Thursday, 31 January 2013

The benefits of my job- Life as a working mum

In the past year, Since returning to work after the boys, I've only really disliked my job.

Disliked it from the perspective of it being a full time job, it takes me away from my children, and with the thought of sticking with three children, that I am now working till I'm very old and grey.

For all of the things I dislike about my job, having explored job opportunities for the last couple of months I have come to realise I'm more lucky than I think, and as a result (even if they don't appreciate it) my family do get a bit of a better deal.

Why? Well, of course, let's make a list!

I don't work 9 till 5
If I managed to get a job in our nearest city, no doubt I'd be setting off for work at 0730 and getting home at 1900. 
Yes, admittedly at least once a week I leave for work at 0545 and get home at 1900 the following day.
But that means I usually get to see my children three days a week.
If I got myself a 9 till 5 job I'd probably never see my children given they don't wake till 0830 and the boys are asleep by just gone seven.

I still have a bit of a say over my diary when organising meetings. 
At the moment we have a lot more support in the first part of the week, so I try to organise my time away to sync with this. It works most of the time and this helps.

I get to work from home
I don't have a base office to report into. On the days I work from home it means I get to see Squeaks off to pre-school or playschool, and am here when she gets home. 
It also means, whilst the boys still nap for a few hours in the afternoon that Mr J can pop out for a game of squash and no-one is any the wiser.
I get to see my children in the daytime which is a huge plus.

It is a good salary given the above
In addition to all of those advantages, I do get paid enough that we can (most months) afford a stay at home parent. There are still things we could do better on budget wise, so am fortunate that we still have some leeway.

I do get additional benefits
Linked to the above, work have introduced a flexible benefits package, which means we qualify for childcare vouchers. This means Mr J gets some respite on a weekly basis.

Pareto's Principle
I couldn't have done this much study and not brought academia into the mix. So, I follow the  80:20 rule.
Although technically the rule means I should be focusing on the 20%.
In my case I love 80% of my job. And yes, the 20% I do focus on because I find it unbearable.
But if I love 80% of my job that can't be all bad.

Flexible working
Whilst few have prevailed, the organisation does have a flexible working policy. I hope that as the children get older this gives me flexibility to do the school runs given we live close to the primary school.

Holidays and weekends
I spent seven years working for Bhs. You had to work every other Saturday, every few Sundays, Bank Holidays, and you could choose whether to have Christmas or New Year off... and chances were if you chose Christmas you'd end up getting called in over the New Year as someone had developed a mystery illness.
Fortunately, I only work at the weekend if I think I am falling behind, I can choose when I want to have holidays, and Bank Holidays are a day off.

12 years service
Oh how the 80% resents this. I so can't believe this bit.
But that 20%, well, with long service comes increased holiday allowances.
And so, in years to come (because I may as well give up all hope of leaving) I will be able to run away to a gite in France for three weeks every summer. (I've thought this one through, the gites are reasonably priced, the travel will be unbearable, two weeks would not be long enough to get it out of our heads, so three weeks it is, and this way the remainder of the summer holidays may go swiftly.

I get to work in London
I do try to work things that rather than travelling all over as much as possible is co-ordinated in London. Whilst for many years I loved to drive, I have learned that driving does tire me. And I can travel by train and get work done, and get tired. But at least the work isn't waiting for me.
I don't make as much as I should when working in London, it was on my '13 in 13' and is one I must do better to appreciate.

And without even knowing it, of course, I've got my top 10.

And so, this is my post, of optimism, for all those days the job gets the most of me, for all of those days I feel like I'm the worst parent, and for those days when my family don't like me for working away.

This is me saying, my job is better than most, my job allows the lifestyle we have chosen for our family.
And if we can hold tight on this bumpy ride... we'll get there, wherever there is, in one piece.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Family car buying tips

Choosing a family car is a tricky business
– besides accommodating your children’s needs, it has to be affordable and safe.

Bearing all this in mind, here’s a list of things to consider when buying a family car:

Child-friendly car features
Below are a number of handy family car features.
They’re by no means must-haves, but they’re worth taking into account:

Big boot
– check it’s large enough. Remember, not all buggies fit all boots. You might also have a pet that you transport, and for that you’ll need a hatchback.

Wide-opening doors
– five are better than three when it comes to doors, and so are those that open wide, if you’ll be popping children in and out of car seats. Alternatively, go for sliding rear doors.

Raised and sliding rear seating
– these give children a good outside view, which you’ll be grateful for if they’re prone to car sickness, as looking at the horizon can lessen the associated nausea. Also, if the seats slide forward and back you can increase the boot or leg room.

Plentiful seating
if you’ve got at least three children, go for an MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) or people carrier. They come with rear fold-away seats, which is useful for when you have to drive the kids and their friends around.

Dark interior
– if you don’t want to see little fingerprints all over your car’s interior, ensure the upholstery is dark or go for wipeable leather.

Isofix fittings
– these mounting points make using compatible car seats easier and safer.

Good storage
– having ample space to store toys, activities, snacks and drinks creates a clutter-free car.

Integrated sun blinds or UV-filtering tinted rear windows
– great for limiting children's sun exposure, although you can fit your own shades.

Built-in DVD player
– very handy and can keep kids entertained for a long time. If the car has a power socket you can fit one yourself, although we’d recommend it is fitted by a professional.

12V power sockets
– so useful for charging DVD players, games consoles, MP3 players, mobile phones and sat navs.

Running expenses
Drivers spend an average £3,000 per year on running a vehicle, according to a 2011 Sainsbury’s Car Insurance survey. But you can significantly reduce your car’s annual expenses just by choosing the right vehicle.

