Tuesday 26 November 2013

Review: PLYT Game

A little while ago, we were kindly sent a brand new board game to review. The game is called PLYT and is based around the idea of successfully using mental arithmetic to multiply two or more dice together in order to move a counter around the board. The first person to the centre of the board is the winner. The game comes with an optional sand timer to put opponents under pressure to complete the calculation quickly. In addition to this, certain squares on the board require you to turn over a chance card, which will require you to move either your, or one of your opponent's, counter backwards or forwards along the board.

The game is designed for ages four and above, and has a flexible rule set to allow people of different ages to complete fairly with each other. The number of dice used for any given person depends on their ability, which opens the game up to mixed ability and age players.

We were excited to receive the game, and began playing it immediately. Ruby is four years old, which is within the game's target audience; after unpacking the game and reading the rules, we soon realised that the minimum age rating stated on the box was set too low, and Ruby, who is only just starting to cover very basic mathmatics at school, was unable to play with us using the rules provided. We ended up making up our own rules and had Ruby add up the results of two dice, instead of multiplying them.

We really liked the concept of trying to make learning and practising mental arithmetic fun, and I think this game will certainly appeal to adults and children who are interested in maths; however the game failed to hold my interest and is not really suitable for young children as indicated on the box. I think it is fair to say that my husband, who is quite mathematically minded (he is a software developer),  got the most enjoyment out of the game. Perhaps we will try playing it again in a few years when Ruby is a little older and is at the stage where she is learning multiplication in her maths lessons at school. We would however recommend that the manufacturer revises the age rating of the game.

The following rating is based on our experience playing the game with our four year old daughter.

Ruby + Lottie Rating: 4 / 10

Disclaimer: We were sent the board game for free to review, however all thoughts and opinions are our own.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Two Daughters and One Heart!

I've been wanting and trying to write this post for some time, but I was also a bit worried about how it would come across; During a recent Twitter session, I got chatting with someone who felt similar to me and it gave me a bit more confidence to open up about how I feel towards my girls. Don't get me wrong, I love both of my daughters to bits, but there is something different in the relationships I have with them individually.

After I had given birth to Ruby, I remember looking at her and thinking "I should be really totally in love with her", but if I am honest I didn't feel this straight away; my love for her grew and grew. I'd had a good labour and delivery, so I can't say that this hindered my bonding with her. Ruby had her name from 16 weeks into my pregnancy, and I used to enjoy feeling her kick. I don't think I was fully prepared for motherhood when expecting Ruby, nobody had pre-warned me about how I would be emotionally and even on a physical level, nobody had told me that you bleed after birth; I thought that once the placenta was delivered that was it! I was obviously very naive and I was disappointed that the unconditional love didn't happen in an instant. I'm writing this is to offer reassurance to other mums and mums to be that this is normal. As a first time parent it's a very steep learning curve; how to change a nappy, bath a baby, wind a baby etc, the list goes on and on! I also find I parent Ruby differently to Lottie. Ruby has such a lovely laid back personality but at times she needs me to be quite firm and tell her to do things, otherwise she would happily go into her own little world!

When expecting Lottie I didn't think there would be anymore room in my heart to love another baby but my heart grew and grew!

Well what can I say about my second born daughter Lottie, she is completely different to her sister. Lottie is a very sensitive little girl and you just have to raise your voice or look at her in a certain way and she bursts into tears. From the moment she was born, Lottie and I have had a very special bond and I instantly fell in love with her. Her birth, much like Ruby's, was a positive experience; I even had a homebirth. I remember looking at her and admiring how beautiful she looked and not all squished and wrinkled like Ruby did!

The bond between Lottie and I has built up and it's so incredibly strong that if she's not with me I feel completely lost and end up in tears, but what's the difference and why do I feel differently? I am not sure, but I also wonder if breastfeeding has played a part. I was a reluctant breastfeeder, it wasn't something I had planned to do, I won't go into it all but you can read my breastfeeding journey here. I also wonder if I have bonded quicker with Lottie was because she is my second daughter so I am a lot more experienced and calmer, and know what to do; the learning curve is not as steep.

The relationships I have with both my daughters are different, but I love them both equally. I'm conscience that Lottie can at times be demanding being the younger sister, so Ruby and I often spend an afternoon at the weekend in the kitchen doing some baking whilst hubbie entertains Lottie. I feel it's so important to have quality one to one time with my daughters so that our bond grows and grows. I feel so blessed to have two amazing daughters who each have their own personality and qualities.

