Mama OWL Blog: January 2014

I Wish... #AFWishIWasThere

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

I'm not a Winter person. At all. I don't *do* cold.

So - to keep the chill of the long cold, frosty British Winter at bay (although to be fair we've given the worst of it a swerve so far this year thanks to the Atlantic... Loving your work there, jet stream), I have been reminiscing about my holiday to Lanzarote in 2012 that I took with my best friend K.

I had an entire week spent just reading, sleeping, swimming, enjoying glorious sunshine and great company. It was exactly what I needed, having a rest and recuperating after my recent illness, and having some time to recharge my batteries. Family holidays aside, it was my absolute favourite holiday and I would love to go back some time in the future. Lanzarote is beautiful and I wouldn't hesitate to holiday there again.

This photo sums up the trip for me, K & I spent almost every evening at this particular bar after a meal out, enjoying stunning sunsets with our mojitos. Great memories of a great holiday.

This is my entry for the Al Fresco Holidays Wish I Was There Photo Competition.

Meal Plan Monday 270114

Monday, 27 January 2014

Monday 27th January - Home-made lasagne

Tuesday 28th January - Brinner*

Wednesday 29th January - Stuffed chicken with rocket salad

Thursday 30th January - Macaroni cheese with broccoli

Friday 31st January - Fajitas

Saturday 1st February - Pizza (the kids have decided it's 'pizza Saturday' until they say otherwise...)

Sunday 2nd February - Lamb

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = breakfast for dinner

Sleep? Let Me Check My Schedule...

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

It has been said that "we" (as in - one would assume - parents in general) are over-scheduling our children. One minute it is being reported that our kids are being dumped in front of electronic babysitters (televisions, computer games and the like) and left to turn into obese zombie-killing monsters, and the next we are apparently making them do too much.

But - what is too much, exactly?

In my opinion, too much would be where it interfered with their schooling and sleep, and if it upset our family dynamic. So, while my kids are very active and kept busy with different sports, they get enough sleep & their school work is in order. They also get down time to play on their consoles/tablets & watch their favourite TV programmes, and we have our family time together. If anything it's ME that is over-scheduled trying to keep up with their timetables as well as everything else! And the Mister, of course.

J has football training once a week and boxing two times a week, with a football match at the weekend. L has tae kwon-do & swimming once a week.
H plays rugby (either training or a match) & has a swimming lesson once a week, boxing training twice with J, and he & J also swim together during the public session while L has his private lesson.
E attends a swimming lesson and a gymnastics class once a week, and A has been taking guitar lessons during school hours for just over a year now. This week, H & L will also be starting homework club after school for an hour once a week.
It means a lot of running around & commitment, and Tuesday evenings and Sundays in particular are very busy for us but the kids really enjoy their activities and I think it is so important for them to be out and about and DOING something. I want them to have something that is theirs, and that they love to do. L's swimming and tae kwon-do are excellent physiotherapy for his legs, with lots of gentle stretching and movement and he has also been able to socialise and make new friends.

We have family time, watching movies and going out together on days out, we eat our meals together and we have our occasional lazy days doing nothing. We bake, we play, we read, we have fun. We have a good balance and it works for us. If at any point they didn't want to continue with their activities, I wouldn't make them. But this is what makes them happy.

And if they're happy - I'm happy.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

A Very Merry Un-Birthday

Monday, 20 January 2014

I am sitting here in stunned silence having read this article on Parentdish.

Apparently, a parenting trend for 2014 is, wait for it...


I'm sorry but... You what? Who is doing this? Who is behind this utter lunacy?

I have trouble keeping my kids names straight these days (what with having five of them, I'm not *just losing my mental faculties) never mind remembering double the amount of birthdays. Really - ten birthdays a year? And that's just my own kids! I've got 16 nieces and nephews as well - where would the madness end?!

Parents seem to be under increasing pressure to throw the best & most lavish birthday parties and to buy the latest and most expensive presents for birthdays and Christmas for their offspring, I have to wonder what on Earth there is to gain by adding another (completely unnecessary) celebration into the mix. What next? Conception anniversary parties? I don't even want to know who you would invite to such an 'event'. Or what you would give as a gift for that matter... Condoms, maybe?

