Making the Most of Maternity Leave

Whilst bringing a little one into the world is one of the greatest things that any of us can do, it also has the often-overlooked benefit of granting us mums a little time off in the form of the wonderful maternity leave.

Not only does maternity leave offer us the perfect time to rejuvenate after the trials of child-birth, but it also allows us the opportunity to revisit a few of our old hobbies and activities that we enjoyed before we had to start acting like grown-ups!

But if you’re anything like me, you get bored easily. And whilst running a blog can be a great way to let off steam and share my thoughts, sometimes I feel the need to explore some new things on the internet, and so here’s a rundown of some of the best things I’ve found that range from casino sites offering tempting promotions to yoga apps for mums on maternity leave!

One of the hardest things can be trying to get back into shape after pregnancy. This is where great apps like Daily Yoga come in as they offer a great guidance to the many different exercises and positions that are the perfect way to get limber once more.

Even something as simple as getting a decent night’s sleep can be difficult when we’re adjusting to some deeply-disturbed bedtimes. But I’ve found that the Relax Melodies app managed to lull me to sleep with a surprising amount of ease thanks to the way that it allows me to customise my own bedtime musical theme.

We’ve all suffered from having to sit up in the early hours of night watching over our child as they sleep, and thankfully mobile games have afforded me a good way to stop climbing up the walls! The beautifully-designed Monument Valley is a tranquil and relaxing way to pass the time with its slick graphics and subtly addictive gameplay that’s perfectly designed for the long night-time hours.

Whereas if you’re in the mood for partying on a rare night off, then treat yourself to a go on Coral’s casino site that features a wide range of fun games that authentically recreate the glamour of the casino from the comfort of your living room!

And just to add the perfectly luxurious twist to the evening’s entertainment, why not treat yourself to your own deluxe cocktail thanks to Cocktail Flow’s comprehensive selection of cocktail recipes.

So whether your hunting down the perfect margarita recipe on a cocktail site, or seeking the latest casino promotions, there’s no reason why your maternity leave should be boring!

 

“When are you having another baby?”

This morning, I helped a friend after the school run. She had her hands full, was trying to open a heavy gate and push a buggy at the same time. Naturally, she was causing a tailback of parents trying to hot foot it out of the bitter cold after kissing their offspring goodbye, and I was in severe need of caffeine, I selflessly stepped in and helped her out by pushing the buggy for her and immediately regretted my saint-like good nature. In my groggy, half-asleep state, I was ambushed by a gaggle of highly excitable, walking ovaries (broody mums).

“Oh it suits you, Cas!”

“When are you going to have another one?”

“Oh please have another, please!”

And last, but definitely not least…

*dramatic gasp* *suspicious twinkle in eyes* “Oh my God, you’re not pregnant, are you?!”

I did what any self-respecting 28 year old mother would do in a highly personal, uncomfortable, unexpected situation. I whimpered a nervous giggle and ran the fuck away.

I wanted to collapse among the painted snakes and ladders of the school playground and weep. I wanted to let out this all-consuming ball of “I-want-another-baby-so-badly-it-physically-hurts.” I wanted to tell them I took a pregnancy test a few days ago and when faced with a single blue line, I barely spoke for the rest of the day, silently hating myself for getting my hopes up and letting my mind wander. I wanted to say that this burning need to have another baby has simply grown and intensified over the last 6 years. And it’s gotten to the point that I now subconsciously find myself window shopping for baby clothes online when I’m supposed to be buying school uniforms and have shamefully avoided friends and family who are pregnant or have new tiny babies.

I didn’t do that though, instead I scuttled away, burying my face further into my scarf while guilt engulfed me. Why doesn’t one child feel like “enough”? Because he is enough, he’s everything, he’s at the epicentre of our chaos filled lives and always will be.

But what if there’s more?

