Tag Archives: Children

Money Matters

Money matters. It matters a great deal.
As a single mum, I’m on a tight budget, and although my recent promotion (yay!) means I’ll have a little more disposable cash soon… Money is still in fairly short supply.
Luckily I’m a saver by nature, so I budget frantically throughout the year so that I can afford treats and holidays for me and the children.
However, me being good with money for myself is not enough.
No, I want my children to be good with money too.
So, in the interests of teaching them how much money matters, they have weekly pocket money that they can choose to spend on sweets, or save for larger toys.
I’m delighted that they have both embraced the idea of saving for larger items.
My son decided he wanted to save up for the Lego police station set.

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This Lego Police Station is teaching my son that money matters

Averaging a whopping £60.00 from most retailers. I promised him that if he could get most of the way there himself, then I would help him with the final bit. He saved up £45 on his own and I donated the final £15 as a reward for his hard work. I was so proud of him!
My daughter is equally financially savvy. Upon hearing my deal with M, she enquired if I’d do the same for her if she saved up for the Lego Olivia’s house (averaging £50.00)

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Lego Olivia's House - teaching my daughter about money matters

Naturally, I agreed and she set to work saving too.
A trip to Smyth’s toy shop and they both got their hard earned toys.

They are now both saving hard for other “big” toys and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m delighted to have children who are learning the cost of items they want, as opposed to just the price. When I was working in the shop on minimum wage and they asked for big toys that I knew they would grow out of quickly, I would sometimes point out that I’d have to spend two days in work, just to buy that one item.. It helped make them aware of how hard I have to work for my cash, and that is a valuable lesson for anyone.

I wonder how other’s handle money matters with their children? Am I too open with them about finances?

Family Friday

Troutbeck Cottage B&B

For my family holiday this summer I’m going up to Northumberland, but as it’s rather a long way (especially with two travel-sick prone children) I’m breaking the journey part way near Carlisle.

Me and my parent’s looked at various options to break the journey before we stumbled across the details for Troutbeck Cottage B&B in Warwick Bridge. It’s not far from the M6, just off the A69.

The prices were reasonable and it seemed ideal for our needs, so we booked a double room for my parents and a family room for me, E and M.

We arrived and were shown around by the welcoming proprietor, Sally. We enquired about places to eat nearby that were child friendly and Sally produced menu’s from local pubs that were suitable. We chose the Lane End Inn  www.laneendinnhayton.robinsonsbrewery.com about 2 miles further along the A69.

The food there was excellent, and the staff were welcoming and friendly. The food is prepared on the premises and it really shows! My mum and I managed to slurp our way through a bottle of the house red (well priced at £12 a bottle). We all enjoyed our meals, and the children loved theirs too. Sometimes when I eat out with my children, I feel like the children’s menu is just an assortment of crap from the bottom of the freezer. This was definitely not the case at Lane End Inn. The fish fingers E had were huge and clearly homemade. M had pizza slices and chips which again, were all homemade. The pizza slice was possibly the nicest tasting I’ve had in years! (I was forced to sample it 😉 not that I minded) Children’s meals were a good price ( £5 for a main with chips, peas or beans, a glass of cordial and two scoops of ice cream) and really generous portions. My mum and I shared a dessert of Eton Mess which was delicious and packed with fresh strawberries. E swiped a fair old amount of our dessert too!

After our meal, I gave the children a lesson in playing pool in the adjoining room as we finished our drinks. The pool table was free to play on, which was a nice surprise.  Then we headed back to Troutbeck Cottage for the night.

The family room that I had booked is spacious and well laid out. There are two single beds and one double, a television, wardrobe, dressing table and tea making facilities. I especially love that actual decent sized glasses and cups are provided. Not just that…. Actual wine glasses too! Although I don’t need them on this occasion, the number of times I’ve ended up drinking wine out of a tea cup in hotels, this seems very civilised indeed!

Troutbeck Cottage - they think of everything!
Troutbeck Cottage – they think of everything!

There is also an en suite shower room, which is spotlessly clean and contains fluffy towels, shower gel and shampoo, soap and flannels etc.

