Good Morning Britain!

On the sofa with Susanna Reid and Kate Garraway early this morning at Good Morning Britain, discussing which times of the day are the most stressful for parents.

Apparently 5.08pm is ‘crisis point’, the culmination of a ‘perfect storm’ of post-school stress when we’re trying to cope with tired kids, tired parents, clubs, homework, tea and bed. Following swiftly behind is the morning school run.

Which do you find more stressful? Personally it’s that late afternoon slot that gets me, when patience is elusive, demands constant and the temptation to mop up the kids fishfingers strong…

My tips? Don’t expect you or your children to go straight into yet another strict routine. Give yourself permission not to be perfect. And find small moments of space when you can… a car journey, a walk home, five minutes in the park or garden. Now, off to get the kids and see if I can practice what I preach..!

Money money money…

Just been speaking on BBC Three Counties Radio’s JVS Show about pocket money – apparently £14 per week is the going rate now! My children are clearly woefully short-changed then…

And should pocket money be linked to specific chores, or given independently of household jobs etc? My feeling is that I want my children to contribute around the house because they are part of a family unit which pulls together, not because I’ve bribed them with 50p to stack the dishwasher. Any thoughts?

What I do love are the new apps for children to manage their own pocket money. My eldest uses GoHenry, which gives her a “dashboard” she can log in to where she can see what’s coming in, what’s going out and how much she’s saved. Being a sensible sort, her savings are now outstripping my own!

It’s a new world out there for our kids… part of me yearns for the days of trips to the penny sweet shop with spare change. At least they’re learning to budget – even if it’s to save up for downloads and apps…

Arrh me hearties!

Any half-decent six-year-old pirate in training knows that all you really need when it comes to a good pirate game is a lot of imagination. No matter if your cutlass is made of cardboard or your pistol is a banana… as long as you’ve got plenty of “arrh, me hearties” attitude, you’re good to go.

That said, full immersion into pirate nirvana, in the form of the Legoland Windsor Resort and Hotel, takes this to another level entirely – and it’s one my own six-year-old pirate wannabe appreciated to the full.

We visited the resort on April 17th and 18th 2014 – a busy time, as the second day was Good Friday and therefore a Bank Holiday. We had booked a Premium Pirate Room at the hotel on site, but a last-minute reshuffle due to refurbishment work overrunning meant we had to swap to a Premium Adventure room (think Indiana Jones). Luckily, the helpful staff arranged for Pirate-themed bedding anyway, so we had the best of both worlds – bright, piratey soft furnishings combined with lots of creepy-crawly “adventure” detailing including spiders and snakes. Perfect.

The park, too, has lots to offer the wannabe pirate. One of its lands is called “Pirate Shores” and, aside from the excellent rides, even the piped background music lends a jaunty sea shanty air. There are shops selling the requisite pirate accoutrements, and lots for both older and younger children to do. The best bit, though, has to be the Pirates of Skeleton Bay live-action show which takes place several times throughout the day. This is a fun, gymnastics-packed, humorous show which is really excellently executed (pardon the pun, yes, several unfortunate pirates do take a tumble from the distinctive striped lighthouse) and engaging for the whole family. If you happen to sit right at the front on the steps, you might find one of four big red buttons on posts – my little pirate got to “man” one of these buttons, which meant he was called on during the show to press it and set off some water chutes: “Pirate Number One, press your button!” To say he was a proud pirate would be understating it.

We were accompanied on our piratey mission by big sister, who is 10, and I have to say pretty much everything met with her approval too. The hotel enchanted her – the attention to detail was marvellous, and the small thoughtful touches such as a low-level buffet in the restaurant and the theming throughout meant that both children now want to live there permanently.

Other highlights were, from the kids’ point of view, the Star Wars exhibition (when he’s not being a pirate, this is my boy’s primary obsession), the Atlantis ride (gentle but really effective) and the Dragon rollercoaster (big enough for thrills, but not too scary). From the parents’ point of view, I’d have to say the QBot (yes I know it doesn’t exactly teach equality and fairness etc. but it made a huge difference to our enjoyment of the first day, when we had it, and we missed it sorely on day two, when we didn’t) and the fact that the Skyline bar at the hotel enables you to indulge in a post-park drink while the kids enjoy laid-on entertainment.

If you look at the reviews online of Legoland, you’ll find a real mix of those who adore it and find its bright, primary-coloured world spot-on, and those who find the queues and general expense just too much to stomach. As for us, I’d say yes, it’s a pricey treat, but a completely fabulous experience which the kids are still talking about and will remember for a long time. And our photos and memories from the trip are the best kind of pirate treasure ever.

New site!

Well here it is, my new website!

Life has been chaotic but great in the past year, juggling lots of things but so far not dropping too many! Hopefully the new site covers most of it. You can click in the book covers to get to my Amazon book pages and buy the books.

Looking forward to keeping in touch via my blog… do get in contact with your thoughts/requests and keep coming back!


Jo’s Blog

In this blog, I talk about the many juggling balls I try to keep in the air – being a parent myself, being a parenting writer, being a journalist, a lecturer, a coach…

For this reason, it’s a bit of a smorgasbord, but hopefully an interesting one!

One thing I should make clear is that it is honest. I have never much liked the idea of being called a parenting “expert” – for me, real parents are the experts in their own children, and there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Thank goodness. In this blog you will hear about my own parenting, real and often horribly flawed, from the front line. Sometimes you might well wonder if I ever read any of my own books! What I hope you will never do is hear me preach at you. I’m usually just as bewildered by the whole thing as you are.

And as my children get bigger and I turn corners head-on into yet more unchartered parenting territory (oh how those teenage years loom!), I hope you will join me as I learn more, and maybe sometimes put some of my triumphs and catastrophes into words and books and articles.

Thank you for joining me.