Maisie Draws…

…cat.

Since I’ve removed, “The Many Faces of Maisie Moo”, Maisie has started to enjoy drawing and wanted to put some of her art on my blog. So as of today “Sam Draws”, will become “Kids Art Gallery” and will be a lovely reminder for me of all their drawings. Thankfully this will also mean I don’t have to keep the thousands of art pieces (kids are very prolific aren’t they…?) hanging around the kitchen table.

I love this little cat, I found it crumpled and folded up in her book bag and think it’s a little treasure.

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How to keep an 8 year old boy occupied – ideas needed!

You’ve gotta love school. Teachers are amazing aren’t they? They get our children to sit down quietly and learn things and craft things and play in the playground. By the end of this first half-term though my two school-goers were completely knackered, they needed a rest at home with mummy and I was really looking forward to it. In fairness, the first three days of half term were lovely, the rest were… challenging.

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At the beginning of the week we went to see Nana and fed the ducks.
 
 
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We went to the Botanical gardens for food and a play.

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…and we wandered around Wandlebury with some friends. The weather was glorious and we all just made the most of being outside.
 
 
 
 

It was soooo freakin dreamy! Then, it got chilly and a bit rainy and quite a lot less fun. Strangely, being stuck inside with an energetic eight year old boy Is not very relaxing.

Something has changed since the summer holidays, Sam has suddenly become a big boy. Playing with his sisters is not as much fun as it used to be, playing on his own with his toy figures just doesn’t hold his interest as it used to do. All he wants to do is do something sporty or spend hours on the iPad. I have to admit it was a relief to get him back to school – at least they know how to keep him occupied!

Although all this growing up stuff is normal and good, it’s a bit of a nightmare from a, mothering during the winter months, point of view. Now he’s back at school, I absolutely don’t want every moment he spends at home glued to a small screen. It’s not just the fact that he’s pretty much absent from us when he’s playing these computer games, it’s the subsequent anger he sometimes flashes when it’s time to finish his game and do something in the real world. Somehow TV seems quite wholesome in comparison to computer game time and it’s a never-ending battle to try to keep him occupied with other stuff. He can’t do a club every night, he’d be exhausted and now it’s getting dark, football after school isn’t really an option, so how do I keep him away from his screen obsession??? Really, how???

Even during Isabelle’s birthday party he (and most of the other kids) retreated into the living room for a mass Minecraft session. For them it was brilliant, the idea of all wandering around the same virtual Minecraft world was about as fabulous as it gets. image What about wandering around the real life garden together? Not a chance! After the treasure hunt and a brief bounce on the trampoline by the smallest ones, the garden became redundant, even though it was gloriously sunny and mild! For us parents it felt as though we’d simply put off the inevitable. It was easier to just let them do that than listen to their relentless, “when can we play Minecraft?” mantra.

When Sam’s not playing on the iPad, he ends up complaining that he’s bored, teasing his sisters and making them scream. When his sisters are screaming, I flip. Something happens in my brain that turns me into a wild-eyed, roaring bear. I don’t like it and neither do my poor, cowering children. What do we gather from this? We gather that he needs to be occupied.

As of Tuesday, he’s only allowed to play on the iPad when I’m putting his sisters to bed. So far so good. This is mainly due to the fact that he did swimming one day and went to a friend’s house today. What the heck do I suggest as an alternative for the rest of his life at home? In reality I don’t have the time to entertain him, I’ve got to sort out dinner, do baths and put two out of three kids to bed. I’m pretty much hoping that without access to the iPad he’ll come up with something else to do himself, I just a have sneaking feeling that even when he does find something else to do he’ll still pester me to let him play on it.

So, someone, anyone, tell me what to do with this lovely bored boy. What did boys do in the olden days? I want him to have downtime after school that doesn’t include technology. Please, parents of boys, any ideas and advice will be gratefully received and promptly passed on!

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My beloved, yet bored son.

