Monthly Archives: November 2014

29th November 2014

10 Cheap Things To Do With the Kids This Festive Season

cd330c8c4b0742268e64cae51365cf781. Make Play Snow. If the weather outside is frightful, keep the brood inside and make some play snow. All you need is 2 cups of corn flour, half a cup of vegetable or baby oil, and 3-4 tablespoons of silver glitter. Mix it all together and cover the bottom of a deep tray or washing up bowl, add play animals, and let the kids feel, play, and dig into the snow. 

2. Go on a Christmas Scavenger Hunt. Type and print a list of festive things that the kids might find on a walk through your neighborhood, including  door wreaths, festive lights, robins, red berries, Christmas trees, decorations that move, pine cones, a star, holly, and trees with no leaves.

3. Take the Kids to a Carol Concert. Carol concerts don’t usually cost anything, unless they are taking donations for charity, so you can entertain the kids and get in the festive spirit for next to nothing. Check local community Facebook pages to find out where concerts are happening.

4. Host a Christmas Movie Party. All you need to host a brilliant Christmas movie afternoon for kids and their friends is a DVD and box of microwave popcorn. If you have cinnamon in the cupboard, sprinkle over the popcorn for a festive touch. Specify a festive dress code to get the kids even more excited – and have Christmas music playing as everyone arrives.

HOMEMADE DIY CHRISTMAS WRAPPING PAPER5. Make wrapping paper. Forget expensive rolls of patterned paper and create your own at home with the help of the kids. Buy rolls of brown paper, then get your kids to stamp their feet in brown paint and make imprints over the paper. Make sure they leave a fair amount of space between each footprint. Your job is to add eyes, noses and antlers with paint and a fine brush – and when it’s dry, you have the most adorable homemade paper for loved ones.

6. Go on a Winter Walk. If you live in the UK, get the family together and enjoy a crisp walk in the countryside. Plan your walk to end up in a country pub, complete with roaring fire to warm up, making a full afternoon or morning’s activity cost the price of a coke and packet of crisps. Visit Walking Britain for routes.

SALT DOUGH ORNAMENTSMake Decorations. Salt dough decorations are very easy to make (blog post coming soon with our creations!) Add one cup of salt, one cup of flour, and half a cup of water to a bowl, mix it together until it forms a dough, and then use it to make decorations. You can make festive shapes like stars or angels, or make imprints of little hands or feet to remember for years to come. Then poke a hole in the top for hanging and bake at 100’C/200F for 3 hours. Once cooled, you can paint, seal, and hang on the tree!

Take a Festive Photo Every Day. Get the kids involved in a project to take a new photo every day of December, asking them to help choose the theme, find their outfits, and decide where to take it. Themes to try include the nativity, party, winter warmers, santa’s grotto, and love.

POPCORN AND CRANBERRIESFeed the birds. Create popcorn and cranberry garlands for the birds in the garden. String unsalted and unbuttered popcorn with fresh cranberries on thick thread (try wool, upholstery thread or fishing line). Use a big needle and a thimble – smaller children can pass you the popcorn and cranberries and let you do the threading. Then head outside to string up the creations for the birds to enjoy (popcorn and cranberries are perfectly safe for them to eat). You can then sit by the window and watch your garden residents enjoy your creations.

Track Santa. Log onto website www.noradsanta.org from 1st December and you and the kids can track Santa and his reindeer’s progress for free. Make it a daily ritual to log on – and once you’ve found out where he is, you can spend some time researching the country he is currently flying over together (from atlases, books and the internet), so that your kids can learn about the world as the big man travels around it. 

 



28th November 2014

Remembering my brother

IMG_1582When someone dies in the days before social media, they don’t have a tribute page where friends can come together and support each other. They don’t have a Facebook profile where people can talk to them, leave messages, and check every now again to keep the person alive in their mind. They don’t have a Twitter page where you can re-read their words and remember their thoughts, their dreams, their conversations. There is nothing online. Nothing.

 But they still existed.

My brother died in 2003, 11 years ago today. Facebook didn’t exist then and there is no trace of him online.

But he still existed and I want people to remember him.

