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

Five Pieces of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

Five Pieces of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

Having just turned thirty, I have found that I have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my twenties. There has been an abundance of highs and lows. Although they got off to a rocky start, my twenties have given me so much that I am grateful for. The decade of my twenties has gifted me three wonderful and spirited children, a loving husband, a settled home and has set me on a journey to gaining a degree in young children’s learning and development. The degree in particular was something I thought was well beyond my reach.

I started my twenties as a single pregnant girl, still living at home with her parents. I say girl because I was so young and clueless. I’d had so many plans, a job lined up in London, I was going to travel and see the world. I planned to live my life like they do in all of the movies where the young and naïve girl leaves her small town, struggles for a short while, then finds her flow, then finds love, then stands in the ocean, maybe has a trip to a vineyard and then gets a happily ever after with a tall and brooding fella with dark hair and a penthouse. It was going to be amazing. I was an absolute idiot because for a split second at the age of 19, I actually thought that it could happen! Fool!

When I found out I was pregnant my entire path changed. Everything that I thought I would do changed and in the space where the dream had been, was a tiny human who needed all of my time and attention. As I progressed through my early twenties, life threw me some serious curveballs. My self-esteem and confidence plummeted. All of my self-worth and self-belief was stripped from me through a long run of difficult times.

It wasn’t until I met my husband that things started to change for the better. I didn’t need to believe in myself because he believed in me. Over time and as our relationship blossomed, I regained so much of my old self and life changed again for the better. I have entered my thirties, happy & healthy with three beautiful children, a lovely home and a future that I thought was long gone.

Here are five bits of advice I would love to give my younger self.

Accept Your Body (it is amazing – even the chunky bits!)

So much of my twenties was spent dieting. Oh. My. Days. I tried every fad diet going, and for what!? To deny myself and be miserable. I would love to be able to tell my younger self that as long as you’re healthy it doesn’t matter what shape you are. My second and third pregnancies both resulted in C-Sections, so I have the infamous ‘tummy pouch’. I shed so many tears over my ‘disgusting belly’ when what I should have been focusing on was that my body had done what it was designed for. I have grown not one, not even two, but three humans! A younger me should have appreciated the magic of that a lot more. It is particularly important to teach our children that our worth is not tied to our weight.

Budget Better!

So many of my problems when I was younger came from poor financial decisions. I was young when I left home with my daughter. I hadn’t a clue about family budgets, how to organise my money and what I should be saving or where I should be buying things from. I suppose for most, this comes from experience. Sometimes we have to fail a few times to learn. I am by no means financially secure (even at 30) however, I have learnt so much about budgets. Every penny that comes into my bank is accounted for. I know what, when and exactly (to the penny) how much is going in and out of my account. I am a seriously savvy shopper and I make sure that any treats (big or small) are factored into our budget. For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation or financial difficulty, seek help immediately. There are so many companies, apps and charities that can help with financial struggles and budgeting. The biggest thing that I learnt when I did finally reach out for help with my finances was that I wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last to be in that situation. Remember that help is always available.

Enjoy Your Own Company

This is a big thing I wish I would have appreciated more while I was young. Before I met my husband, I lived for a long time as a single mum. I hated it. Once my children were in bed, I felt lost. My entire world revolved around them. I didn’t know how to be alone. If I could go back, I would tell myself that it is important to be able to be in your own company. I would have done some online courses, taken up a hobby, or just enjoyed the peace. After my husband and I began living together and then welcomed our son to the mix, all chances of alone time disappeared. I miss it. It’s true that you don’t know how much you love something until it’s gone. I would kill to get back all those nights I spent not knowing what to do with myself. I can’t even go to the toilet now without a small person tracking me down.

Aim Higher

At the age of 28 I took a huge leap and returned to education. I achieved a variety of things within the jobs that I’d had, however, every job I ever had was just that. A job. There was never any thrill or spark for what I was doing. After returning to education I had so much regret that I hadn’t done it sooner. My lack of confidence in my early twenties really held me back. For anyone feeling like they can’t do something, just do it! Aim high and if you miss, jump up and try again. If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be to follow passion. I’m late to the game for this, it’s better late than never I suppose. They say that if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. I could not agree more. I cannot wait to qualify and start my career as a teacher, I just wish I would have taken the leap sooner. It sounds corny to say that if I can do it anyone can. I will say it though, if I can do this (return to education and balance a five person household) ANYONE can do it! So aim high and don’t let anything or anyone hold you back.


Don’t Be Worried to Say No to People (be a bit selfish)

Does anyone else live with an incessant need to people please? All through my twenties, and I’m ashamed to say, ever so slightly now in my thirties, I have a really hard time saying no to people. So many times, I have found myself in situations, in places or doing things that I just don’t want to do. I always thought that saying no to somebody meant I was being selfish. It does not mean that at all! I cannot stress this enough. Over the years I have got better at indulging selfishness. When I say selfish, I don’t mean that I stomp around like a self-entitled, egocentric nitwit, who only does what she wants to do. No. What I mean is I don’t do things just to keep other people happy. An example is that in my people pleasing days, if I got invited out with friends, I would go out. Regardless of whether I wanted to, or could afford to, I went, because I didn’t want to let my friends down. Now, if I get invited out, I will ask myself whether I want to go and if I don’t or can’t I simply say, ‘no thanks, not this time’. It sounds like such a small factor, but it has made such a massive difference to me. My life is so much easier now I have stopped ‘people pleasing’. Honestly, it is not your job to keep the world happy. Focus on yourself and your own tribe and you will not go far wrong.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that my time machine is on the blink, I can’t go back and give myself all of this amazing advice. However, I can share it with all of you. Even if one person takes something away from my wistful musings, the past ten years and all the mistakes I made will stand for something. Although I didn’t get the world travels, feet in the ocean, vineyard finish to my story. I am ever so grateful for the struggles I have been dealt, because without them, I wouldn’t be where I am or as happy as I am now.  Life is a funny old thing.

