Accessible “Event Management” for EVERYONE!

Accessible Event Management for EVERYONE!

I am not kidding either.  To be honest, I always thought you had to be rich or have a huge event to organise to even need to consider event management as a solution to your organisational woes, but I was wrong.

Two local ladies Edina and Claire are revolutionising the party and event scene in Oxfordshire and it is to the benefit of anyone and everyone, even the smaller events like mine was.

I was Christening my third and final daughter and we decided to do it DIY style to keep costs down.  We were inviting significantly fewer people too, so once the date for the Christening was confirmed I set about looking for a venue.  Sadly the only one that was left was (in all honesty) the ugliest room in town.

Christenings being Christenings, I knew I would have to be up at crazy o’clock to make all the food, then schlep it over to the hall at still-crazy-o’clock because I had to collect the key to open the room.  Then I would have to set everything up, chuck a couple of decorations around, rush back home, change, rush to the Church for the ceremony, then rush back over to the hall to ensure I was first there, then chuck everyone out, then clear up.  E.X.H.A.U.S.T.I.N.G.  and not at all enjoyable.

Then I came across Edina & Claire aka Team Bubbles.  These two ladies are wonderful in ways I can’t even explain… but let me try.

Team Bubbles Facebook page, click here

We met weeks before the Christening and they asked how much involvement I wanted from them.  I wanted to keep costs down so I sourced the decorations, food, cutlery etc myself.  I decided to get Tesco to deliver all the food to my house the night before, my mother-in-law made the Christening cake, and I did a trip to Makro for plates, cutlery, table cloths etc and I borrowed decorations from friends.  Edina and Claire were going to make up all the food and decorate the room for me though, so immediately a huge chunk of the stress of my day was removed.

Edina and Claire suggested we meet at the room together to decide the plan of action and discuss layout and decorations – I am not very good with stuff like that so I was happy to follow their lead.

On the day, they met me at the room, I literally dumped my stuff with them, took a backwards glance at the horror of the dull surroundings and awful orange curtains and left to get ready.  It was 8am at this point.  I went home, got dressed, hung out with my guests until it was time to go to the Church and was sitting in my seat in the Church at 10am. After the service we walked over to the room and I was gobsmacked.

It isn’t often that people go the extra mile, but my goodness, Edina and Claire did!! The room had been decorated and very thoughtfully laid out, bunting zigzagged the room, it was perfect.  Edina had bought her own table coverings, the ladies had (as a surprise for me) got pretty fresh flowers for the tables – each little vase sitting on a mirror. The serving plates weren’t my mis-matched ones that I had brought for them to use, but rather lovely glass ones.  All the food had been prepared and Claire had even popped to the shop for some veg crudités because I had forgotten to order them on my shop.  I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t even notice the orange curtains any more they had done such a fantastic job!

While the guests were there, Edina and Claire beavered away in the background – they literally didn’t stop.  Cake was offered round, drinks refilled – I felt like I was getting the exact sort of service that the rich and famous would get from event management and I am just a normal person, having a small Christening in a local village hall room with around 50 guests!

When the guests had left it was clean up time.  Claire and Edina didn’t slow down – everything was cleaned up, hovered, wiped and done within an hour.  My husband and I helped out, because we wanted to, but the ladies would have done it by themselves.

I can’t even begin to tell you what a complete revelation this kind of service is.  Edina and Claire created Team Bubbles after spending a lot of time organising fundraisers for their local school in Warborough.  They have extensive experience of huge events, and every event for them is treated individually and they tailor their provision in line with what the customer wants.  I can’t fault them, and I would definitely suggest you get in touch with the ladies if you are thinking of organising any kind of event – be it a birthday party, Christening, private celebration, fundraiser or even a wedding.  Let the ladies work their magic and take the stress out of the organisation! Team Bubbles make this kind of support accessible to us “normal” people now too!! No event is too small, as my Christening proved, but the service is still absolutely top notch.

Thank you ladies!

Mary Handy – some fab offers!

 

Never one to want to miss out on a special offer, I thought you might all want to know about these too!!

My favourite salon in Wallingford is going the extra mile again and putting some pretty interesting offers together.  Here are the current ones (April 2013), make sure you check out the website and book your next visit!

Mary Handy Hair & Beauty Salon – Wallingford

Scroll down here to see the offers for Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s…

 

Happy Monday’s!!

 

Wishing you all “happy hair”!!!

 

Community, friends, thank you’s and goodbye’s

I had to organise a “Service of Thanksgiving” (a nicer name for a funeral)… I am not the first and I wont be the last.  That said, it was my first experience of this type and while it was emotionally and physically draining, there are a few things which I have learned about our community, local businesses and my own friends which I would like to share.

Firstly, I must let you know that I sadly lost my mum on the 25th February.  I live in Wallingford, she lived in Benson with my dad – her husband of 40 years.  One day she was here, the next she was gone.   Unbeknown to us she was riddled with pneumonia (she had no outward symptoms) and then by the time she displayed signs of illness it was too late.  She died of blood poisoning.

My mum and I had a tempestuous relationship to say the least.  We loved each other fiercely and were so close.  We were almost identical in temperament and on the one hand we could read each others minds / finish each others sentences and on the other hand we could enrage each other in a way that only two such similar people could.  We could laugh and laugh and laugh at things, finding humour in the strangest of places. We enjoyed jokes that were personal to us and yet we could wind each other up and make each other so cross.  My mum was my best friend in many ways, but when we fell out we could go weeks without speaking.  The one thing that I doubt she ever questioned, and I know I didn’t, was that we loved each other with all our hearts.  The loss we all feel is utterly devastating and there really aren’t words to explain how drastically all our lives have changed since she passed away.  Our family has been rocked to the core, our equilibrium has been shattered.  We have lost the heart of our family, the person who held us all together and was the center of our existence   We wonder if we will ever be the same again, I guess we wont, but I know that for her sake we must carry on and find a new way to live without her.  I can’t tell you how hard that is going to be.

