A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Monday, 29 February 2016

Does Swearing Have A Place In Blog Posts?

The other day on Facebook, there was much discussion about the aged chestnut that is the "should bloggers write for free" question.




One response in particular caught my eye.  It was basically a wall of expletives.  Brands and PRs could 'do one', the blogger said (completely in phrases beginning with F).

I have to say that whenever I come across swear words in blog posts, I find myself clicking away pretty quickly.

This is not because I am a delicate flower.  It's more because I feel vaguely let down.

Great Bloggers Are Wordsmiths


There are millions of fantastic words in the English language.  Millions.

As bloggers, shouldn't we be wordsmiths?  Shouldn't we use language to paint amazing verbal pictures?

Don't we have standards to uphold (or even create)?

Some of the sweary posts I have read have been written by parenting bloggers.

Is A Post Full Of Expletives Really Going To Engage A Brand?


That must go down very well with brands and PRs seeking to engage with a family audience.

I'm sure the "it's our blog and we write what we like" brigade will be sticking a pin in my effigy but, as they used to say in school,  "it's not big and it's not clever".

There is a type of  'bitter blogger' who specialises in venting spleen in a wry, vaguely comedic way, using language that would make a trucker blush.

And it's funny for a while.

Among the ascerbic comments, there are usually a few kernels of truth, a few good take-away points.

There's another saying which comes to mind from the old music hall days - "they're funny but they're on too long".

Do You Know Your Readers?


Now swearing might be completely appropriate for your blogging niche.  I can't for the life of me think what that niche might be but if that's what your audience enjoys then fine.

But the question is, do you really know who's reading you?

As bloggers we rely on stats, social media likes and comments. These can paint a partial picture of what our readers think.

Except that in many cases, blogs are read by other bloggers in a kind of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" way.

I think, particularly if you are a parenting blogger, you should assume that you could be read by anyone of any age.

And that's where the swearing habit is risky if you want to build an engaged audience.

It may be a stereotype but I think an older, more mature audience won't welcome a blog post full of expletives.

If you're writing about family matters, your comment posts should surely reflect that.  (You wouldn't be daft enough to swear in a review post, would you?)

Listen,  I fully understand the "mummy's had a bad day, the kids are little sods and where's the corkscrew" sentiment.

But giving full verbal vent to your frustrations in purple prose makes you look a bit, well, out of control.

Have The Perfect Lifestyle Parenting Blogs Had Their Day?


I read recently that there is a backlash against parent blogs which create a perfect lifestyle - you know the kind of thing - instagram pictures curated to the last pantone, cutesy shots of the family dancing through autumnal leaves and posts about how to make your home Martha Stewart worthy.

Frankly I love these kind of posts.  And I'm not sure that the antidote to these is the bitter, sweary mummy blog focusing on how awful it is to be blessed with children especially when they will insist on behaving like children.

Still,  the great appeal of blogging is that it is a platform for expression available to all.

I'm not suggesting censorship.  I am saying that blogging is a craft which deserves respect, and care, and consideration for the feelings of the reader, whoever they may be.

And you won't find any expletives in my posts.    That much I will swear.
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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Celebrating Our Older Kids - Do We Need A "Slightly Bigger Fierce Ones" Hashtag?

As a sometime parenting blogger with kids aged 8 and 6,  I find that I am occasionally disheartened by the fact that there are pictures of cute babies and toddlers everywhere.

Baby Caitlin Hobbis - motherdistracted.co.uk
Caitlin in 2007
Instagram is awash with them.

There they are in cute wellies encountering trees and flowers.  They are jumping in puddles.  They are prodding kittens and walking backwards up slides.

They are staring at clouds with an expression to rival that of the most earnest nuclear physicist.

Their every breath is instagrammed to the 'nth' degree.

And understandably so.

Because what parent wouldn't want to celebrate the wonder unfolding in front of them and, better yet, create a living, breathing, archive of those moments to last for eternity?

But my point is when kids get over a certain age, and the development of their personalities is in full throttle,  it's easy to miss those 'cute days'.

Ieuan Hobbis - motherdistracted.co.uk
Ieuan in 2015
Referring to them with your chosen nickname may no longer be appropriate either - "little man" (which I hate), "sausage", "cupcake" or any other term guaranteed to cause maximum embarrassment with their school friends.  You are quite likely to be greeted with "muuuummm!"

I said to Ieuan only this morning that he was my "cute little Jedi". "I'm not a little Jedi", he said hotly, "I'm a medium Jedi".

As they change, your relationship to them changes and the type of parent you are also changes.

I think many of us must feel a sense of loss.

They're still cute, we tell ourselves defensively.  And they are but our photograph albums now capture fledgling teens, even adults.

"Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man", as the Jesuit motto goes.

Our pictures capture their moods, both good and bad.

You have to wonder if they sometimes get sick of being constantly photographed.

Their lives are documented in ways ours never were.  For a start, when I was growing up, cameras still came with actual 'film' you stuck in the back and wound on.

Nobody took a selfie unless they got confused and had the camera turned the wrong way around.

So my plea is, please can we have a new hashtag which helps us to focus on the challenges and triumphs of our slightly older children?

Caitlin & Ieuan Hobbis - motherdistracted.co.uk
Caitlin & Ieuan -  Double Trouble

Can we remember to celebrate the beauty of their new discoveries now that they have the language to discuss them?

Can we carve our own little corner of Instagram just for them?

How about using a couple of the other instagram hashtags?  #Soproudofyou  or #Stroppy.

That should just about cover it.
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Friday, 26 February 2016

Why Blogging About Your Job Is Not Your Best Career Move

Just lately, there have been several instances on Facebook where bloggers have questioned whether it is wise to blog about your job.





My answer to this is a categorical NO.

I have also come across instances where an employer has caught a blogger writing sponsored posts for a competitor and demanded that the posts be removed.

Cue much "how very dare they" in tones which imply the Human Rights Act should be referred to immediately.

An Employment Contract Is Legally Binding


I am beginning to wonder whether people understand that an employment contract is, well a contract - and a legally binding one at that.

When you agree to work for a company, you agree to abide by a set of rules (theirs) in exchange for pay and benefits.

The company has a duty of care towards its employees to treat them fairly and equitably.  But, you know what?  It's a two way street.

I've read posts which seem to imply that the blogger / employee is actually doing the employer a favour just by turning up.

