Mumaleary's Blog

Cheaper than therapy

Mix up the Magic for the Perfect Playdate!

Playdates; they can get a little bit samey can’t they.
You get into a habit of seeing the same people, doing the same things and, if you’re anything like us, serving up the same sort of snacks and treats but, every now and again things need a bit of a shake up.
With Summer on the way, the promise of holidays on the horizon and the beginnings of a brilliant and beautiful garden hideaway it’s time for us to Mix Up The Magic.

The Great Outdoors.

As children, my sister and I spent holidays at our Grandpas farm and we were outside morning til night and we loved it.
These days, parents are less likely to let their kids play outside. We worry about them getting too cold, sunburnt or hurt.
It is important to me that our girls appreciate the great outdoors, wildlife and learn how to care for the environment. Yoghurt pot bird feeders were the perfect way to get the girls out in the sunshine soaking up the vitamin D and who doesn’t love getting messy with a bit of mixing and making?!

Fabulous French:

I am no linguist. Sometimes even the most basic of English words escape me, sleep deprivation and a baby brain which clearly hasn’t switched off two years later don’t help!
I am in awe of people that can speak another language (or even English coherently) so, when a friend from toddler group mentioned a new business venture, teaching French to pre-schoolers, I basically strong armed her into a session at ours.
With songs, rhymes and parachute games it was the perfect start to the week and, when the little little welcomed Mr L home with a jaunty ‘Bonjour!’ I almost split my cheeks smiling.

french2

Learning French? Oooh La la!

Learning French? Oooh La la!

A little bit of crazy?!

One of things that makes me happier than anything else in the whole wide world is hearing my babies chattering to each other, playing, pretending and making up games.
As they grow up I absolutely cherish watching their relationship develop and, on a selfish note it sometimes has the added bonus of giving me 5 minutes to clear the breakfast dishes.
During one of the 5 minutes this week (which might have become 10 and included a cuppa and a flick through a magazine) the girls set up a picnic on the stairs, made a pretend plane in their teepee and had a game of crazy golf in the hall.

This is all the luggage they need!

This is all the luggage they need!

I love this.

Yes it makes our home a mess, yes it sometimes makes us late or leads to over excitement; we all know how quickly squeals of happiness can become tears and tantrums but that’s the risk you take. It’s all a learning curve and I am loving these lessons.

**point to note- sometimes the over excitement and general merriment will lead to your phone getting dropped in the water bucket you’ve been splashing in and that in turn means you lose all your happy snaps of said fun times…you have been warned!**

Petit Filous is mixing things up too with their New Magic Squares yogurts which lets kids experience two delicious flavours in one like never before. They are a brilliant source of calcium and vitamin D which helps the body to absorb the calcium…science hey! We love them in our house and the empty pots make fab bird feeders! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle people!

Yummmmmy!  Is there anything on my face?!

Yummmmmy!
Is there anything on my face?!

We don't stage shots here...my kids really are this messy!  #dirtwonthurt

We don’t stage shots here…my kids really are this messy!
#dirtwonthurt

I’d love to hear how you Mix Up the Magic with your littlies…I could use all the ideas you’ve got!

Have a happy week, we’re off to the zoo (zoo, zoo!)

Muma.

XxxxX

Mmmmm...Mix up the Magic.

Mmmmm…Mix up the Magic.

PS: This post is an entry for BritMums #MagicSquaresPlaydates Linky Challenge, sponsored by Petits Filous. http://www.petitsfilous.co.uk

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Pssst…we’re not getting any younger- have you planned your pension?!

Since January I’ve been attempting to live a slightly more balanced and grown up sort of life.
I’ve exercised more consistently (thanks to the quite brilliant Jon and Melissa and their Fit ‘n’ Trim programme) and am generally trying to make better food, drink and lifestyle decisions. Obviously it doesn’t always go to plan; I love a gin in a tin as much as the next person and a bar of Dairy Milk is all I really need to make me happy but, generally speaking, family Leary are trying to eat and live well.

The problem with this is that other grown up topics are now forcing their way into my consciousness. Namely; wills and pensions…Frankly both topics fill me with dread but they desperately need to be faced and the sooner the better.
Mr L and I often talk about our retirement plans. The conversations never centre around eating value beans and wearing gloves indoors. We talk about travel, treating ourselves and enjoying the free time but, none of that will come cheap and it certainly won’t come about by magic.

Sailing off into the sunset can't be paid for in buttons and beans.

Sailing off into the sunset can’t be paid for in buttons and beans.

