Napping to Canada 🇨🇦

I’ve been a bit quiet of late because I had a major operation a few days ago. In between naps, I’ve decided to write a post about the family holiday we’re currently planning to Canada.

If I told you what my operation was for, it would be too much information. As a result, several people have assumed I’ve had a hysterectomy – I’d like to assure them that I haven’t. Neither am I suffering from anything life-threatening. Despite this, I’m signed-off work for six weeks and unable to lift anything for three months. I’m not in much pain but I’m sooo sleepy.

Anyway, the family holiday… My mum’s older sister lives in Canada. She’s the only surviving sibling – my mum and uncle passed away more than ten years ago. She has never met Munchkin and doesn’t fly any more so the only way they were going to meet was if we travelled to her. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do this summer.

Niagara Falls, waterfall

It’s not the first time my husband and I have been to Canada. Back in 2010, we visited the Rockies, got the Rocky Mountaineer train to Vancouver, travelled to Vancouver Island, before flying to Toronto for the final leg of our tour, which of course included Niagara Falls.

Our 2018 tour will be a more scaled-down, child-friendly affair. We’ll fly to Toronto and make our way to Niagara so Munchkin can see the falls and mummy and daddy can spend some time in Niagara on the Lake. I think she’s most excited about going to the amusement arcades at Niagara Falls. However, we’re all relieved that Just Christmas is still open. This is Canada’s oldest all year round Christmas store and it will be my third visit. After Niagara, we’ll make our way to North Toronto for two days at Canada’s Wonderland theme park. We had originally promised Munchkin a two-centre holiday in Canada and Disneyland but it was too impractical, so this is the compromise; she’s excited. 😊

From Toronto, we board a plane to Victoria, my favourite Canadian city – not that I’ve visited all of them, there are so many – where we’ll start a mini road trip of Vancouver Island. Our tour will include whale watching, museums and beaches before we end up in Campbell River, where my family live.

I’m sure there will be more posts about our travel plans. I’m expecting it to be challenging finding activities and accommodation for an active six year old child and an adult with limited mobility. Air Transat have been brilliant. They have a sale on at the moment, otherwise we possibly wouldn’t have booked with them. Of the three airlines we’re using, they’re the only one that has allowed me to request assistance for my husband online. The other two expect me to phone Canada during Canadian office hours. They’ve also enrolled Munchkin in a kids’ club. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I’m impressed thus far.

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#ThrowbackThursday: Nearly Had a Baby

Since my Munchkin has just celebrated her sixth birthday, I was hoping to share a post about her birth. Unfortunately, I never wrote one. The nearest I have is this post where I started going into labour, then everything stopped for a few days; it was written two days before I gave birth. I did write a long, and not particularly positive birth story for my pregnancy yoga group but I think I’ll keep that one to myself for now.

I’ve left the link to Bras for Mums in the post, since the website still exists. However, the lady who did my bra fitting no longer runs that service in Sussex. I later discovered that she’s a close friend of my cousin who lives in Wales!

When Munchkin was born, she was 5lb 4oz so we ended up buying lots of Tiny Baby clothes from Tesco, whose children’s clothes seemed to be on the smaller side.

I thought it was all systems go on Wednesday night, but no, I haven’t gone into labour yet.  I’m actually quite glad because I would only have been 36 weeks pregnant on Wednesday, which is slightly early.  Symptoms of pre-labour are: “baby dropping”… check, “bloody show”… check, “change in discharge”… check, “pressure around lower back,”… check, “intensification of Braxton Hicks contractions”… check, “diarrhoea” … managed not to have that one.  I even got as far as having mild contractions but everything seems to have eased off now.  I spoke to a midwife who said that the symptoms would either progress into labour or stop and it seems to be the latter.  I’m 37 weeks pregnant today, so at least if the baby comes now, she’ll be “fully cooked”!

Baby-wise, things seem to be going OK.  The diabetes team are really pleased with me because my blood sugar levels have been consistently within tolerance levels.  They’ve allowed me to delay induction until my due date (instead of a week before) because my levels are so good and I’m so anti induction.  I think the consultant was feeling generous because it was Christmas.  She even gave me a Group B Strep test on the NHS.  They’re normally £30 privately because NICE don’t generally recommend them, despite the fact some groups are lobbying to make the test compulsory for all women in late pregnancy.  Even though I have gestational diabetes (with the risk of an oversize baby), baby is measuring on the small side.  She was the size of a 34 week baby at 36 weeks.  This is considered a normal size, so we have nothing to worry about.

Our baby has so many clothes, we don’t know what to do with them!  Both my step-sister and sister-in-law have given us sacks full of clothes.  Some probably won’t get worn because they’re too summery for a winter baby (even though half came from my sister-in-law who had her baby in February!).  We were also given some baby clothes as presents from work and various relatives.  Managed to spend a fortune in the Next Sale on half price clothes (bigger sizes only) and baby bedding.  Well, they were bargains, it had to be done!  Despite our child having a bigger wardrobe than us, we may still have to buy clothes if she comes out tiny and is swamped in New Born baby grows.

