That’s all folks!!

I thought that when the time came, I’d be really sad about sending this post out.

But I’m not.

I actually feel a HUGE sense of relief and that a weight has been lifted, which tells me that I’m right to trust my instincts on this.

I didn’t want to end on a post like mornings but I’ve never been very good at “Endings” and you often don’t get to choose how things end.

Only when.

NorthHantsMum 

I’ve served local Mum’s and their children via NorthHantsMum for 8 years.

Served by providing a free service and served by doing my time.

(Yes, it has felt a bit like a prison sentence for at least a year but I didn’t want to feel like I was failing all of the new Mum’s who, in the current climate, will need the support of something like NorthHantsMum even more than ever before.)

I’m no longer the idealistic new Mum who started NorthHantsMum on 22nd June 2011 and wanted to do something good with what she’d learnt.

Someone who thought she could leave the world a little bit better than before.

Proud

NorthHantsMum has grown WAY beyond what I ever, ever anticipated. It’s kind of like my second baby.

I’ve poured a LOT of my heart and soul into it over the past 8 years and I’m very proud of what we’ve done on NHM.

I feel like it’s been such a positive thing, despite the negativity that’s been thrown at me in the past 6 months.

We’ve done loads of good things together, had loads of amazing opportunities.

Not just me but many of you and your children have also benefited.

And for that I will always be very proud.

Thank you

So many thank you’s, I honestly don’t know where to start. It’s hard to remember who to thank when you’ve been running something for 8 years!!! I know I will miss some and for that I sincerely apologise.

(Oh yes, I know this list of thank you’s is almost as long as the LONGEST Oscar winning speech <blush>, but it’s my blog and I’ll write what I like! Hahahaha).

Firstly thank you to My Beloved, Mr NHM, who has put up with me running NHM for the past 8 years, often at the detriment of our time together. He’s put up with me moan about him on a public platform, been given a pseudonym he never asked for and had some of his life shared for public consumption (via the “Weekly Things to do” posts. Remember them?!). He’s patiently listened to me talk about NHM for so long and given me so much “black and white” advice and I love him so very much for that. There is no way I could have carried on for so long without his love and support.

Thank you to Miss NHM for being the inspiration for NorthHantsMum. She continues to challenge me in soooo many ways (I naively thought parenting her would get easier as she got older. It hasn’t <faceplant>!) and, despite how much of a strong willed pain in the arse she can be at times (I often wonder where she gets it from. Sigh), I am infinitely honoured and privileged to be her Mum. I have no idea how she has coped with what she has been through in her short life already. She has so much courage and her willingness to forgive inspires me continually. She has SUCH a big heart and already wants to do so many good things in the world. I am SO extremely proud of her and the person she’s becoming. I love her more than I ever thought I could.

Thank you to ALL of the volunteers who have given up their time and energy to help me out. I seriously think there are about 300 of you!

All of the Mum’s who have written up NHM Reviews for the benefit of others. All of the Mum’s who have helped out in the background with things like formatting posts, administering groups and tagging me in posts. All of the Mum’s who tested the “new” wordpress website in 2015. All of the Mum’s who wrote a NHM Reader Experience post so they could share what they had learnt for the benefit of other Mum’s.

I literally couldn’t have kept NHM going without your help. There are so many of you I don’t want to name anyone in case I miss someone out. You know who you are and I will be forever grateful for all of your support.

I would especially like to thank those Mum’s who worked REALLY hard in the background to help me out, especially Juliet whose wise words have kept me sane during the past several years, Shona for her sense of humour and for telling me like it is and to Wendy for covering my arse FAR too many times to mention in the past 8 years! At least I now know that the clocks “Spring Foward” in Spring! Hahahaha. I know I never said thank you enough, but hopefully you know how grateful I am for your support and help. If you ever want a Reference, you know where I am ;-).

Thank you to all of those amazing Mum’s that I have met through NHM who have become some of my most treasured friends. You know who you are and my life would be infinitely worse off without you. Thank you for your wise words, your passion for NHM, your true friendship and for letting me hug you too much <blush>!

Thank you to Tina, Andy and Abi for your wordpress expertise and for stopping me from having a heart attack every time the site crashed in the past 8 years! I am so grateful to you for so frequently going out of your way use your technical skills to help me when I was panicking that new Mum’s wouldn’t be able to find the breastfeeding support schedule.

Thank you to all of the Mum’s who came along to a NHM Networking meeting over the past 5 years. Seeing small businesses grow and the impact that this has had on local Mum’s and their families has been a true highlight of my life.

Thank you to everyone who ever came to a NHM Expo or a NHM Meet Up, as a seller, buyer or attendee and thank you to everyone who helped me with setting up, planning, cleaning up and promoting. They were bloody hard work but I’m glad I did them.

Thank you to all of the local businesses who have given up their time, service or products for free to help out NHM Readers.

Thank you to all of the small business owners who have actively supported me on my NHM journey with Guest Posts, offers of their time and services and words of encouragement. All of you are doing such great things to try to make the world a better place whilst providing an income for your self and your families. I will be forever in awe of you as running a small business is really hard!!

Thank you to all of the Mum’s who bought their children along to events. I have seen so many of these children grow up, many from when they were teeny babies, and it’s been such a privilege to be a tiny part of their journey.

Thank you to everyone who came along to the cinema with me, via the NHM Cinema club. Although I still haven’t quite gotten over how awful “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” was even with Elton John doing a chicken dance! Hahahaha.

