Snow, stories and linguistics

This week’s been a busy one with the boy and me ploughing through snow, scaling new heights and taking on the London underground again – if you read this blog you’ll know we’re not the best of friends!

In between snowball fights, magnificent snowmen and frost-bitten fingers we’ve been out and about testing the snow wheels for our Bugaboo Cameleon. I love my Cameleon and have done since we first started using it when Arthur was days old. It’s practical, stylish and just the easiest buggy to manoeuvre around cities and country. But even this buggy struggled in the heavy snow, one evening I had to push Arthur home on two wheels leaving me with a dodgy back and Arthur with a head rush!. We passed loads of buggies and all the mums and dads gave each other knowing looks. Looks that said: “Why the hell did I think bringing a buggy out in the snow was a good idea”.

Cruising with the snow wheels

Cruising with the snow wheels

Entre the Bugaboo snow wheels, unlike my wheels they are air-filled which apparently means they deal better with snowy terrain. All I know is that I glided smugly over the ice and snow leaving lesser buggies in my wake. I got so confident I practically headed for the snow, confident Bugaboo would see me through.
They were very easy to attach and in a few clicks I’d removed the everyday front wheels and replaced with the snow ones. They go on the front of the buggy, replacing the small ones. This does mean manoeuvrability suffers very slightly but when you’re wading through snow the most important thing is stability and feeling confident you will be able to get through without performing some kind of gymnastic move worthy of an Olympic gold.. So a small price to pay in my view.

NATIONAL STORYTELLING WEEK

Arthur’s learning to speak in little sentences which is lovely and definitely scaling new heights but wow is it frustrating. Part of me has also taken to wondering if he’s making up stuff on purpose to mess with my mind – hhmmm.
Now I’m all for freedom of speech but I have to admit when I’ve stood for, what seems like hours, trying to work out what he’s said, I’m more than happy to make it up for myself and hope it’s near enough. Bless him, it is very cute and obviously I’m full of encouragement but come on – it takes a skilled linguist to know that: “mummy cubble feerengeen flees ta” means “mummy can you please cuddle my fire engine. Thanks”.
One of his favourite people in the world is his cousin Florence and he’s just learning to say her name properly. It’s started as ‘Flosmat’ and now sounds like ‘Flence’, so we’re getting there. I’m endlessly fascinated by the speed at which they learn words and phrases – he’s also started reading along when I sit and read one of his favourite books with him. He loves stories and I hope this continues.
A few weeks ago I listened to The Faraway Tree on BBC Radio Four and it reminded me of the power of a good story. Through words alone, a good story, either read or told, graces our lives, creating a whole new world in which to get lost. My mum read the Faraway Tree to me, my grandmother to her, and I’ll read it to Arthur – that’s what I love too. A story that spans decades and remains loved and valid – I hope he continues to enjoy reading and stories throughout his life.
I’ve always loved books, and truly believe you never have to feel alone if you love books. I can remember some difficult times when days stretched out and problems remain unsolved and I would immerse myself in someone else’s life or lives. They’re not only good for the imagination but good for the soul too.
It’s not just the world of fiction and creative writing that uses story-telling, businesses are beginning to understand its power. A message delivered through a story is so much more easily accepted and believed than a suit in front of a microphone telling you something. Stories involve two sides and the reader or listener is as important at the story-teller. Trust is paramount and I think you have to fall a little in love with the story – whether that’s a character, location, moment or a feeling it evokes. I lost my heart to Wuthering Heights many years ago and I’ve had several torrid affairs and one night stands since – but my heart will always belong to Heathcliffe.

http://www.sfs.org.uk/national-storytelling-week

A sweet little wander down memory lane

On Saturday we went to a fab 80s tea party at the Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green. It was for the launch of Squashies a new brand of sweets from Swizzels Matlow which has taken classics like Refreshers, Drumsticks and other teeth sticking lovelies and given them a funky edge. We went with my sister-in-law who writes Rocknroller Baby, my niece Florence and nephew Jimmy. It really was a walk down memory lane and I don’t think I can remember a time past the age of 16 when I consumed so many sweets – lovely! Arthur had an amazing time and had his face painted as a tiger. The lady doing the painting was seriously good. He never sits still for anyone but he sat, mesmerised, and allowed her to create a masterpiece.

suger-coated tiger

suger-coated tiger

Squashies

Estimated number of sweets I consumed during the party!

Even classics like Double Lollies and Love Hearts have been given a makeover and I really like the idea of being able to pick up a pack of drumsticks that taste of my childhood but don’t leave my teeth welded together! You can now pick up bags of all these favourites in soft form and I have to admit they were just as addictive as I remember. They are perfect for party bags and the big bags make great ‘pass the parcel present fillers – as we found out on Saturday.
It wasn’t just Arthur overwhelmed by all the goodies on offer. My hands kept wandering back to the bowls too and I remember dancing rather frantically to some 80s classics so I was definitely caught up in the moment. While we all left on a scrumptious sugar high it is worth noting there are no artificial colours in the modern versions.

