On the School Bus

Oscar starts school in three short weeks. But whether or not I’m ready for it is not what I want to talk about today (by the way, I’m not).

I knew the school we’d chosen was the right one from the first visit. I just knew. But there was a problem. The school is three miles away and I don’t drive. This wouldn’t have been an issue had there been a decent public transport link, but there just isn’t. However, I knew this school was perfect for Oscar, so I put all thoughts of actually getting him there to the back of my mind. After all where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?

And I’m thrilled to say we found that way. Because we live more than two miles away from the school (3.1 to be exact) and because I don’t drive due to my epilepsy and because of Oscar’s Autism, the council have agreed to provide him with transport to and from school. I’m so happy about this. The logistics otherwise just don’t bare thinking about. It means the mini bus will pick him up from our house and drop him at school (and vice versa) every day. It’s such a relief.

I love that it means I can concentrate on just getting one of us ready in the morning. I mean I probably wont hand him over in my pyjamas, but if I really had to I could! I can make sure he’s as prepped for the day and as calm as possible without having to worry about getting myself ready to leave the house and struggling to getting him there. No more mile long walks along busy roads to preschool every day for me!

And I think he’s going to enjoy getting the bus with other children from his school. He’s a surprisingly sociable little guy, so I think he’s going to get a lot out of riding in the ‘Frog Bus’ (the bus has a frog on the side) with the kids. He will of course have an adult escort on the bus, but I’m hoping he’ll enjoy the social interaction that it brings and who knows, he may even make some friends!

And that got me thinking. One of the main things I felt we missed out on when Oscar was starting late and finishing early at preschool (apart from actual time at preschool) was the social interaction with the children and their parents. It was really hard for me to develop any kind of friendships through the preschool because I just didn’t see, and therefore get to know, any of the other mums. And the fact that I’m not going to be dropping off or picking up Oscar from school, kind of leaves me in the same situation. When children are older and start making their own friends I don’t suppose it matters so much. But at this young age, I remember from my own childhood, that much of the socialising they do outside of school comes as a result of the friendships their parents make at the gates. Not to mention the friendships that I could be missing out on. It’s something of a conundrum.

But hang on just a minute. Schools in the States use buses to transport their pupils as standard don’t they? Unless TV and films have lied to me, even from the earliest age our Stateside friends put their kids on a bus to school and have them dropped off in the same fashion and have been doing so for years. So what do American parents do? How do they connect with their child’s school? How do they meet each other? How do they form friendships? Do they have another way or is it something that wouldn’t occur to them to do at all? I obviously need to chat to some American moms and find out what I need to be doing. Any advice gratefully accepted!

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Of course the school gates aren’t the only way to meet other parents at your child’s school. Its the easiest way sure, but what about things like PTA meetings and committees? School fetes and fundraising dos? I can do those. I can help out and make friends at the same time. And I hear Oscar’s school’s version of PTA meetings have wine!

See. I knew it was the right school for us 😉

Uniform Name Labels from My Name Label

It’s that time of the year. School Uniform is everywhere you look, and for the first time it’s all over my house too. Oscar starts school in September, so I’ve been buying pieces here and there for weeks now. It’s so cute in some respects and so heart breaking in others. I’m too scared to have him try it on all at once yet! What if I crumble completely?

Either way, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy and, lets not beat about the bush, money on this uniform. I certainly want it to come home with him every night! And so it falls to me to start the job every mama dreads. Labelling the uniform!

When I was a kid there was one choice of label (as far as I know). They were embroidered and probably came from Cash’s. My mum sat diligently sewing each and every label into each and every item of uniform we had. And there were three of us!

Three school uniforms to label. My poor mum!

Three school uniforms to label. My poor mum!

When I first started to think about labels I assumed I’d go the same way. That embroidered labels were the one and only option. But when I asked about, I found things had certainly moved on. The choice it would appear is now endless, and everyone seems to have their preference. So when I was asked if I’d like to try some iron on and stick on labels from My Name Label, I was very grateful!

The British franchise of an Australian brand, My Name Label stocks lots of different kinds of labels, from allergy awareness to personalised address labels, but their mainstay is uniform name labels. They have various different designs to chose from including different colours, fonts and images to customise your labels with, which were super easy to pick on the website. I could see the options appearing in a proof image as I chose them which was really helpful. Originally I was against the idea of an image next to the name, as I felt it made the label look messy. But then it occurred to me that customising the label with a simple image would give Oscar a visual cue that this item was his. Perfect for a child who can’t yet read his full name and particularly for one who has a strong visual memory.

So I placed my order and received my labels within days which surprised and delighted me!

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My Combination Pack from My Name Labels

I received a combination pack, which was basically a bit of everything:

  • White Iron On labels in Standard and Mini
  • Silver Stick On labels in Big, Small and Mini,
  • Silver Shoe Stickers
  • Bag Tag.

I love how it all matches! I chose to have the iron on ones in white, as I wasn’t sure how they’d wash otherwise. But I loved the silver and so chose that for the stickers!

