Halloween arts and crafts (for the Uncrafty Mama!)

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Carnage is only a paint brush away…

Last week, the Other Half went on a boys’ week to Germany, leaving Little Miss and I to our own devices.

I had had to work late quite a few evenings the week preceding this, meaning we hadn’t seen much of each other, so I said to Little Miss we could do whatever she wanted at the weekend.

“Crafts!” came the reply…

Bugger.

While I actually secretly enjoy crafts, I’m not naturally artistically gifted. But the Textiles teacher at school requested I didn’t consider Textiles GCSE, and the Art teacher on options evening looked genuinely alarmed when I appeared in at the Art Room door! (I wasn’t deluded, it was a cut through to the technology rooms, where I actually wanted to be.) Safe to say I will never be a craft blogger!

But I had promised. So, I dutifully started trawling Pinterest and crafty blogs for some simple, straight forward ideas I thought we could manage. I stopped by Tesco on my way home from work on Friday evening for supplies and (after an early start to drop Daddy at the airport, a quick trip to the market for bits and bobs for dinner and then a weirdly long nap time) on Saturday morning we were away!

 

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Difficulty: Beginner

Mess level: minimal

Prep time: five to ten minutes (depending on how many ghosts you’re prepping)

Activity time: five mins per ghost  (depending on the child’s age/ability)

You will need:

  • White paper plates
  • White tissue paper cut into strips
  • Either white paper and black pens to draw / cut out your faces on or print and cut out this free template
  • Scissors
  • Glue (we used Pritt Stick)
  • String (to hang them up)

I was pretty pleased with these! They looked really effective, were really easy and minimal mess involved, just some glueing to be done, and a bit of threading (currently a big fad here). I cut all the bits and pieces out during nap time so she didn’t have wait for me to do so / try and steal the scissors and do it herself (another fad at the moment), which worked really well.

I pierced a hole in the top of the plate and Little Miss threaded the string through the top then told me where to hang her ghostie.

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Difficulty: beginner to intermediate

Mess level: risky to frightening (don’t do this anywhere near carpet, while sofas, kitchen chair cushions or nice clothes!)

Prep time: five mins

Activity time: at least thirty mins

You will need:

  • Potatoes cut in half
  • Paper – the bigger the better
  • Orange (washable!!) paint
  • Black and green marker pen

Little Miss loves painting, so I knew I couldn’t get away with no painting activity if we were doing crafts. But I think I got a bit cocky here…

Potatoes stamps – either simply slice there so you have little round (pumpkin shaped) stamps, or if you’re feeling really snazzy, carve the faces out of the potatoes with a vegetable knife. (Obviously that’s not part of the kids’ activity!)

Squirt out your paint, dip your potatoes and get stamping! Once your pumpkins have dried, you can draw different faces on them all. Easy peasy.

Or, if like Little Miss your toddler gives up on the stamping part and simply starts swirling the paint on the page with her hands, then painting herself -?!- you can paint a few large pumpkins and draw faces on them instead…

We also had plans for Paper Plate Pumpkins painting, but we ran out of time. (And truth be told, I think one orange paint activity was enough…!)

Rainbow pumpkins

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Rainbow pumpkins: I’m not even going to pretend I’m not dead proud of this one!

Difficulty: mixed

Mess level: middling

Prep / activity time: this is a three stage activity, so requires some patience across the day

You will need:

  • A pumpkin (any size)
  • White paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Glue (super glue advised)
  • Crayons in rainbow colours
  • Hair dryer

The piece de resistance! Little Miss adores pumpkins – the love affair started last Halloween with Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere. So I knew I had to include a pumpkin related craft. I found this on Pinterest and thought it looked amazing. When I tentatively read through the instructions, I was surprised how easy it seemed, so I thought, ‘well, in for a penny…’

  1. Paint your pumpkin white. (A strong start to any craft.) Leave to dry.
  2. Once dry, glue your crayons round the stem on top – we went for a pretty, simply rainbow, but you could do all red for a truly spooky Halloween effect, blacks and purples for more of a night sky look or your kid’s favourite colour. Leave glue to dry.
  3. Make sure your pumpkins are on a large, disposable (newspaper?) or wipe-clean surface area. Plug in your hair-dryer and hold over the crayons. As they begin to melt, they will splatter everywhere but quickly settle into a stream down the sides. As the wax cools, it restick a to the sides of the pumpkin, creating a lovely textured effect.

