Category Archives: Ciaran

DIY haircuts

Ben’s hair has not got less thick and curly while I neglected my blog. Roughly every 6 weeks I haul myself and the kids to the barbers on the high street and pay nearly £20 to have both boys done. I on the other hand get my hair done every 3 months – one of those parenting sacrifice things.

Now we do swimming lessons on Fridays I’ve lost the one afternoon where I can run straight from school to the barbers and have been either leaving work early or wasting Saturday mornings at the barbers.

A couple of weeks ago I snapped. A month after being shaved Ben resembled a sheep again and I decided to buy trimmers.

Ben was dubious, it seems that having your mother read instructions out loud does not inspire confidence. Ignoring his sobs I started off with a number 5 – all I wanted to do was tidy him a little. I then progressed to number 3 and did a fairly good job. This was interspersed with OH leaving the spag Bol he was cooking to have a go which led to the greatest thing ever being shouted

“I trust Mummy more than youuuu.”

Today I re-sheared my little wooly sheep with a number 3, we had tears (OH had put the number 3 comb on wrong and a bit of the blade caught him) but it went fairly well.

Ciaran then demanded a turn. He requested a number 0 and settled for me quickly passing over his head with a number 5 to trim him a little. I’ll still need to take him to the barbers (the family has banned us from taking scissors to his blonde locks after Chris had a go years ago resulting in an emergency barber trip) but at least I can keep him going between cuts and can now manage Ben at home! IMG_0359.JPG

Not a bad hair cut!


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The great green goo experiment

Sometimes as a parent I do bizarre and disgusting things. I have knelt in front of a child with my hands cupped to catch vomit (my hands aren’t big enough but I always forget this in the heat of the moment and kneel as if I’m going to receive some fantastic honour), I have watched my kids eat paint (non-toxic), been weed on and today I made a bath full of green grainy slime and shuddered miserably while the kids slapped it around the bathroom and my arms.

It is Ben’s sixth birthday and being a superbly well organised mother I worked late last night and swung by Toys R Us to get the gifts I’d selected months ago but not found time to stop and buy until the last minute. It’s this kind of organisational ability that explains why my friends and I weren’t asked to help with the year 1 school trip. Feeling the usual working mummy guilt I saw a gaudily coloured Gelli Baff pack on sale for a fiver and decided that I’d chuck it the trolley and give the boys a really special birthday bath time. Hmm…

Ben’s birthday went well. He loved the presents he was given, was treated to toast and marmalade followed by a nectarine for breakfast (I am the kind of Mum who insists he has to eat two weetabix or a bowl of porridge at breakfast club before being allowed a bowl of jam filled shredded wheats or Cheerios). His year was going on a trip to the local safari park which was very exciting for a future zoo-keeper and I gave him a box of fruit pulp sweeties to give out at the end of the school day. To make the day even better he visited his Nanny to see his Aunty and Uncle (down from York) and was then allowed to play a sky lander game on the wii before a tea of his choice.

How could this day get any better for a 6 year old?

Enter Gelli Baff – swamp green.

Being a big believer in not needing instructions I ran a bath, dumped the kids in it and tried to tip green dust in. Now, I’m standing in a bathroom with nail scissors in the cupboard so naturally I tore the plastic bag spilling gritty green stuff over me and the edge of the bath. I dumped the rest in and stirred. Green gravel moved around the bath and the kids looked at me expectantly. A sensible woman would look at the instructions, wait a few minutes for it to set or grab her iPad and google Gelli bath, instead I added a little more water to churn things up and dumped a second sachet in the water. Suddenly the kids were in a very stiff green goo and the tiny ‘gravel’ had swollen to frogspawn size and texture.


While the kids wriggled and drowned their ducks I surveyed the bathroom. A green goo covered the edge of the bath and had pushed its way into the crack where the bath panel was held by the top of the bath. Nice.

Boys splash a lot in baths, soapy gooey green stuff getting into your mouth isn’t nice and after wiping goo off Ciaran’s face with one towel it was contaminated with the goo and not suitable for wiping his tongue with. Instead he wiped his tongue on my sleeve, several times throughout the bath. I kept hinting about putting the magic ‘turn it to water’ powder in and getting shouted down. The goo retained heat much better than a normal bath. I knelt by the bath and tried the goo, I managed to squidge it into something like a slushy snow ball and threw it at Ben, this led to my arms being fair go. Yucky stuff the temperature and consistency of child vomit kept being poured over my arm.

