While (slowly) making my way through the 30 Day Writing Challenge set by @MyTalesFromTheCrib (on Instagram) I came across this writing theme and it really stuck out for me. Birthday traditions are my favourite traditions. As early as I can remember, I have always cherished birthdays. My mum used to go out of her way to make birthdays an extraordinary event for us. This in itself is a tradition that has carried on with my own children.
I have always tried my hardest to make birthdays in our house unique celebrations. Like everything else in our orbit, they are often done on a budget. This is, however, in no way a suggestion that they are anything less than magical. My superpower is, of course, to make a lot from a little.
Next week, I have not one but two birthdays. The Little Fairy is set to turn 9 on the 13th of April and The Master of Mischief turns 5 on the 14th of April. A timetable even I never saw coming. Some call it bad planning; others call it convenient. I know that I had serious doubts about my time management in April 2016. I spent the day before birthing a 9lb baby waddling through a children’s indoor ball pool and activity centre. It wasn’t the most fun I’d ever had. Managing two birthdays in two days has never been easy. Over the years however, I have mastered it to a fine art.
In this post, I share a few of the birthday traditions practised in our family home.
Birthday pancakes have been a tradition in our house since my eldest child’s first birthday after weaning.
The birthday person wakes up to balloons, presents, and PANCAKES!
We pile them high with fruit, chocolate chips, whipped cream, and sprinkles. We top them off with a candle and gather around the breakfast table to belt out an uneven pitchy chorus of Happy Birthday. This is the ceremonious and somewhat sickly start to birthday shenanigans.
This is one of my favourite traditions. It started after I met my husband. Most couples share sentimental and meaningful cards with one another on special occasions. Not us. My husband (in all his childishness and immaturity) goes out of his way to find the funniest and often most inappropriate card he can. The results are never disappointing. It provides a good laugh and has become a competition between us to see who can find the daftest card. Even the kids have joined in with this. Their card choices are getting funnier each year. Birthday cards with poo, boobs, funny animals or inappropriate jokes are the best kinds.
A Homemade Cake
This is a tradition that started when I had children. This was because as a young single mother, I struggled to afford fancy shop-bought cakes. Instead, I would make them myself.
As the kids got older, my skills improved, and I found that I was actually quite good. Ten years in, and I am still making birthday cakes every year. What started as something for my children has spread to friends and family too. The kids will always pick a theme, and we design the cake together. It’s a fun activity as well as something unique for them to remember.
Whether you make something elaborate or a basic sponge, a homemade cake is so much nicer because it’s made with a little extra love.
These are just a few traditions that we practice for birthdays. Do you do anything differently? Have you changed any of your customs due to the lockdowns?
I have seen some lovely ideas from families who have had to spend birthdays apart, from letter writing to pre-recorded video messages.
I hope everyone is staying safe and enjoying their birthdays regardless of lockdown. While it has been hard celebrating with limited visitors both last year and now. We have all undoubtedly had at least one birthday in lockdown. I think it is lovely how people have adapted and overcome these difficult times.
Hopefully, we can all be back to celebrating with friends and family again soon.
I recently wrote that I am taking part in the March 30 day writing challenge. 22 days in and I have completed *cough* one task, by writing a long list of reasons why I am supposedly amazeballs. Unsurprisingly, sticking to a deadline wasn’t on there. While reading through the list of themes I have yet to complete, reflection really stuck out for me; mainly because it’s something I both love and hate to do. I truly believe it is important to reflect on how far we’ve come in whatever journey we are on. Reflection helps us to keep focus and continue knowing we are so far from where we started. However, as someone who has suffered/suffers from anxiety at varying levels, reflecting back can often trigger feelings of worry and guilt about what I could have done better or differently in the past.
A wise man (my dad) once told me that we should only ever glance at the past, never stare. These words blew my mind, and they are now words I live by. In the spirit of reflection and avoiding hurling myself into a spiral of self-doubt, I have decided to use this post and theme to reflect on three things that have brought me happiness over the years.