My heart shatters every time he asks for a little brother or sister, and then thinks for a moment before finally deciding on a sister and I have nothing to say but “I know, baby, I know,” and I have to quickly distract him with something else because my heart’s battering my ribs like a moth caught in a jar.

An ever-increasing age gap that just gets bigger and bigger.

Beating myself up for not being well and for things not being different. Resenting myself for not being able to just say “Fuck it,” and get busy making babies because the need to feel the weight of our newborn on my chest again is just too great.

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Because what if I get ill again? What if I can’t get out of bed for weeks on end? What if I have another breakdown and end up in a mental hospital, terrified and alone – again? Last time, we were lucky, Noah was at school when the police coaxed me, crying into the back of their car to take me to A&E. He was young enough to innocently accept that “mummy’s just a bit poorly” for my absence. I can never, ever afford for that to happen again but the fear constantly hangs over me.

My head tells me we have to be sensible and responsible, that we still need a few things in place and that we will get there. We will. Honestly, we will. Soon.

While my heart cracks into countless shards, doubt creeps over me like ice and I’m left feeling hopeless, ungrateful and selfish.

My body aches and tears sting my face in the frozen air, my legs struggle as if I’m ploughing through wet cement as I try to get home as quickly as possible. A weight, a tangible real weight over my shoulder brings me back to the present moment. A gentle tinkling sound. I stop dead on the pavement as I realise Noah’s schoolbag, adorned with half a dozen Star Wars keyrings, full of Dennis the Menace library books and twigs and leaves he’s collected is still slung over my shoulder, ten minutes after giving him a kiss and telling him to have a good day.

At that moment, turning around is the very last thing I want to do, I don’t want to see the hoard of mums again. My toes have grown numb while the cold creeps through my rubber soles. But I do it anyway. I turn around. Because against all odds, with both his parents being ill, with nothing turning out like we planned, and even when we didn’t think we could do it, we did good with Noah. And somehow, soon, we’ll do it again.

Finding the Right Car

While at the school gates the other day, I was cornered by a gaggle of school mum friends, listening to their tales of car induced woe over half term. Failed MOTs, forgotten about services, write-offs and scrap prices. It made for some scary listening while I’m currently looking for a little second-hand run around for the family.

In total I must have spent days over the last few months browsing used car websites, so much so I can remember off by heart the mileage and when the tax runs out on most of them.

The trouble is, I can only drive automatic – I know, don’t judge – which limits what I can buy considerably before I limit the search even further with my maximum price, preferred engine size and number of doors. Then there’s the fact I need it to be reliable and safe as the Bean will be my main passenger, unfortunately a cheap as chips banger is off the cards – I don’t ask for much do I?

I’ve heard horror stories from friends about the nightmares they’ve had with their cars breaking constantly and the money they’re had to pay out.

It seems in times like these we have to get savvy on how to shop around for the best prices and trusted businesses, places such as Tyre Shopper and National Tyre and Autocare are great places to buy for all your auto needs.

We can’t all afford to buy a new car outright and the repayment plans for car finance can be more than a bit excessive in these difficult financial times so buying the best with what you have and knowing where to go should anything go wrong seems to be the best option.

When it’s a matter of ensuring safety and reliability over insurance excess, days spent in for repairs and eight hour break downs on the side of the motorway in the middle of half term – there’s really no contest is there?

Can Fit Be Fun?

I don’t know about you, but slogging my guts out on a treadmill while attempting to run, feeling as though I’m about to 1. cough up a lung 2. slip and maim myself on the evil piece of equipment or 3. die – ain’t my idea of fun, tbh. Nor is sitting on a bike for so long I can’t walk for an entire week without looking slightly deranged and / or in enormous pain. And please don’t get me started on those fitness DVD’s you do in the living room – my cat has never been the same since she witnessed that fiasco.

One thing I do enjoy about exercise is all those lovely, happy endorphins pumping around once I’m pretty certain I’m not going to need an ambulance. That feeling of “Yes! I did it!” and being all empowered and full of awesome can’t be replicated by anything else – not even chocolate.