Bonus extra for little ones – you can use this craft to discuss solids and liquids (heat a solid to the right temperature and it melts, cool it down, it becomes hard again. EYFS Science in action. Win.)

Happy Halloween!

Follow our adventures on  InstagramFacebook or Pinterest.

Already planning ahead for Christmas? Check out my super easy, homemade Felt Christmas Tree activity for uncrafty parents. 

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Little Miss Ballet {The Wonderful Ordinary 26}

Last weekend, while the Other Half was on his boys’ week away, Little Miss and I had a suitably girlie weekend.

As well as all the crafty business and Aquadoodling, we were dancing round the kitchen – a relatively usual pastime in our house – but this weekend, Little Miss discovered ballet.

It all started with a musical book she has about the orchestra. It features Beetoven’s 5th Symphony (you know, “DA DA DA DAAAAA, DA DA DA DAAA…”) and on each page it introduces you to different parts of the song and different instruments and you click the corresponding button on the right to hear the instrument play its part. (FYI, she likes the clarinet and the violin.) It’s probably a bit old for her really, but she really likes it.

So, after a while of reading this book, I got a video up on YouTube of an orchestra playing the song so she could see it ‘for reals’. She loved it. Each time the camera zoomed in on an instrument, she’d either shout out what it was or ask me to remind her. She was so excited.

Then I found a video of ballerinas dancing to the same song. And that’s how it started. She was utterly entranced (much to my delight, I’m not going to lie). And before we knew it, we’d watched about a third of Swan Lake!

After that, she was dashing about dancing like a ballerina. She had her arms above her head, even gracefully waving like a swan’s wings without me really saying much at all! She’s always had a real sense of rhythm (we have a brilliant video of her at nine months old, crawling along then suddenly rocking back and forth in time to Shake It Off when the intro starts with the biggest smile on her face! Best moment ever!) and has always loved music. But I was surprised how quickly she just took to the style; she moved with the music, moving her whole body, not just her arms and feet, slowing when it quietened, gasping and dashing about when it went staccato.

Last Christmas, Nana H gave her a gorgeous, peach coloured tutu. But I haven’t been able to get Little Miss in it at all, barely even long enough to get a photo for Nana H!

Well, part way through dancing round the kitchen, she remembered said tutu. She even requested ballerina hair. And for the next few days, I couldn’t get her out of it…

She’s even asked to dress up as a ballerina for Halloween.

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Running on tiptoes in a circle like the swans – even flapping her arms like the ballerinas on the video.


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Getting a bit sassy, swishing her tutu!


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And leap! (Lunge?)


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Twirling!


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Such a natural feel for the music, Little Miss slowed and dipped exactly when the music did.


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And to finish, gracefully waving her arms like a swan, running on tiptoes in a circle again.

In the car, yesterday, my mom put on Peer Gynt’s Hall of the Mountain King (you’ll know it when you hear it, I had to Google it too) – apparently Little Miss loved it. She was shouting, “I can hear the troll stomping!”. Which if you think about it, you really can in that piece of music! Then they played Sleeping Beauty, which she also loved.

So, I think I know what Little Miss is getting for Christmas…

See more The Wonderful Ordinary posts.

See more Finding Our Feet photography on our Instagram, @findingourfeet

This post is part of the My Captured Moment linky from Running In Lavender.

Fairy hunting at Furzey Gardens in the New Forest

The other weekend, we went to the New Forest for a much needed, long weekend break.

The lovely Alice (of Alice & Amelia, Dorset and the South West resident experts) who’s daughter is only about six months older than Little Miss, recommended we visit Furzey Gardens and their fairy door trail.

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Little Miss raring to go at Furzey Gardens, map in hand, Nelly Elly poking out of her backpack for moral support when the fairy trail goes cold…

Surprisingly, fairies haven’t featured hugely in our lives yet apart from the Tinkerbell movie when Little Miss is ill and her Tinkerbell costume she got last Christmas. But that’s always more about Tinkerbell than fairies in general.

Despite this, we thought Little Miss would enjoy the day as she’s loves nature and being outdoors.

