Exploding with Pride

Three people in my life, three special people, have made me so so proud this past month.

Firstly, Charles.
This boy who went from a baby, to a toddler, to a preschooler, had a 6 week break of being a 4 year old boy, and then....a schoolboy.
He is doing so well and I'm so proud of him. Yesterday we met with his teacher and we left on a high and couldn't wait to get home to say a big well done to our boy
My original concerns and worries about school seem so silly now.

And this boy. Harry.
I think Harry has been the most affected by Charles' start at big boy school. He misses his brother. If we go out he thinks we are going to get him, or going to see him.
But, he is really coming into his own and developing so much. I've expressed my (unnecessary) concerns about his speech before, which really is only brought on because of how early Charles spoke and how well Charles spoke from an early age. Harry has been quite different to this. It's not because he has had his brother to speak for him, it's clearly just part of his development, and mostly because I haven't had that one on one time to dedicate to him to teach him words as easily as I did with his brother.
But, these past 3 weeks he has gained so many new words, is able to have a conversation, even though I may be the only one to understand a lot of what he says. 
And yesterday, he blew my mind when he told me ALL seven days of the week!! He put on a pair of Charles' pants, these pants said Wednesday on them but Harry pointed and said, as clear as anything: TUESDAY. When I said "no they are Wednesday pants" he copied me and said, clearly "wednesday"
Then all day if you asked him what day it was he said TUESDAY.
At bedtime he was unsettled and so I went to talk to him and he told me every day of the week. Once I said well done he said "Tell Charles", so I took him through to Charles so he could tell him. Charles was so pleased and proud of his brother. 
We then had to go downstairs and tell my husband.
This morning Harry was very excited to tell daddy that it is Wednesday.

And lastly, this boy. Well, man.
My wonderful, superstar twin brother COMPLETED the three peaks challenge. It took them around 28 hours, starting on September 10th finishing on September 11th, our birthday.
He had very little training, and I really couldn't be any prouder of him. Just thinking of it brings tears to my eyes and just fills my whole body with this overwhelming emotion.
He climbed Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon to raise money for a charity called One Sight.
OneSight is dedicated to improve vision for the hundreds of million adults and children in need who can not afford basic eye care. Volunteers travel to developing countries around the world to hand-deliver free eye care and recycled eyewear through organized optical clinics. Since 1988, OneSight has provided free vision care and eyewear to more than 6 million people around the world.
I wouldn't even be able to get a quarter of the way up one of them so for him to climb all three is just.....amazing.
I've always been proud of my brother. Growing up I've always been the proudest sister. And now, nothing has changed. I will always be proud of him.
I hardly slept when he was doing the challenge. It wasn't that I was worried about him, but I wanted to be awake with him. I wanted to be awake so that I was supporting him as much as I could be. 
When I got the message from him saying that he had completed it I squealed and burst into tears. 

Dale, you really are amazing and I love you very much.

These are my brothers photos. With this one he added:
I'm not really into traveling. But I'm blown away by how beautiful the country we live in really is, just have to go explore it.



Some Things I Love #11

Friday night from 7pm I was glued to my laptop and mobile as I kept up with the MAD Blog Awards. I loved how involved we could be at home and the feeling of almost being at the awards. The excitement oozed out of the computer and I felt very proud to be part of the community.
Instagram was also one of my favourite ways of keeping up with the MADS and I loved looking at everyones outfits.
It would be incredibly rude if I didn't share this as my some thing I watched this week.
It's my super lovely friends, Kirsty and Clara and their first vlog. It took me so long to watch as I kept laughing and having to pause and rewind it. They are so funny and such lovely people, I really wish I lived closer to them.

My new accessories from Dorothy Perkins. I love this scarf so much that I haven't worn it out yet, I'm a bit odd in that I like to keep new things "new" for as long as I can....then I wear them to death.
Zombies and people screaming. My husband is watching a zombie film as I write this and it is incredibly distracting and just plain horrid.

