Monday, 25 July 2016

This Little Big Life: Making Garden Potions

We've had a relatively quiet weekend here as today's the 'due date' and so we didn't plan much in case the baby made an appearance, we've just had a lot of garden time. Despite all the gadgets and tablets and TV options that this generation of children have open to them, it amuses me that some of their favourite activities are not dissimilar to mine when I was their age. I used to drive my mum mad making rose petal perfume in the garden and like countless children before them, this is also one of my children's favourite garden activities too. Finlay woke up at the weekend desperate to use his Science kit that was a birthday present we'd barely looked at because we didn't ever have the right ingredients in the cupboard. But we got it out nonetheless and I used it as an excuse to have a kitchen cupboard clear-out and search for some of the ingredients needed.

First we tried the ubiquitous volcano experiment but the explosion was a little underwhelming to say the least. Next, we tried floating raisins in fizzy drinks which also didn't quite have the 'pop' expected!  Needless to say, Finlay was a little disappointed so I did something a little spontaneous and 'out there' and suggested they take the out of date contents of our kitchen cupboard and make their own experiments outside in the garden. They looked at me as if I was a little mad- I am normally telling them off for making toothpaste potions etc.... But they didn't need to be asked twice!

Although there was a lot of mess, it was easily cleared up with the hose which added to the fun! They played for hours mixing and squirting and stirring. As the contents included out of date baking powder and cream of tartar- their potions soon began to rise and bubble in the hot weather which added more excitement! 

I'm linking up with Squished Blueberries and Sarah Rooftops for their Little Big Life linky which is a great way to capture their weekends. I've been meaning to do it for ages but this quiet weekend seemed a perfect opportunity to do so. Am hoping next weekend I might get round to making a little video but I suppose it depends on what the baby has planned! This could be our last weekend as a family of 5!!



Friday, 22 July 2016

Last week and days of pregnancy: waiting for baby!

Well, here we are, it's two days until due date. It is strange thing waiting for a baby. I can remember being so desperate for Pip, my first, to arrive. Every waking moment was thinking about when she would appear and what we would be doing at the time I got the first signs. Every morning I'd wake up and think 'Maybe she's going to arrive today' and every trip out, I'd think 'this might be my last trip out before I become a mummy!'

However, with the other three, it's been a mixture of wanting to meet them but then also not feeling quite ready. There is always something else that needs to be prepared, a Moses basket that hasn't been set up. A cupboard of baby clothes that haven't been organised. The last few weeks, there have been a few 'events' that I wanted to be part of before the baby came along. I've made it to WORDfest, had a few days just with Squidge while the others finished school and had some fun filled summer days with Pip and Bean whilst they begin their summer holidays and Squidge finishes nursery. But the truth is, I probably won't ever feel completely ready. I'm not quite ready to give up the sleep and feel anxious about a change in routine, but I am ready to meet this tiny new person and learn all about them, to welcome them into our family and watch them take their place and see how all the siblings begin to relate to each other.

Another reason why I perhaps feel not ready is that the baby has no name! All of our other babies have had the deciding name ready a few weeks before birth (as did this little one but my sister-in-law had her second baby last week and used the same name!) Eeeek! Now, we have a few names we like in the balance but 'the' name is not sorted and we just cannot decide. I am hoping that the myth people say about 'just meeting the baby and you'll know the name' is actually true!

Nesting is also something which hasn't really been able to happen. We are still no closer to our kitchen makeover and I am desperate to sort out our bathroom but we can't until we know how much the kitchen will cost. As it doesn't seem right to pop Squidge into a bed yet because she's just beginning to get better sleeping in her cot, and because the baby will be in our room with us, we haven't done any special decorating for the baby or created a room for it yet so I suppose these all contribute to the 'not ready' feeling.

