My top travel tips/essentials list when travelling with kids.
We are a travelling family, not in the sense that we are gypsies. We do own a home! Although, I’ve always kind of wanted to live in some form of converted camper travelling around the world. But no, in the sense that we jet off at any possible chance we get. Whether that be abroad or somewhere within the U.K. We love to see new places and experience new culture as much as possible and it’s something we are passionate about distilling into Toby. I have never understood the types of people who go to the same holiday, to the same hotel and do the same thing time and time again. It’s madness. The world is a huge place. Get out there and explore it!

We are lucky enough to have taken Toby to multiple countries, he has been on 30 plane journeys (there and back) in his short five years and countless road trips. That isn’t in any way supposed to sound braggy, merely an emphasis on the amount of times I’ve seriously thought about tranquillising my own child. .As amazing as these travelling experiences are, the reality usually means a long flight (sometimes multiple) or a long drive in order to get to our desired destination. Gone are the days of in-flight movies, endless G&T’s and getting through an entire holiday read just in the airport. No. Travelling with kids is hard. Travelling with my kid, who admittedly has the attention span of a goldfish, is hyperactive, loud, boisterous and adventurous. Well, it can be hell-ish, if I’m not fully prepared.

I’ve all too many times been the stressed-out Mum asking around the plane if anyone has a spare pen, so he can draw for five minutes in a desperate bid to stop him jumping up and down in his seat and stressing out the old lady behind us. I once let him trick or treat on a flight, no joke, he legitimately walked up and down the aisles returning with handfuls of biscuits and sweets. I’m not even ashamed, it gave me 10 minutes much needed peace and by that point I was so over it he could probably have been flying the plane and I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Thankfully for me (and everyone else around us) I’ve now pretty much perfected my essential items for travelling with Toby in tow, so I’ve rounded them up into a list because let’s face it, none of us really know what we’re doing here, we’re all just trying to make it through! Hopefully you’ll find them as useful as we do and next time you’ve got a family trip coming up you’ll be stacking up on books instead of panic reading my top tips whilst packing!

1/ His own wallet with his own money – for some reason Toby associates the airport with shopping, I’ve honestly no idea where he got that perception from, it’s not like I use it as an excuse to stock up on make-up, perfume or gin so I really am just at a loss?! He’s getting to that age now where he understands things cost money, (and thank god for that because I swear we’ve spent nothing short of a million pound on kinder eggs, slime and other unnecessary crap over the years!) obviously he still asks for everything in sight all the time but when we explain to him he has, let’s just say £10 for a random non ridiculous example, and the thing he wants is half of that then it makes him stop and think about how much he wants it. It cues some of the meltdowns (I’m saying some really loosely here) of having to tell him no 1637291 times, well at least until his “pennies” run out anyway!

2/ A lunch box and no-ends of snacks – I know I’m stating the obvious with this one, as snacks and kids go hand in hand. Does anyone else’s child ask for a snack every 0.01 seconds? I sincerely hope so. Being organised with snacks is key when travelling. I will take things like crisp, crackers, raisins, sugar free lollies, fruit yo-yos etc. And I’ll always hide a sweet/chocolate treat somewhere he doesn’t know about as an emergency if things get really bad! I’m a true supporter of bribery, sometimes it’s the only way! I also always take a snack box or lunch box. We often go into the private lounges at the airports for a bit of quiet amongst the madness but mainly for the food. OK, only for the food. The all-inclusive food selection alone is well worth the entry fee. Aside from letting him live all his food fantasies and filling him up in there before we board, I’ll fill up his lunch box for the flight. Like a true Brit abroad. I have no shame. Plane food is always shit and this way he can eat when he feels like it so there’s no “is the food coming yet” on repeat for an hour.

3/ Activities Galore – I stress the word activities, toys just don’t cut it when it comes to keeping a small, bored and emotionally unstable person sat down for 8 hours. It’s well worth spending a little bit of time figuring out some time-consuming activities before-hand, so get yourself on Pinterest, there’s so many amazing and simple ideas about. Also knowing their interests really helps, much to my disappointment Toby isn’t really into arts and crafts, so I know taking colouring, stickers and things like that will only occupy him for about 7 seconds. He likes imaginative play, building, constructing and making things so I tend to take things like Lego, 3D puzzles, play-dough with loose parts and figurine’s, scissor activities etc. There’s a whole bunch of products and brands that offer great travel pass-times for kid’s, but these are a couple of our favourites.

The TeeBee Box – This is a firm favourite of ours, it comes everywhere with us, these little boxes are great for storing Lego, animal figurines, snacks, just about anything really. The best part is the Lego insert/brick plate inside, it makes it so easy for them to play and build with their Lego pieces wherever they are. The leather strap handle makes it easy for Toby to carry around himself, and it allows him to feel like he’s in charge (he likes that, we don’t call him mini Hitler for nothing!) so it’s one less thing for me to worry about!

Tot Bag – I must admit I have tried a couple of these activity style bags and this one is by far my favourite. Tot bag’s contain multiple activities that can be done just about anywhere, they’re eco-friendly and not filled full of plastic crap. The activities are often nature themed and thought provoking, in a nut shell they keep Toby quiet for a while and that will do for me! You can get a monthly subscription and they’re just a really nice thing to have for when boredom strikes.

5/ Bonus Prizes! Trust me on this one, I haven’t gone completely mad. I swear by this, never underestimate the element of surprise! I always keep a few ‘bonus prizes’ in my own bag, that he hasn’t seen for when he gets really bored. Just little things like surprise eggs, etc. This technique has saved me from many of “I don’t want to sit still anymore” induced meltdowns.

6/ Walk around – in reality, getting a toddler or young child to stay sat down and quiet on a long-haul flight is near damn impossible. We wouldn’t expect them to sit down and stay quiet for 8/9 hours at home, so how can we on a plane? one thing that massively helped my stress-levels and worry that he was annoying other passengers was simply just lowering my own standards! I’ve had to do that a lot since becoming a mother! (let’s all laugh/cry together!) Kids are kids, you might get the occasional knob head but generally people are really nice and understand that it’s not easy. It only makes it worse trying to force them to sit down when they really don’t want to. Let them have a walk about and stretch their legs, if they want to go to the toilet 56 times an hour, let them go! What’s the point in getting stressed out about it.

7/ Some kind of watching device – that description makes me sound as old as I feel. I’m really not with it on the latest technologies. I would say an iPad, but the other half went and bought some crap child friendly alternative and I don’t have a clue how to work it, let alone what it’s called. But that, whatever it may be, with a pair of headphones makes all the world of difference. I really do try to avoid/limit screen time at home where possible, I’d much rather see Toby playing outdoors or with his toys using his imagination than watching a screen but when it comes to travel. Needs must. Who am I to sit here and tell you to play eye spy for 10 hours straight with a pint-sized person who doesn’t know his A from his Z, well I’d be a liar that’s who.

So, there we have it, that’s my list of must haves/top tips for travelling with kids! I hope they help make your flights/road trips a little less stressful, and if they don’t then well, who really knows they’re all just unpredictable ticking time bombs aren’t they really?! Happy travelling!

