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Archive for September, 2009

26/40 – Vive La France

Those of you (my mother at least) who keep up with my weekly stream of consciousness will know that our soon to be expanded family sailed of to France a couple of weeks ago in a mood of high excitement – tempered only by a deep fear that I had forgotten something crucial, or would get us thoroughly lost in the Brittany Wilderness (well, on the b-roads around Roscoff anyway). In fact, I did not leave anything behind – and that’s a literal statement. The house was stripped bare when we left, and the back of the Focus was a bit like the Tardis, only without the actual space. Nor did we get (too) lost -there was a slightly hairy situation towards the end of the journey when certain pregnant people forgot that they were navigating and started admiring the lovely seascape, but recovery was quick, and absolute catastrophe was averted.

Most importantly, we had a blast. France is an excellent country for holidays – and not just for the obvious reasons like sun, proper croissants, and cheap wine. All these things are indeed great (especially the croissants) but they don’t even touch the surface of why a pregnant woman armed with a toddler and a husband would love holidaying there so much.

For example, French Supermarkets are truly wonderful places. They are stocked with lovely French products, many of which are unheard of here in Ireland. A personal favourite is Dijonnaise, which is mayo, with a bit of French mustard mixed in. Lashings of Dijonnaise on my lunch time baguette, or whatever, brightened my day and made even the simplest meal feel so much more… French. And while you can’t get After-eights in France, there are many other tasty varieties of dark chocolate with minty bits… The first few days were happy experiments in chocolate until I found “my” brand, and settled down contentedly with it for the rest of the holiday.

And to continue on the theme of fab French supermarkets… They have priority aisles which pregnant women can use to check out! What a considerate idea. These were actually really important, as by the time I had wandered around gazing in awe at the amazing products on offer, I was usually bursting to use the loo, so legitimate queue jumping was a real blessing.

But how, you may ask, did I do all of this gazing with the toddler in tow? Well, the innovative and houghtful French have that angle covered. Every supermarket, even small local ones, has a set of mini trolleys for little ones to use. The toddler proudly pushed her trolley around, and was as good as gold the whole time. The bigger supermarkets also have little car trolleys for kids. You’ll have seen them in Irish shopping centres, little cars that toddlers can sit in, with a decent size trolley on the back for Mammy’s shopping… The difference is, in France, these fellas are free, where as here you pay about 5EUR an hour for the privilege!

The beauty of shopping in France is that a supermarket is only a part of the experience – where you would buy Dijonnaise and minty chocolate (to pick two random examples). Other, fresh, produce is bought from local shops. The pregnant mammy, the toddler, and even the husband – loved this too. The butchers for meat, the bakery for baguettes, croissants and other beautiful bready things, the fishmonger for fish, the deli for nice lunch stuff. Great fun altogether and a useful way to keep the toddler amused until the sun (yes, sun, and lots of it) was cool enough to get buckets and spades and head to the beach (if you thought all we did was shop and eat, you were wrong, we shopped, went to the beach, and ate).

Of course it wasn’t perfect. Slightly cramped conditions were rendered even worse by the ridiculous amount of gear that had to be taken out of the Tardis, sorry, Focus, and stored in the holiday home. There was some rain. The outdoor pool was a bit cool even when it was sunny. Sand got everywhere. The toddler had some amazing and enduring tantrums… But, honestly, that’s just nitpicking… As Winter comes in, and this baby gets closer to greeting the world, I’ll think back to the evenings sitting on the terrace with the husband, eating nice bread and Dijonnaise – while the knackered toddler snored inside, and I’ll look forward to the four of us doing the same again next year.

Stressed? You bet I am!

stressed-mumFinally, it’s official. Being a stay-at-home parent is the most stressful job imaginable! Well, at least, it is according to a recent study undertaken in the UK. Not that I’m surprised – I could have told them that without the need for a lengthy study on the matter!

Having worked in an office environment before my kids, then as a working mother and most recently, changed to my new role as a Stay At Home Mum, I think I am fairly well qualified to have my say on this matter. On balance, I really do have to agree. This in one tough job!

In the pressurised, corporate roles I worked in before my current life of domestic bliss (did I say bliss, sorry, I meant to say utter chaos), I have of course, felt stressed on many occasions; presenting to the senior management, chasing deadlines, and making tough decisions. Ultimately though, I enjoyed my corporate life and made some fantastic friends along the way.

Having also struggled my way through the glass ceiling as a working mother, I know what it’s like to experience the split personality required to balance corporate and family life; switching from high profile meetings one minute to singing nursery rhymes and making animal noises the next.

But, in my experience, it is the relentless demands, pressure, chaos and all encompassing role of that as a Stay At Home Mum (SAHM) which I have found the most stressful. I feel like my work is never, ever done. The ‘To Do’ list is a bottomless pit of things to arrange, buy, cook, clean, organise, tidy, fetch from and return to rightful places. I fall into bed utterly exhausted at the end of another busy day.