Well blow me down with a feather, when we said we were going fairy hunting she knew exactly what we were doing and she talked about it non-stop from the drive to he New Forest on Friday until we actually went to Furzey Gardens on Sunday morning!

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Little Miss surveying the lily pad pond at Furzey Gardens – can you see any fairies?

Furzey was beautiful. The gardens aren’t actually that big – and adult could easily meander round in under an hour – but it’s full of little paths and cut throughs to get lost down. And then throw in the hunting for fairy doors and you’re there for hours.

As we were in the throws of potty training, we were limited to an hour before dashing back up the hill to find the bathroom, which wasn’t nearly long enough.

Little Miss was really excited by the idea of fairy hunting, but was perhaps ever so slightly young (she’s two and a half now). Most of the doors are hidden out of sight and you really have to search to find them. If there was too long between finds, we could see Little Miss becoming disheartened or worse, disinterested and in the end, one of us would run off to find one, then the other would follow with LM so she wasn’t waiting more than a couple of minutes between doors!

The only other draw back was, being a Sunday afternoon, it was a bit busy – not rammed, but enough kids running around looking for doors that some may feel the element of ‘mystery’ is lost. (The kid screaming, “A CASTLE! DAD! DAD! WE FOUND A CASTLE! for example, sort of ruined that moment for us…)

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I wonder who lives here? (Nelly Elly straining to get a view of the latest door.)

That being said, we really had a lovely day. The sun was shining and the gardens provide such a beautiful setting for the day out that you just sort of embrace the excited kids – it’s all part of the charm.

Little Miss has talked about going fairy hunting numerous times since then, telling us all about the adventure – just in case we might have forgotten. So it clearly made an impression!
For those of you there for more than just fairy doors, there’s Furzey’s award-winning Chelsea Flower Show creation on show, a 16th century cottage to explore and some special, ancient thatched roofing to admire (yes, really).

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Little Miss is on the case! (Don’t think she could fathom the map either…)

Top tip: 

Don’t forget to pick up a map to get you started from the main office. But a few things regarding the ‘map’ (which is a generous term for it):

  1. As maps go, it’s not that helpful if I’m honest – we weren’t the only parents wandering around more confused by the map! – and only about seven of the doors are listed on the map, leaving you to seek out the rest (apparently there’s around 30). But it’s a good starting point so you have an idea what you’re looking for.
  2. If you go with the map, take a right out of the cafe/reception area to start. Don’t follow the path naturally to the left – the numbering of fairy doors goes right first. (No idea why – this didn’t help with the confusion!)
  3. After you’ve found the first few on the map, I would go freestyle and just start hunting round behind every tree, in every thicket, in every garden feature. Most are well hidden, but remember, where there’s fairies, there’s fairy dust…

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Entry:

Summer fees –
Adults: £8
Kids 4-16: £4.50
Under 4s: FREE!
Family ticket (2 adults, 2 kids): £24

Winter fees –
Adults: £5
Kids 4-16: £2.50
Under 4s: still FREE!
Family ticket (2 adults, 2 kids): £14

Getting there: take a SatNav or Google Maps. Seriously.

Furzey Gardens
Minstead
Lyndhurst SO43 7GL

And if (when) you get lost… Tel: 02380 812464

It’s only accessible by car, but trust me, it’s worth getting lost down New Forest country roads for. We all had a really lovely day. And it’s free parking.

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Facilities: 

Toilets
Coffee shop with a range of cakes, soups, and light bites 
Gift shop
Free parking

I didn’t actually spot any changing facilities, but then, I was running in with Little Miss who had wet herself, so didn’t think to look either…

If the weather allows it, I would recommend taking a picnic rather than eating at the cafe as its a tad on the pricey side. So find a secluded nook, or pull up a bench by the pond, and drink in the view while you nibble your sarnies.

As well as the fairy trail, there’s also a children’s playground and a party space you can hire.

Review & Giveaway: Aquadoodle – the perfect solution for the uncrafty parent!

18 months ago, Little Miss got an Aquadoodle for her first birthday. As her birthday is relatively close to Christmas, we put it away for a few months and brought it back out closer to the 18 month mark (when the box said it was suitable from). We figure, it’s nice to have new things throughout the year, and while she’s this young, she won’t remember what she opened in a couple of days anyway!