Why I don’t gender stereotype my child’s clothes
Last week I was at a park with Toby where a little boy of similar age to him said “that’s a girls top”, Toby immediately ran up to me and told me “that boy said this is a girls top, have you got another one? I want to change it”. The top was a rust orange coloured Zara basic t-shirt. It wasn’t in any way shape or form a girls top, not that it would have mattered if it was. I do occasionally buy neutral things for him from the girls section because let’s face it the boys collection is usually naff, but this wasn’t. I could bang on for hours about the gender inequality within the current children’s wear market, as a matter of fact I wrote a 10,000 word dissertation on that very topic for my degree and got a first, *insert smug as fuck face here* but there’s a story for another day!
This little boys words didn’t bother me at all but I didn’t like that it had made Toby question himself. Here’s the thing – I hate characterised clothing, I hate flashing shoes, I don’t believe all boys should wear is blue, red or green. I don’t understand why little boys are always dressed in football kits, to be perfectly honest, I think they look awful (especially when they’re not nor have they been playing football, if anything I find that really weird, it’s like wearing swimming trunks to the cinema, it makes no sense) nor do I feel the need to dress him head to toe in printed dinosaurs, diggers or trucks. Toby is a boy, he knows that, I know that, it’s clear for everyone else to see that. I don’t feel the need to paint him blue to clarify.
I’m not on some form of gender-neutralising protest where I dress him in tutus and throw glitter on him, albeit if that’s what he wanted to do, that’s what we’d bloody well do. I dress him very neutral, he’s often in grey, mustards, burnt oranges, monochrome, denim etc. He does also wear blue, red, green and whatever other colour if it’s something that I like. I’m not trying to boy-cot the colour blue, it’s just not my favourite. He doesn’t and never has questioned what he wears because I’ve always dressed him the same, the only way I know how, with my own sense of style.
Maybe I’ve been lucky or maybe it’s learnt behaviour but Toby has never questioned the clothes I put him in, in terms of style. He’s very particular about materials and comfort. And if anything, comfortability is the main reason for any protests. That or the fact he just wants to be a half ninja cow boy/ half marshmallow that day. (We’ve all been there!) He will only wear “soft pants” he hates jeans, because he finds them uncomfortable and restrictive so he mainly wears leggings or slim fit joggers. He prefers short sleeved t-shirts and he doesn’t like labels, so to an extent (weather permitting! )I’ll let him wear short sleeves and I look for tops with stitched in or printed labels instead. He’s never once questioned me on colour or style, so the fact this child’s comment had made him question it annoyed me. If Toby turned around to me tomorrow and said “I don’t like stripes anymore, I don’t want to wear them” I would say ok. I would never make him wear something he didn’t want to wear for my own personal satisfaction. It matters to me that he is well dressed and looks nice of course, I’m a stylist. But it matters to me more that he is happy, comfortable and confident in what he is wearing.
At risk of stating the bloody obvious, I love fashion and I love clothes. And when I became a Mum, my love for fashion expanded into childrenswear. I love to find new independent brands, vintage treasures and unique designs for Toby’s wardrobe as much, if not more so, than I do my own. I have always loved the way fashion makes you feel, an outfit can make or break your day. I’ve always dressed for my feelings and who I want to be that day and I hope to pass on my love for fashion and confidence to wear what you blooming well want to, to my son. And no Asda price, paw patrol tracksuit wearing kid is going to stop me!

* The imagery used within this blog post features the Bearsy and the Boy thought bubbles kindly sent out to us by Jenna. You can buy yours here! use code ‘Toby10’ for 10% off. #gifted

Dear strangers, please stop telling my child to be careful. 

Now this isn’t in anyway supposed to be ranty, I’m completely aware that passers by telling my child to be careful are doing so with his best interests at heart. I do. But, here’s the thing. I don’t parent that way, I’m not an overly cautious, everything is dangerous kind of Mum. I let him set his own limits and I always have done that’s how I know he’s ok because he’s done it a million times before, he knows what he can and can’t do better than anyone, better than I do and certainly better than you do.
He is brave, ballsy, confident, fearless and albeit a little bit feral! He climbs trees, swims in open waters unaided, jumps off rocks, plays outdoor barefoot and he’s very comfortable doing so. I’ve got friends who are much more cautious with their children and who are constantly saying “be careful, don’t do that, watch what you’re doing” and although I don’t pass judgement on how anyone parents. Each child is different and what works for me might not work for them and visa versa, I understand that, but I must admit I find it kind of stressful to be around.
I know Toby knows his own limits, he will only go as high/deep/far as he’s comfortable with, and that’s fine with me. Yes he might have more scuffs and scrapes than the other children but that’s ok. If he hurts himself he’ll remember and next time he might not go so far. I’m allowing him to learn from his own mistakes and learn to listen to his own instincts.
As long as I know that he is in viewing distance and he can’t be seriously hurt then I’m pretty relaxed with it. I think letting him explore, and be adventurous is healthy and it’s what childhood is about. Taking risks in childhood is actually really important, it builds self confidence. You know that old saying, Scare yourself once a day, it lets you know you’re alive? Well yeah, that.
I try as much as possible to avoid saying “be careful” instead I try to say things like “is that a good idea, watch where your putting your feet, will you be ok getting back down from there, do you feel safe up there” to get him to think about his decisions and what he is doing. I don’t help him to get up anything that he can’t do himself. I trust him to decide what he is and isn’t comfortable with. And this in turn gets me some funny looks sometimes and the occasional “oh he must be careful doing that” comments from strangers.
It’s not always easy to watch them take risks but the more you practice it, the more comfortable it is, for both you to watch and for them finding their own capabilities. I’d never sit back and willingly watch an accident waiting to happen but chances are he’ll stop himself before it gets to that. And if on the rare occasion he gets himself out of his depth, he knows I’m close by to help. Eyes always on, hands near by.
The problem is, it freaks other people out way more than it does me. Time and time again, I’ll get someone come over and say “do you know your little boy is right at the top of that tree”, yes I do. And I’m fine with it, I know that he knows what he’s doing. Giving them the freedom to test their own limits is so important. I want him always to go through life having the confidence to listen to his gut, body and mind and to make his own decisions, as well as the confidence to branch out and try new things.
So before you stop and tell someone else’s child to “be careful” evaluate the situation, if he or she looks comfortable, at ease and in control and there is a parent near by who also appears happy with the situation, accept that they probably are.


Father’s Day Gift Guide

As you know, its just over a week until Father’s Day, (Sunday 17th June, in case you didn’t know. Don’t worry, I had to google it too!) so I’ve teamed up with some great brands to fuel you with inspiration and gift ideas for the special dads in your life. If you’ve been reading along for a while now, you will know that I prefer to shop small rather than give my money to the high-street giants. Mainly, because as a freelancer and business owner, I know how big a difference just one order or booking can make and I’m here for that. Also, because I like to find individual and quirky products that are personal and show how much thought has gone into them, I challenge you to find just one dad that needs or wants yet another pair of gimmicky socks?!

On the other hand, I do think that gifting for Father’s Day in some respects has gotten out of hand. All the gift guides I have seen so far have included YSL wallets, Gucci Trainers and over-priced fancy beard kits. Which, admittedly, they’re all great gifts but there’s nothing memorable or personal about them. Its steering away from what Father’s Day is actually about, and gift wrapping it into a Selfridges bag. There’s plenty of birthdays and Christmas’ to splash the cash on fancy things. Get the kids involved and focus on ways you can celebrate that relationship. It doesn’t need to be expensive, designer or gold plated, it just has to mean something.

Without further ado…

1/ Mama Days Art

Don’t be fooled by the name, this incredible little brand may have been initially inspired by the Mother and child relationship, but these sketches are all about the dads. Kirsty sketches all of her pieces at home, usually while her baby naps! These drawings are all about capturing and remembering the little moments. I’ve never been a huge fan of having loads of photographs around the house, but artwork I do have a lot of.  They’re the perfect way to display those memories without having to have the walls filled with photographs. I have one of the mother and son sketches in my bedroom and I have purchased the ‘Up with Dad’ sketch as a gift for Toby’s dad. Toby has always travelled everywhere on his daddy’s shoulders, the older he gets the less frequent the shoulder rides are becoming. He whinges about his shoulders aching, but I know he will miss it when the phase has passed. This sketch captures all of those memories to perfection and is something he can treasure. She also does commissions, so can sketch something really special and personal to you.

