Saturday, 12 April 2014

These hands

Warning: soppy mum love contained in this post. If you're not in the mood for a schmaltzy puke-worthy outpouring of motherly adoration look away now. Perhaps I could interest you in 99 annoying things about toddlers, some cute baby pictures, or a game to play while your offspring go wild in soft play?

Consider yourself warned. Here comes the mush...

Walking to the post office this week with both boys in the buggy, Boy1 was talking to me and gesturing wildly with his hands. I love those hands. I watched them all the way to the post office and it made me smile for the rest of the day. Perfect little hands attached to my walking, talking, imagining, jumping little boy.

To my big, nearly-2-year-old baby's hands,

I love you.

I love you for bringing me special little presents every day, like daisies and sticks and soggy bits of toast. 

I love the way you told us what Boy1 wanted before his voice could. Before we could decipher the spoken words like "bird", "tree" "please", "thank you" and "orange", you helped us all out by signing them.  

Even now Boy1 no longer needs signs to make his meaning clear, you're still there to back him up. Seeing your chubby little fingers signing a new word makes my heart swell with pride. I could have melted right onto the carpet when you first signed "brother"! 

I love how gentle you are. The way you stroke the baby's head so softly and hold his even littler hand. And how I don't even flinch when you go towards another baby because I know you're only going to cuddle or stroke, not hit or pinch or scratch. I can't imagine you doing any of those things, you lovely soft little paws.

I love how clever and strong you're getting. I'm so impressed at how well you can pull Boy1 up climbing frames, throw balls, draw circles, roll out dough, do puzzles and build amazing towers. 

I love the way you reach up for my hand when we're walking. No longer for physical support, but just for the comfort of holding hands. 

I love how you twiddle my ear when Boy1 is sleepy or poorly, and how when he's just about to drift off to sleep you stick to my cheek like a little sweaty starfish. 

I love you, you sweet, soft, muddy, clever little hands. I wish you could stay just like this forever. 


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Outdoor things to do when you're nearly two

The world is your oyster when you're nearly two and outside! Here's a quick run down of the best things to do...

First up, getting places...

As soon as you are outside normal walking just won't cut it. Run. Run in circles. Walk backwards. Walking in wiggly lines. Crouch down and waddle. Jump. Skip. Dance. Do anything but walk. 

Secondly. Never use anything in the way those control freak adults want you to. Take the slide for example. They WANT you to climb the ladder, sit down at the top and then slide down. But they don't own you. Do it your way. Climb up the slide. Crawl under the slide. Climb the ladder, stand at the top and do a dance, then climb back down. 

Where possible, get some bigger boys to turn the slide into your
own personal house.

Finders Keepers. The outdoors is FULL of stuff just sat there waiting to be owned by you. The rule of outside is: he who picks it up owns it forever. You are well within your rights to find a stick and demand that it comes with you everywhere for the next 3 weeks. Ditto rocks, acorns, leaves and fir cones. If you've ever wondered what the pockets on your coat were for, wonder no more. Fill em up, as full as they go and then some more. Some places have loads of other fun things to find too, like food wrappers and bits of sticky chewing gum and cigarette ends but for some reason you can't keep those!

You can take my chocolate bar wrapper but you can never take my FREEDOMMM!

One of the best things about outside is the lack of walls. Make the most of this freedom by running. Run as far and as fast as you can. Running is always fun but you can add an extra level of excitement by waiting until your grown up is distracted or has their hands full (feeding a baby is perfect) before you run and choosing a direction with some danger like towards a lake or a road. 

And last but by no means least, find the mud. If there's no mud you should be able to find a substitute like gravel, or sand or wood chippings. Take a seat (preferably IN the mud or mud substitute) and get to work. Your job is to redistribute the mud with your hands or sticks so that none of it is where it used to be. Dig holes, fill containers with mud and dump it 2 metres away, sprinkle it over grass, make piles of it on walls and always, always, always rub it on your mum's jeans.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 3 April 2014

10 breeds of toddler

Having studied toddlers in their natural habitat, the soft play centre (more about that here) for many months, I have identified 10 distinct breeds. I have outlined them and their distinguishing features below.  You can use this like a bird-spotting guide to pass the time while your children go insane in the ball pit. Why not see how many of the breeds you can spot next time you venture into their territory?

