Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Our love of Judith Kerr

Squeaks received the most gorgeous Christmas gift when she was 2. 'Mog the Forgetful Cat' fast became one of her favourite books.
It is a beautiful story and Squeaks was gifted with the pop out edition, and the interactivity meant at her tender age she was mesmerised.

Squeaks has fast become a fan of Judith Kerr.
'The Tiger Who Came To Tea' was one of the collection I put together for her as a baby, yet as a toddler the book became hers, when put under pressure she can recite the book- as long as you are on the right page.

We received 'My Henry' to review. And I must admit my views prevailed for this book.
The book is beautiful, the illustrations are wonderful, and they did hold a place with Squeaks. And she loved the pictures.
For me, the story is about what life is about. In the case of Henry's wife it's about life and that no matter what it can't compare to her perfect life. For mum, it was too close. For my beautiful child it was perfect- this was where your imagination should lead you.

'The Great Granny Gang' is Judith Kerr's most recent publication. And this holds a place in the heart of anyone who recalls their gran/ nan/ mamgu with fondness.

I loved the reference to the gran who drove a van. My mum didn't have a car until we left home, due to my brothers' moto-cross hobby we only had a transit van. It made me smile.

Both Squeaks and I loved the illustrations in the book.The rhythmical narrative of the book drew Squeaks in, and as always her narrative was a constant throughout.

Admittedly, mummy and daddy both wear 'hoodies' so some of the messages were a little more difficult for the grown ups, but for Squeaks this was about right versus wrong, and right won out.

Squeaks did love the illustrations, especially the hot air balloon and the crocodile.
At her age (3 [and a half!]) the book was open enough to love the illustrations and discuss the content without prejudice. I do wonder about reinforcing stereotypes, but I'm happy that mummy and daddy do have a role to play in questioning Squeaks in our thinking.

For Squeaks, there is no getting away from a good book, and this certainly met her mark.

Disclaimer: We received 'My Henry' and 'The Great Granny Gang' to include in this review. The opinions contained are our own. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


Too Soon (Mary Yarnall)

This was a life that had hardly begun
No time to find your place in the Sun
No time to do all you could have done
But we loved you enough for a lifetime

No time to enjoy the world and its wealth
No time to take life down off the shelf
No time to sing the songs of yourself
Though you had enough love for a lifetime

Those who live long endure sadness and tears
But you'll never suffer the sorrowing years
No betrayal, no anger, no hatred, no fears
Just love- Only love- In your lifetime

Monday, 29 October 2012

No-sew tutu for Halloween

I have to admit, since having read this on Sprinkle of Glitter earlier this year we have been completely bought into no sew tutu's.

Our original attempt was for the Jubilee, and Squeaks blue and white tutu with red ribbon went down a storm.

So much so that she requested a pink one for another party.

When it came to Halloween preparations I wondered what outfit Squeaks would come up with, her recent insistence on wearing her pirate outfit on all special occasions meant her response to be a 'pumpkin' was a bit of a curve ball.
I was a little bit happy, despite in her first year, and second, getting all excited about the wonderful outfits you can buy for Halloween, I was feeling a little bit of 'been there, got that one'.
So, we agreed Squeaks would be a pumpkin-witch. Her outfit will be a tutu and a witches hat (she would have had a broom but between the three little people we had done more than enough damage before even reaching the paypoint).

This time I decided to do it a little different. With her first two tutu's a had used 0.5m of three different colours, and I didn't really get a 'wow' as a result. I tried a longer length, but this was a bit of a hazard, so we stuck with 0.5m long (and then tied in a knot).

So, as always, all we needed were scissors, elastic and netting. I decided on 2.5 metres of each- an extra metre but it didn't get wasted.

I was happy of the support of my little helper, who enjoyed helping with chopping (under strict supervision), as well as tying knots, although the excitement did wear off pretty fast.