After completing a 10K power walk / jog last month for Sport Relief and the amazing feeling I was left with after, I promised myself that I would do it more often and get back in to the saddle so to speak – with extra padding or specially made leggings, of course, which you can find along with absolutely anything and everything sports and sportswear related at Only Sports Gear.

 

But one thing I do want to make sure of is that there’s an element of fun in my getting fit, I can’t be doing with all the self-loathing for letting myself get so unfit, and the pain and panic – I want some fun.

Interestingly enough a recent survey on dance and fitness found that when asked which dance class people would most likely take part in as well as the main reason they choose dance classes such as Zumba/Salsa. The popular reasons given were to have fun, improve fitness levels and lose weight.

See, I’m on to something here, right?

I’m thinking for the fun element, I’m going to need the Bean to join me in my distraction, long walks in the woods, playing tag, hiding behind trees and chasing each other on the beach. By my reckoning I’ll be too busy to notice that my lungs are burning and my heart feels ready to pop.

Another idea is to get a friend involved to make getting fit more of a challenge – who can run furthest or the fastest etc etc. How many miles can you cycle in a week? Then perhaps the loser can buy the winner cake to celebrate! Oh… That’s not really the idea, is it? A nice, big red apple then! Perfect!

How’d you incorporate fun into your fitness routine? I’d love to know!

Survey results provided by Dance Direct – all editorial and opinion is my own.

Keeping the Kids Busy with Disney Marvel Kids Interactive

I find it incredibly hard to keep my son entertained in the wintertime. In the summer it’s a different story, we keep the French windows open to the garden all day, he can run around and explore and mess around with water and dirt, and it’s all just so easy.

In the winter however, it’s getting dark by the time we’re home from school, the weather’s appalling and we’re climbing further up the walls for something interesting to do every day. I really struggle to do baking and arts and crafts with my little rambunctious sidekick – OMG DON’T EAT GLITTER – so when I was asked to review Marvel Kids – part of Disney’s Interactive site which is crammed full of games and activities, I was overjoyed that we had something new to try out.

We were asked to try the Marvel Kids section of Disney Interactive, which suited us both fine and was easy to navigate, I fired up the printer and began printing off some activities to try once Noah got home from school.

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He was so excited when he saw the sheets I’d printed out for him and got to work straight away without any instruction. He managed to complete the maze and Sudoku before I’d even managed to get my coat off and then we sat together to do the word scramble. I really liked the fact that even though these seemed like fun, challenging games for him, there was an enormous amount of educational value hidden within.

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We’ve also had loads of fun online with the Marvel Kids Games, Noah’s favourite being the Spider-Man Wall Crawler game as he doesn’t really enjoy combat games. Noah’s also enjoyed quizzing me on all the less familiar Marvel characters that I don’t really know. Watching the Marvel Kids Videos has also been a breath of fresh air compared to the constant, never ending episodes of Horrid Henry!

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It’s such a comfort to know that while the weather outside is frightful and in times of climbing the walls, there’s something to keep him happy and busy (with a little added learning thrown in). I also think the printables would be great for long journeys – something I’m sure the majority of us are facing over the festive period.

All in all I really believe that Marvel Kids is a great resource to add to your repertoire to beat the “Mum, I’m BORED,” during school holidays and weekends and I for one am printing off everything I possibly can for the upcoming Christmas holidays!

 

Disclosure: Disney kindly gave me a gift voucher as thanks for writing this review. However all editorial and opinion is entirely my own.

The UK’s Most Affluent Postcodes

We all know that the property market has been on a bit of a roller coaster in the past few years but in the last couple of months things seem to have calmed down even though it’s never been harder to get on the first rung of the housing ladder.

While there’s those of us who are clinging onto our mortgages, humble abodes and dreaming of escaping to the country or relocating to the city, hoping for an extra bedroom or a bigger garden perhaps – what are the rich list looking for when it comes to expanding their property repertoire?

