I love a challenge, it keeps life interesting and gives you something to aim for. Luckily I’m not too competitive so if I don’t succeed then it’s all down to experience with very few tears and minimum sulks.  So how does that  fit into a review of the latest Mercedes C-class saloon you ask?

My challenge was to see how it fared as a family car.


Now as challenges go, this was pretty luxurious; a high-end, top of the range car with all the mod cons a gadget loving mum could wish for. Pretty lush as challenges go, I totes admit. My only worry was the abundance of older gentlemen I’d seen driving around my Devon roads, it’s retirement central down here, which has a big baring on my observation so I did have a niggling doubt it wouldn’t suit our needs completely.

So there lay my challenge…. would a Mercedes C-Class Saloon suit a mum, teenager, tween and toddler.  We cover the whole age range right now so this was going to be a thorough test!

First Impressions

Ok, this is serious eye candy. End of. The front styling catches your eye straight away, it’s a long car but don’t for one minute let that put you off. (Keep reading and you’ll find out why.) There’s no mistaking the Mercedes quality as soon as you see it. Stepping in side, you’re greeted by a cockpit feel as you sink into the leather seats. My toddler was straight in the back, having a gander, the door depth meant no problems asserting his independence a making his own way into his seat. Time saver and toddler tantrum diverter all in one manageable lump!

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.

Gadgets Galore!

First off was to get my seating position right. At 5’3″ I needed to notch the seat up and forward quite a bit. The controls are on the door and really easy to get the hang of, as well as those I’ve just mentioned, you can also adjust the depth of the seat which I could pull it back so it rested at the back of my knees supporting my thighs and still giving me plenty of room to move my lower legs. Next was to adjust the steering wheel height so I could see over the dash without it obstructing my view. Then we were good to go! Nearly.

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.

There’s a central touchpad which controls the tablet style screen which sits in the centre dash and gives everything you need at the click of a button; radio, telephone, navigation and car settings such a colour and brightness of the ambient lighting. (I chose a cool blue which radiated from a lighting strip on the door to light up the door controls without being a distraction which was sooooooo chillaxing while driving in the dark.)

So with the toddler strapped into to his seat via the isofix settings, teenager commanding front seat position, tween reluctantly sitting in the back, Radio 1 selected, I’m cool like that <cough, cough>  directions set and temperature adjusted it was ready to drive.

The Drive

You select your (automatic) automatic gears  from a stick (is that the correct term?) just behind the steering wheel. A simple up for reverse and down to drive then push the button in the park. Theres no hand break so it’s foot on the accelerator and go.

Smooth was the word for the journey, smooth with bells on!

You can barely feel the gear changes and it gets up to speed in no time. We started in comfort mode but as we hit the twisty Devon lanes it was time to test it out in sport mode. The suspension dropped slightly and my god did it handle the corners superbly. I’ve never driven anything which felt so in control of the road. Barely touching the accelerator, every turn and brake gave the most comfortable car ride I have ever had. The toddler dropped off without so much as a murmur and the leg room was ample for my leggy 12-year-old.

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.
Now anyone who’s had the pleasure of driving the narrow lanes going out of Beer and Branscombe in East Devon will understand my apprehension of taking a sparkly new, larger car on a jolly down roads where you often have to stop and reserve into a dug out pull ins. But I needed to see how this car would handle every situation I might find myself in, and this is where the reversing camera came into it’s own.

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.
With guide lines helping you adjust your turn and giving you a much better view of what’s behind you than looking over your shoulder could ever do, I had no problem reversing to let traffic through. The same went for parking. Nothing phased me and that was where the real joy of having a large family car didn’t compromise on the possible difficulty you’d face in everyday situations.

And as a Family car?

I like to avoid any cries of I haven’t got any room, any whinging really, but the leg room thing is a concern, and the leg room in the back seats and passenger seat of the Mercedes C-Class was spot on. Comfort was at a premium with temperature adjustments for each passenger and scuff marks from the toddler’s feet on the back of the front seats immediately wipeable thanks the hard plastic back.