Squashies

Squashies

 

We had a wander round the museum afterwards. Or to be fair, the children raced round the museum as we tried to outwit the sugar high. What an amazing place. Arthur was fascinated by all the trains and cars through the years and I loved the music pods in the 70s and 80s displays – can’t beat a bit of Michael Jackson. As you can see my sister-in-law and I know how to throw a few shapes on the dance floor!

Throwing some shapes

Throwing some shapes

You can buy the new range of ‘Squashies’ in lots of places on the high street including Asda, Sainsburys, Co-op, B&M, Wilkinsons, Home Bargains, Pound Stretcher and Toys R Us. The ‘Squashies even have their own FREE app which can be downloaded. The little ‘Squashies’ characters have got mixed up in a storm and you need to help them match up again. The first ten levels are completely free and then if you want to unlock all 80 levels it will cost just 69p! This is one for the whole family as even the tiny tots love it, it’s great fun! For more information about the new ‘Squashies’ range, the app and more stockists details please see their website(LINK) and while you’re there you could enter a competition to win 52 bags!!

Friendship and the art of opinion

I had a coffee with one of my oldest and best friends last week. One that opened up a chasm between us and I think will stand like an elephant in the room until we both approach it again. She’s going through IVF, something emotional and difficult, filled with raised hopes and a sense of hopelessness in equal measure.
We’ve talked about it loads, the outcomes, the emotional impacts and all the decisions she and her lovely husband have had to make – including egg donation. This is where it got tricky because it was clear we would both take a very different route.

She’s decided to donate her eggs and save herself thousands of pounds in the process. The rational me understands this completely. As she said: “They’re just eggs, a small piece of me and I’m looking at it like organ donation.” I get that and I was nodding along thinking it sounded like a ‘good’ decision. Until she mentioned the letter she’s had to write to any potential children born from the donated eggs -a letter which tells them about her, her family and a little of her journey.
It brought me up sharply. I absolutely understand her decision and there is no right or wrong answer, this, like so many decisions we have to make as women, is personal choice, profound enough to have no right answer yet divisive enough to invite a wave of opinion.

“Oh my god”, I said to her instinctively. “I just couldn’t do that.” As soon as I said it I knew it had shot an arrow through her heart. She didn’t want to do this but felt she had to do it to get where she needed to be and who the hell am I to judge her? Does she really think it’s like organ donation or is this a defence mechanism? There could be babies, toddlers, teenagers and young men or women walking around with her smile, her grandfather’s walk or her older son’s eyes. Then, when they are 18 and they decide to search for the woman who donated half their gene pool, what happens? It could be fine or it could blow a massive hole through her family life.
When we say “it’s not for me to judge”, that’s absolutely right most of the time but it doesn’t stop us doing so. Or maybe it’s more putting ourselves it that position and seeing what we’d do. I wanted to say so much to her but found myself mute and simply nodding as she talked about it. She knew what I thought and I knew she knew and it was painful.

Opinion is a dangerous road among friends because how ever hard you work to understand their view – it’s not yours and it stands like an interfering aunt in the midst of your friendship. Mostly we work through these, get on with it and accept and I hope that’s what we do with this one.
I love her and we’ll always be close but this was a moment when I realised the emotional power of personal thoughts and views. It’s never ‘just an opinion’. What does she think of me now? Does she see me as unsupportive?

I want to give her a big hug and tell her I think she’s brave and amazing and I hope everything works out brilliantly and I will, because she is.

Making your home safe – a moment of reflection

I recently read a post from another blogger that took my breath away.
A mum with a story so raw and painful it left me, and many others who read it, in tears. The story of a loving mum who woke to find her beautiful three year old daughter dead. She’d pulled a dresser over and it had fallen on to her tiny body – I can’t do her pain any more justice that her thought-provoking, eloquent post
No one wants to be confronted by the single thing that would leave us utterly and helplessly heart-broken forever. We spend hours (or at least I know I did) pontificating about the right car seat but just take a moment to think about how much time you spend in your car compared to your home.

But it made me think. Child-proofing is such a detached phrase. Are we looking to protect our homes from children? It holds no emotion, no urgency and while we all know what we should do there is the overriding sense that ‘it will never happen to me’. Her story made me gasp and finally realise that is can and does happen to us and our children. So I for one will be securing all my furniture, cupboards and doors.
I’ll take a little time to plan, to think and to do those things on the bottom of the ‘to do’ list that just might save their lives – enough incentive?

We all know what to do but here are a few tips to get you started.