Here’s how:

Go for a fuel-efficient car 
– vehicles with small engines that produce low CO2 emissions guzzle less fuel. But to find out exactly
how fuel-efficient a vehicle is, check out an MPG (miles per gallon) calculator. You’ll find one at
www.fuel-economy.co.uk.

Get cheap tax
– road tax isn’t just one price for all. If, for example, you drive a Band M car – the highest road tax band – expect to pay £1,000 for the first year and then £460 per annum after that. But if you own a Band A car, you’ll pay nothing at all – ever. Visit www.roadtaxprices.co.uk for a list of the cheapest vehicles to tax.

Buy a cheap car with an anti-theft device
– with the average cost of comprehensive car insurance standing at £835 per annum, according to Confused.com/Towers Watson Car Insurance Price Index, it’s worth choosing a vehicle that’s economical to insure. If your car has an approved alarm, immobiliser or tracking device you can receive a 5% discount on your insurance, so get an anti-theft device. Get a quote before you buy a car, as car insurance costs may influence your decision.

Safety
Some cars are safer than others due to the protection they offer.
To find out how safe your car is, visit www.euroncap.com for a rating based on crash tests.
In addition, look out for safety features that could help you avoid an accident, such as front-mounted cameras to help drivers see around blind corners.



Tara Nathanson writes for Sainsbury’s Bank Money Matters blog on a range of topics including car insurance, car safety and other motoring topics. In her spare time she likes going to the cinema and doing yoga and Zumba classes, and at weekends she likes hanging out with her six-year-old son.

Disclosure: This is a guest post brought to you as part of the Sainbury's Bank Family Blogger Network. No payment or disbursement has been received.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Life with toddler twins

So, the boys have hit two with all the energy and enthusiasm toddlers bring to any family.

With the badge of toddler earned they are both doing their bit to retain it.

Cheeky has tantrums down to a fine art.
I have mentioned before that they started around 18months.
Which was odd, unexpected, because Squeaks more or less bypassed this, hitting four in March.
(Squeaks used to throw herself down on the floor in shops and supermarkets- not because she was having a tantrum but because she was tired. She is truly her mother's daughter).

Like most children, Cheeky's tantrums are worst when he was tired.
On Thursday when I picked him up from the childminder's he threw a strop as we got out the car.
Because he wanted to go to the park and I wanted him to go to the front door.

Another tantrum surfaced when all three were given a bowl each with wotsits in. And of course he wanted the bowl that Tiny had. And even when the bowls were swapped he insisted on eating the wotsits from the original bowl, which was no longer his.

Cheeky is the child who gets over tired because he refuses to sleep.

Afternoon naps have become a 50:50. The boys either sleep for hours, or spent an hour seeing how quickly they can throw toys from cot to cot and then onto the floor.
And it's cute and funny, until tea time, when they're tired and grouchy.

Tiny cries rather than throws tantrums. Which is easier in some ways.
He generally just needs a cwtch and the world is a happier place.
But with three demanding attention it's not always as easy to have a moment free for one to one time.


And that along with the winter bugs is probably the worst bit of toddler twins.

The best bits.
Well, obviously the laughter.
The other night I was upstairs leaving Mr J and the little people downstairs.
For about fifteen minutes all I could hear was hysterical laughter.
On coming back downstairs and asking what was the cause, I was told they had been chasing each other up and down the hall.
It really is the simple things.

I love that they have reached the age where they can play independently together.
They can be left together for short periods of time with some duplo, cars, or Happyland people.
They are starting to sort out their own scuffles if they are left to get on with it.
Whereas I initially thought it was always Cheeky beating up on Tiny, after witnessing on a few occasions Tiny fighting his corner I have been much less inclined to intervene.
And the fighting does seem to have reduced, whether this be part of growing up or ignoring them I'm not sure.

And, when I look at them and think about my memories of Squeaks at the same age.
Well, they're much better at eating. They're more adventurous. With Squeaks there were a few foods she liked and we did our best to vary, and as she hit three, and now approaches four, she's a happy eater and will try almost anything.
Maybe it's wanting to be like their big sister, but the boys will try more or less everything. Of course they love yoghurt, and or course when they're ill they go off food completely and revert to milk. But I have the reassurance that Squeaks was the same, so I don't panic the way I did.

Squeaks vocabulary and language development was advanced by the time she hit 2 years.
The boys both rely on her and each other, and don't have the one to one time she benefited from.
 However where Squeaks had the knack of stringing words together, the boys probably have a wider range of single words than she did.
And whilst Squeaks loved to sing 'Twinkle Twinkle' to the boys when they were born, Cheeky has the knack of the actions whilst singing the song (with his own words) and Tiny wins hands down with his dancing.

The cutest thing about the boys is how eager they are to leave the house. Any excuse for an adventure.
They run to grab their shoes. Open the door under the stairs to get their coats. And should mummy get their reins out to go for a walk, well, they really do shake with excitement.
It's odd that life seems a lot easier now we've reached two. And yet the energy evaporates just as easily. They now demand a different type. They need to be worn out from both physical activity as well as the stimulation of toys, books and chatting.

And of course, they love giving kisses and cwtches, and they love to be tickled and they still adore peek-a-boo with their blankies.

And yes, they are toddlers, and they are growing up on me, and they're not my babies any more.
My little boys, they make me the happiest I can be.
And nothing but nothing makes me happier to finish a week at work knowing I have my family for company.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Building up confidence with language development

I am so pleased that I CAN are launching their 2013 Chatterbox Challenge Tea Party.

Having recently reviewed their Chatting with Children Activity Pack I was eager to support the boys' with their language development, as it is becoming more and more apparent that their speech is not progressing as well as Squeaks', which I imagine is attributable to a number of things, such as relying on their sister, communicating well with each others, and not having as much 1-2-1 time with mummy and daddy.

