• The Fat Issue in our House

    After school snacks!
  • National Stationery Week and Encouraging Children to Write

    Things you write when you are five...
  • How Not to Waste Your Life at Home

    St Albans Literary Festival
  • The Joy of a Good TV Show #StreamTeam

    kimmy schmidt

The Fat Issue in our House

After school snacks!

After school snacks!

Over the past year I’ve made a concerted effort to eat more healthily and exercise more. I must admit its a bit up and down, but on the whole its positive and as a size 10-12 I’m below the average size for a woman in our society. The husband has also joined the gym and to be fair does go along regularly, I try to limit available treats for him at home, but losing the weight is proving more of a challenge. For us though, its also influenced by the shadow of middle age, with all of its changes, there definitely is such a thing as middle aged spread!

The battle that i’m having at the moment is with the children. I’m really aware that their diet and lifestyle is probably not as healthy as mine was. We eat different meals and have different like and dislikes to in the past. The way we live is also very different, even three year old Ned thinks nothing of going into the kitchen and helping himself to whatever he wants to eat. Its just what they do.

Clearly this poses a lot of issues, not least that i’m being eaten out of house and home. It costs a fortune to feed my growing brood and its only going to get worse. One of the major problems is the cost of fruit and vegetables. I can get through £12 in strawberries a week, thats only 6 packets and since one packet just about feeds 3 children you can rule them out as a healthy snack. I could go on; one melon would make a small after school snack for them, its a packet of apples a day in our house. Compare this to 22p for a packet of Sainsbury basic biscuits and you can see where the money goes and why you’d offer a few biscuits for snacks instead of something healthy.

This lot wont last long...

This lot wont last long…

The problem i’ve now got is that the children are getting a little chunky. Now, I’ve read all the stuff about how you need to empower children, not mention their weight and so on because you don’t want them to develop an eating disorder. However, i’m stuck, they know all about healthy eating. They love healthy food. They love food.

So, i’m conflicted I’ve been trying to subtly cut down their food. I dish out dinner more often than I let them serve themselves from bowls on the table. I fill the fridge and cupboards with as much healthy grazing as I can. I take them out on their bikes, scooter and they go to various sports clubs including swimming each week. However, they are getting plump.

I’m coming to the opinion that I need to talk to them about getting fat and how bad it is. This is in contrast to a lot of the recommended parenting advice. But what do you do? I don’t want them to get fat and then struggle to lose the weight, surely its better to deal with the issue before it happens. But then what if this leads to eating disorders? The trials of parenting! Advice appreciated…

National Stationery Week and Encouraging Children to Write

Things you write when you are five...

Things you write when you are five…

When I was training to become a childminder it became apparent to me just how important it is to encourage children to pick up a pen, stick, paintbrush or anything like that and make marks. Not only does this help them to build their fine motor skills which are so useful for everything they do in life but it can also help build the start of a love of creativity in both writing and fine arts. Anything that you can do to get your child to make marks will make a difference so don’t under estimate any opportunity.

As your children get older it’s easy to let them slip into habits at home and before you know it you can find they use the computer for the majority of their writing. I’ve noticed this with my eldest who will happily write on his blog, but not in his diary. I’ve tried my hardest to encourage the children to put pen to paper and Fifi now writes a personal diary in bed at night and I make a point of making the eldest write shopping lists for me and other little notes. Euroffice have come up with some handy tips to get children writing which are very useful.

Despite your best efforts, it can be an uphill battle to encourage children to write or draw especially as these tasks seem, at least to them, like the sorts of thing they do at school. April 27th marks the start of National Stationery Week and I’m using this as the perfect opportunity to take them to buy some special new stationery which usually spurs them on to produce lots of little bits of creative writing. After all, children are just like adults and we all find it hard to resist new stationery.

I’ve been taking the kids to buy new stationery for the past few years at this time as it’s around the start of the summer term which is usually a good time to get them out and about and provide them with things to write about. Each year I buy them:

A journal notebook which they can use to record after school activities such as trips to Butterfly World or the Zoo and then summer adventures like our holidays in Norfolk and Camping fun.

Some blank readymade cards which they can use throughout the year to design birthday and Thank You Cards.

A pocket notebook: They can use this to record things that they see throughout the forthcoming year in museums and galleries. I have a nice collection of these with their drawings of famous paintings and notes about things they have seen.

Nice new stationery can be a joyous thing, there is nothing nicer than receiving a hand written note through the post and it’s something that is being lost today. Make sure you get your kids to write their thank you cards, journals and diaries that you can look back on. Not only will this help them when it comes to their education, it’s actually really nice to look back on these things in years to come.

This was a collaboration post.





