Mum's blog

Our mum's blog is for Surrey mums to reach out to other mums with information, concerns, tips and everything else that is on their minds.

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This weekend, GoFest permeated my being. Just as any good festival should, it gave me a feeling of anticipation on Friday, excitement on Saturday and fatigue on Sunday. But in each case, no sooner had I waved my wrist band to whoever cared, I was carried into that parallel existence that any weekend festival goer will relate to.

GoFest 2015 was billed as ‘the sporting Glastonbury’ and it didn’t disappoint. A mixture of warm weather, live music, celebrity spots and good vibes combined with a chance to try out every sport imaginable under one roof, meant that we had a thoroughly exhausted but happy family on our hands by the end of the weekend.

Friday’s highlight was skiing on the freshly imported snow, trucked down the A3 each day to create a mini ski slope in the Snow Zone. Definitely one of the most popular activities, our kids who have never been skiing before embraced it wholeheartedly. Uh oh, looks like the pressure could be on for a skiing holiday. Darn you, GoFest!

There were plenty of other activities to try, from bouncy obstacle courses to Segway, via tightropes and trampolining. There was much excitement as we bumped into Ian Waite in the Surrey Sports Park foyer. Charming as ever, he agreed to pose for a photo with our avid Strictly fans and this really did make their day.

We stayed on for the evening entertainment. It was such a treat to get a close view of Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe performing their jive then rumba. And yes, these genial people willingly posed for a photo again. Following them on stage were the energetic and catchy Only One Direction, which went down very well with the children. OK, we admit it, we could be spotted having a cheeky bop too. 

Due to other commitments we returned only briefly on Saturday but we did have a chance to try the Sokka zone, run by Kevin Keegan. This zone focused on speed and agility games and was great fun.

We were back with intent early on Sunday morning, ready to give GoFest our all. The children wanted to have a try at climbing, but unfortunately it was fully booked for the day. 

So we popped down the corridor to see what was going on at the Squash Zone. I was mad on squash as a teenager but haven’t dared enter a court for at least twenty five years for fear of leaving it on a stretcher. But it was fantastic fun and really nice to teach the kids a few of the basics. And I was still standing afterwards, bonus!

Some of us joined the Family Fun Run 1 mile and they had the chance to test their mettle against Olympic athlete Roger Black. If you look carefully amongst the pack you may spot him. All finished credibly and it was the perfect warm down after squash as my husband remarked through gritted teeth.

But there was no rest for the wicked. Next we were off to the Cricket Zone and got some top coaching tips from Surrey cricketers. The gymnasts amongst us took to bowling quickly after being told to bowl as if you are doing a cartwheel. One in particular got carried away and actually followed through with the cartwheel. We didn’t manage to capture this on camera so her blushes are spared for now.

After some batting tuition we were asked if we wanted to play ‘blind cricket’. Yes, with real blindfolds and not being able to see a thing! It was as difficult as it sounds and a real ‘eye opener’ into how sport can be accessible to all and open up a world of opportunities to those with disabilities.

And later in the afternoon we discovered that our eldest daughter has a talent for fly-fishing after she successfully learnt four techniques in 10 minutes, something that usually takes grown men hours of tuition apparently. I’m not sure whether we will be following this up, living in land-locked Surrey, but what it does demonstrate is the ethos of GoFest, which is to open as many doors as possible and create new opportunities for kids and adults alike.

GoFest organisers should be praised for believing in an idea and executing their vision to such an effect. GoFest was other worldly once you got stuck in and embraced what was on offer. We look forward to GoFest 2016 as there were so many sports and activities that we didn’t have time to try.

The only negative about GoFest 2015 was that more families didn't sign up for the experience. So we hope that your curiosity has been piqued enough to encourage you to grab some tickets next year and have your own very unique experience, just as we did.

View our Facebook GoFest 2015 album for more photos and videos.

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So the breastfeeding debate is ignited again (#bressure on Twitter) just as I attend my refresher breastfeeding session prior to having baby number 2...  My general view is that midwives etc shouldn't put pressure on us to breastfeed and it doesn't work for everyone.  But I'm not convinced that the pressure always comes from external sources.

Truth be told, I had an awful time breastfeeding with number 1.  After a good start, her latching on became difficult which I suspect was caused by the fact that we were both diagnosed with thrush and I seemed to have a low milk supply.  Amongst the tears, I painstakingly plodded away at expressing milk, sometimes spending over an hour getting not much more than a tablespoon.  To us it was clear that as the stress increased and her weight dropped, we had to supplement and I eventually stopped when she was around 3 weeks.

