A Family Adventure on a Remote Mexican Island

9.30pm – the time we smuggled our kids out of the house fast asleep, tucked them up in the car with blankets and dummies and set off for Manchester from London. A three hour car journey, an overnight stay at the Premier Inn, a nine hour plane journey to Cancun, a three hour transfer, a thirty minute ferry ride, and a tuk tuk ride later (plus A LOT of snacks and unashamed use of screen time for the kids), we arrived at the beautiful Villas HM Palapas del Mar in Holbox, a tiny island just north of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

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My One Tip to Discipline Kids

When I decided to challenge myself to #28daysofblogging this month, I was slightly concerned that I wouldn’t have enough content. Would things dry up? Would I lose the passion? Would I come to dread writing? Turns out though there are about 400 topics I want to connect with you all on from a recipe for a super healthy vegan snack to kick arse stain remover solutions. Some posts are going to be ‘pithier’ than others so when Jack decided to open the front door this morning and run out with Sonny in tow, I knew immediately the focus for today’s post.

So here’s the thing. I have high expectations of my kids when it comes to their behavior and so when they ‘misbehave’, I like to know firstly why it happened and secondly, make sure it doesn’t happen again. Which is why when he does something wrong (and to clarify, Jack knows it is wrong to run out the front door, I firmly believe that), I don’t shout (I’ve tried that; with Jack, it achieved nothing and made me feel rubbish), I don’t ban things, I don’t stop him going to his friend’s house. In fact, in the actual moment itself I do very little; I’ll remedy the situation – rescue run away kids (!), pick up spilled food, fix broken lamp – but I don’t do or say much there and then, especially if we are out and about or trying to get out the house (when you’ve got five minutes before you miss the train for work and your half naked son is refusing to get dressed and running around the house growling, that’s not the time.) I tend to remain quiet and will almost disconnect from Jack – he’ll sense something is up – then it’s later in the day, once we’ve both almost had time to process things, that’s I get to work.

The main method I use is, simply, to TALK. I think that the power of communication as a tool for disciplining is totally overlooked – or maybe it’s the ability of children to understand that is underestimated. You see, I’ve always loved chatting to Jack. It started with our trips together to the supermarket, armed with the first words he’d recently learnt. “Bread”, “milk”, “nana” – we’d have entire conversations based around these few words. Then it would be after nursery; I’d ask him all about his day and who he’d been playing with (even though he could never reply), and now recently, it’s turned to talking about his beahviour and feelings. We always tell adults to talk things through if theres a problem, we encourage people to speak out if there’s a problem so why don’t we do the same with small people?

So we talk. We talk when things are calm and quiet, later in the day, during dinner or bathtime. Days later when we’re walking along holding hands, we talk. We talk about why it’s wrong what he did, and he questions it, and we go on and on and on. For me, it’s the best tool I’ve found to get through to Jack, and to discipline him when his behavior falls short of what I’d hope for from him. And so far, it seems to work. It really is good to talk (or so the BT ad goes.)

One guess what we’ll be talking about tonight during bathtime?

Do you and your child talk? Do you mull things over? Which methods do you use to discipline your kids? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Emma xxx

P.S Our favourite book for talking about emotions and the one thing about motherhood that baffles me

Our Go To Healthy Snack

Yes it’s kind of strange that Jack talks about his balls, but on the plus side this little treat is super filling, healthy (well, full of ‘good’ fats) and mega easy to make. I’ve put exact measurements below, but if you go by the rule that 25g = 1 heaped tablespoon or a small handful, you can’t really go wrong. PLUS to be honest you really can just add any goodness – you just need to make sure you have enough of the ‘wet’ (here I’m using dates and coconut oil) to combine with the dry. This recipe makes enough for about 15-20 balls, depending how big you like them (!).

