Here Goes…

I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’ve joined a gym!

When we lived in Dorset we were members of a David Lloyd health club – I thought this therefore made me healthy! I used to enjoy going there several times a week making good use of the children’s activity classes, the Costa, the Sunday carvery…

I did use the swimming pool too but as the children were very small, I spent most of my time keeping them afloat rather than exercising. I had a programme in the gym, but to be honest I think I genuinely did think I was being fit and active just by being a member!

My husband is fanatical about exercise and goes to the gym most days. I’m not, but if you follow me on Twitter or read my blog regularly, you will be aware that 2016 is the year I’m determined to get fitter, healthier and more active. Having lost (almost) 2 stone since the start of January, I am starting to see results a bit now and I’ve been walking and running on a regular basis. The trouble is, there are times when I have been motivated enough to do exercise (note how I didn’t say that I wanted to exercise!) but it’s simply been too cold or wet to make it viable. Add to that the weird allergy I have which has stumped doctors and ophthalmologists alike which cause my eyes to water uncontrollably from March through to September the moment I step outside giving me very unflattering eczema all around my eyes if I’m not careful, I know that my days of running outside are numbered, and having come this far I don’t want it all to go to pot!

So after thinking about it, we decided to upgrade my husband’s gym membership to a family membership as this will mean the children can swim for free too – they lost this right after they stopped their swimming lessons last year (a decision you can read about here).

This gym however is no David Lloyd – the closest one is 30 miles away unfortunately. This gym is just that – functional, good equipment but no Costa or Sunday carvery in sight!

I didn’t think I would ever find myself joining a gym, but although it’s more money, once we’ve factored in the children’s swimming now being free, I only actually have to go for 7 minutes a month to make it financially worthwhile – even I can manage that right?! Wish me luck!

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Gym-tastic? Or not?!

The other day was a very icy morning, so when I went out to the car and saw the frozen windscreen, I told the children we’d have to wait a bit before we could leave. Eventually, we got in the car but as I got onto the road, I realised that although the ice had melted, the windscreen itself was completed misted and I couldn’t see, so I told the children I needed to pull over.

At this point, my 6 year old son was flabbergasted:

“Mummy! Don’t stop! Sometimes things are difficult but you can’t just give up. You need to PERSEVERE!”

My children attend a Church of England primary school, and each month has a different Christian value as a focus throughout school. This month it was perseverance! After I’d made it clear I wasn’t ‘giving up’ but rather waiting for a chance to be safer, it was all ok!

However, perseverance is a funny one isn’t it? There are many things that frankly, children don’t have a choice over – their entire school days are made up of a curriculum they have to follow, and for many, home life operates with military precision to squeeze everything in that needs to be done – children and adults alike!

Clubs are one decision that my children have always made for themselves. Each term, they choose which school club (if any) they would like to do, and they have regular clubs outside of school too – both do gymnastics, my daughter goes to Brownies and my son is on the waiting list for Beavers, but I have been told that he’s unlikely to get a place before he’s too old to go! They’ve also had ballet, football and swimming but it’s difficult to know when is the right time to let them stop doing an activity – when it’s not ‘giving up’ but rather deciding something isn’t for you, because let’s face it, these after school activities aren’t kind to the bank balance either!

The swimming was the first activity to go – I was adamant that my children would have swimming lessons because I didn’t want them to fear the water, but I also wanted them to know its dangers and how to be safe, however they were so unenthused by their lessons that after a year of begging to stop, I gave in and now they go to public swimming sessions weekly instead – the enjoyment they get from these sessions has completely transformed the way they are around water – it was definitely the right decision, but only because they still swim regularly. My son on the other hand decided to stop going to football, because he didn’t like the fact that some of the other children kept trying to get the ball off him (we had a chat about some of the basics of the game)!

At the moment, Brownies and gymnastics are still happening, but I think the days are numbered with gymnastics as they don’t seem quite so enthusiastic about it as they were, it’s just such a tricky thing as we’re trying to encourage these activities as hobbies, yet when the children aren’t having fun, can they still be hobbies? Sometimes I think the answer can be yes, as my daughter is proof of…

If you follow me on Twitter or read my blog regularly, you’ll know that in my spare time I’m a primary school teacher, music specialist and I also teach privately at home. A couple of years ago, my daughter, aged only 6 at the time said after I finished teaching one night:

“Okay Mummy, I’ve been listening to you teaching through the walls and I think I know the songs now. When can I do my Grade 1?!”

