Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Teaching fairness to the kids, and expecting some ourselves: RBS, Hello, Goodbye

Teaching loyalty and fairness to my kids is something which (I hope) comes across as an everyday event in our house.

Having two boys so close in age, it's an ongoing task to teach them to be kind and courteous to each other.

 Sharing is a huge deal too - my boys are always having to learn how to share and how to treat each other fairly (or try to).

Being so close in age (just 2 years between them) they have had to learn to share a lot.  My eldest son has felt the brunt of this - he learned very quickly what it meant to be a big brother, and I'm very proud of him; he very often defaults to his younger sibling automatically for most things.  Ethan on the other hand can be a little more reluctant to show fairness.  He is the bitter to Thomas's sweet a lot of the time, and it's an ongoing task to make sure that Ethan learns how to show fairness to his brother.

I'm happy to report that, in the main, I receive a lot of lovely compliments about how polite my boys are, which is something I am very proud of; if nothing else, I wish for them to have good manners.

They are in no way perfect though - we've definitely had our moments!

What do we do?  We do our best.  That's all anyone can ask.  We try.  We're not perfect, but we do try!

1. Be the best role model.

Being kind to animals!

Children model your behaviour.  Like wee sponges, they soak up your social cues like nobody's business.  If you listen while others talk, they'll listen while others talk.  If you always say please and thank you, they will also insist on doing it.  You are the best role model for your child - never forget how heavily they monitor the little things you do.

2. Teaching Empathy

I have always worked in customer service, so more often than not, I'm either trying my damndest to provide a great service for some people,or hoping to receive the same courtesy.

Transferring this into my personal life, I always try to treat others the way I would like to be treated.  I try to teach the kids this too - so when they are squabbling over something and they hurt each others feelings (a daily event!) I always say to them 'how would you feel?'

Giving them this wee moment to consider how each other would feel if in each other's shoes usually hits home for them.

3. Books and Storytelling

Book reading is fun too!
Books are a brilliant way to get a message across - they cover almost anything that you wish to teach your child, making it easier to discuss topics which may otherwise pose a problem, without being too daunting for a wee one.

One of my favourites is this one by Mo Willems:

It really makes me and the kids giggle, as well as showing them a wee bit about fairness and loyalty, without being at all heavy.

4. Board Games

Playing games teaches fairness
This one is a bit harder to do with young children, but this is definitely one of the great tools of teaching.  Not just focusing on chance and luck, games teach about taking turns, playing by the rules and doing your best.
Our boys love a board game, and I like to encourage this.  It fosters a sense of competition while allowing them to see losing and accepting failure (not always graciously - but then I know some adults who have a huge problem with this!)

Loyalty and fairness is a difficult concept to grasp!

RBS have launched a new campaign which deals with fairness and equality,making the point that it shouldn't just be new customers who benefit from great deals.  Which is so true!  Having been a loyal member of some schemes int he past,I'm always a bit miffed when deals and awesome giveaways pop up 'for new customers only, as seen in this video:

How many times have you been wooed by fancy gifts and polite conversation, only to be pretty much shoved out of the door when you happen to mention that you've already been a happy customer?

It's even happened to me in the street!

I completely agree that companies should work hard to keep their customers happy and to reward those who have been loyal.

That only makes sense to me.

RBS are saying 'Hello' to great offers for existing customers, and saying 'Goodbye' to a lot of the things that banks are otherwise notorious for - like extra overdraft charges on missed payments and only new customers getting the best rates.  Check it out for yourself here.

We spend a lot of time teaching our children the meaning of fairness and equality.  It's time we expected a bit back.

It's great to see RBS rewarding existing customers as well as new ones!

Disclosure: I'm working with Britmums and RBS on theis project and have been compensated. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Safety Nets

It's that time of the month again.

Over a week until pay day and we are wondering what in the heck we are going to do.  We will manage.  We will cope.

But it all comes with a lot of jumping through hoops and a lot of thinking outside of the box.

At this moment in time I am considering my options; I'm mentally going through everything in my head - what we need to have and how much money we will need in order to get to the finish line.  What we have to sell which might be able to tide us over.

