Toy Review – Bandai Bananas Series 3

We received a lovely treat today when a package arrived with a rather posh looking hamper from the Bananas Collectibles range from Bandai Toys. The toys are all themed around pieces of fruit therefore the hamper was full of fresh fruit and packaged beautifully. The children loved delving into the hamper and finding the hidden fruit underneath and most excitingly the toys! The whole hamper smelt delicious and we soon found the toys were fruit scented which the children loved.

The children were eager to open the 3 Bananas Assortment Bunch we received. The children loved the fact that to open and find the “Crushie” and other toys inside they had to peel the toy Banana as they would peel a real Banana. Inside each Banana was a Crushie which they could identify against the identification guide, gemstone stickers for decorating either the Banana or the Crushie, hanging vine for the Crushie, character sticker and two mini squeezable friends. The children loved identifying their Crushie and were extra excited when they realised they had found one of the “rare” Crushies.

The children thoroughly enjoyed opening their Bananas and also liked the fact that all of the pieces could then be resealed back inside the Banana to keep them safe and to act as a little home of all the accessories that came inside. As a parent this was also something I found “a-peeling” (couldn’t resist) due to the fact that usually when the children have these types of toys the pieces are lost within minutes, never to be found again in the abyss of my home. Having a resealable container such as the Banana has meant after they played with them today, they have been safely tidied away!

Our hamper also included the Bananas Strawberries Surprise brand new range which the children equally enjoyed by opening and finding the collectables inside the scented fruit. Similar to the Banana the toy contained a Crushie to collect and identify, gemstone stickers, hanging vine, character stickers and two mini friends. The Bananas Lemon and Lime collectables, like the strawberries, are sold as a pack of two and the Lemon and Limes as well as smelling amazing were also great fun to peel. The children had to pull the top stork part off to then peel the sides of the lemon and lime and find the toys inside. Once again the fruit was resealable and the contents could be safely stored away back inside for another day of games.

These toys are definitely something I would buy again myself for my own children and friends of a similar age (4 to 10) I can honestly say my children have had so much fun playing with Bandai’s Banana Collectables range today and I watched as their imaginations ran away with them as they played with their new characters. The Bananas Collectablesare being sold in Smyths and all other toy stores in the UK. They are retailing at £9.99 for the Bananas and from £4.99 for the brand new range Strawberries Surprise and Lemon and Limes Two Pack. Links below are to the toys featured at Smyths Toys. Full unboxing videos can be found on my Instagram pages.

https://www.smythstoys.com/uk/en-gb/toys/creativity-music-and-partyware/pocket-money/bananas-3-pack-assortment-bunch-3/p/178305

This was a gifted promotion.

My Marathon Journey – Weeks 1 – 4

https://www.justgiving.com/Cockneyinthecountryside

I would love to be able to tell you how I applied for the London 2020 Marathon and wrote out my well thought through application but the truth is I can’t remember. The first I knew about my marathon application was when a man from the National Autistic Society called offering me a place.

After several requests for him to repeat what he was saying, a flicker of a memory ebbed at my mind. The memory was of me after a few too many glasses of vino applying for my marathon place through the National Autistic Society. Drinking in general is not really something I do much these days and on this particular occasion I had just lost someone very dear to me and the grief was and still is overwhelming. A vague notion of something to aim for through exercise, channelling my grief crept into my memory and so I told the man from the National Autistic Society that I would confirm whether or not I would do it the next morning.

That evening I felt anxiety creep over me, I wanted to do this – I wanted to say yes I’ll do it. However what if I couldn’t? What if I was being selfish spending time away from my children and husband to train for a marathon. I needed to discuss it with my husband, the Irishman, who gave me his full support and told me to go for it. The next day I confirmed with the National Autistic Society and was sent my official confirmation of a place.

I spent the next few days scouring the Internet for running tips for beginner runners. Admittedly at the moment I look nothing like an athlete or marathon runner. Coming from a sporting background a competitive swimmer at national level up to my 20s, I know what I need to do to train to get fit, however I know I have a vast amount of preparation and training to get me anywhere near marathon level.

My video diaries I have been keeping each week tell the story of my training. Starting off this first month with a simple plan to get me to a 5k I am happy with my first month. Averaging 3 runs a week, a swim and a strength training session, has put me in a good starting routine and I have made sure not to do too much too soon and kept it light to begin with.

Mentally I have struggled this first month. I will admit I was embarrassed the first week to tell people I had a marathon place. Embarrassed because I had a conception of what people would think when they looked at me and pictured me running a marathon. As I told people, I was secretly upset by some of the comments albeit laughing them off as I have always done. Many people laughed and said I was mad (granted) and some said it would be OK and that I’d be able to walk it…. they knew people who had walked it… lots of people walk it…. Those people who have known me a long time or since a child will know that I have an inner competitiveness that can be unbearable. Thankfully from the comments about “walking it” that inner competitiveness was reignited and the determination that can become slightly squashed by becoming a parent has started to come back in abundance. I vowed there and then that I would do this.

I have changed my eating habits, drew myself out a training plan and set myself realistic goals. The first few weeks I weighed myself only to be left disappointed that I actually gained weight. After measuring myself a few weeks down the line I found I had lost 3 inches of my waist and 2 from each thigh. I have made the decision to not weigh myself again for a while.

My clothes are already fitting better, my mind feels fresh and buzzing with new energy and I feel motivated. I decided to share my marathon place on my social media accounts and had some wonderful supportive messages from my followers which mean so much to me. I plan to document each month’s progress here as well on my Instagram account where you can find photos and videos tracking my journey with both ups and downs weekly.