INGREDIENTS

100g dates (put these in water for a good 10 minutes before you start to soften them a little)
25g pistachios
50g almonds
25g goji berries
100g shredded coconut
3 tablespoons of cacao powder
30g coconut oil

Throw the dates, pistachios, almonds, coconut, berries and cacao together. Meanwhile melt the coconut oil in a pan. Add this to mixture and give one more quick mix. Then have fun making them into little balls with your little one, or just by yourself (surprisingly meditative!) and leave in fridge to harden a bit. Eat and enjoy 🙂

Emma xxx

P.S Easiest Vegan Banana Loaf and Homemade Hummus (That Actually Tastes Great)

The Two Of You – January 2018

I forget about these types of posts and then all of a sudden, I’ll be standing holding Sonny and he’ll totally out of the blue exclaim in a loud voice, “KISS!” and then I’ll melt on the spot and simultaneously remind myself that these posts documenting nothing (everything) but the boys’ changes are really and truly the most important writing to me and are the essence of why I blog. Then I read this article by my all time hero Janet, and I feel compelled to put pen to paper and document my babes. So February 2018, where we at?

Sonny, let’s start with you. This seems fitting too as you have well and truly morphed from a baby in to a boy. You’re 20 months old which as far as I can remember with Jack, was the age I found most challenging. You have boundless energy and are non stop – you want to see and touch and eat and say EVERYTHING and don’t even think about putting you in a highchair; you will sit at a table for approximately 3 and a half minutes. And yet the next minute you’ll be asking for your “ish” (sheep; Ewan), wanting to sit on “lap” and asking for your dummy. You love being held by me or your pops, or sat on my lap, and shout “carr-ee, carr-ee” holding on to my ankles looking up at me which is equally exhausting as it is cute. You ask for “hand” but soon you are desperate to break free – and then you’ll run as fast as your legs will take you.

You are sleeping a lot right now and without wishing to jinx myself, you sleep through the night, wake late in the morning, and nap for a few hours each day too. Your love affair with trains and Peppa Pig has taken off (just like it did with Jack) and I watch you lying face flat on the floor, rolling your trains slowly back and forth, just like Jack used to do. And your language. HOLY MOLY Sonny, new words pop up every single day. Jack wasn’t anywhere near talking at your age so I’ve not really known what it is to have a toddler telling me I have “ummus on face”. I guess you’re learning from your brother. Speaking of which, Sonny, you are not big into sharing right now, especially food but I’ve no doubt that this will change over time. You watch Jack, not overtly so but enough to copy his every move and copy him when he splashes in the bath or comes up with a funny word. You want to be close to him and he to you, and watching your relationship bloom is surely one of the biggest blessings there is.

Jack. Dude. Son. Friend. Is it normal that I go to you for genuine answers to things in life? OK not big things, but more like “Jack, where should these cushions go?” Or Jack, “what shall I wear today?” But still, you are crazy mature and I know I’m biased but I think you’re smart. You can read words (thanks to my mother in law who spends hours teaching and reading with him), you can spell your name, and you just seem to know SO MUCH it blows my mind. Your curiosity about life is beautiful and your imagination is off the charts; most mornings you’ll recount to me your dreams and I watch and wait for you to find the words to express what has been going on in your mind – usually jungles and tigers. I depend on you for so much now, whether reading Sonny to sleep or helping me make dinner. Which reminds me: the best way of getting you to do anything at the moment is by timing you. You love the challenge and I love the result (my slippers, mug, pen etc etc) so it works well for both of us. I’m so enjoying cooking with you too, and have you taste all the food we make together. It’s only when you’re tired that you become slightly badly behaved and we talk about “rude Jack” coming out. I feel like you don’t really like toys anymore, and would rather explore the real world. Right now, it’s gone 9pm (you’re still jetlagged, I think?), and as I write this, you’re lying on the floor beside me just playing with an old box. You occupy yourself wonderfully and I just let you get one with it. You and Sonny are becoming a real double act; most nights he will crawl into your bed and you’ll both clamber over each other until I have to gently prize you apart. Generally, you share your toys with him nicely and have come to realise that nothing belongs to only one of you in this house. There’s the occasional conflict, but I try not to get involved and instead wait (there’s that word again) in the sidelines until you often end up resolving it alone.

