Monday, 31 October 2016

My Little Halloween Monster

I think one of the reasons childhood is so magical is that children have poor long term memories. This means they get to rediscover special holidays over and over again, year after year. M was taken Trick or Treating last year, but she doesn’t remember it. This year I wasn’t planning on taking her because it seemed like too much hassle. Trying to do dinner and bath time for both girls plus a tour of the neighbourhood and sugar could easily make a challenging time worse. After picking M up from after school club I showed her the bucket of sweets and explained about Halloween.

I had only got the sweets 'just in case'. I've always thought it's better to have treats if people knock than to risk getting the front door egged. It's not exactly a hardship if we have to eat all the sweets ourselves, but this meant I hadn't carved a pumpkin or prepared any decorations to put outside encouraging people to knock.

M waited impatiently on the doorstep for visitors, but there were hardly any people going door to door on our road. Those we could see headed to the houses with pumpkins. M ended up running down the street after them shouting "Trickle sweets! Trickle sweets!". 

I decided to stop cooking dinner and asked M if she wanted to go out Trick or Treating. There were 2 houses we could see with decorations so we headed to those. That was enough to give M a taste for it. Something clicked and she realised that just by knocking on a door and holding a bucket out people would give her handfuls of sugar. I was foolish to think we would stop after 2 houses.

The road round the corner had lots of the houses decorated and a mass of children knocking at the doors. I managed to persuade M the phrase was "Trick or Treat" (much as I loved “trickle sweets”), but she was often too shy to say it. I was impressed that she mumbled unprompted “thank you”s.

It was fun meeting so many neighbours and there was a great party atmosphere. I've never really gone trick or treating before and my previous neighbours haven't encouraged it. Each year I've bought sweets, but even when I've put a pumpkin outside not many have knocked. I now appear to live near a popular street for Halloween. Next year we are definitely going to make more effort.

I asked M what she thought of Trick or Treating and she said “It was really good, I wish they did it every day. I want to do it again. I like Trick or Treating because you get to have lots of yummy scrumptious sweets.” I kinda wish she hadn’t tried to eat them all, in the dark I didn’t notice as they kept disappearing into her mouth.

With my aching arms I cut the sweet collecting short. I was carrying the baby as I originally planned to only visit 2 houses. I wanted the girls to have dinner and encouraged M to head home to see if anyone else would come to our door. I put our (uncarved and edible) pumpkin on the pavement and stuck a witches hat in the letter box, but we still didn’t get anyone stop by. As M stood by the window ready to pounce with her sweets I attempted to persuade her to eat some dinner, the sugar high had already hit though and she barely touched it.

M was loud and annoying. The sugar had turned my little witch into a monster so I got her in the bath, letting her splash around with her sister and hoping she would go to bed soon. She may have been inspired by Johnson's special edition baby bubble bath featuring cheeky bubble monsters. There was shouting, giggling and too much noise, but she finally burnt herself out earlier than normal.


Now I get to eat all the sweets.

Disclosure: The girls had a bath in Johnson's Bubble Bath and Wash this evening which is gentle enough for both of them. I was sent a bottle and character cards about their Bubble Monsters. The Bubble Monsters were not given any sugary snacks either in or out of the water.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Halloween - My Sunday Photo

As a child I didn't really celebrate Halloween. I don't remember going trick or treating or dressing up. Now there doesn't seem to be any getting away from it and having a daughter who loves to wear glitter and sparkly dresses it's an opportunity where she can be dressed up out of the house without getting those looks from other parents. You know the look, the look that says "yes, I understand, you let your child wear anything out of the house because it was easier than trying to get her in sensible clothes. My child once went to the dentist as spiderman".

This week we went to Audley End Miniature Railway in Saffron Waldon for their Halloween special because it's half term and seemed like a good thing to do with friends. We had a great time. As well as the train ride which had a spooky make over with bats, ghosts and dancing witches offering treats there was a dance tent, craft tent and the normal bouncy castle and play area. We had great weather and a brilliant time.

