We made it!

What a 6 weeks it has been since we made our first steps out of the door for Finley’s first day at school. I feel like I have climbed the metaphorical parent mountain a million times. I have laughed, cried, felt like the best and worst Mom in the world and seen my little man change so much already in such a short space of time.

The feeling on your child’s first day at school is like nothing I have ever experienced before. I was a huge boiling pot of emotions, warning Mr M not to even speak to me when he got up as I knew I was going to sob like a baby if I opened my mouth to talk. Finley looked so tiny in his new freshly ironed uniform (yes I now iron. This is also alien to me) and he could barely balance with his rucksack on his back. I wondered if we were doing the right thing sending a summer born baby to school at just turned age 4. Should we have deferred another year? I wondered how people with more than one child could possible put themselves through this multiple times!

Day 1, apart from a few drop off tears, was fine. Day 2, also fine! In fact the first week was a total breeze. We felt relieved! ‘This is easy!” we thought! ‘What were we worrying about?!’ ‘We are pro’s!’

Then week 2 arrives. And the hell began. Despite him seemingly loving school whilst he was there, we couldn’t get him to go. He would decide before bedtime he wasn’t going and remind us again and again over breakfast. We physically couldn’t get him dressed. If we did manage to get clothes on, he would take them off. Add the pressures of yourself having to get to work and all the other general challenges the mornings can bring. I began to dread the mornings. He had to be carried over to school kicking and screaming most days. One particular morning (rock bottom it is now called) all we managed to get on him was a t-shirt and jogging pants, he refused breakfast, wouldn’t brush his teeth and all he would eat was a biscuit on route. Once we did get him to the school gates he had to be prised off me by 2 teachers. The dream of a happy child eating a breakfast of toast, fresh fruit and a selection of juices had now been replaced by a very scruffy, unwashed child eating sugary snacks being dragged by their very stressed parents to school!

Thankfully, things have improved! We have been extremely fortunate with great support from family, the school and our employers, which, without that support, that last month and a half would have been a million times harder. If you are still struggling with mornings or already thinking about next September, I thought I would suggest a few things we implemented that helped

1 – Be military precision organised.

Mornings run like clockwork here. I get up really early to get myself ready before Finley gets up. If I am stressed, running around worrying about being late, no doubt that would rub off on him too. Bags and uniform, my work items are all ready the night before, and the running order is the same every day. Up by 7, breakfast at 7:30, uniform on at 8 (giving us 40 minutes to get it on him if needed) and out by 8:40.

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2 – Picture prompts

These have been a miracle for us. Finley’s teacher gave us a series of laminated visual prompts to use so he knew what was coming next. Since using these, we have seen a huge improvement in the mornings. We use them for evenings and weekends too.

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3 – Be honest with your employers

Easier said than done depending on your employer, but like I said earlier we are both very fortunate to work for lovely companies. My start time was later anyways to accommodate the school drop off, but Stuart was also able to go in to work a little later so we could both take him. I physically couldn’t have done it alone, so without this flexibility I don’t know what we would have done! My absolutely lovely boss made me a cup of tea one particularly horrible morning! If people know you are having a hard time, they may be more willing to offer a short term solution to take the pressure off.

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4 – Go to school early

If your school has a nice play area you can access before the bell goes, use this as a sweetener to get your child to go. We were leaving a little earlier and using the facilities to ease him in to the day.

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5 – Laugh

Despite the few moments of tears, me and Mr M have managed to just laugh most mornings at the calamity of the situation, playing good cop, bad cop and giving each other a high 5 once he was handed over to the Teaching Assistant. And sharing wine and an eye roll over the top of the glass. Yes that is definitely the key to staying sane!

I should also add that Finley’s school are amazing, so if you are looking for next year discuss the settling in procedures and what happens if you do have a child who is struggling to leave you in the mornings. We have taken him in not wearing uniform, arriving as the bell was about to go and they have also allowed us to go in to the classroom with him a few times when he has refused to put his shoes on, and they have been more than fine with this. Absolute angels. A huge bottle of something is on the Christmas list for them already!

Happy half term everyone!

10 things to do in the Black Country this Autumn Half Term!

I adore this time of year. The weather is – in the main – beautiful. Not too hot, but not too cold. There are so many beautiful colours around and there’s something really special about wrapping up, going out for the day and getting back home and drinking hot chocolate and snuggling down on the sofa watching a family film. There also seems to be an abundance of family friendly activities to pick from. So, with that in mind, here are our top 10 of things to do in the Black Country this Autumn Half Term!

