In Weekend in focus I review the weekend and look at our therapeutic parenting successes and failures, with the aim of learning something each time. 

Friday night
On Friday after school I took Charlotte to the library while Joanna had football. Charlotte behaved beautifully in the library until we bumped into one of her friends, and then a shrieky game of hide-and-seek ensued. Hmmm. Thankfully it was soon time to make an exit and Joanna was in bouyant mood after football (which she loves). We walked home without incident and made it almost to dinnertime before they started arguing.

Pete arrived home as I was putting their dinner on the table and they were having a moan about having to switch off the TV and come and eat. He oversaw the rest of dinner without too much incident and then off they went to bed and we stared, glassy-eyed, at screens small and tiny for the rest of the evening. Friday nights will do that to people.

Saturday
On Saturday morning Pete the wonderhusband went to a men’s breakfast at church. I was not entirely awake so there was a lot of CBeebies and Lego going on with just an occasional ‘please stop arguing and play nicely’ interjected by me as I passed through the living room with a pile of laundry on my way to the washing machine and then retreated back upstairs to the duvet and my book. At about 10.00 I decided that I probably ought to get the girls dressed before Pete returned, but they were a bit too volatile to risk having a shower and leaving their antics unmonitored, so I was still pyjamaed when he returned at 10.45.

Once he was back I went through Joanna’s homework with her while Charlotte read her book to Pete in another room. Joanna had to count in fives as high as she could and write them all out. She loved it, espcially once she started seeing the patterns. She got stuck and briefly grumpy a couple of times, but talking through the patterns really helped her. Once she’d cracked it and I’d reminded her that she is, in fact, a complete genius, she was all smiles and was off again, writing multiples of five all the way up to 400.

Next was spelling, which she finds a bit harder. She really struggles with getting the right vowel, and with getting the leters in the right order. I am starting to wonder whether it’s just age-appropriate wobbles, or a concentration issue, or dyslexia. Thing is, if I show them all to her for a minute before she has to write them out, she’s fine, but if I asked her to write the same words by sounding them out withough seing them, she’d put the letters in the wrong order, or miss letters out, or both. Anyway. We got there. She wrote all the words we could think of with ‘aw’ in them, and made sentences with this week’s vocabulary. We added ‘Everything is awesome when you work as a team’, which she found very amusing. Phew.

After lunch then plan we for us to put a DVD on and for Pete and the girls to watch that on the sofa while I got the ironing done. (It scares me too much to even think about ironing when they’re playing, because they zoom about with very little care for the fact that the iron is on and there is a cable attaching it to the wall. So ironing only happens when they are asleep or safely installed in front of the TV.) But I went upstairs and read a book instead. No one died. The ironing pile grew a bit. It was Quite Lovely, and frankly good self-care. And you know I’m in favour of that.

Sunday
On Sunday it was church as usual. No drama there, just the usual business of us starting out sitting on one chair each and then both the girls wanting to sit on me when I’m sitting down, and when we stand for the songs, C wants me to hold her on my hip like a toddler and J wants me to hold her hand. It’s just about doable but isn’t tremendously comfortable. Neither of them want Pete, which makes him feel rubbish, and he’s unable to peel them off me without them making a scene, so we usually just muddle through. This week, just before one of the songs, I suggested that Joanna tried to read as many of the words from the screen as she could. Then I realised the song choice. Crown Him with Many Crowns not only has about 14 verses, it contains lines beyond the wit of many adults, let alone our little six-year-old. Words like ‘sceptre’, ‘piercèd’, and ‘ineffably sublime’. Yup. Well played, Hannah. Numpty.

Anyway. Church over, we zoomed off to our friends’ house for lunch. It was lovely. Their eldest is in Charlotte’s class, and they all played relatively happily together. Joanna and Charlotte got out almost every toy in the house, which was a bit embarrassing, but there were no meltdowns by any of the children, so we’ll call that a success. We did have to call the girls over to us for a bit of ‘time in’ a couple of times as we could sense a bit of simmering going on. Joanna finds it hard to navigate social situations where she isn’t in charge, and she was itching to be the boss of the play, espcially as she was the eldest, our friends’ daughter is quite quiet and shy, and there were all these exciting toys to play with, preferably all at once. So we had a quiet little chat about how things work when you’re playing at someone else’s house (not something she’s experienced a lot, to be fair to her) and the social niceties of letting the host decide what’s going to happen and what you’re going to play with. And, bless her, she tried really hard and did a great job. I was really impressed with her and made sure she knew it. Charlotte, too.

