Category Archives: Children

5k A Day you say? Oh go on then…!

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One of my favourite 5ks…with my bike-mad big boy as pace maker

Lately I’ve been distracted and drained by negative things. I’ve let everything that winds me up, stresses me out and generally saps my positivity dominate my waking day and my sleepless night. So with the summer holidays just around the corner, I decided I needed to re-focus and re-energise myself with a new happy project to drag me out of the doldrums.

My 100 Happy Days phase phased out after an amazing week in NYC and after Day 48, I stalled. It was almost too tough to top such a steady succession of happy days. That’s not to say I haven’t had a fair few since though! Some particular favourites have included running the Hackney half marathon in a PB time; enjoying the great outdoors and plenty of giggles at Center Parcs; performing live on stage at the 02 Arena with Take That; and watching Federer and Murray on Centre Court at Wimbledon…but I digress (purely to brag!)

So on a quest for a daily endorphin high, and in a bid to get beach-ready, I decided to set myself the goal of running 5k a day in July. This challenge required a certain amount of logistical planning given our family’s weekly routines and limited childcare options. But I reasoned that surely it wouldn’t be that difficult to find half an hour in every day to devote to pavement pounding when I frequently find myself wasting hours of my life Facebook-stalking and Instagramming my lunch.

The first few days felt easy, fun even. My usual running routine is limited to three runs a week; one 5k, one longer pace run (7-8k) and a distance run (10k or more). So not having to run more than 5k at any one time felt a bit like a luxury. I also soon discovered that I could multi-task whilst running short distances. Dog walking can be easily incorporated into daily runs if I plan my route around the local park. My energy-infused puppy then bolts about my legs as I do laps of the playing field panting far harder than he ever does. Childcare can also be managed during short distance runs. By plonking the boys in the playground (with strict instructions not to leave the fenced area), I can run rings around them which is ironic really as they usually do that to me! I’ve yet to work out how to do the ironing and reply to emails whilst running but with a few days left to go to until the end of the month, there’s still time.

In a bid to be sensible and kinder to myself I’ve allowed myself one rest day per week. There have been some days when squeezing in a 5k simply wasn’t going to happen. Last Wednesday for example; after leaving early to drive to Surrey for work, I then had to rush home to walk the dog before legging it to school to watch the Year 3 Folk Dance Festival, whereafter I collected the boys from school, the toddler from nursery and the tea from the pizza aisle in Tesco, before heading straight off to watch an open air performance of Mr Stink as soon Dave walked through the door. When I finally flopped on the the sofa that evening, I’d have rather boiled by own head than gone for a 5k run.

But has it been worth it, this pig headed and fairly pointless goal of mine? To be truthful, I’m not really sure yet. Physically I am exhausted. My body just isn’t used to running every day. My shins are sore, my legs are stiff and I’m fairly sure my muscle fibres are refusing to refuse just to spite me. Some days I’ve run so slowly that when I’ve caught sight of myself in a shop window or car door, I’ve looked like I’m jogging on the spot! And when I’ve reluctantly laced up my trainers simply to stick to my schedule, my NMA (negative mental attitude) has added seconds to my split times. I’ve also noticed how much my diet effects my daily runs. I’ve often used my running routine as a way to legitimise my bad eating habits. Chips for tea or biscuits before bedtime can be justified when I tell myself, it’s ok, I’ll run it off tomorrow (which BTW really isn’t ever the case as a half hour run only ever burns about 300 calories which is barely a bag of crisps!). So this challenge has taught me that I really need to learn more about how to better fuel and condition my body for exercise, instead of using exercise as an excuse to pig out and binge drink.

I’ve also learnt that I run faster first thing. And getting up early to clock my 5k before the kids are awake is hugely satisfying. I can then enjoy the endorphin rush and smile smugly to myself for the rest of the day, happy in the knowledge that I can put on my slippers not my running shoes once the little ones are in bed. Conversely, on those tough and tiring days, the thought of having to do a run when Dave gets home from work is almost as physically painful as the run itself!

