Month: January 2018

The Toilet Training Race

little girl on trampolineFor some reason there are lots of people who feel the need to toilet train their little darlings as quickly as possible. I have known people boast about the joys of successful toilet training at just 18 months or two years of age. Often these people can be found walking round the park with a potty in hand. That’s not really my idea of toilet trained and I will not be found stopping every few metres to try for a wee on the potty while out and about.

I have no desire to rush with toilet training. My youngest decided about a year ago (before her second Birthday – whoop for me!) that she wanted to go to the toilet. She did this and she did a poo in the toilet at a local play gym. I congratulated her and may have even bought her a treat. The other parents were astounded and said I should be so relieved, so proud. I played it down. I was in no rush for toilet training. I have encouraged my little one to use the toilet or potty when she wants to go, but I haven’t declared the start of our potty training journey. Sometimes it is convenient, like when we are at home, but we’re not at home very much. I like to walk when I can, which sometimes means long journeys in the buggy and I would struggle to do this and get her using the toilet every time she needs it.

For me, toilet training with my eldest was the exact moment when I was no longer able to have a hot meal in a restaurant if with my children. My eldest still insists on going to the toilet at the exact moment my food arrives. Even when I have taken her to the toilet immediately after ordering food, in preparation for the inevitable toilet visit, she still insists on going as soon as my food touches the table. There are very few restaurants that have baby change in the male toilets so this is always my job. Now that my youngest is frequently requesting to go to the toilet, I have two daughters to take to the loo on a regular basis.

My eldest was using the toilet around her 3rd Birthday and it was a simple process with few accidents. She was also dry through the night at the same time, which I know is very unusual.

We went out for our tea last night and I must have gone to the toilet at least five times. My pizza was cold and a lot less desirable than when it was presented in front of me and everyone else managed to chat and leisurely eat their meal in peace.

I am not one to preach to others, but I do not see why people make such a big deal about having a toilet trained child. A few people have told me that I really should be working on toilet training by now and I just think no, I’d rather not. Nappies are so easy and convenient and pull-ups are a great in-between. I can see that the cost of nappies could be a concern for some and I understand the environmental issues, but as for convenience, I choose nappies and a slower progression with the toilet milestone. If I was relying on the old style of reusable washable cloth nappies, then I would certainly have felt the need to get my little ones toilet trained as quickly as possible, but I don’t see the need.

My youngest is now going to the toilet or the singing potty fairly regularly, but I have the back up of a pull-up if needed. We have tried knickers a few times as she loves the thought of them, but after the poorly tummy day where knickers were not a good idea, I have put them off for a while!

Good luck with potty training and don’t be pressured into it.

Planning a Holiday

Holiday PlanningEach year, normally around Christmas and through January, I go through a tiresome process of searching options in order to select the perfect holiday for our family.

BROWSE STAGE

I start by browsing a range of options. I am generally open to a wide range of ideas and work my way through different destinations and different types of holidays. Hot, warm, likely cool. All inclusive hotels, camping, Eurocamp, cottages etc. This initial search helps me to create a list of definite requirements, desirable features and things to avoid at all costs. Every holiday I learn something new and usually add a new element to avoid at all costs.

LIST

Anyone that knows me knows that I love a list… This year’s list of definite requirements includes a separate sleeping area for our kids. Previous experiences of a family rooms in a hotels have proved challenging and some lovely hotels are squeezing families into what are really double rooms. A fortnight of no sleep is not conducive to a restful break for me. Desirable features include sunny weather and a swimming pool. Previously sunny weather has been a requirement, but my priorities are changing slightly. Things to avoid at all costs include hot weather, which rules out Greece and Cyprus unfortunately. Many beautiful places, but a heatwave with little ones can be really difficult.

I find the list helps as David and I have been easily swung by a pretty location or an enthusiastic travel agent. We can recall once going into a travel agent with a destination, dates and departure airport. We were just looking and didn’t intend to book anything, but came out having booked a different location, different dates, different airport. The holiday was good in some ways, but we wished we had stuck to the plan.

PICK ONE

Once I have used my criteria to choose a holiday, I give the family a bunch of options and between us we select one. It is quite a long drawn out process, but I like to think I have done my best to find the most suitable holiday that I can find. I hate to panic about little niggles and wonder whether I have made a mistake.