He was 18 years old when he died in a car accident with one of his closest friends, Amy. I don’t have permission from her family to talk about her, so I will just say that she was also 18, just about to go to university, very bright, and very beautiful. We think about her often.

Anthony was having a year out after school, playing rugby, and looking forward to heading to university at the end of that year. He was popular, cheeky, creative, and very talented at rugby. He had a big group of friends who he went to school with, played sport with, holidayed with, and partied with. He hated doing school work, but always managed to do well in exams (much to my annoyance). We didn’t have the best relationship as children, but we had bonded in recent years with mutual friends at the rugby club – so my brother, my sister, and I spent most weekends together.

Anthony had met my now-husband and told me that he liked him. We had only just met when Anthony died, so that quick comment means a lot to me now.

He had everything to live for.

I was living in London at the time he died, in the first year of my first job at a magazine. It was the middle of the night on November 28th that my phone rang. I saw it was my home number calling and I knew instantly that it was bad news. In the split seconds before I answered the call, the names of my immediate family members flashed through my mind. I had been with them that afternoon, before returning to London on the train, so I knew where everyone was heading.

When my Dad’s voice came on the phone, my first thought was ‘Dad is OK’, but then I remembered that someone else wasn’t. He confirmed it with: “I have some bad news” and the words that followed shattered my world in a split second.

I don’t think about that night often, but memories come back to me at this time of year. I remember sitting on the wall outside my house with my housemate Tom, our breath turning to smoke in the cold air as we waited for a taxi to drive us back to Kent. I remember seeing a stag stood majestically on the side of the road on that long journey and not even blinking.  I remember walking into our family home and my Mum asking whether the roads were foggy – I thought she was enquiring out of interest; it took years for me to realise that she was wondering how the accident had happened. I remember the sound of the kettle boiling as endless cups of tea were made as we waited for the darkness to fade and morning arrive. I remember my Dad making phone call after phone call as the lightness arrived. And then I remember family and friends arriving very quickly afterwards; I vividly remember one family friend arriving with her hair messy, sleep still in her eyes, as she threw on some clothes and ran straight out the door when she heard the news. I remember the shock, the sadness, the tears, but I also remember the support from those around us. I remember my auntie’s dog moving from person to person, allowing us to stroke her for comfort. I remember the bowls of soup and casseroles arriving, the visits from the parish Priest, having to go into town to buy myself a funeral dress to wear to two funerals in a row, and I remember the feelings of anger and injustice bubbling to the surface when we had to pick a coffin from a catalogue.

That night changed me, changed my personality, and shaped the course of my life. If people ask me how many siblings I have, I always say: “I have a sister”, but inside I am screaming ‘I have a brother too”.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about him.

And since becoming a mother, I feel his loss even more intensely, especially when my two-year old recently pointed at his picture and asked: ‘Who’s that?’ and we tried to explain that it is his Uncle, who is now with the angels and the clouds in the sky.

Stanley is named after him: Stanley Anthony. And I will tell both the boys about their Uncle as they grow up, making sure they share his love of sport, cheeky sense of humour, and zest for life. They will grow up knowing that he existed.

So you may not have a Facebook or Twitter page, but we remember you Anthony. And we will always remember you. Today and always.



27th November 2014

Win Personalised Letter to Santa Stocking by Lime Tree Interiors

original_letter-to-santa-stockingI fell in love with new interiors company Lime Tree Interiors when they launched a few weeks ago, so I was delighted when they offered Mum of Boys a prize to give away.

You can enter on Facebook here to win a beautiful Letter to Santa Stocking, which will be embroidered with your child’s name and delivered for free to your address in either the UK or Dubai!

The prize is worth £30 and you can enter on Facebook by 1) liking the post 2) Liking Mum of Boys and Lime Tree Interiors on Facebook and 3) Sharing the post with your friends. The competition winner will be chosen by an online name generator on the evening of Sunday 30th November so that your prize stocking can be embroidered and delivered in time for Christmas.

This competition is open to readers in the UK and UAE, as Lime Tree Interiors accepts international deliveries.

If you need to do some Christmas shopping, it is well worth a quick browse on Lime Tree Interiors. There are some really beautiful items, including Christmas Linen Sacks, Personalised Beach Bags, Cushions, and Bunting. In fact, I’m going to add a few items to my own Christmas list (hint, hint husband!)

