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Friday, 27 March 2015

To Become Dad

I've written many a time that dads don't always get as much look-in or support as they should when they go on their journey to become dad. I've also said many a time to my hubs that he should write a guest post for this blog of mine, as he's a very eloquent writer and I think it would be really interesting to share his perspective for a change.

And finally, he said yes.

M&S, to celebrate the launch of their new online baby hub, got in touch to ask if Stephen would like to share his top dad tips which may also make it into a Dad's Survival Guide they're collating. 

So, here in his first post as To Become Dad, may I introduce you to my husband and his take on the whole bump to baby thing...

Becoming a dad is an interesting experience. So much of the literature available to and aimed specifically at fathers-to-be is patronizing or written with a typical ‘lad’ in mind that it becomes difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. I know that I personally read a handful of books which tried to explain, with varying degrees of success, what I should expect my role to be before during and after the birth.  Over the course of this post, I’ll cover what I went through before, during and after the birth, provide some tips and advice and give you a candid look at some of the harsher realities of becoming a father.

At the risk of sounding like the opening line of goodfellas, ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a gangster dad. I don’t know why, other than I thought it would be something I’d be good at and take to naturally and, for the most part, I was right. I don’t mind acting silly to get a few laughs, I don’t mind rolling around on the floor and, if Ethan had turned out to be a girl (we didn’t know until he arrived and discovered that yep, he was most definitely a boy), I wouldn’t have minded having pretend tea parties and playing with Barbie dolls and all those other stereotypically ‘girly’ things men of my generation think young girls do (although I’d make sure any daughter of mine also had a healthy interest in films, comics and video games, too – speaking of which, Ethan can already recognise Mario and Spider-Man by sight; he’s not quite progressed to playing games yet, but it’s still early days).

I’m one of those people who obsessively research something I’m interested in, whether it’s a new game, film or, in this case, having a child. I read countless webpages, forums and books, watched videos on youtube and spoke to friends who are dads, all so I could absorb as much information as possible before baby arrived. But, much like revising for a big exam only to sit staring at the test paper because your mind has gone blank, most of the things I learnt went completely out of my mind when Ethan actually turned up.

One of the things I found most difficult about the pregnancy portion of the whole thing was that I’d just started on a new project at work that required me to be away 4 nights a week. This left Kelly at home alone for the majority of one of the most wonderful yet tumultuous and stressful things a woman can go through. Knowing I wasn’t there to support Kelly was difficult for both of us and, although she faced it with the passion, excitement and courage that is so typical of her, I couldn’t help feel like I’d fallen at the first hurdle. I’d text her and phone her as much as possible, but she’d gone from having a very active, engaging career in PR (which obviously involved talking a lot) to suddenly being sat at home on maternity leave with no one to talk to and no work to keep her occupied. 

Kelly admitted that, once she’d tidied the house a few times and got bored of daytime TV, she found the whole thing quite lonely. Kelly can talk for England at the best of times, so I was always mindful of letting her vent before I told her how my day was going, even If it meant I had to pretend to be interested in what had happened on This Morning or Jeremy Kyle that day.

Top tip: If you’re in work or otherwise out all day whilst your partner is on maternity leave, don’t be surprised if they talk your ear off as soon as you walk in the door. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and exasperated, try to remember that you may be the first person she’s spoken to since you left that morning!

Once we’d entered that final furlong and we knew the birth was relatively imminent, we set about making last minute preparations. We’d been told that most birth plans end up going out the window (best laid plans and all that), so I’d stockpiled snacks, drinks, put some of Kelly’s favourite comedies on her iPad in case we ended up sitting around for hours with nothing to do. We’d done the dutiful thing of having an overnight bag packed with all the things we’d been told were essential (change of clothes etc). This meant that, when the time came, we could just dash out of the door. 

It was my role to make sure nothing important got left behind, to keep Kelly calm and just show her that I was there for her, even though deep down I was probably just as nervous and scared as she was!

We did a lot of pre-planning, buying in everything we thought we would want or need. Going to one place, such as the M&S Baby online shop, really can help as you can just get everything you need in one go, and check things off your list.

Top tip: Prepare your overnight bag well ahead of time. Take charge of that side of things so your partner doesn’t have to worry about it. Make sure you have snacks, water and entertainment available in case you end up sat around for hours. Remember chargers for any tablets or phones, but bear in mind you might not be able to use such devices in all parts of the hospital – so bring magazines or books, too!

