"In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony."

Saturday, 26 March 2011

32 weeks and time is flying by

I feel as though I have reached an important milestone - 32 weeks or rather 8 weeks to go.  Saying that, he may not be an on time baby (and I actually hope he is late) so I have a maximum of 10 weeks left.  Very scary!

With Ofsted observing me at work and a daughter being rushed to hospital in an ambulance twice this week, I can honestly say that despite the growing bump, I forgot I was pregnant most of the week.  The only times I remembered was when I got a wriggle and I thought, "Oh, what was that?  Wind?  Dicky tummy?  Oh, that's right, there's a baby in there."  Hope I am not this forgetful after he is born!

I did see my midwife this week though and explained the stressful week but, after a thorough check-up, I (and baby) were given the all clear.  Blood pressure up but not dangerously and everything else is ok.  Good news is that he is now head down, so has turned in the last four weeks.  Measuring my tummy, I am at 30cm for 32 weeks so he is growing, although I am not surprised with the comfort sweets and biscuits that I have been eating this week to get me through it.

Took a photo of my bump yesterday in the same clothes and at the same stage as with Hannah for a comparison as everyone is saying that I am bigger than I was last time, and here are the results:

Me yesterday at 32 weeks.

Me at 32 weeks with Hannah.

Anyway, today I popped to a baby sale in aid of the CLIC charity and made a hormonal-spur-of-the-moment purchase.  I bought 17 reusable nappies.  Always been against them in the past as couldn't see how you would save money buy the time you bought all the stuff and spent more money on the washing machine but just decided to go for it.  No idea what I was doing though so bought them and hoped they were the right ones!  Now just need to work out how to use them!  Oh dear!

I must admit that I am not my bouncy energetic self this weekend and am irritable and tired.  Not even the physical type of tiredness but the 'leave-me-alone' and 'I-want-to curl-up-on-the-sofa-all-day-and-do-nothing' tiredness.  Unfortunately, with a working husband and four children at home, as well as jobs to do, this is not an option, so feel even more fed up.  I have a pile of 50 Year 11 essays looking at me and have lessons to plan, but am not sure whether any of it will happen.

Still, things could be worse and I only have two weeks until the Easter holidays when I will be definitely be chilling out a bit.  (Or doing all those things that I haven't had time for!)  I am definitely going to treat myself to a haircut and meeting some friends for some 'me' time.  And I have just realised that by the time the Easter holidays is over, this baby will be due in just four weeks!  Eeek.  Can I please stop time?!

Monday, 21 March 2011

What else can happen...

After yesterday's post (and bit of a moan) about how life is manic at the moment, it got even worse today.  There I was in the middle of a lesson, when I am told to ring my husband urgently.  What drama could be happening now?

An eleven year old daughter who collapsed at school and was still unconscious and awaiting an ambulance.

Fortunately, work and my work colleagues were fantastic.  By the time I had put down the phone and promptly burst into tears, five of my colleagues were there to ask what they could do to help me.  One got my bag from my room, another drove me to the hospital and my HOD told me to stay off and miss Ofsted.  Walking down the corridor, I found out that news travels fast as bumped into two members of SLT, both of whom already knew what had happened.  It made it much easier, knowing that I didn't have to worry about work.

We beat the ambulance to the hospital but, after what seemed an age, it pulled up and I jumped in to see how my daughter was.  Glassy eyed, unfocused, grey and not speaking.  A very scary sight.  The paramedics admitted that they didn't know what was wrong, which wasn't very reassuring as I just wanted a diagnosis.

By the time we got into a cubicle, Kaiya was slightly more with it and able to whisper single word answers although she had no idea what month it was or what had happened.  by this time it was about 45 minutes since she collapsed and she still was not all with us.  Fortunately, every minute that passed showed a bit more colour and a bit more of Kaiya returning.  I knew then that she would be alright.

After three hours, she had recovered enough to eat, drink, laugh at jokes and even start being naughty - she would be fine.  The medical staff never found a reason for her sudden and dramatic collapse when she was normally so healthy but they let her go home and I decided that I had better get back to work as had so much to do for Ofsted in the morning.

