The Challenges Of Being A Parent

Being a parent is rewarding, but often challenging with lots of responsibilities to handle. It’s a full-time job with constant ups and downs, with many parents exhausted by the end of each day, and who could really use a break.

There are particular difficulties that come with raising children, with well-known trials and tribulations most parents will all relate to pretty easily. See the challenges of being a parent and the tips for overcoming these obstacles.

Siblings

Raising one child is hard, but additional children bring it to an entirely new level. Dealing with siblings isn’t easy. This is especially true depending on the different ages you’re juggling and their maturity levels. Try to spend time apart with each child on an individual basis so you can get to know them. Also, make time for the family to be together. It’s about letting each person’s personality shine without judgement and too much parenting.

Schedules

It’s very challenging to raise children when they have different schedules. One child is heading to baseball practice one night, while the next is going to dance class another. They’re usually not on the same schedule, and that makes it hard on the parents. See if there’s a team car pool you can join or switch nights with your spouse. Not that you want to limit their activities, but maybe help them find one or two they’d like to focus on instead of a bunch.

Expenses

Let’s be honest, kids are expensive. There’s always a bill to pay or a fundraiser to fund, and it seems neverending. Don’t get frustrated. Lay out a budget for what you’ll be able to spend for the year and stick to it. The expenses will get away from you quickly if you don’t put boundaries in place and write it down. Also, don’t be afraid to say no.

Bedtime

Bedtime is always a struggle. The kids want to stay up while the parents have been ready to go to bed for hours. Sleep is important to their development and well-being, so this is one area it’s okay to be strict. A consistent bedtime will help them function better at school and help you function better at work. They’ll try to fight you on it, but you need to be strong.

Cars

If your kids are old enough to drive, then this will be a constant battle. A Mini Edinburgh is a great car for getting around in, and it’s also extremely easy on the eyes, beating all those ugly family car stereotypes. Purchasing another car for the family will be an investment but may help you out in the long-run. It’s also an excellent way to teach your kids responsibility if you allow them to drive the vehicle. Let them know they need to keep the car in proper shape and clean inside and out. It’s difficult having a big family with few cars, so you may enjoy the flexibility it brings to the household.

Conclusion

Parenting is a tough job. It comes with a lot of obligations and duties. There are ways to make life easier on yourself. The challenges of being a parent are real, but you don’t have to let them consume you.  

When I was young motoring was more fun

When I was younger and driving was less about transporting three children about without any of them being sick or needing to go to the toilet, things were a lot more fun and I often used to go out for a drive just for the fun of it. Although it took me unti my third car to get to something resembling a hot hatch (okay, it was a warm hatch, even then in 2000- a Seat Ibiza sport with a 100BHP under the bright yellow bonnet), I sill managed to have some epic fun in my first car.

C207 VCT- they say you always remember the registration of your first car and I certainly do. It was a one litre Vauxhall Nova that had 77,000 miles on the clock when I got it (when I traded it in, I was up to 119,000 and would have kept it but I was driving 70 miles a day and the ignition had just caught fire). It had a manual choke too. Most people today won’t have experienced one of those and many of us that did have probably forgotten all about them!

We went on adventures though, my Nova and I. Perhaps the most epic one involved me and three mates driving from Lancaster university over into the Yorkshire Dales for a night sleeping under the stars. The trip was epic for a number of reasons, 50BHP in an ageing car and four lads over 6ft made for some exciting hills. In fact we needed a good run up for most of them and when we didn’t, notably at Snake Pass, I actually had to make the passengers get out while I drove up! Cars lose power with age and I’m guessing mine was somewhere in the low 40s BHP when we attempted all this.

Still, we slept in our sleeping bags at the side of a single track road that was more grass than road, enjoying the dog days of the university summer term. It was beautiful and serene up there, the tranquiity only being interrupted by Matt’s terrible puns and Dave’s snoring.

Driving a small light car around stunning country roads is exciting and whilst it might not offer the exact same thrills as driving a Jaguar F-Type like the Top Gear lads might, it’s still good fun, and eminently within the reach of younger drivers, especially given you could check out something like the young driver insurance from RAC.

