Friday, March 24, 2017

Parenting 101: Tweens

You know that saying 'Solutions appear when you start looking for answers'?

No really, do you? Because it's very possible that I just made it up. But I've decided it's true, so I'll take the credit if nobody else already has.

Anyway, we've been coasting along for awhile now with the usual arguments, homework, play, cuddles, fights, tantrums and laughter that sum up most families daily lives. It's been fine. (Apart from the boys fighting which is still driving me completely bonkers). I've been busy. They've been doing their thing. Hamster wheel, Life etc etc.

And then there came a moment last week when the wheels fell off and I realised that perhaps we weren't coasting after all. Perhaps there was a lot going on behind those gorgeous faces that I hadn't stopped long enough to find out about.

Which got me thinking.

Which got me looking.

And lo-and-behold - the answers started appearing.

Online friends shared articles that I previously would have skipped past, but this time took the time to read.

Andrea from Office Mum shared a post entitled The Dangers of the Good Child which pushed a hovering penny down, and helped me instigate a conversation with the eldest about how it was ok not to be perfect all the time. Sometimes we don't realise the pressure they are putting themselves under to help shield us from any more life stresses. But who doesn't need a good ol' tantrum every now and then. It's good to be given permission to have an off day.

Marianne from Mari's World shared a post called Not every child is an A grade student. Why we must not let B/C/D be shameful. Again, it tapped into beliefs and concerns I've been having. Comparison with classmates and siblings can lead to feelings of insecurity and worthlessness. We need to nurture their individual talents and not keep raising the bar for grades only. At the same time they need us to focus our attention on them when and where they need it most.

Finally, Rachel from Well Worn Whisk shared a post Why I Stopped Punishing My Kids: Replacing Punishment with Connection. It's full of thought-provoking ideas and new ways to parent. 

I could have written this (but didn't):

"On the days when my kids are fighting and crying the most, I can almost always look in the mirror and realize I haven’t stopped and sat down and looked them in the face while they talk to me. I haven’t put my arm around them and sniffed their heads while they tell me their dream from the night before in every detail from start to finish. All day I’ve been saying, “Just a minute” or only half listening to what they’re saying while I’m checking Facebook, answering emails, or loading the dishwasher without even looking at them."

(The irony of reading this on Facebook while my kids got ready for school is not lost on me). 

In the midst of all these lightening bolts I suddenly realised that I now have not 1, not 2, but 3 tweens. Each of their needs are different, but at 8,10 and 12 they fit squarely in the tween bracket - that middle ground between young child and teen that throws up a whole heap of emotional wants and needs.

So I'm trying some new approaches. We're focusing on 3 family rules to start with: No shouting. No hitting. No punishments.

And one 'just for me' rule: Individual time with them each day - even if it's only 5 minutes.

I can already hear the laughter ricocheting around the ether of the internet. And yes, I may be back tomorrow to say it hasn't worked out. But we'll keep trying. And really that's what parenting is all about, isn't it? Coasting the good parts, hitting the bumps, looking for help, and then trying again, again.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


I'm having a bit of a blog lull at the moment. The usual life, work, kids juggle is as real as ever, but those moments of snatched peace are now being filled with novel writing rather than mindless mind dumps on here. What I've discovered is that a little every day is far more productive than trying to carve out a four hour session that never actually happens.

So progress is being made. Sometimes I'm excited by it. Sometimes I think it's utter shit. But I guess that's what keeps you chugging down the track when you don't actually know if the station at the end is filled with a welcoming party or an empty crisp packet blowing along the platform.

Anyway, I saw this Snapshot post on fellow blogger \ writer Awfully Chipper's site and decided to join in. Just to prove I'm alive \ have a life.

Snapshot of my life - what I'm....

Listening to: I Have A Tribe. Beautiful piano, mesmerising storytelling, lovely guy. I went to see him just the other week in Whelans and would recommend anyone and everyone to give him a listen.

Watching: Just finished Taboo. Tom Hardy. Now what? Recommendations gratefully received.

Reading: Re-reading The Time Travellers Wife - for novel writing purposes. AA Gill's Pour Me for pleasure purposes.

Looking forward to: Finally seeing a Cat Power gig this week. Last time I went to see her was about 10 years ago. I got stupidly lead astray and ended up sitting in the bar and missing the gig.

Wearing: Jeans, boots, sweatshirts, How did I survive so long without sweatshirts?

Eating: Too many delicious pastries from the lovely little Italian cafe down the road from work.

Working on: The Book.