To prevent you from having to attend another party like that one...

Marking the occasion at home with a family dinner or a little cake or something is one thing. But apparently these parents are throwing actual parties. PARTIES. Excuse me, but if my child was invited to a schoolmate's "half birthday" party I would be raising an eyebrow, and yes - I would be judging. Sounds a bit greedy to me.

Perhaps I'm being a grump but my kids get one birthday, one party (or day out) and one Christmas - and that is all they needIs it a very merry un-birthday to you? And you? And you? Or do you agree with miserable me, surely one birthday is enough?

Meal Plan Monday 200114

Monday, 20 January 2014

Monday 20th January - Cheese, tomato & bacon pasta bake

Tuesday 21st January - Brinner*

Wednesday 22nd January - Stuffed chicken breasts

Thursday 23rd January - Bolognese

Friday 24th January - Home-made curry

Saturday 25th January - Deli pizza

Sunday 26th January - Pork chops

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = breakfast for dinner

Buy Buy Baby - Gifts for New Arrivals

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Mister with minutes-old baby E
The birth of a new baby is a wonderful thing, and when someone you know gives birth you are often drawn to the cutesy outfits where you will squee over how tiny they are and how you just have to get them for the baby...


Hold your horses.

Now - this is of course only from my own perspective and by all means, buy the entire Spring/Summer catalogue of Mini Boden if you really cannot contain yourself. But if I was you, I would first stop and ask myself these questions...

Do you and the parents of the new bundle share the same tastes? For example, you might rock up with character sleepsuits without realising that the baby's parents in fact hate character clothing, and it will never make it out of the wardrobe never mind on to the actual child. I'm not saying what you had in mind isn't lovely, I'm just saying make sure you know what they like.

Do they have older children, particularly of the same gender? If so, outfits are possibly not the best buy. Chances are that they have a wardrobe stuffed full of clothes from their other kids, also if they have family with young kids they might well have lots of clothes that have been passed on to them already.

Is there something else that would be more practical to give them? Babies grow ridiculously fast and get very little wear out of outfits. You could give vests or sleepsuits in larger sizes, don't immediately go for the NB or 0/3 - think ahead. It's always good for them to have things to grow into and I know that my babies could go through several vests a day on occasion. And unless you are positive that they are into certain patterns, colours or characters, though you might think it "boring", sticking with white is a good bet. Especially since they can go on a hot white wash if they've been subjected to an assplosion.

What else would be useful, instead of clothes? You know what new parents are? Exhausted. You know what is a bit of pain in the early weeks? Cooking. Especially if there are other kids in the family. When my sister N had her second baby in December 2011, I dropped off things like casserole and cottage pie, big dishes of them! So they could grab something to eat and save some for later. And I literally mean "dropped off" - I put them on the doorstep, knocked and left.
If you can't cook, don't. New parents do not need food poisoning. Maybe buy them some takeaway gift vouchers for local restaurants - especially if they offer delivery. Supermarket gift vouchers are a good idea also.

Anything else?

- Nappies (ask which brand).
- Wet wipes (again, ask which brand).
- Washing powder (see previous two suggestions, babies can have very sensitive skin).
- Supermarket vouchers so they can buy whatever they like/need.
- General gift vouchers so they can go and choose their own baby clothes.

Should I just ask them what they want/need? Yes. But mind your wording, as to be polite almost everyone says "Oh don't be silly, you don't have to do that/get us anything" when they're actually thinking "I really don't have the energy to cook tonight and I'd love a chinese". Saying something like, I am getting you some takeaway vouchers, which ones would you prefer? Or Which supermarket do you shop at? should remove some of that to-ing and fro-ing.

As I write this, another of my sisters has gone off to be induced (with her third daughter) so sometime in the next few days we'll be welcoming a lovely new baby into the family - so I'm off to buy them some nappies & wipes!

Meal Plan Monday 130114

Monday, 13 January 2014

Monday 13th January - Stuffed chicken breasts wrapped in bacon

Tuesday 14th January - Brinner*

Wednesday 15th January - Steak & chips with salad

Thursday 16th January - BBQ crockpot chicken

Friday 17th January - Roasted mixed veggies with goats cheese and caramelised red onions

Saturday 18th January - Fajitas

Sunday 19th January - Roast beef

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = breakfast for dinner

Highs & Lows and a Happy New Me

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Well it has been a couple of weeks since new year began and we're just about back into our daily routine. We're finding our feet and trying to remember what we're doing and where we're going at any given moment. Another week or so and we should be good, though by then the kids will be counting down to half term...

