Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Review: 'Can You See Me?' by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott

A little while ago I asked on Twitter for recommendations for middle-grade fiction or chapter books featuring autistic characters. Over a year on from diagnosis Girl Child is still struggling with being different, so I thought books would help her with that. I will eventually write a post about the books I was recommended but there was one I read which really stood out for me.


'Can You See Me?' is a collaboration between author Rebecca Westcott and autistic eleven year old Libby Scott. It tells the story of Tally, an autistic girl starting secondary school and having to deal with changing friendship dynamics, unsympathetic teachers and bullying. Interspersed between the chapters are journal entries written by Scott, from the perspective of Tally, talking about what it's like to be autistic and giving a really powerful insight into common traits such as sensory issues, demand avoidance and meltdowns.

I found the story of Tally really involving and moving, to the point where I really didn't want to put the book down and was on the verge of tears at some points. The story is told with such empathy and clarity that it really helped me to understand better the viewpoint of an autistic child - I definitely have more empathy for Girl Child since reading it. I think it would be a really good read for anyone with a connection to an autistic child, particularly people working in schools because it deals a lot with how challenging school can be for autistic children, and how easily misunderstandings can occur.

Because there are some quite intense bullying scenes in the book I'm not sure about letting Girl Child read it yet, I think she would find it too upsetting and might make her anxious for the future. But I do think it would be a good book for children aged 9 or above, whether they are autistic or not. There are a lot of important messages in the book about acceptance and emotional well-being that are universal, and any book that encourages children to see the world from another perspective is really important.

My only very slight reservation with the book is that there are some parts of the story that felt unresolved - for instance, there is a suggestion at one point that Tally's older sister Nell is also dealing with bullying, but this is not followed up. I'm taking this as a positive though, hoping it means there will be a sequel!

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

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Thursday, 23 May 2019

Review: 'A Day In Nature' by Debbie Powell

I don't want to sound awfully British, but haven't we been having lovely weather?! I love spring - the new flowers, blossom in the trees and new life all around. With summer just around the corner I'm starting the think about how we can enjoy the outdoors more. A couple of years ago we did 30 Days Wild but I sometimes found it hard to fit in an act of wildness every day, especially on rainy days.

A few weeks ago we won a new book through Toppsta that I think will help with this. 'A Day In Nature' by Debbie Powell is a collaboration with RSPB which promises '101 Activities Inspired by the Outdoors'. I was expecting a book all about pond dipping and making corn dollies, a bit like '101 Fun Outdoor Activities For Children'. Actually this book is very different but no less inspiring.



What I love about this book is the mix of different activities. Yes, there are some which are intended to be done outdoors, but these are interspersed with mazes, colouring pages, drawing and writing prompts and various activities that can be done in the comfort of your own home. So even on a rainy day your little one can be thinking about nature.



The activities that do involve actually venturing outdoors are so simple they can easily be worked into a short walk in the woods, requiring little or no equipment or planning. In this sense it's a great book for various ages, from very little children who might struggle with complicated crafts to older children who might consider crafting a bit 'uncool'. Some activities are simply about identifying different flowers or noticing what you see around you, while others are a little more on the crafty side.



The illustrations are absolutely beautiful as well, bold, colourful and really evocative of the natural world. For this reason some of my favourite activities are the cut-out ones because they allow you to create really beautiful objects. Girl Child really enjoyed making this lovely basket.



I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to get their little ones interested in nature but doesn't necessarily have a lot of time outdoors, it really cleverly gets you thinking about flora and fauna without even having to step outside.


This book was won in a Toppsta giveaway and not given in exchange for a review on this blog, I have reviewed it out of love!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog, Acorn Books and BookBairn.
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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

We Need A Better Word For Tantrums - But Meltdown Isn't It

Tantrum. Strop. Paddy. Those are horrible words aren't they?