After my mum died, the majority of the funeral arrangements fell to me.  We found out that a small house in Crowmarsh is actually a funeral home… Chadwick’s it’s called… I have never had a reason to visit one before and all I can tell you is that we were looked after very well indeed.  My brother came for the initial visit and we seemlessly managed to make decisions, book dates and leave with a plan in mind.  The whole thing was surprisingly easy.  We were also given the option of having the cremation before the Thanksgiving Service which suited our family perfectly.  It meant that only our immediate family would be there to see her off… we all traveled together in the car and we said our final farewells in private – just as she would have wanted.

Although the funeral home will gladly do the Order of Service, I felt very strongly that this would be something I would want to do to make it personal.  She would have appreciated that and I needed to do it because I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak on the day.  I had some very helpful advice from a friend, who emailed me his own mums Order of Service to have a look at.  Thank you Stef.

Albry Printing  – Thank you.  There aren’t words really… The Order of Services were done on time, with flexibility and for a very reasonable cost.  I can’t recommend them enough.  Really, really friendly… You wont get a more personal service.

My mum was not a lover of anything morbid, somber or depressing… So I knew I would have to put a spin on her send off and decided to organise things with her in mind.  My mum and I used to laugh that her motto was “if it moves, feed it” and I am sure that her friends would agree that my mum was a hostess who ensured everyone who walked through her door was fed and watered – or rather fed and wine’d.  We decided to hand out individually packaged brownies at the end of the service with a tag on saying “because Anne wouldn’t have wanted her guests to leave with empty stomachs”.  We then went into the centre of Wallingford and released 40 white balloons ~(my parent had been married 40 years).  We went on to The Partridge Inn and enjoyed some light refreshments and a significant amount of champagne.  During this celebration of my mums life we had a plasma screen showing a slideshow of all our family pictures.  It was perfect.  To organise all this is such a short space of time required some help… I went out on an almighty begging mission and discovered that I have indeed got some wonderful friends in this little community of ours…

Emily, thank you for making your famous brownies.

Ruth and Jo, thank you for helping to cut, and package the brownies… for sourcing the ribbon, doing the labels and listening to me waffle.

Mel, thank you for having Violet, being there during the service and organising the collection of balloons.  Thank you as well for having a couple of cocktails with me in the afternoon and depositing me home.  I was a drunk, soggy, sobbing mess at the end of the day, but I guess that was so be expected.

Keri Harvey The Florist, thanks for doing the balloons.

Rosie and Lou, thanks for helping with the balloons, the kids and just being there in the afternoon… your presence was a comfort to me.

Lou, thanks for picking Ava up from school, getting her changed and bringing her to the Church.

Katie, thanks for picking Seren up from preschool, getting her changed and bringing her to Church and thanks for my first glass of wine of the day!

Erica, thanks for coming all the way from “up North”.  I appreciated it and my mum would have too.

Paddock’s Preschool – thanks for being so flexible and keeping Seren for those extra hours… thanks for getting her to have a nap and just generally being the best pre-school in the world!!  I get continuous support and help with Seren (as I did when Ava was with you and I am sure you will still be helping me out when Violet starts!) I am very grateful…

Reverend David Rice (St. Mary’s Church) – thanks for coming all the way out to the crematorium and doing the service.  My dad was really pleased with how both went and he feels very strongly that my mum would have loved the send-off she received.

Kinvara, thank you for doing the most gorgeous flowers.  We all loved them and my mum would have done too.

The Partridge Inn – thanks for making the post-service celebrations so perfect.  Thanks to Matt (the owner) for sourcing a plasma screen for us to use… It was a totally stress free afternoon, the food was perfect and our glasses were never empty.  The staff were lovely and I can’t actually remember leaving!! I know I haven’t paid yet though, so I will be back soon 🙂

Save Your Past – thank you Emma for getting all our family photo’s scanned on and in to a presentation form, which was played on the plasma screen in The Partridge for friends and family to enjoy.  It was a lovely personal touch and everyone enjoyed watching it.

Howard Chadwick Funeral Service – thank you for everything.  It all went so smoothly and it was completely stress free.  There was no “sales pitch” which left us emotionally free to make simple and easy decisions.  I would also like to thank Alistair for coming to our rescue with the CD’s for the Church… beyond the call of duty and funnily enough thanks to Piper that he found out we were having the difficulties in the first place!

Thank you as well to all the messages, cards, flowers and gifts that have been arriving in a steady stream since my mum passed away.  It is a comfort to know that people care… It is also very sad to discover how many people have lost parents.  It is a unique pain and experience which I can’t believe that most of us have to go through at some point or another.  Life can be so cruel.

Finally, thank you mum.  You have made Antony and I the people we are.  I know life is made up of a series of choices, each one influencing the future we make for ourselves.  I will now choose to carry on, raise my family with as much devotion as you did and make you proud.  Antony and I will pull together to take care of dad and Gra, so please don’t worry about them, as I know you will be doing.  You have left the most phenomenal legacy and you wont ever be forgotten… Despite what anyone else’s belief system is, I am confident that I will see you again.  There is no way that our two souls can be so alike not to bump into each other in the next life.  Love you mum x

 

 

The Thrifty Stork – a new boutique for the Mum-to-be and new Mums

Sometimes I see an idea and wonder why I didn’t come up with it myself… Having gone through 3 pregnancies, I really wish Katie and her boutique had been around for me when I was preggers!  Here is a little bit on what Katie does:

The Thrifty Stork – a new boutique for the Mum-to-be and new Mums

 The Thrifty Stork is a new boutique in Goring stocking high quality maternity wear for the stylish Mum-to-be. Katie Sharpe’s personal experience of the hassle of searching for a flattering maternity dress for a special occasion led to the birth of The Thrifty Stork. She says: ‘What a joy it would have been to pop to a boutique and try on multiple items. Many of the loveliest maternity designs only sell in London boutiques or online so it’s hard to make comparisons between designs. And they are pricey, considering we will wear the items so briefly.’

