Teachers Homemade Gifts- Ice Cream Hamper

I’m not sure why it started but creating a hamper at Christmas and the end of year for the teaching team at school has become a bit of a thing.

At the end of the last school year we had fun creating a gardening themed gift, this year with the weather pretending we were going to experience a sun-filled summer we decided on an ice-cream themed hamper.Teachers Ice Cream HamperOne of the things I always struggle with is what to put our hampers in. As we make hampers for the LSAs and teachers, this for us totals 8 (and I hate to think what it will be next year with B & E going into separate classes!). Baskets tend to add to the expense, and yet aren’t what the gift is about. This year, coincidentally I bought the children a load of shoes in the Clarks’ sale and I decided to use them by covering the boxes in brown paper and getting the children to decorate them and lined with tissue paper. Perfectly individual and really, really low-cost.

We filled the hamper with:

  • Ice-cream sprinkles
  • Salted caramel sauce
  • Malteser Vodka
  • Ice-cream tubs
  • Ice-cream spoons
  • Napkins
  • Cocktail umbrellas

There were other things we could have included, such as ice-cream cones or an ice-cream scoop, or you could go with sundae glasses if you had more pennies to spend. As it was for us, the contents fitted perfectly in a shoe box, and we wrapped with cellophane as the lid wouldn’t fit.

I did change the presentation from the version above by separating the tubs and placing the sprinkles into the tub.Teachers Ice Cream Hamper GoodiesThe tubs, napkins, spoons and umbrellas all came from Dotcomgiftshop. The sprinkles were from Asda and Morrisons. I thought they’d look better (and cement the clue that there was an ice-cream theme!) putting them in cellophane bags (from The Works) and adding a topper which matched the tubs and napkins. I created them on Picmonkey and printed them as nine to a page of card which seemed to work. I then cut them folded in half and stapled them over the filled cellophane bag.Confetti ice-cream hamper printableFor the home-made gifts I must admit to finding convenience this year over previous experiments.

Both the vodka and caramel sauce were presented in jars which needed sterilising. 

I sterilised them by washing in hot, soapy water, rinsing, and them placing in an oven, fan heated at 120 degrees celsius for 15 minutes.For the Malteser Vodka I added 70g of maltesers per 100mls of vodka and mixed in a Nutribullet until blended. You do need to do this a few days in advance and shake every day as it’s really about the maltesers melting into the vodka. Using the Nutribullet takes the stress out of the process with (according to Mr J) delicious results.
Teachers Ice Cream toppersThis year I decided to try making the caramel sauce using a slow cooker. The results definitely worked but were a little trial and error.

The best way was to put baking paper in the bottom of the slow cooker, put tins of condensed milk on top, fill with water until the tins are covered. Either put the slow cooker on low for 18 hours or on high for 10 hours. 

Take out of the water and leave until completely cool. Open the tin and fold in sea salt to taste.

Fill up the jars and seal shut.

 

And they were hopefully well received and consumed!

Washi-tape Lollipop thank you cards

This year, at the very last-minute, I realised we hadn’t made thank you cards for the teachers and LSAs at school. A quick bit of searching for ideas on Pinterest led me to creating a quick and simple card, which complemented the ice-cream hampers and had the feel of summer sun. Washi-tape Lollipop thank you cards could be adapted and used for most celebration cards (think phrases with ‘fab’, ‘lolly’ and ‘cool’).Washi-tape Lollipop thank you cards craftFortunately my craft boxes had everything needed to make the cards.

We used:
A4 white card – I pick up ours from The Works as it’s really good value.
A4 paper – just from the ream we have in the office.
Lollipop Sticks – I have loads from a trip to Hobbycraft.
Washi tape– from a frequent trip to Paperchase.
Double sided tape – not in the photo but I decided it worked better in places. I think from The Works.
Double side square foam – I had these from my mum, I think they’re for card making.
Envelopes- From a stash we keep in the house.

We also used scissors, a printer, and paper-cutter to make the card.Washi-tape Lollipop thank you cardsI started by quickly setting up a design using Picmonkey. I wanted to have a real pun to the card, it wasn’t great, but hopefully it worked. These were printed onto white card.

