Thursday, 18 December 2014

Family Staycation's

Before Leo was even a twinkle in my eye, Luke and I were always looking toward the next holiday we were going to book up. We lived for the next faraway adventure that we could jet off too and experience the different cultures and activities.

Our very first break together was to Disneyland, a place I had always longed to go and explore and a destination that I knew Luke would resist but soon enjoy. Our second break together was to the sunny skies of Egypt where we spent two weeks in the sun on one very busy two week break.

We had plans for everyday, different activities that we wanted to cram in, the Pyramids in Cairo, scuba diving in the red sea, quad biking in the desert and let’s not forget the paragliding trip on the back of a boat!

Our holidays have had to adapt somewhat for the little man who is now in our lives, and no longer do we have holidays booked up with daily activities to keep us busy, because Leo keeps us busy all on his own. Our holidays now have to be tailored to our family needs and we need a break that is suitable for a toddler.

Our time in Egypt was amazing and one day in the not so distant future we wish to take Leo along with us, but we are holding out for him to be a little bit older before then and exploring places a little closer to home. 

We have taken Leo to France and many different parts of England. He is one well-travelled little boy and has been able to play along the sea front dipping his toes in and out of the sea before running away and getting sandy little feet. This was his favourite game whilst in Bournemouth a few years ago.

We aren't alone in venturing on staycations instead of holidaying abroad. Each year more and more British holiday makers are looking to stay closer to home for one reason or another. It means that we are discovering parts of England that we never knew existed and attractions that we have never considered visiting before.

If you are considering a holiday in 2015 but are looking to stay within the UK, there really are some beautiful areas you can visit without jumping on a plane. You could source some inspiration from the Park Resorts Staycation Guide that has some beautiful destinations on offer.

It has been lovely venturing around within the UK, and back in the Summer we spent the week at Lands End in Cornwall and had such a super time. With the beach a short walk away and good weather for the majority of that week, we really were spoiled. 

We rented a house and it really was a home from home, and to say that the scenery of Cornwall is beautiful, really is an understatement. With sandy beaches and clear waters, when the sun shone it felt like you were abroad, but with traditional English Fish and Chips right on the doorstep it really was my idea of heaven,

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Holiday Plans

With the New Year nearly upon us we are in the midst of the final Christmas preparations, and it won't be long before the Summer holiday adverts hit our television screens, usually as early as boxing day. As we didn't get a holiday this year I am absolutely determined to get something booked up for the Summer of 2015, somewhere warm and sunny where we can kick back as a family and enjoy a brand new adventure.

Leo has been abroad twice in the last 3 years, the first time was when he was a mere 5 months old and the experience was a doddle. He contently lay in my arms for the few hours we were in the air and didn't know any different. The second time we flew back in 2013 however... He was two years old and keeping him still and in his seat was much more of a mission. Suffice to say that the early morning flight we were on seemed to go on forever, and as I couldn't shut my eyes while Leo was trying to perform a 007 mission to escape his seat... I stayed awake the entire time willing him to succumb to half an hours sleep. That never happened...

Before Leo's arrival 3 years ago, Luke and I loved to book holidays and visit different areas of the world. The biggest holiday we jetted away for was a fortnight in Egypt, where we stayed all inclusive in Nama Bay and enjoyed the sights of the Red Sea. We even hopped on a 8 hour bus ride to Cairo to see the Pyramids, and what a experience that was. We absolutely loved our time in Egypt and it is somewhere that we would happily go back to with Leo now he's a bit older.

We are currently thinking about holiday's for 2015 and Egypt does seem to be tempting us back, I have even been having a look at some package deals departing from Gatwick Airport, and having a look at hotels that are within close proximity to the airport so that we can have a more relaxed flying experience. Most of the flights depart in the early hours of the morning, and living 2 hours away from the airport, I want to take as much stress out of the equation as I possibly can. The Holiday Inn London Gatwick Airport offers great value for money and is just 5 minutes drive to the airport. You can leave your car in their secure car park and take the shuttle in, and this idea is definitely tempting me!

