Like many parents, we found out this past week about Ethan's primary school place and we were fortunate to get our first choice. So that's it, in a week our little boy turns four and in less than five months time, he starts school.

School.
Full time education.
Wearing a uniform and everything.
Bringing home homework.
Making new friends.

A whole new adventure for him - and for us. So much for him to learn - and so much for us.


I've written before about how the journey to become mum doesn't end once your baby is born; we are always in a state of learning, with every new stage offering up something new to learn or know or do. I think this is what really keeps us on our toes and feeling like we haven't quite 'got it' just yet - or as soon as we think we have, something comes along and makes us feel completely out of our depth again. Sometimes, parenting feels like one big numbers game, always counting down to or up to the next stage.

We pick up lots of new skills as a mum or dad, and sometimes we can feel like master of none, and the start of school days seems to add a few more into the mix. I wonder how long it will be until Ethan knows more maths answers than I do? Or how many times I rely on Google for answers. I mean, my geography isn't great, I need a calculator or Excel to do simple sums and it's been a long while since I had to swot up on dates with historical significance (although this was one of my stronger subjects).


I think Ethan is ready for the next stage. He's been in preschool since he was eight months old and they do so much for him that there's no doubt they have helped him in so many ways, from social skills and emotional intelligence to recognising letters, counting numbers, writing his name and so many other things besides. He gains so much from preschool and is already used to the full days so I don't think the transition for him will be too difficult.

Although, he will be away from the familiar setting of the nursery, having to wear a uniform rather than his superhero or animal themed clothes and none of his friends will be going to the same school...

I think that I may find it a little harder, on that first day we go through the school gates, his shoes shining and me no doubt holding back a tear or two.

I am excited for him and for everything this new stage has in store. Thankfully, we have a couple of induction days way in advance of the term starting to actually find out more about school life and what this next stage will entail.

In someways, I feel like I'll be going back to school. 'How to be a parent to a primary school child'. Best take my notepad, and an apple for Miss...


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What is it with us Brits and travelling abroad? Every time one of us mentions going away, it always has to be somewhere exotic. Don’t get me wrong – I love a bit of sun, sand, and sea. But, I must admit that I’m also a home bird when it comes to the United Kingdom. I have come to realise over the years that we have as much to offer as any country in the world. That’s why this post is going to focus on a country that is close to home – Wales. These are the reasons I want to travel to the Valleys more often. I hope you agree!



Like many little ones and toddlers, Ethan is a big fan of The Gruffalo book, and The Gruffalo's Child, and we even have a few pieces for his bedroom that are Gruffalo themed. So you could say that we were long overdue a trip to the deep dark woods to go on a Gruffalo trail, using the recently launched Gruffalo Spotters app from the Forestry Commission - but last weekend we made it to Cannock Chase and enjoyed some Gruffalo spotting in the sunshine.


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It is a common issue in many homes now, we aren’t simply getting enough light in through the curtains. Whether we live in dark, depressing homes, or our house isn’t catching the sun at all, it can have a massive effect on our everyday lives. We need a certain amount of sunlight, of course, but living in a dark and grey home affects your mood, which can impact your whole family. So, here are a few little tricks to get some more light into your home...


Last weekend, we went to see The Scarecrow's Wedding at Town Hall Birmingham, the latest book to stage adaptations of one of Julia Donaldson's classic stories. Ethan's Nanny bought him the book a couple of years' ago when we went to the National Forest Adventure Farm and it's a fun story all about two scarecrows who decide to get married and how all the farm animals help them get ready for their big day.

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When you take a minimalist approach in your home, both in the way you live and the way you style it, you are affording yourself a host of benefits. By de-cluttering your home you can benefit all aspects of your life. By de-cluttering your life you can benefit aspects of your home. Below are a few examples of just how.


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One of the most exciting things about growing up, moving out and getting a place of your own is that you are, at last, able to have things exactly as you’d like. Before, it was your parents who decided what went where and which colour paint would be best. You may have felt that you had a choice in how your room was decorated, but as you become an adult, and especially when you have children of your own, you realise that what children think is choice is actually just the illusion of choice (it works because people are happier when they believe they are in control, and children are no different). For instance, you may have been asked whether you wanted your room to be pink or purple. That is a choice, but it is not one made freely when you realise you only had two options and the fact was that your room was always going to be painted, whatever colour you said. If when you first left home, you rented a place, you did not have that much freedom there either. You could not do any work without your landlord’s permission, and besides, the risk of breaking something and losing your security deposit is enough to deter most people. But when you have a house of your own, you can make any decision you’d like.


