The joys of the approaching “back to school” day.

As the first day back at school approaches, are you like me and thinking ‘Thank God, a bit of peace” or are you lying to yourself? Or have you just spent 2 months in your house in Tuscany?

When I say that I’m relieved about the first day back at school, I’m not talking about that first ever bittersweet day of school. You know, the one when their blazer is too big and they look way way too young to be let outside, into the world to fend for themselves, to endure the horrors of playground politics. Because that very first day is the one that is indelibly inked into your DNA for evermore.

I can remember spending a year skipping merrily about, telling anyone who would listen how much I was looking forward to my house being empty from 8.30am until 3pm every day for the first time in what felt like forever. My husband took them and I sobbed uncontrollably for an hour. I’m never quite as pragmatic as I like to think.

But for quite a few years now, the long summer holidays have produced an awful cacophony of emotions and feelings within me. Because I have felt that maternal mix of guilt at being a terrible mother whilst simultaneously experiencing the certainty that I’m being a terrible businesswoman. I would go so far as to say that when I used to want to scream at them every time they innocently asked ‘what’s for lunch?’ I’d even feel the guilt of being a terrible human being. Ok, I’m kinda lying here – I did used to scream at them when they asked about lunch, so much so, they stopped asking for a while and then started to make their own.

So, if you have a child or children ranging from the age of 5 to, let’s say 14, you’ll be doing that whole trying to find shirts in the only Marks & Spencer/Asda/Tesco that doesn’t seem to know your child’s size even exists.

You’ll be working out if you should bother sewing/ironing/sticking those labels in or even whether you should bother marking the clothes with a Sharpie. Because, quite frankly, if they’re stupid enough to lose their pants at the swimming baths, they’ll more than likely find someone else stupid enough to not notice that you’re walking around in theirs.

You’ll be queuing, yes, queuing at a shoe shop with a ticket system exactly like the deli counter at a supermarket. You’ll be waiting to see how much your child’s feet have grown in the week that you feel it’s been since you were last there clutching onto a ticket with an unfeasibly long number.   You’ll then have a mini heart attack and weep a little when they ring up the total on the till – or perhaps that’s just me with three children exactly the same size who needed shoes and trainers bought for them every 2 weeks because their feet grew so quickly (or is that just my imagination).

And, if like me, you’re a bit of a neat freak and you like the smell of a new pencil case, you’ll be questioning your children on what they need for their next year. Is it time for compasses? (does everyone know someone who tried to tattoo themselves at school with a compass? No? Just me then).

And so it goes that you’re buying protractors, erasers, pencil sharpeners that you know will be lost within three hours on the first day, and you’re grabbing some colouring pencils, and HB pencils and possibly a Lamy if you’re feeling flush or they got a WHSmith voucher for their birthday. And of course, you have to get them a new pencil case because the unidentifiable ‘matter’ that is crumbed into the deep recesses of last year’s case is actually starting to smell and you can’t possibly infect the new items with the dirt. At least not for the first week.

And as the day approaches, you’ll start feeling a little guilty that you’re excited about getting some semblance of a life back, that you’re really wanting to look forward to hearing the word ‘mum’ again without it sounding like nails down a chalkboard. Because however much you love your children and even like spending time with them, there’s nothing quite like that moment of closing the front door and being able to just get on with your own stuff.

Unless, of course, you’ve just spent nearly two months in your house in Tuscany with your family, living the ‘simple life’ with bronzed healthy children who haven’t spent more than an hour on their computer for the want of getting back in that pool with their cousins. In which case, console yourself with the vitamin D that has been absorbed to last you through the winter.

Although I can’t help but think you’ve been a bit laissez faire with your preparations. Have you ever tried getting a pair of grey Teflon trousers on the day before term starts? No? I have – it’s not pretty.