– Use code ‘MAMATEN’ for 10% off all prints.

2/ Bambino Father’s Day Brunch –

An experience is always my favourite type of gift, for any occasion and for anybody. Children and adults. I don’t think there is anything more personal than offering somebody your time, to go somewhere or do something together. Spending quality time and making memories. There are numerous Father’s Day Events going on across Manchester and other parts of the UK too, I’m sure, but for me the Bambino Father’s Day Brunch ticks all of the boxes.

Bambino, if you’re not aware, is a café and children’s store based in Worsley. The food is of great quality, they sell proper coffee! They have a play area to keep the little ones entertained and my favourite bit, (obvs), they stock loads of amazing children’s fashion and other bits and bobs. So, you can shop, eat cake and drink hot coffee in peace! What’s not to love. Anyway, back to the Father’s Day Brunch. There are two sittings available 10am and 12pm, tickets are £10 per adult with a choice of Eggs Benedict, Smashed Avo on Toast (I’m all over that, does anyone else decide what they’re having to eat before they go somewhere, or is it just me?!) and ‘Grown Up Beans on Toast’. You only need to book for the adults as all children eat free and can choose from Weetabix with hot or cold milk, Beans on toast or Kids Toast with jam, honey or peanut butter. It’s great value for money and we’re certainly looking forward to our leisurely Father’s Day morning.


3/ Jax Bakes

Who doesn’t love an edible gift, especially a really cool, personalised edible gift. I’m notorious in my family for buying gifts that also benefit me. And these biscuits will definitely be getting a helping hand from me! Fellow mummy blogger, Jax, makes personalised biscuits for all occasions, she is based in Orpington but can post anywhere within the UK. I have ordered the Galaxy design biscuits (shown below) to say ‘Daddy’, you can have any design, any colour and any name or word you would like ‘Papa, Dad, Grandad’, just drop her a message.

Quote ‘TobyOliverAndMe2’ when ordering to get two extra biscuits free!


4/ Little Folk Tales

I first came across this brand after attending one of their amazing interactive storytelling sessions at an event.  They sell an amazing selection of children’s books and run pop-up events across the country. Story time in our house, is done by Daddy, so a book they can read together is the perfect gift for something they can enjoy together. Little Folk Tales Fathers-Day Gift package has got you fully covered, including newly released bright, colourful and heart-warming story “Daddy Long Legs”, a choice of card from ‘NibInkPaper’ and it even arrives gift-wrapped in ‘iama.lodnon’ paper. Fathers Day Covered for only £10.00.

And whats more, you can get 15% off with code “HAPPYREADING”


5/Martha Brook London Stationary

Martha Brook is an individual stationary brand that offers quality personalised cards, diaries, photo albums, notebooks, love notes etc. They have just launched a new collection just for the dads and have some gorgeous designs. Admittedly, I haven’t actually printed out any photographs for a really long time, so the personalised ‘moments with dad’ photo album inspired me to do so! A photo album dedicated just to Daddy and Toby’s memorable moments is a lovely way for them both to be able to look over them together, time and time again. You can also add a personalised message on the inside to say ‘Happy Father’s Day’ or whatever you would like it to. I have opted for the Pebble Grey colour with white pages, and there is the option for it to be gift wrapped for you. For £35.00 the quality speaks for itself, a personal and touching gift for the dads and grandads in your life.

Use code ‘TOBYFREE’ to get free shipping with your order!


6/ Vellamae’s Engraved Gifts and Keepsakes

Something handmade. That’s what it’s all about really isn’t it? But what if you’re not really the crafty type or you don’t have time to sit down and start making cards, photo frames and all that jazz?! Kerrie at Vellamae’s has got you covered. You can send her a drawing, message or writing and she can make you a bespoke wooden plaque, photo-frame, clipboard or anything else you like specially laser-cut with your child’s handiwork. Just as personal and effective as a home-done craft project, quicker and easier for you. And if we’re going to be totally honest, will look a whole lot better on your fireplace!

So, there we have it! I hope it’s helpful and you all have an amazing day celebrating with those all-important dads in your life! I’d love to hear your Father’s Day gift ideas and plans, leave a comment below!

Boys Swimwear SS18 Shopping Haul AKA the hard work done for you!

So, the time has come, your much-awaited summer holiday is nearing, and you start to shop for the holiday wardrobe essentials for your little boy. Namely, swimsuits. Seen as that’s basically what they spend the majority of their time in, you want something that’s not only cool but good quality. Only to be greeted on every website and in every store with Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, florescent yellow, see-through fabrics and garish tropical prints. I think it’s such a British thing the way that people presume they must have all the colours in the rainbow and palm tree printed everything for their holidays. Guess what guys, you don’t have to. But you do have to dig for it…

If like me, style is important to you and you want your little boy to look stylish, subtle and on trend, whilst being assured of good fabric quality and sun protection then the cartooned offerings in Matalan just aren’t quite going to cut it. Thankfully for you, I have done the hard work for you. I spent hours before going on our summer holiday to Croatia riffling through the crap and selecting my top swimsuits or swim shorts for boys for SS18.

boys swimwear moodboard
1/ Folpetto Swim – if you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed my post about these guys. They’re a clear winner for me. They are a solely children’s swimwear brand that offers both boys and girls quality swimwear made in Italy. Their eco-friendly fabrics, guaranteed UPF50+ sun protection along with a subtle and chic Italian style that does not compromise on comfortability, ticks all the boxes. I opted for the Rash Guard Leonardo in Dusty Blue for £35.00 teamed with the Swim Short Tommaso in Cloud Grey for £36.00. What’s great about these pieces is that they’re all interchangeable, therefore you can mix and match into many different looks. In total this set cost £71.00, which agreeably, is on the expensive side for one child’s swim set but I am a firm believer in that you get what you pay for and I know that given the quality this set will be used again and again. My only wish is I had one of each for the matching sibling sets!

2/ Turtle Dove London – I have loved this brand for a while now, we have so many of their dungarees and have always been impressed with their styles and quality. So, I was thrilled to see that they have launched a new swimwear collection, featuring in house designed prints and patterns. The collection includes both boys and girl’s pieces and all are in monochrome, which is always a winner in my eyes. Stripes is another style that I think is classic and timeless, so monochrome and stripes together – I’m in. I got both the boys options of the Hambug Swimsuit for £24 and the Hambug Shorts for £16. I found the fabric to be of great material, the fit is true to size and they’re very reasonably priced. The swimsuit was a favourite for Toby as he found it comfortable and easy to get on and off himself even when wet, with the zip design. Highly recommend.

3/ June & Loop – This brand is a new one to me, that I came across on Instagram whilst on my hunt for swimwear for Toby. This is an American brand specialising in handmade swim separates for mamas and their mini’s. Both boys and girls. I love their new Reversible Boys Swim Shorties in Black Gingham/Dark Olive for $32.00. Gingham is set to be popular again this summer and olive is a timeless holiday colour that always compliments sun-kissed skin. The reversible design is perfect for getting two looks out of one purchase! And I love that they’ve gotten the boys involved in the mama and mini twinning!

