No-Go November

No-Go November

So, how is everyone holding up?

Let me start by saying that lockdown 2.0 has hit me hard.

During the first lockdown, I felt focused and on the ball. Some days were tough, but we managed well; we played, we home-schooled, we walked through miles of countryside and spent quality time as a family that we otherwise would not have had.

Second time around, I have felt so deflated, lonely, isolated, and overwhelmed. Anybody else the same? I think with kids still at school, there has been no distraction from the void created in a national lockdown. I’ve struggled to write, study, post, keep up with Instagram. Some days, I’ve even found it hard just being an adult. I had two major deadlines for university assignments which were hard to do with no motivation. The routine at home is gone, mum-guilt is off the charts, and my mood is more down than up.   

The best reference I can use which parents will understand is the ‘Inside Out’ paradigm, which is not a recognised term, just something we say in our house. Inside out is a 2015 animated movie produced by Pixar Animation Studios. It personifies emotions, displaying them as actual people. The main characters are Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. Honestly, parents, if you want to teach your children about emotions while enjoying a family-friendly movie, I highly recommend it. It is absolutely fabulous. So, through lockdown, for me, it’s like Joy has gone missing and Sadness has taken over. I’ve gone from being an optimistic and fun-mum, to a gloomy, grumpy old lady mummy. I hate it.

I’ve been looking through all of the mummy accounts and bloggers that I follow and feel so inadequate. Everyone will tell you that you can’t believe everything you see on social media platforms. Behind every perfect picture, there will be an exhausted parent with their own struggles. Hiding out of sight will be a sink full of pots, a messy drawer (we all have those right?) and crap that is not shared with the adoring public. Still, I have felt that even if these parents have stuff going on behind their accounts, they are better than me in the sense that, at least they are good enough to keep up appearances. Over the past six weeks, I couldn’t even be arsed to fake it. So, I just stopped and been in some kind of lockdown limbo, existing from day to day with little to no enthusiasm or spark.

Enough. It’s time to shape up or ship out, and I’m choosing to shape up (figuratively speaking) I tried starting the couch to 5k not too long ago, and I thought I might actually die. 3 children, 2 caesareans and one severe lack of pelvic floor do not a good runner make.

The point I’m trying to make is that bad days are part of parenting. Trying to find a positive in each day can sometimes feel impossible, but it isn’t. Take this post, for example, this is my ‘there is still a spark in there somewhere’ post. We are all in this storm together, and while some may have mega yachts and others may just have a dinghy, you’re not alone in feeling like you might capsize at any moment. The month of November, hell, the whole of 2020 has been one monstrous no go. The past six weeks for me, have been hell. I’ve not felt myself at all and want to show that in these circumstances, that is ok. If you feel alone or are struggling, reach out. If you need someone to talk to, The Samaritans are available anytime, day or night, just call 116 123. They offer several ways to contact them.

Their website is in the link below. I found their website very useful.

Samaritans | Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy | Here to listen

In the coming weeks, I am hoping to share some positivity. Christmas is approaching and just because it’s going to be a bit different this year, shouldn’t mean it’s any less magical. I will be sharing recipes, ideas and our family’s Christmas traditions. We also have a milestone moment coming up in our house as our eldest Kiki turns 10.

I hope everyone stays safe and well. Keep fanning your sparks guys! The storm will pass.

Until next time…..Hannah XO

This Is Halloween!

This Is Halloween!

Halloween, whether you love it or hate it, is everywhere.

Each year it gets bigger and more ridiculous.

Would you believe I saw a Halloween Advent Calendar in the supermarket last week? The world has gone mad!   

Despite my shock at the items on sale and annoyance at the cost of them, I am usually 100% down for the spooky season. My plans are only ever hindered when my Halloween hating husband steps in. His opinions are firmly rooted in the thought that it is an American holiday, it doesn’t have the same ring in the UK and that trick or treating feels like begging. I can’t say I disagree with everything he says, but to me, it’s a good excuse for a bit of spooky fun with the kids.

Although trick or treating is not something we have ever done (that definitely doesn’t have the same feel where we live), I’ve always found other ways to have Halloween fun. With 2020 going into the books as the year that it all went wrong, we have decided to lean into the spooky season more than ever before.

We have decorated with hanging bats and spiders (which I keep thinking are bloody real!!). We are going to be doing spooky baking, pumpkin carving and face painting. Halloween night (while maintaining our rule of 6) we have invited a little friend of the girls over for a freaky film night.

I honestly feel like this year more than ever, the kids need to have fun at every opportunity. The differing rules in differing areas are keeping us apart from family, we’ve missed birthdays and celebrations. Even school is now different from what they recognise.

