Friday, 30 October 2015

Halloween Mum Hacks

Try as you might, you just can't avoid Halloween anymore, can you?  Gone are the pre-children days when you could simply pretend that you weren't at home when the trick or treaters came around, and Pinterest boards full of cool decorations and costumes did not even exist.

The problem is that when you've got kids you're kind of duty bound to joining in with the spirit of things (see what I did there?) at this time of year.

Which is great, it can be fun, but the problem is I frequently forget all about it until its too late which disappoints the kids.  How on earth can it be Halloween already?  They've only just gone back to school.


Because of this I have developed another series of mum hacks which means that I can get away with doing almost nothing be all halloween-y at the drop of a hat and look like I'm really organised, and without spending 56 million pounds at Home Bargains to boot.

And, as I know how much you lot love a mum hack, I'm going to share...


We never do trick or treating because who wants to stand outside in the rain on a freezing cold October night while your children beg the neighbours for sweets?  Fortunately my kids are quite OK with the idea of staying inside in the warm too, but they still want to celebrate Halloween.

Sometimes (probably about twice during the time the kids have been growing up if I'm being honest, but in my head it feels like a lot more) we throw ourselves a little Halloween party instead.

Party games can help fill the time and give the impression that I am the fun parent when all I'm really trying to do is get through the job of parenting full stop, so what about a spot of Apple Bobbing?  It's the no stress/mess/noise option that is actually good for your children. 

Just shove a washing up bowl full of water and apples on the floor and watch as they try to get the apples with their teeth.  They can't talk (too busy trying to catch the apples), its easy because everyone has apples at the bottom of the fruit bowl that need using up and, the real genius part - it's part of their five a day!  They think they are getting a fun party game, but really all you've done is shove some forgotten about fruit in water. Genius.

Silence is golden, and part of your five a day...


So, carrying on with the theme of being disorganised last minute here, is it any wonder that you'll have forgotten all about the Halloween costumes too?

Fear not!  You can fix this!

I'm not about to get all Pinterest on you and tell you how to make a Zombie outfit from an old sheet and a bin liner, although if such a thing exists, and I bet it does, please feel free to tweet me so that I can feel really inadequate.  

No, what the true Halloween mum hacker needs is a shop bought witches or skeleton costume, but aren't they expensive?  Chances are you will have looked at them three weeks ago in the shops and decided they cost too much.  I know I did.  

So what do you do?  You wait.  Hold your nerve fellow hacker because as soon as the 31st October rolls around something magical happens in all supermarkets across the land. 

Everything Halloween becomes half price or less.  

This means that you can pick up a witches costume complete with broomstick and hat for the bargain price of 99p.  Size does not matter because there is so much shirring elastic in those things that you can buy several sizes up with it still fitting and keep it for next year too.  You can also recycle a skeleton costume for World Book Day (with added hat) to become Funny Bones (see previous Mum Hacks for details who am I kidding? that's it).

What do you mean, too big?  But it was cheap...


Decorations are key to giving your home that really spooky festive feel.  But what if you don't have any? What if your husband banned you from the delight that is the Home Bargains Halloween aisle on the basis that you have too much tat in the house already?

The one advantage of it being half term around the time of Halloween is that if you are as lazy as me you won't have been bothered had time to dust.  This is fantastic news for the mum hacker in need of decorations.  Didn't you know?  Dust and spiders webs are the latest in cool spooky decorations.  Turns out you don't need to do anything other than let the invertebrates get on with it...

And who can really be bothered with pumpkins?  Such a lot of hard work and then they go rotten.  Why not use any other fruit you have to hand instead?  Bananas?  Oranges?  You've used all the apples up already, (OK so Pinterest says you can make fun edible Jack O' lanterns from peppers but that is a bit too wholesome for my purpose) so just use a Sharpie (the ultimate mum hacker tool IMO, if you don't have one, get one now because they come in handy for all sorts) draw a face on your chosen fruit and save yourself some time.  By doing this you won't risk hacking a fingertip off by accident too.  Sorted.

