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Even though I went through parental divorce as a teenager, its something I’ve never thought to touch on.
It was tough, with the threat of losing our family home, losing all contact with my Father and the added stress of court visits.
Luckily for me, I was of an age that I totally understood, and if I learned one thing from it its that my vows to Natalie will never be broken. But to other ages or situations the effects of children and divorce could be felt much more strongly.
This is something I’ve never written about before, that is, until Anthony Bennett reached out to me. His company (Milavetz Law) have put together a in-depth post covering topics such as the effects of divorce, how to help children through divorce and advice on managing co-parenting. Something I’m, thankfully, not experienced to talk about but was really worth sharing for those who need it.
Center Parcs has always held a special place in my heart, from countless family holidays with both my family and my wife’s. Naturally we would love to instil that love in Munchkin and Sprout too.
But what is the fuss all about..? Here are my top reasons to consider a forest staycation with our Center Parcs review.
There’s multiple locations
You pack your bags, fill the car to the brim and jump in. There’s five UK locations and one in Ireland, so likely one close by to you, though it is nice to try a new site from time to time.
We usually stay local but ventured 4 hours to see the Redwoods of Longleat on our last visit and it was so worth the longer journey, even with a small child in tow.
Everything is on site
When you’ve had a wonder you can take your car to the Villa, unpack and relax, knowing everything is on site and you don’t see to see another car, apart from the odd center parcs van, for another few days or a week. Everything is in walking distance, but you can also hire some wheels if you want to travel faster.
There’s an included fantastic pool, multiple restaurants, an on-site supermarket and tons of activities, so you never really need to leave. Over the many holidays we have had I’ve tried nearly every activity, from a relaxing spa day to jumping 10 metres on to a blow up cushion with no harness!
Relaxed, away from normality
You really feel the benefit of nature here. They are all in forests so you can instantly connect with nature. You walk or cycle to the facilities and can breathe in that fresh air and truly relax. You’ll often get visits from swans, squirrels and ducks and if you’re very lucky, may spot a muntjac deer even at your villa door.
If you need more there’s the Aqua Sana; award winning standalone Spa’s with a huge choice of spa experiences and treatments. It’s something I always add to the break to get a bit of chill time with the wifey, away from the kids!
What drew me as a child was the pool. Always at tropical temperatures, with mutiple flumes and outdoor rapids and lazy rivers. Then now they’ve added some thrill rides too to keep me coming back. It’s the best pool experience I’ve had in the UK and will keep the kids entertained for hours on end.
If you want to try something new, there is something for everyone. There is a huge lake in each location where you can take a boat, try paddle boarding, or take on the aqua park.
For adeneraline, you can then trek in the trees, take on quad biking, jump from a 10 metre tall tower, or get messy in paintball. You can then take it slower with pottery painting, falconry, or a wildlife walk. There’s a creche for children too and many many childrens activities from football school, to arts and crafts to exploring nature.
When you need a bite to eat there’s a plethora of restaurants including well known companies such as Starbucks, Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge and Las Iguanas as well as their personal offerings like the Pancake House (where everythings either in a pancake or on a waffle), Rajinda Predesh (their Indian) and Forester’s Inn, with a woodland pub feel.
At the Villa there’s a fully equipped kitchen, and food delivery service too.
Perfect family time
With everything easily accessible all you need is you. We have had holidays here with 3 month olds up to 70 years old as it really is a destination for everyone.
Munchkin has been twice in the first year of his life, twice in his second and will go twice in his third year too (the lucky sausage!). Next year we will also be introducing it to Sprout too.
Sum up and those all important stars
Center Parcs always delivers for us, from a couple retreat to a family holiday. Its expensive, but worth every penny and that’s why we revisit year after year. So it deserves the full 5 stars.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
So that’s our Center Parcs review. What’s your favourite UK holiday spot? Let us know in the comments.
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Some of my best childhood memories came from the camping trips I had with my Grandparents and Mum. We would find a good site, pitch up, get the croquet and games out, play endless garden games and relax. It was childhood at its best.
Ready or not, I’m coming to find you! – Hide and seek camping style!
It’s something I always wanted to pass to Munchkin. This year, Nanny and Grandad were already planning to go to a local site so we joined them for a one-night trail run. The short, it was fantastic, so seriously, take kids camping!
The sky’s awake so I’m awake!
As a parent, we often worry about our child sleeping well. So the thought of camping in the summer with an early sunrise and sharply rising tent temperatures was enough to add a bit of fear with taking Munchkin camping.
Going to a local site eased the fear a little. If worst came to the worse we could escape home in the middle of the night and return the next morning.
