I normally love the run up to Christmas and really get into the Christmas vibe. I love listening to the Christmas songs, eating mince pies, watching the nativities, doing Christmas activities with the kids, watching Christmas films and I even love wrapping.
Ever year I start to do my Christmas shopping in October and I am always nearly finished with presents by the end of November and have December to chill.
However the run up to Christmas this year has just not been the same, we have not been in the best place financially and although I started buying a few presents in October we didn’t quite have the money to continue. Christmas shopping this year didn’t happen until December which then meant we didn’t have a lot of money to take part in Christmas activities like we usually do. Worst of all our national trust membership had just run out so we couldn’t even visit one of their properties and do the Christmas trails that they put on every year for the kids.
Come Christmas eve I was not really looking forward to Christmas we had hardly got the kids any presents and I just thought that they would be disappointed and Christmas would be rubbish.
Every year since they were born I have given them PJ’s on Christmas eve but I didn’t even do that this year, I still got them PJ’s but made them wait until Christmas Day so at least it would be another present to open. In the end all we got them was a board game each and PJ’s and they got a few books and little presents from Santa.
I was so surprised when our Christmas day turned out to be one of the best we have ever had. My worry of the kids being disappointed didn’t come true, they appreciated the presents they got and enjoyed playing with them. We decided to get them all a board game each as after I stopped them from going on their tablets so much a few weeks ago they have been playing a lot more games together so we wanted to get them some more to play.
I think this was the best idea we have ever had as the whole day yesterday was spent playing games together as a family. We played Scrabble, charades and Cluedo in between cooking and eating our Christmas dinner. Playing together bought us all together and instead of watching them playing with their toys while we sit bored drinking we all spent the time together laughing a playing.
The atmosphere was amazing everyone was chilled, happy and enjoying the day. The girls were as good as gold despite getting up at 5.30am and best of all they liked their presents. In previous years they have had so many presents that they just didn’t know what to do but this year having less made them appreciate what they had.
They all spent the morning building and playing with their Lego minifigures and then the rest of the day playing board games. Lia got a football kit from Santa that she adores, Alexa got a little unicorn bag again from Santa that she didn’t take off all day and Bella was in love with her PJ’s as it has a Husky on them her favourite animal.
She is happy she just didn’t want to stop for a picture so put on a sad face.
Sometimes less really does mean more! This year we enjoyed the true spirit of Christmas.
My girls have always been quite good at not spending too much time on their tablets and given the chance would much rather be outside playing than sitting indoors watching YouTube.
However like most of us they start to hibernate during the winter months. When they get back from school it is either too wet, cold or dark to go out and play with their friends so they choose to stay indoors and play on their tablets.
As it got more into winter the time they spent on their tablets became more and more to the point that they would get on them straight from school and stay on them until bedtime. Even when the batteries were running out they would sit on the floor and use them while on charge.
Their only break would be at dinner time!!
We always sit together as a family at dinner and normally talk about their day but when all my youngest could talk about was what had happened on her Youtube videos and couldn’t talk about anything else, that was when I realised enough was enough.
I did look into putting restrictions on their tablets so they can only go on it for a certain time limit a day but all the apps I could find charged and seeing as I would have to pay for them 3 times I decided against using an app. Instead I came up with the idea that they weren’t allowed to use their tablets or watch TV after we had dinner. While not completely banning them I hoped it would work and give them a good balance.
When I first told the girls they took it really well and didn’t moan but if I am honest I thought by the end of the week they would have broken me and I would have given in and let them have their tablets again. I was very surprised by how it went.
Two week into the electronic restriction
I have been so surprised by how my girls have taken to having their time limited on their tablets not one of them has moaned or even begged me to change my mind they have just accepted it and got on.
On the first few days they decided to play Monopoly until after dinner when they could get back on their tablets. Since then they have been playing chess (they have been teaching me how to play it and beating me), drawing, colouring, lego, baking and Lia even decided to raid through the recycling pile to build a house for the elf’s on the shelves to live in.
We also acquired a huge cardboard box for a few days that took up my living room but they had great fun playing and decorating it.