I was really pleased to receive the news that Humf (a much loved character from the Nick Jr, show) has partnered with ICAN to ensure, that with the continued support of sponsor Openreach, the 2013 Chatterbox Challenge is bigger than ever, reaching more and more people.

Kate Freeman, I CAN's Communication Advisor, has provided the following advice, which we've been focusing on over the past week and we were already adopting a lot of the practice, we weren't doing so much of the fun games which allows children to demonstrate their vocabulary. We know the boys are fantastic at understanding conversations and instructions, we know they love dancing and can do animal sounds, but it has been about them repeating things and putting words together which has concerned me.

After only a week, Cheeky loves to do the actions and sing along (in his own words) with 'Twinkle, Twinkle', Tiny loves falling down in 'Ring a ring a rosies', and they both love playing Musical Statues with Squeaks.

It proves that from being offered focused advice, which is simple and easy to adopt, can really support parents in developing their children's communication skills.

The recipe for the perfect ‘communication friendly’ party

Conversations make the world go round! Babies and young children are keen to communicate and from birth, play and interaction with adults and other children helps them learn about the world around them. Through these activities, they learn how to interact with others and develop social skills for later in life.

Communication skills are vital for all children to develop in their early years to ensure they can make friends, let people know how they feel and what they need. They are also key to learning, knowing how to behave and getting on in school.

Mealtimes and snack times, including I CAN’s Chatterbox Challenge Tea Party, are a fantastic opportunity for young children to continue to develop these vital communication skills.

Adults can help children develop their communication skills by:
• Getting the child’s attention before speaking to them
• Using natural gestures and signs to support the meaning of words and sentences
• Get down to the child’s level to talk to them
• Give the child plenty of time to say what they want to say. Listen more than you talk, then respond to what the child is saying
• Encourage the children at the tea party to talk and play together – they can also ask each other what they would like (offering and responding to choice, especially food and drink, is communication at its most meaningful).

Fun games to play at parties to develop children’s communication skills:
• Singing and rhyming songs – are a great way to help children learn vocabulary and have fun making music together
• Playing clapping games (Pat-a-Cake) – this helps children to develop their coordination, control and movement as well as learning vocabulary and social skills
• Word Games (Simon Says and I Spy) – this helps to develop children’s vocabulary about the world around them and to listen to instructions (These games can be adapted to easier versions for younger children)
• Turn taking games (Pass the Parcel) – this helps children to learn when to talk and when to listen
• Imaginative play like toys’ tea parties – this helps children to expand their language for use in a range of situations and develop their creativity.


To register for I CAN’s Chatterbox Challenge with Humf, go to www.chatterboxchallenge.org.uk
Any parent or practitioner with a question or concern about a child's communication or for more information on children’s communication development, contact the I CAN Help Enquiry Service for a call or email from a speech and language therapist - visit www.ican.org.uk/help

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Project #365 - Week #4

So, of course I apologise in advance- but the snow only managed to settle with us this week (someone obviously popped the bubble). So, we have enjoyed some cold hands.

Sunday: Finally we get a glimpse of snow!
Monday: Miller gets a big cwtch.
Tuesday: the joy of building towers.
Wednesday: And the snow continues to fall.
Thursday: My favourite photo of the week- we have snow family.
Friday: Squeaks has taken to working in the office. This time she focused on drawing Miller.
Saturday: Tiny finds a new way of enjoying Duplo.




TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Friday, 25 January 2013

Who will you tell? #tellamillion


This week 100 charities came together to launch a joint campaign to tackle the hunger trap.
From watching my twitter stream and seeing some great bloggers involved and watching this momentous event was humbling.
As a layperson, the idea of this collaboration, that this is such a fundamental issue, that this issue which has been elevated by so many, means that this truly is a call to action.
It is sometimes easier to hide behind confusion and mixed messages.
But here, today, the message is clear.

Our government must use the UK’s G8 presidency in 2013 to take action on the root causes of the hunger crisis in the poorest countries.

The ‘IF’ movement challenges the Prime Minister to tackle 4 big IFs to help there be enough food for everyone:
IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land, and use the available agricultural land to grow food for people, not biofuels for cars.
IF governments keep their promises on aid, invest to stop children dying from malnutrition and help the poorest people feed themselves through investment in small farmers.
IF governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries, so that millions of people can free themselves from hunger.
IF we force governments and investors to be honest and open about the deals they make in the poorest countries that stop people getting enough food. Taking action on the 'corporation tax gap' by multinational companies alone would enable developing countries to raise enough revenue every day to save the lives of 230 children under 5 currently dying because of malnutrition.

‘Enough Food for Everyone IF’ is the largest coalition of its kind in the UK since Make Poverty History in 2005.
This campaign aims to highlight that in a wold where there is enough food for everyone it is not acceptable that hunger and malnutrition in childhood will trap almost a billion young people in poverty by 2025.


“Hunger is not an incurable disease or an unavoidable tragedy. We can make sure no child goes to 
bed hungry.  We can stop mothers from starving themselves to feed their families. We can save 
lives. We can do all of this, IF we are prepared to do something about it. IF we challenge our leaders 
to take action. IF they listen to us. It’s time the world’s decision-makers came to the right decision on 
hunger. It’s time to end the unnecessary suffering caused by the failure of the current food system. 
We can make hunger a thing of the past IF we act now.”
Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu 

IF enough people join us in showing support for ending hunger, world leaders will be forced to act. 
Please take part at www.enoughfoodif.org

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Learning to crochet- the left handed way

So, because Squeaks wants more colour in her rainbow cakes, and because we need to get some things together to make valentine's gifts, we popped to Hobbycraft to get some bits and piece.