I would love to know your experience, did you bond quicker with your second child, did you worry your heart wouldn't grow and love another child or did you have that instant fall in love moment that you read about in so many parenting books?

Friday 15 November 2013

World Prematurity Day

This Sunday marks world prematurity day. I am very fortunate that both Ruby and Lottie only arrived two and three weeks early, so they were not considered to be premature; however this was not the case for my amazing friend Kylie Hodges and her son Joseph. Kylie and I go back nearly five years, in fact this time five years ago, we were both just about to find out that we were expecting; We were both really excited and got together on an online forum, to chat to other mums and share our pregnancy journeys; we became bump buddies as our due dates were within days of one another.

If I am honest, I had never really thought about the prospect of either girls arriving early, it is a topic that is all too often avoided by people. I remember being very shocked when I heard that Kylie had delivered her baby at just twenty seven weeks! Joseph weighed just 1lb 7oz, You can read more details on Kylies blog.

Fast forward to a few years after Joseph's birth, and my auntie went into premature labour with her second child; she lives over in Dubai and I had no idea at all what to do or say, so I turned to Kylie for advice. As luck would have it, (I call it god given), Kylie was visiting family in Australia and had a connecting flight in Dubai on the way home. She took it upon herself to meet up with my auntie, which I'm sure was such a blessing to my auntie as I know my she found it very difficult because she was not able to hold her son when he was born; he spent his first few precious days and weeks in an incubator.

This year, Bliss are raising awareness of world prematurity day by getting people to think about hugs. How would you feel if your baby was in a plastic box and you couldn't hold him or her? I know I would feel so heartbroken.

Bliss have put this short film together and I suggest you grab some tissues as it made me cry.

If you would like further information on Bliss and the amazing work they are doing, you can find it here.

On a personal note, I am so incredibly proud of Kylie (and Joseph). she is a true inspiration to all of us for speaking up and raising so much awareness. She does so much already, but this crazy person who I am so proud to call my friend has dyed her hair purple! Yes bright purple, I would never in a million years have the confidence to do this but, she has and I would like to encourage everyone to sponsor her.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Swimming Lessons

Learning to swim was something that my parents made sure I could do from a very young age; they took me to swimming lessons on a weekly basis. I don't remember a time when I could not swim; it was instilled in me at a young age. I was very fortunate that my parents encouraged me; I achieved pretty much every grade of swimming that could be taken, including all the life saver awards. I still remember having to undertake swimming lessons whilst fully clothed and learning how to make a float out of a pair of trousers!

Phil and I both agreed that it was important for our girls to learn to swim, however with money being tight we have been very fortunate that Phil's parents have greatly contributed towards the cost; this has enabled us to give both Ruby and Lottie weekly swimming lessons.

Ruby started swimming lessons just after her third birthday; I wish she had started sooner, as its has taken a year for her to be able to swim unaided without any floats. She's had the confidence from word go, but the technique of kicking her legs and moving her arms correctly has taken a while to come. This week though she has finally cracked it and I feel so incredibly proud of her! I almost cried when she managed to do a whole width of the pool and back all by herself. Ruby was so pleased of herself after the lesson and told everyone she came into contact with. It was so lovely to see.

Lottie started swimming lessons at just six weeks of age and she absolutely loves her time in the pool with Phil each week; she gets very excited about the prospect of getting into the water. She is full of confidence, much like her sister and has recently learnt how to climb out of the pool at by herself!

Taken before Lottie's very 1st swimming lesson!

Bath time in our house is very funny as Ruby practices blowing her bubbles and Lottie is now starting to copy and blow her own bubbles. Lottie is a bit of a live wire in the bath and because she is so confident, she throws herself around in the bath and even goes right under the water (we really have to keep a keen eye on her!); there is not much water left when it is time for them to get out.

Saturday 9 November 2013

HOPE - James - Hand Foot and Mouth Experience


Saturday 5th of October 2013

We woke up all smiling and went to the library as we normally do and in the evening we went to my sisters birthday party. James started coughing a lot and we put this down to the cats in the house and a possible allergy. When we got home we gave him some paracetamol as he was feeling quite warm.

