A little acting debut, confidence and other musings

It’s been a week of firsts this week – my 4 1/2 year old had her first school sports day and also took part in her first drama production that she’s recently been rehearsing for with her Saturday drama group, the Drama Mob, Didsbury, Manchester.

Drama is a great way to build confidence in young people.  Our feisty 4 year old has always been a confident sort but we still want to ensure we build on and maintain this, developing her confidence in different situations. She’s constantly watching Disney princess films and driving me mad by stealing my chairs, placing them in the middle of the living room floor, standing on them and belting out songs and scenes – so we were pretty sure she’d love a bit of drama!

When you think about it, so much in life is based on our ability to present ourselves confidently in front of others.  Whether its a verbal exam, a job interview, presentation at a meeting or asserting your rights in some matter or other (anyone want to have a sharp word with that idiot parking across our driveway??), skills in confidence, public speaking and just general self-belief are the way to go.

These are all things I struggled with for quite a time when I was younger.  The thought of appearing on a stage would be like telling me I was about to die a horrible, painful death or that ten thousand spiders were about to descend on my bed at night and crawl into my ears.  I was just very unconfident and for me, I’ve had to ‘unlearn’ those feelings over time and teach and demonstrate to myself that I can do it.

For our girls, I want this to be a more natural process, for them to feel this confidence from a young age. I think the drama classes are part of suite of parenting tools (like it? ‘suite of parenting tools’ – just call me 3-day nanny) we can use, alongside the more obvious things like reinforcing pride and demonstrating belief in them, choosing a good school that focuses on resilience and confidence, dealing with inevitable issues and crises that will arise throughout childhood and adolescence…yeah just those!

first drama show age 4 years the drama mobAnyway, back to the show! It was a summer production based on Matilda the Musical.  Our 4 year old has been attending classes every Saturday morning that last for 1 hour (more during rehearsals. S’brilliant. I get to go for coffee and read an actual newspaper).  Each Saturday I drop her off and when I pick her up she’s beaming- she loves it.

I admit I was nervous for her on the night of the production.  I knew a little of what she’d be doing as we had snippets of songs, lines and a poem to practice and learn.  But really, it’s her thing. I didn’t know much more than that (although I did manage to look through the keyhole of the door to the group once before pickup and caught a lovely rendition of ‘Miracle’ from Matilda).

She’s so confident at home, but I honestly didn’t know if she’d be struck with stage fright when she walked out to the stage and saw a crowd of 300 people watching her! Luckily, she has friends in the same group which will have helped a lot – but the talent of the group leaders shone here as ALL the kids were completely comfortable.

Being one of the younger group, she was mainly in the chorus singing songs, dancing and with just a couple of lines, which she delivered perfectly (I was on the edge of my seat having kittens- hubs thought I was bonkers), as did her friends.  She sang her songs and did her little routines with the others and enjoyed every minute.

All of the children did well actually and some of the older ones were amazing, delivering long performances on their own and complex lines and role play. I don’t know a great deal about drama but I do know that the audience enjoyed the production a lot and that this must have taken a lot of team work and effort on the part of the children and leaders! There were some comedy moments too, with the littler ones shouting “hello mummy!!!” when they saw their parents in the audience (including mine!).

For me, it was also a realisation that she’s becoming more and more independent and just getting on with it on her own.  I don’t knew why I expected otherwise, but I continue to be amazed that I could just drop her off for rehearsals and pick her up after the show and she didn’t need me at all.

Well done our eldest little girl.  We look forward to many more performances in the future! 

Gro-bed zip-in toddler bedding (review)

Gro-bed bedding review

“Daddy come and see! Mummy bought me a new duvet and it’s absolutely, totally cool!”

This was the fantastically cute reaction from my 4 1/2 year old when she first saw her new zip in bed – the Daisy Dreams Gro to Bed for single beds.

When my children were younger, we used Gro Bags for sleeping which were really lovely, great designs and comfortable.  We also have a Gro Clock which was invaluable when my eldest went to through a stage of getting up in the night.  We still use this now – setting the clock to a designated time (at least 7am please!) when the ‘sun’ appears on the clock face.

I hadn’t heard of the Gro to Bed range until recently when we were given the chance to review the set mentioned above.  

The Gro-to-bed range  is produced with the comfort and safety in mind and features an innovative zip in system to ensure that your child won’t kick free of the bedding during the night or fall out of the bed.  There are lots of designs, including a ‘Jolly Jungle’, ‘All Aboard’, ‘Alfred and the Aliens’ and more.  We chose the Daisy Dreams design as basically we need any purchase to involve pink and girliness or my 4 year old won’t even contemplate it.

