Back-to-school packed lunch ideas for all!

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It’s back to school for us today and I think by now most of the country will have returned. I’m not one of those parents counting down the days to the end of the holidays, I actually love having them at home and we’ve had an awesome summer so I’m sad that they’re not here today however they were happy to go in and left with a smile on their face so it’s all good!

It does of course mean we’re back to making packed lunches, a task that is a bit love/hate for me. I’m always quite pleased with my lunch efforts and they enjoy them but sometimes I have a real bad case of the cant-be-arsed about me.

The biggest challenge when making packed lunches is making sure there is enough variety in there and I love to mix it up. These days I keep a stock of supplies in the cupboard and fridge for when inspirational thoughts evade me. It also helps to keep a list.

Just in case you also struggle with ideas for packed lunches I thought I’d share details of what ours normally consist of. Okay, there’s nothing completely off-the-wall here but when you’re lacking in inspiration, this might help.  I have a fussy eater, thought he is becoming better with his food choices every day and his saving grace is that he loves fruit and veg. I’ll put a disclaimer right in here – I’m not a food snob – and I happily turn to tinned fruit when I have no fresh to hand as it’s easy to keep in the cupboard for those times when the bananas have gone brown and the apples are starting to walk out the door.

As I mentioned above, I think the key is variety and therefore I tend to put lots of little bits in of different things to keep them interested, and that seems to work well for us.

  • Sandwiches – I use a variety of different breads for sandwiches – sliced bread, tortilla wraps, mini pitta breads, bread rolls, croissants, cream crackers, bagels and stick to basic fillings such as ham, cheese, jam, chicken, grated carrot & cream cheese etc.  Despite how much my daughter begs I never  put egg in a school sarnie, or onion. Nobody needs that going on next to them when they are chowing down.
  • Sandwich Alternatives – Only occasionally, and only ever for one as fussy boy would never entertain it but we might do a pasta salad, rice salad, cous cous or something like a small prawn cocktail salad. a big wedge of quiche is also a regular feature.
  • Vegetables – There is always some type of vegetable portion in the lunchbox, in addition to any salad that may be lurking in a sandwich. This is normally carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, cherry tomatoes, red pepper sticks or a pot of tinned sweetcorn (which is probably their favourite).
  • Fruit – Easy-to-eat fruit is the key here or it just doesn’t get eaten. We stick to berries and chunks of fruit like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, watermelon chunks, grapes, pineapple chunks and then tinned fruit like mandarin segments or tinned peaches. I also pop in dried fruit like raisins and apricots and the only “whole” fruit I put in is a satsuma or a banana. Never an apple or pear – I get big complaints about this!  Much to my children’s annoyance, they’re no longer allowed kiwi in school – their ultimate favourite fruit.
  • Other Snacks – I often turn to other snacks to liven it up a bit. Generally there’s always some kind of cheese in there, normally cubes or Red Leicester or Cheddar (for smaller children cut this into shapes with small cookie cutters) and then there might be something like a sausage roll, mini pizzas, cold cooked chicken nuggets, cocktail sausages, breadsticks, pretzels, scotch eggs, popcorn, coleslaw and whatever else might be nesting in the fridge.
  • Dips – Depending on what snacks are in the lunch box, my children might find a dip. This could be ketchup to go with cocktail sausages or chicken nuggets, sour cream, mayonnaise, hummus or cream cheese to go with veggies.
  • Yoghurt/Jelly – I generally always put in a yoghurt, only a small one like a yoghurt tube. If they’re lucky they might find a jelly in the lunchbox and Sainsburys also do jelly tubes which went down well.  Sometimes my daughter will like a custard pot in there but my son would rather starve than eat that!
  • Cake – I don’t care what school or experts say, there is always a small cake or biscuit in a lunch box. So long as it’s a balanced diet, who cares? Normally I’ll go for something like a muffin, flapjack, gingerbread biscuit, mini roll or maybe just a cereal bar.
  • Drinks – The children have water bottles at school so a drink isn’t strictly necessary but I always put in a carton of pure juice – either apple, orange and pineapple – as it’s another portion of fruit.
On Fridays which is ‘treat day’ at school, I will put a bag of crisps in and they might get slightly nicer cake!

