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  • Children’s Theatre in the Midlands – February 2019

    We’re lucky to have a wealth of cultural venues surrounding us here in the West Midlands. Whether you are looking to stay as close to home as possible, or are willing to travel a little further, you can almost guarantee there will be something to suit all ages, tastes and budgets.

    I’ve had a look at some of my favourite venues to pick out the top theatre shows for children and families this February. The school half terms are always rich with cultural offerings, and this year is no different. read more

    Culture, Days Out, Parenting
    / February 1, 2019
  • Our Date in Birmingham

    This is a collaborative post with Hotels.Com

    High on my priority list for this year are date nights. Or date days. Since becoming parents, the quality time I’ve spent with Little Pickle’s Dad has sadly dropped, and now that leaving Pickle with a babysitter is a lot easier, it’s something we want to really dedicate more time to. With that in mind, when Hotels.Com challenged us to spending the best day in Birmingham we could think of, we jumped at the opportunity. It was the perfect excuse to spend our January date in the city we love – I just wish we’d have had even longer. Next time, we need to look up some hotels in Birmingham to really make the most of it, especially as I spotted some amazing looking places for breakfast or brunch. read more

    Days Out, Dining Out, Lifestyle, Marriage
    / January 24, 2019
  • Walking up the Clent Hills in the fog

    The Ordinary Moments – The Walk that didn’t happen

    I’ve not written a post for The Ordinary Moments for a long time. Which is a shame, because it’s usually these posts that I enjoy reading back the most. They’re easy to forget, or to put off when paid or review work feels more pressing, or I’m sat in an untidy lounge with an ever-growing pile of clothes just begging to be put away beside me. Especially over the last few months as I’ve been juggling studying alongside everything else. It’s easy to categorise them as unimportant, a ‘nice-to-do’ rather than a must.

    When I had a reminder from my blogging friend Donna that this week’s The Ordinary Moments was live, I felt a tug to get something written. But what? You see, I’ve not got any lovely photos to share. I can’t even write about our day out today, because it didn’t happen (and the fully charged batteries in my DSLR camera remain unused). read more

    #TheOrdinaryMoments, Parenting
    / January 13, 2019
  • Kampa Paloma 5 Air tent at Hogsdown Farm Gloucestershire over bank holiday weekend

    Did we choose the right tent?

    Almost a year ago now, we bought our first proper tent. Before then, we’d made do with little pup tents – which are fine for the odd night away or a weekend in the summer, but not practical when camping as a family and for longer periods. We excitedly went along to the Caravan and Camping Show at the NEC and came home with our Kampa Paloma 5 Air tent.

    Kampa Paloma 5 Air Tent

    Finding the Paloma 5 Air tent felt like we’d stumbled upon the perfect tent for us. On paper, it ticked all the boxes we could have hoped for, and it was just on the cusp of our budget. read more

    Aged 2+, Camping, Countryside, Parenting, Reviews
    / January 5, 2019
  • Center Parcs Woburn Forest lodge at sunrise with sun flare

    Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs Woburn Forest in Pictures

    After trying to write up a blog post about our recent holiday to Center Parcs for what feels like forever, I’m scrapping everything I’d written so far and starting again. Why? Because I was going about it the wrong way. I was trying to fill in the back story – explaining why we went in the first place, how I wanted to make sure this year my birthday was better than last year. I spent over 1,000 waffling on about the lead up to the trip and hadn’t even begun documenting the memories I want to cherish from our time actually spent at Center Parcs. So I’m starting again. And focusing on what’s important.

    Our First Full Family Holiday in Years

    One of the most special things about this holiday was that my whole immediate family came too. My parents, all three of my brothers (including the one who lives in Australia – he made the trip over especially!) and my foster brothers too. It’s the first time the full Parker-clan (my maiden name) has been on holiday together in… I don’t even know how long. Possibly fifteen years. That’s half of my life. That really meant a lot to me, and I was hoping for lots of fun in the forest together to properly pre-celebrate my 30th birthday. read more

    Aged 2+, Lifestyle, Parenting, UK Travel
    / January 2, 2019
  • Pickle standing outside with a woolly hat on about to eat a Johnson's Baby Biscuiteers biscuit

    My Personal Parenting Evolution

    This is a collaborative post as part of my Ambassadorship with Johnson’s Baby.

    Back in 2015, I set this blog up to chart my pregnancy, and then as a way to document and treasure our baby’s childhood. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words about how much Pickle has grown, how much he’s changed and his development. I’ve captured him on (digital) film right from those precious first moments in hospital right up until this morning when he delighted in tapping open his boiled egg for breakfast. What I’ve perhaps not realised, that through doing all of this, I’ve also documented my own development. The subtext running through all of my posts is how I’m learning a little more every day about what it takes to be a parent: facing each new challenge as they come, trying to realise and celebrate any successes and find ways to still stay true to myself and my own passions.

    So in the spirit of evolution and embracing change as a Johnson’s Baby Ambassador, let’s take a closer look at the defining moments of my parenting journey, and the key lessons I’ve learned so far, and what I still have to come.

    Lesson 1: Love is the Strongest Medicine

    As someone who used to wimper at the slightest sniffle, the process of trying to recover from an emergency c-section after a 48 hours of induction and a failed forceps delivery was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. If you’d have told me I’d be lying in a bed with a catheter preventing me from wearing anything to absorb the lochia bleeding, I’d have thought it would be the most mortifying experience possible. But instead, I existed in a cloud of love, snuggles and happy-crying along with my midwives (who nicknamed Pickle ‘The-Most-Loved-Baby’). Love really is the best medicine (although, you know, disclaimer… it’s not an actual substitute for modern medicine).

