Review – Finding Dory Samsonite Luggage

If there’s one thing that Harry loves, it’s a bag. We have a whole collection of backpacks, shoulder bags, handbags and purses – some bought especially for the children and some simply pilfered from my wardrobe. We have had actual tears at night when I have told him to take off his backpack, or his “pack pack” as he calls it and it’s a daily struggle to wrestle his bag off him before he gets into his car seat! Everything that ever goes missing from our house can be found stuffed in a bag, hidden away where only he knows, with a whole array of household goods, stuffed toys and more often than not, the remote control and my mobile.

When we were approached to review the new Samsonite Finding Dory luggage collection, I knew that there was no better product for our very first review and no better critic than Harry. Not only does he love his bags, but he also loves Disney too and, having just watched Finding Dory, we are all huge fans of the film!

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We have never used Samsonite luggage before but I was already aware of their excellent reputation and having read a little more about them, I was expecting only good things.

“At Samsonite we know that the journey can be just as exciting as the final destination, so why not let your children get involved and pack a suitcase of their own.

Designed and manufactured to Samsonite’s legendary standards, our range of childrens’ luggage is perfect for kids on the move.

We have a bag or suitcase to suit every junior globetrotter, starring everyone’s favourite Disney, Marvel and Star Wars characters: Frozen, Disney Princesses, Mickey, Minnie and Disney.Pixar Cars, as well as Spider-Man, the Avengers and Darth Vader.

Our kids’ collections include small upright suitcases, perfect for an overnight stay with grandparents, along with matching school bags, gym bags, purses and children’s rucksacks. So why not let the kids get involved and do their own packing?”

When we received our Dory backpack, I instantly knew that the quality from Samsonite exceeded any of the other bags my children already have. Although absolutely fine for the purpose, our usual backpacks are bought from high street stores, the supermarket or chintzy market stalls when the children have pleaded for “just one more!”. The Dory bag was much bigger than our existing bags and far from ‘just a back pack’, this was a substantial, well made piece of luggage.The girls instantly broke into a fight over who got to try the backpack on first and, having pushed both of them over with screams of “Fishy pack pack!!”, it was no surprise that Harry won. And once he had it on, he refused to take it off!

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We thought we would try it out for the holiday, the true test of whether it could fit in all of the essentials that Harry insisted on packing – his juice cup,  a bouncy ball, a witch Halloween costume, his stuffed Baa, four different bracelets, two pairs of shoes, four bags of Wotsits, a waterproof mac and a My Little Pony. And after quickly re-packing when he wasn’t looking, we were good to go!

When we woke on the first morning of the holiday and found Harry in the lounge, ready and waiting with his ‘pack pack’ on, we knew then that the Finding Dory backpack had swooped first place in Harrys bag collection!

T1A_1735Although Samsonite luggage may be more expensive than our regular supermarket buys, I have no doubt that the quality is reflected in the price. When it comes to luggage you need something practical and robust, but equally something that appeals to the children so that they want to get involved with the packing, take responsibility for their baggage and, in a family of six, teaching them to carry their own bag is always a bonus!

All in all, not only was Finding Dory a hit with the children, but the Samsonite luggage most definitely was too!

***All thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. We were kindly sent the Samsonite luggage for review. ***

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Oh I do like to be beside the sea…(part two)

After the journey from Hell, and travelling for almost fourteen hours, the only thing we really wanted to do when we finally got to the hotel was climb into bed and sleep. So it should have come as no surprise that the children were in no way whatsoever ready to sleep. Made worse by the fact that there simply wasn’t enough beds for the six of us, that, due to stretching the truth with the booking somewhat,  Eva, Megan and Lewis had two tiny camp beds to share and Harry was wedged in between Gaz and I. Something told me that the Premier Inns “Good nights sleep promise” didn’t quite stretch to being kicked in the head by a two year old.

As we all got into bed and the lights went out, I told myself that after a good nights sleep, tomorrow would be a better day. And then it started….

“I’m going to poo on your head!” ~ Eva
“Mummmmmmy! Eva said she’s going to poo on my head!!” ~ Megan
“Eva stop saying you’re going to poo on Megans head!” ~ Me
“My names not Eva!” ~ Eva
“Mummmmmy! Eva says her name’s not Eva!” ~ Megan
“Eva, stop being so annoying!” ~ Lewis
“My names not Eva!”~ Eva

That. On repeat, for two whole hours. Two torturous hours that resulted in all three of the children crying, Lewis moaning that he was tired and the girls were ‘doing his head in’, me screeching that the people next door would be complaining about us any second and Gaz bellowing that the next person who spoke would have to go and sleep in the car, a threat which I think we all knew held no follow up…although by 1am, I was sorely tempted!

