Saturday, 30 June 2012

Project #366 - Week 25

Ok, so I'm completely late this week. In fact, I'm sat here sorting photos for week 25 and 26.... so, without whiling away anymore time, here we go.

So, week 25 saw a trip to Bircham Newton, The randomness of a head office base on an ex-RAF base in Norfolk. Fortunately, from a pre-children lifestyle of working there three days a week, this is probably only my third visit of the year. And to put heed to any sympathy votes, the week also saw 500 bloggers descend on London, and thanks to Domestic Goddesque I was lucky enough to be one of them!

So, here we are:

Sunday:  A walk awround Cardiff Bay
Monday: Leaving Wales for Norfolk
Tuesday: Leaving England for Home
Wednesday: Squeaks steals the babies stash
Thursday: Sleeping babies
Friday: Britmums Live
Saturday: My cake decorating skills.... please say you can see a resemblance!

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Saturday is Caption Day

So, fresh from a week at Center Parcs, it looks like the boys have found something to replace the doo-dies:

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The party continues- a fab giveaway from Harper Collins

So, continuing the party, as I have always maintained birthday celebrations should last the week.
I don't think I can get away with it for as long with the blog, so this will be it (for this year!).

The aspect of my life which I have most appreciated being given a boost through the blog is reinvigorating my love of books and theatre. The best bit of the love being reinvigorated is this time it's not about me, it's about passing the love onto my children.
As a child I grew up wanting to be an author of children's books, as a teenager I wanted to teach drama. 
Unfortunately I couldn't balance my need for enjoying both with learning about them, I just liked the enjoyment without the need for the technical stuff.

And so over the years I have continued to read for enjoyment, I have enjoyed studying and gaining knowledge from books, and I have enjoyed the odd trip to the theatre.

Now that Squeaks is three I have a companion for theatre trips, and the range of theatre for children is so good, and that standard so high that we have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Introducing Squeaks, and the boys, to a range of good books is just as important, and fun. We have so many books in the house (even after the massacre of moving house) and now the children's bookcases are competing with mine.

A benefit of the blog has been to read reviews on a range of books I might not have otherwise heard about, and a wonderful benefit to the Johnson Babies has been getting to know Harper Collins Children's and their fantastic collection of children's books.

What started off as a reintroduction to the kitchen, has moved to reading some fantastic titles, and to meeting an inspiring author of children's picture books (more on that to come!). For this I am enormously grateful to Harper Collins, and pleased as punch they wanted to be part of my party celebrations.

And so, for this giveaway Harper Collins have kindly offered four of their children's books to one lucky reader. The books will be decided based on the age of your child, I can wholeheartedly recommend their publishing choice for the little people in your life.

So, how can your child get their hands on some fantastic books, simple, follow the instructions below!:

Friday, 22 June 2012

Happy Blogversary to me: and a giveaway (Part 1)...

So, a little while ago I read a post by Sarah about not remembering her blog anniversary, so I checked mine out and put in my diary.
It seems apt that it's today. Today I am off to BritMums Live, with a ticket a won from a giveaway on Domestic Goddesque's blog.
Yep, a random chain of events made possible through this blog.
In the last year I have learned a lot about blogging, I thought about writing it here, but then Love All Blogs posted on this topic and Rebecca from Here Come the Girls says it all, in a nutshell.

What have been my top things:
- Cybher- my first blogging conference, completely out of my comfort zone, and it was well worth it. To meet Anthea from Blue Bear Wood made the experience.
- This post is probably my favourite- because it's where the blog can take you. I constantly forget to appreciate the positive, whilst harping on about this error every day at work. This post and the responses made me realise it's these posts the blog is perfect for capturing.
- Moving to .com Admittedly I didn't take the plunge and go self hosted- I was convinced by Nicki at Typecast after listening to her at Cybher that Blogger is a great platform to meet the needs of my blog, and I still get to be a .com.
- Learning to love it. It's easy to get overly involved in everything but like every thing in life there's a balance. I'm learning about the best things about the blog and hopefully in the next year the other bits will slowly reduce.
- Capturing my family. I love looking back at the photos, I especially love the 366 project with The Boy and Me which means I've managed to keep a photo diary of our lives.
- All the other blogs I have made part of my life, the list is long, and can be found at this link. But especially love blogs from other mums of multiples- Multiple Mummy, Trouble Doubled, Mummy from the Heart, Mari's World... and again the list goes so much further.
- The reviews- we have been introduced to some great products through the opportunity to do reviews. And, on this note...

I've been very fortunate to review some great products, one of the most recent was the review of Flexibath Bath Toys from White Step. My three love them and for me bathtime is one of the best parts of the daily routine.

So, for the first of two 'Blogversary' giveaways, White Step have offered a bath toys set to a lucky reader to make bath times fun everywhere! All you have to do is follow the instructions below:

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Meme: How do you find the time to...