So, if you are with me in thinking that the kids need some fun, this post shares a few ideas on how to inject a bit of Spooktacular merriment into your Halloween weekend.

Decorate

We’ve found loads of small, cheap Halloween decorations in places like Poundland and Aldi. Even some of the bigger named supermarkets have some affordable decorations.

Normally I refuse to spend a fortune on decorations; however, my one splurge this year has been a fall leaf garland. I bought it from Amazon for £12.99. I wanted to give the living room an autumnal vibe, and the 2 pack that I bought were beautiful. I was very impressed with the quality, and I love how they look.

To take the house from an autumnal abode to a haunted home I bought some extremely cheap Halloween additions.

Spider Webs £1 (Poundland)
Halloween Sticks £1.49 (Aldi)
Orange Battery Lights £2 (Poundland)
Mini Squash 49p each (Aldi)

Hanging bats, spiders webs, mini pumpkins and something that was literally labelled as spooky cloth have all been purchased for as little as £1 each. You can go as big or as small as your budget allows. I gave myself £8 for Halloween tat. Watching the kids and their giddy reaction to hanging the decorations and spreading web all over the house suggested that it was probably the best £8 I’ve ever spent.

Pumpkins

I have heard so many parents complaining recently about the clean up that comes with pumpkin carving. You are my people. I see you!  

Some parents are so on the ball, they collect the seeds of the pumpkin and roast them for healthy snacks or use them for sensory activities. Unfortunately, I am not that mum! To me, the inside of a pumpkin is sticky, slimy and stinky and while I bow down to those who can utilise every bit of the fruit, this is one thing I am happy to sit out on.

Having personally tried pumpkin and trying to feed it to the family on more than one occasion, I can safely say it isn’t to our taste. 

So, if like me you are a pumpkin waster, fear not because bin bags and masking tape are the answer.

Before you start with the hollowing and carving of the pumpkins, cover the table you are using with the bin bags taping the edges down so that no surface is left exposed. It’ll look a bit like a scene from Dexter, but it makes it so much easier when it comes to clean up. You can just peel the bags off and your table should be pumpkin free. 

Decorating pumpkins is such a good laugh. It is something that everyone can get involved in and I love seeing each of the kids personalities pour into their designs.

Pumpkins can be bought from supermarkets for really reasonable prices. If you are lucky enough to live near a pick your own pumpkin patch, I would imagine that this would make a great day out. Regrettably, it’s something we are yet to experience. Perhaps next year once the world has calmed down a bit, it is something we can finally do. For now, though, it’s little pumpkins from Aldi for us.

Check out this year’s designs.

Bake!

If in doubt, bake it out. Baking is such a fun pass time for children and Halloween is one of the best times to bust out the baking gear.

Cakes, biscuits, krispies and bark are some of the easiest yet most versatile things you can do. The ingredients are cheap and the recipes simple.

Some of my personal favourites for Halloween are shattered glass cupcakes and mud pit bark.

Recipes for a host of delicious treats can be found in the link below.

https://budget-mum.com/category/treats/

Dress Up

There is never a better time of year than Halloween for getting creative with the make-up. Even if you don’t go out, it’s so much fun face painting and turning each other into spooky creatures and creepy characters. Over the years my children have enjoyed being all kinds of twisted things, from a slashed up red-riding hood to a creepy clown. It’s the time of year to let the dark side of your imagination run wild.

So, while we’re talking about ‘fancy dress’ I must ask; does anyone else get frustrated with the cost of the costumes? Or is that just me?

The outfits in the shops are usually priced at £10-£12 EACH! (and that’s the cheaper end)

With three children to include in spooky dress-up fun, the words ‘F that’ are quietly muttered.

To get around this, for the past few years I have made tutus for the girls using a tulle fabric that I purchase for £1.50 per metre and a strip of elasticated ribbon for £1 per metre. The fabrics come in a range of colours so you can match the tutus to most costume ideas.

Simply cut the fabric into strips and tie around the ribbon. So easy, so effective!!

Below are some of the looks we’ve done through the years.

Wicked Witch
Slashed Red Riding Hood
Cracked Doll
Death Clown

Snuggle Up Spooky Style

Depending on what area you live in, trick or treating this year is a no-go. Every year for us is a trick or treating no-go. It’s not something me or my husband are comfortable with, particularly in our area. Where we live is full of retired or elderly country folk. The last thing we want is to be held responsible for scaring dear old Gladys to death. It’s a small village and blame travels quicker than news. We do, however, always buy sweets for anyone who does decide to brave trick or treating.

