Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Night of Hope

We carved our pumpkin in the shape of a heart and it is lit in a symbol of hope for children living in fear.
click on the link to find out more, to read Sylvia's story and see what you can do to get involved.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Mummy v Iggle Piggle


I fear that Iggle Piggle may be my toddler's new hero.
Long before we had the pleasure of a daily dose of In the Night Garden, Iggle Piggle had already made an impact on my youngest son. A friend had given him an Iggle Piggle figure that she always kept in her handbag in case we should need to distract my son long enough to finish our coffee, cake and chat, it was just the right size for his little hand and when we made the big move a couple of months  ago she gave him the figure as a parting gift lest I should ever forget our coffee and cake mornings.
Iggle Piggle then took residence in my handbag, at first coming out to play only when required; when we were stuck in traffic, in the supermarket etc but gradually he made it out of my handbag permanently and has unrivaled top toy status.
All of this is really not such a big deal, we all sit together and watch an episode of the slightly irritating but oddly hypnotic 'In the Night Garden' before our toddler goes to bed and we know almost all the names of the characters and it is actually the calmest time in the house, the only time that our a whirling dervish sits down for any length of time.
So what's the problem?
Our lovely little boy has lot of words, like most children his age he can say ; 'dog', 'duck', 'dadda', 'car', -perhaps quite unusually 'yellow car' (this doesn't actually mean 'yellow car' just means we're in the car and he's seen a car, copying a car game the others play) and 'all gone',  he can say, 'moo',' roar', 'ruff ruff' and a whole host of other animal and vehical noises and 'Iggle Piggle' but not mummy. or mama or mum (unless he's really crying and everything sounds like 'maaaamaaamaaaa'). If we point at a picture of me he says... nothing.... sometimes dada...but generally nothing. I don't have any great concerns about his language development but I would really like to hear him call me by name ! I've heard that toddlers don't know that we are entirely separate entities, which makes sense as we've only had one full day apart since he's been born, perhaps it's because I'm the one who's mostly with him so it's me doing the naming, though I do tend to refer to myself in the third person (obviously not in general, just in my toddler's company !!) and others have said that the /m/ sound can be a tricky to acquire. It will come I'm sure...I'm very impatient that's all and if I'm honest just a bit jealous of Iggle Piggle. What's he got that I haven't?
The fact is that I should be grateful to Iggle Piggle, My youngest is better known as The Little Sleep Thief, but last night he slept (almost) through the night, which is AMAZING. On Sunday we purchased a glow in the dark bedtime Iggle Piggle, who wears pyjamas and plays tunes and has yet to be thrown out of the cot (unlike EVERY other soft toy and comforter we've tried). We bought him in the desperate hope that with the company of Iggle Piggle through night, he might not need my company so much.  I can't be sure he's the reason for last night's sleep improvement but I won't be confiscating Iggle Piggle any time soon. I'll put my issues with the peculiar big blue teddy aside and I'll take a solid 8 hours sleep with gratitude and say a begrudging 'Thank you' Iggle Piggle.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Why I Love Half Term

Beautiful light on the river
At 2 am this morning I was so grateful that it was half term. I couldn't believe it was possible that our toddler's sleep could get even worse but since the clock change it has and he has taken to waking up and screaming at the top of his little lungs every hour of the night. But last night it wasn't a disaster as I knew that this morning we could stay in our pj's and do nothing but play and drink tea all day.....if we wanted to. As it was nobody did, it was the most amazing sunny autumnal  day and everyone wanted to go out and  pick pumpkins and have a walk so that's what we've done. It was the best morning I've had in a long time, the light was AMAZING and we had loads of fun.

Pumpkins picked at our local farm 
We all enjoyed choosing our pumpkins. We visited a local farm and they had hundreds to choose from, different varieties shapes and sizes. While the older two deliberated about the perfect size and shape of pumpkin required for their carved creations, my youngest enjoyed running around the barn chatting to the staff, the whole experience was great, we will always buy direct from the growers in future. We don't 'celebrate' Halloween but we do like carving pumpkins and I've chosen a crown variety myself this year as I'll be carving a pumpkin too in support of World Vision's charity campaign ''Every Child Free From Fear'' 

An unexpected geocache find under an oak tree

We then went for a walk at a nearby nature reserve. It is definitely jumper weather, but the sun was warm and the light was amazing. We hadn't planned to, but we decided to do a quick geocache search and we found one not to far away hidden under an oak tree.

