Friday, 23 November 2018

A Unicorn Ate My Daughter

Well, not literally, obviously. But it sometimes feels like it.

A little while ago, Facebook memories reminded me of a post I wrote three years ago. It was about the John Lewis 'Man On The Moon' advert, and I was excited about it featuring a girl who loved space, dinosaurs, the colour blue and scooting. I commented that she was Girl Child in three years' time.

Well, three years on and she still loves blue. She scoots occasionally but not enthusiastically any more. Her interest in dinosaurs waned sometime in Reception, and she seems to have abandoned her interest in space too. We were looking at new books a few days ago and I pointed out a book about space that she'd have loved a couple of years ago. She wasn't interested.

What's replaced these interests? Unicorns, Barbie and My Little Pony, mostly. And fairies, but she's always been into them.

Photo by InĂªs Pimentel on Unsplash

I know I'll get criticism for this, but this change makes me sad. Not because her current interests are more stereotypically 'girly' (although the Barbie thing really makes me cringe) but because I worry that this isn't really her.

You see, while some autistic children are happiest doing their own thing and don't much care about what their peers are into, others desperately want to conform. Girl Child is very much in the latter camp. One of the things she's struggled with about her diagnosis is that it means she's different, and she doesn't want to be different. She wants to be like her friends - and I mean almost exactly like her friends. So when she starts watching shows because her friends do, when she suddenly becomes obsessed with the unicorn craze, I worry that she's buying into what she thinks girls of her age should be like and losing who she really is. She's very conscious of how the media divides things into 'for boys' and 'for girls' and even though she knows logically that it's all nonsense, she doesn't want to rock the boat.

It's all a bit of a conundrum to me. I've always encouraged her to be her own person, to not be afraid of being different and to stand up for who she is. But at the same time, I can see how desperately she wants to belong, to be like other people. She's very aware that her brain is different, that she behaves differently and is treated differently. She still hasn't come to terms with this and will often bewail the fact she's autistic. So do I keep encouraging her to stand out from the crowd, or do I accept that she wants to follow it at the moment? If she feels she has to conform now, how will she fare when peer pressure becomes a stronger and potentially more dangerous force?

What I would really love is for all children to feel free to follow their own interests without the media and retail companies telling them what girls and boys 'should' like. But in the absence of that, I suppose all I can do is keep encouraging her to see her differences as assets, in the hope that someday soon she'll believe me.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Review: 'Cardboard Box Creations' from Lonely Planet Kids

I've mentioned a few times before that I suck at kids activities. Coming up with ideas for crafts, projects, outings etc just isn't my strong point. (Actually I've yet to find my parenting strong point but that's another story ...)

One particular thing I really suck at is junk modelling. Partly because I'm eager to get rid of stuff, so boxes, foil trays, bottles and such go in the recycling bin as soon as possible in my futile efforts to make the house tidier. Then I'm not very imaginative about reusing junk, I hate the faff of cutting things out and painting, and when it's done what do you do with your creation? As I just mentioned, I'm fighting a losing battle trying to keep the house tidy without contending with giant cardboard robots, bottle rockets and the like!

So I have to admit, when Girl Child spotted a giveaway for 'Cardboard Box Creations' on Toppsta and insisted I enter it, my heart sank a little. When we won, my heart sank some more. But when it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised.



One thing I wasn't expecting was that the box comes with cardboard sheets with some of the items needed for the projects already printed on and ready to press out. Brilliant, that's a lot of the faff done away with right there! And not all of the projects required loads of extras - in fact, one project, the camera, mostly consists of press-out pieces already provided so your little one can get modelling straight away.



The other thing I really like about this book is that all of the projects are themed around travel - so you can create a London bus, a Japanese tea house, a didgeridoo and even a space rocket! I love that the book brings in a geographical aspect so children can learn about other countries and cultures while they create their models.



The only criticism I have of the book is that some of the projects are very ambitious and require a lot of boxes - one needs four very large boxes. Unless you've just moved house or had a mass upgrade of white goods, it seems unlikely that any average family would have this much cardboard at their disposal. And you'd need plenty of space to store some of the creations afterwards too. But there are several projects requiring smaller boxes so it balances out nicely. I imagine this would be a good resource for a classroom or early years setting, where they might be able to appeal for big boxes to be brought in and may have more space to set the finished models up as play spaces.

Overall, I'm very glad Girl Child persuaded me to enter this giveaway and that we won. She's already made a couple of the smaller projects and is keen to make more so it will be a great way to keep her entertained and help her learn about other parts of the world too.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

Read With Me

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

A Bookish Half Term

Last week was Girl Child's half term (apparently different to most of the country, but hey, Leeds likes to be odd) so it was a good chance to have some family time together. The first eight weeks of term had felt like a long slog so it was nice to have a break and to watch the kids strengthen their bond, their relationship is ever-evolving and I love seeing them enjoy the same things.

