Monday, 30 June 2014

I have a confession

I am not a fan of the summer holidays.  I know I am not alone in feeling like this but I am also aware it can sound a bit like "I don't like having my children around".  The reality is I LOVE having my kids around but I often feel a little overwhelmed by the idea of occupying them with stimulating, not overly expensive activities for 6 or 7 weeks.  Pile on top of that the fact that I am growing another one (I'm now more than 22 weeks) and that my kids are too young to put to a lot of the summer activities like sports, church clubs or play schemes and I have a lot of time to fill up and limited energy with which to do it!

With this in mind I have decided to make sure we do one "fun" thing (for my eldest this means messy) every day but am ok with the fact that at 3 she can come up with some things to do for herself as long as I can provide a few toys, her little sister loves to join in too, and also for sunny days we have an amazing garden for the kids to play in.

I thought I would share with you the "things" I come up with so if, like me, you are feeling a little overwhelmed I might be able to inspire you to do one or two things.

Today we started the day with our sand and water table, it is the first time we have had it out all summer so the first activity was actually cleaning it ready to be used but the kids enjoyed the basin of bubbly water almost as much as they enjoyed the actual sand and water when it came!

I am also trying to do something with my eldest every afternoon while the little one naps, today we have taken inspiration from this blog and are making some footprint toadstools (although we don't have any paper plates so I cut some shapes out of an empty cereal box instead).  Currently, while I write this blog, the three year old is learning a lesson in patience as we wait for the paint to dry,  It's definitely a lesson in progress.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

I needed that

A week ago I took my eldest to her toddler "gymnastics" class.  She loves this class and I am a little sad that she won't be able to go after the summer as she will be in nursery in the mornings (as opposed to the afternoons like just now).  Each week is a bit of a struggle though, there isn't particularly anything to do with my 19mo while the 45 minute class takes place so we potter around the place and she looks at me occasionally with a look of  'I'm bored' and more to the point I have 50 minutes from the end of the class to nursery drop off so fitting in lunch can be a bit of a struggle.

This means we tend to take a packed lunch and eat it in the leisure centre before we come home (before running out the door to make it to nursery).  Sometimes I feel a little of that all-too-common maternal guilt about the rushed nature of lunch or trying to feed them something substantial enough on the move.  I have blogged about our lunches before.  They tend to look something like this

This day in the leisure centre was no different, so my children were tucking into their fruit and vegetables and yoghurt tubes when someone sitting near us struck up some conversation about how they were jealous of my children's lunches.  I made some suitably non-accepting remark about it just being the stuff I had lying around the kitchen, the culinary equivalent of someone complimenting my outfit and me saying "oh, this old thing".  Someone on another table also chipped in that they had been admiring the contents of the lunch boxes.  I was a little taken aback but pleased, the conversation continued for a few moments, about the challenges of feeding small people and about how organised I must need to be to get it all sorted in the morning (although in my defence, a crap sandwich in that particular leisure centre costs about £4.50 so it definitely adds some incentive!).  The conversation drew to a close and one of the ladies stood up and before she left looked at me, looked at the kids and said, "you are doing really well".

Thank you to that lady, I have no idea who you are, I have no idea if you have kids (although I suspect you do) and I will likely never see you again but I have thought about that comment many times this week and I have smiled.  Thank you for recognising my hard work.  Thank you for voicing it.  Thank you for not choosing the 20 things you could have judged but for speaking about the thing I was doing well.

I am hoping it will inspire me to speak good things to all my other mum friends (and strangers).  parenthood is fraught with difficulties and we can all feel judged and even make judgements but that compliment has kept me going for a whole week and beyond so let's all just say nice things to each other!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Reality Mothering

Yesterday I posted this picture to Twitter and Facebook with the caption "It is possible I have fallen a little behind in putting away our clean laundry"

I received many responses which all loosely could be summed up by "My goodness, you mean I am not the only one? This makes me feel so much better".

