How to Help Your Child Perform Well in their Tests

Exam season is a tough time for children, whether they’re going through their GCSEs or they’re still in primary school. Fortunately, there are plenty of things that parents can do to help their kids manage exam stress to ensure they perform well on the day of the test. I have teamed up with Banstead Prep, an independent school in Surrey, to offer parents some helpful advice on how they can help their children perform well in their exams.

If you’re helping your child with their exam revision, try to make it as enjoyable as possible for them, and let them know that they’ll be a reward at the end of it.

Get them some fun stationery for revision

Think about your child’s preferred learning style and factor that in when you’re working together, or if you’re supplying revision tools. For example, visual learners will like lots of coloured pens and highlighters, as well as books with plenty of pictures and diagrams.

Set aside time for practice papers

It’s worth encouraging your child to do some practice papers and time them so they can get used to the exam environment.

You can download past papers for example, for SATS from the Gov.UK website.  Past papers for the National Tests in Wales can be found here.

If they know what to expect, they’ll feel far more in control on the day and will be less likely to panic.

Talking to them about the exam procedure will also be beneficial. However, make sure you’re positive and optimistic when discussing the upcoming exams, so as not to put additional pressure on your child.

Keep them healthy

Make sure your child is getting plenty of rest during the exam period, and encourage them to eat healthily and exercise.

The stress of their exams might affect their immune system, so it’s important to do everything else possible to ensure they remain healthy.

What’s more, a well-rested child is more attentive, so their revision will likely be more successful.

You’ll find more useful ideas in my revision guide and some ideas for managing exam-related stress here.

How Much Is A Stay At Home Mum Worth?

With Mother’s Day approaching (Sunday 31 March), it’s a great time of year to reflect on all the things our mums do for us and an opportunity to show our appreciation and say thanks. But have you ever asked yourself the question “how much is a stay at home mum worth?” Or, conversely, what would a stay at home dad be paid if he were an employee?

And let’s not forget the hours of unpaid childcare grandparents offer to support working parents or given by carers to look after the elderly, ill and infirm.

For us mums, Mother’s Day is often a special day of treats from our adored ones who value us endlessly following the constant picking up of socks, school runs, homework proofing and best friend fallouts that we embrace and support our children with.

The kids usually bring me my favourite breakfast of a mug of tea and a hot cross bun to my bed.  Sometimes I even get to eat the bun.

But have you ever stopped to think how many roles you assume on a daily basis?  And, if you gave up your job to be a stay at home mum like I did, what the job you are now doing would be worth in the marketplace?

It is often a bone of contention at home that, whilst I am holding the Hobbis fort, the husband is pursuing his career and travelling the world with his company.

Whilst I certainly don’t miss the grind of commuting, I fully admit I miss being able to leave the humdrum routine and responsibilities behind to travel to New York or Singapore.

The husband assures me he rarely has time for any sightseeing and generally goes from station or airport terminal straight to meetings and workshops.

Nevertheless, on my more grumpy days (any day with a y in it), I can’t help but wonder what being the Chief Operating Officer of Hobbis towers is actually worth, finance-wise.

There’s a calculator that’s been designed to give you a ‘parents salary’ of all of the duties that are taken on by parents around the world, should we be paid for our roles.

Funky Pigeon have looked into eight ‘jobs’ that are embraced when one enters the world of parenting; cooking, cleaning, taxi-ing, caring, nursing, organising, educating and mentoring.

With these eight roles taken on by a mother or father, the potential earnings a stay-at-home parent could make should they be paid for each has been explored.

The differences in regions across the UK are this:

If in London, a parent can earn a potential £263,587pa for undergoing the eight roles analysed, whereas, in Bristol, you’d only look to be earning £185,607pa.

In the city of Cardiff, a chef could be earning £44,749pa, though in Glasgow, you’d only look to be earning £22,310pa, so where might it be worth being the chef of the household for your family?

Nurses in Nottingham will earn an average of £50,828pa compared to the UK’s capital where the average salary of a nurse is £32,534 – a competitive price for grazed knees and Calpol administration!

A psychologist in London, however, has the potential to take home £61,312pa. Across the UK this dips; Leeds £30,709, Manchester £40,958, Liverpool £29,591, Edinburgh £33,640.

A cleaner’s salary is somewhat consistent across these top UK cities ranging from £13,385 in Glasgow to over £17,000 in other regions.

According to LinkedIn, 14,536 men have the Stay at Home Dad title, and surprisingly 5,062 fewer women are advertising themselves as Stay at Home Mums. 23,956 are listed as a Stay at Home Parent.

To find out how much you could be making as a parent in your town or region, see the #ParentsSalary calculator to find out how much you could bill:

https://www.funkypigeon.com/blog/parent-salary-calculator/

According to the calculator, I’m worth £34,033 (a conservative estimate)!

I’m not sure the husband will be coughing up much extra, although I think I’m due several spa days and an enormous bunch of flowers.

I’m an absolute bargain!

