Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Mother's Revenge

"That's not fair, we never get anything good for dinner!"

Said the teen, as I removed an M&S Dine In for two meal from the fridge, ready for his father and I to eat for our evening meal.

"When I have my own house I'm going to go to M&S to buy my dinner every night".

You might be forgiven for thinking that, given this snippet of information, I am in fact feeding my children scraps from the kitchen bin, or perhaps gruel every night while DH and I live it up at expensive restaurants.  I can confirm however, that on this particular occasion, he had just eaten his own body weight in Pasta Bolognese (at his request because its his favourite) just moments before.  

The teen clearly feels hard done by though, and his plan to exact some kind of revenge on me by affording his weekly shop in Marks and Spencer every week, when for us it is currently a Friday night treat, got me thinking.

What things am I most looking forward to doing as a guest in my grown up children's homes as payback for all that they have done in mine?

1.  Mealtimes

You know when you've just made a nice homemade meal and it has not only taken ages but you have put so much effort into making it for your family?  Well, imagine that only the children are grown up and they've made the meal while you are a guest at their dinner table.  In this situation what I am looking forward to most is picking holes in absolutely everything about it.

"This isn't my favourite"
"There isn't very much"
"What's for afters?"
"Why have you got more than me?"

I may even go for the full on tantrum in the style of DD2... "Yuk!  I'm not eating that!"  complete with tears and a flounce away from the table.

2.  Television

I might just nonchalantly wander through their living rooms and change the channel on the television without asking, or sit in front of them obscuring their view, or play a game on my iPad very loudly when they are trying to watch the football/golf/Judge Rinder.  Lets see how they like it.

3.  Sleep

I've already admitted that my children are pretty good on the sleep front, when they are asleep that is. It's just the whole bedtime routine that's a bit annoying.  I wonder if they would find it equally as annoying if I came downstairs for a drink every ten minutes or if I needed someone to do up my onesie after I'd been to the toilet.  Maybe DH and I will just have a jolly good row from the guest bedroom in the style of DS1 and DS2 until the floor shakes.  Will they too use the immortal line "I'll turn the internet off if you don't calm down and go to bed!" to stop us in our tracks?

4.  Bathrooms

Toothpaste on the walls, wet towels on the floor and I will use up all their bubble bath and open all the new shampoo before the old one is finished (oh and turn the bathroom into a turkish bath like DS1 does).  Will it annoy them as much as all of this annoys me?  Oh, and I won't offer to tidy it all up.  Ever.

5.  Decor

The final straw.  My perfectly decorated living room ceiling was recently spoilt by a tantruming child.  This particular tantrum was so loud and devastating that it made the plaster fall off the ceiling downstairs.  I am slightly bitter about it as you can possibly tell.  Dare I exact the same revenge on any of my children by stamping so hard on the floor in their home so that the nailheads pop through the ceiling?  Dare I? 


My actual ceiling

Revenge could be so sweet but I think on balance that I couldn't even go that far.

Besides I've got ages yet until any of this is likely to happen.

Of course I may never even get the opportunity.  There's a high chance that if any of them ever have children of their own then the grandchildren might beat me to it ;)

The teen is appalled by this.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Couch to 5k Week 1 - Run Fat Girl, Run

So, to cut a long story short, I recently decided to start running.

Why?  Well, this is not meant part of a weightloss journey, because I have accepted that I am never going to be Kate Moss.  I have curves and I realise that a size 10 is never going to be achievable for me.  What I really do want to achieve however, is to not be out of breath when I chase after the children on their scooters or kick a ball with them in the garden.  To be a bit fitter.  If losing a bit of weight comes as part of this then that's good too.

I wasn't initially going to blog about it but then I thought writing it all down here might spur me into action should I suddenly decide that sitting on the sofa watching daytime TV was preferable to becoming fitter (or Rinder more important than Running if you like).

