Willow Face Paint Hoo BookFest

How to get Vouchers/Adverts for your school or charity

Willow Face Paint Hoo BookFest
Cheeky Butterfly

It’s school summer fair season again!  That means I’ve been approached by a LOT of schools in the surrounding area, for either adverts in their brochures or vouchers for their raffles.

Realistically, the vouchers do not really help me with my business.  I don’t get a lot of visibility from them and I don’t get a lot of business.  However, I do like to support the local community; my kids are at a local school, and I’m very aware of how hard the PTA’s work for both the private and state schools.  Sadly at times I do feel a little ‘used’ at times by the schools that approach me (not all, just some), which I suspect makes the PTA’s job even harder.

So I thought I’d write some tips on how to get those much needed adverts or vouchers from local businesses.  Most importantly you are looking to create a relationship with the business; where they know that you don’t just want a voucher from them, you actually care that they gain from it.

  1. If you are asking for raffle tickets, have a simple brochure and list all the small businesses that gave you a voucher with a thank you and their contact details.  Or create a poster that is in a prominent position at the fair if you can’t afford brochures.  The raffle prize will cost the business money to provide the service/product and it takes a lot of return visits from that customer to cover that cost.  So this gives them increased visibility.
  2. Suggest they offer you a raffle ticket for something that can be upgraded; this gives them a chance of covering their costs at least.  For instance, if I offer a 45min massage, someone might upgrade it to 60mins.
  3. If you are asking for adverts, please consider what value for money you are providing in comparison to other local advertising options.  Some schools would like to charge me the same amount to potentially reach 300 parents that I can reach 20,000 people in for a local magazine/newspaper.  They also tell me how many children are in the school, rather than how many families, which can often be about 60% of the original number.
  4. If you are asking for adverts give them plenty of time, a deadline, explain what format you need the advert in (e.g. PDF/Jpeg) and what the dimensions of the advert will be.  Also, send them a complementary version afterwards, to show them that you definitely did do the advert.
  5. Offer them a package where they can have a stall at your fair, offer a raffle prize and advert in your brochure at a reduced rate.
  6. Do some research into the most popular stalls; my heart breaks sometimes for the small businesses sitting their all lonely with products which are just not suitable for that school.
  7. If their business doesn’t really suit a stall at your fair, they could sponsor one of the PTA stalls.  For instance we often have simple games, where the kids win sweets.  These could be sponsored by the business, and reduce the PTA’s cost in return for a sign thanking the business for their sponsorship.
  8. Keep a record of the businesses and the contact person that help you each time.  Then to save you time you can contact them directly each year.
  9. I recommend that you find out if any of your PTA or parents actually use the business – I’m much more likely to give a voucher to a client, than a stranger who contacts me once a year.
  10. Contact the most local businesses first; they are the most likely to gain from supporting you.  Whereas I’m often contacted by schools from a long way away, that probably are too far for me to realistically gain clients.  It’s worth walking up the local high street and making a list of the companies, the person to contact and which ones might be interested.  Once this list is created it can be used each year.
  11. Support the business on social media – send a thank you tweet and message on their Facebook page.  Like their Facebook page and follow them on twitter.  Mention them on your private Facebook profile as well.  All these things help with a small businesses marketing campaign, and helps to reduce their costs.
  12. During the following year, share one or two of their Facebook posts or like them to show that it’s not just at Christmas and the Summer Fair time that you are interested.

I know this probably sounds like a lot of work, and it might be a little late for this year’s fairs (sorry!).  But once you have your list of businesses, it is likely that they will automatically help each year and you’ll only be looking for 1 or 2 extras per annum.  You will stand out as so much more loyal and caring than the other schools, that the business will always be willing to help you where it can.

I’d also recommend other ways of building a relationship with the business:

  1. Invite someone in from them for careers days, and send thank you’s on social media for their time.
  2. Offer them the opportunity to put fliers in the school bags – this can be more successful than an advert in the school brochure and lucrative for the school.
  3. Proactively find out what local businesses the parents work in and specifically target them, as they have greater interest in the school.
  4. If you have railings at school, you could offer for them to make a banner and advertise there every now and again (for a fee of course).
  5. If you do other events during the year, potentially offer for these businesses to sponsor some aspect of it.
  6. For your most reliable and loyal business supporters, you could add a thank you page to the school website.

