About

Picniic App

Ok, I’ll admit it straight away, I am not the most organised of people!! Working full time, whilst having Heidi half of the time means that I struggle to know if I am coming or going!! This is one of the problems separated parents have to deal with as communication is not as easy as when you live together.

I was given the opportunity to review the “Picniic” app, which is a free app, but does have premium features* – to see if it was a way of helping my problem.

What is Picniic?

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Picniic is a simple app where you can share photos, have a mutual calendar and have a combined “to do” list. The premium version also allows you to add birthdays and anniversaries into the calendar on a recurring basis, have a meal planner with suggested recipes and a funky family locator section.

However, this video will probably tell you more about the app.

So why is it good?

Quite simply, the app is really easy to use. Yes, you can have a shared calendar on Google, and you can send photos on Whatsapp, and you can send hundreds of text messages reminding the other person to do something.

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However, this is all in one place.  You can control the information flow into one app which will make things a lot more organised and civil going forward.

Also, the app is so simple to use.  I found it hard to break the app to be honest because it is just neat and tidy. It sounds so simple, but it really is!!

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One thing that would be especially good for those with younger children is the meal planner, so both parents don’t give their child the same meal on 2 consecutive nights – it sounds so simple, but they are things that can happen now and again!

Why is it not so good?

Firstly, there are some features which is behind a paywall. However, there are no adverts within the app and so it is only fair that the good people at Picniic make a little bit of money!

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Secondly, there doesn’t appear to be a way of sharing videos within the app, which might cause a problem. You can happily share photos however

Conclusion

This app seems to do everything that you need it to do, to be able to get yourself organised. Life is hard enough – this app might make it a little bit easier to be separated parents who want to do the best for their child – and that is the only thing that really matters.

* Thanks to the good people at Picniic, if you use the code BLUKLD you can have a 30 day free trial of the product.


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“No More Worries” Kit

A gentle way to get your child to talk about their feelings

As a single parent, I do worry about how certain things affect Heidi now she has started school, especially around the fact her mum and dad live separately.

When I was offered the chance to review the “No More Worries Kit”, I jumped at the chance to see if it would help Heidi talk about any things that was on her mind.

The pack contains the following:

  • A “no more worries” plaque
  • Journal
  • Conversation cards

The plaque is a cool piece of kit where your child puts their thumb on it and it turns red to show that the fairies are listening (I did not verify whether the fairies did listen!). Once it turns green, the fairies have taken the worries away!! It is a really good way of trying to get your child to put aside their worries and stresses of life and keeps alive the magic of fairies! Best of all, it comes with a battery already!!

Fairy Plaque
Fairy Plaque

The journal is designed to allow your child to write down their thoughts and perhaps get an emotional release in that manner. As Heidi is only 4, this didn’t really work for us, but it did work well as an opportunity to draw the fairies which took her worries away!!  In truth, the journal is just a nice notepad, but a useful tool nonetheless.

Feelings Journal found within the pack
Feelings Journal

The final part is what I thought was the best part – the conversation cards. Without wanting to give too much away, these are questions that, as parents, we should be asking our child very regularly, such as “What makes you happy?” and “If you could describe how you feel in one word, what would it be?”

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The questions are quite simple to ask and answer (Heidi was fine with them) but they promote open answers and hopefully an honest conversation will follow from that. There are about 15 cards in the pack and generally you would only want to go through a couple at a time, so that it doesn’t feel as though you’re bombarding your child with questions. Using the plaque afterwards would be a good way to bring closure to the questioning.

Conversation Cards
Conversation Cards

After going through the pack, what did I find out about Heidi and her worries? Well, she seems absolutely fine with mum and dad being separate, and seems really happy with my new girlfriend.

So what did worry Heidi…..?!

Not being able to meet a real, live unicorn, and I am not sure that any type of product is able to make that happen for her!!!

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I need to find a real one of these!

You can buy the “No More Worries Kit” from the Irish Fairy Door Company – https://gb.theirishfairydoorcompany.com

Full Disclaimer: We were offered the product free of charge for the purposes of this post, although no influence has been made to alter the content of the post.

