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Thursday, 27 March 2014

BritMums Live 2014 - time for Blogger chat!

So the lovely Mari from Mari's World has suggested a linky for BritMums Live 2014 so that we can recognise some others when we get there. There will be hundreds of bloggers there, so I'm hoping to meet some new ones alongside my old favourites - always happy for a random stranger to come up and say hello to me as I love a chat! So here's goes with answering the suggested questions:

Name: Steph
Blog: www.stephstwogirls.co.uk
Twitter ID: @stephc007
Facebook page: stephstwogirls 
Height: 5 foot 5.
Hair: Short-ish, brown with hopefully no grey bits on the day.
Eyes: Hazel/greenish, but I'm guessing you won't be gazing into them for long as there's so much to do at these events! Anyhow my pic (with my two girls) is quite obvious on my blog so I'm hoping I'm recognised by that - would love it if at least one person came up to me and exclaimed 'oh, I know you, you're Steph!'

Is this your first Blogging conference?
No, I went to BritMums Live 2012 and Mumsnet BlogFest 2013.

Are you attending both days?
Oh most definitely. Just a little bit of childcare to sort first (Mum?!)
 
What are you looking forward to most at BritMums Live 2014?
Naked waiters. Oh, OK, semi-naked.
Also amazing speakers - from Katie Piper, Kirstie Allsopp and Emma Freud to Jane Blackmore, Emma Bradley, Penny and other experts. So much knowledge to be gleaned I feel!

What are you wearing?
No idea yet but I'd hazard a good guess at jeans and a T - comfort is key! Possibly may even invest in a cross shoulder bag for a real 'hands-free' experience.

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live?
Some fresh inspiration on how to 'manage' my blog - creating interesting and appealing content is my focus this year.

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who have not been before?
The best thing I ever did was arrange to meet someone (the lovely Steph from Was This In The Plan?) before I went into my first conference. Courage in numbers; very important if, like me, you are the sort of person who finds it hard to hover and 'butt in' to other people's chats.

So if anyone fancies dropping me a tweet or a comment and would like to meet up with a friendly face beforehand, please do and we'll face the world together (or something)!

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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Yoshi's New Island new DS game

We are super excited in this house to have been chosen to be part of the Nintendo Family UK Blogger Network!
We've now got quite a few Nintendo products, and the girls love them all. The Wii U is used almost daily by the girls (and supposedly by me, to do Wii Fit, ahem...), and it's been lovely to see their teamwork and co-operation when they're on it together.

Recently we were welcomed 'to the fold' with a gorgeous box of Nintendo biscuits, and the promise of some future reviews to bring you.

So now we can let you know all about Yoshi's New Island game for the 3DS system (this also plays on 2DS). There's a great trailer for the game which gives you an idea of what it's all about.
This game is described as a 'magical journey with Baby Mario and the Yoshi clan in a quest to find Baby Luigi'. The idea is that the player can use giant eggs called Mega-Eggs to destroy blocks and pipes, revealing hidden secrets like keys and coins. The more things you destroy, the more lives you get and the bigger the egg grows - a giant egg just like this one, which is waiting to make an appearance at Easter in our house...

Tamsin (who is 8) has been playing this avidly on her 2DS, and her view is that it is the perfect balance of fun and just enough frustration, as it's not all so easy you can do it in one go. You need to persevere sometimes, but not to the point where it gets annoying! A good life skill, I reckon.
I'm sure all Nintendo fans will love this - but equally as good for those who have not yet been introduced to the world of Mario/Yoshi.

Disclosure: 
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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Friday, 21 March 2014

Tots 100 and Center Parcs March Challenge - Flower Painting!

As soon as I heard about the March Bloggers Center Parcs Challenge from Tots100, I just knew we had to join in. Not that there's any chance of us not taking part in any of these monthly challenges... but what I mean is that the challenge itself sounded right up our street, one of my favourite activities to do with my girls (unlike poetry, which I had a stab at in a previous post but actually quite surprised myself with!).

This month's challenge was Painting Flowers. We were so lucky with the lovely mild Spring weather last week that I knew it would be the perfect time to get out into the park to gaze at flowers, then into the garden for some painting.
We laid an old sheet and a mat down and the girls spent a very happy hour in the sun experimenting with different pictures and styles. 

