Our Summer 2016

I feel like this summer is in someways our last hurrah. I am returning to work after two years out, my eldest daughter is starting school and Harriet is starting nursery. Gulp. As always my main reason for updating this website regularly is, for the most part, to raise vital funds and awareness for cystic fibrosis. I do, however, like to show that despite having a child with CF, happy family life can still go on.


Travelling with someone who has chronic condition means you never pack lightly but who does with small children anyway?! Our first trip was to London which was just incredible, I want to sell everything and move down there! We did all the typical touristy things; red buses, Buckingham Palace, The Natural History Museum and Hamleys. The girls had such a great time and can’t wait to go back…Christmas maybe?!


We travelled to The Lake District to visit South Lakes Safari Zoo. We totally lucked out with the weather and spent a glorious afternoon out on a boat on Coniston before visiting the zoo the following day. I guess the clue is in the name but it really wasn’t what I had imagined at all! My nerves were fried walking amongst all kinds of creature big and small with two little children but they loved it!


My year just wouldn’t be complete without our trip to Flamingo Land either and we managed to squeeze that in at the end of the school holidays. The perfect way to end our Summer even if poor Harriet got stung on the nose by a wasp!


In terms of travelling with CF medication for more than just a day trip I do struggle with dealing with unfamiliar set ups. At home we have a cupboard full of neatly organised medicines, tablets, syringes, nebuliser etc. When we have been away there hasn’t always been access to a fridge to keep the refrigerator only things in but there’s always a solution. In London we just had a Tupperware box with our names on which was kept for us in the fridge. Yes, a pain when you schlep two small children all the way up to your room the realise you’ve forgotten to collect the medicine on route (!) but a small price to pay when everyone is having such a good time.


I also miss my steam steriliser so much! Boiling kettles to sterilise everything can become a bit of a pain but in the grand scheme of things worth it. We will continue not to let CF control our lives and keep fighting till a cure is found for our little girl.


If you would like to read more about cystic fibrosis and find out about ways in which you could help please click here.

An Afternoon Out For Nowt (ish): South Shields

A few weeks ago I decided to try an afternoon out a little closer to home with my two daughters aged 4 and 18 months. Ten years ago an afternoon out in South Shields would have been something totally different and this was an entirely sober affair. South Shields has a great, free museum which I hadn’t been to in years so I thought we would give it a go. It hasn’t changed much since I was a girl really but still looks brilliant. I thought a lot of it wouldn’t be of much interest to my eldest but to my surprise she really enjoyed looking at everything. Upstairs they had some of the ‘Spineless’ exhibition which had been on at The Great North Museum and when I realised I thought she might have been bored seeing as she had already seen it but thankfully not.


There wasn’t as much as at The Great North Museum but still lots to do and occupy little ones. They have some tie-in events coming up too; a rainforest roadshow and a craft afternoon which you can book into over the Easter holidays. Click here for more details. Just along from the Spineless exhibit was a wonderful collection of art which I really enjoyed; kids probably not so much! I also love The Victorian Pantry based in the museum and have often popped in there without going into the museum. Well worth a visit.


Just up the road from the museum is a fairly new place called Stay and Play Tearooms which we tried next. As I had parked near the library I walked up with my youngest in the pushchair so was rather bewildered when I arrived to a full flight of stairs to get into the building. Fine if you’re with another adult but I was on my own and had to take Harriet out, run up the stairs, plonk her in the doorway then run back down for the buggy. This, however, would be my only criticism. The Tearooms are small but the benefit is that for the price of a cuppa, Mams can sit down and keep a close eye on children playing right by them. I often get a little panicky in huge soft plays when my eldest goes off and I can’t see where she is!


Along with the main play area which has a slide, ball pool and heaps of toys there is a lovely little sensory room which my two loved. The Stay and Play Tea Rooms are located on Beach Road in South Shields – click here for more information.


