A note to second-time parents

Remember that cot mobile you bought, with the fancy toys suspended on organic Free Trade cotton and the sweetest lullaby you’ve ever heard? The one you just couldn’t resist despite the expensive price tag? I’m sorry to say, but it’s time to ditch it.

I’ll tell you why. When you come to play that cutesy tune in the early hours for your second child, you’ll remember that it’s not actually cute, it’s creepy. You’ll get flashbacks of attempting to lull your firstborn to sleep at 3AM, lying in bed half asleep, desperately trying to catch a few minutes before he wakes for another feed. Eerie fairground music on repeat as you fade in and out of consciousness.

“My firstborn was a perfect little sleeper. We didn’t have any bad nights”, I hear you say. DS slept through most nights from very early on, but like all babies, he definitely had his moments. Teething, growth spurts, illness… all those nights you sat at the end of the bed clutching the Calpol will come flooding back.

So make sure you add ‘cot mobile’ to your shopping list, if not for your sanity, at least so your second child has something that’s theirs (because let’s face it, the second child always gets the raw deal).

The Politics of Buying Presents.

We are hurtling through the months and with each day we are nearing to Christmas. Yes I said it, CHRISTMAS. Some will fully embrace Christmas in all its glory, some will roll their eyes at such a mention in September.

I stand apathetically in the middle, knowing full well the presents need to be bought in advance to ensure enough time has been given for research, yet also realising it would be a little premature to add All I want for Christmas is You to my playlist. Readers do not fret, I have not become overly joyous at the prospect of celebrating a made up day (yes, even if you do consider Jesus’ birth), I am still my skeptical self.

I wrote my Christmas list over the weekend, including a column of potential gifts/ideas and one for gifts I had already purchased for particular people. I like to be super ready for the following year by purchasing gifts, wrapping paper and cards in the January sale; not just Christmas cards, but I mentally(!) add up all the birthdays over the year and buy the most fitting cards. I like to think coupling my OCD organisation skills with my love for shopping means I am onto a winner.

My list has become slightly biased with DS’ column vastly overpopulated, whilst others are looking, well, a little bare. Of course by Christmas day everyone on the list will have a present, just some family members require a little more thought. There are always considerations to be made; whether the person will actually like the gift, the financial set back, how the gift will bode with their siblings. And with children, there is the difficulty of remembering their age. My cousins are now in their teens, but for some unknown reason, they are still below the age of ten in my head. I need to keep reminding myself that Barbies are not appropriate.

But of course before all that, you need to get back to basics; who is on the list? In my family we only buy for the children and my Grandma. I use to be the one who received gifts, but since the arrival of DS I have become present-less in some kind of hierarchal pass down. This does not bother me, my baby boy can have it all. We have since adopted the same approach to present buying, only including ourselves, children and grandparents on the list. Adults can purchase anything they wish all year round, children are the ones who must wait for treats on special occasions. However, it is always nice to give a little something from DS to certain people, like grandparents. DH and I also tend to buy each other gifts from DS, as well as presents to one another.

Although we have our own ideas for gifts and who to buy them for, there is always the politics of the reciprocator’s own rules to buying presents. Some buy for all regardless, some expect more from you and some will expect nothing at all.

When East meets Westfield.

After counting down the days for two years, Westfield Stratford City finally opened it’s doors to public yesterday. Needless to say, I was fucking ecstatic. I ventured down after work arriving at around 5:30pm (yes, high speed is FAST). It was chaotic, as I anticipated, with people shuffling through the crowds, some deciding to randomly stop and loiter before shuffling some more. There were an assortment of people, but mainly young locals who had decided to stop by after school for a gander, not really intending on buying anything (hence the loiters). I presume the real hardcore shoppers were there at early doors.

The shops themselves were eerily quiet; the sales assistants were folding clothes with a bored expression on their face as if it was just another day. Obviously with the exception of Primark, which was manic. Strangely the clothes were not sprawled across the floor, as you would find in pretty much every other Primark in the country; a big well done to the sales assistants, that must have been hard to maintain for the full 12 hours they were open.

A not so big well done to the sales assistants in Forever 21, particularly one (I did not catch her name, let’s call her Jane) who was very rude to me. Approaching the fitting rooms with my five items, the assistant led me and another customer to our rooms. Whilst I was following, Jane grabbed me by the arm and stopped me in my tracks. She asked me rather flatly whether I had a ticket, so I informed her the other sales assistant had told me to follow. Disbelievingly, she said ‘but the other customer is with her‘, to which I responded ‘and so am I‘. The other sales assistant turned around and pointed to my cubicle and Jane strutted off without an apology. What a way to start your first day.

