Bahlsen Book Club Review: The School Gates by Nicola May

I am delighted to be a part of the Bahlsen Book Club. This is the first book for the club and I am very excited about it. As well as the book I was sent some yummy Bahlsen biscuits to aid my reading, and they were scrummy – I am obsessed with the Caramel ones!

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So, onto the book.

The School Gates by Nicola May

This is not my usual type of book – I admit I tend to not read what people describe as ‘chick lit’ books but I am also always keen to try new things and so I wasn’t put off by the fact this book is about a group of mums and dads who know each other through the school gates – dropping their children off at primary school mornings and afternoons. I think it is a scenario we all know or have experienced so we can all empathise!

There are the typical characters – the snobby mums, the posh mums, the mum with lots of children, the rich, the poor, the au pairs and the child minders and the gay dad. Yes, this can seem a bit stereotyped but to be honest I could relate to all the characters!

The plot of the book is really a lot of smaller stories intertwined – each mum or dad in the book has their own issues going on behind close doors, and the story follows them all through one school year. I liked the way the book was split into terms as well.

The blurb on the back explains the stories well:

At 3.10pm every weekday, parents gather at Featherstone Primary in Denbury to collect their children.

For a special few, the friendships forged at the school gates will see them through lives filled with drama, secrets and sorrows. When Yummy Mummy Alana reveals the identity of her love-child’s father, she doesn’t expect the consequences to be quite so extreme. Ex Czech au-pair Earth Mummy Dana finds happiness in her secret sideline, but really all she longs for is another child. Slummy Mummy Mo’s wife-beating husband leads her down a path she never thought possible, and Super Mummy Joan has to cope when life deals her a devastating blow. And what of Gay Daddy Gordon? Will he be able to juggle parenthood and cope with his broken heart at the same time?

Four very different mothers. One adorable dad. And the intertwining trials and tribulations that a year at the primary school gates brings

The book was easy to read and I enjoyed the slightly comic and friendly style it was written in. It was easy to get into the book and I was interested in the characters and what would happen to them.

The book is a bit cheesy at times, and a bit predictable but there were definitely parts that I didn’t expect – especially the ending!- and it reminded me of a TV programme – I think it would be good on the TV. The chapters do go from character to character sort of like in ‘scenes’ in a TV programme and I quite liked this style.

Some characters I would have liked to have known more about – such as Robbie (I was intrigued by his flat mate John as well) and the teacher Mr Chambers. I has expected there to be more about the school in it but it is more about the parents lives’ in between the school pick up times.

There are lots of themes within the book and I enjoyed the way it weaves in and out of the characters lives. I liked the way friendships were formed such as with Mo and Joan, Inga and Gordon and Dana and Alana. There were some really funny moments in the book – especially with Inga and Gordon.

My only criticisms (more like questions really!) are that I felt The domestic violence issues initially were quite hard hitting but I felt they were resolved in a quite convenient way. I also couldn’t understand what the ‘devastating blow’ was for Joan as described in the blurb – I couldn’t understand why she did what she did with Charlie or at the end of the book – both seem to go against her character (although I would love to know what happened next!) I also did not really ‘get’ the relationship between Alana and Stephen – after all this time, after a one night stand 6 years ago, why would Alana suddenly fall in love with him?

Apart from these questions, I enjoyed the book and the plots. I really enjoyed Dana’s story and I liked the fact that this wasn’t necessarily a happy ending, it was quite realistic. I liked the way I could empathise and relate to the characters. The book made me laugh and kept my attention throughout. Yes, there was a few convenient resolutions and a few cheesy moments but I liked the escapism the book gave me, and how easy it was to read. It was a great book to read over the Easter holidays.

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Supermarket Sweep

Supermarkets have never been my favourite place. Since having a baby though, they have become one of my enemies. It comes to something when shopping alone feels like a holiday. On my own, I run down the aisles in wanton abandon, chucking in things I like to eat and my apples are never half bitten when I get home.

With a baby or toddler, it’s hell on earth.

