How do you control your kids?

butter wouldn't meltWhilst getting into the car one day last week we saw our next door neighbour, also out front, the usual niceties followed and the girls went over to talk too.

It was the Easter holidays and I imagine the noise from our house had been a few decibels higher over the previous 10 days to the normal quiet that reigns.

‘Hope they haven’t been too noisy these past few days’ I smile at my neighbour asking politely but knowing they’re not bothered by a bit of kiddy noise as they adore children thank goodness.

‘It’s not them I hear!’ came back the reply, with a smile and a laugh, a little friendly jesting shall we say?

‘Oh, you can hear me?’ I say and apologise with a smile bundling the girls into the car as we’re already running late.

No harm done, I know it was in jest and I laughed too but as I was driving along I thought about how I use my voice for parenting my girls and how I did in the past when Thomas and Megan were small too.

I find it works and it avoids threats of smacks which I don’t like to use. Thinking closely I use my voice in lots of different ways to look after my children, when they’re sad or poorly I use a softer quieter tone to comfort them. When I want them to play and have fun, my voice becomes all excited and enthusiastic to err them on to doing whatever I think is a great idea – this one doesn’t work when it comes to tidying their room though.

Then of course when they’re playing up, first I ask them to stop messing about, maybe ask them to calm down, stop hitting, don’t throw that toy, be nice … you get the picture.

If shortly after that hasn’t worked I raise my voice a couple of decibels to let them know I mean business and I drop the ‘asking’ so it’s more of a ‘I said..Stop that! Calm down! Don’t hit your sister! Don’t throw that toy!’

As we all know sometimes children don’t listen and continue as they were, maybe even laughing which is really annoying. So I start seeing red (it’s the Taurean bull in me) Now I am not pussyfooting around anymore I want peace back in my kingdom. I am the boss here and my orders will be obeyed so I raise my voice LOUDLY

STOP I SAID!

The new level and determination in my voice brings the two little people to an immediate standstill and probably from my expression they get it very quickly and start to cry loudly, together and they tell me

‘Stop shouting mummy you’re hurting my ears’

In the meantime it worked and I got them to sit up and take notice, what I wanted them to do has been achieved and now I must deal with the drawbacks of my clever parenting skill, the LOUD tears, they are so false but I need them to stop before we start disturbing the neighbours – or maybe I already have. Oh dear…

‘Shall we have a biscuit?’

Now that one works every time too.

Abigail the new Story Buddy from Hallmark

Abigail Story Buddy HallmarkAbigail is the latest Story Buddy from the Hallmark range and she is the softest, fluffiest and cutest rabbit ever. Very girly and very adorable

She arrived last week and has been read every day since. She gets swopped from one twin to the other on a daily basis as she teaches them to share as well as listen to her story and they adore her as much as they love Watson the Racoon and Jingle the Christmas Story Buddy.

The concept is very simple, Abigail responds to certain sentences that can be easily picked out in the book as they are written in a different colour. When a clear adult voice reads these phrases, Abigail will pipe in with her contribution to the story bringing delighted smiles to the little listeners as they are tickled pink by the idea of a talking softie who adds to the story. Abigail responds to clear voices and may not pick up the quieter, softer tones of young children.

Abigail helps tell three stories and we were sent Abigail and The Balance Beam which is really quite fitting as the girls have just completed their first term of gymnastics at our local club and adore it. (and they each have their first medal #proudmum)

Abigail story buddy hallmarkHer story is an important one of wanting to do things that big people do, in this case walk a beam, and although she finds it very difficult she doesn’t give up and is very pleased to win a prize for her effort and achievement.

This is something I’m very willing to teach the girls as life is hard, it doesn’t always come easy but we have to at least try and give it our best shot! I’d like them to feel that they can have a go at anything and as long as they’ve done their best then they have been successful. I’d like them to see that the trying is part of the fun.

Abigail and the Balance Beam can be bought for £19.99 at Hallmark and makes a perfect educational alternative to chocolate at Easter!

Tips on how to choose the right school for you

Riverview Infant SchoolIt’s weird that the girls were only 3 in the summer and yet we’re already looking into the start of their school career. Next September they will go into Reception class and we have until January 14th to choose our first, second and third choices.

I went on a visit to my first choice school last Thursday and was very impressed, 10 laptops per class, an interactive white board in every class which I saw in action and actually wanted to have a go at myself. There were outside areas for each class, an ‘eco garden’ and a lovely feel to the school that made me wish (for a fleeting second) that I was back there again.

The deputy head took us around and I was far too lively asking far too many questions but were they the right ones? What should I be looking for in the school that will give my girls their first step in the education system? I don’t know about you but I feel this is a huge responsibility and I’d like to think I’m getting it right first time round, I like every other parent out there would like to think I’m giving them the best possible start in life and with the postcode lottery I’m all fingers crossed that we get two places at the above school which is walking distance from our home.

