Making Reading Fun With The Reading Adventure Club

[GIFTED] None of my children have been avid readers and it has always taken a lot to get them into a book. Most of the time it’s a lot of trial and error and even then it can be a battle to get them to sit down and read. So when I was asked to try out the reading subscription box from The Reading Adventure Club I was eager to see if this would help to build a love of books.

The Reading Adventure Club was set up by nine year old twin brothers who have a love of both reading and opening presents and thought it would be a great idea to combine the two! The idea is that you read the book that is sent and throughout the story at different points you get the opportunity to open a special gift that has been loving wrapped and put inside the box too.

For me the clever part of this though is the gift can only be opened once the child has answered a question on the story. All the questions are listed and tucked away in a envelope that is marked – To be opened by responsible Grown Up only.

The presents are a good mix of useful items, mainly linked to reading as well as fun stuff and if you’re really lucky you might even find some sweets in there!

The books have all been loving selected and road tested by the boys, so you know they are going to be something perfect for the age range selected.

All you need to do to get started is to choose your subscription period and your box will be lovingly packed and sent off for it to arrive on the 15th of each month.

This box would be perfect for avid readers and those less inclined to read alike. The boys loved reading the story; and knowing there was a prize coming after a few pages kepted them engaged and wanting to really take in the story rather than just skimming the pages to get the book finished.

It comes with a big thumbs up from us and I would love to know if you are keen to give it a try.

Abundant As A Mother:Review

[GIFTED] The past couple of years have been such a shake up for us all, and for me going through everything the pandemic has brought us, it has been a time to really reflect on me. As mothers we always leave ourselves at the bottom of the pile and this can often lead to us loosing who we really are and what we really want.

After months of sacrificing myslelf for my families needs – something I dont regret at all as lets face it who would have ever thought we would have been in this situation, I’ve decided it is time to reclaim me and I have been helped on this journey by the amazing Abundant As A Mother by Ashley Butler.

Ashley has created her two-step abundance manifesting program that allows you to live a full and abundant life by switching off to the noise from social media, friends, and the endless juggling.

So much of what Ashley speaks of rings true with me. After twenty plus years of parenting I would like to think that I’ve got things down pretty well when it comes to managing the family. I’m a clean freak and always go with the saying ‘a tidy house is a tidy mind’ but in reality I may seem to have have everything together on the surface but not everything is as it seems.

A lot of my worries are then stored in my head and this is definitely more problematic than having an untidy home and this is one of the sections that Ashley covers.

She teaches you how to let you of all those comparisons we put on ourselves thanks to the constent content being thrown at us through the use of social media. I’m sure I’m not alone in comparing my life to those we are constanly shown on those little squares on our phone!

A big change for me is going to be learning to say no. I’m a people pleaser and always find it hard to say no as I have a fear of letting people down, even if this is detrimental to my own sanity. Ashley teaches us that its ok to say no to anything that doesn’t serve us.

For me the stand out comment was ‘If you aren’t happy with your life right now its kinda on you’.

Stop competing with others, put your own needs first and most importantly go out and get the life you deserve through manifesting a happy and abundant life as you are the only one who can make these changes.

Flipping Out At Flipout

[PRESS TRIP] With over twenty years or parenting I sometimes reach the summer holidays and feel that I have exhausted every single day out there is. Of course we have some firm favourites we never tire of and can happily revisit time and time again, but were always on the hunt for new and exciting places and we definitely came across this the other day at Flipout – Croydon.

Flipout is Croydon’s largest Indoor Super Centre and is home to a whole host of amazing activities from mini golf to laser quest, five a side football to bumper cars, synthetic ice skating to ninja tag as well as the most amazing bounce area…I’m sure there is something I’ve missed!

The centre is based at the bottom of Centrale and Whitgift Shopping Centre and you can get discounted parking upon validating your ticket, which makes it super easy to get too as well as affordable too.

We arrived for the first session of the day and were greeted with smiles and very knowledgeable staff that told us everything we needed before we got on with the play. The sessions last for three hours and from what we saw it is best to book an early slot as it fills up towards the end of the day and it becomes harder to find a base to plot up at.