Oh, and if you’d like to buy some excellent and very special ring binders, refill pads, pencils and notebooks for the new term, pop over to the site and grab some. We’d love to inspire your little ones with some plans…

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Capturing the randomness of a child’s mind

I like to think that my thought processes can be pretty random.  I remember very clearly at the age of 13 my english teacher asking the class to write a ‘stream of consciousness’ right there and then. I can only assume that we were studying Catcher in the Rye at the time.  That particular english teacher was one of those 1980’s cool teachers who wore dangly earrings, had mad mad mad almost mad hatter hair that she was constantly trying to control with her whole hand and a weird, contortion of long leg folding to sit on top of the desk rather than a chair.  You see, streams of consciousness; I like the randomness of them and if you’ve read this or any other paragraph of my writing, you can see I’ve run with it…

But however random I get, it is nothing to the near lunacy of little ones. The nano-second it can take them from ‘I want  a balloon’ to ‘ooh, that’s a corner of a table I’m not actually thinking about whilst searching for a twinkly thing I saw 2 seconds ago, but why does that woman have a… no she’s gone’.  You get what I mean.  And during these weird 10 second trains of thought, we, as parents can only look at them as their faces change; from excited, scared, perplexed and then through all of the expressions possible that will usually lead to a gormless stillness that will leave you, as the parent, wondering if they’ll ever be able to read, or write, or even remember their own name.

Creating the ‘This is my…’ range of books was really an answer to my need to capture that randomness.  To keep hold of memories that come directly from them, those gormless, chubby faces with personalities forming and vehement opinions that can change and be just as forcefully argued in the opposite only minutes later.

And so the “This is my” books were created. Originally accompanied by a 35mm camera, the resultant photos were priceless.  They were simple cameras, a little square window for a child to look through and a button to press to take the photo, followed by a pass to mum to wind on.  My children would often not bother with the looking into the little square and the resultant images were perfect.  A photo of his twin brother’s cheek and a bit of an eye; an image of a foot in a padder, now long gone; an unidentifiable mass of matter on a plastic plate.  And that doesn’t even touch on the number of photos of my bum – what an eye opener that was! (I mean, because that’s all they got to see most of the day!).

The book would guide them through which photos to take – and would have questions for them to answer.  And this is where the randomness would come to the fore.  In their first books, I would have to do the writing, so I would ask them the questions.  And they would answer with that honesty, integrity, seriousness and thoughtfulness that only a three year old can muster when asked ‘what did you like the most about your bed on holiday’.

And there I would sit, keeping a straight face to match theirs as they answered questions in their books.  “What did you like about the bed” – answers would include “It was colourful” (and the photograph to accompany that answer shows the most migraine inducing swirl of psychedelia that I’m surprised I didn’t remember it). The proximity of the bed to a television would also be another excellent reason.

Their ‘favourite bit about the journey’ were invariably the ‘snack’ and the photograph of something that they really “like to eat on holiday” was often the breakfast pastry.  And I love that.

Other questions in other books would induce brutally honest answers – no sensibilities when it came to naming favourite gifts at Christmas or on their birthdays.  It was often the piece of plastic tat bought for them by a childless friend (the piece of plastic tat that I had already earmarked to be sent to the charity shop as soon as their backs were turned).

I love every photo and every answer and I have them all because I got to record it all in the books that I had created for just that purpose.  Their photos were brilliant, their answers completely and utterly random and slightly insane, their funny spelling of words and their awkward less than perfect handwriting when they took over the filling out for themselves.  Because keeping childhood memories alive and doing so effortlessly and with laughter is what they always meant to be.  And I’m rather proud of how well they worked out.

I still look back on them, and those books are here with me, just waiting to be handed around on wedding days….

which will teach them for not consistently name checking my gift as their favourite each year.

 

All of the ‘This is my….’ memory books (including Day as a Bridesmaid, Day as Pageboy and other wedding titles as well as ‘This is my Baby Brother and This is my Baby Sister’ versions for siblings) will soon be available here on memorybooks.co.uk, but until then, they are readily available on our MotherShip site: 2littleboys.co.uk.

This is my Holiday Memory Book for kids

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Snap Cards Reduced to £3.50

Stock up for down time!

