Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Five stages of World Book Day

OK so it's World Book Day this week (it is isn't it, or have I just made that up?  I definitely saw an email the other week, I am sure).  And as this is something that I'm very familiar with, what with being a mum of primary school aged children, I am completely prepared to start tearing my hair out.

The thing with World Book Day is that it sounds simple enough, dress child in character from favourite book, send child into school, child has fun and (hopefully) wins prize for clever costume.  The end.

But it never quite turns out that way here.

Every year, no matter how good my intentions are, my World Book Day dreams fall flat.  Here are the five stages of World Book Day parental meltdown.

1.  Acknowledgement 

*Ding* There's the email.  World Book Day is in two weeks time.  You know the drill - child, favourite book character, costume, yadda, yadda, yadda... *yawns*

Accidentally delete File the email for later, two weeks is loads of time. And, this year, you have plenty of cool ideas.

2.  Excitement 

Kids come home from school after having had the World Book Day pep talk by their teacher.  "Can I be Spider-Man? What about Super Mario? Or a Pokemon?" they shriek with wide-eyed excitement.

You patiently explain that this is not what World Book Day is about.  They need to choose a character from a favourite book and helpfully you have a few ideas planned already.  You ask your children would they like to be:

1.  Aliens Love Underpants (strictly your favourite kids book not theirs, plus the costume would be piss easy to make)?
2.  Thing One and Thing Two from The Cat in the Hat (you've been through the stress and pain of twin pregnancy/childbirth, it must be the law somewhere that you get at least one cute twin-based costume once in your/their lives)?
3.  Funny Bones (essentially just skeleton onesie and a hat - because you are really that lazy and creatively challenged when it comes to dressing up costumes)?

All these you would be pleased with and secretly quite excited about.

World Book Day - The dream...

...vs the reality.  Dammit.

3.  Disappointment 

They don't want to be any of those things.  Not even Thing One and Thing Two (FFS why?  It would be perfect.  This is so unfair).

They want to be Spider-Man, Super Mario or a Pokemon.  You explain again about the book thing.  Several times through gritted teeth.  Eventually one child points out that Santa bought them a Pokemon Annual at Christmas and that it is in fact a book.

You cannot argue with this and in any case life is too short.  Still got loads of time to change their minds anyway...

4.  Panic

World Book Day is now 24 hours away.  There appear to be no off the shelf Pokemon costumes to be bought anywhere and you are buggered if you can make anything that a) will remotely look like a ruddy Pikachu and b) will be good enough to win a prize in assembly.

You beg your children to please choose a costume that mummy can make (pretty please)?  We could make alien masks to go with the underpants, it might even be fun?  You might even let them get out the glitter (don't be silly, everyone has their limits...).  You quickly come to the sad conclusion that you are clutching at straws and finally snap with the stress of it all.

"It is optional, you know?" You say.  "Fine," they both retort, "we don't want to dress up anyway".

Problem solved.

5.  Walk of Shame

You see, this is the biggest problem with reaching a stalemate with your own offspring.  One of you (usually you) always ends up looking like a wally (or a Where's Wally for WBD related humour).

On the morning of World Book Day you do the walk of shame across the school playground and into the classroom.  Naturally yours are the only children not in fancy dress, and as the tiny Elsas, Olafs, and assorted superheroes all dance around the room with their respective annuals and books, you can feel the other parents judging you silently.


You only wanted to do things properly.

You decide that you probably should have conceded to the Spider-Man costume or even liberated the face paints for an impromptu Pikachu (try saying that after a couple of G&Ts...) and vow that next time you will be better at this.

*starts tearing own hair out again*

Or maybe you'll start making those Thing One and Thing Two costumes right now.  You are absolutely 100% sure the kids will go for that next year...*

*  They won't.  Make a mental note to stash some face paints in the glove compartment of the car, for last minute Pokemon based alterations to costumes instead.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

My best-selling book pitch

Have you ever opened up your Amazon homepage to find all sorts of random books in the "recommended for you" section?  Well, that's what happened to me recently, only all the books were parenting ones based, I think, on the fact that during a period of complete desperation I once bought a copy of Toddler Taming from them.  Either that, or the kids had been playing with my laptop again and were maybe trying to tell me something?

