It’s not Christmas without…

I’ve read lots of posts recently about what makes people feel festive. I think that Christmas feeling is a bit like a drug. As a child, the mere mention of the word is all it takes, but as you get older, more and more effort is required to get that same feeling! This year is the first year that both of my children really understand the idea that this is a special time of year, so I think for me, I’ve managed to get back some of the festive spirit by sharing their excitement!

As a young child I got so excited about Christmas, and distinctly remember seeing Santa in the sky on my way home from the children’s Christingle service on Christmas Eve one year. That’s probably my most magical Christmas memory. However, as I got older, my very small family didn’t really ‘bother’ with Christmas, and some years we didn’t even have a tree, so it lost that special feeling, and consequently, I lost my excitement. I craved those huge family get togethers that everyone else seemed to be having, but they never happened, so by the time I was a teenager, I used to work on Christmas Day. Triple time wages, while being surrounded by lots of people enjoying Christmas in the gorgeous hotel where I worked was something I genuinely enjoyed!

But for me, there’s 2 things that get me into the Christmas spirit more than anything else, year on year. Visits from Santa and Christmas Carols! We couldn’t believe it the other night. It was about 7pm, the children were fresh out of their baths, pyjama’d up and ready for bed, when all of a sudden we heard loud carols. Very loud carols. At first, I thought we had some local youth showing off their new stereos. Then it clicked and I realised they probably wouldn’t be showing off their systems with the likes of Little Donkey or Away in a Manger! Just as this dawned, came a knock at the door. I looked out of the window to see a beautifully lit up sleigh, and answered the door to find none other than Santa himself standing there!

My daughter assumed he naturally had to check he had the right house, since our move. Santa assured her that this was indeed a reason for his visit, but didn’t leave without dropping some chocolate based treats in all the children’s hands, reminding them to be good. It was such a wonderful thing to do, and see, especially when all the children came running out into the streets on a dark and wet December night, all in their dressing gowns to excitedly speak to Santa! I’ve heard that the Westbury Lions Club were behind this, but it was an amazing surprise visit!

Yesterday, at my son’s toddler group, we got another visit from the man himself, we’ve been to see my daughter’s Christmas Nativity and we have my daughter’s carol service on Friday too!

For the first time ever, I am so so so excited about Christmas, and with potentially 12 people sitting round the Christmas dinner table this year, I might also get to experience the big family get together too! Woo!

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DoCrafts: A Scrapbook Challenge!

I often feel really guilty because both of my children adore crafty things (I’m talking art here, although the other meaning of crafty also applies!) The trouble is I don’t! In fact, the second either one of my children requests painting or cutting and sticking, my heart sinks and I just wither, wishing I could be transported to a parallel universe. I just don’t understand the fun in it, I was like it even at school. Everyone else would get excited if the next lesson was art, whereas I always prayed my flute lesson or orthodontist appointment fell at that time (I’m not painting a very cool picture of myself here am I?)! I’m can also confirm that art and craft is not an area of strength for me. Despite the fact I once got over 90% in an art exam, it materialised this was because my teacher thought I’d drawn a leaf, when in fact it was a spider!

Anyway, given the fact that I know craft is a very important activity to encourage my children to do, and the fact they love it so, I promise I really do try! When I was given the opportunity to do some craft for myself, courtesy of the lovely people at docrafts.com, a company who have some fantastic ideas on their website, as well as a Creativity Club which you can join for £24 a year, AND it was specified that it had to be done as ‘me time’ I figured this was a challenge I couldn’t afford to turn down. Maybe as something for me, I could begin to enjoy this.

In fact, I never realised how much of a perfectionist I was! I got sent a beautiful scrapbook, along with all the accessories I needed to get started. All I needed now was some peace and quiet!

As I’ve said I’m no artist, but I’m quite impressed with what I’ve done so far. With Christmas fast approaching, I found some of my favourite pictures from last year and used that as my starting point. What do you think? For the first time ever, I’m quite excited about buying some more bits to continue making this keepsake.

Why not try it yourself, there’s some fabulous ideas on the docrafts website along with links to crafty bits and bobs to help you on your way! It’seasy to see why the children have such fun being creative, although I still shudder when they get anywhere near a paintbrush!

Thank you to the lovely Emma Collins for giving me this opportunity, and kindly sending me the scrapbook and accessories, in conjunction with the docrafts Creativity Club.

Picture Perfect…

We moved into our new house over three months ago, and while we love it, we’re constantly trying to make it feel more homely. For me that means drooling over various home stores and website, wishing I had most of their stuff adorning the various rooms in my house, for my husband it means arranging the CDs and DVDs into alphabetical order, and for the children, it means having as many of their possessions on display over the floor as possible. So the compromise we’ve seemed to reach, is each of us doing absolutely nothing towards achieving project homeliness. After all the stress of packing, moving, unpacking, starting new jobs and schools, any spare moment we have, are either spent exploring our new surroundings or flopping on a sofa.

