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Stuck in a Parenting Rut? 40 Unconventional Tips for Finding Your Mojo

25 November, 2014

Have you ever felt stuck in a parenting rut? Every so often in my role as stay at home mum, I need an injection of fun. I need to shake off my bad self. Find a bit of a groove again.

We woke up grumpy yesterday. Not just on the wrong side of the bed, but the wrong side of the stratosphere. Ramona was snapping at me, I couldn’t appease her. I was getting impatient, Juno was clinging to my knees like moss on a log.

I plonked on the sofa and looked at the clock. 8.05 A.M. EIGHT OH FIVE AM?!? Give me strength.

“Shiver my timbers, children o mine. We are grumpy. Can you think of anything we can do to shake these blues away?” Without even a moment’s pause Ramona said “Have a bath, put my pyjamas on and bake chocolate biscuits.”

So, that is what we did. (Well, we tried to make biscuits but we got all maverick, slopping in some milk, and then it turned into a cake which meant we then made butter icing and shook sprinkles all over and then we sat down and ate the whole thing ourselves. It was decadent and perfect.)

And that good mood has lasted us a solid 24 hours.

It was however, the first time Ramona has been able to identify and articulate her own fug remedy. And I’m definitely crap at soothing myself out of a mood. It made me want to make a list of all the potential mood lifters for families who encounter that stuck in a rut syndrome. (A list! Yes, a list will solve everything!)

It goes without saying, that the first steps for cranky kids and cross parents is validation. Everyone needs to know it is okay to be angry, grumpy, sad or to have rubbish days. Children need to hear that their big feelings are accepted and that there is room for their bad selves. That is unconditional parenting.

But when bad moods are due to disconnection, or getting in a cycle of bad communication, or simply feeling stuck in a rut as a parent, there are some things that we can do in order to get through it, to reconnect, to laugh our socks off and feel at peace again.

So, with the help of marvellous Lulastic readers on Facebook (come and say hello), here are FORTY ways to re-connect, shake the grumps, and start having fun. I can guarantee you won’t be stuck in a parenting rut after a handful of these.

Forty ways to find your parenting mojo again

We have always relied on a little bit of the ludicrous to break a bad mood.

1 Dance. We will stick on the loudest, bassiest, most fun music we can find (actually, we have a playlist for it- Grumps Begone) and then we just GET DOWN. Reader, Lorella says these mini discos always start with this favourite song.

2 Facepaint. A new face, a new mood. I have a whole bunch of face painted faces in an album on my iPad and we chose one of those and rock our animal selves for a while. It normally ends in Ramona painting my face in her signature style- red all over.

3 Fancy Dress. We all tumble into the dress ups and become flamboyant mermaid ninjas.

4 Pots and Pans. LOUD NOISES. We bang and crash them and and chant and shout a sing and let it all out in a rhythmic way.

5 Roar. A reader explains that they let it all out with a lion roar. I very much like that sense that our bodies can perfectly capture our feelings- if we are feeling fierce we can BE FIERCE.

6 Epic den. In your lounge, as big as you can make it. The perfect spot to sit out chicken pox. See Tinker Studio for diy teepee inspo or Mammasaurus for the best DIY yarn teepee in the garden EVER.

forty ways to reconnect with your children

7 Pulling faces. Bex and Missie Lizzie both rely on face pulling contests. It is silly and fun and will end in giggles, but perhaps more importantly it involves eye contact- one of the fundamentals for reconnecting.

The great outdoors
The outdoors, isn’t it great? It is the one stop shop for the irascible. Readers share about the almost immediate impact of soaking in Vitamin D on moods.

8 Find a spot of grass, your lawn or a patch of park, throw down a thick rug and lie on your backs and watch the clouds. Spot the dragons and alligators and candy floss. (That last one is WELL EASY.)

9 Pack a picnic and eat outside. On your balcony, at the beach. A picnic, for us, involves no caramelised onion tarte- but a can of sweet corn and a can of tuna, and crisps with which to shovel them in.

10 Find a place to run and race and leap about. After running races we can usually be found collapsed in a heap of giggles. Mary says “Sometimes you just the grumps! And kids need to understand that people have mood changes, bad days, sad days etc and that its ok to feel that way. Love support and time and then an epic round of puddle jumping and tree climbing followed by lots of hugs.”

11 Follow My Leader is also a temper shifter- and particularly ideal if a child’s anger comes as a result of feeling powerless.