At the time, I felt dreadful about it.  How would we survive in countries without formula?, how could such a natural thing be so difficult for us? and what terrible impact would this have on her development?  I didn't want to speak to some of my best friends who had been able to do it, for fear that they would judge me.  I was pretty miserable, despite family and a lactation consultant telling me that stopping was probably the best thing for me.

Now, 6 years later, I have no regret over my decision.  My daughter thrives and eats well; we have a fantastic relationship and no-one questions the bond we have.  Bottle feeding enabled us to go out and about pretty freely from about 4 weeks, as calm as can be (with a newborn!).  The main downside was the preparation involved in having enough sterilised bottles and milk available and, mainly, feeling like I had to constantly justify myself to others.

So, as I'm about to have number 2, I was feeling quite pleased with my mindset of "right, well I'll give it a go this time but if it doesn't work out, we'll quickly move on".  However, after 3 hours of discussing the subject yesterday, I was left a little despondent thinking that (a) it was highly unlikely to work out (I need to have antibiotics during labour and have PCOS so might well have a low milk supply again); and (b) once the hormones kick in, am I really going to be thinking so rationally about it?  Although the counsellor running the session wasn't pushy at all, I could sense those feelings of failure creeping back if it wasn't going to work again this time...and this just raises a host of questions:  Should I be proactive and find someone to help me in a fairly dedicated way from the outset (which will cost money)?  Should I just go with the flow (no pun intended!), but be better informed about dealing with/avoiding thrush and boosting milk supply at the outset?  Should I invest in a hi-tec expressing machine or is that, given my previous experience, really a waste of money?

Unfortunately, as a mother already, my guilt now has an added dimension: should I be spending the first part of my daughter's summer holidays dragging her (and the baby) around BF clinics trying to ensure that this experience is better than the last, or should I stick with my original plan of quickly moving on at the first sign of difficulty (thus making family life a bit less stressful for everyone)?

Suffice to say that a big bit of me hopes that I'm just luckier this time and it's all a bit easier, but I also know that, being a perfectionist and a try-er, I am unlikely to give in without a fight.  I will want to feel that I tried everything to make it work, but that is probably equal part external pressures and my own expectations of myself.

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I’ve known for sometime that video blogs (or vlogs) would become an essential medium for a website such as ours to use to reach readers. So last week I finally plucked up the courage to give it a go and make a vlog based around our ‘What’s on in Surrey this week’ listings.

We chose Loseley Park as our location as we were there anyway for a review. It’s a lovely place with gorgeous parkland (do I say this enough in the vlog!) and a great environment for a relaxing afternoon out with the family.

Luckily we managed to find a fairly secluded spot to vlog from, as I was suddenly overcome with self consciousness from the stares from passers by. But I got into it eventually and we recorded from three or four locations to give ourselves more variety.

We experienced a couple of technical hitches, the main one being that the microphone picked up the sound of the wind rather than my voice at certain parts, so we’ll be investing in a small microphone for next time.

I felt that I could have done with an autocue as well. I was reading my notes and then looking up and trying to remember what I had just read! It seems that you can buy some kind of autocue for your ipad for under £50 so we may well be investing in that too.

I hope you enjoy watching it and find it useful (and maybe entertaining!!). It was fun and I’m determined to streamline my presenting skills; something I know I will only do with practice. Watch this space!

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Some of you may be aware of changes that Google has made to its algorithms this week. I won’t bore you with the technical detail of this (not sure if I quite understand it myself anyway!) but suffice to say that we at Surrey Mummy completed the redesign of our website just in the nick of time.

Having analysed our website visitor statistics over the past couple of years, we realised that two thirds of you either use a mobile or tablet device to browse Surrey Mummy. It was a no-brainer to set about making sure that our website was faster, clearer and better for mobile users.

So it is sort of a happy accident that, as the last six weeks of redesigning the website draws to a close, we are right on time to sit back and hopefully enjoy an increase in our Google search rankings.

On the subject of the new website design, as well as retaining the essence of what we are about in terms of what’s on events and things to do listings, we have introduced a couple of new features.

The first is the Mum’s blog, which we have started as a point of discussion on all sorts of issues, topics, happenings and ideas that we come across as we go about our business. Most things go here and we are hoping to have a team of bloggers contributing on a regular basis. If you’d like to join us as a blogger then do get in touch.