The only aspect of going back to Egypt in the New Year that puts me off is the flight time, at around 6 hours it is a long time to try and entertain a excited preschooler, but the end destination will more than make up for that. It all comes down to making sure you have lots of different activities to keep little one's entertained, and with Leo getting a Nintendo DS for Christmas, this is just one of many ways in which we can keep him entertained... And in his seat!

This year we will most certainly jetting away somewhere as a family of 3, I feel it is well deserved and will be a real first with us just going abroad as our own individual family unit. It is time to start hunting out the Summer holiday deals, booking some time off work and saving for a family holiday of a life time!

Are you jetting away anywhere in the New Year!?

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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

All Hail King Julien - A Netflix Original Series

Being part of the Netflix Stream Team is an exciting role, and this year we have absolutely loved getting involved. Over the last year we have absolutely loved Netflix and the television content available for the entire family. I have indulged in countless box sets and Luke has enjoyed the film selection, where as Leo has been glued to the variety of kid's content.

It is no secret that Leo is a big fan of Madagascar, so when I had a family invitation to the screening of the new Netflix original screening of 'All Hail King Julien' that just so happens to star everyone's favourite characters from Madagascar, there was no two ways about it, we just had to go along!

The event was held at Mahiki in London, and as soon as we arrived we found ourselves with a virgin Pina Colada each in a very special Pineapple Cup, Leo was very impressed and looked every bit the sophisticated Londoner parading around the swanky cocktail bar with his tipple in hand.

We were one of the first people to arrive, and it very quickly began to fill up with our fellow Stream Team friends and familiar faces that took me a while to place. Pixie Lott, Jamie Winstone, Donna Air, Oliver Cheshire, Jo Wood, Wretch 32, Denise Lewis, Portia Freeman and Jasmine Guinness were all in attendance along with their families, and it was lovely to see such a great turn out!

While being treated to a number of delicious beverages and watching Leo have such a fantastic time jumping around on the bean bags that had been provided for the kids, we were previewed the first 2 episodes of the brand new 'All Hail King Julien' series, and if that wasn't amazing enough, we even got to meet the very real, smooth moving King Julien himself! 

Leo sat among all of the other children as the first two episodes were shown, he laughed and thoroughly enjoyed the new series, and I know that when Netflix releases the first Five 22 minute episodes on the 19th December, we will be enjoying them again and again! Leo said that he really enjoyed All Hail King Julien and it was apparent that he found Julien himself very comical.

All Hail King Julien is set long before the Zoosters arrive on Madagascar, when King Julien holds court. The colourful cast includes fan favourites Mort and Maurice, along with a host of all-new jungle dwellers as they take on the craziest adventures and wildest parties the jungle has to offer! 

What do Netflix say about the all new series?

'Keeping tune with the dance-crazed taste of its lead character, the humor of ALL HAIL KING JULIEN is backed by a pulse-pounding original score that includes a brand-new, infectiously upbeat theme song.  The series features a talented voice cast that includes television legend Henry Winkler (Happy Days) as Julien’s regal predecessor, Uncle King Julien, alongside Emmy-winning actor Danny Jacobs as King Julien, Andy Richter (Conan, Arrested Development) as Mort, Kevin Michael Richardson (Family Guy) as Maurice, and India de Beaufort (One Tree Hill) as Clover, the king’s special-ops expert.

ALL HAIL KING JULIEN joins the hit series Turbo FAST in a growing lineup of Netflix original animated productions from DreamWorks Animation.  By the end of 2016, DreamWorks Animation will debut 10 additional new series on the world’s leading Internet TV Network.'

We all had a super day, Leo meeting King Julien was exactly the same feeling as me getting to meet THE Pixie Lott, kind of surreal coming face to face with one of your favourite popstars in the ladies toilet I can tell you! 

It was plain to see just how much fun Leo was having, he practically disowned us from the moment we arrived until the moment I told him it was time to make our way home. His exact words to me when I told him it was time to leave were 'No Mummy! Wait! *Insert hand stop signal here* I playing!'. With that I got the hint that he had no intention of leaving any time soon...

Leo spent the afternoon dancing with King Julien and learning the very special dance routine, I couldn't believe my eyes when he got involved on his own accord! My 3 year old normally shy's away from such activities! 