I have been back a few times now to Stay and Play and they kids have always had fun. In fact, my sister has booked it for her daughter’s upcoming birthday party. I would say it is best suited to under 5’s as my four year old looked a little big to be there sometimes! Definitely another one to check out over Easter.

Tiny Town, Newcastle


A few weeks ago I was contacted by the lovely people at Tiny Town to see if we fancied trying out their brand new attraction for little ones. Funnily enough it was already on my lengthy list of places to visit so I immediately said yes! As ever, the British weather (about one millimetre of snow) put our first planned trip to a grinding halt along with all our roads, but we got there this week much to my children’s delight! Now, the thinking behind this is a house which has been converted into a ‘Tiny Town’ so children have a vast array of areas to explore within the town. Sounds like such a simple idea and one I simply cannot believe no one has already put into place in the North East.

 


Situated just outside Newcastle City Centre you might think that on first approach you are in the middle of a housing estate and are heading in the wrong direction completely but no. Eventually after lots of wrong turns, entirely my fault – well I’m actually blaming my phone’s Sat-Nav – we arrived. We had planned to go a little earlier before our play session began at 11.30am so we could check out the cafe too as we had other engagements that afternoon. As Tiny Town only opened in December of last year it looks perfect. So bright and clean which I guess is what you would expect; however, from chatting with the owner it was great to hear that they plan to have to decorators in monthly to keep things looking sharp. Such a good idea as I have spent way too much time in snot encrusted, worn down soft play areas!


The cafe did not disappoint and we had some beautiful rainbow cake with added cream and sprinkles, as you do. A nice addition was a reading corner with a good selection of books and comfortable seating for the little ones. Anyway, after our cake it was on to the main event. To be honest we had a hard time holding the kids back as they just couldn’t wait. In fact my four year old faked two toilet trips just to get a sneak peak of what was in store! There are cute pegs and lockers to store your outdoor things in; I especially loved the no shoes rule – every CF Mam’s dream!


I have two girls one aged four and the other fifteen months. My eldest made a beeline for the beauty salon and was in her element. My fifteen month old got to bum shuffle around after her really quickly so was also in her element! We stayed there for quite some time; I had expected her to rush from one thing to the next so quite a surprise. Being a self confessed make up junkie I was chuffed to see the addition of make up brushes in the salon and even more chuffed watching my little girl use them on the dolls! Nice touch.


Next up was a trip to the doctor. Each area has so much to do from props to dressing up so the little ones can really get into each role. Aside from the beauty salon, my girl shrieked with delight when she discovered the theatre area as she is obsessed with being on stage at the minute. Dragging props from the restaurant she put on a full show of Cinderella much to the other parent’s amusement! The level of detail in each area also really impressed. The supermarket is well stocked and when Nancy got her hands on a shopping trolley she was over the moon. When she had filled it with as much as she possibly could it was lovely to watch her take it to the till and interact with another little boy who had assigned himself the role on the check out!


Sessions last an hour and a half which I think is just right though my daughter would definitely say otherwise mind! There is a half an hour gap between sessions starting so the whole place can be tidied and restored to its former glory. Can someone do this in my house please?! From chatting with the owner it is clear that so much work has gone into creating a very special environment for children at Tiny Town. They have worked closely with early years practitioners to create something really special. Numbers are limited in each session so you know that your children won’t be waiting around to try things and there are no overcrowded areas. The only downside for me was the distance as I live in Jarrow; not far in the grand scheme of things and now I know my way I will certainly be going back… I had to promise anyway!

 

For more information and booking click here http://facebook.com/TinyTownNewcastle

 

Enchanted Christmas at Whitworth Hall

Last weekend the country was battered by gale force winds and driving rain. Clearly THE best time to go to an outdoor family Christmas event with two small children. Being a big fan of Christmas, this sounded right up my street, much to my husband’s dismay, so when we were offered the opportunity to visit, I was over the moon!