This is both exciting and a little daunting because there is so much to think about. It needs to reflect your personality but your home also needs to be a place where you can invite guests for a dinner party for example. Having a child introduces another variable into the equation and makes it more difficult again. You now have to find things for your house that are durable, stylish and safe for children to be around. If you are wondering about what sort of furniture would be best for you, here are a few ideas:


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We redecorated our dining room five or six years ago, ripping up the old carpet to reveal old style terracota tiles and painting the room white except for two bold red alcoves either side of the fireplace. It was only ever a room that we went 'through' and never made use of, so since the decor update, we've turned it into a more multi-functional space.

We have a big desk that gives us plenty of storage and display space, I have my Welsh dresser and vintage bureau that I just adore and in front of the large window that looks onto our back garden, we have a fold up dining table.

The room is actually a favourite for us as it is so multi-functional, colourful and is where we let our personalities really come through. The bolder the better! It's also a practical space as we work in it and keep all our paperwork and bits and bobs here.

Finding places to store paperwork and keep Ethan's artwork safe even can be tricky - even when you opt to go paperless, you still seem to accumulate so much paper, don't you think?! Add into it my obsession with stationery and hoarding recipes torn out of magazines, and things can quickly get into a mess.

Thanks to Dandelion Interiors, we have a new feature in the dining room that makes a statement and is practical too.


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We've lived in our house for almost 11 years now and we have made changes, slowly but surely. In fact, it's this time of year that we tend to crack on with DIY or decorating tasks!

There are some bigger changes that we would like to make one day and a key feature I have always wanted to consider for our home is underfloor heating. It has many benefits to offer and it could make a real difference , in our bathroom especially, but do you know how underfloor heating compares to radiator heating?

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Every parent knows the struggle of creating the perfect bedroom for their child - what theme to go for, how to make the most of space and all those finishing touches. We’re all going to design different rooms for our kids, but there are a few things that each and every one of us needs to include.


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Even though it's only spring, it's always a good idea to get ahead when planning things for you and the kids to do, especially in the summer holidays. As it can be a real conundrum how to keep them amused for all of that time. But what exactly are the options for keeping your little one out of mischief during the long six week summer holidays? Read on to find out.


Family days


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As the sun starts to stream into the house more and more now that spring has really sprung, I'm really enjoying time at home. When the clutter has been cleared, I can really sit back and make the most of the home we have built. One of the things I particularly love is candles and reed diffusers. In the case of the latter in particular, I think it can be really hard to find one that has a good scent that can be picked up as you walk into a room, and not just when you're having a sniff in the shop.


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With spring well and truly underway, we’re all starting to look towards summer. Long days, hot weather, and luxury. Or, if you’re a parent, long days, bored children, and stress. That’s right; the summer holidays will be here before we know. They’re never easy, and we all search desperately for ideas to keep kids amused. We want things that get them out the house and burn excess energy. Days out and holidays are all well and good, but they aren’t always practical. We also need ideas for at home days, when we have nothing particular planned but still want to get them outside.




Sports are always a safe bet. They can’t play them in the house, so that’s the outside part dealt with. Plus, they get plenty of exercise, so they burn off energy. But, it’s not always easy to get them motivated. Sport comes naturally to some kids, but others fight against it like it might kill them. How do you get the latter group to give it a go? You add a little competition, of course. Throwing a tournament could help get them excited. It might even start an ongoing love. So, what do you need to consider to make sure your tournament goes well?

Pick a sport

The game you choose could make all the difference. Choosing the wrong one could turn an already sceptical child against the idea for good. It might help to stick to sports your kids are familiar with. Ask them what they’ve already done at school, and make a choice based off of that. Girls physical education often focuses on games like netball, while boys play football more.

The gear

You’re also going to need to stock up. First, you’ll need to buy the right equipment. This will vary depending on your sport. Get the correct balls and goals. It may also be fun to stock up on t-shirts for each team. You don’t have to spend a fortune here. Cheap t-shirts in different colours will work fine. It may also be worth stocking up on awards and trophies. Get a large one for the winners, and smaller awards for the losing team to avoid anyone going home empty handed. You don’t want to dissuade anyone or cause arguments!




The right children

You can’t have a tournament without inviting a few of your kid’s friends. Make sure you ask kids who you know will behave. Having one rough child could ruin the game for everyone. Make sure, too, that you invite an even amount of kids. You’re going to need to split them into teams, and leaving things uneven could cause problems. It’s also worth limiting your numbers. As this is your first time, you want a group that you can keep an eye on.

Once you’ve done all the above, you’ll be ready to go. Remember, while the match is taking place, to keep things fun. Competition may be healthy, but kids take things seriously. It’s the taking part that counts!

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I'm one of those people who likes to plan and have things to look forward to and with it being #NationalExperienceWeek this week, according to Into the Blue - experts in experience days and adventure days out - I wanted to share with you some things on our wishlist of experiences - and a competition where your wishlist could come true.