There are days now that dinner has come and gone and they have still been busy making and playing that they have forgotten all about their tablets.
I am determined to keep this up as long as possible. The atmosphere is so much better, we are all talking more and spending more time together and the conversation at dinner time is a lot better.
While technology is a big part of all our lives now I want my children to use and be familiar with it but I also want to find a balance so they can enjoy other aspects of life.
Please do share your comments and any advice/tips that you have on finding a balance with your children using technology.
This got me thinking about the times recently at swimming when I have had epic parent fails and I wanted to share these with you all to highlight the fact they we all make mistakes when it comes to parenting.
My parent fails at swimming lessons!
When we first changed to evening swimming lessons I missed judged the time of dinner and my little munchkin ended up being sick in the pool. The whole pool had to be evacuated and closed down for the evening. That was a day I wish the ground would have swallowed me up. A major fail!!
The second time was when Alexa was getting out of the pool and I went to get her into the shower only to find I had forgotten to pack a towel and our swimming pool doesn’t sell them either. I ended up using my jumper to try and dry her. Fail!!
The third time was the week after the previous towel incident we were running late for swimming and I was rushing to get the girls out the door. This time I had triple checked the bag to make sure I had everything in there. Just as I was about to leave one of the girls was struggling with their laces so I put the bag down and did their lace up then we rushed off in the car to swimming.
Although we were initially late leaving we managed to get in to the car park with 5 mins to spare I was feeling quite chuffed that I had made it and then we went to get out the car and my smugness was wiped away when I realised I had left the bag at home with her costume and everything in. Fail!!
It’s OK to make mistakes!
At the time I felt like an epic failure as a parent, I was annoyed with myself and couldn’t believe how I kept getting it wrong but now I look back and I laugh. I even reminisce with the kids about those times and we all laugh about them together. If I think about the whole 11 years I have been a parent I could probably fill a whole page with times that I have failed.
It is so easy as parents to get caught up in the worries of doing the right thing for our children and feeling bad for the times that we have failed that we forget that everyone makes mistakes especially with the stress of caring for little ones. You can’t be the perfect parent all the time and that is OK. One bad day or in my case 3 doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent or a failure.
I would love to hear some of your parent fails we all have them. Please do share in the comments below.
Last night we were all watching a film together and I was laying on the sofa when my youngest came and snuggled up with me and I ended up falling asleep. That is until she found my phone and started taking selfies of us (little monkey).
Snuggling up to her on the sofa made me realise how much I miss the days when they were younger, when they would all be fighting to snuggle up to me. I used to barely be able to see the TV through the sea of kids that had engulfed me but I never minded I usually end up falling asleep cuddling all three of them anyway.
Now they all sit as far away from each other as they can and only when it is cold do we snuggle under the blanket together, my youngest is still willing to give me a hug but the other two are harder to persuade. They also are more interested in watching their tablets now than the TV.
The only times they want to hug me is when it is time to go to bed and they know hugs are like Kryptonite to me as they weaken me down. Child are very clever and mine have figured out that I can never resist a hug from them and by giving me a hug it delays bedtime for a couple of minutes.
They also use hugs when I ask them to do something. I will say “go pick your coat up of the floor”, “ok, but I want to give you a hug first”, they say as they wrap their little arms around me. Then it becomes so hard to peel them off me to get them to do what I asked when I don’t want to let the hug end.
To receive true long snuggles with my girls they either have to be ill or extremely tired and then only a mum hug will do. Which I am always straight on hand to offer however at the same time I can’t really enjoy the snuggles as I don’t like to see them ill and if they are tired I feel bad keeping them up so late.
I do so miss when they were small, I miss their new baby smell, smooth cheek’s and their squishable chunky baby thighs. I miss their little curly hairs and most of all I miss curling up with them on the sofa after a long day.
I also miss taking them to the park and pushing them on the swing for hours. Our nearest park now is next to the house so they take themselves there and play with all their friends from our street, so me coming along is not cool.
I did once go in and offer to push them on the basket swing and there was 5-6 kids piling on this swing at a time and after about 5 mins of pushing I was spent and I had to make a quick retreat back inside. Although we still do go to the park together and play football and push them on the swings these are only on outings and not at the everyday park trips.
