Monday, 31 December 2012

Highlights of 2012

It's been a mixed year for us, 2012, we're certainly looking to 2013 with greater expectations.  We've been through what has probably been the toughest year since we got married and I think my Other Half would agree that we have basically limped through the last few months of 2012!

But I spent some time reflecting over the past year and whilst it feels as though they have been few and far between, we have had some lovely moments this year.

Camping with the kids
Not necessarily to be recommended if you have a Houdini-esque toddler like us, he must have managed to escape every possible way from the tent but it's nice to be able to say we did it!  And on the same trip we visited Peppa Pig World which I think made Meg's year!

Our little get up

Making an Easter Bonnet
My first encounter with this tradition.  And incidentally my first real blog post!

 Starting a blog
I can't really put into words how glad I am I started Catch A Single Thought.  I have made some lovely friends in the blogging community, attended my very first blogging event (winged by two fabulous bloggers who included me in their tribe!) and have been able to give Meg opportunities we might never have experienced otherwise.  I think the highlight was attending the Gala Screening of the new Tinkerbell Movie.  That really set the year off and no, it's not what blogging is all about for me but I was so thrilled to be able to see how excited Meg was by the experience!

Adding to our family
First by way of the rabbits, and secondly by getting Alfie.  I can't pretend that the decision to get Alfie has necessarily been a wise one (I will be blogging more on this in the New Year!) but I am pleased we did it nonetheless.

Hearing Eli say 'mummy' for the first time
It felt like the day would never arrive!  He was a total daddy's boy and whilst I was fairly certain he had the requisite skills to say 'mummy' he just point blank refused.  The fact that it was mixed in with one of his first real coherent sentences "thank you mummy" made it all the more heart-warming!  Also I think I want to add into here, watching him become a proper little scamp.  He is so cheeky and whilst at times I despair I also want nothing more than to squidge his little cheeks and give him a big cuddle!

So just a few small things, I'm sure there have been many more but it's difficult to come up with them when you're on the spot!  For some people, they will seem insignificant and pointless but they have formed some fond memories for me, which is what it's all about really isn't it?

So here's to a much improved 2013!

I hope you all have a Happy New Year and enjoy your celebrations, whatever you decide to do.  I think I'll probably be getting an early night (yes, I know what you're and soul of the party me!)

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Our Christmas (2012)

This year we decided to stay at home for Christmas, just the four of us (plus Alfie and Peppa of course!)

Last year was total present chaos with Meg just becoming completely overwhelmed, ripping wrapping paper off any gift she could get her hands on, not bothering to look what was inside and accidently opening other people's presents too.

In an effort not to have a repeat of that we decided we would stay at home and take things slowly.  On Christmas Eve we opened all the presents and made sure if they needed batteries then we'd put them in and there was no awkward packaging to undo so the kids could play with them straight away without having to wait.

We started our fun on Christmas Eve with new PJ's for everyone and a Christmas book each for Meg and Eli.  We have decided that we will give the kids new PJ's and a book each year from mummy and daddy on Christmas Eve and that way all the other presents we buy can be from Santa on Christmas Day.  At least for as long as the magic of Santa is present in our house!

My mother in law had given us a lovely plate decorated for Santa from Meg and Eli so we made sure that Santa had some homemade cookies and milk left out for him under the tree.

And finally we mixed some porridge oats with red glitter and left a sparkly path in our back garden up to our front door so the reindeer wouldn't get lost!

The kids went to bed surprisingly well, I don't think that the concept of Santa and presents has really set in yet, other than us telling Meg it was Christmas the next day she didn't have much expectation about what that would mean, which is obviously very beneficial at the moment!

The next morning the kids didn't wake until 8.30am (woohoo!) so we had a leisurely time opening stocking presents before heading downstairs for a cooked breakfast and some bucks fizz (for mummy and daddy of course!) before sitting down to open our presents.  It's a little concept of mine that we have to be dressed before we open tree presents and I think taking our time and making sure that we were all ready and had eaten before we let the kids near the presents worked well, it was certainly a lot calmer than last year.

We stretched the present opening throughout the day, opening a couple and then allowing the kids to play with them for a bit whilst we replenished our glasses and cleared up the paper.  I hope that we can continue this in years to come as it was really quite relaxing, not at all what I had expected.

There was a distinct pirate theme to our presents this year with Meg and Eli getting a pirate ship, two pirate dressing up outfits and a variety of other piratey bits and pieces, anyone would think we were fans!

Alfie wasn't left out either, we found some dog slippers at a local charity shop and wrapped them up for him.  Unfortunately he was so pleased with his gift that he managed to tear the slippers apart in just one day so I think next year he may need something a bit more hardy!

Around 2pm (after Eli had had his nap) we sat down to a mammoth Christmas dinner made by my Other Half.  I think a real Christmas dinner is when you can't see the bottom of your plate and he definitely achieved that!

