If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that I love Christmas. It’s my all time favourite holiday season. I’ve always loved Christmas time even before having the children, but since having the boys it’s become even more magical. As the boy is growing up and beginning to understand things a little more he is beginning to believe in the magic of Christmas. This year will be his 4th Christmas, he’ll be 3 years 4 months on Christmas day this year, and I couldn’t be more excited! So when I was recently given the chance to review a letter sent from the big man himself I jumped at the chance. I have already published a post about ordering our letters from the Lapland Mailroom which can be found here. As I had ordered our letters early when they arrived I kept them to one side until today so that I knew the boy would be here when it landed on the door mat. He loves collecting the post for me and we play a game where he identifies the names on each letter to tell us if it’s for mummy or daddy. So I couldn’t think of a more appropriate day than today, a rainy Saturday morning with no particular plans but to stay in our pyjamas snuggled up warm inside! He’d put on his little monkey onesie and was ready for a morning playing with Flixster and his toys. When I heard the postman I beat him to the door and switched our normal post for his special letter before letting him discover it for himself.

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He was so excited to find a letter addressed to him! He was able to recognise his name and couldn’t quite believe it was post for him!

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The letter was quite thick which made it exciting to open, we sat down together to discover what was inside. We found a personalised letter along with a Christmas card to colour, a tree decoration, a door hanger, a stop here sign, an activity sheet and a nice child certificate.

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He knew from the picture on the letter that it was from Father Christmas!

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He wanted me to read it to him and his eyes lit up when I read the parts containing Flixster’s name. It really was lovely to watch him listen so intently to the letter being read to him. We looked at the rest of the package together and he instantly decided that he wanted to start colouring straight away so I got out his crayons and pens as he had requested.

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He wanted to cut out the tree decoration himself but as we don’t have any children’s scissors yet Daddy had to do it whilst he watched on. That’s another thing for the Christmas list though! He spent quite a while colouring in and kept looking back at the letter to point out his name.

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What a lovely way to spend a morning together, we had a good talk about Christmas still being quite a long time away but the letter has started to build the excitement. I suppose I’ll only have a limited number of years that the boys will still believe in Father Christmas so I’m going to enjoy it while I can. The magic of Christmas will always be alive in our house because as the Muppets sing in my all time favourite Christmas film “Wherever you find love it feels like Christmas!”

The lovely people at Lapland Mailroom have offered one blog reader the chance to win their very own personalised letter from Santa as well as an activity pack, just enter below, and if you’re not lucky enough to win then you can use the code ‘xmas2014promo’ for 10% off your order. Letters start from just £6.95 and are posted within 3 days.

I was sent a letter for the boy for the purpose of this review but all the opinions expressed about it are my own and truthful.

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The school applications have just opened in our local authority area…..help! How is my baby going to survive school? How am I going to make the right choices for him? What if we don’t get our first choice school? Or even second or third choice?
The boy is an August born baby so is going to be one of the youngest in his school year. He’ll have just turned 4 when he starts. How will I know if he’s ready. What if he gets upset and needs a mummy hug while he’s there?

All mummies and daddies must go through these emotions….right?
In September this year as I was taking Flixster for a walk I saw all the neatly dressed boys and girls heading to school and thought that this time next year it’ll be me. It barely seems 5 minutes since he was born and in the blink of an eye another year will have passed and I’ll be standing at the school gates for the first time waving him off.
One of the hardest things for me to get my head around at the moment is putting my heart into finding the right school for him and then the seemingly long wait to find out if he can have a place. Our nearest school is a lovely church school and I would have been happy to send him there but they don’t have any after school care facilities which we would need as both I and hubby work. I could look at alternatives such a a childminder which I would prefer but it’s not a reliable option as I’d be looking for one now with spaces in Sept 2015. What if those spaces were no longer available when I needed one? I really need him to go to a school with guaranteed before and after school care, then if I can find a childminder all the better but at least I have options if not.