Thank you to everyone who ever listened to me rant about how much I hate Facebook. The amount of time and energy I have wasted on this platform in the past 8 years cannot be calculated (it was so bloody MUCH) and thank you to anyone who has ever had to listen to me rage about how crap it is!!! :-D. I am REALLY looking forward to having a break from social media!

You might think this strange but I am very grateful to the Mum’s who posted negative comments on the baby clinic post.  Had it not been for your outrage and negative comments on me sharing my opinion,  I don’t think I would have stopped to think about why I was still running NorthHantsMum.  Thank you also to the local business owner who accused me of killing her husband and taking food out of her children’s mouths earlier this year because I had shared a post from a competitor of hers (Please don’t ask me who it was because I won’t tell you). I really, really, sincerely appreciate your feedback as you helped making my decision so much easier. (That’s honestly not sarcastic, I am very grateful).

Thank you to everyone who sponsored me for my Sky Dive in 2015, all of those wonderful, wonderful people who helped to fund raise for the “Sitting with Jane” bench in 2017 (I might actually have the time to go sit on it now, as it’s been at least 18 months since the last time! <faceplant>) and everyone who helped to raise funds for local community charities via NHM.

Thank you to all of the people who have recommended NHM to other Mum’s and Dad’s by word of mouth, sharing about NHM with their friends or by sharing leaflets. Your passion about what we’ve done on NorthHantsMum has sometimes been overwhelming and I will always be very grateful to you!

Thank you to everyone who has gone out of their way to comment, email, tweet or PM me in the past 8 years. Your support has been phenomenal and I will be forever grateful.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has ever read NorthHantsMum. Whether it was one post or since the beginning, I am so grateful.

So grateful.

That’s all folks! 

My priority is my family, my marriage and my husband and daughter. I’m looking forward to being able to put ALL of my energies into them.

I no longer have any energy left to support anyone else other than those priorities.

As one of the trusted women in my life said “there’s no more “me” to go round”.

Since making the decision two weeks ago, to close NorthHantsMum, I’ve realised that I’ve been toying with the idea of stopping NHM for at least a year but didn’t want to let anyone down.

Didn’t want any new Mum’s to miss out on what NHM has been able to offer our local Community for the past 8 years.

Didn’t want to feel I’d set an expectation that people assumed would always be available.

Ever since the Children’s centres closed in 2016 the amount of support requests coming my way has dramatically increased and many of them were waaayyy beyond what I ever expected to be dealing with.

If I’m really honest with myself I haven’t been feeling it since Miss NHM’s Coeliac diagnosis in May 2017. That was a curveball we didn’t see coming and we are still struggling with the fall out.

As Mum’s we are raising the next generation, which is the MOST important job of all. Which also means it’s the hardest job of all.

As I said earlier this morning, Motherhood is the HARDEST job in the world (Fatherhood is the 2nd hardest job in the world ;-)) and I do believe that in the current climate it’s getting harder.

I know that as NorthHantsMum Readers, we are all just trying to do our best for our children, regardless of our circumstances and I would love to continue to support you on that journey.

But it’s time to hang up my wordpress login.

Time to clear the way for some new blood to step in and take up the reigns.

NorthHantsMum was always about pregnant Mum’s, babies and young children up to the age of 6 years old.

Miss NHM is 8.5 years old and I’m so far removed from babies and toddlers now that I’m not the right person to be running something like NorthHantsMum anymore.

What happens next

NorthHantsMum.co.uk will remain for the next year at least and I will continue paying the hosting costs each month. Once I get less than 10 hits a day I will close the site down.

I will keep the “Louise NHM Smith” profile active for the time being but I don’t expect to post to it anymore and I won’t be doing any more anonymous NHM Reader questions or sharing any items that would be relevant to local parents. You will still be able to message me if you think there might be something that I can urgently help with, but I won’t be sharing anything with the NHM Community, so you will only get my insights when I check my fb inbox ;-).

Most Facebook groups that haven’t been active in the past 6 months have already been deleted.

I will keep the following groups active for the time being but will probably archive them after June 2020:

NorthHantsMum Publicity for Local Businesses: Support local Businesses!!!

NorthHantsMum: Mums running Small Businesses

NHM Part Time Jobs

NHM Pregnancy in Basingstoke and North Hampshire (Due 2019)

NHM Allergy/Coeliac Disease Parents

Basingstoke 2019 Year R (NorthHantsMum)

NHM Basingstoke Homeschooling Networking

All of the other groups will be archived at Christmas 2019, so if, for example, you want to save any recipes from the “NHM Family Meal ” group, please do it ASAP.

Keep on being Awesome Mum’s! 

If I’ve learnt anything over the past 8 years it’s that my mental energy is finite.

And it’s time to put ALL of my energy back into my family, especially my daughter who inspired me to start NorthHantsMum.

I’m excited.

Excited about what the future is going to bring.

I’m excited to see what happens next, which tells me that I am definitely doing the right thing for my mental health and my family.

I’m looking forward to taking some time out.

I’m looking forward to having an awesome summer and not having to worry about September or Christmas on NorthHantsMum for the first time EVER since my daughter was born in 2011.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the new space I will have in my life.

I wish you and your children all the very best of luck in ALL of your future endeavours and I will be forever grateful for your support.

I love this quote from Jim Rohn which sums it up for me perfectly: “Here’s part of the drama then. I go with you, for when we all leave here and the lights are out and the place is dark, I go with you, because you are taking my notes and hopefully some of the spirit, some of the stuff I had besides just the notes, so I go with all of you. But here’s the big drama. All of you go with me. See that’s so unbelievable. So, as I leave here, I promise not to leave you behind. I will take you with me in my thoughts and in my heart.”

Thank you for reading. It’s been a blast!!!