How Time Flies…

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I came across an old photo album the other day and it only contained pictures of Sam as a baby. These were the days before Maisie and Isabelle, days when Ferg and I looked YOUNG! It was astonishing, I looked enviously at my own skin and my non bag-laden eyes. I wish I knew then that I had nice skin, I’d have enjoyed it a bit more.

Anyway, looking at the album, made me feel all nostalgic and warm, remembering how simple it was with only one child, how happy we were with our little chubby baby. We felt really grown up and even though it was only eight years ago, I looked at us then and thought about all the lessons we’ve learnt and all the things that have happened to us and our families since then. When that photo was taken we didn’t know if we’d have the three kids we wanted, we didn’t know what the future looked like but as a little family we were ready to go through it together.

Parenthood changes you doesn’t it? Not only in terms of looking and feeling older (Darn you to heck, you sleepless nights!) but in terms of priorities. Before kids you can afford to put yourself first, after kids that’s just not an option. One thing I didn’t realise though, was that you also have to make a conscious effort to consider your husband/wife/partner when children come on the scene. I’m not saying that as soon as you have a child you forget about them, I just mean that other things suddenly seem much more important.

I remember quite clearly, how Ferg and I would sometimes play the, “I’m more tired than you game,” when Sammy was small. We would take turns trying to get him off to sleep and Ferg would wander around the spare room for hours trying to comfort him. In the end though, the hours of wandering around would eventually lead back to me for a final feed. I remember nursing him In the dead of night, delirious with tiredness and struggling to ignore the excruciating pain of non-stop breastfeeding. I’d look at my sleeping husband and think, “I’m obviously more tired than you Ferg, I definitely win!” I’d imagine of all the opportunities he would have for a rest, on the train to work, lunchtime… Er… on the train home. In reality, we were both exhausted. Was it Ferg’s fault that he didn’t have breasts to feed the baby? Was it his fault I didn’t want the baby to be fed with formula? No of course not! That was our decision. At the end of the day, whether or not you’re more exhausted than your partner is irrelevant. When you have a baby, you both get really, really tired and struggle to function in the same way as you did before having a baby.

It’s sooo easy when you’re super tired to be snappy and argumentative. Little grievances can turn into big grievances, especially after a day alone in front of Cbeebies, feeling like nothing more than a tiny person’s milk-bitch. If you’ve given up a career or even just put it on hold, then resentment can easily worm it’s way into your relationship if your other half is off at work with their identity firmly still in check. At the end of the day, it’s mentally, physically and emotionally hard work having and looking after a baby. But it doesn’t get any easier by allowing resentment to creep into your relationship.

I remember a woman in my friend’s NCT class who decided to leave her boyfriend when her little boy was just a couple of months old. She had to do everything on her own. She did it brilliantly by the way, but it did make me stop and actively thank God that I had Ferg and that he’s a great dad and a loving husband. I thought then, “This is hard, but I’m really glad I’m doing it with Ferg.”

So eight years down the line, with three children all over two, we feel like we’re coming out of a tunnel. Don’t get me wrong, the tunnel has been great, if a little intense, but, we REALLY enjoy the relative freedom of having slightly older children. We recently celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary by going away for 2 whole nights. Nana and our besties looked after the kids and we wiled away the hours with spa treatments, eating good food, walking and chatting. It was glorious to be alone and not worry about cutting up food, wiping bottoms and defusing tantrums, but it was also just long enough to start missing our little terrors.

These days, my chubby baby Sam is now a lean, sporty big brother who looks after and winds up his sisters in equal measure. Life is more complicated now, but it’s fundamentally good and were still happy. I’m determined to actively treasure it and be thankful for it. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so show your nearest and dearest know how much you love them today.

Party, party, party!

It was Izzy’s 3rd birthday yesterday. She had a mini party with one of her best friends and her brother and her own siblings. Thankfully it was a gentle little party because she was really poorly. The night before she spent part of the evening downstairs with me and Ferg because she felt sooo wretched, so despite being excited about her party, she was really tired and a bit less Izzyish than normal.
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We played treasure hunt, pass the parcel, musical statues, musical bumps and even had an impromptu poster making session. All in all I think she had a lovely time.image image

After the games were done, all the kids played together (apart from Sam who played on the iPad of course) and the adults could just relax and have a natter. It was lovely and easy and just right.