Center Parcs' Creative Crafter, Emma Hull, gave some brilliant tips for painting flowers in her post. We liked this tip of hers the best: 
'find materials around the house to add to the painting, giving it a 3D effect.' 
As you can see, we managed to include twigs and straws, and could actually have kept going all day with tissue paper and crafty bits and pieces.

Fingerprint painting was voted the most fun by Sasha, who did both a blossom and a daffodil picture, and all paintings were topped off with some very special fairy glitter!

Earlier in the day, Sasha had already decided to make some tissue paper flowers, and so with Tamsin's help she did just that. Then they found and decorated some old tubes to turn into vases to put the flowers into. Their creativity always amazes me!


Sasha turned her playroom into a cafe and served food to all her soft toys at their tables with flowers! Such fun.

Meanwhile, Tamsin had produced her first flowers painting - a lovely watercolour of daffodils in a vase. Loved it!


This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 March Challenge. If I'm chosen, I would like to visit Elveden Forest.

All my previous posts about the fabulousness that is Center Parcs free smileys :
Center Parcs Family Blogger Club 
Center Parcs November Challenge 
Center Parcs December Challenge 
Center Parcs January Challenge 
Center Parcs February Challenge 
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Monday, 17 March 2014

Siblings {March}

So I'm a little behind again (who me, what, that almost never happens.. ahem) and it was thanks to spotting a couple of other posts that I realised it was 'Siblings' time again.

The idea behind this is to have one photo of your siblings every month this year. This was the brainchild of Lucy who blogs at Dear Beautiful and who is an amazing photographer. She shares the linking-up joy with several other bloggers. I think it's a great way to catalogue the love and changes as they grow up.

I've actually had chance to snap quite a few of my two girls together lately, so below will be another collage (one pic is never enough). As my main Siblings photo I've decided to choose the one taken closest to the linky date of 10th March:
This was the girls on a day they were about to go out and enjoy some Daddy time, while Mummy was off reminiscing with some old school friends. I love this as they look so happy - there was also a silly face version just before this.... It's a bit blurred, think Daddy needs to brush up on his photography skills.

As promised, here's the obligatory collage - in fact, two of them, so much fun this month!


dear beautiful
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Sunday, 16 March 2014

My Style Super Loop Bands Review

My Style Super Loop Bands is a great new set from Interplay which we recently received to review. We've enjoyed a couple of their other craft kits before, and so we were keen to give it a go.


In the box there are 125 silicone loops in five different bright colours, 5 metal 'S' clasps and an instruction manual. That's enough to make five different bracelets.


Our 8 year old was keen to have a go but initially found it quite tricky to hold the loops in place whilst trying to bend another loop round. She got over that quite quickly though and once she had got the hang of it, she needed no further help and was quite happy to make herself a few different bracelets. The instruction manual is very clear and was a great help.


Our girl thought the fact that you could undo them and start again was a big bonus, as you can change your mind about colours and patterns! At a suggested retail of £9.99 I think this makes a nice gift and will keep your child entertained for an hour or so initially, with chance to go back to it at a later date.


Disclosure: 
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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Thursday, 13 March 2014

What is Inclusion? Should all schools be Inclusive?

What is Inclusion? 

Is Inclusion what we should all be striving for?

If you are parenting a child with no particular special needs, you most likely have not given this a second thought. Those children are automatically 'included' everywhere and for you it's a case of trying to choose what best suits your child.

For us, Inclusion is one of those big topics that gets swirled around when you have a child with a disability (a bit like 'Outcomes Focused Planning', but I'll save that for another time...!).

Schooling is now on my mind all of the time. More specifically, secondary schools. We are really lucky with our current schools for both girls and they are both happy and progressing. With one daughter in Year 4 at Junior School, we are only six months away from the time when parents are advised to visit schools and start to form an opinion on where their child might go at the end of Year 6.

Locally there are some great mainstream schools, and for our eldest daughter we have a few good choices. Possibly subject to moving house within our current town. However, for our younger girl with autism, we seem to be faced with very little choice at all locally - in fact it boils down to Inclusion in a mainstream secondary, or attending a 'Special School' intended for children with Learning Disabilities.

