Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Million Dollar Party

So one year on...what have I up my sleeve for Little Miss O's birthday. Not a 'party' in the sense of spending lots of money like last year. I just want her to have a lovely day. I know that the key to her having a lovely day will be her spending time with her most favourite friends, doing what she loves and having everyone sing 'Happy Birthday' to her. I just know that a fun day out with Mr O and I will not cut it (as fun as we are!)...but I'm determined to be able to give my child a great birthday memory...

I've been thinking up thrifty but still fabulous kid's party ideas. Little Miss O recently went to a party where the kids just played for 2 hours with the birthday boy's toys. They LOVED it. The parents just stood around and chilled..everyone was happy. Sometimes simple things can work really well..and it's lovely to nurture children's imaginations and creativity. I love that Little Miss O believes in magic - I want to embrace this stage because like every other so far, as soon as I realise how special it is, its gone...sniff sniff! Now, my experience of party planning is that even the simplest idea can become expensive once you increase the size of the guest list. So far, I've listed key people to invite (i.e. her local friends) and we already have 12 on the list. Add the parents and ourselves and you're talking a mini soiree for! I've not even begun thinking about 'family etiquette' yet...yikes! 

descriptionLittle Miss has been soooooo good lately and I want to make an extra special effort for her to have a fun day...she really does deserve it this year more than any before. I want her to have a million dollar party that doesn't cost a small fortune...

The weather here has been lush lately and I'm feeling inspired to throw a garden party , that would be loads of fun, right?! Not sure our home can cope with 12 kids and their parents! If the sun doesn't have his [why is the sun male btw?] hat on, then it'll have to be an open house affair!

I might just go for this!

Ooooh, I'm excited...I'm thinking music (they LOVE JLS!), bubbles, a big picnic blanket, food, drink and perhaps a bit of face paint for parents and kids alike. Why should the kids have all the fun!  

Any back-up ideas in case the weather man takes a dislike to my plans?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Thrifty Ideas for a Kid's Birthday Party

Little Miss O has been on top form lately! More or less the model child! She'll be turning 4 soon and we're so proud of her and I want her to have a really fun and special birthday. Now, we had agreed when Little Miss O was one that she would have a birthday party every other year at the most... It's not that I'm a scrooge (really, I'm not), it's just that we want her to know that she can have a fun birthday without having to have a full blown party.
For Little Miss O's first birthday, she had a party...but that was more for ourselves to be honest. She was the one and only child star of that show. She didn't know that it was her birthday, so marking the occasion was fine for us. We had about 20 people in our home and it was a lovely sunny day so we just chilled in the garden. It was really nice. We didn't spend and extortionate amount of money but it was a noticeable change to our usual monthly outgoings - much like her first Christmas, I felt she needed a brand new outfit for the occasion. She had to have a matching hat, sundress and shoes etc. Of course she didn't at all - but it was her first birthday so Mr O just left me to it!

The day of Little Miss O's second birthday, was the day before I submitted my PhD thesis (for the first time!) 2, she knew it was her birthday, but she didn't know about birthday parties or even what it meant other than 'its my birthday'..bless...

 Needless to say, we didn't throw a party that year, but I did spend the whole night before blowing up balloons so that her day would start of 'special' you know! She chose her own cake that year too...

By the time Little Miss O's 3rd birthday came around, she knew exactly what a birthday was, and had her own ideas for a birthday party. She'd been to a few by this stage and she had high expectations. As it was the first time she was properly aware of it - we went ALL OUT. I viewed 4 venues before selecting the perfect place. Little Miss O had a Princess and Pirate themed party at a play centre. Her Princess Tiana dress was custom made - the girl even had a calico made and boy did she love her dress fittings! The making of the diva had begun... : ) The kids ate Harry Ramsden's fish and chip meals, jelly, cakes, fruit, raisins and carrot sticks (just to add a bit of balance to their diet!)..they played 'pass the parcel' (3 year olds aren't great at this by the way - I'll be saving this for age 5 and up I think!)...we did a treasure hunt where they had to seek out tiaras, wands, pirate hats etc etc... It was a complete extravaganza for about 15 kids. Of course being me, I went a little OTT and also provided extra food, donuts, drinks for the parents... I thought it was a nice touch and it was really well received. Little Miss O loved it and still talks about her 'Trafford Centre' party today. It cost a small fortune, so she better still be talking about it when she's 10! : )

[notice the recurring purple and pink balloon theme - obsessed much?]

So, this year there will be no extravaganza... BUT I do want to mark the occasion for baby girl and create a fond memory for us all to smile about in years to come....

But its easy for me to create a fantabulous party when I throw money into the mix...

