Thursday, July 18, 2013

Too much screaming for Ice Cream

The best thing about summer as a kid is the endless supply of sumptuous ice cream.

Each lick tantalises your tastebuds and is more satisfying than the last. As adults, we know that it’s a rare treat, not to be consumed every day, right?

But kids don’t see the logic in that. They want ice cream all the time, especially when it’s hot. They don’t want to eat anything else. They don’t understand about good and bad nutrition. They think that if something tastes good and they love it, then it should be breastfast, lunch and dinner.
At least that’s how my kids think. And that’s the constant battle I’m having with them right now.

They won’t eat anything else during this unseasonal heatwave we’re having in Ireland.
Should I be worried? Is ice cream really that bad for kids? My battles are becoming weary – can I resist my kids screaming demands for the smooth, beautifully cool nectar?

The main ingredients are supposed to be milk and cream, which has calcium which makes their bones and bodies grow strong and tall, does it not? Surely there is some nutritional value in an ice cream? After researching my question, I realized how naïve I've been.

Nutritionists will tell you ice cream is allowed in moderation, so long as you aren't eating it every day (yikes!) and to choose products that have real ingredients, ie dairy rather than milk powder and fruit extracts rather than flavours made in a lab.
But an article I read recently [link here] says that a lot of the ice cream we buy is nothing more than processed junk that hasn’t even had a sniff of dairy near it, therefore it contains no nutritional value at all.

Soft scoop is always bad news, says the article, because it’s basically just water, sugar and oil held together by starches.

Most cheap ice creams are made up of vegetable oils, lab-produced flavourings, milk-derived powders and artificial sweeteners. Not something that sounds good for our kids on a regular basis.
In my research, I discovered that the amount of minimum dairy an ice cream must contain in order to legally call itself ‘ice cream’ is ridiculously low – just 2.5 per cent of milk protein and an additional 5 per cent of dairy fat.

There I was thinking that if I gave my kids ice cream, it might have something like 50% dairy in it. I am but delusional!
I’d love to hear from other mums what the best ice creams to give your kids are and which ones have the best dairy content?

In future, I’m going to inspect the labels of ice creams – not that they tell you much – and try to choose ice creams that have whole foods ingredients, such as milk, eggs, sugar, strawberries etc. And try to steer my kids away from those that have a long list of chemicals, preservatives, and dyes.

I might even try to make my own from fruits and yogurt.
Another interesting nugget I picked up whilst researching this article.... ever wonder why your kids grow so much during summer? Well it’s the vitamin D from the sun, which if combined with calcium (milk, cheese) and protein (meat, eggs), helps to give the body a much needed kickstart in the growth stakes. So another good reason to give them proper dairy ice cream rather than processed junk.
Here's a few ingredient lists I found on the web:


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Monday, July 8, 2013

Feeling brave: Travelling with kids

Excitement is building over our big summer holiday in a few weeks’ time.

It’s the first time we’ve travelled away from Ireland as a family of 5 (2 adults, 3 kids).

It’s the first holiday we’ve had in a year.

My 5 year old is telling everyone he’s “going on a cruise ship”. We can but dream about that kind of holiday one day….

My 3 little kids have never been on a boat before. They’ve seen one from a distance - occasionally we see the big boats pulling in and out of Cobh from across the water where we live. 

I think they’re more excited about the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead than the actual holiday itself. I love that kids can’t see beyond the journey so they obsess about what it’s going to be like being on a big boat!

Stena Line here we come...

I’m excited for them. Seeing the world through small kid eyes strips me back to the joy of travel and experience.

The last time I went on a Stena Line ferry I was leaving behind my life in the UK and driving to a new life in Ireland, to settle down and start a family. Seven years on, I’m taking my family back – albeit only for a week. I was nervous about what the future would hold last time. This time, I’m going to enjoy every moment of my children’s excitement as they explore the ‘big boat’ as they keep calling it and we look out for land. Does anyone have any tips for going on ferries with small children? I’m a little bit scared of them trying to climb over the barriers?! Are there places you can keep kids safe?

I’m planning lots of fun for them when we’re in Wales. Seeing their cousins from Manchester is a biggie for them as well. I told them their might have an opportunity to camp last night, and their little eyes widened in excitement.

I can’t wait to revisit a holiday camp I once worked at for a whole summer during my university days. It used to be Butlins but now it carries the classy name Hafan y Môr. We’re heading there for a day trip too.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Here comes the summer....

There's a song in my head that won't go away. 

'School's out for Summer.... School's out forever'....

It's funny when a song binds itself to your brain and stays there - giving you a soundtrack to the same thing that's happening in your life.

Until it starts to drive you a little bit crazy.

My kids have just finished school/playschool for the summer which has led to an end of term holiday-feeling in our house. 

For parents, this is often coupled with relief at not having to churn out healthy, nutritious daily lunchboxes for 9 weeks; not having to watch a clock for school runs and not having to ensure the uniform is clean and easily-findable in the morning.

So sing it with me, in celebration: 'School's out for Summer'.... 'School's out forever'....

[I actually don't really like the song, it's a bit too heavy-rock for my easy-listening ears, but I love the chorus, and I remember it being a bit of an anthem when I was growing up because Toyah did a cover version around 1985. Toyah was so cool.]

My husband will read this and say: "But you're working, how does this affect you?"

And he'd be correct, because my hours during the day are spent toiling for money to pay the mortgage whilst he is now the primary carer. 

But I am affected by school holidays, because I yearn for those sepia-coloured long summer days of my youth; I yearn to give my children wistful holiday memories of beaches and camping like mine; and I yearn to spend more time with them outdoors in the sunshine. 

And I yearn to be cheerful when they're around, not grumpy and annoyed by their loudness.

But I must work. It's the choice we made when we switched roles, the hubby and me. 

Thankfully I still get to see glimpses of my kids' lives - because evenings are longer - and weekends have become a revelation in cluster-stuffing as much into them as possible. 

On Saturday, we took them on an open-top tourist bus tour in our local city of Cork - which turned out to be a lovely way to spend the afternoon. I don't think any of my 3 kids had ever been on a bus before, let alone a topless one with an upper deck. 

We pulled leaves from the trees overhead, we peered over at the people we towered over on pavements and we pointed at funny things over the tops of houses. Who would have thought that such a simple thing aimed at tourists could produce so much pleasure?

It finally feels like the start of summer. It hasn't rained in a week and we've been wearing shorts. The kids are outside on bikes and we're planning to go on holiday to Wales in a few weeks. Life in the sunshine seems so much brighter and fuller.

I just hope I don't jinx the lovely weather by pointing out how unseasonally dry it's been.

And I hope I can get the chorus of 'Schools out for summer' out of my head soon because it's starting to get really annoying.

{apologies if you're in the UK and you still have another month of school runs!}

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