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

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 Toddler loves any opportunity to get out and about on his little legs, Girl Child 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 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 Girl Child 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 Girl Child 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 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 Girl Child, 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 Girl Child 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 Girl Child 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 Toddler 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 Girl Child is so tired it's hard to get any sense out of her. 

But I try to find moments to enjoy Girl Child every day, whether that's reading her bedtime story or just having a cuddle. We used to have special 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

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 Girl Child 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.

Girl Child 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 Toddler) 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.


#Blogtober17


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, Girl Child 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 Girl Child some clothes from Joules. She gave us them in the bag which was so nice I let Girl Child 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 Girl Child. 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 Girl Child'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, Girl Child 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 Girl Child 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 Girl Child 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.


#Blogtober17


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Sibling Resemblances

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

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


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

But then in other ways they are very alike. Despite Toddler crawling much earlier, they both walked at 13 months. They are both clamberers, Toddler 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 - Toddler will carry books over and demand a reading much like Girl Child used to. Interestingly, Toddler recently acquired a word for dog - a whispered "ferfer" like the quietest woofing in the world - which is exactly the sound Girl Child used for dog too.

Toddler adores Girl Child 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 Toddler 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. Girl Child 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 Toddler 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 Toddler. 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 Toddler 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.


#Blogtober17


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. Girl Child 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 Toddler 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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This post contains affiliate links. This won't affect your shopping, but means that if you buy through the link I get a few pennies. Thank you!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

When Your Kid Starts Telling Jokes

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

"Girl Child: 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 Girl Child 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 Girl Child 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.


#Blogtober17

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Why We Love The Yorkshire Coast

Today's Blogtober prompt is holidays. There's only one thing I can write about really as we've visited the same location every year since Girl Child was two - the Yorkshire coast! Here's why we love it and keep going back:

The Beaches

I'm a firm believer that when the sun's shining, all kids really need is the beach. Why shell out on fancy holidays when we have great beaches in this country? Our favourite beach is North Bay in Scarborough, but there are so many different beaches to try in Yorkshire. Yes, the sea might nip your toes a bit but that just adds to the fun!

The Attractions

OK, I'll admit it - the sun doesn't always shine in Yorkshire. In fact a lot of the time it doesn't. I remember one summer we went to Scarborough and the weather was a bit miserable. But there is so much to do and see - the Sea Life Sanctuary, the museum and art gallery, the arcades - that you can't get bored. We haven't even visited half the attractions in the area yet, but no doubt we will in years to come!

The Food

Of course, if you like fish and chips you'll be in your element. I'm vegetarian so it can be harder to find suitable food but the bigger towns like Scarborough and Bridlington have a good range of restaurants. And then of course there's icecream, rock and warm donuts too! Yum!

The Accommodation

There's something for everyone. The first time we went to the coast for a family holiday we stayed in a cottage in a holiday park. Next time we stayed in a flat just minutes from the beach in Scarborough. Then we stayed at a wild west themed glamping park! I often look wistfully at the hotels with sea views and imagine coming back when the kids are older, or even without the kids, and staying in one.


Next year we're planning to go abroad for the first time as a family but I'm sure we'll squeeze in a visit to the Yorkshire coast at some point too - it's tradition now! Which places do you go back to over and over?

Linking up with Day 8 of #Blogtober17 - Holidays.

#Blogtober17

Saturday, 7 October 2017

My Goals For Raising My Children

Now that Toddler truly is a toddler (as hard as that is to admit) I've started rereading my copy of 'ToddlerCalm' by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. As I read the first chapter I found a Post-It note with a list of qualities I hoped Girl Child would develop.


It's strange to look back on the note and remember my goals for my then-nearly-two-year-old daughter. I think she was probably starting to show some of these qualities already, but almost four years on, how are we doing?

Well, she's certainly confident. A born extrovert, happy to chat to everyone. I have noticed the occasional waver recently though - it was the school Harvest Festival this week and she had the task of being first to speak in her year's section. There was a painful silence as she plucked up the courage, but she got there eventually. I suppose she's at the age where she's becoming more self-conscious, so hopefully she'll be back to her confident self soon.

Integrity is a harder one. I want her to do the right thing, not because she's told to or to get something for herself, but because it's right. This is a tricky concept for young children, and the use of rewards from preschool onwards has muddied the waters a bit. The other day when I asked her what she'd got her Dojo points for (if you don't know, Google it, your kids will probably come across them at some point) she said, "it doesn't really matter what I got them for, it just matters that I got them!" Um, no, it does matter why you got them because that's the bit you should be focussing on, not the points! I'm hoping that asking her why will eventually tell her that actually these points don't really mean anything, but doing the right thing does.

