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Monday, July 30, 2018

Have An Amazing Summer

A couple of weeks before the Summer holidays I sit and make a rough list of all the things I want to do with my kids(when I'm not shouting at them to stop arguing or to tidy up their mess). The list is always a list of the things that I think the kids will want to do and that will make for a great holiday. The reality is that my extravagant plans for days out or THAT ultimate craft project aren't at all what the kids want to do.

This year we made a Summer Bucket List of things the kids did actually want to do and there were some really simple and cheap activities on there.

A simple park visit always goes down well

Things like a movie night or picnic in the local park weren't the things I would have come up with but it just goes to show that our over thinking is so unnecessary to keep our children happy.

I always thought that my Summer holidays as a child were the most boring of all my friends and vowed that when I had kids they would have the most amazing holidays ever but the truth is, my fondest holiday memories are the simple ones. Me and my sister attempting a bungee jump over the banisters, sliding down the stairs on our bums, throwing brussel sprouts in the garden(wtf right? I know) these memories still put a smile on my face many years later.

I know it's hard to not have a mini meltdown when EVERY toy in the house is strewn across the floor and nearly every item in the fridge has been devoured by day number #5 of the holiday but it's these simple things that are making them happy and before you know it, you will have teenagers that no longer want to hang around with Mum.

Begrudgingly taking a pic with Mummy!

So instead of working out how you can cram a million activities into 6 weeks or which organ you are going to have to sell to fund it all ask your kids what they want to do and I bet you'll be surprised by their responses.

Remember, it's all about collecting memories, not things!

I plan on eating lots of these over the Summer

What are your simple plans for the Summer?

Emma xoxo

Friday, July 27, 2018

Black People Don't Do That!

I remember the funny looks I used to get on the weekends and school holidays when I would spend a vast amount of time at my grandparents caravan in Surrey. I'd overhear the odd comment but mainly it was just the stares. On our European holidays it was pretty much the same. I wasn't stupid, I knew what they were looking at - 'a black person camping?' 'A black person on the beach in Cyprus?'
You see back then, there were VERY few 'people of colour' that went camping and to be perfectly honest just as few that went on European holidays and although I am in fact mixed race I was always just viewed as black.

Growing up not much changed, I always seemed to find myself in places where I pretty much stood out. Then I had children of my own and I just wanted them to have as many amazing experiences as I had growing up. We used to frequent places like Godstone Farm, caravan holidays, Margate, The Lake District, Stonehenge and the White Horses and although I had got used to being in the minority it really hit home when my daughter said to me one day "Mummy, why don't other black people go to the places we go?" I can't remember my exact response to her but it went something along the lines of "because not everybody knows that these places exist." At only around 5 or 6 I wasn't going to give her a full on lecture in ignorance in culture.

That afternoon I sat and reflected on what my daughter had asked me, my childhood, my teens and early motherhood and the sad reality was that it was true, there had always been near enough no other families from any ethnic minority backgrounds at the places we would go.

WHY?? Why weren't black people on the beaches in Spain, Why weren't other black families taking pictures around Stonehenge? Why were we the only black family dancing to some dodgy redcoat songs at a holiday park?

The sad reality was I knew deep down why.  Back then, things seemed to be split into 2 categories 'things black people do' and 'things black people don't do.' I remember my friends saying of caravanning and fishing "Emma, black people don't do that" When I suggested to a friend that we all take the kids away for a long weekend to a holiday park she looked at me like I was crazy. "Em, WE don't do that kind of thing." The only response I could muster was "OK, well you and your kids will be missing out." And it was true because we did and always have had an amazing time.

Over the years I've noticed that more and more people have been mixing with folk from all walks of life and as a result it means that people are daring to do things that once upon a time 'THEY' didn't do.