 To address both issues, she stocks a selection of pre-owned and also beautiful new designer occasion, business and casual wear at high street prices, and you can try them on and compare rather than just hoping for a flattering fit.  She invites you to make an appointment to visit, with evening and weekend slots to accommodate busy diaries.

 Katie is also ready to turn your unneeded maternity items into cash. She is currently seeking quality maternity brands such as Tiffany Rose, Attesa, Isabella Oliver, Noppies etc. which she will sell for you on a commission basis. You can contact Katie Sharpe on (01491) 871749 or (07934) 603177.
Web: www.thethriftystork.co.uk
Email: enquiries@thethriftystork.co.uk

With a little help from Pipers…

I did it!! My first ever “fundraiser”.  Well, it was a mini-fundraiser in the grand scheme of things, but it went SO WELL!!

I love Wallingford… this sleepy little market town I live in is pretty awesome.  There is such a good community spirit here and I don’t think I ever want to live anywhere else ever again.

We moved down here for Ava’s sake.  At 8 months old, Ava became a Wallingford resident.  Seren and Violet will always be Wallingford girls, and it’s lovely to think they will have such strong roots – such a strong bond with the area.

As most of you know, Seren has Down’s syndrome and we are raising some much needed funds for Down’s syndrome Oxford (DSO).  The funds we raise will be going directly to pay for the service that Seren (and all the other kids) receive.  Seren has access to weekly get togethers and something called “Early Development Groups” which teaches us how to teach Seren; shows us how to get the best out of her.  With the help of DSO we hope to prepare Seren for school and hope she will be successful in a mainstream setting.  All any of us ever want is for our children to get the best education and the best start in life. Our ambitions for Seren are the same, it’s just that she will need a bit of extra help.  All children in Oxfordshire who have Down’s syndrome have access to DSO and the support continues through to adulthood.

 

 Anyway – thanks to this community and Wallingford Piper, I got to meet Emma.  She has just started a new business called Pretty Tea’s (or look her up on facebook: Pretty Teas).   Emma kindly agreed to lend me her tea service to host a lovely tea party in my garden.  I invited a few friends (and so did Emma) and the Piper community kicked in.  Even though some people couldn’t come, cakes were baked and dropped off and donations were made.  In the end we managed to smash my £100 target and we raised £220!!!

 

  

I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it.  I am so grateful to everyone who got involved. 

Thank you everyone who helped or came or baked cakes.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

 

 

  

Now it appears the next fundraiser is in the pipeline… Susan, the owner of Mary Handy Hair & Beauty has very kindly agreed to hold a fundraiser in her salon… at the minute we think it will be held on Sunday 14th October so keep the date free!!!  Children’s haircuts will be involved (amongst other things) I will keep you posted!

I love Wallingford & I love Piper…

If you have yet to find us on facebook, please join us! Click on this link or search for Wallingford Piper.

 Or, if you would like to donate to DSO or fundraise, please get in touch with me directly or donate here on my Just Giving page x

 

 

 

My dirty little secret

In my defence (before I tell you my secret) I have 3 children.  THREE.  The oldest is only just 4 and the youngest is not yet 3 months old.  That is my defence and I am sticking to it.

So my secret?  I am rubbish at housework.  Really bad.  I am shamefully terrible and I am blaming it on my kids.  Anyway, since we moved into our house in November 2008, I have been unable to clean the house from top to bottom all in one go.  Rather I try and achieve a couple of housework tasks a day, and the result?  The house has slipped deeper and deeper into pit of filth.  I have concentrated on visible areas and left the more erm, invisible areas.  This means that the inside of some of my kitchen cupboards have not seen the light of day for a while… some for more than a year…. others for more than that.

Feeling myself losing control, and fearing my reputation as a “good” housewife was a risk, I began searching for a solution.  It wasn’t going to be cheap.  I phoned lots of companies and was perilously close to swallowing my tongue on more than one occasion when the hourly rates were quoted… some were as much as £24 per hour!!!

Eventually I asked on our facebook Wallingford Piper group and The Cleanologists (http://www.cleanologists.co.uk/) were mentioned more than once.  I called and within a couple of days the very lovely Paul was in my house looking at my filth.  I must admit to being a bit ashamed.  Thankfully (and to his credit) he didn’t tut or roll his eyes once.  The rate?  £15 per hour.  I did try and negotiate it down, but he wasn’t having bolt of it – I guess I was pushing my luck anyway as he was almost “cheap” compared to some of the quotes I had had.  I also know that private individuals charge £10-£12 per hour so really, £15 wasn’t too bad.  The promise?  That a team of cleaners would come in to my home and I would receive 20 hours of cleaning to bring my house back up to scratch.  I was momentarily mortified at the mention of 20 hours but I accepted it was probably needed… after all, vaccuming my house takes me the best part of two hours without moving furniture.  I wanted all my kitchen cupboards cleaned, the fridge, all the doors, chairs, table… ALL the dusting, interior windows, upvc… the lot.  A big ask.

There were 2 ladies that spent a total of 10 man hours on my kitchen.  Oh my word, what a good job they have done.  Really good.  I was almost compelled to take pictures of the insides of my cupboards to post in this blog but it would have meant nothing without the “before” pictures (which I would have been too ashamed to post).  The rest of the team concentrated on the rest of the house and tonight?  I am one happy, happy lady.  I am unstressed and thoroughly enjoying my G&T.

As for my husband?  He came home and said “nice and clean in here”… So I will admit to claiming the cleaning as my own.  No need to admit to just having spent £300…  but then he opened the kitchen cupboards and a small sideways glance and a frown… he had me sussed.  Bugger.  “How much did it cost?” he asked “No, no, don’t tell me” then he walked round the rest of the house inspecting the cleanliness.  He was pleased. Not sure what he would say if I told him I am now going to have The Cleanologists in regularly.  I feel as though I have failed as a housewife, but at the end of the day I HAVE 3 CHILDREN!!  My priorities lie with play, fun, development.

