Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Where to shop for school uniform. Your Back to school checklist for September with brands from the high street.

Back to school uniform shopping

I know we haven't even started the summer holidays yet but already the shops are filling up with lots of Back to School items for September. 

I thought I would take a look at school uniform and what the shops have to offer when it comes to the essential uniform shopping. 

This year I am very lucky to any need to buy one set of uniform even though there are still three children in full time education. 

The list is endless and as a guide here is a list of what I would usually buy per child for a new school year if the children were in need of everything. 

2 school jumpers/cardigans and/or one blazer if needed
4 polo shirts or smart shirts
2-3 pairs of trousers or skirts 
PE shorts, PE t-shirt, PE joggers, plimsolls (trainers for outdoors) PE bag/gym bag
Lunch box
Pencil case and stationery (for the older ones) 
Tights and socks
Winter coat
Book bag
School shoes
Clothing and kit labels

We currently need trousers and skirts for Thing 3 and new socks for all of them! Thing 4 and 5 need some new clothes too but as their school is non school uniform I can shop anywhere for their back to school clothing. 

We also need new school shoes, school bags, lunch boxes and stationery as well as name labels for EVERYTHING which will be covered in more detailed blog posts very soon. 

Alongside this Thing 3 also need polo shirts but these have the school logo on and have to be bought from a local school uniform stockist.

I try and find somewhere that can cater for all of the children. There is nothing worse than having to drag them around 20 different shops to get everything that you need but I know when shopping for a six year old and fifteen year old at the same time this isn't always going to be possible. 

Here is a quick round up of a few key school uniform items from various stores with prices too. 

Marks and Spencer

Marks and Spencer are currently offering free delivery on school uniform and luring me in with statements such as 'stain and weatherproof' 'non-iron' and 'scuff resistant'. Their uniform sizing runs from 2-3 years right through to 17-18 years with slim fit, regular fit and plus fit as well as four different trousers lengths too. This is fab as it can hopefully cater to all my children's needs once we get there. 

This 2 pack of boys slim leg trousers ranges from £11-£17 for a 2 pack and comes in four colours. Crease resistant, stain resistant and with an adjustable waistband too. 

The Marks and Spencers polo shirts come in a pack of three and in five different colours too. Prices start from £7 for the younger ages and rises to £15 for the bigger sizes. 

Marks and Spencer senior skater style skirt

My older girls love a skater style skirt and this one from Marks and Spencer looks perfect with a nice length to it. This is a senior skater skirt and so the sizes start at 9-10 and go up to 17-18 years. Price range from £10-£14 for one. 

Marks and Spencer also have a whole range of jumpers, shirts, blazers, sports shorts, underwear, coats, shoes & trainers and socks so is an ideal one stop uniform shop. 

Next also have a lot of choice for their Back to School range and again stock almost everything you would need for school. 

Trousers in Next are priced at £16-£26 for a pack of two as shown below and the age range is from 3 to 16 years. They have many styles of trousers for back to school and come as single pairs as well as some packs of two. Their polo shirts come in a pack of five and cost between £15-£21 age dependant. 

Next grey flat front slim fit trousers two pack and Next five pack white polo shirts.

In Next they have 3 other colours of polo shirt available but these are in 2 packs and prices start at £6. The majority of their trousers are black and grey with only 4 styles available in navy (Thing 5's school uniform colour way). 

If your school jumpers don't need to have a school specific logo on then Next have a great range of colours in their crew neck sweaters. With 7 colours to choose from and available in ages 3-16 years they start at just £6 each. 

I have bought lots of uniform from the TU at Sainsbury's range before and it's always been lovely. With trousers starting from just £7 for a 2 pack which are available in black, grey or navy. Clothing stops at age 12 years with Tu then they have a senior school section on their website which takes you up to age 16 years.  

Sainsbury's polo shirts start at just £3.50 for three and are available in an amazing ELEVEN different colours. From white, yellow and light blue through to purple, black, red and many more. 

Just four of the eleven colours of polo shirts from Sainsbury's for Back to School. Prices start at just £3.50 for three. 

Tu senior school black skater style skirts. A 2 pack costs from £12 for ages 10-16 years.

