Friday, 27 February 2015

CBeebies, I miss you...

One thing became apparent during last week's half term and that was that the children's television I have come to know and love over the past 14 years has well and truly gone from our home.

Even my five year old twins would rather stream Adventure Time on Netflix or watch the interminable Stampy Longnose on YouTube (seriously, doesn't he have the most annoying voice ever?) rather than watch CBeebies these days.

The thing is, I really miss it - CBeebies that is.

It isn't because of the educational benefits that the programmes might have (well maybe a bit) but because I have watched almost continuously with each of my children in turn since CBeebies first aired in 2002 and it has become a bit like a friend to me.

Thinking about it CBeebies presenters have kind of been like my office co-workers over the years (if by office, you mean once beautiful home, now wrecked by a constant stream of babies and toddlers over a 14 year period), and rather like working in an office with other adults I became used to doing certain things during my CBeebies watching day.

You know the sort of thing, checking out what the presenters are wearing.  Are they on trend?  Does it suit them?  I wonder where the wardrobe department bought that top from?  Could I get away with wearing that?  I like her shoes...

Appraising their performances - tbh nobody will ever be as good as Chris and Pui were, nobody.

Ogling the ever-fanciable Mr Bloom (who is the Diet Coke break man of CBeebies, let's be honest) or maybe, going back a few years now, the rather lovely Chris Corcoran from Doodle Do *sigh*

And, let's not forget

Where else does a television channel tell you when it is lunch time FGS?

But, the thing I loved most about watching CBeebies is the fact that no matter how hard a day I was having as a parent, there were CBeebies parents on my TV that were far worse/more irritating/had more annoying children than me.  And I took great pleasure from berating them from the comfort of my sofa for this.

Here are some of the worst offenders.

Mrs Pontipine

Binoculars - the most useful parenting tool

Ok, so she has eight children, 'nuff respect, but how does she parent them?  With the use of a pair of binoculars, that's how.  They climb things and they get lost but she is not bothered by this.  Just whips out her binoculars to locate them and somehow they return (this would never happen if she went to a National Trust property on a Bank Holiday weekend, that's for sure).  Added to that they all share a bedroom and nobody complains?  How can this be?  Incidentally, how do clothes peg people give birth even?   Frankly, the chaotic antics of the Pontipines give large families a bad name.  It's a wonder social services haven't been called.

Topsy and Tim's Mum

Just sort out the laundry!

Dear God.  She's very smiley and everything is "twintastic!" (Although if you hear me ever say that then please don't hesitate to punch/slap/throttle me). She is in fact possibly the happiest twin mother I have ever seen, or maybe she just takes some really great drugs, we'll never know.  She is exceptionally nauseating either way.  Aside from that she does need to sort out her washing a bit better.  All those clothes airers full of laundry are really annoying.  She should buy herself a tumble drier instead of the drugs.

Mike the Knight's Mum

Keep an eye on your son!

She seems to have spawned the world's most annoying child.  She doesn't appear to be concerned by this.  If he was my son, I'd lock him up or send him to a young offenders institute where he could learn to be less of an entitled little brat.

While we're on the subject, why is he called Mike the Knight?  He is not a knight, he is just a trainee, it even says so in the theme tune.  He should therefore just be Mike, or Mike the Squire maybe?

The Parents in Me Too

People with responsible jobs - but they can't remember the way to work?

Just where do I begin with this?

For a start there is a whole sequence based on the fact that nobody knows which way to go to get to work - are they really that stupid? These are supposed to be grown ups, in charge of small children.  Why can't they remember how to get to work?  It's a miracle their children even make it to the child minder every day.  Then they leave them all day with that woman, who I don't think is even a granny...

And, Bobby the bus cleaner in particular (although I LOVE her song*), how the hell does she afford a child minder at night?  She must be fiddling the system somehow - the DWP will be on to her for sure.

The whole programme is full of inconsistencies come to think of it.  Mickey John the Headteacher who can't manage a simple painting by numbers, Dr Juno who only makes beds and can't run an A&E department (although, I'm assuming NHS so maybe quite accurate), the list goes on and on...

What I always thought Cbeebies really needed was a bit of realism to make us all feel a bit better about the tough job of looking after children (because we all know that CBeebies isn't just for the kids, right?).

Tree Fu Tom's mum should be standing at the bottom of the garden yelling for him to come and do his homework (we've all been there), Grandpa in my Pocket should occasionally use his shrinking cap to sneak down to the pub for a quick pint (he looks like he could use one), and the parents of the children at Balamory nursery should stand outside the school gate gossiping about that Hoolie woman and PC Plum of a morning (I think they are letting the side down a bit tbh).

