Note to self – Mum Knows Best

Me in 2006, with L, me in 2011 with L and G

Did you trust your instincts as a new mum?  New mums are bombarded with advice and information, and rarely celebrated for knowing best, or following their instincts. JOHNSON’S® baby have a new campaign, Mums Know Best, all about this very issue and asked me to write a letter to my self as a new mum…

Dear me c.2006

I just wanted to say all those decisions you’re making, they’ve turned out really well. I have two very happy, healthy and confident kids here. I’ve been thinking lots about everything you are going through…

I held my five month old nephew this week, yes your brother has a beautiful baby too now! It is over six years since I first gave birth, it suddenly hit me that my internal baby monitor was silent, that impulse to analyse all the data to come up with a new theory for his dissatisfaction had left me. I was in the privileged position of cuddling and jiggling a baby, without worrying about the never ending cycle of routines, feeding, sleeping, changing. It’s hard isn’t it, all those nuances to analyse, the unwanted advice, the comparisons to what other’s are doing? Tune out of that noise, it’s like a radio, if you don’t like what your hear, change channels.

I realised too, had I been in my sole charge of my nephew, I would have switched my internal monitors right back on, but as a mum I defaulted to the best people to know what a baby needs, his experts, his mum and dad. I want you to know you’re making all the right decisions, for you, for your baby, for your family. You know your baby best.

I watched my brother and sister in law in awe at the amount of information they possessed about my nephew in their heads.  I tried to communicate just how amazing I thought they were. I can’t believe I too had all that going on in my head once, 3 and 6 year old routines are a much less constant flow. Yes, you’re going to have a second child, but don’t let me spoil that suprise!  But it never seems like anyone truly believes in you when you are a new parent does it, that or they expect you to have all the answers?

Your babies will both turn out brilliantly, of course that wonderful bonus hindsight shows me just how different they are, and that different things work for them. The foundations for sleeping well you’ll give them are perfect, hindsight now lets me see one is a night owl and the other an early bird. Likewise, despite being weaned and fed the same, one eats anything and one is a complete fuss pot. Distractions work brilliantly with one, but the other doesn’t move on until the issue is fully resolved. One cries if they falls over, the other just carries on. You do know the answers, your judgements are the best ones, for you, for your baby, for your family, for the time.

Whenever times get tough, they both like to regress back, to snuggle up close and be fussed over, to crawl back to being a baby. If I could do one thing over again I would say cuddle more and do less. But that’s hard when you life is taken over by baby things, you want to get out and feel like you’re achieving things…So the second thing I would say is, babies are more adaptable than we give them credit for, make sure you hand them over from time to time, only to people who have a finely tuned internal baby monitor of course, and make time to be you.

Most importantly, you are, and always will be, the person who knows their child best.

love Penny


One of the big decisions you make as a mum is what to use on your baby’s skin. I remember Mr A being told off by the health visitor for using a wipe on my son’s bottom while she visited. We’d followed the instructions to use water and cotton wool, but amid the chaos of juggling two children the odd wipe had snuck in for convenience. Fast forward four years and my brother is now facing the same dilemma with his baby.

Something that could ease that decision for mums who do want to use wipes on newborn skin is a clinical trial on real babies bottoms, carried out by midwives in babies’ own homes, and analysed by researchers from Manchester University. The study found JOHNSON’S® Baby Extra Sensitive Wipes and Top-To-Toe® Bath are just as safe as using cotton wool and water or just water to cleanse delicate newborn skin.

This video explains more:

How refreshing to hear that the world isn’t going to end because of a baby wipe, more time to cuddle and less time to worry.