For the first part of the day I went around with the children, taking part in the fun with them, and I loved that it has all been designed so the adults could have some fun too, but I was also perfectly happy to sit back, relax and enjoy a coffee whilst they had some independent play. Flipout spans two floors and although it is a pretty big space, eveything is easy to navigate and there is always someone on hand to help out.

Some of the areas you needed to queue for but aside from the bumper cars we didn’t wait for more than a few minutes for anything, and we were able to visit our favourite areas time and time again. I loved the fact there were fast pace activities such as the laser tag mixed with calmer pursuits such as mini golf and ice skating so there was something for everyone.

After working up an appetite we headed to the cafe that stocks a small range of hot food and snacks. My pizza loving crew filled themselves up with delicious pizza slices that were at a good price and even had an offer running of ‘buy three get one free’. They washed all this down with a slushie, which again was great valve as you had the option to buy unlimited refills.

The three hours literally flew by and it was announced that they had had, ‘the best day ever’ and I have to admit I had a lot of fun too!

Anyone from aged four right through to adults would love Flipout and it’s one of the only places I visited that would keep my entire gang happy – and that’s no mean feat with a family spanning a range of ages. We had no moaning or groaning and in fact the only words muttered as we left were – ‘when are we coming back’ so you can’t get better than that!

Honolulu With The Family:What To See And Do

Honolulu is the largest city in the state as well as the capital of Hawaii. It is located on the south shore of the Island of Oahu and is considered the gateway to the chain of islands that make up the Hawaiian Islands. With an average high temperature of 85 and an average low of 71, spending time on the beaches is popular in Honolulu.

Taking the family to Honolulu is a fantastic idea whatever time of year it is because the weather is warm and sunny all year. Even in December and January, the average temps are about 75 degrees. Wherever you decide to go with the family, be sure to drop off your backpacks and heavy bags at a luggage storage site in Honolulu first.

Check Out the Fishes at the Waikiki Aquarium

Founded in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is one of the most popular attractions on the island. What started with 35 fish tanks and 400 plants and animals has expanded to over 3,500 plants and animals in almost 500 species. In fact, in 1978, it had the first display of Pacific corals in the US.

The aquarium is divided into 15 sections. The Amazing Adaptations exhibit has a collection of pipefishes, sea dragons, and seahorses and is one of the most popular. The Giant Clams and Coral Farm exhibits are also pretty popular. But the 7,500-gallon Edge of the Reef outdoor aquarium is the main attraction.

Visit the Animals at the Zoo

If you want to see some land animals, take the family to the Honolulu Zoo at the 300-acre Kapiolani Park. The zoo boasts more than 1230 animals on the 42 acre s with numerous exhibits to explore. See them all from the huge Asian elephant to the zebras from the African Sahara and everything in between.

The zoo was opened in 1916 with several lion cubs, a sun bear, a monkey, and a handful of exotic birds and today houses a huge variety of creatures in several different sections. The African Savannah is the most popular, featuring lions, baboons, African painted dogs, black rhinos, chimps, and meerkats.

Swim with the Dolphins

At Kahala Resort, their Dolphin Quest program is more than just swimming with a few dolphins. They have their own group of six dolphins that you and the family can meet in person up close. The Dolphin Adventure lets you spend an hour with these beautiful creatures swimming and touching them. The Premier Experience offers a private session for just your family to swim and play with all six of the dolphins. These adventures are only for those five years and older though so if you have a younger child, try the Wee Family Fins and Fun where even the tiny tots get to meet, feed, and play with the dolphins.

Play for the Day at Sea Life Park

Another great place to hang out with the animals, Sea Life Park celebrates the local sea creatures by providing the public the chance to get up close and personal with some of them. First, visit the Hawaiian Reef Aquarium, which is a 300,000-gallon tank with 2,000 marine animals like sharks, turtles, and stingrays. 