Had this happened I could have sympathised with them a bit more, but then I would never have enjoyed criticising it as much I suppose.

The halcyon days of CBeebies watching are over for me.  The presenter less channels of CITV and POP just aren't the same.

Sure, I used to think that most of the programmes were really irritating, but secretly I loved to hate them.  I needed them to get through the otherwise boring day of looking after small people.

Kind of like office gossip really.

CBeebies I miss you...

*  and totally used to sing it as I was cleaning the kitchen sometimes - so cheery.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

No holiday is perfect...

I'm sorry I've been absent from my blog for the past week or so.  Aside from the abyss known as half-term I have actually been too busy to blog (imagine that!)  and so I thought that I'd ease myself back in to the swing of things by linking up again with Em at BrummyMummyof2 and #WickedWednesdays.

So, as I say, half-term happened last week and while I was trying to sort out a guest post I'd agreed to write, while simultaneously trying to stop five children from killing each other, I came across the following photograph from a long forgotten family holiday back when I was a mother of only two children (ahh, halcyon days).

I don't know what happened here, I mean look at the background.  It's sunny and we appear to be at a rather nice castle on Anglesey, so why the grumpy expression I do not know (I think we may have asked him to smile for the photo - some things never change, he's now 14 and never smiles).

It just goes to prove, you can have all the ingredients for a nice holiday in place and yet, sometimes you just can't please everyone, no matter how hard you try...


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Being a mum of girls - I'm just not cut out for this!

I am a mum of three boys and two girls, as some of you might already know.

Now, being a mum of boys is quite straightforward, as it turns out and I think I'm OK at it.  Boys are fairly low maintenance.  I don't mean that to sound dismissive, it's just that in my experience at least, my boys' needs are easy to address.

But my girls?  There are things about my girls that are a bit different, a bit trickier.  In fact, there is one thing that has always evaded me completely about them... they have all that... hair...

What on earth am I supposed to do with it all?  I don't have a clue!  I never did own a Girls' World styling head as a child and now I know that was obviously my first mistake in future parenthood.

I feel a bit sorry for my girls.  They want fancy hair and hair styling just isn't in my DNA.

I can manage a pony tail as long as I don't need to twist the bobble around more than three times (otherwise it gets twisted round my thumb and cuts off my circulation - is there a way around this I wonder?) and sometimes I can do a fairly OK plait but I am no good at all the fancy stuff, the sort of stuff that makes little girls look pretty.  The sort of stuff that makes people say, "aww, how sweet".  Buns and fishtails are a mystery to me (I have tried using YouTube tutorials to teach me).  Just give me a pair of clippers and it's like an extension of my own hand.  Boys hair is easy peasy to do.  Girls hair is hard.

Epic Fishtail Fail

To give you an example, my eldest daughter was in a fashion show at school last year and one of the sixth formers curled her hair (with straighteners apparently - unsurprisingly I did not know you could do that!) and did her make up.  She looked so pretty and was so pleased that she asked me if I could replicate it at home, but could I?  Could I heck.  I nodded in agreement as she explained how her hair had been done but really I was thinking "Whaaaattt?"  Surely I should know all this stuff?

Where is the hair styling boot camp?  Forget nappy changing and parentcraft, somebody should have definitely offered me the styling boot camp after my 20 week scan - I'd have totally gone for that.

Also, hair accessories and ribbons?  Not good at that either.

I see people with their little girls at the school gate, dressed with pretty ribbons in their hair that actually match their school uniforms.  They look so nice.  Why did I not know about this before?  It's like I've missed not just one but an entire raft of memos on the subject.  It has never even occurred to me that I might need to buy or use this sort of thing.

But, I suppose it's not all bad news.  

I don't spend ages every morning before the school run combing and plaiting, or loads of money on styling products and accessories.  

Actually that's not entirely true.  DD1 once told me she needed some sort of particular hair band and so I stood in Boots for 20 minutes staring blindly at all the hair stuff, picked up something (finally), paid and left.  It was the wrong thing.

I am crap.

My girls don't really seem to mind.  It is probably more my problem than theirs to be honest.

I'll just have to accept that while I may be able to manage a home, a family and all that comes with it I'll never manage to produce an even pair of bunches.

It's OK.  Honestly.

Now, does anybody happen to have a Girls' World they aren't using?  I think I might need some practice...

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Couch to 5k Week 3 - Elastica makes me run fast-ica?

I've now completed week 3 of Couch to 5k, which means that I'm a third of the way through the programme!  I'm going to keep this post brief because apparently I'm becoming a running bore according to DH.

