Women’s FA Cup Final 2016 – Arsenal v Chelsea

If you had told me eight or nine years ago that I’d be happily going to Wembley to watch Arsenal play Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, I’d have laughed at you. What on EARTH would I want to go and see either of those teams for? In fact, I’d still say it now if it was the men’s team, as we’re a Tottenham supporting family and their supporters aren’t the most friendly to ours, and vice versa. (apart from the ones we’re friends with, of course)

Wembley Stadium Instagram Selfie

However, when looking at the Women’s game, it’s different. For one thing, with the smaller crowds, everyone is far more pleasant – and it’s also much easier to meet the players at games (many a Tottenham game we’d hang around hoping to get some autographs…). Knowing this from having gone last year, we bought tickets again this year and last weekend headed to Wembley!

Wembley Stadium SSE giant sponge hands

With no preference for either team to win, it was nice going as a neutral and such a great atmosphere for H to experience again. Things were almost identical to last season, we were lucky to get the only goal of the game at our side of the field, H was happy as she got to see Casey Stoney and Fran Kirby play, and as well as that SSE who sponsor Wembley Arena next door, were handing out free giant sponge hands and rattles! It was a great party-like atmosphere, we were sat amongst fans from both teams and it was far more pleasant than when we’ve been to some Tottenham games vs either of these teams on the men’s side.

There was no swearing, no shouting, just cheering, clapping and a good happy atmosphere.

Wembley Stadium Women's FA Cup Final 2016 seats
I realise this may not be the best picture to accompany this part, it was taken at the start before the game had started, okay? :-)

Oh, and the whole thing cost us £20 with something like £2.50 for shipping because I have an NUS card, and adults were £15 – with all children going free. How good a deal is that? I only wish I’d known about it sooner as I’d have spread the word – weirdly I didn’t get my usual email from the FA Ticketing people to say they were on sale.

We had a brilliant afternoon, and H was happy as she saw several of her favourite players.

If you ever wanted to take your child to a football match but were worried about aggressive behaviour or swearing, the women’s game seems to have much less of that going on – and it’s just as fun.

Wembley Stadium players warm up

(actually, as a sidenote, I remember taking H to see Carshalton Athletic play, where there was a note for the crowds to remind everyone it’s a family club and to mind their language, while the players cursed loudly enough for us to find it quite comical…. ho hum)

We’re taking H to see England play at the end of the month at Wembley – all our first chance to see Harry Kane play (hopefully!) – something we’re looking forward to. It’ll be H’s first men’s game and I know the atmosphere will be different, even being in the family stand.


Disney Life – Extra Things

So I’ve written a bit about the films on DisneyLife and what we’ve seen, but haven’t really gone into the extra things that are offered with a membership, which are definitely worth a mention.

DisneyLife logo

This year is a pretty busy year for Disney with some BIG films coming – we’re looking forward to Finding Dory, The BFG and the new Alice Through the Looking Glass’ film too. We recently saw the new Jungle Book film as well.

As DisneyLife members we were offered tickets for an exclusive viewing of The Jungle Book – which unfortunately we couldn’t do as H had swimming (it was a Wednesday) – but as luck would have it another blogger friend passed us on her tickets so we got to go on a Sunday instead. We’ve since been offered an exclusive presale on the new Aladdin show in the West End which we’re looking into.

As well as this, DisneyLife has some special exclusive content from ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ and the original Disney Alice in Wonderland animation.

You can discover more about the quirky characters from Alice’s world in all-new Live Action Character Worlds – characters include Alice, the Red Queen and the Tweedle twins. There is also a special featurette ‘Lewis Carroll’s Alice’ and a behind the scenes ‘White Rabbit Teaser’ from the new film.

You can read the original ‘Alice in Wonderland’ tale too, and listen to the new soundtrack from ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ – something I like doing before we see a film. We’ve also been told to look out for an exclusive link for preview screenings of the film before it’s release on the 27th May, though nothing has arrived yet… there’s still time…

I really like features like this as it makes you feel like your membership is valued and worthwhile – it’s the little extras that make you feel special.

An additional note too – we watched Cars 2 last night, and yet again no buffering happened – so I think it’s fairly safe to say the initial problems have been sorted!

