A guide to visiting a loved one in Hospital with children – #HospitalHelpingHand

 Sadly, at one pint of another in our lives, we will all probably find ourselves having to visit a loved one in hospital. Whether it’s to pay a visit to somebody very sick, or to celebrate the birth of a newborn child, hospital visits are a part of everyday life. I have had to visit people in hospital on a couple of occasions with my eldest two boys and I felt ever so nervous taking them there – I was worried they wouldn’t behave, I was worried they would annoy the other patients, I wasn’t sure what the protocol for visiting was – yep, I am a bit of a stress head! 

Leading lawyers, Slater and Gordon, as part of their #HospitalHelpingHand campaign, want to make sure that visiting a loved one whilst they’re in hospital is as easy and stress-free as possible, and that you know exactly what you should do to prepare for it, depending on the individual patient. They have asked for me to share my ‘Top tips for visiting a loved one in hospital with Children’ so, without further ado, here they are.

1) Take a favourite cuddly toy as a familiar companion…but wash it first!

Hospitals can be daunting places for adults to visit, let alone children. Make the visit more child friendly by letting them take one of their favourite cuddly toys with them as a comforter/familiar companion. One tip of mine however, would be to wash said cuddly toy before you visit. I don’t know about yours, but my kids cuddly toys can often be a bit, how shall I put it, grimey?! Ok, filthy, that’s a better description. Seen as hospitals need to be as clean and sterile as possible, giving that much loved cuddly a wash beforehand would be a very good idea.

2) Decide how long you’re staying for

When you’ve got a friend, family member or loved one in hospital, all you want to do is stay by their side to offer support and make them feel better, but children can be fickle creatures with short attention spans – a bit like my husband. Setting a time limit on your visit, and informing the patient you’re visiting beforehand of your time frame, is a great idea. That way you’re not outstaying your welcome, trying to make excuses to leave or going to end up feeling guilty leaving after only 20 minutes. Most friends and relatives would love it if you could stay for the duration of their stay, I hated being left in hospital when I have been in and I cried when my husband had to go home to sleep when I had given birth to my boys, but realistically, 20-30 minutes visiting time with children is going to be a sensible limit. Check visiting times and constraints too, these usually vary from hospital to hospital and ward to ward so make sure you check with a member of staff before you set off.

3) Take an iPad/Tablet and some headphones. In this instance, technology is your friend!

I know people often frown upon the use of iPads and Tablets in public situations, but happy kids make happy parents so if that means giving them a film or TV show to watch whilst you chat and tend to your loved one in hospital, then so be it. Download a few favourite TV shows, put a game or two on there for them, whatever works. And remember the headphones! Nobody wants to hear Peppa Pig snorting away for half an hour (apart from your kids that is) so pop those headphones in your bag before you leave home.

4) Teach your children about good hygiene and why it is important before you go and make washing their hands fun.

Last but not least, don’t forget to de-germ everyone! Keeping your hands clean and washing them religiously is always important but it’s vital to kill germs when you’re entering a hospital environment. The same goes for when it’s time to head back home too because you don’t want to be taking any germs back with you – no gifts of that kind are welcome thank you very much! Carry a bottle of hand sanitiser in your bag and ensure you make use of the sanitising gels that will be dotted around the hospital to reduce the spread of germs. If your kids are anything like mine they will love pushing the dispensers and rubbing the foam/gel on themselves.

What are your top tips for visiting a loved one in hospital?


Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.



#SportsNightIn – Planning a summer of sport with friends!

Summer is officially here. The weather this week has been truly balmy, I can’t actually recall a week where the weather was ever quite so hot, despite the fact Glastonbury is on! It’s a miracle!

Sadly I am not at Glastonbury watching the Foo Fighters this weekend, but I am sure I will enjoy watching it unfold on TV from the comfort of my own sofa, oh, and in my PJ’s. Comfort – very important these days.