I took a lot of pictures and the one I have chosen for this post is hugely over exposed and is when we were coming out of a tunnel. I love it and think it adds to the spooky feel of the train ride. You can see M's face and her waving a magic wand and feel the movement of the train.


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

An Advent Calendar Full Of Glitter, Sequins And Stickers

If you are looking for an alternative to a chocolate advent calendar how about this crafty calendar? It’s perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. I made it for my daughter when she is was 2 (it’s just taken me a few years to blog about it). The end result is a lovely “Happy Christmas” garland decorated by your child.

A fun, crafty advent calendar for children (with no chocolate) and images of the contents of the advent calendar


Monday, 24 October 2016

Creating a Photo Book for Family Face Recognition

For a baby Christmas Day is just another day, but when they have older siblings you can’t leave them out. Why wouldn’t Father Christmas leave a filled stocking for the little sister? So what do you put in a Christmas stocking for a baby? One idea I’ve had is a family photo book.
Text saying "photo book to help babies recognise family" and a photograph of the photo book with all the pages fanned out

POP BOOK Review and Giveaway

POP BOOK kindly offered me a code to try out their app and receive a mini photo book. I made a Family Photo book for my baby which you can read about here. This mini book is perfect as a stocking filler for Christmas. If you would like a chance to win one there is a giveaway at the bottom of this post.
The front of our POP BOOK with the title "the Little Book of Sophie" and a picture of a baby in front of the envelope with the POP BOOK envelope


Sunday, 23 October 2016

Give us a clue: night time ailments

We had a duvet day today. This meant comfort food, snuggling on the sofa with a duvet and lots of TV. 

Last night M woke up crying about half ten. In between sobs she said in a wibbly voice that her ear hurt. It’s not uncommon for M to wake up in the night in pain, normally it’s because she has fallen asleep in a strange position and she has pins and needles.

Trying to decipher what hurts and the possible cause when your child (and you) are half asleep requires lots of patience and strong parenting skills.

“Where does it hurt?”
“My ear”
Can you show me where?
“On the outside or the inside?
“Hear?” (ha ha, I actually said “here?”) I went to touch it and she cried it was too painful.

After half an hour of crying, holding on to her head and not being able to establish exactly where the pain was I go get the Nurofen (first painkiller type bottle which came to hand).

I cuddle M for another half an hour, stoke her, pat her with little impact on getting her back to sleep and minimal comfort. She doesn’t seem able to sleep or calm down so I go get the iPad and tell her she can lie in bed watching something. I leave her with the instruction to call me if she wants me. I crawl back into bed, head on pillow for a couple of minutes before Little begins to make whimpering noises in her sleep. These soon progress to her waking up and crying so I scoop her up from her cot to feed her.

At some point during the half an hour feed, M starts calling for me. I send G in and he returns about 5 minutes later. M must have fallen asleep briefly, woken up and was very distressed about why Mummy had left the iPad there. A clear sign she wasn’t well, normally she would be overjoyed she had the iPad in her room. He got M to sleep and the rest of us all went to sleep too.

For the next 3 hours M woke up every so often crying in pain. She spent sometime watching BBC iplayer, had more medicine and around 4 fell into a decent sleep until 9. Today she has had some pain, but has mostly just been tired. I have lost count of how many episodes of Paw Patrol we have seen. There has also been a bit of painting, drawing and dragon hunting in the garden so it’s not all been screen time. 

We think M has an ear infection because her hearing is affected too, fingers crossed she will catch up on sleep tonight and it won’t effect half term too much.
4 figures drawn in felt tip by a 5 year old: 2 girls, a mum and a dad
Little, M, Me and G by M age 5

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Keeping it simple for a Bright Future

I avoid the news. I know I shouldn’t and I recognise it's important to have an understanding of current affairs, but the news is so miserable. Pick anything: the environment, finances, how humans behave towards each other, so much of it makes me worry about the world we live in. Worse still, I worry about what the world will be like when my children are grown up. It makes me want to hold them closer, to protect them and keep them safe. It even makes me doubt my decision to have children. Was it selfish to bring more life into the world when the future looks so bleak?