We have been provided with complementary DisneyLife membership for six months, all opinions are our own. 

It’s SATs Week

So here we are, a week into SATs and all the stuff that comes with it. We were assured by H’s school that the children wouldn’t be aware they were being tested, and it was all quite gentle which was reassuring.

Then came Tuesday. She fell over in the playground and bumped her head which ended up with me rushing her to A&E once she started feeling groggy. After being checked over and being told she was fine we headed back home, where she had perked up and for once decided to tell us about her school day. (we’ve been having a lot of the “I can’t remember” and “oh stuff” when I’ve asked what she has done that day)

“We had tests today Mummy!” she announced. Hm.

“and we had two yesterday” she added.

Now I’m not blaming the school. Maybe my child is really clued up with what’s going on and sees through the softly softly approach.

“I really like these tests because I get to sit at a desk all on my own!” she added. Apparently all the other children in class have to share a table. I’m not sure why H gets one to herself, and didn’t really ask.

Well, I sort of joked. “Ah, is that so you don’t copy anyone else’s work?”

My six year old looked mortally offended.

Shaun piped up with raised eyebrows which were telling me to shut up “or is it that they don’t want anyone to copy your work”, to which I backed up with an “oh, yes yes, it’ll be that won’t it?” thus giving my child an enhanced version of her own achievements. Well done parents.

She now tells me they had a fourth test today, and it was “lots of fun”??!!?!!? (must take after her dad…)

Anyway, H still plays schools, and often Shaun or I are the pupils while she’s the teacher. I guess this leads to us having tests now in our role play. I can only hope she doesn’t leak them early on a website or change them without anyone having time to prepare anything so the year are doomed to fail before they’ve even started.

I mean, it’s not like anyone would do that to our kids now, would they.

Oh. Hang on….

Bath Book Bed With Jo Frost

We’re BookTrust bloggers, and have some exciting news to share! Jo Frost of Supernanny fame has been revealed as their new celebrity ambassador and a new campaign Bath Book Bed has been launched.

Bath Book Bed BookTrust campaign logo

Bath Book Bed is a new campaign from the BookTrust which is designed to help us parents settle our children into routines at night time by keeping it simple – child has a bath, you read a book together, put child to bed and hopefully they’re settled and will drift off to sleep!

Jo Frost, who has starred in a variety of television shows including Supernanny, Family Matters, and her newest show, Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour, agreed to become an ambassador for BookTrust after following their work for many years and strongly believing in the charity’s mission to inspire every child to read confidently.

Bath Book Bed sleep deprived BookTrust

Jo said: “I have found during my 20 years in childcare that when children are read to it can have a wonderful calming effect on them. Reading doesn’t just give children a head-start in learning; the ritual of sharing a story and providing special time for parents and carers to build a strong and loving relationship with their child is vital.

Bath Book Bed info BookTrust

“I believe every childhood should be enriched by books – that’s why I’m looking forward to working with BookTrust to ensure all children get to experience the joy of a story.”

Diana Gerald, BookTrust Chief Executive said: “Reading changes lives. Books bring knowledge and reading develops empathy. It can help children who are going through difficulties – whether it’s by reading about people in similar circumstances, or simply escaping into another world. We want families everywhere to prioritise books and reading, even if they’re not confident readers themselves. It’s such an easy way to make huge difference to your child’s future. By working with Jo Frost we know we will be able to spread this message to even more families and support them to read with their children.”

Jo Frost is the most recognisable and trusted parental expert and family advocate worldwide. With over 20 years in childcare, beginning her career as a professional sole-charge nanny, she has honed her successful methods of child-rearing with hands-on, real-life experience.

For more information about Bath Book Bed, head over to the BookTrust site where there’s loads of information and you can sign up to take part!

Bath Book Bed BookTrust campaign

Real Parenting for Real Kids by Melissa Hood

We’ve been sent a copy of Real Parenting for Real Kids by Melissa Hood to review – and it’s a really interesting book.

Real Parenting for Real Kids by Melissa Hood

Real Parenting for Real Kids is the kind of book you dip in and out of. Feel like you know your child, but their behaviour can be odd from time to time? This book has lots of sections which make you feel like you’re less alone. It gives suggestions on how to deal with situations and things to look out for with your child.