Cue the lovely people at Mumsnet pinging over an email asking bloggers to review a new website called Retire Savvy, from Skipton Building Society.

retiresavvy
Surely this can only be for 1 of two reasons;

1) They are actually downloading my thoughts
2) I am not the one having a pension panic attack

I am hoping it is option 2…

Basically, Skipton said;

“We believe retirement is one of the biggest social issues of today – in terms of improving people’s awareness of retirement planning and also helping them to ensure they’ve got sufficient savings to enjoy their retirements.
Increasing life expectancy means retirement is no longer a relatively brief period – for many people retirement can last as long as their working lives and many are choosing to do it differently, with set retirement dates becoming less and less common.
Mums are among the hardest hit groups, as we know they often need to contend with all of the above and to also make room for career breaks or reduced hours to make time to be mums. Retirement’s no longer a subject for ‘oldies’, it’s something everyone should be considering, and the earlier the better.”

Oh good lord, it is option 1; they are in my head…(sorry about the mess and all the Daniel Craig clutter!)

Ahhhhh...

Ahhhhh…

The site is full of excellent advice but frankly, there could only be one starting point for me;

Me to a tee...but not anymore!

Me to a tee…but not anymore!

The 5 points here have already helped enormously, I have been able to see just how pitiful my state pension could be and when I will be eligible to claim it; £69.57 per week as of September 2048. Handily though, I also now know how I can top it up.
The site also provided a brilliant reminder about a local government pension plan I paid into for a few years and information on how to find out where it is, how to access it and so on. Every little helps!

For me, the most important area of the site by far is, unsurprisingly, Retirement Planning for Families. All of my worries and concerns are voiced here and it is so reassuring to know that it isn’t just me who’s left things late…
It took me a little while to discover this section so perhaps going forward I’d suggest it could be prominent on the home page, perhaps with its own tab as opposed to being a sub-section of another.
I don’t quite feel that the term ‘Approaching Retirement’ applies to me so perhaps ‘Planning for Retirement or Retirement Planning in your 30’s/40’s etc might be more clear?
Having said that, all the information I need is there on the site; there are loads of useful articles and guides. The jargon buster is a brilliant tool and the forums are really interesting and reassuring; I’m pleased to see that others want to see free childcare provision increased so they can pay the difference into their pension pots- our thoughts precisely.
As the site develops and gains followers I am sure that the threads and discussion forums will expand and help with any questions I have going forwards but the stories and posts from the many retirees on the forums is a brilliant illustration that age now really is just a number and retirement or getting your bus pass can genuinely be a passport to new found freedom- HOORAY!

The most important thing that Retire Savvy does though is to get pension planning into people’s consciousness.
Pensions will never, ever be sexy and Skipton to their credit, aren’t trying to pretend otherwise but, as with so many things, planning ahead enables spontaneity and, whether that is with a crazy full change bag for a day at the zoo or a properly planned pension, so you really can sail off into the sunset, planning is honestly starting to appeal, and I never thought I’d say that!

Have you got your pension properly planned? I’d love to know if you’re paying in or making other plans…
Muma.

XxxX

PS: I was asked to review retiresavvy.skipton.co.uk by Skipton and the Mumsnet Bloggers Network. All views are my own. I was entered into a prize draw to win vouchers as a token of thanks for blogging.
You can check out what other bloggers thought about Retiresavvy here: http://www.mumsnet.com/bloggers/retiresavvy-portal-what-our-bloggers-thought-

PPS: Want to take part in a cutting edge social media campaign? Sign up to support retiresavvy on Thunderclap (best described as an online flash mob) and fight for the retirement you deserve!
For more information visit https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/24810-retirement-revolution?locale=en

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Normal? Nuclear? What does Modern Family mean to you?

So, Matalan turns 30 this year.

The Hughes Family. #MatalanModernFamily

The Hughes Family.
#MatalanModernFamily

I’m adding this to the list of things which make me feel utterly ancient; I remember when our local shop opened and you had to have a photo ID card to get in. My mum, sister and I went over to Bromborough to check it out and then went to the cinema for a treat. Happy Times.

Anyway, in the 30 years since they first opened their doors, with the aim of providing outstanding value and quality for families, the definition and idea of family has altered significantly. Now Matalan wants to know what family means to us…
Their latest campaign is called Made for Modern Families; check out their advert- I think it’s fab (Loving the polkadot dress and the purpule bag)

When I googled ‘FAMILY DEFINITION’ I was presented with literally millions of options but the first one was this:

“A group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit.”
(www.thefreedictionary.com)

That seems like a pretty narrow definition to me.

From very early on my little family unit didn’t fit the traditional norm; we were the 3 musketeers, my mum, my sister and me.

