Monday, 3 December 2012

The Season of Goodwill?

As its December now, and in the Crummy Household, out Christmas tree is up, the lights have been hung and the hall has been decked (!), things are getting festive!

This time of year brings with it many appeals for help to those less fortunate, the Rotary Club Shoebox appeal, local food banks, and even people blogging about random acts of kindness they plan to carry out during the festive period.  Now I’m all for this, after all it IS the season of goodwill to all men…..

But it also got me thinking….  How about as well as the more obvious charitable giving and wishes for peace on earth – how about we all conspire to lead a life less selfishly?  This time of year, as we approach the last few frantic shopping days before Christmas, and travel on the ever congested roads and through airports, ferry ports and train stations wouldn’t it be a much nicer experience if we all did it with more courtesy, more happiness and a little more care for our fellow man?

This wish and desire for us all to be a bit less selfish, abrasive and just plain horrible to one another I guess stems from my recent experience in a local carpark one morning.  I had parked, my not so small Crummy Mobile, in one space over from the trolley park. So there is the trolley park, a vacant space and then me.  I always like this space, because given the choice, who in their right mind wants to park between the behemoth that is the Crummy Mobile and the unforgiving iron railings of the trolley park?  It therefore means that the space is more than likely to remain vacant for the time I am there – meaning I can get my rear passenger door open to get the Wilburbeast in and out of the car safely, without a squeeze and without scratching any vehicles.  Even if the space is not vacant, it’s likely that it will be a small car in there – meaning I can still get the rear door open.  Now I know what you are all thinking, that I sound like I have a HUGE sense of entitlement over this space….. I quite frankly don’t care if someone parks there, its up to them, and I will get the Wilburbeast in and out somehow - after all the person who has parked there doesn’t know I have a small child to put in… however it was what happened next on this particular day that got my goat.  I had returned to my car, and noticed that the space next to me was still empty!  Yay!  So I opened the rear door, parked  the buggy, and the Wilburbeast and proceeded to load the car…. While I was doing so, I noticed a man gesticulating from a car in the carpark – I thought the buggy was in his way and preventing him from driving past so I moved it.  Big Mistake.  He then proceeded to reverse into the space – causing me to react like lightning to slam the door otherwise he would have taken it off – and then he “straightens up” so he has enough room to open his door (on the side of the trolley park).  This means I now cannot open my door at all to get the Wilburbeast in.  I pointed this out as the gentle(!)man got out of his car…. To which he said “What’s the matter with you , you can use the other side!”  ARGH!  It was so frustrating as he swanned off to do his shopping, leaving me to manhandle the Wilburbeast through a narrow gap (yep the car the OTHER side of me was parked close too!) and across Miss Bags’ (thankfully empty) car seat and into his own.  He is not a light boy anymore, and I am not a contortionist.  Anyway, my point is – in a carpark that was half empty – WHY did that man have to have that space (even if it was the closest empty one to the shops), and WHY couldn’t he wait the 2 minutes it would have taken me to strap Wilburbeast in his seat and shut the door?  It is this blatant level of “me, me, me” selfishness that is becoming all the more prevalent in our society that I find really disconcerting.

Maybe I am too nice, I spend time holding doors for others, waiting patiently for lifts in shopping malls and allowing those in wheelchairs to go in front of me. I park courteously when I am on the school run – I don’t block others in or block driveways, I smile and say please and thank you.  I don’t push to be first, I keep my children under a semblance of control in public, and I don’t park in disabled bays!  I am far from a saint – but maybe – just maybe if we all started smiling more, rushing less and thinking more about how our actions (rushed parking, queue jumping etc) affect others the world might be a better place!  Go on – give it a try…..

Thursday, 13 September 2012

First day at School

Well the time has finally come!  From the filling in of the “Application for a Place in Year R”, to the anxious wait to find out which school Miss Bags would be going to, to her last day at Pre-School, Miss Bags has started Big School!

As any mother knows, I have mixed feelings about this…. Miss Bags was completely unfazed by her last day at Pre-School last week; in fact it was I who was crying in the carpark!  She is so grown up, and independent, and matter of fact.  She takes everything in her stride….. In her own words she said to me, “Mummy, it’s actually my last day at Buttercups, then we are going to see Granny and Grumpy, and then I start Big School, and then it will be Christmas – I am going to be so busy!”

She is almost a million miles away from the shy two year old who started pre-school 19 months ago; and yet she is still my baby girl.

She is so ready for the challenges, excitement and opportunity that Big School brings, and yet when I look at her, she is still so small.  Part of me wants to hold her close, and never let her go out into that big wide scary world, but conversely part of me is longing to see her grow and change and become, well, my big girl!

So as I waved her off into her classroom yesterday morning (dump and run is the best approach for me when dropping her off – especially as it’s me who is likely to be sobbing uncontrollably and not Miss Bags!), her in her red uniform, in her shiny new shoes, clutching her book bag; and me with tears glistening in my eyes clutching Crummy Hubby’s hand, I know that she will love every second of school.  I know that she will make new friends, and learn new things and generally have the time of her life!  And I?  Well, I will have to get used to the fact that my wee girl is growing up, and savour every second of her journey.  As Miss Bags herself said, “I am going to be so busy!”