Another amusing experience in Forever 21 happened whilst I was browsing. A lady asked me, ‘which top do you prefer?‘. One was bright orange and sparkly, the other was black and equally as sparkly. I responded with the black top, which obviously was an insufficient answer as she pursued in asking another three times. Her reason for this persistence being, ‘you can always trust a Chinese opinion‘. Now I do not wave the racist flag very often and this was a very light-hearted comment, however I found it odd given the circumstance. Imagine if I said the same to her, ‘you can always trust the opinion of a black lady‘. That would be outrageous!

Shaking my head and brushing the awkward conversation aside, I attempted to contact a friend I was meant to be meeting. I quickly discovered that there was not one place in the centre where I could receive a signal on my phone. After attempting to call various people, I went to seek help from the concierge desk. The manager was incredibly helpful and offered me her phone to contact my friend. I could not get through as she was also in the centre and was clearly having the same issues. After attempting to call numerous times to no avail, I shuffled along to Carphone Warehouse to see if they had knowledge of any network problems. The nice, very East London, sales assistant was aware of the issue and informed me that it had been ’13 hours man’ since she last got a text.

At that point I decided to give up on my shopping venture and head back home. Sadly I did not meet the friend in the end, but all in all, my experience was positively interesting. The centre boasts of everything a shopper might want; you have the mainstream stores for a bit of stability and a selection of independent ones to throw in the mix. It is shiny and spacious, the shops are strategically categorised together and you feel at ease. Amazingly Westfield is only a 20 minute train ride for me, so I will definitely be heading back there very soon. Bluewater was once my love, but alas, I have found better…

Lizzie.

On Friday DH went for a second interview in London and was amazingly offered the job on the spot. Upon hearing the news, I immediately went in search for a celebration getaway. I had heard of a designer shopping outlet called Bicester Village through my sister-in-law and aunt, and decided this would be the perfect destination for pre-work purchases.

As celebratory gifts, DH bought himself a new pair of Timberland loafers and a black leather belt. He has already bought a shiny pair of Kurt Geiger shoes for work in Ashford Outlet last week (we like outlets) and we are yet to return for some shirts. Of course, we also bought a celebratory gift in light of my new job…

Mulberry Lizzie Glossy Buffalo

Unfortunately for DS, Lizzie is not allowed out to play.

I survived the Next sale.

I crazily awoke at 4:30AM today, rushed to put my clothes on and hurried out the door in time for the 5AM Next sale. There was a minor hiccup where I spent a good three minutes trying to take the hand brake off, failed, and went back inside the house to shake DH awake to resolve the issue. He wearily stepped outside in his boxers to take the hand brake off with ease, illustrating how weak I really am.

I spent a grand total of £187.50 on two suit blazers, four suit trousers, two shirts and a packet of 6 socks for DH, as well as two shorts and a t-shirt for DS. A bargain to say the least! I was a little disappointed by the kids range, I had intended to buy a lot more for DS but there were a lack of 18-24 months and 2-3 years items. I have not purchased anything for myself as personally I am not a big fan of Next for women, unless it is office wear. The Next sale is a selfless venture of mine for my boys. Though it is a shame I have to return the suits and shirts; I stupidly misheard DH’s shirt size when I asked him yesterday and have bought completely the wrong sizes. D’oh.

Over the years I obsessively await the Next sale in hope of bagging a bargain. As said in my previous post, I am tremendously bitter to spend more than I feel an item is worth, especially when I know the price will be halved in a couple of months. I like to think I have perfected my Next sale strategy, as that is exactly what it is, a sort of military plan in action. It is impossible to arrive at the doors intending to play it by ear; you either end up with five plastic bags full of clothes you do not need, sitting on a sofa in Homewear and draping all your unwanted items over the armrest, or you have had a wasted journey and come home empty-handed.

To avoid all the unnecessary stress of a Next sale, I have compiled a list of ‘Must-Do’s’ to keep you prepared:

1. Make a list of priority items and ensure you have the necessary sizes written down for each member of your family.

2. Do consider clothing for the long-term, not only clothes you need right now. During sale season, I often buy DS’ clothes well in advance to avoid ridiculously overpriced items. It is not worth buying children’s clothing at extortionate RRP prices when they are only worn for a few months.

3. When planning your priority list, bear in mind the specific items that sell out first (men’s suits, boxers and socks, women’s pyjamas, all of Kidswear).

4. Plan to arrive as soon as possible to be one of the first customers through the doors. Next advertise their opening time as 5AM, but they can open earlier if there are enough people waiting.

5. Sharpen your elbows. At 5AM anything goes, if you are not prepared you will most probably get run over by a violent mother with a pram.

6. Note to mothers and wives – Do not bring your children or husband. This is not a playground, nor is this a family affair. There are often fathers standing in the corner, clutching an array of bags bursting, with their children rubbing their eyes and wondering what they did to deserve this.