So, for Halloween, I've actually made two tutus, one as a pumpkin, and one as a witch, and I've then tied them together. My thinking was that I didn't think the orange would be strong enough on its own, and I didn't want to mix orange and black for fear of the black washing out the orange.

Squeaks has tried on the orange and I'm really happy with it.

But I'm a lot more excited to see how it looks with the black underneath this Wednesday.

I think it really makes a difference.

With the added bonus of being able to separate them for future mergers with the rest of the colours of the rainbow.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Project #366 - Week 43

So, this week has felt a bit easier, but probably not.

I spent two days doing interviews. It's always interesting to find out about people and what they think sets them aside.
I had the benefit of meeting a lovely lady who credits a lot of her success to a positive attitude, and not as in 'can do attitude'  but almost in a misplaced optimism. That as long as you continue to believe, you can come out the other side, and, if nothing else, at least you have positivity on your side.
Hmmm, such parallels with Project #366!

So, my photos of the week:

Sunday, oddly it's the boys leading Squeaks into trouble, as they introduce her to their favourite window sill in the house.
Monday: The Awards I have spent a year working towards- convincing others, agreeing a suitable plan, organising, judging panels, sorting articles for a media partnership, thinking about the event. Needless to say, it was a specular let down, I didn't get the big bang I was hoped for, I didn't go out and get sloshed afterwards. Instead my throat started hurting, and my voice remains a shadow of its former self.
Tuesday: a much needed MMS pick-me up- Squeaks getting ready for her swimming lesson.
 Wednesday: Home in time to put Little Miss to bed, she had other ideas- "If you can get me out of the box I'll go to bed."
Thursday: The boys discover where I'd left my phone and spend a while on the stairs having conversations.
Friday: More sharing of troublesome ideas. This time the overturned halloween tub- obviously.

Saturday: a much enjoyed birthday party, discovering a new play centre- the boys seem to like it.

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

My heart runneth over

I finished yesterday's post with this line.
It sums up my week.

I have had three days away with work. And as always I have missed my family.

And to come home to my family, it is indescribable how uplifting it feels to turn my key in the front door.

I have been reminded this week how precious life is.
How every moment is there is be lived.
Memories created.

This week I have received something beautiful in the post, thanks to the random act of kindness from Sarah @ Boo, Roo and Tigger Too.

And I have been grateful for kindness from a lovely lady named Nicola, and would ask anyone who can to support Alexander's Charity Ball.

I have attended my first 'parents evening', and had reinforced my feelings about my daughter. That she has the enthusiasm and kindness so contagious on contact.

My little boys continue to astound me. To beat up on each other, but to show compassion when the tears start. Who could refuse the offer of a sick blanket (muslin) and do-dy (dummy)?

My children- my heart.

Friday, 26 October 2012

It's Oliver Jeffers!!! "This Moose belongs to me"

So, mummy's got excited, Oliver Jeffers... a new book.. do I need to say anything else?

As a massive fan I was eager to see the latest book and, as there are some things in life that you can rely on, I love "This Moose Belongs to Me". In a bit of a change, the illustration in this book contain some beautiful landscapes, and accompanying this are the characters which create so much affection.

The contrasting illustration is wonderful, showing the characters which are recognisable from other picture books by Oliver Jeffers, within a landscape which is so real. I am once again reminded of my lack of imagination when I think about how such fantastic images were conjured onto paper.

"This Moose Belongs to Me" takes you on Wilfred's journey, of trying to 'own' an animal. And of the lovely Marcel, who has an independence to be proud of.
As always, the book provokes so much discussion with little people. Starting as always with emotions, and going onto what things we have to do to be nice to each other.
Squeaks has loved the book. She loves talking to me through the pictures, and if I'm allowed to read the story there are so many questions which fall out. In my view this is not a bed time story- it would take far too long to read. This has become one of the stories we read when Squeaks is having some quiet time early evening. It is wonderful to sit down and get some time with her just talking about a book.