Check out Lime Tree Interiors here.



26th November 2014

10 Christmas Traditions to Start Now

3f9184f730e039dc68b13413362c8e2f1 – Create a Christmas Box. Create a box for the festive season that can be pulled out on 1st December every year. Include Christmas stories, DVDs, music CDs, figurines, decorations, and festive toys. When the kids see the box coming out of storage, they will know that Christmas season has begun!

2- Let the kids choose a new tree decoration every year. Make the shopping trip part of your family tradition – and mark the date on the back or bottom of the decoration so you can remember when it joined your family. Try not to steer their choice towards something tasteful, as the beauty of this tradition is that it captures a moment in time – and if that’s the year they fell in love with a penguin wearing skis, so be it!

3 – Wrap 24 books and place them under the tree. It doesn’t matter whether they are old, new, or library books. Let your child open one book every night in the lead up to Christmas to read before bed as a unique and memorable countdown to the big day.

4 – Decorate the tree as a family. It’s true that the toddler isn’t going to be a huge amount of help, whilst the baby will probably get tangled up in the fairy lights – but unpacking the decorations, putting up the tree, and switching on the lights after all that hard work will be just as magical for the children.

5 – Donate a gift. Teach kids that the act of giving is more important than receiving by making an annual gift donation to a child less fortunate. If you live in the UK, The Salvation Army is currently running an appeal for gifts. More details here.

6 – Fill Christmas Eve Boxes. Leave a box downstairs for them to discover on Christmas Eve morning. Fill it with Christmas Pyjamas, festive DVD’s and books, warming drinks, and a fun festive-themed activity to keep them busy that day. This gets them excited about the big day. Some ideas here.

7 – Play Elf on the Shelf. Make the lead-up to Christmas an exciting time by welcoming an elf into the family. The idea is that children believe the elf has been sent by Father Christmas to watch over them and report back on naughty and nice behaviour, but the mischievous elves get up to trouble while they are sleeping -and the kids will race around the house every morning to find out what they have been up to. More details here.

8 – Make card writing a family event. Find writing the cards tedious? Stock up on craft supplies – and let the kids decorate the inside of cards and envelopes with crayons and stickers.

9 – Christmas Lights Hunt. Let the kids stay up late and climb into the car in their pyjamas as darkness falls, before driving around the streets to hunt for the best Christmas Lights. Drive down high streets with themed shop windows and decorations hanging above – and along any roads where the houses are impressively decorated. When you get home, let them drink hot chocolate and read Christmas stories as a reward for their hunting.

10 – Take a photo every year with Santa. Make sure you get a photo of your child every year with Santa. As the years go on and siblings join, file each photo away – and when they are grown up, you can create a book, print, or canvas to remember how they changed throughout their childhood.



24th November 2014

Is it OK to admit I miss my old life sometimes?

10723751_773212042715366_1963918117_nWe went for a nice family dinner yesterday. Within the first three minutes, the toddler had emptied the contents of a sugar sachet into my bag and eaten a slab of butter, complete with foil wrapper.

As we looked around at the other people in the restaurant, enjoying a relaxed early dinner as the sun set over the beach, it dawned on me that we were the only people with children. And do you know what I felt? Jealous. Yes, jealous.

I wasn’t jealous of the fact that they these people had just stepped off the beach, the salt still in their hair and sand in their toes (while I had spent the afternoon picking uneaten spaghetti off my floor, calming a toddler tantrum, and changing three explosive baby nappies).

I wasn’t even jealous of the fact they were enjoying a meal in peace, having adult conversation as they watched the sky turn red and then purple, reflecting off the sea.

And I wasn’t jealous that they got to eat their dinner in their own time, without having to juggle feeding a baby his puree, whilst swatting away his brother’s hand from the contents of their plate.

No, I wasn’t jealous of any of that – as although I knew they were all having a lovely time, I had my family around me and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

The thing I was jealous of was the their spontaneity and freedom. Is it OK to admit that I miss that sometimes?

