Posts in Parenting
Minecraft Birthday Party • Once I was 7 years old, my Mama told me...

Every time I get in the car and start the engine the radio shouts at me. See we like the music loud in our family, car discos, sing offs, they are all part of a normal school run at 8am. But over the last few weeks all I seem to hear is the same song. "Once I was 7 years old, my Mama told me..." you know the one, the one that if you really listen to the lyrics makes you feel so sentimental about your childhood, well it does for me anyway!

I look at Sammy, a boy who went through 3 schools in 3 years and can't believe he's been so lucky to find these friends. It's like he was meant to be at this school, found his tribe of traditional boys, who want to get muddy, climb trees and who are in such a bubble. He may not be as streetwise as some but honestly I am quite happy with that. He's not conforming to any stereotype, he's his own boy. Tonight he told me about the sewing club he wants to join and in the next breath begging me to look into karate lessons and a pet tortoise. 

Turning 7 feels like a big leap, a real turning point in his short life. He tests boundaries everyday, wants to reason with us which can often feel like arguing and is fighting against wanting more independence, while still creeping down the landing to sleep in our bed 3 nights a week. Our still love being carried upstairs for a bath and he's got to the point where he's such a weight that he hops on our backs, these great long gorilla length arms flopping over our shoulders and securing around our necks in a suffocatingly adorable bear hug. We duck as we go up the stairs to their attic room and I wonder how long it will be before we can't quite squeeze under the low ceiling.

I was thinking about all the things I want to tell him as he begins his 7th year, about how living for today is all he needs to worry about now. When he's been particularly challenging we say let's start again in the morning and we mean it. That tantrums can be forgiven and forgotten the next day if he wakes up with a positive attitude. Tonight he's gone to bed ridiculously excited about moving up to Year 3 this September, asking me 100 questions about the presentation to the parents that I went to while he was meant to be sleeping. But how can you be cross? I tucked him in and could just about see the twinkle in his eyes in the last light of the day poking through their curtains. 

I wish I could bottle that innocent enthusiasm, and bottle the same genuine disappointment when I told him that Year 3 starts in 10 weeks. 5 seconds of raw emotion right in front of my eyes, the realisation that he'd miss his best friends over the summer, even though he knows he will see them, just not every day. It was so humble and I could have hopped in bed next to him and cuddled him all night!

I tell my 7 year old that you need good friends. People who you choose to know, to have in your lives and share your adventures with. That having a group who you can rely on, who rely on you in equal measure will set you up for life. We watched the film Inside Out at the weekend and I keep thinking about what will our boy's core memories look like? What will be the defining moments of their childhood that they remember. 

And I hope this day might be one of them. Best pals in the sunshine, at home.

minecraft party 15.jpg

I searched the internet and thought it would be handy to list where I bought all the party ware, party bag prizes and square balloons, which went down a storm with my Minecraft loving boy.

Party Bags

Party Ware

Party Food Ideas

  • Warbutons Thins for square sandwiches
  • Crispy cake cluster "blocks"
  • Chocolate brownie "blocks"
  • Cathedral City Nibbles for cheese "blocks"
  • Squares salt and vinegar crisps
  • Meat "blocks" aka a party favourite sausage rolls!
  • Rice Krispies Squares bars cut into lollies. Use a lolly stick and add an icing block to decorate

I served bowls of fruit and cartons of apple juice and used small paper green cupcake cases for the clusters and brownies and added a leftover icing square from the cake toppers order!

I raided all my grey and green crockery and used black pieces of card as platters. Simple but it all looked really effective laid out together. I bought some plain green cups and dug out some old green and black striped starts left over from Halloween for extra drinks as they were all roasting running around and jumping on and off the bouncy castle. 

Even just of the 6 of them was wild! They raced around the garden, the fort became the secret hideout and the slide the escape route and Rich's wheelbarrow run ups and dives onto the bouncy castle was the highlight. He was exhausted at the end!

Have you got any parties coming up? We had the most amazing weekend for Sammy, with his Horrible Histories party on the Saturday afternoon which I can't wait to share with you. And now we are onto planning a festival in the garden for Ollie.

My google searches are jam packed with neon, colour run powder paint and how to make flags for the garden. Now all we need is a nice sunny long range forecast ;)

Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project February

I love the idea of traditions, we have a few in our family, Christmas Day rituals and toasts at the dinner table when we are all together, but I've really wanted to start something at home.

In the last month I've seen such a change in Sammy. As he approaches 7 we feel like we are leaving the little boy phase behind and he's turning into a young boy, complete with goofy adult teeth pointing in all directions. It feels like a big jump 6-7, he speaks with confidence and eloquence unlike Ollie who still mixes up his words every now and again, "cockcorn" being one of our favourites on movie night. This week we will be choosing his first pair of glasses for when he is working in the classroom and I look at this great man child before me when he hops out of the shower, wiggling around waiting for me to dry him and I see him torn between being this carefree innocent boy and someone ready for more independence.

