Mama OWL Blog: May 2014

The Lions Club Fun Day

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Every year the local Lions Club has their May Bank Holiday Fun Day down in the centre of town, and every year I try and avoid going - usually because it's raining, but mostly because there are just so many people I lose all patience with everyone and everything. The problem with having older children is that they can read, so the signs and posters that have been put up around town have not gone unnoticed by H who was, of course, really keen on going.

I did invite A, J & L to come with us but was met with a series of grunts of disapproval, so I left the 3 of them at home and took H & E down there "for an hour"... Remembering to withdraw some money on the way past the bank so that the kids could rinse me for every penny when we got there.

In all honesty it wasn't that bad, it didn't start to get really busy until we were ready to leave, for which I was very thankful. H & E got to have a few rides and turns on the activities and we stopped off and enjoyed ice creams and drinks on the grass in front of the Tithe Barn on our way home, which was probably my favourite part of the day.
As much as the kids enjoy these events I can't help but balk at the prices of the rides. When we went to the Rugby Club Fun Day a couple of weeks ago the inflatables were all free for the kids to go on, so I was a bit miffed at how expensive some of them were particularly for the very limited time that the kids actually get on them. For example, the circus bungee was £4 for 5 minutes, I think £2 or even £2.50 would have been more than reasonable, & it was £3 to shoot a couple of arrows. I managed to spend £30 on 2 kids in the hour & a half we were there, I was actually quite relieved that the other 3 decided not to come otherwise I'd have had to sell some limbs to fund it all. I don't mind paying, but it wouldn't hurt for them to be reasonably priced.


All of that aside, the little two had a lot of fun and really enjoyed themselves, and I got to spend some good quality time with them. H liked shooting the arrows although he didn't win a prize (quelle surprise), E went on the carousel & then the two of them had a ride on the teacups together (H is such a good big brother), as well as the boats and the 'fantasy run' inflatable slide.
H had two rides on the mechanical bull and managed to hang on for a good while before he was eventually launched off into the side. He had a go on the circus bungee (E didn't want to) and loudly exclaimed that the harness was squashing some of his 'vital parts' (and those were not the words he used...), much to the amusement of everyone within earshot. What is parenting without public humiliation, after all?

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Wahaca Mexican Street Food

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

My family love Mexican food, and I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to try out Wahaca Mexican Street Food Chilli Sauces. Wahaca wanted to bring their own brand of authentic Mexican cuisine to Britain, and have their own chain of restaurants in the London area. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll expand this way and perhaps open one in Bristol or Bath... hint hint. They have an extensive menu which includes many gluten-free options, and have recently created their very own range of chilli sauces, containing all natural ingredients with no nasty preservatives.

We received three funky bottles containing Fiery Arbol, Smoky Chipotle & Fruity Habanero sauces. On the Wahaca website the co-founder of Wahaca, Thomasina Miers, shares some recipe inspiration for these tasty new salsas including Mexican summer slaw, & Chipotle meatballs & guacamole.

I was that keen to try them out that I made myself some cheese on toast for lunch, and added some Smoky Chipotle sauce to the cheese.


It is delicious, & gives the cheesy topping that extra kick. I had to have another 2 slices after to make sure that it really was as good as I thought. And it was.

Later in the week I tried out the Fruity Habanero salsa with my chicken salad wrap and was equally as impressed. I found the salsas to be exceptionally tasty and a great way to add some extra zing to snacks and meals.

Check out the Wahaca website to explore their blog, and for news & updates of upcoming street food festivals, restaurant openings and for great recipe ideas.

We received complimentary Wahaca Mexican Street Food sauces for review purposes. The views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words. All links are no-follow.

Year 6 Residential - Plas Pencelli

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

I do sometimes need to remind myself that L is a tween, and not a baby. I perhaps find myself sheltering him a lot more than I ever did J, or even H who is 2.5 years younger, because I know that he is more vulnerable.
It's a constant battle to stop myself from doing it quite so much as he gets older, as he needs to learn to manage himself as much as possible. I won't be around forever, and he needs to learn to get by as independently as he can. At this stage, we don't know what level that will be, but still. I need to rein the (s)mothering in a bit, to give him more room to grow by himself.