Arley Arboretum

www.arleyarboretum.co.uk

Trick or Treat Extravaganza

Saturday 27th October + Wednesday 31st October

10:00am – 5:00pm

Hunt for the spooky doors using your trick or treat map! Cost £5 per child. Price includes trick or treat bag, map and take home treat. Costs for adults to enter the Arboretum also apply.

Sycamore Centre

www.sycamoreadventure.co.uk

Jurassic Half Term

29th October – 3rd November

Take part in Dino Modelling, Dinosaur Scavenging and and a Dinosaur Hunt! Suggested donation £3 per child

Let’s Get Active This Autumn!

Huntingtree Park, Mary Stevens Park, Netherton Park and Silver Jubilee Park

Tuesday 30th October – Saturday 3rd October

2:00pm – 4:00pm

All sessions are run by qualified instructors and include tennis, rounders, basketball and football. No need to book –  just turn up! All activities are free of charge.

Chilly Kiddys

www.chilly-kiddys.co.uk

26th October – 5:30pm – 7:30pm

27th October – 6:00pm – 8:00pm

A great chance to get your spooky costumes on! Price includes party games, and trick or treat bags

Haden Hill House Museum

www.sandwell.gov.uk

Sunday 28th October – Sunday 4th November – Times vary, contact the provide for further information

There are loads of activities during half term week including a family fun day, mocktail making, pumpkin carving and a family friendly lesson in to the background of the Gunpowder plot. Various costs apply. Contact … for further info

Intu Merry Hill – The Big Trick or Treat!

www.intu.co.uk

30th October

11:00am – 5:00pm

A great idea! Let you little ones go trick or treating in the warm, safe surroundings of Intu Merry Hill.

Webbs at Hagley Pumpkin Carving

www.webbsdirect.co.uk/pumpkin-carving

Saturday 27th – Wednesday 31st October

10:00am – 4:00pm

Children can pick their own pumpkin and carve it with the help of the Webbs team. Then you can light your pumpkin with the free tea light. Cost £5.50 per child

Halloween at Rainbow Street

www.rainbow-street.co.uk

Celebrate Halloween at Rainbow Street with a fancy dress party, spooky cupcakes and a prize for the best dressed. £6.95 for 1 adult and 1 child, £6.00 for each additional sibling.

Little Learners Wolverhampton Messy Halloween Party

www.littlelearnersuk.com

10:30am – 11:30am

Have fun with scary slime, apple bobbing, chunky pumpkins and lots more Halloween themed messy play. Booking essential. £7.50 per child, £3.75 for additional siblings

Geek Week at Mac Birmingham

www.macbirmingham.co.uk

Saturday 27th October – Tuesday 30th October

10:00am – 4:00pm

Enjoy retro games like Street Fighter, Mortal Combat, Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario. £5.00 per child, £3.00 per adult

Any other recommendations for days out? Let me know in the comments below! Whatever you are up to this half term, have a great week!

 

Raising a feminist son

Raising a child in 2018 presents so many challenges. The recent rise of the #metoo movement, the discussion around the support of Trump and only this week the case of Christine Blasey Ford in the US, is just one of the issues as parents we have to contemplate tackling with our children. I have never shyed away from any sort of conversation with Finley and always try and explain things, even difficult subjects, in an age appropriate way.

I was really heartened when Finley was at Nursery they did a Peer Massage session, which included having to check with your friend that it was ok to touch them before you started your massage. I really welcomed this natural, informal way of introducing the issue of consent into their minds. We spoke afterwards about why this was important and if one of his friends didn’t want a cuddle (we are big cuddlers in the Maynes house!) then that was OK and he had to respect that.

It’s really hard to get the balance right. Even as adults the lines between consent, male and female banter, what is ok and what is not ok is difficult, so how do we get it right with our children?! I do really think though, that the younger we start talking about things and making things ‘normal’ the better it is in the long run for our young men and women.

