Let’s Talk About PANTS

The PANTS rule was created by the NSPCC as a way to talk to your child about being in control of their bodies and keeping their private bits private. It’s a way of preventing abuse without having to talk about abuse specifically.

P stands for Privates are Private. This is about teaching children that their pants cover up their private bits. Those are the bits that aren’t for other people to see, unless it’s a parent or medical professional and then they should explain why and ask the child for permission first.

A stands for Always Remember Your Body Belongs To You. A vitally important message and one that really needs to be taught from a young age. Children should not be made to do something with their bodies that makes them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

N stands for No means No. Even if it’s a trusted family member asking for a hug, a child has the right to say no and it’s our job to teach them that. And if they say no, their choice should be respected, not treated like a bad thing.

T stands for Talk About Secrets That Upset You. Children should feel that if someone tells them a secret they feel uncomfortable with, they can tell another grown up they trust. Two of our key values as a family are honesty and being open with each other. If it’s something like a birthday surprise, then we say it’s a ‘Good secret’, to make clear that it’s not something bad that’s being hidden.

S stands for Speak Up, Someone Can Help. This is about making sure a child knows they have a range of people to speak to if someone does something to make them feel scared or uncomfortable. Again, this is about making sure there’s open discussion and that any problem or worry can be talked about and wherever possible, we’re here to help.

The NSPCC have also created a fun character – Pantosaurus – complete with his song about PANTS. This makes the whole message that bit more child friendly and hopefully memorable too!

I cannot overstate how importantly I view this conversation. It’ll take a bit of time and maybe there’ll be some awkward questions but you’re keeping your child safe. I know it’s not something we want to think about but child abuse does happen. I think many people have some stereotype in mind of the kind of family abuse occurs in but this is simply false.

If you read my last ‘Let’s Talk About…’ post, you’ll know that I’m a survivor of child abuse myself. I can tell you that from my personal experience, if I had been told the PANTS rule, I might have told someone right when the abuse began, before the serious damage had been done. Instead I just felt scared and confused, convinced to hide what was happening. I, and many other people like me, could have been saved from a horrific childhood, as well as a lifetime of consequences to deal with.

Please have this conversation with your child today.

Thanks for reading.

Family Day Out: Caerphilly Castle

The first week of the Easter Holidays brought us some lovely Spring weather. Knowing that the sunshine can disappear as quickly as it arrives, we made the most of it with a trip to Caerphilly Castle.

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Sitting right in the middle of the town of Caerphilly and surrounded by an extensive moat, the castle is partly ruins with one ominously leaning tower, although in nice weather this makes for a pleasant walk.

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Pip was thrilled to find dragons in the castle grounds!

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These sculptures were amazing, such beautiful detail. The red dragon has apparently been at the castle for a long time, while the blue was added more recently.

Signs warned us not to approach the geese that waddled about, as they’re nesting at the moment.

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We walked up a winding narrow staircase to reach the top of the castle. If I’m honest, I’m not keen on spiral staircases, particularly ones with ancient slippery steps and even less so when my daughter happily bounds up them when I’d rather she take her time. There’s no stopping little adventurers! However, I’d say the view from the top is well worth the climb.

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I would say that this is not a suitable day out for pushchairs or wheelchairs. There’d be very little you could see and even navigating the grounds could be tricky.

The price of entry was perhaps a little expensive for what’s on offer. £7.95 for adults, £5.20 for students, senior citizens and under 16s or £23.70 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children). I understand that maintaining an ancient structure costs money and that’s probably reflected in the price but there wasn’t a lot to interact with. I suppose I’m comparing that with Cardiff Castle, which as Cardiff residents, we only have to pay £6 every 3 years for our Castle Keys for unlimited entries and reduced event prices.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the castle and the obligatory visit to the gift shop, we ended our day out with a drink in the visitor centre cafe.

Overall, we enjoyed this trip. It was a good learning experience and an enjoyable walk outdoors in the Spring sunshine!

