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See posts about: // Isabelle // Parenting // Family //

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Day 39: Painting

Sometimes, the simplest activities are the best, aren't they? That was certainly the case with our day 39 activity- just painting. Nothing fancy, just bog standard painting.

We first tried painting with Isabelle in the summer by simply putting some paint splodges onto paper and letting her loose. That was the first time I began to understand that her uncertainty of textures was a big thing as really didn't want to touch the paint. Due to that, I haven't tried painting again, but after buying a whole load of new paint brushes for her recently, I decided it was time we tried again.

I'm so glad I did as using the paintbrushes to paint was right up her street, and she really loved this! I taped some paper onto the tuff spot and put 5 colours of paint into our paint pots. She didn't need any further instruction and jumped straight in. She really loved making marks on the paper, along with dipping the paint brushes, and regularly changed colour - with orange and green being her favourite.

After she had painted on one side of the paper I invited her over to the other side, and she came and sat down next to me. What happened next surprised me no end....Isabelle painted her hand! She used one of the paintbrushes to dab paint on to

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Our bedtime routine ft Grolight Night Light

I am a big believer in bedtime routines for babies and toddlers, and believe strongly that starting a bedtime routine with Isabelle from an early age has meant that bedtime has been pretty smooth sailing for us during the last 20 months. I have always thought that getting a little person into a bedtime routine let's them understand that soon it is time to go to sleep, and helps them wind down in order to fall asleep as best they can.

That said, we've always been pretty flexible about the exact time Isabelle goes to bed. If she isn't tired, we don't force her to go to bed. However, Isabelle is a little creature of habit and gets tired at almost the exact same time every night, which makes life very easy for us! The times I've included below are pretty typical, however if she has had an afternoon nap they may be slightly later.

We started with her bedtime routine when she was just 3 weeks old. Of course, it is slightly different now as she is older, however a lot of things remain the same and I thought I'd share our routine with you today.

Iz has a bath every other night and we usually start this around 6.15pm. She adores her bath and would play in there for as long as we let her, but we usually spend no more than 20 minutes splashing before she is bodily removed. If she isn't having a bath, we usually play downstairs for a little while longer.

We get Isabelle dried and dressed in our bedroom, and brush her teeth while I comb all the tats out of her mane. Isabelle loves playing on our bed. She will either play bouncy bouncy, which is basically her standing up, then falling face first onto the bed, or we play hide and seek with the blankets. She would stay and play for ages, so we usually have to cut this time short! Sometimes, she will run round upstairs like a hooligan, looking in the mirror, taking money out of the drawers and generally having a last wind of madness.

We put Isabelle's babies to bed and say night night. Then Isabelle and I snuggle down in the rocking chair in her room and she has her bedtime milk, while we sing some songs. I like to have the room nice and dark for this so she knows that it's now almost bedtime, and she really begins to get sleepy. Once she has had enough milk either Simon or I pop her into bed and she is usually asleep in a few minutes.

We were lucky enough recently to be sent a Grolight Night Light to review, and I really wish that I had come across this product when Isabelle was first born. The Grolight is a really clever little fitting which attaches to your normal light, and allows your normal light to be used as a much dimmer night light instead. It has been absolutely perfect for this part of Isabelle's routine when I feed her in her room, providing just the right amount of light for me to see her, pop her into bed and tuck her in easily, but without being too bright and keeping her awake. I used to leave the door partially open to allow light in from the hall, but this means I can shut it over and not worry about the dogs banging round downstairs while she goes to sleep.

When Isabelle was tiny I used to change her nappy during the night in our bedroom and had to turn the en-suite light on and open the door just a small bit to get enough light to see, without waking everyone up too much. The Grolight would have been perfect for this, and I will definitely be using it for that purpose if we ever have more babies!

The light is so simple to use - Simon fitted it in less than 30 seconds by attaching it to our existing light fitting, and you simply then turn the light on at the switch and the night light is on. To get your normal light, you flick the switch again and your normal bulb lights up. So simple to use!

My only dislike about the light is that the night light provides a very 'white' type of light, as opposed to the more yellow light from a normal bulb which gives a slightly eerie glow to the room.

The Grolight is made by the same people who make the Grobag (which we own plenty of!), the Groegg (which we have used every day since Isabelle was born!) and the Groclock which I fully intend to buy when Isabelle is a bit bigger. The company have made such simple, yet wonderfully effective, products which just help make life easier for parents.

We're so lucky that Miss Isabelle knows her bedtime routine so well, and is always tired around the same time. The latest she would ever be asleep is around 7.30pm, which is great as it means Simon and I have the evening free to potter about together, and do the chores. Speaking of which..........

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Day 38: Rain sticks

I have been saving our 'empty' toilet roll tubes over the last while, and decided it was high time I got round to re-purposing them. I previously used some toilet roll tubes to make a pom pom run and for shape stampers, and have been looking for some new ideas to give the toilet roll tubes a new lease of life. There are loads of ideas out there, however most seem to be suitable for older children, so when I came across rain sticks I was pleased to see an activity which I thought Isabelle might enjoy.

Making the rain sticks was really simple. Isabelle used some felt tips to decorate the outside of one of the toilet roll tubes. She concentrated so hard on doing this, as it was exceptionally tricky as she initially didn't hold the tube so every time she tried to draw....the tube rolled away. Eventually, she worked out that if she held on to the tube she could draw more easily, and concentrated on getting her felt tip in just the right place. She is very precise with her drawing and, although it doesn't look like she actually made many marks, she sat for around 5 minutes changing colour, drawing a little, then changing colour again. This was definitely her favourite part of the activity.