Our safety nets.

We've been going through our safety nets a lot quicker recently.  It used to be that they were a last resort - we had too much, so we set things aside and never even thought about them.  Never even thought of them as saleable items, never even realised that we would be using them as resources.

Now I tally them mentally every month when yet another crises arises, when yet another bill rears it's ugly head.

Things are very tight, there's no doubt about it, but we are very good at strategising, very good at working out what we can live without.

We are lucky to have safety nets like this.  Not everyone does.

A lot of people get uncomfortable when they talk about money, about finances, about not having enough of it or having too much of it.  Nobody likes to discuss their own personal situation, unless it's in hindsight or with a close personal friend.

Money is life's great equalizer, the great judge who deems whether we eat or heat, the one who separates the have from the have nots and divides and rules.

Our dealings with it, be it the debt we owe or the millions we have stashed away are whispered, like a huge dirty secret.

It's a strange old thing.

The concept gets weirder, the more you think about it.

Why do I document this?  Why do I write this down? Surely I should be quiet and get on with it like everyone else?

For the future, I suppose.  So we can record what it is like now and hope that one day we will look back at it and know that we got through it.  To laugh at the crazy things we got up to later on.  To hopefully remind myself in the future to build more safety nets.

And to teach my children that they can build them too.  And to be grateful for each and every one.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Today, my baby boy is Four Years Old.


How did that happen?!

I'm looking forward to Four, but I'm going to miss Three.

Three was...

Discovering Mickey Mouse

Getting grommets and finally being able to hear properly

Starting to listen properly to books at story time

Being a 'prown up!'

First rollercoaster ride (and loving it)

Singing songs

Discovering 'Let's get ready to Rhumble' and listening to it over and over

'Everybody wants to be a cat'

Jake and The Neverland Pirates

'I'm not wittle, I'm a big boy!'

Having a 'big' seatbelt in the car

Eating fruit and veg sneakily, anywhere else but at home...

Imaginative play

Susan the ladybird

Watching movies with the family

Toilet training (at last) and doing it in one go after months of treating the toilet like it was a volcano

Donald Junior

I'm excited for Four, but there's definitely something bitter-sweet about it.  This year will mean my baby will finally no longer be a baby.

All part of the adventure!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Party Day: The Two Birthdays in Two Weeks Quandry

Our boys have their birthdays within two weeks of each other, which has always been a bit of a headache for us.

Two little monkeys

The first year, we had two very expensive celebrations, feeding our huge family twice with a lot of food to honour both our then three year old and one year old.

The second year, we had learned from the year before.  The month was already expensive enough with two birthdays, why not have just one celebration?

We hired the local hall, complete with bouncy castle, musical statues and pass the parcel, and decided to host it here for everyone - we also invited some of the boys' friends from nursery!  Bonus!  We held it between the two birthdays, sure that this was the obvious, perfect solution.  There would be food for both adults and children. Perfect!


We hugely underestimated how excited both children would be for their birthdays, and also how excited everyone else was for them (which of course is very lovely).

We ended up with not just one celebration, not two, but three whole celebrations, complete with three cakes and snacks across three days.  It was crazy - and much more expensive than the previous year.  But, no matter, by all accounts we were still experimenting.  And also, there's nothing wrong with eating party food for a whole month (I quite enjoyed the extra cake, crisps and chocolate that happened to be lying around - who wouldn't?!)

The kids had had a blast, and we had really enjoyed seeing everyone so frequently and were really grateful that they had made the time and the effort for the kids, but we also felt guilty about asking folk to make such time and effort so close together.  Our family, although large, is not especially social and doesn't spend a lot of time together naturally, plus, you know, the usual busy with life stuff.

Dave: "How can we make it so that we have one efficient birthday celebration? Hmm?"

Me: "Disneyland!"

That's right.  I'm crazy!

We went from the sublime to the ridiculous last year when I suggested, researched, booked and executed an elaborate surprise trip to Disneyland Paris for the kids' birthdays.