I miss being able to make snap decisions about heading out to dinner that night, just because we fancy it. I miss choosing restaurants based on the food I want to eat, rather than the fact they have enough highchairs and a healthy menu for the kids. I miss being able to accept invitations without having to book childcare and keep my fingers crossed that they will turn up. I miss planning weekends away just a few days before, getting on trains with a moment’s notice, attending work events and still having hours of the day to play with. I miss doing all these things without a double buggy in tow, a packed-to-bulging nappy bag, and a change of clothes in case the just-potty-trained toddler has an accident.

I miss only having to think about me.

I don’t want to swap places with these holidaymakers tucking into their salads as they watch the sun set, not for a single second. I have never regretted having my boys and can honestly say that they have completed my life, made it happier, and more fulfilled (yes, even the bits when the toddler eats butter in foil, with the benefit of hindsight). But sometimes I feel nostalgic for when life was simpler.

Not many people will admit it out loud, but I would bet a bottle of my favourite Sauvignon Blanc that most of us feel it on occasions.

So to answer my own question: is it OK that I miss my old life sometimes? I hope the answer is yes.  It’s not like that part of my life has suddenly been erased – I am still ‘me’ under these puree-stained clothes, after all.



22nd November 2014

15 Creative Ideas for Christmas

Feeling festive yet? It’s never too soon to start getting creative – and these 15 ideas are all really effective, but the best bit is that they are easy enough for the kids to enjoy too.

collage

1. Baking Tray Advent Calendar – fill each hole with a treat or small toy, seal with circular card, and string up with ribbon.

2. Rudolf Pancakes – the most creative breakfast for the festive season. Use bacon for the antlers, a dot of cream and raisin for each eye, and a cherry for the nose.

3. Green Pasta Wreath - paint pasta with green paint and glitter.

4. Fingerprint Baubles – get the kids to dab their fingers on the baubles and add a few doodles for a very special keepsake.

5. DIY Fireplace – you can build a fireplace with cardboard boxes, white paper, and red paper. I love this idea!

6. Snowman Door – make your front door into a snowman in minutes with black eyes, orange nose, and scarf.

7. Fingerprint Christmas Lights – this activity is fun for kids and takes adults a few minutes to turn it into artwork.

8. Reindeer Hand Prints – another fun art activity that will remind you how small they were in years to come.

9. Potato Bauble Prints – use potatoes to create fun, colourful Christmas artwork.

10. Strawberry Santas – these santa-inspired snacks take minutes to make.

11. Christmas Tree Artwork – you can make this tree-inspired artwork with one child – or include the whole family.

12. Santa Wrapping – you need red, black, and gold paper to create the most striking gifts under the tree.

13. Angel Toilet Rolls – start saving toilet rolls now so you can dot these sweet angels around the house over the festive season.

14. Mistletoe Cards – give friends and family handmade cards with the help of a couple of little feet.

15. Peanut Gift Tags – use a bag of peanuts in their shells to create the cutest gift cards under the tree.



20th November 2014

4000 Followers on Facebook Competitions! UK and Dubai

Thank you very much to every one of my 4000+ followers on Facebook! I was more than a little excited to see the figure jump over 4000 this week – and to say a big thank you, I have organised a competition in both the UK and Dubai, so that all my readers have a chance to win!

The competitions are taking place over on Facebook here – to enter you need to like the post that applies to you (UK or Dubai), share the post with your friends, and make sure you have ‘liked’ Mum of Boys.

Here are a few more details about what is on offer.

Little Swimmers CompFor UK readers, I have teamed up with Huggies to give away a Baby Swimming Kit, containing a year’s supply* HUGGIES® Little Swimmers® swim pants and a HUGGIES® Little Swimmers® Hygiene Mat, swim seat and Vivitar V8426 Underwater Camera.

This year, HUGGIES® Little Swimmers® is encouraging parents and their little ones to get back in the pool more often and make the most of the benefits of baby swimming. Visit www.littleswimmers.co.uk for top tips, advice and information.

DSC_0958_2For UAE readers, I have teamed up with the beautiful brand Coochy Coo, which sells a range of exclusive personalised baby and children’s gifts in high-end fabrics.