Just getting to the supermarket and parking is an achievement. If you can dodge the old people driving up the wrong way of the car parks one way system, and manage to get a parent and child space, you should buy a lottery ticket as it’s your lucky day. (By the way, I always feel guilty when I do get one like I shouldn’t be using them. I look around and think people are watching me. Suspicious I may be childless in a parents parking space. Paranoid? Moi?)

Once in the car park, it’s the decision of what trolley to use. Before Bubs was born, I didn’t even realise that shopping trolleys had advanced to the stage of having different baby seats dependent on age/size of baby. I thought it was wonderful being able to take the actual car seat and place on top of the trolley in a very convenient tray. Until I actually had to shop with it.

Using one of these trolleys is akin to pushing a armoured tank around a playground. You can’t see anything or anyone, and you are desperately trying not to run anything over. The baby is strapped into this tray but one false move and you think it’ll topple over.

Baby’s cry in the supermarket. Hell, I want to cry as well. I probably was one of the other shoppers tutting and looking at the mum and baby tank combo in a sort of disapproving way once. When Bubs was a baby, my only solution was to hold a bottle to feed Bubs as I pushed the trolley with the other. Quite a skill, actually. I could’ve let her scream a bit more I guess but I was trying to hold together the strands of my nerves and remember where I was and what I was doing.

As Bubs gets older, it is clear she really does not like a supermarket. The big kids’ trolley seat is now hers, and I’ve timed it that I can get a good 10-15 minutes of this novelty seat which can get me past the fruit and veg and well into the cold aisles before she tires of waving hello at everyone and trying to chew the actual trolley.

Then I pull out my weapon: a biscuit. I quickly tear the wrapper off and offer this dangling carrot to Bubs, quickly as I am scared the shop will think I haven’t bought the biscuit yet and accuse me of stealing when I actually did buy it last week. I can also give myself time by emptying the contents of my handbag for her to hold/chew/throw.

A few times, I have been stupid enough to go into the supermarket with the buggy, and no trolley. I pick up a basket. How the hell am I supposed to hold a basket and push a buggy? Shouldn’t someone invent a clever basket holding buggy device? As well as kicking the basket around the shop, Bubs does not like being in the buggy. And will cry. And scream. How many biscuits are too many in a supermarket emergency such as this?

A last resort is to let her loose on the reins. Abandoning the buggy, kicking the basket and holding on for dear life as she tears along the aisles. Glass jars are her favourite target. Once I’ve regained control and shoved a bottle of gin in my basket, and herded her to the checkout, I’m almost free.

That’s when you realise you haven’t bought anything you actually need and have a bottle of gin, a chewed apple, a loaf of bread and leaflets from the advertising space in your trolley.

That’s when you do the supermarket sweep and run around in a mad frenzy trying to buy something that will look like a meal.

20140423-110630.jpgDistraction techniques demonstrated

Parragon Book Buddy Review: Jiggly Giraffe Book & Rattle

We are part of the Parragon Book Buddy scheme and this month the book is the Jiggly Giraffe Book which is part of their Little Learners range.

This is a lovely book set with a giraffe rattle to read the story with.

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Bubs loves giraffes and so this book and toy was a hit straight away. She loved the book and copying me doing the actions, as well as making the giraffe wiggle and nibble!

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It’s a hard cardboard book which is great for us at the moment as paper books can get a bit ripped in her eagerness to turn the pages.

I love the colours and the pictures in the book, they really grab Bubs’ attention.

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This is a lovely book, which Bubs loves to read over and over again. It would make a great present!

You can purchase the Jiggly Giraffe Book here where it is currently £6.69!

We were sent our Jiggly Giraffe Book in order to undertake this review. All opinions are my own.

Make Your Own Easter Eggs!

With Easter coming up it’s always nice to get in the mood and try and be a bit creative. As you may know, I am not very crafty but I do like to get involved in seasonal edible treats!

Waitrose Online very nicely sent me all I could possibly need to make my own Easter eggs and decorate them to my hearts content.

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Waitrose online have a fab page for Easter with lots of ideas for having fun over the holidays. You can download the sheet for how to make your own Easter eggs here.

So to make your eggs you need:

Dark or milk Chocolate (250g or so)
A heat proof bowl
A saucepan with hot water
A pastry brush
Things to decorate with!
Easter egg moulds

I broke my chocolate up into tiny bits and then heated it in a glass heat proof bowl over a saucepan with hot water underneath.