Well. The Aquadoodle was a hit from the off. Little Miss loved it!

Now, I am not artistic. Creative, yes. Artistic and crafty, not so much (as you can see from my painful attempt at a… ummm.. errr… In truth, I have no idea what I was trying to draw on the Aquadoodle in the photo above! In my defence, that photo was taken over a year ago!).

Sadly, all children appear to love crafting. It’s messy, it’s creative, it’s exciting… But the Aquadoodle is like the perfect middle ground. They’re tricked into thinking they’re getting all crafty (when in reality, they’re just getting creative) and I have five minutes spare to go make a cuppa and even have a sip before Little Miss has me sprawled on the floor drawing [edit: attempting to draw] Upsy Daisy or a dinosaur on the Aquadoodle too! (Maybe it’s a dinosaur above? But what’s with it’s back leg? I mean, that’s a really bad dinosaur even for me!)

So imagine my delight when the lovely folk at Come Round asked me to review the Aquadoodle! Reviewing a product we fell in love with 18 months ago is like asking me explain why I love chocolate cake. (I.e., easy.)

Little Miss was thrilled on Saturday morning to come downstairs to a new Aquadoodle mat – this time with neon colours!

When you first look at it, it’s a blank, white mat – very unexciting. But oh, the possibilities that come for a toddler with anything blank and white! (I really wish we didn’t have a white sofa…)

It comes with some weird squidgey-nibbed pens and some stamps… Twist the top off the pens, pour in some water, seal them up again and start drawing on the mat… Magic! Colour appears wherever water touches the mat. Once it dries, the colour disappears again leaving you with a clean slate for the next masterpiece.

Come Round provided us with the new Aquadoodle Deluxe Neon to review and I’m happy to say it’s just as good as our tried and trusted Aquadoodle from 18 months ago (just in better condition, not having been savaged by an over eager toddler!). The stamps have also been redesigned and are much more effective now, not to mention easier to use than the old design (which required to to attach it to the pen an all sorts). But I was a smidge disappointed there was only one pen included the box, now (there was two when we got ours) as it means Little Miss and I can’t draw together and instead have to share the pen… (I realise I’m supposed to be better at sharing than this by now.)

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The new, redesigned Aquadoodle stamps get the thumbs up from us. 

Aquadoodle is actually really good fun even for the least artistic of parents. We’ve spent hours on our Aquadoodle over the past 18 months (though one of the pens never  held quite the same attraction after our friend’s toddler was sick after eating a punnet of blueberries all over it! Ah, the joys of toddlers!).

Win an Aquadoodle!

Seeing as we’re such big fans of the Aquadoodle, it seemed only fair that I should introduce one lucky reader to the joys it has to offer as well.

To enter, all you have to do is tell this uncrafty Mama your biggest crafting horror story in the comments section of this blog post before 9pm on Sunday, October 30, 2016.

Good luck!

Prize Draw T&Cs: 
  1. UK residents only. One entry per person. 
  2. The giveaway opens at 9am on Sunday, October 23, 2016 and closes at 9pm on Sunday, October 30, 2016.
  3. To enter, entrants must comment on this blog post, telling a real life craft ‘horror story’ or why they don’t enjoy crafting with their kids. 
  4. The winner will be announced on the Finding Our Feet Facebook Page within seven days of the giveaway closing. If the winners cannot be contacted or do not respond or are not in a position to accept the prize within 28 days of the giveaway closing, the Promotor may at its absolute discretion withdraw the prize entitlement and select an alternative winner.
  5. The prize: one Aquadoodle Colour Deluxe, RRP £25.
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THE PRODUCTS IN THIS POST WERE PROVIDED TO ME FREE OF CHARGE BY COME AROUND PR IN ORDER TO REVIEW THEM AND OFFER A GIVEAWAY ON THIS BLOG. HOWEVER, THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS REVIEW ARE INDEPENDENT AND MY OWN.

Two Lambies!

When Little Miss was born, some old friends gave her Lambie. 