I called time and dumped both dissolving sachet in the bath, added more water and drained it out without any major dramas. I then had to hose down the frogspawn covered kids and while they dried off I started hosing down the bath, tiles, gap where the panel meets the bath, sink where I’d tried to wash goo off of my hands and rest of the bathroom. If you have normal active kids this stuff really travels.

It was gross, required a post bath shower and decent scrub of the bath but as it met my objectives of:
A. Not turning Ciaran into an immediately itching mess;
B. Being a fun treat

I probably will allow it back in the house for special occasions, but only after the horror of it being put on me is a distant memory.

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Celebrating my brave boys with a carb meal

On Fridays we take the boys swimming in Bedford. We go to Bedford as our Flitwick pool is f-f-freezing (I used to finish swimming lessons with Ciaran early when his lips turned blue) and the waiting list to get back to lessons is over a terms wait. The pool we swim at is good in many ways, it’s an ozone pool (no chlorine to upset Ciaran’s eczema) with two teachers to each group of six. The downside is that on Friday afternoons I have to drive like a possessed woman from school into and across Bedford.

Ciaran was unhappy about starting swimming after Christmas but by half term had calmed down (as he is so young they put him in a very small group so he could get almost 1-1 attention) and Ben was coming on well until his teachers took all six tummy bands off in one lesson. Most of the kids in his group were too scared to swim and both teachers were focusing on the scared kids while Ben and his friend swam on their backs with a kickboard, when Ben was almost at the other end he lost his board and started to drown. Neither teacher noticed and the lifeguard was apparently ‘scanning’ the other side of the pool. Eventually he noticed and dived in just before my husband and I arrived downstairs at the pool side terrified.

I knew that Ben needed to get back into the water so I encouraged him to get back in with a tummy band. Unfortunately he missed the last lesson before Easter so yesterday was his first time back in the water for three weeks and over Easter he had been brooding a lot on what happened in the water and getting tearful about swimming.

Yesterday I go the boys changed with no tears and took them poolside, Ciaran saw the water, pulled a face and burst into tears while Ben chatted to his friends. I knew that the longer I stayed the harder it would be for Ciaran so I deposited him in the lap of the assistant manager (who I’d warned earlier about both boys being scared) and headed up to the viewing gallery leaving hubby poolside in case of emergencies). By the time I was upstairs Ciaran was in the water with his teacher and bravely letting go of her to swim next to her, Ben had panicked and was refusing to get in.

After ten minutes of letting him get ready in his own time one of his teachers lifted him into the water (the other teacher was there to help him) and as soon as he got in the water he was fine! My parents were watching and commented that once Ben got going he was quite a fast swimmer for a five year old. Both boys had been very brave and I was so proud of my babies for trying hard.

As both boys had been brave (and this time I hadn’t ran so hard in high heels to save my kids that my feet were bruised) we celebrated in style, a Maccy D for the kids on the way home followed by a kebab for us adults. I normally have the meat and salad without the pitta but decided to have a vegetable kebab as a carb meal (I know that the pitta was white but hey Ho) and treated myself to half a portion of chips. While it was nice I missed the spiced meat and the pitta and chips mad me feel so bloated and uncomfortable that I’ll stick to foregoing the pitta!

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Filed under Ben, Children, Ciaran, Mummy

A fun weekend

I spent Friday with a thumping headache and sore throat feeling very sorry for myself. To satisfy Ciaran’s demands I hauled myself over to my parent’s house to walk the puppy with the boys and have lunch with Ninny (sausages sarnies for the kids, salmon salad and crab sticks for adults). Back home I tried to type up notes from the previous evenings Brownie unit planning meeting before deciding to lie down and let the kids pick a movie. Now that Ben can read we get some odd movie choices. We bought a zoo wouldn’t normally be a child’s movie pick but as he recognised the word zoo we had to watch it.

On Saturday hubby headed off to London for a photography course leaving me, the headache and kids at home. After an hour (and sharing my brekfast sausages and tomatoes grudgingly) I was pulling my hair out and told them to get their coats on. I drove to the Xscape in Milton Keynes and hoped that the novelty of a new movie, first ever cinema trip for Ciaran and popcorn would buy me an hour and half of relative peace. I hadn’t banked on the movie (The Croods) being so watchable and found myself laughing as the kids munched their popcorn ( a regular portion split into two bags). I was good and drank water instead of diet coke.

