I can’t quite believe that it’s my half decade blogversary

This little space of mine has been going strong for five whole years, and I’ve packed quite a bit in during that time. I set the blog up on a whim one evening, for a multitude of reasons, and had a great response from my very first post. You can read it here if you like.

The blog served me largely for catharsis at first. It quickly became therapy – both writing the posts and interacting with the blogging community. If I had to choose my favourite thing that blogging has brought to my life, it would be the genuine friendships that I’ve made along the way. I have a handful of very close friends that I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for MummyTries.

Integrity is everything to me

When I took voluntary redundancy in 2015 I decided to take a leap of faith and monetised my blog. Whilst I’ve never earned enough to pay tax on it, the income has been invaluable. It’s meant that I can work around the children and my home education commitments, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted from a job.

I’m proud that I’ve never sold my soul for a collaboration. I only work with brands I genuinely love and turn down offers every week that aren’t right for me.

No plans to go anywhere anytime soon

The thing that’s taken me by surprise the most, is that five years on I still get a thrill from blogging. I’m excited about seeing my colleagues at a big event next weekend. I’m beside myself about going on a yoga retreat in France in September. I have absolutely loved working with the brands I’ve collaborated with this year. I still squeal with delight when a client says they’ve really enjoyed my work, and better still, want to work with me again.

I still have a love hate relationship with social media, but doesn’t everyone? I’m in a better place with it than ever before, and factor in whole days where I completely switch off. Occasionally things get chaotic, but mostly I have finally achieved the elusive balance between work and family.

Huge thanks to you!

I’m exceptionally grateful to you lovely lot for reading my musings. Nothing brings me greater pleasure (outside my family) than being told my words have made a difference. As a little thank you, and to celebrate my blogversary, I’ve got a giveaway running over on Instagram. Be sure to enter for your chance to win an Amazon Fire tablet. Best of luck 🤞

~Giveaway time~ ♥️ We all need an ace card from time to time, and having the tablet for the kids to watch a bit of telly or a film has been mine on numerous occasions. To celebrate five years of Mummy Tries, I’m giving one lucky reader the chance to win the fabulous Amazon Fire 7. ♥️ All you need to do to enter is like @mummytries and like this post. Please also tag any friends who you think would be interested to let them know. If you fancy having a nose at the rest of my feed feel free to also dish out the 💕 (although it’s not a requirement for this comp you could enjoy what you find). ♥️ T’s & C’s: – winner will be chosen randomly on April 29th, my official blogversary. – the prize for this giveaway has been paid for by myself, and was not given to me by Amazon or another brand – UK entries only please – winner will be notified by DM and asked for details of where to send the prize, and also tagged at the start of this post ♥️ Best of luck!

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If I had a pound for every time I’ve shouted obscenities at misleading ingredients labels I’d have quite a lot of extra cash in my bank account!

I’ve been obsessed with ingredients labels since first cutting out refined sugars and processed carbs back in 2007. Like many, my major dietary changes came off the back of a medical diagnosis. In my case it was polycystic ovarian syndrome (or PCOS as it’s widely known). I was told at the time that I would not be able to conceive without fertility treatment, but changing what I ate led to three healthy, uncomplicated, natural pregnancies. Take a peek here and here for more details, and why I’m comfortable calling myself a member of the sugar police.

Had I not been so hell bent on turning my health around, perhaps I would never have wandered down the path I did when it came to food. I don’t see it as a bad thing though, quite the opposite. Eating this way before embarking on motherhood meant that I was more than confident when it came to feeding my family. Nowadays eating consciously and healthfully is not even something that takes up my head space, it’s second nature. Which is why I was so keen to join the Organix team, as a no junk blogger.

ingredients labels

Learning the hard way that I couldn’t trust the headlines with ingredients labels

When Polly (almost nine) was two and a half she was diagnosed with a long list of allergies, and I had to learn another language. Her worst offender was corn, especially corn syrup and we discovered that manufacturers use corn derived ingredients in many processed foods (often as a sweetener). I was shocked to find out that there are almost one hundred corn derived ingredients, which are given weird and wonderful names.

I’ve seen baked goods in the supermarket contain five different types of corn sugar. FIVE! It’s bonkers, and really sneaky. What this meant for us back then was that we had to be super careful about giving Polly any food that I hadn’t made myself.