(If you can wait I have a sneaky feeling there will be a Tu 25% off event coming before September too) 

John Lewis have a good range of school uniform including some school specific uniform for certain schools in different areas. They have many different styles of trousers and skirts/dresses and all are available in grey, black and navy. Do also remember that in store at John Lewis they also have Clarks and Startrite shoe fitting services as well as other makes so you could get your shoe shopping done in store too.

These John Lewis basics adjustable waist boys school trousers in a 2 pack only come in grey and cost between £10-£16. The age range is from 3-16 years. Their polo shirts come in a 2 pack and are available in 4 colours and start at £8 a pack, they are also available in 3-16 years. 

Available in grey or navy I love this John Lewis girls adjustable waist bib tunic dress. Thing 3 had this for infant school and it look lovely on. Priced at £15-£17 for ages 3-4 to 11-12 years. 

School uniform shopping can be stressful at times and stores can get very busy. Online shopping seems so much easier as long as your are certain on sizes needed, although many stores offer free returns for unwanted items. I always think I have got ages to buy uniform and then I am out in the last week of holidays along with lots of other frazzled parents looking for all of our Back to School essentials. 

Are you Back to School ready? Are you ready to go or are you a last minute shopper? 

Monday, 10 June 2019

The nightmare that was......... shopping for a prom dress

I've done prom shopping once before. Six years ago Thing 1 finished school and the Year 11 prom had arrived. 

However it was so much easier that time. He needed a suit, we went to one shop found a suit, bought it, job done. 

Prom dress shopping is a whole different experience. Stressful, fraught, anxious, hellish even. 

See you can't have the same dress as someone else from school. You want a specific style, big puffy skirt, short skirt, fish tail skirt, short sleeves, long sleeves, no sleeves, all the sequins and it HAS to be purple. 

This all started back in January because you need THE dress and it takes time to find THE dress, anyone would think she was getting married and having the biggest day of her life. Anyway, we visited one local bridal store and around 7-8 dresses were tried on. One particular dress was shortlisted as long as we could have it in purple which we could. 

Then BAM you are hit with the price. Now don't get me wrong, a lot of work goes into making these dresses and the detail on some of them is immense but its for ONE NIGHT. For around five-six hours maximum and then it will never be worn again. Only today  I went into Thing 2's room and found her prom dress we have now purchased thrown to one side.

We left being told that we had to order asap, dresses take around 6-12 weeks from order to delivery, then it needs to be altered and they've already had quite a few girls from the same school in that shop and ordered their dresses already. Wow, it was overwhelming. I felt put on the spot, I had my daughter begging for a dress that cost a fortune and the shop owner bombarding me with all the above. 

We left the shop and I told Thing 2 that we would also look elsewhere. Prom still felt so far away and I wasn't happy to spend that amount on a dress for one night. 

I also looked online, there were so many different websites that had prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses suitable for the occasion. Dorothy Perkins, Debenhams, Monsoon, Coast and Quiz are just some of the places I looked and there were plenty of dresses to choose from. However we were struggling with the colour option. I found lovely navy, grey, pink or burgundy dresses but no purple. 

This dress from Dorothy Perkins bridesmaid dress section is lovely and very similar to some that we had seen in other shops. 

By now we are heading into May, prom night is the end of June. Thing 2 is badgering me to get a dress sorted. She still wants to visit another local shop. This shop gives you gloves when you walk in so you don't mark the dresses, it's not going to be an inexpensive place to shop. As we were now around 8 weeks away from prom we could only have a dress straight off the rack as books had closed for ordering. This meant we were limited on choice as she wanted purple, a specific size and a design she liked. We left empty handed, not only because there wasn't anything but even if there was we were looking at mega £££'s again.

These 2 dresses from Quiz are lovely. I really like navy at the moment and love the detail on the one on the right. However, according to Thing 2 lots of people are wearing navy dresses to prom.

The stress was getting too much, the badgering from Thing 2 was too much and the pressure from others was too much. It seems such a competition not only to have the best looking dress but to have the most expensive one too or that's what it seems like. As well as the dress they need shoes, hair and make top done, fake tan, nails done and a car to get to the prom.

