Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Is it all girls or just mine?

Everyone always says no two children (siblings) are alike. It's true. Early on when my daughter was under one, it was hard to see big differences. Like my son, she was a good sleeper, eater and quite smiley to random people from about seven months. We could however, see a bit of a fesity element in her that had not been present with our son. Now she is approaching the age of two, the differences are a lot more apparent.

My husband and I have gained a whole new appreciation for our son and what a complete angel he was (and still mostly is). Not that our daughter is not an angel but she is certainly not as compliant and easy going as our son was at her age. Overall she is a pretty good, happy, fun child. There is just a small aspect of her personality that when it rears its head, is a little difficult to deal with! It's partly because we never had to deal with that sort of thing with our son so it is new parenting territory.

She ignores me (or her father) completely when we ask to stop doing something naughty, she ignores us when we ask her to come here after she has run off, she ignores us when we ask her to stay with us when we are participating in a class of some sort and children are supposed to sit or stand with their parents. If we try to make her do one of these things, she gives an ear-piercing scream.

Right now she is still small enough that I can go and retrieve her and pick up if she has run off and won't return but it will be met with screaming and kicking and as she gets bigger, that gets a lot harder to contain. I now understand why some parents seem to ignore their children in public places or in classes. It is easier to ignore them than try to coerce them into doing something they have no intention of even considering! Yet, I am not convinced that is the right parenting path to take.

There are some who would say, my daughter gets this little bit of her personality from her mother and yes, maybe she does. Part of me likes that she has this side to her. It shows her strong will and her determination, good attributes to have. The other part of me, the parenting part of me, struggles with it though. It makes me feel a bit out of control when she refuses to respond to me in certain situations.

It makes me fear for the future as she gets older and even more independent! I worry that she won't listen when I tell her to be careful of the road or something similar that could result in a real risk of something awful happening. My son rides his scooter a lot and stops at every road without fail. Even though he will zoom off ahead, I have no fear that he will cross the road. He knows to stop and wait for us and he does it every time. I don't see my daughter doing the same when she is older and that scares me a little. Some mothers of girls tell me it's a girl thing, their girls display similar attributes. I wonder... 

I do want to conclude by saying that I love my daughter to pieces and wouldn't want to change any part of her. She is a very loving little girl and always making us laugh. She adores her big brother. I know we should not compare children and everyone is a unique individual, we would not want it any other way. I simply wish I could do a better job of managing her little bursts of impatience and her spirited side.

Do any of your children show a bit of an unruly side to themselves? How do you cope with those times when they choose to ignore your every word? Has it got easier or harder to deal with as they have got older?
photo credit

Friday, 26 July 2013

The summer holidays commence!

We have officially begun our summer holidays! It's only been three days this week but we have got off to a good start. Each week I will aim to report on what we have been doing, in the hope you might like to try some of it. I wrote about our summer holiday plans and the play agenda recently, so this will be my sharing of our summer holiday activities.
We have spent a lot of time outside, making the most of the weather while it lasts. We gave our soft toys a bath in the paddling pool and after drying them off with a towel, lay them out to dry fully in the warm sun. Both my one year old and four year old got stuck in and enjoyed the task.
We had an outing with friends one day, went to a park and playground we had not been to before, had a picnic lunch and played hide and seek and chasing games. We stumbled across a discounted book shop so picked up a couple of new activity books to do over the holidays and finished with ice-cream!

One idea I had was to create a calendar for the summer holidays with my son. We printed out an A3 calendar and have started to write, draw and add stickers to it to indicate what we are doing over the coming weeks. I thought it would be a fun way for him to see what's coming up and to be able to count the days until events like our family holiday or even right up to the start of school. I realised we could also use it as a diary / record for what we have done (very simplistically). So for example, as he had an ice-cream yesterday when we were out with friends we stuck an ice-cream sticker on yesterday :-). It's a work in progress but you can see what we've started with so far.
Finally, sweeping up at the bottom of our our garden is currently a favourite activity. We constantly have leaves falling and so there is always plenty to be swept up. My four year old does a great job of sweeping up then using the dustpan and brush to gather it all up and get it into our garden rubbish bag. My one-year old does an equally good job of looking busy! We have been doing a bit of this every day.
What are some of the things you and your children been doing for the start of the summer holidays?