7. Bringing a friend, or someone who is not male and is childless, may be handy in splitting the priority list.

8. Do not dilly-dally, that is time wasting. The queue for the tills are usually huge at around 6AM, an hour after the store has opened, as that is generally how long it takes to thoroughly raid the rails of each department. 40 minutes is around the maximum time before the queues start building, so you should consider purchasing the items you have already picked up and neglect any further impulses.

9. Check out the tills in the Mens department first as they are usually empty. The second option is Homewear, but if that fails, just settle. It is just not worth venturing to Ladieswear or Kidswear.

10. Make sure you check your receipt as sometimes the discounts are not applied. This can be easily missed if you are bulk buying.

Happy shopping :)

Strike a Bargain.

I think I become a little obsessive when it comes to getting the best deal. I refuse to pay more than I think an item is worth, considering how the majority of our hard-earned cash is spent feeding these capitalist pigs who make the world go round. It is sickening, yet I buy into it because I am materialistic and I do value inanimate objects. I also need to survive so thank God for EDF, Southern Water and Morrisons.

One to avoid - Although I like bargain hunting, I do not like second hand goods.

When seeking an item I wish to purchase, I almost make it a goal of mine to get the best price for it. For example, our Gaggia Baby coffee machine we recently bought (see previous post) sold at John Lewis for £209.95, offers the standard 2 year guarantee plus an extra year at the cost of £28. As you may know, ‘never knowingly undersold‘ is a policy John Lewis upholds; if you find the item cheaper in another high street store, they will match it. However, after much research I discovered a family business based in Dorset called the Hart of Stur who also sold the same item for £199.95, including £35 worth of Gaggia goods – Gaggia espresso cup and saucer, a milk jug,  a milk thermometer and Gaggia coffee. It was even better as Hart of Stur‘s coffee machine came in black, to match the rest of our kitchen appliances.

Another good find of mine, which you may or may not be interested in, is Sky Rewards. Every Monday they offer £3 adult tickets for any showing of any film at O2 Cineworld in Greenwich; for two adults, obviously adding up to £6, saved us £17 on the original price. I discovered this a few weeks ago and have been waiting patiently to order my tickets a week prior to the showing of Harry Potter in 3D. Being a bit of a Harry Potter geek, I have been eagerly anticipating this since Part 1 a year ago, which did not make it to 3D in time for the release date.

Being such a keen bargain hunter does not always have good outcomes. Last week whilst browsing through the rails at Primark, I found a dress in the sale for a mere £2. At the time, I remember laughing to myself that only in Gravesend would you have 6 and 8 the only sizes remaining in a sale; all the obese freeloaders must have bagged all the rest of the sizes (bearing in mind that Primark goes up to a size 22). As I thought it was such an impressive find, I did not hesitate in buying the dress. A few days later in the queue at Morrisons, I recognised a distinct pattern on the dress of a large woman in front of me. After a few seconds I looked down at myself, stared back at the woman, only to realise that we were wearing the same Primark dress. I was horrified to say the least. I am glad she did not notice me, as I am not sure who would have been more embarrassed.

WARNING: Consider all consequences that may arise as a result of a bargainous purchase.

Busy Bee.

I apologise for my lack of posts in the past week; since becoming a worker, my free time has dramatically reduced. Student Recruitment Assistant by day, super mum by night.

Having spent seventeen years of my life in education, my first week in full-time work was a shock to the system. My choices of ammunition to kick off the day are fizzy shoelaces and bitter coffee; black, two shots, no sugars, straight to the point. A flask in the morning and a not-so-secret stash of sweets in my drawer, what more do I need?

After a long monotonous day of filing on Thursday, I was pleasantly surprised to find DH holding a bunch of roses outside my building. Then he whisked me away for a quick drink and a game of pool like old times, leaving DS to happily play at home with his auntie and cousins. This spontaneous gesture has got to be the most romantic, unprompted thing he has ever done. Whoever said romance dies when you are married obviously married the wrong man.

The weekend was very welcomed, despite DS crying in the early hours of Saturday morning. He is teething, so it was to be expected. Away from work, I was able to embrace my mummy role once more and reacquainted myself with the ironing. I am ashamed to say, I have hung creased clothes and have not engaged in any form of ironing, unless it is the odd shirt or dress for a formal occasion, since we moved into our previous flat in July 2009. I remember it very well, because I had wanted all items of clothing to be ironed before they were placed neatly in our new wardrobes. I spent six hours solidly ironing with only toilet breaks. Crazy pregnant women, eh.

Reverting back to my mummy role was not my only endeavor for the weekend; on Saturday we made a trip to Bluewater, indulged ourselves in a light lunch at Nandos and lots of shopping to celebrate successfully completing my first working week. We have had numerous causes for celebration and I think we are milking it now, but who cares when there is good chicken.

I am now refueled from the weekend and am raring to go! Hopefully the updates will be more frequent this week, but no promises. If you subscribe on the top left, you instantly receive email updates when I publish a new post.