The 3 musketeers

The 3 musketeers

I felt compelled to explain that my dad had died, lest people presumed that he had abandoned us or my parents had divorced. Our extended family, grandparents, uncles, aunts and my mums incredible group of friends were a daily source of support and I would be a very different person, and mother without their influences. Sadly though, to me growing up it felt that the nuclear family was the norm and expectation and anything else was met with a sniff of suspicion. An over sensitive and childlike view? Perhaps but I bet I’m not the only person to have felt that way.

These days, almost 30 years on, family Leary fit snuggly into the nuclear family pigeon hole; A Muma, a daddy and two gorgeous girls. We are only a pampered pooch away from a perfect portrait!

Standard Family Snap!

Standard Family Snap!

Two years later...

Two years later…

But for me that is only a part of the puzzle.
We have extended family; Brothers, Sisters, In-laws, Out-laws, first cousins, second cousins, not quite sure how distant cousins.

How weeny am I?!

Me and my super douper cousins; In age order!

We have friends that are as much loved and important to us as any blood relation. Those that have seen us at our best…and worst! The people we see almost daily and can call on for a whinge, a wine or an emergency babysitter at the drop of a hat.

 

Ready for the nursery run...we always look like this!

Ready for the nursery run…we always look like this!

People we haven’t ‘seen’ for an age except via the techno wizardry of Skype and facetime and the like but we know that when we do, we’ll fall right back into step where we left off.

And, as time goes on, we have the memories of family members past that gave us those original feelings of security and love which is our blueprint for knowing how family should make you feel; LOVED which, to my mind, is the only definition of family that really matters.

I'm the blondie!

I’m the blondie!

Happy Birthday Matalan, thanks for making us all feel like family!

Muma.

XxxX

family-quotes

PS: I’m sharing my thoughts on family with the Mumsnet Matalan linky; check it out Mumsnet linky to see what other bloggers have to say.

PPS: What does family mean to you? Share your family snaps with Matalan here for a chance to win £250 of vouchers

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More things for kids in Beautiful Belfast.

I know I’ve been clogging up your news feed with holiday talk for the last week or so but, it would be incredibly remiss of me not to offer up these final few gems from our jaunt to NI…got to be honest though; if we start a craze and everywhere is rammed when we next go I’ll be livid!

You know sometimes when you’re away the last day is a bit of a drag because you’re basically waiting to head home? We were a bit worried that Sunday would be a little bit like that for us pre ferry but, a trip to the Titanic Quarter solved our dilemma magnificently.
The fact that it was actually snowing as we drove back into Belfast meant that indoor activities were the order of the day and my optimistic flip flops definitely were not but, no matter, we parked up and headed into The new Titanic Experience.

The height of the building is the same as the height of Titanic.  Pretty incredible.

The height of the building is the same as the height of Titanic.
Pretty incredible.

Now, I’ll level with you; I am little uncomfortable with the idea that key rings and fridge magnets are now basically souvenirs of huge tragedy and loss of life but, I am also very interested in the story and, as the more pragmatic and level headed Mr L says, it happened and, having a building like this museum tells the story and has breathed life back into the area that created Titanic bringing money and jobs so, the victims lives have, in the end, not been in vein. I suppose that is true and the imput from so many of the victims families illustrates that the most important people were happy with the exhibition.
The building is incredible and is the same height as the ship itself which gives you an immediate sense of how magnificent a site Titanic must have been.

Made to look like the stern of the ship.  Breath taking.

Made to look like the stern of the ship.
Breath taking.

The story is told across the six floors and takes you through the story of life in Belfast when ship building was the life blood of the city right through to the distress signals sent, the pitiful rescue attempts and the court hearings in the aftermath.
The personal stories are poignant but it was the real footage of the wreck that truly brought home the scale of both the ship and the disaster to me.

The girls had a great time running about, looking for the characters on their quiz sheets but we felt a little self conscious about their noise in and around such sensitive and emotional stories;
Is this a genuinely child friendly experience? Honesty I’d have to say no, not for younger kids. Yes there are plenty of things to look at, buttons to press and so on but there is so much for you to read, take in and look at they might run out of stream half way through…

It is already on our hit list for our adults only trip back to Belfast along with the Black taxi tour and Crumlin Road Gaol…

W5 on the other hand is a kids paradise.
All I need to say here is; if you’re in Northern Ireland or indeed near Northern Ireland and you have kids or have even been a child yourself, you should go here. It is awesome.
I shall expand on that however because it’s slightly lazy as a review if I don’t!
W5 was built as part of a millennium regeneration project around the docks and is housed within the Odessey Arena complex where you’d find all the big concerts (and this years Sports Personality of the Year Awards) going on.
The 5 W’s that the name refers to is who, what, when, where, why and each floor attempts to answer some of those questions.
We spent most of our time on level 2 which was simply perfect for us with loads of imaginative play with life sized cars and pretend shops, music and art studios as well as houses, books, a big wooden train track etc. Everything a toddler could need.
There was also an amazing climbing frame come piece of art called ‘Climbit’ which the girls loved exploring but it was pretty huge and I’d have been wetting myself if they’d had gone too high!!

