Thinking of You and the Art of Communication

Were you forced, as a child, to write thank you letters to relatives? Did you have to tell them which book you had bought with the National Book Token they had kindly sent you for Christmas? Yes? It sucked right? Don’t get me wrong, I loved my book tokens, I’d buy my brother’s from him because he hated reading and I loved the luxury of owning a book rather than borrowing it from the library.

But I hated writing those letters, they felt arbitrary and, weirdly impersonal. I guess it’s because we were forced to spend an evening writing two lines with great care to Aunt Flo lying about the book you had bought (had in fact not got around to buying) to somehow reassure her that she hadn’t spent her money on a voucher for an ungrateful little shit.

Let us skip forward a couple of decades and my own children are grandchildren, children of family friends, nieces and nephews and they’re receiving thoughtful gifts and the standard (and often preferred) Amazon or I-Tunes vouchers. And for a few years, I sat them down and sternly instructed them on how to write a thank you letter. And as a Godparent, aunt and family friend, I would receive thank you letters from various children whose parents had done exactly the same. And then when my children finally rebelled and I fully remembered the irritation of that time set aside to write thank yous, I stopped my maternal demands under the parenting rule #2, subsection #6 which states: Pick your fights.

…. and yet…. I have just spent months designing and producing a truly lovely pack imaginatively entitled ‘How to Write a Letter’.  It doesn’t, for a second, advocate the duty eschewing of “thank you letter” writing. But I ain’t no hypocrite – it doesn’t promote it either. What it does do, however, is encourage the great, time honoured tradition of actually putting pen to paper, how to layout a letter like a pro and includes suggestions of what letters can be written.

As with everything I write for 2littleboys, I keep the tone of writing to…. well…. this. I refuse to talk down to children. If you can imagine a middle-aged woman doing a silly face and basically saying stuff to give the impression that she’s the idiot in the conversation, then you get the general idea. Children tend to like that.

Letter writing is a dying art form and I really think we’re going to regret letting it go. That email you received from your tech savvy gran just aint gonna cut it when they’re gone. Those pen-pals we used to have when we were younger? Get your kids to take that up. Have them write to someone experiencing a different culture, a different climate, different circumstances and get a rapport going and then wait for their responses to come with weird stamps on the envelope.  It’s a joy. What’s the hurry? They don’t need to email each other because they’re getting a flavour of each other’s lives, not a blow by blow account that needs immediate response.

My father used to write (well, type, because the dude had the writing of a GP without actually being a GP) to my children when they were very young – it was utter nonsense, utter nonsense! But it had his voice (loud) and his sense of humour (bizarre) indelibly printed into every word. And that’s the point – indelible. We all look back at those letters every now and again and my children howl with laughter and I am grateful that they’re old enough to be holding those letters in their hands because I don’t want to ruin the pages with my tears.

I have letters from my great aunt – pedestrian stuff that she wrote from her homeland of Wales. But I’d wait and wait for the sample of her handwriting on an envelope to come through that letterbox with news of my beloved great uncle and various other family members that she liked to gossip about.

And then there’s my husband. We met at 15 (everyone say ahhhh!) and we wrote to each other twice a week until we were old enough to financially and legally move in together. And then the letters and the replies went into the same box. That’ll be an embarrassing couple of hours for our children when they come to clear out the loft.

And I still have a letter written to me 22 years when I was going through a really tough time. My friend wrote to me telling me that I’d get through it, that I was young and indestructible, that I was admired and loved and that she’d treat me to a cup of tea and a biscuit whenever I was ready. And I see that letter in my mind’s eye and I’m still glad that she took the time to write. Texts and emails and comments on Facebook all gratefully received, but ultimately erasable.

In fact, now I’m thinking about it, why on Earth did I not write a letter-writing pack for grown-ups?

Next week, it’s “Thinking of You” week. So think of someone you want to reach out to and write them a letter. In fact, buy the ‘write a letter’ pack from here and beg your child for a piece of the cute letterhead.

If your child is one of those ‘go away, get your own’ variety, then may I suggest you pop over to Julie Bell  – she produces the most stunning correspondence cards and letterheads. Then invest in an ink pen from Plooms and you’ll be good to go.

It’s at this point, I need to acknowledge that my niece, at the age of 21 and her parents continue to write thank you notes. And long may they continue with their missives that are just the right side of grateful, witty, personal and informative.

Now grab your child and spend 20 precious, quiet and companionable minutes writing a letter to someone.

Do it.

Seriously.

Just do it.

P.S. A mate of mine is spending a year reaching out with cards through the mail and I’ve been lucky enough to receive a card from him this year. Do check out his vlog about it all.

 

 

 

 

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Free Ticket Giveaway!

We’re going to be busy again this November. Making hay whilst the sun shines and all that.

Although, thinking about it, it’s going to be November so the sun aint gonna be shining.  So maybe a better saying would be: “let’s spend a load of money and book up those Christmas show stands because everyone’s looking for Christmas gifts and we sell excellent Christmas gifts so we need to put our gifts in front of those people so that they spend their hard earned money on the fruits of our hard earned year round labours.”