I’m a hoarder and a lover of clutter so for me it can be as simple as de-cluttering and selling some stuff to make walkways safer and clear space to store heavy or dangerous things.

Simple but make sure there are locks or catches on cupboards and doors where you store these things. Not just the kitchen cupboards as I had. I realised I had a cupboard full of old blinds, hoover parts and other bits that could easily end up causing injury.

1. With small babies we all know the drill –don’t use pillows before putting him or her down for a nap. And it’s best not to put the cot near a window, where he or she could grab onto dangling cords from window blinds. Make asure your changing table is secured safely.
2. On the subject of blinds – I popped into John Lewis and picked up one of their blind conversion kits. It was a doddle to fit.
3. Electrical outlets should be covered with plastic plugs so that kids aren’t tempted to stick anything in them.
4. The one that’s really top of my mind is securing the furniture to the wall – even if it seems far too big to fall over just do it. Better to have done it and never have the horror of wishing you did. Same goes for rugs and carpet runners – I’ve used them to cover stains but didn’t really think about how easy it is for little feet to trip over them.

Sometimes you do have to protect your house from the children too! So why not try washable paint.You can also get some great finishing waxes to keep your woodwork scratch-free. Finally, keeping pens, keys and other potentially destructive objects out of the reach of children is good for both their safety and the wallpaper you lovingly chose while naively child-free!

Of course all of us know this stuff but writing this blog has reminded me again so if it reminds just one more parent them I’m happy.

You could take a look at Lindham and Muchkin for some great products.There also some great places to sell your clutter, I sold my old laptops, two of which didn’t work! John Lewis are also fab for this type of thing and I managed to find some plug covers in Poundland last week so it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Empty shoes

I was closing the lid on Arthur’s play box and out of the corner of my eye I saw his first pair of cruisers. Squashed into the corner and stuffed into one of his tractors. I pulled them out and stood them on my hand. These tiny little soft shoes which saw him stumble his way to toddlerhood. A little piece of his journey that I’d forgotten or at least not thought about as we excitedly ticked off one milestone after another from the list of things Arthur must do.

I was so busy tracking his ‘progress’ that sometimes I forgot to savour the moment and create the memory of those little shoes. Sitting for a moment and tracing their tiny soles and squidging them in my hands it made me smile to remember. His first shoes – those first hesitant steps. Falling into mummy’s arms with, “well done, clever boy”, ringing in his tiny ears.

I must have sat for a good 15 minutes just thinking about all his adventures and surely this is the real joy of parenting. He won’t remember his shoes in years to come but I will – I’ll make sure I do.
I’ll also makes sure I remember his love of hovering with his toy hoover in the nude while wearing wellies – well, I have to have something to work with on his 18th!

On the road and blitzing the post-Christmas padding

Over the last few weeks me and the boy have been in the car quite a lot.
I’d like to point out we have been going places, not just sitting there hoping someone will drive us, but it’s thrown a spotlight on the problem of feeding and watering him on a long, or to be honest, short journey.

Normally I place a drink and a snack on his lap turn round, start the engine and pray that he manages to get some in his mouth before covering himself in a pasty mixture of juice and corn crisp. I fear one day I’ll turn round and he’ll have turned into a corn paste statue, unable to move after flinging drinks and food into a heady mix and covering himself. Giving it just enough time to dry before we arrive.

Thankfully this never happens and we’ve arrived unscathed. The same can’t be said for the car which often leaves Jonathan in a weeping heap when we roll-up home and I open the door and out falls the entire contents of Arthur’s lunchbox.

This week we road tested, the new Munchkin 10oz Clip Lock cup for toddlers and their Snack-a-bowls. The new cup was fantastic, with an easy to hold design which meant Arthur didn’t struggle with it and throw it out of frustration. Also it says it’s leak-proof and it means it!

Munchkin Clip Lock 10oz cup

Munchkin Clip Lock 10oz cup

I tested it by shaking it and dropping it and the hardy cup didn’t give up one dribble of juice.

Arthur loves the straw and I really recommend it for a long journey as it doesn’t require tipping which can be difficult for little people strapped into car seats. munchkin has also managed to design a cup with a straw that lets you get all the liquid out – it’s a little bit of magic in a cup!

The snack pots were also a winner. I‘ve tried the snack pots with the lid that lets children pull out food before and found the lids quite hard. This means Arthur has stuck his little hand in but either got it stuck or only pulled out a tiny piece of food.

The Munchkin pot has a much softer top which means it’s a lot easier to use and I really noticed his frustration levels were not as high during the journey as he could pop his little hands in and munch happily on raisons and other goodies without losing a finger!

Arthur kicking back with his new snack-a-bowl

Arthur kicking back with his new snack-a-bowl

These were two great products I would definitely recommend. They look great too and I love the colours of the snack pots, which also stack really easily in the cupboard.