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I’m writing this post while tucked up in bed drinking camomile tea, and I have to say, it’s a very comfortable bed! Both children are now sound asleep. The room has a blackout blind and thick curtains which is great if your children struggle to settle while it’s still light. There is some traffic noise, but I’d be astonished if there wasn’t as the B&B is situated well for just hopping off the A69. I can confidently say that the traffic hasn’t bothered E & M and I’m positive it won’t bother me.

I’ve filled out a form for each of us regarding what we would like for breakfast and I’m already expecting fabulous things!

So on that note.. Goodnight all

 

 

A week at my parent’s house

I’m extremely lucky to have a very close knit family. My parents live just around the corner from me and they help me out a lot!
Having a long term health issue does sometimes make me dependent on others, as much as I hate to admit that. My parents are thankfully around to assist as needed.
After a busy weekend away with my family recently, I had a recurrence of my disc problems in my lower back and ended up being signed off work for a while so it could settle. Although I was able to hobble about slowly, I was in a huge amount of pain and managing with my two children was just too difficult.
Once they went their dad’s house for a few days, I upped sticks and moved into my parents house with them.
I know that is a situation that a lot of my friends would cringe at, but it was absolutely fine, as I knew it would be.
How do we manage this?
Well, obviously, yes I am their daughter, but we tend to now have a relationship based on mutual respect of one another as adults rather than just a parent-child relationship.
This is crucial.
It would be impossible for me to be living in their house for a week at my age and yet be treated as a child. I’m still their child, but I’m also a grown woman, with her own home, car, job and children.
I’ve had a lovely week. I’ve been well looked after, I’ve endeavoured to be a good house guest (also crucial! Yes, they’re my Mum and Dad but I can’t expect them to pander to me and still retain their respect).
My children and nephew were here too for the last three days which brought noise and chaos to the house!
All in all, is been lovely. However I’m happy to be well enough now to be returning home later today

Relationships

Leaving a marriage which his broken down is hard. Really bloody hard.
No one gets married thinking “I’ll settle down for a bit and then probably we will divorce and life will carry on”.
Marriage is all about the optimism. That at the time in your life you honestly believe that this other person will make you happy, and you will make them happy, for the rest of your life. Having that not work out is devastating no matter what.
At least it was for me. I spent a lot of time trying to make it work ” for the kids ” etc. I can honestly say that I tried far more and for far longer than I should have.
So, with those battle scars I am naturally even more cautious in matters of the heat.

So it’s taken me a while to let my guard down, and even now I can’t say in all honesty that I’ve completely relaxed. But I’m definitely getting there.
My relationship now is very different to any I’ve been in before. But then I suppose I’m a different person now.
Being involved with someone new when you have children adds extra challenges to a relationship. Thankfully my children have really taken to my boyfriend and I think (hope!) that his children like me as much as I like them.

When my boyfriend and his children come to stay for a few days I love it! A house full of children – we have six in total- with lots of laughter and fun.  I just wish we could spend more time together!

My Life as “Single Mum”

When I was a young girl, and I thought about my future, I never once thought I’d be a single mum. My parents are still happily married.
I was brought up to believe that you get married and then have children, so your children are raised in a stable environment.
I never really considered that I’d be in a marriage that wasn’t actually a stable environment. Or that I would end up on my own with two children.
But life doesn’t generally follow the ideals we have mapped out in our minds, so here I am. A single mum.
My ex husband has our children regularly and the children are happy with the  arrangement. They get much more quality time with him now I think.
I tend to focus hard on providing a calm home environment for them. Also, I really dislike conflict so I try my best not to get dragged into silly squabbles with my ex. It’s hard though. We didn’t break up on amicable terms at all and sometimes it seems he is determined to try to embroil me in a row over nothing much at all.

I can honestly say though that I’m never sorry that I’m on my own. I’m much happier and feel like my life and future are in safe hands. My hands.
I try hard to be a good role model. I work hard and am busy rebuilding a career for myself. I show them how to save money for treats and involve them in saving their own pocket money for toys they want.
They recently both saved up over £60 (over many months) and bought big Lego sets each.
We have a family “pot of dreams” that we save £2 coins in. This is generally then used to pay for our yearly trip to Center Parcs with my family.
I also try to make sure there is fun in our days. That we enjoy the little things together. Things like hot chocolate with marshmallows, jumping in puddles, climbing trees and jigsaws. Simple things.