I’m all for from-scratch home cooking, but lets be honest, us parents need our cheats. Especially for hangry toddlers. It became quickly apparent that there were a very small number of trustworthy snack brands that I could count on. Everything else had to be avoided at all costs, because it always contained corn derived ingredients. We even had to send her to birthday parties with a packed lunch, which was heartbreaking every time.

Thankfully Polly doesn’t suffer nearly as much these days, but she is still sensitive to certain foods (yes I’m still looking at you corn). The thing I love about Organix packaging is every ingredient is clearly labelled, along with the percentage of the ingredient it contains. You couldn’t get more transparency if you wanted it.

Ingredients labels

A few pointers when it comes to ingredients labels

First and foremost, don’t trust slogans such as “no sugar” or “natural”. These are marketing gimmicks, and reading the full label, especially for children’s food is essential.  

If it sounds as if it was made in a science lab, it more than likely was. Natural ingredients rarely have long, complicated and unpronounceable names.

Don’t be intimidated by ingredients labels, feel empowered by them. This is a great step to taking control of your eating.   

Always go for the products with the fewest ingredients on the label. Less is definitely more in this instance.

Organic food is kinder to the planet and our bodies, but I’m sure you know that already.

Proud to be an Organix No Junk Blogger  

Organix is increasingly concerned about the quality and quantity of unnecessary ingredients in some baby finger foods and toddler snacks, and thinks the massive explosion in the number of snacks available has come at a nutritional cost, as standards have slipped.

Therefore it’s launching a nationwide junk busting campaign, to investigate what’s hiding in some baby and toddler snack foods. Organix is working with Cherry Healey from the BBC show Inside the Factory, who is joining the Junk busting mission to investigate baby finger foods and toddler snacks.

Take a look at this short video clip for more tips from Cherry

**this is a sponsored post, for my full disclosure policy please click here**

Do you know how to help yourself when the going gets tough?

I don’t hide the fact that I’m having a hard time while I’m having it. Sharing my downs (as well as my ups) helps me get through them. I also get the odd piece of stellar advice that I might not have come across otherwise, because chances are I’m not the first or only person to be experiencing whatever it is that is causing me problems.

A very lovely lady commented on my Instagram recently that she found my openness really inspiring, because generally people are only comfortable with being so vulnerable after the hard time has passed. During the event we’re usually consumed by the trauma itself, along with the added complexity of wearing a mask so we can pretend that we’re okay. It adds up to overwhelm and burn out pretty damn quickly.

Just in case you need to hear these words today, here are some very effective ways to help yourself through life’s obstacle course…

Can we talk about the R word please? No not respite, although my fabulous husband took all three kids out today, so I did get some of that. The other r… Resilience! ♥️ People like to bandy the term around like it’s a good thing. Ooooh look at her they say, she’s so strong! So resilient! Always got a smile no matter what. I listened to a brilliant Ted talk the other day, about how putting on a brave face can actually do us more harm than good. I’m all for looking for the silver linings and being grateful but in the midst of a truly hard time it can be exceptionally difficult. ♥️ When life is relentlessly piling more shit on to your plate of steaming hot shit, the last thing you need is to be made to feel bad for not being as resilient as you once were. ♥️ The notion that anything can be solved by thinking positively and pretending we’re ok (when the opposite is true) is toxic and needs to change. If someone has honoured you with the title friend, earn it. Listen to them when they’re down. Offer your ear in an unconditional, unjudgemental way. Just be there, because it could make all the difference to them. ♥️ I’ve just spent the afternoon with one of my oldest friends. We ate delicious food, had a glass of vino and a damn good catch up. She said she didn’t know what to say to me, but the fact that she was there and she was listening says it all!

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on In the wise words of Oscar Wilde: “be yourself, everyone else is taken”

I made the decision long ago not to wear a mask. I am unapologetically me, and I absolutely refuse to be anyone else for anyone else. It means I’m 100% authentic, 100% of the time, which in theory is a great thing. It does have its downside though, and at points can feel like I’m a lone voice swimming against the tide. On my winning days, when I’ve had at least four hours sleep and am firing on all cylinders, I’m awesome at putting minor issues into perspective and not taking the knocks too personally. Dramas and drama llamas are water off this ducks back, and there is little that can beat me down.

