Friday, 30 November 2012

Christmas traditions- books and pyjamas

One of the wonderful parts of becoming a family is establishing traditions.

From Saturday morning lie-ins (how I laugh) to family holidays, it's good to take those you grew up with but also add some new to the mix.

A tradition I have decided to adopt from a friend revolves around Christmas Eve.

Our new tradition is this, on Christmas Eve, before bath time the children are able to unwrap a gift.
The gift contains two items- new pyjamas and a new book.

The reason I like this tradition is it takes away a tiny nth of the excitement children are feeling on this eve, the sense of urgency to wake up the following morning and tear all that paper away is in a tiny way reduced from being able to open one gift. And as that gift is integrally linked to the bedtime routine means there is an urgency created by the children to get to bed so they can enjoy their gift.

Last year was the first time we introduced this and I loved the sense of excitement created (probably because I love the sense of excitement more than the little people!).

This year I was delighted to find to discover books with such a Christmassy feel, a little bit of sparkle to really make it special.

The great thing about these books is they fit the bill without breaking the bank, at an RRP of £2.99 they don't take away from any investment Christmas presents.

Everything's Rosie: The Last Snowball
When Big Bear wakes up from his deep winter sleep, he's sad to find that he's missed out on all the fun that snow can bring. Rosie and her friends do everything they can to recreate the fun.

Thomas and Friends: Snowy Tracks
The island of Sodor is covered in a thick blanket of snow and the engines have been told to be care and not to go over any big hills. Gordon doesn't listen, he's sure that he'll be strong enough to steam over every hill he comes to. But it isn't long before Gordon finds out that snow is much more dangerous than it looks!

Mr Men: Meet Father Christmas
When Little Miss Tiny secretly wishes she could visit Father Christmas she doesn't expect her wish to come true. But magical things really do happen at Christmas and crazy things too when you're with the Mr Men and the Little Miss!

These books are perfect for our Christmas tradition, and will make wonderful presents for little ones. They are the perfect read for bedtime.

Disclaimer: I received three books for the purposes of a review. The views contained are my own.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Dirty Dancing on stage- Millennium Centre, Cardiff

"That was the summer of 1963 -  when everybody called me Baby, and it didn't occur to me to mind. That was before President Kennedy was shot, before the Beatles came, when I couldn't wait to join the Peace Corps, and I thought I'd never find a guy as great as my dad. That was the summer we went to Kellerman's."

So, up there with making your favourite book into a film is putting your favourite film on stage.

What can't I tell you about Dirty Dancing?
In my mind I can't remember when it was, but I remember the detail. I was at my cousins house and we watched Dirty Dancing on video. I nagged and pandered to my mum until I was allowed to use my Christmas money to buy my own copy. How excited was I? I recall it being a 12 or 15 rating and I was allowed it.
Looking back now, Dirty Dancing was released in 1987. So, I'm sort of thinking my mum loved the film as much as me and she was grateful I footed the bill rather than her.

So, after a week of rain in Cardiff, last night we got to enjoy some of the American summer with Dirty Dancing at the theatre.

What can I say? Yes, we definitely fitted in as many puns about 'having the time of your life'. And it was lovely to watch it on stage with the lovely Leigh, who is the only person I know who loves the film more than me.

It was fantastic to hear my favourite lines on stage:
"Me? I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, I'm scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you."

And the fantastic audience, from the response to Lisa's Hula, to "Nobody puts Baby in the corner", to the opening bars of "(I've had) The Time of My Life".

I have to admit, I was caught off guard to the themes which have been added to the theatre production. I didn't realise I was such a purist! The approach gives more focus to the time in which Dirty Dancing was set, references to American civil rights movement are more heavily referenced and, without really appreciating, over 40 percent of the material is new.

Nothing stood in the way of a hugely enjoyable experience. The predominance of live music, the presence of the portable record player, my favourite soundtrack on stage.

I was impressed by how well the film transferred to stage. I can never fail but to be impressed as to how well theatre keeps up with technology, and how well ideas can be interpreted on stage through lighting and effects, I am kept in awe as I recall my favourite term from "my day" was 'moving gobo'... and now the changing scenes, the changing landscape is flawless in front of an audience wanting so much to be a part of this production.

Dirty Dancing is on its first national tour. If you love the film I would definitely get tickets, I wasn't disappointed, I'm off to get the soundtrack onto my mp3 ready for my next train journey.

Disclosure: We left it rather late to get tickets and ended up purchasing tickets in the gods. Even this didn't stop it being a completely amazing theatre experience.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Guess How Much I Love You? Review and Giveaway

Having your favourite book put on to screen is always a bit of a risk.

However where children's animation is concerned it can only be a good thing.
Guess How Much I Love You is a much favoured book with the Johnson Babies, so it has been wonderful to grab a little peace (and a coffee) whilst we snuggle up to watch the DVD.

Following the adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare, the DVD has eight episodes, introducing other countryside creatures including Little White Owl and Little Field Mouse. The episodes are beautifully animated and which each being around 10 minutes in duration it has been the perfect timing for our little boys who are nearing their second birthday.

The children have quickly found their favourite characters and as we explore the episodes Squeaks has been happy in exploring the themes, especially as some of them chime with the learning she is picking up in nursery school.