I have a stick and  new wellies, will find mud!

Following the storm  it was pretty muddy in places which was great news for our youngest as he has just acquired new wellies. After a lot of searching I eventually found a pair in a tiny size 3 and we all wanted to see them christened today. Which they well and truly were. There were a few little falls too so it was not just the wellies that got muddy!

All in all a perfect half term day.

Happy children = happy Mummy

Oh and did I mention we went for cake and hot chocolate after
too? ........

Thursday, 24 October 2013

What Will Our Little Sleep Thief Make of the Clock Change on Sunday ? Any Tips?

We have a good bedtime routine, a well loved (by me), 'Ewan the Dream Sheep', blankies and an impressive assortment of cuddly toys, not to mention our fair share of well thumbed baby sleep guides. We've been referred to a sleep clinic in the past and we have spent months getting our youngest to sleep better without letting him cry. These days at nearly 17 months old his sleep is much improved but he still wakes 2/3 times a night, not ideal but tolerable at least, I no longer feel like my head is full of cotton wool, we have not been late for school so far this term (this is a great achievement believe me) and I can generally hold an adult conversation without forgetting what I'm going to say mid-sentence. I am also no longer entirely dependent on coffee to get through the each day.

Then I was reminded that the clocks go back this weekend and in my experience this is never great news for baby and toddler bedtimes. However I was reassured to hear that babies sleep better in the winter months as the light levels are more conducive to natural sleep rhythms.  There is hope then that Our Little Sleep Thief may take this on board and start sleeping even better........Like I say there is hope!!

I discovered 'the gro company' have some great tips for preparing your child for when the clocks go back. But sadly I fear I may have discovered these a little late as they advise starting  two weeks prior to the clock change, by making your child's bedtime later by 10 minutes every other night. That way when the clocks do go back they are already going to bed an hour later. Sorted!

I have only two nights left now before the change, so I'll experiment and make bedtime half an hour later each night and see if that works. It's worth a try.

They also recommend that you have a an active day on the Saturday before and the Sunday after.......not such great news for us again. We have a 4 hour car journey this Saturday, an overnight in a hotel and a 4 hour journey back on Sunday which means disrupted naps, disrupted bedtimes and potential cabin (or car) fever! All in all I think we may not have planned very well for this potential disruption to our fragile sleep situation.

Remember the days when the clocks going back was just brilliant news because you got that extra delicious hour in bed? It's a vague and distant memory here. I've said before that both of my sons are reliably early risers, 6 am is a lie in, 5 am is the common start time to our day..........sinking feeling.......this potentially means that over the next week I may be doing some gentle persuasion that 4 am really is not time to get up, 'IT'S STILL THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!'

Thankfully the Australian Parenting site Kidspot have reassuring news: 'Generally it takes about a week after the clocks have changed for everyone, no matter what age, to be in a new sleeping pattern so try to have patience if you have a tired and grumpy child on your hands in the days after the time change.' So after 17 months of sleep deprivation and 10 years of 5 am starts I am sure we will survive one week of adjustment. As my husband is at home after years of working away during the week, at least we can share the early mornings and the distracting of 'tired grumpy' children. Next year I will plan it better too!

What about you? Have you prepared your baby or toddler for the clock change this weekend? Have you any hints and tips for me and other parents? I'd love to hear your thoughts about changing to and from daylight saving time. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?

Rainy Day Walks and Connecting with Nature.

collecting acorns

It really is time to get children to turn off the TV set and get outside this autumn. Last week the RSPB published findings from their three year research project which showed an alarming disconnect between children and nature. This has implications for both childhood and for the future of nature. I love to get outdoors with my children, but really I have my husband to thank for that. As a child I didn't have many opportunities to connect with nature and explore the great outdoors, it's something I've grown to enjoy as an adult through a love of running, cycling and walking. If I'm honest I'm still a bit risk averse and would rather be the parent at the bottom of the tree that half way up it, but I love our outdoor adventures and I love that my children do too.

