Cloth nappies or disposables – its YOUR choice!

Posted on May 8th, 2011 - Anya

Times change and ideas change, so like with all advise and suggestions, read mine, steal with pride the ideas you like and use them, then ignore anything you don’t! The important thing is to consider the options, learn from those who have been there, then do what feels right for you and your child!
I was effectively an only child growing up, babies never entered my world before my own and I was clueless in the extreme. It took at least 3 nappy changes in hospital with guidance from the midwife before I was even ready to try on my own! 5 children later I look back and laugh, but we all have to start somewhere!

13 years ago when Alistair was born real nappies were only for the seriously ethical right on ‘weirdo’ types. Consequently, labeling myself as more muddling mainstream, I went straight for disposables. After mastering the technique they really are easy. I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking the ‘easy’ route in motherhood (I did) as there is so much new stuff to get to grips with.

Nick and I with our 6 children 

The 6 hiding under our
 home made changing unit!

In our modern age of environmental awareness where the ‘weirdo’ types are invading the mainstream, I would definitely recommend at least considering cloth nappies. My last 3 children all came as one in the form of triplets just as real nappies were taking off, I ‘poo pooed’ (excuse the pun!) the idea of trying cloth nappies with triplets and now wish I had given the idea a bit more consideration. They have come on so far from the old terry towelling days and are now very competitive on price (saving around £500 per child), much less hassle than you might imagine and much better for our planet! The biggest downside is the initial outlay, but if you can find friends to let you have a try then do give it a go, or if you are coming to Coombe Mill we offer free cloth nappies on trial from lollipop  to take away the expense of trialing. If you do fancy trying them with us on holiday do remember to pack larger trousers for boys and some dresses for girls as they are more bulky than disposables!

Modern cloth nappy

It’s real nappy week from the 16th May and Green Mums are keen to promote real nappies – Tracy at Green Mums has used cloth nappies on both her children and is happy to give advise. We have teamed up Green Mums to offer a holiday here at Coombe Mill, cloth nappy trials and a wonderful baby and toddler holiday all in one! Visit their site for more details of the competition at
Hope to see you at Coombe Mill on holiday soon! 

Dear Diary – The Easter Holidays, family and friends.

Posted on April 15th, 2011 - Anya

I do breath a sigh of relief when the holidays arrive. A chance for the children to chill out, stay in their pj’s till late, catch up with friends and family and leave the clubs and homework behind for a while. For us the holidays are about recharging the batteries and having a change of routine. The term time is so dictated by school, homework and a myriad of evening clubs for each of my children that I hardly feel I have any quality time with them. Some nights we have 4 different activities on the go and coordinating them all and dinner whilst running a business is far from easy.
Theo’s Riding lessons 
Surf Club: Ally, Felix, Theo
Jed & Guy at Beavers:
A trip to Coombe Mill!
Clio tap dancing
 In fact I think evenings are the only time when I would swap living at Coombe Mill for living in the middle of Wadebridge where the children could take themselves to all their different activities. Never mind, only 4 more years till the eldest one can help driving the others around! In fact he could do the school run…….but there goes another parenting dilemma, do I let him  in charge of the bus and his 5 siblings each day or would the worry of his driving be worse than doing it myself? Humm,4 years to think on that one.
Back to the Easter Holidays: now is when living at Coombe Mill is so amazing. Our children are having just the best time picking up old friendships with regular guests and making new ones. Our house is like an open invitation for anyone staying to come in with our children. I love the fact that they are so comfortable bringing others round and that parents staying soon discover one of  the joys of Coombe Mill is not having to know where their children are all the time, but knowing they are safe.
Felix and his new best friend Monica in our house
Dinner times can be frustrating trying to locate everyone, they conveniently forget how to read a watch at such times, but its a small price for their freedom and enjoyment.
While they play inside and out I am able to continue working in the office, restocking the freezer with scrummy meals and cakes and taking the all important bookings.
Banana Cakes
Pork and Honey casserole
cooling for the freezer
I do like to make sure we have some family time out too. This holiday we have been up to Devon for the day visiting our old neighbours.  The 9 children together are great friends and we had a lovely day in the garden and down at their beech.
Lunch in the garden together
Ice cream at the beach shack
Beach fun
They were quite exhausted by the end of the day and half were fast asleep by the time we arrived back at Coombe Mill!
Next week I am taking the children to see their Grandparents in Buckinghamshire for a few days and catching up with more old friends. From there we are off to East Sussex where Nick will fly up and join us to see Yia  Yia (thier Greek Grandma) for a big Greek Easter party with all their cousins, back just in time for the new term to begin.
It’s all go for me but the children are having a ball so I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Happy holidays to all of you and I hope you are enjoying your Easter holidays too where ever you are!