With the children getting so excited about Christmas though, it was impossible to put the decorations up any later, and having a bigger house to decorate this year, we spent this weekend ‘homifying’ our new house – it’s amazing how big a difference such a small amount of effort can make.

We always have a laugh at just how impractical we are around the home. My father in law is a builder and electrician, so any little thing that goes beyond changing a lightbulb or fixing something with blu tac, is a job that gets saved up for a visit from the in laws! But yesterday afternoon, while my son had a sleep, and my daughter put me to shame in her abilities to navigate her way around the iPad, I ‘project managed’ and my husband… wait for it… hammered 28 nails into walls around our house! Go us! I just can’t believe how much difference a few photos and pictures have made. After 3 months, our fab new house is starting to become a cosy home. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m sure it’s nothing that a trip to Cath Kidston couldn’t fix…!

Moving On…

I actually can’t believe it’s over three months now since my husband, children and I moved to Wiltshire. In some ways it feels like forever, in others, I still feel like a complete newbie, but I guess it’ll be like that for a while! If you follow me on Twitter or read my blog, you’ll know that although not some huge emigration, moving to a different part of the country was a big step for us. We’ve always lived in Bournemouth, and all our family and friends live there too.

I think my son, at 2 was still a bit too young to fully understand what was happening, but my daughter got it completely, and I’m proud of her for being so well balanced and mature (yes, I know she’s only 4, but she really was!) about it all. A new house, new school, new friends and no family around takes some getting used to I’m sure, but she hasn’t been phased by it at all. She is thriving in her new school, she is always happy to go, and if the amount of Christmas cards we have hanging up that belong to her are anything to go by, she is very popular too!

My husband has had a very busy time in his first term at his new school, but again, he’s loving every minute of our new life (probably helped by the fact that since we moved, he has pretty much everything done for him at home, it was actually 8 weeks in when he asked me one day how to work the hob!).

So that’s my little family and they’re all doing great, which I guess brings me round to me, someone I feel a bit funny talking about. For me, the move was probably the biggest change, but it enabled me to spend more time at home with the children, which was something I’d been craving since I had my son. Being a teacher in a secondary school brings with it so much pressure and responsibility and I explained before, that I didn’t feel it was right for me to be doing that job now, when my priorities were so much different.

It was my old school’s Carol Service the other night, and afterwards, the lady that took over from me as Head of Music wrote on Facebook  how proud she was of her students for doing such a good job. It’s exactly the kind of thing I would have done too, but I was very very shocked by the way it made me feel.

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve written about my passion for teaching, how I perceive it to be a privilege to educate children and on a personal level, how I was an emotional mess when I came to leave my job after 10 years. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, even though I knew it was the right thing to do. The thing is, when I read on Facebook how the students had been fantastic after all the hard work they had put in, I just didn’t feel pangs and sadness (which I fully expected to) that I wasn’t there, and that it wasn’t me putting those comments on Facebook, and that they weren’t my students any more. All I felt was relief. Relief, that I hadn’t had to be the one putting in all the work. Relief that I hadn’t had to leave my family on Sundays to go to school for extra rehearsals. Relief that I had been at home that evening to read my children their stories, and relief that I had been able to sit down and eat dinner with my husband instead of having to write the reports and mark the books that had been put on hold until after the Carol Service and shows had been done.

So then I started pondering whether I really could have been that passionate about my job in the first place, if that’s how it made me feel. Perhaps I’ve just been saying what I think are the right things to say. Perhaps I’ve just been kidding myself and anybody else who listens all along?! But no, that’s not true. I did care, and I did love my job, I’ve just moved on to a new chapter in my life – the one where I get to be a Mum, just a Mum, and by leaving teaching, I get to put everything I’ve got into that. I’m more busy now I don’t work than when I did, I guess that’s why childcare is so expensive!

So yes I loved my job, but do I miss it and regret giving it up? Not for a second, and you know what, for the first time, I don’t feel guilty for admitting that either. Up until recently, I feared if people actually knew that, then they’d think I couldn’t have cared while I was working, or that I wasn’t as committed as I claimed to be. I am still in contact with a few students from the school through Facebook and email. I love hearing how they are getting on, I still care greatly and want the best for them in the future, but my life has changed, and for the first time, I don’t think of myself as a teacher any more, just a Mum!

The Gallery: My Awesome Photo

When I saw this week’s theme on the Gallery, I knew I’d struggle! I love taking pictures, but they never work out how I wish they would. I don’t trawl through pictures for these posts, I always know which photos to choose, but this week I didn’t. As far as I’m concerned, any moment I feel the need to try and capture is special or I wouldn’t have bothered, it’s just a shame my skills don’t really lie in that area!

Anyway, I decided not to post up a picture straight away, then last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, and suddenly I knew which photo was my ‘awesome’ one! I’d love it to have been one with both of my children in, but I love this photo of my daughter, because it’s so natural. We were on holiday in France at the time. It was the first time we’d been abroad as a family, and this photo was taken in the playground on the campsite where we were staying. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we were just so relaxed and happy. It’s quite difficult to get natural smiles from either of our children in front of the camera, so this one was really special. A happy child is surely one of the most awesome things ever!