Every year instead of trick or treating, we have a themed movie night. It is so much fun sharing our favourite (family-friendly) horror movies with our kids. We go heavy on the snacks with popcorn, crisps and homemade treats (see above links). This year we have been lucky enough to borrow a projector. This has made our spooky viewing bigger and better than ever before.

This year, try busting out the blankets and cuddle up together for a family fright night.

See below for our Top 10 favourite (family-friendly) Halloween movies.

  1. Hocus Pocus (in my opinion THE greatest Halloween film of all time! – it’s my favourite)
  2. Wallace and Gromit. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  3. Coraline
  4. Monster House
  5. The Adams Family & The Adams Family Values (a fabulous choice for a double feature)
  6. The Haunted Mansion
  7. Hotel Transylvania
  8. The Burbs (better suited for older children)
  9. The Witches
  10. Beetlejuice

As a bonus suggestion, you won’t go far wrong with The Harry Potter series (obviously)

So there we have it, some simple and inexpensive suggestions for how to keep it creepy this Halloween. I hope everyone has a spectacularly spooky time while staying safe and following the rules.

Let me know what your Halloween traditions are in the comments and if you try any of the ideas out tell me how it goes.

Until next time..XO

Mud Pit Chocolate Bark

Mud Pit Chocolate Bark

This Spooktacular recipe is great for Halloween. While it looks like a huge pile of mud, I assure you it tastes divine. The quick and easy recipe is cheap to make and will be the perfect treat for your little monsters.

You will need:

4 100g bars milk chocolate (I used the 30p bars from Morrisons simply because they were cheap, whether you choose to use branded or baking chocolate is a choice I will leave up to you)

1 pack Oreo cookies (I use Aldi’s own brand which me and wonder husband have dubbed pooreos – they taste exactly the same and cost a matter of pence)

1 bag fizzy cola laces

1 bag chocolate covered raisins

1 pack munchies

Note: The above listed sweets are simply the ones I chose to use, you can add any sweets in any quantity – which is the best thing about this recipe!

Method

Break the chocolate into a large bowl and melt. I usually melt my chocolate in a heat proof dish over a pan of boiling water. You may choose to microwave your chocolate. If you do decide to microwave, I would recommend 30 seconds to start then stir and continue to microwave at 10 second intervals stirring in between and repeating until the chocolate is smooth.

Pour the melted chocolate onto a sheet of parchment or baking paper and spread evenly until you have a thick layer of chocolate.

Cur the fizzy laces into 3cm strips and sprinkle over the melted chocolate along with the chocolate raisins and the munchies.

Gently grate 1 or 2 Oreos over the melted chocolate.

Allow to cool slightly and then leave in the fridge until set.

Once all the chocolate has set, roughly chop into shards.

Other Ideas

So. Many. Options!

You can literally top your bark with anything. The options are endless. You might want to try using white chocolate with red sweets to create a bloody effect. You can also add candy sticks as bones or draw faces onto marshmallows and use them as ghosts. Be as creative as you like.

Cupcakes

Cupcakes

Cupcakes are such a simple delight. This straightforward recipe is so cheap and easy to do. The best part is that cupcakes are delicious served either with a basic frosting or used as a base taste and jazzed up with extra flavours. Be as crazy as you like!

You Will Need

6oz/170g butter

6oz/170g caster sugar

3 eggs

6oz/170g self-raising flour

1 tsp vanilla essence (for vanilla)

1oz cocoa powder (for chocolate cupcakes)

Method

Beat the sugar and butter together until pale (I use a stand mixer however an electric hand whisk would also be suitable)

Add the eggs and whisk again (careful not to curdle the mix). Once you have a smooth mixture add the flour and vanilla essence or cocoa powder (whichever you’re using) and whisk again.

Place muffin cases into a muffin tin and spoon the mixture evenly between the cases.

Bake in the oven on Gas mark 5/190C for 10-15 minutes (or until springy and golden)

Allow to cool.

Decorate however you like and enjoy.

Other Ideas

Once your cupcakes are cooled, try filling the centre with your favourite jam. Simply cut a hole from the centre, fill with a tsp jam and replace the cut-out piece. Frost over the top and enjoy the flavours of the delicious filling.

These cupcakes are a great base for any flavour of frosting.

With vanilla cupcakes you might try lemon frosting with a curd filling or a white chocolate frosting with a raspberry jam filling.

For chocolate cupcakes you can add chocolate frosting. You can jazz it up even more with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a pretzel.