I didn't make any new years resolutions because I didn't see the point. There isn't anything different about new year - it being January the 1st didn't have any sort of magical power that meant because I wanted something that it was going to happen. Instead, I've had a think about things I want to achieve & what I want to be doing this year and I'm taking a more positive approach to my life in general.

I want to be more in control.
Of everything. My finances, my social life, my routine, my housework, my KIDS. Sometimes I feel like I am losing my grip and I just want to feel more settled and at ease. I don't want worry or panic, I just want to get on with things and be more focussed. I feel I have dropped the ball more times than I would have liked in recent months, and with a raft of changes happening for our family this year that needs to not happen so often.

I don't want to have to do everything.
I have Cinderella syndrome right now, I do almost everything at home and that has to change. I don't want the kids to be doing all of the housework because that's not their job, however I do expect them to clear up after themselves and pull their weight. I'm their mother, not their maid and as they are getting older they are more than capable of taking on responsibility for themselves and their things. I won't be there to pick up their shit forever so learning this lesson now will save time in future.

I want more time for myself.
Even if it is just an hour to go swimming by myself one or two evenings a week, or a couple of hours spent reading in a cafe on a Saturday afternoon. I need more time to myself. I'm not ashamed to say that sometimes being a mum can be overwhelming and that I need time to myself. I do, that's just the way it is. I'm not going to be a martyr and sacrifice myself at the altar of parenthood, because I had kids it means that I don't get to have time off. Sod that for a game of soldiers, I'm still a person and sometimes I need to shower without someone hammering on the door, or to drink a mug of coffee in relative peace.

I want to find my inner girl & give her a makeover.
2014 will be spent taking more pride in what I wear and how I look. I don't want to live in jeans. Don't get me wrong, I love jeans. But I want OUTFITS. I'm going to spend some time figuring out what suits me and what I like and then I'm going to gradually sort out my wardrobe, and try and look more like I give a crap about what I look like. Because I do.
I'm going to sort my hair out and try & style it more often instead of just pulling it up into a messy bun or a plait. Time to grow up a bit and sort myself out.

I want to give the kids more 1:2:1 time.
I'm not sure how I am going to do this yet or how it will work out, but I plan to give the kids more one to one time, just me and them. Maybe going for a milkshake or to the cinema, going out for something to eat or for a swim, or to feed the ducks - whatever they want to do, just me and them (taking it in turns of course). It's going to take some serious logistics to fit it in around all of our activities, but we can do it. It'll be good for all of us. After my 'date' with J last year, I haven't managed to give them the time they deserve and that is something I am going to really focus on this year. They won't be here with me forever so I need to make the most of our time now, while I have it.

I think those are all perfectly achievable goals, things I really want to concentrate on this year. Maybe I'll give you an update later on, to see how I'm getting on with it all. I really hope for a good 2014. Last year had its highs & lows and I am determined to go out and make good things happen for our family, to make sure we have plenty of 'highs' in the months to come.

In 2013 I made some wonderful new friends, particularly the delightful Ella who has become one of my closest chums (and who we will be sharing a joint family holiday with in the Summer), I spent a fab weekend with my lovely cousin Jo at Britmums Live, we had fun family days out riding rollercoasters & performing magic, and cosy nights in watching movies and playing games. The Mister & I spent a few nights out with friends visiting from Australia over Christmas & New Year (and I discovered that I don't quite have the stomach or stamina for nights out like I did in my twenties... It happens to us all) and generally, all was well.

And while there were good times, there were of course also some bad - saying goodbye to family members & friends who sadly passed away, and thinking of dear friends & their children who were (and still are) fighting serious illness.

There were also minor issues like car problems and money problems. But - shit happens, and so I hope by taking more control, we can swerve these minor niggles more effectively in 2014 and concentrate on being there for the people who need us, taking care of ourselves, and taking more time to enjoy the good bits. Wish me luck!