One final thing?  For those of you who don’t know, my middle daughter Seren (aged 2) has Down’s syndrome.  The lovely Paul has now become an official supporter of Down’s Syndrome Oxford (www.dsoxford.org.uk/) – a charity that supports all families in Oxfordshire who have kids with Down’s syndrome.  He will donate £10 for every one off clean and £20 for every regular clean he gets booked in that mentions Wallingford Piper or Down’s Syndrome Oxford or me.  So far my lovely Facebook Piper community have raised £70 for DSO.  THANK YOU!! Your help and support is much appreciated. For the rest of you who feel like treating yourselves to a cleaner life?  Please mention Piper or DSO to continue the fundraising effort!!

If anyone wants to get involved raising money for DSO in their own event, please do let me know or give me a call for more details on the charity.

 

Mary Handy Hairdressers – going the extra mile…

“Another hairdressers?!?” was the general response to the arrival of Mary Handy’s hairdressers up on the crossroads.  Yes, another one.  I must admit though, I was drawn to it.  Red, gold and black with a huge chandelier – it immediately made the other hairdressers in Wallingford look slightly erm, insipid?

So I went in and booked my first haircut in over a year.  I got to meet “Mary Handy” who owns the salon, but is actually called Susan.  She has named the salon after her mum.  Susan (I am sure she wont mind me saying) is slightly bonkers – but in a really lovely way.  She is fun, full of energy and very enthusiastic about her salon.  Ava and Seren were treated to biscuits before I had even got round to booking my haircut, and I was offered a drink.  Susan has this tiny little dog called Mr. Handy that Ava loved.  Mr. Handy goes everywhere with Susan… so if you see her out and about, have a look at her handbag as it will more than likely contain a miniature dog.  The salon itself has been styled to the max; the teaspoons are gold, the telephone on the reception desk is antique and the reclining chair you sit in to have your hair washed is a back massaging one.  Make sure you go to the toilet while you are there, even that is an experience!

Anyway, I really enjoyed my first cut and style…. I got a complimentary hand massage from Frankie and was really pleased with the cut I got from Susan.  I left feeling relaxed and invigorated.  Not being a girly girl or having much time to myself though, I wondered when I would next be able to go – I was heavily pregnant with Violet at the time and time-off with 3 kids was going to be hard.

So imagine my surprise when I got a phone call a few days ago to ask me if I would like a complimentary haircut?!  At first I wondered what the catch was – after all, things like this don’t happen to me.  It was for real though – no strings attached, a complimentary haircut as I had been one of the first customers of the new salon.  Lovely.

Off I went this morning… and was treated to my hand massage again and this time I even got to put my feet in a lovely foot spa while Linsey cut my hair.  I must say, Susan has definitely got her customer service down to a fine art.  What a lovely thing to do for someone!!  When Linsey had finished cutting my hair, they appeared with a bunch of flowers and a card to congratulate me on the arrival of my newest baby! I was rendered quite speechless… such a personal touch that it has both shocked me and put me in such a good mood for the day that I practically skipped back to the car. Thank you Susan, Linsey and Frankie!!

So, another hairdressers?  YES!! It’s the kind of hairdressers I have been waiting for without even realising it.  Go on, give it a go… you have nothing to lose and with a loyalty card and referral system in place to save you money on your cuts, you will probably find yourself counting down the days until your next visit.  I know I am.

 

Spotlight On: IndigoBird Web Design & Hosting

IndigoBird Web HostingEvery month on Wallingford Piper we like to find out more about a local business. This month it is the turn of IndigoBird – the web hosting and design company run by Catherine Carr. [Read more…]

Sleep – You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s GONE!

So many of you know that I have 2 girls – Ava who is very nearly 4 and Seren who is 20 months.  The problem we have at the minute is with Ava… let me give you a bit of background:

Since being 2 weeks old, the only routine we have ever really had that we have stuck to is bed time and it has worked really well for us.  Her whole life has seen bed time as a rigid and fixed routine and we have benefitted enormously.  She has always gone to bed with zero fuss, zero intervention and slept like a dream.  We had one minor 4 month blip when she was about 5 months old, but in hindsight that was my error as she was teething and rather than “poison” my precious pure child with medication, I chose to ride the storm.  This is not a mistake I will ever make again and I now liberally administer calpol at the first sign of teething.  Those 4 months were hell and I got very little sleep.  When I eventually had enough I cracked it with a “pick up put down” routine that I had seen on The Baby Whipserer and it was very effective.  Other than when she is ill or occasionally has nightmares, Ava is pretty much a dream in the night.  She was potty trained and dry at night before she was 2.5 years old.  This was her doing, not mine – it was the easiest transition in the world, there was no training involved on my part, she just decided herself that it was time and I went with the flow.  Since deciding she would no longer wear nappies at night she has had 2 or maybe 3 accidents.  Pretty good going I think.  Now if all of this sounds too good to be true then trust me, I am learning that ALL good things come to an end.

