Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Jake's Giift to Mummy and Daddy

We had a really lovely Christmas Day. 

The morning was spent opening presents and helping Jake read his new books we bought him for Christmas.

Later on we hopped over to my mum's where Luke and Mum cooked up a delicious breakfast of bacon, sausage, hash browns, egg, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast. We spent a few hours there opening presents and seeing Jake enjoy his time with Nanny and Grandad Kev. 

In the afternoon we made our way across the A451 and joined Nanny and Pops Marsh for a delicious roast Christmas dinner of turkey and trimmings. We were joined by Luke's Aunty Carol and 2 of Luke's older brothers (he's the youngest of 4 boys). All was lovely. 

Although Jake has slept an hour in the car during our journey, by 4:40pm he was starting to get that niggly over tired mood that little ones get and so Daddy and I took him in to Nanny and Pops' bedroom for a cuddle in the dark and peace and quiet. It was in that moment - with the 3 of us together - that Jake put a hand on both of our faces and in the almost-dark he leaned in and gave us lots of little kisses. It was as though he were saying 'Thank you. I love you. Merry Christmas'. 

It made our day. 

It truly was the magic of Christmas and a present money can't buy. 

Merry Christmas everyone. X

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

5 Films we'll be watching this Christmas

In my family we have always treated films like board games - a memory filled memento in a box. Our reason for this is that we watch as a family - all sat round together - just like a board game. 

Christmas is all about people. It is a time to reflect and be grateful; a time to remember those who are no longer with us and time to revel in the love of family and friends. 

This year there are 5 films we're going to watch to get us in the Christmas spirit - and they may not be what you'd expect....

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. It is not just because I am a huge Harry Potter fan that I love to watch this film at Christmas time. There is something incredibly magical about this first story in the Potter series - maybe it's the snow, or the food in the great hall. Either way it is a must.
  2. Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring. 2001 was the year this film came out and I went to see it in the 18th December. My boyfriend at the time (who is now my husband) was already a LotR fan and we went with all of his family. From that moment I was a huge LotR fan too. We watch them every year.
  3. Home Alone. Merry Christmas ya filthy animal! This takes me right back to being a young child and owning this film on video tape. My brother, sister and I used to watch it every year.
  4. Scrooged. Bill Murray takes a humorous turn on the classic Charles Dickens tale 'Christmas Carol'. Hilarious 80s film. It reminds me of my hubby Luke as he was the one who introduced me to this film and he does a great impression of the characters!
  5. A Muppet Christmas Carol. 'There goes Mr Humbug, there goes Mr Scrooge'... It is certainly one of the best Christmas films ever! Such humour amidst the classic tale. 
So there you have it! Our 5 Christmas films for this year. 

What will you be watching?

Friday, 27 November 2015

How do we deal with rules?

Now that Jake is officially over the baby phase, Luke and I have begun to see some changes. The toddler years are upon us and we are desperately trying to fathom the best course of action where our son's behaviour is concerned. 

Jake is a cheeky chap. He is bright and inquisitive. He has to press every button, pull every cord and throw any solid or food-related object. These things are all cute and adorable... for about 5 minutes! Now? Well, now they are getting frustrating and embarrassing - especially if we're out when he does this.

We're crossing a fine line at the moment between letting Jake discover and play versus trying to find the lines that need to be drawn in order for us to enforce some rules and behaviour. But is it too early? 

Part of me thinks yes. It feels too early to try to reprimand Jake for misbehaving - I do that all day every day as a teacher with 11 to 16 year olds and even then some of them struggle with the concept! 

The other part of me feels that now is the right time to start behaviour management. If we don't start making a point of showing Jake things aren't appropriate, then it will get harder to do as he gets older.

The point is - I don't know the answer. Is it yes or no? And how do we go about doing this? I don't want to shout at him or smack him at this point (though when he slapped my step dad we shouted at him!) but what other ways are there to enforce rules with an almost 15 month old child? 

I would love to hear your views, opinions and advice! What tips do you have? What can we do to support Jake in his exploration of the world? 