I’ve been to look around another local school today, I wasn’t able to make it to their open day so I had to make a separate appointment. The school has a good ofsted report but I was given a whistle stop tour by someone who didn’t even tell me their name. I thought I was going to really like the school but I’m not in love with it. Should I be looking for schools as I’d look for a house? If I’m looking at houses I want to walk in and fall in love with the place, should I have the same emotion if I’m looking for a school for my son to attend?

I have to make three choices, put the application in, then wait, and wait, and wait.

The final decision will be emailed to me in April, which at the moment seems like a lifetime away. I can imagine I will be obsessively checking my emails on the day they go out. I think I’ll be more nervous than I was receiving my own exam results or doing pregnancy tests! This is about my babies future, its about which gates I’ll be peeping through next September with my heart in my mouth hoping my little boy will be ok.

Expect lots more posts about schools in the next few months as it seems to be always on my mind at the moment.

If anyone has tips for choosing schools please let me know. I’ve never done this before and although I know its just another chapter in the big book of parenting, its one that I’m starting with butterflies in my tummy!

I recently found out about a new campaign organised by Dettol from a fellow bloggers post, and it touched a string in my heart. I love reading other posts and find so much useful information from link ups and blog hops. Dettol are working with Sparks Charity to collect and redistribute baby blankets to less fortunate families. I was surprised by the fact on Dettol website that says –

Laboratory tests commissioned by Dettol – on washed blankets donated by volunteer mums – show that baby ‘blankies’ carry a variety of bacteria even after a 40°C wash. In-fact, a third of the washed blankets harboured coliforms – a group of bacteria linked to faeces.

It’s horrible to think that something I use to snuggle Flixster in all the time may not be as clean as I first thought it was!

From the moment I brought Flixster into the world at home and out of the pool he was wrapped in a blanket. I didn’t dress him all day on the day he was born as I was enjoying skin to skin contact so much under a blanket.
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We spent all day bonding with him being exactly where he had been the previous day except he was now on the outside world!
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Dettol are now collecting blankets that are no longer used to wash hygienically and pass on to less fortunate families who may need them. You get to keep the memories but why not donate a blanket no longer used to them. It couldn’t be easier since they have provided a freepost address. Dettol Anti-bacterial Laundry Cleanser has also pledged to donate £1 to Sparks for every blanket collected to raise much-needed funds for UK families who are affected by serious illness or disability.

 

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I couldn’t think of anything nicer as we move on past the baby stage to pass on the blankets I’ve grown fond of to other who will benefit from them too.

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Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding – Our Journey

I thought long and hard the title to give this post. I considered just calling it infant feeding but since I’m mainly going to be writing about breastfeeding I decided to call it that.

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Breastfeeding seems to be such a controversial subject that divides mum’s today. Why is that though? Surely us mum’s should be sticking together, it’s hard enough being a new mum especially first time round without having to get into debates about feeding choices. Everything in parenting is a personal choice, a choice you make for your own child and no one else should concern themselves with your choice. Unfortunately sometimes those choices are taken away from us and that can cause emotions to run high at a time when hormones are already raging.
By talking about my journey I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad, far from it. I just want to write down my experience so that other mums thinking about breastfeeding may take inspiration from my journey.
When I was pregnant with the boy I was given leaflets about all sorts of things, being pregnant is paper overload, leaflets about every subject as well as advertising for products that you may or may not need. I dutifully looked through all the leaflets and didn’t think too much about breastfeeding at the time. I thought that once the time came I’d give it a go and if things didn’t work out then I wouldn’t be bothered there are other options. I didn’t think about the incredible bond I’d have with my baby, the rush of love I felt every time he latched on. The amazing feeling I got from knowing he got everything he needed from me to grow big and strong. It wasn’t an easy journey. I didn’t in a million years think I’d be sat feeding for the first few days solid. I didn’t expect to be up all night then hallucinating from the sheer wall of tiredness that hit me. I didn’t expect the pain upon latching on from the initial let down. Looking back I have no idea why I carried on in those early days. I think I was just determined to see it through to at least a week. A week came and went and I was still going. He was feeding every hour and I was so worried about going out anywhere in case he needed feeding. What would I do? It wasn’t that I was worried what others would say, I just didn’t want my breasts out on show for all to see. I hadn’t learnt in those early days how to feed discreetly so that I barely had anything on show. He was also feeding for long periods of time. Slowly but slowly, day by day we carried on and with help from the local feeding team and encouragement we had turned a few days feeding into a week, then a week into a few weeks. Gradually things got easier, the latch on pain had gone, I hadn’t noticed but it wasn’t there anymore.