All Hail King Julien is going to be a fantastic new addition to the already fabulous collection of children's content, and we absolutely love all the Netflix offers it's subscribers. We as a family wouldn't be without Netflix these days, and we are very excited to see the show go live on the 19th of this month!

Make sure you tune in! You can watch it right here from the 19th!

Disclaimer: I was invited along to the All Hail King Julien Screening, but all views and opinions are completely honest and my own.

The Silver Cross Reflex

When it comes to thinking British Pushchairs who is the first brand that comes to mind? Silver Cross of course! Founded back in 1877 by William Wilson who actually created the very first baby pram. It was this very pram that the rising of future pushchair models were based on for over a century.

Now Silver Cross have come a long way from those very first models, and earlier this year they un-veiled the Silver Cross Reflex. 

The Silver Cross Reflex is brand new for 2014, new year... New pushchair and all that jazz! It features the very latest in pushchair innovation and highlights defining characteristics that make it really stand out among the other models in it's category.

The Reflex is an all in one package, and I think it is due to this nature that it really stands out. The umbrella fold of the Reflex converts to a pram and the very desirable travel system that I am sure we all coveted in those early days. Now this is where it starts to get really interesting and shows just how sophisticated the technology being applied to the latest Silver Cross pushchairs is getting...

For the very first time on a stroller the Reflex incorporates an innovative central LED lighting system, that has been developed for high visibility when it is dark. I think this is fantastic, especially for parents who do a lot of walking and need to be seen when dusk descends. It will make people more aware of you, especially drivers who will see you long before they would without this sophisticated feature.  

When the Reflex is in pushchair mode it provides a very generous multi position seat that has been engineered with a unique and ergonomic backrest which ensures that the seat liner does not touch the frame. The seat it's self has been designed to be the ultimate comfort seat with it's luxurious deep padding and silent multi position recline. 

The stroller is ultra light weight and made completely out of the highest grade Aluminium, weighing in at 8.5kg. No detail has been over looked and the hood is fully extendable with a UPF 50+ sun protection and the deep padded seat apron with reflective piping. 

The fold of the Reflex is something I am really liking the sound of, it folds easily and compactly making it the perfect companion for day trips and holidays both within the UK and of course abroad. We all want a easy to fold stroller especially when we are about to step foot on board a plane, there is nothing worse than having to faff around with many different buttons and foot pedals... So the fold on the Reflex is amazing in the sense that it can be folded using just one hand.

The Silver Cross Reflex folds all in one even with the sturdy bumper bar in place, it folds with the stroller and adds protection and support for the baby. When being used as a stroller the seat unit can be used in either rearward or outward positioning, and using the included car seat adapters you can turn it into a complete travel system. 

A feature that I am really liking on the Reflex is the ability to use it right from birth. The optional accessory pack includes a rearward facing hood, protective baby nest and a lightweight stowaway apron. This is everything you need to get your newborn snug and ready to face the world during those very early weeks. Even in the newborn pram mode the stroller can still fold into one piece, I know that my first pushchair didn't have this capability!

The Reflex will be retailing at £250.00 for the basic package that includes:

- Washable seat liner
- 5 point safety harness
- Harness and buckle pads
- Deep padded apron
- Articulating bumper bar
- Shopping basket
- Simplicity car seat adapters
- Raincover
- Carry handles
- LED Lights

For an additional £75.00 you can add the Newborn Accessory Pack.

The Reflex is set to be one of the pushchairs to watch in 2014, and now I am more intrigued than ever to get my hands on one and see exactly what it is all about up close and personal. I love just how light weight the stroller is, and the one hand fold would make this the perfect stroller for my Mother to use with Leo and his cousin. My Mum suffers with Rheumatoid Arthritis and needs something lightweight and easy to use when she has either of the boys, I would be very intrigued to see just how she would get on with this new innovation. 

If you have been taken by the Reflex you will be pleased to know that there are a number of different colour ways available:

- Black
- Sky
- Lime
- Sand
- Raspberry
- Chilli

I for one have my eyes on the Sky colour way... 
Which colour would you choose?