I decided to take advantage of the chance to tick something of my 13 in 13, and invested in a crochet hook and some wool, to accompany my guide to crocheting.

Oddly, the thing that has been most difficult so far has been adapting to being a left hander.
I'm an odd left hander, I write left handed, but everything else more or less I do as a right hander.

I understood the rules early on when it said 'the hand that you write with holds the hook', so that was that.
Oddly the advice later on is that my 'brain is well used to mirroring such things'... I can only hope!

So, advice followed I came away with a 4.00mm hook and a yarn with the same number (that's right, wool has numbers on!), and I remembered to make sure it was plain and light coloured. It did recommend non-stretchy, but that was beyond me. It's double knitting, so that was a tick, it wasn't cotton- so I have fallen at that hurdle.

Learning to crochet

So, I am now perfecting my chain stitch.
I wish that was as easy as it sounded.
It turns out the slip knot will be my greatest achievement to date.

I've managed to do a really neat chain stitch, but it's not been done with the flowing movement I've seen of crocheters, it's more been an act demonstrating my need for three hands.
It seems I've been simplistic, and in the same way I read books, having read from the back to the front, if I don't perfect the tension on my chain stitch there's no hope of *ssshhhhh* big secret, my hope of a granny blanket.

The good news is that crocheting stops me snacking, stops me spending too much time on line, and will hopefully, eventually, keep me warm at night.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

De-clutter and find Serenity

When you’ve got a new born baby in the house, the whole place can seem like one big playpen and changing station. The clutter can get especially overwhelming over the holidays, when your new born is showered with presents from relatives and friends to play with in the New Year. Get organised—and gain some peace of mind—by following these house de-cluttering tips.

Sticking To A De-Cluttering Strategy

The hardest part about getting organised is that your little gal or guy demands all of your free time and energy! For this reason, it’s best not to think of de-cluttering your home as a project that can be taken on in a single day or even a single weekend. Instead, make a goal to get your home de-cluttered in one month by setting aside just 20 or 30 minutes a day to clean out one area of the house—e.g. the baby’s closet one day, the baby’s dresser drawers the next, the toy bin the day after. Dividing your workload up like this will help you reach a small goal daily and bring you closer to a clutter-free home.

Donating, Selling, and Recycling: Finding Peace of Mind in Your Clutter

Now that you’ve got your de-cluttering strategy, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. As you start to sort through the clutter in each area of your home, fight your impulse to just throw old things into the bin: consider whether they can be donated, sold, or recycled. That stockpile of baby clothes you have that you’re new born is quickly growing out of can be donated to charity, sold at a garage sale, or re-gifted to a friend who is expecting. Likewise, the unwanted pieces in your bedroom closet can be bagged for charity or taken to a local consignment store, where you may earn some money for your old clothes.

With the baby’s toys taking up so much space, you may be looking to get rid of some furniture in your living room or spare bedroom to create additional play spaces for the little one. Instead of investing precious time and energy holding a garage sale, list these items on a website like Craigslist or Preloved to earn some quick cash. As for your old electronics and tech gadgets, you can sell mobile phones, laptops, CD, DVD, and game collections through an online recycling program like musicMagpie.

Remember that while your home may never return to pre-baby levels of organisation, you can make everyday life a little less chaotic by clearing out the clutter. Your clutter-free home will make finding that favourite toy or cute new baby outfit a lot easier as well, giving you some peace of mind in your new role as a mum.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The migraines are back

I sort of knew it after having to take a week off last year after crawling into a ball with the most horrible headache and nausea.

Blood tests were fine, extra strength pain killers prescribed, and I decided to put it down to stress and sort my life out.

In spite of making mainly positive moves in the holy grail of a work life balance, the headaches have been returning and each time taking a few days out of my life.

And it's that horrible thing. In an utterly crap way it's worse than being the headache- contacting your boss to let them know you won't be in work.
I don't mean to sound judgmental, but I wonder what goes through peoples heads.
I genuinely don't think my commitment to work can be questioned.
And so, as an adult am I thought to be skiving.
And, as someone who works from home, if I was that unscrupulous I wouldn't need to phone in.
(Blast from the past, starting in job, being told that three people in the same role had competitions to see who could stay in the pyjamas longest of a morning. Two weeks later becoming their manager. Such fond memories!).
But yes, it would seem that despite being ill the guilt of not being in work remains.

So, the doctor has decided on a diagnosis of migraine attacks.
I know he's right. But I'm gutted.
I suffered from migraines in my teens, and was over the moon when I moved from school to college that they suddenly disappeared.
And I suspected this was them, although I didn't want to think it.

And it does seem some other medication I'm on may be adding to the symptoms, so that's gone with immediate effect, a replacement found.
More painkillers.
And for the next one, a new thing for me, sumatriptan- I am left with the hope that this may be reduce the migraines once triggered.

I'm feeling done in.
But must admit, a cuddle from the little ones always makes the world a better place.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates- Battle Boat Review


Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates Hook's Battle Boat Review


Whenever Squeaks is invited to a 'Pirates and Princesses' party she always opts for the Pirate option.
It goes hand in hand with her love of Jake and the Never Land Pirates.

Since all three had cuddly toys from the Disney Store for Christmas, we were made up to be offered the chance to review Disney's Captain Hook's Battle Boat.
Even better, the postman delivered it on the boys' birthday, during their nap.
So Squeaks who was feeling a little hard done to was very excited to open a parcel!








The battle boat has five detachable parts- Captain Hook, a firing cannon, and three firing 'cannon balls'. The boat is on wheels so can be pushed along.

Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates Hook's Battle Boat Review
The toy is designed for ages 3 and up, and the parts do present a potential choking hazard. However, anyone with children who cross the age span may appreciate my view that as long as it's supervised play all toys are shared.