“Mummmmmy! Megan is touching my pillow!” ~ Eva
“Megan, give Eva some of the pillow!” ~ Me
“My name’s not Megan!” ~ Megan

Oh dear God. Kill me now…

By morning we were exhausted after just a few hours sleep, apart from Harry who had sprawled out side ways across our bed while Gaz and I cowered on both edges, too afraid to wake him. But as we opened the curtains we discovered that the sun was shining and, after an all you can eat buffet style breakfast down the road, we were on the final leg down to Exmouth.

As we pulled into Devon Cliff  I finally  felt my body relax, breathed in the fresh sea air, welcomed the sight of the beach in the distance and as we bounded into reception to collect our caravan keys, looking at those four angelic faces, I truly believed that this year, we would have the perfect holiday.

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And yet as we stood in the queue, alongside families whose children sat patiently, stood holding their Mums hand or quietly playing a game on their Ipads, something happened to Eva, Megan and Harry, literally before our very eyes. It’s almost as though they had spent the last few weeks plotting their master plan, lain awake at night masterminding this whole venture – as soon as we get on holiday, let’s forget every single thing our parents have ever taught us, every ounce of common sense, every drop of good behaviour, and let’s become absolute, raging psychopaths!!

And so they did.

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 By the time we got to our caravan I was embarrassed, irritated, and sweating profusely and yet the excitement of the caravan merely added to their hysteria. As they jumped from one couch to the next, swung themselves from the kitchen units, hid inside wardrobes and clambered on the veranda, I realised that something terrible had happened, that somehow, perhaps fuelled by the over-inhalation of petrol fumes on the hard shoulder or intoxication from the sea air, we had lost control of our children.

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And there is so much that I could tell you about our holiday, how unbelievably stressful it was, how every single day was a rigmarole just to leave the caravan, how the children cried and tantrummed and showed us up in every restaurant, at every meal, in every way possible. How there wasn’t a day, hell, even an hour, when somebody didn’t look at us, at the massacre of our dinner table or the children walloping each other round the head, and say, “Blimey! You’ve got your hands full!”.

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I could tell you about the dramas of swimming, how every day would involve the military like operation of facing the changing rooms, five of us crammed into one tiny cubicle while Lewis lived it large next door. How the children repeatedly threw their dry clothes onto the wet floor and then had a full on melt down that their clothes were wet. How we spent the entire time screeching, “Stop running! You’re going to crack your head open!”, “Touch that door again and there’s big trouble!”, and dragging Harry out from other peoples cubicles by his feet. How we forgot to take the pound for the locker, every single time, and Lewis would have to trail back out to reception, sheepishly asking for a pound, standing there trying to make himself look invisible incase, god forbid, somebody saw him with this T shirt off. I could tell you how the pool was sub zero, how Harrys lips went blue and at one point I truly believed that I was having a fit I was shaking so much. How there was so much chlorine in the pool that it actually stripped off my nail varnish (which is some mean feat given it has been on there since September 2015), and I broke out in an itchy, red rash which then bled, scabbed over, making me look, and feel, like a leper.

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I could tell you how the children out-right refused to sleep each night, how every evening became a game of bed hopping musical chairs, how Harry woke up screaming wild, frantic cries from constant night terrors, and the girls burst to life as soon as the sun came up. I could tell you about the morning when Lewis sat staring at me over breakfast, studying my face from different angles before declaring, “You look different!”. “Good different, or bad different?” I had asked, the tone of my voice clearly indicating what the correct answer should be. “I dunno,” he shrugged, before his face lit up, “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed, “It’s your eyes! You’ve got really big eye bags!!”.

Lovely. Absolutely, bloody lovely.

