Friday, 19 October 2012

#FailFriday - October 2012

It's that time again where we congregate at the alter of parenting and confess our sins. You know you're not completely innocent or you wouldn't be here, would you?

Have you added your confession to our linky yet? (It's at the bottom of the post just in case you were maybe thinking about possibly linking up).

Don't forget to tweet us with #FailFriday and leave a comment so we know you're around. All good fail stories will be included in next month's round-up, so don't delay. The badge code is to the right >>>>>

fail badge

So, who were our failures last month?

First off the blocks was Actually Mummy, who's fondness for a certain, mummy-friendly beverage landed her in Embarrassment Town. Oops.

Then there was In A Different Voice who put forward not one, not two, but a fail for every day of the week. That's my girl!

So go and visit and offer some words of comfort to these battle-weary parents. See you next month.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

An army of supporters.

Who is your support network? Do you think about the people in your life who help you every day? Are you lucky enough to have an army of helpers around you, or one of the unluckier ones?

I'm not talking about those mums (or dads) with a gaggle of nannies (if that is the correct term for a collective of them), but about those of us who have others we can turn to at times when we need a bit of extra help. 

family support
Yes! Apply within.

Last week, we had illness in our house. First it was the children and then Dad. I had a lot of help from different people in my life. Even people who gave a small amount of help have no idea how useful they were to me. 

First there was my mum and mother-in-law. Apparently, humans are one of the few species (if not the only one) where the female lives longer than her reproductive life, and it is argued that this is a result of either good design or evolution for the purpose of helping younger generations with their own child-rearing efforts. Whatever it is, it rocks!! I so could not have battled through these last couple of weeks without the help of the older females in our extended family. They came over after work and helped with mealtimes, or looked after the children who were well so I could concentrate on the poorly ones. Amazing.

Then there were the other parents in our community. Especially the ones who were kind enough to collect the well children and take them to school in the morning, or collect them from school later and bring them back. They have been a godsend.

The neighbour popped over a couple of times to see if I needed anything from the shop. She tried not to come too far in to the door, or to breathe in hard, but she was able to keep us stocked up on milk.

As I did not show my face in the school playground for a few days, the school have been fantastic in making sure I have been kept informed of anything by email or book-bag notes. Thankfully, there's not been much to worry about. 

The receptionist at the GPs surgery has been wonderful. I know some of them are complete jobsworths, but ours is ace and it would have been a lot more difficult for us if it was a major issue to be able to get reassurance from our lovely doctor. 

I am so grateful for the little army I have around me. It doesn't matter that if we were ever in a fight, they would be rubbish because keeping my family going is the only battle I concern myself with and whoever can help out with that, whatever the circumstances, can be my wing-man any time. 

Who could you not cope without?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Bedtime stories - a battle worth fighting?

The bedtime story - a cornerstone of any child's day. There are some who argue that a bedtime story is an important tool in helping your child to develop necessary language skills, like in this article. But then there are others that dispute it and place the importance on the act of speaking and listening rather than on the book or story per se, like this article in The Telegraph. I don't suppose we will ever know if they make any difference at all for sure. 

Anyway, I have a confession to make - I don't read my children a bedtime story. I don't base this behaviour on some sort of learned philosophy where I know better than the experts about this sort of thing. Simply, I just plain can't be bothered. 

bedtime routine

Bedtime stories are one more thing to worry about in an already busy bedtime routine. They make me sleepy. I get bored of the same three books over and over again. So shoot me. 

I'm not saying we don't 'do' books. Our house is packed with books. So much, that we don't even bother getting new ones from the library. We read a lot of books. We like all sorts of things, from Maisy Mouse to Harry Potter. 

With the oldest child, we read a bedtime story every single night, but then we had a lot more time and undivided attention. We were a bit more lax with the next child. We did some bedtime stories, but we're not so much of a slave to it. Now, we don't do any bedtime stories at all. We have a slob, watch a bit of telly and then straight to bed. 

The older two children are doing very well at school, particularly in reading, so it's not like they're suffering in that sense. I do feel a bit guilty that we don't read them a story every single night, but then, I'm sure there are worse things to worry about.

What I need to know is - am I alone in this??

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Protecting your children from the fallout of renegade activity. A tale of drugs and fear.

This is a guest post from Michelle, a mother of two who writes at Lost in Blaenavon.

"I know that Flower and Bear are only little, but this is a cruel world. There are paedophiles, drug dealers, drug addicts and generally some nasty people about who are addicted to the thrill that causing someone pain brings! So I'm worried for their safety. Even though I live in a quiet area, I know that there are places that I need to make sure my children avoid, but now it's being forced into their little world. But maybe I should start from the beginning!

