Thursday, 30 January 2014

Dear Matilda Mae

1 year, 12 months, 365 days, 525,949 minutes.

Such a short time. And yet an eternity.

I can't believe that it has been that long since your Mummy found you sleeping and wrote you this letter. I cried as I read it until hot tears ran down my face. I cried at the horror of it, the injustice, the cruelty, the utter loss. I ran upstairs and checked on my two little ones.

Checked and checked and checked again.

And then, like so many others, I continued to read, as the days and months went by. I learned through your Mummy's wonderful words about your brother and sister and messy play and sensory boxes and the seaside.

I never had the pleasure of meeting you but I know through your Mummy's amazing writing that you touched the lives of whoever you met.

And you touch the lives of so many still.

Your short time here was not in vain. Your brave, beautiful Mummy has created, is creating, a legacy for you that will live on, helping save so many little lives and helping so many families whose angels have joined you to dance among the sunbeams and play in the clouds.

On Sunday 2 February we will be blowing bubbles for you and donating to the Lullaby Trust in your name.

Rest peacefully little Matilda until your Mummy can hold you in her arms again.

Michelle @ Bod for tea

Click this link to read more letters to Matilda Mae

and if you can please consider making a donation
to the Lullaby Trust in her name

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Silent Sunday

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Toy Fair 2014 - what will capture our hearts this year?

Toy Fair 2014 at Kensington Olympia
On Tuesday I was lucky enough to spend a child-free day at the London Toy Fair 2014 at Kensington Olympia as the guest of Galt Toys. It's been six years since I took the train into London but despite my fears that everything would have changed beyond all recognition on the morning commute it was actually just as I remembered it. Oh well.

But you're not here to read about the trials and tribulations of travelling into London from deepest Essex so let's get down to brass tacks. Toys. Our kids adore them. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with certain Lego bricks that lay wait for me at the bottom of the stairs and throw themselves under my bare feet before I've so much as sipped my morning coffee, but mostly I love them too. They entertain, educate, placate and in our house they're also teaching Curly Girl the value of money as she has to save up her pocket money (50p a week if she completes her reward chart - thoroughly recommend this one from The Great Little Trading Company by the way) to buy anything she wants outside of Christmas and her birthday.

Apart from the ever present Doggy Woof (a IKEA Shanghai purchase that hasn't left her side since) her favourites at the moment are characters from the television programmes she watches - Octonauts, Sophia The First, Mike the Knight - and her old favourites Lego and her Galt games and puzzles. She is quick to judge toys though and tires of anything that doesn't capture her imagination or pose her a puzzle to crack. Even at four and a half success is a powerful motivator!

So what toys will be capturing the hearts and minds of my kids this year?

Curly Girl really wants a pet at the moment, ideally a dog, but with a Daddy that's allergic to pet hair and a Mummy that's allergic to cleaning up after them (you KNOW it will become MY job after about 30 seconds, right?) there's not much chance of that happening. So it was fortuitous that HexBugs tweeted me and invited me to their stand for a peek at their range of micro robotic creatures - the Nanos. They run on a watch battery, scuttle convincingly around build-your-own tracks, don't need feeding and don't poo. I'm sold. You can watch them in action on my Instagram page here (sorry you'll have to tilt your head a bit!).

Of course all the big players were at the Toy Fair; Lego, Mattel, Hasbro... but I was delighted to come across Oops, a relatively new brand with the cutest range of toys, eating utensils and toddler bags that I've seen in ages. With characters from the forest and the city in vivid colours and lovely designs just perfect for little ones I see big things happening for Oops.

The Oops range of toys were a great new find and just gorgeous

I was attracted to the Bkids stand by a water tank filled with bath toys. We are big bath-time fans at Bod Towers with Curly Girl and Little Man spending at least 20 minutes in the bath together every night. Little Man doesn't have his own set of toys yet but I the splash and ride waterproof wonder and the cute bath toy organiser really caught my eye. They also have a range of traditional wooden toys with rubberised cushioned corners that make them tactile but also uber safe for very little ones just learning to walk... and fall.

Bkids bath range is bright and colourful and uber cute into the bargain

Galt Toys and Tim Wonnacott, star of BBC's Bargain Hunt, unveiled an amazing 5ft x 5ft mosaic painting, a recreation of Andy Warhol's iconic portait of Marilyn Monroe created entirely from Galt's Art and Craft range. Very cool.

I grew up with Galt toys and still love them. From books that support phonics learning at school to baby bath toys, traditional wooden toys and arts and crafts there's something for all ages. They've also launched a rage of toddler toys designed with Mirian Stoppard that include a play book to help parents think about how they can maximise playtime with their little ones. Sounds a little strange but when I read through some of them I was impressed with the common sense approach and let's face it, how easy is it to just let the little ones play on their own? Watch this space for more Galt toy fun in the coming months.