Given the DVD is based on the children's classic book, that has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, it is obviously onto a bit of a winner. The themes in the episodes mean that it is much more relaxing than the children's television we watch, but the children were equally engaged, and happy to take in the characters, colours, whilst learning about feelings that are so important to us as a family- love, sharing and affection/

We have loved snuggling into the DVD as the rain pours outside, and I am delighted to have two copies of the Guess How Much I Love You DVD to giveaway! All you have to do is complete the Rafflecopter below:

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. Two entrants shall win a How Much I Love You DVD.
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: I received a copy of the Guess How Much I Love You DVD for the purposes of this review. All views expressed are my own.  I have received no financial compensation in bringing you this competition.

The people who play a part in your life

As I think about this post, I am reminded of "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" by Mitch Alborn, and as I have just retrieved my copy this post will be doted with quotes I recall.

Even that small act, is a role someone played in my life, a friend who spoke so strongly about the book it motivated me to read it.

Sometimes, you take the time to pause, to reflect.
Most recently I feel I have been quite melancholy, not in entirely gloomy way, but more in appreciation of the way which life works, the people who affect lives and the mark people leave.

There is no getting away from a bit of honesty, that news seems more frequent of people I have known through work becoming ill, and in some cases receiving news of people passing.

"That there are no random acts, that we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind."

A few years ago, well a significant few, the reflection of not working too hard, because "who'd turn up at your funeral?" became too true. My boss passed away. He had been ill for some time.

Steve hired me in 2001. Originally I thought he'd made a mistake. After a while I started to think it his revenge, mine was a post he had not supported the creation of, so what better way to prove a point by recruiting someone who knew nothing about the core subject- construction!

Steve and I quickly developed a relationship of manager- subordinate, but I think he grew to appreciate my skills, and at times it was more parent-child. I could wind him up on occasion that he started with the organisation the same year I was born- it was a great line to reel him in. This is not rose tinted spectacles, the  greatest compliment you could pay Steve was as "a cantankerous old git" and it is always the way I think of him.

When my marriage broke down shortly after, Steve was in the process of moving up north. By coincidence my equivalent post also became vacant and Steve offered me the post. And so I got the opportunity to start my life over, because of Steve.

The relationship I had developed with Steve changed a lot over the years that followed. I would go on secondment to find my own way. On my return it was difficult to find a footing again, and shortly after Steve would become too ill to work.

Steve got married, to Sandra, a lovely woman who brought him so much strength, his motivation for moving up North, and the person who gave him a life outside of work.

And that is the thing I remember of his funeral. For his many years of service, for his commitment to his role, there were so few who made the effort to be at his funeral.
And this is another lesson, that even when passed, Steve has offered.

I spoke to Sandra after the funeral. I had come to realise how much Steve had affected my life. You see, if I hadn't moved up North- and there is no other reason this would have come to being if not for Steve, I would not have met Mr J. And that is the something which I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for.
Sandra just looked at me and said "Steve knew you would have moved back home, and you would have left the organisation, he wanted to keep you."
And in that statement, two things were confirmed- Steve was intelligent beyond anything, I had not contemplated moving home but yes, this would have been my only real option, and that, as it turned out, I had proved my ability to do my job.

" "Strangers" the Blue Man said, "are just family you have yet to come to know."

As life moves on, I find myself indebted to Steve more than ever, not only have Mr J and I made a go of things but we have also brought three amazing children into the world.

And in becoming a parent I have been offered so many new experiences, to challenge me, to make me a person I would never have imagined all those years ago.

"Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on . They move away. The moments that used to define them - a mother's approval, a father's nod- are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives."

I have been given so much love in my life, from my family, and now from the family that has been created, by a love between Mr J and I.

Life may seem so difficult at times, but as you struggle through the challenges, and overcome them, in their place great things take place and grow.

Life tests you, and it is from where you take your strength that becomes your home, your base of energy. And how you invest in that, the effort you create, that becomes the direction you take.

"That's because no one is born with anger. And when we die, the soul is freed of it. But now, here, in order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did, and why you no longer need to feel it."

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Project #366 - Week 47

Week 47, well we returned from the fantastic week away, so this week was going to be a let down, right?

We left week 45 with Tiny's obsession with ITNG, so it seemed fitting to start the week with Cheeky's obsession with Peppa Pig- anything to get out of Sunday's bath time!

Monday: we went to see how Grand dad is settling into retirement. It would seem 'pretty well' sums it up.

Tuesday: A trip to Manchester. I miss Manchester. Although it turns out in missing the Wheel of Manchester I am probably not alone, it seems to have disappeared off in favour of Christmas.

Wednesday: In the last week I have secured myself a new outfit and a new haircut. Mr J's comment "Nice, your hair was starting to look a bit wild." Admitedly, the last time I got my hair cut was for CybHer- ssshhh, but it would have been nice to be told about the state of my appearance ... Anyway, this is me- happy with my appearance in London (and yes, maybe better outside of the hotel, but it was peeing down and I predicted a frizzy mess by the time of getting to the office.

Thursday: did I mention a few weeks ago Squeaks broke our tv? Hmmmm, a tearaway hairbrush and my daughter's fair hand. We decided to go through our home insurance, which was a lot easier than in 2009 when we got burgled. And as the tv was past the point of repair, this was the pleasant surprise- a 3D tv!