How Not to Waste Your Life at Home

St Albans Literary Festival

Introducing the speakers at St Albans Abbey in my volunteer role as a Director of St Albans Literary Festival

This is something puzzling me a lot at the moment. The realisation that three kids means that one of us adults has to make a sacrifice in terms of their career has both plunged me to the depths of despair and doom and risen me to the heights of the possibilities of reading, craft and general busying myself. But lets face it; either you love being at home and its your ambition to retire as soon as you possibly can, or you want to work, enjoy the challenge of working with others and seeing interesting things. In both scenarios you can view your contribution as valuable and worthwhile, however it does depend very much on your personality as to which one you think is the most valuable way to spend your finite life.

I think from the moment I was born I had a burning ambition to succeed in life and to make something of myself either financially or academically. I worked tirelessly to achieve these goals and through what I would argue was hard work, rather than luck I achieved some great roles at work very early on in my career. Then I stalled, I made the mistake of staying in a job longer than I should have because it was comfortable and, lets be honest, quite an easy life.

As regular readers will know, redundancy hit me harder than I thought it would as I didn’t realise quite how much I was dependent on my particular job for my interest and general mental well being. Being at home has been hard, yes there have been times when its been financially challenging (this month), but for me, its the lack of interaction with others who have similar interests and also the lack of ability to have a hands on approach to what I’m interested in which is the killer.

I do think there is a real danger that women can find that they have wasted an awful lot of time at home (depending on what your opinions are as to what is a waste of time). Its easy to spend a few days cleaning and tidying, reading trashy novels and binge viewing television programmes. I have to admit, I don’t have a lot of interest in any of these really, I especially despise cooking which seems completely and pointless- you make something, eat it (or complain about it) there is nothing to show for the entire day you spent slaving away.

I’m trying to take a positive spin on my time at home and make sure that I don’t look back on it and wonder however I managed to waste the prime years of my life.  I’ve come up with some suggestions and a handy crib sheet for myself on things you can do which won’t feel like such a waste of time as dusting:

Enrol on a course: These can be fairly expensive and this is a barrier to many. Recently I discovered some great online courses from world renowned universities which are free! You can even get marked by the lecturers and work towards a certificate which a bonus for your CV. Have a look at the Open University and Coursera which do some fab courses. If you’re feeling a bit more ambitions consider whether or not this might be the opportunity to do that post graduate degree you’ve been sidelining.

Earn some money at home: I’m not brilliant at this and it isn’t easy, but you can make money copy-writing or doing Social Media for companies. It might be easier to see if the neighbours want their lawns mowed, ironing done or something similar to that. I know of mums who take their babies on cleaning jobs with them. Another option is to consider becoming a childminder. It doesn’t sound much and probably nothing like what you did before, but sometimes earning a bit of cash for yourself can be very empowering in lots of ways.

Read quality books: We all love a bit of Chick-Lit but I’d argue that its a good idea to take note of what you are reading and inject a few classics or modern day classics in there which might add some value or meaning to your life either now or later on.

Get a pet: I really mean this, the addition of a cat to our household has really helped my mental frame of mind. Not only is there a bit of company but it feels very worthwhile to provide a home to an animal in need and the personal benefits far outweigh anything else. For the first time I can see why people at home might have a dog.

Volunteer: Ironically in my line of work it would make better financial sense for me to volunteer in school hours than it does for me to be paid and pay the childcare. Volunteering can really bring an enormous sense of self worth and value. It can also boost your CV, help you gain new skills and develop areas of interest into future careers. I enjoyed being the Director of St Albans Literary Festival and I know several people for whom volunteering has helped them step into work, particularly in the creative fields.

Network: Networking doesn’t have to begin and end at the school gates, if like me you are an introvert this is probably the last place that it can happen for you. However, i’ve made some really valuable connections via Twitter, gained lots of worthwhile career advice and linked into a community of people who have similar interests. This way I can keep up to date with the latest developments in my field meaning that I don’t become out of touch.

Write a book: You won’t earn any money writing a book but it can be enormously fulfilling personally. A book doesn’t have to be a huge thick novel. Think about things which you are interested in, are you great at craft, entertaining children or have an ability to enthuse people about a particular interest. These days you don’t even have to go to a publisher CreateSpace enables you to get things online and on sale with Amazon from the comfort of your home.

The key to all of this is that its about what makes you happy and if, like me you are one of life’s do-ers when you need to make your (enforced) time at home as worthwhile as possible. That way, the children will benefit from a fulfilled mum rather than a frazzled mum.

These are all the ideas I could think of, I’d love to hear any that you might have and if you have any tips which might inspire me to find inner happiness in being a domestic goddess then I’d appreciate those too.