You cannot justify criticizing your employer on your blog because you hate the job, they don't pay you enough or you haven't been promoted.

That will get you out of the door quicker than you'd like.

Nobody Is Irreplaceable


And if you feel that you're irreplaceable - well, have you seen the UK unemployment figures lately?

I don't mean to be harsh.

I think if you work with your employer, blogging can be an extremely valuable addition to the marketing mix.

But I think we need a reality check here.

Employers DO Check You Out On Social Media


Employers and recruitment agencies will check you out on social media.  Yes they will - whether or not they are supposed to.

If you let it be known that you write a blog in your spare time, it is just human nature for your co-workers to want to check it out.

If you have written anything negative, it is also, sadly, human nature for some 'helpful' co-worker to bring it to the attention of the management.

And if you are being negative, therefore, future employers might take a dim view - particularly if you are staying in the same industry.

In Law, where I worked for 13 years, most of the partners had worked in numerous other law firms and all knew each other.

Until you reach a certain age, you don't always have the political 'smarts' either.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Let's say there's a particular manager you just can't get on with.  They seem to have it in for you.  You get the crappiest assignments.  Your suggestions are routinely ignored in meetings.

It would be very easy to vent your spleen in a blog post and think that you were fully justified in doing so - heck, you could even convince yourself that you are being a noble "whistleblower" and bringing the manager to book.

You Never Know Who Is Friends With Whom


What you probably don't realise is that, even if that manager seems to be deeply unpopular,  they may be best buddies with the rest of the managers, or even the CEO.

I remember a couple of senior partners in one of the law firms I worked for who, on the face of it, hated each other.

It later transpired that not only did they regularly dine together, they even went on holiday together.

The same thing with college lecturers.  You never know what goes on in the staff room, or what is said and I think there is a tendency for senior staff to stick together to protect each other's positions.

So,  after another downbeat, unmotivating, dreary day, it would be so easy to come home and blog about it, wouldn't it?

Anything you write is on the internet for ever.  Things you say now could bite you years later.

I'm assuming you've worked long and hard to get where you are.

You've probably fought off lots of competition to get your foot in the door.

But you signed a contract.

The honorable thing to do if you hate it, is find another job.

Yes it's difficult - but that's rather my point.

The RIGHT Way To Blog About Your Job


If you want to blog about your job, why not undertake some technical research or write a paper about a particular aspect of your role.  Let your manager see it and then publish with their blessing.

That way, bloggers, promotion lies.

If you want to run your employer down on your blog, so that senior management, co-workers, competitors and, even worse, clients see it, then you may find you are blogging full time quicker than you think.

Life isn't fair.  Speech may be free,  but sometimes there's a rather hefty price to pay all the same.
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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Have You Got The Welcome Mat Out For Anxiety?

It dawned on me the other day that the reason for my (comparative) inertia when it comes to grabbing the bull by the horns (or indeed any other colloquialism for getting off your backside and acting), is that I have probably been suffering from anxiety for most of my life.

cat in a basket - dealing with anxiety - motherdistracted.co.uk

I carry a vague sense of unease around with me most of the time.  I've even given it a name - "The Fear".  It is a shapeless, amorphous blob which lurks behind doors and curtains and casts a shadow on the gloomiest day.

I could write a list of things that could have triggered it.  But, you know, nobody lives to the age of 50 without having had something unpleasant happen to them, a loss, a scare, a disappointment.  That is, to quote one of my mother's more annoying truisms, "all part of life's rich pattern".

I carry "The Fear" around with me most of the time and it makes itself known in strange symptoms like my "glasses thing" (or OCD), my inability to leave fluff on the carpet (whilst being completely able to ignore dusting), my requirement for absolute darkness and silence at night.

Anyone who leaves the empty cardboard tube from the toilet roll on the floor of the toilet feels my wrath.  I cannot bear wet towels on beds, shoes on in the house, toothpaste lids left off.

It's all about control.

And, more specifically, controlling "The Fear".

Lots of us, of course, would medicate it away somehow.  Or read endless self-help tomes ("When I loved myself enough to knit my own yoghurt").  Or seek therapy. (And how does that make you feel? Well, crap, actually).

I'm not entirely convinced acknowledging "The Fear" helps.

We are all battling the human condition and (to quote mum again), we all have our cross to bear.

There's one of those motivational postcards I often see on Facebook which says something like "be kind because everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about".

I suspect that is entirely true.

Which means, some of us have developed more effective strategies for dealing with "The Fear".

Or are we so far in denial we think we can get to Narnia through the wardrobe.  (You can't, I've tried).

Perhaps this is why there are so many videos of cats doing, well, cat things.

I love that quote about cats by the French Renaissance write Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) who said:

"Quand je me joue à ma chatte, qui sçait si elle passe son temps de moy plus que je ne fay d'elle?

(When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?)

Cats really don't, to use the vernacular, give a stuff.  They do what they want and bugger the consequences.  In fact, most cats would sniff, scag your tights with their claws and then say"what consequences" whilst yawning.

Montaigne also said "There is no passion so contagious as that of fear" and "The thing I fear most is fear".

And that's the thing about anxiety too.  You get anxious about whether you're anxious.  And then you are.

I often theorise that lots of 'odd' behaviours are simply displacement activities to avoid looking within and admitting that you are anxious.

Lots of us simply hide away.  Or leave parties early.  Or 'forget' to turn up at all.  That old saying about "always finding me in the kitchen at parties" is a neat metaphor for social anxiety.

You'll always spot the anxious at children's parties because they'll be the ones clearing up the remnants of sausage rolls and half eaten pizza armed with black bags and an air of determination not seen since the Blitz.

The anxious will always give themselves away by hating things that everyone else likes - just in case they have to join in. Christmas?  Too commercial.  Ditto Valentines Day.  Any major sporting tournament, big event in the social calendar, spontaneous knees-up.... "I can't be bothered with all that", they'll say.  " All that fuss and unnecessary expense".

Hell would be joining the Parent Teachers Association.  Or being invited up on stage during a live show.  (I'm seeing Derren Brown in April so fingers' crossed he doesn't spot me!).

We anxious ones always stand apart like statues.  We avoid eye contact.  If someone speaks to us, sometimes it's so surprising we actually jump.

At conferences we anxious avoid eye contact.  We take urgent phone calls.  We write notes.