Let the chocolate melt, but don’t let it boil.

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Once melted, get your egg moulds and using the pastry brush paint the chocolate onto the mould. You need to try and get the chocolate as even as possible and make sure it’s thick enough around the top sides.

Leave for 5 mins in the fridge or until set. Put another layer of chocolate on the egg and leave to set again.

I think they need as long as you can give them to set, I found it easier to get them out if they’d set for longer.

Now here’s the tricky bit. You have to get the egg out of the mould.

My first try was not successful:

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This was because the choc wasn’t thick enough around the edges, and I think it needed longer to set.

After this, I managed to get the egg out of the mould no problems!

Now the fun part: decorating.

Use a bit of melted chocolate on the egg to stick your decorations on.

Bubs really enjoyed eating decorating the eggs with the sweets and marshmallows. It was actually a fun way to touch a load of different textures, and we had fun putting the decorations on (and off) the egg.

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She got a bit carried away with the chocolate!

I had a go myself at a bit of an ‘artisan’ look. I used rose petals, honeycomb and these amazing chocolate popping candy pieces. I think it turned out ok!

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Now I’ve got the knack with the mould I will definitely be making more! I think these will make lovely presents and the fact they are homemade and home decorated really gives them the personal touch. It’s also a fun thing to do with children over the Easter hols. Let imaginations run wild!

I was sent all the ingredients I needed to make the chocolate Easter eggs plus decorations in order to undertake this activity. All words and opinions are my own.

Challenges

Screaming. Screaming high pitched and over and over again.

She’s not upset. When I walk up the stairs she has a great big smile on her face.

She’s challenging me.

I am trying my best to ignore. I don’t want to make it a game.

But in the car. In her cot. In her high chair.

It’s hard not to resort to wine, beer or in fact hard spirits. Headache looms and I can feel myself tense.

She knows what she wants to say, but she can’t find the words yet. Her mind must be jumble, a scrabble of words trying to make sense of this mad world.She will point and gesture wildly. She will grizzle and groan. It must be exhausting. I find it exhausting trying to interpret it all.

She finds boxes, and pulls everything out of them. She will rummage through my bag and pull out my purse and all my cards. She threw my shampoo down the toilet today. Little things chipping away at my mind, my soul.

She takes off her shoes and throws them out of her buggy. In my mind I feel like screaming too. Or throwing my shoes.

Yes. She challenges me.

But I must challenge her.

I talk to her, naming objects and singing songs.

Playing games, showing her new ways of doing things.

I give her new foods to try. I wipe her face when she doesn’t like it. I change her bum and make her wash her hair and brush her teeth.

I put her into her cot and tell her when to go to sleep. Sometimes we are early, sometimes we are late.

I stopped giving her a bottle. (She wasn’t drinking out of it at all but she still got very annoyed at me the first time her bedtime milk came in a cup).

When I think about it, I challenge her every day to learn, to grow, to be looked after.

So when she screams, I am trying not to get wound up. I still have a good glug of my wine and chocolate helps. It’s easy to get frustrated and agitated. But I’m trying my best to be calm and collected and to understand things from her point of view. She’s little, I’m not. She’s still figuring it all out – as am I but I guess I have a 30 year head start on her.

Because she can’t keep screaming like this forever. Can she?!

What do you do when you feel challenged by your children?

I am also linking up to the reading residence Word of a The Week as I think “Challenges” sums it up!

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Siblings

Today is national siblings day or something like that.

It made me think of my sisters. Obviously!

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One is a lot of fun to be around, my littlest sister. I am almost 13 years older than her, and despite her difficulties we get on really well and have a lot of fun such as finding Gromits.

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She is fun and sweet and loving.
She will always try and help no matter what.
She is doing really well at college and I am proud of her
She makes some lovely cakes!
She has a great sense of humour.

The other one I’ve grown up with. She’s the one that knows me inside out.

