Tuesday, 31 October 2017

My 4 Favourite YouTube Channels For Kids

It's the last day of Blogtober, and the final prompt is YouTube. I have to admit, YouTube is the social network I use the least. I rarely watch videos for me because when I'm on my phone I'm usually keeping it quiet to avoid waking the toddler as her drifts off, or drawing enquiries from the 5 year old as she suddenly wants to know what that noise is. And my kids don't watch a lot of YouTube either. Eleanor used to as a toddler but it was all too easy for her to skip from bearable videos to ones that made me want to scream, so I weaned her off it.



That said, there are a few channels that I actually find not only manageable, but even enjoyable. Here they are, in no particular order:

Barefoot Books




I used to be a Barefoot Books ambassador before the European scheme closed down and I found this channel useful for learning about their singalong books. It wasn't long before Eleanor started watching them with me and really enjoying them. Singalong books are picturebooks containing lyrics with an accompanying CD of the song, and the Barefoot Book channel incudes videos of all the singalongs with animated book illustrations. We used to love joining in with the songs, and Eleanor would sing them to herself all the time!

KidsTV123



This is one Eleanor stumbled across by virtue of watching the Barefoot Books ones. At first I rolled my eyes but actually, although the animations are quite basic (and at times a bit creepy) the songs are very fun. They're performed by A J Jenkins, whose voice is reminiscent of Jack Johnson which always made me chuckle. I was reminded of them when Eleanor was in Reception and I spotted her class watching some of the videos on the whiteboard at the end of the day. Which leads me to believe they're highly educational so absolutely FINE for kids to binge-watch.

Cosmic Kids Yoga




This is a recent discovery. Regular readers will know Eleanor is a spirited child and I've been trying out different ways of both getting her energy out and encouraging her to calm herself and focus her mind. Cosmic Kids does both - it's yoga, but not as you know it. Each routine is very lively and follows a fun story, but ends with a lie down and quiet contemplation. We don't often get to do the routines because they are a little long and Ezra climbs on me if we try to do it when he's around, but we love doing them whenever we get a chance.

Maddie Moate



Eleanor and I absolutely love Maddie's show 'Do You Know?' on CBeebies but Maddie started out as a YouTuber and has loads of great educational videos. Maddie is a fantastic children's presenter and role model - curious, adventurous and enthusiastic about learning more and showing what she's learnt. While we have 'Do You Know?' on series link it's great to have her YouTube channel to go to for fresh content to keep Eleanor interested.

So those are my tips, which kids' YouTube channels have you found that won't make me want to scream?!

Linking up with Day 31 of #Blogtober17 - YouTube.

#Blogtober17

Monday, 30 October 2017

The Four Types Of Pinterest Parent

Ahh, Pinterest. Where good intentions go to die. For me, anyway.

I first joined Pinterest just over four years ago while we were in the process of buying a new house. It's a 70's build so I'd had the great idea of decorating it in a retro style and created a board to store my ideas. Of course four-and-a-bit years on the only room we've redecorated is the bathroom, and it's definitely not-retro. That board hasn't been checked in a long time.

Nowadays I mostly use Pinterest as a way of clearing out all the links I've saved on Facebook or liked on Twitter. But I do hear whispers of other parents who use it properly. Mind-blowing.



As far as I can tell all Pinterest parents fall into at least one of four categories ...

The Perfect Pinner

Not only are their boards well-organised but they are full of relevant pins. And guess what? They've even ACTED ON those pins. They've read the articles, made the crafts, cooked the recipes. Heck, they might even have added their own pins. Wild.

The Optimistic Pinner

This parent will also have various boards, but not particularly clearly labelled ones and the pins inside have been mostly put in as 'ahh near enough'. This is the parent who sees a great idea on the internet, hurriedly pins it so as not to lose it, and then never looks at it again. (This parent is me.)

The Friday Night Pinner

Also known as the 'we've got to make WHAT for your homework?' pinner. Boards are named vague things like 'kids crafts' or 'science stuff' and contain several highly specific pins of animal crafts, rocket experiments and model planets. Updated every few weeks (or for really unfortunate parents, weekly) and always on a Friday after school. Pins are never looked at again after the project is over.

The False Start Pinner

One board containing a few very similar pins, last updated three years ago. This parent clearly realised early on that there's more to life than Pinterest. 

Which pinner are you?

Linking up with #Blogtober17 - Pinterest.

#Blogtober17

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Why I'm Rubbish At Instagram

Today's Blogtober prompt is Instagram. It's quite a big deal these days, especially in blogging circles where you can even generate an income just from your Instagram feed. And while I do have an account, I'm just not very good at updating it or checking it regularly. Why? Well ...


It confuses me

Now I know I don't go on the app regularly, but how come when I do I have to wade through a load of week-old photos to get to anything remotely recent? Should I comment on a photo posted almost a fortnight ago or is it now totally irrelevant? I just get annoyed with it. And yes I know the 'Stories' are always current but I don't really understand what they are, and besides, if they need sound they won't make sense to me as I'm usually checking my phone whilst getting a toddler to sleep or sneaking a peek while the kids are watching CBeebies so need it to be silent.

I hate selfies

I look weird in selfies. Suddenly I have crazy eyes, a wonky smile and a huge double chin. And my phone's selfie camera accentuates my eyebags. Now I know Instagram isn't all about selfies, especially for my generation, but my aversion to them does cut down what I can post.

My kids aren't Insta-ready

Don't get me wrong, my kids are flipping CUTE. But turn a camera on them and one will wriggle away while the other will pull a weird 'cheese' face. They don't pose artily in fields of flowers or in front of vibrantly painted walls. They don't wear top-to-toe Boden and Frugi. And they Don't. Stay. Still.