Do you have any specific process for finding the perfect holiday? Do you have a set criteria?

Flying On My Own With Kids

flying with kidsLast year I travelled to Tenerife for a week with the girls without their Daddy. It was the first time I had flown alone with kids and I was very nervous about getting on a plane with two young children. I thought about how to fill the four and a half hour flights for a while before going.

The worst part of the journey was between the taxi and the check in desk at Manchester Airport. I had arranged a taxi to take me and the girls to the airport and after a discussion about car seats (which I had booked in advance), we made the journey to the airport without any problems. We were all excited and talked about the holiday. I had one large luggage case and three pieces of hand luggage ( a rucksack, a change bag and a small hand luggage case). I also had a five year old, a two year old and a buggy.

Child pulling cases in the airportMy five year old was amazingly helpful dragging the hand luggage case and helping with her younger sister.

We flew with Jet2 from Manchester Airport and the check-in desk was much further than expected. We had to walk through the main area of terminal 2 and go down in a lift, outside, then back inside to the Jet2 check-in area. We managed it, but it was more tricky than I had expected. It was a relief to drop off the big bag. The staff were friendly and I did manage to leave my luggage with them when my daughter needed a toilet stop.

Going through security was quite challenging. Keeping hold of two tired and excited children while putting bags on the conveyor belt, locating and separating electronic devices, folding down a buggy and removing shoes was difficult. There was seemingly no help available and some of the other passengers seemed a little irritated at being held up by a minute or two. Staff were friendly and patient, but a little help would have been appreciated.

Getting around the airport was straightforward with the two year old in the buggy, a rucksack and a change bag on my back and my five year old walking closely while pulling a hand luggage case. There was some entertainment in the airport in the form of dancing animal characters, which helped pass a bit of time. There was also a cafe for a much needed coffee and chocolate muffin.

Boarding the plane was fine and we left the buggy at the door of the plane as we walked on. The Jet2 air stewardesses were lovely and welcoming as we showed our tickets and found our seats. Abigail wanted the window seat so she sat down first, Jessica sat in the middle and I was in the aisle seat.

I brought a selection of toys and things to keep the girls occupied as well as favourite teddies and an iPad with headphones.

I took out sticker books, colouring books and some reading books. I find the Mr Men books really handy as they are quite small and slim, but you still get a decent length of story. My eldest loves the Usborne See Inside series of books with lift the flaps so I brought a couple of those, but these are really big and heavy.

We were buckled up and comfortable quite quickly and easily, but then there is some waiting while all the passengers get sat down and my two year old soon became restless. I tried to entertain her with sticker books, but she was annoyed at having to stay in her seat. I ended up getting the Play-Doh out and letting her have her dummy which helped.

Once the seatbelt signs were off, my kids liked the freedom of removing the belt. Abigail was quite happy with the iPad and Jessica liked the books, but I had to keep her entertained. We treated ourselves to a snack when the food trolley came by and that helped pass a little time. I had also packed an array of their favourite snacks including dried apricots, Pom Bears, malt loaf bars and chocolate buttons.

The flight went a lot quicker and smoother than I had expected and we arrived to the airport in Tenerife feeling calm and excited about our holiday. We had daytime flights both for departure and return. My kids do not sleep on planes and I would always try to get reasonable flight times.

Having flown alone with two young children, I would say that it is not as bad as you might expect. The key is to bring lots of things to do that are small and light and plenty of snacks. If you are going on a plane journey with little ones then good luck.

If you would like to find out more about our holiday without Daddy, please read my other post about our holiday to Costa Adeje in Tenerife, please click on Costa Adeje Tenerife.

Alnwick Castle

We visited Alnwick Castle during our stay in Northumberland last year and we had a great fun-filled day. I thought this would be an hour or two of entertainment, but we spent the whole day there and there was lots to do. Our eldest daughter who is six loved it here and she reminded me today what a great time she’d had.

We bought a family ticket which can be validated for 12 months allowing us to return at some point if we visit the area again.

There were several activities and attractions throughout the day including tours of the castle, wizard demonstrations and crafts for the kids. It is best to plan what you want to see so you can book yourself on if necessary. I believe different things are on offer at different times of the year, so our day may or may not be typical for the activities available.