I completed week one of the Couch to 5k podcasts last week and so thought I'd write a bit of a retrospective post about that, should anyone considering the Couch to 5k want to either join in or need a bit of encouragement to get started.  After all if a slightly podgy 40 year old mother of five (with a questionable pelvic floor) can run then anybody can!

1.  Preparation 

As I say, I chose Couch to 5k, mainly because after getting a new phone recently I'd found the NHS choices app in the App Store, and as it was free I decided to download it so I could have a better look.

The NHS app is very simple to use.  The first week of podcasts is unlocked ready to use and after you've completed that then all you need to do is register with them and you can then unlock the following 8 weeks (yes, 9 weeks in total, OMG what am I doing!).

There's a small amount of information within the app itself but I did also read a few articles on the supporting NHS Choices website about the Couch to 5k programme before I got started.  In particular the advice on what to wear (it's been quite a few years since I hit the gym you see) was helpful.

In addition to this I am using Blinkbox Music which has some readymade running playlists available to download so that you can listen on the move.

I also downloaded Map My Run (more on that next week) so that I had some idea of time and distance covered during each run.

2.  Encouragment 

Ok, so I let slip on Twitter one evening that I was considering C25K which some may say was foolish given that I haven't done any exercise bar Wii Fit since the children were born.  Maybe I was setting myself up for a fall?

Anyhow, I needn't have worried because all I got was encouragement.  This made me even more determined since my husband had just laughed in my face when I'd first mentioned running.

Twitter buddies, it turns out can talk you into anything.  Thanks @mardykerrie for that :)

3.  The first run

The following morning I pulled on my ancient trainers (this may be a mistake but one I fully intend to address at a later date), an outfit comfortable enough to run in, launched the C25K app and off I went. I was convinced that curtains were twitching and neighbours laughing as I marched purposefully down the road, but I didn't care.  Really, I have five children and am pretty much the talk of the street anyway, so how much worse could it be?

I was further convinced that I would hate it and nearly kill myself as I was so unfit, but

IT WAS NOT AS BAD AS I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE

Just 30 short minutes later and I had completed my first "run".  I even had a bit of a spring in my step for the rest of the day.  What followed however, I was not prepared for at all.


4.  The following day

In short, I woke up almost unable to move, wincing with every step.  It appeared that my trainers were a particular version made with miniature graters sewn into the ankle padding because mine were now in shreds and bleeding. 

Actually, I did at this point wonder if I could hack this running lark after all.  If this was the end result of day one, then how hard would the running be by week 9?

Following the advice of the podcast I took a day's rest at this point, and decided to see how I felt the following morning as to whether I would carry on.

5.  The rest of the week

Run number two was much better than the first one, although my ankles begged to differ but I was relieved not to ache at all on the following day.  By the final run of the week (there are three in total per week for the whole programme, so not a massive commitment) I had started to turn the corner so much so that I was not out of breath at all by the end.  So, that was week one, complete!

Things I've learnt this week

Eat breakfast. I hate breakfast.  Mine is usually just lots and lots of coffee.  By the end of my second run I wondered why I was still feeling so wretched and concluded that it must be a lack of fuel.  So I've started to have a small bowl of porridge before I run, which makes it much better.  Not only in terms of energy but also concentration.

Wait for the pavements to thaw. That first run?  I'll be honest, I was like Bambi on ice at times.  Workmen who happened to be unloading their van nearby may have laughed at me.  So now, I wait until the pavements are not white any more.

Music helps motivate.  Even the things that I don't want to listen to.  Listening to music really helps take my mind off how long I've got left to run (and also my blisters!).

I might need new shoes and a sports bra.  Actually there's no might about this.  I really do need to get onto this.  I'm not even going to tell you what constitutes a makeshift sports bra at present *shakes head*.

I quite like running after all.  Who knew that?  I love getting out into the fresh air on my own.  If anything it's a garaunteed half an hour where nobody asks me to get them a drink/feed them/sign their homework diary/wipe their bottom etc.  Bliss!

Do pop a comment below if you are joining in with Couch to 5k too, or even if you have graduated.  It would be lovely to hear from you and I need all the encouragement I can get!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Feeling Old

Do you remember Britpop music - wasn't it good?