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She will phone people for me as I hate talking on the phone
She will talk to sales assistants as I get embarrassed
She laughs at my terribly dark jokes
She was one of my birth partners and wrote down everything I said under the influence of pethidine. “I haven’t a Jeremy hunt what’s going on” being a highlight

I love both my sisters. I will always be there for them. Always x

In Case There’s No Tomorrow

Every night I kiss your head

And watch you sleep

Imprint your image in my mind

Your memory, mine to keep

Have I done enough today

In case there’s no tomorrow

If my thoughts don’t turn to words

They’ll be ashes full of sorrow

To breathe, feel sun, feel rain on face

To love, to laugh to cry

To hug, to touch, to stroke your hair

To look into blue eyes

Memories we all do make

The present, only time

To be together; no bright screen

To shield your life from mine

I write things down for you to read

When you are old enough

But I want you to hear me say them too

Words seem so cold and tough

I can’t imagine leaving you-

A space empty in your heart

I hope for many, many years

Before we have to part

Emily Tealady 2014

TV is my best friend #badmumsclub

I am quite a TV addict if you happen to look at my twitter timeline. I love nothing more than cracking open a boxset on Netflix or watching and commenting my way through my favourite programs – Eastenders, Holby City and In The Night Garden.

It gives me peace, quiet and the opportunity to have a wee in peace.

I really tried to be one of those people who don’t use the TV as a babysitter, but that lasted about a day. I really don’t think a bit of TV is that bad. Sometimes you just have to do what you need to do to get through the day, and some days are TV days.

The TV is a portal to a world of sing-songy voices, happy smiley people, and subliminal messages which captivate children and means they stay still or at least don’t cry every time you leave the room.

This week, we moved house, and this weekend was the first one we had in our new home.

Sorting out the TV and plugging my best friend into its lovely aerial, we switched on and I waited for the magic to start.

Nothing.

We didn’t have an aerial in the attic. Sort of need one to get a picture usually.

PANIC.

No cbeebies! No Eastenders!

My Dad was swiftly called upon to come and sort out an aerial, and in fact help me buy one. This was a priority of grand proportions.

Whilst I waited for my Dad to sort the aerial out, I had an idea. Broadband! Ha! However for some reason it was only functioning at 15 thingamajigs and it kept freezing on the ipad. My back up was a dud.

What the hell was I going to do now? I was stuck in a half unpacked house with no TV for 12 hours whilst my partner was at work and my Dad was in my attic.

The silence was noticeable. Bubs kept looking at the screen and pointing. “No TV” I would say, trying to keep cheerful.

We played. We read books, we sang songs. We went up and down the stairs. We danced in the kitchen. We ate lunch, and had drinks. We ate biscuits. We tidied up toys and threw them out of the toy box again. We built towers and walls of Megabloks. We sang some more. We danced some more. We went to the toilet together; we shared my Tea, my lunch, my biscuits.

I loved this time with her, don’t get me wrong, and I do play with her like this when we usually have TV. But not normally for 4 hours straight. I’ll admit it; I was flagging. I was missing my friend, my friend who meant I could lie on the sofa just for a few minutes, and drink a drink to myself without any baby washback.

Eventually, I had a brainwave.

I wasn’t too sure if I should really do it. It was an ingenious and yet stupid thing to do all at once.

I found a DVD I had bought months and months ago. A DVD I kept for emergencies just like this. But once it was on, there was no going back.

Five minutes later, Bubs was mesmerised by the screen. A pink, snorting piggy was mesmerising her, and she was loving it.

Yes, I introduced her to Peppa Pig. All 11 episodes on the DVD.

But my cup of tea was lovely.

 
I am linking this post up with the Bad Mums Club hosted this month by Alison over at Not Another Mummy Blog

My Fictional World Meme

I’ve decided to take part in The Reading Residence’s Book meme My Fictional World. Here are my answers to the questions – click on the badge to find out more!

The Reading Residence

What were your favourite reads from your childhood?

I loved Enid Blyton – The Secret Seven and The Faraway Tree series. These were so fantastical and magical and were so exciting to read. I also loved some science fiction with Redwall and also a book series about a grandfather and daughter who were finding out about atoms and neutrons but I can’t remember the name! I loved all Roald Dahl books. I was a big book worm! (And still am).

There are always those books that defined your teen reads and stay with you – what were yours?