Sunday, 22 November 2015

My 5 Christmas Wishes this Year

Ding Dong Merrily on High...Yes it is that time of year again. We're all scrambling to get the tree up and ready for December 1st, making plans for the big day and reminding each other that Santa will be checking his list, checking it twice.

But what's on your list?

Well, this year I have quite a few special wishes that I am hoping the big guy can help me out with. So, Santa if you're reading this, I hope it isn't too much to ask for:

1) Peace - I hope that those affected by the tragedies in Paris and other acts of terrorism can find some peace this year as they remember those they have lost. It will be a sad, and somber Christmas this year as many of us will reflect on those people who are no longer with us. I hope that we all find a little peace and take comfort in knowing that we will never forget them.

2) Security - I hope very much that my hubby, Luke, does not get made redundant again. We've had several Christmases these last few years where Luke has been out of work and the current place (who have just taken him on a contract after months of agency working) are announcing that they want voluntary redundancies, with compulsory to follow if none are taken. Jake and I will love him no matter what, but it would be nice to not have to worry about how we'll pay the bills over the Christmas period or whether we'll even be living in this house come January.

3) Health and Happiness - I wish for health and happiness for all those I love and care about. I hope that we can all enjoy the Christmas time with each other without worrying too much about Grandad or Nan. I also wish health and happiness to all of you, taking time to read this post.

4) Snow - it would be magical if we had some snow at Christmas so that Jake can see the beauty of it and have some fun - but not too much that it effects older people, or emergency services trying to do their jobs.

5) Emergency Services and and Armed Forces - I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas this year. We thank you for working at this time so that we can all be safe and sound and we send thanks to your family for sparing you. I hope that Santa brings you some time with your loved ones and that you are kept safe. 

What are you wishing for this Christmas? I hope you will take the time to think about all of those wishes to Santa that can't simply be bought. 

Wishing you a merry Christmas season. 


Sunday, 15 November 2015

5 Things I Love about being a Mum

Being a mum is the best thing I have ever done - so far in my 30 years of life on this planet. Of course, getting married and having our honeymoon come as a close 2nd and 3rd place, but being a mum is the best. 

There are so many things I love about being a mum. In no particular order, here are my top 5 things I love - right now - about being a mum:

  1. Grins, smiles and chuckles - I absolutely love the way Jake smiles. It is heart warming and will instantly make me feel happy and smiley too. His cheeky grin and infectious laugh are far more comforting than any chocolate could be.
  2. Cuddles - the best thing about going to work is getting home from work and being greeted by big, warm and snugly cuddles when I walk through the door. His little face lights up and he gives me a cuddle whilst says 'ahhhhhh'. What else is there that's beats that welcome home? But I also love how he cuddles his teddies or randomly cuddles daddy and I during the day. Sweet!
  3. Reading - right now I am in love with the way Jake chooses books and brings them to us, then turns himself around to sit on our laps. How adorable is that! Reading with Jake, and seeing him read books himself, is probably one of my favourite things at the moment. You can read more about reading with your baby here.
  4. Dancing - I love to watch Jake do his little dancing jig whenever some catchy music comes on. It's even better when he has 80's songs blasting on daddy's phone and does his little twerk!
  5. Running - Jake's mastered the walking and is now off and running everywhere. It's so cute!
What do you love about being a mum or a dad? 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Reading with your baby: An English Teacher's view

Every good parent in the world loves nothing more than to spend quality time with their child. Time where they are happy, content and engaged with what you're doing. 

One of the simplest and most rewarding ways to achieve these special and quality moments, on a regular basis, is by reading to/with your little one. Opening up a book and exuding your own excitement as you get to see what magic awaits in the pages bound together is the best way to begin. There really is nothing quite like it. 

Despite what the education sector of government may be reporting at this time, children do not progress in straight lines. What one child wants to read and can read well will be different to the wants and abilities of another child. As a result we need to make appropriate book choices for our little people - taking into account their age and their interests. 