I feel lucky to still feel well, I do collapse into the sofa at the end of the day and am struggling to pick things up off the floor but, on the whole, I feel thankful for the uncomplicated pregnancy. The last few days of sweltering weather seem to have subsided today which I am very happy about as I am missing my ankle bones which seem to have disappeared under layers of puffy skin and can't wait to get my normal feet back as the hot weather made them swell! As  know this will be my last pregnancy, there is a little part of me that is trying to relish the last few days of pregnancy. I didn't want to take a photo of me with the bump and put it on here because I feel ginormous but thought I might regret it if I didn't, I have next to no photos of my other bumps!

Today, my lovely parents have taken the children out for the day and so I am enjoying the peace and quiet, typing this in silence, delighting in a quiet house as I know it won't remain that way for long with the impending arrival of number 4. I am trying to hold onto memories of what it feels like to have a bump and a baby fluttering/ kicking inside me as I know I'll soon forget as soon as I have 'proper' cuddles on the outside. I'm itching to meet his little fingers and toes and have a proper squidgy cuddle and just to know that our 4th little bundle of joy has arrived all safely. I can't wait to see our little foursome all together at last and take the first photo of them snuggling together and ready to tackle the world. Hopefully only a few days to wait!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Confessions of a heavily pregnant summer holiday parent!

I adore my little people and normally I am very excited about the summer holidays and take enjoyment from planning fun and fab things for us to do. After all, as a teacher, it's my summer holidays too and it signifies no work and evenings that are mostly my own (well for the the first few weeks at least, until the planning fear for the new year kicks in.) Usually, I am all geared up with my Summer Holiday Pinterest Board and ready to relish the crafting and the baking with the little ones! Obviously, skip to 4 weeks in and I'm only able to survive with daily trips to the park and plenty of CBeebies!

This year, however, is a little different. We are expecting an imminent arrival from
Baby Number #4 at the beginning of the summer holidays and so I'm feeling that this summer is going to be a baptism of fire into having 4 little people to look after!

Anchor challenged us to think about the best ideas for parents to survive the summer holidays and so I've spent the last week or so of maternity leave thinking up ways to ensure the little people still have a fab summer holiday and that we all don't have a mega melt down by the end of it!

Step One:  'Summer Holiday Busy Bags!'
As a present to the children from their new baby brother, I've been collecting bargains and things to do for the last couple of weeks to make each of them (and my niece who is also expecting a baby brother) a 'Summer Holiday Busy Bag'. The idea is that they'll be able to open a gift a day from their goodie bag.

In case you'd like to make your own, the bags contain: A Book, A DVD, Colouring, Stickers, Make-a-necklace-kit, finger lights (who doesn't need finger lights?!!) a collage kit (aka random bits of fabric, paper and ribbon I wanted to get rid of!) and a mini detective secret message kit. I found pretty much everything on Amazon or from Tiger.

Step Two: 'Summer Holiday-Proof-the-Garden!'
The last few weeks, Mr M has done a sterling job of clearing the garden of brambles and setting up a space for our chalk board and trampoline. My parents' Christmas present to the kids was a fantastic swing and slide set which they are rarely off of at the moment. We're yet to sort the sandpit and buy a paddling pool but if the weather sorts itself out, we're hoping the garden will keep the kids occupied for the best part of the summer. They love to spend the vast majority of their time swinging or making dens and potions in the garden!

Step Three: 'Crafting and Baking'
Despite having a Pinterest Board dedicated to Children's Crafts with (embarrassingly) over 150 pins on! Pinterest is such a time stealer isn't it?! I've still set up a separate summer holiday one to pin easy crafts and bakes with not much set up. Here's to hoping that these keep the kids busy during the odd baby feed. Check it out here....

Step Four: 'Summer Holiday List'
I thought a good way to get the kids involved in planning the summer holidays (and also a way to help my baby-brain to remember all the plans we came up with) was to make a 'Summer Holiday List'. We can tick these off as we go and we can leave a few blank for spontaneous fun!