Perhaps one of the hardest aspects of being a SAHM is the lack of adult company. There is no-one to bounce ideas off, no-one to have a good moan to over a cup of coffee, no-one to help you put things into perspective over lunch to help you face the afternoon with renewed energy and vigour. You simply have to get on with it, regardless.

And you can forget about trying to sit down for a coffee break, lunch break or to make a phone call. All are pretty much impossible with the children always on high alert to the fact that you are trying to have some ‘me time’, or simply trying to organize their place at school, or re-schedule a meeting with the bank manager. Within seconds they appear from out of nowhere, instantly demanding your attention!

But of course, for every yin there is a yang, and being a Stay At Home Mum, whilst being incredibly stressful, is also fabulously rewarding.

What do you think? Is this the most stressful job there is, or do you think SAHMs are extremely lucky to have this time with their children?

How to save €200 on your Health Insurance

A quick tip which can save minimum of €200 on your health insurance:

Most insurers will allow a newborn for free for the first year but if you get the timing right on this you can save on your infants health insurance costs til they are nearly 2 years old! 

If you switch insurers when the baby is almost 12 months old, the new insurer will add the baby to the policy for free for the first year of the policy. Once the child is less than 1 year old when you take out the policy, there’s no charge for year 1! You will only start paying for baby when the policy renews the following year.  I have done this for quite a few clients recently switching to Hibernian Aviva – it definitely works!

Money MarkMoney Mark can be contacted directly on moneymark@mpis.ie if you have any questions about the above post or any other personal finance issues. Mark Hopkins is a Qualified Financial Adviser and his company Mortgage Pension Investment Services (www.mpis.ie) is regulated by the Financial Regulator.

Does your child have a naughty name?

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An article on the BBC News website last week made me chuckle. Apparently, teachers think they can spot naughty pupils in their class by their name!

An online survey of 3,000 teachers found that 49% of UK teachers made assumptions about a child when they first looked down the register of names and more than one in three expected pupils with certain names to be more disruptive. Talk about guilty until proven innocent!

So, what are the naughtiest names I hear you cry? Well, here goes:-

Callum, Connor, Jack, Daniel, Brandon, Charlie, Chelsea, Chardonnay, Aleisha, Casey, Crystal

And what do teachers consider to be the names which identify the brightest children in class:

Alexander, Adam, Christopher, Benjamin, Edward, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emma, Hannah, Rebecca

Interestingly, the names of the most popular children in the class include Jack, Daniel, Charlie, Callum, Emma, Charlotte, Hannah and Anna. So it would seem that you can be naughty, or nice, and still be popular!

Food for thought for any of you out there who are expecting a baby at the moment and choosing names. For the rest of us, it is too late. Our off-spring’s destinies have already been decided!

Motivation Weight Loss Clinic – Winner’s update (End of Week 3/Part 2)

Deirdre.

deirdre g

Age: 37. Weight at the start of the programme: 12 st 9 lbs. Target weight: 10 st 7 lbs.

Latest Update: 21/08/2009

Weight loss: 2lbs

“Felt much better in myself

On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with your weight loss?

“5”

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Audrey.audreyl
Age: 32. Weight at the start of the programme: 13 st 3 lbs. Target weight: 10 st 5 lbs.

Latest Update: 05/09/2009

Weight loss: 9lbs

“I learned I can survive a week away and still keep to the programme without going hungry. Babybell cheese and the Protein supplements are a god send to have in my handbag for keeping energy levels up and therefore not ending up hungry by the end of the evening. I have lost 9 lbs now and feel it’s time to hit the gym again. I would like to loose another 4lbs again next week.

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Sinead.
Age: 33. Weight at the start of the programme: 13 st 5 lbs. Target weight: 10 st 7 lbs.

Latest Update: 21/08/2009

Weight loss: 2lbs

“I slept much better. I felt more energetic and I was up earlier every day.”

What goals have you set for this week?

“To remember my protein every 4 hours and to leave food on the plate.   It has made me more conscious of changing my bad habits and in particular eating more regularly.”

Did you discover anything about yourself with your Mental Weight?

“I left a big jar of mayo (my favourite food) in the fridge untouched – each time i open the fridge and see it I think it’s my choice and leave it there and focus on the benefits of being slim and healthy!”

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patriciaraffertys0Patricia.
Age: 43. Weight at the start of the programme: 12 st 13 lbs. Target weight: 10 st.

Latest Update: 05/09/2009

Weight loss:

“Feeling fitter and feeling clothes fitting a lot better, feeling more confident in my ability to achieve my goal weight.  The Be Thin book has been a great help to me as it showed me that I am not alone in some of the problems that I have with my eating, that there are people in the same mindset as me that have looked at their ‘triggers’ and have learned to deal with them with anything other than food comfort.”

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Lisa.lisa
Age: 35. Weight at the start of the programme: 13 st 6 lbs. Target weight: 11 st.