There were bumps in out road, a fair few nights after being up for long periods I’d say with tears in my eyes “Thats it tomorrow I’m going shopping for milk and we’re stopping” but I never did. Someone once said to me that things always look better in the morning, and they always did. We’d get up, have breakfast, I’d feed you and I’d say just one more day. It certainly wasn’t easy, I found nights the hardest. I’d feel like I was the only one up in the world, so lonely. Thank goodness for technology these days, I was able to catch up on soaps and reading whilst feeding which really helped pass the time. I don’t know where the first 6 months went but before I knew it, it was time to start complimentary feeding. I carried on breastfeeding as by now it was easy and convenient in the daytime. No thinking about bottles or sterilising or how long I’d be out of the house for. I started to love it. I loved that every time I latched you on you’d reach up and stroke my face. I loved the rush of love I felt whilst feeding you. It became addictive.
I went back to work when the boy was 12 months old and he was only feeding morning and night then, as I did such long hours at work I’d often miss a feed here and there and gradually he became lass interested. One morning when the boy was 18 months old I was feeding him on our bed and he just didn’t want to feed, he was far more interested in watching television. That was it then I knew our journey was over. I was sad but happy all at the same time. Sad we’d almost certainly never feed again but happy he’d made his own choice in stopping. I couldn’t wait to feed again while I was pregnant with Flixster and thankfully his journey has been a little easier. I was so lucky to be able to catch his first ever feed on camera. I don’t have any feeding pictures of the myself and the boy which looking back I do regret but I’m making up for it this time.

In between the boys I went on the breastfeeding helper course run by the BfN, I loved it. I wanted to help other mums like myself to have an amazing journey, to know what to expect and what to be prepared for, but also how amazing feeding can be. I volunteer weekly at my local breastfeeding group. I’m not a helper to make mums feel bad about their feeding choice, I’m not bothered in the slightest by mums who chose not to breastfeed, I certainly would never put pressure on anyone to breastfeed. Like I said at the beginning it’s all about choice. But the message I want to bring by telling my story is that us mums should stick together what ever choice we make. Nothing about having a baby is easy lets all support each other.

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If you want to read about the end of our journey then follow this link

Dear Boys,
Once again life is flying by, I don’t know where the time is going. Days are turning into weeks and months far to quickly! We’ve had some great times over the last few weeks though.
Boy you are once again learning things at an amazing rate, your speech astounds me everyday although I have to be so careful what I say around you now, you seem to have hearing like a bat. Especially when it comes to mention of food or drink. I love that you enjoy babychinnos anytime we are out having coffee. You can easily spot a coffee shop a mile away, which is good for us! You are currently sat playing the CBeebies games on daddies computer as I type this.

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You are particularly enjoying the game where you have to join three or more like objects in a row. It was only a few weeks ago that you couldn’t do it by yourself and now you are powering through the levels all by yourself. I love watching how pleased you are with yourself each time you complete a level.

We went to Alton Towers again last weekend and you loved spending the day in Cbeebies land. You are the perfect age to enjoy all the rides and attractions. Thankfully for us it was a lot quieter than other times we have visited so you were able to go on all the rides with minimal queue times. I love watching you confidently deciding what you’d like to ride.

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I think your favourite ride this time was Postman Pat, you dragged daddy and I on it a fair few times!

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I stupidly forgot to bring you a jumper or coat so ended up buying a Cbeebies hoodie for you to wear. I hope that it’s big enough for you to get some decent use out of it as there weren’t many sizes left in the designs you liked.

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We didn’t take our own food on that occasion as we normally do and it was nice to see that the lunch options in Cbeebies were sandwiches and picnic style food rather than fast food. With the annual pass holder discount it didn’t work out to expensive either.