The boys have just turned two, and seem to have passed the stage of putting things in their mouth, and they have completely loved firing the cannon and there may be a tendency for one of the three to make away with the detachable firing cannon if they're not getting their own way!

Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates Hook's Battle Boat Review
As the toy is one that is only used when there's an adult around, its currency has increased.
It is a toy which is much loved by the boys and one child can be entertained for at least 20 minutes (my general hope for any toy!).
Squeaks at three gets a lot more creative play from it, tending to bring other toys into her space and imagining away as Hook gets called to account... Tiny on the other hand showers Hook with kisses!
Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates Hook's Battle Boat Review
I would definitely rate this as a good all round toy for 3's and up, if your child is a fan of pirates and/or Jake and the Never Land Pirates it would rate as a great toy.
Retailing at £17.00 does give an appearance of a pricey toy. Weighed up with toys of a similar price the Battle Boat is definitely worth it. At the moment the toy is used in every day play, and is providing each child with lots of individual play. For us, the toy is definitely encouraging sharing! It's really sweet to watch them rotate 'go's' on the firing cannon when mummy's had to intervene for a lack of sharing! (Fortunately they are too young and naive contemplating aiming it anywhere!).

And, if you needed any other recommendation for the toy- this is Tiny when he thought he had made away with the ship:
Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates Hook's Battle Boat Review

Disclaimer: We were provided with a Hook's Battle Boat for the purposes of this review. The opinions  contained are based solely on our views and we have not been directed as to any content.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Project #365 - Week 3

So, welcome to my bubble.
This week I attended an event where someone referred to a 'skills bubble', one of my customers said how much they liked the phrase.
On Friday I discovered I lived in a 'snow bubble' and as a result no snow will feature in my photos this week.

Our week:

Sunday: the boys are excited to open their birthday gift- woohoo for duplo!

Monday: the little ones are treated to tea in front of the tv ahead of mummy working away. And, as a first, they behaved impeccably (as much as a three year old and 2 two year olds can).

Tuesday: Mr J sent me a photo of Miller dog (I went away without a camera)

Wednesday: Mr J sent me a photo of him and Squeaks taking Nana Windows out for her birthday.

Thursday: I started work on a new project... just need a few more pieces to finish it!

Friday: This will be a long story, I left for work (in London) at 0530. There was no snow. I drove for 30mins and the snow was so bad I decided to turn back (if it was like this now, what would it be like trying to get home). At 0900 there was still no snow settled. All the schools were shut. Travel 10mins down the road the snow was bad. We live in a snow bubble. I blame the salt air.
So, here are the boys- with only angelic thoughts in their head!

Saturday: Photo of the week- Tiny makes away with Squeaks' new toy- he almost seems proud of himself!




TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky


Friday, 18 January 2013

How do you decide on hair styles for boys?

I have so little confidence with boys. Things that never crossed my mind with Squeaks now churn over in my head with the boys. Probably because Squeaks hair just grew at a sort of 'usual' pace, and now it takes everything in our power to keep it neat and tidy, because it is fine, curly and gets so knotty and matted, no matter how much conditioner.

On the other hand, the boys seem to have fair thick hair, which grows at a rate of knots rather than being knotty.

Before I had even had chance to think over hair styles I went to work and came home to boys with short hair.
The day remains etched in my mind, I had traveled to Wolverhampton, it was icy cold, and at 11 months old Mr J had taken clippers to the boys hair. He sent me the photo by phone, yes, the boys were smiling, but...
I wasn't entirely pleased. It seemed to short.
There was an element that Mr J was right, when their hair gets too long it sticks up on end- Mr J was addressing the problem.
And the fact the boys were happy with Mr J taking clippers to their heads, and Mr J was confident in doing so.
I began to think I was over reacting.

But, he continued to cut their hair. Until I had to speak up. They looked so cold with their hair so short.

So, he started cutting it a little less short.
And then we came to an agreement.
That between November (the last haircut) and the boys starting playschool in March that we will grow their hair and see if it suits them.
And see if the sticking up bit which Tiny has grows out with length.

I think Cheeky's hair is still suiting him. But Tiny's just seems to look messy, like he slept on it funny.

It's odd, so many of the little boys at Squeaks' school have such cute long hair, very few have short hair... how do you decide what suits your child?
I think this is going to be one of those 'learning by doing' things.
And maybe will come out the other side with a solution which helps everyone- maybe hair styles will help people tell the boys apart!

So, if you have boys, how did you decide on whether to keep their hair short or to let it grow?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Raising twin boys: time for another change

So, Christmas was a time of quiet consideration for us about how Cheeky and Tiny will be cared for in 2013.
2012 saw the introduction of a childminder, as well as support from my mum.
As we move into 2013 my mum has made her own decision, and brought down by peer pressure has decided to (persuaded my dad to let her) retire.

My mum's decision gives us a little more freedom which she is happy to accommodate.
With the boys turning two it also means they are old enough to start playschool.

So, we've been doing a bit of a reccie as to what is going to work best for all involved.
I've also tried to consider the advice received after also contemplating whether the boys should have their own activities.

So, with my mum's support, we've decided to stop the boys being supported by the childminder.
This was a more difficult decision than I'd thought. As I'd mentioned before I wasn't convinced on using a childminder, yet the bond the boys have so quickly built up meant I have been really reluctant in this decision.

The flipside is, that with my mum looking after the boys on a Thursday and Friday it means they can start playschool three mornings a week.

The boys can do taster sessions before starting proper, and then build up to three mornings.

This has been really important to me. Again, wasn't fussed on the playschool at first- in my world it didn't compare the pre-school in Yorkshire. And again, the bond Squeaks has with the carers, and how easy it made the transition to nursery school, that all her friends with with her on this journey.