Check out the other ‘awesome photos’ over on Sticky Fingers blog!

 

I’m in Love…

…with my Kindle!

As a child I loved books, I was a complete bookworm, right up until I went to University. I’m not going to lie and say that all of the books were intelligent ones, I can’t resist a bit of chick lit or a celebrity’s autobiography, but I also loved to get my teeth into something with a bit more depth. I was very open to try different genres and styles of writing.

Then I went to University, and my social life (and the fact I had to read stupid amounts of intellectual books for research) took over, meaning I neglected one of my favourite hobbies. It’s only recently that I’ve been craving that escapism you feel when you get into a really good book, but unfortunately the children have other ideas of how I could best be spending my time.

Nevertheless, last week, I decided that it was time to free up some space on my bookshelves, and spookily, within an hour of this decision, I got an email from Amazon, suggesting I take a look at their trade in store, which I didn’t even know existed. I discovered that my books could actually be worth something, and ever the one for a bargain, I did something that I, hoarder of all hoarders never thought I would. I traded all of my old teaching books, from the time I did my PGCE up until only a few months ago. It seems they’re worth more to somebody else now than they are to me. I know I won’t be teaching for a few years, and education practice moves on so quickly, that by the time I ever do go back to it, my books would be out of date anyway. So I packaged them up and within a week I was holding my brand new Kindle. And it didn’t cost me a penny – result!

I feel quite strange that I love it so much, when I haven’t even put any books on it. I know there’s loads of free ones out there, and lots more that I’d love to try, but to all my Twitter lovelies, this is where you come in, and I’d really appreciate your help! Having not read properly for such a long time, I’d really appreciate any recommendations you’d like to throw my way, there’s no genres that are a no go! I’ve decided I’m going to work my way through the BBC Big Read Top 100 Books during 2012 (and probably 2013 and 2014 too!) but I want to read other things too (yes, even chick lit!), some of those little gems I’ve missed out on, so what’s your favourite book? Please help turn me back into the bookworm I once was!

Mrs Tinks’ Food for Children: Review

I wrote a post not so long ago about how my daughter was a fussy eater, with macaroni cheese being about the extent of her acceptable meals. Even chips are a chore and pizza is a no go altogether which doesn’t make a ‘quick and easy’ dinner particularly easy.

Anyway, ‘Mrs. Tinks‘ got in contact and asked if I’d like to sample some meals that she’s designed. She’s a mum herself, and has a fussy eater among her brood so knows where I’m coming from! All of the meals in the range are home made from good ingredients, with no sugar, salt or artificial flavours and preservatives added. There are four meals in the range so far: a beef lasagne, salmon and cod pie, chicken curry, and butternut squash and spinach lasagne.

For my daughter, what the food looks like is paramount as to whether or not she will eat it, it’s almost like she has a fear of the unknown. I know the obvious solution to this is to encourage her to help me prepare the food, but unfortunately this doesn’t work either because as soon as she knows what’s in there, there’s not even the slightest chance she’ll try it!

When the food arrived however, my daughter was so excited about the big box, and when she saw the meals, she was totally captivated by the packaging (carrots are one of the few foods she does like!) and very excited to try them.

We opted for the Bold British Beef Lasagne first, as she loves pasta, and has on occasion eaten bolognese! I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have tears and tantrums at first because the food looked ‘different’ to anything she’d eaten before, but after seeing her brother wolfing it down, she conceded and tried it.

After the first mouthful, we reached this stage in record time (the first photo was my other child’s plate by the way, that’s why they’re different!):

A happy face, a clean plate and a full tummy really do make my day!

As a vegetarian, I can’t do the taste test myself, but we had a repeat performance with the Succulent Salmon and Cod Fish Pie. I loved how this had carrot in it too, and it definitely helped towards the clean plate which we had. The Yummy Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne was also a hit! My husband will be late home tonight so I’m trying them with the Crazily Crackers Chicken Curry. I’m really hoping for 2 clean plates!

Mrs. Tinks food is London based at the moment, but if you contact them, they will try and deliver out of area. My food box arrived incredibly well insulated and chilled, so the food hadn’t lost any of that home cooked freshness in transit. My daughter’s Godmother lives in Crouch End which is one area Mrs Tinks food is available, so I’ll definitely be stocking up when I go and visit her.

Meals cost £3.50 for child sized individual portions, but these sizes easily fed both of mine. Family sized portions are also available  for all meals apart from the Crazily Crackers Chicken Curry. You can find more information about Mrs. Tinks food over on their website, including information on how to order meals. Everyone needs a quick and easy dinner sometimes, and when they are popular with the children, you know you’re onto a winner!

I was very kindly sent some meals for this review. Thank you Mrs. Tinks!