We anxious ones like to end even the most terse email or text with a row of kisses.  "I hate you, you bastard" xxxx

The thought of upsetting someone and having to deal with the consequences is always far scarier than standing up for ourselves, claiming what's ours, demanding to count.

It's a shame there's no secret handshake to announce you are suffering from "The Fear".

Social Media is very fond of urging you to find your "tribe".

My tribe would be named (and this is one of my dad's favourite jokes), the "Elawi".  Ask them where they are and they say "we're the Elawi" (where the hell are we)?  

Since I've had "The Fear" for well over 40 years, I guess I had better get used to it.

And as a parent, the last thing I want to do is pass it on to the kids.

Kids have superheroes to help them synthesize their fear, to give them role models for, to quote Percy in Blackadder "putting ice cubes down the vest of fear".

Perhaps in later life we just need to say "sod it - The Fear is part of me.  It is who I am".  Perhaps acknowledging the intruder will take away a little of the horrid antsy, unsettled feeling. Perhaps after all we just need to put the welcome mat out for anxiety and some days, just some days, it may go and visit someone else for a change.

The late Helen Gurley Brown said that when she was upset she would lie on her sofa with her cat and talk it out, a bit like a court hearing.  I did this, he said that and so forth.  She would do this until she felt better.

I think I want to get another cat.
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Getting Your Garden Ready for Summer


The days are getting that little bit longer as we slowly edge towards summer. Just the small matter of spring in between and once it’s over you can bring out the barbecue and deckchairs.

But put them on hold for now and give your garden a little TLC to make your summer lounging more enjoyable.

A good root to go

Before you start perfecting your outdoor space, remove any weeds and deadhead any of the early flowering shrubs that have flowered and gone already.

It’s also beneficial to thin any older wood while pruning, which will help to improve future growth of plants. Although this stage may seem annoying, it gives you a clean canvas to create your horticultural haven.

All creatures great and small

Make your garden a space for all the family to enjoy, and even get the kids involved in the process. Opt for easy bedding plants, like Sweet Peas, Busy Lizzies, or Lobelia, that are easy to plant — meaning they’re great for mini gardeners.

Or how about placing these in hanging baskets, adding a splash of colour to all angles of your garden?

Pop out bird or squirrel feeders and your garden may just become a little more exciting, with small visitors other than your own children!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/thartz00/4851246235/sizes/z/

Additional characters 

‘Garden ornaments’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean covering your garden in gnomes, cute as they may sometimes be.

How about beautiful butterfly mosaic ornaments, or ladybugs and toadstools? Be creative. There’s plenty to choose from.

Al fresco dining

No British summer is complete without a barbecue or two (no matter how damp they might be), so invest in a barbecue that you don’t need to dispose of this year.

It doesn’t need to break the budget, opt for a small ‘bucket barbecue’ which is low-cost and ideal for smaller spaces, or, splash out and go for a larger, gas barbecue. Either way, the burgers will go down a treat!

 https://www.flickr.com/photos/befuddledsenses/493317904/sizes/z/

A midsummer night’s dream 

Transform your child friendly garden into a relaxed space in which to unwind on a cool summer evening.

Coil cute, low-budget-friendly outdoor fairy lights around garden walls, fences, benches, or any object that would benefit from a little bit of twinkle.

Or, how about some mosaic tea light holders, perfect for citronella tea lights to keep the midges at bay?

Add a patio heater and those nights won’t seem quite so chilly. All that’s left to do is put your feet up and enjoy your beautiful garden under the starry, silver sky.

Gardening is fun for the whole family and those little green fingertips might just make this job a whole lot easier. Roll out the picnic blanket, and roll on summer!

Images by and likeaduck and Accretion Disc, used under Creative Commons licence

*collaborative post
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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Review: Tiana Organics Fair Trade Coconut Oil & Rose Fresh Coconut TLC Anti Ageing Moisturiser

I was recently sent two products from TIANA Fair Trade Organics – the experts in organic and fair trade certified coconut products to try - their Rose Fresh Coconut TLC Anti Ageing Moisturiser and their The World's Premier Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.

Tiana Extra Virgin Coconut Oil & Rose Fresh TLC Anti Ageing Moisturiser - Health - motherdistracted.co.uk
Tiana Extra Virgin Coconut Oil & Rose Fresh Coconut TLC Anti Ageing Moisturier
 As I'm sure you know, coconut oil has undergone a massive boost in public interest and awareness being championed by health and lifestyle celebrities such as Joe Wicks and Lucy Bee.

There are a myriad of suggested uses for the oil which is claimed to have a range of health benefits such as slowing ageing, helping your heart and thyroid, protecting against illnesses like Alzheimer’s, arthritis and diabetes, and even helping you to lose weight.

I have tried coconut oil for oil pulling which is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth on an empty stomach for around 20 minutes. This action supposedly draws out toxins in your body, primarily to improve oral health but also to improve your overall health.

I found that it does make your teeth a lot whiter and leaves your teeth surprisingly clean.  It is hard, though, with two kids, to fit oil pulling into your daily routine!

Coconut oil advocates also use the oil as an all over moisturiser and a hair conditioner and, because it is a natural product, you don't have the worry of the usually unknown blend of additives which could penetrate your skin with manufacturered skin care products.

All these beauty serums may (and it's a very large may in most cases) reduce wrinkles and fine lines, or help with age spots but what are the additives doing to our bodies?  The skin is the largest organ of the body and some chemicals may pass directly into our bloodstream!

TIANA Fair Trade Organics is an established UK importer, manufacturer and supplier of premium quality, organic and Fair Trade, food, drink and beauty products. Their Extra Virgin Coconut Oil became the first fair trade certified, organic coconut based product on the market. It has also won numerous awards from consumer publications.

TIANA Fair Trade Organics Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is the only coconut oil on the market which is 100% guaranteed 1st pressed from selected ripe fresh organic coconuts, unlike any other virgin coconut oils. Those other oils are produced from coconut flesh that has been dried in the sun for up to 36 hours before being pressing or centrifuged, and then expeller pressed, or produced from coconut milk by fermentation.

It is a multi-functional product and is not just a cooking oil. TIANA say it is essential for your well-being as part of a healthy balanced diet because it contains the highest content of Lauric acid, unlike other virgin oils. The same amount of Lauric acid, which has strong anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, is only available in breast milk.

The well known TV and Radio Presenter, Janey Lee Grace, who has carved out a niche for herself as a spokesperson for the organic and natural health world is a big advocate of TIANA Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.

