Saturday, 28 February 2015

My Sunday Photo


This is my first sunday photo featuring myself and not taken by me. My sister snapped this while we were  having a quick rest from exploring Mount Edgcumbe country house in Cornwall. It is my all time favourite place to come for a long walk. I have so many childhood memories here. With me is my sister's amazing cockapoo, Teddy. 

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Photos from my afternoon walk around Mount Edgcumbe, Cornwall

Hello

On Friday, before picking our children up from school, my sister and I decided to go for lunch and a walk around Mount Edgcumbe country park. My beautiful nephew who is eight weeks old came along too but as you can see from the photos, he spent the entire afternoon fast asleep. 

Mount Edgcumbe country park and house is situated on the Rame peninsula overlooking the Plymouth sound. The house is no longer habitated by its previous owner the Earl of Edgcumbe and is now run by both Cornwall council and Plymouth council. Visitors come here to explore the breathtaking grade 1, 865 acre gardens, woodlands and beaches which are free to visit all year round. 


The main reason for our visit today was to grab a spot of pub lunch from the cosy Edgcumbe arms. It is one of the best pubs around our area with its large open fireplace, amazing roast dinners and comfy seating areas with a view out to the river Tamar. It was very chilly today so we loved the fact that the popular table next to the fire was free. We really enjoyed the heat, especially the dog. 




My sister and I went a little crazy with the carvery so we definitely needed to go and explore the gardens to work off our lunch. 



We decided we needed to walk the whole of the country park and also to give my sister's cockapoo, Teddy a good run as he had spent the morning locked in the house. The weather was chilly but beautiful today, the spring sunshine was definitely here. The flowers were blooming and there was lots of people out walking too. 







One of my favourite features of Mount Edgcumbe is the large duck pond located in the centre of the park. The ducks here are very tame and will run towards you hoping for a piece of bread. They seemed hungrier than normal today as when we approached the pond, they all rushed/swam over. We felt very bad that we didn't have any food on us, I think a few of them followed us as we walked past, still hoping for bread. I'm sure they will get plenty of food at the weekend when the children are all here playing with them. 







The house sits at the top of the country park looking over its formal gardens and an impressive view of Plymouth. It was built in 1553 by Sir Richard Edgcumbe but was gutted during World war II in 1941. They restored the house but decided to sell it to the council who now run the estate and gardens for public use. It is a very impressive building and I love walking around the house when it is open to the public in the summer months. 



The photo above was taken from the main entrance of the house. In the distance is the Tamar river and Plymouth. I love where I live as I have a mixture of busy, crazy city life and these beautiful quiet country spots to explore. Overall, we, including sleeping baby, had a lovely day out in the fresh air. If you are ever visiting the area, Mount Edgcumbe is one for your to do list. It is very accessible from Plymouth as there is a regular ferry service in place. 

Gem x


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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Through my child's eyes. day 1

Hello

Welcome to week one of 'Through my child's eyes'! I wanted to start this link up as my children have started to show an interest in photography and have asked me if they could write on my blog and include some of their photos. I think this is a great idea and love that they want to be involved in their mummy's hobby. I wanted to see if other bloggers love to get their children involved with their blog too so I created 'Through my child's eyes' The Linky will run from thursday and will finish on the Wednesday after. Please link up any posts your child has written, pictures they have drawn, any photos they have taken, or anything else you can think of that your children can submit. For my entries, I will only be posting their photos to start with as they are still a little bit young to be writing on here. 






The linky
  • Please add my badge to your posts 
  • Link up your children's photos, with or without words is fine
  • It will run from Thursday 12am till Wednesday
  • Can be old or new and as many as you like
  • When you add your link, please make sure they lead to your posts and not your blog's homepage. It may be difficult for me to find. 
  • Share your link up on twitter using #throughmychildeyes and tag me @gemma_stevens so I know to retweet and comment on your post. 
  • Try and comment on other posts in the link up. 
  • Feel free to link your Instagram photos too
  • Enjoy working together

Alfie's Photo


Alfie chose to photograph his new lego ninjago set he received over the weekend. We had a pyjama day on sunday due to the awful weather so he quite happily sat for four hours building his dragon. He was so proud of himself that he wanted to take a few photos to show his friends at school. 