Gosh I’m old.

On that point, now myself and my pals are hitting that illusive stage called ‘middle age’ and we have work, kids and busy lives to cope with, going out isn’t as appealing as it once was. Finding childcare for the kids so we can escape can sometimes be tricky so nights in are certainly how we roll these days. I love entertaining, as do most of our friends, and it’s great that the kids can all play together whilst the adults have a drink and some food. I feel really lucky that we get to do it actually, we’ve made many happy (and hilarious) memories over the years during these type of evenings.

With Wimbledon and The Tour de France on the horizon, as well as the F1 and the Lions Rugby tour which are already underway, it’s going to be a busy few weeks and months of sport watching in our household! I love Wimbledon. I’ve always watched and I vividly remember zooming home from Secondary school as quickly as I could to watch Tim Henman play a few years back. It’s such a great competition full of nostalgia, tradition and excitement. Can Andy Murray do it again I wonder?

I also love the F1. As much as I moan about the fact my husband spends 6/7 hours glued to the TV on race weekends (yeah, that is pretty annoying actually, the kids don’t look after themselves you know) I did used to enjoy sitting and watching a race play out. This season has certainly been more exciting than previous ones and it’s still all to play for halfway through the season.

In collaboration with Contact Numbers UK, I am sharing with you all my ideas for the perfect #SportsNightIn party. Any excuse for a drink and dinner with friends is fine by me!

Contact numbers UK have a vast directory of customer service contact numbers that cover a wide range of industries, including Sky. Now that summer is here, you may want to upgrade that sky package so you can enjoy a summer of sport from the comfort of your own home? Or you might want to call them to see if they can offer you a better deal on your current subscription? Whatever it may be, Contact Numbers UK have the phone numbers you require to answer your queries.


 As I mentioned, for us, staying in is the new going out so we are planning on having some friends over within the next few weeks for a #SportsNightIn party. Probably to watch a bit of Wimbledon.

I’ve been thinking of what food and drink I am going to serve up (see what I did there? Tennis? Serve? Never-mind…) and also about some games the kids can play whilst the adults are watching.

Here’s what I have in mind for my #SportsNightIn party so far…

Food

Party ring biscuit recipe

The most important part of any party for me is food. I have to make sure people don’t go hungry and I always over-cater but anything left over won’t go to waste, it just means food the next day is sorted already! Winner!

In my opinion, the best food for a sports night in party is either;

A one pot meal – such as Chilli, bolognese or lasagne, which you can just serve up with some rice, pasta or garlic bread and salad

or…

Buffet food – such as Bread, Quiche, Pizza, Meats, Cheese, Salads, Arancini and nibbles. Oh, and don’t forget the sausage rolls!

Cooked Arancini balls

And for afters;

Puddings – such as Profiteroles, Pavolva or some nice homemade scones with Jam and Clotted Cream.

Foods like this are ideal for a party because they can be prepared in advance and you won’t be stood, slaving away in the kitchen whilst everyone else is enjoying the sport and chatting. A BBQ is nice in good weather but it means that someone is always outside cooking and it’s also quite a lot of work for a crowd. A strawberry and cream pavlova would be a wonderful pudding to accompany a spot of Wimbledon watching – the tournament is famed for it’s strawberries!

Drink

Almost as important as food in my eyes! It’s always a good idea to have the usual suspects to offer guests for a party…

Beer

Ale

Wine and Prosecco

Soft fizzy drinks such as Cola, Lemonade and something I love to have, Elderflower Cordial with Soda water.

…but it’s also a good idea to offer a cocktail and maybe even a DIY ‘bar’ area with some spirits and mixers out so people can help themselves. Putting all the beers and bottles of wine in a bucket of water filled with ice in the garden is a great way to keep people out of the kitchen where you might be zooming about sorting food (and having a sneaky much on the stuff before you put it out obviously – chef’s perk) and keeps them all cold and your fridge clear of bottles.