Secondly, we have better advertising spaces for more prominent advertising opportunities, with a wider banner space at the top and bottom of all pages as well as a larger promotional feature slot. So do contact us about advertising if your target audience is parents in Surrey and you have a business you would like to promote via Surrey Mummy. We can also offer banner advertising on the newsletter now as well as the usual editorial spot.

Finally, we have exciting plans for the future. We want to kick start our for sale section again, this time allowing sellers to list for free. We’ve had feedback from local mums that this would be a real draw to the website. We are also planning to experiment with the world of video blogs (or Vlogs as I’m told they are called!), so watch this space.

Inevitably we are experiencing glitches here and there as we get the website working as it should, for example we haven’t quite got the listings looking as they should yet, but please bear with us. And do feel free to feedback your experiences with the website and any thoughts and ideas. You may well have spotted something that we have missed.

 

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Most families who applied for primary school places in Surrey will have heard this week about which school their child has been offered a place at. Most will feel elated or relieved, but for a few their anxieties and worst fears over this process will have been realised.

If you are one of those whose child has not been offered their first choice of primary school, it is worth looking into whether you can appeal against the decision.

The appeal needs to be made to the school that was your first choice ie. the school that you wanted but didn’t get offered.  The first port of call is the Surrey County Council school admissions appeals web page. This contains details of the criteria for appeal, the timetable involved and information about contacting the school.

Do bear in mind before you start the appeal process that there may be an insurmountable reason for you not getting your first choice place. The ruling on limiting infant class sizes to 30 means that, unless a genuine mistake has been made, you are unlikely to make a successful appeal.

However, don’t despair. There are other resources available to help. Truth Education, based in Surrey, aim to help parents with all matters arising on education and schooling.  Their article, Not got your primary school place? Keep calm and carry on… is highly relevant to the process this year too.

Of have a read of 'How to Win Your School Appeal: Getting Your Child into the School of Your Choice' by Ben Rooney, which comes highly recommended for helping you make sure that you appeal in the most effective way.

We have further information in our feature, What to do if you don’t get your first choice school, as we discuss many of the options available.

Over the years we have known many people who, with patience, have managed to get the school of their choice at some point as others decline places or move away from the area. Whatever happens, we wish our Surrey Mummy members every success in this sometimes difficult and painful process.

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I've just finished a conversation with the umpteenth person to ask me whether my pregnancy was planned and it's made me wonder why so many people think that this question is acceptable.  

What really baffles me is that, once someone is pregnant and clearly planning to keep the baby, how can the answer to that question possibly be relevant to anything.  So it was planned... well that's nice.  So it wasn't planned... well, oh dear, but that's nice anyway.  If someone is willing to volunteer that they're delighted as they've been trying for ages, or that it was a pleasant "surprise", then fine, but why feel the need to ask? 

I asked my husband about this and he offered two solutions.  One was that men don't really know what sort of questions are appropriate to ask.  Well, I have been asked it by more women than men, so that blows that theory out of the water.  The other is that it is my age (thanks, darling!)  Apparently at the wrong side of 35 (I've just turned 39) and with a 6 year old child already, unless I've been unlucky, it would be an unusual choice to have another child now.  To that I would say that, if that is the rationale, then perhaps people should assume that the person has been unlucky and, if they haven't told you any of the details of their "bad luck", then they clearly don't want to talk about it with you.  But anyway, it might not be such an unusual choice - whilst most people aim for a smaller age gap, there are some benefits to having a bigger age gap and perhaps for that person those benefits are significant.

So I've concluded that it must be symptomatic of the age we live in.  With some people sharing every detail of their lives on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, perhaps we feel that we can freely ask a number of personal questions?  Well, it's not the way I roll, but maybe I'm just different? I'm off to see what Debretts Guide to Modern Manners has to say on the subject...

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We would love to have mums contributing to our blog on a variety of topics. Most things go,  but you have to be a genuine mum and please keep it clean.

So, how to go about it in 6 easy steps.

1. You need to be logged in first (Login box at the bottom of the homepage).

2. Once you are logged in, go to the BLOG section, at the far right of the top menu. Then click on the icon on the black menu bar which is a box with a small pen inside. When you hover over this icon you see 'New blog post. Start creating your new blog post'.

3. You are then ready to fill in the form and complete the details with your blog. Please make sure you give it a title and select a category.

4.Photos and images can be inserted, but the leading one should be 1150 pixels wide by 200 pixels high.

5. Click the blue button Publish Now when you are happy with it.

6. We will be notified that you have uploaded a blog and we will review and approve it, after which it will be published.

Many thanks for contributing to our Mum's blog. We are sure that these will prove a great resource to Surrey parents.

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