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.

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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.


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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?