Just recently we've been listening to a lot of music, streaming it via Blinkbox.  Happily they have an entire Britpop catalogue to choose from.  Fantastic!  I can practically hear my youth calling me.

Yesterday afternoon there I was listening to some music when Supergrass "Pumping On Your Stereo" popped up on the playlist.



DD2 (5) who was sitting next to me at the time, listened thoughtfully to the lyrics for a while. 

Suddenly she turned to me and said,

"What's a stereo?"

I was slightly stunned by her question.  Are stereos really that outdated?

I suppose they must be.

My husband captured it best in his Facebook status update later that day.



We may be feeling old, but at least we can laugh about it!


Little Hearts, Big Love

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Things I can never stop doing even though my children are growing up

We've made a few changes here over the last week or so.  Firstly, we removed the last traces of big car seats from our family car (which, as it turns out, is actually massive inside without them) and secondly, over the weekend we had a jolly good clear out of "stuff".  Children's DVDs were boxed up (now Music Magpie can have the pleasure of Granny Murray's gurning chops cheery face rather than me), safety catches were removed from furniture (leaving whacking great holes on the inside of all my cupboards, but that's a minor detail really).  My children are growing up.

We're moving on as a family and yet, there are certain things that I cannot stop doing even though my children are no longer tiny.

1.  Buying baby wipes

Who knew that baby wipes were such an essential?  Not only good for sticky fingers, faces and tiny bottoms but now I use them for cleaning things too.  Polishing shoes when I don't have time, degreasing the light fittings in my kitchen. I wonder what's in them that gives them such magical grot removing powers? (actually it's probably best I don't know)  I sometimes wonder how I managed without them - what did I use to clean things with before I had children and a need for wipes?

2.  Shouting "look, police car!"

Picture the scene - I'm driving along in my Housewifes Choice (a big people carrier) and suddenly spot a police car, sirens wailing, racing the other way.  I shout "look, police car!", then realise that not only are my children not really bothered about this kind of thing any more but they aren't actually in the car with me.  The same reaction applies to any kind of emergency vehicle/tractor/digger.  I am trapped in "mum of preschooler" mode, having done this for so many years and now I have forgotten how to stop.

Look!  Police Ca... Oh, never mind...


3.  Sniffing and stroking my children's heads

They aren't babies any more but they still have delicious smelling heads and soft hair after bath time (well, everyone except the teen - I'm not allowed to touch him).  I can't help myself from going in for a quick kiss and a nostril full of that clean child smell.  It's even better if you only buy baby shampoo...

4.  Feeling grateful for every full night's sleep

OK, being honest, my children have always been pretty good at sleeping through the night.  I would even go as far as saying that they haven't given us any trouble with lack of sleep in 14 years of being parents.  That said, I still get that overwhelming feeling of relief when they are all asleep in bed at night. Maybe it's because they can't answer back or argue when they are asleep, or because the house becomes so peaceful but there really is nothing nicer than a sleeping child.

5.  Automatically tuning into Cbeebies

Every morning when I walk downstairs, closely followed by a child or two, I automatically look towards the electronic babysitter to keep things quiet while I grapple with packed lunches and setting the table for breakfast.  The channel number for Cbeebies is ingrained on my brain, my fingers press the buttons without even pausing for a second.  This used to be OK of course but now my actions get met with "But this is for babies!".  So swiftly I change the channel to restore the harmony.  The thing is it is quite easy to navigate from Cbeebies to the other kids channels with the up and down arrows on the remote, and I can't remember the numbers of the other ones anyway.  Or, maybe I'm just subconsciously missing Mr Bloom...

As I say, my family are moving on but there still all these little things that I can't let go of.  Are all mums the same I wonder?

Still, I don't suppose it's a bad thing.  I may be stuck in the past but at least I'll always have clean haired children and shiny light fittings...

Monday, 5 January 2015

How to Rinder your kids

DH and I have a new guilty pleasure.

