Tuesday, August 30, 2016

6 Ways To Children Happy & Entertained On Long Car Journeys ♥

As a family we like to go on lots of days out to places of interest and attractions around the county and sometimes this involves a rather long car journey. Being in the car isn't something I'm overly fond of myself, unless I'm driving, so I'm always aware of my sons comfort and happiness when he's got a long car journey ahead of him too.

I've found some things that really work to keep him (and us!) happy on the long drives and I thought I'd share them today for anyone else who finds themselves in the car with their little ones for long periods of time.

1. Remember to pack your child's favourite cuddly toy/comforter
This is the first thing I pack for the boys when we get in the car. Usually they'll end up falling asleep on the drive and comforters/cuddly toys are perfect for calming them, snuggling up to and acting as a pillow - in Tyler Lee's case anyway! After all, these are the boys 'best friends' at the moment and who wouldn't want their best friend coming along for the ride?

2. Pack some snacks and drinks
Usually as we're driving along I'm hit with a bombardment of "I'm hungry!" and "I'm thirsty" and instead of stopping every time to get something in the shop, I make sure I have a bag packed with snacks that can easily be eaten in the car (with minimal mess!) and a drink that'll fit in the cup holder of his car seat. I always pack flavoured rice cakes, fruit sticks, carrot cake bars and little apple biscuits.

*Top tip* If you're worried about the mess your kids might make in the car while eating, pop a large towel under their car seats along the back seat. This will collect all the crumbs and you can just take it out once your home, thus saving your car from all the mess.

3. Download their favourite cartoons/tv shows onto the tablet/Ipad
This is something I also do for plane journeys. I just download some of Tyler Lee's favourite cartoons onto the tablet - the longer the episodes the better and let him watch as we're traveling. He may get bored after awhile, so it's a good idea to have some different cartoon choices, but it's a good way of keeping him entertained as we drive.

4. Play a good old fashioned game of eye-spy
This was favourite car game as a child and one my Dad and I used play a lot on our car journeys together - long before the age of Ipads, etc! This is a good one for all the family to get involved in and in my experience it can all get quite competitive, but that just adds to the fun. I'm still the eye-spy champion in our family!

5. Put together a travel pack
This is such a lovely and rather thoughtful idea and one that's ideal for entertaining little ones when they're traveling. Tyler Lee was recently gifted with a fab travel suitcase from the lovely people at icarhireinsurance.com - an essential website to look up if you're planning on hiring a car abroad and don't want to pay any excess in case of an accident while traveling.

They put together a lovely cardboard suitcase full of goodies for Tyler Lee and the mix of things was actually perfect for entertaining him in the car. The case included a Tamagotchi - when I posted a picture of this on my Instagram and Facebook all the parents wanted one, a real case of childhood nostalgia for us all! It also included a space sticker activity book, a blow up pillow, markers for colouring in the suitcase itself, a disposable camera (I loved this addition!), a sun shade and a bubble wand and a 'games to play in the car' booklet - this was a lovely addition to the suitcase.

Putting together a pack like this, full of different things to keep your child entertained and happy on the drive is a great thing to do and it's quite exciting for them to have something special to open while traveling.

6. Sit in the back of the car with your child for awhile if you can
This can be hard to do if you have more than one car seat in the back, but if you can sit in the back of the car on a road trip, even if it's just for half an hour, then it can really help to keep the little ones happy. They'll find it such a novelty to have mum or dad riding along in the back with them and it's also a good way of playing some games or having storytime with them whilst traveling too.

*Tyler Lee was very kindly gift with the travel suitcase from icarhireinsurance.com, however, as always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Looking After Myself During Motherhood ♥

I spend my days looking after two adorable little boys. It's wonderful, frustrating, adventurous, lovely and extremely exhausting, all at once. I'm not going to lie, the jump from one child to two is a big one and it's taken its toll on my energy levels - which were rather depleted anyway, and my time - I literally have no time for anything but the boys at the moment, hence why this little blog of mine has been looking rather neglected lately.

