Treating them all the same.

Ask any parent if they treat their children the same, and our standard reply will always be that we do, that we treat each of our children the same as each other.  But in my case, that is certainly not the truth.

Now fundamentally, do I fully commit my heart to each of them…yes, of course I do.  There is no question for me that they each hold an equal share of my heart….well, they all hold all of it each if that makes sense!

But when it comes to almost everything else, do I treat them the same?

My oldest son is skinny as a rake and I worry he doesn’t eat enough.  He would rather do almost anything than eat.  So I regularly sneak cheese into his portion of soup but not into the others’ helpings, and pass him the odd brunch bar when the others’ are not looking.  I intentionally shop and cook with him in mind, moreso than the others.

I think there is a strong possibility that they will each go to different secondary schools.  My oldest son’s love for Maths and History should put him at a school which enables him to challenge that side of his brain, but that may not be the right choice for my daughter who is much more a lover of literature or my youngest son who is already showing great aptitude for sport. I want them to go to schools that enable them to develop and challenge those interests, as well of course as providing a well-rounded education.

At Christmas, I do not give a moment’s thought to how much I spend on each child.  We buy them what they want (obviously as long as we think it is appropriate) regardless of the fact that one child’s gift may be more expensive than other.  I don’t want my children to put a monetry value on everything and think that it all has to be ‘fair’ in a financial sense.  Fairness to me is four children, happy with their gifts.

It’s the same with parties – I don’t add up the cost of one child’s verses another.  I organise the party that they want to the very best of my means and abilities.  But this year’s Belle’s (first ever!) sleepover will likely be much cheaper than the swimming pool and mermaid (yes, you can book real live mermaids!) which I am planning for Chess whose favourite thing in the world to do is splash about in water.

Even when it comes to discipline, my approach is not the same.  My beautiful but oh-so-stubborn Belle needs to realise herself that her actions are inappropriate rather than being told she is in the wrong, and handling her until she comes to that point of realization is entirely different to how I would treat Griffin if he pushed the boundries that little bit too far!

So do I treat them the same?  No, I definitely don’t. I recognise that they are all different so why would one size parenting fit all of them? It quite simply doesn’t.


Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That was what we were all told growing up, chanted over and over again in the playground and reinforced at home. If someone is calling you names or saying unkind things, simply ignore it and don’t let it upset you. But let’s face it, that’s a load of old rubbish isn’t it.

Because the fact of the matter is, words can hurt. And they can hurt very badly and leave scars which may never heal. I remember once seeing a post about a teacher who gave her class a piece of brand new white paper each. She told them to screw it up, stamp on it, make it dirty, whatever they liked but to keep it in one piece. Then she told them to un-crumple it and lay it out flat. Did it look different? Was there any way to make it look exactly like it looked when it was first given to them? Of course not. What had been done to it could not be undone and I believe words have the potential to have the same effect on a person.

I recently told my children about Richard Branson. I heard an interview with him once when his response to the question – ‘how do you become a millionaire’, was ‘you take a billionaire who looses millions and millions on his fascination with Space, and he ends up a millionaire!’

My oldest son laughed when I told him this but I went on to explain that Richard Branson believes that within our lifetimes, people will be able to take holidays to Space. When I explained that, if we can put one person in Space, in theory there is no reason why we couldn’t put a plane load of people up there, my son completely came round to Richard’s way of thinking, agreeing that actually, this was a brilliant idea and yes, completely logical that it was achievable. Oh and where could he sign up to be on the plane Space-bound?!

But that initial laughter was exactly what I needed from him to make my point. ‘You laugh because you think he has a silly idea.  That’s ok. On one hand it is a silly idea and you are not the only one who has laughed at him for it. But perhaps the reason why Richard Branson is so successful is because actually, he genuinely doesn’t care what people think. He doesn’t care if people think he is silly to pursue such an idea. He doesn’t care if people tell him he is wasting his money (which incidentally he has earned himself so it’s his to do with as he pleases!) He doesn’t care because he is different and he knows he is different and that is why he is special. And if people mock him, that’s up to them but it doesn’t affect him or his choices.’