Autumn is here, the weather is cooler and wetter and so begins the switch from days out to days in. But actually there's no more exciting time to tog up and get outdoors especially as colder months can be an expensive time with children. I'm all for an afternoon at a museum, swimming pool or soft play but why not explore what's on your doorstep for free? A few years ago on a winter walk my daughter said to me  'I always think I don't want to go for a walk when we're at home, but once we're out I love it'. So now I never doubt that they'll enjoy it even if there's a grumble or two before we leave the house. 

take a spotter's guide to identify trees, insects, birds and flowers
 As parents it is us that need to encourage children to spend time outdoors and the easiest way is to enjoy it with them.  Project Wild Thing, a campaign to get children off their sofas and out in 'the wild', has some great ideas if you're stuck for inspiration. It has activities that last from just 30 minutes to ones that will last a whole day and The British Heart Foundation  has a list of tips for getting active and keeping healthy through play too. Apart from the obvious benefits of adopting a healthier lifestyle and raising awareness of our natural environment, enjoying the great outdoors can have a positive impact on your family life and relationships. At a time when parents find it increasingly hard to engage in play at home, with all the many distractions of technology and the pressures of modern living, getting outdoors can be an opportunity to enjoy time together. It enables conversation and shared experiences and it could be a great way to get together with grandparents and friends and a good way to make happy childhood memories along the way.

tree's for mums and dads too!

Here are my easy tips for enjoying the great outdoors this Autumn

'There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing'.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes
  • Wear the right clothes for the weather, then you can get wet and muddy and still have fun.
  • Take a drink, kid's camelbaks are great or take a flask of hot chocolate for you all to share.
  • Use a bucket or container to collect fallen conkers, leaves and acorns etc.
  • Print a map or draw a simple map for younger children and let them lead a walk. 
  • Make a sheet of things to spot, or take a spotter's guide from Usborne Books.
  • Take photographs of insects and plants and put them in a scrap book instead of picking them. 
  • Respect the countryside and others by following The Countryside Code.
  • Consider a back carrier, that way little legs can rest when the need to and you can stay out longer.
  • Take paper and crayons if it's dry for bark and leaf rubbings and drawings.
  • Be inspired and enjoy autumn craft activities and nature boxes at home.
  • Create a home for nature, follow tips from the RSPB.
  • Rainy day? Don't stay in, put your wellies on and splash in puddles and sing rainy day songs.
  • Keep children safe especially near water and carry a basic first aid kit.
  • If you're struggling to get children away from the gadgets take a GPS or try Geocaching.

happiest a muddy puddle!

Follow my blog for our half term crafts inspired by our autumn adventures.

Click on the link below for websites we love;   

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Autumn. Nature's Playground


craft supplies,,,conkers, pine cones, acorns, leaves and sticks

Autumn is well and truly upon us and I am looking for inspiration from our growing Autumn nature collection for craft ideas to keep the children busy during half term. Everywhere we go the children are picking up leaves and conkers and  Red Ted Art has some fabulous ideas as always but my three are all at very different levels in terms of their artist and creative abilities (ranging in age from 12 years old to 17months!) so my half term craft project will take a bit of planning this year. 
We need to go on a couple more nature walks to add to our collection of conkers, acorns leaves and pine cones so that there is a good supply. I absolutely love this time of year, the colours are beautiful. Autumn really is a season to be embraced because in my opinion it's all too quickly over. Nature really does provide opportunities for exploration and adventure and if you let them children will enthusiastically engage with their natural environment at  this time of year and with such exciting materials to be found the possibilities for craft are endless. Recent studies carried out by the RSPB and The National Trust show a worrying disconnect between children and  nature, highlighted by the BBC's Environment Correspondent Matt McGrath  this week. Perhaps this revelation will encourage parents and schools to allow children to explore, enjoy and learn from nature but we have to let them get out there and experience it.
This weekend we will be out in local woodland walking through the crispy leaves, getting muddy, building dens and collecting............I can't wait.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Time to send the change of address cards, we are no longer in a long distance marriage. Hooray !