So, my mum will continue to make the most of the children whilst they aren't in full time schooling, and they'll be able to go to playschool and create relationships to see them into school.

Then, there was the consideration about the children having their own time. At the moment playschool is open four mornings a week, and Squeaks attends three mornings. Whilst the boys attending seperate days doesn't seem practical, we've decided that the boys will attend the day Squeaks doesn't and vice versa.

And the good news! To convince Mr J that this arrangement would benefit him, I mapped 2012 and 2013 on paper, and without knowing (assuming I was wrong) it all works, for everyone!
It means Mr J has a bit more routine (no matter how much he rebels, he knows he prefers it!), and Cheeky and Tiny will get to build relationships with children at playschool.


And yes, this will come into effect after Easter.
And it will only last until the Summer holidays.
And then Squeaks will start school full time.
And we'll wonder where the time has gone.
And change things all over again.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Canagan Dog Food Review

Miller has been eating well this month! Miller is our cocker spaniel, and a much loved member of our family. Miller has probably played a supporting role on the blog but really stepped up to a feature part eagerly!
Miller was offered the opportunity to review Canagan Dog Food.

Canagan is the first British made grain free dog food.
As a grain free it means a dog won't suffer any grain related allergies.
How is this achieved? Well oddly, although not to anyone who has weaned babies, with Sweet Potatoes.
Sweet potatoes offer an alternative to grains as they provide a good source of soluble fibre, a slow, steady release of energy, and are packed full of vitamins and antioxidants.

Having weaned three babies with sweet potato as the only commonly loved food it was no surprise that Miller loved Canagan.

Oddly, the day it was delivered Miller took the same protective stance toward the bag as the cats do to theirs. This in itself was odd- Miller has never been particularly attached to food in the past.
We had to go out and when we returned a couple of hours later he was still guarding the food, and was even happy to pose with the food- and adon a baby's bib!

Over the month Miller's been testing the food, he has remained excited at meal times, he has maintained his health and energy, and has remained on usual meal portions. Fortunately, despite the sweet potato content none of the children showed any leaning towards it.

For every consideration we'd have for a dog food for Miller, this ticked our list. I was really pleased to see Miller looking forward to meals as with some in the past you have felt tempted, given his reaction, to add milk. This hasn't even crossed our minds.


So, in summary Canagan is:
  • Closer to a dog's ancestral diet
  • Grain free
  • High meat content
  • Over 60% nutritious animal ingredients
  • Contains sweet potato, more digestible than grains with a low GI (Glycaemic Index) for a slower release of energy
  • Highly palatable
  • Free of artificial colourings and flavourings
  • Preserved naturally
  • Free of dairy, genetically modified ingredients and growth hormones
  • Is proudly made in Great Britain
  • Contains a host of botanicals with a wide range of therapeutic properties
Of the points you can imagine we could appreciate- we did, additionally we did appreciate those which we can only take on good faith- Miller did enjoy the food, unlike other dog foods he was excited when the cupboard door was opened. Miller remained full of energy and in high spirits, he digested it well with no problems (as he has had with some food in the past).

We would recommend this dog food, it is a high quality food, and best of all, as a differentiator you are 'buying British'.

Canagan is available in a variety of sizes from Pets Corner both online and at local stores.

Disclaimer- We received Canagan dog food for the purposes of this review. The opinions contained are based solely on our views and we have not been directed as to any content.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Project #365 - Week #2

Well, on a positive note, I went back to work, and in spite of fears that I'd catch what everyone has had, I haven't- woohoo!

On the not so positive note, Mr J and Squeaks were put on antibiotics this week as they haven't improved.

On the up, Tiny and Cheeky were given the all clear by the doctor on Wednesday so got to go to the childminders on Thursday and Friday.

It did put a dampner on birthday celebrations, Mr J's on Wednesday and the boys today. We planned to go to the zoo, and I'm now hoping we can go next weekend.

And then, to add insult to injury, my memory card on my phone is damaged, so I haven't got the better photos in all cases, just the ones I've managed to recover or from my pentax.

So, Sunday, I spent half hour in the office tidying it ready for 'back to work'. I had walked out before Christmas leaving it as it was- and it was a state. Despite a bag of recycling and 30 minutes effort, it looked in no better a state [a desperation photo].

Monday, with the boys with my parents, and me in London, I received a photo of the walking wounded (are you convinced?). [A desperation photo].

Tuesday, I couldn't convince myself to get out of bed, so this was me not getting to the tube till gone half eight. Fortunately made it to the office by nine and no one was any the wiser. [A desperation photo].

Wednesday, I love the moments when my children play happily together. Duplo appears to be a fundamental part of this relationship.

Thursday: Cheeky takes a look down the camera, on the road to full health.

Friday: Tiny decides it's his turn. Slightly snottier, but still happy (I promise).

Saturday: Tiny received a Duplo Zoo for his birthday and convinces grandma that the tiger should also have a drink.





TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky


Friday, 11 January 2013

From babies to toddlers- the twins turn two!

Tomorrow, we hit another milestone.
An exciting milestone.
And a little tear creeps in, my babies have grown so much.

Tomorrow, my babies turn two.
We have spent two years referring to you as 'the babies'.
I don't really like 'the twins' and 'the boys' has always referred to your cousins.
But I think tomorrow we might have to start adopting the phrase 'the boys'.

It's been an unbelievable two years. Each year has seen so much changing as you develop and grow. This time last year you weren't walking. And now you're like speed demons whenever a door is left open.

I now understand the advice the lovely mums of multiples have given me, that personalities change so much and you can't say that one is 'this' because within a week it's changed.