Climbit...Don't worry; we will!

Climbit…Don’t worry; we will!

We only had around 2 hours here but we could easily have doubled it and not run out of things to do and Sunday afternoon was ideal- very quiet so the girls really made the most of all of the exhibits. Nothing was off limits or ‘don’t touch’.
Yeah; get yourselves there!

I will never tire of these gorgeous faces!

I will never tire of these gorgeous faces!

You've got to love a coloured bubble tube!

You’ve got to love a coloured bubble tube!

Right, that’s it for our NI love in!
I’d better start looking for our next Staycation #abroadshmbroad

Muma.

XxxxX

PS) I’d recommend that, if you’ve got toddlers like us you flip our day on its head.
Head to W5 for opening, tire them out, give them a sandwich for the walk between the two locations (the Titanic food is seriously expensive) and then they can (hopefully) have their nap as you stroll around the exhibition which is all brilliantly manoeuvrable even with a double buggy being pushed by a 2 year old!
Oh, and if you do have a wee stop after you’ve paid for your parking, remember that there is a time limit and if you exceed it you’ll have to pay the excess!

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Weekend at Bernie’s* (OR NI with Kids)

Those of you that follow me on Facebook and Instagram might well be aware that last week we were on holiday in Northern Ireland. Without wishing to be harsh, it is definitely fair to say that Northern Ireland has never been on our holiday hit list and, had it not been for a family wedding blessing, we’d still be non the wiser about this simply stunning gem of a place.

I barely had a chance to think about blogging or anything really apart from the scenery and the all to rare bit of family time but, as I sat outside the girls bedroom waiting for the little little to settle, there wasn’t not much else to do other than note a few of the highlights of our trip purely for your reading pleasure; you lucky little blighters you!

1) Living on the Wirral it was an easy decision to get the ferry from Birkenhead  to Belfast but we hadn’t bargained on just how simple and straightforward it would be.
We boarded with our car at 8pm for the overnight crossing, relaxed with a drink whilst the girls made friends at the soft play and hit our bunks before we set sail at 10pm for a genuinely great nights sleep.

Brilliant bunks  Super Stenaline!

Brilliant bunks
Super Stenaline!

We docked shortly before 6am the following morning and were welcomed by an amazing sunrise and the sun has stayed out for the majority of our trip which we definitely hadn’t counted on.

What a sunrise! Beautiful Belfast.

What a sunrise!
Beautiful Belfast.

I am now sitting in my little bunk as we head home and I can happily say that the return trip has been just as smooth.
Stenaline; I am suitably impressed!

2) Bangor has a pretty marina and a fab art project but what we really loved was Pickie Fun Park. We had a fantastic family time splashing in puddles, riding on the train and messing about on the Swan pedalloes.

MUST GET MORE OF THESE FAMILY SNAPS!!

MUST GET MORE OF THESE FAMILY SNAPS!!

The girls were in their element running through the water and I reckon that when it’s the height of summer the place would be packed. As it was we almost had the place to ourselves aside from two skiving teenagers sneaking a fag in one go the other pedalloes. Tut tut.

20150421_104836
20150421_104450
3) We stumbled upon our B&B after googling Family friendly places to stay in Northern Ireland and I am so chuffed we did, it was absolutely amazing and the food alone deserves it’s own post…5 course taster menu with wine just for us grown ups?! Don’t mind if I do!

Haddock, beetroot and scallops; YUMMY!

Haddock, beetroot and scallops; YUMMY!

Rayanne House belongs to Bernie and Conor (we’re on first name terms now!)  and it’s located in a cute little town called Holywood that you might be aware of thanks to a certain Rory McIlroy who hails from there (and has been to the house!). They have won an embarrassment of awards but I am sure the only one they’ve been waiting for is the seal of approval from Muma Leary and co! Well, the votes are in and they can breathe easy;
Everything that mattered was absolutely first class. The welcome, the personal touches and the fact that nothing was too much trouble makes it really obvious that, though running a B&B may be their living, it is certainly not ‘a job’ and I would urge you to book a night there (with or without the kids) and take some elasticated pants!