Image courtesy of Pexels


When we use these words the predominant mental image is of a ‘naughty’ child using tears, screams and stomps to get what they want. Of course, when you take a more gentle approach to parenting you realise this isn't the case - or at least, it's not that simple. Yes, the child may be crying because they didn't get what they wanted (and if their tears do produce the desired outcome they may come to rely on that option to ‘solve the problem’) but really all they're doing is expressing their frustration in exactly the way anyone would if they had limited communication skills, only the beginnings of emotional intelligence and no appreciation of social norms around not screaming on the floor.

The thing is, I've noticed that to avoid the negative connotations of the word ‘tantrum’, many people replace it with the word ‘meltdown’. And that's problematic.

I was one of those parents. I referred to every emotional outburst Girl Child had as a meltdown. But then we started to talk about the possibility that she's autistic and, as any bookish parent would, I went away and researched what that meant. It turned out that I wasn't far off the mark because a lot of her outbursts *were* meltdowns, but still, not all of them were. Some were just her way of expressing her anger or frustration with the limited emotional restraint and social skills she has.

Because a meltdown is something more. A meltdown is when the sensory and/or emotional conditions a child (or adult) is faced with overwhelm them and they lose control, mentally and often physically. They may fall to the floor (and not in the more controlled way a 'tantrumming’ child would) or lash out, or they may curl up and retreat. They can scream, but not be able to use many (or any) words. It can take them a long time to recover - an hour or more for very severe meltdowns.

This is a very different situation to child shouting and stamping because they're cross. You can often distract a cross child with a cuddle or an offer of a fun alternative to whatever they want. It is very hard to distract a child in meltdown - although some children may have particular ‘tools’ that help them to regain control, like fidget toys, snacks, a book or a comfort object. But in some cases, you just have to ride the wave.

Meltdowns are not unique to autistic people, but they are much more common in autistic people. Also, tantrums aren't just a ‘neurotypical’ thing - autistic children can just get frustrated without tipping over into meltdown, and some may experiment with pushing boundaries to see if a tantrum will make us relent, especially if that has worked in the past.

It's hard to see the line, but the line is there. Raising a toddler/preschooler at the same time as learning more about Girl Child's condition has taught me that. Preschooler might prostrate himself and cry if I say no to a biscuit, but if I give him a hug he will eventually calm down. If Girl Child is having a meltdown, she will not accept a hug and will not calm down until either the sensory situation has changed or she's exhausted.

Of course, if we as a society could shift our view of children enough to stop seeing a child expressing their feelings as spoilt or manipulative, then that would solve the semantic issue here. But I don't see that happening any time soon. And so lumping tantrums and meltdowns together just means that children (often very vulnerable ones with additional needs) get the same negative attention.

How do we fix this problem of language? I honestly don't know. I try where I can to refer to the feelings being experienced rather than the behaviour - i.e. “he's upset that his tablet time is over” instead of “he's having a tantrum because his tablet time is over.” Maybe if we talked more about managing big feelings instead of managing tantrums that would be helpful in shifting our perspective from dealing with a difficult child to helping a child finding things difficult?

I don't have the answers. But please, can we stop diminishing meltdowns by likening them to the normal expressions of hurt or frustration that every small child has as they work out how to handle life? Thanks.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Review: Maverick Early Readers

Are your kids in the 'book band' stage of childhood? Boy, was I glad when that stage ended with Girl Child. As much as I have a fondness for Biff, Chip and Kipper I think we can all agree that early reader books aren't always the most inspiring children's literature you'll ever read. It's understandable really, I imagine to qualify for a particular book band the author has to work to fairly rigid rules which isn't exactly conducive to creativity.

However, I recently received a set of 10 early reader books from Maverick Children's Books and was pleasantly surprised by them. Unlike many of the offerings that have come home via a book bag in the last three years, these stories are funny, quirky and a joy to behold.



What struck me immediately about these books, which cover book bands purple, white and gold, was the variety of themes contained within them. A lot of early reader sets follow the same characters or fit into a similar genre. However, in this set the books are all self-contained and cover different topics and genres, from a ballet story to detective fiction and several funny stories too. Each book is like a taster of a different genre, which is great for discovering what your little one is into.

