Win an Arctic Home gift pack with Coca-Cola and WWF

To help celebrate the launch of the Arctic Home campaign, Mum in the Mad House has teamed up with Coca-Cola and WWF to offer three lucky readers the chance to win an exclusive Arctic Home gift pack, which includes a beautiful fleece blanket, stylish white hooded jumper and much more! coke Arctic Home is a partnership between Coca-Cola and WWF working to protect the home of the polar bear by raising awareness and funds, so polar bear mums continue to have a safe place to give birth and raise their cubs. On Saturday 6th September, hundreds of WWF supporters from across the UK joined forces to create an incredible piece of live art to raise awareness of the desperate plight facing polar bears in the Arctic, you can see the great picture featured above! Image01 (Low-Res) Arctic Home is now calling for people to visit www.arctichome.co.uk to learn more about the struggle faced by polar bear families, share their support and make a donation. This year across Europe Coca-Cola will match all donations made to the campaign up to up to €1million.

To be in with a chance of winning an Arctic Home gift pack, simply answer this question:

Where do polar bears live? A: Africa B: Arctic Terms & Conditions
  • Closing date is until Friday 3rd October 2014
  • Three readers will win 1x Arctic Home gift pack which includes 1x polar bear fleece blanket, 1x polar bear soft toy and 1x white hooded jumper in small, medium or large (subject to availability)
  • Prizes will be distributed to the winners within a week of the close of the competition
  • Only one entry per person
  • No cash alternative will be offered
  • The decision is independently supervised and the winner will be drawn from all correctly answered entries and informed via email or phone
  • The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into
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What do you look for in a school shoe?

School shoes.  I have to admit that I find hunting for school shoes with the boys a chore and it isn't because they never like what there is to offer, but down to the fact that they wear them out in no time at all. Last year Mini's second pair of shoes lasted six weeks, yes six weeks before they had a hole in them.  I have tried expensive shoes, less expensive shoes and everything in between my, but we are lucky to get more than 12 weeks out of a pair of shoes.  My boys only wear them for school so 8pm to 3pm, 5 days a week. When you ask the boys what they want in a shoe, they are not that fussy.  Yes they are swayed by toys and freebies, but they have a Mummy who isn't! How to choose a great pair of school shoes At eight and nine they have size three feet, so are well on the way to adult size shoes, but they need something much more robust.  Something that can cope with scootering and biking to school, something that can cope with football on the MUGA (multi use games area) at lunchtime and recover from them not seeing a puddle and getting wet! So what do I look for in a decent pair of school shoes?
  1. When they have velcro fastening I want that to be secure and for the stitching to stay secure
  2. I want scuff proof bumpers
  3. I want flexible soles, but with good grip
  4. Nothing inside the shoe, I don't want my kids to be encouraged to take them on and off
We were contacted by Start-rite at the beginning of the summer to be part of their blogger team of six families putting their shoes to the test.Startrite shoes week two I was interviewed by Start-rite and discussed with them what we looked for in a show and what I knew about shoe fitting and then send a foot measurer and asked to measure by boys feet so they could send what they thoughts was a suitable pair for each of them. We measured the boys feet and found them to be 3F and 3H.  Mini has always had wide feet with a high instep. I also made sure that I had measured them correctly by getting MadDad to do it to and then the boys pinched the measurer and have been using it to play with! Last weeks the boys shoes arrived.  Rino Warrior  for Mini and Reflector for Maxi.  Using their video we checked the fit and the boys wore the shoes indoors for an hour or so a day to make sure that they were worn in before school. I think that we take pretty good care of our school shoes. I clean them once a week with proper old fashioned polish and you can find my top tips for looking after leather shoes here. Over the coming weeks and months we will be working with Start-rite, sharing with them how the shoes are wearing, sending them images of the soles and the rest of the shoes, so that they can see how they are holding up to life on the feet of two energetic boys. So, what do you look for in a school shoe?
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Win up to £500 in Amazon vouchers in our “Messy Kids” Bloggers’ Competition

We all know how mischievously messy kids can be, so why not share your experiences in your latest blog post and win some extra cash? messy kids
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The ultimate Autumn/Fall family activity list