When I look back to their younger years I have no regrets about the time we spend together although I had to work full time the hours I did get to spend with them were well spend and I do have so many fond memories of them being small. I know I hear it all the time but honestly they grow up so quickly. It only seems like yesterday that we did everything together and went to the park almost daily now they just don’t need me as much and at times it feels weird.
However it does make me appreciate family time that little bit more and the hugs that I do get as I don’t know how many years I have left of snuggles and of us all going out together as a family before I lose them to going out with friends instead.
Music is a powerful tool to help build and strengthen relationships especially in families.
Children from a young age are drawn to music and you will often see children dancing away to a beat without a care in the world and when adults join in with them this can really build a stronger bond and memories.
I will never forget when I was around 10 years old and we were at the disco at a holiday camp and my dad got up to dance with me. He was doing a real dad dance and just letting go to the beat of the music without a care in the world.
Although I remember a few people were staring he didn’t care and nor did I, we just danced away. That day he created a happy memory that will live with me forever and that puts a smile on my face whenever I think back to it.
Now with my own children we will often listen to music together and we all get up to dance around the living room. This never fails to put smiles on everyone’s faces and we all feel happier afterwards. We are also not shy about getting up on the dance floor at weddings and dancing the night away together. My girls are usually the first up on any dance floor and we follow not long after.
We often find songs on Youtube to play and listen to together, my seven year old’s favourite at the moment is Michael Jackson, she loves all his songs and plays them whenever she can. When we hear Michael Jackson we will all get up and try some of his moves and sing along as we go. Not to mention us all trying to learn the moonwalk down the supermarket aisle in Sainsburys (the floors are slick and so it is much easier to moonwalk on).
There has been lots of research carried out to suggest that listening to music can have a positive effect on child development and well-being and also help build family bonds. With this in mind we should all play a bit more music at home even if it is just as background noise while we carry on with the tasks in hand.
Music also has the ability to help combat stress and help us unwind. As parents we must have all had a moment when we have been running late for something, we then start to feel stressed and the children pick up on this and start acting up.
As is always the way when you are late you will usually hit traffic and while you are stuck there helpless to do anything the stress starts to build. This is where you need to have an emergency song always handy in the car. Now an emergency song is one that everyone enjoys and that you can all sing to at the tops of your voices like no one is watching. I guarantee you this will melt away any stress and even though it won’t help you with being on time it will ensure you all reach wherever you are going in a happy and carefree mood. Even if you don’t have the music just start singing a familiar song that the children can join in with.
I am not going to hide the fact that I have joined in and sung a car rendition of ‘Let it Go’ at the top of my voice and more recently with all the songs from ‘The Greatest Showman’ and I can say I have always felt better for it and we have all laughed and smiled afterwards. I will never forget the time I drove back from a children’s party with Lia my middle daughter and ‘ Beyonce’s ‘Runnin (Lose It All)’ came on the radio and we both sung it together at the tops of our voices smiling and laughing all the way home. It is one of those memories that we will both never forget.
A study carried out by Philips Research Laboratories in the Netherlands demonstrates that listening to music whilst driving influences mood which in turn can impact driving behaviour. A study carried out showed that listening to music can positively impact mood while driving, which can be used to affect state and safe behaviour.
Music can be beneficial in so many ways, it can help to calm us down, relieve stress, aid sleep and it can also help pump us up before physical activity or even just to do the cleaning.
In society these days is it hard not to be materialistic and want to have the best clothes, newest gadgets and the best toys for ourselves and our children but do these items bring real happiness?
Material things bring short term happiness.
If you ask your children what presents they got for their previous birthdays I bet they will have a job remembering. Even adults will struggle with this question but if we have had a memorable experience then the memory will stay with us and we can recall the day as if it was yesterday.
When we buy material items we feel happy at first but the happiness wears off as time goes by but experiences stay in our mind and create lasting happy memories, that we can think back to and recall.
When we get to our final journey in life material items are suddenly worthless and all we have our treasured memories to think back over and remember the amazing things we have done. It is these life experiences that will help us feel accomplished with the life we have led.
