To all my lovely followers… I think I have to admit defeat – for the time being at least. I have so many other topics and themes about children and parenting that I wanted to cover but I am not getting to them. I don’t want to say I will never get there – I might! But for the time being I need to be realistic and I find caring for three children, working 20 hours a week and a myriad other commitments means that I don’t have time to write regularly on this blog. I am very pleased with the topics I have covered which in included ‘Why am a stay-at-home mum’, The Parenting Course, birthday ideas and lots of craft ideas, especially the Christmas crafts.

I have always had another blog which is my creative arts blog ( – so if you wish to continue following me here, please do.

atworkThanks to all for your encouragement about being not ‘quite’ a stay-at-home. I thought it may be interesting to write some notes about going back to work.

  • Enjoy your time at home and don’t worry about the future as it wastes this special time. Read my previous posts about ‘Why am I a stay-at-home mum’.
  • Use your time wisely at home. Pour your energies into your children but keep on eye on the future (without worrying of course). Can you do courses to aid your occupation or add depth to it? Helping with charities and committees can provide you with new skills and maintain your self-confidence. It is also a way to fill gaps on your CV! I chaired my local pre-school for 5 years and learnt a lot about negotiation, people management, interviewing and it looks good on a CV when there is a gap from formal work.
  • Have some idea of when you think you would like to return to work – you can always review this decision but it helps you to focus on being at home and enjoying your children if it is some years away.
  • Keep clothing, shoes and accessories up-to-date otherwise you need to replace everything at the same time when you return to work.
  • Look for work by thinking about what you want to do as this helps to clarify and focus what you are looking for. You could write out a ‘dream job’ or even consider doing something totally different. Keep your options open and don’t feel you can only do the type of work you did before.
  • Research the types of jobs you are interested in and sign up to relevant job sites. When you start looking for work set aside a regular time each day Monday to Friday to do research, search the internet and write a CV. There is nothing worse than vaguely worrying about it all day. Just do a bit each day and then set it aside physically and psychologically.
  • Write a very clean, simple, well-laid out CV. There is no need for it to be more than one page no matter how qualified you are. Write a covering letter to accompany your CV and be honest about the work break but give it a positive spin.
  • Be confident and relax during your interview. Be prepared for tricky questions such as ‘What will you do for childcare?’ Have some solutions or good answers.
  • Phone and research ideas for childcare. Check your local council’s website for lists of local nurseries and child-minders. Many nurseries take school age children during the holidays. Some schools and many leisure centres offer holiday clubs. Talk to friends and find out what they do. Consider employing a trainee nanny or a teaching assistant if you just need child care during the school holidays.
  • The day before you go back to work, put out everything you plan to wear right down to tights and jewellery and double-check it. Mornings are manic and you won’t have time to sew on buttons or find new tights!
  • Be organised with the children and have all their school kit and clothes ready.

Going back to work has proved okay so far although it has its own stresses but I am so glad I had this time off with my children.

allchangeI have recently gone back to work as a part-time graphic designer. By accident really. I was considering returning to work when my youngest went off to school this September 2013 and I had decided to spend January to September doing research into what was available and to update my CV and my design portfolio. I sat down to start research feeling nervous about looking for work but decided it was best to bite the bullet and start. I typed in ‘local graphic design work’. Up came the perfect job – part-time and it sounded so interesting that I thought I had nothing to lose by applying. Instead of taking 6 months to sort out a CV and portfolio, I took 2 days and before I knew it I had secured an interview and was offered the position.

It is exciting but it does feel premature as Ella is still at pre-school however my hours are short and am only working while she is at pre-school. I knew I would not be a stay-at-home mum forever and I have been able to spend just over 7 years without working and it has been so precious.

But my blog – it is all about staying at home – and I still had so much to talk about and most importantly I have loved connecting with mums out there. Am I ‘allowed’ to continue a blog called ‘Stay-at-home mum’ if I am working albeit it very part-time?


ready for schoolSometimes I can pull out my hair, I get so frustrated trying to get little children off to school on time. Keeping them on task is quite a battle. So I came up with the morning chart which photographically reminds Sophie step by step what she needs to do. It hasn’t solved all our problems but at least I can remind her to check her chart. And it has helped me to realise that there is quite a lot for a little person to do each morning.

running boyI saw the list below on Lisa’s fridge and I thought it was a great idea as sometimes eliciting information from my child can be like squeezing water from a stone. But don’t ask all ten questions every day – it is not the Spanish Inquisition!