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Tractor Fest 2018 – Newby Hall

 

Going to a “Tractor Fest” doesn’t immediately jump out as a good way to spend the day with a child, but Tractor Fest at Newby Hall is more than just about tractors!

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Yes, there are tractors – hundreds and hundreds of tractors in fact – and they come from far and wide from all over the country to the event. However, there are all over types of agricultural machinery from motors to plough, diggers to trailers so don’t think that tractors are all that is on offer!!

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In fact, it has more of a feel of a Country Show than a pure “Tractor Fest” as there were shops, food stalls, and children’s activities including the Police Tractor, land train and ride on mini tractors/cars (£3 for 15 minutes). There is also a helter skelter, dodgems and a mini train roundabout.

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There is also the lovely Newby Hall gardens a short walk away from the main festival which is free for Tractor Fest. Here there is a mini train to ride (£2.20 each for a 10 minute ride – brilliant value!) a really good playground and a water/splash area. Because of this, a spare change of clothes is advisable!!

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Just a few things to bear in mind:
– it is an outdoor attraction so you need dry weather!
– it is held in a farmers field and so a sturdy pair of shoes (and pushchair!) are advisable
– the main Tractor Fest doesn’t seem to have baby change facilities and so the best place is in Newby Hall Gardens. Likewise, the best toilets are down there

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The parking is free and plentiful and due to the volume of cars, make sure you make a note of where you parked your car. It is all very organised however, and entry and exit was very efficient. Even though the car park was busy, the event did not feel busy.

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You will see a good number of “farmer” types who come to Tractor Fest for the tractors, but I was pleasantly surprised as to how many young children were there, especially in the Gardens. It shows that there is much more to Tractor Fest than tractors, and the free admission for under 4’s really helps with this!

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We were at Tractor Fest for 4 hours and we had a really good time throughout. The 2 year old (it wasn’t my weekend to have Heidi) fell asleep towards the end through the combination of fresh air, exercise and mental stimulation and that’s not a bad thing at all!!

Hopefully next year, Heidi will have chance to experience the fun (in the sun hopefully!).

Continue reading Tractor Fest 2018 – Newby Hall

Hidden Difficulties of Being a Dad

Hello, There!

So on the run up to Fathers’ Day (I will happily accept random presents!), I thought that I would do a post as to a few things that dads have to cope with, which mums don’t!

Being the only man in playgroups

A main reason why I started to blog was a time when I was the only male adult within a playgroup containing 40 children – it was a horrible experience and certainly made me question how inclusive society was. It wasn’t a regular playgroup for us, but it was very uncomfortable for me, and I felt as though I was on show somewhat. I wrote about it here. As such, if you come across a situation, smile, say hi, and it will make a huge difference.

On the plus side, the queue for the toilets was non-existent!!!!

Fortunately, as time as moved on, we have both developed our confidence and now at least 1 of us can put some moves on the dancefloor at raves!!

Fun at Boomchikkaboom
I bet you look good on the dance floor!!

Are you babysitting?!

Arghhhhh! No, I’m not and I’m not Daddy Day Care either! I’m trying to play an active part in my child’s development, just like virtually every single mum does in the world! I felt so strongly about this, I got a t-shirt with the message on it – funnily enough, I got the most compliments from when I was in Florida wearing it.

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Dad’s don’t babysit, it’s called parenting!

Toilet trips

As you can probably guess, male toilets are grim at the best of times. They are much, much worse when you have a toilet training girl who likes to talk!!

In truth, nappy changing facilities were never too much of an issue as they were looked after quite well, but when you have to take a curious little girl into a cubicle, you just hope that she doesn’t ask any questions or make any comments!

I tend to find that finding a disabled toilet is the best solution to this problem, although in certain places, they are secured by a radar key and as such, they are not possible to use!