It all started to go wrong a couple of weeks after we told her I was pregnant with baby number 3.  She was outwardly very excited and involved with the concept of a new sibling, but slowly her sleeping started to deteriorate…. We didn’t really notice at first. The middle of the night requests were reasonable enough to begin with and slowly started becoming a bit more demanding.  That’s when I noticed something was up.  Over time she needed more cuddles… more reassurance.  Then came the “I’m too hot / too cold / thirsty”… then the “I need a poo” which needs parent participation for bum wiping but never actually resulted in a poo.  Then she began to get out of bed and creep in to our room for a cuddle or just needing to be returned to bed and tucked in again… it was becoming tiring and beyond the realms of acceptable.  So we introduced a reward chart.  Ava knows the difference between night and day and even has a Gro Clock.  She knows what is expected of her in the, as the last 3.5 years have shown us.  The best part of the last 6 months have seen all that fall apart.  The reward chart lasted 2 months before it was scrapped.  We realised that actually she has a very nice life and we do so much that “rewards” are pretty futile… even when they are things like childrens tattoos or a promise of a swimming trip or a Happy Meal… she just doesn’t care as she sporadically gets these things anyway.  Yep, we spoil our child… she has a very lovely life.  So the next tactic was to adopt a softly-softly approach, but after 6 hours of returning her to bed it generally ended up in either Matt or I shouting at her… it wasn’t effective.  We tried to remove priveledges, she didn’t care.  We tried shutting the door to her room but this just sent her apoplectic.  We have bought her new bedding, made sure the lighting was appropriate in her room, given her options of soft toys to cuddle, left a drink and tissues on her bedside table and explained what we expected of her.  We then pleaded with her, I was in tears one night begging her to let me sleep and still it had no effect.  3 nights ago she hit her peak and I didn’t even get one single hours sleep – she dozed on and off and relentlessly screamed, shouted and ran around upstairs.  I was at my wits end and had to call on my mum to take her for a night so I could catch up on some sleep.  I am 8 months pregnant and Matt was travelling with work – I was ready to collapse with exhaustion.

After a discussion with Matt we decided we would try the “Stay in Bed” routine that Supernanny does on TV.  I have seen it done a million times.  I also might add here that every time I watch Supernanny, it is always glaringly obvious where the parents are going wrong.  I used to sit sipping my glass of wine (before I was pregnant) at 7.05pm with the girls in bed wondering how the hell parents could allow their kids to rule the roost like they did and now I am living their nightmare.  Serves me right.

So last night was night one of the Supernanny routine.  It didn’t go as well as it does on the TV. At 6.45pm I had her in bed and was giving her a cuddle and kiss.  We have a new reward chart, on which we will draw a smiley face when she does a good sleep.  I explained that a good sleep means no screaming, no talking and no getting out of bed until her sun comes up on her clock.  If she gets 3 smiley faces we are off to McDonalds for an “eat in” meal – she very, very rarely gets that so it’s a huge reward for her.  She loved the idea and I was buoyed by her enthusiasm.  Big mistake.  I never even made it out of her door after saying good night before she began screaming.  I stood on the landing and returned her to bed for over an hour (no talking on my part, no interaction at all other than calmly and gently leading her to bed by the hand and putting her in). She went wild.  She screamed, shouted, tantrumed, it was pretty ferocious.  By 8.05pm she fell asleep on the floor in her room behind her door.  I gave it a minute or two then tried to move her into bed but she woke and it all started again.  10 minutes later she was asleep on the floor again.  Again my “mummy brain” wanted her in bed and I woke her trying to move her.  The third time she fell asleep on the floor I thought sod it and put a blanket over her and left her.  It was 8.35pm and I had been standing on the landing for almost 2 hours.  She stayed asleep until 11.55pm.

From 11.55pm until 4.05am, the most relentless period of returning her to bed ensued.  I kept my vow of silence (as the Supernanny technique dictates) and just kept returning her to bed.  My calmness had a profound effect on my daughter.  She spat at me, screamed, shouted, kicked me (including a few aimed at my belly).  She scratched and stabbed at my face and generally turned into a child I didn’t even recognise.  Anyone who knows Ava will tell you that she is such a lovely little girl.  She is caring and compassionate and the least violent of children you will ever meet.  Her behaviour is so out of character its astounding.  At one point I wondered if it was Supernanny I needed or an exorcist.  She also said the most hurtful things and the only thing that made it more bearable was her complete lack of knowledge of profanities.  If she had known any at all, then I am sure she would have used them.    As it happened, I got called a “horrible mummy” and a “gaga-gonk”, amongst other things.  She pulled on my heart strings with the “you don’t love me anymore” and “you think I am smelly and horrid” and then turned tactic with “I am thirsty / need to blow my nose / need a poo / need you to do my blankets” etc etc etc… It was relentless but I was determined.  At 4.05am she finally went quiet and slept until 6am.

We will persevere and tonight it is Matt’s turn to adopt this technique and carry it through.  I will be camping out on the sofa bed downstairs out of sight.  Ava has refused to have a nap today and I am beyond caring.  She is getting through the day on less than 6 hours sleep.

Now I might as well tell you that if there isn’t an improvement tonight and at the very latest tomorrow night using this technique then we will abandon it and I will have to consider letting her sleep in bed with me – this is her ultimate goal after all… just to be with me.  This will be at the expense of Matt’s space in the bed because we only have a little bed.  I know this is making a rod for my own back but we are imminently due to have a newborn and I need to get a bit of sleep.  When the newborn arrives, maybe the night feeds and waking might encourage Ava back in to her own room??

I would love to hear your opinions on all of this and any methods or techniques you have used.  We are considering homeopathy and cranial osteopathy as tag on treatments.

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UPDATE NIGHT 2 OF SUPERNANNY “STAY IN BED” TECHNIQUE

Before I give you the update on how it went, I forgot to mention that Ava seems to be convinced I am going to die… in childbirth.  Lovely.  I don’t know where she has got it from but the whole “going to hospital to have a baby” makes her think hospital = death for some reason.  She hates being separated from me because she is convinced I wont come back…  This came to light again last night as we told Ava I was going to stay at her Granny’s house for the night to take me out of the equation for the night time antics.  She got really upset and started crying saying that she was scared I wasn’t coming back.  We had a really good talk about it and I explained I had laundry to do in the morning so I would be back first thing.  She seemed happy with that but still cried when I left.  I stayed out of the house for an hour and when I got home Matt was in full throws of the screaming and returning her to bed.  He managed to shave 15 minutes off my time from night 1.  We weren’t holding out much hope that the night would be much better.