As a young teen I loved Thomas Hardy and a lot of classics. The Mayor of Casterbridge and Far From The Massing Crowd being two of my favourites. Tess of The D’Urbervilles is also an amazing book and one which I found so sad and that has stayed with me. I also fell in love with The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins which I found such an amazing book and totally compelling. In my late teens I loved Wuthering Heights, The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger and Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee.

Who are your favourite authors currently?

Oh so many! I don’t tend to read a lot of one author but a few favourites are Lionel Shriver, Ken Follett, Kate Mosse, Sebastian Faulks, Charles Dickens

Which 3 genres do you gravitate towards most often?

I’d say History or Historical Fiction, Crime/Thriller and Classics

Can you choose your top titles from each of those genres?

History:  The Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follett, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, Songbird by Sebastian Faulks

Crime/Thriller: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, Room by Emma Donoghue, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Classics: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Great Expectations Charles Dickens and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

And your least favourite genres?

I am afraid I really don’t like ‘chick lit’ or romance very much unless it is a classic! I have read sci-fi books before and do enjoy a few but I wouldn’t say it’s my go-to genre!


Of the many, many fictional and fantastical worlds, where would you most like to visit?

Oh that’s a difficult question. Maybe I’d like to go back to Dickens’ Victorian London or maybe visit Gatsby’s party
House!

Everyone loves a villain, right?! Who would make your favourites list?

Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights without a doubt! Also Alec D’Urberville is a terrible villain in Tess and Kevin from We Need To Talk About Kevin is truly chilling.

Share the books that have had you sobbing?

The Time Travellers Wife and One Day both had me in tears!

And let’s end on a high! Which books leave a smile on your face, and maybe elicit a few laughs?!

The book I just read had me chuckling -  The Hundred Year Old Man Who Jumped Out Of A Window And Disappeared by Jonas Johansson.

I really enjoyed answering these questions and I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s! I can’t wait to add a few new books to my reading list.

Moving House with a Toddler

This could be the craziest thing I’ve ever done.

Moving House with a toddler in tow.

As she doesn’t go to nursery yet, I have nowhere to just take her to, to get her out of the way (for her own good). I think if I had the choice I’d even go to work myself to get out of the way.

So, here we are. We are in a half empty house; with boxes and dust around us.

Yes, we are moving our entire house ourselves with the help of family, a man with a van and several bottles of wine.

I hate moving house.

We should be in our new house by Thursday, and then all I have to do is clean up the other house and all the various and mysterious stains on carpets and walls that are discovered as we move furniture out of the way.

Anyway here are a few things I’ve learnt during this move:

Tips for moving house with Toddlers:

1. Don’t pack the baby toys or the stair gate until you literally have nothing left in the house. Unless you want a feral toddler running around the place picking up bits of fluff.

2. Stock up on snacks and quick and easy foods to make meals for you and toddler as you try and survive with half your belongings in another place. (She’s had a lot of fish fingers).

3. Keep a Hoover at the old house to hoover up all the dust, food, lost dummies and bits of duplo which will be underneath everything you move.

4. Sort out toys to take and toys to give to charity once child is asleep or else she will suddenly find a new found love for the bright green dinosaur you got given at last year’s britmums

5. Don’t let a child near any boxes or bags unless you want to empty them completely

6. Give as much stuff away that you don’t really want. Baby clothes are coming out of my ears and I’ve also found unopened and in date baby milk and baby food which I’m giving to a food bank.

7. Get as many people as possible to help. Family and friends are a godsend.

8. Remember that if it got up the stairs, it surely must be able to get down again. Even if that involves deconstructing a whole bedroom.

9. Remember you need blackout curtains in toddlers room and someone who can put up a curtain rail. Oh and curtain hooks! curtains don’t work without hooks. Without these curtains there’s no sleep.

10. Make sure you have wine or your alcohol of choice at home, as you may will need it.

11. Get other people to do everything for you like a removal company. Save your sanity, unlike me.

12. Make sure the first thing you unpack is the kettle, some cups, tea and milk. First things first.

Do you have any tips for moving house? Let me know!

Please consider nominating me in the Fresh Voice Category in the BiBs!
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