I have a brother who is almost eight years my junior. He was a lovely child, who always tried to defend me and would always make sure he helped anyone out whenever he could. When he was about thirteen, he changed overnight! We assumed it was just the fact that he was a teenager and had hormones raging round his system like all teenagers, but it was something a lot more powerful than that, he became very secretive and started stealing money from us. We couldn't prove it was him and so we just made sure we kept no cash in the house.

protecting children from drugsWhen he was sixteen, the truth came out and our whole family was devastated! We're a respectable, hard working, religious family so we weren't expecting anything of the sort! It hit us all like a ton of bricks! My brother had been given drugs by a drug dealer in school and he had become addicted to cannabis and cocaine. You name it, he had tried it. He blamed my father's heart attack for his delving into drugs, but I blame the drug dealer that offered him a free sample!

He refused all help and moved out not long after. My parents knew where he was and kept an eye on him. To protect me and my siblings, we weren't told where he was living or anything. I knew a rough area where he lived, but that was it. Maybe it was a good thing, maybe not. For two years, I barely saw him and each time I did he looked worse and worse. How he kept down a job, I have no idea! Every now and then, he'd come home complaining about the lad he was sharing a house with, saying that he couldn't live there anymore, but every time my parents told him the rules for his return home, he would leave the next day and we wouldn't see him for a few months. It was hard because we never knew if the last time we saw him would be the last!

Eventually, after two years, he saw sense. He came home asking for help to free himself of the habits he'd developed so long ago. This was great wasn't it? It was good, except that his drug dealers weren't about to let a cash cow like him get away with dropping the habit! I don't think it helped that he owed them so much money!

They put death threats out on the whole family to try to scare him into giving them the money. Fortunately they didn't know where we lived, but they did have our phone number. Night after night, we would receive threatening phone calls from them and no matter how many numbers we blocked, the following night they would have another ten numbers to ring from.

protecting children from dangerThe police were fabulous! I have to admit! They came and spoke to us and took lists of numbers away and generally reassured us. But the threats to our life were very real. In the first few weeks after my brother came home when the death threats started, the police said to my father that he needed to move his entire family away. We had no choice.

We tried to move my grandmother without telling her, but she was being stubborn and we had a lot of nasty comments from her friends about us taking her away. Eventually, my father told her the truth and she was the first to move. I moved with her as my volunteer work had become too dangerous in the area and I had to transfer.

We left friends and jobs and a beautiful house behind because of my brother's drug habits! In fairness, he has cleaned up his life and doesn't drink or do drugs anymore and now has three boys and a wife. At 23 he's more like the boy he was than when he was 13!

And that is what worries me about Flower and Bear. How do I protect them from the pain that I and my family suffered because of one person's stupidity! How would you do it? How would you protect your family? How can you educate your children about drugs?"

Friday, 14 September 2012

#FailFriday - September 2012

Welcome to another day worshipping the gods of failure. 

Last month, there were six troopers reporting a lost battle. 

Actually Mummy linked up a post with a whole host of parenting failures, so head over there and get your fill.  

3 Children and It is struggling with stemming sibling squabbles. And there's a tongue twister if ever there was one.

Autism as a Whole told us about her battle with herself. How she feels she is failing her son by refusing to take his condition more seriously. Being told in black and white what you're trying to avoid thinking about is not good for the soul. But is she a failure? She thinks so. Go and give her some support. 

Travel with Tots has ruined Sophie the Giraffe and needs your advice. Oops. 

Mum of Three World told us about her fears for her son's birthday. She's only got herself to blame for her lack of disorganisation, but it was all right in the end, so close but no cigar for you this month. 

Last but not least, Twinkle Mummy went out and managed to lose both her children. She resorted to tactics that I am familiar with, so that's ok with me. But both children? And one of them nearly started a flood. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! This month's BIG FAT FAIL award goes to Twinkle Mummy. 

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To link up your own fail story and be part of next month's round-up, grab the badge from the right, link up below and tweet us with #FailFriday. We'll share and come and say hi.

T'il next time.

Adios comrades.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Toddler wrestling. And not for fun.

Today, I was thinking. What if trying to get a toddler dressed was an olympic sport? It should be. 

It certainly feels like one. Dressing a wriggling, stubborn little person who would rather spend the day in a state of nakedness is a real battle and a half. It leaves me worn out and an awareness of muscles that I had long since forgotten about.

This morning, I watched as the twins tried to get their own trousers on. They are only 18 months old and frankly, a bit rubbish at putting their own clothes on, but they insisted on it. Every time I made like I was going to take an item from them and help them, they screamed and did 'the windmill' - arms swinging round at top speed like a whirling forcefield. Once I backed off slowly, they returned to attempting to dress themselves by putting their feet into the armholes of their t-shirts, or by sticking their arms up their trouser legs. This lasts for about ten minutes until, all too aware of the time, I jump in before they have a chance to start defensive manoeuvres and grab the clothing from the nearest one. 

Hi ya!
She screams and stamp her feet. Then, realising what is about to happen, makes a run for it. She shoots off across the living room, squealing like an escaped pig, changing direction any time I make a grab for her. Eventually I catch her, and hold her in place with one hand whilst attempting to put the t-shirt over her head with the other. But she has two hands to my one, and while I try to put the t-shirt onto her head, she is karate-chopping me with one hand and using the other to hold the t-shirt off. 