She got given a few other similar snuggly toys, but Lambie was the one who stuck. He’s always been there. From quite early on, it became clear he was the favourite. Sure, Little Miss has had dalliances and fancies with other toys – Mog the bunny had a very good innings, Doggy and Big Bunny had their time in the sun – but Lambie is the constant, the one true love.

So, about a year ago, we bought a spare Lambie, just in case Lambie should ever find himself no longer with us… 

Then this summer, Little Miss found Spare Lambie….

Aaaaan now we have two Lambies.

By the time we got round to buying a spare, Jojo Mama Bebe had changed the design slightly, so Spare Lambje was slightly bigger. This led to him being affectionately known by LM as ‘Big Lambie’. And the original, slightly jaded, always-tinged-slightly-grey Lambie has become known as Little Lambie. 

From what I’ve heard from the Other Half, slowly, LM has worked it so that Little Lambie comes in the car to nursery most days. He then sits in the car seat and waits for her and is waiting to hear about her day when the OH picks her up that evening. 

But this week, while the OH is in Germany on his boys’ holiday and I’m manning the nursery run for a change, it seems that not only are two Lambies coming in the car with us to nursery, but on two occasions, they’ve both ended up at nursery for the day with her as well! 

One of her little besties – F – also has a Lambie and Little Miss was keen to show him her two Lambies on Monday. (To make him jealous?! Evil child.) 

I’m not generally considered a soft touch, but she just seems to disregard my attempts to wrestle (and sometimes I really mean wrestle) Lambie(s) off her. This morning for instance, she just said, “No.” As if I was utterly insane for suggesting she shouldn’t take Lambie(s) to nursery and marched out of the house to the car.

How does the OH manage it each day? Or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he pretends and in actual fact, Lambie(s) go to nursery every day?! Now wouldn’t that be an unexpected twist… 

Our long weekend in the New Forest – in pictures

The other weekend, we went on a long awaited weekend away to the New Forest. We booked it nearly five months ago using Tesco Clubcard vouchers- a proper long weekend away, we took half the day off on Friday and everything. We’ve been looking forward to it for ages.

Of course, little did we know that we’d be up and down to Sunderland for Grandma every weekend for the last month and actually would have really appreciated a weekend at home! But they say a change is as good as a rest… And we really did have a lovely time.

I’ve been to the New Forest lots of time – it’s one of those places my parents took me to regularly as a kid, but the Other Half and Little Miss (obviously) had never been. So there was something extra special about the weekend for me sharing all the places from my memories with them. Complete with donkeys. Of course.

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Ready to go! (Turns out, even if you take the afternoon off on a Friday to miss the rush hour traffic, you still get stuck in Friday traffic at 2pm… The drive should take 1.5 hours… 3 hours later…)

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Hey there!

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I don’t think Little Miss has been this up close and personal with horses before. I wouldn’t say she fell in love with them, but she certainly was intrigued.

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Until they were in the town – that was just shocking! [Beaulieu, Hampshire]

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“I’m tired…”

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After the perfect pub lunch, Little Miss fell asleep in the car (winning!) and we parked up on the coast and watched a storm roll in off sea, over the cliffs. We read our books and listened to podcasts for about an hour and a half – it was an awesome naptime! Just before Little Miss woke up, the storm passed and the sun broke through just in time for a coastal walk. (It didn’t last long as the wind was so strong poor Little Miss could barely stand up, let alone run in a straight line! 

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Heading back to the car after Little Miss got a bit over zealous in the waves… Good job we travel with spare changes of clothes and shoes! (Mind, that wouldn’t have been necessary if I’d remembered her waders…… Oops…)

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Back to the heath, hunting for horses (apparently mushrooms are far more interesting!). 

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Getting lost in the forest. (Only, not quite, because we hadn’t master the pee-in-the-bush manoeuvre yet when we went to the New Forest so we couldn’t stray too far from the car in case Little Miss needed the potty. She can go an hour (an hour and a half at a real push), which at a toddler’s pace, you don’t get far in that time! But still, it was lovely to explore. 

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Daddy lining up the perfect shot while hunting for fairies at Furzey Gardens

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The OH’s solution when we realised we forgot the tripod…

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And of course, the latest edition to our Finding Our Feet In… collection. Think this sums up the weekend pretty well! Wellies, muddy puddles and wet feet!

Love you New Forest. We’ll be back!