They also have the Hawaiian Ocean Theater, where the park staff hosts many shows displaying sea lions, penguins, and dolphins. You will get a chance to feed some of them at the Sea Turtle Pool and Stingray Lagoon. But do not miss the Hawaiian Monk Seal Habitat where you can see these amazing animals.

See the Bottom of the Ocean on the Atlantis Submarine

For those of you who want to go deeper and see more wildlife at the bottom of the ocean, check out the Atlantis Submarine. You and the family will take a shuttle ferry to the submarine location in Waikiki. The Undersea Adventure takes you down in a real submarine in the comfort of AC and cushy seats.

For approximately one hour, you will descend 100 feet where you will all get to see marine life up close in its native habitat. The coral reef was rebuilt in 1988 to revitalize the area and it has become a treasure trove of fishes, turtles, and vibrant corals. See two sunken airplanes and sunken ships teeming with wildlife.

Get Some Sun on Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is the most well-known and popular beach on the island of Oahu, and you will know why when you see the gorgeous crystal-clear turquoise waters and two miles of white sand. In the 1800s, the beach was a private space for Hawaiian royalty but today it is a public adventureland. 

But Waikiki has several beaches stretched out along a huge section of Waikiki Bay stretching for miles along the southern side of the island. One of the best sections of beach for kids is Prince Kuhio Beach, which is also known as The Ponds because there are two walls that offer calm and shallow water to play in.

Learn More About Hawaii at Bishop Museum

Teach the kids about the history of Hawaii while you are in Honolulu at the Bishop Museum. It’s the biggest museum in Hawaii with the largest collection of Polynesian artifacts in the world. The exhibits of Hawaiian life and culture are thanks to Charles Bishop, who founded it in 1889 to honor his wife, Princess Bernice.
Some of the permanent exhibitions include the Kaimiloa Expedition of 1924, the Falls of Clyde from 1968, and the Jhamandas Watumull Planetarium, the oldest planetarium in Polynesia. With 25 million items, each with its own story, you could spend the whole day there and not see everything there is to see.

While you are in Honolulu, don’t miss out on trying the local foods like Poke bowls, Kalua pig, Lomi salmon, and of course, shaved ice. Some of the best places to eat with kids include Mac 24/7, the Honolulu Burger Company, Hula Grill, and Duke’s Waikiki. And for dessert, try Island Vintage Shaved Ice or Liliha Bakery.

The Pros Of Big Age Gaps

With a fair few years between my older children and under two years between the youngest I often get asked what I think is the perfect age gap – in short I don’t think there is ever a perfect gap or a perfect time to have children, but I must say having a larger gap can come with its perks and here are a few for you:

Time To Get Into Routine – Having a few years gap gives you time to see what works and what doesn’t for your family. Getting yourself into some kind of routine with just one little one running around is mush easier to do then with two or more!

One On One Time – For me the most precious time is those first few years that pass within the blink of an eye. If you have one that is already at school or nursery then you can get to make the most of that time with just you and the baby.

Tricky Stages Are Easier On Their Own – Parenting comes with endless tricky stages, but if you can tackle things such as potty training and weaning one child at a time then the chances of keeping your hair a little longer are greatly improved!

Childcare Costs – For those of you that are returning to work, childcare costs can be a huge worry and by having a bigger age gap you can spread these costs more if you already have children at school.

Getting Out And About – Simply leaving the house with children can be a huge task so if they are a little more independent than this can be easier, as there is not so much need to take everything bar the kitchen sink with you.

Sleeping Through – Sleepless nights and children come hand in hand, and if I’m honest this tip shouldn’t come from me as I still have a nine year old that doesn’t sleep – that said, in theory if you can get a good bedtime routine set before another little ones comes along to turn this upside down again then at least you only have one you need to settle.

Older Ones To Lend A Hand – I have always been very concious that it was never my children’s decision to have a large family and have never agreed with them having to pick up the parenting because of that; but it is certainly handy when you have a little helper to grab the nappies or entertain the baby for you every now and then.