The Best Maternity Clothes For A Comfortable Pregnancy

Pregnancy is simultaneously the best and worst thing ever. Your body is creating life, which is miraculous and amazing. However, you’re off-balance, tired, hungry, and moody. Toward the end, there’s just not a lot you can do to get comfortable, and you’re ready for it to be over.

Once you’ve bought ALL the pregnancy books, there is one thing you can do to lift your spirits a bit. Buy maternity clothes! No, you won’t wear them forever, but if you’re selective about what you buy, you could. Plus, if you purchase comfortable maternity clothes, this will go a long way to making you feel just a tad better.

Comfortable maternity clothes ideas

Dresses

Maternity dresses are some of the most comfortable things you can buy. Forget pants with that secret belly that’s supposed to be comfortable. It’s itchy, it rides down, and it’s just plain annoying.

Maternity dresses are loose, allowing you to expand as your baby grows. If you choose maternity dresses that are ruched on the side and provide a little bit tighter fit, they give your belly extra support and may still fit after you have the baby!

Sweatpants

Sweatpants are so versatile. If you buy the right kind, you can definitely still wear them comfortably after the baby comes. Find sweatpants in cute colours that have an elastic waist meant to ride below your belly. That way you won’t experience the itching that comes from high-waisted pants.

With the athleisure trend seeming like it’s here to stay, you can get away with rocking sweatpants, even out of the house. You’ll fit in with all of the other mums who wear their yoga pants to the store.

Nursing Bras

Believe me; you can start wearing nursing bras now. You’ll need them later anyway, but as your breasts grow more tender, you will find the softness and lack of underwire a huge blessing. Stock up on nursing bras and tops that you continue to wear and get good use out of.

There are a lot of other maternity clothes you may find comfortable, and if you stick to things you can still wear after the baby gets here, you’ll get plenty of use out of your maternity wardrobe.

Do You Need To Budget For School Trips?

One of the hot topics at the school gate recently has been the increasing cost of school trips.  This is in addition to all the extra pounds here and there for enterprise days, book fairs, and bake sales.  Then there are the requests for dried food and tins for events such as  Harvest Festival which are contributed to our local food bank, and money to support various PTA activities.

This is, of course, without TV charity days (Red Nose Day, Sports Relief) and the number of costumes required, it seems, every time a new topic on the curriculum is started.

I don’t begrudge paying for these things.  It would be naive to ignore the effect that economic policy has had on the Education Sector. And, it seems to me that contributing what we can benefits all of the pupils, not just our own kids.

In terms of school trips, though, who pays for what seems to be rather hazy.  This is governed by Sections 449-462 of the Education Act 1996 which deal with the law on “charging for school activities”.

For example, schools are able to charge parents a fee for board and lodging for school residential trips, but they can’t charge for activities that take place during school hours – although they can ask for voluntary contributions.

Even though our children benefit from a free education, the costs seem to be rapidly increasing.

There are uniforms, travel expenses and lunches to be paid for before you even start to think about school trips.

And what about leavers’ discos or, worse, the trend imported from our US cousins – the prom?

The cost of your child’s school education could run into thousands, rather than hundreds of pounds.

But with some of the upcoming secondary school trips including skiing and a trip to Washington DC, I have to ask whether these are academic trips or school jollies?

It seems that some of these chosen destinations may well unfairly exclude pupils from low-income families, although there may be financial help available for some school-related costs in certain circumstances.

One issue is that parents are not given enough notice to budget and save in order to cover the costs.  Luckily we were able to pay for Caitlin’s forthcoming outward bound 2-day adventure in stage payments but, even then, that was over just a few months.

One option may be a short term loan from a reputable company like Cashlady.com. Otherwise, creating a household budget and monitoring your occasional spending would seem the most sensible approach – however hard it may be to give up that morning takeaway coffee.

If you receive email updates from the school via Parentmail and are guilty of forgetting to open them (oops!), now is the time to start opening them when they come in – especially as we head towards the summer term. Events are often announced at the start of the school term. Forewarned is forearmed as they say!

Another idea is to get your hands on a family home organiser (you can find lots which allocate space for more than one family member) and diarize all the events and trips well in advance so that you start saving before the payment requests come through.

Lastly, I think it’s important not to feel guilty if you just can’t afford to send your child sailing up the Danube or hiking across Dartmoor.

Perhaps by standing your ground and saying “actually that’s too expensive” you may allow other families to speak up and challenge the school to rethink the trip’s duration, destination or even the validity of going in the first place.




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Treads Shoes – Stop The 6 Weekly School Shoe Shop!

If your kids are growing as fast as mine, you probably begin or end each school holiday with the routine trip to the shoe shop to get their feet measured or to replace their school shoes. But I’ve just discovered Treads shoes with a 12-month indestructible guarantee to help combat this very problem.

I honestly don’t know what my two do to their school shoes – a cross between a daily Tough Mudder race and scraping the darn things on rough concrete whilst charging across the playground by the look of things.  The search for scuff proof school shoes seems never-ending.

