A first timers review of Center Parcs 

If you live in the UK, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard of Center Parcs. Located within forests across the UK, CP is a one stop holiday suitable for all generations. The only catch is relying on the UK weather. After much dillydallying about where to go on holiday this summer (read: leaving things to the last minute), we booked a mid-week stay at CP Elveden Forest.

On a sunny Monday in August, we loaded our two cars with bikes, suitcases and half our kitchen before heading up the M11 to Elveden Forest. Having never been to any of the other Center Parcs in the country – Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, Longleat Forest in Wiltshire and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire – we had nothing to judge it by. Some described it as a nicer version of Butlins. My cousin Latika and I bravely (yes, bravely!) took our boys to Butlins last summer and I can tell you, comparing Butlins to CP is like comparing £100 an ounce caviar to the stuff you get at Yo Sushi! From the moment we drove into CP, I was completely bowled over by the giant trees that seemed to touch the sky.

Once all the Monday check ins were complete, cars were relegated to the car park for the duration of our 4 day stay and what we were left with was open safe green space. Our lodge (which had its own sauna at the back) had 3 bedrooms, all ensuite, and an open plan kitchen, dining and living room. With multiple restaurants, a beautiful lake, an indoor tropical pool and sports centre (incase it rains), tree climbing, ziplining, laser combat, off road biking, wall climbing, a pottery barn and lots more, CP quite literally has something for everyone and enough activities to exhaust even the most energetic 5 year old! S who had only learnt to ride a bike without stabilisers 2 weeks prior mastered his riding skills as he quite literally flew around CP at every opportunity. I loved the village feel of the place – we took two bikes and hired 3 there, riding everywhere we wanted to go and locking up the bikes in the many cycle parks dotted around CP.

We had beautiful sunny weather for 3 out of 4 days and on the one day it rained, while all the adults chose to stay indoors, S was still adamant he wanted to ride his bike in the rain. As long as there’s fun to be had, nothing stops my 5 year old, even a bit of the typically wet British weather. We spent a lot of time at the Tropical Pool – I lost count of the number of times we went on the rapids which S absolutely loved! We went tree trekking, ziplining across the lake, wall climbing and boating. And while the grown-ups played laser combat, S was entertained in an Alice the Wonderland themed drop-off camp. Win:Win!

If I had to nit-pick, I’d suggest baskets on the bikes – trying to ride to the pool while balancing a bag slung on my shoulder was no easy task. Towels in the pool area would also be a nice touch.
Top tip – You can actually order take out from one of the many local restaurants. Although the food was good, we found very limited vegetarian options (my dad is a vegetarian). At Forresters Inn (one of the nicer bars/restaurants), there was only one vegetarian main option and at Bella Italia, a vegan pizza didn’t include vegan cheese, it was just a pizza without any cheese!! One night we took the car out to a local Indian restaurant and another night we ordered take out and went to pick it up (although they do deliver as well).
Fret not, if you run out of milk there is a supermarket on site (and a Starbucks!) There’s also a gift store and a couple of clothing stores in The Sports Centre. I ventured in to have a look at some sweaters because in very uncharacteristic fashion, I relied on the BBC weather app and didn’t take a jacket or any sweaters for that matter. We live in the UK, always take a jacket and sweater!!

By the end of the 4 days, S had to be cajoled into the car to go home. With a slightly sore bottom from all the bike riding, a bruise on my leg from the wall climbing and adrenaline running through me from the ziplining, I went home thinking I’d definitely go back!

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The ever changing nature of parenting 

This evening I lay down beside S and watched him fall asleep. Watched as his eyes closed at the end of another busy day, watched as his face relaxed and he fell into a deep sleep. I often use these moments to reflect on our day and think about how I can do better. Parenting is a tough job…We’re constantly having to make choices and hope they are the right ones for our kids. I don’t know any good parent who isn’t constantly berating themselves for the choices they make…it just goes with the territory.