The other most memorable trip in my Nova was memorable for perhaps the wrong reasons. You have to bear in mind I did this before the days of satnav and I hadn’t done a great deal of distance driving. Five of us were in the Nova heading from Lancaster to south Wales for a long weekend with one of the university societies. We passed the sign on the M6 for North Wales and I thought, “Not us, we want south Wales!”. Yes, I didn’t realise that the M6/M1 swung in easterly, and by the time I did we were almost at Northampton. We got to the backpackers lodge about 5 hours later than everyone else, having driven about 3 times the distance. Oddly enough the girls I’d given a lift down to both made alternative arrangements for the return trip! That is the sort of mistake you only make once though!

3 Ways to Decorate Your Kid’s Bedroom

Decorating your kid’s bedroom doesn’t need to be an arduous affair. There are simple, fun and cheap ways to get the job done. Although if you do have the time and energy for an elongated project then, by all means, go ahead and there are options for that as well. Anyway, without further ado here are some great ways to decorate your kid’s bedroom.
Painting

Kicking things off with a larger more involved project, you could use a stencil and paint part or all of the room. This is a great excuse to get you children involved and it will make the whole room mean more to them. It is probably best not to pick something overly specific like The Avengers or Disney because you run the risk of the youngsters outgrowing them. Instead focus on something broader than they also like such as forests, under the sea or mountains. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated and a little love an attention goes a long way. Also, the fact that the kids are involved in the painting will mean they’ll appreciate the room even more.

New Bed
One easy way to change the feel of a bedroom is to just change the bed. Be careful though and plan ahead. You don’t want to be buying a new bed each year because your kid has gotten too tall or no longer like their car bed. Bunk beds generally go down well. Especially if the lower half can be used as a sofa and as a spare bed for friends. If you do go down the new bed route, then places like Bedstar have a great range and have next day mattress delivery. Either way be sure to measure the room first because you don’t want to get a bed home and find out it won’t fit for one reason or another.

Wall prints
Wall prints are fantastic. They come in nearly every size, shape and design. If your kids love Batman or Barbie then there are wall prints that they’ll get a real kick from. Whatever their interests you are bound to find somewhere that makes a wall print they’ll like. Parents might also find plenty of wall prints that go great in their bedroom, too. The other great thing about wall prints is that they can easily be replaced or removed should your child outgrow that specific interest. They don’t cost as much as wallpapering and can be put up and taken down in a fraction of the time, what’s not to love.

Easy Ways to Make a Family Day Out Go Smoothly

Do all of your family day outs run as smoothly as they should? If not, there are many practical ways you can address this problem. Once you deal with the main issues that have the potential to ruin these special occasions, you will be able to relax more, enjoy your family days out and create many happy memories you can look back on fondly in years to come. Below are some of the easiest ways to make a family day out go smoothly.
Parking
Finding parking when you’re away from home can be a frustrating experience. However, if you use websites like yourparkingspace.co.uk where you can find and book a parking space nationwide, you will save yourself a lot of time and avoid the pressures that come with finding a suitable place to park.
Once you have found your parking space on the day of your trip, it’s also essential to be able to locate it at the end of the day. Look for nearby landmarks or signs that will make it easier to find your vehicle when you need to look for it later on. This simple step will once again save you time and reduce your stress levels.
Organisation and Planning
Before you set off on your journey, it’s a good idea to be as organised as possible and plan ahead for your trip. Make sure you bring all of the items you and your family members need. Researching your destination on tripadvisor.co.uk and finding out more about what it has to offer will also ensure that you get the most out of your next family day out.
Organising your family is another key factor you need to consider. If you are visiting an unfamiliar destination, make sure everyone stays together, you identify a specific meeting point if you split up, and that everyone knows each other’s mobile numbers if they have a mobile phone.
Keeping the Kids Entertained
Long car journeys can be hard work when you have small kids in the back. iPads are great at keeping kids occupied but not all parents like to see their kids using these electronic devices for long periods of times. For some more traditional activities download free printable puzzles from tescoliving.com. They include word searches, brain teasers, and dot to dot puzzles.