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Next weekend we’ll have “The big one” with family and our besties. This one will follow the same formula but is bound to be more hectic as we’ll have more kids and more adults. What I love about these get togethers is the mixing of friends and family. I love the sense of shared history, the people you love the most crowding together for a knees up. It may seem a bit much to have multiple parties but this is what always seems to happen in our family. I’m sure Nana will throw some sort of tiny, impromptu party tomorrow as she couldn’t come on Saturday, so in all likelihood Izzy will end up having three parties!  (No pressure Nana, but get a cake).

Let’s just hope that my little Izzy feels better by next week. I’m sure that after a week of rest during half term that she’ll be up and raring to go. I’m also sure that after a week of “rest”, during half term I’ll be ready for a celebratory glass of pink fizz. Can’t wait.

Middle Child Syndrome

I recently read a blog post from a young woman, who, as a middle child, felt less loved than her siblings. This struck a chord with me as my lovely Maisie Moo often feels left out and hard done by. Typically I find this annoying, because I absolutely adore her and the idea that she is loved any less or gets any less attention than the other two seems ridiculous to me.

But reading that young woman’s blog I thought, “It’s irrelevant if I think she’s being ridiculous, if Maisie believes it to be true, then for her it’s fact. ” So what to do? How as parents with middle children can we ensure that they feel as loved, needed and included as the others? At the moment I don’t know, but I’m working on it.

I was talking to my Mum about Maisie and she reminded me that before Izzy came along, Maisie was my tiny partner in crime, my cutie-pie side kick. Then Izzy arrived and that special relationship was put on hold as I tried to feed, comfort and hold a baby who wouldn’t sleep through the night. In the haze of those sleep deprived days, Maisie’s need for me sometimes felt overwhelming and I’m sure there were moments when I pushed her away (not literally!) when what she really needed was a good ol’ love-up.

I’ve spoken to several other parents of three, who all say the same thing, that the middle child has this skewed view of somehow being loved less. Across the board the parents say this isn’t true but there must be something in the dynamic of a family with three kids that makes it feel true for those middle kids.

Maisie is such a “good” girl, obedient, sweet, creative, inquisitive and funny, yet when she’s feeling shut out, she’s a little monster. It’s the little monster tendencies manifesting themselves as jealousy and brattishness, that make it harder for parent to act affectionately. If a child is being unpleasant, then unpleasant responses tend to come back at them. This is a cycle that I can see could form over time for middle children and it’s this cycle I want so badly to avoid/break.

I can certainly see how relationships with middle children and parents can falter. It’s easy to plop all bad behaviour into the same category, instead of taking the time to question whether or not the bad behaviour is caused by something deeper. Over years I can imagine that that anxiety and uncertainty can fester, so that by the time they’re teenagers their relationship with their parents and even siblings is pretty disfunctional.

When I put myself into Maisie’s shoes, I can see how hard it must have been for her. We went from spending all our time together to me giving her much less attention and sending her off to nursery. In reality I’ve had much less time with Maisie than the other two. Sam had me all to himself for nearly three years and Izzy has had a similar amount if not more time, as the other two are at school full time now. I know this is the same for all children who get a sibling but for some reason it’s the middle kids who feel it the most.

The heartbreaking thing is that when I give her one on one attention, she blossoms, she’s delightful and she’s an enormous help. She melts my heart and I think to myself, “I must do this every day. ” But then life happens and I don’t do it every day.

I guess it all comes down to discipline. Maisie needs me to make more of an effort with her so I will, I have to because our relationship is precious and so is she. No one else can do it, no one else has the honour of being her mother, that’s my job and it’s a job that I want to get right. It’s not that she doesn’t need her Dad because she does and she adores him, but she needs my affection and attention more at the moment.