But whilst I'm busy caring for my two cheeky boys, who's looking after me? I really neglected myself after the birth, I survived on toast and then started eating sugary snack foods as they were the easiest and fastest things to prepare. I began having the evil that is energy drinks everyday too, to try and give myself some much needed pep, something I can't get from coffee as I hate hot drinks - I'm strange like that.

All the crappy food and drink just made me feel worse and I was extremely bloated and after another severe gallbladder attack I knew I had to start making a change to my diet.

I now make sure I have three meals a day and although I've never been good at eating a breakfast to set me up for the day I've found a really quick, simple and tasty solution that works for me - Forza shakes (€35.99 for a starter pack, available in Holland and Barrett, Boots and from the Forza website). I just put 300ml of water into my bottle, then the shake powder (there's a choice of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry - the latter being my favourite), shake the bottle and I'm good to go.

I began having these shakes for my breakfast on July 30th (I didn't have them for a week while we were on holiday in Spain) and since then I've lost 31cm/12in off my body.

I hadn't even been trying to lose weight but having three set meals a day, including the shakes which are just 204 calories per serving and running around after the boys I've managed to do it.

I know it's only a small loss but I'm delighted and determined to keep it up. I'm going to keep having my Forza shakes because they're convenient for me and I like the taste. I'm also trying to eat high protein foods such as eggs, beans, chicken, etc. and only drink filtered tap water now - no more energy or fizzy drinks for me. I really hope to see some great results by Christmas.

As for my mental health, I struggled with post natal depression after I gave birth to Tyler Lee and I was determined not to let it affect me this time round. So far all is good, although I do find myself getting quite frazzled at times, so when I was asked if I'd like to receive a copy of a new book Mindful Mama Happy Baby by Maja Pitamic and Susannah Marriott, I was looking forward to giving it a read.

I've never read any other parenting books before, I just don't buy into them and believe every child is different, that there are no rules when it comes to parenting, but Mindful Mama Happy Baby is different. It's not a preachy book, telling you what you should be doing, instead it promotes mindfulness and lovely bonding techniques and activities to try with your baby as they grow.

It gives timelines throughout all the different stages of the baby and toddler years and lets you know what you should be expecting, however, the book stresses throughout that every child is different and may develop faster or slower than the norm.

I'm thankful for the lovely activities it recommends to help bond with your child, as Tyler Lee has felt a bit upset since Beau was born. I think he's found it hard to share me, so anything that helps me spend time with him in a fun way is always welcomed.

Overall, it's a really lovely book and I'd recommend it to any parent who wants to practice mindfulness with their children. It's a must for me.

My skin is something which I really need to look after. It was lovely and soft during pregnancy - the hormones were good to me but since giving birth it's been very dry and in need of some moisturising and TLC.

One brand which I used before on Tyler Lee's skin was Little Butterfly London - you can read my review here, and the brand has since expanded their range to a collection of heavenly organics for mothers too.

I was sent the Cocoon of Bliss Stretch Mark Butter (£27.50) and the Blossoms in Spring Illuminating Day Cream (£39.50) for review and I honestly couldn't love these products more.

First off, the packaging is absolutely beautiful and these are products which I'm happy to display proudly on my dressing table. The Cocoon of Bliss Stretch Mark Butter smells amazing, the scent reminds me of candy necklaces and gives me a right ol' sense of nostalgia. It's such a lovely, buttery lotion that melts into the skin with ease, leaving it feeling soft and supple.

The Blossoms in Spring Illuminating Day Cream has a similar scent to the stretch mark butter but the texture of the cream is much lighter, perfect for wearing daily on your face. I use this under my makeup or just to give my skin a bit of a boost on those days when I don't need to put on makeup - you know the days when you just can't get out of the house because the kids aren't cooperating?

It feels really lovely on the skin and gives a radiance to the skin, making it look healthy and nourished. It's now an essential part of my daily skin routine.

