Tag Archives: summer holidays

Our first solo holiday (we did it!)

Two weeks ago, we returned from our first solo holiday abroad. Just me and the kids. No one got arrested. No one got lost. No one drowned (the thing I was most worried about). On these counts alone, I’m hailing it a victory. But actually? It was a victory in more ways than that. We had fun. We reconnected. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Getting up (and stepping up).

There are ways to make travelling alone with kids easier. Especially for the first time.

Like maybe not booking a 6.15 AM flight, meaning you have to get your three kids up at 2.40 AM. (Even though your kids usually quite enjoy any sort of nighttime waking activity and an excuse not to sleep in their own beds).

This is the thought that was going through my head the night before our holiday, as I put them to bed at 6.30 PM, dressed and ready to go and BEGGED them to sleep IMMEDIATELY.

Actually, the thought was something more like this: ‘WHAT SORT OF CRAZY IDIOT BOOKS A 6.15 AM FLIGHT WITH THREE WAYWARD KIDS? YOU CAN’T EVEN DRINK GIN TO CALM YOUR NERVES BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO GET UP AT SODDING 2.40 AM.’

The thing I should know about kids by now? Mine, especially. They love to throw a curveball. The curveball being that, this time, they did EXACTLY what I asked. And then got up at 2.40 AM, full of beans and raring to go.

How can anyone be so awake at 3.00 AM?

(Thanks kids. You’ll never know how much this meant. If you never do what you’re told again, I will always remember this one, I promise.)

The journey.

Check-in and passport control went smoothly. Suspiciously so. I made it a little easier on ourselves by travelling light (well, aside from the three kids that is). The lovely people at Samsonite lent me their amazing Cosmolite Spinner suitcase, which is lighter than my handbag. No joke. This meant that none of our precious 23kg of luggage was taken up with anything but all our cr*p.

Several times, people remarked upon the fact that I was travelling alone with three kids.

You’re brave!’ 
TRANSLATION: ‘You’re stupid. Really, really stupid.’

‘You’ve got your hands full!’
TRANSLATION: ‘If you’re on my flight and I’m sitting next to you, I’m going to kill myself (and possibly you).’

‘Wow, I couldn’t do that!’
TRANSLATION: ‘You probably can’t, either. You do know that, right?’

How not to lose your kids: giant hairbows

Then, it all went wrong. At the ridiculously optimistic moment I took us all into Jamie’s Diner for breakfast. What can I say? I was really inspired (tricked) by the flawless start to the morning and all the ‘encouraging’ comments.

That and the fact there wasn’t a McDonalds.

(Not a time to fail me, Golden Arches. Not after all the love we’ve shown you over the years.)

The pecan.

Before the pecan

Of all the things I was worried about – losing someone, losing everyone, finding the blooming hamster stowed away in our hand luggage – the thing that actually happened didn’t even make my Top 20. My eldest having an allergic reaction to a pecan on her waffles. (Insert emoji of disbelief here).

She started to panic, whilst I thought, ‘Seriously? This is happening right now?‘ The lovely lady on the table next to us offered to sit with all three (whilst reassuring me she wasn’t a child abductor – people do this a lot when you’re on your own and they kindly offer help) so I could dash to Boots for emergency Piriton.

Meanwhile, my poor girl was sick in a bag (all over her newly purchased Havaianas), sick a further three times all the way to the gate, and had to be cleared by First Aid, before we could fly. We were last on the plane, though that part didn’t surprise me all that much. She was sick again on the flight and then it was done. Leaving us loads of time to recover fully, throw hot chocolate around, empty our hand luggage and ALL our toys (no hamster though, phew!) and generally make a nuisance of ourselves.

 

Essential items to pack: headphones

What I learned? There’s no point worrying about anything, like ever. Because whilst you’re worrying about that something, the thing you hadn’t even thought about will sneak up and bite you on the bum.

And, anyway, when it does happen, you’ll totally handle it. Because what other choice do you have?

Arriving ‘home.’

Home from home

Arriving in Turkey was, thankfully, uneventful. And when we drove through the gates at Club Letoonia, it was like time had stood still for the past year, even though nothing in our lives has. The familiarity was exactly what I had hoped for – comforting. I’d wondered if it might feel strange being somewhere we’ve always been with Daddy. But it wasn’t.

It was like going home. And when Sarah in Guest Relations greeted us like long, lost friends, commented on how much the kids have grown and I saw how insanely happy and instantly comfortable my kids were, I knew we were all going to be just fine. We were better than fine.

No filter needed

We were on the beach by 2.30 PM, me with a glass of rose in hand.

Free as a bird (with three kids).

If I had to sum up our first solo holiday together, I would use these words. Happy. Free. Empowering.

Our little crew

My kids felt it too. Knowing the resort so well, I could afford them the freedom to roam. I had to. There is no way you can police three kids all of the time. At some point you have to learn to trust one another, respect rules and understand consequences. I really felt that my kids got this, even my three year old. I put proper lifejackets on the two younger ones and that took away so much worry. With our every need catered for – food, entertainment, housekeeping – I finally got to be the fun parent where once I was only the ‘responsible’ one. We played in the pool, we went on the waterslides and enjoyed the evening show, every night.

Showtime!

But perhaps the thing I noticed most, especially seeing other families, was how much easier it was doing it on my own, in so many ways. No relying on someone else to (hopefully) do the sun cream. To do shower time and detangle salty hair. No tension when you momentarily lose a child because you both thought the other one was watching them. It was down to me and we just got on with it, with everyone taking a little more responsibility for themselves. The eldest showered with her sister and brother and washed her sister’s hair. She’d escort them to the buffet and they’d often get their own dinner.

Even if the boy did have mash every night, in his pirate costume, which he refused, point blank, to take off. Ever.

Go. For. It.