There are times when it can be hard being on my own, but generally that’s when I or the children are ill. And let’s be honest, that’s bloody awful even when you have a live in partner!

Homework Horror & Cycling

I understand that most schools expect children to do homework now, even when my children were in Reception class they had homework. I really wish they didn’t though! I’ve just spent over an hour and a half with my eight year old daughter doing various homework sheets. I will have to spend more time with her tomorrow practising her spellings, times tables and doing some reading with her. I do all this reasonably happily because I don’t want her to struggle in class. I can see the use in this sort of homework.

My son is in Year 2. He has a Learning Log, which I hate having to do with him, because it seems utterly pointless in educational terms. Every fortnight, it comes home with a vague title and a request for us to fill out a double A4 spread on a seemingly random topic.

“We’re learning about history, please tell us about your family in history” 

“It’s Christmas, please tell us about your Christmas traditions”

I loathe this! Really, completely and utterly loathe it. I end up trying to find as many things as possible to stick in to use up the space faster. My son has no real idea what they are after – why would he? He’s six. What the fuck does he know about his family history or Christmas traditions? So his homework, which I believe is pointless, takes ages, as I have to explain the topic to him, explain how it’s of relevance to him, and then explain what he can write about. To me, it just feels like the school testing how involved parent’s are as it’s blatantly not homework the child can do on their own at all. I would far rather the school sent home actual homework.

Luckily it was a nice day today so before we started on the homework, we managed to get outside for a bit and the children got to ride their bikes. I’m going to have to invest in a bike rack I think. I have a bike, but rarely get to ride it, as I’d want to be somewhere safe if I’m on my bike while the children are on theirs. Where I live there are lots of lovely areas to cycle around, but with two children, a car will be required to get to them.

I’m so impressed with how well both children have taken to cycling. My daughter learned a few years ago after my dad ran up and down the field in our local park holding the back of her bike while she got her balance. Then my son learned last summer, my brother in law was amazing, running up and down the road with him dozens of times while he got the hang of it. Being on my own I so appreciate all the support I get from my family.

Sexism in School Shoes

This is some thing that really makes me see red with the rage.

Why is there such a huge disparity in the quality of children’s school shoes? School shoes for boys and girls commonly cost around £30 a pair.

I have a son and a daughter. When choosing shoes for my son I am treated to a variety of sturdy school shoes. Most have rubberised toes to allow him to scrabble about on the floor, climb walls and kick balls without wrecking the shoes instantly. They have thick, sturdy soles and reinforced stitching.

Compare this to the shoes on offer for my daughter; they are thinner, there is no reinforcement on the toes, they are designed to be “pretty”. Her last pair came with a small doll in the heel! The sole is weakly glued on. She has had pairs fall apart in less than three weeks. These were Clark’s shoes. When I returned them, the assistant said she would exchange them “a a gesture of goodwill”. Goodwill my arse, they were clearly unfit for purpose!

My sexism theory comes in when you consider the age of the child and what their shoes are designed for them to be able to DO in them. Is there really that much difference between children under 10 or 11 and the things they enjoy doing?
No.
Both my six year old son and my eight year old daughter enjoy the same running, jumping, scootering, climbing up walls, kicking stones, climbing trees and general scuffing around. That’s normal.

What isn’t normal is shoe manufacturers designing shoes for girls that are not functional. Why can’t their shoes have reinforced rubberised toes? Why can’t their shoes be fit for purpose?

Come on Clark’s and Startrite. Stop the school shoe discrimination!