New Year, New Bathroom

With Christmas just a week away our thoughts are currently focusing on all that glitters and shines, but with the New Year looming ever closer we are letting our minds begin to imagine what 2015 may bring. When I look ahead to 2015 I know that it is going to be a big year for my little family, especially with Leo starting school in September and a whole manner of other exciting times ahead. 

For others you may be looking at doing up parts of the house after saving hard throughout 2014 to really treat the family home in the New Year, maybe it's a new kitchen you are after or even re-doing the family bathroom. Our family bathroom is in need of some modifications just to make it a more pleasant room to be in, to kick back and relax in the bath among some scented candles, or maybe even some new fluffy towels to help you relax further and indulge in some luxury after a long day in the office.. Or at home with kids of course which can often feel like a longer day than being in the office...

When I think about the perfect bathroom, I don't envision what is currently in place. In my minds eye I can see laminate flooring in place of the tired carpet, and Ikoma White Bathroom Furniture replacing the sink, toilet and mirror unit. I would paint the walls a Sky Blue to compliment the simplicity of the White Bathroom features, and would follow this into the new fluffy towels that I would just have to buy. 

The bathroom is arguably one of the rooms we spend a lot of time, whether it is bathing Leo and getting him ready for bed, or even just getting ready in a morning for the day ahead, we spend a lot of time there and I believe that this should be reflected in the way the room makes us feel. You want a clean airy space that is going to help set you for the working day, or a relaxing area that you can just sit back in the bath with your favourite tunes playing. 

Of course before starting any sort of renovation there are some important things to consider:

- Budget - This point alone is one of the most important ones. What can you afford? When coming up with a budget it is important to sit down and do the initial number crunching. Have a look at exactly what you want and whether or not you are going to be renovating the room yourself, or whether you will be getting a contractor in to do the main body of the work for you. This all comes into account when coming up with your intial budget, and it is vitally important that you stick to it. There is a reason that you came up with that initial figure in the first place....

- Time - Now the timing of a renovation can vary, you may have an idea of how long it may take in your head, but this can easily be exceeded, especially if you run into un-foreseen circumstances. It can depend on exactly how big the renovation is, and how many items you are going to be changing within the bathroom. The timing also takes into account the ordering and purchasing of the materials and fixtures, so have a contingency plan just in case things don't work out to the very first plan that was laid out.

Ultimately renovating is a very exciting time, it is the opportunity to make your home a nicer place to live. It's about working hard and then watching your perfect family home take shape, I know that when I do eventually buy a house that we are going to have to put a lot of leg work in to get it where we want it to be, but you know what? That's half of the fun! It means that the home we buy will one day be exactly the way that we want it to be, it may take us some time, but one day we will be on the very top of the world.

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Health Visitor Assessment

It was just last week I was sat here at this very computer and writing a post that was making my blood boil. Its' a post that I put off publishing, you see it was a post docuenting how I let down I felt by my health visitor following on from Leo's 2 and a half year check. It's a post that I have now posted alongside this one.. Because the contrast of feelings that I have felt change within this time frame are something that I never anticipated.

My health visitor turned my opinion of her completely upside down and she re-gained my trust once again, and in this moment right now... I am so thankful to her.

They say everything happens for a reason, and I have to say I am inclined to agree with them. It has been almost a year since I have had any form of contact from my health visitor despite multiple attempts of phoning her, leaving voicemail's in the hope that I could just speak to any member of their team and follow up THEIR concerns for my little man. No one ever returned my calls and not even a whisper was heard from them, until Granny was at the doctors earlier this week and just by chance ran into our health visitor.

Granny told our health visitor the struggles we have faced in the last year, some of which I haven't even posted on this here blog... Nursery reports putting Leo's speech and development 20 months below where he should be. Concerns over his general being in the social environment and hints and nudges that there may be something else underlying. Of course in my heart of hearts I had my own opinion, and I didn't share the same concerns as the nursery, and at this moment in time, the same concerns the health visitor had potentially shared back in January.

It turns out that our health visitor has been off on sick leave for a substantial amount of time, she hasn't been around. That doesn't excuse why another member of the team couldn't have responded to my calls and my messages. But it does explain the radio silence and lack of action that has been on the air waves...