I usually end up harping on about bras in my posts, so why make an exception?  I had the Bra Lady come round to measure me for nursing bras.  Apparently all those I got from the High Street were the wrong size… no surprises there.  Good quality nursing and maternity bras are made with more adjustment on the band so you can get more wear out of them.  Bras should never be fitted to “grow into” (take note, Marks and Spencer!) because they won’t give proper support.  In my case, I never grew into them anyway.  I’ve probably paid slightly more than I would have on the High Street, but the bras fit, they’re good quality and the service was excellent.  The Bra Lady will come back for fittings as many times as I need her to and everything is available on a sale or return basis, so I can try anything from the website without paying in advance.  If any mums to be or new mums are interested, the website is www.bras4mums.co.uk.

Well, it’s my lunch time now, then I’m taking myself for a walk to see if pre labour would like to start itself again.  Maybe I’ll have had the baby next time I blog… who knows?

A Look Back at 2017

2017 was the year that I relaunched my blog and started a number of writing projects. In this post, I look back at my most successful posts, and let you know how the creative writing is going.

First of all, some good news: I entered the Angmering Short Story Competition in the Autumn. When I hadn’t heard anything for weeks, I assumed the judges didn’t like my story. Then I got invited to the Angmering Writers’ Club meeting where the competition results would be announced. That was on 3rd January and I’m pleased to announce that I won Second Prize. My story will be broadcast on BBC Radio Sussex. The theme for the competition was time. My entry was a science fiction story about time travel. The judges gave me some encouraging feedback, which you can see in this photo.

Black writing on white background

Feeback from Short Story Competition

I relaunched my blog in May. My most viewed posts have tended to be those that I’ve shared on related Facebook groups such as parents’ groups. Bloggers’ groups are great but they’re only frequented by other bloggers.

Here are some of my most popular posts from 2017:

Given that my blog isn’t commercial and I don’t promote it widely, I’m proud to have over 100 Facebook followers, more than 300 Twitter followers and around 50 WordPress followers.

I’ve written a number of guest posts for other bloggers and have returned to my one-time regular slot of writing blog posts for Worthing Mums. One of my Worthing Mums’ posts was republished on Munchkin’s school blog. I’m currently crowdsourcing for a Worthing Mums’ post on Worthing and Sussex children’s authors, so if you know of any, do let me know in the comments. My list currently stands at Julia Donaldson, Lu Thomson, Jennifer Acton, Cathy Watts, Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, Carol Thomas, Sam Watkins, Giles Paley-Phillips, Chris Riddell, Matt Haig and Liz Pichon.

In summary, my return to blogging has been rewarding and frustrating in equal measures. I’m delighted to have a reasonable-sized following. It’s fantastic that some of my posts have more than a hundred views but it’s irritating that other posts have less than ten views. It really does seem to be about how much you share posts on social media. I still can’t bring myself to use Pintrest – don’t see the point of all that list making – or Instagram – I’m a writer, not a photographer. Up until now, Twitter has seemed better for writers and Facebook for bloggers but that could all change with Facebook making it more and more difficult for posts to reach followers. Will I be writing another look back post in a year’s time? Who knows!

Christmas Correspondence

It’s that time of year when children all over the world get writing to the man with a white beard and a red suit. Since Munchkin is more literate than last year, she wrote her own letter. Father Christmas replied through Santa.co.uk as he has done every year for the past few years. She then decided to write a note for the reindeer so he had to reply to that.

letter to santa, snowmen, santas, reindeer, penguins, candy canes, christmas trees, snow

The letter to Father Christmas

I bought a letter to Santa kit in the Waitrose sale last year so she used this, despite the fact it said, “Santa” and she insists his name is Father Christmas. She put the letter in the fireplace, and it was gone by the morning.

I used Santa.co.uk to reply, as I’ve done previously. I particularly like this website because there are lots of customisation options and you can choose an age-appropriate letter. I picked a letter that referred to Disney’s Frozen, since Munchkin loves this. The customisation allows you to select the name by which your child knows Santa. The PS about seeing her in the grotto added to her conviction that School Santa – sans specs – was the real deal.

letter from santa, danta, rudolf, moon, stars

Father Christmas’s reply

A couple of weeks later, she acquired one of my notebooks and wrote a note, with Santa hats to Father Christmas. This was also left in the fireplace. I replied to this one myself, using a free letterhead from the internet.

santa hats, kisses, note to santa's reindeer

A picture for Rudolf, Prancer, Dancer and Blitzen

I can’t find Father Christmas’s reply to take a photo but he left a short note in the fireplace, reminding her to leave a carrot for the reindeer and not to sprinkle reindeer food outside, since it can make birds and small animals very poorly.