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Top 5 Ways to be Healthier as a Busy Parent

Type ‘weight loss’, ‘diet’ or ‘healthy lifestyle’ into a search engine and you’re going to get a lot of Bloggers, Vloggers and Instagrammers promoting their own ideas of how to be healthier. I have read abIMG_1486out countless different eating and exercise plans. Aside from some of them being actually very unhealthy (Paleo diet, I’m looking at you), they all seem to share one pretty big flaw.

They’re almost impossible to follow if you’re a busy parent.

I’m using the term ‘busy parent’ because I want to encompass a range of people in that. I, for example, have one child plus I have two jobs, one a part time retail job and the other my self employed work. I would say that I am, a lot of the time, busy. But I’m well aware that there are parents with multiple children and full time jobs who are even busier than me.

I would say that I am currently leading a pretty healthy lifestyle and losing weight at what is considered a healthy rate (about 2lb per week). So I thought I’d come up with some healthy living tips of my own that are actually achievable:

1. Make healthy choices. You don’t need to change absolutely everything you eat. You also don’t need to buy expensive trendy ingredients. I have personally never eaten a chia seed, nor do I envision doing so anytime soon. You also don’t need to faff about with separating eggs – just eat the whole damn thing, it’s all good for you! The only reason you should be separating eggs is if you’re making a bloody meringue! Instead, just tweak things a bit. Go for lower fat options (be careful though, the fat might have been replaced with sugar!). If you order a pizza, choose a small thin crust with lots of veggies on top. I know a lot of people cut down on the sugar in tea or coffee but I have found that impossible (I have a serious sweet tooth) so instead I massively cut down on how much tea I drink.

2. Portion control. As someone who cooks for myself and two other people every night, it would take up an awful lot of my time if I prepared separate meals for myself. Instead, I cook ordinary family dinners then give myself a mini portion. For example, if I cook a cottage pie (a favourite in my house) then I’ll still have a small amount of it, probably with a big portion of veggies or salad on the side.

3. Count calories. I know it’s boring but its an effective way of making sure you’re not eating too much (or too little!). It can also be made really easy by using an app like MyFitnessPal, which is free in it’s simplest form. I use it fullsizeoutput_383and I’ve never found a need to upgrade to the premium account. You can use it to easily keep track of your calories, nutrients and macros as well as your weight loss, if that’s your goal. It’s database has information on loads of different products from all the major supermarkets and brands. You can also store recipes on it so you can quickly and easily add in dishes that you eat regularly. If you don’t like this app, there are plenty of others available to try out.

4. Find an exercise that can be done at home in 30 minutes or less. Finding time to hit the gym or even go for a run can be difficult when you’ve got a busy schedule or little people to take care of. For me, using online exercise videos has really helped. There are tons available and most of them are less than 30 mins long. This means that I can fit them in even when I haven’t got lots of time. However, I would say that a daily workout is not really necessary – the NHS recommends 150 minutes of aerobic and two strength training sessions per week. Also remember that a walk in the park with the kids counts as aerobic exercise!

IMG_15135. Prepare food in advance. I’ve only just started doing this and I’m already seeing the benefits. I’m much more likely to pick a healthy snack if it’s readily available. Also, cooking a larger batch of food takes not much longer than a single portion. Currently, I’ve got two servings of black bean chilli in the fridge and I love knowing that my lunch is sorted for the next two days!

 

 

 

I hope you find my tips helpful. Do share any of your own ways to stay healthy as a busy parent!

Thanks for reading!

Another Day, Another Year

So another year has begun. Goodbye 2016, hello 2017.

Don’t panic, this isn’t yet another internet rant about how terrible 2016 was and how, somehow, 2017 will be so much better.

Actually 2016 wasn’t bad for me personally. Yes, terrible things happened globally and I did feel sad about them but some pretty great stuff happened to me. I graduated from university. I got some ongoing paid writing work. I stopped taking anti-depressant medication. My workplace allowed me to dye my hair pink (and indeed a whole range of other colours that I’ve got my eye on).