Little Butterfly London's products for mothers are all safe to be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding and I'd recommend them to any fellow mothers whose skin is in need of some pampering and who want to use something on the more luxurious end of the skincare scale.

So there you have it, the main products I've using to help look after myself during this mothering adventure I've found myself on. I'll continue using these products as they've really helped to make me feel good about myself and after all, a happy mama equals happy children.

*I was sent these products for purpose of sharing my thoughts about them on the blog, however, as always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

#TheMagicInEveryday | Weekly Roundup #1 ♥

The lovely Hayley from Sparkles and Stretchmarks and I have recently set up a new Instagram community - #TheMagicInEveryday a tag to share your images which feature the magic you find in everyday life with your children.

The simplest of things can give a sense of magic - the beautiful, beaming smile of your child, their little expressions as they sleep to the joy they experience when playing... moments don't need to be extraordinary to bring magic to ours and our children's lives and we want to celebrate that.

Hayley and I take it in turns to show off a daily feature on our own Instagram accounts @fiandtylerlee and @sparklesandstretchmarks as well as a weekly round up feature on our blogs too every Saturday.

So please do join in if you'd like to share the magic in your everyday life.

Below are my four favourite images linked up this week. They all gave me such a sense of summer, something I'd like to hold onto for just a little longer.

{Clockwise from top left} @verymuchsoblog // @lifewithmrslee // @mummyadventure // @christinamichellephotography


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Back To School With Disney By Samsonite ♥

My eldest boy is heading back to school in September to begin Naíonra, having completed junior pre-school in June. This may or may not be his last year before starting 'big school' as we're still waiting to see if his speech improves and I don't want to send him into an educational environment where he'll have to sit down and learn if he's not ready - we'll do things at his speed and we won't be pushing him if he's not ready.

He's super excited for Naíonra though, getting to see his little friends again, meeting his new teachers and getting to join in with the fun, games and learning once more. He'll be heading back to school in super cute style thanks to Disney by Samsonite.

A new bag is always one of the most exiting (and essential!) things for little ones to get in the run up to 'back to school'. I know I always loved getting a brand new bag to carry all my school things in and when Samsonite got in touch asking if Tyler Lee would like to receive one of their adorable Disney collection bags I was excited to pick out something super cute for him.

I went for the Disney Ultimate Backpack Dory-Nemo Classic (£25) which features Nemo's smiling, happy face, fins, reflective details, sternum strap with child-friendly fastener and an inside ID tag to make sure all his belongings are kept safe. This backpack is perfect for 3-6 years olds so it'll do him for a few years yet and he genuinely enjoys wearing it, I think he just loves the character aspect to it and feeling important with his new bag. The S shaped straps and sternum strap make sure that the bag won't slip off his little shoulders so it's easy and comfortable for him to carry. This bag is of excellent quality, I love the feel of it and I know it'll stand the test of time.

Tyler Lee also has the matching Disney Wallet Pre-school Dory-Nemo Classic (£17) which he loves to hang around his neck and pretend the fish is swimming. I'll be popping his little toddler toilet wipes into this for when he's in school and his money for any fundraising days or days when the ice-cream van visits the school. It's perfect for keeping everything safe and just the right size for him to carry about with him when he needs to.

The orange colour is so vibrant and Nemo's face is just adorable on the front of the bag. I think it's a bag that really stands out and my little boy loves it - as you can see by his smiling face, so what could be more perfect?

*We received this bag and wallet for the purposes of this review, however, all thoughts and opinions are 100% our own.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Best Family Activities In Tenerife ♥

Tenerife has long been one of the top family holiday destinations. In fact, generations of tourists have visited the largest Canary Island to enjoy it’s climate and range of seaside resorts. But there's much more to entice families than just that. The island is a rewarding destination with numerous exciting activities waiting for adventurous families looking for fun. To help inspire you to jet off to the Canaries, here are some of Tenerife’s top family activities: 


Visit another planet
Walking through Tenerife’s Teide National park is an otherworldly experience akin to walking on Mars. Kids will love the unique landscape, unusual rock formations and stunning views. Mount Teide itself is Spain’s highest peak and has a cable car that takes you within 200m of the summit. The view from the cable car is unforgettable, as is the view from the top. 