(No, not that kind of guilty pleasure, this is a parenting blog, remember?)

During the summer holidays last year we discovered a new daytime TV show love - Judge Rinder.



For anyone who has not watched the Judge (if not, where have you been, under a rock or something?), think Judge Judy only in the UK.  But the Judge?  He is much more entertaining (sorry Judy).

The best bit and the reason that I'm posting this now is that he is back today at 2.00 pm on ITV (honestly, there could not be a more perfect time of day - pre school run and teenagers bursting through the door and spoiling the silence - can you tell how excited I am by this yet?).  I have even set a reminder to record it so that DH doesn't miss it (although Siri will not accept that he is called Judge Rinder and so I have currently a reminder for Judge Linda, whoever she might be).

We think that Judge Rinder is brilliant - but not just for his legal mind.

The thing is, being parents to five children, as you can imagine, our home is often full of conflict.  We are no stranger to the fall out that comes with sibling rivalry.  So, in a bid to try and restore some of the harmony, we've kind of been stealing the Judge's moves.

In fact, I think that he could become a new parenting guru.

If you think about it there really is no difference between dealing with aggrieved claimants and dealing with warring small people.

Here then, are my top tips on how to Rinder your kids...

1.  Shushing not shouting

How many times do you shout in the day as a parent?  Well, I shout lots.  Its something I'm not proud of and it doesn't always get the desired effect.  But, the Judge?  He does not shout.  He shushes.  When someone interrupts he shushes.  He cuts them dead.  Job done (and without the need for paracetamol or a large gin afterwards).

So, these days I'm shushing.

2.  "I can smell a lie like a fart in a lift"

Well, aren't they just as obvious?  This is one of the Judge's best lines, and it really works.

Lies and small children go hand in hand in this house.  "It wasn't me!" is heard here a lot.  I often employ the line "Are you sure?" which gives the respondent the perfect get out with a quick "Yes, Mum" (complete with eye-roll), and then, I have lost.

But, why do that when you can deliver the above line, like the Judge? It tells them that you know they are lying (even if you don't), and that confuses them you see - they have nowhere to go with it.  Nine times our of ten, they crumble and fess up.

3.  "When my lips are moving, yours aren't"

Say it calmly, with authority (imagine you are wearing a judge's gown if you must).  You are stating a rule, remember?  Guaranteed to get them to listen.

My children will rarely cross this line of authority.  Whether this is a result of having a lawyer for a father or something else, I'll never know, but they are very rule driven on the whole.  So, we work it to our advantage, just like the Judge.

4.  Every Judge needs a Michelle

The judge is never alone in his courtroom.  He has an assistant - the lovely Michelle (I had given up using the phrase "the lovely" to describe anyone, but I really can't think of a better description in this instance).  She is there to pass him all the documentation or evidence when he requires it and to show the claimants/respondents in and out of the court.  It's a partnership rather like a marriage really and in our marriage I am Michelle to DH's Rinder.

When dealing with quarrelling children I am always there to put both sides of the argument to him impartially in front of the two warring parties, oh, and I sometimes send them to their rooms afterwards.

I don't have high heels or great hair like Michelle though.

5.  "I'm talking, I'm ruling, I'm not listening!"

Another line from the Judge but I liken it to my own "I don't care who started it, I'm finishing it".  It's like verbally drawing a line in the sand.  Again, there is nowhere for my children to go if we have reached this stage in conflict resolution.

As the claimants and respondents know in Judge Rinder's court, once he say's this there is very little point in carrying on their argument in front of him.  Or, even arguing back to him for that matter.  With my kids it's exactly the same.  It even works on the teen.

So, you can keep your Super Nanny and your "How to talk so children will listen" books because I reckon that the Judge has got this child discipline stuff sussed.

In fact, Judge Rinder, if you are reading this and your TV court room judge career doesn't quite work out then I think this could be the perfect way to diversify,  really I do...

