The hottest day of the year…

So despite living at the seaside, we decided today we needed to try and go somewhere a little cooler. It’s been a hot, hot week and we’ve enjoyed the beach and the sea but chose to do something different today.

I have an annual membership to a local nature attraction, it’s mainly forest with a spectacular lake so we headed off here to explore and play and of course enjoy a picnic lunch. Although they both argued they were too old, my children humoured me in looking for the fairy doors on the trail. Their preferred activities were making dens and skimming stones. This kept them busy and I was able to sit under a tree and read my book, such a luxury and joy. We were lucky in that trees did provide us with shade and it was slightly cooler.

After our visit we went to a nearby town and certainly felt the difference in temperature. We stopped for an ice cream and may have sat with our feet in the river to cool off. There was a lovely atmosphere at the quay as everyone sat and relaxed in the sunshine. It felt that everyone was simply enjoying the moment, the best thing to do on a bright, sunny day.


Park Run


Although I run regularly, this year I have finally joined up and started to ‘Park Run.’  I love the idea and ethos of Park Run, a 5k, free, weekly timed run for all and have always been interested in the community.  However living in a rural area, our nearest event is a 40 minute drive, meaning it takes longer to get there, than run it!  Given I’m a busy mum, I’ve been hesitant to manage my time like this but on my #19for 2019 I decided I wanted to be competitive in a sport and Park Run can provide this competition, me against a stopwatch.  I can’t run every week, we have other family commitments and Mr S works alternate Saturdays but I have been trying to do at least one Park Run a month.

My daughter who occasionally runs with me has started to get curious about Park Run so we agreed when she could run 5k she could join me too, she embraced the challenge and quickly proved she could do the distance.  Today was her first Park Run and we ran the course together.  She is at an age where I would be allowed to leave her on own and run on but this doesn’t quite fit in with my view of Park Run, its a supportive and inclusive activity.  I want my daughter to fall in love with Park Run and use it to feel emotionally and physically fit as she approaches her teenage years.  I’m accepting that at the moment, I’m not going to challenge my PB but my new mission is more important.  I also think that with a little more training and practice she’ll be easily pushing my PB in a few months.  I would be really pleased if Little Man started to run too, but at present it would clash with his swimming lessons which he really enjoys.  A Park Run family would enable us to do it more regularly.

Whilst I maintain a degree of anonymity on this blog, the first letter of my home Park Run is quite rare so those doing the alphabet challenge often run it for this purpose. It is a lovely route, 2 laps, one small, one longer with a long winding hill on both laps (not so keen on this aspect!) Its in a beautiful setting, a trail run through woods and then open fields with some stunning views. Its a nice size event, ranging from 320 – 550 runners in the weeks I’ve done it, whilst this seems a big difference a neighbouring run was cancelled on the 550 attendance date.   Fortunately there’s a big car park and even on the busiest run, it was easy to get a space in the car park for the very reasonable Park Run special rate of £1.

At present, I have done all my Park Runs at the same venue, typically the week I was going to try a different one it was cancelled and I went back to my home run.  There are another two fairly close by, ie less than an hour’s drive which are on my list to try soon.  I’ve also looked up Park Runs near my parents house and our holiday destination for a little Park Run tourism later this year.   I like the idea of running a Park Run whilst away from home, I know I’m always interested when the visitors are introduced in the briefing to find out where they are from and their local Park Run, it does feel like a community.  Not only do I run Park Run,  I listen to the brilliant weekly podcast, With Me Now and am slowly picking up the lingo and challenges! Realistically I can’t do more than I am now but perhaps as the years go on, I’ll be clocking up the milestones.  I’ve also followed the blog Maria Runs ( for years and she’s a big Park Run fan so its interesting to read her posts.

Park Run is such an inspirational and innovative idea and one that I really enjoy being part of.  I hope I can keep running for many years to come and enjoy being part of the special community.

The last days of primary school

Little Miss’ self portrait from this week’s school report. 