After the movie the boys begged for Maccy D so we headed there where I had more water and a chicken salad. Sadly the salad didn’t come with any cutlery and wasnt anything special so I picked at as much as I could face with my fingers (less than half). We then visited a relative who came to the park with us before getting back home in time for the Ocado man tea (pizza for the kids) and Dr Who before bed.


While I prepared tea Ben walked in looking very guilty and worried. I steeled myself to hear that the TV was broken and then noticed a tiny white lump in his hand and blood around his mouth. He’d given his loose tooth a wiggle and got a shock when it came away! Once he realised I wasn’t annoyed and that it was normal for it to bleed he was over the moon and excited about he tooth fairy visiting and worked hard to address an envelope to her. Ms Tooth Fairy had to quickly check her purse and was initially worried that she might be stuck with a choice of a quid in coppers or a note! Luckily Ms Tooth Fairy discovered a forgotten £2 coin.

After all the excitement the kids both settled quite well leaving me to have an evening without yelling upstairs to get back in bed!

Today was slightly warmer than yesterday so this morning we drove to Ampthill Park, walked the long circuit round before stopping at the play area and then onto the cafe (where I was very good and had a black tea without any homemade cake). At home I cooked lunch and then the men of the family all fell upon the Easter Eggs for pudding. Once the kids were suitably stuffed and getting fractious I took them into the kitchen to bake biscuits, Ciaran had requested jammy biscuits so we made thumbprints which cooled as we walked around Flitwick to pop to the shops and visit my parents. After the kids had demolished an omelette ( they did a LOT of walking today) I finally let them have a biscuit and judging by their expressions they were delicious.

Jammy thumbprints

125g butter cut into cubes
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
40g oats
60g plain flour
125g self raising flour
Jam or marmalade

1. Line two baking sheets and preheat the oven to 180
2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla extract (I explained to Ben that it was very strong so we could only use a little bit, he poured the half spoon in and then popped the spoon into his mouth, he won’t do that again!)
3. Add egg and beat in
4. Add flour and oats, mix well.
5. Shape into 15 balls. Squash flat with a fork, push thumb in middle (not all the way down) add a tiny but of jam or marmalade to the dent.
6. Cook 12-15 minutes, 15 minutes was a little too long for ours.


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Triple Choc monster cookies for monsters

I have recently tried to encourage Ben to behave at school by promising we’ll bake something yummy (or if I feel lazy buy him a hot wheel) every weekend if he has kept his golden time safe at school. At the end of the week year one gets 1/2 hour free play (golden time) but can have time removed as a punishment, I’m not sold on the advantage of punishing a child on Friday for something he did on Monday but am doing my bit to support the teachers through bribery.

An unexpected advantage has been that my periodic baking of muffins has resulted in the freezer being stocked with treats I can defrost in the microwave or bung in Ben’s lunchbox avoiding the hysteria when I discover there are no treats in the house to put in the box. Initially Ben had asked for smarties cookies and as my freezer was stripped of treats I agreed we’d try to bake cookies.

In the past my cookies have not so much expanded as much as exploded into a solid baking sheet of cookie so I agreed with some trepidation. I looked at various recipes and decided kitchen monsters recipe looked both child friendly and idiot proof. I didn’t have smarties but had a couple of bags of cheapo chocolate chips (if I cook for adults I use green and blacks, the kids are interested in quantity not quality so they get what ever is cheapest in the shops!) and some cheapo cocoa powder so I adapted the recipe to make triple chocolate monster cookies.

Normally my rule for cocoa is that you can substitute cocoa for up to half the flour but need to throw in baking powder if it was self raising flour, given my previous disasters I ignored my own rule.


175g butter
2 eggs
225g caster sugar
100g cocoa
250g self raising flour
Handful of chocolate chips
Handful of white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 180 and line 2 baking trays.

2. Throw everything apart from the chips in the bowl (letting the kids try cocoa powder off my finger was a good learning experience for what “bitter” means and both boys practiced numbers and mental arithmetic with the digital scales).

3. Mix, my proper whisk was MIA so I put the whisk attachment onto the hand held soup / blending stick. Nothing happened. It’s been a while but I had never seen such a stiff mixture, maybe the flour was too cold but all the stick did was sweet Fanny Adams so it was back to elbow grease. When I’d done the bulk of the work the kids tried to move the spoon in the mixture – learning what “too bloody stiff” meant.

