The Christmas Boutique (review)

Family Expression Confession are gearing up for Christmas. Yes, really. Technically, it’s still October of course but it pays to start thinking about Christmas early – especially if you’re me, have a tendency to think it’s weeks away and then suddenly realise it’s only TWO weeks away and you’ve not even written one card, let alone thought about presents, decorations and food shopping.

This year I want Christmas to be as relaxed as possible. We’ve had a busy year as we got engaged on New Years Eve, married in August, honeymooned in September and had a big joint birthday party for my girls in early October!

The only way to a relaxed, smooth and stress free Christmas is early planning. I’ve started my Christmas presents planning spreadsheet. I’ve booked my shopping delivery spot. I’ve turned my attention to decorations and have been having a good old browse online.

The Christmas Boutique have been kind enough to send me a sample of their wares, and it’s pretty good stuff – some really fab ideas for making our home feel festive, cosy and a welcoming place to be this Christmas. Their website is the Christmas-devotee’s den of excitement, with decorations and accessories galore. Here are some of my favourites:
Father Christmas Advent Calendar The Christmas BoutiqueFather Christmas Fabric Advent Calendar: We have something similar to this already and the girls love it. What a brilliant idea, with pockets for each day of advent to place sweets or small treats and toys in.

The Christmas BoutiqueThe Christmas BoutiqueChristmas Wreath: We like to have a garland or wreath on our front door at Christmas. It’s a time when visitors pop by and it’s a welcoming touch. This is a lovely example.

The Christmas BoutiqueSanta Sack: A Santa Sack! Says it all really. This one looks like it would fit lots of presents in. My girls will love it.

The Chrstmas Boutique

My daughter’s first school Learning Journey

IMG_5182-0.JPGThis week saw a real milestone for family Expression Confession, as we attended our daughter’s first parents evening.  She recently started preschool and we don’t really get to know much of what she does from day to day.

Until this week, that is! Learning Journeys are a tool that schools use to track a child’s progress against the National Curriculum and the expected level for their age. I was really impressed with how well the teachers had got to know her in one half of a term.

I’m not so bothered about tracking and performance just yet. It’s useful and important – but she is 4 so I won’t be dwelling on it…she is doing well though *quick smug face*.

What I really love are the photos and corresponding anecdotes detailing what my 4 year old’s been doing, for each day that she’s been there. As a working Mum, I don’t even do the school drop off and pick up most days so my information is limited. If I ask she will just mention the names of her two favourite friends and tell me she’s played with them. That’s more or less it. I know she enjoys herself and I also get an array of Elsa/Frozen themed drawings in her book bag at the end of each day and something that looks like computer code (seriously- she likes drawing rows of 0s and 1s) from time to time.

IMG_5197.JPGOnce she told me – shocker – that she played with a boy.

So the Learning Journey is a real eye opener that had my husband and I became engrossed in, with fits of laughter at times. My favourite anecdote was a photo of 4 year old with her bezzie playing with dinosaurs in the sand. The teacher had captured her perfectly when she relayed that she had “shouted very loudly” across the playground the fact that she thought dinosaurs lived in hot countries and often needed a snack.

This is the beginning of our school journey as a family. It’s good so far and I hope it continues this way (I’m scared of the teens – SCARED I tell you!). It must be such hard work for the teachers, collecting all the information to build up a story for each child. I’m so impressed!

 

Forget-me-not-Friday #65

Forget-me-not-Friday
Today’s Forget-me-not-Friday is about my 4 year old’s fascination with bugs and increasing interest in the natural world. She’s been studying the ‘world around us’ at school and it’s lovely to see her trying to work things out for herself.

There’s a ladybird on the ceiling. 4 year old is fascinated with how it stays upside down.

4 year old: “…but how does it stay there?”

Daddy, panicking slightly at lack of ladybird knowledge: “Erm, maybe it has special sticky pads on his feet? I’ll look it up for you and find out.”

4 year old, decisively after thinking for a while: “I know how it stays.”

Daddy: “Really? How does it stay there?”

4 year old: “It has magnets on its feet.”