Giving Yourself Some Recovery Time – Having a baby puts a huge pressure on your body and I definitely felt this with my last two being so close. Having a bit of a break between children and having time to recover both physically and mentally is a definate bonus.

Less Rivalry – I’m not sure if it was more to do with the girl, boy, girl mix or the age gap between my first three, but there was definitely a lot less confrontation and fighting then with the last two. I think the fact they were at different stages and into different things helped with them not arguing over every little thing!

Having children is a huge blessing and whenever they happen to come along is a always the most magical but hard journey, so these really are only a few views on how I have perceived things over the years.

What Makes Our Family Special – Guyana:Review

[GIFTED] “Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we were all the same” is something I’ve always reminded my little ones of. We often talk about all the different factors that make families special and celebrate this. I am ashamed to admit though that being a blended family ourselves with my father in law coming from Mauritius we haven’t really delved into what life is like there, how people live and how it differs to here in the UK and this is exactly what the beautiful book – What Makes Our Family Special GUYANA by Danielle Clarke does.

Our thoughtfully hand wrapped booked arrived with a hand written note attached from the stars of the book, along with some colouring sheets which was such a lovely touch. Oscar opened the package with such excitment and the beautiful, colourful illustrations from Lily Carver immediately caught my eye.

Evie and Isla are tucked up in bed and all set and for a special bedtime story about their Guyanese grandparents when they are transported on an adventure to Guyana; learing lots of facts about this gorgeous county. While they are there they come across a distressed river otter who’s baby is trapped under a huge log. Working together as a team, they manage to free the baby otter and head back home with dreams of Guyana and their exciting adventures.

This book allows children to think about how different families are up and this is what makes each one so special, they are able to learn a whole host of facts about Guyana…I learnt more than a few myself and finally it shows how coming together as a team gets is always the best way the job done.

Beautifully written, beautifully illustrated and most importantly a very important message delivered in the perfect way! Oscar absolutely loved this book and we are egarly awaiting the next in the series!

2020 In Pictures – You’ve Not Been All Bad

2020 will most certainly go down as a year to remember. Sadly this will be for all the heartache and loss it has brought to us all. But as with every bad situation you need to look for the good and for us there had certainly been some wonderful, simple moments that I will cherish forever, and as always I’m going to show you these in pictures as they convey the fun much more than my words ever could…

Stop The Secrets And Start The Conversations

[AD] We all have a tendency to keep a few secrets from the ones we love – I mean does it really matter if you don’t own up to eating the last piece of cake, or maybe elaborate a little on the price after a shopping trip.

It’s human nature to keep little things to ourselves, but there are some situations that create more harm than good when we bottle them up and can have huge repercussions on us and our family’s lives.

I think now more than ever with the uncertainty and stresses that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic we need to have a real think about sharing everything with the ones we love.

Research by LifeSearch has shown that a huge 7 million of use are keeping mental health problems to ourselves, along with a massive 4 millions hiding physical health problems.

Sadly this isn’t the only problem that people are keeping to themselves. 1 in 10 people have money worries that they feel they can’t share and 1 in 20 are fighting a battle on their own with drink or drug problems.

These problems cause huge issues for the people suffering, adding anxiety and sleep deprivation to the problems that are already there. Also these issues will then have a knock on effect for their loved ones too if something should happen to them.

A fear of being judged, embarrassed or even the worry a relationship may break down are a few of the reasons people keep these things to themselves and incredibly a huge number would rather take these worries to the grave with them, rather than face them head on.

A lot of people, including myself, put off putting things in place to protect our future for so many different reasons, when this is in fact one of the most important conversations to have.

It was my sister that actually got us talking about this a few years ago and gave us the wake up call we needed to get our life insurance in place. So should the worst happen to me or my husband we now know that either one of us will be looked after as well as the children.

Even if you think you are covered and don’t need to let on about an illness you are dealing with, this could actually affect your insurance claim in the future, so this discussions need to be an ongoing thing.

Now really is a good a time as ever to open up these discussions, be honest with yourself and your loved ones and to get things in place that will give you peace of mind for the future and take the burden of your shoulders now.