4/ Pearl Street Swim – A children’s swimwear brand made in the USA, their brand ethos is all about capturing the lively and imaginative spirit of little ones. Again, this brand offers mix and match designs which is perfect for holidays. The pastel colours along with hand illustrated patterns set this brand aside from the high street. The SPF50, chlorine and sunscreen resistant materials make this swimwear perfect for busy little ones. My favourite boys set is the Pearl Street Blue Drawstring Trunks for $54.00 matched with the Pearl Street Original Rash Guard, for $50.00.

5/ Stella Cove – The. Dream. I can’t get over their Instagram feed for a start. What can I say, everything I wanted to find and more. My biggest problem was whittling down which were my favourite designs to share with you. All the styles are beautiful, the subtle, non-garish colours, the prints, the rope tie-strings. If I had to choose I’d say the Classic Stripe Print Shorts in Orange and the Flamingo Print Boys Swimming Trunks. Both styles are $50.00. Again, they have matching prints in girl’s swim-wear, so you can co-ordinate your whole gang. I love the fact that the influence behind the brand came from the founder, Pia, reminiscing on how a purple and cream striped swimsuit with a little sailboat on the front made her feel so much brighter and stand a little taller when she was a little girl. It gave me all the feelsssss.

So, there you have it, my top five finds for little boy’s swimwear. And trust me, my expectations are high, I’m not an easy one to please! I hope it helps, everything above is linked for your ease. Happy Shopping!


Revamp your bathroom for a £1,000.

After almost 18 months of being in the house, we are finally almost finished with the renovation! The bathroom was one of the last rooms to be done, (except our bedroom which is next on the list!). Mainly because we have taken a while to decide what to do with it. Our plans with the house have changed, we bought the house with the intention to stay in it for at least 5-6 years. Since living in it we have realised that we need something bigger and we are also wanting to relocate to a quieter, more remote location. Because of this, we are now trying to finish the house to the best possible standard for as little cost as we can.

My original plan with the bathroom was to knock the wall through into the adjacent room (the office) to have a huge bathroom, walk in shower, free standing bath, the lot but as we’ve decided we will move in the near future, I’m saving those design ideas and more importantly saving the money to do the next house! This means we will have to live with the small bathroom for now, but at least it is no longer a dated, pastel green small bathroom, right?! I’ve surprised myself how cost effectively I have managed to revamp the bathroom, and more importantly how pleased I am with the outcome. So, seen as I have had loads of questions of where I got certain things from, I thought I would share how I have done it.

Firstly, bathroom suites/ bathroom fitters are ridiculously priced for a bathroom that probably 14782 other people have. Buy everything separately and get a local tradesman, family member to fit it or if you’re a bit more DIY savvy than me – do it yourself! This way you can literally save yourself thousands, get the exact design you want and have a room that is unique to your house, rather than a showroom replica. Secondly, utilise what you have. If there are aspects of the original bathroom that you like or don’t mind. Keep them and see if you can up-cycle them in some way.

My first piece of advice would be to make a plan. Create a mood board of the style you want to go for, decide what is important to you, how much space do you have, what are your needs for revamping this room and most importantly what is your budget. I knew that I really wanted to go for the subway-style tiling with a contrasting grout but rather than completely replace, we kept the existing cream tiles and unpicked all of the old grout. We then re-grouted with a charcoal grey grout and resealed for a more contrasted look. A few tiles had to be replaced due to cracks but in total we saved hundreds by saving the original tiles and I got the look I wanted. A family friend/local handy man did this for us as well as the painting.

The walls were a pastel green colour, which is not my thing. I waned to go dark with the bathroom to give a spa like/relaxing feel. I think a lot of people are scared to go so dark in a bathroom, but yeah don’t be. We had so much charcoal grey paint left over from the dining room so again decided to use what we already had to cut costs and reduce waste. The paint was the perfect match to the grout.  The radiator was old, yellow-ing and dated but rather than replace we sanded it and painted matte white, we also used this matte white for the skirting boards and door. Simple things like matte paint rather than gloss make such a big difference in giving a new and modern finish. Altogether, for the grouting and painting, labour and materials, we spent £350.

We replaced the god-awful cream/silver/glittery lino that was down (some seriously questionable choices by the previous owners!) and we were sensible with our choices to keep costs down. I originally wanted the Parquet Karndean tiles but as we were doing it on the cheap we went for the Parquet style cushioned floor instead. The same final outcome, for less. This cost £110 including fitting, my cousin fit this (@brt.flooring on insta!) so, the fitting didn’t cost much, family rates and all that!

In terms of bathroom furniture, we kept everything and just revamped. We ripped off the original white plastic bath panel (thank god!) and had a new one built using pallet wood which was then sanded and stained. Again, we got a local joiner to create and fit this and he also boxed in all the pipes around the toilet in the same wood as well as the sink to hide the visible pipes. We have a pallet wood feature wall in the front room, it’s a really cost-effective and easy way to achieve the modern- rustic look. Whilst the work was being done and we had no bath panel, I found I kept storing things under the bath. I came up with the idea to create a hidden door within the bath panel to allow us to still use under the bath as storage. As the bathroom is so small, storage space is tight, so this created the perfect place for us to hide all of things you don’t want on show! He also made us the bath caddy to match, bath caddy’s have become a hugely popular bathroom accessory recently. Pop a plant and a candle on them and they instantly make your bathroom look more stylish. All in all, the wood work cost us £200.

We replaced the dated leaf patterned window glass with an opal white opaque glass in the bottom panel and clear in the top panel to allow for light. This cost £100 for the glass which is a huge saving on replacing the entire window, (my dad fit this for us for free). The frosted glass also meant we didn’t need to fork out for shutters or a blind.

New light fitting and pull cord. – the initial plan with the lighting was to get rid of the pull cord as it is a dated design and put in spot lights with a standard light switch outside. However, this would have been a big and pricey job. Therefore, we opted to keep the light pull but swap for a more modern chrome design to tie in with the colours of the taps/shower etc. We got a new and quite dramatic light fitting to give a stand out effect (and steer the eye away from the pull cord!) some people doubted my decision on this, but I think it’s important for bathrooms to have a focal point. The light and pull cord came to £60 from Wayfair.

Furnishings/accessories – my favourite bit! I got rid of all the random mismatched towels we had collected over the years and replaced with simple high quality off-white towels. I don’t think towels are something to scrimp on because you can really tell in the quality. I got these organic linen blend towels from H&M, I paid £130 for 6 bath sheets and 3 hand towels.

One thing I hate is having a million plastic bottles of scattered along the side of the bath. I got these brown opaque bottles from amazon for £40 for four and emptied our shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and hand soap into them. They come in various different shapes and sizes and my favourite bit is that they look exactly like the Aesop bottles, so nobody will ever know it’s not! Goodbye, awful brightly coloured plastic bottles.

Plants. Or fake plants, I should say! All of which I already had from other rooms and just re-homed but originally from IKEA for next to nothing.

I’m sure all mums will agree with me on this one, the overload of brightly coloured bath toys just ruin the style of our bathroom. Stop killing my vibe with your paw patrol figures, Tobes!  I had a huge clear out and only kept a handful of them, how many toys does one child need for a twenty-minute bath seriously?! And hid them out of sight in a braided jute basket, £8.99 from H&M.

The wooden ladder style towel rack again is something I already owned. I bought this from a vintage store I stumbled across once in a little village, I can’t remember exactly where but I do know it cost me around £40 because I remember thinking it was a bargain and I bought it before we even owned a house, knowing it would look great somewhere one day! I do this a lot. I like to have individual quirky pieces nobody else has, so if I spot something cool in a vintage or antiques shop I buy it. Whether I need it or not. T’other half hates my impulse buys! But you know, I hate his snoring, so swings and roundabouts! The same with the mirror, this I found in a garden centre for £30 and it’s been living on the fireplace for about a year, it looks so much better in its newly found home.