Finally, we saw my parents and sister for a short time, opened some more presents and gave the kids an early night before putting our feet up and indulging in some David Attenborough 'Life of Mammals' (a gift for my Other Half)...we know how to live on the wild side!

I had been concerned that this year would be the most chaotic of all with two children knowing what opening presents meant but actually it was far more chilled out than I had expected which was a lovely surprise.  I hope that next year it can be the same!

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, here's to a Happy New Year!!


Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Perfect Elf

I love to wear my bright green clothes,
My hat that has a bell.
My buttons burnished bright as stars,
All elves must turn out well.

By morn you'll find me working hard,
I tinker all day long.
Making toys for boys and girls,
Who have done no wrong.

I sing carols all year round,
Not just at Christmas time.
My favourite treat is Christmas Pud,
It really is sublime!

I feed the reindeers lots of treats,
(they work hard you know.)
And polish Rudolph's bright red nose,
It's vital that it glow.

And when it's time for Christmas Eve,
I help get Santa dressed.
Stand and cheer as he sets off,
and well, you know the rest!

This is my entry for the Tots100 Center Parcs Challenge

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Single Thought of the Week: Christmas

I've seen a lot of posts buzzing around the blogosphere this week all to do with Christmas traditions.  We're a young family so we haven't had much time to build up any traditions yet but we're starting a few this year and I've been keeping my eyes peeled for more exciting ones we can implement.

It's too late this year but my favourite so far is to have a basket full of Christmas books which we get out each year.  I will definitely be getting a stash together for next year!

So, when I decided to do my 'Single Thought of the Week' post around Christmas I couldn't really think what I could write about.  After much umming and ahhing I thought I'd put down my top tips for not blowing the budget at Christmas.  This may be a little late in the day seeing as Christmas is next week *panics* but maybe it'll help someone...or maybe next year when I'm sitting down to write my lists I'll be reminded of these tips!

We fell into the trap with Meg's first Christmas of over buying.  We wanted to make it special, we wanted to take lots of photos and use it as an opportunity to spoil her.  We really shouldn't have bothered.  Whilst I remember getting annoyed at people commenting that she would just be interested in the cardboard box or the paper (she wasn't, she knows what the good stuff is!) we really didn't need to go quite as overboard as did, and to be honest, our purse strings didn't really allow for it either!

Meg's first Christmas

By Meg's second Christmas we'd learned our lesson somewhat and tried to be more restrained in what we bought for her.  I still couldn't help myself though and was out buying 'those last few bits' on Christmas Eve!  

Meg's Second Christmas

So by the time Eli's first Christmas arrived we'd pretty much got a handle on how to have Christmas without blowing the budget.

Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Make a list.
Decide on how many presents/what budget you have and write a list which keeps within those parameters.

2. Stick to your list!  
So many times I have entered a shop with my list in hand and then gone into panic mode, seeing all kinds of Christmassy treats on offer and just bought far more than I needed to.  This year I've done all my shopping online so I can't be tempted!

3. Buy pre-loved toys
We love buying pre-loved toys.  Not only have we got some brilliant bargains but also, it means I'm not tearing my hair out when Meg decides to add some colour and uses her crayons on a £50 toy garage (that we actually only paid £10 for) or when the kids take a shine to the same toy and end up snapping or damaging it.  I know it sounds scroogey but the cost of toys these days is astonishing, consider pre-loved if you're looking to save some pennies!

4. Don't go overboard
It's so easy to do, especially when you have small children, and especially when it's a first Christmas but there really is no need.  Last year Meg was so spoilt and had so much to open that she ended up in this wrapping paper frenzy just ripping it off left, right and centre.  She even managed to open some of our presents!  This year we've been much more reserved, and I bet she'll be happy opening one or two things and actually being able to play with them there and then.

5. Wait until the sales
This year, we have borrowed an idea from my brother and his girlfriend and are not buying each other presents until the January sales.  To be honest, Christmas for me now is all about the enjoyment of watching the kids opening their presents and loving the magic of Christmas that I'm not so interested in gifts.  I'm looking forward to having some money put aside to grab myself some January bargains!

And most importantly of all Christmas is all about family fun - so make some memories.  My favourite part of Christmas Day is spending time together as a family with no interruptions - just us, good food, good TV and good family times!

Merry Christmas :)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The One Where We Talked About Death...

Last Wednesday we returned home from picking the kids up from Liverpool to a very sad discovery.  Our rabbit, George had died.  We're not entirely sure how this happened (I personally think his hutch-mate Peppa had been bullying him away from the food!) but it was nonetheless a very sad experience.

