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August 2015

Yesterday my boy turned four. As a summer born baby myself you have a certain sense of entitlement to a garden birthday party, but this year the summer has been anything but reliable and we obsessively watched the weather forecast all week as the outlook for Sunday wobbled between rain and sun. In the end it was overcast but incredibly muggy and more than good enough for the kids to play in the garden.

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After two hours of games, food and cake the party bags came out and the majority of his and our friends headed home. Inside the party bags were some extremely cheap Poundland waterpistols (4 to a pack I think!) which turned out to be surprisingly good and that’s where the fun really started!

Off he went, running round the garden with three pals, drenched through and squirting water at everyone with Daddy in hot pursuit carrying a watering can!

Water fight

It was glorious and carefree, but on the horizon was a cloud that I kept trying to ignore. Celebrating his birthday with him were four small children who will all be in his reception class next week and it made me suddenly realise that this is it. He’s four. His journey through full-time education is about to begin and our wonderful summer together as a full-time family of three is about to end. A week today he starts school and Jim returns to weekly commuting after five weeks at home and when the front door closes on Monday morning it will just be me at home for the next two months.

I don’t struggle to fill my time, but even so it’s going to be a big shock to the system and I never thought I’d be one of those mother’s who says this, but I’m not ready. The weather’s been terrible, but I want this summer to continue forever with endless picnics and DIY projects, the adventure of a new car, outings, barbecues and family dog walks, but I know it can’t.

So this week we shall try to make a few more memories and when next week comes, I shall try and focus on the baby who shall be joining us in October and the million and one things that need to be done before he or she arrives.

Linking up with Katie for The Ordinary Moments and…

Living Arrows
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Being an August Baby (three times over)

My son is three and in just over a week’s time he shall be starting primary school. He was born in Scotland where the autumn term starts in the middle of August and the cut off date for the intake is in February, which explains a little why nobody even thought to mention the date when they admitted me to hospital for an induction a matter of hours before the end of the month.

August Baby

Theo is incredibly excited about attending “big” school and has spent the last few months complaining that he finds his nursery boring. I’m not for one minute suggesting he is gifted or particularly bright, but he’s tall for his age, confident and enthusiastic and I look at him and think it would be tortuous to hold him back from formal schooling for another 12 months.

As his parents we are in the unusual situation of having done it all before. Jim and I are both August babies and the youngest in our respective school years. My main memory of being born in August is of never having to go to school on my birthday and of always (or almost always) having a party in the garden, I thought I was pretty lucky. Both Jim and I were never really aware of the implications of being younger than our peers until later in life and so never had the chance for the dire predictions about our outcomes to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Now summer born babies are an annual story and the papers are full of statistics, court battles and gloomy forecasts for our children’s future. Summer babies are apparently more likely to be bullied, fair worse at exams and struggle with physical activities. One study even concluded that by the age of seven they are three times more likely to be regarded as below average by their teachers and 20% less likely to go to a top university. Yet Bill Clinton, Madonna, Barack Obama and Roger Federer were all born in August.

At school neither Jim nor I excelled at sports and I can still barely catch a ball to this day, but both of us came from families that weren’t particularly sporty, so it seems unlikely that our birth months and alleged lack of physical development are entirely responsible. Two decades after leaving education, Jim now plays cricket for our local team and I had a memorable season playing ice hockey when we lived in Canada. Neither of us are great, but we have fun and isn’t that what sport is supposed to be about?

Two generations of August babies

As far as school results are concerned, I was probably particularly lucky that I never felt under pressure academically from my parents and when at some point early in my senior schooling a teacher sent a letter home suggesting I was tested for dyslexia, my parents ignored it and left me to learn at my own pace. I’m sure many will be horrified by this, but my parents knew their child and within a few years I’d knuckled down and caught up on my writing and spelling. I was never given a reason to think I couldn’t do as well as everyone else, but equally I was never pressured to achieve more than I could.

The lottery of birth month is the first of many uneven playing fields that our children will have to face in their lifetime. One of the arguments about August babies is that all children are different and some are particularly disadvantaged, but if we try to even out this inequality there will only be more we can’t control. Divorces, separations, house moves, illness, siblings, differences in income and class size, geography and social status all of which will tip their prospects one way or another.

So what I’m really trying to say is this… If you have a summer born child starting school this September, try not to worry too much about their schooling or to endeavour to smooth the path that lies ahead of them. Your son or daughter has an amazing opportunity. A chance to push themselves to excel amongst kids who are older and more skilled than them and your job as a parent is to stand behind them and to offer gentle encouragement. Don’t let their birth month be an excuse or a crutch, let them find their place amongst their peers and enjoy the experience of school. They’ll be fine, trust me.

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31 weeks (mind the gap)

31 weeks (mind the gap)

by Clare Mansell

Back in May when I announced we were expecting number two, I think I vaguely mentioned that I planned to do regular pregnancy updates. Three months later and here’s the first one, so that went well!

Partly the absence of posts is because I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say about this pregnancy and yet I read other people’s posts about their growing bumps with great curiosity, so I have to remind myself that sharing our everyday can be fascinating depending on the angle you view it from.