My internet friends. I know I said social media before, but these friends make life a lot more bearable.
Lonely moments are soon forgotten. And they are there for me all the time.
And they are a pretty amazing bunch.
Showing Charles a photo of them at the MADS he turned to me and said "Mummy, your friends are all very lovely", which I think is adorable, and totally true.
After Britmums I feel I've secured some solid friendships and couldn't imagine my life without these women in it.
Photos courtest of Kirsty (thank you) and the Britmums Flickr album.
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Capture The Colour Competition: Charles' Entry

Following the success of last summer's photo blogging competition Capture the Colour, Travel Supermarket teamed up with Venture Photography to launch 'Kid's Capture the Colour', an exciting challenge for children aged 15 or under to get creative and photograph the world around them.

Charles has always been into photography, and regularly amazes us with the photos he takes. If I ever need photos of me taken for my blog I tend to ask him to take them. It surprises me how well he is able to set up his shot, get the focus right, and get us at the right level.

We were delighted to be chosen as one of the 100 participants to recieve a camera from Travel Supermarket.
When we went on holiday I gave Charles my DSLR to capture his own images. When we got home I put his photos into a seperate folder and have asked him to select which photos he wants to enter for each category.

Charles picked this because it is white and was really funny and looked like a massive swan.
I like this because, although the focus is on the tree, he still managed to make the swan a focal point. He is like me in that he doesn't like to get the main subject in the dead centre of photographs (we both love a bit of negative space). This Swan Boat was on the lake when we hired out a pedalo for an hour. Seeing these in the distance was quite funny, if you couldn't see the people on them, as they genuinelly looked like massive swans on the water. It was slightly unnerving as the lake had an eerie feel to it anyway.

Charles picked this because: It's fire and the fire is yellow, and we had this on the table every night when we sat out there to keep the naughty flies and wasps away.
I like this because it sums up our evenings on holiday. Wasps were coming over and causing us all to flap our arms, and I was bitten by a couple of Mosquitos so we bought this candle, it seemed to work.
I love how Charles has got the focus completely right, and how the image isn't completely straight. Again, he has his mummy's style of breaking the rules and trying different angles.

Charles likes this because: Mummy painted Harry's toes in her blue nail varnish and it was funny. His shoes are blue too.
I like this because it reminds us all of holiday. I was painting my nails and my husband sat next to me with Harry. He asked to have his toes painted and I went to, for a laugh, expecting my husband to pull his toes away, but he let me do it. Harry showed everyone his toes and actually looked really sweet with them painted the whole week.
This was also taken whilst we were on the lake, so although you can't see it in this photo, we were surrounded by blue water and the most beautiful clear blue sky.

 Charles likes this photo because it is green and green is my favourite colour and it looks sparkley like glitter.
I like this photo because when I first got my DSLR I tried for ages to get the perfect Bokeh, and here my 4 year old son gets it without even trying. 
Ok, it's not in focus, but the fact that it sums up our holiday and being surrounded by green with the sunlight shining through the trees is enough for me to feel it worthy to be entered in this category.

Charles likes this because it was taken in Belgium and mummy really liked this door.
I like this because it was a big, heavy, wooden door we walked past when we were in Bruge. We went past so many beautiful buildings and doorways and I loved this letterbox. I looked at it for a while and Charles asked if he could take a photo of it, walked up the two steps and captured this.
I was impressed.

When we look back on these photos they really tell the story of our holiday. I'm so proud of my boy.

We were sent a Fujifilm compact camera for the purpose of this competition. All photos are our own.


My Autumn Style

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and their client.

There is no doubt in my mind at all, Autumn and Winter are my favourite seasons, when it comes to fashion at least.
As much as I love maxi dresses you can't beat the feel of thick tights against your legs, worn with a short skirt, basic tshirt and chunky cardigan, or indeed teamed with a short dress and a chunky knit cardigan. All worn with nice winter boots, yes, more often than not these boots will be Uggs.

I've always been quite a rebel and will wear summer dresses in the autumn and winter, just with the addition of thick tights. I don't like limiting my wardrobe to certain seasons and as a result really feel like I get lots of wear out of my clothes.

I like that a simple accessory, a scarf, a necklace, a hat, or a bag, can change an outfit so much.
A black dress for example, suitable for any season, but a scarf can change it from a summer look, to a winter look.

I own a lot of scarves. A LOT. I think an oversized scarf is essential and that everyone should own one, well three at least.

At the weekend I went to our local Outfit store, you can see why I shop here by looking at my Google Plus album, and stocked up on 3 key Autumn essentials.
I went with a clear plan in mind. Imagining a plain black dress, and three things I could buy to change the outfit.

