Sunday, 17 August 2014

Matalan Back to School review

It's that time of the year again, The Summer Holidays, also known as bankrupt time as more often than not our delightful little cretins are in need of new uniform, P.E kits and school shoes.  The very thought of this mammoth shopping task makes my purse positively weep in utter despair.

The lovely people at Matalan chose us to review their back to school range for The Spawn providing us, for the purpose of a review, a voucher for a selection of their school wear range.

When looking for schoolwear there are several important elements we look for:

1.  Quality.

The Spawn spend longer in their school uniform then they do in their own civilian clothes so it's an absolute must that the items we buy are of a decent quality.

2. Value

Whether you have one child or several, we all want value for money.  I for one resent being dictated to what my children should wear, so if they must wear a uniform I refuse to spend more than absolutely necessary on it.

3. Durability

Be it painting or skidding in the playground, kids will be kids.  Their uniforms need to be able to withstand this.  Their uniforms take a lot of abuse and a lot of washing thus it's important they don't stain, rip or shrink too easily.

4.  Comfort

As previously mention, our children spend a large proportion of their week in their school uniform thus it's vital that the uniform is comfortable and adjustable.

First up, we received some lovely items for Thing Two.  Thing Two will be starting year 3 in September.

Look at the cute flower shaped button detail!

Thing Two loves trousers.  They're comfortable, warm and practical especially with Autumn and Winter just round the corner.  Whenever possible I look for jersey stretch fabrics for her uniform as she finds them comfortable and they wash and wear well.  They enable her to learn and play without feeling restricted.

This pair are an incredibly purse friendly £5, they're soft, stretchy and a decent length.  As with all the Matalan back to school range they're machine washable and if you're lucky enough to have one you can bung them in the tumble drier too so perfect for parents as well as children.

The pockets have cute button details too!

Whilst she's still young, I'll admit I'm a sucker for a pinafore.  As I'm an ironless slattern it's important to find a retailer that offer styles without pleats.  This particular pinafore fits the bill perfectly.  It's a decent length on her, has a slight girly 'flare' for twirling and gentle elastic at the back for a perfect fit.  It even has the added quirk of pockets, who doesn't love a dress with pockets?!  An added bonus is the Teflon fabric protection which should help it last until she dares to grow again.  Priced at £6-8 it's competitively prices and makes a quality yet affordable addition to her uniform.

The bow is adorable, we love it.

Variety is the spice of life or so they say, so to complete her uniform we added a skirt to the mix.  In the past we've found many of the skirts for her age range to be ridiculously short, not a problem with this one.  Once again I opted for jersey both for comfort and the lack of fierce pleats that need an iron.  It's soft to the touch and as it's stretchy it provides an excellent fit.  Both Thing Two and I were charmed by the cute bow.  I'm especially impressed with the shape, many skirts are either too tailored or else offer a shape that I personally feel is unsuitable for the age group.  Once again the price is unarguably good at £3-£5.

One of my bug bears about the mandatory uniform is the P.E kit, they have to have both an outdoor and an indoor one despite the weather often putting the kibosh on outdoor P.E in winter, it's just more expense.  However, since it's mandatory it's always nice to find comfortable and affordable items.  These jogger bottoms come in a pack of two, personally we don't need two but my ever fashion unconscious Thing Two is delighted to keep the grey pair at home as they're so comfortable! The Plimsols are cheap as chips so it's hard to argue about buying them when they're this price.

All in all i'm impressed with the staple girls pieces. The quality,, styling and price all surpassed my expectations.  Thing Two turns 8 in September and these items are all size 8-9yrs and fit as i'd expect with room for growth too.

The Preschooler will no longer be The Preschooler soon as in September at the tender age of 4y5m he'll be in full time reception class.  Uniform isn't a new thing to him as he also wore it at the school preschool.

Despite being 4, he's a dinky little fellow so it's necessary to find trousers in size 3-4.  Thankfully this is not a problem at Matalan.  Better still, they're elasticated waist allowing them to be 'pull on' perfect for his age range.  The key to uniform at this age is comfort and ease.  It's vital that they can dress/undress themselves so fiddle-free pull on trousers are a must.  We received this terrific two pack which are competitively priced at £7.  If you have a little boy you'll know how messy they get, so it's always wise to have more clothes than you think you'll need.  Impressively for the price, they're also Teflon coated!

Although our school do have logo uniform, it's thankfully not mandatory which enable skint families like us to shop around and get cheaper alternatives.   This red sweater is only £3, that means we can get two from Matalan for less than one of the schools own.  Judging by the state they come home in from a hard of gluing, painting and playing, it's nice to be able to afford several spares whilst the washing machine is kept occupoied.  The colour is lovely and vibrant with plenty of growing room and the sweater passes the cuddle test as it's so soft and squishy!

This just leaves Thing One.  Thing One will be starting his final year of primary school, year 6, in September.

