July’s Small Stuff

I think I say this every month, but wow July flew past.  The days can be long, but the month is short! July small stuff The start of July was all about trudging through the last days of school.  We were all tired, but fun was had a musicals, assemblies, shuffle up weeks (meeting new teachers) and saying thank you to teachers who have helped to shape and mould my boys. The other underlying aspect of July has been thrills and spills.  We have visited three theme parks. Enjoying a fab new ride at Drayton Manor, Thorpe Park (come back tomorrow for a FAB competition featuring Thorpe Park)  and have our ill held preconceptions shattered about Blackpool where we took Mini to his first show to see Mama Mia. Family has been the keyword during July with a fab family Christening and catching up with some wonderful family from my Dad's side of the family and watching the MiniMads connect with another generation.  We have spent the warm summer evenings walking the dog and chatting. The Minimads have been loom band and football card crazy and also finding time for some Hama Beads in their crazy social whirl.   The weather has been really kind, so lots of scootering and biking has happened and they have made the most of the time off school playing football and cricket with friends. I made a trip to London to learn about Kindle Fire HDX and learn how to use it to limit the boys online time but also about Amazon Video Streaming (more on that to come).  I also took part in a North Eastern Blogger and Brand Event in Newcastle, which was really interesting. I have discovered that I love cold coffee and have been making frozen decaf ice cubes to add to cold milk (voila iced caffe late) thanks to our Dolche Gusto machine.   We have also been filling the freezer with home made lollies and popsicles. We have so much to be thankful and grateful for that we have started a family gratitude journal.
The Mad House
So now it is your turn.  Come and share with me your small stuff.  The little things that make a big difference.
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5 ways to teach kids to be smart with money

According to a recent survey by Scottish Friendly UK disposable incomes on the rise, which can only be a good things after such a period of recession. (You can find Scottish Friendly on twitter) We were listening to the news on the radio whilst in the car at the weekend, when Mini asked "what is a recession?" This got me thinking that money really has a terminology and language of all it own and it is my responsibility as a parent to teach this to the boys and to make sure that they are money smart, but how do you do that? 5 ways to teach kids to be smart with money

Start talking to your kids about money at an early age

  Explain to your Kids why you work, so that you can make money for the family.  Explain that the items they use each day all cost money and you must work to make and save enough to make sure all things are paid for.  From an early age if you asked the boys why their Daddy went out to work their response would be "to get pennies" . We also explained that a bank is a place that keeps money safe. 

Give them practical money lessons

The best way to teach kids to start managing money is to give them some. If they blow their pocket money on the ice cream van and don't have enough left for later in the week, that's actually a good thing: They learn firsthand the consequence of overspending. Another way to do this with older children is to get them involved with the family shopping budget.  Get them to make the list and give them a budget to spend to get the shopping.

Model good habits

Make sure you set a good example for your kids.   Let them see you making smart decisions about money.  Be a role model,Let them see you have a savings account and how you shop wisely.  Show how you set up a budget and stick to it. In addition to disciplining yourself to use smart money habits, make sure you point out to your kids how those habits work in your day-to-day life.  You have a budget and spending priorities. So should your child.

Talk about money

Money should not be spoken to in hushed tones or b e a dirty word.  Make sure you talk to your kids about money and finance.  Talk about your work and how your salary is based on the work you do. Show how your earnings reflect the health of your business and the economy. If your family is enduring a difficult time, find a way to talk about it an age-appropriate manner.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Delayed gratification is one of the hardest money lessons I think.  I want to avoid that  "buy now, pay later" mentality that could mire the boys in credit card debt later on. So, as much as I can, I reinforce the idea that waiting pays off. But remember that postponement of pleasure is a grown-up characteristic, learned from grown-ups.

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Stepping outside my comfort zone and Dr Beckmann competition

A while ago I was asked to be in a video by Dr Beckmann about their stain removers and their colour  and dirt collector sheets. Me in a video!  Initially I was going to decline, but I use the products and actually for once decided to step outside my comfort zone and say yes. jen filming As the date got nearer, I got more and more apprehensive.  We were going to be making a proper video and I was going to be using an autocue as I had a script and everything! Any way, I swallowed my scaries and we made two videos.  The experience was fantastic and the girls and guys made it fun and even better the video turned out amazing. Well I think it did. Why not take a look for yourself......................... I would never make a video for products that I didn't believe it and there was no camera trickery involved in this second video.  What I add to the water is actual Dylon Dye and the Colour & Direct Collector sheets absorb it all from the water. The lovely people at Dr Beckmann's have offered a reader of The Mad House the opportunity to get their hands on some great products including Stain Devils for ridding those stubborn stains, the whole Service-It family, for maintaining and cleaning your appliances and the handy Dry Clean Only cloths to keep those delicate garments looking and smelling fresh, Carpet Stain Remover, Glowhite, Oven Cleaner and brand new Colour & Dirt Collector Sheets. win Dr Beckmann Products So to be in with a chance to win this great prize all you have to do is leave me a comment telling me what colour dye I add to the vases. Entry is via Gleam. Dr Beckmann's Prize Bundle
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What They Don’t Tell You About Being A Working Parent