Monday, 22 July 2013

End of an era

My son has his final day of nursery tomorrow. Then it's on to big school after the summer break. No more nursery. No more mornings with me and his sister (he had been going to nursery in the afternoons). I imagine I won't look back on this time with much significance a few years from now and perhaps the title of this post is a little melodramatic but in the present time, it does feel significant. My eldest child is suddenly old enough to be starting school and that feels like a big deal!

I look back on his time at nursery (the past two school years at two different nurseries) with pride, like any parent would and have a lot to be thankful for. From day one he was completely comfortable being there, no tears when I left, as with some of his peers. I was shocked but relieved and pleased. He has loved going each day, being very disappointed when he couldn't go due to chicken pox or whatever. He adored all his teachers, struck up friendships with his classmates, developed his own personality, toughened up a bit too. Teachers and even other parents tell me he is a friendly, confident, kind boy. What more could a mother ask for?!

Last week, the whole family went to his school one evening, first to his nursery classroom to pick up his report and see some of his work and then to meet his new teacher he will have in September. We walked there together and our son was so excited about the whole family going to his school and getting to see both his current teacher and the new one, he was running ahead, singing a song about it! My husband and I looked on at him fondly and told ourselves we should remember this moment, as he may not always be so enthusiastic about school!

This end of an era is as much for my son as it is for me. Come September, there will be a whole new routine to get settled into (our mornings will become a lot more rushed!), he will have new classmates to get to know, he'll be eating lunch at school for the first time, learning how to read and write, to name but a few of the changes to come. He will take it all his stride and I suspect will savour every minute. It seems only fair that I do the same.

In the meantime, we have a long summer holiday stretching ahead of us and I am looking forward to making the most of our time together.

If your children have reached or passed this stage, do you remember how you felt when they finished nursery and started big school? If your child is at nursery now, what changes have you seen in them and how have they liked it?
photo credit

Thursday, 18 July 2013

This week: Feeling the heat

My son and a few of his classmates seem to have been suffering from the heat a bit this week. I got a call from nursery today (first time ever) to come and pick him up because he was complaining of a headache and was generally a bit out of sorts and upset. Yesterday they had their sports day in the heat of the full sun, no shade on the sports field and whilst the event was cut down due to the heat, it was nevertheless hot, hard work. One of my son's friends was not present for sports day as he was a bit unwell and got taken to the cool woods instead, as a distraction.

Silly as it sounds, we are just not used to consistent heat in England. We always get the odd hot week or two during the year but this stretch is longer than the usual and shows no sign of abating. I personally am taking care not to complain about the weather. We've spent months moaning about our long winter and now we have the summer we wanted, we should definitely be making the most of it and I am trying to do just that!

However, for children who are not used to dealing with the heat on a regular basis, it can be difficult, tiring and frustrating for them. So, how to keep the little ones cool and comfortable in the hot weather? Here are some ideas:
  • Dress them in loose clothing of natural fibres like cotton
  • Keep them in the shade as much as possible when outside
  • If they are at home, the paddling pool is a great way to keep them cool and entertained
  • Freeze bottles of water to take out with you
  • Offer plenty of drinks throughout the day; diluted fruit juice or smoothies, drinks with ice and/or straws in them make drinking a bit more fun and therefore help get more fluids into your child 
  • An ice-cream or ice-lolly can work wonders to lift the spirits of a hot and bothered child!
  • Make meals light and easy to eat
  • Cool baths before bed or cool damp flannels over their foreheads/necks during the day
  • Keep bedroom blinds or curtains drawn during the day to help their room stay cool
How have your children been coping with the heat? Do you have any other suggestions to add to the list above for helping to keep them cool?
photo credit

Monday, 15 July 2013

Summer holiday planning

I will soon be embarking on my first proper 'summer holiday' with my eldest son. He finishes nursery in just over a week and will start school (Reception / Kindergarten) after the long summer break. Six weeks will stretch ahead of us and for little ones, even one week can feel like a very long time!