First Aid and Dealing with Emergencies
Unfortunately, things can go wrong when you travel with your family. However, the quicker you react to any problems that do occur, the quicker everyone can get back to enjoying their day out. Packing a first aid kit and items required in an emergency will give you this flexibility and allow you to deal with a wide range of accidents and incidents that can occur.
Clothes and Accessories for All Weather Conditions
In many areas of the country, weather conditions can be unpredictable. To help you deal with everything Mother Nature throws at you, it’s wise to bring clothing for different types of weather conditions, including sun cream, hats, and any other accessories you believe are necessary.
Keep Food Fresh
When you go on a family day out, there are many mouths to feed. Therefore, it’s vital to keep all of your food and drink cool and fresh. Investing in storage items such as cling film, lunch boxes, flasks and zip-lock bags will ensure that you and your family will be able to consume and enjoy these items throughout the day.
A family day out should be a memorable occasion for everyone involved. Following the tips above will make it more likely that this will happen and that everything will go as smoothly as possible.

Oooh, we’re moving now

Last year we explored the possibility of having an enormo extension. It would have been a sight to behold, the aim of which was to give Ned a bigger (wider) bedroom and us an en-suite. At any time either of us want to go to the loo, their appears to be a child skidding the bowl.

As it turned out, we encountered a classic Catch-22 situation in so far as we could either afford the extension or the moving out for the six months that the build would last but not both. It was a blow for me because I was firmly of the opinion that an extension made better financial sense than paying solicitors fees, estate agents fees, and stamp duty to only find that the new place isn’t quite right and needs redecorating, a new bathroom, boiler and kitchen.

Still necessity is the mother of invention and we’re now looking at moving again but this time we’re not solely looking at houses, we’re also looking at the land that they’re sitting on. With plenty of reports in the news about issues with new build houses, the idea of knocking down a perfectly suitable house and building your own might seem odd but it isn’t really. Quality issues stem from the build ’em quick, build ’em cheap mass builders and a lot of older homes aren’t necessarily configured to suit a 21st century style of living. Starting again from scratch isn’t proportionately more expensive than building an extension either.

One of the things that stops being self building is the fear of something going wrong but if you have proper home warranty insurance from someone like CRL, you’ll be covered if the thing falls in or the cellar collapses or something.

In terms of self builds (the name is a bit misleading as I’m certainly not going to be running a line of bricks any time soon), as well as tapping people up for reputable local builders, we’re also looking into the prefab stuff. We’re lucky that I happen to know someone who works at BRE who has pointed us at some cool companies like Huf Haus.

Whichever route we go though, we’re now definitely looking at shifting the family to pastures new as we’ve just had an offer on the place which is pretty close to our asking price. Exciting times!

My next DIY project is likely to be a little more involved

Of course in an ideal world I’d be doing something like the inimitable Colin Furze and building a secret bunker in my garden. But since my greatest achievement to date has involved getting the toy cars lined up on my littlest’s wallpaper, I know not to push it too far. My skills lie elsewhere. I’ve been told. Presumably by someone who knows.

Anyway, I have managed a few fairly major tasks- I’ve refitted and tiled a bathroom, rebuilt a summer house from an old concrete shed, done my own DIY security camera project and even fitted an IKEA kitchen. Yes, the majority of this was all done before I had dodgy knees and three small children getting underfoot but in principle, I’m still up for a bit of a challenge.

We’re at that stage where we’re looking to either move and take on a project or do something fairly radical internally. Either way, it’s going to involve the removal of some non load bearing walls. Our entire top floor is pretty much non load bearing in terms of the internal walls- the roof is supported on the external brick walls, with some obvious gaps between the rafters and the internal walls at the top once you prod the plaster away. We’ve been looking at turning the box room into an ensuite & bathroom and moving it (the fourth bedroom) to the current bathroom. I’ll need an upgrade on my 5lb lump hammer and also a pair of sturdy comfortable safety shoes to stop brick and breeze block clobbering my delicate toes. The lump hammer I can get most anywhere but the chap we had in the office to do our PAT testing recently pointed me towards Engelbert- Strauss for the safety shoes. I’m a size 12 so it’s hard enough to get normal shows  in store in my size, let alone specialised footwear. The idea of being able to buy them online is appealing.

We’re fortunate enough that in St Albans we have the first two pilot Bunnings stores in the country. Bunnings are the brand that bought out the ailing Homebase and are turning them into proper DIY sheds- when I re-felted our sheds roof the other day I had about 5 different types of roof felt to choose from, which is something even the huge B&Q in Stevenage can’t boast.