Workplace Attitudes

Somehow, dads tend to feel guilty for having time off because our little one is ill and needs looking after. Sometimes a child needs both parents, or just wants their daddy and whilst workplaces are generally accepting of the fact mum needs to head off home in an emergency, this hasn’t passed over to the need for dad to do the same.

There was a time when I had “the phone call” to say Heidi was on her way to A&E with a suspected broken arm at 4pm, and so I raced to hospital (after telling my managers). The next day, no-one asked how things had gone or how either of us were, they only asked why work hadn’t been completed in the evening!!

Hopefully this is something that can change to help both mums and dads.

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Happy times!

Whilst the point of this blog post isn’t a “woe is me” moan about being a dad, after all, it is the best job in the world, it is just to point out some of the hidden problems dads face. Having said that, we certainly don’t have to deal with leaky boobs, stretch marks and all the things Mum has to deal with!!

I think that the main point is that regardless of if you’re mum or dad (or some other variation), being a parent is really hard work!! As such, if you think someone you know needs a hand – offer and show that you care. I think that we all need that little bit of help and understanding along the way because we cannot do it alone.

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Best buds!!

However, no matter if you’re mum or dad, no matter how many challenges are in your way, so long as you love your child as much as is humanly possible, you’ll be the best parent in the world in the eyes of your child and that is the most important thing.


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Chester Zoo

As you might have read on a previous blog post, we travelled by National Express to Chester Zoo, and you can read about it here.

Given that Chester Zoo is so far for most, I thought that it would be good idea to come up with some pointers which might help you have a fab visit and hopefully a peaceful journey home with children fast asleep!!

  • Plan what you want to see. The park is so big, you are unlikely to be able to see everything, especially if you have children. As such, plan what you want to see and build the day around that. Either that, or spread the visit over 2 days. There are so many animals to see, from Bats (not suitable for those who don’t like the dark!) to Zebras and Elephants.

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  • Go to the Islands first. This one came from the kind people at Chester Zoo as the boat ride and general attractions in that part of the park gets busier in the afternoon and the last thing you want to do it wait for nearly an hour to go on a boat ride!
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Zebras can be found at the entrance to the Islands
  • Let the kids play! There are decent play areas dotted around and whilst it is easy to want to keep them seeing all the animals, they need a break as well. There is a small water area and so you might want to pack a spare change of clothes (and visit it towards the end of the day!)
  • Consider the refillable drink option. If it is warm, this option will be well worth it, especially as you won’t load your bag up with heavy drinks before setting off. However, I couldn’t find a refill station in The Islands so refill before you head over there.
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Enjoying the refills!
  • Dress as if you’re off on Safari. The park is big and so wear decent shoes and comfortable clothes, especially if it is going to be warm. You probably don’t need to wear the khaki’s, but when in Rome….!! As the park is so big, you might want to see if the old pushchair still works (you can hire stollers, which looked like a good idea at about 3pm!!)
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Hijacking a pushchair! (not really!!)
  • If you’re going to buy a present, don’t wait until the park closes. The queues at the shop at the entrance/exit were huge as the park was closing and so it might be better to visit halfway during the day and drop it off in the car, or visit one further into the park when it comes to leaving the park.

Probably the highlight was seeing the giraffes run for their freshly prepared food, which was pretty special, as well as Heidi playing hide and seek with some animals who thought that it would be a good idea to run in and out of their indoor area!

There are loads of toilets dotted about and they are really well signposted (having had to make a dash following a “I need a wee” call from Heidi!!) and there are enough food outlets around so you won’t go hungry. The BBQ place smelt amazing and that might be the best place to eat (it is near a kids play area!)

Overall, we had a really good time at Chester Zoo, and we were blessed with almost perfect weather conditions. The journey back was very quiet to say the least as we were all a bit tired!!  I do think that if we went back, we would try and go for 2 days and make a weekend of it!!

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PS Does anyone know what these animals are?! They are good at hide and seek!