The National Autistic Society is my chosen charity because of course my son is autistic and in further posts I will share and explore what the charity does and why it is so important to me. The link below is my just giving page for all sponsorships and I would love your support on my journey.

With love

The Cockney in the Countryside

https://www.justgiving.com/CockneyintheCountryside

Failing the School Run

Here we are about to embark on week four of the new school year. During the six weeks holidays I had the usual comments from random members of the public who basically thought I looked like I was at the “near breakdown” end of the holidays: “Don’t worry they’ll be back soon” However in all honestly I had a great six weeks holidays and was dreading September coming around and them returning to school. Not because I didn’t need a break (because my God I did!) not because I enjoy the frequent snack demands, the relentless sibling wars and fights for attention… No, the reason I was dreading the arrival of the school year was simply this: I hate the school run.

For me the school run highlights my failings as an organised human. From start to finish I am a ball of negative harrassed energy who after the turmolous journey collapses against the door as I close it, shaking away the memory of yet another hellish morning. Thankfully it turns out I am not alone and there are many other parents out there who are equally as disorganised and dysfunctional when it comes to ridding ourselves of our children for the day. In this post I will talk through the step by step process of the school run and why each step is so painful.

Preparation is Key

One of the questions I asked on my Instagram polls I ran last week was “do you prepare the evening before?” By this I meant packed lunches, uniforms, reading folders etc. 64 per cent of my followers said they did however I am one of the 36 per cent that don’t. I spend my mornings frantically making packed lunches, searching for uniform, socks and odd plimsolls which can only resemble a game of the classic 90s children’s TV gameshow “Finders Keepers.” I have tried to the best of my ability to have things prepared the evening before but inevitably still fail due to other “school run” circumstances which will be explored further on in this post.

The Ten Minute Void

The kids are dressed, your dressed you’ve even had time to wash the breakfast bowls. You look at the clock and it’s twenty past 8, you have to leave at half past meaning you have ten minutes to relax. You use the time to check your phone, hang a few bits on the line or reply to that email that’s been left in your inbox. Suddenly you check your phone and it’s twenty to 8… Your late! Where did that ten minutes go? Why have you suddenly gone from “on time” to late? This is an unexplained phenomenon that no parent can explain but it happens regularly in my house on the school run!

The List

You think you have everything, you’ve checked the 7 million emails from Parent Mail and are sure you only need:

P.E kits indoor and outdoor, Guitar for guitar lessons, wellies and waterproofs for outdoor learning, two reading books, spelling and homework books, recyclable items for the class project, a change of clothes for the theatre group coming in and one of your child’s show and tells. You load your children like mules with bags almost equal to their weight and carry any extras yourself and start your journey realising half way you forgot the packed lunch boxes. The sheer volume of “stuff” children need for school blows my mind especially as I think back to my own childhood in the 90s with my singular plastic reading folder with a coloured zip with a reading book inside!

Scooters and Bikes

The worst possible notion to take on earth is to let your children ride their scooter or bike to school. At present I only have experience with children under 8 and I mutter prayers regularly under my breath on the way to school, whilst balancing a discarded scooter under one arm and seven bags in the other, that one day my children will scoot in unity. Scooting and riding to school is a lovely idea until you realise your children have no real pace or skill in riding for a length of time such as to the school. The “half way rider” such as the Boss Baby ultimately means I’m left carrying yet another cumbersome item.

Pace

Be it via scooter, bike or walking my main problem with the school run is that children move at different paces. One may sprint ahead eager to leave her brothers trailing, Boss Baby has an erratic journey ranging from crawling to full on sprints to full on toddler tantrums stationary on the ground. Anyone of these walking paces is hard work with just one child but with the combination of all three they can only equate to hell as I’m left running backwards, forwards and sideways to try and contain all three children safely.

School Gate Mafia

I received many messages on my Instagram to my question “what makes you fail the school run?” and the most popular answer was… Other parents. Thankfully I’m always so late I rarely gain much interaction from the School Gate Mafia. However what I do enjoy most when I am slightly early is the look of fear when the other parents see me coming. They frantically pull their phones out to check the time…. Are they late? Surely they must be late if that dishevelled looking parent is here at the same time as them? I see their minds boggle and panic as they behold me and my tribe “on time” in the playground waiting for the doors to open.

Once the children are through the doors it’s time for myself and Boss Baby to repeat the walk back. Already exhausted before the day has started he usually at this point demands “up” because prams are beneath him. So for the remainder of the journey back I am left carrying and 2 stone baby on my hip while he recooperates his energy for the day ahead and I count down the minutes to nap time!

Any school run tips are greatly welcome in the comments below.

Jazwares Angry Birds Toys and Collectables

After much excitement my three were super excited to see the release of Angry Birds the Movie 2 and be reunited with all their favourite birds on screen Red, Chuck, Bomb and many more. Feuding with the green pigs the angry birds are forced to join forces when a fret against both islands emerge!

The action continued at home thanks to the amazing toys we received from Jazwares. No longer just a mobile app, Angry Birds has been brought alive in our home in a world of excitement.

Available from SMYTHS, the Entertainer and Tesco the toys were greatly received and the children weren’t long setting up their own games with the Angry Birds Game Pack. Featuring Red, Bomb, Chuck, King and Blue Bird the children loved reenacting scenes from the film as well as pressing the button underneath to watch them turn Angry! The children loved these fun colourful toys and their imaginations ran wild for hours playing with their new friends!

The game pack also came with a downloadable app from Jazwares, “Angry Birds Explore” which the children downloaded onto their Amazon Fires to watch their toys come alive and blast into adventure on their screens. By scanning the game card in each pack the birds were brought to life and the fun continued!