Kelly’s waters broke in the early hours of Saturday, 4th May. She shook me awake, told me what had happened and I sat there, nervous and excited at the same time, as she called the hospital to find out what to do next. When she was told to come in first thing in the morning to see the midwife, to not eat anything prior to arriving and to try and get some rest. I promptly fell back to sleep; I’d like to say this was because I knew I’d need to bank as much rest as I could before the big day, but honestly, I was just knackered. I didn’t know it at the time (what with being unconscious and snoring next to her), but Kelly lay awake for the rest of that night.

Top tip: if your partner’s waters break in the middle of the night, do the right thing and sit up with her if necessary. Being able to talk to you during these first few scary hours will really help keep her calm and collected, ready for the big day (or two – the birth can go on for a while, after all) ahead.

As it turns out, our birth plan did go out the window. Whilst we’d planned to have a nice, calm and relaxing water birth at a local midwife run birthing centre (we’d already visited it, it was basically a spa), upon checking Kelly’s blood pressure when we arrived at hospital the next morning, the midwife decided that nope, that was not going to happen. 

My parents had kindly picked us up from home and taken us to the hospital with the expectation that we’d be going home again once we’d checked in with the midwife but, after already being there an hour before the midwife told us we’d need to wait another hour or so so that they could check Kelly’s blood pressure again, so I told my parents to go home rather than wait. What I hadn’t realised in the stress and pressure of the situation was that all of our well-packed bags – along with my wallet - were still in the boot of their car and very quickly an hour turned into two, and then into three and before we knew it, we’d been sat on an uncomfortable bench, with poor Kelly hooked up to a blood pressure monitor, for six hours. During this time neither of us were offered a drink of water and we were told she couldn’t eat. I often had to go and check what was happening as all too it frequently felt like we’d been forgotten. 

On the occasions when someone did check on us, they weren’t particularly friendly or helpful. I eventually managed to scrounge a jug of water from a kindly receptionist, but by this point Kelly had been awake for over 12 hours, hadn’t had anything to eat or drink that whole time, had been given nothing for the pain and had thrown up a few times (which no one had bothered to remove for us, which was, y’know…nice). 

Finally, around 4pm, we were told that a delivery room was available and that Kelly was ready to go through, which was about as big a relief as you can imagine after the hell we’d just experienced – not exactly great for someone in labour whose blood pressure is being monitored for being too high already!

Top tip: Things can and probably will go awry – in the heat of the moment it’s easy to lose track of things like who has the bags or the snacks etc, so try to keep a level head. Also, don’t be afraid to go and find staff to ask what’s going on. They have a lot of people to deal with, so if you sit around waiting for them, you might be waiting a long time. Whilst they go through this every day, you don’t, so make sure you get the level of care you want and deserve! 

Keep your partner’s mind off what’s happening if necessary; talk to them about whatever comes into your mind just to help them focus away from the pain and the situation, if only for a moment – it can make a huge difference.

Once we found out we were going through to delivery, I got in contact with my parents and they dropped off all our stuff. Kelly tried to eat a sandwich but still felt pretty rough and still hadn’t been given anything for the pain – not even so much as a paracetamol – despite asking! There was an initial flurry of activity, then things quietened down again. 

Around 7pm, a shift change meant we got a new midwife and Kelly was finally given gas and air. She still hadn’t slept or eaten properly, and was in increasing amounts of pain due to her contractions. Once again we found ourselves talking about the most random or inane things to try and keep her mind off the pain.

Top tip: If you’ve been taken through to the delivery room and find yourself sitting around with nothing to do, continue to talk with your partner to help take their mind off the pain. Don’t just sit there reading your phone in silence! This is a difficult part of the whole process, as you’re almost but-not-quite at the finish line.

Around 7.30pm things began happening very quickly. Ethan had decided he was ready to make an appearance and Kelly was given an epidural (this takes a lot longer than you might think – around 30 minutes to administer and during that entire time the soon-to-be mom has to stay completely still). She was also experiencing back-to-back contractions, which made keeping still for the epidural even more difficult. Kelly was holding my hand through most of the birth and, when a particularly bad contraction hit, she would squeeze as hard as she could. She also, in the process of hoisting herself into position, kneed me in the side of the head. 