We came home and Pete zoomed back off to church for the evening service. I fed the girls and then started to field questions from Joanna. ‘Did X (her friend) come out of Y (the mum)’s tummy?’ ‘Why wasn’t she adopted?’ ‘How do babies get out of mummies’ tummies?’ ‘Why couldn’t I have come out of your tummy?’ ‘Was our birth mummy a bad mummy?’ ‘Why did she drink and smoke and take drugs when we were inside her?’ I did my best with all of those. Then Charlotte joined us. ‘Why did Daddy [name] hurt me when he brushed my teeth?’ Her first disclosure. I’d suspected, but she hadn’t voiced it before. And that solved a behavioural puzzle we’ve been wondering about for months about why she shrinks from an innocent Pete (and occasionally me) in the same situation.

The questions, and my attempts to give them the answers they deserve in an age-appropriate way, continued for about 40 minutes as we moved from dinner, to cuddles on the sofa, to bedtime. Joanna does most of her life-story work at bedtime, which is when she struggles to be left alone with her own thoughts and feelings. (Charlotte has shown very little interest in talking about her birth family until now, so we just let her know every now and again that the option is available to her and wait for her to initiate conversations. She will when she’s ready. )

Today after school me and Joanna are going to see if we can find a quiet corner of a café to carry on our conversation. She’s had her weekly art therapy session this morning at school, so I’m keen to find out if she has yet felt able to open up to the counsellor about her past. Last night she was saying it was still too soon (it’s only been running since Christmas) so We Shall See. Meanwhile Pete will be collecting Charlotte, and hoping she doesn’t repeat the tantrum he had to come with on the way to school this morning. I’ll be reminding him that when I was discussing the differences between Pete and her birth dad, I referred to Pete as ‘Daddy Pete’. She looked at me like I had lost my marbles. ‘Daddy Pete? He’s not Daddy Pete. He’s DADDY!’

I’ll take that.

Summary

Successes:

  • self-care on Saturday afternoon
  • one-to-one in a room with no distractions for Joanna’s homework
  • visit to friends’ house with calm ‘time in’ when things started to simmer
  • helpful (I think) life story work

Failures:

  • ‘Why don’t you try to read this old, impenetrable hymn?’ *facepalm*

Next time:

  • we’ll try to do homework in the same way with lots of one-to-one time
  • I might try to get dressed a tiny bit earlier on a Saturday morning
  • we’ll have more confidence about taking the girls to visit friends’ houses

How was your weekend? Do you have any tips for surprise life story work or sudden disclosures? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Introduction
Welcome to the fourth in my series of Sunday Self-Care posts. Each Sunday I’m adding a new blog post about a different aspect of self-care. I’ll be using the hashtag #sundayselfcare on Twitter and Instagram and would love it if you’d join me.

If you missed them, here’s where you can find the previous posts:
The seven components of self-care, part one: sleep
The seven components of self-care, part two: support
The seven components of self-care, part three: sports

Photo by Michael Stern

Photo by Michael Stern

Sustenance
As I mentioned last week, I’m using ‘sustenance’ to mean all things foody because it alliterates with the previous topics, and I love a nice bit of alliteration.

(I am now going to write an entire blog post about food while sitting in Starbucks, worryingly close to a tempting stack of paninis, with my beloved caramel macchiato in my non-typing hand. OK. Let’s do this.)

Food, stress, self-care and me
I really like food.

But also… I know that I eat as a response to stress, and my children’s behaviour is often a trigger. Once they’ve been home from school for half an hour five minutes, the bickering has begun, and the listening to me has stopped, I head to the kitchen for something else to do. At this point I am usually thinking that I need to (a) save my sanity and (b) model an appropriate way to deal with frustration. (The eating part might not be a great example, but removing myself from a situation rather than yelling at them is positive, so let’s go with that.)

