Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Wicked Wednesdays

Yet more trials and tribulations from the school gate this week.

I snapped this on the way to school one morning while thinking to myself - which is bigger, the boy or the bag?

Apologies for the crap picture quality.  It looked much better on my phone...


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Wicked Wednesdays

A post about family mealtimes you say?

Oh yes, a few snaps of the kids enjoying an evening meal.  What could possibly go wrong?

The Teen.  That's what.

Yes, thanks for that DS1.  How very helpful of you.

Sometimes I really do wonder which one of them is the most emotionally mature.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A break from the old routine

One of the main parts of the day where I find a routine is crucial is mealtimes.  With five children I find it really hard to produce a meal every day that will please all of them.  This together with the additional stress of making something quickly and having all of the ingredients to hand is a bit of a challenge and usually has me tearing my hair out!

So, since school has started again we've started to meal plan.  I've planned in the past but because of the sheer volume of food required to feed seven people all week and the fact that we quite often change our minds I have tended to split the weekly shop into several small shops.  This isn't ideal because it means that poor DH is always at the shops (or that's what it feels like at least).

But these past few weeks have been better.

Better because I've started to use my freezer a bit more - not only to freeze things that we haven't used so that I can save them for another day, but for meals that I have bought from the frozen section in the supermarket.

It has completely changed the way we tackle evening mealtimes for the children.

That's why I was really pleased when I spotted the Britmums #Afterschoolchefs Challenge, not only because I was sent some vouchers to spend on Birds Eye frozen food but also because I knew that there would be five very happy people at the dinner table that week (six if you count DH, who is rather partial to a Chicken Dipper or two!).

Here is our haul from the supermarket.

When I got it home I planned the meals around what I had bought.  This is what our meal plan looked like in my meal planning book for last week - its just an exercise book, nothing special, but I find it handy to write down what we are having - I can refer back to previous weeks if some of them have worked out well (and cheaply!) too.

I found that the Birds Eye website had lots of recipes and suggestions for serving their food and so I incorporated a couple into the meal plan in addition to a couple of crowd pleasing meals that we cook on a more regular basis already.

The kids were thrilled!

On Monday we had a family favourite - wraps made with Southern Fried Chicken Grills, cut into strips and served with a choice of salad and dressing.  I love this because there is very little effort involved on my part and the children have a degree of control over which things go in their wrap.  I put out shredded lettuce, cucumber, tomato, mayonnaise, burger relish, sweet chilli relish, tomato sauce and anything else I can find!  I serve each wrap with more salad on the side and in this case a handful of curly fries, although some homemade coleslaw would be good too!

A family favourite

Later on in the week we had an after school club for DS2 and so I found myself reaching into the freezer for some chicken pies and veg.  I loved the ziplock bag that the veg came in because it meant that I could lay it flat in my very full freezer and that way it took up less space (and I didn't end up with loose mixed vegetables all over the bottom of the freezer drawer).

Stuffed freezer, no spillages!

The pies were quick and easy to cook and I whipped up some mashed potatoes to go alongside them and the veg.  We had clean plates again that night!

We also enjoyed burgers in buns, with yet more salad and relish and served with homemade potato wedges.  The kids were supposed to help me make these but because I had so much time on my hands  due to the fact that the burgers needed only putting on a tray in the oven, they left me to it - charming!

Last but not least, the meal that my boys chose from the Birds Eye website - Chicken Dippers Pasta Bake, which went down a storm!  They have requested Dippers with cheese on again please!  It made a nice change from our habit of serving Dippers with oven chips or waffles.  It was such an easy thing to make - I made my own tomato sauce to stir in to the pasta too.

Chicken Dippers Pasta Bake (with homemade flapjack for afters)

All in all our mealtimes are so much more organised these days.  The added advantage of having some quick to prepare meals stashed in the freezer really help us to stay on top of the onerous task of feeding five children - thank you Birds Eye!