I’m fortunate as our next door neighbour has already done roughly what we anticipate doing, so I can learn from what he’s done and even ask him if there is anything he would have done differently. Apparently there is some structural steel in a very inopportune place that’s caused him a bit of a headache, so I’ll have the benefit of not being surprised by that if we do stay put.

Old MacDonald Heard a Parp by Olaf Falafel

Our five year old Ned has discovered flatulence in a big way. And by that I mean both the act of partaking in it’s creation and also the act of laughing hysterically at it. The joys of being five.

I am to blame for Ned’s infatuation with flatulence a little because I introduced him to the whole “pull my finger” thing. You live and learn.

So when wifey was offered the chance to review Old MacDonald Heard a Parp, a farty interpretation of the old nursery rhyme, I thought I better pick the book up and do my own review with Ned. We’re more tuned in to the themes of the book really.

The book does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s framed around the nursery rhyme with old MacDonald attempting to guess which of his animals made the parp in the first instance. I won’t give away the final pay off but I will say it’s enormously satisfying. The art work reminds me of Axel Scheffler (sort of Super Worm era), which is no bad thing and it’s also tucked full of great little touches that make it bearable for an adult too- for example the horse has a Jurassic Pork poster and another poster that’s a spoof on Nirvana’s Nevermind album cover up in his stall).

Of course the proof in the pudding comes from the kids and honestly, Ned was a complete hysterical mess after our first read through. The book even has instructional bits on how to make raspberry sounds, which added to the tears in the eyes, snotty laughing and out of breath mess he became.

Old MacDonald Heard a Parp is out now to buy, and is published by Harper Collins with an RRP of £6.99.

Why I’d love to become a VW Trailblazer

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles have celebrated the launch of their 2017 Amarok pick-up in a truly genius way, launching the official #VWTrailblazers challenge. It’s been a long time since anyone has personally referred to me as a trail blazer, but I’m certainly envious of anyone who got to give this thrilling ride a go.

Set in the depths of the Lake District, two lucky teams were recently invited to experience an off-road adventure like no other. There’s Chris and his father-in-law Piers, alongside couple Neil and Katie. With set challenges that aim to test the power, precision, navigation and technical ability of the Amarok, even as a viewer I can’t help but get pulled in by the action and have ended up longing to take the truck for a spin myself.

I’m in no position to put down a large sum of money on a car that is purely for enjoyment, but what draws me most towards the Amarok is its potential to be so much more than just an off-road vehicle. Sure, it has the power and size needed to rip through difficult terrain with ease, but it would no doubt look pretty good cruising down the M25, too.

The magic for me is that the Amarok makes being a trail blazer accessible to all, wherever in the world you are. It’s a smart looking vehicle that radiates a sense of speed and strength, yet features such as the large, in-car screen and the impressive sound system are sure to make it a hit with the whole family. It would certainly turn heads being driven down quiet country roads, but surely the very definition of a trail blazer is not being afraid to stand out from the crowd?

What do you think of the 2017 Amarok? Will you be taking it for a spin?

Tips to Get Your Garden Ready for Summer

Now summer is fast approaching, it’s time to start preparing your garden for playing and long afternoons relaxing and entertaining friends. Winter can be harsh on your garden, leaving your furniture in poor condition, lawn dull and lifeless, and plants in need of some love and attention. If you’ve got children, your garden is sure to get a lot of use over the coming months. So, this is the perfect time to make sure it looks great and is safe for the whole family to enjoy. If your garden is in poor condition and the task seems overwhelming, find a tradesmen who can help with some of the bigger jobs.

Tidy

Start off by giving it a good tidy. Take up any plants that can’t be salvaged, remove any rubbish or unwanted items, and make sure any furniture is where you want it. Doing this first allows you to see what needs doing and make a plan.

Clean

Next, give everything a good clean. Consider hiring a jet wash or some other equipment to help with any hard to clean areas like the patio. Clean your fences and furniture, too. Sand them down if they need it. Winter often leads to a build-up of weeds, lichen, and excess moisture, which not only looks unsightly it can also be full of germs and bacteria so giving everything a thorough clean, is essential.

Repair

Assess any damage. Some of your fencing and furniture might need repairing or replacing. You should also service and clean your barbeque if you have one, so you’re not disappointed when it comes time to use it.