Step Five: 'Get Help!'
Possibly the most important step is to utilize our lovely parents and siblings help. We didn't feel that taking a summer holiday this year would be sensible with a newborn but we're lucky enough to have parents close by who are around in the summer and who are brilliant at entertaining our grandchildren. I know we're really lucky to have this support and we're so thankful to them............I don't think we'd survive the summer without them (and the odd glass of wine)!

If you have any other 'keeping busy' summer holiday ideas - I'd love to hear them!

“This post is an entry for BritMums Confessions of a Summer Parent Challenge, sponsored by Anchor”.


Friday, 8 July 2016

WORDfest 2016. Planning a free family literary festival for Beckenham!

It's funny sometimes how things that take up so much of my time rarely make it onto this little corner of the internet. For the last few months WORDfest has been my latest project and time zapper. I am lucky that I work for a creative school and have a trusting Headteacher who believes in my often madcap ideas and that I also work with some equally eccentric teachers who caught the festival vision! WORDfest has been exactly one of those ideas: A festival celebrating the power of words in all their guises!

As a school that prides itself on providing opportunities for students to become confident and eloquent wordsmiths, we wanted a new and exciting way for our students to both engage with the local community and celebrate all the work they do with words throughout the year and so...........WORDfest was born!

We hire a local community Green space, right off the high street and go to town with a celebration of spoken, visual and written word..........storytelling, historical recollections, puppetry, poetry, theatre..........

It started last year as a staging area which we offered to community groups who wanted to perform but by the end of our planning marathon, we'd added a cinema tent, a big top workshop tent and children's crafty area! We had so much buy in from the community that our stage was jam-packed with super bands, community choirs and even an appearance from 'The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company!'

What I love about planning for WORDfest is that I can indulge my passion for festivals on a mini scale - hay bales and bunting a-plenty! I can also pretend (for a short time anyway, that being a primary school teacher would be fun - until I remember that primary teachers have to teach Science and Maths - bleurgh!) We decorate the Green with our student's art work and poetry hanging from our very own poe-tree. Every year we join forces with the local primary schools and spend time making and creating. Last year we made a 'Quotation Quilt' made up of smaller squares where students wrote their favourite book quotation. This year, our children's area is inspired by Roald Dahl and so the children have made dream jars after reading 'The BFG' which will be hanging from the trees and glinting in the sunlight (fingers crossed for sun!)

Some highlights this year that I can't wait to take my on children to is the walkabout performance of 'The International Story Quest' by Knuckle and Joint theatre Company and Half Moon Theatre's 'Girl and the Giraffe' performance. But it's not just all about the little ones - there's something for every age group from a Debating Competition to Poetic Unity's Poetry Slam and to celebrate Beckenham's very own wordsmith 'Bowie', our 'Turn and Face the Stage' will feature a David Bowie tribute band as a finale to the festival.

I'm also super excited about our edible book competition which was a real hit last year. If you've never heard of an edible book competition - check it out here. We had some fantastic entries last year, here was our winner...... Isn't it incredible?

Here are some of the other, more comical entrants.....I can't wait to see what the talented bakers of Beckenham have to offer up this year! Why not enter your own creation if you're local?



As we near the end of many late nights of planning and day-dreaming, the anxiety of the logistics of the day eases and excitement kicks in!

If you happen to live anywhere near Beckenham Green, you MUST come and join us for the day. I promise you will not be disappointed!

Now, all I need to do is keep my fingers crossed that the baby does not make an appearance until after WORDfest! I would be too sad to miss it!

If you'd like to know more, please follow us on WORDfestHABE and @wordfest2016

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Half Term Round Up!

Half term bought some much needed rest and relaxation round here. I was initially disappointed in the weather, the wet and windy chilly days were not what I had in mind when I planned picnics in the parks and woodland walks! However, it did make for a more relaxing week, there was lots of 'wearing our pyjamas until lunchtime' and 'board games' and 'films with popcorn', 'indoor picnics on a rug' and no rushing out and about. More and more, Pip and Bean seem to relish mornings where we don't have to rush out the door, they are always making pacts with each other like 'we will not leave our bedroom today because we are pretending we're on a plane.' The pacts never last but they have fun creating them.