The stickers are fairly self explanatory I guess. They’re a strong but flexible plastic, no paper involved and so far have dishwashered well! After all, what point is there to a bottle label that can’t be dishwashered?

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My Stick On Labels, great for water bottles, and pencil cases and book bags etc

The iron on labels were all new to me. Thankfully they came with clear instructions, which was great for a novice like me. The idea is to peel one off, put it where you want it, cover it with the covering paper provided, iron for 15 seconds, then remove the paper. Easy.

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The Iron On labels adhere to most fabrics

TopTip #1 Do not under any circumstances leave the sheet of labels on the item of clothing you’re about to iron. I did. I am a fool!

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Uh Oh

Three labels ruined! I had to turn off the iron and wait for it to completely cool before I could get the molten plastic off. This took ages! However, I understand the likelihood of you being as stupid as me are slim, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. And by the way I did manage to get it all off. Thank goodness!

Top Tip #2 If you leave the job half way through, make sure you put the cover paper somewhere safe. While I waited for the iron to cool before degunking, I left everything out on the ironing board. When I came back, the wind had blown the paper away and it took ages to find it. Again, I have faith that you’re less messy than me, but I thought it was worth noting, because if you lose that paper it pretty much renders the labels unusable. You can replace it with non stick baking paper (such as Bake-o-Glide) but what a pain that would be if you’d left it to the last minute to label the clothes and you had none in the house? Basically, look after your cover paper.

I decided to try the labels out on several different materials and it seemed to adhere well regardless. And as it’s not a sticker, but rather a plastic you melt into the cloth, there is hardly any chance of it lifting or washing off. Much better than I imagined to be honest.

Lay the label where you want it and lay the cover paper over it. The label doesn't stick before you iron it so make sure it's in the right place before you iron.

Lay the label where you want it and lay the cover paper over it. The label doesn’t stick before you iron it so make sure it’s in the right place before you iron.

Hot dry iron (no steam needed here) for up to 15 seconds. Remembering to keep any other labels out of the way!

Hot dry iron (no steam needed here) for up to 15 seconds. Remembering to keep any other labels out of the way!

Remove the cover paper et voila!

Remove the cover paper et voila!

Also adheres just as well to the garment itself!

Also adheres just as well to the garment itself!

I haven’t tried the shoe stickers yet as we are waiting to get his shoes until September. As he doesn’t start school until the third week I thought I’d wait and miss the crush! But they are similar to the other stickers, designed to sit under the heel and come with a clear top coat sticker for extra protection from little boy’s smelly feet.

But I do love the bag tag. It’s the same design and is a tough piece of plastic on elastic. How cute it this?

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Despite my own silly mistakes I really like the labels I got from My Name Labels. Because there is no stitching they’re unlikely to rub or cause any irritation, something that many of my SEND friends will have to consider. They also look particularly smart on his uniform. Now he just has to try it all on together.

And I have to not cry when he does!

 

 

 

 

Thank you to My Name Labels for sending us these labels to review.

I was not paid to write this post and as always all opinions are my own.

 

Top Tips from a former Shoe Fitter

I moved to London in 1997 to go to University. It was my dream to move to the big smoke, and I was so happy to be leaving Devon. But no one explained how expensive a city to live in London really was. It became apparent pretty early on that my grant (yes that’s how long ago this was) was not going to cut it and I knew I had to look for a part time job. I applied for various positions, did a week in catering (HATED it) then found a position as a shoe fitter in an independent children’s shoe retailer in Fulham.

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I wish I had a better photo of this beautiful shop. Gillingham’s of Fulham.

We stocked many different brands of shoes and I was trained to fit by Start-rite. The shop I worked for was in the second generation of the same family and was run by some very knowledgeable and committed people. I came to know the different makes of shoes, the anatomy of the shoe (toepuff anyone?), how they were made and the history of the shoe industry! I was there for three years, first part time and then, when I left university, full time. Ben even got a job with them too. Yes, for a time, children’s shoes became our lives!

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Shoe fitting was our life!

So when I hear people talking about shoe fitting, I can’t help but interject. And as the season for thinking about new school shoes fast approaches you may be interested in my top tips for children’s shoe fitting and the dreaded back to school:

Be prepared.

Never just ‘pop in’ unprepared to have your children’s feet fitted. If you pop in with your kids feet filthy, covered in sand and without socks it’s going to make it both difficult to fit and gross.

There is a reason good shoes cost money.

Yes, leather shoes are expensive. That’s because of the materials and technology that go into making them. We’re talking real leather, with stiffeners and toe puffs and things to support your children’s feet as they grow. They’re also built to last. By skilled craftsmen and women. Cheap shoes, I’m sorry to tell you, are not.

Fitters are trained. You are not.

You think you can fit shoes yourself? That’s fantastic. Don’t bother going into the shop then. Seriously. Asking Clark’s to measure your child’s feet and then taking them to Matalan to buy shoes is like having your eyes tested at Specsavers and then buying off the shelf reading glasses from the chemist. The fitter takes all sorts of things into account when finding the right shoes for your child. The size is just one tiny aspect of it. Also, how one place measure’s and another brand fits is an entirely different thing. Just saying.