First and foremost, having kids is top of the list. Is it corny? Yes. Do I care? No. While they have caused me great anxiety, guilt, and pain over the years (labour, in particular, stung like a bitch) they are without a doubt, my greatest joys. Not only do I burst with jubilation at their confidence and individuality (something that I never had at their age) I cherish the fact that they make me a better person. Giving birth to my first child a few months after my 20th birthday was possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I was just a kid myself. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Over the years though, my children have shaped my personality into the loving, caring, slightly bonkers woman sat writing this blog post. When I look at the married mother of 3 I am now, compared with the petrified 20-year-old single mum I started out as it is a journey I’m proud of.
Next up on my reflective list of joys through the years has to be music. There isn’t a single scenario or feeling that can’t be relived through music. Births, deaths, and everything in between. For me, memories are anchored to music. When my son was born, the theatre staff had the radio on, and Madonna’s ‘Holiday’ was blasting out. I remember the upbeat rhythm of the song calmed me. When we attended my auntie’s funeral last year, we exited the crematorium to Take That’s ‘Rule The World’ and I took comfort in knowing it was a song she loved. ‘Times Like These’ by the Foo Fighters takes me back to Leeds Fest which I attended for the day with my dad (the coolest dad in the world) just to see Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins playing live. It was magical, and something i’ll never forget.
Finally, a source of great joy and comfort to me has been my husband. I kissed a lot of frogs before I found a prince and I consider myself extremely lucky to have found a kind-hearted, fun and caring gentleman. He walked into my life when I was at a low point and has spent years building me back up with love, support, positivity, and encouragement. Make no mistake, he’s not perfect, nobody is. However, he deserves a huge shout out for everything he is and does, as a dad and a husband. I credit him for giving me the confidence to take the huge step towards my own dreams. With his support and encouragement, I returned to education and I’m now one year off getting my BA. The world is scary, life is tough but there is nobody I’d rather weather the storm with than him.
So, there we have it. A reflective look at the people and things that have brought me joy over the years. Do you have anything different? What brings you joy? How do you feel about reflecting on moments and parts of your life? Let me know in the comments.
The theme of this post was set by the fabulous MyTalesFromTheCrib who you can find on Instagram. She has some amazing writing theme ideas. Check her out!
Life in our house is about to get less hectic as we move into the Half Term/Easter break. With no lessons or assignments due I am hoping to be able to work my way through more writing challenges and post more family and budget-friendly recipe ideas. Keep checking back and stay safe wherever you are.
Due to the chaos of life recently, my blog has been severely neglected. I am hoping that with the kids returning to school I can find more time to waffle online.
In a bid to ease me back into writing, I’m following a 30-day writing challenge set by the wonderful @mytalesfromthecrib who you can find on Instagram.
I cannot promise that you’ll get 30 consecutive days of writing from me, I am a lazy blogger, however, I intend to give it my all and hopefully rediscover my blogging groove.
As always, I’m late to the party. One of the challenges set is to write 30 reasons why I’m amazing. I’ve decided to start with this.
I’ve found this an extremely difficult task. I’m famous amongst my friends and family for my awkwardness in accepting a compliment; even more so for my constant self-deprecating comments, so trying to find 30 reasons why I’m a total badass goes against every fibre of my existence.
Nevertheless, here it goes.
I am dedicated. It doesn’t matter what I do, I give it my all.
I am kind. Always.
My body grew and birthed three humans. Three!
I can cook and I enjoy it. Feeding my family is never a chore because I feel most at home in the kitchen. You’ll always find me there at parties.
I can make a lot from a little. This is something that I have prided myself on for many years.
I am creative. I have a big imagination and use it frequently.
I am resilient. Having been dealt with some very bad hands over the years, I have always overcome my roadblocks with a smile on my face and a sparkle in my eye.
I am optimistic. If there is a grey cloud, I can guarantee I will find the silver lining.
I have a good sense of humour. I truly believe that having the ability to laugh at yourself is an important skill to master. It took me many years, however, I now actively live by the phrase, if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?!
I love reading. This is a trait that I hope my own little monsters will have.
After several glasses of wine, I become the sexiest woman alive and can dance really well! True story!
I have stretch marks all over my body and I’m ok with it. This seems a strange one to make a person amazing, however, I spent the best part of my 20s (OK, all of my 20s) hating my body. If you had asked me at 22 what I’d change about myself, I could reel a list off as long as my arm. Once I hit 30 though, I started to appreciate my body for the human growing warrior machine it was. My body reflects the life it’s lived (and the cake it’s eaten) and I love that!