I struggle to get an arm in. She sobs in protest. While I am trying to wrestle the second arm and head in, the first arm has managed to pop it's way back out again. I shout at her, to no avail. It just makes the sobbing increase in volume. I am firm and I succeed. T-shirt down, trousers to go.

Before she can shoot off again, I grab her, sit on the sofa and trap her in a vice-like fashion between my knees. She wriggles but I have done enough to get one leg in. One. Then she gets free and dashes away, her trousers flapping behind her like a horses tail. 

In one last flurry of effort, I rugby tackle her to the ground, trap her under my weight, and get the last leg in. Ha! Victory is mine. I am knackered already, but I have one dressed toddler.

I feel like I've had a complete work-out and it's not even lunchtime. Hell, if someone designed some rules to this, I could compete internationally. I would be like the Jessica Ennis of the parenting olympics.

Dressing a single toddler would be my 1500metres - a middle-distance event that needs endurance, tactics and knowing when to make your move.

Now to do another few laps - where is her sister hiding?

Monday, 27 August 2012

#MedalMonday August 2012

This week, I came back unscathed from a short holiday with my in-laws. They booked a caravan up on the coast for a week. Mid-week I received a text from their other daughter-in-law, my comrade in arms, to say that their couple of days up there with them had been "hell". Oh goodie! It was then our turn to join them for two nights. I wasn't looking forward to it now. Mind you, I'm not sure I ever was.

Anyway, we got through the three days with no arguments - not one. The twins went mental in the caravan, running round and attacking any non-baby proofed items that they could, and there was some frustrating discussions about sleeping arrangements (i.e. how to get four adults, two children and two babies with cots into a two-bedroomed caravan), but I held my nerve, bit my tongue and we all got along just fine.

As soon as I saw the chance to make our escape, I got us out of there and back to the safety of home as quick as I could. It was fraught with danger, but the in-laws got to spend some quality time with their grandchildren, and I remain at the top of the daughter-in-law pecking order. Result. 

Medal for me.....


If you have a victory to celebrate, no matter how small, then grab the badge (code on the right), and link up your story below to be added to next month's round-up.

Over and out.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

How to support a twin mum

Here is a guest post from Rebecca at Here come the girls. She blogs about life with her three girls, and especially her two year old twin terrors. Here is the advice she would give to friends or family of a multiple mum.

I was really lucky and have had lots of support from my friends and family when I found out I was expecting twins. It can be a bit of a mine field really. Everyone is expecting one child, but to find there is going to be more than one is a complete shock to everyone. People don't always know how to react, especially if they aren't familiar with twins.

1. When you find out someone you care about is expecting twins be careful expressing your own reaction. Wait to find out how they are feeling. It is such a shock. You might be overwhelmingly delighted but the expectant parents are probably just feeling bewildered and out of their depth. Equally don't tell them how hard twins are, or ask how they are going to possibly cope, they will be worrying themselves. 
I was amazed by how many comments I received which were negative about having twins. By negative I mean - how many people said "Oh god, how will you possibly cope" or "Oh no, poor you, I'd hate to have twins." Congratulate warmly and then offer help. Lots and lots of help.

2. When buying presents, check what they need, money is going to be tight, so every present needs to be useful as well as beautiful. Check the parents' views of twin clothing. People tend to have strong views on whether they want to dress their twins in matching, coordinated or completely different clothes. Also be careful giving hand me downs, sometimes it's harder to find co-ordinated outfits if that's what they want.
It may not sound fancy but probably the best present we had was lots and lots of nappies. You can make them look very fancy with bows and ribbons, but they are the most expensive outlay twin parents will have.

3. Everyone will want to visit the new babies so be careful not to overwhelm the new family in the first few weeks. Let them lead the way. Also be patient if they don't get back to you with messages or phone calls. I found this the hardest in the early days. I was so happy to get the attention but when I did get a few moments to myself I couldn't hold a train of thought. I had a few conversations where I was so drunk with tiredness I made no sense whatsoever!

4. Help as much as possible. Offer something tangible like taking the babies for a walk in the pram rather than just a general offer of help. If the family has older children don't just offer to take them out. I wanted my daughter to stay close to us so she didn't feel pushed out, yet everyone offered to look after her. Instead I would have liked someone to take the babies for a few hours so I could spend time with her, or do some jobs.

All the books say help by doing household tasks. That's brilliant in theory but not many people would want someone looking under their sofa, so check, but do ask because any help would be appreciated. The easiest way to help is to offer to pick things up from the shop before you visit, it's really tricky popping to the shop with two or more babies so this will always be welcome. You can do a big internet shop but it's tricky if you've just run out of milk. 