This month, perhaps because I’m not working, has been a real joy to mother you both. I wake up genuinely excited about where the day will take us; whether it’s no further than the couch or across the city, the adventures and the cakes and the walks and the baths and every other tiny bit in between with you two make me who I am today, so thank you.

xxx

P.S Let your kids be bored

P.P.S The four letter word that helps me discipline my kids

Stain Remover Miracles

It’s sad – but true – that when I contemplate new clothes for the kids, all I see are their potential to be covered in bolognese and banana stains. In fact, one of my biggest mum questions in life is simply “how does she keep her children’s clothes so immaculate?” All was well until the age of about 13 months, before which both my kids dutifully sat in highchairs whilst I popped a bib on them and they would precede to eat. Happy days. But since that age, both have resolutely refused to wear a bib and as hard as I try, will not be swayed (I know, I know, I shouldn’t let them eat if they’re not wearing one but #yolo and all that). The upshot? Happy kids but one frustrated mama and a helluva lot of stained clothes.

I did a shout out to my wonderful Instagram community a few months back and got a whole bunch of amazing answers back. So here goes, depending on what you have available, plus with a bit of your own research on top, below is a list of the real nasty, super non bio options and then some more natural options too as tried and tested by mama:

The no-mess, non-natural options:

  • Do a quick rinse in the sink with some washing up liquid then wash as normal
  • Soak in napisan with cold water – some of you say this is the *only* product that removes newborn explosions / bolognese sauce!
  • Vanish – the solid bar (apparently far better than the spray and powder)
  • 2pureit gone – apparently does the job amazingly!
  • Carbolic soap – centuries mildly antiseptic soap but I’m hearing great things
  • Ace bleach – super cheap!
  • Soda crystals – multi use, and also super good value
  • Tesco own brand stain remover spray – zero-fuss
  • Sainsburys stain spray pre wash – ignore instructions and leave on overnights then wash at 60 then leave in day by the window – works a treat, apparently!
  • Thick toilet bleach – wah! Certainly the cheapest and the harshest, but does it work…?

There are some more eco-friendly options too:

  • Lemon oil – apparently great for getting oil stains off walls and crayons off walls etc. Apply and wash immediately as it can take the colour out of some things so watch out!
  • Wash in cold water then hang in the sun to dry – the most natural stain remover out there, though this option might take a few goes!
  • Ecover – I’m a big fan of this brand
  • Soak in white vinegar for a bit then scrub with baking soda

My favourite responses:

  • Have your kids eat naked – we do this a lot!
  • Shop in charity shops so clothes don’t become super expensive and it’s not the be all and end all
  • Disguise the bib by using an old t-shirt instead – little ones seem to be ok with that!
  • Buy some markers and add decorations to the stains – custom clothes are way cooler!

A few bonus tips:

  • Some washing machines have a stain setting – look out for this!
  • Treat the stain as soon as possible after it hits
  • Hot water sets a stain so always remove a stain initially using cold water then move on to hot

I really hope you find these answers handy – I for one will be trying out a bunch of these answers and here’s hoping my kids will one day have clean clothes…!

Thanks for reading,

Emma xxx

The more time I spend at home, the more I’m convinced of the importance of taking things slowly as a parent with your kids, creating a calm space, being in it and just seeing what comes up. View Post

10 Essentials For Family Travel

We’ve done a fair bit of travelling with the sproglets and pride ourselves on packing lightly (looking after small human beings is enough of a responsibility without having to look after a load of luggage) so I thought I’d do a quick post on the items that have been worth their weight in gold in our backpacks over the years. Again, this is a list that I know I’ll be checking back on before every trip, so thank you dear readers again for encouraging me to write content that (hopefully) both you and I will continue to find helpful.

