Friday, 27 November 2015

Music to Parent to

So last Saturday I found myself with four whole hours of solitary peace and quiet to fill, while I winged my way down to London on the train.

But, how to keep myself occupied?  Read?  Tweet?  Possibly.  But what I really relish these days is being able to listen to music on my headphones without being interrupted every five minutes by a child.  It's quite a rare thing for me.

I'm getting back into the habit of listening to music just lately.  Especially to break up the monotony of the day, like when I'm running, or ironing or whatever. (Probably just running or ironing to be honest - such is the complete lack of excitement in my life right now), but even that isn't the same as just being able to listen without one eye on the clock or the road or a child.

The teens do the eye-roll thing every time we watch the X Factor and I exclaim "ooh, I could buy that and listen to it when I run/iron".

"No Mum, just stream it on Spotify or YouTube, don't pay for it."

*mind blown*

They will never know the pain and frustration of having to save up the money earned on a paper round for an entire month, and then hot foot it (or hot bus it) into town to the local Our Price to buy an album.  They just don't understand how easy they've got it nowadays.

But what's more, is not only have I started to do just that (the streaming thing, which is like some kind of modern day magic if you ask me), but, via the medium of Apple Music, my phone has even started suggesting music for me to listen to (the staff in Our Price never did that).

The other day it was this:

Oh Apple Music, do you really know me at all?

To which my husband helpfully commented, "don't they have a 'Music to burn things to' playlist?"


But come to think of it, while there are playlists available for all kinds of activities, there are still a few missing.  And why is there nothing specifically for us parents, to break up the tedium of looking after the small people all day?  It's an untapped market, I tell you.

So as I was scrolling through trying to choose something suitable for the train journey, I made one.

Music to Parent to - a playlist for people with children.

Sam Smith, Writing's on the Wall - and the sofa, the carpet, the dining room table legs (why does biro never come off?)

Little Mix, Black Magic - Mmmm, chocolate... (not sharing it)

KDA, Turn the Music Louder - until I can't hear the sound of whinging children any more

Oasis, Half the World Away - yup, that's bedtime! (only another six hours *sigh*)

Rachel Platten, Fight Song - room sharing for siblings

James Bay, Hold Back the River - we're potty training (again)

One Direction, Drag Me Down - Drag me down the big slide at soft play, drag me down the sweetie aisle in Tesco, drag me down the stairs at 6.30 am on a weekend...

Jess Glynne, Hold My Hand - while we cross the road.  No you can't walk by yourself, you are still too little to cross on your own.

Taylor Swift, Shake It Off - your shoe, honestly I told you to watch where you were walking!

Justin Bieber, What Do You Mean? - You know I can't understand a word you are saying while you are having a tantrum...

What's the betting that even if such things did exist, nobody would be able to listen to them without being interrupted by "Mum, mum, mum, mum!" or "can you get me a drink?" and the universally acclaimed "What's for dinnerrrr?"

Maybe it's a market best left untapped after all.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Drink more water with Infruition!

I'm always nagging my children to drink more water and stay away from the juice and fizzy drinks.

But, from their point of view it isn't that easy, after all juice and fizzy drinks = exciting and water = boring.

They have a point.

So when Infruition approached me a few weeks ago and asked if we'd be interested in trying out their new Infruition Kids water bottles I was sceptical to say the least.

Could something as simple as a water bottle really make my kids stop reaching for the orange squash and take to drinking water instead?

So, we decided to give them a whirl.

Each child chose a different colour - the biggest three children had the standard Infruition Sports bottles and my six year old twins had a bottle each from the new Infruition Kids range.

So, what's different about Infruition compared to other water bottles?

The bottles are like any standard reusable water bottle to look at, but the main difference is that attached to the lid inside there is a removable chamber in which you can put fruit, veg, tea and herbs - really anything you want to flavour your water with.  Your chosen flavour then infuses with the water in the main bottle through narrow holes in the chamber to turn water into, well, something more interesting!