The plush, cuddly Red toy was welcomed especially by The Boss Baby who spent much time cuddling his new friend and pressing the button on his wing to hear him laugh and regale him with his favourite grumbles and complaints! The interactive symbols on the back indicate that this toy could also be used in the virtual slingshot adventure featured on Jazwares app.

The children were delighted to have their own Angry Birds Splat Ball and have Bomb as their one in the packet. With 4 to collect the children were already asking for the other 3 and had great fun throwing Bomb against the walls and watching him stick! Bomb also came with a game card which can be scanned to allow access to Jazwares Angry Birds Explore App.

The Angry Birds toys have been a great hit at our home and stimulated the children’s imaginations. Lots more fun to be had with their favourite feathered angry friends!

https://www.smythstoys.com/uk/en-gb/toys/action-figures-and-playsets/angry-birds/angry-birds-build-n-launch-playset-pig-city/p/177654

https://www.jazwares.com/brands/angry-birds

This was a gifted post.

Survival of the Six Weeks Holidays

The end of the school year is looming and a monumental challenge is ready and waiting for us parents as we embark on 6 full weeks with our children. Over the past week I have seen various posts on blogs and across social media which I have found quite honestly a bit “preachy.” The posts have outlined that we shouldn’t be “surviving” that each day should be a wonderful opportunity to spend with our children.

Of course whilst I agree spending time with my children is something I enjoy there is still an element of fear and panic which seemingly arises from the nearing of the six weeks holiday. Also to some parents six weeks will be a struggle; especially with factors such as low income, work/child care juggling, lack of facilities around them (lives in the middle of no where lacking public transport) and other pressures.

Every parent and circumstance is different so I thought I would collaborate a general survival guide to hopefully ease some of the pressures us parents feel in the school holidays and how to overcome them.

Staying at Home

You look through your social media and the Jones are off out to the zoo today after the beach yesterday, a theme park the day before… Stop! Don’t feel guilty about not taking your child out every day somewhere exciting and new not to mention expensive. Even visiting the local park can become an expensive trap especially when that predatory ice cream van turns up. Long gone are the days of a “popeye” (how amazing were popeyes?!) costing you just 50p. Suddenly your children are wanting icrecream on top of the picnic you brought and you’re another tenner short! Of course being at home every day may cause insanity and cabin fever. However the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes children like to have a day at home playing and even just resting. There is no shame with days at home. Some of my children’s best times are in our actual home making dens on rainy days.

Top Tip: Go upstairs with some bags to take broken/disused toys to the recycling centre. Consequently as you sort through the toys which have lay discarded for the last 4 years at the bottom of the toy box your children will stop whining about being bored and decide they need to play with that toy immediately and for the majority of the day, to save it from the clutches of the recycle centre!

Starvation

Your children will ask for snacks regularly. Regularly as in every 15 minutes, leaving you to wonder how on earth your little cherubs ever survive the school day without frequent snacks. The beginning of the week will consist of strict healthy snacking times but as the weeks progress and you become more and more defeated by the constant snacking demands your thoughts turn from;

  • Concern – does your child in fact have some kind of condition? Do they have worms?
  • Anger – “I bet you wouldn’t ask Mrs Smith for extra snack times!”
  • Defeat – leaving the biscuit tin left open for them to help themselves whilst you have 20 minutes peace from the relentless dictators whom you have spawned

I find this element of the holidays unbearable. Constantly torn between discipline and a need for peace from the insistent demands. A friend of mine gave me a great idea which I will be trialling this holiday where by she has a snack bag for each child with a variety of healthy and less unhealthy items. Each morning they are given them and then the bags kept in a cupboard where they can eat them at their own choice throughout the day. In her experience yes the eldest ate the whole lot before 10 am but didn’t the following days and the constant snack demands stopped!

Being Anti Social
It is ok not to welcome other children and their parents. You are only human to dislike other families and unfortunately school holidays will be full of them, at the parks, soft play centres etc. We all come from different backgrounds and upbringings and I,100 per cent know that some families in my neighbourhood actively feared me as a child “playing out” with their children. My plotting and scheming knew no bounds and I was always aiming to be the ruler in all games. To the extent that one time a few days after Brownies, I had learnt some first aid and decided to put it to good use. Therefore the next day of the summer holidays I rummaged through my mum’s first aid kit and perfected a professional sling for my younger brothers arm. We snuck out to play with the other kids in the banjo (green area on a cul-de-sac – for anyone non London) I demanded we played whatever game my brother wanted (which of course I had picked) due to my brothers injuries sustained through “being run over by a car.” We had a great day playing my games until I got home and one of the other parents had made a phone call enquiring after my mother and how she was after my brother’s recent, imaginary road incident. One of many sneaky schemes but they do make me think about my own children and how I would actively dislike a child like myself playing with them!

Don’t feel guilty about not attending every organised play date arranged in the Facebook groups and WhatsApp chats with the school gate mums. If you feel you don’t want to attend then don’t. I actively avoid busy places in the summer holidays because some times I just feel like I need to have some time to myself with the children, out in open spaces with no pressures and just spending time talking and playing together.

My National Trust membership has become one of my most treasured possessions and me and the kids love nothing more than getting up early and becoming lost together in one of their attractions without a single soul to bother us!

To Educate or not to Educate

In my teaching days I was asked this frequently “What shall I do over the holidays to stop my child falling behind?” Accompanying them very normal parental thoughts will be the fresh rows of colourful “educational” books for children to complete at home around this time of year in the shops. I do not claim to be a perfect parent but I do believe that unless your child wants to they won’t sit and do half hours handwriting and sentence structure practice each morning of the 6 Weeks Holidays willingly. You can still educate with out sitting them down with a mundane exercise book which will become grueling for you both.

