Elfie’s 4th Birthday Party


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I’m not sure if I’m being premature, but I’ve started planning Elfie’s birthday already. She was born in July and as we’ve been spending the last few weeks trotting off to birthday celebrations of her school friends I really want to plan a big party for her, too. I’m not sure how much she’ll remember of her 4th birthday party but I still remember my 5th: there was a clown, a bouncy castle and a chocolate cat cake. It was brilliant!

There seems to be themes at most birthday parties we go to: superheroes, hot wheels. Our theme? Pink! No matter how much yellow and green I dress Elfie in or the number of times we play with cars… she’s an in-and-out girly girl.

Here’s what else I’m planning – you better believe this is going to be one Pinterest-sourced party.

Decorations
I LOVE tissue paper pompoms for decoration (how awesome is it that IKEA now sell them?) and have come this close to hanging them in my kitchen. Probably a fire hazard though, right? I’ll be stringing them all over the garden, along with balloons and fairy lights for the evening portion of the celebration. And of course there’ll be the ubiquitous pastel striped paper straws.

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Garden Furniture
Is it OK that I’m totally going to factor in the cost of new garden furniture with this party? I’ve been perusing the Home/Garden section of my favourite, John Lewis. At the Milton Keynes store they have the most incredible garden pod – I WANT! It’s totally reasonable to spend £18k on one, right?

Entertainment
I’ve already chosen the exact bouncy castle I’m after: obviously I’ve prioritised its suitability for grown-ups as being number one. Well worth the extra 50 quid. I’m going to think of it as a drunken cardio workout, fuelled by Pimms.

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Food
It’s all about afternoon tea-style food at this party. Think finger sandwiches and pinwheel wraps, mini victoria sponges, scones and to keep it healthy there’ll be fruit kebabs. To keep it unhealthy I’m going for the rainbow cake again but in shades of pink.

Party bags
Elfie goes nuts for party bags so I’m going to make sure these are really special. Tiaras and crowns, stickers (we all love stickers!), Haribo and sparkly pens. I want one already!

What was your favourite party? Send me your ideas!

Thanks to my favourite shop for partnering with MTT… for further info please see my disclosure page

And You Are The Girl With Small Hands And Big Eyes

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Every time I read the poem ‘B’ by Sarah Key, I think of Elfie.

If I should have a daughter, instead of “Mom,” she’s going to call me, “Point B.” Because that way she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me.

It is beautiful, the most beautiful piece of writing I have ever read. And not just because the similes and metaphors tumble together in a symphony like I have never read before, so much that I find myself going back, re-reading sentences and enjoying the way they sound. The poem speaks to me. Forget Ted Hughes, Wordsworth, John Keats… it is musical, magical.

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And she’s going to learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.

When I look at Elfie’s face, trapped in the limbo between babyhood and childhood, I see the whole world. Here is my little girl, my little girl who I grew from scratch, waiting to be taught. She is waiting for me to mould her into the person she will be forever. She is full to the brim of innocence, wonder, delight and excitement. I wish I could stop time, capture it. Make it last longer.

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There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by band-aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried.

I can’t describe the feeling that is knowing she will be hurt. Knowing she has been hurt and I couldn’t do anything about it. This little person, when she is hurting I want to dive in, remove every single bad thought and feeling and feel it myself. But I can’t, and that is one of the very worst things about being a mother.

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There’ll be days like this,” my mama said. When you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises. When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly, and the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape. 

How do I even go about telling my little girl there are bad things in the world? Admitting this means I am admitting they are real, the baddies are real and we can’t stop them from hurting us.

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Your voice is small, but don’t ever stop singing. And when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

Elfie, you are the girl with the small hands and the big eyes and every day I will kiss those hands and you will know I am always here to look after you.

And don’t you EVER apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.

I wrote more thoughts on this poem over here. Another huge thank-you to Charlotte for introducing me to the most beautiful piece of literature I’ve ever read.