Falling out of bed has been an issue for us recently as our 4 year old likes to cuddle up to the very edge of her bed, inevitably toppling out.  We found the zip-in feature really helpful and have had no further falling out events, meaning no get ups for the olds in the middle of the night (yay!).  

The bottom sheet also has an elastic cord that you can place around the mattress, keeping the whole set in place, and an integrated pillow case.  I thought I would find all this unwieldy to wash and dry, but it’s actually been really easy if not easier to manage – I don’t have to mess around with separate bottom sheets, pillow cases and duvet covers, I can just put the whole lot on at once. I also love the quality of the material which is 100% cotton, soft and comfortable.

What’s been really nice to see is my little one’s reaction to it.  She loves it and wants to show her friends when they visit our house for playdates.  My only issue is she won’t have anything else on her bed so I’ve got to get it washed and dried in a day! (maybe we should buy a second set!).

Disclosure:  I was provided with the Daisy Dreams Gro to Bed for single beds set free of charge in return for this review.  All opinions are my own.  The sets range from £49.99 to £59.99 and can be purchased from the Gro Company website or retailers such as John Lewis.

Comedy guide to potty training

IMG_0307.JPGPotty training is HARD WORK.  The potty training period may only be for a short period of time but places a lot of extra pressure on busy parents, especially when there’s an older sibling to look after (or more? And maybe a younger one, too? Argh! The mind boggles…).

I’m currently in the process of potty training my 2 ½ year old girl, with her 4 ½ year old sister in tow.  I’m not going to blog about the practicalities of potty training as there’s already a wealth of material, for example this handy guide from NHS Choices or this one from NetMums.

What I can do however is lighten the mood for any potty training Mum/Dad/Grandparent/anyone who happens to be in charge at the time by highlighting the sheer comedy of the whole thing.

The one principle of my guide is this: always keep your sense of humour to hand (otherwise you may cry/bang your head against the nearest wall/take solace in wine and cake).

The stage we’re at with the potty training is the ‘not quite out of nappies when outside the house, but doing reasonably well enough to wear knickers in the house’ stage i.e. the littlest one will do something on the toilet or potty if I take her there and sit her on it at relevant intervals, but she hasn’t quite twigged the bit about asking to go, when she needs it.

The other day, I had left her in knickers in the lounge with the potty in sight, saying “remember to sit on the potty when you feel wee wee coming”.  As I was making myself (yet another) coffee, I heard her shout “MUMMY I DONE A WEE WEE ON THE LEGO!!”  And yes indeed, that wasn’t the best place to have an accident as it then took me quite a decent length of time to disinfect every bit of urine-tainted Lego.

It struck me that there are infinite places to have wee accidents.  Here are just a few I’ve so far experienced (and I’m sure there’ll be many more):

  • On the leather sofa
  • Whilst standing up on a high chair, this sending an amazing cascade of wee whooshing down from a great height to the kitchen floor
  • Next to the actual toilet, on the floor
  • Next to the bath, discovered as I was about to step into my evening bath filled with essential oils (“ooh, it smells a bit different tonight, maybe the batch of lavender was a bit off?…oh…)
  • In our bed, amidst a Sunday morning breakfast in bed
  • In a plastic box containing pretend picnic-ware
  • In a play-tent
  • On the decking in the garden
  • At the foot of the stairs

Just yesterday, I counted 4 accidents in just one afternoon.  However on other days my littlest one is soooo good she gets loads of stickers on her reward chart (and a lot of chocolate treats!).

I’d like to hear your comedy experiences of potty training. It’s hard work, but I assure you that a slightly insane laugh here and there lightens the load!

Surviving the school holiday meltdown

I’m a bit late with this post, the Easter school holidays being over and all that, but hey – THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS ARE OVER AND I SURVIVED (just)!

Tear my hair out, me? Never.
Tear my hair out, me? Never.
School holidays must be difficult for a 4 year old to understand.  My little girl started preschool last September – so to her she gets used to one routine, then it stops and she’s plunged into another for a week or so.  It must be confusing.

Luckily, she does tend to take these things in her stride. She asked the odd question, such as “when is it school again?” or “when can I see my friends again?” but on the whole she’s ok.

I’ve heard other parents talk about it over the years, telling others how their kids turn into ‘excorcist child’ over holiday periods and I find it difficult to understand. Surely they love being on holiday? Why should it turn them into complete terrors that their parents find difficult to deal with?