Younger children in particular can be easily manipulated into being educated without them even realising. Asking them to help you write a shopping list before the hellish weekly shop (handwriting and spelling), a game of eye spy on a car journey (phonics) or counting red cars etc. all contribute to getting their little minds thinking. Likewise, after a day out, getting them to draw a picture of the day and then simply talking about it and scribing a sentence for them to stick on the fridge, is a good way to incorporate some sneaky educating. Anywhere you visit for the day even the local park can become learning environments without them knowing it with endless possibilities which will be fun and enjoyable for you both.

Keep it Local

Often we try to think of amazing days out for our children to places which require a road trip (hell on earth) and ultimately end up drastically expensive with ticket prices. During Easter I actively avoided places such as these in a bid to prove on my social media pages that you can still have great days out with a fraction of the cost and right on your door step! Just searching on Facebook or looking at local notice boards you can find some great activities in local community centres, libraries and churches.

Our local church has a weekly craft morning completely free which the children absolutely love. Also the local library have arranged scavenger hunts previously where you simply picked up a map and enjoyed at your own time and leisure. The library I have also noted have a whole range of events this six weeks too such as animal experiences, hama bead and lego conventions and much more. What could be better than having someone else talk through the crafts and instigate them and clean up the mess after!

42 days is a long time with constant one to one time with your children. You are only human to feel anxious, likewise throughout those days you are only normal to have bad days. Parenting is not always the sunshine and rainbows portrayed in the snap shots we see in other parent’s lives on social media. They too probably throw away colds cups of tea, eat sneaky snacks out of sight of their demanding children and haven’t had a wee in peace for the last 6 years. Don’t judge yourself against posed photographs and create unrealistic expectations for yourself. The past February half term I planned so much and had disastrous days on those days I over planned and held such high expectations for. When I asked my children what their favourite day of the holidays was they said the dentist and hair dressers! Which unbelievably was mine!

I hope whatever you do over the holidays you have a peaceful, happy time. I will be blogging the realities of some of mine over on my Instagram and Facebook and would love to hear how you’re doing! We got this guys!

With love

The Cockney in the Countryside

In Loving Memory of The Sainsbury’s Cat aka Garfield.

Today I stood in the foyer of Sainsbury’s I looked at all of the carefully laid flowers, tributes, photos and memoirs of a beautiful soul who sadly left us last week. Just two weeks prior I had stood in this exact same spot talking to him, tickling him behind the ears and petting his handsome furry head…thats right fur…because this blog post is a dedication to the wonderful Sainsbury’s Cat aka Garfield/Mr Sainsbury’s.

Garfield was the best friend and companion of David who I had the pleasure of interviewing and chatting to about Garfield for an upcoming blog post I was writing about the loveable cat following the release of his very own book of adventures “What’s that doing there?” David and I chatted on the phone and the love and pride he felt for his cat was evident. Raising Garfield since he was a kitten, he see the mischievous naughtiness of his younger kittenhood stay with him throughout his life. At the grand age of 13 Garfield had earned himself the nickname Mr Sainsbury’s or the Sainsbury’s Cat. But how did the Sainsbury’s Cat become the Sainsbury’s Cat that the public fell in love with?

Living a short distance from the Sainsbury’s site, before Sainsbury’s was even a distant planning permission, Garfield would spend his days hunting on the fields that eventually became the supermarket. He would roam his days on the fields before returning home to his loving owner. Walking the short distance to the fields he would even be spotted stopping at zebra crossings and waiting for the green man at the pelican crossing. However at the age of 6 work commenced on Garfield’s patch and builders began work on Sainsbury’s. Determined not to be moved Garfield carried on visiting the grounds which was now a building site, where he became a permanent feature and much loved character on site. The builders loved Garfield and as an honoury foreman he would prowl and survey proceedings, enjoying strokes and attention during tea breaks.

The brand new Sainsbury’s store stood on the site now but Garfield was determined not to be deterred from visiting his manor. At first he caused quite a stir in the supermarket and David was called many times to come and take Garfield from the aisles and tills he prowled. On one occasion he snuck into the staff room and cheekily helped himself to one of the employees sandwiches! Nonetheless employees and shoppers alike instantly loved this charming feline and shopping in town wasn’t the same if you hadn’t had some Garfield time at the bottom of the escalator. David his owner remarked how often Garfield came home with a lingering smell of women’s perfume!

In prime position for arrivals and departures in the store he would sit at the entrance of the store and greet passers by. Ever affectionate and happy he would purr and enjoy each and every second of attention from the shoppers. It’s safe to say that Garfield quickly became the town’s own little treasure.

After his own Facebook fan page was formed news of Garfield quickly spread and before long he had fans worldwide. People who had never met Garfield fell in love with him and his adventures which were posted on his page. Fans would post selfies and photos of the handsome ginger cat and generate hundreds of likes across social media. With his fair share of mischief throughout his life it was only inevitable that author and fan, Cate Caruth, decided it only right that Garfield was to be a star and have his own book written about him. The book, written with owner David, “What’s That Doing There?” entails all of Garfield’s escapades. Written as a collection of short stories including his plans to originally sabotage the Sainsbury’s build, “What’s That Doing There?” is a wonderful reminder and memoir of the amazing life and tales of Garfield.

After news spread of the books imminent release, David told me how the book sold out quickly with pre orders alone. Going on, Garfield attended his own book signings, appearing at the local Library with the mayor and other destinations, fans flocked to buy their copy and meet Garfield.