I then found a template for the lollipop. It would be easy enough to cut this freehand but we had eight cards to make, so I used this template to print them out onto white card.

We cut the lollipops and then the children added the colourways to their choice- dependent on who the card was for it transpired.

Whilst the children were busy with the lollipops, I cut the card to size. Before I cut the card I folded a piece of A4 paper and popped it inside. The cut was a bit random dependent on what text was on the card- and I like to think this made each card unique. Once cut, I then trimmed down the paper a bit more.

I then cut the lollipop sticks to size, which means you can use one stick for two card.

Once all the pieces were to prepared, the children then set to writing in the fold of the A4 paper (you could pre-print most of this if you wanted).

I used double-sided tape to put the lollipop stick in place, and then used the stick pads to pop the lollipop on. I really liked the effect of this.

With the card made, once the children had written their words, the paper was added using double-sided tape to the side of paper closest to the fold at the back, and putting in place.

And ‘ta-da’- the perfect way to bring on the summer for teachers who have been looking forward to it since Christmas (one assumes!).

A twin education

I wrote last week about the outspoken childminder who ‘opened up’ on her view of my sons’.
I’ll be honest, the upset I felt has been replaced with anger tinged with humour.
Reflection has made me more angry about her behaviour than able to consider her words valid.
I also have sympathy, I think for the parents, who have the children in her care, and hope they aren’t subject to her judgement.
I still standby my consideration, that I have yet to meet a parent with the same approach. Most parents seem to know that as readily as a child may have poor behaviour inflicted on them, so the following week they may be the one demonstrating poor behaviour. Such is the nature of children. And the playground.

However, the words did provoke me to contact the boys’ teacher to explore the boys’ behaviour and what I could do as a parent to better support my children.

I have no doubt I caught the teacher off guard, I’ve not contacted the school before for anything other than illness notification and I am not the parent who does the school run so am not familiar.

We talked things through, about the cyclical nature of their behaviour which has a telling off at its heart. We talked about their relationship, how they behave as they might at home- they are very physical with each other.

As a side note this, for me, has been one of the most trying elements of my boys. One will hurt the other, we will discipline them (naughty step, separation, etc), there will be an apology, five minutes later the other is complaining they have been hurt. Having witnessed the events which have just unfolded.

The teacher confirmed all incidents of poor behaviour had been addressed with Mr J.
Generally speaking they are naughty, they are lovely boys and good learners, but they fidget when they’re bored, and if the other is in touching distance they will inevitably end up brawling.

I asked whether separating them would be of benefit.
The response was in the teacher’s personal opinion there may be an advantage.
So I asked how we could make it happen.

There is so much behind this.
I had originally wanted to separate the boys.
They are so similar.
Some twins do not have similar interests, but the boys do, they have similar personalities- with nuances which make them individuals.
And I was originally concerned the teaching team would get them confused.Trunki Spike and TangI was also of the opinion that siblings shouldn’t be in the same class. I suspect if me or my brothers were in the same class the arguments would have been legendary.
Yes. My sons are twins. There should be an additional filter of consideration. But not a blanket consideration.

So I’m a little cross that once again I didn’t follow my instincts as a parent.
That I agreed when I was told the school policy is not to separate twins. Even though I know through TAMBA this may not be upheld if parents present an alternate perspective.
I am annoyed when I hear my sons speak about themselves in the third person because they’ve learned to differentiate themselves for people.
And that they complain that people cannot tell them apart.

And then, the worst part dawned on me.
Yes. This might be the right decision.
But how?
How do you decide which child to take out of their class and put into a new one?

And it’s because children are awesome. (Especially mine).
I asked them.
They decided.

It’s also addressed another issue.
This year E decided he wanted to move his birthday going forward to March 17th (I don’t fully understand the date, he is insistent it should be the day before his sister’s birthday). Why? Because he’s afraid people will muddle up his and his brother’s presents.
But now, his perspective is he’d be happy to share a birthday with his brother, because now he can invite the children in his class, and his presents won’t be muddled because the children in his brother’s class will bring gifts for B.
Problem solved.

