Monday, 2 September 2019

The Beginning Of The End Of The Beginning

The end of the summer holidays always makes me a bit philosophical, but this time it feels particularly poignant. In a year's time I'll be getting Preschooler ready for his first day at school. As I currently worry about how he'll fare with the childminder he'll be going to from this week onwards, I feel like I'm standing at the edge of a precipice. Until now he's spent every day with me, bar the occasional couple of hours. And while I've done this all before, the slow surrendering of my child to the education system, I'm very aware I'll mostly likely never do it again. My days as a mum of a pre-school-age child are drawing to a close.

Playing/reading in our local cafe on the last day of the summer holidays

There's something about being a mum in the early years, isn't there? It feels like a different status to that of school mum. I can't place my finger on why, but it lies within the play group camaraderie, the indulgent looks from old ladies, the leisurely feel of time passing, opening up opportunities for adventures, or just quiet days exploring the world together. I'm very conscious that it's probably a totally different experience for working parents, but for me the early years have held a certain kind of magic.

And also there's the fact that children in their early years are magic themselves. Watching a helpless newborn become a walking, talking, chaos-creating child is an incredible experience. And while there are many exciting advances in the school years, you share so much of that with the teaching staff. You often only see the progress they're making in hurried flicks through exercise books at parent's evening. It's not the same.

And then of course there's my current  school-age one, Girl Child, who will be going into Year 3. Yep, that's Key Stage 2. In a few months she'll turn eight years old, which according to some definitions is the start of the tween years. She's definitely leaving behind the 'little girl' stage, although possibly more slowly in some ways than her peers. But still, it feels like we're passing into new territory with her too. It's a cliché but kids do seem to grow up more quickly now. I'm not sure how longer I can shrug off her requests for make up and pierced ears. Nor do I know how much longer she will retain her Anti Boy stance.  It feels like a whole new world is about to open up.

And in amongst all this is the sense that I'm not quite grown up enough to deal with it. Parents with only school age children, with tweens or even teens, seem so much more mature, patient and together than me. This parenting stage has crept up on me - I still think of myself as a fairly new mum, how do I make the leap to sensible, knowledgeable, seasoned school mum?

Anyway, I'm not sure what the point of this post is other than to mark this time, this moment on the precipice, before everything changes. And maybe to find out that I'm not alone in this feeling.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Roll Up, Roll Up! The Circus Is Coming To North Leeds!

DISCLAIMER: I have been gifted tickets to this production in return for writing about it, and attended a free preview event, but all words and opinions are my own.

The summer holidays are slowly drawing to a close now, and having been away last week I'm definitely feeling a bit deflated. We're running out of ideas for things to do, but Girl Child is so fed up with the lack of school that she still needs a lot of stimulation. So I'm really glad we have one last treat up our sleeves for next week ...

Leeds-based arts organisation Codswallop CIC are bringing the circus to Yeadon Town Hall for the final week of the school holidays with their show Mr Montgomery's Circus Spectacular. With multiple daily performances from Tuesday 27th August to Sunday 1st September, I think this looks like it'll be a fantastic way to keep the kids entertained. There'll be dancers, aerial performers, jugglers and, knowing Codswallop's work, a whole lot of fun!

The show itself lasts an hour - long enough for a lot of fun but not so long that younger ones are going to get fidgety - and there will be activities before and after the show too. Children will even get an activity book to take home - so you might get to have a cup of tea in peace!

Image courtesy of Yeadon Town Hall

Codswallop are a fantastic organisation with a real passion for community arts. I have been to several of their events and they are always great fun - lots of activities pitched at different levels so all ages and abilities are catered for, and enthusiastic facilitators who really get the kids involved. I've yet to make it to one of their shows so I'm really excited to see this new production!

Earlier this summer we were invited to a preview event for local bloggers and the children had a great time. They tried out different circus skills, made craft projects, had their faces painted and ate a slightly alarming amount of lollies and popcorn! The event was very relaxed and fun, just the atmosphere I've come to expect from a Codswallop event, and got us really excited for the show.

A few highlights from the preview event

If you're interested in coming along to the circus, tickets are still available from Yeadon Town Hall. You can find more information on the show from their website or Facebook page, or from Codswallop's Facebook page.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Review: 'The Pirate Who Lost His Name' by Lou Treleaven and Genie Espinosa

DISCLAIMER: I was provided with a copy of this book for the purposes of this review, however all words and opinions are my own

I must confess, I'm rather late writing this review as this picture book came out last month. But it's for a good reason - the children liked it so much they pinched my copy before I could get photos!!