The Potty Training Diaries: weeks 3-12

Hard to believe it’s been three months since we embarked on this potty training journey with Little Miss. 

It feels like so much longer. 

Last I left you, we had given in and converted from toilet to potty. That was the right decision, though we now use more of a 50/50 approach.

Day out at Kew Gardens with the buggy piled high with potty, toddler toilet seat, a bag of spare clothes and a trike!

Just as you reach the stage when you don’t have to leave the house with the kitchen sink every day, you start potty training…

At home or when we’re in the car and have to stop (we’ve been on a fair few road trips thanks to some ill health in the fam way up north) Little Miss uses a potty, but when we’re out and about, she uses a toilet with her little pink toilet seat, which lives in its own special bag under the buggy.

a selection of potty training prizes from Tesco for under £1, including playdough, bubbles, a Finding Dory bowl and cup and some dairy free chocolate buttons.

Lesson number one of potty training: no parent is above bribary.

Things improved with the introduction of a star chart. Stickers alone weren’t enough by the end of week four (diva) so the chart allowed her to keep track of exactly how many stickers she’d earned each day. Gold star for a success, sad face for an accident. Five gold stars won her a prize from the prize bag (a random collection of things I found in Tesco under £2!). 

I’d love to say this has been the clincher. But in reality, this has only helped her counting and negotiation skills rather than her potty skills. 

There was one incident on a Wednesday at Nina’s where apparently Little Miss said,

“I want a biscuit. 

I do a wee now and I get a biscuit.”

Then trotted off to the potty. Another time, I forgot her present on the fifth star and she stood there in the middle of the kitchen staring indignantly. Finally she walked over to the chart on the wall and said, 

“My present now?!”

Can’t help feel she’s missing the point…

Still, at least we have a two and a half year old who can nearly count to ten unaided! She knows no letters and pisses herself uncontrollably, but she can count to ten. *self-five!*

toddler watching TV on the potty

Some days you just say ‘fuck it’. and all morals and examples of good parenting go out the window. Those are the days she sits watching TV on the potty until wees…

Alas, I’d say we’re currently at a rate of 50/50 success still overall. We have days where she doesn’t have one accident and is an absolute star. And others, like Thursday, where she manages two wees in the potty and six accidents, including two number twos in her pants… So the good and the bad days sort of balance each other out. 

She definitely seems to struggle more at nursery. This may be because she’s distracted and not concentrating on ‘holding it,’ or maybe she suffers severe FOMO (after all, if you might not quite have enough time to roll in every muddy puddle in the nursery garden because you took some time out to go have a tinkle, you might think twice and just deal with soggy-trow-syndrome as well!). Or maybe it’s because at home it’s usually two adults to one child watching her signals, reminding her and asking her if she needs a wee (much to her annoyance) every 50 minutes, where as at nursery it’s one adult to three tiny terrors and she’s required to handle things on her own a bit more. (You would think independence would be her strong suit…….) 

toddler on potty between two car doors, protecting her privacy!

Little Miss requires a bit of privacy for her potty sessions… even if it’s on the side of the road…

But despite this at times slow progress, on so many occasions, she has done brilliantly. During a nine hour drive to Sunderland (which is long at the usual five hours, but was extra lengthy due to potty stops and a lunch break) she didn’t have a single accident. If we asked her to hold it until we reached a services, she did. If we asked her to sit on the potty when we were at a services because it had been a while, she did. She was brilliant. (Until she weed and pooed on her seat at a really lovely cafe in Durham during lunch… Oops…)

We’ve clocked that her accidents (at home) are when she’s tired. If it’s approaching nap time, or like that day in Durham her nap has been delayed for some reason, she just can’t control it. It’s like her brain switches off and we are left at the mercy of her bodily functions. It’s the same after 6pm as bedtime approaches too – you have to be a super-alert-eagle-eyed-bedtime-ninja now (Rather than just your bog standard bedtime-ninja. Those guys are so last Spring.)!

To help with this, we’ve been putting her in a diaper for nap time (we already were for bedtime – no opening that can of worms just yet!), which has been working really well. Loads of advice suggests you shouldn’t go backwards and revert to diapers, but for Little Miss (my sanity and for the sake of our car!) this has worked like a dream.  It’s a clear signal to Little Miss that she can just relax and drift off to sleep.

