A letter to Ollie - Starting School

A week ago you started school.

I was not ready.

But you were. Definitely ready, you have walked into school with a smile on your face everyday since, confident and comfortable.

I cried a little the first time you said "Just go Mummy!" as I hovered around you anxiously, wondering if I should give you one last hug.

Our Rhodes Activities - Bee Museum and Lindos

As wonderful as it was just to relax for a large part of our holiday, I felt quite strongly about visiting a country where we could also explore, soak up a different culture and learn something new. I wanted our first family holiday abroad to be one where we could all share in the experiences, creating memories.

So when it came to choosing where to go we picked Rhodes. You can read about the hotel we stayed at, Mitsis Rodos Village, in my previous post. The resort was lovely and contained everything we needed, including a beautiful beach, wonderful pools and fabulous food but we did find that we had to go a little further afield in search of family excursions.

Before departure, I spent a lot of time researching the island and compiling a list of all the places I really wanted to visit. Admittedly, I think my list was ambitious for a week long stay with two children but I was able to prioritise and combine a number of our activities - anything I wasn't able to achieve on this visit is a reason to return in the future!

Our first excursions were the Bee Museum and Lindos, followed by a high speed boat ride and trip to Rhodes Old Town which you can read about next time.

The school holiday space and time conundrum

I have a real love hate relationship with the summer holidays. In fact, I find that school holidays, and in particular, the six week summer break, are one of the most mind-bending, reality-twisting occurrences that I have dealt with as a parent.

At the end of the summer term I long for them. Days without the strict routine and pressures of the school run, the time to spend with my children without having to tick off homework, washing school uniform and attending the numerous events and clubs.

I can't wait for the holidays to begin.
But then they're here and it doesn't take long before I find myself wishing for the school term to start again.

Maybe it is just the usual cliche of the grass always being greener on the other side, maybe I can just never be happy unless I have something to complain about but really, I prefer to think that there is some strange, other-worldly, paradox about the school holidays. Almost like a wormhole or time-loop that suspends the normal rules of, not just routine, but time and space itself.

Review - Mitsis Rodos Village

We recently returned from our first ever family holiday abroad and I'm still not over how lovely it was to spend that time together in the sun. It was just what we needed and more. I'm already thinking about holidays next year and wondering how on earth we managed eight years without a break away by the pool (with unlimited ice creams and cocktails, amazing).

I've decided to do a little series of blog posts detailing our experience, the hotel and our excursions so do come back to read more over the next few weeks!

When choosing our destination we picked Rhodes because, although Matt had visited before, I really wanted to visit the medieval Rhodes Old Town with it's castle and ancient cobbled streets. However, when it came to choosing a hotel, we picked the Mitsis Rodos Village which is on the South of the island in Kiotari.

Bye Bye Baby

My weekdays are often predictable. Often monotonous.

I'll do the morning school run, dropping Lily off to school and then taking Ollie down to nursery. I'll come home and I'll do the housework, or some of my virtual assistance projects. I'll go back to school at midday to get Ollie and walk home with him again. We'll have lunch and spend the time together before we head back to school once more to collect Lily.

But all that is changing.

Ollie is starting school.

Our afternoons together are numbered.

Of course I'm excited for this next great milestone in his life, but bloody hell, I'm really going to miss him.

Father's Day Thoughts

So it's 6:30am on what is, for me, one of the worst days of the year.

Father's Day.

A day when everything seems to shout at me that I don't have a Dad. That he's died. That it still hurts.

The run up to the day is painful, the advertising especially:

"tell your Dad you love him"

"treat your Dad this Father's Day"

"Only three days to go"

Inspiring more than girls

Back in January, Lily came home from school upset and declared that she no longer wanted to go to football training on Saturdays because some kids in the playground had told her that football was 'just for boys'.

But after sticking with it and joining a local SSE Wildcats Centre, her determination to keep going paid off and she won a competition to be a mascot for the Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley.

It was one of those incredible days and one that she says she'll remember forever. Let's face it, walking out with the Man City and England Captain in front of 43,000 fans at the home of British football is going to take some beating!

The Guardian published this photo essay about the thousands of girls hopefully inspired by the match and for me, I've found myself overwhelmed by the event and the excitement surrounding women's football in the run up to the World cup in France this Summer.