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades says “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
So with Christmas coming up don’t go mad on present that will be forgotten within a few months instead invest in life experiences. Not only will they bring more joy and create lasting memories but when enjoyed as a family they can help build and strengthen relationships.
I recently ran a small poll over my Facebook page to find out if people would rather spend their money on Experiences or Material things. As you can see from the results below 89% of people choose experiences over material things. A few people stating that they just didn’t have the room for anymore material things and that making memories are more important.
Children should be given freedom to make their own choices (within reason of course) this will help build their character and individuality as well as building confidence.
One of the best ways to do this when they are young is to let them pick their own style of clothes and forget the ‘boy’ ‘girl’ labels that clothes come under. You may still need to advise on what to wear if you are going on smart occasions or if you are undertaking an activity where you have to wear a specific type of clothing but for general day to day wear when not at school let them pick. Even if it is a fairy dress or Spiderman costume what is the harm in letting them go out wearing what they want too.
Toys are another thing that children should have a choice over, now I don’t mean let them have all the toys that they want but if you are going to get them a new toy let them choose what type of toy they want whether it be a shiny racing car or a barbie doll.
How our children made their own choices!
When Bella was born I did dress her in cute little dresses with quite a bit of pink thrown in. I have never been much of a girly girl myself so when I dressed Bella I wasn’t overboard with the pink and frills but when you have your first born little girl you can’t resist a dress here and there.
Dresses however were short lived for Bella, by the age of 3 she didn’t want to wear them anymore and she chose to live in her jogging bottoms or leggings and a t-shirt these did still have hints of pink and were from the ‘girls’ clothes section.
When she started nursery all her close friends were boys, who she adored and played with everyday. This is when ‘boys’ clothes started to come in. Her favourite colour was blue, she hated anything pink and girly and she loved Ben 10. We had Ben 10 everything, clothes, toys, watches, bags and even bedspreads. We would watch Ben 10 on repeat everyday, which to be honest I didn’t mind considering the other children’s programs that were about, Ben 10 was actually not that bad ( I secretly enjoyed it just as much as her).
Her toys have always been varied, from a young age she has had dolls and babies but she has also had cars and dinosaurs, which it was the later she preferred to play with. She loved her cars and still does, when she was small her favourite thing was to line all her cars up and drive them along the flat in formation. We have never tried to influence what she wears or plays with we have just embraced what she has wanted and allow her to be herself.
She went through years of being a ‘tommy boy’ and refused to wear a skirt or dress, at school she wore trousers and as long as she was happy with her chooses so was I. Luckily her school never had a problem with her uniform choice as I have heard on the news some schools have. There is no way I would have made her wear a skirt to school when she didn’t want to (although I have bribed her to wear a dress to a wedding but this is slightly different and a one off). By forcing children to be something they are not we are crushing their personalities and stopping them from discovering for themselves who they really are.
Now within the last couple of years she has taken a u-turn she is now wearing skirts, lipstick and even carries a handbag something I never thought I would see but again it is her choice and whatever makes her happy. She also picked the most brightest, luminous pink jumper I have ever seen this is something she would have avoided like the plague when she was little.
That brings me on to my second born Lia, as Bella was so anti-dresses I didn’t really bother with any. She still had pink and girly items of clothing but mainly she wore shorts and leggings. As she grew older she found a love for dresses and I don’t mean casual summer dresses, I mean full on party dresses that she would wear everywhere. She would wear them to the park, soft play, the woods, the beach and of course parties. It would not be uncommon to see her in a party dress rocking a pair of welly boots whilst sloshing about in the mud. She loved everything girly, pink and pretty and lived in dresses, she would have slept in her party dresses if I would have let her. Again through no influence from me or her sister she had her own personality that we allowed to shine through.
Now we skip forwards to a couple of years ago when she found a love for playing football and she would spend a lot of time with the boys at break time playing. It seems the more her love of football grew and the more she played with the boys the less she wore dresses and liked all things pink and girly. It was a slow change over but now she wouldn’t be seen dead in a dress. She regularly calls herself a ‘tom boy’ and picks her t-shirts from the boys section. Even to parties and the school disco’s she won’t wear a dress. She loves her football kits and even sleeps in them sometimes. Although her clothes choice has changed she will still sport red lipstick and nail varnish even when wearing a football kit.