No fingertips were lost in the making of this pumpki... erm, tangerine.

Handling Trick or Treaters

What about all those annoying kids who persist in bleeding you dry of your precious sweetie stash knock on your door?  I suppose you could get some sweets in for them.  Train your children to answer the door while dressed up and tell them it's another fun Halloween game.  That way you won't need to get off Facebook to answer the door yourself.  

But what if you have a run on trick or treaters and all the good stuff goes?  This is where a cupboard full of those little boxes of raisins (that your own kids refuse to eat) helps.  Save them til last and then wait until a few teenagers in scream masks come round looking for treats.  Offer them the raisins.  You can guarantee that yours will be the one house that nobody will bother with next year, and you'll have gotten shot of the raisin boxes too.  Trick or Treat indeed.  You're welcome.

If everything else fails and it all gets a bit too much...

Have twins.  Well, when I say have twins what I really mean is pretend to have had twins.  Unless you do actually have twins, in which case you can use them to your advantage.  How?  Well, some of our quietest Halloween nights over the years have been when (using that Sharpie again, told you it would come in handy) we've put the following sign on the front door...

Yes, they really are asleep... (but not babies)

But my twins are six years old?  Doesn't matter.  For the purposes of Halloween evening and the constant stream of strangers with kids, they are still newborns and nobody wants to disturb a newborn baby, let alone two, do they?

So there you have it.  My guide to a happy Halloween without actually having to do anything much.

And remember, once you're past this weekend then the festive fun can really start - Black Friday?  *whispers* the C word? kill me now

This time of year is a mum hacker's paradise...

Whatever you are doing this Saturday, have a Hacky Happy Halloween from me :)

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Cinderella Effect

What joy to discover recently that my twins really do love to sweep floors, just like Cinderella.  They are quite good at it in fact.

They even argue over who gets to do it.

Of course, it would be cruel of me to try to take advantage of this, wouldn't it?

*gets cup of tea and biscuits and puts feet up for a while*

Honestly, she loved it.

Next week, I plan on teaching them how to clean bathrooms...


Monday, 26 October 2015

Half Term at the House of Twits!

We were asked last week if we'd like to try out a brand new app for mobile devices which is based on the classic Roald Dahl story The Twits.  Having only just finished reading another of Dahl's books, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to the twins as a bedtime story, they were very keen to try out the app (and of course to then read The Twits).  The timing was also perfect, with half term on the horizon too!

House of Twits is the second app featuring the gruesome Mr and Mrs Twit to hit both Android and Apple app stores.  It was launched of the 22nd October and follows the success of Roald Dahl's Twit or Miss and has been developed jointly by the Roald Dahl Literary Estate and Penguin Random House UK, working with interactive entertainment studio Chunk.

In the app, children are encouraged to get their own back on the horrible couple by tricking either Mr or Mrs Twit (you can choose which one).  They can explore the rooms in their house including the kitchen, where you can feed Mr and Mrs Twit, the living room, where you trick them to wake them up, and even Mr Twit's shed, where you can help him by passing him tools (or trick him with the odd feather duster!).

House of Twits

Aimed at children aged 6-8, this app has kept my twins entertained all weekend (through a rather rainy Saturday morning), and if I'm honest I've really enjoyed having a sneaky go on it myself! (Well, it is my iPad...)

On starting the app the player is guided through each of the rooms where you can trick Mr or Mrs Twit with various games.  The object of which is to earn enough trick points to level them up and unlock more rooms and games.

Feeding Mrs Twit mouldy cornflakes

As you might expect, the games are all based on aspects of the book The Twits, such as scaring the birds away in the Twits' garden before they get stuck to the tree branches and get made into pies!

My twin girl (6) was particularly pleased with this app (couldn't get her off it, in fact) and loved the game where she had to feed Mr Twit the bits from his beard, avoiding the nits (ewwww!).  She managed a very impressive high score of 2,510.  Nobody here is yet to beat her either :)

Not only are the games really good fun but the artwork, which is inspired by the drawings of Quentin Blake, are also really nice to look at.  My daughter instantly recognised the author and story based on the way the app looked alone.

