What asthma feels like

I was 25 when I was diagnosed with asthma. I’d started running and found myself really struggling to breathe during and after my runs. I’d have to go to bed after running 5K as I was so short of breath.

I visited my GP. He asked me to do a peak flow test and I was told I had asthma with exercise being a main trigger. I was sent away with preventer and reliever pumps and a peak flow apparatus which I was to use daily and record my readings. 

I went back a few weeks later feeling much better and that was that. My asthma was well-controlled and apart from taking my inhalers daily, it rarely had an impact on my day-to-day life. I made sure I had my flu jab every autumn but for the most part it was just a little box I ticked on medical forms.

That all changed four years ago when I had my first chronic episode and needed steroid tablets. I couldn’t catch my breath, sustain conversations or do the most simple activities. My GP was thorough but perplexed. It took a few weeks, but we got there and got my symptoms under control.

Since then, I get these episodes a few times a year much to my complete frustration. I’m in the thick of one now. I’ve had a chest infection for weeks and am on my second round of antibiotics and steroid tablets, which affect my mood and make it really difficult to sleep. The steroids also mean I’m more susceptible to illness so I’m picking up colds along the way. I’ve also not been to my lovely gym for a few weeks as I know my chest couldn’t sustain my usual swims and classes. 

When I’m having problems with my asthma, every breath is hard and unfulfilling. It feels as though I can’t fully catch my breath. My ribs feel sore and it’s as though there are invisible hands contracting them every time I breathe. 

Today it meant I felt my strength and energy ebb as the day went on. I came home from work exhausted, but switched in to mum mode as I walked through the door. I gave the children their baths and read their bedtime stories even though every sentence hurt a little bit more than the last. 

And once they were safely asleep, I curled up on the sofa and spent the rest of the evening there unable to move or speak at length. 

One thing living with asthma has made me appreciate is how lucky I am to have the NHS. From the pharmacists who advise me to the GPs and nurses who help me, I feel very fortunate to be able to have the medicine I need, especially when my asthma is hard to control.

I hope that I will get my asthma under control again in the future. In the meantime, please excuse me if I’m more groggy and grumpy than usual.

Do you have asthma? How do you manage it and its impact on your life? I’d love to know.


Pontypridd Lido – a review

It’ll be two years in August since Pontypridd Lido reopened after an extensive renovation. It’s been on my to do list since then and we finally made our first visit there yesterday.

The lido reopened for the current season on Saturday and we booked online in advance. It cost just £7 for the four of us to swim – including an extra £1 per child to access the activity pools. 

The lido is located in Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd and is just a few minutes from the A470. Although there is no parking at the park, there is a choice of affordable car parking options that are a few minutes away. 

When we got to the pool, we booked in and were given wristbands to access the activity pool. 

The lido has a choice of changing areas – indoor and retro outdoor cubicles inspired by its 1927 roots. There is a good mix of family changing cubicles, which is handy for families with younger children like us, and lockers. Ratios are one adult to every child under four. 

The lido features three heated outdoor pools, which are heated to around 28 degrees. There’s a splash pool, a swimming pool and a smaller swimming pool, which is set up for activities such as an inflatable assault course. The pools are surrounded by sunloungers for friends and family who want to spectate rather than take a dip (or swimmers who want to catch some rare Welsh rays!).

Our toddler loved running in and out of the splash pool and getting soaked by the water fountain whereas our five-year-old headed straight for the activity pool, which was kitted out with a giant inflatable assault course. He loved taking on the challenge and launching into the giant slide at the end.

The lido has a cafe which serves snacks poolside through a serving hatch and a visitor centre upstairs, which tells the story of the lido’s history.

Outside of the lido is a beautiful play park and the main cafe entrance. We refuelled in the cafe after our dip. Drinks and snacks for all coming in at less than £10 so it was reasonable. 

After our pit stop it was time to explore the play park, which opened with the lido in 2015. The children spent more an hour exploring and playing in the network of tunnels and sand sections as well as a zip wire. 

Overall, it was a fantastic few hours out as a family. The children were in their element and we’ll definitely be back! In fact, our toddler asked to go swimming again as we were about to leave.

Have you been to the Lido yet? Are you planning to visit? I’d love to know. 

Navigating the terrible twos

Yesterday my daughter had a dreaded accident at a soft play centre. As I changed her clothes in the toilet, her screaming was so loud staff knocked the door to ask if everything was okay. “Yes. Just changing my daughter!” I replied as sweetly as I could.

At two and a half, she is fiercely independent, brilliantly confident and fearless. And that’s awesome, but challenging to parent. 

As she’s our second child, I’m finding navigating the toddler tantrums a little easier to navigate than they were with our eldest. 

So here are the three tips I’m clinging on to while navigating the toddler years.

1. Try to see the funny side It’s easy to lose your sense of humour after trying to get your toddler to put their socks on for the umpteenth time. But trying to see the funny side of their requests does help. This morning my daughter was crying because she couldn’t eat her breakfast in a high chair. We don’t own one anymore so there was little I could do to meet her demands. 