Please remember that these are small businesses.  Unless they are very lucky, the owners are probably earning as much or less than they would do if working for someone else, and they are much more stressed.  Why on earth in that case do they do it?  Well that’s a question I’m not sure of the answer for!

I really hope this helps in that rather desperate rush to compete with other schools/charities for small business support.

 

 

Tap shoes

What’s the point to an after school club – I get it at last!

After school clubs – we often worry about them.

Have we chosen the right one?  Too few?  Too many?  Do kids really need them?

If they aren’t going to become ‘good at it’ do they really need to do one?

Do we need to supplement what they learn at school, with more stuff to learn from an early age?

Do we need to fit in lots, or a few?

Do we need to run around like mad crazy creatures every day of the week to get our kids the best ‘opportunities’ possible?

Well after this weekend I definitely got the point.

 

Boys at dance classes

Tap shoes
Tap shoes

I’ve always been a fan of after school clubs for giving and outside influence and confidence.  But I’ve also been pretty lazy – I’m not into running around like a crazy creature or teaching my kids mandarin, so we’ve tried a few things out over the last few years.

Curly headed boy has been going to street dance for a while.  But a year ago after switching to the local state primary school, he started at Excel Performing Arts.  We quickly added tap lessons too.

Why?  I’m not sure really.  He loves dancing.  It’s more creative and free than gymnastics, and I thought it’s good for a boy to be able to dance.

Tap was more hard core though, and I had wondered whether he would be able to keep it going.  I could see how much it improved his timing.  But there had been a few times when a lot of persuasion was required to get back in the car and head off to his class.

The last few weekends and a large percentage of this half-term were then filled with practicing for a show.  I was getting very nervous.  What if it was awful?  What if something went wrong and he was devastated?  I duly bought tickets for each night, so that someone would be there just incase and got the Grandparents to cover one of the 3 shows.

 

Show time

OMG was the show wonderful.  I cried, laughed,and had shivers go up my spine.

The little ones were so cute.  The big ones were so talented and there are definitely a couple with the skills to go on further.

But most importantly the show showed me THE REASON.

Everyone is included, tall, short, skinny, gawky, tubby, plain as well as the talented and pretty.  There was no ‘social divide’ – middle class and working class (personally I hate those titles) had all sent their kids to the classes.

All the kids were worth watching. Every parent would have been amazed by what their child achieved.  And together they made an amazing show.

But when you see the older kids, you see the plainer, taller, shorter, skinnier, gawkier, tubbier ones have transformed.  They have a confidence and grace that they wouldn’t have been given elsewhere.  That’s the point.

It’s a HUGE achievement to be on stage.  To sing.  To dance.  To work together.  No wonder their confidence grows, especially as week in week out they are doing exercises that teach them rhythm, posture and grace.

 

Maybe not all teachers are the same

Little Girl Dancing In Her First Ballet shoes
First Ballet Shoes

I’m not sure that this would happen in all dance/drama schools.  I remember my ballet teacher making it clear I was never going to be the right shape for ballet.  I was heart broken and stopped going to tap too (which I preferred).  A few years later my best friend was told she had grown too tall.  It took me years and pole dancing lessons to realise that dancing can be purely for fun (that’s a another story!).

I’m sure Sam and Steve would push any student with talent, but what’s most important is that they see what they can do for all the kids.  They’ve never said this, but you can tell by looking at the kids and that they haven’t subtly ‘pruned’ them.  It wouldn’t take much; just a comment here or there.  And this is what made the show so great to me.

Steve is pretty famous himself, so he knows what they need to do to succeed, but most of all he’s enjoying the ability to give something back.  (Here I have to admit rather embarrassingly to not watching enough TV to have a clue about who he was when I met him – note to self, watch more TV!).

Little Dimples was copying the little ballet dancers while watching and will be starting baby ballet with Sam next week.  So next year I’ll be watching two of my children in the show, and I can’t wait – but need to buy more tissues (I’m a wuss!).

I have no idea if my kids are talented dancers/singers/actors.  And I’m not going to worry about it.  I’m going to encourage them to do something they both love purely for the joy of it.

 

And I’m going to do more stuff purely for the fun of it, even if I’m not good at it.

 

Which one to choose?