The doors open wide enough to get a toddler or baby into a car seat without any difficulty and if attaching via an isofix in the front seat, the air bag is automatically disabled. The isofix connections allow you to use the outer and middle seats so there’s plenty of options for positioning. It really passed the toddler test on several levels/

What really surprised me though, was the size of the boot. I managed a weekly shop and a pushchair with ease and hand bags / changing bag sat on the floor by my toddlers feet. The boot shuts by the touch of a button on the inner edge and opens via the key so no getting your hands dirty too.

Been there, done that, got the smudge marks on my face.

Avoiding dirty hands is a bonus, believe me!

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.
School picks up were a dream. With the boys having no hesitation at being seen in such a cool looking car, I was able to find and park in a spot at the busy school road thanks to the parking assist. The stereo is crystal clear too, so with a Spotify playlist set up on my iPhone, I linked it to the media settings using the touchpad and we were off. There’s also 2 usb changing points as well as the cigarette lighter style charging point so plenty of places to keep devices topped up on long journeys.

Volume and telephone answer and hang up buttons are on the steering wheel but you can also select the stereo volume from a dial in the centre. With everything to hand it meant all my attention was on the road. I didn’t find the information screen a distraction, incase you’re wondering, as you can change radio channels with your left hand on the touchpad at a position which doesn’t feel at all restrictive.

As an added extra, we were lucky to have the sun make an appearance during our weekend testing out the Mercedes so I opened  up the panoramic sunroof  and let the fresh air in. It’s probably the closest I’d like to get to a soft top while still appreciating all that nature has to offer while driving!

Is It Fuel Efficient?

This is a big car, so I naturally thought I’d pay the price in fuel. Wrong! The information panel records how much you’ve used and relays it in a graph style and as you drive the information panel shows how much you’re using. I cruised along at 50 – 60 mph on the A roads & 70 mph on the motorway with an average fuel consumption of 80 mpg. You do see if dive down to the 30 mpg mark when knocking the accelerator into touch to get up steep hills and over taking but generally it sat at the 80 mark.  As a money savvy mum those stats made me smile.

And the bad……

Ok, I’ll level with you. I wanted to find a fault to make this a full and honest review so I dug deep and found it. Yes it, Just 1. There’s no rear wiper. For the best part of 2o minutes on the second day I tried every control and consulted the car manual to find where the bloody thing was. The back window needed clearing of morning dew and despite the large side mirrors giving me a clear view of what was behind, (which I noticed drop down when in reverse so you can a good view of everything around, so cool!)  I still wanted that window cleared.

Then I flicked on the rear demister and hey presto, problem solved! So no, there’s no bad points. I lied.

The Mercedes C-Class In A Nutshell

I’ll go as far to say that this has been one of the most enjoyable cars I’ve ever driven. It’s comfortable for all passengers, the drive is unbelievably smooth, it corners like a dream and it’ll get you out of trouble taking over the odd tractor or cyclist. Once behind the wheel you don’t feel like you’re driving a big car and with all the seat adjustments you can comfortably  manage long journeys with ease.

It looks good, it feels good and I felt safe. So would I suggest it as a family car?

Does a bear……….

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.

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So there I was, sat in bed drinking my much needed coffee in bed, mentally planning what to do, where to go and what time to do it. Weekends mean very little to me as far as relaxation time. With a toddler in tow it’s just as much all systems go as any other day of the week. Even with my kid free Saturday, while the boys are with their dad, I still seem to be cramming as much as possible into my day and night. Every second mentally scheduled,  just like any other. And it was that exact point, in amongst my dashing from A-B, that I realised my initial dread I had about being away from my boys had gone,  I was fine with the idea of kid free days. Better than fine, I realised that after a chaotic week of work and every day family routines, I needed it.

I always thought I’d struggle on the days that the boys didn’t dominate my schedule. Even pre separation, on the days when I wanted to run for the hills following a to-do, the thought of having to spend any of my weekends apart from my pride and joy filled with panic and were usually the grounding point for the nonsense of said barney. It was those days which sent my thoughts into over drive over what was really best for the kids. 2 days of just so parenting or a day of fun with mum and another with dad. Is there ever a right answer in those situations?

Who knows.