But, I surmised, it combined the elements of holiday and birthday celebration perfectly, and, oddly, was quite cheap (I got an amazing deal in the January sale).  We booked up for 4 nights, children were free and we got a free food package.  It was brilliant.  And what's more, our best buddies decided to come along too and join in the birthday celebrations! Amazing!

We had such a great time - it was truly magical.  I won't go into the whole holiday (that's a completely different blog post), but we were all completely blown away.

Due to school holidays and pricing, we ended up going away the first week in October.

We ended up in the Mickey Mouse cafe on Tom's 5th birthday, complete with cake and singing and finished the night with fireworks at the castle.  As we were walking back to our hotel, Ethan in the buggy, Tom on the buggy board, Tom whispered to us 'I can't wait until I have kids so I can tell them how great this has been.'

Deal, done - best time ever.

We had tried to make it about both kids - we packed presents for both, gave them both as equal a share in cake celebrations as we could, but there was no escaping the fact that Tom definitely had the best birthday out of the two.  We had a small pirate party for Ethan at home when we got back, and Tom got in on this too: because we hadn't been at home on his actual birthday, everyone was really keen to see him and give him gifts too, which was great.

But it was tough to make it equal.


This year, they are that bit older, that bit wiser to birthdays and what they entail.

Poor Ethan is still a bit young.  At very nearly 4 years old, he is very excited, very much into it all and really clued up on parties, cake and presents.

Having Tom's birhday first has really confused him though.

First, he got a few really cool presents on Tom's birthday from some relatives, which meant he felt included and he was really excited about that.

Next, they both asked for a party for them and their friends, which we held yesterday at a local hall. We decided, to be fair, to hold it in the middle of the school holidays and in the middle of their birthdays.

It was chaos.  Nearly 30 children in a hall with a bouncy castle and lots of bikes.  We spent a lot of time making Pinterest-inspired food, sourcing cheap tablecloths and stressing out about invitations.

Ethan's birthday is tomorrow, but his dad is working overnight tonight and then until late on tomorrow, so instead of missing it all, we have decided to have Ethan's birthday today, so we can celebrate together.

Much more chaos has ensued.  Instead of having one birthday and a party between them, they have both ended up with one party, a gathering of family on each birthday day and Ethan is technically having two birthdays, plus celebrated on Thomas's and got loads of lovely presents from his party yesterday. Both boys have been absolutely saturated!  But what the hey - you're only wee once!


Next year it is Ethan's 5th birthday and we plan to go away for it - I'll be searching for a deal in January, but blooming heck! Who knows if we'll ever come up with a solution for the birthday problem!

When they are older it will be easier to explain, but at the moment it's really nice that everyone is so keen to celebrate our little boys.  We are so lucky and really grateful.

A huge thanks goes out to everyone who has celebrated with us.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


Six years old.

Five Years was...

Mummy, I'm finished, but I'm still hungry!
Arguing with my brother.
Crying with happiness at the end of films.
Scared of the dark (but only a little bit).
Getting to like the cinema.
Theatre trips.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Rollercoaster Loving.
Computer Games.
Cuddly Toys.
Good at making friends.
Made myself like bananas and peppers!
Fish and Chips.
Learning to ride my bike.
Being an amazing reader for my age.
Awesome school reports.
Sometimes not listening...
...but a first clear hearing test!
First wobbly tooth.
Barber visits.
Long walks.
Visiting the zoo.
Secret late nights on the couch with Mum and Dad.
Making toast!
Getting my own breakfast.
Planning a career in video games making.
Playing the Yes game!

Properly counting the sleeps until my birthday...

Happy 6th Birthday Thomas!

Monday, 6 October 2014

I tried it, and I liked it #1

Skulduggery Pleasant, The Dying Of The Light

So, the main character is a guy who is dead and is a skeleton. And a detective.  That's grounds enough for an epic story, right?

My first experience of Derek Landy's epic series, combining horror, fantasy, comedy and intrigue was in the library.  Of course.
I work in a children's library, and as such, I get to spend a lot of time talking to kids of all ages about what they read.

So here she is, the young lady in the green jacket.  She approaches me nervously as she hands back her book.  As I scan it back into the system, she stutters, 'Do you have the next one in the series?'
She's not nervous because she has to ask me for a book, she's nervous because she really  really needs the next one  right now and she is worried that I am going to say that I don't have it for her.