From a parent's point of view, I love that the app draws on so many aspects of The Twits story and that it has given my pair and interest in reading yet another of Roald Dahl's classic books.

I also liked the fact that once the app is downloaded that's it - there are no in-app surprise purchases that I'll be begged to make in order for them to finish the games.

In addition to the app, Penguin Random House also provided us with some downloadable Mr Twit masks and a Pin the Glass Eye on Mrs Twit game, which provided my twins with even more gruesome Twits fun!

Argh!  It's Mr Twit!

Pin the Glass Eye on Mrs Twit


Roald Dahl's House of Twits app is available to purchase on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store now at a cost of £2.99 which I think is very reasonable given the amount of entertainment it has generated for us. You can find out more and purchase the app here.

We were given a copy of the House of Twits app and some downloadable activities for the purpose of this review.  All words and opinions are our own.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Life Cycle of a School Bean Plant, Mum Style

Everybody knows I have a terrible track record with growing plants and generally keeping them alive OK I kill stuff.  If you don't, then please feel free to read my woes on raising a sunflower earlier in the year here.

This week though, things changed somewhat.

A few weeks back, the twins were sent home with more random pots of soil.

I despaired.  They were never going to grow under my care.

But then something rather unexpected happened.

A bean actually sprouted and turned into what can only be described as a green shoot!

I immediately shared my joy over on Facebook...

I have totally become an expert in how to grow things, it would seem.

And so, because of this miraculous event I am now completely qualified to share with you my tips and tricks, aka, the Life Cycle of the School Bean Plant, Mum style.

1.  Expectation

Will it grow or won't it?  Meh, bung it on the windowsill and pray.  Ignore your child's helpful comments (particularly if they mention watering it 44 times a day).  Maybe a bit of water?  Or was that too much?

You wonder what the winning plant grower will get this time... Chocolate?  A big bottle of Gin?  Weekend away?

2.  Worry

"You did plant a seed in there didn't you?" you say to your child.  Of course they did.  This plant is going to go exactly the same way as all the others isn't it? In the bin.

3.  What is that?

There might just be a shoot, yes, I see it!  Can you see it?

4.  Nothing to see here...

Nope.  Must have been your imagination.  There's nothing there.  Slosh on a bit more water for good measure.

5.  Result!!!!

There it is, a shoot, a ruddy shoot!  Call children excitedly to show them how immensely talented a gardener you are.

One child is ecstatic, you can ignore the fact that the other is now wailing in the corner of the kitchen because their pot of soil is still, well, a pot of soil.

6.  Fear and Trepidation

Your child threatens "Don't kill it, Mummy" and her scowl makes you feel a little bit sick with fear.

She can be quite frightening *gulp*

Can you keep the bloody thing alive?  You have never got this far in the plant growing process before.  How do you get it to grow more leaves?  Move it around the house onto every windowsill with the tiniest bit of sunlight, and water it, again.

7.  Confidence

You've totally got this, now.  Haven't you?  Of course you have.  You're an expert.  Swan around the school playground safe in the knowledge that you've won the battle of the bean growing competition, this time. Don't take your eye off the ball (or the prize) for a second.

8.  Panic

Is there a black spot on that leaf?  B*gger, it is.  The soil smells a bit. Funny?  Have you over watered it?  Is the bean now rotting?


Your child will hate you.  You have failed.  You useless excuse for a parent, you.

9.  Relax

There appear to be leaf nodules (that's a technical term for all you non-gardeners out there) on the bean stalk.  There will probably be a giant right at the top of it by morning.

You are absolutely winning this thing.  You wonder when you need to take your prize winning plant back into school to show all the losers other parents?

10.  Disappointment

You have been duped.  There is no actual competition this time.  Nobody is winning a bean anything.  FFS.

The one time you manage to grow something and there is no sweet prize at the end?

It turns out that the children have been learning about life cycles in school and the bean was part of that (you should have read the email, idiot).