The Pirate Who Lost His Name does exactly what it says on the tin. It features a pirate who has everything you would expect a (child-friendly) pirate to have - sword, peg leg, parrot - but after a bump on the head he was missing one thing: his own name. He can remember all his friends' names (and what wonderful names they have) but his own is a total mystery.



So off he goes to try and find out his name without letting on that he forgot it in the first place, but despite his craftiest of efforts, he just can't find it out - but is someone trying to tell him the answer all along?



Pirate stories are always a winner with young children, and the eponymous but anonymous pirate in this book is a really likable character - his embarrassment at forgetting his own name is endearing, and you can tell that he is a very friendly pirate too as he goes to visit his friends on his quest. I won't give the ending away but it's a brilliant twist, and one that had my seven year old in stitches!

The writing is very witty, with lots of funny pirate names to get the little ones giggling, and the illustrations are a great match - colourful, over the top and full of quirky details to spot. Each pirate is drawn with great care to match their name and to make you laugh. My daughter particularly liked that there were female pirates too! I think the parrot was my three year old's favourite character though, and a very expressive parrot it is! He loved finding him in the different illustrations.

If you have a pirate-lover in your family, or just a lover of witty words and funny pictures, then this book would be a big hit!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog, BookBairn and Acorn Books.

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Sunday, 28 July 2019

Review: 'The Spacesuit' by Alison Donald and Ariel Landy

DISCLAIMER: This book was sent to me for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

When Girl Child was little she wanted to be an astronaut. She's since had a rethink on that, which I have to admit I'm slightly relieved about - I don't doubt her ability to achieve whatever she puts her mind to, but in reality I think I'd be a nervous wreck if she was blasted off into space!

She does, however, maintain a passing interest in space, and also wants to be inventor when she grows up. I find it really encouraging that there is now more talk about the many people who worked 'behind the scenes' in the space race - the engineers, computers, coders. The work of women has been particularly highlighted in recent years, which is great for girls interested in STEM. And with this new picture book from Maverick Children's Books, we can acknowledge the work of another group of women - the seamstresses who designed and made the spacesuits used in the Apollo 11 mission 50 years ago.



'The Spacesuit' tells the story of Eleanor 'Ellie' Foraker, whose love of designing and sewing as a child led her to become a seamstress - and such a good one that she was entrusted with the responsibility of designing a spacesuit for a competition the company she worked for had entered.



It's a real against-the-odds story as Ellie's small team were up against experts in more technical fields, but with hard work and ingenuity they beat the odds and created the spacesuits that eventually went to the Moon.



I love that the story starts with Ellie as a little girl learning to sew, making it relatable for children who have dreams and passions of their own. I also really like that there are facts dotted through the story and also at the beginning and end of the book, grounding the story in reality. It's an aspect of the space race that I had never even considered before and learning about the work that went into designing the spacesuits was really interesting. While Preschooler didn't quite understand the story, Girl Child loved it and found it inspiring.

I also really like the illustrations, which capture the sixties style brilliantly and - forgive the pun - weave together aspects of tailoring and engineering beautifully. I love the facial expressions on the characters too - Ellie's expression exudes warmth and really draws you to her, and I loved the slightly cross-eyed astronaut after testing out a rival suit!!

I'd really recommend this book for older preschoolers and younger school-age children who have an interest in space, a creative streak or even just a particular passion that they dream of pursuing as they grow up. It's a really inspiring story of how small dreams can grow in unexpected ways, and how you can be part of something much bigger than yourself with hard work and determination.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

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Monday, 15 July 2019

Review: 'I, Pod' by Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson

DISCLAIMER: I was sent a copy of this book for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Does anyone else find that their eldest children think they're totally capable of caring for their younger siblings despite still being tiny themselves? I remember Girl Child earnestly telling me that she could look after her little brother for me when she was only five! It's a pity we didn't have a copy of 'I, Pod' back then so I could show her how babysitting can go wrong!



'I, Pod' is the third book featuring the caveboy-inventor Pod - I reviewed the second book, the equally cleverly titled 'Game Of Stones', a while ago. This time, Pod is charged with looking after adorable cavebaby Nim. Things don't start out brilliantly when Pod tries to teach Nim to say his name, yielding some very funny results!