I have fallen in love with the Christmas collection, which includes personalised stockings, baby bibs, and cushions. The brand are at RIPE Market on a Friday morning, which is one of my current favourite weekend destinations! (Zabeel Park, every Friday morning).

To celebrate my 4000th Facebook follower, you have the chance to win this very lovely advent calendar, which you can pack with treats for little ones over the festive season.

Find out more at www.coochycoo.net

These competities will close at midnight on Sunday 23rd November, after which a winner will be selected and contacted. Please make sure you enter the correct competition for your delivery address (UK or Dubai). I am happy to accept BFPO addresses for the UK competition. Good luck!



18th November 2014

10 Things About Christmas Your Children Will Always Remember

ZmBfi4Lps4jyXjpact6uiMs29G8itBJHOTmZYDzaI-Y1. The Traditions. You know what parents really love about Christmas? Watching their children enjoy the same family traditions they enjoyed as a child. Whether it’s buying a new decoration every year in a department store decorated like a grotto, reading a new festive story every night in the build-up, or leaving a carrot for Rudolf on the front door the night before, this will be the only way they will want to celebrate as they grow up. Whatever you do now and repeat every year ongoing will stay with them forever.

2. The Family Gathering. They may not be aware that their Uncle caught his flight by the scrap of his teeth or that their Auntie was only there for 12 hours before she had to head back into work for a night shift, but they will remember that the family gathered together. They will remember the house being full of people, they will remember the laughter at bad cracker jokes, and they will remember sitting on their grandparents laps in Christmas pyjamas reading festive bedtime stories.

3. The Build-Up. Sometimes the build-up is just as good as the big event – and this definitely applies with Christmas. Your children will remember the magical, exciting few weeks before big day, heading to pantomimes, carol concerts, and meeting Father Christmas in his grotto. They will remember the excitement they felt as they did all these things. For them, childhood Christmas memories will last periods of weeks, rather than days.

4. The Tree Decorating. Memories of the tree going up, the boxes of decorations coming out of storage, the star or angel being taken out of its box and set on top, and having to untangle the lights before stringing them around the tree will stay with your children forever. This will be the official start of Christmas.

IMG_40505. The Magic. Whether you create footprints on the carpet with flour, take a bite out of the mince pie you have left on the side, or sit with them at the window staring expectantly at the night sky before they go to bed, they will remember the magic you create over the Christmas period. Long past the days when they really believe in Father Christmas, they will remember the thrill of the time when they believed.

6. The Last Day of Term. If your children are old enough to go to school, you will already know the excitement they feel on that last day of term when lessons aren’t really lessons. In the future, they will remember those feelings on the last day of term, with the class performances, parties, and festive film screenings. This will be the real start of the festivities for them and they will come home bursting with excitement about the weeks ahead.

7. The Gifts Under the Tree. In years to come, your children wont remember what they unwrapped at each Christmas. They wont recall when you have bought Christmas gifts on a budget or when you have had the funds to splurge. They will just remember the excitement of seeing gifts under the tree, knowing that they will get to open them soon. And they will remember the anticipation and excitement they felt ripping that paper off their gifts long after they forget what was inside.

8. The Classic Films.  They will remember and love the Christmas films they watch as children long into their adulthood. As the titles roll, memories will come flooding back of lazy days in front of the television playing with their new toys and working their way through treats from their stockings. As the years go on, new films will be released, but nothing will compare to the festive films they watched as children.

9. The Act of Giving. Of course, the greatest joy of Christmas is the act of giving – and your children will always remember helping to choose gifts for friends and family members and the excitement of watching them unwrap. As they get older and you allow them to choose the gifts themselves, the excitement will grow even greater – and memories of what they gave will stay with them far more vividly than memories of what they received,

IMG_360310.  Christmas Morning. Nobody forgets the excitement of waking up on Christmas mornings while it’s still dark and discovering a stocking packed full of surprises and a half-eaten mince pie waiting on the plate. They will remember the smell of pine needles and satsumas stuffed in their stockings, the sound of the kettle boiling as their parents desperately try to wake up after one too many sherries the night before, and the change in light as the sun starts to rise for the most excting day of the entire year. And when they have children in years to come, they will rediscover this joy all over again (with strong coffee in hand, naturally).