The Gruffalo Child

The Gruffalo Child is loud and rough. They spend their time roaring, jumping out at children and generally making the more "sensitive" types cry. Gruffalo Child's parent can be seen hiding in a corner, or rolling their eyes and saying "pleeease, I have asked you 2000 times to stop being a lion at babies".

The Squealer

Squealers look like any ordinary child but makes a noise so screechy and shrill that dogs cower when they hear it! No one can be sure if the Squealer is afraid for their life or having the most fun ever. If you are responsible for a Squealer, please provide ear protection for surrounding adults (toddler ears seem oblivious to the horrendous noise).

The Stealth Pusher

Beware the stealth pusher. This cute looking kid, possibly with pigtails or a sweet little curl in their hair, will scour the room for watchful parents and wait for the split second they're not being watched to push your kid over. Or pull their hair. Or trip them up. Sly little blighters! They'll also deny having done anything wrong and their stupid parent will believe them. Warning: your child may be the Stealth Pusher!

The Remote Control Car

This mini whirlwind appears to be concerned only with covering every square inch of the soft play. They'll run randomly across the floor, only changing direction when they bump into a wall or another toddler. They are oblivious to all other life forms.

The Starey Cat

Y'know those kids who silently appear at your side for a good long stare at you. You can try to smile, say hello, ask their name. The Starey Cat won't budge. 

The Slow Burner

This quiet toddler type may seem like a full on starer but they'll eventually warm up and crack a smile.  Before long they'll be talking you ear off and bringing you coloured balls to show their affection! 

The Architect

This Lone Ranger is concentrating all his or her efforts into building a fort with the squashy bricks. Woe betide anyone who knocks down the Architect's project!

The Looper

The Looper has found the perfect route through the soft play and they're wasting no time exploring elsewhere. Rope ladder, squeezy rollers, big slide, repeat.

The Pile-up Penguin

This nervous type will climb (slowly) to the top of the soft play tower, cautiously sit on the slide and then freeze, causing a toddler pile up behind themselves. 

The CurlySlide Cowboy

This fearless little fella flaunts all the rules of soft play and common sense by climbing UP the snakey slide! Is it that wrong that I sort of hope someone kicks them in the head?

Do you recognise your own toddler in the list? Mine is a Pile-up Penguin / Starey Cat hybrid.

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Monday, 31 March 2014

My 3 month old baby

Boy2 is 3 months old! [insert statement expressing shock at the passage of time].

He is no longer a "newborn". He's got a wide range of facial expressions, some noises that aren't crying and a show stopper of a smile. He 'plays' with toys and even "rolled over" a few days ago. (Total fluke, he was just looking for more milk and toppled himself onto his tummy!). He's pretty darn cute right now. He's also fairly demanding! Here's a quick rundown of my baby boy at 3 months (because if I don't write it down I'll blink and he'll be 22 months old, climbing the curtains and talking about pig wee). 

5 seconds ago I loved this playmat. Now its very existence devastates me. No reason. 

 Excuse me but I'm not being cuddled or talked to!!!

Things he doesn't like:

  • Being not cuddled and not talked to.
  • Getting in the car.
  • Getting out of the bath.
  • Being not fed.

Things he does like (/seems content doing/ doesn't object to!)

  • His own hands.
  • Being cuddled.
  • His toy peacock thing.
  • His lullaby lamb.
  • Being talked to.
  • Being sung to.
  • Being fed.
  • Being outside.
  • Being in the bath. 
  • Watching Boy1.

Oooh! Hands! 

He's really a very good baby. Occasionally he even sleeps!

If he were a super villain:
...his special weapon would be nipple claws. His fingernails grow at superhuman speed, within 15 minutes of me biting them off they're back and taking chunks out of me again. Childbirth has nothing on the pain of a nipple caught in his vice-like marsupial grip!

If he were a superhero:
... this monkey would be his friendly sidekick and his superpower would be flying using fart power. I'm yet to witness someone cuddle him without commenting on his farts! 

Yes.. that was me! Sorry :) 
Biggest achievement:
This week he went to his first wedding, got passed around strangers like a show-and-tell object without so much as a whimper. In the evening he slept through hours of loud music and dancing (me dancing with hin in a sling!). He was the perfect wedding baby and made me very proud. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

Radical New Parenting Idea...

