Wednesday, 30 November 2011

For Gary

I'm pretty sure you know about the death of Gary Speed by now. I found out about it walking around the NEC on Sunday and browsing Twitter as I ambled around the stands, I happened upon a tweet that caught my attention, but not in a good way. Praying that it was wrong, I clicked on the link contained within but reading the story, my heart sank and my hand flew to my mouth as I learned the awful circumstances of his sudden death.

Gary Speed was a hero of mine. (You know, looking at that sentence doesn't feel right, referring to him in the past tense still seems wrong.) I even mentioned him in a silly post I wrote over a year ago after I was tagged to share my Laminated List. It seemed wrong on Sunday night to discover how many people were googling his name and finding that post.

On my way home from NEC on Sunday, I listened to a phone-in devoted to tributes to him. No-one, but no-one, had a bad word to say about Gary; he was extremely popular with everyone. That was because he had time for everyone, whoever they were. He looked out for the people around him and made sure they were OK. There was nothing fake about him and he was considered a true professional and a great advert for the game of football. People would run through walls for him as someone said. He was a man with the world apparently at his feet. All of which makes what happened seem more mystifying and shocking. Several people speaking on the show were clearly distressed and when Robbie Savage broke down retelling how he had rung Gary's mobile on Sunday as he didn't believe it was true he had died, I sobbed too.

I never met Gary, but I wish I had. He never played for any team I support. I am not Welsh so he never even played for my country. I still felt a huge sense of loss about his death. Excerpts of his interview on Football Focus from less than 24 hours before he died being shown on television caused me to leave the room. Having a 6 year old boy asking you how he died didn't help one bit because you cannot begin to explain the concept of suicide to such a young child.

I decided, then, that I wanted to pay my respects to Gary somehow so on Monday, I made a trip to the Reebok stadium, just 15 minutes from our home. Bolton was the last Premier League club that he played for and I knew there would be tributes to him there. Armed with flowers to match the colours of the Welsh flag, I arrived at the stadium, feeling strange as there weren't many people around, apart from a lurking press photographer. The tribute site wasn't huge but there were still more than a dozen shirts from a variety of clubs, flowers and cards in front of a window with a book of remembrance open and a large floral tribute. I placed my tribute down and took photos whilst reading the other messages. Other people drifted in silently, looking at the tributes, gathering their thoughts. If they were anything like mine, those thoughts were a mixture of attempting to honour the memory of a great man, but also dealing with the emotions of shock and disbelief that I still cannot shake some three days later.

I felt better for going to pay my respects, if only in a small way. Since then, I have also signed the online book of remembrance opened by the FAW. Do it too, if you like. For Gary.

Gary Speed 8th September 1969 - 27th November 2011. RIP.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Meal Planning Monday

This week is a bit of a rush job as the meal plan was put together hurriedly when I got sent a 25% off voucher from Ocado on Saturday morning for delivery yesterday. As I was at the Good Food Show yesterday (more of which soon!) and staying over in Birmingham the night before, it seemed like a good idea to put a meal plan together and get shopping. Result - one meal plan and a delivery booked! Some of the days are a bit thin on inspiration - but for example, on Friday, it's the school Christmas fair in the evening and so there won't be a lot of time for anything as I usually help to set up. This week is very busy anyway for me, with some work I'm doing on a work assignment, plus the children are off school on Wednesday as expected and it's the start of Christmas madness!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Music Therapy

Meme tags seem to like buses - none come along for ages then several all turn up at once and you never know which one to hop on. I was tagged for this meme by both Lynne at Honiemummy (who I know in real life, I might have mentioned that before) and the ever-lovely Garry from The Blog Up North who, quite simply, is the reason I got blogging. And because they asked nicely, I thought I'd give it a go.

It's called Music Therapy and it was started by the blogger now known to all as Mammywoooooooooooo - you had to be there to understand why! I love Lexy's blog as she writes so well so it's well worth a look if you've never visited before. The idea is that you pick three songs by different artists which speak to you in some way, blog about them, then tag others to continue. As I've come late to this, I might struggle to find willing volunteers but I'm prepared to give it a go. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Give a child a breakfast - and win a year's supply of cereal for your school's breakfast club!

You may remember that earlier in the year, I blogged about children having breakfast. It was prompted by a bloggers' event arranged by Kellogg's and they shared some shocking statistics about how many children miss breakfast.

