soft play cafe.

Since Ruby was born in 2012 and all things child-related came onto our radar, it became strikingly obvious that Lichfield was lacking in small people “stuff”.

More often than not you’d get tutted at, stared at or groaned at for trying to squeeze a pram into an already packed cafe so that you could escape the house for a moment and feel like a normal human being after a morning of non-stop screaming from the tiny human you’d just brought into the world (“if in doubt, go out” and all that).

We’ve been concocting plans for a fabulous, not overly pricey, clean, safe, child-friendly cafe with lovely food and brilliant staff ever since…but it’s always been a pipe-dream and we were never actually ever going to be able to realise it and neither was anyone else.

Then, just this week, along came Little Green Frog Cafe!

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Located in the centre of Lichfield as part of Three Spires Shopping Centre and open daily from 8.30am – 4.30pm, the cafe opens officially on Tuesday 30th August but we were treated to a special sneak preview this weekend.

It’s a superb idea, and a wonderful execution by the super friendly owner-managers Ben and Debs and their team. The light, bright and welcoming cafe is a great size…you don’t feel like you’re sitting on top of anyone and the play zones have been carefully planned to cater perfectly for smalls from around 18 months to 5 years.

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Henry snoozed for the majority of our visit this morning, but Ruby was off exploring as soon as we arrived. She headed straight for the activity corner and was found sat in the tipi with an Albert Einstein style wig on her head and a Cinderella dress from the extensive dressing up section! There’s also a lovely quiet-zone full of books and soft seating for those feeling less energetic…plus Ben explained to me that they are planning to introduce a range of baby friendly play things very soon, which will make the activity zone complete in my opinion. And a perfect place for new mums to meet and get out of the house over the winter months without feeling like they are in people’s way all the time!

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Once awake, Henry loved exploring the soft-play area which is fully equipped with slides, a ball pit and lots of soft blocks and rocking ducks for the little ones. The area was supervised by a lovely member of the team today…I’m not sure if this is always going to be the case, but it’s a great touch. The cafe is a perfect size for always knowing where your child is, and even if it’s busy I imagine you will always feel secure there.

The facilities have been well thought out with a large buggy park, booster seats, plenty of high chairs and wonderful baby changing facilities. Extremely clean dinky toilets for those that are nappy-less are a great touch and, along with the cot in the baby change area, just help to make your visit that bit easier!

Our visit was at 10.30am, so we took great delight in ordering from the scrummy breakfast menu. Mr O and I shared a pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and Ruby had a fruit bowl (which was a good size for the price) and a strawberry milkshake. The highlight for me however was the Deluxe Hot Chocolate which came piled with cream and marshmallows and was one of the better hot chocolates I’ve had for a while.

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All in all it was a lovely way to spend an hour and a half, and with the £3.50 for the play side of things being directly added to your bill at the end it is easy to understand what you’re spending without feeling like you’re constantly paying for stuff. The team are lovely – very friendly, professional and happy to answer any questions…and they even cater for special dietary requirements which I know is very important to a lot of parents.

If you have older children then you’re probably better off searching out one of the bigger soft-play centres outside of town – Little Green Frog cafe is perfect for mamas and papas with babes in arms, toddlers or under 5’s. Which is something Lichfield has never had before and, along with the great programme of activities planned on a weekly basis, is why I can see this place going from strength to strength…

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If you’re in Lichfield, pay Little Green Frog cafe a visit (book online if you’re in a large group) and you won’t be disappointed – especially if you manage to snaffle one of their amazing cakes!

Find out more about Little Green Frog cafe by clicking this link.

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the parentals.

Without wishing to sound like the biggest twonk, I am the luckiest person in the world.

And, as it turns out, not only am I the luckiest person in the world where I stand in life here and now, but I have been the luckiest person in the world for approximately 32 years, 11 months and 340 days (oh dear, I’m nearly 33!) and just simply haven’t realised it. 

Technically you could argue that my brother is the luckiest person in the world as he has the great pleasure of sharing his birthday with me (what a marvellous birthday gift a screaming new baby is for a four year old!). But no, that title falls to me.

Lucky you say?! What on earth do you mean?! Well people…this is what I mean:

I’ve been through some trials in my life. Nothing heartachingly devastating, thankfully enough, but stuff like almost dying at the age of 14 from a burst appendix is enough to make anyone thankful that they are still alive and well, no!?

And at every twist and turn, there they have been. The parentals.

I must have been a nightmare growing up. I rarely smiled on family photos because I was usually in a huff about something or other. I was massively competitive with my older brother to the point of distraction. I threw big, huge strops. I would go and hide under the huge clothing rails in Tesco and have everyone searching the store for a “missing” child. It’s a wonder I wasn’t left somewhere with a note warning whomever found me to just leave me there!

But still, there they have always been. By my side and there for me. Always.

I chose a different path to what they might have expected or wanted for me…a different school to my brother which meant a mammoth trek to and from school each day. University, which cost them an absolute fortune and no doubt gave them endless worry and heartache as, for the first six months at least, I cried down the phone nearly every single day. Lichfield, which meant me moving away and 4 hour round trips every time the want to see me.

Plenty stress from the daughter.

