Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Andy and the odd socks

Andy, the chap on the TV that has come to my rescue more than a few times when Cbeebies has babysat my children in order for me to save my sanity. Did you know though that he has just released an album of children's songs called 'Who invited this lot?'

When we were lucky enough to receive a copy in the post, it took Charlie two seconds to see who was on the front cover and shout ANDY! Although a short time later there was some confusion over why Andy was on the TV and also in his hands on the front cover of a CD.

We were due to go out in the car shortly after this so it was decided that we would bring the CD along and have our first listen of it. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a story I shared of Charlie's reaction to the songs. He was dancing around in his car seat loving every second. Be warned though the words will get stuck in your head and you will find yourself singing along!

Here's a list of the songs on the album:
1.) Aliens 
2.) Unique
3.) Groovy Hoover
4.) Battle Robot Rapper
5.) Odd Sock
6.) Dinosaur Football Legend Mega Match
7.) Ghostbusters 
8.) Welly Beat
9.) Cheeky Friends
10.) Ninja Pig
11.) All Together (At Christmas Time)

As a parent my favourite song is definitely Unique. It sends the important message that it's OK to just be yourself. Charlie is just happy to listen to the whole album over and over again if I'm being honest! 


The album is available now and would make a great stocking filler for younger children, especially those who love Cbeebies!

* We were kindly sent a copy of the album in return for an honest review. The Amazon link is affiliate meaning that if you click the link and make a purchase I will receive a fee.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Mental Health Guest Post Series #4

This week's post is by Geraldine from It's Me & Ethan

When I look back over my childhood, teen years and young adulthood, I can see it. It was always there.

The deep breathing before I had to address the class, or the scanning of a room to ensure I knew where the exit  was to the not walking into a public place, like a pub ,by myself.
I used to think everyone was like this. Everyone found these things daunting. A new job, a first day or time doing anything new, surely everyone would have to repeat calming thoughts to themselves before taking a step into the unknown.

There were times when I simply wouldn’t show up. I’d agree to go somewhere but I’d know that there was no way I’d be able to handle it , I would have my excuse made up in my head by the time I had finished saying “See you there”.

Yes, looking back now I can see it.

My hands would shake itchy with pins and needles,while my heart would pound so loudly that I was sure everyone could hear it. I would struggle to breath, while feeling dizzy. All this would come and go in a matter of minutes and I thought it was normal for me, as it happened quite often. I thought I was just having a reaction to being nervous, I thought it was ‘normal’ to be this nervous over everyday things, like meeting new people. During my twenties , I began to realise that I probably had some form of anxiety.

Yes, looking back now, it's so very obvious .

When I first had my children , it seemed to give me more freedom in my head, at least. I didn’t want them to have anxiety over ‘silly’ things ,as I felt I had. I used to describe myself as quirky or a bit odd, but the truth was I knew I wasn’t odd, I just didn’t use the word ‘anxiety’ instead; I thought it was nervousness and something that happened to people who were like me; self conscious, awkward, even shy at times. I didn’t want my boys to have those insecurities , as I would think of them as.

But as any parent will tell you,sometimes having children can make you worry or have anxiety over a lot of what’s wrong in our world, a lot of things that we have no control over. Not only will you worry about your own child but you’ll worry about school, clothes, food ...it goes on and on.

If like me ,you have a child with complex medical needs and a life limiting condition, apparently anxiety and depression go hand in hand.

No one told me. Nobody warned me that not only had I some mild form of anxiety already, but that I was now in the higher percentage to have severe anxiety, PTSD and depression. It was simply never mentioned when doctors told us that there was nothing they could do for our son.( I have to say, it should have been mentioned)

After Ethan was diagnosed and due to a house fire we had , had, I decided it was time for me to talk to someone about my ‘quirkiness’. I was diagnosed as having anxiety . It was a relief. It made sense and I had that ‘AH-HA’ moment.

It helped hugely. For many years it helped me understand my ‘triggers’ and how best to cope when a panic attack would occur, it also trained me to think differently.
After a few years, I figured I had a good handle on my anxiety. I hadn’t had an attack in years and didn’t feel as self conscious or awkward when out in public.
That is the sneaky thing about anxiety , it never really goes away.