I can’t save the world and as an individual there is a limit to how much I can influence what happens to it, but as a Mum, a girlfriend, a granddaughter, a sister and a daughter I can make a difference. I can make small changes to what I do, I can guide my daughters and in a big world which feels so out of control I can help make their future brighter. 

Unilever have a brightFuture initiative with a goal to unite communities. They encourage small changes in everyday life that have a positive impact on the world. They challenged me to share the everyday actions we take as a family to make the world a better place.

One of the things I realised when I talked to my big girl about the world and how we can make it better is that her view of the world is so very different to mine. She doesn’t understand how big the world is, how cruel it can be. To her life is simple. To her the world can be a better place if we help each other more. If we are kind, if we do things as simple as picking up rubbish then we can make the world better. 

So I’m thinking simple, what simple things can we do as a family to make the future brighter?

Make a mess. Don’t worry about dirt, don’t worry about stains, just play. Clothes can be cleaned, the house can be cleaned, people can be cleaned. So lets get in that mud kitchen, dig a hole, paint with our hands. Embrace mess and have fun.
A child's hand covered in red paint, a table, paint brush and piece of paper also covered in red paint

Make time. When I hear “mummy!” for the 50th time in an hour I find it tempting to ignore it, to not have patience. When I'm in the middle of cooking dinner and I feel a tug on my sleeve I have choices: keep trying to get dinner ready as quickly as possible or stop, bend down, look my daughter in the eye and focus completely on her for 30 seconds. How much difference will 30 seconds make to the dinner? How much difference could that 30 seconds make to my child?

Make contact. There is power in human contact. A hug can change the course of someone's day, but contact doesn’t have to be physical. We can all think of someone we should call more often, or email, or write to. People are often in our thoughts, but I know I’m guilty of not always letting them know.

Make bubbles. It could be a shower to relax and feel refreshed. Giving my children a bubble bath and a splash around. Maybe getting some bubble mixture, turning on some music and dancing around popping all the bubbles. Soap isn’t just for getting clean.
A baby's face floating in a bath surrounded by bubbles

Make a difference. My big girl knows what goes in the recycling, what goes in the compost and what goes in the rubbish. We give away old clothes and toys to charity shops so other boys and girls can enjoy them. I encourage her to speak to the child standing alone and scared at the side of a party. I give money to charity, reuse carrier bags and try to save energy. Such small changes, but maybe they will add up.

This post is an entry for BritMums #brightFuture Challenge, sponsored by Unilever
A fabric bag with a "U" on and the Unilever logo with a bottle of Domestos, Dove body lotion, persil non bio and Dove bath cream

  • “Unilever’s brightFuture initiative focuses on small changes that can make big differences and how we can build a world where everyone lives well and lives sustainably. Since the launch of the Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever has helped 482 million people to improve their health and hygiene, including through hand washing, improving self-esteem and oral hygiene.
  • This is exemplified in the work undertaken by Domestos that has committed to helping 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet by 2020. Access to clean sanitation can protect people from preventable diseases, reduce mortality rates, help reduce school dropout rates and improve quality of life.
  • Furthermore, Persil has backed a global initiative ‘Learning for Tomorrow’ partnering with UNICEF to help give children in some of the world’s toughest areas the opportunity of a quality education.
  • Building on the aim to improve lives through small steps, the Dove Self-Esteem Project has worked closely with leading psychologists, academics and experts to create materials and resources that help young people develop a positive relationship with their appearance. The project has now reached over 19 million young lives.”

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Mythical Mothers and Me

Being a parent is a wonderful thing, but some days I just want to get away from it all. I frequently struggle, but I hear there are these mythical amazing mothers who have it all together. They have tidy houses, all the washing is washed AND put away (my spare room is basically one big clothes mountain right now), they cook, they socialise and they work or volunteer and have other commitments on their time.