My 4 year old, despite being generally laid back about the holidays, is nevertheless not immune to this school holiday meltdown ‘thing’, I recently found out.  

It was a usual Sunday.  4 year old had played up a little in the morning (should have seen the warning signs!) but nothing major.  It was raining and we were discussing what best to do.

Going to John Lewis to get both girls’ feet measured seemed like a good idea at the time.

It wasn’t. 

The journey in the car to John Lewis was reasonable.  A few screams relating to “I WANT A SNACK!!” and “I’VE DROPPED MY CAT!” jangled the nerves slightly, but still normal-ish.

We arrived at the Clarks shoe department in John Lewis.  It was busy as everyone had the same idea.  There was a ticketing system.  I got my ticket and ambled around looking at shoes, waiting.

At which point 4 year old decided to run around the whole shoe area in repeated circles, yelling “IS IT MY TURN?, IS IT MY TURN?”.  A few heads turned, looks of incredulity/pity on their faces.  I decided to calmly ask her to quieten down and wait her turn.

Mr Expression was already not coping well at this point.  I thought he’d make a swift exit to the Hi Fi department, but all credit to him. He stayed for the whole sorry episode.

It was our turn for foot measuring – phew! A kind (already slightly harassed from the amount of kids she’d dealt with that day) lady brought the ‘foot measuring tool’ over to us.  4 year old does sit down, although she’s wriggling like she’s got a whole bee hive in her pants. 

“Can you keep still a second?” the assistant said.  Luckily, 4 year old kept still for long enough for the measuring to be complete. 

At which point I made the mistake of asking for some sandals to try on.  Cue 4 year old running up and down pulling shoes off the shelves and shouting loudly. At this point I wanted to leave of course, but thought of the poor lady who had disappeared behind the scenes to find a neat little selection of sandals.

My nerves were in a heightened state by the time she returned, but 4 year old stayed still for long enough to try a pair on.  The lady said “could you walk up and down a bit?”

Wrong thing to say. 4 year old legs it.  LEGS it, to the sound of the lady saying, voice slightly strained and quite panicky “come back!!”

Everything went downhill from that point onwards of course, and ended with 4 year old lying on the floor shouting repeatedly “I WANT ALL OF THEM!” when asked which pair she liked best.  Many parents were looking over, feigning annoyance but no doubt thinking they were glad it wasn’t their child for once.

I should also point out that our youngest, 2 1/2, was rather savvy in spotting a point to make herself look positively angelic in the face of chaos.  In the midst of all this, she calmly walked up to a pair of silver sandals, pointed to them and said to me “Mummy, please may I have these for Christmas?”

It’s a difficult one.  I have to remember that my eldest is only 4 and the only way she has to vent her frustration is to…er run round department stores and cause mayhem.

Note to self: next time it’s a holiday rainy day, choose a soft play centre! Or at least somewhere my energetic girl can let off some steam and run around to her heart’s content.

(And I may invest in my own shoe measuring tool!)

Image credit: womenshealthmag.co.uk

Room on the Broom Live on Stage at The Lowry (review)

room on the broom live

Yesterday we went to see Room on the Broom Live at The Lowry in Manchester together with my fellow blogger Hodge Podge Days

Those with preschool children may be familiar with the book by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler.  It’s a simple and engaging tale of a witch and her cat, their broomstick and the animals they meet during an exciting journey to tackle a dragon.

I love The Lowry as a venue.  We’ve previously seen plays and pantomimes here.  The Lowry theatre is spacious and welcoming, the seating comfortable and facilities great.

But also, post-production there’s lots to see and do afterwards, whether it’s shopping, eating in one of many restaurants or simply taking scooters or bikes along the quays.

Room on the Broom Live was a great hit with my girls who are aged 4 and 2.  It’s not easy to keep the attention of children this age, but they were gripped for the full hour or so (I think it was just over an hour).

The production, by the Tall Stories Theatre Company, involved a mix of singing, puppetry and interaction with the audience. My two were singing “Iggety-Ziggety-Zaggety-Zoom” all the way home!

The dog, parrot and frog in the book were represented by the puppets which were cleverly handled by the four actors on stage. My favourite was the Frog, who sang his song in true cowboy style!

My little ones loved the Cat, however, played by Emma McLennan.  She was so funny and bossed the other animals (and the Witch) around brilliantly!

room on the broom live

Afterwards, we scooted around the quays, took a glimpse at the Blue Peter garden in the sun and my girls played in the play area while I had a well-deserved coffee! A brilliant day out!

Disclosure: We were provided with complimentary tickets to Room on the Broom Live by The Lowry.  All opinions expressed are my own.