Ten questions to ask your child about his day at school
Get a sense of your child’s life at school by asking questions that provide more than a one-word response. The trick is to ask about things that are specific with open-ended questions and invite your child to describe his world. It’s also great to start the conversation with an anecdote from your own day. Try one of these conversation starters:

  1. Tell me about the best part of your day
  2. What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  3. Did any of your classmates do anything funny?
  4. Tell me about what you read in class.
  5. Who did you play with today? What did you play?
  6. Do you think maths (or any subject) is too easy or too hard?
  7. What’s the biggest difference between this year and last year?
  8. What rules are different at school than our rules at home? Do you think they’re fair?
  9. Who did you sit with at lunch?
  10. Can you show me something you learned (or did) today?

buntingCreate your own special family traditions as this builds a strong family identity and helps children to feel that they belong. It also makes rich family memories. Birthday traditions may include a birthday chair decorated with balloons and streams, choosing the evening menu and piling into bed together to open gifts. One of our traditions is ‘birthday bunting’ and I have a few different types depending on the time of year and the bunting goes above the window during the birthday week. Bunting is easy to make and using pinking shears you can cut triangles and stitch (or staple!) the triangles onto cord or ribbon.

We have also introduced a ‘Golden Ticket’. As each child turns seven, they receive a ‘Golden Ticket’ for a day out in London with one parent. We wanted to give each child glorious memories doing classic London activities. Our son chose to visit Hamleys and have a bus tour with lunch in Mayfair (at Pizza Express) and our daughter is debating the merits of the London Eye and Battersea Dogs’ Home as she plans her day. It was so special when the actor dressed in a frock coat greeted James at the door of Hamleys saying, “Welcome to the best toy store in the world.”

Birthdays are an opportunity to create memories that will last long past childhood. Enjoy them!hamleysThis post is the last in a mini theme on children’s birthdays. Feel free to share your ideas as comments.

caterpillar partyAs I said in an earlier post, we alternate parties and treats each year so that parties remain novel and I don’t grow weary. Treats are fantastic too as we make an outing extra special and buzzy especially as the birthday child can invite a friend. Below are a few more party themes and treat ideas.

Party Themes
A teddy bear party (bring your bear – and play ‘musical bears’)
A teeny tiny tea party (perfect for a very little child)
A hungry caterpillar party
A tractor party (especially if your child is fixated – and your neighbour kindly allows the children to climb on his antique tractor)
An underwater party (hang streamers from the ceiling and cover the floor in bubble wrap)
A pink pig party (borrow as many soft toy pigs as you can and play ‘piggy’ games)
An African party (dress up in bright colours or as if you are off on safari)

Visit a local zoo – we love Cotswolds Wildlife Park, Marwell Zoo and Bristol Zoo
Visit a local petting farm
Visit  Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – this was fantastic fun and good value including a boat trip and ‘action stations’ climbing wall in the ticket.
Visit Legoland – expensive, but had to be done once for a lego mad boy before he was too old.
Paint a plate – a lovely party for younger children and you can use your china plate for years after.

And our next party… when my son turns 10 we plan to camp overnight at a local youth hostel and the boys will be under canvas.tractorThis post is part of a mini theme on children’s birthdays. Feel free to share your ideas as comments.

mad hattersThe Concept: This was a party for my daughter’s second birthday so we kept it small with a gentle but delightful Mad Hatter’s Tea Party theme. Guests were invited to wear a mad hat and more ornate costumes if they wished. The theme would also work well for an older child. We live close to Oxford so could nip into the original Alice’s Shop to buy items such as Alice in Wonderland bookmarks and tea bags.

The Invitation: I scanned in the spine of an old book and wrote the invitation as if it was an English classic along with an illustration of the White Rabbit. It was Chapter 2 of course as my daughter was turning two.

Our Party: This was a family party with a few friends, grandparents and older siblings who enjoyed dressing up as the Cheshire cat and The White Rabbit. My older daughter made maps for everyone to hunt in the garden for their treasure and as she was only 4, the maps were certainly in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland – nonsensical and slightly mad! We found our treasure after a fashion (pencils and bookmarks) and returned indoors to play ‘stick the heart on the tart’ – little ones were not blindfolded and it was hilarious to see them still not grasp the idea while parents loved the double entendre. Children’s croquet was set up in deference to the book for older children to enjoy – until the mallets became weapons! I had fun designing ‘playing card’ table mats and place names and adults received a mad hatter tea bag to take home.