I’ve never put any pressure on the children to choose music lessons just because it’s what I do, and any of you who have seen the amount of work the children need to put into getting ready for an exam will understand the concerns I had when my 6 year old daughter announced she wanted to have a go! It’s not just about performing the pieces accurately, the children also get assessed on their ability to read traditional music notation at sight and answer questions about music that they hear. The ABSRM exams are also very traditional and formal in their approach.

Nevertheless, my daughter was determined that she wanted a go, so I helped her prepare. She loved the performing but we had many tears over the sight singing until one day it clicked. Thankfully this day was literally the day before the exam, but I think both of us could have quite happily given up at times – in fact I went up to bed and found this once:

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When the results came out, not only had she passed her exam with Distinction, age 7, she’d only gone and got the highest mark I’d ever seen, not just in my career as a music teacher, but also in all the years I’d been taking those exams, and was subsequently invited to take part in the ABRSM High Achievers Concert! I’m so glad we persevered, and since then she’s got Grade 2 Distinction under her belt, and is getting ready to do Grade 3 next term!

 

So should we be pushing our children to carry on, or, if it’s supposedly a hobby, should they be able to make the choice not to if it isn’t something they enjoy, to give them the chance to find their niche? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Getting There (The Dukan Way)… Month 2

I can’t believe that it’s already month 3 of the new, healthy eating, regularly exercising me! I wrote about my first few weeks here. I decided just before Christmas after stepping on the evil doctor’s scales (that’s the scales that were evil, not the doctor!) that enough was enough and that I was going to sort my weight once and for all.

Obviously the amount of weight I am losing is slowing down, but it is still happening. I’ve now lost 25lb in total, which is 14% of my body weight, and while I am very much of the opinion that the number on the scales is not the be all and end all, I now weigh 1lb less than I did on my wedding day 11 years ago (and pre children!) which is a very satisfying feeling!

The Dukan diet which I’ve been following is a high protein, low carb plan so lots of meat and veggies, but drinking water and regular exercise are also part of the deal so I’ve been having to be very disciplined as neither of these come naturally to me, especially the latter! I started off in January forcing myself to go out for a 30 minute walk every day and I managed to stick to it, but soon felt that I could probably push myself to a gentle jog. Very gradually I upped the exercise and am now running about 3 times a week, and this month saw me complete my first ever 10 mile run so I’m quite chuffed with myself on that front too!

This diet isn’t the best if you are eating out, as most food has at least some carby element but I survived a lovely Mother’s Day meal at Jamie’s Italian last weekend by completely indulging myself and just forgetting about it for a day – I had 3 courses and enjoyed every mouthful, because let’s face it, I wouldn’t be doing this now if it wasn’t for the fact that I like food! I was straight back to it the next day, but did I feel guilty? No I did not – life is for living! Next step – those size 10 jeans!

 

A Soapy Issue…

I’m not talking about personal hygiene here, although if you follow me on Twitter you may be aware that this wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate after I got projectile vomited on yesterday during a lesson (the fact that Ofsted were in school was a minor additional detail)!

My children are growing up so fast and our days of Doc McStuffins and Dora the Explorer are long gone. Nowadays, whenever I switch the TV on, it seems to have been paused on some Disney Channel programme or other – Bunk’d, Austin & Ally, Girl Meets World, Liv and Maddie, you name it, my children love it.

The other day, my daughter asked when she would be ‘allowed’ to watch ‘more grown up’ programmes, such as Eastenders and Call the Midwife as all her friends watch them. Obviously I take this with a pinch of salt, but the fact is some of her peers are watching these programmes, just like some of her peers are allowed to play computer games recommended for over 18s. It has however got me thinking about what is suitable and what isn’t.

We all went to see Star Wars together at Christmas – a 12A, all was good, the same with Pitch Perfect. I remember a few years back all sitting down to watch Grease because hubby and I had both forgotten about ‘that’ scene in the car! Ultimately, it comes down to our own individual judgments I guess, but I’m really not sure with this one. It’s not like the children aren’t allowed to watch soaps and other ‘pre watershed’ programmes, it’s just because they are generally broadcast after they go to bed I haven’t really considered it, but then the children point out that we record other programmes like Strictly and Bake Off and watch them together later. It’s not like there is bad language in these programmes, and I think a lot of the storylines would go over their heads. Yes, they may ask questions, but I’m ok with questions. When I was my daughter’s age, maybe not my son’s, I definitely watched Corrie!