To seal the ends of the rain stick, I cut out two circles of card and used some washi

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Day 37: Sensory filled balloons

As Isabelle can be uncertain with touching different textures, I have been on the look out for a way to expose her to different feeling materials, but without necessarily having to 'get her hands dirty' and touch them. I came across this idea on Pinterest and thought it would make a great activity for us.

The idea is to provide a range of different items, but they are inside balloons. This means that a little one can feel their texture, squidge and squash them, but without their hands getting dirty. It also means that the items are 'hidden' and so older children might enjoy guessing what is inside the balloon.

I decided to do just 5 simple sensory balloons:
* rice
* shaving foam
* water beads
* pasta
* flour

The trickiest bit of this, as I'm sure you can imagine, was getting the things INTO the

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Day 36: Contact Paper Butterfly

It seems to be that no matter what great plans I have for a big activity at the weekends, when I am off and have most time, they never come to fruition. Today, I had thought of doing some big messy play activities, however the day didn't pan out that way, and so I decided to do a smaller activity instead.

Today we used the rest of our sticky back plastic, or 'contact paper', to make a tissue paper butterfly collage.

While Simon and Isabelle tore up the tissue paper into small pieces, I used a Sharpie to draw a butterfly onto the non-sticky side of the contact paper. Then Simon and I double teamed it, and managed to get the butterfly stuck to the patio door and remove the backing paper. That left us with a butterfly shape and the sticky side of the contact paper facing out. My drawing obviously isn't too bad, as Isabelle was able to recognise the butterfly shape and say the word, as well as show us the sign,

Isabelle remembered that the contact paper is for sticking things to, and although Simon offered to show her what to do, she started straight away by herself. She stuck around 10 pieces onto the butterfly before deciding she wanted to peel them off again. So off they came, and then she did the same again - stuck some on and then took them off. That goes against my nature very much

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Family meals: Chicken and cheese quesadillas

Yesterday, as I wandered round the supermarket wondering what Isabelle and I should have for lunch, I realised it had been ages since I had made us some quesadillas. Quesadillas are something which we both really enjoy, are relatively healthy and which take me around 5 minutes to make (most of which is grating the cheese!)

More importantly, to me, they are a perfect toddler meal. They have lots inside them, but the melted cheese sticks them together to mean that it all holds up to little hands, and things don't spill out all over the clothes, chair, floor....

* soft tortillas
* pre-cooked chicken
* grated cheese
* pepper
* BBQ sauce

Heat a large, non-stick frying pan and place one flour tortilla inside. Cover with a layer of grated cheese, then the cooked chicken, diced pepper and BBQ sauce. Add a second layer of grated cheese on top and finish with a second tortilla.
Heat until the cheese starts to melt, and the bottom tortilla is golden brown before flipping over. (This is tricky! After much trial and error I have found a good method - put a plate into the pan and turn it over, so the quesadilla is now on the plate, cooked side up. Slide it into the pan again uncooked side down.
Continue to cook until the second side is golden brown and all the cheese has melted.
Slice and serve.

Depending on how hungry I am, I will make one like this and share it with Isabelle. If that's the case, I don't put BBQ sauce in her section as I a don't like her having too much salt, and simply cut her section out carefully at the end. If I am too greedy to share, I make her a small quesadilla by folding one tortilla in half and following the method above.

The melted cheese holds everything together, and this quick lunch is a great source of protein with the chicken and cheese inside.

Essentially, it is a glorified toastie...but we love it! This would be so easy to make into a dinner as well, by adding a few more ingredients inside (mushrooms, refried beans, salsa) and a side salad too. You could really throw anything in here, and I have seen lots of recipes using rice and all sorts of leftovers inside quesadillas as well.

A quick, simple, toddler friendly meal.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Day 35: Mouldable foam soap

Today's activity was very similar to our day 20 shaving foam bath paint activity, however it was based much more around the texture and smell of the mouldable bath foam rather than the mark making we explored previously. A lovely local mummy told me she had found this Peppa Pig Mouldable Foam Soap in Poundland, and shared some photos of her little lady absolutely loving it.

The foam itself is a weird consistency - it's like very thick, gelatonous shaving foam. It is mouldable, so we were able to make balls and shapes out of it, and it holds up much better than shaving foam in the water. It is also scented, and smells just amazing! We initially enticed Isabelle in by letting her 'paint' the foam across the tiles, but she soon got into the swing of things and wash squashing it in her hands, dropping it into the bath and scooping it back out again. 

Like shaving foam, the foam expands when it is squirted out of the can, and because it is so stiff it makes some very impressive shapes as you squirt it out. Simon decided to do a little experiment, and squirted the foam into one of our bath scoops before quickly covering the end with his hand. The foam kept expanding, and starting spilling out the little holes in the bottom of scoop creating wiggly worms of foam. He and I both enjoyed that thoroughly, although Isabelle was more interested in just getting it into her hands again to play with.

I'm a judgemental mummy

There. I've said it.

I am a judgemental mummy. I see things that other mummies do and I think "Oh my gosh...what on earth?" I see things in shops that make me shudder and say firmly "My child will never have that", while giving a judging look to the person behind me who is picking it up gleefully.

I judge, all the time.

But...I think that is human nature and I'm pretty sure I am getting judged all the time as well. We choose to do things a certain way because we believe that is the best, or right, way to do it. So of course we don't fully understand when someone else does it differently than us. Surely that is natural? To see someone make a different choice and not understand it, and to think that we would never do it that way, heaven forbid. In fact, it's so natural for us to judge, especially mummy-to-mummy, that a group of ladies put this campaign together to get us to stop.

Here's the thing though - I judge much less now that I am a mummy than I did before hand!

