Christmas memories: week 2

This week, we’ve been ramping up the Christmas fun. In week 1, we chose a gorgeous tree and posted our letter to Father Christmas. This week was even more magical.

Christmas has so far really boosted my mood. There’s so much to do and experience as a family at Christmas – a guaranteed way to enhance feelings of wellbeing.

Here’s what we’ve been doing this week:

Enjoyed Snow White at The Forum in Wythenshawe (“He’s behind you!”)…

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…visited Selfridges Ice Rink at Intu Trafford Centre

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…met Peppa Pig while we were there (“It’s Peppa, Daddy!”)…

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…threw pennies into a fountain and wished for our most longed for presents at Christmas…

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…saw Father Christmas at the Christmas Fair at St James Church in Didsbury.

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Looking forward to week 3!


Skating fun at Selfridges ice rink

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Today, the EC family took themselves to the new covered
Selfridges Ice Rink at the Trafford Centre, with the promise of a Peppa Pig appearance, hot coffee and a Krispy Kreme doughnut to brighten up a Sunday morning.

Now that’s an enticing offer!

I think the last time I ice-skated was something like 1990?! I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially for three year old who was desperate to get on the ice.

I was impressed that Selfridges had managed to get this up and running so promptly. It’s been open since mid-November and will stay open until January 5th.

It’s essentially a huge tent with an ice-rink just outside the main Selfridges entrance, decorated beautifully with Christmas lights and trees. There’s a coffee and doughnut station with comfy seating which is perfect for family members who want to relax and view the ice-skating hilarity (Mr EC, who would allow no skates near his person, and one year old took advantage of this).

There were quite a few children there this morning, so I think the staff were struggling for children’s boots at one point, but essentially the set up was simple.

Get your skates (and a seal-shaped skating aid for three year old) and you’re off!

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Now the question is, who enjoyed it most? I was taken straight back to childhood days and loved every second! I had a little surreptitious ‘turn’ around the rink initially on my tod, desperately holding onto the side, but once I found my feet I was practically Jane Torvill (really).

The seal-shaped aid was perfect for three year old. She had some little skates on too for safety reasons, so she felt that she was skating and also had the thrill of being pushed by me.

There was a safety marshall on the ice at all times to look out for us (though I think he was really a Dancing on Ice scout who’ll be contacting me in the morning).

After a good half hour on the ice three year old announced she wanted to see Peppa Pig…

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…and she also got treated to a pink fluffy doughnut (whilst I had that much-needed coffee, as I’m sure all professional ice skaters do after an extensive practice session).

At that point, Father Christmas arrived!

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Both girls got their turn with him, and told him what they want for Christmas (a Peppa Pig set was a new one on me – any ideas?!).

I think this is a great activity for the family at Christmas. Prices range from £5-£7 for children and £7-£9 for adults depending on the day of the week, which I’m happy to pay for such fun in a great, safe environment. It’s not great for prams – but next time I’d leave it in the car as the car park is right next to the rink so we could carry one year old.

Can’t wait to go back!

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the rink today, but was under no oigation to write this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Forget-me-not-Friday #31

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…in which my three year old exercises her excellence in retail expertise, whilst playing at ‘shops’ in the park.

Three year old, pretending she’s behind the counter in a cafe, a favourite pastime: “Mummy I’m in the shop. What do you want?”

Me: “Erm, can I have a sausage and egg sandwich?”

Three year old: “No. You can only have chips”.

Me, stifling laughter and trying not to think about how Daddy would react if this was a real life situation: “Oh. I’ll have some chips then, please! How much is that?”

a Three year old: “Five pounds”.

Me: “Five pounds?! That’s very expensive”.

Three year old: “And five more pounds for a cake”.

Me: “Oh good, I’ll have three cakes, then!”

Headband craft with Cass Art

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I have two daughters who both love generally messing with and putting things in their hair. Even the one year old regularly finds bobbles, slides and headbands and spends a good ten minutes trying, as yet in effectively, to get them in her hair presumably to look like their hero, Angelina Ballerina.

Three year old is a step or two ahead, of course, demanding plaits on a frequent basis, pretty hair slides or headbands.

When I was sent a beautiful headband making kit from Cass Art, I did try and initially hide it, thinking it would be a good activity for a rainy day.

Oh no. Three year old, who had got wise to the fact that I try and hide things in my wardrobe (to do: find new hidey hole) was onto me.

So we got on with trying it out one morning after breakfast (I just about managed to get her dressed beforehand).

Cass Art are a relatively new company who are aiming to encourage kids to get creative from a young age. They have a range of arts and crafts products for both adults and children, including our Creativity for Kids Fashion Headbands.

