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Dear Harry

I cannot quite believe that this morning saw me and Daddy take you to school for the first time. It feels like just a few weeks ago that you were placed into my arms after you were born, when I made a promise to protect you and love you forever and now I have to let you go, trust other people to keep you safe from 8.45 - 3.20 five days a week.

You cried last night and this morning, telling us that you did not want to go, that you wanted to stay at home with us. We tried to reassure you that you will be with lots of your friends, you will make new friends, that your new teachers will look after you and that you will still have lots of time to play. You did not seem all that convinced.

Your school uniform (and trousers in particular) drowns you; Daddy says it looks like you are wearing clown trousers without the bright colours as they are so big on you even though they are the smallest size we could find. Whilst I was able to take them up at the legs, there is little I can do about the waist and a belt adds to the bagginess around the bum although at least it keeps the trousers up!

When we got to the end of our road on the walk, you were delighted to see one of your friends and you did what you always did to and from nursery; ran with him while he rode his scooter. For a short time I thought you might be OK but as we got closer to school, you kept nearer to me and Daddy. As we turned the corner and your school came into view, you refused to continue walking, pleading with Daddy to carry you. And carry you he did.

You played for a short while in your new playground with your friends and reluctantly came back when the bell rang. You gripped both mine and Daddy's hands and I wondered if you were ever going to let us go. We tried to read and write with you, something we are to do every morning but you seemed overwhelmed by your new surroundings and the amount of people there were in one room. I am not surprised; I found it rather daunting myself. ;-)

Then it was time for me and Daddy to leave you. I thought you were going to cry, you desperately wanted to either come home or if you had to stay you wanted to play with the train set you had spied. But it wasn't play time any more, it was time to practice writing with your key-worker and small group. When your key-worker said you could play with the train set before PE you warmed slightly but your arms remained firmly around my neck. And then, just as I was sure the tears would come, you spied that three of your friends are in the same small group as you and a further five or six in the same class. With the promise of a beef burger for lunch, a chance to play on the train set and us bringing your scooter for pick up, you let us go.

I am so proud of you. You handled it all a lot better than I thought you would, I was so sure you would cry and that I'd have to promise to get you at lunch time. Knowing that you have so many friends in your class (I think all of them bar two actually) makes me feel a lot more confident that you will enjoy Reception just as much as Nursery. And you will have lunch and play time with the other two friends as well; the old crew back together again.

I really hope your first day in Reception goes as well as your first day at Nursery did.

Lots of love

Mummy xxx

P.S. I am still cross you wouldn't let me take a photograph of you this morning.

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Well, the summer holiday seems have flown by. It only feels like it was Harry's last day at nursery yesterday and we had a long seven weeks stretching ahead, with no real plan of how on earth we could keep an energetic four-year-old boy entertained (or at least occupied) all day, every day. Somehow, we are on the last day of the break before he starts in Reception. Quite where the weeks have gone I don't know.

A couple of weeks into the break we decided to investigate the possibility of a holiday. We needed somewhere that wasn't too far from a train station and had activities on site due to not having our own car. The husband and I also wanted somewhere that would be relaxing and we didn't want to be surrounded by crowds of people. We had a budget in mind (including our travel costs) that we couldn't go over.

Whilst musing on Twitter, someone suggested I take a look at the Hoseasons website. I had heard of the company before but assumed that they either wouldn't be able to offer what we wanted or, if they could, it would be over our budget much like other holiday companies I had looked at. I am so pleased I did look despite my initial misgivings and found Hengar Manor.

For less than £300, I found self-catering accommodation for a full week. I was worried that the company considered the first week of September as off-peak, as many schools weren't returning until the second week, and that therefore there would be no entertainment or activities. So, prior to booking I tweeted with Hoseasons and was reassured that an activities programme would still be running and that yes, there would be evening entertainment. I was emailed a copy of the activities programme and advised that evening entertainment is changed on a weekly basis. Even before booking, I very much got the impression that nothing was too much trouble.

Hengar Manor

That vibe continued through our holiday. We got a train to Bodmin Parkway and then a taxi from there to Hengar Manor. There was a long, sweeping drive from the main road to the reception which certainly added to the sense of feeling secluded and truly getting away from it all.