Infruition Kids bottle, lid and chamber

Infruition Kids carrying handle

The bottles have a flip top lid which is leak proof too.  A few times they were left on their side on the furniture in the living room (where I don't usually allow drinks) and the water remained inside the closed bottle.  There is also a handle on the top of the lid for carrying which we really liked.

Once I'd explained how the bottles worked to my kids they were raring to get going with making up their own combinations to try.

We started with what we had left in the fruit bowl - a major advantage of these bottles if you ask me, as I can use up any left over fruit that hasn't gone into the lunch boxes over the course of the week.  After trying Apple and Strawberry, Lemon and Lime, Grapefruit and Orange and even Lemon and Ginger, the children decided that they preferred the taste of the citrus based infusions the best.

Our first fruit infusions!

We were also provided with a small recipe book in addition to which there are recipes on the Infruition website here, but my lot were all happy enough with making up their own drinks.  I may be tempted to try a few of them once they get bored of the current combinations.  I suppose that's another advantage, in that the possibilities for recipes are endless - you can never really get bored then!

Have the bottles actually made them drink more water?

Yes, I suppose they have.

I found it quite easy to make the bottles up with fruit in the mornings and pop them in the fridge for when the children get home.  This means that they tend to reach for them instead of helping themselves to squash.  I also noticed that because they are so convenient my two eldest boys have on occasion used them while they have been plugged into the Xbox of an afternoon.  They wouldn't usually drink anything while gaming, and I do worry that they don't drink enough fluids full stop so this was something of an added bonus.

Teen girl was quite keen to take her bottle to school.  She says she gets thirsty all the time in class and all the school water fountains are spread out too much, so she doesn't often get an opportunity refill her current bottle easily.  The standard Infruition bottle is large holding a whopping 700 ml of water.  Although I worried that it would be a little heavy to carry around, she said it was no bother (what do mums know?) and her water lasted from the start of the day right through to the end.

What about the Infruition Kids bottles, how are they different?

Well, the lids are identical to the Infruition Sports bottle but the bottle itself is not only a smaller kid sized bottle (450 ml) but also comes decorated with really cute patterns.  Twin girl loved hers so much that I'm sure it made her want to use it more.  She kept pointing out all the characters on the bottle to me and was generally very pleased with it.

Decorations on the Infruition Kids bottles

Twin girl had the fruit pattern with a pink lid and twin boy had the forest fox pattern with a blue lid.  I thought both designs were a nice touch to make the whole drinking water thing a bit more fun!

Another thing I like about these bottles is that they are all BPA free and thoroughly safe to drink from.

All in all I have been pleasantly surprised by the Infruition range and we certainly plan on carrying on using them, going forward.  My children still drink the occasional glass of squash at mealtimes but I have definitely noticed that I'm buying less of the stuff now that we're using the Infruition bottles, so they are a winner for me too!

Infruition Kids water bottles are priced at £12.99 each and are available here.  Infruition Sport bottles are also available priced at £15.99 each.

We were sent five bottles from the Infruition range to try for the purpose of this review.  All words and opinions are our own.

Friday, 20 November 2015

The Apprentice - Stay at Home Mum Edition

Der, de, der, de, der, der, der, de, der, de, der, de, derrrrr!

We are big fans of The Apprentice here.  I loved this weeks' episode which was filmed up here in the glorious North West (and also can't quite believe that the apprentices thought that Mancunians would go for toilet paper for £3 a pack.  £3!).  #idiots

The best bit is always the boardroom at the end (and I always take a bit of pleasure from making toilet flushing noises as Lord Sugar walks in through the door behind the boardroom table, which never gets old yes I know I'm childish).  Then there's the way the contestants get shouted at for repeatedly getting the tasks all wrong and the arguments about who is the best.

It's a bit like having children really, which set me wondering whether Lord Sugar could be missing a trick.  Maybe he should incorporate some typical mum jobs into one of his tasks?