Yurts, Friendship and Exercise

<p>I spent a Saturday night in July, in a yurt in North Wales with friends and our various offspring. It was brilliant fun.</p><p>I drove there and took a friend and her son with me as she won’t drive on motorways, or that far. Our other two friends drove up together too. We arrived first and we got a picnic lunch out for us and the children and set to work blowing up balloons and hanging bunting to decorate the yurt as it was one of the other women’s birthdays.</p><p>The others arrived a bit later and by that time we were settled on chairs and rugs in a lovely field, near a stream and some woodland. The children were able to run about to their hearts content as it was such a safe area. Also, we were the only ones staying in the yurt camp that weekend, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves!</p><p>The place we stayed at was Tyn Dwr, which is owned by the University of Central Lancashire. The place is usually used by the students but during holidays they rent it out. We had booked our nights stay via the Big Daily Deal company, so we paid half the price. Usually it is £280 to hire the yurt for the night, it sleeps 8 people and this price includes a continenetal breakfast. You have access to a shower and toilet block and also a room near the kitchen where you can sit and eat your own food.</p><p>So was it worth the money? I’m going to say ‘No’.</p><p>We had a great time, but if the weather had been bad all day, it would have been appalling. Although the facilites were clean they were basic. There is a kitchen, but it only comprises a sink, kettle and microwave. We hired a barbeque for saturday evening, but that cost £25 which seems a bit steep!</p><p>The yurt itself was not what I was expecting. It wasn’t a traditional yurt, nor had any attempt been made to make it look like one. It was basically a wooden trellis structure covered in tarpaulin type material, with a clear plastic circle in the centre to allow some light in. There was a solar powered light, but as our yurt was under the trees it had no charge and if one of us hadn’t brought a small camping lamp, we would have been sitting in darkness all evening! The layout inside was 4 bunk beds around the outside edges and a small table with fold out chairs underneath. There was also a log burner, but we didn’t use it. It was in the “yurt camp” which was rather closely packed. I’m glad we were the only ones in residence, as the noise would have travelled badly from one yurt to another.</p><p>For us, the problem with the accommodation occurred in the evening once the children were ready for bed. By this time it was raining heavily. Initially we put the five children to bed and sat under the trees outside to allow them to settle. Soon though, the rain was so heavy as to make this impossible, so we had to move into the yurt. This is where it was a pain. We had to try to stay quiet so the children would go to sleep. There was no division between where we were sitting and where they were sleeping. A simple awning outside would have solved this.</p><p>While I appreciate that this is used predominantly for students, if they are going to rent it out to the general public, for the prices they are charging… I expect a little more.</p><p>Our booking included various activities for the children, such as den building, orienteering and a night goggles rope walk. I was a bit disappointed that these were not led by anyone. We were just shown where the things were and left to get on with it. I think that this disappointment is more to do with managing expectations. I assumed that this would be a led activity and I was looking forward to gleaning ideas on den building to use in future, as my children are big fans! As it was, we managed, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for.</p><p>We had a brilliant time, and we all agreed that we would happily do a similar holiday again.. but probably not there. Which is a pity, the breakfast was lovely and the staff were all extremely pleasant and helpful, and the area is lovely. The grounds are great for children to play safely in while feeling that they are away from parental eyes, while you can actually still see them in fact ;)</p><p>All in all a brilliant time away. The weather was thankfully pretty kind! The worst of the rain held off until overnight, and then our homeward journey on Sunday afternoon. Driving along the M53 at 30mph in torrential rain during a thunderstorm is not much fun!</p><p>Following what had been an extremely busy few days out, I decided that Monday would be a chillout day at home for me and the kids. So much so, that my daughter only got out of her PJs at 5pm! We played with beads and lego, played games on the Wii, watched a bit of tv and just generally slouched about doing whatever they fancied. They did not want to go out and so we stayed home.</p><p>I had intended to have a quiet and relaxing day, however… The temptation of re-jigging my kitchen cupboards was a bit too much for me. Of course, it never ends there! Soon I was stuck into a massive clear out, binbags of junk were being hurled out of the back door and things put into a box to pass to the ex. Then of course, furniture was moved, dusters and hoovers were deployed and within a few hours the whole of the downstairs was in a state of upheaval!</p><p>Thankfully, a few hours further on and it was looking a bit more normal again.</p><p>The children’s dad arrived to collect them at 6pm, and then I finished up what I was doing, ate a quick, boring dinner (tinned Irish Stew anyone? No thought not) and then headed out to an aqua aerobics class I had booked earlier. Or so I thought…</p><p>I got changed and wandered out to the poolside, where a different lady was standing there handing out weird floats that tie around your waist. I asked her if we needed them for aqua aerobics.. She replied “Oh this isn’t aqua aerobics, it’s aqua jogging!”</p><p>Ah.. I’ve never done that before. She passed me a float. “Put this on, just under your bust. It should sit high on your ribs and be tight. Like a corset.”</p><p>I tightened it. “No! Tighter than that!” She smiled as I yanked it in tighter. “It should be hard to breathe”</p><p>It was.</p><p>Into the pool and she had us jogging around using our cupped hands to drag ourselves through the water. It was bloody hard work. But she was excellent and encouraging with the result that I really felt like I’d had a tough workout at the end of the session. It has to be said though, doing star jumps in the deep end of the pool with a little float around your waist is extremely difficult! My arms are like jelly today and my legs hurt.</p><p>Naturally I’m going to aqua aerobics tonight!</p>