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

How to save a life...

WOW, what a fabulous and inspirational weekend we have had.  

We had the privilege of attending the British Transplant Games in Medway, Kent in support of Crummy Hubby who was participating.  In 2005, after a period on dialysis Crummy Hubby had a kidney transplant.  His kidney was donated by his Maw, and I am pleased to say that 7 years and two children later it is still going strong!  Coming from sporty families the British Transplant Games is something Crummy Hubby and I wanted to get involved with, and we’ve met so many inspirational people along the way.

The Transplant Games started in Portsmouth in 1978, as a way of encouraging transplant patients to keep fit and healthy, while raising awareness of the importance of Organ Donation.   They are open to both children and adults, with all the major transplant centers around the UK represented by a team of athletes.  It has to be said, the biggest and most supported teams come from GOSH (Great Ormond St), and Evelina  Children’s Hospital (Guys and St Thomas’).  It is truly heart-warming to see these children taking part in sporting events and living their lives to the full!
This year Crummy Hubby took part in 6 events – the Badminton Doubles, 400m, Discus, Shot Putt, Ball Throw and the 4x100m relay.  He received a Bronze Medal in the Discus and a Silver Medal in the Ball Throw.   The Portsmouth Team did well this year:

Gold x 10
Silver x 10
Bronze x 2

What is truly amazing though, is that all of these athletes have had life-saving, major surgery in the form of an organ transplant; and not only that they are committed to keeping themselves fit and healthy in honour of the gift that their donor has given them.  The Games are not only for the athletes, but also for the donor families.  People who, in  the face of a great personal tragedy, decided to give the gift of life by agreeing to donate their loved ones organs.  It must be incredibly moving for them to see the huge difference organ transplants make to individuals.  This year , it was also great to get some local news coverage… Not quite wall to wall coverage on BBC 3 with Claire Balding commentating but it’s a step in the right direction!

At the 2012 Games, many of the athletes (Crummy Hubby included!) will have been hoping to get selected to represent Great Britain at the World Transplant Games, to be held in Durban, South Africa in 2013.  I’ll keep you posted….

The next British Transplant Games will be held in Sheffield from the 15-18 August 2013.

As I previously mentioned, the purpose of the Transplant Games is twofold… not only to encourage transplant patients to keep fit and healthy, but also to raise awareness of organ donation.  Organ donation is a subject that is close to my heart (as you can well imagine), and I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you all to look into signing the NHS Organ Donation Register. I have seen first hand the difference receiving a transplant can make to someone’s quality of life, and each and every one of the 600 athletes who took part in the Games over the weekend is testament to that.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The great weekly food shop....

Inspired by many discussions amongst my Mummy friends, all along the line of “My weekly food shop is out of control!” and by Anna’s fabulous post here.

While I am not as frugal as Anna,  (OMG how does she do it!) I recognise that our weekly shop is indeed “out of control” and the bill is FAR bigger than it needs to be!

So I decided to take control….

I have taken inventory of my pantry and my freezer, and made a “stock-list”  this means I only shop for what we NEED and not what I think we need (4 bottles of HP sauce anyone?)  This also means I can meal-plan taking into account what we already HAVE.

I do a monthly meal plan – I KNOW this is boring, and I KNOW we all need a bit of spontanaeity now and again for nights when only take-out will do or romantic meals out with Crummy Hubby (HA!), but I have found that where plans change I just freeze the meal for that day, or move it around with no issue..

Now, here are a few caveats…. Crummy Hubby and I both work,  and we choose to spend some of our disposable income on “treats” such a nice cuts of steak, a few bottles of wine and a wee bit of food shopping in M&S each week!  Also I am following the Slimming World plan, and fresh fruit, salad and vegetables are more expensive than junk food (go figure!), but also because we do eat a lot of fresh food I still need to do a weekly shop.  Armed with my monthly meal plan, I buy meat in bulk to take advantage of multibuy offers, and also yellow-sticker offers (where food is right on its sell-by and I can shove it straight in the freezer!).

I also shop at Sainsbury’s and M&S simply because I find that the fresh fruit and veg keeps longer from these stores.    With Sainsbury’s Brand Match, and M&S new Simply range, they really aren’t more expensive than Tesco or Asda as legend would have it.

I also found that because Sainsbury’s (and other leading supermarkets) have become a bit of  a one stop shop for everything from clothes to household with a bit of food throw in, I was often buying other things at the same time as my weekly shop.  Things like Wellies for the kids, a sneaky top for me, Lego Olympic figures, photo frames, childrens birthday presents, magazines, papers etc etc.  Now I haven’t stopped picking up these items, I simply deduct them from my total at the end, to get the true value of my food shop.  Suddenly it doesn’t seem so scary when you work out that the £200 bill from Sainsbury’s included, school uniform items, 3 birthday cards, a birthday pressie, a new top for me,  and clothes for the Wilburbeast!