Now it's your turn. 

I look forward to seeing the photos your children have taken recently or if your child is too young to hold a camera, be creative and maybe take a photo from their eye levels, from their prams for example. Please help me make #throughmychildseyes a success by sharing the link up across your social media and by adding my badge to your posts. 

Through my child's eyes

Thank you so much for stopping by. 

gem x 





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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Why I don't regret having children.


Growing up, I always told myself I wasn't going to get married and have children. Witnessing my parents break up scarred me to the point I didn't believe in love or that I could ever have a happy family. I was quite happy to concentrate on getting a career, my cottage by the sea, a few dogs and a nice car ending with my happy ever after, alone. My dreams started well. I somehow managed to get into the Royal air force, pass out of training and land myself a great job in the beautiful Lincolnshire. I was on top of the world and with so many close friends. I was really enjoying life and experiencing so much that my friends back home would never have the opportunity to witness. However, It was only two years into my first posting that my world changed. I met a guy who was quite persistent and wouldn't take no for an answer. There was numerous times I told him I was not interest in a relationship with him but I was young and weak to the point I gave in too easily. He moved himself in and soon enough I was pregnant with Alfie. I will be honest and say I really wish, knowing what I know now, I didn't give in to him but Alfie is a beautiful gift and I definitely don't regret him. I managed to continue in my role in the air force as they have a pretty decent childcare centre on base but it wasn't long till Tom was born and I had to reconsider if I could carry on in the military. I separated from their dad when Tom was born due to reasons I can't explain on here so I ended up a single mother working full time in the Royal air force. The military expect you to go overseas at a drop of a hat which definitely was impossible for me to do especially as my family couldn't take in my children for 6 months at a time. It would be unfair. Besides, the childcare fees were so expensive that I was literally working to pay them. What was the point? I couldn't afford childcare and I was letting my bosses down at work because I couldn't do what they expected of me with two young children. I handed in my notice and uniform, left all my friends and moved back home to a place where I would have to start my life all over again. Some would say having children ruined my life/career. That isn't how I feel, having children is the greatest gift I have ever received. 



On to my list: Even though I never expected to have children, I have gained so much from having them.  I wanted to write down the reasons why I could never regret bringing my boys into the world. 

1.  Love

You never know true feelings of love until you become a parent. I have been in love with a man which was strong but came after a long friendship. With children, it is instant. You may argue this as some of my friends would who claim to have experienced 'love at first sight'. Maybe it exists, maybe love towards a partner is a completely different type of love to that towards your child. There is something more magical about the love you feel for your children though. That first you hold them time when the midwife throws them onto your chest and they slowly look up and stare into your eyes. From that moment, I vowed to do anything to protect them and to do my best to give them the happy life they deserved. 

2. Growing up fast 

When I had the boys, I changed in many ways. I suddenly had two humans to keep clean, fed and more importantly alive. I could barely manage to look after myself in my single days, relying on my dad to bail me out of many situations. I used to go out every single night without fail, shop every saturday, spend weekends away with friends, and embarrassingly take washing home to dad. Also, I didn't think so then, but I was an extremely selfish person. It's strange when your children are born. I instantly changed into this mature selfless person who managed to cook something other than beans, work a washing machine, and could make bottles one handed while half asleep. Presently, I am learning that my kids are observing my every move. They look up to me so its important I set a good example to them by keeping up with my maturity and setting them on the right path in life. 

3. The joy and happiness they bring into my life

Kids do the strangest things and I never thought I could be so entertained by their silly ways. In my boys case, it's running around the living room laughing at the same joke for an hour. Any other person would be irritated by this but their giggles brings me so much happiness. Also, Thomas and Alfie have begun to show an interest in dancing and singing but they choose the cheesiest of songs, like Meghan Trainor's All about that bass. I could watch them for hours break dancing on the floor and jumping about. I especially find it hilarious when they start dancing to supermarket music. Kids don't care what people think of them which I really admire. My most favourite form of entertainment is not the television, it's not my laptop or my phone, it's watching my children learn, grow and use their imaginations. They are amazing little people and I am so grateful for them. I can never say I am lonely with these two around. 