Why not try filling a large drinks dispenser with Pimms? Another must have for Wimbledon watching! Then people can serve themselves and the first couple of hours of drinks are taken care of.

Pimms and Gin

A cocktail such as this Cherry Bakewell Prosecco is easy to make and looks just like champers. Perfect for accompanying you to your centre court seat at home!

Entertainment

Whilst you’re waiting for the main event of the sport to start, why not have some garden games setup such as giant jenga, boules, football or darts!? These are great ways to keep people entertained whilst you finish off any last minute preparations. Alternatively, just stick your fave music playlist on, turn the speakers up, sort out the garden furniture, and sit and chat with a drink and some nibbles. That would be my preference!

Decor

I don’t normally do much in the way of decor for a party, unless it’s a birthday or a football final (which we never make!) but I have just bought some bunting and some solar lights for the garden which I will put out when we have our friends over. I also love fresh flowers, especially Sunflowers and Peonies this time of year, and candles. I got a lovely big lantern that looks fab once a candle is lit inside it and I always put that on when I have people over. Make sure you put lots of seating out for people, even if that means bean bags or garden chairs indoors! Nobody likes having to stand for hours on end.


What sport will you be watching this Summer?

I’ll be back with an update on how my #SportsNightIn party went in a few weeks. I’m sure it’ll be eventful at some point if previous experiences of my life are anything to go by!


 Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Contact Numbers UK. All words, thoughts and opinions are my own.



Education Quizzes Review – Help your child learn at home & at school

As a busy mum of 3, finding the time to help all your children with their learning on top of every day life chaos can be a real struggle. It’s enough to drive you to Gin!

School set homework each week, a small amount but enough to take up an hour and a half each week where my eldest (he is 9) is concerned, but I am also mindful that we need to be doing a bit extra at home in order to help them with subjects they struggle with. In Luke’s case, this is handwriting and confidence with Maths and for Zak, it’s spelling and literacy.

I set the boys challenges every week to aid their learning but it can sometimes get a bit monotonous and end in a shouting match which I despise. Because of this, I am always on the lookout for new apps or websites which will engage them a bit more and provide a different learning experience.

When I heard about a website called Education Quizzes and was asked to try it out with my boys, I was more than a little intrigued, as were they – any excuse to sit in front of the computer!

Education Quizzes is a website that aims to help all children to be successful at school and improve their confidence in areas they may not be so sure about. The company prides itself on making the school curriculum easy and enjoyable and includes all the levels of learning here in the UK; KS1, KS2, 11-Plus, KS3 and GCSE. The quizzes are created by teachers and can be used either at school or at home.

Zak is in Year 2 (KS1) and Luke is in Year 4 (KS2). They both had a go at completing some of the quizzes to test if they were both enjoyable and helpful.


For KS1 learning, the educational quizzes that are available are designed to build your child’s confidence with the KS1 National Curriculum subjects (so Years 1 and 2 at primary school) such as English, Maths, History and Science, as well as most other school subjects including PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) which I think is wonderful. Education at this age isn’t just about numbers, writing and reading, it’s also about emotional development and I really love the fact that this is included in the quizzes.

We weren’t sure what to expect with the quizzes but the questions are easily understandable, both Luke and Zak could read and comprehend them unaided, and they seemed to enjoy the challenge of seeing how many they could answer correctly rather than panicking about it like they sometimes do at school.

education quizzes website

The first quiz we tried was a PSHE quiz on feelings and then we went on to try a Maths one, both KS1 and KS2. The lads flew through the questions and were both overjoyed that they got them all correct – granted Zak chose an easy topic of counting in tens but it was great as a confidence builder and it encouraged him to go on and try something a little harder where he got 10/10 again. It was genuinely lovely to see them wanting to do more, without me having to suggest it!

