Sunday, 26 January 2020

Are they all yours?! An ode to the larger families out there and more of the silly questions that get asked on a daily basis!


My face when I get asked these questions!

After being asked these questions on a daily basis I thought I would put into writing what I felt like saying most of the time. I think it was the look of dread on the waiters face in Pizza Express over the weekend that said it all really but the children were well behaved and the waitress that ended up serving us was patient and attentive with the children which I thank her for. So many are quick to write you off as soon as you walk in the door and assume you are going to be a nightmare, sometimes they are! We only have five children, anyone would think we went around with a truck full. :-)

So here we go, one of the questions that gets asked a lot, along with 'Do you have a TV?'

'Are they all yours?' the old lady just asked
No, I stole him off that woman when she walked past

'Are they all yours?' said the man at the till
No, my Aunt left me a couple in her will

'Are they all yours?' asks a waitress in the cafe
No, they just seem to follow me they won't go away

'Are they all yours?' they say pointing at me
No but I'm selling them do you want one, only 50p

'Are they all yours?' the old man did shriek
No, one was delivered by courier only last week

'Are they all yours?' you must be brave
No, I just bought them to be my slaves

'Are they all yours?', is it true
No, they belong to the old lady who lives in a shoe

'Are they all yours?', are you insane,
Yes that's me, how did you know my name?!




Foraging in the local woods, how else are we meant to eat??!


I would like to point out that I've never said these responses to anyone although I would love to see their face if I did. Other questions include:

Where do you keep them all?. I was actually quite taken aback by this one. I mean come on, common sense would tell you that as long as they have a roof over their heads it doesn't matter how many children I have. 2, 3, 4 or more in one bedroom wouldn't be an issue. Or did they expect me to say in a zoo, or a cage?!




4 of the 5 Thing's in question!


How do you afford them all? Last time I looked it up I seem to remember that I didn't pay the midwife for any of my babies before leaving the hospital. Unless things have changed since Thing 5 was born, babies are still free. Apart from the usual baby/child paraphernalia which comes at a price but a price that you set, at a budget you can afford. Not what others tell you that you should or shouldn't be spending or buying.




I do feed them, these pictures show yoghurt and chocolate! 


Do you have a TV? Yes we do. We have a few actually. Some evenings I will be watching Corrie whilst the OH is somewhere else watching Sport or other such boring stuff. Our Sky signal may have gone down, about 5 times perhaps?! ;-)

How do you feed them all? I'm assuming people mean that my food shop must be horrendous rather than them wanting to know if they eat from a trough or at a table like 'normal' sized families. I mean it's not like you can't get tables bigger than a four seater! Food shopping isn't horrendous, well the cost of it isn't, shopping with all of the kids is though!. Thank heaven for the online shopping angels and I shop with offers and discount codes which makes it easier on the pennies. They just don't get caviar and lobster every day, only every other day.




One day's worth of clothes washing and three more lines were drying


Plus many more questions that make us feel like we shouldn't have 5 children. I don't think we are a larger family although according to statistics, online booking services when it comes to booking any family day out (COME ON PEOPLE, LARGER FAMILY TICKETS PLEASE!), the local restaurant when you book a table for 7 plus the grandparents and they ask if it's a party, plus all the above mentioned members of the public who think it's OK to question you then Yes we are classed as a larger family.

Oh and I don't live in a shoe.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Nights out with friends & family. Do you have FOMO or JOMO?


Parenting changes your life. It doesn’t mean that everything has to change but sometimes you can feel like you are missing out...... or you just need to get out!
Having children doesn’t mean you have to stay at home until they are 18. You can meet other parents for coffee and play dates and babysitters can be a godsend when it comes to a night out. Some of us really look forward to a night out and a night off from looking after the children. 

However do you want to go out or would you rather stay at home? 

Dadof5 definitely has FOMO (fear of missing out). We were the first people among his friends to have children so we were either battling to find babysitters so we could go out or taking the children with us if it were allowable. Even now that more of his friends have children he still asks them what they are doing for New Year’s Eve or their birthday. Or he says ‘Oh I haven’t heard from X person in a while’ when he hasn’t made the effort to contact them and meet up either. Nobody is doing anything massively amazing but he still feels like he might be missing out on something that his friends are all doing.... he’s not! As I stated in a previous blog post I’m going to try and spend more time with Dadof5 this year, the same could be said for spending more time with friends but things are different now. It’s more of a catch up over coffee or a meal out. No more partying and clubbing for us! 