Pod decides to use his inventive abilities to make a swing for Nim, which she loves until disaster strikes.


Nim ends up swept down a river with Pod in hot pursuit, meeting lots of scary prehistoric creatures on the way. Parents will enjoy how Nim seems completely unfazed by the danger she's in - we all know babies and small toddlers who are totally fearless! Eventually Pod's pet mammoth saves the day, but will Pod be able to avoid getting into trouble with Nim's mum?

This is a very funny story, bound to be enjoyed by loves of the prehistoric era. It has plenty of action to keep little ones interested and the illustrations are bright, bold and fun. Look out for the little prehistoric bugs in some of the illustrations, great for spotting if your child loves minibeasts too!

Luckily Girl Child knows her capabilities a bit more now so is unlikely to offer to babysit for a while. That said, I wouldn't put it past her to invent some contraption for Preschooler to get into trouble with!

Linking up with 'Read With Me' hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and 'Kids Love To Read' hosted by Laura's Lovely, Blog, Acorn Books and BookBairn.

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Monday, 1 July 2019

Review: 'The MOOsic Makers' by Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos

The list of things I love is a long one but fairly high up on the list you will find cows and puns. So when I received a copy of 'The MOOsic Makers' I was delighted!



Celery and Nutmeg are musical cows who love to entertain Farmer Joni. She enjoys their 'Moo-grass' tunes so much it makes the other animals a bit jealous.



But one day the roof is blown off the barn, and Farmer Joni needs to raise money to replace it. The cows turn to busking but don't get very far until Mr Smarm turns up with promises of riches. There's one hitch - they need to change their entire style to become famous.



Will they change to earn the money they need for the barn roof? Is Mr Smarm to be trusted?

I enjoyed this story - as I said, cows and puns, what's not to love? I was a little worried when Mr Smarm told the cows that Moo-grass music is for boys and they should wear pink dresses, but without wanting to spoil the ending, the cows reject his views and stay true to themselves - and even find a way to include the other animals.

It's a story about using your talents for good whilst not changing to suit others, being wary of strangers and supporting the people who are closest to you. It can be tricky to explain to young children that people don't always have good intentions, so Mr Smarm is an excellent character for introducing this topic. Heather Pindar is great at writing fun, puntastic animal stories and we're big fans of Barbara Bakos's illustrations - her farmyard scenes are always fun to study!

If your little one loves farm animals, music or just a lot of mooing I really recommend this book!

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of the book for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.



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Friday, 28 June 2019

A Collection Of Advice On Toilet Training

Wait until they're ready. But if you leave it too late they'll be resistant to the change. If you wait until they're over three you'll be done in a matter of days. Fifty years ago children were potty trained by eighteen months. It's rare for a child to be truly ready before they're two. In some cultures, potties are used from birth. Don't rush it. But if you leave it too long, you're a lazy parent, got that?

Photo by hermaion from Pexels


Signs of readiness include knowing when they're wet, going more than two hours between wees, seeking privacy and asking to use the potty. Signs of readiness are irrelevant as the biological processes needed to be ready occur between 24 and 30 months. You must start as soon as they're ready - any delay can confuse them. But make sure you can drop everything for at least a week to get them started.

It's best to use a potty so that you can keep one close. It's best to go straight to the toilet so that you don't have to go through a second transition. With boys you should get them comfortable going sat down first. Get them to wee standing up as that makes it easier when you're out and about. Speaking of which, don't go out for the first week if you can help it. But go about your usual routine. Use pull ups when out and about. Don't use pull ups as that will confuse them. But you have to use pull ups at soft play, it's the rules.

Use a reward chart. Don't use rewards as then they will regress when you withdraw the rewards. Make a big deal of them using the potty/toilet, using lots of praise. Praise should not be excessive and should be purely descriptive, e.g. "look, you did a big wee in the potty!" Make sure you take them to the potty every hour to begin with. Don't take them to the potty too often as they will get annoyed and refuse to go.

If they're truly ready they'll get it in less than a week. Once you've started don't stop as that will confuse them. But if it's been a month they're not ready so go back to nappies. Don't go back to nappies, that's signalling that they don't need to use the potty. If they regress it's probably behavioural. If they regress it's probably due to dietary or health issues. If they regress it's because you didn't do it right the first time.

Oh and this last piece of advice is universal: if you're struggling with potty training, be prepared for people telling you their kid trained in a weekend.