This sucks.  And you also have two pots of stinking soil and a stupid bean plant on the kitchen windowsill getting in the way to care for.

You wait a few days until the children forget about them.

Then put the pots in the bin.


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Climbing Frame Woes

Once the twins get out of their classroom at home time we can usually be found in the school playground while they hone their monkey like skills on the climbing frames.

This is not a bad waste of time until the temperature drops below 5 degrees and it allows them to blow off a bit of steam after the school day.

Here is a picture of Twin Boy as he ascends the parallel but slightly too far apart bars.

He soon realised that he wouldn't be able to make it to the top as his legs were far too short!

 Note the upside-down look of mild panic on his face.

Did I rush to help?

Of course, but only after I took a couple of photos first ;)

I can't wait until his legs grow a bit longer...


Friday, 16 October 2015

Teenagers, are they toddlers in disguise?

As it's been the teen boy's birthday this week I've been marvelling at how much he's grown up and how he's changed over the years.

Or, has he?

Although he is bigger lots bigger he really is not all that different to his toddler self.

Much as I endured enjoyed the toddler years, I had assumed that they were long gone for us, but maybe not.

Because, when you think about it, teens and toddlers are really kind of the same, apart from the big feet...

1.  They are both good at getting you out of bed in the morning.

The toddler uses the ear piercing scream "Is it breakfast?  Can I watch TV?" on repeat, which is really bloody annoying quite effective at getting a grown adult out of bed at the crack of dawn at the best of times.

The teen?  Teens employ a slightly different and yet equally efficient method.  They simply put on deodorant (possibly this is the only time, seeing as in our house they don't wear it when I request them to), and what is worse, they put it on in clouds.  Nothing is guaranteed to get a parent out of bed gasping for breath and rubbing their eyes faster than a fog of Impulse Vanilla or Lynx Apollo engulfing the air around them.  Trust me.  I've been there.

Can't... breathe...

2.  Tantrums

Yes toddlers have tantrums, this is not news.  They can be because of anything from the wrong kind of cup to not getting sweets when they want.  All really bonkers, trivial, ridiculous stuff.

A classic trivial toddler tantrum

Teens are also prone to tantrums over really trivial things such as you looking at them in the wrong way, or buying the wrong crisps for their packed lunch *sigh* (but you can at least point out how ridiculous they are being).

A teen tantrum with added parental sarcasm

3.  Not wearing coats

Toddlers hate coats and refuse to wear them.

Teens hate coats and refuse to wear them.

No point in arguing with either, it's a waste of breath.

4.  Choosing ridiculous outfits

Remember the days when your toddler insisted on wearing their pants on their head or going out in their winter scarf and gloves in the middle of summer?

There was no reasoning with them, was there?

With teens it's the same. #DenimHotpantsInDecemberFFS

5.  Putting their shoes on quickly

Just as the toddler finds putting a pair of Clarks velcro closure shoes on to be almost impossible within the space of a couple of minutes of being asked, the teen also finds it equally tricky to fasten a pair of Vans up without it taking an age I'm not even joking, they should teach them this stuff in High School.

Your chances of getting out of the house swiftly with either, are minimal to non-existent.

6.  Taking your stuff

Toddlers:  "Borrow" your make-up and smear it over themselves/the walls/carpet/bed clothes.

Teens:  "Borrow" your make-up and you never see it again.

Not sure which is worse.

7.  Unintelligible language

Toddlers sweet ways with word pronunciation are a joy and also sometimes very funny, but it can be a job to decode what they mean at times.  Some of my favourites over the years were Tickly Tackly (Tagliatelle), Gary (Gravy), Bapple (Apple), you get the idea.  They are always inventing funny new words for things.

Similarly, teens develop their own language which only their kind can understand. Pied, Bae, Swag yes I know I've been here before but I still have no idea what they mean.  Urban dictionary doesn't even cover half of this because they change it so often.  It is really confusing for the average parent.

See?  A teen is just like a toddler only trapped in a bigger smellier body.