I won't go through every book as that would make for a very long post, but I think my favourite one is 'The Time Train'. I love a bit of time travel and thought this story was really clever, exploring different eras in a humorous way. I also enjoyed the reinvention of the Cinderella story in 'The Coach, The Shoes and The Football' and the funny antics of the 'Chicken Knitters'.

All of the books include the bright, bold and witty illustrations that are a hallmark of Maverick's style, and that complement each story beautifully. Obviously the illustrations are smaller and therefore simpler than in picture books but they are still packed with character and detail to keep the reader interested and engaged with the story.

Despite having moved on from reading schemes a few months ago Girl Child was still happy to read through these books which surprised me as she's usually quite resistant to reading anything she thinks she's too old for. We even had to tell her to stop reading them because it was mealtime!! It'll be a while before Preschooler is ready for these obviously but I'm definitely going to put them away for when he's older to liven his reading material up!

DISCLAIMER: I was provided with these books by the publisher for this review but my words and opinions are all my own.

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


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Saturday, 13 April 2019

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

I started this monthly green living series almost a whole year ago, looking back on last April. So this post completes the set! I had hoped to go out with a bang, with some really big and impressive green acts, but as I mentioned in my last post, March was a tricky month. But actually, this series was always meant to be about the little things we can all do to be greener, so perhaps it's fitting that my eco-achievements this month have been rather modest!




So here we go. Last month we ...

Popped our own corn


OK, this is actually something we started before March, but it definitely became handy in March when Preschooler developed a popcorn obsession. We used to get those bags that you put in your microwave to make popcorn but the amount of packaging is ridiculous! Once again, our local zero waste shop came to our rescue as they sell popping corn. So now we can put some in a microwaveable (lidded!) container with a knob of butter, whack it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and voila - fresh, warm popcorn with hardly any waste! I can't say zero waste because I've still not got the knack perfectly and end up with some burnt bits and unpopped kernels, but definitely better than the supermarket alternative!

Made hankies out of scrap


I don't know about you, but what with the cold weather and the pollen we got through a lot of tissues in our house last month! So I decided to do something I've been meaning to do for ages - start making handkerchiefs. I used a school dress that Girl Child tore last year, thinking that she might like handkerchiefs that matched her uniform and that the gingham pattern would make it easier for me to cut straight! I've only managed one so far and it was pretty tiny so I need to work on my sizing, but it was fine for Girl Child to use when she's just generally snotty. I'm hoping once I've practised more with the gingham I'll be able to make more out of other old cotton clothes that are torn or too stained to wear.



Took part in Earth Hour


This felt like quite a fitting way to round off my year of green. On 30th March at 8.30pm people around the world marked Earth Hour, an hour when people are encouraged to switch off their lights. It's a symbolic gesture - one hour without the big light on is hardly going to make much difference to the environment - but one intended to get people thinking about their energy use. We didn't do anything fancy; we were five minutes late starting because Preschooler was being a monkey at bedtime, and then having not been organised enough to dig out candles we just had an early night! But it did make me think that maybe if we went to bed half an hour earlier once a week, it would reduce our electricity use and we'd be more rested too. I'm hoping to keep up with this through the year.


So that's it, the last post in this series! It's not the end of my eco-living efforts (in fact in the last few days I've found other things to do to be greener) but now I can do things in my own time and hopefully stick at them when I'm not having to find new stuff to do. I hope these posts have helped at least a few people to see that being greener doesn't have to be hard, even the tiniest changes make a difference!

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Four Pictures Of Gratitude

So back at the beginning of February I posted about taking part in the Lovely Gratitude 2019 challenge on Laura's Lovely Blog. I managed January's challenge but February's - to go 24 hours without complaining - just proved impossible for me! Let's not dwell on what that says about me, shall we?