This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye.  Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook page here.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Word of the Week

When I started to think about Word of the Week this week I found that with all the new changes afoot in the past month my Word of the Week had to be

This week has been full of questions.

On Saturday I had the following conversation with DS3 (4)

DS3:  Am I going to school today?
Me:  No, today is Saturday, the weekend.  You don't have to go to school at the weekend.
DS3:  Is tomorrow the weekend too?
Me:  Yes, and then you go back to school on Monday.
DS3:  (punches fist in the air) YESSSSS!!!!

As you can see, he's really settled in and loves going to school - I'm lucky if I get a goodbye kiss these days...

Other questions raised now that we are well in to the swing of the new term - "Have you done your homework?"  Said often to DS1 (although if you read earlier in the week you'll have seen how I've managed to get around that).  Also the quite predictable "What are you going to do with yourself now?", which is being asked of me with increasing regularity at the school gate.  The answer?  Well, watch this space - I think it might need a blog post of its very own sometime.

By the middle of the week DD1 had brought home a letter about the HPV vaccine so I found myself asking "Should she have the vaccination?".  I really need to make a decision.  I'm sure that she should but will feel a bit better about it once I've read up on it first.

Then on Wednesday morning I got a call from the Primary School.  DS3 had fallen over and badly hurt himself.  Could I come and pick him up?  He was fine by the way, but the rather impressive lump on his head was a bit of a shock!  Back to school he went the following day, almost as if nothing had happened.

My very own Mr Bump!

There have been lots of other questions this week too - DS2 wanted to know if I had signed his permission slip for taking a musical instrument home from school. You can read Wednesday's post to find out how that went!

My mum asked if I would go for shopping and lunch with her on Tuesday.  The answer to that is always a yes!  It was so good to get out for the day and do something without the children for a change - we had a fab time.

And the final question from my tribe of five as we close the week, as always, "What's for dinner?????"

Arrrghhh!!  Honestly?  Is it ever anything else?

Click on the badge below to see who else is linked up with The Reading Residence and Word of the Week this week.

The Reading Residence

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Twizzles - The coolest and most hair raising doll on the market! Review

Its been a while since we were sent any toys to review here so when we were given the opportunity to take a look at the new Twizzles made by Zuru we were only too delighted.

Twizzles are cute little characters with crazy hair and come with accessories for styling them and changing their look.

I'm not really into the whole boy toy, girl toy thing but when ours arrived my two girls immediately took it off to play with, and the boys?  Well, they weren't really that interested to be honest.

The toy itself (a little dog called Peach) is about 4 inches tall and has tufts of hair and little bow and jewel type accessories which can be swapped around and put into the holes in its head.  There weren't any real instructions on the box other than to press the head down, pull the tail and watch it spin.  With a bit of trial and error we eventually managed to get the head locked down and with a flick of Peach's tail her head span around making the wisps of hair on her head go all crazy and funny looking!  DD2 was particularly impressed and wanted to do this over and over again!

Although we don't usually go for typically girly pink toys often (unless you count the My Little Ponies that are breeding under the bed!) she really enjoyed this one mainly because of the styling aspect.  The other thing she liked was that it came with a cute little cupcake which Peach's head followed around and around (due to a magnet inside I think).

As a stand alone toy it held her interest for quite a while but I imagine if we were to add some more Twizzles to our collection then DD2 could spend hours swapping all the different types of hair and accessories around and create even more fabulous styles!

This toy now has pride of place next to her bed at night.  Praise indeed!

I think that it would make a great little gift for taking to a birthday party or even as a stocking filler for any child who enjoys styling or collectable toys.

Twizzles are suitable for children aged 3 and up and come in six designs - Berry, Cherry, Cinnamon, Caramel, Sprinkles and Peach.  Their RRP is £9.99 each.  They are available from all good stockists including Argos, Asda, Smyths, The Entertainer, ToysRUs and Tesco.