Based on my 5 years experience of being a parent it is impossible to get anywhere close to these mythical mothers' level of perfection unless you have children who sleep a lot. I'm talking early bedtimes, no wake ups and regular naps. It helps if you only need a few hours sleep too. 

The rest of us normal mums of young children have this huge sleep deficit and have to compromise on what we are going to achieve.

Children clean, dressed, fed and at school on time means I've either got up super early (and I'm doing a rather good zombie impression) or I've had to skip breakfast, having a shower and putting on make up. 

If my house is tidy it probably means that I'm expecting visitors, but it also means I will have a big backlog of emails, blog posts and general admin. I love having a tidy house, but between the 5 year old, the baby and the kitten it doesn't happen. Even if I spent nap time cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming and mopping the floor it would look like I hadn't bothered when G got home from work as dinner time would undo all the effort.
Today is one of those parenting days where I'm really struggling. There have been quite a few of those recently. Little hasn't slept well for months. At the moment she is in a seemingly endless cold cycle and I haven't even been able to take her to baby group this morning as she looks too infectious. 

The house work has built up to the level that it's going to take some serious effort to get it sorted and if I have some child free time sleep is far higher a priority.

On top of all that it's been one of those crappy parenting evenings. The baby has been crying because she didn't nap this afternoon, she was so exhausted I pretty much had to hold her from 4pm until bedtime. The big sister came back from after school club full of attitude that suggested she had been taking behavioural lessons from a teenager. She had a small accident in her room which led to their being poo on Elsa (just Let it Go). The kitten timed her bowel emptying perfectly so we got to eat dinner with the odour of poop (yes my evening has largely been poo). M had a few bites of her dinner and bit her tongue so she decided she was no longer hungry and she was going to play with the lego mini figures at the table. Alice's head fell off so I had to crawl under the table looking for it. The alternative would mean forgetting about it until I find it tomorrow in the baby's mouth. Yay for the pincer grip development. M knocked over her drink soaking the table which is obviously piled high with stuff because every available surface in my house is. I finish cleaning it up just in time to see Little feeding the kitten some chicken which was meant to be her dinner.

There was less than 15 minutes from Elsa’s mishap to the baby led kitten feeding.

I have a sore throat and feel like rubbish because my body is too run down right now to constantly fight off the cold germs from the snot I'm being covered in daily. I think I'll thank school for the endless gift of illness.

I was hiding away writing this post after getting Little temporarily to sleep, but I heard a large crashing noise. I couldn't avoid investigating in case it was in my house and someone or some thing was in trouble. The source of crash is still unknown, but the house looks intact.

It's all ok. Tomorrow will be different. The house will still be a mess, I'll still have 1001 things to do, but Little will smile at me, M will give me a hug and I'll be buying some air freshener.

Half Term Entertainment at Kidtropolis

If you are looking for somewhere to go with primary school age children this October Half Term how about a visit to Kidtropolis? It’s at ExCel London 25th to 27th October (that’s Tuesday to Thursday) and is aimed at children 12 and under. We are going and I’m really excited, it sounds like there will be a huge amount to do. 

Disclosure: we have been given free entry in exchange for a review.


Sunday, 9 October 2016

An Autumn Adventure

Baby wipes.

We are off on an Autumn adventure.

The leaves crunch under our feet as we walk into the forest. Crunch, crunch, stomp, stomp. Kicking the leaves around as we go.

We find a tumbling down brick wall. "I think Little Red Riding hood used to live here" M says. 

A 5 year old girl in a pinky hoody sits smiling in a tree

Friday, 7 October 2016

There are days...

There are days when you feel like you spend all your time holding your baby. Days when you don't even make it to the shower. There are days when you have to choose between putting your baby down to cry for 30 seconds or trying to go to the toilet while holding them.

There are days your baby will only sleep on you. When every time you place them gently in their cot their eyes spring open and they start to cry. There are days you manage to get downstairs and make a cup of tea before they wake up crying, where you comfort them as your tea goes cold. 