You may also wish to vary the cupcake flavour altogether. To make a Bakewell flavoured cupcake, substitute the vanilla flavouring for almond, fill with a cherry jam and decorate with white icing and a glace cherry.

Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and Potato Soup

This is by far one of the easiest and cheapest soups to make. It matches my formula of minimal input for maximum output perfectly. A classic dish that has always and will forever remain a firm favourite in our house. Enjoy on a cold blustery day with warm bread and butter. Bliss!

You Will Need

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped (I prefer to use 1 tsp garlic granules)

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (I prefer to use chicken stock for extra flavour)

700g white potato, peeled and diced

2 leeks, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Method

Over a medium heat, lightly fry the onions and garlic until the onions are soft.

Add the stock and bring to the boil.

Add the potatoes and the leeks, lightly season and simmer until the potatoes are soft. (this should be approximately 25-30 minutes)

Once the potatoes are soft, blend the mix until smooth.

Serve and enjoy!

Other Ideas

For a creamier soup you could blend some cream into the mix or for those who prefer a creamy flavour but are counting the calories (as I often am) you can blend through some fat free fromage frais. Be sure if you’re re-heating you do so gently, being careful not to bring the soup to the boil.

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

I love soup season. This soup, with it’s seasonal veg, warms my very soul. ‘It is absolutely yum’ (the Master of Mischief, age 4) and when served up with warm and buttery crusty bread it is always a hit with the kiddies. Even my husband (Mr ‘I’m not bloody eating that’ gave it a thumbs up) Enjoy!

You Will Need

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (I prefer to use 1 tbsp of garlic granules)

1 tsp ginger

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp tomato puree

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and diced

3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

600ml chicken stock (you can use vegetable stock if you want, I prefer to use chicken)

1 can coconut milk

Chilli flakes to garnish, if preferred

Method

Over a medium heat, start by cooking the onion for 1-2 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin and oregano and continue to fry for a few seconds while stirring.

Add the tomato puree, butternut squash and sweet potato chunks and fry for a further 2 minutes.

After this, add the stock and bring the whole pot to the boil.

Reduce to a medium heat and simmer until the butternut squash and sweet potato are cooked. (I usually give it 30 minutes; you may wish to leave it longer or less depending on the size of your chunks)

I also like to give it a stir halfway through.

Once the squash and sweet potato are cooked, add the coconut milk and simmer again for a few minutes.

Using a hand blender (or food processor) whizz the soup until smooth.

Serve with a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a side of warm crusty bread.

Other Ideas

I love the flavours of this soup. I serve it with a sprinkle of chilli flakes to add a dash of heat, but not too much, as I usually serve it up for the kids. If you wanted to add extra kick you could add a deseeded and chopped red chilli at the same time you add the garlic and herbs. If you’re really brave, bung a second one in there.

If you want to bulk up the soup and add some extra hidden veggies (its all getting blended so why not eh?) you could add things such as mushrooms, peppers, carrots and celery with the onions to create a veggie base for the soup.

What Happened to September?

What Happened to September?

Hello again, it has been a while.
I’m going to keep this post relatively short. It has been a funny old month; I keep thinking about the Green Day song ‘wake me up when September ends’. I feel like I should have asked someone to wake me up when it started.


I have had a lot of confusion around my returning to classes. This, coupled with the kids heading back to school, new work placement and the ever-changing distancing rules, have meant that I’ve missed an entire month! I have absolutely no idea where the days went. I had so many beautiful plans for posting about seasonal changes, exciting September crafts, school transitions, recipes, the whole she-bang. I missed it all.
In light of my missing month, I thought I would do a roundup of my September highlights before getting my ass in gear and diving headfirst into October (which we are now well into)


So, my top September moments.


Firstly, the kids are back to school! Let’s all have a mini Mexican wave for that! It was a bloody long time coming. Seven months, to be exact. Their return to school has had a happy ripple effect on so many other areas in our home. My shopping bill is back down to a reasonable amount, the cupboards are full for longer than five minutes, and we are back into an established routine. Although I’ve been stressed and hella busy, it has been nice to settle into a ‘new normal’ (even though I despise this saying, anyone else with me on that?)


On another happy note, the master of mischief has taken to school like a duck to water. He even bagged a certificate within his first week. Regardless of the fact every child got one, it was a milestone moment for him, and he was so proud, as were we.