Going on holiday alone with your kids is no small feat. It’s a little strange to begin with. Perhaps less so for me, because we know Club Letoonia so well. But there is a point where you realise that, not only can you can do this, you are actually enjoying doing it. Your kids are happy. You are happy. You are spending more quality time with them than you ever get to do at home. You see a different side of them. They see a different side of you. And there is a new and deep-seated respect for one another.

Having each other’s backs

So, to single parents out there feeling slightly overwhelmed by the thought of a first holiday alone (as I was), I will say this. Go for it. And, when you do and you are safely back on home territory, make sure you take a moment to recognise your success. Your victory.

Because, one day, your kids will draw great strength from these holidays you championed as a single parent. Where you showed them it isn’t just holidays that come in many different and wonderful packages.

But families, also.

Our wonderful Turkish family

Thank you Club Letoonia for hosting us this year, welcoming us as ever and making our first solo holiday one that will be in our hearts forever. Yay, we did it!

Factfile

  • Club Letoonia, Fethiye, is a 45 minute transfer from Dalaman airport
  • You can book an all inclusive package through Thomas Cook or First Choice or book flights separately and all inclusive accommodation directly with the resort. Easyjet, Thomas Cook Airlines, BA and Monarch fly to Dalaman from all major UK airports
  • The facilities are immense: Family bungalows with one/two rooms, Mini-club, Mini-disco, 3 restaurants, 7 bars, 3 outdoor pools, 1 indoor pool, Water slides, Daytime activities programme, Children’s playground and pool in kids’ club area, 3 private beaches in addition to the vast peninsular with sun loungers and hammocks, Evening entertainment, Spa
  • 4 km to Fethiye town by shuttle boat, departing every 30 minutes
  • 4* plus rating, 4.5 Tripadvisor rating

Summer holiday ideas for under a fiver

The summer holidays. They’re a marathon. Not a sprint. Anyone who’s peaked on day one and done an ACTUAL day trip will know this (ME last year). And be regretting it right about now. Also. If you’re fed up of haemorrhaging money, here’s some stuff you can do for well under a fiver. This post is written in partnership with BT TV Kids.

  1. Make slime. This is the latest craze and all my kids want to do. It’s super easy. Two ingredients and that’s it. PVA glue (250 ml per portion) and some Bio Washing Gel. Simply pour the glue in and add the Bio Gel a teaspoon at a time until you can knead it without it sticking to your fingers. You can add food colouring or even glitter to really bling it up. Cost: around £2
  2. Go to the park. There are some amazing parks out there. You don’t have to stick to one on your doorstep. They’re free and I can wow my kids with all sorts of stuff (I don’t, incidentally; I’m definitely on the ‘underwhelming’ spectrum these days) but they are always happiest in the park on their bikes. Some park cafes charge a small fortune for lunches and ice creams (especially when you have to buy three of everything) so you could even take your own ice lollies in a freezer pack. It’s not like they’re going to wait until past 10.30 AM to eat them anyway, is it? Cost: food from your weekly shop
  3. Film and TV afternoon. You don’t need to go to the cinema and remortgage your house to have a fab film and TV afternoon. Get the sofa prepped with your kids’ duvets and cushions (show me a kid who doesn’t love the novelty of this), a bowl of popcorn and cola bottles and sign up to BT TV Kids and get nine channels for just £4 a month. Plus over 2,000 episodes of on demand kids’ entertainment. They have all my kids’ favourite shows and more – Paw Patrol, Ben and Holly, Be Cool Scooby Doo, Spongebob SquarepantsCost: £4 per month, sign up here
  4. Harness their creative spirit. Usually, when we do anything creative together, it ends up with me wondering if I need to call a psychiatrist. I think you can see why. That said, I’ve recently realised that my kids love an organised creative activity – you know, a wordsearch or a join the dots or a maze. Something that’s a bit structured. Now they’re getting older, they’ll happily do this ALONE for hours (OK, that may be an exaggeration but definitely upwards of 25 minutes, which is a result in any parent’s book, right?). The lovely people at BT TV Kids have made this super easy for you. And created a FREE summer activity pack with 26 pages of stuff to do, whilst you put your feet up, have a well deserved cuppa (or gin), and coo the odd word of encouragement. The best bit? You won’t have to set foot near a sodding pipe cleaner. Phew. Also, BT TV has launched a competition that challenges children to get creative and design their own PAW Patrol character. Great for competitive siblings. Visit metro.co.uk/drawpatrol to enter (the deadline is Friday 11th August). Cost: A few pages of printing. FREE if you use someone else’s haha.
  5. Make and eat pancakes. We do this a lot in our house. The kids help. Then I let them go wild and decorate them with whatever we have in the cupboard. Chocolate sauce. Strawberry sauce. Honey. Sprinkles. I’ll be honest. The pancakes look pretty vile by the time they’ve finished with them. And it takes me about three hours to ‘unsticky’ all the surfaces and all the errant flour that’s made its way into every crevice. But just look how happy it makes them. Cost: food from your weekly shop
  6. Let your kids get bored. Someone recently gave me an amazing piece of advice. ‘Kids need to learn to amuse themselves.’ When they are allowed to be bored, they find stuff they want to do. So now? When one of my kids tells me they’re bored, I don’t feel guilty or that it’s my responsibility to relieve this instantly. I suggest lots of things they could do before leaving them to figure the rest out for themselves. Cost: Absolutely flipping FREE.
  7. Hang out and (try and) enjoy being together. Because in a few weeks we’ll all be back to the daily grind and helping our kids remember what shoes are again (the biggest conundrum of all time). PS It’s totally fine if you don’t enjoy being together ALL of the time. There are points in the holidays where no matter how much fun you’ve been having, you just need a little space. Put the kids in a holiday club or ‘lend’ them to the grandparents. Set them up with their favourite shows from BT TV Kids. No guilt. You’ll all be better for it. You especially.

This sponsored post was written in partnership with BT TV Kids. Download their summer activity pack here.

