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!

Cornbury Music Festival!

When the line up for Cornbury Festival at Great Tew Park in Oxford was released back in March, tickets were hastily booked in the Maynes household within minutes of the announcement! For anyone that knows us, you will be well aware that me, my Mom and (very bizarrely for a 3 year old you may say!) Finley, has a small obsession with the band Squeeze! I had been previously to Cornbury back in 2012, long before Finley arrived, and had a fantastic time and knew how family friendly the festival was, so I was really excited to experience it with him in tow! And the fact that our all time favourites were there sealed the deal.

We purchased a day ticket for Sunday,  (not quite graduated to festival camping yet!) where Squeeze were scheduled as the headline act. Tickets were £80 per adult and £15 per child. As well as Squeeze, Caro Emerald, Deacon Blue, Lissie and many more acts were on the bill. Also included was a comedy tent, a kids zone, retailers and a fair, plus  much more.

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We decided to book a hotel local to the festival as it would finish well after Finley’s normal bedtime. I didn’t fancy driving the hour back to Dudley and finally getting him and myself to bed well past midnight after such a long day! It also helped as we stopped there on the way to drop our luggage off, get refreshed and get a cold drink on the way to Great Tew. A great assistance on such a hot day! We chose Banbury House Hotel which was about 15 minutes away. A great little hotel with fantastic staff.

The festival experience didn’t start well. The parking signage was appalling. When it’s 35 degrees, you have an excited toddler in the car and you can’t find where you are supposed to be it’s really stressful. We were told by a steward to go to the orange car park (for which there were no signs) that was located down a road that had ‘no festival access’ clearly signposted at the entrance. Luckily after about 15 minutes of driving around country lanes another steward felt sorry for me I think and let me park in one of the other car parks. When we got out of the car, again there were no signs to direct people to the correct entrance. We guessed a direction and got it wrong meaning we had to walk all the way back the path we had just walked up. When you have a small child in tow this is not an easy task!

We finally got into the park and I am happy that the day did get better! First stop was the fair. The rides were an extra charge but I think this is standard based on other events I have been to. Finley enjoyed the tea cups, the bouncy castle, the heater skelter (I had to go on with him – and got stuck half way down which was very amusing to him!)

We were getting hungry but this point so we headed over to the food area. There was a huge amount of food on offer. Fish and chips, pizza, curry, tea and cake. Finley and Nanny shared a portion of fish and chips and I opted for the falafel and hummus wrap. Again, as expected, the food was a little expensive. £7.50 for the fish and chips and £7.50 for the wrap. But it was delicious. Later in the day we had a stonebaked pizza from another stall (£6) which was very tasty.

I really wanted to embrace the whole festival experience and get my face glittered! Finley also wanted his face painted, so we found a stall that could decorate us both. I had a decoration of glitter on one eye and Finley wanted a glittery tiger effect. For the both of us it was £15. I guess you could say it’s good value – I am still trying to get the glitter and paint off his face 4 days later!

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Next we decided to visit the kids area where we were just in time for a very interactive performance of Robin Hood in the show tent. It was brilliant! It lasted an hour but Finley really got into it – clapping, shouting and singing. Not only were kids invited up to take part, but Mom’s and Dad’s too! It was really fun and nice to get some shade.

We caught the end of the Deacon Blue set, and being a kid of the 80’s I absolutely loved hearing their hits again. Me and Finley had a fantastic dance to ‘Real Gone Kid’ – one to get on You Tube for him now we are home.

So this leads to the absolute highlight of the day… the weekend… the year! As previously mentioned, my little boy is Squeeze obsessed. He watches them on You Tube, knows the songs, the albums, their names. If he could go on Mastermind, I am not exaggerating when I say he would ace them as a subject. We spotted in the crowd the keyboard player from the band Stephen Large and ex bass player and his wife Lucy Shaw. Mama bear instinct took over I think as I had to grasp the opportunity to speak to them for Finley – I can’t imagine how annoying it probably is if you are well known having people bug you all the time, but I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t at least asked them to say hello to him! So I went bounding over like a crazy person confessing our love and absolute respect for them and the band. I have no idea what I actually said! Stephen had to go and play for Caro Emerald who he also plays keyboard for, but Lucy sat and chatted to us for ages! Finley played with their children – it was all very unexpected. I am still a little starstruck and gobsmacked by the whole thing – but so grateful for her kindness and talking the time to speak to us. She was totally lovely.

