Going on Holiday: Top tips on what & how to pack

Truth is there are lots of different things you can pack for your holidays and it all depends on where you’re going. In our case we are on a long old road trip from London, up and through Scotland and back down again with a 3 & a 5 year old. We’re at the end of August which isn’t summer up here, it’s more the start of Autumn. So in our instance we packed:

  • Smidge spray
  • (should have bought…) Skin so soft, again for midges
  • 2 pairs of wellies for the kids: so when they drown their feet in icy water you have time to dry one pair off whilst they wear the other
  • Wellie socks, for warmth
  • Waterproof boots for the adults, personally, cold feet are something I hate. So I new just a pair of trainers wouldn’t cut it for this holiday. I originally went for cheap walking boots, hated them and returned them. Thought about wellies as tall wet grass also gets you wet on walks, but wanted something a bit more comfortable and stylish, so ended up with these: Toggi Canyon Riding Boot. They are warm and so far have been waterproof even when submerged up to half my calf!
  • Rain coats! It rains here most of the days, but it’s still not too cold, so with rain coats, you can just embrace it – and this is coming from someone who hates the cold!
  • Waterproof trousers/dungarees, truth is that when my son chose to sit down and flail around in a stream, nothing was really going to keep him dry, but for most other times this is great
  • 2 sets of spare thick jumpers, for keeping warm under the Macs!
  • Overnight emergency: last year we packed a bed in a bag as well. At the age of 2, we weren’t always sure what places would provide for us for a 3 year old and sometimes it wasn’t great, so we packed the bed in the bag for emergencies. Coz a bad night’s sleep is rubbish!

For the car it’s also important to pack:

  • A rubbish bag! Very important. Travelling at 70 mph for 4 hours… where will that stinky banana skin go? Just do it!
  • Kid’s entertainment, whatever that may be (although see yesterday’s post re trying to reduce screen time on long journeys)
  • Wet wipes AND normal tissue, I hate to say it, but let’s help the environment when we can and use normal tissue which biodegrades for whatever we can. Normal wet/baby wipes don’t really disintegrate due to the plastic in them, so that emergency poop little Johnny needed will end up leaving a permanent poop wipe on display for a long time to come. But I also understand there are times when you need a wet wipe to hand.
  • Pack snacks for the journey. After all that eco chat, unfortunately most snacks don’t really come in eco friendly wrappers but you can mix it up if you like. We do Nairns cheese crackers, Nak’d bars, juice boxes etc but also apples, bananas, Cherrios…
  • Pack containers! For example: haven’t finished your toast but need to leave? Chuck it in a container for the car, saves the car getting messy. Same with portions of cherrios. Same applies for drinks. I love these for in the car consumption! And these for water bottles.

On how to pack: I’m a bit of an over thinker probably when it comes to packing BUT what I find is a little prep goes a long way:

  • A night bag packed somewhere easy to access: prep a night bag, whether you arrive late or not, you take out 1 bag and everyone is sorted for bedtime. We’ve done this 2 years in a row and it’s such a hassle saver, instead of rifling through everyone’s bags when you’re tired! Toothbrushes, night light (you’ll be in unfamiliar places, sometimes in the pitch dark – the night light is a big help esp. for the littluns if they want to go for a pee in the middle of the night), waterproof bedsheets & nappies if needed, pyjamas.
  • Big shopping bags. We have ended up using big recyclable shopping bags for everyone. Just pack! Easier than zipping and sorting each time.
  • A bag each: unsurprisingly we packed a bag per person.
  • The wet and dirty boots bag: Wellies & crocs etc all in one place
  • Electronics bag: all cables, wires, phone and tooth brush chargers as well as cameras, laptops etc. Just makes it so much easier to find it all.
  • Random-stuff-you’d-wish-you’d-taken-but-forgot bag: map, picnic rug, umbrella etc
  • Aaaand the laundry bag: coz stuff just gets dirty


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Going on Holiday: What to take on a long car journey – limited tech

I’m not a hippy, but I have to admit kid’s exposure to tech & screens these days drives me a little crazy. This coming from someone who sits in-front of the computer for most of the day. Ha! And yes of course, I totally put the TV on for them too. I’m no superwoman. But what I try to do is give them a bunch of other stuff they can do, before I default to a screen.

