For Alice on Your 5th Birthday

Last But Not Least

Dear Alice on Saturday you will FINALLY be 5!

It feels like it’s taken an absolute age for you to get to this point. We’ve seen so many of your friends reach this milestone, often as some of them are now about to turn 6,  and it felt like you’d never get here. You are the last but by no means the least to turn 5 out of your school friends, the last in your class (and indeed your year at school), the last of your NCT friends and the last of your old playgroup friends.

And I whilst I know that there has got to be some sort of cut off; that someone has got to be the youngest in the class, at times I have noticed just how big a gap being a late summer born child can be.

Big School

What a year it’s been. Other than perhaps your very first year when babies change practically daily, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a year where you’ve changed so much.

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First day of school just 2 weeks after turning 4

Just 2 weeks after your 4th birthday – almost a year ago, you started at “Big School.” It was a bumpy ride. We’d had a lot of family and emotional upset over that summer and looking back I can see that you had really picked up on the tension in the house. When the novelty of school wore off after a couple of weeks, there were serious issues; you were absolutely exhausted and emotionally stressed. I look back to last October and November with absolute horror. You were waking up every night screaming. You had to be physically carried out to the car every morning crying and fighting trying to remove your school uniform. You would come out of school every afternoon kicking me and your sister. On a daily basis we were pretty much all in tears.

I frequently talked to the teachers and SENCO support at the school for advice, begging and pleading for help, to be told in astonishment that you were an angel at school. They couldn’t believe the problems I was telling them. It seemed you were taking all your frustration and anger out on us at home.

I remember the school nativity last December where you nervously stood at the back of the stage and had to be comforted by a teacher half way through because you became upset and my heart ached for you. I seemed to spend so much of my time worrying about you!

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Looking nervous at the Christmas nativity

You’ve always had a cautious personality. You become upset about any change in routine and whenever you’ve had to start something new. Starting nursery, pre-school, even swimming lessons, has always been a big deal for you and I’ve often wondered if this is just part of who you are or if it’s something to do with being the eldest child because unlike your sister, there is no one to pave the way for you.

Christmas and Summer

Things changed after Christmas. I was dreading the “Back to School” week in January but you’d completely turned a corner and seemed to suddenly enjoy school. I still couldn’t get much information out of you about what you were getting up to, but you were happier. You weren’t waking up in the night, you seemed to have completely settled down. You enjoyed writing and reading and even maths!

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Last day of Reception class

In June I came to see you in a summer dance show at school and could not believe the complete difference from the nativity just 6 months before. You were dressed up in a superhero costume at the front of the class, dancing  to your (now favourite) One Direction song whilst singing loudly along. I couldn’t have been more shocked or surprised.

It was about this time that we noticed your growing interest in music. Your teacher had an influence on your love for One Direction (specifically Drag Me Down and History) and Justin Bieber (especially Sorry), but we’ve watched in amusement as you’ve enjoyed singing and dancing along to Uptown Funk, Happy by Pharrell Williams and Ready for The Good Life by Paloma Faith.

Just like this birthday, you were born on a Saturday when the local V Festival weekend was happening and your birthday is now forever linked to this. So when I made the mistake of mentioning that Justin Bieber was headlining this year, it seemed hilarious that you were most insistent about going.

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Superhero at the summer dance show

Your love of colouring and arts and crafts has grown this year, you can spend hours carefully perfecting your pictures and get really frustrated if you make a mistake or “ruin” a drawing, often demanding to start all over again. You’ve also learnt to ride a bike without stabilisers and seem to enjoy this!

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A colouring masterpiece!

Your relationship with your sister Eva has changed too. As the eldest you have taken to winding her up more and there have been a lot of arguments. But I love the fact that you’re still incredibly protective over her and whenever we go somewhere new, you will look out for her and make sure that she is OK.

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Protective big sister

Your summer school report just made me want to weep, because despite all the emotional problems from almost a year ago and despite being the youngest, it seems to have had no impact on your ability. We’re all so proud of how you’re doing, but more than this, I couldn’t be more grateful for how hugely improved your confidence has grown.

So happy birthday my sweet, sensitive, cautious Alice. I hope you enjoy it for as long as you can before all your friends rapidly start turning 6. I’ve loved seeing your personality develop and how your confidence has grown so much this past year and only hope that this continues now that you’re finally 5! xx

 

 

 

5 Ways Kids Ruin Your Holiday

We’ve just come back from a fabulous week in Devon. The weather was great, we got out and about quite a bit and the kids were mostly good. BUT here’s 5 ways that they (OK that’s mostly the toddler) wrecked the holiday:

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The Toddler looking pensive moments before she threw a huge tantrum about walking up the hill.

1. Waking Up Time. The toddler woke up between 5.30am and 6.30am EVERY SINGLE day on our holiday. I mean come on, it’s a holiday, couldn’t we possibly get a 7am lie in just once? Typically, the first Monday after we got home, she slept in until 7.30am. How do they know how to do that?  Yeah… thanks for that.