Back in September - which seems like ages ago now - they invited a handful of bloggers to a spa at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester. It wasn't all glamour - they shared some information with us having updated their research. 1.7 million children do not have breakfast and 325,000 of those children eat nothing until lunchtime. And of the ones that miss breakfast but eat something beforehand, a sizeable chunk buy chocolate, crisps, even burgers on the way to school. Not great. We all know the benefits of breakfast, both in improved concentration and performance at school, as well as helping to prevent obesity.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Life Circle - Celebrating Success

Life CircleMy main success since starting the Life Circle has been with work. I've had more work to do from my main client and although I've not actually started work yet, I've landed myself some work for another client which will be kicking in in a big way in December. All of the work I've found so far has been through people I know and I'm proud of the fact that I've got it this way as these people have been happy to recommend me. I'm feeling very positive about how it is all going, even if it does mean a lot of work and the usual juggling that working parents do. I'm still learning that one, but I'm getting better all the time.

My overall mindset has become more positive and I believe I can do all the things I set myself. Even if they aren't in the timeframe I'd initially hoped, but who said this was a sprint? Life Circle has provided a focus I needed very much. I think others have noticed that I am more positive in my outlook and I feel happier and calmer than I was before.


I was going to set another task today, but next week is the start of December and you know what? We've all got a lot on our plates for the next month. The number of people taking part is falling each week and I'm guessing that the spectre of Christmas shopping, and the social whirl that is December (even if it is just your kids that get to do the social whirling!) is impacting on people's time and their motivation to blog.

So how about this?

1. I'll relaunch Life Circle in the New Year, when we'll go over some of the tasks we've done before. Some of those tasks will be a useful review for those who've posted every week but will allow people who want to get going in 2012 to join in and get the most out of Life Circle. You won't have to wait for long. I'll start it as soon as possible after New Year as I can, to catch that first wave of enthusiasm for change.

2. In the meantime, I need your feedback on what has worked and not worked for you on Life Circle thus far. Have you posted every week? If not, what has stopped you from posting and joining in? What did you find useful and what was not?

In particular, I would like to know about the timings and format. I'm finding having to write two post in one quite hard so I am thinking of changing it again. (Sorry!) The options are:

a. Keep it as now (not my preferred option).
b. Set the task on Saturdays with link up posts the following Thursday.
c. Go back to my original format - set the task one Thursday and link up the following Thursday. My only worry with this is that the pace is too slow.

3. How about you write your ideas down in a post and link it up? (Yes. I know I wasn't setting another task; I'm not - I'm just collating feedback!) I'll post a linky up in early December so that I have time to read and take onboard your thoughts so that I can plan what I'm doing. Any feedback would be appreciated - even if you've not been taking part in the linkys, I'd love to know what WOULD make you join in and what you think. And when we come back in January, I'll need your help to spread the word to as many people as possible and I'm sure many more people would benefit from joining Life Circle, especially when they have an impetus for change but lack moral support.

Finally, if you have been involved in Life Circle in any way - posting and linking up, reading or just retweeting any of my tweets, THANK YOU. I really appreciate your support.

As ever, I look forward to reading your posts.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Something I am proud of

Who or what makes me proud? I bet you’re not surprised to see my children below. It’s a bit of a gimme really, but I must tell you why, right at this moment, my children are making me proud.

The timing of the prompt for The Gallery couldn’t have been more apt. Two weeks ago, the children came home from school with a blank poster template. It was school council election time and they were seeking candidates. The children had to draw a picture of themselves or place a photograph in the middle and then write why they would be a good school councillor or share some of their ideas for the school council.

All aboard the Santa Express

The children with a friend 
You may remember a few weeks ago, I took the children to the National Railway Museum in York and I blogged about our VIP day. I didn't expect to be back so soon but we were invited to visit again and this time, try out Santa's Steam Adventure on the launch day last Saturday. This time, there were four of us as husband had taken a day off.

We arrived to collect our tickets and stopped for a coffee with Jen and Cass, who were also there with their children for the occasion. The children were super-giddy at the prospect of seeing Santa - although they know this one is not "the real Santa" - mainly because Missy Woo knew when she was 3 that her daddy was the Santa at the school Christmas fair, so we have to come up with a plausible explanation for this! They were keen to get a look at Santa's workshop and we'd been advised to allow some time for this. In reality, unless it's really busy, you don't need too long if your children are as giddy as mine were. They leg it down through and although they stopped to look at things, we were left kicking our heels a bit and the children were champing at the bit to get on the train.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Meal Planning Monday - the children's choice edition

This week, we have a twist to the week's plan. It all started when Missy Woo came into my room this morning when I was having a lie in. She got in bed with me for a bit and was chattering away at me. I asked her to name some things that she'd like to have for tea this week and she duly named three things. Then I let Monkey come up with three more and we've jiggled it all together to make a coherent (ish!) plan. So, nothing exciting or different this week, just family favourites. Sunday is being kept free because excitingly, I've been invited by Sainsburys to the Good Food Show Winter at the NEC and they're making us lunch. There should be leftovers and the family will be able to survive without a planned meal.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Good, clean, scary fun – your chance to win a family ticket to Blackpool Tower Dungeons

We’re over in Blackpool quite a lot, largely because my husband grew up there and most of his family is still there or thereabouts. We don’t often visit as tourists, apart from the odd trip to one of the Blackpool attractions, because we mostly leave that to the grandparents as they take the children to see the Illuminations (normally involving sleepover, yay!). There are a lot of things to do in Blackpool – and I’ll be honest with you, most of it is not up my street, but the children love it.