Summer Holiday

They have a saying here in Letoonia. ‘Once Letoonia, always Letoonia.’ That pretty much sums it up for me.

Our happy place.

When I was younger, we used to go to a place in Portugal called Bemposta. We went there several times and every year the familiarity of being somewhere I knew comforted me.

I have seen this same scenario play out here some 30 years later with my own girls. This second week there have been times where we’ve barely seen them. Three visits in, they know how to get from our room to the piazza. They’ve gone off swimming with friends. And they’ve come and gone from the wonderful mini club (where they’ve had face painting and also done crafts!) as they please.

It has been a holiday for them, without us micromanaging everything they do, as we have to at home. A holiday with three young kids should be hard work. But it hasn’t been. Not a jot. Because of the freedom we’ve been able to afford them. Because this place is so safe and supportive. And because our two year old has his pick of people who love him and want to play with him.

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Yes. It has been a holiday for them. And it has most definitely been a holiday for us.

Two boats and a toddler.

This week we have been on two boat trips; one to chic Gocek on the luxurious Letoonia boat and the other to stunning Dalyan. Negotiating a toddler on both was interesting and he may enter the Guinness Book of World Records for most laps of a boat deck, but my, was it worth it.

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You see, Letoonia is so special in itself that you need a reason (or a good shove) to actually leave it once you’re here. But seeing Dalyan, especially, has opened my eyes even wider to this beautiful country.

And next year when we return, I have a list of places and ruins that I will most definitely be visiting.

Cleansed.

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I’ve had an incredible 90 minute massage with Turkish bath at the resort’s Serenity Spa, to scrub off the past year’s dirt. And I feel cleansed. Inside and out. That feeling of overindulging that you normally have at the end of a holiday? Not here. I feel fitter and more relaxed than I have in a long time. A combination of Maxim’s challenging daily sea gym class and food that tastes so good you don’t need a crazy amount of it.

There has been gin, of course. And Tequila Sunrises. And rose. There have even been a couple of mornings after the night before.

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But there have also been a few nights on Peppermint tea, because I’ve wanted a clear head the next day so I don’t miss any of what Letoonia has to offer.

Our Turkish family.

But mostly, this last week has been about friendship. About our Turkish family here in Letoonia.

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The incredible staff who we’ve come to know so well. The gorgeous family who have been coming here for 15 years and remember us from last year (you find that not only do people return to Letoonia again and again but they tend to come the same time each year, as do we) and have invited us to their home in Istanbul.

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Our lovely boat boys who have taken us out on their day off and joined us for dinner more than once. And Ceren, one of the resort photographers who, alongside her husband who runs the sunglass shop, has fallen in love with our kids and showered them with bubblegum and lollipops.

imageThere has been marvellous entertainment every night from the hilarious Fifi and the tireless animation team. I’ll be blaming these guys when I’m yelling at my kids to get up for school on Wednesday morning. Body clocks have definitely been reset.

Yikes.

Once Letoonia…

And it is with very heavy hearts that we leave Letoonia later today. It gets harder each year as our bond with this resort, country and its people grows. But we will be back, I have no doubt about that.

Once Letoonia, always Letoonia.

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For the first time, Club Letoonia have kindly hosted our family this summer. It’s our third visit to this wonderful resort, which just keeps getting better and better. You can book an all inclusive package through Thomas Cook or First Choice or book flights separately and all inclusive accommodation directly with the resort. Mustafa in Reservations is very helpful. Easyjet, Thomas Cook Airlines and BA all fly to Dalaman from major UK airports. All opinions are, of course, my own.

How to survive the end of the summer holidays

The summer holidays are a marathon, not a sprint. If, like me, you stupidly started off on day one on an actual day trip, you’ll be realising this. Right. About. Now. Somewhere around Tuesday, I hit the summer holiday wall. And I could feel it all starting to implode. Three kids. Work stuff. House stuff. Not a productive combination in anyone’s eyes. Here’s how to get across the finish line. In one piece. (Sort of.)

  1. Have a minor meltdown. Meltdowns are good and an important part of the imploding process. The key here is to keep the meltdown in check. A rant to a friend rather than a full on breakdown in Sainsbury’s is preferable. Ranting to a friend is good because, assuming you’ve picked the right friend, they will be feeling as destitute as you and together you can lament how rubbish parenthood/adulthood/life is and know neither of you really mean it. (Yeah right.)
  2. Do ONE thing on your to-do list. It’s the school holidays. It’s chaos. You’re not going to be on top of everything right now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be on top of anything. Do ONE thing each day to make yourself feel better. Mop the bathroom floor. Put a load of washing on. Take 15 minutes to go through your emails. It will make you feel better. More in control. And like you’ve achieved something in this never ending sea of feeding kids and mediating squabbles.
  3. Breathe. You’ll know if you completely stop breathing because, well, you’ll know. But I bet you’re sort of holding your breath right now. In that tense, slightly anxious, ‘I’m at the mercy of a small army of mini Hitlers, what are they going to do next?‘ way. Go into a quiet room, shut the door and take THREE DEEP BREATHS. You can precede this with several hundred, ‘FFS,’ if you like. No judgement here.
  4. Sleep on it. If everything’s getting on top of you, write the day off. Take your kids to a park so they can run and you can hide. Then get them to bed EARLY. Get yourself to bed EARLY. And tackle stuff tomorrow. I was never a great believer in this but it actually does work. Things look much better first thing in the morning when you’ve had some decent sleep (and a caffeine hit). For at least 30 minutes anyway.
  5. Believe it will all be ok. This week I have been tasked with keeping my kids alive, keeping myself sane(ish), arranging delivery of a shipment of 3000 copies of The New Mum’s Notebook and packing for a two week holiday. On Tuesday this seemed pretty insurmountable. By today, I’ve waded my way through much of it (with a healthy dose of shouting). And whilst the house is covered in ‘DO NOT TOUCH!’ holiday piles of clothes, which my kids insist on rummaging through and re-wearing so that I can have the joy of washing them AGAIN. And my book delivery is apparently the biggest that the shipping company have delivered to a domestic address EVER (2.5 tonnes, basically the weight of a small elephant) and am I quite sure I don’t want it delivered somewhere else? AND it’s coming whilst I’m on holiday so I’m not even going to be here to oversee it (marvellous). I’m still here to write this post. I guess that means it’s all ok, right?
  6. You can do it (because you ARE doing it). This week someone kindly commented that my work looks pretty tireless. The timing was ironic because I couldn’t have felt more tired, jaded and out of sync when they said it. But it got me thinking. That what all of us parents are doing day in, day out is tireless. Because although we often feel exhausted and frazzled, we keep on going. We keep doing what we’re doing. And that’s pretty amazing in itself, isn’t it? (So what if the house is about to collapse under a pile of plastic junk and we haven’t brushed our hair in days.)
  7. Keep your eye on the goal. We’re 75% of the way through. And I know it doesn’t feel like it (except it probably really, really does feel like it), but this is nearly over. And yes, one week into school, we will be moaning about crazy, stressful mornings, the dreaded school run, all the class emails, the dressing up days and those blooming phonics. The grass is ALWAYS greener. But that’s our glorious prerogative. And that’s the law of parenting.