This time, I'm aiming to create the same fab day without the price tag....I'm putting my party planning skills to the test... I'm challenging myself to throw her an imaginative and fun-filled 2 hours soiree for pint-sizes.. and all for.... £...

Yikes - why am I testing myself?!

Any ideas for a thrifty kids party?

No, no, don't help me - it's a test!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Consequences for Little People!

I've been writing about how we do discipline in our house (at the moment)... I mentioned that Little Miss has 3 rules:

  • listen to grown ups
  • eat what you're given
  • don't give me any sass!

But rules mean very little to me without a, Little Miss O's consequences are the things that matter most to her:
  • No snuggle time in front of the TV with Mummy/Daddy
  • Time out 
  • No stories
  • No dessert
These are all things that Little Miss O loves to do and they're also natural consequences. Breaking the rules in one way or another wastes all of our time. When we waste our time with 'unnecessaries', we have less time to do things we like - such as snuggle time, story time etc. Timeout is also a natural consequence because when you upset/frustrate people in grown up life, they generally prefer you to be removed from the scene until you fix up! : ) Bedtime is fixed, not flexi, so Little Miss still has to go to bed at the same time regardless of whichever delaying/rule-breaking tactic she has used 3 hours beforehand...

It has been 7 days now of her new rules/consequences and you know what, she has eaten every single meal (bar the first initiation day where she learnt the hard way!), she has done so at the designated times and she has been able to have her dessert everyday! I love eating dessert with her so am super psyched that I don't have to keep with-holding her ice-cream/crumbles because she didn't eat her main meal! We've had extra long snuggle/TV time and we've had too many stories that I have lost count! Everyone is happy and I actually think she likes her rules.

She keeps saying ' I want to follow my rules because I don't like con-sequences!'...LOL I'm offering her lots of praise and she's doing really well. She's getting praise from strangers too which really helps her to know how well-mannered she is being...

I know it has only been a week, but I think its a sign of good things to come.

What discipline tactics have you used successfully with your kids?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Little Miss O's New Rules....

So, before Little Miss O puts on a school uniform in September, I'm determined for her to have a core set of behavioural habits that I am proud, we need to start with rules..

I personally I think most 3 or 4 year olds know about conformity - sure. They know when things are out of place or when they don't seem to fit a mould, but that's only because they've been taught that way. If I wear Mr O's jumper, Little Miss O is the first to spot it. If she didn't know it was Mr O's jumper, she probably wouldn't have anything to say on the matter....

Now, Little Miss O has always been very good at saying 'please', 'thank you', 'may I' and all the other polite stuff, but coupled with her following her new rules, she has received soooo many compliments. Today she attended another birthday party and all the parents commented 'wow, she asked before she ate the crisps - our kids just dug straight in!'... She also asked before she got up from the eating area to play. I can tell that she was as proud as I was that she was following her 'rules' really well.

So, the rules:

1) Listen to grown ups -  I don't like repeating myself 10 times. Once or twice I can cope with, but 10 times is too much. I am her mother not her pet parrot. She now gets this.

2) Eat what you're given when you're given it- There is a time for everything, and the time to eat dinner is at dinner. If my memories of school are correct, the teacher didn't interrupt our lessons to offer us snacks because she didn't feel like eating at the designated time. These are very straight-forward lessons. I just don't think I am asking for that much. We have a routine for a reason!

3) 'Don't give me any sass' - Little Miss O is the queen of one-liners and they have made for some very funny blog posts/facebook status updates. Those I love and I would never want to stifle that comedic part of her little personality - but when it comes to hands on hips and eye-rolling, this is just not cool! If I accept this now, what on earth will she pull out when she's a teen! Nipping it right in the bud people...nipping it in the bud!

I will be adding to these rules, but these are the core issues we needed to address in our house at this far so good....

Now, with every rule there has to be a consequence. If there's no consequence then where's the incentive not to break the rule? I sound so militant(!), but hear me out... I feel that natural consequences work best. For example, when your boss is away, you still work because you know that if you don't you will only have to do it later... its a natural consequence of being a bum! : ) In our house, if I have warned her with 'stop waving your arms around, you don't want to spill your drink darling', and then she doesn't listen and spills the drink, the drink is gone. There will be no replacement drink... its a natural consequence. In only a week, she has learn quick sharp that every action has a consequence and I can see her stop and think to herself before she does something....

Now we have the rules, next up - the consequences.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Learn your rules: Kids and discipline...

Do you watch The US Office? No?! Well you totally should!

There are 3 enforced rules that anybody called Little Miss O who lives in our house have to abide by - and these are new. Why have I all of a sudden sprung these rules on her? Why now? Why not before?

Well simple really, Little Miss O turns 4 next month and what is cute and laughable at age 3 is not so funny at age 4 - school age, right?!