Whilst it's refreshing to see people getting out there and trying new things I still think there is an attitude amongst some of ' black people don't do that' A perfect example was when I first began blogging back in 2011, so many friends thought I was crazy. They told me that 'WEdon't put our lives out there like that and that I was pretty much the only one of 'MY KIND'doing it. They weren't exactly wrong, for many years I have followed many fantastic bloggers, vloggers and other great people on social media and although I do enjoy their work, I have to admit that I do find it hard to fully identify with them because whilst parenting is hard work whatever your ethnicity and decorating is a pain in the arse regardless of colour there are some cultural and social issues which only people from a similar ethnic background will understand. For example, someone who doesn't have afro hair posted about hair care and products the other week and whilst I found the article interesting, it wasn't something I could relate to because quite simply, my hair needs are completely different. Or I watched a recent make-up tutorial not to long ago but the brands featured don't make products for my skin tone so another interesting but not particularly helpful video. There really isn't an abundance of black bloggers, I don't know the real reason why but I assume it does have something to do with the motto 'black people don't do that' and it can be frustrating. 

By blogging, vlogging and doing all the things I did do and continue to do with my children, I am one of a handful(which I would love to see grow) of people who are hopefully starting to break that viscous circle. I'm proving that we should not be restricted to what we can do just because of the colour of our skin.

I know topics like this can be a bit controversial but what are you thoughts?

Emma xoxo

Monday, July 23, 2018

10 Signs That You Have a Toddler

When you first discover that you're pregnant all these idealistic images start running through your mind of how you will dress your baby, the fun and educational games you'll play and the way all of the baby's belongings will seamlessly match your decor then BAM your dreams and baby become a toddler and your home is filled with the most mismatched, useless crap you can imagine.

If you're not quite sure where you are on the timeline yet or are in fact just in denial that you ARE living the toddler dream here are my 10 signs that you are living with a toddler.

1.     You've acquired a new abstract art collection

2.     You find toys in the most random of places

3.     Broken toys become sacred and if you dare throw them away the curse of a tantrum will be put upon you

4.     You WILL be force fed all kinds of plastic foods and you WILL(pretend) eat them

5.     Peppa Pig and her family have become honorary members of your family

6.     Pets vanish when your toddler enters the room. Today they don't want to         be the subject of a makeover or be dressed up as Super Cat so today they hastily exit.

7.     You have learned the theme tunes to most if not all of the Cbeebies shows

8.     There will be at least that one time in public when your toddler chooses that moment at the top of their voice to ask you why you put those 'nappies' in your knickers or why you shove that 'stick' up your bum

9.     The new decorating you start to find all over the house

10.   Why?.....why, why, why?! All day, every day they ask WHY. Why bloody why?

So there, these are my 10 signs that we have a monster toddler. 

What are your tell tale signs?

Emma xoxo

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Silent Sunday

Every Sunday, across all of my social media I will post a photo with the hashtag 'Silent Sunday'. It may be of the kids, the house, somewhere we've been, something we've done or something else but this photo will either represent something that I've really enjoyed that week, a happy moment, sum up our week or my thoughts or feelings. 

Feel free to join me in #silentsunday Don't forget to tag me so I can see your Silent Sunday pics.

You can find me on Instagram HERE and Twitter HERE

Emma xoxo

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Tired Mum's New School Year Resolutions

If you are anything like me, when you have completed your last school run of this (school) year(yaaaaassssss), you'll reflect over just poorly organised you were over the last couple of months and swear that come September you will be in control and on top of everything. If that sounds remotely familiar then you, my friend need to read on!

1. I will set my alarm 20 minutes early(and not hit snooze 6 times) and get out of bed when it goes off to ensure I am up and ready to the face the day with a bright and breezy attitude.

2. I will check school bags every evening for letters/notes/permission slips for non-uniform days, school trips, cake sales and so on to avoid the embarrassment of my kids being the ones in uniform on a charity jumper day or not having completed the 'special' homework for assembly

3. Every Sunday, I will make sure that all of the uniform is washed, dried and ironed for the entire following week to avoid those 'sniff it and see' days or the 'once your body heat warms it up it'll look ironed' days

4. I WILL NOT scream at the top of my lungs between 8.15 and 8.30 in the morning "bloody hurry up, get ready, get your shoes on, brush your teeth, right that's it no more TV or tablets in the morning"

5. We will leave with 10 minutes to spare which means I won't be hurrying the kids along the road whilst breaking a sweat because "we've got 7 minutes to get to the school gates. You don't walk this slow when we're going to the park or sweet shop so hurry up" under my breath so the other parents can't hear but loud enough that I now full well my kids do.

6. When my children get home from school I will have a healthy snack waiting for them because they clearly don't eat during the school day the way they walk through the front door, dump their bags and head straight to the fridge, cupboards, freezer and anywhere else there is food.