The view from our family room balcony!

The view from our family room balcony!

'So you're saying this is all for me?!  I don't get this at home!'

‘So you’re saying this is all for me?!
We don’t get this at home!’

4) I’m not sure if this is a sign that we are getting a bit long in the tooth but we had a  wicked time at the Ulster Folk Museum. The sun was cracking the flags which obviously helped but being able to walk around old fashioned homes, shops and churches talking to the girls about “the olden days” ad reminiscing about my own childhood was one of my best days on the planet so far. Watching them run along the streets and get giddy with excitement over mangles and tin baths was a delight.
We loved it.

20150423_102725

Fancy a cuppa?

Fancy a cuppa?

A row of workers cottages.

A row of workers cottages.

5) It’s not news to say that farming across the UK and Ireland has experienced some extremely challenging times in the past decade or so. This has lead to many of them diversifying in some way and opening their doors to the good old general public. One such place is Ark Open Farm.
Being brutal, first impressions were not brilliant with limited parking and slightly dodgy signage but how wrong we were. We spent a very happy morning here and could easily have made it practically into a full day if we’d have ventured into any of the inside play areas.
We fed the animals, petted some baby rabbits (called kittens FYI, pub quiz knowledge- always handy) rode on a donkey (obviously only the girls!) had a picnic in the fab play area and compared their meerkats and all for under £20.

Land Girl!

Land Girl!

Me and my Girls!

Me and my Girls!

I ADORE THESE FACES!!

I ADORE THESE FACES!!

In short ( a little late now, I appreciate!) We have had an absolutely fabulous week away in Northern Ireland and feel like we have barely scratched the surface of everything there is to do- for adults and children.
We can’t wait to come back and my only regret is that I hadn’t even considered it as a holiday destination before. Further proof of how spoilt we are to live in such a glorious country.

Where has been your favourite family holiday and why? I’d love to know…

Muma.

XxxxX

* I ought to qualify the title by saying that actually it was mid week and it was at Conor and Bernie’s but I do love a film title pun!

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An exceedingly good Easter! #betterwithcake

Being a very little fish in an increasingly huge blogging pond, opportunities for freebies don’t come my way very often and that is totally fine for me. I blog for fun, because I don’t keep a diary and because it keeps my crazy under some form of control (depending upon who you speak to!)

On occasion though, something arrives on our doorstep thanks to my little old blog which makes me beam. Mainly this Easter that has meant cake.

An Easter basket full of delights!

An Easter basket full of delights!

Not just any old cake; exceedingly good cakes…Mr Kipling cakes. Oh. Yes. Get in my belly!

20150403_110437

Yummy yummy in my tummy!

The question Mr K and Britmums were asking was, what in your life is “Better with cake”. I’d like to rephrase the question and ask; what on earth ISN’T better with cake?!

This Easter, armed with a long weekend and 3 boxes of French Fancies (ALWAYS Pink – lush! ) vienese whirls and cheeky cherry bakewells, we tested that question to the max.

Watching Nigel Farage in the leadership debates?!

Just no.  Please, just, no.

Just no.
Please, just, no.

#betterwithcake *

An exceedingly windy Easter picnic.

Freestyling our Easter lunch!

Freestyling our Easter lunch!

#betterwithcake

Play dough mixing mayhem?

Sob... I am not ready for this kind of avante garde madness!

Sob… I am not ready for this kind of avante garde madness!

#betterwithcake

Accidental face painting fiasco?

Trouble with a capital TROUBLE

Trouble with a capital TROUBLE

#betterwithcake

Getting back home after a 6 mile soaking for tea and cake in the tub….In blissful silence …#betterwithcake… Don’t panic, I’ve spared you that particular image!

Life in all of it’s wonderful, manic, chaotic imperfection, is #betterwithcake.

Not every day, not for every meal but when you’re taking 5 after a busy day, when you’re celebrating the extended family getting together or when a  treat together just feels good.

What do you do that is better with cake? Am I missing a trick?

I’ll give anything a go once?!

Muma.

XxxX

*unfortunately this was a minimal improvement and I think what would have worked even better would have been wine; delivered intravenously.

** the scummy cakes were sent to family Leary as part of the #betterwithcake Linky Challenge promotion with Mr Kipling (http://bit.ly/betterwithcake).

You can learn more about them and their yummy treats here; https://m.facebook.com/mrkiplingcakes

This post is an entry for #betterwithcake Linky Challenge (http://www.britmums.com/2015/03/the-easter-school-holidays-are-betterwithcake/), sponsored by Mr Kipling. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/mrkiplingcakes.

https://www.facebook.com/mrkiplingcakes

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You don’t have to say you love me.