As well as the kids, I too have returned to classes. I am now a 30-year-old second-year degree student. I still can’t believe I get to say that. The second-year has seen us dive straight back into it. I am only three weeks in yet somehow feel like I am a month behind with three assignments already looming. The classes are socially distanced, so although we are physically in class, the risks are managed. It’s been strange adapting to the new procedures, but it is definitely nice to be back. Wonder Husband says I’m a superhero for juggling classes with three children, placement and keeping the house running smoothly. However, I feel slightly more like a glutton for punishment. I had another wacky idea that in amongst everything that I already do, I want to learn Makaton. I really feel like it will open more pathways and benefit me in both my career and personal life in a variety of ways, so watch this space.

Another event in September for us was the packing away of summer. Does anyone else go through their wardrobe and bag up all the clothes they won’t wear in the coming season? I do, and I take so much pleasure in it. I particularly love going into the autumn/winter season. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I bloody hate summer. I am, shall we say, of a curvier nature and hot days and sunshine do not agree with me. I much prefer to layer up than strip down. Bagging up summer dresses, shorts and vests give me a sweet sense of relief.


The fall is by far my most favourite time of year. There is magic in the changes.

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall….”

Oscar Wilde

There are so many special things about fall that I love. . the unboxing of winter jumpers, scarves, boots, and hats means that it is the season for layers. Preferable mainly because layers hide a multitude of sins. Not washed your hair? Stick on a hat. Can’t find your bra for the school run? Big jumper, big coat. Salads are swapped out for stews. Light nights are replaced with cosy evenings, while pyjamas & fluffy socks become life. Most of this year has blown by in a blur. With this, I am making a solemn vow to slow down and enjoy what’s left of 2020.


Throughout the rest of the season, I am excited to share some delicious hearty recipes, fun and creative craft ideas, spooky Halloween ideas, and so much more.

Keep your peepers peeled for more posts coming.

Until next time…XO

Chocolate Chip Caramel Fudge Cookies

Chocolate Chip Caramel Fudge Cookies

These cookies are an absolute delight, they are easy enough to make so are a fun recipe to share with children. They make a great addition to movie night treats or can be enjoyed with a nice mug of tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

You will need

75g (3oz) butter (at room temp is best)

75g (3oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) light brown sugar

1 egg (beaten)

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

100g (3 ½ oz) milk chocolate chips

100g (3 ½ oz) fudge chunk pieces – these are sometimes sold as ice cream toppings (if you can’t find them you can buy some cheap fudge and chop It into small chunks).

Method

Put the butter and sugars together into a mixing bowl and beat together until fluffy and pale. Add the flour and the egg and mix until smooth.

Stir in the chocolate chips and fudge pieces. Taking small bits of the batter, making them into balls (about the size of a walnut). Place these onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Make sure you leave enough room between the balls to allow the cookies to spread.

Bake in a pre-heated oven (Gas mark 4, 180c, 350f) for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Once you have removed them from the oven, leave on the baking tray to harden for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

ENJOY!!

Other Ideas

If you can’t find or don’t want to use fudge, try replacing it with raisins or chopped glace cherries. This adds a fruity twist to the flavour and texture.

You could also swap the milk chocolate chips for white or dark chocolate to mix it up even more.

How We Got School Ready

How We Got School Ready

Today, the Master of Mischief started school. He left the house this morning bursting with excitement. With his book bag and lunch box in hand, he walked into the school playground no trouble at all. I ugly cried in the car for a solid 5 minutes afterwards. This is the last first day of school we will ever have. It has been what feels like a long time coming, yet also I can’t escape the feeling that this moment has arrived all too soon.
Over the past few months, a large amount of my time, effort and budget has gone into ticking everything off the school starter ‘kit list’. As well as worrying about the uniform shopping, I’ve also done as much as I can to make sure that the Master of Mischief was what they would deem ‘school ready’.

In this post, I share some of the activities and things we have been doing to practice school skills and nurture independence in everyday tasks. By sharing a few tips and tricks that we’ve used with the Master of Mischief I hope that you too can get your children school-ready.

Dressing and Undressing
This is something that we have been encouraging my son to do since he was old enough to try. Unfortunately (for me) my son is both lazy and an amateur comic. In the mornings and at bedtime, we usually get some version of “I don’t know how to do it” followed by him trying to put pants on his head. This is something he finds utterly hilarious. The only thing that has helped us through this is encouragement and an abundance of patience. While the Master of Mischief sits and wails that he doesn’t know how to put socks on (when he does) I simply reiterate that he should try. After a few attempts of me telling him to have a go, he usually succeeds, and all is well once more.