We have read books to Jake since he was a bump in my belly. Since his arrival into the world, we've read at least one book to him everyday. I like to try and encourage Daddy Luke to do as much of this as I do, so that Jake grows up seeing the male role models in his life read - I think this is essential. Boys are highly likely to be 'reluctant readers' and often this is because they don't see other boys/ male role models reading.

Why have I read to Jake?
It is a well researched and documented fact (just look at papers written by publishers and universities, as well as educational researchers) that babies and young children who are read to go on to be independent readers themselves. The ability to read and to be able to access the wealth of imagination and information that exists in the billions of books available to us is one of the main factors in ensuring success and happiness in adult life. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve books - even if it's just the memory of having a certain book with me. 

I've ensured we read to Jake so that he will become a confident reader himself and so that he will learn the good habits for reading for pleasure as he grows up. I want Jake to be excited about books and about reading. 

What are the benefits of reading with Jake?
Babies and children who are read to or who have parents read with them are found to perform better academically. They are also  expected to develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures in the world. There is even research evidence to suggest that reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background does; it really is that powerful.

Other benefits of reading to children are that it allows them to develop their own ability to listen and feel comforted by your closeness and voice. This is certainly something we've seen Jake enjoy, as he now (at 13 months) brings his books to us and climbs on to our laps. He always finds a finger of ours to hold, and he touches our skin and nestles into our bodies as we read. Even when he's excited by the words and the pictures - that contact remains and he exudes contented happiness. 

Not only is academic success important, so is confidence. In my profession, I have worked with so many 11-18 year olds who struggle to read, or have never been read to and don't know the joy of reading. Sadly, I have worked with children in secondary education who struggle to access basic passages of text used in examination and seen them break down with utter desperation and self-loathing as they can't make head nor tail of the words written in front of them. I don't want my child to ever, ever, ever experience that feeling in the classroom. Nor in a job, later in life.

There are lots of others benefits to reading with your child though. Reading helps children to develop their imagination and the creative aspects of their brain, as well as the language and communication strands of their brains. Being able to access books means that they are able to open themselves up to experiencing different worlds, cultures and times - a wealth of experience and opportunity becomes available to them. Even better than this, reading allows children to to be happy - to laugh until their bellies burst! 

What are my tips for reading to your little ones?
In my experience as reading as a mum, an aunty, a friend and as a teacher - children love to listen to the rhythmic patterns of a story. I often read passages aloud to my year 11 pupils to model good reading - intonation, punctuation and meaning. You can see them get swept up in the experience of listening to and imagining. Some students I have taught have even said - 'Are you going to read the next part of that book to us, Miss?' So here are some tips to help you get reading at home with your baby:
  • remember that to babies and toddlers reading is still a form of 'play' - let them touch the books and the pages within it. If there are touchy-feely parts then guide them to explore these and make reassuring, fun noises to go with this
  • don't rush it - time is precious and difficult to carve out of the day. But even though I work full time, I still make time each night to read 4 or 5 books with Jake before we cuddle and put him into his cot. Daddy helps too, and will sometimes read extra books or will read books with him during the day. We don't see books as for bed time only - but they do always happen at bed time
  • get comfortable - sit somewhere you can get all snuggled up and feel like you're relaxing
  • try to bring the characters in the books to life - vary your voice, facial expressions and the sounds you make. Don't worry about being silly - your child will totally love it!
  • physical contact - make this time a moment of comfort and safety for you and your little one. If you can read in a way that allows some skin to skin contact - even just holding hands or them being snuggled into your face is enough
  • screen ban - turn the telly off and put the mobile phones down. Make this time for you and your little one all about them. Don't allow yourself to be distracted
  • join or visit the library - free books and fun experiences! They often have baby/toddler sessions too
  • Read, Read, Read - read whenever you can and let your little one see you reading too
What are some of your tips for reading with your little one? xx

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

I'm just tired

I must say that phrase several times a day. 
'I'm just tired'. 

With half term approaching there is a sense of desperation in the air; many of us working teacher-parents are clinging on to sanity in hopes we don't snap before the end of the next week arrives. 

We are tired. Stressed. Worn out and, most likely, struck with some version of the school cold. 