Day one of operation lard ar*se is up and running. I joined a well known slimming club and questioned my intentions straight away when I was drawn to the beef pie on the front cover of the famous slimming club’s cook book and bought it. Now I know you shouldn’t deprive yourself but pies and diets are not happy bedfellows! To ease my conscience I bought the entire contents of the fruit and veg section on my way home from work. At home I was met with Jonathan’s encouraging words: “ But what real food am I going to eat?” – I directed him to the pie on the cover of the cookbook and left to make celery flowers and carrot batons – you eat with your eyes apparently.

When Christmas became January – from splurge to save.

It’s over. I feel rather bereft and a little lacking in January ooomph. I know it’s somewhat cooler to deride the excesses of Christmas; the vulgar overspending and the frantic preparing for, what amounts to a humble 24 hours or a week at most if you have a big family.

But I love it! The joyous buying of things I would never normally entertain – how many small felt robins can a girl really need?! The wonderfully gluttonous ‘big shop’ when tins of chocolate replace packs of mince and milk and juice take a back seat to fizzy stuff, and there’s always a jar of picalilli in my trolley – something I absolutely love but, god knows why, never eat the rest of the year.

It comes at a price – I won’t look at my bank statements until well into January and I know that’s not a good thing. I know January can feel like the longest month in the world and quite genuinely, after paying bills, mortgages and nursery fees I’m not quite sure what we’ll be eating, but hey ho, I’ll dine out on sparkling memories and beans for a few weeks.

Me and my boys have had a fab time and I hope I’ve given Arthur some magical moments with Santa steam train rides and lots of loud, rambunctious,wonderfully over the top family time.

One area I did save some cash was on myself. I love to have a new outfit or two, get my hair ‘one’ and buy some new makeup and I have discovered  George at Asda’s amazing range of purse friendly make-up. It’s just fab – I created a whole new make-up bag for less than I’ve paid for a a single item from expensive brands.

Here’s me with some of the lovely products including the amazing Highlite stick which make’s your face ‘pop’ and the lovely tint, which adds a lovely pinched cheek effect. Particularly helpful after a heavy night. George’s High Lite is just £4.50! This is at least a tenner cheaper than some of the other expensive brands.

Me all made up with my new makeup. Now the weirdo in the background is my wonderful other half.

Me all made up with my new makeup. Now the weirdo in the background is my wonderful other half.

George's High Lite - a steal at just £4!

George’s High Lite – a steal at just £4!

I’ve also used George’s lovely sparky, Glitter Avalanche nail varnishes. At just £2 a pop it’s lovely to be able to buy a few festive colours and enjoy a few moments once the small person is in bed doing my nails and feeling good about myself.

NAILS1

As I said earlier I like to get my hair cut and coloured before Christmas but maintaining it can cost a fortune. Jonathan is often left in a bewildered trance when he opens my ‘hair’ cupboard – yes indeed a ‘hair’ cupboard, filled with oils, serums, volumisers and some products I’m not entirely sure should actually be in the hair cupboard – like the tin of tuna that stayed in there for a few months until I had a clear out.

This year I tried some of Asda’s Andrew Barton products and literally saved a fortune – their heat protection spray is the best I’ve tried and really left my hair feeling amazing and a couple of times over the festive season I substituted my hair conditioner for the Leave-in, Gloss Boss, Andrew Barton spray condioner and it has worked a treat. Really light, a lovely fresh fragrance and at just £3 it’s a bargain by anyone’s standards. Normally I’d be spending at least £10 on something like this so not only has it saved me cash over Christmas but also into January – and let’s face it any money you can save in the new year is a bonus.

heatspray3pounds

Andrew Barton The Straight Answer Heat Protection Spray – just £3!

Andrew Barton's Leave in Conditioner - another bargain at just £3

Andrew Barton’s Leave in Conditioner – another bargain at just £3

So here’s to a frugal January where I will splurge on time and puddle splashing and save on all these lovely products – perfect.

During the Christmas week we organised a small party for Arthur and his friends to bring a little Christmas cheer and raise a few pounds for their playgroup. What a lovely time we all had – little people all wide-eyed and amazed and some lovely party food from Asda aswell – another great way to save a few pounds. We bought some of Asda’s celebration cakes in the Chosen By You range and at just £5 each we were able to buy plenty for everyone for far less than anywhere else, and we made sure we shopped around. The chocolate cake was delicious with a really good flavour and the kids and adults devoured it! The vanilla tray bake also went down well. Congratulations Asda on making yet more accessible, delicous and good quality food.

Top tip: Have a child with a birthday in the first part of the year. After a frenzied and somewhat violent attack on the shops pre-Christmas I realised there was no way Arthur needed all this stuff and so I’ve saved loads for his birthday in early March – it’s my own warped sense of cost-efficiency. Quite brilliant.