Louisexx

Thank you very much to everyone who commented on the “Health Visitor Baby Clinic Drop-In” cancellation post!

Thank you very much to everyone who commented on “Louise nhm Smith” on the “Health Visitor Baby Clinic Drop-In” cancellation post.

I felt very passionately about this issue, having had so many Mum’s contact me in the past several years asking for mine and the NHM Communities support.

If we can do something to raise the visibility of the issues that Mum’s will face without being able to Drop-In to the weigh-in’s then that is nothing but a good thing.

This was NEVER my intention when I first set up NHM, that I would be filling a gap to try to raise awareness of some very big issues that are facing the local Mum community.

However, there were a couple of comments on the Health Visitor Baby Clinic post towards a paragraph that I wrote, which I would like to address.

The Ladies who wrote those comments may not like what I’ve written below and that’s absolutely fine.

And actually, I don’t need to explain myself to those Mums.

I did not mock or disrespect anyone else’s views or the choices that they have made and there was no judgement in what I wrote.

If those Mum’s who commented felt that their choices were being judged, the only people who were judging them was them. Not me.

This is what I wrote:

‘2017

30 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds. Depending on your perspective you can see this as a positive thing but I believe that institutionalising 3 year olds and taking them away from their Mothers at such a young age, for so long, is going to have nothing but a negative impact.’

In the meantime:

  1. Yes, I passionately believe that, in an ideal world, babies and young children should spend more time with their Mum’s than anyone else.
  2. I don’t agree with the 30 hours free childcare for three and four year olds
  3. I believe that nurseries and pre-schools are Institutions
  4. I believe that children start school far too early in this country
  5. I believe that it’s none of my business the choices that you have made for your children and likewise it’s none of your business the choices that I made for my child
  6. I passionately believe that being a Mum is the HARDEST job in the world (and being a Dad is the 2nd hardest job in the world!)
  7. I believe we are all trying to do the best we can for our children, regardless of our circumstances
  8. I believe that you and I can have differing opinions and agree to disagree

The problem with making statements like the ones above is that people will always do their best to try to pull them apart.

And that’s fine.

That’s their choice.

I’ve been writing NHM long enough to know that if you are brave enough to put your head above the parapet and share an opinion, there will be at least one person who doesn’t agree.

But there will be many people who do agree and THOSE are the people I have written NHM for.

Let me unpack those statements above a little more, to explain why I’ve written them.

  1. I passionately believe that, in an ideal world, babies and young children should spend more time with their Mum’s than anyone else.

For Millions and millions and millions of years, Mum’s have been the primary carer for their babies and young children. That’s a fact. It is what it is.

I know that society is changing.

I know that in many instances we don’t feel we have any choice but to put our children into childcare and to have someone else look after them.

We have mortgages to pay and lives to pay for and we want the best for our children which, these days, comes with a hefty price tag.

We enjoy our jobs and we want to be a good role model for our children.

I also understand that this statement is a huge steaming pile of hypocracy given that Mr NHM and I put Miss NHM into nursery when she was 5 months old when I returned to work.

But that doesn’t change my belief.

And is one of the reasons why I’ve run NorthHantsMum for all of these years.

  1. I don’t agree with the 30 hours free childcare for three and four year olds

Looking at the big picture, I believe that 30 hours free childcare is far, far too much.

I say that as someone who used to pay more than £1000 a month for her child to be in nursery, so the free hours would have been BEYOND helpful!

The main reason is the number of Mum’s that I’ve spoken too who feel they are now being pushed into the workforce, by financial needs, as soon as their children turn three years old.

They categorically don’t want to go back to work.

They want their children to remain at home with them but they no longer have that luxury (and these days, unless you’re minted, it is a luxury!) with the offer of 30 free childcare hours on the table.

I do feel that 15 hours of free childcare is the right amount for 4 year olds, four half days a week, because socialisation before they join the institution that is school can be so beneficial to them.

But no, when I look at the bigger picture, I don’t agree with the 30 hours of free childcare.

Even though I know how much those hours help many, many, many of you and how they would have financially HUGELY helped my family.

  1. I do believe that nurseries and pre-schools are Institutions

Wikipedia does a much better job of explaining it than I can: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_institution.

When our children start nursery and/or pre-school they must adapt to the routine of that nursery or pre-school.

There are fixed times for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Key Workers are shared between multiple children.

Each “classroom” contains a great number of children.

Miss NHM loved going to Pre-school when she was 4 years old (when she was at nursery she couldn’t tell me if she loved it or not) but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t attending an Institution.

4. I believe that children start school far too early in this country

I don’t believe that YR is a good thing and I believe that children are far too little to start school at 4/5 years old.

5. I do believe that it’s none of my business the choices that you have made for your children and likewise it’s none of your business the choices that I made for my child.

I put Miss NHM into a nursery when she was 5 months old. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make and it almost broke me.

At the time, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I’m the main earner in our family and I spent many years working hard in my career to get to a senior role before I met Mr NHM and Miss NHM was born.

I fell pregnant when I was working for a company that was 98% male and they had absolutely no consideration for my pregnancy or when Miss NHM was born. When I left on maternity leave I was told in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t return within 6 months, the job I’d worked so hard to have, would be given to someone else. (In 2011 if you didn’t return to work within 6 months the company you worked for was allowed to give you an “equivalent” role, which meant they would phase you out).

I’d heard the horror stories of how hard it was to return to the workforce once you’d left to have a family and I didn’t want to have to start my career all over again when I returned to the workforce.

Putting Miss NHM into nursery when she was 5 months old was, along with breastfeeding, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

The first time I picked her up from nursery and she was smelled of someone else….