In fact, I feel a little unsure about 2017. I’m heading into a year where I don’t have any guaranteed opportunities for achievement. There’s nothing big on the horizon. That’s a little daunting, especially when everyone else is so determined that their 2017 is going to be so bloody brilliant. I feel like I too should be super positive and excited at the new opportunities apparently afforded by a new year beginning.

Instead, if I’m honest, I’m feeling a bit down today. Christmas is over. The tree is coming down tomorrow. We’ll all be back in our usual work and school routine on Tuesday. My daughter is pretty excited about that. She’ll get to see her friends and tell them all about her new bike and all the other cool stuff she got. Meanwhile I’m trying to summon up the motivation to fit some exercise and writing into the cold, empty months that the start of any year inevitably bring.

So yeah. Perhaps not quite the upbeat, fresh start post of New Year optimism people will expect or even want. But there it is.

I genuinely do hope you all have a good 2017 though. Cheers for reading my bleak thoughts. I promise to make the next post a little perkier.

 

Tis the Season!

Christmas has officially arrived in our house. The tree is up, the presents are wrapped up underneath. We’re quite a bit more than halfway through our various advent calendars.

It’s the last day of school term today and, while I am working a few days between now and Christmas, I feel like Christmas really begins when Pip starts school holidays. I’ve had Christmas tunes on all day. I should probably apologise to my neighbours for attempting to sing along!

The tree has one new ornament this year, just as it does every year. We chose this one together – we’re all big Marvel fans and I really like the detailing on it.

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The first ornament we bought, just after Husband and I visited Paris in 2008

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Celebrating Pip’s first Christmas

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For our first Christmas in Wales, after moving to Cardiff in 2011

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For Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary in 2013

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Seemed very fitting for a family of Starbucks fans

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This year’s ornament, celebrating our surpreme geekiness

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My best wishes to you all for a happy & fun Christmas and New Year!

Five years in Cardiff

Five years ago, we moved from London to Cardiff. It’s probably been the best five years of my entire life.

Back in 2011, we lived in an area not far from where the riots had recently happened. It’s not easy being out in a place and constantly wondering if the person you’ve just passed in the street was looting a few nights before. We’d been talking about moving away for a long while but it had always felt like fantasy, like when you plan which mansion you’ll buy when you win the lottery rollover (Everyone does that, right?). But with London (or at least the bit of London we lived in) feeling more and more like somewhere we didn’t really want to raise our child, we started looking elsewhere.

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View across Cardiff Bay, 2011

Cardiff was a pretty obvious choice. We’d been there on a day trip a year earlier and instantly loved it. It’s a capital city – a good place to find jobs with plenty of cultural stuff to enjoy – but at the same time it’s a quieter, more laid back and friendly place than where we were. Plus it’s where Doctor Who is filmed and for a family of geeks, that’s a massive tick in the pros column.

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At the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay, 2012

Husband went on a little reconnaissance mission. The poor guy spent two days looking at what were mostly pretty grim flats, attending job interviews and spending the night in hotel room with a broom closet sized bathroom and a TV smaller than his iPad. He had the pressure of actually picking where we lived without me ever laying eyes on it. When we actually moved, I arrived a few hours ahead of him (he finished packing up at the old flat, while me and Pip went ahead) and he texted me, all anxious about what I thought, given that this was the first time I’d set foot in the place. I think my reply was ‘I f*cking love you’. He’d chosen brilliantly.

I loved that flat. It was the first place that really felt like our home, rather than somewhere we’d had to settle for out of necessity. It was just near Cardiff Bay, still one of my favourite places to visit, plus near plenty of shops including a huge 24 hour supermarket. The best thing about it was it’s second bedroom. Pip finally had a room of her own, which we were all extremely happy about.