This is why, as I mentioned last week, I can be found at my local Weight Watchers meeting every week, checking in and soaking up inspiration as I aim to lose 4st in 2015.  I’ve now been doing Weight Watchers for just over a month (without the accountability it provides, I fall off the wagon). I’ve lost 7lbs, so I’m on target so far. And the sense that I’m in control of this aspect of my life feels good, especially when the kids are off the scale and we live with a lot of unpredictability in terms of how they feel like behaving on any given day. So, me doing Weight Watchers is me doing self-care. (As I would say if I was American, go me.)

Why it matters
As we all know, food is fuel and a good balance of the healthy stuff (protein, carbs, fibre, vitamins and what-not) equips our bodies to run well. This is especially important for people who experience high levels of stress on a day-to-day basis (such as those parenting children who have experienced trauma), because the combination of stress and unhealthy eating can lead to severe long-term health issues, such as diabetes, heart problems, and depression. As the Stress Management Society says, ‘Lack of nutrition will inflict a greater stress on the body, plus other problems that pose a threat to your physical and mental health’. They elaborate:

‘One of the main issues with stress is that it can cause unhealthy eating habits. This applies mainly to people who are always on the go and lead a busy lifestyle. People that fall into this category often endure large amounts of stress and have no time to fit a balanced nutrition around their busy schedule. Additionally, stress makes the body crave foods that are high in fats and sugars. This flaw in eating, in time will inflict a greater stress on the body, plus other problems that pose a threat to your physical and mental health.

‘When a person becomes overwhelmed with stress, a common reaction is a sudden urge to eat food. The majority of the time, foods consumed in this situation will be ‘convenience foods’ that are considered a quick fix to nullify stress. The theory of a quick fix is entirely false however, as these foods/drinks only worsen the problem. Consuming foods that are of a ‘junk’ nature actually increase the volume of stress on your body.’

(Their guide to eating to combat stress then goes on to talk about the perils of sugar and caffeine, and, well, as I read it I start to feel that I am being nagged. At this point I am finishing my caramel macchiato and concentrating on the bit about not smoking where, having never touched a cigarette, I can feel virtuous. Ahem. Shall we continue?)

How? When? Where?
So what should we be doing food-wise to help us cope with stress, and how can we add taking care of our nutrition to an already overwhelming to-do list as adoptive parents? Exactly what should we be eating to help our bodies cope with the relentless stresses of adoptive parenting?

  • B vitamins: These help ease stress, depression and anxiety, as well as other physical benefits. (There’s a helpful list of exactly which B vitamins do what here.) They’re found in Marmite, eggs, wholegrain bread and fortified cereals. So eggs and toast and Marmite takes care of that one.
  • Vitamin C: Protects the immune system and lowers the amount of cortisol (a ‘stress hormone’) in your body. It’s in many fruits and vegetables, with particularly high levels in oranges, red and yellow peppers, blackcurrants, strawberries, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Making sure you get your five a day and include some of these sorts this one out.
  • Magnesium: Helps with muscle relaxation, fatty acid formation, making new cells and heartbeat regulation, and is found in green leafy vegetables, meat, fish, nuts and dairy products. So a dose of salmon and spinach and few more almonds, and you’re done.
  • Protein: Helps with growth and tissue repair. Good sources include meat, eggs, nuts and seeds. So a handful of almonds mid-morning will do that one.

(Obviously a multivitamin pill could take care of all this for you, but isn’t it more enjoyable to do some actual eating?)

If you’re the sort of person who can look at at a list like that and go off and put it into practice without gaining an ounce, good for you. I am not. I see a a list like that as a licence to eat brazil nuts all day ‘for my mental well-being’, and add in a bacon sandwich with thick slices of granary bread and magnesium-rich margarine at lunchtime to make sure I have enough of the good stuff in my system. Hmm. So to manage it all appropriately without looking like a hippo in a T-shirt, I need a plan.

As I’ve said, Weight Watchers is a large part of the solution for me. I commit to spending 45 minutes in a meeting every week, weighing in, talking about making the right choices, and reminding myself that I need to invest in my health as a fundamental part of my self-care, rather than reaching for a quick fix in the moment. I can work all the healthy stress-proofing foods into my points allowance, so I snack on grapes and bananas and (very tiny) Marmite sandwiches when I’m feeling wound up, and try to skip the nuts most of the time (because I am very bad at stopping eating them) and go for eggs instead.