Friday: I finish work in time to spend time with the little people. It seems that alongside Cheeky's tantrums that Tiny has perfected planned ignorance. Note to mummy- finish work earlier on Fridays!

Saturday: the little people get to spend time with Grandma on their terms!

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Silent Sunday

Thinking about Multiple Mummy #Healing4Kerry


Multiple Mummy's blog was the first blog I'd read by someone I didn't actually know.
I started bloggnig shortly after.

Multiple Mummy- Kerry, has a similar family to my own, mother to an older sibling and twins. Although the age gap between Kerry's is less than ours, she was always that reality check, that the spirit in which she could do it meant I had no excuses!

Multiple Mummy has been on my blogging pedestal for so long. Kerry has the most amazing positivity, when she offered to host the Multiples Mayhem Carnival earlier this year I knew instantly what my post had to be- the best bits of having twins, because this is the vibe you always got from Multiple Mummy- getting the most out of life, enjoying family times.
Multiple Mummy's Family Frolics linky became a focus to me, to ensure I could get involved, that I make the most of my family, no matter how many plates we spin.

In July this year anyone who reads Multiple Mummy's blog was left in shock when a post appeared explaining how tragedy has hit, and out of the blue Kerry had suffered a ruptured aneurysm which caused her to have a brain haemorrhage.

As always the blogging community came together, standing by Multiple Mummy's blog to show Multiple Daddy support as he regularly updated readers and friends as to the progress Kerry and the family are making. Others who have had the privilege of meeting Kerry have shown support in their own ways.

Kerry has been in my thoughts every day, I cannot begin to imagine how difficult life is for her family with so much to capture of these family moments which Kerry is missing out on, supporting each other through Kerry's recovery.

And now, New Mum Online has invited friends and bloggers to come together at 10pm this evening, to send prayers and positive thoughts

So, please join everyone, including me, in sending so much love to Kerry and her family.


Raising twins as individuals

I'm writing this post as part of the Multiples & Mayhem Carnival which is being hosted by the lovely Fiona at Coombe Mill this month.

It's probably going to be a bit of rambling, ending with a plea for advice- so please bear with me!

Cheeky and Tiny are my non-identical twin boys, born in January 2011.
They have an older sibling, Squeaks, born in March 2009.

Squeaks is a confident, outgoing, independent child, who completely dotes on her little brothers, and is the only person I know who can always tell them apart.

I have chosen to dress the boys in the same outfits since birth. This is basically because I am so fussy about boys clothes, I love the outfits I buy them, but they are few and far between.
As they get older they are more likely to be found wearing different clothes- there's more variety for mummy to chose from as they go from babies to toddlers.

I can only recall a couple of occasions where I've had prolonged one-to-one time with either boy solo. And it's always due to illness.

The boys will be old enough to start playschool in the new year. Squeaks attends three mornings a week of a possible four. And, the mad, lovely ladies there are more than happy to take all three of my little chaos makers.

A year later they will be able to start nursery school, and from there transfer to primary school. And at that time, we- Mr J and I- will have a choice to make, whether the boys should be in separate classes for their education.
At this point in time, Mr J and I have agreed our preference would be for them to be in different classes. For them to make their own friends, create the interests which appeal to their individual needs.

As the boys approach their second birthday it is becoming more apparent to me that the boys don't have enough one-to-one time with me and their dad, and that this is something that they should have as much as I need to be with them as individuals. And I am also aware that the boys are the same age as Squeaks was when we looked to get her spending time with children her own age. So, the question is whether we try to do the same with the boys in the New Year.

I am thinking that from January we can juggle things about so over a fortnightly period the boys can have individual time with their dad, their big sister, their grandma, and with children their own age. And yes, juggling would be an understatement.... but I think if there was a year age difference between the two this would just be a done thing, and the boys need to develop the same personal skills and have experiences which are personal, just to them.

So, I guess this is really where I'd be grateful of your experiences and views on bringing up siblings. Is it important to have individual experiences? Or is the experience of a family greater than the individual?
If you have individual time with your children how does it work?
And, as I suspect is always the case- am I just over thinking this?!!

Multiples Mayhem from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Do you remember the first time?

As I write the title of the post I immediately hear Pulp in my head, and I am reminded of all the bands I have been fortunate to see over the years.

I promised to write more about Child Sponsorship, and whilst belated, this post has been motivated by ActionAid celebrating Child Sponsorship Week. 

For the first time ActionAid has been able to have child sponsorship projects in Myanmar (Burma) and took Samantha Womack to see the work that has been undertaken.
Image courtesy of 

For ActionAid this opportunity means a huge change to people who have endured decades of struggle and uncertainty in Myanmar and elsewhere in the developing world.

And, so what have I learned about Child Sponsorship?
It costs just 50p a day.
And I am reminded of my first time.
And all my other times since.
Of the money I will happily spend on tickets to see my favourite bands, and for the theatre.
And I'm not suggesting this is a case of changing my life.
But what of all those Starbucks coffees (with the vanilla syrup!).
And the times I spend a fortune on lunch just because, well, I'm hungry.