So in our house, the motto is no longer Sticks and Stones. It’s what would Richard do? Would Richard take it to heart and let it get him down? Or would he continue down his own path because he knows that it is the right journey for him. Be inspired and take strength from someone who themselves is different.  Of course, as a parent we have to top up the ‘Richard-factor’ now and again, but I hope that my team will remember that being different is ok, and that words and mocking, whilst might sting a little, may also be the reason we all end up in Space one day!


The little things

This weekend saw me take my eldest into town to get him a haircut.  If I’m honest, I volunteered because I also wanted to get my nails done and I knew the others wouldn’t sit still long enough, but I also wanted the chance to just chat with him…shoot the breeze a little as I do feel with four children and a job, it can often be hard to make that extra ‘let’s just hang out’ time.

I told him the plan and he must have had a moment of ‘really?’ but went along with it anyway.

On the way to the nail salon, we stopped off at a newsagent and I told him to choose a magazine.  His face simply lit up. This added little extra which he hadn’t been expecting, cost me a couple of pounds but meant to so much to him.   It was a look that I pray my mind will keep safe for many years to come.

From there it was onto the Barbers where he gently lent against me whilst we were waiting his turn.  He chose a small packet of sweets for his younger siblings to share when offered the treat bowl after his haircut, so I couldn’t resist another little treat for him in return. We picked up two hot chocolates which we drunk whilst strolling back to the car, arm in arm, joking and generally being silly the whole way there.

What could have been a boring, mundane errand run, turned into an afternoon of magical moments and memories.  So much so that Dalton asked me hopefully this morning if I needed my nails doing again this weekend!

There are for sure some moments in life when it simply cannot be fun.  For the most part homework over a certain age or anything where you are running late!  But in my need to constantly make memories, I often forget that some of the most special ones can actually be made with nothing more than simply being together.

A mama’s strength

Yesterday was a two lots of swimming, History club, two lots of karate, on-the-run picnic tea, essential groceries pick up, losing a diamond earring in M&S car park, feeding my two youngest sticky plums to keep them still whilst I searched for aforementioned lost (now, very thankfully found) diamond earring, exploding baby ((again thankfully), not literally but we all know what I mean!), get home from school pick up at 7.45pm type of evening. The same Thursday (minus the lost earring moment) that I do every week with my team. And as I woke up this morning (I use the term loosely seeing as the baby has had me up since around 4am) to get ready for work, I am struck by my own ‘mama strength’.
We are strong enough to grow an entire human being in our bodies…and then, one way or another, get them out! We keep them safe, nurture them, worry about them, feed them and unconditionally love them, all before we have even met them.
The sleeping patterns we have developed for the last 20 or 30 years of our lives are turned on their heads and we are strong enough to readily accept, survive and even flourish on broken, deprived sleep for months and even years, carrying on with the rest of our lives, often excited about the fact that we got four whole hours without being disturbed!
We are strong enough to deal with the things that we once thought would turn our stomachs (diarrhoea, vomit, blood, nits and my personal phobia…wobbly teeth!). We mop up, clean up, dispose of and deal with it all with less fuss than slug crawling across our pathway would have evoked in our pre-baby life. We recently had a 3 way sickness bug in our house. I held the bowl for one child, held the hair back of another whilst simultaneously spewing up myself….not at all pretty but very impressive parenting skills!
We are strong enough to pick them up, brush them down and make all the right noises whilst our own hearts race at the near miss we have just witnessed, swapping out our need to bundle them up and hold them close with a brisk ‘All better, off you go play again’ reassuring comment.
We worry about….well, everything, whilst being strong enough to do our danmdest not to let them see our concerns. Yes she can climb that tree without falling, he will pass his exam, she won’t fall down the concrete steps, he will catch up…it will all be fine.
Us mamas are made of pretty darn strong stuff. A strength that comes from nowhere but is everything in getting us, and them, through this parenting journey.
Now don’t get me wrong, being a mum is the biggest joy I never knew I never knew, until it happened to me. It redefined me as a person and brings out the very best in who I am. It is my privilege and pleasure to have been given the title Mummy….but is bloody hard work! It is role that we can never underestimate as it is continually changing and developing as our children do. Just as we think we have got a handle on something, it gets flipped on his head or along comes something new for us to try and get to grips with. And whilst we all have our moments of ‘Bloody hell, I can’t do this’ (or often slightly stronger terminology!), we still get on and do it…sometimes better than other times but we get it done. No matter what, we dig deep and find our inner strength to see us, and them through.
By p.m. tonight, I will be so ready for a very large glass of wine. (By 10pm I will probably be passed out on the couch!). But until then, today, like any other, I will silence my exhausted brain, dig deep and get on with it, and I will even plaster a smile across my face in the process. Because that is what us mums do. We are strong and we will rise to any fight that our parenting role chooses to give us. But with the weekend approaching, I would like to publically put out a plea for my little ones to not fall over, no tears, no stress and definitely no new challenges for me to deal with…just for a day or two…please?!