Its been ‘totes emosh’ in the Sparkles household for the last few weeks as we approached the end of primary school for Little Miss and she began to wobble.  Little Miss came to live with us when she was two and shortly after started the pre school which is on the primary school site, so for the last nine years we’ve been walking the familiar route and been a part of a very special community.  It has been the most wonderful school, whom have understood, nurtured and encouraged both our daughter and our family.  I think this is why the last few weeks have been so difficult, as Little Miss tried to accept that something that has been such an integral part of her life was no longer going to be. Its been weeks of high anxiety at school and home and its been tough, the meltdown at the secondary school uniform fitting made me realise that talk about secondary school needed to stop and to take every day as it came. Consequently I was really worried about this week, especially the leaving party on Wednesday night and today’s assembly.  Amazingly given the previous weeks these two events have gone so much better than I could have expected and Little Miss has relaxed and enjoyed these events.  Sometimes I think its the anticipation of an event which causes her anxiety rather than the actual event.

The leavers party was on Wednesday evening and Little Miss looked so grown up in her new outfit. We had lots of fun in New Look on Sunday trying on different clothes and texting Grandma some photos for her opinion! I like her choice of the bright yellow playsuit, it still had the innocence of childhood with a bit of teenage style.


In their final half term, the class have been doing the Virgin £5 challenge and after a very successful apprentice fair had made enough money to pay for all aspects of their party,  fish and chips from the local chippie, a disco and bouncy castles.  There was another £100 profit after the party and the children chose to donate it to Great Ormond Street Hospital in thanks for their care and skill in looking after one of the class, such a lovely and genuine gesture.  The party was a wonderful success and Little Miss was so happy and tired when I picked her up from the party, it was one of those special conversations as we walked home when I began to think that things might be alright.

It has been a celebration of lasts although I’ve not tried to draw attention in fear of causing more anxiety.  The one I was dreading was the last school run together, the school run is precious and one of my favourite parts of the day, even though Little Miss has been allowed to walk to and from school alone in Year 6, she normally tags along with me and her brother and other friends we pass on our way.  One of the teachers posted this thought this week and I really got it, so many memories from that daily journey.

img_5899Last night when it was just me, Little Miss and Little Man, we took a detour from the school run for drinks and cakes in our favourite café, I wanted to eek out every moment.  This morning all four of us walked to school for the final ‘full’ school run as this afternoon the children finished at different times.  Today is the last day that our children will attend the same school as its likely Little Man will go to a special school for secondary, so it felt even more poignant, it was one of those moments I just wanted to appreciate.

Top, the last time for Year 6 in the hall!, postcard in lunch box, tissues with a quote and the survival kit explanations. 

The Leavers assembly was first thing in the morning and thanks to some peak parenting skills, we had front row seats, a tactic learnt from many class and star assemblies.  We arrived to find tissues on our seats with the Dr Seuss quote printed on ‘Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened’ It was a superb production, showing the talents of all the students.  Little Miss sang Lost Boy by Rachel B, such a beautiful and haunting song.

I kept it together for Little Miss but the closest I came to sad crying was when ‘When I grow up’ from Matilda was sung.  However there were very many cheerful parts, they played nursery rhyme karaoke with the Head and Deputy and some Year 6 boys led Baby Shark which had all the school singing and joining in.   It was a full production with an interval and in the second half they had created a Who Dunnit over missing coffee in the staffroom.  It was amazing, the children were all staff members and as they arrived into the hall all dressed  up, they  went to their staff member and took their lanyards.  The script, mannerisms and acting were superb, at this point I was crying with laughter.  The finale was the parents top secret mission for which we had provided photos from their first day at school and other photos during the years for a special presentation.  The children knew nothing about this and this was when the tears started, I was really surprised Little Miss kept it together and because she did I did too (I’m sure I saw Mr S wiping away a tear at this part) The teachers then exploded some confetti cannons at the end to finish with a colourful and uplifting effect.

As I wasn’t sure how Little Miss was going to be and we were leaving at the end of the assembly, I popped a postcard in her lunch box with a positive quote and some special words on the other side to keep her going through the day.  Fortunately, she had a wonderful afternoon signing shirts (and socks?!) , receiving certificates , most improved Maths student (yay!) and a gift, a Year 7 survival kit and when she left school for the last time she had a big smile on her face, I was so relieved.  Sadly the weather was rotten and the original plans for after school had to be changed, however the beach bar (with shelter) was the perfect spot for Year 6 parents and children to meet up for a drink and was a relaxed way to say good byes.