So if you are wondering what class to put your kids into here are some tips …

  • remember that the arts are good for the soul – everyone needs a bit in their life
  • dance and gymnastics are what I call ‘body, mind and soul’ exercises, because they combine all aspects of ourselves in one
  • the ‘proper’ gymnastics class we went to was very repetitive – they have to drill the same thing over and over and over again
  • don’t worry about what they will do when they grow up, just pick something they enjoy
  • boy’s who can dance will be cool when they grow up
  • girls love to feel pretty and graceful, but some of us need a little help in getting there
  • if you are in any way local to me, pick something Excel does because I think they are fab! (although most classes are at Bowmansgreen school, the kids are from many schools).
  • unless your kids are naturally academic, I don’t think that they need extra classes in primary school to learn something else.
  • it’s just as fun to go swimming with the family when they are very young, don’t panic about classes if they are difficult to fit into your routine.  Plus the week long immersion classes can make great progress instead.

 

Most of all, do what suits you, your family and your kids.

Pick for the JOY of it.

Don’t pick because you are worried they will miss out.

Don’t pick for their future career.

Don’t add too many – leave time for chilling, homework and playdates.

Ironically the Big Hairy Northern one and I are helping to set up an after school club for Woodcraft Folk from September.  Now I know ‘the point’ I can only hope to do as good a job as Steve and Sam.  But if we do any dancing/drama at any point, I’ll be getting them in!  In fact that gives me an idea ……

What a your favourite after school clubs?

Which ones did you try that didn’t work?

 

Naughty Kids

Is Having Two Kids Harder Than One?

Naughty Kids

 

Things are so much easier now!

AND SO MUCH HARDER!

 

Philosophically I get that life is just different, children change, our challenges change, things aren’t ‘harder’ or ‘easier’, they are just different.

But I’m surprised how much more difficult it is.

Billie Piper talked about it his week (warning, that’s a link to the Daily Fail).  I feel for her, but I do like knowing that ‘even celebs’ have the same problems; is that horrid of me?.

 

I LOVE seeing the kids together; I’m so glad I chose to have two, and there are times when they keep each other occupied.

There are also times when I need to step in before armageddon erupts.

It’s true that I have vaguely more clue about dealing with children now; hence it’s easier.

But of course being contrary she is so blinking different too; I even have to discipline them differently.

I don’t have as many ‘firsts’ to deal with, and know more about what to expect.

But I still have all CHB’s firsts as he gets older, plus keep my eye on the rerun with LD.

Meanwhile I have two children, so I’m very aware that there is less space for the big hairy northern one to be anything but self-reliant and self-responsible.

And I’m definitely more knackered.

 

Kids love muddy festivalsOh and don’t get me on the naughtiness.  It’s not double the naughtiness, its QUADRUPLE!

Little Dimples was BORN with a naughty look in her eye.  She encourages Curly Headed Boy to be naughtier, is naughty herself, teaches him new tricks, and then learns things that he picks up from school.  OMG!

 

I’m struggling to work as much.  It shouldn’t be any harder to work, as with CHB at school I have nearly the same amount of time.  But I’ve had a big reality check over the last month and my plans/deadlines/ideas are all going to have to wait.

 

I talk to Mums with older kids, who explain that they thought they would be able to go back to work, but actually the amount of emotional support their kids need when at school has made it virtually impossible.  So I’m expecting at some point to be less physically knackered and then have to up my mental/emotional game.

 

I take my hat off to Mums who have more than two; you don’t have enough arms for them or eyes, how the hell do you do it!  You are what I would term ‘professional Mums’.

 

Have you decided to stick to one child?  Or did you go for two like me?  Or are you one of the ‘brave’ who has a whole handful of kids?

 

Which is better private or state schools

Why we changed our mind from state school to private and back again

Which is better private or state schoolsChoosing schools must be one of the most stressful experiences a parent ever goes through.

Changing where you child goes to school is even worse!

Rationally there is no way that just this one choice will be the making or breaking of them.  But for some reason we become complete nutters when bewildered by choices, social pressure, decisions between private vs state schools and ghosts from our own experiences.

I’ll never pay for primary I said!

I was always a big fan of state primary, it seemed daft to pay for something that was available for free.  But never say never!

When you are pregnant you just don’t look at schools as much as the older parents advise you to.  So although there were ‘problems’ with the local state school Bowmansgreen, there were plenty more around, so we didn’t think twice about it and moved into a new quite ‘posh’ estate in a ‘village’ called London Colney (it’s more like a suburb to St Albans).

 

Then the baby boom hit.