On my darker days, where I feel lonely in a crowded room, it takes every ounce of my strength not to end up in the depths of despair. I start stewing on past failures and disagreements, and my thoughts can spiral downwards scarily fast. During these moments, alcohol and social media are not my friends. Both have the capacity to make my mood a hundred times worse, and I’ve learnt that it’s best to avoid them as much as I can. Yoga (if possible), deep breathing (if not) and video calls with a loved one are my medicine. Writing has also helped me massively. Getting raw emotions on paper/screen is a wonderful way of channeling the feelings and turning negatives into positives.

how to help yourselfKnow who your true friends are and do not doubt them. Ever.

They say that good friends are hard to find, tough to leave and impossible to forget. I feel beyond blessed to have had so many utterly incredible humans cross my path over the years. These days, with the children to consider, I’m exceptionally fussy about the people I allow into our lives. It would be madness to be estranged from my entire family yet fill our days with toxic influences. As blood isn’t always thicker than water, I consider my good friends to be my family. It pains me when I see my people in pain – I feel it deeply on their behalf. I might not be in a position to loan money, or look after more children (it’s good to acknowledge when our own hands are already full) but I can most definitely lend my ear.

I don’t judge, and I always try as best I can to remain open minded with what I’m being told. Practically I probably can’t do much more than pop over with a nice treat or be on the end of the phone, but I take pride in always being emotionally available for the people I love. Once I consider a person to be a good friend, they have to do something pretty awful for me to change my mind about them.

When the chips are properly down, it can be so tempting to completely shut the world out, but it’s rarely the right thing to do. (We all know what happened to Elsa when she followed this path.) Life is full of bumps and no-one ‘s journey is smooth running. It’s good to remember this.

It’s also vital to allow your friends to help you if they are in a position to do so. Last year, one of my neighbours knocked and said she’d been reading my blog and was concerned about me. She asked if she could take Polly with her on her school run once a week to give me a few hours breathing space. It might not seem like much, but it meant an awful lot and I hope to be able to return the favour to her in some way one day.

Steer as clear as you possibly can from other people’s squabbles  

Social media can be a wonderful tool. On a personal level it’s great for keeping in touch with faraway friends and family. On a business level it’s wonderful for spreading the word about worthy causes, fantastic products and fab services. On the not so bright side it can be a hot bed for petty arguments and vocalising ignorant opinions that folk might have just kept to themselves before the invention of Twitter.

It can be really easy to forget that everything on the internet is traceable and there forever. I am blown away by some of the dumb ass things people say, and share, and honestly don’t think they would be so free and easy with these beliefs if they were sitting in the pub having a chat with a group of mates. It feels like our world is becoming polarized, and how can it not when we live so much of our lives in online echo chambers? If there is something truly worth speaking up against then do it, otherwise help yourself by steering clear. You’ll thank yourself for it in the years to come.

Eat well, it really does make a difference  

I have been a huge advocate for eating to enhance wellness for over a decade now. My real food journey began with a PCOS diagnosis along with the news that I was (apparently) infertile. Eighteen months after coming away from refined sugars and processed carbs, and my eldest daughter was conceived by accident, then two more pregnancies within four years. I’m not a doctor or scientist, but I do believe that eating the right food has changed my life. I would urge anyone who is struggling to take a look at their diet to see where it can be cleaned up.

How can we be(come) a great parent?

It’s a well known fact that we learn from the examples we are set. That this is ingrained into us from the youngest of ages. That when all is said and done, we are essentially the products of our upbringing.

So how are we supposed to be(come) great parents when our own parents didn’t do a great job with raising us? If learnt behaviour shapes our entire lives, what about the less than desirable behaviour we learn while we’re growing up?

We need to unlearn it (and the sooner we start, the better)

Why? Because trying to conquer our own demons whilst raising a family is mind blowingly hard. So it’s best to get a head start on the things we know are going to cause us trouble. If we can bury those monsters before having kids, then fantastic. If we need a bit more help later down the line, then we have to be honest with ourselves and recognise it.

For those new around here, I’m the survivor of a seriously dysfunctional childhood. The biggest examples I was set during my formative years were the complete opposite of what it means to be a great parent.

There was very little, if any, consideration given to how a decision or consequences of certain behaviour would affect the kids. Things were done cack handedly and reactively. The adults never took stock of what was happening and thought maybe they shouldn’t continue leading the family into disaster after disaster.