After a long and protracted birth it became clear Ethan wasn’t quite ready to turn up, so the decision was made for the medical staff to intervene. This meant the nice intimate gathering of pregnant lady, bewildered dad and midwife quickly turned into 3 midwives, two doctors, a head nurse and a consultant, a lot of rushing about and shouting and no one telling you what the heck is going on. It’s terrifying, it’s awful and if it happens, it’s best to just get out of the way and do what you’re told.

Top tip: prepare to get your hand crushed, to be headbutted, to be kneed in the side of the head…the birthing process is a traumatic ordeal for everyone! Once things do start to kick off, there isn’t much you can do except be as supportive as possible, keep out of everyone’s way and try not to let on how scared you are! You’re probably going to see some stuff you’d really wish you hadn’t during the birth but no matter how much blood there is or how grossed out you are, keep it together for your partner. Don’t lose it now!

If things go wrong during the birth…
If things start to go wrong during the birth, your role as dad-to-be is to get out of everyone’s’ way, to keep as calm as you possibly can be and to keep reassuring your partner that everything will be alright, even if you have no clue what is going on (which you probably won’t – if things go wrong everyone goes into action mode, the room quickly fills with other people and you’re pushed to the side and basically ignored).

Once Ethan had finally arrived safe and sound just before 1am on Sunday 5th May and he’d been weighed, measured, put in a nappy and wrapped in a blanket, we were left alone with our beautiful new arrival. We fawned over him, made calls to our parents and nearest and dearest to tell them the news and even managed to post a Facebook status update to let everyone else know. Phew! 

Around 4am I was told to go home as Kelly and Ethan were being moved to the ward with the other new moms. My parents dropped me home and I don’t remember much else until I woke up the next day in bed but still fully clothed. I wasn’t allowed back to the hospital until Kelly was ready to be discharged around 3pm, but I’d kept in touch via text and phone as much as I could. She hadn’t had any sleep (a noisy blood pressure monitor that beeped loudly when it ran out of battery, having to roam the halls trying to find some water and having all the curtains drawn back at 7am makes it difficult to sleep, I guess), and she’d only managed to eat a bit of toast, but she was as radiant and beautiful as ever, all things considered!

Top tip: Once the baby arrives, you’re liable to crash, big time. The adrenaline that was holding you together and keeping you awake suddenly dissipates and your body starts calling in all those favours you’d been asking of it over the last few hours. But you’re not done yet! There are phonecalls to make, Facebook statuses to post and the small matter of a tiny new addition to the world to look after! At some point you’ll be told you’re surplus to requirements and that you can go home (some hospitals might allow you to stay overnight, but ours didn’t). Take the opportunity to catch up on your sleep – you’re gonna need it! If you get home in the middle of the night, set an alarm for a decent hour so that you can be up, awake and available should you be needed. Don’t be surprised if you’re not allowed back to the hospital until later in the day – the staff on the maternity wards can be pretty militant about these things.

In the weeks that followed, I took it as my role to make sure Kelly was looked after as much as possible. Cooking dinner (you know how serious I was if I started cooking), making copious amounts of tea, feeding Ethan, changing him, getting him to sleep and basically just doing as much as I possibly could to take some of the pressure off of Kelly. 

When we first got home with Ethan, we were both left with a feeling of ‘well…now what?’ until we picked up a routine. You fawn over the baby but you don’t get much back in return – they can’t smile, they can barely see and the most interaction you’ll get is a contented burp or fart. 

Newborns also cry quite a lot – in the animal kingdom this was to make them seem small and helpless so the parents wouldn’t abandon/eat them and it’s meant to tug on your heart strings but, I’m ashamed to admit it, Ethan’s cry was like nails on a blackboard for me. You might read a lot about how, when you have a newborn, it’s like love at first sight. But it's different for everyone. Like any relationship, it takes time to develop and, at first, it can be hard to bond. 

However, Kelly and I supported each other and we talked through everything and things returned to normal soon enough. I love Ethan more than life itself, would do anything for him and love spending time with him. 

Top tip: Don’t be shy about chipping in. This is a great time to get to know your new baby, but don’t expect much back in return. Help out with feeding if you can, changing nappies, bathing, everything you can to help your partner – they’ve just been through a physically and emotionally traumatic experience and will need time to recover.