Take a dip in the Garachico pools
Go for a swim in a unique natural swimming pool. The famous Garachico rock pools were created by a volcanic eruption three hundred years ago, and offer a delightfully scenic spot for a swim to this day. Safely separated from the Atlantic, these pools are popular with visitors all year round. The town of Garachico itself is a pleasant place for a wander once you’ve all dried off. 

Hit Europe's biggest waterpark
Siam Park is a must-visit destination for any family holidaying in Tenerife. As the name suggests, it has a Thailand theme and is ideally located to offer a picturesque tropical wonderland. One of the world’s premier waterparks, there is an abundance of different slides ideal for kids of all ages, and even plenty that are perfectly safe for non-swimmers. One word of warning, once you take them once your kids will definitely want to go back! 

Go on a sea safari
See Tenerife’s amazing marine life up close by going on a Submarine Safari. This unique activity is a popular one in both Tenerife and Lanzarote and offers an unforgettable journey into a new world beneath the waves. The comfortable submarines themselves are amazing fun for kids of all ages, and the chance to learn about the marine eco-system surrounding is equally fascinating for children and adults alike. Tenerife offers amazing bang for its buck, and while there’s nothing wrong with lazy days by the seaside, by adventuring a little further you and your family can easily create some memories that will last a lifetime! 

You can read about mine and Jacek's holiday to Tenerife here.

*First image by Håkan Dahlström, used under Creative Commons Licence.
 

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Bathing Bunnies Baby & Toddler Towels | Review & Giveaway ♥

I'm a sucker when it comes to buying cute things for the boys, especially if the product allows for them to be dressed up in some way. So when I was contacted by Bathing Bunnies - suppliers of the most adorable and luxurious towelling and bathing gifts for little ones, who offer some very cute animal hooded towels, I was delighted and looking forward to the prospect of making the boys bathtime an even more adorable affair.

From the range of baby towels they offer I went for the little duck towel (£18.99) for Beau, because what could be cuter than a little ducky just out of water? I also thought the yellow was quite cheery too - perfect for my happy little babe. The towel features a super cute little duck face with a bright orange beak and a little tuft of feathers on the head.

Bathing Bunnies also offer a range of four different toddler towels and for Tyler Lee I went for the hippo towel (£24.99) because he has a hippo comforter that's been his best friend since he was six months old and I couldn't have picked anything more perfect for him. The hippo towel is a beautiful sky-blue colour, just like Tyler Lee's hippo friend and it features an adorable hippo-faced hood with big round googly eyes.

Bathing Bunnies baby and toddler towels are made from 100% cotton terry towelling and are of great quality. They feel very luxurious and I was more than happy to use them on my boys sensitive skin straight after their bathtime.

These towels now hang on the back of the bathroom door and I just love how bright and fun they are. They really do make the prospect of bathtime a lot more fun, especially for Tyler Lee and I'm sure Beau will love dressing up in his little towel when he's a bit older too.

You can browse Bathing Bunnies range of luxurious bath and towelling gifts for little ones on their website.

The lovely folks at Bathing Bunnies are also giving one lucky reader the chance to win a baby or toddler towel of their choice. Simply enter via the Gleam widget below. Please read the T&C's before entering. Best of luck!

Terms & conditions:
This giveaway is open to residents of Ireland and the UK only
This giveaway will run until September 5th and a winner will then be chosen at random using the Gleam widget.  
One winner will receive a baby or toddler towel of their choice from the Bathing Bunnies collection.  
Incomplete entries will be disqualified.  
This giveaway will end at 11.59 on September 5th 2016.