Learning to open up and talking about feelings is something I try my hardest to instil into my children too, in the hopes that we can build a future generation that are comfortable talking about issues this generation seem to find so hard.

BeSafe izi Flex FIX i-size Car seat Review

[AD] With my eldest daughter being twenty three years old now, I have watched how far seats have evolved over the years and the changes have been amazing – one of the biggest changes I had seen though is that of the booster seat.

These used to simply be a block of plastic that could be easily moved around but had minimal safety features and big changes have been made; and I’ve not seen more changes than the BeSafe izi Flex FIX I-size, which is the first booster seat to comply with safety regulations.

We have been lucky enough to try out this high backed booster seat for the past few months and have been nothing but impressed.

The youngest boys who are now six and eight still very much in need of a car seat so this seat was perfect as it spans a good age range from four to twelve.

The chair is super lightweight and even includes a carry handle in the back of the chair to make it easy to move around and installing with the ISO Fix system took a mater of minutes.

Another issue we face being is large family is the amount of space car seats take up in the car, but with the slim yet space design this seat offers we easily fit two chairs in with a teen tucked in the middle. It has in fact been designed so well you can actually fit three seats in side by side.

One of my favourite features is the hight adjustment that is a a spinning handle on the side of the carseat that give you the perfect hight in seconded without having to try and fiddle around behind the chair.

Comfort is still key with older children and this is the first booster seat I have seen with a recline function. It also comes with additional padding on the chin and chest to allow for a comfier journey. The lap belt is also threaded through a clever magnetic loop which is something you wouldn’t ordinarily get with a booster seat.

I have listed a few of the many stand out features for you below:

• PAD for additional chin and chest protection.

Lockable ISOFix arms for easy instillation.

Side impact protection.

Shoulder and lapbelt guiders for best position.

• Headrest shaped for improved view and sleeping support.

• Easy height adjust to grow with your child.

• Integrated carry handle.

• Slim design yet lots of space.

• Detachable bumper to allow three in a row.

• Compliant with new UN R12 safety regulations.

For me this is the perfect final stage car seat. It has a high level of safely, but the comfort and fit has not been compromised in achieving this.

The boys are happy with them comfortable ride and we are safe in the knowledge it will be a safe one!

Good, Safe Fun At Hever Castle

[PRESS TRIP] For those of you that follow me regularly you will know that we are all big fans of Hever Castle and we were delighted when they opened their doors again after lockdown.

As with anything we have done since restrictions have been lifted, we approached our first visit back with caution, but from the get go I needn’t have worried.

Pre-booking is essential, and time slots need to be selected to allow for small streams of people to enter at one time. This worked really well and we were able to get in quickly and easily.

Once we were inside the grounds there was plenty of room to run free and take in the beauty of the gardens.

All of the usual attractions aside from the maze are open with limited numbers allowed in for 30 mins at a time. Once your time is up there is a clean down before the next group of people are allowed in.

Of course this meant there was some waiting around and we didn’t get to spend as long as we usually would at each section. But I was happier to know that we were going into a place with limited numbers that was clean rather than having to stress about trying to social distance the children like I have at other places we have visited.

The play area is actually split into two sections and we manage to fit in two trips to both whilst we were there, with a cooling of session in the water maze in between which is always a favourite of ours.

We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the weather was just to glorious to miss so unfortunately I can’t comment on how long it was to get inside. However we did sit for a good while watching and feeding the huge fish!

Along with lots of other people we took a picnic and plotted up next to the water so the children could enjoy feeding the ducks whist we ate.

There were still plenty of food options if you prefer to eat there and of course lots of ice cream stops which we had to partake in!

It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to finish the day with a stroll through the wooded area which we always fine super quiet and the boys love as the can go off track, play by the steam and of course get covered in mud!

I can honestly say I was more than impressed with all the measures that have been put in place at Hever Castle to allow you to still have so much fun, whilst keeping you safe.

The castle will be getting its coating of autumnal leaves now and we can’t wait for our next visit to see this!