At 30 years old, I’m pursuing my dreams and have returned to education to get a degree. This was a badass thing to do!
I’m a good mum. Like all those with kids, there are days where I could do better, but when it comes down to it, I know I am a good parent. I work hard, my children are loved, encouraged, and supported. I don’t always get it right, but I’m doing my best and that is enough.
On the back of being a good mum, I would also like to add that I am a good wife. Just ask my husband!
I’m supportive of others. No matter how big or small a person’s dreams are if I can help or encourage, I’m there.
I’m compassionate. I have a big heart. I would honestly give away my last penny if it meant changing the life of someone else for the better.
I’m more than just a mum. This is important to me as part of what makes me amazing. I love my children with every ounce of my existence, but I am more than just a mum. I am a woman; I have my own dreams outside of my mum bubble and I’m allowed to chase them.
I’m a good laugh on a night out. See number 10.
I am a good friend. I listen well and I’m there at the drop of a hat if I’m needed. I don’t have a huge friend group but the friends I do keep, I keep close to my heart.
I can bleed for 7 consecutive days every month and survive while showing minimal signs of injury. My husband might try and tell you that my personality changes significantly, but he’s always being dramatic.
I support my husband who has a PTSD diagnosis. We have good and bad days, however, we always get through.
I am honest. I’m not obnoxiously honest, but I always say what I really think. This is a trait I have had to hone over the years because if my mouth doesn’t say what I’m thinking, my face usually does.
I live by strong morals of treating others with respect and kindness. I have no time for rudeness or intolerance.
While I struggle to accept a compliment, I am proud of how far I have come over the years.
I can bake. Cake’s, biscuits, and pies. A good skill to have on birthdays and Christmas, however, not so much when you’re dieting.
I once had an illness that put me in intensive care for almost a month. I nearly died. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced but I survived and have tried to live life to the fullest ever since.
I am fun. All things should have an element of fun.
I am really good at internet shopping. Nothing says badass like a good bargain!
I am no shrinking violet. This is a positive for me, my mum often calls me a ‘gobshite’ but I stand up for what I think is right and if I know I can do something, I won’t let anyone tell me I can’t.
So, there we have it. My 30 reasons. It was hard to write and has taken me longer than I thought it would put together. It is an empowering thing to do though. If you’re ever at a loss of something to do, sit and write some positives about yourself. I guarantee you’ll feel amazing.
It is officially the most magical time of the year if you’re financially secure and don’t have kids.
If, like me, you are not financially secure, have a few kids and more cousins than you can count, then the most wonderful time of the year quickly becomes the most stressful time of year. Throw in a global pandemic, multiple lockdowns, constantly changing tier systems and 3-degree assignment deadlines and you’ll be well on your way to a festive meltdown.
Now, usually, Christmas promptly arrives in our house on December 1st. The tree goes up, along with garlands, wreaths, ornaments, and heirloom style trinkets that are scattered throughout the house. Generally, we have no fewer than three trees, one in the living room, a second in the girl’s room and a third tree is erected outside to show to the world that we love Christmas.
Each one is decorated with love, care, matching colours themes and is organised to be flawlessly symmetrical. The magic of Christmas really comes alive. Meanwhile, I slowly die inside from stress, anxiety, and glitter inhalation.
Not this year!
2020 has been troublesome, to say the least. We’ve had heartbreak, loss, uncertainty and a whole load of other negative happenings and emotions. So, this year, we are doing December a bit differently.
Towards the end of November, I started to make lists for all the things that we would need to do in the Christmas run-up. What there was to buy, the lights that would require checking, the baubles and trinkets that would need pulling out of storage and dusting. While making these lists and becoming more anxious with each new to do, I had a moment.
A fleeting thought that changed my entire outlook.
Four magical words.
A question really.
‘What’s the fucking point?’
Now, this sounds negative but stay with me.
What is the point? Why does every Christmas have to be like a military operation? Who is it for? The kids don’t care if the tree is symmetrical. My husband hates all the fancy fuss that comes with my stress quest to have the perfect Christmas. Together they don’t care if the family heirloom decorations are out on show or if the colour scheme of the tree matches the living room décor.
So why does this matter?
Answer. It doesn’t!