2. Wanting to Go Home. How bizarre that despite having a daily countdown for months on end about when we were going on holiday, the toddler after 2 days of finally arriving, asked -“When are we going home?” This line of questioning happened all week. Every day we’d go to a beach or out somewhere and she’d be asking “When are we going back to the holiday house?”

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Having a tantrum & wanting to go home after a complaint about too much sand.

3. Food. Meals out had to be catered for the very limited palettes of the kids. No fancy seafood restaurants for us. No browsing the range of eateries and bistros perhaps taking in a pre-dinner cocktail. Now choice is instead restricted to – Which restaurant is most likely to do sausages or pasta? Which burger joints might be open at 5pm? Which would be fairly child friendly? And which would best tolerate the noise of a tantruming toddler?

4. Going to Bed. Just when we thought we could properly relax with a bottle of wine and enjoy some grown up time alone. The toddler refused to go to bed. Up – down, up – down – I felt like a bloomin yo-yo putting her back in to her bed for hours on end. Eventually we had just enough time to drink a glass of wine before going to bed, exhausted.

5. Not Walking. We have ditched the pushchair a while ago. The toddler has mostly coped well with not wanting the buggy. But on one particular day, decided to throw the most God awful tantrum at the foot of an enormous hill with the car at the top. Husband had already gone on ahead with cool bag and older child leaving me to carry bags, blankets, towels and other gumpf along with the screaming toddler under my arm in full view of the beach up the steepest hill in history.

As you can guess, we’re going through a particularly “difficult” stage with the youngest. But despite her many grumps and grumbles, we still did manage to have a marvellous holiday!

Any other ways that kids spoil your holiday? Let me know.

 

And here’s some of the nicer moments!IMG_1593

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Cuddle Fairy
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear

International Cousins Day 24th July 2016

Apparently 24th July 2016 is International Cousins Day. Who knew?!

I was lucky to grow up with two sisters. We are close in age so despite the usual fighting and bickering when we were very young, we were good company for each other. Despite our parents having siblings, we only had a total of 2 cousins who were born in Australia. We’ve seen them a few times over the years, but we never really experienced the joy of growing up with cousins that we were close to.

Cousins for Our Children

My children have got a whole new experience of cousins that we never had. They have 6 in total. The 2 on my husband’s side live a fair distance away and so we don’t get to see them that often, but now aged 7 and 4, they are close in age to my two daughters (3 and almost 5) and so they always get on very well whenever we do meet up.

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The other 4 cousins belong to my 2 sisters and they are all very close in age – the eldest, (the only boy bless him) will be 7 in September. Then there’s 2 other girls just turning 5, the same age as Alice. (Yes my sisters and I were weirdly all pregnant together)! The youngest cousin is 2 and a half; 6 months younger than my youngest, Eva.

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Seeing as my sisters and I don’t live excessively long distances apart, we get to meet up fairly regularly and one thing I’ve noticed, especially recently, is just how BRILLIANTLY they all get on. They seem to have reached this magical age where we can now, on the whole just leave them to get on and play and amuse themselves. I’m astonished that there never seems to be any arguments or foul play (at least that I know about).

It’s so interesting to watch them and see who is playing with who, which ones are taking the lead and being bossy, which ones are happy to sit back and be told what to do, who is looking out for who. It’s also really interesting to see all their little personalities and quirks and preferences develop.

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Last Year’s Holiday

Last April, my mum and dad took my sisters and our families away on holiday for a week. What could have been utter carnage and mayhem, fuelled with arguments and fallings outs, was instead a fantastic week away where the kids just LOVED being together. It felt sad to come home and split them up from each other!

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Who knows how they will be when they’re older,  I’m bracing myself for the day when they all start going out drinking and clubbing together, but for now,  I’m so happy that they seem to all be good friends and are there for each other.

Happy International Cousins Day! Another excuse for a get together.

Do you have cousins and if so, do you have a strong relationship with them? I’d love to know.

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Cuddle Fairy
Mummuddlingthrough
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear

4 Things That Have Changed in Our First Year at Primary School (And 4 Things That Haven’t)

My eldest has just over 1 week left of our first year at primary school. It’s unbelievable just how quickly time has flown. Pink Pear Bear wrote an amusing post recently about what she’s learnt in her first year at school (as a parent). Which got me thinking about our own first year at school.

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Penultimate last week of school 13th Jul 16

Last September when we were all starting the new routine with some disturbing levels of anxiety and trepidation, I wrote this post about 6 Things You Don’t Expect When Your Child Starts Primary School.

Now, some 10 months later, I can see just how much things have changed and yet in other ways, how some things have remained completely the same.

