Mama OWL Blog

One Year On | #LoudnProud

Thursday, 26 November 2015

It has been a full year since I took the decision to change my lifestyle.

A year ago we were fast approaching Christmas and the festive season was in full swing with its sweets, treats and indulgence. I was so unhappy with my body, and how crap I felt all the time. Bloated. Sluggish. Headaches. Bad skin. Lethargic. Aching joints.

A year ago a friend posted her 'before and after' weight loss pictures on Facebook. They happened to pop up on my newsfeed and I was intrigued. She'd joined a local fitness group and looked absolutely amazing. I needed to know more. I sent her a message and she pointed me in the direction of Project 6 Pack — and I haven't looked back since.

In January I went along to the welcome meeting by myself, I was weighed and measured and had photos taken. I was horrified by my weight, I hadn't realised I had gained so much having avoided the scales for longer than I care to remember. I was embarrassed to stand there in my underwear in front of strangers and have my photo taken. But I knew that this was what I had to do to make a change, it was a big step for me but one that I needed to take. I wanted results, so I knew I had to make changes.

The next day I went to the fitness test and struggled my way through. It was awful. I was so unfit, I found it so difficult, I wanted to stop. I carried on and finished the test and then made plans for the next six weeks worth of classes. I only attended 2/3 classes a week at first, it was a struggle going from zero exercise to these full on fitness classes but I did my best, and just did what I could. I don't think I have sweated as much in my life as I have this year and some days I thought I was going to vomit into my trainers but I persevered - I went to class, I stuck to the diet & nutrition advice and I worked hard.

At the end of my first round I went back for my new measurements and weigh in and to have my next progress photos taken, and I was absolutely blown away by my results. In my first six weeks I lost a huge 9kg (just shy of 20lbs) and 50.5cm (19.8"). Tomorrow will be my last weigh in and measure of 2015 and so to date, I have lost 27kg and 122.5cm, and five dress sizes - and I am really bloody proud of myself.

I didn't give up. I didn't half-ass it. I worked to the best of my ability and followed the advice given to me, and I got results. I look in the mirror now sometimes and still can't believe that it's me. That after five kids, I eventually got my body back. I never believed that it could be done, but there it is. No faddy diets, no shakes, pills, or wraps, no short cuts - just hard work and commitment. I've spent 17.5 years doing my best for the children, giving them what they need, and I have neglected my own health and fitness, and well-being. Well, not any more. I have given them back their happy, healthy mum, and I have finally got some of my self back too - and I'm not done yet!

Mama Owl

Taking Teens on Holiday | #ShepsGoToLaki

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

As our kids get older I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep everyone happy and entertained, with age appropriate activities and such like, and taking them away on holiday was no different. E is 5, she wants to swim and build sandcastles and play in the park. H & L at 10 and 12 want to have some freedom to go swimming, make new friends and explore without being restricted to what mum and dad want to do because they're not quite old enough to go off by themselves. With J & A being 14 and 17, we are in new territory completely because frankly some days we barely see them at all. Everyone does their own thing at home, we all have our own space, hobbies and interests, but when you're on holiday together - how on Earth are you supposed to please everyone?

I was excited to take J & A to Kos with Mark Warner Holidays because I knew that they would love it. They needed a break after a long year of A-level and GCSE studies and heading off for some Autumn sun in Greece before the long Winter blows in (and before A2 and GCSE mocks and exams begin) was the ideal opportunity. I did have a chat with them before we left - asked them to make the most of our time away and to give everything a go, take part in activities and go to Indy club. I was pleased that they didn't make me nag and they did go to the welcome meeting, and to my delight they spent almost all of our time at Lakitira out on the water with their new friends.

Indy Club started later than the other clubs, and their days began with Indy Breakfast in the main restaurant meaning that they could get up later and enjoy a leisurely breakfast with the other teens on resort. Afterwards they changed, coated themselves in sun screen and then made their way to the waterfront where they spent their days sailing, SUP boarding, kayaking and windsurfing. The waterfront staff and their Indy Club leader Char were great and kept them safe and busy, to the point where we actually didn't spend that much time with A & J because they were so keen to be out doing other things, though while the younger three went to their respective clubs after the kids' high tea in the evenings, the older two would eat with me and their Dad and we actually enjoyed some quality bonding time over dinner which we don't normally get to have.

They both threw themselves into sailing in particular and made friends with a lad named Angus who visits Lakitira with his family every year. Angus has very kindly made a YouTube video for me to share of his RSCAT16 sailing experience in Kos, he spent a lot of time with A & J out on the sea helping them sail (or just, not drown after they capsized the boats) and enjoying all of the other watersports Lakitira has to offer. 

The Mark Warner experience with children of differing ages was a hugely positive one for us. We all got to have our quality family time together as well as time apart to do our own thing, and really be able to immerse ourselves in the holiday experience. All of the children made some great new friends and spent time doing activities with them. We had lots of fun together swimming and building sandcastles, burying each other in the sand, and playing football out on the court in the evenings. Our teenagers were able to have some real quality time with mum & dad on their own without younger ones taking up all of our time & attention, as well as being free to roam around the resort and have fun with the other teens... By hiding all of the beach sun loungers from the waterfront staff for example, though I can of course neither confirm nor deny this...