I am a huge fan of bored jar's, not just for the boys, but for me too.  I sometimes need a quick activity that isnt screen based.   Unsure of how to make a bored jarm then take a look at how to make a bored jar. Fall autumn bored jar and activity list
  1. Go apple picking
  2. Make leaf cards
  3. Jump in a pile of leaves
  4. Make some autumn art 
  5. G0 on an acorn hunt
  6. Make a leaf picture frame
  7. Play this free scarecrow game
  8. Collect colorful fall leaves
  9. Coffee filter leaves 
  10. Make autumn leaf fairies 
  11. Collect seeds from plants in the garden
  12. Make a pom pom apple tree 
  13. Plant bulbs in your garden for next spring
  14. Make an Autumn sensory bin
  15. Make a pine cone bird feeder
  16. Make leaf prints
  17. Make pumpkin playdough
  18. Saltdough leaf bowls
  19. Handprint owl newspaper art
  20. Family art project - make a seasonal banner 
  21. Borrow a book from the library
  22. Create an Autumn poem
  23. Go on a walk at dusk with a torch
  24. Make fruit leather
  25. Make leaf skeletons 
  26. Go looking for spider webs 
  27. Go on a leaf hunt
  28. Make a nature table with your Autumn finds
  29. Make a tree with an old jigsaw
  30. Autumn Preschool science
  31. Cut leaves from felt and make a garland 
  32. Bake an apple pie
  33. Nature Crowns
  34. Count leaves
  35. Carve your own pumpkin
  36. Make wooden waldorf inspire nature blocks 
  37. Make a puppet theatre
  38. Play acorn hopscotch
  39. Make a paper leaf garland
  40. Make a tissue paper leaf
  41. Make Autumn suncatchers
  42. Make dragonfly cards with sycamore seeds
  43. Go on a bat watch at dusk
  44. Make toffee apples 
  45. Set up a scavenger hunt
  46. Collect sycamore seeds and throw them in the air (they fly like helicopters)
  47. Fall saltdough ornaments 
  48. Make apple crumble
  49. Grab an umbrella and go singing in the rain
  50. Make clay and twig hedgehogs 
  51. Re-watch your favorite scary movie on Halloween
  52. Free leaf printables
  53. Make some leaf relief art 
  54. Prune the garden plants, learn about how this helps them to grow back stronger in the spring
  55. Build a hedgehog house
  56. Make jam jar lanterns covered in leaves
  57. Print off some free play dough mats 
  58. Make conker spiders 
  59. Throw a Halloween party
  60. Make a leaf mobile 
  61. Breath in the cool, crisp air
  62. Make leaf lanterns with empty cheese cartons 
  63. Make jam
  64. Learn to knit
  65. Make a winter tree lantern 
  66. Make an autumn wreath for your door
  67. Make a bug hotel
  68. Listen to the sound of leaves crunching under your feet
  69. Find the tree that matches the leaf
  70. Make an autumn tree
  71. Collect conkers and have a match
  72. Make a halloween indoor obstacle course 
  73. Watch geese flying south for the winter
  74. Make autumn playdough
  75. Collect pinecones and display them in a glass bowl
  76. Collect twigs and try twig weaving with spare wool 
  77. Make hot chocolate
  78. Draw or paint some autumn still life 
  79. Attend harvest  festival
  80. Make a tissue paper pumpkin 
  81. Make apple crisps (chips for US folk)
  82. Beachnut hedgehogs 
  83. Put you wellies on and splash in some muddy puddles
  84. Make Halloween shadow puppets 
  85. Remember what you’re thankful for
  86. Go on an Autumn Nature walk
  87. Take pictures of all the different colours you can find in a woodland
  88. Make leaf rubbings
  89. Build a scarecrow
  90. Make a pinecone owl
  91. Go stargazing
  92. Make a leaf collage 
  93. Have an autumn picnic
  94. Make a paper turkey 
  95. Turn orange balloons in to pumpkins 
  96. Look for a full moon
  97. Make Dutch apple cake
  98. Go trick or treating
  99. Make a autumn nature mobile
  100. Try apple bobbing
  101. Make a leaf window display
  102. Make apple prints
  103. Enjoy some Autumn science projects 
  104. Make a leaf man
  105. Make corn on the cob prints
  106. Make pompom pumpkins 
  107. Make a conker bat 
  108. Make leaf owls
  109. Make apple sauce
  110. Printing with Acorns
  111. Make and fly a kite
  112. Make a windsock
  113. Edible sparkers 
  114. Make pine cone firelighters
  115. Make some poppyseed bats 
  116. Make woodland animals
  117. Make a crayon lantern
  118. Make jam tarts
  119. Make pine cone skittles 
  120. Make some leaf identification cards 
  121. Dry orange slices
  122. Roast pumpkin seeds
  123. Make Halloween salt dough
  124. Leaf Drawing and Doodling
  125. Paint pumpkins
  126. Paper plate owls 
  127. Play Autumn/Fall Eye Spy
  128. Make an autumn leaf crown
  129. Make paper lanterns
  130. Make Halloween cakes and biscuits
  131. Make some pumpkin pie paint
  132. Make a ghost paper chain
  133. Preserve leaves with glycerine
  134. Make popcorn
  135. Print this fab autumn nature treasure hunt
  136. Decorate an umbrella
  137. Make a raincatcher
  138. Build an indoor fort
  139. Go on a number nature hunt
  140. Talk about what makes you thankful
  141. Go leaf counting
  142. Collect acorns
  143. Donate old woolens and coats to a charity
  144. Help clear leaves from the lawn
  145. Make a fall wreath
  146. Make hairy hot dogs
  147. Make a harvest cake
  148. Customise a Tshirt for halloween
  149. Make pancakes
  150. Make a leaf mandella
autumnfall bored jar   If you like this then you can find lots more Autumn/Fall crafts on my Pinterest board Follow Jen Walshaw's board Autumn and Fall crafts and activities on Pinterest.
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Autumn/Fall leaves sticking activity for preschoolers