But I made my choices, in discussion with Mr NHM, and I’ve made peace with them.

I’m not happy about them and I felt, and still feel, that I was trapped by my circumstances, like so many of us are.

And yet I STILL passionately believe that babies and young children should spend more time with their Mum than anyone else.

6. I passionately believe that being a Mum is the HARDEST job in the world

Whatever we do is wrong.

We are judged by others and we judge ourselves.

We judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else.

We never know if we are getting it “right” until our children are grown up.

This post puts it far more eloquently than I can: https://www.mother.ly/life/self-care-is-not-enough-to-fix-how-much-moms-are-burnt-out?fbclid=IwAR1Yr4uCbYrn7X7r87LJIyNoKLw1Q-ntPmdKOV-o1iUcu-vDiYkQNCRR65Y

7. I believe we are all trying to do the best we can for our children

Whatever our decisions and our choices I know that ALL NHM Readers are just trying to do the best for their families and their children, whatever their circumstances.

8. I believe that you and I are allowed to have different opinions

We are incredibly privileged to live in a Democracy where we are able to voice our opinions.

I apologise if my paragraph upset you in any way.

If you’ve been following NorthHantsMum for a while, you will know that I do my very best to use NHM as a positive force and it is NEVER my intention to upset people, especially Mum’s.

However, if that one paragraph that was embedded in a post that was about something else entirely, hit a nerve, your negative comments actually say more about how you feel than they do about what I believe.

Who cares what I believe and write about?

The only people who should really care are me, Miss NHM and Mr NHM.

Everyone else has a choice to read what I’ve written.

Ultimately, if you don’t like what I write, please don’t read it.

But I’m taking that decision out of your hands anyway.

Don’t miss out on future posts like this – you can receive updates directly to your inbox by email by adding your email address to the box on the top right of this page and hitting subscribe. You can also follow NorthHantsMum on TwitterFacebook ProfileLinkedIn and Feedly. I hope to see you there!

The Summer Holidays in Basingstoke with an 8 year old

I was having a cuppa with a friend this morning and we were talking about what to do in the summer holidays and we realised that I know LOADS of things, so thought I would share ;-).

Each week of the holidays I also put together a printed schedule for each week and pin it to a wall, so Miss NHM can see what’s happening for the rest of the week. It shows what we are doing each morning, lunchtime, afternoon and evening.  I find that it stops the “what are we doing today” questions that I used to get all through the summer holidays!! :-D.

  1. Book at least one pyjama day during the summer holidays! If only to “celebrate” not having to do the school run!!!

2. Our local Hobbycraft have FREE craft sessions on a Saturday for an hour in the morning.

3. Go paddling in a local stream 

4. Take a picnic and explore near to where you live. There is something awesome about eating outside. We are huge fans of breakfast picnics for something a little bit different!

5. If the weather is good, go to a local splash park like Eastrop Park or Chineham Splash Park 

6. Find out all of your local parks and go for a skate or bike ride to each one. This post is really good for finding good play parks and parks local to you: Local Parks and open spaces

7. Go Geo-cashing in your local woods. It’s really easy to do. Just download the app to your phone and off you go. It’s a great way to get children outside. Or Pokemon or Harry Potter hunting if that’s your thing ;-).

8. Book up a FREE session at our local Apple store in Festival Place. There at least two sessions every day and more in the summer holidays and they are a great way to occupy your child/children for an hour or two. You need to book in advance though and you have to stay with your child.

9. Boring as it is, school shoes are a necessity if you’re child is in school. I highly recommend Diane at Shoes2Adore on the way to Tadley. But book soon because she gets VERY booked up in the summer holidays.

10. If you’re child can’t ride their bike yet, make a plan to teacher them over the summer.

11. Go swimming at once of our local swimming pools. Lots of them do special deals and/or events over the summer holidays so check out their websites for more information. QMC Swimming pool does really reasonably priced swimming sessions during the summer holidays.

12. Sign up to the Reading Challenge that our local Libraries run every summer. You can sign children up from ages 4+ I think and they only need to read 6 books over the 6 weeks. If they complete the challenge and are at school they get a medal and a certificate that’s presented to them in school. Miss NHM is very proud of her previous reading challenge certificates and medals and it’s been a great way to get her to read more. Popping into the library for an hour a week during the school holidays is also a great time killer!!

13. Take the children to a local museum, especially the Willis Museum as it’s FREE!!

14. Kids cinema in the mornings during the summer holidays at around 10am. Both Vue and Odeon do reduce tickets for “kids Club” and I think it’s less than £2 per ticket.

15. Cash in your Tesco’s clubcard points or your nectar points to do something fun with your children.

16. Find somewhere to visit where the entrance ticket becomes an annual pass. If you buy a ticket to Milestones Museum, The Living Rainforest or the Army Flying Museum the ticket lasts for a year so you can re-use during other holiday times or after school.

17. Check out the “NHM Reviews” page for ideas of where to go and where to visit. Lots of places reviewed on NHM are FREE, although you may have to pay for parking.

18. Check out the Season Tickets to local attractions in North Hampshire – updated 2017 post which lists out local season tickets.

19. Miss NHM loves listening to audio books, so I splash out for the summer holidays and treat her to a new audio book. I buy mine from “The Book People” as they are very reasonably priced and Miss NHM has easy control over which cd’s she listens too.

20. Try “Bored Jar’s” when you are at your wits end!! These posts are tailored to toddlers but you can easily update them for older children.