The nights spent creeping into our bed to sleep with me are few and far between now, but the cuddles in the morning are just as huge as they were in the middle of the night. He lies on us in turn like this baby elephant squashing our chests and I just breathe these moments in. 

It's not like we are on borrowed time, more like we can see the road ahead, despite us still being firmly Mama and Dada. Rich has offered to be Dad of Daddy if they'd prefer but they don't want to. Thank goodness because I can't imagine being anything other than Mama! This year will be the start of Year 3, a move up to a separate part of the school and new routines. I want to let them be little for as long as possible before the natural course of growing up kicks in. Yesterday they rediscovered all the old Early Learning Centre Happyland plastic toys I have been saving for Yasmin when we emptied our hideously untidy garage onto the drive for a major sort out. I watched as they collected grass and logs and built a "tree lodge" for the figures and hid in a tent with no pole to hold it up, two pairs of legs and feet poking out of the door whilst pretending to be robbers in one of their wildly imaginative games. 

There's secret languages, chants and songs including "Stupidy one and Stupidy two" where a sense of irony is totally lost on my Dumb and Dumber haircut boys! Sammy is a good boy, someone who I imagine in later life will be described as a "good egg", an old fashioned phrase that suits him perfectly. He sleeps with a copy of The Famous Five by his bed, has sussed out that if you join Ballet club after school you get to be with all the girls get a biscuit at tea time and has made firm friends with 3 other boys at school who are out of the same mould. You hear them playing Knights and Dragons in the playground as we try and corral them to the car park. Maybe not the cool kids on the block but the nice boys and that's fine by me. There's plenty of time to be trendy and grown up, I don't want to rush it.

At home I watch them swing on this tree in the front garden like monkeys giggling to each other and long for the summer holidays when we pottered around past a normal school night bedtime, with two barefoot boys, sunshine blasting through the branches at 7pm and their heads upside down, with hair like a wavy mop. 

I love how I will be able to look back at photos of them on this tree and see how they have grown.

And that sparked an idea.


In the late spring I adore the wooden arch over the gate to the front door. It becomes covered in small pink roses which last until late October. In the winter when it's bare I wonder whether it would be nicer to have the front more open and take it down but now it has to stay.

This is going to be our February tradition, charting the boy's heights against the arbor. Scratching their initials and ages into the wood - if we ever move we will have to take the pole with us!

Ollie feels like he has such a long time to wait until his 5th birthday in July, with most of his class already having had their birthdays and parties he's one of the littlest in every way. I can see his face changing, the roundness paving way for more refined cheeks and he's so slim you'd think we never feed him! In so many ways he's desperate to be like his bigger brother and in others he's so contended being the baby of the family. He sleeps with his other family of soft toys, in a defined order, leaving almost no room for him and you are in trouble if you don't carry out to the letter the "kiss and a cuddle" bedtime goodbye ritual. One day he might forget this beloved tradition but that's the joy of writing a blog. A digital diary of our family life and one of the reasons I love the Me and Mine Project.

Without this monthly prompt to take a family photo I know we would only have a handful rather than an album full.

So this is my little family, on my little corner of the internet. Last week I and a lovely day out with some other parent bloggers and whilst putting the blogging world to rights one said something that really struck a chord. That there are so many of us now it's hard to stand out, but I disagree. When you write about your family you have a never ending stream of unique content. 

Some people will follow you on your pregnancy journeys, some will follow you through until your Facebook posts become tearful goodbyes at University doors and some will find you along the way, dip in and out when you are going through the same stage in life. 

We are only limited by our imagination. I look at my two as inspiration to how I approach my working life like how they approach a Sunday afternoon in the garden. It's not the garden, it's the ocean and the balls littered around the grass are sharks. So you have to jump onto the swings to be picked up by the helicopter who has come to save you.

To them the world is an endless stream of possibilities you just have to make them up sometimes. It's not about waiting for things to happen it's about making things happen. So be brave, make new connections, collaborations just like this one. It's a pleasure to cohost this monthly family portrait project with this group of talented and inspiring parent bloggers, pop over and read the other posts linked up below. There are so many lovely families joining in, all with their unique stories to tell. 

Cheerio February, bring on the sunshiny days of Spring!

Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project January 2016

When this family photo project started now three years ago, I couldn't have predicted that this would be the post I would be sharing for the start of this year. Me and Mine was founded to encourage us all to take a minute to capture a moment, a snapshot of our little families whether it be a selfie in the car, a grainy Sunday morning shot all together in bed before the sun comes up, or a fancy posed shot where you've dragged your tripod to the perfect spot!