My new first time may just be my first proper budget.
Realistically, I could put 50p in a jar every day and not miss it too much.
And if it came out via direct debit before it even hits my bank account proper.... then maybe it wasn't mine to begin with.

And for that 50p...
Well, the opportunity is there to change a child's life, and make a difference to the community so it's not just for one person or one day, but for forever.
Since finding out about Child Sponsorship I have been dipping in and out of Pru's blog- and it quickly becomes clear of what part child sponsorship plays in the lives of both individuals. And for me, that of my children- that there is a world out there and once you understand it, maybe you can play a part in it.
For more information on how you can get involved please visit  

There are 1600 children in Myanmar to sponsor but worldwide there are 5000 children that need sponsorship in 17 countries*
* NB The amount of countries supported by ActionAid constantly changes as new need is identified and projects are authorised.

And so, I'll end with the reality, of the difference in lives, and the difference Child Sponsorship could make...

Daw Khin Mar Lwin is 43 years old and she has three children who live in Htan Taw Village in the Dry Zone in Burma/Myanmar. Hlaing Hlaing Wai, seven, Khin Mar Hlaing , five and Thin Thin Hlaing who’s just three months old.

Khin Mar Lwin lives with her three children in the roof of a small thatched building that’s next to her brother’s house. It’s tiny and dark and as it’s actually the kitchen it – unsurprisingly – smells of smoke.

Khin Mar Lwin is living on borrowed time in her little corner she calls home, because property is inherited through the male line.  So when her parents died the house became her sibling’s and she’s simply a guest.

Although he’s been fair up until this point, now he’s getting married she knows there won’t be enough room and she’ll essentially become homeless.

Khin Mar Lwin was extremely dignified as she told her story and when asked what could be done about it she said that ‘She didn’t dare to think about help’.

Her main concern was getting enough food for her children so they can carry on going to school – above any of her own needs. The food she had she gave to her two daughters and it was just rice and tiny beans. She was still breastfeeding her baby, but on her limited diet (vegetables are too expensive) this is a struggle.

Her older girls are in school but are often exhausted when they attend. It’s just a very basic building with five grades crammed including a kindergarten, too. It is extremely noisy so while they are being taught all the age groups are competing to hear each other and their teachers. These children are so keen to attend though and you can see in their faces how much they love learning! Even if, like with Kyin Mar Hlaing, it can sometimes mean the younger ones end up snoozing in class… literally mid-sentence!

Child sponsorship is available in Burma/Myanmar for the first time. For information on how to get involved and transform a child’s life visit 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Music for Kids Recorder Set

Squeaks has had a recorder ever since she was toddling. Fortunately it was kept at her Nana's house!

A few months ago we stumbled on a 'piano recital' at the Wales Millennium Centre- for children. Squeaks loved it and is always playing her keyboard with gusto!

The Open and Play Recorder pack is a great first start for seeing how children will approach learning to make 'music'. And at £9.99 it's a great investment compared to taking a lurch into a piano!

The recorder pack comes in two themes and with Squeaks being a bit pirate mad our choice was obvious.
The Open & Play recorder packs include:

  • High quality three piece coloured descant recorder
  • Recorder cleaning rod and carry bag with drawstring
  • Themed fingering chart with handy 'Starting to Play' tips
  • 60 peelable themed stickers with which to decorate the recorder and music
  • Easy to understand 'Starting to Play Recorder' book and CD

Squeaks of course loved the recorder and the stickers. It was honing her concentration which was the challenge and fortunately between the stickers and the tutor book we were able to achieve this.

A theme she loves helped no end (even though I had to convince her that she couldn't play the tune to 'Jake and the Neverland Pirates').
It did help her to associate the stickers (which include fish, maps, skull & crossbones, parrots and pirates hats) with achievements- the first one of course being playing softly!

The book and CD offer an excellent introduction to playing the recorder. The CD supports the learning in the book so Squeaks could get a feel for what mummy was encouraging her to do.

Squeaks loved playing 'a musical instrument'. In nursery school they have 'musical instrument' time although this mainly consists of percussion. Learning to play 'Twinkle, Twinkle' albeit only using a few notes has made her incredibly proud.

The Recorder pack is great for children of all ages. It is recommended for children aged 4+, I'd have to agree with this. Squeaks will be 4 in March. We've had to choose our times carefully for keeping her concentration which means we've mainly taken advantage of weekends.

This is definitely a great introduction to playing a musical instrument, in a way that is easy to understand as a parent, to support learning through an enjoyable approach..

I would definitely consider this as a gift idea. I know parents may not be grateful but the seeing a child pick up and learning an instrument is definitely worth a few stickers!

Music for Kids promote a range of products for encouraging music for children aged 2-10. The Recorder Packs can be purchased at The Music Room.

Disclaimer: We received an Open & Play Recorder Pirate Pack for the purposes of this review. All views expressed are entirely our own.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Project #366 - Week 46

What a wonderful week. A family holiday. This was the first time we have been away just the five of us and we loved every minute.

Sunday: Squeaks and I went to the theatre. As we changed her out of her dress when we got home Cheeky decided to carry it round with him. Mr J decided it was a request to wear it.

Monday: First day of the holiday. Squeaks crashes out on my lap- I cannot remember the last time this happened!