Since 1st September, there has been a new attraction to add to the growing list, the Blackpool Tower Dungeons – at the Blackpool Tower, obviously!  A new family attraction (although recommended for children over the age of 8), it takes you through 1000 years of Blackpool’s gruesome history, with 10 actor-led interactive and fun shows to help tell the stories, a scary drop ride, and because we’re in Lancashire, you can also visit the Pendle Witches and dodge the Witchfinder General.  The dungeon is intended to be educational, entertaining  - and good, clean, scary fun. (Well, I’m not sure about the clean, you’re in a dungeon after all; but you get my drift!)

I have a family ticket to the Blackpool Tower Dungeon to give away to one lucky reader of my blog for up to 2 adults and 2 children, remembering of course that it’s recommended for the over 8s. It’s also valid for London, York and Edinburgh venues so you don’t necessarily have to make the trip all the way to Blackpool if it’s not convenient for you.

To enter the competition, first ensure you’re subscribed to this blog via RSS (the orange jellybean above) or email (the red one), then leave me a comment below. I want you to tell me what the scariest thing you’ve ever done or experienced, and I’m not just talking ghosts!

If you want an additional entry (optional), then tweet the following:

I’ve entered to win a family ticket to the Blackpool Tower Dungeon on @kateab’s blog. Dare you enter too?

Then leave me a separate comment to let me know you have done. Please don’t forget to leave a valid form of contact so I can get in touch if you win!

Good luck!

Terms and conditions

To enter, leave a comment below, saying what the scariest thing is that you’ve ever done or experienced, along with a valid contact email address or Twitter ID, which will be used to contact you if you win.
An additional entry can be gained by tweeting as stated above.
Please ensure you follow this blog via RSS or email. 
Maximum two entries per person - multiple entries will be discarded. 
The prize is a family ticket (up to 2 adults and 2 children) to the Blackpool Tower Dungeon, although the ticket is also valid for the London, York and Edinburgh locations.
The competition closes on Saturday 26th November at 8pm.
The winner will be drawn at random from all valid entries.
The winner will be contacted that evening and asked to provide a postal address and contact telephone number within 48 hours or the winner will be re-drawn.
UK entrants only.
There is no cash alternative.

Friday, 18 November 2011

There are more questions than answers...

II'm regretting giving this post that title as I've been humming that tune ever since. Anyway.... I was tagged by the lovely Gemma from Storm in a K cup (more about her later) to answer the 10 questions meme. I have not done a meme in a while, if you don't count Meal Planning Monday, Life Circle or the Gallery so I thought I'd give it a go. All you have to do is answer the 10 questions, tag a few people, then return to the original post and comment so that the tagger knows you have completed your mission.

So, I'd best get on with it then!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Life Circle - TGROW and Week 6

Life Circle
Topic - My goal to be a size 12 by Christmas

Goal - to work through my lack of progress

Reality - I have lost weight before. I know I can do it. I am just one of these people who has to have their head in the right place to do it successfully. At the same time, it is frustrating as a little part of me does want to do it. I also think I'm out of the routine on keeping my food intake in check. I know that it might take a few weeks of living through a bit of hunger first to adjust and get back into it. Which is worrying as that will take me into December and only a couple of weeks before my target date. Because of this, I am beginning to think that this is now not an achievable goal at all.

Options - (Remember all options are presented here, even if I know they are slightly mad) 1. Crash diet 2. Surgery (them's the unrealistic ones). 3. Join a group like Slimming World or Weight Watchers. This is an option but I have never really been into the group dynamic before, although I know it works for a lot of people and they find it very successful. 4. Start to record food intake and exercise again in My Fitness Pal, which I've used before. 5. Give up and start again after Christmas. Whilst this is an attractive option, I am scared to do this in case I put too much weight on.

On reflection, I feel that the best option is to take option 4 but also readjust the target date of my goal. I don't think a dress size before Christmas is achievable now.