We also enjoyed a day out at Blackpool zoo recently which went down well with you. The last time we visited there you were only 30 months old so you don’t remember it. We’ve bought annual passes for the zoo so I look forward to going back a few times over the next year. The zoo was a great day out as it’s not too large which makes it little leg friendly!

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I’m grateful for the particularly mild autumn this year as its meant lots of time to play outside still which you love. Your face lights up if we are able to go to one of the local play grounds to let of some steam and have a good run around. You’ve even ticked off another first…getting your face painted. I love that as there were no pictures for ideas you asked to be a rainbow.

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Halloween has been great, I’ve never really taken part in it before as it’s not really been my thing but I entered into the spirit of it (excuse the pun!) for the first time this year by getting some decorations. Daddy took you out to do some trick or treating at the local decorated houses as well which you loved. I’m quite sad it’s over now but have packed away the decorations for next year! My face printing skills aren’t quite as professional as the man who painted your rainbow!

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Flixster you too have been changing and growing so much. We hit the 6 month mark recently but as you’re still not able to sit unaided I’ve not thrown myself into any complimentary feeding yet. You’re still breastfeeding as much as ever so as long as that continues I won’t be pushing the food. You’ve had a few bits of finger food here and there which you seem to enjoy but I’m not going to make it a regular everyday thing until your able to sit fully unaided. We want to do baby-led weaning rather than mushing anything so there’s no rush. You get all you need from my milk in the mean time.

You finally rolled over completely all by yourself this past weekend so I know sitting will come soon. Unfortunately I think you are beginning to go through the “only mummy will do” phase, as you are even unhappy in grandmas arms. I know it will pass and as you spend most of your life attached to me in a sling then there’s no problem.

After the zoo visit we made our annual trip to see the Blackpool lights. Ever since your brother was born each year we go and have a walk along the static displays at the Bispham end of the lights. We always park up and have fish and chips first then we have a wander down the lights and back, it’s just our family thing now which I love doing. This year as we’d been to the zoo with grandma and grandad we invited them to come along too. It was your first time at the lights Flixster and you slept all the way through it only waking for a few minutes at the end, oh well maybe next year!

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I’m so proud of how you are now interacting together. Flixster you are laughing at anything your big brother does, especially if it’s a little bit naughty which is encouraging him even more. I can’t help but laugh sometimes! I hope growing up you stay close as brothers and are always good friends to each other!

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Please always remember I love you both unconditionally….forever.
Love Mummy xx

Before I became mummy I used to hate Halloween! I hated that children would knock on the door and trick or treat. I didn’t like the scary factor to it. It was not my favourite day by any means and I always used to avoid it by going out in the evenings. It used to be my first Christmas shopping night of the year. I would go to my local big shopping centre and spend the night shopping avoiding any knocks on the door. However since having children I’ve ended up staying in and waiting for the knocks on the door. For the past two years the boy has been a bit to young to understand what was going on, however I have dressed him up to try to get in the spirit.

This year however has been different. I have really enjoyed the time leading up to Halloween as well as the night itself. This year I threw myself into decorating the house. I bought a few decorations and put them up with the help of the boy.

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The boy was delighted when we put a couple of things up on his bedroom door.

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On Friday itself we had planned to have an inside day so I took the opportunity to do some Halloween activities together. We first spent quite a while messing about with the face paints. Since last week was the first time he had had his face painted whilst we were out I thought we could try again at home whilst he still remembered what face paints were. His costume was a skeleton so I tried to make a skeleton face for him to go with it. As you can imagine keeping a 3 year old still is hard so it didn’t come out too well, but it was good enough for him!

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I had bought a pumpkin carving kit this year to avoid using a kitchen knife on our pumpkin as I knew the boy would want to get involved. I wasn’t sure if it would be any good as it only cost £1 but I highly recommend them. You get a scoop, a carving tool and a poking tool.

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I wasn’t sure at first if it would be suitable for a 3 year old to use but the carving tool wasn’t particularly sharp so with some supervision the boy soon got the hang of poking the face shapes out and then using the carving tool to cut them. It did take quite a while with the scoop to get out all the seeds but that’s part of the fun and the boy really enjoyed himself.