5. Don't compare having twins to anything else. It isn't like having one baby. It isn't like having two babies eighteen months apart. These things have their own unique challenges. It's the same if I met someone with triplets, or quads. I wouldn't say - oh yes having twins is just as hard. It isn't. Ask them what it's like and what is hard. They will delight in telling you about the unique joys of raising twins. 

Finally tell them repeatedly they look amazing, they are doing a brilliant job and you are so proud of them. Even if they greet you at the front door in a tatty dressing gown, with unwashed hair, baby sick on their shoulder, three day old make-up smeared down their face, a pile of unwashed laundry in every corner and dirty plates on every surface. Tell them they are amazing - even if their twins are nearly five and on their way to school. Honestly twin mums need all the praise they can get - dear Lord - they are they just had two babies at once - two babies I tell you! They deserve a medal. 

You can follow Rebecca on twitter @1978rebecca
or find her on her facebook page

Saturday, 11 August 2012

For forks sake!

We have had an ongoing battle in our house for weeks and I, for one, am sick of it. 

The battle is one of wills between my four-year old and my eight-year old girls. They are stubborn little buggers at the best of times, but when they want something, they can really create non-stop headaches. 

We have a mish-mash of things in our house. Stuff we've accumulated over the last fourteen years of living together - first as a couple, then as a family.  Not much is coordinating or matching. We have some random stuff we can't even remember receiving. 

We have this fork. 

Oh, fork off!

It doesn't match any other piece of cutlery and I have no idea where it came from. It has a flower design down it, which isn't really 'us'. The four-year old loves it. She calls it her 'flower fork'. It probably came from one of the grandmas' collections.

Anyway, the four-year old asks for it at every mealtime. If it's dirty in the dishwasher, she doesn't mind, she can deal with it. What she can't deal with is if someone else gets it instead, like her big sister. 

The problem is that the big sister knows that her little sister loves this fork very much, and goes to great pains to make sure that she has it. Then it all kicks off. So I say....

"Don't be silly. Give the flower fork to your little sister. It's only a fork, and it makes her very happy."

The eight-year old gives the four-year old the fork, but then the four-year old does a little victory smirk.

"Muuuuuum! She's laughing at me!"

For forks sake, thinks I. I wish I'd never got the bloody fork out. I should have pretended it was in the dishwasher or something.

It goes on and on. 

So today, I was bold. I took one last pic of the offending item and put it in the bin. If it is asked for in the future, it will be perpetually 'in the dishwasher'. 

Hurrah! Victory for me. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

#FailFriday - August 2012

Wow, fails aplenty linked up last month, which is great. I think. Most importantly it means I'm not the only loser. 

So here's this month's round-up:

First of all, there is me, The Sarge, with another classic tale of taking my eye off the ball. Never, ever take your eyes off the ball. Especially when kitchen appliances are involved. Read my pitiful offering here. Oops.

Regular trooper, Katriina, ponders whether bringing her children up in a multi-national way is doing them any favours. I say yes, but then (as is shown above), what do I know? Read Katriina's story 'My little mongrel'

Actually Mummy told us all about her mummy, who has been having a moment or two. It's very bad manners to link someone else in to fail Friday, but we'll forgive her - she is only eight. Read her tale of Mummy reaching the end of her tether.

You're Not From Round Here made a complete tit of herself in front of her unwitting neighbours and children, all because of a tiny eight-legged enemy. Fail, fail, fail!!! Read her story here.

But taking the Big, Fat Fail award after submitting not one, not two, but THREE fail stories, it's Mum of Three World. Read all about a swimming trip disaster blamed on baby brain, not buying her child shoes, and a disastrous day full of school reports and crashing the car in Tesco's car park. Not clever, not pretty and nothing to be proud of.

Please visit all our failures and give them your sympathy.

Now to this week's proceedings. If you identify with the troopers above, then help is available. Grab the Big, Fat Fail badge (from the sidebar on the right), and link your post below. Tweet us on @parentfrontline with #FailFriday. We'll all come over, point and laugh, and offer our sympathy.

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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The battle of nappy hill.

Nappy changing - that essential job that no parent can avoid. It's crap, I know, but wishing it away isn't going to make it stop. The main problem with nappy changing is that the little person we are trying to help through the act of changing a nappy is the same little person who we have to fight to make it happen. And my word, aren't they good at resistance?

What are they thinking when we go to change their nappy? If only we could read their minds. The secret to successful nappy changing is being able to either make the little enemy conform, or to outsmart them when they try evasion tactics. Try our nappy changing advice and tips.

First of all, it pays to get good at the whole nappy changing operation while they are still too small to think about playing up. Practice doing things one handed and set yourself speed challenges. Once they start rolling over, you will find all the practice very useful.

nappy changing problems
Aw cute! But don't be fooled. These things can stink. Baaaaaad.

When they start rolling, you now have to be able to change nappies with one hand while holding the baby down with the other. If you don't have anyone around to help you, then pray that the nappy isn't tooooooo bad. Otherwise, it's game over already.