My aim, like most other mothers I'm sure, is to make the time fun, keep busy but not too busy, have a nice balance of big excursions and simple, low-key activities at home or close by.

As my son is starting school after the break and has recently been writing his name, and recognising and writing letters, I want to keep up his enthusiasm and encourage a bit of practice with letters and numbers. If he doesn't write his name once in six weeks, I know he will struggle to write it when he goes to school (he has a long name). I want to make it fun learning and for it not to feel like a chore, that is the tricky part!

Then there's my 21-month old daughter of course, let's not forget her! I hope I can find some activities that can be adapted and enjoyed by her, as well. She likes to copy everything her big brother does so where possible, I will help make that happen.

I decided to join in with the play agenda, a way for parents to share their experiences of the summer holidays with their children, activities and ideas that have worked well and also those that perhaps were not such a success. Leoarna, who came up with the idea, has published an admirable vision for her summer holidays, complete with weekly themes and tons of inspiration for keeping her little ones busy whatever the weather. I was very impressed!

My own summer holiday plan is a lot looser and more a list of aims that I am hoping to achieve on a weekly basis. I don't want to pin myself down to too much of a schedule, nor do I want to be over-ambitious in what we might do.  I want to keep things pretty simple, allow for spontaneity, unexpected visitors / play dates / outings, that kind of thing. That said, I would like to attempt the following each week of the holiday:

A big outing: museum / farm / outdoor fountains / big park / boat trip / children's theatre etc.
An art and craft activity: I've been putting away our empty egg boxes, toilet rolls etc saving them for art projects for the holiday.
Messy play: I don't have a tuff spot (large mixing tray) but I've seen some cat litter trays in our local supermarket that are nice and deep that I think I might get for doing stuff like dry pulses, shaving foam, jelly and such like.
Cooking: I'd like to involve my son in helping more with making a meal, rather than just the usual cakes and biscuits (baking). I'm also thinking summery things like fruit (and veg) kebabs might be fun for him to make.
A play date: we enjoy seeing our friends and I imagine we will have someone over to play once a week.
A local activity: there's a music class I take both children to that will be running during some of the summer and there are some events at our local library so I will take advantage of those.
Send a postcard: I have this idea it might be fun to choose or make our own postcards and send one to a different family member or friend each week (incorporating some writing practice for my son).

These are some things I expect us to do several times a week during the holidays:

Be outside: this would be a daily event. It could be playing in our garden, going for a walk or bike/scooter ride, getting some fresh air whatever the weather.
Go to the woods: we are lucky to have a few different woodland spots within walking distance of our home. We love exploring, collecting sticks, looking out for animals, birds etc, playing hide and seek
Gardening: we're growing tomatoes and beans for the very first time so there's always watering to be done and talking to the plants ;-). We prune bits and pieces and load up the wheelbarrow, dig in the dirt and sweep the pathways.
Drawing/colouring/sticking/painting: I've topped up our art supplies recently and will try to provide a variety of materials etc to keep it interesting
Read books: we read every day of course, but mostly at bedtime. We'll no doubt visit the library as we do regularly and I think we'll try to fit in some reading during the day too, maybe getting some books about holidays/summer/school etc

I could be forgetting some things but the above is my basis for our summer holiday plans. I'm big on having time to do nothing too. Both my children are used to playing by themselves or the two of them playing quietly alongside one another and keeping themselves occupied. For one week during the summer holidays we are going away as a family so that will be one less week to 'plan'! I will let you know how it goes.....