21. Visit Hampshire Farmers Market. The nearest one to Basingstoke is in Winchester on a Sunday morning.

22. Check out the Nature Detectives website for some ideas of activities you can do outside.

23. Take a walk to Odiham Castle, along the Basingstoke Canal.

24. If it’s windy, fly a kite at Crabtree.

25. Visit a Pick Your Own farm.

26. Go for a day trip to the beach. There is also a great post by NHM Readers of their Favourite local beaches.

At Home

27. Blackberries are now ready in August so make sure you go blackberry picking at some point.

28. I’m planning on trying to drop some food off at our local food bank with Miss NHM.

29. Play boardgames together or try to create your own boardgame.

30. Put the tent up in the garden and sleep in it over night. If you don’t have a tent see if you can borrow a small one from friends and family.

31. This year I’m going to create a “Summer Holiday box” which will be very similar to the “Christmas Eve Box” that I put together every Christmas. Each Monday I plan to fill it with different things, like an audiobook that Miss NHM hasn’t listened too in a while, some party bag fillers that I’ve kept back, sticker books that Miss NHM hasn’t got round to using, some books she hasn’t read yet that have been in her bookcase for AGES, and little things like that which can keep her occupied for a while.

32. Clean a neighbours car in exchange for some money that will go towards charity.

33. Ask your child if there is anything in their bedroom that they no longer need or want as the summer holidays is a great chance to declutter.

34. Something we are going to do this summer is clean out the kitchen cupboards together!!

35. Have a look at Baker Ross for some cheap craft activities you can do together or use something from the recyling bin as a craft project.

36. Create a summer scrapbook where your child or children can write in what they have done over the summer holidays. It will be a great memory for when they are older.

37. Bake some fairy cakes or buy a baking kit such as the ones you can get from local company BakedIn.

38. Ensure you schedule in some “boring” days where you have nothing planned, so your children can occupy themselves for a while. It’s supposed to help with their resilience, although it may drive you batty listening to the “I’m bored” whining <facepalm>!

Sounds Right Phonics Classes for Kids

When I first heard about Sounds Right Phonics Classes for Kids I knew it was something that I had to get involved, as an ex-teacher I was so excited by these classes and new that they would go down really well in this area!

I am Sally, mum to two young boys, and a highly experienced early years teacher.  When I returned to teaching after having my boys, it became clear that something had to give as I just wasn’t seeing my sons during the week.

So when I stumbled across Sounds Right Phonics Classes fro Kids I though aha this is perfect! I could still use my teaching skills, but also fitted around my family.

Phonics has become such a huge part of children’s learning in recent years, so immersing children into simple phonic activities and games at a young age and introducing them to rhymes, whilst having fun seemed like a fantastic thing to do.

I have two different classes, Minis for children aged between 12 to 30 months – which introduces simple letter sounds, with many songs and rhymes, we also begin to develop motor skills through the use of pom-poms, bubbles and parachutes.

And Pre-school classes for children aged between 2 1/2 and 4 years old – where we introduce a sound each week and play games associated with that sounds, then with the help of our class mascot we develop word building and taking apart strategies.

Along side all of this we continue to improve our motor skills both large and small scale with pom-poms and play-dough.

I currently run classes on Mondays in Barton Stacey, Tuesdays at Totcity in Andover and Wednesdays at Picket Twenty Community Centre.

From September I will be adding an afternoon class on Wednesdays at YMCA Andover.  If you would like more information please contact me on andover@soundsrightphonicsclasses.co.uk or visit my facebook page Sounds Right Phonics Classes Andover.

Here are a couple of recent review from some of my parents:

“This class is so much more than I had expected. It is fun, interactive and different than all others out there. My daughter loves it! I love that she is so happy learning!!”

“I was initially interested in Sally’s phonics classes as I wanted to learn how to pronounce sounds correctly before my daughter starts school in September, as it’s all new to me too! We have both had so much fun that my daughter has said that she would “go to phonics every day” if she could. She gets bored easily but loves these classes and has learned so much. As her interest in letters and sounds has grown it’s naturally led on to her writing some too! Sally is wonderful and includes every child in the group, highly recommended.”

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Failing Families: Health Visitor Clinic Closures

It’s been 8 years since I started NorthHantsMum in June 2011.

I’ve seen a lot of changes during that time. Unfortunately many of those changes have negatively impacted local families, especially Mums with babies and small children and families with SEN children.

Yesterday I saw that the Health Visitor clinic schedule has been changed again so that now the Drop In’s are only Monday at The Ridgeway Centre and Friday at the Discovery Centre. The others are by appointment only.

Many of the clinics that have been running for at least 8 years (I know because I used them) have now been cancelled, such as Christchurch Chineham, Overton, Hatch Warren, Whitchurch and Bramley.

I understand that we are living in times of “austerity” but why is it that families, especially Mums and young children, are targeted with any cuts first?

What you can do!!!

If, like me, you are pissed off/ fed up  (I don’t swear on NHM but I feel it’s appropriate in this instance!) with the way local families are being repeatedly let down then this is what you can do:

Specifically email ALL of the three people below and say why it matters to you that the Health Visitor clinics have been cut.

Please cc. me in any emails that you send (NorthHantsMum@gmail.com).

  1. Email the head of Southern Health: hp-tr.complaints@nhs.net
  2. Email Maria Miller: maria.miller.mp@parliament.uk
  3. Email your local councillor. You can find your local councillor here by using your postcode: https://democracy.basingstoke.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx

(You can copy and paste all of the emails from here: hp-tr.complaints@nhs.net;  maria.miller.mp@parliament.uk; NorthHantsMum@gmail.com)

Specifically tweet ALL of the three people below and say why it matters to you that the Health Visitor clinics have been cut:

  1. Tweet the head of Southern Health: https://twitter.com/NickBroughton4
  2. Tweet Maria Miller: https://twitter.com/MariaMillerUK
  3. Tweet your local councillors

The remaining clinics also have feedback forms, so please complete these as well.