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I could tell you about the saga, every single day, of going to the beach. How we had to round up all four children, carry six armbands, three lifejackets, the football, the soft ball, the Velcro bat and ball game, the kite, the bucket and spades, the picnic blanket, the towels for drying ourselves, the separate towels for wiping sand off ourselves, the sun cream, the sun hats, the windbreakers, the sandwiches, crisps, biscuits, the token banana that nobody would eat, the litres of water and a huge inflatable rubber dinghy, and navigate the path down the cliffs to the beach while Megan screamed every minute without fail, “Pick me up! I’m tired!”. I could tell you how as soon as we sat down, literally seconds later, Harry and Megan would have a face full of sand, in their mouths, up their nose, in their eyes, and Eva would be whinging that she was hungry, that she needed whatever it was that we hadn’t brought to eat, right that very moment. How, despite the many, many beach games we had, and all of the fun activities we suggested, the childrens favourite game was to spray each other with sun cream, and how when they got bored of that, they squirted me with factor fifty, in random splodgy patterns so that to top off my leper like chlorine rash, I looked as though I’d had a spray tan….in the dark!

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I could share with you my own personal highlight of the holiday, how, one day at the beach, Harry discovered a collection of sticks and declared them “Dicks” and Lewis and I laughed ourselves stupid, fuelling my belief that I have the mentality of a twelve year old. And the more we laughed the more he said it, as though it was the funniest thing that a child has ever said. As he grabbed a handful of sticks and dropped one onto Lewis’s head, he suddenly announced, “Lewis! Dick head!!” and I swear to God, the three of us nearly died laughing, so much so that our sides ached and I slapped at the floor clutching for breath, a hysteria that didn’t go un-noticed by Megan who, wanting to get in on the action suddenly shouted, “Dick head!” as loudly as she possibly could. And through our laughter we begged her to stop, only fuelling her amusement at shouting it even louder, directing it at strangers as we passed them on the beach, causing stares of disbelief, embarrassment and outright shock! “Stick head!” I told her, “You mean stick head!” which in itself made no sense whatsoever and did nothing to correct the opinion of others that not only were our children feral, but they were foul mouthed too!!

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I could tell you how, just a few days in, on a walk with Lewis to the shops, whilst wearing my new ‘Primarni’ gladiator sandals, the lack of grip (well what can you expect for £2.99?) sent me flying, dragging the top of my foot behind me and ending up, not for the first time this holiday, face down on the concrete. “Keep going, don’t make a fuss!” I hissed to Lewis as I jumped up, ignoring the snorts of laughter from the people behind us and the jeering faces from the car infront who had brazenly slowed down to see what was going on, and I half walked, half hobbled to the shop, hugely aware that my foot was pouring with blood. “It could have been worse,” Lewis had said as we purchased plasters and Savlon, “It could have been one of the kids!”…and boy did those words came back to haunt us!

I wish I didn’t have to tell you that on our last day in Devon, having silently congratulated ourselves that we had survived a week without a trip to A&E, Harry fell over in the caravan and split his head open on the coffee table, a huge big gash that I immediately knew couldn’t be fixed with a Mum rub and a plaster. Our holiday ended with a panicked dash to the hospital to have it stitched back together and the reality that, so soon after damaging his teeth, he would now have a scar on his forehead to deal with.

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I could tell you how, on the way home we called at Alton Towers, and while Gaz took Lewis on the rollercoasters I was left with the three youngest who were just a little bit excited at the prospect of Cbeebies land!!

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And despite the rain, we queued for the first ride, for the longest thirty minutes of my life, before finally getting to the front. Just as we were about to climb into the car, the jobsworth ride operator grabbed me back and smugly informed me that it was one adult to two children on each ride and we wouldn’t be allowed on afterall, to which Eva and Megan threw back their heads and screamed blue murder while I fought back the urge to throttle her and call her a Stick Head! And the only ride that I could take them on, before Lewis and Gaz came and rescued me later on, was the cable cars, which meant facing my fear of heights or, in my case, sitting there crying as the kids rocked the car with such force that I was permanently sat in “brace position”.

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After bribing them with hot dogs, cake and  ice cream, I was relieved to discover the Sea Life centre at Pirate Bay, a nice quiet attraction to keep them entertained. And yet I soon realised that nothing was straightforward with the three of them, more so when it was a busy attraction, pitch black inside and all three scarpered in three different directions as soon as we stepped foot inside. When I finally managed to round them up, feeling as though I should have a collar round my neck, I ushered them over to the open topped “touch and feel” pool, where Megan froze in horror at anything that moved. And I was so intent on taking a photo of Eva stroking one of the star fish that I didn’t notice Harry sneaking away, creeping up at the opposite end of the pool,  plunging in his hand, and lifting the other star fish right out of the water and waving it about in front of his face singing, “Twinkle twinkle little star!”. After a huge panic when the “Superviser” snatched it from him as though he was a cold blooded killer, I quickly bundled them out of there wondering what kind of fools have an open topped pool for kids to poke around in anyway? Fools who haven’t met my children, that’s for sure!!