Education Quizzes website

There are a lot of quizzes to chose from and the wonderful thing about them is they not only tell you if you answered the question correctly, they also tell you why you got it wrong if you answered incorrectly. This is so very important in my eyes, just telling someone they have got something wrong is of no use to anybody, they have got it wrong for a reason and normally it’s because they simply don’t understand the subject. Explaining why something wasn’t correct is the first step to helping them improve so this is a huge aspect of the website that I love.

Education Quizzes website

Both myself and the children are really very impressed with the Education Quizzes website and we think it could genuinely be a really useful learning aid to guide them through their years of education.

A monthly subscription (which can be cancelled at any time) costs just £9.95, which is quite reasonable considering the amount and mix of learning materials that are available to you.

There is also a schools’ subscription package which parents and teachers can work together on and students can access the quizzes at home or at school (and what’s even better is, the more students a school signs up with, the cheaper the subscription! It is possible for some schools to spend less than £2 a year per child subscribing to Education Quizzes).

All in all, it was great to do something different with Luke and Zak at home to assist their learning and I’ve no doubt we’ll be doing some more quizzes on there in the future.


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Education Quizzes. All words, thoughts and opinions are my own.



Extraordinary Moments (With Cow and Gate)

*This is an advertorial post in collaboration with Cow & Gate Growing Up Milk.*

Imaginary play. A fundamental part of toddlerhood.

Imagination can help them learn about the world around them, it’s how they learn to communicate with others and it allows them to express themselves without restraint.

I’ll be honest with you all, I do sometimes struggle to find the enthusiasm to play trains or bus drivers with my toddler. It’s not because I’m lazy or uninterested, but life is so hectic and there is always that ‘wait a minute, I just need to do something’ moment isn’t there?

“Wait a minute, I need to put the washing on!” or, “Wait a minute, I just need to send this email”.

Before you know it, all those ‘wait a minutes’ have accumulated into a whole day passing you by and then, as bedtime arrives, the guilt sets in.

“Why didn’t I sit and play with him a bit more today?”

You look at your little one in their bed, all snuggled up and peaceful, dreaming about their day and you vow to create something fun for them to do tomorrow.

toddler ready for bed

I always ensure I spend time at the end of the day reading a bedtime story to my kids. Sometimes my eldest will read to everyone, other times I will do it, but it’s nice to have that little bit of time to ‘just be’ together and enjoy a moment.

Once that is over, I often sit with our toddler until he is asleep. I use this time to tell our littlest one about our day and he will often nod in agreement at what I’m saying until he is fast asleep.

Precious, calm moments that are one of the highlights of the day.

Day’s with a toddler, when they aren’t at preschool, can often be quite long, especially if they’re having a ‘bad day’. My toddler has lots of those, thanks terrible two’s!

I have begun making more of an effort to do crafts and activities at home but I can often get a bit stuck in a rut.  Drawing, sticker books, painting, going to the park, going for a walk, making a train track, the usual.

But what if you think outside the box?

What if these ordinary moments could become extraordinary?

A walk down a path to the park could actually be a walk on the moon!

Or a box that a parcel comes in could actually be a castle!

Or that a toy guitar actually works and you’re a rock star on the big stage!

The possibilities are endless!

This is where the new Cow and Gate Growing Up Milk, Extraordinary moments campaign comes in.

You’re able to take an ‘ordinary moment’ captured during your day and make it ‘extraordinary’ using their simple storybook maker.

Just select which story you’d like, upload a landscape photo, add in your child’s name and your own, give them your email address and they do the rest.

They also suggest super simple, but fun, activity ideas to do with your toddler  based around the story you choose.

The technical whizzes then turn your photo into an online storybook with a difference to inspire your child to look back on their day at bedtime through different eyes. That wasn’t just a stick they found, it was a magic wand, perhaps?

An inspiring way, to end your day.

Myself and Ben made a storybook which turned him into a rock star! (His Daddy is a bit of a wannabe rock god and this seems to be rubbing off on Ben already. He loves to rock out!)