So with the figurative finishing line in sight, it’s safe to say that I’m looking forward to going back to my less demanding ‘as and when’ weekly running routine. In fact, I plan to take large chunks of August off as a reward for my efforts this month! Assuming I make it to Friday without injury or apathy, I’ll have run 130 kilometres in one month which is considerably more mileage than I’ve ever achieved before. And maybe my legs do look a teeny bit more sculpted than they did in June, so my beach ready remit has in some small part been addressed. But give me a week in the Med and on the prosecco and I’ll no doubt be back to where I started…but hopefully with a clearer idea of how to chase my thirties with a bit more direction and dignity.

  

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Why comfort-loving city slickers are hopping on their bikes and heading to Center Parcs…

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Not too shabby!

Center Parcs is the perfect place for middle-class urbanites to go off road and embrace the great outdoors from the comfort of their state of the art, WiFi enabled log cabins. What’s not to love!

It’s our second visit to Woburn Forest since it first opened last Easter and we’ve even ended up booking the same cabin, much to my children’s delight. Having learnt firsthand how important bikes are for getting around the site, we’d invested in some hardcore bike racks for the trip. And by defying the laws of physics, we managed to strap five bikes and a roof box to our trusty Citroen C4 before braving the M25 to get here. I could tell Dave was nervous as he gingerly manoeuvred our beast of a vehicle into the slow lane of the motorway. The boys waited with baited breath, craning their necks to watch out of the window in case disaster struck. Admittedly something small and plastic did detach itself from our heavy load somewhere in Hertfordshire but after a quick inspection on the hard shoulder, it was deemed “unimportant” and we completed the rest of our Center Parcs pilgrimage without incident.

The convenience of advance online check-in means that you can drive onsite and straight to the door of your luxury lodge with the minimal amount of fuss. Once inside, those lovely CP peeps really have thought of everything. Flat screen TVs embedded into walls adorned with woodland murals come as standard. The quality of the accommodation is certainly ‘not too shabby’ and a world away from the Haven hellholes we’ve trudged to in the past. The clue is in the price tag, for sure! But care and cleanliness are evident any which way you look. The no-cars-on-site rule means that you can relax as the kids career about on their bikes and scooters. And the sense of detachment and escapism from the real world is indulgently addictive in the bubble that is Center Parcs World.

A holiday here is not without its challenges though. I’ve learnt that wearing make up at Center Parcs is pointless. We’re in and out of the pool so frequently that no sooner have I applied my mascara, I’m wiping it off again in preparation for another chlorine overload. Repeatedly riding the rapids with a bunch of over-excited thrill seekers means that you will invariably end up bum-bumping a hairy middle-aged man as you coast uncontrollably through the current. You also need to be prepared to suffer finger nail scratching and incessant elbowing when your 8 and 6 year olds realise they can only dunk and breathe, dunk and breathe for so long before needing to claw onto a parent for self-preservation purposes. Add hair straighteners, shoes with heals, jewellery and handbags to the list of ‘things that are surplus to requirement at Center Parcs’. I’ve been hopping on and off a bike and in and out of the pool ever since we got here. As a result, only a rucksack and trainers will do and I’ve been rocking the ‘post-swim, air-dried frizz do’ around the clock. And did I mention saddle soreness?! I’m really not used to pedalling to the supermarket to buy milk but that’s what you do here. Lots of little journeys can feel doable during the daytime but my inner thighs beg to differ after dinner. Waddling John Wayne-style becomes mandatory.

Don’t get me wrong though, I feel lucky to be here. The absolute delight on the faces of my children as the screeching monkey alarm alerts them to the fact that the wave machine is about to start is priceless! And the opportunity to watch them scale climbing walls and high ropes is brilliant, compared to our normal weekends on the monkey bars in the local park. Even going on an organised bear hunt with my 3 year old turned into an adventure of sorts; an expedition to Starbucks in search of Rupert struck me as both hilarious and embarrassingly bourgeoisie! In a place where the standard bar snacks menu includes hummus with crudités and you could easily pinch the communal hair-dryers as they’re not bolted to the wall (we didn’t!), I do feel a little spoilt. But as I hope our bank manager and my inner thighs will agree, you get what you pay for in this uber eco, gloriously green, pedal-pushing paradise. And we think it’s worth every penny.