What They Don't Tell You About Being A Working Parent Image courtesy of Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net You eagerly counted down your last days at work before starting maternity leave and spent the last few months enjoying every second of both parenthood and not being in the office. But the day is fast approaching when you have to leave your precious bundle in the arms of another and begin the new life of a working parent. 'Parents all over the world do this every day' you say ' it can't be that tough' you say, while flicking through those glossy lifestyle magazines, reading about the high flying exec that successfully juggles her career and three children making it sound oh so simple! But in truth, unless you have extremely supportive family to help with childcare at the drop of a hat or a healthy bank account to pay for round the clock nannies and school holiday clubs, the reality of being a working parent can hit hard for some. From sick stained work suits, rusks on your reports, tears at nursery to continuous guilt, here's what they don't tell you about being a working parent... (but don't worry, it's totally normal!) Nothing prepares you for that first day Whether you're leaving your little prince or princess with relatives, a childminder or nursery, nothing can prepare you for that first day back at work; it's one of the hardest you'll experience. Expect tears. From you, not your child. If they cry when you leave, you'll cry and feel like a terrible parent. When they don't cry, you cry anyway, sit in the car outside for 10 minutes sobbing that your baby won't even miss you and conclude you therefore must be a terrible parent. Cut your getting ready time by 90% Forget snoozing your alarm, jumping in the shower, blow-drying your hair, putting on make-up and enjoying your morning coffee. With a little one either up at the crack of dawn demanding breakfast and refusing to wear anything you try and put them in (they do it on purpose, they know you're leaving them I'm sure!) you'll need to plan your mornings with military precision. And didn't you know, kids just lurrrve emptying out the contents of your bathroom cabinet while you're taking a shower. Expect all your tampons to be opened and your expensive moisturiser smeared in their hair. Instead, opt for an evening shower, learn to love any clothes that are just clean (or if you're feeling brave, try and pull off that sick splodge on your jacket as a 'designer flourish') and learn about the joys of dry shampoo! Fancy another mortgage? Most working parents are so, mainly out of necessity. Although we like the idea of contributing to the money pot, interacting with other adults and having an identity other than 'little Freddie's mum', very few manage to actually get that balance. If you're returning to work full time and therefore needing full time childcare, expect to pay. A lot. In reality, you could probably have had a second mortgage, (holiday home in Spain yes please!) or you may even pay more in childcare than your actual mortgage - which is pretty gutting. So add that to your ever increasing energy bills, stagnant wages and rising petrol costs and it's a pretty scary chunk of money to find every month, but this is your child's safety and wellbeing we're talking about so you grin and bear it. Expect a 14 hour day, with the pay of 7 hours, actually 3.5 if you're paying childcare Remember when you had a tough day at work and you'd come home, drop your bag and head straight for the fridge for a cold glass of wine and put your feet up? Yeah, well forget that. Replace it with a frantic drive to nursery / childminders, collection of a tired and grouchy child who 9 times out of 10 doesn't seem pleased to see you and then get ready for your night shift. You'll try your best to think of something healthy and imaginative to eat that everyone will like (a move rarely successfully pulled off) as the little one has a tantrum because their favourite Peppa Pig or Thomas Tank plate is dirty in the dishwasher. All as you get the bath run, the morning dishes cleared away and then your little one bathed and ready for bed. If you're lucky and they're a good sleeper, you'll probably put them down and start cleaning away the dinner dishes, finally sitting down around 9pm. By that point, your too tired to watch the shows you've saved on your sky planner and head to bed yourself. Jealous colleagues and guilt Now we've established you work 14+ hours a day and take home around 3.5 hours of pay, you'll probably be surprised that some of your work colleagues will actually think you have it easy!After all, you'll leave work on time every day, have days off when your child is sick, have the option to ask for flexible hours, skip off mid afternoon when nursery call to say little Martha has a temperature - what a blast! They won't see the before or after, the tears, the panic over what to do in the summer holidays, the raised eyebrows when you can't offer to work over time. As a working parent, you feel guilt. Guilt at not being there 24/7 for your child and guilt that you're not good enough at your job because it's no longer your sole priority. It's normal, it really is, and you have to put it aside and remember that you're doing what you're doing because you feel it's right for your family.  And the next time you get a disapproving look, remember that person too may one day become a parent and know just how tough it is. You're doing a good job OK, I know I might have gone a little OTT here and there or perhaps you wish it was this easy, but there's no denying, being a working parent is no easy task and anyone that tells you otherwise, probably has superpowers you don't know about. Times have changed and working parents are making up more and more of the work force. Employers are recognising the importance of flexible working and kids know you have to work to pay the bills. They won't hate you for it, you're setting a good example and they'll know you're doing what's best for everyone - so don't be so hard on yourself! Keep everything in perspective, do your best, cherish the precious moments because before you know it, they'll have flown the nest and you'll be cashing your pension! 3.
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The *BEST* School Trousers we have tried…. ever