Sunday 6th of October

At 2am I woke up to the sound of a choking cough from James I immediately rang into his room and picked him up to comfort him and gave him a drink of milk to settle him down. I asked hubby to raise his cot as we normally have to do with any coughs or colds and put a calpol vapour plug in his room whilst I settled him to sleep. Throughout the day his nose was running and coughing fits were occurring plus his cheeks were red and my first thought was this is a teething cold as for every tooth we have had a cold has occurred.

Monday 7th of October

James was coughing most of the night so I called our GP surgery to get an appointment we were seen almost within the hour. The doctor ruled out a chest infection as his chest was clear but prescribed an inhaler for the cough and to give paracetamol when necessary.

Tuesday 8th of October.

The coughing seemed to have subsided after using the inhaler so I decided we would go to our usual playgroup so James could see his friends. On returning from playgroup I was changing his nappy and noticed a rash on his bottom and legs. I immediately did the meningitis check and called the GP surgery who insisted he got seen as an emergency by the nurse practitioner. On arrival at the surgery the nurse who I don't particularly get on with due to the lack of patient social skills said he was fine it's just a virus and was quite dismissive of my concerns. Bath time was full of tears which is unlike him.

Wednesday 9th of October

Throughout the night it was like having a newborn all over again we were up every hour and as soon as James settled to sleep he would wake up again sobbing which is totally out of character for him as he loves his bed. I decided I wasn't going to take him to playgroups and keep him in although I ended up having to strap him in the car and go for a drive as he wasn't settling with calpol, milk or Mr Tumble and I knew he needed sleep. It was only when I parked up at my hubby's place of work for a toilet visit as I had got him to sleep and dare not move him out of the car, that I noticed spots appearing on his hands and the coughing had turned worse again. I took the motherly instinct and went straight to the surgery and demanded to see my GP who kindly fitted us in and diagnosed James with having Hand Foot and Mouth and recommended using calpol and ibuprofen until the weekend to provide some comfort to the symptoms.

Thursday 10th of October

Another sleepless night all round lucky if it was 30 mins at a time. Wasn't interested in eating very much so just kept him hydrated with milk and yoghurts. James tried walking and was screaming with every step it was like watching someone doing fire walking. I checked his feet to find huge blisters covering his toes and ankles. I spent most of the morning having to carry him around to console him and I knew he was so tired but every time he laid in his cot he would start coughing and crying. The doctor did inform me that because he was teething at the same time he would produce more saliva as the body produces more with mouth ulcers and this was causing the coughing to occur. I had no other option but to put him in the car and I drove for almost 2 hours thankfully he had some sleep I wasn't too bothered out sleeping myself as I think as a parent you have some kind of energy reserve that kicks in when your child is ill.

Friday 11th of October

Another night of no sleep we took it in turns to sit up with James we even played Mickey Mouse on the iPad at 2am just to keep his mind off any discomfort he was having. On Friday afternoon I decided to go to the supermarket just for a change of scenery for him as he had seen no one for days and he doesn't like being cooped up in the house for too long. Is spoke to the pharmacist about him not eating and she recommended I bought some stage 1 weaning food as his throat would be sore and he would be unable to chew with the ulcers without being in pain. I also had the chance to speak to my cousin who is a nurse and delved into the experience so far of him not eating or sleeping very well. The suggestion that my cousin had was to use calamine lotion in the bath and calamine cream after his bath and no sleeping bag in his cot. I decided to give this a go even though that pharmacist thought I was nuts asking for calamine lotion to go in the bath. Bath time came and calamine lotion was used the crying in the bath stopped and he was happy splashing away. I applied calamine cream liberally all over his feet but not his hands as he has a habit of putting everything in his mouth. Bedtime came and I placed him in his cot with a light blanket and read a story and went to bed myself at 7pm not knowing what the night would hold, the next thing I knew it was 6am and my baby had slept through without the need for calpol or ibuprofen. We also had another tooth.

I decided to wait until Wednesday 16th October before taking James to any playgroups as I was informed once the blisters start to scab over he would no longer be contagious.

I must say that the Hand Foot and Mouth virus is horrid and painful to watch your child suffer, however if your child does catch it I recommend the following.
  • Plenty of cuddles
  • Calpol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Calpol plug in vaporiser
  • Calamine lotion
  • Calamine cream
  • No sleeping bags or socks
  • Cooling head strips
  • Dentinox
  • Stage 1 purees
  • Ice cream
Plenty of coffee for the parents as well as chocolate boosts too.