I'll admit, I was slightly undone, it being midnight and having just spent the last 5 hours in the car...I did shed a tear or two.  He was only 9 months old after all.  Plus there was the awkward issue of, what do you do with a dead rabbit at midnight?  I was not at all impressed with my Other Half's 'circle of life' suggestion that we leave him out for the three local foxes either!

My sister and's the only photo I promise!

Of course, once we had sympathetically removed George from the hutch the bigger question became, what on earth were we going to tell Meg?

I had no idea whether she had any grasp or understanding of death and what it means.  I think once before we had heard her say during a game "now you're dead" but this seemed out of character and just something she was repeating. 

So, I figured we had three options:

1. Tell her bluntly that George had died and wouldn't be coming back.
2. Explain that George was poorly and couldn't get better so had gone to Rabbit heaven.
3. Say nothing and wait until she noticed he wasn't there and make out that he escaped and ran away.

I pondered over which one was kindest for the majority of the night before deciding on the second option as the most toddler-friendly.

I sat her down, made sure she was well watered and fed so her attention wouldn't wander and started to explain in the gentlest way I could that George had been poorly and unfortunately Mummy and Daddy weren't able to make him better.  Her first response was "well Jesus could make him better" (I decided to sidestep this point as much as I believe in miracles I'm not entirely sure whether I believe in miracles for rabbits and besides, it was a little late for that!) "Not this time sweetheart" said I, "unfortunately George has already died" and so we reached the heart of the matter.

She had absolutely no concept of what 'died' meant.  Was he coming back in a little while?  Could we go and see him?  Why couldn't we take him to the doctors?  Why did he have to die?

Round and round in circles all day she fired these questions at me and to be honest, I was completely adrift.  How on earth do you explain death to a toddler?  She had no understanding whatsoever that we are all living creatures and that sometimes people (and animals) die...this is a conversation I hadn't expected to have for a very very long time.  It broke my heart a little bit to think "well, thank goodness it's just an animal and not a person" as I think that would have completely destroyed me.

I attempted to cover as many bases as I could with her, and answer her questions as honestly as possible despite the fact that she didn't really get it.  Is it a topic we should cover up in order to protect our children?  I don't child is only 3...should we have said nothing?  I don't know whether I think being honest was the best policy in this case.  I almost feel as though it's opened up a bigger can of worms than if we'd just told her that George had escaped and run away.

Even now, several days after the incident I'm still unsure whether we've done the right thing.  As my Other Half pointed out, George was just a rabbit, we didn't need to explore such a serious issue at such a young age.  But, it's done now isn't it.  We'll just have to deal with any further questions as best we can I guess!   

Review: Barefoot Books

We were so pleased when we were sent some books to review from Barefoot Books.  The thing that struck me first was how they had obviously taken the time to select two books which were relevant for Meg and Eli.

Barefoot Books is a company which was started by two mums who wanted their children to have books which would not only feed their imagination but also give them a respect for diversity and a love of the planet.  They have a set of core values which can be found on their website and which I just love.

Here's a short insert from their website:

Step Inside A Story.

Explore. Imagine. Create. Connect. Give Back. That's what Barefoot Books is all about.  it's exploring other cultures, our planet, ourselves.  It's making time for make-believe and letting imaginations run wild and free.  Most of all, it's about using the power of stories to nourish the creative spark in everyone and strengthen connections with family, the global community, and the earth.

If you have a few minutes, I'd recommend going on to their website.  They have a gorgeous selection of books, based on the two we received they are exceptionally high quality and very reasonably priced.  I have this website favourited and will certainly be visiting it again next time we buy books for the kids.

The Kite Princess by Juliet Clare Bell

This is the story of Cinnamon Stitch, a princess who has no interest in wearing pretty dresses and learning decorum, she's a tomboy who would much rather be running round shoeless playing with alley cats and rolling through mud much to the disappointment of the King and Queen.  After one such troublesome expedition she is inspired to make her own kite and fly free, inspiring the King and Queen to let go and join her.

Meg loves this story but every time we read it, she asks why Cinnamon Stitch doesn't want to wear pretty dresses...she really has no understanding of why someone wouldn't want to wear a princess dress!  Perhaps she'd feel differently if she was made to wear one every day, I don't know!

This is a lovely story though of accepting people as they are and not trying to make them fit your mould and also of letting go and finding your inner freedom.  It has become a firm favourite on the bedtime stories list (even if we do have to answer the same questions each time!)  

There are also instructions in the back on how to make your own kite.  We haven't tried this yet but I am keen to give it a go.

Bear in a Square by Stella Blackstone

This is a lovely bright board book designed to encourage the exploration of shapes.  On each page you have to find certain shapes within the picture.  There is rhyme, repetition and counting to help build these skills.  

At the moment finding the shapes is a little bit advanced for Eli, he can only correctly identify the triangle but he enjoys the bright colours of each page and Meg has loved going through it and I have often found her explaining the different shapes to Eli which is just the cutest thing!