Keep the wipes within reach, unless you have twins and it's a whole different ball game altogether. This is when you need to keep them within reach of you and out of reach of the second twin, who will grab the wipes and run off laughing if you give them half a chance. Recommended kit: a play-pen. 

Also, if you do have twins or more, you will also need to practice nappy changing while blind-folded and with a wriggly weight on your back. Or you need to pay someone to do all this for you. Anyway...

If it's a really bad nappy, then get a couple of carrier bags ready - one for the waste, and one for any clothing. Avoid changing a wriggly baby on a mat placed on a carpet. Always put the mat on a wipeable floor instead. Lino is fab. I speak from experience here, so pay attention!

Older babies get wise to your tactics. When they get to around fifteen months old, they seem to comply with the nappy change, but don't be fooled. They are really lulling you into a false sense of security, biding their time until you let down your guard using your spare hand to get the clean nappy - then they're up and off quicker than a greased ferret. And that's you, chasing after a half-naked baby like a frickin' eejit. If they don't tiddle on the floor in the time between now and managing to catch them, then count yourself lucky, soldier. Do not ever remove your hand from that baby. Ever. 

As they get older, I'd like to say it gets easier, but it doesn't. They up their game, content wise. And then they get curious and start sticking their hands in. Recommended kit: straight jacket, or willing assistant. 

The next weapon in your armoury should be potty training, and the sooner the better. And good luck with that one!

Sergeant J's personal blog is over at Trouble Doubled.

Monday, 23 July 2012

#MedalMonday - July 2012


Right-o. I'm sick of hearing about all you failures* so thought it was about time we looked at the happy side of parenting - all you parenting successes. You know who you are. You might not be the greatest parent in the world ever, but I'm sure you've done something, even something very small, of which you are proud. It can be something recent or not, something funny or not, on any topic - food, crafts, a battle won.

If you have then well done you! Grab the victory badge (from the right sidebar) for your post and link up below. Tweet us @parentfrontline with #medalMonday and we'll retweet you to our army of parent troopers. We will all come and marvel at your parenting prowess and revel in your glory.

If you haven't, then you best come back next week for #failFriday. See you then. Especially you.

* I am so not. I will never, ever tire of them.

{The sarge}

Friday, 20 July 2012

The bedtime standoff.

We're having a bit of a standoff at home at the moment, the husband and I. It's over the battleground that is our four-year-old's night-time bedwetting.

It's a bit of a battle because I have one philosophy and action plan, and he has another entirely. I don't really know who's right to be honest. We are both doing what we think is best, which is all we can do, but it does lead to bickering every now and again.

My approach is to let the four-year-old have a drink before bed, if she wants one. I don't like going to bed thirsty and I don't think it's fair to force the children to. I make sure she has a wee before bed and, when I go to bed later at around 11pm, I will lift her on to the toilet where she will do another sleepy wee. This is usually enough to get her through until morning, when fingers crossed, she is dry. My philosophy is that her body will grow and learn to go longer between wees at night in it's own time and that by lifting her I am saving us a whole lot of stress in a morning, when I least need it.

dry nights children

His battle plan is different. He won't let her have a drink after the evening meal. She goes for a wee at bedtime but then he leaves her all night, with the logic that her body will learn faster if we're not lifting her. With this approach, she is more likely to be wet in the morning, and that leaves whoever is on morning duties to sort the bed out and give the four-year old a bath before school. But if it's his turn on duty, I don't argue because it's him that'll bear the fallout and that's his choice to make.

I wouldn't say it's causing arguments but it's probably the thing we disagree on most. I don't like the way he leaves her and then tells her off when she's wet, which I see as inevitable if you expect someone of that age to go 10 hours without the toilet - asleep or not. I tell him that I think he is wrong, but then I'm not totally convinced I'm going about it the right way myself. 

What's your philosophy on night-time bed-wetting?

Friday, 29 June 2012

#FailFriday 29th June 2012

Welcome to another Fail Friday.

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Confession time: For most of today I have been calling the twins by the wrong names. Not completely wrong names, obviously - but swapping them over. My twins are 16 months old so are not in the habit of correcting me, although my four-year-old did. Several times. I ignored her. Told her she was the mistaken one. She wasn't. In my defence, my supposed non-identical girls are very, very similar. They go through phases of looking alike, and then growing apart again. Today was a looking alike day. Ah well, no harm done. Fingers crossed. I still feel like a failure though. But it happens to the best of us. And to me.

To Fail Friday. Link up your fail stories below, and leave us a comment. Tweet us if you want with the URL of your post. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Take my Mother in law....

 The battle of the biscuits

What's your relationship like with your Mother-in-law? It's a notoriously tricky one and can have such an effect on your happiness. MIL's have a vested interest in what you do - your closest relationships with your children and husband. It's the stuff of nightmares really. 