Redefining the magic

Let’s face facts. Our children all reach a point when they realise that we have been lying to them since they were teeny, and that sadly, Santa Claus does not exist.

Aside from keeping our children mentally, physically and emotionally safe (no big thing, right?!), making a childhood (and adulthood for that matter) filled with magical memories is for me, the most important thing I can do as a parent. I want my children to look back and be flooded with memories of the adventures we have had. And I want them to believe in magic. In this world in which we live where the most horrific things happen daily, enabling our children to escape and believe whatever they want to is hugely important on so many levels. And Father Christmas is of course a big part of that. I do everything in my power to allow and enable my children to believe in the magic of Christmas and the guy in the big red suit. But the fact is, even I cannot keep up this lie forever. So what do you do when your child stops believing?

This momentous happening in some ways marks an end to a chapter of their childhood. But it is also an opportunity. The magic does not have to end; it just needs to be redefined.

Instead of simply agreeing with your non-believing child when they proclaim Santa isn’t real, a response along the lines of ‘Congratulations, I am so proud of you for figuring this out.’ is a great reply. From there you can go on to explain that now they can help you make the magic for the younger ones. Tell them how special they are that they get to keep the secret with you. Make plans and giggle over how you are going to plant some letters from Santa or leave treats from one of the Elves. Make them feel that they are the most important, clever person in the world for figuring this out and instead of this being a crushing moment, you can make it magical in its own right – it is simply a case of moving the boundaries.

Children grow up so fast, and I for one don’t believe in either speeding that up, or, in the alternative, trying to stop it either. I don’t want my child to be the only one in the class who doesn’t know the truth, simply because I have chosen to insist Santa is real when they are old enough to understand that he isn’t. But that doesn’t mean I am ready to accept that this marks an end to Christmas magic. It’s just a different kind. Sharing a secret this massive, making them feel important to know it, and embracing the bond that is created by them being privy to something ‘grown-up’ when the others are not, can be very special if you choose to make it that way. So please don’t give up on the magic. Just redefine it. Because everyone, young and old, deserves to wallow in the joy and magic of Christmas.


Confessions of a working mum!

We all have our secrets to survival…here are mine!