But that isn’t quite as snappy.  So we’ve booked up our November to ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’ and hopefully make enough money to keep producing the gifts that we’re proud to create.

It really is that simple.

Now, because we spend so much money on these stands, the organisers give us some complimentary tickets and we would like to offer them to you!  We’re not going to run a competition because we find that it ends up on some ‘money saving’ site that has a url to directly click through and even an answer that you may need; and then we have 1000s of requests from professional competition enterers. (One time, a bright spark had put the wrong answer up so we had to discount around 90% of the entrants).  It’s not that we’re judging competition enterers (see what I did there).  I can remember buying “Take a Break” in the late 1980’s and armed with just a few postcards and a book of stamps, I would very happily use my free stuff – particular favourites included the sun-cream and the bright blue mesh shower pouf to exfoliate my legs in the shower (do you remember those? awful things).  It’s just that we’re not Ambre Solaire and we don’t need tens of thousands of email addresses for people who simply aren’t going to see us on a supermarket shelf.

So, please only respond to us if you genuinely want a pair of tickets to one of the shows.  You are under no obligation to buy anything, to visit our stand or even to like us or follow us on our feeds (although that would be very nice).  We would just like to know that we’ll be sending out codes to claim tickets to people who will make use of them.

So, if you’d like the chance to win a set of 2 tickets to either the Spirit of Christmas at Olympia or to Country Living Christmas in Islington, then please EMAIL ME and tell me which show you would like to attend.  That’s it.  I won’t save your email address or bother you or do anything.

I’ll simply pick 15 people at random on September 30, which should give you lots of time to plan your trip.

We also have ONE precious set of tickets to the Wealden Midwinter Fair to give away so if you’d prefer to not come into London, do put Wealden as your preferred choice.

That’s all.

Further show information can be found by clicking on the images below:

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1 Set of 2 Tickets up for Grabs!

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10 Sets of 2 Tickets up for Grabs!

 

London MPU

5 Sets of 2 Tickets up for Grabs (Saturday not included)

 

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New Babies

It took me a long time to feel broody after I had my twin sons. But then being pregnant for 18 months with a three month gap would, in my humble opinion, kill the desire to procreate for a century or so.

But I’ve been surprised that I’ve started to feel it again, not really for me to actually do (I’m not insane) but just that urge to cradle, gaze at and smell a baby is becoming more appealing as I get older. And the great news is, I know a few ladies now expecting, so roll on next spring I’d say.

I do love a newborn, a baby, a toddler, a pre-schooler, a little one. Super-cute when they’re as small as dolls, delightful when they can be shocked out of a tantrum just by acting a little bit weird. Ultimate entertainment when you ask them about their family and how much wine their mothers drink. Ya know, the really entertaining stuff.

They can be excellent value, those friend’s and relative’s kids. If I’m honest, I’m happy not to spend so much time with them as teens, only because I found it irritating enough trying to glean conversation out of my own children and I’d rather wait until they get a bit older, more interesting and the attitude isn’t at volume number 11 anymore. But hey, that’s just me. (I’m not sure anyone has ever accused me of tolerance).

My best mate and I go to a rather nice hotel in central London a couple of times a year and we always spend our Sunday afternoons sitting and chatting and drinking tea and eating biscuits and reading the papers in the rather nice lounge. Generally speaking we are joined by a group of anything between 8 and 20 women celebrating a Baby Shower.

Bearing in mind that my best mate and I met within a few weeks of our first borns being ummm born and that we have six children between us, we can happily say that we have been there and we have done most things maternity wise. But having a Baby Shower isn’t one of them. They simply didn’t seem to exist when we were busy bringing up babies and I feel like we missed out, because they seem such sweet, supportive and joyous affairs. Mothers and mothers-in-law always seem to be in attendance, another few women in stretched jersey over football tummies waddle about for fun and everyone seems to be eating cake with gay abandon.

And I think one of the nicest things about them is that it gets the whole ‘come celebrate with me’ out of the way. You get to give gifts and be special and celebrate the start of a new life before the actual baby arrives. Because when your baby arrives, there are only certain people that you’d be glad to see and, quite frankly, most people won’t make the cut for the first few months.

I remember my uncle turning up out of the blue to see our first born when she was under a fortnight old and I resented every second of him drinking the tea I’d made whilst my baby slept and I didn’t.

And he wasn’t the only one. In hindsight, I should have sent a ‘round robin’ style note out that read something like this:

Come around to see us if I know you so well that I won’t even have to explain why there’s a cabbage leaf stuffed inside my bra and that I’m crying because I still can’t see my ankles. Pop in if you’re in the mood to do some washing up/ironing/cooking/cleaning of floors without us actually having to talk to you. Enter if you think I’d feel comfortable enough to have you sit there holding my baby whilst I change the dressing on my episiotomy and promptly fall asleep with a boob hanging out. If you want to bring flowers, expect a tight-lipped thank you, and be prepared to silently return in a week to throw them out.