But one thing that struck me is that most best selling parenting books seem to concentrate on the ages 0-5, and then?  Nothing.

We all know the baby and toddler years are a piece of cake (they totally are, sorry) - the teen years are far harder (ha! understatement of the century) and so I thought that it was time that I pitched a few of my ideas for parenting books for teens to any prospective literary agents that might be reading.  Plus it's the school holidays and I'm a bit bored.

Here goes...

The Contented Little Teenager Book - Includes advice on how to use the Cry it Out technique for when you've turned the wifi off or suggested a nice long family walk.  Get your teen sleeping through in 10 weeks? Don't be silly, get them waking you with a perfectly made coffee every morning in five.  Oh, and toilet training?  Yes - how to ensure your teen replaces the empty loo roll every time.  It's what every parent dreams of and deserves.

Contented teenagers and cups of coffee? #winning

How to talk so anyone will listen, and listen so anyone will talk - Ahh, the teenage years - a wall of silence one minute, and the next? You can't get a word in They are talking utter nonsense.  How do you get anyone in your household to communicate effectively?  Find out with my book, which uses the "Be quiet for one second about the new games that are coming out on the XBox, have you done your bloody homework yet?" plan for crystal clear communication with your teen.  Also answers such perplexing questions as "why is it they can't hear when I yell up the stairs for 10 minutes at full volume to tell them their tea is ready, but when we are even attempting really really quiet "parent sex" I then get all sorts of funny teenage looks and sniggering the following day?" *. 

Teenager Taming (a Parents' guide to the final five years) - Many parents cannot believe it when their child turns from a happy go lucky helpful and cheerful child into a teenager.  What does one do when faced with the aftermath of a Super Noodle explosion in their kitchen, or a sudden aversion to using soap from your child?  Follow my handy advice in this easy to read (in between picking up their dirty socks from the floor and running them to and from friends houses in your car) book which will give you the low down on getting your teen from Kevin-esque status to functioning member of the human race.

Not another Super Noodle explosion in the kitchen?!

What to expect when your teenager's expecting - Hahaha!  DON'T even go there!  A detailed plan on how to put the fear of god into your teen so that they/you never end up in this situation (so help me God).

The Complete Pre-Teen and Teenage Meal Planner - Annabel may have the monopoly on feeding your baby but here is my simple step by step guide on how to wean your teenager off McDonalds and Dominos and enjoying home cooked family meals once more.  What is the correct teenager to Super Noodle ratio needed to write the perfect family shopping list?  Includes a fold out section with illustrations for your teen on useful skills such as boiling a kettle, using a toaster and stacking the dishwasher.  You're welcome.

I am sure there are more (I've got to keep some things back for potential sequels).  I've always wanted to write a book and as the teens say, YOLO and all that...

Literary peeps, if you're reading this, call me?  Maybe?

*  I *think* the answer might be "have really noisy kitchen sex" but don't quote me on that...

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Reasons why the school run is a bit crap...

So, for last week's #WickedWednesdays I shared a photo of my own eye makeup fail on the school run.

The thing is, my disastrous not so perfect school run didn't end there.  It was so bad that I've decided to tell you what happened for the other 45 minutes of it.

It was sunny and, against my better judgement, I decided to let the twins take their scooters to school, which they love but which I don't so much because I have to carry both scooters back home afterwards.  But I thought what could go wrong? They get to scoot and I get to walk to school a bit quicker/without whinging. It's a win/win situation.

So off we went, ignoring the fact that they have been so giddy already that morning that a) I've had to break up several play fights while I've been getting ready and b) they are barely paying any attention to me/my badly made up face and so could be a bit of a handful.

It was all going so well to start off with.

Look at their happy faces!

And then they raced off into the distance and although I could see them, they couldn't hear me...

Can I just thank whichever kind dog owner it was who left the pavement covered in, in,... well you can guess what can't you?  And yep, you might also guess that the twins scooted straight through it which was a lovely and very fitting interlude to the morning*.