Bathing Bunnies

#TravelforAll | Wheelchair & Buggy Friendly Days Out Across The UK ♥

As a family, one of our favourite things to do is go on days out, visiting attractions and places of interest across the country and make memories with each other along the way - in fact, we just went on another family day out over the weekend to Cahir Castle and Swiss Cottage, post to come later this week.

However, in my experience as a parent, finding places to visit that are accessible for everyone can be quite difficult. I can't tell you how many times we've visited somewhere thinking it was wheelchair/buggy friendly and found ourselves having to carry the buggy up and down steps various times throughout our visit - not ideal at all.

Luckily a buggy can be quite lightweight, but I doubt it would be as easy to maneuver a wheelchair around places that have no lift access and lots of steps. So where is there to go when travel is needed for all the family, able bodied, wheelchair users and babies in buggies alike?

Mobility Nationwide, who offer a wide range of cars for wheelchairs, have put together an infographic, an all access travel guide if you will, highlighting fourteen different family day out options across the UK which are ideal for wheelchair and buggy users.

The helpful infographic shows were the destinations are located across the UK and even gives a little brief description of them. I also contributed to the infographic by highlighting the Science Museum in London, a place to go when I'm in the city and one that is perfect for everyone.

So please do take a look at the infographic below, you never know, it may provide just the inspiration you and yours needed for your next family day out that allows easy access travel for all.




Saturday, August 20, 2016

Back To School With Debenhams ♥

There's just a week to go until Tyler Lee begins Naíonra and I've been busy trying to get everything organised for him so I thought I'd share a post about a back to school staple - a new winter coat.

I was asked by Debenhams if I'd like to take a look at their school uniform shop and choose something for my boy and as he's not yet in need of a formal school uniform, I knew a new winter coat for him would go amiss.

He has lots of raincoats for all the rainy days but I wanted to get him something that would really keep him warm and snug on the freezing winter mornings - you know those mornings where you can see your own breath in the air - and luckily Debenhams and a great and affordable range available.

I went for the Bluezoo Boys Navy Fleece Coat (£20) for him as I thought it looked quite adorable with it's duffle coat look, front detailing and I knew the fleece would keep him warm and snug. Plus navy is a great colour as it goes with almost all of his clothes.

Debenhams have a fantastic back to school range and the clothes they stock are always of great quality. I already buy a lot of the boys clothes from Debenhams and when the time comes for Tyler Lee to go to 'big school' and have a proper school uniform I'll definitely be checking out the Debenhams school uniform shop.

Tyler Lee has already been blackberry picking (and eating!) in his new coat and I think he looks rather adorable in it. It's the perfect coat to see him through the winter and I know he'll be nice and cosy in it when the cold weather and early school day mornings kick in.

*We were invited by Debenhams to take part in their back to school campaign, as always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Beau Samuel James | 3 Months Old ♥

My darling little Beau, you are now three months old.

I can't quite believe that we've already reached this milestone but here we are. It's true what they say, the baby days don't last long enough at all and as each day goes by I see you growing more and more and leaving that little baby you once were behind.

You seem to be advancing at such a quick pace, already experiencing things that I would associate with babies much older than you. You've been teething for a few weeks now and the past few days the pain has really begun to bother you. Your two bottom middle teeth are about to pop through and you're permanently chewing on your fist for relief. You've also begun trying to pull yourself up into sitting position, you no longer want to be lying down - even when you're laying in my arms for a bottle. You hold onto my hands and try and pull yourself up, you're wanting to grow far too quickly for your young age baby boy.


You've just had experienced of the biggest milestones in your life too, you've been on your first ever holiday! You've seen what Spain has to offer and were such a good little baby the whole time - you slept on both plane journeys and you were so quiet during our week away that if we didn't love you so much we may have forgotten you were there at all. Not a peep was heard from you.

Yesterday you had your three month check up with the public health nurse and despite you not liking tummy time very much, she was impressed by your head control. You're now 64cm on the button and weigh 15lbs 5oz. You're perfectly in proportion and everything is just as it should be, you're absolutely thriving.