And if you think that a nice 30 minute snuggle with a sleeping baby whilst you talk about how your boss is pissing you off to a semi-comatose woman with bruised eyes and bleeding nipples is your idea of fun, then you need to look at yourself in the mirror and try to work out what kind of human being you actually are.

And so, before I truly get into the groove about the unwitting idiocy of the visitors that we received with our daughter and then with our twins, I’ll get back to why I think baby showers are so awesome.

Because when you’re heavily, but not too uncomfortably pregnant, you can spend a couple of hours surrounded by friends and nearest and dearest celebrating with cake and sandwiches and tea. And then you get gifts that are useful, thoughtful and returnable whilst baby is still conveniently inside. And that’s it in a nutshell.

So, although I’m really looking forward to meeting new humans next spring and showing off my keeping babies alive skills, I think I’m also just as excited that I might be invited to a baby shower. I’ve got the best ever gifts to take. One will be our Award Winning Birthday Yearbook (it really is a frickin’ awesome gift for new babies).

The other gift will be the promise that I’ll not visit for the first two months.

 

If you’d like to give more than just the promise of your absence or the promise of your help, do check out our Birthday Yearbook here.

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The Birthday Yearbook cover

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yes, that is actually me with my firstborn

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The Birthday Yearbook

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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Skiing and the first set of IOU Vouchers for Very Lovely Children

Off we were skiing for Christmas.  Ok, off we were to the French Alps because I had promised myself that I would have a snowball fight with my children on Christmas day at least once in my life.  The skiing part was a ruse to convince my husband it was an excellent idea.

It was my first time.  I thought I’d give it a try.  I gave it a try.  I didn’t like it.  I don’t see the point in putting slippery things on your feet, only to stand on a slippery surface.  Don’t want to sound all sensible and boring, but seriously? Give me a couple of tennis rackets to strap to my boots.  Talking of boots, what sadist came up with modern day ski-boots, or as I affectionately called them, the painful coffins of claustrophobic hell attached to my feet.  No no no and a thousand times no.

Being new to the whole going to somewhere colder than here was a brave new world and I couldn’t believe how much stuff was required for a standard family of 5.  Ski jackets alone seemed to take up an entire bag.  Being the utter psychotic control freak that I fondly refer to myself as, I was preparing the packing in November (and I mean more firework night than dark at 3pm November).

The bedroom floor started to resemble an exclusive jumble sale run by a woman with OCD and being someone who is pretty damned good at spacial judgement, I looked at the suitcases and I looked at the bedroom floor and I realised that we could have a problem.

Much pondering and possibly some sucking in of breath in an ‘it’ll cost ya’ kinda way ensued.  The actual clothes were put away first.  I had been told by the seasoned ski season friends that the beauty of chalet living was to dispense with normal clothes and to lounge in thermals.  I, naturally, matched my pale grey thermals with my oversized pair of cream cashmere cable knit socks.  You know, so I looked all hygge.  But this was in 2007.  Suck it guys.  I’ve always been way ahead of my time ;).

Next to go were the imaginary gifts I had planned on buying for the children. Father Christmas might be able to pop over to fill some stockings, but he aint gonna be dropping off anything that mum is going to seriously consider leaving behind because she’s tired and can’t be arsed to try and fit it back in to a bag that is now full of smelly thermals. No way.

And so, as is my way. I came up with something that took me bloody ages to work out, sort, create and then execute.  I created a pack of  ‘IOU Vouchers for my Very Lovely Children’.  I pulled a favour from my lovely printer and had him print up three copies. And I packed them.  All together, they took up less room than my cashmere cable knit socks (man, I miss those socks – moths).

My vouchers for my children

So a pack of cards, each one promising a treat.  If memory serves, it was just over one treat a month and they included: a midnight feast; an ice cream after school; a packet of crisps (don’t judge me…); a trip to a photo booth; a trip to the craft store where they could go nuts and buy stuff (veto on glitter).  And yeah, I was stupid to date them.  I mean, really stupid.

I remember the tour of London on top of a bus had to be cancelled because one of them had thrown up the night before.  I remember it rained on the ice-cream after school day (like 7 and 8 year old kids give a shit what the weather is like – it’s ice-cream!) and the day of dressing up really smart so we can go to the local posh restaurant was a really bad hair day for me – still it ended up being a lovely evening.  As for the price of the theatre tickets… Seriously.  I could have bought a second hand car for the price of 5 tickets to The Lion King that I bought 6 months in advance and weren’t ‘best’ seats.  Ten years on and I’m still incredulous.  Just thinking about how many notebooks I have to sell to get close to buying a single ticket is eye watering….

And so the idea for the IOUs – Versatile Vouchers for Very Lovely Children was born and I was sensible enough to brief an up and coming graphic designer called Ian to do his magic on the design and, they have, I am told, done an excellent job as reward cards over the years.  Whichever way you choose to use them, they were, as is usual with the stuff at 2littleboys, created as a result of needing them for myself… not that I’m selfish or anything.

I SO won the snowball fight on Christmas Day 2007.

Do pop over to the MotherShip site if you’d like to buy a set of your very own IOU Vouchers.

Reward cards for Children

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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

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

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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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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 🙂

Web   Web

 

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