You have adapted to so much change and shown so much understanding.
The giddiness when I ask you to get your shoes and coats.
The excitement when your backpack reins are brought out.
The giggles and cheers as we drive into the street where grandma and grampy live, or when you go to the childminders.
The mischief when I pop upstairs to do something and come back and find you both sat on the settee with a yoghurt and spoon in hand.
And the chaos and bedlam of mornings where you are so happy to just play in your cots.... and throw as much as possible onto the floor.

And now the excitement of Christmas. Of opening presents.
And now, everytime the Scuttlebugs come out with us.

The excitement and hypnotism of Peppa Pig.
So unlike your big sister in this regard.
For you two there has only ever been Peppa and George.
Nothing else will compare.

And as for your blankies.
Those muslins, as were sick blankets, which now offer so much comfort.
Although we are slowly trying to adapt to blankies and dummies only at bed time.


Tiny turns two.
And you are the mummy's boy.
Only by an inch.
But having been poorlier than your siblings, and always getting things first and worst, you know that a cwtch from mummy will make everything better.
Sometimes mummy thinks you're not as confident as Cheeky going up and down stairs.
Until one of the stairgates is accidentally left open.
You love your brother and sister, and are happy to play or sit with them, although on the whole if it gets dirty you come off worst!
Everytime we think your brother leads you into trouble, you prove us wrong. You are just as likely to find trouble, you're just a little bit better at pinning the blame on him!
You love the candles on your sister's Creative Cakes lego, and maybe just maybe you're always hiding things where your siblings can't find them.
You are a content child, a happy child, with the best laugh in the world.

Lots of love xxx

So, Cheeky, at two.
What can we say?
You have so much love to give, and you give the best kisses.
In saying that, you throw the best punches, pack the best kicks, and throw like a professional cricketer.
You have remained the bolshy brother.
No-one, not your brother, your sister, or even your daddy can throw a tantrum quite like you.
And it's so difficult at times to take you seriously as things just mean so much to you.
Like who gets to take the lid off your yoghurt.
But your laugh.
Being so ticklish means you can be turned from tears and tantrums to hysterical laughter within a minute.
And as for your dinosaurs.
You unwrapped your Christmas presents with precision.
And when it came to the dinosaurs, well they were yours!
Maybe they were really for everyone.
And you have been happy to share them.
But on your terms, you hold the tub and the rights to opening the lid.
Your laughter is contagious, your passion uncontrollable, and your kisses never ending.

Lots of love xxx

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Trying to figure out a career plan

I do this every now and then.
I think I need to know what I want to be when I grow up.
Although, even when I was 'growing up' I couldn't make a decision.
When I left school I wanted to be a lawyer.
I took English, French and History A-levels, and a GCSE in Drama.
After a few months I decided it wasn't for me, I dropped History for Theatre Studies.

When I left college I wanted to teach drama.
I started a degree "Teaching Drama in Secondary Education", or something like that.
After a few months I decided it wasn't for me, I changed universities.
When I changed universities I wanted to specialise in SEN.
I completed a degree in Education & Communications.
And decided it wasn't for me, and made my part time job my career.

I moved to England and commenced my career in retail.
After a couple of years I decided it wasn't for me, I decided to change careers.

At the time I decided I wanted to be a trainer, or work in HR.
I didn't have CIPD which seemed to stand in my way.
But Monster picked up the keyword 'training' and I applied for a job.
My new career was born.
I was a Regional Strategy Adviser.
As you can imagine, it was the job I had always wanted...

I was that gobshite who came in promising I'd only be there three years, to establish myself, and go on to bigger and better things.

I got divorced, moved 200 miles, changed jobs, went on secondment, met someone, moved 30 miles, went back to my old job, got engaged, went back to uni, got promoted, got pregnant, got married, got pregnant, moved 200 miles, went on secondment.

And somehow July 2012 will see my twelfth year of service.

I came back from my second maternity leave to be presented with a pen, pencil and certificate. My long service award. I could have (and may be did privately) cried, I came back from maternity knowing this was it, and to be commended for staying somewhere so long was not what I need to hear.

So what now?
I would love my third pregnancy.
Mr J and I have spoken at length.
I think (because I know he loves me) it could happen.
But that's not really the point.

I can't imagine, moreover afford, a fourth (and fifth?!) child being brought into our home for a few years. That's the hard fact.
And if we wait... well, Mr J and I aren't getting any younger.
And I guess, it would be that just as we'd be coming out the other side, we'd be back where we are now.
And, there's the obvious risk of having twins again.
And, when we talk about the future, about me not working away, and Mr J going back to work.
And, the reality of the positives of my job.
Well, that would all be thrown to pot.

It is so difficult to rationalise the emotion associated with children and family, with that of finances, and employment, and age, but I think that is what is left.

We have the most amazing family.
And we are content, and happy.
(And frustrating, ill and whiney).
And fulfilled.

And so, this is us, the Johnson's.

And I will start dreaming up my future career.
Because I've been so good at that in the past.

In two years time the boys will start school.
And Mr J will start work.
And maybe, just maybe, I can have the job I always dreamed of...
.... If only I knew what it were....

...Well, I've got two years to figure it out!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Happy Birthday Mr J

Mr J,

I hope you feel a little better today. I think we've reached 10 days of you feeling rough.
I think I might need to start taking Man-Flu a bit more seriously. Especially as the children have felt the need to share your germs. Oh, and my mum. I'm just not questioning why me and my dad are the only people to remain in a near healthy, sleep deprived state.

I digress.
So today, we return to the status quo. Ten years on me eh?!

Parenthood has certainly had it's toll.
I'd love to be kinder... but we know it's been tough.

But that glint in your eye.... that's the one the same one I see in all three of our children. Whenever there's mischief in our path.

Today, for health and financial reasons...

