Getting ready for a birthday party – less than a day’s enough time surely?

Tomorrow is Eli’s first birthday party – his actual birthday isn’t until Monday but having his party on the Saturday means all of his baby group friends can come so on the weekend it is. I love first birthday parties and Eli’s is the last I’ll be organising for a child of my own. We’ve got a semi-theme – cars as Eli likes anything with wheels – so the cake is going to be a garage with little fondant cars. Of course, since it’s us, the cake is still cooking and will have to be decorated tonight. I don’t think we’ve ever done a birthday cake at anything other than the last minute.

We’ve been fairly busy this week and not much preparation has happened at all yet, our birthday party to do list is therefore extensive:

  • bake cake (nearly there)
  • decorate cake
  • buy ingredients for party food
  • make party food
  • buy the last couple of bits for the party bags (yes for sub-one year olds I know, I know)
  • pack the party bags
  • clean the house
  • clean the house again after the kids invariably undo all the tidying I’ve already done
  • panic
  • check to see whether Eli still fits in the outfit I want him to wear
  • try to work out how we’re going to fit everybody in the lounge as the weather looks unlikely to cooperate (60% chance of rain – Eli was supposed to be my chance to have an outdoor party!)

I’m sure it will be fine, that I haven’t really prepped at all won’t be a problem will it? I mean the party’s only at 1.30pm tomorrow – we’ve ages yet…

Of second-hand clothes and hand-me-downs

Boxes of outgrown kids clothes – some waiting for Eli, others waiting for Godot.

After almost 7 years and 2 boys and a girl we have a lot of hand-me-down clothes. As Lex outgrows his clothes we pack them up ready for Eli – Lex is currently in age 6-7 and 7-8 clothes and Eli in 6-9 months so there’s a few batches waiting! Of course Tilly’s clothes have no younger sibling waiting for them and so we have to make other plans as she grows out of them. Then there are the clothes that Eli has now outgrown, there’ll be no younger sibling for those either.

So, the question becomes what do we do with all these clothes?! I no longer have the excuse of the mythical third child to hoard them all and avoid the issue and we really could do with freeing up some really useful boxes for the clothes the big kids are steadily growing out of.

I have so far done a very poor job of passing on my baby clothes – there’s a number of reasons for this, the highlights being:

  • I don’t just want to give them to a charity shop – I don’t know why but I’d like to know where they are going and hopefully get to see them in use again, especially the nicer pieces.
  • I think that eBay sounds like a lot of work for very little reward, e.g. what if the person who wins the bid won’t pay, plus there’s the never getting to see them again thing as above.
  • I love to receive second-hand clothes but I have this, irrational most likely, idea that other people will be offended if I offer them mine so dilly dally about and the moment passes.
  • I don’t know many people with kids the right ages for the clothes I have.

Despite this I have so far managed to:

  • give the 3-6 month girl’s clothes to a friend from baby group (along with the 6-12 month girl’s coats);
  • give the 6-12 months girl’s clothes to an acquaintance from another baby group (and received some boys clothes in return);
  • give the 2-3 years girl’s clothes to my cousin and she’s happy to have any other clothes Tilly grows out of now so I have a home for anything Tilly outgrows from now on;
  • give a handful of 12-24 month girl’s clothes to a friend but there’s still two boxes left.

I think that I’m going to save lots of tiny baby and newborn clothes for Tilly to use with her dolls. The rest of it though, all the boys clothes and the 0-3 months clothes? I just don’t know, I’m hoping my friends will continue to have children and I’ll be brave enough to offer them my kids’ outgrown clothes. Although I think R is much less adverse to the charity shop idea than I am so maybe his desire to clear space in the loft will win out.

So how do you deal with outgrown clothes – do you have an aversion to charity shops and eBay too or are you able to donate and sell with abandon?