A Love Letter To Elfie

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Apparently I’m unable to write about how much I love my little boy without going in to spasms of guilt that I haven’t done the same with Elfie. It’s true what they say, you know: you really never love one of your kids more than the other. You might like the one that doesn’t wake you up at 5.30am a little bit more sometimes (hey Hux, you were definitely my favourite this morning) but when your number one child punches you in the face you’ll soon switch your allegiance.

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Elfie’s at a funny stage. She’s working out that she’s her own little person with wants, needs and decision making abilities, and this has meant that she’s realised she can say NO. NO MUMMY I DON’T WANT TO. Why, Elfie? BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO. Oh, ok. She’s headstrong, I’ll give her that, she knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to assert herself. That’s my girl.

She quite a lot of these wobbles, doesn’t want to go to see her dad, come home from her grannie’s house or get down from the shopping trolley. Refuses to eat her sweet potato chips that she very politely asked to accompany her sausages and her mother slaved over. She has a huge ‘thing’ about fireworks, can’t stand the sight or sound of them which made November 5th and the surrounding weeks a lot of fun. The tantrums that follow these wobbles can be catastrophic and I know my mum worries they are an after-effect of the divorce. Really though, I think they’re all an after-affect of being three and a half and a bit of a drama queen.

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Elfie and I, we have our moments where we clash. I’m convinced it’s because we’re just too similar; she’s a talker like me and will rabbit on for ages and ages and ages, chat chat chatty chat. About anything and everything, her friends at pre-school (Oliver, Ralph and William are her favourites), making sense of what she’s learned that day (“Mummy, where was I when Jesus was born?”), snitching on her brother (“MUMMY! Huxley’s DOING SOMETHING!”) or wanting to know in minute detail exactly what I’m doing. Whether I’m on the loo or cooking, she needs to know. Poo or wee? Flour or sugar? She’s a real bright spark though and has such an inquisitive nature, I’d rather her be this way and slightly irritating come 5pm than not care about what’s going on around her. Her need to question why I’m asking her to do stuff – whether it’s why she has to get strapped into her car seat or why she has to go to bed – is when we argue the most. Sometimes I run out of answers (or patience) and she simply won’t accept the fact that I don’t know. Which, now I think about it, is kind of cool. My daughter thinks I know everything… awesome.

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She also insisted on being a cat for three whole days over Halloween and I lost my rag (and whisker painting abilities) by the end of that period. There are only so many times I can wash black eyeliner out of pillowcases and not be annoyed.

Elfie adores pre-school and I’m delighted it’s suiting her so well. I made the decision to send her to a small village school three miles away and I’m really glad I did; her class is tiny and the key-workers are wonderful. They’re always off doing activities like digging up potatoes and cooking them for their snack (then making pictures with their muddy roots!), making lanterns or learning about what’s going on in the world. The knowledge she comes home with astounds me, whether it’s a new song she’s learned, a shape, or new words. Watching her learning is incredible and seeing how her education is already shaping her as a person is wonderful to see.

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She’s incredibly kind-hearted and is a big softie. Elf and I, as much as we get cross with each other we cuddle lots more. She likes to be snuggled when she’s feeling scared, unsure or tired and I’m always happy to oblige. I recently started mummy and Elfie’s special time so now she’s that bit older she goes to bed half an hour later than Hux. We spend the time on the sofa chatting about her day, reading books, watching Come Dine With Me and drinking milk. She’s been known to sneak into my bed once or twice (ahem) in the middle of the night which in theory sounds lovely but in practice means teeny toddler feet crawling up my back all night. And the 5.30am wakeups? UGH. As soon as this particular stage is over I’m convinced I’ll regain some sanity.