Changed

1) Alice is happy to go to school! I’m THRILLED to say the main change we have experienced since September is that I no longer have to carry Alice kicking and screaming out of the house and bundling her into the car every day to go to school. Back in the autumn it absolutely broke my heart that she was clearly so upset and bewildered by the change in routine. Back then I wrote about how I needed wine to cope on the school run. I think a lot of it was down to the fact that she’s the youngest in the year (born at the end of August meant she’d only just turned 4 when she started school) and was still emotionally very young. A lot of it was also down to our life at home – losing my father-in-law and not getting a primary school place at an of our chosen schools. 

2) The stuff she can do. It’s unbelievable to think that 10 months ago, Alice couldn’t write her name or read at all. Now she loves writing and will often write out a page of text at a time. She can read really well and has apparently been doing “taking away” and “dividing” too. When you stop to think, how much has changed in terms of their learning, it’s amazing.

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3) Physical change. I don’t know if it’s school that has made her grow up or whether there is just some magical changes that happen between the ages of 4 and 5. But Alice’s confidence for one thing has increased so much that it looks to have immensely changed her in less than a year. Just look at the difference in these photos:

 

4) Organisation. I’m having to be a lot more organised about school stuff. I can not tell you just how many bits of paper, emails and notes on the class room door we have to contend with. Blink and you’ll miss something. Next week, the final week at school there is something happening every single day that I need to remember to do. Heaven help me if I forget to send in money for a certain extra curricular activity or forget it’s some kind of dress up day or forget that certain colour of t.shirt is needed for Sports Day or if I forget that there’s a certain lunch activity going on. This is on top of the usual weekly planning of school dinner choices / packed lunch options and contending with daily notes and invitations to kids parties being discovered in the book bag.

Stayed The Same

1) Sergeant major.  I’m still a complete sergeant major in the mornings. In order to get everyone out the door somewhere near to being on time, I still find that I’m shouting out those bossy instructions like “Teeth”, “Toilet”, “Shoes”, “Car”.

Scary Mum

2) Mystery. I still have absolutely no idea most of the time what Alice gets up to all day. I always ask her on the journey home how her day was and what she got up to and I can guarantee that most of the time she will say “fine” and “not a lot.” I may get told a random couple of facts about something that happened just as she’s about to go to bed, but otherwise, her day and what she gets up to really does remain on the whole a complete mystery to me.

3) Tiredness. OK so she’s not asking to go to bed at 4.30pm anymore like she was in October, but I’ve noticed that when we’re approaching the end of any term or half term, Alice definitely starts to get crotchety and play up (more than usual).

4) Arts and Crafts. I’m still crap at arts and crafts. But where my poor attempts to “make stuff” was once confined to the privacy of our own home, it’s now having to be paraded into school. Not great when you see what some of the other kids are taking in compared to your humble offering.

 

 

 

Who knows what Year 1 will have in store for us in September and whether we’ll notice even more changes, but bring on the summer, I’m ready for a rest!

Have you noticed any major changes after your child’s first year at primary school? I’d love to know!

 

 

Cuddle Fairy
Mummuddlingthrough
You Baby Me Mummy
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear

The Ongoing School Debacle

For the past 15 months we’ve been mulling over a problem in our family. A dilemma about what we should do. It’s something that has been gnawing away at us for so long that it’s had a fairly toxic affect on all of us.

Primary School Results

The Initial Saga

15 months ago we were completely shocked and distressed not to get any of our 4 choices of primary school for our eldest daughter. The local school, less than 10 minutes away, which we’d naively assumed we would get into was hugely oversubscribed, to the extent it has never been seen before.  Despite going through an appeal and being on the waiting list, nothing changed. Alice started at our allocated primary school in September. It took her a long time to settle in, but she now seems happy and to be enjoying school for which we are truly grateful.

You might say, well good for you that’s that then. But then came:

The Latest Saga

A few weeks ago, I found out that our local secondary school which is perhaps a 15 minute walk away from our house, has just THIS YEAR decided to change their policy to only admit children from local “feeder”primary schools. Our local primary school counts as a “feeder” school, but our allocated school where Alice now attends is not.

To add insult to injury the secondary school near to where Alice now goes to school confirmed that their policy is to only take children who live in the nearby catchment area (which we are not).

WHAT THE ?!!!  

I mean really?! How is this fair that schools all have a different set of rules?

This leaves us once again falling down the gap not fitting into any one particular set of rules or meeting any particular criteria. It means in 5 years’ time as it stands, we will be shunted to a random secondary school miles away.

Whilst it might sound a bit neurotic to be thinking 5 years ahead, I can’t help feeling upset and cross that after all the trouble we experienced last year, we are potentially going to face all again in 5 years’ time.

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Alice on her first day of school Sept 15

The Options

1) We looked at moving house. Drastic? Yes. But needing to take the control of the situation rather than let fate decide where our kids should be educated, we started exploring other areas. I’m not convinced this is the right thing to do. Why should I have to leave my friends and family and start again? And there’s no guarantees that we can move somewhere and get both our children into a school.