4. The busy lifestyle 

Having young children is hard. There is rarely a moment that I have time to myself to just sit quietly with my thoughts. I work while they are at school and when we are home there is always washing to be done, toys to be put away, clubs to attend, cooking, homework and so on. Life with two boys is hectic but I love it. I hate being bored and I don't like to be alone with my thoughts so I am so grateful to lead the life I do. I have suffered with depression since I was 13 so I need to keep as busy as possible. If it wasn't for my children, I'm pretty sure the depression would have won. They make me happy and are the best distraction from the negative thoughts I might be experiencing. 

5. Having a mini you. 

Your children look like you, say the same phrases, copy your actions and share your same likes/dislikes. I find the way my boys mimic their father fascinating. When they return from spending time with him, its like they stole his soul or something. I cant quite put my finger on it. They stand like him and repeat his catch phases, probably without noticing what they are doing. The children have my looks but share their fathers personalties so they are a mini me of both of us. I think it is a beautiful thought that when we die, we will still have a piece of ourselves left on earth within our children, our grandchildren and so on. 


In my teen years I was convinced I was never going to be maternal and settle down. I actually avoided most occasions where I would be forced to be around children. I never expected or dreamed I would ever be in the situation I am in now but no one can predict their lives right? I don't regret my children, they are my best friends and my greatest achievement in life. I have never felt so much love for another living creature which I think only a parent could understand. 

Gem x
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Monday, 23 February 2015

8/52: Our weekend back together

 Saturday

Saturday was the day I could travel up to Bristol to get my boys back. I know it was only a short week but I still found it very hard to be separated from them. They are my best friends and I always miss them so much when they are away. I travelled up on the 11:25 train from Plymouth and met them at Bristol without any delays. I received the biggest hugs from the children when we saw each other. We were just so happy but oh course I had to reassure sure the boys that it wouldn't be long till they could see their father again. It does break my heart that we live so far from him. On the way home we chatted about our weeks and caught up over a hot chocolate, it was lovely. When we finally arrived home, I told the children to run upstairs to their bedrooms. At first they thought they were in trouble but I had laid out a little surprise for them. I had spent the week they were away completely rearranging and cleaning their bedroom. I hung Lego posters, brought them new bedding, cleared a space where they could read and spoilt them with a little present. Alfie got the Lego set he had been desperate for and Tom had a talking Baymax from big hero 6 sat on his pillow. They were so excited. 








 Sunday


Our Sunday was ruined by the rain but it worked out OK and we actually had a pretty fun day. We had planned a long Sunday walk around the local national trust property but the rain was coming down hard. We decided to stay in our pyjamas and relax, ready for the children to go back to school on Monday. The day was mainly spent watching Iron man, superman and the Lego movie under blankets. The children also planted a few seeds for our little greenhouse and watered their sunflowers we are currently growing. Over all, a lovely relaxed day. 


Living Arrows
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Sunday, 22 February 2015

#MySundayPhoto



- Cap'n Jaspers. The best place to grab a burger in Plymouth even if it does give you a heart attack from the fat content. 
OneDad3Girls
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Thursday, 19 February 2015

How I helped my children cope with their parents separation.


If you have been following my twitter and my previous living arrows post, you will know that my children are currently away spending time with their father. I wanted to write a long blog post on how I cope with being separated from them every school holiday but couldn't quite find the words and also I decided I was being selfish. It's not about me, its about them needing time with their dad and their dad needing time with his children. It breaks my heart that my children do not have a normal family with both parents living together like I did up to the age of 12 and also having their dad living so far away must be hard for them. I don't want to bad mouth their father or go into the reasons we broke up but it definitely was not a happy environment for the children to grow up in when we were together. This is a far better option for everyone. We still do not get on as there is always a new dispute to solve. When we argue, it can be frustrating and painful but I have to ensure the children cannot hear and are not aware of these fights happening. To them, their parents are the best of friends. The fact that their family is broken must be very hard in itself so there is no need for the added stress of their parents fighting. I am very aware though that we are not the only broken family in the world, in fact it's extremely common these days with 42% of marriages in England and wales ending in divorce. I luckily never married my children's father but that doesn't mean my children don't suffer the same hardships as those whose parents were married.