“I have been asked to work with JOHNSON’S® Baby to write a “note to self” to coincide with their Mums Know Best campaign which aims to empower new mums and women in the last stage of pregnancy to trust their instincts and have confidence in their own convictions, supported by the groundbreaking new independent evidence proving that JOHNSON’S® Baby Extra Sensitive Wipes & Top-To-Toe® Bath are as safe to use as water alone on newborn skin.  They have paid me to write this post”

WOW! Nupsa playhouse soft building set

Sometimes you see a toy and you just know it is going to go down a storm with your family.  It doesn’t happen often, but it did for us with Nupsa. All I can say is I loved this from the moment I first heard about it, as did Mr A, Mr G and Miss L. Nupsa tells its own story best.

We loved that…

  • Nupsa was a great way to bond and play together as a family
  • it changed as fast as our imaginations
  • it challenged us to think in 3D
  • it was so easy to clear up afterwards and wipe clean
  • its a physical toy, great for winter (equally good for the garden in Summer)
  • we could make boxes, and make things out of boxes
  • we could make complex structures or simple ones
  • we could make one big structure for co-operative play or individual ones.
  • after a few days 3yo Mr G could put simple structures together
  • after a few weeks it is still being used in new ways
  • constructing on such a big scale is so very rewarding
  • it definitely helps to develop dexterity, plus planning, visualisation, motor and social skills
As you can see from the video, Nupsa was an exciting learning curve, 3yo Mr G took a while to get used to it, but I was amazed at how quickly he learnt to make structures all by himself.  Miss L is really into constructing anything 3D, so this was a brilliant way to fuel her enthusiasm. Mr A was very at home in a 3D landscape, whereas I have always struggled to manipulate shapes in space, but I was determined to master it, it was a really interesting insight into how our brains work.
Nupsa lets kids build their own castle, pirate ship, space flyer, or whatever else they can come up with. Every Nupsa kit comes with a suggested shape, but the elements can be put together in any way imaginable – and probably some that you would never have expected. All the parts have the same connector shape, so they can be combined to form any structure, and multiple kits can be used together. When playtime is over, the flat panels can be stacked away neatly, leaving the room in perfect order.
For more information on Nupsa, check out the site, the boat and the aeroplane kits look awesome too..

Memory Book – Hobbies and Collections

Memory Book is a monthly slot where I write down some memories for my children, there’s a theme each month, and a linky, more info here. But if you want to choose your own theme, or do an old prompt that’s fine, the idea is just to set aside a time each month to write something down. When I’ve collected a few I am going to turn them into a book. In fact I just won a Blurb photobook, so I’m thinking about experimenting with that?

Some weeks I spend hours writing, sometimes I only have minutes, but having a regular slot means something always gets committed to the memory bank. I’m only on number 5 but I’m finding the ideas are coming thicker, and faster. Today I have 20 minutes before I have a work call, so here goes.

Dear L and G

You’re at the age where you are starting to want to collect things, Moshi Monsters, Lego mini figures, expensive tiny plastic trophies that come in shiny packaging, but pack huge cultural collateral when it comes to the playground.

I remember my Back to the Future sticker album, the football stickers I joined in with collecting only because everyone else in the playground did. I wasn’t even that interested in football, but it seemed to be a good leveller.

Then it was frogs, I had a huge collection of plastic frogs, and pigs for a bit.  They were really vile ornaments. Then I found an old printers block full of little squares and over the years filled it with special bits and pieces.  In Year 9 I had to do a presentation in front of the class, so I did it on my bedroom, I brought in all the things I had collected, from a tiny silver button with a swallow on, that had once belonged to a British Rail conductor, to the tiny sweet and medicine tins I’d found at antique fairs. The whole class was fascinated. Perhaps this is where you both get your love of collecting little things.

Nowadays I am much more wary of small things, a feng shui expert said hoarding small things can suggest you don’t believe you are worthy of bigger things, small things certainly take up a lot of your time and energy as you get older, especially when you have children.

Nowadays my hobby is writing. Writing this blog, writing articles and even writing stories when I get the time. Writing leaves memories, clears my head, but doesn’t leave me cluttered by physical stuff.