I thought of colours.

These really scream autumn to me. I don't really wear a lot of red, but recently bought a couple of dresses which have red stripes in them so have been looking to introduce red accessories in somewhere. I also have a red lipstick and sometimes I think a red lipstick needs something else to tone it down as it is quite a statement.

My obsession with over-sized cardigans began in 2007 when I first became obsessed with Holly Willoughby.
I saw her wearing one and did all I could to find that exact one. I succeeded.
I've also been obsessed with over-sized scarves since I started breastfeeding in 2009, at this point over-sized scarves became essential. Again, I think every single breastfeeding mother needs to own one as not only do they help to make breastfeeding discreet, they also help to hide any leakages.

I went shopping with this clear plan to get a scarf that was different to any others I own. I am good in that I won't buy two of the same colour unless if they are REALLY amazing.

I've actually been looking at this scarf for well over a month now and finally decided to buy it. 
I think it really sums up Autumn. The colours match my colour palette above perfectly, and the fact that it is oversized will be sure to keep me snug and warm.
I have scarves with cream and black but none which have red as one of the main colours so it was something a little different for me.
I was blessed with a short neck, so I'm limited with a lot of the accessories I can wear. A lot of chunky or fussy necklaces don't suit me and thinner scarves just don't really seem to work so well and do draw attention to it.
I didn't think an oversized scarf would help matters but I think it really flatters me and is great at hiding something I feel slightly self-conscious about. 
Also, as a curvy lady, (curvy...fat...same thing) a patterned oversized scarf can help to draw the eye away from my problem area (being my tummy) and draw the eye further up.

I also bought this pack of 3 tights. They include black and then two different shades of purple. I think the purple tights are great to breakdown an all black outfit and the shades are quite subtle.
I also think these shades in particular are quite slimming.
I planned to buy some jewellery but then these caught my eye. I am always in need in socks and these ones were perfect for the Autumn season. 
I think the Woodland animals theme is really cute, especially in Autumn. I wear socks over the top of tights sometimes, especially if I have a hole in the toes in tights, I hate wasting a pair so socks are a great fix.
These were on a 3 for £6 deal so I bought the hedgehog/love heart design, the owls and the foxes. 
So those were my three, as I said I set myself a clear plan of three items to accessorise. I left the shop and then.....returned because a snood caught my eye and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.
I loved the 'camel' colour and the heart design (which I've noticed is a designers favourite from the blog posts and articles I've seen surrounding Fashion Week). 
I have stayed away from snoods in the past because I didn't know quite how to wear them, but this fabric is heavy, although not heavy like a knitted snood, and the length is perfect to wear with a dress or with a jacket.
The colour at first seemed a little 'dirty' if that makes sense, but after thinking about it (constantly) I figured that I was supposed to be challenging myself, stepping out of my comfort zone of bright colours, and going for something different.
I also thought it complimented my blonde hair and made my skin tone look a little warmer.
 I'm really looking forward to the next couple of seasons with my new, well suited,  accessories.

Camel and black heart snood: Dorothy Perkins: £9.50
Navy toe fox socks: Dorothy Perkins: £2.50
Grey Hedgehog Socks: Dorothy Perkins £2.50
Grey Toe Owl Socks: Dorothy Perkins £2.50
The socks were on a 3 for £6.00 offer.
Red Hexagon Print Scarf: Dorothy Perkins £12.00
3 Pairs of Tights in Plum: £6.50 These were on a stand in the Outfit store although they don't actually have a BHS section, I have found them on the BHS website.


*WIN* Childrens Gelert Pod Sleeping Bag

In case you hadn't noticed, the weather has turned cold. Summer is now a distant memory and we are well into Autumn.
Gone are the days of sitting outside with a Pimms and welcome now to days of sitting inside, wrapped up warm with a hot chocolate.

With a half term approaching in October I can imagine many families heading off for caravan holidays to make the most of time together before the really cold weather kicks in.

If you are one of those families heading off for a holiday and wanting extra warmth and cosy sleeps for your children, or indeed if you are a fan of camping and you want to grab a kids sleeping bag put away for next year then look no further.

I have a Gelert Childrens Sleeping Pod to give away.