Some people have this pile on their kitchen table, some in their bedrooms and some, like me, have it on their spare beds, but it would seem that more of us have this pile than would care to admit it.

One of my favourite responses came from one of my friends and neighbours, she said
We should all have "reality mothering" days when we open our homes in their true state to our friends without any frantic pre-visit tidy ups, sweeping into cupboards or closing of spare room doors. I think we'd all feel a lot better about ourselves! I think I've pretty much got to that stage with a lot of my friends now.
I LOVE this, so in the spirit of the motion, I am hereby opening up my home with all it's blemishes for you to see

Here are my children, watching Peppa Pig while toys lie, unplayed with on the floor and the post nursery-run coats are discarded

Here is the play area of my living room being ignored because I put on a DVD and haven't tidied the toys away or made the children do it either!

 Here is my kitchen complete with broken egg shell lying on the work surface from making lunch and various bits of dirty crockery and such like...

Here is the washing machine, complete with washing that has been sitting clean but wet in it since yesterday evening

Here is the juice *shock horror* that I fairly regularly put inside my children!

Here is a large bag of bags that used to contain fresh milk that I have been meaning to take to the recycling point for about three weeks

Here are the chips I will feed my children tonight because I am too knackered to make something else!

And before we move upstairs, here are the curtains I haven't bothered opening all day and now at 4pm probably won't get round to opening today

Oh and the wet (not dirty) nappy I forgot to tidy up after I changed M earlier!

Here is the very disorganised bedroom of my children and an odd sock collection that I'd love to know if it can be rivalled (especially when you consider it is about half the odd sock, those belonging to my husband are elsewhere and I wear odd socks every day in order to deal with the problem another way)

My very disorganised bedroom

And my full to bursting wardrobe that I have been meaning to sort out since I found out I was pregnant (about 15 weeks ago)

This is my book shelf that for some reason also hosts a now empty chocolate tin, some hair detangler, shoes that fit no-one in our household and some nappy cream, not to mention the fabric and what might be the insert of a washing basket!

And finally we have the computer desk I am sitting at now to write this! (while the children watch more Peppa Pig).

Rewards and Discipline

You, like me, probably look at your children sometimes and thing that you don't recognise these little terrors that look more like little devils than angels? And you, like me, probably at times feel a little overwhelmed about the idea of helping discipline them.  So I thought I would share with you how we do discipline and more to the point rewards.

Firstly we have a couple of house rules, we have small children so there aren't many as that gets too complicated so our rules are quite all encompassing, most naughty behaviour can be made to be breaking one of these rules!

1.  Be kind
2.  Do good listening

We do timeout in this house, it is very much in the style of Supernanny and it is a useful tool.  It goes something like this

1.  Give a warning (this step is taken out if it is something like hitting or biting in which there is NEVER an acceptable reason for doing it)
2.  Sit the child in the desired place
3.  Give a brief explanation of why they are there and how long they will be there  (a minute for every year they are old) ("You are sitting here because you were not listening to Mummy, you will sit here for three minutes, Mummy will tell you when it is time to get up")
4.  Keep returning the child and restarting the time if they get up.
5.  When the time is finished explain again why they were sat there and ask for an apology, I like to also explain why the behaviour made me sad (it hurt, it was disrespectful, it was dangerous).
6.  Cuddle, kiss and forgive
7.  In this house we are Christians and we also ask our children to forgive each other if they have hurt each other, we explain that they don't have to but that it will be hard to be friends if they don't and will probably result in us all being sad.  (We are only starting to get into this now that our youngest is a little older (18 months), it is a hard concept to get your head around!)

The thing about time out, though, is it focusses on the negative, it makes you think about all that is being done wrong and I noticed when it was all I was doing it made me into a shouty, grumpy Mummy who felt like her children could do no right! So, we also have a button jar.