After all, there are loads of skills us mums have which are similar to those required for a business environment.  Maybe the measure of a true apprentice could be determined in the following ways:

1.  Negotiation Skills

Persuading small children to get ready and go to school
"Just go and clean your teeth and then you can have a go on the iPad"

Getting teenagers to do their homework
"Finish your homework, then you can go on the XBox"

Encouraging husbands to finish the decorating
"Listen, just finish painting the walls in the living room and then I'll let you buy a new TV."

That kind of thing.  It's essentially a technology based carrot and stick strategy.

2.  Teamwork

Taking it in turns with your husband or partner to split up sibling rows, return small children to bed and help with homework.  Or, better still, making it look like teamwork because they are doing all that while you are doing the washing up not really, I'm stuffing my face with biscuits behind the closed kitchen door.

3.  Multitasking

Serving breakfast, making packed lunches, finding lost/clean uniform and signing homework diaries all at the same time and in the space of about half an hour, and all while drinking a hot cup of tea (got to make it a bit tricky).  What does hot tea taste like anyway?

4.  Time keeping 

Getting out of the house on time for the morning school run with three children, and making it to the school gate without having to return for forgotten P.E. kits, musical instruments and book bags.

Yes, I know I have issues with this myself, so I'm hardly one to talk, but two mornings this week I have got there not only on time, but before the actual school doors have even been opened!  Two mornings!

5.  Sales Technique 

"Yes you like this meal, it's delicious, and you've had it before"
"Just three mouthfuls and then you can have pudding"
"Eat just a little bit and I will let you have sweets"

Also known as mealtime bribery and corruption.  Easy when you know how.

6.  Damage Limitation/Managing Expectations

"No you cannot have an iPhone 6s for Christmas"
"School trips to New York are not compulsory/will not make you pass your GCSEs with a better grade"
"Father Christmas cannot actually give you Stampy Longnose"

Honestly, it's non stop some days.

Now I come to think about it, Lord Sugar could just cut the middle man completely out of the process by hiring a mum.  And as it happens, I know one who's currently considering a career change.  Maybe he should give me a call...

I bet he would never let me drink a hot cup of tea in peace though.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Extreme sleep positions for beginners...

It never fails to amaze me how children can sleep almost anywhere when they feel like it.  

Twin girl is a master at this, but I did think that by the time she turned six she might have grown out of falling asleep in odd positions/places.  Her twin brother always goes and tucks himself into bed if he feels tired, which is far more sensible (and means that I also get the sofa to myself).

After a particularly heavy week at school (apparently Year 1 is really tough) I found her like this on the sofa one Saturday afternoon.  How she didn't slide off I have no idea.

Of course, she stayed up for ages that night, but that's another issue for another blog post. *sigh*


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Ten unwritten rules of the school run

Standing in the school playground for the umpteenth time, waiting for one of my children to prize themselves away from the climbing frame so that we could go home (the other two were helpfully quite eager to get home too for a change), I was reminded how the school run never really changes.

Yes, OK very clever, but can we GO HOME now?

No matter how much you love loathe endure the daily process of dropping off and picking up children from school, there is always a little bit of it that gets on your nerves, or is that just me?

It's like Groundhog Day.  I can practically predict everything before I get inside the gate these days.  Here are ten inevitabilities that having do do the school run brings.