The cynical of you will think 'oh - another teacher holiday. You're so lucky'. And yes - we are lucky to be able to be at home in those weeks, but my evenings (like all of my evenings) will still be spent working endlessly to mark assessments for my groups (5 X 32 of them), plus 32 x year 11 mock exam papers and planning for lessons to teach the week I return. Not really a 'holiday' is it?

Don't get me wrong. I do love my job, but I love my family more and it is hard trying to strike a balance that means I am truly happy. I don't even try to make time for myself because there isn't any. 

Right now, I am exhausted. Jake hasn't been right this last week, with several nights of poor/little sleep and work is hectic with things needing to be done. I feel as though I get older and more wrinkled with every day, and judging by the number of people who look at me and ask, 'are you ok?' suggests it might be the case.  

But what hides behind our vague, blanket answers? The 'I'm fine' or 'I'm just tired' are almost automatic responses now. I think there's more to them - I know I feel utterly fed up ... and I am not the only one - but I don't want to offload my feelings every time someone asks me. 

Are you hiding behind phatic responses to avoid unloading your real feelings? I'd love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

5 Things That Really Annoy Me Now I Am A Mum!

There are many, many things that annoy me on a daily basis. Since becoming a mum there are a few extra ones that have become infuriating! 

I am only happy when I am chuntering on about something or other - think Karl Pilkington & The Moaning of Life. It is probably my best skill and one which I have really honed since becoming a mum. 

I used to find things like wobbly shopping trolleys annoying, but now I am going to a whole new level. 

Here are the 5 things that really annoy me now I am a mum:

1. Middle of the night wee- this is my number one annoyance. Getting limited amounts of good quality sleep as it is, waking up for a sodding wee at 3am is just cruel!

2. The washing basket - what the hell is this? Is our washing basket some kind of futuristic, never-ending, self-replenishing pile of dirty clothes that makes its sole purpose in life to make me sigh when I go in the bathroom? If it is it's working!!

3. Food shopping - someone really needs to invent a system by which you speak into a microphone and your fridge/ freezer/ cupboards replenish within 24 hours. Absolute nightmare getting the shopping done in the 2 days a week you aren't at work and your 12 month old is screaming for his lunch.

4. Handbags - utter dilemma on a weekly basis. Do I have a handbag? Do I stuff everything in the changing bag so you can just take one bag? But then you get baby mess on your purse and around your keys. So - you take two bags so you can leave one on the back of a seat when you're having a latte in Costa.

5. Parent and child parking - if it was actually monitored and available to said parents with said children then I would love it. But, the fact that some lazy middle-aged twat wearing a suit and driving a Mercedes uses it regularly because he needs to use the cash point and doesn't want to walk very far just pushes me over the edge!

So there you have it! These are my 5 things that really annoy me now I am a mum. What are yours? I'd love to know what else we can add to the list...

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Jake's Daily Routine: 12 Months

One of the things I've really noticed since being back at work is just how little time I am getting to spend with Jake.

It has been fantastic starting a new role in a new school, and I am enjoying teaching again. However, I feel as though I am missing out on Jake and I want to make the most of the precious few hours a day I have with him.

I thought I would share Jake's average routine. Of course, it isn't set in stone - some weeks he goes to nursery for extra sessions, some weeks I may be at home because it is bank holiday or school holiday. Other times daddy is at home more and he is with him.

This is how Jake's average week looks:

How does this compare to your weekly routine? Does anyone else have the same fragmented set up?


Sunday, 27 September 2015

5 Reasons to Remember I am a Good Mum - according to my husband!

Babies. We spend years thinking about having them. 9 months growing them and a lifetime worrying about them. 

Being a first time mum means that everything I do with JD is the first time I am doing it. I am surrounded by other bloggers and tweeters, instagramers and Facebookers who all have little ones and appear to be doing all of the right things in the right way. 

Working full time means I don't get to take my child to baby clubs and most of my friends don't have children; I have very little basis for comparison when it comes to parenting and I am constantly comparing myself to others in the parenting world of social media (which can mean I often feel totally shit as a mother!).