Preschoolers love gluing and sticking and this Autumn leaves and tree sticking craft is a great craft for preschoolers and is a simple and pretty much mess free activity.  By preparing all the items you need before you can leave it as a great invitation to play.

Fall leaves activity

  Autumn Fall leaves sticking activity Preparation
  • Cut out a selection of leaves and acorns in different sizes and colours
  • Draw or cut out a bare tree
coloured leaf activity 2 Activities - three and under
  • Let your child feel and explore the leaves
  • Discuss the way they feel
  • Discuss the colour of the leaves and ask your child to point out the colours to you
  • Ask which leaves are smaller or larger
  • Point out acorns
  • Count the leaves with your child
  • Provide your child with a glue stick or glue and let them sick on the leaves as they choose
This is a great activity for over three's too.  It is a brilliant activity for after school or quiet times.  It can also be a super activity for scissor skills as your child can cut out the leaves if they want to. coloured leaf activity 4 Activities - over three
  • In addition to the above discuss why leaves change colour, you can find some great posts about it here at Teach Beside Me or Ingles 360
  • Encourage your child to colour in the bark
  • Why leaves fall off trees
  • What acorns are
  • Discuss patterns that they might make with the leaves
  • Talk about how many leaves they are sticking on each branch
  • Discuss the size of the leaves
coloured leaf activity trees Like this, then why not take a look at my Autumn/Fall activities Pinterest board. Follow Jen Walshaw's board Autumn and Fall crafts and activities on Pinterest.
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It’s Back To School Time

It’s time to get organised and make sure you get the new school year off to as good a start as possible. The return back to school after the fun-filled weeks of the summer holiday can be a struggle for the whole family, but with careful planning and emotional awareness the transition can be smooth for everyone. Think about buying everything you need now and start preparing for the year ahead. 2014 Buying New Kit It’s time to buy new school uniforms, sports kit and shoes. How did they grow so much since last term? Take time to visit the school outfitters with your child and get them measured up properly. You may not have as much time for this during the term so it’s better to buy what you need now, if possible. Don’t forget to sew on name tags. Everyone else will have the same items of clothing so you don’t want all those new clothes to get lost straight away. Children will not necessarily need new notepads, pens and pencils but who can resist new stationery? Bright, shiny pencils, protractors, rulers and rubbers are tempting and may even help reluctant children get more excited about a return to school. Often a new bag will be required to carry sports kit or a lunch box. Some items may be specified by the school, such as a calculator, so check any lists the school has provided you with and make sure you purchase the required equipment. Mental Preparation It’s a good idea to start preparing your child mentally for going back to school especially if they are moving up to ‘big school’ or have changed schools. Talk to them about the routine they can expect, who their new teacher is and which friends they’ll see again or the new friends they will make. Discuss all the fun things they will do at school and be enthusiastic about lessons. If your child has a positive attitude going into the new school year it will be good for their levels of confidence and may even influence their performance. Start getting the family back into a good routine with a sensible bedtime and wake up time. These often slip during the holidays when a routine may not be so important but it’s now time to make sure everyone is well rested before the start of each busy day. Extracurricular Activities and Private Tuition Start planning which after-school clubs your child will be attending and whether you’ll need to organise childcare. It is also a good time to think about private tuition. Work out what your tutoring requirements will be for the year ahead and start looking for an appropriate tutor. Fleet Tutors will match your child with a tutor who will suit their needs and bring out the best in their abilities. Will your child be tackling the 11+ or GCSEs this year? Or is it A-levels they need extra help with? It may be the case that your child just needs a bit of confidence-boosting in a particular subject. There is a lot for the whole family to think about in the run up to going back to school. But if everyone plays their part in getting prepared beforehand the transition should be smooth. Back to school can be an exciting time not a stressful one. 3.
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Ways to spend more time with the kids during school term time