My house is a mess

Then there's the fact I avoid posting photos of our home because it's a bombsite. I'm not talking 'few toys here and there that a quick tidy would fix' messy. I'm talking 'blu-tac trodden in the carpet, drink spill stains on the furniture and discarded clothes everywhere' messy. I do try to keep it tidy but five minutes after a good clean up it looks as bad as it did before. And yet parents on Instagram seem to have pristine homes so their fashionably-dressed youngsters can pose happily on cream sofas with cashmere throws and perfectly placed cushions. That just ain't my home.

Going out is stressful

Well if I don't like photos indoors, how about taking photos when we go out? I try, I really do. But let's all admit it - going out with kids is A Nightmare. You have to constantly make sure they're not only in sight but behaving appropriately and not wrecking anything or endangering themselves. If I do have time to snap a few photos they're generally blurry, or I've just missed the cute moment, or there's someone else's kid wandering in front. And by the time I've taken it, one of the kids has wandered off and I have to track them down again.

My phone is dying

It's a slow demise, been happening for months, but I haven't had time to replace it because, well, I'm a parent, I don't have time for anything. Heck, my trainers have been majorly leaking for three months and I only replaced them three days ago. But it does mean that it takes roughly five minutes just to load up my camera and take a photo, so what's the point in trying to capture that candid moment?

I'm verbal, not visual

I remember in sixth form my brilliant drama teacher asking the class to do a cartoon version of a play, but for me she asked me to write a poem version, because she recognised that I'm much better with words than pictures. Ultimately, although I like photos, I prefer to write (and read) little life updates. Yes you can add a comment to your photo on Instagram, but as the words mean more to me than the photo, the whole point of the social network is a bit lost on me.

I will keep persisting with Instagram though. Maybe one day I'll crack it - when I've changed my face, found a way of taming my kids, redecorated the house ...

#Blogtober17

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Six Things I Love About Twitter

Yesterday we were talking about Facebook - well today it's the turn of my other, possibly greater social media love - Twitter. I joined Twitter just over five years ago and it's been eating up my time ever since. Frankly, it's a bit of a problem. But I love it because ...


1. It's great for 'meeting' people

I'm a bit of an introvert, and not always very good at striking up conversations in real life. Online though, I find it much easier - I suppose I'm better at writing than I am at talking! It took me a while to find new people on Twitter but once I did I made some really good online friendships with people I would never have come across. It's broadened my perspective a lot as I get to know people from outside my little Northern-suburbia bubble.

2. It's full of people who live in my phone

Now, I know the people I talk to do actually exist outside Twitter. But, for the most part, I've never met them and am unlikely to run into them. There's something quite freeing about that. I'm not very good at admitting to people face-to-face when I'm having a bad day because I worry about how they'll react. But I can admit it to people who I know I won't bump into tomorrow, who won't ask me awkward questions which I'll gloss over with a breezy, "oh I'm fine." I know that if I say I'm having a tough time on Twitter I'll most likely get a few supportive hug gifs and nothing more. (Whether this is a healthy approach to life or not is another question ...)

3. It makes me laugh

They say brevity is the soul of wit. That's certainly true of Twitter. Those 140 characters have at times made me cry with laughter. There are so many brilliant jokes, one-liners and funny stories floating around on Twitter, it brings a smile to my face at least once a day. Yes, Facebook has it's memes but personally I find a well-crafted tweet much funnier.

4. It makes me think

It's not all laughs. Often Twitter is used to discuss issues in a way that doesn't happen in the mainstream media, or even in real life. It's a mouthpiece for people who wouldn't otherwise be heard. Now obviously this is a double-edged sword - there are plenty of people on Twitter whose opinion I not only disagree with, but actively object to. And there is a big troll problem too. But look past that and you can find out about lots of issues, views and events that you might not hear about in the news. I've thought a lot more deeply about a lot of subjects since joining Twitter.

5. It's great for TV viewing

This is not often something I indulge in because often the big shows clash with bedtime so I watch them on delay or after they've aired. But a good tweet-along is a lot of fun. Following people's tweets about Bake Off, Strictly or Eurovision adds another level, a bit like watching with your mates except they're people you've never met (bit weird) and they're not talking over the good bits.

6. It's good for nosying at celebs

Now obviously I know celebrities probably heavily vet what they put on Twitter. And I actually don't follow many celebs. But occasionally you get a glimpse of what they're like as normal people and it's quite refreshing. It's a peek behind the artifice of TV/film etc to see a bit of personality. And seeing them chat between themselves is surreal but very amusing!



#Blogtober17

Friday, 27 October 2017

Parents' Facebook Statuses Translated

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Facebook. I love being able to keep in touch with friends and family no matter what the distance, it's great for sharing articles and ideas, and it's a good way of finding out about local events, items for sale etc etc.

But, on the days when things aren't going so well, or when I'm just having a down day. On those days it seems like my feed is full of people having a wonderful time with their lives going oh so smoothly. And it just adds to my bad mood.



Of course, I know that people generally only show their best side on Facebook. I know that because, most of the time, I do it too. We all do, don't we? But it's still grating when you've had a terrible night's sleep and see another parent posting about their younger kid sleeping through, isn't it?

So, for those times when you're in a Facebook-hating mood, here are some handy translations of common Facebook statuses by parents. (No judgement intended. I've almost definitely written similar ones to these.)

Status: My little angel has slept through! After two long months! At last!!
Translation: Yes I really do think two months is long. Just don't tell me about the four month sleep regression, yeah?

Status: Wow, Tommy just rolled over! He's such a clever boy!
Translation: I'm so bored of dealing with an immobile baby all day that I'm ascribing intelligence to a normal developmental milestone.