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And as much as I could tell you about how hard work it was, how there were times when I felt like crying or despaired of the childrens behaviour, how I lay in bed at night wondering what tomorrow would bring, whether we could make it through a day without tears and tantrums, mine and theirs, I could also tell you so much more.

I could tell you how Lewis had the time of his life, how he went on the Segways, did target shooting, kayaking in the sea, aqua jets in the pool, played football every day and the aerial adventure assault course. How the girls stood, thirty feet below him chanting, “Lewis, Lewis!” as he manoeuvred his way across each obstacle, and how Megan shouted, “Lewis! You’re so brave! You look so cool!” which made us all laugh, including everyone around us, and my heart burst with pride at how adorable she can be.

I could tell you how we played on the beach, dug holes as deep as you could get, built sandcastles, buried each other in the sand right up to our necks, made mermaid tails, collected shells and ate gritty sandwiches with the sun on our faces. How Eva declared that this was the “best day ever!” and Harry told us he was having “Much fun!” as we pulled them along in the sea on the rubber dinghy, the sound of their laughter on the wind as they huddled together, best friends forever.

I could tell you how the children splashed and swam in the pool like little mermaids, how they threw themselves head first down the slides and squealed with delight under the water fountains. How Megan danced with her Daddy at the tots disco, spinning around the dance floor with such uncharacteristic confidence. How they sat, all four of them, mesmerised by the shows each night, watching, open mouthed, at the magicians, the dancers, the circus show, and afterwards telling us, “That was my favourite day!”, and even though we had wanted to gouge our own eyes out at the most of them, it didn’t matter one bit.

 

I could tell you about the look on Megan’s face on the Tree Tops ride at Cbeebies land, the flush of Lewis’s cheeks as he rushed towards me off the rollercoasters, his eyes shining, his hair swept back and how Harry craned his neck to look out of the cable cars shouting, “Me up high!”.

How Lewis held my hand when nobody was looking, cuddled up beside me during our round of the musical chairs bed hop and told me how much fun he was having, how much he loved us, how glad he was that we had gone on holiday.

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How the children ate ice creams and cookie shakes and bags of chips until they came out of their ears, savouring every single drop, every single bite. How Harry was never happier than with a spade in his hand, Lewis with his football and the girls with their bean bag teddies, something which they had stood and deliberated over for forty long minutes in Claire’s Accessories when Eva had begged to buy “Something beautiful”. And the smiles on their faces were worth it, every penny, every moment of stress and frustration, those smiles were absolutely priceless.

I could tell you how at night we pulled on our hoodies and trailed down to the beach, armed with our fishing nets and plastic buckets, and hunted for crabs and tiny fish. How we laughed with amusement as Meggy had a meltdown every time the seaweed touched her feet or how Eva slipped over and got soaked from the head down. How Lewis looked over at me, his face flushed with the sea breeze, and announced that he had caught a fish, and the girls flocked to him in complete admiration. How we flew a kite, watching it soar up into the sky, beaming with delight as the children ran up and down the beach making it flip and turn, and crowded together as the sun set, making our way back home to bed, tired, exhausted but happy. Truly happy.

And in all honesty, both accounts would be true. The good, the bad and the outright disastrous. Because holidays are hard work, and I think that anyone who says otherwise has children far better behaved than mine. We have laughed, cried, screamed and shouted and yet what a time we have had, making memories that will absolutely last forever.

Will we be going away again next  year? Absolutely, because although it was far from relaxing for us grown ups, if you ask my children if they enjoyed their holiday they will tell you they had the best time ever. And that, for the next ten years at least, is what it’s all about.

Well that, and copious amounts of alcohol….

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Oh I do like to be beside the seaside….(Part one)

Some of you may remember the disaster of our holiday last year, the ten days spent in West Sussex where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. For those who haven’t read about that holiday you can find my post about it here and here, and I think after reading that, you will understand why we were so apprehensive about having another Summer holiday this year. But it’s funny how with time memories can fade, how as the months pass you can forget just how utterly awful something was and start to think that actually, a Summer holiday would be something to look forward to, the perfect occasion to rectify all of last years wrong, and that actually, it couldn’t be any worse……could it??

