Want, Need, Wear, Read – An Alternative Christmas Budget?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but also the most expensive!

With families getting bigger and advertising featuring absolutely everywhere in the weeks building up to Christmas, it’s easy to get somewhat carried away over the festive period and end up counting the cost of the season when the “January blues” hit.

The fear of this inspired my wife and I to look into ways we can still give our children some amazing presents without necessarily breaking the bank; she stumbled upon the following concept for purchasing presents, which can be applied to not just kids but pretty much anybody in your family!

I have however primarily focused on the children as we try it with them for the first time in 2019!

It’s easy to splash the cash at Christmas!

Want

Let’s face it, our children are always going to tell you what they want for Christmas.

With adults, the art of buying presents for each other becomes somewhat more tricky as maybe we’re not as forthcoming about stuff we would really want whereas children don’t possess that filter!

For example, I can always recall receiving a “main” present as a kid; whether it was a keyboard or a games console (I always asked for a drum kit to no avail) I always had something big in mind.

This is no different to the girls who have asked for Sylvanian Families and Barbie (3 and 9 respectively) equipment as their main present for Christmas; higher ticket items that take up more space than others both in your living room and in your bank account.

Need

Sometimes it’s difficult for kids to differentiate between what they want and what they need; of course we would expect that as we were probably all the same as kids.

However I think it’s a good lesson to learn; this isn’t to say that you’re going to buy something they won’t like, but the need aspect of this concept can still be something they would really enjoy.

For example, both kids were really after new arts and crafts stuff however it wasn’t necessarily top of the wish list; however, as both girls are really enjoying being more creative and our 3 year old is becoming more confident holding crayons and pencils at nursery, it definitely becomes something necessary for their confidence and development.

Wear

This I think is a really nice idea and allows your children to have an active say in what they wear, be it inside or outside the house.

For example, we have gotten the girls some Christmas pyjamas and a new dressing gown each. These items are not bank-breakers and they serve a purpose, keeping them both fluffy and warm during the winter months.

However it’s not all about practicality; as both girls get older and start to have more say in the way they dress, the choice of what they wear will mean they’ll always have suggestions at Christmas!

Festive pyjamas – a hit in our house!

Read

Both girls still love a book, which is brilliant because technology is everywhere.

3 is currently enjoying having Julia Donaldson’s array of amazing stories read to her whilst 9 is cracking on with The World’s Worst Teachers and pretty much anything by Jacqueline Wilson.

Books are easy to pick up too, be it from Waterstones, The Works or Amazon; they often come in deals with other similar titles so another thing that doesn’t loosen the purse strings too much.

It is easy to get somewhat carried away with Christmas, mainly because that’s just the way we’re headed. I’m not trying to crap on your Christmas, but I am simply sharing with you something that we have decided to give a go this year.

What other budgeting tips can you think of to help you over Christmas? Does anybody out there use the same or similar as what I’ve said above and if so what are your experiences? Would you feel comfortable doing this with your children too?

Let me know what you think!

Anxiety Attacks! – 7 Little Things That Trigger My Anxiety

It’s easy to feel anxious in today’s society; from a relatively young age we deal with so much, from school exams to friendships, to social media to relationships to our physical and mental health.

However anxiety isn’t only just about those more “obvious” issues; it can relate to almost any social situation, big or small, important or seemingly unimportant.

I’m sharing with you 7 day-to-day things from my own personal experience.

1 – Standing in a queue

Something simple, right? Well the art of it is, but it’s all the stuff that comes with it.

I worry about where to look. I worry whether people behind me will judge me for what I’m buying. I worry whether the member of staff serving me will judge me for what I’m buying.

I just want to pay and go; no small talk. I want to use my contactless card and I don’t want the receipt. I don’t want to ask for a bag or be asked for a bag, just assume that if I have more than 1 thing that I would like a bag and send me on my way.

2 – Talking on the phone

Definitely one of my biggest triggers, which is made even more difficult by the fact I work in customer services and spend a fair bit of my time on the phone.

I think a lot of what makes me anxious is similar to the point above, constantly worrying about being judged and what the other person is thinking.

I have had a stutter for as long as I can remember, most likely for as long as I have been talking. It was pretty bad during school but has improved somewhat the more I have grown up, however it finds me again when I’m nervous or feeling as though I’m backed into a corner. I find that if I stutter with somebody familiar who knows about it I feel calmer, however with a relative stranger on the phone I almost feel as though I’m letting myself down.