Cadbury World & Warwick Castle

I spent this last weekend away with my children and parents. We set off on Saturday morning for Birmingham where we were meeting my sister and her family. After a high speed picnic in the park and a quick run around for the three kids, we went into Cadbury World. My sister uses Tesco a lot for her food shopping, and as a result she had a huge amount of Tesco Clubcard vouchers to use. So she had pre-booked all our tickets. We went straight in and I was in heaven smelling all that chocolate!

The tour took about two hours and kept the children entertained for the duration. I would LOVE to go back without the kids at some point though, just so I can actually read more about the process.

After the tour we went on to the hotel in Solihull where we had booked in for the night. My two children were extremely excited at staying in a hotel, particularly my son! I’m not sure what he was expecting, but he said it was even better than he’d expected. And bearing in mind he had been ecstatic at the prospect, that is pretty good!

We went for a swim and then got changed ready for our evening meal My sister had booked us a table at Bella Italia, which was just across the road from the hotel. It was a great meal and the three kids were brilliantly behaved, which really takes the strain out of eating out with them. My son was really starting to flag with tiredness by the time the desserts arrived. He was asleep within seconds of climbing into his bed, utterly exhausted!

Next day we were down for breakfast bright and early. My daughter adored the whole hotel breakfast experience. She took about six trips to the buffet area, coming back with a different course each time. Both kids said they wanted to live in a hotel when they grew up.. Hope they both get exceptionally well paid careers in that case!

After that we checked out and headed to Warwick Castle. Another batch of Clubcard vouchers had been deployed and so we wandered in, bypassing all the queues. We checked out the planned events of the day and decided on our schedule. There was a Mike the Knight event on that day so the children soon had us hunting all around the place finding dragon’s eggs with clues. We watched displays on Bird’s of Prey, Warriors and archery and then finally the Flaming Trebuchet.

Each display was fun and interesting. Pitched just perfectly for kids and yet informative enough for adults too. As each display lasted around 15-20 minutes it was perfect for a child’s short attention span. We left Warwick Castle around 5.30 and headed into the city centre to find parking and a cheap pub meal. We found parking on a side street thanks to google maps on my phone. It was bit of a panic navigating to Wetherspoons from there though as my phone battery was almost out! We made it though and had a cheap but cheerful dinner before hustling the children back into the cars (after the obligatory Joyride travel sickness pills for my two) and we set off for home.

Both children were wiped out, but we all had a fantastic time. They had a nice early night last night to try to recover a bit of sleep after their two late nights and full on days.

Me? I was in bed almost as soon as they were asleep on the Sunday night!

I am the Tooth Fairy!

My sister’s son has been questioning the existence of the tooth fairy.
“Mummy, I don’t think there really is a tooth fairy. I think you sneak in at night when I’m asleep and take my teeth and leave money.”
My sister’s genius response?
“Why on earth would I want your teeth? What am I supposed to be doing with your old teeth? Making a necklace?!” *loud laughter*
Nephew – “Hmmmm. I suppose not.. There MUST be a tooth fairy then..”

This conversation then brought us to the fact that I have one of my daughter’s baby teeth in my purse. I keep forgetting its there. I realised two weeks ago.
It was during my daughter’s birthday party at soft play hell, one of her friends came in having been dropped off by another child’s mum. “Elaine, can you look after this until my mum comes please?” she said as she deposited a bloody tooth on the palm of my hand. I checked her over & she was fine. She’d just wiggled it a bit over-enthusiastically in the car.
“Of course” I said “I’ll put it in my purse”
“Keep it safe for me for the tooth fairy!” She said.
So I went to pop it into my purse, only to see daughter’s old tooth nestled there.
Clearly I should be the tooth fairy, as I’m already garnering quite the collection.