None of this is helped by the fact that kids don’t always tell you that their shoes are too tight and pinching – unless it’s 9:15 am on a Monday morning which isn’t the best time to remedy the problem.

We are trapped in a 6-week shoe shopping cycle because that seems to be the longest we get out of most pairs of even the leading brands without foot growth or the shoes looking scruffy and scratched.

Treads shoes are the brainchild of single-parent Simon who has spent several years researching and testing shoe designs to create a school shoe that will actually last.

There is a range of boys’ black leather school shoes for ages 6-16 going from Junior size 3 to adult 11.  You can choose from touch-fasten styles for younger children and there are lace up and slip-on styles for the older boys.

A girls’ range with five more styles is on its way, including the popular Mary Janes.

You order online using the online size calculator or you can purchase a measuring gauge and tape for £4.99 to make doubly sure.

Simply place the foot on the gauge which will tell you the length of the foot and find the width of the foot by wrapping the tape around the foot.

Then enter your measurements into the online calculator which will tell you which size to order.

The shoes are sold as 3½ to 4, 4½ to 5 and so on rather than single sizes. You need to check the online size guide which gives you a minimum and maximum foot width and length per size. You can’t assume that the sizing matches that of other shoe brands necessarily.

Be aware, however, is that the box in which your shoes arrive will be marked as a single size e.g.  4 or a 5 which if you are expecting a 3½ to 4 or a 4½ to 5 is a little confusing.  It just means, however, that this is the maximum size that shoe can be.

You can make the shoe wider as your child’s foot grows by simply removing the EVA footbed under the EVA shock absorbing removable insole (pictured) which gives extra width for rapidly growing feet.

The styles on offer are what I would describe as sensible, dependable styles which is just what you need for a school shoe.  Yes, some kids might prefer a hidden shoe toy and a modicum of glitter but supporting a growing foot is far more important.

There are no bows or buckles to fall (or be pulled!) off.

Treads kindly sent Caitlin and Ieuan a pair of their beautifully solid and indestructible school shoes.  Ieuan had the lace-up Auckland style and Caitlin’s were sturdy Dakota lace-up brogues.

Girls’ Dakota Treads

Treads shoes are made as one piece, rather than having a separate body and sole. The upper is placed into a mould and the sole is injected around it.  There’s no glue involved. The great thing about this is that there will be no broken stitching or split soles.

Treads are made from breathable, water-resistant and scuff proof Permair leather with reinforced seams and even a non-marking sole.

Boys’ Auckland Lace-up Treads

Price-wise the shoes retail around the £45 mark which is comparable with the leading brand.  There is also a 30-day risk-free guarantee allowing you to return the shoes if they don’t suit.

Caitlin and Ieuan both loved their shoes and found them very comfortable – perfect for long days on their feet.

I am looking forward to seeing how well the Treads shoes perform over the next term which should feature a lot more outdoor play as we move into spring and summer.  That will certainly put their school shoes through their paces.

In the meantime, we tried the shoes out around Cardiff Bay on a very windy and rainy Sunday.

I am a big fan of school uniform.  I think it is a great leveller – everyone looks the same and there isn’t the risk of children feeling ‘lesser’ because they don’t have the latest designer gear.

But, let’s be honest, uniform is not cheap.  Even buying from the supermarket brands can add up, can’t it?

Anything you can do to reduce your school-related spend is OK by me and school shoes are often one of, if not the most expensive item (leaving aside Caitlin’s current passion for Superdry backpacks).

Take a look at Treads and see if, finally, you don’t have to spend every half term dashing off to the shoe shop to queue for 40 minutes only to find they don’t have the right style or size.

Think of what you could do with that time and money saved.  A pair of new shoes for you, perhaps?!

For more information visit www.treads-shoes.com.

Classic Children’s Stories For World Book Day

World Book Day is an annual awareness day which celebrates authors, illustrators, books and, a subject close to my heart, reading. In fact, it has been designated a worldwide celebration of reading by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasure of reading by giving them the chance to have a book of their own. And to help with this, participating schools have been sent packs of book tokens and age-ranged World Book Day Resource Packs with lots of ideas, activities and display material.

When I learned to read, we had the old Janet & John books (“Look, Janet, the dog has the ball” – it’s ingrained now!) and fairy tales came in the form of the classic Ladybird books.

World Book Day has got me thinking about those books dear to my heart and that I’d want to talk about in school.

These are just some of them – and I’ve specifically listed the paperback versions because, much as I love my Kindle, it is never quite the same reading experience.

And I believe our kids have far too much ‘screen time’ as it is. On the other hand, of course, if you wanted to read these to your kids as a bedtime story, many fabulous children’s books are downloadable free of charge.

7 Children’s Classics For World Book Day

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Young Heidi goes to live with her grandfather in his lonely hut high in the Swiss Alps and she quickly learns to love her life there. Her strict aunt decides to send her away, back to the town. Heidi can’t bear being away from the mountains and is determined to return to her happy life with her grandfather.

Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley

These are stories of a little country girl, Milly-Molly-Mandy who lives in a tiny village in the heart of the countryside. She is a busy little bee, whether earning money to give a party, minding the village shop, having a picnic or going sledging. Despite the stories being nearly 80 years old, they are still enjoyed today.

What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

Katy Carr is a tomboy who dreams of being “beautiful and beloved, and amiable as an angel”. Unfortunately, Katy is untidy and always getting into mischief. When a terrible accident threatens her grand plans for the future, she needs all her courage and humour to see her through.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Mary Lennox is sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle and everybody says she is the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. Pale, spoilt and quite contrary, Mary is also horribly lonely. One day she hears about a garden in the grounds of the Manor that has been kept locked and hidden for years. And when a friendly robin helps Mary find the key, she discovers the most magical Secret Garden.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

This is one of the best selling books of all time, selling over 50 million copies. Although ostensibly about animal welfare, it is really an allegory about how to treat people with kindness, sympathy and respect. Narrated by the horse, Black Beauty, each chapter tells of an incident in Black Beauty’s life and contains a lesson or moral.

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton

Actually the second in The Faraway Tree series, this is about Joe, Beth and Frannie who find an enchanted wood on the doorstep of their new home. This is the start of many magical adventures with characters such as Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy. Blyton is arguably the most famous children’s author of all time and her stories still sell thousands of copies every year.

The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows is a children’s novel by Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908. It is the story of kind, sleepy badger, brave and lively ratty and irresponsible Toad, together with the sinister weasels and stoats who capture Toad Hall when Mr Toad is in jail.  It is up to his friends to, as Ieuan (and Captain Adorable) would put it, save the day and save Toad Hall.

Incidentally, my mother used to say I drove my car like Mr Toad.  Hmmm.

Which children’s classics would you add to this list?

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Share A Story With Your Kids This World Book Day

It’s World Book Day on 7th March and this year’s theme is “Share A Story” – share the book that inspired you as a child with your children.  Isn’t that a lovely idea?

I’ve written before that in these hectic times many parents spend less than an hour a day’s quality time with their kids – that’s if you can get them off their gadgets, that is!

But World Book Day is a great chance to pause, reflect and celebrate the fabulous imaginary world that books can transport us to – where we get a chance to develop our imagination and creative skills, as well as our vocabulary.  Fortnite doesn’t really cut it on that basis, does it?

And with the hideous Momo doing the rounds again, many parents are discovering that what their kids are watching is far from suitable – and in some cases just plain terrifying – a problem you’ll never get with a good book.

The benefits of reading to your child on a daily basis are many.  Caitlin and Ieuan’s headmistress always incites us to remember the school motto “read, read, read!” and she reminds us frequently that what our kids learn in school amounts to roughly 30% of their education.  The remaining 70% takes place at home.  Certainly food for thought!

Here are some more thought-provoking statistics to ponder – 65% of 5-7-year-olds read to themselves when they are read to every day or nearly every day.

A whopping 73% of 8-13-year-olds read to themselves when they are read to every day or nearly every day.

Interesting, isn’t it?  Because how many of us parents are still reading to our children over the age of 7.  It’s tempting to think that once they can read then off they go but that is not the case.

Reading to our kids helps to stimulate reading for pleasure and, at the end of the day, provides a welcome opportunity to chat and snuggle with our children – helping them to drift off to sleep.

We know that the blue light emitted from tablets interferes with sleep patterns, hence the advice to put gadgets away at least an hour before bed – and that applies to ALL of us!

Far better then, to do what Caitlin and Ieuan do and that is to take a book to bed. Tom Gates, Diary of A Wimpy Kid and the Alex Rider series are all current favourites.

The report, “Let’s Read Them A Story! The Parent Factor in Education, OECD 2012” says the following:-

“Regardless of a family’s income, children whose parents read to them when they were just starting school develop a greater sense of enjoyment of reading than those whose parents did not read to them or read to them infrequently”.

Reading for pleasure is linked to the following benefits when it comes to our children’s literacy according to the National Literacy Trust.

  • reading and writing ability
  • text comprehension and grammar
  • wider vocabulary
  • greater self-confidence as a reader

It has been found that children who read for enjoyment are likely to do significantly better in school than their peers and has been linked to other learning outcomes such as higher performance in maths and science.

We are all pushed for time these days but even reading to our children for as little as 10 minutes a day will help to develop these skills.

I recently read that some parents won’t read out loud to their kids because they lack confidence.  This baffles me somewhat because I’m sure the same parents have no problems telling their offspring to eat their tea, pick those wet towels up and stop tormenting the cat.

Perhaps the best place to start is to choose a book that inspired you as a child and share a story with them this way.  I loved Kenneth Graeme’s Wind In The Willows with mischievous Mr Toad or how about Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five or The Secret Seven?

I also loved Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boy Mysteries and, later, the classics – Jane Austen and novels by the Bronte Sisters.

That’s the thing about reading.  Whilst there are certain topics you wouldn’t want your kids necessarily reading about at a young age, in general, what they can read is governed by practice, rather than age – with sensible parental supervision of course.