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Once evening came I changed him into his costume and we waited for any trick or treaters. He was so excited, he thought that his friends from nursery would come to our house (despite them living no where near where we live!) I guessed they must have been talking about it at nursery during the week. He was so excited that he put the bucket of sweets on the stairs by the door in readiness. This was the first year ever that I was hoping some people would come. I didn’t want to have to tell him that nobody was coming. Our house is the tucked away on the end of a small row of houses and quite well hidden by a large hedge so often people have trouble finding it. On dark evenings its even harder to find so I made sure the outside light was on and I turned on some lights in the house to try and encourage them to call!

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It wasn’t too long before there was a little knock on the door, the boy rushed to answer it with me and was eager to try and put treats in the two children’s buckets, it was very sweet. Daddy came home soon after and the boy asked to go out trick or treating. I’ve never really agreed with it but he asked so nicely and his eyes were full of hope so Daddy agreed to take him out to just a few houses. I’m not sure he knew what you really did as he wanted to take out our full bucket of sweets to each house! We live on an estate of newish built houses so they went out and knocked on a few doors that were decorated and where they knew that people were participating. I think that is a fair compromise. If a house is decorated for Halloween then its fair to say they probably don’t mind small children knocking on to trick or treat. It wasn’t long before they were back and the boy was very happy and excited to tell me about it. After he got home we had a few more knocks and the boy got to give out more sweets. It was lovely to see him trying to give everyone treats. Thankfully all the children we had were lovely and polite and all said thank you before leaving.

After both boys were in bed I sat down to reflect on how much I’ve actually enjoyed Halloween this year. I’m excited to make it even more fun next year. I’ll certainly be looking out for decorations in the sale to keep for 2015!

As its half term this week all my baby groups and regular activities are off so instead of spending the week cooped up indoors which is hard work with children, today I arranged to meet a friend who has a similar age baby to Flixster at a garden centre local to me. The garden centre is called Bents and is well-known in the north-west area. I haven’t been for a few months and was surprised when I arrived to see that its undergoing a massive transformation and expansion. I’m not sure when the expected completion date is but it’s looking great so far. Bents is well-known for its fabulous must see Christmas displays and I know that the countdown to Christmas has really started once Bents put out their displays.
As I arrived at Bents I also noticed that they have put in a new large roundabout to improve access to the car park. It’s made it far easier to get in and out of the newly expanded car park. Although its half term and extremely busy I headed towards the back of the car park and easily found somewhere to park. We’d arranged to meet for lunch at the cafe as it has a fab reputation locally as great place to eat. The queue was quite large but moved at a steady pace, we skipped the sandwiches and hot food in favour of the ‘Cream Tea for Two’ which was £12.50. You got a large scone each, four strawberries, two pots of jam, two pots of clotted cream and a large pot of tea to share.

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The scones were lovely, although I did have to keep them out of reach of Flixster as he kept trying to grab for them. We’ve just started baby led weaning as he is now 28 weeks. I gave him some of the strawberry instead which he seemed to love, I’m not sure how well the red stains will come out of his vest but that’s part of the fun! After we’d eaten and drank our tea Flixster was getting tired so we had a little wander. My friend had an appointment so had to leave, we said our goodbyes and I gently rocked Flixster for a few minutes whilst he nodded off in the pram. This gave me a chance to have a proper look around.
I love Christmas time, its my favourite holiday season. I’ve always loved this time of year and the magical build up. Since having Children its become even more special.I love the decorations and making my home feel magical inside and out. I love getting the decorations out each year, remembering where and when we bought each one. We always buy one or two special tree decorations each year to add to our collections so I have already begun the hunt for just the right one. The Christmas displays at Bents are amazing. There are lots of room displays with enormous amount of attention to detail.