Sorry also about the lame title to this post but this week I've been experimenting with the music I've been listening to as I run.  Over the previous weeks I've downloaded playlists from Blinkbox Music to listen to, which works pretty well on the whole and saves me a bit of time creating my own in iTunes.  The only downside I've so far found to this is that a lot of the playlists created specifically to exercise to are quite loud and dancey in nature which has a couple of effects on me.  The first is that I end up doing that bouncy sort of running along to the song which exhausts me, and the second is that it becomes really irritating after about the third or fourth track and then I resent running along to it - clearly I'm getting old...

So, I decided to listen to my trusty Britpop playlist this past week.  I realise that this music is now 20 years old so essentially I've just turned into my parents, but as I enjoy listening to it so much it seems to really help me to keep focused on running properly.

Having said that the actual running wasn't too taxing this week.  Just two 90 second runs and two three minute runs per session.  I had kind of expected more.

I had my brand new Fat Face fitness clothes to wear too (If you haven't read it yet then my post on those is here) which I was really looking forward to using and which I wasn't disappointed with. Unfortunately my new running shoes were still in transit, only appearing half a hour after returning from my final run for that week, typical!

Beautiful new instruments of torture

All in all its been a very good week which has flown by too quickly.  I have to admit that I'm feeling a bit apprehensive about next week with the C25K app promising five and three minute runs and a total of 16 minutes running per session - can I really do that?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

It's not fair!

It's been a while since I joined in with #WickedWednesdays over at BrummyMummyof2 but my children have been a bit sensible boring of late.

That was until Friday afternoon.

If you read yesterday's post you'll be aware of last week's visit by the Reception class toy who came home with DS3.

I touched briefly on how upset DD2 was as they were not jointly chosen to look after him (don't ask me how the teacher could have made it fair, I really don't know myself).

So, as I know that Em really likes a good tantrum shot I decided to snap the aftermath.  Taken at the point when DS3 announced that he did not intend to share Elvis (the toy).

It's a good job you can't hear the noise that was coming out of her mouth really, but I particularly like the flapping arms and the fact that she is so engrossed in the tantrum process that she could not be bothered to take her coat or scooter helmet off first.

The tantrum did get quite violent (indeed everyone else had moved well out of the way in fear of their own safety). Still, at least she had a crash helmet on I suppose...


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Elvis's Visit - The Uncut Version

If you follow me on Instagram then you might have noticed that this weekend we had the honour of a visit from the class fleabag mascot (usually a bear but in this case a sort of poundland Cookie Monster creature).  His name is Elvis.

Money cannot buy the boy's happiness here
(but a manky soft toy can)

I am no stranger to this kind of thing, having had three children go through infant school already, so you may think that I was prepared, but no.

In fact, I'm a little fed up of the whole class bear scenario. There seems to be more work for me than the boy.  Taking photos, printing them (oh, that's another thing, the printer has run out of ink so Elvis's visit has so far cost me £42 in new ink cartridges - £42!!  You can only assume that they make them out of actual rainbows or something), finding fun things for DS3 to do with Elvis etc.  The pressure is immense.

In addition to that as I have twins, I have not one but two visits to plan, because this was DS3's turn and DD2 will have her turn another weekend.  You can imagine how that has gone down with her - she has been incandescent with rage - she was not allowed to play with or touch Elvis as her twin wouldn't let her.  I felt rather like a peacekeeper for the United Nations for most of Elvis's visit. I know that as a parent of twins it is up to me to manage this but still, someone might have warned me first.

DD1 exclaimed "get that thing away from me, it's probably got fleas" as soon as she saw it.  DH gave a withering look. As you can tell the whole family had nothing but contempt for this godforsaken object.

And all I wanted to do was...


so that I could properly sanitise it. It is most likely the culprit for the spread of about 80% of the recent bugs and viruses in that class.  The only thing that stopped me was that if I did and it fell apart in my washing machine, I would crush the spirits of 31 small children.  Bollocks.

And so, instead I decided to vent my frustrations on Elvis himself. 

I am sure there are many parents of primary school aged children who feel or have felt this way in the past.

So, this is for you, the mums (and dads) who do the majority of the work while your children have all the fun.

What really happened when the class mascot came to stay...

It was all going so well at the start. Elvis appeared to be the perfect house guest.

He and DS3 played together.

Just look at the love in the boy's eyes here

They slept together (which reminds me, I must strip and wash his bed today).

And then I decided that Elvis has had his fair share of visits to birthday parties, bedtime stories and many many trips to Aldi over the course of the last half term and so he might like to go and watch Manchester City play at the Etihad on Saturday.  He couldn't go and see United as they were playing away this weekend and tbh Elvis is more of a blue than a red...

