Helping someone through baby loss – what to say and do

It’s #BabyLossAwarenessWeek which culminates in a wave of light on 15th October to mark all the lives lost far too early.

I’ve been working with the incredible Caz Taylor from present concierge service Taylor’d Bundles for a few months and baby loss is a subject particularly close to her heart. In fact, it was a present she received as she was going through her darkest days that was the inspiration for her to start her own business.

She’s just published a piece on Huff Post with some ideas on what helps and doesn’t help when you’re going through such a terrible time. I’ve certainly learnt a lot from this piece and hopefully it will help others too.

She’s also giving away a lovely ‘I’ve got your back’ angel wings top through her Instagram, which is a beautifully curated account.

Sending love to all those who need it most.

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Five inventions the world is definitely missing

InventionsIt’s 8.14pm. I’m lying on the bed gently overheating in my new furry slippers, laptop optimistically open and my work emails up but I’m actually starting to daydream because I’m tired. A day in London does that now – packing in five meetings, a snatched lunch and a rush to and from the station. But I enjoy it, punctuating my month with a slice of the capital.

Now late September, school is officially underway and half term discos, books at bedtime and Trick or Treating are already hovering on the horizon. I’m not quite sure where the last few weeks have gone but they’ve hopped, skipped and jumped past me, leaving behind only vague memories of Facebooked school uniform photos and the name tag ironing frenzy.

My work emails are still open (it’s 8.22pm now) and instead of following up with my meeting notes I’m thinking about inventions that would help improve my life. Here are a few that spring to mind:

  • Non-colour-mixing playdoh – no more inevitable green, sludgy mess – playdoh yellow is always bright and fresh and the special edition pink sparkle version stays forever pink and sparkly
  • A wearable hair dryer – so I can wander around upstairs hands-free in the morning supervising the children as they hide and refuse to get dressed
  • The school uniform folder-upper and hanger-upper (because Scrip clearly doesn’t understand the concept) which doubles as a clean clothes sorter and distributor (there’s a theme here)
  • Never-ending cereal – to avoid the endless squabbles over the last three Shreddies
  • The shoe auto-organiser (why is there always one child’s shoe missing?)

It’s 8.32pm and I think my curfew might be 9pm tonight. I’ll be dreaming of hairdryers, cereal and playdoh.

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Diggers and Dumpers weekend – a Tractor Ted live extravaganza

Tractor TedD’s been talking about visiting ‘Tractor Ted land’ since we went to the last Tractor Ted Live (Big Machines) at Bowood earlier in the year. His wish came true last Sunday when we went along to Diggers and Dumpers Weekend.

For the uninitiated, Tractor Ted is an animated green Tractor but the real stars of his show are actual farm machines like combines, diggers and dumpers which are filmed going about their daily tasks with child-friendly commentary. There are DVDs ,which have D in thrall every time, and also books, clothes and toys and D and many, many other small children – some of whom we saw wide-eyed at Bowood – love them all.

We first heard about Tractor Ted at a parent bloggers’ event Talk to Mums Family Playtime in London and the DVDs we received then have been nectar for D. So, to live so close to Bowood and be able to go along to see digger dancing, ride on mini plastic replicas, sit in a massive machine, run a children’s Grand National and bounce on a Tractor Ted bouncy castle was his favourite kind of day out.

It was a packed programme with lots going on in the main arena and plenty around the outside, too, all accompanied by the very catchy Tractor Ted tunes. Although D is the super fan, both children enjoyed the activities and neither wanted to go at the end of the day. Plus it was decent weather so we had a picnic in beautiful Bowood and the children had a good run around. Here are some of our highlights in pictures.

Tractor Ted 1 Tractor Ted 2 Tractor Ted 3 Tractor Ted 4 Tractor Ted 5 Tractor Ted 6

Thank you to Tractor Ted for a set of tickets (and one very happy toddler).

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Technology will save us: Electro Dough Kit review (simple STEM for kids)

Electro Dough KitEven the pack looks exciting and a world away from the drab 80s circuit boards I was taught electronics on in secondary school. I love the idea of getting Scrip involved in STEM activities and this Electro Dough Kit, which lets you make conductive dough, learn how electricity works and play with lights, buzzers and switches, is perfect for her age group.