What about the rest of the family? My Grandad was an amazing tomato grower and gardener, I wrote all about that in The Majestic Bee Matador. His Dad, Your great great Grandad kept chickens. Grandad A has an amazing stamp collection, cooks, birdwatches and bakes bread. Grandma J can paint icons. There’s an artistic gene in Daddy’s side of the family. Gran loved to sew and made rag dolls and clothes. We both loved to crochet but have bags full of unfinished projects.  The people who aced knitting in this family are my Auntie C, my Grandma, my Gran and Daddy’s Grandma. Our house is full of Great Grandma J’s knitted blankets. I wish I could teach you but I need to reteach myself first.

My Gran E knitted my teddy bears’ coat, I will never forget it arriving from Edinburgh in a parcel, my Mum sewed some pyjamas for him that birthday too, and Grandma knitted cardigans for us, for our dolls, for my first day at secondary school. And she baked, Victoria sponges, cherry cupcakes, although I’m not sure she would have called that a hobby like I call baking a hobby now.  It was her job. Her treacle toffee was a treat.

Daddy and I have hobbies that became work though.  Daddy likes video games, I like writing. I also like making films, that was an old job, teaching film, that became a hobby when I stopped teaching.

So hobbies and collections are such important things. I can’t wait to find out what your hobbies will be, and where they will take you.




Feel free to share your memories in the comments or to link up a post, happy memory capturing! Next month’s theme is Christmas, Thursday 27th December.

Discover the Awesome World of Books

You know when children make sudden leaps in their thirst for knowledge that require you to furnish them with information quickly? Well, this week my attention was drawn to an excellent value Miles Kelly Discover the Awesome World iBook, a collaboration with the Discovery Channel. Don’t worry if you don’t have an iPad though, I’ve found a competition, plus some really good value Miles Kelly books which would make great Christmas gifts and stocking fillers.

Now L has started Year 1 her head can’t seem to absorb enough facts and information. She wants to know about how bodies process food, how long it takes to get to space, which animals live in Africa, what the Victorians invented, how tall she might be when she grows up.

I keep finding myself saying, ‘Ask Daddy’, or ‘Let me look that up’, when really what we need to do is introduce lots more non-fiction into our reading together. So being invited to review an eBook was a perfect challenge for me.

Discover the Awesome World iBook is a really enjoyable way to discover together, because rather than waiting for me to Google an answer, or find a suitable You Tube video, L and I worked through the multi touch eBook learning together. It is good value at £2.99.

The content is simpler than the physical book, which I was also sent to review, a ‘multi-touch’ book means it features slider picture shows, close up sections and videos, perfect for children like L, who are learning to read, but equally effective for independent readers, in that they can interact with the awesome world and make it come alive.

Mr G, who is 3, enjoyed making the emperor penguin video work and scrolling through the amazing images in the penguin photograph gallery.  A great introduction to interactive media and a fun reading experience for a boy who is always on the go.

If you don’t have an iPad there’s a fabulous Discovery Competition/Miles Kelly competition here to win one, open until 2nd December. Miles Kelly also have a great range of soft and hardback books including the jam-packed, bumper hard-back, Discover the Awesome World, at just £10.99.

I was sent some of these Miles Kelly books to review. They are all arranged by age on the website, they are also organised into series so you can easily find an appropriate level of information for your child. I love the first questions and answer series, at £3.59, which should answer many of Miss L’s recent questions, like:

I also loved the Junior Encyclopaedia, £9 and My First Animal Questions and Answers both of which have come with attractive holographic covers and a lovely mix of bite size facts, cartoon and photographic illustration:

Miles Kelly do a series of 100, 500 and much more comprehensive fact books. Over 1000 Fantastic Earth Facts, £8.99 is more complex, but definitely an easy one to dip into as the facts are numbered and bite-size, and sure to keep older children engrossed over the holidays.

I have been despairing recently of some modern chapter books L found in the library full of stinky pink, substance less tales of mermaids and princesses so it was refreshing to see the magical stories collections featuring renowned authors such as Rudyard Kipling, the Brothers Grimm, Joseph Jacobs and Andrew Lang at only £3.59 for 4 stories.