If you are reading this as a parent to a toddler and thinking, 'Oh no, blog lady! Toddlers are bad enough, I don't know how you cope?  I'm so unprepared for the teen years'.

Then all I'll say is this, don't worry about it, you're already pretty much there.

People say that children grow and change so quickly over the years.  That you blink and you miss their childhood it goes that fast.

While that might be true some of the time, there are other things that never really change.

*bangs head on desk*


Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Advice for teenagers...

Another week and another birthday, which isn't so surprising in this house really.

My teen turned 15 yesterday and received this card from the in-laws in the post:

I was quite impressed that my in-laws seem to have got the measure of the teen fairly accurately, although a little bit of my did wonder... they read my blog?


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...

The twins turned six this last weekend.

Picture the scene (well, actually you don't have to because there's a picture below)...

Two brand new scooters which, by the way, were not cheap! Cards and balloons.

You can ignore the fact that we didn't bother wrapping them, how do you wrap a scooter anyway?

The ingredients for a fantastic birthday surprise you would think?

This is the moment that they both saw their (much anticipated) new scooters...

Ah, note the look of joy on one child's face while the other dissolves into tears.

The reason?  He said he wanted a scooter for Christmas.  Not his birthday.  Which is sooner.


Twins - total proof that you can't please all of the people all of the time.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Schools could win £1,500 for their breakfast club!

It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I always make sure my children all set off for school having had theirs.  

With a potential return to work on the cards for me I have been thinking about the breakfast clubs that are run at school as an alternative, as I don't want my children to miss out on this important meal before they start the school day.

85 per cent of schools in the UK have a Breakfast Club which gives schoolchildren the opportunity to get something to eat in the morning so they go into the classroom with a full tummy and ready to learn.

The Kellogg’s Breakfast Club Awards recognises these great clubs that are running every morning across the UK and the people that make them happen.

Did you know that schools could win up to £1,500 and other great prizes for their pre-school club by entering the Kellogg's national Breakfast Club Awards?

A specialist panel of experts has been hand-picked to judge the awards and winner and runners up will be announced via a web broadcast on 9 November, by the star of Educating Yorkshire, Matt Burton.

Each winning school will receive £1,500 for its Breakfast Club, with runners up winning £500 and the 2015 Breakfast Club Awards Grand Winner receiving £2,000. Winners will also be invited to attend an awards ceremony in The Houses of Parliament.

Tonnes of other prizes will be given away too including George ASDA school uniforms and Hasbro Gaming Bundles for winners and runners up.

Lindsay Graham, School Food and Health Advisor said: “I am delighted to help judge the 2015 Breakfast Club Awards. The contribution of Breakfast Clubs to children’s education is tremendous. They offer a great start to the school day with a good breakfast which helps contribute to attendance, wellbeing, concentration and achievement, all being vital components of attainment.”

“They support working parents, feed hungry children, offer opportunities to extend informal learning with activities and socialisation. I am really looking forward to seeing this year’s entries and would encourage schools and community groups to enter and share their stories about their Breakfast Clubs.”

Kellogg’s Breakfast Club Awards spokesperson Alison Last said: “We’re pleased to announce the return of these awards. Not only do Breakfast Clubs provide children with a friendly and relaxed environment in the morning, but they also provide a lifeline for many parents who may not be able to work without the ability to drop their children off at school a little earlier.”

“This year we’re asking schools to nominate their club for our Breakfast Club Awards, which hope to find the best clubs in the country.”

Kellogg’s supports 2,500 breakfast clubs across the UK with training, cereal donations and funding so that schools can run a sustainable pre-school club.

To find out more about each of the categories and to submit a Breakfast Club entry, visit: Entries close on 12th October.

This is a collaborative post.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The seven ages of the nit checking parent

So we're back into the swing of the new Autumn term at school now.

If your children's school is anything like ours is then this also means that you will have probably had at least one letter telling you of a head lice infestation in your child's class.  Joy.

How you deal with this will depend on a number of things, but in my experience it largely comes down to how much of a nit checking veteran you are.