You’ll find lots of my personal favourites in this post and lots of great suggestions at worldbookday.com.

Or how about some of these?

  • Steve and the Sabretooth Tiger or Steve and the Singing Pirates [Steve’s Dreams] by Dan Anthony
  • Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury by Jennifer Killick
  • Peter and the Five-a-side Vampires by Malachy Doyle
  • Thimble Holiday Havoc or Thimble Monkey Superstar by Jon Blake
  • The Very Silly Dog, Why is the sky blue? or No I don’t wanna do that! by Nick Cope
  • Gaspard the fox by Zeb Soanes & James Mayhew

Of course, there are plenty of great Welsh stories to share too and Welsh readers can find out more on Facebook and Twitter.

And, once your children are into the swing of reading and are happily devouring as many stories as they can get their hands on, why not suggest that they begin to write their own stories.  You’ll be amazed at what they come up with – and it’s a great insight into how they think, their hopes and fears.

Do you read to your children?  What story will you share this World Book Day?

Keep Up With Your Fitness Routine: Simple Tips For Busy Mums

If I told you that fitness is an activity that can be squeezed into a busy day, would you believe me? When kids are roaming around the house and you have to think about their meals, supervise their sleep pattern, make sure they play with the right toys, and try to create an educational environment, fitness and working out are definitely not on your mind.

Of course, hopefully, we don’t have to do all of this alone. Still, even with the help of the most-devoted partner, being a mum will occupy much of your time. So how on earth do some women manage to balance family, a successful career, and look amazing while doing all this?

They can’t pause time and they are not more special than you! But they do understand that it’s possible to combine various activities to save time and energy. For instance, fitness is an activity that can be squeezed into a busy day; let’s see how.

Tip #1: Playing with the Kids

It’s important to be there for your kids but you can also factor your needs into the equation. So don’t feel bad if you squeeze some mummy time in while you’re playing.

For instance, you could do a bit of cardio by playing with a ball in the garden, or do some brisk walks while you’re getting the baby out in a stroller. Nowadays, there are specially designed strollers that allow you to go for a jog whilst walking your baby!

Squats can also be included in a playtime routine and even some weight lifting. It all boils down to being creative and thinking a bit outside of the box. The tools are probably all around you, you just need to be willing to use them.

Tip #2: Get up earlier

Now obviously I wouldn’t be so callous as to suggest doing this when you have a newborn to care for – every minute of sleep is precious, isn’t it?  But when you have established a routine and perhaps when the baby is sleeping through the night, you might be able to get up a little earlier to do some simple stretches or yoga asanas.

Tip #3: Combine housework and exercise

It is possible to burn quite a few calories if you throw yourself into your housework Mrs Hinch style.  For example, an hour of mopping can burn around 153 calories, whilst vacuuming can burn around 120 calories for 30 minutes.

You could do some lunges or squats whilst waiting for the kettle to boil or put some music on and dance around the house – probably best to put your headphones on if you’re trying to settle a baby though, unless gentle classical music is your thing!

Tip #4: Put together a Home Gym

If you miss the gym but there’s no way to carve the time in your schedule, what about a home gym? Now, before you roll your eyes and mutter about#3 the extra cost, here’s the thing: nowadays, you can hire the equipment you want, for as long as you need it.

For instance, you can get a treadmill, an exercise bike or rowing machine from Hire Fitness in the UK to help you get back in shape. The idea is to have the equipment in close proximity; so when the kids are asleep or there is someone there to supervise them, you can do a 15/20 minute workout.

If budget is an issue, there is plenty of good value exercise equipment to be found on Amazon.  You can even use tins of beans or water bottles as weights.  If your pelvic floor will take it, there is always a skipping rope or a mini rebounder from somewhere like Argos.

Tip #5: Live video fitness classes

Sometimes it gets lonely when you do your workouts alone, and your motivation can easily drop or disappear altogether. To avoid this, you should consider joining a live-streamed fitness class. The trend is not exactly new, but it is gaining in popularity and more people seem to prefer this type of working out at home. It makes you a part of something and gives you greater flexibility.

Tip #6: Get the Kids Involved

Remember, being a mum means you have young people watching you closely and learning from you. And they don’t learn from what you preach – they learn from what you do.

So, be a good example and teach your kids about being healthy and active from a young age. Talk to them about the importance of movement and healthy foods, but try to find an approach that speaks to their level.

However, if you do get the kids involved (and there are so many cute examples to follow online), you will no longer be working out alone! It’s a win-win situation. For example, if you have a trampoline in the garden, there are plenty of simple exercises for beginners.

Tip #7: Keep the Right Mindset

In order to get results and keep things ticking in all the wonderful chaos that may be a part of your life, it’s important to know why you want to get fit in the first place. If you’re only focusing on the losing weight aspect, the motivation won’t be enough.

Think about how exercise makes you feel; about your health, and the health of your entire family, and think about the energy that a good workout brings. Once you realize that, because working out is a part of your life, you can feel better and perform better day to day, it will be difficult to stop!