In my opinion, holiday childcare provision is usually geared towards kids aged 12 & under, with teens being left to their own devices where they can end up bored and disengaged which is not good enough. I don't want them sat in a room with colouring pens and a games console. I want them OUTSIDE, to be active, to make memories, to learn new skills - it's their holiday too after all and their needs should be met.

Mark Warner offer an inclusive holiday experience that everyone can enjoy and we had a truly wonderful time with everyone asking (begging) to go back again next year. There is something for everyone, and I loved that my teens felt as much a part of our family holiday as the young ones did. It would be all too easy to let them mooch around the hotel room with their phone or laptop for a quiet life, but Mark Warner gets them out doing things - making friends and having fun which is what holidays are all about.

A photo posted by Alicia Sheppard (@cxming_undone) on

Mark Warner Holidays provided flights and half board accommodation for five people as part of the #MarkWarnerMum Ambassadorship. All opinions and words are my own.

Arriving at Lakitira Beach Resort, Kos | #ShepsGoToLaki

Monday, 23 November 2015

After finding out that we had been selected as Mark Warner Ambassadors in December last year it seemed to be an age before we finally packed our suitcases and headed to Kos for our family holiday at Lakitira Beach Resort over the October half term. The children were so excited, it was our first trip away all together on a plane as a whole family of seven, and quite possibly our last with A planning on heading off to university and pastures new after she turns 18 next year. As a #MarkWarnerMum family we enjoyed a holiday for five on a half board basis. Being a family of seven and with hungry teenagers to consider, we paid for the additional two passengers and for an upgrade to full board for all of us which meant that we only had to pay for drinks and ice creams from the bars, and the occasional visit to the resort shop for extra bottled water.

The best part of a Mark Warner holiday in my opinion is that everything is done for you. You just have to turn up, and have a good time. The flight was an early one so we took the decision to travel to Heathrow the night before and stay in a nearby hotel so we didn't have to leave until 0500 (instead of 0230 if we had travelled from home). The hotel arranged a taxi to take us to the terminal for our 0720 flight in the morning, and we enjoyed an evening meal together and a good night's sleep before our big adventure.

A photo posted by jooleroo (@jooleroo) on

Check-in was quick and straightforward in the morning - we checked all of our luggage in, made our way through security and then had a little wander before heading to the gate where we explained to the British Airways staff that we were travelling with a child with Autism. They were very helpful and allowed us early entry through the gate and to board with L first to get him seated & settled before the other passengers boarded our chartered flight. In-flight meals are not renowned for their taste but I have to say that British Airways do impress me with theirs, even my kids eat it without argument which is high praise indeed - and not just because they don't have any choice!

After our flight, which was just shy of four hours, we were greeted at Kos airport by Mark Warner staff, given envelopes containing our MW wristbands and then organised on to our coaches for the short transfer to resort - only around 15 minutes. On our arrival at Lakitira the staff took our luggage and it was delivered to our villa for us. We collected our keys and headed off to find our rooms where we took in our suitcases, changed our clothes and then went for a wander to explore the resort. Compared to San Lucianu in Corsica, Lakitira is a large resort with plenty of space to explore. There are two beaches, the 'kids beach' with its narrow strip of sand and shallow water perfect for little ones to go paddling or snorkelling, and the main beach where most of the watersports are located (there are some on the kids beach for them to use during club) as well as a play park, nine tennis courts, two swimming pools and a small paddling pool for little ones in addition to the cycling centre and covered areas for fitness classes.

We attended the welcome meetings in the Stars Bar next to reception where we received all of the relevant information for the week's Indy, Junior, Kidz and Mini clubs and told what the kids would need to take with them to clubs, as well being given general resort information about the spa facilities, resort activities, customer services, and meal times and restaurant locations. We filled in the childcare forms for all of the kids and handed them back, before going back to our villa and unpacking our things. We had a large villa made up of three interconnecting suites, one downstairs for the three boys, and two upstairs - one for the girls, and one for the Mister and myself.

All three rooms were spacious, well equipped and very clean with tiled floors and their own bathrooms (so grateful that I didn't have to share with my sons for the week...), the downstairs room had a small patio and the upstairs suites both had balconies that overlooked the grassy area in front of the kids clubs shacks and the football pitch, which meant that we could watch the kids playing from our rooms. Our villa - striking white against the blue skies with gorgeous pink bougainvillea growing up and around the pergola - was in a great location with stunning views across the sea and set a little way back from the main hotel, it was so peaceful. As we watched the sun set on our first day in Kos, we were delighted with our first impressions of the resort and so excited for the fun that we would have and the memories we would make during our week in the Sun.

Mark Warner Holidays provided flights and half board accommodation for five people as part of the #MarkWarnerMum Ambassadorship. All opinions and words are my own.

Meal Plan Monday 231115

Monday, 23 November 2015

Meal Plan 231115
Monday 23rd November
Chicken casserole
Tuesday 24th November
Sausage, mashed potatoes and baked beans
Wednesday 25th November It's H's 10th birthday today so we are out for a family meal to celebrate his special day
Thursday 26th November
Caveman chilli and brown rice
Friday 27th
Saturday 28th November
Macaroni cheese and broccoli
Sunday 29th November
Roast Chicken

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.
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