I had a quick look at their website before writing this and found they have a whole range of Christmas gift ideas on there starting at £10. Worth a look for those who enjoy doing crafts with their families!

Onto our crafty activity…

The kit itself contained a range of headbands of different colours, a selection of ribbons, feathers, flowers a and other decorations, alongside glue and fixings. I felt the quality of the kit was really impressive. Often craft kits for children contain the cheapest materials – but everything here was high quality and substantial.

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I gave three year old a choice in how she would like her headband to look. We had a leaflet with some suggested designs – we could choose a ribbon and wind it round, or use it to fashion a bow. We could attach a flower, a feather, gems or a combination. Here she is pondering this carefully:

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So she decided she’d like to wrap some pink ribbon around the headband and add a pretty flower and a few gems.

This was the tricky bit- gluing the ribbon and flower onto the headband and, crucially, waiting for it to dry!

“Is it dry yet?!” “No!” “Is it dry yet?!” “NO!!”

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Eventually, of course, it was dry. And here’s the result:

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We enjoyed our headband making and will be making more using the kit. The kit is really for age five upwards – I can see that a five year old would be more patient about waiting for glue to dry – but my three year old enjoyed it and one year old did try her best to join in!

Visit Cass Art at www.cassart.co.uk for their range of products.

Cass Art also support the Lessons for Life Foundation (LFLF), a charity which aims to improve the lives of vulnerable children in Africa by providing access to education. They are collaborating with them to launch a new initiative which will inspire children here in the UK and those supported by the Foundation to enjoy art. Read more about the ‘Inspiring Art Education’ project, which will generate donations through the online sales of a colourful paint box, on their site.

Disclaimer: I received the product free of charge in return for writing this review. All opinions are my own.

Christmas memories: week 1

I may as well come out and say it – I love Christmas and it turns me into a big kid who jumps up and down a lot.

As I wrote in my post on writing a letter to Father Christmas, I want my children to find Christmas as magical as I do.

Here’s a brief pictorial on Christmas memories of the past week.

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Helping us choose a Christmas tree…

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…and placing the Angel on top.

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Marvelling at unicorns in grottos…

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…or camels?

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…and of course I couldn’t resist a photo of a trip to the local park, all wrapped up to protect from the cold.

Time for some Christmas cookie making next week…


Valuing digital literacy: Bullguard Identity and Social Media Protection

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Who’s afraid of Cybercrime? Who has started to worry about how/whether to monitor their children’s future (or current) use of social media?

Recently I was given the opportunity to trial Bullguard Identity and Social Media Protection. I was intrigued by it as rather than a piece of software to upload to a particular device or PC, it’s completely Internet based – you upload your details once, and your protection works across all devices you use. It sounded so simple to use that I was keen to try it out.

I was once a victim of internet fraud. I’ll never forget that moment when I printed a balance slip from the cash machine, wondering why it wouldn’t give me any cash, and found I’d been cleaned out – an odd withdrawal by some overseas firm of over £2,000. The bank were luckily already onto it and I got the money back, but some aren’t so lucky.

This was a case of ID theft which I believe is frighteningly easy to do. Ever since this incident, I’ve always had all manner of firewalls and PC based security software, but never something which monitors my details across all devices. And let’s face it – I’m sat using the iPad right now and my iPhone is like another limb. Here’s a brief  video on how it all works.

The software points you to their website, where you enter your license key and are presented with a simple dashboard. From here I entered my personal details such as bank card and account details, passport number, national insurance number, address and phone numbers. So far so good.

Onto the social media protection. We see so much in the news about bullying via social media – some horrendous stories which I can’t bring myself to dwell on further. Similarly, although again I don’t want to even think about it, we see media articles on youngsters who have been targeted by paedophiles, duping children into believing they’re a friend their own age.

According to research by Bullguard, one in five parents “have been ‘shocked’ by content they have discovered on their children’s email, text or Facebook account”.  Therefore they snoop – and here are the top ten ways in which they do it:

TOP 10 WAYS THAT PARENTS SNOOP

1.            Reading messages on social networking sites

2.            Checking their internet history

3.            Reading their text messages

4.            Monitoring their list of friends on social networking sites

5.            Checking their pictures on social networking sites

6.            Reading their emails

7.            Checking their call list

8.            Finding out their passwords

9.            Asking teachers to keep an eye on their internet use

10.          Getting a sibling to help to snoop

Wow! I really don’t want to be snooping on my children if I can help it!

Bullguard’s social media element allows you to enter your children’s Facebook account details (they have to accept, from within their account) and monitors interaction with your child.

To test this out, I entered my own Facebook details as my girls are yet too young to have a Facebook account.

