I think we’ll read a fairytale tomorrow.

Disclaimer: I was asked by the team at Mumsnet to review this app, all words and opinions are my own.

UPDATE ALERT….. I’m so thrilled to just be sent a gorgeous video of a friend’s daughter who felt that in her words, she was ‘rubbish at writing’ and who used the storytime app as inspiration. She wrote her own short story and whilst reading her story aloud, she used the sound effects on the fairytale soundboard. It was lovely to see her beaming smile at the end, proud of the story she had written. Yet another great use for this fab app.

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Halloween’s a comin’

Once the clocks have gone back and it’s pitch black at 6pm at night, it feels all cosy indoors. I’ve just bought some lovely twig lights from Dunelm Mill and the soft glow is just enough to light the room.

I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of October already. Halloween is in a few days, then sure enough it will Bonfire Night followed closely by Christmas, my highlight of the year, then New Year’s Eve, then hello 2015! Then we do it all over again! Time really is flying by but the next few weeks bring excitement for everyone.

As we have Luke’s boys for the start of Half Term we decided to have Halloween early. Last night, we carved our pumpkins. Connor wanted a starry faced pumpkin with big gnarly teeth and Harley wanted a skeleton. I managed to find some really large pumpkins but they took forever to scoop out. The skeleton design needed a large pumpkin to draw the skeleton on, otherwise it would have been even more fiddly. I’m not a fan of pumpkin so I saved all the insides for my mum to make some soup.

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If you look closely, my poor skeleton lost a rib! For something a little bit different we also put some glow sticks inside the pumpkins. They looked good all lit up in red and blue but didn’t look so effective in a photo so these ones just have tea lights in them.

I saw a super way of decorating a pumpkin, using a drill to make holes, which you can then arrange to make flower patterns. You can see an example of this in my Pinterest board, below.

I also found this cute little plastic pumpkin in Asda. It was only £1 and takes a battery to make it flash:

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I also made some Pinterest inspired treats for the boys. They went down really well:

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The spiders are simply Oreo cookies (I used the packets of mini Oreos but in hindsight I would have used the standard sized cookie so that you can fit all 8 legs on!) I used mint Matchmakers for the legs, a blob of icing and then used a chocolate crispy ball to make the eyes. You could also use strands of black liquorice for even more creepy looking spider legs.

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The Skeletons are simply icing drawn onto gingerbread men with crispy chocolate balls for eyes.

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And the ghosts which were the outright winners, were marshmallows on top of a chocolate fudge brownie, covered in icing. I made the icing a bit too runny but they still tasted good once the icing had set. I use a ready made icing tube for the skeletons and after I was instructed to make more ghosts, I use the tube to place a blob of icing under the marshmallow so that it stuck to the brownie and put a small blob of icing to stick the chocolate balls on to make the face. Again in hindsight, I would have simply done this first time round as it was easier than mixing up icing that I still didn’t make thick enough!

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Blimey, what a difference 4 years make …

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Take a look at my Halloween Pinterest Board if you click here. You’ll find some fab ideas for some kiddie crafts, alternative Halloween treats and take a peak at the Halloween nail art idea, I love it. There is an adorable idea of using children’s footprints to make ghost pictures and a fab Halloween wreath for the door.

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Do you celebrate Halloween or do you turn all the lights off and hide from the Trick or Treaters? I remember a few years ago, we lived in the catchment area for the school where we both worked. We had so many children we knew knock on the door for Trick or Treat and all were really lovely but I distinctly remember one child, dressed up as Frankenstein saying “Mwahaha, trick to treat? …. oh, by the way, is our homework due in tomorrow, Mr. Simpson?” It still makes me chuckle now.

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Am I really that predictable? Common parenting phrases

I really think that when you become a parent, you become equipped with certain words and phrases that you will no doubt bring out as part of your daily routine; phrases that I can hear my mum and dad saying to my sister and I, when we were young. The following are the most common phrases that I find myself saying or asking, almost as many times a day as I imagine myself reaching for that chilled bottle of Rose in the fridge!

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Can you describe your child in just 5 words?

I was recently reading the lovely blog Cuddles & Muddles & Muddy Puddles and enjoyed taking up the challenge of trying to describe my son in 5 words.

How hard can it be?

5 words….

Hmmm….

Well, it appears, very hard!

I know I’m biased, I’m bound to be but Harley is just the most adorable little boy.  He inevitably has his 3 year old moments and tests all of my nerves and strength at times but I’m so unbelievably proud of who he is and who he is growing up to be.