I have also always prided myself on instilling messages of equality with Finley, offering him choices over the toys he plays with, colours that he wears and activities he takes part in. And even though we are a fairly ‘traditional’ household in terms of Daddy being the breadwinner and me doing the majority of the childcare and housework, I am always careful of the vocabulary used around him. Daddy gets a glare if he refers to household items – ie the hoover – as ‘Mommy’s hoover’. I encourage Finley to help me with smaller household chores, putting his own clothes in the washing, laying the table and tidying his toys away.  I have spoken before about the collection of books we have bought him – Little People, Big Dreams, detailing stories of strong women such as Emmeline Pankhurst and Amelia Earhart. I was chuffed to bits when he fell in love with these tales, asked questions about them and chose to read them again and again.  I am absolutely determined that he should grow up believing that men and women are equal and I thought I was succeeding in my goal!

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Imagine my horror then, when a few weeks ago when we were (randomly as you do with children!) chatting about his favourite (mixed gender) band and what they were wearing, he referred to a man not needing to iron his shirt, as the woman would do it for him’. After I recoiled in horror I asked him why he thought that the woman would iron the shirt.

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This week he has asked me a few times ‘what can’t girls do’ and ‘what can boys so that girls can’t’. It amazed me how after only a few weeks at school these gender stereotypes are slowly creeping in. This was followed by ‘Can girls run fast?’ ‘Can girls jump?’ I got some videos up on You Tube of female athletes and asked him why he though that girls couldn’t do these things. Of course, I got a shrug of the shoulders but I’d love to know where these ideas started.

How do you tackle these issues with your children? I would love to hear your stories and how you deal with these conversations in the comments below!

 

Keeping the cost down during Birthday season!

July and August are insane for us. They really should issue a disclaimer when you start NCT and baby groups to warn you that having a group of friends with babies born at the same time as yours is going to cost you fortune!

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As well as Finley’s birthday, in the 8 weeks of summer we have 9 birthday’s. It’s lovely as most weekend’s there is a party to go to and you get to see little people that you are incredibly fond of celebrating being another year older, but it can get a little expensive! I made the mistake in the first year or 2 of splashing the cash on the first few and then realising I was absolutely broke for the rest of them! I have honed my skills since then, and found a few cost cutting exercises!

Birthday

I love Card Factory. I will literally buy armfuls of the cards that cost 99p for 5. Also good when the date of a birthday creeps up on you (you forget!) I Buy unisex ones as much as possible to cover all eventualities! I have also recently discovered The Works. They have an amazing kids section at the back of the stores selling really lovely paperbacks for 10 for £10. They also have a really lovely selection of quirky gifts. I bought Finley a ‘Make Your Own Space Story’ set for £2.50 and he loves it! They do a fabulous selection of arts and crafts too. It’s a great shop.

I always appreciate a practical present personally so this year I bought quite a few character t-shirts. The sale rails in supermarkets are great for picking up bargains. I found boys in particular really liked Batman and Marvel t-shirts this year!

Now he is at school, I’ve been warned that the frequency of birthday’s will only increase! So I turned to my fellow bloggers for some more money saving tips for Birthday’s (and Christmas!)

‘You can get a pack of wrapping paper and a birthday card for £1 in The Range’ – Sarah at Digital Motherhood

‘Sign up for email newsletters at The Works, The Book People and Smiggle – they have extra discounts for email subscribers!’ – Jodi at Maidenhead Mum

‘Redistribute unused presents! Just remember where they came from!’ – Eva at Captain Bobcat

Buy things when you see them on clearance and save them for when you need them – Nicole at Where The Heart Is

‘I usually ask the parent if a giftcard is ok – I only give £5 but kids are so overwhelmed with presents they won’t remember what we got them!’ – Sinead at Sinead Latham

‘Buy them in the January sales!’  – Laura at Five Little Doves

‘Argos have 2 for £15 on toys – great selection too!’ – Lyndsey at Me Him, The Dog and The Baby

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Do you have any money saving tips? I would love to hear them in the comments below!

 

 

A superhero party for a super 4 year old!

My party post is a little late to the party! Finley’s birthday falls right at the end of July so with the August break I am only just getting round to writing the post. I love planning his birthday. I think with mine falling at New Year when it’s dark, cold and everyone is coming down from the high of Christmas, it’s nice to look forward to doing something when the weather is good and everyone is in a good mood.

This year I really wanted to do a proper party for him. With him now having down a year at nursery and having an increasing social circle, plus the imminent school start date creeping closer, it was nice to have a celebration that we could invite all of his friends and family too!