So, the stress and adrenalin of a hospital dash today.  What can happen tomorrow?  Oh yes, Ofsted.  If they dare criticise me, I am not sure I will keep my cool with them.  Do they know how hard it has been this last week?  Do they know anything about me?  No, they just see a 30 minute snapshot and make a judgement.  Well, I can do no more.  I am shattered - physically, mentally and emotionally - and have nothing more to give them.  Take it or leave it - this is me - Mum, wife, teacher.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

31 weeks and life just gets busier

Got a spare five minutes - just time for a little update.

Am now 31 weeks but instead of life slowing down as I am in my seventh month of pregnancy, it just gets more and more mad.  At the start of the week, I went to work on four hours sleep as Hannah has a bad cold that kept her (and subsequently me) awake until the wee hours.Then, on no sleep, I am informed that Ofsted will be paying us a little visit next week.  The panic starts!

So, I have spent several days preparing for this visit.  Getting spangling lesson plans and resources at the ready and having some disconcerting dreams about Ofsted inspectors.  Typically, the weather is gorgeous as though it is mocking the fact that I am sat at a computer trying to feel inspired to create an amazing lesson that both the children and inspectors will love.

As well as working from home (as well as work), I have obviously looked after my children, done the housework and shopping.  Yesterday, I was pleased to find the time to get to the park with the girls and enjoy the fresh air to remind myself that work is only work and not my entire life - even though it is even impacting on my sleep at the moment.  Fortunately, the evening's television was only rugby so no temptation to chill out in front of the box.

Today, I decided to get down the car boot sale (as I love them so much and realised that my council tax bill doesn't need paying this month so I have a bit of spare money!).  So, off Hannah and I went at 7.30am and came back with loads of bargains!  Not sure that my husband thinks buying a double buggy when we already have a lovely one is a bargain though!  I tried to tell him it was a good idea to have a spare, but he fails to be convinced.  I also managed to get loads of baby boy clothes (again, not really needed as we were given loads but at 10p-20p each and so sweet, I couldn't resist).  Also purchased a nursing pillow, two dresses for Hannah and some coasters.  I dread to think what it all would have cost new so am pleased.  Hoping for a few more sunny Sundays before this baby arrives.  Which reminds me that there are only 8 more Sundays before due date!!!  Not many!!!

The bump (as he is still called as can't decide on a name yet) is generally being good.  Started getting back ache and pelvis pain the last couple of weeks which is getting steadily worse but it isn't really unexpected.  Bump now seems huge and has definitely grown in the last week.  In fact, I think I am the same size now as I was at 9 months with Hannah.  Mind you, bump size doesn't equate to baby size as I know from having four already.  The amount I am eating, may have more to do with it.  In which case, I had better expect an elephant!  I think the baby is also a lot lower than it was and it feels as though it is running out of room already.  he does have a habit of sticking a foot out on my right hand side and you can actually see and feel it from the outside.  That foot seems to be measuring about 3cm and gives me a lot of pain when he decides to have a stretch.  Strange that he always pushes it out in the same place though but that's what makes me think that there isn't much room left as he doesn't change position really, just stretches outwards every now and again.

Right, well better sort out the dinner and try and brace myself for Ofsted week.  I keep saying things will get easier but I really shouldn't as something else happens, so I won't say it, just hope that I can survive another 9 weeks without going mad.  Am beginning to hope that this baby is late so I can have some down time before he arrives.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Business ideas

Following on from my reducing outgoings blog, I have been thinking about the other end of the spectrum - how to increase our income.

Currently, I work four days a week as a secondary teacher but that does leave me with three days a week off.  Now clearly, I don't want to stretch myself too thin as the focus of me working part-time was to spend more time at home with my children, but with prices going up and incomes staying static, I have been thinking about my options.

My first idea was to do some childminding.  After all, if I am home with two children on my weekday off, one more will be fine.  It won't make me a fortune (probably around £30 a day before tax and NI) but I think I would enjoy it and be good at it.  I would need around a £400 outlay to do my first aid course and a few bits around the house etc, so that is one of the negative points.  The main one though is wondering whether anyone will want a childminder for just one day a week.  If there is no market there, then I have done the courses and outlay for nothing.