Both of us went to bed at 9pm… Matt in our room upstairs and me downstairs on the sofa bed.  I am a light sleeper and don’t sleep very well anyway with the pregnancy, so knew I would wake for any screaming.  I heard a bit of movement in the night but nothing much.  When 7am came I went upstairs and Ava was in with Matt on the bed (her sun on her clock was up).  Shewas really pleased with herself and told me she woke up but she went back to sleep again.  I showered her with praise and she wanted a smiley face on her chart.  I asked Matt if that was ok and he said she had got up a few times in the night…. turns out that she got out of bed and came into our room about 10 times over the space of an hour and a half but that he just lead her back to bed and she went back relatively easily with a little cry on 2 occassions, but nothing compared to night 1.  Bearing in mind this was such an improvement we decided that she should have her smiley face as she had tried so hard and it was a lot better.  She was delighted and we are going to focus on the positives.

Now there are 2 things that worry me… first, she must have been exhausted from the previous nights lack of sleep so perhaps she didn’t have the fight in her that she would have done had she have been more well rested… and secondly, it was Matt not me dealing with her.

I am really pleased how well it went last night but I guess the proof will be in the pudding tonight as it will be me on duty by myself again and I seem to get full frontal of her hiddeous behaviour.  We will wait and see and I will update in the morning!! Say a little sleep prayer for me!!

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UPDATE NIGHT 3 OF SUPERNANNY “STAY IN BED” TECHNIQUE

It took 1 hour and 10 minutes for Ava to give up the fight at bed time last night.  It was considerably easier too as she realised that coming out of her room was pointless and she just spent the majority of the time in her room behind the door screaming.  Interesting choice of complaint last night “Mummy I am FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZING! My radiators aren’t oooooooooooooooooooooooon.  Turn my radiators on mummy NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWW!!!”  In the whole hour and 10 minutes, she only ventured out of her room a dozen times or so though so actually, a vast improvement.  I just sat at the top of the stairs with a magazine rather than having to stand outside her door returning her to her bad a million times like on night 1.

In the night I was woken at 10.50pm with Ava in floods of tears – she claimed she had fallen out of bed, but as she is the queen of manipulation I had no idea if she was lying or not.  My instinct was to cuddle her, but supernanny says no.  So I checked for blood and returned her to her bed.  She got out of bed another couple of times, but returned with relative ease and 10 minutes later all was quiet.

At 11.55pm she got out of bed again and did another 5 or 6 times over the next hour.  Each time she went back with minimal fuss.  I did get a couple of smacks to my belly, but she was pretty resigned to returning to bed and it was actually very easy indeed.  No screaming tantrums, minimal violence… I think I must have broken the back of it on night 1 and now it will be perseverance which will eventually see her return to normal.  We are going to continue with this technique for the foreseeable future based on the fact that she has responded so well up to now.

In hindsight I wish I hadn’t let it get as bad as it did.  If I had identified the issue sooner and adopted this method sooner I might not be in this mess now…  Three and a half weeks to due date and I have to move Ava in to her new room in a week or so which might see the sleep disturbance maximise again.  We shall wait and see and I will keep a log of progress!!

Thanks to everyone who has supported me through this (Facebook) – nice to get encouragement and kind messages in my time of need.  Its parenting “fails” like this that remind us that our little cherubs are sometimes simply sent to try us!

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UPDATE NIGHT 4 OF SUPERNANNY “STAY IN BED” TECHNIQUE

What a shock!! It only took 30 minutes for her to settle to sleep last night!!  We were surprised becasue it was the first night of us both returning her to bed when she got up.  She did scream and get out of bed as soon as we said goodnight, but we returned her in silence and she gave up the fight after only half an hour.  In that half an hour she did kick and hit Matt though which was annoying, but on the whole the time it took was amazing.  We were gobsmacked.  Also, we were convinced that it didn’t bode well for the night.

So imagine my disappointment when at 9.15pm I was woken (yes, I was already asleep by then!) by Ava crying and screaming in her room.  She hadn’t got out of bed though and I was momentarily flumoxed as to what to do.  Would Supernanny tell me to go in or wait til she came out?  I decided to go in because she sounded really upset.  I found her sitting on her bed staring at the wall and figured she was in the middle of a nightmare.  I laid her down and stroked her hair and arm briefly while shushing quietly and she settled.  I went out.  She cried out another 2 times shortly after, but I was tired so Matt went in.  She settled easily and then THAT WAS IT!!! Not a peep until 7am.  OH MY GOODNESS!!!  She got a smiley face this morning.  She only has one more to get (hopefully tonight), and she gets to go and eat in at McDonalds.  She is very excited so I am hoping for the best.

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UPDATE NIGHT 5 OF SUPERNANNY “STAY IN BED” TECHNIQUE

Fail.  My mother-in-law is staying and I thought that might encourage her not to do the bed time screaming but it didn’t.  We had a full hour of screaming fits and being returned to bed before she fell asleep.  I was truly disappointed.  As was Matt.  I was really hoping it was going to be an improvement on the previous night, but no.  She woke up at 1.10am and I had to return her to be 6 times before she fell asleep again.  This was mercifully easy and actually I can’t complain.  The returning to bed in the night has been roaring success so far.  Then the biggest let down was this morning.  At 5.30am she decided she would get up and have a tantrum that lasted an hour.  I couldn’t keep the returning to bed thing up because I was trying to save Seren and my M-I-L from the rediculously early start so I took her downstairs where the most almighty hissy fit ensued… along with a few swift kicks to my legs.  I think she thought she would get away with not being told off because my M-I-L is here, but she did.  I am disappointed because I did break my vow of silence this morning and probably wouldn’t have done had we not had a guest.  I have learned my lesson and I think I am going to have to cancel friends coming to stay for the foreseeable future.  There is simply no point in aggrevating an already hard situation and Ava needs to sort herself out before I can comfortably allow people over.  At least my M-I-L has got to witness how bad she is for us.  Because this behaviour is so wildly out of character, I think sometimes people wonder if I am exaggerating, but it is bad… really bad. M-I-L is shocked, and has agreed that having Ava stay with her for a weekend any time in the near future is probably not going to be a good idea…. shame Ava doesn’t realise what she is making people think of her.  My lovely little girl… I really feel very sorry for her at the minute.