It’s one of the many kits on offer from Technology Will Save Us who contacted me about other products and then offered this to review. I leapt at the chance. Scrip loves sitting down for activities at the moment, which is brilliant, and I want to make her learning as rounded as possible. Whilst I know we’ve shared our love of books and being creative, I’m not sure I have instilled the same passion for science, which is a shame.

Electro Dough Kit

When I opened the instructions and I saw the classic circuit line drawings, light emitting diodes and all, those science classes came flooding back. Anyone else remember pinching people with crocodile clips and attaching them to each other’s school jumpers? There were some of those inside too.

But after a bit of trial and error we were both smiling when she first made a little LED light up and the kit very quickly brought everything to life in a way she could engage with. We started by making the conductive dough together, which is straightforward (with lots of salt to help the conduction) but needs some heating on the stove. Make sure you wait for it to cool down before handling as she was keen to add the food dye in straight away but it was boiling hot for a while. The consistency was really good, though.

Dough making

Then we started creating, using some inspiration from the pack but also from the website. Not having great science lesson recall, apart from the crocodile clips, I couldn’t answer all her questions straight away so it was useful for me to use some of the explanations from the pack. She quickly got the hang of the LEDs having to be positioned a certain way around and the wires going into the dough correctly, and we made a simple circuit and tested objects which conducted electricity and didn’t (you can also download a sheet to write these up). Then we moved on to using dough versions of our names, little creatures who kissed and turned lights on, making a buzzer go and then some ‘fireworks’.

She was keen to make a range of things and it was a morning’s worth of play. D started off with us then got more interested in putting his tractor in the flour. But then he did come back and sat for a long time building castles out of the dough and sticking jumper wires into the sides. So it was nice to have him with us too, although they recommend age four and up for this kit which I think is right.

Tech will save us

There’s a whole range of kits for four to nine year olds, including machines and solar-powered creations, gifts for 10 – 14 year olds, Micro:Bit kits and other gift ideas. So there’s lots of choice. They’re not cheap (starting at £22.99) but they’re well made with lots of electronic parts so worth the investment I’d say. Particularly if it makes them excited about STEM subjects. I hope they carry on with things like this in the classroom – there’s no reason to wait until they’re teenagers.

And while we’re on the subject of school, I’ve started thinking about PE kits and jumpers now Scrip’s going into Year One in a couple of weeks. A quick mention for a new find – my iron-on labels from My Nametags which I love because:

  • The kids got involved with choosing from a range of backgrounds, designs and colours for their labels with simple click boxes online
  • Being iron on, they’re dead simple to use and even go on things like a tennis racket cover
  • The labels have stayed put so far and seem robust even when washed
  • Scrip loves them so much that I’ve even stuck them on plastics with some sellotape over the top (you can get stickers too if you like a simpler life!)

My Nametags

Thanks to Technology Will Save Us for our Electro Dough Kit (worth £22.99) and My Nametags for our iron on labels (£12.95 including P&P).

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Wednesday wisdom: why writing with a pen is better for learning

I thought this was interesting – apparently writing is better for your brain than typing. I suppose I thought that might be the case, and I know how important it is for Scrip to master her loopy whoosh-in, whoosh-outs, but now it’s been proven. I write blogs, emails (obviously) and documents straight onto my computer, but if I need to plan something out I always reach for a big blank sheet and a biro. Here’s why it’s better:

  • Research has shown a positive correlation between better handwriting skills and increased performance in reading and writing. In a report, having good fine motor skills like those you use writing often helped a child outperform their classmates in both English and Maths.
  • More parts of the brain are stimulated when we put pen to paper than using a keyboard. It is a mindful activity that helps focus attention and hones the fine motor skills. MRI scans of 5 year-olds have shown a reading circuit being created in a child’s mind during letter perception only after handwriting.
  • Then there were university students who took part in a study to see if there was a difference between those taking notes longhand and those using keyboard related devices. The findings demonstrated that note taking with a pen has a clear effect on a student’s learning. Note takers edit the information when they write it down where as those who took notes on a laptop typed verbatim. When it came to recalling information from the lecture and answering conceptual questions, the writers had a better recall and understanding.