I've been tagged by the lovely Emma and The Mini Me's and Me to continue the 'How and when do you find the time to' meme that was created by Sex, Drugs, Rocker and... Stroller 

The rules:

  • Please post the rules
  • When answering the questions, please give as much detail as possible!
  • Leave a comment on Sex, Drugs, Rocker and... Stroller so we can keep track of the meme and can steal your routine tips to make the world a happier place.
  • Also if you want (and I'd really like you to!) add a little paragraph at the bottom to give a general summing up about your weekly routine!
  • Tag three or more people and link to them on your blog
  • Tweet tweet tweet #howdoyoufindthetimetomeme

Here goes...
How and when do you find the time to... your laundry
I rely on days working from home. I have the washing machine on full time, and have to rely on what ever the weather throws at us. And then rely on the tumble dryer if it's raining. I tried doing it all at the weekend, but hate doing housework on my days off and like to be out of the house. It scares me how much laundry we have, and how much damage I am inevitably doing to the environment... and our bills... but it's making our house a happier place.

...write a blog post
I must admit to getting more adept at scheduling. When I started I used to write and publish. Now I might write some on the train to London, I might have a drink on the weekend and feel melancholy. I find that I have real up and down times with blogging if work is throwing too much brain work my way, so take advantage of creativity and get a few drafted or scheduled.

...look after yourself... i.e. wash your hair, paint your nails, take a bubble bath, etc.
Ha ha ha. I used to wash my hair every other day, I have trained it to ever two days since the boys. I let it dry naturally if I'm not at work, and typically that takes all day. I went a year without having my hair cut after the boys were born- I am rubbish.
On my wedding day I was groomed to perfection- I would like to get back to that.... one day.
I don't paint my nails- they're a state. I hate baths, fortunately.
I have recently had my hair dyed and cut, it is my resolution to maintain this... if I am proved capable, I might go back to the acrylic nails I managed for the whole of six months post wedding (I hate my nails and loved them).

...spend time with your other half?
does every night whilst listening out for the little ones count?
We are trying, with the support of my parents, to get better at this. I felt I was using all their generosity as they help out so much when I'm working away, but they pointed out how little time we have together, without  having the children at the forefront of our minds, so we now try and do things as a couple hmmmm at least every six weeks.

... do fun stuff with your LO?
I'm a little better at this as I treasure my time with them so much. I've been fortunate that my boss acknowledges my hours at work, so sometimes I can get a couple of hours off to take them to soft play or bake a cake, and at the weekends we try to do stuff. When I'm working at home I try to finish at 5 so I can have time with them. It's never enough.

... spend time with family?
We try and do something with my parents at least once a month. My parents look after the children a lot, so I go out for coffee with my mum or we'll all go out for a meal.
We've moved 200 odd miles to be closer to them, so we try to make sure they do.
My MIL is in the process of moving to South Wales so I would imagine we'll do something with her every week.

... socialise with friends?
Hmmm, is this really a meme about guilt trips.
It's rubbish to say, but it's not good how much life changes, I would say 'priorities' but it's not even that. We have every intention- and someone will get ill, or work gets in the way, or the weather... or just everything... and it's a two-way street, so even more variables.
Unlike having one, I can't imagine landing on anyone's doorstep with three children on tow, so everything has to be planned.... and there's so much we can't plan for now.
We've been fortunate that a lot of friends from the other side of the border are happy to come and 'holiday' for a weekend or so, so whilst we may not see friends often we do get quality time.
I like to think I have friends who may not like how rubbish we are (I am!), but accept this. I hope they'll be the ones we'll be stopping with as our children throw mad house parties in years to come (how I laugh!).
I try to make sure I see friends once a month, it's not always possible.

.... prepare an evening meal juggling a baby/ toddler bedtime routine?
and from guilt trip we've moved on to holy grail.
If we're all home I do bedtime routine and the OH does the evening meal (fortunately the OH does the majority of the cooking so I can have more time with the LOs).
If it's just me, I'll eat the same as Squeaks. We are lucky that we have a kitchen/ dining table/ play space, so the LOs will be playing in their kitchen as I pretend to have a clue what's going on in the grown up version.
Everyone around the table is definitely easier with only one grown up.

... deep clean your home?
My aching sides. My childminder told me she's hoovers her lounge floor three times a day- knowing my three I believe her!
Our deep cleans, probably once a month when we've got people visiting. I have fond memories of my mum doing a deep clean every Friday. We just haven't got to that state of organisation.

.... do the food shopping?
This is probably the cause of our finance leakage. The OH plays squash most evenings and goes to the supermarket on the way home- we always need milk and.... It's convenient and easy. I also think if we did a monthly, or fortnightly, shop we'd save money.... hmmm, that state of organisation.... one day.

