When I started drafting this post it was definitely still term time, and now we’re well into the holidays already … I can scarcely believe that we’ve completed the whole first year of reception and am extremely proud of Pip. I remember this time last year though having loads of questions and worries, so I thought I’d try and look back on some of the things which we’ve learnt this year which might make someone else’s summer a little less stressful. (You can also read some of my initial reflections here).

What to expect

1. Pip has been going to full time nursery for years so she was used to leaving us – I was surprised by how long some of the other children took to get used to it. At least one of the children in Pip’s class was still struggling by half term but it gradually wore off and I think she was an unusual case. I guess don’t have any expectations and just work with your child.

2. My friend Gill at A Baby on Board, whose daughter also started reception this year says “Don’t underestimate how much sleep they need, even though it’s a shorter day than nursery – and how hungry they get” and I would agree – Pip whines for a snack every evening despite being fed plenty at after school club.

3. Don’t expect them to tell you anything. When questioned Pip would always say “don’t know” or “can’t remember” but by the end of reception she can read, write, count to a hundred and questions everything. Have faith that they are doing things and learning things.

What to buy

I’m a pretty detailed focused person and like to be prepared – it’s a good idea to start well ahead of time to make sure you’re not frantically rushing around on 3 September. You might have been wondering about how much is needed and how many options to buy. Obviously each school will be different, and will depend on whether you have uniform, and how much each item costs to buy but, for what it’s worth, we found the following:

4. Enough tops/tshirts so that there is theoretically one for every day. Pip found that she didn’t really want to wear a cardigan or sweatshirt, so she wore a logo-ed tshirt with a plain longsleeve top underneath. We only had 3 of the school tshirts, so I did spend the winter doing more washing than I’d have liked, and vowed for the next year I’d get more options. At Pip’s new school, I think she needs to wear blouses, so we’ve just picked up these darling peter pan collared ones.

5. Summer options from the start of the September term. We assumed that it would be winter uniform straight away but it can be quite hot in September still, so it can be a good idea to pick up at least one checked dress/shorts option now whilst the summer uniform is still in the shops.

6. A selection of options for the bottom half – I found George at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco to be perfectly serviceable quality and great prices, with Debenhams, M&S and John Lewis also having nice options. Pip liked some culottes I found in M&S which made a great alternative. Our school wasn’t too bothered by colour of the bottoms so on a couple of occasions she wore a lightweight chambray skirt in the summer to go with the school tshirt when a logo was required (trips etc).

7. We had at least 5 pairs of tights (I have to admit I bought cotton & then wool ones from Denmark at considerable price a pair but they kept her warm and toasty and crucially not sweaty like the cheap supermarket ones which she seemed to find upsetting) plus 5 pairs navy knee high socks from M&S and then 5 pairs of white frilled ankle socks for summer. And I still felt like I was constantly washing/looking for the bloody things.

8. Shoes – we’ve been trying some online options now that we’ve moved further away from the shops – Debenhams have a good range of school shoes and with currently 20%, it’s a pretty easy way to get sorted. Debenhams kindly sent us some options which we’ve been trying on at home – easy to send back if they don’t fit, or they don’t work, and much nicer than braving the queues in person come September.

Other tips

9. Label everything! I am old school so I bought Cash’s name tapes but there are many less time consuming options. Whatever you choose, label everything that they take, remember what they take with them, and prepare to spend some time chasing after items that have somehow misplaced. In reception, the lost property pile was huge with parents looking through it every week!

10. Beware nits! This is one of my top tips which I shared with Motherhood, the Real Deal: “Get a nitty gritty comb and some Childs Farm detangler and comb weekly. We do ours on a Sunday night. Much less stressful and time consuming than suddenly realising your family has headlice because you never thought to prevent it! – The Little Pip ”

Thanks to Debenhams for the shoes & school shirts and dress.