Will / Wrap up - After some reflection, I've decided to commit to recording my food intake for at least 5 days out of 7 over the next fortnight in MyFitnessPal - by the end of which, I should be more into it and be ready to continue doing the same. I think I need to give myself 3 months to get down to a size 12 but with Christmas in the middle, I need to add a fortnight to that. All this means my new target date needs to be 1st March.

Action agreed - record food intake and exercise for 5 days a week over the next fortnight.

How did you get on with this? I realise this is quite a tough task on you, partly because it can mean admitting faults about yourself and we don't like doing that. If you need some support in this task, do feel free to get in touch and we can chat about it.

Because I've been quite tough on you this week, I want to set a lighter task for next week. We're going to be Celebrating Success!

What I want you to do is to look back over the time since we started the Life Circle and I want you to reflect on the positives - what you have achieved in that time, what things you have done that you had hoped to get out of it; or even that you hadn't expected. How do you feel about the process? How has doing Life Circle helped you mentally? How has your mindset changed for the good? And what differences, if any, have others noticed about you? These are only a few questions you could ask yourself - whatever positive things you can say about how you've changed because of Life Circle, make sure you include them. If you're not feeling positive, do try. Why? Because the more positive you act, the easier it becomes. Even if you don't totally believe them, you gradually become more positive. This is the theory behind affirmations - having positive personal statements that describe the person you want to be, even if you are not totally that person right now. And don't forget to tell us how you intend to celebrate your success so far. Think about how you can celebrate success in future - maybe set yourself some rewards that can help you achieve your goals. How would you celebrate achieving them?

Write your post, then come back and link up next Thursday. If the option to post a link has disappeared, then do by all means leave a link in the comments. Don't forget when writing your post to include the badge or a link back to the Life Circle page on the blog so that your readers can find the other posts - and possibly join in too.

By the way, I'm thinking of relaunching Life Circle in January to fit in with the New Year, New You vibe that happens then. This may mean we revisit some of the tasks we've done before - although some are meant for revisiting from time to time. However, if I feel you might not want to repeat a task, I'll provide an option for the class of 2011. Don't worry, there will be room for all of us!

Best of luck. Get celebrating!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Toyologist Competition - win Head Shoulders Knees and Toes

This month is the final Toyologist competition of the year, meaning this is the sixth one I've run on the blog this year. Time certainly does fly. The prize this time is an Orchard Toys game, called Head Shoulders Knees and Toes. Aimed at children aged 3 and over, it's described as an "action lotto guessing game" and helps children to learn about the parts of the body, as well as develop memory and colour matching skills. Although I've not played this game, we love Orchard Toys games - they're always so bright, colourful and well made.

If you would like to enter to win this prize, then first follow this blog via RSS (orange jellybean top right!) or email (red jellybean). Then leave a comment below, telling me what your child's favourite singalong song is. It doesn't have to be your child actually - it can be any child you're close to, like a godchild, grandchild, niece, nephew etc.

If you want a second entry, then tweet the following:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Enter the competition on @kateab 's blog and you could win the game!

Please don't forget to leave a means of contacting you as I have had to redraw prizes before now. Also, if you do win, a prompt answer should mean that you can get your prize before Christmas so it's in your interest to give me a quick response.

Terms and conditions

To enter, leave a comment below, saying what is your child's favourite singalong song along with a valid contact email address or Twitter ID, which will be used to contact you if you win.
An additional entry can be gained by tweeting as stated above.
Please ensure follow this blog via RSS or email.
Maximum two entries per person - multiple entries will be discarded.
The prize is a Head Shoulders Knees and Toes game.
The competition closes on Wednesday 23rd November 2011 at 8pm.
The winner will be drawn at random from all valid entries.
The winner will be contacted that evening and asked to provide a postal address and contact telephone number within 48 hours or the winner will be re-drawn. The prize will be sent out by Toys R Us after 1st December.
UK entrants only.
There is no cash alternative.

Help Build-A-Bear Workshop raise money for Children in Need

This is not the sort of post I write very often and to be honest, most of this type of request gets knocked back but when a polite request arrived in my inbox for me to mention this on my blog, I knew that I would be happy to help.

This Friday is Children in Need day, one of those days in the calendar that you cannot fail to notice. The whole BBC schedule on Friday night puts paid to that, and there are programmes in the run up. The whole point of the evening is to raise money to make a positive difference to the lives of disadvantaged children and young people in the UK. the UK. The organisations which receive funding all work with youngsters aged 18 and under who may have mental, physical or sensory disabilities; behavioural or psychological disorders; are living in poverty or situations of deprivation; or suffering through distress, abuse or neglect.