Trousers are often a nightmare to buy for Thing One.  He's very tall for his age with a slim waist yet large bum.  Anything none adjustable is just not an option.  No problem at Matalan, the waists are adjustable using the familiar button and elastic system that is pretty universal.  We chose the cargo style trousers as they offer a slightly more individual and boyish style then the usual formal ones which are so widely available.  At the risk of sounding old, they're just funkier!  The fit was perfect for him, usually trousers are either too tight across the bum, too gaping across the waist or too short yet these were ideal for Thing One.  They come complete with Teflon coating and i'm drawn to the attention to detail such as the handy velcro on the pockets to fasten them.

Thing One is not only going to be a Prefect when he starts back at school, he's also Head Boy.  The Prefects are identifiable by their black sweaters (everyone else has to wear red) and red polo shirts.  The polo shirts are great value for money, a great fit and lovely and thick 100% cotton.  The buttons are easy to fasten and unfasten without the stiffness we've had from other brands.  

One of the main issues we have with Thing One is shoes.  He literally walks through them.  We gave up buying Clarks etc for him as they simply didn't last and we couldn't keep up, cost wise, with replacing them.  However, we are adamant on leather shoes.  These leather shoes from Matalan are an amazing £16 a pair, he's a size 4 now so we were especially impressed at the price.  They have a older boy styling whilst still managing to keep the velcro fastening without looking babyish, Thing One is a tad lazy so prefers velcro over laces.  I'm impressed with the chunky sole and grip, an absolute necessity in this wet and wild weather.

Having been buying uniform for the past six years from various retailers I can honestly say I'm impressed with Matalan.  I'd always blithely assumed they would be more expensive yet I can happily say, they're not.  The prices are extremely competitive, the quality is plain to the eye and touch, the sizing is accurate and the styling is spot on.  As a mum with three school age children I'll definitely be returning as and when more uniform is required.

As an aside, we've already established that I'm a slattern without an iron (though in my defence, items were creased in the pictures as they'd come straight out of the delivery packaging!) but i'm also unsurprisingly lazy.  I refuse to fork out the money, time and effort on name tags when I can use a laundry pen on the labels.  It may sound strange to mention but the labels are actually really decent quality.  Many cheaper brands we've had the ink immediately blurs and there isn't enough room to write despite them clearly having a gap for name and class.  However, the same pen on Matalan labels, is clear with no ink run and the labels are actually large enough to write on!  Hoorah!

*** For the purpose of review I was provided with a voucher to purchase uniform from

Monday, 4 August 2014


The end is in sight.  Or so I'm told.  Although many places still cite 37+0 onwards as term, many specialists are now saying that needs redefining and that true term isn't until at least 39 weeks.

I've never spontaneously gone into labour, it's always followed a sweep.  My waters have never broken on their own, they've always been broken in labour by a Midwife.  The only time i've ever given birth before my due date was with The Preschooler at 39+4 after a sweep the day before due to BP and pain.

Yet despite all that, you start to feel like a ticking time bomb at this stage.

Rationally you know you have several weeks yet.  You know from your own history that the chances of anything happening a)early or b) spontaneously are minuscule.  Yet your mind still plays that dastardly game of 'what if's' because no matter how small the chance is it's still there.  You live in a spasm of hope and of fear that things will start.  You brick yourself at the thought it could happen then scowl in misery when another day goes by without so much as a twinge.

I want her to have as long as she needs.

But I've had enough.

I know all woman say that at this stage but I have genuinely had enough.

I spend most of my time at home on the birthing ball or in bed because of the pain.  I only really leave the house once a week.  It's been like this for months.  Pelvic pain.  Hip pain. Back pain. Sciatica.  Pain. Pain. Pain.  It hurts to sit, it hurts to stand, it hurts to walk.  Turning over in bed feels like my body is breaking into pieces.

It doesn't stop there.  Then there's the Insomnia, i'm averaging around 4 hours sleep a night.  Not good for anyone, especially for a pregnant woman.  Throw into the mix that the person also has M.E.

My emotions and thoughts are unpredictable and unreigned due to my depression and anxiety and lack of medication whilst pregnant.  I swing from harrowing black holes of moods to number grey and the occasional break in the clouds.

Then there's the headaches.  I have had headaches for the past 12 days.  Constant in the background headaches that dull with paracetamol yet never disappear.  Every few hours they'll flare and the right side of my head and behind my right eye will throb vehemently.  Having avoided analgesics for the other pains I'm having to take paracetamol every 4-6 hours daily and it still doesn't cure the headaches.  My GP said I could have codeine but we agreed it would be best not to as it can slow baby's movements and seeing as I have anxiety and panic issues and an anterior placenta this would probably tip me over the edge.

My blood pressure did rise, but then lowered again.  My GP doesn't think the headaches are pre-eclampsia yet does however think they'll unfortunately have permanent residence with me until I give birth.