So, what do you let your children watch and when is the right age to move on from the Disney Channel?! That said, I do have a soft spot for Girl Meets World even if it does make me feel ancient given that I grew up with Boy Meets World and he is now the Daddy!

Babies No More

I’ve loved every (well almost every) moment of being a Mum so far. The laughs, the loves and the challenges it brings, but with my youngest turning 7 in just a few weeks and my eldest about to turn 9, it’s suddenly dawned on me that they’re not babies any more. They’ll always be my babies of course, and although I still want to cherish every moment and freeze time at every given opportunity, I wouldn’t want to go back in time any more.

Some may be sad those baby days are over, others may see this as proof there is light at the end of the tunnel. For me, I’ve realised that this is just another stage that I would like to freeze in time forever, but there are definitely some aspects of parenting that I don’t miss!

You can structure your day without having nap times blocked out

We were always very disciplined when it came to routine. As teachers, we were used to our lives being governed by timetables and found that our children were as predictable as clockwork too, so when we suddenly realised that we could accept invitations at any time without having to worry about when they were going to nap, eat, poo, it was so liberating!

You can have a shower while the children are awake

This was actually my prompt for writing this post. Yesterday, the children were at gymnastics, and rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to drink some tea while it is still hot as I would have done until quite recently, I decided to go for a run (yes really, read about my mission to get fitter here!). When we got back, I quickly got some tea for the children, and asked if they minded me having a quick shower while they ate it. And I did! They may have walked in several times for emergencies, such as needing to know if Qatar is the only country in the world beginning with Q, but I was able to shower and then have some unstinky (me not them!) snuggly time before bed.

A ‘family film’ might actually be something that you genuinely are interested in watching

Going to watch the new Star Wars film was the defining moment here. All four of us equally excited. We didn’t even have to miss any of it to take the children to the toilet every five minutes!

You can wear jewellery

My sister in law recently had a baby. She’s gorgeous in every way and I love my cuddles, but how do 4 month old babies instinctively know which of your bracelets are most likely to break or choke them and then choose those ones to try and eat?! Nowadays I wear my jewellery with pride and for the most part, manage to keep it saliva free!

You can go out for an evening meal

The first time you can book a restaurant for an evening meal – as in actual evening rather than the 4:30pm type of evening meal you’ve had to endure in order to be back for bath time for oh so long – is amazing. A 7pm meal where you can wear nice clothes and aside from a few colouring pencils (and perhaps an iPad for emergencies), nothing else is needed!

8pm is not the middle of the night!

My daughter now finishes Brownies at 8pm. Sometimes we nip into the shop afterwards to pick up a few bits. Nothing exciting here, apart from the fact that 8pm exists again!

Homework is for the children

This term, my daughter has had to complete column addition and subtraction, giving her answers using hieroglyphics and complete a 500 word original story. My son has had to learn his times tables and find interesting ways of displaying them and create 3D models of Tudor houses. Obviously I’m on hand to help with homework, but essentially it is work for them, to extend their understanding and develop their ability to work independently. Which leads me nicely on to the next one…

You don’t have the pressure of having the class bear to visit

This is tongue in cheek, but who can honestly hold their hands up and say they didn’t feel the pressure to get out and do exciting things when Billy the Bear came home for the weekend?! The last time we had the class bear, he’d been to Paris the weekend before and climbed the Eiffel Tower. Aaaaargh!

Babysitting can be free

Older children don’t just pop round for lunch or tea – they have sleepovers – the holy grail for the children concerned and the parents alike! Until of course you realise that you haven’t returned the favour yet and it’s your turn to host a handful of 9 year olds…

You can wee on your own

Yeah right, just kidding – did you really think I was serious?! I’m still waiting for this day, will it ever happen?!

So, moments to cherish or light at the end of the tunnel? You decide, I’d love to know your thoughts!

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Booked!