It’s a toughie and one many parents sum up when considering the pros and cons of ‘should I stay or should I go?’ But when push comes to shove you have to deal with it.

So that’s where I am now, dealing with it.

Which isn’t as hard as it sounds as once you’re in the right mindset,  you learn to accept  the situation

 “it is what it is”

As a single mum you’re on call 24/7 or 24/5 in my case (give or take a few numbers.) You do all the wake ups, the early starts and the bed times. Days you don’t fancy cooking, tough, you have to cook. Kids need help with their homework, drop what ever YOU need doing and help. Middle of the night wake ups., the lot there’s no sharing the burden.

But what makes it manageable is knowing that you will have some time to yourself on your kid-free days.

Which is why I don’t feel guilty. I do a kick ass job on those other days and I soon learnt, in the single parenting rule book, you have earnt permission to be as indulgent or selfish as you like  (within reason, the kids still always come first.)

Once word spread about my new status update,  old friends, new friends, people I’ve never met in my life offered words of wisdom, one thing they all had in common  was having been in my very, scary single mum shoes. Never in my wildest dreams was I expecting the camaraderie and virtual lift from these amazing, empathic women, Amazeballs didn’t even come close. I kept every Facebook message, every text and every email. Those who took me aside and shared their tips and support logged a memory bank of must do’s for as long as my memory will see fit.

The power of a problem shared, a collective experience and a shoulder to cry on was the silver lining in my big black cloud.  And to this day, one snippet really stood out and took me by surprise;

don’t ever feel guilty for enjoying your kid free days.

“bonkers.” I thought. I’ve never been happy to see my kids go.

Even if I’m just doing housework with my music cranked up, or sitting in bed til noon working and drinking endless cups of coffee, I don’t feel guilty having that time to myself.  The important thing is they’re  having quality time with their other parent which they need and they WANT that.

Seeing how excited they are when they walk out the door knowing that they’re not missing out on having 2 parents in their life is a bitter-sweet emotion but one which also trumps any emptiness of not having them around.  Sure the house is a little strange. Yes, it’s way too quiet, but those days when it’s just little old me, are the days I get to do what I want, to re balance the order of parenting and to recharge ready for the week ahead.

So no, I don’t feel guilty on my kid free days.

 

why I don't feel guilty on my kid free days

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So many memories are made while travelling in a car. wiz back some 30 odd years and I can still transport myself back to the front seat of our Ford Cortina driving down the motorway at night from Up North to stay with our relies in Devon, Lionel Richie and Genesis playing away as I nattered away to my dad while mum sat in the back holding my brother and my sister slept. Car safety was a little hit and miss back then, but it’s a warm fuzzy memory which I treasure. Only ever topped by the lights which we thought were shaped liked boats at Granada Services in exeter and then the total excitement on the decent of the hill in my grandparents village. Yeah……. car journey nostalgia, love it.

I’m the kind of mum who’s always doing that “I remember when” thing to my boys. I had an awesome childhood and would love it of they looked back and reminisced like I do when they’re parents/uncles/any significant adult. So it’s got me thinking about some one the most memorable car journeys we’ve shared and I think the ones which stick the most are the ones I taken them on myself. Such as the first swimming lessons in a nearby private pool. A mere 10 minute journey, they were quite momental.

I was a late learner driver you see so as soon as I passed my test, I booked up simply because I now had the means to get them there rather than rely on others for lifts. Each Monday night we pilled into our Vauxhall Astra which always coincided with Phenomena being played on the radio and as we (ok, it was just me) sang loudly and badly, the boys pleading with me to stop through their giggles. I still try it now and then to raise a smile from my now nonchalant teens. Funny how even a groan of “seriously mum, can you just stop it now”  is enough conversation to keep me happy these days. simple things.

oh and another milestone has to be the first time I took my nervous and excited 11 year old to meet his friends in town where he walk around on HIS OWN for a few hours while I sat nervously in a coffee shop. Sure, he’d been out and about in the village plenty of times with his buddies but for a small village boy, who’d just started secondary school, this was a big moment, for us both. The whole journey was spent with me checking he had arranged the right meeting place, where I was going to pick him up and trying to hide my angst.