You can find out more about Twizzles and watch their official trailer here.

We were kindly sent a Twizzles Peach toy for the purpose of this review.  All words and opinions are our own.

Family Fever

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Wicked Wednesdays

There were a couple of contenders for this week's Wicked Wednesdays (aren't there always?!), but this was a particularly last minute effort - hence the poor picture quality as I snapped it this morning with my iPad. It was 8.00 am. Yes that's right, I said AM.  He was so excited at getting his school musical instrument yesterday and couldn't wait to show us his new skillz.

The twins looked on in amazement and awe at the shiny trumpet.  Me, less so.

For the love of God, what have I let myself in for?

DD2 maintains that it sounds just like a fart...


Monday, 15 September 2014

Dear Teen Son...


Following the recent ballot by myself and your father (hereafter known as the Parents Union) a unanimous vote has been reached to carry out strike action in regard to the tidying and cleaning of your room and person.

The strike action, effective immediately, will be continuous until such time as you meet our demands listed below:

  • Pick up your own socks and underwear and place them in the laundry basket located in the bathroom
  • Removal of all school shirts from the floor of bedroom and place them in the laundry basket
  • Ensure a coat hanger is used for school blazer (one provided and located on back of bedroom door)
  • Ensure all tablets, phones and other devices are not left charging day and night
  • Use deodorant daily and cut own fingernails without reminder (you cannot underestimate just how important this one is)
  • Removal of school bag from bottom of the staircase where it is currently placed in an unauthorised (and lethal) position
  • Removal and disposal of last years' exercise books from the bedroom floor
  • General care and attention to detail to personal space as exhibited by Pre-Teen Daughter

During this period of strike action we, the Parents Union, will operate a "work to rule" policy.

Meals will still be provided as will packed lunches for school.  We will not remind you of mealtimes and any meals left uneaten during this period will be offered to our other employers (your siblings) or simply thrown out.

We will offer no out of hours prompting for homework and all homework planners and other school correspondence must be left next to my diary at the end of the kitchen worktop for signing.  There will be no further reminders to do this.  This letter will be considered to be your final reminder for this and the fault of any detentions picked up at school as a result of failing to remember these instructions will be borne solely by you.

In regard to the proportion of strike action concerning your room and belongings, it should be noted that unless uniform and other clothing is placed inside the laundry basket, once there are no more clean clothes left it will be up to you to either wash them yourself or live without clean clothing.  Should clothing end up in the laundry cycle it will be processed in the usual way and you will be presented with a pile of clean laundry to return to the drawers and wardrobe all by yourself.

We will not be entering your room during the strike period although we may from time to time operate a flying picket outside and in other areas of the home where we encourage other members of the household to do their fair share of cleaning and tidying.

We believe that this strike action has become necessary due to you (Teen Boy, employer) failing to meet our daily demands with regard to our working environment as parents.

Should demands, as listed above, be met then the Parents Union shall cease all strike action with immediate effect, in accordance with our Union guidelines.

Yours faithfully

Nominated Representative of the Parents Union

Just. Pick. It. Up.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Word of the Week

Oh dear, I seem to have completely neglected to join in with Word of the Week over at The Reading Residence for some time.  I had great intentions last week but then, well, life just got in the way!

Anyway this gave me the perfect work for this week:

Impatience isn't really a great quality is it?  Having said that I have been feeling impatient for very good reason this week.

My twins have been as school for nearly two weeks but half days only.  We are all really impatient for them to be full time - three school runs a day really breaks things up for me far too much and means that I don't get as much time blogging as I'd like, as well as doing housework of course, ahem ;)  I think it will also be good for them, as they really want to be just like DS2 and stay all day.

Unfortunately, with the return to school comes the return of homework.  Most of last weekend was spend being impatient for DS1 to finish his homework.  I had hoped that Year 9 would make him a little more responsible but it appears some things never change.  Teens, eh?