Now that he’s 5, he’s started to make many of his own choices and my latest challenge is allowing him to do the things he wants to do, even if I don’t agree with them. I often look back at old blog posts and laugh at my naivety. When S was younger I truly believed you could negotiate/gently coerce children and that you didn’t need to raise your voice or resort to black mail. And now I increasingly find myself doing those very things. 

I recently read a blog post where the writer asked : How would you feel if your spouse talked to you the way you talked to your child? This is a pretty powerful question and I’ve been asking myself a similar one: How would I feel if my parents spoke to me the way I speak to S? And that’s given me a lot of food for thought. While I do think that adults and children are different, sentences like that still make me think. Ofcourse most adults aren’t unnecessarily rude, don’t refuse to eat, refuse to have a bath  or ignore you when you ask them to do something like many 5 year olds do so it’s not an accurate comparison but nevertheless, if it’s made you more mindful then more points to the writer.

I think of parenting as an ever changing responsibility. Just when you’ve tackled one challenge, another one presents itself. It forces you to look at yourself and analyse who you are. Why is that some behaviour bothers us and doesn’t bother another parent? What is it about our children’s behaviour that gets under our skin? I was listening to a podcast recently by Torie Henderson (A life coach for parents) and she got right to the point when she said that most of our reactions towards our kids comes from a place of fear that we are not good enough mums/parents. The more I pondered on her words, the more I nodded in agreement. Most of the time, when we get frustrated, it’s because our child is doing something we don’t think is right. And our reaction comes as a result of our perception. But what if we change our perception? What if we relinquish control of how we think things should be? Wouldn’t we be happier? Wouldn’t it make parenting more joyful? 

What is it about parenting that makes us such control freaks? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

London in the Springtime 

You know Spring has arrived when the gorgeous Cherry Blossoms come out and boy have they arrived!!


We’re so lucky to live in an area surrounded by cherry blossom trees so we get to watch them bloom on our daily walk to the bus stop.

So with the Easter Holidays upon us, schools out and the skies are blue, here is my list of the best London (and the surrounding areas) have to offer this Spring!

1. Duck Tours – have a look on Groupon before you go to their website, they very often have deals on there. Make sure you read the terms and conditions!

2. The Big Bus Tour – See all the best sights of London over one or two days. I personally love a Bus Tour, especially if you’re only in the city a few days and want to make the most of your time.

3. Battersea Park Children’s Zoo – We haven’t been yet but it’s on my list of places of visit this summer. We are however members of London Zoo and S loves it.

4. Southbank – My favourite part of London! The Art of Brick: DC Super Heroes opened on the 1st of March. We went to the original Art of Brick and was amazed by it so this is definitely on our list for when we’re back in 2 weeks time.

5. The Tate Modern is running a “live exhibition“, something I think both adults and children alike will be fascinated by. Don’t forget to take a spare change of clothes, just in case your kids refuse to come out! 😉

If you don’t mind venturing out then I highly recommend Belmont Farm, Bekonscot Model Village, Windsor Castle and Legoland

If the weather turns (let’s be realistic, it’s London) then there’s Sea Life and the London Aquarium, The National History Museum, The Transport Museum or the good ol’ cinema. VUE usually run Kids mornings over the holidays where movies are £2.50 a ticket (kids and adults alike).

And of course if the beautiful weather sticks around, there are always the gorgeous London Parks – Regents Park, Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park are my favourites. Email education@royalparksfoundation.org to find out more about what’s going on in the parks over the next few weeks.

Happy  Spring! 🌸🌸🌸

Summer is here!

Judging by the humidity levels today, I’d say summer is well and truly here…let’s hope it’s here to stay.

S has another month off before I have to start thinking of ways to keep us busy. We’re away in Tenerife at the end of August which I’m really looking forward to and just yesterday my cousin and I booked to take our boys to Butlins in Bognor Regis in July. I have some really fond memories of Butlins Holidays from when I was a child and I’m sure our boys are going to absolutely love it!

If you’re spending the summer in London, feel free to check out my guide for things to do in London this summer. Last year we did Legoland, Belmont Farm and The Chickenshed Theatre to name a few.