Primarily on the list, was picking a venue. Local to us is the wonderful Rainbow Street, and it was a fairly easy choice for us. It’s fantastic and everyone I know who has gone their child their child loves it. It is a little pretend village, with a post office, shop, doctors surgery and cafe, along with a dress up area filled with costumes and performance area. There is also a great cafe serving hot drinks, cakes, sandwiches and baked potatoes. They also have – don’t judge me – a licence (in it previous life the building was a pub!) so you can also have a little drink if it is one of those days! Having a lot more friends than I have ever had, the 20 children package, which included an 1.5 hours private venue hire, party food including sandwiches, crisps and fruit and ice cream. The staff were so helpful beforehand and on the day. Nothing was too much trouble.

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I loved the Ginger Ray superhero party range. I was kindly gifted quite a lot of of the range from a friend which saved us a lot of cash! I did buy a few items to top up what I had, and items for the party bags. I bought the tableware and decorations from Party Pieces. In the party bags I put in a superhero mini frisbee, a superhero mask, a superhero bracelet along with some chocolate buttons.

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We invited all of his friends to come in superhero fancy dress, but I wanted Finley to wear something a little bit different so I ordered him a Superhero T-shirt to wear. He has had a ‘birthday t-shirt’ every year and it’s nice to put them in his baby box to keep!

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The cake came from the lovely Leanne at Auntie Flo’s Bakery. Leanne has done all of Finley’s birthday cakes and they always taste fantastic and look amazing. We always get such great feedback from everyone who tries a slice.

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I blogged previously about our photoshoot with Nick and Emily Photography and how pleased we were with the results. We signed up for the friends and family package, which meant we could have an addition photoshoot this year with all the digital files for £40. I am so pleased we did have Nick at the party. It totally took the pressure off having to make sure we captured special moments and we just enjoyed the day. And I loved getting the photos afterwards to re-live the day.

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It was a great afternoon and I am already pondering next years theme and venue! Do you love planning your kids birthday or does it become an expensive chore as the years go on?! Let me know in the comments below!

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What to expect…when your child starts Reception….

I am in alien territory. I am now a school Mom. It dawned on my recently that for the next 15 years of my life, my schedule will be dictated to by school drop off’s, pick up’s and school holidays. Not that I am complaining (much), but I am already starting to miss the carefree days of baby and toddler groups on a Friday afternoon, making last minute plans with my fellow Mommy clan for a Monday morning soft play and tea session.

And has anyone seen the cost of non term time holiday’s recently?!

On the flip side, I am so excited for my little dude and all the adventures that lie ahead. We were so lucky to get in to our first choice school and we are so impressed so far in the limited amount of contact we have had with his teachers and support staff. Finley has a total thirst for learning and (here’s hoping anyway!) he is going to relish his time in Reception.

With this new chapter in my life about to start, I turned to my fellow Mommy and Daddy bloggers to fill me in on what to expect when your child starts school. Here’s what they said…!

That your child will have a better & busier social life than you! They’ll be invited to so many parties and play dates that you won’t be able to keep up!

Polly at Our Seaside Baby

Tiredness! It takes a little while for them to manage the full 5 days a week AND be able to function as a normal human. They’ll have short tempers and need feeding and putting to bed almost immediately on their return home-plenty of cuddles, patience and understanding until they’re used to it is the key!

Jemma at Mayflower Blogs

Expect to find out about a non uniform day/fancy dress/themed costume day (every other week) the night before! I’ve never known there be so many this year and they always let us know at the last minute, cue loads of parents panic buying!

Beth at Twinderelmo

The school gates can be like being in the play ground all over again – our alpha mum still terrifies me 3 years after my daughter started school!

Natalie at Crummy Mummy

Expect them to come running out of school towards you with open arms – it won’t be for a cuddle it will be to grab whatever snack you have brought. Oh and they will most likely say what’s for snack? before saying hello. Beware the wrath of a Reception child without an after school snack….

Kirsty at Navigating Baby

How many bugs your kids (and you) get as you enter the new germ pool that is school. Not to mention the nits!

Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders

That they’ll amaze you every day with how much they learn and how quickly they learn to read and write. It’s incredible!

Victoria at Healthy Vix

So here we go…. there will be tears! I have been filling up every time a back to school advert is shown on the TV for the last 6 weeks. Me and Mr M have both booked tomorrow off work and I said in a half joking, half serious way the other day, ‘ After drop off I think I need a stiff drink – pub breakfast?!’ A resounding ‘Yes!’ was the reply.

Finley… you are going to smash it. we couldn’t be prouder of you. Go get em kid!