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So here we go then, 31 weeks in and comfortably into my third trimester. About a month ago I booked myself a doctor’s appointment for a blood test for anemia as I was constantly fatigued and plagued by restless legs. Unfortunately my doctors were useless and to cut a long story short it took them 10 days, repeated phonecalls, visits and appointments to get the prescription for iron and two weeks before they could actually give me the test results… Yes you did read that the right way round, prescription before results!

Now I’m on the iron I’m gradually starting to feel better, but if I miss a couple of tablets I slide back into tiredness quite quickly. Other than that the bump is measuring bang on the right size and I’m also the right weight for this stage. Sleeping is ok, but not brilliant. I miss lying on my front so much!

We chose not to find out the gender of the baby so we’ve been mulling over name options for both sexes and when I say mulling over, what I really mean is that I make suggestions and Jim either says an outright “no” or “h’mmm… maybe.” We have two strong contenders now and a couple of outsiders, but I keep wavering! Please share name ideas if you have any brilliant ones!

As far as nursery preparations are going, our spare room is filling up with goodies and tomorrow we shall be hanging a beautiful wallpaper mural we’ve been given. Meanwhile I’m stalking eBay looking for a chest of drawers and hoping we can get the whole room sorted before Jim is back at work in a fortnight.

I’m still hoping for a home birth as to be frank, nothing about Theo’s hospital birth is worth repeating (it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great) and I’d just like to be in my own environment, with all my own stuff on hand and able to relax. I just hope everything conspires to help me achieve it as I realise it’s dependent on the baby arriving at the right time and my health continuing to be good.

I haven’t noticed too many significant differences between this pregnancy and the last, the same side effects and complaints, the same shape and positioning of bump, but possibly a little more movement and wriggling from this baby than I had with Theo… I don’t want to think about the implications of that too much, Theo was and always has been a very laid back little chap, perhaps his sibling will be more feisty!

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First trip to London…

First trip to London…

by Clare Mansell

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We took Theo on his first trip to London last week. I’d completely overlooked the fact that the train would be packed because it was August, so we spent two hours trying to contain the excitement of a three year-old whilst sandwiched in between strangers. Next time we shall go better prepared with books and apps!

We spent most of our time in London doing pretty basic entertainment. The curved doors of the tube train are like a hall of mirrors when you are only a metre high and prompted lots of giggles every time we traveled between stops, whilst a picnic of Marks & Spencers sandwiches in the park was a completely new experience and a short journey in a black cab gave him loads to watch.

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A few friends had suggested heading to the South Bank for the afternoon which was a great move. It was bustling and busy in a really nice way and there was a temporary brightly coloured art installation which had been set up just by the bridge and was open for kids to run around and grown ups to take selfies in…

southbank

I was pretty determined to spend the day doing free or almost free stuff, but in the end Jim persuaded me into the Sea Life Centre and I was actually pleasantly surprised by how well it held Theo’s attention and how long the tour took, though less impressed that they refused us a military discount because they apparently weren’t equipped to do it at the desk!?

Any concerns we had about filling our time in London were misplaced, largely because a couple of hours walking is more than enough for me at the moment! I’m 31 weeks now and fighting fatigue most of the time, so I was glad we’d booked into the Victory Services Club for the night and I could put my feet up and drink tea and not fight with the crowds all returning to the coast on the afternoon train.

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The following morning we headed for Hamleys (kind of compulsory when you have a small boy about to have his birthday!) We’d been warned it might be busy so we got there as it opened at 10am and it was amazingly quiet. Theo spent a long time looking through all the toys and carefully considering what he wanted. He chose three things which we made him reduce down to two and we were surprised and pleased that he didn’t kick up any fuss when we made him leave Hiro the train behind on the shelf, other than saying that he was “sad” he couldn’t come with us. Hiro might just be making an appearance in a couple of weeks on his actual birthday though…

Linking up with…

Living Arrowssnowingindoors
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My birthday present to myself

My birthday present to myself

by Clare Mansell

I’m sure I’m not the only one who occasionally uses their own birthday to as an excuse to splash out on something that they really want, but can’t justify buying? For the last year we’ve had a rather sad looking Ikea paper lantern sitting in the corner of our living room which I’ve been itching to replace, but swapping one functional light with another functional light isn’t really something that’s easy to justify!

giant george angelpoise

I managed to resist some expensive but lovely film lights at Ardingly Antiques Fair last autumn and even resisted spending a Homebase voucher I won on a new light (we bought sensible storage for the garage instead!) but I’m afraid I did crack when I saw the Giant George angelpoise lamp on the Iconic Lights website.

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The “Giant George” comes in my favourite shade of yellow, it’s a classic 1930s design (so fits with some of my other midcentury repo pieces) and it’s practical for reading and sewing.

Fortunately the reason I was browsing the website was because I’d just been invited to join Iconic Lights ambassador program and although this wasn’t one of the products they were offering for review they did agree to give me a discount.

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“George” fits in perfectly with the strong colours in our living space and is a good match for our little folding Habitat table which Theo loves to sit at to eat his tea.

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In fact I’m so inspired by the addition of yellow to the room that I’m going to be adding a third yellow thing next week by jumping on the “partial painted wall” bandwagon. We even have a TV crew coming down to film us doing it for the pilot for a new Interior Design show… But that’s going to be a whole other blog post!

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