And, if I wondered if Squeaks liked Oliver Jeffers as much as me, on our first read, as we reached the end, Squeaks looked at me and said "there's no dvd?"
My child amazes me. Our recent Oliver Jeffers books have all had accompanying DVDs. It is not simply that she enjoys the books, but she identifies the author.
My heart runneth over.

"This Moose Belongs to Me" is published by Harper Collins, at the moment on Amazon it is retailing for £8.09

Disclosure: We received a copy of the book for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views expressed are entirely our own.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom- Live on Stage!

I usually do reviews of how trips to the theatre, I was really pleased to receive this press release as it means I can actually let you know about something we're going to see in advance! Squeaks is really excited, and I've decided to take Cheeky and Tiny with us- wish us luck!



An exciting new stage production for children, Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, opens this week at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford on Friday 26 October, this year visiting a total of seven venues. With ticket sales going well, tour dates for 2013 are now announced with 44 venues currently confirmed. Further tour dates are still being added.   

From the makers of Peppa Pig and the producers of the two hugely successful Peppa Pig theatre tours comes this first ever stage version of the BAFTA award-winning TV animation, Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom. Currently a top favourite show for pre-schoolers, this charmingly magical animation airs on Nick Jr (since April 2009) and on 5’s Milkshake (since April 2010). Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom is co-owned by animation studio Astley Baker Davies and has been a hit with audiences and critics alike. The series won a BAFTA award for Best Pre-School Animation in 2009 and a British Animation Award for Best Pre-School Series in 2012. 

The Little Kingdom – where everyone is very, very small – is home to Princess Holly and her best friend Ben Elf. Holly is a young fairy princess who is still learning how to do magic properly and sometimes her spells don’t work out quite right. Ben is an Elf. Elves don’t do magic but they are very good at making things. Ben doesn’t have wings like Holly but he flies on the back of Gaston the Ladybird. 

In this exciting new musical adventure, Ben and Holly have fun and games helping Gaston clean up his messy cave; they go on a trip to The Big World with tooth-fairy Nanny Plum; and still have time to plan a surprise for King Elf’s birthday party, complete with an unplanned jelly flood. 

Packed full of games, songs and laughter, this is an enchanting and magical visit to the Little Kingdom, live on stage for the very first time. This beautiful story of elves, princesses and childhood innocence will delight all the family. 

The cast is Danielle Black, Victoria Corlass, Claire Coultry, Nicky Cross, Kerry Gooderson, Nicola Hart, Matt Lewis and David Sandham. 

Richard Lewis has adapted the TV animation for the stage and also directs. He also adapted and directed the two highly popular Peppa Pig theatre tours (2009 – 2011 and the current tour 2011 – 2012, both of which had sell-out West End Christmas runs at the Criterion Theatre) and the two LazyTown Live! tours (2007 – 2009). 

Original music is by Mani Svavarsson, original lyrics by Matt Lewis, set design is by Simon Scullion, lighting design is by Matt Haskins and sound design by Ian Horrocks-Taylor. 

The actors will wear masks in this production, created by Russell Dean, Artistic Director of Strangeface Theatre Company. Russell worked for a number of years with the award-winning Trestle Theatre Company as their designer and mask-maker. Other theatre credits include commissions for the long-running West End musical Billy Elliott and the Old Vic's Bridge Project. For television he created masks for music groups such as the SugaBabes and Oasis as part of an ITV promotion for the Brit Awards in 1998. The masks he created of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to promote Channel 4’s The Deal (part of their 2003 ‘Tony Blair Season’) were also featured on the front cover of Private Eye. 

 Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom is produced by Fiery Angel and Limelight Productions (Fiery Light Productions) who also produced LazyTown Live!, Roald Dahl’s The BFG and the two Peppa Pig stage tours, Peppa Pig’s Party and Peppa Pig’s Treasure Hunt. 