I have been impatient to start blogging properly again.  The holidays gave me a nice little break but I really enjoy the quiet time on my own with the kids in school, tap-tapping away on the keyboard and getting my thoughts down.  Last week it just felt a little too much for me to manage.  This week has been better but I have loads to get down on here and not quite enough time - next week will be better again I'm sure!

It's Autumn, or Summer, or a bit of both, I'm not quite sure but I really want some crisp mornings and crunchy leaves to walk through on the way to school.  My ulterior motive - a new pair of boots which I am impatient to wear with thick tights and skirts!  Come on Autumn, hurry up and get here!

Click on the badge below to read some more words of the week.

The Reading Residence

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Secret Formula to the Perfect Kids Holiday

Although I've been fairly absent from my blog over the summer you might be surprised to know that there has been no family holiday for us.  Aside from the cost of family holidays taken in school holiday time, we find it increasingly difficult to find a holiday destination that pleases all of us aged from 42 down to 4!  In fact, we've tried holidaying once only since our twins arrived and, well, it didn't end well that's all I'm saying.

The whole experience made me question what is important in a family holiday and what my children's holiday must-haves would be.

The #BlackpoolsBack campaign recently surveyed 2000 children from Britain aged between 6-17 years about this very thing, with some surprising results which are shown in the infographic below.

Click to enlarge

Iain Hawkins, spokesman for the #BlackpoolsBack campaign, said: "We tested the holiday opinions of 2000 children aged 6 – 17 asking them to rate their perfect holiday based on a wish-list constructed from a number of factors including: a real sandy beach, theme park, travelling time, weather, location, attractions, swimming facilities, food, distance to the beach, language and method of travel. And it’s great to see that Blackpool managed to tick all the boxes. Even Orlando and the Costa del Sol couldn’t manage that."

Merlin Entertainments, the largest entertainments company in Europe, and Visit Blackpool are driving the exciting and bold family-focused #BlackpoolsBack awareness campaign, and the hard work is already paying dividends with an amazing 13 million visits to the iconic north-wet seaside resort in the past year.

#Blackpoolsback underlines the multi-million-pound investment and regeneration in the town and is a reminder that the resort is home to an unrivalled concentration of world-class family attractions. It also reminds parents of what the best of holidays looks like through the eyes of children – and what really makes it work for them.

I have to say that reading this made me feel a whole lot better about not having gone on holiday abroad this year.  My teen definitely agrees with the Theme Park as an essential too.  Blackpool is not far from us at all and with all it has to offer maybe we'll give it a try next summer!

You can find out more about Blackpool's attractions at http://www.blackpoolsback.com.

This is a Sponsored Post

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Wicked Wednesdays

Remember that uniform that was lovingly washed and ironed ready for the start of school?  Remember hair neatly brushed and tied back?  She was so smart...

What a difference a week makes, eh?


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Gruffalo Games App Review

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is probably one of our favourite children's books here.  I've been reading it to one or another of my children for *counts on fingers* the past 12 years now.  Its really no wonder that I know the words off by heart really is it?

Anyway, I was absolutely delighted when we were given the chance last week to have a look at the new Gruffalo Games app which is available from iTunes.

The app contains six different Gruffalo themed games and is suitable for 3-7 year olds.  With this in mind I duly downloaded it and added to our iPads and let my twins (aged 4) get on with playing it.

The games included are 3 in a Row (like Noughts and Crosses), Nut Catch (where you guide the mouse from the story along the screen helping him catch nuts), Jigsaw (a selection of puzzles if you haven't already guessed by the name!), Snap, Marching Bugs (a number, letter and shape sequencing game) and Match Me, where pairs of pictures are matched up.