As a young child I loved reading, but when I started secondary school, my enthusiasm dwindled. For me, a reading homework translated as ‘no homework!’ As time went on, reading became research and so I equated sitting with a book as studying and working, not relaxing. Then came children, and reading became oohing and aahing, touching and feeling. It’s only actually in the last couple of years that I’ve started reading for pure pleasure, and would rather sit with my head in a book than watch TV.

I’m very lucky that my children love reading, and through the way it is encouraged in school too, they both devour a great deal of books, and going to the library or Waterstones for a browse (and inevitably purchase!) is a treat they really treasure. I recently stumbled across this post by Melissa Taylor, and although as a teacher it was content that I was pretty much aware of, I was shocked that only 17% of parents of 9-11 year olds read to their children. I guess many assume that once they can read for themselves, children no longer have the need to be read to, and perhaps their desire to be read to becomes something that isn’t voiced on either side. If you asked my daughter (who is in this age category) what she would like to do, she would have a long list of requests that would probably not be related to books, but every evening we read, and every evening she just checks:

“Have we got time for you to read to me too?”

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When we read together we cuddle, she listens, asks questions, responds and most importantly enjoys the activity. She also enjoys snuggling up with her younger brother and doing the same.

It’s through this reading together that I’ve rediscovered how much I enjoy it too, by reading books again that I loved as a child (never diss Enid Blyton in my presence!) and for the first time in many years I’m finding the time to read for myself too.

I set myself the challenge last year to read 20 books over the course of the year, and I did achieve it (with 3 days to spare nonetheless!) but I found myself choosing books which I thought I could finish in time. I also chose a lot of free books making the most of my Kindle Lending Library, but reading shouldn’t be about numbers, so although I have a hunger to read every single book in the world ever, I’m making a really conscious effort this year to choose carefully and if that means I don’t read as many books, so be it. Reading time is quality time, so a mug full of Chai Latte tea in my Cath Kidston bucket mug, a comfy cushion and a good book is my idea of bliss right now. Rock and roll me! Send me your suggestions people!

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Our current selection!

 

Back to Basics

As my husband and I are both teachers, the school holidays are always a special time for us, and we well and truly caught the travel bug a couple of years back. We love going places  and like to have a trip booked. This half term was the first school holiday in a long while that we decided to stay at home. At first it felt like we were wasting an opportunity, but as the children seemed to get more and more tired as term went on, we realised that actually it was a sensible decision.

I have no problem whatsoever with lazy days, in fact, I get a real buzz out of knowing that I have a day ahead where I can eat breakfast at 10am in my pyjamas if I want to, but 9 days straight with no plans?

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I saw this photo on my Facebook feed the other day. It could be either of my children, I’m not going lie – they love their screens, but I think in all our business, I’d forgotten some of the basics which the children still enjoy doing. They seem so grown up compared to the little bundles I gave birth to, but they’re still children, and there’s so many things that children still love:

A trip into town…

We’ve lived just outside Bath for over 4 years now, yet we’ve never visited the Roman Baths – famous history on our doorstep! Although we ended up having a nice lunch too and it therefore wasn’t a particularly cheap day, it was something we’d never done – no need to drive for hours!

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Cooking…

The routines we live by during the week really limit the luxury of taking our time to prepare meals. Working together to create something yummy was so much fun, especially as I am now aware that they can work almost completely on their own now.

Swimming…

My husband takes the children swimming most Sundays, but this week, I got out with them and enjoyed it too – having lost a bit of weight which you can read about here, I felt a lot more confident venturing out in my swimsuit, so hopefully I might get invited along again soon!

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This was taken last year in Turkey  – the only photo I have of the four of us swimming together!

Playing independently…

My husband and I were both talking the other day about how much time we spend doing things together, going away, even watching a family film or playing a game together – something that I’m sure many families try to do more of, but actually there were times this week when the children were quite happy to play together and it was lovely to see! Those toys that they got for Christmas came out of the boxes, the Lego got built, and despite how unimpressed they were at going this morning, they got all the cuddly toys out and played schools nearly every day! That imaginative, make believe play is something I want to bottle up and keep forever!

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All ready for register and assembly!

So if people ask me what I did over the school holiday, my answer will most likely be “not a lot,” but actually we did do quite a lot, it’s just we didn’t go away and with how refreshed I feel from having a rest, I’m ok with that!

 

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