Disclosure: The Johnson Babies were fortunate enough to win a ticket for the performance, and we also ran a competition on this blog for a family ticket. We have received no compensation for this post.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows: Blog App and Giveaway

So, for fans of Johnny Depp, and, in our case, massive fans of Tim Burton, Warner Bros. Pictures has released Dark Shadows, on DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as the Dark Shadows Blog App!!

From the incredible mind of Tim Burton comes the hit film Dark Shadows, based on the classic US television series! Barnabas Collins has been trapped for two centuries by an evil witch (Eva Green) who just happens to be an ex lover. Barnabas now has to struggle with the ever changing 1970s and save his family’s business! With an all star cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller and more, Dark Shadows will be sure to whet your appetite for fun.

Check out:
  • The "Are You Creepy Enough Quiz!" Do your friends refer to you as a Child of the Night or do you shiver at the thought of a creepy crawly? Take the Are You Creepy Enough quiz to find out.
  • Barnabas’ Terror Trivia! Are you a Barnabas buff? Take the 3 truths and a lie trivia all about Barnabas Collins and you can unlock clips and downloads from Dark Shadows.
  • Dark Shadows Horror-Scope! Whether you are a Virgo Vampire or a Transylvanian Taurus, you can get your custom hauntified Horror-Scope.

And of course, we've got a blu-ray triple play to giveaway, all you have to do is follow the rafflecopter instructions:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Competition Terms & Conditions:
1. This competition is open to residents of the UK, except for those associated with the company, their families or anyone else associated with this competition.
2. All information detailing how to enter this competition forms part of these terms and conditions.
3. All entries must be received by the advertised closing time date.
4. One entrant shall win a Dark Shadows Blu-Ray Triple Play Pack.
5. The winner may be required to take part in publicity.
6. All prizes are non-transferable and there are no cash alternatives. The prize is subject to availability.
7. Events may occur that render the competition itself or the awarding of the prizes impossible due to reasons beyond the control of the Promoter, and accordingly the Promoter may at its absolute discretion vary or amend the promotion and the entrant agrees that no liability shall attach to the Promoter as a result thereof.
8.Johnson Babies is responsible for the first part of the promotion, which is the publication and adjudication of the competition. All other facilities connected with the provision of the prize are the responsibility of the Promoter.
9. English law applies and the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts shall prevail.

Disclosure: this competition is offered through Warner Bros., I have recieved no financial compensation in bringing you this competition.

Tomy Megasketcher- A review

We recently received a Tomy Megasketcher to review. The megasketcher is a magnetic drawing board which comes with a pen and four stamps.

I have distant memories of my Etch a Sketch and something a little more similar, but my memory is of something "a lot more bumpy". The Megasketcher creates smooth images and with the slider it is possible to instantly erase images created.

The Tomy Megasketcher is suitable for children aged 3 and up. Although in saying that, the boys at 22 months have been having a lot of fun with it.

Squeaks has been really taken with it. She has enjoyed making pictures, and she loves the idea that she can make them disappear (the joy of magnets and metal powder!).

When we received the Megasketcher, of course it was an instant success. Squeaks and I had great fun, probably for near on an hour, making pictures, drawing faces, and trying to guess what the other was drawing.
I was really impressed by the way she focused on drawing, and despite a few "I don't know how to do that", she was really good at giving it a go when encouraged.

I obviously loved the fact we were messing around on the Megasketcher rather than the usual reams of paper- less tidying up and environmentally friendly, what a bonus!

You do need to keep an eye on where the stamps might end up, fortunately the pen is attached which is not really possible with the stamps!

We played mainly with the stamps to create pictures, using the pen for finishing touches.
But for me, we are only just starting to explore the real benefits of the board.
I think this is going to be a really good way to get Squeaks involved in reading and writing.
We've already made sure we can both draw shapes, and things that are represented by certain colours, as well as practising numbers by counting the objects drawn.
It seems to be, that when the time is right, we can begin practising forming the letters of the alphabet and writing.