3 – Taking pictures

I referenced this particular subject on another blog post where I went into great detail about the anxiety I find when trying to take selfies. It’s an image-conscious thing I know, but it applies here too. I feel as though I desperately want to take some really good selfies, not necessarily for my own misguided vanity but mainly just because I feel I “should”.

Taking “selfies” provides me with a particularly anxious moment: NB: Person in the picture is of course not me.

I need to look at my face and think that the person staring back at me is alright in his own skin; I don’t want to look stunning or mess around with filters until I’m unrecognisable. I don’t want bunny ears, cat ears, dog ears or any other sort of ears.

I just want to feel attractive…attractive enough for me.

4 – People trying to sell

I know it’s their job and I knoooooow I sound unreasonable. However I don’t want to talk to them. I will subtly ensure I keep a relatively wide berth and hope I avoid eye contact or, even worse, having to say no thank you without sounding like a total dick.

I could never do a sales job myself, so I have sympathy. I just hope that I can walk past them and not have to have any kind of interaction. No offence.

5 – “typing…”

This example is sponsored by Whatsapp*

An argument or a difficult conversation being had via Whatsapp means we have to endure watching someone “typing…” for what seems like AN ETERNITY.

This is whilst we wait for their response. I hate it, which is why I would prefer not to have conversations like that via Whatsapp….or over the phone (see no.2).

Well, that doesn’t really leave me many options.

*Not really sponsored by Whatsapp

6 – Small talk

British people generally love small talk and as a British person I feel as though I am meant to participate.

I hate it, it genuinely bothers me.

“Morning!”

“Morning”

“How are you?”

“Good thanks, you?”

“Yeah not bad, nice weekend?”

Right, I know it’s lovely and nice and it shows you’re taking an interest in your fellow human being but it just makes me incredibly anxious. I feel as though I need to throw in a joke or something whereas in reality all I need to do is play along. I just hope it’s over before it gets any more tedious.

I’ll definitely try to avoid office small talk if I can help it.

7 – Blogging

Although I’m telling you all about my little anxious moments, it doesn’t mean I feel great about it. I still feel incredibly anxious at writing blog posts and 100 times more so if I know nobody reads it.

I know I need followers and to engage more, but it’s difficult to do if you have little to no self-confidence and anxiety rears its ugly head.

I want to have a constant flow of ideas of things to blog about which should in turn help the aforementioned engagement. This is before I’ve even considered viewing figures and statistics, which quite frankly scare me even more.

Anxiety is hard, folks; especially if you are trying to thrust yourself forward as a blogger and human being. I need to have more confidence but it’s taken a massive hit over the last few years and situations such as the ones I have described above contribute towards this.

I would love to encourage people to blog more no matter what your mood, but I think most of them are doing it already. I want to make a decent fist of this, despite anxiety attacking.

The above things may seem a little trivial; sorry about that. However, that’s anxiety. It can hit you at the strangest moments, for the strangest reasons. I feel good for sharing although nervous at the same time of being judged, laughed at or misunderstood.

If any of you are feeling brave enough, feel free to drop any examples of where you also feel anxious in social situations such as the above. I’d love to hear them.

Put That Down! – Things You Can Say To Your Kids But Not Your Partner

So one of the most common things amongst parents is that, at least once, you’ll find yourself coming out with a sentence that you never thought you’d ever have to come out with.

That’s the joy of having kids!

Here’s a list of things that, as the title suggests, you might find yourself saying to your little terrors that you should probably never repeat to the other adult in the house….

“Put that down!”

Now you might say it to your partner, depending on what “it” is. However the most likely scenario is that your kid has picked something up which could result in immediate danger to either the kid or to the thing.

Perhaps you’d ask your partner a little more gracefully.

“Take that out your mouth!”

Naughty.

Similarly to the above, you would probably direct this to your kids because they’ve picked up that bit of plastic/fluff/previously dropped and now mashed up food off of the carpet with all good intentions of seeing what it tastes like.

I think if you uttered that same sentence to your significant other they may get a little offended, if you catch my drift.

“Take that out your mouth!”

“That’s not what Mummy/Daddy said”

That’s a way of catching your child out but it’s a right bloody insult and a little bit creepy if you’re saying that to your partner.

