Friday, 28 February 2014

Have you nominated (anyone, or even just ME) in the MADS yet?!

I don't know if you heard, but there's this teeny tiny HUGE Blogging Awards thingie (see, look how good I am with words!) going on at the moment, called the MADS.

MAD Blog Awards  
Basically, it's the chance for lots of people (non-bloggers included!) to nominate lots of other people who write blogs to win an award for all that blog writing. There are 16 categories, ranging from Best Schooldays Blog to Most Entertaining and Blog Of The Year.

As much as anyone says they are only writing for themselves, I think most people, if they're honest, would admit that it'd be nice to be recognised for something they put a lot of time and effort, and in some cases heart and soul into. Winning isn't important (although of course it'd be v nice!) but the taking part can really make you feel happy.

And so right now I'm floating on Cloud Nine, knowing that my blog has been nominated in several of those categories. Whoever did that, you are ALL (there must have been more than one?!) lovely, generous people!

Trouble is, LOADS of bloggers have been nominated. Very soon they are going to whittle those nominations down to just the Top 4 in each category. Of course I don't believe I have a chance of making it onto that shortlist, but it's nice to dream, right?!

So I'm not begging, but I am asking very nicely, in a super polite voice, that if you haven't yet cast a vote, I would REALLY (my most over-used word) appreciate it if you would consider nominating me in any category, but particularly for Best Schooldays Blog as our blog covers that age range. You can actually enter my URL into every category if you like (wishful thinking), but I can tell you truthfully I don't qualify for the Best Baby Blog one.

Please click here: Nominate for the MADS and then enter my URL which is

I've already made my nominations, but I don't want to upset anyone by saying who specifically as there are too many blogs I love and I am still a bit sad that I couldn't include them all. However if you check out my Blog Love page there are plenty of links for you to go away and enjoy and maybe add to your nomination list!

Thanks so much for reading if you got this far, and for all your support over the past 4 years I've been blogging. I can hardly believe it's been that long! I've loved being a part of the Blogging Community, and the support which that has brought. Special thanks to all my friends and family who read too, and who constantly support me - love you all x
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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Small Steps Amazing Achievements - Swimming!

Last weekend I experienced a moment which I seriously thought I never might. That might sound slightly over-dramatic, but thanks to Sasha's PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance - you can read more about that here) tendencies, she has got to the grand old age of 6 and 3/4 without being able to swim unaided by a float. Now, I'm happy to report, she can swim alone! Yay!
Sasha was always extremely happy in water, much more so than our eldest. I started her with swimming lessons quite young, but it was always a bit hit and miss as to whether she would join in with what the instructor was saying. Mostly miss. Luckily at that age you are in the pool with them and so it wasn't a huge issue if she didn't do what she was told - I was just happy for her to enjoy the water. She always wore armbands and so was quite happy to go off and do her own thing in the water - but never happy to remove them.

Then we took a break from those lessons as she joined in less with the group, but when Tamsin started regular swimming lessons again, we thought it was time to try Sasha again too. Those lessons went surprisingly well, and after a few initial teething issues, and a couple of terms of me having to be in the pool with Sasha, I slowly withdrew and Sasha mostly did what she was asked to. As lots of things tend to go with Sasha though, the more comfortable she became in that lesson, the more she would push the boundaries and do her own thing. She refused to move away from the shallow end of the pool. It was clear she was not going to allow anyone to take her out of her comfort zone, where she was happy she could touch the bottom and therefore walk when she didn't have a float to swim with. Eventually, after 4 terms, we realised that there was such a big age gap (Sasha remained in the bottom group after she turned 6, with mostly 4 year olds) and as she refused to move up the pool we decided it was time to take a break on those lessons.

Despite all the time she has spent in water, she has never been happy with getting splashed, or putting her face in. Last weekend we took both girls swimming to a different pool we've only been to a couple of times. As Sasha is quite tall for her age, she could still stand up in it comfortably more than half way towards the deep end, and I think that really helped. She could see her big sister off swimming lengths and I think that was part of the motivation she needed. 

We spent the first half of the hour or so we were in the pool loitering by the steps, but gradually Sasha started to dip first her chin, and then her mouth in the water. Finally we moved on to Sasha pretending to be a dog or space walker, where she would just kick her legs underneath her, a bit like treading water. I could see where that might head, so I gently encouraged her for the next half hour and we counted as she kicked, with a new number goal to get to each time and lots of praise for even a second longer. We had had a chat whilst by the steps about how it is good to challenge yourself, as that is how you achieve new things. To be honest, I thought all that might have gone over her head, but seems some of it may have sunk in!

So for half an hour she kicked her legs off the bottom for longer and longer each time, with me trying to step away a little bit more and gently encourage her to move forward. Eventually we had to warn her the pool was closing and that it was time to go home. Suddenly she found the confidence to lift her legs up just a little and propel herself, and hey presto, she was swimming! Amazing! The best bit was seeing how chuffed with herself she was - like a lightbulb going off when she realised she could do it. I just hope we can go back soon so she doesn't forget.....

I also want to mention Tamsin in this post too. Tamsin hasn't always loved the water as much, but has thankfully always been good at putting her head under and holding her breath. We've tried all the lessons with her too, and even a few individual lessons in between, but nothing much seemed to improve her technique or her stamina and she wasn't able to move up swimming groups with her best friend. Try as she might to achieve the standard to move back up to be in with her best friend, it just wasn't happening for her and so she got rather demoralised. Around the same time though, Tamsin started going swimming on a weekly basis with school (she's Year 4) and the improvement in her abilities has been immense. She has worked her way up and we are really proud of her - and she is proud of herself, too. It just goes to show what a difference the right teachers can make.