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There are lots of dressed trees to look at and the floor space given over to Christmas is amazing. There is everything you could ever need to make your home feel Christmassy and fantastic. I looked around the undressed trees as we are looking to buy a new tree this year. Normally I have an artificial 6ft tree and we place it on a small table so that it touches the ceiling. As a child I always remember the Christmas tree being taller than I was, these days being 6ft myself its pretty hard to find trees taller than I am. This year we have changed our living room furniture so have even less room for a tree so I am looking to buy a slim or pencil tree. The artificial trees in Bents where plentiful and I really liked that they were all clearly labelled with height, base diameter and price. It really helped anyone who was looking to easily identify something suitable.

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After looking at the trees I went to look at the miniature village display. I like to look each year at all the little models, people must spend years collecting them. I wouldn’t have room for them in my house but I do like to look each year at the fabulous displays Bents put together.

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As the weather is so nice still I took the opportunity to go outside to look at the plants. I don’t have a large garden and I barely get time these days with the boys to do any gardening but I really enjoy looking at the various plants. The displays were lovely to look at and I enjoyed a walk over to have a look at the children’s play area. From the plans it looks like they are also going to be making a conservation area at the back of the centre that people will be able to walk around. I’ll look forward to that next year.

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The new outdoor play area looks great for children and I can’t wait to take the boy, I hope we have some more nice days this year so we can go back during term time and have a play. The cafe has also been extended outside onto a raised area which I imagine in the summer is a beautiful place to sit and look over the lake.

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Flixster had begun to wake up so I headed back inside and made my way to the parents room which is located at the back of the cafe. I have used the room before so knew which way to go. I went in and had a quick look at the food area, from the plans I noticed that this is going to be extended to incorporate local producers which is going to be great. Since I was last here the displays have altered and instead of high shelving the produce is now displayed on pallets which look great. I didn’t have a good chance to look at all the food as Flixster was starting to tell me he was hungry. Hopefully I can have a proper look next time I visit.

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I found the parents room and thankfully they have provided two seats for feeding babies. I’m happy to breastfeed anywhere but as I’d already used the cafe I thought I’d feed in the parents room as Flixster gets easily distracted these days when feeding so a quiet calm environment is ideal. The room was lovely and clean with two nappy changing beds. There is a small toilet cubicle and another cubicle with a chair and lockable door, ideal if you are a mum not comfortable with feeding in public. There’s also another chair available in the main changing room. I fed Flixster and then changed him. There are two sink areas which were also very clean and had lovely toiletries provided. It is a big thumbs up from me for the services they provide to parents. Very clean, comfortable and spacious, just what mummies and daddies need!

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Once Flixster was settled back into the pram I took him for a look at the Christmas lights. He’s at an age where he’s fascinated by lights, especially ones that flash or change. There are plenty to look at in Bents. I loved watching his face as he marvelled at the different colours and displays.

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I love having lights up at Christmas. Last year was the first time I put some up outside and the boy loved coming home from nursery to see the lights. I found some battery-powered ones that only came on at night-time which were powered by two AA batteries that claimed to last for 30 days, in reality I did have to change the batteries after about 20 days but still I was impressed that I didn’t have to plug them into the mains. I can’t wait to get them out again this year! Once we’d finished being wowed by the light displays we headed out via the new craft shop. I love having a go at new crafts and enjoying myself just losing an hour or two in making something so I was thrilled to see the new shop had opened within the ongoing extension work. I didn’t have much time but did try to survey what they are going to be selling. I think they are still setting up as some of the shelves looked a little empty. What I did see though made me want to return soon to take a closer look, perhaps when I have someone else with me to watch the boys for a few minutes!

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Time was marching on so we exited the shop to start making our way home. I’m very much looking forward to going back again soon (although perhaps during term time when its a little quieter) to have another good nosey around. The new extension is looking promising and once it’s fully open will make a great addition to an already lovely place to visit. I’ve always found the staff to be visible and as always today was no exception, if I had needed any help then I’m confident I would have found someone quickly and easily. Even on such a busy day I noticed lots of staff out and about helping other people. Bents certainly know how to treat their customers well, a key to it’s already great reputation.

If you’re ever in the north-west then it’s a highly recommended day out and I can’t wait to go back soon with both boys and hubby!

 

www.bents.co.uk