Birthday Parties, some great tips ……

Posted on March 30th, 2011 - Anya

With 6 children I feel I have more than my share of birthday parties to organise. It is wonderful to watch children having a lovely time and enjoying all you have organised for them, however, after many years of different parties and different ages I find one thing in common at the end of them all……I am shattered!

Is this just me or does anyone else feel the same? We have a birthday a month through the summer, all the anticipation, build up and then ensuring everyone is safe and happy on the day really tires me out, I find a 10 mile run much less exhausting! 
There are however a few lessons I have learnt over the years which I can happily pass on to anyone facing the party worries.
Toddler Parties age 1 – 3
Parties in the early years are partly for the children and partly for friends and family! Keep the stress down with these simple pointers:

1. Ensure the parents stay too . At this age the children need heavy supervision and you will find you need the help and support of all the Mums and Dad’s to ensure everyone is watched and playing safely.

2. Opt for a maximum of 2 hours, you will find this is long enough of having your Witt’s about you and offering teas and wine for adults as well as the children’s party food and entertainment. The other adults will help you but you will still feel you are responsible and they will look to you for what to do, which in itself is tiring.
2. Keep it simple, a simple garden party with trikes, picnic rugs and toys is plenty, or if it is winter just toys in the front room and a picnic table for the food.
3. If the thought of home is too scary book a village hall or soft play center, takes away some of the stress of home but does raise the price. If money is not a factor then you can take away more pressure with an entertainer, a good one really will keep a group happily entertained and take so much pressure away from you.
We have been lucky enough to have Coombe Mill for our party venue and fill in at least an hour with tractor rides to see the animals, wellies or sun hats depending on the weather!

All aboard and Mums too!
Parties age 4 – 6

 This can be a tricky age group, generally it is expected that the parents will drop and run and use the time a little like free child care! Children at this age need a bit more structure to a party and have expectations and ideas themselves.
1. I would recommend persuading a couple of Mums to stay and help you
2. Don’t be put off the party at home cheap option, the children will have a wonderful time so long as you do a little planning.
3. Organise some games to play, musical statues, parse the parcel, musical bumps, keeping the balloon in the air, hide and seek etc are all old classics which still work well, but my advise (from experience) is don’t make the children ‘out’. Have a winner but avoid losers, everyone can be winners. Tears and tantrums are to be avoided and the birthday person is usually the worst!
4. Again hire a hall if you feel the house is too small or stressful, go for a garden party last minute if the weather is dry, children don’t feel the cold like us adults and run around space is important. A bouncy castle can be fun or a water slide – simple piece of plastic on the end of a slide with water running down – simple, structured and 2 to 3 hours I found to be prefect at this age.
Felix on the water slide on his party in our garden
Again our tractor rides have still been a huge success for this age group, only our own children find it less exciting as it is so home from home for them, but showing off their farm knowledge to friends usually compensates along with a game of ‘it’ in the indoor play barn!
Parties age 7 – 10
Children age 7 to 10 are becoming more independent and like a party that reflects this. However I find a loose structure or activity keeps everyone focused, allows you to know what they are doing and where, which makes life less stressful. I have had “the mad hour” with this age range, charging round the house not realising they are as big and strong as they are, then discovering afterwards the broken bed slats etc.
1.Keep a rough structure and plan activities, but allow a bit of ‘go with the flow’ too.
2. Be careful with sleepovers. We have had some wild all in sleeping bags in the living room style parties. This is fine so long as you don’t mind loosing a nights sleep, if you mind then keep it to a max of two for the sleepover, more and I guarantee they will be awake all night. Arrange collection from a sleepover by 10am the following morning, they will be tired and grouchy and this is hard enough to manage with your own children without managing others too!
3. For a day time party try an organised activity like swimming, zoo visit etc, less stress but can be pricey.
4. After school is an easy one, just a few hours and all the fun of a party on the actual day.