Ready to leave!

Last week, L went on his very first proper sleep away trip - the year six residential to Plas Pencelli. He has been away for a couple of nights locally on a school trip, but this one was 2hrs away for a full and busy week, with lots of activities, & completely out of his - and my - comfort zone. He was very excited about the prospect of going away on holiday with his schoolmates. I of course had reservations - would it be too overwhelming, would he end up overstimulated & anxious? How will he cope without his usual evening routine, without being able to eat his usual meals? Will he sleep?

His school are fantastic, I couldn't ask for a better and more capable staff to be with him. They know and understand him, they care about him, he is comfortable with them. But they aren't me, and not being able to be right there for him lost me quite a bit of sleep over the week. Every day when I collected H from school I stuck my head around the door of reception, I'm sure the admin ladies were sick of the sight of me by the end of the week! Every day the report was good, 'they're having a great time, everything is fine'. I did wonder if they would actually tell me if he had had a bad night or was upset & I think they probably wouldn't have to save me worrying. But it was nice to be reassured that everything was as it should be, that he was ok.

Monday arrived, and off he went. He had been begging me to pack his bag for about two weeks prior to the trip, I had managed to fob him off with the promise of a shopping trip to get some new clothes to take with him. The items on the kit list were not things he had a lot (or indeed any) of, so the Mister & I headed to a local sports shop and picked up some inexpensive joggers & hoodies for him to take. J went on this same trip when he was in year six, so I knew full well that they were going to be put through the ringer in caves & rivers and I didn't want him to ruin any of his other clothes!

He had an action packed week full of mountain walking, caving, kayaking... and a bit of swimming in the river, fully clothed. Of course. He was also able to stop & rest whenever he felt that he needed to, which was of course very important because he still suffers pain & discomfort in his hips and legs due to his persistent femoral retroversion, & tight hamstrings.

The week passed quite quickly, and I was eagerly awaiting his return at 4pm on Friday along with E & J, having dropped H off at a friend's house for the afternoon. The coach pulled up and the luggage was taken off, then the kids filed off the coach one by one. L came tearing across the car park and flung himself into my arms sobbing that he had missed me and was worried he would forget what I looked like! The headteacher said he'd had a good week though he thinks he was starting to struggle a bit by Thursday, and the deputy head told me it had been an "up and down" week, but with more ups than downs and that she was looking forward to showing me the photos... I'm quite intrigued to hear all about it after half term!

Welcome home!

I unpacked his case and was nearly knocked out by the smell. His suitcase contained a delightful bin bag full of soaking wet, muddy, sandy clothes that smelled like something had died in them - much the same as what J had brought home when he went! It has all since been washed - twice - with some Oxi powder in with the detergent, though to be honest I did consider just taking the suitcase outside, lighting a match and throwing it in...

I've been through the case & can see that he's clearly not quite ready for me to trust him with his own personal care just yet, though he did remember to shower & put deodorant on. Even though he is nearly 11, he is not your average 11 year old and does still need me & his Dad to keep him focused & help him with a lot of things. With all of that said, he did a wonderful job on his first time away from us, and he was so proud of himself for managing the full five days away, and I am very proud of him, too. We all missed him terribly, and I am so glad to have him home with me where he belongs.

The past couple of weeks have been a big deal for him, with SATs the week before his trip, and then the residential. He had a wonderful school report and a great parent/teacher consultation, and we are so, so proud of his progress - especially when you bear in mind that when we moved him to that school, he was so traumatised that he would only sit under the table and hide from everyone. He has grown up so much, and come on in leaps and bounds.

Well done L, we knew you had it in you.

Different, not less.