And, of course,
The school have been fantastic.
They’ve stopped me from making a knee-jerk reaction to some outsider, who doesn’t know my children from Adam, affecting my judgement.
As any good school would, they’ve asked us to put in place a plan to make sure a considered conclusion is reached for my sons.
That we look more closely at them over the coming half term.
And meet in May, to agree what would be best for my boys.
And potentially discuss with the Governors why, if it is the result, separation is right for B and E.

In many ways, I do not support this course of action.
I do not think I, as a parent, should need to justify my options to people, who, if my children had different birth dates, would not have a say.
I do not see why I am fighting a blanket rule.
When we agree all children are individuals.
That this is an issue simply because they were born on the same day.

But like them, I am not an expert in multiple births.
My twins are individuals, as are all twins, so why should my view about my boys determine how all multiples should be treated.
So, hopefully, the Governors like me might understand the emotional attachment of a parent.
And make a decision based on, like me, wanting the best learning environment for each child.
Which, in B and E’s case, might mean they are too much of a distraction together.

So, here we go.
Let’s see what a more considered future holds for them.
And believing, because the school, for me, has been fantastic,
Will ensure, whatever I think, that B and E have, as individuals, the most positive learning experience.

On hating the school playground

I can’t do all the parent cr*p.
I just can’t.
I think by nature I am an anxious person- hell, becoming a mum proved that.

I’m probably not alone in hating walking into rooms when you don’t know anyone.
Of trying to embrace new social circles.
Becoming a mum and new social situations go hand in hand.

I remember trying to ‘put myself out there’. I went to Buggy Bunch- some form of fitness for new mums around the local park.
I was so excited walking home I phoned hubby at work- I had made friend. She had invited me around to coffee the following week.
She didn’t show the following week. The week after she blanked me. And the week after she was my friend again. And this would be my introduction to competitive parenting. Her baby was teething, and she recited the herbal remedies which she was using to ease baby’s distress. I remember teething being the furthest thing from my mind, I think our babes were no more than a couple of months old. But suddenly I was introduced each week to the latest milestones my baby hadn’t met. I stopped going to Buggy Bunch after a couple of months.

Roll on to the boys, I felt the pressure of CM having a social experience whilst I was so busy with the babies which had landed in her life.

We started going to ballet, messy play, and anything else the local community centre had on offer.
It wasn’t the same, but it wasn’t any better.
As new parents we are naturally caught up in our own lives, but there are the good souls, the parents of toddlers who are coming out the other side, some were slightly more aware of the constraints of juggling three under-2’s. They lent a hand, being aware of where personal boundaries might lie and carefully interweaving them. They are the people who make life a bit easier.
But then there are the parents who embark on *that* conversation: “I could never have had twins”, “look at that woman, I couldn’t do it”. Where to even start? It might start off as funny, because it surely couldn’t be a logical thought process. But the conversation grows, others join in the commentary of your life. And it only serves as isolating for one, and camaraderie for the rest.
And you have to breathe, and know it’s not personal, it’s just personal to them.

I’m rambling. But I am going somewhere.
It never actually ends.
Competitive parenting seems a path of the course.
It’s difficult to walk away without becoming isolated. Milestones change from first teeth and weaning, to sitting, walking, potty training, writing, reading… And these become absorbed.
I can cope with these. I am my child’s mother, I am aware of their ability, their strengths and limitations. I shower them with love because I’ve learned as long as I know they’re happy I can bite my tongue at my own competitiveness.

The next hurdle, which it doesn’t look like I’m ever going to get right, is friendship circles. And this is where the problems of the playground come into their own.
You can step away from the competitive conversations but where to go when school friendships are made and broken, and no doubt a child, yours or theirs, is in the wrong. The playground is suddenly a cold place.

With CM, we seem to have found a path. We have been fortunate that since nursery all the parents have been absolutely lovely. Over the years there have been lots of parties, places for parents to get to know the caregivers of the children whose names have become so familiar.
There were hurdles, undoubtedly many friendships in school are initially based on parents being friends, and as they get older so the smaller parties begin, and you are left rationalising with your child when an invite doesn’t come their way.
And CM is, on the whole, accepting. Her friendship group changes regularly. We rise above the conversations about who’s been mean to her, we question what role she played in any fallouts.