For lots more ideas around the UK, you can check out this handy ebook created by over 101 of the Best British Bloggers. It’s filled with hundreds of activities, destinations and just general fun ideas to have with your children this summer. Each idea has come from a fellow blogger who has personally tried and tested the experience, so you know it’s going to be a fab list.

So here’s to lots of fun in the sun this summer!! What are your plans? Are you going away anywhere nice?

 

Children and religion

I was chatting to a friend recently about religion and whether children should have a choice in what religion they are raised. If you ask most Indian parents, they will tell you children don’t have a choice. Pretty much every one I knew growing up was raised as a Hindu, celebrating Diwali and Janmashtmi, being vegetarian on certain days of the week to honour a particular God. I was raised that way myself (by my mum). However, I was also exposed to lots of other religions as my dad chose to experiment to find the right fit for himself. Adding on to that, I went to a Bahai boarding school in India where we had no choice but to learn all the Bahai prayers and then I went to a Christian boarding school in Dublin where I had no choice but to attend Chapel every morning. When it comes to religion, I have all my bases covered.

And yet, I choose not to raise S in a religious manner. I know this is a bit of a a controversial topic so if you think you might take offence, read this awesome post instead.

I look around me and I see far too many people who claim to be religious harbouring feelings of hate, jealousy and greed, etc. I witnessed someone place his hand on a picture of his guru and lie through his teeth. I know of someone else who will prostrate on the ground in front of an idol and yet ignore and ostracize friends. I see human beings killing other human beings all in the name of God and it saddens me. I’m sure when religions were founded, there was meaning to them. There was honour and respect. People respected religion. But we changed as a world and we took our religious texts and we twisted them. So really, I don’t have a problem with religion. I take issue with what we’ve made of religion in the 21st century.

Instead, I’d like to raise S to understand about the laws of karma. To know that what comes around, goes around. To be kind and compassionate. To put himself in other people’s shoes. To understand that words hurt and once said, they can’t be taken back. To act in a manner that he can live with. To have a conscience! To listen to his gut, his inner voice. To reflect and learn from his mistakes.

We all have moments of weakness, moments of anger, moments of frustration. I want him to be able to handle those moments with grace and dignity. With his head held high.

I want him to have gratitude for all that he has and I want him to have faith. Faith in himself. Faith that whatever circumstances he’s put through, there’s a lesson to be learnt.

Essentially I just want him to…

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Cuddle Fairy
And then the fun began...
A Bit Of Everything

How do you measure success?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what success means. Everyone has a different definition. To some, having a million pounds in their account means they are successful. To other’s it may be making a difference in people’s lives, learning a new language, taking up an instrument at 60, leaving a bad relationship, raising high achieving kids….the list goes on.

I think to me, being successful means to be happy. And that’s not to say that we’re walking around with big smiles on our faces, oblivious to the goings on in the world. But rather, to have a sense of contentment. To be able to ride the peaks and troughs of life and not be too affected by them. To strive to do better, earn more, be better but not to let that affect how you feel in general. To me, success is a constant work in progress.

I was talking to my cousin R a few days ago and she provided another answer. When discussing success, she said “Success is growth” and on that particular day, her comment hit the nail on the head for me. Success is growth! Look at where you were last year, she suggested, and look at where you are now. Have you grown? And by growth it encompasses all aspects of your life. Physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. I certainly believe I’ve grown a lot since last year.

I was chatting to another friend P and when talking about success, she talked about success being all about perspective. We live in a world where each person is unique, and yet we don’t act like they are. We expect people to fit into our model of the world, we expect our children to model behaviour that is acceptable to us. And yet who ever said our model was the right one? It’s right for us. She also went on to mention value. She does a lot of good work in an organisation close to her heart. It doesn’t give her any money but it gives her great internal satisfaction. Is she successful? In her opinion of success, she is.

Validation was something else we talked about. When you believe that what you’re doing is right and you’re truly happy with it, then how other’s feel about it and what other’s think and say to you, don’t affect you. You don’t need outside validation when you are content with who you are. I know, that’a a big one isn’t it? We live in a society that thrives on validation. I’m not immune to it. I was super excited when I hit 500 followers on Twitter and when I get lots of likes on Instagram and Facebook. But as I mentioned before about success, it’s a work in progress.