Occasionally, when I feel especially crappy or haven't had 5 minutes to myself to just breathe because of work, I get upset. Luke is always quick to remind me that I am doing great and he tells me a list of reasons he KNOWS I am a good mum. I thought I'd share them with you so you can see you're a good mum or dad too when your little one does the same: 

  1. Jake is a happy, smiley little boy who is loving and generous; he is always willing to give smiles, kisses, hugs and share his food. 
  2. Jake will sit and play and play and play very happily and contentedly with his toys, or sit 'reading' all of his books. He will gladly come and sit in mummy's lap to listen to a book being read at any time of the day - and especially if mummy reads it with different voices. 
  3. Jake isn't scared, timid or shy. Jake will gladly go anywhere and to anyone. He is happy to get involved and play with everyone (especially other children). He's well behaved and polite - saying 'ta' and handing things over when you say 'thank you' to him. 
  4. Jake is doing all of the right things at all of the right stages. He may not be the 'first' to do things when compared to other babies, but he's always in the right age bracket for them. 
  5. Luke says the most important reason he can tell I am a good mum is just by watching me with Jake and seeing my eyes and my face light up - and seeing Jake's do the same. In his words he 'loves nothing better than to watch the two of you together'. Aww.
Maybe I'm not as crap as I sometimes think I am, eh? 

I hope this post helps other mums and dads see that even though they might sometimes feel they aren't doing a good job - the proof is in the pudding. 


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Weaning: Made easier with Dettol!* #Phew

Jake has just enjoyed his 1st birthday and it was a great celebration made so much better by all of the family joining in. There were balloons, candles, presents and of course - food! We're still at a crucial stage with Jake and feeding, and we're very much still in the weaning phases in which I try to get him to eat a whole range of fruit, vegetables and meat - and he prefers to throw it all on the floor and scoff a brioche.

I'm not gonna lie; I find weaning hard. I find it hard to manage the time and preparation of it all. I find it tough to work full time - get back in time to feed him something that's home-made and completely 'clean eating'. Mostly, I find the mess hard.

What can I say? I'm just NOT the 'earth-mother' - easy going, - yay let's make a mess which will stain all of the walls and carpets - kind of mother. I find the mess stressful, and because we privately rent I worry about the marks, the stains and the damage that we might end up needing to pay for. 

When I was recently sent a whole range of Dettol * products to try out, to help weaning and keeping our family life as germ free as possible, I was a little sceptical. I mean, how was it going to make anything easier?

It does though. 

Dettol's Handy Antibacterial wipes have been a complete life-saver in helping me to tackle the mess and germs that come hand in hand with weaning. They have really enabled me to feel less on edge about the mess Jake gets into and they are so quick and easy that I can mop up any potential stain-bombs immediately, before they have chance to ruin carpets, walls or clothes. 

Just take a look!!

The fact that they are proven to kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses is just a huge bonus. They are a staple in our life now and a fantastic way to keep things clean and safe.

Also, Dettol's handy antibactieral wipes  and other products are safe to use around little ones because they are bleach free and odourless (though a gorgeous citrus one is available if you prefer something with a bit of zing). The Dettol range is proven to kill:
  • E. coli
  • Staph. aureaus
  • Listeria
  • Campylobacter
  • P.aeruginosa
  • MRSA
  • Salmonella
  • Influenza – Type H1N1
As well as remove:
  • Pollen particles
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
Overall? Weaning has definitely been made easier with the help of Dettol's products, and so has family life generally. They allow a busy mum, who works full time and has a husband who works shifts, try to stay on top of life's mess.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Review: Jurassic World

In 1993 I was an amazed, excited and overwhelmed 8 year old girl who had just seen Jurassic Park. I couldn't get enough!

 Fast forward 22 years and I am now an amazed, excited and overwhelmed 30 year old mum who has recently seen Jurassic World.

The magic is back.

I have always loved dinosaurs, and the Jurassic Park franchise since that first encounter in 1993. I met hubby, Luke, in 2001 - and guess what? He loves the franchise too.

Naturally, it was a complete no-brainer that when we heard Jurassic World was coming to cinemas -and after we saw the trailers and advertorials - we could not wait to see it. It was definitely worth the wait.