I do not say this lightly, but I think I have found the holy grail of school uniform.  The BEST school trousers ever. The best school tousers We were asked to review some school uniform from BHS and I have to say that we have been delighted with what we received in general, but more than that we were blown away by the school trousers. What is so special about BHS School Trousers?  You might ask.  Well let me spell it out for you.........
  1. They have reinforced knees - yes how amazing is that, no more patching holey knees for me.
  2. They do a slim fit - I have a super slim child and these look ace on him.  No more flappy trousers!
  3. They do different leg lengths - At last someone has realised that kids come in different heights.
  4. They are different fits on offer including slim, skinny and generous fits.
  5. They have adjustable waists.  Does anyone elses childs slim out when they shoot upwards?
These trouser have stood up to both my boys and they decimate school uniform and I am delighted to say not only are they practical, but the skinny fit looks amazing on Maxi.  He loves the fact that he can be an individual with a different style of trouser to all the other kids in his class. The BEST School Trouser we have tried.... ever
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Encouraging independence in kids over the summer

My boys are eight and nine and this is our third summer of the Bored Jar and also the third summer that I have given them more freedom over the summer to. Now I am going to admit that it isn't always plain sailing and that the boys have pushed boundaries in the past, but we all thrive from trusting each other. Encouraging independence in kids over the summer

Our rules for a #Freerange summer

Set clear boundaries - The boys have areas that they are not allowed to go to on their own, they also have areas that they can only visit together or in groups. Set clear expectations and time limits - Both the boys have watches and can tell the time.  If they are not back on time, then they are sanctioned.  The Watch Hut has some fantastic kids watches. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you - and no I don't mean give them a mobile phone!  Kids do not need mobile phones. We used walkie talkies when the boys were younger and I make sure I have mobile phone numbers for their friends parents.  I also ensure that the boys know our numbers.
free range summer As they boys have got older, more and more of their friends and peers have freedom too and it is not unusual to find 12 boys playing in our garden or making loom bands in the conservatory.

Set home rules and make sure they are kept

I have a pretty open door policy and also keep the kids and their friends hydrated with water, squash and icepops.
  • You must close the door behind you (we have a dog)
  • You respect my rules in my house
  • No electronics after six pm
  • You get toys out, you put them away
  • No playing upstairs
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Pinterestingly – Pins I’ve found interesting this week #4 – The start of the summer holidays

NewPinterestinglarge392 Friday marked the last day of term for the minimas and I have been busy preparing for our summer.  We are pretty freerange over the summer and I am a big believer in not over scheduling the boys or myself. But I find that the cleaning definitely takes a back seat, so I have been looking for cleaning hacks that can make our lives easier and get the boys involved more. kids choresclean your room   Cooking is another thing that I want to ensure we do more of as a family over the summer break and after speaking to the boys teachers the one activity that they recommended that we keep up over the summer is writing.   The boys read a lot in their everyday lives, but I want to incorporate writing more. cooking campsummer writingmake writing funMusic with math So these are my favorite pins this week, what are yours.  Do leave me a link to your pinterest account below in the comments. Visit Jen Walshaw's profile on Pinterest.
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Ultimate summer activities lists and bored Jar lists

We have been using an I'm Bored Jar for the last two years now and I wouldn't be without one.  With the summer holidays coming now is the perfect time to put together yours.