Miles Kelly books are available online and also sold through The Works outlets. There are also sticker books, science experiments, how to draw guides, flip quizzes, 5 minute stories and lots of great value larger collections of themed bedtime stories.

The Discover the Awesome World eBook is available to download here.

I’m off to create an easily accessible non fiction book shelf in the living room, and have promised we’ll check out volcanoes via the eBook.

Why is our house old?

Today’s big question popped up over lunch as Mr G and I sat eating our sandwiches after a morning of box modelling and painting. ‘Why is our house old’,  he said, with a look of sheer bewilderment, a face that says ‘Durr mummy, why live in an old house when you could have a new one?’

One reason I like living in our old house is that it isn’t a show home, and the rooms are big, so we can have permanently have paints in pots on an easel at the end of the kitchen and not worry too much about the odd splatter. But it does get draughty and it is full of nooks and crannies which make it a complete pain to keep clean. I can see why one of the previous occupants left it to his housekeeper in his will (I assure you this makes it sound much more stately than it is)

I tried to explain to Mr G that the Victorians did a good job of building houses and they can last a very long time, but I could tell Mr G wasn’t convinced by me, or by looking round at the recently damp-proofed bare plaster, the mark on the ceiling where his bath mysteriously overflowed or the curling wallpaper and chipped paint.

Old houses need a lot of love. So much love some days I don’t know where to begin. I really dream of one of those makeover shows taking over.  Apart from making over every room for me so my bedroom is a boudoir, my kitchen is a hub rather than a hovel, my bathroom is an oasis of calm and my son’s bedroom doesn’t look like someone broke in, I would ask them to:

Draftproof and insulate my house within an inch of its life.

Knock down the room between the playroom and living room so I don’t need to keep picking toys up and returning them to the playroom, but can simply sweep them back to one end.

Move the toilet someone built into a pantry at the end of the kitchen and put it under the stairs so I don’t need to see members of my family on the toilet from the kitchen table when they forget to shut the door.

Repeat the exercise for the toilet at the top of the stairs which affords similar ghastly visions, by knocking it into the bathroom.

Build a huge shed or garage down the side of the house to hide the mountain of junk that springs out at me from every cupboard in the house.  This would also allow me to get my bike out without a fight.

Repaint the chipped front door to match the garage door and generally make the front of the house look less like the property has been squatted/left to rot. Add a big bold frosted film house number to the window above the door so people can find the house from the road. This has been on my mind since an ambulance driver told me it can save lives.

Build a huge glass floor to ceiling window in the attic like next door but 3, so I can see the whole of Nottingham as I work, and generally feel like the big boss.

Dig a tunnel under the house to school so I never have to deal with the school run overground again.

Put the house on wheels and move it wherever I fancy on a whim.

I’m really dreaming now, really I’m just lucky to have a roof over my head and to live in a house steeped in history…what home improvement plans would change your life?

Sony Branding – Xperia™ Tablet

  • Tablets, of the electronic and not the medicinal variety, get in some funny places in our house, I can never find ours when I want it. I’ve caught my son taking ours to the toilet because ‘I’m watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates Mum’. I’ve found it in my daughter’s bed, I relented as she was playing a phonics game. When I’ve finally located it on top of the fish tank, in the glove compartment or down the back of the sofa I find sharing a tablet as a family is a pain, the number of apps Mr A downloads is exasperating.

    Sony asked me if I would like to feature their Xperia™ Tablet S. Knowing all the problems tablets can cause for families and having invested in an Xperia™ phone over the Summer (not connected to this review) I was keen to find out more.

    Apart from the sleek design, I like the idea the camera has 8 mega pixels, the most you can currently get for a tablet, and that the processing is so fast. I’ve been reading up, and Android tablets have the edge over the competition on this front. It’s also splash proof, should anyone make a toilet visit with it.  It also has a guest mode feature meaning each member of the family can have their own profile.