But for now, it is something that Squeaks will take out to play with at least once a day. Something she is as happy to play on her own as she is with others in her company.
At 3 and a half this seems the ideal time for her to have this toy. Squeaks has started nursery school and as part of this has objects and words relating to 'the letter of the week'. The megasketcher seems an easy way to reinforce this through through a toy which is enjoyed, of course the trick will be maintaining this balance!

The Megasketcher is available for £14.99, I think this is a good price to pay for a gift which potentially, if used as I think it can be, will support learning and development. I think compared to other similar products it's a great quality board and hardwearing enough to survive the joy that little people bring.

Disclaimer: We received the Tomy Megasketcher from Find me a gift for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views expressed are our own.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Taking household chores seriously

So, this weekend I became aware of how I am just skirting around the edges of keeping our house clean and tidy.
On the side of positives, my 'minimum standards' are that the kitchen and bathrooms are clean, that all the clothes are clean and put away. And that we run the hoover round as often as possible.

This weekend I became aware of how often I push things to one side.
That as we walk around the house carrying one thing, or a child, that I consciously overlook what's under my nose.

Last Sunday night as I packed my bags for London I put the pair of shoes by the door I was intending to wear.
Monday morning, I changed my mind, And yes, at 0530 instead of putting my shoes away I left them by the door and went off to work.
When I got home on Wednesday night I thought it was really cute that my shoes were upstairs, that no doubt Squeaks had been wearing them around the house (the safe assumption).

Until this Sunday night, where I once again decided on the same pair of shoes for the Monday train to London. I nipped upstairs. There was only one shoe there. I searched high and low. No sign.
It's ok, I thought to myself I'll wear my green shoes (it's only until I get to London and put my 'heels' on).
Until I remembered for whatever reason they'd ended up in the sandpit over the summer and somehow been left there (past the point of no return and all).

Fortunately, after much searching I found the other shoe.

And whilst I spent my time searching I found lots of parts belonging to other pieces and pairs.
And realised, that we are far from the point of having a tidy house.

One for the New Year's Resolutions list?

Monday, 22 October 2012

Keep us Close- Support families

Some days life feels like it might have dealt you a rough deal, and then you get home, and your child smiles at you, and in an instant you know it's going to be ok.

This weekend I got to spend quality time with my family. We decided on Friday evening that Mr J would take Squeaks with him to Nana Windows whilst he carries on decorating. I got to spend time with the boys, enjoying their company.

On Sunday morning we swapped, Squeaks and I made a Halloween tutu, and then we all went out for lunch.

There was little planning involved, and no need to think further than our own family unit in the choices we made.

Currently families of disabled children have to travel long distances to recieve important services such as schools and healthcare. This means that these families struggle to spend quality time together with long periods spent i the car driving to and from appointments. This places undue strain on the children, their parents and grandparents as well as the wider family.

There are more than half a million families in the UK with a disabled child.  

And for those parents it's a daily challenge to give them the support they need.  But the current lack of services near their home makes it much harder than it needs to be. More than six in ten parents can't get the services they need in their local area and are fighting tough long battles to find them elsewhere.

SCOPE is currently running a campaign about the Children and Families Bill that the English Government is currently putting through Parliament, as well as the Welsh SEN Bill. The Bills provides a unique chance to get good local services for disabled children, and provide the essential support that families need.

Not having access to suitable services near home is taking a massive toll on families with disabled children.  The vast majority of parents have told us they are suffering from anxiety and stress.  Half are missing out on important family time together that the rest of us just take for granted like celebrating birthdays, playing together or going swimming.  

The current situation is straining relationships between parents and relationships with their children.  Some parents are finding it difficult to hold down jobs and struggle financially because of the battles to get the right services for their children.

Daily life puts it's pressures on all families, sometimes it's about sharing the load.

SCOPE recognises that this is the time to ensure governments to include a "Provide Local Principle" in the Bills – to ensure that local authorities provide quality services for families with disabled children close to where they live.  