Panic and the rush for a Private school

Bowmansgreen was my only option and although it had a new headmistress with a great reputation, but she hadn’t sorted the problems out yet.

To be honest there’s not a lot of ‘problems’ where we live, but there are two little areas of the village where there are definite big problems.  Of course within those two areas are great and lovely families.  However a select few make a big impression, and it just so happens that I live quite near one of these areas.

I just wasn’t willing to let my ‘golden haired boy’ be an experiment that might go wrong – rightly or wrongly.

So along with my whole crescent I panicked.  I was late in preparing Curly Headed Boy and competition for private schools near London is intense.  He was lucky to get a place and so off he went to a private school called Radlett Prep.  (A prep school is one that is specifically preparing kids for getting into good private secondary schools).

After a few settling in problems he seemed to really start to enjoy it.  The school is very old fashioned, and hard core; but then most of the private schools are tough.  But it was always very clear what you were getting from them; maths and english.  Pretty much just that.

However, there was one problem.  I knew he was imaginative, creative and artistic, but apparently he is also bright, so the school just wouldn’t let him relax; after all he was a prime candidate for good results.  It wasn’t just the school either, as there were some kids who were ‘unusually competitive’; I’m talking critiquing his spelling, writing, reading and speech.

He said he was fine.  But I was worried that the ‘real him’ was getting squashed.  Plus he looked tired, really really tired and developed nervous ticks.

(Now don’t get me wrong; this is not a criticism of private schools as some of the kids were really thriving under the structure and pressure.  It’s very much a case of me not being sure that it suited my child, that is all.  Plus there are different types of private school; it’s just that he didn’t get into those ones).

The universe offers up an excuse

Then the big hairy northern one was made redundant.  I gave notice immediately ‘just incase’ he didn’t get a job quickly as previously he was off work for over a year.

I talked about not wanting him to choose a job just to pay for schooling; which I think shocked some parents, whose priorities are much more academic than mine and would sacrifice everything for their children’s education.

After 4 months the hairy one got a job, but I said that it was just a contracting job so it wasn’t secure enough for Curly Headed Boy to stay.

I went back to doing the school run and realised that I dreaded it; what should be 20mins was a 1.5hr round trip in the morning and 1hr round trip in the afternoon.

Then as we started to talk about the fact that he might have to change schools my son started to admit that he wanted to change schools, because all he ever did was ‘work’.  Even football classes and P.E. were ‘work’.  He’s in year 1 (6 years old); I started to have big concerns about where the ‘fun’ was in his learning.

Just incase I considered changing my mind, one of the senior teachers was very grumpy when she discovered he was definitely leaving and they were losing a cheque.  There was no ‘we’re going to miss your son so much etc etc, hope everything gets more settled for you soon and maybe we’ll see you back here’.

Learning about flowers at schoolThere was a choice of state school after all!

How ironic, after all that panic we had the choice between a small village school about 10 mins drive away with just one class per year and the local school Bomansgreen (2 classes per year in comparison to Radlett Prep which is 3 classes per year).

Remember the new head with a good reputation?  She’s not daft at all.  She did a resounding sales job on Curly Headed Boy, and so he picked Bowmansgreen.

So he’s just started at our local school in term 3 of year 1 and can now walk to school (unless it’s pissing it down, because I’m a wimp!).

He gets school dinners (it was packed lunch at Radlett), free morning snacks and encouraged to try different fruits in govt campaigns.  There’s loads more art, lots of time on the computer (maybe too much!), no drama but lots of music, and I got to see him in his school assembly with him dressed as a flower (oh yes, there were tears!)

Two weeks in and I can see the stress falling off my son, although Little Dimples seems unimpressed if her tantrums to and from have been anything to go by!

There are some problems with fitting in with the kids and it is VERY different; but he’s pragmatic about it and we’ll tackle it.  His emotions have been very up and down with the nerves and excitement, but he is adamant that he is happier.

He might be a bit bored and ahead, but they have already changed his view of reading and he  is now reading books for fun, which I’m really chuffed about.

Most of all I’ve come to understand that I want my children to have rich lives, and that academic qualifications don’t necessarily create a full life.

So the story continues …… I’ll let you know how we do!

I’d love to hear if you’ve made similar decisions to move your children at any time?

 

Which is better private or state schools

Does your past affect your worries about your children’s schooling?

What makes us feel one way or the other about education and the choices that we have to make for our children?

Some of it must be society and peers.  But I reckon a big part comes from our own childhood.