I’m more of a JOMO person. To be honest I only heard about JOMO (joy of missing out) recently. Although not so much the joy part of it, I am not overly joyous that I have missed out on something, sometimes I just don't want to go. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s an afternoon tea or lunch out I am there for sure but nights out, some of the time, I’m just not up for it. I’m definitely more of an ‘in my pyjamas by 6.30’ kind of gal these days. If it’s someone’s birthday meal or a special occasion then it’s a definite yes. Even now that we have the older ones who we can leave to babysit we need to make sure they are all prepared for us to leave, the younger ones are in their beds and they all know where they stand behaviour wise, you know what I mean! I don’t want to come home at midnight and everyone’s still awake, that’s the part of the evening I don’t like. 






Mention afternoon tea and I am there. As you can see I love an afternoon tea! 



Having children can change your social life. If you have a good network of babysitters then you can still go out lots. Although the cost of arranging babysitters does then bump up the price of a night out. As I said, now the children are older it is easier in that aspect but we still don’t go out a lot. Although I have challenged myself to change that in 2020. 

Some of us don’t want to leave the children to go out and yet others really do want to get out and get away from the house (and the children) for an evening and meet up with others. It can do us good to get out and have some time for ourselves. 

So do you have FOMO or JOMO? Would you rather stay at home in the evenings. Or do you sometimes wish you could go out and see your friends more. 

Saying that, we’ve not had a good meal out with friends for a while. I’m off to book it, if I can drag myself away from my cosy pyjamas! 



Tuesday, 14 January 2020

[AD] REVIEW of the Clementoni action & reaction set and mechanics laboratory monster truck STEM kits




We had these amazing STEM kits sent to us from Clementoni to review and the children loved them. 
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths. 

There has been a lot of focus on STEM recently as it’s thought that less children/young adults are focussing on these as a college or career path now than in past years. 





In our house the children can spend a bit too much time on their tablets. Playing games, watching YouTube or occasionally getting some homework done. 

However I’m always very keen to get them more hands on and involved in making and doing projects either on their own or working together. 

First of all the children wanted to try out the Clementoni action and reaction set. With more than 120 buildable components there are so many possibilities to make a track to watch the chain reaction of events on this marble run style kit. 






With this truly unique scientific kit, finding out about the wonders of physics becomes easy and great fun! A science lab packed with special pieces and accessories offering lots of playing options where kids can experiment with gravity, forces and levers. The illustrated manual will guide the little players as they attempt increasingly difficult tasks, entertaining them as they learn! It comes with some scales, a hammer pendulum, slides, towers and lots of other pieces for kids to grow in knowledge as they build ingenious compositions. 

The children absolutely loved trying out different configurations of the track. Each ball is weighted slightly differently so you have to use each one correctly to create the correct reaction. We loved this and it’s been played with so many times since we received it. 


The next kit was the mechanics laboratory monster truck kit. With over 200 components to make 10 different vehicle combinations each with a different difficulty level this kit is great. Build, engineer and experiment with motion transmission. 

Build the vehicles using levers and gears with independent suspension on the vehicles too. Choose from the monster truck or other vehicles such as the hot rod, spider truck and many more. 






With the easy to follow instruction booklet or online with the 3D instructions in the mechanics laboratory app this was a great kit for our 2 children aged 10 and 13 years. Our youngest at age 7 helped out Daddy with a build too though! 

Both kits are recommended for age 8 years + although with a little help our 7 year old loved these too especially the action and reaction set. 

With a great price point too these Clementoni STEM kits are fantastic value and with so many to choose from you can really get hands on with so many different activities. 

We will definitely be looking into getting more for the children to enjoy. 

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Everything that is wrong with school attendance awards


Schools seem to grade EVERYTHING these days.

I get the need for GCSEs/grades for getting into college and putting on your CV in later life but even then you can’t always gauge someone’s talent just on their ability to sit exams and the grades they get from them. Children thrive in very different environments. 

These days there is so much pressure on them to succeed even in their SATs tests that they sit in Year 2 and Year 6 and yet what is it all for? When your child goes for a job when they are older will their potential employer bask in the success of their Year 6 SATs, no. Will they rejoice that they had 100% attendance all throughout Junior School, no. 

Now I’m not saying that school attendance isn’t important because it is. 

If there are parents keeping their children home because they can’t be arsed to take them into school, sort it. Parents that keep their children off school to go shopping or to a theme park because it’s their birthday, sort it. 

However there’s those times that we can’t help that they aren’t at school. 