"Provide Local Principle" would:

a. Ensure services in a local area are inclusive and accessible; 
b. Put a duty on local agencies to introduce new inclusive and accessible services if they don't exist in a local area.

Please get involved
SCOPE would appreciate your support, the easiest thing you can do is consider emailing your MP or AM.
If you're a blogger, consider writing a post to spread the word.
If you use twitter, please raise awareness using the hashtag: #KeepUsClose

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Project #366 - Week 42

So, with a bit of dragging of feet, and a slight reliance on accepting delays, here we are at week 42.
For some reason, more than ever, it is feeling like a challenge- not so much the taking photos bit, more the pause for breath to write a post.

So, this was our week:

Sunday: my brave soldier. A trip to A&E for a bit of glue to the head. As you can tell, a week on the funny side is emerging.

Monday: ok, so on what level to hotels get to put Christmas trees up. Probably about the same level as me for posting a photo of the thing (and yes, come December 1st I will be in the full Christmas spirit).

Tuesday: A much needed drink after work. In a fire station (now converted).

Wednesday: As I got my train home from London I was cheered up by a photo of Squeaks, still full of energy despite a day of nursery and school.

Thursday: my favourite photo of the week. Squeaks is beginning to smile a lot more naturally for the camera.

Friday: Tiny decides his lolly needs to be accompanied by the newspaper.

Saturday: for all those moments I think the boys physically look more like their daddy, moments like these are great- enjoying a book whilst mummy does some grocery shopping.

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Project #366 - Week 41

Ok, so ever so slightly late. And if I'm honest, I can't remember much about week 41 now, apart from these are the photos I had in my file which I never got round to uploading last weekend.

I can try and have a bit of a go.

Sunday: as madness goes, we decided on the Saturday to do a car boot sale. With my parents away we had to take the little people. Squeaks took charge of 'her shop', charging everyone "five hundred and four" for whatever they wished to purchase.

Monday: Squeaks and I grabbed some time together after school. It turned out it was my birthday and I was treated to a blue birthday cake and a rendition of the song.

Tuesday: time with the boys and a quick outing to the park.

Wednesday: the boys keep each other entertained. I'm sure they're enjoying themselves, because no matter how many times it turns to tears there's laughter a few seconds later.

Thursday: Tiny has fun playing with his toys.

Friday: the good news gets published in trade press (work related- yawn now).

Saturday: Squeaks tries to disguise herself to get away with riding in the front seat of the car.

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Our first trip to A&E: Parent styley

So, last Sunday started off well. A vaguely chilled out start to the day.
I took the boys to McArthur Glen to get them some new shoes.
My parents were there so we had lunch.
The boys were exhausted and had a sleep on the way home.

When we got home, the three little people played in the garden.
Mr J watched on whilst I got the boys clothes together for their stay with my parents.

All of a sudden there was 'that' cry. I mentioned 'that' cry when Cheeky got his first blood wound. If I'm honest, this cry wasn't so bad. That's not saying I didn't run to him any slower, but when I got there I wasn't expecting the blood.

So, it transpires, Tiny had thrown a stone at Cheeky.
We have gravel behind the garage, where I've put their cars and stuff.
The boys had decided to play with their cars, which resulted in them playing with the gravel.
With all the hazards of the garden- the climbing frame, the swing, the sandpit- I hadn't expected a piece of gravel to be the cause of our first trip to A&E.

The blood was pouring and I couldn't stop it.
Mr J tried his best, using one of his head bands for squash to keep some kitchen paper in place so Cheeky could be driven to A&E.
It turned out going to the local hospital/ drop-in was no good, there were no facilities for stitching, x-rays or head injuries. Instead Mr J would have to take Cheeky to the A&E at Heath Hospital. Oh, and did I mention Mr J's still not that conversant with the geography of South Wales.

Mr J did find his way there. And, with a call to my mum to sort the remaining two little people, I was able to get to the hospital too.