I’ve read all the recent articles about healthy lunches and do you know what? I. DON’T. CARE. Judge me if you like but life is too short not to eat cake. My children have a healthy, active life with a well-balanced diet. Just because they eat a cake with their packed lunch does not mean they are going to be giant obese monsters with bad teeth.

And finally my biggest tip, especially if you’ve got yoghurt munchers, is put in a small sandwich bag for rubbish and a napkin to mop up any spills. School tend to like to send the rubbish home so you can see what has been eaten but yoghurt often seeps out and by encouraging them to wrap up the rubbish those insulated lunch bags stay cleaner and less whiffy!

I hope you find that a little helpful in some way. I don’t go overboard, it’s all pretty simple and basic but I just try to mix it up.

I’d love to hear any of your hints, tips and ideas for packed lunches so please do share in the comments, I am always looking for new ideas myself!
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The Bad Parenting Olympics

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(The above picture has little to do with the actual post other than I reference Elsa and a goat, I thought it was apt.)

I know, I know, I’ve not been here very much at all, and the first thing I do is rock up with a big ass rant. I’m sorry for that (I’m not sorry really but it seems the right thing to say) however there’s something that has just been getting my goat recently and I need to do an Elsa and LET. IT GO.

Here goes…

Recently I have got to thinking that there seems to be some sort of oneupmanship (thats a word right?) of’ ‘bad parenting’ occurring. (By the way, that’s not ME calling anyone a bad parent…).

Facebook seems to be a constant trail of posts, groups and pages of people, generally woman, trying to out-do each other in the bad parenting stakes or quest to show the dark truths of parenting.  It seems very popular right now to put parenting down and WOE betide anyone who would like to break rank and post positively about parenting.

I’m part of several parenting groups on Facebook where people rant about others perfect little lives, with their perfect little children and joke about how behind the scenes everything is probably less than perfect, and that Cuthbert and Doris are probably screaming nightmares to deal with and mummy probably injects valium into her eyeballs while her husband is shagging his secretary somewhere.

Haters gonna hate of course but why is it terrible to post and share the positives about your life and parenting?

Now I am not saying that I am not guilty of this, I have of course been known to crack open the Pinot before the clock has even struck 5pm and yes, I use DANTDM as a babysitter from time to time, while I am more than likely busy catching up with friends lives via Instagram or messing about with Snapchat filters (rainbow barf FTW!) We all do it. But why, why, has it become the IN thing to make ‘funny’ remarks about how hard and shit parenting is all the time.

I generally try not to post about my children too much, and certainly not in a negative light. Imagine if they read it one day? But more to the point, for me, parenting really isn’t that hard or shit for 99.9% of the time. Maybe I am one of the lucky ones or maybe I am kidding myself as I have seen it suggested on other groups.  My children are well behaved, polite, interesting, funny and generally a joy to be around but now I feel like I can’t say that. I feel that I almost have to LIE!

As I sit here typing this rant, my 9 and 10 year old are sitting opposite me at the kitchen table, designing covers for their summer scrapbooks. I have a cup of tea and a piece of Red Velvet cake and I am immensely enjoying the school holidays. but I can’t say that in public, can I?

I have always sucked at sports and it seems I suck at this one too!

Clearly, I am totally alone in these feelings as these types of pages have tens of thousands of “likes” with mummies everywhere fawning over each and every new hilarious meme, and that’s okay, I don’t mind being the lone voice in the crowd.

Would love to hear others thoughts on this…

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Is basic parenting really that hard?

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This post is a bit off piste for me really, it’s not really something I would blog about but then I saw the post that everyone is sharing and commenting on from the Sanctimommy page on Facebook. You know, the one where the woman with a 2 week old baby has a ‘rant’ about parenting martyrdom.