Now as I stand at the bottom of the escalator I remember a cat who brought so much happiness to so many peoples lives from just simply being there. I have read the Facebook posts this week and comments and have become overwhelmed with the amount of love Garfield had from across the world. A star in his own right Garfield touched so many hearts. After his tragic death last week his owners have decided that a Just Giving page for Garfield has been created and that all who wish to remember Garfield are able to leave a small donation if they wish and their memories of Garfield on the memorial page.All proceeds will go to the Cats Protection League which gives help and homes to cats in need.

Presently, a town and worldwide fan base are grieving the loss of an iconic character. I have no doubt that Garfield’s memory and stories will be told to generations to come. Garfield’s legacy will be one that is not forgotten and although he may not there be in body, I know many will still step off that escalator in Sainsbury’s, perhaps first with sadness, but eventually a smile at the fond memory of an incredible cat.

Rest In Peace Garfy ❤️

To purchase Garfield’s book “What’s That Doing There?” you can do so using the following links.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whats-THAT-doing-there-Garfy/dp/1912575744

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mr-sainsbury-garfield

Being a Parent at a Wedding – A Realistic Account

Wedding season is upon us. Throughout our social media feeds there are plentiful pictures of gushing brides and grooms in the usual staged poses, next to hotel water fountains or the ever so non staged, yet staged photos of them laughing into each other’s eyes.
Several months ago you may have received your invite with all members of your family artistically scripted inside… Yes all of them, including your children. You weren’t lucky enough to receive an invite to a “child free” wedding. These weddings may cause uproar, stating the wedding to be “child free” but in actual fact you relish the thought of the child free wedding. The reason being, weddings with children are hellish. Here we talk through the various stages of a wedding and the realities of the full day affair.

Wedding Attire

There was nothing I enjoyed more than choosing an outfit for a family wedding before I had children. As I have mentioned in previous posts, clothing suitability is dramatically altered when young children are in tow. Having nearly broke my leg running after an escapee toddler in a pair of skyscraper heels (now banished to my youth) at a family wedding a couple of years ago, the sensibility of my outfits for such events has overridden any desire to look remotely glamorous. Likewise toddlers require a lot of bending over to attend to, which can be hazardous, bordering on obscene in outfits I may have worn prior to their arrival.
Of course it’s not just our own attire which is in question before a wedding. With the day looming it will be time to take your shopping – loathing child to the nearest department store to pick an outfit as far removed from the comfort of their Buzz LightYear dress-up costume as possible. The demon task of shoe shopping will most likely be involved which is definitely on my top 5 worst tasks to be undertaken with children, along with the hairdressers. I remember as a girl, around the age of 7, I was asked to be a bridesmaid. As a child who lived in a West Ham kit I was horribly unimpressed being forced into a pink merengue, taffeta type ball of fluff with satin ballet pumps. To the horror of my mum they were destroyed quickly when wearing them to play football in the car park of the reception hall.
Of course dress code is vital to the majority of weddings. Exhausted you return home from your shopping escapades with outfits costing a months wages, which all of your children detest and possibly will never be worn again after the upcoming wedding.

The Ceremony
I can completely understand why bride and grooms decide to banish children from the ceremony. It is understandable that children, unless familiar with church settings, will be slightly abnormal in behaviour during a wedding day. Surrounded with what they may deem as strange, slightly haunting statues and pictures and made to sit in silence definitely alters behaviour no matter how much you preempt them for the day ahead. As a Catholic the majority of church services seem to last at least 3 hours and with my children having the attention span of 2 and a half minutes I opt out of the church services altogether. My son screamed solidly from start to finish at his own christening and I momentarily panicked it was an exorcism, such was my unbearable tiredness and exhaustion to try placate him as the priest continued the longest service known to man. Contagious crying is also something I believe as a secret conspiracy between all children, as when one child starts it is inevitable a whole chorus of babies will join in, drowning out the pledges of eternal love between the bride and groom.

The Reception
The ceremony is over. Hooray! You can slip into the descending crowds from the church and throw your biodegradable, dye free, eco friendly confetti into the joyous faces of the bride and groom and gush about how emotional the home written, personalised wedding vows were.
You buckle your sweaty, irritable and hungry children (because let’s face it when aren’t kids hungry) in the car to travel to the reception. Downing the welcome champagne/prosecco which is most definitely welcoming after the ceremony, the alcohol hits your empty stomach and all is becoming a little happier until you realise one of your children is currently heading across the open fields, surrounding the stately home chosen for the reception. Breaking from jog to sprint in a pair of heel sinking quickly into the grass you grab the runaway and haul them back to the entrance hall where guests are due to assemble in a copious amount of choreographed photographs.
I refrain from trying to spot myself in any wedding photographs anymore due to once finding myself in an image shared on Facebook, my face distorted with the effort of trying to regain composure and some modicum of grace whilst wrestling with a red faced, back – arched screaming toddler.
Finally you may be able to placate your child with food as you find your table on the seating plan which from my experience as an ex wedding planner can almost end a marriage before it began. The bride and groom has had sleepless nights over the intricate designs of the seating plan to find the perfect balance between guests. Yet here you are sat with an elderly, distant, hard of hearing, family member or a work colleague of the groom with banging halitosis to endure for the remainder of the day, whilst trying to pay attention and keep your feral children in reign at the same time.
As outlined in a past post, Eating out with Children, meals out with children can be troublesome. However, at least when you have taken your family out for a meal you have the control. You can leave whenever you want! If your child decides to smear tomato sauce over your dress – you can leave. If they launch a pepper pot at a neighbouring diners head – you can also abruptly apologise and leave. Not at a wedding you can’t though. The doors are sealed shut and you are there for all five courses and speeches. There are no colourful, kid friendly colouring menus and the table is laden with an assortment of glasses for toasts and crockery. Sneaking them your mobiles you spend your time hissing at them to turn the volume down, as the distinct American vocals of unboxing videos, accompany the grooms heartfelt speech.