And now, now that we have two children here they are again. Always there. Always helping, wherever and however they can. Providing advice and putting up with my strops even now (I don’t think I’ll ever mellow into a low maintenance type). And their love for our children…oh how lucky I am indeed!

And it’s not just my own parents that make me the luckiest person in the world…it’s my inlaws too.

Sickened yet?! 

I am the luckiest person in the world as I have the best in-laws too. They are truly lovely, and help us out so much despite living so far away. I don’t think I could ever repay them for the love, help and support they have shown me over the years.

So, if your parents are with you still and you are reading this as the mother or father to your own wee ones…no matter their age, their location, their state of mind, their contribution…be thankful.

Be thankful for the effort that went into raising you, even if there were horrible times. Be thankful for the sacrifices that were made to give you the scalextric or the Barbie DreamHouse Campervan that has been lovingly hoarded in the loft for an eternity in case you one day have a daughter that will want to play with it (thanks Dad!). Be thankful for the hours spent cleaning up sick, making your meals and stroking your hair as you went through yet another crisis because Peter Gronough didn’t even know who you were (cringe!).

And be thankful that, without even knowing it, they set you up with the tools to deal with the uncertainty, guilt and general mess that comes with being a parent yourself. Because you might not feel it, but you are doing great.

You are indeed the luckiest person in the world.

Except for me 😉

Speak soon, x

driving me crazy.

Travelling in the car is to us what having your nappy changed is to a weeny one. Natural, necessary yet a little bit annoying.

Mr O and I have spent our entire life together travelling up and down motorways as we’ve journeyed from Luton to Doncaster, Blackburn, Lichfield, Coventry, Liverpool, London and many other places in between…and sadly, because of this, we now know the M6, M1, M62 and M18 motorways (and if you know Mr O, the toilets at each service station!) like the backs of our hands.

Our children, being only small are somewhat lacking in the car travel experience department and are, understandably I guess, not really very happy about us trying to provide such a wonderful, joyous education for them.

Take our most recent car journey as an example…

Our best friends live in Leighton Buzzard. Of course they do. Everyone knows that it’s the rule that your best friends must live at least 1.5 hours away down a very busy motorway!

So it started off very well, with the promise of a little nap (sadly not me!) and a sing song before we reached our destination.

In reality it wasn’t any of this. It was a mixture of awful and even worse.

Henry and Ruby took it in turns to be annoyed. Henry would scream and cry, and then when he’d given up, resigned to his fate once more, Ruby would pick up the baton and start whining about us not being there yet, that she wasn’t actually sleepy, that the nursery rhymes weren’t on loud enough, that the radio was too loud (she was trying to sleep after all!)…

It was certainly one of our most interesting car journeys of recent times.

And then there is this:

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Oh, look, another 50mph zone!

The circular sign of doom.

The mark of killer traffic jams, lane creepers, idiots on cruise control…and the fact that our entire motorway network is just full of them, all at the same time, is soul destroying.

We have spent the last 2-3 years filtering slowly through 50mph zones, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually spotted people working. What are they actually doing anyway!? And why has it suddenly become en-vogue to remove crash barriers and replace them with massive concrete walls!? How is that safe!?

Crazy.

So, good people, here are my very special top tips for travelling with small people and how not to end up looking like this:

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Oh dear…

  1. Be prepared – tell them in advance that it will be a long journey
  2. Get them just the right amount of excited – too much excitement will result in endless “Are we nearly there yet?” situations that will make you want to hurl yourself from the moving vehicle. You need them excited to get there but also excited about the getting there itself (the promise of a treat at the half way point usually helps!)
  3. Take stuff with you – no matter how long or short the journey, let them take as much “stuff” as they want. It will keep them occupied and avoid a tantrum when told they can’t take their “stuff” with them
  4. Play nursery rhymes – but do a deal with them first, as a parent you simply cannot listen to nursery rhymes for the entire journey as your ears will bleed. Take it in turns to be in charge of the music!
  5. Spelling games – spot the signs coming up and ask them to tell you how many letters they can see, it usually ends up with them shouting that you’re driving too fast, but it’s a great distraction technique
  6. Counting games – how many red cars can you count etc. etc. will keep them busy for at least 10 minutes
  7. Snacks – doesn’t have to be sweets, can be anything at all. But try to individually wrap things or put them in challenging pots that keep them occupied…sneaky, sneaky mummy!
  8. Don’t engage in small talk – and by this, I mean the talk of the smalls. Just let them witter at you. It’s easier and you can pretend to be a unicorn or something. Or, better still, pretend to be a mute…it angers Ruby, but it might work with your little one!
  9. Pretend to be asleep – you will be shouted at, you will have things thrown at your head, but if you can keep your face straight you are guaranteed at least 15mins of time with your own inane thoughts
  10. Tell stories about your life – if all else fails, use your trump card. Ruby loves hearing stories about me, about Daddy, about our parents and about her Uncles. Tell them everything you can. Teach them about your past, and about the past of your family…they will love it.

I’m hopeful that as they get older things will become easier on the travel front…

They certainly can’t get any worse! Or can they!?!

Share your best and worst travel stories with me…I’d love to hear them.

Speak soon, x