Secrets of the 


Meal Plan Monday 260514

Monday, 26 May 2014

Bank Holiday Mon 26th May - BBQ

Tues 27th May - Kiev with mash & veg

Weds 28th May - Roast chicken pie

Thurs 29th May - Goats cheese & pesto pastry puff with red peppers and tomatoes

Fri 30th May - Southern fried chicken with salad & chips

Sat 31st May - Lasagne

Sun 1st June - Roast

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post

Toys R Us Toyologist 2014 - The NERF N-Strike Elite Rapidstrike CS-18

Friday, 23 May 2014

We were delighted to be selected to be Toys R Us Toyologists again this year, after our wonderful experience in 2012. Considering the kids' delight when they received the Nerf N-Strike Elite Hail Blaster, you can imagine their glee when the NERF N-Strike Elite Rapidstrike CS-18 arrived at our door this time.

Recommended for age 8+ & hailed as the fastest firing NERF Blaster ever, with a range of over 20 metres, the children couldn't wait to have their own NERF turf war in the garden. Sides were taken, & battle commenced.

Simply load the foam darts into the clear plastic clip, then attach the clip to the NERF blaster. Hold the acceleration trigger to fire it up, then let them fly!

You'll need 4 C size batteries, which are not included. It also took a bit of time to fight through all of the plastic packaging as we were taking it out of the box, but to be fair that is true of most toys these days.

As it is so quick firing, the clip is emptied in seconds and so once you're out of ammo, you really need more clips that are ready to go rather than stop/starting when collecting up the darts to reload. The NERF N-Strike Elite Rapidstrike CS-18 comes with one clip and 18 Elite darts, and you can buy additional accessories separately. The motor can give away your position so if you can't be stealthy, just fire quickly!

The kids really enjoyed playing with this NERF gun and I think it's probably the best one we have tried. We'll definitely be stocking up on more darts so that the games can be as fast-paced as the firing!

We received a complimentary NERF N-Strike Elite Rapidstrike CS-18 Blaster from Toys R Us for review purposes as part of the 2014 TRU Toyologist programmeThe views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words. All links are no-follow.

A #loudnproud post about H

Thursday, 22 May 2014

H's first ever season of rugby has come to an end. The festivals and matches are over, the presentation has been and gone, and now we're left to reflect on our experience of it until pre-season starts.

H is a very 'outdoorsy' kid, he is active and busy and always wants to be doing. He can take or leave his computer games, he's equally as happy to sit down with a book or be outside racing around. He loves to swim, play sports, and to immerse himself in activities. He loves to help people, and is eager to please and do well. You can almost see him glow with pride when he is praised, and during his first season of rugby he has really come into his own.

Considering that I guess we are a "football family" in that the Mister and his brothers, and my Dad, and J are all into football, for H to be the one to go off and do something different was a big thing. He's happy to have a kickabout in the garden with J & his Dad but the connection, the love of the game, just clearly wasn't there for H. Being the size that he is, head and shoulders above most kids his age and solid muscle (has been since birth, weighing in at 10lb 1oz), we thought - hey, maybe he's just built for rugby? Let's give it a go!

I contacted the local rugby club... three times... no reply, so I went on to contact the club in the next town (where the Mister is from) - immediate response! I took him along to their Summer training and he threw himself straight in to it. He LOVES it. Not a single time since that day has he asked to miss a session, not even when it was raining. He is up bright & early every Sunday, dressed and ready. On the occasions where we have been unable to take him ourselves (due to the Mister's work or U13s football commitments) H has pleaded with us to find someone else to take him so he doesn't miss it. This has been perfect for him, I really do think that rugby is *his thing*.

He's really looking forward to next season, and learning how to play the game. I'm excited to see the progress he makes and to watch him in action. Over the past couple of years I have come to realise how important it is to encourage the kids to get out there and do things. My father-in-law said how much he & MIL enjoy hearing about their achievements and coming along to their presentation ceremonies and watching the kids take part in their activities, it's nice to know that they are just as proud as the Mister & I are.

I can't wait to share his progress with you as he moves on to U9s and contact rugby, hopefully we'll escape with only minor bumps & bruises, and he will really find his place in the team.

Well done H - we are all very, very proud of you indeed.

H also brought home a glowing school report this month, & the Mister & I attended a very lovely and positive parent/teacher consultation! He's growing up to be a wonderful young man, let's hope it stays that way throughout the tween & teen years still to come...!