It turned out to be a rather bookish week - well, I suppose with me it's always likely to! Even a trip to a nearby town to buy new school shoes wasn't untouched by books as we took the opportunity to visit the town's book shop while we were there. The Grove is a lovely independent bookshop with a great little children's section. Girl Child chose to buy 'Utterly Me, Clarice Bean' by Lauren Child while we dissuaded Toddler from buying all manner of very exciting books that weren't quite in our budget for the day by getting a little Thomas the Tank Engine book. True to form, Girl Child started reading almost immediately. Below is a photo that Toddler took of her when we stopped for lunch.


As you can see she was already halfway through the book before we even got our food! I do love my bookworm!

So that was Monday. On Tuesday we went to RHS Harlow Carr near Harrogate for a Room On The Broom Adventure Trail. We read the book again to Toddler the day before to remind him of it and his excitement when he saw the sign by the car park was so lovely to see! Both children really enjoyed going around the trail and spotting the different characters. I wasn't sure Girl Child would be interested but the little questions or activities that accompanied each character kept her engaged, while Toddler was just thrilled that the book he'd read the day before had come to life around him! He even wanted to read it on the way home.








Sorry for the poor posing skills of my kids by the way. I'll never be one of those Instagram mums ...

Wednesday and Thursday were quieter days but on Friday I decided to venture into Leeds city centre to go to the Nick Sharratt exhibition at the Central Library there. Toddler loves Nick Sharratt's books, we regularly borrow them from the library and he loved 'Toddle Waddle' so much I had to get him his own copy. And Girl Child enjoys the Daisy series and loves to doodle so I thought this would be a winner with both of them. Unfortunately by the time we got into Leeds it didn't leave us a lot of time to look around the exhibition but I was really impressed. There was a little reading corner with copies of lots of Sharratt's work, stands with information about his life and work, a doodling wall, light boxes for tracing his drawings and an interactive 'make you own Shaarratt character' game. Toddler stayed around the reading corner mostly while Girl Child really enjoyed the light boxes, doodling wall and the stand that played a silly song about pants!!








We all enjoyed our bookish half term. While reading itself is such a fun thing to do it was interesting to see how the children responded to seeing books come alive in different ways. I'm definitely going to look out for more bookish events in future!


Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.

Read With Me

Laura's Lovely Blog

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Things We've Done To Be Greener In ... October

Autumn is well and truly upon us now and with it the chilly weather. I always feel guilty at this time of year because, while lots of people are talking about not switching their heating on yet, I'm always keen to get it going at the first sign of cold! I do layer up as much as I can but I still don't feel warm. So I've been assuaging my guilt by finding other ways to be eco-friendly.



Used washable training pants


Yep, it's got that stage - Toddler has decided he wants to potty train. I was hoping to get Christmas over first but he had other ideas. (And this is part of the reason our heating has been on a lot - he's most reliable when not wearing pants so I don't want him getting a chilly bottom while he figures pants out!) We are trying our best to use regular pants, but we have a stash of washable training pants for naptimes and going out - as he still does most journeys in the carrier, I don't want to risk a soggy back. We have a slightly eclectic mix of training pants: a Bumgenius Flip, a couple of Mothercare padded pants, two Bright Bots, a Tots Bots and a random WAHM-made one. But of those only the Tots Bots and the Flip really hold any more than a trickle so I picked up a couple of pairs of Close Parent night time pants (which wouldn't actually do overnight for him yet but work well for naptime) and a pair of Motherease Big Kid pants. These were bought second hand too, but in great condition. I have to admit we have been working our way through our existing stash of disposable pull ups as well but I'm trying to go with the washables as much as possible now. It's going to be a long transition as pants still baffle him, but I have noticed that I'm doing less washing now so that's an added eco bonus.


Started Ecobricking


You might have seen the Facebook post that went viral about Ecobricks - basically the idea is that you take a plastic bottle and cram it full of non-recyclable plastic wrappers, packaging etc. If you're interested you can find out more through Google or on various Facebook pages and groups. I started very keenly with this but then realised the amount of work involved - you have to wash and thoroughly dry every piece of plastic and cut it up really small so you can cram in as much as possible to get to the right weight. I honestly don't know when I'll find the time. I'm also a little skeptical about the project as presumably these Ecobricks will eventually need disposing of and what happens then? It's made me quite frustated that consumers are going to these lengths when it should be businesses finding ways to reduce the amount of plastic they use for their products. Still, I'll persevere for at least one bottle. It has also made me realise that my main plastic generators in my household are confectionary, crisps and dishwasher tablets so I'm trying to think of ways of buying more wisely or replacing my junk food treats with something a bit better for me and the planet! So even if it's not the answer to our plastic woes, Ecobricking has made me more conscious of my habits. Have you tried making an Ecobrick? What do you think about it?


I may not have done loads this month but I think adding a couple of things to my routine each month is more manageable than trying lots all at once. What have you done to be greener this month? I'd love some inspiration!