Tuesday: Squeaks assesses the Christmas decorations.

Wednesday: I discovered something new about my daughter. She rides a bike really confidently and for quite long distances. We've now got a last minute request for Father Christmas!

Thursday: My favourite photo of the week, I've an updated photo of the little people and me.

Friday: Visiting reindeer.

Saturday: Unable to resist the charms of Iggle Piggle.

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Friday, 16 November 2012

World Prematurity Day - a multiple experience

Tomorrow, November 17th 2012 is World Prematurity Day.

Squeaks was 5 days late, that was ok, she was due on the 13th. Superstition meant I couldn't have a baby born on Friday 13th.

As soon as we received the news we were having twins we started reading up. Fortunately Tamba is a great resource for parents of multiples, and alongside a great peer support forum, we became aware of the difference our two pregnancies would take.

As an expectant parent of multiples you 'automatically' receive an increased level of antenatal care.
I wasn't particularly happy with my 'high risk' label, and I wasn't happy that I couldn't replicate the same midwife-led care I had received with my first pregnancy. But naivety and 'if it ain't broke' led to these feelings.

As it transpired consultancy led care meant my babies were born at the best time to secure their ongoing health.

Due to the high risk 'triggers' associated with multiple pregnancies you have consultant appointments interspersed with midwife appointment- working out at fortnightly appointments. More frequent ultrasound appointments mean than you become conversant in the language of 'liquid levels' and 'centiles' before you even start with this paranoia in the red book.

Fortunately, research from Tamba and peer support means you get a chance to understand 'norms'. A study by Tamba in 2009 identifies the most common conditions that cause premature labour as: high blood pressure (26%); vaginal bleeding (24%); pre-eclampsia (16%) ; twin to twin transfusion (6%); and pregnancy induced diabetes (4.6%). These, in addition to spontaneous onset delivery (which can on occasion be caused by infection), are thought to be the main reasons why twins and triplets are born early.

As it was, our reason for deciding to give birth at 36 weeks was not due to any of these.
At 30 weeks, due to the benefit of regular ultrasounds, it was identified that Twin 1's growth was not 'on centile'. By 34 weeks it was concluded that this was a concern and regular monitoring would ensue.
This transpired to be over the Christmas period and life was made up of regular fetal monitoring and growth scans.
At 35 weeks it was decided that the pregnancy was no longer beneficial to twin 1 and it would be best to induce.

Hearing this is such a difficult thing to comprehend. No matter how much research and peer support there is, being told your pregnancy, you as the 'host', is no longer best for your baby, it's a hard thing to comprehend.

The reality is that multiple pregnancies are generally less likely to carry to full term (40 weeks for singleton births, 37 weeks for twin births, and 34 weeks for triplet births). In the 2008 Tamba survey only 43% of twin births and 1.5% of triplet pregnancies lasted over 37 weeks.

Despite the plan to be induced that day, the boys took the cue and I was fortunate to have another 'easy' birth. Arriving at hospital at 6am, twin 1 was delivered at 06.35, and twin 2 at 06.53 with the aid of forceps.

Twin 1 was 4lb 7oz, twin 2 was 6lbs.

Whilst babies in a multiple pregnancy are much more likely to experience 'special' or 'neonatal' care we were able to keep the boys with us. We were to stay in hospital for at least 3 days to be monitored as they were premature, as it turned out this would be a week as Twin 2 was treated for jaundice.
I did not get as much skin to skin contact as I would have liked, the need to ensure the babies maintained their temperature with the aid of heated mattress, hats and lots of blankets. After two days they were maintaining their own temperature and finally I got to spend lots of time with them due to our 'confinement' within hospital.

We celebrated the boys 'official' birthday with a trip to Eureka!

For another reason, pyloric stenosis, Tiny would continue to struggle with weight gain. At 12 weeks he would come into his own.

At their 18 month check up it came as a shock to find that the boys were the same weight, and non-corrected on the 50th centile.

At 22 months, they are the most energetic, bossy, cheeky, loving boys to have around. They are never the same, they are my healthy, vivacious boys.

And, whilst I'd love to put it down to parenting, it simply isn't true.

The health system in the UK meant that our pregnancy was considered 'high risk'.
That 'complications' with the pregnancy were identified.
That the best care was offered to ensure the best possible start for the boys.

The statistics show that our story is common, and this is why World Prematurity Day means so much.

There are so many families in the UK who benefit from excellent care for premature births, and there is so much more that can be done.

And, then you stop, and breathe, and look at the world. And say silent thanks for how fortunate we are. That there is still so much to do to support and advocate change.
To ensure all babies are given the best possible start.
And that all families are given the much needed support and understanding.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The New Face of Mesothelioma Patients

Today, I'm introducing a guest post from Heather. Being introduced to Heather's blog humbled me. In a world where so much can be taken foregranted, where so many small things become cause for a crisis... well, this is Heather's story:

When I was told that I had cancer, my world seemed to stop.  Those are three unbelieving words that a person never expects to hear.  The mesothelioma diagnosis came at a time when my husband and I were enjoying our brand new baby.  Just a few short months after the birth of our daughter, I received the news that I had cancer.  Pleural mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos.  I soon found out that I had been exposed to asbestos second-hand – through my father’s work clothes when he had worked around it.  When my father came home from work, he unknowingly brought home with him millions of harmful asbestos particles that lingered in the air around our home, on our furniture and in our vehicle.