So here he is, in 5 words:

Inquisitive

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 Harley has always been curious; always wanting to know how something worked; why something worked or moved the way it did. I remember sitting in the car one day when Harley must have asked 20 questions in a row, this was the first time all of his questions started with the word ‘why?’ and it made me laugh. Even only today we had a conversation which consisted of him saying “why?” or “but why, Mummy?” or “Yes, Mummy but why?” It’s during these kind of conversations that I could flippantly shrug off his questions or pass him off by giving him an answer which I hope would stop the endless questioning but that I really don’t have the answers for. But why would I? I love hearing his questions. I love the curiosity he has of the world. There’s no way that I want to suppress his desire to learn or to know new things. So the next time we have a ‘why?’ conversation, you can laugh at me trying to find new ways to answer the same questions and I will keep doing this until he’s satisfied that I’ve done enough searching for answers!

Fearless

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Harley has no fear. At times, it frightens me and I have to reign him in. I honestly don’t think it’s because he is unaware of the dangers of heights, deep water, cycling down a hill and so on. I really believe he is fearless because he has such faith in himself and his own abilities. He is so determined with a desire to succeed, that the words ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ must have been written for him. His sense of adventure overrides any sense of apprehension. I remember watching him climb the ladder on the climbing frame at the park and as I walked round eagerly waiting to scoop him up from the bottom of the slide, the little monkey turned the other way and flung himself onto and down the fireman’s pole. My heart was in my mouth yet he was beaming in delight.  He’s always been physically advanced, walking and riding a bike so young. My bag of cotton wool is still full to the brim; he will never let me use it.

Deep

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 Harley’s lovely childminder always uses this word to describe him and it’s a great word for him. For a child that is so active, I often catch him stood still, watching. Pondering. I enjoy observing him, observing others. Often I think it can come across as slightly rude  if I see him just blatantly staring at people, I do tend to divert his attention. Sometimes, I can see the proverbial cogs turning in his mind as he contemplates. Today, my dad visited and was washing some bird’s mess off of his car. Harley helped fill up the bucket of water. He simply stood, watched and said nothing but I could tell he was deep in thought. After a while, he said  “Grandad, which Seagull was it that did this?” I was so amused by his question and the expectation he had that we knew exactly which bird made the mess and where that bird was now. Isn’t it lovely to have such a innocent view of the world?

Independent

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So incredibly independent. Diligent and persistent. He has to do everything himself. I think it is this personality trait that makes us feel that he didn’t seem like a baby for long. He didn’t want me to feed him, he wanted to do it himself. He didn’t want me to dress him, he wanted to do it himself. He didn’t want me to do up his seat belt, he wanted to do it himself. We often have ‘chats’ about what he actually cannot do and that we, as adults have to do for him. He really doesn’t like things being done for him. I think he is far too independent for his own good. He will go as far as to do things for us that are way beyond what a 3 year old should think of doing or even want to do. For example, he likes to take the bin out on bin day. He likes to wheel it back in. He likes to water the plants and rake the lawn. I do adore hearing his sweet little voice saying “Mummy, I’ll do that for you.” Hoovering, he loves hoovering. I’m sure he’ll make a wonderful husband one day, albeit perhaps a stubborn one!

Outdoorsy

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The ultimate adjective that encapsulates Harley. Come rain or shine he has shoes on, chomping at the bit to get outside. The park, the garden, the beach, the forest anywhere that he can run around and breathe fresh air is his option of choice. I truly hope that this will remain his preferred choice as he gets older and that the dreaded TV and computer games will stick firmly in his afterthoughts. Muddy footprints, grubby hands and rosy cheeks always follow him. I’m so proud to say that I don’t think I have ever had to say to him, “Come on, let’s go and get some fresh air.” If the truth be known, he’s the one saying it to me.

So there’s my 5 words. It was harder than I thought narrowing it down. I’m looking forward to doing the same challenge with my daughter when she approaches the momentous age of 1. Which words would you use to describe your child? Can you narrow it down to 5 words?

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DIY Sensory Drawers

I’m led to believe by Baby Gurus, that between 1 and 9 months of age, a baby can distinguish differences between textures. By 4 to 8 months they will have heard an array of sound frequencies and full colour vision will develop between 4 and 7 months. Lola is 6 months and she will turn her head towards a certain sound and it’s now really lovely to see her respond to her name. I love this age and the discovery of her doing something new everyday. Already, her sensory development has progressed significantly.

As much as I love attending baby groups, Baby Sensory being one of them, financially they are not always an option so I wanted to make some sensory drawers which Lola could use at home, in a variety of ways. I also wanted the contents to grow with her as she gets older.

I have seen a wide array of sensory ideas for babies and toddlers, from MDF boards to large open trays. I wanted to create something that was compact, easy to contain the contents and easy to store.

I have a secret obsession for little boxes, pots and cute containers. I even love the cute little plastic pots which I use to house Harley’s fruit, sandwiches or raisins, in his lunchbox. So when I found this plastic box and tray/drawer set, it almost appealed just as much to my fixation as it did to serve its purpose.

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