And so, some may call us brave, some may call us stupid, we took the plunge. We booked ten days down in “sunny Devon” and the militant style pre-holiday preparation was under way. Intent on not making the same mistakes as last year, we sourced roof bars for the car, borrowed a roof box from a friend and gave the car a good once over, change of oil, topped up the tyre pressure, silently congratulated ourselves on being such responsible car owners and reassured ourselves that unlike last year, there would be no car trouble to thwart our plans!

This year we told ourselves that we would go minimalistic with the packing, reminding ourselves that the children wouldn’t need twenty seven pairs of socks each day, nor the five hundred and twenty t-shirts it seemed we had taken the previous year. So with the roof box on, the To Do lists written, car bribes snacks purchased, we were good to go. And so I have no idea how, with just hours before our expected departure, the cases remained empty, the house still looked like a bomb had hit it and the children were so hyped up that not one of them was ready for bed!

By morning, after a late night and an early start, we began the annual task of loading the many, many cases into the car. Only this year we were feeling smug, loading our cases into the roof box and marvelling at how much room there was in the car, how we could miraculously see out of the back window, relishing in the fact that Lewis wouldn’t be moaning every two seconds about being cramped up with the pram hitting his head every time we turned a corner. Only by the time we filled the roof box we realised that actually, there was still a mountain of “stuff” that still needed wedging in, infact more luggage than any year previously, and as Gaz wrestled with the boot and muttered under his breath about where the hell all this stuff had come from, I suspected that his idea of minimalist and mine were two very different things!!

But we were ready for off, buoyed up with the thought of the Devon sunshine, lazy days on the beach, relaxing by the pool, doing nothing but building sandcastles, eating ice creams and soaking up the sun. And even when the roof box wouldn’t lock and the key jammed in the lock, even when after emptying it completely and jiggling it around in desperation it still wouldn’t work, when, after thirty minutes had passed, we had to call my Dad to come over, armed with his WD40 and his genius like mind for all things mechanical, even that didn’t lower our mood. And forty minutes later when we finally got it locked and on the road, we were in great spirits. This was going to be the best holiday EVER!


And although, a few miles in, we had to turn around and go back home for the long list of things we had forgotten, by the time we finally got on the motorway and found ourselves cruising along to the soothing tones of James Bay, it all felt too good to be true. When the children began to converse only in song, I bit my tongue and reminded myself that they were simply excited to be going on holiday. When Harry began to wrestle his arms out of his seat belt and lunge forward with brutish force, I told myself that he was just a baby, most likely wanting a hug. When Lewis started to ask how far until the nearest service station as he was needing a wee….already, I swallowed back the urge to tell him that he should have gone before we set off, that a two year old could go longer than he had, that we had lost time to make up for and no way could we stop already, and instead I told him not long now, just a few minutes up the road. And when the Satnav broke, right out of nowhere, and we were driving blind, I simply got on to Google maps, swiftly navigated our route and told myself there is nothing in this world we couldn’t do. Because nothing, absolutely nothing, was going to dampen our happy holidays.

After hours on the road, sitting through numerous traffic jams, refereeing countless arguments and saying things like, “Eva stop saying you will poo on Megans head!” and, “Megan stop calling your sister a wee wee stinky bum!”, as we approached Bristol Gaz suddenly let out a long sigh and declared, “We’re losing power!!”. And given our breakdown last year and the car horrors that unfolded, I had laughed out loud, told him, “Nice try!” and lowered my head back to my Sudoku puzzle. “Seriously!” he told me as he swerved the car over to the hard shoulder, “Somethings wrong!”. And as we came to a halt on the hard shoulder, traffic whizzing past us at top speed, he tried to turn the engine over and yet there was merely a short splutter and then nothing, just the worrying sound of silence. “Oh god”……