It doesn't matter about the actual photo, it's the fact that you took the photo that matters! I look back and see my babies turn to boys, and small boys turning into young men. In the last six months Sammy seems to have blossomed in every way. Big teeth, legs that have grown without us noticing until I see him in trousers on a Saturday morning and they are flapping up above his ankles (their school uniform of all-year-round shorts has hidden those lanky legs!), and he's started the countdown to his 7th birthday with endless discussions about ideas for his Horrible Histories-themed party!

Seven feels so old to us. Will it be the year he naturally slips out of calling us Mama and Dada? He's now too heavy to carry on your hip, so when a bleary and teary-eyed striped boy appears at the bottom of the stairs in the evening – upset from a bad dream or needing an extra cuddle to settle him – we get him to stand on the bottom step, lean on our back and carry him upstairs like a sack of potatoes over a greengrocer's shoulder.

And this month a new little boy came into our lives, and made our small boy seem like a teenager and our biggest boy like a gentle giant!

For me, Me and Mine isn't just about Rich and I and our two sons. When my sister had her first baby almost three years ago, I felt this rush of love for someone who wasn't technically mine but felt like mine. And I know my sister feels the same about my boys. When we are all together we just fit together – our children are interchangeable between us and we are ticking-off days on the calendar until our niece Yasmin comes to stay for her half-term mini break. She comes to stay and, quite laughably, barely gives them a second glance as she says goodbye. It's not that she won't miss them, it's just that she is happy and safe at Auntie and Uncle's house and, for those days and nights, her familiar routine moves to our house.

I don't know for sure whether my bond with her is so strong because I saw her being born, but I wouldn't change it for the world. When my sister announced that she was pregnant again last year, I didn't dare assume the same would happen again but, luckily for me, it hadn't crossed her mind that I would be anywhere else but right there in the delivery room.

I'd had a "go bag" packed for a week or so as we got closer to the due date, and then on a Saturday night just over two weeks ago, we heard a familiar sound: an incoming FaceTime call from Natalie. The conversation went a little like this, in amongst tears of laughter. "I think my waters might have broken... but it could just be a big wee!" We debated the suspect water that her husband Andrew had the pleasure of cleaning-up on the kitchen floor and then a calming and considered Rich poked his head over my shoulder and reminded her that she was just a few days shy of her due date and that it was probably best to give the hospital a quick call! Within a couple of minutes they phoned back to say the midwife wanted them to go in for a little monitoring as Natalie had been worrying she wasn't feeling the baby move as much as normal.

We put the phone down and I raced upstairs. Hurriedly grabbing my wash bits from the bathroom whilst Rich was trying to convince me to slow down and wait until we knew what was happening from the maternity ward. But I had this overwhelming sense of urgency and just wanted to get in the car as soon as humanly possible! It's a good hour and 50 minutes to get to them but that may well have been the other side of the world at that moment. 

I had one foot out of the door when they rang just before midnight after a few calls back and forwards to say she was definitely being induced. Her voice sounded so brave but wobbly. My heart felt like it was being gripped when she said I'm so frightened and all I wanted to do was be by their sides. So at 2am I met Andrew in the car park – he'd come down to pick up their bags from the car and we walked back into the hospital just as the snow started falling, laden with overnight bags and supplies from the M&S petrol station shop I had blasted into en route.

Within an hour and a half Natty was started to make the sounds. Those distinctive groaning, but not quite the mooing sounds when you know things are really getting going. The Sister on the reception desk wasn't convinced when I popped down the hall that the induction was taking effect so quickly but, after I scurried back up the corridor for a second time in 10 minutes, the lovely midwife on duty to monitor Natty came to check her over and gave a wide eyed look to Andrew and I. My phone bleeped and Andrew had sent me a text saying he didn't think we were far away from seeing the baby and we signalled with our hands, our nervous guesses of the time it would be born to each other as Natty buried herself over the side of the bedrail and into the bed as a contraction took hold.

He guessed 5am.

He wasn't too far off! At just after 4am the midwife gave Natty some reassurance that she was now in established labour and that they would start running the water for the birthing pool. Luckily the pool room was literally three steps across the corridor from our room and we helped Natty hobble across, after what felt like the longest time in the world to run a big bath! As we got into the room I turned to Andrew and gave him a big hug and said a sort of this is it, good luck message and as we broke the hug he said "What do you mean, you're not going anywhere are you?!" He thought I was leaving them, but really I was just trying to give him a boost of confidence and energy!

It's a very special thing to be a birthing partner, to share one of the best ever moments of someone's life and I will always be grateful that Andrew was happy to share it with me. 