What are your plans for the summer? Do you like to plan in advance or just go with the flow? If you've had lots of summer holidays with your children in the past, what can you suggest as good ways to spend the time?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

This week: simple summer fun!

This week has been all about enjoying the summer, as finally we've had a stretch of consistently warm days. Lots of time outside, playing in the garden with sand, water and a few simple toys. Picnic lunches, homemade smoothies and ice lollies have been enjoyed, along with the company of friends. One day we went to the woods nearby to escape the heat a little, played some hide and seek, threw sticks in the stream, explored and ran around.

I love the simple pleasures of being outside so much more during the summer, as I am sure many of you do too. There is a sense of spontaneity that comes with it and I think as parents we are more relaxed and willing to make the most of the opportunities for enjoying the fresh air and sunlight. We have taken the odd stroll after dinner, which we rarely do at other times of the year, mostly because it would be getting dark or would be too cold. We have more enthusiasm for going on outings, trying out new parks or going somewhere a bit different.

We still have another week and a bit before my son finishes school for the summer and then we will have a lot more time on our hands. I am hoping the good weather continues!

How have you been spending your summer so far?
photo credit

Monday, 8 July 2013

Reprioritising for a better end to each day

A week or so ago, I finally recognised I needed to reprioritise a couple of things in my daily routine. This may explain why I never got around to writing a second blog post last week but the overall result has definitely been positive. It made me think about how it can sometimes be tricky to get the right balance with spending time with our children, having time to ourselves, time to get stuff done around the house, meals cooked etc. Maybe there's even an element of not always wanting to prioritise what deep down, we know should be prioritised....

 My son goes to nursery in the afternoons. It works out great for me because while he is at school, my daughter is having her nap and usually sleeps the whole time my son is at nursery and we are home. So I have a couple of hours completely to myself. I have to confess, I spend most of this time doing not very much. I sit and have a quiet cup of tea, I catch up on some blogs, I write my own new posts on some days, I relax and recharge ready for the afternoon. I do often have a quick tidy up or do a little bit of cleaning but that's definitely not the majority of those two hours.

This was all very pleasant of course. However, I slowly realised I was making the late afternoons worse for myself by not using those uninterrupted hours more constructively. After picking my son up and getting home, I'd spend a short bit of time with my children but would then need to go in to the kitchen and start cooking dinner. Sometimes, this would be fine. My children would be happily playing and amusing themselves while I cooked. Other days and more often than not, it wasn't going so smoothly. They might be fighting over toys, someone might get hurt, there would be some tiredness and whining going on. They'd want to come in the kitchen where I was but would get in my way or would bring the squabbles or whining too close for comfort. I would feel a bit stressed out and start counting down until their bedtimes.

The truth is, I prefer cooking by myself. I like to be in my zone, doing my thing, enjoying the focus of chopping, stirring, or whatever whilst thinking about things too. Unless I am doing some cooking with the children, I prefer to be alone getting on with it. Just like my own mother, I am not really a planner when it comes to meals either. I like to leave it to the last minute, look in the fridge, see what vegetables we have and then decide what I am going to cook. In reality, the last-minute approach is not the best when you are a mother to two young children.

I'm sure you can see where this is going! I decided to use some of my precious two hours after lunch to prepare our evening meal. It really only takes about thirty minutes and yet, it means later in the afternoon, I have more time to spend with the children and any pre-dinner stress has gone! Definitely worthwhile re-prioritising. My son often asks on the way home from nursery what we are having for dinner and now I can tell him, which I think he appreciates too. It also means I get to cook in peace and quiet. A win win situation all round!

Suddenly I wonder why I didn't do this sooner. It doesn't feel like a sacrifice to the time I have to myself. The more relaxed evenings far outweigh the loss of those thirty minutes spent on meal prep. I enjoy the feeling of having achieved something during my couple of hours alone, especially as the benefit lasts through to the end of the day with my children. If I'm honest, I probably knew I should have done this sooner but I suppose part of me thought I was going to miss out on the time to myself that I value so much.