What were your highs and lows of 2013? Have you set yourself goals or resolutions for the new year?

I have linked this post with #MagicMoments at The Oliver's Madhouse
and #theGallery at The Sticky Fingers Blog.

Meal Plan Monday 060114

Monday, 6 January 2014

Happy new year everyone, and welcome to my first #mealplanningmonday post of 2014. The kids are back to school this week so it's back to our routine. I have high hopes for this year and plan to make some changes to our meals and try out some new recipes.

Monday 6th January - Steak & chips with salad

Tuesday 7th January - Brinner*

Wednesday 8th January - Paprika sage pork chops

Thursday 9th January - Garlic chicken & roasted veg

Friday 10th January - Apple glazed turkey with mangetout & babycorn

Saturday 11th January - Bacon wrapped asparagus & poached eggs

Sunday 12th January - Roast honey mustard chicken thighs

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = breakfast for dinner

New Year Fun Family Activities

Thursday, 2 January 2014

So - how did you ring in 2014?

Long gone are the days of spending it in a pub or club for us with five kiddies, and to be fair while I do enjoy the odd night out I do find everything overpriced and overhyped on NYE and would much rather spend it at home in my PJs watching the fireworks on telly with the kids.

We like to go out & do something as family on NYE to make it an event and something special to look forward to for the kids after Christmas. Previous years have included a trip to the Pantomime (they still quote it now, unfortunately it was D i c k Whittington & the line they remember most fondly is "It's Spotted D I C K,     D I C K!") and a meal out, but this year the seven of us headed off to the local cinema to watch Disney's Frozen. The kids had received an Odeon voucher for Christmas from their cousin so we put that towards it and luckily for us, NYE fell on a Tuesday which meant discount tickets - win!

Frozen was absolutely fantastic, all five of the kids were mesmerised throughout (I actually thought E must have fallen asleep at one point as she was so still and quiet) and I loved that the storyline centered around the bond between sisters rather than princesses being rescued and other such fluff. It was a really lovely afternoon out and we had a lovely time together watching it, I can't wait for it to come out on DVD.

After that we came home and spent the evening pottering around together, watching movies and playing games before we watched Big Ben ring in the new year at midnight and oohed and ahhed at the fireworks, toasted with some Shloer and then headed off to bed.

For those of us with kids or who frankly who just really aren't all that fussed about going out on NYE, what options are there?

- Party at home
Invite some family and/or friends round with their kids and enjoy an evening in together. Ask guests to bring a plate or a bottle, and maybe even a game for everyone to play. Perhaps make some sleeping arrangements so that nobody has to drive home if they don't want to, and make it a fun sleepover for the kids.

- Fun & games
Our favourite games that everyone can join in with are the Disney Scene-It DVD games. They are great fun and easy for everyone young and old to take part in. We have two of the Disney editions of Scene-It as well as Twilight & The Simpsons. They are great fun. We also enjoy Disney Cars Monopoly and playing Wii games such as Mario Kart, Lego Band Hero, Just Dance, Boom Blox and Hasbro Family Game Night.

- Cook a family meal
Why not start a tradition of a special family meal that you have every NYE and that you can all prepare and cook together, such as a Mexican style buffet or a home-made curry.

- Have a takeaway
Don't want to cook? Then get a takeaway! You could either take it in turns for someone to choose what you have each year, or have everyone write down their choice and pick it out of a hat. Someone could pick a main dish, with someone else choosing a dessert. Mix it up and make it work for you.

- Go out for dinner
Don't fancy a takeaway either? Want a family meal with none of the washing up? Head out to your favourite restaurant and enjoy having dinner cooked for you and wake up to the new year with a clean kitchen! Last new year the kids chose Pizza Hut and we had a fun time out enjoying dinner together.

- Movie night
Stay in and enjoy a family movie together. Perhaps you could even buy a new one for the occasion, or just enjoy an old family favourite. Get some popcorn and snacks and enjoy an evening curled up on the sofa with your nearest and dearest.

- Go to the cinema
There are so many new movies out at Christmastime that you'll probably be spoiled for choice as to what to watch. We really enjoyed watching Frozen and look forward to heading to the movies again next NYE.

