Sparkles & Stretchmarks: A UK Parenting & Pregnancy Blog

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Nursery Diaries: When Your Child Struggles To Settle In.



Back in September, along with millions of other 3 year olds, Tyne started nursery for the first time.

Actually, this isn't strictly true, you may recall that he had actually started back in March but it didn't go well and we were not happy with the nursery setting we'd chosen...so we decided to cut our losses and try again in September.

And that's what we did.

And on his first day, it was awful.

Every bit as awful as I had feared it would be - he cried, he screamed, he held on to me for dear life, he begged me not to leave, and in the end he had to be physically pulled off me by a member of staff as I was ushered out of the door by another.

I stood in the hall, anxiously waiting and listening, until I heard his sobs die down...and then I left, and fell to pieces in the car.

Just like millions of other mums did on that day.

When I returned a couple of hours later to collect him, I was hopeful that he would come bouncing out telling me how fun it was...and he did.

So, the next time, I hoped it might be a little bit easier. Because that's what's supposed to happen isnt it.

Only it wasn't.

Infact it seemed to get worse every time.

But I was ok with it...I knew it was all so new to him, that he just needed time to settle in, that it was just "one of those things"..and I saw a fair few other mums on Instagram and Facebook talking about how their children were struggling to settle in too, talking about their fears and thoughts of pulling them out.

So I knew I wasn't alone, I knew that Tyne wasn't the only one finding it hard.

But gradually...as time went on...those posts became fewer and fewer.

I saw each and every one  of those mums who had been in the same boat as me gradually post about how they had finally cracked it...how their little one was finally settled, how they finally went in to nursery with a smile on their faces every day or at least settled down very quickly when they arrived...suddenly I was in that boat all by myself.

Our journey only seemed to be getting tougher with time.

Every evening before bed, Tyne would cry and ask me "I don't have to go to nursery tomorrow, do I Mummy?"

and when I said "yes Darling, tomorrow is a nursery day" - the tears would come. And so would the screams, the near hyperventilation, the panic and the fear.

It didn't feel like just a temper tantrum or a case of wanting his own way, it felt like more than that...it felt like real actual PANIC...the panic I'm so very familiar with myself, that I would never wish on my worst enemy...let alone my son.

And that absolutely broke me.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

How I More Than Doubled My Blog Traffic In One Easy Step



This weekend, my little blog reached a milestone of having hit 2 million views.

Now I know that this may not seem like much to some people, I'm sure the top blogs achieve that within a year and its taken me 3 years to achieve it - but still, it feels quite surreal to think that people have clicked onto read my ramblings over 2 MILLION times now.

I go through ups and downs with blogging - sometimes I love it, sometimes it causes me stress, sometimes I fall dramatically out of love with it and vow to never blog again! - if my blog and I were a movie couple, we would without a doubt be Bridget Jones & Mark Darcy...we have so many fallings out and misunderstandings but at the end of the day...we were made for each other!

But the purpose of this post is not to brag about milestones or wax lyrical about blogging, it's to simply share some tips that have helped me to reach this figure.

I had been hovering around the 1.5 million views mark for months and months, the increase was a painfully slow process - I was averaging around 1500 views per day (more if I had a competition running).

Whenever I published a post, my promotional efforts would be to send out a tweet about it once or twice on the day it went live, to post about it on my blogs Facebook page and to promote in 2 or 3 Facebook blogging groups - occasionally I would submit it to Digg or StumbleUpon but not very often.

However, over the last 3 months I have seen a MASSIVE increase in my pageviews...and from then on, the climb to 2 million hits was far quicker.

My page views increased from 1500 per day on average, to around 5000 per day (without any competitions running) - I was still posting to Facebook just once per day and still promoting in the 3 Facebook blogging groups, but I wasn't submitting to StumbleUpon or Digg at all due to time constraints - all I did was change ONE thing.

And it couldn't have been more simple.

After chatting with Aby of YouBabyMeMummy about how much blog promotion is enough, I realised I was being far too coy with my promotional efforts.