PuddlePac Adventures

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Springtime is here!

The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, the heavens are opening... Yes, with Springtime comes those pesky April showers, to bring May flowers (apparently). While I'm sure that we'd all rather just bask in the sunshine, the showers are inevitable but Muddy Puddles have just the thing to prevent being caught out during a downpour - packable PuddlePac waterproofs.

Available in four gorgeous designs & colours - navy/yellow (as modelled by my beautiful Miss E), purple spot, navy, and red stripe - the PuddlePac waterproof jackets are the perfect solution to keeping dry during our unpredictable British Springtime. Or in our weather in general, actually...

Lightweight, with taped & sealed seams for extra protection, the PuddlePac waterproof is perfect for toting in a bag as it folds up neatly & tucks into its own pocket, or to attach to a backpack - using the handy caribbeana clip - 'just in case' on those school days when they don't need a coat, but you want to avoid the possibility of getting drenched during those sudden "sharp showers" Great Britain is famous for on the way home. It's even fully machine washable if your little one happens to like to jump in, well, muddy puddles!

E has been taking her coat on lots of Springtime adventures, in the sunshine it's not heavy enough to make her hot and it has withstood whatever mother nature has thrown at it, keeping E nice & dry as promised.
E has put her gorgeous navy & yellow umbrella-print PuddlePac well and truly through its paces, wearing it to and from her weekly swimming lessons, on her preschool trip to the farm with her friends, and to feed the ducks on our walk home from town, as well as to & from preschool every day.

It will be ideal for taking along to watch the boys' sporting events, and later on in the year we plan to team her PuddlePac with a fleece jacket underneath to keep her warm and cosy as well as dry when we're out on the fields. She's also going to be taking it to "big school" with her when she starts this September, the perfect partner for her school fleece for the Autumn/Winter!

We received a complimentary PuddlePac jacket from Muddy Puddles for review purposesThe views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words. All links are no-follow.

Family Meals with Old El Paso

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Old El Paso Mexican

If you follow my blog you'll be fully aware of the love we have for Mexican food. Fajita Fridays were a regular feature on our weekly meal plans for a long time, and we regularly mix it up now with chicken chimichangas, Mexican lasagne and enchiladas. Old El Paso sent us a selection of their range to try out, and so for the past couple of weeks we have been sampling new ideas for delicious Mexican meals to eat together and enjoy as a family.

Old El Paso Paprika & Herb CasseroleProbably my favourite thing about Old El Paso meal kits is how easy it makes preparing dinner. We're a busy family of seven and are always out & about doing something, so having a ready-made kit that I can just throw together with some meat & vegetables is ideal.

Even better, the new Casserole recipe mixes mean I can just pop it all in the slow cooker in the morning after I get the kids off to school, so then I can get on with our day and come dinnertime we have a tasty meal ready for us.

Old El Paso Mexican Lasagne We particularly enjoyed the warming paprika & herb casserole recipe mix - combined with some diced chicken, mixed peppers, chopped tomatoes and onions, and left to cook throughout the day, it was lovely to come home to.

My Mexican lasagne recipe is another slow cooker favourite, quick & easy and always polished off in no time by the Mister & kids.

Old El Paso Mexican Lasagne

For those who aren't so keen on the spicier dishes, the one-pan extra mild, super tasty rice meal is ideal. H likes Mexican food but has a more sensitive palate and prefers the milder options, and he really enjoyed the one pan rice. As did I, because I only had one pan to clear up afterwards! Made with chicken, onion, sweetcorn and peppers it was a tasty, filling dish and we all enjoyed it - it is very mild so if that's your preference then I would highly recommend it, we'll definitely be having both of them again.

Old El Paso One Pan Rice Meal

Old El Paso TacoNow, you can't sample Mexican food without trying tacos. Admittedly we don't normally have them because they are SO messy (the kids, not the tacos) and we always end up with everything everywhere.
I had forgotten how much I like them, they make a great meal served with salad and potato wedges.

