Saturday, 16 August 2014

Getting organised - menus and more!

I never got round to listing last week's menu, so here it is...

Saturday - Chicken madras and rice

Sunday - Mince and tatties

Monday - Lamb doner, chips and salad

Tuesday - Salmon steaks with new potatoes and veg

Wednesday - Lamb koftas, savoury rice, roast veg and salad

Thursday - Lasagne, garlic bread and salad

Friday - Mongolian beef, root mash, broccoli and cauliflower

This week, I'm really scraping the bottom of the freezer and cupboards, because we're trying to use up what we have before doing a massive shopping and prep session. I'm hoping to fill the freezer with complete meals for the slow cooker to last us at least a month or two, so everything must go!

This week, all I have left in my freezer is 2 bags of beef mince, 2 bags of lamb mince, a pack of chicken breasts and a bag of stewing beef. 
Here's the menu...

Saturday - chicken curry and rice (have you noticed a pattern? Saturday is ALWAYS curry night!)

Sunday - Lamb orzo in slow cooker

Monday - Stovies

Tuesday - Lasagne

Wednesday - Slow cooked gammon, roast potatoes and peas (Daisy's birthday choice, homemade chocolate cake for afters!)

Thursday - chilli con carne (my birthday choice)

Friday - mousaka

This week, I'll start collecting slow cooker recipes and writing down lists of what I need to buy. Hopefully next week, I'll do a giant shopping trip and spend a few hours prepping veg and meat so that we have a good number of fully prepped meals just ready to defrost and chuck into the slow cooker. Hopefully if I can get into this habit, it'll save me time and money, because I'll just need to buy fresh fruit and veg most weeks, and just do a quick salad each night instead of spending an hour every afternoon sorting dinner out!

I've been getting organised in other areas as well - the kids have everything they need for school, I just need to do some ironing over the weekend to make sure they both have a weeks' worth of clothes ready to go.

It's Daisy's birthday on Wednesday, but I must admit I'm not very organised in that respect, we've bought nothing yet! It'll get done on Tuesday when she goes back to school.

Baby wise - I've sorted and washed all of my newborn clothes. This weekend, I'll iron what I need to and that'll be another job done. We have heaps of stuff, all sorted into boy, girl and neutral piles, so to save time, I'll just iron the neutral stuff until we find out if Tootie le Fourth is a chap or a chapess!

I've even started thinking about Christmas! Two of Steve's presents have been chosen, one definite thing for Amelie and a few ideas for other folks. I'll get the shopping started as soon as the kids are back in school this week.

So....that's all my organisation so far! Getting there, maybe one of these days I can be one of those smug organised mums who has every eventuality planned for. Baby steps.....

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Digging deep

We watched a programme the other day about men training to become Royal Marines Commandos, and it focused on the times when the training is incredibly tough - when the recruits think they can't possibly take any more and consider giving up. It was about them having to dig deep and find their fighting spirit to get up and keep going, even when they felt like giving up.

It occurred to me that it's like that for pretty much everyone at times, isn't it? No matter what we do in life, we will all have times when we think "Sod this, what am I doing?".
Parenthood is no different. In fact, it's probably the biggest example of having no choice but to keep going, no matter how exhausting, frustrating, upsetting and plain old bloody hard it might get.

Suck it up, princess, because nobody else will do it for you.

Amelie is going through a particularly difficult phase at the moment. Our happy, smiley, content little baby is suddenly very frustrated and angry. She has spectacular tantrums, where she headbutts doors, floors and furniture so hard, we're certain she'll do herself major damage.
She nips us, and bites us, and slaps our faces. Daisy is even a little bit scared of her!
She sleeps pretty well most of the time, but maybe once or twice a week, she is up during the night, and gets very upset, screaming and throwing herself around. I usually spend pretty much the whole of those ights downstairs in the living room, feeling very lonely and tired while she screams the night away, because I don't want to disturb everyone else.

