Tag Archives: toddlers

No Spend November

I’m going to say it as it is – I’m useless at saving. Everytime I attempt it, something happens and all the pennies get spent and more goes on the credit card too. It sucks to be in this cycle of never ending debt and not being able to see a way out of it. I want to start with the small things. We regularly change service providers, we aren’t Brand Snobs, and we walk or cycle whenever possible. It wouldn’t have been unusual for us to do a good walk to The OutLaws of a weekend although, sadly, my fibromyalgia means that is now a complete no-go. Having access to a fabulous car has been one of the only positives but it is amazing to have a brand new car covered for breakdowns and repairs with no hassle or concerns. It has meant we don’t have to worry about a possible vehicle problem and the expense that would incur because it is All Inclusive. A major weight lifted off us.
We do have bills to pay, a car to fuel, school trips to cover, and every week essentials that we can’t buy in advance for one reason or another. There is also every chance of an emergency and the only thing we can do about that is suck it up as usual. I can, however, do something about the kitchen which is what my No Spend is going to cover. I will have a strict list of essential buys and that’s it. I’m not going to cave to any more Christmas pressure either. I have everything I need to make it a wonderful family gathering with heartfelt, handmade gifts. If I go near Wish or eBay I know I will crack so I am taking them off my homescreen and I’m going to turn off notifications for the next month at least. If I can avoid my usual pitfalls, I truly believe I can do this (gulp).

Whenever you try to complete an exercise like this, I find it useful to make the rules that work for you, after all, no two families are the same and when you’re catering for 10 people you can be dealing with figures that others might find appalling. Hey ho, nothing I can do about how others tick, I need to focus on our kitchen for now.

So here are my basic rules;

~~Essentials covers milk, bread, eggs, ham (The Boy will eat it all if I buy in bulk), salad items, fruit

~~Essentials does not include chocolate, crisps, snack foods, lunchbox fillers, The Mr’s lunch (he buys his own Up Town to save the cycle legs)

~~List the food you have in already – pantry, cupboards, fridge & freezer

~~List the meals you can make with what you have – pasta with sausage, chicken and chips, veggie bolognese with spaghetti…

~~Try something different or one of your “once in awhile” specials (corn beef hash! – but I don’t have any corn beef in. Boo!)

~~Have Meat Free Mondays (Vegan for us with The Big Boy now opting for that choice)

~~Have Leftovers Clearout – all those one meal portions you freeze for lunches you never get around too

~~Take note of anything you really miss so you can PLAN future meals – the Ginger Teen loves pulled pork but will have to wait as we don’t have a joint in the freezer this month

 ~~Get Creative – fancy crisps? Cut and bake a tortilla, use the popcorn kernals, bake bread, bake chickpeas for a “nutty need”, soak the bag of beans that you’ve stockpiled “just in case”

~~Minimise your shopping trips –  I get easily distracted by the middle aisle of Lidl

These are not hard and fast rules but you need to control the things that might lead you astray. The Mr loves his crisps. We have some crackers but he’ll either go without or get inventive. The Mr also likes to rest with some cider, wine, or whisky. Good job we have a cupboard of alcohol that could do with finishing off ready for a fresh New Year collection. 

I also have to consider things that could potentially lead us off course. I’m going to a Baby Shower on the weekend and will need to contribute a few bits. We have a stockpile of Baby wipes thanks to Amazon Subscription so they can be passed along, I have rice and seasonings, we just had a Muscle Foods delivery so there’s chicken to use. I don’t think I need anything extra except some lemonade so I added that to our last essential’s online shop due in the morning. Sorted. I have also arranged for a trip to Primark up town. They’ve decked it out all Hogwarts themed and I’m bound to want something. I figure a set amount plus a birthday gift for Ginger Teen and The Mr. That should make things less stressful but I’m going to be drooling for sure over just about everything.

The Big Boy and Grandan have birthdays at the end of the month too. Presents are sorted. I know there are cards somewhere in the draw. I even got fancy birthday candles in Poundland so the only thing I have to consider is cakes. As eggs are essential in our household, I think I can make it work. I’ve also got a nice store of vegan friendly alternatives going with the new change and a bag of semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips so I’m sure I can knock up some kind of yummy cake-like affair for Himself. 

I’ve also got change enough to buy Poppies, a complete essential for us although a white poppy is important for me too. 