Tiana Extra Virgin Coconut Oil - Health - Motherdistracted.co.uk
Tiana Extra Virgin Coconut Oil - Solid At Current Room Temperature
I found the oil to be excellent to cook with and, for oil pulling purposes, to have a pleasant, slightly nutty taste.  You use it in exactly the same way you would use olive or other cooking oils.

Coconut oil is solid below 25 C so depending on how warm your house is, it can be either solid or liquid. You may find you need to scoop out the oil rather than pour but that's the only difference when it comes to cooking.

You might expect that cooking with coconut oil makes everything taste, well, coconut-y - but actually it doesn't.

You can also add a couple of tablespoons to a smoothie or spread some on toast. You can even take a teaspoon neat or, as I did, try your hand at oil pulling.

The coconut oil costs from £8.75 for 250 ml.

The TIANA Fair Trade Organics Rose Fresh Coconut TLC Anti Ageing Moisturiser was a bit of a surprise to me (in a good way!).

It is a rich ultra-concentrated face cream made with high quality Rosa Damascena pure essential oil, produced by distillation containing more than 300 active nutrients along with organic raw cold pressed coconut oil and fresh organic coconut butter.

Tiana Rose Fresh TLC Anti Ageing Moisturiser - Health - Beauty - motherdistracted.co.uk
This moisturiser looks a little different
Most moisturisers have a high content of water, sometimes up to 70%. This creates freezing in really cold weather which can accelerate the process of getting wrinkles. This one is great for use during winter and in particular wet and windy weather conditions as it contains no added water. This is absolutely unique and makes the product suitable for elderly and young people. It can be used sparingly to give a high concentration of anti-oxidants.

When I opened the moisturiser I found it to be solid and to start off the pot had to spoon a little out but, as you can see, as soon as it hit my skin it liquified and was nicely absorbed. There was no stickiness left behind but I could feel that the moisturiser was still on my skin quite a while afterwards.

Tiana Anti Ageing Moisturiser on the back of a wrist - health - beauty - motherdistracted.co.uk
The moisturiser quickly liquifies with the warmth of the skin
The rose oil gives a delicate fresh scent to the product which smells more of rose than of coconut.

It feels quite different from your usual moisturiser but I found it to be surprisingly effective and have no doubt that I could quickly get used to it.

The moisturiser costs £17.99 for 100 ml.

I really liked both products which are safe enough for all the family to use and TIANA make a range of coconut based products which you can find out about at www.tiana-coconut.com.

You can also find TIANA products at your local Holland & Barrett and at independent health food stores.
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Monday, 22 February 2016

Review: Twice The Fun With The Double Flip Fun & Games Mat


If you are used to holidaying in the UK, you will be familiar with the age-old conundrum of what to do when it's tipping down with rain and you are ensconced in a small space with the potential for a boredom-induced family squabble.

Caitlin and The Double Flip Fun & Games Mat - Children's Product Reviews - motherdistracted.co.uk
Drawing is Caitlin's favourite thing to do
You will probably also be familiar with the arsenic hours of Sunday afternoon when all homework has been done (finally) and the kids are kicking their heels and getting fractious.

Here's a solution.

It's called The Double Flip Fun Games Mat from what2buy4kids.co.uk and it's a reversible play mat which offers kids a range of activities to choose from.

Ieuan & The Double Flip Fun & Games Mat - Children's Product Reviews - motherdistracted.co.uk
Ieuan adding spiky hair 
These include:-

Snakes & Ladders
Colour by numbers
Dot to dot
Word searches
Letter writing practice
Noughts and Crosses
Creative drawing
Bee Dice Game
Insect Dice Game

The kit contains the reversible games mat and five dice, six counters and ten washable felt tips so the kids can play with their friends (1-6 players).

The mat is a decent size, measuring 120 x 100cm and there is also a fabric carry bag.

The suggested age range is 3-10 and best of all the mat is washable so it can be used over and over again.  You can wash it at 30 degrees without detergent but don't tumble dry it. You have to make sure that you only use washable felt tips though.

The Double Flip Fun & Games Mat - Children's Product Reviews - motherdistracted.co.uk
The Double Flip Fun & Games Mat
I duly roped in my two crack testers to see if it would keep them occupied for longer than five minutes.

Caitlin, as expected, went straight for the pens to do some drawing whilst Ieuan went for the dot-to-dots.

I really liked the range of activities, particularly the educational element - practising drawing letters for example.

There are a couple of wordsearches and colour by numbers which are more time consuming activities.

I think though that the wordsearches and dot to dots are probably one time only activities, but the colouring aspect and the games could be repeated endlessly.

Caitlin & Ieuan & The Double Flip Fun & Games Mat - Children's Product Reviews - motherdistracted.co.uk
Ah- Peace & Quiet!
I'd also put the age range closer to 3-8 - I am not sure the games are sophisticated enough for a 10 year old, or at least likely to keep their attention for too long.

I also think it depends on how many children are playing with the mat.  My two are quite competitive and vie to create the best drawing and you can bet they'll pick the same activity to do which is where having a reversible mat is quite handy.

The Double Flip Fun Games Mat is good for keeping kids occupied rather than being a full-on family activity.  I don't think it would replace, say, a board game.

But if frazzled parents are looking for a half hour's peace to read a book (or lie down in a darkened room with a gin & tonic), then it's ideal.

The Double Flip Fun Games Mat is good value at £23.99 given that it has multiple activities and can be reused.

The Double Flip Fun & Games Mat - Children's Product Reviews - motherdistracted.co.uk
One side of the mat
It is ideal to sling in your bag to take anywhere you think there might be excessive waiting too - my only comment would be that it does take up some space to lay out.

If you're looking for gifts for kids I think The Double Flip Fun Games Mat would be a welcome present.

The Double Flip Fun & Games Mat - Children's Product Reviews - motherdistracted.co.uk
Darth Maul, apparently.

Further information from www.what2buy4kids.co.uk.

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Sunday, 21 February 2016

What Is Meningitis B?

Meningitis B has been in the news recently following a couple of high profile cases, in particular that of two-year-old Faye Burdett, from Maidstone, Kent, who caught the infection and died after 11 days on Valentine’s Day.

Sleeping baby - Meningitis B - Motherdistracted.co.uk
Image credit
Her father, Lee Booth, finding that one of his two young daughters was deemed too old to have the vaccine last September (2015) started an online petition to get all children vaccinated up to the age of 11.