Daddy: “Ah, yes…you could be right there…”

Stuff I have to remember these days

Stuff I have to remember We all have things we need to remember. Whether it’s work, family life or hobbies, we have ways of organising ourselves – task lists, notebooks, reminders, family planners. I have my own methods of (attempting to) organise myself and my family, but recently I’ve noticed that the amount of tasks I have to remember has gone stratospheric with the result that my brain is saying “Nope! That’s too much! I’m not remembering that for you, so forget it and go and have a long bath!”.

I’m not sure why – maybe it’s because my eldest recently started school or maybe my brain can’t cope with anymore organising after wedding planning. Or maybe my ability to retain information has seriously depleted after years of sleep deprivation! It’s as though my mind has a certain task list capacity that runs out, leaving a trail of ‘failed to completes’ in its wake.

I felt the need to document the sort of ‘stuff’ I need to remember on a weekly basis. I was going to attempt to categorise them – but sod that, here’s an example list in all its glory (n.b. it should be noted I sat staring staring at the screen with a sense of forboding for a whole 4 minutes before attempting this. Also, this does not include my work task list, which I keep at work using Outlook! Finally, it should also be noted you may need a large glass of wine after glancing at this list):

  • Get bag ready for childminder: remember snacks, drinks, writing in log book, spare outfit for eldest for after school pickup and some fruit.
  • Get bag ready for school: remember to include water bottle, any homework slips or forms required.
  • Ask childminder to sign me up for a parents evening slot, as I won’t be there to do it myself.
  • Buy cake for playgroup for littlest one’s birthday.
  • Ensure plenty of clean and dry school uniform is on hand.
  • Remember to check spare clothes bag at school.
  • Get own bag ready for work; get my lunch ready.
  • Ensure school has enough eczema cream, asthma medication on hand.
  • Ensure childminder has enough of the same.
  • Do weekly inventory of eczema treatments and decide if need to order more from GP.
  • Ensure enough special nighttime eczema vests are washed and dry.
  • Order more from GP if necessary.
  • Create shopping list/do shopping.
  • Create ‘mop up shopping list’ and do mop up shop (for things I can’t buy in Aldi haha!).
  • Reserve panto tickets.
  • Buy school disco tickets.
  • Wrap birthday presents.
  • Buy birthday cards.
  • Organise/pay for swimming class.
  • Write thank you cards; remember to post them.
  • Think about Christmas presents and start a spreadsheet.
  • Post passport form.
  • Research new vacuum cleaner.
  • Ring about littlest one’s two year check as I can’t make it.
  • Clear out toy cupboards to make way for new birthday/Christmas toys.
  • Buy new bath towels and mats.
  • Organise own hair appointment.
  • Finally…think about blog and write some decent blog posts!

Er…why do I get the impression there’s lots of things I’ve forgotten already, despite consulting my lists?!

So, my usual failsafe planning methods, which consist of a variety of lists kept on the ‘notes’ app on my iPhone coupled with calendar reminders, aren’t working. What’s the conclusion? Delegate more? Easy to say but husband has his own stuff to remember. Buy a book about memory improvement? Take on less stuff for myself (boring!).

Or maybe just muddle along…after all, this is family life, right? The tasks get overhelming, but the feelings of reward when you do get to have that longed for bath and you sit back reflecting on what you’ve achieved are worth it.

But if you have some tips on organisation, please feel free to share!

Morning survival tips with Belvita (review)

Belvita breakfast biscuitsRecently, I wrote about how I was coping with my 4 year old starting school. I could have really written 3 words: SCHOOL RUN CHAOS! Getting both my girls up and dressed and breakfasted and into the car, finding a parking space – argh! And those are just the days I don’t work.

The work days are another kettle of fish. The organisation required to ensure childminder and school have the right gear and information on anything from what excema medication my eldest needs that day to the fact my youngest has decided she no longer eats yoghurt is astonishing.

I think it’s good to share tips on how to make mornings that bit easier. Belvita are currently asking for tips or #MorningWins. Please share some tips with me, people! Er, do I have any? Well I guess if I really get my thinking cap on I must have developed a few just to survive.