That about wraps up what I’ve worked through this far. I admit to going back and streamlining the online shop. The whole point is to use what you have in the cupboards and here I am loading up on the things we buy regularly but that I don’t know if we are actually using completely. The other household Fibro Hangup is my lack of kitchen time. I love to cook, from scratch and with enjoyment. I know we have ingredients in the cupboards that, quite frankly, scare the Whoshamaflips out of the children and The Mr. They are improving, especially with having to cater for a vegan and a pescatarian, but there is a tin of mixed beans waiting to be turned into a chilli and some sardines which could be turned into a delicious pie with the right TLC and a bit more imagination. I need to show the children how exciting a meal can be when it isn’t chicken, tomatoes and pasta. It won’t be an easy adjustment but it is a much needed one. When they tell me we have nothing in for dinner I have to laugh. My issues mean there is always something to make a meal, it just might not be to your liking on that day. Eat It or Don’t. There are no second options this month.

Wish me luck, I think I may need it!

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Shall I compare thee…to your siblings?

Everything I know about parenting I learnt by being a parent. I do have younger sisters but we are close enough in age that we didn’t take on any significant “parenting” in the true sense although my little sister (not my baby one!) and I are only 18 months apart and we have had to keep each other safe over the years, stepping in when, for whatever reason, our own parents couldn’t or wouldn’t. We’ve had each others’ back and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You’d think that would make us very similar but we actually more like our opposites. We know how to push each other’s buttons but equally, we complement and counterbalance each other which allows us to be very different and yet both very positive and, hopefully, good mothers.

Now I know all this. I can see how siblings don’t necessarily follow each other, how we all learn, interact, play up, in our own unique ways. So why do I continue to compare my own children? There are 8 of them, of course they’re all going to plough their own paths, it would be madness to think otherwise. I think I must be mad.

I find myself constantly doing it; did The Boy walk this early? Did The Prefect ever miss a joke this badly? Are the smalls even cheekier than the bigs ever were? Oddly, the only time I didn’t was the one time that it may have been most beneficial. 

When The Newstarter was about 18 months, I realised that her speech was a little less recognisable than I recalled the older children being. I then reminded myself that each was unique and that I shouldn’t judge based on my experience with the bigger ones. By the time we got to 30 months, with the babbles of The Baby coming along, it was clear that her speech was definitely being stubborn. She could say plenty, I could get what I needed out of her to make our day easier but I began to take note of the words she could and couldn’t say. 

When she started nursery, the first thing I did was raise my concerns with her new teacher. She took some time to settle her in and make an evaluation. Miss Teacher seemed to think she had quite a severe need for a SaLT referral and made noises that suggested that there may be some learning delay. 

I’m mum, I might not have rushed to the GP with concerns but I have done this a couple of times. At home, she would tell me the colours, some simple counting, she had a fantastic group of little friends who would play some crazy games and she got herself understood as well as knowing exactly what others were saying to her, she sang nursery rhymes and could puzzle away like she had the answer sheet! If anything (mummy bias & sibling comparisons) she is actually a faster learner than some of her older siblings. I am in no way worried about her progress.

Back to nursery. We took the school’s advice and went to a play & stay specifically aimed at children with SaLT needs. We arrived and were invited to play. The girls gravitated straight to the play kitchen where they made us cups of tea, cake with vegetables, and even did some ironing – that’s quite scary because only Mr Dad irons and it normally occurs when the smalls are fast asleep. I have no clue where they picked up such great ironing skills!

I spoke to an assistant therapist, we discussed a few things, bit more play, a sing song and a brief overview. In its simplest meaning; she’s doing fine, stick with what you’re doing, ask the school to continue as they are, come back if you need anything else.

It was a little frustrating. The therapist agreed that there was definitely an issue with her speech but, unfortunately, there just aren’t enough funds to justify further support at this stage beyond what we were already receiving via the nursery staff having the training to help the two children at the nursery in need of support. Mostly, I’m okay with that. 

Don’t get me wrong, if they offer us further support moving forward, that is amazing and an opportunity we would welcome but at the grand age of 4, we’re okay. She’ll meet with her new teacher soon, we’ll go through all the questions, hear the “oh gosh!” when they understand that she is 7th of 8 children, and we will eventually get to the part of her story where we discuss any additional needs she may have. It’s at this stage where I will explain her “school passport” which has a detailed account of last years progress. I’ll tell her of our wonderful holidays where we tried to engage The Newbie in conversation wherever we could, my eyes will glisten when I recall how much she impressed us with her talk of the “blue humped big whale” or how well she is doing going from her short, easy to say name, to her long, tougher to say all the syllables full name. We’ll work on a care plan, The Newbie will smash it out of the park and we will sail through Reception with as much ease as any of her siblings (see, I did it again!)