... bulk ironing?
I am so looking forward to Squeaks starting nursery school in September- I think she'll thrive, so I am excited for her. So, whilst other mums may be crying at the emotion of the milestone, I'll be crying at the introduction of an ironing pile.
I have so few clothes which need ironing, it's a completely built in response to shopping for clothes- must not need ironing. And I know as the LOs start school it's going to be the introduction of a new household chore.... damn the education system!

The summary?
I think I'm just adopting the stance of natural optimist. One day I will have time for all of this. One day I'll prioritise better. I'm sure there's all sorts of mantras around about not missing this time with your children- and so, as I miss too much at work I'm sticking to my excuse that I'm not willing to miss anymore due to housework (I do hope you're convinved... I'm not!).

And so, as I think of Luke Skywalker and Yoda, or for a better mental image, as I turn to my Carrie Bradshaw's.... I would like to tag a few mums of multiples for that holy grail...

Please, forever in debt to any guidance you can offer:

Blue Bear Wood
Multiple Mummy
Mummy from the Heart
Here Come the Girls

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Project #366 Week 24

So, a very late entry for me, but here is last week in pictures:

Sunday: Squeaks still very proud of the glitter cat she had applied to her arm as part of the fun of my cousin's wedding.
Monday: Squeaks gets artistic and shows me her picture of a kangaroo on a parcel going up to her Nana's.
Tuesday: London: the Shard
Wednesday: Shard at night- if you squint
Thursday: Oh yes, it's the Shard again
Friday: Realisation. Not sure if it was of spending too much time in hotels, or my instinct to keep taking the pens.
Saturday: Moving beds at night, looks like the thought of returning to her own bed got waylaid by the need to sleep.

Johnson Babies

Johnson Babies

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Friday, 15 June 2012

Childcare- what works for you?

Our little boys have recently started doing one day a week with a childminder.
We made the decision following some events which has meant the OH needs support and this has been a step in the right direction.

We have previously looked at the price of nurseries in the area and knew this would not be an option we could afford. We had not considered a childminder before but fortunately events collided and the opportunity became available.

Our experience with childcare has been very much finance determined.

When I went back to work after maternity leave with Squeaks and the OH became the SAHD it was on the proviso that Squeaks went to nursery one day a week. We had little/ no support up North and as I work away it was the only way we could guarantee regular respite for the OH.

Private Day Nursery
We chose a day nursery for Squeaks from 6 months. As most parents will recall you are provided with lots of literature about selecting childcare. My instinct went with a day nursery after doing quite a bit of research. For some reason I didn't like the idea of a childminder, my priority at the time was to ensure Squeaks benefited from the experience and I liked the idea of her socialising with babies her age and upwards.
Squeaks went to nursery for a year. After finding out we were pregnant with the boys we agreed it was an expense we could not afford.
The experience though was excellent. Squeaks went from not being happy to be left to running in... and yes, from being carried in to walking!
The nursery provided daily reports on activities, as well as regular craft trinkets and a 'Learning Journey' book full of reports, progress and 'art'. It is such a cherished reminder of her first years,and one as a parent we should do but tend to think we'll remember it all.
We learned how Squeaks has mummy wrapped round her finger, Squeaks would eat food in nursery she wouldn't eat for me, she'd cry when I tried to leave but be fine literally two minutes later.
I do not look back on the experience as an unnecessary expense, but it was a luxury.
Johnson Babies
Squeaks spent her last day at nursery cleaning up!

Day Care Centre/ Pre School
Once the boys were born I realised how much support we needed and how Squeaks also needed respite from the needs of the babies.
Fortunately the local school was associated with a day centre centre which took children from two years. The school was the one we would have chosen for Squeaks so seemed ideal.
Unfortunately it was full.
More fortunately for the OH they took pity on our situation and rather than making us wait till September for a place they offered us a place on their summer scheme. Not quite as structured as the usual 'play school' as it catered for a wide range of children nevertheless it was what we needed.
Squeaks was able to do the hours she would do in the September to get used to the environment.
The set up was great in terms of the different areas for the activities, different days meant different themes. Squeaks enjoyed her time.
From the September it improved to suit the younger age group. The timings were mornings or afternoons, rather than the Summer 'pay by the hour' and therefore the time was more structured in terms of activities, group activities, singing and stories.
We were really sorry that as Squeaks was being to thrive in the environment we had to take her out as part of our move to Wales.
Johnson Babies
A year on, last day at Pre-school

Play School
On moving to Wales we looked for a similar pre-school arrangement as we had in Yorkshire. We found only two similar options locally- a play school and a nursery. With the costs of the nursery so much higher. and our needs being more about Squeaks than needing flexibility we visited the play school and were happy with what it offered.
With honesty, it was not as flexible as the pre-school in Yorkshire- it opens three mornings a week, so no opting for certain days or mornings or afternoons. The play school is at a community centre so it does not have the same facilities. But nonetheless, it is next to a park, the hall is split into different activity areas- and Squeaks loves it.
Obviously because she has developed so much since pre-school, she quickly voiced disapproval at not being able to go to play school, whether it be due to school holidays or weekends. She has lots of friends whom she talks about by name, and she is frank about what happens- especially the day she got told off, it turns out  she's not allowed to shout and scream at play school. Heigh ho!