Seems like I did the right thing though as Family Lives author Suzie Hayman, who suggests Playing the “what if…” game allows you to voice concerns and then listen and coach them through coping mechanisms, so you can trust them to behave sensibly. Rather than the do and don’t rule of making sure they are ok on their own. It’s still a technique that pops up every now and then.

The ultimate car journey milestone in any parent’s log book has got to be the first journey home from hospital. I can vaguely remember all three of mine. My youngest being the clearest as I was taken aback completely by the look of sheer utter love and shock in my older boy’s faces. while I stared at them they stared at their brother. a huge tear jerker on a proud mum moment. As Suzy Haymen explains,

babies aren’t even sure at this stage where they end and you begin which is why they investigate their own hands, fingers and toes with as much curiosity as the bits of you they can reach. But they recognise your voice and show a preference for it, and want to be held and rocked and to hear you. Safety comes first in a car however so they need to be strapped into that seat, but keep a hands-on close connection and sing and talk to them on the trip home and go back to cuddling and holding as soon as you can.

Turns out my boy would go on to HATE every car journey which followed as he wanted nothing more than being held and so car journeys for the first 12 months were so what limited. If you’re in the same boat then one thing which helped was a change in car seat. Speaking of which, if you’re about to create your own car journey milestones then The Graco Milestone car seat will see you through them all being suitable from birth to 12 years. I’ve got through 4 already so finding one which lasts would’ve saved me a fortune!

What are your car sear milestones? mine has to be the car journeys to swmming lessons and the first rides home with my new babies from the hospital  read more here to see if you have any similar ones.

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I’ve got itchy feet. Not the nasty fungal infection type, the urge to explore and see more of the world type itchiness. There’s a whole new world out there which I know very little about so my dead cert plan for next year is a family holiday and my researching has already began, first stop is Mauritius.

Yep, I’m thinking all out sparkling turquoise waters and white sandy beaches and with a landscape of lagoons, reefs, rainforests, waterfalls, hiking trails and exotic wildlife. There’s a lot more to this small tropical Island than I actually realised. Not only is Mauritius full of beauty and luxury, it also has an array of exciting activities making it the perfect holiday destination for families. And being french speaking I can reignite some of my French GCSE as well as getting my 12 year old to practice some of his language skills. (I presuming a grunt is pretty universal?)

 

 

This isn’t a pin in the map job, although that has been a fleeting idea. What I’m craving right now is sun, sea and something to entertain my troop. As I’ll be travelling solo with a 2, 12 and 16 year old, some water sports which they can have a try at would take the pressure off me trying to keep them busy and will be a chance for them to try their hand at something new.

I never realised that mauritius could be a holiday destination for families until I read this

You’ve got the chance to get in the water and see Mauritius from the Sea so it’s only fair that you also get the chance to see Mauritius from the sky – and you can do just that at nature resort Chazal!

Tucked away in the valley in the South of Mauritius near the village of Chamouny are 6 zip lines, varying in height, length and speed, that carry you through and above the forest canopy, over streams and waterfalls, allowing you to admire your amazing surroundings!  How utterly amazing does that sound? The older two have zip wired over The Eden Project, which is almost like a trial run for the real forest, only warmer. An exhilarating activity like this is perfect for them, a real dose of much-needed adrenalin teenagers seek, as well as building confidence and family bonding.

 

As for the toddler, mustn’t leave him out. He’s a real animal lover so while the teens get to walk with lions, you heard that right WALK WITH LIONS, we could get to feed giraffes. While every inch of my mum senses tell me that allowing my boys to do that screams no, I know that it would only be allowed under controlled circumstances and would give the boys some serious mate bragging points.

And how awesome would it be to see dolphin in the warm Mauritian waters playing in the bay as the sun rises. My guys have already had a taste of swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove in Orlando but to see them in their natural environment would be something else.

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Next year is all about making new memories and giving the boys a sense that things will be better. Plus, as I sit here writing on a cold, gloomy day, the thought of feeling the sun on my skin is even more appealing than ever. So that’s one idea for my must do destination list.