Painted gnomes and decorated
 biscuits ready to take home

5. Home activities which have worked well for me include, ceramic painting, anything from plates and mugs to fridge magnets, just buy the kits from craft shops or on line, and it is so much cheaper than the same thing at an organised venue. Baking simple large cookies (or buy them) and providing bowls of coloured icing and decorating toppings is another winner. These can then double up inplace of party bags for the children to take home, a great 2in1! If the weather is good then water guns and a sort of home grown lazer game with water guns is great fun, make sure it is in the last half an hour of the party so they don’t hang around wet for too long, or pre-warn your guests to bring a water gun and change of clothes with them.

2.5.11 Just had our triplets 7th birthday party – I think this was the best yet with lots of the above activities and more all at Coombe Mill. Pictures and commentry just up on facebook, you can see the fun in the children’s faces!!//

Age 10 – 12

At this age we have tended to move from traditional parties to an activity and BBQ. A BBQ can make a good alternative to traditional party food at this age, simple sausages and burgers in buns, some fruit and birthday cake is actually less hastle than all the party food. Activites which have worked include go-carting (pricey) cinema, lazer tag, sport centre activities such as tramplining, football or swimming and beach parties. What ever they do at this age, my children have always ended back at Coombe Mill daring each other to swim in the river! Perhaps this is just a boy thing though, can’t imagine my daughter opting for this one.

Age 13 upwards
I am just about to enter my first teenage party and happy to receive feedback and suggestions on this one! Popular parties my eldest has been to are iceskatting, disco, roller disco. Not at all sure what we are going to opt for, but its only a month away! As it is May it might be a beach BBQ and beach games but still to be decided, suggestions please…..!

8.5.11 update……..

Thanks for your suggestions Jo, Ally went for paint balling at Big Dunks . All 8 teenagers had a great few hours followed by a BBQ at Coombe Mill, awesome cream cake as requested by Ally and much play (or is it ‘hanging out at 13?) finishing with a water fight and soggy happy lads collected by not so impressed parents!
hungry lads!
Bespoke cake as requested!

I would love to have your thoughts and experiences of birthday parties. If you are on holiday with us for your child’s birthday then do remember I make bespoke birthday cakes(they don’t all ooze with cream – promise!), so just let me know when you book, or when you are here with age, name and flavour and I will make and deliver for your special day. Make sure Farmer Ted and Nick know in the morning too so the birthday king/queen can take advantage of  extra egg collection at the chickens and be our birthday tractor driver for the feed run!

Happy parties

The merits of children earning their pocket money

Posted on March 13th, 2011 - Anya

Should you give your children money each week, at what age? how much? on what bais? What do they and don’t they have to pay for themsleves with it?

This is a a minefield of controversay which every parent will go through with their children at some stage. We all make our decsions based on very little guidance and a lot of peer presure from what others are doing. there is no right and wrong in this, we all just do what we feel is best. Would love to hear your views on the subject.