How to fit a week’s worth of activities into one day

This probably seems like a silly title; who wants to fit a week’s worth of activities into one day?  Me, seemingly.  I’ve been finding it very difficult to unwind recently.  I’m always doing stuff – my life is a timetable of events and activity from washing and meal planning to remembering birthday parties and putting the school library book in the book bag on time.  It’s fun because I have two beautiful daughters; I’m doing this for them and I’m blessed to be able to spend this time with them. But it’s a mad and chaotic type of fun.

I was wondering why I was feeling like this one day recently, and that evening I happened to be at a friend’s house.  She asked me how my day had been so I reeled off what I’d done, after which she said “wow, that’s like a week’s worth of activity in one day!”

This is how that day went:

– Get up, get everyone ready and breakfasted for the school run.

– Do the school run.

– Take the littlest one, not yet of school age, with you for a coffee with a friend (phew- a sit down!).

– Finish coffee, take littlest one to her playgroup.

– Leave the playgroup to collect 4 1/2 year old from school at lunchtime.

– Remember with a slight panic that you need to go shopping and have left yourself very little time to do this in your schedule.  Decide to go shopping that minute, before lunch.

– Go shopping, two children in tow.

– Go home for lunch.

– Panic that it’s actually sunny and the children ought to be outdoors.

– Make a picnic lunch for them to eat in the garden.

– Panic that it’s a ‘good drying day’ and you need to get the washing on the line.

– Put washing on line and put more washing in the washer.

– Panic about an email you sent at work the other day.

– Check work emails.

– Get stuff together to take 4 1/2 year old for her swimming lesson.

– Take them both to the lesson. Sit watching, holding onto 2 1/2 year old while 4 1/2 year old swims.

– Bring them home.

– Make tea for them.

– Bring washing in off the line.

– Get the children in the bath.

– Put the washing away.

– Husband returns home; disappear to bath, shut the door firmly in everyone’s face and put earplugs in.

I did actually bore myself rather a lot writing that list.  I almost gave up in the middle to start writing about egg painting (another story).

We had a good time together that day, but it’s not surprising that after such exhaustive activity (I think I used the word ‘panic’ three times there?) my brain finds it difficult to switch off, regardless of earplugs and firm door-shutting.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I’m looking for ways to become ‘calm parent’ rather than ‘frazzled parent’.  Do I put myself under too much pressure to have everything ‘just so’?

I’ve been reflecting recently on ways to wind down and I’ll be writing another post about this shortly.  In the meantime, here’s a photo of my escape room: every night, around 7:30pm you’ll find me in here.

 

bathroom roll top bath purple lighting
The sodding toddler step still made it into my haven of tranquility, didn’t it?!

 

The mini expressions: an update

It’s a while since I posted an update on my two girls, who are now aged 4 1/2 and 2 1/2.

My two girls.  I never thought I would say that; I have two beautiful daughters and every day we feel blessed to have them.  We get to keep them forever – hooray! Well, until they decide they’re sick of us and that we’re old and boring and leave home.

4 1/2 year old

My oldest girl is approaching her last term of her first year in a school environment.  She’s in preschool and has taken to it so well.  The nursery class is lovely- everyone is friends with each other and we’re so lucky she gets to be in such an enabling and encouraging environment.

There has been the odd teething issue.  She’s a feisty one, our eldest.  She has lots to say and likes to ensure that she’s heard as soon as possible and preferably as loud as possible.  I know that I sometimes wish I could switch my brain off to give it a rest from this continuous onslaught of preschool opinion – “BUT, MUMMY!…” and “BUT CAN I JUST TELL YOU…”, so goodness knows how the class teacher copes.  So we’ve been drumming it in that she needs to listen when the teachers are speaking.

Her writing has developed so fast – I’m amazed! She could just about write her name when she started preschool; now she can write a birthday card to her friends.  I have to prompt her with the correct letters most of the time, but she can write “love from…” and the rest on her own.

She loves anything crafty and anything that requires painting or colouring in, which is making me wake up in the night with cold sweats as I’m rubbish at it.  I’ve been trying to brush up on crafty stuff so I can be ‘encouraging, helpful Mum’! See the photo above- egg painting for Easter, no less.

Likes and dislikes: currently still on Frozen, but also developed a strong interest in Horrid Henry (should I be worried?), space and the weather.  Yes the weather. Today I had to google what makes it rain and how the weather people on TV know it’s going to rain. She still detests trousers and hasn’t worn them since she was 18 months old, despite me often pointing out other girls’ lovely pink trousers with butterflies and jewels on.  Trousers to her are like some horrible big hairy spider or something.