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Coach Trip …. with National Express

What seems like a really relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon with a 4 year old and a 2 year old?? How about travelling across the country to spend the day at Chester Zoo?! (blog post on Chester Zoo can be found here)

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It seemed like a good idea at the time, but with an early start leading to grumpy grown-ups and a new mode of transport leading to overexcited children, it could have been a loooooong day! However, once we all got settled, we had a really comfortable and enjoyable journey to Chester.

So, what did we like about the journey:

Booster Seats – This got a big thumbs up from the little ones, even causing an argument over them!! You cannot book them prior to travel, but the coach going to Chester had 2 available and the one coming back had 1 available and they were very comfortable – apparently!!

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They ended up sat next to each other to compare booster seats

Power sockets – Each pair of seats has a power socket to share between them and so using your phone/tablet is much easier to do. It has a 3 pin plug as opposed to a USB port, so make sure you bring your plug as well as wire!!

Seats – The seats were surprisingly comfortable and not what I was expecting at all. As you can see, they are leather and have a decent amount of legroom.  Each seat has a seatbelt (legally, you must wear the seatbelt) which makes the journey feel even safer.

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Friendly drivers – On the commentary, the driver going to Chester Zoo seemed genuinely excited to be taking a lot of passengers there and he even talked about some of the animals you could see when approaching the coach stop!! We had a folding pushchair with us, and the drivers insisted on putting the luggage into the coach hold – all you have to do is fold it down and they do the rest.

Last and most importantly,

You can sit and interact with your child – Especially being a single parent, when going by car on a  long journey, it is difficult to talk to and interact with your child sat in the back seat. However, as you are sat together on the coach, you can spend some quality time with your little one, have fun, chat, play games and, most importantly, make memories.

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You can’t do this whilst driving!!

All in all, it was a very long and tiring day in the sun and it certainly meant that the little ones had a good night’s sleep!! One thing that would have been really difficult was if we had to change coaches on the way home, but fortunately, due to the number of routes National Express operate, it is more likely than not, there is a direct service to the place you want to go.

Would we go again by National Express? Absolutely, especially when it gives you the chance to explore the country at a reasonable price.

Full Disclaimer: We were offered free travel for the purposes of this post, although no influence has been made to alter the content of the post.


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Bradford Ice Arena

One of my main weaknesses is my lack of co-ordination and balance (I’m 6ft 1in tall and not exactly slim!!) As a result, going ice skating isn’t something that I would normally do, especially given our last visit,  which you can read about here.

However, the lure of Frozen and a kiddie-friend get-together meant that ice skating was going to happen. However, with a new girlfriend (you can read about me dating here) who was eager to get on the ice (or eager to get away from me for an hour!) we joined the rest of the Kiddie Crew for a trip on the ice.

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Not sure the shades were needed!!

Truth be told, I didn’t go on the ice, which meant that I was in peak blogging mode and seeing what would be good for a blog post!! From the outside, Bradford Ice Arena doesn’t look that appealing as it is a few floors up a 1970’s city centre office block and as the lift was broken, taking a pushchair up takes some effort. As the building is quite old, some of the interior is a bit aged, but this is made up by helpful and friendly staff.

We went to the Family Session, which is akin to a beginners session and as the weather outside wasn’t great, the place was very busy and there was a big queue to get in. As a result, arrive in plenty of time!!

You need to get your skates on after entering the arena and there is often a queue for that as well, so maybe arrive 30 minutes before the session. At worse, you are sat around watching the session before you.  There are loads of seats (they host ice hockey games there) so no problems on that front!

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The ice is over THERE!!!!

You can hire a penguin or snowman skating aid for a small charge, but they are issued on a first come first served basis and you only have them for an hour (and they enforce that!). To be honest, after an hour, either you’ll have enough confidence to get rid of the aid, or you’ll have given up!!  For more advanced skaters, there are Disco sessions and General skating sessions, but for little ones, the Family sessions are ideal.

There are a good number of friendly marshals on the ice and they are very good in looking after little ones who fall on the ice.

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For an adult and a 4 year old with a penguin aid, it cost £14, which seems like good value for almost 2 hours of fun, especially as it was so much better than last time!!


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