Today, thus far has been one of those everything goes your way type gigs.

I woke up early, had cuddles and a leisurely breakfast with my babies before taking them to nursery and waving them off for the weekend; they are having a 2 night sleep over at Grandma’s and are very excited (as is she!)

As we got dressed and chatted they were so absolutely delicious it was hard to think that I could ever love them more.

It was a far cry from the post disney on ice meltdown and it felt so magical I wanted to bottle it.

Now, I am not sure if the two things are linked  but, a couple of weeks ago I asked the big little if she wanted to know a secret. When she said yes I whispered to her that I loved her.

She sighed and said; ‘muma, you just say that too much’. Wow, what a slap in the face!

I took it onboard though and have consciously tried to say it less and demonstrate it more through actions, after all, what does love mean to a toddler anyway?!

Turns out it means water painting on the patio, leaving your laptop and phone in the office, saying yes to ‘just one more’ story, playing pretend and really,  really connecting, listening and being in the moment with them.

And then, if you’re lucky, you get the squeeze you hard cuddles, the one more kiss ‘nightnights’, the ‘Muma you’re beautiful’ compliments and the whispered ‘I love you’s’ that make your heart stop and the breath catch in your throat because it is so serious and sincere. And, you don’t have to say I love you quite so much because you’re demonstrating it and the rewards, I have got to tell you are absolutely priceless.

A spot of cooking!  Lovely Stuff.

A spot of cooking!
Lovely Stuff.

Thanks for the pep talk big little.

I love you and your sister; until the seas run dry.

Muma.

XxxX

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Shared Parental Leave, how very 21st Century. 

The clocks have gone forward, we’ve stepped into spring (albeit with some pretty serious downpours and a gust of wind so strong it caused the car boot to shut on my head) and on Wednesday we’ll be a whole new financial year. 
Working part time for an accountancy practise (who are excellent btw if you are looking for someone North West based) this is very much at the forefront of my mind and, with an election on the horizon new policies are very much under scrutiny. 

One of the most significant changes coming into force as of Wednesday is Shared Parental Leave; all very new age! 

Mumsnet sent out an email last week asking for bloggers thoughts on the new policy.
I’ll level with you; when the changes were announced I didn’t take a huge amount of notice, probably because I was too damn busy ‘mumming’ to sit down, read the paper, watch the news and form an opinion on anything unlikely to directly affect me and my family. 
With two tricky toddlers on the rampage I reckon we’re just about done with the whole baby thing here…I think?! 

Then I read on and noted that the email said; 
Post your link on our linky page and you’ll be entered into a prize draw where one contributing MN blogger will win a £300 voucher for the store of their choice.

Hmmm I thought, I have always been interested in sexual equality and claim to deeply believe that blokes and birds are equally capable of doing any job they desire (apart from bins). Perhaps I will look into the nuts and bolts a little more…

The basics are that as of this Wednesday, working couples will be able to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay in a way that best suits their family and work needs. 
Parents can take time off together or they can tag team stopping and starting leave returning to work in between times if they wish. 

From my point of view the time off together sounds awesome. One of the happiest periods in my life was when Mr L was on paternity leave following the birth of the big little. We could muddle through the days learning together and figuring out what our respective roles in this new family situation would be. 

On the other hand, you are effectively eating up your year “off” in half the time so, I’m not sure how practical that would be for everyone but, even if you had 4 or 6 weeks off together at the beginning and then again later in the year I think it is a hugely appealing prospect. Taking a family holiday before you have to pay for a plane ticket or panic about disrupted routines? Yes please. 

  


Having spoken to many new dads, as well as guys that are yet to become dads, the general consensus seems to be that new babies simply aren’t that entertaining. Yes they’re cute, yes they love them but they’re a little bit boring. I’ve never heard a woman say the same. 
To that end then it makes practical sense to split the leave down the middle doesn’t it? Mum does the first stint when it’s all about the feeding, cuddling, the lounging on the sofa watching HUTH and Phil and Holly (a little bit kidding) and then, when the old weaning and crawling shenanigans starts Dad duty kicks in. But that mean us girls miss out on some of the fun. 

At the end of the day, as with everything, it all comes down to pounds, shillings and pence. What makes most financial sense for families. 
Mr L earns more than me so, even if SPL had been around when our babies were babies I would have very probably still had the lions share of leave and I loved it. 
With breast feeding and what not it clearly made more practical sense too. A breast pump, even an electric one, can only do so much and, as open minded as Mr L can be I don’t think he’d have been willing to don one of these bad boys every 3 hours. 