Jurassic World is an action-packed ride of emotional and explosive scenes that manage to capture the magic from the original and first instalment. It turned back to the unique selling point that dinosaurs could be attractions, in a theme park, with a merchandisable nature to boot. If you package this up you're left with the desirable feeling that leaves audiences to imagine (and inevitably wanting to) go there and see these creatures ourselves, up close. Children especially can be swept up in the imagination and possibility of it all; this was something the original film had in spades.

Consequently, this is exactly why Jurassic World works. It draws us in as an audience, creates empathy for our hero, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and the flawed park manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dalllas Howard) and her nephews to enable us to want them to survive.

But the real stars of the show are the dinosaurs themselves. The Velociraptor pack, the new Indominus Rex and of course the nostalgic reprisal of the Tyranosaurs Rex herself, still showing her scars which she earned at the end of the first movie. These creatures breathe life into the screen and thrill us at each turn.

As a huge JP fan - I was blown away by the initial scene of the Jurassic World Park - as the camera flew over the complex and passed through the gates a tear pricked my eye as those feelings of 'wanting to be there' rose to the surface.

This film is a must see. My only regret is that Jake was too young to come with us to the cinema and watch. But make no mistake, we'll be putting these Blu-rays on for him as soon as he can say 'Rarrr' - we've already pre ordered ;-)

My overall rating: 5 out of 5.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

8 Things That Scare Me Now I Am A Parent

Becoming a parent has meant that I have discovered (or perhaps developed) a whole new range of fears that creep up on my subconscious and terrorise it when I lest expect it. Am I the only one this happens to? When watching TV or films, or reading books - my empathy levels are through the roof as I often find myself - uncontrollably - thinking 'what if that were J?'. 

The dictionary definition of fear is: "a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc.,whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. Something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension; something person is afraid of".

My fear of actually being paralysed by fear aside, here are the things that scare me now I am a parent:

1. Illness - I am terrified that J might one day be really, really ill. I get so upset for other parents and children when this happens that I worry about how I'd cope if it happens to us. I admire those of you who have battled through this. But, I am also scared of being really ill myself and not being able to be a proper mum to J. 

2. Big Spiders - OK so I have always been scared of spiders bigger than a 50 pence piece - but now I am terrified that they might crawl on Jake and scare him.  Eurgh! Plus - this means I'd have to get it off him! Double Eurgh!

3. Cars - J isn't walking yet but now I am a parent I am so scared of how fast some cars go. We had two children hit by cars at the school I taught in this year and I myself was hit by a car as a child. It can be deadly, life changing and is a horrible experience.

4. Time - it goes too quickly that I'm scared I will wake up one day and think 'what happened to my life?' Or 'How is my son 30 years old already?'. I think this new fear of time is a lot to do with the fact that I am turning 30 on Monday 17th...

5. Food - as a fat mummy I worry about what and how much I feed J because I don't want him to be fat like me. He is and has always been chunky - he has a large appetite himself and was a hungry baby so I don't want to add to that and make it worse for him. Daddy and I are determined to ensure that he remains active physically - which he certainly is at the moment!

6. That we won't have anything in common - what if he doesn't like me? What if we will have nothing in common as he gets older? I can't stand the thought of him not wanting to talk to me or me be a part of his life.

7. Intelligence - my fear of J not being very bright is because I am a secondary English school teacher who sees how hard education is and how hard life is for those children who aren't very able academically. I hope that J isn't going to be one of them only because I hate to think of him having to struggle. 

8. Strangers - Now that I am a parent this is one of the things that really scare me; stranger danger. Did any of you watch The Missing on BBC? Well - that thoroughly spooked me and even the hubby said it makes him think twice about taking J abroad! Losing your child like that and never 'knowing' is just awful.

As you can see, I have 8 real things that scare me now I am a parent - things that I wouldn't really have given a second thought before having my own child. It's funny how having a baby changes your outlook on life and the way you see the world. Hopefully we'll all be fine and dandy though :)

What things scare you as a parent?