Phil at reception was warm and friendly (something we soon found out was common with all the staff at the site) and check in was a quick and easy process. As we didn't have our own car, Phil offered to help us with our luggage to our accommodation, which the husband refused and said we could manage with the map. Once leaving the reception area, another member of staff (whose name I didn't manage to get) offered to help us despite going in the opposite direction. This offer of assistance we did take!

We were really impressed with our accommodation. It was light and airy, spacious and super-clean. The husband thoroughly inspected all the rooms as he always does (a bit of a clean freak is my husband) and couldn't find a single fault,. I am afraid you will just have to trust me when I say that is a rare thing indeed, although the fact that he is a chef should give some indication! We were also provided with a welcome pack; soft drink, a bottle of wine, chocolates, pasta and a few other bits, although I got the impression that is something the owners of that villa provided rather than being standard with the accommodation.

Hengar Manor

After a thorough inspection and unpacking our cases, we sat outside the villa for a cuppa to absorb our surroundings and a sense of calm descended, all we could hear were the birds tweeting and the ducks quacking. Any misgivings that had remained with us disappeared; Hengar Manor had made an excellent first impression!

We paid in full for our holiday and any associated costs for activities. However, we were given upgraded accommodation in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions remain our own.

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Last week my sister graduated from university, with a 2:1 in Business Studies and Human Resources. As an older sibling, it felt somewhat weird to see this young woman, who I remember visiting in hospital hours after she was born, wearing a gown and mortar board. I felt a huge sense of pride seeing her hard work and commitment being rewarded with a degree certificate.

Graduation 1

It was yet another occasion where someone was missed. I felt a sadness that our mum wasn't there to witness how this once tiny bundle has positively flourished in to a strong, clever, bright young woman.

It would of course be easy to suggest that our mum's death scarred us. That we went off the rails because of it and to wallow in self-pity and anger at the unfairness of it all. And for many years, I did, without realising it.

For a short time it gave me a sense of determination. It was, after all, her death which became the trigger for me to get a job, to move out of the hostel and then meet my husband. However, it also gave me an excuse to be irresponsible. To do things which I never thought I would do, to largely wear a mask, making myself vulnerable only to those I trusted.

For a number of years I was plagued my fear and insecurity. I was paranoid that every little disagreement would see the husband leave me, call our relationship off. He deserved someone who knew, always, that they were loved and adored. Getting engaged, then married and then having a child all briefly helped but ultimately that voice would win, the one that tells me I am not good enough. Except now it changed.  Not only was the husband going to leave me, he would take Harry, I'd never see him again. Harry would grow to hate me, never know how much I love him. Maybe those naysayers were right and I haven't done my best to create a secure and loving environment for me. The mask of confidence and self-assurance is off in private.

More recently I have become insecure about my appearance. I have put on weight and whilst I am not overweight I am bigger than I would like to be. I took this picture of me at my sister's house last week.

Skirt from Joules, top from Warehouse
Skirt from Joules, top from Warehouse

Whilst people told me I looked nice, I didn't, still don't I suppose, believe them. I have found myself analysing this one over and over, pointing out the bits I am unhappy with. It's a strange place for me to be in as I have never really felt that I want to lose weight and I find myself working out ways to do so. I found myself comparing myself to my sisters, which is just silly because I am now in my early thirties and have a child (as well as having my mobility issues) whereas they are late teens and early twenties. I know before I had Harry my figure was very similar.

I am working on changing my perception of myself. A bit at a time I hope to have confidence that I have never had. To accept that I won't have the body I want but I can make the best of the one that I have. To realise that my husband does love me and works pretty darn hard to reassure me of that despite any difficulties we may have had. To prepare myself to be able to grab opportunities that come my way and not think I am not good enough or convince myself that I will fail. Most of all, to become the person I want to be.

My sister, that once small bundle wrapped in a blanket in our mother's arm, has proven that your past doesn't have to haunt you. Maybe I can finally do the same.

Disclosure: I was sent the skirt by Joules (which I love by the way!). The content in this post is my own thoughts and ramblings.

Long before the husband and I decided to start our own family, we discussed fostering or even adoption. I was in a place whereby I wasn't sure that I wanted my own child but felt that instead, we could offer a home for one or two of the many children who are in care. I knew people who had grown up in foster care and how much they valued those families. Even now, it is still something we will consider if we are ever in a better position in terms of housing (we only have a two bedroom flat).