I hope you're sitting down because the ideas in this blog are going to blow your mind. The idea I had about parenting is that it might be ok to admit that being a Mum or a Dad can be hard and the world might not stop if you suck up your pride and... wait for it...ask for help! .... Ok, you can pick your jaw up off the floor now. Bear with me...

If you have 2 very small children to take care of the odds seem to be stacked against you.  I know it's not the done thing to suggest that we can't do it all, all the time, but come on, when there's 2 of them and only 1 of you, you're outnumbered. The way I see it, with 2 babies under 2, it's not humanly possible to meet both of their needs all the time. So you have 3 options:

A. Refuse to admit defeat! Try to keep both babies happy and get everything done yourself (and have stress levels akin to a flame juggler walking a tightrope  above shark infested waters).

B. Accept that you can't do it all whilst keeping them quiet and that you'll have to leave one or both children to cry on a fairly regular basis (and have that heart wrenching ache you physically feel in your chest when your babies need you).

C. Suck up your pride and beg for help. (And occasionally feel a bit silly). 

I've decided to go for option C. 

HELP is my word of the week

Here's my 6 stage strategy for allowing yourself to be helped...

1. Firstly, plan, plan, plan. It's good to book a person to help you for some of every day. You can disguise this as 'socialising', 'play dates', 'catching up' or whatever you like. The important thing is to have someone to meet every day. Better, still is if you can get one crutch friend for the morning and one for the afternoon. These days are the best. If they're both good (useful!) friends, it's almost like a day off! 

2. The next phase is to learn to accept help: start small by letting people carry things for you, and open doors for you. Accept polite offers of assistance as often as possible. Herding 2 small children is not a time to be proud or "strong". Go against all your British sensibilities. Don't struggle to carry a tray of lunch or drinks across a cafe, with a fake "I'm fine" smile plastered across your face, let the 'barista' do it! Say yes if the supermarket cashier offers to help pack your shopping for you. Even if you could manage... Don't! Use the free hands to wipe snot or retrieve a lost sock or tickle your neglected second born for once! 

3. The next stage on from accepting help when offered is to actually ASK for it. Radical I know. The very idea of it is enough to give you goosebumps isn't it? But you can do it! Ask someone at toddler group to keep an eye on one child while you change the other. Or get someone to hold your baby while you wee. You'll soon feel only moderately uncomfortable asking if they could get you a cup of tea while you feed the baby. My top tip is to find the corner of child minders in these places. They're generally less exhausted and stressed than other parents and more than happy to cuddle a baby for a minute!  

4. Now you've had some practice asking strangers for help, you're ready for the next step. It's one thing embarassing yourself at a toddler group, if that goes wrong you can find a new play group... What I'm suggesting is literally terrifying. It might involve having a conversation with someone you only know on nodding terms... Brace yourself. I think it's ok to ask your neighbours for help. A whole new world of awkward and embarrassing right? Wrong! You just have to change your attitude. Remember, people like babies. People like to feel wanted. Make an old lady's day by asking her to hold a baby for 20 minutes. Or approach another mum whose kids are at school or nursery, she's been there too! My next door neighbours came to my aid when I reached the end of my tether one awful week and now I go to them all the time. It's amazing what you can get done in 20 minutes with one less child to worry about and utterly liberating knowing I can get help when I need it.

5. Vent! You need an outlet for how mindnumbingly exhaustingly difficult it can be. Text a friend to share how the toddler's rubbed curry in your hair or the baby has pooed through 4 layers of clothes. Don't suffer in silence!

6. Oh, and last but by no means least. Don't forget there is a dedicated team of people just waiting to help you out in times of need. They're called Katie, Justin, Andy, Abney, Teal, Iggle Piggle, Jake, Bella, Milo, and Fizz (and many more) and they'll see you through some of your darkest hours. 

The Reading Residence


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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Easy toddler pizza recipe

As Boy1 enters the "fussy years" of toddlerhood where food becomes an optional, boring extra in an otherwise exciting world full of interesting things (like mud and planes) we have been trying to involve him in cooking his own meals in a vain attempt to get him to concentrate long enough to eat a whole meal. 

Today he made us all "pizza"!