Disclaimer: We were sent the books for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Meal Planning Monday (17 December 2012)

You may or may not have noticed that my meal planning chalkboard remained blank last week.  This was because my Other Half was in charge of the plan as I was unwell.  Suffice to say I had to step back in to the role after he'd fed us baked beans for the third night in a row!

I'm excited to do this week's as it means there's only one more week until I'm planning our Christmas menu, woo!!

I've stolen the idea of 'brinner' from another meal plan I saw as I love the idea of a fry up for my tea.

If you're looking for more meal planning inspiration, head over to At Home With Mrs M who hosts the Meal Planning Monday linky :)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Book Love: The Queen's Confidante by Karen Harper

The Queen's Confidante by Karen Harper
The War of the Roses may be over, but the throne is far from safe...

This is the first book of Karen Harper's that I've read and I made the mistake of reading the 'about the Author' section before starting.  I have to say, despite knowing I shouldn't, finding out that she was American put a slight taint on the book to start with.  I was expecting her to have made everything very twee and sweet and...well...stereotypical.

I do think there were some phrases which were probably not of the time (having read a fair number of historical fiction books) as they seemed quite modern...although she may be right, I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination and the spelling is Americanised which always gets on my nerves when a book is based in the UK but to be perfectly fair my pre-conceptions were entirely misplaced as I really quite enjoyed this book.

Set in 1501, the story is about Varina Westcott, a candle maker who is summoned to the palace in order to make secret effigies for Queen Elizabeth of her dead brothers (the princes in the tower) and two children she has lost.  Varina and the Queen find some common ground having both recently lost children and Varina turns confidante for the Queen.  When the newly married Prince Arthur dies in Wales, Varina is given the task of travelling there and finding out exactly what happened.

Karen Harper has created a murder mystery out of some very well known Tudor events and whilst I was sceptical to begin with (it all seemed a bit too fanciful...would the Queen really have sought out a lowly candle maker?) I did actually find the story enjoyable.  The benefit of throwing this particular storyline out there was that it offered another perspective as to what may have happened.  She has mixed real-life people well with fictional ones and raises some interesting points.  The story of the missing princes in the tower is a well known one, however I'd never given a thought to the idea that Prince Arthur may have been murdered and not just died from natural causes given that he was known to be quite sickly.

The story is told from both Varina and Queen Elizabeth's point of view and it flits between the two.  If I'm honest, I found this unnecessary and would have enjoyed reading the story from just Varina's perspective but I can see why she has added the extra level in as it allows us some insights into the royal marriage which we wouldn't have otherwise seen.

I did also enjoy that this wasn't a run of the mill story about the Tudor dynasty.  I learned some new and interesting facts about candle-making and the uses of wax and it's importance in the era.

If you enjoy historical fiction I would recommend giving this a go.  Having seen other reviews on Amazon it would appear this perhaps isn't one of Karen Harper's better novels so I am planning on trying another of her books in the New Year.

Currently Reading

A Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

My linky is looking a bit lonely this month, do join up if you've written a review (new or old!) or just leave a comment if you've got any book recommendations!


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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Review: Tinkerbell and The Secret of the Wings

We were very lucky to be invited along to the Gala screening of Tinkerbell and the Secret of the Wings at the Mayfair on Sunday.  I'm not very well at the moment so it was nice to be able to treat myself and Meg to a special day out.

We started our afternoon by making some sparkly Christmas decorations before Meg got to be overawed and meet her heroine.  She didn't stop talking about it for the rest of the day!

Tinkerbell and the Secret of the Wings is out in cinemas on December 14th and is the first of the Disney Fairies films to be shown in 3D.  This meant we got to wear some very funky glasses!

The Secret of the Wings tells the story of the 'great divide' between the warm world of Pixie Hollow and the forbidden Winter Woods where the Winter fairies live.  As curious as ever, Tinkerbell crosses the boundary into the Winter Woods where she meets Periwinkle, a fairy as mischievous as Tinkerbell.  Together they unravel a magical secret!

 As with all the previous Tinkerbell films, this is a lovely story ultimately about love and friendship.  It is absolutely perfect for Christmas with it's wintery setting.

If you're at all interested in film trivia - Periwinkle is the first Disney animated character to have her hair designed by a leading hair stylist.  Ken Paves ("the hottest hairdresser in Hollywood") designed her look.  He can feel free to come and sort my hair out any day of the week!

And if you're after some more fairy-filled adventure there is this lovely print at home treasure hunt you can do with your little ones as well as some lovely craft ideas and printable colouring sheets.  Meg is away at her Nana and Grandad's at the moment but we will definitely be doing this when she gets back:

Disclaimer: We were invited to the Gala Screening of Tinkerbell & The Secret of the Wings.  All views and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Single Thought of the Week: Pushy Parents

Last Saturday as I sent Meg off to her dance class again in tears, I began to ponder the price of being a pushy parent.  Which is what I would probably accuse another mother of being if she continually sent her child off to a class she very clearly didn't want to attend*.