Preparing like a maniac the evening before. I prepare all bags and any notes that need writing the evening before as I know I’ll start panicking and forgetting important things if I leave it until morning.
Setting an alarm. Sounds ridiculous to parents of preschoolers who’s kids get them up at the crack of dawn, but we have been caught out by this. We usually get woken up by our two around 7am, but the other week we didn’t bother setting any alarm and I woke and realised it was 7:30am. Cue utter panic.
-Making coffee a priority. It makes me feel instantly better to have a cup of lovely, frothy cup of coffee on hand first thing. Makes it all more bearable.
Not letting them go downstairs until they’re dressed. Big mistake to let them eat breakfast first folks. You’ll never get them upstairs to get dressed again.
Making them some porridge. I like giving them porridge on week days as I think it keeps them full for longer. My eldest gets a snack and drink of milk during the morning at school but that’s not much if she’s only had a bowl of cereal. So it’s porridge all the way.
Covering the school uniform with teatowels. Ingenious. Whilst having breakfast, 4 year old is swamped in teatowel to prevent spillages spoiling her uniform.

Belvita recently kindly sent me 3 kinds of their breakfast biscuits to review- apricot, choc chips and hazelnut. I have bought these before and find them useful for me on work days in particular as I rarely get to eat breakfast before I set off.

These aren’t as sugary as other similar breakfast treats and they apparently slowly release carbohydrates over four hours. I do try and eat some fruit mid-morning, too, but they are a really tasty breakfast snack! My favourite flavour is the hazelnut but my girls loved the choc chip – I’ve been carrying them around in my bag as snack emergencies.

Hopefully I’ll develop even more morning hacks as I go through the many years ahead of school runs, but for now I’m looking forward to reading everyone else’s!

This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. Learn more here.

Disclosure: Belvita sent me some delicious breakfast biscuits to review, in return for this blog post. All opinions expressed are my own.

How to design a Princess Party in 6 easy steps

Frozen Princess Costume
I’ve had a tremendously busy year this year, mainly due to our wedding which took place at the end of August.

I’ve got two daughters and their birthdays fall very close together – good in some ways as it means I can plan a joint party for them. On the other hand, however I HAVE BIG JOINT PARTIES TO PLAN!

This year, my eldest (age 4) demanded a Princess and kittens party. No surprise there – she lives and breathes Frozen and has a faithful Mog toy she carries with her everywhere.

My youngest (age 2) isn’t old enough to make a choice so had to lump what 4 year old wanted this year. But she does love Peppa Pig, so I had to somehow incorporate the curly-tailed one.

Obviously I wanted to make it as easy as possible, as I was organised out after the wedding and subsequent beginning of preschool.

The party did appear to be a success, as evidenced by children generally wandering around in a daze for the next few days. So here’s what I farmed out to relatives did:

  1. Hired a church hall. Church halls tend to be conveniently located, have their own car park and are not too pricey to hire. The hall we used this year had quite a large space for rampaging feet and a kitchen for serving of much needed tea and coffee for the hard done by grown ups.
  2. Ensured use of a bouncy castle. If you can borrow one or hire one, it’s instant enthralment for kids, albeit a bit boisterous. We’re lucky enough to have relatives who kindly let us borrow theirs.
  3. Set up a craft table. A craft table can be as simple as colouring sheets and pencils, but we were lucky enough to have a creative mother in law who designed a kitten-making table with use of empty toilet rolls, felt and a variety of other materials.
  4. Bought buffet style party food and made a few kitten buns. I love Sainsburys for party food – it’s great value and good quality. I swear I spent £50 and fed 25 kids and quite a few adults. I made sure I did not have to make sandwiches (as I could not be bothered and they never eat them anyway) by buying mainly buffet style food such as cheese and biscuits and cold meats. I also made some fab kitten cupcakes by using different coloured buttercream and a range of sweets to make their faces.
  5. Kitten cupcakes

  6. Used printed cake toppers . My lovely Mum kindly made the cakes (you can see a theme emerging here) and bought both a Princess and Peppa Pig cake topper which looked so effective. This is a great time saver – and the cakes were really tasty!
  7. Played ‘pass the cat’. Ok this wasn’t a massive success, mainly due to the acoustics of the hall. Note to self – take a decent docking station next time. However, I liked the idea: get a toy cat, get the kids to throw it around, when the music stops the child holding it gets some sweets, when the sweets run out the last child standing gets a prize. Perfect and saves on wrapping time of traditional pass the parcel.

Next year, I’ll be back on form and do everything myself (honest!).

Disclosure: I did not get paid for mentioning Sainsbury’s !

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