Then a friend of Auntof5 suggested a website that we hadn't looked at and so we headed there to look. I was worried that there would be no purple or sequins but all was ok. There were so many to choose from and their prices were fantastic. With the help of a first order discount code we chose an amazing dress that fitted what Thing 2 wanted perfectly. It was delivered within a coupe of days and fitted perfectly too with just a little adjustment to the length needed. It's fantastic and will look perfect on prom night. 

Thankfully the purchase has now been made, we finally found the right one with the right amount of sequins and purpleyness!! We will share a picture on prom day which is fast approaching.

Whatever happened to a disco in the school hall?! 

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Will my children ever stop eating so much? 3 meals a day, grazers or the ones who think they are at a 24 hour all you can eat buffet!

When will it end?! I know children are meant to be fed but it's constant, and that is no exaggeration. I'm all for them eating and they have healthy appetites. They aren't fussy eaters either and are always keen to try new foods. 

Just yesterday evening Dadof5 decided to try and make their dinner time slightly later so that they wouldn't ask for food later on in the evening like they usually do. He was wrong. Thing 4 and 5 are the worst or maybe just because they are always asking for food I notice it more whereas the older ones will just help themselves.

  What makes it seem worse is the younger Things seem to be more of a grazer rather than eating three substantial meals a day. They are constantly eating but in small amounts. They do have breakfast, lunch and dinner and my food shopping budget can vouch for that. Thing 5 eats a hot meal at school lunch time too as well as in the evenings with his siblings. 

The food bill just keeps going up and although prices do rise slightly in the supermarkets, its the amount of food being consumed that is the issue rather than the price rises. I do a weekly shop thinking it will last a week and within a few days most of it has gone. They've eaten the crisps and biscuits that should have lasted the week. The fruit that was meant for everyone has been consumed by three of them and I'm searching for the secret chocolate bar I bought for myself which one of them has managed to unearth. 

They will eat most things which is good. Although I do moan that it's mainly crisps and biscuits that disappear at an alarming rate they will make a punnet of grapes or pomegranate seeds disappear just as quickly. 

They are all different though. The younger two are grazers. They will eat little and often..... very often. I can make them a big main meal but some of it will get left, yet half an hour later they are hungry again or will go back to what they have left. If I give them 'grazing' portions spread out over time it all gets eaten. 

Then there is the 24 hour buffet child. The one who seems like they are constantly in the kitchen. Who will eat breakfast, lunch and dinner yet still be in the kitchen every five minutes to see what else they can find to eat. That would usually end up being all the snacks and treat food. Stuff that is easy to grab and go but doesn't fill them up enough so they are always back for more.

I'm not saying they aren't allowed to eat. We've all got to eat. However it just seems like all they do is eat and all I do is food shopping. I guesstimated our monthly food bill the other day but I grossly underestimated. This month I am going back to a monthly food shop which will hopefully help with the spending. I will update on monthly versus weekly food shops in a separate post very soon. 

I'm off to cook them more food and hide the biscuits!

Saturday, 8 June 2019

When some days of parenting are harder than others. Today my child was a little sh*t

There, I said it. 

I know some of you right now are recoiling in horror at the fact I called my child a little sh*t or would even call my child a name. Others will be saying 'I thought the same about mine today too' because on some days parenting is so bloody damn hard. 

I don't say it out loud, I don't turn to them and tell them what I think. I keep it in my mind and in my thoughts until late at night when they are sleeping like angels and I collapse into bed a heaping mess of tiredness and scream it into my pillow. 

I'm not for one minute saying I should never have had my children, I wouldn't want to turn the clock back and not have so many. I love my children more than anything, would do anything for them and couldn't imagine life without them. There are just those very rare moments on the very occasional day where you wonder how you got it so wrong. 

It's my fault my child was a little horror today. Our bedtime routine is a mess (still) and that is my fault for not getting them into a better routine. This then impacts on their ability to get up in the mornings, not be a grumpy little sod when they do get up and to be able to function like a normal human being for most of the day.


Yes children have meltdowns and they need to be handled differently for each situation, reason and for each individual child. Why are they having a meltdown? How can I make the situation better for my child? What contributed to that meltdown?