You see, probably unsurprisingly, I'm good at dancing.  It's something I always regret not pursuing properly.  And so perhaps I am attempting to live vicariously through my Other Half would certainly sooner stop paying for the dance class and instead focus on the gymnastics class which she adores going to.

So, I was musing over whether I truly do have my daughter's best interests at heart or whether I would fall into the category of being a 'pushy parent' when I came across an article which suggested that being a 'pushy parent' isn't sending your children to extracurricular activities in the hope of inspiring them to greatness.  It's sitting with your preschooler and encouraging them to learn to read and write.

Meg is 3 1/2 years old and we regularly sit down and do phonics, writing and counting.  I can say, with great pride, that with just a small amount of prompting, Meg can count up to 100.  Yes, I'm proud of that.  Not because I think it makes me look better than other parents but because it warms the very cockles of my being to see how pleased she is with herself when she gets there.

We also have a book we read often at bedtime, a Fireman Sam phonics book.  It's not a typical bedtime story but it is one Meg chooses herself and she thoroughly enjoys going through the letters and thinking of various words which start with those letters.  Another favourite game, is playing I-Spy in the car.  Again, all linked with learning phonics.

Am I a pushy parent for encouraging my child to explore learning at such a young age? I would say I was simply preparing her for (at least) the next 13 years of her life.  Because, ultimately I suppose I see it as my responsibility.  I brought her into this world, I want to see her achieve the best that she can.  If the primary school curriculum is so inept (which I believe prompted the original post) then I want to do all I can to make sure my daughter gets the best support she can from home.

I can truly put my hand on my heart and say that it's not for my own benefit, so that I can 'prove my own skills and intelligence' but because from a very early age my daughter has shown a disposition towards reading, writing and talking talking talking.  I am simply supporting her in the things that she would naturally choose to pursue. I a pushy parent?  Would I still make Meg sit down and do phonics if she showed very little interest in it?  Truthfully, I'd probably try.  Or I'd attempt to teach her through the medium of play, as I do with Eli now.  Yes, at 19 months we do counting games...he can count to 4 if you're interested to know, do I know whether he's advanced? No, I'm just proud of HIS ability.

And, right there, is what I think parenting should be about.  Doing the best for YOUR child.  I believe that as parents we know our children better than anyone else, know where their interests lie, know how best they will respond to learning.  And 'learning' doesn't mean sitting down with a pen and paper and writing and doing arithmetic, it can be learning through building towers, or separating items out or any of the hundreds of games your children will engage with on a daily basis. 

Do you think it's wrong to encourage learning from an early age? 

On doing some research for this post, I also came across several articles which suggested that under 7's shouldn't be taught to read and write at school.  I have to massively massively dispute these statements.  I believe that if you introduce reading from an early age then it will become an instinctive part of your children's lives.  When they start school and have to sit down and read it won't be a chore for them because it will be a natural experience.

More than this, most children just want to be doing whatever it is their parents are doing, if you show your children that you are enjoying something and involve them in it, then they will adopt that attitude as well.  

In 2011 research was conducted which found that approximately 30% of children in the UK don't own a single book.  Is it any wonder that we have a growing literacy problem in this country when people don't even bother to buy their children books?  I honestly believe that having read to both my children since the day they were born has hugely influenced their interest in reading and learning.  And I'm not saying that I categorically have the answer to the literacy problems, ask me again when Eli is 15 whether or not our love of learning rubbed off eternally on him...but I do think as parents it is our responsibility to prepare our children for the world of education.  And to support them on their journey through that.  When you are willing to start that support is obviously up to you as individual parents but I don't think burying your head in the sand on the premise that 'it'll all come out in the wash in the end' is the best response to a very serious and important part of your child's life.  Take that however you will ;)

I am for my children and want them to achieve the best that they can.  If Meg was only ever able to write her name and count to 10 then I would still be immensely proud of her for achieving her best.  If it emerges that she struggles academically or isn't interested in History in quite the same way that I am, I will still be behind her 100%.

If that makes me a pushy parent then I will gladly stand at the head of the line.

This is my thought of the week but I would love to hear the opinions of anyone who has taken the time to read.  I'm not saying in any way that this is THE answer or correct opinion, I know this is a very complex issue with a variety of contributing factors but I love a lively debate so please let me know what you think!

*If you were kind enough to give this mother the benefit of the doubt that perhaps she knows her own child better than anyone else you will be pleased to know that said child ALWAYS comes out at the end of Dance Class, happy as Larry and desperate to show off all new dance moves.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Catching A Sleepwalker

We have a little night-time trouble in our house.  It doesn't happen often but when it does it's random, certainly funny and a little bewildering.