Three weeks ago I had a bad panic attack. It came and went as quickly as it started. It scared me but not enough to bring myself down to the GP. Self care is hard for me. I know how important it is but I find it difficult to have time just for me or to have the energy to do something just for me.

It was my husband that pointed it out to me.
“You’ve not left the house in nearly five days” he observed one evening as I sat typing. I didn’t even realise I hadn’t left the house. “You made an excuse too when I suggested we go for a walk” he gently added. (I’ve been known to snap)
I nodded.
“Are you ok?” He asked.
“I am . I think I am” I genuinely wasn't sure if I was ‘ok’.

The following night while watching TV with my husband , I had the scariest panic attack I have ever had. I vomited. I had tingling in my arms. I fought to breath. I really , really fought to breath. My skin was wet with sweat but I was freezing. I begged my husband to call an ambulance as I was sure I was dying.

After twenty minutes the attack subsided. The on call GP stayed on the phone with my husband trying to gauge whether or not I was actually dying . I had to promise her that I would make an appointment with my local GP the next morning.
I didn’t keep that promise because I was a little embarrassed that I thought I was dying. I was embarrassed too because I knew the GP would more than likely put me on medication; I knew once I told her how I had been feeling over the last few months that she would tell me it is now time to add medication to my care plan and to get back to therapy.  

The following day I went to the GP as I could once again see the anxiety and how it was creeping into my every day thoughts and beginning to prevent me from doing everyday activities. And yes, she prescribed medication which I am now taking for a week, so I cannot honestly tell you if it's helping or not, just yet.

Anxiety isn’t a dirty word or something that anyone, including myself, should be embarrassed about. It has taken me years to understand that I have anxiety and it is taking me years to try to understand my anxiety.

Anxiety is different for everyone ; I know that right now, I need medication and therapy together to help me , but that doesn’t mean I will always need both.

Me and my anxiety are going to have to learn to live together (all over again) because I’m pretty sure my anxiety isn’t going to just disappear no matter how much I wish it would and no matter how well I feel, I've learned my anxiety likes to hang on in there in the background.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Our first year doing elf on the shelf!

Yes you read the title right, we have never done elf on the shelf. This year that's all going to change and I am so excited! I am well aware though if I am not prepared it can become a nightmare and I will be waking up at 3am in the morning thinking 'I haven't moved the elf!'.

So far Pinterest has been my friend and I have a board dedicated to ideas. My plan is to write a list out with every day planned up until Christmas Day so when it comes to each day I don't really have to think about it. Our elf is arriving on December 1st inside a huge balloon that a brilliant local company has been selling with the words 'let me out' written on it. 

We recently took a visit to Poundland as I had heard that they were doing items that you could use for elf on the shelf. As you can see below we picked up some great bits and it was all so in-expensive.

I asked my fellow bloggers for their elf on the shelf ideas and as usual they did not disappoint.

Claire from Big Family Big Fun Blog documented every day on her blog last year and you will find some brilliant ideas if your stuck. My personal favourites are when the elf photocopied himself, sliding down the banister and the zipline. 

Emma from Me and B make tea has a brilliant post with 24 zero effort elf on the shelf idea. Now I definitely want to put some effort into doing this but I'm sure there will be days were it's last minute and I need to think of something quickly. Emma's idea's are so simple but will still have a brilliant effect.

I just love all the pictures on The Mum Diaries blog. Drawing devil horns on the pictures is hilarious, as is covering the Christmas tree in toilet paper!

It's always a good idea to have a back up plan just in case you forget to move the elf and Cass from Frugal Family has you covered. Give it a read, you'll never need to think of an excuse again!

A few other blog worth visiting for great elf on the shelf ideas!

Jenny at the gingerbread house - 24 Elf on the shelf ideas
Winnettes - 20 good elf and 20 naughty elf ideas
School Run Shop - A beginner's guide

I am so excited to get started and keep your eyes peeled on this blog as I will be documenting each day! I think the kids are going to love it and for me it just adds to the magic and build up to Christmas.