Status: Check out Janey enjoying her first meal! (Including photo of baby smeared in porridge/apple puree/baby rice.)
Translation: She ate precisely none of it. And I'm posting this an hour later because I've only just got her clean.

Status: We have a walker! So proud!!
Translation: We're suspending all precious/breakable/hazardous objects from the ceiling right now.

Status: Potty training is going so well, two wees in the potty already!
Translation: I'm not going to mention the ten on the floor. Or the fact I caught those wees mid-stream by diving across the floor with the potty in hand.

Status: First day at nursery/pre-school. My baby's growing up so fast! I'm going to miss him sooo much!
Translation: Well, yeah, I am, but I'll mainly be drinking hot tea, eating things I normally have to hide in the cupboard and going to the loo by myself, so I'll be fine.

Status: So annoying when you child learns to read and has to read every sign you walk past!!
Translation: Yes, this is a massive humblebrag.

Status: First day of school! (Including photo of child standing in front of the door in their uniform.)
Translation: There is no subtext here. This tradition is so commonplace your child is actually not allowed to enrol at school until you've taken that photo.

Status: So proud of Susie! Just got back from parent's evening and she's doing so well!
Translation: Which was a massive surprise because she always claims she's done 'nothing' at school and says her reading books are 'boring'.

So next time you read a status like this on a bad day, just remember all the stuff the parent is leaving out!

Linking up with Day 27 of #Blogtober17 - Facebook.


#Blogtober17

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Previously in 2017

We're up to Day 25 of #Blogtober17! Today's prompt is Year In Review. Frankly, I'm so sleep deprived I can't really remember what's happened this year, so instead of writing about it, here are my favourite photos from each month of the year so far.

January

Visit to Bolton Abbey

February

Trip to Abbey House Museum

March

My birthday lunch

April

Chilly visit to Scarborough

May

Bedtime stories

June

30 Days Wild!

July

My bookworms

August

Off for a walk

September

Cuddles after the first day back at school

October

Sunny walk home after the school run

I wonder what the last two months of the year will bring?

Linking up with Day 25 of #Blogtober17 - Year In Review

#Blogtober17

Monday, 23 October 2017

Weather and Children: Expectations vs Reality

I wish I was one of those outdoorsy mums who can somehow persuade their children out, whatever the weather, and come up with lots of wonderful wholesome activities on the way. I'm not. Despite my best efforts I'm just not that good at the great outdoors, and while Ezra loves any opportunity to get out and about on his little legs, Eleanor is becoming ever more reluctant.

I'd blame the British weather for this, but in truth, is there ever a perfect weather for getting outdoors with the kids? I've been thinking about what we expect playing outside to be like, compared to what it actually is like.

I bet this kid cried after this photo because the leaves were 'too crunchy'


Sunny

Expectation: Spending all day out in the garden, kids splashing happily in the paddling pool while I sip cool drinks and enjoy the rays.

Reality: It takes half an hour to get sun cream on everyone, and another half hour to inflate and fill the paddling pool. By which time the kids are getting hot and bothered. They paddle for about five minutes before the toddler slips over and the five year old gets freaked out by a fly that's drowned in the water. You try to persuade them to play outside a bit longer but they're getting whiny, the toddler keeps trying to get into the pool headfirst, and you start to get a sun headache. You all head back inside to cool off, where inexplicably both kids just want to hug you, making you all even more hot and bothered.

Rainy

Expectation: You'll pull out a range of stimulating and educational rainy day activities, then after a satisfying hour or two of crafts don the waterproofs and gleefully splash in puddles together.

Reality: There are no rainy day activities because you're never organised enough to prepare them. You try a few crafts on the hop, all of which are abandoned within seconds whilst strangely still causing the room to be covered in tiny bits of paper, glitter and glue. After coaxing the kids into their waterproofs, they whimper their way through a very brief walk outside, and everyone's wellies leak after the first puddle.

Windy

Expectation: Wrap up warm and head for the hills, it's kite flying weather!

Reality: You don't have a kite. Of course you don't, who remembers to get a kite in normal weather? You hide from the wind and chain-watch CBeebies. If you do have to venture out, the kids complain about it being cold and noisy whilst refusing to wear hats, scarves or gloves.

Snowy

Expectation: Everyone dons their warmest clothes and the family join in happily with snowball fights, snow angels and building snowmen, before snuggling up together with hot chocolate and a good book.

Reality: You don your warmest clothes, the kids insist that a raincoat over their t-shirts is enough. After a few minutes of handling snow everyone's gloves are soaked through and the kids are crying because their fingers hurt. The snowman only makes it to a foot tall and falls apart before you can even get a photo. Hot chocolate is spilt, causing more tears. Within five minutes the kids have forgotten their frostbite and want to go out again. Repeat ad nauseum.

Anyone else recognise these scenarios?!

Linking up with Day 23 of #Blogtober17 - Weather.

#Blogtober17


Sunday, 22 October 2017

How To Help A Challenging Child

Long-time readers of my blog will know that my 5 year old, Eleanor, has difficulties with regulating her emotions and behaviour. In other words, she's quite a handful!

As a gentle parent, I try my best to remember the mantra, "she's not giving me a hard time, she's having a hard time." I'm a firm believer that children do their best but that some struggle with certain areas of development more than others.

So it doesn't really make sense to me to punish Eleanor for the things she gets wrong, because developmentally she's just not there yet. Just like you wouldn't tell a child off for finding it hard to learn to read, I try not to tell her off for not achieving a standard of behaviour she's struggling to reach. Please note the word 'try' there - I'm only human, and at times I do get cross and tell her off. But guess what? That doesn't really work. Because she just can't do - or not do - what I'm asking of her yet.

So what can you do if you've got a challenging child and you can't somehow 'hurry up' their emotional and behavioural development? Well, I'm not an expert on this - I've only dealt with one challenging child and we're not yet through the woods with her! But here are a few things I've tried that have helped.