RSPCA – who receive a donation from all Santa.co.uk letters – have been making a big thing about the dangers of reindeer food to wildlife. Reindeer food usually consists of oats and glitter, sometimes with a sprinkling of sequins. I knew that normal glitter was toxic but wasn’t previously aware that even edible glitter is dangerous for wildlife. Our reindeer food will be left in a bowl indoors and disposed of carefully. Next year, we might go for a homemade glitter-free version that can be safely eaten by birds and small animals.

Reindeer Food

Reindeer Food

Munchkin has asked for a Barbie camper van and a Shoppie – let’s hope she gets what she wants.

#Reblog: Meet My Best Friend

So if you remember, I decided to become a doctor a couple of months ago, even though I am already 31, have a four-year old daughter. This decision is turning my world upside down. And recently, I changed from Status “It’s complicated”; to Status “divorcee“. I am having a sleep over with my friends from…

via Meet My Best Friend: Rich and Fearless — Olivia’s New Life

This week, I’m reblogging something a bit different. Like most of reblogs, Vanessa is a member of the UK Parent Bloggers Facebook group, but this is not your average parent blog. Vanessa writes about Olivia Adele, a fictional character, but her life events are based on a true story. She is a separated mother who is pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor, which comes with many pitfalls, struggles and hopes. I found this blog to be an interesting read, and I’d recommend checking it out.

The Many Faces of Father Christmas

Will the real Santa please stand up?

Despite my efforts to only take Munchkin to see Father Christmas once this Christmas, she has managed to see him on five separate occasions.

It started in November, when we were invited to the preview of Squires Christmas Circus. Afterwards, the children went to see Father Christmas. She decided that this wasn’t the real Father Christmas – it was one of his helpers who had been to Santa School.

girl, father christmas, santas helper

Santa at the circus

It was our school Christmas Fayre on 1st December and there was a Santa’s Grotto there for the whole week. She saw photos of her friends visiting Father Christmas on the Monday and said, “That’s Ava’s daddy”. I took her to the grotto on Tuesday and she said, “I think that was the real Father Christmas”. It was the same man on both occasions but he took his glasses off on the Tuesday.

father christmas, girl

School Santa

The following Saturday, she went to my company’s children’s Christmas party, which ended with a visit to Father Christmas. This was a more funky Father Christmas than the others we’d seen. He’d already made a personal appearance at the disco. She enjoyed the party, but was certain this Father Christmas was another helper.

girl, father christmas

Funky Father Christmas

The next day, it was the main event, the Santa Special at the Bluebell Railway. We went there in 2014 and 2015 but decided it was time to try somewhere else last year. I read what I can only describe as a plea to parents not to waste their money, from a disgruntled mother who had taken her children to the Bluebell last year and had been disappointed. With this Facebook post and the fact that we’d been twice before in mind, I wasn’t particularly bothered about going back, but Munchkin saw an advert in her Stepney Club magazine and asked if she could go.

father christmas, girl, present, dad

Train Santa definitely isn’t real – just look at those glasses!

Stepney Club is the Bluebell Railway’s kids’ club. They get three magazines a year and invitations to special events. Her ticket on this particular Santa Special was half price and she took part in the Stepney Club tombola, where she won a pen. 2017 Santa Special prices are:

Adult 3rd class £22.00
Child (3-15) 3rd class £15.00
Toddler (1 + 2yrs) £9.00

The format of the visit was similar to our previous trips. Children are now given a wrist band to indicate their age, and Santa ensures that they’re given an age-appropriate present. Santa is now inside the station building at Horsted Keynes, rather than being in a grotto at the end of the platform. This is a mixed blessing. There are actually two Father Christmases. This makes queuing much quicker but it’s pot luck as to whether you see the same Santa that you saw on the train. We didn’t, though strangely, Munchkin found the one with the false beard more convincing than the one with the real beard. She said his beard wasn’t white enough. Anyway, she was of the opinion that both Father Christmases were helpers rather than the big man himself.

girl, father christmas

Station Santa

Just when I thought it was all over, I heard that Father Christmas would be at the school Christmas party. He was wearing his glasses again, so obviously wasn’t the real Santa. He was presenting the prizes to the Parents’ Asssociation logo design competition and my daughter came first. I’m a very proud parent.

So Munchkin was convinced that the Father Christmas that she saw in the school grotto was the real deal, until one of the boys from her class went to Lapland to see him. Now she’s not so sure.