When you ask most new parents what they envisage for their children when they grow up, they may say things like “I want my child to be a doctor or a dentist. I want my child to play the piano or be an athlete.” But essentially, when it comes down to it, I think most parents just want their children to be happy. And yet most parents (myself included) also seek to impose their views on their children, their model of the world. And our views and models, while based on experience, are also based on our fears.

I think it’s so important to allow our children to BE who they want to be, even when we don’t particularly like it. That’s not to say we let them go off the rails and behave in unsociable ways but rather to act as guides and beacons of light. I love this quote by Khalil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

What does success mean to you?

Modern Dad Pages

Kahlil Gibran on children

I went to a parenting talk yesterday (more on that tomorrow) and the speaker reminded us of an old poem by Kahlil Gibran that is so profound, I felt the need to share it here.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Have a peaceful weekend x

Culture Shock

I’ve spent a lot of time in India in my life. I went to nursery in Mumbai for a few months when I was 4, I went to boarding school in Panchgani for 3 years when I was 11 and I’ve visited almost every year since I was 14. So the things that shock most people visiting India don’t really shock me anymore. As sad as it sounds, you become accustomed to the poverty and the dirt. Seeing helpless children always tugs at my heart strings but it doesn’t have the same shock affect as it did when I was younger if you know what I mean.

Now that I’m visiting with S though, there are many things I pick up on that really surprise me. The most recent being lack of friendliness. I find it hard to believe that people here aren’t friendly but over the last week we’ve been visiting my maternal grandmother in Pune and S being the friendly child that he is, says hello and waves at everyone (and I mean everyone!). But no one (especially other children) says hello back!!

Yesterday we went to this huge mall called The Pheonix and they had a train going round the ground floor. It stopped at one point about every 5 minutes and you could pay to have a go on it. S loves trains and so when it came round, we paid the equivalent of £1 each and got on. As we were driven around, he waved and excitedly said hello to everyone we passed by and I think 1 out of 10 people smiled or waved back.

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Is S just over-friendly? Are children here just shy? Or taught not to respond to anyone they don’t know? I’m open to explanations…

Being a mum

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on many of the things I love about being a mum. Some are quite obvious and lots of mums I know feel these things every day. But in the last few days S has been doing some pretty cute things that make me go “aww…”!

Photo Apr 10, 2013, 6_53 PM

I’d love to know what YOU love about being a mum. So join me on twitter (@mamaduckquacks) and hashtag beingamum (#beingamum) or comment below. Comon’ mama’s, what’s got you going “aww..” this week?

Happy Easter

I hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend. We were blessed with great weather here in London last week. The sun was shining, the skies were clear. On Friday, S and I headed down to Surrey to spend an afternoon with a friend and her gorgeous little girl. The kids are only a few months apart and it was so cute to see them playing together, holding hands and of course catching up with my friend R. I spent a lot of time with my awesome cousins this week too. With busy lives and upcoming weddings, we don’t get a chance to catch up as often as I’d like but when we do, it’s always such a laugh!

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I went to a boarding school in Dublin from the age of 14-18 and so was introduced to “Lent”. I’ve never really had the will power to give up anything, or over indulged in anything that I feel the need to give it up but this year I decided to give up carbonated drinks. Initially I thought I’d give up alcohol but then met R and another friend for lunch two days after Shrove Tuesday and was easily convinced why I shouldn’t give up wine and in fact join her and give up carbonated drinks. Maybe it’s a mummy thing! I thought it’d be hard when I was out to dinner and wanted a diet coke but instead I just replaced it with hot water or green tea and it’s felt good.

I’ve had a busy few weeks catching up with things. As of last week, I am a certified life coach…woo hoo! I am currently working towards an NPL (neuro-linguistic programming) and hopefully CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) qualifications. Wish me luck! Essentially these are modules I’ve always wanted to study but somehow never had the chance. I hope to complete them before the end of the year and maybe even add a couple more therapies to my portfolio.

How was your Easter weekend and did you give up anything for Lent?