12 Teddy Bear’s Picnic… All the cuddly toys shoved in an ikea basket, plus a packet of hobnobs. A tree to sit under= winner.

13 Barefoot babies. Whatever the season, shake off those shoes and socks and connect with the earth beneath your feet. Sarah says “We go outside and walk barefoot on the grass – grab some of that great earth energy!”

14 Go to your local beach, woodland or river, whatever the weather. Victoria says “We did it a couple of weekends ago in the rain and sat on a grey pebble beach having hot soup out of a thermos & eating cheese & tomato sandwiches…”

A wise old sage once said “Cranky kids need to get in the water”. Find a way…

15 Bath. You have to turn the taps on, and then help your child in the water and stuff. (Hehe. It is so easy, but it is our absolute first resort.) Crank the connection up by getting in yourself and washing each other’s hair.

16 A colourful bath. Depending on the depth of the bad mood, you may need more help. We stick a few drops of food colouring in to make it extra awesome. (Um, in case you are wondering, and you don’t have food colouring on hand, sliced up beetroot also works a treat…)

17 Bath paints. They are crazily simple but combine the pleasures of being in water with being messy and creating something. Recipe here.

18 Pool. If you aren’t the irritable one than consider a swim at the pool. If you ARE the irritable one STAY AWAY. Those tangled cossies, sweaty legs, pubes stuck to your feet will be way, waaaay too much.

19 Water play. Perhaps you need five minutes to hide in a room and east your secret stash of maltesers. Get out the pots and pans again, several towels, and let your kids have a riot on the lino. Thalia says “Outside water play. ‘Go and get drenched. Sure you can take your soft toys…’


Speaking of secret stashes… Kids need to know that comfort can be found in eating. Ha, I jest. Sort of. Hey, no disorder is going to come of pulling out the pizzas at times of immovable grizzliness. (Don’t quote me on that.)

Anyway, anyway…. LOOK, PIZZA!!!

20 We have saved the day with DIY pizza. I don’t know what it is about it, but my children absolutely love the awesomeness of designing their own dinner. (Which we have sometimes eaten at 3pm.) Ramona’s speciality is with sprinkles of popcorn.

21 Get an ice cream. This is probably our second resort… It involves a famous chain that prey on the whole word with their scary clown man and addictive sugary substances with extra msg…. One I avoided for TWO DECADES. Then I had kids and realised that their ice creams cost 30p and if you go through the drive thru YOU DONT EVEN HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE CAR. OR, THEREFORE, YOUR PYJAMAS. 60p buys both my children so much happiness- I actually feel like it is US exploiting THEM.

22 Chocolate cake! Or biscuits. (Whatever.) Eating something so rich, on the best china has an opulence that feels like a snatched magic moment. (*Maggggic moooooments….*)

23 A chocolate platter. Bring it all out man. Come on…Help the kids think that they have struck gold. You will love it too, and that is partly what the list is for. Finding things that will lift the mood of everyone. It’s legit, anyway. There is Valium in chocolate… I mean endorphins…. Or oxytocin…. Or something….

Make a plan

If you are lucky you might also have time to execute it….

24 We have planned lantern works for the evening…. We made lanterns and then went for the most basic little stroll carrying our lanterns as soon as dusk settled.

25 We have planned movie nights, with tickets and bags of popcorn.

26 We have planned, and done, treasure hunts. For preschoolers, they actually enjoy the planning as much as the hunt. Ruth says “Sometimes I’ll make up a treasure hunt and leave clues around the house.”

27 We have planned camping trips… Making lists (they fix everything) of what we will do and what we will need to take.

It is about dreaming… Of thinking of another day, a different day.

Get your needs met

If you, as the parent, are not coping, do something immediately that will give you hope.

28 Phone a friend. Share your sadness but move on to happiness. Discuss your real feelings, but take a moment to remember some things you have to be thankful for.

29 Dream of sea wind. Plan a trip for your own mental health. Perhaps you all need to get away for one night in order to feel the sea wind in your hair.

30 Book it an afternoon in. Email your other half and discuss an afternoon in the next week that you are going to book in in order to go solo to the cinema.

31 Swap your kids. Call your friend and organise a child swap for the very next day… You have two kids while the other rests and then swap.

32 Start a jar of awesome. My friend was telling me about her friend (it sounds like an urban legend, but I’m sure it’s true) who has a jar of awesome. Every single day she puts something in there, either a little note of something she is thankful for or a trinket to remind her of something special. And then whenever she feels blue she raids the jar, for something to give her the warm fuzzies.