Make a Bored Jar

  You can really use any jar or container that you have in the house.  I used a kilner jar that we had in the kitchen and cut out a some paper to make a label and also a tag to make it all pretty! Ultimate summer activities lists and bored Jar lists

Print this years summer activity list (with over 150 activities)

Click to download this years Ultimate bored jar in PDF format bored jar list 1bored jar list page 2bored jar list page 3bored jar list page 4 bored jar list page 5bored jar list page 5

Previous years Activity lists

So rather than hunt down all my previous posts, I wanted to share with you our previous lists, just click on the image and you will be taken to the post. ultimate bored jar activity list   Ultimate Spring Bored Jar Activity list 100 summer activities

 Great Summer Activities from around the Web

  Over 1000 activities for over the summer
We printed our activities this year on vivid card 220 gsm from Viking Direct using our new HP Envy 5510.  I was really impressed how easily it printed on card.
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T20 Blast – A real fun day out

Both the minimads are sporty boys and love playing and watching sport. I am one of those odd women that loves Cricket. I remember going to watch the local team play with my Grandad (the cricket club was at the end of our road) and I loved sitting next to him and watching and learning. Top tips for getting the best out of T20 Blast with kids When we were invited by The England Cricket Board to attend a local T20 Blast match we thought it would be a great introduction to the boys of cricket, albeit a much short, more fast paced match and we were right. For those not in the know T20 is a shorter version of a day match.  With only 20 overs per side.  1 over is 6 balls.  On average it takes about three hours. The beauty of T20 is that there are lots more fours and sixes and also more people caught out in a shorter time.  It is like a match on fast forward.
The Natwest T20 Blast is a fast paced, big hitting, all-round entertainment package both on and off the pitch, involving some of the world’s top cricketers. With a quicker format and more lively game night experience, the Natwest T20 Blast experience takes on a modern twist and signifies the start of summer
We went to see Durham Jets hamer Derbyshire Falcons and it was a great afternoon.  Yes we got a little wet, but that didn't dampen our spirits.

Top tips for getting the best out of T20 Blast with kids

 
  1. Take a picnic.  Fod at the stadium is expensive. We packed a picnic and grazed throughout the match
  2. Get their early - parking at Durham is inexpensive at £2.30 and close and by getting their early we got a great car parking space and got to look round before the game started (which is called stumps) and got good seats
  3. Take clothing for all eventualities, we had hot sun and rain within minutes, so make sure you take waterproofs, hats, suncream and a blanket.  Don't take an umbrella they drip on other people and you cannot see over them if sat behind someone with one.
  4. Take binoculars, the boys loved being able to see a little better and binoculars are great for this.
  5. Stay at the end and get the players autographs
  6. Grab the noisemakers and cards for waving when 4 and 6's are hit
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Fab home made ice lollies and popsicles for kids – Kids in the Kitchen

Fab home made ice lollies and popsicles for kids We have a rule in The Mad House, which is that we do not partake in the ice cream van, this means that I have a freezer drawer full of ice lollies and we love making homemade ice lollies or popsicles.  I never throw away nearly out of date juice or smoothies as they make fab lollies, Just like Kate at Crafts on Sea. mixed berry lolly They are also a great way to get your kids to eat more fruit and veg (yes veg) if you have fussy eaters and you can tailor them for your childrens tastes.  My two also love them when they have sore throats. Ingredients
  • Spinach (or other green)
  • Berries (if you have fresh great, if not frozen ones are perfectly fine)
  • Liquid - coconut water, yogurt, juice or water
  • Sweetener (if required) - we use date syrup, but honey is great too
Equipment:
  • Blender or food processor,
  • Ice lolly moulds or paper cups and lolly sticks
Method:
  • Blend the spinach with some coconut water first, I use about a bowl of spinach to a bowl of mixed berries.
  • Add the berries and blend.  I use frozen a lot of the time, they are cheaper and just as good.  I let them thaw for 5 minutes before blending them.
  • Add coconut water to get the right consistency for you.
  • Taste and add sweetener as required.
I get about 20 lollies from a £1.50 box of berries.
Tip: We sieve the berries once we have blended them as my boys are not fans of seeds.
Mixed berry and spinach ice lollies
Variations:  soft fruit is great for ice lollies such as banana or mango.  You can use any sort of liquid, such as soy or nut milks and coconut milk is delicious with strawberries or pineapple, peach, vanilla and greek yogurt.
If you are looking for some more inspiration take a look at these: easy DIY popsicles, home made smoothies and freeze the leftovers,  fruit and yogurt popsicles, three ingredient strawberry pops, simple juice lollies  I am definitely making these avocado and kiwi pops. and Center Parcs have some great tips too.
Tip:  If you make your lollies in a multiple mould, take them out and pop them all in a bag in the freezer one they have frozen, this way kids can help themselves easily and you are not trying to get them out whilst they wait impatiently!
lolly cup
Tip: when giving kids lollys give then a cup to put them in when they want to put them down, it saves finding puddles of melted juice everywhere!
‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and visited Whinfell village with my family. If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how 
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