Yes, I really have posted this picture - Dear lazy dog owner, you should be ashamed...

After which I had to carry the filthy scooters home and hose them down in the back garden (and then hose the ground too, just in case).

To top it off it was a bit cold and damp outside and so even after making the effort to do makeup and hair straightening before we left, I ended up looking like this.

*sigh* FML (and my hair)

To recap then, the school run is a bit crap because:

1.  Mad children on scooters
2.  Dog sh*t and scooters
3.  Hair

The following day we took the car.  Sometimes being a bit lazy is just so much easier.

* no, I'm lying, it was revolting and made me yell a lot.


Friday, 12 February 2016

Valentines Day For Parents - A Guide

It's Valentine's Day soon and you may be thinking, 'hold on a moment!  I don't have time for that - I'm a parent!'

And, largely, you'd be right.

I cannot remember the last time we properly celebrated Valentine's Day here, it just doesn't hold the same level of anticipation once you've had children.  But it is still important to at least try to make an effort, isn't it?

So here is my guide to Valentine's Day when you're a parent.

1.  The Baby Years

This could play out a few different ways.  a)  you'll be so sleep deprived you forget, b)  you'll be so busy with your baby that you forget, c)  if you don't forget and decide to go out for the evening the main topics of conversation will be how tired you are, the baby and lastly, "shouldn't we get back for the babysitter now, we've been gone ages?" (reality: about 45 minutes).  All this in between checking your phone obsessively for calls or texts from the babysitter (probably Granny and Grandpa, who don't even know how to text anyway and are more than likely fine).  You eventually get back home (a whole hour later) to find that the baby is sleeping and the Granny/Grandpa babysitters have made themselves at home with your chocolate stash and a nice BBC documentary.  You should have stayed out later, you idiots!  Also hidden your chocolate better too...

In terms of gifts, you don't really want them, you just want sleep.  Lovely, lovely sleep.  Uninterrupted.  This is unlikely to happen.  Sorry. #alwaysonduty

2.  The Pre-School Years

Less about you, more about what cute crafts you can find on Pinterest for your toddler to make for your other half.  You might consider baking too.  Either way Valentine's Day prep becomes sticky and/or messy, (no, no, no, not in that way *tuts*) but on the bright side, aside from the glitter and toddler tantrums you might at least get to eat some cake/biscuits probably before the end of the Cbeebies Bedtime Hour and before your husband gets home from work #sorrynotsorry.  If you don't eat them all then you might accidentally drop the entire, hand-made by your toddler, box of treats all over the floor through sheer sleep deprivation (yes, still).  Not that I have ever done this OK once, I did this once. #butterfingers

3.  The Wilderness Years

So called because your kids are too big to do cutesy crafts but too small not to need a babysitter, enabling you to finally go out for the night.  You could stay in.  Let's face it, children are expensive at the best of times and so the thought of shelling out cash at a premium rate for a sitter is enough to tip you over the edge.  But what do you do instead?  You've guessed it.  It's an M&S Valentine's meal deal for you (you will argue over the choice of starter/main/dessert because it really isn't the same as a proper restaurant where you get to choose your own meal, is it?).  If you are really lucky, your kids might not interrupt your "meal" until you've finished.  Happy Days. #notsharingthefreechocswithyougoaway

4.  The Teenage Years

It's not about you any more (was it ever?), it's about them.  The teenagers boyfriends/girlfriends are the ones who get the gifts and nights out, not you.  Finally, the house to yourself?  You might think that this is celebration enough in itself but you'd be wrong there too. Instead you get the pleasure to "lend" them the cash for whatever it is that they've got planned and if you're lucky you get to be taxi too.  This Valentine's is "on fleek" *.

5.  Once they've all left home

OK so I haven't actually experienced this yet.  I'm just day dreaming.  What will it be like I wonder?  Will we finally get that meal out?  Will I get to spend my cash on a present for my own husband instead of the teen's girl/boyfriends?  My head is dizzy with possibilities for what The Valentine's Days of the future could hold.  Alternatively, I could just be so busy catching up on all the lost sleep, marvelling at the glitter free floor and planning on eating something other than a supermarket ready meal that I won't have time?