Pudsey is the symbol of BBC Children in Need and you can now make your own Pudsey or his "beary best friend" Blush at Build A Bear Workshops across the UK. £5 from the sale of each bear will go directly to Children In Need funds. £135,000 was raised for the charity through the sale of Pudsey and Blush bears last year and this year, they are hoping to exceed this. Pudsey has some new outfits - a T-shirt with the new logo and some lovely slippers - as does Blush, and £1 per item of clothing also go to Children in Need.

If you've been reading this blog a while, you'll know that in June, we were invited to visit the Build-A-Bear Workshop at the Trafford Centre for another charity event and met Maxine Clark, the founder. The children both came away with their own bears - well, actually, a Hello Kitty and a Darth Vader teddy - and they both adored their bears and the whole experience of making their bears. The whole experience was lovely for all of us, if a little busy, and the bears have stood the test of time, despite being hauled around the place and used and abused in a way only small children can.

So, you'd be getting a lovely bear to take away and helping a charity. If you're fundraising on the day, I guess you could always raffle your Pudsey or Blush to help boost your total amount raised. Get your Pudsey now and help the appeal beat last year's record total of £39 million and help those children who really do need our help.

(I have not been paid to write this post, although Build-A-Bear have offered to send a ready made bear for the children) 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Meal Planning Monday

This week is a slightly cobbled together affair. With my husband away for 4 days and a Nearly New Sale on Saturday, time has been limited and my motivation deserted me yesterday. Luckily, I already knew what I was planning to do for hubby when he comes home from his epic run (which I think has turned into a lot of walk and was a lot, lot harder than he imagined it would be) as we're going to have a roast dinner after I got a cheap joint in the supermarket the other day. A couple of the things I'm making are kind of experimental in that I have no recipe but I have ideas how to go about them!

So, off we go for another week:

Monday - Roast pork, stuffing, roast potatoes, carrots, peas
Tuesday - Lamb and herb meatloaf
Wednesday - Gammon steaks and pea mash
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Mushroom, broccoli and sweetcorn lasagne
Saturday - leaving free
Sunday - Noodle stir-fry

Now, why don't you tell me what you are having to eat this week? And don't forget to visit Mrs M where she'll have more MPM entries.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Life Circle: SMART goals and Week 5

Life CircleHello and welcome back to Life Circle, which is back after an extended break. Apologies if you came looking for this last week - it was just a post too far so I decided to postpone it until this week. This, of course, has given you another week to get reviewing those goals.

Looking at my goals from Week 3, they're pretty good - I tried not to be, but the SMART criteria are stuck in my head now so I find it difficult not to do it. They're specific, as they stipulate exactly what I want to do. They're specific enough to be measurable so that I will know when I've got there. As for achievable, I think so - perhaps I'm not totally sure and the losing weight one is not really going anywhere fast, which will probably make it a prime contender for next week's task, which I'm going to set below. They are all realistic - none of this "I'm going to win the lottery tomorrow" business and I feel they are relevant to my life and the way I want it to go. And they are all timebound because I have given myself deadlines to achieve them. Even if I don't make those deadlines, they'll be nagging at me so I have a better chance of getting them done.

Reviewing your goals regularly is extremely useful. Situations change and a goal may no longer be relevant, or needs a minor tweak. Keep the SMART criteria in mind when you're reviewing its suitability and it can't go far wrong. Clear goals that fit these criteria are easier to commit to because they are as real as you can make them without actually achieving them. Read them regularly and try to picture achieving them and how good that feels, especially when you need motivation to get moving in whatever way.

Don't worry if you have a long list of goals but do review them with the SMART criteria and consider grouping several smaller ones down into one big one, and the smaller goals can then become part of your to do list that all contribute to achieving that one thing. A clear picture of the desired end result will help you get started and the smaller tasks done.

Moving on now, I'm going to set the task for week 5. We're going to use a model called TGROW that is used in coaching to pick up apart an issue. It can be any - my suggestion, although you don't have to take it, would be a goal that you feel you're not progressing with or feel less committed about than others. If not, take a more general issue that you feel is the most important issue affecting your life that is holding you back and one that would give you most benefit if you were to resolve or at least take action on it.

Let's go through what TGROW means and what you need to ask yourself. It might help to scribble notes d1own under each heading when you start. Although the model is presented in a sequential linear fashion, it can be circular because if something comes up that might affect your earlier thoughts, it's OK to go back and reconsider. I don't want you to force your thoughts into an unnatural way of thinking - nothing is set in stone f you think of something else later on.

T stands for Topic or Theme. In other words, what you want to deal with. Think carefully and scribble a few notes why it's so important to you to work on this at this point. What is it that is bothering you? What about it do you want to address? What issues lie behind this? What does this particular topic mean to you?