All the love.

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Keep going! We’re almost there. Share with a #summerholiday parent who might need some encouragement. For the next two weeks I’ll be posting from the sunny shores of Turkey. You can watch us try to survive the plane journey and see our holiday exploits (chaos) over on Facebook and Instagram.

‘When I grow up…’

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were little? I wanted to be a vet. These days, I often forget to feed the cats. My four year old wants to be Lava Girl so I was rather intrigued to be taking her and her sister to Kidzania. What would they make of having the chance to be a paramedic, journalist, bell ringer, chef, model and actor, to name but a few…?

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Up they go! I’m off to Prada!

I had no idea what to expect from Kidzania. All I knew was that it was a place where your kids can act out certain jobs.

It’s located very handily in Westfield, on the first floor by M&S. The Westfield by Shepherd’s Bush, that is. DON’T make the mistake I once made, ahem, and buy tickets and then go to Westfield Stratford and basically ruin your child’s life because you have no time to get to the actual Westfield.

Once there, Kidzania is its own little kid-sized world. It has roads, shops, a bank, an A&E, a fire station and lots, lots more. Seeing the look on your children’s faces when they see it for the first time is something to behold.

Because a first time visit can be somewhat overwhelming if, like me, you have NO idea what you’re doing (there. Or, in life. Or in general. Haha), I’ve prepared this handy little guide to give you the lowdown and a few little shortcuts to help you get the most out of your four hour visit.

Some handy tips

  1. Kidzania is notoriously busy. Unless you go on a hot day or when everyone else is out of the country on their August summer holiday. We literally didn’t queue for anything, which apparently is unheard of.

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    I would actually be quite nervous if I had these two looking after me.

  2. You’ll be given an electronic tag and so will your child(ren) when you arrive. These connect you to each other so no child can leave without you or with anyone else. (Damn. Just when I was hoping to exchange mine for better behaved models. This also means there’s no nipping off to Prada or any of the other shops in the glorious shopping mecca that is Westfield. Sorry. But, good news! Once your child hits 8, you can send them in on their own. Woohoo!) You all get ‘scanned’ when you arrive and then your child gets scanned at the beginning and end of every experience. Four hours later, their slot ends and they won’t be able to do any more.

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    Never to be parted AGAIN.

  3. Kids get given 50 KidZo banknotes each when they arrive. They can spend these on experiences such as making chocolate (which they then take away to eat) and also earn them on other jobs such as being a paramedic. So make sure your child has a purse (preferably one that can go across the body). You don’t want to be accused of ‘stealing’ their money or, worse, mixing it up with a sibling’s. Argghhhhh!

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    Loadsa money!

  4. Some experiences are as long as 20 minutes and adults aren’t allowed to take part. AT ALL. This means you have some actual, child-free time. So, take a magazine or your kindle. Or go with a friend and their kids and you’ll have some precious time to catch up. There’s also a Parent’s Lounge (adults only) with computers, reclining airline style pods AND a coffee bar.

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    I don’t care how cute they look. NO MORE BABIES!

  5. If you have a shy child without siblings, I recommend going with one of their friends and another parent. My girls quite liked having the security of one another when trying new things. (And usually they spend their lives bickering, so this was something of a novel experience. Never to be repeated, I’m sure.)

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    Sisters are doing it for themselves.

  6. If you do go on a hot day, take a cardigan or jumper. It’s air-conditioned in there and can get chilly (if you’re dressed for the beach, as I was).
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    On the newsdesk.

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    The finished article, hot off the press.

  7. Try and time it (queue permitting) so your kids do the Gourmet Burger Kitchen experience around lunchtime. The burger they make will then double up as their lunch whilst you’ll get the 15 minutes when they’re in there, to eat your own burger from the neighbouring GBK restaurant IN PEACE. Frugal? Strategic? Me?
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    Made it. Ate it.

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    Hairnet provided!

  8. You can’t take your own food in but I did see a few younger kids eating packed lunches. I’ll just leave that with you…
  9. There’s drinking water outside the toilets so you can refill any bottles you take. Working is thirsty work!
  10. There are (limited) things to do for children under 4. I left the toddler at home (with grandparents, not unsupervised), because, well he’s a bit of a pain and it was too good an opportunity to walk around without someone hanging off my leg.

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    Billboard model for a day.