I have now gotten my weekly food shop into the realms of between £80-£100 a week, some weeks it’s a bit more, others less. This is fine for us, considering I take a packed lunch to work and we rarely have take out (Slimming World again!), so our “extra” spend on food over the week is nothing (apart from a top-up shop to get bananas or bread)!  I am always dubious of these people that say they can spend £20 a week to feed a family of four, but then it transpires they have 3 take-aways a week and do a top-up shop of another £40, and they get their lunches at work!

All that considered; here are my tips for reining in that spending:

  • Meal-Plan
  • Take advantage of multi-buy offers (meat 3 for £10 etc) but ONLY if they fit with your plans, and you have room to freeze/store them or you will use them before they go bad.
  • Down-brand – if you normally buy a brand-name, try the shop’s own brand.  If you normally buy own-brand, try the value range.  9 times out of 10 you won’t notice the difference, and if you do – you can always switch back.
  • Only buy baby-wipes if they are on offer
  • Shop with a LIST and stick to it!
  • Shop WITHOUT the kids! (or failing that ignore their pleas for things you don’t want or need, and you know they don’t either!)
  • Home-cooking – great if you are doing Slimming World, and making your own lasagne/Spag Bol/Chilli etc is far more satisfying and nutritious and cheaper than buying a ready meal.
  • Buy fruit and veg loose, rather than pre-packed, you can choose the quality and quantity and it’s usually cheaper.
  • Buy meat (steak, chicken breasts) from the deli counter – it’s usually cheaper.
  • When doing a top-up shop, get in and out of the supermarket like a ninja!  Only buy what you came for! Failing that send your hubby/other half!
  • When shops like Tesco give vouchers such as spend £40 and get £5 off – that £5 is like free money – as LONG as you only spend the £40 (ish).  I usually take advantage of these by buying nappies, cleaning products and other non-perishables that I would have bought ANYWAY, but now I get the £5 off.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Keep on Running....

In 2011, on July 24th, when The Wilburbeast was only 10 weeks old, I took part in the Race For Life.   My running partner, Helen, and I completed the 5k run in 38 minutes.  I was 8 and a half minutes off my personal best time of 29 minutes and 30 seconds.  Not bad for someone who had only given birth 10 weeks previously and only started running again 4 weeks before (once I’d gotten the all clear from the Dr that notihng was going to drop off/out!)

This year, on July 22nd, Helen, Emily and I took to the seafront in Portsmouth again… running the 5k Race For Life.  This time however, we’d been running regularly every weekend, covering at least 3 miles at a time.  We crossed the line after 33 minutes, knocking an impressive 5 minutes off our previous time.

Next year, we’re entering the 10k!

In the past, I’d taken up running, but it always petered out after a few months.  I ran my 5k PB the year I got married, when I was going to the gym 3 times a week and running (incentivised by losing weight for my wedding day).  Now I’ve had children, I don’t have the time or the energy to go to the gym as well as go running….  In fact Helen and I only manage one run a week or roughly 4 – 4.5 miles.  That’s enough for me to be able to run comfortable 10 minute miles, and feel the tone in my legs.  Ideally I’d like to run more, but I do lots of other exercise (cycling, walking, chasing, lifting etc) thanks to the kids.

There are many reasons I run, and these are reasons I think other people should consider running too:

  • It’s cheaper than gym membership!  Well it IS… and all you need is a good sports bra, some good trainers (if you are local to me try Alexandra Sports in Portsmouth for advice and fitting), a tshirt and some leggings/shorts – oh and the great outdoors!

  • Anyone can do it!  It’s easy to run, and it doesn’t matter how fast (or not) you go… you’re still lapping everyone else on the sofa!

  • It gives me some ME time! Running doesn’t have to be a solo activity, but when I run alone I feel at peace with myself and all the stress of the day melts away.  I’ve done some of my best thinking during a run!

  • It gives me a chance to catch up with friends!  Running with a friend is a great motivator.  Not only do you keep each other going, but the incentive of arranging to meet someone also gets me out of bed early on a Sunday!

  • It’s great for supporting my weight-loss goals! Regular exercise, in my case running, means I can still indulge in a few treats now and again!  If I skip the treats and up the exercise I can see the difference on the scales, and in the way my clothes fit.  The more you exercise, the more weight you lose in the long run (!), because you will tone up, creating more muscle which burns more calories.

  • Entering running events is a great confidence boost!  It keeps me motivated and gives me a goal to work towards.  I’ve entered the Great South 5K on 27th October ; and I hope to break the 30min barrier.  Miss Bags also loves coming to watch me run…. It’s a great family time – especially as Crummy Hubby is running the Great South Run on the 28th (yep, all 10 miles of it!)

So, looking towards the 10k…  I’ve found a training plan and we’ll be there in 2013!