Please make sure you add comments as to why it matters to you that the clinics have been cut as the way these things work is that individual letters/emails count more than group ones.

What to write about

You could write about how disappointed you are that so many clinics have been discontinued because they were so important to you when your baby was born as they were somewhere for you to go for support.

You could write about how annoyed you are that funding cuts are impacting new Mums and thus putting them at more risk of post natal depression.

You could write about how angry you are that new Mums and future new Mums are being failed by the services that are supposed to be in place to support them.

You could also write something similar to this which I’ve been sent by another local Mum: “in recent years in our area parents have lost specialised breastfeeding support when grant funding was not extended and have had closures of Children’s Centres (11 remain out of 64 in Hampshire I think). To say that support for parents has been decimated is an understatement. I understand that money is tight but the latest blow will affect those parents who are only just coping and in turn these women and children will need to access more services via their GPs for example or as mental health referrals. I consider these additional closures will knock on to the health and well being of ordinary families and will cost the whole system more in the long run. We were promised more Health Visitors in the call for action – instead it seems we have fewer with just a skeleton service remaining. I worry for those families who in the past would have got early support from a trusted Health Visitor – who now will go under the radar. If a GP visit costs around £45, a hospital overnight stay more like £500 and a child taken in to care around £50K per annum… we can see how cutting services for families to the bare minimum will soon knock on to these other budgets. We are calling for a joined up approach to services in the county.”

You can obviously write whatever you would like but please put why it matters to you that the Health Visitor Clinics have been cut.

On Social Media you could use the hashtag #FailingFamilies.

Summary of Closures

If you have a bit more time and feel like you really want to “go to town” on how local families are being let down, then please see my summary of closures and cancellations in the past 4 years….

2015

2016

(There is now direct evidence of how children’s centres saved the NHS millions of pounds: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jun/04/sure-start-saved-nhs-millions?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook&fbclid=IwAR38KyULT_ELrGweVxT_rNIHgJIK4RKL491e0MVUbcHjaVmsiC99gW3lRC8) Thank you to Danielle for sharing with me).

2017

  • 30 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds, meaning many Mums are being forced back into working much earlier than they would want too.

2018

  • Closing of Little Play Town in Nov 2018
  • Manydown Family Fun Closed
  • Absolute Karting Basingstoke Closed
  • JJ’s (softplay) Closed
  • Beenham Wolf Sanctury Closed
  • Reduction of funding for school buses – August 2018
  • Removal of school buses for children with disabilities – August 2018
  • National Playday at Eastrop cancelled in 2018. This was a free day for children that had been running for years in Eastrop but now runs in a few of the local community centres instead. It’s not the same. At all.
  • Reduction in funding for the newborn courses at the remaining Children’s Centre, Westside – 2018
  • Cancellation of the EHCP process in Nov 2018 for SEN parents
  • Closing of ParentVoice and switching to Red Rose: https://www.hants.gov.uk/news/Nov27-SENDIASS
  • Changes to Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support in Hampshire

2019

  • Kids N Action Softplay Closed
(If there is anything that I have missed off this list, please let me know).

Impact of these changes

All of these changes are impacting many, many local families.

Even more so with the increase in housing of an extra 10,000 houses to be built in the local area by end of 2020, so more families are moving to the area but services are being reduced that don’t support existing families, let alone new families.

As I said above, I understand that we live in times of “austerity” but it’s very, very worrying and I try not to dwell too much on the impact these changes will have on my 8 year old daughter, her generation and future generations.

I try my best to be positive and upbeat on NHM but I think we need to try to do something to ensure that at least the Health Visitor clinics are better represented. Any help you can give with this will be greatly appreciated. If we ALL send the emails, the impact the NorthHantsMum Community could have would be huge!

Comments from other Mum’s

who have put it far more eloquently than I have!

Sarah: Sadly it Seems like this government would rather waste money hosting a £40million trump visit and push through brexit at any cost rather than look after it’s vulnerable citizens. After brexit more services like this will be cut as we will all be poorer – Apparently it’s “the will of the people”.

Genevieve: As well as writing letters, you may also wish to comment on Maria’s Twitter and Facebook accounts (or here https://www.facebook.com/159961377372565/posts/2184994638202552?s=532163237&sfns=mo – she’s very good at attending awards, not so good at helping people!).

Eleanor: Prevention is better than cure … health visitor clinics are so useful to local people in their own communities. Mums don’t think ‘oh I’m struggling, I know I’ll book a health visitor clinic’ they just keep struggling, until something breaks or nothing happens but just struggle.
I’m so sad to see the Bramley clinic cancelled. The stay and play sessions were so valuable to me. Sadly the funding is ridiculously short I presume. I’ll defiantly be emailing as you suggested. Taking away support for parents is only ever going to cause problems for parents and children in the future. Even if it’s the subtle kind of problems that don’t translate into hospital admissions etc.

Elisa: The unfortunate truth is that they are down on 5 full time health visitors for Southern Health. The reason they are not able to recruit is that most of their time is spent dealing with safe guarding issues. The role of the health visitor has sadly changed and nobody wants to do the type of work they are doing now. Add to this, the fact that the remaining staff are over worked and stressed, it’s not an environment anyone else wants to join.
So as desperately sad as it is about the decreasing availability of them, writing to anyone will sadly make no difference. The jobs are available but sadly nobody wants them ☹️.