We did brave the rain on Bank Holiday Monday and headed out early to Greenwich for breakfast where the children ate croissants the size of their own heads! Bean was super excited that we let him choose his own breakfast from the bakery and eat it in the park- he found this very novel!


To embrace the rain we did some making and flapjack baking. (The flapjack disappeared too quickly before I could snap a photo!) We made some cute smily rain-clouds using baking paper with melted crayons for the rain drops. The kids had a LOT of fun sharpening crayons and then ironing them until they melted. I think they thought I'd lost my marbles when I suggested it, they couldn't quite believe I was letting them melt crayons!

 The sun shone finally at the weekend for my cousin's wedding, which was a delight. The kids had been beyond excited about their first proper wedding. Pip had been a bridesmaid before but she wasn't even two then so remembers very little. They all got new little outfits and Pip spent the week in the run up to the wedding checking on her outfit everyday! They all managed to sit still during the service (thankfully) and enjoyed the meal with goodies that my cousin's new wife had carefully put together. That along with the sweetie stall and the pampering station in  the girl's toilets - Pip was in her element!  Their only gripe was that it took soooooo long to get to the best bit of the day- the cake and the dancing! But it was a really special day and I was happy they had a great time too. Lots of happy memories!


The half term already seems like an age away and Bean, particularly is finding it a struggle to get up every morning, I think he really needs another holiday! I forget that he is still only in reception and has only just completed a year at school. 
It's only two weeks until I finish work and the summer holidays are literally zooming round the corner which also means a certain little someone will soon be making their arrival! I feel like there is so much to do in such a short space of time! 

Friday, 3 June 2016

A letter to the Lady who was apologising for her 5 children.............

I saw you in the lift on my way back from the doctors. You could not have known my story or why I was there and you won't remember me but you have had a profound impact that I will remember forever. Your 5 children were lovely. Smiley and fun and free spirited, but it didn't stop the other mother's comments. They were not meant to be hurtful and goodness knows you probably get questions like those all the time. I wondered how bored you were of hearing 'you've got your hands full!' or whether it was common for total strangers to ask you whether 'they were all planned so close together.' I noticed how uncomfortable you became when your youngest pressed the wrong button and the lift became crowded. It was as if you felt the situation was somehow worsened by you having five children. And believe me, it wasn't. Had my three children (a relatively normal amount by today's standards) been with me, they would have also pressed the buttons and they would have also giggled to each other and acted just as yours did, with totally normal childlike behaviour.

But I know how you may feel that way because that was once me. When I found out that we were expecting twins and with already having three children, I was terrified of what people would think of me and my FIVE children. I felt like I'd have to ensure I had the world's best behaved children because otherwise everyone would say 'it's because she has 5, she really can't cope you know!" Or "oooh THAT family, you know the one with 5 children?!' 

Then when, unfortunately, we found out that the plan was just for it to be a singleton, I found some people responded with relief and thought 'thank goodness we were only going to have 4 as opposed to not being able to cope with 5.' I must admit, I was concerned how we were going to cope with 5 children and I'm still anxious at how we'll cope with 4 but I had just been coming round to the idea and so losing one wasn't a relief, it was heartbreaking. I felt like I somehow wasn't special enough to have twins or that my body wasn't clever enough to look after twins. I was worried that I'd somehow caused there to be only one because I was overly concerned with how people would view us if we had five children.

There was a time when having a big family was normal and considered a blessing. But now I feel that if you have more than 2 children, you're considered slightly odd. People wonder why you'd want four, surely that would limit your choice of holidays? Surely that would inhibit your free time? How will you be able to pursue your own hobbies and career? It seems that two is the perfect lifestyle choice, the perfect balance for normal human beings to be able to retain a sense of their own identities. Two is the balance of having children without it not quite taking over your life but somehow for me, that seems to go entirely against the whole idea of having children in the first place. Surely, they're meant to change your life, surely having children is meant to teach you about how to self sacrifice and put someone else's needs before your own? Children do change you. It’s unavoidable and inevitable.