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The seven ages of the School Nativity

So, it's nearly Christmas Day and as I prepare for the festivities by relaxing with my favourite Christmas film, Nativity (even though I've watched it twice already over the weekend) and a nice big gin, I've been reflecting on my own children's school nativities over the years.  I've been to loads of them now both good and bad and so thought I'd share.

1. The first first nativity

You know then one.  First child, first nativity.  I had to provide a full sheep costume and so as not to be outdone by the other parents I decided that nothing less than a proper costume from a fancy dress outfitters would do.  This had nothing to do with the fact that I had completely underestimated the demand for sheep costumes in the North West of England that year, and having sent DH to two branches of Asda for the £5 version only to discover that they had sold out, realised that my options were somewhat limited.  £20 plus p&p it cost me.  Still, he looked adorable, and being in the Reception class, was of course only on stage for about four minutes of the whole thing.  Money well spent...


£20 for four minutes use - bargain


2. The second first nativity

Being slightly more savvy this time, I decided that I'd make my daughter's nativity costume, I mean, how hard could it be?  Then the slip of paper came home.  She was to be a sparkle (WTF?). So I hit the shops for tinsel, sparkly material, silver tights and a cheap tshirt to embellish (even someone of my limited sewing skills can manage that). With the material I planned to make a simple skirt.  After pondering it for a moment I hastily bundled it up into an envelope and posted it to my mum to do.  Ahem.  Thanks Mum I owe you.  Child one also needed a costume (donkey) and so, because I had yet again left it too late for a supermarket version, I ended up back at the same fancy dress website as the previous year, ordering a ready made donkey tabard for him.  Of course my daughter really did sparkle and was at the front of the stage so all things considered it wasn't a bad effort.  My son ended up somewhere in the shadows at the side of the stage with the rest of the Year One choir. Why did they need costumes?  Why? That was another £20 wasted then.

Sparkly...


3. The third first nativity 

I can't remember anything about this one.  Can't even remember what DS2 was supposed to be.  Was it because he is an oft forgotten third child?  Well, not exactly.  Two days before the nativity and after sourcing the black pumps that he needed to wear (costume provided by school - result!) I received a phone call from his teacher asking if I could come and pick him up.  It turned out that some other child in the class had pushed him into the side of a toilet cubicle in the pre-lunch hand washing scuffle and he'd split his head open.  It needed gluing shut (boak) and he had to spend the rest of the week off school, so we never got to see him in his first nativity.  I'm sure it would have been good...

4.  The weird alien nativity

I can't be the only parent that has had to sit through this can I?  For those of you who haven't had the pleasure I'll attempt to explain.  I think that the rough plot had something to do with aliens coming down to Earth to witness the birth of Jesus (again WTF?).  What I actually remember is seeing DS2 shuffling up the central aisle of the school hall, dressed as an alien with some sort of flashing wig on (surplus from school disco I think). Then, well, what happened next was anybody's guess.  I was at the back of the hall balancing two one year olds one on each knee (big knees obvs.).  I'm sure it was delightful, but I did not see.  Really though, aliens?  At Christmas?  What were the teachers thinking?

5. The one I can't remember nativity

So, bad mother of the year award here clearly, because I don't remember this one at all.  I didn't even have the excuse of not being there this time.  I watched the whole thing, start to finish.  I even remember where we sat in the hall.  I just can't remember the plot or what part DS2 played (occasionally I get flashbacks of something to do with the Caribbean but then I wonder if I'm confusing it with the alien one again, or perhaps I spent the whole play just having a really nice daydream about Johnny Depp, I'm not sure). In fairness, I was distracted with a pair of two year olds climbing all over me.  I wonder if DS2 will ever forgive me?

6. The last first nativity

Moving forward to this year.  My last first nativity as a mother.  The last time with Reception aged children.  I wanted to blub my eyes out all the way through, because, that's what you are supposed to do isn't it?  Especially when I have a 10% stake in the cast.  But you know what?  All I could think about was that at last I didn't have to sit through the whole thing with a pair of babies or toddlers on my knee.  It was bloody amazing, just sitting there and not pissing off any of the other nativity watchers.  To spite me, and burst my bubble somewhat, someone with a very vocal one year old positioned themselves next to my left ear for the entire performance, just so I didn't feel too left out.  Which was nice.