Let’s face it, we’re all different. There isn’t one type of parenting which suits every child – and Real Parenting for Real Kids recognises this.

The author Melissa Hood is one of the creators of the Parent Practice – a website which enables parents to bring the best out of their children. They also run parenting classes – and don’t feel that things stop when your child reaches five. Melissa’s story is very interesting, and how she ended up creating the Parent Practice; she took parenting classes herself when she was having difficulty coping with one of her sons who was diagnosed with dyslexia and was in trouble at school with impulsive, aggressive and disruptive behaviour. The advice that she received worked so well that it transformed her family life and drove her to train as a family therapist so that she could help others.

And here’s the book – Real Parenting for Real Kids. I’ve found some useful hints and tips inside. Melissa’s approach is a positive and practical one, and allows you to work out what kind of solutions could work for you – it isn’t just about the child, it’s also about what works for you. There are several different strategies and ways of looking at things.

An example which we’ve already come across goes back to the phase when H refused to do anything we asked. So we’d ask her to do the opposite – and funnily enough she’d do exactly what we wanted. This is summing it up in a very shortened way, but does give you an idea of how the book works.

Other sections get you to identify things your child may have copied from you – identifying behaviour of your own that may contribute to your child’s poor behaviour. H is at the stage where she’s copying me a LOT. I hear a lot of what I say when she talks, and I know I’m terrible at discipline (because more often than not she’ll do just that and make me laugh), so I’m looking for techniques to be a firmer parent, but keep the fun.

Real Parenting for Real Kids is the kind of book you would dip in and out of – it isn’t a read cover to cover kind of thing. There are seven essential skills that every parent needs to understand their children and bring out the best in them, and this book covers them.

Knowing your child.

Encouraging cooperation and confidence with Descriptive Praise. 

Listening and Connecting.

Setting up for success.

Family values.

Positive discipline.

Keeping calm – the holy grail of parenting.

Once you’ve read these chapters, Real Parenting for Real Kids breaks down into other sections – all of which are relevant. As the book says, even if your child is 44 it isn’t too late! There is even a chapter on being safe and kind online – given my job deals with a lot of people online, I’m going to be getting into that chapter soon enough!! (some people can be so nasty and mean.. good job I don’t take it to heart)

Real Parenting for Real Kids is a wonderfully positive book, and one which I feel a lot of people will get a lot from. It covers so many angles it seems kind of crazy a book this big could cover everything – but I feel like it’s a really good starting place.

Real Parenting for Real Kids is published by Practical Inspiration publishing and has a RRP of £14.99.  It is available from Amazon here.

We were sent this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own!

A DisneyLife Update

It has been a while since I’ve mentioned DisneyLife – and I have to be honest, we have been so busy we haven’t watched it as much as I thought I would. With it being so mild this year we’ve gone out more and had less time when we’d sit and watch a film, so I already feel like this is something that would work for me if I could dip in and out of it.

DisneyLife questions, DisneyLife six month subscription

BUT! We have Disney plans afoot. I’ve just booked us into Disneyland Paris for H’s 7th birthday, something I have to keep really quiet about now for the next three months (anyone who knows me knows this will be extremely difficult). We’re in the Rio Grande hotel, which is themed like the Pixar movie Cars. This means H needs to watch it properly – we’ve caught the end of tv screenings of the films but never watched them in full. Amazon Prime doesn’t offer them, nor Netflix, a quick check on DisneyLife and it has all the films plus offshoots – exactly what we need!

Our biggest problem up to now has been the streaming. At home we have fibre optic internet and found some films would pause and buffer – to the point the film was unwatchable. At the start of the year it was less annoying to buy High School Musical 2 on DVD for £1 than put up with the buffering. Since then there have been several updates to the app, which (touch wood) seem to have fixed these issues. We watched Cars, and there were no pauses at all which was a huge reassurance.

The other problem we’ve had is using the additional content. H’s tablet is an Amazon Fire Tablet, and the DisneyLife app isn’t available as an option, just Amazon Kids. So a lot of the content she could have accessed wasn’t possible. I don’t know whether it’s a conflict of businesses, and hope it’s just an oversight. I couldn’t work out a way around it to install it either, so for us, DisneyLife has been about the movies they offer and not the other content.