  

On balance though, I do think certainly that the option of shared leave is a good idea. 
Children are the equal responsibility of both parents and so it is only fair that both have the opportunity to care for and bond with them in the precious early years. I have often thought that blokes are given a rough ride by eye rolling mums suggesting that dads are less capable. If they are, then a large part of that is likely down to the fact that they haven’t spent whole days alone with a tiny being that can only express themselves through the medium of high pitched noises. 
They haven’t found themselves in the eye of a projectile vomit/poonami in the middle of the supermarket and simply had to keep calm and carry on. 

Parenting, much like marathon training, is all about doing the hard yards, gaining the experiences both good and bad. No one knows it all and it is only trial and error that gives us mums the edge. Perhaps now SPL will level the playing field a little. 

Finally, I wonder what business owners make of all this; “tag team taking time off in between” Is this fair on the teams you dip in and out of for the best part of 12 months? Surely it impacts on the opportunity to get effective cover in and leaves colleagues with a heavier workload? 

What do you reckon? Would it work for your family? And if your a business owner I would love to hear your views. 


Right, must dash, I’m off to meet my very beautiful niece for the very first time. The littlies are very excited but not a patch on me! Sniffing a babies head is the one of the best things on earth I reckon. 

Loads of love, 

Muma.

XxxX 

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Here comes the Summer…WIN tickets to GERONIMO – The Biggest Children’s Festival in the NW!

Last week, in my post about Disney on Ice, I promised you a competition and, despite the meltdowns, the tantrums and the terrible twos, one of my very very favourite things to do is spend time with my babies and Mr L doing something different. Preferably out doors and ideally including ice cream!

Because I am a caring, sharing kind of gal I want the same for you guys so, how about this:

Brand new to the festival scene for 2015 comes Geronimo, a weekend of organised mayhem at Tatton Park in Cheshire, May 23 – 25.

Geronimo Tatton Park

Expect a line-up jam packed with some of the biggest names in children’s entertainment, including CBeebies favourites Mr Bloom (calm down ladies!) Katy Ashworth, Alex Winters and Cook & Line from Swashbuckle. Geronomites will also be able to enjoy den making, zip wires, donkey rides, circus shows, baby ballet, cookie decorating, storytelling, a petting farm, tree climbing, craft workshops, bubble shows and much more.

KATIE CBEEBIES

CAN NOT WAIT- we adore a den and donkey’s, ballet, stories, cookies- all the rest of it.

Tatton Park is famous beautiful gardens and woodlands, it has excellent motorway links and extensive on site parking.

Tatton Park

The whole programme is designed for the under 12s and tickets are on sale now priced £20.00 per person with kids under 2 totally free.

Happily, one of you lovely lot will be able to go totally gratis as I’ve got one family pass (up to four paying people) to give away. You’re Welcome!!

To enter, all you need to do is answer the question below wirh a comment either on the blog or as a Facebook comment.

Q: Where is the 2015 Geronimo Festival taking place?                    

  A: Tatton Park

 A: Lyme Park

A: South Park

Good Luck!!

Have a wonderful weekend, we’re off to my gorgeous cousins wedding where both of our babies will be beautiful, brilliant, well behaved bridesmaids…we hope…watch this space.

Loads of Love,

Muma.

XxxX

T&C’s: The competition closes on 23RD April (St Georges Day!)  

We have one family pass to giveaway. Each pass admits 4 people, one person in the group must be aged over 18 (NB children under the age of 2 years do not require a ticket).

The winning family can attend on the day of their choice, either May 23rd, May 24th or May 25th. The date must be specified at time of confirming the prize. Travel and accommodation are not included. The prize is non-refundable and no cash alternative will be offered. The prize is non transferable and ID will be required at time of collecting the ticket wristband upon arrival. The prize includes all events and activities at Geronimo but not food and drink from any stalls or bar. Winner chosen at random.

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Disney on Ice…The Real Review!!

Following on from Friday’s apocalyptic melt down from both little cherubs post the Disney on Ice extravaganza I have relaxed, rebooted and am now able to tell you all about it.
You should know that I will be totally glossing over the aftermath and will be painting us as the quintessential perfect family. Please allow me to reimagine the day with a rose tinted hue!
I should also point out that it is far easier for me to write this from the comfort of Virgin first class as I travel down to London for a day of hen fun. I’d be just as happy to spend the whole day on the train reading, writing and chilling on my lonesome but a gals got to do what a gals got to do. Champagne cocktails here I come, unaccompanied mum alert, it could get messy!