Now my MIL is alright. Mostly. She doesn't come round very often. We go to hers a lot but she spends most of the time in the kitchen. We were very lucky when my eldest was born as she was busy with her social life and while we didn't get much help at least she didn't interfere. In fact she was so disinterested that when we rang her to tell her we had some exciting news and could we come round to tell her? She said no she was going out to the bingo and are you pregnant? Well yes we said, can we come round to celebrate? Um.... no, she knows now and the phone call has already made her late for the bingo.

She's more interested now and has actually had the children long enough to learn their names and sit and talk to them for more than five minutes. I am grateful because she will babysit and they can be a handful. The only problem is that every single time we goes round we have to have the battle of the biscuit. Now I can be a bit of a food fascist. I care about what the children eat and while I let them have a few treats - the emphasis is on a few. My MIL has no such restraint. She has given some of the children in her care so many treats they have been sick. She has no idea of a healthy diet. When she cooks most things are fried and her dinner for the children is chicken nuggets and chips - with no vegetables in sight.

Then the biscuits come out. If she gave them one biscuit or even two then I wouldn't complain. If biscuits were the only treat then I wouldn't complain. What happens is that the children will go off to the kitchen and come back with a whole packet of biscuits - A WHOLE PACKET! When questioned she just says "well they asked for it." Children have no concept of eating healthily - they will eat a whole packet of biscuits. This is usually after we have already said no and when it is an hour before dinner - or just after dinner when she has already given them mammoth adult sized portions and ice cream for pudding.

So why don't I do anything about it? Well families are tricky, aren't they. For a start I have a deep seated politeness. She is my elder and my husband's mother, she deserves my respect. Secondly it is always when I'm feeling grateful to her. She has just done me a favour - how can I then turn around and throw it back in her face? Finally we've tried, repeatedly. She doesn't listen. She thinks she knows best.

The thing is she doesn't. Three of her children have serious weight problems. That isn't being mean, they are morbidly obese and it is a real concern to me. My husband and I try really hard to keep our children from this but it's tricky. I could deliver an ultimatum except that it would be pointless. So instead we battle on. Every time the same. The sad thing is my daughter is trying to make sense of it. She knows we get cross at her grandparents. When we go round she says "nanny gives us too many biscuits because she's trying to be nice." That is the thing, she is trying to be nice, but over feeding someone isn't nice - providing children with unhealthy role models isn't nice, teaching them that food is to be stuffed into your faces isn't nice. 

So any ideas how I can win the MIL war? Or is it a losing battle

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Maintaining intimate relationships with your closest ally

Thank you to an undercover trooper for this anonymous guest post.

Since having children my husband and I have been really struggling to keep up with our more intimate duties to each other and sometimes it does feel like a duty after spending a day running round after 2yo and having been up every two hours of the night with six month old. The last thing on my mind has been sex! And in fairness, hubby has been really patient with me and let me come to him when I’m ready. He’s really good like that, but it has been causing problems. And a lot of frustration for the both of us. Mismatched sex drives are bad!

So we’ve been talking for a while about how we can maintain our passion for each other despite the fact that we have two children and a cat that likes to get in the way! I think she doesn’t want any more screaming babies and toddlers! We’ve thought about a lot of things to help get me more involved.

Role Play: This was a bad idea because I kept laughing! He showed me nurses outfits. You know the ones I mean! And I just found them funny! Probably because I had a conversation with my mother about buying underwear for hubby and I stressed that it was dignified and her response was that she wears undignified things for my father. A mental picture of my mother in a sexy nurses outfit really put me off the thought of role play!

Mutual Massage: This was good, but it really got boring after a while, if you know what I mean! Although someone I spoke to in confidence about this suggested I buy a vibrator that we can use while playing.

Having Sex In Different Places: This we’ve done a lot! In fact 6mth old was conceived in my brother in law’s bed (Fact!) I think it’s just the idea that we might get caught that really turns me on!

Good Old Fashion Romance: You know what I mean! Candlelit Chinese, a bottle of wine, nice music... And then the baby wakes up for a feed. Yeah! That! Really annoying! Though now we’re bottle feeding, we can now farm the kids off somewhere and have a proper date night!

Today though, our desire to keep the passion reached a new level! We left the children at hubby’s parent’s house because they were both asleep and went for a walk. We weren’t planning on being intimate, we just wanted to spend some time together alone! We really just wanted to sit and talk and enjoy each other’s company. Well, we were sat on the bench talking and laughing and kissing. Let’s just say one thing led to another and we ended up in an empty field doing slightly more than playing! It was so much fun!!! I really enjoyed it anyway and I haven’t really enjoyed anything like that with hubby since we had the baby. Having post natal depression hasn’t really helped though. But it’s really reinvigorated my desire for hubby! And I’ve had a naughty smile on my face all afternoon!

If nothing else that’s got to be one more item ticked off the bucket list!

Is there anything else we can do to keep up our passion and intimacy do you think? What have you done?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Protecting your children online.