Who says romance is dead?

*  This is what the kids say now.  About nearly everything.  That and Squad Goals.  Yes, I give up too...

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

How not to get ready for the school run...

The school run.  I'll be honest, most mornings I'm pretty good at it, but you know those mornings when things don't quite go to plan?  Today has been one of those days.

8.30 am and I realise that I've got a whole ten minutes to lavish upon my actual self and so I decide to attempt eye makeup (I know, right? For the school run!).

Why is it that when I try to behave like a normal person, a child always appears to ask me something/whinge/need help etc etc?

So off I go to do whatever it is I've been asked to help with (in today's case, breaking up another argument between the twins - although it wasn't that, they were playing.  It just sounded like they were trying to kill each other).

We get ready, nearly out of the door...

Then I see myself in the mirror.

Yeah, didn't quite finish off the eye make up.

This begs the following questions:

Why did none of the kids tell me I was about to leave the house like this?
Didn't they think I looked a bit odd?
Do they even look at my face any more?

Next week, how the school run is crap (quite literally). 



Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Feeding the Birds with Wilko

If you follow me over on Instagram or Twitter you might have noticed that a couple of weeks ago, one Tuesday morning I was busy building a bird table in my kitchen.

We'd been sent a parcel of bird feeding goodies as part of the Wilko Wild Bird Blogger project to help try to attract some little feathered friends into our garden.

Now, usually the offer of any garden related blogging project would have me yelling "hell no!" and politely turning it down - our garden has seen better days and I'm no Alan Titchmarsh.  But happily one of the advantages of not being the world's best gardener is that I've noticed how much wild birds enjoy our messy garden!

We've had a small bird feeder at the bottom of the garden for a few years and while it was getting regular visitors up until very recently, we had to take the feeder away because some of the feed had sprouted in the wet weather, and the birds couldn't get to the seeds behind the soggy blockage (nor would they want to - yuk!).

I was really quite excited when our wild bird pack arrived.  It contained a beautiful little nesting box, a bird table kit, a bird cage seed feeder and a bag of wild bird seed mix to get us started.  All the items come from the Wilko Wild Bird feeding range and although I've never shopped at Wilko before I was really impressed by the quality of the items.

Our Wilko Wild Bird Blogger Pack

As I mentioned before, I put the bird table together, yes, me, all by myself!  I'm not a DIY expert but the instructions were easy to follow and the table was soon up and finished in the space of about half an hour (I had time for a cup of coffee too).


In terms of placing the table, I decided that I'd put it on the edge of our decking just in front of the kitchen window, so that I could see any birds while I was doing the washing up (such a glamorous lifestyle I lead). We have a pebbled edge to the deck, so I nestled the table into that and surrounded the base with some terracotta pots for good measure.  The table is quite light but I can confirm that it hasn't fallen over once, not even in the very high winds we've been having here recently.  Another advantage to the slightly smaller table is that, as yet, none of the visiting pigeons have been tempted to land on it and take any of the food.  All in all a thumbs up from me.

Our bird table flanked by pots

The feeder we were sent is probably one of the best bird feeders I have seen.  We've been through a few in the past as they tend to break down and fall apart after a while.  This one is not only great because it has a cage around it to keep away the bigger birds or any squirrels that fancy a nibble too, but at £6 it is such good value.  I have paid way more at our local garden centre for something with far fewer features.  The catch on the top of the feed compartment is the best bit though, it's so strong - nothing is getting into that that shouldn't be.

For small birds only

I've hung our new feeder on the original feeder stand at the bottom of our garden.  It's nice and quiet down there and the birds love flitting between the tree branches and feeder.

So, did the birds come to our garden?  Well, yes they did, although after the wettest and windiest few weeks I wasn't sure I'd ever see any.  But sure enough, while standing by the kitchen sink over the weekend I noticed some sparrows on our feeder!  Unfortunately, a brown bird against a brown fence in a shady part of the garden is probably one of the more ambitious things I could think of to try to photograph, but you'll have to believe me, they were there!