“You’re not coming out of your room until it’s clean”

You just can’t say that to your partner. This is because, whilst it’d be a good incentive for your child to get a move on, your partner would probably decline to tidy up on the basis they could stay in the bedroom by themselves with a little bit of peace and quiet. How lovely.

“Maybe. We’ll see”

Tricky one this.

When you say this short sentence to your kids, they think it means yes. What they don’t know is that 99.9% of the time it means the same thing.

NO.

We’re just not going to let on that that’s what it really means.

However parents see through that; they invented that. It’s not going to work in a conversation between two clued-up adults.

And finally…

“1…2…3….”

PARENTS DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TO THREE!

KIDS DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TO THREE!

However…most kids are frightened enough of three to not tempt fate and to do what they’ve been asked to do when the proverbial clock strikes 2 and a half.

Good kids.

You would never get away with this with other parents. Other parents know we have nothing when it comes to three.

What other things can you think of that fit the above? Or maybe share some of the craziest things you’ve ever said to your kids!

The Night Before Tesco’s – An Alternative Christmas Poem

Twas the night before Tesco’s

And lying in bed

A young boy drifted off

With nice thoughts in his head

For it was nearly Christmas

And at Christmas you know

It’s a great time for snacking

He does love it so

He’s thinking of offers

On chocolate boxes

Matchmakers and Roses

And biscuits by Fox’s

Of breadsticks and Pringles

Cheese savouries and crackers

And lots more delights

For the serial snackers

Of After Eights, Heroes

Of Lindts and Milk Trays

Of tubs and of cartons

That last us for days

Of bucks fizz and cider

Of wine and of gin

Of bags of the stuff

With no more to fit in

When browsing for deals

In the shops, on the net

Wondering how much more

You could possibly get

The magic of Christmas

On the side in the kitchen

With boxes and packets

That look so bewitching

So the young boy lays dreaming

Of a Christmas with treats

With lots of nice things

To drink and to eat

Let’s sidestep the part

(You don’t need to know)

That the “young boy” is thirty!

…but he does love it so.

Picture Perfect?

It’s rare that I’ll drum up the confidence to attempt to take a picture of myself.

A “selfie”, if you will.

In a world full of Instagram and Twitter and YouTube, we are inundated with pictures of fantastic looking people, airbrushed celebrities and filters galore.

Be that as it may, this does absolutely nothing for me.

In the brief moment of weakness I have when I click the icon on my phone to take a picture, I’m filled with dread, followed by further worry, before ending up with embarrassment.

WHY did I do that?

I don’t want to see a picture of myself.

I don’t look right.

Surely I don’t look like that?

Delete it before you remember you did it.

I just can’t take a decent picture of myself. I don’t know why I want to. I’m not confident enough to do that and I don’t know why I tried to convince myself for even a second that I was.

Why can I not get the angle right? I’m not meant to smile am I? Well I don’t like my smile even if I am. If I try not to smile I just look moody and not in the fashionable way.

How do these people do it so effortlessly and flawlessly? Does the picture really represent the struggle? The taking of hundreds of photos before settling on one that looks the best, then trying tens of different filters before finding the most flattering; do other people more confident or more ballsy have the same issues?

Anxiety about the way we look is growing increasingly common; many things are to blame and for me, the world of social media is the most prominent.

I battle with myself, all the questions I’ve asked myself above are the ones I ask myself whenever I click on that camera. I want to be braver, give less of a damn about who sees it and care less about whether my hair is out of place or whether I’ve got the right expression.

However I just can’t, so I delete it and move on and wonder why I even attempted it.

I’m anxious about people seeing me. I think I’m even more anxious about me seeing me, and knowing that’s what I have to live with.

Stepping Up

Parenting is bloody hard.

Whether the child is a newborn and depending on their parents to survive or whether they’re an 18 year old depending on their parents to help shape their future, parenting is hard.

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you the same.

Then there’s step-parenting.

Today I’ve written a post about my relationship with the little girl I will refer to as “Step” and asked myself some questions about the art of step-parenting*

*there is no art, you pretty much wing it as much as you do any other aspect of parenting

How do step parents find the right balance?

How long have I been a step parent?

By the letter of the law, only 3 months as married in August; however I was first introduced to my step-daughter in February 2015.

What are some of my first memories?

I specifically remember staying over and the first time I was scheduled to meet Step; my heart was pounding. This was the first time I had ever been around a child for a specific period of time and, one month into a new relationship, it was massively important.