Until next time….

Hannah XO

My Experience with Mum Guilt

My Experience with Mum Guilt

I’ve been really nervous to write about my mum guilt. I wanted my blog to be all positives, all the time. In reality though, that isn’t a true representation of my experiences or of motherhood as a whole. Truthfully, lately I have been feeling overwhelmed with life. We have been in lockdown since the end of March, and as the start of July is looming, I feel like my lockdown optimism has reached it’s limit. Home schooling has lost momentum, my children are missing their friends and their teachers, I’m missing my friends and my teachers. All the little jobs I had to do at home have been done, and for the first time in the history of my household, the washing baskets are empty. It feels like as a family, we have moved into a state of simply existing, rather than living. I’ve been suffering more over the past few weeks with mum-guilt. I’m sure that I am not alone in feeling this way. The world is a big place, chances are at least one person out there will understand how I feel. So here we go, settle in as I share my personal experience with mum-guilt.

As a mother, no matter what style of parenting you chose, you will have undoubtedly felt mum-guilt at some point. For me, since the day my eldest daughter was born, I’ve had some feeling that I could be doing better. Some days, the negative thoughts about my parenting practices are inescapable.

Truthfully, it doesn’t need to be anything severe to trigger my mummy guilt. It can be something as simple as, I don’t serve vegetables at tea-time and I instantly feel like I’m neglecting their health. I might swear in front of them (I definitely do. All. The. Time) and boom I’ve ruined their childhood!

Media, society, other parents and even family seem to set enormous expectations about what motherhood should look and feel like. The best comparison I think you can make is to liken motherhood to a snowflake. No experiences are identical. I don’t know this as a fact, there might be two women out there who have had identical experiences. I doubt it, but you never know! For me, having had three children of my own, I know that each pregnancy, birth, and post-natal experience has been different. So why do I spend so much time trying to live up to something that is unique to each individual and to each child?

I have always tried so hard to get everything right as a mum. It has become normal practice to measure and compare myself to other mums, celebrity parents (which is completely unrealistic I know) and to try be on the ball all the time. At any one time I seem to have 50+ things swirling around in my head. How quick are their feet growing? Do they need new shoes? Do I have enough food in for the week? Are school uniforms washed? Did I sign and return the school form that has been stuck to the fridge for a month? Did I pay the nursery bill? Does their bedding need washing? Has the Master of Mischief wiped his arse properly after doing his fifth shit of the day? Are the girls managing their homework? Have they eaten enough fruit this week? Are they eating too much fruit? Are their teeth going to fall out? Are they happy? Trying to get everything right all the time is impossible.  

I try to live by the mantra that I am a good mum who is doing her best and has her shit together. Although the final part of that statement might not be quite true. Some days my shit is definitely not together. Some days I’m not even a hot mess, I’m just a mess! That said, my children are healthy, well-behaved (most days) and they do pretty well in school. That should be enough. So why isn’t it? Why do I constantly feel like I’m failing at the one thing women are apparently meant to thrive at?

As a student, I have deadlines and exams and days where I am so tired from my own classes that I genuinely cannot be arsed being a mum! Just admitting this gives me a knot in my stomach. I shouldn’t admit it. As mum’s we aren’t allowed to admit that motherhood isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Fact is though, being a mum is bloody difficult. Obviously, the rewards far outweigh the struggles, but it doesn’t make the struggles any easier to deal with.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to put my voice and my feelings out into the world, I don’t believe that I am alone in feeling the constant guilt associated with motherhood. So I say to anyone, whether you’re a first time mum with a new born or a seasoned mummy with a tribe of little warriors, if you’re feeling the same, you are not alone.

My eldest turns 10 this year and I still struggle to balance my mum-guilt feelings. Over the past decade though, I have taken some steps to change my approach to it. I used to feel immense shame over wanting time for myself. I felt like I was so lucky to have been blessed with children so all of my time should be spent on them or with them. Nevertheless, my 9 years and 7 months as a mum have taught me that in order to be the best for my children, I need to set aside time to be away from them. For me, that time is 5am. I set my alarm and I go downstairs before anyone else in the house is awake. I enjoy a hot coffee and make a list for what I need to do for the day. I make that time my own and it sets up my day. Whether your release is early morning or late at night, find yourself half an hour in the day and just enjoy it. Practice yoga, eat some chocolate, read, meditate, take a shower, do whatever you enjoy doing and do it for yourself.

Another aspect of dealing with mum-guilt and quite possibly the best advice I was ever given, is to let go of perfect. It doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as a perfect mum or a perfect child or a perfect motherhood experience. If you’re trying to achieve this, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Acknowledging that some days are shit and your kids will drive you crazy and you might shout is the best way to build resilience to the guilt. For me, it is the imperfect moments that are a true reflection of motherhood.

Until next time…

Hannah XO