Illness for example. We can’t help it when our children are ill and believe me they love to pass an illness around. Coughs, colds, sickness bugs, you name it and kids breed it. Once it hits one child you will find that they drop like flies. There’s nothing worse than making a child go back to school when they aren’t feeling 100% better. However, there’s so much pressure put on parents about attendance that we find ourselves sending them back to school sooner than we should. 




A poorly Thing after a hard day at school.


Then there’s the awards for attendance. What’s that all about?? 

Here you go Tommy here’s an award for not being ill in the last school year, meanwhile we won’t give Sarah an award because she was off, even though it was for important hospital appointments that she had to attend due to an illness/condition that she has no control over. She was at school every other day of the year though.......... but tough. 

Then we have the class attendance records so we are now pitching classes against each other and at the end of each term all of the children with 100% attendance get the chance to win something. However, Sarah can forget about it for her whole school career, she isn’t ever going to get anything...... but tough. 



Getting into school on a snow day.


So schools, listen up. While as parents we get that school attendance is important please quit with the attendance awards. If they are ill they aren’t coming into school, if they’ve got vital hospital appointments to attend then they are going to go but please don’t penalise them for it, it’s not right.


Friday, 10 January 2020

'We have no food Mum'. What no food means to my child and what it means to me!



There's no fooooood, grumble the children at me incessantly. What no food actually means is that there is no rubbish for them to eat. 



The kids idea of food they want to eat


Between 7 of us I am sure at least 5 of us know where the shops are and are capable of walking down to the local one! However, it's down to me to think about always having the cupboards stocked and if they aren't I'm in for it.

When they say there is no food in the house what they really mean is that there is nothing that they reallllly fancy eating right at that very minute. We are low on food and I have a food shop coming but if for some reason there was a freak storm outside and we were all housebound for a few days we would survive! There would be some interesting meals made and we would be eating dry cereal for breakfast or maybe frozen peas, but we wouldn't fade away or die from hunger.



The weekly food shopping bill seems to go up and up yet we still don't have any food, or so they say. 


Most days I stick my head in the freezer and wonder why it's not full to the brim with every possible flavour of Ben and Jerry's for me to choose from. It just isn't going to happen! There is never going to be a time when you pop your head in a cupboard or in the fridge and there will be that one thing you are craving right at that very second. It's just the way it works. I can easily spend over £150 a week on the food shop and someone will still moan that I forgot to buy something that they really wanted.

I want to downsize the shopping bill whilst still being able to feed us all for the week and not get to the point where they are all moaning at me because there is 'no food'. That and the fact that they are just being fussy, what's wrong with mushy peas for breakfast??!






My children's idea of what food they neeeeed!! 


My one gripe, there's never any milk in the fridge when I want it!!!!! I can't get through the day without tea. I'm off to grumble at myself for being rubbish at food shopping and not making sure everyone has everything they want 24/7. What a rubbish mother and wife I am??!

Is it the same in your house? Am I the only person who gets to the point where there is 'nothing' to eat? Do you think others in the house should be a bit more active in helping?

Growing up as an 80's child. The freedom we had!





I was born in 1979 so I’m officially old! 

Growing up in the 80s was fab. We lived down a street with a lot of family living just doors away. My uncle lived next door, one Nan lived 3 doors away and my other Nan and Grandad lived opposite. My Dads uncle lived just a couple of doors away from my Nan and Grandad too.

We also had a few family friends down the street too.

Back in the 80s it was still a fairly ‘open door’, or at least unlocked door, era as far as I remember. Popping in and out of my grandparents houses fairly often as well as walking down to the friends houses too.

Parents would sit and chat with friends whilst all of the children played outside. Football, roller skating, bike riding, tree climbing. You name it and we did it. We knew our boundaries as set by our parents but they certainly aren’t as limiting as we need to be these days. 



We didn’t have mobile phones for our parents to check up on us or for us to call them if we needed them. We had a set time to be back or they would come and find us. If we weren’t at the park we were all congregating at one friends house. Where you found our bikes parked outside you found us! 

We would rush in from school, grab a snack, get changed and we would be out the door again. ‘Be back in time for your dinner’ would be all we heard as we ran out of the door. And we would be back for dinner, most of the time. Dinner would be hurriedly eaten so we could try and get out again before we lost the sunlight.




We weren't tied by over worrying or the 'health & safety' implications that we seem to have now. We would find out afterwards why it wasn't a good idea to do what we did!