Sometimes it's for the silliest of reasons. I cut their toast in the wrong shape, I put the wrong duvet cover on their bed, I bought the wrong flavour of crisps (even though last week they liked salt and vinegar flavour?!), their socks are too fluffy, their bedroom is scary, the toothpaste is the wrong flavour of mint and it goes on, and on, and on. 

99% of the time it's all good. The day goes by without a hitch, dinner doesn't get brushed aside, they go to school without moaning and they can at times pretend to like each other. 1% of the time it descends into absolute chaos. 

Absolute hellish, over tired, grumpy, cranky hell........ and that's just me!

Most of the time they are little angels. 

 Once Thing 5 came out of school with the devil in him, or was he just being inquisitive? Whilst waiting for his brother to come out of class he climbed on the play equipment that they aren't allowed to climb on, stepped on every piece of ice I told him not to, refused to wear his coat and lifted a drain grate, I swear another parent was thinking 'What a little s**t' but today wasn't that day for me. 

He's 6, he's inquisitive, he's exploring the world. Maybe lifting the drain grate wasn't a good idea but I helped him place it back quickly, stepping on ice isn't a good idea but he wouldn't listen to me so he has to learn the hard way and he refuses to wear a coat most of the time. Most days you are lucky he has clothes on! 

Dinner time can go smoothly or end in chaos. I am not going to fight over food. I am not going to force them to sit at the table until every piece of food on their plate is eaten. You need to choose your battles carefully and sometimes it's easier to let some go. 

Then there is the bickering. The arguments over toys, who ate the last ice lolly, who gets to sit where in the car, she said this, he called me that. 

Then you have those days when you wonder where you went completely wrong. The eldest is having a meltdown because he thinks the world is against him, the pre teen decided she wanted her hair cut sooner than you told her she could have it done so cuts it herself and the nine year old is suddenly poorly on the first day back to school even though he was fine the whole of half term. 

Oh and the time that Thing 5 turned to the assistant in Specsavers and told him to 'shut up you stupid idiot' because he was upset that he didn't need glasses. The horror of it all was too much for Nanof5 who was there at the time. 

Sending this one off to Hogwarts! 

I would also like to point out at how easy it is to hide all of this away and appear on social media like everything is fine. I share the good stuff and there is a lot of good stuff to talk about. The days out we have as a family, the family celebrations, the times when I am proud of things the children have done. It makes everyone think how fab everything is. Well it's not, on some very rare days it isn't ok.  

Some days are not fab at all, some days you pick them up from school and within 5 minutes you want to take them back again. 

Friday, 7 June 2019

Why it's important to have some child free time. Birthday celebrations & our time away in London.

Yes I know parenting isn't a job. It's something we chose to do. However, just sometimes on very rare occasions you need some time out. You need to forget about everything even just for an hour or two and sit without a child hanging off of your leg or wanting to share your food. 

A couple of weeks ago was a big birthday for me (21 if anyone asks!) so I planned some time away in London. Nothing amazing, just one night with the days either side to get out and about whilst there. 

It's always difficult to get time away or alone when you have children. When there's five of them (well four younger ones) it's difficult to co-ordinate childcare for them all. I would say nobody wants to look after them all but I know my parents have looked after all four of the younger ones over night in the past which I am always truly grateful for them to do. 

However, it's always easier to split them up between grandparents so this time we sent the two older girls off to Dadof5's parents and the two younger boys off to my parents. 

Time away was very much needed. Not just because it was time to celebrate my birthday but also because we don't get away enough, or at least out in the evenings enough just the two of us. 

Life has become so 'samey' and routine. Take kids to school, come home, housework, afternoon school pick up, homework, dinners, bath time etc.... By the time the kids are in bed I just want to sleep! Myself and Dadof5 tend to spend our evenings separately doing our own thing and although we do both have a night out each week it's not together. 

Most conversations revolve around the children or work as that all life seems to have become recently so we were ready for some time out from it all. 