It was after six months of playing Snap using the most hideously designed cards that I finally cracked and created some new sets.  As with everything we sell at 2littleboys.co.uk our products ultimately stem from the need to entertain (or, at the least, amuse) my Irish triplets.

We have reduced the price of three sets of our Snap cards (French, Flowers and London) to £3.50 from £4.99 and hope that by enticing you to buy some, you will encourage your own children or grandchildren to enhance their memory skills whilst playing Snap or Pairs and for them to effortlessly learn landmark London words, names of flowers or even a smattering of french.  Because when they are playing, they don’t know they’re learning!

So go check them out. And then buy some!

Flower Snap cards 300dpi

Our flower snap – because children don’t actually know that most people couldn’t tell a plumbago from a scabious.

French Snap Cards 300dpi

For a little effortless learning of a smattering of french.

 

Please feel free to share or to follow us by pressing any one of these tab things:

2littleboyscom on Twitter 2littleboyscom on Instagram Facebook 2littleboys on Pinterest Wordpress blog Google Plus 2littleboys

and here are links to our 2 websites.  Memory Books for our award winning Yearbooks and 2littleboys for our award winning everything else 🙂

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and to our lovely shop customers – we have reduced the trade price :).

 

 

Children, Patterns and Looking Up

My first ever ‘proper’ camera was for my 18th birthday.  (At this point, I can hear my teenage offspring pipe in with ‘they had CAMERAS when you were 18.’  Still…. moving swiftly on). My 18th birthday present was an SLR camera, it was black, it was heavy and I thought it was an utterly pointless 18th birthday present.

Yes, I have been and still can be an ungrateful bitch.

So on my 18th birthday, I snapped away until the button could no longer be pressed and took the film to Underwoods the Chemist in Victoria. Using a bewitching form of alchemy, they turned the metal canister of film into actual photographs that they then presented to me in a green and yellow envelope, in the process, they charged an exorbitant amount of money (photographs/process… see what I did there?… no… ok).  And so, from henceforth, the camera came out only on special occasions and gathered dust for the rest of the year.

Snap forward, if you will, a few years and I started to go on holidays.  I took photographs of hills, mountains, the sea, rivers, friends and the odd flower or two.  Oh, and my boyfriend; the ubiquitous selfie with camera balancing precariously on a rock, a table stacked with books, magazines, glasses cases to get to the right height or the car roof with a judicious use of the timer.

I’d then have Boots process the film (Underwoods closed down; I just wanted to show off my age and memory for triviality here) and on visits back to my parents’, I’d show them the holiday snaps and my father would flick through very very quickly and declare that there were not nearly enough photos of people.  “Why do I want to see pictures of mountains and lakes, it looks like every other mountain and lake. Take pictures of people”.  He sort of, kind of, had a point.  But still, I stopped showing him the holiday snaps.

And then I had children. And I took photo after photo after photo.  They were the most photogenic babies you’ve ever seen.  Actually, if I’m honest, my newborn daughter had an interesting look going on first thing.  After an extraordinarily difficult labour, I thought she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  Then when the photos came back, I realised that, my God she’d looked Fugly).  Still… her head popped back into ummm, a head shape and she, quite simply, gets more beautiful every day, every week, every month… you get the point.

And I’m managing, once again, to get away from my point.

So, the kids grew older, they stopped spending their days in a thankfully vain attempt to damage themselves beyond repair and they eventually worked out that mum was constantly taking photos of them and that they weren’t too sure that they liked it that much.  But the bug had bitten me. I loved taking photos. Husband bought me a better camera and a zoom lens and I was off.

I took photographs of doorknobs, I took photographs of patterns made by mesh, by doors, by window frames, buildings, paving stones, mosaics, pillars, columns, clouds, flowers.  When you’ve got three kids to keep entertained, it’s important to find order in chaos and I suspect that this was what I was doing.  And I think I was doing it pretty damned well.