So next time the windows steam-up in yet another traffic jam on route to Cornwall, write words on the windows and get the kids to trace letters with their fingers. Passing time and growing the brain, traffic can sometimes be good for your health…

The pen is not just mightier than the sword, but mightier than the keyboard. And here’s an infographic from National Pen with more (just a shame it’s not hand-written).

handwriting_infographic

I wasn’t sent anything in return for this – it just caught my eye.

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Building from the bottom up: extending

Building an extensionI feel like life here has been like the weather – sunny and bright one minute, dark, grey and raining hard the next. We’ve had good news and terrible news in quick succession and although we’ve still got a lot to be grateful for, it’s been a difficult time.

It’s good to have something mundane to look forward to, and in our case that’s our building work finishing. Even if it has taken a while.

I’ve actually had lovely builders which is particularly important when you work from home and have small children running around half-naked, tripping over breeze blocks. In fact, D thinks (hopes) that our two main builders, Lionel and Nick, are moving into our house with us. Namely into the new office space. Well, we are planning to put a daybed in there so it’s not totally out of the question.

We’ve had delays and some unexpected costs, discontinued blocks, screed breaching (it’s a new thing), and a lot of dust everywhere that settles just as quickly as we can hoover, but I’m not losing sight of the fact that at the end of it we’ll have more space, an area for children’s toys (hooray!), a guest room and a dedicated office. My kitchen table working will be no more.

We’re very lucky to be able to do this and we’re thankful for that. Sometimes you need something solid to focus on and this is it. Cheers to bricks and mortar.

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A poem for my children: You’re always everywhere

 always everywhereYou’re my painted nail, sparkly and bright
With childish varnish that peels and curls
You’re the school bells ringing when I drop you at school
And you rush to the other blue-checked girls

You’re the plastic knife and fork and melamine plate
The chocolate buttons and hidden sweets
Which you sometimes remember, with a doe-eyed smile
And list the reasons you deserve some treats

And you, my youngest, you’re the tractor book
The plastic digger that sits on the chair
You’re the paddling pool, the bucket and spade
The tiny shoes, the panda bear

You’re the dried apricots, the strawberry jam
The crackers and the rice cakes (pleeease)
You’re the big chair, not high chair anymore
The plum tomatoes, the special cheese

You’re both the sofa without your shoes
The shared rainbow rug at the end of the day
The swings in tandem, the sprinkly hose
The squeals of laughter as you play

You’re the cartoon pen, the star-shaped rubber
You’re the family picture, neatly drawn
You’re both a part of me and us
You’ve been firmly there since the day you were born.

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Paddling-pool perfect toys: Splashlings review

Splashlings reviewMermaids are always in vogue in our house. Not to the point of obsession (Fidget Spinners and Lego cards anyone?) but The Little Mermaid and The Singing Mermaid are firm favourites, as is a toy mermaid that swims up and down in a jars using a little rubber tail.

Our Splashlings also came out to play at the start of the June heatwave, so these new little toys quickly found their way underwater in our paddling pool. Splashlings are part of a little plastic and rubber world made up of mermaids, the Splashling sea creatures and the small shells that they sleep in. These have been just as popular on dry land as pool-side with Scrip (now 5) and also a male friend of hers (H, 4 years old) being engrossed one day.

Splashlings 2

They’re a big hit in the US and now they’re swimming their way to our shores. We tried the Medical Centre which comes complete with moveable weighing scales and ‘working’ x-ray machine. All pretty fiddly for me when I joined in the game but perfect for small hands who seem to love the tiny characters and accessories.

There’s a handy chart so you can tick off which ones you have (and which are next on your wish list…) and some miniature accessories. Scrip also seemed to think they were like Shopkins which is another name that gets banded around the house although we don’t have any here.