7. I will devote time each week to homework. Proper time. Not let's see what we can cobble together at 5.30 on a Sunday evening that's passable but lets get out the entire craft box and Pinterest the shizzle out of this weeks homework.

8. My bag will be park ready. There will be wipes, bottles of water, a piece of fruit and sandwich for those after school trips to the park where you spend a fortune in the corner shop because again, your kids are STARVING and you just can't bare to hear any more moaning about how hungry they are and wipes because let's face it, when don't you need wipes.

9. I will have a box with age appropriate generic cards, suitable small gifts, wrapping paper and gift bags ready for all there party invites that seem to come home on a weekly basis meaning we spend most weekends at some kind of children's party so I'm not running around like a flipping headless chicken trying to find a card and gift at the last minute.

10. When 4 weeks in to the school year and I've already given up on half of my resolutions I promise myself to look at the 4 human beings that I've created and know that despite being a rubbish school run Mum, I'm doing OK because my kids are (majority of the time) happy!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Our Summer Bucket List

Every year as the Summer holidays approach I panic. I panic because with four kids(by week 2 they are usually referred to as monsters or animals) to entertain over six weeks I know the empty bank balance, barren cupboards and headache is on its way. 

Just before New Years Day, we make a bucket list(we don't do resolutions) of all of the things we'd like to achieve throughout the year and just before Christmas we make a list of all the activities we'd like to do, days out and events we'd like to attend. It kind of keeps us on track to some extent and helps with the ever increasing cost of it all but we've never really sat down and made a Summer bucket list.....until this year that is!

We usually have a rough idea of the things we want to do and when we'll be away but its more a 'all in my head not on paper anywhere don't question me I'm the Mumma' type of list.

We sat as family(minus my big girl who is apparently too grown up and will be 'making that money' this Summer) and took it in turns to suggest things we'd like to do over the Summer and made a list.  

There are some things on the list that will take a little planning, some adventurous ones from my kids, some pretty easy going, lazy afternoon activities and some yummy suggestions.......and don't forget my DIY suggestions that didn't go down all that well.

1.     Have a picnic

2.     Go go-karting

3.     Go fishing

4.     Our annual visit to a pick your own farm

5.     Visit Chessington World of Adventures

6.     Go to the seaside

7.     Have a board game day

8.     Make a confetti cake

9.     Have a BBQ

10.   Go bowling

11.   Go rock climbing

12.   Have a movie night

13.   Visit the New Forest

14.   Go the the local adventure playground

15.   Redecorate the hallway

16.   Spend the afternoon on the South Bank

17.   Go on a boat ride

18.   Redecorate the bathroom

19.   Make Summer scrapbooks

20.   Take more couple selfies

20 things may not seem like lots to occupy four kids over 6 weeks BUT we have 2 weekend breaks booked and a week long UK holiday planned and the two boys are away for a week each(different weeks just to add to my confusion) with the local youth club they attend so that will be plenty.

Now all I've got to do is plan the who's, what, where, whys and when my fairy Godmother is dropping off the cheque to pay for all of this!

What are your plans for the Summer?

Emma xoxo

Friday, July 13, 2018

Virgin Pure WaterBar - Tried and Tested

As a family of six you can probably imagine that we go through quite a lot of drink in our house and surprisingly enough, despite 2 of the kids being teenagers about 80% of that drink is water.
I would buy around twenty four 500ml bottles during my main weekly shop and then get another pack later on in the week.
Back in March we attended the Ideal Home Show in London and one of the first stands we came across was Virgin. As Virgin Media customers I headed over hoping I could get a better deal or discount on my current plan but instead they were giving everybody free water samples.
We spoke to one of the sales team and she explained that Virgin Pure was another part of the ever growing Virgin company that offered filtered water machines.

I'm usually quite skeptical but even I had to admit that the water sample did taste, for lack of better words, cleaner and purer.
The WaterBars give you unlimited, triple filtered and UV filtered chilled water, they dispense boiling water, they remove the horrible stuff like chlorine and bacteria and stop scale. 
This machine means that we are no longer going through an obscene amount of plastic bottles(which less face it aren't good for the environment anyway), we no longer need the kettle quite frankly prefer the taste of this water to the bottled water we were drinking previously.