  1. It always rains at 3.00 pm.  Always.  If you take an umbrella or waterproof coat, it will be wall to wall sunshine.
  2. If one child comes out of school on time, then the other/s will be late.  You will wait there for hours for them and it will rain.
  3. If you happen to be on foot then something heavy/a junk model will need to be carried home, by you.  The kids will skip home and you will be knackered, sweating and struggling with PE kits/musical instruments/all the bags.  FML.
  4. You will have forgotten the baking money/school trip money that you promised the teacher in the morning.  Again. #memorylikeasieve
  5. If your kids are tired and grumpy at the end of the school day, everyone else's will be perfectly behaved.  And, if you are even remotely on the edge of losing it with your grumpy child/children, everyone will see and tut.  #alleyesonyou
  6. You can never park even vaguely close to the school gate. How do other parents always get the best spaces?  Do they camp out overnight or something?
  7. If your child has done baking that day then the baked goods will be eaten by the time you get home.  I have never tasted any of their baking yet.  This is probably a good thing, but it would be nice to be given the choice.
  8. When the teacher decides to let the class out on time then you will always be late.  And when you are on time?  The teacher will hold them back for no reason.  The latter will only ever happen in the middle of winter when the outside temperature is about minus two.
  9. The PTA will accost unsuspecting parents for money by setting up stalls selling stuff in the playground (ice lollies in summer, tuck shop the rest of the time).  It's a trap! (OK, I know it's for a good cause but still)  No parent can avoid the whining of a child that doesn't get a lolly when all their friends have one.  And woe betide the mum with no money in her purse. It's always me.
  10. A successfully completed school run always results in one child realising that they have lost or left something at school on your eventual return home.  This can be anything from a toy (which you told them not to take into school in the first place), a brand new school jumper or their pants (truth, it happened to us once).

No matter how pretty I try to make it look, doing the school run is still tedious

I have unwittingly signed myself up to several more years of this frustration by the very nature of having had more children.  I never learn.  But would it be too much to ask for a patio heater and a branch of Costa in the school grounds this winter, to cheer me a little on the endless wait to get my children back?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Worst family day out ever...

I was struggling a bit for this week's Wicked Wednesdays post, mainly because the only annoying/funny thing that has happened this week in our house was that the curtain pole in the living room fell down due to DH's substandard DIY skills.  It wasn't a good photo though.  Messy, yes, funny, not so much.

So instead I decided to trawl through the family photo album for something more amusing.

I came across this, taken in my pre-blogging days and never shared before...

To give context:  We were half way up the Great Orme in Llandudno, it was freezing.  We thought the kids would enjoy the tram ride, but clearly not!


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Why I'm proud to be the mum of a teen...

I know that it might look as if I enjoy more than the odd moan about my teen from time to time (OK so it's all the time), but just recently I've realised that I really quite enjoy having a teenager...

The blog posts I've written about how frustrating I find his habits and behaviour are all still true, but it isn't simply a case of child-shaming for the sake of a few extra page views or a retweet on Twitter.  The reason that I do it is because I love being the mum of a normal teenager.  Really.

The teen boy is now 15 years old.  And, during those 15 years I have been on a steep learning curve as his parent.  To say we've been in some scrapes is an understatement.

At this time of the year I'm particularly reminded of how lucky I am to still be his mum.  The 9th November to be exact.  15 years ago.  It was my fourth wedding anniversary and the first one we spent as a family of three.  The teen boy was a newborn, just four weeks old.  Except we never got to celebrate it.

Instead it was the day the teen became a heart patient - something that changed him forever.  Medical professionals and terminology invaded our lives in a way I never thought possible.  I have written a bit about that before and a guest post over on Little Hearts Big Love about how we found out on that day.  Despite feeling like something of an expert on his congenital heart defect, I'm not going to go over it again.

It suddenly hit me the other week on his birthday, that back then and in the days that followed we had no idea whether he'd live for 15 hours, 15 days or 15 weeks.  It was such a traumatic time, living from day to day and hoping, no praying, that we'd get the chance to be a normal family.  Every time I think about it the feeling of fear still catches me in the throat a bit, it never really leaves.

And yet here he is, my greasy haired, messy bedroomed 15 year old son.  The one that makes jolly good blog fodder from time to time.  It feels like a massive milestone.  He is a credit to the nurses, doctors and surgeons who saved his life.  And to us.

I love him.  I don't say that enough any more.

He used the last of the milk the other morning.  And through gritted teeth (I really wanted a cup of coffee), instead of shouting, I smiled.

I might write a blog later about how much teenagers eat you out of house and home.  Or I might leave it.

Because I feel so grateful that I still can.

I love you, teen.  Even when you drink all the milk...