With every overnight that followed, she would enter the bedroom asking the same question:-

“Mummy, is that Tom?”

I should bloody hope it is!

Did I always plan to date somebody with children?

Truth be told, no I didn’t. I wasn’t looking for it but it also wasn’t out of the question either. I had always looked for someone that was a good fit for me, somebody I would click with almost instantly. If that person was accompanied by a kid then I would know sooner rather than later if it was what I wanted.

And it was what I wanted.

What does Step call you?

Whatever she likes! The key thing is we have never forced her to be a certain way with me.

I’m simply Tom at home and that suits me fine. However I’m also happy being referred to as “Daddy” too, in the knowledge I have never sought to replace her biological father.

Now my wife and I have had a daughter together (she turns 4 in June), there’s somebody in the house who we can permanently call “Daddy”. This does not mean we have to encourage Step to do the same; if she wants to, she can.

How easy is it to show authority to a step child?

It’s definitely more difficult, especially at first. It’s more important than ever to establish the right sort of boundaries and not jump in too fast to try and step into father figure shoes; nobody needs that kind of pressure straight away.

I often looked to my partner for advice and acknowledgement of when I could discipline her and sometimes to be honest I still do. Now that there’s another little one in the house I’m more comfortable doing so because I’m Daddy every day, but due to the age gap we need to treat them somewhat differently anyway when telling them off.

How are things between you and Step’s biological father?

They’re not. I stay out of his way and he out of mine. I’m not there to do his job for him, I’m my own person and he’s his. Step loves him in her own way and me in another and this has been my thought process from the start. I’m not in any competition with him and genuinely have never been.

I know it’s not always that easy; step parenting can be a power struggle, with two different families trying to get one up on each other. However in this instance it would not help anyone so I’m just here to do the best I can for her.

Finally, what do you see the future holding?

I’ve been saying for a long time to my wife that I’m excited to see how the girls turn out, Step in particular as she has an almost 6 year head start on her younger sister.

Yes, having two teenage girls in the house could prove problematic; I think with hormones and the stresses of growing up it’s inevitable.

However I am genuinely looking forward to it. I can’t wait to see what path Step decides to take and what happens to her in the next few years, I have no doubt she’ll continue to flourish at school and make the leap up to secondary school and beyond. She’s ambitious, smart and talented at a number of things and could find herself heading in multiple different directions if she wants to.

I hope I have helped contribute towards laying a foundation and providing support alongside her brilliant Mum.

Do I have any advice for fellow step parents?

It depends on your circumstances, of course. However, the main thing I have learnt is have patience especially at the start of a new relationship. If you feel you have found somebody you want to progress with, you’ll agree to wait until the time is right to introduce yourself onto the scene.

I’m giving my two cents based on my own experiences; I came into a new relationship and met a little girl barely 3 years old but of course the way you deal with it will depend on your own circumstances and the age of the child/children.

I absolutely love being a step parent and I am proud of the relationship we’ve forged together. It isn’t easy and there will always be occasions where you get it wrong, but as long as you have the patience and understanding of your place then you’re halfway there step-parents!

She’s on Cloud 9!

I write this first post on my step-daughter’s 9th birthday.

Woah.

She’s so excited and rightly so – the attention will be on her and she deserves every second.

I know they say your kids’ grow up quickly and you shouldn’t wish their time away; definitely accurate.

I met her shortly after her 3rd birthday and we’ve been on quite a journey.

We’ve had tears, tantrums and toilet humour…and mostly from me!

Now we’re onto a very important stage of her life where she starts to shape the sort of person she wants to be, the sort of things she wants to be into and the sort of company she wants to keep.

As a father figure, I’m both excited and a little anxious about these next few years.

Let’s face it, there’s going to be a whole host of different emotions on show, again from us both; I’m not exactly the most emotionally stable fella out there.

There’ll be first boyfriends, phones, social media, exams, arguments, more exams, friends, even more exams.

Not only that, but she has a little sister who will undoubtedly pick up certain traits and this will create quite the environment. It’s inevitable, no point trying to prevent it.

This is why days such as today are so important; the unbridled joy and obvious excitement might possibly dwindle as she gets older, so let’s make the most of it now!

So are there any ways to prepare myself for these years? Probably not, will just have to take them as they come.

Any helpful advice? Probably not, every kid is different.

What sort of parent should I be in this situation?

I’ll have to work that one out for myself!

COLORFUL CHAOS THE JOURNEY

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