The petition has become the most signed online petition in parliamentary history with more than 640,000 signatures.

But what is Meningitis B?

Meningitis B is a meningococcal bacterial infection and can be extremely serious as it can cause blood poisoning (septicaemia), and according to the NHS is "the leading infectious killer of babies and young children in the UK".

The Meningitis Research Foundation says that Meningitis B is "the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK".

Meningitis B is an infection of the protective membranes around the brain and spinal column and can lead to severe brain damage, amputations and death.  It is always treated as a medical emergency.

Meningitis B is most common in children under 1 year old, with cases peaking at 5-6 months of age.

Signs of meningitis & septicaemia in babies - motherdistracted
Image Credit
What are the symptoms of Meningitis B?

* Severe headache
* Dislike of bright lights
* Neck stiffness
* Nausea and vomiting
* Confusion and drowsiness
* Loss of consciousness
* Convulsions/seizures
* Fever with cold hands and feet
* Joint or muscle pain
* Rapid breathing / grunting
* Stomach cramps and diarrhoea
* Red / purple spots or bruises that do not fade under pressure

The above symptoms can appear in any order, and some may not appear at all.

Image Credit 
The rash can be harder to see on dark skin, in which case check for spots on paler areas like the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, on the tummy, inside the eyelids and on the roof of the mouth.

Don’t wait for a rash to develop. If your child is unwell and getting worse, seek medical help immediately.

A vaccine to protect against meningitis B is available on the NHS for babies aged two months, followed by a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months.

Parents who wish to have older children vaccinated must pay privately, although a worldwide shortage of the vaccine Bexsero means stocks are very low.

Boots has run out of supplies and CityDoc, the largest supplier of the vaccine outside of the NHS, said although existing patients would be given their boosters, there were not enough supplies to cater for new patients.

Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline hopes to increase UK stocks by the summer.

The NHS programme is unaffected.

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Saturday, 20 February 2016

On Waiting For An Ambulance


Yesterday.  Early morning and Dad is on the phone.

I think your Mum has had a stroke he says.

I throw on my clothes and race round to their house, a few lucky minutes away.

It is 9:30 am. An ambulance has been called for.

My mum Kay - caring for elderly parents - motherdistracted.co.uk
My lovely mum, Kay
Mum suffers from a condition called Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and, occasionally she has a major fit which ends up with her being hospitalised so that she can get the right medication.

This time she looks much worse than usual.  She is lying in bed, eyes wide open, just staring at the ceiling.

I caress her hair and say "Hi Mum" but she doesn't respond.

"Dad," I say, "If this is a stroke, perhaps you should give them a call again?"

When our parents are elderly and we are not spring chickens ourselves, it is especially difficult to remain tactful whilst ensuring that the best outcome is reached for everyone.

Every word is monitored.  Each expression goes through a kind of internal quality control whilst we ourselves are fighting to quell our own panic.

The minutiae of life seem suddenly massive.  That cup of tea, clearing away the breakfast things, packing the bag for hospital.

Nothing can be found.  Nothing is in its right place.  Dad can't remember where he's put his glasses, his watch, the phone.

And despite this rushing around to find stuff, time seems to slow right down.

The waiting.  The interminable waiting.

We circle around each other, checking Mum every few minutes or so.  Her eyes won't close.  Her breathing is laboured.

We phone again and are given a set of questions and tasks to complete to check Mum's responses. She does not seem to be able to see but she can clearly hear and grip our hands.

At the end of the call we are asked to listen to a recorded set of instructions which seems to be never-ending.  Don't move the patient if they have fallen.  Watch the patient to make sure their condition does not deteriorate.  And on and on.

I don't want to listen to the recording.  I want Mum to be with someone who can actually DO something to help her.

There is nothing we can do to make her more comfortable.

I make more tea.

The ambulance service says an ambulance is 'on the way' but no they cannot give us a time frame - despite the fact that I thought they still have set response time targets to meet.  It is, they tell us, a very busy morning for the ambulance service in the Cardiff area.

Dad takes his tablets.  I phone the Husband to update him.

The front door is open so that the crew can come straight in.

I ponder that I wish I had some sort of medical training.  You feel so useless, don't you?

And I watch Dad, who has been married to Mum for 53 years fighting his fear of a separation which will be truly crushing.

Then there's the 'debate' about telling my sister.

Dad is torn about whether to tell her and worry her.  Worried that she will get in her car and race down from the North too fast.

I tell him that he must tell her or she would never forgive him.

"I'll tell her when we're in hospital" he says.

The thing about being a long-term carer as Dad is, is that it is such hard work only total control of each and every detail of daily life makes it bearable.

Carers must walk the knife edge of copable-with and all-out-emergency and pray that today everything will be OK and that the next brush with trouble is weeks away.

Mum has had her condition since 1984 and Dad has spent the last 32 years learning about her condition, coping with it and caring for her.

There is no let up.  It's a 24/7 job.  There are no obvious triggers, apart from stressful situations but, in a world which reduces daily to enable them both to cope, the smallest things can be deemed a stressful situation - going out to lunch,  family problems, even a tiny disagreement.

After two and a half hours the ambulance turns up.  Mum is taken to hospital.  Dad goes with her.

She is in safe hands.

We cannot be cross at the ambulance crew who are doing the best they can.

We do wonder about the pressure the NHS in Wales is under.

Mum spent the next 7 hours in a bed in A&E.  They had no pillows.  A pillow in A&E is "like gold-dust" Dad was told.

She is later moved to an Assessment Unit which is pleasant and clean.  The staff are kind and smiling.

I go back home to see the Husband and the kids, who I hug a little bit tighter.

They want to know what has happened to Nain and whether Taid is OK.

"I don't understand it", Ieuan says, "Nain was fine when we were there on Monday".

And that's the thing for those of us caring for elderly parents.  All our lives can change out of the blue.

That's why I like to make the most of Christmas and any special family occasion.

Mum is now safely back at home, having been discharged just over 24 hours later.

We are thanking our lucky stars and so relieved to have her home.

But, with that long wait for the ambulance, it's just as well that it wasn't a stroke because the outcome could well have been one I really don't want to think about.
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Friday, 19 February 2016

How To Perfect Your Indoor Lighting

How you choose to light up the inside of your property can either make or break your entire home decor style.