For younger children, shoelaces can be tricky. I prefer to buy Velcro fastening shoes for ease. However, I do try to make time for shoelace practice. There is a range of tools available; however, a practice shoe is easy to make from cardboard.
Motivating your child to dress and undress independently will help them so much when it comes to changing for PE, removing jumpers in hot weather and putting aprons on for painting (not that they ever use that particular skill).
Another thing that your child might need to practice is getting their coat on and off independently. All reception children are given access to an outdoor area, having the ability to get their coat on themselves will mean they can get straight to playing without having to ask an adult for help.
Another aspect of developing this skill, particularly if your morning schedule is a busy one is practising getting up and dressed for a particular time. In the week before starting school, I made sure the children were up, breakfasted and dressed for 8.30 am. Please don’t think I’m like a drill sergeant marching the landing with a whistle and clipboard shouting for my troops to be front and centre. It’s not like that. I simply wake them up earlier to ease them into their new routine. This has been beneficial for both them and me as it prepares us all for the shift in routine. Once the new school year starts again, we will be well seasoned in our early morning routine which will (hopefully) prevent the dragging of heels when we need to be up and out.

Lunchtime Practice
Whether you’ve decided to opt for hot school dinners or are sending your child with a packed lunch, it is always a good idea to practice using a knife, fork, and spoon. The more confident they are, the easier it will be for them to eat their dinner. If you’ve decided on packed lunches, you might want to encourage your child to practice opening their packets and containers. Depending on how nice your school’s lunchtime staff are will depend on how much help your child will get. We will all remember that one troll-like dinner lady that was zero help at all when you couldn’t open your damn yoghurt pot!


With all of my children, I have found it beneficial to see how long it takes them to eat their dinner independently. I don’t sit and time them on a stopwatch! As I said, I’m not a drill sergeant. I merely make a mental note of how long they sit and eat for. I also make a note of how much they eat. This kind of information is useful to pass onto the school, so they know what kind of portion to give your child. It’s also good for you to know how much to pack in their lunch. Too much might mean your child misses out on after lunch playtime and too little might mean they are hungry or irritable when they finish school. Nobody wants that!

Names, Letters and Words
I don’t think for a second that teachers expect children to start school having read Homer’s Odyssey, reciting the Latin alphabet, and counting to 100 in French. I believe the Master of Mischief will be taught what he needs to learn at school. Still, for a teacher to build a child’s knowledge, it can’t hurt to have a basic foundation to build on.

We’ve spent a lot of time encouraging the Master of Mischief to read and write his name, recognise the letters in it. This has also helped him practice his pencil grip. Once at school, his vocabulary will grow rapidly. To prepare for this, we encouraged him to learn new words. While out walking we collected items which we then talked about at home. This was a great way to introduce describing words.
Sharing songs, poems and stories is another great way that we encouraged him to recognise sounds and patterns in words. Repeated storytelling seems to have fostered a strong interest in books. This is always a good thing.
You’ll be surprised how quickly reception children start learning to read.

Counting
As before, I don’t think any teacher expects a child to march through the door on their first day chanting the 9 times table. Nonetheless, being able to count verbally up to 10 or even 20 is a tremendous benefit to a child.
This is something that we’ve managed to teach the Master of Mischief without even designing to do so. Counting throughout the day with our children is so easy to do. For example, how many cars drive past while you’re walking to the shop, how many lampposts you see on your way into town, how many stairs are in your house, how many windows, how many doors and so on. The possibilities of things to count are practically limitless.
One activity that we did actively do to help with counting (and colour) was graphing.

I made a chart on large floor paper and labelled the sections with colours. I then asked the Master of Mischief to find as many items around the house with the colours. We sectioned them on the chart and then counted how many of each colour we had. I then got him to practice writing the numbers on a separate sheet of paper.


Another way to set a foundation for mathematic skills is to try ordering numbers. One resource for this that has been invaluable for us is a simple deck of playing cards. There are so many ways that you can promote mathematics skills with a deck of cards. Number ordering, shape sorting, adding and counting to name a few.

Sharing and Turn-Taking
This is something that I was quite concerned about with the Master of Mischief. My girls are very close in age so have always had to share. My son, being younger and the only boy, has a range of items that are his and his alone. He also, unintentionally, gets more one to one attention at home. This is particularly true while the girls are playing with their friends. When it comes to sharing and taking turns, he can be a bit of a ‘give it to me gremlin’. He also HATES to lose. Something attributed to his dad, with whom I have had many an argument over games of Frozen Frustration and Ludo. (He cheats, I don’t, it’s now on the internet so it’s true. End of!)
One way to overcome this is through socialising children, which during the COVID-19 lockdown has been near on impossible to do (and at times illegal).
It has been a relief to have multiple children, having three at home has helped immensely throughout lockdown. Although tough at times, I think it would’ve been even harder dealing with one bored child. I don’t take my ability to say ‘go and play with your sister’ for granted. To those dealing with one child through this pandemic, I see you. You are warriors!
One thing we have done to practice turn-taking and sharing has been Sunday afternoon games sessions. Every Sunday through the lockdown we have brought out the board games to play together as a family. I invested in several age-appropriate games for the Master of Mischief including a variety of Orchard Toys games.