We stayed there for a year, then our landlord quite suddenly decided that they were going to sell the flat and gave us just over a month to move out. This time I chose the flat and Husband was the one that didn’t get to see it until after we moved in. I won’t go into much detail about that place but suffice to say, we’ve since made an agreement that he gets to choose all subsequent places we live in. It was bloody awful.

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Victoria Park, 2013

Since 2014, we’ve been living in my favourite place that I’ve ever lived in. Plenty of space, brilliant location and a lovely landlady. I don’t see us leaving here for quite some time yet, which is quite something for a family that’s moved five times in eight years.

I love Cardiff. I love the Bay, a beautiful place to have a walk, take some pictures and perhaps have an ice cream. I love the city centre, full of shops, two museums and a castle, plus a massive library and loads of lovely places to eat.  I love that if you say Good Morning to someone in the street, most of the time they’ll say it back rather than look at you like you’ve just casually uttered a racial slur (seriously, I wouldn’t even make eye contact with strangers in London). I love how comfortable I feel here.

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Castell Coch, 2016

Starting fresh in Cardiff has made me a such a different person. I might still be shy but I’m way more confident than I used to be. I’ve faced up to the fact that I have PTSD and depression and had treatment and now I feel so much better. I’m not cured but it’s incurable so being able to deal with it is the best I can do and I think I’m doing it (most of the time).

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Me, 2011

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Me, 2016

So thanks Cardiff. I can’t wait to see what the next five years have in store!

 

Chrome for Kids

These days, learning to use a computer is as essential as learning to read.

I know, many will consider a controversial thing to say but I really believe it. Students (of all ages) need to use computers in almost any subject and most future careers require at least some computer use.

With our daughter turning seven this year, we decided to buy her a laptop. She’s had use of a second hand iPad for a long while but we wanted her to get used to a keyboard, which she mostly avoids on the iPad. We also wanted her to to have experience of different operating systems, since at home we only use Mac.

We decided on getting a chromebook for the following reasons:

  • She’s quite familiar with the operating system since she uses it at school already.
  • They come pre-loaded with anti-virus software so you don’t need to worry about it yourself.
  • You can set up parental controls – very important if she’s going online.
  • Lightweight. We wanted something she could easily carry around for herself and could be taken out of the house.

There are loads of options available. We picked the Lenovo N22-20 Chromebook. It’s very lightweight and even has a handle – very convenient for a seven year old to carry it around with limited risk of it being dropped. It’s got a decent battery life – up to 14 hours according to the Lenovo website and I will say that we’ve found it doesn’t need to be charged very often, though I haven’t actually timed it. It’s also has a rotating camera on it, which is a nice feature and great fun for kids.

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Sadly, I do have a rather large complaint to make of the Chrome OS. The parental controls are rubbish. I know that sounds blunt and harsh and usually I’m the kind of blogger to try and play up the positives of products but seriously, it’s rubbish.

In order to set up parental controls, you need to set up an account as the parent and then a ‘Supervised Account’ for the child. This is already a bit annoying. But nothing compared to the fact that you can’t access apps from the supervised account. Seriously. My daughter can’t access applications from her own user account on her own laptop.

Also, the internet parental controls are seriously lacking. I’ve gone through the tutorials, I’ve checked advice from Google and various people on online forums but essentially what I’ve got is a situation where she can look at whatever the hell she wants and all I can do is check up on it later. What on earth is the point of that?! Please Google, sort this out. ASAP.

However, she does love it. Luckily there are plenty of websites with great content and stuff for her, like the CBBC and CBeebies websites. Plus, she can access Google Docs, since that’s website based, so she can practice her typing. This week, during half term, we’re going to look at Scratch, the website based application for teaching children to code.

So my overall impression is that Chromebooks are useful, lightweight and simple machines for people who just want to use the internet, email and the odd application. As something for a child as their own computer, it’s a bit disappointing but, might still be the best reasonably priced option available.