Last month's challenge was, on the face of it, far more achievable - posting a picture each week of something I'm grateful for. What I hadn't reckoned on was that March was going to be a difficult month for me, for reasons I won't go into here. It was really hard to stay positive enough to take photos of the nicer bits. But the challenge forced me to remember the positives which did help my mental state a little.



My first photo was of Preschooler, whose birthday was at the beginning of the month. I'm grateful that I've been able to spend three years hanging out with him, although it can be intense being mum almost all the time I know I'll miss this time with him when he starts school next year so I'm treasuring it while I can.



My second photo was of a box of books I won in a World Book Day competition run by Bloomsbury Kids. There are books of various age ranges in there meaning I could give both kids some new ones straight away and hold some back for when they're older. I'm grateful not only for these books, but for books in general, and the enjoyment they bring to all of us.



Staying on a bookish theme, my birthday was mid-month so I used some of my birthday money to buy myself this top I've had my eye on for a while from Mama Feels Good. I'm grateful that I had some spare money to treat myself and cheer myself up in an otherwise tough week.



Finally, Girl Child made me this lovely card for Mother's Day and reminded me of just how sweet and loving she can be. I am grateful for her, the child who made me a mother. She challenges me a lot, often more than I feel I can cope with, but she's capable of such kindness, humour and amazing achievements and I love her for that.

I'm really glad I stuck with the challenge this month, because it wasn't an easy month and having to find a positive point in every week helped me to remember that things weren't all bad. This month's challenge looks tough again but I'm going to give it a shot - although I have to admit it's not going well so far!

Friday, 8 March 2019

A Preschooler Who Isn't At Preschool

Toddler turned 3 on Monday. So technically he isn't a toddler anymore - in official terms, he's a Preschooler.

Except, he's not at preschool. And at the moment I don't think he'll ever go.



There are various reasons for this. One is that I'm just not sure he's ready yet - his speech has come on lots in recent weeks but can still be hard to decode, so I worry that he would struggle to communicate with staff and other children at preschool. Also he can get distressed if I leave him with someone else, and while I know that's common and something a lot of kids work through, I just don't feel like pushing it when I don't need to.

Which leads me to me. Circumstances are very different now to when I put Girl Child into preschool. I'm no longer trying to work from home so don't have a pressing need for childcare. Also, I'm finding this stage a lot easier now. He's a much more mellow child so I don't feel as exhausted trying to meet his need for stimulation as I did with Girl Child. And of course, he's my last child. I'll never do this stage again, I'm in no rush to share him yet.

But also there's the challenge of finding a preschool that I feel would be right for him, and for us as a family. Girl Child went to two different settings - one, a preschool, from just after her third birthday until just before her fourth, and then a school nursery until she started school. She didn't have the smoothest of times at either but the preschool was far better for her, and I'd envisaged sending her little brother there too. However, that now only takes children from 2 until the September after they turn 3. So if I put Preschooler in there now he'd only have a term before he would be expected to move to the nursery class, which was much more formal and structured and not at all what I think he needs. I'm strongly in favour of a relaxed, child-led approach as opposed to focussing on getting children 'school ready'. Different families have different feelings about this and that's fine, but my gut tells me he wouldn't be happy in a more structured setting yet.

So where does that leave us? At the moment I'm thinking of finding a childminder for a couple of days a week from September, as I think the smaller, more homely environment would be better for him. For now though, I'm just going to carry on enjoying having him at home with me. I'm very aware that not many parents have the luxury of being able to stay at home and I want to make the most of it before I have to give him up to school five days a week.

Is there anyone else whose preschooler doesn't/didn't go to preschool? What did you do instead?

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Review: 'Shampooch' by Heather Pindar and Susan Batori

My kids are obsessed with dogs at the moment. Girl Child has gone from being terrified of them to wanting to stroke and talk to almost every one she sees (unless they're off the lead, then she still gets very frightened). Toddler has always loved dogs and squeals with excitement when he sees them!

So I was really happy to receive a copy of the latest picture book from Maverick Children's Books, 'Shampooch'!