And I don't!

I search high and low and in the secondary stock and even in the Teenage library, but it's not there. These things happen in a children's library - it's a hazard of the job.

 I break the news to her gently, and then I tell her we can order a copy in for her, but it might take a week.  She's not too disappointed.  Instead she grins and nods her head enthusiastically, just glad that she can get it at all.  Curious, I ask her about the book, while I apologise profusely for the missing copy, and she's eager to tell me all about it, telling me that actually, she's glad she has to wait a bit, because she needs a break, just to absorb it all.

'Wow!  Is it that good?' I laugh.

'Yeah, it's really awesome.  It's just so thrilling and I really love the characters - the writing is really unpredictable and it's not done in a formulaic kind of way, so it's really different.  You can never tell what's going to happen.'

I make a mental note to look out the first of the series.

Just as she leaves, and I put the book she just returned on the book trolley, a young lad comes in, he's maybe about 10 years old.  He looks awkwardly at the book on my trolley.  I smile and say,

'You okay, dude?'

He points at the book and says nervously, 'Is that...is that for anyone?'

'Err...' I look at the hope on his wee face and smile.  This is why I love books.  They are magic.  

'Just you, mate', I say, handing him the book.  He looks at the cover and then I ask if he wants to take it home.  He nods and I beep it out for him.  He's happy.  I'm happy I've made him happy, job done.

I was sent a copy of the last Skulduggery Pleasant book in order to review it, but I think that these two experiences do all of the talking for it.  Landy's writing is fast-paced, energised and exciting - to all ages. The characters are a work of art, all relatable and, the beauty of it is, none of them safe from Landy's plans, no matter how awful they may seem.  Nobody is immune from being killed off or sidelined, and the plot is twisted and fun.

I'm sad to see the end of the series, like may Skulduggery fans will be, but like many, glad there has been a conclusion.  And a very thrilling conclusion at that!

Available in Hardback in all good book shops!  If you are looking for a gift for a pre-teen for Christmas, this is the one!

RAVPower Mini Lipstick Charger

I hate my phone.  For some reason, it's never got any battery on it and it never has quite enough when I need to do important things like take photographs for work, or upload stuff to my G+ account (all very important for a blogger!)

I have to mention that since I dropped it, it's kind of lost its appeal to me too  It's not quite the same trying to scroll down a broken screen.  The cracks catch on my finger and well, it just makes me sad.  And I still have another year on my contract! Poop!

I can't fix my screen without forking out a lot of money, but I can sort out the battery issue.

I was sent the RAVPower Luster Mini Lipstick charger to try out, and I have to say, it's been great.

Doubling up as a torch too, it charges from my computer via USB port, and then the wire simply flips around to connect from the charger to my phone.

It takes up no more space in my bag than a lipstick case, is a sleek design and comes with a small price tag of just £10.99 too.  A fab piece of kit.  No more blogger emergencies!  It also ensures my phone is charged when I'm out all day - very important as a parent!

You can buy it from Amazon.  And it's compatible with:
iPhone 6, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, 4, iPod (Lightning Cable not Provided); Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3, S2, Note 2; Nexus 5, Nexus 4, HTC Sensation, One X V One X V S, EVO 4G, Thunderbolt; Nokia Lumia 1020, 920 900 N9; Motorola Razr; LG Google Nexus 4 and other Android & Apple Device, Smart Phones and Tablets!


Vimto Squeezy

We spend a lot of time out of the house at the moment and a lot of time in the car.  Nobody ever told me how crazy it could be, running between all the kids diffeent groups and classes, not to mention my own day to day stuff.

I need sustenance!

It's very important to stay hydrated when busy, and water can get boring.  I was sent some cool new wee bottles to try to jazz up my water. Vimto now comes in tiny little bottles, ready to turn water into tasty goodness with just a few drops.  What's more, the bottles are handy for slipping into a bag or even coat pocket, providing a wee treat for when you are rushed off your feet.  They come in three fab flavours too, original, cherry and strawberry, enhancing your water with as little or as much flavour as you like!