So here are few things that have made our trip up to Scotland a little more bearable. Imagine if you will, we started in London, then 5 hours to Hebden Bridge, 3 to Orton (near Windermere), 5 up to Dalavich (near Oban) and then 5 again yesterday to get to Muir de Ord (near Loch Ness/Inverness). Aj is a bundle of energy & craziness at the age of 3 and Lolo is the fuel to his fire. The pair are inseparable, fight like cats and dogs and are an incredibly physical crew. So here’s our plan of attack for a long journey:

  1. Let them get bored initially: We often start the journey with nothing. I think a little boredom is good for the kids. They naturally start to find other things to do, they end up playing with each other and yesterday I found AJ playing eye-spy with his disposable camera and his foot.
  2. Have a bag full of books for the car they can access at anytime: our bag is full of lift the flap books, normal reading books, a couple of early reading books aimed at Lolo, Crayola Wonder Colour Mess free colouring books (perfect for the car & at home), writing books, learning books and yes, even books where they press the buttons and the book responds with singing or talking (I told you I wasn’t totally averse to tech all the time). The free play is also great for encouraging them to find something that might suit their mood at that time.
  3. Read along CDs & books: He’ll want whatever she has so we’ve got 2 copies of everything.  He practices his page turning and quite likes the stories. Lolo loves trying to keep up with the stories. There are other people who make these read-along books but so far I still prefer the Disney’s due to the production values and the fact that you get the joy of hearing the same characters you know and love from the films. I think it encourages the kids as it’s something they recognise. Also I totally grew up on these myself so I have an emotional preference for these!
  4. CDs with Stories & Rhymes: we bought a bunch: Winnie the Pooh (they loved, Stephen Fry as Pooh? Genius!), Peter Rabbit (sadly didn’t work 😦 ), Stories for 6 year olds (meh, need to try listening to them again), The Julia Donaldson Treasury of Songs (Kid’s seem to love it), Disney’s Ultimate collection (always a winner), we also have some of the more traditional  nursery rhymes in English and also a selection in French (turns out if there’s a rhythm to it, they tend to like it and sing-along!).
  5. Snacks for the car: Yep! Food. Not because I’m interested in plumping my kids up, more because it’s a great way to pass the time. Mine at least can take a little time to eat their food. For the car we often have everything from fruit, to cheese, Nairns cheese crackers which they love, little mini cereal boxes (no milk), we often take a big box of Cheerios too which we share and other items that create a little less mess. (juice boxes, pom bears, Nak’d snack bars, yoghurt pouches). We will often leave around a meal time, this helps take up about an hour of the journey straight off the bat.
  6. Naturally there are other games we play with them: eye-spy, what did you see today, what did you like today. We fill in a little diary/scrap book each day full of the things  we did, leaflets, stickers etc. Which you can do in the car or wherever you’re staying.

Annnnnnnd 1 tablet with a selection of pre-downloaded films and cartoons. Uhem. It’s a treat for them, so we whip it out if we’re trying to get them to stay awake.

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5 years old! Our first wobbly tooth

It is with great pride, but also a certain level of shock that I announce, that Lolo has here first wobbly tooth! Lower front. I didn’t think this kinda stuff happened til at least 8 or 9! My baby’s growing up so fast!

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Whipping it out

AJ has potty trained since Christmas. I.e. for 2 months, he’s 2 and a half years old. To my knowledge he’s always practiced peeing sitting down. Last week we were out and about in a playground and he needed to go. So off went the trousers. But I then wasn’t quite sure what to do with him so I made him squat as I used to do w his sister. Oddly he went stiff as a board (probably because it was Baltic outside). Not very easy to hold as you can imagine. After 3 attempts of me trying to get him into the right position, him wriggling, him slipping down my arms, me loosing my grip whilst almost pissing myself w laughter…. he finally got into position and peed without getting his trainers.