We have this brilliant app at the moment called Wonder Weeks, which explains what's going on developmentally with your baby at their particular age. It explains what they call developmental "leaps", where your baby or toddler might be having a particularly stormy time. It tells you what's going on in their bodies and minds, and how best to deal with it.
This is great because years ago, the attitude was just "Oh, they're being naughty, and testing boundaries. Ignore them or punish them."
Now, there's much more understanding that babies are going through almost constant changes that they're not emotionally equipped to deal with, which obviously manifests itself in the form of tantrums and violent outbursts, and occasionally sleepless nights.

A bit of understanding goes a long way. When Charlie went through this phase 11 years ago, I struggled so much, because I felt like I was failing him. This time, I know it's a phase, and will pass, but it doesn't make it any less distressing at the time.

I'm so tired. I'm 27 weeks pregnant, so have reached that stage where I'm breathless because I'm starting to be squished from the inside. I'm trying so hard to keep going all day, every day. There's housework to do, the older two kids need a bit of attention and involvement, and obviously a lot of my time is being spent keeping Amelie safe and entertained, which is often difficult when I'm reaching the end of my energy reserves and I have to deal with a major tantrum.

None of this is a whinge. I don't want to hear "Well, you chose this!"
I know I chose this, I'm not UN-choosing it, but it's really bloody hard sometimes. I know that at least for the next year, there are going to be tough times.
I'll have a newborn to breastfeed, a toddler to keep busy and safe, and two older kids to support through the transition into a new school, where I should encourage new friendships by inviting friends over to play or have dinner, even when I'm so exhausted, I can barely walk the length of myself.
There will be days like today, where I am so tired, all I can do is go through the motions with silent tears rolling down my face. But there's never a bad day, just bad parts of days.
In fact, let's not even call them bad parts, just tricky parts. 
All it takes is to see them all giggle together, or see them all eat their dinner, or even have them all asleep and have 5 minutes to breathe quietly, to put it all in perspective and make me wonder why it was all such a struggle.

Today was a brilliant example, I was just knackered and emotional and finding every moment really difficult. Then, out of nowhere, Amelie fell asleep and Charlie and Daisy played happily together while I laid down. I didn't sleep as such, but just having a little while to be quiet and still was all I needed and I was able to see each of my kids for the lovely little people they are.

Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that it'll pass. It always passes. Everything is a phase.

And if that doesn't solve everything, there's always coffee and chocolate.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

It isn't a choice

Today, I woke to the tragic news that Robin Williams, one of my all time favourite actors and comedians, was found dead due to an apparent suicide. He was clearly a lot of other people's favourites as well, and I've been close to tears all day looking at the countless tributes on my Facebook feed.

He was a famously troubled soul, such a contrast to the funny, larger than life persona that we all adored watching on our screens.
As many people have said, it's so sad to think that someone who brought fun and laughter to so many millions of people around the world, was privately battling demons that ultimately overcame him.

I've written about depression before, but it really is such a misunderstood illness. If this tragedy can bring anything good, at least it's got lots of people talking about depression and what it can do.

What has surprised me is that there seems to be more understanding than ever, which can never be a bad thing. Okay, so a few people have said "But he had so much talent, so much money, so many fans...why was he depressed?", but the majority of people have simply expressed deep sympathy and sadness for a dark and lost soul who has left us all bereft.

There will always be that view of depression though - when people point out how many good things are in a depressed person's life...."But you have a happy family/lots of money/a beautiful home/a great job....what have YOU got to be depressed about?"

Here's the's not a choice.

Depression is an illness, and it can kill. It's as deadly as cancer, a deep darkness that can spread silently through your life without even you being aware of it until it's too deeply ingrained.
It can be frustrating for people who live with someone who is battling depression, because for all the world, I guess it does look like a choice.

Just get out of bed, dammit! Smile, watch a comedy, treat yourself to some retail therapy, have a cocktail....

You know that's like putting a band-aid on a broken leg, right?

You never hear anyone saying to someone who's recently been diagnosed with cancer, "But you're always so bubbly! What do YOU have to get cancer about?"

Of course not, that would be ridiculous. We KNOW that nobody chooses to get cancer, and it's the same with depression, or any other mental illness.
Like addiction, depression doesn't care who you are. You could be rich, poor, fat, thin, black, white, gay, doesn't care if you're a parent (but what about your kids???), or a professional, or anything in between.

Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks "Ah, today, I think I'll become a heroin addict/an alcoholic/bipolar/filled with such despair that I will need to end my life immediately"

I'm glad that the world at large seems to be developing more of an understanding of mental illness, but we can always do with learning more about how to cope, especially if we live with someone who is suffering.

Love, understanding, patience. It can be hard, and frustrating, and terrifying. I know only too well what it's like to tragically lose a beloved one to depression, and I never want to go through it again, but at the end of the day, it's out there. We have to be aware of it and what to do if we find ourselves either feeling depressed or loving someone who is.

This article on the best and worst things to say to someone who is depressed is a good starting point, as are organisations such as Mind and The Samaritans. 

We must be aware that, like cancer, we won't be able to "save" everyone, but at least if we know how to find or give support, it's a start.

Rest in peace, Robin. You were a brilliant man, who will never, ever be forgotten. I hope you've found your heaven.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Getting Organised - what's on the menu?

Last week, we were away camping, so I didn't have a menu as such, but this week, I had an abundance of beef mince, lamb mince and potatoes, plus I wanted to include lots of healthy fresh veg, so here's what I came up with for this week's menu....

SATURDAY: Beer Butt Chicken (using this recipe from BBC Good Food - image shown), served with butternut coconut rice, corn on the cob and salad

SUNDAY: Fajitas, using leftover chicken

MONDAY: Lamb doner with chips and salad

TUESDAY: Mince and tatties

WEDNESDAY: Spaghetti and meatballs

THURSDAY: Fillet tips, baked potatoes and salad

FRIDAY: Chicken, chickpea and spinach curry with rice (using leftover chicken)

Lunches will mostly be salad stuff, with smoked mackerel, grilled halloumi and hummous, or soups and sandwiches. I might bake something as well, if I find the time!

What's on your menu this week?

Monday, 21 July 2014

A Helping Hand

Yesterday, I read this post by the wonderful Janelle at Renegade Mothering. I'll give you the gist...

She just had her fourth baby 5 weeks ago. It's 3pm, and she has to cook for a little dinner party for her mother in law's birthday, so she has to take all 4 kids food shopping, despite the fact that everyone is in the tired, cranky afternoon phase and her toddler turns into a squirrel on crack in Costco.
Anyway, she makes it to the checkout unscathed (just), only to find the person in front of her having a long, in depth conversation with the checkout guy. The baby is starting to fuss and cry, the older kids are bored and tired and the toddler is getting squirmy in the trolley seat.
Still, the checkout guy and the customer in front continue their chat. (don't you hate it when that happens?)
The baby reaches the hysterical, screaming blue murder stage, and Janelle has to unclip him from his car seat and try to comfort him. He is desperately trying to nurse and has a wet nappy. She considers coming out of the queue, but is next in line with a long line behind her, so decides that the quicker this ordeal is over, the better.
At that exact moment, a voice behind her shouts, and she turns to see her 3 year old standing up in the seat of the trolley. So, just while she's trying to comfort a screaming newborn and clip a crazy toddler back into the trolley seat, the checkout guy decides that he must serve her RIGHT NOW, and is impatiently asking her for her Costco card and telling her to start loading her shopping onto the conveyor belt.
Who helps her? No-one. Not one person. Not the checkout guy, not the other people in line. Everyone just stands and stares at her as she struggles, tutting and huffing that she's holding them up.
Now, the ultimate outcome is that she did eventually get out of there, albeit hot, sweaty and very very stressed, but why did nobody help? Why did they treat her like she was just a pain in the arse who was slowing them down?

Is it, because, as Janelle says, "People are dicks"?
Well, I'm sure some of those people were probably thinking "Well, it was her choice to have so many kids, and take them all shopping. Maybe she should have fed/changed the baby first/come out earlier/shopped online".
Well, excuse me, but sometimes, parents have to get things done, despite the time of day or number of kids in tow.