Reflecting on these experiences with Squeaks what I realise with the benefit of hindsight it that I expected too much from her too soon, and actually by luck we have made the right decisions for her.
Nursery for Squeaks was right at 6mths, she was not ready for anything else. At 2 she was a little too young for pre-school but she needed time away from the boys and this met everyone's needs.
Play school at 2 1/2 was perfect, she has thrived.

Squeaks is now begging to start big school and we have our fingers crossed that come September we will be able to make this happen.

So, moving on to the boys and the childminder.
This again has been a good halfway house for the boys. The key difference between Squeaks and the boys is that I don't have the same nagging thoughts about the boys needing to socialise with other little people. They have their big sister, their cousins, and ultimately each other.

The priority for them has been to get them used to other adults (my parents are the only ones brave enough to babysit), and as an additional benefit to meet other little people.

When selecting childcare for twins the recommendations are even more detailed- looking after twins is different!
We have been soooooo fortunate.
We have moved to a village where a friend lives. I met my friend in playschool, thirty odd years ago. We had twins within two weeks of each other.... anyone else thinking match making?
My friend found a childminder when the girls were six months. So a year on when we decided to look for support one day a week, it transpired that the girls were about to drop a day with the childminder.
We now have the perfect arrangement where the boys have picked up a day a week, and we alternate an additional day every fortnight.
And as for the childminder and experience, well, does a mum of twins count? And after a year of looking after the girls they're well prepared for the boys.
We really have landed on our feet.
The boys are still uncertain, it's not regular enough for them to have adjusted- yet, but we've been here with Squeaks and I do think it will be a good experience. Admittedly more essential for dad rather than them, but beneficial to them as well.

It's amazing how none of this was planned, that we have inadvertently benefited from the various types of childcare offered.
I am left with no preference, apart from as always, to say follow any instincts you have, I've found that works better than any amount of desk research!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Flexibath Bath Toys: Product review

One thing that we never had a problem with the Johnson Babies was bath time. They are all water babies. Admittedly Tiny likes to spend his time stood up, but try to take him out and he screams the place down till he's allowed back in.
Squeaks has always loved her baths, pre-twins she probably used to spend an hour every morning in the bath and bath crayons were her toy of choice... maybe not the bath's.

As all three have grown a little bit older bath times have become more fun. Squeaks now gets herself in and out of the bath by herself so getting the boys into bed is a little easier, knowing she'll carry on playing and get out if she wants (all the doors are left open and the boys room is next door to the bathroom).

When we were offered the chance to review the Flexibath Bath Toys from Whitestep I knew the little people would love them... although I feared for myself as a spectator and a parent who wants to get them back out of the bath!

The first random thing to say is, I love the packaging. It's very tactile and like all good advertising it tells you what it does on the tin. Because the best thing about these bath toys.... you don't mind that the children are putting them in their mouths... they're safe and environmentally friendly, with a list of materials which they're free from (the science bit!)- basically they don't contain the chemicals that are usually included when producing plastic.

As the toys are made from a soft plastic I was glad that I hadn't provided the boys with another weapon- at the moment everything seems to be used to hit the other over the head!
Fortunately, this was an enjoyable experience for mum as well as the little people.

I was really impressed with how funky the toys are, and how child and baby friendly they are. Like me with the packaging, as soon as the little people saw their new toys in the bath they had to get to grips with them.

Fortunately, the bath toys are based on a coffee/ tea making set with cups, a sugar pot and jug there's more than enough to share.
And as a lover of coffee, I love the idea of teaching them young!

Hopefully, these photos show some of the fun that was had.

I love the shelf that comes with the toys, it gives a sense of focus which overcame my biggest fear- that of filling the receptacles and tipping the water onto the floor.
Squeaks instantly went to work with pouring water across the pieces, and generally having fun.
I really like how it seems to encourage the three sharing- even if Squeaks does have to be in charge of who's having which piece.

The great thing about the set is that it's simple. It's not as bulky as other bath toys, and could probably be easily added to a suitcase so baths when you're away are as much fun (can you tell we're planning a break?!).

From a target audience point of view, Squeaks at 3 loves the set, just like the play kitchen she has, the set encourages an element of role play. The boys at 17months really enjoy both 'throwing' water about and squishing the soft plastic into different shapes.
And, whilst the set may seem a basic concept it does immediately engage, this toy provides an interaction which provides ongoing. At the moment this is the toy which attracts all three first everytime they have a bath, and provides them with enough stimulation throughout bath time- a definite plus in my mind.