Determination? Yep, she's definitely got that - especially when she wants something and we're saying no! She does try really hard at most things, which makes me very proud. We've had a few "I can't do it" moments recently but I'm teaching her to add "yet" to that and to believe that with practice she can do most things.

Resilience is one area she struggles with. She hates not winning things, gets extremely upset when she makes a mistake in her work and lets little things get to her. In fact, she's a lot like me - which is why I hoped she would be more resilient!!

She is a bit inconsistent when it comes to kindness - that's not to say she's unkind, but sometimes she can be a bit brusque with other children, or ignore them completely, and she can make tactless comments. I don't think she does it deliberately though, she's just a bit behind with her social development. She can be incredibly kind at times - recently she made plaster models with some craft kits she was given and insisted on giving away all but one of them to her friends. And she'll often draw pictures for her close friends saying she loves them too!

She has sense of humour in spades - she finds lots of things funny and is great at making her friends laugh. One big source of pride for me is that she has understood sarcasm since she was just 4 - to be fair, in our house, you wouldn't last long without understanding it!! She's just starting to really understand how jokes work too, although she hasn't yet learned not to explain her joke afterwards!

She's a very independent girl. Despite having been with me almost constantly for three years she breezed into preschool without any trouble, and did the same with school. In fact on her second day of school I tried to hang around for a couple of minutes but she told me to go! She loves to learn how to do things herself, and if we get her in the right mood we can get her chopping vegetables, washing up and doing little chores pretty well.

Like kindness, she hasn't quite 'got' compassion yet. At times she can be very compassionate. Once when we were out there was a family walking behind us and the little boy with them was crying - Girl Child turned around and gave the boy a hug. I'm not sure he wanted it but the fact she recognised he was sad and wanted to help made me proud! She tries to cheer her friends up when they're sad too. But with her close family she can be oblivious to our feelings and needs - she'll often keep talking to me about something unrelated while I'm trying to stop Toddler from crying.

When she wants to be, she's very enthusiastic. She loves taking things into school for show and tell, gets really excited about special events and parties, and she will tell you everything about her special interests if you let her. (Tip: Never ever mention Minecraft to her. You'll be there for ages.) Her enthusiasm for school is waning a bit at the moment as she adjusts to the more formal education in Year 1, I'm hoping she'll recover her love of learning once she's got used to it.

Emotional maturity is the big sticking point at the moment. She is very much a feeler and wears her heart on her sleeve, which means when she's upset or angry everyone in a half-mile radius knows about it! But she can name her feelings which is great, and when she remembers she does try to calm herself. It's just not easy for her to remember in the heat of the moment, and sometimes she feels so justified in her emotions that she doesn't understand why she should calm down. I can see her being a good protestor in future years, she has righteous anger nailed, as long as she learns to channel it properly!

Overall, I think my goals for her are progressing quite well. She's still only small, and there are things I undoubtedly could have done better to teach her these qualities, but I feel like we're mostly on the right track. Would I change any of these goals? I don't think so. I think those ten qualities are very important and will enable her to achieve many things in life. I wouldn't change them for Toddler either, and can see him already starting to develop some - he's a determined little thing and finds lots to laugh about, especially when Girl Child's near!

What are your goals for your children?

Linking up with Day 7 of #Blogtober17 - Goals.


#Blogtober17

Friday, 6 October 2017

Why Are Flowers 'Just For Girls'?

"I saw a boy the other day," the woman said, "only I thought he was a girl because his parents had put him in a flowery top. I mean," she wrinkled her nose for effect, "flowers? On a boy?"

It's a few years now since I laughed awkwardly at that statement, and here I am with a son who happily wears his sister's cast offs - yes, even flowery things. And I ask myself, why are flowers seen as just a girl thing?


It doesn't make much sense to me. Switch on 'Gardener's World' or leaf through a gardening magazine and you're bound to come across male gardeners. Men can be passionate about plants, yes, even flowers. I used to work in the same department as landscape architects and there were a fair few men, who could probably tell you all you need to know about flowers and more. Even in terms of clothing, you see men wearing floral ties or shirts and nobody seems to bat an eyelid.

And yet as a child, flowers are seen as exclusively for girls. Well, they're pretty, aren't they? Decorative. Just as we perceive girls to be. Boys can't be pretty, they're not for decoration, they're for noise and action. Mud, yes. Flowers, no.

Increasingly, girls can cross over into 'boys' domains. Liking cars, dinosaurs, sport and so on is becoming more acceptable, although these girls can still be marginalised and labelled as 'tomboys'. But there is a sense that it's OK for a girl to be like a boy but not OK for a boy to be like a girl.