Digital technology is so much a part of everyday life, it isn't surprising that children would grab on to the newest trends and want to experience all that the Internet has to offer. While there are clearly benefits that children derive from Internet use, such as becoming more technologically savvy, learning to find information, being able to quickly share files with friends and having to read more because online communication is mostly written, there are also significant disadvantages to allowing children the freedom to use computers and access the Internet at will. As a proactive parent, there are many apps, as well as services and features within your computer's operating system that will allow you to monitor your child's Internet activity or take advantage of controls that will prevent them from accessing sites you deem unsuitable.

Households that use computers with Windows Vista or Windows 7 operating systems have built in parental controls that should be used. Microsoft enlisted the assistance of the American Academy of Pediatricians to develop age-based guidelines for Internet use, along with the parental controls. Their Age-Based Guidelines are divided into three age groups: one for children between the ages of two and 10, another for children between the ages of 11 and 14, and the last one for children between the ages of 15 and 18.

Children between the ages of two and 10 shouldn’t be allowed to use the Internet without supervision. Establish clear rules regarding their Internet use, such as how much time they can spend online, how often they can use the computer, sites that are age-appropriate for them to visit and revealing information. Make sure that they know that they should never reveal any personal information about themselves, their family members, where they live or anything that a resourceful person could use to find out more about them.

For children between the ages of 11 and 14, you need to be aware that they probably already know a lot about accessing the Internet, so although it may not be necessary for you to sit with them when they use the computer, they should know that you will monitor their activity, the sites they visit and what they do. Stress the importance to them of not sharing information or posting pictures that could allow anyone surfing the Internet to figure out where you live. If you intend to allow your tween to join any social networking sites, make sure he/she creates an online profile with you, and that they feel comfortable enough to talk to you about their online activities.

By age 15, children are even more familiar with things they can do on the Internet, and they are likely using it a lot for their schoolwork. One way to protect your teens and to ensure that you are able to monitor their online activity is by not allowing them to have a computer in their room. By having a computer in the common areas of the home, and requiring that they use it there, you are able to maintain a semblance of control over what they do and how they handle themselves in the scary world of cyberspace. Help them understand that you want them to feel free to come to you about anything that concerns them, bothers them, frightens them or confuses them. Make sure they know they won't be punished, regardless of what happens, as long as they communicate with you.

Create a Digital Toolbox
A digital toolbox generally consists of tools that are available in the form of protective software. One of the tools is a white list that parents can create after choosing websites that they think are appropriate for their children to see or use. As a parent, you can also create filters within those white lists to limit access your child has to certain sites, domains or programs when you aren't present.

Take advantage of warning tools that are designed to warn you when your child tries to access certain types of content. These warning tools may also allow you to tracks the history of your child's Internet activity so you can monitor their behavior more closely. The most extreme types of digital tools are software programs that allow parents to decide what websites and content they want to block so their child cannot access it at all.

Setting Limits
Parents need to set limits as to what their children can and cannot do on the Internet. If you're going to allow your child to join Facebook, make sure that they don't upload or publish their profile until you approve it. Monitor the way your child interacts with people when they are on Facebook. The Wall Street Journal warns parents about some of the very real problems that children may encounter while using the Internet.

As a parent, it’s important that children know, understand and accept that you have control over their Internet use. The same goes for their smartphone use. Use filters to prevent your children from accessing inappropriate and potentially dangerous sites. Talk to them about spam and phishing so they understand that there are people who try to take advantage of innocent, unsuspecting people. Make sure that your children understand that they should never give out personal information to anyone on the Internet, and they should be cautious about posting images as well.

Most importantly, however, despite all the rules, your children need to feel comfortable enough with you and trust you to come to you with their concerns. By monitoring their Internet activity, you ensure that they still get to enjoy their childhood because they have a loving family that cares for them.

This is a guest post from Cameron Tyler, a regular contributor to and big proponent of technology and internet security. 

"Growing up with younger siblings, I've always felt the need to protect the ones that I care about. I wanted to be able to combine my love of technology and security to help parents protect their children online. I hope parents can take this information and apply it to their own lives to help monitor their child's digital life."

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Winning the war in the kitchen: 3 tips to help busy parents cook more from scratch!

This is a guest post from Rachel at Well Worn Whisk: simple recipes and food writing.

My blog is about easy home cooking, featuring mainly recipes and the occasional food article. I'm an ex digital marketing communications person, now full-time mum to a toddler with another one on the way. I want to spread the joy of simple home cooking and even, maybe, inspire busy people to cook from scratch more! 

It has to be said, I have everything on my side when it comes to cooking: I’ve got time as I’m currently at home with my son and expecting another baby soon; I have experience as I’ve been cooking since I was about 10; I like to think I have knowledge, from years of reading cookbooks; and most of all I have a passion for the subject. The only thing I am sometimes lacking right now, being 7 months’ pregnant with a toddler, is energy. But aside from being tired I have no excuse not to cook from scratch most days. Yet I don’t. I sometimes order a takeaway. Or I eat cake for dinner, sometimes a bowl of cereal! Personally I don’t tend to eat ready meals, unless baked beans count, preferring to go for toast or something basic rather than processed. The point I am trying to make is that, if people like me who really love to cook can’t manage to do it from scratch every day, what chance do people who work full-time, have more than one child, and don’t even like (or know much about) cooking have?