Welcome to the seven ages of the nit checking parent.

1.  The 'Be Prepared Pre-School Parent'

"We just think we ought to let you know, there's been a case of head lice at the pre-school" says the Manager when you go for pick up one day.  So on the way home, before you have even checked your own child's head, you pop into the chemist and buy the most expensive head lice treatment they have (nothing but the best and most effective treatment will do), and a nit comb.  Just in case.

Of course, none of your kids ever get nits in the whole of the combined time they are at that pre-school.  The nit treatment goes out of date eventually (what a waste of money).  You keep the comb though, so you are always prepared.

2.  The 'Slightly Smug (because we've never had nits) Parent'

You've survived the first year of primary school with not so much as an itchy head from your child.  "What's all the fuss about?" you think. Obviously the parents whose children have nits are doing something really wrong aren't they?

You, on the other hand, are clearly doing everything right, and so you stop remembering to check your kids' hair and relax...


Big black blood sucking creepy crawlies on their scalp!!!!  WTAF????

How on earth has that happened?

You feel a bit sick as you realise that the infested child also spent the last two hours after school sat on the sofa with their two smaller siblings.  They won't all have them though, will they?

You hurriedly phone your husband and tell him that he needs to go to the chemists on the way home or there may be a divorce "because b**tard nits have infected everyone, buy BIG bottles of the strongest stuff they have" you yell.  You also need a new nit comb because the one you bought three years ago is actually a load of rubbish and couldn't remove nits from hair even if they were the size of boulders.

Bath time looms...

You can't put it off.  One by one you check each child's head.  You shriek and grimace as every stroke of the comb yields a crop of eggs and a few dozen adult lice.  It takes hours to complete this task.  Your hands are numb. Your head... feels a bit itchy?

After a further hour and with greasy hair (that head lice treatment won't wash out no matter how hard you try) you survey the nit slaying devastation in your bathroom and vow that this will be the last time you get caught out like this.

4.  The 'Paranoid Parent'

Every week for the next six months you check everyone's hair, even your own.  You also know every trick in the book to ward away lice (you tie your daughter's hair back for school and cover everyone in a solution of tea tree before they leave the house), and any child that dares itch their head in your presence gets frogmarched to the the bathroom for immediate nit inspection.

You also own the Rolls Royce of nit treatment - the Nitty Gritty Comb.

Did you just scratch your head?

5.  The 'This is just how it is Parent'

The letter comes home, you crack out the conditioner and the comb and get on with checking through everyone's hair.  You do this week in, week out for months.  You spend so much time with a nit comb in your hand that you briefly consider having it grafted into your knuckles like some sort of lice destroying Wolverine.  This is just how it is with Primary School aged children isn't it?

6.  The 'Why can't other High School Parents check their kids hair, FFS! Parent'

Really?  Why can't they?  You feel like you are the only parent in the whole of Year 7 checking your child's head every week.  Always there are nits.  It must be someone they are sitting next to in class.  Can nobody else be bothered to check their kids anymore?

When will this madness end?

7.  The 'Voice of Experience Parent'

"It is every parent's responsibility to check their child's hair weekly" says the letter from the headteacher.  You don't even need to read it anyway.  You know the drill so well that each child gets a perfunctory check in the bath every night already.  Nits are occasionally found and quickly dispatched without worry.  You know that this is just something that you need to keep on top of because you have been through this with all your older children.  Your last child is now in Reception and the end might just be in sight but probably not.

Either way you let all of the new to the school parents with Reception age children know about the need for a Nitty Gritty comb and a big bottle of conditioner.  You are a nit combing expert now.  At least, that's how it feels to you.

Of course, we don't really get nits here these days... don't be daft, this blog is all about me, I am all of these parents and this is my most dreaded time of the year, stupid bloody things.

But it just goes to show, nobody is ever safe from the horrors of head lice until their kids leave home.

But one day, one day I'll reach my nirvana - no more nits... *itches head*

Bleurgh... B***ards.

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