Using their interests to encourage the good

While in Reception Eleanor was having a particularly hard time following the rules. She likes superheroes, so one thing we did which helped a bit was reframing the rules as things a superhero would do. We made her a little card to keep in her pocket and remind her how to be a superhero:


OK, some of those things really aren't to do with superheroes, but it did get her into a better frame of mind. I know nothing about the psychology behind this, but I'm guessing having a role to play as 'Super Eleanor' somehow made it easier to follow the rules, as if it was all part of a game. I don't know. But it helped!

Noticing positives - and saying why they're positive!

Our children live in quite a reward-heavy culture these days. Stickers, behaviour charts, points etc - they're all intended to reward the good. Trouble is, sometimes children won't really understand why what they've done is good. With Eleanor, she sometimes doesn't even remember why she got the reward at all! I remember her getting a sticker at preschool for 'being good' but could she tell me what she'd actually done or why it was good? No.

I think it's easy for us to assume that the reason why good behaviour is good is obvious when actually it might not be. So I not only point out when Eleanor has done something positive, but say why. So that might be something like, "Thank you for putting your toys away, that really helps me tidy the rest of the room so it's safe and nice." (LOL, just kidding. She rarely puts her toys away. But that's what I say if ever she did.)

Spending quality time together

How much of your time with your child is spent arguing, nagging, ordering, persuading etc etc? I spend so much time just telling Eleanor what she needs to do next, from getting dressed in the morning, to doing her school reading, to going upstairs to brush her teeth in the evening. It can be really hard to factor in some pleasant time in amongst all the busyness, and that's without the petty battles over silly things.

Lots of experts advocate having a daily special time, of around 10 minutes, where you are entirely focussed on one child and do something they want to do. I really want to implement this but I've no idea when - in the mornings I've got both kids to deal with and Ezra still needs close supervision, and by the time my other half is home in the evening we're into the routine of tea and bedtimes, and Eleanor is so tired it's hard to get any sense out of her. 

But I try to find moments to enjoy Eleanor every day, whether that's reading her bedtime story or just having a cuddle. We used to have what we called 'magical Mummy Eleanor time' for an hour or so at the weekend but that's been too hard to fit in since she started football and swimming classes on Saturdays. It did make a difference though, she seemed more settled when we did it. I need to try again with that.

Look after yourself

I'm terrible at this. But it's exhausting dealing with a child who's struggling with anything, not just behaviour. It's exhausting being a parent at all! And it's really, really hard to stay calm and positive when you're exhausted. So whenever possible, try to find ways to look after yourself. I know, it's hard - I've written a whole post about how hard it is. But if I don't want my daughter shouting and snapping, I need to not do that too! I'm her role model, so I need to stay calm enough to show her how to handle big feelings.

And aside from my position as role model, I matter too. So do you. There's no point pushing yourself to the brink, because then you can't look after anyone else. It's a tough balancing acts meeting your children's needs and your own, one I haven't even begun to master. But we need to try.


So those are my tips. As I've said, I'm no expert and I've certainly not transformed my child's behaviour, but these little things do make a difference over time.

Linking up with Day 22 of #Blogtober17 - Villains and Superheroes.

#Blogtober17

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Why All The Fuss About Tom Hardy On Bedtime Stories?

Today's Blogtober prompt is Unusual Crushes. What's unusual about me is ... I don't really have any. Crushes, I mean. In general.

I used to of course, in my teens and early twenties, and there are celebrities I find attractive. But I wouldn't say I have a crush on them. I wouldn't actively seek out a film or TV show just so I could watch them.

Which is why I'm slightly baffled by all the hooha earlier in the year about Tom Hardy appearing on CBeebies Bedtime Stories. Before his much-publicised appearance I hadn't actually heard of him, and he isn't really my cup of tea (although I'm sure he's a good actor). I'm told that he read the stories very well, with a really gentle touch, which is great.

Because surely that's the point of Bedtime Stories? It's for the kids. So why was there so much publicity aimed at the mums? Why the timing of one of his episodes to coincide with Valentines Day? Why all the jokes about watching it after the kids are asleep, or about him talking about being 'tucked up in bed'?

I just don't get it. If you fancy Tom Hardy, watch one of his programmes or films. Why get all over-excited about a ten minute reading of a picture book? I'm not saying he shouldn't have been on it, if he can read a story well (which as an actor, presumably he can) then that's qualification enough. We don't need it to be sold on a 'something for the mums' ticket, surely?

Am I the only one bemused by this? Is there something I'm missing here?

Linking up with Day 21 of #Blogtober17 - Unusual Crushes.

#Blogtober17

Friday, 20 October 2017

Tales of Terrific Teenagers

It's Day 20 of #Blogtober17 and the prompt for today is 'Teenagers'. Now this is tricky for me as I'm at that in-between age when I'm a long way off having teenagers of my own, and memories of my own teenage years are getting hazy (and mostly embarrassing).

I've always had a lot of time for teenagers though. I think they get a bad rap because of a few, when actually most of them are lovely, funny, considerate and hard-working people. It's such a difficult age, walking that line between childhood and adulthood, dealing with hormonal havoc whilst having to keep on top of an ever more challenging education. I think we should recognise the many teenagers who are getting it right, or at least trying to.

So I've collected up a few stories of teenagers doing wonderful things.

Like Amineh Abou Kerech, a 13 year old Syrian refugee who won a poetry prize with an English-language poem despite only speaking English for the last year.

And these three boys aged 12, 13 and 14 who stopped a man from taking his own life.

Lilly Lyons, an American 14 year old, has set up a radio show to support fellow survivors of sexual assault.