Tim Wonnacott unveils the Marilyn Monroe mosaic to the media
All in all it was a really fun day at the Toy Fair and lots of interesting toys that I'm sure will be hitting toy store shelves soon. It was interesting to speak to the brands directly and understand a bit more about their ranges. Over the coming months I'll be continuing to review toys and accessories for under 5s so watch this space!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Sabotaged by poop

The screams of anguish and pain from the bathroom had me running from the bedroom in case the baby had cracked his head open on the side of the bath, fallen out of his bath seat or lost his favourite toy to his older Sister.

I was midway from mascara to eyelash, getting ready for our first couples night out with other parents from Curly Girl's school. OH had just left to collect our babysitter and we were on time. Just.

I dropped the mascara and jogged into the bathroom half dressed.

"What's going on in here?" I said looking directly, if somewhat unfairly, at Curly Girl.

But it wasn't something she'd done.

I shifted my gaze.

Little Man's face was read and sweaty, contorted into a grimace reminiscent of a weightlifter attempting to hoist his own body weight above his head. He gasped for breath before straining again. Finally he screeched one more time before collapsing into a flood of tears.

"He's doing a poo! Help, get me out, get me out!" My daughter cried, pointing in terror at her brother and trying to clamber up the side of the bath. A picture of a wilderbeast frantically scrambling up the slippery banks of a crocodile-infested river flashed into my mind.

I rescued Curly Girl and wrapped her in a towel before grabbing the baby and pulling him out of his bath seat, still crying. At least the worst had passed, literally, I thought.

Then half way between the bathroom and his nursey, Little Man dripping and squirming in my outstretched arms, I almost slipped as I felt something squidgy under my bare foot.

Now what's the worst thing you can imagine here?

I looked down. Squished into the carpet was a poop the size of a tennis ball. Clearly what had started in the bath had ended when I picked him up. And of course it missed the easy-to-clean lino and landed on our lovely beige carpet.

And I had stepped in it.

Now I was stuck with a yelling toddler broadcasting the event to the neighbourhood through the power of her voice alone, a dripping, crying baby and a poo-covered foot preventing me from fleeing the scene. I resisted the temptation to sob and hopped into the nursey, wrapped the baby in a towel, placated the toddler by letting her take a good close look at the poo (I know) and tried to remember where I'd put the Vanish.

An hour later, the children were in bed, the carpet had had the first of many treatments and I was finally ready to go out.

I let a sigh escape my lips.

Then I remembered that I've given up alcohol for January.

When fate gets you, she gets you good.


If you liked this post please consider voting for me 
in the Brilliance in Blogging Awards 2014, thank you!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Silent Sunday

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

First shoes...

Monday was one of those milestone days that makes me both proud and sad. On Monday we bought little Man his first pair of shoes.

It wasn't a momentous occasion as such; Clarks do such a great job of training their shoe fitters that it was a fairly quick and painless trip in-and-out. As we visited one of their outlet stores we were under £20 lighter which is a bargain and just as well really when we'll be back again in 6-8 weeks for another pair in all likelihood. Such is the growing pace of littles at this stage.

It was what this little shopping trip symbolised that marked it out for me. Little Man is no longer a baby. He is a fully fledged toddler, stomping and stumbling about in proper grown-up, navy blue, Little Man shoes.

Part of me wants my baby back. The baby that fell asleep in my arms, that suckled from me, that was so light and delicate. My heart pangs that we won't have another baby in this house.

But then we play the walk-to-Mummy-with-arms-outstretched-for-a-hug game that repeats endlessly and I realise that with mobility comes choice as well as a measure of independence. The choice to come back for those hugs, the choice to call out 'mama!' when he can't see me and come stumble-running when he realises where I am. And I LOVE it. I love it so much my heart bursts.

Sometimes I wish I could bottle up these times and keep them on a shelf so that I take them down later on and breathe them in.

They are more fleeting now with Curly Girl - she is well established on her road to independence, not standing on the threshold like her brother. Even at four and a half her interactions with me are more likely to be a negotiation, the cut and thrust of school age wants vs. parent needs. There are glimmers of the toddler she was but usually when I can't appreciate them; when we're late for school or Little Man is screaming needs my attention. If I had her bottles I'd savour them in my own time.