Well today. For the first time I’d ever seen…, he peed standing up. The part that didn’t help was when he stopped in the middle of a wooded area in front of random people, whipped his pants down, put his hips forward and peed right there in the middle of the floor! I’m surprised and impressed at the same time, whilst being confused and a bit upset by his laddish behaviour.

All the while… giggling that it’s a bit cute!

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Holy golden rabbit pooh! naps & reading

It’s been an amazing few months.

Lolo started school in September. My friend had told me that once they start school they learn to read. I mean obviously, but she assured me that it happened almost as soon as they started school. I wasn’t convinced. How can you go from not reading at all, not even knowing the phonic sounds (we taught he normal A, b, c, d… who knew it was wrong! Argh!) to suddenly reading? Well she has. The lovely Lolo, now 4 and a half years old has started reading! Our initial phases included her learning the sounds and rhymes that go with them. Over Christmas we spent an eternity (about an 1 hour) going over her key word cards. Short words she would sound out and then blend together to get the word. It made sense to us that repetition would mean she’d get used to the sounds, grow more confident practicing them and ultimately start recognising different words. We started this all initially in September but she wasn’t ready yet. She hates it when she finds something difficult and then really resists trying. It was SUCH a struggle that it became counter productive. It would seem the 1st 3 months with her teachers have given her just enough knowledge to now make it a little easier for us to start practicing together. She’s read a book each of the last 2 evenings. Short books with sentences like, ‘Zac, sit Zac’. But she’s smashing it out of the park! Clever girl.

The other amazing thing involves Ell & I getting our evenings back. Its actually revolutionary. AJ has been falling asleep later and later. His average go to bed time recently has been 9.45pm and that’s not just because of Christmas. True story. It’s been a killer because of course you have no free time to yourself or with your partner, at all. Literally since the summer, when the sun was still up at 10.30pm, he’s just been going to bed late. We tried to encourage him to sleep in but that never really worked. However instead, since about September he’s been getting up once/twice a night, every night with – I hate to say it (mainly as I’m not sure I believe in them), night terrors. So he wakes up early, has a 2 hour nap during the day from about 1-3pm and then barges through the day until 9.45pm! Its been exhausting. So the decision was made that we’d start the slightly painful process of dropping his daytime nap. Since the beginning of the year AJ has been encouraged not to go for a nap and it’s working wonders. He’s still up to his night time shenanigans however at least we have an evening to ourselves from around 8/8.30pm. Not a huge shift, but enough to not feel like we work, come home, look after the kids and all go to bed. It’s a relief to be honest. Almost a physical weight off my shoulders, despite not realising there was one there before. It feels like a mile stone has been reached. I can highly recommend it. Its why I’m writing the blog this evening. In fact its 9.30. I think we’ll watch a film now.

And there you have it. Lolo starting to read at 4.5 and AJ dropping his lunchtime nap at 2.5. 2 fantastic developments happening at the same time. As rare as holy golden rabbit pooh.

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Mild success

AJ recognised the painting as daddy.

It’s not finished but at least it seems to be moving in the right direction. Apparently he looks a bit evil and ill… and like Freddy Mercury. Ahahahahaha

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What Mum did next

So imagine this. The day before I made bold moves to do some of the things I loved. I ate some great food, looked up some art, saw my daughter in her first ever play, downloaded some music, went out for a boogy and drank gin. The day after however was a little less… motivated. The big blessing was that the kids were w the grandparents as hubby had to work late AND had an early start. So I got to sleep-in til 10!!!!! TEN!!!!!! Wow. It felt like 2 in the afternoon when I woke up. Ha! Silence in the house. Cheeky snooze. A bit of a fuzzy head, but you’d expect that, but no pounding headache.