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We look out for each other. She asks me, mummy, will you always look after me? – yes Elfie, forever and ever and ever – and when she caught me snivveling over hormonal single parent guilt a couple of weeks ago she put her arm around me and said she’d always look after me too. Then she asked me if I was sad because I was all alone, which didn’t help so much, so thanks for that kiddo. It gave me a laugh all the same. If I do request a bit of privacy on the loo (very rare these days) she will stand outside the closed door shouting, “mummy, I’m here if you need me! Do you want a hand?”. It’s nice to feel looked after, even if it’s by a three year old.

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Elfreda Daphne (soon-to-be) Talbot-Harold you are the brightest little star and you don’t even know it. I hope when you grow up to be old (like you think your mum is) and read this you will know how much I love you.

Our Shutterflies Photo Shoot

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I don’t like having my picture taken. I think this is part of the reason I’ve found online dating so hard: in most pictures I have of myself I’m gurning in a ‘you might take my photo but I don’t care’ way, or they’re shameless selfies taken in the mirror. And I don’t want anyone’s first impression of me to be a person who either gurns a lot or takes unlimited shameless selfies, no thanks.

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So when Hayley of Shutterflies Photography contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in a photoshoot of me and the kids I was like ‘no thanks, I have enough pictures of me gurning’. But then I thought it over a bit more. I’ve always been the photographer of the house, there are shedloads of photographs of everybody with my kids but none of me with the little cherubs. It might be nice to have something to remember these tired years by?

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So that is the story of how I found myself with the kids meeting Hayley at a local country park a couple of weeks ago, best gurn faces on. I was terrified, mostly because  of the camera, and because I was fully expecting each and every photograph of me to turn out like this:

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But you know what? It was EASY. Hayley made it easy. She told us to just get on with what we’d be usually doing in the park (the kids were in their element) and just snapped away. She’d brought a picnic blanket for us to have a few more ‘posed’ shots on but apart from that it was just about the kids having fun and capturing them as naturally as possible.

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I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but I am over the moon with the shots Hayley got of us. She used two cameras – one film, one digital – and I love the different feelings these lend to the photos. Not only is there minimal gurning from me but there is something so magical about the way she captured Elfie and Hux. She has caught them exactly as they are in real life – their facial expressions, their mannerisms – my babies.

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And me? Well, Hayley must have managed to work some sort of crazy magic because I actually like the way she captured me. I can only put this down to how relaxed and at ease she made us feel throughout the whole process, it was like spending a couple of hours at the park with a good friend rather than a photographer.

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I’m absolutely delighted with the results – so much so that I’m going to make our Shutterflies shoot an annual occasion. How precious is it that we have such beautiful photographs of us all together? Very. I love them.

shutterflies-026 shutterflies-028 shutterflies-009 shutterflies-020Thank-you so much to Hayley for a lovely couple of hours at the park and these gorgeous photographs of us. If you’re looking for some lovely memories I’d definitely give Ms Shutterflies a call; Hayley lives in Bedfordshire but is available to shoot far and wide from newborns to children to families to nuptuals. Just look at this beautiful wedding she recently photographed in Hertfordshire (I may or may not have provisionally booked her for my hypothetical second wedding). You can also take a look at her gorgeous blog here, add her on Twitter, follow her Instagram or like her Facebook page.

 

Lizzie, Jamie and Their Flower Girl

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Attending a wedding alone as a recently separated single parent was never going to be easy. There’s the struggle of trying not to joke about divorce (I didn’t – hoorah!) and the worry that actually, are you going to be hugely cynical about weddings now and look at the day with a weary sense of ‘been there, done that, got the divorce’?

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Luckily I didn’t, I had just the same appreciation of weddings as I’ve always had (and that’s not just the free booze talking). Even more appreciation perhaps, as despite mine and Will’s relationship coming to an end after a great 10 years I still believe in everlasting love, happy ever afters and saying ‘I do’.

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This wedding was always going to be very special as Lizzie was not only marrying the love of her life – who she met on match.com, there’s hope for me yet! – but Elfie was to be a flower girl with her second cousin Emily. We had been practicing for weeks in the dress, learning how to dance and twirl.