The Joy of a Good TV Show #StreamTeam

kimmy schmidtEaster hasn’t done me any good at all as i’ve been eating all the children’s chocolates. They don’t like chocolate all that much so it hangs around a bit and its there, calling me in the fridge. I cant help myself. We also have a lot of cake around this time of year as its birthday season again. A bit of cake is always nice with a cup of tea isn’t it…

Not only have I been forced to sit down and eat, i’ve also had to sit down and finish my latest knitting project. I had no choice. Of course, when you sit down and knit its nice to have the television on and being on of the Netflix StreamTeam means i’ve had the whole of Netflix at my disposal. Unfortunately for Netflix, i’ve been so busy watching loads of stuff, knitting and eating chocolate that I haven’t had time to blog about it.

All in all I blame my weight gain on Netflix, its their fault entirely for producing such a fantastic range of things to watch that I don’t feel the need to move from my sofa. I’ve binged on various things, but for me the absolute best programme has been  Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was so good I was literally STUCK to the sofa. It was a chore to stop viewing and make the dinner so the kids didn’t starve.

I think Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is most probably one of those love it or hate it programmes. I love it, i’m not a fan of American comedy but somehow Kimmy’s little faux pas and turns of phrase really struck a chord. Kimmy Schmidt is a bit like an American version of Miranda in terms of getting things a bit confused. The programme is basically about a girl who has been rescued from a cult making her way in New York. In essence, its an American sitcom created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock and starring Ellie Kemper.

If you like your comedy joyous, well written and delivered with spot on timing then this really is the programme for you. I must admit, I think its enhanced by the very likeable nature of the characters and their interesting wardrobes which visually deliver additional gifts. I genuinely found this laugh out loud and this doesn’t happen very often.

Kimmy Schmidt quotes are probably worth learning as you’ll see them popping up all over Facebook when you start looking. Here are a few:

“I’m not running a charity here, except the one where I donate my old towels to poor people with the same initials as me.”

“I’ll keep the crowd away like a Greenpeace volunteer.”

“My parents are blimping into town tomorrow.”

Enjoy this little trailer which gives you a flavour of the programme. It comes highly recommended by me, let me know what you think!

Featured Post: Home is Where the Heart is?

Its National Tell a Story Day on the 27th April, this is chance to celebrate oral storytelling. Stories can be from the heart, from memory, descriptive, made up, literally anything. I love storytelling and thoroughly enjoy sitting around telling stories to my Beaver group and also to my own children. These are generally tall tales with an element of the supernatural or down right crazy. Its a brilliant way of getting them to learn all sorts of things from general knowledge, sentence structure to the art of sitting and listening. The benefits are huge and its such an easy thing to do with them.

I was challenged by Mecca Bingo to tell my own story. Rather than publish here some of the children’s stories i’m writing in the vague hope that someone might be interested in publishing them I thought I’d tell you the story behind why we love our house:

Home is where the heart is, right? That’s what I used to think when I was younger. When I moved in with my husband and we tried to have a baby and we tried and tried without luck. I began to doubt my happiness in our home. Five years later we decided to move house, within months I was pregnant. Coincidence, right? For me, home is more than where the heart is; it’s where the soul is too. I love my current house from the tips of my toes to the top of my head, partly because it gave me a baby!

Being built on an ancient Iron Age settlement, I think my house has a soul. I often wonder if our good fortune with pregnancies and our general happiness has stemmed as much from this fortunate geographical position. The Chinese believe in the power of Feng Shui and I think we must have just got lucky, perhaps we put the furniture in the right place by accident. Who knows?

There was a dangerous time when I feared that the whole house would be taken over by toys and the plastic artefacts of childhood. Now, thanks to a clean white paint job and wicker baskets we have  begun to reclaim the house from children. I still trip over toy buses and find half eaten biscuits at the foot of the stairs. Yet I marvel at how wonderfully lucky I am to suffer these little inconveniences and how short-lived this home invasion will be.

StoryTelling Chair

My Storytelling Chair

I always think that a home devoid of flowers and pot plants and books is a sad place. My house is full to the brim with books of all shape, size, colour and topic. Each day I sit in my bright pink armchair with the baby at my feet and read a poem to him. We choose different flowers for the large glass vase which sits under the television each week. Not only do we enjoy their scent, but we draw them, photograph and remark upon the amazing things you can bring into your home and how they can change it. This is what makes my home, our home.

As Jane Austen once said ‘There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort…’ and I must admit I like my bed with it’s freshly laundered sheets. If I could, I’d take my own bed and the coffee maker on holiday with me. There is nothing to compare to your own bed is there?

catI love my photograph wall, I love my bespoke home-made cushions and even the broken letter box. I love all those things I’ve told you about. This is what makes a house, our home. But, you know, the one thing which has really turned our house into a home is the addition of a cat. It is complete; three children, sofa, television, books and a cat. Who would have thought!