If you’re not bonding with your baby or don’t have that ‘love at first sight’ feeling– don’t panic – it’s completely normal and happens much more than you might think. Talk to your partner, communicate and support each other through this. There's support out there too if you need it. 

Since his early days, my bond with and love for Ethan has only grown. I am amazed at how he progresses on an almost daily basis, how much he learns, how much he can make me laugh (who knew an almost-two-year-old could be so funny?!?) and how we’ve come together as a little family. 

Things fell into place and matched and then exceeded my expectations of what being a dad was going to be like. Ethan is such a lovely little man, so friendly and confident; everyone who meets him adores him and I am so grateful that I get to be his daddy.

Final tips:

* Take lots of pictures but also videos – your child will say and do things that photos just can’t capture and they change that rapidly that it is easy to forget their little quirks and idiosyncrasies

* Enjoy the time you have with your child. They change so quickly that it’ll feel like no time at all before they don’t want to play with you anymore. Make the most of this time

* Cuddle your child every chance you get. It’ll make you both feel wonderful 

* Take pride in the little things – whether it be your child signing along to Mr. Tumble, or the way they suddenly start giggling when they trump, be proud of your wonderful little creation 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Why don't we put ourselves first?

This is a question I have come to ask myself recently, when I've taken a step back and really looked at the way I think and do things.

When you first start on your journey to become mum, you know that your priorities will need to change and that the needs of another will soon trump your own, every single time.

When that line turns blue and you know that a baby is indeed on its way, you feel different because you know you have this responsibility to nurture and protect.

Suddenly, everything you do has a direct impact on your baby.

What you eat. What you drink. How active or inactive you are. How much sleep you have. Even what you wear ends up being determined by how much stretch it has and if bump feels comfortable.

And of course, you don't complain. Much. You knew you would need to adjust and you're compelled to do all that you can for your baby-to-be.

For me, as soon as I knew that I had a little bean (our nickname for Ethan before we knew who he was) I immediately thought about what I was doing and how that might impact on him. I read up on the nutrients I should be getting from my food, I never missed a breakfast and I always had a snack pack for when I could feel my energy levels dip.

I have never taken care of myself as much as I did when I was pregnant.

Soon after Ethan was born, all my good habits all but dissipated.

No more regular breakfasts. Much more lax about my eating habits. Nothing too bad really but I certainly wasn't a goody two shoes any more.

But why?

Well, yes I had given birth and bean was now Ethan, but why did I take that as a signal to stop caring for myself, my body, so much? I guess that my priorities, rightfully, changed as I adapted to becoming mum and putting Ethan first.

But I'm still doing it. Not necessarily with Ethan all the time, but in general. I am rarely the first in line. And it is my own doing.

I don't make the time to prepare or sit down to eat breakfast. It's never inspired me but I know it's important and I know it can't be good to go without until 1pm, or to rely on a sneaky snack in between if I get desperate.

I don't make the time to take care of myself like I used to when I had bump. Be it having a bath or having a good skincare routine, I was far more religious about these things when bean was in my belly.

Really, it's all too easy for me to let other priorities take over. Ethan. The house. Work. Family. And of course, some of these things should of course come first, be at the front of the line.

But, what if you're always at the back?

Yeah, yeah. I'll do something about it. I will. In a bit. Next time.

There's always a next time, though, so really my point is that we should all try and make a little more room for ourselves. Remember who we were and who we are today. Think about what we need and want.

And try to make the time to move ourselves to the front of the line.

Just sometimes.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Spring cleaning

In case you hadn't noticed, it's spring and it always means one thing to me. Cleaning.

Exciting, huh?!

No, really, this is the only time of year I will tend to get excited at the prospect of clearing clutter and cleaning things until they sparkle, or at least resemble their original colour or state.

Every Easter, we tackle a big project of some kind, be it a big garden clear-out or a complete makeover of a room. Three years ago, it was the lounge, two years ago it was the boiler and last year was all about outside. 

This year, we're looking at updating our bedroom with new wallpaper, bedding, a rug and a few accessories to make it feel more inviting (post coming soon) and we'll also be clearing the patio completely to turn it into a play are for Ethan. He's getting a play house and slide for his birthday from us, plus some foam outdoor mats, so together with his turtle sandpit and swing he was given last year, he's going to have a brilliant time in our garden this year.