I also have a Fitbit (bought in the sales on Boxing Day) which syncs with the Weight Watchers app on my phone, and basically converts exercise into more food. Excellent.

The Fitbit app
The FitBit app
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The WeightWatchers app

Related to this is my need to stay hydrated to help with my self-regulation, as I was saying on Twitter recently:

…which speaks for itself.

So, hands up who’s joining me in the land of Marmite sandwiches? Or do you have other ways of getting all these stress-beating foods into your diet while still having a life (and maybe a sneaky coffee or two)? I’d love to hear your comments.

Have a great week, and if you’d like to join the conversation about self-care on your own blog, that would be wonderful. You can find the code for adding the Sunday Self-Care badge to your site here.

Sunday self-care blog badge

P.S. Next week’s topic is space – that is, time out and how to find it. Do come back next Sunday.

Further reading
The Energy Diet (NHS)
Combating Stress with a Balanced Nutritional Diet (Stress Management Society)
Weight Watchers

What are your thoughts on the importance of making good food choices to your own self-care? Is it something you’re managing well or struggling with? Do you have strategies that work well for you? Please share your comments below and join in the conversation on Twitter with the #sundayselfcare hashtag.

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What is Splosh?

Splosh is an environmentally friendly range of cleaning products delivered (free) by post. They are sold as sachets of concentrate, so you pop them in a bottle, add hot water, give them a shake, and they’re ready to go. You can either recycle your own bottles or buy the relevant ones in a Splosh starter kit, which is what I did.

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Splosh start kit made up and ready for action

I liked the ordering process. First you choose exactly how many products you want to start with. There are options for two, four, six or eight bottles. I went for 4 bottles at £14.95. (You can buy more bottles later, with your refills.)

Then you specify exactly what you want those four products to be. I chose cotton flower laundry detergent and fabric conditioner, pomegranate washing-up liquid and blackberry hand wash. I placed my order with Splosh online on a Monday evening and it arrived on Thursday morning. Pretty efficient. (Note: I used the website this time, but there’s also an app. I love a good app.)

Our washing machine doesn’t get a lot of rest, and we get through a lot of laundry products. With two primary-school-aged children, there is also a lot of hand-washing going on in our house. I usually use Ecover products, because of their environmental credentials, but was keen to see if Splosh would work out cheaper and/or greener.

The price

First, how does it compare financially? This is what I usually buy:

Ecover laundry liquid (1.5l) £5.00 = £3.33 per litre
Ecover fabric conditioner (1.5l) £3.49 = £2.33 per litre
Ecover washing-up liquid (500ml) £1.60 = £3.20 per litre
Ecover hand soap (250ml) £2.50 = £10.00 per litre

Total: £12.59

So in terms of initial outlay for the kit, the Ecover products I usually buy from the supermarket are cheaper. But that misses the point. The system is all about the refills, which is where Splosh comes into its own.

Splosh laundry detergent (2 sachets, making two 1l bottles) £5.95 = £2.48 per litre
Splosh fabric conditioner (4 sachets, making four 1l bottles) £5.95 = £1.24 per litre
Splosh washing-up liquid refill (4 sachets, making four 420ml bottles) £4.95 = £2.95 per litre
Splosh hand soap (8 sachets making four 250ml bottles) £5.95 = £5.95 per litre

Savings:
85p per litre on laundry detergent
£1.09 per litre on fabric conditioner
25p per litre on washing-up liquid
£4.05 per litre on hand soap

So Splosh win on cost hands down, covering the difference in price between the Ecover products and the Splosh starter kit with the first set of refills. (Note: these figures are my own based on prices from Tesco.com and Ocado. Splosh have done their own price comparisons here.)

The environment

What about their eco-friendliness?

I’m impressed. I like to know that cleaning products are going to do the job without killing everything in the water downstream afterwards. I’m also keen to keep things as natural as possible (so, for example, I descale the kettle with lemon juice). Splosh has a great ethos. You can read more about it here, but the short version is that they use natural ingredients as far as possible, have a really low carbon footprint because they’re transporting concentrates rather than products with the water included, and the packaging is reusable and recylable.  Nice work.

And then, finally, time to test them out. I opened up the starter kit and read the instructions.