One of the first things I’ve had to get used to in Cornwall is driving. Whilst we did have a car in London I rarely used to drive it as I commuted using public transport. My new job is a bit of a drive away, and we also live quite rurally, so a car and being a confident driver is pretty essential. Here are some things I’ve learnt so far:

Embrace reversing

Previously the gear I pretty much only used when parking or turning, this is now in as frequent use as gears 2 and 3… my ‘favourite’ so far was reversing up hill in the rain with a huge lorry bearing down on me. Hand in hand with the gorgeous hedgerows and corn fields are plenty of gateways to tuck in to albeit not always conveniently placed. No one seems to pay any attention to the priority directions and driving along the lanes seems to be largely a game of chicken.

Mental map of every petrol station in the area

I guess this is shared by drivers everywhere, but particularly living so rurally I have started to mentally note where every petrol station is located and which have the best prices/best shops. Do I go off route for the M&S which has the nice food, or the local services with the better wood for the log burner… Decisions, decisions.

Car maintenance

Again, not something I gave much thought to before, but now we are going to be forced to run 2 vehicles as I will need one to drive to work in, the car will fall under my remit. We already got a slow puncture a couple of weeks ago and had to limp back into London, before getting a new tyre fitted.

Tyres

Car tyres are not something that most people think about but clearly are extremely important for keeping safe on the road.

Issues with bad tyres include:
  • There is a chance for blow outs
  • Worn out tyres are very dangerous because they do not have good road grip
  • Bad tyres can increase fuel consumption
  • If tread depth is not up to the mark, huge fines can be incurred.

Make sure you always have good tyres fitted basically, and keep them properly inflated. No idea what tyres you need? Simply check DAT tyres in Hertfordshire by popping in your registration number and it will list the options, which you can then price compare and order.

Washer fluid & oil

2 other things I always forget about, but good to try and remember, particularly before a long journey.

Correct car seats

I wrote before about the importance of choosing and installing the correct car seats – Buster is just about out of his current one so will be sharing what we’ve upgraded to once we’ve made a decision and installed it!

Collaborative post

Anyone that follows my Instagram will know that I’m pretty obsessed with flowers – and also with meeting other parents, which I’ve been on rather a mission to do since we arrived in Cornwall.

I was delighted to discover a new group run by the amazing and talented Emily & Lucy of 3Acre Blooms which allowed me to mess around with some gorgeous cut flowers and create my own little table decoration whilst someone looked after my kids!

And not only looked after them, but made paper flowers, decorated biscuits and fed me coffee and cake. Seriously, I was in heaven.

Cornwall has been wet and miserable for the past few days (weeks? it certainly feels like it) and Wednesday morning saw very heavy rain, such that we were all in wellies and rain coats. The 3Acre blooms farmhouse was a warm and welcome retreat and respite full of gorgeous flowers, divine candles and hot coffee. As you can see from the photos it was so dark it was pretty hard to take anything good, sadly, as the cutting garden flowers were in fine form and crying out to be photographed.

Emily and Lucy are both fellow mums who have relocated to the area so it was great to finally meet them both in person and catch up – being a parent can be an oddly lonely time but not everyone will admit that, so it was refreshing to be in company of people who do. I have written time and time again about the feeling of feeling so lonely I could scream, yet can’t actually do anything about it as the children obviously cannot be left. It has been a strange couple of weeks with no adult company other than my husband, but neither being on holiday properly (unpacking, he is still working) nor yet in the depths of the work/school routine. I am enjoying this brief hiatus but it was very very nice to speak to some other women, other mothers, other flower loving photograph taking people!

Blooms and Babes – Not a sponsored post! More details below if you’re Cornwall based and would like to attend. Blooms and Babes is suitable for pre-school children. Lucy and Emily say:

Blooms and Babes is our regular meetup for parents/carers to get together and create a little flowery treat to take home, whilst their babes play and have a little floral activity of their own. All fuelled by lots of tea, coffee, and cake. Our next one will take place in September near Mitchell (TR8). If you’d like to hear about future events and dates, please sign up to our newsletter.

Bottom image credit 3Acre Blooms