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Finley…you are 4

My not so little baby boy is 4 today. Everyone says it but I can’t quite believe how fast the past 4 years have whizzed by.

On the 25th July 2014, you came in to the world Finley sausage and changed everything. You will never understand how the hours dragged whilst we were all waiting for you, see how your Daddy slept on a chair for 4 nights waiting for something to happen. You won’t appreciate the volume of texts, the Facebook messages and the phone calls, enquiring if there was any movement, even any twinges to which the answer was always a regretful ‘no, sorry! Check back in a few hours!’ The pain of pessary’s, endless internal examinations at all hours, whilst the sun pulsed outside basking us in a heatwave.

I will tell you the story when you are older of how I finally convinced your Daddy to pop back home for a power nap and a shower at 5am on the day you arrived, only to have to urgently summon him back the minute he had pulled on to the driveway at home. It’s so funny now but at the time everything is magnified, it’s so stressful, so worrying.

You will never hear your Nanny Mary knock frantically on the delivery room door after sitting outside in the waiting area all evening. She was told that Baby M would be arriving imminently after being sent outside hours before. She regularly describes it as ‘the worst night of her life!’ Try not to be too offended – it’s actually a huge compliment to you how much you meant to her even before you arrived!

You finally arrived at 10:37pm that evening, after a lot of pain and pushing, not even knowing my own name let alone feeling happy about the event that was about to happen. It wasn’t textbook, it wasn’t totally straightforward, but we got through it. All 3 of us pretty much unscathed! I wasn’t prepared for how difficult that bit of parenting was going to be. But that’s our story now, part of how you came in to our world.

And as the cliche say’s and it’s so so true….it was worth every bit of pain!

Over the past year, you have pretty much mastered speech. It makes me totally burst with a bubble of emotion inside seeing you practice so hard on the sounds you find difficult. I hear you pottering round the house saying ‘mmmm’ and ‘p’ and ‘d’ just like we do together. You have such a quiet determination to get things right and to do your best at everything, and this is one thing that you are determined to crack. We are getting there, and considering how you spoke so much later than all of your friends, now we cannot get a word in edgeways! I have no issue at all with your endless chatter. You were quiet for so long, your stories, your facts, your questions… I could listen to them all day long.

Your passion for music is totally amazing. You play the guitar so carefully and bash the drums so hard. You know the words to all of your favourite songs, you know all of the albums you like, you know the track listing of each album, who plays which instrument. You love live music and dancing and it makes me so happy to see you so happy.

I love how you sit and read books and how advanced you have become just like I was at early reading and how much pleasure they give you. You collect books and take such pride in putting them on your shelf in order. You love your box of Mr Men books and at first it astounded us how you remembered which Mr Man was which number, now it’s just part of you and we know now that you remember so many facts and figures. You definitley take after your Daddy. I see so much of him in you.

At the moment you are collecting the Little People, Big Dreams books and you tell us facts about amazing women such as Emmeline Pankhurst and Rosa Parks. You love The Gruffalo, Room On The Broom and all the other Julia Donaldson books and can recite most of them now to us, making us join in with you for the funny bits!

It makes me so proud seeing how unbelievably kind you are. You always offer other people chocolates or biscuits before taking your own. You always come home so concerned if one of your friends is upset at nursery. You’ve started putting the news on for me in the mornings when we come downstairs as you know I like to watch it when I get up, and when we listen to music every so often you choose a song I like because ‘I know this is one of your favourite one’s Mommy.’

You always let other children take toys, even if you are playing with it yourself. Part of me wants you to stick up for yourself, but I can’t change you, you are sensitive and gentle and for now at least, me and Daddy are here to fight your battles. In time, it will come to you.

I’m sorry if sometimes I’m overprotective of you. If I follow you around a little too much when we are out in play areas, if I clutch your hand too tightly when we walk about in public. You are my whole world and I feel like my happiness is so fragile. I can’t quite believe how lucky I got the day I gave birth to you and I feel like it could all be snatched away so quickly.

So as your third year draws to a close, and you finish your year at nursery and look forward to starting big school in September, my beautiful Finley, I want to say thank you for making Motherhood so wonderful. Thanks for the kisses, the cuddles and the endless jokes you tell. You light up the world of everyone around you. It’s an absolute privilege to be your Mommy.

Happy birthday to my happy boy….here’s to another 12 months of adventures!