- Go to a Panto
A couple of years ago, the in-laws treated us to a visit to the pantomime at the Theatre Royal in Bath and we had a brilliant time. What do you mean 'Oh no we didn't'? OH YES WE DID (sorry...). Maybe make an extended family outing of it and invite friends & relatives to go along too, you could probably even swing a group booking discount this way.

- Take a hike
Okay so if it's raining or you're knee deep in snow this is probably not a viable option, but a great way to blow the cobwebs away on NYE or even New Year's Day is to pull on your boots, pile everyone in the car and go find somewhere to enjoy a walk. Locally we are spoiled for choice with several national trust parks and other woodland areas, have a google and see what you can find near you.

Happy New Year

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

What a year it is has been. Starting off in January we welcomed Florence to the family, and I shared some of our teenage trials and tribulations. In February we celebrated J's 12th birthday, and shared my Mum's buyer's remorse and told you all about my holey pants. The Guardian highlighted the issue of unlawful exclusions of disabled children from school and we shared our story with them, and the world, and at the end of the month L finally got rid of his casts after months of pain & discomfort.

March arrived, and I told you all about my wonderful Dad, and my fabulous Mister. We went away for a long weekend in Warmwell, and I pondered the subject of just how much kids should help out around the house. We managed to survive the cold of the Easter holidays, and indulged in some Easter themed baking.

Come April I was having a good old think about how nice it is to spend time together as a family, and ways to save money & prevent waste in our household. I admitted my dislike of kids birthday parties, and I went out on a date with a handsome chap more than half my age and had a wonderful time. Later on in the month we had a bloody good laugh at A's expense when she had to look after a virtual baby for the weekend (still laughing now) and we celebrated E's 3rd birthday with a Dora & Diego birthday cake and a visit to Bristol Zoo.

In May we enjoyed a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend in the sunshine, and a trip to London Zoo before I considered the best way to name a baby.
June arrived and we discovered that the best things in life really are free with some lovely time out feeding the ducks and climbing trees. We also discovered that the Mister is the biggest kid of all when we went on a family day out to Thorpe Park for Father's Day and I rode an emotional rollercoaster of my own after my experience at BritMums Live.

By the time July rolled around, we'd had sports day and I was more than ready for the end of term. The school put on a fab Summer fayre and E had her preschool induction day, and one day after a trip to the dentist we had a random lovely moment where I sat and watched the kids playing in the trees in the sunshine.
We went on a Summer holiday and enjoyed days out at Woodland Family Theme Park and Paignton Zoo, and celebrated A's 15th birthday.

The Summer was in full swing and in August H joined a local rugby club, so I talked about how to keep your little ruggers busy and extra-curricular activities for the kids. We had a wonderful day out at Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (fantastic, we loved it) and I shared my thoughts on why it is important to eat meals together as a family. We celebrated the Mister's birthday, and went for a wander on a lovely warm evening up at the white horse and the kids ran and laughed and played, and as well as celebrating his 10th birthday L also suffered the loss of his first pet. I talked about how our Summer went and thoughts on the months & new school year ahead.

In September E started preschool and after an iffy first week she has loved it ever since. I told you about my plans for our Autumn Bucket List  including picking our own fruit to bake with, and we went to the year six open evening at the senior school with L. E went to two birthday parties and showed off her pretty party dresses. Oh yea - I might have had a birthday this month too...

Once October arrived the weather started to turn and the heat of the most wonderful Summer we've had for years faded, and I made an effort to attend more sporting matches for the Mister & kids as well as rediscover my love of baking. It was time to visit the senior school again, but for A's sixth form open evening which meant I had to admit that my baby girl is growing up. We carved pumpkins, watched scary movies and had a lovely family Halloween, as well as enjoying some welly walks and hot chocolate and after the loss of the second hamster, we welcomed two more to the family.

In November we celebrated H's 8th birthday with a go-kart party, and we made our Christmas Bucket List. We enjoyed some sport in the sunshine, made toffee apples and E gave herself a mussmash. December came, and we put up our Christmas decs, watched festive family films and then I wished you a Merry Christmas before giving you an idea for what to do with those turkey leftovers. And now here we are. It's the new year, and who knows what is to come. So...

From our home to yours, may 2014 bring you everything you wish for & more

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