    Lesson 2: It isn’t Always Perfect

    Although we’re smiling and looking like we’re having the best holiday ever… our first trip to Center Parcs when Pickle was not even six months old was actually a bit of a disaster. It rained almost the whole week, meaning the forty-five minute walk to the pool was soul-destroying and we all felt miserable with a cold. Pickle didn’t go to sleep each night until what felt like midnight and I left feeling stupid for having gotten so excited about our first holiday away. It didn’t meet the ridiculously high expectations I’d put on our trip. I’ve since learned to take joy in the smaller things. To not put perceived levels of happiness on a smooth running holiday, to go with the flow and appreciate each day for what it is and not what I imagined it would be.

    Lesson 3: Some Babies Just Don’t Sleep

    I spent most of Pickle’s first year thinking I was doing something wrong because he never ever slept through. Or anything closely resembling sleeping through. He was an hourly waker, and I felt like everyone assumed that was my fault. It wasn’t. It’s very normal baby behaviour. It’s only a relatively new concept that babies have been expected to sleep through the night in their own space. I was quick to point the finger at myself. I was quick to assume everyone else did the same. But really, what did it matter? He was well cared for, loved, and got the right amount of sleep for him, no matter how interrupted that sleep was.

    Lesson 4: The Centre of our World

    It perhaps took me until Pickle’s first birthday to properly appreciate that he wasn’t the centre of everyone else’s world like he was ours. For me, Pickle’s first birthday was a ‘drop-everything-else-all-focus-on-this’ kind of day. A day I’d been building up to since he was born. A day I’d prepared for meticulously, hoping all his presents, experiences and treats would bring huge smiles to his face. It came as a bit of a surprise that not everyone was as committed – but you know what? That’s absolutely okay. Of course it’s like that. And as long as Little Pickle’s Dad and I continue to make a big fuss of his birthday, that’s all that matters.

    Lesson 5: Finding Our Jam

    It may surprise you to learn that I’ve not always been such a great lover of the outdoors as I am now. As a teenager, I’d have much rather have been sat in front of a computer screen or locked away in a theatre black box studio. If it wasn’t for Pickle being a summer baby, it may have taken me even longer to cotton on to the fact that the days where I spent time outside, walking around our beloved lake or visiting local National Trust properties, were the ones I felt happiest. It’s gone hand in hand with my new found love of photography. Figuring out what it is that makes life easier, that reduces stress and lets me feel like the best version of myself possible was the best thing I’ve done for myself since becoming a parent.

    Lesson 6: I’m more than a Mom

    This one took a long time to learn. And it’s a lesson I wish I’d have allowed myself to learn sooner. It wasn’t until I went back to employment when Pickle was twenty months old that I realised how beneficial it was to have time for myself. Having time apart, and earning my own regular salary almost gave me permission to concentrate on myself again. I felt justified in devoting a bit more time on the things that I enjoy: socialising guilt free, taking up hobbies and even exercising. I hate to use the word but before this point, I think I was a bit of a martyr to parenthood. I felt like it had to come first above all else, even if that meant to the detriment of my own identity. I thought that’s just what being a parent was. It isn’t. And it shouldn’t be. It’s all about finding the right balance.

    Lesson 7: There’s No Such Thing as Perfect – and that’s a good thing

    The first time I picked up my DSLR camera, I didn’t expect to be an expert. I knew it would take time to learn the ropes, that I’d slowly grow in confidence and that it’d take a lot of practice. The first time I picked up my baby however… that was a different story. I wanted to do everything right. First time. I suddenly piled high the expectations on myself and there was no room for error. I had to be perfect. I thought perfect was possible.

    Now, just two and half years later, I don’t believe in perfect. There is no such thing. You can do your best. But that’ll never be perfect. Because perfect implies there’s a course of action that is solely correct. And I think we all know that’s not the case. Parenthood opens up so many choices and avenues – each with their benefits and pitfalls. It’s a parent’s job to navigate the way, choosing whichever way best suits their unique circumstances. Different choices might lead to different outcomes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one is right and the other is wrong.

    What else is to come?

    I know I have many more lessons to learn ahead of me. I know I’ll make mistakes, and I know there’ll be difficult and challenging decisions to conquer… but that’s all part and parcel of parenthood, isn’t it? And having lots of different voices and opinions, friends, family, and professionals around helps us to make better, informed choices that we can feel confident about.

    This year has been a big year of change for me: going from being a stay at home Mom to a four-days-a-week employee with studying on top. It completely changed the playing field of parenting, and whilst there are obviously days when I yearn for our lazy mornings together with playdates and trips out galore, I definitely see the positive effect it’s had on our little family.

    Next year? It’s going to be a year of change for Johnson’s Baby UK. It’s all really exciting, and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds and what you think of it. There’s not much I can say at the moment… (anything this top secret must be super cool, right?) but keep your eyes peeled over the next couple of months as we, gently, start to reveal the latest evolution of Johnson’s Baby.

    Disclaimer: this #ad blog post has been written as part of my Ambassadorship with Johnson’s Baby. If you’d like to learn more about how I’ve been working with Johnson’s and why, please read my Proud to be a Johnson’s Ambassador post.

    Aged 2+, Johnson's Baby, Parenting
    / December 7, 2018