Shampooch is a very pampered pup indeed, her owners lavishing all kinds of expensive beautifying treatments on her.


So when they visit the park, she doesn't want to join in the grubby games of the other dogs. But then she gets distracted ...


I won't spoil the ending, but let's just say Shampooch discovers that getting messy can be lots of fun!

This is a really fun book which would definitely appeal to young dog lovers. It would also be a fantastic book to read with little ones who seem anxious about getting messy, to show them it can be fun and that there's more to life than looking smart. My only slight reservation is the negative reactions of the owners, which might put children off getting dirty, but this would be a good talking point for parents to explain when it is and isn't OK to get messy, and why dog owners might react differently to parents (it's easier to take off muddy clothes than it is to clean muddy fur, for instance!).

I really enjoyed reading this book with Toddler, there are lots of brilliant onomatopoeic words that make it lots of fun to read aloud, and he loved looking at all the funny dogs! Yet again, Maverick has delivered a book with appealing and amusing illustrations to complement a witty, wacky and well-crafted story.


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

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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Friday, 1 March 2019

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

I've got to be honest, dear reader, these posts are getting harder to write. This is in part because I've been documenting our eco progress for 11 months now and starting to run out of ways in which I can make our life greener without significant expense or hassle. And, leading on from that, I'm at a stage where I feel I need to focus on other things, especially in terms of parenting, and that means I don't have a lot of time to face the hassle. Therefore I've come to a decision that next month's post will be the last of the series - one post for each month of the year. If you have any suggestions of things we can do in March then please let me know.

Anyway, onto February ...



Made recycled crayons



A small act, but still a way of reducing waste. We have an old chocolate tub full of colouring stuff in our house and it was at the point where it was over 50% filled with broken crayons. So, following Captain Bobcat's really helpful guide, I sorted them into colours and melted them into cute fishy crayons!



Admittedly I still have a few colours yet to do, but it feels great to have decluttered the colouring tub without just binning the broken bits. And Toddler seems to prefer the chunky size of these crayons too. Win!


Found alternative cleaning products


One areas I was struggling with was my dishwasher. The tablets we were using either came in plastic wrappers which aren't recyclable in our area or were coated with what I suspect is soluble plastic - and of course, releasing microplastics into the water system is a Bad Thing. I had intended to start using dishwasher powder instead but actually couldn't find any in our local supermarket! Luckily our trusty zero waste shop came to the rescue as they stock Ecoleaf tablets, which at least claim to be fully plant based and environmentally friendly. They're pricier but I can live with that.

Also, my husband is getting in on the act and found an Ocean Saver bottle and pod at the supermarket. The idea of this is that you buy a bottle containing a pod of concentrated cleaning product, mix it with water at home then just buy new pods when you've run out. Again, this makes me a little concerned about the possibility that the soluble skin of the pods are made of plastic, and frustratingly I couldn't find any clear answer about this on their website, but from the perspective of reducing packaging and reusing the bottle, I think this is a great idea.


So, that's it for my penultimate monthly eco-friendly round-up. Let's see what fabulous green swaps I can find this month for the last one!

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Review: 'The Usborne Book of Night Time' by Laura Cowan and Bonnie Pang

You know you're a competition addict when you receive a package and have no idea where it's come from! That happened with me just before Christmas, when a gorgeous hardback book arrived. I'm pretty sure it's not a review copy, it didn't look like someone had sent it as a gift, but I also wasn't contacted to say I'd won it. So I'm just going to assume it was from one of the many book giveaways I enter, and write a review anyway because it's just so pretty!!



'The Usborne Book of Night Time' is exactly what you'd expect and so much more. It's an exploration of what happens when the sun goes down in different places - the city, countryside, even in factories and the ISS!



I love this first spread, not only for all the little details but also because it shows how different jobs involve working at different times. I imagine this would be really good for children of shift workers, to see their family represented and understand how their parents' routines differ from others. I also love that it shows families in an apartment block - so often you see family life represented in big suburban semis, so it's great to acknowledge different family homes.



