Freya, Freya, Quite Contrary (Why Didn’t I Name Her Mary?).

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At three years and nearly eight months old Freya definitely seems to have climbed aboard the rollercoaster taking her from being a toddler to a child – and what a wild ride it is.

Sometimes she seems so grown-up, especially when she’s in her school uniform, racing into nursery without a backward glance. I always stand still and wait for a few seconds, amid the hustle and bustle of drop off, trying to catch a glimpse of her through the door, just in case she suddenly remembers she hasn’t said goodbye and comes back.

She never does.

At other times there are little reminders that maybe the train is still trundling its way up that final hill before hurtling down the other side.

She often pretends to be a (crying) baby and asks me to swaddle her in a blanket (not that she liked that when she was an actual baby, always preferring her arms free).

“Sing me a lullaby,” she pleads while I cradle her on my knees, with her legs now dangling almost to the floor.

As a pretend baby she’s quite the tinker. Her first words appear to be “poop” and “bum” at which I act horrified, sending her into fits of giggles.

She’s not the only one laughing. I know every one thinks their child is hilarious but some of the things she comes out with have me either in stitches or make me want to roll my eyes.

At the moment she’s taken to calling me “buddy”.

The conversations we have now amaze me almost as much as they bemuse me.

“Is the sky a book?” She asked, after we spent some time looking for animal shapes in the clouds.

I love her sideways (sometimes upside down) take on various things. I probably get as much out of our chats as she does.

However, if I had to pick one word to describe her right now it would be contrary (I knew I should have named her Mary).

No matter what I say she will disagree – even when it’s for her benefit.

Nothing is too small to be argued about, which makes everything a billion times harder.

The other day she was even arguing with the SatNav and was genuinely furious when we decided not to follow her instructions – that would have sent us completely the wrong way.

She’s three going on 13.

So. Much. Attitude.

I mostly try and sympathise or look at the bigger picture and quite often I just take Elsa’s advice and let it go.

It’s just a stage. A hard stage (for her and me). Hopefully it means she going to grow into a confident and assertive child.

The one good thing about sleep deprivation is that my parenting style is more relaxed than I think it would be if I were running at full speed/not so knackered.

Some days I do worry that saying yes much more than I say no is not doing her any favours (especially now she’s at nursery).

Some days I also know I am not the mum I want to be.

I snap at her when I should explain, demand when I should ask. I long for bedtime (only to miss her five minutes after she’s asleep).

When she tells me “You’re the worst mummy I’ve ever had”, ironically usually when I feel like I’ve not done too badly that day, it hits its mark.

Guilt comes trotting up telling me she’s like this because I’m doing it all wrong.

“She’s a reflection of you.”

And then, every now and then, something happens and I see a glimmer of light. A flicker of what I hope she might be like in the future.

We were in a shopping mall recently looking out of the window while we waited for Mark and she spotted a man going through the litter bins.

“Why is he putting his hands in the bins?” She asked. That is a definite no in our house.

I try and answer all her questions as honestly as possible – while remembering she’s three.

“He’s looking for food. He doesn’t have a home, so he doesn’t have his own kitchen, which means he has no food and he’s hungry.”

“That’s really sad,” she said, frowning.

“It is really sad. It makes us really lucky because we do have a home and we have food in our fridge.”

“I know! He could come and live with us,” She said, ready to dash down the stairs and invite him.

I felt a lump in my throat.

“That would be a nice thing to do but we unfortunately don’t have enough room. Where would he sleep?”

“He can have my bed.”

“Your bed is only small though. How about this? When we go shopping we can buy some extra food for people like him who need it.”

I try and do this anyway but I’ve never thought to explain why I’ve put the pasta and soup I’ve just bought as part of our shopping into the wire basket by the check out for the food bank. It’s not enough, of course, and her kindness made me realise that it’s not a very personal approach and that maybe I need to do more.

She seemed somewhat satisfied with that (she told every one we know that she had something sad to tell them and then explained homelessness for days afterwards, so it was clearly still playing on her mind). In the next moment she had taken her shoes off and was refusing to put them back on.

Even as I thought “here we go again’, I smiled.