This was the fun part of this product trial, as I can definitely tell you that it works! Not that my account is filled with inappropriate nonsense, but as I am an adult after all (really), there is the odd swear word thrown about, the odd meme on my timeline that’s not meant for children’s eyes, etc. I even posted a request for friends to send me an abusive message to see what happened (which some took a bit too seriously!).

The software flagged every single one. I received ‘high risk’ alerts to my email every time anything vaguely suspicious was detected, including one which suggested my friends use of the abbreviation ‘BFF’ was ‘sexting’ (I thought it meant best friends forever?! Am I being naive here?!).

Hilarity aside, the serious point here is that I felt I could use this software in future to help me monitor my children’s use of Facebook. What I would say is that I’m aware that children are using other social media platforms these days (bebo? Ask FM?) so it would be great if this software could be extended to cover these, and Twitter.

In addition to the daily (and many!) high risk alerts, I was sent a weekly report by Bullguard. This clearly set out high, medium and low alerts for my ID and social media. Luckily, to date I’ve had no risks to my ID – but at least I know this and can rest easy.

I think Bullguard is a great idea. It can only be a good thing to protect your ID and I haven’t seen anything else that monitors social media for suspicious activity. Of course, there’s a whole other debate about whether you should let children use social media at all.

I don’t think we can, or should stop them. Why interfere with their digital literacy because of bullies and criminals? Better to teach, supervise and get protected.

Visit Bullguard Identity and Social Media Protection if you wish to sign up to this or their varied range of products.

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge in return for writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own and my utter terror of ID theft means I would most likely have tried this product anyway.

Forget-me-not-Friday #30

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So last weekend saw a bit of drama in the EC household, with three year old being taken to A&E with breathing problems. Whilst this was an incredibly stressful event, my nerves in shreds, nails bitten to pieces, on pins all the time, three year old loved every minute of her hospital visit and used it to create much hilarity.

PS. It was a viral infection and she was out within a few hours and has made a full recovery.

Three year old, lying on a hospital bed, to the attending nurse who has just attached a feed to her finger to monitor her oxygen levels: “It’s beeping!”

Nurse: “Yes it’s to tell us that your cough is getting better.”

Three year old: “I like hospitals!”

Nurse: “Hospitals are good – it’s where we make people better. Are you going to be a doctor when you grow up?”

Three year old: “Yes – I told my Daddy. He sneezes a lot and Mummy says it’s too loud”.

Nurse, stifling laughter: “Oh well you’ll be able to make him better too”.

Three year old, to Nurse and I: “Can I stay here all night?”

Me: “Well we hope not, we want your cough to be better so you can come home!”

Three year old: “Well – if I’m really poorly though, I can stay, can’t I?”

Me, blind panic rising to surface: “Yes but we want you to be better and all go home!”

Three year old thinks about it.

Three year old: “But can I come back after ballet next week?”

:-/

Each Friday, I write a short post on the funny things my children say. It’s a great way for me to remember these precious moments. Feel free to link up, below – I’d love to read about the funny things your children say or do and will of course promote all your linked posts.

Why don’t I get ill at the same time as my children?

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Do you believe in mind over matter? That we can consciously or subconsciously stop our bodies from becoming ill?

Well, recently I’ve certainly thought there’s something funny going on.

Both of my daughters, aged three and one, are of course permanently snotty and most parents will be experiencing the same thing right now.

This weekend, things took a scary turn for the worse when we had to take three year old to our local a&e department with breathing problems. They were very thorough and it was a particularly bad viral infection (will somebody please find a cure for the common cold?! I’ve begged before!). One year old also started with it and both are currently on inhalers.

Of course during this bout of illness, they’ve needed me to be not only around more (I took a day off work) but too be well to look after them.

I’ve had a niggly sore throat throughout all this. But it’s never turned into anything- it’s just there.

It just struck me today – why am I not ill? It looks like I’ve caught something, with the sore throat, so why am I not carrying tissues around or coughing and spluttering?

Is my body fighting it off, because my mind subconsciously knows I have to keep well?

I have to say, to all you who are now thinking “well maybe she has a particularly good immune system” that this clearly is not the case. I’m the person who catches anything- I’m a total virus wimp. I had glandular fever recently so by rights my immune system should be a little down.

I was recently reading these articles on the topic of Mind over Matter. The articles discuss things like positive thinking, hypnosis, meditation and how these can have an effect on our overall health and ability to beat illness.

But I couldn’t find anything on ‘women don’t get ill at the same time as their children”.

What do you think? Does this happen to you? Is it just fluke or is my mind telling my body to hold off being ill?

Of course I’ll get a stinking cold at the weekend, when my girls are better and desperate to run around the park or some play centre! Wish me luck with that…