Now I'm happy that we can go on a summer holiday where I will finally be confident enough to take my eyes off Sasha in a pool for more than a nano second. It was quite exhausting, always having to be in the water with her. No more woggle, other than as a play thing. Not sure she'll be throwing herself down waterslides just yet, but give it time. I'm hoping that once you realise you can swim then you never look back. Roll on summer!
I call this one 'giving the woggle back' :)
Linking up to #PoCoLo because I hope everyone will be happy for us :) and to Small Steps Amazing Achievements as this is definitely a great Achievement for us, and for Sasha, and also, because I am, to Reasons To Be Cheerful!

Ethans Escapades
Ojos World
Post Comment Love
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New exciting launch for Moshi Monsters

This will be my shortest ever blog post. 

Moshi Monsters are launching something new.

I'm giving you a quick tease here, no full story just yet...

but if you click on the link above I think you can probably guess what's coming and it's very exciting!
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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Treasure Box Party Review

The Treasure Box Party by Interplay is a fabulous product which was sent to us recently to try out. It's part of their range called Craft Party, where you get all you need in a box to keep up to 6 children entertained. A one-stop-party-solution in a box!

Included in the box were 6 heart shaped card trinket boxes, 3 sets of pink and purple paint sets, 6 paintbrushes, enough beads, charms and elasticated string to make 6 bracelets, 4 sheets of 'gems' (craft stickers) and 6 small sheets of pink tissue paper for lining the boxes. I love this finishing touch as this means your guests then have a beautifully presented party gift to take home with them.

The idea is that the painting and bracelet making will keep children entertained for up to one and a half hours. Of course, that always depends on the character of each particular child, and how interested they are in that certain activity, but it worked well for the four girls we had at our party, who all took great care over their painting and designing, and enjoyed making patterns with their beads.

As we only had 4 girls for our mini party, we were able to use the extra beads up and make necklaces instead! 
There are 4 other themes to choose from in this range: Mad About Ponies, Pirate Party and Princess Party. They are aimed at 5-8 year olds, and having tested ours out on 6 and 8 year olds, I'd say that's about right. The box retails at around £19.99 which makes it great value for party entertainment at home.

We were sent the above product for the purpose of this review, but have not received payment. All the views expressed here are our own.
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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Center Parcs February Challenge: Indoor Family Time #CPFamilyBreaks

When I heard about the Center Parcs February Blogger Challenge, my mind began to work overtime on all the weird and wonderful ways we could have fun indoors without breaking anything. 

My next thought was to pass the challenge on to the girls (kind of me), to get their imagination flowing. We read the tips from the Games Guru at Center Parcs, Lisa Brown (what a fab job that would be!) and the girls got very excited about one tip in particular - 'Make your own version of Happy Families by asking your children to draw your extended family....'

So off they went, and Tamsin spent a good couple of hours drawing and colouring in the characters for our new game, which she decided to call 'Matching Pairs' (see what she did there?!). 
Our family consists of a lot more than 9 people, but her arm was getting tired. Having just been on a mini film-making course for a couple of days this half term, Tamsin was keen to get back in front of the camera and tell you all about her game, so here it is:

The beauty of this, which wasn't explained in the film for time reasons, is that not only can it be played alone by one person or by several together, but it is also ultra-portable and so would be perfect for packing in the bag to take to Center Parcs for those early mornings before mummy and daddy are ready to drag themselves out of the cosy beds!

Meanwhile Sasha was busy making her own separate indoor game, which also involved colouring and characters, but in a different sort of way. She created some Teletubby puppets which we stuck onto pencils, and some relevant background scenery pictures. Then she insisted I make her a theatre (typically we were a bit short on cardboard boxes, but we made do with a small one!). 

The result was great fun, and although not quite as portable as the cards game, I'm sure it could be recreated in a Center Parcs lodge for another impromptu show!

I love how much creativity and imagination this produced from both girls - we've since seen several shows with a variety of storylines, and there was of course a Stampy Minecraft one, soon to be the latest offering on Tamsin's famous YouTube channel...

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 February challenge. If I'm chosen, I would like to visit Elveden Forest.
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Friday, 21 February 2014

Siblings {February} and a Purple Party

So, better late than never I always say, here is my entry into the Siblings photo linky for the month of February. 
Stephs Two Girls

The idea from the lovely Lucy from Dear Beautiful Boy, is that you take a photo of your siblings, preferably together, every month this year.

My January Siblings post was a collage of the girls at bedtime, and in that I explained that for us, one photo will never do. True to form, we had the same experience this month.

'Smile!' I say excitedly for the first one. 
Then 'no, look at the camera', I ask Sasha nicely. 
'Tamsin, keep looking at the camera please so I can catch one of you both, don't watch Sasha'. 
Bit more agitatedly now 'no, no funny faces thank you!' 
followed by 'both of you keep looking this way, and stand still!'. 
Finally, almost menacingly, 'we're going to be here until I can get at least one decent photo. If you don't stop messing around, we could be here all day!'
Stephs Two Girls Siblings Collage Feb
I wonder if it'll ever be just one picture. Twelve seems to be the average (after deleting the blurred ones). It's true to say I do love a good collage though

This was the day we had a small 'purple party' for Sasha. Purple balloons, purple plates, purple cups, purple paint, purple food (that last one is tricky, particularly for a girl with autism who is fussy about food).

She's been asking for one for about 4 months (even though her birthday is nowhere near yet!). The desire for this came from a Barney episode where he has a purple party to help a young girl with half an arm make friends. Not too sure how politically correct that is, but the party is what seems to have grabbed Sasha's attention. She has however also wistfully proclaimed a couple of times 'mummy, I wish I had one short arm'. That's a tough one to have to try and explain...


dear beautiful
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