We opted for the T6 because we preferred the look of it

There are 2 models of the Virgin Pure WaterBars. The 'Retro chic' T6 or 'Uber slick' which both sit on a work surface of your choosing in your kitchen and connect to your cold water supply effortlessly and non intrusively. They run on a pay monthly plan that is a rolling month to month plan so you can cancel with 30 days notice. When you sign up you pay a one off fee of £29.99 for installation and then monthly plans start at just £19.99
Your monthly fee includes unlimited hot and cold filtered water, Activated carbon water filters sent to you when you need them twice per year, replacement UV lamps which kill bacteria and ensure your water is free of chemicals posted to you every 12 months, a descaler treatment which keeps your water clear delivered to your door every 6 months. And a full warranty for the lifetime of your plan.

This is how the discreet fitting looks on our cold water pipe

We've had our machine now for around 4 months and literally would be lost without it. We've found the customer service to be great and had no problems to date.
Whats more, you get a 30 day risk free trial.
So if like our family you go through a ridiculous amount of bottled water then give the Virgin Pure WaterBar a try!

If, like us and many others, you are trying to cut down on single use plastic and save money too(all those bottles of water add up $$$) then use this referral code to get your first 2 months FREE, IN ADDITION to the 30 day trial: https://virginpure.com/?ref=17875

Emma xoxo

*This isn't an ad but we love our WaterBar and wanted to let you know how great they are.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Children's Parties - The Greatest Show on Earth

Exclusive soft play hire, trampoline park, princess parties, pamper parties, hiring a cinema screen. These were just some of the results that came up when I searched '3 year old party ideas'

Our youngest turns three at the end of the month and has already been telling me all about this party that she's having but when you drill down into the basics of it what do we have parties for?? To spend time with loved ones on a special day, to mark the occasion? It seems that all of that has been long forgotten when planning children's parties. 

I know very few of us want the mess in our own homes or to be solely responsible for entertaining hoards of children but are we losing the plot?
Everything has become bigger and better with parents trying to outdo each other to host the fanciest, most memorable party. Long gone are the days of jelly and ice cream, musical statues and paper chains and the sad reality is that unfortunately the children don't remember most of it.

I have to admit though that we are not completely innocent. Back in January 2013 I stumbled across a company whilst looking at hen party ideas for a friend(how the hell can a hen party idea be suitable for a 4 year olds party I hear you gasp but read on) and as a result we spent a VERY pretty penny on hiring a double decker bus that had been converted into a mobile soft play unit complete with top deck to bottom deck slide for little boys 4th birthday but the cost doesn't end there. There were party bags, food, drink and prizes for games. The reality was that the money we spent on one party that year could have actually paid for a short break for the whole family?

Having parties like these are all well and good but then the kids think "ooh, if we did that last year, what are we going to do this year" and right there in that moment is when a children's birthday party becomes 'The Greatest Show on Earth'
There and then we realised that we had lost our tiny minds and that we MUST have been under mind control and wouldn't make that mistake again. We've since let the kids take a few friends to the cinema, paid for the older ones to go out for a meal with friends, taken some friends bowling and this year? We have settled on a teddy bears picnic themed picnic in the park. Jelly and sandwiches, pass the parcel and bubble machines;a simple afternoon in the park with some of our nearest and dearest. 

What we have to remember when planning these things is that the children won't remember how fancy the venue was or if you upgraded to the most expensive package. What they will remember is who was there to share their big day with them and how special they were made to feel.

Do you throw 'traditional' kids parties or do you go all out?

Emma xoxo

Friday, July 6, 2018

Sometimes it's ok to STOP

For years my days consisted of swimming lessons, martial arts clubs, mum and baby groups, ballet, football and more activities than I care to remember. At the time, in my mind I was doing all of this to give my kids a head start in life, opening their minds to opportunities they otherwise might not have, keeping them away from the evil that was TV childcare and just being a good mum. I never took time out for myself, wouldn't spend any money on me because that was money I could spend on the kids and had VERY little time left for anyone else which affected relationships with those closest to me. What I failed to realise(or tried to hide in all honesty) was that I was always tired, miserable, snappy and just generally not a very happy mummy.
I kept telling myself that all mums did this and that it was perfectly normal but the truth is, it wasn't and isn't.