And you know what? No Added Sugar! Win!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown

I have a slight Snoopy obsession.

It's not something I have been vociferous about since I entered adulthood, but yes, I am a huge Peanuts fan.

This week, Charlie Brown celebrated his 64th Birthday!


I didn't really fathom this however, until I was perusing my various social media accounts and stumbled across the AMA section on Reddit, where none other than Jean Schultz herself was answering questions about Peanuts and the whole franchise, including details on the new Snoopy Movie which is to be released next year.

What a lady!  I had goosebumps as she described her husband's drawing routines, his views on copyright and also his health issues, of which I had no real idea.

The reason I love Peanuts is because it encompasses humanity.  It corners those feelings that all people have on relationships, the ironies of everyday life and its nuances and also the breadth of emotion felt at such a basic, but very complex level.  The protagonists are children, and I really do think that not only do they link in with our inner children, but help us to simplify our feelings on a basic level, which is sometimes is all anyone needs.

Plus, it's pure joy.

Old Sparky left us with a lot of that.

Thank you, Charles Schultz.

In honour of Charlie Brown's big day, here are some of my favourite Peanuts quotes!


Saturday, 4 October 2014

Small Morning Victories!

Getting two small children out of the door in the morning should be considered nothing less than an Olympic event.

My mornings never run like clockwork, despite the effort made the night before to ensure as smooth a run as possible.

Someone always spills milk, there's always some sort of calamity involving the loss of a shoe or worse, the dreaded school tie, and we very rarely have a morning where everyone is completely happy and ready to go on time (not looking at anyone in particular, oh youngest son).

Refining the various tricks and things that go into the morning routine is nothing short of an every day small miracle and should be considered applicable for addition to a C.V.

Plus, there's never a morning where everyone is happy.  Either the dog ate the toast off the table (he's supposed to be old and doddery, not to mention a wee bit blind but apparently his nose can always locate toast at a 5 mile distance) or Ethan doesn't feel like he got to watch quite enough Jake and The Neverland Pirates before we leave (hence a tantrum) or worse, I don't get time to grab some food before we leave, which makes everything seem just a little bit more challenging.  Especially once we have dropped Tom at school and I then realise I have a butt-ton (yes, that's a legitimate unit of measurement), I say, a BUTT-TON of stuff to do before I'll be able to get home.

I hate mornings.

That's why I decided to hook up with the #MorningWin Linky challenge with Belvita breakfast biscuits.  I need to see how other people are doing this!

Britmums and Belvita are asking bloggers for their small morning victories.  So here's a few of mine!

Hat finding - just one more thing to remember!

1. Leaving the house on time

It's pretty much the end goal, isn't it?  All roads lead to exiting the house, albeit with one shoe on, no school tie or a half-packed school bag.  Joke.  I'm not that bad.

But leaving the house in the morning, on time, with everyone intact is one huge victory! So, a smaller victory would have to be...

2. Finding all of the shoes

Not my shoes then...
I have no idea where my trainers are.  I took them off three days ago, and I can't find them.  I have three pairs of shoes, all have very specific purposes.  When I am rich and famous, I'll buy back up pairs.  But until then, I live in a perpetual, never-ending search for my shoes.  Or, more frustratingly, one shoe.  Because no matter how many times I make sure everyone has put their shoes in the hallway, ready to go, or do the end of the night count, there's always some crazy shit that goes down that means that some of the shoes go walk-about. Usually in the middle of the night after the elderly dog (who likes a middle-of-the-night wee) has been out and I've sleepily deposited my shoes somewhere crazy, or after the three year old has decided to play that lovely game of 'sniff my stinky shoe!' with his brother.

There are all kinds of shenanigans that you wouldn't believe goes on in this house. I feel genuine relief when I see a pair of shoes together. Actual, genuine relief.

3. Getting four pairs of socks

What the hell happens to socks?
I love new socks.  I get a bit precious about them.  I promise things to them in my head, like 'I'll keep you both together always' and 'I'll never let Dave wear you with his bag mad crusty feet' and 'I'll always wash you together so you stay in a pair'.

