Monday, 26 August 2013

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #Memorybox

Last week this happened:

If you don't already know - these green creatures are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mini thinks they are fantastic (especially Leo). We went to Legoland last week, and it so happened that on the second day of our visit, a special Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle weekend was starting. 3 days later, Mini is still grinning and randomly telling EVERYONE that he met The Turtles. I only wish I could share a shot of his beautiful gappy grin on here. After this photo, he hi-3'd them all, then posed for photos, then had a special hug from Leo. He'll remember that day (and so will we) for years to come.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Snacktime! #My99pSummer

It's really important to both me and my children that we have regular snack time. Me to keep my sugar levels (and hopefully diabetes) in check, Mini to maintain a routine, keep his energy levels topped up and stop him from starving (which he assures me he does on a regular basis) and Dollop, to keep her energy going too and stop her copying her brother's tendencies to starve.

However, if the kids had their way, the snacks would be a kilo of jelly sweets every day, washed down with a pint of chocolate thickshake, preferably from a well-known takeaway place.

So we're compromising. This Summer we received some vouchers to spend at 99p Stores to help us have a fantastic summer. I let Mini choose half the items - it's his Summer holiday after all. As well as some toys, Mini picked up a tin of Luxury Chocolate Straws - you know the wafers filled with chocolate cream that often accompany a bowl of icecream. Mini and I both LOVE these, but don't buy them that often, so he felt they'd be a perfect Summer snacktime treat. (and we get the tin after for crafting with or storing Lego men in!).

With my half of thevouchers I bought various craft bits and toys (more about those in another post) and a packet of Dr. Moo's quick milk magic sippers - the chocolate flavour ones. If you haven't heard of these before, they're plastic straws filled with chocolate flavoured beads. As you suck milk up through them, it turns chocolatey. I could have picked juice, I could have picked squash, in fact we did get a pack of Apple and Blackcurrant drink pouches for picnics, but I got these magic sippers to make sure the children drink some milk every now and then.

In case you think I give in and allow my children chocolate for all their snacks, I'll add that along with just one chocolate wafer straw each, they had a handful of sultanas, a couple of dried apricots and a few cashew nuts. So that was the compromise - chocolate straws but only if accompanied by fruit and nuts! And a lovely cold cup of milk, disguised as chocolate milkshake.

So today's snacks are provided courtesy of 99p Stores, and very nice they are too - I had to 'test' the chocolate straws didn't I? And given the Magic Sippers have 30% extra free, I might pinch one of those to go with a glass of milk too!

What do you give your children for snacks? Are you completely healthy? Or do they get treats every now and then?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Project Linus - can you help?

As you might have recently read, Dollop broke her leg. It's been about a month now and she's having the cast off (all being well) this week. Phew.

It's been a relatively easy ride to be honest. We've been mindful of things that might be uncomfortable for her, and avoided them where we could. We were told that she could walk with the plaster cast on if she felt able to, and they gave us a special shoe to strap on it. And she started walking on it within 24 hours of the full cast going on!
We were warned that walking with the cast would tire her out, but the buggy wouldn't be suitable because it doesn't support enough of her leg. So we borrowed a children's wheelchair from the local Red Cross. We were also warned that long car journeys would be difficult for her, again because there wasn't enough support for her leg, and leg room was limited. Mini's missed out on a fair bit because of these restrictions, so we did a one-off trip last week with a long journey, and although she had an amazing time at the theme park, we could see the impact of the journey on Dollop, and we're thankful that life will return back to normal for her at the end of this week. She'll be able to have a bath which she is longing for.

The night of the accident, I tweeted for ideas on how to keep a 3 year old immobile child amused. I got a few retweets, and a few ideas, and I was also approached by someone from Project Linus, offering to send a quilt for Dollop. Slightly suspicious at the kindness of this stranger, I immediately looked up Project Linus and was amazed to find this incredible international organisation that collects quilts and blankets from a network of volunteers, and then they donate them to children who are ill, disabled or have experienced trauma. And they thought that Dollop could make use of one.