As you enter there is a board on the wall showing the activities and times so you can easily plan your day. We wanted to do Broomstick Training, Dragon’s Quest and a tour showing how the castle has been used as a location for many films and television programmes. Alnwick Castle is particularly famous for being the location for filming of Harry Potter. There are many references to the castle being Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The Broomstick training was very popular so you need to be early to guarantee your place. We arrived at opening time and had to queue to book onto the Broomstick lesson.

Dragon’s Quest

Alnwick castle

This was a 10 minute walkthrough attraction, which my girls both loved (aged 2 and 6).

It involves dragons and swords and fire, so perfect for little adventurers. However I have heard other people say it was too scary for their kids, so you may wish to consider this before going through. There is a short film at the start and you can probably gauge whether your kids will like it from that.

BROOMSTICK TRAININGBroomstick Training

This was a great activity run by two funny ladies. They teach you how to summon the broomstick and then you learn to mount it and ride it. Then you have a little time to master your technique and take photos. We just about avoided the rain as this would have spoilt it a bit. Others were less lucky on the day we were there.

Our two year old was a little restless, at times, but she did get involved. Our six year old loved it and it was fun for the adults too. I would definitely recommend this.

As mentioned earlier, you do need to get there early to book onto the Broomstick training and avoid disappointment. You may well see and hear the Broomstick training throughout the day so it would be a shame to miss it if your kids would enjoy it.

Crafts

Our girls loved making things with clay. I  was pleased to see this was included within the entry price as I thought we may have to pay extra. The lady running the clay session was lovely and patient with all the kids.

You can collect your piece as you leave and we managed to keep ours intact and take it home.

Alnwick Castle is not open all year round so it is best to check the website before you go. Normally it closes the last weekend in October and opens again at the end of March. You can save 10% on admission if you book in advance.

Alnwick Castle Website

We stayed in a holiday cottage in Embleton when we visited Alnwick Castle. It was a short drive, about 20 minutes to get to Alnwick. Please click on the link if you’d like to read my post about our cottage in Embleton.

Fruit Smoothies – The Only Way We Can Get 5 A Day

Kids loving fruit smoothiesFruit smoothies are the only way I can get my kids to enjoy fruit. I have tried and tried to make fruit fun and a treat and normal. My eldest is ok and likes a few fruits, but my youngest just will not eat fruit – or vegetables – without a battle.

I find that fruit smoothies are an easy way to get a lot of fruit into them without complaints and they actually love them. I used to buy them in cartons, but now I let the kids choose what fresh fruit they want and I get them involved in preparing the fruit and whizzing up the mixture. We experiment with different fruits and I spend a lot less time worrying about how little fruit my kids are eating.

It is quite a handy way of using up fruit as well as we are all a bit picky about fruit being just right when we eat it, but it can be a bit past its best and it is still fine in a smoothie.

I do have a smoothie maker, however it is a great big piece of kit and it is a pain to wash up after use. My preferred method is simply using a tall measuring jug and an electric whisk. I am a bit nervous about the whisk so the kids know it is my job to do the mixing with the electronic whisk but they can have a mix up of the fruit with a fork or spoon.

You can use all sorts of ingredients, but our favourites are oranges, bananas, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, apple, blueberries, blackberries, pear. We have added yogurt and milk to strawberries and banana.

You can use frozen fruits as well and I often buy the frozen packs of forest fruits or berries and throw them in. I do find that if I put the frozen bits in last I often end up spreading frozen bits of fruit around the kitchen, which isn’t ideal so best to get them in first and cover with fresh fruit. We have also added juice sometimes when it is a bit thick and cranberry juice, orange juice or pomegranate juice are all great to thin it down and sweeten it.

I wish I had realised sooner what a big hit fruit smoothies would be. It really is quite simple and I like the fact that the kids are getting involved and talking positively about fruit.

This week I managed to get my eldest daughter to get dressed for school and down for breakfast in record time as I promised her a smoothie if she could get down quickly enough. That will be a useful trick to remember on those days when she isn’t feeling very motivated.

My next challenge will be to try adding vegetables such as carrot and beetroot. When they were little tots I did add a bit of spinach now and again to blended fruit. I couldn’t taste it in and amongst stewed apple and oranges so that was a handy hidden ingredient. I can just imagine the reaction if I attempted that now and the dark green colour would not go down well.