There are days when you want some space, to not constantly be touched. Days when you want a break or just want to walk away. There are days you wait to hear the sound of your partner opening the front door as they come home so you can hand baby over.

We all have days like these.
A baby asleep
But there are days which come all too soon where you realise you haven't given your child a hug all day. Days where you sneak into their room as they sleep to push their hair back and give them a kiss and tuck the blanket round them.

There are days when they will tell you they don't like you any more, where they say "you're no longer my best friend", "I want Daddy" or "I hate you". Days when they push you away when you try and give them a hug. Days they want to do it all themselves.

There are days when you wave to them at the school gate, but they don't even turn back to look. Days when you go to pick them up, they wave, but keep on playing.

A girl in school uniform holding an umbrella seen from behind walking away
There are bad days when they need you too much, but they become bad days when they don't need you enough.

Quite Frankly She Said Sunday Best

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Giveaway: A Handbook to help Working Parents

I’m starting to think about the inevitable: returning to work. While I don’t finish maternity leave until early next year, I’m going to meet with my manager in the next couple of weeks. I went back to work with my eldest when she was a year old and it was hard. Working full time meant that week days I didn’t get to see much of my daughter. I had to wake her up, get her into clothes, take her to nursery and by the time I got back from work M was about ready for bed. Unfortunately then, and now, she has resisted going to bed at a reasonable time because she wants to spend time with me, but she is tired and needs sleep. We have to struggle to get quality time into those high stress periods and the weekend. 

When I go back to work M will be at Breakfast club, then school, the after school club. It doesn’t leave us a lot of time to spend together so I need to make sure the time we do have counts and that I can have as positive an influence as possible. That’s why I’m excited to read Nadim Saad’s new book released this week “The Working Parents Guide to raising happy and confident children”.


Playtime And The Highs and Lows of Parenting

I remember shortly after my first daughter was born I thought “this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life”. I’ve jumped out of an aeroplane, I’ve climbed a mountain, I’ve been department head at work and managed a team of people, I’ve sold books door to door thousands of miles from home, asked a judge to evict families from their homes and supported recovering addicts. But what caused me to fall to the floor crying and doubt my abilities? A teeny tiny little baby.


Monday, 3 October 2016

Oh Bum! #Bepanthen Bedtime Challenge

You know how it is, you agree to a post about nappy care ointment and before the product arrives your baby suddenly has the worst nappy rash of her life. 

Most babies will get nappy rash at some point and we've just come out the other side. It was the kind of nappy rash that when people saw it as we were changing her nappy they would say "ooo that looks sore". Poor Little. Fortunately she seemed less bothered by it than other people.

So what causes nappy rash?

In our case Little had a lot of snot due to a cold/ teething and she had a lot of dirty nappies. Hard to tell if the increased bowel movements were due to the snot or something else, but her poor bum was very irritated. 
Night times were the worst. We weren't going to wake her up to change her nappy (she seemed to poo just before drifting off and she was already sleeping really badly) so her skin got irritated overnight.

The NHS says the causes of Nappy Rash are:

  • "your baby's skin being in contact with wee or poo (stools) for a long time
  • the nappy rubbing against your baby's skin
  • not cleaning the nappy area or changing the nappy often enough
  • soap, detergent or bubble bath
  • alcohol-based baby wipes
  • your baby recently taking antibiotics"

How do you treat it?

I have found using a nappy cream is essential to provide a barrier to prevent further irritation and to calm the skin. We kept applying it at each nappy change and gradually her bum became less red. The ideal though is to not get nappy rash in the first place.

Preventing nappy rash

I'm not going to tell anyone they should put on a barrier cream at each nappy change. Life is too short and we have enough fun trying to keep Little still long enough to change her nappy. A typical nappy change for us goes like this:

  • Pick Little up and place her on the changing mat (we generally keep the mat on the floor for safety).
  • Grab baby wipes and nappy.
  • Grab baby and place her back on the mat.
  • Remove minimum possible clothes and nappy.
  • Wipe bum as baby rolls around and tries to crawl off.
  • Put baby back on mat while trying to distract her.
  • Wipe babies foot as she has managed to kick it in the dirty nappy.
  • Put new nappy on bum and loosely do up as she crawls off.
  • Grab baby and sit her on my lap while I secure the nappy, making sure it's tight enough and the flaps are all in the right place.
  • Replace clothing if I can be bothered.
  • Have a cup of tea or chocolate bar to recover.