I have a lot of mummy friends from all walks of life, from all across the world, with lots of different parenting styles, opinions and views. And I respect every single one of those mummies as I know that every choice they make is what they think is best for their child. I may not agree with their choice, it may make me shudder, but I know that they do it with only their child's best intention at heart and so I admire them.

Before I had Isabelle I couldn't understand why people wouldn't do things a certain way - they way I think is "right". Why would there be any other way to do it? Now, I see mummies doing things differently from me all the time and I see how stupid I was to ever think that. There are things I would never choose to do with my child - things I would never buy for her, feed her, let her have.

I see other mums doing those things and I just cannot understand why they think it's a good idea - which to me is judging them. But the difference now is that I don't really care. Which sounds really mean, but all I mean is that it is your business what you do with your child and definitely not mine.

And that works both ways. I know that most people don't understand why I breastfeed a 19 month old, wear her on my back to walk and use cloth nappies. They don't understand why she doesn't watch any TV or why she isn't allowed sweets and chocolate (she is now allowed ice cream every so often). They don't understand why I despise plastic toys, or think a toddler having more than 1 pair of shoes is ridiculous. Most people think I am slightly nuts, and maybe they are right! I'm sure they judge me for my crazy, hippy ways all the time. But I'm not that bothered at all, because it's nobody else's business what I get up to with my child.

So yes. I am judging you, and I'm positive you're judging me too.

But one thing that being a mummy has taught me is that we are all just trying to do the absolute best for our children, and we all make the best decisions we can at every turn. So even though I'm judging you, mainly I admire you because we are all just trying to muddle through this motherhood business the best way we know how.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Meal Plan....Tuesday

It's been a few weeks since I've linked up with Meal Plan Monday at At Home With Mrs M. To be honest, the last few weeks have been a bit scatty and all over the place, and the shopping has been a bit up in the air an done sporadically. We seem to have gotten out of the way of ordering shopping online at the minute and making a meal plan, so we need to get back to that as it really does make life much easier.

Isabelle and I did the shopping on Saturday afternoon (and as we went round the supermarket she demanded I feed her cherry tomatoes by yelling "More matoes please!". I became one of those mothers I despise, who opens food before they pay!) and before we left I sat down and made a meal plan to carry us through the next week and a bit, to hopefully take us back to Tuesday afternoon and ordering the shopping online.

So, what's on the menu this week? Nothing usual! However, after a chat with other local mummies on one of our Facebook groups that asked for brainstorming ideas for meals, I thought I'd share it hopefully try and make someone else's life a little easier.

Tuesday: spaghetti and meatballs
Wednesday: mustard chicken pie with carrot mash
Thursday: n/a
Friday: fish cakes and sweet potato chips
Saturday: baked potatoes with cheese and coleslaw 
Sunday: n/a
Monday: slow cooker vegetable soup and homemade bread

Monday, 17 November 2014

Day 34: Flour play tuff spot

This is an activity I have had planned for a while as I've noticed from our previous experiences that Isabelle likes 'dry' messy play better than 'wet' messy play, so I thought it would go down well with her. I hadn't actually planned to do it today but when we arrived home and the dog needed an emergency trip to the vet with Simon, leaving me with Isabelle to sort dinner ASAP, I knew I would need something to keep her occupied to give me some time to get us both sorted out.

This activity and our tuff spot were made to go together, so I pulled the tuff spot out into the kitchen and set up a bowl of plain flour along with a spoon and a scoop. She started to play immediately, scooping the flour from the bowl onto the tuff spot, and then into and out of the scoop. I got her a plastic bowl to use and she then divided the flour up into piles - one on the tuff spot, one in the bowl and one in the plastic bowl. The moving from place to place was her transportation schema in action again, and it was really interesting to see her create some of her own spaces for transportation. She used both her spoon and her scoop to transfer the flour and, at first, seemed a little hesitant to get the flour onto her hands.

That soon ended though, and before I had a chance to blink again she was scooping

Non-existent date nights

Sitting in work in the staff room a few months ago, there was chatter about going to the cinema and how often people go. There were only a few of us there, and I commented that Simon and I never go to the fact we never go out at night.

A colleague gave me a confused look and said "Yeah, but what about the weekends?", to which I replied, "No, we never go out in the evening, just during the day with Isabelle."She asked again "Yeah...but what about at the weekend?" and try as I might, I couldn't seem to make her understand that Simon and I do not go out alone together in the evenings - weekday or weekend.

That made me wonder, are we strange? Is it strange that he and I have no desire to go out and 'spend time together'? Certainly the offer of babysitting is there, and when Isabelle was younger we were told we should get out and have some time together to 'reconnect' while people babysat. I see lots of things on Facebook of couples with kids going out when their children are really young, and it always makes me wonder...are we strange for not wanting to do that?

Maybe we are. Maybe it's weird that we don't want any time out together to go for dinner, or drinks or go to the cinema. Maybe it's strange that we want to spend all our evenings in our house while our little lady sleeps upstairs and would have no idea if we are there or not. Maybe it is weird, but it suits us.

Why would we want to have a child only to give up time we can have with her? Why would we want to go out and eat together, instead of sitting and having a family meal with her? I certainly don't judge anyone who does want to do that, but it's just not something which appeals to us.

Simon and I get plenty of time together in the evening without paying for the privilege somewhere. We can sit in our house, in our jammies, and still have the same conversation we would have sitting opposite one another in a restaurant or in a bar. We spend every single evening together, we certainly aren't lacking in quality time!

To be honest, knowing the many mummies I do, I know Simon and I aren't weird. I know lots of mummies who parent like me, and lots who don't, and it is quite the occasion when somebody says "We are going out together tonight!" It's a certainly pretty rare, as most people seem to be like Simon and I and are more than happy to spend our evenings in the comfort of our own homes, snuggled up in our jammies.