I think the countryside spread would be a big hit with a lot of children - animals are always a winner! Although it might be a bit upsetting to see predators out catching mice and so on, it's a good way to start introducing the idea of food chains. I also really like that it shows scientists studying moths, showing that science covers lots of different areas. The use of light and shade in the illustrations is beautiful, as it is throughout the book



I was really torn about which spreads to show in this review as they're all gorgeous, but I really love the colours in the sea illustrations. I found it rally fascinating reading about coral, there are facts in there I didn't even know!

This would be a fantastic book for preschoolers and early school-age children to learn about all sorts of different topics through the uniting theme of night time. It may even make children who are afraid of the dark feel a bit better about the night time by exploring it more deeply. I've only scratched the surface in this review - there are pages about night time in other parts of the world, covering topics such as transport, astronomy and space exploration too.

There really is lots to learn and discuss in this book. I'm really looking forward to reading it with Toddler when he's a bit older, at the moment he doesn't really have the attention span or understanding but I think it'll be a great book to explore together in a few months time.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read 
#KLTR.
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Saturday, 2 February 2019

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

In some ways it's been a bit of a demoralising month in my effort to live a greener life. Toddler has completely regressed with potty training but now won't stay still enough to have a cloth nappy on, and having failed to find reusable training pants that contain his wees I've resorted to pull ups in the day. He's still in cloth at night, and at least I've avoided a lot of nappies going in the bin over the past two and a half years, but I still feel a bit disheartened. Hopefully when the weather is better we can have another go at potty training.

I've also discovered a few random things I've been recycling that I really shouldn't - shop receipts, for instance, are usually coated in BPA, who knew? And apparently our local recycling plant can't accept black plastic because it doesn't show up on the conveyor belt. Which seems ridiculous to me, but hey, I'm not an expert.



So what have we managed to do a bit more greenly in January? Well ...

Had a low waste party


Girl Child's birthday is at the end of December but to give everyone chance to recover from Christmas we had her party mid-January. Parties can be massively wasteful, but luckily we're not too far from Waste Not Parties, a small business that hires out reusable party kits. The kit included crockery and cutlery, tablecloth and napkins, and decorations that can all be used over and over. They even clean everything up for you! Looks great, don't you think?



I also avoided having party bags full of little plastic toys by making up little craft kits for the kids to do at home. We did mess up by over-catering, but whatever wasn't actually picked up by a child was put in tubs and taken home for us to eat, so I think overall it was a success!

Conscious Decluttering


That sounds a bit Gwyneth Paltrow, doesn't it? Sorry about that.

KonMari seems to be a big thing at the moment, and while I am totally on board with decluttering, the implication that we should just throw out anything that doesn't 'spark joy' just doesn't sit right with me. So while I have been trying to declutter, I've been doing so in a way that won't add to waste disposal issues. Anything that's still usable I've tried to re-home with friends or good causes. I am trying to sell some of the bigger, nicer stuff but that's a battle to be honest so if anyone has any tips on reselling I'd love to hear them. Unusable stuff has been sent to recycling as much as possible, including textile recycling for tatty old clothes (I have more than enough rags now!). I still feel like there's a long way to go but I feel determined to get rid of our clutter without turning it into trash!!

Have you found any tricks or tips to be greener in the last month?

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Reasons To Be Grateful: 1, 2 ... 100!

A few weeks ago I saw that Laura's Lovely Blog is running a gratitude challenge throughout 2019. I have to admit I'm quite a pessimist and can often dwell on the negatives, so I thought this would be a good way to notice the positives. Then I saw that the first challenge was to list 100 things I'm grateful for. Gulp! It sounded overwhelming, but I thought I'd give it a go and see if I could do it.