2) Move to another feeder school. I’ve given up phoning the local school down the road to find out where we are on the waiting list. It was literally driving me mental to find out that I had on several occasions moved DOWN the list. By chance, I discovered that one of the lovely little village schools on our original list was expanding their school and could take on an extra 10 places per year group. We applied and found out we’d got a place! Woo-Hoo! We were all set to move Alice until I read the admissions policy and found out that they (unlike most primary schools) do not give priority to siblings.

What The ?!!!! 

I mean really?! How is this fair that schools all have a different set of rules?

And so because we are out of catchment for this village school and the council have confirmed exactly how many children live in catchment for when our youngest daughter starts school next year, it looks like we are going to have to turn the place down.

We have stressed ourselves out over this for 15 months now. I have been upset and depressed about the situation as well as feeling  bitter and resentful about the neighbours and community all being able to go to the local school except for us. It particularly hurt when our next door neighbour managed to get a place for their little boy this year at the local school because the sibling and birth rate this year is much lower than last year. We’ve really felt like upsticks and leaving. But every alternative seemingly has more problems to bear.

I’ve written to the local MP, the local authority and the department of education as well as the schools themselves to complain about the situation and the lack of consistency in the admissions criteria. But no one wants to know. Everyone has passed the buck and I’m utterly exhausted and fed up with thinking about and fighting it.

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Alice with Eva in their matching uniform

Trying to Retain some Positivity

About a week ago, I felt a shift in my mood. I don’t know whether it was because we have been fighting and stressing about it all for so long and the fight has now gone out of me. I’ve grown tired of being negative and bitter about our situation. It’s not had a good affect on any of us and I’m particularly aware that our stress could well have been taking its toll on our children.

Or I don’t know whether my mood has changed because I’m aware of just how happy Alice seems at her current school and even better, excited to be going into Year 1 in September, her confidence seems to have come on in abundance since last year.

Whilst I’m still UPSET about the initial and latest saga. Whilst I still WISH we could walk to our local school. Whilst I’m still willing to EXPLORE other possibilities that come up, and whilst I’m still SCARED about what will happen to us in 5 years’ time – being shunted to a random secondary school, I’ve decided to focus on what is important:

That Alice is in a good school

That she is thriving both in terms of her learning and education as well as her confidence and friendships.

I’m sorry for the huge rant! I realise that this post is quite selfish in that it’s cathartic; I’ve totally offloaded but I do feel strangely better for it.

If anyone has any thought or advice, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear

Mummascribbles

Cuddle Fairy

5 Ways Kids Party Harder Than You

I’m slowly returning to normal life having spent most of last weekend living in a surreal land of Pin The Tail on The Donkey and Pass The Parcel.  Saturday was Eva’s 3rd birthday. Why I thought it was a good idea to have 2 parties and then go to another child’s party on the Sunday I’ll never know. Friday we hosted a very informal get together with pre-school friends. Saturday we hosted a BBQ party for family including 6 kids and 9 adults. Sunday, I staggered down the road to a friend’s party held in a village hall and in my zombie like state, stared in disbelief for 2 hours at the most bizarre children’s entertainer.

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Saturday (Actual) Birthday Party Outfit

3 Birthday Parties, 3 Different Outfits!

 

The Reason for My Tiredness?

  1. Cake – if you’ve read my previous post about the pressure of making a birthday cake, you’ll know that I’m not a natural baker. But yet for some inexplicable reason I seem to torture myself every year by insisting on baking my children a cake. There have been some real horrors over the years. So this year the birthday girl proclaimed she wanted a turtle cake. I’ve no idea why. I spent the usual few days in the run up to the day stressing about this and as her favourite colour is purple, eventually came up with this fairly ugly beast:

I needn’t have stressed out too much as despite it looking fairly ugly, it tasted yummy and most of the kids just bolted it straight down their throat without even looking at it.

2. Food – As well as the cake there’s the usual stress about buying enough food to feed the 5,000 and probably more importantly (or perhaps this is just my family) buying enough booze to water the 5,000.

3. Weather – Despite it being early July we spend every year debating whether to risk holding the party outside in the garden or cramming everyone inside. There’s always a dilemma about what to do about the BBQ if it rains.

4. Entertainment – Games, music and other general ways to entertain children ranging in ages between 2 and 6 always keeps me busy for a while. And again, it always seems to directly correlate to point number 3.

5. Presents – Sourcing the birthday present. This should be fairly easy but The Husband and I always have to have a pow wow about it for days on end before realising we’ve left it almost too late to order anything online.

Yes, this pretty much sums up why I’ve been feeling like a zombie and was ready to go to bed at 7pm on each night of the weekend. Unfortunately my kids did not feel the same way. Like the Duracell Bunny, their energy knows no bounds, they seem to have the capacity to keep on going. I wonder what on earth they can be taking other than a burger and purple cake that keeps them going and can I get some of it please?