it's time to send my new address cards
It is now 8 weeks since we upped sticks and moved far far away from our lovely friends and lovely home, uprooted the children from their lovely schools and embarked on an adventure all together. It was a risk, it was a wrench, but it has paid off and I am very very relieved. So now I really MUST get on and send our change of address cards and it feels  like the perfect day to do it.
People move all the time they relocate for work, they emigrate for a better quality of life, they return to their roots to have the support of family nearby. We moved because quite frankly there was no way I could survive another year with my husband working away. Life was starting to feel like a bit of a slog. Sleep deprivation was taking its toll (my toddler is not a brilliant sleeper). I was really missing having my husband at home, his company, his help and the reassurance of another adult sharing the responsibility of day to day family life.
 Many families will understand the trials and tribulations that come when there are hundreds of miles between you and your partner, the dread of the Sunday goodbyes, the anticipation of the Friday homecoming and the immense pressure on the weekends to be perfect. Of course all of this is multiplied for those with longer periods of separation, and compounded even further for those who have to manage the additional stresses of having a partner working away where regular contact is not possible or the work is dangerous. I have the utmost admiration for those who weather such immense challenges to their family life and relationships.
For me at times it felt as though my husband was a weekend visitor, sometimes his overnight bag would never even make it out of the hall. Whilst I would love him coming home every Friday there would always be an adjustment period for us and by Saturday afternoon when we'd feel relaxed and a like family again, thoughts of Sunday would creep into my mind and I would start to dread the prospect of goodbye.
But happy days, we are together all week now, most mornings we manage breakfast together thanks to the fact that both the boys are reliably early risers and I have someone to cuddle up with on the sofa of an evening....if I wanted too. As yet we still only seem to be able to do that on a Saturday night (old habits die hard, our evenings are pretty hectic and we are both very used to our own space). It was a risk worth taking though, we survived many years living mostly apart and we love being together again at last.
 The children are enjoying their new school and are making friends, in fact they have already asked whether we might be able to stay here forever and I am making friends too, much sooner than I'd hoped. Although I miss my old friends I actually think it's much harder for the ones that stay. My brother in law and his wife and children moved to Australia last year and I felt utterly terrible for a while afterwards, they had left such a big hole in our lives. But Skype really is the most amazing invention, we can see them grow up from thousands of miles away. It was absolutely the right decision for their family too allowing a better lifestyle for their children and more time for them to be together as a family. 
It is very possible that at some time in the future work will dictate that we will need to live apart again. Of course if that time comes we will decide what is best for our family but for now we will treasure family life together and be thankful that our relationship survived the long distances for so many years. 

 Tips for Sharing Family life over Long Distances

  •  Call, email, Skype or text as much as possible. Keeping up to date with all the little day to day news is really important. Even if you can't speak daily, write a letter or send an email and include photos too, especially of children.
  •  Make each other feel special, cards, homemade Cd's, a message on a post it attached to a chocolate bar in the fridge (my favourite), flowers when it's been a tough week all make a big difference. Knowing that the other person is thinking of you even when you're apartand this works both ways.
  •  Plan ahead and make sure there are things in the calendar to look forward to. We found that having short term and long term plans make the separation feel manageable.
  • Keep busy; accept offers of help and offers of company. It can be hard not to wallow in self-pity but don't just say 'I'm fine', get to know your neighbours (most of mine were so kind) and invite friends over in the evenings (it really breaks the week up).
  •  Have lots of photos, my husband had photos of us on his desk and in his room and we had lots around the house. The baby would kiss a photo of his Daddy every night.
  • Don't forget important dates. Birthday's and anniversary's can be tough days when you're apart. Skyping during birthday tea was great for the children.
  • Wherever possible visit the work place and accomodation of the person working away. It makes it easier to  talk about daily life when you can picture where your partner is and you've met colleagues and friends there. It makes it easier for them too, having happy memories of your visits there. if that's not possible share plenty of photos.
  • Try and be positive, it can be tempting to just have a  good moan at the end of every day. Think of three good things that have happened in the day to talk about. That doesn't mean you shouldn't ever share the negatives though, but it can make your partner feel helpless and guilty if that's all you talk about.
  • Try not to have BIG discussions or arguments or make important decisions over the phone or by email, if possible these should be done face to face.
  • Trust each other and remember to share time as a couple as well as a family.
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