    I won’t lie, at first I didn’t get on with my Sony Xperia™ phone.  I changed to it because a friend had made me reassess what I use my phone for, and I realised it was film and photos, followed by social networking. I asked for the best specification camera and video for those uses and the man in the shop pointed straight to the Xperia™.

    It took me a while to adjust to Android, but it is faster and more seamless when it comes to handling social networking sites. It took me a while to get used to the camera and I did experience some focussing issues, but even me of little technical persuasion managed to ‘fix’ this issue after 5 minutes in a forum.

    It is still a phone, but the film can be really impressive, check out my slug eating video, and so can the pictures.


    An artist has done an impression of how a family might use a Sony Xperia™ Tablet S. I have to say in our house, it would probably be me catching up on news or work, Mr A playing a game and the kids glued to cartoons, and a fair bit of fighting, hence the need for a second tablet.

    What does tablet use look like in your house?  Could the Xperia™ solve any of your family’s issues?  You can check out the Xperia™ Tablet here, do let me know what you think.

    Sponsored Post

the amazing time travelling boy

4…Wow you are looking so grown up today.  Haven’t you grown? image

3…nice tash, pirate boy, fab place to stash your sword and look at those lashes!’re like a whirlwind, always have been, probably always will be1…big blue determined eyes with a cheeky glint, you got those from your father0…my boundless ball of noise and energy was once was a little baby
Happy 4th Birthday Mr G!

What my son’s bedroom really looks like

Now that we are absolutely, definitely, completely not moving (I am too emotionally exhausted by the whole saga to manage more than a Charlie and Lolaesque statement on the matter today, more may follow)… Mr A suggested I got over my grumps at not moving by thinking about what to do to the house.

Hanging out with local bloggers who blog about interiors, like Jen at Love Chic Living, and Amanda at The Ana Mum Diary has really inspired me, Whilst I can’t get as excited about cushions as they can, I do want my house to feel like a lovely home.

Mr G’s bedroom makeover

It’s tough being the youngest, by the time you’ve arrived the best bedroom has been snapped up and your parents have exhausted all their DIY energies. Mr G has completely outgrown his ‘baby’ room, he has even started taking down the bear and animal pictures and bringing them to me to give to his baby cousin. His room is becoming a huge fail on our part.

In our defence, it isn’t like we didn’t attempt storage solutions, they just don’t seem to work for us like they do in Ikea catalogues?

All is not lost, he does have some wall art by an up and coming young artist:

And the carpet in this room is especially thick, although not particularly soft under foot:

Okay…you’ve gone quiet, I have to start somewhere right? Well the room is small, and the windows are unusually high.

He is 4, and because he is pretty agile I think he is old enough for a cabin bed. I love the idea of him having more space on the ground and being able to actually see the pretty impressive view over Nottingham and our garden.  One of my earliest memories is of staring out the skylight with my mum at the stars, I’d love him to be able to do that. He is really jealous of his sister’s desk too, so it seems like a perfect solution to so many issues.

Then I think I need to reduce what he has in his room by half, get him some new wall stickers, quickly place them over the current wall art before he learns to sign his own ‘tag’, and teach him to tidy up. This interior design stuff is sooooo easy.

What I now know about babies

My gorgeous baby nephew visited this week, bringing with him my brother, his girlfriend and a whole car full of apparatus.  He was all huge smiles, as was I, as we watched my brother unload and reload the car with feeding equipment, bedding, travel cot, nappies and changes of clothes. I thought a lot about babies…

Babies make you mindful. It’s been a while since I mobilised for a baby army, was last covered in baby sick, washed baby bottles or had to to make tea with one hand and a baby on my hip. It made me realise babies force you to slow down, to take notice and be in the present. They make you very mindful.