The outcome from this chance meeting with the health visitor (who was now back at work full time) was that she felt awful for the last year. She had been told how let down I felt, basically how I had felt in the post I had written here. She juggled her schedule around and the very next day I spoke to her on the phone. We arranged a meeting for today (Monday 15th December 14) and she arrived at the house ready to make a referral based on everything that I had told her.

I wanted this referral. I really wanted it. I wanted to be put in front of a professional and be provided with answers that I felt were long over due. Was it just a speech delay? Or was it something more? Had I been walking around with my head in the sand all this time? Or was my gut instinct the right one?

 Leo and I had been sat on the sofa in silence before the health visitors arrival, I didn't want him engrossed in the television or tootling around the lounge with his favourite trains, I wanted him to to show his full attention so that the health visitor could get a real idea of his character and personality. The health visitor arrived armed with her suitcase, and a number of the objects and puzzles that I had watched Leo complete on his 2 and a half year assessment.

 I handed the health visitor the latest nursery report, and the report I had been handed by the lady from a local agency who had come in to observe Leo. She thanked me for these forms, and then told me that she wouldn't be looking at them until she had completed her assessment which I thought was a grand idea. 

For a little while she just sat and observed us, listened to Leo and I talking among ourselves and watched Leo as he played a magnetic fishing game. Leo wasn't phased by her presence in the room, and just carried on chatting away with me as he always would, and this pleased me greatly as it meant that she could hear first hand just how much his speech had come along. She could hear that he could hold a conversation.  

The health visitor had brought a copy of the first assessment that she had conducted back in January, and it was decided that we would focus on the parts of the form that she had labelled with a 'Q' for query. 

Leo was still happily playing his fishing game, but was easily persuaded to demonstrate his drawing skills. We found out the array of colourful crayons and asked him to find the red one, after he had done that and produced some beautiful markings we asked him to find a number of different colours in turn, and that's exactly what he did. The health visitor was pleased with his drawing, pen holding and colour knowledge which pleased me in turn.

As the assessment went on our health visitor surprised me. She told me she had absolutely no concerns. No concerns over his speech, she even went on to say that he was a right little chatter box and wasn't even really behind on that front any more. She told me that she wasn't going to be referring him because there was absolutely no need, and that the Pediatrician would laugh at her for putting Leo forward when he was quite obviously developing and happy.

Then she opened up the reports I had handed her, the one from the outside source that had come into nursery read that Leo didn't give eye contact. That he had poor facial expressions and was ultimately very behind. Her response? Well she pretty much said that they must have seen a different child that day, because the little boy she had just witnessed was switched on and alert.

Then she read the nursery report and was astounded at where they were placing Leo in his developments. In some areas they have Leo 20 months behind, and that is on the most recent report that I received this month. I have just accepted this as fact, everything following the 2 and half year check in January I have just accepted. The concerns, the worries, the urgency... It just seemed to be the path we were on and Leo was behind. Until today when the health visitor told me that Leo was perfectly normal. 

The health visitor told me that Leo is not behind at all, he is catching up and is actually operating in the capacity of a 4 and a half to 5 year old. She said that if the nursery are grading these reports as they are then there is something wrong, either Leo isn't as happy at the school as we think he is, he's shy, or the staff need further training. She made me promise that I wouldn't worry, that she is certain that he is just a normal 3 year old boy who is going to excel at school, he's just getting there in his own time.

Hearing all of this, all of this positivity from the lady who had first expressed her concerns 11 months ago was astounding. I was beaming from ear to ear. She was completely agreeing with me on every front, and my instinct had been the right one. I hadn't been walking around with my head stuck in the sand, I had been listening to my intuition, and it was the right one.

I had been so set on getting Leo the referral I didn't once for a second think that the health visitor was going to come in and go against everything that had initially been said, and against the reports of the nursery, and actually see Leo as I see him everyday.

It's been 11 months since Leo's 2 and a half year check, so much has happened in that time frame. He has grown and developed and done so much growing up. Yes I feel like someone on the health visitor team could have provided the courtesy of calling back and picking up our case, but ultimately Leo was fine just like I knew he would be. And in the end our health visitor came through and helped us.

For that I am very grateful.