Luckily on my Butlins day out in London the other week one of the other Mum Ambassador is also an Early Education Expert – who better to put my thoughts too? Her name is Rachel and she blogs over at Right From The Start Have a look at her helpful tips she kindly pulled together for me below

Looking for a school

  1. League tables will only give an indication of academic performance and don’t give a true picture of the school , similarly don’t take an Ofsted inspection as the only deciding factor – always visit the school and get a feel for whether it is right for your child.
  2. Remember all children are different what is a ‘good school’ for one may not be for another.  Think about factors such as is there enough outdoor space if your child is active, is the class size very large if you have a timid child etc.
  3. Talk to other parents .
  4. Make a list of the most important elements of a school for your child, we all have different criteria and try to pick the one that has the closest match.
  5. Look at a wide range of schools, many schools in affluent areas are good but some are only good because they serve more affluent families.  Some of the best teachers choose to teach in inner city challenging schools as they want to make a difference and love the challenge.  Don’t rule them out because they are traditionally seen as ‘less good’ you may be surprised at the rich and exciting learning experiences they offer.

Good Questions to Ask on your visit

  • What have you done in recent years to improve  the school ?  Look for detailed descriptions rather than talking about aesthetics or meeting targets.  A good school will be open and say that they are continually reviewing what they do for the benefit of the children.  We have found that ….. so we…….and the results have been …….
  • How do you decide what you will teach the children?   Do the school follow topics and if so do they stay the same each year or do the children’s interests help to decide?  Is learning the same for each child or does it take into account strengths, preferences , learning styles etc.
  • How do you encourage children to be well behaved?  What are the values of the school regarding behaviour, is it important that they sit still and listen well, is politeness and kindness to others  rewarded, are children encouraged to take responsibility etc.
  • How will my child be stretched if they are bright or supported if they are struggling?
  • How will I know how my child is doing?   Expect more than a few parent’s evenings – does it feel as if the school values your input?
  • How long have the staff been here?  In my experience a school  with a high turnover of staff usually means that the staff are dissatisfied with the way in which it is run (this is not always the case as you may have predominantly female staff of childbearing age  who are on maternity).  On the other foot sometimes a large number of staff that have been there for 20+ years  can mean that teaching is a little old fashioned and lacking in new inspirational ideas. Again this is a generalisation as I have worked with some inspirational experienced teachers who have taught in the same school for most of their career – if you meet one their passion for teaching will be immediately evident.

Sainsbury’s Super Saturday

This Saturday just gone was of the best Saturday’s I’ve spent in a long time and a special thank you must go to Sainsbury and P&G who very kindly invited me to attend the fabulous Sainsbury’s Super Saturday on Clapham Common. I decided not to take the twins with me as they were too young too appreciate it and I knew two people who would LOVE to be there, my niece and nephew aged 12 and 10.

Sainsbury’s are sponsors of the Paralympic Games and Super Saturday was a ground breaking initiative to raise more awareness and boost our athletes moral as the countdown of less than a year ticks by. The Common had been transformed into a fabulous family-friendly Super party with sponsor tents around the edge each with its own exciting initiatives, a sports arena in the centre where you could watch Goalball, Table Tennis, Wheelchair Tennis and Wheelchair Basketball, a stage where top bands such as The Wanted, The Saturdays and Taio Cruz performed and sport areas where anyone could have a go at a sport. (see my picture of family members of all ages having a go at Wheelchair Basketball in the collage below). In fact there was so much going on we didn’t get to do everything we wanted to. The Water Zorbing was mobbed and after half an hour in the queue the kids decided they’d prefer to watch Olly Murs on stage, so reluctantly we left our hard earnt places and  made our way over to the stage. At least Olly Murs gave a fantastic show which we thoroughly enjoyed, even my brother gave the thumbs up!

Paralympic - Sainsbury's Super Saturday

My favourite sponsor tent was P&G who had sent me a wristband allowing me to enter, drink Bucks Fizz and listen to Belinda Carlisle live! The kids had their faces painted (yes Billy did choose a Lego brick!) I got to have my photo taken with Glenda and also to catch up with Sandy from Baby Baby Maria from Mixed up Mummy and Sabina of Mummy Matters all of whom I hadn’t seen in a long while.

To top my day off as I used my tokens in the Sainsbury’s Super Dome for free drinks and helped myself to an ongoing ever-laden buffet of delicious food (2lbs extra this morning showed on the scales!) I caught up with Liz from Me and My Shadow (2nd place in the Wikio charts! – I’m 92 :) and together we ran strolled over to Alex Reid to have our photo taken, he was very sweet and obliged so long as we both kissed him on the cheek…stars eh and their egos!