There have been some hilarious out takes to potty training though: 

In the New Forest, a complete potty station set up in the trunk of the car for her lady ship to pee and poop in peace and private! (Can’t have horse’s prying eyes now can we!) 

Or trying to balance a toddler on a toilet seat on a moving train, the train jolting, me losing my balance as I crouched on the bathroom floor and her then falling in the loo! (Thankfully I was laughing so hard she just started laughing to! Germaphobe OH on the other side of the door, not so much…) 

But my personal favourite was in Eton last weekend. We went for a walk around the town after lunch and, being an exeat weekend and a Sunday afternoon, nothing was open. As we approached the hour mark, we started to get a bit jittery, wondering if we should head back to the car to get the potty (of course, that included finding out way back to the car!). At one hour fifteen minutes, my mother-in-law (GranPam) suggested she squat in a bush. We hadn’t tried this before. Little Miss can be very particular about where she pees (cue New Forest portable potty station – diva). Not to mention I have no idea how you get a two and a half year old to pop-a-squat without simply peeing all over herself… 

But by one and a half hours, we had no choice. It was give it a go or wait for the accident. So, we found a little secluded, grassy patch behind a wall and whipped her leggings down. 

The OH tried to hold her hands and get her to lean back, but she couldn’t get her bum sticking out enough. So he ended up holding her legs up for her as well in a sort of damsal-in-distress-esque fashion, while also trying to hold himself out of the splash zone. (I so desperately wanted to whip out my phone for a quick pic, but I think the OH might have killed me. So instead, you’ll just have to take my word for it – they looked hysterical.) Little Miss too found the whole thing utterly hilarious and waited, patiently ‘holding it’ until we had a good position and said ‘go!’ 

She kept saying, “my bum’s outside!” and “I’m weeing in the plants like daddy!” (Which gives you some idea of what I’m up against here – the OH has the tiniest bladder in the world and zero ability to hold it. It’s a long running joke – apparently he’s still a four year old boy himself! I very seriously fear Litte Miss has inherited his bladder control however…)

So, what’s next? 

Little Miss has just this week started telling us if she needs a wee, but it’s very sporadic and not reliable. I think this will be the next great hurdle for us for potty training. Once she’s mastered this (and not wetting herself quite so regularly) I think we’ll be home and dry (literally). 

That, and we need to sort out this FOMO issue at nursery…

daddy coaxing a toddler on the potty

Give a child a fighting chance

Earlier this year, President Hollande vowed to dismantle the refugee camp in Calais by the end of 2016.

In January, French authorities bulldozed one third of the camp, leaving thousands homeless with no where to go, including 129 children who went missing completely – sex trafficking being one of the likely outcomes for them.

But rumours suggest the camp will actually be cleared much sooner – by October 31, 2016 – as it is illegal to evict anyone during Winter in France. Winter officially begins on November 1.

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-10-02-50According to the latest figures, there are currently 1022 unaccompanied children living in the Calais Jungle. The youngest is just eight years old and most of them are boys. Some of them are eligible to live here in the UK, some due to family ties, others due to the Dubs Amendment, which allows unaccompanied minors refuge. The Home Office already has their details, yet so far, none of them have been offered sanctuary on British shores.

“Volunteers complain that France and Britain are playing “ping-pong” with the children’s lives, sending documents back and forth but not furthering claims.

Raheemullah Oryakhel, the  14-year-old Afghan boy who was killed last month after falling off a lorry, had a legal right to join his brother in Manchester but had reportedly lost faith that it would happen.”

Depression and self-harm incidents are increasing as the mental health of these children deteriorates. “Charities, volunteers and aid agencies say they were witnessing psychological collapse among many of the site’s child refugees after President François Hollande confirmed last week that the camp would be shut down.” [Mark Townsend, The Guardian]. Some have talked about killing themselves, others burn themselves methodically with cigarettes.

Rosamund Urwin visited the camps last week and spoke to some of the unaccompanied children. One thirteen year old boy is completely alone. He believes his family are in Afghanistan but has lost contact with them. She wrote:

“He says he used to like cricket but “I don’t play games now — our job here is to think.”…His dream is “to have the best education and become an engineer” — you can see the lure of building something concrete, when everything around him is tarpaulin and fragile.”