The attraction promises a unique family day out which includes feeding Santa’s reindeer, character experiences, crafts, a train ride and of course a trip to meet the big man himself. Before I divulge our thoughts on Enchanted Christmas I will say that at first glance the prices do seem a little on the expensive side. It is £25 per child, £15 for under twos and £21.50 per adult. Having been and had the experience I do think that these prices are fair for everything included in the half day trip.

When we arrived we checked in with our elf guide and were asked if we would like to feed the reindeer. The least said about this for me the better as my three year old got caught on the head by one of the stags antlers. Now this could have been potentially very dangerous as we all know. The staff were very good and looked after her accordingly. Apparently the larger ones don’t usually come over and must have been particularly hungry that morning. Hopefully this won’t happen again and lessons have been learned. It’s just a pity it was at our expense.


Refusing to let this and the truly awful weather put us off we continued on to enjoy our day. We were on a morning session which runs from 9am till 1pm and our first stop was to meet Fairy Tree Topper. All of the sessions take place in huge tipis dotted around the grounds of the impressive Whitworth Hall. The only one further out is meeting Father Christmas, hence the train ride to The North Pole.


Thankfully the tipis are warm and cosy, some with blankets which I thought was a nice touch. Fairy Tree Topper entertained the children with some songs and games which my daughter really enjoyed. She also loved the opportunity of sitting on her special throne! Next up was a short walk to meet Mrs Claus, whose elf helpers greeted us at the door with hot chocolate and warm cookies. Again, another nice touch.


Next up was a ride on the train up to meet Santa Claus. A wonderful elf pushed our buggy all the way up for us in truly awful conditions so we could all enjoy the train ride together. In fact all of the staff really impressed all day; they really made the experience for the children. Santa’s tipi was by far the best with a gorgeous log fire on entry to help set the mood. Santa was fantastic, taking his time with all the children in our group and speaking to them about personal things (parent’s email information before the visit!) Both of my girls got gorgeous gifts from Santa. I won’t spoil it and say what but a lot of attention to detail and effort had been made.


We then headed back on to the train to meet Jack Frost who looked amazing. Unfortunately my daughter didn’t think so and was terrified! We ended up giving this one a miss and a lovely elf took us to the next tipi. The next activity was craft making, and there were refreshments available in here as well. After a well needed hot drink we decided that this would have to be our last stop at Enchanted Christmas as we just couldn’t keep our baby out in such bad weather any longer. She has cystic fibrosis and was already a little sniffly before we went and we really can’t risk her getting sick.


What I would say is ensure you are all well prepared for the mud! Thankfully we had all wrapped up with wellies on etc but my buggy was a complete state. At one point I even contemplated chucking it in the nearest bin! However, as the rain was so torrential, it managed to wash off before we headed home. All in all we had a lovely morning – my three year old really loved it and would definitely return next year.

If you would like to find out more and book Enchanted Christmas click here.

Puddleducks: Not just a swimming lesson…

When I was recently asked if I would like to try some swimming lessons with Puddleducks there was no hesitation in my response. Yes, yes and yes! I have a few reasons but the main one is that I desperately want both my girls to be strong swimmers. Not only for safety reasons but also exercise. Swimming is going to be great physiotherapy for my youngest daughter, Harriet, who has cystic fibrosis. My own personal feelings towards swimming are not great. I remember being thrown in a pool at a young age and being utterly terrified which put me off for life! I can swim now, nanna style which is perfect as my head stays firmly out of the water, therefore, hair and make up don’t spoil ha ha!

Another reason for taking swimming lessons is to try and alter my eldest daughters perception of her wonderful three-year-old self. For a while now (longest phase in the world) she upholds the most sincere belief that she is THE BEST at everything in the world. Until now I wasn’t aware you could actually be the best at twirling, holding your spoon and trick or treating. So when I asked her if she wanted to try swimming lessons the response was, ‘I don’t need swimming lessons, I’m already the best swimmer.’ Hmmm. Now I don’t want to discourage this ‘can do’ attitude so I’m finding it hard to strike the right balance as I do not in any way want to knock her confidence. Having the belief that you are the best could certainly see you well in life!