  • 1 or 2 Slices of bread per person
  • "Pizza sauce": blended tomatoes and onions. (Or something ready made!)
  • Grated Cheese: cheddar, or parmesan or mozzarella
  • "Toppings" (ours were sliced mushrooms, some tuna and olives)


1. Engage toddler in an activity while you prepare the ingredients. 

2. Entice toddler in to the kitchen with the words "cheese" and "helping". They LOVE "helping", poor misguided little creatures. 

3. Get the toddler to arrange the bread on a grill tray. Thank him for doing such a great job. 

4. Replace the slice he started eating.

5. Rearrange the bread while he's distracted by cheese. 

6. Give the toddler a spoon and let him dollop sauce on to bread and spread it around. (Preferably with his hands!)

7. Spread it around properly while he's distracted by cheese.

8. Allow toddler to distribute toppings and cheese on to the pizzas (and taste them as he goes). 

9. Redistribute the toppings while he's distracted by cheese. 

10. Grill the pizzas until the cheese has melted and they look cooked and delicious! 

11. Serve on a toddler plate with a beaker of whatever they've decided they'll drink this week.

12. Feel smug as they brim with pride and show you their pizza.

13. Cry into your glorified cheese on toast as they nibble one corner, say "yum" and then ask to watch Peppa Pig.

Mini Creations

Monday, 24 March 2014

Unsolicited Parenting Advice

If I am ever invited on to Room 101 I would have to think long and hard about how to narrow down all the things I hate into one 1/2 hr telly show, but there's one thing I know for sure would go in.

Unsolicited Parenting Advice. (U.P.A)

Having small children means that everyone who has ever had a child or looked after children or seen a tv show about children believes they have a duty to tell you how to raise your children. It winds me up. A lot.

I can't stand uninvited, unwelcome, unnecessary, parenting advice.

Here are some examples of UPA I have been subjected to in the last 21 months.
  • You should clean your baby's eyes with tea. 
  • He needs a hat on.
  • Don't let your son touch those cards. (In a card shop?!)
  • What time is his bedtime? It needs to be 7pm. (Health visitor regarding 2week old baby)
  • You can't feed babies *INSERT ANY FOOD ITEM*, they'll choke.
  • Doesn't he sleep in his own room yet?
  • THIS is how you hold a baby!
  • Don't feed him now, he's not hungry.
  • I think he's hungry, you should feed him.
  • Don't wake him, he needs his sleep.
  • Don't let him sleep now or he won't sleep later.
  • He's teething, you should get *INSERT ANY TEETHING REMEDY*
  • You should wean him, then he'll sleep through.
  • He's too young to go swimming.
  • You should take him swimming every week.
  • You should give him formula, then he'll sleep through.
  • You should hang him upside down by his feet, then he'll get taller*
*Might've made that one up.

Prime places for UPA assault:

Walking along the street with a buggy

There's a certain breed of older woman that trawls the streets looking for new mums to "advise". In my neighbourhood there's one who literally grills me about the well-being of my family every time we cross paths. She likes especially to check if the baby's pooing ok. Last week she asked if my breasts were feeling alright?! (Unsolicited personal question!)

Baby groups

Other mums with babies who are doing it SO RIGHT themselves that they need to share their infinite wisdom. 

Health visitor clinics

Alright, alright I know it's TECHNICALLY their job to advise parents. But still... If I need your opinions I will ask for them. (Which will be never).

Essentially, I just don't want to know how you think I should look after my kids. The only person I want to hear from on the matter is my husband because they are his kids too. And even if you ARE the father of my children and my husband, I still often don't want to hear your advice! 

So if you're ever thinking of giving me some advice I've made a quick flowchart to help you out:

Feel free to circulate this to all the UPAers in your life!

What gems of UPA have you been subjected to?...


Friday, 21 March 2014

Being a parent is NOT a full time job!

Yesterday in the supermarket a woman noticed I was buying toddler shoes but carrying a small baby. She asked if I had an older child too. Yes, I said, he's nearly 2. Wow, she said. 2 small children! That's almost like a full time job isn't it?!





It's like THREE full time jobs! 

Let's take a look at the term 'full time job' shall we?

A "full time job" takes up 37.5 hours of your week (plus commute). Having small children takes up 137.5 hours. And that is generously allowing for 5 hours (broken) sleep a night (and one 30 minute nap per week). Which I'm counting as time off even though it isn't because you're not off duty during sleeping hours. So no, being a 'full time' parent is NOTHING LIKE having a 'full time job'!!!