She loves football so much she joined a girls football team at school where her teacher always tells us how talented she is. She plays football everyday, whether it be with the kids at school, her dad or by herself against the wall she is always practising her skills. Again as long as she is happy with her choices so are we. We will support her with what she wants to do and who she wants to be.
This brings me on to my third child Alexa, she has always had a balance of her clothes and toy choices. She would quite happily wear a pink pretty dress teamed up with her ninja turtle backpack. She would also happily play with a barbie doll and ninja turtle figures together at the same time.
It is so interesting to see 3 sisters all brought up in exactly the same way but their personalities couldn’t be more different. The only thing that they all seem to love is Lego and Minecraft they could play together for hours with these but everything else between them is different.
Whether they will stay the way they are now or change again who knows but my only concern is that they are happy. I don’t care what they play with or what they wear as long as they are happy with their choices.
Let’s drop the labels and let kids be kids! They are still discovering who they are so let them make choices that will help them define their character.
We have discovered that a postcard collection is a great way to install a sense of travel and adventure into children. It also creates a great keepsake for them to look back over and remember all the wonderful places that they have visited.
Whenever you travel somewhere new with children buy them a postcard for their collection and watch it grow and become a book of memories to be treasured.
I don’t mean just getting postcards when travelling on holiday as we all know how expensive family holidays are and how little we get to go on them. Travelling and adventure to me is going to any place that you have not been before, whether it be a museum, beach, farm, or gardens as long as it is somewhere new, even if it is just down the road. We have collected postcards from a lot of the national trust places and English heritage places and other attractions that we have visited over the years as well as from our holidays abroad.
You will find most places sell postcards in the gift shops and they are not expensive either. My children love searching through them to find the one they like the most and taking them home to add in their postcard collection book.
Quite often we will all sit down to look through the book at the different postcards and remember when we visited that place and the fun we had there.
If I am being honest with you all, this collection didn’t start because of the benefits I have mentioned above it all started because postcards were the cheapest thing in the gift shop, that you always have to walk through on your way out of these places. It was easier to bargain with a postcard than to tell them they can’t have anything at all. It was when they had a few and I noticed how excited they were to collect another one and saw them recalling the day they had spent there I realised what a great idea it was and how much it can benefit them.
I found these lovely photo albums in Wilkos for £5.00 that are perfect for fitting postcards in they do have other designs but the world map was fitting with the collection.
I would urge you all to try this with your children, it is a great keepsake, it gets you all out and about and it is a collection that doesn’t take up too much room.
Am I the only mum who won’t let my 10 year old have a mobile phone!!
According to my kids, I am the only mum in the whole world that doesn’t let her kids have phones. Both my 8 & 10 year old tell me that everyone in their classes have mobile phones and they are the only ones that don’t. They don’t stop going on!
All the time they are asking for phones and reeling off a list of everyone of their friends that have one and what type of phone they have. I have to listen to them all the time telling me how unfair I am for not letting them.
Why do 8 & 10 year olds need phones anyway?
They already spend far too much time on their tablets and when they finally do go out to play or find an activity to do it is so nice to see them playing together as kids should play, how we all used to play before electronic devices were around.
I feel that if I let them have phones then when they go out to play instead of being children and playing around in the dirt they will sit there on their phones and spend even more time looking at a screen. They are growing up so quickly nowadays that I want them to enjoy being a child for just that little bit longer as they only get one childhood.
If I did let them have a phone, there is the benefit that if they are out playing I can call or text them when I want them and they can do the same to me, but even there is a benefit they don’t go out to play far from the house so I know where they will be. If I was to give them a phone for this reason it would be a call and txt phone only with no apps or internet but then I think that they would hate that even more than not having a phone. Not to mention who would they call and txt apart from me at that age anyway.