The Flexibath bath toys retail at £13.95 from Whitestep and are aimed at children from six months.

Disclaimer: For the purposes of this review we received the Flexibath Bath Toy Set from Whitestep. The opinions and views expressed are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Am I allowed to feel hard done to?- Child benefits

I don't expect this post to get any sympathy, I'm just confused.

So, benefits, eh?
How should they be applied?

We're likely to be in a situation where we'll see our child benefits reduce/ disappear. This BBC page gives some quick detail.

I'm annoyed because only one parent in our family earns a salary.
The OH is a SAHD. It's not necessarily by choice, I think a quick estimate of childcare costs is £28k... and if we were to cover those costs, after deductions, etc we agreed there would be little (if anything) between a take home salary and child care costs.

Now, I know we have to take some responsibility.

Some one mentioned recently whether it was fair that parents of multiples got discount off shoes whilst parents with two children close in age don't. To explain, parents who are members of TAMBA do get some discounts, including Clarks, but surely the difference is, parents who have children close in age usually plan this, or at least have the benefit of choice.
We chose to have our children close together- but we weren't planning (or remotely expecting) to find out that as well as planning for our siblings to have a two year age gap, that we'd also be expecting two on the same day. We didn't plan for twins.
We didn't have the full benefit of recycling our first child's things as we suddenly had a plus one, and had near enough the same expenditure all over again.

So, yes, we chose to have a two year age gap.

We then found with three children a lot more things were necessary, 'up-sizing' for a safe car to hold three car seats, needing a support network- more costs than we could have predicted.
Not an unusual situation but at a time we have the greatest expense as a family we are left balancing the books.

One thing I found most gobsmacking is that when it came to applying for a mortgage things were not to be as straightforward as I expected. It was not a case of simply multiplying my salary.

Responsible mortgage lenders now take the step of applying a calculation against the number of dependents you have, regardless of age. Interestingly, it transpired that my OH is also a dependent as he is a SAHD.
With four dependents I couldn't expect anywhere near a usual multiple of earnings.

Part of me is impressed by this, it is a correct thing to do, ultimately as outlined, children do need to be provided for.

What I am not impressed by is the child benefit equation.
I do not understand how a family with an overall salary of £90k might still be getting child benefit, whereas an overall salary of £50k would trigger the reduction of child benefit.
Government seem to have it sorted for tax credits taking in the whole family, and mortgage companies seem to have it sorted for how much they are willing to lend me.
So, why is child benefit being treated differently?
I know I'm not the only one who's noticed as this link shows.

And that's before I even start on a consideration for how many children you have... and how that family on £90k may only have one child....

I feel annoyed with myself for getting worked up over this. I know in my heart it is energy I am wasting. I know it can potentially open up so much disagreement.
When something is acknowledged as flawed, why is it being pushed through, surely someone has the energy to take the time to get it right?

It is the only benefit we receive, and the truth of it is, it 100% gets invested in the children (doing what it says on the tin) I'm just annoyed. We will have to find the money from somewhere- it's not being frittered.
Everything at the moment just seems to be putting more pressure on the family purse strings, it's not helping us out by any stretch of the imagination.

I can't help but think about the impact of reducing hours, taking demotion.. trying to find a way for both of us to work in jobs that might make us both happy... rather than relying so fully on one parent working... managing risk. This article talks about this a little better.

But that's not what it's about surely, this is about getting us all out of recession, I just wonder if this is going to help?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Book review: The Frank Show

Harper Collins do have a way with books for children. The latest on our read list is 'The Frank Show' by David Mackintosh.

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

I was a little hesitant in settling down with Squeaks to read this book. It doesn't have the same look and feel as most books in our library, but for me there was something fascinating about it, and I hoped Squeaks would feel the same.

The Frank Show is about the dilemma of Show and Tell, about standing up for a whole minute to talk about someone, someone interesting, and not having anyone else to talk about, other than your grandad- Frank.

In itself, The Frank Show tells a wonderful story, about respecting people, about how there are lots of interesting things about people, and sometimes the most interesting things are those which you have to spend time with people to find out.
To Squeaks, she seemed to take away the fact that Tom stopped being a happy friend, but after meeting Grandad Frank he was happy again, and they were best friends. For a three year old's comprehension, I was pretty impressed.

What I knew would keep interest more than the story however was the wonderful illustrations, it's been a while since I've come across a book with such intricate and fascinating detail, and every page has the power to keep attention.