14 year old Liam Woolford waded into a river to rescue a drowning puppy.

Ines Alves, 16, took her Chemistry GCSE exam just after losing her home in the Grenfell Tower fire - and got an A.

Similarly, Nikita Hett finished her GCSE exams after her brother Martyn was killed in the Manchester bombing - and got eleven A*s.

Bethan Workman, aged 16, has produced a booklet to help other teenagers handle stress.

And Greg Francis, 18, is cycling 500 miles to raise money for a charity that supported him growing up.

Undoubtedly there are countless other teenagers doing amazing things that you may not hear about. I was amazed at how hard it was to find examples for this post. So many stories are buried away in local newspapers while stories of teenagers getting into trouble grab the headlines. I hope this post goes just a little way toward redressing the balance. We have amazing young people in our world, and they need recognition.

Do you have any inspiring teenager stories to share? I'd love to hear more!

Linking up with Day 20 of #Blogtober17 - Teenagers.

#Blogtober17

Thursday, 19 October 2017

We Don't Keep Secrets

Many years ago, long before I had kids, I went to some child safeguarding training for my voluntary work as a youth leader. I remember very little of what was said now, but one thing stuck with me - a snippet of a conversation about secrets. The woman running the session said, "We don't keep secrets in our house. We have surprises, but not secrets."

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash
Now I have children, I try to live by that rule. Whenever the subject comes up, I remind Eleanor that we don't keep secrets from each other in this family. Surprises, yes - like a present - but no secrets.

Why? For two reasons.

Firstly, for safeguarding. By telling my children we don't keep secrets from each other, they will hopefully know to be suspicious of anyone who asks them not to tell us about something. And should anything happen that they are uncomfortable with, hopefully they will come to us before it gets out of hand. I'm not particularly paranoid about this issue, I know that child abuse is thankfully rare, but I also know that nobody is immune to it. By establishing from the start that we have no secrets in our family, I hope that should the unthinkable happen my children would be confident in telling us.

Secondly, and less scarily, because one day they will have big stuff going on in their lives. Friendships, fallouts, relationships, break-ups, peer pressure, school stress - as much as it worries me to think of, they're going to have to deal with it all one day. And I want them to feel they can come to me with any problems they have. I also hope that, knowing we don't keep secrets, they might think twice about getting into any dodgy behaviour, although perhaps that's wishful thinking on my part!! I know that my job isn't to be their friend, but I hope they will see me as a confidant and a support.

It is surprisingly tricky to avoid talk of secrets though. From fleeting mentions in books and TV, to whispers between friends, the idea catches on that we need to keep some things secret. There have even been times when adults have reinforced this idea. So we keep having to patiently repeat the message that we don't do secrets. Nobody should ever ask you to keep a secret from your mummy and daddy.

Eleanor has actually caught onto it quite well. She has a little pocket in her book bag that she calls her 'secret pocket' and nobody is allowed to look there except for her, me and daddy. When she got up to a bit of harmless mischief with her friends and they'd said it was a secret she queried this until they said she could tell me - and she did. There are times when something's gone wrong at school and she hasn't wanted to talk about it, but I will just say, "OK, well when you're ready to tell me I'm here, because we don't keep secrets." And she will eventually tell me.

I'm sure as she grows up this will become trickier to navigate. I know there will be things she (and Ezra) wants to keep private and I haven't quite worked out how to handle that sensitively yet. But hopefully when it comes to that point they'll be so used to being open that the things they want to keep private won't be anything to worry about.

So that's why we don't keep secrets. What's your approach to secrets? Have you found this issue challenging as your children have grown up?

Linking up with Day 19 of #Blogtober17 - Secrets.


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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Five Parenting Quotes From Children's Books

I'm not really an inspirational quotes kind of person. I think as I get older I'm becoming more of a cynic - motivational posters and feel-good memes give my ocular muscles a good workout from all the eye-rolling.

But one thing I'm still not cynical about - and perhaps never will be - is children's literature. There's a lot of wisdom in there that can be discounted by people thinking it's just for kids. In fact, there are some lines from children's books that have encouraged and challenged me in my parenting. Here are five quotes that speak to me, and I hope to other mums and dads too.


"A person's a person, no matter how small." - Dr Seuss, 'Horton Hears A Who'

This is the stand-out children's book quote for me. When I'm feeling frustrated by my own small people, I find myself going back to this line. It reminds me that they are people in their own right - they're not here to do my bidding, or follow a set pattern. They are individuals, with their own minds, own strengths and own weaknesses and I need to respect that rather than just try to control them.

"You've got to be strong to be different." - Giles Andreae, 'The Lion Who Wanted To Love'

Often, the way I parent sets me apart a little. That's not a conscious choice - I don't actually like feeling different, but doing what feels right for me and my family tends to put me on a slightly different track. Equally, Eleanor is growing up to be a true individual in many senses of the word and it can be discomfiting seeing her stand out from her peers. But this little line reminds me that not only is it OK to be different, it takes strength and courage.

"And that's what they did - because that's what you do when your kid has a passion and heart that is true. They remade their world - now they're all in the act of helping young Ada sort fiction from fact." - Andrea Beaty, 'Ada Twist, Scientist'

I love this story (in fact I really should review it sometime!) - at the start, Ada's parents try to control and contain her curiosity, but by the end they accept it as a strength and change their own response. It helps me to remember that sometimes, if my child is doing the same 'bad behaviour' over and over, it's not them that need to change - it's me and my response to the behaviour. Is it really bad, or is it just inconvenient or annoying to me? I love the phrase, "they remade their world," because parenting is all about adjusting to the fact you've got a whole other human being in your life now.