All in all, the bathroom renovation cost us just over a thousand pound, coming to a total of £1,118.99, which I personally think is amazing compared to some of the £6k bathrooms I was originally looking at! Kitchens and bathrooms are the main focal points people look at when buying a house, because they are the most expensive rooms to do. I’m now happy that my bathroom adds a unique selling point to the house and exudes the same personality and style as the rest of the house.


Surviving Disney with Small, Emotionally Unstable People.

I posted a poll on my insta stories recently asking whether you’d prefer a Disney land review or a Lapland review. As always when I post polls I seem to get a 50/50 response. Helpful guys, real helpful. So, I’ve decided I will do both starting with Disney. It seems more relevant as I have read quite a lot of controversy recently surrounding how magical it really is. I’m sure others may have conflicting opinions and I might get a bashing from some die-hard Disney fans but here’s our experience. Of course, this is only an opinion piece based on our experience alone and I appreciate others might have had a more positive encounter.

For Toby’s fourth birthday I had my heart set on taking him to Disneyland, Florida. It was in fact the second time he had been but the first time he was 6 months old and as I’m sure you can imagine was completely and utterly pointless. (Don’t take a baby, they don’t give a shit where they are. Go somewhere peaceful while you can before your holidays become kids disco and fancy-dress costume hell). This time he was going to love it. He was at the perfect age and knew who all the characters were. It was going to be perfect. I planned our two-week holiday schedule within an inch of its life. I made a list of all the must do’s and created a timetable of what we would do each day. Printed it, laminated it. You think I’m joking, don’t you? I’m not. It was more like a military operation than a holiday and I was thrilled with my plans. We were going to squeeze in as much as possible into these two weeks and create the most incredible memories.

The first time we went when Toby was a baby we had no real plan and we wasted days pondering over what we should do that we later lived to regret. We learnt the hard way that if you have leisurely mornings eating brunch by the pool and then popping over to the parks in the afternoon you have not a cat in hells chance of getting on any rides. That wasn’t going to be the case this time, we’d be there at crack of dawn and experience all there was to experience if it killed me. What I didn’t factor into my plan was that Toby like every other young child, doesn’t always play ball. And that by doing this, you all end up bloody knackered!

I’d decided that we would do magic Kingdom in two parts. The day of Toby’s birthday we would we would spend the day playing in the pool and have a little pool party, by pool party I mean an inflatable shark and a Walmart birthday cake. The days where pool parties meant bottles of grey goose and house music are a distant memory. He would have a nap after lunch, he doesn’t have naps anymore and hasn’t since he was two but to make it through my fool proof plan and keep him in good spirits until late at night, it was a must. And we would head to Magic Kingdom at around 6pm to see the forever after firework display. Then we would go back to Magic Kingdom another day, early, to see it in a different light.

Unfortunately, as happens often in our world, everything didn’t go quite so accordingly. Despite my best efforts Toby point blank refused to nap so we headed to Magic Kingdom anyway. When we arrived, we were told it was shut to the general public due to a “Halloween Spooktacular” it was 22nd September! Great. Of course, this spiralled a full-blown melt down, (Toby was pretty pissed off too) but after I’d calmed down we decided to make the most of the evening and so went to Epcot to watch their firework display instead and planned to head back to Magic Kingdom the following day for a full day. This was not what I had wanted to do. The following day Toby was in the worst mood imaginable having had a late night the day before. Our options were limited because the fast passes that I had booked for the day before were now useless, and everything bar the shit characters that nobody wants to see were fully booked or had a two-hour long que. Everything I suggested to him to go and see was shut down, “No. I want to go home and play in the pool”.

I managed to convince him to go and see Rapunzel from Tangled as he loves the film. We queued for an hour, only made possible through YouTube on my phone and  sheer bribery with sweets, ice-cream and whatever over-priced crap we could find. When we reached the front, we were greeted by a different princess, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, when she said hello to Toby and held out her arms he responded, “No. I don’t know you. I want Rapunzel”. I awkwardly apologised and hurried past her to get to Rapunzel who’s overly energetic and spritely manner he was unsure of. Her character was spot on for whom she was supposed to be I’ll give her that, if not a little too enthusiastic, but it took him a little by surprise. He wasn’t sure what to make of her and was a bit uncomfortable. I’d expected this big wow magical moment and what I got was “I don’t want a picture with her”, she scooped him up and the photographer did get some good pictures of him awkwardly smiling with her. After this he point blank refused to meet any other characters. I begged and pleaded with him, I managed to get him to meet one more by brute force and that was it. They also do this thing where by they have allocated time slots so whether you’ve queued up for hours or not, once their time slot for that session is over they walk off leaving a line full of angry and upset children for the parents to contend with. Never have I wanted to punch Mickey Mouse in the face so much. The beautiful personalised autograph book his cousin bought him for his birthday has only two signatures in.

He had an almighty tantrum throughout the parade because he wanted to get past, the sun was in his eyes and he was too hot. His face was bright red, so we ended up stripping him down to just his shorts and paying a ridiculous amount of money for a fan that he then decided he didn’t like and didn’t use. Every ride that we came off conveniently exits through a gift shop so there were constant meltdowns because he obviously spotted some all singing all dancing toy or memorabilia shit he wanted in every single shop we found ourselves in. And on the odd occasion it’s not your own child kicking off, it’s someone else’s. The place is filled with screaming children. It truly is what dreams are made of. Said nobody ever. We couldn’t get into any restaurant’s or cafes as they were all fully booked and the grab and go food is naff. Then let’s talk about the castle, from the minute Toby spotted the castle from the carpark he wanted to go inside, you can only imagine his disappointment when the castle isn’t actually anything, it’s just a tunnel leading you to another section of dated rides and uncontrolled queues. The same thing happened with the “beast’s castle” he desperately wanted to go inside, but of course it isn’t an attraction that’s open for everyone. It is in fact the ‘Be Our Guest’ restaurant that like every other character lunch or breakfast, you have to book approximately seven years in advance. So, you know, if there’s even a 20% chance of you conceiving a child in the near future. I’d get yourself a place booked now. There are way too many people, everywhere. It’s overcrowded, over stimulating and over-priced. The entire day was a whole load of disappointing and not in the least bit magical.

We did have some amazing days at some of the other parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a favourite of ours. But, I must admit I am 100% team Universal, it is more current, more exciting, more practical, more exciting than Disney which as it stands in comparison is kind of dated. Having said that, putting the horrific ques, the disappointing food, the overcrowding and the extortion aside when the heat had diminished, the park was still, everyone was sat on the pavements waiting in silence, the look on Toby’s face when those first fireworks shot above the Disney castle will forever hold an imprint on my heart.

I’ve put together a list of my top tips for surviving Disney with young children, in hope to make others experience a little less stressful.

1/ Chose where and what is most important to you before go. Which park’s do you want to visit and how many times. If you plan on getting to as many as possible including Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and the waterparks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. You’re best to get a Disney pass. These are expensive, you’re looking at around £250 per person adult or child but if you are going to do everything, they save you money in the long run and give you that much needed flexibility to enter and leave as many times as you like. If you are for instance only going to go to Magic Kingdom for one day, just get a one or two-day pass. Like any theme park they are always cheaper bought in advance and online than on the day.