Photo by Carl Attard from Pexels


So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are 100 things I'm grateful for, obvious and obscure, philosophical and frivolous:

God
My husband
My daughter
My son
My Mum
My Dad
My brothers
My in-laws
My extended family
All the pets I've ever had
My house, imperfect as it is
The town I live in
The village I grew up in
My oldest friends who still put up with me!
My education
My time at university
My uni friends
Being able to care for my children at this stage in their lives
My daughter's school
Trees
Our cars (even though I hate driving!)
My book collection
My TV
My dishwasher
Bed
Having a garden
Seeing cats in the street
Birdsong
The friendly faces on the school run
My church family
My local friends
All the wonderful children I know
Being able to volunteer
Our children's centre
Our local library
The fab cafe in town with a play area and lovely cake
Lovely cake!
Not having to worry about how much food we have
Being mostly healthy
The children's health
The NHS, for when we're not healthy
Having had a relatively short wait for Girl Child's autism diagnosis
Autism support groups
Tea
Chocolate
My breastfeeding experiences
The opportunity to help others in their breastfeeding experiences
My online friends
My other friends not accounted for above!
The music of Nina Simone
Petrichor
Warm but breezy days
The promise of springtime
Modern medicine
Modern technology ... most of the time ...
The seaside
Walks in the woods
Dancing
Baby (and toddler) carriers
My washing machine
Warm clothes
Running water
Heating
The opportunity to travel
Flowers
Butterflies
The works of Shakespeare
Cows
Hugs
Toddler's quirky speech
People who devote their lives to helping others
My daughter's friends
Teachers
Our emergency services
Never having directly felt the impact of war
Knitting
Crochet
Cross stitch
The Bible
Crunchy leaves in autumn
The works of Jane Austen
'Friends'
Soft play (yes, really!)
Motown music
90's Britpop
Dr Pepper (especially when I've had a rubbish night)
Knowing one day Toddler will sleep through
Murmurations
Exciting post
CBeebies!
The kindness of strangers
Living on a quiet street
Elvis
Biscuits
Sheep
Hot showers
My mobile phone
Hope for the future
The increasing understanding of autism in society
The ability to sing

Well that was even harder than I expected, so apologies that it's a very random list! What are you grateful for?

Monday, 21 January 2019

In Defence Of Slow Readers

At the end of last month I saw a lot of posts, on blogs and on social media generally, about the number of books people had read that year. Many of those numbers were impressively big; some were even in three figures.

Last year I made a big effort to read more myself. And I feel I was successful in that. My magic number? 11.

That's right. I read 11 books, and I'm pleased with that.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

The thing is, you see, I'm a slow reader. Always have been. I enjoy reading, actually I love it, but it's not always easy for me. Particularly if I'm tired or stressed, it can be hard to keep track of where I am on the page - words seem to jump around, lines merge together and I often have to reread entire paragraphs because I've managed to read the words without taking in any of the meaning. I don't know if I'm actually dyslexic or whether I'm just a bit slow, but speed reading will never be my forte.

For years I've felt embarrassed about this, as if being a slow reader means I'm less intelligent. It's the reason why, when I was feeling unhappy in my Theatre Studies degree in the first year, I persevered rather than switching to English Literature as I wanted to - I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up with the reading lists. Nowadays I still feel like I have to defend my inability to read huge piles of books - I feel impelled to explain that for me it's not just a case of prioritising different things, or being too busy, I will simply never be able to read fast. And of course the most embarrassing thing is that my unusually gifted reader daughter has been able to read faster than me for two years now!

But being a slow reader does have its good points. I'm able to inhabit the world of a book for longer, and I can often remember books in quite a lot of detail because I've taken my time over them. I never run out of books to read, because I acquire them far faster than I can read them. And there is, even now, a sense of achievement when finishing a long or challenging book that I don't think I'd get if I could just whizz through it in a week or less.

If you can get through a dozen books a month, then that's fantastic and boy do I envy you! But don't assume that people who read less just don't like reading as much as you. I love it. I love books. I just have to work a bit harder to get through them.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

Read With Me

Monday, 14 January 2019

Review: 'Stay Strong' by Dr Sharie Coombes

Bullying. It's something every parent of schoolchildren dreads. Two and a half years in, I still haven't quite got used to the sense of powerlessness when I send Girl Child to school for six hours a day and can do nothing to help her in her interactions. She's yet to experience bullying thankfully, and her school are great at dealing with problems so I'm not overly worried, but she is a sensitive soul who takes even the slightest teasing or power play to heart.