Having said that, there is a LOT of content – just look at what you get when you search for Cars!

Cars related content at Disney Life

Right now I feel like DisneyLife is something I would sign up for a few months if we had several Disney films to watch – and there’s plenty of them you’re not likely to run out. The most recent releases (Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur kind of era) aren’t on DisneyLife yet, but with there being so much to get through that hasn’t been a problem – and we ended up buying Inside Out on DVD anyway!

More updates soon…

Disney Art Therapy Colouring Books

As Parragon Book Buddies we receive books to review, and our latest set are two Disney Art Therapy Colouring Books; Disney Princess and Frozen.

Disney Art Therapy Colouring Books are designed for kids and adults to colour in – I often like to switch off and colour, and even better, it’s big enough to do with H.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

H says “these are interesting. I like the patterns and how each page is different, you could colour in every day and you would still have loads left to do”

I would agree – with over 100 designs in the Disney Art Therapy Colouring books there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Given H currently seems to dislike Frozen, I’ve claimed that one! I like how the patterns and pictures are geared towards older children and young adults – and they’re not obvious Disney patterns either, yet within the pages you’ll find things you’re familiar with.

Disney Art Therapy Colouring Books Disney Princess and Frozen

The book for Frozen is still a hit with H. While she can pick out some of the Frozen things in there, she said “some of them don’t look like they’re in the film. They look a bit complicated but there are also some which look easy and fun to do. The castle picture looks quite tricky – there’s quite a lot to colour in on it, and lots of small bits. I like the patterns a lot!”

Disney Art Therapy Colouring Books

With no shortage of pens and felt tips for colouring in, I know these books will last us a while – there’s plenty to do in there. I’d recommend these Disney Art Therapy Colouring Books for children aged 7 and up – though if your child is patient and younger it would definitely be suitable!

Ultimately, the books are a hit in this house!

The Disney Art Therapy Colouring Books are available now, with a rrp of £9.99.

We were sent the books for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own! 

All About Book Trust

Book Trust Logo

I’m so excited – we’re going to be working with the BookTrust in the coming year as one of their Book Trust Bloggers!

So who are the Book Trust? Chances are you’ll have come across them at some point. For me, my first time was getting H’s first bag from our Health Visitor, which had an Elmer book in it, which was read constantly – we’d seen Elmer but didn’t have any of the books, and this led to more purchases. The idea of getting a bag with free books and activities was amazing to me – up until then, the only thing I’d come across which was free were the bags you get when you’re about to give birth.

Finding out that you could get more free books as my child grew up was INCREDIBLE. We knew she loved reading and being read to, and discovering new authors or ones we hadn’t yet read opened up a world of adventures, stories, great things. Needless to say, when anyone who had a child of a similar age said they had a new Book Trust bag, we all made a point of getting them. Once H was at school she got her Booktime pack in reception.

Book Trust BookBuzz

And that, I thought, was that. But no – you see, Book Trust have loads of different schemes, and on the 1st April we headed to their offices and met with them to learn about what they do.

I love the Letterbox Club – a service which provides books to children who are being looked after. Often it can be the first thing they receive which is theirs – and it’s for children aged 5-13. The packs are tailored and have books, maths games, stationery and it’s all designed to encourage reading and learning at home. There are five levels – Letterbox Orange (5-7 year olds), Letterbox Yellow (7-9 year olds), Letterbox Blue (7-9 year olds), Letterbox Red (9-11 year olds) and Letterbox Green (11-13 year olds). The books are carefully selected and have loads of fun things – each child will get the books for six months and have their own collection of things to use and keep. Children can be a member four times every other year – and having seen example packs I think this is an amazing scheme. For more information head here.

Book Trust Letterbox example

At Book Trust they believe in a society where nobody misses out on the life-changing benefits that reading can bring. They want to get children and families reading – and I know we’re extremely lucky with H and how much she loves and enjoys reading.

The Letterbox Club isn’t the only service for older children. Book Trust also have a service for schools to sign up, as well as a new service launching later this year, Story Hunters – and while it says which children these packages are targeted towards, it’s open to everyone.