I had planned for big things. Instead I fell into my more traditional ways. Cleaning up, taking dry washing down/ wet washing up. ‘I’ll just…’ tidy the house/sort some church bits out/email and text every living being in my contacts, oh – and update my blog. Anyway, 3pm arrived. I knew what I really wanted to do. I wanted to paint. Like, oil paint. Like, a portrait of hubby I’d started about 12 years ago! It was time to actually do something w it. I’d been putting it off for well, 12 years. Ha! After the awesome portrait exhibition the day before, it all felt a bit do or die! It’s difficult to paint a portrait of the man you love. If you do a bad job then they look rubbish and it’s all a horrible mess. If you do a good job then all is well. I’d managed to get the face to a goodish place but it still wasn’t quite there. My general style is quite big and bold, but portraits are a bit different, I was trying to be subtle (never a strength). I kept reminding myself to paint what was there, not what I thought should be there.

Anyhoo. A couple of hours in and I was being brutal. Colours I’d never normally use and really highlighting shapes and shadows.

It still has a way to go but it was a good start and most importantly I enjoyed it. The best moment was when my daughter looked at it and asked, ‘who’s that?’ Would have preferred some sought of recognition, I’ve gotta be honest, but at least she asked who and not what. Let us reconvene in another 12 years when the kids are a bit older and I can build up the guts to try again.

Btw I write this whilst sat in my broken down car in the middle of the A12. Come on @theaa, where are you? Wish me luck!

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What Mum did on her day off, part 2

So. The story of yesterday continues. Once momma bear finished up her amazing High Society Eggs Benedict breakfast @Balans (thank you always for your hospitality and good food) the decision was made to go the the Royal Academy of Arts. On the way did a little Christmas shopping, got a cold person a coffee (guilt from my extravagant breakfast I’m sure) and made my way to the From Life exhibition, which was short but sweet.

Phones off.

Ear phones out.

Total consumption.

@Iggypop life drawing was pretty epic.

Think I’ve found a new artist I really like, @JennySaville. Raw. Beautiful. Wonderfully talented:

This guy was called @JonathonYeo. The realism captured on the facial details is beyond amazing:

And finally @LianeLang. It’s been a long while since I’ve been surprised by art. When the penny dropped I was excited and very happy. I had to talk to someone!

then the res of my day was filled w a nativity play, clothes washing (I had to fit some domestic-like chores in) and going out in Bethnal Green for my Christmas do! My day finished at 2am. Not a bad effort I’d say.

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What Mum did on her day off

I’ll set the scene. I’m married. I’ve got kids. 4 and a 2 year old. I work 5 days a week. Most of my money goes on childcare, which is the equivalent of 2 mortgages. I help run a church committee and subsequent events. When I have a holiday, it’s w the whole family in tow. The last day I had off I ran around like a headless chicken trying to squeeze as much as I could into the day. That of course included, but was not limited to: going through all of the kid’s clothes,/toys/books- pile to donate, pile for friends and another pile to… ‘file’; cleaned the house top to bottom, wrapped more presents and sorted more cards, managed a 20min work out, cooked dinner, threaded my brows.

Sound familiar? None of this is done at a normal pace of course. I’m like a race hound racing to the deadline. A day off is not relaxing. As you might know, as a parent you have no time for yourself, and even if you get a day off, you end up doing things for the family.

But today: I’ve no event to plan, all presents are wrapped, Christmas cards sent, house reasonably clean, kids delivered to the childminder. WHAT TO DO WITH MY DAY OFF???!!!!! I’m not used to it and I don’t know what to fill it with!!! Ahahahahaha. I still have a nativity play to go to at 2pm (obvs, every day off comes w a catch) but at 8.40am, I got myself on the DLR and set off into town.

The playlist that started off my morning:

  1. All I want for Christmas (old Mariah… it is almost Christmas after all)
  2. If I’m lucky (Jason Derulo)
  3. How deep is your love (Calvin Harris)
  4. Harder than you think (Public Enema – get the reference?!) – thanks Will Woodhams
  5. Gloria (Patti Smith)
  6. Paradise (MNEK)
  7. Tight pants (Iggy and the stooges)

  1. BTSTU (Jai Paul- if you don’t know, now you know)
  2. Unforgettable (French Montana)
  3. Bad boys for life (Black Rob, Mark Curry & P Diddy/Diddy Puff/Diddy Pop-Pop)
  4. Baltimore (Nina Simone

10am. Breakfast: Balan’s: old Crompton Street involves a hot cup of mocha, fresh OJ, eggs Benedict (these people do it w LOBSTER!!! Avocado and bacon. Almost fell off my chair. Amazing) and breakfast potatoes.