Emma: When I had my first I could walk around to chiltern school and see a HV every other Tuesday. He was regularly weighed and as a first time mum I could ask all my questions. Fast forward 4 years and I had a prem baby. Zero support. I was told I’d have more contact because he was premature- I didn’t. When I went for weigh ins the HV’s didn’t all understand how to record his weight!! You have to plot it twice for actual and corrected. The library was the easiest one to get to but queues were horrendous and then you felt rushed because you could feel the strain. Needless to say I stopped going. It was too much effort with two children and with my baby being so little. I can’t believe they’ve reduced this even further. If I was a first time mum now I’d be very worried.

Wendy: Emma, such similar story, my first was weighed once a fortnight at first, then once a month in the Popley 5 drop in that was walking distance for all of Popley, Oakridge and South View. Then they moved it to Popley Fields for my second, no longer walking distance, not at a time that was convenient for nursery/school run. He got weighed about 4 times. He had eczema and allergies but going to the drop in meant missing out on other things or struggling with the car park, so we didn’t bother. Parking charges, town being busy, all things that would have put me off going to the library. I can only imagine what it’s like for those using public transport.

Angela: It’s thoroughly saddening to see such valuable support (emotional to individuals and economic to the wider public health system) being stripped away. I hope people remember this feeling of hopelessness during the next general election and vote for a party that is going to help the public. (I’m really sorry to make this political, but in the words of a great 90s rock band “everything’s political”. We have the power to choose a government that won’t strip the first line of support from us.)

Charlotte: It’s so sad. I used to work on a HV team and the work they do really cannot be underestimated. Yes, you can still see a HV without a clinic but as mentioned above, the clinic is such a convenient and quick way to see them, without having to book an appointment. Some parents don’t have to confidence to book an appointment, or they aren’t sure if they are wasting someone’s time (they never are wasting anyone’s time). I think the cutting down of these clinics alongside the closure of the children’s centres we really come back to bite the Government in a few years when there are increased social issues and late diagnosis of problems that could have been resolved with early intervention 😢.

Mary: To be a HV, you have to be a qualified nurse. They can’t find nurses because they cut the support for people to train. Lots of nurses stop nursing because its not compatible with being a parent unless you are lucky enough to work in a day service. Nurses, however, aren’t paid enough so free childcare is vital to contribute towards the cos. It’s more problematic that childcare support doesn’t start until age 3 so working parents have to struggle through age 1 and 2 first – or not work and then have to pay to reregister or train for their jobs. It’s all connected.

Nicole: I got my almost 3 month old weighed yesterday at Discovery Centre and I was shocked at how much it had changed since I took my first there in 2016. There was a queue out of the door to get in, and then you now weigh your baby and record it in your red book yourself. I didn’t need any support from the HV on this visit, but I’m not a healthcare professional and it would have been nice to just have them oversee it and my baby’s progress. To be honest I won’t be attending again. I feel sorry for the HVs because they look so stretched when you see them trying to get around the room, but most of them were extremely friendly and pleasant, and even found me a seat to feed the baby before I left.

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NHM Readers Recommend: Inspiring Presents for Father’s Day

In June 2018 I asked the Friends of my “Louise nhm Smith” profile on Facebook “I’ve suddenly realised that it’s less than 2 weeks until Father’s Day….EEEKKK!!! It always sneaks up on me, every single year! So, I’m looking for inspiring presents for Father’s Day. Any suggestions?”

Many thanks for all your responses, listed below in no particular order:

NHM Readers Recommend: Inspiring Presents for Father’s Day

Natalie said “Something World Cup football related??? The first England match conveniently happens to be the Monday after Father’s Day!”

Kate said “We can highly recommend Lisa and Phil’s Longdog Brewery Real Ales”

Marion said “Shabby Gourmet Curry”

Charlotte said “Got my partner matching Game of Thrones T-shirts for him and my 2year old boy off Etsy. Will be so cute!”

Tracey said “Paint a pottery gift at Pots to Doodle Do Cliddesden”

Stacey said “Lilliepads Delicious Delights 1kg Mixed sweetie boxes yummy treat. That’s what my hubby is getting with a goody bag of random other bits including men’s sliders, socks lol”

Wendy said “You give your child £5, take them to Poundland and hand them a basket, let them sort it out. Teaching life skills!”

Susie  said “https://www.my-picture.co.uk/ great quality canvas prints from photos & bargain prices too”

Ruza said “What about something for the man shed?”

Leah said Buyagift.co.uk, Notonthehighstreet.co.uk, Red letter days, Chocs, Socks, Red5.co.uk, Men-kind in town, Gadget shops lol”

Kirsty said “Racetrack tshirt The Personalisation Parlour

Mel said “The Home of Hearts Look at my Father’s Day collection for inspiration or give me the details and I will create a keepsake for you!”

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NHM Readers Recommend: Local Country Parks

An NHM Reader recently asked: “Would anyone be able to recommend some local country parks? We like Wellington but it’s so expensive!” 

Many thanks to the NHM Community for all of your responses, listed below in no particular order.

Please bear in mind that listings may change in subsequent years, but hopefully they will still be a good base point for your own research.

NHM Readers Recommend: Local Country Parks

Andrea said “All about a 30-50 min drive away. Dinton Pastures, Itchen Valley, Moors Valley, Royal Victoria, all free except for parking.

Clare saidAlice Holt has the gruffalo trail and in the summer  Moors Valley in the New Forest is great for a while day with only parking to pay”

Charlene saidAlice Holt, Virginia Waters

Dan saidFleet ponds is lovely to walk around.”