I never realised that mauritius could be a holiday destination for families until I read this

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I’ve long been a believer that children need your time more than material things. It’s a great life lesson to learn at an age when everything is so new and impressionable. I’m also a single mum with 3 kids (one who is a toddler yet to start pre school) working from home around my family needs and everyday chores.

Anyone see the problem there?

If the answer is no then read on while I share exactly how my day pans out;

The alarm goes off at 6.30am every morning but more often than not I’m awake before then, the constant niggle in the back of my mind that I have lots to do in a short space of time. I reach for my phone and check emails, Facebook alerts for my blog page, my social media management clients and my social media community campaign. Then it’s over to Twitter and Instagram to do the same, replying to comments, engaging with others who have taken the time to like, retweet or comment.

I use my phone to create posts, editing photos, creating graphics, scheduling social media updates to Buffer and then reply to personal messages. There’s a lot going on in my personal life right now and my support network of family and friends keep me grounded and ticking over.  Then my toddler wakes up and we go grab a glass of lemon water, coffee for me and smoothie for him. By now I’m in full work mode but I also have to keep my mind and body healthy so while the house is still quiet, I put my son’s favourite TV show on the iPad while I mediate for 10 minutes using an app on my phone followed by my daily 5 minute planking exercises which I time using, you guessed it, my phone.

ditching the smart phone to make sure i am fully present with my kids this Christmas is the best present I can give, will your presence be the present this year?
I’ll put my hands up, my phone is never far away and is in use pretty much constantly from the moment I get up, throughout the day and before I go to bed, I even wind down to sleep using the mind clear setting on my sleep monitor app which then monitors my sleep pattern throughout the night and reports back on my progress and how I can improve it. 24/7 my life is digital. Be it working on the computer from home or using my phone, I’m hooked up most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, there are always  moments when I’m out and about with my son and I try to stick to work times throughout the day. He’s far from being a TV toddler glued to the screen, but I’m well aware that it’s normal for him to think that adults need to have their phone on them at all times from the times he says

Mummy, you’ve left your phone in your bedroom

as we’re walking down the stairs.

So while switching off isn’t an option, I need to work, I need the support of the phone calls and messages right now, I do owe it to my kids to have some set time, undisturbed or tempted by social media and emails. So this Christmas, my present to them will be my presence. I’ll be switching off on the 25th and 26th for complete mindfulness with my boys. And I have a tool kit to make it achievable.

ditching the smart phone to make sure i am fully present with my kids this Christmas is the best present I can give, will your presence be the present this year?
This tool kit was given a test run recently as I logged off 2 smart phone free days. 2 days of focusing wholly on my children and not on the digital world on my phone. I’m not going to lie to you, it was excruciating but with a Punkt phone, which reminded me of a modern and classy version of my first Nokia 3310, it was do able.

Popping my sim card into the slot (it came which a handy sim tray which could accommodate my micro sim card, I fired it up and could still receive calls and texts. The moments when my itchy fingers ached to check in to my emails, I calmed my mind with some colouring. Man that is so therapeutic! Kids really know what they’re doing and why the chuff do we stop as adults?

ditching the smart phone to make sure i am fully present with my kids this Christmas is the best present I can give, will your presence be the present this year?
And when I found my thoughts wandering, mulling over the storm which has taken over my personal life, instead of reaching for the web for inspiration or solutions, I wrote it down. I forgot how good it feels to lose your self in written words and then look back at the page, I forgot how much I loved making sure each letter was positioned on the lines, each loop and letter a unique window into my personality. Handwriting is so personal and reveals so much about a person and it felt good to get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper.

With Christmas and Boxing day less than a month away now, my next smart phone detox will soon be here and this year is so different from the rest and as much as I’ll be tempted to escape the reality of the elephant in the room as lose myself in other people’s worlds, it won’t do me any good to see all the social media posts of families enjoying their day so a smart phone free day, with all focus on my boys and making it a special one for them is a must.

I think you’d be mad not to join me in giving your presence as the present this year.

ditching the smart phone to make sure i am fully present with my kids this Christmas is the best present I can give, will your presence be the present this year?
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