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UPDATE NIGHT 6 OF SUPERNANNY “STAY IN BED” TECHNIQUE

10 mintes… seriously, that’s all it took for her to fall asleep, 10 minutes!! The thing is, I have been wondering if all this screaming and tantruming can be “avoided” somehow, and short of me breaking the “no cuddles, no talking” required of the Stay-In-Bed technique, I have been at a bit of a loss… then I went on to the Supernanny website and saw the “Sleep Seapration” technique.  http://www.supernanny.co.uk/Advice/-/Health-and-Development/-/0-to-4-years/Sleep-Separation.aspx

Now technically, Ava is getting a bit old for all this sort of stuff, but bearing in mind she is convinced I am going to die, I think she is definitely going through some sort of separation anxiety.

So last night I put her to bed, cuddles, kisses and turned to leave – as usual, she went wild… straight out of bed, screaming etc.  So I returned her to bed, said goodnight, turned to leave but then stopped with my back to her.  She was a bit confused but I put her back to bed when she got out again and did the same.  She then stayed in her bed and cried for a few minutes but then fell asleep.  Twice she woke when I tried to walk out of the room, but I just waited a bit longer the last time and she was asleep.  That is the least screaming she has done for a long time.  I might try it again tonight.

In the night she got out of bed and had to be returned 6 times between midnight and 5am.  This is a pain in the arse to be honest because I am not getting any good stretched of sleep, and hauling my 37 week pregnant body out of bed and then getting comfortable and back to sleep again is a chore.  That said, there were no tears, no screaming, no violence and she returned to bed with ease each time.  I think she is getting out of bed and wanting to be returned as a comfort thing more than anything now – to check to make sure I am still there and to get that bit of contact.  Matt is annoyed about this, but I don’t mind doing it if it means she is comforted and calm.  We are avoiding having her in bed with us at all cost and I guess that is all that matters.  Hopefully she will grow out of this at some point soon!!

As for this morning?  Well its 6.55am and I am having breakfast in the kitchen with Seren and Ava is not up yet… thank God we haven’t had a repeat of yesterday morning!!

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UPDATE NIGHT 7 OF SUPERNANNY “STAY IN BED” TECHNIQUE

Stupid Supernanny doesn’t know what she is talking about.  AAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggghhh!!!

It all started so well – with my back to her, she was asleep in 5 minutes flat.  I was overjoyed and feeling nothing short of triumphant.  I had a smug smile on my face when Matt came home to a silent house and I had very high hopes for the night.  Why do I not learn that optimism in situations like this is like a precursor to DOOM.

She woke for the first time at 8pm.  She then woke and needed returning to bed every hour for the whole night.  She was in and out of her room relentlessly and although I persevered, there was a period in the night where I fouhd it hard to move and my refusal to repspond to her on the landing meant she fell asleep for half an hour face down on the carpet.  I didn’t get a single straight hours sleep.  By the time 6am came I was retching with exhaustion.  I couldn’t help myself – I snapped and took her downstairs to Matt… who had had a lovely sleep on the sofa… and then told me he felt a “bit tired”.  If I had been holding something solid, I would have swung it at his head.  Instead I burst out crying and dragged myself to bed.  Ava took this opportunity to scream blue murder until I came downstairs again.  No sleep for me then.

Now although this is reminiscent of the night that cracked me over a week ago, it was entirely different in that there was no screaming, shouting or violence.  Ava was pretty quiet for the majority of the night, but just needed returning to bed.  It is becoming abundantly clear to me now that she is craving my physical contact and if I have stopped cuddeling and kissing her in the night, then she will make so with me gently leading her to her bed and tucking her in.  Supernanny, this techinque is NOT having the desired effect.

So we’ve had a hard day.  I can barely breathe I am so tired and have spent the most of the day staring into space or sitting on the sofe.  When Seren went for her nap, I tried to put my head down too but Ava was having none of it.  Again, she was determined I should not sleep and spent the entire 2 hours screaming and tantruming until I eventually accepted I would not be getting any rest and sat next to her on the sofa.

I love my little girl with every ounce of my being, but I am really struggeling to like her at the minute.  There is no way I am going to be able to cope with labour being this exhausted.  Its all I can do to stop myself vomiting with exhaustion at the minute.

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UPDATE NIGHT 8 OF SUPERNANNY “STAY IN BED” TECHNIQUE

Bearing in mind I feel close to death and the Supernanny technique has taken on a new dimension for Ava, we have decided to add an element.  We now have a blow up “ready bed” in the room with us on the floor next to our bed.  It is a blue Star Wars bed and (feminist friends, don’t read the next bit!) there is no way Ava would chose to sleep in a bed like that.  She is a very pink obsessed girl.  I wanted to see which need was greater though – the need to be near me and accept the bed, or the need to have contact and be returned to her room.

Unexpectedly, Ava’s new room was ready yesterday morning (curtains finally hung) so we decided that as life couldn’t get any more sleep deprived, we would bite the bullet and move her and Seren in together.  Room sharing is at Ava’s request and something I would have liked to have avoided to be honest.  The thought of the night ahead had me in tears and I struggled to hold it together long enough to get the girls bathed and in bed.  Seren was a bit out of sorts in her new room and in full view of her sister.  It didn’t bode well at all.

Amazingly, I was able to leave the room and not do the whole “separation” routine.  She came out a couple of times but then fell asleep while Seren was still noisily chuntering and singing away to herself.  In fact, it took Seren half an hour longer to fall asleep than Ava, but I don’t have to intervene with Seren, she just amuses herself until she nods off in her cot.