I wanted to share some tips on helping your children cope with their parents divorce/separation that I have picked up along the way.

1. Keep your children informed of whats happening
It is OK if you keep certain things about your break up a secret from your children but they do need to know the basics especially if it effects their future. They need to know what will happen next for example, who they will live with and when they will see their other parent. Also if they will remain in their current house or school. 

2. Don't criticise or fight with your ex in front of your child
I am guilty of calling my ex names in front of my children, calling him useless and unworthy of his 'dad' title but I have realised now that I was completely in the wrong for saying this to my children. I have had to explain to them many times that sometimes people say hurtful things when they are upset. I have learnt better ways to communicate my feelings by discussing them with my ex instead of my children. It is not helpful/fair to bring them into arguments or adult discussions. 

3. Respect the relationship they have with the other parent
The children see their dad as 'superman' and have always looked up to him as a role model. He cannot do anything wrong in their eyes. Even though I see and know different, it is not my place to ruin things for them. I want them to make their own minds up about him and to love their dad no matter what, family is important. Also, I want them to be able to spend time with their father without feeling guilty of upsetting me. I hate them leaving me but I never show the way I feel, I am friendly to their father and  I always smile when waving them off. 

4. Create a plan
Children need routine to feel safe so create a plan that they will understand of what will happen in the future and keep to it. I did this a few years ago and it has been a big help. My ex partner and I both have a copy and have signed it with a promise not to break the rules set in place. It sets out when he sees the children, when he can phone, and an agreement to take turns to have the children for Christmas day. There are other rules too which I cannot discuss but it's really helped the children to know what is happening and what to expect.

5. Respect that your ex may discipline your children differently
I sometimes feel anxious about what my boys are allowed to do when they are with my ex. They come home from his house sometimes completely off the rails. I stay calm though as it does not take them long to adjust back to how I expect them to behave. I have discussed with their father my concerns over how they are disciplined but I have now decided to back off to allow him to be a father. The boys do not see him or their grandparents very often so they are going to get a little spoilt. Its nice for them to let themselves go a little I guess, especially if its during the school holidays.

6. Reassurance
My children have never said this but after talking to another parent I thought I would include it in my list. My friend said that her children blamed themselves for their parents divorce. When my parents separated, I too felt like this. Me and my sister were typical teenagers who went of the rails a little so caused many arguments between the family. I thought the stress from our teenage rebellions was the reason my mum left but it wasn't, she just wasn't happy. Kids tend to be 'egocentric' and believe that their behaviour or thoughts cause bad events. They need to know that the adults have made this decision based on their relationship and it has nothing to do with them.

7. Patience
When a family is in the process of braking up, children can begin to act up. It is not uncommon for children to wet their bed, or refuse to listen. Give them extra time, your support and open communication. My youngest was only 6 months when his parents separated so wasn't affected but Alfie was. He started biting and hitting other children at nursery. I was constantly being called in for parent meetings to discuss his change of behaviour. Luckily the nursery was very understanding of our situation and offered to help me support Alfie. Over time Alfie's behaviour improved as he adapted to the changes in his life.


Divorce/separation is hard on everyone. If children continue to feel loved by both of their parents and their parents continue to work to create a stable calm environment for their children, children can emerge from the situation unscathed.


Gem x


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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Happy Pancake day // Shrove Tuesday

Hello

Happy Shrove Tuesday/Pancake day!! We love this time of the year even though we do tend to eat  pancakes most sundays. They have to be one of my favourite breakfast meals or a yummy dessert treat. They are so simple to make!


The children are aware of the true meaning of pancake day but I admit, since moving to Plymouth, we have failed to carry out any church services especially on important occasions like today. Last year when we did go to church, we enjoyed celebrating and learning the true meaning of Shrove Tuesday which I feel is important. Many people just think it is a day dreamt up my the supermarkets to sell more eggs and flour. Shrove Tuesday is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent. It is traditionally the day we feast on richer, fatty foods before the ritual of fasting the day after. Here in the UK we traditionally feast on pancakes, whereas other countries will be seen taking part in Mardi Gras, the french term for Fat Tuesday. 