"You must never feel badly about making mistakes ... as long as you take the trouble to learn from them." - Norton Juster, 'The Phantom Tollbooth'

OK, I confess - I've never read this book, I just came across this quote while researching for this post! But it sums up an important part of parenting for me. I make mistakes all the time - we all do, right? Right? But luckily children don't need perfect parents who never put a foot wrong, they need parents who try their best, get it wrong sometimes but are big enough to put it right and do better next time. Or maybe the time after that. I think I need to read this book.

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day." - A A Milne, 'Winnie The Pooh'

Parenting, like life, is full of pressure isn't it? From 'are they sleeping through' to 'are they walking/talking/jumping/making marks/reading etc etc' there is always a new milestone to chase. 'Winnie The Pooh' is a lovely, gentle book containing this lovely, gentle quote reminding me that everything comes in time and there's no point in trying to rush things. It's also a useful reminder for me as I wait to get a bit of 'me' back, socially and professionally. It will happen, I just need to trust that the river will take me where I need to.

What quotes give you reassurance or inspiration, either as a parent or generally?

Linking up with Day 17 of #Blogtober17 - Quotes.

#Blogtober17

Monday, 16 October 2017

Fighting Fears And Building Bravery

So, funny story. A couple of years ago, a lovely relative bought Eleanor some clothes from Joules. She gave us them in the bag which was so nice I let Eleanor keep it to play with. A few weeks later, she was in her room and I heard her say, "Mummy, there's a spider in the flowery bag!" I went in, and she was right - it was a whopper too.

 Now, I'm arachnophobic. Very, very arachnophobic. Up until that day, I'd hidden this fact from Eleanor. But faced with a massive spider in a bag, I froze. And I had to say to her, "I'm actually quite scared of spiders." But still I managed to bring myself to pick up the bag, get to an open window and lob Sid the Spider out. (As far as I'm concerned, this is humane. I'm not killing the spider. Whether or not it lands safely is it's problem, not mine.)

I put the bag back in Eleanor's room and tried to stop myself imagining spiders crawling on me. A few days later, I was tidying her room and saw the bag. My blood ran cold. I got that fluttery feeling. And every time I've seen that bag since, I've had the same feeling.

Tl;dr - I'm now afraid of a Joules clothes bag.



But this incident actually taught me something. I'd always thought that not showing fear was important, that if I hid my fear then my children wouldn't develop that phobia themselves. The trouble is, fear is human. Yes, Eleanor isn't scared of spiders. But she did go through a phase of being scared of slugs and snails - something I've never had an issue with - and she's currently quite nervous around dogs after a bad encounter with one. You can't avoid your children developing any fears just by pretending you don't have any yourself.

What you can do, though, is show them fear is surmountable. That it's OK to be scared, but you don't have to let it stop you getting on with life. That true bravery is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Hopefully, telling Eleanor I was scared before plucking up the courage to get rid of Sid showed her that fear doesn't have to stop you, that you can face your fears.

And I see Eleanor trying to deal with her fears. She has now started approaching dogs again, albeit gingerly and always with the owner's agreement. She's still not keen on slugs but will happily pick up snails by their shell. And for many little occasions when she feels nervous, I remind her that she's a brave mighty girl and she can do it even if she's scared. Most of the time, this works.

So maybe I shouldn't worry too much about hiding my fears. Maybe instead I should take the opportunity to model bravery.

Linking up with Day 16 of #Blogtober17 - Phobias.

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Sunday, 15 October 2017

Sibling Resemblances

A few days ago I bumped into a friend at Ezra's baby signing group. "He really looks like Eleanor, doesn't he?" she said. Now, personally, I don't see it. As newborns they were practically identical despite Ezra being almost a pound heavier, but now I think they look very different.

But then I saw an old photo of Eleanor when she was a little younger than Ezra is now. This photo, to be precise.


And suddenly I saw the resemblance. Not because Ezra would also nick my ice cream given half a chance (although he totally would) but there's something about that little sideways glance that reminds me of him.


In lots of ways, they are very different. Ezra has brown eyes whereas Eleanor's have always been a piercing blue. Ezra was a super chilled baby whereas Eleanor spent most of her early months crying. At 19 months, Ezra only has about 15 words and most of those are animal noises, whereas Eleanor had almost 200 words by this age (yes, I counted - she was the Precious First Born!!) and was starting to talk in sentences. Ezra's first word was 'mama' whereas Eleanor didn't get to that until she had around 20 other words - including 'dada'. Thanks for that, Eleanor.

But then in other ways they are very alike. Despite Ezra crawling much earlier, they both walked at 13 months. They are both clamberers, Ezra more so but I think that's mainly because he has a 5 year old to try and emulate. Both love cuddles. Both love books - Ezra will carry books over and demand a reading much like Eleanor used to. Interestingly, Ezra recently acquired a word for dog - a whispered "ferfer" like the quietest woofing in the world - which is exactly the sound Eleanor used for dog too.

Ezra adores Eleanor and wants to be just like her. If we're at a playground he will try to do what she's doing, much to my distress at times. He loves to dress up like she does, with fairy wings and wands. He flicks through her books, even the ones with hardly any pictures. When I used to take him along to her football classes he would gaze at her through the door, and now will kick a ball around like her. It's lovely to see him trying to keep up with her!

I think it's natural to compare siblings - not only looking at old photos, but thinking about when they hit milestones, how they behave and so on. I try to remind myself not to compare them, but actually, I think it's fairly normal to use your older child as a kind of reference point. Yes, sometimes it causes anxiety, but a lot of the time I'm reassured that actually Ezra is doing pretty well. I'm sure as they get older they will become more individual, but for now, I'm enjoying the resemblances and trying not to worry about the differences.

Linking up with Day 15 of #Blogtober17 - Old Photos.