Monday, 20 November 2017

Review | GoGo SqueeZ

When we were offered the opportunity to try out the new GoGo SqueeZ pouches I was a little hesitant I have to admit. Like most Mum's I have tried my fair share of these pouch type snacks with my two children and I did think would these just be the same?

But and it's a big but my mind was changed even before the children had tried them after I began to read the information that had come with them. They are re-closable, first brownie point right there. If your children are like mine it's very rare that they ever fully finish something and I really dislike the fact that it normally ends up going in the bin. 

They contain one of your children's 5 fruit/vegetables a day. Charlie is going through a very fussy stage at the moment and is refusing anything that is made from scratch or that contains any type of vegetable or fruit. Since receiving these to try I have been able to worry slightly less about this as I know if I has one of these he is at least getting some goodness.

They are also school compliant which I will be bearing in mind for next year as Isabelle will be taking packed lunches when she goes into year two. Their favourite time of day to have a pouch has been in the morning as a second breakfast. They are usually up at 6.30am and have breakfast at 7am so by the time we leave for school at 8.30am they normally ask for a quick snack so these have been great. 

The GoGo SqueeZ range contains three fruit snack pouches in apple, apple and strawberry and apple and mango. There are also two yogurt pouches in the range which come in strawberry and banana. My two children have tried all five and their favourite are the strawberry yogurt and the apple and strawberry fruit pouch. Their least favourite was the plain apple snack pouch. The children loved the design on the packaging and how easy they are to open and re-seal.

You can find more information on the GoGo SqueeZ website and they are currently available at Tesco priced £2.55 for the fruit pouches and £2.95 for the yogurt pouches (both come as a pack of four). I do feel this is a little bit more expensive than what I would normally spend on this type of product but this for me really is the only downside that I could find. Look out for offers at Tesco as they have been half price recently. 

*Not sponsored. We were kindly sent the GoGo Squeeze pouches in return for an honest review.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Mental Health Guest Post Series #3

This week's post is by Gareth from Daddy Giraffe

The Invisible Illness

In life there is a few subjects that are pushed away from talking about and one of them is the invisible illness called Mental Health.

Mental Illness has no boundaries on who it affects you can be rich or poor, unknown or famous and any sex or race.

I was going to sit here and tell my story of how Mental Illness affects me and my everyday life, then I deleted my post and decided to talk about how it doesn’t just affect me at all, it affects my family and the people around me.

My Partner Cheryl and I have been together for nearly 6 years and she loved me regardless of who I am, the problem was I wasn’t ready to let anyone know I was suffering not even my parents so Cheryl had to keep quite and not tell a soul about what home life was like.

I started getting professional help and they diagnosed me with Personality Disorder (It is a pleasant mixture of Bi-Polar, depression, Schizophrenia and other things) I was placed on tablets to try and calm this down but its not like an Antibiotic that will clear up what’s wrong but it will keep it at bay.

My partner had to watch me go through all sorts like Hallucinations, sleepless nights, constant mood swings all of this she would have to deal with by herself, Cheryl would call the hospital for help, the Crisis teams just to calm the situation and get some sort of help.

It wasn’t only this she would have to endure, with my mood swings would come bouts of when I would say mean things or off the cuff things and even though she would cry I would be emotionless like a robot with no expression and of course nobody knew.

Friends were lost as I just couldn’t be around people in general and hit an all time low point of suicidal thoughts, but again she stood there like a rock not budging.

I suggested she just puts it out there and tell the world her story of how Mental Illness affects others which she put on her site www.mummyof5miracles.com and I decided to created my own blog to spread awareness for all of those suffering in silence.

I’m now on the road to recovery and getting better everyday to maintain this Illness, I can never repay Cheryl for everything she has done and taken in these 6 years but I how her everything in what ever years we remain on this planet.

So speak up, stand tall and say this won’t make me who I am.

Daddy Giraffe x

Friday, 10 November 2017

Mental Health Guest Post Series #2

This weeks guest post comes from Laura from Five Little Doves.
Here she discuses mental health and her battle with an eating disorder.

Mental illness has been a part of my life since the age of 18 when, having gone off to university, I developed depression which very quickly spiralled out of control. I have always been very open about that battle, and the panic and anxiety which followed, but something I share less of, perhaps due to the stigma attached to it, is my battle with , which stole almost fourteen years of my life.