I've got a Bosch pressure washer which is going to sort out our grubby wooden awning once and for all and then we'll use it to blast away all the weather and grime on the tiles. I've always wanted to give them a thorough clean and this pressure washer has all the bits and bobs to make a big difference, so I can't wait to get it out.

This past weekend, we began our spring clean of 2015 and made a really big difference. We sorted and parted ways with a few of Ethan's older toys which he has now grown out of, we cleared all our nooks and crannies of random rubbish and we scrubbed the kitchen from top to bottom. All nearly empty bottles and out of date packets of food were removed (I'm ashamed to say there was quite a bit of wastage lurking at the back of the cupboards) and all our cupboard doors were cleaned so they actually showed up white for the first time in a long time. 

The biggest difference, however, was in our floors.

I have to admit, we are a bit lax in this area, relying on our old hoover for the most part and having gone through several mops over the years, none of which have lasted very long.

But now, we have a solution that I think we can really stick to.

We have slate tiles in the kitchen, terracotta style small tiles in the dining room (an unknown feature we discovered under old carpet a few years ago, which could do with a really good scrub) and laminate flooring in the hall and also in Ethan's nursery.

All these floors get a lot of traffic during the day, with muddy dog and cat paws adding to our own footprints and of course Ethan's now on the move so making his own mess wherever he goes.

We really want to be sure to give the floors a good, thorough clean on a regular basis so little man can roam a bit free-er around the house without us worrying about him getting grubby or picking anything nasty up.

So, what has swept us away and made our spring clean super easy?

This wonder mop, or the Vac and Steam from Bissell as it's properly known, has.

As it suggests, it can both vac and steam at the same time, or one at a time if you prefer, and it's perfect for hard flooring of all kinds, with two steam settings, which is why it was the right tool for the job.

I happily spent around 30 minutes on Saturday afternoon vacuuming and steam cleaning all our hard floors and was very happy doing so. Sad, maybe, but I really enjoyed using this mop.

Someone on Instagram saw a photo I posted during our mammoth clean up and asked if I would recommend it as they were looking for something just like this and yes, I really would.


Well, the Vac and Steam is quite lightweight but still has some oomph to it, it was easy to put together and fill the water tank, the functions are easy to select and it's was really easy to manoeuvre, push and stand upright too. But most importantly, it cleans the floors. A given really, considering it's function but it made light work of our filthy floors with minimum effort.

Dog bowl area? Not a problem. Spills and stains in the kitchen? Sorted.

The difference was so quick and so obvious, I felt like dancing across my newly steam cleaned floor. I stopped myself, but I did demand that hubs and my brother-in-law, who had popped over to say hello, come and admire the end result.

I'm definitely going to add floor cleaning to my (very small) list of chores I want to do now. Mops are usually such a pain and just seem to move dirt around and leave a lot of excess water, but the Vac and Steam is completely different.

We looked at the Bissell website to find out what they had to offer and found the Vac and Steam in a special deal (no idea how long it's on for) where you can pick up the mop for £129.99 (usual RRP is £149.99) and also get their SteamShot (a small, handheld steam device with multiple attachments that can take care of dirty grouting, taps and windows as well as steaming clothes and curtains) for free. Yep, free.

We've also got some orange carpet cleaner to try and freshen up our lounge, stair and bedroom carpets, but that's a task for another day.

After beaming at my clean floors, I headed upstairs to pack away some clothes, bedding and give Ethan's playroom and nursery a good tidy up. As he was out for the day with his Nanny and Grandad, we were able to get a few things sorted, much more so than normal, although the mop has yet to be put away...

I may have just come over all Monica from Friends on you here but if you have a household that refuses to stay tidy, let alone clean, then you'll understand my joy.

So spring has definitely sprung in our house and I am loving how tidy and clean everything is looking, for the time being at least. I can't wait to give our bedroom a quick facelift and when my holiday rolls around later next week, I'm going to crack on with a few more bits and bobs too which I'm sure I'll also share with you soon.

Have you started blowing away the cobwebs? What spring cleaning tasks are you looking forward to doing?

Monday, 23 March 2015

The week that was #8

This week has been a week of two halves; work, lots and lots of work, and quality time with my little family.

DOING It's been pretty busy, I've spent some more time in the car travelling and I've been getting up extra early, even on my days 'off' (when do mum's ever have a day off, really?), just to get things done. It's left me feeling a tad frazzled and a bit under the weather but I've got just 10 days until I'm having a well earned break and it's definitely in my sights.