#Blogtober17

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Five Novels I Can't Wait For My Kids To Read

I love books. Specifically, I love children's books. And while picture books and early chapter books are fab, I'm really looking forward to when my children are old enough to discover some longer novels. Here are five that I adore, and really look forward to seeing how my children enjoy them:


'The Borrowers' by Mary Norton

I think all children are intrigued by the idea of tiny people. Eleanor has a huge fascination with fairies, as did I. I also loved reading Norton's novel about tiny people living in our houses, 'borrowing' items for their own little homes. Well, it explains why so much stuff goes missing, doesn't it?!

The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis

OK, this isn't just one book, it's a whole set. But, like most children born in the 80's, I grew up on Narnia and loved the novels. The magical world Lewis created is so powerful and fascinating, and I love that it's Lucy who leads the way to Narnia.

'Swallows and Amazons' by Arthur Ransome

I didn't actually read this as a child, but discovered it when I studied Children's Literature with the Open University a few years ago. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it but really did. It's such an evocation of a more innocent time when children were free to roam - although hopefully my two won't get any ideas about being allowed to camp on an island alone!

'Tom's Midnight Garden' by Philippa Pearce

Another one I discovered through my Children's Literature course, I found this story of a time travelling boy - or is it the girl who's travelling? - so fascinating and poignant. It really evokes that other-worldly feeling of being awake late at night as a child.

'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

No, this isn't a children's novel. But eventually (though I don't like to admit it) my children will be reading 'grown up' books, and as this one is one of my very favourites I hope they read it too! I can't wait to find out what they make of it, and see them form their own opinions of this and so many other novels.

What books are you looking forward to your children discovering? Or if you have older children, which ones have they loved the most?

Linking up with Day 14 of #Blogtober17 - Novels and #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

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Read With Me

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Review: 'The Lion Who Wanted To Love'

I'm often on the lookout for children's books featuring strong, brave girls and thankfully these are getting much easier to find. But now that Ezra is getting older, I've noticed it's much harder to find books featuring caring, gentle, sensitive boys. I'm of the opinion that not only do we need to give our girls strong role models, we also need role models that will encourage boys to show their loving, nurturing and emotional sides.

Our latest trip to the library unearthed a book I've heard of before but  hadn't thought to read until now: 'The Lion Who Wanted To Love' by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz.


This is the story of Leo, a lion cub who would much rather hug than hunt. But his mother isn't happy about this and forces him to leave the pride.


In the jungle, Leo helps the other animals and they repay him by bringing him food (let's not think too hard about the logistics of that, shall we?) until one day Leo finds himself in danger and needs the help of his new friends. In the end, he is accepted not only back into his pride, but becomes the King.


I really love the message of this book - that it's OK to be different, it's good to show your loving side and that will encourage others to love and support you. It's great to find a book with a male character who wants to be kind and gentle - and shows great bravery too.

The book is a big hit with Ezra. He's probably a little too young to understand the story but he loves rhyming text (of which Andreae, aka Purple Ronnie, is a master) and Wojtowycz's vibrant and whimsical pictures are just right for him too. He'll often carry the book over and demand a reading - the classic Ezra seal of approval! I'm definitely going to get a copy of this one to keep, and hopefully as he gets older he'll absorb the message that it's good to have a softer side.

If you've come across stories of loving, caring boys please let me know, I'd love to get hold of a few!

Linking up with Day 12 of #Blogtober17 - Love; #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.


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Read With Me

Laura's Lovely Blog

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Five Easy Ways To Be Greener In Your Kitchen

It's a while since I've done a green-ish post, and today's Blogtober prompt is Kitchen, so I thought I'd share some tips I've found about being more eco-friendly in what is often the busiest room in the family home!

Before I start, I will point out that I'm in no way a green guru when it comes to cleaning. Nor am I much of a domestic goddess either. But these are tips I've found that, even if I don't stick to them rigidly, at least encourage me to try. I'm definitely in the 'every little helps' camp when it comes to being green - doing something, however small, is always better than doing nothing.



So here are five ways to make your kitchen more environmentally friendly ...

1. Ditch the wipes

Cleaning wipes are just so easy, aren't they? Ready to use, in a neat little pack, and you can just chuck them away when you're done. The trouble is, you chuck them away when you're done. So to save space in your bin (and reduce the amount of waste going landfill) just swap your wipes for cloths. Better still, you could reuse unwearable clothes as rags. We all have a weaning-stained babygro or torn T-shirt lurking somewhere, rather than bin it just cut it into squares and you have cleaning cloths for free!

2. Choose eco-friendly cleaning products

Of course, if you're using cloths and rags, you'll need a cleaning product. Often I find that just water will do the job if it's a small spill, but if you need some heavy duty cleaning, try to choose products that are better for the environment. We use Method all-purpose spray which uses plant-based ingredients and smells lovely. Or if you've got a bit of time, you could make your own cleaning products - there's a great, straightforward post about this over at Wood For The Trees.

3. Get a plant!

I'm a notorious plant-killer. Which is a shame as house plants are fab for making your house greener, literally and metaphorically! They reduce levels of carbon dioxide, humidity and dust and some even eliminate toxins in the air too. Better still, by keeping one in your kitchen it's near a water source so you might even remember to water it! Choose plants such as peace lilies, spider plants and English ivy - or get an aloe vera plant so you've got an instant soother next time you burn yourself cooking! (Just me? I did say I'm not a domestic goddess!)

4. Get reusable straws

This is something I was discussing just this morning. Eleanor is obsessed with straws. And as she sometimes doesn't drink as much as she should, I'm pretty slack at letting her have what she wants just to get her drinking. But the piles of straws we get through makes my heart ache knowing how un-green they are. So I'm going to get hold of some reusable straws, like these funky stainless steel ones or these lovely candy stripe ones.