Why do we eat pancakes? Lent is a time of abstinence, of giving things up. So Shrove Tuesday is the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that we aren't allowed to eat during lent. Pancakes are eaten on this day because they contain fat, butter and eggs which are forbidden during lent. 

Here is the recipe we use every year to make our pancakes: 


American breakfast pancakes:



This recipe is extremely popular in my household because they are so thick and spongy. They go really well with syrup or just simple lemon and sugar. For breakfast, try adding some bacon, mushrooms and scrambled egg. For desert, we let the children cover their pancakes in icing sugar and their favourite sweets.

Ingredients: 

  • 225 gram(s) plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon(s) baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon(s) white sugar
  • 2 large egg(s) (beaten)
  • 30 gram(s) butter (melted and cooled)
  • 300 ml milk

Method
  1. The easiest way to make these is to put all the ingredients into a blender and blitz. But if you do mix up the batter by hand in a bowl, make a well in the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, beat in the eggs, melted butter and milk, and transfer to a jug: it's much easier to pour the batter into the pan than to spoon it.
  2. Heat a smooth griddle or pan on the stove.
  3. When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when the upper side of the pancake is blistering and bubbling it's time to cook the second side, and this needs only about 1 minute, if that.
  4. Serve.

I managed to make about 12 thick pancakes altogether out of this recipe and added a few added extras for people to choose from such as lemon and sugar, syrup, fruit, cream and my favourite, chocolate sauce. 

This is what they are supposed to look like but mine are not as pretty as this image from taste.com

Hope you all have a lovely day. Are you giving anything up for lent this year?

Gem x
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Monday, 16 February 2015

7/52: Saying goodbye

Hello,

This weekend I had to do something I really dread. My children's father and I have a court agreement over custody of the boys which states that he will get them for every school holiday. We live on opposite sides of the country, Plymouth and Lincolnshire, so its impossible for him to have them at weekends due to distance and costs. I should be use to sending them off by now but it's still very difficult for me. They are my best buddies and it pains me to sit in a quiet house with no laughter and cuddles. 

On the Saturday morning they were due to leave, we woke up early to have breakfast together and have one last chat. I had a big surprise for the boys which I was trying so hard to keep to myself until we got to the train station. Thomas and Alfie are massive fans of trains but the last time we made the journey to meet their dad, we were forced to sit on the floor in an over crowded train carriage with ridiculously high air conditioning. It wasn't pleasant. So today to avoid this happening again, I had planned ahead and found a really good deal on a first class table. When the boys found out we were sitting in the posh seats, they were very excited. 

 Here are some of the photos I took of the boys during our journey on saturday morning:


sleeping child

We had a lovely time sitting in first class especially as there was no other passengers in our carriage so we could chat and laugh without worrying about upsetting the other travellers. Alfie spent the entire time on his Ps Vita building his mine craft castle while Tom and I had a little picnic with quavers while castle spotting out the window. There are a few along the West country mainline but unfortunately the train was moving too fast to take any photos. It would be amazing if I could tell the train manager to stop the train so I can snap away but that would just be silly. When we arrived at the station, their dad was waiting and the boys were gone. They were so excited, it's been two months since they saw him last. They gave me a quick hug and a kiss and jumped into their dads car. I put on a brave face for them but inside the anxiety was taking over. Their dads car isn't the safest car in the world and with the amount of accidents on the motorways these days I worry so much about them. They arrived at his house safe and sound so all is well thank goodness. 


Gem x

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

#mysundayphoto // The black and white photo project


This is one of my favourite statues in Plymouth. It is the god of the sea, Neptune riding his sea horses. It stands on the entrance to the Plymouth Hoe naval memorial. 



 photo 4d06e438-4e6a-4f3b-88b2-0c1093350397_zps361ad0e9.jpg OneDad3Girls


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Friday, 13 February 2015

My top tips to ease night terrors

Hello,

I have been wanting to write this post for a long time now, mainly to see if anyone else suffers from this problem and also to help those who do. I have been a long term sufferer of night terrors and it seems that I have now passed it down to my youngest son who struggles to sleep every night. 