If you have a story you would like to share; that could help others please do get in touch. I welcome any subject and if required I am happy to post anonymous.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

A World Wide Film Premier at the National Space Centre!

Hello, Phil here; Kimberley has asked me to write this post as apparently it is a "boy" topic, and as I am "Geek", I am the best person for the job!

No we have that out of the way, this weekend, we were very kindly invited to a blogger event at the National Space Centre here in Leicester, for the World Wide Premier of "Back to the Moon for Good", a brand new planetarium film that, over the next year or so, will be shown in planetariums all over the world.

The national space centre was opened in 2001 and welcomes around a quarter of a million visitors per year from all over the world. It is only a few miles from our home, but although I drive by it most days, we have never visited. It has been something that I have wanted to do for years, so I was very excited when Kimberley told me about the invite.

We arrived at around 11:30am, having missed the blogger breakfast because Ruby had a ballet exam in the morning (I'm sure Kimberley will blog about this soon). On arrival we were presented with some VIP badges to wear, and the girls were given a cuddly space toy each, which was a really nice touch and immediately sparked Ruby's interest in all things space.

In the main entrance is a space rocket that spans practically the whole height of the huge building that dominates the Leicester skyline, it really is a sight to behold!

The centre hosts a large number of exhibits, some of which are relics from our planet's history of space travel, and others are interactive games and experiments which are a fantastic way of helping children and adults to understand space travel and the science that has made it happen.

I found all of the exhibits fascinating, especially a replica of the Columbus Module from the International Space Station.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the space centre before heading to one of the conference rooms for a bloggers lunch. The lunch was spectacular, and catered perfectly to both adults and children! It was great fun chatting with all of the other bloggers, and Ruby loved playing with all of the children. After lunch, and in preparation for the film premier, we were invited to sample a large range of  "Gourmet Popcorn", including flavors such as Strawberry Cheesecake and Curry, amongst others. I thought this was a really nice touch and prepared us well for the film.

By this time, a fairly large queue had formed for the planetarium. Much to the annoyance of most of the people in the queue, the side doors to the planetarium were opened and our "VIP" status for the day meant that we were ushered in ahead of the general public.

We were there to see the world wide premier of a specially designed planetarium film called "Back to the Moon for Good!". As I discovered, the planetarium, which is effectively a big dome shaped room, differs from a regular cinema in that the film projection spans across all of the walls and ceiling, making you feel that you are part of the action. The sheer scale of the film was nothing less than impressive, and the excellent sound quality added to the atmosphere. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to develop a film that spans an entire dome shaped room in perfect proportions, with a seamless mix of computer generated imagary and real life documentary. I would have to say that this is by far the best and most technically impressive cinematic experience that I have ever encountered.

The film which is narrated by Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear) is a 24 minute documentary that briefly looks at the first era of space exploration, before introducing teams from around the world who are taking part in the Google Lunar X Prize competition. Finally, the film explores how advances in technology and knowledge may shape the future of the moon.

The goal behind the Google Lunar X Prize is to encourage private teams to compete in a race to successfully land a vehicle on the moon, have it travel 500 meters, and send two "moon casts" back to earth. The winner will not only scoop up the $30 million prize, but will be the first people to successfully land a craft on the moon since 1973.

After the planetarium film, we were invited back to the conference room for a Q & A with the film makers and some representatives from X Prize Foundation, who are in charge of running and judging the competition. It is quite apparent that this challenge is a labor of love for the teams, as the $30 million is unlikely to cover the costs. Many of the teams will not make it, but come quarter 3 2015, we should be witnessing the first lunar broadcast in over forty years!

Once the Q & A had concluded, it was time to leave. Ruby really did not want to go home as she was having a such a fun time. I think it is fair to say that we all had a fantastic day out. I would not hesitate to recommend the space centre to anyone.

For a family two adults and two children, entry and parking costs between £28 and £50, depending on the age of the children, which is a little expensive for my liking; the ticket is however is valid for 318 days. For more information, checkout the National Space Centre's website.

Ruby + Lottie Rating:  8/10

Disclaimer: we were kindly invited to attend the blogger event at the expense of the National Space Centre, however all opinions are our own.