Madonna hit the nail on the head in the introduction to 'What It Feels Like For A Girl': "Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short/ Wear shirts and boots 'cause it's OK to be a boy/ But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading/ 'Cause you think being a girl is degrading." Boys not being 'allowed' to wear flowers or pink or butterflies is part of patriarchal thinking - it's not OK to emulate girls because girls are seen as inferior. So if you're a boy who likes 'girl things' you're inferior. It's rubbish.

So I will still dress my son in his sister's old clothes from time to time. Until he's old enough to choose his own clothes, and even after if he still wants to. Because I want to show him and his sister that it's OK to like whatever colour you want, flowers and butterflies are cool (hello, pollination is kind of a big deal) and there are no clothes or interests that are just for girls or boys. I've no doubt it will get hard to continue with this message as they get older - it's already hard with my 5 year old - but hopefully they'll keep the message in the back of their minds through the tricky times of childhood and adolescence and grow up to be themselves.

Linking up with Day 6 of #Blogtober17 - Flowers.


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Thursday, 5 October 2017

Why I DON'T Home Educate



I think for most people, sending your child to school is a given - the alternatives aren't really considered unless it's exceptional circumstances. But for me the decision to send my daughter to a mainstream school was a conscious one, for a number of reasons.

Being an attachment/gentle/hippy parent (delete as per your perspective), most of the online parenting communities I'm part of have a number of home educating families. Sometimes when concerns were raised about school issues there would be the odd comment of, "this is why we home educate," or similar. So from quite early on I started to consider home education as an option.

The way I parent is sometimes at odds with how things are done in most schools - mainly because I try my best to avoid rewards and punishments - so I was worried that this would cause problems. And with Girl Child being, ahem, on the spirited side, I did (and still do) worry about how she'd get on at school. I also think there is a lot of pressure on kids these days which has nothing to do with the teachers (who I truly believe are wonderful human beings who should be treasured far more than they are) and everything to do with the constant top-down shifting of goalposts. I'm looking at you, Gove, Greening et al.

But ultimately I decided that home education wasn't for us. Why?

Lack of car

I heard lots about home ed groups, special events at museums and so on, but my first thought would always be, "how would I get there?" Without access to a car on weekdays, I'd have to battle with public transport. Which would not only be stressful and time-consuming, but also an extra expense. Which leads me to ...

Cost

I know a lot of educational activities can be done free or very cheaply, but I can imagine that the costs would gradually mount up. It sounds really stingy, but the cost of home educating was a factor in my decision.

Girl Child's need to socialise

Early on, Girl Child showed she loved being around other children. She was always restless at home. While being with 29 other children every week day does cause problems as she's still developing socially, I knew that she would miss regular interaction with children if we home educated. Especially as it would be hard to get to home ed groups (see above).

The arrival of Toddler

I planned a bigger age gap in part so that I would have time alone with my second child just as I had with my first. (And in the vain hope that I'd get a few full nights' sleep in between. I didn't.) And to be honest, I'm a bit rubbish at keeping two kids entertained without significant recourse to screens. I'm in awe of parents who are able to look after younger children whilst also giving their older ones a quality education. You are amazing. I'm 99% sure I couldn't do it.

Me!

Ultimately one of the biggest reasons for not home educating was that I knew I didn't have the right temperament. I'm not a patient person and have been blessed with a very strong-minded, bright but exhausting daughter. By the time she was around two and a half I already felt like I couldn't cope much longer with looking after her full-time and was counting down the months until she could start preschool. Plus, I know that eventually I'm going to want a job outside of the home. I'm getting a little antsy about that already but I don't know what I want to do as a job so will stay at home at least until Toddler is in preschool.

So all in all, school was the right choice for us. I think. I did toy with one of the 'alternative' schools like Steiner-Waldorf or Montessori but geographically (and probably financially) it was even less of an option. Luckily Girl Child is at a school she loves, with great teachers and a fab group of friends. It's not without it's hiccups - nothing ever is - but it's working out fairly well.

I hope no home educating parents feel criticised by anything I say, because I do think you are wonderful people who are doing the best by your children. I couldn't do what you do. No really, I couldn't. You deserve far better support and recognition.

Did you consider home education? What decision did you come to, and why?

Linking up with Day 5 of #Blogtober17 - Education.

#Blogtober17

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

We Don't Go On Dates. But It's Fine.

Today's Blogtober prompt is 'Date'. I've been wracking my brains about what to write - what kind of 'date' do I go for? Calendar? Fruit? Romantic? I opted for the last one which is a bit odd because ... well ... my husband and I don't really go on dates these days.