The Old El Paso range of products are versatile in such a way that you can make them to your own personal tastes. You can try them with different meats, or make them vegetarian, or even make them less spicy by adding less of the seasonings if that's to your taste. I think that the best thing about Mexican food is that the 'buffet style' of it makes it a great family meal to all enjoy together around the table, just set out some nachos and quesadillas as sides and get stuck in!

We received complimentary products from the Old El Paso range for review purposesThe views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words. All links are no-follow.

Meal Plan Monday 190514

Monday, 19 May 2014

Mon 19th May - Baked potatoes with various fillings

Tues 20th May - Brinner*

Weds 21st May -  Mexican lasagne

Thurs 22nd May - Shepherd's pie, topped with veg

Fri 23rd May - Pizza & chips to welcome L home from his school trip

Sat 24th May - Shredded barbecue beef wraps

Sun 25th May - Pork chops & applesauce

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

How long will I love you?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Every now and then it crosses my mind... And although I don't like to, and try not to think about it, it's something that is inevitable - and is going to happen whether I want it to or not.

One day, I am not going to be here for my children. One day, they will say goodbye to me and be left to fend for themselves without me there to guide, support or even just hug them. One day, they'll be on their own.

Although we never planned to have five children, I'm glad that we did. They will always have each other, when their father & I have gone they will never be alone in this world and will always have someone who shares their memories, who grew up in the same house and felt the same love and happiness, whose faces are all smiling together in the same family photos. As much as it pains me to know that one day I won't be able to see them any more, it gives me peace knowing that they have each other.

Out of the five of them, I admit I do worry about what life will be like for L as an adult with special needs. The news is full of stories about terrible things that have happened to vulnerable teenagers and adults with disabilities. Being bullied, abused and terrorised and made to feel like prisoners in their own homes, and I can feel the panic rise inside me when the realisation hits and I think "I won't always be able to protect him".

Will he be okay without me?

Right now he has me fighting his corner, being his voice and standing up for him when he can't stand up for himself. But he won't always be a child, and I won't always be able to be there for him, and it terrifies me.
On occasions the thought of him being on his own without me reduces me to tears. I simply do not want to imagine him being hurt, or taken advantage of, or abused - because he is vulnerable, because his difficulties will make him an easy target. I've witnessed the ignorance and contempt that has been levelled at my son now, when he is just a child, and it disgusts me to envisage how much worse it could get as he grows up.

I ask A & J often - please promise me that if you only do one thing for me, you will look after L when we are gone. Please don't leave him on his own. Please speak for him when he needs you to. Maybe these fears are irrational, maybe I am worrying for nothing. But worry I will, because of course I don't know what the future holds for him. Or indeed for any of us for that matter.

Is it just me who worries about this?

If you only do one thing today, learn something about additional needs. Not just about autism, it can be anything at all. Educate your children, your family, your friends. There is no such thing as 'normal', and if we can all learn to embrace each others differences then when our time is up, we know we can leave our children behind in a hopefully more enlightened world, and we can rest in peace.

How long will I love you?
As long as stars are above you
And longer, if I can.
- Ellie Goulding.

Meal Plan Monday 120514

Monday, 12 May 2014

Mon 12th May - Baked potatoes & various fillings

Tues 13th May - Chicken & chips

Weds 14th May - Toad in the hole

Thurs 15th May - Spaghetti Bolognese

Fri 16th May - Beef enchiladas

Sat 17th May - Lime & coriander chicken & rice

Sun 18th May - Roast pork

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post

Ooh la la - Brioche Pasquier!

Friday, 9 May 2014

My absolute favourite breakfast, bar none, has to be French pastries. I could easily sit and devour an entire bag of croissants or pain au chocolat by myself, along with a huge mug of coffee.

When we go on our family holiday to France this Summer, I have been reliably informed that there is a daily delivery of freshly baked pastries. Every day, I will lie in wait for the delivery person. I'm going to come home having gained a stone (at least), but frankly I care not. It will be worth it.

On the off chance that you're not headed for the continent this Summer but you still fancy sampling some French fancies, may I recommend Brioche Pasquier? Yes, they did indeed send me a delightful box of goodies to enjoy with my family. However, as it happens - I buy their Pitch range of snacking products regularly for the children's school lunches as they are not only delicious (and I can sneak them during the day when there are no witnesses) but also free from preservatives, artificial colours, and hydrogenated fats.