My second idea is to do buying and selling.  How many working parents out there have lots of unused baby items but don't have the energy to go the boot sale or ebay them?  Wouldn't it be easier for someone to come to their house, give them cash and take the item away?  Of course, I would then need to sell it on for a profit, which would probably be via an ebay shop.  This would mean I would need space to store items and I would need to hope that everything I bought, has profit potential.

My third idea is to run a parent and baby/child club on Thursdays and Saturdays.  Recently, some of my friends with young children have been looking into activities, such as gym, music or dance but have been restricted by the days and times.  All of these activities for pre-school age children happen in the week when many mums now work.  Personally, I think there would be a huge market out there for something like this for working parents.  I could also do one on a Thursday for non-working parents or part-time workers.  Ideas include, drama and dance, craft sessions, baby massage/relaxation etc.  The downside is that I would probably need some training (especially for the massage idea) and premises but it is a definite possibility.

My fourth idea is to do with muffins and cakes.  Recently, I have enjoyed doing some baking at home and have shared with others who have made some very positive comments - of course, they may just be being polite - which has given me the idea of doing some baking and then selling them to small local cafes etc to sell on.  Would clearly have to contact cafes to see if this is a viable idea at all though.

My fifth idea is to either become a tutor, for a company or independently, or even more exciting, to run my own local tutor company.  I know of a couple of English teachers who would be interested in tutoring too so maybe a small company is the way to go.   Trouble is that the next 2 months are the peak time as the exams are in May and I haven't even got the idea properly formed yet. On a positive note, there are few outlays (or even none) so no/little risk involved.  There are some companies around here that do tutoring but they are all national companies and I think the local touch is sometimes more valued.

The final idea is one that I have had floating around for the last 18 years (ish) but is totally impractical and certainly not going to bring in much (if any) money and that idea is to write a book.  Maybe one day....

Any comments on what you think I should do?

Saturday, 12 March 2011

My Maths!!

I must have done a bit of a calculator typo on my blog explaining how much I had saved because it should have added up to saving £480 not £380.  Anyway, have corrected now and also remembered another £20 saved so a lovely round figure of £500 a month.

Pregnancy and family life do not always mix

After hobbling around yesterday and taking my first day off in this pregnancy, I am feeling more mobile today - thank goodness.  Not sure what I did but yesterday my back and pelvis was agony and only relieved by lying on my side on the sofa.  This morning, I am able to move around a little quicker, which is just as well as I have four children here and no husband (as he is at work).

I also need to be able to drive today as have three children who have to be in the same place at different times - why couldn't they have arranged it with their friends a little better?!  So a fun afternoon driving around, dropping off children and picking them up again.  And this is my weekend.  Um, no.  This is why I only work four days a week to give me that one day a week that is mine (and Hannah's) and not constricted by my older children's social lives.

Today, I suppose I also ought to do some housework as lying on the sofa for a day meant that no washing up, hovering or tidying was done. If I can do the housework and baking before the running around this afternoon, I may have the evening to do my school work though.  Then I can have Sunday off!  Well, as off as a day is with four children to look after.

I am not complaining - after all, I would be bored if I wasn't busy - but every now and again, I wouldn't mind a housework or taxi fairy to help out so I could do something for me.  Then again, I am not sure what I would for me if I did have the time.  In the meantime, I am just trying to get my head around the fact that I will have another baby in ten weeks (give or take a few days either side).  I still don't think it has sunk in yet and ten weeks isn't that long to go really.  Will fit in sorting things out for our new arrival at Easter.

Right, well off now to tidy up, do the washing up and get a cake in the oven.

Friday, 11 March 2011

How I have saved £500 off our bills in the last two weeks...

Like a lot of people at the moment, I have been looking closely at our finances due to our outgoings increasing while our income is static or even going down very soon due to being on maternity leave.  As this is my last baby, I am determined not to return to work earlier than 9 months due to finances as I know I will never get this time back again.  I guess part of me is feeling rather pigheaded about that - why should I lose time with my baby because of the country's poor economic state which I didn't cause and have been paying enough taxes to try and help.