Next, move on and set a Goal for this topic. If you're considering a goal here, I don't mean that particular goal - I mean, set out what you want to achieve by taking this through this process. What do you want to happen as a result? How will you know if you've achieved it? You can look in both a wider sense - of how the topic or theme you have picked out fits into your overall goals - or you can just look at what you want to get out of this exercise.

Then, we get down to basics. We look at the Reality of your current situation in the context of this topic and goal. Where are you in relation to achieving your goal? If it's a more specific issue, what is causing the problem and how does it manifest itself? What progress have you made recently? How do your current skills and knowledge fit in with this? What, if anything, is holding you back from progressing towards your goal or resolving your issues? Why, indeed, do you need to set this goal in the first place? This is the meatiest part of the whole process and requires you to be completely honest with yourself. Working with a life coach would mean you would find this quite challenging as they would ask a lot of questions. Don't be afraid to challenge yourself here, although you might find that this is quite an emotional part of the process if the issue is very personal. As always, when it comes to writing your post, only share with your readers what you want to share but remember that you can always email me if you wish to work through you feel uncomfortable sharing on your blog.

Even if you do find this difficult, the next stage should help. I want you now to consider your Options. Think of as many ways as you can to move forward. Don't just think of one idea. Consider all the options. Ask yourself what you would do if anything was possible. What has worked before? What do others do in the same situation (if relevant) and how successful are they? Once you've come up with as many options as you can, consider their relative pros and cons. Which option seems the best? Which one are you most committed to? Considering your commitment to each option is probably the most effective way of picking out what you are going to do to move forward. Do this by scoring yourself out of 10 if you like. Putting a numerical value, a bit like in the Wheel of Life, does make you think really hard which option you like the best.

As we select this option, we seamlessly move into the final stage, which is known as Will or Wrap-up. Wrap-up sounds a bit final but the point of this stag is to summarise what this process has taught you and what you are going to do next. The Will part is important - what WILL you do to move forward? What actions will you take next to move towards your longer term goal? If it's not a goal you've chosen to work on, what actions will you take to start resolving this issue? Consider briefly also what might prevent you from moving forward, which should help to determine your commitment to the action. Out of this stage, you need to be coming up with 1 or 2 specific actions to take away and start working on NOW. They should start to move your forward to achieve your goal on time or resolve any issue that you have that might be holding you back. Remember the SMART criteria - be specific about what you do, make it measurable, achievable, relevant and realistic, and most importantly, time-bound. In coaching, you might be seeing a coach once a week or once a fortnight and they would expect that these actions would be completed in the time between sessions and you would return to the next session to report how you had got on with those actions and whilst they might not be 100% completed, progress on all of them of some sort would be expected.

Over to you now. Don't spend too long agonising over this. A life coaching session is typically 45 minutes to 1 hour (which would include a recap of previous actions in later sessions) so you shouldn't need to spend any longer than this working it through. Then blog your results as much as you want to share, add the badge, and come back and link to my next post in a week's time.

If you're new to Life Circle, click on the tab above to learn more about it and see the previous tasks. If you want to join in, then please do. Either start at the beginning (although you'll have to link up by leaving a comment for now) or just work on this task only. You'll get the most out of it if you take it from the beginning, but feel free to do what makes you feel most comfortable.

I look forward to reading what you've come up with for this week and wish you luck with the new task.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

There's no such thing as a perfect parent...

This has been something I've been meditating about since I saw it as part of a comment on a blog (sorry, I can't remember which one!). It sums up beautifully something we all need to remember when being a parent is tough or we're being hard on ourselves for our perceived failings as a parent. The commenter used this quote:

There's no such thing as a perfect parent, but there are a million ways to be a good one. 

Parents seem to have been fair game for some time now. We're judged by everybody and parts of the media don't help. (Naming no names but the main culprits sound like Fail and Distress.) We judge each other too, encouraged by the presumption that we're all failing as parents, or at least not as good as the parents whose children are long grown up and who've forgotten what dealing with a small child is like.

We're part of a society that expects perfection, yet it is impossible to achieve. We're human, after all. We make mistakes and we learn by making them. It doesn't help that we have a blame culture where someone loses their job seemingly for every cock-up they make. Nor does it help that parenting involves dealing with a variable - your children. They are all individuals from the moment they are born and have different needs and wants, likes and dislikes. There is no manual, despite a lot of people making their fortunes writing parenting books. None of them can agree, because there is no single right way to raise a child. The government tries to standardise "advice" but fails because what works for one often doesn't work for another, even children of the same family.