Despite the heat, I felt that Dollop would really appreciate the comfort of a special quilt, so gratefully accepted and within a week a beautiful quilt had arrived - we've used it to line her (rather scratchy) wheelchair, she's had it on her bed, she's traced the lines on it with her fingers which has kept her occupied, she's used it as a picnic blanket for her teddies, she's covered her cast in it so as not to scratch her good leg (the plaster is rather rough and abrasive - she's got battle wounds!) and she loves it. It's provided so much comfort.

 I was so grateful (despite my initial suspicions) that someone would do this for Dollop that I offered to write this post to highlight the work that Project Linus do. I know of at least one person, that as a result of seeing me tweet about the organisation has offered to volunteer her services and if more people can make and donate quilts, then more children will feel safe, secure and comfortable. A blanket won't fix the problem, but it can provide that bit of comfort. And as they say on their site:

"It may not seem much, but when you’re away from home in a hospital bed being poked and prodded by medical staff it’s the little home comforts which often bring the most relief to patients. For a young person being given a gift like a quilt to treasure can bring a smile to their face in spite of their pain and discomfort. For the parents of children who spend much of their time unwell, knowing that someone else is thinking of your child can be a comfort and additional source of emotional support."

I've been so grateful, as has Dollop, and I can see the benefit of a quilt for children who have experienced other traumas or have other illnesses. Indeed with Mini's background, I was pleased to see that quilts and blankets are donated to foster carers, care-leavers, and social services to distribute to children in care, as well as through children's wards, neo-natal units, renal units, hospices, visually impaired children, special schools, respite homes, refugee centres and various organisations who work with children.

Project Linus started in America, but now there is a UK network too. And over the years some 2000 quilts have been donated to children in the UK.
If you think you could help, please please get in touch with your local co-ordinator. There are volunteers across the country. And even if you can't make a quilt, perhaps you could donate fabric or help with the administration. You might even know someone who would benefit from a quilt, and if you do, then get in touch.

Disclaimer: Dollop was sent a blanket (it's double sided which is why the pics are different) for free, this was for her because of her accident. By way of a thank you I've written this post to help highlight Project Linus and their work.

Thursday, 8 August 2013


Yesterday we took the kids to a theme park for the first time ever. Not one of the big ones, they're not old enough for the likes of Alton Towers yet, but a smaller one aimed specifically at children. All the rides therefore are reasonably tame, but thrilling enough for children.

This was the first of our big days out - big in terms of a reasonable chunk of money, a whole day, a long drive there and back and big excitement about something different. The NC took the day off work. We didn't decide what we were doing til the night before, so hadn't told the children before hand, only once they woke up and we got ready to leave. We had a quick look at the park map online before we left so Mini had an idea of what to expect, and had already decided on some rides he wanted to go on.

A couple of hours or so later we were there.

"Woh" said Mini.

"Yay" said Dollop.

And off we went to explore.

Despite the Summer Holiday, the park was very quiet. We waited no longer than 10 minutes for any ride, most were 2-3 minutes.

Mini, my 'usually fearful of anything out of his comfort zone' little man was suddenly overcome with bravado and wanted to go on the rollercoaster. So off we trooped. Dollop and I sat and watched, with camera poised. (Dollop was thrilled to see a frog hopping around whilst we waited!)

"That was REALLY fast" an exhilarated Mini declared afterwards. "I'm not doing it again".

A couple of hours, 2 other rollercoasters (one in the dark) and lots of other rides later - he changed his tune... "Next time I'm going on that Roller Coaster again!"

And Dollop? Well she's a proper little thrill seeker anyway, and LOVED the rides. Her favourite was also a rollercoaster...the one in the dark.

All in all we had a GREAT day. Mini was a little on the quiet and reserved side, but this was something and somewhere he'd never been. It was different. He'll have been feeling adrenalin rushes and then down times, as well as nervousness, anxiety, excitement and a whole load of other things too. But they were both impeccably behaved and I was incredibly proud of them. And despite a few odd reservations at certain rides, they both conquered those reservations and went for it!

Mini was very clingy and nervous once we'd got home, so we took the opportunity to do lots of reassurance and reminding that we'd all had a lovely day, but had come home TOGETHER. He wouldn't settle in bed though, so he and I cuddled up on the sofa and he dropped off to sleep (after several hours) in my arms. And I'm so pleased that he wanted to cuddle up, where he felt safe and secure.