Babies remind you of the power of unconditional love. My nephew reminded me how easily the attention you give your children can diminish with age. It is a well know phenomenon, and one I was grateful to be made mindful of again. I heaped the praise on Mr G hoping he wouldn’t feel jealous, I was staggered by the change in his behaviour. He may be like a giant compared to his cousin, but his needs for attention are just as great.

Babies need so much stuff. I might have sighed with relief watching my brother unloading all that baby stuff, but my brother, who hasn’t been to our house for a while, was aghast at the stuff and mess older children generate. I tried to explain I had felt exactly the same way at his stage of parenthood, and vowed never to let it happen to me. But it did.

Baby stuff is so confusing We got talking about the best buys for babies six months plus. I struggled to remember, but stacking cups, musical instruments, highchairs that grow into chairs, pelican style bibs, bath toys, an inflatable doughnut or Bumbo, or lots of cushions stand out for me.

Babies challenge you beyond belief I reminded my brother of the day he stepped in to look after me and 8 month Miss L, and work from our home, the day I had food poisoning. I staggered downstairs at the end of the day to utter chaos, my brother’s words have never left me:

‘Why didn’t you tell me she can’t feed herself yogurt? I really don’t know how on earth you do this every day. Thank god for that play pen!’

It made me feel so good at the time to know someone else recognised how tough caring for a baby is, so I try to repay that awareness now with my brother and his girlfriend. We laughed too, now he seems like such a natural with babies.

Babies. Do you remember it well, or is it a distant memory?

Multiple Mummy #Healing4Kerry

A good blogging friend of mine suffered a brain aneurysm this Summer, and has been in hospital for a long time. Kerry from Multiple Mummy has been in my thoughts throughout her illness. I first met her at Action Aid tea party, although we met over email when we volunteered to be blog mentors.

I didn’t think I was qualified to be her mentor as my blog was only 4 months older than hers, so we ended up mentoring each other. We shared our hopes and dreams for our blogs and our futures, we discovered we were both teachers who had taken a career break to be at home with kids.

Kerry worked so hard on her blog, as ex teachers and successful students we both felt frustrated at not being able to crack things. Blogging success seemed so elusive back then, so it was brilliant to hear she had won not one, but two awards at the MADS this year.

I’m sending hope and positive thoughts to Kerry and her family.

Please send your positive thoughts and prayers to Kerry at 10pm this evening.  There’s a hashtag #Healing for Kerry with posts and thoughts running. You can link up posts at New Mum Online.


There’s only one way of life

This week I was lucky enough to see The Levellers at Rock City, Nottingham.  When I first met Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary in a cafe in Nottingham last Autumn, I didn’t expect to be dancing on the tables at a Levellers gig a year later, but there we were. It was a brilliant evening.

So many amazing songs and such a warm, smiley audience who had clearly grown up with the band. As the night unfolded, my memories did too,

the girl from 15 years ago…


I remembered dancing to them aged 16/7 at Glastonbury, swinging arm to arm country dancing style with my best mates in the sunshine…

I met you in 82, over a crate of beer and not a few
I cracked a can and so did you, we’re going to change the world.

Mix tapes from old friends…

What a beautiful day (hey hey)
I’m the king of all time
And nothing is impossible
In my all powerful mind

Buying One Way on 12″ in a record shop in the back streets of Manchester nearly 20 years ago…

And we choked on all our dreams
We whispered all our fears
Running through the heartless concrete streets
Chasing our ideas.  Run.

Being a long way from home, in Moscow, on a theatre tour, listening to This Garden…

Blood, sweat and tears,

Really don’t matter,

Just the things that you do,

In this garden.

All those hopes and dreams from your youth, all that rebellious energy. It’s good to be reminded of that. A psychologist once told me that 17 is when many of your preferences in life are formed, so it makes sense that the music that takes you back to that age is so very powerful. These have to be my favourite lyrics and the ones I will hold a little closer:

Thanks so much Amanda and Tall Dad, and friend for extending your spare ticket to me.

Are you a Levellers fan? Which lyrics stick in you head?