The Evening
Fed and watered they are happier and starting to actually enjoy the day. The important parts seem to have been ticked off the list and people are starting to become tipsy around you which is great as drunk people don’t remember feral children and you will be a hazy memory of “a lovely little family” the next morning. The tables are cleared away and you escape the hard of hearing aunt and mentally bid them farewell until the next get together.
It was at this point at a cousin’s wedding that I found myself relaxed, slightly inebriated, chatting to my cousins and waiting to watch the first dance. As my cousins new wife’s dress glittered across the dance floor for their perfect musical moment I noted a familiar item of mine swaddled in the train of her dress. In horror I watched as the bride visibly strained to keep her composure during the dance, before I leapt into action in front of the circular crowd and retrieved my toddler from the crumpled heap he had made in the ivory train.
I come from a large family and have many close cousins. As a child we used all family weddings as a basis for war on the opposing family. The outside areas would become battlefields to determine us the stronger family in tournaments of runouts, tag and British Bulldog. This seems to have carried on with our own children and retrieving my children from the gardens of wedding venues seem to be the main part of my evenings at weddings.
Lately the arrival of candy carts and other sweet laden treats for the children has diminished the promise of children falling asleep. As a child, at the time when I would have been tucked up under a coat with two chairs pushed together, in a makeshift bed, my children are now fuelled with sugar and ready for another rampage in the venue’s grounds.
Admitting defeat you wait for a reasonable and acceptable hour you can leave before thanking the newly weds for inviting you. Clambering into the car, crumpled and defeated you secretly hope the next invite causes uproar by stating their wish for it to be child free.

A Night in East London – The Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch

As many parents will know, a rare night away is like gold dust and I was hugely excited this weekend to be able to visit The Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch, London for an evening without my three hooligans in tow! As many of you who follow my blog will know, I have 3 children under 6, one being autistic. “Sleep deprived” is the aura which encompasses my daily life. My youngest rarely settles before 10 pm most night and up in the morning shift at 4 to 5 am. Therefore time for actual conversations with Irish, my husband, are scarce and few.

When contemplating a night out in London there is no other place I would want to go to than East London. Yes I am probably biased being from East London myself but to me it’s energy, character and eccentric charm are what makes it the perfect night out. You don’t need to visit an art gallery in East London to see visual inspiration. Simply walk through Shoreditch and admire the murals which drape the walls. The delicious scents of street food stalls in the various markets around Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Hackney allow you more choice for dining out if you don’t fancy eating in one of the many restaurants. Quirky pubs offer a less pretentious night out, I was over joyed to find an original jukebox in The Bricklayers Arms and inflicted my music choices on everyone in the pub!

The Courthouse Hotel was ideal in terms of location, just a short walk from Liverpool Street Station, which is a great walk, especially if you stop for a drink at each pub along the way! Standing grandeur in Old Street, the former courthouse exudes elegance and luxury with it’s stunning entrance lobby and sweeping staircases. Looking every part the 5 star hotel it earned so deservedly, the staff and atmosphere are warm and welcoming with no request seeming too much for them.

After checking in we went to find our room. Elegantly decorated and spotlessly clean with stunning views of the London rooftops, even on a grey evening. That night when we returned home from our nights drinking I watched the lights of the East London skyline twinkle magically from our room.

I can safely say that the sleep I had that evening in the Courthouse was the best sleep I have had in 7 years, since becoming a parent. The black out curtains muted any noises from the bustling London streets below and when I woke that morning I could hardly believe the time… 10:15 am!

Breakfast ran from 6.30 am to 11 so we quickly dressed and went down for breakfast by 10.40 am. We were greeted warmly by the staff in the breakfast hall and shown to our table. We were told that as it was almost the end of breakfast that there may not be everything on show at the vast buffet but not to hestitate to ask for anything we might want.

Breakfast was delicious and most importantly to me.. Hot! Hot breakfast that I hadnt cooked myself? Could this be a dream? No child tugging at my arm for another drink, a biscuit or the Boss Baby with his daily potty deposit during my breakfast. I sat savouring every moment of the peaceful experience whilst the Irishman, for the first time ever, didn’t compare his breakfast to an Irish fry up!

After breakfast we checked out but asked if we could still use some of the hotel facilities which we hadn’t had time to do the previous day. We followed the signs down to the extensive range of facilities; the spa, fitness suite, pool and much more.

With slightly fuzzy heads we started with a game of bowling in The Courthouse’s own 2 lane bowling alley which also had table tennis and other games. Irish thought I was winding him up with my dire table tennis skills and before a row erupted, due to my hatred of losing, we moved on to look at the cinema and other areas of the hotel.

Leaving The Courthouse we walked back to London Liverpool Street Station feeling content and recharged from our stay at the Courthouse Hotel. We reflected on how perfect our night had been and most importantly to me, a good night’s sleep.

The staff at The Courthouse Hotel went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and comfortable during our stay. The location is ideal and I highly recommend Shoreditch as a place you visit in London for its character and charm and a night different to any other you would find in the more commercial parts of London.

Many thanks to The Courthouse Hotel for an amazing and memorable stay in my home town.

My stay at the hotel was a collaboration.