Offering a unique wider shape compared to standard sleeping bags, the sleeping pod is ideal for those who like to sprawl out during their sleep!
The sleeping pod features a soft and cosy polyester lining with the added bonus of a snug hood to keep your head nice and warm during the night.
This 2 season performance sleeping bag is an excellent choice for caravanning as well as spring/summer camping trips and sleepovers with friends.

You can choose between the Bluejay/Green pod or the pink camo pod.
All you have to do is fill in the rafflecopter form below.
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Children and Online Safety

Sometimes it feels that we are the only family without an ipad, and our children are the only ones without access to one. At 2 years old, and 4 years old, we can’t see any need for our children at this stage to really need access to such a device or to the Internet.
Very rarely the boys will be able to use my Kindle, simply to watch videos on YouTube, this always has to be done with either myself or my husband nearby, and still somehow the boys are able to find something we would rather they didn’t.

Online safety is really important to me, especially as only a few years ago I was subjected to bullying online.
It affected me a lot, and even now I feel wary of who I am talking to, what I say and feel extra conscious of things others may be saying about me within certain communities.
If it affects me like this, as an adult, then I can’t help but to wonder what it must be like for a child.

Reading the Norton Ten Tips to Keep Kids Safe Online article shocked me with the stastic that at least 20% of children will receive hateful, insulting or harassing messages online. I think 20% is pretty high. 
The article gives great advice on ways we can protect our children (and ourselves) online, from simple things such as choosing difficult passwords and avoiding clicking on spam links, to thinking about our online reputation. You only have to look at various showbiz stories to see that sexting or sending your boyfriend/girlfriend naked photos, which may seem innocent at the time, can ruin your reputation and even your career.

I can’t help but wonder at what age Charles will come home from school, ask to use the computer and access Facebook for the first time. As someone who has used Facebook (and once Myspace) for a number of years it scares me to think that my child will one day use it, or use a site similar to it.
Why am I scared? Because I think within the wrong hands social media can go horribly wrong. If Facebook is used in a safe way, limited to real friends with limited private messaging and limited photo uploading then I see nothing wrong with it. But fake Facebook accounts are regularly set up, children are easily taken in by these fake accounts, quite rightly so as there is no way to know any different and before you know it Cyberbullying is now part of your life.

I think it’s important as adults for us to be aware of different social media networks, the different sites our children frequent on, and how to work these sites. Growing up me and my brother were regularly using Yahoo Messenger and on a few occasions would be approached by odd characters but thankfully we were sensible enough to walk away and to be able to understand if someone was being inappropriate.
What worries me, looking back, is that my parents didn’t really know which sites we were on or the dangers we faced. I don’t think this is a negative thing towards my parents as the online community and online safety wasn’t as well known or as dangerous as it is now.

I’m quite positive that as parents now, my husband and I are aware of a lot of the social websites around and that we are clear on the dangers. We know how to protect our computers with passwords and by checking the history, but also with products that check exactly what your child is looking at, and to limit the time they spend online.

I’m also very aware of the information we put out there about our children. As a blogger I have shared a lot more than any other parent. This is something I have recently become conscious of and as a result have made certain rules and changes to protect my children. Maybe I’ve left it too late and have shared too much already, but moving forward, keeping certain things to myself and keeping certain aspects of our lives, particularly Charles’school life, private is the only way I can maybe undo anything I have done wrong in the past.

This post is a PR Collaboration


Why Is *She* Here?

In June this year I did something I always said I wouldn't do.
Something I always said I wasn't interested in, because I genuinely wasn't.

I went to Britmums Live. The two day blogging conference held in London.
Despite my breakdown on the 2nd day (which for some reason feels really fresh in my mind at the moment) I had an amazing time.
I learnt a few things about blogging, I learnt a few things about myself, and I met some amazing people.  
I enjoyed my time so much that I bought tickets for next years conference almost immediately.
And then within a month or so I found myself buying a ticket to Cybher,  another conference held in London.   
I guess I caught this conference attending bug and that, along with the promise of meeting up with friends I had made at Britmums as well as meeting others who didn't attend Britmums or who I didn't get round to meeting, resulted in me going ahead and booking.

Except now it all feels so daunting.