So the Olympics went to London and all we got were these lousy announcements

I sat watching the closing ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics which was one part ‘yay athletes’ and lots of parts ‘wtf, why this music?’ and listened to lots of talk about ‘inspiration’ and ‘legacy’. My son spent the last half-term of school enjoying topic work based on the Olympics and was very enthusiastic about everything to do with the various sports and events. So, what does government propose we do to capitalise on the sporting spirit

Firstly we have an announcement that the compulsory 2 hours of physical education for primary school children was scrapped because ‘non-sports’ like ‘Indian dancing’ were being used to fulfill the requirement. It seems strange to scrap something just because it’s not being done the way you want (surely tighter guidelines would have sufficed) but also to be pretty bold in determining that activities like dance are not sport. I took part in a Bollywood dance class during a friend’s hen do and it was hard work! Not an organised sport of course but that didn’t stop it being physical exercise. I did try to determine what Lex’s PE lessons consist of but apparently he can’t remember except that they get drinks and there are throwing competitions. At least they get to be competitive which leads us neatly on to the next announcement.

Now all primary school children will need to take part in competitive ‘recognised and recognisable sports’ as apparently too few already do (at school at least). I like the fact that Lex’s school manages to have a competitive sports day – each child chooses 2 or 3 events to take part in and can win medals for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place – that also has a team ethos – each child earns points for their team. However, aside from an after-school multi-sports club sponsored by a local football team which is focused on skills not competition, there are almost no after-school sports offerings at the school. I think that there is a netball team in the upper school but there is no football team, cricket team or anything else that would fit the recognised sport criteria that Lex could access. There once was more (a couple of football teams) but the government’s removal of the sports partnership funding ended that. I am interested to see how this proposal actually works in practice – what will be offered and how will they make it possible for all children to take part?

I had accepted that sporting activities would need to be paid for activities away from school – currently swimming and gymnastics, neither cheap – perhaps this announcement will be a good thing but all I expect to happen is possibly more netball and football teams because they’re easy to organise, don’t require particularly skilled staff to oversee them or expensive equipment. Lex would like to play cricket, I’ve been putting off contacting the local club because it will be yet more expense even though I’m sure he’d love it. Dare I hope that this announcement means an opportunity to play at school?

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…

Throughout the year Tilly asks us “Is it summer now?” and for the quarter of the year where the answer is yes (regardless of the actual weather) her next question is always “Can we go to the beach?”. As we don’t really live too close to beaches that we (grown-ups) particularly like – I grew up in South Africa, beaches to me should be primarily white sand, not pebbles, mud or whatever else tries to pass for a beach on this island – to answer yes to the second question requires a good weather forecast and an early morning lest we spend too much time fighting for parking.

So last night, with a great forecast for today and an agreement to forgo a lie-in this morning, we decided that today would be our beach day. Despite Eli’s attempts to prevent us having any sleep last night, R managed to make the sandwiches and I managed to get out of bed and together we were all out of the door by 8.30 for the journey to the sea.

It was a lovely day. Eli touched sand and sea for the first time (not too impressed with either but began to enjoy the sand eventually). The big kids dug holes, built castles, splashed and ran in the sea. We visited the pier and the town and ate packed lunches and bought ice-creams.

Now we’re home, kids are washed and in bed and R. has headed to the local 7-11 to buy cake. Absolutely brilliant day.

Yet another ‘expert’ at the children’s centre with the expertise of a banana

I like our local children’s centre. It is next to the big kids school so convenient and close to home. The woman who is in charge is friendly and fairly well educated (a bit obsessed with babies’ sleep but so are most of the parents she sees I suppose). I’ve met some good friends at the baby group (which we are now officially no longer allowed to attend but they’ve started a new session for us to go to so that’s nice) and we’ve had some interesting discussions there.

I do, however, take issue with the some of the ‘experts’ that we’ve had to talk to us about various things at the baby group. Many others truly were experts, the lady from the in car safety place was scary – don’t store car seats in garages or lofts! rear face forever! are you sure your seat fits in your car because even if it looks like it does it might not!! – but she did know what she was talking about. The lady from the speech and language team likewise although she did limit her scary talk to terrifying those whose babies used dummies. The PND counsellor knew her stuff as did the health trainer. There have, however, been a couple who have just left me wondering what exactly resulted in them being trotted out for the talk.

The first non-expert was the centre manager who came in to talk to us about treasure baskets. Now, years of going to a heuristic baby and toddler group has shown me how brilliant these can be and yet she did such a poor job of introducing them. She tortured us by making us talk about each item – OK for the first couple but then not much more could be said. She then tortured the babies but not letting them play with the baskets. She eventually left without saying goodbye probably cursing us for being a tough crowd.