Our first read of the book Squeaks was happy to listen to the story, and to join in with it.
As soon as a closed the book- "Can we read it again?"
And this for me is the recommendation, that despite it being quite a long book for a three year old, that as soon as the tale is told Squeaks is ready to hear it again.
And of course the second time took twice as long, because the second time wasn't about the story, it was about the illustration, and what we could see.

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

And as we continue to read the book at quiet times and bed times it always takes one form or the other- it is about either hearing the story or linking the illustrations to the story.

I can only describe this book as beautiful. It tells such a meaningful story in terms of one that could be so easily lost on the next generation. And then there's the illustration, which is so reminiscent of stories of my childhood and dare I say, Quentin Blake and Roald Dahl, who were so focal to my love of reading as this book has, in its early days, been in our home.

We have found this book absolutely fascinating, and for me provided a great stepping stone to keeping attention in longer books.
A fantastic addition to our bookshelf.

The Frank Show is published by Harper Collins and I would hope available from all good bookshops, if you prefer online convenience, it's available on Amazon.

Disclosure: I was provided with this book for the purposes of the review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, 11 June 2012

The untruths your health visitor tells.... and teething

I will forever be indebted to my first health visitor.
Her name is Charlotte Mansell. And anyone living in Calderdale will hopefully feel the same way.
I had been put off health visitors so when Charlotte met me at nine months pregnant I was determined not to show weakness.
A few weeks later I couldn't have needed her more.
She supported me through so much.
We were fortunate that after a rejig we kept her as our health visitor after the boys were born.
I really miss her now we've moved to Wales.

One conversation I remember well is that of the child who teethes first... walks first.. you know, preys on your insecurities as a mother.
The first thing Charlotte told me is that mothers will only tell you what their child is doing well, not the things they worry about.
And secondly, that whilst her son used to push himself backwards on a trike whilst everyone else pushed forward as part of  'the race', her son was off to uni and some of the others "hadn't done so well for themselves".
I'm not sure of the truth in the latter statement, but in essence both statements say enough.

Typically, the boys are starting to walk right on schedule, the exact same time as their sister.
Squeaks started walking in the July, the boys have started walking in June, take in their month adjusted and they're bang on schedule.

Teething is the same. Squeaks got her first tooth in the December, and then they just kept on coming.
She'd get these terrible colds, and we'd worry so much. And at the end we'd notice another tooth and we'd remember that's how it happened.

With the boys it seems conjunctivitis is the illness of choice. I do not even pretend to understand.
But needless to say, I've been in one of the "I can count on one hand" scenarios with bring Cheeky into sleep with me, and noticed today one of his molars has come through.

It's amazing how quickly they catch up.

As per Michael McIntyre's joke about never seeing an adult crawling with no teeth and wearing nappies... it does all come together.

But oddly, and cruelly, I've not 'dosed' the children up on teething stuff.
As Squeaks dribbled so much and everyone said she was teething we did toys, teething gel, powders- the lot, we had given up by the time the teeth started coming through.
And we just haven't bothered with the boys. I prefer them to have Calpol to know where things are at. And I don't like giving them Calpol... so it's a rare occurrence... they don't like it, so administering it's a nightmare... so it's a win-win!

I'm just so impressed with their ability to cope, of how proud they are now they've started 'walking' as they fall toward you with another tooth to show for their effort!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Popchips: A review

Do I admit that I like going shopping on an empty stomach? It's so much better than going shopping on a full stomach and getting home with zero meals to eat for a week.

What helps when filling my shopping trolley is buying things that taste good but you don't have to feel guilty about.

When this package arrived on our doorstep everyone got excited.

With a good variety of flavours to ensure everyone is happy.

And what of 'Popchips'. How wrong is it for them to be in your shopping trolley? Or even worse, in the snack cupboard?!

Popchips have come from the USA with the slogan "think popped! Never fried, never baked."
Popping is the method of choice, to create an all-natural 'chip', with natural seasoning in a variety of flavours.
The snacks come with the promise of 'all-natural'... and the promise which rang most true was that of "no wiping your greasy chip hand on your jeans".

As a parent who has tried to encourage her little people to try rice cakes, Popchips are a great alternative. They are, of course, very difficult to describe, there are so many types of 'crisps' out there- from your brands like Walkers, to Skips, Quavers, Wotsits.... providing different textures.

The great thing about Popchips are they are just a different texture, but a good different. They are full of flavour. And with the promises of "less than half the fat of fried crisps, fewer calories and none of the fake colours or flavours" and "less than 100 calories for more than 17 crisps in each single-serve bag" you feel like you can't go wrong.
I have to admit, as I frequently 'support' the little people in eating their snacks I was so happy with these.
They do taste good, their texture is 'solid' and the little people have done really well with experimenting with them- and we've done even better!

I really was impressed with them. It took the OH a while to get used to them... they are not crisps.... but having been eating such random foods with the little people these are a welcome addition to the snack cupboard.... although maybe more for the 'grown-ups' than the little people.