As a mother myself, but to be honest, as simply a human being, I read these accounts and I’m horrified, appalled, devastated, disgusted, dismayed. As I type this blog post, I am crying. How have we let things get this bad? How have we waited so long to help?

If these were British children, even French or Italian or German children, would we turn a blind eye?

Hell. I’m going to come out and say what we’re not supposed to say: If they were white and Western would people care more?

In the words of Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow,

“We’re building walls and children are sleeping in tents.”

This is inhumane. We are leaving these children out in the cold with no future and no hope.

One person who is trying to change that is Max.

He’s been working in the Calais Jungle since August in a makeshift school. He and his cohorts are trying to raise urgent funds to cover the critical needs of these children in advance of the bulldozing of the camp. It’s thought eviction will begin before the end of this month (October 2016), most likely within the next week or so.

The French and British authorities are letting these children down. There is no plan in place to help them, or to transport them to safety. So Max is hoping to buy them each a mobile phone, with credit, so they can at least call the emergency services if they need to and send their location via GPS.

He also hopes to equip each child with a solid pair of shoes and a backpack to carry the few belongings they have. The cost of this bundle is £65.

Overall, they need to raise £10,000 in the next couple of weeks to help the 1000 children in their care before it’s too late.

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As I wipe my tears, I beg you not to forget about these children. Don’t do what we always do – feel for them in the moment, write a tweet it a Facebook status and forget two minutes later. 

Instead, please click here and donate whatever you care to this urgent cause, no matter how little it may be. If every reader gave just £1, we could fund multiple packs for multiple children between us.

If you were separated from your child during a war, wouldn’t you hope above all els that someone would be looking out for them? 

Please. Give a child a fighting chance.

Watch this short video for more links and four simple ways you can help support the Refugee Crisis:

If you’re a blogger and would like to get involved with the #BloggersforRefugees movement, join our Facebook group to stay up to date with news from representatives in the camps and fundraising initiatives.

The Night the Stars Went Out {Little Bookworm 9}

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This summer we were lucky enough to receive a copy of the brand new book, The Night the Stars Went Out by Suz Hughes.

I’m always nervous when I receive products to review – what if we don’t like them? It’s awkward to have to write to the sender and say you won’t be writing a review, etc, etc.

But with this book I had nothing to worry about. Little Miss fell in love with it from the very first read and we’ve since read it again and again and again and again… And again…

The “alilen” [‘alien’ for anyone who doesn’t speak Toddler] has completely captured her imagination and she was running round her room with Lambie and Mog saying they were (*spoiler alert!*) “floating like the alilen!” by the second read.

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The illustrations are modern, with speech bubbles and bold colours. Hughes doesn’t restrict herself to standard page spacing either, often using a double page spread to bring her story to life.

The story is lovely and original (though the ending for some might be a little twee) focussing on friendship, and reminding both children and parents that work isn’t everything in life…

Safe to say The Night the Stars Went out is a delightful new addition to our bookshelf, one that we will be reading for a long time to come, I’m sure.

Brand new this October (2016), you can find The Night the Stars Went Out via Amazon or special order via your local bookstore for £6.99.

But don’t just take my word for it. Hear what Little Miss has to say (albeit briefly, being a toddler!):

“Sit nex a me!” {The Wonderful Ordinary 25}

We’ve had to cancel Little Miss’ early morning starts at nursery. It was just too difficult to get us all ready and out of the house by 7:20 and 90% of the time the OH couldn’t get her there until 7:50 anyway – by which time we might as well just wait ten minutes and not pay and extra £5 per day for thirty minutes we weren’t using. 

Mornings are still uber hectic, and we rarely manage to have breakfast as a family – something we were really keen to continue doing after I returned to work to ensure there was at least one family meal a day. But when none of you are morning people, in hindsight, family breakfast before 7:30 might have been a tall ask! But we’ll keep trying.

The upside to all this is that about two mornings a week, mornings somehow manage to align so the OH can drop me at the station en route to nursery, giving Little Miss and I about four minutes extra during the day. She loves it and always insists I sit next to her in the back. And even though it’s only four minutes, I rather enjoy it too.