{Brief aside; due to the abysmal WiFi on Virgins trains I was not able to post this yesterday as planned; I know many of you will have waited in for it!! }

Anyway, back to Disney on Ice;

Disney on Ice Echo Arena, Disney on Ice review,
On Friday night, as I relaxed in the bath with Sandi Toksvig; not the actual person, that would be both cramped and awkward; she is merely one of the writers of Good Housekeeping (Yes I do read it, my mum passes on her copy to me each month in the vain hope I will transform via osmosis!) I was reassured to discover that she shares my frustrations about Disney Princesses; they all get rescued by fellas and then, quick as a flash, get an incredible frock and go on to live ‘happily ever after’ but, they do it with such a bloody annoyingly brilliant sound track and amazing animation that it’s tricky not to get swept along.

I held off for as long as I could but we are now fully paid up members of the Dinsey fan club so, when I got the email telling me that Disney on Ice was coming to The Echo Arena, I put aside all of my feminist frustrations and booked. It was expensive at £40 each (3 seats between 4 as the little little is 2) but it was their Christmas present.

It was worth every penny. I loved it. Grandma loved it.

We all loved it.

There was no weak link. It was fantastic from start to finish. In the words of Anna (she needs no introduction)

It is amazing!!!

When the dates were announced initially I missed out on tickets so, when an additional date was added I was on it like a car bonnet and as a result we had the best seats in the house. Literally, we were floor level, front row. Get them if you can.

Only the best will do!!  Front Row Baby!!

Only the best will do!!
Front Row Baby!!

DOI Audience

Mickey and Minnie introduced all of the acts and every single one was fabulous. The dancers really engaged with the children and the big littles arms must have ached from the pointing and waving.

DOI Mickey and Minnie

First up were Anastasia and Dresilla from Cinderella, followed by The Little Mermaid.  We’ve never seen the film but the performance was incredible. When Ariel traded her voice for some legs she left the ice and gave a serious display of acrobatics whilst suspended by a rope. Amazing. I know I am over using the term btw!

After a short intermission Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy were back to get us all in the mood for the next acts;

One of our favourite Disney films is Beauty and the Beast and we can regularly be found singing along to Be Our Guest in the car.
The girls eyes were nearly as big as the plates when Mrs Potts and Chip came out. We booed Gaston, cheered Belle and laughed at Lumiere and Cogsworth. Apologies for the lack of imagery but it is tough to balance a toddler, point, clap and film simultaneously!

There were scenes from Tangled- including Maximus- an actual (obviously not ACTUAL but you get my drift)

Image courtesy of my friend Fi!! Thanks Mate ;-)

Image courtesy of my friend Fi!!
Thanks Mate ;-)

then the finale was…Frozen (obv!)

The rink was transformed into a winter wonderland with snow falling from the ceiling  and when Sven and Christophe came on we were all enthralled.

Prince Hans lost his footing which frankly could be karma but he carried on seamlessly. All of the performances were really brilliant and, as Grandma so eloquently pointed out there were many pert posteriors to admire! There really is something for everyone.

I realise that by booking this we are on a slippery slope, I will be keeping my eyes peeled for other events like this, I have already booked tickets for Ben and Holly and I can not wait until they are old enough for festivals and the theatre proper!!!

In May we are off to Geronimo Festival at Tatton Park (keep your eyes peeled for a ticket give away soon) and in August hope to head to either Lollibop or The Just So Festival so, with that in mind here’s my top tips for making sure you don’t miss out on the hottest tickets in town and don’t feel fleeced when you go.

1) Sign up to the mailing list for your local theatres, arenas etc and you’ll get priority booking and will be the first to know when new acts are announced.

2) When Aunties, Uncles, Grandmas, Grandads and God Parents ask what to get the children for birthdays, Easter, Christmas, consider asking for tickets to the next event they’d enjoy. They might even offer to take them…

3) Get a loyalty card such as the ATG theatre card and save on all the booking fees. If you go to more than one or two performances a year it is well worth it.

4) Take your own snacks. Do not try to justify the £7 it costs for a drink because you get to keep the cup. £4 for candy floss with a cardboard Olaf head?!

5) Blindfold your kids on entry and exit to add to the occasion. A happy side effect of this game is that they won’t see all of the stuff that they are selling; no one needs to spunk £10 on a cup, a swirly light thing or plastic horse. You really don’t.
A double bonus here is the money you save on tat is money you can spend on the next years tickets plus, you’ll save on Big Yellow Storage fees in later years ;-)

Have you been to Disney this weekend? I’d love to know what you thought…

Have a wonderful week.

Muma.

XxxX

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