If you’re considering foster care then there is a tremendous amount to consider and organise. However, one thing that might not have crossed your mind is exactly what type of foster care you feel is best. Some don’t actually realise that there are several types of foster care, all offering something a little different.

Here’s a quick rundown of the different types of foster care available.

Permanent Fostering

This is probably the type of foster care that springs to mind for most people but is very different to other forms. With permanent fostering (or long-term fostering) the foster family will look after child until they reach adulthood. This option is often preferred over adoption if the child still has strong links to the birth family.

However, the foster carers have no legal responsibility for the child at any point. This is slightly different in Scotland, where the carers can share responsibility with local authorities and the birth parents.

Foster Care
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Short-term Foster Care

This is pretty self-explanatory and involves the foster family looking after the child for a short-term, usually a few weeks or months, whilst more permanent arrangements are put in place.

Emergency Foster Care

This is a little like short-term foster care but is for an even shorter length of time and may only be a few days. This can be at very short notice so the foster carers would need to be prepared to take a child in at pretty much any time. This may occur if the child needs to be quickly taken out of their home for whatever reason.

Private Fostering

This may sound a little odd to some, but private fostering involved the birth parents making private arrangements for their child to stay with someone who isn’t a close relative, usually for a period of more than 28 days. However, the local authority must be told about the arrangements and will still pay visits to check on the situation and the welfare of the child.

Remand Fostering

Remand fostering involves looking after a young person who has been placed under the care of a local authority by the courts. The young person would stay with the foster carers while they await court proceedings; this is usually on a short-term basis and provides an alternative to being in custody. The foster family will often be expected to work closely with youth justice officials.

Kinship Care

Quite simply, this is where a child is cared by someone they already know, probably a family member or close family friend. This is what my Uncle and Auntie have offered to my two younger sisters since our Mum died and enabled them to continue to grow up together as they have different Dads.

Parent & Child Care

This is a type of care that many people might not know about but can be incredibly beneficial. This is where a foster family takes in a child and parent (often the mother) and helps them prepare for the future.

It’s important that you’re fully informed about all aspects of foster care if you’re thinking about becoming a carer, so it’s always best to speak things through with professionals such as Capstone Foster Care to get a complete picture.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

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I remember the day I met you like it was yesterday.

I had just moved into a flat after living in a hostel for nine months. It was a few short months after my Mum had died and at 21 years old, the staff at the hostel felt I had finally got my act together, that I was ready to move on, into one of the "satellite" flats. Where support staff turned up once a week to collect the service charge and rent and to go over any issues. I was nervous because in a block of five flats, I was to become the only female. I wasn't sure if I was ready to be around so many men. I had never really had any male friends, much less live with a man.

Our first meeting was brief but you made an impression. You were lying on your sofa in one your flat when we were introduced and you just glanced at me, smiled and said hello. I didn't see you for a few weeks after that between my working and partying, staying out late, leaving early. I learned later that you often dropped by to see my flat mate but it was an excuse to try to catch me at home.

The next time I saw you was on my return from a family break in Hope Cove. I was exhausted, the car journey home had felt like it had taken an age and it was raining. It was late evening and when I walked in my flat you were there. You and most of the men that lived in the building, all drinking and listening to music. It was unexpected and I felt vulnerable, uneasy. Once I'd bundled my stuff into my bedroom you offered me a drink and I said I didn't drink lager. So you asked what I did drink and merrily went to the off licence, in the storm, returning with three bottles of wine.

Later, as the party dwindled, I made my excuses and went to bed. You soon followed, knocking on my bedroom door, insisting you wanted to come in and talk to me some more. I protested, my bedroom looked like a bomb had gone off in it and I just wanted to get myself ready for bed and sleep. You wore me down and I let you in. We sat on my bed, talking and the next thing I knew, I'd woken up and you had gone to work.

That night was ten years ago today. Much of our early relationship was allegedly casual, yet there was no one else for either of us. I even ran away for a bit, confused as I was at the depth of my feelings. I visited family, only telling work I needed some time off for a few a days. The day after my return, I got back from work and you had remembered a conversation during which I said one of my favourite flowers was pink roses, that I thought a single rose was more romantic and thoughtful than a bunch and you'd left one for me outside my bedroom door, with a note asking to meet me at a local bar. Some point that night, this was played on the juke box and you attempted to sing it to me, told me that you loved me and knew you had from that night in my flat.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Clara Unravelled