I suppose that's the beauty of the photos and videos that we take - freezing time for a brief moment so that we can try to remember how we felt in that instant. And as bloggers we paint those pictures with our words. So I'm capturing Monday's moment here so that I don't forget it - the moment that Little Man took his first shod steps on the feet that will one day walk him away from me and into his own promise-filled life.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Silent Sunday

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Giveaway - what experience would you cherish most?

What experience would you choose?
This Christmas I was astounded at how many presents the children received. We were relatively conservative I think, buying them one or two main presents each but when you add in presents from relatives and friends there was a mountain of boxes under the tree. Once 2014 had popped it's head around the door and the dust had settled on our festivities, the paper was in the recycle bin and the presents tidied away in the playroom, I started thinking about what makes Christmas special. When you're a child presents are the thing. Writing a list, anticipating the big day, ripping open the gifts and playing with them all day. But if you're anything like me, once you're an adult you probably buy yourself the things that you want during the year rather than waiting until Christmas. For me Christmas is about getting together with my family and sharing a special meal, it's about watching the excitement on the kids faces - it's about the experience of it all. Material possessions come and go, break and get replaced but experiences live on in our memories. Scuba diving, skiing, learning to ride a motorbike and taking off across the Pyrénées to Barcelona are all experiences that I treasure from my pre-parenthood days.

So when Experience Days offered me the chance to give one of you lovely lot the gift of a £50 voucher to put towards an amazing experience for you, or a loved one, to cherish I jumped at the chance. And guess what - this time the giveaway is open to my UK and US readers - woo hoo!

Extreme thrills or chillaxing at a spa - what would you choose?

Experience Days launched in the UK in 2006 and have a wide selection of activity days to choose from - everything from blissfully relaxing spa days to high-octane extreme experiences. Fancy a zombie survival boot camp? Done. A tour of the Downton Abbey film sets? Done. Learning how to make jewellery? Done. The choice really is up to you. And it's easy to buy an experience for someone else as a gift...

...just place an order online or by phone and a gift pack is sent out to the lucky person you're treating (there's even an email option for those *ahem* last minute gifts *cough*). They have up to ten months to choose their experience and book it. Simples!

You can take a look at the UK experiences here and the US experiences here.

Right, here's your chance to win the gift voucher. To enter just use the Rafflecopter widgety thing below and keep your fingers crossed - good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions
Experience Days offered me a £50 voucher or US$ equivalent to use as a giveaway prize for my lovely readers. I have received no other compensation. This giveaway is open to UK and US residents (this excludes  South America and Canada) aged 18 or over, one entry per household. There is no cash alternative. The winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to claim the prize or another winner will be chosen, again at random using Rafflecopter. A UK winner would receive a £50 voucher that they can use towards an experience booked through A US winner would receive the equivalent amount as a US$ voucher that they can use towards an experience booked through

Win competitions at

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 4 January 2014

On making New Year resolutions

Image courtesy of Chanpipat /
I'm not usually one for making New Year resolutions. Loose weight, drink less wine, spend more active outdoor time with the children, write more... there are lots of things I would like to do better or more regularly but resolutions without a plan feel like empty words to me. As Mary Poppins says, they're pie-crust promises - easily made, easily broken.

So when our four and a half year old, Curly Girl, heard the phrase on television this Christmas and wondered what it meant I was a bit hesitant about how to explain it to her. "A resolution is a promise that you make to yourself to be better at something in the coming year," I said. Then to check that I'd explained it suitably I asked her what resolution she might make for herself. "To be better at eating my school dinners," she replied instantly. Yep she got it. She got it perfectly.

Then a thought occurred to me and I asked her what resolutions she might like us to make. She decided that Daddy should be a nicer Daddy (when pressed this actually meant letting her eat chocolate biscuits whenever she felt like it, naturally), Little Man should stop biting (yes please) and for me?

"I'd like for you to be a happier Mummy," she said.

Out of the mouth of babes.

This got me thinking about what would make me a happier Mummy. I spent some time last year working on happiness with the team but while I understand the principles behind the science of being grateful etc, what really ups my happiness quota is actually quite simple. It's having some time to myself during the day.

Time to write, to blog, to run, to chat with like-minded virtual and not so virtual mates on social media, to read, to be creative, to share.

I seem to have lost this time recently, with Little Man crawling and now walking, with school runs and homework, Christmas and life in general I've got a bit lost in the mix.

And I've become resentful. Resentful that no-one is giving me the time that I crave. But that's part of the problem. I need to stop relying on anyone else giving me that time. I've got to take it for myself.

And so this year I'm not going to make any pie-crust resolutions but I am going to make a plan. A plan to spend a little time by myself at least three times a week. Even it it's only for an hour. Even if it means getting up at ridiculous-o'clock while the house is still asleep. It's my New Year gift to myself.
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