You can buy Popchips from Waitrose and other online stores.

Disclosure: We were sent a box of Popchips for the purposes of this review. The opinions and views presented are entirely my own.

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Project #366 - Week 23

Johnson Babies Project 366

Sunday: Picking up grandma and grampy from holiday and being treated to chocolate cake!
Monday: Taking a stroll on the beach
Tuesday: Eating out the baby led weaning way
Wednesday: Butter wouldn't melt.
Thursday: Making a belated birthday cake
Friday: (Cheat photo alert!)- didn't get a good one- so here's Rhoose Point on Monday.
Saturday: Hypnotised by a clown

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Saturday, 9 June 2012

70% grown up- there's hope!

So, following on from top jobs for women, the latest interesting article to make me scratch my head was yesterday's Telegraph- the findings of the Skipton Building Society's '50 things that prove you're a grown up'.
I look at these things like some sort of challenge, secretly willing them to prove that I'm not grown up.
I can conclude that I'm not there yet, although I'm not sure things like gardening and ironing will ever take my fancy.

So, here's my reccie... how about you... have you achieved the holy grail?!!

1.Having a mortgage- Check.
2.Mum and dad no longer make your financial decisions- Check.
3.Paying into a pension- Check. Since I was 15, when dad did make my financial decisions!
4.Conducting a weekly food shop- No, but based on yesterday's Johnson's budget task we will be starting!
5.Written a Will- No, but admit it should be on the to-do list.
6.Having children- Check.
7.Budgeting every month- Check- see number 4.
8.Being able to cook an evening meal from scratch- Check- thanks to home economics in school.
9.Getting married- Check.
10.Having life insurance- No, does critical illness count, and that pension?
11.Recycling- Check, but it comes with the postcode.
12.Having a savings account- Half check- have three savings account but for each of the children.
13.Knowing what terms like 'ISA' and 'tracker' mean- Check.
14.Watching the news- Check.
15.Owning a lawn mower- Check.
16.Doing your own washing- Half check. I still ask my mum to do my three handwash garments because I'm scared of ruining them.
17.Taking trips to the local tip- Check. And yes, check out my garage with space!
18.Planting flowers- No- woohoo!
19.Being able to bleed a radiator- No- another woohoo!
20.Having a joint bank account- No- on a roll now!
21.Having a view on politics- Check. Always have.
22.Keeping track of interest rates- No.
23.Finding a messy house annoying- Check.
24.Being able to change a light bulb- Check.
25.Owning a vacuum cleaner- Check.
26.Holding dinner parties- Hmmm, do curry nights count? I think so as preferred to night out (definitely getting old.
27.Listening to Radio 2- No.
28.Enjoying gardening- No.
29.Spending weekend just 'pottering'- Check.
30.Mum starts asking you for advice- Check.
31.Carrying spare shopping bags just in case- Check. Mainly because you have to pay for them in Wales.
32.Like going round garden centres- No.
33.Wearing coats on a night out- Check.
34.Going to bed before 11pm- No.
35.Making sure mum and dad are phoned at least once a week- Check.
36.Classing work as a career rather than a job- Check. Because it makes me feel better.
37.Repairing torn clothing rather than throwing it away- No.
38.You iron- No.
39.You wash up immediately after eating- Check.
40.Enjoy cooking- Check.
41.Buying a Sunday paper- No.
42.Always going out with a sensible pair of shoes- Check.
43.You like receiving gift vouchers- Check.
44.Work keeps you awake at night- Check.
45.Filing post- Check.
46.Having a 'best' crockery set- No.
47.Being able to change a car tyre- No. The AA man told me I should always phone them!
48.Being sensible enough to remove make up off before bedtime- Check.
49.Being able to follow a receipt- Check.
50.Owning 'best towels' as well as 'everyday towels'- Check.

Saturday is Caption Day

Saturday is Caption Day

Friday, 8 June 2012

We love Barry Island!

There's nothing like friends staying and a bank holiday weekend to make the most of our nearby tourist attractions. We are fortunate that Barry Island is our nearest sand beach and is only a ten minute drive down the road. We tend to avoid it when the weather is really good but couldn't overlook the opportunity to show our Yorkshire friends how fortunate the move has been for us... and now for them as they are welcome anytime!

We spent Monday on the beach and as always we're amazed by how a bit of fresh air does the children a world of good... not only was there a long afternoon nap but also a full night's sleep!

The boys are now completely at ease with the texture of sand, Squeaks just completely loves it (we've had to invest in a sandpit at home as the constant requests for sandcastles is draining).

The added bonus of this trip was that our friends brought a kite with them, the conditions were perfect, and Squeaks was over the moon to get to fly her own kite!