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It’s not long now until Ethan’s fourth birthday. As it stands, he’s been in our lives for more than 1,400 days, excluding the time when he was affectionately known as ‘Bean’ and when my tummy was his home. It’s a cliché, but just where has the time gone?

Photo taken when Ethan was 8 days old, by Shaun Fellows


The early days were a blur of sleep deprivation, feeding every couple of hours, changing nappies 14 times a day and also dealing with my own recovery following birth. They were also a mixture of first smiles, funny sounds and oh so many selfies with our beautiful little boy, and the door to our house was somewhat like a revolving door with proud family and friends keen to have a squeeze with our little bundle. Those days are precious memories now and as much as I long for a time machine to take me back, I too know now that being a parent just keeps getting better the older your child becomes.

I’ve written in the past about nutrition and our weaning journey and I was interested to do so again, following research from SMA ® Nutrition into how important those first 1,000 days are in helping to build a nutritional foundation for life, from pregnancy to toddlerdom, particularly when it comes to protein. I know that I didn’t know a great deal about nutrition, baby development, heck, pretty much anything about having a baby and raising a child! And I’m still learning, but I’ve found since day one that reading books, magazines, expert advice and posts from other parents has really helped build my knowledge and understanding.

As explored in the infographic below developed by SMA® Nutrition, protein is particularly important in those first 1,000 days as it provides the building blocks needed to develop and grow. This is one of the many reasons why breastfeeding is recommended; because milk protein has been proven to support an appropriate rate of growth* in infancy (*UK-WHO growth charts based on the growth of breastfed infants, and World Health Organisation/Department of Health advice to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months). What’s really clever is how protein levels in a mother’s breast milk change and decreases as babies grow, meaning it always contains just the right quality and quantity of protein needed at that time to help them grow at a steady rate.

We all want to support our children, from the moment they are conceived and born through to toddlerhood and beyond, so having information such as this to hand can really help support us as parents as we make decisions as they take their steps through those important first 1,000 days… and beyond.
  


ZTC1823a/04/17 SMA® Nutrition UK

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If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you may have heard me talk about my psoriasis. It first reared its ugly head six years ago and started as a small patch on my scalp, near my left ear. For the first year or two, it remained as a scalp-only condition, before I started developing patches elsewhere on my body.


Looking back, I wish I could return to a time where my dry, flaky, itchy scalp was the only skin problem I had to worry about. But I then remind myself just how bad my scalp did get, and how it affected me.

You'd think that having a condition such as that, where no-one else could see it, wouldn't be so bad but in some ways, the fact that people couldn't see it, yet it was so uncomfortable and stressful for me, made it feel even worse. No-one knew what was happening, but all the while, it was driving me to distraction.

It became a cycle of stress; I would be stressed about my dry, tight scalp and the big crusty patches that were forming and I couldn't help myself from scratching, and picking, particularly because I would get patches of skin caught in my hair that I didn't want other people to see, but also as it became a stress reaction. And from doing this, I would then become even more stressed about the condition - a real catch 22!


I've tried a full range of psoriasis ointments and dry scalp treatments over the years and I much prefer the pharmacy and over-the-counter options, as the prescription treatments are often smelly, greasy and can really affect the condition of my hair.

Alphosyl and T-Gel Therapeutic Gel have been the best itchy and dry scalp shampoos I have tried, particularly when I've had a really bad flair up.

Touch wood, crossed fingers and rubbing a rabbit foot here for luck... my scalp psoriasis does seem to be a world away from what it used to be and aside from a dusting of dandruff flakes throughout the day, I no longer have big patches or worry about the impact it's having on my hair.

We all have to find a way to get along with the conditions we have, particularly if there isn't a cure, so finding a treatment that works for you can make all the difference to the way you look but, importantly, the way you feel.

With the weather getting warmer and the sun (mostly) shining, I felt it was time to breathe some fresh air into my wardrobe. There's so many great trends around at the moment that I love and I think can work for anyone, including denim shirt dresses, dungarees and jumpsuits, cold-shoulder tops and dresses, detailing such as embroidery or buttons and gingham, to name a few - and all of these can be found in the spring / summer 2017 collection from Apricot.

It's a brand I haven't come across before but as soon as I was introduced, I quickly found several items that would suit my style and be great for the new season. With the chance to review some pieces of my choosing, I couldn't resist and I ended up picking three new items to update my look with.

As a working mum of the one, doing the nursery run twice a day, I like to wear comfortable clothes but that doesn't mean I don't like to try some trends and make an effort. There were quite a few things on Apricot that caught my eye because of this; a balance between wearable and on trend.

The first item I chose was this denim style shirt dress (£24), in dark denim but also available in a light wash denim too.



There's lots to learn when becoming a parent and I don't think you ever reach a point where you think 'I've totally got this!" - or, if you do, it tends to be short lived as your little one throws a curve ball and you suddenly feel like a newbie all over again.

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