Experiencing a severe case of deja vu, I rang Green Flag, explained our situation and, although we remembered the drill quite clearly, was told to vacate the car, wait on the hard shoulder and somebody would be with us within 90 minutes. And so out we all got, huddled together against an overgrowth of nettles, the rain, of course, lashing down on us as we stood there, praying for a miracle. By chance, Gaz spotted an opening in some trees ahead and we found that if we could jump across a stinky, algae infested ditch, there was a tiny patch of earth for us to sit on, to keep safe and dry until the break down guy came along and saved us. And sitting there, wet, cold and miserable, I thought back to last year, to that roadside spider bite and the subsequent dramas that followed, and instantly began slapping, scratching and screeching at every tickling sensation on my legs, every crawling sensation down the back of my neck, and every rustle in the bushes. “Keep your arms and legs on the blanket!” I told the kids, fighting back the urge to cry, and asking myself why, oh why did we forget to bring the multipack of Wotsits


Two hours later, when ‘Joe’ popped his head through the trees, we were cold, tired and hungry. He informed us that we had to wait a little longer for his colleague to catch up in his truck so he could load on our car, take me and the kids in one truck and Gaz and Lewis in the other. And standing there, teetering dangerously on the road side bank, he regaled us with tale after tale of injuries sustained on the hard shoulder. His twelve broken ribs, various knocks to the head from wing mirrors, the side of lorries, the many, many occasions when he had stared death in the face and lived to tell the tale, unlike some of his colleagues who had not been so lucky. The kids sat there, mouths wide open, gaping in horror at the gruesome tales they were hearing, and by the time the other guy finally turned up, I was more than ready to get in the truck!

Although, me being me, simply getting in the truck would have been way too easy. Instead, as Gaz took the children safely across, I was left to fend for myself, to manoeuvre my way across the ditch, down the grass verge and onto the hard shoulder, like my very own Krypton Factor. And just as I made the leap across the ditch, with the traffic speeding by and Joes words still ringing in my ears, I tripped over my flip flop, went flying through the air, with one foot dunking back into the ditch water and the other sending me down the grass verge, prickly shrubs implanting into the palms of my hands, and a thick, stinky trail of mud down the back of my trousers. And as I scrambled up, my heart beating out of my chest,  I was faced with Lewis, absolutely hysterical with laughter, clearly relishing in my near death experience, and pointing at me from the back of the truck.


So into the truck we got, me, sitting on an old newspaper at the request of Joe to protect the seat from my soggy bottom, and the youngest three behind me, completely bewildered in their car seats, and Joe launches into another tale. Over the course of the next hour he told us about the time that he almost died when a lorry reversed over him while changing a tyre, the time he broke both arms and legs when he fell out of a tree, the time that, whilst driving along on his motorbike at 150mph, he crashed into the car in front, flew from the first lane north bound to the second lane south bound, smashed straight through some ones windscreen, at an estimated speed of 200mph, broke twenty seven bones in his body and remained in a coma for the best part of a year. He tells me how the lady in the car whose windscreen he smashed through visited him every day for 11 months, that when he woke up they started dating and fell in love and how they recently split up due to her fear of driving and his need to buy a new motorbike. And as he’s telling me all this I start to think that it all sounds a little familiar, that I can vaguely remember a film I saw of something very similar, and I start to question how anyone could survive that level of impact, if it’s possible to fly that far through the air, whether there are even 27 breakable bones in the human body? And at that moment my phone beeped and I received a text message from Gaz, ‘Just speaking with the truck driver, he said nobody has ever been injured on the job in the whole time he has worked for the company! Odd!!’. And it hit me, as I felt the growing sense of panic building in my stomach, Joe the truck driver is a pathological liar!!!!

By the time we arrived at the depot in Bristol, more than a little relieved to see the back of Jackanory, we were told that our car needed to stay in the garage, that we could borrow a hire car to continue our journey south, and yet first we would obviously need to transfer all of our luggage over. All of our luggage, and that from the roof box, which all of a sudden meant that we were dealing with mission impossible. So while it lashed down with rain, while the kids screamed and cried at being shoved into a strange car, we attempted to push, pull and cram every bit of luggage into the boot. It soon became evident that it wasn’t going to fit as we stood there, rain streaming down our faces, bulging carrier bags spilling around our feet, arguing over what we could ditch, “Don’t throw away my Crunchy nuts!!” Lewis screeched from the back. And yet somehow, with the foot wells piled high and knees up to our chin, we finally managed it, and we were ready for off…..again!