  11. At the end of your slot, if your kids have any KidZos left, they can spend them in the Kidzania Department Store. But be warned, there is VERY little worth having under 150 kidzoos. You’re also not allowed in the gift shop with them, so you’ll spend an excruciating half hour repeating, ‘No, you can’t have that. Because you haven’t got enough, that’s why…’ Even my gift shop obsessed daughter struggled, eventually opting to open a Kidzania bank account with her money, which will earn interest until the next time we go. Funny how she doesn’t have as much trouble spending MY money.
  12. There is an ACTUAL gift shop by the exit. That takes Mummy’s currency. Obviously. You’ve been warned…
  13. You can occasionally get discounted tickets or offers online or through travel companies, so always check before you book.
  14. A visit to Kidzania is FUN but tiring for little legs (and big legs, come to that). I couldn’t face the tube journey back to Charing Cross with two kids in tow, so I took advantage of my first free trip with Uber and an opportunity to rest those weary legs. You can get your free trip here by downloading the app and using this code amyr10011ue (new customers only, up to £10).

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    Ubering it up.

Your kids will LOVE Kidzania and what a great way to help them discover their passions and talents. You can find other questions answered here. Thank you to Kidzania for having us. All opinions my own. There’s more of me over on Facebook and Instagram.

Girls on tour…with cake

If you LOVE London. LOVE afternoon tea. And LOVE cake. There’s only one trip you need on your list this summer (autumn, winter or spring). The B Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour. The first of its kind in our fabulous capital. I took my cake-obsessed seven year old who literally couldn’t believe her eyes. Bring on the cake coma!

Let them eat cake!

My daughter once sat on the toilet when my friend was babysitting, and told her the 100 different varieties of cake she liked. You could say Beaver’s partial to a bit of cake. As am I.

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So when we were invited to board Covent Garden’s very own B Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour, on National Afternoon Tea week no less, we were there. With bells on.

I just wish I’d also worn my stretchy pants. (Of the trouser variety, I mean.)

A feast for the eyes.

Beaver’s eyes almost popped out when she boarded the bus.

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The afternoon tea takes place on a proper 1960s red double decker bus. With very attentive waiting staff who also tell you everything you didn’t know about London. The tables are laid out beautifully with all the cake you can possibly eat. Not to mention mini sandwiches, smoked salmon blinis and mini quiches. Fresh orange juice. A choice of teas, coffees and hot chocolates. Then, if your stretchy pants allow, they come around with scones and clotted cream. Before you fully succumb to the cake coma.

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But let’s talk about the cake again, shall we? Because THIS is what B Bakery excels at. That mini chocolate sponge cake may have been the best chocolate cake I have ever tasted. EVER. That lemon curd meringue cake? Complete and utter zesty heaven.

And believe me. With three pregnancies under my belt? I’ve eaten some cake in my time.

Seeing is believing.

This is by far the most indulgent way to see the sights of London too.

Downing Street. The Mall. Big Ben. The Houses of Parliament. Hyde Park. The ridiculous affluence of Knightsbridge and Mayfair (it’s the first time I’ve seen an actual silver plated mercedes).

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You could set your watch by it…

 

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Those infamous green canopies

It’s a sensory experience for the eyes and the palate.

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And when the tour comes to an end some 90 minutes later and you actually have to leave, you get to keep your stylish and beautifully illustrated (and handy reusable and dishwasher proof) coffee cup and relive the experience again and again whilst looking at your gorgeous souvenir booklet.

It’s proper cake porn.

Some handy tips.

  1. There’s no need to get there super early and be all British and queue for the best table (‘PHEW!’ I hear you say, if you’re a bit of a late bird, like me). You choose your table when you book and our bus arrived just in time for departure.
  2. The food is epic and there’s TONS of it. So I personally wouldn’t eat ANYTHING beforehand. Maybe do a NIL BY MOUTH the night before, in fact. I’d even have forgone my morning flat white, had I known, as they have so many amazing teas and coffees on board. Trust me. You’ll need all the room you can find before you fall into that fabulous cake coma.
  3. The bus isn’t licensed but for £5 corkage per bottle you can take your own bubbles (or gin) on board. I didn’t because, well it was a Monday and I have rules HAHAHA, but if I was with the girls I totally would have done. Next time…
  4. Don’t forget the stretchy pants.

IMG_3936If you’d like to experience the B Bakery Afternoon Bus Tour for yourself, you can book tickets here. From £35 for children and £45 for adults. Children must be 6 and over. There are daily departures from 8 Northumberland Avenue (by Trafalgar Square) at 12.30 and 15.00. And at 12.00, 14.30 and 17.00 from Victoria Coach Station. They book up quickly and in advance so if you have a particular date in mind, don’t delay! They do special Christmas packages and you can also hire out the whole bus, just for you! They do boat tours too. The list goes on… Huge thanks to B Bakery for having us. Can you tell we enjoyed it? As always, all opinions my own. More of me over on Facebook and Instagram.

 

The cut-yourself-some-slack-guide to surviving the summer holidays

This guide was going to be called something altogether different with lots of great ideas of where to go and what to do this summer. Then I decided, ‘Hey! I’M not qualified to write this. Let’s stick to what I do best.‘ Then I couldn’t actually remember what that was. So I just wrote this. Because the secret this summer, which many of you clever parents already know? Is LOW expectations. (Also, Netflix. And gin.)