There is no job in the world that is harder than that of being a parent and as a mum of 4 I know that all too well. There is no right or wrong way to parent, its all about finding what works for YOUR family.

For us, it all came to an abrupt stop when I just couldn't keep up anymore and felt like I was drowning. I had to admit to myself and those around me that this wasn't sustainable and something had to give.

We sat down as a family and talked about what everyone wanted and the truth was, everybody was fed up. Fed up of my snapping, fed up of never being home, fed up of not being able to play with friends because of activities, just fed up! The kids were tired and actually didn't want to go to all the clubs but did it anyway because they thought it made me proud. They had toys still in packaging from birthdays and Christmas' past that they just hadn't had time to play with and missed the simple things like snuggling on the sofa to watch a film. And the truth of the matter was that me and Him were just missing each others company.

We made a pact there and then that the kids would only do a max of 2 activities a week;one of their choosing and one to keep them active. As they got older their routines and schedules changed and we worked with that. I started to take time for myself;getting my nails done once a fortnight, taking a nice long soak in the bath and having an early night occasionally without feeling guilty. As for us, we started making more time together, nothing fancy but just watching a film together or having a child free night once in a while. As a family, we played board games, went on days out and did things that we were otherwise just way to busy to do. We discovered new places, new hobbies and how to be happier.

We sometimes get caught up in routines and schedules that we outgrow but feel that we have to just continue with but actually we don't. Every so often we NEED to stop and evaluate what is going on in our lives and if our routines still suit our needs. I know as parents we think that we are supposed to simply put our thoughts and feelings to one side and carry on but do you know what SOMETIMES IT'S OK TO STOP!

Emma xoxo

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

10 Top Tips for Surviving Legoland Windsor this Summer

With the Summer holidays practically on our doorstep now is the time that parents up and down the country are frantically trying to plan how to spend those Six. Long. Weeks.
 Despite my best intentions and those oh so pretty Instagram accounts that make the holidays look like memory making bliss, it never goes like that in my house. There'll be swearing(from me), bickering(between the kids), a constant food shortage(again, the kids) and just general hell on Earth.
Day trips are one of my fave ways to try and avoid all of the above and as Merlin Annual Pass holders we try to make the most of the free and cheap days out.
Our 2 year olds park of choice at the moment is Legoland and whilst I can't convince the older 2 that a day surrounded by toddlers and Lego bricks is a fun day out, the 9 year old is young enough to still think its cool to spend the day with mummy.
It can be, actually lets face it, it is at its busiest and manic during the summer holidays but as Legoland Windsor veterans I've got 10 top tips to help make your day a little less "I neeeed a bottle of wine" and more like "that wasn't so bad"

1. Take drinks!
Yes Legoland do those oh so cute refillable Lego themed bottles but they are also £8.50 and hold about 300ml which let's face it on a hot day won't last very long. The refill stations often have very long queues which can see you waiting up to 20 mins for your teeny tiny refill and only fizzy drinks are available. Bottled and cup drinks are available to buy but it is much cheaper to just take your own.

2. Watch the shows
As Legoland is a family park aimed at younger children there aren't many rides that aren't popular which can result in lengthy queues for most rides. There are some fab shows that are free to watch and repeated a few times throughout the day. These are great for when your little ones(and you) just need to stop for a break or want to avoid rides for a while. The Pirates of Mutiny Bay show and The Lego Friends show are both performed around and on the lake in Heartlake City but get busy so try and get there about 15-20 minutes before show time to get a seat. There are also shows on at the Duplo Valley Theatre in Duplo Valley which are really sweet and under shade. Again, try to get there early to bag yourself a seat.
The Ninjago Live - The Portal of Peril show is a must for any Ninjago fans. Based on the stage near Miniland there isn't any seating but is definitely worth taking some time out for and is in one the the less congested areas of the park.

3. Pack a cossie
If the weather forecast is rather warm, make the most of it and pack the kids swimming kits. In Duplo Valley there is a lovely little water park called Safari Splash park for younger kids and Drench Towers for the more adventurous. There are some changing rooms although not loads and if you do forget a towel or costume/trunks then there is a shop right there but again be prepared to pay!