It's a bit like a sticker chart but without the mess of stickers getting stuck EVERYWHERE! The basic principle is that our 3 year old gets a button for being "good", so she gets one for getting dressed nicely and without fuss, or for eating her dinner without using her hands and making a mess or for going to the toilet on her own (a current "issue").  She also gets them for sharing nicely with her sister or for helping me around the house without needing to be coerced!

Here is our button jar, you might be able to see a line on it, this is just because I couldn't find a small enough jar so to be considered "full" she just needs to get up to the line

When her button jar is full she gets a treat.  We tend to make it a slightly bigger thing, after all she has to earn a lot of buttons first!  Sometimes I take her to soft play or sometimes we let her choose a parent to to take her to a cafe on her own for some one on one time (and a cake and some juice, of course!)

Our button jar was full just this morning and so we gave our darling 3 year old some Peppa Pig characters that we had bought to go in a house she had been handed down.  She was very happy!

Also, just for giggles, you might like to see the little scene she set up with the children sleeping upstairs and Mummy and Daddy pig watching TV downstairs! At least they aren't drinking wine!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

lunch on a budget

Do your children eat an insane amount of food? Mine do! I have become the queen of cheap, filling lunches that can be eaten on the go and here are my tips.

1.  Make a packed lunch.

Aged only 3 and 1.5 my kids might not be at school yet but I make them a packed lunch almost every single day.  It means if we end up out and about we don't end up buying something expensive from a shop because everyone is tired and cranky and needs something NOW! It also means I can be much more relaxed about our morning activities as I don't need to panic about getting home for a certain time.

This is what out packed lunches look (approximately) like most days

2.  Know what your kids eat.

So I don't mean pander to fussiness (pictured above there are some chunks of sharon fruit, which had not been tried before) but at the same time if they have NEVER eaten a cheese sandwich in all their life they probably aren't going to start today! My kids aren't keen on the traditional sandwich but will happily munch into a wrap, some pita bread or a bagel (go figure!) so we tend to do that as it saves on waste!

3. Don't get competitive.

Don't get sucked into feeling like your kids need branded things to keep up with their friends.  ESPECIALLY before they have even started school (but even after).  I never buy babybel, I just cube up some cheddar.  Don't feel like yoghurt tubes have to be "frubes" when supermarket own will do*.  Don't feel like you need to buy snack packs of fruit, a chopped up apple and a banana do the same job. If my kids ask I tell them we can't afford them, I never buy fruit shoots or anything like it, we just take a cup/bottle of juice or water from home, Naomi knows that we don't have enough pennies to buy them unless it is for a special treat, I think it is good she grows up knowing she can't have everything she wants in life.

*the yoghurts in my picture *are* branded.  I find they withstand being frozen a little better and as long as I buy them on offer I can fit it in my budget (and when they are I buy about 6 boxes because they are to be frozen anyway!) if I couldn't I wouldn't hesitate to buy supermarket own or consider leaving them out altogether.

4.  Keep the food "safe".

I mean two things by that.  One is to keep it away from grazing fingers till the time.  Both my kids have a proper lunch box (from pound land!) but a sandwich box or empty takeaway tub can do the job too and keep it out of sight, out of mind till lunch time is beckoning!

The other thing is to make sure that any food that needs to be cold is kept cold./  I have a neat trick for this (well I like it, anyway).  See those yoghurt tubes? I put them in the freezer and every morning I stick one in the lunch box.  It keeps the lunch cold (there's cheese in there too) and keeps itself a bit fresher too but is still defrosted by lunch time and ready to be sucked!

5.  Portion sizes.

If you are anything like me you will have this tendency, on filling up a box like this, to shove stuff in till it is full but just stop and think.  My kids normally eat half a (big) wrap, half a (big) apple, one slice of toast or such like so why should I give them more just because it would fill the box up more? Save some money and waste by keeping portion sizes sensible!

So, do you have any tips to add to my list? How do you keep your little ones fed and full of energy?