Two lovely memories - the looks on my children's faces as they experienced the thrill of the rides, and my son sleeping safely in my arms.

Holiday crafts - Beanbag target toss

Mini has hypermobility in his ankles, and flat feet too (though they have improved a bit), this means he can often run clumsily, and his balance isn't great. He's always had pretty bruised legs, because he just falls over lots! We have exercises from the physiotherapist that have helped, but it's one of those things he'll always live with. Having said that, practising balancing and walking heel to toe do help and games that encourage that are more fun than the physio's exercises.

So when I saw beanbags in Early Learning Centre, I grabbed a couple of packs, knowing that bean bag balance games would go down well. Obviously if you're so inclined you could make these, and actually I've a bag of beans upstairs and could have made my own, but well, it was easier to do this at the time, and if it goes down OK, perhaps I'll make some to add to our stack.

This particular activity isn't all that crafty, and actually it's not a balance game, but there is some crafting involved, and the balance games will come another day...this one is 'Beanbag Target Toss'.

What you'll need:

3 pieces of card (the inside of cereal boxes is fine)

In the middle of your card, write the number of points each will score. We did 1 point, 5 points and 10 points. Ask the children to decorate these targets however they want.

OK, so that's the craft bit over!

Now place the targets on the floor - inside or out, with the lowest score closest to you, and the highest furthest away. (Blu-tack or tape them down if you have laminate flooring - lesson learnt!)

Each child takes it in turns to throw 3 beanbags. They add up their score, and then the person with the highest score wins.

This is a really simple game, but at the moment Mini and Dollop are playing it, and both enjoying practising their throwing skills (well, once I'd shown them that underarm throwing is better than overarm!). Mini is doing well at adding up both his and Dollop's scores. He sometimes has sensory problems - he doesn't like the feel of certain things (or the sound), but he seems to be finding it really relaxing sitting squishing the beanbags. My children are 3 and 6, but you could make this game more interesting for older children by adding a variety of targets, changing the scores to harder to add-up numbers, putting the targets much further away, perhaps even putting a timer on for each turn.

Would your children enjoy this?

Monday, 5 August 2013

Making memories with my girl

Last week Mini had a day over at his Nanna and Grandad's house, and spent some time there with his baby cousin. So I had a day to entertain Dollop on her own.

I decided that I'd take her to the seaside - she can't go on the beach because of her plaster cast, and so I've avoided taking Mini too - it wouldn't be fair for him to go to the seaside and not be able to play on the sand or paddle in the sea. With Dollop just by herself I knew I could take her along the promenade, and I'd be able to just wheel her up and down in her wheelchair and treat her to an ice cream. So that's what we did!

When Mini was little and before he started school, I used to take him to the seaside by myself often - we'd have walks on the prom, playtime on the beach, pennies in the slot machines, and chips looking out at the sea. And last Summer I took Mini and Dollop to do those things occasionally, but I've never done that with Dollop on her own - we've never had made those memories, and of course she'll be starting nursery part-time in September, so I need to get some of those experiences in quick!

It was really nice having mummy/daughter time, with the sun on our faces, a lovely sea breeze in our hair, scrummy ice creams (with flakes of course), and just a nice long walk.

I'm linking up with #MemoryBox at The Adoption Social here:
Memory Box

and Magic Moments at The Oliver's Madhouse here:

Holiday crafts - Dirt cup puddings

Mini had spotted the packet of biscuits in the cupboard a good week ago, and had been asking to eat them. Each time I had to say no without revealing their actual use, I think he assumed me and the NC were just going to eat them all, so imagine his face when I called him and Dollop through to the kitchen to find a plate of the desired biscuits, with packets of instant whip and jelly snakes!

Today's make is Dirt Cup Puddings. These would be great for parties, or if you had a group of kids over in the holidays - either make them in advance, or give them something to do.

Again, these are inspired by good old Pinterest. All the 'recipes' for these that I've seen though use Oreos. As much as I love Oreos, I prefer Bourbon biscuits, so that's what I've used.

What you need:
Chocolate Instant Whip, and enough milk to make
Bourbon biscuits (about 4 per pack of Instant Whip)
Jelly snakes or worms

These are so simple to make, Dollop managed it with minimal assistance, Mini with none.

