I remember drowning in well intentioned advice when I announced my pregnancy. And yet with all that information thrown at me, there were as it turns out several crucial items that no-one ever told me I'd need to have in my cupboard, or that I should do, or that would come in handy.
Mostly you find this happens as your darling child reaches nursery school age, and upwards. Maybe it is because by then the advice has tailed off. Or maybe it is because you've got more sure of yourself, and assertive, and the various elderly distant relatives, complete strangers at the clinic, and bossy motherly types at the playgroups move on to easier-to-manipulate prey. Or that could just be me being a tad cynical.
So what sort of things should we have been told? Here's what I (and other PlayPennies parents) learnt the hard way!
1. Buy Cases For Cupcakes
This is really the top of my list. It is crucial. Your life will be so much easier if you just start stocking up on cases for cupcakes now, even if you're just at the 12 week mark! OK I'm exaggerating, a little. As your child starts playgroups, nursery school, primary school there will be summer fairs, cake sales, birthday parties - more than you really want to know about right now!
Cupcakes are a hit with all kids, take about 15 mins to throw together, and are impossible to get wrong. And they don't need any special ingredients - you're likely to have all the stuff you need in the cupboard already. Which is good because you'll probably only remember you need them about hour before you have to leave.
That reminds me. Next time you're in the baking aisle pick up some vanilla essence. Just throw it in the cupboard. One day you will need it.
How easy are cupcakes? Try this. Get 125g of butter, half a cup of sugar (use a teacup to measure) and a teaspoon of vanilla in a bowl. Stick your hands in and mash it all together until it is throughly mixed and going a bit fluffy.
Mix in two eggs, one at a time. Get one cup of plain flour and a teaspoon of baking powder, or a cup of self raising flour, and just tip it in. Don't fret about sifting if you haven't got a sieve. Mix it all together then mix in a quarter cup of milk.
Spoon a teaspoon into each case - this will fill the case up about half way when cooked, leaving space for you to put on the icing below the edge of the case, making it easier to stack the cakes in an ice-cream container for taking to the school cake sale.
2. Make Icing
If you've never done this, it can seem a big daunting! But, icing is way easier than you think. Your corner shop may even have icing sugar - it is easy stuff to get hold of. Take two cups of icing sugar (I don't bother to sift it if I am in an rush, the kids don't really care) and rub in a teaspoon of butter with your fingers. Add in a quarter teaspoon of vanilla (see tip above), then a little bit of cold water at a time. Start with two dessert spoons of cold water. Mix it up for a bit - it will get more icing like as the sugar reacts with the water. If it is too stiff to put on the cakes easily then just add a few dribbles of water at a time. You don't really need too much.
Then top with sprinkles. That's all the kids really care about! Pink icing is always a winner, even for boys. Some cochineal food colouring in the cupboard will come in handy - you only need a couple of drops honestly, so a tiny bottle will last you until the kids have gone to university.
3. Stock Up On Glue
Both for yourself and for the kids. Buy fabric glue - it is a quick fix that will save your life one day. Get some superglue and model glue - for that precious toy that breaks.
And, most crucial of all, glue for crafts. You've got no idea that you'll need this until one day the whole craft thing kicks in big time. And not just one type of glue either. You will need to have at least one Pritt Stick, a big container of PVA glue, and if the budget will stretch to it, invest in a can of Spray Mount. Mum Sadie swears by this stuff "not for the kids to use but for you to make those quick last minute costumes/school projects/picture frames."
4. Bulk Buy Batteries
Experienced mum Patricia says the one essential is "AA batteries. Hundred of them". I remember when my two stepkids reached those golden ages of 6 to 12, when ALL their toys needed batteries (and until you have had kids you've got no idea how wide a variety of batteries there are) we finally gave in and invested in the biggest rechargable battery sets we could find.
Of course there are toys that will thwart you because for various technical reasons they can't use rechargable types of batteries. And it will do your head in trying to keep a track of the rechargeable ones, make sure they're put back in their slots when not needed (and not down the back of the sofa), and are kept topped up. And eventually, one day, you'll find that the set you bought six months ago is now half empty and yet you don't seem to have a battery in the house. But other than that, they are a good investment.
5. Get At Least One Torch
In the free and easy life you had as a couple or singleton before the happy bundle arrived, you had probably forgotten that torches even existed. They were relegated to some dusty recess of your mind along with Scout/Guide camps, and sleepovers.
Buy one now. Or two. Mum to two Ellie says "get at least one torch that can be operated by a child, and comes with a certificate (hey they don't know you made it) to show that monsters find it scary."
As a parent you will need a torch for finding things in recesses like the back of the sofa, and in that gap under the skirting board that you'd never actually noticed was there before. There are a lot of gaps in your house. You may not know it yet, but as your kids get older you will find every single one of them.
What did we miss?
Well that's just a quick poll of a few of us at PlayPennies. But what about you? Got any advice for us?