  1. I never, ever empty the cutlery holder of the dishwasher. Way too time consuming to empty and put away. I just leave it there and it gets washed again…and again (until Hubby unloads the dishwasher!)
  2. My kitchen is not always THAT clean! Yes, I take pictures of things in my kitchen because generally it is the room that we do things in – we live in it. But I only take photos of the clean bits! As hard as I try, it is quite often more of a disaster zone than the immaculate home I try to present.
  3. CBeebies is my friend. (Adverts are not!)
  4. I never completely stop. I actually find it hard to relax and do nothing. I actually find it stressful to just sit down.
  5. I am very regularly a brilliant mum (if I do say so myself!) Fully engaged, making memories and fun and laughter. But I also have days when I’m a bit rubbish. And other days when I am really rubbish.  Don’t we all?
  6. I worry all the time that I focus more on one child than another. Being so busy I loose track of what time I have spent with whom and I am therefore very dependent on our routines. If Daddy takes one to their activity one week instead of me, it throws me completely off kilter because then I feel like I am missing time with one of them and being a bad mum. On the same note, I try and find ten minutes 1:1 time with each of them every day. I often fail!
  7. I multitask parenting and running a business way more that I wished I did. Outings are good because I can only access the phone and not my laptop meaning the temptation to deal with that non-urgent email disappears.
  8. Rather than putting all the washing away on a Sunday, I often leave out complete outfits for all the children for Monday and Tuesday (and sometimes even Wednesday) on the spare bed so that I don’t have to hang it all up only to get it out again two days later.
  9. I have a Coke-a-Cola addiction. I cannot function without it. I buy it in cans to limit my intake but it does run through my veins!                                                                         So there you go, my confessions – please don’t judge! Honestly, you too will save so much time if you stop unloading the cutlery!

My day!

5.50am – Wake up call provided courtesy of my oldest who strolls in, kisses me on the cheek and gets in at the foot end of bed, firmly planting both two cold feet against my, previously cosy legs making it impossible to go back to sleep…which is neither here nor there really considering…

Shortly followed by

5.55am – my youngest son nudges and lets me, and everyone else in the street know that he is ready for the day with a very authoritative “Hi Mama, Breakfast now!”

6.15am – Having stalled as long as I can (despite lying precariously on the edge of the bed due to the now 4 other bodies in it) before getting out of my, arguably far too comfy bed, it’s downstairs for breakfast.   Most mornings I make pancakes from scratch because it’s the only thing I can guarantee my 9 year old (whose interest in food is small at the best of times and who would quite happily forgo meals given the option of that or doing something ‘more exciting’ with his time), will eat, Ready break for Mr Authoritative and anything from Wheatabix to a bacon butty to boiled eggs and toast for my daughter who always likes to be different! I will definitely run a B&B when I ‘retire’ one day! My littlest eats whatever she is given…for now!

By 7.25am, all four children are fed, washed and dressed and ready for their days’ ahead, and today, being a day when my husband left early for work, I am in the shower whilst CBeebies takes over parenting duties!

Quick swill and I successfully manage to get myself dressed ready to take my team to the end of the road for our friendly school bus driver to pick up my eldest three and whisk them off for the day.

By 9am, I have three shipped off to school, one shipped off to nursery, the makings of a spag bog for tea well on the way in the slow cooker and I finally hit the office for a proper cuppa – oh, and to work!

At 11.20 it’s off to the train station just in time to catch the 12.38 to London for a meeting.

I work on the train catching up with emails as best as I can given the somewhat intermittent Wi-Fi, and prep for the meeting ahead.

I arrive in London early so camp out at Starbucks to take advantage of the Wi-Fi and do my very best to resist the muffins on offer, managing to work pretty effectively for 40 minutes before heading out into the rain to my appointment.

A couple of hours later and I am headed back onto the waiting rain. Having lived in London for some time, I briefly contemplate a quick wonder into Covent Garden, but dismiss it in preference for the earlier train home to my waiting littlies. My brain flicks between mummy mode and business mode efficiently, and without even realising it I am popping in to M&S to purchase a small treat for each of my children whilst still reflecting on the outputs of the meeting and mentally preparing my to do list and priorities.

Intermittent Wi-Fi email catch up again on the train home results in me getting frustrated and therefore starting this blog post! One of my biggest downfalls since starting Dorothy & Theodore is that I find it almost impossible to just stop. I mean completely Stop. It actually stresses me out to stop being productive – regardless of what it is, the need to fill my time in one way or another means that I find it impossible to switch off completely and indulge in any proper ‘me time’. Even the rare movie watching at home with my hubby also needs to be coupled with painting my nails/ making a list/ prepping some party or event. And intermittent Wi-Fi is frustrating to the max for me!