Just for the record ours get nothing without working for it. This may sound harsh but actually when you run a business like ours there are so many ways in which the children can help it actually makes it easy. Chores range from caring for the rabbits daily to manning reception, making kindling to sell and animal feed and of cause helping with changeover day stripping beds and putting on washing etc. As for how much, kindling starts at 25p per bundle they chop and tape up to £2.50 per week on the rabbits and up to the cleaners rates for cleaning a property to the full standard – only my eldest is up to this one and it takes him all day to clean a property as he is such a prefectionist – no good at all when we are busy! A day stripping the beds in summer and bagging up the laundry is £10. They are about age 10 before they can do this one.
What they are expected to buy with their money is also contentious, our eldest is saving to pay for a school skiing trip next year at £800 for which we have contributed £200. His friends apparently don’t need to pay for themselves so it is a bit unfair, but so is life and we feel he is gaining good experience and appreciation of money by working for this goal. He can make the target but will need to work his summer on the farm and cleaning. Om the other hand our 6 year olds are thrilled when they earn a £1 and head straight for the village shop to work out how many sweets they can afford. Fortunatley they are well known there and the staff are very patient when they try to buy too much or claim they thought their 10p was a £1 coin!

Not sure what type of family Holiday to take? Read on……

Posted on March 11th, 2011 - Anya

Thinking about where to go on holiday this year with a young family? This is not an easy decision to make but probably the discussion of many a household over dinner. When you give up your precious time and dip into those savings you want to make sure what you come up with is going to be a real break for the whole family. Something for you, plenty for the children, practical with a baby and not too much on the pocket!
If this seems like an impossible task, take heart, the real holiday gems can be found closer than you think, a holiday in the UK could be just the ticket! Here in the UK there are some fantastic holiday spots such as The Lake District, Scotland, Devon and Cornwall to name but a few.
But what type of holiday to book….hotel, B&B, self catering or camping? All have their plus points…. Hotels can be great if you can afford a really good one, which specialises in children’s facilities, entertainment and meal times. Bed and Breakfast is more restricted with children as you loose the flexibility to come and go as you choose, but they are cheaper. Camping can be great fun, but probably best when the children are not too young. Self-catering can be a real winner for families from tiny babies upwards as you have the flexibility of home from home in a holiday location. But do look out for ones specialising in children and baby facilities and activities for maximum enjoyment for all. They really do exist without having to feel like you are in a holiday camp. Why not try a farm holiday or something with a pool, by the beach, play areas or if you are really lucky all of the above!  Another tip on self-catering is to look for accommodation where the owners have small children themselves and live on site, then you know they are going to understand your needs and be best placed to meet them!  Make sure there are plenty of free activities where you stay and that you are not expected to shell out every time you want to borrow a game or ride out on the tractor and check for babysitting, a night out alone can make it a real break at the end of the day for you as well!  
Great accommodation makes a real difference, but location is also important. This can be different for different families so take some time out to think about what really matters to you. Do you want a feeling of peace and countryside, be close to a beach, or river with a good country pub in walking distance or would you rather feel the buss of city life on the doorstep and a plentiful choice of cafes, bars and restaurants? How long a journey are your children (and you!) comfortable with? If a really long journey fills you with dread look at destinations closer to home, or arrange to travel in the evening or very early in the morning when the children are more likely to take a nap and you don’t need to stop so often. This can also avoid the traffic if you are heading to a popular spot in the height of summer.
So where to find these holiday gems, try looking on the web site for child friendly or baby friendly accommodation. You will be surprised at the choice on the web. If you find the list overwhelming try narrowing the list by adding more criteria, for example if you know the area of the country or county you would like put that into your search, or the type of accommodation and the facilities you would like, the more specific you become the more manageable the list becomes. Another good route is via mums chat rooms or facebook, Mums Net and Net Mums are great organisations full of Mums with young children who will happily share thier holiday experiences and recommendations giving a personal recommendation for you. There is a perfect holiday waiting for you, look out for the tips suggested in here! Good luck and happy holidays!!