I have also seen, as it gets dark (and I'm yet again doing the washing up!) a robin checking out the bird table as well as a pair of nesting blackbirds (their nest is at the bottom of the garden).  Still no sign of the blue tits that we had here last year, but as I say the weather has been terrible here recently - they are probably hiding still.

With a bit of luck we'll soon see some new occupants to our nesting box.  We had birds nesting in our roof last year and I'd quite like to see them move into the sweet little nesting box which we've hung on the back of the garden shed (a bargain at £2.50).

Nesting box

The twins have enjoyed seeing the birds too, and the mere mention of the bird table had twin girl hitting Google for ideas on what we could put out for the birds (The RSPB website has some really good suggestions).  It has definitely sparked their imaginations, although they did ask whether any owls would be visiting as they are learning about those in school, but I'm not popping any dead field mice on the bird table for anyone!.

Just some seeds and bread for our birds!

I am planning on getting some more bird feeding products from the Wilko website soon - they have a huge selection of feeds for attracting different birds to your garden and in particular I'm keen to try their suet insect blocks, which we've had from the garden centre before, the birds go mad for them in Spring and the Wilko ones are priced very competitively.

We've loved being part of the Wilko Wild Bird Blogger Project, not only to sample some of their fab new range first hand, but also so that we can learn a little more about looking after our garden wildlife too.

We were sent a Wilko Wild Bird Blogger pack containing the items mentioned above for the purpose of this review.  All words and opinions are our own.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Language of Parenthood

I've thought about the language I use around the children a bit recently.

I don't mean that sort of language, bad language, but just the general sort of things I say.

The teen boy asked me a question the other day (I can't remember what the question was exactly, they ask me so many, but it probably started with the words "can I"), and my answer was "maybe".

"Yesss!!!" exclaimed the teen.

"What do you mean, Yes?" said I.  "I said maybe!"

"But when parents say "maybe" then that usually means they are going to let you do something anyway".

He had a point.  I use the word maybe like a kind of place holder - when I want to say yes, but I've got to speak to DH first and check to see whether what it is I'm saying yes to is a) too expensive, b) too ridiculous or c) too inappropriate.  I have to say, as far as the teens go I have no idea most of the time, and it's good to have a second opinion isn't it?

There are loads of other things I say, which sound like one thing but which mean something completely different, so for future family reference, I've complied a handy guide.

Maybe - Yes but let me check with your father first because I'm really not 100% confident in my parenting abilities.

In a minute - Go away and leave me alone

Next time - next time we come here/do this I'm hoping that you'll have forgotten that you've asked me

Soon - Never

No - No, no, no, oh OK yes. Anything to stop your moaning.

Why don't we do it after school? - No, I really don't want to do this now and after school you'll be too tired with any luck

If you don't do *insert name of task with improbable likelihood of being completed here* then I'll turn off the WiFi/the electricity supply to the plug sockets in the house/Netflix - I won't for more than about half an hour, I need those things too... #emptythreats

Pardon? - I have no idea what you just said although I'm pretty sure it's rude, and wtf is "on fleek" anyway?

Yolo - I think I'm down with the kids

I understand - I don't really understand but I'm trying to sound sympathetic so that you don't cry/storm off/get even more upset.  Perhaps I should just have said "maybe" and called for parental backup?

Parental language explained

The language of parenthood is a beautiful one (or something), but sometimes I think it would have been easier to learn Japanese...


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

In Nature...

We re-joined the National Trust last month.  We've exhausted all the usual free places to walk around here and we missed the Trust properties - after all they have proper parking and really good coffee shops.

Unfortunately we haven't been out as much as I'd have liked due to colds and illness sweeping our ranks, but on our first visit to a local National Trust haunt I snapped the following shot, which is too funny not to share.

Let me set the scene...

The teen, on hearing that we were going for a Sunday morning walk did his best to argue back, "We're not really going, are we?  But walking, it's outside... in nature!"

Eventually we threatened him with turning off the Wifi forever if he didn't come with us persuaded him it would be fun.