Frustrated by: The Boys. Will they ever stop fighting with each other? It's the million dollar question.

Enjoying: Life. A wise friend once told me 'You're allowed to enjoy life you know?' It was a bit of a wake up call and I put in motion making choices that made me say 'Yes' instead of 'Oh I really shouldn't'. Also giving up drink has been the single greatest decision in terms of deep down life enjoyment. Cheers to that.

Not enjoying: It says a lot that I'm struggling to think of something - so lets just end on a positive.

See you at the station.

You can read more snapshots over on Awfully Chipper here. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

How to stop arguments about kids and coats.

Last year I found two perfect coats for my boys. One was a parka (I love parkas) and the other was a very cool bomber jacket. 

I bought the coats, brought them home and then spent the next six months arguing on average three times a day about the fact that they had to wear them.

'Put on your coat'

'But it's not cold!'

'Put on your coat. It's -3 degrees out'

'But I can't run in it!'


'You're so mean! You're the worst mother EVER'

And repeat, ad infinitum.

It gets very draining believe me. 

So when an email popped into my inbox asking if we would like to try the latest styles from world renowned brand Berghaus I grabbed the chance, hoping desperately they might help stop me from going slowly insane. 

Crucially, this time I let the kids choose the jackets. 

The very next week they arrived to much excitement. The boys donned their matching jackets immediately. 

'Our jackets are the same!' exclaimed the little brother excitedly.

'Our jackets are the same' said the big brother dolefully. 

And yet even that didn't put him off. 

They went for a walk to test them out. Style, comfort, warmth and wearability - all ticked off the list.

So the kids are finally happy. Hallelujah.

From my perspective they couldn't be better. The main thing is they actually wear them without an argument. Seriously. Not one argument about putting on a coat since they arrived. I actually can't believe it. 

The quality is second to none. The boy's black insulated jacket is described as 'A warm, lightweight jacket with a water repellent outer to protect from light showers.' And that's exactly what it is - perfect for those spring showers and warm enough for those unexpectedly cold days. 

I'm also thrilled that at least one of them still chose a parka #parentinggoals

We took ourselves off to the zoo at midterm and I didn't end up carrying them once (the coats that is, not the kids).

They've also been wearing them every day to school, to friends houses, to sports, on walks and everything else in between.

And did I mention there were no arguments?

You can see the selection of berghaus coats and jackets at Blacks Online.

For boys coats
For girls coats

Disclosure: I was sent these coats for the purposes of this review. All words, images and kids are my own

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Harry Potter at Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Last Christmas I decided to give memories instead of presents to the kids. They get too much stuff as it is and half of it gets broken or discarded within a month, so I went a different route. Trips.

The eldest was the easiest. She had fallen under the spell of Harry Potter that year and spent at least 4 months walking around with her head in a book, bumping into lamp posts and past friends, occasionally looking up to see where her dinner was or to eye her mother disdainfully for asking her to put her book away.

So what better way to ease the poignancy of finishing the last book in the series than a trip to Warner Bros. Studios - the home of Harry Potter.

And as my sister lives just 20 minutes away it couldn't have been easier to plan.

The look on Kaya's face when she got the voucher was, as they say, priceless. But when we actually got to where the bus pulls up - it was even better.

And it continued to get better and better throughout the day.

We explored the sets of each of the films, learning about dragons and owls and special effects.

 We were taught how to wield a wand and fly a broomstick.

We wandered down Diagon Alley, visited Privot Drive, and jumped aboard the Hogwarts Express.

And of course we got to taste actual butter beer. This is how good it is...

The detail involved in the making of the films is mind blowing. Like for example the tens of thousands of wands that were individually inscribed with the names of their owners. Or the handwritten letters that the owls carried - which turned out to be too heavy for them so had to be done all over again on lighter paper. Now that's commitment.

The sets, the costumes, the detail, the magic - it really was amazing.

For a fan, or indeed their mum, it's definitely a highly recommended experience.

More info:
A transfer couch service runs from Watford Junction Station
Loads of parking available at the studios
Staff are all extremely helpful
Queue to get in - approx 25 mins
Tour time - approx 4 hours
A family ticket costs £118

Disclosure: Warner Bros Studios gifted us tickets to the tour in exchange for a review. All words, pictures, daughters and opinions are my own. For more information head over to their site. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

One word 2017

I gave up making New Years Resolutions some time ago. Those lengthy lists of tasks I would once again fail at within a couple of weeks brought no positives.