 

Once upon a time there lived a stressed-out mummy…

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Has anyone ever checked into the Priory with birthday-planning-induced-stress? No!? Then I’m intrigued to know how other parents juggle everything amidst their other daily responsibilities. And PS, by “other parents” I actually mean mums; dads are far more detached from the whole party-bag organising, pass-the-parcel wrapping, perfect-cake ordering ordeal!

It’s my baby girl’s birthday this Friday and she will be 3. With three other older children who have collectively enjoyed 25 birthdays between them, it’s reasonable to assume that I would have picked up a trick or two when it comes to planning birthdays. But in my case experience counts for nothing. I’ve left things far too late and am now having sleepless nights as to whether or not the much-hoped for Princess Elsa dress will arrive on time.

Feeling smug sometime ago, I extensively researched my options online. I shopped around for the best price, I subtly took measurements from her other prized princess-themed costumes and I preordered the perfect dress from an online fancy dress stockist earlier this month. My order arrived last week and as lovely as the dress turned out to be, it’s about four sizes too big. Damn those confusing European measurements!! I should not be left unsupervised with a tape measure in such detail-dependent circumstances again.

I’ve since contacted the retailer but an exchange for a smaller size would have taken too long to arrange so I’ve had to place a new order for the smaller size (and will return the enormous dress for a refund as soon as I find time in my life to get a post office…how retro!) 

Thinking myself clever, I arranged for the second dress to be delivered to Argos using their free collection service and thereby sidestepping the risk of getting one of those ‘sorry we missed you’ cards through the letterbox. But little did I realise that the Argos delivery service takes longer to process (yadda, yadda) and the expected collection date for my order is now three days after the big day. Cue mild to moderate heart palpitations and a series of frantic emails to the retailer. No my order can’t be fast tracked as its already in the system! 

In desperation I order a third dress to be delivered to my home address using the Express Delivery/expensive delivery courier service. Estimated delivery date…Thursday, t-minus 24 hours to B-Day.

All the while my little lady-in-waiting (literally) keeps chattering excitedly about the prospect of finally getting her very own “dress like Frozen“. This week her conversations have been peppered with affirmations like “if I be a good girl, I will have a frozen dress on my party” and “for my present it will be a princess dress if I be good“.

After relaying my fears and frustrations to my other half, we decided we needed a backup plan/dress in case one of the three dresses I’d already ordered doesn’t arrive in time. My earlier consumer research stood true; Amazon and Toys R Us did not have the right dress in the right size. The Disney Store sees it fit to charge £40 for their ‘official’ version but as my toddler is yet to become label savvy, and because I thoroughly object to spending that kind of money on a dress she will wear for dog walks and Tesco trips, the Disney dress was designated Plan D (to be bought in desperation on Thursday evening if all else fails). Talking of Tesco, they currently only have Elsa-style dresses for 7-8 year olds (God help us if she’s still bonkers about ballgowns at that age!) Our hopes were raised when I rang Matalan and a woman named Mandy went to check stock. I held my breath expectantly, as if I was waiting to secure Glastonbury tickets or hear exam results. “Sorry, we don’t have the Elsie dress at all. Only the Anna one in 5 to 6years“. Aaaaaaaargh!! It’s Elsa! It’s Aah-na! It can’t be this hard!

So although I can congratulate myself on having booked the hall, sent out the invitations, ordered the cake, bought the party bags, haggled with the bouncy castle companies and planned the menu, I may just fall at the final hurdle of giving my daughter the one and only thing she associates with and hopes for on her birthday. First world problems, right!

So it may be time to start seriously considering Plan C – telling our little princess that her birthday isn’t actually until Saturday. This would give us an extra 24 hours to get our act together and to receive one of the many deliveries that should surely arrive by then. After all, she’s only 3. She can’t read the newspaper, she’s not on Facebook, she doesn’t have a calendar, she won’t bloody know! And besides, the date never bothered her anyway….

Now, if only we can convince her three brothers to stick to the story, then everyone will live happily ever after.