If you get it right, your lighting can make your rooms appear spacious and fresh, while failing to get your illuminations spot on can leave your spaces looking drab and dreary.



So, if you’re keen to up your brightness levels at home, here are some tips on how you can achieve indoor lighting perfection.

Update your fixtures 

Simply updating your current fixtures could help to enhance your indoor lighting and make a huge difference to the general look and feel of your home.



Worn-out looking fixtures and fittings can cause your decor to look outdated, so you could upgrade to give your abode an instant facelift.

For example, instead of relying on a hanging ceiling light in your hallway, you could open up the space by ditching this in favour of a couple of wall-mounted fittings instead.

Meanwhile, you could fix wall up-lighter models onto your dining room walls to eliminate the need for corner lamps that take up unnecessary floor space.

Browsing the products available from your local interior design store or from an online retailer such as The Lighting Superstore should give you plenty of inspiration before you consider making an upgrade.

Take control with dimmer switches 

Installing dimmer switches in your home is a great way to take control of your interior lighting.



Having this feature available on your more prominent fixtures allows you to decide on the level of brightness emitted and, in turn, enables you to create the perfect atmosphere in each room.

Whether you want to illuminate your living space of an evening or create a subtle yet romantic glow in your bedroom, dimmer switches allow you to dictate the intensity of your indoor lights.

Pay attention to corners

To ensure your home is perfectly lit, you’ll need to pay some attention to the smaller spaces within your rooms too.

While you may not think twice about the corners of your study or the alcove in your guest bedroom, leaving these areas in darkness could be putting a dampener on your overall interior look.

After all, if you made the effort to illuminate these crooks and crevices, you might find that the functionality of your rooms improves, creating a much more homely and attractive-looking space.

Creating a perfectly lit home could be easier than you think, especially if you take suggestions like these into consideration.

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Thursday, 18 February 2016

Support A Budding Young Female Film-Maker with Her Historical Drama- "The Highway Woman"

I've talked about my lovely young niece Emily's film work before and she is now working on her graduation film - The Highway Woman.

Emily is responsible for writing, producing, directing and promoting and of course I have offered to help in any way I can.



She needs to raise £800 which she is doing via Crowdfunding and literally every pound contributed will be acknowledged and certainly put to good use.




‘The Highwaywoman’ (working title) is a short 15 minute period film set in the Stuart period.



At a time where women had little rights and thieving was at its peak, the ‘Highwaywoman’ is set around the idea of a young female who seeks adventure and chooses to become a highwayman at night.



The film is being created as a final degree film piece on the Media (film) Production course at Staffordshire University.

Emily's previous work includes the science fiction film ‘Type Rare’ and the documentary ‘Street Defence’ (Featured in Cinewomen magazine).



As a challenge, Emily wanted to create a period film that would stand out and demonstrate the fascinating stories that can be created from British history.

Heavily influenced by programmes such as ‘The White Queen’ and ‘The Tudors’, Emily is hoping to create a gripping story within an era that isn’t covered so frequently.

Synopsis:

Bored by the everyday life of a woman living in the Stuart period, Anne Lovell seeks excitement and danger. She chooses to don a cloak and mask to cause terror on the roads as a highwayman.

When she meets William Shotbolt an infamous dangerous highwayman her desire is only fuelled.

Despite having a loving sister and a fiancé in her life, Anne wants more and must choose between the simple life and adventure.



My youngest niece, Georgia, has been cast as Anne's younger sister, Katherine, whilst the villainous William Shadbolt will be played by Ciaron Davies.



Ciaron Davies is an actor and writer, known for The 5th Dimension (2012), The Valley of the Unknown (2012) and Grainne Uaile-The Movie (2016).

Funding

Currently this production is in it’s early preproduction stages. The film is seeking crowdfunding and donations to help it become a reality.

The money raised by Crowdfunding will go towards props, costumes, set building, catering, location and actors fees.

There are a number of rewards depending on the donation amount, including a credit in the film, the official film soundtrack and cast/crew signed posters.

Also 10% of all donations are to be donated to the animal charity, the RSPCA who work tirelessly to save the lives of animals who have been cruelly treated and abused.

The film is going to be submitted to film festivals all over the world once it has reached completion, in the hope that it will win awards and receive recognition.

The film has already sparked the interest of a lot of people and has received over 500 casting applications.

To be a vital part of this project, please visit the link below and donate: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-highwaywoman 

If you can help in any way, even by donating £1, please click the link.

Thank you.
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Great Escapes In The UK

Sometimes there is nothing more satisfying than a ‘staycation’. Your destination can be easier to reach then some far flung country, and considerably less expensive. Below I have listed some of my favourite areas in Britain. These places are family friendly and you will find loads to do with your entire group. And best of all, you can go any time of year!

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Pic Credit

How you choose to stay is up to you. Whether it is a Bed and Breakfast in Cornwall, a tent in Wales or a caravan park in Scotland, the UK has options for all kinds of travellers. So let’s take a look at 3 awesome places you have to visit:

Loch Lomond

Winter is a particularly wonderful time in Loch Lomond. This is especially true when you see the white capped mountains shimmer in the late afternoon sunshine. Here you can enjoy brisk walks of a day and stargaze during the peaceful nights. You can enjoy trekking around the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and take in the astounding views. Witness the horizon of snow covered Ben Lomond and take a day trip to one of the Scottish castles. Within close range of major Scottish cities, there is more on offer than just countryside. When it comes to accommodation, it is very refreshing to stay outdoors.

St Ives Beach, UK - UK Staycations - motherdistracted.co.uk
St Ives Beach
St Ives 

This part of Cornwall has won lots of national awards such as best family holiday destination. it is held to be one of the most popular beach holidays in Europe. At times, St Ives feels like a subtropical paradise. One where the golden sands, lush vegetation and crystal waters evoke images on somewhere far from England. break It’s not surprising to know that the town has attracted artists for decades who flock to soak up the area’s incredible beauty. It began when J M W Turner and the noted artist Henry Moore came to St Ives during the mid nineteenth century. The town has since become a firm favourite among many artists and creatives from all over the world.



The Lake District

The Lake District (or Lakeland as it known in the area) is easily the UK's most treasured area for walking and hiking. There is a wealth of places to visit and you will not be surprised to learn that the area is steeped in history. Much like St Ives, this part of the country has long been the preserve of poets, painters and writers. Beatrix Potter lived here, in Troutbeck. She surely found inspiration for her characters among the wildlife scattered throughout the villages.