And at that moment, as if by some Hallmark Christmas movie-style miracle, I discovered the true meaning of Christmas. That is to spend time with your family; smile, cuddle, spread love, laughter & joy and most importantly, have fun while you’re doing it.
Now obviously, every Christmas we’ve had as a family has been filled with laughter and joy. Please don’t think that I’m discovering the meaning of Christmas for the first time. We are lucky to be part of a large loving family but if I’m honest, at this time of year, I usually feel more stress than joy.
I constantly worry about how perfect everything should be so that everyone has a good time and, in the process, I end up…not having a good time.
After talking all of this out with my husband I decided that this year we were throwing out the ‘rule book’. If 2020 has taught me anything, it is that you should live your life to be happy.
So, I have made some major changes and have had so much fun in the process.
We decided not to bother with an outside tree this year. Why pay to fit and light something that only your neighbours really enjoy. Unless you are going to sit at your front door and look at your outdoor tree every evening, what is the point? Really?
Our living room tree from last year was in much need of replacing. It was a 6ft one that I had purchased in a B&M sale for £12.99 three years prior. It served us well, but our new Christmas spirit warranted a sparkly new Christmas tree. Luckily, we grabbed a bargain at a local Tesco. I managed to get a 7ft artificial tree for £40. While it was a splurge compared it’s £12.99 predecessor, it was well worth it. The quality of the tree is even better than I was expecting, and I know that this will last us for years to come.
With no rule book for decorating, we decided to put onto the tree only things that will make us smile. After the year we have had, it is the least we deserve. I spent as much as I could spare on ‘tack’, and I mean ‘tack’ in the most beautiful sense. I bought only things that I knew would bring a smile and a giggle to the faces of my children.
These included glitter pizza baubles, an alpaca carrying presents, multi-coloured tinsel, Santa, brightly coloured headphones, glittery cupcakes and the initial of each member of our family, to name but a few.
When it came to decorating the tree, the usual stress fest and echos of “don’t put that bauble there, just wait for me to get it straight, just let me do it!” was replaced with nothing but smiles and giggling. It was, without a doubt, the most relaxed and fun ‘tree putting up’ session we’ve ever had. Ever.
For many people, the strive for perfection at Christmastime brings with it an immense pressure. I hope that this year, people can relax and find some comfort in the changes that we are facing in what has been a truly horrific year. Not all change has to be negative. We can absolutely find joy and pleasure in little moments, adapt and make new traditions.
Now that the kids are finishing school, we are well into the countdown to Christmas. Keep your eye out for fun Christmas recipes and activity ideas coming over the next week.
Over the weekend, while the rest of the world seemed to be putting up their Christmas trees, we had our own celebration. A decade ago, on a snowy night in November, I welcomed to the world, via forceps, a 7lb 14.5oz baby girl. She had brown eyes and a mass of dark spikey hair sticking up out of the top of her little round head. Across each cheek was a red scratch from where the forceps had gripped her head during delivery. Truthfully, she looked like a deranged baby version of Batman’s Joker, but she was mine and she was beautiful. The day she arrived was the day I understood what love, at first sight, felt like.
I had a 36-hour labour, by the time she finally arrived I was exhausted, but sleep wouldn’t come. Instead, I sat in my hospital bed with this tiny contented little bundle sleeping in a blanket between my legs staring at her. I was a mother. The enormity of that statement hit me all at once. Within that moment, the fear and anxiety I had felt through my pregnancy were replaced with love and fierce protectiveness for the human I had created.
Fast forward ten years, and we are a million miles from where we started. The small, hairy little baby I had is now a beautiful and sassy girl with more confidence in her cheeky smile than I have had my entire life. I too have come a long way in my decade of motherhood; now a happily married mother of three, I’m worlds away from the newly 20-year-old single mum who still lived with her parents.
I could not be prouder of the sassy and uniquely fabulous kid that my firstborn child has become. These ten years have gone by in what feels like 10 minutes and watching her personality grow has been one of the best things I’ve been witness to. She is and will forever be my first true love, and I am positive that she will do great things in this world.
In celebration of a decade of motherhood, I wanted to share 10 things I have learnt since becoming a parent.