Elvis joins the crowds outside the stadium on Saturday

I then thought that with all the Chicken Dippers and Spaghetti Hoops he'd been fed at other people's houses (of which there was plenty of evidence in his diary) he'd probably welcome a change and so I sent him to one of the best restaurants in town.

More dippers or a 10 course tasting menu at Rogan's gaff?  I know which I'd prefer 

And later, on to check out some of the nightlife in the city centre too...

That was where things started to go downhill (I knew he'd be trouble, ask any parent who has had to host a class toy over the weekend and I'm sure they'll tell you the same).

Actually, I have no words...

After that there was no stopping him.  Not only did he gamble away DS3's pocket money...

But when he rolled home to our house in the small hours, he proceeded to drink all my gin...

Yeh, I know, cheap gin but we're still recovering from Christmas...

The following day, when DS3 wanted to play, Elvis was looking decidedly worse for wear.

Again, the boy and the look on his face!

I was rather glad when Monday morning came round and Elvis finally left the building.

No toys were harmed during the writing of this blog post. Oh, but Mrs H if you are reading this then can Elvis have a wash before he comes back to ours next time? If not then next time I'll have to take matters into my own hands, and should the pupils get washed off his eyeballs during the 90 degree hot cycle then my husband says he will draw in some slightly horrifying versions in their place.  You have been warned.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

New Fitness Wear from the Fat Face Activ88 Range

If you've been following my blog regularly you will know that I recently embarked on the Couch to 5K programme.  After starting out quite enthusiastically I decided that in order to maintain this I needed some lovely new fitness wear.

I can count on one hand the amount of times I've been into a sportswear shop in the past year - it is not my usual sort of hangout and so I barely knew where to begin.

I looked at budget supermarket ranges, sports shop ranges, and regular clothes shop ranges (even M&S and Boden do them now).  There is so much choice out there that I found it overwhelming in fact.

Having been a long-standing customer of Fat Face for some time, I noticed one day in the plethora of emails in my inbox that they had sent me an email advertising their new fitness range - Activ88.

This looked like just the sort of thing I was looking for - sporty but with a feminine twist, and because I had already been wearing Fat Face clothes to exercise in I knew that the quality would be excellent (my original trousers and top are seven years old and still look as good as new) and they would be comfortable and fit me too.

But what to choose?

Their range is not vast like some other manufacturers and so I found it easy to navigate the Activewear part of the Fat Face website and find something suitable for me.

As it is still chilly here in Cheshire (minus 2 yesterday!) I wanted an outfit that would take me through to the end of March when I hope to be completing C25K.  I also wanted something that not only covered me up but was more breathable than the cotton fabric of my current outfit (which admittedly is probably more suited to yoga and lounging about on a Sunday morning than serious exercise).

Eventually after coveting almost everything on their website,  I chose the Activ88 Overhead Hoody in black and a pair of Moonlight Garden Flare Trousers.

What I love about the Activ88 range is that the clothing is made from breathable fabric that is not only lightweight but thin enough not to impede your running ability.

My first outing wearing my new clothing was somewhat easier than my previous runs had been.  Maybe it was because I am actually getting slightly better at this now but I like to think that the clothes actually helped!

Stylewise I'm very pleased with my choices.  Initially I wasn't sure about the top as it had stitching in a bright yellow colour but it has actually really grown on me and I would consider buying other pieces with similar colours - there is a lovely vest top in the same colour which I have my eye on for the summer when it is warmer, maybe as another reward for myself if I manage to keep all this up.  It even matches my sports bra too (not that anyone can see, but I feel more co-ordinated which is all that counts).

Little details - bright yellow trim and a thumb hole on the sleeve

Mesh side panels for breathability

Matches my M&S sports bra - very co-ordinated!

The trousers are also really great, less flappy then my yoga trousers and have flat stitching which doesn't irritate me when moving.  The waistband is also very pretty, you can't see it close up on the website but the pattern gives a nice feminine touch to what is otherwise a pair of black exercise trousers.  I also like the small pocket in the back of the waistband which could be used for a door key.

Pretty patterned waistband

Key pocket inside the waistband

After my run, which was noticeably less hot and sweaty than usual, I gave my new gear a quick wash ready for next time.  They are machine washable and also tumble dryer friendly but I hung mine overnight on a clothes airer and they were ready again for the next day - also because of the type of fabric they are made from I didn't need to iron them which is always a bonus in my book!

Having a new outfit that is more suited to the type of exercise I'm now doing has not only made me feel better prepared but actually makes me want to get out there and run all the more.  I'd definitely recommend it!