Which brings me onto the part which currently has my eyes full of tears. When the playground becomes a horrible place to be, for the adult.
And I’m going to try to be careful with what I say. But I just feel like sh*t over it.Thoughts about the school playgroundThe boys first year in school is more stressful for me than I could have imagined. And I know it’s not that bad, that I am irrational, that these are moments in time, but the latest has hurt a lot. 

Because I’ve been caught up in social media, and believed the hype about supporting each other, about appreciating each other’s challenges, and probably I’ve used the experiences of CM as my benchmark.

The boys started Reception with friendship groups in tact, being based on those made in Nursery. Some fell by the way, which I was unhappy about, but children make their choices.

Shortly into the term we were told that B and E had been part of a group who had been engaging in physical hurting- kicking, punching and the like. The school were fantastic, they talked us through it, rationalised it, and ensured appropriate action was taken. As parents we did our bit. And all seemed well in the world.

The traumas of friendship continued, different days see different friends, some days the boys offer no-one will play with one or the other, the next day everything is well.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the boys’ teachers let us know that B was displaying poor behaviour again. Ignoring instructions and he had nipped a boy in an unprovoked act. Again, the school helped us monitor the behaviour, we couldn’t understand it against B’s behaviour at home, so we talked to him each day about acceptable behaviour and being kind, we tried to increase his sleeping hours in a bid to improve his focus and temperament.
And all was well.

This week it all turned to cr*p again.
Something happened before school on Monday, which on the surface appears to be playground behaviour. And since then, Mr J and the dad of the other child have discussed it, talked about the joys of parenting 5 year olds, and so on.
But on Monday, as the childminder was collecting the child, Mr J decided to have a chat with the childminder to make sure the child was ok.
The childminder proceeded to let Mr J know about what horrible boys we have- who kick and spit and name call. When Mr J attempted to rationalise it with the discussions which have taken place with their teachers, he was told that it was about time our eyes were opened to the situation.

I’ve never been so upset and cross.
What has happened to people? When would that be an appropriate conversation to have? When did a caregiver, who has never witnessed the interaction between the children, have a right to make judgement on a situation?
When would any caregiver think it appropriate to have the conversation with another parent of things they had not witnessed. I would have thought common sense determines that in the first instance any concerns would be discussed with the teaching team or the parent, to understand the underpinning situation.

I decided to speak to the boys teacher. And it has opened up a new set of considerations. Which is probably one for another post, after I’ve thought things through more.

But what I’m so cross about is that I know we can address the behaviour of 5 year olds but this childminder gets to think their behaviour is acceptable. To cast judgement. To be so confident without witness.

I thought I understood this parenting thing.
That some days I will get it right, and most days I’ll get it wrong.
But that’s ok, because I’m not alone.
I have a social circle who I can confide in and talk things through.
I have learned it’s always better to smile and make conversation – even though our children aren’t talking at the moment, they will be next week.
And I thought I understood that for every time my child might have some poor behaviour against another child, chances are in the next month I’ll be told about a nameless child hurting mine.

The school playground really is a place only for children. It seems it takes a more generous adult than most, to step into it and not regress.

Papier-mâché Hot Air Balloon Craft

CM’s home learning project for this term was transport.
I get the feeling I should stop thinking laterally where her schooling is concerned. I thought it would be a good idea for us to create a papier-mâché hot air balloon. Until I read a bit more on the topic the week before the due date, to see the focus was trams, trains, and bicycles.
But the hot air balloon was well under way so we quickly swotted up. My memories of Phileas Fogg and his 90 days around the world were quickly replaced with new knowledge that the first round the world trip in a hot air balloon took 19 days and 21 hours and 55 minutes, in 1999. New fact learned, I went back to the comfort zone of craft.

Our papier-mâché hot air balloon was made in the first with the traditional method using flour, water and newspaper.Papier-mâché Hot Air Balloon Craft We made a more watered down version, very messy, but perfect for something which we knew we wanted to be light enough to hang from the ceiling. Our base was one part plain flour to two parts water.Papier-mâché Hot Air Balloon CraftOur original intent was to make a hot air balloon each, but the mess put the little people off and soon I was left making sure the single balloon had enough layers.