Here's a fact for you....the priciple of taking kids out is the same as the principle of having said kids in the first place....there's never an ideal time.
Even if you only have one kid, I guarantee they will poop/vomit/have an epic, universe ending meltdown right at the moment you need to get something done. In fact, the scale of the poop/vomit/epic, universe ending meltdown will be directly proportional to the urgency of your task.
Add more than one kid into the mix, and you'll feel as if you deserve a Nobel Prize just for being able to make a phone call with them in the background.

I'm sure we've all had a time when we've needed help and nobody has offered it. I've had plenty of times when I've been juggling all three kids in the supermarket, or all three kids and the dog in the park, and all I've heard from passers by is "Oh ho! You've got your hands full!"
Well, no shit Sherlock, how about giving me a hand?

So...why do people generally hesitate to help when they see someone struggling?
I'd like to think that the majority of us (at least 90%) are, in fact, not dicks. If they do see someone struggling and think "Tough titty, it must suck to be them", then yes, they are dicks.
What about the rest of us?

Maybe we're so absorbed in our own thing, staring at our phones, minding our own business, that we're genuinely oblivious to the struggles of others.

Maybe we're scared to help, because the person struggling might say no, or look at us like we're trying to steal their kids or rob them.

Speaking of saying no, why do people do that? I'm guilty of it myself, if I'm in the supermarket and the checkout person asks if I want a hand to pack, I generally say no thanks, and then struggle to keep up as they throw every item at me at top speed, while I struggle to get them into bags while juggling a baby on my hip.
In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, I took Amelie to McDonalds (I know, shameful chav mother, what would the Daily Mail say?), and was struggling to push the buggy while holding my tray with one hand. The girl in the queue behind me offered to help carry my tray to a table and I said no thanks. She looked a bit hurt, and I felt especially bad because I really could have used the help, and accepted it when someone who worked there offered a hand seconds later.

Are we so proud that we can't accept a wee hand every now and then? We're taught from an early age the importance of standing on your own two feet, being independent, not relying on anyone for anything.

Is it an admission of failure to accept a bit of help, or, gasp! ask for it in the first place?
I know myself, depending on my hormonal state, that if I'm struggling with the kids and someone offers a hand, what I actually hear is "You clearly can't cope with all those kids, let someone who knows better take over", which is probably why I automatically say no, because I have to prove that I can cope at all times.
Thing is, it's not about coping or not coping, it's just about sharing the load. If someone is wiling to help, why not give them a chance to be nice?

Maybe that's why people don't help more often, they've been knocked back so many times, they just mind their own business now.

Reading that post made me realise that we do need to get more of a village mentality back into society, where we automatically help each other out, and accept that help without suspicion or embarrassment.
I'm certainly going to make an effort to offer help to people more often, whether they look like they need it or not. I'll make an effort to accept help as well, whether I need it or not.

The kids and I are trying to do good deeds every day, not for the kudos, but just because it makes a tiny part of the world a better place.
The other day, we were at a big park and a group of kids thought it was funny to shred up a discarded newspaper and throw it all over the park, then run away.
I got the kids to help me pick it all up and put it in the bin. Why? Because we're not dicks. I want my kids to have a tidy park to play in, so even though it shouldn't be my job, I do it because it needs done.
Maybe we should all stop thinking "Well, that's not my problem" and realise that we all live in the same town/country/planet and should be helping each other out as standard.

That's my new mantra for life...Offer help, accept help, and try not to be a dick.
So far, I think it's working.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Getting Organised - What's on the Menu?

One organisation tip I totally rely on these days is menu planning - I've been doing it for a few years now and it makes life so much easier!
My mum laughs at me because she can't understand how I can decide on a Saturday what I want to eat the following Wednesday, but I find the more kids I have and the busier my life is, I'd rather have dinner pre-chosen than have that 4pm "What on EARTH am I going to feed them tonight?" panic.

I'm so used to meal planning now, that on the occasional week when I really can't be arsed, things never run as smoothly. I end up wasting money because I have to make emergency trips to the supermarket (not quite a five minute job with 3 kids in tow!) and get stressed because it's all a bit last minute.