 Crush the biscuits in a bag with a rolling pin or similar until fine.

Make the Instant Whip following the instructions.

Spoon the Instant Whip into bowls (we found that 4 portions was a good size).

Sprinkle the biscuit crumbs over the Instant Whip.

Finally, add the Jelly Snakes/Worms - poke them in and around the Instant Whip, lay them on top - however you fancy. Leave in the fridge for an hour or so, then serve.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Coping with birthdays...

Mini's birthday is at the beginning of the year. His first birthday was just a couple of weeks before he moved in, and just a couple of weeks after Christmas.
It *could* be a difficult time. So many events and celebrations so close together, but it's always been OK and I think that's in part  down to us managing Christmas the way we do. And only having a very small celebration/acknowledgement of 'Moving In' day.

I might not have been at his birth, but it was and remains his birthday - the day he made his very quick arrival into this world. He was (and is) loved from the moment he was born. He was cherished and much wanted (and still is). It's a day we can celebrate his life, and I always think about his birth mother that day, knowing that she's thinking of her little boy.

Also, it's something for him, just him and although I'd like to think that us becoming a family, or us meeting each other are important days for him, they're probably more special to the NC and I, especially at the moment. So I think it's really important that we celebrate Mini's birthday as his special day, for as long as he wants to.

Then we turn to other birthdays - mine particularly. These are days that Mini copes less well with. The turn of attention to someone else is totally unreasonable as Mini sees it. Since Mini has arrived, almost all of my birthdays have been awful, and that's down to Mini's behaviour on those days. He strops and tantrums from the minute I get up to open presents and cards. He tries to take over the opening of said cards and presents. They are not actions to deliberately ruin my birthday, they are instead attempts at gaining attention. He's making sure we don't forget him. But despite knowing this, it's still disappointing year after year to cancel/change even the gentlest and quietest of plans.

He copes better with Dollop's birthday - and indeed it falls during term time so we've previously taken her out for the day whilst he's been at school - she's enjoyed herself, and he doesn't have to worry about it. And the NC's birthdays have always gone without a hitch. Perhaps mine is the problem because of my own expectations? Each year I hope that things will have improved enough; that Mini will feel secure enough for us to go out for the day, or head out for a meal, but...

What do you do? How do your children cope? Have you ever not celebrated a birthday because of how it's dealt with after?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Holiday crafts - Melted bead bowls

So how many of you waded through your recycling bins to find a plastic bottle for my last craft?
This time there is much more adult involvement and a little bit more effort too. We successfully made these special little bowls after seeing lots of similar posts on Pinterest.

Essentially you'll need Hama (or other similar) beads. You know the kind that you put on a pegged board and then iron over? Yep those. You can buy these relatively inexpensively especially if you don't buy a set, but a refill bag/tub of just beads.


Melted Bead Bowls

You will need:
Hama beads (or similar)
Oven proof bowls
A little cooking oil and a brush, or a spray oil

Preheat your oven to about 180 degrees.

Give each child a small bowl - I have little Pyrex pudding basins that we used. Then ask them to either spray oil or brush a light coating of oil around the inside of the bowls.

The children can now put a couple of handfuls of beads in each bowl. Roll the bowls around so there is a single layer of beads sticking to the oil. Children can decide whether to have a flat rim, or make it a bit more interesting.

Adults should put the bowls into the oven, and then keep checking them to see when the beads have started to melt. Ours took about 15-20 minutes, from a non-preheated oven.

Remove using oven gloves, and leave to cool for about 30 minutes. Give the bowls a quick wash in soapy water to remove the oil.

And there you have some cute trinket bowls. Obviously you could be all clever and try to make patterns or pictures mosaic style, you could limit the number of colours you use, or try making different size bowls. I've even seen these made as luminaries - turn upside down and place a battery operated tealight beneath.

Mini kept running to look through the oven door to see if they'd melted yet. He was excited to see how they turned out. Dollop was more interested in making sure all the gaps were filled, and she took her time to make sure her bowl was how she wanted it.

Great fun, and good for rainy days, or even a quick break from hot sun.

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