We would tie a skateboard to the back of our friends bike to tow each other along behind or climb over the fence at the park instead of using the gate and it's only afterwards we would find out that maybe it was a great thing to do. We lived in our roller skates as we grew up too and we had a huge sloped concrete driveway, this was fab for rolling down, picking up speed and it did end up in the road! 

Who didn't have bruises everywhere and scabby knees from our adventures outside and the freedom we had to explore and learn??




We had so much more freedom back then and I do feel sorry for our children today. At the same age as Thing 4 is now I was out on my bike riding 10 minutes down the road to my friends house. I wouldn’t let him do that now. Maybe we worry too much, maybe we should let them have a bit more freedom than we do whilst still understanding that it can't be exactly the way it was back then. 




Do you wish we could give our children the freedom we had? Do you find your children are indoors more than they are outdoors? Should we let them go further than they do or is it just not possible any more? 






Wednesday, 8 January 2020

My 10 goals for 2020. Here's to achieving more in this new year.


I don’t usually write a list of goals. We shouldn’t want or need for anything except for us all to be happy and healthy in the year ahead. However this year I’ve set a list of goals which I hope I can achieve. 

Here I share my goals for 2020

1. To save money. I wrote a blog post a few days ago about saving money Keeping track of our spending & saving a little too and shared ways in which I was going to try this year. This would then of course benefit many of my goals for 2020 such as going out more and taking a holiday. It doesn't have to be a lot, missing a takeaway here or a Costa Coffee can all add up although I know we can save more than that if we really try. 


2. Spend more time with the children on a one to one basis. With five children it can be difficult at times to spend time with them on a one to one basis. Thing 5 was taken to a George Ezra concert last year with just myself and Dadof5 which was lovely but it is very rare for us to go out with just one child. I spent the day with the 2 girls in London just before Christmas which again was lovely and a rarity so I would like to make time for them to do something nice with each child on their own.


Thing 5 at the Royal Albert Hall ready for the George Ezra concert.



3.
Lose weight. Well this one has been an on/off goal for nearly a year now! A few years ago I did so well with Slimming World and reached my goal within just 5 months. I then put the weight back on and in the past 9 months I have been trying to shift it again. I lost 1 stone before Christmas and now need to get back on it and lose some more. I need to find my motivation again and stop sitting in front of the TV when the children are at school. 

4.
Share more random acts of kindness. At Christmas we dropped a basket full of goodies round to our neighbours and left it there on their doorstep for them to find. It felt good to have done something nice for others and we would like to do more. Maybe doing the same again this Christmas for a different neighbour or other things like offering to help with a job around the house or paying for someones coffee when visiting your favourite coffee shop. 





5. Spend more time with Dadof5. Again this was something I covered in a previous blog post Treating ourselves & remembering to celebrate special occasion together! Whether it’s going out to celebrate a birthday or anniversary rather than just getting a takeaway or just popping down the pub for a drink for an hour instead of just sitting at home. Now the children are older it’s easier to get out and leave the older children in charge for an hour or two so we really have no excuses.

6.
Blog more. This year has started well although as I write more blog posts I do feel like I may be boring you all. I want to blog more, write more, try and make it a bit more interesting too. Fingers crossed I can. Although I maybe shouldn't be trying to write a blog post a day, among too high already! 


7.
Vlog more. Eeek! I’m not one for jumping in front of a camera willingly. However I would like to vlog more. Which means learning lots including editing videos and getting them on to YouTube.  Maybe recording more of our days out or just what the children are up to as well. Again, making them interesting and trying to make myself look half decent before I jump in front of the camera! 


8. Wear more colour (and ditch the jeans!). I live in my jeans and trainers or more recently (especially over Christmas!) my leggings. I would love to wear more colourful clothes, maybe even a dress or two and try not to look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards or got dressed in the dark! She says as she sits in her jeans & black jumper combo, I will try, honestly! 

9. Pamper myself more. When I say pamper what I mean is just get my hair cut more often rather than leaving it 6 months or more because all I do is tie it back every day and leave it at that. I would also like to try and apply a bit of make up (to hide dark circles under the eyes!) and so I don’t scare you all so much if I do get in front of the camera. I have bought make up in the past, used it a couple of times and then it ends up in Thing 3’s make up stash. I’ve not been one for wearing make up but would like to try and use it without making myself look like a clown.


10. Take the children on holiday. Again, another one from a previous blog post. We used to go to Center Parcs every year which stopped around the time Thing 5 was born. Apart from our annual trips to Cornwall for a few days, which the Things love, we haven’t been on holiday anywhere else. Our goal is New York at the end of November. Hopefully towards the end of the year we can share this adventure with you. 