So, we put our fears aside. Bought him his own character airbed and a new Paw patrol nightlight and took familiar things like his pillow, duvet and favourite bed toy from home. We made sure we had long walks, lots of activity and a little bit of a later night after a late takeaway dinner.
The result: he slept through undisturbed until morning.
Home away from home
To make him feel at home and included, we made sure whatever we had, he had. He had his own little camping chair so he could sit around the firepit with us, and his own personal airbed. We let him help with activities such as pumping up his bed, helping with the washing up and building the tent – he especially loved the mallet, offering to help hammer in the pegs. We took a good selection of toys which could be used outside and garden games. Ensuring he never got bored.
We also take his tablet with Amazon kids+ (I’ve review that here). This was good whilst we pottered around getting food ready and for his usual bedtime routine with a few stories.
The most important thing, especially with the current cost of living crisis, is that camping can be affordable. You can pick up a good sized tent for a family of 3 or 4 for under £50 and pay a quarter of what is it for a low budget hotel room for the pitch. There’s a bit of prepayment for things like chairs and airbeds, but at this time of the year you can find cheap camping stuff everywhere, for example, we picked up our foldable chairs for a little over a tenner and borrowed other bits from my parents. It was obviously more pricey this time, but will make an affordable getaway next time and the next…
The trial run
As it was Munchkin’s first time a we opted for this as a trial run for future camping.
The reason for a short trial run of camping was two-fold. Firstly we needed to see if Munchkin would sleep. Second, we needed to see what items we needed and inevitably you will forget something the first few times! Like any holiday, imagine going away and forgetting the baby milk, or a favourite cuddly toy!
Prepare for all weather
In the UK we all know we can experience all four seasons in one day. We went in June.
Summer is probably the hardest as you never know what you are going to get. So pack the sun cream and shorts, the coat for the cooler evenings and the wellies and waterproofs if it rains. Plus, plenty of spares if they get muddy or wet. Be overprepared.
Given this was just our trial run I imagine ill update it over the trips to come.
As we approach Summer and the potential end of “lockdown” and our journey on the “road map” out of the restrictions, we must all be feeling a slight wave of trepidation.
I am luckily not a nervous type of person, with no history of depression, so I have got through the last year relatively unscarred mentally. I am keen to get back to normal, with obvious care at all times, to meeting family and friends, be it in the garden. I have already started observing the weather forecast with great interest, but as us British know, it can be very unpredictable.
My main area of concern is going back to the theatre or a trip to London. Last year we had lots of tickets booked for various events, which were obviously all postponed, so as from July, we have our first night out at the theatre. This means close contact with strangers, and although I should have my full vaccine cover by then, it is a worry.
My other worry would be my Mum. She is generally well at the moment, showing no signs of her progressive lung cancer. I want to get her out to see her friends, enjoy her garden, just generally have fun and be happy. So project Mum, is my priority, starting with lunch in the garden, then with family, as soon as possible.
My retirement with Brad, was obviously not as planned. We had the first 18 months organised with gin afternoon teas, a tour of England and Scotland, other camping weekends and a once in a lifetime trip to three countries in Asia, as well as the countless theatre shows. These fun events peppered our new life together without the daily grind of going to work and to help get used to seeing much more of each other. To be honest, I feel that I see him about the same, as I still am quite busy. I have my wonderful day looking after munchkin, I see and help Mum 3-4 times a week and I now help supervise a community fridge, one morning a week. This takes in donations from the public, or shops with produce reaching sell-by dates. This is available for anyone to come in and to take as needed. So our marriage, in retirement and “lockdown” has survived and we look forward to our future together.
All our plans have been on hold, and not cancelled and we already have booked a camping trip in May locally and our UK tour is back on for July. (do I sound famous!) So despite some anticipation, I am ready for the rest of 2021.
Thanks for reading, how are you feeling about the road map out of restrictions? Drop me a comment below.
As I approach a rather big birthday, I can look back on my career and feel rather pleased with how things went, would I have done anything different? Absolutely not.
I knew from the age of 11 that I wanted to be nurse, followed by a career in midwifery and never even considered another occupation. I choose my ‘O’ levels accordingly and applied at the age of 15. I was given a place on the course, dependent on my exam results, to commence when I was close to 18. This was not a life choice, it was an absolute given.
In May 1979 I started and had a hard working, but rewarding 3 years of training, with a really lovely group of people, some who I am still friends with today. Training was very practical in those days, you learnt on the job and was never supernumerary. As a second year student you could be in charge on a night shift which would never be heard of today. It was scary at times, but being thrown in the deep end was a quick way to learn.