I have to keep a good supply of them as the kids like them as an afternoon snack after school while they're doing their homework. It's a nice treat for them to enjoy while they work, & it tides them over until dinner is ready.

As well as the Pitch range, which are individually wrapped making them ideal to pop in a lunch box, Brioche Pasquier also have a traditional range of products including Pain au Chocolat, Pain au Lait and Croissants. If you fancied trying something a little different, there are some great recipes on their forum sharing innovative ways to enjoy their products such as brioche & butter pudding, and a steak and cheese croissant sandwich.

My favourite recipe has to be the Pain au Chocolat & Orange pudding, why not try it yourself!


75ml Milk
100g Dark Chocolate
2 Eggs
6 Brioche Pasquier Pain au Chocolat
300ml Double Cream
50g Caster Sugar
Zest of 1 Orange


- Preheat the oven to 150C. Cut each pain au chocolat in half widthways and pack them into an ovenproof dish.
- Add the milk, orange zest and 200ml of the cream to a saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Add the chocolate and stir until it has melted and become smooth.
- Combine the sugar and eggs together in a bowl and pour the chocolate mixture over, whisking all the time.
- Slowly pour the mixture over the pains au chocolat, allowing the custard to be absorbed before adding more.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is lightly crisp and the centre still 'wobbly'.
- Serve warm, with whipped cream.

We received complimentary products from the Brioche Pasquier range for review purposesThe views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words. All links are no-follow.

"Being supportive" - how's that for controversial?

Thursday, 8 May 2014

I'm getting rather bored of the current trend of whinging about parenting. You know, that it's 'in' to state you'd rather grate your own eyeballs than do art & craft and messy play, mums who can and want to spend an extra ten minutes creating a fun lunch box instead of bunging it all in a bag are labelled as sad and their kids are probably wimps, God, isn't parenting just so shit and rubbish all the time?! What a chore!

No? I don't think so either.

It is perfectly okay to want to avoid messy play because let's be honest, nobody wants modelling dough mashed into the carpet, or a streak of electric blue paint running from the hall to the landing. It's normal to just want to pop a sandwich and a banana in a lunch box because you got up late or frankly can't be arsed to do anything else. It's perfectly acceptable to admit that you hate going to the school bake sale or kids parties or soft play. It's okay to find parenting boring sometimes!

But the constant slagging off of other parents who choose to, who are able to, who want to, and who - GOD FORBID - actually like to do these things is getting beyond ridiculous.

That - to me - is not okay.

Berating people for parenting their own kids in their own way that happens to be different to your way of doing things smacks of insecurity and jealousy. Why is it anyone else's business? Why is it your place to judge what they do? Disagreeing with the act is fine, slating the person for it is not.

It's a bit of fun to have a moan on social media about having to endure soft play on a Saturday morning, or a joke about the absence of any actual fun at the 'fun' swim. But when you're stood on your platform with your chums and your pointy fingers spouting vitriol at anyone who dares enjoy something you don't, then that's just bullying - plain and simple. That makes it the exact opposite of a bit of fun, and bullying is certainly no joke.

You know what I love? I love having my kids home from school during the holidays. I love sitting around the table as a family to eat our dinner every night. I love doing painting & play-doh modelling with E. I love being up to my elbows in cake batter baking with the kids on a whim, just 'because'. I love getting up early on pancake day to make the kids a stack of pancakes before school because it makes them happy. I love being able to do whatever the hell I want with my kids, because they're my kids & I will raise them as I see fit, as is the right of every parent.

If you don't love any of that, then that's okay too. So you do things your way, and we'll do things our way, and we'll all just muddle along doing the best we know how, and say "good for you" to people who like to do differently.

How about that?