Let's face it, us mummies are lucky to survive some days. Whether we go out to work, or stay at home to work and look after the little people, by the end of every day when we get them into bed most of us just want to sit on the sofa with a cup of tea. Getting dressed up to go out is the last thing on most of our minds, and I am actually in awe of anyone who can be bothered!

So, for now, Simon and I are more than happy to have our dates during the day, complete with our wonderfully crazy toddler. We want to be a family, and it is so important for us that social life is shared with her. Maybe one day we will venture out again as a twosome...then again, our jammies are extremely comfortable....

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Day 33: Plastic cup stacking

While whipping round the supermarket recently I stopped to pick up some plastic party cups, thinking that they may come in useful for one of our activities in the 50 day challenge. Isabelle has played a few times with them, but has mainly enjoyed just squishing them and watching them crumple - which is fine, of course! However, today they got a good outing and featured as our activity of the day.

I have to hold my hands up and say this was a daddy activity. I have been unwell all weekend so while I died quietly in the chair beside them (never one to exaggerate), Simon and Isabelle got to work with the plastic cups. He showed her how to stack them up to build pyramids, but she preferred to simply stack them one on top of the other instead. They played together doing this for a while - he would hand them to her and they would count the cups as she stacked. When they had done them all, 12 in total, he would take them and unstack them and they would start again. Not only was it great for her counting, but also her hand eye coordination getting the cups to stack neatly on to one another. Sadly, I didn't get any pictures of this as I was a bit slow off the mark.

Then, the buttons came out. Isabelle adores her buttons and they have been getting

Saturday, 15 November 2014

AW14 - The TV Edition

I think it would be fair to say I am a bit of a TV addict, and always have been. I tend to get very involved in shows, and end up watching every episode of that show ever made...many times. That means that this of year is one of my favourites as all the new seasons of my favourite shows start. Here's a run down of what we are currently watching in the Jay household. Or rather, what the Sky+ box is recording for us to catch up with when we have a minute!

Homeland (Sunday 9PM Channel 4)
This isn't something we saw the first time round, however we spent all summer catching up with season 1-3 of Homeland online and so we are thrilled that we get to see season 4 'live' this time. For anyone who has never watched it, the story line centres around a CIA worker who, initially, believes that a Prisoner of War has been turned into an American suicide bomber. The story line develops throughout the seasons, and now follows the original CIA agent as she works on another operation altogether. It's a great show, very compulsive viewing in the first season especially!

Criminal Minds (Monday 9PM Sky Atlantic)
A long standing favourite of mine, Criminal Minds is all about an FBI Behavioural Analysis Unit who solve generally quite horrific crimes using their brain power. This is the 10th season, and it is one of the shows of which I have seen every episode every, multiple times. This wouldn't be one of Simon's favourite shows, but I quite enjoy how freaky and scary it can be at times. It's pretty dark at times, but there is a great cast who liven it up and help balance it out.

Grey's Anatomy (Wednesday 9PM Sky Atlantic)
Yet another long standing favourite, and another one Simon doesn't like! I have been watching Grey's since the very beginning, and have always loved the mix of totally insane medical story lines, the number of hideous accidents that befall them, and the human element of all the characters and how they interact. That said, I have to say I feel like it's time for Grey's to start winding down. While I have always loved it, the last few seasons haven't captured me in the same way as the earlier seasons, so I'm interested to see how it progresses in it's 11th year. It is definitely helped along by the rather gorgeous Patrick Dempsey (or McDreamy).

The Fall (Thursday 9PM BBC2)
The Fall just started again this week, and is actually something which Simon and I didn't see the first time round. However, after a friend's recommendation we caught up with the first series of 5 episodes online and so we were pleased to see it back again. If you haven't seen this, it is 100% creepy. It follows a serial killer in Belfast who sneaks into single women's homes and murders them, before heading home to his family. Jamie Dornan plays the lead, and he is sinister from top to bottom - very scary indeed. I know that this is a big hit here in Northern Ireland, and there is definitely something about seeing it happen in familiar places that seems to give it an extra edge to us. Seeing him prowling the streets we know, pick his kids up from the same school my little cousins go all makes it very real and very frightening! Who knows what will happen this series....

Neighbours (Every week day 5.30pm Channel 5)
No matter what time period in my life you talk to me about TV, this will always feature. I love Neighbours, and have been watching it since I was very tiny (my granny often reminds me how I used to dance around to the theme tune). Simon never liked it much, but 7 years of constant wear on him now mean he enjoys it almost as much as I do! It may not have the best actors, or story lines, but it's a show I love, and which is a fixture on our Sky+ so that we never miss an episode.

We are also impatiently waiting for the return of Bones and Murdoch Mysteries which are two of our all time favourite shows. Once they come back, winter will be complete, and we can hibernate with the TV remote and wait until the sun peeks out which point we get cross because all our shows finish and we have to talk to one another or find something else to amuse ourselves instead!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Day 32: Playdoh faces and hedgehogs

I may have mentioned once (or twice...) that Isabelle is a huge fan of playdoh after being introduced to it during our day 12 stretchy playdoh activity. She has since asked for "doh" almost every day, so last week I made her some really easy, and wonderful, no cook playdoh.

Of course we play with it as normal playdoh, but earlier this week I wanted to add an extra element to our play and so decided to bring in one of Isabelle's other favourite play materials - buttons.

Since then we have played more than once with the buttons and playdoh, eventually settling on using them to make playdoh faces and playdoh hedgehogs (or "hotdogs" if you are Isabelle!). Isabelle loves pushing the buttons into the dough, and it is a really great work out for her fine motor skills pushing them in and pulling them out, and is helping teach her about appropriate force.