Just remember that there is no hurry to lose the baby weight.  Enjoying your time with your children is more important than dropping a dress size.  Don’t be fooled by celebs who are back in size 8 jeans within 6 weeks.  They have dieticians, personal trainers and, in some cases rumour has it, a handy tummy tuck with their C-section.

In Conclusion

At the end of the day, it is possible to balance a busy mum life and also have a fulfilling life as a beautiful, strong woman. You just need to figure out your motivation and develop a positive and determined mindset.  Fitness is an activity that can be squeezed into a busy day.

Children’s Bedtime Story: Moosie-Moo And The Cheesy Moon

I’ve always loved crafting stories for my kids, nieces and nephew.  This is my first in a long while and there will be more children’s bedtime stories to come. In this tale, Moosie learns that, sometimes, gratitude is more important than ambition.  I hope you and your little ones enjoy it.

Moosie-Moo And The Cheesy Moon

Once upon a time, there was a cow called Moosie-Moo who spent her days happily grazing in Poppy Meadow. Her closest friends were a beautiful fluffy rabbit called Honeybun and a wise old owl called Lennon.


Now Moosie-Moo loved to canter, gambol and kick her heels. She’d race raindrops running down the knobbly oak, she’d race beatles through the long lush grass and sometimes, when the sun was high, she’d even race her own shadow.

Summer turned into autumn.

The Harvest Moon rose like a huge blue lantern and Moosie-Moo became suddenly sad. “What’s wrong?”, asked Honeybun, bouncing like a rubber ball, eyes shining bright in the
moonbeams.

A rustle high above in the leaves of the knobbly oak announced the arrival of Lennon who settled on his favourite branch, spectacles perched on his beak. He let out a long “twit twooooo”.

Moosie-Moo sighed and stared at the moon. “It’s so beautiful”, she said, “I just want to jump right over it”.

Honeybun sat back on her haunches in surprise. “But,” said Moosie-Moo, “I can walk and
run and roll on my back but I can’t fly like Lennon or jump like you”.

Honeybun considered. Lennon closed both his eyes and seemed to sleep. “Well,” she said, “perhaps you should do some training to practise jumping high enough to reach the moon. Why do you want to go to the moon anyway?”.

“That’s easy”, said Moosie-Moo. “I’ve heard that there’s a cat who plays the violin, a little laughing dog, a dish and spoon who love each other and it’s made of lovely, yummy,
creamy cheese! It sounds so much fun!”

Next morning the training session began. Honeybun used her great strong paws to dig a pit filled with warm sandy soil and created a finishing line made from her best carrots at the end of Poppy Meadow.

“Moosie-Moo”, she instructed, “run as fast as you can and jump! Jump with all your might!”.

So Moosie-Moo ran the length of the meadow and when she saw the pit and the line of carrots she threw herself into the air but her hooves barely rose higher than the tallest blade of grass and she sank firmly into the pit of sandy soil.

“Oh dear”. said Honeybun.

Over and over again Moosie-Moo raced the length of the meadow, willing her body to rise into the air. “You make it look so easy, Honeybun” she sighed sadly.

As the moon rose that night, the two friends sat together bathing in the soft moonlight. “I bet it’s the best, most creamy cheese you could wish for up there”, said Moosie-Moo. “Have a carrot”, said Honeybun, “you’ll see better in the dark”.

A swish in the trees announced Lennon’s arrival, but he remained silent in the dark canopy
of leaves above.

“I have heard”, said Honeybun about a magic device made by a cat named paul”.

“I think you mean a catapault”, said Moosie-Moo, “I’m too heavy”.

Honeybun thought again. “what about going on that tram with pauline”?

“I think you mean a trampoline”, said Moosie-Moo, “I don’t think it’d get me high enough”.

Now Lennon could keep quiet no longer. He shook his wings and fluffed out his chest. His eyes gleamed in the moonlight.

“Moosie-Moo”, he said sternly, “the moon is there for all to enjoy. It would be a shame if you were to take dents out of it by eating its lovely soft cheese!”.

“Well,” said Moosie-Moo, “it seems as if I will never get there in any case. I cannot fly and I cannot jump. All I can do is walk and run and roll on my back”.

“Moosie-Moo”, said Lennon, his glasses sliding even further down his beak, “you
can walk in the sunshine and run in the rain, you can roll on your back in the mud. You are tall enough to see right across Poppy Meadow.

I have to fly in the air and Honeybun has to hop till she’s breathless to see the sun setting on the horizon. And your friends the beatles barely get to see above the grass”.

“I suppose I am being rather ungrateful”, said Moosie-Moo.

“We all have our special talents and skills”, said Lennon. “It’s what makes Poppy Meadow the wonderful place that it is.”.

Honeybun twitched her nose, gently placing her paw on her old friend’s hoof said, “We’ll always be friends whether or not you can jump over the moon”.

“Indeed,” said Lennon. “It’s not how high you can jump but what makes your heart jump with joy that matters”.

And with that, he closed his great round eyes and went back to sleep, leaving Moosie-Moo and Honeybun to happily continue moon bathing in the peace of Poppy Meadow.

