My Pick Of Holiday Wardrobe Essentials From Debenhams

We off on our holibobs soon! CAN.NOT.WAIT!

Half the fun waiting for the big take off day is the planning (isn’t it?) I love the whole ticking off my list thing and sorting through my wardrobe for things to pack. A whole week of sunshine, fingers crossed. < adds poncho to the list just incase > My go-to summer wardrobe is on need of a little updating though while my teenager , who is growing at a rate of knots, is on track to needing a whole suitcase full of clothes.

Being a busy mum it’s much easier to do all my shopping at one place rather than spending hours surfing the web and paying lots of delivery prices, like one stop online department stores, such as Debenhams, which has a holiday shop to help with those wants and needs.

Challenged with choosing a dress which would be suitable for daytime and evening, I’ve decided that a longer style to cover my milk bottle white pins which haven’t seen daylight since Auguts 2016 is an essential holiday item, especially for the first few days and nights.

This Red Herring bohemian style maxi with cold shoulder straps is holiday packing gold as it won’t need an iron. At 5ft 3″,  it skims the floor when barefoot so I’ll be wearing it with my FitFlops to give me the extra inch or so to make it hang better. I usually tend to avoid maxi dresses as getting the length right is a nightmare, but the elastic under bust waist gives me a little leeway to pull up. Dressed down with a denim jacket will see me though the British climate too.

My pick from the Debenhams boys range for Ky are some shark print swim shorts. He’s going through a must-wear-only-black-items at the moment so it’ll be nice to see him in colour. I can’t think of who he takes after Also packing some Hollister aftershave and shower gel for his holiday smell throw back.

All which will be safely transported in a easy to spot on the floral suitcase.

Best get this little lot packed away.

I've picked out a few essentials, a dress, suitcase & swim shorts, from the Debenhams holiday shop to take on our summer holiday this year.


Summer delivery banners

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Tips for Stress Free Train Journeys With Toddlers

I recently completed a journey which I was secretly dreading. It was one of those trips which had to be done just to prove to yourself it could be done.  And once the initial maiden voyage was over, it would be plain sailing from forth with.

What made my nerves even more nonsense was that I’d done this journey many times before, the exception being I had children, older children but never a toddler. An adventurous, lively toddler who loves to explore and investigate everything, a toddler who I knew would be beyond excited at doing something new, a toddler who hated to be confined and rarely sat still for more than 5 minutes .

That was the cause of my concerns.

So the very fact that we completed our little journey, Toddler, Tween and yours truly, in a spectacular and stress free manner has compelled me to share how we managed 6 trains over  7 hours on our return trip from Devon to Oxford. And share some tips we picked up along the way for anyone else considering travelling with toddlers.

secretes to travelling with toddlers


The key to my success was in the planning. I knew that to guarantee that Toddler slept for some of our journey, I booked a train that should in theory give me an hour until his nap. This meant that he could get all excitement out of his system not long after boarding and then after a little snack, would settle down to sleep. failing that, the iPad is genius for quiet time. I’m careful never to overuse it as it looses it’s appeal and is only ever brought out at as a last resort.

As we were only staying away for a few days, we made do with a wheeled rucksack. This was our saviour when navigating the platforms or walking down train aisles and was soft enough to pack into the luggage holds. And packing was a crucial part in the planning. My BabyMule changing bag is an absolute game changer for travelling. slung over my shoulders, leaving my hands free and having everything stored in the different compartments makes grabbing snacks and nappy changes simples.

 

I also made sure I had plenty of snacks, dinners and drinks for distracting any efforts to continually want to toddle around, as toddlers do. I chose snacks which would take a while to eat and hopefully not make too much of mess of clothes or the train floor, thus eliminating any further stress.  Think raisins, Little Dish GoGo’s 

To make getting on and off the train safe, I carried my toddler in a baby sling. This meant I had my hands free to carry my baby bag and suitcase. And reins are a must for more mobile toddlers. I take mine even when I’ve got the buggy as it keeps him close by while I’m collapsing it.

Any experienced parent, who’s learnt from experience,  will know that you can’t really travel anywhere without a few extra items in your parenting ammo, one of these being a few first aid items and while my mini break was hardly crossing that Amazon, the basics still applied. Along with an emergency packet of stickers, a small pot of distraction bubbles and a favourite teddy.

Mothercare parenting expert, Liz Day, recommends that when travelling, keep your child’s teddy bear safely in your hand luggage or an easily accessible bag so they are within reach to soothe and calm your tot if there are any upsets during the journey.

So now I’ve got my plan for successful travelling with toddlers I’m hoping to be a little more adventurous with our days out and short breaks. Watch this space!

secretes to travelling with toddlers

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Reviewing the Mercedes C-Class Saloon, The Challenge Is On….

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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Do You Feel Guilty For Enjoying Your Kid Free Days?

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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What Are Your Family Car Journey Milestones?

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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