2015-02-26 09.51.12  2015-02-26 09.51.49

 

I ran the hot tap as hot as it would go, and added hot water to each of the bottles (they come with the sachets already in the right bottles, so you can’t mess it up). It was quite pleasing to watch them dissolve, especially the hand wash ones, because that bottle is completely clear. After a minute or two the sachet casing had vanished, so I shook the bottles to mix them up and they were ready to go.

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Washing-up liquid

First I tested the washing-up liquid. The pomegranate smells amazing. I’m a complete convert. You know when you go swimming and you’re in the showers afterwards and someone else has amazing-smelling shampoo and you get smell-envy? (Just me? OK then.) It’s like that. In my own kitchen. And it is wasted on my washing up, so I will be petitioning Splosh to start making shampoos. Oh, and it did a great job cleaning things too.

Laundry products

Next the laundry liquid and fabric conditioner. I ran a 30-minute eco wash, same as usual. The laundry liquid smelled a bit soapy, and the fabric conditioner smelled… a bit like a mix of paint and sugar soap, to be honest. My ‘tester’ laundry sample was a mix of Pete’s work clothes, a couple of school uniform jumpers, a couple of T-shirts and a jumble of socks and underwear. Like many adoptive families, the children’s underwear can be pretty grim, with more than the average amount of soiling accidents due to their heightened anxiety levels. This time, a few smears but no major incidents to deal with. Phew.

So, would we all be smelling like decorators for the next week? No. The clothes came out smelling fresh and lovely. It’s not a strong smell like some (more toxic) laundry products, but given that people don’t usually come up and sniff me, I’m fine with that.

Hand wash

The blackberry hand wash is great. It smells like a summery cordial, which on a wet lunchtime in February was very welcome. It’s a nice consistency, lathered well without being too bubbly (green credentials at play again there) and left my hands feeling soft and not dried out. My only niggle with this product is a design issue with the bottle. I like the nozzle to be facing forwards in the 6 o’clock position for easy dispensing, but in this case that closed the pump mechanism. It only seems to work in the 2 o’clock position. Not a big deal, but it just stops it looking quite as wonderful as it might otherwise. The shape is otherwise very classy and the see-through-ness means it’s easy to keep an eye on your need for refills!

Conclusion

In summary, then, I am a convert. It’s green, it’s really good value, and watching the sachets dissolve is fun (I may be too easily pleased on that last point). I’d definitely recommend Splosh, and will be trying some of their other products very soon.

Disclaimer: I paid for the Splosh products I used and have not received any payment for reviewing them. If you use the code b1f633 when ordering a starter kit of four bottles or more at splosh.com, you get £5 off and I get a £1 credit for the first five people to use it. 

 

 

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'Be Thankful' by Cindi Albright/RustiqueArt

‘Be Thankful’ by Cindi Albright/RustiqueArt

Welcome to my fourth Thankful Thursday post. This week, I have enjoyed…

Reading
Why Can’t My Child Behave? by Amber Elliott
The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica Turner
The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman

Writing
A blog post about the role of food in self-care, the fourth in my #sundayselfcare series.
Notes to send with Message Muffins (I sent the gingerbread doctor to cheer up a couple of friends who aren’t well). Love this idea.

Watching
The girls making Lego creations.
The new Mother’s Day video from Home for Good:

[vimeo 120343735 w=500 h=281] Listening to
The Charleston Chasers
Joanna and Charlotte telling their own jokes. (Hilarious, though rarely for the reasons they think.) For example:

‘Why did the giraffe cross the road?
To go to the other giraffe’s house to play.’

Eating
Chicken Laksa made by Pete the Wonderhusband.
Chocolate flowers from a friend.

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…and I’m also thankful for
An unusually settled week at school for Joanna (wish I knew why, but she’s doing loads better this week).
The joy of a sofa, a blanket and a good book.

What are you grateful for this week? Leave a comment below or join in with the #thankfulthursday hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.

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In Weekend in focus I review the weekend and look at our therapeutic parenting successes and failures, with the aim of learning something each time.