Latest Update: 09/09/2009

Weight loss: 7lbs

The weekly meetings are a great incentive and Trish is so helpful! I have a very scary dinner party coming up on Saturday evening and I love that she was able to help me plan the food for the eveining, and took away the dread I was feeling about it. I am really enjoying the encouragement and support that i am receiving in the program, it is really making me want to succeed even more that I had done on my own

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maryMary.
Age: 61. Weight at the start of the programme: 13 st 4 lbs. Target weight: 11 st.

Latest Update: 10/09/2009

Weight loss: 7lbs

“I’m feeling great and arthritus has improved!”

The Be Thin book has been a great help to me as it showed me that I am not alone in some of the problems that I have with my eating, that there are people in the same mindset as me that have looked at their ‘triggers’ and have learned to deal with them with anything other than food comfort.

Motivation Weight Loss Clinic – Winner’s update (End of Week 3/Part 1)

We continue following the winners of the Eumom / Motivation Weight Loss Clinic throughout their journey as they approach the end of week 3.

Susan.

Age: 37. Weight at the start of the programme: 16 st 7 lbs. Target weight: 11 st.susan_portlaoise

Latest Update: 21/08/2009

Weight loss: 3lbs

I think that the visualisation techniques are definately the way to go for me as they are helping to motivate me as i visualise everyday what i’m wearing, who i’m with and where i am etc. all when i’m at my desired weight.I feel very positive moving forward. I feel very positive as i am on the road to better health and to feeling less tired.

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ciaraCiara
Age: 36. Weight at the start of the programme: 16 st 2 lbs. Target weight: 10 st.

Latest Update: 03/09/2009

Weight loss: 10lbs

The programme is becoming second habit and i am starting to feel the benefits of my weight loss so far

What goals have you set for this week?

to loose 3lbs  and to learn to say no at social gatherings

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Kay

kay

Age: 52. Weight at the start of the programme: 13 st. Target weight: 9.7 st.

Latest Update: 10/09/2009

Weight loss: 14lbs

“Feeling really great having lost the first stone.”

What goals have you set for this week?

To do more exercise in order to loose the next stone.”

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alisonkAlison K

Age: 37. Weight at the start of the programme: 15 st 5 lbs. Target weight: 10 st 7 lbs.

Latest Update: 19/08/2009

“Eating more regularly and not feeling hungry. In Scotland and able to be 100% compliant with plan.”

On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with your weight loss?

“10”

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TeresaTressa Arklow

Age: 45. Weight at the start of the programme: 16 st 3 lbs. Target weight: 13 st 7 lbs.

Latest Update: 21/08/2009

Weight loss: 5lbs of fat
“I felt great and had lots more energy.”

On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with your weight loss?

“1”

What goals have you set for this week?

“Focus on planning my food so I dont get stressed out about sticking to the portions.”

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Aisling_navanAishling

Age: 30. Weight at the start of the programme: 19 st. Target weight: 11 st.

Latest Update: 01/09/2009

Weight loss: 5lbs


“I have more structure to my day and have regular eating patterns. Instead of rewarding myself with food, I will think of 10 non food rewards and build up my exercise.  The exercise needs to be imroved,
so I would like to build up the exercise levels over the coming weeks.
I am happy with the first week, and I am looking forward to my second week on the programme.”

Art Attack

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Throughout the year, my kitchen cupboards and fridge are proudly adorned with the children’s wonderful artistic creations. Mother’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Spring, Easter, Summertime have all been celebrated this year with glittery paper tea cups, lolly stick flags, cotton wool lambs, tissue paper flower baskets, toilet roll daffodils, paper plate sunflowers and endless amounts of paintings and colouring in.

As we are now into autumn and fast approaching Hallowe’en (and then before you know it, it will be Christmas again – sorry!), I know that soon a whole array of new creations will be brought eagerly home. And I therefore have a bit of a dilemma. What do I do with all these masterpieces? There’s far too much to keep but I can’t bring myself to throw any of it out (I should probably mention that I have three year’s worth of similar stuff lurking around which I also haven’t decided what to do with yet).

I do realise that if I was sensible and matter-of-fact about this, I would select a couple of things to keep, frame them nicely and recycle the rest. But how can I decide between these lovely things – each made by their own little hands and each a mini milestone in their development (the cotton wool lamb my three and a half year old made this year is so much more obviously a lamb than last year’s!).

If I keep them, who am I keeping them for? For the children so they can look back and laugh at their early masterpieces, or for myself so I can go on a massive nostalgia trip when they are grown up and tell me they wish they’d never been born?

Perhaps I’ll have a de-cluttering frenzy in a year or so and throw it all out with wild abandon. But for now, I feel very sentimental about these innocent bits of sticking and gluing.

I am sure many, many parents face a similar conundrum. Are there any great suggestions out there for a sensible, organised way to keep this ever-increasing collection?

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