When writing this post I came across this shocking statistic,

More than 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders. There are more deaths from eating disorders than from any other mental illness, and it is estimated that 10% of all sufferers die as a result of their condition and 1 in 5 will commit suicide.

And for a mental illness that leads to the most fatalities, I would say that, in my experience, it is still one of the least talked about.  As a society we are opening up a lot more about depression, anxiety and PND. They are becoming widely spoken about, written about, documented on TV shows, soaps and publicised by celebrity sufferers. 

I find that more commonly now, during conversations with friends, when I mention a history of depression, or my battles with PND, many of then will nod along, admit they too have struggled, tell me about a friend, a sister, a partner who has been through the same. At playgroup or the school yard, people are much more willing to admit that they too have suffered with mental illness, share stories of their battles with depression or PND, united in the realisation that actually, it is very common. 

But with eating disorders, it still isn't something that we speak about as freely. When I share the story of my battle with anorexia it can cut a conversation dead. And I think that the main reason why we don't talk about it is mainly due to the fact that there is still an element of shame surrounding it. I guess for those of us suffering it is very much a secretive illness and something which we go to extreme lengths to cover up. 

With depression there is always that desperation to get better, there is the motivation to reach out to a partner, a friend, a doctor, and ask for the help we need in order to find a way to be happy again. With anorexia, talking about it, admitting that there is a problem, and asking for help to recover, can only mean one thing. Recovery = gaining weight.  And for somebody in the throes of an eating disorder, and for me during my own personal battle,  I just didn't want to talk about it.

And people can be so mean when it comes to eating disorders with the ignorance surrounding it quite shocking. You only need to open a magazine to see "body shaming" posts, close up pap shots of slim celebrities with headlines such as "Anorexic" and "Skeletal" and yet on the next page an article about celebrities who have gained weight, big red circles highlighting the tiniest amount of cellulite. And I hate that kind of thing, I hate that it is seen as something to be ashamed of, something that is used as an insult, something that people assume we have control over.

Because it is hugely ironic that a mental illness which is very much about control, is actually controlling us. Most of the sufferers I have met along the way will tell you that they became anorexic during difficult times in their life, during stressful periods, break-ups or losses, in a bid to claw back a little control at a time when they felt that they had lost their on the reins. 

I have never met anyone who planned to become anorexic, it was never a conscious decision or a lifestyle choice they made . It was a case of losing a few pounds and feeling good about the results, losing a grip on a pre-holiday diet or trying to fit into a particular dress for a special occasion. It was feeling too depressed to eat properly, being so stressed that the weight just fell off, the thought that perhaps losing a few pounds would make them feel better about themselves at a time when they were lacking self-esteem. 

And it's so true what they say about mental illness, that before you know it, it can spiral out of your control.

And I guess the same thing happened for me. What started as dropping a few pounds as a side effect of my anti-depressants rapidly spiralled into an eating disorder which, at the time, I truly believed I had control over. Whilst I was consciously cutting back and enjoying the weight loss, I fully believed that when I hit my target weight I would resume a normal, healthy diet. 

It just so happened that every time I hit that target weight, and still didn't feel completely happy, I would widen the goal posts a little further. I would tell myself that a few more pounds would make me feel even better, even happier, perhaps lift me from the depression that I had found myself in.

And even when family and friends commented that I had taken it too far, when they pointed out that I was far too thin and that I was looking un-well, I believed that they were wrong, that they were simply trying to sabotage my efforts.

I think it was 'unfortunate' for me, for want of a better word, that life in the tragedy of losing Joseph right at a time when I was already struggling. Where as every parent would struggle with the grief and the loss of losing a baby, for me it was the final straw. Within a year of Josephs death I found myself at rock bottom, incredibly poorly, eating just a few mouthfuls a day, purging on up to 120 laxatives each day with a BMI of just 13. 

And it was only when I was admitted to an Eating Disorders Unit that the severity of the situation really sank in.