The playdoh is super soft and silky, and so Isabelle is learning about how to push the buttons in carefully to get them to stand on end - which she much prefers to laying them flat onto the dough.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I've been a bit unwell this week which means I haven't had a pile of energy unfortunately, but this is the perfect little activity to keep Isabelle and I busy...with minimum input on my part (that sounds awful!) and maximum enjoyment for her.

(As a side note, after a week of almost constant play the playdoh I made is still as soft and pliable as when it was first made!)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Teaching Isabelle to self soothe

Whilst clicking about on my blog one evening, making sure all the links were working, I came across this post from September 2013 all about my views on cry it out. At the time, Isabelle was only 5 months old, and I stated firmly that both Simon and I were against cry it out, and that it wasn't.

Well, there is a lot of difference between having a 5 month old baby and a 19 month old toddler, of course, so I thought it was time to revisit the topic and see if we managed to stick to our ideals of not ever following cry it out, or controlled crying.

A little bit of history: Isabelle is a breastfed baby (and toddler), and for the first 7 months of her life she was breastfed to sleep every single night. Yes, sometimes it was a lot for me as I was feeding her to sleep and up with her during the night, but never once did we consider letting her cry it out. At 7 months, however, we did decide that we would like to see if she would be able to settle herself to sleep so that Simon could take part in her evening routine as well. On the recommendation of a friend, I bought the 'Sleep Lady Shuffle' book and after a thorough read we gave it a shot. Isabelle was obviously at a great point as, with very little input from us, she started to settle herself at night perfectly. I would feed her, pop her into her cot and leave, and she would fall asleep by self soothing. Perfection!

Then, the dreaded 9 month sleep regression arrived. It messed everything up, and after 2 months of dropping off to sleep peacefully, that was no longer an option. Of course, I could have fed Isabelle to sleep again, but we decided to stick to not doing that, and instead we worked out a new bed time routine to suit her needs. She was fed, then Simon took her and put her to bed and patted her to sleep, or patted her for a little while before sitting with her while she fell asleep. That worked just fine, although it was a bit more labour intensive.

That's how we continued for a long time. Sometimes, it was hard. Sometimes, it would take half an hour of sitting with an arm through the bars of her cot patting her to get Isabelle to go to sleep. We tried the sleep lady shuffle again and, just as we were almost there, something happened and we went back to sitting on the floor beside her cot patting and patting. It wasn't what we would have wanted - ideally she would pop into her cot and go to sleep alone - but at the same time, it worked. We didn't mind sitting next to her for 10 or 15 minutes, and she fell asleep without any tears (normally!).

I did have people tell me we were making a rod for our own backs, and how she would never learn to self settle if we continued to pander to her whims. Sometimes, on a bad night, it felt like that to me too, and it felt like I would be sitting patting this girl to sleep at 18 years old. However, we felt it was right for us and right for Isabelle, so we ploughed on.

One evening a few months ago, that all changed. Isabelle went to bed, cuddled down with her babies, and went to sleep. Not a pat anywhere. Simon (who was in doing bedtime that night) couldn't believe it. We assumed it was a one off, but she has continued. At night she has her milk, and a cuddle, then she gets into her cot with her babies (currently numbering 5) and she cuddles them until she goes to sleep. All by herself.

Isabelle self soothes. She can put herself to sleep without tears, and without adult input. It's strange the things you hold dear when you become a parent, but Isabelle learning to self soothe is something I am amazed at, and very proud of her for learning to do.

The most important thing to me is that she did it in her own time. Yes, maybe she would have been self soothing a year ago if we had followed cry it out, and maybe we wouldn't have had to spent 9 months patting her to sleep every night. But, it would have been done via a method that wasn't a comfortable thing for us. It would have been forced onto Isabelle rather than letting her find it in her own time.

Instead, we stuck to our guns about what was best for her and let her find her own way. We tried to support her as best we could and I am so proud of the fact that she has done this all on her own. She made the transition when she was ready - not when we were ready. To me, that's what natural, attachment parenting is all about - supporting your child to reach their potential in their own time.

To any parents out there who feel that cry it out is the only option, it really isn't. It's tough now to do whatever it is your little one needs, but it won't be forever. They will learn to do it in their own time and when they do you will be so glad that you didn't try to force them to do it earlier on.

So really, we didn't teach Isabelle to self soothe at all. Instead, she taught us to trust our instincts and have a little of patience because she will always get there in the end......but only if we give her the chance.

World Nursery Rhyme Week: Oranges and Lemons Messy Play

I am very excited that my Day 31 activity is actually a guest post over on Adventures of Adam. It was after stumbling upon Adventures of Adam in September and reading about Emma's 100 day toddler activity challenge that I decided to take on the (lesser!) 50 day challenge for Isabelle and I.

To celebrate World Nursery Rhyme Week, Emma very kindly asked me if I would create an activity based around the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons. I knew straight away what I would do with the theme, and you can see the whole activity today over at Adventures of Adam.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Day 30: Glitter Mud

As of today we are 3/5 of the way through our 50 day challenge, my aim to complete 50 activities with isabelle between September and Christmas 2014.

Things have been a bit quiet this week so far, as I am currently off work and not in the best shape at all. You'd think being off would give me more time to play with Isabelle, but she has still spent half a day with her grandparents so I can catch up on some rest and try to recuperate a little. Today, however, since it was wet outside I decided that when I picked her up we would dive into an activity I've been waiting to do for ages - 'clean mud'.

The mud is actually a mash of soap, water and toilet paper all mixed together to give a soapy papier mache type material. It is squidy, soft and mouldable which makes it a great sensory activity, but since it is absolutely clean it doesn't create a huge mess.