When we started with our newly appointed tradition, he was very demanding and would get quite worked up waiting for his turn. Through patience and practice, he is now a polite and easy-going gamer. The improvement in him has been great to see. I suppose like many things in life it was simply a case of ‘practice makes perfect’.

Sit, Listen and Do
As well as sharing and taking turns, children need to be able to sit and listen to teachers and each other. Carpet time, storytime and assemblies will be new experiences for school starters. Listening to spoken instructions and shifting the attention from what they are doing to what the teacher is saying will be a big skill to master. Practising this before starting school can only be beneficial.
Something we’ve done with the Master of Mischief to practice listening has been going on ‘noisy walks’.
This kind of walk is where we listen to all the noises we can hear while we are walking. As we go, I make a note of the sounds we have heard and at home, we will recall the noises and talk about our journey. It’s quite fun to do.
Another way we’ve practised sitting and listening has been through reading. Something I have done with the Master of Mischief has been sitting him on a chair opposite me while I read a story. Having him sat away from the book has meant he has to listen to what I’m saying to follow the story. (obviously, I show him the pictures at the end of each page, I’m not that mean)
One more thing that is beneficial to practice, as well as listening to instructions, is following them. To encourage this we have played games like ‘Simon Says’. It’s a terrific way to practice instruction following. The better your child gets at the game the more challenging you can make it.

These are just some ways that we have prepared the Master of Mischief for school. I hope that your preparations have gone well. Sending your child to school for the first time is a big deal. Well done to all the parents who have navigated what has been a truly crazy year so far. We did it!
I also want to wish good luck to all the new school starters that are joining or rejoining classes post-pandemic. You’ve got this!

Until next time
Hannah
XO

School Uniform: Top Tips

School Uniform: Top Tips

It’s that time of year again. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, children up and down the country will return to their to classrooms to be taught by professionals.

This year is a bittersweet one for me as it marks my last first day of school moment. I had a sterilisation procedure done during my last C-section, so the Master of Mischief is our last child. When he starts school, it will be the final time I will have a child start school.

I feel overwhelmed with emotion. I only just brought my baby home from the hospital, how can be starting school already? Despite my feeble attempts to stop the clock, he is starting in Reception come September.

My girls will also be returning, with Little Fairy going into year 4 and Kiki heading into year 5. As you can imagine, the only thing I have thought about for the past month is uniform. I’ve made six thousand lists and read the entire internet to make sure that I’m getting the best possible prices; because let’s be honest, kitting out 3 rapidly growing children for school is not cheap to do.

As a mature student and mother of three, budgeting, planning and organising are at the centre of everything I do. For school uniform, it’s no different. There are so many factors to consider. In this post, I share some of the top tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years for getting children suited and booted for school.

Bulk Buying 

Bulk buying (if you can) is an amazing way to ensure you have enough uniform sets for the week. There is nothing worse than waking up on a Thursday morning when you’ve to be on the bus by 8.10 and realising that the kids uniform needed washing. Children are masters of making sure they don’t tell you important information until the last minute.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard “I need sponsoring for a walk we’re doing tomorrow” only to discover the sponsor forms were given out a month prior and that my glorious little cherubs have neglected to inform me. There are only so many times you can get sponsored by Annette Curtain and Teresa Green before teachers become suspicious. It’s the same with the uniform. They are only all too pleased to let me know 5 minutes before I’m leaving that they have no clean polo shirts, or that the cardigan they were going to wear got dirty while they were painting. Avoid getting caught out with uniform mishaps by buying in bulk.

I find supermarket prices very reasonable, which is great because it means I can buy more. Buying that extra 2 pack of skirts or 5 pack of polo shirts means I always have enough spares to see my children through the week.

What do you need?

Create a list of everything (absolutely everything) you think your child might need. Enquire with your school regarding any changes (especially amidst COVID-19). Odds are there will be some extras you might need or some things that you’re no longer required to have.

How much you need?

Decide how much you want to buy. If you want to keep washing to a minimum through the week, make sure you stock up on extra sets of uniform. Again, buying in bulk is what I choose to do. Keep in mind, this has a larger cost initially. When making this decision, it’s always best to consider what is best for you and your budget.