Here’s 5 reasons why they party harder than us:

1. They always wake early. There’s no birthday lie in or casual lolling around for breakfast in bed. Instead the morning starts generally at 5.30am with shouts of “It’s my birthday” or from the older sister “Wake Up! It’s Eva’s birthday!”

2.Over excitement about presents. They get into an absolute frenzy tearing paper off here, there and everywhere not really caring what’s inside.

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3. On the go. Once the party starts, there’s no casual sitting around chatting or hanging out in the kitchen, it’s full on craziness from start to finish from running around like a nutter to dancing like loons. They will keep going proclaiming they are not tired and have to be physically put into bed often in an over-(non tired) mess screaming about a “pillow with lumps in it” and having the sheets tucked in. “Tighter” “I said Tighter!”

4. They eat what the hell they like. Forget all that green healthy salad stuff that you’ve been preparing for hours. It’s just plate after plate of crisps, cake and sweets. If you’re lucky, they may eat a sausage or a bit of bread.

5.They will get up and do it all again. Pretty much exactly the same (including the 5.30am start) for the next two days.

Phew! I’m exhausted just reliving it. No wonder I’m still feeling absolutely shattered from the madness of the weekend. It was all fabulous if tiring and Eva had a wonderful time. Just remind me to have only the one party next year.

 

 

 

Cuddle Fairy
Mummuddlingthrough

You Baby Me Mummy

For Eva on Your 3rd Birthday

Dearest Eva

This weekend you were 3 and I can’t quite believe it. 3 years ago, you made a dramatic, impatient and demanding entrance into the world that seems to be completely in keeping with your personality and nature today.

I remember screaming at your dad in the car on the way to the hospital that you were coming but he didn’t quite appreciate how close you were to being born; wanting to practically sort out the money for parking! My waters broke as I stepped over the threshold of the hospital and I barely managed to get my trousers off let alone get to a bed before your birth was announced at 7.40am 2nd July 2013.

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Growing up Too Soon Too Fast?

I can’t believe my baby, my youngest is growing up. It really feels like we are fully out of the baby years now and marching headstrong into being a little girl. Or should I say Big Girl.

If you had it your way, you wouldn’t be 3 at all, you’d be 4 going on 5 keeping up with your big sister Alice. You are so desperate to not be left out, to not be seen as being the “baby” of the family, that I worry. I worry that you’re trying to grow up too fast. You may only be 3 but many people have already commented to me about how you seem to have such an old head on young shoulders.

Likes a Chat

Your speech and vocabulary has always been excellent. From the moment you started talking in your first year, you have shocked and amazed people with the things you come out with! Admittedly some of the more recent conversations have involved swear words which filled me with horror. But other conversations have been shockingly grown up and hilarious. From asking me how Grandpa got to Heaven without wings to announcing last week one morning “I’m sorry mummy but I seem to have grown some more freckles in the night.” You talk A LOT. Your pre-school teachers have often commented on how you “like a chat.” But I completely love this about you. I love that you are inquisitive and curious about the world around you. And although at times it can be incredibly wearing, I love that you want to know everything about everything from where the rubbish men live to why the grass is green and what squirrels have for lunch.

Facial Expresssions

And just as you seem to have a huge vocabulary, we absolutely love your huge range of facial expressions which quite often match your mood!

 

 

This Past Year

We’ve had some momentous moments this past year. Alice started school in September and I really worried about how you would be not having your older sister and best friend around to play with and look up to. If you had your way, you’d be going to school with Alice  and staying there with her all day. Many mornings I’ve had to drag you out of the classroom (whilst in the early days trying to convince Alice to stay!)

I had thought that there would be tears and tantrums, but instead the transition went well and this is mostly because you started your own journey into the world of pre-school. Despite a couple of early day upsets, you soon grew to love the place and even now you run in most mornings without so much as a backward glance to me. You always meet me with a huge shout “Muuuuummmmmyyy!” and come charging towards me chattering at full speed about what you have been up to and most mornings ask “Mum am I going to pre-school today?” I’m  thrilled that you love it so much and I know that you’re going to enjoy spending full days there in September. In fact I’m counting on it wearing you out a bit more so that we no longer have to get up at 5.30am every morning as you have recently started demanding!

We ditched the dummy and dumped the pushchair this year and whilst in theory the lack of pushchair has been good because it means less bulk to carry around, there were times that you struggled, were tired and needed it. There were also times when I really could have done with it to contain you!

Head Strong

Everyone talks about the “Terrible Twos” but I think we may have more trouble ahead of us with the Terrible Threes. It’s only been in the last month that we’ve noticed how much more feisty and headstrong you have become. If you decide you want to do something, there is no talking you out of it or convincing you otherwise. This is often demonstrated in your outfit choices. From demanding to wear wear wellies with everything to the recent insistence on wearing a Halloween costume on the school run, to the even more recent obsession with wearing swimming costumes around the house. You are crazy, determined full of self-confidence. You have absolutely no qualms about what other people think of you and I can only hope that this quality lasts.