Home experts Property Rescue recently investigated as to what the living essentials are for the jet set, and for those of us who can only dream of walk in wardrobes and indoor gyms – the results are really quite interesting.

Obviously, there’s no surprises that the highest property prices are all centered in and around the capital, with the most expensive average homes being in Kensington and Chelsea – setting you back over £1.7 and £1.3 million respectively. But what on earth will those sorts of prices actually buy?

Located in west London,  and surrounded by other very affluent areas, Kensington is steeped in regal prestige, full of beautiful, multi-million pound townhouses, with neighbours such as the Natural History Museum and Kensington Palace (handy for days out with the kids, right?) it’s a far cry from your local landmarks being the newsagents on the corner or the greasy fish and chip shop down the road!

But hey, if you can’t quite stretch to the £1.7 million price tag, you can look a little further afield and bag a stunning semi-detached home in the very heart of suburbia for well under the million pound mark. Barnes, located south of the river in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, will give you the swanky SW13 postcode and the perfect suburban yummy mummy lifestyle of trendy cafes and recreational parks.

Now, I’m sure you’ll agree, that was a little eye-opening (and even rather eye-watering!) I’m off to carry on dreaming about my house in the country with room for a vegetable patch and chickens.

What’s on your dream home wish list?

Laminate is Great

When I was but a wee babe in arms (actually about five), I can remember our household going into turbo overdrive one Christmas. Was it Santa’s impending visit that was causing my brother to act as if he’d just consumed four espressos in one sitting? Was it the thought of escaping Christmas dinner duties by us all piling round my aunties on the big day causing my mother to skip with glee? Was it the mere prospect of acquiring a fat juicy bone in his stocking causing our dog Sam to howl wistfully into the cold night air? No. No. And no.

It was laminate flooring.  Yep, you heard that right folks. Laminate flooring.

Back in the day (the eighties to be precise, or a bit more vague) it was all the rage to rip up your carpet, smash your tiles or hide your painted shame with the L word. To become a family with laminate flooring in my neighbourhood back then was being cool and trendy. And it was in our kitchen! After a lifetime (literally, for me) of living with some strange red tile-type monstrosity that was our kitchen floor, we were finally getting laminated. I can still remember the first time my foot touched the soft spongy veneer. It was heaven.

(Full Disclosure Note: Despite the new floor being perfect, it wasn’t heaven for everyone for long. My brother calmed somewhat when he learned he could no longer traipse muddy boots through the kitchen. My mother’s skip morphed into a shuffle when my auntie saw the new floor and duly invited the entire family round to ours for Xmas dinner instead. And as for Sam getting his juicy bone – that could never have happened. We didn’t own a dog. Just a cat named Thomas. )

Then came the 90s. And the noughties.  Everyone decided to ditch the kitsch. Laminate flooring went quiet for two decades. Very quiet.

 

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But thank God for the Twenty-Tens! Laminate is back, and it’s back in a big, big way. More importantly, this time it’s here to stay. How sure am I? Well, I’ve just kitted out my bedroom, living room and, yes, my kitchen in the latest design. That’s how sure I am. It was quick, it was easy, and it looks absolutely stunning. I opted for a white oak laminate flooring with gloss finish for the kitchen, but with so much variety to choose from, it really is a buyer’s market.

It’s not all heaven, of course. My son now has to be reminded to take off his muddy boots before leaving the garden. My mother has invited everyone she knows and a few she doesn’t round to mine for Christmas dinner and Sam is still howling away for that juicy bone that will never come because he isn’t real.

So whatever happens with the turkey and the sprouts come the Queen’s speech, and no matter how badly I mess it all up, I can be safe in the knowledge that everyone will be secretly admiring my spectacular new floor.

Except my auntie. Strangely, she was the only person not to get an invite from my mother.

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