This evening, we had planned Little Miss’ favourite meal for tea so we had an Indian with all the trimmings and then cake.  We really wanted today to be a very special day of celebrations.  We’re all shattered now, its been a day of high emotion but has created some very special and happy memories.  I am sad for Little Miss to be leaving primary  school as its been such a wonderful experience but I also recognise that its time for her to move on and flourish in her secondary school.




Life lately …


I feel that life recently has been quite focused on Little Miss, its her final year of primary school and there’s been SATS,a residential trip, secondary school transition visits and lots of other school events leading up to the leavers party and final assembly next week.  It is overwhelming and she’s pretty tired and definitely needing the summer holidays.

However Little Man has also been busy in the background too and has done lots of things which I’m really proud of.  This morning was his class assembly and it really was one of the best I’ve seen.  The class put such a show on, an assembly themed on Invaders and Settlers complete with time travelling machine, stunning props made in class, a funny script and some brilliant songs.  ‘Viking Rock, take me to Valhalla’ may be my favourite assembly song ever! By a strange quirk of the birth rate in our town, Little Man is in a very small class of 15, so unlike other class assemblies where everyone struggles to get a role, these children have to take on several roles each and Little Man was a Roman and Viking (clever on stage costume changes)   The change in Little Man’s demeanour on stage has been amazing, in Reception he struggled to even be on stage and looked scared, today he said lines out loud, acted brilliantly (he likes a mock fight scene) and sang his little heart out.  The teacher really had put so much into the assembly and she produced a stunning performance from them all.

His assembly came after a brilliant session at cubs the night before.  My children have grown up at the seaside and know nothing else, the beach is their playground.  Last night’s cubs was down at the sailing club where they were taught the basics of sailing and went out in the bay.  This wasn’t a special session, they have been outside every session this term and it was included in our subs.  The parents were asked to stay and help to push the boats out and bring them in again, so it was a nice session for us too as we chatted and watched in the evening sunshine.  I watched Little Man listening to the instructor and to be honest I wasn’t sure how much he was taking in, however he’s very much a doer than a listener when it comes to learning and this again showed last night.  I was impressed how well his little boat did and his enthusiasm for the activity.  I cannot put into words, how much cubs has helped Little Man’s confidence and skills. He finds school difficult because of such an academic focus, yet at cubs he can do, explore, make, participate etc.. and feels an equal. He’s already been on two camps this year and is already looking forward to camp 3 at the end of the summer holidays.

Little Man is very much looking forward to the summer holidays now, it’s days on the beach, visiting favourite places and playing with friends, no academic pressure just fun. The new school year will bring new pressures but for now summer is here.

June’s Jottings

I’ve still not had the inspiration for a new title for my monthly catch up, so its a little alliteration for his month’s instalment.  June is one of my busiest months of the year, its unbelievable that we were enjoying our family break at Butlins at the start of June as that seems so long ago now.  This month has seen the family break at Butlins, a Year 6 residential, cub camp, school trips, meeting up with all the grandparents, a family celebration, sports day, transition clubs, important school meetings and future planning.  It has been busy and whilst I had a few wobbles I do try to compartmentalise my life to try and maintain a healthy balance.  This month running has been essential to my well being too.

We are now in the countdown to the end of primary school for Little Miss and its been a month full of lasts, the last school trip, sports day etc..  I’ve also been busy like all the parents on a top secret mission for the leavers assembly, which has involved going through all our old photos of special school events over the years.  Its really brought home the passing of time and the importance of making the most of every day.  In all the photos I found I think my favourite is one from World Book day, the children are dressed up as Thing 1 and Thing 2  and then on a whim I borrowed some Cat in the Hat props from school and despite being a bit out of my comfort zone, I did the school run dressed up, which made the children so happy.  Looking back its the little things, often spur of the moment, which bring back the happiest memories, carpe diem! In my post ‘Disappointment’ I wrote of Little Miss’ shortened residential trip, however Sports day was a big success.  This year the format was different and so much improved, it had a very inclusive feel with the children working in small groups from Reception to Year 6.  As the only Year 6 in her group, Little Miss was so good at motivating and encouraging her little team, she shone.  Later, she enjoyed the running races with her friends from Year 6.  For me it was the best Sports day yet, gorgeous weather, a great new programme of events, a perfect viewing spot with friends and a lovely refreshment tent (okay slightly bias as I had baked some cakes for the stall run by the Scouts who were fund raising)  For me the two most enjoyable events in the school year are the Christmas concert and Sports day and I’ll really miss not seeing Little Miss in the primary versions next year,  I’m not sure how the secondary school organises these events but I hope we get a chance to watch too.  One of the great ideas of Sports day this year was to put siblings in the same group so they could work together on some of the activities,  I now have a beautiful photo of my two, running hand in hand  in the snake race, its my new phone screen saver.