How many times have you just cringed at the behaviour of a child in the street? I always wonder whether its the first time the kid has acted/spoken out of turn like that and I wonder why there appears to be no consequence. I don't judge - that's not my job. I just wonder is all. I recently heard a mum ask her son to 'say hello' to an adult. The boy, aged about 6/7 ignored his mum. The mum then said 'I'm counting to 3...1..2...3'. The boy still ignored her. Then she said 'right, when you get home you're going in the dustbin!'... I'm soooo not judging, after all I am not a perfect parent! BUT, I did understand why the boy didn't listen - he didn't have to. Obviously his mum wasn't really going to 'put him in the dustbin' if he didn't feel like saying hi, why would he. If it were Little Miss O, I would like her to do it because she wants to show how polite she is and failing that, 'because I said so!'..

This really got me thinking...

Little Miss O is a very confident, happy and very lovable child, but like every child, she has reached the stage where she's pushing the boundaries, seeing how far she can go and what she can get away with. And the boundaries and the lines have shifted - all the time. In the worst case scenario, I let most things slide (I want to enjoy the time we have together and not spend it telling her off for what in the grand scheme of things are minor offences...!); at best my discipline strategy (if you can call it that) has been very sporadic and very much dependent on my mood and level of exhaustion! Mostly though, I resort to 'distraction' tactics....but the older she's getting, the less effective it is.

Frankly, I just feel that its not good enough. When I'm tired at work, I don't just tell my boss 'sorry, I can't be bothered, I'll just put 50% into this project' sir! I crack on. So, why then do I only give 50% follow through to discipline in my own home?

I've had a good chat with Mr O about how we can move forward. We agreed that in a job with no protocols, no job description - no nothing, you're bound to make mistakes. We definitely aren't beating ourselves up over this late realisation...but, it's all about being progressive...

In the last week, we've established 3 new rules in our home. Actually 'established' isn't the right word because these rules were already there, its just that they weren't enforced. Sometimes we followed through, other times we didn't.

I'll reveal our rules soon, but I wondered - do others out there use 'rules' with their little ones?

When did you start with 'rules' and how is working for you?

If you don't have kids yet, which rules did you have as a kid and do you think they helped shape who you are today?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Why Complicate Life...?

I stumbled across this and had to share:

Sooooo simple right? But why are some of these things so hard to do? What if everyone acted this way? Things would be so transparent! We'd all know where we are at... (excuse the grammar!). I think I would like this world, but then again, I'm generally quite a blunt person!

Call...invite...explain...ask...say it....state it...ask for it...tell it!


Friday, 9 March 2012

Keeping up with the Jones': Then and Now (Part ii)

So, very recently, we've moved to a pretty middle class area - the kind where people can and do get their organic veg delivered by the local farm....the kind where our humble car is dwarfed by 4x4s as we stop on the cobbled streets to give way to other cars; the kind where I have actually overheard a mother calling out for 'Tarquin' - seriously. It's very 'rah', as Mr O and I call it...and we like it...and we appear to fit in with our gilets and wellies. Its our sort of place...what can I say, we like cobbles...BUT in terms of material things, we we are yet to buy a big forever home with a drive-way for multiple cars, large garden with an oak and apple tree. I'm talking white picket fence stuff here and continual home modifications...already I'm aspiring to buy myself an AGA cooker (I did mean to say my AGA!).

Little Miss O is also fully immersed in the culture here... her accent has even changed. If you know how charming the Mancunian accent can be on a child, you'll know how emotional it is for me!

Even though we fit in fine here, our lives (you know, mine and the Jones') are just not comparable. It's a pointless exercise to try to 'keep up' because not only were the starting blocks so far apart but the goal post is different and is shifting!

The grass is greenest where you water it and we concentrate on playing our own game and if anything, starting our family unexpectedly has taught us just how to do that - because we had to.

No use reading up the fine details of making linguine from scratch when you have a cupboard full of potatoes, right?! We made a conscious effort to pal up with families who also had a cupboard full of potatoes...families more like our know who you are guys! For this, we had to go outside of our 'original' friendship group... I have to say that the blogging community was great for this...

Anyway, in terms of 'keeping up with the Jones' we continue to run our own race...setting our own level, our own standards and doing our own thing. We love the middle class-ness here, but we can also see the humorous side. We regularly play 'count the gilets!' - we reached 24 in the space of 3 minutes once! Its all about perspective...

I think for Mr O and I, becoming parents earlier than planned has worked out well...we didn't have a direct comparator... no 'competition' we just did and continue to do us. I've seen lots of 30 somethings blush as they justify why they haven't chosen to buy a £800 bugaboo?! I mean really?!! It's sooooo not about fitting in, we're not 16 anymore and more to the point its YOU'RE buggy - who cares?! We're all different - its just that some people like to pretend that they are the same as their friends. Oh the irony!