When I say locally, I actually mean in the whole of our county. We know that in neighbouring counties, there are secondary schools with autism bases attached or even integrated. Partial inclusion you might say. Possibly the closest thing to Inclusion that Sasha could manage. I'd like to have this option, and have spoken to a Local Councillor about it recently (not something I ever thought I'd be doing as a mum!).

If Sasha was to attend a local mainstream secondary, we are already certain that she would need full-time support. Sheer numbers of other children in these schools is the first issue, and sensory issues with all that noise and changing classrooms during the school day would be a big problem. Lack of understanding of Sasha's disability would also be a huge hurdle to face - whilst I'm confident that schools these days do receive general training on autism, we are sure that there is very little information about the specific subtype of autism that we feel Sasha has (PDA or Pathological Demand Avoidance; for more information on this see www.thepdaresource.com). Our school has been wonderful at implementing the strategies which work for Sasha, but could a large number of teachers, who see hundreds of students, really manage this consistently in a mainstream setting?

As we established from the recent testing Sasha went through at GOSH, her cognitive abilities are in the top 5% of her peer group. She doesn't have a specific Learning Disability, but it is probably fair to say that her disability is a barrier to her learning in the same structured way as her peers. Should we be forcing her to learn in this one-size-fits-all kind of way though, or should we be approaching it from the 'what works best for Sasha' angle? I know which would get the best results, both academically and socially.

Inclusion is intended to help with that social gap though. Hiding Sasha away from the world would not help her socially, but equally it wouldn't help her peers be any more understanding. It's a true fact that a very high percentage of children with autism are bullied at school. Sasha is not quiet, and I'm not sure she would allow bullying in the traditional sense to take place. It could certainly lead her to school refusing though, something I'm desperate to avoid. Home educating may be a way of life or a passion for some, but it's not what I would hope for, for either of my children. That's personal choice (and another whole separate discussion!).

Inclusion is a way of educating others, but at whose expense?

When speaking with parents whose children are attending Special Schools, there has generally been a sense of happiness that their child is in the right place. A setting which supports them, looks after their individual needs, and can really help them progress to the best of their abilities. I realise that if everyone whose child had a problem at secondary wanted to send them to a Special School, we'd have to build a whole lot more of them, very quickly. There is a fine balance between which children can or can't manage in mainstream, and I think it comes down to the individual child, and the individual setting, and the parents trying to make the best decision for them.

A throwaway comment from someone today whilst explaining my predicament has got me thinking hard. Am I for, or against, Inclusion? Should all children be in mainstream schools? Is there a right or wrong answer? What do you think?
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Saturday, 8 March 2014

#Lastingchange #TeamHonk Postcard from Tanzania

Do you know what #lastingchange is all about? 

Sport Relief funding kicks off change, improving not just one person’s life, but giving people a leg up so their families and whole communities benefit from the ripple effect.

A small amount of money can be all that’s needed to help people in unimaginably tough situations turn their lives around. The Gatsby Trust provides training and mentoring to help women entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground, in very challenging environments.

Today is International Women's Day and I have been sent the most amazing pictures of Eliafura from Tanzania by the equally amazing #TeamHonk ladies.
Eliafura makes the most beautiful batiks and tie dyed material. With the support of the Gatsby Trust Eliafura has registered her business and learned important health and safety rules around the chemicals she uses. Eliafura now also trains other women in the village who bring material to her and she shows them how to create these beautiful patterns. They sell easily to not only local schools where teachers like to buy them but also overseas.  

Why are we talking about women?

The stastistics speak for themselves:

  • 70% of the world’s poorest people are women and they own only 1% of the world’s property.
  • Nearly 50% of all sexual assaults worldwide are against girls aged 15 years or younger
  • Domestic violence is the largest cause of women’s injury and death – leading to more deaths and disability among women aged 15-44 than malaria, war, traffic accidents and cancer.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that female genital mutilation (FGM) has affected as many as 138 million women and girls in Africa, and the numbers continue to rise every year.
  • Many women and girls have poor access to education and about two thirds of all illiterate people are women.
We have already been involved in Sport Relief as part of #teamhonkrelay. To read more about the amazing Bloggers relay please click on http://teamhonk.org/ and to find more about the amazing trio of ladies' trip to Tanzania on behalf of Comic Relief please visit the website. Show your support in any way you can!
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