 As soon as I had our eldest nearly 8 years ago, I knew everything would change. I am still learning to juggle more balls than I can think of in order to work, earn and be a hands-on parent. Over the last 8 years, it's been a constant push and pull of being a parent and a mother, of working and not working, the difficult dynamic between those-who-have-children and those-who-don’t and now it seems that we're stepping into a new unknown. Now we are pitched as a 'big' family and I am realising, just like the lady in the lift, that our new conflict is between those who have the 'sensible' amount of children and those who opt for four or more.

We saw some old acquaintances in a restaurant the other day and upon hearing that we were expecting our fourth they said 'Wow - you don't have to keep going you know, you are allowed to stop!' As I humoured them and laughed along, it was then that I realised I'm going to have to toughen up. I must not let every comment I hear about our family affect me. I must embrace having a large family and not feel daunted by it, because it seems that I may be the only one that is going to! The current parent climate does not seem tolerant to families of six or more.

But although I am daunted, I'm also excited. For having children has already taught me so much. I have learned to be more tolerant, more patient (although still learning on that one) and to put other people’s needs before my own. Of course, I'm worried that we won't be able to take them abroad or fix our house up or give them a variety of life experiences. I am hoping that the benefit of having siblings will somehow outweigh that in the end.

I do wonder what our lives would have been like if we had only had two children. I imagine the luxurious holidays I could never afford with a family of six, or the adventurous ones that are not possible with small children. Yet, I am realising that there is just as much fun in the things we can do, the picnics and the make believe play and the swimming in streams (we haven't actually done this yet but it's on my family bucket list!)

The truth about parenting is that you can’t fake it, and I'm going to make it my mission to ensure that we don't wind up too frazzled, that we embrace the chaos and enjoy every little bit of a life as a family of six.

And so, lovely lady in the lift with your wonderful 5 children - thank you for allowing me a glimpse into your life and the fun that a large family can bring and thank you for giving me the standard  answer for those 'unhelpful' comments that will undoubtedly come our way over the next few years. 'Yes, we have our hands full but we're enjoying every minute!'


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Growing our First Vegetable Garden.

It feels like we haven't made even a dent in the things that we'd like to do to our house. The list is so extensive that I switch between being excited about all the pretty things we can do to this place and overwhelmed that I might reach 50 before it's all done!

We have made some headway in the garden however, although that's not without its own long list of things to do too. (Does it sound so very old to say that I have lawn envy?! Our lawn is full of tree roots and it's a lot more weed than it is green grass. Our neighbours, on the other hand have a luscious green garden that I keep staring at!) Anyway, it's taken a fair few months but we've finally finished our vegetable patch! It's hardly of the 'Good Life' standard but it's something we wanted for the children when we were dreaming of a bigger garden. Here's what the patch of garden looked like when we first moved in.
It took a few weekends of clearing before we had a nice big space. We started off planting some raspberries, blueberries and rhubarb along with potatoes in sacks but then it became too wet to do much else.
Until we really set to it over the last couple of weekends and spent full days in the garden to sort it all out. It's been a lovely couple of gardening weeks though, building the vegetable beds, sourcing the right kind of veg to grow in a short raised bed and finally planting this weekend. It did seem perfect to be planting in May, although I think we may have left some things a little late. But May feels like a month of growth, of flowers and freshness; it's a month of welcomed warmth and new life. There seems to be something a little more optimistic about May that makes me fully hopeful we might actually grow something! May has so far, been a month of weekends in gardens and planting and smiling at the passing butterflies and bumbling bees. 

We made little wooden spoon signs to label our veg for fear of forgetting what it was or maybe I'm a little worried that we won't actually grow anything (we're not exactly green-fingered) and won't know what they are meant to resemble!  I am hoping their wooden spoon signs withstand the rain as we painted them using ceramic paints. There were some interesting takes on what some of our veg looked like, such as the beetroot!