So there we have it. 10 goals for 2020. Hopefully all achievable if I set my mind to it and get motivated! It’s only me who can make it possible to achieve all of these goals and hopefully over the next few weeks I can get started with quite a few of them. I will update in a month or so on how things are going. 

Here’s to a much more productive year than previous years! 

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Term time versus school break family holidays. The difference in costs.

TERM TIME HOLIDAYS VERSUS SCHOOL HOLIDAYS

 The fines for term time holidays have been in place for a while now but has that stopped people from requesting term time holidays? 

As a new year starts we are already looking to go away this year and so I have been looking ar prices for holidays both in the UK and abroad. 

The Supreme Court in previous years gave it's verdict on the term time holiday case of Jon Platt. Mr Platt had previously won a High Court case after he refused to pay the fine for taking his daughter on holiday during the school term time. They ruled in favour of Isle of Wight council.

I think that schools/councils need to look at every child's individual attendance records when looking at a request for term time holidays before they make their decisions and I certainly don't think that term time holidays should be frowned upon if rules are followed. 

If your child consistently misses school (and I am not including illness or doctors/hospital appointments in this) then I do think that this issue needs to be addressed before more school is missed and this is where the system of fining parents needs to be put in place. 
If your child attends school regularly and has a high level of attendance I do not see the issue of a term time holiday. Taking into account that in my view ONE holiday per academic year at a maximum of 10 school days is more than sufficient. 

What is pulling more and more parents towards term time holidays is also the price hike on holidays by holiday companies during the school holidays. I can most definitely say that us as a family could certainly not afford a holiday during the school holidays compared to the price of a term time holiday. 


So what do we do? We either take a term time holiday and add the fines to the overall cost or we don't ever go on holiday until the children have finished their school years. 


We as a family haven't had a holiday in over 7 years and Thing 5 has never been on holiday. We've had a few days away in Cornwall each year which the children LOVE but not a proper week/2 week break away as a family to relax and recharge. I was looking at holidays again recently and found some great prices but most great prices can only be found during term time.

I have found a few examples of holiday prices from various companies and compared the same length of stay at the same place between term time and school holidays. Here is what I found; 


CENTER PARCS; 


A wonderful example here from Center Parcs for 2020. A 5 day midweek break in February for our family. Week beginning February 10th is just £439 for 5 days whereas week beginning February 17th is a whopping £1499. As you can see the difference between the Half Term week and the week of February 10th is £1060 and overall a half term holiday costs just over 2 times the price of a term time break. 





A 4 bedroom Woodland lodge at Center parks for a midweek break, you can certainly tell when the school holidays are!




 DISNEYLAND PARIS; 

I looked at the week of Mon 9th October and Monday 23rd October (as above on the Center Parcs example) for a 5 day mid week break with Eurostar travel included and the same Disney hotel. The difference in cost for our family is just over £1100.  (Data from 2017) This data was from 2017, one holiday being term time and the other in the October half term. 



Newport Bay hotel at Disneyland Paris plus Eurostar travel. 


HAVEN HOLIDAY PARKS; 




The same midweek break dates with Haven, 9th October and 23rd October and I chose Weymouth Bay park in Dorset. I had to choose the Deluxe caravan option to get a price of £208 on the week of October 9th and £468 in the week beginning October 23rd. The difference in cost being £240, over double the term time cost. 



MENORCA, SPAIN;

I looked at the Son Bou Gardens hotel for a 5 day self catering break. On October 9th it was £1360 for our family of 3 adults and 4 children. On October 23rd it was  £1762 for the same hotel and same length of stay. A £402 difference between holidays. (Data from 2017)




Son Bou Gardens hotel in Menorca, Spain. A 5 day self catering stay plus flights.


As you can see prices do go up in the school holidays and this prices a lot of families out of the holiday market during these peak times. The only solution being a term time holiday where holidays are much more reasonably priced in some places. 


However, I do feel that there are so many issues that need to be addressed and it isn't just the hike in prices that affects when people take holidays. I strongly believe that attendance also plays a huge part in whether parents can take a term time holiday and attendance follows a school and national average that needs to be observed. I also think a one holiday per academic year rule needs to apply regardless of whether you take 10 days or 3 days. 

What are your thoughts on term time holidays? Do you think if attendance is excellent then one holiday per academic year is fair? What do you think to the hike in prices placed on holidays during the school breaks?