For us, nowadays, its a case of 'do these people fit in with us?; do they get where we're coming from?; can they share our visions for the future? Can we learn from them and can they enrich our lives - and vice versa?

Keeping up with the Jones' didn't work then and it doesn't work now - our surname isn't Jones after all!


Monday, 5 March 2012

Keeping up with the Jones': Then and Now (Part i)

I remember when I was pregnant, I asked my midwife if there was a 'young mum's antenatal group' that I could join. I just really didn't want to sit with what I then called 'a bunch of 30-somethings' talking about how disastrous it would be if the extension/kitchen/landscape garden wasn't complete before the baby came...! I was too busy thinking 'is it possible for me to finish my PhD in 2 years before the baby comes, nope.... hmmm maybe I should just quit?!'... I had my own 'disastrous' consequences to avoid... plus, I didn't want them to judge me for being what I thought was a 'young mum'.

The midwife just laughed (how rude, right!) and said 'you're not a young mum, I have 12 year olds coming in here! You'll be fine. The young mum's group is for 12-19 year olds'

Yikes, that was a reality check!

So I wasn't young enough to be a 'young mum' and I wasn't old enough to be an average aged mum... so what exactly was I? An anti-statistic?

I knew - I was betwixt and between. I soon realised that for as long as I was going to be a mother, I was going to be in the same situation...somewhere in the middle...and I knew I had to have new Mum pals for support. I'm all about the network. So, shortly after Little Miss O came along (then still a mere aged 23), I decided which camp I would rather align myself with. I realised that although I didn't have the financial stability that usually came with those additional years, I did have more in common with the 'bunch of 30-somethings' than I did with the 12-19 year olds, yet, I was still a student, with a boyfriend (not husband) and I definitely wasn't 'settled'...

The pregnancy was a complete surprise - as it turned out, it she was a good one!

With disclaimers out of the way (I love my child etc and wouldn't change things etc), and in the brutally honest style that I prefer to write in, I can still say that I think things would have been easier if we were 'all set up' before getting married and setting up family. It's unusual for someone with a high level of education to be pregnant at age 22...and probably for good reason...

[That said, I know a lot of 30-somethings who are finding their own issues in child-rearing. There just is no perfect time!]

I only know one situation in and out and that's our own. It has been hard at fact, more than half of the time. We've had to set up home(s!) whilst completing our studies, whilst learning how to be half-decent spouses and whilst learning how to be half-decent parents. Given all of this, I don't think we're doing a bad job - but then I am biased...

It's only recently that we can relax a little (a little!) and my 'original' friends are starting to 'settle down', get married and a few are having kids too (Welcome baby TJ - not even 1 day old and already loved SO much!!!!). I call them the originals because they're the ones who I have a history with, even though our lives have moved at different paces and in different directions now. Amongst my 'newer' Mum circle, I'm considered somewhat of a 'veteran' now, they just say things like 'thanks so much for giving baby X this toy/outfit/whatever', 'it must have been so hard for you' and 'wow - I can't believe you did all of this with all the other stuff going on'...

Aside from wishing Little Miss O could have gotten a few hand-me downs (kids can be ££££ when you don't want them to want for anything), I feel quite proud of us really - a lot of people would have cracked under the pressure (God knows we nearly did!)...

In terms of keeping up with the Jones' I can't say I ever tried. It always seemed like a losing battle. But if someone were to do a quick poll to see whose kids are most happy, generally healthy (after all they all get an ear infection at some point!), balanced, grounded, growing and developing, polite and confident - Little Miss O would win hands down...

Fine, I'm biased, but I have every right to be - and for that we give ourselves a HUGE pat on the back....

Next up is Part ii of 'Keeping up with the Jones': Then and Now'

Thursday, 1 March 2012

It's official, I'm 'the nicest'!

Every night, I encourage Little Miss O to pray, to give thanks and we're generally trying to nurture her faith. She does still insist that she needs to see God's 'face', but hey one step at a time, right?! A few years ago, I made up a prayer for her to say. We've been saying pretty much every night first I just said the prayer and then later she joined in. Now she knows the words and says it by herself. All I have to do these days is ask her 'what are you going to give thanks for today?' and then she's off....

Thank you Jesus for today, 
I had fun and I did play,
I did French and I got a sticker,
And my Mummy is the nicest.
Thank Jesus,

Tonight, I was touched...Love it, love her!

I'm sure that in 10 years time, I wont give two hoots whether or not she thinks I'm 'the nicest', but for now, I'm very happy with that...!

I just wonder if my buying her a mini-magnum after nursery has anything to do with it?!

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