Choice can be overwhelming

Asking your (often too young to give a toss) child which pair they like in a shop filled with hundreds of styles is a recipe for disaster. It’s overwhelming and if they are able to chose a pair, and it is appropriate for what you’re looking for, it might not fit, or even come in their size. It’s much better to have a shop find pairs that are appropriate and fit. Then you and your child can decide if they like them.

Trust your fitter

All reputable shoe shops have trained their staff. It’s not in their interest for them to sell you shoes that do not fit. So trust them and listen to their recommendations. Any good fitter will take you through their thinking for the pairs they’ve suggested if you ask them to. You don’t have to buy what a shop has to offer, but have the grace to listen to their opinion. It is after all what you’re there for!

But most of all

Back to School sucks.

It does, for everyone involved. The shops ramp up for their absolute busiest time of the year and fitters will work non stop, with very little break, every day for weeks. But parents are also stressed, because, like every other local parent, they’ve waited until the very last minute to get their children’s new school shoes. I understand why parents do it. They don’t want to buy shoes too early and then have their children’s feet grow. I get it. But if you are going to wait, you can’t whinge that the shop is heaving and “a nightmare”, when the reason it’s heaving and a nightmare is because everyone has had the same idea as you. Be aware that everyone is in the same boat.

Be patient, be nice to one another and be especially nice to your over worked fitter.

Happy Shoe Shopping!

 

Back to School

What a shocking start to June hey?! Its blooming awful where we are but I’m pleased to inform you the trampoline is still where we left it, despite the wind. I tell you I’m relieved we had our gutters professionally cleaned yesterday. They’re working over time now!

Oscar’s had a terrible week or so, with all recent the changes in routine. I think he’s just telling me he’s not happy about it. His return to preschool, which I thought would bring him some relief, actually didn’t seem to be the magic wand I hoped it would be. As soon as we turned into the school’s road, he started squirming and crying and shouting ‘Uh Uh’, ‘Uh Uh’. I eventually talked him into getting out of the buggy, but then he insisted on being held and would not get down or even be passed to his favourite Miss Tasha. I guess a lot of children go through this when they return to school after any sort of break, but it kinda threw me. He’s never, ever been clingy to me the whole time he’s been going there. Not on his first day, not after Easter, never. And I guess I handled it badly. I stayed with him, less for Oscar’s sake (I fully appreciate that children are often fine as soon as their parents leave) but more that I didn’t want the staff to potentially have to deal with a true Autistic melt down first thing on a Monday morning!

So I stayed. I went in the garden with him and told his TA all about how amazing he was on our recent trip to Wales and he calmed right down. So then I tried to leave and he started all over again (see I told you I handled it poorly!) Anyway eventually I managed to leave him, and was grabbed for a quick, impromptu meeting with his EYIA (local authority lady) who was visiting that day. Which was fine, until I heard Oscar screaming outside the room we were in.

I know I should have left it. Let the staff deal with it. But I just couldn’t. I jumped up and practically ran to him. Which, of course, made things worse and worse. Eventually I asked his TA if she just wanted me to stay, but she (quite rightly) said it would be better for me to leave, or he’d expect me to be there every session. She assured me she was prepared to deal with any melt downs and so I left. In a great big mental tizzy. I wasn’t upset, so much as confused and.. well no I was upset.

You see I don’t cope well without the surety of his routine either. I’ve always needed to know we had things planned from his earliest days, but the older he gets the more I need the small amount of time I get without him. Two weeks being ‘on’ with him has been exhausting. I feel the disruption in the rhythm of our lives just as keenly as I suspect he does. By the end of last week neither of us were coping very well.

I was totally focusing on him going back to school, rather selfishly, for my own relief. When it didn’t work out how I expected it threw me kinda sideways, I wont lie to you. So when I finally left him I did what every good 21st Century mama who has an hour to kill does. I headed to a favourite haunt, ordered coffee, a granola bar (granola’s healthy right? 😉 ) and dived into social media. I thought I might write a post, but it turned out having a rant/laugh on Twitter, was much better for the soul that day.

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I returned to collect him feeling calmer but actually quite apprehensive as to what I’d find and, more importantly, be left to deal with for the rest of the day. His teachers told me he’d calmed down eventually, although had continued to ask to leave. He was pleased to see me and keen to get in his buggy, which in itself is unusual, but they were right, he was calmer. The tears were gone and he did seem much more relaxed.

So maybe it just took him a while to figure it out. To hear the beat that we usually live our lives by and start to dance in to it again. I don’t know. I’ll probably never know. He’s been much calmer the rest of the week too (despite the filthy weather). Monday left me dreading Friday’s drop off. Now I’m just aware it might hard. And being aware means I can change my expectations and plan to act accordingly.

What’s the betting he runs in without a glance back, like usual?

Hope your back to school’s went well and your children are finding their rhythm this half term.

xx