After qualifying in 1982, I spent 1 year on a medical ward and the next 23 years on a paediatric unit. I loved working with babies and children and liked the variety of specialities, medicine, surgery, orthopaedics, urology etc.
The great thing about nursing was that when I had my family, I could work part-time nights so maintaining a career, with little time away from my children.
In 2006, came my first major life choice. I decided to leave my job to start training in midwifery, to follow my original career plan. For many reasons this did not work out and six months later, I was unemployed.
I found a job within 3-4 weeks and this became the best job I ever had. I started work at a local Walk-In-Centre and spent 12 very happy years there, with again, many lovely colleagues. I had returned to a job where patients had a huge variety of conditions, with expanded my knowledge immensely. Each shift was interesting and though hard work, time would fly by. So, although midwifery did not work out, it led to greater things and the highlight of my career.
The responsibility increased over the years and the staff changed. Some shifts became overwhelming and the pressure increased, so I decided to try another change of career to a less challenging role and returned to the local hospital to work in a day clinic. Generally it was a good move and I enjoyed the work, but some of the staff were not very friendly and after one year, I decided to take early retirement.
This was a huge decision, as I would loose a large amount of my pension, but after waying up the pros and cons I finally left in 2019.
Again this worked out for the best, with my Dads rapidly deteriorating health, I was on hand for both my parents as needed. Today, I still look after my Mum, although my Dad has now passed away.
So after 40 years of working for the NHS, I feel I have done my bit. My career has been interesting and when it came to opting for a different pathway, it always worked out for the best, no second thoughts required.
I felt compelled to write a few words about what I was up to at the moment, obviously no fantastic holidays abroad, no day trips to London or theatre experiences to talk about, but I have been busy!
Tuesdays are just so special, looking after the munchkin. He is so full of energy and so funny. He picks up songs and actions so easily and literally copies a lot of what I do and say. We have a little walk out in the morning to the park and to go puddle hunting! He chatters non stop, listens for the planes and trains, points out birds and dogs and hands me many stones and wet leaves. My son is working from home, at the moment, so I see him too, which is great. We go out again, in the pushchair, in the afternoon, to give his Dad a bit more peace to work in.
I see my mum regularly and this involves a little cleaning and getting her shopping. This has also involved getting her new fencing and a shed, sorting out other sheds, rooms and cupboards, buying various household items, doing her online banking and bills. There is always something that needs replacing or looking into.
The gym has been a blessing, but now it is closed again, I am back to walking, as long as it is not raining. My husband and I practice on our guitars regularly and a bottle of wine occasionally accompanies us! I have done some baking, but that always involves calories, so have tried pickling onions and homemade coleslaw. We do tend to watch tele in the evenings and old episodes of “task master” has kept us entertained.
That almost sums up life, at the moment. Longing for the chance to see friends and family on a regular basis and the possibility of a normal life seems to be almost there.
When you start to gain followers, or you are even simply posting or chatting to your friends, its easy to be hooked to our devices. Even before having Munchkin, I’d use my phone as a comfort blanket, allowing me to avoid conversation at ease when I felt uncomfortable.
However, I have recently had the realisation, when I think about Munchkin’s future, that while having a phone may be essential for him one day, we want him to prefer to play a game with us, read a book or get outside.
It is also stark when you have a look at that bit in your settings which monitors your app usage. I’m not going to say a number of hours I saw in mine, but, I can tell you I was shocked. Oh instagram, you are rather addictive.
One thing I realised, it that even if I put put only three to five stories in a day, I’d do them as they happened, then respond to responses instantly. This could take a lot of time, and that was time I was not then spending with Munchkin. It made no difference to take the photos and videos, then post later when I’m not missing the next thing. Particularly, when with a child, that next thing could be their first word, or first steps or any of the thousands of little but exciting developments they gain in their first two years.
Also, notifications don’t expire. You don’t miss something because you didn’t pick up your phone when it just buzzed. The notification will be sitting there later waiting just as it does when it comes through the first time. And 99 percent of the time, that message can wait, as the point of instant messaging is, messaging, not constant conversation-ing.
If you really need help avoiding you device, see if your phone has a built in focus mode, or download an app such as Freedom, or Forest, which let’s a hypothetical forest grow for all period of time you’ve saved. I found my phones focus mode has helped working from home.
So, I guess I’m sort of writing this as my pledge. To be the best Hubby and Daddy I can be all the time and stop Instagram (other social media devils are available) stealing me away from being in the moment.