What I adopted instead was the One Word movement, a fabulous way of keeping your focus on what you want for the year ahead. The idea is simple - you choose one word that embodies your hopes for the year ahead and then you come back to that word throughout the year as a way of refocusing yourself on your chosen path.

In 2015 my word was Fresh - "Fresh starts, fresh air, fresh food, fresh thoughts". 

Last year it was Depth - "From focusing on meaningful relationships with friends and family to putting my all into new projects instead of half-hearted attempts of 'could do better'.

I still like those choices, and I'm hoping to hang on to them both for the year to come too.

But if 2016 taught me anything it's that you never know what's around the corner. Because just as I was launching in to my 'new year, new me' January I was told that I was to be let go from the job that I'd worked in for over 5 years. It was a terrifying time and the support and understanding of friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers is what got me through it.

So I made some plans, signed up to a course, wrote, networked, and joy of joys managed to land myself an absolute dream job not too long later,

2016 was also a year of music, love, travel, accomplishments and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, giving up alcohol. I never, ever thought that I'd be doing that.

And so with lessons learned and reflections considered I've found my word for 2017. It's an odd one for me to be honest. My word this year is - Goals.

It's not a word I would have chosen a year ago. It's a bit too direct and forthright. But now it just seems right. And while I mulled over 'perseverance' and 'belief' - I realised that they were both simply tools for me to achieve the goals - so I've gone straight for the target instead.

Whether it's work goals, writing goals, fitness goals, or family goals - for me having the long-term accomplishment in sight will help me put in the short-term work.

This time next year I want to be able to list the projects that I stuck at and achievements that I ticked off.

2017, I think I'm ready for you.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Could you live off-grid? #COL

Recently I spent a weekend in Dingle, on the remote West Coast of Ireland. We went for a walk on the wild headlands and stopped to stare at the small islands across the cold stretch of grey water.

A few remote houses dotted the largest one. Not more than five, on a tiny, rugged, remote rock in the middle of the sea.

I stood for a long time contemplating life on that island. The same people day in, day out. No electricity, no shops, no roads, no pubs. What would you do there? What would you miss? And why would you choose it when just a jump across the narrow stretch of water was the mainland?

Flogas recently spoke to 910 Brits and found that 85% of people have, at some point, considered moving away from the city to live “off-grid.” That's a massive number of people looking for escape. 

Other findings from the survey included

          Most people prioritise running water, electricity and gas for cooking and heating as top priorities, but around 8% don’t see them as a priority at all in a remote area.

          80% of respondents think that living in a remote area would suit them.

          Almost half of respondents would miss their smartphone within a week!
(A week??! Try an hour!)

          Running water was voted as the most important service, followed closely by gas and electricity.

          Men were found to have more of an urge to break away from society than women (34% of men vs. 28% of women).

          An impressive 77% of people are confident of their abilities to change a gas canister.

          25% of people are confident of their ability to self-sustain, ranking a local shop as a low priority when living in isolation.

          25% of millennials often want to get away from society.

Could you do it? Would you do it?

Hand on heart I know I couldn't. A week off grid maybe - but anything more than that sounds a bit too much like hard work. There's too many things I'd miss. Not least of all you lot!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Find out more about Flogas and their business gas prices here. For more on the survey see #IWouldMiss

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Family made simple #spon

When you picture 'family' what do you see? A mum, a dad, 2.4 children and a dog?

Turns out things have changed in recent times. The nuclear family has imploded and, according to a new survey bSlater & Gordon Solicitors people now define 'family' in a much broader sense. In fact 27% of people surveyed saw family as 'anyone you wanted it to be' and 15% of them had at least one step-sibling. 

Family has undoubtedly become a messier, more complex entity. Often it is a hodge podge collection of parents, sons, daughters, brothers, step-sisters, in-laws, exes, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends. 

But that doesn't mean necessarily mean that families are any less happy than before. Often they are even more content. In the same survey 49% considered there relationship with their family 'very good'.

Of course it's not all hugs and roses. Especially at this time of year. Christmas is often the time where the knives come out - and not just for the turkey.

But whether yours is the perfect poster family which hazy instagram shots of family walks on windswept beaches, or you are the one that always seems to get caught putting the bins out in your pyjamas and shouting at the kids that your all late... the fact is that we all have good days and bad days and deep down love nothing more than cosying up together under the fairy lights with a tin of celebrations.

Slater and Gordon (@SlaterGordonUK) are celebrating the loveable, complex modern family over the coming weeks with the hashtag #familymadesimple. Why not tag them with pics of your own unique family - whatever form that comes in.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post 

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