This is a collaborative feature, all words and opinions are our own.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Couch to 5k Week 2 - Running equals Gin points

Hello!  Remember me, the woman who is currently making a total fool of herself by running around her local neighbourhood like a hot, sweaty, unfit mess?

Post run, hot sweaty mess - yep, that's me

Yes, that's me, and now I have Week 2 of Couch to 5k behind my sizeable derrière under my belt.  Hooray!

I'll tell you how that went in a minute.

Firstly, I wanted to talk a little bit about how I've been rewarding myself for this immensely important milestone in my running journey.

You know how I talked about my trainers with graters in the heels last week?  Thanks to everyone who gave me advice by the way - very useful.  Well, I decided that this was quite an important area to address if I was to continue on this path (or indeed pavement) to fitness and so for most of the past week I have been researching new footwear.  Apparently I'm an overpronator which in other words means I've got flat feet.  This is not good for running if what I've read is true and has led me to spend what feels like hours over deciding which running shoes to buy.  Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Asics - which is best?  What type of midsole?  Do I need gel cushioning?  Why are they all in such hideous colours?  Will I ever be able to chose the right thing? I have no idea!  

So, going off the reviews on Amazon I decided to go for a nice entry level pair of Asics in white (with a hint of pink). They have a list of features, none of which mean very much to me but they do have that all important arch support and came in at less than £30.  Bargain.

In addition to those I then went ahead and bought myself a sports bra too (thanks M&S 20% off).

These are little things but ones that hopefully will not only keep me comfortable but also spur me on a little bit.

Of course my running outfit then needed a bit of a spruce up and I have had my eye on some of the new Fat Face activewear for quite some time... In fact, I am going to be devoting a whole other blog post to that later this week, so do check that out, because it's fab!

Right, so on to the running then.

As I mentioned last week, I have been attempting to use Map My Run to track each session and tell me not only how far I have run but also how fast.

Unfortunately the whole thing has been a bit hit and miss.  It worked fabulously the first time I used it and then?  I launched all my apps (C25K, Blinkbox Music, Map My Run) for the second time and by the end of the run Map My Run had helpfully decided that I hadn't actually been anywhere and had in fact been standing by my front door for a full thirty minutes.

It seems to work sometimes provided that I launch the apps in the right order, although I then get a conflict with the sound levels on Blinkbox Music which needs to be turned up so that I can hear it over the C25K app.  Then as soon as Map My Run kicks in to tell me my time and distance (or if anyone texts or tweets me) I get deafened by music.  Anyone got any ideas on how to stop this?

Aside from all that the great thing about Map My Run is that not only does it keep a map of your route and times but it also gives you an idea of calories burned. At the moment, over three runs I am burning close to 1000 calories which is not lots but roughly equates to six and a half double gin and tonics!  Or gin points as they will now be called (finally, she gets round to the point of the title for this post).  Not that I'm trying to encourage anyone to drink nearly half a bottle of gin in one go or anything, but it gives you something to compare it to.

I digress.

I still haven't actually talked about the running have I?  Best do that next then.

Run one - to say I was dreading this was an understatement.  How could I get through anything harder than last week?  Then I looked at my app.  Just 90 seconds of running and two minutes walking.  I could do that.  Actually it wasn't too bad at all.

Run two - went great initially.  It was also my first weekend run and so I was quite self conscious of all the people who were about that weren't usually. Somehow, thinking about this and stupid Map My Run playing up again made me lose my place and I ended up running when I should have walked and vice versa.  This meant that I pushed myself a bit too much and paid for it with achy knees the following day.

Run three - was tiring.  I think the aching knees and the fact that I'd not had time for breakfast didn't help.  I also changed my route slightly and had to go round the block and through the shopping centre (past my hairdressers - god I hope he didn't see) on my way home.  The good thing is that despite it being a busy day that day I thought "oh, I'll just fit in my run" and then went and got my gear on rather than thinking "oh, shall I run or not". So it is getting easier to think of myself as a person who does running at least.

Things I've learnt this week

Eat breakfast - blimey woman, if you are going to post advice on the Internet, at least make sure you follow it, won't you?

Running = Guilt free gin - oh yes!  (kidding - please drink responsibly folks)

Don't push yourself - simply not worth it. The calories and distance don't mean anything if you have to suffer aches and pains the following day.  

Shopping for running shoes is nearly as good as shopping for handbags - Having some lovely new fitness gear is making me feel quite motivated at the moment!

There you have it - Week 2 done and dusted.  Please look out for week three next week (provided I'm not under a foot of snow that is) and if you are joining in or would just like to shake some virtual pom-poms at me then please do leave a comment.  Thank you!
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