To make our mud I used:
* 1 bar cheap value soap
* 1 roll toilet paper
* 2 cups boiling water

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Day 29: No cook play dough

Since our last adventure with playdough on day 12, Isabelle has been absolutely obsessed with the stuff. I have a few pots of brand name playdough which I bought for use in class years ago, and every day she has demanded that it comes out. However, since it's quite old, it isn't in much of a fit state of actual play; it has dried out and just flakes and crumbles rather than being mouldable. I have been meaning to make her some new playdough for proper play, and did it this morning while she was

having her nap.

A lot of recipes I have seen on Pinterest have involved heating the dough mixture over the stove. That seems like a lot of effort, so I searched for a "no cook" recipe, and tweaked it to make it just right for us. It was so easy to make, and is silky smooth and absolutely perfect in texture - mouldable, stretchy and perfect for rolling out. To make the dough I used:

* 2.5 cups plain flour
* 1 cup salt
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
* 1 cup boiling water
* generous glug of food colouring

I combined all the dry ingredients and the vegetable oil in our big mixing bowl while the kettle boiled. I had read to add my food

Friday, 7 November 2014

Day 28: Hama bead cakes

Ikea sell almost everything - including the material I used in today's play activity. I bought a tub of hama beads  from Ikea this time last year to use them in one of Isabelle's discovery bottles. Since then, the tub has been stored away, totally unused. I remembered them this week and thought they would be the perfect  material to use in one of our activities.

Hama beads are tiny and have the potential to spread to the 4 corners of a house, so I sensibly decided to set this up on our tough spot to try and contain the mess. I poured the hama beads into our smaller tray and threw two different sized spoons and two plastic scoops in as well. Next, I added our metal cookie cutters.

The idea of this activity was to fill the cookie cutters up with beads to make hama bead 'cakes', and then when we picked them up there would be a little avalanche of hama beads running in all directions.

I showed Isabelle how to do it, and she followed suit by filling the different shapes up using her hands or one of her tools. After a while, she moved on to just playing with the beads in the tray. She plunged her hands into them and swirled them about,

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Don't blame the teachers!

A few times over the last few weeks I have been seen chats on Facebook groups about education, and one theme runs through them all - teachers don't do enough for pupils. I know I am more sensitive to these types of posts as I'm a teacher, but they really do madden me.

I can't think of any other job in society - apart from politicians perhaps - which receive such a public shaming, bashing and beating from pretty much everyone. People think that they have the right to comment on how "all teachers" work, what we do, and how we do it wrongly. I can't think of any job which I judge so harshly, and it all comes down to one reason - I don't know enough about any other job to criticise how it is done.

Despite what most of society seem to think, the same is true about teachers! Just because you have a child in education does not give you the knowledge to judge that we are all doing our jobs wrongly. You don't understand our job. You don't know how we work, what we really do in a classroom, and so you should not judge us. That doesn't stop it though, of course.

What has struck me from what I've read lately is that, as teachers, we can do no right.

If we give no homework, we don't push the students hard enough; give "too much" and we put too much pressure on them. I have seen the question "why do teachers give homework? Why can't they teach the material in class - that's what they are paid for." Yes, we are. However, you have no idea what we have to cram into a lesson. And heaven forbid we just stand and teach the lessons have to be all singing, all dancing, interactive, engaging, motivating and fun. You expect us to do this every day to get the most from your little darlings, and you expect us to do the 'real' work in there as well. Something has to give, so unless you want me to send 30 kids to your house to play the Christian Aid Trade Game (imagine 30 teenagers armed with scissors, scrap paper and pairs of compasses, battling to win an unwinnable game...), then I have to send the written work instead.

If we push the kids to do well in our subject, we put too much emphasis on academic achievement. If we don't push them, we are not allowing them achieve their potential. Whether you like it or not, our society measures teenagers 'success' on their grades. Whether you like it or not, those grades will be the thing that pushes them on to further education and jobs....or not. So I make no apologies for pushing them to achieve a good grade to help them on their way.

The number one thing that bugs me is "motivation". Teachers get accused of not motivating pupils in the right way, which hampers their learning. If a child isn't doing well, it's because we are not motivating them in the classroom. Never mind that you obviously aren't motivating them at home, or that teaching some kids is like drawing blood from a stone. No, if they are unmotivated it is all our fault.

I know this is just another teacher having another rant. However, unless you would like me to stand and berate you for not doing your job well, and telling you that everything you do is wrong, please just stop and think the next time you decide to inform the world that teachers are lazy. I actively invite anyone to come and stand in front of a group of teenagers for 6 hours a day, maintain exciting lessons and keep every single one motivated - seriously, you are more than welcome to try your hand at it. Until then, please keep quiet. We are doing our best.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Day 27: Pom poms and cups

Isabelle loves pom poms. I can't even remember where we got the pom poms she play with, but what I do know is that they are, without a doubt, the most played with item she has. They are out every single day, and the very first activity we did as part of our 50 day challenge was with our pom poms - a ball drop and relocation.

While we were in Tesco a few weeks ago I spotted a great little tray with lots of cups in it. It's intended purpose is to hold paint, but I thought we could use it in lots of different ways for lots of different activities. Yesterday and today, it has joined the pom poms in being the star of the show. I did absolutely nothing for this activity, except to pass her the tray and set it on the table. Other than that, it was all Isabelle-led.

This activity was an excellent example of her transportation schema behaviour. This website has lots of lovely information on toddler schemas, and Isabelle is most definitely displaying the characteristics of the transportation schema. That means she loves to:
* move items from place to place
* carry items about
* fill containers
* give items to people

That description is Isabelle to a tee, and is why this type of activity is so perfect for her. She took the pom poms out of the different cups and set them on the table. Then they went back in again. The cups came out and pom poms were poured between cups. The cups went back in. The cups went to the storage unit, and back again. Simon and I were each given a pom pom, then a cup. She returned to

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Day 26: Magic gloop

We are now over half way in our 50 day activity challenge - my aim to do 50 different activities with Isabelle between September and Christmas 2014.