And then we found little cameras for the children and we would go on ‘mummy adventures’, grabbing a cab into London and becoming tourists and they would snap away. Because you can never see all of London and you can never capture it all on camera. Columbia Market, Borough Market, Houses of Parliament, Smithfields, SouthBank, Soho, Covent Garden, St Catherine’s Dock, Seven Dials, Hyde Park, Regents Park, St James’ Park, Green Park, Barbican, Tower Bridge, Hungerford Bridge and all between.  I’d tire us all out and there wouldn’t be moment of complaint of sore feet and we’d stop for a frozen yoghurt or a hot chocolate (seasonal choices, but way more random than that if I’m honest).  A Pizza Express pizza, or for a special treat, some dim sum in Soho where you can eat the fluffiest cloud bun ever (also known as a char sui bu).  And after lunch we’d keep going.

I taught them to look for beauty in buildings, and patterns in the everyday.  I told them to look above the gaudy shop fronts, to see their London through the ages – the old shop signs left long after the shop had left the building. The intricate details of stone-carving. Warehouse buildings now cafes and boutique shops.  And how moving your own body to different angles, you can get to see things from different angles that then, in turn photograph interesting angles. And they listened and they would stop in a street and look around and take a photo of something that you hadn’t noticed before and suddenly you’ll see an intricate chimney pot, or a detail on a window sill that could only have been created by a highly skilled craftsman many many years ago.

memories of looking up

These 9 images in a box are just some of the many photographs we took on our adventure days into town.  (Although I think top right is from our weekend away to Manchester). And I know that at least 7 of them were taken by my children when they were about this age….

2littleboystaking photographs

So, if you’re looking for a day out, just grab any old cameras or phones, take the kids and get them to look up…. just so long as they’re not standing in the middle of a road. Because then we’re back to that whole “attempting to damage themselves beyond repair.” and you should be past that stage by the time they’re into this sort of thing.

Or, you can always leave them at home, and take a wander around your home town and get to know it just a little bit better.  You’ll be surprised at what you’ve missed.

 

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and here are links to our 2 websites.  Memory Books for our award winning Yearbooks and 2littleboys for our award winning everything else 🙂

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‘Holidays’ with Children

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I will never forget our first ‘holiday’ as three. Our daughter was 7 months old and I was already 4 months pregnant with identical twin boys so we kept the holiday simple. Stayed in this country, chose a delightful ‘family very friendly’ hotel just outside Bath and packed the car to the roof rack with all the paraphernalia involved with a ‘baby comes too’ holiday. At 4am on the first night of our holiday, we were starting to pack up again as baby daughter decided to cut what we could only imagine was a sabre tooth in her gum and she cried. She cried all night. Contrary to sense, we decided to remain with a typical British grim determination.

My husband is a very calm, reasonable and gentle man who takes his responsibilities in his stride and works very hard with little complaint. He SULKED for an entire week as the dawning of an understanding swept through him like molten lead. Holidays will NEVER be holidays again.

A year later, we were five and have remained so ever since. Holidays have, indeed, never been the same. They became less relaxing and our expectations for ‘quiet time’ were lowered somewhat (entirely). We did, however, have a lot more fun and I look back on photos and we chat over the dinner table about holidays past with misty eyes as I remember just how much fun we had.

So, as is a proud mum’s wont, I have a fabulously selective memory. I have forgotten the two weeks of packing an enormous trunk suitcase with everything that three babies will need and I have forgotten that the same suitcase filled was still necessary for a weekend away; I forget the fact that my daughter always wanted to be on the move – no time to settle in to a hotel before she wanted to go to the beach, before she wanted to go back inside, before she wanted to see what was in the nearest town, all before lunch. I forget the drug addled me at Heathrow airport sobbing with fear of the flight and convincing the children I had stubbed my toe.