I was sent to an all girls school; hence my dislike of single sex education.

I also went private right through, my husband went half & half.  So initially we were planning on state primary for Curly Headed Boy and Little Dimples, until our options were limited to a school that had a bad reputation with the potential for improvement.  We just weren’t willing to risk our child as a bit of an experiment, so we went private.

Not just private, but private near London, which means loads of competition for places and loads of competition in the school.

After some work to settle my son into reception, he settled in well, and we discovered he was apparently very bright.  It was me who started to worry that it was too hard core, with too little emphasis on enjoyment of learning.

With the big hairy northern one being made redundant, I used it as an excuse to go to see the state primary, which had now proved itself to be on the up.  So Curly Headed Boy will be transferring there after the easter holidays, and is very excited.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Wondering about this has made me wonder what assumptions and myths I had running around in my head, especially from my childhood?

    1. Clever children don’t to art – I was allowed to do art O’level, but not allowed to continue afterwards.
    2. Arty people are flakey – the art teacher lied about their qualifications and had to be replaced after a year.
    3. Girls who can do science shouldn’t do english – and so I had to study Physics and Maths A levels, was meant to become and engineer, not a writer.
    4. You get better qualifications at private – I don’t think this is a true or full picture of what education gives.
    5. You’ll be more successful if you go to private school – my friends and family have proved this is not true!

I’ve come full circle back to my writing, and a big appreciation for the arts as a way of providing a rich life.

What I want to do is give my children the opportunity to decide who they are without any myths; but I reckon it’s quite a difficult thing to stay aware of.  I don’t think the myths per se are bad, it’s just that we need to be aware of them when making decisions that are affected by them.

So I’d love to know:

What myths have you left over from your childhood?

Are you more biased to the sciences, sports or arts?  Why?

Have you followed the same path with your children as you followed?  Or are you making different choices?

Or have you really made a different choice and gone for home schooling or Steiner education?

Family gap year

Family Gap Year vs Finding The Magic at home

Family gap year
Family travelling the world in a motorhome

With the big hairy northern one being made redundant, we’ve been talking about taking a year out as a family gap year; maybe 6 months in the states, home for my brothers wedding and 5 months in Australia and New Zealand.

Curly headed boy is 6yrs old, and having been to a private school is a bit ahead of our local state schools, so if we home school as we go, it will definitely not affect his education and he’ll be fine to return to a state school.  Plus I think he could do with some time out.  Little Dimples is nearly 2, so she would come back to a years pre-school before reception.

 

What I don’t want to do though is run away thinking that we can get something from the year away that we can’t get from staying and ignore the potential downsides.

So the question is what do I think I’ll get from it?

  1. Adventure and magic
  2. Self discovery for me and the big hairy one
  3. Time for the family to come back together and strengthen
  4. Time for us to think through what the big hairy one would like to do career wise in future
  5. Time out for Curly Headed Boy from 2yrs at a hard core school to rejuvenate
  6. Teach the kids how exciting and fun it can be to learn
  7. Expand the kids horizons, show them what else there is in the world
  8. Reduce the kids reliance on stuff and show them how lucky we are and what a ‘rich’ life really is
  9. Create stronger and more consistent rules and boundaries for the family
  10. See things I’ve never seen before

At the end of the day I’ve realised I want my children to have a ‘rich’ life, so if this will help them start on the road towards that, then great.

Realistically written down like that, there is no reason why we can’t do those things in ‘normal’ life.  But it will take a lot more focus, because it won’t be happening automatically from our environment.

The potential downsides are that we could nearly kill each other in the process of ‘self-discovery’, Little Dimples might not get important socialisation time, we could get sick or have an accident, if mis-managed it could end up costing us too much money and it could make it even more difficult for the hairy one to get a job on his return.

If we don’t go, the downsides are that we might not stay focussed on the changes that are needed, although there will definitely be a change, because we are going to change Curly Headed Boy’s school.  There’s no real way to replace experience though, because you just can’t be sure of what you would get, so it’s difficult to try and replace it.

But if we can managed to stay, plus achieve all of that list, that would be a really amazing achievement though.

It’s a bit of a conundrum and at the moment there are a lot of opportunities out there, I think that we need to do more research and follow a few of the options along to see if they give us a clue.  After all, if someone offered the big hairy one a fantastic job tomorrow, that might be a big hint to stay and just plan a great adventure for a holiday.