Never compare yourself to other parents. It is a waste of your time and energy. Focus on yourself and how you want to raise your children. I spent so much time worrying that other mums were doing it better than me and comparing the way I did things to others. It caused me no end of anxiety. The day I started to do things my way and stopped caring how others did it was the day I became a better parent. Screw what other parents are doing, if it works for you, that’s all that matters!
Be organised, make lists and, prioritize tasks. This is something I learnt really early on. Don’t spend time and energy trying to do everything, if a job needs doing then fair enough but if it can wait, then let it. Making a list for each day using a planner or journal can really change your time management. This was a huge revelation for me as a parent.
Make time for yourself and don’t feel guilty for it! Self-care is a must for parents. If you’re not looking after yourself, it will affect your ability to look after your kids. Establish a self-care routine, even something simple like setting your alarm ten minutes earlier, having those extra moments to yourself makes all the difference.
Attend the baby groups. I have always been an anxious person and struggled a lot with meeting new people. With my firstborn, I didn’t attend any of the mummy groups simply because I was so worried and nervous that I wouldn’t be ‘accepted’. When I did finally pluck up the courage to go to a baby group with my second child, I found a welcoming community of mums and dads who were just as scared as I was. It was great to talk with people who understood the difficulties of parenting. The new parents shared the same fears I had, and the seasoned parents offered advice. I honestly wish I’d have gone sooner.
Share the load. Whether you are single, married, a first-time parent or have a football team of children, asking for help is never a bad thing. The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ exists for a reason. Being a parent is hard, and the more people you bring into your support network, the easier it becomes. You do not have to do it alone, make sure you stay in touch with supportive friends and family and never suffer alone. If you need help, ask!
Mistakes are how we learn. No parent gets it right every time all the time. If you get it wrong or something doesn’t go as planned, don’t worry. Learn from it and move on. If I had a pound for every mistake I’ve made as a parent, I’d probably be a millionaire. Mistakes are a part of life, so of course, they are a part of parenting. It does no good to fixate on something you got wrong, all you can do is acknowledge where you went wrong and learn what to do differently next time. Cut yourself some slack because none of us really know what we’re doing!
Losing your temper does not make you a bad parent. This is something that I used to get so emotional about. I would never class myself as a ‘shouty’ mum, in fact, I like to think I’m calm and laid back, but even I have a limit to my patience. Losing your temper and shouting when you’re having one of those days makes you human and nothing else. We’ve all had moments where our parenting swings from snow white to evil queen in a single second. I usually have a week of this every month.
Everything in moderation is a positive way to live. I have known parents whose children live on technology, chicken dippers and chocolate sandwiches. I have also known parents who don’t own a television and have their children follow a sugar-free vegan diet. While I firmly believe in the motto ‘to each their own’ I like to think that I do Ok as a parent somewhere in between these two parenting styles. With a little bit of everything in moderation, we have a nice balance between it all.
Try to focus on what you can control instead of stressing about the things you can’t. I have always been a worrier, I classed it as a personality trait instead of something that I could manage. Once I changed my outlook and started to focus on the things I had control of, I found that my worrying stopped. Focus on yourself and your parenting, behaviour, words, ideas, actions, effort and reactions are all things that you are in control of. When it comes to others, you can control their actions, words and behaviours about as much as you can control the weather. So why try? As long as you are focused on yourself and what you can control, you can let go of all the things you can’t. Speaking from experience, from the moment you let go of things you can’t control, you’ll be happier.
Listen to your instincts. This is probably the most important thing I have learnt over the past ten years. I know my children better than anyone else. I know when they are ill, tired, hungry, sad, happy, or excited just from the way they look. You too will know your own child better than anyone, so trust in your own abilities. You’ve got this!
I hope that the ramblings of what I’ve learnt in my decade of motherhood can be of use to someone. I wish I’d have known some of these things earlier on in the game, but I suppose one of the principal parts of parenting is the constant learning that comes with it. None of us really know what we’re doing, and any parent who claims they do is lying.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hocus Pocus (in my opinion THE greatest Halloween film of all time! – it’s my favourite)
Wallace and Gromit. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
The Adams Family & The Adams Family Values (a fabulous choice for a double feature)
The Haunted Mansion
The Burbs (better suited for older children)
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.
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….”
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.
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!
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 (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 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 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.
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’.