I understand why people don’t cook from scratch, I really do get it; however, I still don’t see that as an excuse for never (ever) doing it, especially as a parent. It’s not OK, in my opinion, to give your family processed meals every single day, even if you are the worst cook in the world. Anyone with half a brain knows that there are benefits to home cooking: it’s likelier to be healthier, probably containing less salt and ‘bad’ fats. At the very least, when you cook from scratch you know what’s going into a dish. But aside from health benefits, you are setting a good example to your kids when you cook, so that hopefully they will feel inspired to cook too. And if you include them in the cooking process then you are spending quality time with them as well. There really is no argument that I can think of not to cook more - we all know we should do it, but that knowledge alone might not be enough to make us get the pans out and actually start cooking.

Cooking from scratch is easy, I firmly believe this. For most people the reason they don’t cook is down to a busy schedule and a lack of knowledge. I think you can overcome these problems by choosing the right recipes - but to do that you must have some decent ingredients in your cupboards, ready to be utilised when you need them. If you give yourself achievable ‘cook more’ targets you are more likely to be successful. For example, if you don’t cook at all from scratch at the moment, then aim to do it once a week. If you’d just like to cook a bit more, then why not aim to increase your repertoire by learning three simple and nourishing new recipes?

Here are 3 simple rules that might help in your efforts to cook more from scratch. They may seem obvious, but I really think they work!

            1 -   Do some batch cooking (your freezer is your friend)
Your time is a precious commodity and you need to use it wisely. It’s just as easy to make two lasagnes as one, so try doubling up when you’re cooking and freeze one lot of whatever you’re making (if it’s suitable). It’s so gratifying knowing that your freezer has a few standby dinners and desserts (as well as the odd packet of fish fingers) for occasions when you’re too tired or busy to cook. All you have to remember to do is take it out the day before!

Batch cooking recipe suggestions:
>> Easy, healthy and freezes well (spice it up or down depending on who’s eating): Hearty bean chilli
>> Almost foolproof dessert (freeze before cooking): Rhubarb and blueberry crumble

            2 - Put time aside at the weekend for some family cooking and eating
With parents coming home late from work and the priority being to eat something – anything - as quickly as possible the minute you get through the door, I totally get that weeknights might not be the best time to think about getting stuck into a new recipe. Making time at the weekend is a no brainer. There’s not many people who don’t have an hour or two to spare, whether that means getting up earlier or sacrificing another activity: what’s more important than your family’s health and happiness? I think the two best times for a spot of family cooking are a Saturday breakfast / brunch or a late Sunday lunch. I’ve suggested two recipes here.

Weekend cooking recipe suggestions:
>> A fun breakfast / brunch recipe (add bacon or blueberries for brunch): Healthy American style pancakes

            3.  Perfect an adaptable store cupboard recipe (or three)
There are some ingredients that you will almost always find in my cupboard: a tin of anchovies, tinned tomatoes, a bottle of capers, some extra virgin olive oil, and pasta of some sort, plus a head or two garlic. If I don’t have these in, I feel slightly panicked as it means I can’t make quite a few variations of my own go-to store cupboard dinners, which are mainly pasta. If you can master an easy recipe that you normally have the ingredients in for, then once every week or so (not so much that everyone gets sick of it!) you know you can knock up something good from scratch as the mood takes you. It might be a simple omelette with eggs and cheese and perhaps the addition of a vegetable like peppers or courgettes. This is the essence of good store cupboard cooking: you can make it with or without one or two of the ingredients. Here are two deceptively simple, adaptable store cupboard recipes that could be made even without the main vegetable ingredient.

Adaptable store cupboard recipe suggestions:
>> Surprisingly easy store cupboard supper (don’t let the word soufflĂ© put you off!): Leek, cheddar and penne soufflĂ©(eggy bake)

A quick note about fussy kids, as this can be a problem when trying new recipes (we’ve all been there). If you’re worried that your kids won’t eat new foods then my advice is to take it slowly. Start with foods that all kids like: fluffy pancakes with blueberries; homemade fish fingers; homemade chips and dips (search out simple recipes). Get them involved in the cooking, standing on stools breaking eggs, whisking batters, even slicing vegetables with your help - and then encourage them to watch their dinner come to life in the oven. Give lots of praise when eating it: “You’re so clever for making fish fingers with me, this is the best lunch I’ve had all week!” As they start to get more adventurous, try new more interesting recipes with them – you might be surprised. We should stop assuming that kids will only eat bland and uninteresting food – they have palettes too! Kids imitate their parents, so if you show enthusiasm for what you’re cooking and eating, they probably will do too.  

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