The time that a Nappy Care Ointment really makes a difference is at night. Disposable nappies are great at keeping bottoms dry, but 12 hours in the same nappy increases the chance of a sore bottom. I would also recommend using cream at all nappy changes at first sign of redness and when nappy rash is more likely e.g. teething or a tummy upset.

Little’s bottom is now rash free and we have managed to keep it that way by applying cream each night.
The box of Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment 30g with the tube next to it

This post is an entry for #Bepanthen Bedtime Challenge, sponsored by Bepanthen. Learn more at or 

Bepanthen recommend applying a thin layer to your baby’s clean dry bottom as part of the bedtime nappy change. Bepanthen offers additional comfort for your baby as it is non-stick and quickly absorbing formulation.

Giveaway: Johnson's baby bedtime range

Sleep. I don’t talk about it often do I? If you haven’t read it my latest grumble is here. While nothing can guarantee a good nights sleep there are some things which make it more likely. It is important to wind down and relax before your eyes close to get good quality sleep, the same goes for children. One way to help little ones to relax is a good routine with a bath followed maybe by a little baby massage or relaxing touch. Johnson’s have shown in tests that a bedtime routine of bath, massage and quiet time help babies and toddlers sleep better in just one week. This isn't surprising to me because I'm fairly sure I would sleep well if I had the same treatment (and no little people to wake me up). Johnson’s bedtime range is designed to help a good nights sleep with lavender in the shampoo and a relaxing “NaturalCalm” aroma in their  baby bath, baby oil and baby cream.

Johnson’s are kindly providing a prize for this giveaway so you can test it out for yourself. You could win: Johnson’s bedtime baby shampoo, Johnson’s bedtime baby bath, Johnson’s bedtime baby oil and Johnson’s bedtime baby cream. Enter via the rafflecopter widget. Winner will be selected at random from valid entries. You must be a UK resident and enter before the end of Sunday 16th October.

Johnson's bedtime baby oil, baby cream. baby oil and baby shampoo
The Prize
More information about the bed time range is available here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Going Out To Play - #MySundayPhoto

The last few weeks it feels like we haven't gone out much. Little has had a cold (or two) and there hasn't been much sleep due to teething and other baby related issues. We haven't gone to many baby groups to avoid spreading germs and I have prioritised naps, or the opportunity for naps, over entertainment. It is so much harder to keep Little entertained at home, especially when we are both tired.

At home I can give my baby one toy or a box full and she will happily play for a while if she is rested. If we go out she hardly pays attention to the second hand germ ridden bits of plastic. There are those big interactive toys instead. The living, breathing toys also known as other babies. They provide a great opportunity for stroking until Mummies look away and then it's time for wrestling, eye grabbing and bum biting. 

Even if we just go to the shops or a cafe people watching keeps her engaged and cheerful. Plus I'm sure Little aims to get a smile out of as many different people as she can.
Being out is just easier.

I might not be able to blog, do housework or nap, but there is usually coffee, cake and an entertained baby. I'm glad we are out and about again. I'll be even happier when I've caught up on sleep.

An 8 month old baby girl eating a Little Tike Baby Swayin' Buddies Lion
Going out to play with Little Tikes this week


Saturday, 1 October 2016

Time to turn the heating on?

It’s now October and it feels like Summer is officially over. We had a few bonus days of warmth in September, but today it has been raining and it feels all dark and autumnal. Unsurprisingly I’ve already seen a number of comments on social media from people who have turned their heating on. I always try and hold out until after Halloween because I know that once I turn the heating on I’m trigger happy with that boost button until April or May.

A puddle on the side of the road with brown leaves in and the reflection of clouds in the water