My not-so-wicked Stepmother

In the steady diet of Disney films, fairy tales and fantasy stories that I devoured whilst growing up, Stepmothers always seem to get a bad rep. And let's face it, they deserve to, right? A feminist would probably argue that this is a hidden misogyny, to always portray women as jealous and spiteful, that a second wife must always have an ulterior motive, that they can't possibly be as sweet and loving as a man's first choice of wife.

The concept is so maligned. Unlike a Stepfather, so often seen as 'stepping up' and so praised and admired, a Stepmother is automatically assumed to be somehow wicked.

My Stepmother was not.

I still remember my very first glimpse of Jackie, the woman that would become my Stepmother and, in time, my friend. She was visiting a mate of my Dad. We were just leaving and my Daddy leaned down conspiratorially and whispered "see that lady, do you think she's pretty? I'd like her to be my girlfriend". My sister and I giggled. Not really able to understand the intricacies of adult dating. Especially after a divorce.

And she was very pretty. I remember thinking she was quite glamorous and rather fun when we went on days out together. A day trip to the London Trocadero. Or maybe a theme park.

Quick and Easy Greek-inspired Lamb

I often find meal-planning quite stressful. I like cooking and I like shopping so you'd think it'd be easy. But by the time you've added in everyone's likes and dislikes, attempted to cater for a healthy and balanced diet and planned something that can be cooked easily whilst also overseeing homework, play and housework it can become a tough job.

I'm lucky that the children aren't too fussy when it comes to food (I'm the fussiest person in our home, oops). I made the decision early on not to stress to much about it and to regularly introduce the kids to new things. It was great when they were at nursery as they were always trying different things and Matt and I like food from different cuisines and cultures so they don't get too stuck into a menu of chicken nuggets and chips.
In order to make it easier on myself, I find it useful to have a few fail-safe options every week and then I try and mix it up with different flavours every now and then. We'll have a range of beef or lamb dishes, some chicken, fish, vegetarian meals and a small amount of pork or processed meats like sausages or bacon.

Party Planning - Dino Party

It has taken me a couple of days to recover from Ollie's 4th Birthday celebrations. This was his first 'proper' party and I wanted it to be great (obviously).
I started planning for his Dino themed event before Christmas but it was only in January that things really got going. You'd think that this would've left me plenty of time, but I really like to have months of pondering and perfecting a party so doing it all in under 9 weeks was a bit more of a challenge - for my mind and my bank balance!

Snow Days - Not just for kids!

How old were you when you first made a snowman?


I was 33 years 3 months and 13 days.

I mean, I'm sure I've attempted it before. I may have started and given up when my hands got too wet.  I may have watched other people do most of the building and then popped a carrot nose on at the end. But properly made a snowman? I did that today.

My first memory of snow is sliding down the hillside in a bin bag at my Aunt and Uncle's flat. I must have been young cause my parents were still together. In the same snowfall (I think) my sister and I watched our parents build a snowman together in our back garden. We were in the warm!

Being wet and cold isn't my thing.

Stop telling my daughter that football is just for boys!

I've had a bee in my bonnet about this for some time now.

I was never a sporty child or teen. I hated hockey and was an average netball player but would much rather have been curled up indoors with a book than playing out on the field.

But I'll let you in on a secret.

Only if you promise not to laugh.

The one sport I really do wish I could do. Is play football.

Isn't that crazy? You wouldn't think it looking at me or hearing me chat on a regular basis but deep down, under layers and layers of low self-esteem, nervousness, poor body image and a severe lack of confidence, is a 19 year old who is thinking of joining a football team.

Party Planning - A Dino Party Wishlist

For Ollie, there was no doubt which theme we would choose for his 4th birthday party. Dinosaurs. He loves them and things got a little dino crazy over Christmas. He had 'Switch and Go Dinos', dinosaur books, dinosaur clothes, dinosaur toys and if anything, his enthusiasm is growing.

Although I started looking at ideas before Christmas, I was far too busy to really sit down and plan the specifics for Ollie's party. However, with the festive fun (and failures) now over, I have been planning in earnest.

I've found it really easy to gather ideas online. Pinterest and Instagram are full of amazing dinosaur themed parties for all ages and I get easily sidetracked looking at all the possibilities. For this event, I wanted to keep things simple, yet stylish. We're not extravagant and my focus for parties tends to be on traditional games, food and activities that look nice.

And balloons. I love balloons.