We headed off into London on the Sunday. Dropping the kids off at the grandparents early and away on the train by lunch time. We were treated to first class train travel from South Western Railways which I am so grateful for. Roomier seats with a recline, charging point for my phone (very important as it's always low on battery!) and a seated table area made for a roomy ride into London. We are so lucky to live in a town with a mainline link direct through to London Waterloo so we were in the capital within the hour (due to be Sunday services) but on a weekday the fast service takes just 34 minutes. 

When we arrived we headed straight to our hotel to get rid of our bags. Whilst we are on the subject of bags. I asked Dadof5 to pack a bag for our trip to London and this picture below shows what he packed! We have a couple of wheeled suitcases that are small enough and ideal for a trip away to London for one night but he decided that a pear bag will do. 

The 'must have' pear bag of the season 

We opted for the Covent Garden Travelodge. I was going to book a hotel we had stayed in before near St Pauls but we only needed the room for one night and weren't in the room for long at all. The Covent Garden Travelodge was amazingly priced for it's location and I would definitely stay there again. We had one of their new Super rooms which was spacious and comfortable with kettle and coffee maker, TV and shower room. 

I spotted these gorgeous doughnuts in a Donut Time shop near Covent Garden. I will go back and buy one!

I had planned to head out into the city that afternoon but after falling asleep instead we wasted an afternoon of sightseeing and shopping. I was mad with myself for doing this but we are parents who needed sleep! 

We had booked dinner at Zizzi's which my sister had kindly gifted me for my birthday so we enjoyed a lovely three course meal with a glass of wine. 

The next day was my birthday and I had planned to shop. It's not very often that I go into a shop and buy something for myself. At home I love online shopping but it's still never for me and always for the children. 

We headed to Selfridges as I had one purchase on my mind. Dadof5 armed with his pear bag and me with a look of despair on my face as we headed into the 'posh' shop! If you see Gucci debuting their new pear print handbag on the catwalk next week, Dadof5 styled it out first! 

Birthday shopping for Mumof5

After a bit of shopping we headed to St. Pauls Cathedral. Despite having had two family christenings there I still hadn't seen the main part of the cathedral and have always wanted to visit. Again my sister had gifted us tickets to go into the cathedral and we decided to head up to the viewing galleries. Wow, I am out of shape! The view is amazing so if you do get the chance to go there be warned the stairs are a killer... all 3 million of them. 


Well worth nearly having a heart attack for these views! 

After a bit of lunch we headed back home as I had promised the children we would be back in time to pick them up from school. As it was a week day the trains were a lot faster between London and home so we didn't have to leave until mid afternoon knowing that the train will get us home in super quick time. It was a short visit but enough to relax and recharge. Enough time to fit in a bit of shopping and dinner out without having the children to worry about and some time to ourselves. 

When can I go again?! 

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Fab family fun at the new Mighty Adventures Mighty Claws adventure golf centre Southampton

Last weekend we were invited to the VIP launch of the new Mighty Adventures Mighty Claws adventure golf in Southampton. 

'A mythical land of giant sea monsters, mysterious shipwrecks and terrifying dinosaurs. Discover the adventure of a lifetime at Viking Valley! Fiercely entertaining for everyone from little raptors to ancient fossils. Adapted from the children’s story, The Mighty Claws Follow A Monster'.

When we were arrived we were given a copy of the book that the adventure golf course is based on and we then went inside for a reading of the book from the author. 

The children were excited to get started and we went outside for the official opening and ribbon cutting. There were lots of people attending the launch and we were all ready with our golf clubs and queued to get straight on with the course. 

With 18 fun holes around the course it is themed with dinosaurs, sea monsters, a shipwreck and a waterfall. 

We sat for a while to let others get started on the course which gave us time to look around the course starting from the end and working our way backwards a little. The children had fun trying out the wobbly bridge and standing behind the waterfall. 

Once we started the children really enjoyed it. There were three different sizes of golf club so it was easy for everyone to get involved. Each hole posed it's different challenges whether it was hitting your golf ball up a ramp or over a thin bridge being careful not to lose your ball in the water! 

It was great fun, some holes not taking long to finish and others were a bit more tricky. 

We were given a score sheet at the beginning so we could keep track of how many shots it took for each hole so we could total our scores at the end. However, Thing 5 wasn't so enthralled by this idea so we just enjoyed the game. If you ask him, he won! 