Book Trust Story Hunters Book Trust Story Hunters

There’s a lot on the Book Trust website too – you can search for books based on ability and age – something which has always confused me with H as she’s such an advanced reader – what exactly would make a book suitable for an 8 year old, when she’s only 4? I’m going to be using this section a lot!

I love the Bookbuzz scheme too – a fantastic choice of books, and for students in years 7 & 8 at school!

At the networking event on April 1st, a lot of bloggers were also authors – and it was great to chat to them. I was curious what makes a book suitable for a certain age – as I obviously don’t want H reading anything too teenage right now, but do want her to push her reading skills where she feels she wants to (usually it’s the words and grammar used). We met the author Sita Brahmachari and received a copy of two of her books. See, this is the other fantastic thing about the Book Trust – they’re working with authors all the time, reviewing books and encouraging children to read. It’s wonderful – and, in case you didn’t realise, they’re a charity.

I knew this, but didn’t realise we could raise money for them – so we’re now thinking of a way to do something. Maybe have H see how many Harry Potter books she can read without sleeping or something! You can also buy Christmas Cards at Waterstones which help raise money, something we’ll be doing this year.

I came away from our meeting knowing that working with the Book Trust was a really positive thing – they’re really making a difference for many children. I have so much more I could write about, but I’ll save that for a follow-up post – and instead direct you over here, where you’ll find so many things.

We’re delighted to be Book Trust bloggers, and I’m planning to write something for their site soon!

Computer Woes!

I have a few posts almost finished, so my computer decided to stop working… I thought I had lost everything, to find that actually, no – I still have everything, just computer woes! It’s either a hard drive ribbon failure or a failed logic board…

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

So right now I’m slowly getting back into action with everything and am now the queen of all things that involve backups, having realised I could have lost EVERYTHING.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Coming soon, posts on The Jungle Book, all about The Book Trust, a review of some Disney colouring books, and our excitement at the return of The Powerpuff Girls!

But today we’re heading out to the Tower of London for their exciting sounding Tudors at the Tower event! (which I’m sure I’ll be mentioning on here)

It’s Girls’ Football Week Next Week!

Girls’ Football Week is back – starting next week, Monday 25th April to Sunday 1st May.

Girls Football Week, H in goal, girls' football week

Girls’ Football Week comes from the FA, and is set up to encourage girls to get involved with the beautiful game. There was a similar event last year which we covered here.

We’ve had a quiet start to the year, our Saturdays no longer at Carshalton – not because we’re stopping but because H has been exhausted with school. But soon we’ll be back for her Saturday morning kickabouts – and even though we haven’t been for a while, we’re still watching games on tv. It’s an exciting time to be a football supporter at the moment – from us as Tottenham supporters (what on EARTH is going on? Fantastic season), to York supporters (hanging on by a thread to the Football League) – and of course all the Women’s games that are on at the moment – which can be watched on BT Sport so are accessible to loads of people.

Add to that the Women’s FA Cup final (Arsenal v Chelsea) is happening next month at Wembley, where children under 18 can go for free, and it’s a fantastic time to be involved – I love that women’s games are super-affordable and we can take H along, and she enjoys it.

Now we have Girls’ Football Week, which starts next week. It aims to increase the participation of girls within the game – and you can sign up here.  There was a week of events last October, which didn’t filter down to Carshalton Athletic, so I’ll be sending them the link to make sure they get involved. I’ll be making sure WE get involved again!

There’s a great ticket initiative, on a strict first come first served basis, if your school or club signs up, then you can apply for some free tickets for women’s games – for more information head here.

Football Mum of the Year, girls' football week

I love that we can watch the women’s game and not have the same feelings towards the teams as we do with the men’s. Her favourite player is still Fran Kirby, and she has her England shirt with Casey Stoney’s name on the back – still going strong.

I’ve always loved football, and my love of the game has been passed on to H. She’s a lucky girl getting to see the England Men’s team next month (and we’re hoping Harry Kane gets to play, then we can all watch him at a game rather than on tv!) – exciting!

If you have a love of football, help spread the word! Girls’ Football Week starts next week, so you don’t have long!

not bad for everyday recording