16th November 2014

The Surprise Christmas Eve Box

I saw this idea recently and loved it, so decided I would make one for each of my boys this Christmas. The idea is that you fill a box for your child on Christmas Eve to bring some magic to the day, with everything inside designed to get them excited about waking up the next morning.  What I love about the idea is that you can tailor it to age, preferences, and budget. The below ideas are roughly what will be in Stanley’s box on Christmas Eve – Wilfred will have a slimmed down baby version so that he isn’t left out.

CHRISTMAS EVE BOX

 

1. The Box – Large Polar Bears & Penguins Gift Box, £4.25, Paperchase (click here to buy)

2. The Activity – Reindeer Cupcake Decorating Kit, £7, John Lewis (click here to buy)

3. The Pyjamas – Moose Snuggle Pyjamas, from £8, Next (click here to buy)

4. The Book – The Night Before Christmas, £3.85, Amazon.co.uk (click here to buy)

5. The Cuddly Toy – Jellycat Bashful Reindeer, £8, John Lewis (click here to buy)

6. The Decoration – Personalised Star Decoration, £7.50, Not on the Highstreet (click here to buy)

7. The Treat – Gingerbread Men in a Bag, £4, John Lewis (click here to buy)

8. The Cosy Drink – Hot Chocolate Mug, £8, Next (click here to buy)

9. The Santa Plate – Personalised Mince Pie Plate, £13.95, Amazon.co.uk (click here to buy)

10. The DVD – The Snowman – 30th Anniversary Edition, £5, Amazon.co.uk (click here to buy)



15th November 2014

10 Rules For Living With A Toddler

10788034_813113552087898_1106759052_n1 – Do not waste good food by trying to eat it in the company of a toddler. If they spot it, you will lose approximately nine-tenths. They will not care that it is your favourite gourmet foodstuff that cost more than the usual weekly food budget. They will demand almost all of it – and if you say no, they will throw themselves on the floor until you give in. If you must eat it, hide.

2 – Do not ask your toddler if they want to watch their favourite film. It will suddenly not be their favourite film. Instead, offer them an entirely different film and they will demand their favourite. Be cunning at all times.

3 – Be mindful of your language. Even the quietest profanity muttered under your breath will become your toddler’s favourite word. He or she is most likely to repeat it in embarrassing social situations, such as when you are chatting with their nursery teacher, when you are in a lift with total strangers, or when you bump into your husband’s boss while shopping. They feel no shame.

4 – Never run out of supplies of food or drink.  As soon as the item runs out, your toddler will need it. They will need it so badly that they are prepared to throw themselves on the floor and demand it with enthusiastic wails. Do not expect this to pass; they will not give up until you come up with a plan to restock supplies.

5 – Keep your expectations low at all times. The more excited you are about doing something with your toddler, the more uninterested they will be. Keep packs of raisins and lollipops in your bag at all times to gently encourage their enthusiasm when needed.

6 – Do not waste money buying a foodstuff that your toddler gobbled enthusiastically at a play date. Once you serve on their own plates in their own home, the foodstuff will suddenly taste disgusting. So disgusting it will probably be thrown across the room.

7 – Appreciate that your toddler has a sixth sense. They know when you have been drinking the night before and will wake up an hour earlier to make the most of your misfortune. They know when you have just washed the sofa cushions and will mark them with their marmite-stained mitts. They know when you have booked a babysitter and will suddenly develop a temperature at bedtime. They know, they always know.

8 – Do not bother to wash your toddler until moments before they go to bed. As soon as you wash your toddler or change them into clean clothes, they will be attracted to dirt like a magnet. Make peace with the fact that you now live with a grubby urchin.

9 – Do not buy your toddler the toys that they have enjoyed playing with at the homes of friends. Once you have invested in the toy, he or she will ignore it completely. The more expensive the toy, the less they will enjoy it. Their friends, however, will spend a long time playing with it when they come over to play, so your money will not be entirely wasted.

10 – Never underestimate the intelligence of a toddler armed with your mobile phone. They know how to delete apps. They know how to email business contacts. They know how to reset the language to Azerbaijani. And they find it funny.