5. Compost your cuttings

This is such a simple one you're probably all doing it already, but just so there's one I actually manage to do reliably I thought I'd include it anyway! Rather than filling your bin with potato peel and apple cores, just chuck them in the compost - keeps them out of landfill and supplies you with lovely compost for your garden. I'm finding composting especially useful now Ezra is in the 'chuck it on the floor' stage - any salady bits or fruit can just go in the tub and I don't feel so bad about the waste!

What are your top tips for being greener in the kitchen?

Linking up with Day 11 of #Blogtober17 - Kitchen.

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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

When Your Kid Starts Telling Jokes

When we got Eleanor's Reception profile at the end of last term, there was a rather sweet observation. It went something like this:

"Eleanor: Mrs X, I've got a joke to tell you. Why did the horse cross the road? Because it wanted to see it's NEIGHbours! Do you get it? Because horses say neigh so when you say neighbours you sound like a horse!"

Teaching how jokes work is actually a topic in the early years curriculum, and part of me feels rather sorry for the reception teachers having to endure not only terrible jokes, but also the explanations that are destined to kill any shred of humour left in the joke!


But for me it's been lovely seeing Eleanor start to understand how jokes work. I remember years ago telling her my favourite joke - "What's orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot!" - and she laughed but it was months later that she revealed she didn't actually get it. This simple joke which I thought was obvious was totally baffling to her. She invented her own versions, mainly with weird nonsense words as the punchline which were only funny insofar as they sounded odd. I laughed dutifully but wondered when she'd actually understand real jokes.

I suspect it took her longer than other children because she has a very literal mindset. She doesn't do well with turns of phrase or puns - although now she has got the hang of jokes, she's starting to enjoy a good pun. Chip off the old block, she is. But at first some of her jokes were toe-curlingly bad, and at times a little disturbing. I have a vivid memory I'll probably never erase of her trying out jokes in the bath and saying, "Why are the walls red? Because there's blood all over them!" (There wasn't. And the walls weren't red.) So I'm quite glad she's starting to understand the mechanisms of a funny joke.

Weirdly enough, she understood sarcasm before she understood jokes. She got it even before she started school, which is apparently quite rare. A few weeks into school her reception teacher told me how another child had knocked over some crayons and she'd said, "Oh thank you very much!" to which Eleanor had responded, "Is that sarcasm? I'm good at spotting sarcasm!" But she understands it in the very black-and-white sense of saying something you don't really mean, so sometimes she does miss the mark. And to be fair, learning to spot sarcasm is necessary for a child of mine as it's basically my second language.

Along with the jokes and the sarcasm there's the toilet humour which, honestly, I could live without. But I know it's just a phase, and hopefully one she'll grow out of. Seriously, where do they learn that the word 'poo' is funny? I certainly didn't teach her that!!

All in all, it's rather entertaining to watch your child learn humour. Even if it involves a lot of bad jokes. And worse explanations.

When did your child first 'get' jokes?

Linking up with Day 10 of #Blogtober17 - Jokes.

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Monday, 9 October 2017

Why I'm Sick Of Ice Cream

It's Day 9 of Blogtober and the prompt is Ice Cream. I was a bit stumped about what to write for this - I'm not a foodie blogger in the slightest. Plus, at the moment, I'm sick of ice cream.



And soup. And biscuits dunked in tea. And mushed up Weetabix.

Why? Let me explain. Warning: if you don't like the dentist, you should probably read a different post!

I have an impacted wisdom tooth. Which means that instead of growing up, it grew diagonally into the molar next to it. It hurt a bit while it was growing but I've lived with it fairly peaceably for around a decade. Until this July.

I went for a check up. All looked fine, dentist seemed very happy, it even looked like I wasn't going to have to see the hygienist. Win! Let's just look at these X-rays ... Ah. There's a dark patch on the molar that's being squished by my wisdom tooth. A dark patch probably means a hole. One that can't be filled without removing the wonky wisdom tooth.

Yikes.

So I booked an appointment for the extraction in mid-August.

Now, I've been dreading this for years. I've heard horror stories about having wisdom teeth out, and this is no ordinary wisdom tooth. I knew it'd be unpleasant. But I steeled myself for the inevitable, reminding myself that once it was done this tooth would give me no more trouble.

The day came. I was nervous, but kept myself calm with the breathing and distraction techniques I'd learnt in my last pregnancy.  (Honestly, decent antenatal classes are well worth it!!) I was breathing as calmly as I could with someone's hand stuffed in my mouth. Then after a fair bit of tugging, the dentist stopped.

"Your tooth is quite firmly attached," he said, "and you've got quite a thin jawbone. I need to put more pressure on the tooth but there's a chance that that might break your jawbone."

Oh no oh no oh no ...

"So if you feel any discomfort at all in your jaw just put your hand up."

Wait, what? No, no. Surely this is the bit where you stop? But he continued. Now I couldn't distract myself, I had to focus to make sure there was no pain. The first twinge I felt my hand shot up. He stopped pulling, and after a bit more prodding, announced I would have to go to hospital to have it removed.

That was about six weeks ago. Today I had my first hospital appointment, a consultation, and have now booked for the tooth to come out in just over two weeks. In all the time I've been waiting, the slightly dislodged wisdom tooth has been putting pressure on the teeth next to it, meaning that it hurts to chew. Hence living on soup, mashed cereal, soggy biscuits and, yes, ice cream.

I reckon that in three weeks I'll be healed up enough to eat normally again. Then I will be taking a long break from ice cream. Then I'll be eating apples. And pizza. And nuts. Lovely, crunchy food.

So yeah, it turns out you have to go to pretty extreme lengths to put me off ice cream!!

Linking up with Day 9 of #Blogtober17 - Ice Cream.

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