I was 36 when I was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer.  As a young mother, I was not the normal type of person who is typically diagnosed with this particular form of cancer.  Because mesothelioma is generally caused by asbestos exposure, middle-aged men who have worked in factories and in construction sites where asbestos is present are the most prone to getting mesothelioma.  However, women who worked in old schools that had asbestos also became another category of people who began receiving diagnoses like mine.  And then, there were the wives and family members of the men who worked around asbestos and unknowingly brought it home with them on their clothing and work gear.

I was at the beginning of a trend of a new category of people who were being diagnosed with mesothelioma.  More and more people, like me, began feeling ill and when they went to the hospital and tests were run on them, it was found out that second-hand exposure to asbestos was the cause for their illness.  This is an alarming new category of people, as the once typical mesothelioma patient was an older male who worked in the trades. All those little kids a few decades ago, who ran into their daddy’s arms when they came home from construction sites, are now realizing they are at risk for getting ill from second-hand exposure to asbestos.

Yes, it is really scary to have cancer.  I only hope that sharing my story will help to shed some light on the new face of mesothelioma patients.  There is always hope for people like me, people who suddenly and unexpectedly discovered in their prime of their life, they have mesothelioma.  

One of the greatest things we can do is to share our stories and provide awareness and support for one another, and for the public.  The more awareness I can spread, the more confident I feel knowing that I may be helping someone else who is in a similar situation.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A 3 year old and the ballet

So, yes, if you had told me about a three year old going to the ballet...
And admittedly, the age guide was 5+.
But Squeaks has been doing so well at the theatre.
She loves dancing.
She loves reading.
So, when I saw Ballet Cymru were doing Roald Dahl's Little Red Riding Hood... well, I couldn't help but snap up two tickets.
In my head I figured, if we went alone and we had to leave, well, lesson learned.

Squeaks was really excited to be at the theatre again. She asked for mummy's watch so she could count down the minutes to three o'clock.

We were in the Weston Studio,which is comparable to Theatre 2 at Sherman Cymru. A great space for smaller productions.
And, in the same way as Squeaks got to see her first 'proper' theatre productions at the Sherman, this was ideal for a first ballet.

I cannot quite believe how fantastic Little Red Riding Hood was. Based on Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes it was the perfect ballet for young people. There was a narrator, so it was more than music and dance, it had all the elements of great stoytelling, but gently introduced my child to ballet.

Squeaks was mesmorised throughout. Making everyone within hearing distance laugh as she announced "It's the big bad wolf"... on more than one occasion.

As Little Red Riding Hood finished, in a way that any parent of an aspiring sassy child would be proud, I was happy with our first trip to the ballet. I think the performance was about 40 minutes in duration.

Apart from the family behind wasn't... and went to investigate. As it turns out that saved me the embarrassment of walking out in our coats! We were seeing two Roald Dahl's stories!! The Little Pigs was also being performed.
Oddly, Squeaks must have known this- as I was trying to negotiate putting her coat on, she was negotiating her need for ice-cream... she knew this was just an interval!

The Three Little Pigs was as captivating as Little Red Riding Hood. Admittedly for Squeaks she was beginning to wane- the fact it was a three o'clock performance had probably added to this.
This performance was shorter at about 20 minutes.
But, despite being a bit more snuggle-y she was on form... again announcing "I'll huff and I'll puff, and I'll..." rudely interrupted by mummy's "Sssshhhh".

This was the most fantastic introduction to ballet for Squeaks.
I would actually say if it had just been Little Red Riding Hood it would have been perfect for three year olds.
Squeaks was one of the youngest there but did herself proud. One of the people within earshot even commented "Your daughter knows her stories!".... And for that, and that alone.... I know we're doing an ok job of this parenting thing.

I would encourage anyone who has this production in a theatre nearby to visit. I think there were children up to the age of 10 there, but really, anyone with a love of Roald Dahl or the ballet would love it.

Disclosure: This is an honest review written on the basis of purchasing two tickets for Ballet Cymru's production at the Wales Millennium Centre.

Monday, 12 November 2012

A day with Squeaks

My daughter has the ability to make any day fantastic.
Some times I forget. Some times work gets in the way. Some times I am so happy spending time with three children that I forget about what good company they are as individuals.

Saturday was a day that should have gone so badly. And ended up with Mr J putting Squeaks to bed to be told "I had the most fantastic day ever".

So, we thought we were going into Cardiff for a preview of Nativity 2. Invitation in hand we planned our day.

We decided, to maximise enjoyment we would take the park and ride. Squeaks loves buses.
Oh, did I forget there was a Wales rugby match in Cardiff?
We managed to park and headed for the buses into Cardiff centre.

A lady greeted us "Buses for shopping?", "Yes" I replied.
"No mummy" piped up Squeaks, and looking at the lady said: "We're going to the cinema." Awwww.
As we got on the bus- oh and imagine the excitement of a double decker!- the lady said "Have a lovely time at the cinema" to which Squeaks turned around, gave her 'the look' and said "I'm not the cinema, I'm Squeaks Poppy Johnson". Awww my child.