By the time we arrived in Exmouth it was dark, cold and raining, and we had no idea where to go. Both our phone batteries had died, drained from the twelve hours of GPS, we had no maps, there was nobody around to ask and we had no idea where our Premier Inn was. And for an hour and a half we drove around the same industrial estates, looked at the same concrete buildings, the same depots and warehouses and silently raged at each other that neither of us had thought to write down the directions. And then finally, in the distance, we spotted a crane, a steam roller, a taped off area and the familiar signs of “This hotel is under renovation” and we knew, like some kind of horrific Groundhog day, that this was our hotel, that West Sussex 2015 had come back to haunt us.

But little did we know that this was just the start………..

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For Joseph, on your 10th birthday.

Joseph,

I have spent the last few months dreading this day, counting down the weeks, fearing the moment when you would feel further away than ever before, when I could say that a whole decade has passed since I held you in my arms. And whilst all of your birthdays have been hard, none have felt as truly momentous as this one, double figures, a huge milestone that I wanted, and needed, to honour.

And what started out as simply an idea to raise money for SANDS, a charity so close to our hearts, soon escalated into an awareness campaign, a media whirlwind and a celebration of your life and all that you meant to us. Over the last three weeks your story has been shared with our local newspapers, the national tabloids, various parenting websites, social media and amazingly, reached as far as Australia.

I can’t even begin to tell you how proud this has made me, how comforting it has been to know that so many people have shared in your story, spoken your name, taken the time to reach out and offer me their love and support. I have been amazed at the number of emails flooding in through my in-box, people telling me how deeply you have touched them, how they too have suffered such tragic losses, how our story has given them hope of finding happiness in the future.

Because for such a long time I felt so guilty that I had gone on to find happiness, infact I was scared to feel happy again, unable to differentiate between the emotions of moving on and letting go. I was so scared that, should I move on, the time we had shared would feel even further away, that the memories would start to fade and ultimately, that I would start to forget you. It took me such a long time to realise that actually, it would be impossible to forget you. It would be impossible to forget those moments that we spent together, so deeply etched are they in my memory, impossible to deny that the beat of my heart still whispers your name, every heartbeat a gentle reminder that although life has moved on, we have taken you with us.

And so on Saturday, at our SANDS Summer Soiree, we all came together to celebrate your life, to raise money, and to remember that just because we didn’t get the ending we had hoped for, doesn’t mean that we didn’t get a happy ending. Because we did, even though it still hurts, and even though we feel your absence every minute of every day, there is no denying that your Dad and I have been truly blessed. And you would have been so proud of us all on Saturday, not just my family and friends but your Dads family and friends too, all of the people who had known and loved you, putting our differences aside and coming together in your honour. And as emotional as it was, and admittedly there were tears, it was also a really happy occasion with so much laughter, lots of drink and crazy dancing, and all of your family, your siblings, Lewis, Eva, Megan, Harry and Theo, safe in the knowledge that you will always be a part of our lives.

img_7190As always on your birthday, I try to imagine what you would be like at this age, whether you would be like Lewis or someone else entirely. I try to picture what you would look like, what our lives would have been like with you in it. I wonder what you would be into, whether you would be glued to your X-box playing Minecraft or out chasing Pokémon with other boys your age. Most of all, I wonder what you and Lewis would have been like, whether this would have been a difficult year for you with him moving on to High School, whether the two of you would still have been as thick as thieves, partners in crime, an older, cheekier version of your sisters. And I cant deny that it hurts when I try to imagine those things, when I fail to imagine you aged ten, when all I can see when I close my eyes is our little baby, with your mop of dark hair and those perfect little fingers and toes. I think that regardless of how many years pass, you will always be that baby. The little boy who changed our lives, stole our hearts and stayed forever young.

I used to tell myself that there is nothing I wouldn’t give to go back in time to that July, to 2006, when we were so innocently naïve, when you kicked away in my tummy with Lewis at my side, when life was seemingly perfect. And yet as the years have passed, and circumstances have changed, I am slowly learning that although life doesn’t always work out as we plan it to, perhaps life has it’s own plan for us, bigger than any of us could ever imagine. I’m not sure how our lives would have panned out had you survived, had we been a happy family of four, simply enjoying our boys. I’m not sure whether, even had my marriage ended afterwards, I would have wanted more children, if your siblings would have been an option, or a dream, for me to consider. It’s difficult to live with regret when had we gone down a different path, I would potentially be without your siblings. It’s a constant power struggle in my mind, the question of whether had there been you, would there have been Eva, Megan and Harry?


It’s not a question we will ever be able to answer, but I do know this.