Yes, children all have similar basic needs. They need food, clothes and to be kept safe, healthy and warm. Probably most importantly, they need to be and to feel loved. That's it. Beyond that, they will enjoy different things and some will require more input from their parents than others, have different interests and temperaments. As a parent, your job is to make sure they have their basic needs met and then to do your best to ensure their other needs are met, along with the inevitable compromises that arise, dependent on your  circumstances.

Gratuitous lovely (old) shot of my children. Just because. 
Everyone needs to give parents a break. You may not agree with the way that someone parents. Fine. They may just have different values to you and that's allowed. It doesn't make them a bad parent. A bad parent doesn't meet their child's needs, does some unspeakable things to them or allows such things to happen to them. Most parents wouldn't dream of doing that. Their children are probably the most precious things in the world  and they want only the best for them.

No-one else can truly judge someone's parenting because they do not know or understand the child in the same way that their parents do, and they are not living their life. Perhaps, if we stop judging parents, parents will stop judging themselves harshly for bad days, making compromises because they are tired or need to work, making choices that aren't perceived to be "ideal". Parents often beat themselves up for "bad parenting", when if they stopped to consider whether it was, they'd soon realise it really wasn't. True, you might make choices that aren't ideal or best practice but this isn't a perfect world. We're all muddling through and sometimes the best we can give isn't all that great, we know that. But you know what? You're still good parents. The decision may not be all that great, but the children will come to no harm, they'll be looked after and cared for, they'll be fed and clothed. We often compare ourselves to what we perceive to be perfect parents but that's their public persona and who really knows what goes on behind closed doors?

So cut yourself some slack the next time your inner critic calls you a bad parent. Your best IS good enough, and on the occasions when all you can give is less than your best, that's good enough too.

Believe in yourself as a parent. You'll feel so much better for it. There IS no such thing as a perfect parent. And a million (or billion) ways to be a good one. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Meal Planning Monday

Well, it's time to plan another week's meals. This week is an odd one for me as I'm going to be on my own with the children from Thursday until Monday. Husband is off running the Druid Challenge, the length of the Ridgeway Path from Buckinghamshire to Wiltshire over the course of three days. No, I don't know either but he likes to do these mad things occasionally and he's using it to raise funds for the school's PTFA. (So, if you want to sponsor him, do get in touch!) Some of the early part of the week is therefore given over to pasta and rice dishes, hence the re-appearance of one dish from last week.

It's also Nearly New Sale weekend. We have two a year in our branch and I have volunteered to help every time. I'm not sure yet how much time I can give on Saturday because of possibly not having anyone to look after the children, but I will be there at some point. I spent a good chunk of Sunday labelling up unwanted toys to sell as well so it's in my interest for it to be a successful. The tradition for us is to have Chinese after a sale but with there only being 3 of us, I don't know if we will as the children prefer fish and chips. Handily, the local takeaway does both!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Rubbish excuses but here's why I've been quiet!

Yes, that is me. I haven't posted in 4 days, which is a lot for me. I've even missed posting the next Life Circle task because I've been so busy. In that time, I have:

- done a fair amount of work;
- agreed some work with a new client;
- attended my second ever governors meeting;
- been to a meeting in Huddersfield (more of which some other time);
- wrangled two children outside school hours;
- and spent most of a day tearing my hair out at my laptop, something I could have done without.

Something has gone on the power supply and it won't charge the battery nor will it just supply power to it, despite it being connected properly. I realised the writing was on the wall for it so I tried to get the important stuff off it and then went out and bought a new one on Saturday. I have got most of it backed up somewhere but there are a few things I'd like to get off to make the transfer smoother and easier. Remembering I have a slightly duff spare battery helped but of course, just as I was trying to copy the last file I needed to transfer to the new one and it died forever didn't it? Grrrrr..... If anyone can think of ways to charge dead batteries without connecting it to the adapter without spending oodles of money, I'd be grateful.

Oh, and I know that I could have just got it fixed but a) I'd have had to wait for that to be done and b) there are other things that are going on it and it's 4 years old, reaching the point at which everything annoys you and I really need a reliable fast PC to work on. I probably will get it fixed so that the children can use it once I've got all I need off it, and hope it doesn't die completely.

So, my day and my evening has been about me downloading all the software I need, installing it all, along with stuff like printers, setting up email accounts and hoping I can remember everything I need off my old machine. Just what I could have done without today, as I had lots of things I needed to get done. Typical.

So, if you came here looking for Life Circle, I am sorry. I need to write the post still and set the next task. Sincerely hoping I get it done for Thursday, but I have a new governor workshop to attend on00 Monday which is possibly going to set me back even further.