Cuddles and mayhem follow my entrance home with 4 excited little people telling me about their day and showing me their drawings/ homework/ battle scars! Then it’s up to bath and bed for them followed by more work for me.

Just before midnight is my normal bed time, but despite the hectic day, tonight I work a little later to catch up on lost internet time. Then sleep, ready to do it all (or something similar!!) again tomorrow.

A day familiar to many I would imagine. Whether we go out to work or are stay at home parents, we constantly juggle a zillion things at once, brains multi-tasking whether the PE kits are clean for the next day, writing the grocery shopping list, mentally calculating whether you have exceeded business forecasts that month or simply just deciding what’s for tea. It’s just what us parents do.   And of course we wouldn’t have it any other way. But wow, as I finish this post at 10.40pm, over 24 hours since I started it, I personally could most definitely use just a couple of hours rest bite.   In fact, I’m going to pop that onto my to do list right now!

Taking time for me

Being mum is the most rewarding, challenging, exciting and enjoyable ‘hobby’ there is. And I for one absolutely love spending time with my children and hate, hate, hate being away from them. But what with work and three children, I tend to make very little time for me.

A few months ago my husband found out that my local college was running a furniture upholstery course in the evenings.  At this point, my youngest was just a few weeks old and I was adamant that there was no way I was going to be apart from her (or the others for that matter) even for 2 hours a week.  But hubby held his ground and practically chucked me out the house for me to ‘at least go along and have a look’.

From the minute I walked through the door and saw people working on beautiful pieces of furniture, I was hooked, and whilst I only stayed for half an hour, as I rushed back to the car to get home, I couldn’t deny the bubble of excitement I felt at getting started myself.

Several months down the line and I am absolutely loving learning something new and have discovered a new hobby which I completely adore.  On Saturday, as my littlies had a nap or did homework, I worried and thought about nothing more than where to hammer the calico – switching off completely from thoughts of work, errands, washing, tea, and all the other things us working parents have to think about.

And it’s not just me loving the course.  Monday nights are now Bear Gryll nights, when Daddy and team get some special time and pizza for tea is not only enjoyed but also now a Monday night expectation!  Perhaps most importantly, I, for the first time have learnt that having time for you is really important.   Being with my children has always been my hobby of choice, but in actual fact, having something that is totally just about me is totally refreshing and positive for all the family.

Now someone pass me a hammer and some tacks – I’m on a mission!

Parenting a strong willed child

Parenting a strong willed child

My oldest girl is everything you could possible want in a daughter and more… particularly from the age of 17 upwards! Strong willed, determined, knows her own mind and won’t be talked into anything. As I say, everything you could possibly want…but wish me luck for the next 11 years!

My beautiful Belle is bright and so strong willed. She challenges my patience and my will every week without fail, flipping from being the sweetest, most loving and helpful little angel to the most manipulative little madam at the drop of a hat. I regularly find myself taking a deep breath and trying it count to 10 before getting to three and having a ‘Mummy melt down’!

She’s bright. She’s confident and capable and she seems to excel at most things she applies herself to. She was Daddy’s little princess from the moment she was conceived and she knows that she has him wrapped around her little finger…wow, does she know that!

But as challenging as she can often be, there is no way I want her to change. I love her fight. Her determination is what will make her who she is, a girl who will turn into a woman who can do anything or be anything she wants to be (albeit in actual fact she seems determined on being a vet…for now at least!)

It’s a tough balance. At parents evening I was told that she had a habit of getting up to go for a wonder around the classroom when she did not feel challenged by the work she had been given.  My response…give her something that will challenge her then!

Knowing when to toe the line and when to let her be is something I regularly get wrong. Letting her find out for herself that she can climb the tree to the top, even though I’ve told her she’s not old enough to climb that high is both frustrating and exhilarating. I balance the irritation that she’s not listening to me, alongside the fear that she will fall, alongside the admiration that she has the courage to succeed.