My time in the EDU was a necessary evil. I had to kiss goodbye to my then husband and our three year old son and, after a vigorous medical in which I was informed of all of the damage I had done to my body, I was led to a room where I was assigned a one-to-one nurse who would stay with me at all times. And by that I mean, at ALL times. She watched me dress, shower, use the toilet and at night, as I lay in my special air bed, designed so my protruding bones didn't develop pressure sores, she sat beside me and watched me sleep.
I can still remember sitting there each day, eating my calorie controlled meal, and I would look around the dining room at the other patients and ask myself, how did I ever end up in this place? Some of the girls would be sedated just so they could eat their food, others sobbing over a mouthful of cereal, their nurses encouraging them to eat just one more spoonful. Some would sit there, glassy eyed and wheel-chair bound, tubes stitched into their stomachs or down their throats, a high calorie food supplement being physically pumped into them in a bid to keep them alive. 

And if ever I needed a wake up call, that was it.

Mondays were always the worst day in the EDU. 9am saw our weekly weigh in and we would line up, naked but for a blue plastic gown and knickers, waiting to see those dreaded numbers on the scales. I soon learned the tricks and how some of the girls who had more freedom from their nurses would set their alarms early to drink as much water as they could before hand or place small weights in their underwear to boost the number on the scales that morning.

If we had gained we would be rewarded with more freedom during the week, anything from hourly checks from the nurses to trips out to the shopping centre across the road. And yet for many there would be tears, desperate cries of self repulsion at having gained merely half a pound of "fat".  

If we had lost we would have our calorie intake increased, resume one on one care or even put on complete bed rest. It was a regimented, oppressive, carefully controlled system that we had no choice but to conform to.

After several weeks in there, it was very easy to become institutionalised. I became accustomed to the same routines, to the daily walk around the hospital grounds,where we would be chastised should we walk faster than a snails pace, the therapy classes, educational seminars, the weekly yoga sessions. 

And I'll be honest with you, it was very easy to forget about the outside world, to become so consumed with our lives in the hospital and the friendships we had formed, that ultimately I became very afraid to leave. 

In a strange way the EDU made me feel safe, I had finally relinquished the control which I had held on to for such a long time. I had no other choice but to let go of the exhausting habits which had landed me in there in the first place, and for the first time in years I was feeling good, I was feeling healthy, I was feeling positive.

And it was during my time in there, when one of the girls sadly passed away, I realised exactly what I was doing to myself. The harsh realisation kicked in that slowly but surely, should I carry on down the path I was living, I would die. And that was a shocking realisation. Up until that point I had never heard of somebody dying of anorexia, I had never acknowledged that the damage I was doing to my body could cause my body to shut down, my organs to fail, my heart to stop beating. I had never imagined a time when my son would have to grow up without his Mummy. And that thought spurred me on like no other.

I would love to tell you that when I left the EDU  I was cured, that I went home, several pounds heavier, and lived happily ever after with my husband and our son. Because the cruel reality of any eating disorder is that it never truly goes away, not really. And in times of crisis, stress and depression, anorexia was the one thing that I knew I could fall back on. 

Sufferers often describe anorexia as being their friend, someone who never lets them down, who will always be there as an emotional crutch just waiting to pick up where they left off. A friend who will always make them feel better about themselves, remind them that they can claw back some control in times of crisis, give them a confidence boost when their self esteem is failing. 

And I did exactly that. 

For several years I was up and down, recovering and relapsing dependent on my state of mind, my relationships and my circumstances. With the failure of my marriage I massively relapsed, recovering after meeting my new husband and relapsing with each baby and the return of PND. And it must have been heart breaking for my family to witness, but equally heart breaking for me who just wanted the constant tug of war between anorexia and my logical brain to stop once and for all.

These days, I am doing good. I eat, a whole range of foods that at one point I would have beat myself up over, I cook, I enjoy my food and I indulge on a daily basis. It's ironic that I am able to eat all of my favourite foods and still never gain an ounce. But then it was never about being thin, not really. 

I have days when I look in the mirror and I feel good, days when I scrutinise my lumps and bumps, and days when I can't bear to even look in the mirror at all. And I cant promise you that one day the anorexia will not crawl out from the dark hole that it occupies in the back of my mind and take over again, but through therapy and education, I would like to think that should that happen, I would recognise the signs, reach out and get the help I needed.