Next month marks another milestone in my life. Another small person starting school and I’m left at home with just The Baby who seems less baby like with every passing day. She’s a huge part of us identifying The Newbies speech patterns, mainly because she never stops talking! I will have a whole year getting this little jumping bean up to speed ready for nursery but I don’t think it will take more than the first term of school, she has all the makings of being just as sponge like as her biggest siblings! Oh darn it, I just can’t help myself.

So on the last note for today’s ramblings, The Big Boy did himself proud. A couple of A*s, a B, and a lot of As. I keep telling him he can be whoever he wants to be. These results are going to make it so much easier for him. He has poured all of himself into his GCSEs and now he can “relax” as he starts his A levels. He thought he’d kick it off by joining an elite group of teenagers all trying to discover how best they can support their communities and being Advocates for those who have been or will be victims of bullying or discrimination because they dare to stand out from the crowd. 
It is my honour to be his mum. It is my honour to be a mother to each and every one of them. Any burden I carry easily, safe in the knowledge that my little people will always fight for themselves and for those who need help. They are all utterly beautiful inside and out.

Honest Blogging

Today, I don’t feel like I measure up. One after another after another I have in someway hurt and upset my children and I find myself wondering, at 11.13 on a school night, how do I fix this? 

I am not the kind of mother I thought I was going to be, indeed, I am not the sort I once was in any shape or form. 

In the beginning I was caught up in my situation. We had planned the making a baby part but hadn’t considered the affording part as well as we might have. Two young adults, studying at college, both realising what we wanted and how staying at school wasn’t going to achieve it. It is, therefore, fairly accurate to suggest thatg we jumped into things with both feet whilst wearing blindfolds. 

I am not a lover of pink and I moved any pink outfirs to the back of the wardrobe when our first born arrived. We let them choose their own path and we encouraged building blocks, train tracks, dolls & prams, fairy wings, and all things Winnie the Pooh – a childhood love I was glad to share! I was never anti “girl” toy, I just really don’t love the colour pink and on little chunky babies it can have a hint of marshmallow about it (sorry not sorry).

By the time we got to our Little Dude we had a great set up which included Barbie having a tea party with Action Man as well as I fantastic train set that wound around the Grandparents ground floor visiting the teddybears picnic and Megabloks mountain before stopping at the Fairy Pirate Ship! Our aim as parents was to show each of our children that they weren’t restrained by what was expected by society and they showed us that they would each take and leave what they wanted from the choices available to them. I think we ended up with a healthy bunch of well rounded individuals who are liked and respected by those who count and mostly by those who can help them to achieve and succeed. 

The downside to our regime is that our children also have healthy debating abilities, a knowing sense of how to use their argument, and unfortunately, the acting skills to throw a tantrum with great ferocity and ear-splitting volume. They learnt the skills in toddlerhood but perfected them with their early teenage showdowns. 

It has meant a fair amount of biting of tounges and the occassional parental blowout of frustration. This fabulous Summer heatwave has made our wonderfully full household very tetchy and irritable, more mistakes than normal are being made, and butting of heads, egos, and emotions has been a major downside. 

We have had Sports Day x2, Theatre Performances, Proms, Duke of Edinburgh trials, Year 6 Journey, Pride, Award Ceremonies, New School Meetings, Tavistock groups, GP appointments, and my FMS/CFS consultants appointment which falls on Leavers Assembly/Leavers Disco Day. As a parent my life is extremly hectic and my feet are hurting and my body is aching, and my mind is melting. 

I don’t know how I am going to keep on top of everything that needs to be done and I’m snapping like a crocodile. Everytime I turn around someone is asking me for the impossible or shoving another form in front of my nose and more money is being asked for. I’m stretched to breaking point and so is our budget and, as most adults know, when the pounds are no longer stretching every single penny needs to be counted and preferably not by somebody else’s bank account.

We’ll make it work, we always do. My mental strength is recovering after my mindless spending on rucksacks, prom shoes, and kitchen utensils since loosing Vic. My physical health being so low helped to make the slip easier and hopefully my new ‘specialist’ should aid some recovery, with luck anyway. 