 

Stockeld Park, Wetherby

Stockheld Park MazeStockeld Park is a great family day out a couple of miles from Wetherby on Harrogate Road.

We have had some great times at this attraction and each time we go, we do something different as the options change depending on the time of year and the weather will usually determine the best way to spend the day.

Our most recent visit was during the Christmas holidays and while it was cold and a bit damp, we were lucky to get a dry day.

Enchanted Forest

Thanks to the dry weather, our kids spent a lot of time walking round the enchanted forest and playing in the parks and fun stops on the way around. Jessica wore an all in one snow suit which was perfect as she could jump about and roll around in the forest parks without worrying about getting muddy or wet.

Maze

We also enjoyed the maze, which is really tricky and we always need to check our photo of the map to finally find our way out. There are different stations to look out for as you go round, including a couple of Doctor Who police boxes with linked up speakers, a noughts and crosses game and some drum seats. There is also a central globe which includes buttons to press revealing various facts.

Ice Skating

My six year old loved the ice skating and we did this three times throughout the day. She was a little too big for the penguins that you can borrow for little ones. Previously she used one of these which made it a lot easier for her to get around. There were some snowmen for children with special needs. From a very slippy, scary start she improved significantly and grew in confidence. By the end we were skating together as I held her hand. The boots were a bit uncomfortable and I personally found the orange boots to be more comfortable.

Stockeld Park Enchanted ForestCross Country Skiing

Now I’ll be honest, whenever I have seen the cross country skiing at Stockeld Park, I have thought that it did not look like any fun to me. However our six year old decided she wanted to try it. I was not very hopeful and expected some serious moaning with me carrying her and/or the skis around the forest and back to the hut.

However, I was totally wrong. She loved the Nordic Ski Trail and she did really well. She followed the ski path round with her dad and I pushed the buggy round the main path. We were always within sight of each other, although she managed to go a bit quicker than us as we stopped to look at a couple of the displays, including the Mermaid in the Lake. She fell a couple of times, but got straight back up again and continued without any complaining.

There is a hut where the boots and skis are given out. They have boots from a junior size 10 up to an adult size 13. Skiers have to remove their shoes to wear the boots and then they place their boots into the skis. There are different sizes available and the staff help with putting on the skis and have a quick chat to explain how to get about. David and Abigail quickly got the hang of it and made their way

Restaurant

We ate our lunch in the cafe/restaurant and we also had a warming up drink and snack in there later in the afternoon. I feel that the food is excellent and a lot better than many of the children’s attractions we have visited. It is not an extensive menu, but the usual favourites are there for the kids including picnic boxes with sandwich, drink and snacks and hot meals including chicken pieces and chips or fish fingers. For adults there are jacket potatoes and paninis with wedges as well as a few larger hot meals.

Overall, we had a great family day out at Stockeld Park and I am sure we will be back for another fun-filled day.

You can pay for individual activities or get a band for everything for the whole day. We have always paid for us all to do everything and the price of entry is quite expensive, however you do get to fill a whole day with non stop fun once you are in. By the time we leave, I have always felt the price was well worth the day out. Children aged 2 and above are charged full price, which I think seems a bit unfair. Our little one cannot join in with skating or skiing, but we bought a family ticket to cover everything as that seemed to be the best option. You can get a discount if you order tickets online in advance, but we generally prefer to check on the weather and how we’re feeling before committing to buying tickets.

The park is only open during school holidays so it is best to check the website before you go.

Click on the website below for more details:

Stockeldpark.co.uk

Meet The Family

This is one of my favourite photos of the four of us together. David, Catherine, Abigail and Jessica all looking at the camera, which is pretty rare!

My sister in law takes fabulous photos and she kindly offered to take some photos of us. We rarely manage to get photos of all of us as I am usually taking the photos and I wanted some nice ones for my annual family calendars.

We headed outside and she managed to capture some natural shots with the girls playing in and amongst the leaves as well as a few of us together.

I wanted a portrait photo of us all and this seemed the perfect way to get one. Luckily she managed to take the photo pretty quickly as we couldn’t hold the pose for long because we were soon sliding down the slide.