On the shores of Lake Windermere you will find the Lakes Aquarium. here you could while away the hours of a rainy day. Let your senses be wowed as you stare at the tropical fish and sea creatures that inhabit the centre. Who needs the Mediterranean!

These are just three of the UK’s most amazing destinations, as Britain is blessed to be home to so many contrasting areas. the main thing is to plan ahead, as you would not want to be forced inside for the length of your break. You will be in the gorgeous countryside, try to make the most of your surroundings. Enjoy your stay, and keep your fingers crossed for sunshine!
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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Win Mum A Framed Print From The Comic Art Website Worth £70

When I was growing up, the Beano and Dandy comics were immensely popular.  We all knew that Gnasher was not an ideal pet and we had friends who behaved a lot like Dennis The Menace or Minnie The Minx.




Spinach was the super-food Popeye relied on and it presumably kept Olive Oyl skinny. They were fore-runners of the Mediterranean diet in the days when the height of gastronomic pleasure was a rum baba at the Wimpy and one of those strange bendy segmented sausages on a mixed grill the same size as your postcode district.

Today, these iconic characters live on and comic art is enormously popular.  I have recently discovered The Comic Art website which features the wonderful work of artist John Patrick Reynolds.



John Patrick Reynolds' cotton paper screen prints of classic British comics including The Beano, The Dandy and Victor have become collectors' items since their first appearance in the 1990s and received praise from the BBC, the Observer and the Daily Express, among others.

All the images started life in comics but can be appreciated in their own right, independently of the stories they were created for.

There are images from several categories of comic:

British classics from the UK’s top comic publisher DC Thomson, including such icons as Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan, Minnie the Minx and the Bash St Kids from The Beano and The Dandy.

American stars Popeye and Olive Oyl

Scottish favourites Oor Wullie and The Broons, also from DC Thomson, but this time The Sunday Post

Boys’ own adventure heroes

French creations Asterix, Obelix and the hound Dogmatix.



The paper used is cotton, mould-made paper milled in Somerset and the prints come in three formats – from 19x26cms to 38x48cms and 56x76cms. Commissions are also available.

If, like me, your mum was a fan of characters such as Dennis, Minnie or Betty Boop not only would a print be a unique gift but it may also become a collectors' piece too.

I have a framed print of your choosing to the value of £70 to give away.  Entry is via the Rafflecopter and the giveaway ends at midnight on Tuesday 1st March 2016.  UK entrants only.  Terms and conditions are on my competitions page.

The winner must supply their details by Wednesday 2nd March if the print is to be given as a present on Mothers' Day.

Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Review: L'Oreal Paris Magic Retouch Instant Root Concealer Spray

I spend quite a bit each year on disguising my grey roots.  I always joke that I've no idea what my true hair colour is because nobody's seen it for years!

When I was young, it was the lovely reddy gold colour that Ieuan has now but I actually think my real colour now is a dark brown, almost black with the odd grey.

I recently had the chance to try L'Oreal Paris Magic Retouch Instant Root Concealer Spray and I chose the brown shade to test.


The product comes in a little spray can which promises enough contents for up to 30 applications. The product is also supposed to last until you wash it out.

The size of the can makes it ideal to slip into your make-up bag or handbag.

I got the Husband to apply the spray for me down my center parting (cue much shouting of "keep still") and it took two good blasts of the spray to cover the roots.

The greys are also a lot less visible with just those couple of sprays.

The only issue I have is that I chose the shade to match my roots but this does not blend in with my dyed hair.  I would have been better off selecting the dark blonde shade and plan to give this a try.

If the dark blonde shade gives as good a coverage as the brown one I tested then I think I could extend the time between salon colour appointments by a good couple of weeks.

At the moment, my salon offers a root touch up service where your roots can be dyed literally down your centre parting and you have the choice of either paying for a wash and blow dry or going home and washing it off yourself.

Currently the charge for this is around the £10-£15 mark (the wash & blow dry is extra of course) but you do have to find the time to get to the salon.  Not so easy with the kids in tow!

This does, of course hide all the roots and the greys.

The Magic Retouch spray, on the other hand, retails at £8.99 in Boots and comes in 5 shades - Light Blonde, Dark Blonde, Brown, Dark Brown and Black.

And, as you can see, it does a pretty respectable job with, if not total grey / root coverage, almost total.

If you want to eek out your salon colour and possibly save yourself some money into the bargain, I think this product is well worth a try.

I'd rate it as an 'emergency' product for those times when you want to look groomed and you just haven't got the time or cash to go to the salon.
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Review: L'Oreal Infallible 24H-Matte Foundation


Now I'm in my 50s I do find that finding the right foundation is more of a challenge than it used to be.  Despite the fact that my skin is drier, I still have a slightly oily center panel and enlarged pores on my nose.

My all time favourite foundation is Estee Lauder's Double Wear, although I have flirted briefly with MAC.  So when I was sent a L'Oreal Paris Infallible 24H-Matte foundation to try, I was curious to see how it would perform, especially since Double Wear is well over the £20 mark.

The shade I received was Shade 11 - Vanilla.


The product promises medium texture with high coverage. This was going to be an interesting challenge for a 50+ skin.


 I thought this was a good foundation. It gave great coverage, particularly over areas with enlarged pores. The colour suited my skin well and gave a slightly pinky overtone.


I did find that the product was quite heavy and caked slightly over drier areas which leads me to suggest that it is better suited to younger / oilier skins.

I suggest that you need to be generous with both moisturiser and primer if you have an older skin like mine.

I applied the product with my fingers and used a blending sponge over my nose so I may have had a different effect if I had used a foundation brush or used the blending sponge all over my face.

I also found that I was aware of the foundation on my skin so, although it is good for building up coverage, you do feel it on.

Since this foundation is a 24 hour foundation giving enhanced matte-ness, this only to be expected but I think that Infallible is better suited for special occasion wear - such as a wedding or party rather than an every day foundation.



I think L'Oreal's Infallible compares well to high coverage foundations with a much higher price point and since it does the job nicely, I can't see the point in spending any more.

L'Oreal Paris Infallible 24H-Matte foundation is available from Boots.com at £7.99 and comes in 6 shades.
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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Should We Be Telling Our Sons To "Be A Man"?