And on the way home we even checked out the funfair:

We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep... I can't wait for the next step... exploring the rock pools!!!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Mike the Knight - Clothing review

As a massive fan of Merlin I was really excited to find out CBeebies has decided it's great to start them early and introduced Mike the Knight.

Mike the Knight of course comes with the parent-friendly message of "Be a Knight, Do it Right". Mike is faced with challenges and with the help of his friends always manages to come up trumps.

It's probably Mike's friends that the Johnson babies are the biggest fans:

Can you spot them? There in the background? Sparkie and Squirt are dragons, one fire breathing, one water. Squeaks was desperate for Squirt as we built sandcastles this week and really wanted to follow a great Mike the Knight episode where Squirt fills up the moat... it wasn't to be!

We were delighted to get the opportunity to review a Mike the Knight t-shirt which Tesco has introduced to its clothing range. Now, we love Tesco clothing (especially recently with the Clubcard exchange) with two little ones to dress we need variety and value for money. Squeaks usually has Minnie or Peppa Pig clothing from Tesco so it's great that we can now dress them all in characters they love.

The t-shirt we received started at 18-24 months and from £5. Admittedly the boys are only just getting away with 18months, and with the bonus that Tesco clothes actually seem the right size, we have the added bonus that we'll get lots of wear out of the t-shirt!

 The t-shirt is so popular that when one is wearing it the other is constantly trying to get contact with Mike! And of course we can vouch for the fact it washes well as the photos show (it was washed in-between!).

If you have Mike the Knight fans in your home, this range of clothing will make their day!

Disclosure: For the purposes of this review we received an 18-24mth t-shirt. The opinions and views expressed are entirely my own.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Silent Sunday

Johnson Babies

Project #366 - Week #22

Sunday: Sumo wrestling babies
Monday: Peekaboo playhouse
Tuesday: Concentrating
Wednesday: Sharing
Thursday: Jubilee girl
Friday: Table manners
Saturday: High five

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Children's Theatre: Not your usual afternoon tea!

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

I think I had one of those days when Squeaks was a baby and was in need of retail therapy of the book kind. We ended up with a stack of books, all with one thing in common- they were my favourite as a child.

On top of the list was "The Tiger Who Came to Tea" by Judith Kerr, along with Kerr's other books featuring Mog the Cat.
I don't know if my parents have these books to blame for my first pet being a kitten, but now as we snuggle up at night to read these books I still love to how they trigger a little one's imagination and creativity.

Hearing that your favourite book has been turned into a film, or a play, is never a good feeling.
But fortunately "The Tiger Who Came to Tea" was a recommendation from a friend, so I was happy that we both snapped up tickets for an afternoon performance at the New Theatre, Cardiff.

A lot was going against us in seeing this, Squeaks wasn't on form and I forgot the rugby was on. An inpromptu stop at the Park and Ride to get into Cardiff sorted the latter problem, only TLC could do pacify the former.

Children amaze me, we had the claim of being afraid of tiger, followed by a request for a tiger flag; not wanting to go to the see the Tiger, but wanting to see Sophie; wanting to go home, but we had to go to the theatre; the list went on.
I felt a small sense of achievement as we took our seats!

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Squeaks was of course mesmorised by the performance, fortunately for my enjoyment whilst the performance lasted near to an hour (and I've never managed to make the book last that long) it remained completely true to the book.

The additions were well placed, all encouraging audience participation- something children's theatre has to be about. We (me) enjoyed singing along and learning actions to a song, Squeaks was watching intently/ poorly throughout, she did enjoy it- testament to which she never asked to go home once after the performance started and even moved to sit on my lap to get a better view.

The one thing I would say, is I think we had good seats in the stalls; I don't think seats in the circle or upper circle would have made for such a good experience, with only three actors and lots of interaction it feels like a very engaging piece of theatre; although contradicting myself it is 'direct from the West end'.... I just don't think I'd be fussed on trying to ensure a good view in a big theatre.

The bit that may made smile most was nothing to do with the performance, and more to do with our latest parenting dilemma:

As the babies are now 'baby-led weaning' whereas we are trying to encourage Squeaks to use cutlery and eat at the table, we have recently been using the book to reinforce this, and every time the Tiger "Owp"'s the food without any manners we have been reinforcing this- seemed like a good idea at the time.

Every time it happened today it turned out it was only Squeaks participating as she kept calling out "Naughty Tiger".

I loved "The Tiger Who Came to Tea", recommended for children over 3, this is a great reinforcement of the book, and equally enjoyable in isolation of the book.

I loved that it effortlessly lasted near to an hour, and that it was engaging, enjoyable and perfect as theatre for little people.

If you want to see if The Tiger will be coming for tea near you, check here.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review. We purchased tickets for the performance and wanted to share an opportunity for little ones to experience great theatre.

Saturday is Caption Day

Bath time is never boring at the Johnson's!

Johnson Babies

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