 

How to organise a play room

What to tell your kids about Advertising?

How to organise a play roomApparently today the government is suggesting media lessons for primary school kids.  Do we really need this?  What do you tell your kids about adverts and the effect on our decisions?

Well, funnily enough I had a chat with Curly Headed Boy last night.  We normally watch Cbeebies and Disney, which are advertising free; sort of, because the programs themselves are a pretty good advert and Little Dimples will pick up anything with ‘Poggle’ in it (Iggle Piggle) or ‘Oink’ (Peppa Pig).  But as he is learning spanish at school we switched to Nick Jnr in order to watch a bit of Dora this week, which means that there have been 101 adverts of rubbish toys that he now wants for Christmas and his birthday.

So I explained that adverts are evil and they mess with your brain so that you want everything they show you!  Curly Headed Boy isn’t daft, so his answer was ‘For real Mummy?’.  No of course that’s not the whole story.  An advert can also be useful to inform us of something that is available (just you wait for the one I’ve done for my up and coming book!).

I don’t really think that Curly Headed Boy needs lessons to make him media savvy.  But there will be kids whose parents will forget, not have the time or not think to mention it.  Plus when school tells him something, it’s generally considered law; hence the ease with which I can get 5 a day into him now.  So really, I don’t care if they do or don’t do a lesson.  It won’t be a massive waste of time, after all they are just in primary school.

I’m not convinced it is the highest priority at school in general as we still have a huge percentage leaving primary school without being able to read and write.  However, when people stole stuff in the London Riots, what did they steal?  Brands.  So perhaps it’s not so daft?  Maybe the little kids will tell off their parents for being so brand ruled as well?  But it won’t be enough, so it needs something else later on as well.  After all I was totally against smoking until I was 16, stressed, and miserable, which led to 10yrs of inhaling nicotine.

What do you reckon?  Have you had ‘the chat’?

Video Wed: New School Year Resolutions: What is or is not your responsibility?

I confess, I have a bad habit of taking responsibility for stuff that isn’t my shit and getting knackered in the process.  I’m about a zillion times better at it than I used to be, but I still have a tendency to be tempted.  I think it comes from being a ‘young carer’ as they now call it, for my Mum.  It’s Ok in small doses, especially when it translates into caring for people or offering opportunities.  But it goes wrong when I take responsibility for other peoples choices and try to interfere or influence them, especially family or friends (I’m much more controlled with my clients, thank goodness otherwise I’d be a rubbish help to them).  It’s partially because it makes me more tired, partially because they then don’t get a chance to prove that they can sort themselves out and partially because it brings out the ‘sensible’ side in me, rather than the ‘fun’ side, who is a lot more sparkly.

So I was thinking today, it’s the new school year, so its a great time for making changes as we are so used to the idea of September being the beginnings of something new.  So I’m choosing to make a concerted effort to become responsible for a whole lot less, thereby getting me a pile more energy, and space to take responsibility for new things (like the success of my book when it is published at the end of October).

Here are some things that I came up with.  Fancy joining me in dumping a pile of responsibilities?  What are you going to dump?  What are you going to focus on?