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Image via Facebook

I’ve also seen all the people laughing and leaving their comments about how this is going to come back and bite her in the behind because what does she know – she’s only been a parent for 2 minutes and has NO CLUE.

Maybe it will.

But then again maybe it won’t?

Maybe she’ll be one of the lucky ones that parenting comes easy to, or maybe she’s one of life’s natural jugglers? Who knows, only time will tell but I can see where she is coming from – and I can say this with 10 years of parenting experience behind me!

The things she describes in that post? It may be slightly controversial but I mostly agree with her (though I don’t agree that mums are lazy) When I had friends with newborns and toddlers at the same time as me and they used to complain they’d spent all day in their PJs because they couldn’t find time to shower, or brush their hair, or put on make-up  I did use to think “Say what?!”.   I had the same thoughts when friends told me they had no time to cook dinner, regardless of how stressful my day with two children under the age of 3 was, there was always dinner made – maybe it wasn’t always on time and maybe on a bad day it consisted of a jar of pasta sauce and some garlic bread but we still ate pretty well.

You can call me sanctimonious or smug if you like however these things didn’t seem that difficult.

I’m not saying there weren’t bad days every now and again – of course there were – I had a baby through to his toddler years that probably could have broken the Guinness World Record for most hours of crying, ever. There were days when, yes, my toddlers smushed biscuits in the carpet or scribbled on the walls because I was preoccupied but I quickly learnt, as do most parents, that the best way to avoid chaos is to occupy your children, however small. My favourite tactic for this while making dinner? I used to sit them in the high chair where they could watch me and I could interact with them, while they nibbled on raisins or fruit or bashed one of those toys around that suckered onto the tray. Or as they got a little older, did some scribbling, play doh or paint. It worked for us, and you do what works don’t you?

“Food is eaten at the table, not while running through the house” I hear ya sister (though, yeah, with a 2 week old, you’ve not really experienced this yet my love…) Food is eaten at the table every night in my house. My children have learnt table manners. Sometimes I am astounded by other children on play dates, at parties and don’t even get me started on restaurants. Please. Pick your battles and all that, but allowing children to run around during meal times? There’s no excuse in the world that will make me think that’s acceptable.  And yes, if you allow your children to torment other people in cafes and restaurants while basically turning a blind eye, I WILL judge you #sorrynotsorry.

There IS a bit of martyrdom going on in the parenting world. It used to be quite the opposite. When you were all bleary-eyed of a morning, you used to get hit with how good a sleeper someone’s child was now it seems to be oneupmanship on who has had the least amount of sleep or who has the fussiest eater. Sometimes I almost feel forced to make something up and say something bad about my children (though the crying things is all true – they should use that as a method of torture).

With hindsight, whilst the years with babies and toddlers felt hard they were nothing compared to the juggling I have to do now the children are older, have endless after school activities, friends round, birthday parties, homework, school trips, school dress up days…. and I’m working near full-time. It’s now I am more likely to say “stuff tea, lets get a takeaway” because it’s 9pm and I have not sat down since I finished work at 3pm!

I feel this poor woman has had a bit a rough deal if I’m honest. Sure, she’s got a lot to learn but on the other hand, perhaps an attitude like this will get her through – instead of feeling like you can’t do something, perhaps the mentality of “I’m not going to be like that ” actually goes some way to helping you feel in control? PMA and all that shizzle.

All I can say is good luck to this lady!

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Halloween Fire Safety

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I was recently contacted by fancy dress company Escapade who were sharing their Fire Safety Guide in the run-up to Halloween. I decided that this was something I wanted to share with my readers because I am sure many of you, like myself, were horrified to hear about the trauma that poor Claudia Winkleman and her daughter were faced with last year.  It was horrible to read about – there but for the grace of god – and really hard viewing her interview with Watchdog earlier this year too.