Today, I decided to do an activity which we first did when Isabelle was around 9 months. It is a classic sensory and messy play activity which I see a lot online - gloop. There are only 2 ingredients to the gloop:
* cornflour
* water

As with so much I make, I have no specific quantities for this gloop, I simply put the cornflour in a bowl and added water a bit at a time until it was thick and gloopy when picked up. Cornflour is absolutely magical stuff as it is a non-Newtonian substance - that means it doesn't act like a normal liquid, and when force is applied to a cornflour and water mix, it becomes rock hard. This makes it so much fun to play with! In the bowl, it looks like a liquid and acts like a liquid. Try and scoop it up and it goes rock hard. Once you eventually get it onto the spoon it will gloop off...only to stop flowing half way and break off. Lots and lots of fun!

Now, this was a risk. As I've mentioned before, Isabelle isn't a big fan of weird textures so I didn't know if she would like this at all, despite

Our half term holiday

I was very lucky last week to have had the whole week off for half term, and it was very much needed. It has been a tough 10 weeks in the school in which I currently work, and last week was a chance to get away from it all and forget about it. It was, of course, also a chance to get to spend some much needed quality time with Isabelle. While I am at work we obviously don't get that same concentrated time together, and last week was great to top up our reserves to help see us through the next 7 weeks.

I wouldn't exactly say it was a relaxing week, as we didn't have a minute to spare! I had originally planned to do some big messy play activities with Isabelle, but we just didn't have the time to do that and so I decided to let it all just fall by the way side (along with the pile of marking I left at school). We really took this week 'off' everything and just did what we felt like doing.

It was great to be able to catch up with our lovely friends and their toddlers at the breastfeeding group, and a birthday party, at the start of the week. We always have a lot of fun, and so do the little people, and it was great to get together with everyone and have a chat about not very much at all. I'm already planning and looking forward to our Christmas get together.

On Tuesday Simon was off, so we went swimming and then to the dentist, before getting Isabelle some new shoes.

Thursday saw us visiting my granny, where Isabelle had big love for my granny's wooden African head "Joe". She has played with Joe before, but this week Joe had the full treatment of kisses, cuddles and a nappy change. She really made me laugh when she cuddled him and started to pull at her top saying "Joe, milk!".

Over the weekend we escaped up to our holiday home. Dexter (the dog) is terrified of fireworks, and with Friday night being Halloween we knew we needed to get him away. My parents were also up at the holiday home so we went to join them, knowing it would be much quieter. We were right, and Dexter was able to get through another Halloween with his nerves in tact. My dad bought sparklers for Isabelle and, despite my certainty that she would hate them, she loved them! We had a great 5 minutes 'sparkling' in the garage (out of the rain) to mark our Halloween festivities.

Simon was able to take Saturday off which was wonderful. We didn't do anything amazing, but it was just so nice to have that time together. On both Saturday and Sunday we went for lunch, walked the dogs along the beach and went to the park. Isabelle loves the park. On Saturday we were the only ones there due to the rain and wind, but she had a great time anyway - we all did.

Overall, a really wonderful week. I cannot wait to finish work on 19th December so I can get back to normal with Isabelle and be with her all the time. Only 47 days to go.......

Monday, 3 November 2014

Day 25: Money colander

Today's activity ended very differently than I had imagined, but Isabelle put her own spin on the materials and used her interests to create an activity that she wanted to do.

I had initially planned a colander and pipe cleaner activity, which is something we have done before and which she enjoyed. I set the colander up with pipe cleaners stuck in various holes and looped through the various holes, with the idea being that Isabelle would pull them out and thread them back through. She did actually started by prodding some of the pipe cleaners through some of the holes with varying degrees of success, before she pulled them all out.

In her other hand at the time, she had her beloved 'monies'. Isabelle adores coins, and often asks us for 'monies, monies', and we give her a little handful of coins. Quite often she just carries them about and that's about it. However, today, she took the metal colander and popped it on the chair and, for the next 20 minutes, she put her coins into it and then took them back out again.

I mentioned a few activities ago that Isabelle is very much in the transporting schema

How to explain 'me' and 'you'?

It's a little embarrassing to say that, whilst trying to explain something to an 18 month old this week, both Simon and I came up empty handed.

I don't think it's unreasonable to say that Isabelle has a very good vocabulary, and her speech is much further on that I would have expected at 18 months. She regularly strings 4 - 5 words together, and sprouts words that I have no recollection of using with her in recent history (today it was 'castle' - where did she learn that?!)

We haven't taught her very much at all, really. Like all toddlers she has simply picked it up as she goes along. She is, by nature, a total chatterbox which I think has definitely had an impact on how quickly she has expanded her vocabulary. By nature, I am also a bit of a chatterbox, so the poor child's ears are exhausted from listening to me and no doubt she is just working up to saying "Mummy shut up!" some day - which actually wouldn't surprise me, after she told me "Mummy, move" earlier this week.

However, this week we stumbled across a sticky point. Isabelle refers to herself only in 3rd person as "Izzy". If you say "Whose shoes are these? Whose plate is that? Who was just about to draw all over the wall?" she responds "Izzy". So, we thought it was about time she learnt the word "me" and it's close partner "you".