Poor Grace Hall was the victim of a personal attack published on a parenting website simply for her love of creating inspiring bento style lunches for her children. I won't link to it, such is my contempt for the article (I believe it has now been removed) but if you'd like to check out lovely Grace's awesome blog, head over to

Nobody likes a Doom-monger #loudnproud

Thursday, 8 May 2014

I'm really enjoying taking part in #loudnproud. Unfortunately you can be made to feel like you're showing off or bragging, simply for being proud and wanting to share your children's achievements. As I have said before, I don't like focussing on the negative things, but yes my kids wind me up and send me round the bend on almost a daily basis. They're not robots, we have tantrums and arguments and bickering like any other family, I assure you - we are quite normal. Whatever normal is, anyway.

Just because I don't document it on here or Twitter or Faceache Facebook, doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. It just means I choose to share the fun bits, the good times, because those moments are the important ones to me. So what if we argued because one of the kids didn't do their homework, or if the Mister forgot to take the bin out and missed the collection. Really? Does anyone want to dwell on that? Because I don't. Who cares?

I for one am happy to be proud of my children for what they have achieved, because quite frankly my kids are awesome. They're also annoying, exasperating, exhausting, and demanding. But they are AWESOME, and I don't care who thinks I'm trying to be "the perfect mum" (newsflash - she doesn't exist) because I have shared good news about my kids. If it bothers you that much, then you can sod off - I don't want any doom-mongers around pissing on my fireworks, thank you very much.
I'm delighted to share that A has been offered a place at her Sixth Form, conditionally, pending exam results. I've also received her last progress report before her GCSEs start tomorrow, and I have everything crossed for great results. She has worked really hard and I know that she will do her best. We've got a lovely family holiday to Paris and the south of France to look forward to between now and her exam results so she can enjoy a well earned break, and what will be will be.

J finally received an attendance certificate this week, I have no idea why he hasn't had one until now because he and A go to school together, at the same time, every day, and she has one every term. Neither of them ever have time off. I can only assume he is late for registration through dawdling or other random events, but regardless - he has finally got his certificate for excellent attendance, and I am very proud of the effort he has put in since the 'bumps in the road' we had last year. He has been trying really hard since they went back after Christmas, and I am really pleased with him.

The teenage years are difficult, and sometimes trying to fit in can make you feel like a bit of a fish out of water. A has managed well so far, she has a clear sense of identity, knows her own mind, and isn't afraid to speak it.
J on the other hand is more like his father, laid back and easy-going, and sometimes I think he allows himself to be led rather than be the one to stand out & speak up for himself. He's only 13 and I know it will come with time. He's a great kid and I am looking forward to seeing the man he grows up to be. I hope he continues to be like his Dad, because actually *looks around, whispers* the Mister is pretty awesome too (don't tell him, I'll never hear the end of it), and exactly the sort of man that I want my sons to be.

Starting School

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

I know it's a total cliché, but time just goes by so quickly I honestly don't know where the days go. Just over a year ago I was thinking about E starting preschool and going for her induction day, and now here we are, having been fortunate enough to secure a place at our first (and only) choice primary school, buying her first uniform and thinking about her first day this September. It'll be here before we know it!

I often catch myself sitting and looking at the kids and wondering just when they got so grown up. A & J in particular have changed SO much in the last few years. A is almost unrecognisable from year seven, and J is getting so tall he'll soon be overtaking me (and I'm 5'10!). As E is my youngest, and last, child, this stage seems to have come around all too quickly. It's bittersweet.

As soon as we had confirmation of E's school place (I didn't sleep for two days fretting over that, waiting for the letter to arrive) I bought her very first uniform. Using my saved clubcard vouchers and a promo code I managed to get it all for a bargain price, and now all I need to buy is her shoes, and a logo sweatshirt & cardi which I'll pick up some time in August, when I buy H's new uniform for the school year. H grows at a rate of knots so I'm not buying his until the last minute, but E is very dainty so the things I have bought her have some growing room and will last a good while.

I'll also be replacing J's uniform and buying a whole new set for L as he is starting senior school this September, but again I'm waiting to do that because they grow so ridiculously fast I daren't buy it yet! A has received her (conditional) Sixth Form place offer, & so we have subsidised her wardrobe.