Tom Parker, Belinda Carlisle, Alex Reid

So here are some ‘Did You Know’s?’ that I didn’t before looking into what the Paralympic Games are…

  1. There are 20 sports in the Paralympic program for London 2012 Games
  2. Blind swimmers have to wear blackened goggles to ensure fairness, they are removed at the end of the race and checked by an official
  3. The distance between fencers at the start of a bout is decided by the fencer with the shorter arm who can decide whether to fence at their own distance, that of their opponent or anywhere between the two
  4. Wheelchair tennis follows the same rules of able-bodied tennis the only exception being, wheelchair tennis is allowed two bounces of the ball
  5. Top wheelchair basketball players use specially designed titanium chairs costing more than £3,500 that can last as little as 6 months in high-level competition periods
  6. Hand-cycling, for athletes with lower limb disabilities was introduced at the Athens 2004 Games
So who should we be watching out for in the GB team? Here’s a few names
  • Darren Kenny, currently Britain’s most successful paralympic cyclist a serious neck injury at the age of 19 prevented him continuing with his favoured cycling sport but at 30 he is back in the saddle competing on both track and road. He brought home 4 golds and a silver form Beijing. Go Darren!
  • Peter Norfolk, was left paraplegic at the age of 19 in a motorbike accident. The first British player ever to win a  Paralympic medal in tennis at Athens bringing a gold medal home from Beijing in the singles and a bronze in the doubles with Jamie Burdekin. Go Peter! Go Jamie!
  • Will Bayley currently ranked number two WORLD player in his class. His grandmother brought him a table tennis table to keep him active during his recovery from cancer, he made his Paralympic debut at Beijing and hopes to fulfil his dream of gold in London 2012. Go Will!
  • Hannah Stodel started sailing at the age of 3 and completed her first world championships at 12! The first British woman to compete at Athens, a string of medals to her name Hannah and her team are determined to get the gold for Britain! Go Hannah!
There are so many more, David Weir, Ellie Simmonds MBE, David Smith, Georgina Bullen to name a few and these athletes show that Great Britain is capable of rising to any occasion and performing 100% against all odds. Please make sure you follow their progress as they are doing our country VERY proud.
 
Once again a special thank you to Sainsbury’s and Beige, P&G and Hill and Knowlton

Day 1 of preschool

Relaxing after preschool

Chillin' after preschool

Another broken night as Alice called out for me from her bad dreams and eventually needed her bed and pyjamas changing and a regular morning; having breakfast as daddy left for work, watching some cartoons whilst I showered and dressed and as the theme tune signalled the end of Peppa Pig, I took them upstairs to do teeth, faces, dress and hair.

At 8.45am rucksacks on backs with a change of clothes and tissues in case of tears or runny noses we left home for the short walk up the road to preschool. I wanted to take a photo of them walking ahead for you but they wouldn’t let my hands go :) Outside the preschool doors some children who had obviously been there last term waited in a queue jumping excitedly about. One little one bossing everyone into a line as her mum watched on with a sheepish grin raising her eyes to the sky but all the parents enjoyed watching this happy scene and smiled at the little ones’ initiative for an orderly queue. Even Bessie was enthralled by it and quickly dropped my hand asking to go over and join in but Alice stuck close like a little limpet not letting me go until the very end when she finally plucked up the courage to join in.

Doors open we found our pegs, Alice has a ladybird, Bessie a guinea pig (Tommy was a dog and Megan an umbrella, funny how I remember after all this time) and we moved around the large open hall finding tables laid out ready for play. Cutting, sticking, Lego, bricks, drawing, dressing up clothes and the garden doors open as it was sunny. Gayle introduced herself as Bessie’s keyworker and stuck a name sticker on Bessie’s t-shirt, she told me I was welcome to stay as long as I wished which was very comforting as I didn’t want to make a nuisance of myself but didn’t want to leave them if they were in tears. In the garden we met Anita, Alice’s keyworker who also did the sticker trick, the girls jumped into little cars and off they went. I chatted with the ladies as I watched and noticed a couple of little boys have breakdowns bless them. It was wonderful to see the various keyworkers take their hands and comfort them, I overheard one tell a little lad in tears, ‘Come on, let’s find you a friend.’ which cheered him up immediately.

After half an hour, I could see it was safe to leave so after consulting Anita she told me to go over and tell them I was leaving in five minutes to go and buy a newspaper and remind them I would be back for them. I walked over dreading it imagining an immediate protest but blow me Bessie looked me straight in the eye smiled and said

‘Bye!’

Alice copied her; I’m not too convinced she felt as at ease as her sister but with that positive reaction I went back to Anita explained and asked her to call me if I was needed.

I left, I walked around the long way so they wouldn’t see me and came home with my newspaper.

On collection at 12am I was told Alice had had a little breakdown and refused to have any juice today but had gone to the toilet on her own whereas Bessie had left it right to the last minute to have a wee and had missed the loo as a result!

Alice’s first question to me was ‘Where’s the newspaper mummy?’ which I quickly responded was on the table at home and I showed her as we walked through the door just so she knows she can trust my word.

As we left preschool this morning, one teacher looked at me and said ‘You HAVE got a bundle of fun there, haven’t you?’ …I think our Bess has already made herself known to everyone there!

Day 1 therefore a success, thank you to all the lovely ladies on Twitter and Facebook this morning for your support and here are a couple of excellent tips

  • Tuck a ‘kiss’ into the child’s pocket so if they feel blue whilst you’re not there they can reach in and get your kiss. (Beautiful, thanks Glenda)
  • Don’t fire too many questions when you pick them up, let them tell you in their own time (Thanks Jules – t’was difficult though!)
  • Never leave without telling them and reassuring them you’ll be back for them.