  1. Start off slow. Unless you’re a rookie or have amnesia, like I apparently did on the first day of the summer holidays last year, EVERYONE knows you don’t do ANYTHING on the first day. Aside from loll around in your PJs, watching Netflix and eating custard creams (the kids can join in too, if they want). This has an ulterior motive, aside from the fact that you’re cream crackered. It helps to build up what comes next. Because after a few days of this, a trip to the supermarket is an exciting prospect for your kids. It’s all about setting the activity benchmark LOW. If you start off with an actual day out, where the hell are you going to go from there? Remember. The summer holidays are a marathon. Not a sprint.
  2. Listen to your kids. Yeah, I know, why should you? They never listen to you, right? But if your child says ‘I don’t want to go to a castle, it sounds boring,‘ don’t hear, ‘Oh you DO want to go. You’ll really enjoy it when you get there.‘ Because the chances are, they won’t. And they’ll be a royal pain in the backside whilst you pay £30 for the privilege.
  3. Make sure activities are age appropriate for the WHOLE family. Sorry older kids but if you have younger siblings, you ain’t doing squat this summer holiday but going to the park and watching Ben & Holly. I’m kidding. (I’m not.) It’s a fact. Two year old brothers and sisters change the dynamic and make everything blooming hard work to do. Parks are your friend. Any open space WITH a fence. Castles with fenceless moats and roaming ducks with NEON signs on their heads saying ‘Follow me to the fenceless moat!‘ Not so much.
  4. Keep it simple (and free). There’s SO much free stuff to do wherever you live. Kids aren’t in the habit of knowing when you have/haven’t spent money and they certainly aren’t in the habit of turning around and showering you with gratitude for spending it. So get on the free shizzle train and save your money for all the gin you’re going to need to consume to survive all the free shizzle. Parks (check out London’s Royal Parks for a really special park day out). Fruit picking (ok, you sort of have to spend money here but also, you have got to eat.) Splash parks. The Summer Reading Challenge. Camping in the garden (always a hit for them AND you, because you don’t actually have to go camping and can just wave occasionally from the window). Cheap cinema tickets (most cinemas run school holiday programmes at discounted prices). Here are 20 more ideas that I allegedly came up with last year (there’s that amnesia again).
  5. Keep it local. You don’t have to travel miles to have a good time. Although I do love a car journey, because that’s at least 3 hours of the day sorted where everyone’s strapped in and I can enjoy a coffee with my tunes turned up. (To drown out the bickering.)
  6. Make a lucky dip jar. I love this idea given to me by a parent on the FB page. Get your kids to pick some things they’d each like to do, put them all in a jar, and then each day pick out one thing and go off and do it. Another great way to keep it simple (because I bet the stuff your kids come up with is stuff like flying a kite, making a sandcastle, eating an ice cream…)
  7. Be realistic. One ‘proper’ day trip a week is enough. Don’t let the social media ‘We’re having a better holiday than you‘ pressure get to you. People tend to post pictures of themselves doing something fun, not pictures of the other six days of the week when their kids are staring at Netflix, whilst the parent bangs their head against the wall and wonders if they can drink gin yet. (God, I wish people posted more pics like that, don’t you?) Don’t compare yourself. We’ve all got our own challenges, number of kids, and different aged kids. Just figure out what works for your family. I have three kids and after yesterday? I won’t be attempting to go anywhere with all three of them.
  8. Keep safety in numbers. For you, I mean. Hanging out with other parents and kids? It’s good for the soul. Your kids enjoy the company (assuming they like the kids you’ve chosen to hang out with) and it’s sanity-saving for you to have other adults to talk to (and drink gin with).
  9. Take some time out FOR YOU. Don’t feel guilty for wanting and needing this. Some parents might say they relish every minute of the summer holidays but for every parent like that, there’s at least 100 climbing the walls and feeling anxious/ stressed/ overwhelmed/ crap/ drunk (delete as appropriate). It’s full on and I don’t mind admitting that one day in with another 48 to go, I’m SCARED STIFF. So, plan some time out for you. Because there are points in the holidays where no matter how much fun you’ve been having (HAHAHA), you just need to get away from one another. Put the kids in a holiday club or ‘lend’ them to grandparents/ childless friends who don’t know any better/ the postman. You’ll all be better for it. You especially.
  10. Don’t rush. The earlier you get going, the longer your day is, THE LONGER YOUR DAY IS. Got it? So what if you’re not getting out of the house until midday? At least now you’ve only got seven hours until bedtime. Wink wink.
  11. Get a job. If numbers one to ten leave you in a cold sweat and feeling worse now than you did before reading this, you could always get a full time job. I’m more than a little bit tempted…

We can do this! Because we have NO choice! HAHA. If you do want to do a day trip, some of our personal favourites are Leeds Castle (tons to do for the kids and has a walled moat!), Kent Life (compact with a great playground, petting corner and soft play), Greenwich Maritime Museum (completely free and HUGE), Jump Giants Trampolining Park (best fun I’ve had in years, although shot what was left of my pelvic floor), The 02 (lots of free shizzle), Kidzania (not cheap so this is your one paid activity for the week) and The BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour (possibly the most enchanting thing I’ve ever done). And we’ll definitely be watching a few films (or 20).

How to get ready for a family holiday abroad

The summer holidays are almost here. Cue lots of excitement at ditching the school run followed by sheer panic at the thought of six weeks of entertaining your kids. We’ll be spending the final two weeks of the school holidays at the amazing Club Letoonia in Fethiye, Turkey and already the thought of packing is popping into my mind. If you’re going abroad for the first time with kids, or just need to refresh your memory since last year, here’s some tips on getting ready for a holiday with kids.

1. Make sure your passports are up to date. I know what you’re thinking. ‘Well, THAT’S obvious.‘ But it’s surprising how expiry dates creep up on you. If you’ve got a new addition to the family, make sure you’ve got them a passport in the first place. I mean, it would be just terrible if you had to leave one of your kids behind, wouldn’t it?

2. Start getting your kids’ clothes ready a month before. 

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I’m not kidding. After you’ve located last year’s summer clothes and realised that a) the moths have got to them b) they don’t fit and c) you hadn’t even realised because our summers are so rubbish you’re all still wearing jumpers in July (this week being the exception), you’ve now got the unenviable task of buying entire summer wardrobes for your kids. And you’ll be glad you didn’t leave it until a couple of days beforehand, like I did one year. Once you’ve got the clothes? The fun really begins. Because you continually have to explain to your kids why ‘NO ONE CAN WEAR ANYTHING THAT IS DESTINED FOR HOLIDAY BEFORE THE ACTUAL HOLIDAY.’