Buying new uniform and equipment for starting school can be costly, so I have been buying things over the past year (keeping a look out for items that were on offer) and putting them to one side. We reviewed this gorgeous Stephen Joseph Owl backpack from Zulily UK last year which I thought was perfect for school, and so we kept it to one side and I purchased matching lunch accessories to go with it. It's now sitting in her wardrobe next to her uniform all ready to be packed with her first school lunch!

Knowing how tough kids can be on their uniform I have made sure to buy plenty of it - for the price that I got it at, it made sense to! E has:
  • 2 pinafore dresses
  • 4 polo shirts
  • 6 pairs of tights (in 2 different school colours)
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 pairs of trousers
  • a plain cardigan
  • 2 gingham summer dresses in the next size up, for next year
Her PE kit consists of:
  • 2 plain t-shirts
  • 2 pairs of cycling shorts
  • a pair of joggers
  • plimsolls.
In total, her uniform came to £51, at the time the supermarket were running a £10 off a £50 spend which brought it down to £41, and I had £31 in clubcard vouchers which made it a grand total of £10. I also clicked through my topcashback account when I bought it and earned £2.09 cashback on my purchase - so all in all I paid £7.91!

I bought her school coat from Zulily UK when it was on offer last year, it's by Pluie Pluie and is waterproof with a lovely warm fleece lining so it is ideal for wearing to school in the Autumn.

I'm saving my clubcard points again for the end of the Summer holidays (when hopefully I can 'boost' them too) to help pay towards the boys' new kit, & after that I'll then start saving them up again to use at Christmas.

I'll be sad to see my "baby" going off to big school, but excited for all of the new adventures she will have, and friends she will make along the way.

Meal Plan Monday 050514

Monday, 5 May 2014

We're still trying out our Mexican goodies from Old El Paso, so we're continuing the theme this week with a couple more delicious Mexican meals.

Mon 5th May - Bank holiday BBQ

Tues 6th May - Pasta bake

Weds 7th May - Paprika & herb chicken casserole with potato wedges

Thurs 8th May - Slow cooker lasagne

Fri 9th May - One pan chili & garlic rice with chicken

Sat 10th May - Egg & chips

Sun 11th May - Roast beef

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post

Nailed It! #loudnproud

Thursday, 1 May 2014

H took part in his last rugby festival before the season's end at the weekend, the weather forecast was full of rain but we held out hope that it would be light showers at the most.

Unfortunately - the boys endured rain, of what can only be described as biblical proportions. It hammered it down, to the point where just after lunch they ended the festival a couple of hours early. Luckily for me it was E's 4th birthday that day, so while I was at home in the warm and dry, painting & crafting with E, the Mister and H were outside, freezing & soaking wet....

(thanks E!)

However, the U8s are made of strong stuff and a bit of rain wasn't going to hold them back. H's team managed to finish as runners-up at the festival and won their very first trophy for the club! H was thrilled, he absolutely loves rugby and is so keen to start playing contact next season. Not once throughout the entire season did he complain about getting up on a Sunday to go and play, he was always up at the crack of dawn getting his kit on and having his breakfast so he would be ready.

On the occasions where we were unable to take him ourselves, either because of work or the Mister's U13s football commitments, he begged us to find someone who would be able to, so our next door neighbour (a big rugby fan) took him for us once, and a couple of other times the coach (who also has a son on the team) took him. The U8s coaching team are brilliant, I know how much time and effort goes into coaching kids sports teams as the Mister has been doing it with J's football team for years and I really appreciate them giving up their time (and sanity...) to keep the kids motivated and help them learn to play the game and be the best players that they can be. The team are a lovely group of boys & I am looking forward to watching them progress.

After his swimming lesson last week, L came home proudly clutching his Stage 6 certificate! After earning his 500m distance achievement just before Easter, moving on to Stage 7 as well has really boosted his confidence and it's good to see him working so hard to make progress. It's great exercise and physiotherapy for his legs and I am so proud of how far he has come since his first lesson two years ago. Physical activity can be very difficult for him and so swimming was the perfect choice to help him keep fit, active and healthy. Between that and his Tae Kwon-Do, I think we have nailed it!

Well done boys!

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