Top Tips: For little ones keep it low-key with easy games and not too many guests. Allow older siblings to become involved in the planning and running of the party as it is hard for them to see a younger sibling being the centre of attention. Keep adults amused with a few touches so that parties for tinys don’t become too saccharine. The cake was easy this time – a sponge cake decorated with a miniature mouse and a tea party.mad hatters2  mad hatters3 mad hatters4 mad hatters1This post is part of a mini theme on children’s birthdays. Feel free to share your ideas as comments.

woods1The Concept: As my son became older we needed more space for ten mad 8-year olds to run around so we decided to have his party in a local wood. There was a conference room we could use as a base and as a contingency plan for bad weather. He wanted a Star Wars party, I wanted woodland fun – so we fudged it and combined the two.

The Invitation: A photograph of the woods with the details. An invitation like this could also be emailed although I still prefer to post them.

Our Party: Even with a ‘Star Wars’ theme, I kept it homemade and we started by making our own light sabres. I bought pool noodles which I cut in half and each child added duct tape to create a handle. They then went outside to do Jedi Knight training where they whacked each other with great abandon. The next game was to free Han Solo who was frozen in carbonite. Each child received a cup with a lego man frozen in ice, and using water defrosted the ice to release the man – first one out was the winner. I gave them chalk to draw the Death Star on the patio and then handed out water balloons to destroy the Death Star. The woods were brilliant for hiding games and running around in. We ended with food and decorating individual meringues (planets) and yes, I let them smash the creamy meringue in their own faces! There was plenty of water, high-octane excitement and much hilarity and we pulled it off  – ‘Party in the Woods with Star Wars’.

Top Tips: Cakes can stress me out – but this one was simple. A new Star Wars model on top of a cake. Do a few web searches, there are some great ideas for games and that is what inspired my ‘light sabres’. Listen to your child as they become older and try to incorporate their ideas. At the age of 7 or 8 children prefer single sex parties, that is fine, let them. I aim to be low-tech and not to have films, computer and wii games just yet – I am sure parties in the teens will incorporate these items. It may be simpler to invite a group of children who all know each other as parties can be stressful enough for a birthday child without mixing up his different groups of friends. woods2 woods4woods3This post is part of a mini theme on children’s birthdays. Feel free to share your ideas as comments.

dog party1The Concept: Every child has crazes and my daughter is mad about dogs – so that was the theme. Everything from food to dress to games to party bags was dog related. You could probably use many of these ideas and tie them in with your child’s own fixation.

The Invitation: My daughter drew a beautiful dog and I added a few spots of colour and text to make a simple but delightful invitation.

Our Party: For some unknown reason, many of  the friends have dog costumes which was hilarious when 8 or 9 dalmatians turned up! As the children arrived, there was ‘dog grooming’ and I face painted a nose and whiskers on each child. After a few ice breakers, we went outside to tackle the dog agility course. I had lots of fun with this one – borrowing hay bales for the dogs to climb, setting up a mini trampoline and a plank see-saw. And then there was the slalom course with traffic cones. Food was hot dogs of course. I had removed the labels off the juice bottles and made personalised doggy ones.The ‘party bags’ were china bowls from Waitrose pies on which I wrote each child’s name and filled with bone-shaped ginger biscuits so the children took home their own ‘doggy’ bowl.

Top Tips: Keep it homemade as there is no need to spend a fortune and discuss your needs with friends. The china bowls were from a friend as were the hay bales. I promise I didn’t steal traffic cones, they were my son’s present when he turned three and have given us much pleasure over the years. Write a detailed timetable so you have a plan and timings to refer to. Also write out a list of all the food as it is annoying to have forgotten something. Have a few complex games but also allow time for the children to play freely. Try not to have too many games where there is only one winner and don’t be surprised if birthday child misbehaves if they don’t win! Don’t get stressed if things don’t work out as you planned, it will spoil the party for you and to be frank children are easy to please. Have fun and be creative!dog party4dog party3dog party2This post is part of a mini theme on children’s birthdays. Feel free to share your ideas as comments.