Escapade told me that recent statistics reveal that in 2013 there were 401 injuries and 6 deaths from accidental candle fire and in the same year, 82 fire-related injuries occurred between Halloween and Bonfire night in London alone.

Obviously Halloween and Bonfire night are times for fun but it’s also really important to be vigilant about fire safety at this time of year.

Escapade consider it hugely important to work with suppliers who share their values and their shops and warehouses stock children’s costumes that have been rigorously tested by manufacturers and suppliers to make sure they fully comply with European regulations on flammability.  They’ve also created a Fire Safety Guide, speaking to experts such as St Johns Ambulance, London Fire Brigade, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service.  You can read the guide here and discover what to do in the event of a fire-related injury, which is essential reading as my first instinct would be to panic.

In return for sharing this information with you, Escapade are sending me one of their LED Pumpkin Lights. This is the first time they have stocked these lights, which have seven colour variations. Everyone, not only Escapade, is urging families to replace candles in their pumpkins with an LED light so that children and pets will not be at risk of injury and I think they are a great idea, in fact I have been using LED tealights in mine for years (and at Christmas too for that matter). Escapade are providing 1000 complimentary Pumpkin Lights to people purchasing costumes store as well as to all customers who order online. A fantastic initiative!

Do check out the guide and in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this infographic about safe costumes.

Happy Halloween!

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Escapade Fire Safety v2

Raising Girls

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Before I had children I always wanted a daughter.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I SO wanted it to be a girl. Of course, I really wanted a boy too so I wouldn’t have minded either way, but at that point a girl was what I was hoping for.  So, when, on a dark dank cold January day my daughter arrived into the world – not really kicking and screaming, more stunned and dragged reluctantly – I was over the moon  and pretty much in total awe of my new little bundle.

I thought it would be simple. I’m a girl, she’s a girl. I know girls. I know how girls work. Don’t I?

Well as it turns out, yes. And no.

My amazing beautiful child has brought me so much joy and pleasure. I love my daughter and I am thankful every day that she is in my life. She’s incredible – beautiful, talented, top of the class for everything, always gives 100%, she’s kind and considerate, polite and well-behaved. A dream child in every way.

As my darling daughter has got older I’ve started to realise how complex us girls really are. We’re pretty damn awesome but on the other hand, we’re not always the most straightforward creatures are we? I’m not just talking about the horror that is hormones kicking in but all the other issues that surround them. Eating disorders, body image, bullying, social media…I’m sure my mother didn’t worry about all of that?

Recently I’ve found myself being a bit more careful with my daughter. She’s only nine but the mood swings and attitude are starting to rear their ugly head. I’m trying to be patient, I know that she’s pushing boundaries and I also know that lots of the attitude that she gives off is learned behaviour from school. The way some of the girls talk to each other at school, well it’s pretty shocking to be honest, so I try to be gentle and not come down too hard, but I’m not going to lie, I don’t always find it easy.

I’ve recently started thinking about the things I want to teach my daughter, the important things – confidence, maintaining friendships, self-worth and belief in herself, healthy body image.

I want her to know that she is loved. I want her to know that though we may not see eye to eye as she gets older that the decisions I make for her and done out of love, not spite. She needs to know that I am her mother first and her friend second.

I want her to know that she can take on the world and that whatever path she chooses in life, I will be right there behind her.

I want her to know, every day, that I am proud of the wonderful person that she is, that I’ll be proud of her all my life.

I want her to know that I will always be there for her, that she can turn to me with her problems, that I may not have all the answers or even be able to solve her problems but I can listen and I’ll do my best.

The problem with all of the above is that I feel woefully unprepared and I am petrified of mucking this up. You only get one chance after all. Anyone else feel like this? Currently I am reading two books that I hope will help Raising Girls by Steve Biddulph and 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving our children and ourselves the skills to reduce stress and anxiety for healthier, happier lives by Goldie Hawn. Both books have come highly recommend and both have been really interesting so far.

I’d love to hear other mums views on this. Anyone else feeling completely out of their depth?

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