Monday, 15 December 2014


This post was written on the 2nd December 2014, and in that time frame from then until publishing a few developments have been made. You can read about our positive experience with our health visitor right here. But for now, this is how I was feeling until these developments were made..

A year ago in January Leo had his 2 and a half year check. It was here that concerns were expressed over his development, particularly in his speech. I left his appointment far from impressed with the way I had been spoken to, but I left with the next steps of what I had to do in order to help Leo. The health visitor had told us that she wanted to see Leo again in two months’ time, she wanted him to repeat the assessment and if she still wasn’t happy then she would refer him onto speech therapy and we would go from there.

The health visitor was supposed to book Leo in for an eye appointment as soon as possible as she had also expressed concerns over a potential squint. The two months came and went with no word from our health visitor and no word of any appointment to get Leo’s eye checked out. I called and called the office where she worked trying to get in touch with her, when that failed I left her a voice mail asking about the eye appointment and also asked her to call me back so that we could arrange the assessment appointment. There was no call back, and absolutely no contact from my health visitor after that. She finally got around to making the eye appointment judging by the fact a week later a letter landed through the door, but I’m sure that’s only because I jogged her memory after she had let us fall through the cracks.

Still she had expressed some real concerns over Leo, she had taken one chilled out Mother and turned her into an emotional wreck. She had insinuated that there was more wrong with Leo, but of course couldn’t go into any details about it. She was that concerned that she just completely forgot about us, and in the long run she has let me and more importantly, she has let Leo down. The way she spoke to us about Leo back in January was worrying and completely negative. When I go over that appointment in my head I don’t re-call anything positive being said at all. But the point is she has taken those concerns and not followed up on any of them, she has left a child who would have benefited from a speech therapy referral 11 months ago drop completely through the net.

Ultimately She hasn’t done her job and she hasn’t supported us through any of this, and the respect I once had for her has diminished. I am actually angry at the way we have been treated by her, or not treated as the case may be. I left that appointment and did everything she advised, maybe if she had held up her end of the arrangement things wouldn't have taken this long to sort out. Maybe the positive improvements I can see in Leo today could have been exceeded further.

Leo has come on so much in the past 11 months, but our health visitor doesn’t know this. Leo could have come on even further had she pulled her finger out and actually done what she was supposed to be doing. I have been lucky in the fact that nursery have been on hand to help, and eventually they referred Leo for speech therapy back in June, a whole 5 months after it could have been originally placed.

Now speech therapy is happening, and they are nice enough people and I am glad that they are on board to help Leo and I, but even they are flakey. They book appointments and then forget they have booked them, they double book them, they book them and forget to tell you they have been made, they turn up late, and don’t really seem to know whether they are coming or going. It was just the other week that I rushed from work in my lunch break to be at an appointment that the speech therapist had forgotten to cancel with me, wasting my time, and wasting Leo’s time when she refused to see us.

We have had outside people from the local children’s centre come in to observe Leo at nursery, and nursery passed back the positive feedback that they didn't think anything was wrong and the observation had been fine. Only for me to then receive a report that read completely differently, it spurred me into calling the doctors and booking into see our GP to try and gain a pediatrician referral. It than transpired that this report was actually a rather old report and that the latest observation was absolutely fine.  I sometimes feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall, one person is telling me that Leo is really behind, another tells me he’s absolutely fine and the spectrum of normal at this age is so varied, and then there are people feeding me old information.

I feel like I have had to jump through hoops to even get to this point, I welcome any help with open arms, but the people who are in a position to help don’t seem to be very forthcoming. The appointment I am sitting with Leo on Friday (Friday 5th December 14) is ultimately me pushing to get Leo in front of a pediatrician. If there is something underlying (which I don’t think there is aside from speech delay) then it will have taken a year or over for someone to actually see us. Now I can’t help feeling really frustrated about that fact, because if there is an additional aspect of needs that hasn't been catered for, that’s an entire year of support that has not been there. Everyone who has seen Leo, I have had to fight to put him there. Surely it shouldn't be so hard to seek an opinion and guidance to help a child? To help my child!

I will go along Friday and see what is said, but I am certain the only issue is speech delay. Everyone is so quick to label a child these days, and speech delay or no speech delay, that boy of mine is happy and never without a smile for long.