I dropped all the spare towels, the phones, her drink and lip salve (the gas and air made her lips so dry) on a chair by the pool as Andrew helped her into the water. Last time round she had felt so comforted by the water but this time it didn't feel right.

She thrashed around during minute apart contractions and Andrew and I exchanged helpless glances as we each held her hands and she clenched her fists. It felt like a tsunami was building – an intense, incredibly fast build up and there were moments when I felt like I was holding my breath and my heart was going to beat out of my chest.

It's the hardest thing to watch someone you love fiercely in pain and not really do anything to help. After just a few minutes Natty was desperate to get out of the water and onto a low bed against the wall of the room. The next 10 minutes raced by, a mix of tears, excitement, exhaustion and then elation.

Natty was up over the pillow, holding the bar of the pyrex dish as I call it – the little plastic crib frame – pushing against the wall with every contraction and the midwife was firmly telling Andrew and I to hold her on the bed, taking the strain of her force to push away from the wall. I held her shoulders and the gas and air and Andrew was at her hips and together it felt as though we were this three headed (in the nicest possible way) beast, channelling all our positive energy to Natty.

Just before half past 5, the midwife exclaimed, "Natalie I can see the head, it has lots of dark hair!" and Andrew and I both glanced down, with our hands trembling, on the verge of tears and both almost chanted words of encouragement as she went through her final contractions.

She was a superstar. 

At 5.26am we saw this little red person slip onto the bed and in a haze of tears I couldn't see what it was. Andrew, in almost a state of shock and awe, said "Oh it's a boy!" and we fell into a heap of tears. 

Natty was born to have a son and all the way through this pregnancy she had been convinced she was carrying a boy. Andrew on the other hand was sure it was another pink one and the combination of the intense and incredibly quick build up to the birth and a surprise to him of a son, made the whole room burst with happiness. 

It was like a movie. Natty went from excruciating pain and helpless cries of I can't do it, to this aura of completeness. Like a wave of serenity had washed over her body. I scrambled for my phone and took the most shaky 20 seconds of video as the midwife passed him up the bed and into Natty's arms. I can't watch the footage without crying! You can hear Andrew out of breath, with tears in his voice and Natty turning to me holding the phone saying over and over, in the happiest voice I've ever heard from her "I've got a boy, we've got a boy, I can't believe it!"

Maybe it's because it is their last, or because it was all so fast, but it felt like the room had exploded with joy! In about half an hour we were back in their room, watching her feed and as the sun came up, it was so calm, so still. Like the snowy driveways we drove past when we left the hospital doors. 

My mum brought Yasmin in to meet her new brother at 9am and we all headed home with no real fanfare, like he was always meant to be in the family.

Andrew's parents headed to their house, Rich drove the boys up and we had the most wonderful morning, all on cloud nine and a little delirious from not a minutes sleep!

We drank Champagne, hung blue balloons around the room and honestly gave little Logan, a perfect home coming.

So there are an extra couple in my Me and Mine photo this month: A small girl who brings me so much joy, who I can "borrow" for a girly fix and play tea parties and decorate a teeny bedroom with pink for. And now a small blue one, who makes my heart skip a beat when I see him in the boy's baby grows. I've waited almost 5 years to pass on all the plastic boxes full of mini booties, the tiny hats, the miniature outfits, hoodies with ears on. It feels like this side of the family is complete.

A 9lb 4oz brute of a boy, with legs so long and feet so big he's grown out of all the newborn clothes in just a couple of weeks! A boy who had no intention of being swaddled and placed in a fruit bowl for his newborn photo shoot last Friday morning, when I drove up for breakfast with a bubba on my lap and to snap some special photos for them. We couldn't have laughed any more at his eyes which had been so tightly shut for an hour that became as wide as they'd ever been, glaring up at us like a little bug.

Now we just have to wait for a small pink one to be born in America in April. Unfortunately there's nothing to pass on from me this time which means I have the tough job of Auntie shopping for a niece. Tutus and sparkly shoes here I come. Hooray!

It's a great privilege to be a mother but being an Auntie is just as much of an honour. You have all the unconditional love with less of the responsibilities! I get to love them like your own, protect them and help nurture them into the remarkable people I know they will become.

I look at my pair of brothers and hope that they will be as close as I am with my sister and brother. I will have my "go bag" packed just the same when we hear that baby Marini is on its way on the other side of the Atlantic. Except this time, it will be a suitcase! Mum, Rich and I can't wait to fly out when we hear her happy arrival to welcome them home, just like we did with Logan.

I am soaking up all the happiness at the moment and even just writing this post makes me well up. I don't quite know what I'd do without my family, my extended family and all my friends who shared this time with us. My bestest girl friends who text and messaged knowing just what it meant to me to have a new nephew. 

Come and join us and share your Me and Mine.