Now I’m going surgically remove my phone(s) from my hands and move onto the next thing. After all. Only 1 hour 30mins til I have to travel back for the play! Ahahahahaha

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4 years old: 1st dry night of her life – Potty training at night, a different way

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog. Mainly because as Lolo gets older, the mile stones are less pronounced. We’ve mastered the walking, the running, the eating on her own, drinking from an open-topped cup, stringing sentences together… and of course potty training.

I’d originally thought that I would potty train during the day and as soon as she’d got that, I’d move on to potty training at night. Thing is, she was potty trained during the day at about 1 and a half. This was out of personal preference mainly as her little brother was fast on the approach and I really didn’t want 2 in nappies. So she got with the potty training nice and early so she’d have that as the norm for a while before the arrival of her brother caused disruption and any knock on regression. It took her a while to get a hold on it, about a month and then as anyone potty training will tell you, they go through good patches and less good patches, then they discover attention absorption (i.e. Mummy – sorry I was too busy playing with my friend and forgot I needed a wee, FOMO for us adults :). Anyway, the short and curlies of it are that I tried to get her into night-time training, but it wasn’t working. 9 months pregnant and knowing we were about to have more than enough challenges on our hands, we decided leave it alone for a bit. I couldn’t face being in the depths of training and then having her regress due to her new brother’s arrival, washing bed sheets every night and then having her come tearing down the hall screaming because she was upset she’d wet herself, waking the whole house up. Nope. I left it alone. She’d also had a few nights where she’d woken up and her nappy had been dry. I was hopeful she would just grow out of it. She didn’t. But it’s so much easier to do nothing!!! Surely she’d grow out of it eventually – wouldn’t she?

Anyway, we find ourselves on the cusp of a big mile stone in her life again. A big disruption is on the horizon. She’s about to start school in 6 weeks. It is time to try again.

My motivation? She’s pretty strong of character, but kids are unkind and I really don’t want her to be on the back foot at school. I don’t want her to get bullied for wetting the bed at night, or still being a ‘baby’ in nappies. If I can imagine it – I’m sure kids can exploit it.

So what have we done?

  • I have set our expectations at a month, a month of wet beds and sleep disruption. Of her coming down the hall and crying she’d wet the bed. If I aim for a month, it means I’m committed and I accept it may take a while.
  • I have stopped her drinking fluids before bed. They’re going to bed around 9pm at the moment due to the late nights of the summer so she’s allowed to drink what she wants up until about 7/7.30pm. Then literally 2 or 3 small sips if she gets thirsty to help her not need a big wee during the night.
  • Big wee before bed, last thing before bed
  • Prepping the bed. We’ve put a bed mat down, so I don’t have to disassemble the mattress and wash it each time there’s an accident. I’ve also added a towel under her, doubled over, again so I don’t need t change the sheets every day (yup – I’m lazy)
  • No more pull ups for bed. Gone.
  • Making it OK for her. She’s in training. We expect her to wet herself at night as she’s done it for the last 4 years, she needs to know it’s ok to have accidents whilst we’re ‘training’.

The results? We started on Monday. Tuesday morning, 6am we have Lolo going to the toilet, but then coming in to our bedroom, very sad, holding her wet pants. It was OK we told her. She climbed into bed with us and calmed down. A month of this, I could probably manage. Tuesday morning she came in at 7am – she was dry. WHAT!?!!! Yes people, first dry night of her life. She ran to the toilet straight away. When asked she said she’d gone in the middle of the night too. Maybe she had, maybe she hadn’t – who cares, she had a dry night! Lot’s of celebration as you can imagine. And then this morning – Wednesday. Totally dry and no getting up at night to use the toilet.

This is exciting. 2 dry nights in a row. But I’m giving us a full month for the training to be over. And the truth is, we’ll probably have to keep an eye on it when she starts school again. But this is lovely. We’ve been waiting 4 years! Should we have started earlier? Who knows. Will report back later on progress.

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