What can I say? It doesn't get any easier.
By the time I arrived the blood was no longer pouring, if truth be told, the wound didn't look any bigger than the one on his eye the other week, but because the stone had hit his temple the blood had just poured.

Of course the hospital staff were amazing, of course they were under resourced, and couldn't give us any indication of our waiting times. And of course there were priorities elsewhere on A&E that were calling in their resource.
And if I seemed ungrateful it was more because I couldn't decide if we were a drain on their resource or not.
I'm not sure if you can tell from the pictures how much blood came out of Cheeky's wound, it seemed masses, and I had panicked.
And after an hour or so of waiting, and the blood stopping, I felt I had over reacted.
Cheeky, of course, did nothing to support why he might be in A&E, he actually just reinforced how he ended up there. Climbing everywhere, running and hiding in every nook and cranny. Refusing to settle.

And when he was seen, in really good time in my opinion, whilst the wound was healing and they were ok that whilst it was an injury to the head, it wasn't a head injury, they did 'glue' the wound back together so the scar wouldn't be as visible.

And this is Cheeky a week on.
And now we can say:
"As if Tiny inflicted the first scar."
"It's so much easier to tell them apart."

Not only do I feel like this is a complete parent fail.
But I feel like it's a milestone, I'd rather have avoided.
Our first trip to A&E.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Taking hubby's advice on cold callers

Can you remember it? Those days where as you were getting to grips with a sleep routine. With all three of ours we started with a moses basket in the lounge to be able to put them down once sleep was found.

And there was nothing worse in those early days than getting the babies off to sleep and the phone ringing. Especially when naps were in the moses basket and that sharp interruption would inevitably wake them.

My mum who always has her heart in the right place quickly understood that I'd check in with her rather than the other way round.
But the calls that you can't plan for, of course the most annoying, are the cold callers.
In spite of being ex-directory they still inevitably got through, whether it be seeking someone else or someone (despite ticking the box not to have details passed on) that has gained my details as a third party.

The easiest thing to do is sort out caller id on your phone. We always invested a little extra to have this. It's easy for the obvious dial codes, but for those that come up 'international' calls there's always the need to answer in case it's family.
It doesn't actually stop the phone calling though and therein lies the problem.

The international calls are the worst ones, there's no rhyme or rationale how they've got your number. I recall they were usually about some random survey that I had to respond to- why? who said?!
I also found that car or home insurance companies that I'd used in the past would continue to use your details, so each year they'd get back in contact- really frustrating because they had previously had me permission to access my personal data, but it was unclear to me what the deal is once the contract we had is terminated.

However, I am fortunate to have a husband who enjoys thinking up ways to wind cold callers up as much as they do him.

The favourite, which is ok if you don't need to use your phone, is when they ask for "Mrs Smith", just offer to get them. Go out of the room, call them (oh yes, we like to be convincing) and then put the phone back on the side. At least there might be a little bit of satisfaction that you're costing them money.

The next responses are ok if you've got time on your hands, and you're in the mood to wind people up, it's always good if you've had a particularly bad day.

The first, shoe on the other foot, pretend you can't understand them, get them as frustrated as they're making you. It's not in their interest to stay on the line if they're not getting anywhere- but how rude would it be for them to hang up on you (they all do eventually!).

Every now and again we got calls saying we had been "specially selected", for double glazing or whatnot, it's quite entertaining to have a conversation about how excited you are, that you've never won anything before, that you can't wait to let your friends know. Again, quite a good one to get them hanging up on you.

Mr J often stops them to ask if it's ok to put them hold. Always baffles them.
His other favourite it to rant at them but press a button every time you'd think he was saying a swear word- he likes the idea that people really think phones block swear words. Hmmmm.

The best one, which we've yet to try, but know she's of an age where she loves to talk to people on the phone about her day (admittedly family and friends at the moment), but it would be good to put Squeaks on the phone to them!.. or maybe the boys, they love phones, though conversation would be lacking.