The first time I realised it was in our lives was one evening around 10pm.  I suddenly heard a little voice from upstairs calling "Mummy,"...I rushed upstairs to find Meg had pulled all of her drawers open and had used them as stepping stones.  She had one foot in each of the two smaller drawers at the very top, and was clearly stuck.  At this point she was awake so I assumed she'd just woken up and decided she wanted to reach something on the top of her drawers.

But then it happened again, several months later.  Around a similar time I heard banging upstairs and found Meg on her hands and knees in the bathroom.  I asked her what she was doing and said said "I'm just tidying up mummy...obviously"  Naturally I responded with "right, but you should actually be in bed" to which Meg said "yeah, I know, goodnight" and lay down on the bathroom floor.  I can remember picking her up and carrying her back to bed and she was snoring before her head even hit the pillow.

Off the top of my head I can't remember another incident like it until last week when we heard her come stumbling out of her bedroom, hair all awry and plastered to her face...eyes wide open, muttering about "joining in with everyone's game."  When I asked her what game she just frowned at me irritably and said "THE game mummy."

It's strange because in all of these scenarios she is aware which one of us is speaking to her, she recognises that it's me and responds accordingly but she appears to be very much asleep.

It doesn't always involve actual sleepwalking either, quite often we will hear her shouting out random things in her sleep.  It's more of a shock when you hear her bellow something down your ear and realise that at some point during the night she made it into our bed.  I've had several near heart attacks that way!

I have a friend who used to sleepwalk and would often try to open the front door and get out of her house.  That kind of thing makes me worry about Meg.  At the moment we make sure that the safety gate at the top of the stairs is always locked but if she was determined I'm sure she could quite easily get it open.  And whilst it is amusing, it can certainly be nerve-wracking too to think she might accidently injure herself during an episode if we aren't there to guide her back to bed.  

I have done a little bit of research on the subject and it doesn't mean that she is emotionally or psychologically unstable (phew!) and could be caused by a number of different reasons although no one really seems to know definitively what causes people to sleepwalk.

The BBC recently ran an article which featured strange things people do when sleepwalking.  Most of them involve people doing things in the nude, I can't help but wonder if there is a particular reason for this or perhaps more of the population sleep pyjama-less than I imagine (or like right now, try very hard NOT to imagine!)

Apparently around 15% of all young children will sleepwalk at some point.  It's been heard of for some children to sleepcrawl too!  Is there anyone else out there who has a nighttime wanderer?  I'd be interested to know if children grow out of it or if we can expect this to be around for the next decade or so of our lives!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Book Love: The Adulteress by Noelle Harrison

The Adulteress by Noelle Harrison
Every house has its secrets...

You may have noticed I didn't post a Book Love Friday post last week.  Not only was I having a really busy time but I'd also really struggled to get into this book.

Whilst beautifully written the start is very slow moving, with lots of hints that something big and mysterious has happened to the characters but not much else happening plot-wise.

The story is written from two viewpoints.  We first meet Nicholas, a man who has escaped to a run down house in Cavan after his wife confesses to cheating on him.  Whilst there, struggling to master his emotions and do up the house, he senses a spirit in the house.  This presence is June Fanning, a lady who used to live in the house during the second world war and who's spirit has been unable to depart due to 'one regret'.  She asks Nicholas if she can tell him the story of An Adulteress.  Of course, this is the last thing that Nicholas wants to hear about given his wife's recent behaviour!

We then follow the two storylines with each chapter jumping between the two characters.

I tried to explain the story to my Other Half and failed massively as it quite complicated with each character following their own journey and revealing secrets whilst being quite deeply interlinked with each other.  So...I won't try and do it here either!  For both Nicholas and June we find sad, touching stories of personal hurts and, I think, the heart of the story is what 'being loved' really means.

Suffice to say this is a beautifully written, serious chick lit novel.  I didn't expect the story to turn out as it did and was pleasantly surprised with the ending.  It was my first time reading a Noelle Harrison book and I will certainly be keeping my eye out for her other books in the future.

That's not much of a review I know but I can't begin to explain the storyline without giving away the bigger secrets!

Currently Reading:

The Queen's Confidante by Karen Harper

As always, if you've written a book review I would love to link up below and share some Book Love.  Or if you just want to leave a comment recommending a great read, please do so!


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Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Ultimate Christmas Record Meme 2012

I am so excited to take part in this meme, I wasn't actually tagged in this but if you haven't guessed it yet I am, in fact, a huge fan of Christmas so I couldn't resist!  We've had various Christmas playlists on the go since putting our tree up on Saturday.

So I am very much looking forward to sharing some of my favourite Christmas songs with you and linking up with Mummy Alarm's Ultimate Christmas Song Meme.