By far and away the most played so far has been 3 in a Row.  The twins really like playing against the Gruffalo and trying to beat him!  I think that the graphics are really smashing (all the games are actually), but love the way that the Gruffalo's paw comes across the screen to place his counter in one of the squares.  The game works on a first to win five matches basis and it is usually a race to see who can outsmart the Gruffalo and be the winner!

3 in a Row

DS3 has also really enjoyed the Jigsaw game.  The game works by showing each picture divided into tiles and then once mixed up they have to be swapped back by tapping two at a time until they are all in the right place.  There is a timer at the bottom of the screen and once the puzzle is complete the app records the time and helpfully tells you which is your best time as well!  This seems to really have re-ignited DS3's love of puzzles and he has been asking if he can have some new Jigsaw puzzles of his own for his upcoming birthday.

Snap has also been a winner here and at the weekend even DS2 got in on the action and helped try and win a match against the Gruffalo - it really needed a big brother's help because the Gruffalo is very quick!


We've had a go on the other games too and the Nut Catch game I thought was much easier for little hands to control than similar games played on our computer, as was Match Me.

Nut Catch

The Marching Bugs game is one that I can see coming in to its own when my twins progress through school as it deals with number, letter, shape and colour sequencing, some of which they can do now but some of which is much harder when pitted against a timer (as it is in this game).

Marching Bugs

We've had the app for nearly a week now and it has been very useful in providing much needed downtime for the twins after school (they are still on half days and can be quite tired after lunch!).  I am very happy to let them use it as it is a beautifully put together app for small children and has plenty of educational benefits too.  Even my older children had to agree that it is a fun app to play.  I may have caught DD1 aged 12 playing it but shh, don't let her friends know!

On a more serious note, this app contains no In App Purchases that I can see and so makes a welcome change from other apps aimed at children which are currently on the market.  A thumbs up from me!

Big Brothers can help beat the Gruffalo too!

As you can see, this app is rapidly becoming on of our favourites here!

The Gruffalo Games app  by Magic Light Pictures can be purchased from the iTunes store for £2.99.

We were send a code so that we could download the Gruffalo Games app from the iTunes store for free.  All words and opinions are our own.

Family Fever

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Wicked Wednesdays

Ah, the aftermath of starting school.  I had forgotten all about it.

That was, until yesderday afternoon.  "Go and play" I said.  "No, I won't!" said he.  And repeat.  Probably until blooming Christmas if past experience is to go by.

Tired out?  Why yes.  Of course he was.  *sigh*


Just Another Day

Today was just another day.

Just another day, but also the day that the twins started school for the first time.

We walked to school for the first time, went into the classroom for the first time, put their book bags in their drawer for the first time.  But it was just another day.

Other mothers were anxious.  They held back the tears.  I didn't.

I felt guilty.  Shouldn't I be feeling the same way?

My husband said "it's never the same as it is with the first one", and I think he's right (shh, don't tell him that ;)). He is.

With DS1 I had walked him in to school with a lump in my throat, choking back tears and promising myself that it would all be ok, that he would be ok.  It would be wouldn't it?

Well, sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn't.  I was upset for him when other children were mean to him.  I was happy for him when his teacher said nice things about him.  I was angry when the school didn't seem to understand us.  I learned to take the rough with the smooth.  School didn't feel such a big deal for either of us eventually.

This time?  Nothing.  They were happy.  I was happy.  It was relaxed.  We said our goodbyes and walked home.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing after all.  I knew they would both be ok.  Not only did they have each other and their big brother there, but I knew that whatever happened today, they would be ok.  I know they will still be ok tomorrow.  And the day after that.

If only I could only go back in time and tell my first time parent at the school gate self that.  But I can't. 

I can tell you, the other first time parents this.  Your child will be fine.  You may not, and that's ok.  Just take it in your stride.

Maybe by the time your second and third child are as school you will feel like me too.  And, you will smile and not be worried.  You will be looked upon as someone who has done this all before (as I was today - that was a bit weird and yet strangely flattering).

Because, it is just another day.

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