Potty Training – A Realistic Guide

Recently on my social media accounts I shared that I was beginning potty training with the Boss Baby (a couple of days after his 2nd birthday) I received countless messages from concerned and anxious parents asking me if they thought they should start potty training and how did I know when to start him? As I have encountered on many occasions through social media, I felt sad that so many parents feel under pressure with their parenting due to some posts from other parents or from the opinions and passing comments from family and friends.

Therefore I have decided to concoct a guide to potty training based on my own experiences with my three children, laced with some realistic anecdotes of what to expect when beginning this little journey with your child!

How will I know my child is ready?

The key moment which told me the Boss Baby was ready was one morning when preparing breakfast I heard squealing coming from the living room. As I walked in I was unsure what the older 2 were screaming with laughter about until I realised I giant poo sitting on my dinner table and a nappy discarded on the floor. Basically my darling son had taken his nappy off climbed onto the table, deposited his morning offering and returned to his chair at the table to patiently wait for his rice krispies. After this memorable breakfast encounter it began to happen more frequently and became clear he didn’t want his nappy on anymore.

Other signs I have found with my children:

  • Recognising when they are peeing in their nappies by pointing at themselves or saying “wee wee”
  • Finding a quiet spot, corner or hiding place to take a poo in their nappy or simply stopping activity to complete their business.
  • Remaining drier for longer then filling the nappy.
  • Taking an interest in the toilet and potty if one is available. I always had a potty from around a year for my children in the room even if it just become a new seat to sit and watch CBeebies on for a while before actual potty training began.

Recognising when YOU are ready

Potty training not only requires your child to be ready but also you as the parent. With my three I always set a couple of weeks aside to dedicate to potty training.

Brace yourself that it’s not going to be smooth sailing and that you are going to have accidents and it’s usually quite a lengthy process.

What Worked for Me

Choosing the potty: With my daughter I had this idea that the most expensive meant the best. Therefore with her potty I chose some elaborate contraption which sang (yes sang!) when she peed in it and dispensed a sticker from the side! The singing potty was all well and good for number one child until I realised that ultimately it needed to go everywhere with me and being the cumbersome monstrosity that it was, it proved more difficult than I had envisaged. There’s a whole range of different travel pottys available but for some unfortunate reason my children have all refused to use them, meaning I have to take whatever bulkiest potty mine become accustomed to, out everywhere with me. Boss Baby has currently settled with the Wilko value one for £3, a far cry from the singing golden throne that procured child number one.

Don’t be a Prisoner: Whilst I believe that the initial first week or two is beneficial to stay close to home as much as possible this is not always completely conceivable. A few days at home for can start to evoke cabin fever for me and so the best thing I found it just to step out the door be prepared and go for it. I remember a few days after I started my daughter having to go to the shops and being completely terrified. What if she had an accident? What if it set her back? But the reality was she didn’t have an accident, not at first, I took her to the toilet multiple times during the trip with the monstrous singing potty and she coped so well. Of course, as time went on, she did have accidents but that’s all part of the learning process and no failure on mine or her part.

Stock Up: When at home I’ve let my children run around bare whilst potty training. Introducing underwear can be an obstacle especially for the younger toddlers. However, when out and about, I have obviously dressed Boss Baby and put pants on him which he’s loved wearing and feels hugely important when doing so. I take an industrial sized camping back pack everywhere with me at the moment (very fetching) full of changes of clothes for accidents. Other necessities which have helped along my way are; paper towels/kitchen roll, spare T-shirts as well as bottoms (never underestimate the aim of a toddler boy), bags for pee soaked clothes (lovely tinge of urine follows me everywhere at the moment) and spare socks for those extra leakages down the legs!

Be Consistent: Now with child 3 I have no embarrassment or shame in whipping the potty out wherever we are, if the need takes the Boss Baby. Admittedly I’ve had some frowns and looks but appraising comments and nods as well. I’ve successfully completed meetings about my middle son where Boss Baby has attended, child friendly exercise classes involving me jumping on and off a trampoline to assist him and trips to the local cathedral. I judge it as I go and if I see signs he needs to use the potty but it’s going to be a race to get to the nearest public toilet, then so be it, he shall pee where we can find a space. Consistency in the type of potty, the way he sits on the potty (as he chooses to sit on it backwards at the moment just to be awkward) and little routines such as clapping and waving “bye-bye wee wee” will all continue until he is confident and an established potty user but for now I try to keep it as simple and routine as possible.

Take the Lead: With my middle child I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t telling me he needed to wee and kept having accidents, until my mum simply informed me to regularly put him on it. From then on every 15 to 20 minutes or whenever I knew it must be time, I sat him on it and he either went or didn’t. However, after that he never had many accidents. Why did I expect so much at such a young age especially when for example we were out in the park playing? I regularly sit Boss Baby on the potty every 20 minutes when we are out at the moment, which is tiring but ultimately works.

Praise: Nothing delights my son more than the round of applause he receives from showing every person present in a room the contents of his potty. At this age poo and wee are not embarrassing for him and he is proud of his achievements and I intend to keep it that way until he is old enough to understand himself, that his toilet business is best kept private, which they do pretty quickly!

Night Time: I remember being distraught that my daughter peed the bed every night during potty training. After asking others I soon realised night-time potty training takes a whole lot longer. Now with Boss Baby’s refusal to wear a nappy at any time since he started potty training, I wait until he has fallen asleep before slipping a nappy on him for the night. Upon wakening he soon whips it off confused and infuriated by its presence first thing in the morning. Ultimately, once I notice in the mornings that the nappy has remained dry the night, I will know he is ready to sleep without it.