1. The Christmas song that gets me in the mood for Christmas
This is my favourite song to listen to at the start of the festive season.  No Christmas playlist should be without it!

2. The Christmas song that reminds me of my childhood
I don't know if this really counts as a traditional Christmas song but it's certainly one I remember from being younger.  And every child is allowed to have an embarrassing favourite band aren't they?!?

3. The Christmas song I could listen to all year long 
It seems an odd choice I guess because it really is just about Christmas but it's one of those songs that I just really like listening to!

4. The Christmas song that gets me rocking around the tree
Who doesn't jig along to this?

5. The Christmas song that my kids love the most
This was difficult as the kids are only just getting into Christmas but this was on the radio over the weekend and Meg kept asking for it on so I'm going to assume she liked the upbeat tempo of it!

6. The Christmas song that I always sing from the top of my lungs
The beauty of this song is that you don't really need to know what the words are to join in, do you?!?

7. The Christmas song that reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas
Ahh see this is probably the only song I'll include that's likely to be unknown.  I'm including this, as for me, the true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus and I think this song speaks volumes of what that really meant.

Want some more Christmas Song inspiration?  Head over to Mummy Alarm's blog and see who else has joined in.  Let's get into the Christmas spirit people!

Mummy Alarm

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Single Thought of the Week: Time

Inspired by a lovely blogger friend I have decided to start a 'Single Thought of the Week' based around why my blog name was chosen in the first place...because I have too many thoughts and opinions!  And also, to get back the very reason I started blogging...a love of writing! 

I don't feel like I often sit down and just 'write' anymore, maybe due to a fear of sounding like I'm rambling, or putting people off reading a long post but not anymore folks!  Once a week, I am going to share my thoughts on a particular topic.  And I hope some of you want to come along on the journey with me :)

So I thought I'd start of with a fairly simple topic, but one that's been buzzing round my head lately and, one I've seen a fair few questions raised about over the past few weeks.

There never seems to be enough of it, no matter what life stage you're in.  Prior to having children, I always seemed perfectly capable of filling my days.  I didn't spend hours on end, sitting at home, twiddling my thumbs wondering what on earth I was going to do that day.  I would have very definitely described my life as 'busy'.

Now, I'm in the full throes of toddlerdom, balancing a part-time job, two toddlers, running a household semi-successfully, training a puppy (haha), planning weekly menus, cleaning, organising etc etc as well as running three blogs (work that one out!) I do wonder how I manage to fit it all in.

On the rare weekends when we are child-free and not engaged in something else, my Other Half and myself have often mused over how exactly we spent our time before the children happened.  I can't remember to be honest, it feels as though they've always been a part of our lives.

But, I do hope I'm not one of those people who complains about never having enough time.  I would say my life is pretty chaotic, sometimes I feel stressed and anxious about how I will ever tackle my massive 'to do' list and I never do manage to finish all the tasks on there (although, I will confess to being one of those people who writes tasks they've already completed that day just for the satisfaction of crossing something off..hey it's the small things!) but a small part of me does relish the feeling that I've managed to keep all the plates spinning for another day!

Having said all of that - there are a few simple steps that I would advise anyone who has reached the point of wringing their hands to take.  I hope these may be of use to someone in our ever time precious lives:

1. Have a list

Whether that's a computerised one, a hand-written one or a mental one, it's important to know where you're going and what you hope to achieve that day.

2. Separate things into 'Imperative' and 'Important'

This is a key concept I learned on a Time Management course I attended earlier on in the year.  'Imperative' tasks are any that must be completed that day.  'Important' tasks are those which may be beneficial for you to finish as soon as you can but really, it wouldn't be the end of the world if they were put off until another day.  I have to admit that my 'important' list often gets longer and longer as I can sometimes be over-ambitious with my 'imperative' tasks but I'm gradually getting the hang of being brutal with which belong where.  

For example, although that pile of clean clothing might be an eyesore, it certainly doesn't belong on the imperative list as it really isn't hurting anyone and it can wait until tomorrow the day after the end of the week before being put away.  Filling in your child's permission slip for a trip two days hence, would most definitely need to feature on imperative!

3. Be realistic

As above really, don't set the bar too high, especially if you are just starting out on the road to organisation.  There's nothing that sets you back more than having high expectations and failing to meet them.  Small, realistic steps will give you that lovely warm sense of achievement and spur you on to greater things (kind of...)

4. Accept the kind of person you are

If you are not the sort of person who is capable of being organised, don't try to be.  For example, my Other Half is a last minute guy...he just can't do organised.  So it would be entirely irrational to expect him to conform to a strict schedule.  I have had to work with him to come to an happy medium of what he can do versus what I wish he would do.  Likewise, if you can't stick to a schedule, don't make one.  Simples!