I love the school holidays.  I love spending time with my little darlings (are you getting the sarcasm here?), no really I do love spending time with Mini and Maxi, they are actually becoming great company and are fun to be with and I miss them once school starts again.  So I try to make sure I spend quality time with them once the school term starts. Ways to spend more time with the kids during school term time Do not overschedule kids This is my biggest tip. The boys have two out of school activities a week, Cubs and Football and I am a huge believer in not filling up kids free time with activities.  Children need to have freedom and time to unwind after the regimented school day. Screen free time We have a rule that screens are turned off at 6pm until the boys bedtimes (apart from movie night).  This gives us quality time for reading, listening to music, gardening, walking, baking, playing games, jigsaws, arts and crafts or just chatting. Cook together One of the times that I love most is when me and the boys or one of the boys spend time in the kitchen together. I cook at least one meal a week with each of them, more and more they are taking charge and I am just directed by them as to what to do.  We menu plan together too. Eat together This is one of the most important parts of parenting in my opinion.  We eat together as a family as often as we can. At the moment that is five nights out of seven and we also have breakfast together too.  There are so many benefits to sitting at the table together without interruptions (we have a no electronics at meal times rule). We have conversations, debates, chats and tell stories. Even one night a week makes a big difference.  Make it special. Insist on family time This is easy for me as my boys are only eight and nine, but  when I was growing up at least one day at the weekend was designated family time.  We have continued this tradition and spend the weekend as a family.  We try and go out and have an experience one of those day. Family Game night One night a week is designated as family game night.  As soon as the dinner plates are tidied away the games come out and we have competitive fun until bedtime. Family Movie Night We also have family movie night one night a week, now this might not always be a movie, it could be a TV show that we all want to watch, but the thing is we watch it together.  We turn off electronics and grab snacks and cuddle up together. Family Dog Walks Since getting Alvin we have walked together more as a family.  We get outside together more, even if it is just for a ten minute walk. We aim for one short walk a day, this can either be all together or one adult with one child.  It gives us one on one time with the children and enables us to have a good chat. I have had this post in my drafts and then KC Edventures posted a fantastic post about how to spend more time with the kids during school and I have to share it too. 

 THe Mad House

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What was your favorite childhood toy?

John Lewis are running a campaign about childhood toys and this week are talking all about model trains and to celebrate this asked me to share with you my memories of my favorite childhood toy. My childhood is filled with the toy I had and the one I really wanted, but never got! My most loved toy would have had to be my multistory Sindy House. It was something that I never thought I would own.  I remember the joy at coming down on Christmas morning to find it under a candy striped sheet. I spent so many hours playing with it and all the accessories that my mum and dad got for me.  I knew that it was preloved, but that didn't matter.  It was the only thing I had out on my christmas list and I was overjoyed that Father Christmas has brought me what I wanted. SINDY HOUSE ONE The one that got away.  The year after I asked for a Petite Typewriter, it was the toy of the year.  All I wanted was a typewriter and some secretary glasses.