Then at 10.55pm Ava’s waking antics began.  The first time, I returned her to her bed.  The second time I ushered her into the blow up bed but she ran out of my room.  She fell asleep on the landing outside my door.  At 1.30am I returned her to her room again as she had woken up.  Then she came back half an hour later and I refused to get out of bed to return her to her room and simply pointed at the ready bed… she backed out of my room and fell asleep on the landing again, where she remained until 4.40am.  When she woke up she begged me to put her back to bed and put her covers on, which I did and she fell asleep until 6.30am.  In the mean time Seren decided she wanted to get up at 5am so my day has began nice and early.  Interestingly, Seren waking and shouting/screaming/singing at 5am didn’t wake Ava who had only just nodded off.  Maybe we will get the whole room sharing thing cracked one day but with only 2 and a half weeks til due date I can absolutely say for certain that I am at my wits end and cracking under the sleep deprivation.

Matt had another lovely nights sleep on the sofa.  I had better be spoilt for mothers day tomorrow.

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UPDATE NIGHT 9 OF SUPERNANNY “STAY IN BED” TECHNIQUE

It’s over.  We are scrapping the Supernanny technique for the sake of our sanity and the sanity of our little girl.

So last night, It took her 15 minutes to settle to sleep.  The waking began at 9pm.  Every time I suggested getting on the blue Star Wars bed she ran back to her room and jumped in bed.  At around 10pm she went to run back into her old room, changed direction and ran into the doorframe of her new room and (understandably) was very upset by this.  She then woke Seren and refused to settle at all.  By 11.30pm, Matt and I made our final big decision of this process…. and whether or not it is making a rod for our backs?  Only time will tell.  Seren is moving back into her old room and Matt is moving in with Ava.

We pulled out the bed from under Ava’s bed and Matt slept on it.  Ava stayed in her own bed and in her own room for 6 full hours.  This is the first time she has done this in a few months.  We know that Matt is going to have to do this every night – and its him not me because I can’t move in with her to move out again as soon as the baby is born.  Due date is looming and we feel it would do more harm than good to have me be near to her then removed for a new baby.  It would cause too much upset.

We are sticking with the “no talking, no cuddles” rule that is part of the Supernanny routine as that has had a positive effect, but while Ava is so very anxious and scared of death etc, we feel this is the last resort, but the one that is most likely to save all of us from cracking up.

We have spent a considerable amount of time looking into and researching Ava’s behaviour, we have decided that she is indeed suffering from a pretty severe form of separation anxiety.  This anxiety has come about from her fear of death (namely mine) and the impending arrival of a new sibling.  I think her fear of death is the over-ruling force in this though.  I over ate yesterday and commented that I was “going to pop” and she got distressed and tearful and shouted “no mummy I don’t want you to pop!”.  This fear of me leaving her is all consuming and is beginning to infiltrate into our daily lives more and more.  It appears that someone, somewhere along the line has told Ava that when you die, its like going to sleep and never waking up again.  At the age of (almost) 4 years old, this bit of information is understandably frightening and too much for her to make sense of – night time has become a very scary place for her and rather than try and train a “behaviour” out of her we need to help her psychologically process some pretty adult thoughts while providing her with a calm and reassuring environment.

Part of me felt really cross last night when Matt went to sleep in her room because I felt as though she had won… then this morning I realised that actually, we have won.  We have finally understood and accepted what she is trying to tell us and perhaps now we are on the road to helping our little girl through a pretty stressful phase.  All we want is for her to be happy and calm and content… and we will do anything it takes.

I want my Ava back.

I guess this is the last entry then in terms of the “Supernanny” method… Now its going to have to be the “mummy & daddy know best method” aka “winging it”.

Here’s hoping it works eh?

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NIGHT 10 – NEW BEGINNINGS

Last night Ava went to bed with minimal fuss and with the promise that her Daddy would sleep on a mattress on the floor next to her bed.  We had a silent and motionless night until 6.15am this morning.  It’s been over 6 months since we had a full night like that.  Interestingly Matt reported that she is sleeping very fitfully with lots of periods of startelling herself awake and sleep talking.  A few times he woke to find her staring at him but he is unsure if she was actually fully awake.  I could have cried this morning – with both happiness that we are getting a good result and sadness that my little girl has been so frightened for such a long time. I definitely feel we are on the road to recovery now though!

One final realisation for me too – reward charts will work for Ava, but the targets we were setting were unobtainable for her and she knew that even if we didn’t.  She was physically unable to achieve the targets as her fears over-ruled everything.  I wish we had realised that sooner – she wasn’t being naughty and behaving badly, she was frightened and we let her down when she needed us the most.  We are parenting in an age where its all about achieving the “best behaviour” and training our kids to conform by offering rewards.  I definitely think we do sometimes need to take a step back and see our children; listen to what they are telling us.  I wont be making the same mistake again and the reward charts can stay in the cupboard for the foreseeable future.

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THE END

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August 20th 2012 – 5 months since my last post above.

How weird it is reading this whole thing back now… and how far we have come!

Baby #3 arrived on the 20th April, a beautiful little girl, Violet.

As soon as I got home from hospital with our newest addition, Ava morphed back into our good old Ava infront of our eyes.  It was phenomenal to see.  She took on the role of being “big sister” (again!) in her own loving and caring way and she has continued to surpass our best expectations ever since.

Matt stayed in her room on a mattress for a couple of months.  In addition to this, Ava needed us in her room to go to sleep which we didn’t mind doing as it was the least stressful way to get her to go to sleep and by having a stress free “going to sleep” routine, she ended up sleeping better in the night.  Eventually SHE decided she no longer needed her daddy in her room (must admit to promising her a pair of Lelli Kelly shoes if she could do it lol!) and a few days later we persuaded her to go to sleep without us having to sit in with her.

It’s 4 months to the day since Violet was born and Ava is back to the way she was.  Perfect sleeping, no nightmares, no problems going to bed (ok, the occasional whinge, but what 4 year old doesn’t objoect to bed time every now and then?!).

When I was in the middle of the worst of it, I truly felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel and now reading back I barely remember being in the middle of one of the worst parenting phases of my life.  Just goes to show that phases are just that, and they pass.  Thank God.