My Responsibilities

  1. Keeping myself fit and healthy; to be honest I didn’t put this at the number one slot, it was down after the house at the fifth slot, which isn’t bad, but it’s time to change that one, especially as I’ve promised to lose 5lbs in the next 3 weeks.
  2. Loving my kids from top to toe, inside and out, naughty to good side, from here to eternity.  At the end of the day, we all want to be loved just as we are, but I remind myself that this is the most important thing every morning, as life can be distracting.
  3. Providing a safe, nourishing environment for my kids to grow up in: well, atleast feeding them a bit and giving them the odd drink and bath.
  4. Seeing what they love doing and what they are fabulous at, and encouraging them to be who they are.
  5. Keeping the house running; mind you I’m bored of housework now, so it’s time to focus on being able to pay someone to do it.
  6. Using the words in my blog, book and generally day to day, that best reach people/loved ones.  But letting the words go at that point, after all some people just prefer or choose to see things a different way.
  7. In my relationship; hmmmmm, thats interesting, I’m a little stuck on this one.  I don’t want to be ‘nice’ to live with.  I do think that it’s important to keep the sex going.  I think that it’s something to do with being the best person that I can be, and giving him space to be who he is.  But it definitely needs more thought.
  8. Helping Mums enjoy being a Mum; it’s tempting to be a parenting coach, or help everyone, but what I care about most is Mums, and I think that we need a little extra help at the moment in this world of ours.  Plus I think that we are the heart of the family and the heart of society, so we are a really important part of making some big changes in our world; starting small first though with our own families and working up to the rest.  I’ve talked about the London riots a bit, and this is the bit that I think I can help with.
  9. Keeping track of the family finances; I used to leave this to the hubby as he is the finance guy, however it’s me that cares about managing our finances and not him.  So it’s time for me to take over this.  We often get irritated with other people for not doing stuff, when really if it’s our bag and not theirs, maybe we should just get on with it.
  10. The bottom line is whether I take care of myself, feel strong, stand up for myself, take opportunities and enjoy life, is pretty much down to me.
What’s not my responsibility
  1. Healing the world.  I fell prey to the wish to heal the world when I became a Reiki master 12yrs ago; it’s kind of a standard phase to work through.  I’m over that now, first comes the kids, then me, the family, and my work/writing.
  2. Getting every mum in the whole wide world to buy my book and enjoy being a Mum more; maybe just 50%?!!
  3. The hubby;  We used to be very co-dependent (I’m talking 22yrs ago), but I’m much more into the idea of two individuals who enjoy being together, than who are very needy of each other.  I suppose us Mums find that once we have kids the poor old husbands do get left to fend for their own devices a bit as we have limits as to how many ‘children’ we can take care of.  But there must be a lot of potential in that as well?  It’s like the difference between providing healthy snacks in the cupboards, and nagging the hell out of someone to eat them!  If they choose the healthy snacks of their own volition, then they’ll get into a good habit of doing it without us wives to nag them.  So I’m going to make sure the options are there for him, but back off the nagging to take them.
  4. Wether my kids are clever, or fabulous at everything.
  5. Doing all the disciplining; I’m a keen fan of sharing the fun and discipline out between parents
  6. Tidying everything; I think it is fair to share this torment
  7. Ironing; my stuff doesn’t need ironing and the hairy one is much better at it.
  8. Keeping our old springer spaniel alive; I’ve got the pills, and am going to try the magnets.  But the old boy’s legs are pretty rubbish at the back now, and tempting as it is, it’s not my responsibility to hold onto him and keep him alive.
  9. Coaching all my friends; I’ve learnt to just be their friend and listen to them, rather than shift into work mode.
  10. Spending time I don’t have in helping people who don’t give anything in return; their’s a world full of people who used to LOVE my time and don’t get it any more
It’s been a good reminder to myself to write this and think it through.  Right, off for a playdate; I forgot to mention my responsibility as PA to a busy 5yr old!
I’m going to leave you with a classic: Level 42: Take care of yourself

Agony Aunt for Mums

Problem Corner: Tips for dealing with being intimidated by other mums at toddler group or school gate

A lovely Mum I know posted the following tweet oneday ‘Hate that I’m intimidated by toddler group. Need to grow some balls. Figuratively speaking.’ so I offered to do a question corner post for her, because what she doesn’t know is that we are all scared shitless of walking into those places (well 99% of us!).

She was ill during her pregnancies and has fallen into the habit of being a bit of a recluse, which has of course affected her confidence terribly.

Now the great thing is that she has volunteered to be a guinea pig for my new book ‘Six Weeks To A Sparkling You’, so I know that there is tonnes in there to help her out generally speaking.  But I wanted to give her some extra exercises, that I have done myself, which really help.

I too have felt nervous when walking into classes or toddler groups.  But there were two situations that I found more difficult than usual.  One was going to a church toddler group in order to meet up with a busy friend of mine, so I also had to face her extremely long term friends who belonged to the church.  I felt extremely awkward, because I knew I didn’t know all the politics and set up.  I remember making one awful faux pas at a party with them, and being very nervous afterwards!  The other was when Curly Headed Boy started at his second nursery, where the ‘Yummy Mummies’ were a massive step up from the ‘Yummy Mummies’ I’d met previously; I was terrified!  The good news is that getting myself more confident in that nursery situation got me prepared for the school gate, which would have been way worse otherwise.

Rules About Life

So first a couple of rules about how life works ….

1) You can never please all of the people all of the time: in fact you are going to appeal to about 50% of the people, so never worry about or attempt to be liked by everyone in life, as you are going to FAIL!

2) There are always people who are obviously, or quietly supporting you, whilst other people are being unpleasant or unfriendly.