You, Joseph Emmerson, made me the person I am today. Not just a different person, but a better person. You gave me strength I never knew I was capable of, you gave me the understanding to be more forgiving, more allowing of others behaviour, the knowledge that every single one of us is fighting a battle that others know nothing about. You made me want to be the very best that I could be, gave me the ambition and motivation to make you proud, the desire to live my life to the fullest, to embrace a life that you never got the chance to live. You made me a better wife, a better daughter, a better friend, and yet most importantly you gave me the greatest of gifts in making me a better Mother. You are always there, an angel on my shoulder, reminding me not to sweat the small stuff, to take the time to simply sit down and snuggle these precious siblings of yours, to get down on the floor and build dens, draw pictures, pull funny faces, create magical lands where fairies fly and rainbows end. You got me through the hardest times of my life, were with me during the best times of my life, and you live on in all of us, in the sound of your siblings laughter, in the twinkle in their eyes, in the magical stories they tell me of how you fly in through the window at night and sprinkle them with angel kisses. You have given me so much, more than you will ever realise, and I am so thankful for you, for every moment of you, then, now, always.


And so on your 10th birthday, we shall remember you, in the same way that we do every day, and we will remind ourselves how very blessed we were to have you and the legacy you left behind. You will always be my sweetest hello and my hardest goodbye, and I wouldn’t change it, not one moment of it, ever.

Love and miss you all the stars in the sky.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
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ethannevelyn
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A Cornish Mum

It’s only weird if you think it’s weird..

I have been absolutely astounded this week by the backlash faced by Victoria Beckham, having shared, what I and many others believe to be, a beautiful photo of herself kissing her daughter on her birthday. Not usually a fan of Victoria, although David is a completely different matter, I thought it was lovely to see her being herself, not pouting or posing for the camera, but simply being a Mummy, just like the rest of us. I imagine that she released the photo with no idea whatsoever of the controversy it would cause, to share a side to her that shows us, despite the fame and fortune, she is still just a wife and Mummy, and a proud one at that.

And as a Mummy who also puts myself out there, who shares our lives on social media and through my blog, as a Mummy who shares personal moments and countless photographs, I can only imagine how horrendous the response must have been. To have such vile comments stating that kissing her daughter was “completely gross and sexual” or, as one not so eloquent “fan” commented, “totally lesbianish”. must have been absolutely devastating.

Because as a Mummy of four, my family and I kiss eachother a lot, infact hundreds of times a day. I kiss them on their cheeks, on the top of their heads, their lips. I shower them with kisses, tickling them on the back of their necks, on their tummies when I change their nappy, on their little hands and feet when they smell so good straight after their bath. And at thirty six, I still kiss my parents on the lips, always have and always will. I kiss my best friends on the lips, even more so when we’ve had a few too many, and I think nothing of it. Because it’s completely and utterly normal, isn’t it?

It’s not like anyone is talking about a snog, for Gods sake. There’s no mention of smooching or tongues (“It’s only weird if you use tongues..” – isn’t that a given?). It’s a peck on the lips, the kind of kiss that you might give your Granny, a sign of affection between two people, whatever the relationship. A kiss speaks volumes doesn’t it? It says I love you, I’ve missed you, I’m so happy to see you. It says hello, goodbye, I’m sorry. It says I trust you, I’m comfortable with you, you’re one of my favourite people in the whole world. Never in a million years did I think there was anything wrong with kissing my children on the lips. I still don’t.

An ‘expert’ in social etiquette, and I use that term loosely, said

“Normally with a member of your own family you don’t kiss on the lips unless its your husband….I wouldn’t say it presents a particularly good example,”

A good example?? Kissing someone you love on the lips doesn’t set a good example? Surely it sets a great example, to teach our children that your kisses are reserved for only those who you truly love. To only kiss those who you hold dear, your family, your best friends, and one day, your partner.

It’s a sad world we live in when someone thinks that kissing your own child on the lips is sexual. I actually find it deeply disturbing that anyone would view it that way, there’s actually a name for people who find that kind of thing sexual and it says a whole lot more about those people than it does about us.

Will I ever stop kissing my children on the lips? Only if they want me to. Do I think that day will ever come? Absolutely not. And the main thing that I will teach my children about all of this, and something I think we all need to realise is this.

It’s only weird if you think it’s weird.

Now excuse me, I’m off to smother my children with kisses…..

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Mouse Moo and Me Too
A Cornish Mum