I’m not claiming any credit for her compassion, as I feel like maybe that has to be something within you, but it makes me excited to see who eventually steps off that rollercoaster (and start bookmarking blog posts like this to see me through her teenage years or maybe four, five, six etc, which friends tell me also have their challenges).

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How did you handle the contrary stage? Did you just hold on tight and enjoy the ride?

Little Hearts, Big Love

Easy Valentine Crafts For Children (And Adults).

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“What is love?” I ask Freya every so often. When she was a lot younger she would say “hugs” and then “kisses” but this week she said: “It’s when two hearts kiss.”

Awww.

“Who do those hearts belong to?” I questioned further.

She listed herself and grandad, daddy, nan, grandad Arnie, Grandma, Uncle John, half her nursery class and then, finally, me (I was grateful to be included, eventually).

To Freya, love is all around (that should be a song).

As I’ve mentioned in past years, Valentine’s Day is NOT a favourite of mine but, as it’s impossible to avoid, I’m starting as I mean to go on by trying to make it a positive for her. To me that means celebrating every kind of love rather than just romantic love. Wouldn’t it be great if it could stay like that?

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A forest of love for her grandparents and great grandma.

This year, we’ve made things for her grandparents and great grandma as well as other people of her choosing (we didn’t do her nursery class because it’s half term but also because I am lazy and I figured they might do something themselves).

As always, Pinterest is my saviour. I’ve pinned a few more easy crafts, if you are in need of some inspiration. Long live Pinterest!

Both the tree hands and the sun catchers were fun and easy to do. As an added extra I got her to paint a sheet of white paper red for the stick on hearts for the trees (with brushes, hands and feet) which was probably the best part for her.

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How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Do you celebrate it? 

Christmas Crafts – Salt Dough Handprints.

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Long before Freya was born I liked to add a little homemade-touch to my Christmas gifts, even though my (lack of) skills made everything seem a little…”rustic” – hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

From homemade wrapping paper to the year I embroidered cloth bags for everyone (by the end, I’ve never been so pleased to have a small family), I’ve tried to put my stamp on things. I think it’s even more important now Freya is here do something personal that she can give as her gift – and no one seems to mind if they are, how shall I put it, less than perfect.

This year, I thought we would have a go at salt dough Father Christmas handprint ornaments, which seemed like a fun activity for her (and simple enough for me to follow).

As always, we had varying degrees of success in our THREE attempts. I should have a sub heading on any crafting posts “making a big old mess so you don’t have to”.

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I’ll just leave this here.

Just in case you were thinking of doing something similar, I thought I would share what did and didn’t work for us.

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Ingredients:

There are several different recipes to try but the one below created a nice dough (where it says cups, I just grabbed three matching mugs from the cupboard). 

One and a half cups of plain flour.

One cup of salt.

Half a cup of water.

How to: 

  1. Mix the flour and salt well before gradually adding the water to make it into a dough. If it remains sticky, keep adding a pinch of flour.
  2. Roll out your dough to your preferred thickness (I did some that were about 1cm thick which worked well) and then help your child imprint their hand. They need to push down hard enough to make an indent but not hard enough to go all the way through, which is trickier than it sounds.
  3. Remember to make a hole in them if you’re planning to hang them as decorations. A straw makes a nice shape, if you happen to have one.
  4. Once you’ve cut out your hands it’s time to work out how to dry them. After burning our first batch (I know), I attempted to air dry the second lot but after two weeks they still weren’t quite dry (although it was October). I put our third batch on the bottom shelf of the oven while I cooked Sunday lunch and they puffed up. I later Googled the reason for this and it suggested pricking the dough would solve the issue. I’ll try that next time.
  5. If, like me, you are not that artistic there are plenty of suggestions for how to decorate on Pinterest. We used acrylic paints, which seemed to work well. Freya started painting the trees and then the heart before helping me paint the handprints (and, indeed, her own hands). I did have to finish them off after she had gone to bed. 
  6. Once everything is dry, thread a bit of ribbon (I also wrote a message on the back and her age), wrap them up and job done.

Freya is lucky to have both sets of grandparents and a great grandma so hopefully they will appreciate these gifts (as only grandparents can).

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Do you like crafting at Christmas? What are your favourite makes?