It boggles my mind, really it does. My entire life revolves around trying to make decent decisions that have the best interests of the family at heart. Even so, I don’t get it all right. Far from it.

I screw up, often

Some days even doing everything “by the book” I’ll still eventually snap. Other days (yes, I’m looking at you PMT) I can’t not be snappy if I try. If I know I’ve been out of order however, I’ll always apologise to the children. It’s vital they see their grown ups admitting when they are in the wrong and saying sorry for their mistakes.

My kids are obsessed with LEGO and love all the movies. In the latest film the main character was abandoned by his father when he was a baby. Fortunately for him, his mother was a great parent. He learnt how to be a good person from her, but missed out on a whole host of other skills that he believes would have been passed down from his dad.

Lets put the fact that they’ve gone wildly down the gender stereotyping road to one side for a second. Watching this film for the six hundredth time last night I found myself getting emotional, and Polly asked why I looked like I was about to cry. So I answered her as honestly as I could.

“No-one taught me how to be a good person, I had to learn all by myself.”

I’m not saying that my family are evil paedos or murderers, because they’re not that bad, but don’t get me started on the term moral compass. Skewered doesn’t even come close! Their sense of right and wrong, and lack of taking responsibility was the main reason I decided to cut ties all those years ago.

There were so many things I had to learn without guidance 

Things that came naturally to so many of my friends just didn’t for me. This is why I’ll be eternally grateful for my early amazing influences. Two of my besties who I shared a house with when I was a teenager. Another ex-housemate come one time best friend who taught me more about kindness and tolerance than he’ll ever know. My wonderful husband who has always and continues to challenge me when I veer too far down a detrimental path.

The sad fact remains though, that no-one taught me not to be angry, defensive and indignant when I felt wronged as a child. I lived life until I was around eighteen years old in constant fight or flight mode. My cortisol levels are foobarred. My brain doesn’t instantly rationalise new situations, it goes into potential threat mode. I have to constantly ground myself. We’re talking multiple times, every single day. Just to keep myself afloat.

I’ve been agonising lately about trying to be a great parent in the face of all this

In my late twenties, fresh off the back of mental breakdown and rock bottom, I had it all sussed. I would simply be the most amazing wife, mama and friend that ever walked the planet. And it really was that simple to me. I’d already lost so much. All my family, some of my friends, almost lost my husband but thankfully not. I was reformed. I was at peace with myself for the first time ever.

Then I had three kids in four years. I haven’t had more than the odd full night of sleep for nearly a decade. Autism has entered our lives, and although it comes with many gifts, it also comes with serious additional challenges. It’s led us down the path of home educating, and most of the time it’s an incredible thing. It also means that respite is in very short supply though, and the lack of respite can trigger off stress on various levels.

I do all the right things. I eat well, do yoga, live a conscious and natural lifestyle. I don’t drive a car, because it’s one of the most eco things we can do. I buy all our clothes second hand for the eco aspect. I currently have a Himalayan salt lamp glowing next to an essential oil diffuser burning organic lavender. Not because I’m being paid to do so, because I truly believe it can help us relax and heal whatever is troubling our minds. I want to be able to look at this time and know that I was a great parent.

I try so damn hard, but what if I wake up one day and realise that my best wasn’t enough?

fantastic servicesFantastic Services have once again been a godsend for my family

You may have noticed that it’s been a little quiet around here, and not without good reason. We are gearing up for our first house move in seven years. Since last moving we’ve had two more children and acquired a whole lot of stuff. Packing up and getting ready for the big day tomorrow has been no small job, but thankfully the awesome team at Fantastic Services have been helping us every step of the way.

As always the customer experience from the very start has been impeccable. We had an assessment to work out exactly what needed to be done and once that was agreed our boxes and packing paraphernalia was delivered. We opted to pack our own belongings, largely because the girls were desperate to help, but Fantastic offer a packing service for those wanting to reduce the hassle of moving even further. In fact they offer just about anything and everything you can imagine when it comes to moving house. Take a look at the moving page on their website for more details.

The next step for us will be tomorrow morning, when Fantastic turn up to move all the boxes, as well as take our furniture apart and reassemble it at the new house. They shall also be carrying out our end of tenancy deep clean, for this dear readers is mine and hubby’s first step onto the property ladder. At 38 and 39 (and living in London) we’d all but given up hope to be honest, but more on that another time.