When the letter to return to work arrived my heart sank, whilst many may have struggled with lockdown and restrictions, we have relished in the bonus time together with our little Munchkin. If you have had a hard time, I am sorry and don’t worry, for that I feel very guilty.
But with a 15 month old at the start of furlough, we got to spend so much precious extra time together. I was luckily furloughed on full pay and Natalie had a lot to do to support her children she teaches, but could do a lot at home with us as well.
However, this time came to an end when I returned to my normal place of work, even if not for my normal job. And thats where the lack of normality begins. My hours are different and the job is different. We have queued to arrive at work, and to leave at home time and my closest friends are still working from home. Though that said, its been good to form bonds and develop friendships with those I haven’t had chance to before.
For Munchkin, he has returned to nursery this week ending his dream 6 months with Daddy and then Mummy. We have done, and developed, so much over this time, but it will be great for him to be back with kids his age to play and build friendships with. This is now the start of the stark difference from the nice and relaxed, peaceful furlough time to the mad rush again from home to nursery to work and back.
The alleviation of lockdown has meant it has also been nice to visit family again, without staying garden bound and feeling like we shouldn’t even use the bathroom. Although, we are still far from the times of hugs and proper contact. Luckily for the Nanny’s, the return to nursery also means the return to Nanny childcare days. That’ll be good for them and Munchkin both. I know for sure its been very hard not seeing him properly for so long.
So while everything is different, let’s enjoy this time before the inevitable ‘second spike’ we have been warned of, which could be on the horizon. Though, let’s hope it doesn’t happen. As much as I enjoyed furlough, I dont think the country can afford to do it again…
To all those still suffering from anything Covid related, me and Munchkin are sending socially distance digital hugs.
Well the first thing you will notice is the title, or lack of! I thought of ‘The right time to die’, ‘A fantastic father and family’ and ‘A challenging time with Corona virus’ and nothing felt quite right. Choosing a title can be one of the hardest things with these posts, I generally like catchy titles, but probably this time, catchy was not needed. My son has already written an eloquently, heart warming piece about losing his Grandad, so I will try to put my perspective on losing a loved one. I am also aware that we have all had enough doom and gloom recently, so as always, I will try to seek out some positives.
My Dad really was the most amazing, intelligent, funny and lovable man you could meet. My sister and I grew up with little spare money, but family times were so precious and valuable. My Dad seemed to know something about everything. We constantly learnt new facts and skills and a local trip out would be an adventure. He helped us when we both bought our homes with garden projects, electric and plumbing issues, he must have saved us hundreds of pounds!
Although he had health issues and had skipped dying, on at least four occasions! He would come across as fit and capable and was still driving last December. He was managing all household duties and looking after my Mum. He deteriated quite rapidly in the last few weeks and became frail and vulnerable with developing dementia. We were just at the point of getting carers in when he died. He would have hated to be cared for and we knew he was frustrated with his lack of memory. It was distressing to see him like this and I know, sadly, this was the right time for him to pass away.
I now look after my mum and she is probably fed up seeing just me, but due to the lockdown, my face was one of the few she could safely see. I am gradually sorting out her affairs, which has been trying to say the least. Getting to speak to people in banking, pensions and utilities is time consuming and some people are not at all sympathetic. Plus, you get told conflicting information, so it can be very confusing. There is still lots to do, but there is no real hurry.
It has kept me busy, in a time when you can not go to the gym, eat out and see family and friends. I have also occupied myself with jigsaws, our family quiz, guitar playing and family online games. I have missed my children and of course the “Munchkin” terribly and in a time when you want an extra cuddle, you have to do without. (Husband’s cuddles are still frequent, I hasten to add!) although I have missed the munchkin development, I am so pleased my son and daughter-in-law, got to experience it all. I do worry, that he will not really know who I am anymore, but I am sure when we see each other regularly, he will know exactly who all his Nanas are again. We have done WhatsApp phone calls a few times with my mum as well, so he knows half our faces at least!
My Dad loved family, try to not say in a Phil Mitchell voice! and I know his love and closeness to us all, will continue with us for always and we will pass on these values to our little ones.
The positives are that we did not lose my Dad early in his life, or to this wretched virus. My sister and I were with him in hospital, the evening before he died. Something which has been taken away from many, many people. We do not always say the three little words to parents and older children, but actions speak volumes and my Dad knew what he meant to all of us and he was so proud of the fact we all lived nearby and saw each other regularly.
People have learnt to care for strangers in these strange and sad times and shown enormous acts of kindness. I hope this is not forgotten in the future when we get back to normal. I hope other people have reconnected with past friends of long-lost relatives too.
Let’s continue to put others first, keep smiling and love your family, that is just what my Dad would say too.