4. Do a height check
Nobody wants a tantrum in the middle of a packed park so do a little research before you go. Sit down together and look online at the rides and check the minimum height requirements for the rides yours little ones really want to do before setting off so that their expectations are realistic about what they can go on and avoid having to deal with the upset.

5. Download the app
Before you set off, download the Legoland app. Once in the park, connect to the free wifi available and use the app to help you plan your day. The app is full of useful info like queue times, directions to help you find your way around the resort, show times, minifigure trading info and details of all the shops and food outlets on resort. This is my go to resource whilst in the park.

6. Take a packed lunch
Food outlets are dotted around the parks but like the drink refills often have rather long queues and are quite pricey. There are plenty of picnic areas within the park that welcome you to eat there, make the most of these. We tend to throw some wraps or sandwiches, crisps, fruit, snack packs and biscuits in a little case on wheels along with some ice packs. That way not only is there a packed lunch but then there are also snacks for the kids throughout the course of the day.

7. Visit the play areas 
This is another tip if you want to avoid crowds and queues, make use of the play areas. There are a few play areas in different lands around the park. They are a welcome break when you just need to recharge your batteries and can sit and supervise your little darlings run themselves even more ragged whilst you sit and wonder "what time is closing time again"

8. Bring your waterproofs
A water ride in the heat you say, sounds brilliant, until you go on what is affectionately known as the *wet knicker ride* or officially known as raft racers. You race down a water slide in a rubber dingy taking in water as you go and as I discovered, the heaver you are, the wetter you get. You'd think a bit of water would be nice and cool you down but it doesn't. You end up soaked through to your undies and even when you do dry off you are left with a rather unpleasant water smell for the rest of the day.

9. Upgrade your ticket
If you've had an absolutely magical day, enjoyed every minute and can't wait to do it all again, then why not speak to the guest services team about upgrading your day ticket to a Legoland annual pass or Merlin annual pass.

10. Have fun
It's so easy to get caught up in the headache of planning the outing, making lunches, packing the bag, keeping tantrums at bay and entertaining everyone but there really is no point going to all that effort if you can't enjoy yourself. So, put on those sunglasses and your comfy shoes, embrace your inner child and have fun!

What are your top tips for surviving a day at a theme park?

Emma xoxo

Monday, July 2, 2018

Meet the Monsters!

Being a mum to four and having conversations with people that don’t know the family particularly well can be rather confusing. The usually go something along the lines of “Big girl just finished her exams and Little boy has just moved up a stage in swimming. Big boy has won a BMX competition and Little girl has just convinced me to buy her another set of wings” Confused yet? Even I am! At home I will just yell out a name in the hope that a child will come because to be perfectly honest I usually call them by the wrong names anyway.
With all that said I thought I would make it slightly less confusing for you and invite you to Meet the Monsters.

Mikhayla - Big Girl

Mikhayla is my first born, she’s clever, audacious, beautiful but is also opinionated, stubborn and loud. She’s not backward in coming forward and has given me many a grey hairs over the years. Nonetheless she is a tenacious madam who makes me proud despite our differences and has big dreams and aspirations for her future that through sheer hard work and determination I know she’ll achieve.

Jason- Big Boy

Jason is my second born and a rather chilled out character most of the time until you ruffle his feathers. He has a somewhat dry sense of humour and very matter of fact way about him which endears him to pretty much everyone he meets. Despite being a typical teenage boy, Jason has always got time for a cuddle with mummy while we catch up on our days and have a little giggle.

Samuel - Little Boy

Samuels entrance to the world was quite precarious to begin with and he had us all on the edge of our seats but he’s definitely made up for that since then. Sam is generally quite a quiet child until he pops up with one of his one liners. He has his own sense of style and dances to his own beat and I adore the fact that he continues to be true to himself in a world full of people trying to put you in a box.

Sofia - Little Girl

Sofia is a hand on hip, head shaking, shoe collecting, girl boss diva. Never in my life have I known someone so young to comprehend so much of what goes on in the world around them AND have an opinion on it. We’ve come to accept that of the 4, she has the strongest personality already and has the others under her spell. She has a facial expression for every situation and isn’t afraid to use it.

So there you have it, you've met the monsters and got the low down on them. Hopefully now my posts, instagrams and vlogs will confuse you just that little bit less!

Emma xoxo