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Still reeling from my celebrity encounter, we decided to go and camp at the front of the stage so we could get prime position. I had borrowed from a friend a Connecta carrier which was a godsend by this point. Finley was getting tired and I really wanted him to be able to see the stage. I can’t carry him very well now he is so big and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold him up for the hour and a half set.

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The moment I was most looking forward to was seeing Finley’s face when Squeeze came on. He spends so much time watching them on screen, I didn’t know if he actually understood that he would be really seeing them in the flesh! When they walked on stage he was mesmerised. He studied them all then started singing along and playing the pretend drums just like he does at home! It was really magical and an experience I will never forget. I think those around him found the toddler that knew all the words to this 80’s group very amusing!

It was great seeing them live again. Including the classics such as ‘Up The Junction,’ ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ and Finley’s favourite ‘Cool For Cats’ as well as including new material such as ‘Rough Ride’ and ‘Cradle To The Grave’ (another favourite- he even has a ukulele because of this song- I could have watched them for hours. Unfortunately as with most things with a toddler in tow it didn’t quite go to plan and towards the end of the set nature called urgently for Mr F so we had to make a quick escape. However, Me and Mom go and see them every time they are in Birmingham and I’m so excited now for next year when they will hopefully tour again.

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Back to the hotel we headed. Finley was asleep in 5 minutes, covered in glitter and sweat. There’s nothing quite like seeing someone you love fall in love with the music that you love. I hope that his first experience of live music is his first of many. Next year I would love to experience it with camping over the 3 days. I want to fully embrace the whole festival experience in all its glory! Already looking forward to it!

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Top 10 songs tag!

Music is magic. Hearing a song just transports you instantly to a time in your life, a place, a feeling to to a person. We all love music in our house. I have a very varied taste in music personally! Right back to 70’s disco, 80’s new romantic stuff, 90’s brit pop and cheese and more recent hits.

I originally drafted this post for another blogger but I was too late (blame the child!) so I thought I may as well turn it in to a post for myself!

TOP 10 SONGS

So here we go! Off the top of my head (there are hundreds more fantastic songs!) My top 10 songs –

1-Toothpaste Kisses by The Macabees

When I met my then boyfriend back in 2009, I had never heard of The Macabees. He always had their CD’s playing in his car and this sort of unofficially became ‘our song.’ We had the lyrics inscribed inside our wedding bands – ‘cradle me, I’ll cradle you.’ It’s a really special song to me as you can imagine!

2- Real Gone Kid by Deacon Blue

This transports me right back to bring a kid in the 80’s. It’s so catchy and so great to sing along to. I remember dancing round to it in my hallway at my childhood home.
3- Don’t Stop Moving by S Club 7

I adore cheese and this is just the ultimate cheesy pop song. I could dance to it all night. It’s amazing!

4- Black Coffee In Bed – Squeeze

My Mom loves this band, I love this band and now Fin loves them too. This is one of my favourites of theirs. It’s such a sad song if you listen to the lyrics even though the tune is quite upbeat.

5- Sound Of The Underground – Girls Aloud

Another cheesy tune. I remember hearing this for the first time in the car and it just blew me away. It was so cool and catchy. It’s a timeless pop tune!

6 – It’s All About You – McFly

I sing this to Finley and he has started singing it back now he has learnt the lyrics. Tom Fletcher write it for his then girlfriend Giovanni when he forgot Valentine’s Day. It must be amazing to have such a great song written for you and loved by others!

7 – Lana Del Ray – Video Games

This woman’s voice is just stunning. Another one I heard and instantly fell in love with. It’s so haunting The whole album is just brilliant .

8 – Oasis – Champagne Supernova

The whole Brit Pop scene was around during my mid to late teens so anything from that genre transports me back to the a very carefree time in the 90’s! An anthem.

9 – The Cinematic Orchestra – To Build A Home

An absolute beauty of a song. If you haven’t heard this your life isn’t complete!

10 – Eddy Bo – From This Day On

I heard Mr M playing this one night in his office whilst we were planning our wedding. I asked him what it was and knew it should be our first dance at our wedding. It was the perfect choice. Just says it all in one song!