What I tend to do is run my menus from Saturday-Friday, and do my shopping early on a Saturday morning. That way, we have plenty in the house to get us through the weekend. I used to do my shopping on a Monday, but found that the weekends were always spent being moaned at by the kids because there wasn't much left in the way of cereal or snacks, so now I make sure we're well stocked up for the weekend.

I usually look through my cupboards, fridge and freezer on a Friday and try to plan my meals based around using up what's there. I hate waste! 
I do also try to have a good stash of general foods, like pasta, tinned tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, cheese etc. That way, if I forget to take something out of the freezer or plans suddenly change, I can whip up a quick pasta dish or batch of soup without having to leave the house.

Hopefully, once I start my freezer-crockpot meals, I'll only need to do very minimal weekly shops, for fresh fruit and veg, and prep time will be dramatically reduced!

Anyway, this week, I've got lots of beef mince, lamb mince and sausages in my freezer, plus garlic, butternut squash, and potatoes in the fridge, and lots of pasta and rice in the cupboard, so here's this week's menu plan based on that...

SATURDAY - Spiced chicken with Butternut Coconut Rice and roasted Cauliflower

SUNDAY - Mousakka

MONDAY - All Day Breakfast

TUESDAY - Spaghetti Bolognese

WEDNESDAY - Cassoulet and root mash

THURSDAY - Mushroom orzoto

FRIDAY - Baked salmon and egg fried rice

I do try to plan my meals around similar ingredients, so as you can see, Cassoulet and All Day Breakfast both include bacon, so I need one pack of bacon. Egg fried rice and All Day Breakfast both include eggs, so one pack of eggs, Mushroom orzoto and All Day Breakfast both need mushrooms, etc.
Just makes shopping a bit cheaper and more efficient if I'm not having to buy different ingredients for every day!

As it's summer holidays, I'll also have to plan for lunches and snacks for the kids. Lunches tend to be fairly simple, either home made soup or sandwiches. The kids also love crackerbread with things like ham or soft cheese, so I like to have those in stock, too. As long as we always have bread, crackers, cheese, ham, yoghurts, crisps and fresh fruit, there's always plenty for lunch. It also means if it's a nice day, I can chuck these things into a bag and have an impromptu picnic!

So, those are my meal planning and shopping tips...please share yours!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Getting organised - new blog series!!!

With a fourth baby arriving in November, I've decided that I really have to become more organised.

I've always been on the edges of "right on time", where I usually have things ready (for school, christmas etc) pretty much on time, give or take a bit of last minute stress.

This year, however, I'm aiming to be early. There's 4 weeks until the kids go back to school, and rather than my usual "buy uniforms/bags/stationery a couple of days before they go back", I'm hoping to get the majority bought in the coming week.

Then, I'm aiming to be organised for Tootie le Fourth's arrival. I don't need much in the way of baby stuff, but do have a heap of newborn-3 months clothes to sort, wash and iron.

I'm also aiming between the kids' return to school and the October holidays, to get everything I need for Christmas. Baby is coming in the first week of November, which means it'll be mid December before I'm driving again, plus HELLO - I'll have 4 kids, 2 under 2! So, having Christmas totally sorted before the baby's arrival would be ideal - that way, I can enjoy the October holidays with the kids, and then enjoy the first few weeks of our baby's life without stressing about other things.

Speaking of stress, food is another area I need to sort out - I'm aiming over the next few weeks to use up the contents of our freezers and cupboards (while putting aside the money I'm not spending on new food), and then I'd like to fill our freezers with crock pot meals that can be simply defrosted and chucked into the slow cooker - that way, towards the knackered, end of pregnancy phase and knackered, just had a baby phase, we can still be eating healthy home cooked food.

The "Who Needs A Cape?"  site has some brilliant ideas for crockpot meals, I'm totally planning to do one massive shop, then spend a few hours chopping veg and portioning up meals for the freezer.

So...who wants to join me in the Getting Organised challenge?

I'll post weekly menu plans (while using up our current food and when we start the new plan), and I'll update on Christmas planning and school preparation.

Come and get organised with me!