Another special event this month was our summer solstice evening at the beach, it was a perfect evening for a barbecue on the beach, swimming and beach games and I loved the beach hut I hired.  The day after we headed to our county town to meet up with my parents for a trip to the cinema.  First we had lunch in a delightful courtyard café, it was one of those hot, sunny days where it all felt so right, we were shaded from the hot sun by greenery around a big table full of delicious, fresh, wholesome food and good company.  After lunch, we all went to see Toy Story 4, its amazing for its animation but I felt the story just lacked a little something.  I preferred the earlier films centred on family life, this is more an adventure with only a few main characters (I missed so many, and even Buzz has a much lesser role) However it is a good film with some strong themes of belonging, love etc..

This month I have discovered a couple of new Podcasts, With Me Now, a show about Park Run and Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan.  I’m really enjoying both and find it relaxing in the evenings to sit in the garden and listen to  a podcast.  The Feel Better, Live More ep 67 is fascinating on how our environment affects our lifestyle.

We’re now on the countdown to the summer holidays and its nearly time to write our summer bucket list and plan our summer adventures.  However we have 3 more weeks and I know I will be an emotional wreck when Little Miss finishes primary school on July 19th.  She’s be going to the same site for the past 9 years, from pre school to the primary school, its been such an important and lovely place for her to be I’m going to miss her being there.


#nourish and the summer solstice.


I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin and her podcast Happier and often have a go at some of her ideas as they are simple and practical strategies to facilitate life.  At the start of this year I chose my #19for2019, a list which is progressing nicely and chose a one word theme for my year, nourish.  In this week’s podcast, Gretchen suggested we revisited our one word theme of the year on the summer solstice.  Before listening to the podcast I had made plans for the solstice as I wanted to celebrate the longest day of the year and my plans fitted with my theme to nourish, a long run at dawn to appreciate the early start to the day and an evening on the beach to enjoy as much of the light as I could. It was a day to nourish body, mind and spirit.

As dawn was due just before 5, I knew I couldn’t get up at 4.30am, work and then still be on sparkling form for the evening so I got up just after dawn at 5.15 for my run.  Living in a seaside town the solstice is usually marked by dawn runs, walks or swims so it was a surprisingly social run with lots of friendly greetings.  I was inspired at a local beauty spot where people were enjoying an impressive picnic breakfast watching the sun come up over the bay, another activity to add to my bucket list!

I have always wanted to hire one of the new beach huts in town as they look so beautiful and are in an ideal spot on a pedestrianised walkway in front of the beach.  The huts are difficult to hire as they are normally hired by the week and are popular.  However with a little careful research and planning, I managed to book one for just the one day, the summer solstice.  I was so excited by my hut, I decorated it on the outside with bunting and had fairy lights inside! There was a family celebration this week so we used it as an ideal opportunity for both children to invite friends to join them for beach fun and food.  I kept everything simple, so I could enjoy the evening too.  We started with mocktails in a fancy jug and glasses with a few nibbles.  For food, I had a little barbecue for sausages, and we bought a big bag of chips to share as our main and then used the barbie to make S’Mores for pudding, simple and tasty beach food.  I had popped to the market earlier in the day and the bags of summer fruits went down so well with the children.  The weather was perfect, warm sunshine and the children played on the beach, swam in the sea and danced on the sand with a boom box playing from a playlist designed by my daughter.  I looked out to the children playing and felt so warm and happy, its these little moments which make you go all warm and fuzzy.  I also fell in love with the beach hut ….

I really enjoyed celebrating the solstice this summer and I have been inspired with a few ideas for the winter solstice too. The solstice is an ideal opportunity to embrace the changing seasons and the beauty of our natural world.