 

Some of your determination has been harder to bear. For some reason despite not even being 3, you seem to have taken to not needing much sleep. Your energy knows no bounds. Daytime naps went out the window before you were even 2, but in the last month you have seemed to be on the go all day and then not wanted to go to bed; getting up and down numerous times making us pull our hair out with frustration. And THEN when you finally fell into a deep sleep, you without fail between 5 and 5.30am wake us up in the most uncivilised way of banging us on our heads and demanding milk. If the milk is too cold or too hot, you scream your head off that it’s “not the right temperature.”

Your tantrums can come from nowhere and they are so intense I can feel like I’ve been smacked in the face. At times like these you have been terribly hard work and we have struggled to know how how to handle you. One thing is for sure though, if we rise to the argument we are only guaranteed of full on war followed by absolute misery; you are devastated when you are told off and seek out reassurance and cuddles, kisses and love.

And so despite all your tantrums, feisty and rageful moods, you can in contrast be as equally fierce in your giving and demanding of love, affection and attention. You frequently insist on sitting on our laps, stroking our faces and snuggling up under our cardigans or jumpers.

Knowing that we won’t be having anymore children, it feels hard letting you grow up and spread your wings, but equally, I couldn’t be any prouder.

Happy 3rd Birthday my darling girl. Happy birthday my crazy, quirky, chatty Eva.xxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mummuddlingthrough
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear

The Pressure of Making a Birthday Cake

At the weekend, I took both my girls to a birthday party. It was lovely, a unicorn theme, there was a fairly entertaining magician who kept the kids amused for an hour, lots of party food and all the children managed to play outside. Even better, because it was held at my friend’s house, the adults all got to mingle and drink cups of tea too.

Then we sang Happy Birthday and the cake was served up. This is what appeared:

Rosie's 5th Birthday Cake
Unicorn themed cake by my friend Lizzie

Errr…… Wowzers!  Such beautiful, intricate detail and when you cut this bad boy open it had 3, yes 3 levels of rainbow marbled cake AND multi-coloured smarties spilling out. I knew that my friend was a good baker, but this was just awe inspiring. We were all hugely impressed. I can’t vouch for how it tasted as my two bolted down their slices of cake, but I’m guessing it tasted as perfect as it looked.

Star Bakers

There’s a few other star bakers several of whom I’ve seen on the blogging circuit including the lovely Charlie at Mess and Merlot. Charlie has posted several blogs about birthday cakes and they always look fantastic. When I asked her for some images to feature in this post, she sent me lots which are all amazing, but here’s a few of my favourites:

Cakes by the talented Charlie at Mess and Merlot

More beautiful cakes all looking nothing less than perfect. So all of this merely adds to my fear and pressure that I feel about making birthday cakes for my own daughters. You may have read my arts and crafts fail post. Let’s just say that my baking is on a similar level.

Every year at this time, I begin to break out in a sweat as I know that I will once again have to Bake A Cake. Our youngest daughter’s birthday is very early in July and our oldest daughter’s birthday is late August. There is exactly 7 weeks between their birthdays, which means every summer since Alice was 1, I end up spending a lot of my summer worrying about making cakes.

To Make or To Not To Bake?

It’s ridiculous isn’t it? So many people have asked me why I don’t just buy a cake. And I’ve no idea why I don’t, but I just seem to have it in my head that it is a tradition that I will make my children’s birthday cakes.

Let me be honest. I am NOT a baker. Let alone a star baker. If these cakes pictured above score a 10 I’m a possible minus 5. Four years ago when Alice was coming up for 1 I decided that despite having not baked a cake for years, I WOULD bake my daughter a birthday cake for her first birthday. I can still remember starting it the night before and although I followed the most basic recipe to the letter, absolutely stressing that it was all going wrong. Despite my mother-in-law questioning what was on the top (Errr… chocolate button butterflies and ladybirds obviously), it was well received by everyone and tasted good.

33 - Alice + cake
Alice’s 1st Birthday Cake

The Following Years

Every year since then I’ve hunted down easy to follow recipes that all involve butter icing. For some reason the thought of using fondant icing and modelling stuff, as shown in the photos at the top, all seem to terrify me. And until last year, considering that I’ve had two children to now make for, it was all going FAIRLY well:

Alice's 2nd Birthday Cake
Alice’s 2nd Birthday- A basic sandwich cake with more butter icing, chocolate buttons and animals.

 

Eva’s 1st Birthday Cake

Eva’s first birthday – I felt fairly chuffed – I bought a butterfly mould and smothered it in butter icing topped off with sweets. Despite the look on my kids’ faces it went down well even thought they were all bouncing off the walls from the sugar rush!