Here he is. My teen boy, enjoying a Sunday morning stroll.  In Nature.

"I'm thrilled to be outside"

Got to love spending time with the family, eh?


Monday, 1 February 2016

The Mummy Garmin

I'm sorry I've been quiet on the blogging front this past few weeks.  The reason is that I've been getting into running again.  I'm a bit obsessed in fact.  If I'm not running then I'm thinking about running, browsing running gear online or admiring my running stats.  Yes, I am that annoying friend on Facebook, who is always posting Map My Run updates.

So much so that for Christmas I asked for, and received, a running watch.  It's my pride and joy and a useful piece of kit to boot.  And, over the past month or so my running has started to improve.  My new running watch has shown me where I've been going wrong.

I think that's fantastic, but what about other areas of my life that could do with some improvement? Garmin should totally make a version for mums, to help us manage and improve our days.  It would be a sure fire hit. I mean, everybody knows how us mums are only happy when we're being told exactly how to better ourselves, or when we have a set of statistics to measure our own performance by...

So I give you, the Mummy Garmin.

It has the following features:

1.   Timing

How quickly can you do the school run, the vacuuming, a whole basket full of ironing?  The Mummy Garmin not only records your time but alerts you when you have a new personal best, encouraging you to aim high at all times. Reach for the stars people - or at least reach for another pair of school trousers to iron more quickly.  Download the app and then add your results to our leader boards, compete with your friends and win prizes absolutely nothing at all.

Work it, baby!  This is a bedroom vacuuming PB!

2.  Pace/Splits

While runners may be interested in which mile or kilometre was their best, or which one is always the slowest to help improve their overall performance, the Mummy Garmin will tell you which portion of you day you are best at and which needs more work. Get your split times for Breakfast, getting dressed, the school run, the housework, doing the weekly shop and, the toughest of them all, the bath time/bedtime routine (which let's face it is like running a marathon most nights).

3.  Heart Rate Monitor

Add the optional heart rate monitor so that the Mummy Garmin can keep track of your heart rate during your daily tasks.  Toddler having a meltdown?  School gate parking getting on your nerves?  Teenager refusing to do their homework (again)?  Once your heart rate exceeds the maximum acceptable level, the Mummy Garmin will alert you so that you can calm yourself down with a nice gin and tonic.  Oh yes.

I am dangerously close to my maximum heart rate, honest...

4.  Calorie Tracking

Ever wondered how many calories you burn up during the usual menial essential tasks?  Fear not!  The Mummy Garmin has this covered too.  Not only does it count how many calories burnt while carrying out such physical activity as changing a toddler's nappy or fishing out hair clips and squashed raisins from the gap down the back of the sofa, it also tells you how many squares of chocolate you can safely have to replace them.  Forget complicated calorie conversions and never put on weight again, genius!

A handful of hair clips from down the back of the sofa = all this chocolate?  Ace!

5.  Notifications

Fed up of forgetting things on the school run?  Always missing important messages?  The Mummy Garmin has a helpful email, text and call notifications feature.  About to leave for school again without the appropriate dressing up costume... Ding! The Mummy Garmin alerts you with a direct message to it's screen.  After-school clubs cancelled...Ding!  The Mummy Garmin sends the text straight to your wrist. Includes optional Parentmail screening, helping you weed out the communications that you deem irrelevant, such as Boxercise classes in the school hall, anything PTA related, and texts from teenagers complaining that they've forgotten to bring their PE Kit/Calculator to school (want me to bail you out again?  Tough luck).

Ahh, thanks Mummy Garmin, you've made me look less crap forgetful

As you can see the Mummy Garmin is a tool to help you parent faster, better and more efficiently while keeping your well-being in mind, then presenting it in a handy graph for you to obsess over for few hours until bedtime, when you think "Holy Crap!  I've got to do this all over again tomorrow!  What is the point of all these numbers?"  Kind of like a regular fitness tracker really.

Oh and sleep tracking?  Don't make me laugh.  We all know that there'd be no point in that. #whatis8hoursunbrokensleepexactly
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