On Saturday things got going slowly. We started with our usual routine of the girls coming in to our room for a cuddle at 7.30, then taking themselves downstairs to watch CBeebies while we have a lie-in. This usually means half an hour or so of peace before they start screeching or injuring each other. Then breakfast, which has to come before they get dressed as it is rarely a mess-free business…

Getting dressed was different from the usual jeans and T-shirts, though, because Charlotte was off to a ‘pirates and princesses’ birthday party. I confess that in my eagerness to dissuade her from aspiring to own any Frozen merchandise (I am proud to say there is none in the house except a colouring book, which was a present), I gently nudged her towards going as a pirate. I expected her to reject the suggestion outright, because she loves princesses. But no. She was up for being a pirate and my heart sang (quietly). So off she went in pirate attire and had a marvellous time with all her friends (most of whom were Annas and Elsas, yawn).

Once Charlotte was safely installed at the party, Pete the wonderhusband returned for Joanna, and took her out for lunch and grocery shopping so I could squeeze in a couple of hours’ work. Two hours of blissful quiet later, they all bounded in to the house, the Lego came out, and the bickering over who was using ‘the best wheels’ started.

At 3.00 we went for ‘the family walk’, which is a circular amble of just over two miles that we do quite often: across a field, along a track, down a hill, up a hill, and ending up at a small park just over the road from our house. We all enjoy the wildlife, the views, the fresh air and the family time. On this occasion, the track featured The Biggest Puddles The Girls Had Ever Seen, swifty follwed by another highlight: a highland cow having a wee, which they pretended to find disgusting while continuing to stare and giggle.

The Family Walk

The Family Walk

A brief visit to the park, and we returned home to more Legoing, dinner for the girls, and bedtime, which featured the usual wailing about which teddy was where, the requests for hot-water bottles, the separation anxiety, the procrastination… and as usual, I had a pang of guilt about saying no to many of the requests. The wailing always stops as soon as I return downstairs and they fall asleep very quickly, so I don’t think they are desperately distressed.

Dinner with Pete and an evening with my book followed. I basked in the quiet, and as he carried on working until 10ish, I took myself off to bed with my Kindle at 9.00. My aim was to finish three books this weekend. I’d managed the first one (Commit) on Friday night, and zoomed through The Fringe Hours on Saturday. I still have a couple of chapters to go in Why Can’t My Child Behave? which I’m hoping to finish tonight before starting on The Well-Fed WriterEdit, which looks fun.

On Sunday morning, I went for my now-regular swim, and was pleased and amused with today’s wristband. They change patterns every day, but it was nicely serendipitous that on a day I’d blogged about exercise and endorphins and stress-relief, I should get this particular jaunty delight.

Exercise makes you happy

Exercise makes you happy

I returned home to find Pete tearing his hair out and Joanna having a sulk. She’d been lying about something daft and he had called her out on it. She got over it with the help of a bit of distraction.

We got ready for church. We went to church. Church passed without incident, Pete and Charlotte fetched the Starbucks requirements, and we came home for lunch.

Calm was restored, the Lego came out again, there was the usual jabbering and bickering, the stropping off to bedrooms, the returning, the repeating… and then we sugested they listen to their iPods while we read our books, which worked beautifully. They both sat as close to me as was physically possible, but it was quiet and that was good enough for me.

Dinner and bedtime were about as calm as they get in our house, with just the usual attempts at toothbrushing avoidance. No anxiety from anyone about the transition back to school, because we love school and routine in this house. Hot water bottles, teddies and blankets distributed to everyone’s satisfaction, I returned downstairs, read some more of my book, had dinner, and sorted out the girls’ bags for the return to school. It was at this point that I realised I hadn’t yet washed Charlotte’s PE T-shirt, so a quick white wash and a bit of ironing later, I was able to crash out on the sofa again. Phew. We survived half term!

Summary

Successes:

  • mainly sticking to normal weekend routines (CBeebies, church, swimming, etc.)
  • the partying pirate
  • doing the family walk
  • iPods

Failures:

  • the house really needs cleaning and hoovering becuase we missed Saturday’s family house-cleaning hour
  • motherly guilt (just a tiny bit) about not giving in to bedtime procrastination attempts

Next time:

  • we’ll try adding in some more one-to-one time (I keep saying this – we find it really hard to get this balance right)

Do you have any half-term tips to share? Are you glad to be getting back into term-time routines? Or are things better for your family during the holidays? I’d love to hear your comments.

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