Alice's 3rd Birthday Cake

Alice’s 3rd Birthday Cake

Running out of steam, I used the same idea 7 weeks later for Alice’s third birthday. OK so she was 3 and really didn’t care that it was practically the same cake as her sister had had the month before.

Last Year

In the usual panic, I thought I’d do a basic purple cake for Eva’s 2nd birthday as she just loves purple. Notice the constant theme of butter icing and chocolate buttons being used throughout. But, so far, so good right? This looks pretty good I think?

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Eva’s 2nd Birthday Cake

Seven weeks later, I was looking for more easy recipe ideas for Alice’s 4th birthday party. She was having a party at a mini-soft play place complete with 12 kids. I found what I thought was the perfect recipe for a hedgehog.

The day arrived and it was unbelievably hot. I was in a sweaty, stressy mess trying to work out how to salvage a cake which not only looked slightly too small to dish up to 12 kids, but was also covered in butter icing which was slipping and sliding all over the place. This is how it looked when I finally dished it up:

 

Birthday Cake Disaster!
Alice’s 4th Birthday “Cake”

I mean seriously?!  What on earth is this awful looking creature? Because it surely isn’t a hedgehog! Just take a moment to scroll from this monstrosity up to the unicorn cake at the top of the page and you may, just for a fleeting moment, experience a micro second of the utter humiliation and embarrassment that I felt in presenting this cake.

 

Alice's 4th Birthday Cake

Alice’s face, just about says it all: “What the hell is this?” To be fair, at 4, she didn’t really care. It was me who was apologising to the other parents for such an ugly looking cake and giving each child a tiny centimetre square piece of cake to make sure it stretched round.

This Year

I’ve got less than 2 weeks to go before it’s Eva’s 3rd birthday. My stomach drops whenever I think about it. Could I get away with ANOTHER butterfly cake? And then, 7 weeks later, what can I do for Alice? If it’s hot what can I do that isn’t a slippery butter icing mess?

I’m feeling the pressure, not least to try and bake 2 half decent cakes within 7 weeks of each other but also because I’ve started thinking, at what age does your child looks at a cake and says “Mum that’s rubbish.” Or “Mum that’s not as good as the unicorn cake.” Could it be this year when my eldest baby turns 5? Or have I got a couple more years to go? And can I in that time, teach myself or learn some tricks to improve a bit? I’m never going to win the Star Baker award, but it would be nice to present my children with something other than a slop on a plate!

Do you make your children’s birthday cakes or do you buy them in?

Any help, hints or advice on easy to make birthday cakes all gratefully received!

 

 

 

Mummascribbles

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Mummuddlingthrough

When Will Dinner be Different?

I seem to cook the same rotation of dinners every week for my kids. I might mix things up a bit by not doing the same dishes on the same night, but I can pretty much confirm that these items will be on the menu every single week:

  • Pasta, tuna and cheese
  • Omelette and beans
  • Spaghetti Bolognese (only if the sauce is blended and contains no “lumps”. The eldest will still pick out the visible bits of tinned tomato that can be found)
  • Jacket potato with cheese and beans
  • Sausage, mash and carrots
  • Pasta with cheese
  • Pizza

dinner-every-night

Yes, don’t judge me. I appreciate that probably 3 at best from this list contain vegetables. I KNOW that 3 meals contain pasta and I GET that most of these dinners are not particularly healthy. But what is the alternative?

The Alternative

Instead I can I spend ages preparing and cooking a delicious homemade meal that will be thrown back in my face. Take last week, I had a brainwave that I’d cook a lasagne. After all, they love spaghetti bolognese right? I’ll blend up EXACTLY the same sauce and put it in with a bit of different shaped pasta. Wrong.

“What’s this?” said Alice in disgust picking at the flat shaped pasta.

I did eventually manage to get her to try it and she eventually conceded that it might be alright but she still wanted to know why she couldn’t have the “normal” spaghetti.

It can take a fair bit of effort to cook a dinner from scratch. I’d be happy to do more, but not when it’s met with such suspicion and disgust. They seem to know what they like and like eating a mere 7 odd dishes on constant rotation.

What Age Does This Change?

In a bid to try and broaden the repertoire of dinners, I do try and encourage my kids to eat a new food fairly frequently. But their seemingly insistence of hatred for vegetables knows no bounds. They have tried and proclaimed to hate sweetcorn, peas, cucumber, tomatoes, green beans, mushrooms, aubergine. It’s baffling. I mean sweetcorn? Really?

So I’d love to know at what age does this suddenly change? You don’t hear of that many 20 or 30 year olds who will only eat pasta, pizza or omelette. Is it a gradual change that I’ll barely notice as my kids might over the years begin to start eating peas and then halleleujah mushrooms? Or is it a sudden switch where perhaps aged 10 they think – “You know what, I really don’t want pasta AGAIN tonight for tea, I really fancy salmon or perhaps a lovely juicy steak with some asparagus”?