2/ Dress accordingly – Shorts, a vest top or t-shirt and trainers would be my go to Disney outfit for all the family. You’re cool enough to handle heat (it’s fucking hot!) in shorts and a tee. You’ll need comfortable shoes because there is a hell of a lot of walking and standing around in ques involved. Take a light waterproof jacket or poncho with a hood. When it rains, it rains and trust me you don’t want to be stood in a mile-long que trying to get your hands on the last Disney printed overpriced rain-mac for your hysterical four-year old screaming “I’m wet!!!!”.

3/ Buy your merchandise before you go, if you really can’t resist the Mickey mouse ear headbands/naff quality t-shirts and other general Disney tat, there are a million gift shops that sell them for a fraction of the price on your way there. Walmart has a huge selection and they don’t break the bank. Your kids won’t know the difference, but your wallet will. Same applies for light up toys/glow sticks for the night-time parade, grab them from the local dollar store before you go.

4/ Take your own autograph book, then if you can withstand the excruciating two-hour que to see what is essentially a delusional college student dressed up in a Disney costume at least you’ve got something to show for it.

5/ Don’t be too disheartened if your kids don’t like the characters, and you don’t get the reaction you were hoping for. They’re much bigger than they look on photographs and for a pint-sized person they can be daunting. Even meeting their most favourite characters can be overwhelming.

6/ Speak to your child about what is going on beforehand and during. For us especially this is crucial, if he doesn’t know what to expect or what is going on he is thrown. Explaining that there will be ques and a lot of people around is helpful in preventing them feeling overwhelmed.

7/ Busy is an understatement, if you’re anything like me places that are too busy and crowded stress me out. When Toby is running around, weaving, ducking and darting in between people I ended up losing my cool because of the panicking feeling that I am going to lose sight of him. Reins or buggies are a must. Toby as I’m sure like any other four-year old hasn’t been in a pram for a really long time and if I tried to put reins on him he would lose his tiny mind. We found that you can rent a car looking buggy from every park and they honestly saved our lives. He loved them because he thought they were toy cars and for us it meant we could strap him in and push him around which meant we knew where he was all the time but also meant we could get places quicker than his excruciating walking pace. They also give you a place to dump all the crap you will inevitably end up with. The only trouble is these are around $15 per day, and we got one every day. That adds up. So, if you can take an alternative with you, you’d save yourself a bob or two!

8/ Refillable drinks! Something we discovered way too late in the game. It was at least day 8 before we cottoned on these $20 miracles. You buy a refillable cup on your first day in the parks for around $20-$25, there are refill stations all over the parks that are unlimited, and you can fill up with a million different options all day. Each day that you take your cup back to use again you are charged $3 for the reuse, they really are a saving grace in that heat with all the walking.  You can take drinks in with you but who wants a bottle of boiled water when you’re absolutely melting, not me.

9/ Split. It. Up. The parks are exhausting for adults let alone children. They’re over stimulating, there’s a lot of walking, a lot of waiting, you’ve all probably still got jet lag, it’s boiling hot and unless you take some down time it can just be a total disaster. If you have the unlimited passes, go for half a day and then go back to your villa or hotel for a swim and some wind down time. You can always go back another day. Even if you are only planning to visit magic kingdom, I would suggest buying a two-day ticket and splitting the days to get the most enjoyment out of the experience.

10/ Fast Pass & Apps – another crucial must have. Once you have purchased your park tickets online you can download the Disney App and book your fast passes online up to 60 days in advance. You get 3 fast passes per day, so have a research into which shows, rides or meet and greets your child would like to do the most and book them. Don’t underestimate how far in advance people book these things, Disney fanatics are crazy. I would suggest booking one of each to ensure you have experienced a little of everything in case everything else is booked up or the wait time is insane. You can also use the app while you’re in the park to keep checking on the current wait times and strike while the iron is hot. If there’s a ride you want to go on and the wait time is 20 minutes you know you’re busting a gut running across that park and getting on there while you can. If something has a wait time of three hours you can go for some lunch and check back later. You can also book restaurant’s in advance on there too, this is something I would strongly recommend because you can bet your bottom dollar (how’s that for authenticity) that they’ll all be fully booked for lunch and dinner when you get there and you’ll end up like me in a ridiculously long que in Starbucks at 8pm begging a woman to let you have the last pot of boiled eggs because your child has eaten nothing but ice-cream and candy floss all day.

11/ Photo Pass. This is part of the App and it’s great. One thing I hated about Disney the first time was how everything was such a money-making scheme while they bang on about creating magical memories in one breath they’re robbing you blind in the other. So, this relatively new feature is something I did like. There are dozens of professional photographer’s dotted around the park and loads of photo opportunities whether it be walking down the boulevard at Hollywood Studios or the meet and greets at Magic Kingdom, having a professional who can capture the moment for you and that you can just tap your Disney card onto their tablet and have the photographs instantly appear on your app is something I can get on board with. There’s a positive for you.

11/ The food is biz. There’s nothing else I can tell you other than to expect the taste of disappointment. You can’t find much else other than your stereotypical shit quality fries, burgers, chicken nuggets. You’re going to gain approximately 10 lbs there’s nothing you can do about it except embrace it. And there’s so many amazing restaurant’s and food places in Orlando outside of the parks, so you just have to slum it while you’re in there. One thing that most people don’t know though is you can take food and drinks into the park. I wouldn’t recommend taking a full-on picnic because for one the heat will spoil most things, and for two you don’t want to be lugging around that weight. But do take snacks to help you through the tantrums and the ques – breadsticks, fruit, crisps, cereal bars.

12/ Relax and try to embrace it. There is a lot to do and a lot to see, chances are you won’t see everything in one trip but don’t stress yourself and your children out trying to. Let them lead and if you don’t get the reaction you wanted, don’t be disheartened, try something else.

I have written this post as honestly as possible, I wanted it to be something I wish I’d have come across before I went. I think it’s important to go there with an open mindset. Stepping off that boat/train and expecting a magical stress-free day with no preparation from morning until night just isn’t realistic. I have tried to feature this post solely around Disney’s Magic Kingdom as this is where people tend to have their hearts set on visiting although I have touched on some of the others as well and if anyone has any questions about the other parks, I’d be happy to help if I can. Of course, I’m no expert, I can only advise based on our experience, but I’d like to hope it is helpful to some.


Gender Neutral Toys

“When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them to feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit” – Fred Rogers.

My son has a toy doll and I’m ok with it. So, why aren’t you? Toby asked for a baby doll for his second birthday. It was decided that his grandma was going to buy it for him, we chose the My First Baby Annabel’s Brother. It was the best of a bad bunch; the selection of gender neutral dolls was appalling. He came with a blue baby-grow (obviously, because baby boy’s only wear blue and baby girls only wear pink of course.) a bottle and a bib. We also got him a pram to push his baby around in. He instantly loved his baby doll and has played with it every day since. He named him ‘Baby George’ and he comes everywhere with us. The park, preschool, the supermarket. But no matter where it is that we go with Baby George and his pram, we will always get funny looks and laughs from passers-by. Mocking comments from friends/family “oh where’s your doll today Toby?” and I don’t get it. What is it exactly that offends you so much? Nobody bats an eyelid seeing a dad walk down the high-street with a pram, so why does so much biases with toys still exist?