...how on earth did you schedule Christmas, your birthday and two of your children's birthday to full within the same pay packet? I'm assuming planning could have been involved...

... we might be delaying birthday celebrations.

But that's right, it's because you're ill, and we're doing you a favour!

Mr J, I hope you have the most fantastic year ahead of you. I hope we continue to create the most fantastic moments, and memories.

Happy Birthday xxx

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Thinking about a 2013 holiday?


I always remember my boss telling me that every year, on the 1st January he went to the local travel agent and booked his holidays for the year. I was horrified.
And then there was the boss who holidayed in the same place every year, the same hotel and everything. He even took two suitcases (one for the first week, one for the weight gain of week two).
Needless to say I stay as far away from these two role models as possible.

However, when the festivities of Christmas are over, and all you have are the thoughts of dark early mornings, and the return to work and school runs- surely the best thing you can do is make sure you know when your respite is due? To know the holidays are there and the countdown can begin!

For the past few years we've holidayed at Center Parcs. We have loved it. But it comes with the proviso that we go when it's affordable to us, in term time. We'll go there probably for the final time in November this year, knowing that holidays after this will be appreciating all three will be in state education.
I caught this conversation with a fellow twin mum which summed things up:

We've looked at a few options: hotels, self-catering, camping- home or abroad?
We've got thoughts about doing something over the summer when all three are in school, but there's also all the half terms to think about.

We've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to 'test drive' Butlins this year. We're really looking forward to the opportunity as, like Trouble Doubled we're looking for a contender for holidays which keep our children entertained.

With a choice of Skegness, Bognor Regis and Minehead we've opted for Bognor Regis- Minehead seems too close (we can see it from the garden [albeit the Bristol Channel stands in the way]) and Skegness too far.

Next we needed to decide on accommodation. Butlins offers both self catering and half board accommodation (I really didn't know that), and at it's Bognor Regis resort also offers hotel accommodation in addition to apartments.

We've opted for the Ocean Hotel. I was really pleased to find a hotel where all five of us could stay in the same room and this seemed like too good an option to not try. Whilst I appreciate the door way between two hotel rooms is the same as at home (more so really) I have been uneasy about booking holidays where I need to book two hotel rooms (the cost does also play a part) so the fact we can have a hotel experience whilst staying in one space is a real bonus for my family of five.

We've opted to go for Squeaks' 4th birthday, it's just outside holiday time (which means we get her company for three instead of just the two week Easter break!) and really intend to make the most of the time, given how excited she is.... and it's only January!

The next thing on my list is to look at the activities and the things we can do as a family. To be honest, knowing there's a swimming pool is all the little ones really need to know, but having explored the brochure I really want to make the most of our break.

So, excuse me, I'm off to do some desk research... any hints or tips will be gratefully appreciated!!

Disclosure: Our 4 night break for 5 at Bognor Regis including a dining plan and with all discounts available at the time of booking would have cost £824. We are being provided with this holiday by Butlins in return for an honest review. All views and opinions expressed are our own.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Chatting with Children - A review

I was really pleased to be given the opportunity to review a new activity pack- Chatting with Children helps adults support children in developing communication skills, and is aimed at 3-5 year olds.
I CAN, the children's communication charity, has followed on from Babbling Babies and Toddler Talk with this gorgeous Conran-designed pack aimed at enhancing speaking and understanding skills.

Squeaks loves the talk. In spite of this, in all of my children it is the ability I am most focused on ensuring they are up to speed with. My insecurity comes from spending my primary education being supported a speech therapist and additional classes to respond to my learning difficulties, as a result I am aware that there is a possibility that this could emerge in my children.

The activity pack contains a guide which allows the pack to be used as a six week programme, which is a great kick off to getting to grips with it. Due to the size of the cards (A5) they are great to carry around or use in the home.

The pack contains 30 fun and interactive activity cards which are themed by colour and animal:

The activity cards feature a variety of animal and that was where the fun started for us. Squeaks particularly likes the bear dressed as a pirate, and as a result is quite adept at thinking up ideas for her future (interestingly she classes 'mummy' as a job!).

So, the cards are really designed to prompt activities, they offer fun things to do with your children, with an added reassurance that they are enhancing speaking, listening and understanding skills in the process.


A really helpful aspect of the cards is as well as giving you the activity they also give options should the task be too difficult or too easy. This is really helpful in tailoring to your child, it has also given me a sense of how to tailor some of the activities for the boys, who are approaching 2, as it means I get a clear understanding of a learning path.

The great part of the cards is, mood dependent, you can choose an activity which needs as many or as few 'props' as required. This means it is as easy to use in the car, in the house, or even if you know you're going to be waiting around somewhere.
Obviously from Squeaks' perspective she loves the ones which create as much as possible, the activities including sound makers and those where she draws her images on paper. However these are equally dispersed with activities which focus exclusively on recognising vocabulary.

Babbling Babies, Toddler Talk and Chatting with Children are each available from I CAN in paperback for £7.99 or hardback for £12.99.
Additionally, Chatting with Children is also available as part of a brand new boxset: the Early Talkers Boxset (£19.99); the boxset contains the original Babbling Babies and Toddler Talk as well as the new Chatting with Children,  supporting children from birth to school age.

Whilst we lived in Yorkshire I was fortunate enough to have great support from my health visitor who understood my concerns and Squeaks had a speech therapist referral just after she turned 2. It was a great insight into what a parent should look for, and offered me a great deal of reassurance as to her development.

If you have any queries or concerns about your child's communication, please contact the I CAN Help Enquiry Service for a call or email from a speech and language therapist- visit www.ican.org.uk/help

Disclosure: I received a copy of the Chatting with Children Activity Pack for the purposes of this review. All views expressed are entirely my own.
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