Plant

Now you’ve removed any dead plants, it’s time to start looking after what’s left and planting new flowers. Bright colours look fantastic in spring and often have a pleasing gentle aroma. If you’ve got children running around you might want to go for flowers and plants that are easy to look after and can withstand a lot of damage.

Lawn

After a long winter, full of wind and rain, your lawn is going to need some TLC. Start feeding and looking after it as soon as you can. If it’s in reasonable condition, one feed a week should get it back to its best. In other cases, a more intensive treatment plan might be needed.

Paint and Protect

Painting your fencing and furniture is a great way to make it look new without the large expense. Why not be bold and go for a different colour? Whatever you decide, be sure to protect and weatherproof it when you’re done.

Have Fun

Gardens are meant to be fun. Get the whole family out there cleaning and gardening together. Make it a fun adventure. Kids love getting dirty and will enjoy feeling involved. Try to include some outdoor toys and activities in your finished garden. Perhaps a kid’s zone if you want to keep a relaxing space for yourself. Don’t worry about spending lots of money on expensive equipment as they quickly outgrow it anyway. Children love the responsibility of growing things themselves, so give them a mini garden and watch as they enjoy the rewards of seeing their plants and flowers grow and change.

Try to get the kids involved as much as you can too. They’ll love helping you make decisions and getting dirty.

Classic summer looks to take you from pool to dinner

With less layering to consider and warmer temperatures to contend with, summer style can be a challenge for some of us at the best of times. Luckily, there are a fair few go-to looks that are as timeless as they are comfortable – well worth considering for your next big break or family escape.

As store shelves begin to heave with the promise of thinner fabrics and brighter hues, it’s clear that the onset of summer is upon us. Whatever your plans may be, you’re going to want to keep your trademark style while you’re at it, from the summer suit to the comfy threads you’re kicking back under the sun in. Take a few of our pointers on board as you decide how best to make that happen.

Light and airy

This is probably the first image that springs to mind when you think of any male summer style. The pale blue or crisp white short-sleeved shirt, the light chinos and the comfortable shoes have stayed on everyone’s radar for a reason. It’s simple, it’s a clean fit for your physique and it’s versatile enough that you can pair it with your classic brown leather bag, your statement belt or a dapper hat.

That said, you’re going to find that summer colours for gents during 2017 factor in some more vibrant hues. Stark plum purples, rich reds and dazzling yellows have already made their presence known on runway shows by leading global fashion houses.

 

Bohemian brilliance

You might think of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s style as pretty smart, particularly given he won his role in Inception on the basis of his natural fondness for waistcoats. But he’s definitely onto something, especially as far as a good summer look is concerned. You might only pair your waistcoat with your formal wear, but you’re only getting half the story if you do.

With a breezy shirt – pattern optional – and a laidback attitude to buttoning it up, the waistcoat can become a gateway to a bohemian look that doesn’t lean too hard on the hippie or tortured artist sides. Pair with a scarf of a light fabric, a dark fedora hat or, of course, over a horizontally striped tee for a timeless, evocative look.

Island life

Maritime cues are looking to make something of a comeback this year. Of course, that means stripes are as much a part of male fashion as ever, yet it can go a little further beyond anchor motifs and neckerchiefs.

That Californian surfer look is always a charmer. Styles are easy to mix and match so you can be as downtempo or as daring as you like. Team a classic straw fedora with a pair of men’s swim shorts to complete the look in a more contemporary way – there are a pair of vibrant blue ones from the Tu swim shop this year that have really caught my eye.

The wildcard

If you’re really looking to make a statement, 2017 is going to make that nice and easy. We already touched on how vibrant colours are coming into style, and you might have twigged that 90’s influences are running under a lot of what lead designers around the world are putting out.

However, if you’re really looking to turn heads, get some punkish flair going in your wardrobe. The look is notably swinging back into vogue and its influence is going to be felt across the board. How far into this particular Pandora’s Box you choose to delve is, of course, a matter of personal preference, but there’s some surprising versatility to be had. Brash plaid shirts flecked with button-badges, muscle shirts accented with zips and those classic Americana Converse-style trainers are all ways you can bring some edge to your ensemble.
What’s your view on the most timeless go-to summer menswear? How do you distinguish your look when the heat is on?