The diversion in toy stores is still ridiculously apparent. You either go down the trucks, tools and wrestlers isle or the dolls and barbies. Some stores are even labelled into gender-specific aisles or sections. But, what about if your child enjoys playing with both? The division does nothing but give the child a complex. So much so, that recently I’ve heard a few comments from the horse’s mouth along the lines of “you can’t play with this, because you’re a girl”. I can only imagine he is picking up on what he hears from others or what is constantly thrown at him by society, because it’s certainly not an opinion of mine. Of course, I reassure him that toys are for everybody. (After I’ve finished calling him a sexist arsehole and playing who run the world by Beyoncé on repeat). I understand not everybody shares my views, but I can’t help feeling riled by the fact other people’s views are affecting his decisions and thoughts. Why can toys not just be toys. “Boys toys” are often marketed to promote aggression and competition (I’m sure all other boy mama’s will agree with me, this comes very naturally and needs no encouragement!) and “girls toys” are marketed in promotion of nurturing and relationship building. But don’t we all need all these qualities regardless of gender to become a well-rounded adult? Girls need to be taught to be strong and independent and have the freedom to explore their interests, whether that be dolls or dumper trucks. And as for boys, (I know mine in particular) are so emotional. They also need to learn to feel confident and comfortable expressing their emotions, they need to learn to feel compassion and empathy and what is so damaging about teaching them to care? Play is so important in encouraging them to learn, build confidence and important life skills that restricting or categorising any aspect of play completely defies all logic.

I do think that due to more and more people raising children with a positive feminist viewpoint and the rise of women in typically male careers that there has been movement in the “girls toys” section. You can now buy pink Lego and all typically male cartoons these days will always feature a girl character who is just as ballsy and brave as her fellow male companions. And rightly so. But I can’t help but notice the movement in “boys toys” is still lacking. No matter how many variations and colour choices of certain toys are produced there are still too many people who feel uncomfortable seeing a little boy with a baby doll in a pram. The same as they do seeing a little boy dressed in a princess costume. Toby enjoys playing with his cars and tools just as much as he does his doll and his toy kitchen. I might not be able to change the biased opinion of many, I can’t force people to be comfortable with something that they’re not, I can only make sure that Toby knows my views are neutral, allow him to express his creativity in any which way he desires and make sure he see’s that I do not agree with the mainstream message of gender stereotyping.

Below I have listed some of our favourite gender-neutral toys that we enjoy playing with.  I tend to opt for toys that are open-ended, that he can use his imagination to use in multiple different ways and have longevity. As I mentioned he has played with his baby doll and toy kitchen for years and they are still his favourite’s, but these are some of the other things we have and enjoy.

Of course, at the top of the list. A baby doll, as I mentioned above the only real options in stores are a blue or pink doll, but what we do is have a small box of old baby clothes for ‘Baby George’ or if you don’t have any saved, get some really cheap new-born clothes from a charity shop or supermarket that way they can change them into whatever they want to. Toby will spend hours getting his doll undressed and dressed again into different outfits.

Ikea Duktig Play Kitchen – we have the metal baking set, utensils and cookware set to go with this. When I was looking for a kitchen for Toby, again I struggled to find one that wasn’t either pink or blue until I came across the Ikea one. He has had this for years and plays with it every-day with his Melissa and Doug Wooden food. He makes meals for us, he creates tea-parties and birthday parties for his toys. And the best bit it completely fits in with my décor.

Wooden Dolls House, these are great for imaginative play. We actually got our (Viga Wooden Dollhouse Villa) from a car-boot sale and it was the best tenner I’ve ever spent. Again, this took me a really long time to find something that wasn’t obviously feminine. I still haven’t found any on the high-street, but I do know that Scandiborn do a beautiful wooden one. It’s quite an investment but I can guarantee you would get your money’s worth.

Animal/Dinosaur Figurines – you can get these pretty much any-where but our favourites are by Schleich, in comparison to some of the cheap ones you can get your hands on they really stand the test of time. There is no end for the amounts of things you can do with these. Bath play, sensory bins, imaginary play, sorting into categories the list is endless. They are also a really good thing to take on days out and travelling. I always have a tiger or two shoved in my handbag!

A Doctors Kit – again there are so many variations on these that you can get. Our favourite is the My First Doctor’s Kit from Wooden Toy Shop. (You may have gathered I much prefer wooden toys over plastic). Toby received this doctor’s kit one Christmas when he was around 18 months, it’s used tirelessly over and over again on us, grandparents, his toys, the dog, you name it.

Wooden Building Blocks – These have to be my favourite. We have the Brio 50 Piece Building Block Set and a couple of Giant Jenga sets. They’re so versatile, he plays with them in a different way every time. Sometimes he builds towers and bashes them back down, other times he will spend ages laying them out specifically, counting them rearranging them, he will use them to build houses/castles/garages or various other things for his figurines and cars. And they stand the test of time.

Dressing Up Box – My sister and her partner put together a dressing up box for Toby as a gift last Christmas. It can be easy to stereotype dressing up boxes if you stick to what is available in the local toy-shops. For boys they offer superhero’s or builders and for girls’ princess’, there’s no in between. Don’t get me wrong he does have a couple of super-hero costumes, but he also has a wand and tiara, its all about balance and exploration. What I’ve found works best for imaginative play is loose parts they can create in to multiple characters and be whoever they want to be. You can get some great things from Amazon and also from fancy dress shops. Think anything from wigs, to hats, to wings, to glasses. And another bonus you can always dig something out for those impromptu dress up days nurseries and schools like to spring on us! This is always the first box to be pulled out if he has friends round.

I hope these ideas are helpful and encourage you to allow your child or children to fully express themselves in wherever their interests lie. So next time your son’s Christmas list includes a Barbie, or your daughter’s birthday wish is for a WWE Wrestler, embrace it. Forget about the opinions of others, you do you. And more importantly, let them do them. We can’t single-handedly change the mainstream message, but we can redefine the meaning for our own children. And just maybe the woman who sniggered in the street at my son’s toy pram won’t be so shocked the next time she sees it, and maybe the time after that even less, until she sees little boys everywhere doing what little boy’s do best and playing, imagining and exploring and just maybe eventually she will learn to completely mind her own business.

The flip side of funny.

Have you ever had a dream that has shaken you to the core, the kind where you wake up with tears spiking your eyes, Goosebumps all over your body but dripping with sweat, where you can’t quite figure out where you are and no matter how hard you try to convince yourself it was just a dream, you can’t shake how realistic it felt?

A few nights ago, I experienced exactly that. Only this dream is reoccurring, yet usually these thoughts and worries only occur when we are abroad on holiday and they are variations of the same subject. In general, I am a very laid-back person, and nothing really phases me, however motherhood has spiked feelings and worries within me I didn’t know existed. They always surround my worst fear, losing Toby.

There is a flip side to the hilarious, outgoing and witty personality (Toby’s not mine, but you know the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and all that 😉) as I have mentioned before, people are in awe of him. He gets so much attention everywhere we go, he will talk to anyone and everyone and he has no fear of strangers. He presumes everyone is a good person as children should and that melts my heart but petrifies me at the same time. The feelings of anxiety surrounding it only really build up whilst we are abroad. On top of his personality that people are so taken by, he has bright blonde hair (more so when he’s been in the sun for a couple of days) and blue eyes. So, this alone gets a lot of attention when we are abroad, we often get people coming over to comment on his lovely hair colour or eye colour. Under normal circumstances I of course see no problem with people being friendly and complimentary but when we are in a foreign country my mind doesn’t think rationally and images of Madeline McCann and Ben Needham flash to the front of my mind. (Dramatic and farfetched, I know). For the first two years of Toby’s life I would only go on holiday with my parents as I guess a form of comfort, I have learnt to combat these irrational feelings and fears because we love travelling and I want Toby to experience the world. We do now travel just the three of us. But sometimes those feelings come back to bite me.