3. Start packing at least one week before.

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Daddy Pig always rolls his eyes when I ask him to GET THE SUITCASES out the week before we go. If he had his way, we would scrabble around the night before wondering where we put them when we got back last time. ‘All you have to do is throw some pants in a case,’ is his standard response when I ask for the suitcases. ‘No, all YOU have to do is throw some pants in a case,‘ I say. ‘I have to do just a little bit more than that. Shopping, packing, toiletries, hand luggage, car parking, currency, catsitters…’ UGH.

4. Think about what you’re going to be doing when you’re there and pack appropriately. 

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When Hello Kitty throws up all over you…

In my experience, you always need less than you think. Kids are messy and it’s really tempting to take three million t-shirts, 400 pairs of shorts and a washing machine. But, at Club Letoonia, we spend all day at the pool and the beach and our kids live in their swimwear and hooded towels. Which means they’re really only wearing actual clothes in the evening to dinner, the mini-disco and the evening show. So for a two week holiday I pack 10-14 outfits each and that’s it. Sometimes, I’m so busy packing for the kids I completely forget to pack anything for myself. DISASTER. Also? It’s so hot in Turkey in August that our two year old toddler will live in nappies and t-shirts so I won’t even bother with the 400 pairs of shorts. Just the washing machine.

5. Take a kindle, NOT five books that you won’t even read.

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Watersport activities with the boat boys…

The best bit about Club Letoonia is all the activities they have for the kids and the amazing boat boys who manage the sailing and pedaloes. This means that I manage to chill out on a sun lounger and read at least two books whilst we’re away. But five books? That weigh about 10 KG? That an airplane is charging you to transport? Even I’m not that unrealistic. If you don’t own a kindle yet, now’s the time to get one (make sure you buy the backlit one. I was a cheapskate and didn’t and now I totally wish I had.)

6. You do NOT need 12 bottles of suncream. If you go by the directions on the back of the suncream and the amount they say you should be using per person, this equates to 12 bottles of suncream for our family of five. 12! Our first year at Club Letoonia, I actually took this many and then brought about eight home with us. I’d forgotten that because my kids are still small, they wear sunsuits most of the time, which means that the only skin exposed is, erm, their faces, ears and toes. Still, it was great fun lugging the suncream there and back.

7. Research the resort and book things in advance. If it’s your first time going to a place, do a bit of research before you go. Because it’s often easier to do this stuff without tired, impatient kids hanging off you, as you struggle to get your bearings. This will be our third year at Club Letoonia, so we know exactly what to expect and with three kids under seven, that means our holiday starts the minute we step off the plane. Who am I kidding? It started the minute we got ON the plane and I ordered my first G&T.

8. Speaking of planes, make sure you have some in-flight entertainment. I can highly recommend calpol for them. And gin for you. It’s a combination I’ve personally tried and tested to get three kids under six across the ocean. In desperate times, I’ve also had the calpol.

9. Dress your kids in layers for the journey. Remember that feeling when you leave a very cool UK dressed for winter, then step off the plane as the heat hits you? Minimise the whining from hot and sweaty kids by dressing them in layers so you can whip off cardigans and leggings as soon as you land. You can also do the same, assuming you’re wearing layers and not just, erm, stripping off. No one likes a naked parent.

10. Mix your clothes up when you pack. We travel light because we hate ‘stuff’ (aside from the 12 bottles of suncream haha). We only take two suitcases and a holdall between five of us. I used to pack all the kids’ stuff in one suitcase and all our stuff in the other. Then one day it occurred to me that if we lost one of the suitcases, we’d be a bit stuffed (especially if it was the one with all MY clothes in). So now, I make sure that each suitcase has a mix of all our clothes. This is possibly the most pre-meditated, organised thing I do in our lives. Most of the time, I’m that mum that’s scrabbling around for a quid because I’ve forgotten it’s dressing-up charity day at school. AGAIN.

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Sunset gin at Club Letoonia

11. Don’t panic. Unless you’re going to the depths of the rainforest, which I’m thinking you probably wouldn’t be with kids, you’re not leaving complete civilisation. At Club Letoonia, there are shops. There are nappies. More importantly? There’s gin. So whatever you forget, you either didn’t really need it in the first place. Or you can buy it when you get there. Bon voyage!

Happy holidays! This year, Club Letoonia are kindly hosting our familyIMG_0487. If you haven’t yet booked somewhere and are imagining this mini-heatwave won’t last, check out my first review and the full list of facilities here. Both Thomas Cook and First Choice provide all inclusive packages. It’s the best holiday we’ve ever had with kids, hands down, and we’ve always felt so safe. All opinions are my own. More over on Facebook and Instagram.

The end of year breakdown

You thought the Christmas term was bad. The end of the school year is the most challenging period in the school calendar. And if you get through it in one piece then high five you. But don’t get complacent. There’s always next year when you might have even more children in school. And even more stuff to keep track of. Here’s the lowdown.

Basically schools like to throw as many curveballs into the final weeks of term just to keep you on your toes. Changes in logistics. Events (oh so many events). Changes to the Changes in Logistics. For any crap mums (like me) who can barely keep up as it is, you have absolutely no chance. The only thing you can hope to achieve during this time is new levels of crapness.

1. The money.

If you aren’t handing money over for (well-deserved) end of term gifts (teachers, class assistants and the school rabbit – what, he made an invaluable contribution this year munching carrots?), you’re buying school photos and commemorative tea towels with a self-portrait of your child, that reminds you, you STILL haven’t called that psychiatrist.

And let’s not even mention the bill you need to settle for all the clubs, school dinners and trips you’ve accumulated since the beginning of term (and forgotten to pay). It’s a bit like settling your bill at the end of a holiday. Now imagine you haven’t actually been on holiday and you’ll sort of get how painful this is.