You still love your cuddles and we now play peek-a-boo and 'catch him' and you love playtime. You're still obsessed with your Lamaze toys and you could look and bat away at them for hours. You've formed a very close attachment to your bunny comforter and your muslin blankets too - I don't know what it is about the muslin material but it makes you fall asleep instantly.

You're such a dream Beau, everyone immediately becomes happier when they're around you and your ever smiling face. You're so welcoming, social and are such a little pet. Please never change, you're the happiest little babe I've ever known and I hope you're always so joyous and full of wonder.

I love you so much Beau, you're such a blessing baby boy.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our 1st Holiday As A Family Of Four | Torremolinos, Spain ♥

Last Wednesday Jacek, myself and our two boys jetted off on our first holiday as a family of four, to the wonderful Torremolinos in Spain. Torremolinos is a place that Jacek and myself had both been to separately and we were really looking forward to enjoying a getaway there with our two boys - even if we were very nervous about the prospect of managing two young children in the heat!

We coped really well though and even managed to go on two little day trips with them in tow - one to Molino de Inca Botanical Gardens and the other to La Batería Park, the latter involving a rather pleasant train journey back, but it really was worth the trip.

Molino de Inca Botanical Gardens aren't buggy friendly but we managed to carry the buggy up all the steps and terraces. They had lots of beautiful plants and fountains there - which Tyler Lee loved to splash about with and the Japanese Garden was especially lovely. They also have a little maze there which Tyler Lee had a ball running around in, there were little water features amongst it too. When Beau needed feeding I sat with him down by the big water feature and fountains in the shade. It was so calming there, I could have sat there for the day. Entry was only €1 each and the children were free so it was a great. cheap day out for us all.

La Batería Park is a huge park with walkways, cycle lanes and lots of lovely scenery. It features an amazing playground for the little ones (which Tyler Lee didn't want to leave!), a large lake which you can paddle-boat on, cannons, a little round tower to climb and see views over the park and the sea and lots of lovely places to sit and admire the views. Tyler Lee was very taken with the fairy and angel statues there - as you can tell from the pictures! There was even a 'dodie tree' as I call it, a tree where children can leave their dodies, presumably for the fairies - if it's the same tradition as here in Ireland. If only we knew beforehand that it was there and we could have persuaded Tyler Lee to give up his beloved dodie.

We stayed in in the Bluesea Hotel Cervantes which is right in the heart of Torremolinos, close to restaurants, pubs and the shopping district. It's also quite close to the beach, but you have to maneuver your way down steep winding steps, which despite quite rugged ramps, are very buggy unfriendly, or you can catch the lift up and down if you don't mind the wait or the fifty cent charge. The hotel is classed as four star but in my opinion it really isn't and the staff (bar the cleaners) were really rude, a customer service course wouldn't go amiss. We wouldn't stay there again but made the most of it while we were there and Jacek and Tyler Lee really enjoyed the pool there, having a swim every afternoon while I went to the room to feed Beau and catch a bit of shade.

The beach is gorgeous and we were happy out there having rented out two sun beds, which are only €4.50 each for the day. The water was warm too and Jacek and myself took it in turns to go in with Tyler Lee whilst the other stayed with Beau on dry land - we wanted to dip his feet in the sea but I didn't wanted him exposed to the sun as it was so hot - next time Beau, promise! He had his big 'Alf Stewart'-esque sun hat on to shield his little head from the sun though and he was happy out laying in his buggy in the shade.

Holidaying with two little ones in tow was actually a lot easier than we thought. The boys have such a strong routine that even they didn't want to break from it whilst we were on holiday and that suited us fine. We stayed at the hotel on a half-board basis so we dined there every morning and evening, meaning that after dinner we could just retire to the room and have some drinks, etc. while the boys slept.

We loved Torremolinos and although our goal as a family is to visit a new country each year, I'm sure one day in the future we'll be back to soak up the sun on Spain's gorgeous beaches again.

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