Do you ever struggle with prioritising things on a day-to-day basis? Or realise you spent the last hour doing something that was not urgent and used up time you could have better spent on something more pressing or worthwhile? Out of interest, when do you prepare your family's evening meal?
photo credit

Monday, 1 July 2013

Liebster Award

Something a bit different today, as I was nominated for the Liebster Blog Award from a lovely blogger I've got to know via Twitter, Viva La Mommy. The Liebster Blog Award is an award given to bloggers with less than 200 (Google/Blogger) followers in order to show your appreciation for them and to help them gain more readers. Thanks to Viva La Mommy for nominating me!

As a result, I have to complete the following:
  •   Link back to the blog that nominated me
  •   Nominate 5-11 blogs that have less than 200 followers
  •   Answer all questions posted by the nominator
  •   Share 11 random facts about myself
  •   Create 11 questions for my nominees
  •   Contact my nominees and let them know I nominated them
If nothing else, it's a good opportunity for my regular readers to find out a little more about me so here goes....

Why did you start blogging?
I wanted to try to combine my enjoyment for mummy blogs and self-improvement blogs by merging the two. By sharing my own experiences, I thought I could offer suggestions that have worked for me, for parenting issues and other things relevant to other mums and dads.
What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time and why?
Nowadays I just love to sit quietly by myself, to take in the peace and quiet and listen to what is going on in my head without any distractions.
What has been something challenging you have had to overcome in your life?
Two consecutive miscarriages. Thankfully we got third time lucky with our daughter.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
I can't stand it when a person talks over everybody else and thinks they are the only person worth listening to: arrogance.
If you could be a famous person, who would you be and why?
Maybe Gertrude Stein, because I'd get to hang out with lots of talented writers and artists and have a fantastic art collection! I love the perhaps romanticised vision of 1920s Paris. She was a respected female who had her own career and was taken seriously, not a bad place to be.
What food do you never get tired of?
A tough one....I'm going to go for cheese.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Getting my Masters in art history whilst working full-time and planning my wedding.
Who is the most important person in your life?
My husband, ever the voice of calm and reason, always there for me and without him I wouldn't have my adorable two children.
If you could live in another country for one year, where would it be?
What is a product that you can't live without?
Lip balm. I like the Hurraw brand.
If you could go back to school for something, what would it be?
I've become more and more interested in nutrition, so something along those lines.
And now for my 11 random facts about myself:
  1. I've always loved art, going to museums, exhibitions and reading artist biographys and books about art theft.
  2. I speak fluent French and Italian and can get by in German.
  3. I've lived in four different countries.
  4. I met my American husband in Nice, France.
  5. I have been a vegetarian since the age of 3.
  6. My hair used to be naturally curly, until I had my first child and it lost its curl. I miss my curls!
  7. I am quiet and softly spoken, people often interpret this as me being shy or lacking in confidence but I'm just quietly confident ;-).
  8. I love cooking, everything from trying out new recipes for dinner to baking cakes.
  9. I'm always thinking about our next holiday.
  10. I'm scared of spiders and most creepy-crawlies in general.
  11. I'm running my first 5k on Saturday!
Finally, here are the blogs I am choosing to nominate with the Liebster award, followed by my 11 questions for them. 

Mummy Shambles
White feathers and so much more
  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. What are one or two of your favourite blogs to read?
  3. Who or what inspires you, in life generally?
  4. What's your life philosophy?
  5. What's your favourite book/movie/song?
  6. How do you like to spend any time you might get to yourself?
  7. What's your favourite way to spend quality time together as a family?
  8. What's your favourite cuisine?
  9. What were you doing pre-children?
  10. What do you find most challenging about being a parent?
  11. If money and time were no issue, where would you go on your next holiday?
I look forward to reading the answers from those I have nominated!