I have to admit, we called it a day when we moved house. A year ago. We've yet to get a landline installed. I've got a landline for work, which I've given to close family and friends, but I've got a work mobile and a personal mobile, and touch wood as yet I don't get the annoying phone calls on my mobile, texts- yes.

And as for my work line, I find it absolutely amazing how many calls I take of the recorded message saying that they've got records showing I'm owed shedloads from PPI- do you think this means my employer has lots of loans and credit cards- or do you think it's unsolicited calls!

Disclaimer: This is a post is part of a campaign led by Bounty encouraging the correct use of personal data. I received a trimphone for getting involved.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Johnson Babies

It can't have gone under noticed, that this is my favourite photo of my babies.
Along with the header of the blog, one day I will get round to having canvases made for either the lounge or the office.

There are so many things I love about this photo.
As always, it was the first photo of (quite) a few we took on this morning.
We took it for my mum's birthday. So early February 2011.
The boys would have been a month old, Squeaks turned 2 the following month.
I couldn't believe we managed to find a way to get them all settled for a photo. It was first thing in the morning, straight after their baths, so clothes were clean.
Admittedly, Tiny has obviously started his journey with pyloric stenosis (to his mum, and other mums in the know, there is a tell tale sign). Now it brings a wry smile to my face.
And even at this age, Cheeky had an obsession with gadgets.

So, here they are, my Johnson babies:

Disclaimer: This blog post has been written as an entry into the Tots 100 competition in association with Boots Mother and Baby.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Miniland toys: A Review

When being asked to review toys recently, we were really grateful to DKL for understanding the toys we needed for a peaceful existence. This is playtime twin style:

Anything can be part of playtime, and as a result I am frequently explaining away the bumps and bruises with the simple line "Twins".
Mr J isn't good at buying gifts for the boys. The last time (and the last time) he came home with a new toy it was a wooden container, which you used a little wooden hammer to fit balls into the circles. Oh yes, providing the boys with a hammer- great.

Fortunately DKL sent us some fantastic toys from Miniland.
My favourite of the two, for many reasons, was the MiniMobil- a set of eight vehicles. 
So, first and foremost, the price for these is great, for the vehicles you are getting and the quality. I would definitely consider this as a future gift.

I loved the colours- great for helping the boys with their development. I loved how they were so defined- it's not a set of cars, there's a people carrier, a train and a plane- again, great for reinforcing words with the boys.
Most of all, of course, I loved the fact that they are so soft in feel (so no reason to use for beating the other up!). That the boys could easily grasp them and play, making noises, a really tactile toy which just encourage interaction.
I think I most fell in love with the fact they are not like their other perspex cars, which of course are loved, but the Miniland vehicles were just a great feel, implying a quality product.
The boys certainly enjoyed playtime:

I really would recommend these to anyone with children from 1 through to probably 5. At 3 1/2 Squeaks loves them too, and I imagine her cousins would also have great fun with them.

We were also fortunate to receive a dumper truck, again by Miniland.
Now, again I loved this, but suspect I will be loving it a lot more when the weather brightens.
Now, Squeaks had a lot of fun with this. She has Happyland figures and had great fun putting them in to drive the vehicle round.
The boys, they had fun too! They thought it would be a great way to move their afternoon snack around the lounge, and also to collect up the minimobils.
I think I was most surprised by the size of the truck. It is a fantastic toy, probably from about 12 months when that first awareness of moving things happens, and the size means it's great to get hold of any play with.

For me, I think it would be great for garden fun. All three children are such great fans of moving the sand out of the sandpit (NB my OCD does surface around now) that this would just be so great for sand moving, rather than finding it in hoods and pockets.

Again, it's a great price. It does what it says 'on the tin' it tips, it carries, and it offers lots of fun for little hands, and little imaginations.

I have to admit now having a list of Miniland toys, for the boys birthday and for stocking fillers too!

Disclosure: We were sent the Miniland Minimobil and Dumper Truck for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views expressed are our own.

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