Chatting to a friend the other day, she suggested that I posted my savings and ideas on here in case it helps other people too, so here goes.

The first thing that I did was start an excel spreadsheet with everything on it for the next year.  I had to do a year budget as my maternity income will change over that time and so will our outgoings (e.g. more childcare costs and bus fares in term time).  Then I looked at where most of our money went.  Most of it wasn't on luxuries, but essentials but even so, I have managed to save money, so here's what I did:

Water bill
We got a bill through the other day increasing our bill by 10% from £110 a month (yes, that is a month!) to £120.  I rang them up immediately and explained that we simply couldn't afford that payment especially with our income going down shortly.  She read off a list of benefits and asked if we got any  - No.  Typically, we have always earnt too much to get any help yet not enough to afford foreign holidays etc.  Then, I remembered that I would be on less income and probably be eligible for Child Tax Credit/Working Tax Credit while my income was only going to be a third of the normal amount for 2011.  With three children under 19 (or five in our case) and tax credits, we could go onto a scheme that would reduce our annual bill from £1200 to £600.  It will be just for that year but that is a £50 a month saving.

Our Sky bill includes the broadband, telephone (evening and weekend calls free) and TV package, but not the line rental.  We pay on average £70 a month for this plus BT line rental of £12 so £82 in total.  Then I found out that BT were offering a better, as in cheaper, deal so rang Sky to tell them we couldn't afford their bills so were moving to BT for the broadband and phone.  Amazingly, within 30 minutes our average £82 total bill was down to £42 a month.   This was due to agreeing to paying Sky the line rental, matching BTs phone and broadband offer and giving us free calls all day (which costs an extra £5 a month but they said we were spending around £16 a month on calls).  So £40 a month saved from a 30 minute phone call.

Car tax, MOT, insurance and petrol
We currently run two cars and need to due to working in two different places and having our children in three different places.  However, the childcare pickups and work will not be a problem for nine months, so we have decided to SORN one of the cars and this will cut out £29 insurance a month, £150 (approx MOT), £170 tax for 6 month and approximately £15 a week in petrol.  Plus, my husband gets to be fitter by cycling to work!  So, that works out to be a £80 a month saving. If you can't get rid of a car (as we can't when we both work), try reading this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12664047  for tips on saving - features parents of a student of mine.

This is a bit of a drastic one but unfortunately one we have had to look at for the short term as I know other people have had to do.  I rang up our mortgage company (Nationwide) and asked them how we can reduce our payments while on maternity leave.  Unfortunately, we can not take a mortgage break due to being 2% short in their equity limit, but they suggested extended our term by a few years and changing three of our four mortgage accounts to interest only. Now, this isn't ideal as we have taken on debt over a longer period and we will have to find the capital at the end for the shortfall in the capital due to only paying interest only.  But, having looked at our pension forecasts, we have worked out we can afford it more in the long-term than the short-term and once I am back to work etc, we can move the term back down and the mortgage accounts back to repayment.  But for the next year, we will be making a saving of £250 a month.

Public Transport
Do some research.  We currently use a bus for our children for the days when I don't work and they have just doubled the fare so that it will cost us £7 a day for two children (or a massive £35 a week).  Checking out the train fares, we can save £4 a day (or £15 a week) when I am at home.  So a saving of £60 a month

Electricity and Gas Bills
Try ringing up your supplier and ask for their range of tariffs.  Often they do a reduced tariff for combined electric and gas, especially if you pay by direct debit.  We went on to special tariff that saved us £20 a month.  We did have to commit to stay with them for a set period but they were the cheapest anyway so wasn't a problem, plus they fixed the prices so no hidden shocks later.