Lies!  All lies!

Despite my best efforts, we have ended up with a sock bag.  I think I hate it more than anything else in my life.  Every day, the search through the bag for pairs is a soul-destroying task that fills me with rage.  And complete happiness when I find a pair. And complete merriness when I find a pair for everyone.

One day all of my socks will be paired and in drawers, but today is not the day.  Not when I still have butt-ton (yup, there it is again) of other, more important stuff to do.  Like, anything else.  Life is far too short. Sorry, socks.  And anyone else who cares.

4. Managing to leave the house with everything we need

It's early, we're all tired, we've possibly dealt with things in the night that we never thought we'd ever have to deal with.  If you have small children, or an elderly dog for that matter, you'll know the kind of things I mean.

I'd give you my secret handshake, but I can't remember if I've washed my hands yet...

Joke.  I joke. *dry laughter*

Getting out of the house with everything we need ; packed lunches, play pieces, homework, a change of clothes, hats, gloves, scarves, gym shoes, lunch money, books, things I said I'd give to people...it's no mean feat.

I do forget sometimes.  Although, I'm going to jinx it now by saying I've had a good run lately where I haven't forgotten anything.  But there were a LOT of times last year where I forgot things and had to hand them into the school office an hour after making the initial trip.  It was so bad that the lady in the school office didn't even have to ask who I was handing it in for.  But at least I got it in the end, right?

These are my morning victories. These, coupled with not getting stuck behind the bin lorry in our narrow street, not getting stuck behind every red light there is on the way and managing to get the kids out of the door without the inevitable fight that they have to see who gets to open the door (Why?  Why do they do that?  Every damn morning!)

Eating a wee brekkie always makes things a wee bit better, and if I can grab a wee bite to eat on the way out of the door, in the car or even on the way to school, or even after, then I consider this a big win too.  It just makes life so much easier to deal with if I'm not running on empty.

I use Belvita breakfast biscuits a lot, and although I prefer to be sat at home enjoying a leisurely breakfast in front of the television, or curled up with a book, these are the perfect alternative for some healthy sustenance.

Try them out - the chocolate and hazelnut ones are my favourites.  I love a wee bit of sweetness in the morning and they make a nice wee change from the usual milk and cereal ones I enjoy.

This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. Learn more at http://bit.ly/belVitaUK

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Four tips to get your kids up and going in the mornings

Though it may seem difficult enough for most mums to get themselves up and ready to start the day, the beginning of a new school year can be especially hard to get little sleepy heads back into a school routine after the summer holidays.

Whether your kids are reluctant to go to school, want a few extra minutes in bed or are just a little disorganised, weekday mornings can turn into running battles in many households.

Unfortunately, there are no magic wands that can be waved to transform a child into a compliant early riser, but by following these four tips you can help make the school run just that little bit easier with less stress for everyone.

1. Prepare the night before

Getting packed lunches, school uniforms and homework ready to go the night before can save valuable minutes on hectic mornings.

Whether your children go to a state or private school, you should be able to get a copy of their timetable to help them work out what they need as far as homework and PE kit for each day.  Help them be better organised by making sure homework is done and lunches are packed away nice and tidy before the manic morning arrives.

2. Get your kids used to an alarm clock

To help your little ones to rise and shine with a smile on their faces, invest in an alarm clock , which will stress the importance of punctuality.

By encouraging kids to set an alarm and dress themselves, you’re giving them a bit more independence without the struggle of repeatedly going in to wake them.

3. Keep breakfast simple

As long as the kids have something healthy and filling in the mornings, it doesn’t matter how elaborate the meal is, so why not save precious time by keeping it simple?

A bowl of cereal, some fruit, yoghurt or breakfast biscuits will all do the job nicely. As your kids get older they can start preparing breakfast themselves, saving you even more time.

4. Stick to a bedtime routine

No matter how old you are, getting up in the morning is always tough when you’ve had a late night.

By sticking to a regular bedtime as much as possible, you will get your kids settled into a routine and ensure that they get enough sleep before the long school day. 

By following these tips you can make your mornings a little more manageable and little less manic.

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That time my Dad left