Other reasons being a parent is not a full time job

If you have a "full time job"...

You don't have to take your work with you to the toilet or the shower.

Your boss doesn't wake you up by screaming at you every 2 hours between shifts. 

People don't stop you in the street and criticise the way you're doing your job. 

Your colleagues are not psychopaths who torture you with impossible riddles all day long. (Like "Help me get these raisins out of this box immediately but don't touch me OR the box of raisins")

You get paid. 

If you want to change jobs you don't have to pay someone to do your old job out of your new wage.

If you do change jobs (and pay someone else to do your old job at the same time) you also have to do your old job 16 hours a day on top of the 8 hours you spend at your new job.

You get lunch breaks.

If you are sick you don't have to work.

You get holidays.

If you're at work and someone kicks you in the head, or wipes their bodily fluids on you, you'd most likely be able to request not to work with them any more.

In most jobs it's not acceptable for someone to suck milk out of your body for half an hour every 3 hours. 

You get hours and hours of FREE TIME every single day! (Y'know? Those hours before and after work? Yeah, we don't get those!)

So condescending cashier lady, next time you tell someone that being a parent is "almost like a full time job" count yourself lucky that they don't drop their kids on you and run away to the dreamland that is a "full time job".

Friday, 14 March 2014

Dr Pepper Parenting: What's the worst that could happen?

BoyDad had to go away last week on important beer brewing business, so I was left alone with the boys for my first extended period of time. He kindly made a batch of meals for us before he left so we were stocked up and I wouldn't need to cook. We washed the boys really well the night before he left so I could avoid bathtime and hr even emptied the bin for me. I was good to go. 2boys, 1mum, 3 days: 

what's the worst that could happen? 

Well.... quite a lot apparently...

1. My special "Wednesday morning" friend who I see EVERY Wednesday morning at playgroup and who helps me with the boys and makes me tea and understands when I have weetabix in my bra could go ON HOLIDAY without telling me! Leaving me alone at play group with Boy1 rubbing cooked pasta in his hair while I sat 10 feet away unable to intervene. 

(Learning to climb the slide whilst locked out of his house)

2. We could then realise that we are locked out of the house (with no cash or cards) because BoyDad took both sets of house keys and left the credit card on the side in the kitchen. 
Yep. Locked out. Without food or water. At lunchtime. With 2 babies. 

3. Once we eventually get inside (thanks Dad!) this could happen while I'm trying to get a screechy toddler lunch one handed while holding an unputdownable baby:

(Yes that's spilled milk. No I didn't cry, but it was pretty close!)

4. Boy1 could tip a bowl of lasagne onto the cream carpet while I'm feeding Boy2.

5 Boy2 could be sick for the first time in 4 weeks. It could go all over me and the sofa. Then Boy2 could sit in the sick when I go to get a cloth. What is with toddlers?

Thanks baby.

6. At bedtime they could both suddenly become devastatingly distraught about NOTHING and Boy1 could refuse to stop crying until Boy2 stopped crying... Which turned out to be never. They settled themselves into a vicious crying cycle until I had to humiliatingly beg my next door neighbours to look after the baby so we couldn't hear him cry.  

"Why are we crying?" "I dunno but I'm not stopping til you do!"

7. The baby could eventually stop crying, but not sleep until midnight demanding my full attention at all times. 

8. Boy1 could stand in fox poo in his new shoes which luckily didn't get on the carpet but did stink out the entire house for days!

9. Boy1 could REFUSE HIS NAP. 


I can handle spilled milk, fox poo making me wretch over my cornflakes, sleep deprivation and humiliation... but I cannot cope without Boy1's nap! 

10. Oh! and because bad things apparently come in 10s not 3s... my favourite mug, with Boy1's baby handprint on got chipped!

Total hours flying solo: 60
Total tears: 12 thousand
Total spilled drinks: 4
Total packets of fun size maltesers consumed: 12
Total cups of tea consumed: 0
Total baths or showers: 0
Total texts to BoyDad containing at least one sad face: 14

So if you're nervous about looking after your children on your own for the first time, my top tip is to document all the crap that happens so you have something to laugh over in the future. This was 8 days ago now... I'm NEARLY recovered enough to laugh about it. Nearly.

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