At the moment, quite a few of the supermarkets are offering discount vouchers so keep an eye out.  For example, Sainsburys do a spend £50 get £5 off next time voucher.  News of the World had a spend £30 at Co-op and get £5 off voucher.
I managed to get two weeks groceries (including washing tablets and cat food) to feed six of us for £95.  How?  Well, I go in the evenings when it is quiet - Wednesdays at around 7pm or 8pm is a good time as this is when they start reducing the fresh food but there aren't a lot of customers to fight over it.  I also go with  paper and pen in my hand, which I have written down the basics we need.  Firstly, I go around the fresh food aisle and see what is reduced or on a good deal and then work out if I can make a meal out of it and write it on the piece of paper next to the day - it is not a good deal if you need to buy lots to make a meal.  For example, a pack of fresh meatballs were reduced from  £3.30 to £1.45, so I bought them, knowing that I had some long spaghetti and a tin of spaghetti sauce already at home and that will be a meal for six of us - spaghetti and meatballs.
So, get the bargains and make sure that you have all of the ingredients for a meal.  Do not buy anything else on a 'just in case' I need it.  You won't need it as you have your menu in your hand.  If you shop in this way, you will be surprised of how much you will save.  Bear in mind though that sometimes it is cheaper to buy one already made up than make your own (I know this isn't the PC way to do things but sometimes true) as if you need a lot of ingredients to m.ake a meal, it can cost you far more.

Martin's Money Tips
If you are not already a subscriber, please join up.  It is free!  He emails every week with  tips on how to save money and vouchers.  Well worth a quick read as I have saved a lot through him and it won't cost you a penny.

If you have not already signed up, then do it.  It is a place where people post things they want or don't want for free.  We have got rid of stuff that we haven't wanted to people that have needed it and equally, we have received some very useful things.  Recently, I got a baby bouncer and in the past we have had bookcases and even shower cubicles.  It can save you a lot of money although you sometimes have to wait quite a while for the thing you need to come up and you need to email people back quickly as things are snapped up.

So far a total of £500 a month saved!!!!
There are probably other savings that I haven't considered yet but am still thinking about ways to save and will post more as I think of them.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Hannah's 2nd birthday

I can't believe how busy a weekend it has been but so worth it.  I have been looking forward to Hannah's 2nd birthday for quite some time now - not because we had a particularly eventful day planned but simply because I was looking forward to seeing her face when she saw her cake and opened her presents.  That, to me, is far more special than expensive parties.  And, let's face it, there will be lots of years ahead when she will want the expensive parties so I was more than happy with the simple one today.

While Hannah was having her afternoon sleep yesterday, I decided to bake the cake.  What I hadn't realised was that the baking of the maderia cake was the simple bit.  The fun bit came to sticking it together, trying to make the castle turrets stay up, make butter icing, get the icing on the cake and not everywhere else, and stick the sweets on without knocking anything over.  I started at 1pm and finally finished at 9pm - 8 hours of cooking and cleaning - shattering but rewarding.

The other problem was where to store the cake and no boxes were big enough so it ended up in the oven.  An easy solution I thought, until I forgot where I put it and had the great idea to bake banana muffins while I had a spare minute this afternoon.  Of course, I had to pre-heat the oven, so on it went while I casually started weighing and mixing ingredients.  After ten minutes, it suddenly dawned on me what I had done and I raced to the oven fearing the worst.  Fortunately, only the turrets had melted (along with the butter icing on them) and had started slipping off.  It didn't look perfect but at least Hannah didn't mind and I managed to get a photo of it before the melting accident.

The 'before the oven accident' cake shot

She loved all of her presents too although got a bit upset when she realised that there was nothing left to open and proceeded to say, "Pres gone."  Trying to explain to her that they weren't gone, merely unwrapped was pointless and we had a while of walking around with her head hung low trying to look as depressed as was dramatically possible, uttering, "Gone" every few seconds.  Maybe I should enrol her in a drama class already.

So, all in all, a lovely day with one very happy two year old who ate all the wrong foods and got all of the attention.  But that's what it is all about at the age of two.  On the other hand, her Mummy is very tired and feeling very bloated from the sugary food consumed (in the name of testing her products first and then having to join in eating them later) but Hannah's smile made it all worth while.  Back to the reality of work tomorrow and the fact that I have done no preparation for it at all - oops - well, I can't do everything all of the time.

One happy little girl!!