And here are the proud owners of their vegetable patches. Bean has got beans (obviously, he grew these at school) tomatoes and strawberries, Pip is growing carrots, broccoli and runner beans. Squidge has got all the salad stuff in her box - peppers and salad and beetroot. Needless to say, they are their competitive selves and Bean is quite proud that his strawberries and potatoes are flourishing nicely!

Now there is just the rest of the garden to conquer (we have insane weeds and brambles that are pulled out one weekend and then they re-grow by the next!) Time to get on and tackle the list!

Home Etc

Linking up with the lovely Twinkle Diaries and Mummy of Boy and Girl Twins for #HomeEtc

Saturday, 14 May 2016

A Star Wars themed 5th Birthday Party

I have written before about how my little Bean is a tad obsessed with David Bowie at the moment and so when I quizzed him on what he'd like to do for his birthday, I wasn't totally surprised when he said a 'David Bowie' party! A few sleepless nights ensued as I wondered what on earth I would do with a bunch of 5 year olds at a David Bowie themed party, I mean aside of painting their faces!   So I was quite relieved that the more Pinterest-able theme of a 'Star Wars' party was eventually picked. 'Star Wars' is obviously not an unusual theme for a boy's party but it is unusual for Bean, given he has not actually watched the film yet!

It was however, a super fun theme to plan things around- I do love a theme! For the food we had the standard party food fare although I did make Ham Solo sandwiches and  grape and strawberry light sabers (fruit kebabs to you and me). Be warned though, that kebab sticks are particularly lethal around 5 year olds! The minute the fruit was eaten, my clever mum remembered to collect them all up and bin them for fear of eyes being poked out. 

My mum also made the masterpiece of a cake. We don't have an oven at the moment and so my mum kindly offered to make the cake, which was a relief, I'm not sure a microwave or slow cooker cake would have hit the spot!

For the games and activities as they arrived, we made R2D2 robots and decorated light sabers. The intention was to use the decorated sabers for a later game of 'Pin the Light Saber on the Yoda' but their 5 year old obsession with the glitter glue meant they didn't dry properly so we had to make some more. We went for the standard musical chairs and pass the parcel and added in a couple of adapted Star Wars games where the children had to run to a Star Wars character when the music stops and the group standing by one of the chosen characters (selected by parents), wins a sweet.

In all honesty, I found this party the most stressful from all the parties we've had before. I don't know if it's just the combination of boisterous 5 year old boys or whether the fact that I didn't know many of the children impacted on this but they just didn't quite settle. They spent quite a lot of time play fighting, it took a while to encourage them all to play the games and their attention spans were zilch!! 

I was just so thankful that I had a lot of help from family and my super amazing teacher friend- Fran, who initiated some of the games and kept them in order! We had a Jedi assault course where they all had to complete a challenge to receive their Jedi Certificate but knocked the head on the light saber fighting for fear it would become carnage! 

After the pin the light saber on Yoda (at which they all cheated!), we attacked the Darth Vader piƱata. This was probably their favourite part of the party, some of them had a lot of aggression! 

All in all, Bean and his friends had the best time and went happily on their way with their space themed party bags. I was quite impressed with the little space trinkets I found for the party bags- they were something a little bit different. They had a Star Wars Kinder Egg, a 3D puzzle spaceship, a finger space rocket, build their own droid and a Blast Fact Space Card to learn about different planets. All were EBay finds! 

I think though, Mr M and I will think a little differently next year and perhaps go for a more activity heavy party! Maybe something outside, like football to keep the high spirited boys occupied!

As ever, I'm always disappointed with how few photos I remember to take at birthday parties! For more 'Star Wars' inspiration and images of some of the ideas we incorporated, please see my Pinterest Page.

But a happy day for our little Bean ended with him snuggling down to watch his birthday present of the Star Wars film.