2 1/2 year old

Currently coming into her own with toilet training galore! It’s a pretty good milestone, the toilet training as when they start really twigging what it’s about they also get a confidence boost due to realising they can be a little bit independent.  The little one is fast becoming not little at all.  She’s having a huge growth spurt and I keep doing a double take, thinking how tall she’s become.

She’s very kind for a 2 1/2 year old. Aren’t 2 year olds supposed to be going through a selfish stage, saying “that’s mine!” a lot? Our littlest one will bring toys to her older sister, save chocolates for her and give her a hug if she’s crying.  She’s kind to me, too – she actually takes herself to bed. No-one will believe me, but she does.  7pm or thereabouts, she decides she’s had enough and you’ll find her in her bed with her milk.

On a Saturday morning, we drop her sister off at a drama class and then we go to a local cafe for coffee for me and a babyccino for her.  She’s actually quite good company! She doesn’t try to run off or complain – she will sit and drink her babyccino and chat to me or play on the iPad. It’s brilliant!

Likes and dislikes: LOVES Horrid Henry (hmmm), also loves Frozen.  Likes sweet corn and sausage.  Dislikes being told off in any way, shape or form. It’s rare we do have to speak firmly with her, but if we do she will sulk for a good half and hour and/or her face will crumple pathetically with a look of intense sadness that makes the grown up involved instantly give in.

Our girls – they’re amazing!

Forget-me-not-Friday #70, featuring Eclipse 2015

Forget-me-not-Friday

My 4 1/2 year old and I are discussing the eclipse.

4 1/2 year old: “Mummy, what an e-clips?”

Me, having googled this and feeling smugly prepared: “Well! It only happens once in a very, very long time.  The moon passes in front of the sun and casts a shadow, and that means the sun can’t light up the daytime for a short while and it all goes really dark. It’s very exciting. You’ll probably all go into the playground at school and watch it.  But you can’t watch it without special glasses as the sun can hurt your eyes.”

4 1/2 year old, having thought about it for a bit: “Erm…so will we have to take some clips to school?”

Me: “Er…no…”

 

Girls’ night in (with a 4 and 2 year old)

IMG_6277.JPG

As I have two daughters, now aged 4 and 2, I’ve often wondered how soon we can do ‘girly stuff’ together and have a ‘girls’ night in’.  I stop short of a girls’ weekend away – that would clearly be a large mistake at this point in my lifespan.  I would be setting myself up for a weekend of tearing my hair out whilst husband put his feet up at home, no doubt watching Jools Holland and eating nuts in bed.  Anyway, to the point.

A girls’ night in is doable even now, I’ve recently discovered.  It can even be of benefit for those who struggle to get their children in bed, even upstairs.

It’s a rudimentary version of the girls’ night of course – and arguably less enjoyable for the grown up due to lack of Prosecco and meaningful gossip.  But it’s good for building relationships with your daughters outside of anything organisational – relating to school, mealtimes, getting them to bed etc.

Ingredients for my girls’ night in:

– one parental bedroom, dimly lit and preferably with a TV in it (provides the ‘illicit’, enticing factor that actually makes them participate)

– something different and a ‘bit grown up’ for the children to watch on the aforementioned TV (I chose a recording of Strictly Come Dancing, or The Voice on another occasion)

– something slightly ‘naughty’ to eat that they wouldn’t usually get at bedtime (I have put together platters of ‘Mummy’s best cheese’, ‘Daddy’s sausage’ and a couple of chocolate fingers, for example).

– Maybe even new pyjamas for an extra treat –  although I haven’t done this one yet (good idea though, if I do say so myself).

I’ve tended to do my girls’ nights on evenings when my husband is away.  This was partly as my eldest is so attached to him and gets a bit off the wall if he’s not there to read her bedtime story. I get them upstairs and have the food ready on our bed, with something nice on the TV so that they can tuck themselves up.  I sit with them and we just chat for a bit – amazingly, so far, they haven’t played up.  Honestly – they’ve sat there the whole time munching their food, watching a bit of TV and actually talking to me rather than pretending  I’m not there or that I’m this talking entity that’s generally to be ignored.

I start the grand event at around 6pm so this means they’re ALREADY UPSTAIRS – an added bonus for me who’s home alone and facing the prospect of getting the potential horrors in bed at a reasonable time.

It’s only lasted for around an hour or so before I do actually put them to bed.  But it’s a start and we all enjoy this little bit of time together.  The start of many girls’ nights to come?