I just want to be able to be an active mother, to be able to keep a standard of tidyness so that I’m not tripping on teddies and hairclips, to be able to get back to cooking and baking, to spend quality time listening to them instead of wincing in pain whilst waiting for meds to kick in. I want to be a “normal” mum (if there is such a thing) and not the one with the funny walking and grimacing expression. 

And tea. I’d like to do it all whilst drinking a cup of tea that is just too hot to be around small people with vie like grips.

Failing all that, is it bedtime yet?!

Hormones

It seems like our household is run on those tricky parts of the human system and it is terribly difficult to navigate.

Personally, I had the implant embeded a couple of years back. I am not overly keen, I never wanted to override my bodies own balance in such a way but we hadn’t made a decision about our families future so this gave us breathing space for three long years. Between this and long term breastfeeding my periods have stopped and my empty switch seems to have disappeared as my belly has increased considerably. In fact, I lost a none too shabby 2.5 stone just before deciding on the implant and I’ve gained that and the same again since. I am now hovering around the largest I have ever been and I’m not best pleased with it. I have also been put on some serious anti-depressants to try and counter the Fibro symptoms which may have helped the gain. Sucks to be me this year. The pain is so intense right now so exercise is not an option, even a short walk around Lidl has me beat and makes the rest of the day a right off. At least I don’t have mood swings anymore.

The big girls are all flooding with the damn things! All day, every day, one after the other we will work through an emotional outburst. Generally, it is easily dealt with, nothing outrageous or unmanageable but they seem to be a catalyst for the next big bang. I know the theory of all this but I never imagined just what a minefield it is. Suddenly a simple clothing suggestion becomes an on switch for a plethora of self doubt and accussations of sabotague. I swear, one day my head is going to spin so fast that it will fly off like a spinning top. There is no way to keep up with three teens who are all competing with themselves, each other and the social media peer group which I would quite like to take a massive delete button to. The messages coming from the images, memes, and quick quotes on Snap This and Insta That are a ginormous boiling pot of misery masked as sympathy and “advice”. We are the lucky family that are tech savvy and switched off enough to talk to each other and work through some of the damage these social groups can cause. When I hear tales of their real life school peers, the time they spend interacting with trolls and frenemies, the backlash they experience for wearing the wrong brand or not being quite “on point” with the latest eyebrow shape, I shudder and allow an audible profanity to escape whilst describing these faceless internet users. The boys are no more protected from this mockery and hate filled onslaught, they are just more likely to internalise the self loathing this invisible bully causes. No wonder that depression, anxiety, self harm, & low self esteem are hitting terrific highs in recent studies. The lack of personal, non-study based classes in the UK has to take a hit on this too. If we do not take the time to educate our young people about the positive role they can and will play in society, the impact their future job or position could help to raise the sense of self worth, and just the ability to decipher the hideous circus that the World Wide Web can so often be.

Our Big Lad has his own horomonal battle to fight. If it isn’t bad enough that his body is producing an abundance of the “wrong” hormone for his personal body preference, he also has to take a different hormone based prescription to help counter balance this cruel reminder that somehow, somewhere, something went a bit skew whiff. He has been considering blockers for a good long while now and it is the likely route he takes on his path to finally taking testosterone. This has it’s own complicated set of checks and balances, as well as a huge list of unknowns for this relatively new regime.

As a mother I’m finding this all a great deal to take in. For a 16 year old taking GCSEs (or whatever the damn certificates will end up saying) this must be a consideration which takes up more time than you’d prefer to allow as you chart out a revision timetable and pencil in study groups and classes running before and after school. I wish that I could make this process easier, to take away some of the stress and strain but it isn’t in my power. I get to sit back and offer a listening ear and the taxi service to various appointments, classes, and youth groups. 

To think, all those years ago when we first planned a large family, I never really gave much thought to how challenging this part of parenthood could prove to be. Now I’m living it I can confirm that it is as tough as all those commentaters have joked over the years but I can also confidently say, even with the teenagers, and the Threenanger, and the Queen Bee baby of the bunch, the Smiler, and the Boy – I would do this all over again. 

Despite the drama, the mayhem, and the sheer overwhelming need for reassurance that hormones seem to elicit, my young people are coping in a way I can only dream of. The sheer awe that I feel when I see each of them find their path through the hurdles and the set backs is almost beyond words. Our eight wonderful, individual, unique, and outstanding examples of the beauty that dna can create far outweighs this mass hormone onslaught. This is what gets me through, that and knowing that one day they may well experience a little of this rollercoaster with their own dna experiments.