It's very easy, isn't it, to fall into expecting your kids to conform to the traditional gender roles which were the accepted 'norm' back in our parents' and grandparents' day.

But when you stop and think about it, the polarisation of certain behaviours between male and female is no longer automatically acceptable.

Ieuan Hobbis - motherdistracted.co.uk
6 year old Ieuan
When Ieuan has a strop about one of the many things that annoy a typical 6 year old, we have caught ourselves telling him to "man up".

Which got me thinking.

What exactly does "being a man" mean these days.

In the 1970's (when I was in my teens), the archetypal bloke was a mix of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone.  Real men did not cry, or dance (much) or eat quiche.

If they did exhibit any 'softer' behaviours, we said they were "in touch with their feminine side", a supposedly humorous allusion to the traditional 'girly' behavours, we women exhibited at certain times of the month or when the safety of a kitten was threatened.

The reverse side of the coin, of course, is that 'being a man' meant being handy with your fists. Fighting was a form of drink fuelled recreation which could garner secret admiration from other 'blokes' and the girls who fancied them.

"He knows how to handle himself".

"I wouldn't mess with him"

"He's a real 'man's man'".

Key skills in those days for a bloke were holding your drink, eating the hottest curry possible and driving like an idiot with the thumping backtrack of Meatloaf pounding your ears.

Real men chased the women too.

And it was automatically accepted that, if men earned more and got more breaks in their career, well, that's just the way it was.

So now, when we tell Ieuan to man up or to be a man about it (in jest I hasten to add), what exactly are we asking him to do?

Should we be defining our kids with gender stereotypes?  The answer must surely be no.

But should we deny them the pleasure of enjoying the perceived strengths and weaknesses which accompany each gender?

As a woman, I don't want to be able to build a dry stone wall or wrestle a sheep to the ground (when in Wales...) but that doesn't mean I want to be thought of as weak either.

What kind of men do we want our sons to be?

As a woman, it's a bit of a struggle to answer that without comparing today's men with those we grew up with and who are still part of our family today.

It's no longer a man's world and it's never been a woman's world.

So where do we go from here?
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Win A Cracking Easter Prize From HARIBO


We love Easter - and the kids particularly love the sweet treats left by the Easter Bunny but sometimes it makes a nice change to offer something other than chocolate.
 

HARIBO has cracked Easter with an ‘egg-citing’ mix of tasty treats especially for the occasion and they have kindly given me a selection of products from their Easter range to give away.


Whilst the themed bucket contains 32 mini bags to hide around the house or garden, plus some extra goodies including Easter hunting tips, clue cards and stickers, brand new Jelly Bunnies is ideal to share with family and friends.



Jelly Bunnies brings together jelly bunny shaped pieces with the popular texture found in Jelly Babies.

Chick ‘n’ Mix is new to HARIBO’s gifting range. A great alternative to chocolate eggs this Easter, it features a selection of tasty jelly, foam and marshmallow treats.

There’s also Fizzy Farm Animals that have been created using the popular Tangfastics original sour mix recipe.

Up for grabs is the Easter Hunt Bucket, Chick ‘n’ Mix, Jelly Bunnies and Fizzy Farm Animals. All this will come packaged in a wooden basket, which you will be able to use long after the treats have gone.




Haribo Easter Confectionary Selection - Easter Giveaway - motherdistracted.co.uk
A Cracking Easter Prize From Haribo





Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget and the giveaway ends at 12 am on Saturday 19th March 2016. UK entrants only.  Terms and conditions are on my competitions page.  The winner must submit their details by 21st March in order to receive their prize in time for Easter.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Monday, 15 February 2016

Childcare Vouchers Can Help With Childcare Costs This Half Term


According the the annual Halifax Cost of Childcare research, the cost of raising your kids from birth to 11 has risen significantly in the last few years by 4% - to the sum of £87,000.

Little girl painting - childcare vouchers - motherdistracted.co.uk
Childcare costs can form a significant part of your monthly outlay
It will be no great surprise to discover that childcare accounts for nearly half the monthly outlay for each child - around the sum of £320.

Childcare costs obviously vary according to the child's age and needs.  Some parents will not need childcare after their children start school, other than for school holidays.

For others, breakfast clubs and afterschool clubs become the norm, often supplemented with childminder fees to cope with pick ups and drop offs.

Add in the costs of  holiday clubs, play schemes, activity camps, babysitters and nannies, and the costs soon mount up.

But do you know about Childcare Vouchers?

These are a way to help parents save money on childcare costs through holiday periods such as half-term.

Childcare Vouchers are available through employers to pay for any registered childcare for children up to the age of 16, and can provide savings of up to £933 per year.

Simple to use, a chosen amount is deducted from your wages in return for the same amount of Childcare Vouchers before tax and National Insurance. They are then placed into an online account for parents to use to pay their childcare provider(s).

Vouchers can be deducted each month or as and when they are required. They can be saved up in the online account for when they are needed – perfect for those who only need them to pay for sporadic or school holiday childcare.

Both parents can join their employer's Childcare Voucher scheme, potentially doubling savings – making childcare more affordable.

The Government were planning to launch their new Tax-free Childcare scheme in autumn 2015, but this has now been delayed till 2017.

Boys racing at sports day - childcare vouchers - motherdistracted.co.uk
After school clubs also come at a cost
Currently, Childcare Vouchers are the only option for working parents who want to save on their childcare costs.

Furthermore, they will be many parents who will be better off continuing to use Childcare Vouchers as the savings they provide will be more than they would get through Tax-free Childcare.

Under the new scheme, many parents will be worse off, including middle-low earning parents, families with only one working parent, families using childcare for only a few days a week and those who have children in childcare over the age of 12.

Childcare Vouchers could therefore be the answer and it may well be worth speaking to your employer about Childcare Vouchers, especially since they will save money too.

Or, you could talk to an agency such as Busy Bees Benefits who can discuss the scheme with employers on your behalf.

Busy Bees Benefits' Childcare Voucher scheme helps working parents to save money on childcare and their employers can offer this valuable benefit at no cost to the organisation. Parents can also receive an additional discount if they use a Busy Bees Voucher at a Busy Bees Nursery - there are currently 230 in the UK.

It is certainly worth exploring your options when it comes to defraying your childcare costs and making sure you are getting what you are entitled to.

Further information at Busy Bee Benefits or you can call them on 0330 333 9100
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