But right or wrong, I do know that the most crucial thing is that she keeps her spirit. Even if that means I have a thousand more tantrums to deal with, and hundred more throw away comments and even the odd toy thrown across the room on occasion. Because my girl is everything I could want her to be…just exactly as she is. Fighting spirit and all.

Sally x

Mary Poppins Themed Party

For my practically perfect girl, nothing less than a practically perfect party would do for her 3rd birthday. And so, with her love of all things Mary Poppins, that weekend saw a Poppins party like no other – elements of which even surprised me!

screen-shot-2017-09-18-at-13-13-34.pngParties for younger ones are always slightly more challenging as opposed to when the birthday boy or girl is that little bit older. As children get older, they understand the concept of playing games: following the rules, waiting their turn and that all these things form part of the fun. But it’s much harder for the younger ones to understand. I think it’s really important to bear this in mind, along with the personality of the birthday child when planning a party. Belle loves to be creative, but is still young enough to get bored relatively quickly if she is not involved at that precise moment. So this time around ‘pass the parcel’ was out put ‘paint the penguin’ was in!

When guests arrived, they were greeted with Burt’s chimney sweep brush and instructions to ‘Think, wink, do a double blink…’ before jumping into our very own picture which was a print out of the chalk drawing Burt creates for the Jolly Holiday scene.

To entertain our guests, I set up tables with different activities to do whilst they waited their turn for the main event (more on this later!) We had paper, string, bamboo canes and paints (and aprons!) for the party guests to make their own kites; we had penguins to ‘decoupage’ to a greater or a lesser degree depending on their age and skills and we had black paper and chalks so that they could create their very own masterpieces. I also had a blanket with some instruments on for the really little ones to play with – and this was a firm favourite with Griffin!

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A party wouldn’t be a party without the odd game, so we had ‘pin the bow-tie on the penguin’ and a ‘spoonful of sugar relay race’, which resulted in considerable amounts of sugar being spilt on the lawns and very happy ants as a result!

But the main event was definitely the ‘Carousel Horses’ – well, ponies! Party guests went two-by-two to have ‘carousel’ pony rides and from the smallest to the oldest. Each and every one loved having some time riding the very fabulous and patient ponies provided by Maz at Halona Horses.

Tea included kite-shaped sandwiches (complete with kite ribbons made from spaghetti coloured with food colouring!), strawberry-filled meringue nests, red velvet cupcakes and red heart jammy dodgers – oh, and of course strawberry jelly! Despite Belle loving her Jolly Holiday costume-inspired cake, it was most definitely upstaged by Hugo the pony walking right the way up to our dining room patio doors just in time to join in the singing. As well as his party hat, Hugo was also carrying a card and small gift for the birthday girl which totally made her day (“Hugo came in our house, mummy!”).

After tea is when the magic really happened. Everyone knows that every good carousel horse is pretty-coloured and covered in ribbons, so with strict instructions to mind their feet and be gentle and calm, 14 delighted children were given paintbrushes and ribbons and invited to literally paint the ponies. Belle was chuffed to bits with the blue butterfly sponge she found and decorated oh-so patient Hugo with a row of blue butterflies all along his tummy and matching ribbons in his mane.

The party bags included birdseed to feed the birds, tuppence (chocolate coins) for a paper and sting, umbrella-shaped cookies, kite-shaped bookmarks, spoonfuls of sugar lollipops and, of course, a ‘practically perfect’ pencil.

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It’s no secret that I adore throwing my children parties. I think birthdays are the most special occasion of the year for them – a day that is all about them. And for me, making that extra bit of effort to give them a party they will love is simply one of the pleasures of being a mum. But I confess, I utterly loved this party and think I enjoyed it as much as the children did. I loved begin able to actually spend time with my littlies and enjoy it with them as opposed to frantically have to run around organising games. I loved doing something so completely bonkers that you would only ever do it at a party – such as painting ponies. And I loved the smiles that one all over my beautiful girl’s face. A Jolly Holiday indeed.

Sally x