Today was depressing too. A weaning ‘expert’ from another children’s centre who’s expertise was certainly doubtful as he:

  • stated that the guidelines are ‘always changing’ - well it’s been 6 months for almost a decade now…
  • stated that waking in the night is not a sign for readiness for weaning - great – then stated that it might be - huh?
  • couldn’t quite remember more than one of the signs of readiness
  • said that he didn’t know much about this new-fangled baby lead weaning thing - so new that the name has been around for at least 6 years, I first read about it in this Ask Moxie Q&A: Introducing Solids, and that ignores the fact that it’s a practice that’s been around much longer
  • gave some information but constantly ruined that with advice ‘well this is what the guidelines say but if I were you I’d do xyz’ - since he didn’t let us know any of the qualifications he has to be a weaning expert I can’t but assume that perhaps research studies are more useful than his gut feeling
  • insisted that you should always start with purées and never mix different foods because allergies scary! - really, so if you’ve no history of allergies and you’re starting at 6 months (oh wait he’s not too sure about the whole 6 month thing)…

At least he suggested that babies should be having table food as soon as possible (although did spoil that by insisting it should be mushed). He was also clear that milk should be a baby’s main food until they’re one thank goodness as that’s not the opinion of at least one of the local health visitors.

I don’t have the energy to write a complaint because really he didn’t say anything particularly harmful just disjointed advice and not particularly expert opinion. I think his main expertise came from having his own kid – not through any research or study on the subject he was supposed to be teaching. It’s probably a good thing we aren’t allowed to go to the group any more – not sure I could handle any more ‘expert’ advice.

Finally, only one more sleep and daddy’s back

It’s been a long 4 weeks but tonight is the last time (for a while I hope!) that I’ll be solo parenting as R is currently flying back from Japan to rejoin family life. Luckily my mum has been on hand to help in the mornings (before school broke up for the holidays) and in the evenings, eating dinner with us and then staying to help with bath time. Of course she hasn’t been here through the night or for the early mornings (not that I would have ever expected her to be!) and it’s been a very tiring time!

Whilst I am happy to see R simply because I’ve missed him, I am also happy to see him because it means that I may get the odd lie-in and afternoon nap and hopefully fend off some of the crushing exhaustion I am currently operating with.

So, one more night to survive and then reinforcements arrive.

Going to be unemployed (by people who pay me) soon

Tomorrow I go into the office I’ve worked in for the past decade (my 11 year anniversary would have been in November) and hand my manager a letter of resignation. I am both happy – I really didn’t want to have to leave my kids to go to work any more especially since that workplace is more than 50 miles and over an hour away – and quite sad – I will miss my colleagues (well most of them – one I definitely won’t miss) and the work.

It’s a new chapter for me, I went back to work when Lex was 6 months and then again when Tilly was almost 11 months but this time it just doesn’t feel right. Of course after childcare and travelling costs I wasn’t earning much money (if any) but I was still getting a pay check each month. Maybe I’ll be able to pick up some freelance work doing web design – blogs and Facebook pages are always needed after all and aren’t too time intensive to set up and administer.

So now I just sign my name to letters I never really thought I’d write and look forward to getting to spend lots of time with my kids as they grow up – I can’t wait.

Catching up

Today has been about catching up on the laundry. With much help from my mum, 4 loads went through the machine and lots of clean clothes were put away.

Eli had his last dose of antibiotics today – here’s hoping the infection is gone and I can get back to normal soon. Tired of the house looking like a hurricane’s just been through.

90 Years Young

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Yesterday we celebrated R’s grandmother’s 90th birthday, Whilst she’s not able to get about as well as she used to, Gran is still a feisty lady even if she is going quite deaf. She loves her clothes, shoes and jewellery – there is probably not much doubt that she’s more stylish than I am.

The kids love her – it probably doesn’t hurt that she generally comes bearing sweets or chocolates and that a visit to GG’s is made sweeter with biscuits. Her 80th birthday doesn’t seem all that long ago – a centenary would be cool.