Splashings even have their own Webisodes featuring all the characters in undersea adventures which I think Scrip would love but I’m still saving that premiere for a rainier day! At just over 2 minutes each the webisodes are actually a clever accompaniment to the toys.

The sets are relatively cheap and cheerful so would make good small gifts (prices start at £2.49 for the Splashlings 2 Piece Collector Shell). Although one of our shells sadly stopped closing pretty quickly so soon became a ‘daytime shell’ in Scrip’s words. So they’re not always the most robust, but are certainly a crowd pleaser.

Thanks to Splashlings for giving us a new set of watery toys! The Splashlings Medical Centre play set is £15.99rrp, and the Splashlings Coral Playground Set is £22.99rrp.

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Win a Tommee Tippee Steamer Blender with #weantogether

Baby Food Steamer BlenderLike learning to walk and potty training, weaning is an all-consuming stage (no pun intended). I think we probably left it too late with Scrip, as she devoured her first baby rice in front of us in a matter of seconds at 5 and a half months, and possibly started too early with D who instantly spat the spoon out.

I remember doing buggy fit in Holland Park in London (those hazy days!) and some of the class would take about all-in-one weaning solutions and I would listen enviously. It felt like something that might make my weaning world – filled with mushy butternut squash, pureed parsnip and sieved carrot – a lot easier. But I never went beyond my basic weaning kit.

I still keep an eye out for weaning recipes (here’s my weaning Pinterest board which was great inspiration for me and which I still add to) and I have friends who are going through all the messy stages of it at the moment.

Tommee Tippee has joined up with child nutritionist, Charlotte Stirling-Reed, for #WeanTogether which is encouraging parents to come up with simple and delicious new fruit and veg recipes. I like the tongue-in-cheek tone, which gives weaning recipes a twist with hipster foodie titles, such as Deconstructed Autumn Fruit Crumble (aka pear and blueberries).

But the best thing is that, through Tommee Tippee, I’m offering the chance to win a brand new Steamer Blender (worth £106.99). Just use the Rafflecopter link below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Basically, the Steamer Blender does all the work for you. This is why I wish I’d had one of these:

  • It steams food to preserve nutrients and flavour
  • It blends easily to a range of textures for every weaning stage
  • There’s no transfer between steaming and blending
  • There’s an automatic timer so you can just set, leave, then simply serve or store
  • There are only a small number of parts for easy cleaning
  • It’s BPA Free for ultimate reassurance
  • It’s a Made for Mums GOLD Best Product for Weaning 2017

Good luck!

The Steamer Blender (RRP £106.99) is now available at Amazon, Mothercare and Toys R Us. For more information visit https://www.tommeetippee.co.uk/product/baby-food-steamer-blender

The rules

    • Entrants must be 18 or over and UK residents.
    • The prize includes a Tommee Tippee Steamer Blender.
    • Competition closes at 12.00am on 30th June 2017. Any entries submitted after this date will not be included.
    • The winner will be selected randomly through a prize draw and announced on newmumblings.com and through email.
    • There is no cash prize alternative.

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Remember what we teach our kids – a poem on election day

RememberWe teach our children from early on
That although they are our number one
There are others around – so share your toys
You’re one of many girls and boys
Be helpful and patient, gentle and kind
No matter what response you find
And if a child in front trips and falls
Don’t walk straight past and ignore the calls
Stop and help, check they’re OK
Even if others turn away
And if a new boy or girl joins the class that day
Find out their name, see if they want to play
And we hope these manners, this way to behave
Will stay with them always, make them good and brave

But it occurred to me this election day
That this doesn’t seem to be the way
That our country’s run – it’s not about sharing
It’s not about loving, supporting and caring
The current agenda doesn’t fit
With these kind of morals, not one little bit
I have no time for those that say
That investing in people isn’t the way
And that really to benefit you and me
We need five more years of austerity
It’s not only unjust, it hasn’t worked
Although that truth has been conveniently shirked

So let’s remember what we learnt when we were small
Not to think only of ourselves but of us all

It’s not strong or stable and it’s not at all funny
When morals are abandoned for the sake of making money

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