I'm officially useless.  I can hardly do anything with the kids.  I'm miserable.  The Husband is having to do everything.  I'm missing out on the trips to the park, Thing One's first trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, The Preschooler's first trip bowling.

In 14 years I think The Husband has seen me cry a handful of times, if that.  Yet two of those have been in the past month or so.  I'm finding it incredibly difficult to cope; to exist.

I feel cheated out of cherishing this final pregnancy.  I can't enjoy it.  I know i'm lucky and blessed.  I do appreciate being pregnant.  I don't even possess the words to describe how much it means to me to be having a fourth baby after being told by The Husband that it would never be.  She had other ideas though.  our little surprise.  She obviously wouldn't take no for an answer.

I know the end is in sight,  but the thought of several more weeks of this is overwhelming.

I'm taking EPO as with my other pregnancies, I'm convinced this is what ensured the success of my previous sweeps.  My Midwife has agreed to attempt an early sweep at 39+5 and that was before the headaches.  I'm torn between breaking down into pieces and begging for one now but a) I know she'd say no b) as horrific as I feel, I wouldn't be comfortable trying to 'make' her come this early as if she was ready I'd be in labour, though technically, a sweep would only work if she was ready anyway.  (EPO and RLT prep you for labour but will not trigger it hence why despite popular misunderstood belief neither are natural induction techniques)

I have an inkling she's back to back just like The Preschooler was, nobody realised until he was sliding out.  Sure as hell explained the intensity of labour though,

Still have things to do, I still go to bed and wake up with The Preschooler next to me.  Not looking forwards to evicting him but I need the bedside cot as it provides extra room for co-sleeping.  I think it will be harder for me than for him.  He's terribly enamored with his Sonic The Hedgehog bedding for his big boy bed.



These final weeks are so precious.

I just wish I could cherish them.

I'll miss pregnancy when it's over.  It's impossible to describe the magic of it.  The feeling of being connected.  Feeling her grow and move.



Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Great Ice Rescue

I'm not terribly good at the whole play thing, even less so when I'm in pain and heavily pregnant.  The only upside is that when I do set up some kind of sensory or messy play The Spawn think it's amazing.

Thing One is out on his surprise early birthday celebration at Blackpool Pleasure Beach for the day with The Husband and Thing Two is having a sleep over at The Grandparents to minimise sulking.  So that just leaves The Preschooler and I.  He has a huge capacity for in-depth independent play pausing only for snacks, cuddles, a chat and a bit of tv yet even still he misses fighting like cat and dog with his siblings when they're not here.  So today seemed the perfect time for him to finally take part in The Great Ice Rescue, something that's been in the freezer for best part of a week.

It's incredibly easy to set up.  I grabbed a roasting tin and plonked a load of figures in it such as Moshlings, dinosaurs, fairies and other such things then poured over water mixed with blue food colouring.  This was then put in the freezer and left.  Granted, The Spawn are nosy little gits and kept opening the drawer to peek so I now have a rather fetching blue freezer drawer too.

So The Preschooler could manipulate it easier I plonked it upside down on the path and poured a jug of warm water over the roasting tin so that it lifted off, essentially leaving a frozen block with plenty of people trapped inside.

The Preschooler is crazy about rescuing things and being a hero so he was told his mission, that all these things had been trapped in a big ice storm and only he can save them.  He was given a medicine syringe, a small measuring scoop, a wooden meat tenderising hammer and a jug of warm water.  The rules were given that he wasn't allowed to just tip the jug of water over the ice block it had to be added bit by bit and that he could only smash the hammer gently to avoid hurting his fingers and flying ice.

Seeing as i'm pretty much useless physically at the moment I was able to just sit on a chair outside near him and watch.  We talked about how things freeze and we talked about how things melt.  He got to physically see it happen as he was making it happen.  He experimented and found that without trying to melt the ice a little with water first the hammer didn't do much, yet the more water he added the easier the hammer could break through the ice.  He naturally manipulated the freed yet still ice encased toys and gently hacked away at the ice whilst realising if he dunked them in the jug it came away easier.

I feared he'd grow bored before the ice even started to melt enough to rescue anything as obviously hot water would have been too hazardous so he only had warm water at his disposal yet he was fascinated and very determined.  You could virtually see the knowledge of the melting process and logistics of freeing things flow through him as he played.  I loved how he spoke to them Fireman Sam style and how he naturally adjusted his strength and dexterity between the brazen hammer smashing and the more delicate chiseling.

Naturally his favourate part was the hammer and once everyone had gained their freedom he set about smashing the remaining ice to smithereens with huge delighted whoops and shouts of 'SMASHHHHHHH!'

All in all this was such a simple activity and yet he thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was learning, problem solving, role play and sensory play all in one.  It was virtually mess free (though i'm sporting attractive blue ankles from splashes of melted ice!) as it was all outside too and minimal clearing up as the ice will just melt away.

Definitely one to try again in the future.