This dream in particular, we were on holiday in Greece and had been there for a week. The hotel was amazing, and we were having the best time. We were in the pool all day and exploring in the evenings. The staff were so nice and couldn’t do enough for us. As everywhere that we go, within a couple of days everybody had come to know Toby by name. (He makes sure of that!) One morning the clocks had gone backwards, or forwards, something along those lines and Toby was sleeping in later than usual, we had run out of water and decided he would be absolutely fine left sleeping if we nipped out to the supermarket to get some things. (Just to clarify this is what happened in my dream and would never ever happen in real life. Even now that I know it was a dream I keep thinking why would one of you not just go?!) We came back to the room and he was gone. My worst fear realised. Its making my heart race even writing this because I can feel that feeling, you know the one where you’re in the supermarket and you go to pick up something from the shelf, turn back around and they’re gone?! That split second before you see them bounding towards you, is gut wrenching.

Anyway, back to the dream. We were running around everywhere, screaming his name, asking anyone and everyone if they had seen him. Dan ran to the reception and told them to call the police, I was screaming, frantically running up and down showing people his picture on my phone. I ran out of the complex and down the street asking everyone who I passed on my way, I ran past a Sainsburys (I know what you’re thinking, a Sainsburys in Greece?!) and I saw a glimpse of blonde spikey hair in the store walking out of the adjacent door at the opposite end of the store. I sprinted inside and screamed his name, he turned around almost in slow motion, I scooped him up in my arms sobbing. He looked at me in a daze and the first thing he said was “I’m hungry”. He had a shopping bag in his hand and had been sent in by himself to get something to eat because he kept complaining of hunger. In his bag he had a cheese sandwich and a tube of smarties. My heart hurt. He told me “the man” had come to pick him up from the hotel room and had told him he was taking him to find us. Still clutching him tighter than I ever had before, I stepped one foot outside the exit in which he was walking out to see who the man was that was waiting for him. It was the hotels pool maintenance man. Dressed in a hoody and a cap rather than his usual bright red attire. He clocked me and ran away. I threw up. I was shaking. The same pool maintenance man that had shouted “Hey Toby!” and gave him a high five every time he had walked past him all week, who had laughed along with him and us, who had told us on multiple occasions “he’s so cute”, who we presumed was harmless. I went back inside the store and rang Dan to tell him I had found him and that it was the pool maintenance man who had taken him. Dan, the police and the hotel receptionist were at the store in seconds and it was at this point I woke up.

Tears were strolling down my face and I was dripping in sweat; my hands were trembling. Toby was right next to me in bed sound asleep and safe. But I could not shake how real the dream felt. I couldn’t convince myself it wasn’t real, even though I could see him right in front of me. I think it was because I knew how easily that could happen, Toby would trust a friendly, familiar face that he recognised from the hotel (not that he would ever be left unattended abroad or at home). I walked up and down the hall way a couple of times to try and rationalise everything. I ended up having to wake Dan up at 3am, as I needed further reassurance that it was just a dream, and everything was fine.

At the point of writing this I haven’t decided whether I am going to post this or not, it’s obviously a bit deep compared to what I usually write about. Maybe it will just be something that I needed to write down to clarify my own thoughts and it will go unread. I’m not sure. The dream stuck with me for a good few days and had me questioning whether it is the right time to talk to Toby about stranger danger. I think it’s a difficult topic, I don’t want to crush his spirit or alter his innocence in any which way, but I also want him to be aware of who it is and isn’t ok to go with and ultimately to be safe. I’d love to hear your opinions on talking to your children about stranger danger and how you have dealt with this matter. Is four too young or should I have made him aware by now?


A walk in the park.

“A walk in the park”

In my opinion, its possibly the most ironic and ridiculous saying of all. A walk in the park, like they’re referring to a spa, a yoga retreat, a farmer’s market brunch or any actually relaxing places?!

Now, I don’t know what kind of parks these people who say “it’s like a walk in the park” go to, but a trip to the park in our world is NOT even remotely relaxing. As a matter of fact, there’s no walking – merely sprinting after an over excited toddler running straight for the pre-occupied swings about to be drop-kicked in the face or lifting said seriously heavy (may I add) toddler off the pavement during an almighty tantrum over ice cream. What kind of maniac’s idea of relaxation is this?!

Unfortunately for me, we live facing one of these ‘relaxing’ parks, something that seemed such a lovely idea when we bought the house. How wrong we were. We go to the park every day. Every damn day. Come rain or shine or sleet or snow.

Of course, we have to take the bike every time too, so the what should be a two-minute journey across the road, takes twenty. I’ve lost my voice before we’ve got there because I’ve had to scream “stop at the end!!!!” thirty times already, because apparently the only time that Toby’s bike breaks don’t work are as he’s nearing the edge of the curb and a van is flying around the corner. Obviously. I swear the little old man who lives next to the doctors thinks I’m a complete lunatic and he wouldn’t be far wrong. I’ve named him Kevin, but I’ve no real idea of what his name actually is.

We get there and the usual forage of having to push him back and forth on the swings for seven hours commences. This always looks a lovely child and parent bonding activity when I observe others doing it, but not my child who is a complete adrenaline junkie and nothing less than putting every ounce of effort you’ve got into every push will do.

Then there’s the fireman poles that he insists on doing despite having prior almost knocked his teeth out on multiple occasions. There’s no warnings for those either, he just jumps your either there to catch him or you’re not. He doesn’t give a shit either way.

After that there’s usually always some kind of bike riding or running race/contest with a random kid he’s challenged on the park. God help us all if he doesn’t win. But there’s not much chance of that, because for one he’s the most competitive child I’ve ever met and two he’s fucking rapid. Usain Bolt needs to watch his back.

All of this adrenaline pinching fun is usually followed by an ice cream from the parks cafe on the way back home. We try to limit Toby’s sugar intake through the week because he’s so sensitive to it, adding sugar to an already hyperactive child is the equivalent to pouring a can of petrol over an already out of control fire. It defies any reasonable logic. So, he knows he’s only allowed “treats” at weekend. And don’t we know it. He asks us every morning what day it is and wakes us up at 6 am on a Saturday morning shouting “ITS SATURDAY, CAN I HAVE SWEETS NOW?!” So, on a weekend we’ll let him have one.

Every. Single. Time. We have this conversation “I’ll have a blue one please!” Toby you don’t like blue, you just like the colour blue but you don’t like the flavour. “No, I do, it’s my favourite, I want a blue one”. Toby, you don’t, you say this every time and you have one lick and say you don’t like it. “No, no mummy, I used to do that when I was three but now I’m four. Blue is my favourite. It is. Honest”. Ok, well I’m not getting you another one if you don’t like it. “I do honest. I love blue” ……….. “mummy I don’t like this one I want to swap it”. Cue monumental tantrum.

“The walk in the park” ends up me dragging a foaming at the mouth, screaming toddler back up the road in one arm, bike in the other, usually the dog chucked in to the mix as well to make things even more fun. That is the dog that won’t fucking walk anywhere and hates being outside, so I have to carry him everywhere. (We seriously may as well have gotten a pet Guinea pig). Back passed (Kevin) the old man who lives next to the doctors, I’ve only just realised whilst writing this how weird it is that he’s always stood outside in his front garden. I’ll give him a half eye roll/smirk in a desperate bid that he doesn’t think we’re the neighbours from hell, but I know I’m completely wasting my time.

We’ll get home and dry (there’s absolutely no doubt he will have thrown himself in a puddle of some form) and put the same episode of paw patrol on we watch every day. “The one where Ryder is dressed up as a Knight please” and a now calmed down and over ice cream palaver Toby will say “I love going to the park Mummy 😊”. ……I’d rather go to the fucking spa!