4. Add the chips, stir as best as you can.

5. Use a tablespoon to fling large wodges onto the sheet. Given my paranoia of spreading, I just made 12 over the two trays. Apply children’s faces to the leftover batter in the bowl and on the spoon.

6. Bake for 14 minutes. They didn’t spread much (maybe because I hadn’t flattened them, maybe because I didn’t add baking soda or maybe the flour was acting up) but they didn’t seem any the worse for it. If you want the half cooked American style cookies you could cut the cooking time a few minutes.

Taste testers have given this the thumbs up. In theory cookies can freeze so hopefully I’ll be restocking my treat bag in the freezer if they don’t eat them all! They’re quite firm (proper chocolate cookies rather than soggy ones) so I think they’ll freeze well.



Filed under Ben, Ciaran, Mummy, recipe

Bittersweet symphony

My three and half year old ‘baby’ has been our of nappies for over eighteen months, is dry at night if he is bribed and now is starting to read.

He’s just finished the last lesson on the first reading eggs map and took the quiz at the end.


While I am proud of my determined baby Im not ready for him to be so grown up so quickly.

Going through the trauma of a fast growing toddler without any anaesthetic (chocolate) is not easy.

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Reading eggs a review 8 months in.

At Easter last year I signed both kids up for a free trial of the reading eggs website, initially for my kids (who grew up with iPhones and iPads around the house and owned a mobigo each) the art of using a mouse was a hurdle. We persevered and with me initially helping them to move the mouse (and hubby slowing down the mouse speed on the laptop) Ben started doing lessons, starting at the start with the letter m. Ciaran got to grips with mouse control in the playroom and quickly demanded the right to start lessons, so he played around with the letter m as well.

I was impressed that the pronunciation and spelling of words was the UK English version as my iPad was full of apps that used American-English.

Each lesson is made up of several parts, the first being an introduction to a new letter, sound or word where the child is rewarded by Sam the ant (or later a different friend) singing them a cheery song. They move into writing the letter on screen, finding it in a grid, identifying words that start with that letter etc.. And end with a book, initially just a letter book, later stories and non fiction books.

By the end of the 2 week trial Ben was almost ready to finish the first map (10 lessons) so I bought a six month subscription and chucked in a half price subscription for Ciaran who by either luck or 2 year old intuition had ploughed through a couple of lessons. When Ben came to the revision lesson on the map it all seemed so hard, he’d gone from recognising letters (which he could already do) to recognising simple 3 letter words like cat, the speed seemed so challenging for my little boy but some how he managed to hit the right letters and words in time. He then managed to pass the test and graduate onto the next map.

This allowed him access to his own house which he could decorate using the eggs he’d won or he could dress his avatar up in new clothes. Having an incentive to use the lessons rather than playroom (Ben likes retail therapy!) we carried on.

Ciaran spent most of his reading eggs time in the nursery, enjoying listening to the nursery rhymes and short stories. When he did fancy doing ‘big boy’ reading eggs he often repeated a lesson, reinforcing his knowledge of a letter or short word. By using the odd free code I extended their subscription to the new year and today had to decide whether to extend their subscription. Ben is on lesson 61 and has unlocked a castle where he does reading comprehension lessons, he has been taking driving tests for a while (practicing letters and sight words). Ciaran is insanely jealous of the content Ben has unlocked and is now on lesson 10.


Obviously I’ve re-subscribed both boys, Ciaran is recognising letters and little words like cat and Sam, Ben’s spelling of words and reading abilities have improved and I’m sure that having another way to practice than just reading with Mum has helped him. I used to print off free worksheets for the kids to practice writing the letters or words after a lesson but have decided not only to renew my subscription but to buy book sets for the kids to save me printing out activity sheets.

The only downsides is that reading eggs is a flash site so not iPad friendly, while you can get it in rover (a flash friendly browser) trying to play it in rover is a PITA and it won’t work on the Nabi 2 tablets the kids got for Christmas as they block pop-ups (to avoid children getting dodgy adverts) and the site runs via pop ups. A new maths site is being developed which apparently will run on the iPad or PC so maybe at some point reading eggs will be re-programmed in a similar way (or better still will be made compatible with the Nabi 2 system leaving my iPad in my hands!).

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