I tag!

Hayley at Winging It With Two Boys

Care at Care Johnson

Nicola at All Things Spliced

Abi at Something About Baby 

Azaria at Being Mrs Lynch

Himley Hall Under 5’s Day

Himley Hall Under 5’s Day has been one of the highlights of our summer since Finley arrived. We have attended every June since 2015. I think the overriding appeal for me is that it is a relatively inexpensive day out  but there’s loads to see and do. Plus there’s a beach. When you live in the Midlands, sand is a big big huge deal!!

We packed up a picnic as we always do and headed out early – traffic and parking can sometimes be an issue. Thankfully this year we managed to get in and arrived by about 10:30. We paid on the door and for 2 adults and a 3 year old it cost £18. You can book in advance and save 20% but I always wait just in case the great British weather doesn’t hold out!

The first thing Finley spotted was the West Mercia Police area, and was eager to sit in the police car and try on the police helmet and put the sirens on. In previous years, the police have chatted to us too but it was a little busier this year so we didn’t get the opportunity to do this. There was also a mini police car to drive around but Finley was a little big for this. Next stop was the beach for an ice cream and to build some sand castles! There is a lot of seating area around the sand area for parents to relax on whilst the children play in the sand. There are also some mini climbing frames and slides too which Finley loved. There are plenty of buckets and spades to go around. Like I said, even a fake beach is exciting for us!

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Next stop was the fair. The rides are an additional cost and there is no cash point on site so always good to bring lots of change. Most were around the £1.50 mark. Finley chose to go on the teacups, the swinging chairs and the bouncy castle. There was also a pirate ship and a mini rollercoaster type ride too.

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We also briefly visited the Hartbeeps tent and The Creation Station tent. The Hartbeeps activities seemed to be designed for children slightly younger than Finley but he was keen to play with the play doh and so some drawing at the Creation Station area. We did a year or so of Creation Station lessons when Finley was a baby, so it’s always good to see the class at local events we visit – holds a special place in our memories!

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As the day drew to a close, I did feel a little sad. It will be the last time I get to go probably – at least with Finley. Next year he will be at school. But it’s always good to remind yourself  that there are plenty more traditions and memories ahead!

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A Maynes Microadventure!

I married a man who loves the outdoors. I must admit, apart from the odd Sunday stroll, I wasn’t a huge fan of anything that involved walking boots or a slight hill incline before I met Mr M. Being indoors with access to electricity was much more my thing!

If you can’t beat them join them so they say, and I am very grateful to my lovely husband for many things, but one of them is introducing me to the wonderful outdoors. He is a little more adventurous than I am, and has travelled to many places taking part in fell races and hikes in the Lake District, the Peak District and even to the Mourne Mountains. Whilst I am not quite to this level, I am a huge advocate of encouraging Finley to be outdoors as much as possible. When Mr M introduced me to the concept of microadventures, I fell a little bit in love with the idea!

A microadventure is a notion described by Alistair Humphries, an adventurer, blogger, speaker and author, and described as a short, simple, local, cheap, fun and rewarding activity. It’s goal is to get us away from the urban environment, away from screens and give us the opportunity to explore and enjoy the rural environment.

On Saturday, we decided to have an early morning breakfast in Uffmore Woods, which is near the Clent Hills local to where we live. The area is brimming with birdlife and Mr M has spotted dear whilst running there too, so we were hoping to spot 1 or 2 if we were lucky.

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We packed up a flask of water and some fruit, porridge and a picnic rug and left around 7am. It was lovely to have the woods to ourselves and feel comfortable letting Fin have a wander around freely. He loves collecting twigs and jumping in mud. He has such an active imagination at the moment, so the world his his oyster and it’s great seeing him make up stories about being on safari and hunting bears and the Gruffalo in the trees!

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As Alistair says, adventure is about pushing yourself – whether that be physically, mentally or culturally. Adventure is all around us and can be done in short segments without having to cost much money if at all!

Finley thought having breakfast in the middle of a secluded wood was absolutely magical, and we even spotted the dear too!

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Do you have any ideas of microadventures you would like to try with your children? I would love to hear all about them if you do take the plunge!