First of all, as I've said before, we're not dating. We're married. To me, dating is about getting to know someone to see if you're compatible enough to settle down together. We're very much settled. Over 11 years of settled. And that's just counting since we got married - we've been a couple for close to 14 years now.

Secondly, we don't go out very much just the two of us. Since having Girl Child I think we've been out in the evening together three times - once just to have a quick drink (the pubs were packed, we were home in about an hour), once for a friend's birthday meal and once for a meal just the two of us. That's three potential 'dates' in almost six years.

But do you know what? We're OK with it. We're happy, we know we love each other, it's all good. So why do I feel a bit embarrassed about this?

There's a lot of pressure to get back out on 'date nights' after having kids. I get it, for some people it's important. They feel it gives them a chance to relax, to have quality time together, to get away from being parents. And it's fine to feel like that. But it's also fine to not want to go through all the hassle of finding a babysitter, getting your kids primed to accept a babysitter and so on.

For us, going out together right now would be a logistical nightmare. Toddler goes to bed between 6.30 and 7pm, then we have to try and keep Girl Child quiet until she goes up at around 7.30pm. She reads until 8pm then it's lights out. Sometimes she falls asleep quickly. Usually there's another 30-60 minutes of, "mummyyyy, daddyyy," followed by suddenly important questions and things she urgently needs to tell us that she had forgotten about up until now. Then, when she's finally asleep, Toddler will often wake up at around 9.30pm wanting milk. How exactly would we fit a 'date' in there? And if we could, how would we have the energy to move off the sofa?!

Some people will say this is a problem of our own making. Because we don't sleep train, because Toddler is 'still' breastfeeding. But actually, it's not a problem to us. We've accepted that for this relatively short period in our marriage, we have small children who need us in the evening. In two or three years time, chances are things will have changed and we'll be happier leaving them with a babysitter. That hope is enough for now.

I'd love to say we have 'dates' at home - candlelit dinners, movie night etc - but we eat with the kids and I don't think we could stay awake through a movie at the moment! But for me, romantic nights (whether out or at home) aren't they way I feel loved. It's little things like my husband buying cake on a midweek trip to the shops, or making me a cup of tea every morning, or showing appreciation for something I've done. That's what's more important to me.

Anyone else out there who will admit to not going on 'dates' and being fine with that?!

#Blogtober17

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The First World Problem Of Not Having a Second Car

OK, before I get started, I want to point that I do know this isn't unusual. I know lots of families only have one car. I know some don't have a car at all and get along OK. But most of the mums I know have access to a car regularly, whether that's a car of their own or a shared car which their other half doesn't need for the commute. I don't.

And most of the time this is fine. I don't actually like driving (granted, that's because I do it so rarely that it's a Scary Thing when I do) and I don't mind walking. Most of the time. Girl Child has been pretty good on her pins since she was three, and Toddler just goes in the carrier which, even at nearly 19 months, is still not too much strain as long as it's less than an hour's carrying.

But there are times I think a second car would be handy. Such as ...

Whenever it rains


I live in Yorkshire. It's rainy here. I can cope with a bit of drizzle but when it's pouring it down it's  horrible. Before Girl Child started school we would just hide on rainy days, but now we have to get out of the house five days a week, come rain or shine. And rainy school runs always take longer, not only in terms of preparation (wellies, raincoats etc) but also because Girl Child walks like a snail when carrying an umbrella. And she hates getting wet so often cries all the way which slows things down further. So all in all, rainy school runs are rubbish. And don't get me started on ice and snow.

When there's a fun thing 'far away'

I generally stick to places within walking distance. When Girl Child was little we had a bit more freedom to hop on a bus or train because we didn't have to be back at a certain time. Now going anywhere in the afternoon is risky because I might not get back in time to pick her up from school. And mornings are tight because of Toddler's nap. Even if we were to go somewhere on public transport it probably wouldn't be far. Having to change trains or buses with a small person in tow is a battle, and what if we miss the connection?

That's not considering the places which are hard to reach on public transport. Or the places that are just too far for me to walk but not worth the cost of a bus. And I haven't mentioned the extra expense that getting public transport adds to the activity. All in all, if it's not in my town, I'm not going.

When someone's ill

Despite registering with a GP surgery in my town, most of the appointments and all of the emergency walk-ins are in the partner surgery in the next town. When I'm ill, or my child is, I really don't fancy having to get a bus. I especially don't fancy getting a bus to get there before 8am so I have even a faint hope of being seen in less than an hour. And that's not usually possible anyway because, y'know, SCHOOL RUN.