Where to buy?

Things I always contemplate when deciding where to buy uniform from is ‘sizing’, ‘pricing’ and ‘how well it washes’. I buy most of my children’s uniform from supermarkets, so I read the online reviews before buying. It’s also amazing how much you can learn from other mums. Don’t be afraid to ask around the playground to see where other parents buy from and get their opinions on sizing and quality.

Some schools may require you to buy uniform from specific places. We’re lucky where we are, a branded school uniform is not compulsory. If you’re required to have decorated sets, always call ahead to make sure the shop stocks what you’re looking for. There is nothing worse than a wasted trip to a place that is out of stock!

Sizing

Sizing has always been a problem for me. My eldest daughter is tall with long legs, my youngest daughter is average height with a small waist and my son is an odd mix of tall yet petit. While shopping I find it hard to strike a balance for fitting. I’ve shopped around a lot over the years. I’ve invariably found ASDA kids clothing to be the best of the bunch for sizing. 

Measuring your children before you shop will forever be a good idea. Again, read reviews and don’t be afraid to ask your mum friends for tips.

One tip that I picked up last year was to draw around your child’s foot onto a piece of card. Cut this out and keep it in your bag while you’re shopping. You can use the foot cut out to measure against shoes which means that you can shop without your children. If your kids are like mine and get bored and start asking to use every toilet within a five-mile radius, it’s life-changing.

Labelling

Labelling clothes and bags are so important for school. The number of jumpers and cardigans that have been lost by my daughters could dress a small village for a year. 

You can order personalised labels to add to your child’s clothes, however, this can be costly if you have multiple children. I choose to use a permanent marker or fabric pen and write straight onto the manufacturer’s label. Regardless of how you label your uniform, it’s something you should do. 

Multiple Child Problems

Having two girls so close in age used to cause so many problems for us. School uniform would get mixed up in the wash and my children would end up wearing each other’s cardigans or dresses. They would often end up looking like they dressed in the dark, wearing clothes that were either a tad too big or too tight. To put an end to these mishaps I came up with a one for one system.

For daughter 1 I buy skirts, scalloped collar polos, round button cardigans and black socks.

For daughter 2 I buy pinafores, plain collar polos, heart button cardigans and white socks. 

It made life 100 times easier. If you have more than one child of the same gender, I would highly recommend buying varying designs of uniform for each. Our days of “she’s wearing my clothes” are long behind us.

Storage Solutions

Before I add any new uniform to the wardrobe, I have a big ‘closet clear out’. 

Most schools offer a recycle system where you can donate items of uniform for other families to use. It’s always nice to give to others. Have a look into places you could donate any uniform your kids have outgrown before you decide to just throw it away.

As for storage, we hang the uniforms in sets so that the girls can easily get what they need without having to dig to Narnia to find it. We also keep school socks separate from everyday socks. If you have extensive storage in your home, it’s a good idea to allocate specific space for school items. This helps keep children organised. It also stops things from getting misplaced or lost (which can happen all too often). Our home doesn’t have masses of storage space, so I fit some hooks outside the girls’ bedroom specifically for their school bags and coats. This has been a great way to keep all of their school things in one place.

Get Snap Happy in Advance

There is nothing more important than that first day of school photo. Parents take hundreds of pictures of their little ones looking smart and smiley for their first day. These images flood social media, they take pride of place on our mantles, they go in scrapbooks, they get framed and given to grandparents, aunties, and uncles every year until graduation. However, the morning of the first day of school can be extremely hectic. It can be stressful trying to get the perfect shot of everyone looking the right way in the 5 minutes before you need to leave. I would highly recommend dressing your children in their uniform in the days before and take pictures in a relaxed atmosphere, instead of that killer 10 minutes before you leave the house. Trust me, you and your kids will thank me!

Take a moment

Taking a moment is the best bit of advice I can give. Whether your children are starting school or heading back to school, it’s a big deal. Make sure that in amongst the stress, the cost, the planning, the buying, the washing, the sorting and the labelling, that you take a moment to appreciate everything. Your little ones are going to enjoy new experiences and that should be celebrated. 

In our house, we always have an end of summer, back to school family night. Once everything is bought and sorted, we put all of the worry and stress behind us and enjoy pizza and a movie together.   

I hope that your school journey, be it starting or continuing, is as stress-free as possible. If there are any tips I have missed out or anything you can share with me, please do so in the comments.

Keep an eye out for more posts about how we are getting my youngest ‘school ready’. 

Until next time. 

Hannah XO