If you prefer, you can save yourself 253 trips to the ATM and just transfer that month’s salary straight into the school’s bank account.

2. The Events

The last few weeks are all about fitting as many additional activities into the school calendar as possible. Sports Day. The End of Year Play. The End of Year Picnics. Dressing up as things that not even Tesco or Asda have costumes for. The End of Year Violin Recital (good grief), which is now taking place in the school hall at 2.00 AM because that’s the ONLY available slot left. (And who’d want to miss THAT?)

Cancel your non-existent social life, grab your sleeping bag and camp out in the playground so you don’t miss one milli-second of all this fun. Oh also? Every event must be preceded by ‘The End of Year…’ to make you feel really s*** when you miss it because it was like, a one-off, really important ONCE A YEAR event.

(The clue was in the title.)

3. The Logistics

Forget all the usual rules like what time school starts and where you pick up from. These go completely out of the window and you’ll basically have no idea where your child is at any given time because you can’t find the sodding email with all the Changes in Logistics.

Fit your child with a tracking device and be done with it. Or buddy up with another parent (preferably an organised one who reads AND files emails).

4. The Meltdowns

This is the time that children and parents are most likely to self-combust. The kids through pure exhaustion. And the parents through pure confusion.

Sales of custard creams and prosecco ALWAYS go up during this quarter.

5. The Transition Meeting

Just to remind you that this is NOT the end and you will be doing it all again next year, you’ll have a meeting to get you ready for the NEW school year.

This information, which is actually really useful, will unfortunately go in one ear and out the other because you’re too busy trying to remember if you paid for the blooming tea towels.

6. The End

When the last day finally arrives, you’ll be so relieved it’s over, you won’t have even given a thought to the fact you’ll be spending six weeks with your kids.

No. That joy will hit you around 8.03 AM the next morning when you catch your eldest hitting your youngest over the head with a recorder.

Back to School anyone?

I would just like to apologise to my teachers for my general crapness, which has hit new levels, even for me. And also thank my class reps for trying to minimise the crapness of others. Needless to say, I’m completely looking forward to having another child in school come September and having even more stuff to forget. See you on the other side! If you want to follow me through the summer, you can do so here and also on Facebook and Instagram. And I mean, after this inspiring post, why wouldn’t you?

Free family fun at The O2

When you think of The O2, you probably immediately think of music. Of concerts. Even if concerts these days look more like Justin Bieber than Snow Patrol. But, if you’re REALLY winning at life, you might just get the chance to see Paw Patrol. Like we did, last week, when the lovely people at The O2 invited us to meet Marshall and friends and sample the Sky studio and new Sky Kids app. To say we had a great time is an understatement. Six hours later, I was still trying to tear my kids out of there. Oh, and the best bit? It’s FREE for everyone.

Balloons AND lollies?

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I knew it was going to be a good day when approximately 15 seconds into entering the Sky Studios, the amazing and friendly staff were plying them with balloons, lollipops and magazines.

Actually, let me rephrase that. Good for my kids. REALLY bad for me. (Sugar rush.)

But balloons and lollies? They’re only the two things my boy lives for.

Heaven on earth.

The top level of the studio is the home of Sky Kids. And it’s amazing.

It has interactive walls, which you press to bring up giant paint splats. My kids took great delight in whacking their favourite Sky characters and turning them into paint too.

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One question, Sky Kids. HOW ON EARTH do you keep those walls so white with all those sticky fingers?

Our walls at home look NOTHING like that.

A great workspace.

They change the exhibitions every three months or so. So your kids will NEVER get bored.

They had the Ben & Holly Magic Kingdom up when we were there. Uncanny. Because we literally watch it on loop at the moment. In our house, Peppa Pig is so last year.

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And here’s my top tip. With the walls, the iPads and EVERYTHING else Sky Kids has to keep your kids entertained, this is the perfect place (with free wifi) for us parents to do a couple of hour’s quiet work.

Providing you don’t have a manic toddler on the loose, of course. Best to leave that one at home.

Happy kids. Happy mum.

My kids were beside themselves meeting Paw Patrol. I managed to hold it together. Even the boy, who a week earlier, had balked at Peppa Pig (I told you Peppa’s over), was feeling pretty brave.

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And when Sky Kids presented each of my kids with the biggest goody bag, full of Spongebob, Scooby and Ben & Holly, their lives were complete.

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Finally.

So many places to eat.

As if we hadn’t had enough fun, The O2 Communications Team kindly took a few bloggers for lunch.

I thought they were pretty mad, to be honest. And I did check a couple of times if they really wanted to eat lunch with my rabble. The toddler isn’t known for his impeccable table manners. Or any manners at all, in fact. (This post may have been inspired by that very lunch.)

And this is another reason to visit The O2. SO MANY PLACES TO EAT.

But because there’s so much to do once you’re there, you could easily manage breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Teach them to drive.

Last but not least we visited the Nissan Innovation Centre. Another free exhibit where you can race cars. If you can reach the peddles. Or have a sister willing to help you.

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But the thing that impressed me most? The brilliant member of staff who made Beaver complete four questions before handing over the sweets.

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I’ve never seen her concentrate so hard.

He’s coming round next week to motivate her to do her homework.

Six weeks of summer.

And not to put the wind up you, but it’s only about five weeks until the summer holidays.

Six weeks of entertaining the kids. Without remortgaging your house. ARGGGHHHHHHH!

So get yourself down to The O2 for a day of free fun. They have all sorts of events going on during the summer. If you take the Thames Clipper there, buy a River Roamer ticket and you can hop on and off as much as you like and explore the rest of London by boat!

(They also serve a mean G&T. Just an FYI. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.)

IMG_2114A big thank you to Olivia and Emily in The O2 Communications Team for inviting us for a day of fun. My kids are still talking about you so we’ll definitely be back in the summer to hang out some more. Bet you can’t wait. As always, all opinions are my own. More posts over on FB and Instagram