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Meal Times Together

All the experts promote eating together as a family. But we tend not to do this. For one thing, I don’t go out very much anymore. My evenings, especially my weekend evenings are dominated by a nice dinner and hopefully a bottle of wine. Is it very selfish of me to say, I don’t want to sit coaxing and bargaining with my children at 5pm at the dinner table on a Saturday night in an effort to get them to eat their food whilst mine goes cold? Must I really eat pasta and cheese at the weekend just so that we’re all eating together? I refuse to get drawn into cooking different dinners for different members of the family.

I long for the time when all of us will sit down at the dinner table and we’ll all eat and enjoy a meal together. Perhaps something really exotic like a roast chicken. Who knows, maybe one day progressing on to fish or dare I say prawns?

Until then, I’ll grit my teeth and continue to spend agonising hours at the dinner table, watching them play with their food and scrutinise what’s on their plate. I know it can’t last forever. I know that in 15 years they will be eating the likes of chicken and broccoli. Until then, I’ll continue to serve up our never ending rotation of basic dishes and wait for the day when sweetcorn might pass their lips.

Spaghetti Bolognese

 

 

 

 

Mummuddlingthrough
You Baby Me Mummy
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Judgement By Social Media. Where is The Empathy?

Last week there were two major parenting stories to hit the news:

  • Cincinnati, USA

A 4 year old child fell into a zoo’s gorilla enclosure in Cincinnati. A 450lb male gorilla called Harambe dragged the child through water and displayed some aggressive behaviour. The zoo’s bosses made the decision to shoot dead the gorilla in order to save the child.

Harambe The Gorilla

  • Japan

A 7 year old boy was ordered out of his parent’s car on a mountain road after he had been caught throwing stones at cars and people. He was left by a forest infested with bears as punishment. His parents drove off to teach him a lesson and when they went back to get him he had gone, disappearing for 7 days. Yamato Tanooka trekked through the forest for miles and survived after finding a disused military base shelter.

yamato-tanooka

 

Both stories are horrific. I saw the video online  of the first incident at the zoo and felt sick seeing that little boy being dragged through the water. And I remember listening to the updates on the radio about the young boy lost in a forest in Japan, thinking I don’t know how that child will ever be found alive.

Judgment by Social Media

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What is perhaps more sickening, even more than the incidents themselves, is the callous, vindictive and abusive behaviour on social media of these parents.

Within hours of the video footage at the zoo going live, there were petitions and pages being set up to obtain justice for the gorilla. There was utter condemnation of the mother and messages urging her children be taken into care. Others went further demanding that the parents be shot. The abuse was so frantic and awful that the child’s mother had to delete her Twitter and Facebook account and go into hiding.

Yes it’s awful that a rare silverback gorilla had to be shot. But can you imagine the alternative if that little boy had been killed? The zoo employees would not have taken that decision lightly. Can any of us honestly say we would have behaved any differently if it was our child being dragged through the water? Would we not have screamed for something to be done?

This week it was announced that the parents would not be charged with neglect and I absolutely agree. Children can be curious, determined and lightening quick. They can get up to all sorts in the blink of an eye. Who hasn’t experienced that heart-pounding moment when you’ve turned around only to find them gone? Even if it’s for 10 seconds, it is a scary and desperate moment.

So why have so many people expressed such utter outrage and hatred on social media? Where is the empathy and compassion? This mother will most likely be berating herself for the rest of her life over that one fleeting moment that we as parents all experience.

The incident in Japan was harder to understand. Yes, it was stupid and absurd to leave a child alone by a bear infested forest even for a small amount of time. But who hasn’t become exasperated by their child for constantly misbehaving? Who hasn’t tried to find a new way to discipline or treat their child in the vague attempt to change or modify their behaviour?

The parents didn’t mean to lose their child for 7 days, they wanted to teach him a lesson. When Yamato was found, his father said, “Our behaviour as parents went too far, and that’s something I’m extremely regretful about. I thought that what I was doing was for his own good, but, yes, I realise now that I went too far.”

Do these parents also need to experience the constant abuse online from others who seem to serve as self imposed judge and jury? Surely the realisation that their child could have been killed by a decision that they’d made is enough of a punishment to endure.

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Both incidents are terrible, but both stories could have ended in a much more horrific way; with both children being killed.

Surely the torment of reliving those awful days, asking themselves over and over what they should and could have done differently, is punishment enough for these parents.

Surely we need to ask ourselves whether it could well have been us that lost sight of our child for a fleeting moment or whether it could well have been us who lost our temper with our children. If a 60 second snapshot of our lives was uploaded to social media to be judged could we be certain that our behaviour as parents would be perfect or would it most likely be flawed?

Surely we all need to have much more understanding, compassion and empathy for these parents and stop judging each other.

 

 

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