The children liked the part where you had to hit your ball into the dragon and it rolled down and out of his mouth towards the hole. Dadof5 got a hole in one which he was very proud of. Also going behind the blue waterfall was great fun too. The children particularly liked the wobbly bridge. 

Mighty Claws adventure golf was a great day out with the children. They really enjoyed it and wanted to go back again the next day. We will definitely go back again for another round of crazy golf. 

Here is a link to their website with admission prices and more information Mighty Claws Southampton. There are also courses in Bournemouth and Colchester. 

Here's a video of our day out at Mighty Claws adventure golf, enjoy; 

Disclaimer; We were invited to the VIP launch of Mighty Claws for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are our own. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Another garden makeover is in the pipeline! Choosing the right decking, wooden or composite?

We are very slowly (VERY,VERY SLOWLY!) moving around the house and getting lots of home improvement jobs done or finishing off existing projects. 

Dadof5 desperately wants to get some decking put out in the back garden which we have wanted to do for a while now so in the past week we have been looking at the different types of decking to choose from and pricing up all the different things that we need to complete the job. 

Please excuse the state of the garden/patio area. As you can see it is long over due for a makeover. This picture gives you an idea of the step down from the door and then the step up on to the garden. The decking will run between the two to make it all level. 

From the picture above you can see that we step down out of the door and back up onto the garden. The decking will make this one smooth run straight across from door to garden and will run the full width of the house too. 

There has been a few comments about putting decking in. Others wouldn't do it, some say it gets too slippery when wet or with wood decking you need to keep treating it over time. However this is a project we've wanted to do for a long time and we are very much looking forward to completing it. 

First of all we need the wood to make the base framework. As this is a DIY job we have been researching all across the internet on what is the best wood to use to build our base, what space between each joist etc.... Bearing in mind the overall project is approx. 8.5 metres by 2.4 metres we need a lot of materials. We also need to make sure we have enough support in the framework for the decking as it will be higher off the ground too. 

When it comes to the actual deck boards I really want composite decking. I've looked online and also asked for advice on a few facebook groups that I am on (invaluable when it comes to home improvement and ideas!). I found some on the edecks website in either an oak or grey colourway both of which I really like. We need boards in 2.4 metre lengths which would be perfect for running lengths across from the house to the garden. 

Wickes premium wood decking, priced at £3.33 per metre

We priced up both wood decking and composite decking and there is quite a significant difference in price. Dadof5 has looked at the premium wood decking at Wickes which is £3.33 per metre. The composite decking found on edecks is £6.99 per metre. Both can be bought in 2.4 metre lengths and also are very similar in width and thickness. 

These are both the Realgroove composite decking in grey and oak effect. Priced at £6.99 per metre

The costing difference between wood decking and composite for the size of our project is around £500+. 

Dadof5 said his usual line of 'Well if we just do wood decking for now'. With most projects in the house he lives on a make do for now attitude whereas I would like to start making sure that any project we do is for the long term and what we really want rather than just making do for now. So if we are going to do the decking outside it will be composite decking.

We have found composite decking at Wickes too and edecks do a great range of timber and composite decking as well as all of the equipment and extras you will need to complete your decking project. There are so many companies online and in store that sell decking but both companies mentioned are where we have found products we like. 

If you are looking at a decking project too there are so many companies online as well as in store retailers that stock so many different types of decking. Research is key whether it's looking for the different types of deckboard or getting the best price. It pays to shop around and find the right retailer and price for your budget too. 

So the decision has been made and we have decided to go for composite decking. Dadof5 wanted to go for wood decking as it is cheaper and he wants to get the job done asap, however I want to do the job properly and actually do it how we really want to so it will be longer lasting and look nicer for years to come. 

We have decided on the Realgroove bark effect composite decking in grey which we found on the edecks website. 

Dadof5 has been busy pricing up all of the wood needed for the framework and finding the best price for that so he can order it and get started.

Not forgetting to price in all of the fixings etc into the project as it's not just the framework wood and decking needed.....

It's exciting and I cannot wait for him to get started. We will of course update on the finished project. 

Next stop................ outdoor furniture shopping!