We did have some Ethan free time at the weekend which helped us to finally get some spring cleaning done. I'll be writing about this more later in the week but we managed to tackle quite a few things and make a noticible difference. Honestly, I never thought I'd get so excited about steam cleaning my floors!

It was hard work but so worth it and we even had some time to spare, so I got to have a bath. Bliss!

We really missed little man and couldn't wait to have him home again in the end. 

TRYING I've been really good with my creams for my psoriasis and you can see a difference, particularly when I stop using them for a day or two. I'm getting a lot better at making time for it and hopefully soon I'll find out about my light therapy.

I've also been having a few more tests to see just why my blood pressure seems so high. My GP referee me to a consultant at the hospital and they want me to wear a 24 hour monitor to see if that gives them any more to go on. In the meantime, I'm doing a lot of reading and making a few changes to my diet to help lower my cholesterol and do what I can to help my health in general. The next step is to work out how I'm going to move more...

GOING This week, on Mummy and Ethan Wednesday, we went to the new attraction at West Midlands Safari Park, the Land of the Living Dinosaurs, and had a really lovely day together (check out my post last Thursday for all the details).

At the weekend, Ethan went to the Sea Life Centre on Saturday with his Nanny and Grandad (and we'll be going again next weekend to preview a new attraction - well, Ethan does love his animals, as do we!) and on Sunday morning, we headed to one of our local parks. 

We are really fortunate to have some truly beautiful places to go within a 10 minute drive time of our house and Ethan loved going on the swings and slide and visiting the geese. 

In fact, it was almost exactly one year since we first took him there and he had his first go on a swing. 

Changed a bit, hasn't he?! 

EATING I've been cooking quite a lot this week, trying a few new things and getting an almost daily dose of avocado. God, I love that stuff! I've been adding it to tuna or houmous on Ryvita or crispbread at lunch and at the weekend, I couldn't resist whipping up a couple of bowls of homemade guacamole.

Anything goes with it, just mash one avocado, chop up some tomatoes, slice three spring onions, add the juice of half a lime then add a dash of hot sauce and a twist of black pepper. Serve with tortilla chips or on the side to some chilli. Either does it for me!

I've also taken our big spring clean as a chance to use up items that have long been stuck at the back of the cupboards. You know, those nearly empty bottles of sauce and long forgotten packets of who knows what? 

Well, I cleared out all the used or (*hangs head in shame*) out of date herbs and whatnot, wrote a list of what was left then planned my meal shop for the week around what we already had. It felt so good to do this, after being in the habit of just shopping for new and fresh food each week, and I was amazed at how many meals I had the main components for already.

I've got an Easter eats themed post coming later this week do you can see some of the things I've been trying.

I've also picked up Deliciously Ella's book. If you haven't heard of her, she's a fab, inspiring health and food blogger and her book is full of interesting information and recipe ideas using foods we should try eating more of. It sits nicely alongside my other recent read, I Quit Sugar for Life, and it's helping me think about and change my habits.

WEARING My new rose print tshirt dress and plimsoles from Cath Kidston are pretty lovely and the denim dress will be mine soon (my excuse is I have a discount code to use). That'll be it... until the new prints roll round!

PLANNING Hubs and I always tackle things around the home at this time of year and we will soon be giving our bedroom a mini makeover and tidying our garden and patio. I've got lots of ideas and will be sharing our plans soon, I promise.

Friday, 20 March 2015

A roarsome day out

I love going on day trips out and it's one of my fondest memories as a child. We were always going on coach trips or visiting museums and I very much want to introduce Ethan to as many experiences as possible.

On our last Mummy and Ethan Wednesday, we were invited to go along to a brand new attraction opening at West Midlands Safari Park, one of our favourite places in the Midlands to go to as a family on a day out. The only information we were given in advance was it would be something pretty special and very different to anything else the park had done before.

We were certainly intrigued and had one or two ideas from the invite we were sent but nothing really prepared us for just how special this new attraction was.

When we arrived, we headed for the Discovery Trail, first saying hello to the penguins which we both love, before heading off to explore the Lorikeet Landing, which is a heated indoor home to a flock of 52 lorikeets. Ethan was in awe of these beautiful birds and when two landed on my head, he kept pointing at me saying 'Mama, hat!' which made me laugh no end.

We then wandered down to see the hippos and meercats before arriving exactly as the new exhibit was opening for its previews.