She was absolutely brilliant, somehow knowing to whisper in the church, asking “is this the party now mummy?” as we sang the hymns, delighted in having her photograph taken and generally looked her lovely beautiful self. I was very very proud of her.

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Hux was a dapper little thing in his bowtie, too. He refused to sleep all day so got a little fraught towards the end but just look at his face – you can forgive him anything! He spent most of the reception trying desperately to escape out the marquee doors.

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And as for me, well I drank too much wine, danced with my dad (who also drank too much wine… it’s genetic you see), took hundreds of photographs and had a thoroughly brilliant time.

Here’s to true love, to Lizzie and Jamie, to happy ever after and the two little loves of my life.

Elfie At Three Years Old

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Can you believe this girl is three already? It seems that every day she’s becoming a little bit more grown up though it feels like only yesterday she was crawling around causing havoc like her baby brother. It’s crazy that she’s a bona fide little person with thoughts and opinions already.

And oh, does she ever have opinions. She knows exactly what she likes (yoghurts, ham, playing outside, other children, choosing her clothes, strawberries, Peppa Pig), what she doesn’t like (hair washing, going to bed, Octonauts, tomatoes, being tired, balloons) and isn’t afraid to tell you. Her favourite word is “WHY?” and one of these days I’m going to count the amount of times she says it in one day because it will probably blow your mind. When there have been one too many “WHY?”s in a day I have to admit to resorting to saying, “why do you think, Elfie?”. A bit of mind-boggling never hurt anyone.

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Elfie’s third year of life has not been plain sailing. She took her dad moving out much harder than Hux (obviously), and because he lives in London now she misses him a lot. If she’s sad or being told off she often asks for him which can be pretty brutal for me: I’ve ruined her life etc etc. The upside of this is that I have been doing everything I can to make the rest of her life as fun and exciting as possible, lots of toddler groups, crafting, playdates and trips to the park. Because of this she’s completely flourished lately and is one intelligent, switched-on little girl.

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Our relationship is a lot stronger, too. She loves nothing more than cuddling up to me if she’s feeling a bit under the weather and is always saying “mummy, I missed you” (heart melts). It can be tough being the principle disciplinarian but I’m happy she knows right from wrong and is going to grow up to be a well-rounded mummy-loving individual.

IMG_9910Elfie had her first taster of pre-school a couple of weeks ago and absolutely loved it. As soon as we arrived she was off playing dress up and building sand castles with no worries about the other children or the unfamiliar surroundings. The great creche my mum takes her to for a couple of hours a week can probably be credited with her confidence and independence. That and her mother’s influence, natch… I don’t think there’s any chance of her being a wallflower.

32a3dc60e7df11e2963b22000a1f9c8c_7One of the best things about watching Elfie grow up is seeing the relationship she has with her brother. It’s not always harmonious – this morning she socked him one for no particular reason other than there was a battle over a banana – but they truly love each other. She asks for him first thing in the morning and is always concerned that he will come to the shops/playgroup/day out with us. She likes sharing meals with him, as long as sharing means that he is giving her food rather than the other way round. Luckily he mostly complies though the wailing that goes on when they’re ‘playing’ together can be ear-splitting.

IMG_9761Elfie’s health is always a worry, no more so than this weekend when all three of us have been struck down with a nasty tummy bug. First Elfie went down, then me, then Hux. Triple whammy. Elfie dealt with it really well, and though she seemed to be affected a bit longer than the rest of us she was very brave throughout the whole thing. I wish the same could be said for me, though: single parenting is never harder than when you’re scraping toddler sick out the carpet at 4am whilst your baby screams and you’re trying not to throw up yourself. Character building, I guess? Madam E kept her sense of humour throughout and was happy to tell me that “the sick won’t come again tomorrow, mummy”.

Elfreda Harold you are one very special little girl who is very loved. Bring on year number 4: a time for more fun, more friends and big old Pre-School.