Reblog: How to get the kids to sleep: A Father’s Guide

The phrase “I slept like a baby” is thrown around way too casually by people that people that, I have noticed, usually don’t have a baby of their own. If they did, I think they’d be a bit more careful with what they say. In reality, babies don’t sleep all that well, in fact, they’re…

via How To Get The Kids To Sleep: A Father’s Guide — My Parenting Journey

This week, I’m reblogging a post from My Parenting Journey, which is run by Veronica Mitchell. I’ve picked a post from the ‘For Dad’ section, written by Johnny B Thomas because there are so many mummy bloggers, it’s nice to get a male perspective from time to time.

Roll up, Roll up, the Christmas Circus is Here!

Squires Garden Centre in Washington is hosting a Christmas Circus, and they kindly invited Worthing Mums to a special preview. My daughter got to see her first ever circus, and she went to Father Christmas’s grotto afterwards. The Christmas Circus runs until Christmas Eve, then there’s a Traditional Circus from 27th December until New……

via Roll up, Roll up, the Christmas Circus is Here! —

Last week, I visited Squires Christmas Circus on behalf of Worthing Mums. Open the link above to read my review. It was the first time I’d been to a circus since I was a child, and I’m so glad that times have changed and circuses in the UK no longer have performing animals. I was rather shocked when I went to France in the summer, to find that the ban on animals doesn’t extend to mainland Europe. Needless to say, we wouldn’t have visited the circus in France, even if Munchkin had begged us to go there.

The circus that we went to was run by John Lawson’s Circus and the acts were mainly acrobatic or comedy. Munchkin and I really enjoyed it. We’d happily go again.

#FlashbackFriday: Waitomo to Rotorua

I didn’t have time for a Throwback Thursday, so I’m writing a Flashback Friday instead. This post sees a return to New Zealand after what seems like a long break.

I was rather glad to be checking out of Fawlty Towers.  Its worst feature probably wasn’t the faded grandeur, it was the fact that there were loads of stairs with fire doors next to them, no lifts and no sign of any porters.  We made our way to Aranui Caves.  There were no glow worms this time, just really impressive stalagmites and stalagtites.  We went back to the back packers’ for breakfast, then made a quick stop at the Shearing Shed on the way out of Waitomo.  This is where they keep angora rabbits who are sheared to make knit wear.  We had our photo taken with one of these giant bunnies but I was a bit underwhelmed by the fact that the woman didn’t know her name.

aranui cave waitomo, new zealand,

Aranui Cave Waitomo

We drove to the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park (eventually… I pointed it out to my boyfriend and he said, “Don’t be silly, that’s a cricket ground,” so we had to go round the block and come back!).  Unfortunately it was a really wet afternoon.  We saw lots of birds (the ducks loved it!) but the weather spoiled it a bit.  We saw our first live kiwis.  This is one of a number of places with a kiwi house where lighting is reversed so that you can see kiwis in the dark during the day.  The kiwis then sleep in the “daylight” after the visitors have gone home.

Once we’d finished in Otorohanga, we drove to Rotorua.  This was via the imaginatively named village of Dam, so named after the hydro electric dam located there, where we stopped for a drink.  We checked into our bed and breakfast (Innes Cottage) in Rotorua and I was pleased to note it was much better than Fawlty Towers.  The owners gave us lots of information on where to visit.  We went to the museum, which I found really interesting.  Although it has some traditional museum exhibits, such as static exhibitions and an art exhibition, there is an excellent film about the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886.  The seats in the cinema shook to simulate the force of the explosion.  The museum is an old bath house, and much of it is dedicated to the history of the building.  We didn’t have time to see everything, and the viewing area at the top of the building was closed; this wasn’t a problem as we were given free tickets to come back the next day.

We arranged to meet my step-dad and his friend for dinner as they were also staying in Rotorua.  Dinner was to be at the Skyline restaurant, so we picked them up at their motel and drove to the gondola.  Unfortunately we’d picked an evening when it was foggy, so there wasn’t much to see from the Skyline.  This meant more free tickets for the gondola the next day!  The buffet style restaurant was good, and there was something for everyone, including my step-dad, who only eats English food.

flowers, trees, lake

View from Rotorua Gondola – without the fog!

Reblog: I am incapable of getting an early night (and four other mum truths)

Here are some facts about me. 1) I am always tired Nowadays, we are fortunate that on at least some nights we have the luxury of the kids sleeping through. Not last night, or the night before that, or in fact the night before that… but when both children are feeling well then 4 or…

via I am incapable of getting an early night (and four other mum truths) — Whinge Whinge Wine

This week, I’m reblogging Fran from Whinge Whinge Wine. In this post, she talks about universal mum truths. I’ve definitely experienced all of these. Just to prove a point, I’m reblogging a day late again.

According to Fran’s bio, she is the creator/owner of two small people; a Freelance Writer; sleep deprived; a wine enthusiast; drinker of tea; a biscuit fan; winner of the Mumsnet Best Comic Writer award in 2016; and loser of other stuff, too numerous to list! I really like her writing style and recommend checking out her blog.