Head to Instagram, for the chance to win £50 towards a service of your own. Stay tuned to my InstaStories over the next couple of days for updates and live moving action.

Current status: half packed, half freaking out over the rest of the packing. Thank goodness for @fantasticservices who are not only moving us and have supplied our packing materials, but will also be doing our thorough end of tenancy deep clean before we hand the keys back to our landlord. ♥️ I’ve had the pleasure of working with Fantastic! for over two years now, and genuinely can’t recommend them highly enough. They take care of anything and everything you could possibly imagine. Cleaning, clearing, gardening, odd jobs, electrical work, pest control… you name it, they’ve got it covered. ♥️ To say thank you to Fantastic! for all their help this side of our move, I’m hosting a giveaway for a lucky reader to win a £50 voucher to use towards a Fantastic! service. ♥️ To enter: – follow @mummytries and @fantasticservices – like this post and tag all your friends who’d love to win this fab prize – feel free to also have a look here and on Fantastic’s feed (likes always welcome), but it’s not a requirement for this comp ♥️ Terms & conditions: – you must be based within the M25 to be eligible for Fantastic! Anyone can enter, but the service must be carried out within the M25 – no cash alternative – you must be following @mummytries and @fantasticservices at the time of the draw, if you’ve followed and unfollowed you’ll be disqualified – voucher not valid for Christmas trees or services during the month of December – prize will be drawn on Sunday 21st April and the winner will be tagged here snd sent a DM asking for their details ♥️ Best of luck!!! AD

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on Now I have a real treat for you! Grab a cuppa and learn all about how Fantastic Services came to be from my interview with CEO Rune Sovndahl

Is there an inspirational story behind Fantastic Services?

It all started almost 9 years ago when I met my business partner Anton Skarlatov at a party. A wine stain on my cream carpet was our occasion to start talking about a possible business opportunity for both of us. We created the brand Fantastic Services as a solution to a problem. We wanted to deliver high quality services and to establish a trust-worthy domestic and office maintenance company in the UK. This is how it all began.

As a child I had the dream to create a business that would be helpful to the community. I wanted to present a product or service to the world that would be useful, innovative and at the same time make people feel great about using this company. So I started considering how I would operate it, make it stand out, and let it become people’s first choice.

What is most important to you about being a business owner?

I`m not afraid to get my hands dirty and get directly involved in the hard work that turns you into a successful professional. Furthermore, I choose carefully the people I work with in order to achieve a great level of productivity. I never ever consider giving up as an option and try to lead by example.

Do you have any funny anecdotes from the early days?

The list is endless. The process of creating Fantastic Services has been a great deal of fun, together with all the hard work. However, I’d like to share a particularly lovely story from the early days that never gets old.

Once we had a call from a client who wanted us to look after her pet snail. It turned out, the creature was a racing snail and the family was going on a holiday, so there was no one to take care of it while they were supposed to be away. Most companies would reject such highly responsible and quite unusual request, however we were happy to help and had the snail hang out in our office, making sure we took good care of it. People that would visit the office thought we’d lost our minds. This experience was both heartwarming and funny and we often recall it with a smile.

Where do you see the business going in five years’ time?

Fantastic Services already operates in the UK, Australia and the USA. But we’re not stopping there. What I would do is invest in expanding our business further and offer our Fantastic services to even more households across Europe and around the world. I’d like our “360 Degrees Happiness Philosophy” to become well known among a bigger audience, because that’s what it’s all about – delivering the best experience possible to everyone that is part of the Fantastic family (clients, professionals, partners, office staff, management). As for me – I would do my best to become a better leader, an inspirational leader that would empower our Fantastic team, and let them find and share their voice and passion.

fantastic servicesDo you have any words of wisdom for would-be entrepreneurs?

With my experience in various fields, I had built a strong network of specialists and that was crucial for raising a successful company. It is important to connect with people on a deeper level. For example, be honest and share what you are passionate about. Always be ready to offer your professional help within your field. Personally, I`m not afraid to ask for help and advice when in doubt. It’s good to learn from experienced professionals in order to become one.

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**Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Fantastic Services, and this is a collaborative piece. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.**