Image: Laure Fauvel
It usually starts around midnight when I am awoken by Thomas screaming my name or he is stood at the end of my bed crying. Sometimes they can happen after only half an hour of being asleep so he will come and join me down stairs for a bit of Disney to clear away the bad memories of the dream. At first I was hoping these were just one off nightmares caused by watching a film that may have frightened him a little such as Iron man or his favourite Superman. I don't let him watch films that I deem unsuitable, only 12A and below are allowed but I was questioning whether to let him watch his superhero films as the baddies may be a little scary for a six year old. However, even after the DVDs were hidden away, the nightmares were still increasing. After some advice from the doctor it turns out these are not night mares but night terrors. Whats the difference? Nightmares are upsetting dreams that happen during REM (dream) sleep. Night terrors occur during your deepest period of sleep. In other words, during a night terror, the person is actually asleep according to his brain even if the eyes are still open. Most people have no recollection of them. Sometimes Tom's night terrors are so bad that I have found him in bed still asleep but shouting 'help me' while punching at the air. I grabbed him to wake him up in fear he may hurt himself but I have since learnt that you shouldn't wake them. Apparently this is because they will be afraid to fall back to sleep and if they do manage to, they may slip back into the same state. 

Along the way, I have picked up a few helpful tips for handling your child's night terrors which I wanted to share with you:

1. Keep Calm
Your child will more than likely have no recollection of their night terror therefore they will not be traumatised. Of course, as parents, we want to comfort our child and keep them safe so the best way to do this is to not wake the child but repeat 'Mummy/daddy is here' in a peaceful way. If they are awake after wards, a soothing hug, kiss and reassurance is best. 

2. Try to minimise day to day stresses
Childhood stresses can be caused by any situation that requires the child to adapt or change. Anxiety can be the main cause of night terrors. Try and hold off from starting new activities such as toilet training or clubs. Tom became stressed at the thought of starting swimming lessons so we have decided to hold him back until he is ready. Children can also become stressed at situations they see as negative changes like a new school, house move, family separation, illness or a loss of a family member. Also, in day to day life, use 'positive discipline' instead of exposing them to yelling, timeouts or other stressful discipline. 

3. Make sure they get enough sleep
I have found that keeping to a regular/comforting bedtime routine can help to calm the terrors. If my son goes to bed too late he will be over tired which will make him more susceptible to them. Also I like to include a warm bath, bedtime stories and hugs to create a calming environment. Try not to get the child 'wound up' as I put it. Prevent things that may get your child over excited/hyper which could be music, TV, tickling, loudness, or musical toys. 

4. Minimise noises in the home that may wake your child
Night terrors can occur if your child is awakened during deep sleep. Things that could wake them  include outside noises from the street (we have a busy road outside our home), TV set too loud, heading upstairs a little heavy footed, toilet flushes, showers, talking near their bedroom etc. A white noise machine has been proven to help with sleep, I am definitely thinking of investing in one. 

5. Keep your child cool
I found that night terrors are worse in the spring/summer months, especially as tom likes to cover himself in teddies and blankets. I have also stopped buying footed onsies which caused him to over heat a little. A fan in the bed room also helped. 

6. Be aware that colds/tonsillitis could be a trigger
If your child is feeling the effects of winter, they could be coughing and finding breathing difficult. Illness causes broken sleep hence the increased risk of a terror. 

7. Wake your child 15 minutes before
I hate to wake my son but I was told it could help him if I wake him fifteen minutes before the terrors usually occur. It will hopefully interrupt the cycle especially if they are very regular. 

8. Do not talk about their episode the next day
 It is very unlikely they will remember their terrors. If you talk about them, it could make them too nervous/scared to fall asleep. 


I am still waiting for Tom to outgrow his terrors but they are not as regular as they once were. We have gone from every night to twice sometimes three times a week which is good going in my opinion. Has your child experienced night terrors? Can you add any other helpful tips? 

Gem x


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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Wicked Wednesdays // Comic Relief funny faces


- Alfie loves his new nose. 

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