I am so proud of how far I have come, and so grateful that I am one of the lucky ones who can sit here now and share my story. I may never be completely back to "normal", I may never be cured, but today, right now, I'm doing okay. 


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The pressure of Christmas and tips to help

Now that we are in November Christmas is right around the corner and while I love it I am starting to get stressed by it. It's the pressure of trying to make it as perfect as possible and giving the kids the best Christmas. I completely agree that it's not about presents and spending a fortune but I end up feeling like I want to go over the top because their only little once. I can't seem to find the right balance of giving them a great experience but without going completely crazy.

The biggest worry for me is money and how we will afford everything. Every year we manage some how but I end up not enjoying the build up to Christmas because I am too busy stressing about it. I also see my friends taking their children to magical events, meeting Santa etc and feeling jealous that I can't do it all too. We of course will go and see Santa but during the Christmas half term I would love to be able to do more with them. I think I need to plan better this year so that we do lots but so it doesn't cost the earth. Every year I say I will start earlier and every year it doesn't happen!

It's not just at Christmas, as parents we want to give our children the best and all I want is to make them happy. I think we can be so busy getting stressed out by it that we forget what it's really about. I decided to ask some fellow bloggers how they feel about Christmas.

Lianne from Ankle Biters Adventures said 'The real meaning of Christmas to me is laugh and have fun with family, eat good food and let the stress melt away'.

Laura from Five Little Doves said 'Yes! I think there is SO much pressure to make Christmas perfect. New things are constantly being introduced to add to the pressure such as elaborate advent ideas and Christmas eve boxes. I cant keep up!' 

Abi from Something About Baby said ' Christmas is my favourite time of year and to me it means making fun memories with your family and close ones. But I do feel hugely pressured every year when it comes to gift giving - not for my own children because I buy what we can afford, but for others. I always feel like I will be looked down on because I haven't been able to spend much, and it can take the joy out of Christmas shopping!'

Emma from Emma Reed said ' My pressure is doubled because my son was born on Christmas day! But I always make more of his birthday and do less for Christmas. Because it is now focused on him we have agreed not to do adult presents amongst the family members and this has really helped financially and with the stress. We love seeing the children get their gifts and that makes it all worthwhile. I don't think Christmas needs to be as big as the retailers expect us to.'

Kelly from Kelly Allen Writer said 'I think the pressure is there, whether that's myself doing it or the media. The biggest tree, the best gifts, the best dinner. But I do try to keep my sanity and focus on being together on Christmas day because that's the true meaning of it, for me anyway. Plus, we're always skint so we can't do the biggest or best.'

Christy from Welsh Mum said ' I put myself under too much stress that's for sure. I know how much Christmas meant to me as a child and my grandma always seemed to have everything perfect. I'm not quite the home wizard or chef she was, so I always seem to fall short of the impossible standards I set myself. I also have a very tight budget so I have to shop carefully, and then worry that I'm not doing enough compared to the other mums.'

So to help you enjoy the build up to Christmas and to make it as stress free as possible here are some tips.

* Budget! Set an amount for each person that you need to buy for and stick to it the best you can. Write a list of gifts for each person within that budget so you don't go off course.
*Find free Christmas events in your area. This could be your local Christmas lights switch on or visit the Christmas fairs, some of which are free entry.
*Something else that I do is to start buying bits of Christmas food every time I go shopping in November. Biscuits, chocolates, things that can be put away in the cupboard every week which helps to spread the cost at the same time. 
* Bigger isn't always better, it will be good enough when you spend what can actually afford. You will be so grateful for this after Christmas when you haven't got yourself into debt.
* Write your Christmas cards early, I normally start mine around the middle of November. I get all of them signed with our names thee the name of who it's being sent to closer to the time. 
* Look out for charity gift wrapping services. This will take the pressure of you while giving back to a great charity in need of a donation, especially at this time of year.

Most importantly remember to live in the moment and have fun! The Christmas memories that you look back on won't be about the presents or how much you spent, it will be about the memories you made with the people that you spent this magical time of year with.