Sarah saidCalifornia country park just pay parking”

Jo R saidAlice Holt, Bracknell look out (cheaper later in day) outside free. California country park. Dinton Pastures. Frensham big and little ponds. Elizabeth Country Park. Sign up to National Trust for less than £10 a month then go as many times as you can!

Vicky saidSome great suggestions! We went to California country park for the first time in October and we’ll be going back in the summer to try out the paddling pool (think it’s a £2.50 charge for the pool).”

Tracy saidBeale Park season ticket is very very good value!”

Emma L said “Defo Alice Holt and there’s one in Reading Dinton I think”

Rebecca said I love California country park

Aimee saidDinton Pastures is awesome”

Jo W saidVirginia Waters is beautiful”

Alison saidThatcham discovery centre and Charlton lakes are great

Heather saidQueen Elizabeth Country Park in Petersfield. All free exc small parking fee and brilliant. Drive right to the top for excellent play areas and open spaces. And an obstacle course.”

Jenny saidAlice Holt and Dinton both fab – only pay for parking”

Rachel saidDinton Pastures is brill and free apart from parking. Also nature discovery in Newbury which you just have to pay parking for.”

Emma H saidMoors Valley, you just pay for parking. It’s ace!! There’s also one in eastleigh but I can’t remember the name”

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NHM Readers Recommend: Long Haul Flights

NHM Readers Recommend: Long Haul Flights

I recently had a question from an NHM Reader that I asked the NHM Community to help with: “I am going to be flying long haul with 3 children later this year, it will be the first time they have ever flown. Can anyone recommend things I can take to keep the kids entertained on the flight they will be 10, 7 and 3.”

Many thanks for your replies, listed below in no particular order.

Please bear in mind that listings may change in subsequent years, but hopefully they will still be a good base point for your own research.

NHM Readers Recommend: Long Haul Flights

Taryn said: It’s worth looking at what the airline that you’re travelling with offers, some are really good with providing stuff for them.

Wendy said: Lots of tips on here from a local family who fly to California every other year

Nicola said: Tiger in town have lots of activity books and colouring etc I got some for our journey to Yorkshire, 7 hours of fun xx

Andrea said: iPads! Colouring in books, activity books, card games like UNO, random little toys from stores like Tiger. My children have always been toddlers on the haul flight. From what I’ve seen from other families the older kids are just happy with their own TV! Your 3 year old should be fine with a few bits and pieces. Good luck!

Debbie said: I got a book from amazon of paper based games which we played which helped.

Jenna said: Download some episodes on the iPad and get them use to headphones. For our 2 year old we took a puzzle that we didn’t mind losing the pieces too 😂

Susan said: If you are flying long haul then most airlines will have seat back viewing screens for TV progs and movies. Check with the airline nearer the time for what is showing. They usually have children’s channels. Make sure they have sweets to suck for take off and landing, helps with ear popping!

Kate said: We have done long haul (to Oz 23-26hrs!!!) several times with kids. Most recently this Christmas with 3 aged 9&6yrs and a baby. Each year I take lots of puzzles/colouring bits and every year it hardly gets touched as they play on the entertainment systems/watch tv and films! I guess I still take it just in case the screen isn’t working. Most valuable things is snacks they like but more carbs than sugar. My older two detest plane food so I go armed with vegemite sandwiches, breadsticks and crisps.

We usually take their own headphones as they fit better than the provided one. We also take a headphone splitter as they usually end up snuggling up to watch the same film so we can then plug both headphones into one socket.

Hope this helps. Mainly though it’s goes much quicker than you think!

Would highly recommend ‘fly legs up’ hammocks which turn the seats into a bed. Great investment and mine have slept 8hrs+ on night flights with them.

Becky said: Wrapping new toys/things to do in little bags to make them like presents works well. Also don’t show them all the things u have got so u can space things out throughout the trip to keep their interest. Kindle fire was amazing!

Skye said: iPad. Kindle. My now 4 year old has flown to Cuba, California, Canada and will be doing NZ this year. Trust me, be that parent who puts a screen in their face. You won’t regret it.

Louise NHM Smith also said: This link might also help: http://www.northhantsmum.co.uk/2018/02/06/nhm-reader-recommendations-toddlers-aeroplane-journey/

Tanya said: lollipops – great for possible ear pressure problems

Vicky said: Where’s Wally books?

Karla said: https://www.keepemquiet.com/?ref=StoreYa&utm_source=stry… We travel quite a lot and these packs are great for the kids. Keep the pack for the flight so it’s a surprise 😊 snacks are included too!

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NHM Readers Recommend: Party Supplies

NHM Readers Recommend: Party Supplies

I recently had a question from an NHM Reader that I asked the NHM Community to help with: “Where is the best place locally to buy reasonably party supplies, like cups, plates and decorations?”  

Many thanks for your replies, listed below in no particular order.

Please bear in mind that listings may change in subsequent years, but hopefully they will still be a good base point for your own research.

NHM Readers Recommend: Party Supplies

Hannah said: Home bargains, Basingstoke.

Alison said: Party booth, Overton

Victoria said: The Party Booth in Overton

Sasha said: Poundland, Festival Place, Basingstoke

Danielle said: The Party Booth  in Overton

Kate said:  Another vote for @thepartybooth Xxx

Phillippa said: The range is pretty good, Gastons Wood Industrial Estate, Basingstoke.

Kerry said: Range and asda

Lisa said: Pandoras Box at the top of town have fairly good selections.

Deborah said: www.party-bubble.co.uk Free local collection in Winchester

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