The Toilet: Because I am an unorganised chaotic human, I have ventured out a few times now without the potty. Determined not to have to buy yet another £3 special from Wilko (I have already acquired 3) I have at times over the last 4 weeks took Boss Baby into the public toilets and held him as he sat on it. This has been a success mostly and hasn’t seemed to worry or distress him, at times him opting to use the toilet when I have the potty with me. I have known some mums who simply put their child straight on the toilet which has worked well for them!

I hope you have found some of my tips in this guide useful or can relate to some of them. Parenting is hard enough without the constant feeling of being judged. Children all develop at different ages and so many factors may affect development in different areas. For example my daughter had her dummy until she was almost 4, why didn’t I get rid of it earlier? Because we moved twice, we flew for the first time and a whole host of different changes occurred for our little family that year and so I felt, as it gave her comfort, I wasn’t going to take it away and cause her unnecessary distress. Likewise with potty training there is no right or wrong time, all children learn and progress at different paces and where some may excel in certain areas they may be slower learners in others and that is OK! As parents we should be able to share our failings and embarrassing stories as well as the proud parenting moments. The cliché saying that parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual is indeed true yet there are a multitude of “guides” out there online which don’t show the realities of parenting obstacles such as potty training. Sharing our experiences, laughing at ourselves and our children’s mishaps is all part of our learning and I for one will be telling the tale of the Boss Baby’s breakfast poo for many years to come!

Best of luck to all you parents either embarking, mid training or still knee dip in nappies.

With love

The Cockney in the Countryside

xx

Expectations of Easter for the Parents of 2019

Easter as a child for me entailed fear and concern for Jesus, especially on Easter Saturday as I sat as a small child thinking about the dead, tortured man, who seemed only to be born a couple of months prior at Christmas, now laying cold in a dark cave waiting to rise from the dead. Songs sung throughout school and assemblies about him dying to save us and an unsettling sense of guilt that he was now dead to save me from my sins. Eventually as Easter Sunday came and relief flooded through me that indeed Jesus had made it to be with his dad in heaven I enjoyed an Easter egg with my brother for breakfast after a grueling, lengthy Easter trail set by my parents to ensure they got a good lay in on Easter morning (brilliant move and one I aspire to achieve the time my children are old enough to hunt unsupervised)

Now, as a parent, similar trauma follows me across the Easter period as the looming effigies of the Easter Bunny follow me with their egg-shaped eyes from shop window fronts, copious invites to Easter Fayres, trails and pictures of extravagant “Easter baskets” flood my social media timelines.

Here’s my guide to the Easter egg-spectations (never too old for an egg joke) for the parents of 2019.

Easter Crafts

Unless you are living on a remote, secluded island you will be hard pressed to miss the masses of craft mornings and craft ideas you can carry on creating at home. Easter cards, bonnets, nests, bunnies… you name it.. you can craft it. After successfully ridding your carpet, hair and soul of the miniscule grains of glitter which have been embedded since the Christmas crafts era you now have a whole host of new ingredients to douse your home with. Fluff, feathers and the worst by far that papery, straw like material (usually found inside party poppers) which can be used for all those nest type creations. I’m all for fuelling my children with creativity but as a parent I already struggle with the minute pieces of Lego, Hama beads and barbie accessories that I am constantly clearing to have to add copious amounts of craft paraphernalia to my list. Mrs Hinch I am not. Therefore I have ensured this Easter to let someone else do the cleaning and let my children embrace their inner creative geniuses at one of the many craft mornings organised in the local community.

Easter Baskets/Boxes

Much like the “Christmas Eve” box we now have the Easter basket where parents can pay out for ready made baskets all of course different themed with chocolate, craft activities (yes more crafts) and toys to suit the theme. There are even some themed for us adults which you can buy or create for a loved one! These include “some-bunny to love” theme for your significant other, the make up bag basket and another I spotted “the tool kit basket” for the handy man in your life. When did we move on from the simple egg to these elaborate new Easter traditions?

Easter Trails/Hunts

When I was a child my mum and dad would plan an elaborate Easter hunt for Easter Sunday with clues around our home leading to an egg at the end. My brother and I absolutely loved it and I can’t wait until to my children are a little older to be able to follow a trail themselves. I like Easter hunts, I won’t deny that, but as a parent I have found it impossible to avoid them this Easter. Everywhere I have visited this last week has advertised yet another trail; parks, shops, library.. you name it and there is some sort of trail running, of course with an entry fee. I have unwittingly fell into 2 just by accident when I visited the country park and the library and had the children beg for me to let them take part and then abandon within two minutes of not finding an egg!

Easter Eggs

Easter eggs are no new tradition although what is increasingly annoying about Easter eggs is that they are advertised more earlier each year. Clear off the tinsel and there’s your Easter egg on January 2nd’s shelves. I heard a news report about the rise of obesity and the fact that the early advertising of the Easter Egg can be a cause to obesity having them on offer on the shelves from such an early stage of the year. And I fully agree, I have already systematically bought, eaten and replaced my children’s Easter eggs at least 4 times since February and that’s not counting my niece and nephews! What chance did I have giving up chocolate for lent when they were on the shelves before Shrove Tuesday!

I do feel Easter is becoming more commercialised with each passing year and as nice as some ideas are, do we actually need them all? (yes the eggs we need) As parents I feel we are constantly torn between not wanting to become part of these ever increasing trends and necessities and the pull of our children who may ask why she hasn’t got an Easter basket like little Laura from her class has. Ultimately it is our decision as to how we celebrate certain events throughout the year but I would love to hear your thoughts on being a parent in 2019 and the pressures that we may come across. What Easter traditions did your family have? Do you carry them on now?

Whatever your thoughts and beliefs around Easter are, I hope you have a great weekend and Happy Easter!