I know as a blogger that I am welcome at these conferences, and that I do belong there. I know I will learn, and that is the main reason for going.
But there's a niggling feeling, in my mind, in my heart, telling me I don't belong there. Me, Lauren, not me the blogger.
The blogger deserves to be there. But not the person. Not Lauren.

I remember clearly, on the second day of Britmums walking to the main conference room at Britmums. Alone. I didn't know what to do so I planned to charge my seriously low phone battery.
I planned to calm down and pull myself together and not let "the crazy" set in, then arrange to meet others at the tea break and go and watch the keynotes with them.

Except I couldn't.
I felt alone, not worthy of being there, and like I had to get out NOW. Which is all well and good if you feel like you have somewhere to go.
I felt like I was in the middle of The Labyrinth (except without David Bowie in tight trousers) desperately trying to find my way out but ending up in the same place every time.
I remember being sat in the toilet cubicle (with the toilet seat down) sobbing into my hands, urging myself not to make a sound; silent sobbing is tough by the way.
I hoped no one would knock on the door. I hoped someone would. 
What would I say? Would I say anything?
I wanted to cry for help. I wanted to tweet or message someone and ask if they could hold my hand.
But it's not that easy, and no one would have deserved to a have to do that.

I felt this overwhelming feeling of suffocation. Not me being suffocated, but me being suffocating towards others. I felt I had to walk away. To give people space to breathe. Without having me making silly comments or generally being annoying, and clingy and more annoying.
I all of a sudden didn't feel like the blogger I was there to be. I was me and if I didn't like that, then no one else would either.

I have this overwhelming paranoid me that likes to tell me that actually, people don't like me, they pity me, I'm open about not having many friends so maybe people are befriending me out of pity.
Or as a joke.
Or out of boredom.

The blogger in me has a sensible clear plan. 
Conference = go, learn, leave, do.

The real me see’s this massive thing . No plan. I see more toilet cubicles. More tears. More of this not belonging feeling. More crazy.
More being stuck in London, lost on the street, in the rain, not knowing where to go, with a flat mobile phone battery.

People seeing the real me. The annoying, really annoying me.

I feel cocky and a case of "who does she think she is" about going. 
I still feel massively behind with my blog compared to those around me, who are all shooting ahead with success, whilst I am trailing behind.
Although on a highly positive note I can’t help but to feel really happy at the success of some of my favourite blogs, especially when I’ve read from the beginning and feel as though I know the person behind the blog, and feel they really deserve the success they have.
I guess I just feel lost sometimes at not knowing how to get that far.
And I feel like the little girl running behind the cool kids at school wanting to be just like them.
I don’t want people to feel like they have to hold my hand and drag me along.

I can imagine standing at the events next year, people reading my name badge still with this blank look of “who?!” “is she a new blogger?” thoughts going through their head.
Or of course, “wow, she is annoying!”.

I guess there are things I feel I can't write. I might look like an attention seeker, or like I'm fishing for certain things to be said, so I kind of feel a bit gagged. And I'm now left wondering where this post is/was/is supposed to go.

Maybe I’m just feeling super paranoid?
Maybe the fear of heading to these big events is just hitting me earlier than I expected?


Some Things I Love #10

Birthday messages and birthday cards. The billions of school letters we've had home this week.
But even more importantly, updates from my brother as he completed the 3 Peaks Challenge. He is a superstar and I am so very proud of him.
Whilst up a mountain he wrote this on Facebook, it meant so much to me.

Before my battery dies, or even worse, get eaten by mountain goats shortly. I want to wish the other half of me, my twin sister Lauren a very happy birthday for tomorrow. An inspiration and all round top girl. X

I've been watching my brothers videos from his 3 Peak Challenge. The views he saw were amazing.
Joules. And lots of it.

The new album my husband bought me for my birthday. It is AMAZING.

My UGGS. I know not everyone likes them but I can't live without mine. I loved wearing them with some thick black tights and my long sleeved Joules jumper dress.

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Ultimate Hungarian Goose Down Chamber Pillow {Review}

For a couple of years now we have been "making do" with cheap, inadequate pillows. They've lost their shape, they're not very comfortable and don't have ther best amount of filling.
I've mentioned a few times that it would be nice for us to splash out on some nice pillows but as always something else comes up and our money goes elsewhere.

