Saturday, 23 May 2015

Mam, can I just have a word?

The phrase guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of every parent outside our school gates of an afternoon.  The immediate thought process goes something like this...

  • What has she done?
  • What has she said?
  • Where has she thrown up?
  • Which part of her is bleeding?
  • What has someone else's child done to her?
Fortunately, this week's bout of terror turned out to be none of the above.  Instead, she was having an attack of end-of-term-itis, coupled with being a touch oversensitive to the needs of a tv character.  We've had a good old chat, and done the whole "no secrets" and "you can tell mummy anything" conversations, as well as giving her a mental list of other people she can talk to if she doesn't want to tell me.  I'm as happy as I can be that there's nothing more serious going on than just being in need of a week's break and the chance to wear a princess outfit every day.

Katie Morag - Who does not need to leave Struay, tears or no tears.
But be honest with me here. Am I the only person who gets that fear go through them when the teacher wants a "quick word".  Even when the teacher is considerably younger than you?  I still feel like I'm going to get detention, told to write out "I must not pull faces in assembly" 100 times, and have a letter sent to my mum.  It's amazing how school never quite leaves you, isn't it?

Monday, 11 May 2015

Time for a change

I've never been a skinny minnie, to put it mildly.  I'm not all that unfit - I can swim a 5k, and do a 3 1/2 hour Zumbathon without actually keeling over, but the only thing I can run is a bath, and while I can swim, me in a swimming costume is not a pretty sight.  So it's time for a change.

I've dieted in the past, who hasn't?  Sometimes I've lost weight, but eventually I fall off the wagon, usually with a fairly hard bump, and it all goes back where it came from.  I've been a member of a gym, but I get bored after a fairly short time, when I realise I can't read on a treadmill, and I don't like looking at myself in the mirrors.  (I don't mind Zumba, I can't see myself in the community centre's breezeblock walls, and everyone is so NICE it doesn't matter that I wobble even when I shouldn't).

So, time for a change of approach.  I've always had a slightly wobbly relationship with food. It's been my comfort, and it's been my downfall.  I craved pepperoni pizza while I was pregnant with Squeaky, and the cravings still haven't gone, despite the fact she's 5!

I was offered the chance to join in a trial with Thinking Slimmer, who are the people behind the Slimpod.  They've given me (and a group of other amazing bloggers) the chance to try out the Slimpod for ourselves, in return for sharing with them how we are getting on.  You know me though, I can't keep that to myself, I'm going to tell you as well.

Truth be told, I have kept it to myself for a little while, I wasn't sure whether you'd really want to know.  But I've been listening to the lovely Trevor, a cognitive hypnotherapist, before I go to sleep (and often while I'm asleep) for the last few weeks, and I'm honestly noticing a difference.  I'm not snacking so much, I'm choosing different foods, healthier foods, and I'm making better choices.  It's slightly strange being part of a group, but being remote from them, kind of the opposite to slimming clubs.  But for me it works.  I've come to the conclusion that you can't change for anyone other than yourself, and that includes competing with others.  I'll never be you, you'll never be me, it's a waste of good energy to try.  But I can be the best me, and I'm using my slimpod to help me be the best me I can.

Want to join me?  Well, don't go away, there's something exciting coming very soon!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Munching in Munich!

I was going to get all travel-blogger style and give you a full run down of our recent two-day jaunt to Munich, where we got caught in a monumental hailstorm, rode to the top of the Olympic tower, learned to negotiate the German rail system without speaking a word of German, and drank many good cups of coffee, and even more good beers.

But really, this is me.  We were visiting a friend, and only had a couple of days, which is nowhere near enough time to do the city justice.  I want to go back for a week and fill in the gaps that I didn't have chance to explore properly.  With an umbrella to deal with the next hailstorm, obviously, though considering the wind I might well have a Mary Poppins moment & end up flying all the way to Austria.  Being my blog though, I have got some photos to share with you.  You know the sort.



Being artistic at the Olympic Park

Beer. One of many.

If Frozen's Elsa worked in a Beerhall.
I'm slowly trying to improve my photography skills, bit by bit.  It's tough though, when time is limited and you're enjoying reality, to have the opportunity to set up a perfect shot.  This time I didn't have Squeaky dragging my arm down & making me run to the next streetlight, but even so, while I try to take a good shot, I also take many, many mediocre ones and more than a few outright bad ones.  I'll never be David Bailey (or insert other favourite photographer here), because life moves too fast for me.  But I'll have some fun along the way, and if some turn out good, all the better.

Friday, 8 May 2015


It's the time of year where the papers would normally be filled with those horror stories of parents being fined for taking their children out of school for a family trip to, well, anywhere really. This year we've had a slight reprieve due to the double whammy of the election & royal baby, but give it a few days now & we'll see photos of sad parents clutching their fine letters, and people spouting off that "it never did me any harm" (In the interests of full disclosure, I used to go on holiday in school time & have a degree, so yeah, it never did me any harm)

However, in these days of Callio and fixed penalty notices, as well as the obscene cost of childcare, family holidays during the school holidays are becoming a necessity.  The cost of an extra 2 weeks' childcare negates any possible saving of going on holiday in June, at least around here.
I see complaints about the cost of going away in the school holidays everywhere. But honestly, it doesn't have to cost more, all it takes is a little forward planning. The holiday brochures for 2016 have just come out, and that means there are free and cheap child places available.

In Summer...

We've booked our summer 2016 holiday already, and were able to secure a free child space for Squeaky, in August at a hotel with all the children's activities she could desire (basically a chocolate party & mini-disco) without breaking the bank.  To the extent that we've got a whole year before we have to actually pay for the holiday!  One third off the price to go the week earlier when we couldn't get a free child space, and actually £150 cheaper than going before the schools break up, believe it or not.

We're lucky in the respect that we only have one child - there's usually a limit to the number of free child spaces available per booking (a good reason to go on holiday with the grandparents maybe?), and there is definitely a limit to the number of free child spaces available on any given flight.  But even one free space in a family of 4 or 5 presents a significant saving.  And the cost of childcare for 2 or 3 children? Well, if you haven't got family nearby to ease the burden, the summer break can be financially crippling.  Childcare vouchers only go so far, and they rely on your childcare providers being registered - which not all are.  Same goes for Tax Credits, 70% of childcare costs is a help, but not enough.  The last choice is taking time off work - 5 weeks paid holiday per year doesn't meet the 6 weeks summer holidays, never mind the other 7 weeks of school holidays per year, sick days & last-minute inset days, unpaid leave can be the only way.

I'm not saying I agree with the term time holiday rules, but there is an equation to consider - is the (possibly) increased cost of the holiday offset by the other costs if you take time out from the school calendar - after all, school aren't going to take the children off our hands because we went away in June, are they?  Much as Squeaky's teacher may say she'd happily keep her, I'm sure she doesn't really mean it.

What do you think?