5. Leave room for fun!  

I once did a Google search for tips relating to organisation and came across a schedule drawn up by a lady who had literally planned every second of her life out.  My first thought was how fantastic an idea it was, but then as I stared at it and mulled it over I realised it left no space whatsoever for spontaneity.  Now I will hold my hand up and say that I don't particularly enjoy a sudden change in plans but I am learning and I don't hold the reins of my life so tightly that I can't adapt and adjust if I need to, as I suspect this lady could not.  At the very least schedule in some time for a bit of fun!

And finally, it's not really a tip but it's worth considering - if something is causing you more stress and worry than it's worth...cut it out of your life!  I have seen numerous conversations with people going on about how their blogs are causing them grief...why do it then?

I blog for a love of writing and will often take a week or so off if I haven't got anything to write about...and I feel no shame in doing so!  I have been on the other end of the scale, with feeling the pressure to blog or plan or whatever every single day and it's honestly not worth the stress.  Just something to think about!

Do you have any top tips for saving time?  If so, I'd love you to share them with me!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Meal Planning Monday (3 December 2012)

As I'm feeling unwell at the moment I've handed the meal planning reins over to my Other Half.  This means that (typically!) it won't be ready in time for today but I will aim to get it up on the blog tomorrow.

And seeing as our oven has decided to pack up, it could be an interesting week!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Hurray, December is finally here!  That means it is fully acceptable to have your Christmas Tree up and your house adorned with sparkly, flashing, over the top decorations.  I LOVE it! It is, by far, my favourite time of the year. 

This year is going to be the best so far since we've had children as I think Meg will fully understand the idea of Father Christmas.  It's interesting though, the lengths we will go to to inspire the magic of Christmas for our children.  Louise at A Strong Coffee has written this post asking what white lies we are willing to tell our children to keep the mystery of Christmas.  I'm planning on telling several!

The main lie, obviously, is the one where we tell our children that if they don't behave Santa won't bring them any presents.  I know I've rolled that one out several times already this past weekend!  A new phenomenon (or, at least, new to me) is the Elf on a Shelf.  If you haven't heard of the Elf on a Shelf before make sure you read Emma's post from The Mini Mes and Me all about how the little visitor keeps a watch on how your children are behaving!

For those children who have behaved, it is important of course to make sure they've sent their letters to the North Pole.  We wrote ours this weekend although I think mine may be a little bit optimistic!  I love this letter Rachel has written making sure Santa knows she's been good!

Meg's letter was also quite interesting, I hope she doesn't remember too clearly what she wrote as I've already bought and wrapped most of her presents (I do love the wonders of the internet, I did 90% of my shopping in one afternoon!)  Last year she'd asked for quite obscure things (a trumpet being top of the list) but she didn't seem to notice too much once Christmas Day itself arrived and she was, mostly, overwhelmed by all the new toys in the house.

If you've got young children and you're wondering how the festive season will affect your household make sure you keep checking Babyhuddle's Advent Aunt posts designed to give you top tips for keeping things running smoothly.

To be honest, I think I'm more excited than Meg.  Michael Buble's Christmas Album has been on non-stop since it was officially 'allowed' on Saturday.  I do so love Christmas!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Review: Hot Dots Jnr

I'm sure by now you're aware that Meg has a keen interest in reading, and talking!  But not so much with numbers...she can count to 10 which is fine but anything above that and we start to struggle.  Neither has she got the patience to sit and count things, she'd much rather be pretending to be a fairy or (probably more accurately!) a pirate and if you challenge her to count something she's more likely to just pluck a number out of the air than try and correctly guess it.

Which, of course, is fine and I love that she is so creative when she plays but I have found myself wondering over the last couple of months what steps we need to take to help her prepare for school next September.  Obviously this will be a gradual process but it doesn't hurt to consider it, does it?

So I was intrigued to see how Meg would get on when we were sent Hot Dots Jnr to review by Learning Resources.  The Hot Dots system is basically an electronic pen which can be used with a variety of sets.  Your child touches the pen onto the answer they think is correct and it either lights up red or green and has accompanying phrases or music.

We were sent the numbers and counting set which is aimed at 3-6 year olds.  When Meg first  opened the pack I thought the cards were really simple.  She's at the lower end of that age bracket and she was dealing with them without any problems, but then she got further into the pack and the cards did get a good deal more difficult with her needing to identify the number written in word form.  Meg, of course, had very little chance of getting this right but it was interesting watching her trying each one and working out which was the right answer.

The cards cover counting, matching and sequencing.

I really liked this set, we've had it for over a month now and Meg will still fetch it and sit quietly playing with it.  Eli also likes 'joining in' and identifying the different animals on the cards!

There are lots of different sets available from the Learning Resources website.  I've added a phonics set to Meg's Christmas list as I think it's something which will get well used.  

Disclaimer: I was sent the Hot Dots Jnr Set to review.  All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.