I wish it were as easy as it sounds, I wish I could just tell Maisie how fantastic I think she is and for her to believe me. All I hope it’s that when she’s a young woman, she won’t be writing blogs about how unloved she feels, she’ll be writing blogs about other more exciting things, secure in the knowledge that my unconditional love for her is limitless.

Sent from my Sony Xperia™ smartphone

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A Gift Idea – The Children’s Picture Dictionary

imageI discovered this gorgeous book whilst reading Fancescas Romana Correal’s post, “Fearless Motherhood Maybe Just Means Love.”

It’s a beautiful, illustrated children’s dictionary, printed in the early 1950′s and after trawling the net it would appear there are still plenty around to buy second hand. This one is going to be a gift for my beautiful Goddaughter’s 3rd birthday, as she loves books and this has wonderful drawings for now as well as lovely descriptions for when she’s a bit older.

What I love about it, is that it contextualises all the words. I always find this to be the best way to describe a word to a child as it brings the word to life and allows you to apply meaning.
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Apart from anything else it’s just a beautiful book, the pictures are really retro and charming and because they are all so old, they are all individually worn. I got this one via Abe Books And this link should offer a selection of sellers who have the book in stock.

So if you fancy bucking the trend and finding something a little bit different and special then this is a great option. Even if the child doesn’t like it, I bet the parents will!

An Update on The Status of my Breastfeeding Antics.

You may or may not be interested to know that I have finally given up breastfeeding Izzy. In total, I fed her for 34 months. My first ever midwife once told me that breastfed children are very clever, if this is true then Izzy’s going to be a genius.

I pretended to give up in August this year but really gave up mid September. This came about after Fergus, my very pro-breastfeeding and tolerant husband, began to hint that it might be time to consider life without a baby/almost fully grown child stuck to my boobs. I knew that when Ferg began to think enough was enough that maybe enough really was enough.

By this stage we were down to just one marathon feed at bedtime. I would love to say that I was reluctant to give it up because my breasts were heavily laden with milk and the desire to nurture my last child just overwhelmed me, but there was barely any milk left in the old dears by then. No, the fact is that an hour long breast-feeding session gave me the chance to have a ruddy good read.

Oh the joy! The other two kids were downstairs silently watching telly, (they knew better than to invoke my wrath by interrupting “Izzy’s bedtime routine.”) and I was lying in bed, snuggling my very snugly Izzy and reading a good book. Does life get any better?? Any Mum knows, that a bit of quiet time where you get to do something you love, is a very precious thing. So precious in fact that I was extremely reluctant to give it up. The idea of losing my little oasis of peace and calm in an otherwise hectic and full day was quite frightening.

Anyway, one day, when Izzy said she wanted, “dudu”, as we called it, (Bit embarrassing, but at least not as bad as “bitty”) I just said no. I told her she was a big girl now and didn’t need it any more. It was awful! She looked up at me with her big, mournful baby-blues and seemed so confused and sad. My resolve obviously wavered but I stood firm. She kept asking for a few days or so and then stopped. Just like that, done. I was gutted, I’d secretly hoped she’d put up more of a fight and give me an excuse to start again. But of course she didn’t because she didn’t need it any more.

It’s usually such a joyful occasion when our kids reach their milestones, but sometimes it’s quite sad and signifies the end of an era. At least I can say with certainty that I gave this particular era all I had. Bye bye milky boobs, you’ve been super.

My little Izzy. So totally OVAH breastfeeding. Yeh, she is quite big and yeh it did look a bit weird.IMG_3061.JPG

Deep Breath and Relax.

I haven’t written a blog post for ages. The trouble is I had a rather unfortunate epiphany. One day after school, when I was writing a post and all three children were crawling on me and screaming, I realised that I was blogging to escape. By blogging I was actually just avoiding doing actual mothering. The house was a mess, meals were late and I was snapping at the kids when they wanted something (food mainly) because I was in the middle of writing.