Therefore, when I was offered the chance to review a top of the range 'Ultimate Hungarian Goose Down Chamber Pillow' I jumped at the chance.
I wanted to know what we were really missing out on, and whether or not the price and quality of a pillow would change my sleep for the better.

Removing the pillow from it's packaging I was aware of how heavy it was. I knew this was a good start as it felt good quality, and I knew it was packed with quality filling.
 100% genuine Hungarian Goose Down - renowned for its gorgeously soft, bounce-back quality. This luscious filling is packed in as tightly as possible, then covered with luxurious cotton jacquard, and edged with silver piping. Because it's so fine and light, the Goose Down won't clump, and the pillow will stay puffy for ages!

I wanted to test the theory stated on the website about the pillow staying puffy for ages, so immediately rest my head on it, putting a lot of pressure on it (as if that would make any difference) and was amazed to see that as I sat up the pillow slowly returned back to it's original state. And this has remained the same throughout the 2 weeks of using it.  

I chose the Medium-Firm pillow as I do tend to prefer them.

The Medium-Firm is a slightly firmer pillow with two chambers: a central chamber packed with feathers, surrounded by a layer of down. It's the ultimate combination of inner strength and cloudy-light comfort.
It was slightly firmer than I had expected and it did take a few nights to get used to, although I'm unsure as to whether or not this is down to firmness or change in pillow completely.

The pillow costs £65.00. Which may seem quite a lot you can certainly see and feel where your money has gone. These pillows are a real investment.
If I was to purchase again I would possible choose the Soft-Medium pillow as I feel it may be slightly more comfortable than the Medium-Firm.
Thinking about the cost I am working on the theory that I would pay £65.00 or more for a pair of shoes to look after my feet so why not pay the same price to look after my head whilst I sleep, ensuring a good night's sleep and a comfortable night?

The Hungarian Goose Down Chamber Pillow is available to buy from Soak and Sleep, in a range of sizes alongside lots of other high quality bedtime products sold at a fraction of the high street prices.

I was sent the Ultimate Hungarian Goose Down Chamber Pillow for the purpose of this review.

LEGO Lunchbox and Drinking Bottle {Review}

We made the decision to send Charles to school with a packed lunch every day. When I went to school I had a mix of packed lunch or hot dinners, and after experiencing the school dinners at his Primary School I thought that a packed lunch would be better for him.

We had already purchased a Dinosaur lunchbag for him but I had been looking for some kind of container to put inside the lunchbag.
We were asked to review the LEGO Lunch Storage Box and LEGO Drinking Bottle which was kindly sent to us by STORE www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk.

The LEGO storage box is really robust and a fantastic size to fit everything necessary in. It also fits perfectly into our lunch bag.
Charles does struggle slightly will opening it because he only has small hands, so it might be more suitable for older children. Still, after a bit of practise he gets there.
With a variety of colours available from green, yellow, pink, blue, white red and black, it will suit any child with a favourite colour obsession. 

There are various items you can purchase to make the storage box even better. These include additional smaller boxes to store lunchbox treats such as raisins, nuts, or even the odd bag of Animal biscuits.
There is also a LEGO drinking bottle. 
We love this bottle. It is easy to clean with a removable base, and the head (lid) is easy to unscrew and screw back on.
It is quite tall and slim but fits a lot of water or juice, and is available in a variety of colours also.
Charles can't use the bottle for school as I like to send him with a sports bottle but we use this as his juice treat once he gets in the car after school.
The drinking bottle costs £9.00 and the Lunch box also costs £9.00.
Suitable for school lunchboxes and also for LEGO fan adults, this range is perfect to make lunchtime exciting and fun.

We were sent the lunchbox and drinking bottle for the purpose of this review.


My Double

They say a girls first love is her daddy.
Not for me.
My first love was a boy. The same age as me (minus 4 minutes).
With blue eyes, a chubby face and more hair than me.

My brother.
My twin.
My double.

He is my best friend, and the other half of me. I know he will never let me down.
Someone I can trust and rely on. No matter what.

I'm so proud of him. And so lucky to have him in my life.

I couldn't ask for a better brother. I really couldn't.
It makes me sad that he lives so far away. There are times I desperately wish he was closer.

Especially today.
I love you xxx
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