Apart from those times (and probably others I'm not thinking of right now) it's not really a problem. I'm lucky that there's a fair bit to do with a toddler in our town. It's only ever rained heavily a few times on the school run (so far). And we don't get ill often. So it wouldn't be worth getting a second car really, especially if we then had to get spare car seats. But still. Next time it's raining at 8.30am I'll forget that completely!


#Blogtober17


Monday, 2 October 2017

When Is A Baby Not A Baby?

Toddler is decidedly not a baby anymore. He can walk. He can talk (a bit). He's well on his way to figuring out the TV remote. Objectively speaking, he is very much a toddler. I wrote a whole blog post about this, months ago.

So why do I still call him 'baby' all the time?


As he gets older and acquires new skills, I keep mentally shifting the goalposts of when a baby stops being a baby. So here are my ways of deciding whether your baby is, in fact, a toddler.


1. They've taken their first steps

Ah yes, such a milestone. Except it doesn't feel like it, does it? The first steps are often a bit stumbly, and could easily be baby just stopping themselves falling over. No, that doesn't work as a definition of toddler. How about ...

2. They can do 10 steps in a row

This is more like it. Anything less than that is basically falling forwards with style. Yep, 10 steps is the mark of the toddler. But wait, how do you decide that they really can do 10 steps? What if they're actually doing two sets of 5? Too vague.

3. They can walk across a room

OK, this is really starting to look not-babyish now. But still, define a room. Some rooms are pretty small, what size room counts? I'm beginning to think using walking to define a toddler is just too problematic. (Yes I know that's the literal definition of 'toddler', ssshhhh, stay with me.)

So maybe it's talking instead?

4. They say their first word

No, no, that won't work. Because, really, how can you tell if their 'mama' actually means 'mummy' or whether it's just a noise? Really most first words are us deciding they sound like a word. We need something more concrete.

5. They can talk in sentences

This is my current definition, because Ezra's speech is developing so slowly that it buys me at least another six months of babyhood, I reckon. But what shall I say is the definition of a toddler when he does start talking in sentences?

6. They tell you they're not a baby

This really is the final straw. When your kid is old enough to say, "I'm not a baby, I'm a toddler," you really have to let go. Or at least stop calling them 'baby' in earshot.

This is my #Blogtober17 post for Day 2 - Babies.

#Blogtober17


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Who Am I? (Apart from Mum.)

This month I'm taking part in #Blogtober17 organised by HexMum. It's a month of blogging (or linking up old posts) with daily prompts. I may not post daily, but I thought it'd be a good chance to get back into the routine of blogging as I've struggled since the summer holidays!

The first prompt is 'All About You'. I've been mulling over what to write about myself and it's hard to know what's important, or even interesting!

Me, being crowded out by my kids. It's like a metaphor.

To most people, I'm a mum. 'Just' a mum even. I don't go out to work so a lot of my identity is tied up in being a mum. I've written before about how awkward I feel about being a stay at home mum and to be honest, three years later I still feel that way. Even though I love being able to look after Toddler full-time and be there for Girl Child before and after school every day, I do miss having something else to say about myself.

So what else can I say?

I'm a Christian. Not a very good one, admittedly, but I go to church and try to live a Christian life - which to me means trying to do good, help others and generally spread love. I don't always get it right, but I try.

I'm a volunteer. I help out at a music group for under 5s once a week, which is tiring but great fun and I quite enjoy being able to use my more 'stagey' side for short bursts. I've also started helping out at a breastfeeding peer support group and hope to train as a peer supporter myself. And when we remember, Girl Child and I do litter picking on our way home from school.

I'm a theatre graduate. This often surprises people as I'm quite quiet and unassuming in real life, but I used to love treading the boards and having that release of being someone else for a bit. I miss it but life with small children is hard enough without having to fit around a rehearsal schedule. Hopefully I'll get back on the stage one day. I used to sing quite a bit too but I'm out of practice now (which unfortunately shows in my tuning!).

I love to craft. Again, I'm not much good at it, but it's fun to have a go. I'm currently finishing a crochet project and then need to knit a dress for Girl Child's teddy bear - not entirely sure how I ended up agreeing to that. Knitting and crochet are my main go-to crafts but I'll try most things. Except sewing. I'm rubbish at sewing.

I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Before kids I worked in admin but I know I don't want to go back to that. I'd love to work with kids and/or families, but in what capacity, I don't know yet. I also love to write so maybe that's an option. I've got a few more years to figure it out though, so hopefully my calling will become clear!!

Hopefully you know me a bit better now as a person rather than a mum!

#Blogtober17