More children’s bedtime stories to come very soon.




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Half Term Activities To Put A Spring In Your Step

The February half term is a funny one, isn’t it?  This year it starts on the 18th or 25th February depending on where in the UK you are.  Here in Wales, we start ours on the 25th and I am already planning some half term activities.

I say planning – that is no guarantee that we will actually do them.  We find ourselves getting progressively slower and slower whilst the kids hunker down with games and iPads whilst my Facebook timelines fill up with happy pics of mums on beaches, hanging of rock-faces, cooking banquets and still fitting in yoga, pilates and running a 10K.

So, if like me, you have more in common with Ice Age’s Sid Sloth than Scrat, here are a few things you might like to try to add a spring into half term proceedings.

Half term activities for a fun spring break

Eat Something Different

No, not a bushtucker trial but perhaps a different cuisine.  We’re taking the kids to Wagamas, Yo Sushi or our local Japanese restaurant to try some Japanese cuisine (primarily to see the expression on Ieuan’s face), but you could ring the changes with an authentic curry house or perhaps Chinese.  We love The Summer Palace Chinese Restaurant in Llandaff in the shadow of the magnificent cathedral.

Try the theatre

There is nothing like live theatre, particularly where musicals are concerned.  We’ve recently enjoyed Matilda at the Wales Millennium Centre and there are loads of shows and contemporary theatre productions happening this season at venues near you. Look out for interactive theatre workshops for acting, singing and dancing or even puppetry or mime.

Rally car in action - half term activities

Drive something different

I love my Skoda Roomster but it isn’t the fastest vehicle on the planet.  The Husband prefers a Beemer – although ours is now 11 years old.  As my dad would say “it’ll see us out”.  But how about whizzing around a race-track all day?

There are experience days for the family where 11-17-year-olds can get behind the wheel of a Mazda MX5.

Caitlin is already campaigning for this for her 12th birthday in November and since the venue is north of London, it’s easy to get to as well.

Get the kids involved with the DIY and gardening

Yes, I am serious.  Let’s face it, the chances of lots of us ending up in our nearest DIY superstore are high so if painting is on the agenda rather than exploring the countryside, why not let the kids help with the painting (you can always paint over it!).

There’s no reason why they can’t help in the garden either – perhaps planting some summer flowers, weeding, sweeping up fallen leaves or making a bird table or nesting box.

Caitlin and Ieuan like to use these opportunities to wangle a little more pocket money so you could add on cleaning the car to remove last August’s beach sand and the thousands of Werthers Original wrappers that never finally made it to the bin.

Get a babysitter

It’s funny how a lot of us plan to entertain everyone else but don’t give a thought to our own entertainment.  We soldier on selflessly whilst keeping a very close eye on the corkscrew and parking the diet until ‘next Monday’ (note – specifying which Monday is not required).

So why not get a babysitter?  (even better if you can bribe your other half or relatives) and leave them for a home cinema afternoon whilst you treat yourself in a spa or take your bestie for a posh afternoon tea whilst trying not to think about the probable domestic carnage you’ll be returning to.

Explore somewhere different

We are so lucky in the UK because almost every part of the country has amazing sights and places to visit.  We’re in the Vale of Glamorgan which combines beautiful countryside with country pubs and close proximity to wonderful beaches and castles.  And then, of course, we are only a few miles outside Cardiff with its 5-star shopping, restaurants, bars, entertainment and culture.

If the weather is as stormy as it has been and you are forced to stay indoors,  check out these posts from my fellow bloggers.

Steph at Expert Home Tips has 17 super fun ways to keep the kids busy at the weekend whilst Leyla suggests making an activity box or even your own jigsaw.

Have you made plans for the Spring half term yet?  Let me know what half term activities are on your list.

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Top Tips For A Low-Cost Day Out With The Kids

Entertaining our kids over the holidays and even for a day can be quite stressful for us parents. Not only do we worry about keeping them happy, but also not overspending while doing it.

If you and your family are in need of that long overdue holiday, and money is tight, you have the option of taking out a short term loan which can relieve much of the stress. However, if you’re simply looking for low-cost ways to entertain your kids on a day out, you’re in luck as there are many.

The good news is that what kids mostly want, more than anything, is to spend quality time with their parents. Fortunately, this costs us nothing but our time and attention. We tend to take our kids to the cinema, out to dinner, or even to fun parks which are all great fun. But such activities not only cost too much, but they also make it hard for us to give our kids enough quality time and attention.

Here are some tips on how to entertain your kids on a budget while giving them your undivided attention:

A picnic

Instead of taking the family out to lunch at a pub or restaurant, organise a picnic. Make some homemade snacks such as sandwiches or wraps. Take some fruit, crisps or popcorn and a few sweet treats like cookies and you’re good to go! The kids will love it and so will you.

Camping

Taking the kids camping is one of the best ways to keep kids happy and costs next to nothing. You don’t have to stay the night if you’re not comfortable doing so. You can go early in the morning and return late at night. They will inevitably want to go again and again.