After finding out we had turned up at the cinema a day early- no amount of waving an email was going to change this- I had to break it to Squeaks that we weren't going to the cinema.
This went better than expected. Squeaks has never been to the cinema, so didn't really 'get' what we were missing.

We headed to the shopping centre and our first port of call was Lakeland- nothing like tempting a child with the hope of cake making.

It worked, Squeaks took proud possession of some candy hearts.

She was then addicted to spotting all the 'Father Christmas trees' and I realised this was the first time in a long time we were taking life at a leisurely pace rather than rushing from A to B.

For all the 'Father Christmas trees' was saw, Squeaks took a bit longer to spot the one in this photo.

From here, we headed to the shop I had naively thought would make up for the lack of cinema- the Disney Store.
Well, Squeaks fell in love with a Mickey Mouse, who was nearly as big as her. Cue cursing in my head, What was I thinking of taking a child into the Disney Store.

Unexpectedly Squeaks completely turned the situation around herself.
From having to negotiate that her few pennies wouldn't be accepted as payment.
To accepting that mummy didn't have enough pennies for it either.
We finally agreed that Father Christmas would be the best option. That if Squeaks was the good girl she was convinced she is that a letter was in order.
And we left peacefully.

We then did what every one should do on a shopping trip- we went shopping for shoes.

As we walked back to the bus Squeaks took great pleasure in the following conversation:
"I can climb up that can't I mummy?"
"Yes, if you want to, of course you can."
"That's because girls are good at climbing aren't they mummy?"
"Yes Squeaks, girls are great at climbing."
"Girls are better at boys at climbing aren't they mummy?"
"Yes, girls are better at boys than climbing sweetheart."
"'Bye mum."
Cue five minutes later: "Mummy, it's cold and wet, I can't climb this!"

We went on the bus back to base, maybe we went home via 'Old MacDonald's' as all the restaurants in St David's 2 had queues a mile long...

And then we made cakes- the perfect end to a day- the 'mummy baking cupcakes' stereotype!

Followed by 'that' letter to Father Christmas. Which oddly included endorsements by Grandma and Grampy- dictated by Squeaks.

My perfect day.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Project #366 - Week 45

This week has ended on a real high, it's been a stressful one but fortunately things have turned themselves around.

Sunday: I became obsessed with my children's blue eyes- I guess this is an ok reaction given I have contributed to the production of three children, all have blue eyes, whilst mine are green.

Monday: Squeaks came home from school whilst I was working. I was on the phone to a colleague. Knowing she could get away with quite a bit whilst I was trying to remain 'professional' my free hand become a place for her new stickers.

Tuesday: The opportunity to visit Squeaks at school. I loved how mesmorised she was during story time.

Wednesday: Returning from London to mail. And good mail. Three lots of theatre tickets!

Thursday: The boys help me make the beds.... or something like that.

Friday: Another office crasher. Tiny decides he can watch me from the comfort of Squeaks seat on Mr J's bike. I was more impressed with his balance in getting to the seat without the whole thing tipping over.

And Saturday, making the most of a bad situation. Squeaks and I had a mummy-daughter day. After the trip to the cinema was banished we had shopping time. As a result of this incident Squeaks sat down this evening to write her letter to Father Christmas. My heart melted a few times today.

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Thursday, 8 November 2012

School days and play dates

This week I have been reminded of how much my daughter is growing up.
And whilst I am cherishing every moment, as I caught the train home last night I couldn't help but reflect on how quickly it's happened.

Squeaks started nursery school in September.
There has been no hesitation.
On her first day, she bumped into a boy she knew and wandered straight off.
With mummy running after her for a goodbye kiss.

A few weeks ago we had a 'parents appointment'.
I am really pleased with the report. I was nervous.
Squeaks hasn't really had any company her age outside of playschool and nursery school.
Squeaks is very bossy with her brothers.
This is offset by how caring she is, how she wants to greet everyone with a hug.
She also has a tendency to stand and reflect, than immediately joining in.

This week I got to visit Squeaks in the school setting, as the school gave parents the opportunity to view their child's work and see the rest of the school.
There was the obvious ploy, the school is very good- everyone wants you to know.
But they did it so well.
They had older pupils give a tour of the rest of the school (the nursery is a seperate unit).
I have learned that the school has 400+ pupils, that we will eventually need to make the choice whether we would like the boys in the same or separate classes.
I was impressed (compared to the days of old) by the ICT equipment that is accessible.
I was impressed because this was aligned with so much outdoor space.

I really enjoyed seeing Squeaks on her territory.
She is an independent child. It did not matter that mummy was there, this was her school time.
She played with others and was happy to get on with her own tasks.
Proudly, whilst mummy was there, she was asked to ring the bell (not 'the bell' I remember, but a more soothing set of  'jingle bells', to signal tidy up and story time.

I know that she is growing so much, the mimicking, the new songs, words, her welsh language development- there are so many things she is now absorbing outside of the home.
And as if to reconfirm this, she has near enough outgrown her 4-5 year clothes- before she's hit 4.

And I hope she is the joy to others that she is to me.