We have said that when Bella starts secondary school she can then have a phone, in an ideal world I would make her wait till about 14 years old as I hate seeing young people now just all sitting around looking at their phones. When we were 12 years old we were out on our bikes all day actually talking and making conversation with people and I want my children to have these memories that our generation have, not ones of meeting down the park to sit on a bench talking about the latest youtube craze. They do enough of that at home on their tablets.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this and if you agree or disagree with me, I am open to hearing what everyone else thinks and if I should give up the nostalgia of how our childhood was and get with the times.
It all started the day before sports day when I had my long day at work. I spent 8 hours in a glass fronted office in the boiling heat with only one crappy fan to blow round the hot air. I had planned that night to prepare our lunch ready for sports day the next day and I was going to make a pasta salad but instead I was feeling so ill that after the kids went to bed and Dino left to travel back to London for the week to work I went straight to sleep.
I had hoped that if I went to bed early I would be up early and be able to make all our lunches in time for sports day in the morning before the kids woke up.
As you can probably guess that didn’t happen, it was so hot during the night I didn’t sleep very well and of course I then overslept in the morning. We all ended up sleeping in until 8am which on a normal school day we would have been leaving the house at this time to get to breakfast club but this morning we were all still snuggled in our beds.
When we all did finally emerge it was all a rush to get everything ready, well mainly on my part while the kids pottered about all 3 of them moaning at me that they hate sports day and didn’t want to go. I had finally got them all ready when I realised that I hadn’t done the washing up or packed the food or got the blanket ready for sitting on the field with and by that time they should have already been at school.
That was it, I sent them off to school without me (we live 2 mins from the school and my eldest is 10 years old) and I quickly got everything ready and did the washing up then picked up my bags and ran to the school as quick as I could.
Before I could get to sports day I had a meeting booked with one of the teachers to discuss extra help for my daughter. That teacher was then ill so someone else filled in.
To summarise the meeting it went like this, we have had too many staff absences and a high number of children needing extra help so at the moment we cannot help her, we will try next term, it also seemed to me that they were implying some of the issues were down to my parenting skills. By this point I was a broken woman and didn’t have any fight left in me so I just accepted this with a view to meet again next term when I am in a better frame of mind.
By this point sports day had already started so when I went to the field to get a spot it was packed and I couldn’t find anyone I knew to try and sit with so I ended up walking round to the empty side of the field and sitting on my own.
I sorted the mat out and then sat down and got a drink out as I was so thirsty. As I started to sip that ice cold water it suddenly hit me, oh damn I didn’t give my girls any water bottles or bring enough water for us all. How could I forget their water bottles today of all days, it was a burning hot day and they would be out running as fast as their little legs could carry them.
That was it I couldn’t hold it any more the tears just started to roll, the harder I tried to stop them the more they came. Thank god for sunglasses, I put my head down let it all out and had a good old sob. Then I managed to wipe the tears away without anyone noticing, well I was still all on my own on the far side of the field.
After crying though I felt so much better, sometimes you need to reach rock bottom to be able to bring yourself back up.
I took a minute to compose myself then sort out what I was going to do. Co-op is only 5 mins walk away and it was still the reception classes doing there events so I had a little while before any of my girls come up to do their races so I picked up my handbag up and headed for the gate.
Before I got to the gate I spotted a refreshment tent (you have got to love the PTA) and they had water bottles for 50p each, I have never been so happy to see a refreshment stall. Problem solved, I bought the water and managed to hand them to my girls before they started their races.
After that more people came round to the other side of the field and I managed to find another mum that I knew and we chatted. I felt so much better, my previous troubles now seemed a distant problem. Then later on my children in the older years of the school were allowed out to sit with me to watch and cheer for their siblings, they were in a lot happier mood now so they kept me company.
(My older two keeping me company at sports day)
From there my day got better and I did have an enjoyable day, so did all my children despite them moaning in the morning they didn’t want to go and I even took part in the mums race.
I wanted to share this post with you not for sympathy , believe me I hate sympathy, it is to highlight that you never know what people are going through, on the outside they may look like they are fine but inside they can be fighting a secret battle. Even superheroes can’t be super all the time they all have their breaking point.