This approach did seem much messier than in the past, but the result was perfect, so in hindsight I wish we had persevered with the mess and made three.

We left the balloon for a week to dry, I’m sure it would have been ready after about 48 hours but this was our weekend project.

Once the balloon was dried, we did the best bit – and popped the balloon. I trimmed the bottom to make it bit more even.

We then cut A4 paper into stripes, glued them using PVA – a lot less messy for CM – to create a slightly more even surface than the Papier-mâché had left us with.

We left to dry again so the fun part of painting could begin.

Again, originally CM had all kinds of visions, of strawberries dipped in chocolate, and balloons covered in flowers. It turned out her boredom threshold allowed her to paint it yellow.Papier-mâché Hot Air Balloon CraftAnd my need to show effort meant I persuaded her to persevere with stripes by drawing orange lines over the balloon in a standoff.Papier-mâché Hot Air Balloon Craft Which fortunately turned out perfectly, especially because the boys had now negotiated that as this was their original balloon the finished product would be theirs. Papier-mâché Hot Air Balloon CraftWith the balloon painted, I tempted CM to finish things off with a basket, and decided on the most simple solution, using a garden planters, lots of glue, lots of twine, and lots more glue.Papier-mâché Hot Air Balloon CraftAnd it would turn out fine. Once mummy attempted to put holes in everything.

A single hole in the top of the balloon, and a strand of elastic to connect to a ceiling, so the balloon could bob wonderfully across the eye-line.

Four holes evenly placed around the base of the balloon connect with the basket. Less successfully as for love nor money could I get the stands to be the same size, and the basket to sit parallel to the balloon.

But once CM stuck her Playmobil character in, it was perfect, and all was well in the world.Papier-mâché Hot Air Balloon Craft

Tea themed Gifts for teachers with Snapfish

It’s a thing in our family, nothing shows appreciation like a handmade gift. I’m not sure where it’s come from, my mum no doubt, but now, each Christmas and end of school year we prepare a form of hamper for the teachers and assistants who take care of my children’s wellbeing from 8.55 to 3.10.

Whilst the summer can be themed more around the 6 weeks of relaxation and sunshine (ever the optimist!), Christmas for me is about homeliness and family.

This year I decided our gift would be based around taking a break, with visions of a wood fire, thick cardigan, and a great big sofa to fall into.

And what would accompany this vision better than a warming cup of tea and biscuits. 
And so our vision began.

I started collecting tea bags from my hotel stays, I love the variety of teas also on offer, and yet my taste for tea is limited due to very selective tastebuds. So, a couple each time land in my overnight bag, and due to the number of overnights- well…. what can I say?!Teacher inspired thank you mugs from SnapfishTo accompany the tea I really wanted to create a personal touch, and fortunately Snapfish was able to meet my brief. Whilst mugs with favourite photographs on would be my association, I loved the idea of using PicMonkey to create an inspirational quote, accompanied by a smaller font message from my children. I changed the quote slightly for the LSAs and each has a different heart design to ensure a unique design which will make a wonderful personalised Christmas gift. I loved the mugs we received, whilst you can choose from a more delicate porcelain, I went for the kind of mug you can wrap your hands around and hug for warmth.Tea wreath - thrifty gifts for teachersRather than present a cup and tea bag, I wanted to carry through a Christmas theme, and loved a wreath idea I had seen on Pinterest. I wanted to customise mine with a more traditional Christmas theme, so painted the cardboard green, wooden pegs red, added a ribbon hook and a big red bow. A little quirky, I hope the association comes through.Teacher's gift mugs from SnapfishNearer to the end of term we’ll make cookies in a jar to complete our thank you gift. I’m sure the children will want to use a range of cutters, despite my OCD need to use round to fit in a jar.

And then, maybe with a good book, the people who invest so much in our children, can escape for Christmas, with tea and biscuits for sustenance. 

I hope these gifts are appreciated, I truly want the children to understand what offering thanks is about and, to me, making a gift, putting your heart into it, is a part of understanding gratitude.

Disclosure: We received a voucher from Snapfish for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.