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Oh but it wasn't to be, there was no typewriter for me.  I learned a hard lesson that year as I sat sulking that I didn't get everything I wanted.  My Dad was very upset with me and he had every right to be, I was acting like a spoilt brat.  He said that Father Christmas did get my letter, but he didn't always say yes. The toy that has survived since my childhood though and is still played with my the boys is mine and my brothers LEGO.  It is mixed in with all the new pieces and you can not tell the 1970's stuff from the 2014 stuff.  It is a true ageless classic toy. So what was the toy of your childhood? This is a sponsored post which has been written in association with John Lewis Insurance 3.
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My experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I have issues getting pregnant, staying pregnant and being pregnant.   When I was expecting Maxi people actually thought I had a terminal illness.  I was in fact suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  For me this meant that I vomited pretty much constantly and when I wasn't vomiting I felt nauseous. My experience with Hyperemesis
Imagine being so drunk that the room spins without having actually drunk anything. Imagine lying in bed and the room spinning so much you had to lay with one foot on the floor, just so you believed that the room wasn't actually moving. Imagine now being able to look at a book without the letters feeling as though they moved. Imagine that the smell of your husband, the man that you love more than anything in the world making you feel physically repused. Imagine waking up with a mouth full of vomit. Imagine wanting to hit the next person that told you ginger will help. Imagine the only time you get any relief is when you are asleep, but being so scared to fall asleep incase you vomit and choke. Imagine waiting ten years to have a child and then wishing that you weren't pregnant and the guilt that you have to live with this every day of your life. Imagine becoming so dehydrated that you do permanent damage to your liver. Imagine being sick so many times the acid rots the enamel on your teeth. Imagine the desperation of being in hospital on a drip and none of the anti-sickness drugs stop the sickness or the feeling of nausea for more than 45 minutes at a time. Imagine the desperation of doctors who prescribes and tried so many drugs that are contraindicated in pregnancy to stop me being sick. Imagine the husband that agrees to inject his wife in her butt three times a day just to ease the sickness. A husband that overcomes his own fears for the hope of a family. Imagine a 36 week pregnant woman who due to vomiting so much and the unbalance of vitamins and minerals starts to hallucinate and is made to see a physiatrist to ensure the safety of herself and her unborn child. Imagine being so desperate for some normality that you spend every penny you have looking for alternative treatments. Imagine going to acupuncture as often as you could as the only time the room didn't spin was when you had needles in you. Imagine agreeing to a cholecystectomy at 20 weeks pregnant as you were told you lifer and the life of your unborn child were hanging in the balance. Imagine sobbing but being to dehydrated no tears came. Imagine all this for week, after week, hour after hour for 38 weeks. Then imagine falling pregnant five months later only for it all to start again.
There are no pictures of me being pregnant, it was not a happy time in our lives.  MadDad had to resign from his position so that he could provide me with the care I needed. This has not being an easy memory to relive.  The only good things to come out of this were my two beautiful babies, but I live daily with the guilt that I felt during this time, the thoughts that went through my head. I wanted children so badly.  We had lost twins at 20 weeks and also a singleton previously and I had put all hope of children away and yes I suffered from HG in both of those pregnancies too. Me and Maxi This is one of the only pictures I can find of me when pregnant with Mini, I was 8 months here. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a condition I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy and I am sure that it played a large part in my postnatal depression too. But I was one of the lucky ones, my condition was discovered early and wasn't palmed off as morning sickness.  The treatment I received from medical professionals was second to none. If you know anyone going through this then please point them in the direction of the Pregnancy Sickness Support.
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Blackpool for kids, by kids

Did you see that we went to Blackpool as a family over the summer holidays? We had THE BEST time.  Blackpool has really changed since I went there last 20 years ago.   Blackpool is certainly back! blackpools back Blackpool certainly is a wonderful place for families to visit and they have just brought out their 'The Kids Resort Guide', an interactive guide, written by Blackpool's biggest critics... the kids.  It shows Blackpool's top attractions through the eyes of a child. blackpool resort guide Blackpool is full of family friendly activities and places to visit and we only managed to skim the surface during our weekend there and we did a LOT. We visited Madame Tussauds, The Sealife Center, The top of the Tower,  Blackpool Zoo and had an amazing time at the Pleasure Beach - take a look at the boys review of the top places to visit in Blackpool when you're eight and nine here. where to eat in blackpool Blackpool is full of great places to eat too and we had some amazing food including the obligatory fish and chips and icecreams. We took a trip on a tram and we had an amazing time watching Mamma Mia. It has been the place the boys have talked about the most since we visited and a place they are desperate to return to. We stayed just outside Blackpool at Ribby Hall and I am hoping that they invite us back to review their Winter Wonderland!  Ribby Hall really is the perfect place to stay with kids and makes a great base or place to stay and enjoy the activities they have to offer.  I so need to try out their spa!
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