So instead of sending out one or two tweets, I started using SocialOomph to send the tweets out on an hourly basis - SocialOomph is a fantastically easy scheduler for Twitter that I cannot recommend highly enough - all you need to do is write your tweet, select when you want the first one to go out and then select from a drop down menu how often you want to repeat that tweet.

I select Hourly...you then have the option to enter the maximum number of times you want the tweet to be sent out...but if you type 0 then it goes out indefinitely.

This is what I do.

I used to worry that tweeting my posts so frequently would annoy people and result in mass unfollows but actually I have had very few, infact my follower numbers increase slightly everyday - I'm more active now so it makes sense that would happen.

After a few weeks, I simply go in to Social Oomph and change the tweets around - I pause any that I feel have had enough promotion for now and need a break, lower the frequency of tweets on some, etc - but I make sure that promotional tweets are going out for various posts every few minutes.

And this is what has resulted in my traffic more than doubling over the last few months.

It is that simple!

I don't have millions of Twitter followers, I was on 8,500 when I started doing this - I'm just over 9,000 now - so you don't need masses of followers for this to help your stats.

If you're worried about bugging people, just try it for a day or so and see what you think - thats what I did but I soon found that the increase in stats was more than worth the potential annoyance to some people who could easily unfollow me if they wish to.

I hope this tip has been helpful, lately I have had so many requests for more detailed posts on working with brands and blog monetization and so I will be running a quick & free course in the new year to offer some help, advice and support on a more personal level.

If you'd be interested in joining this course, please sign up to my newsletter below to be the first to hear about it.


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Life with Baby Kicks
Dear Bear and Beany

Living With Anxiety As A Parent



"It hurts, Mummy" 

My heart beats faster as my little boys face contorts in pain, my palms are sweaty, I can't catch my breath...a million thoughts race through my mind at a thousand miles per hour.

What if this is it? What if this is what kills him? 

Should I take him to hospital now? Should I wait and see what happens first? Maybe I should call 111 for advice? 

Suddenly he sits bolt upright in the bed and throws up everywhere...

OH MY GOD, he's definitely dying. This is serious. You need to get him to a hospital right now. Who cares if they think you're being ridiculous, what if something happens to him and you end up wishing that you'd taken him in.

He's crying now, and reaching out to me...looking to me to provide comfort, to tell him that it's all going to be ok...but I'm crying too.

I try to tell him all of those things that I know I should be saying...all of the things good mothers can say.

But my voice breaks when I try to reassure him.

How can I make him believe those words when I can't believe them myself?

You'd be forgiven for thinking that this scenario was occurring in the home of a mother with a seriously ill child. Somebody with real cause for so much concern. With a reason to believe that something dreadful is going to happen.

But the truth is, my child is perfectly healthy.

He's a normal 3 year old boy with a tummy ache.

Me & Mine In November


Yep...I'm cheating.

I'm not even sorry.

I thought about taking our Me & Mine photos loads of times this month, but thinking about them doesn't actually get them done does it?

I even took the camera and the tripod out with us a couple of times on various days out we had...but they stayed in the pram every time...either the light was too bad by the time I remembered about it or I was just too busy actually enjoying the moment to stop and photograph it.

Which is fine by me, actually. But I don't like to start something and not finish it, so the fact that it was looking like we wouldn't have a photo for November was bothering me.

Luckily...today these photos popped up on my Facebook timeline and saved the day!

We went along to this photoshoot at the weekend - I booked it months ago and unfortunately the kids were really poorly on the day so Sailor looks a bit out of it and Noah was determined, as always, not to crack a smile.

Look how poorly Sailor looks in that photo!! Bless him.

We've had photo shoots with Capture Photography in Devon ever since Tyne's first Christmas...this was our 5th shoot with them (We'd had some Easter ones done too!) and it's a lovely experience as the photographer and her mum recognise us and remember the kids, and the kids remember them too so it helps them to relax into the shoots more.