After some discussion/bribery we managed to talk her into it. Apparently you need a swimming card to go on your aeroplane holiday which you can only get by going to swimming lessons – thanks for that Mr Corr! So the day arrived and Nancy’s lesson was first. She loves going swimming so was excited when we arrived to see all of the equipment that was out on display. She also wasn’t wearing her armbands either which was a first! At the start of the lesson Nancy was shown how to get into the pool correctly, something which we had never even considered but will definitely implement in the future.

The small group then started their lesson with a song and some movement in the water. Dad was in with her – I don’t know who enjoyed this the most. The children were then asked to blow bubbles in the water, again something Nancy has never done, to get them used to putting their faces in. She didn’t like this too much which tells me she needs more lessons as I do not want her to be scared to put her head underwater like me! The instructor was very keen to stress that should your child not want to do anything in particular they don’t have to. I firmly believe that some of my  swimming related fears come from being forced into going under water when I wasn’t ready!

Watching Nancy’s face as she swam alone without her armbands, just with floats either side was really priceless. She was so pleased with herself! She really enjoyed all of the activities, they really packed in so much into half an hour. My heart was in my mouth when they all lined up a metre away from the poolside and had to swim off themselves to the wall! Thankfully, dad didn’t let her (I was worried here!) and helped her get there. Seeing the other children doing this may have also made Nancy realise that maybe she does need some more swimming lessons after all!

Harriet’s lesson was some time after Nancy’s and due to extremely bad planning on my part she was absolutely shattered. Not a great start for your first swimming lesson! Again they started with a song and some gentle movement in the water which she seemed to enjoy but as the class progressed she just got grumpier and grumpier. Our fault completely, nothing to do with the lovely baby activities going on in the pool. She managed to complete some things, one of which was being totally submerged in the water. This is why my husband was in there with them as even watching poolside I thought I was going to vomit/cry!

I could sense my husbands frustration so when he opted to get out ten minutes before the end I couldn’t really blame him. Lots of lessons learned that morning. I should have booked the girls lessons on separate days. Never take a baby swimming when they should be napping and a swimming lesson for Nancy was also a lesson in humility for her. Win win I say!

I would definitely recommend swimming lessons with Puddleducks so check out their website below.

http://www.puddleducks.com/

If you want to find out more about cystic fibrosis:

http://www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk/

 

 

 

Spineless at The Great North Museum

On Friday afternoon we were lucky enough to attend a special preview on The Great North Museum’s new exhibition, Spineless.


Nancy was well prepared with her new Explorer’s Kit complete with magnifying glass, binoculars, torch and compass! On arrival at the exhibition space we encountered an abundance of creepy crawlies. I did wonder whether a three year old little girl would be interested in this but to my surprise and relief (!) she loved it.

The museum staff were circulating with various invertebrates to look at and handle if you were brave enough! First up were a pair of stick insects; the handlers were really knowledgeable and told my daughter lots of interesting facts while I kept a happy (safe distance) with my camera!

There was a lovely little corner carpet space with chairs, bean bags and books which Nancy really loved. In fact, I had a hard job getting her to move on. I sat for quite some time listening to her bug tales!

After looking at some beautiful displays we headed for the final section of the exhibition space which housed a lovely little play area for the children. The highlight being a fantastic dress up area with custom made costumes for Spineless.

Nancy chose a butterfly costume to wear while she played on the slide, bounced on the trampoline and rode on a variety of large, plush insects. There was also a really cute enclosed area for smaller ones which was perfect for Harriet. She sat happily for ages playing with all the toys.

On the way out we spotted a millipede so, of course, Chris had to have a go and to my surprise so did Nancy – braver than me! The staff will be bringing out all the creepy crawlers to view and hold at three set times during the day when the exhibition officially opens to the public.

We also were given a copy of the specially commissioned comic for Spineless which made perfect bedtime reading after a great afternoon.

Spineless runs from August 1st until November 1st and makes for an ideal family trip out. We are very lucky in that the museum is all free so get along to see it if you can!