And, as if to tip me right over the edge. Last Friday Squeaks had her first 'play date'.
She has been having swimming lessons since September, and on Saturday mornings she has been having the learning reinforced with a trip to the pool with Mr J. There she has made firm friends with a little girl, and as it was half term Squeaks and A had a play date.
She proudly came home with the cakes her and A had made with A's mum.
I am such a proud mummy. But so scared- I need to remember every moment, I am so scared of letting these milestones pass.

My little girl.
No longer wanting to be my baby.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

CBeebies Album Review & Giveaway

So, if you had told me about this one pre-parenthood, well laughter wouldn't have covered it.

CBeebies has released a 50 track, 2 CD collection of the favourite programmes of CBeebies as well as some of the songs which feature on the channel.

This has already proven to be a bit of a lifesaver as, whilst the boys are happy to bop to most of mummy's favourite CDs (The Killers, All American Rejects...), Squeaks is very much more selective- her favourite song of all time being "The big bad wolf".

As we did a series of visits last weekend it quickly emerged that not only was no-one tired, but no-one was really in the mood to be travelling round in the car.

Fortunately, mummy had her secret weapon of peace- the CBeebies album...
Now, admittedly, the children didn't know the majority of tracks on the CD, they have their favourites which are fortunately interspersed throughout the CD (In the Night Garden, Mike the Knight, Mr Bloom's Nursery), and this actually ended in a great game with Sqeaks of "guess the tune".
Squeaks quickly got the hang of this (?!)- when she didn't know the track she just pretended the first line of the song was it's name- which in my world was great for her distinguishing the lyrics.
Mummy was pleased, her favourite "Goodbye Sun, Hello Moon" is on CD1, although this didn't have the same impact early afternoon as it does at bedtime.

The CD really helped us through Saturday. On Sunday Mr J joined us- unfortunately CD2 has 64 Zoo Lane's theme tune- ooooh how to upset Mr J- a song which always gets stuck in his head. Fortunately for everyone else, Mr J singing it under his breath everywhere we went. keeping everyone giggling at his expense!

With 50 songs on the album it really is a worthwhile purchase, as background music whilst the little ones are playing, but more usefully for in the car this really is a much needed essential for harmony whilst driving.

And I get to offer you a chance at harmonious car journeys! Just fill in the rafflecopter form below for your chance to win your copy of the CBeebies album!

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 CBeebies Album.
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: I received a copy of the CBeebies Album for the purposes of this review. All views expressed are my own.  I have received no financial compensation in bringing you this competition.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Friends Goodie Pack – UK Giveaway

So, if you completely missed it, welcome to the hangover cure of my youth. Snuggled up with my duvet, Friends was a staple part of my college and uni years.

Warner Bros. Pictures is proud to announce the release of Friends: The Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set on November 12th 2012; along with the 30 Days of Friends: Trivia Challenge Blog App and Video Player!

Why not see how you do on the 30 days of Friends Trivia Challenge? Come back every days to get different badges and earn fab Friends content along the way.#
And whilst you're playing around with the App why not see which Friend you are most like? Somewhat surprisingly (ahem) I 'got' Monica...

And come back every Thursday to see the new Friends Mashup clips running through November! And yes, Janice is the star of the first exclusive clip!!

And, because someone really loves you, why not enter the giveaway for a chance to win a goodie pack of two oversized cappuccino mugs, as well as  a picture frame (just like the one on Monica's door!!)

And, all you have to do is fill in the Rafflecopter form:
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 Friends goodie pack comprising two oversized cappuccino mugs and a picture frame.
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 received no financial compensation in bringing you this competition.


An odd milestone, although not for my dad. In one foul swoop he's gone and done it. Retired and redundant.
My dad has been hoping to be made redundant... well, probably since I moved away from home.
At 60 plus he's achieved this aspiration.
His hopes had been built up so many times before.
I remain adamant he was the longest every serving employee.
He joined his company at 15 and had retained the contract of employment since.
Although the company employing him has changed hands many times.

As a child I never knew what my dad did for a living.
He left for work around 0745 and was home in time for the six o'clock news.
He had 'odd' job titles-  I never understood them.
My dad has never passed his driving test, his commitment now to the environment might trick you into thinking this is the reason why he relies on trains.

My dad has always demonstrated to me old-fashioned values.
Loyalty to your employer has remained the most questionable.
I went for an interview five years into my current job to be questioned on whether I was 'institutionalised'- eleven years on there's no hope for me.

The more I have talked 'work' to my dad the more I have realised we have very similar jobs- mine in the public sector, his in the private sector.
Although I made the mistake of admitting to passing my driving test.

Mr J and I are sat here scratching our heads over how my dad will cope.
On the one hand, dad has maintained a work life balance throughout his career, he has always brought paperwork home to read- but has remained defiant in the face of laptops and smart phones.
But, despite this he has worked near on every day since he was 15.

He and mum have nipped off on holiday. As you do.
I wonder if this is what life will be like for them... although mum will also need to achieve her aspiration of retiring!

My dad has retired.

Time remains an enigma.
When did my dad become old enough to retire?
Is my dad an 'old man'?
My dad enjoys (grand) parenthood so much, it makes age indifferent.
And yet, it has happened.

And, somewhat surprisingly, he has turned down the offer of looking after my three,
He really must be ready for retirement.

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