We went on the Extraordinary Moments webpage and selected some of the activities and crafts to do together during the day and then I made sure I took some photos of him.

We used a dandelion clock as a microphone, we made a drum/shaker from an old tin, a balloon, some rice and an elastic band and he used a toy guitar to ‘rock out’ to some of his favourite songs. We had a lot of fun doing it too.

balloon instrument craft

Once our photo was uploaded, we submitted it and waited for our story to be emailed. This takes no more than 24 hours.

Here is how Ben’s rock star story panned out…

Cute eh?!


What Extraordinary Moments will you have together? Why not have a go yourself? 

Click here to make your own Extraordinary Moments with Cow and Gate!




If I won the Lottery…

It’s something we all dream about, winning the lottery, and they that say money can’t buy you happiness, but I would sure as damn it like give it a good whirl!

Don’t get me wrong, I am ever so thankful for my lot and there are people in far worse situations who deserve the money way more than I do, but if I was lucky enough, what would I spend it on?!

(Erm, Gemma, you know you’d totally spend it on a one way ticket to a remote Scottish Island with only Kit Harrington for warmth and company…)

Apparently I’m making him blush. Sorry Kit.

I have complied a list so that one day, if divine intervention ever happened and I happened to win a few quid, at least I have given it some thought (other than Scotland and Mr Harrington that is – sorry Hubster).


 A home in the Scottish Highlands

I wasn’t joking. I really would go to Scotland. I had never been there until 2009, but after I had been that once, I couldn’t forget about the place. The scenery is out of this world, the people are lovely and, despite the mosquito plague they get in summer, I could totally up sticks and live there…though I would probably have to move my family and friends there with me. Slight issue. Maybe I would just have it as a holiday home and use my private jet (ah yes, I need to add that to the list) to get there for the weekend.

Find me a loch-side lodge (oh alright, maybe with a hot tub – with Kit Harrington in, ahem) with some mountains and I would be a very happy bunny.

Lodge in scotland


 A converted T5 camper van

This is my biggest dream at the moment. I am desperate for a converted (and pimped up) T5 camper van. We do a lot of staycations and something like this would, I think, make our holidays even better. The husband is yet to be convinced, though I am working on it, and if I won the lottery it is literally one of the first things I would buy. Come on lucky numbers, make me rich!

T5 camper van conversion


 My own Gin distillery

As someone who is rather fond of her Gin (on that point, I am loving Isle of Harris Gin at the moment, it’s so good people!) I would have to commission my own Gin distillery. I don’t know what I would call my Gin, would have to be Mother’s Ruin I suppose wouldn’t it – an apt name given my life – and I would oversee all taste testing. Of course. Cor, do you know what, I might even make sure I have a bath every week with nothing but a Gin and Tonic for company…no kids in the bath with me. That would be bliss!


A holiday to Finland to see the Northern Lights, and stay in a glass igloo!

This is something that I have had on my bucket list for ages. I am obsessed with the Northern Lights. We went on honeymoon to Iceland in 2012 for 10 nights and sadly didn’t see them due to snow, but we then went to the Isle of Skye last year and I was absolutely gobsmacked to see them dancing overhead from our holiday house window. It is something I will never forget and I am not ashamed to say I cried a little bit when I first saw them. 5 nights out of 7 we saw them there. It was beyond magical. That said, I know they would be a lot more impressive further North and I have always wanted to stay in a glass igloo just for the novelty factor. One day it’ll happen. One day…


 A mountain of Ferrero Rocher

Just because. I bloody well love these Chocolately-nutty balls.

(Kit Harrington delivering me a tray full of these to the front door of my remote scottish lodge whilst I am lying in a bubble bath with a Gin and Tonic would be the dream people!)


What would you choose to spend your money on if you won the lottery?


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Lottoland. All words, thoughts and opinions are my own.