1. Probably my all time essential item for travelling with children is a baby carrier. Whether you use it for carting your little one about in the airport, striding up and down the airplane aisle in the middle of the night when they resolutely won’t sleep in the tiny basinet, easing a tired toddler’s legs (we have a specific toddler carrier too), keeping them off the ground when say, rabid dogs might be lurking, or simply strapping them to you during mildly dangerous transport situations (ie. when a car doesn’t have belts or sides, or during a boat ride), a baby carrier is an absolute essential when traveling. My current carrier of choice is the Connecta baby carrier – they have a specific range for petite women, the carriers themselves are extremely light weight and non bulky and the ‘apron’ style of them make them super easy to put on. With two children, we tend to travel with one single buggy and two carriers – we find this combination works really well and just when Jack wants a run around, Sonny could do with stretching out / my back could do with a rest so we pop him in instead.

2. Travelling with a baby vs with a toddler brings very different challenges and nowhere more so than when it comes to sleeping. When travelling you of course never really quite know what you’re going to get when you turn up to new accommodation when it comes to kids sleeping arrangements; we’ve been faced with cots with no mattresses (just the bars), mattresses made of wood, at one hostel they made us a bed out of a piece of hardwood lying about, Sam has had to fashion a bed out of pillows and a mattress for Jack…suffice to say, it’s a bit of a gamble. So now that Jack sleeps in a bed at home which has a small bed railI was a little concerned  about what we’d do when away – should we put him back in a cot in case he falls out? Then a friend tipped me off about the inflatable Shrunks bed rail – a long, blow up piece of plastic that slips underneath the bed sheet and acts as a guard, and when deflated is really tiny. We will be using this piece of kit for years to come, for all the kids I am sure. It means it doesn’t matter if your child’s bed is on a perilous hard stone floor, they won’t be falling out and crucially, allows mum and dad to get some sleep without fear of a bump in the night.

3. Like it or not, you can’t get away from the fact that kids love screens. And when you’re travelling, more than ever, some down time for all parties is really important – when you have to vacate your room in 20 minutes and need to pack, or for when jetlag kicks in and kids can’t sleep til 3 am or just to allow parents to have a glass of wine in peace on the balcony. To this end, I really recommend some sort of screen – an old phone or a second hand tablet for example. And if you/they’re using an ipad or iphone, don’t forget to use a sturdy case (ours had a cracked screen within days) and to enable the guided access feature to stop them running riot on your phone and phoning your friend’s mum at 3am.

4. To continue on the technology theme, one of our absolute essentials when traveling is a mini speaker which we connect to a phone. We use this to play lullabies that the kids know at night to get them off to sleep – this familiarity is, I think, so important. We also use a speaker to play nursery rhymes to entertain the kids and also of course just to play some of our favourite tunes once they are asleep or to bring some calm (thank you, Nick Mulvey) or joy to a morning.

5. I never go anywhere abroad without a tub of coconut oil which can be used as a moisturiser, nappy rash cream, to ease mosquito bites, sun burn or just to slap on you when you’re feeling a little dehydrated. A real essential.

Other things I’d recommend: (6) earplugs and eyemask – crucial to drown out that drilling that happens to be going on when everyone needs an afternoon nap, (7) a portable cloth high chair like this one, (8), an extension lead – just saves the worry of leaving adaptors in sockets and with various devices, it sort of makes sense, (9) some clothes detergent – helps avoid stained clothes which is important if you’ve packed lightly and don’t have an endless supply of clean t-shirts, (10) a water bottle for refilling water – no one wants to keep buying plastic and spending unnecessary money.

I hope you found my list helpful. I’d love to know which items are your must haves on your trips away? Let me know in the comments below what you just couldn’t do without on your travels.

As ever, thank you for reading,

Emma xxx

P.S The perfect family friendly Italian summer get away and a weekend in Brooklyn.

I’m going to start this post with a confession and end it with a plea. You see, when I talk about ‘reading’, I’m not referring to what you’re probably expecting to hear about ie. novels I am currently enjoying. That’s because I don’t read novels, and I honestly cannot remember the last novel I even read. View Post