3) If you don’t know why they would like you, then don’t expect them to know.  They will either think that you are nervous, shy, or at worst unfriendly, awkward and stand offish.  Hardly any will take the time to stand for a moment in your shoes and wonder how you are feeling.

4) Everybody is cliquee: It’s about numbers, that’s all.  I’ve found the Mums who are better dressed and richer can be unfriendly, but so can the more ‘normal’ ones.  Even you have been cliquee and scary to some people at some point in time!

5) No one is perfect, we just try to hide it, but if you look hard enough you will see the chinks in everyone’s armour.

So what to do about it?

1) If you are clearly ignored, disliked or blanked by some of the Mum’s notch them up to that 50%!  Now look around for the others.  They do not all like each other.  Stand back for a while, and watch.  Look for the body language and the cracks in the friendships.  Look for the people who are also nervous or shy.

2) Actually decide you are going to go, but be really quiet and watch for a while.  You must actively watch the other Mums, get there early and leave late.  Stop looking at your shoes; This way you will start to get to know what’s going on.  I’m amazed at the Mums at school who don’t do this, and turn up at the last minute, and I’m pretty sure it’s because they are shy, but they miss out on becoming friendly with the other shy Mums.

3) There are some exercises that you can do.  Get a cuppa and a notebook (you will want to be able to remind yourself of the answers sometimes when you lose your confidence again).

Changing Your Perception And Outlook

Step 1: Face Your Fears

You are worried, but what of?  Sit down and think about what the worst thing that could happen is?  For instance, they don’t talk to you, you spend the whole time alone, and no one wants to play with your son.  Apart from being a quiet and lonely hour, it could be quite chilled to not have to make polite conversation?  Look at it and see if it’s really as bad as you think?  Don’t exaggerate though, the likelihood that no Mum will ever talk to you and no child will ever play with your son is 0% (see previous points!).

Step 2: Work Out Why You Are Fab

  • Why are you interesting?  What have you done in your past that is unusual?  Where did you go?  Who did you meet?  What was/is your job?
  • What are you good at doing, that might help them out?  What are your skills?
  • What are you really interested in, so have spent time learning about?  You might have tips on meals, crafts, sewing, classes, what is it?
  • Now don’t argue with me, because I know that you are interesting and fabulous as everyone is; you can’t possibly be the only person in the whole wide world who breaks that rule!
  • If you struggle, then ask a partner or friend to help you get going

Step 3: Stop Being So Intimidated By The Other Mums

So you think that those other Mums are so amazing do you, in fact so amazing that they wouldn’t want to look at you?  Well I want you to look at the other side of the coin.  If you can see where they are great, you can also see where they are not so great or where their lives are not quite as perfect as it appears on the surface.  I don’t want you to do it until you don’t like them, just until they are not as scary as you think and you can see that they are just human beings.

Look for the obvious things: the week when they look more tired than usual, getting stressed with their kids, scuffed shoes, puke/snot on their clothes, being late, being too skinny, being over-weight.  Are they really stand offish, or maybe shy?  Are they divorced, is the husband away a lot, are they working.  If you can’t find it, it just means that it’s more deeply hidden, but it’s there: everyone has problems and everyone has weaknesses.

It’s not about being friends with everyone in the world.  It’s about not being intimidated or scared, and making great friends with the people who will really suit you and your son.

I’d love your comments or questions on this; feel free to post them below or on my facebook fan page.  If you would like to post your own question corner check here for more info.

Video Wed: Back To School and Back To Mine

So it’s back to school for Curly Headed Boy for two days, one of which is a Royal Wedding Party!  Then off for a long weekend and back again.  Then it’s 3 weeks to half term and 5 1/2 weeks until the summer holidays!  I’ve enjoyed the Easter holidays with the kids, we didn’t do anything major, but I’ll do a couple of blogs to update you.  They had to go back in shorts, poor little blighters had very cold legs, I might have to swap back to long socks tomorrow.  Of course Mummy wasn’t very organised despite the month off, so I haven’t got the short sleeved shirts yet, he needs a hair cut, and new shoes.  I didn’t manage to get labels in to his shorts, but hey writing his name on the clothes label will do; wont it?

So in the spirit of school I thought I’d put a video in that reminds me of school.  The one good thing about being old is the eighties; that was a fun time and the Eurythmics were definitely one of the best parts of it.