However, that has posed a bit of a problem. How do you explain - to an 18 month old - what 'you' and 'me' mean? It is almost impossible! Simon tried first, and came up with nothing, only managing to get himself confused in the process. I decided the next day I would have a go. The conversation went something like:

Me: And who did that?
I: Izzy
Me: You can say "me". So when mummy says "who did that" you say "me" (and I pointed at myself)

At this point, Isabelle pointed at me and said "Me!". I accidentally taught her that 'me' Not her.

Me: No, no, you are me. (I pointed at her)

So, I'm sure you see the problem. To me, she is 'you' and I am 'me', and when I try to explain that I say "You are me" which just makes no sense at all - like much of this post!

To an older person, of course, it wouldn't be tricky to explain, however to a tiny tot with a limited grasp of English (but a superb grasp of gibberish) it is extremely difficult. I know that it is something she will pick up in time, as she has done with all her other words, but it has left both Simon and I just a tad confused and feeling a bit out of our depth. If we can't explain two such simple words to her at 18 months, how on earth are we going to see her through education until 18 years?!

(PS, don't forget to enter my competition to win a ByElsieB personalised cushion here)

Sunday, 2 November 2014

And the next holiday is...

Now that Halloween is over and November is here, I think it's pretty safe to mention the 'C' word. You know the one, the next big holiday....of course it's Christmas.

I kid you not when I say I saw Christmas bits and bobs in the shops in the last week of August. That is definitely taking it too far. But, now is a safe time to start talking about it in my opinion, since it's not too far away.

I like to think we are pretty prepared for Christmas each year, but we then usually get towards mid-December and I panic as I realise just how much there is to do.

This year, however, I think I have it cracked. It all comes down to one simple thing - not buying too many presents. As much as we all like to pretend otherwise, the bulk of stress, buying and panic at Christmas is related to the gifts we buy others. I have found in the last few years that I spend time worrying about what to buy for others for Christmas, and then have a stress about actually getting out and buying it.

This year, no such worry. That is because the Christmas shopping is done. Yes, it's all done. And, as I said, that comes from dramatically cutting back on how many gifts we buy.

We are going to Simon's parents for Christmas this year, so straight away we buy less as it's hard to transport. Since neither Simon nor I actually really want, or need, anything at the minute, we have taken the decision to buy one another absolutely nothing for Christmas. Not a single gift. The last 3 or 4 years we have said we will cut back on gifts and do something together instead - last year we went to London - however it still ends up being the same amount of gifts, the same worry and panic about not having enough, and buying things just for the sake of it. So, this year....nothing. I have to say it feels excellent knowing I don't have to worry about providing loads of gifts. I'm not fussed at all about not getting any either - there really isn't anything I need or want.

My sister, brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, Simon and I also do not get gifts for each other. We took the decision a few years ago that we would only buy for the kids, so that knocks another 4 people off the list. This year, we have decided that with Simon's parents and his sister we will all go away on a family holiday instead of buying that's another 3 people off the list!

In fact, now, the only people still on the list are Isabelle, my nephews, my parents and my 4 cousins!

So I'm sitting here, quite smug about the fact that I have finished the Christmas shopping and it's only November. Check back at the start of December as I realise that, in actual fact, I still need to get this...and this...and this....

Don't forget - you can take the pressure off your Christmas shopping by entering my competition to win a personalised ByElsieB cushion here!!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Giveaway and Review: Personalised ByElsieB Cushion

It's only the first of November but everyone is starting to think about Christmas already, and lots of people have started (or even finished!) their Christmas shopping. I hate Christmas shopping - I have no imagination and so I find it really tricky to find a great gift for someone. In the last few years, however, the rise of the personalised gift has made it so much easier to find the perfect gift, as everyone loves something made specially for them.

I was lucky enough this week to receive a gorgeous ByElsieB personalised cushion for Isabelle. Don't tell her, but Isabelle's aunts are buying her a teepee for Christmas, and I want it to be filled with lots of lovely cushions and cuddly bits, and so I jumped at the chance to have a personalised cushion to put in there for her.

The cushion is a beautiful creamy colour with the sweetest floral fabric 'I' stitched on to the front. It is unbelievably soft and cuddly, which not all cotton cushions are - our Ikea ones are pretty stiff. All of ByElsieB's cushions are handmade, and the quality is genuinely superb. The 'I' is stitched on with a lovely pink thread and the outline of that around the letter helps it to stand out and edge it off beautifully.

My favourite part of the cushion, however, is the edging strip. It is made up of lots of little bits of different fabrics - florals, polka dots, stripes, criss-crosses - all stitched together to frame the cushion. It is a beautiful little touch which really helps make this cushion stand out from the crowd and, to me, gives it a more personal feeling as every cushion's edging will be unique. It's also great because if (like me!) you have trouble deciding which pattern you would like for your letter, you still get to enjoy the other patterns around the outside of the cushion. I chose the floral pattern for Isabelle's 'I' as I thought it was so sweet and pretty, but there is a great selection of fabrics in blue, pink and green tones to suit everybody's tastes.

ByElsieB doesn't just offer single letter personalisation. For that really extra special gift you can have a handmade cushion with your loved one's entire name on it - what a special gift for a newborn baby or a Christening gift. Not just for little people though, I can see teenagers loving these too - don't they love anything just that little bit extra special and personal? They also sell tissue box covers, bandana bibs and gorgeous bunting as well.

Overall, I absolutely love our ByElsieB cushion, and cannot wait to get Isabelle's teepee set up in the New Year and get this in for her. I can just see her and her babies having a little tea party, all cuddled up and cosy with her very special cushion.

I am really excited to be teaming up with ByElsieB to offer one of you lovely people the chance to win a personalised cushion of your very own. It would make the most amazing Christmas gift for a loved one...or maybe a well deserved treat for yourself. All you have to do to be in with the chance to win is to enter the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!
* Please read the T&C before entering. UK entries only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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