Sports

Doing sports together as a family is another low-cost activity and really creates fun memories for you and your family. Games such as football, basketball, swimming and cycling, for example, don’t cost much to partake in.

Play

Playing games like hide and seek, charades, board games or card games are a great way for parents to spend quality time with their children. They also learn how to lose and move on, which is a good life lesson. Make the most of games by doing them outside at a park or during a picnic.

Gardening and building projects

Whether it be a little gardening, DIY or even building a tree house with old pallets, kids love working with their hands and building things, and especially with their parents. These are also quite educational activities for them as you get to teach them a thing or two in the process.

Walking/Hiking

With today’s kids being glued to a screen much of the day, they miss out on making memories. Venturing outside may be a chance to bond with the family and make some real memories. Exploring and sightseeing by taking long walks or by hiking are great ways to spend quality time with your kids. They get to breathe in some fresh air, exercise, observe nature and wildlife and have interesting conversations with you in the process.

Science experiments

You can find a number of simple science experiments online that are not only fun but also educational. Your kids will be fascinated. Be prepared for a little mess.

Arts and crafts

Drawing together or crafting something from scratch is also quite fun and low cost. You can take some stationery outside and look for something they find interesting enough to draw and draw it together or recreate a craft you found online.

A day at the beach

Spending the day at the beach doesn’t take cost much (unless, of course, you live far from one). You can search for cool looking pebbles, have a pebble throwing competition, and pretty much do all the aforementioned activities there.

He’s Not Babysitting – He’s Parenting!

I often read blog posts about the challenges (for ‘challenges’ read ‘bombshells’) experienced by new mothers. It is physically, emotionally and spiritually draining.

Childbirth changes you in ways you never previously suspected.  You feel everything more intensely and your propensity for feeling guilty increases a thousandfold.

I’m not sure who looks more perplexed here!  Mat and Caitlin in 2008

But there is one key skill, I think, that all new mothers need and that many fail to master.

No, I’m not talking about putting a nappy on one-handed whilst drinking a cuppa and cradling the phone beneath your chin.

I am not talking about the motorised instrument of torture that is the breast pump.  (It’s ironic that you are expected to ‘express’ milk because there was nothing very speedy about mine!).

I’m talking about the ability to ask for help – and accept it.

Because, let’s be honest, offers of help are not always forthcoming.  Everyone is so busy with their own lives and particularly if you are a stay at home mum, you will most likely find yourself home alone with your new, albeit magical, plus one.

I saw on Twitter the other day a dad complaining that he was congratulated for ‘babysitting’ his own child when, as he so rightly put it, he was parenting.

There is, I think, a temptation for new mums to immerse themselves completely in motherhood to the exclusion of their partner.

Very little is actually written about what it is like for new dads.  It must be very frustrating to find that, having done midnight runs for curry and gherkins, listened endlessly to birth plans (which are usually jettisoned as soon as labour begins in earnest) and planned the first bike rides, country jaunts and trips to the seaside, they find themselves rather surplus to requirements.

 

And then, if they are left in charge of their newborn son or daughter, we congratulate them for ‘babysitting’.

I have done this myself and I think it’s because new mums feel it’s their mission to single-handedly ensure the baby thrives – and that only they can do it.

As a new mum, you may become consumed with a perfectionism you never had before. Nappies must be put on just so.  Baby must be laid down like this.  And on it goes.

There is a sense in this because, at least in my experience, creating a routine that works for all the family is vital.  We become obsessed with baby’s bowel movements and when they will ‘sleep through’.  Every ounce of their weight is recorded.  We wait, anxiously, for the first toothless smile.

But, at some point, you have to let go, for your sanity and your health and also for your baby.  This is even more important, of course, if your partner is not around to support you both – and a time when you really need your family and friends.

For those of us lucky enough to have a partner on hand, as mothers we need to let them in and share the experience and learn by doing.  That is not meant to be patronising.

It is the same logic used in delegating in the workplace. A team is stronger than a single individual.

And if we don’t encourage dads to get ‘hands-on’ and acknowledge their input as ‘partners’ in both senses of the word, then we play into the hands of the dyed-in-the-wool sexists who still refer to looking after baby as ‘women’s work’; the sort of people who think a man’s role in the birth process is to have a stiff whisky.

If we don’t encourage dads to play an equal role then we will only have ourselves to blame if they regard their input as ‘babysitting’.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, there is no shame in asking for an hour out for a coffee, or in asking for help with some of the routine household tasks (ironing, putting a batch of washing on etc).

When we’re stressed, we somehow think people can read our minds whereas a short list of things that need to be done and some basic instructions are far more useful!

If we involve our partners in childcare and we ask for help from friends and relatives, our experience in those first few challenging months may be even more memorable – for all the right reasons.

We do dads a disservice when we deny them the opportunity to create their own memories with their newborn child.

And we do ourselves a disservice when we won’t ask for help at a time when we really, REALLY, deserve it.

Dads don’t babysit.  They parent.