Please bear with me, and I promise I'll get myself back to normal soon. In the meantime, pray I can get these last few things off my old machine, OK?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Of trains and racing cars

We were very excited when we were invited to an event organised by Scalextric last Friday. The timing was perfect - just at the end of half term when you're running out of things to do. The trip to London meant a trip on the train - and although the children have been on trains before, they have never been on the fast trains that run down to London from here. When I told them where we were going, they were giddy with the anticipation of it all.

And who doesn't love Scalextric? As a girl from a family of girls, I was always a tad jealous of friends who had brothers as they would have some Scalextric to play with. Husband was pretty happy too, as he loved Scalextric as a child and more to the point, he'd got holiday booked which meant he could come along to his first blogger event.

A day trip to London means an early start from here so we were all up for 6. Actually, Monkey wasn't so my husband took great delight in waking him up - a small revenge for some of the early starts he's put him through! The sun rose as we reached Preston station and waited for our "London train" to arrive. We got on and found our seats - thankfully, a table of 4 to one end of a carriage. Monkey's eyes were wide as he took it all in and noticed how fast the train was going, even as we left the station. However, the novelty soon wore off, he got into playing on his DS and barely noticed a thing the rest of the way! Typical.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

It's November so let's talk about the two C words - Christmas, and chocolate.

When someone offers to send chocolate, you don't say no. Even if you are not a chocolate addict, which I'm not - I eat chocolate but I don't have to have it every day. When Hotel Chocolat offer to send you chocolate, you say yes very quickly. We got sent some a few months ago and it really didn't last long.

This time, they offered to send me a product of my choice from their Christmas gift range. Oh yes, the other C word. I've been holding off mentioning it on here but yes, I've started getting ready - my aim is always to have everything bought by the start of December as I don't generally do shops in December (barring the supermarket, you can't avoid those.) But still, I don't like mentioning Christmas too early because I get all bah humbug about it.

So, it was fairly odd picking out a Christmas product to try in October, but we managed, as you do - although we had to hide them from the children. I'd settled on the Luxury Truffles to Share Advent Calendar. This means there's not one but two truffles behind each window so there's no fighting over the chocolate. Genius. There are six different varieties of truffle - Mulled Wine, Salted Soft Caramel, Gingerbread, Cinnamon Praline, Milk Praline and Simple Dark Truffle. I was a bit dubious about the mulled wine variety but it was really nicely spiced and not too strong tasting of alcohol (I am not a huge fan of liqueur chocolates). I also loved the salted caramel - it was the first time I had tried it but it was a lovely combination and I'll definitely have it again. They are a nice range of different flavours and the truffles are small enough that if you are on your Christmas diet to squeeze into your LBD or whatever colour party dress you like to wear, they'll be a little treat which won't send you off the rails. The nutritional information on the back suggest that a truffle averages out at 41 calories each.

It is a little bit on the expensive side at £25 but Hotel Chocolat do have other Advent calendars available, although those don't have two chocolates for every day. And it's really nice, good quality chocolate so in that respect, it's worth the money.

And the best bit? (For you, anyway). You have the chance to win one for yourself! Yes, Hotel Chocolat are giving away one Luxury Truffles to Share Advent Calendar for one lucky reader of The Five Fs. To take part, you first must be a follower of this blog - either by RSS (click the orange jellybean to set up) or email (red jellybean). Then, all you need to do is leave a comment below and tell me what you would do to win chocolate. Just one thing - and don't say "anything"; that doesn't show imagination!

Optionally, you can gain a second entry by tweeting the following:

Win a lovely Hotel Chocolat Luxury Advent Calendar on @kateab's blog. I've entered, have you?

and leave me a separate comment to let me know that you've tweeted. Please ensure you leave me a valid form of contact as I've had to redraw prizes before now as winners haven't responded to contact from me. I tend to announce winners on Twitter, so why not follow me there to get the latest news?

By the way, you can also follow Hotel Chocolat on Twitter or like them on Facebook for the latest chocolatey news from them.

Get entering, and good luck!

Terms and conditions

To enter, leave a comment below, saying what you would do to win chocolate, along with a valid contact email address or Twitter ID, which will be used to contact you if you win.
An additional entry can be gained by tweeting as stated above.
Please ensure you follow this blog via RSS or email.
Maximum two entries per person - multiple entries will be discarded.
The prize is a Hotel Chocolat Luxury Truffles to Share Chocolate Advent Calendar.
The competition closes on Thursday 10th November 2011 at 8pm.
The winner will be drawn at random from all valid entries.
The winner will be contacted that evening and asked to provide a postal address and contact telephone number within 48 hours or the winner will be re-drawn. The prize will be despatched by Hotel Chocolat. UK entrants only.
There is no cash alternative.
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