They're amazing value too - we do the mini shoots which are 20 minutes long, and you get all of the photos on a disc - the whole thing only costs £39!

I don't have the full disc through yet but they shared these previews tonight on Facebook, and they're photos of us in November so they'll do for me!

So what are we all loving this month?! Let's see!

Jon Is Loving:
*The return of Gilmore Girls...he would never admit it, but he's such a Gilmore Guy!
*Finding some new model making channels on YouTube
*Jon is NOT loving being asked what he's loving every month...I've sat here for 10 minutes now waiting for him to think of something, I'M BORED..I give up.

Hayley is Loving:
*The return of Gilmore Girls - TV HEAVEN!!! Seriously, I have never been happier...
*Getting excited for Christmas and buying new decorations
*Buying new Christmas jumpers
*Planning out lots of fun Christmassy activities and events for the boys
*Pinning ideas for my Christmas Eve Eve party!

Tyne Is Loving:
*Maltesers mini Reindeers
*Starting to earn pocket money for doing little jobs
*Helping Mummy to make dinners
*Helping to wash up
*Having the Fire Fighters visit nursery with their Fire Engine and getting to use the big hose!

Noah Is Loving:
*Playing with "Bad Guys"
*Telling everyone his name is "Bad Guy"
*Shouting "NO!" and "WHY!" in answer to pretty much anything
*Dancing to make people laugh

Sailor Is Loving:
*Babbling more
*Heinz Biscotti
*Singing songs with Mummy




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Monday, 5 December 2016

Top Tips For Buying For The Older Gent This Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, many people have a lot of the gifts for loved ones purchased already. If not actually purchased, then most of us at least have a clear idea of what we will be purchasing for the special people in our lives.

There are however always the exceptions when it comes to planning gift buying.

The 'Oh My God, I really don't have a clue what to buy them' group of present receivers.

One such group can often be the older gentlemen in our lives. The Fathers, Grandfathers and Father in Laws for example....my own Dad is particularly difficult and I get really tired of giving him the same old bottle of whiskey every year!

Now I'm pretty certain they don't do it out of awkwardness or just for kicks, but many of the above group can be tricky to pin down when it comes to gifts. Even when probed directly about what they'd like, answers often include such vagaries as 'I'd be happy with just a card', 'Just something little' or the all time classic 'Oh anything'...gee whizz thanks Pops!

Buying for this group lead to years of hair pulling, tears, and gnashing of teeth as well leaving me frustrated and feeling like I really would have to buy 'Just anything'. This need not be the case however, and whilst many chaps will be happy with simply receiving a generic gift, there's no reason why that gift does not have to be as special or thoughtful as anyone else's  

After of years of experience buying for my own Father who falls in to the above group I've compiled a short list of tips when purchasing for the older chap in our lives .

Top Purchasing Tips for Gifts for the Older Gent.

1) Hobbies and Pastimes; 

Does that chap in your life have a passion for a hobbie? A love of a particular pastime?

If so then maybe some research prior to purchasing. This could be to make sure you get the the right size, don't get anything they already have, or just to clarify if there's anything they may need . Often if the person is a family member a few short phone calls or emails to friends and family will help gauge the mood and set the wheels in motion for that perfect gift.

2) Fun or serious gifts. 

You probably know the personality of the person you are buying for, and this can be a great source of narrowing down what to get.

Would the person like something fun and quirky, or a serious possibly practical present? What is the nature of the that Older Gent in your life? By considering something like an experience day perhaps you could just end up giving them the best gift experience of their lives! A day of golfing? The chance to drive a super car? Even a michelin star dining experience!

3) Tangible or Memorable?

Thinking of the person, is their house full of objects or photographs? This one may seem odd but many people would prefer an experience day for example over a gift you can hold physically. A lot can be gained by considering if the person surrounds themselves with objects, books etc or memories and images of places they've been or things they have done.

If you need some more inspiration, Chums have put together super 
this handy infographic




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