I simply remember sitting at a table, asking (and receiving) a spoonful of each of my children’s ice-cream, telling them to ‘point at the clock, to mummy, to the door, to the sky, to the window, to the salt, to the (you get the picture)’ just so that we could finish our coffee. I remember playing the A-Z of swear words when one of my sons decided that he could simply put an animal in front of the word ‘arse’ and that would be rude enough. I remember the day that I took the photograph that became the Two Little Boys logo. My husband was in the pool with our daughter and our two little boys were sitting on the edge; aged only aged two at the time, they had been told not to move and stock still they stayed; waiting their turn to go for a dip with daddy. The blue of the swimming pool, so Mediterranean and yet we were in Bournemouth. And just after that photo was taken, one of my sons fell over on some stairs and chipped his tooth. But I forget that.

I remember holidays with their grandparents, helping with the application of an endless stream of sun cream, the brushing of tiny feet with towels to stem the quantities of sand entering the hotel or rental house. And the lie-ins the grandparents gifted us on a regular basis.  The effort needed to ensure that they had a good time was exhausting, but as they look back with laughter and fondness of those times, I feel nothing but pride.

I always ran a tight ship bringing up our children because I didn’t have the luxury of a third arm to grab one who might decide to misbehave. I was very lucky that I had three children in 12 months because I had no ‘life’ other than bringing up children, and, I say again, expectations for ‘me time’ were set very low. I dedicated their waking hours to them; displaying an enthusiasm for the most mundane of activities (Let’s clean the cupboard!). An enthusiasm that I wouldn’t be able to muster now even if you placed me in a room filled with chocolate oranges. I played Snap with a pack of cards that I loathed the sight of, cleaned up after painting sessions tirelessly and played pretend ‘customer in the restaurant’ more times that I care to admit. I had weekday help, for which I will be forever grateful that I was able to devote more time to my children than most.

When they reached nursery school age, I started Two Little Boys Ltd to produce products that could help time poor parents entertain their children and for those same parents to keep memories alive without enormous effort.

I had been given an excellent cookbook for children and the author’s opening statement stuck with me. I paraphrase (massively) here, but he was opining that it is when children are young that they should be given the best food available, whether that is the best premium sausages instead of the cheap ones given on kids menus at so many restaurant chains or a piece of delicious darker chocolate than the cheaper white stuff; it is when they are young that they are taught to differentiate, to appreciate and to be educated in every area. I felt exactly the same about games and toys. Rather than go for the plastic and quickly designed imported stuff that was available at the time, I wanted my children to grow up with beautifully designed games and I wanted them to learn whilst they played. So, out went those sodding cheap Snap cards and in came sets that I had created with my own photography and each image was labelled because children don’t know that most adults can’t differentiate a plumbago from a cosmos flower (well, my children can now!). I should also mention that I’d like to think I kept a company called Orchard Toys solvent with the purchase of pretty much every game and jigsaw they ever produced.

Along with various mind-saving record books and the aforementioned Snap cards I initially devised, the ‘This is my Holiday’ playpack. It was, at the time, presented in a bag with a cute 35mm camera and it was a perfect way for my (and others) children to capture memories from a holiday. The pack was extremely well received by the press at the time and I was commissioned by the Mandarin Oriental in London to produce a bespoke version.

We still have our children’s filled in books with photographs taken from a child’s height of my bum and slightly blurry images of meals eaten; they are truly delightful to look back on and my kids loved taking the photos and writing about their holidays. In fact, I can remember after the trauma of getting on a plane with them for the first time, their ‘best thing about the journey’ was the snack! I could only think that after all of that expense and my much depleted bottle of tranquilisers, I could have given them a small bag of pretzels on a coach and they’d have been just as happy.

The ‘This is my…’ range of books continue to sell really well, and we still produce the Snap cards, activity books and lots of other stuff that a hassled mother of Irish triplets thought might make life a little more fun, colourful and, on occasion, quiet.

And as my children are getting older, I can’t help but feel a little wistful that they no longer need my attention 24/7, but then, I forget just how tiring that actually was.

So, for anyone about to take their first holiday with a baby, don’t sulk…

it get’s a lot easier ;).

Happy summer all.

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