It turns out my children expected me to do actual stuff for them. You know, cook, make sure they had clean clothes, get them to school on time, those inconvenient old chestnuts. I found that whenever I sat down to write a blog post or do anything at all on my iPad, the kids would just freak out. If I was standing up and being productive in a way that benefitted them, then they’d play beautifully and crack on with stuff. So, I decided to stop writing for a while and start actually responding to and interacting with my children. Weird huh? I’m very jealous of bloggers who manage to do it all, but in the end I’m not one of them, so there’s no point in sweating it.

So why are you blogging now? I hear you cry in outrage? Well, after 8 years of breeding and having at least one little person at home, Izzy, my smallest and noisiest child, has started nursery! I have real, spare time to do my own thing. Imagine that! So, the other day, I dusted off my laptop and started writing again, I found some old kids poems I wrote ages ago and am thinking of sending them off to some agents. (Please note that I am still only “thinking” about doing this, any actual doing is still a long way off…)

The good thing about my little blogging break was that I had a chance to think about what I want to write and learned some good lessons along the way. I’ve decided not to do product reviews unless I already use and love the product, (N.B. I will of course happily review diamonds, the new Volvo XC90 or any designer handbags) and to stop The Many Faces Of Maisie Moo. It turns out that Maisie became really paranoid about her smile and didn’t want to be in pictures anymore, (Nice, well done me.)

I’ve also had a chance to learn some decent mothering lessons. Here they are in all their glory.
1. Get up earlier. Turns out, it gives you more time in the morning, who knew?
2. Don’t ever sit down or relax when the kids are awake, it unsettles them and makes them wild.
3. Let the children play with play dough whenever they want. It keeps them happy for ages. I know it’s messy, but since I’ve learned how to sweep, mess is not horror it once was.
4. Let them ruin the play dough by mixing it up. (That one still makes me sweat but deep breathing and simply not looking helps enormously.)
5. Shouting doesn’t work. (I still do it, but whilst I’m doing it I’m thinking, “This isn’t working.”) Babysteps.
6. Wine doesn’t help. (Controversial I know, please don’t hit me.)
7. Don’t even try talking to another adult when there are children in the room. You can’t hear what you’re saying and neither can the adult your trying to talk to. I’ve discovered after eight years of tireless research that all children react very badly when they think you’re about to finish a sentence. That’s science.
8. If one of the children hates doing a club you’ve forced them to do then just let them stop doing it. Life’s too short. Having said that I’m sticking with Izzy’s ballet class for a little bit longer, as I’m sure she’s growing to love it.

The long and short of it is, life had been much less stressful and much more streamlined for the past few months. Let’s just hope that now I’ve started blogging again that I can resist the temptation to hide from the children whilst writing about what fun we’re having…

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Review of “Where’s The Scone?” By Beth Dexter-Smith. Illustrated by Calvin Innes

I was recently sent some books to review from the guys at My Little Big Town. One of them was, “Where’s the Scone?” This is a fun little rhyming book, probably best suited to the 18 months to 3yr old age bracket. My Little Big Town specialise in making slightly wacky or gross books that seem to be very appealing (well certainly to my unsophisticated bunch.) to kids. This particular book is a counting book, but the reason it’s rather interesting is that the creatures it uses are not the normal, “cow”, “chicken”, “dog” that you tend to find in most other basic counting books. Instead they use, “Gnu”, “Yeti” and “Llamas” as cheeky alternatives! As far as I’m concerned, any book that uses out of the ordinary language is good. Also the fact that some of the animals eat strange or unexpected meals makes my toddler giggle and ask what the foods were like, again a good thing.

At the back of the book there are some items to search for in the pages of the story. This in itself is fun as it draws the story out (small children books are over so quickly!) without turning it into something that your child will lose interest in.

The illustrations are bright and engaging and really suit the jolly tone of the book. At the end of the day though, the only thing that really matters is that my 2 year old loves it. This was a lovely book to receive and I thoroughly recommend it!

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