2. Pick your battles This is one I try hard to focus on when I’m negotiating. Does it really matter if they wear wellies and a party dress? This morning I spent 10 minutes trying to dress her in a matching outfit, but she was insistent on a pyjama top. So I let her wear it.

3. Put your pride aside. I’m a firm believer that any pride you had before becoming a parent is left firmly behind in the delivery room. I really struggled with this as a first time parent. I was mortified about what people would think of my child’s behaviour. But I try to park my pride during toddler meltdowns and support them through them. 

How do you manage toddler meltdowns? I’d love to hear your tips.

Disney on Ice comes to Cardiff

As a child, I was enchanted by a myriad of Disney films from Beauty and the Beast to Cinderella to the Lion King. I loved the music, the stories and the characters, watching them time and time again.

Now, it’s my children’s turn to love all things Disney. So when I heard that Disney on Ice‘s 100 Years of Magic was coming to Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena, I snapped up some tickets.

We arrived at our seats half an hour before the show started and walked in to an arena of excited children donned in Disney dress and a sea of flashing wands and windmills.

The 100 Years of Magic concept meant the show brought together a range of famous Disney characters through the ages. The show kicked off with a warm up to introduce hosts Mickey and Minnie Mouse, who then introduced classic Disney characters.

The skating and the choreography was spectacular ranging from gorgeous solo performances from Pinocchio’s ethereal blue fairy to the underwater world of Finding Nemo.

One of my favourite sections was the couples’ dance where famous Disney duos including Belle and the Beast, Cinderella and the Prince and Rapunzel and Flynn danced duets before joining each other on the ice.

But it’s no surprise that the stand out moment was Frozen with ice proving a perfect setting to transport us to Arendelle complete with snow flurries. 

The choreography for these segments was particularly beautiful, with Elsa and Anna’s wildly different personalities reflected in every move.

At around two hours, including an interval, it was a long show. I felt it worked well, but both of the children were getting restless as the finale neared so it could have been a little bit tighter.

We expected merchandise at the show to be on the expensive side, but I was surprised to see small soft toy characters for £22, not much shy of what a ticket cost. So we didn’t buy one!

Overall, it was a magical few hours that we all enjoyed. My never-sits-still toddler sat entranced throughout and told me she wanted to watch it again when it ended. 

And our son whispered “It was super!” to my husband as we left the arena (high praise indeed from a five-year-old). Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Blogger note. We purchased our tickets to Disney on Ice and the venue and promoter were unaware I was writing a review.

A Sunday night stay at the Celtic Manor Resort – a review

My husband and I are off the scale planners. We like to organise things months and months in advance and organise them to the smallest detail.

But when an offer arrived in my inbox for a late availability Sunday night stay at The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, we jumped at the opportunity. It was a few days before our wedding anniversary so it was timed excellently.

Although we’ve been to the resort a few times over the years, we’ve never stayed there. So I was surprised at the massive scale of the resort hotel, the grounds and the activities for all ages from high ropes to crazy golf to the most massive bouncy castle I’ve ever seen.

Minutes from junction 24 of the M4, check in is at 4pm (3pm if you upgrade to a signature stay) but you can use the resort facilities before then. Car parking is at an additional cost at £5 for outdoor parking and £15 for parking in the indoor resort hotel for 24 hours.

We stayed in a deluxe suite and were lucky enough to get a fabulous double aspect room. The views were especially beautiful given the weather and blanket blue skies.

View from our room

With such beautiful weather, we checked in and headed outdoors to take on the crazy golf. It was £6 for 9 holes or £9 for 18 and the courses were great fun with lots of water and challenging terrain (for me, anyhow!). 

After a lot of laughs at my lack of golfing ability, we headed indoors to test out the Forum spa facilities. With Roman decor, I loved the pool and the gorgeous painting of a twilight sky (complete with twinkly light stars) on the ceiling above. 

The facilities feature a communal jacuzzi and a huge sauna and loungers. There are also a separate jaccuzi, steam room and sauna by each changing room for women and men only. You can book and pay for spa treatments during your stay if you would like to.

Choosing where to eat dinner was a challenge as there are several restaurants and dining options depending on your budget. This ranges from high end dining to more affordable options. 

We opted to book The Grill, where you can enjoy a selection of grilled meats and veggie options with mains ranging between £15 and up to £35 for a good steak. The concierge service meant we were dropped to and collected from the venue. The food was delicious and I opted for a BBQ chicken dish with crispy bacon topping (£18). 

I couldn’t leave without testing a dessert so we shared the brownie (£7) which was served with honeycomb, ice cream and fluffy marshmallows. It was perfectly gooey. Yum!

When it came to the morning, the pool opens at 6.30am and breakfast is served from 7am with a huge selection on offer from fruit to a full English to pancakes with delicious toppings including white chocolate shavings and chocolate ganache! 

My only quibble was a lack of hot water in our bathroom in the morning which resulted in a rather cold shower. 

Overall, the stay was a fabulous anniversary treat. It made me realise what a family-friendly place the resort is and I’d definitely consider a family stay as well as a couples getaway in the future.

Blossoms on the adventure golf course

Blogger note. We purchased our stay at the resort and the resort was unaware I was writing a review.