But what was it?

Well, we had a little clue as we walked closer and saw something unusual in between the trees...

Dinosaurs! But not just any dinosaurs, as we were soon to discover.

No, the new attraction, Land of the Living Dinosaurs, features 38 life size dinosaurs that all have moving mouths, necks, eyes and, in some cases, tails.

You may know that we have a little dinosaur fan in our house. Well, it's more a case that hubs and I have loved dinosaurs since a young age, but Ethan too seems to like them, although he calls them 'roars'.

At least, I hope he likes them, seeing as he has a dinosaur themed playroom...


I've seen a few dinosaur attractions before but nothing that's come close to this new feature. Honestly, I thought it was fantastic. Roarsome, you might say (sorry!).

First of all, there are lots of dinosaurs to see. Lots. Not just a handful, well spread out, but lots of different types to see and all done to scale, based on the knowledge archaeologists have, and organised through the four ages that they walked the earth - Permian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, for the geeks out there.

Second, there's atmospheric sound effects and music throughout the Jurassic safari which really add to the feel of it all, and the 'caution' signs dotted around really made me smile as they were a funny take on the 'don't feed the animals' type notices you see in 'real' animal enclosures.

Thirdly, this attraction is pretty large so you can really take your time walking around, reading the informative signs and spotting fossils as you go.

When we were there, two school groups were also walking around and it was really good to see the children really so into the feel of the place - they were even hesitant walking underneath the swooshing tails of the large dinosaurs!

Ethan wasn't scared at all, which I did wonder if he would be when I saw how authentic the park was trying to make the attraction feel. Instead, he pointed enthusiastically and kept saying 'rooooaaarrr!' all the way around.

Another great addition was the chance for visitors to interact with 'real' dinosaurs, in the form of a baby velocirapter called George being cared for by a park ranger and another dinosaur that walks about and says hello (forgive me, I forget his name).

Towards the end of the trail, we found an archaeological dig site which looked a lot of fun and we had to make a trip into the Dinosaur Trading Co. to pick a souvenir, which was quite hard to do as there was so much to choose from.

Ethan did manage to pick two friends in the end to bring home with him - luckily, they don't bite.

There was one more dinosaur left to meet before we left, and he was pretty hard to miss...

Ever the hero, Ethan waved goodbye to the big roar as we left.

It was a real shame that hubs couldn't join us on the day we went but we're planning on going back soon. As the Land of the Living Dinosaurs is included within the entry ticket price for the whole safari park (£19.99 adults, £14.99 children 3-15 years, £17.99 concessions, under 3's free), with a free return ticket included also, it makes this an even better value day out for the family.

The investment they made into this attraction (around £2.5m) really shows and whilst the real animals you can visit and tour around on safari are always going to be the stars of the show, the dinosaurs are certainly not to be missed.

* Thank you to West Midlands Safari Park for inviting us to the preview - we both thought it was T-rexcellent!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The perfect lie-in

Ah, lie-ins. A long and distant memory, as I'm sure they are for many mums and dads.

Even though Ethan sleeps through most nights now without disturbance (touch wood), I still miss out on the chance to lie-in. Getting up at 6am every working day means I naturally wake up earlier when I don't have an office to go into and as soon as I wake up, my mind switches onto autopilot and I start running through all the things I need to remember, arrange, do...

But bed is still one of my favourite places to be and if I can keep myself nice and snug in bed, without work or household chores calling me up and out, then I will.

Just bring me a mug of tea.

And some toast. Soft and fluffy bread. Lots of butter and a smidge of Marmite. Perfect,

I'd prop myself up on some pillows, turn on my iPad and catch up with what's going on over on Facebook and Instagram, catch up on some of my favourite blogs and just generally ease into my day.


It could only be made better by the addition of these two.

Hubs on his handheld games console thing (don't ask me what it's called, he has so many of them) and Ethan taking over my iPad to watch Pumble (Mr Tumble) or Choo Choo (Thomas the Tank Engine).

This is my idea of the perfect lie in and Roberts Bakery has shared their ideas for treating yourself or someone special to breakfast in bed (along with a rather tasty loaf of their Soft & Fluffy bread, which lasted about two minutes in our house).

Why wait for a special occassion or Mother's Day to come around again before enjoying a bit longer in the morning in bed?

You know, the washing up can wait...