Look at my lovely empty knees...

My mum sobbed throughout the whole thing though ;)

7.  The final nativity 

Looking forward, what will my last nativity ever as a parent be like?  Will I cry?  Will I understand the plot?  (Please God, no more aliens)

I do know that I will be sad to see the back of the annual nativity play, for all its faults and the disasterous costumes and plot lines I've had to endure over the past few years, it's been fun.  An essential part of parenthood and a right of passage.

Every year I moan about going, but I'll let you into a little secret, I love it.  Really really love it.  There is no better way to start the festive season when you are a parent, is there?

With that I'd like to wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my fellow nativity goers, past, present and future.  Be it aliens, traditional or Caribbean, whatever you watched this year I hope it was wonderful and made you proud.




If you've been reading my blog this year then thank you!  It really means such a lot to me, especially reading all your comments.  I'll be back some time after the Christmas break with more nonsense from inside my head.  See you soon!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Baker Days - Review

This year that we we decided that we wouldn't be buying or making a big Christmas cake.

I'm not sure about you, but ours usually ends up being left until January and then once I'm sick of looking at it, moving the tin around the kitchen and attempting to eat it, I do my best to get rid of it by sending it into school in the children's lunch boxes.

So this year no cake has been made.

When Baker Days recently got in touch to ask if I'd like to review one of their letterbox cakes for Christmas I was in two minds.  What if we couldn't eat it all?  What if it ended up with the same fate as last year's cake?  Wouldn't that be a bit of a waste?

After a quick look as their website, however, I could see that they sold so many different types of cake, different sizes and styles that I was sure that I could find something that would be suitable for us.

The Baker Days website is very easy to navigate.  There are various categories for the different designs of cake.  You can have Christmas cakes, Birthday cakes, personalised cakes, and even cakes with photos.  There are so many different types that I can't write them all down!

In addition to that their cakes come in a range of sizes from the letterbox cake which serves about 4 people to a large cake which serves 40-55.  They even have cupcakes too.

Once you've selected which style and size of cake you want you can also choose from sponge cake, Belgian chocolate chip, fruit, gluten wheat free, and dairy free cake.  There really is something for everyone here.

After a bit of pondering I chose a letterbox cake with a Christmas design and fruit cake inside.  My cake only took a day or two to arrive.  The beauty of the letterbox cake is that, as the name suggests, it fits through the letterbox, so it didn't matter that I was out when the postman called because it was waiting for me on the doormat on my return.


The children were really excited to see the cake.  It was packaged inside a sturdy white box and inside the cake was nestled in a sweet little cake tin.  As it was a Christmas cake we even had a cracker supplied too, which was a really thoughtful touch.




The children had planned on writing their Christmas cards on the day the cake arrived, so we decided to accompany our after school card writing with a slice of cake each.   Perfect!




The cake was delicious and had lovely juicy pieces of dried fruit inside.  The icing was just the right thickness and not sickly like some of the bought cakes I've tried before.  The design we had chosen was really cute and fun.  We managed to divide the cake into more than the advised 4 slices - I think ours made 10 child sized portions in fact.  We had no problem eating it all up either, so no January leftovers ;).



Would I buy a Baker Days cake for myself?

Well, yes.

In fact, I'm really kicking myself that I didn't look them up before now.  With all the 40th birthdays that have passed in the last year or so (and that I've sadly missed due to geography) a Baker Days letterbox cake would have been the perfect gift to send each one of my friends.  Because of the options for dairy free cake they would also be suitable for lactose intolerant family members (who are really difficult to buy for).

Prices start from £14.99 for the letterbox cake, which I think is good value when you consider all the different options you can have to personalise each cake and make it unique to you.


We were sent a Baker Days Letterbox Cake for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are our own.