When I saw the workbooks by Dr Sharie Coombes I felt sure these could help Girl Child deal with her feelings. So when 'Stay Strong' came up in a Toppsta giveaway I entered to give the book a try, and luckily I won a copy.



Although the book says it is 'for young people who are experiencing bullying', actually I think all children could benefit from this book. Many of the activities within the book aren't directly related to bullying - they focus on building confidence, celebrating differences and finding calming techniques to help children to control their instinctive fight/flight/freeze response. The book refers to this as 'Bob', the primitive part of our brain that is supposed to protect us from threats.



There are so many fantastic activities in this book. A lot of them are very creative and focussed around drawing, so this would work particularly well for an arty child, but there are also written activities, breathing exercises and encouragement to move around and be energetic.



The activities encourage a lot of self reflection, discovering the child's strengths and helping them to see themselves as strong and able to withstand teasing and bullying. I think these activities would be best worked through with a supportive adult, especially for sensitive or insecure children. Others are a bit more open-ended, allowing children to get creative while still getting them thinking about the key themes of celebrating difference and finding inner strength.



Girl Child has looked through the book a few times and done some of the activities but then the busyness of Christmas and New Year got in the way. But I'm really glad we have this resource now to help her find inner strength and deal with conflicts herself. It's something she is always likely to struggle with so I'm grateful for books like this, and am definitely going to buy the other books by Dr Coombes which all deal with various aspects of emotional intelligence.

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


Read With Me


Laura's Lovely Blog

Thursday, 10 January 2019

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

December is possibly the hardest month to be green. Christmas, a hugely significant festival to me, nowadays feels like a big consumerist binge and it's very hard to get away from that unless you live in a remote backwater away from all of society. But we did what we could to stay eco-friendly. How?


Reined in our buying


A popular motto for eco-living is 'reduce, reuse, recycle' and they're in that order for a reason. One of the best things we can do for the planet is buy less stuff. With that in mind, we did what we could to make sure the presents we bought weren't excessive and were things that would actually be appreciated and used. With Girl Child we only bought things from her list, and shared out the items on her list with family so that the number of 'surprise' presents was limited. This helps her too as she struggles a lot with surprises. Similarly with food, we were careful not to over cater. We had a traditional Christmas dinner at my mum's on Christmas Eve so to avoid waste we chose a meal that we would all eat for Christmas Day - and that was lasagne!! Not having to chuck away leftovers did make me very happy!

Shopped local


I love online shopping. It's so hard to find time to go to actual shops when you have two young children. And while there might be some argument that centralised warehouses and grouped deliveries might be greener than we think, the amount of packaging required for online purchases is a concern (as are the conditions and rights for the workers). I can't say with all honesty that I did no online shopping this year, but we made more of an effort to buy from actual shops. The reduction in packaging we had to throw away before we could even wrap presents was very noticeable!

Tried to be wrapping-savvy


I have a confession. This is the first Christmas I've known that not all wrapping paper is recyclable. Before now I've shoved everything in the green bin, without even removing sellotape. Oops! But this year I learnt the rules and even double checked with my local council. Anything that isn't foil or glittery and passed the scrunch test (stayed in a ball after scrunching) can be recycled here as long as you remove tape and tags. So we used compliant wrapping paper ourselves and properly sorted the paper we got to make sure it was in a state fit for recycling. Some people recommend using scarves to wrap presents but I could see that getting expensive, especially when it's not yet widespread so you wouldn't be getting many scarves back in return. And I'm too clumsy to manage tying with ribbon instead of using tape. But it doesn't have to be hard work to wrap in a green way - just check local guidelines and buy accordingly.


What did you do to have a green Christmas?