33 Cancel. Can you cancel the appointment, quit any agenda? Swap the dentist for a trip to the beach. Sometimes these decisions feel irresponsible… But they can be the key to happiness.

34 Hands Free. Adele says “Recently what’s helped is me forcing myself not to look at the phone or computer for the whole day or at least most of it. I’ve realised that my being distracted makes us ALL grumpy.” THIS. SO MUCH!

35 Quit the now, for a few moments. I love this one from Becca “Looking at baby photos with them. Remembering that innocence and vulnerability – that we are the caretakers of (hard to remember at times of extremis.)

36 Stop hanging out together. Ha. You know, as much as possible. Adrienne says “Making ‘cubbies’ out of overturned chairs, blankets, under beds or tables, wherever. Separate cubbies for each child (and even for mummy) if we’re all getting scratchy. I realised when my children were quite young that they are all introverted and time alone is really important for each of them. I tried to help them identify their feelings when they were overwhelmed by too much people – and I would ask them ‘do you need some time by yourself?’ NOT as a punishment but as an option for them to choose.”

Emergency Supplies

Sometimes, if we are on our way home and the girls and I are cranky pants I will pray that there is a package from my family awaiting us. Well… Better than God, or my family:

37 Secret Parcel. The next time you find something awesome in a charity shop, be it a box of fuzzy felts or a puzzle. Squirrel it away on top of the wardrobe for when you need a trick.

38 Unknown craft materials. A tiny packet of new modelling clay, a new stamp, some stickers. Something small and as yet destroyed turned into art will give you a breather and your children some fun.

39 Unseen fancy dress. Again, it is all about the stealth supply. The next time you see a flouncy dress in a charity shop, tuck it away and pull it out when you are down in the dumps.

40 ideas for reconnecting with your children

40 The parent’s stuff. Oh yes, I have been known to willingly hand down to my 18 month old an entire bits and bobs draw so that I can cook dinner. Some people call these “treasure baskets“… I call it “the things I don’t have a home for draw”- key rings, touristy fridge magnets (things usually sent in a parcel from my family), the camera case, a lighter… (Jokes.) You get the idea. Grown up stuff… They love it.


The Four Healing Salves

I heard today of this ancient shamanic concept and feel it is a perfect one to remember, particularly for those of us for whom these bad days happen all too often. I hope it isn’t cultural appropriation to share it with you.

There are four activities that, if we can incorporate them into our weekly rhythm will keep us whole. I see that nearly all of them are present in the above list in some way, so they have a beautiful restorative impact too.

Singing. Be it listening to music, or belting out anthems on our way to work, singing releases all sorts of goodness for our soul.

Movement. Busting the moves, jiggling at the lights, yoga or sports.

Story. Being enthralled in the magic of a story, phoning our friends simply to share stories, catching up with people.

Silence. Sitting on the beach with the whisper of the wind, twenty minutes of meditation, stilling our minds as we cuddle our children to sleep.

How are you doing with those? I see these salves as an invitation to self care, to meet the needs of my own soul so that the next day I can get covered in facepaint whilst dancing to the Monkey song and stuffing cake in my gob at a Teddy Bear’s picnic on the beach.

I really believe that we don’t have to get stuck in a rut – that we all have the power to change things. I reckon these ideas could help break the cycle of disconnect, get you all laughing and rocking your awesome parenting mojo again. Please also check out my guide to becoming a positive parenting wizz! This one word will make these bad days happen less and less.

Do any of these work a treat for your family? Do you have any other suggestions? As always,I looooove to hear from you…Save and print out! So many good ways t help you find your parenting mojo on a bad day


Six Tips for Staying Cool while Babywearing

18 July, 2013

Babywearing tends to attract a lot of stromments (comments from strangers, yeah.) Normally lovely ones like “She looks so snug!” and “What a little cutie!” – which is fair enough because, my,  this Juno bear does rock a sling like no other. All her rolls squidge in together so she looks like a stack of fluffy marshmallows with lips and eyes. However, the babywearing stromments have gone through the roof in this heat! One dastardly dude actually exclaimed “What the actual &*!@?!” at me today which I didn’t find especially polite so I bopped him one with my brolly (see below.)  I find I am explaining why I am babywearing to unfamiliars on a daily basis. Getting straight on to how it aids breastfeeding as well as nurturing vital neurological pathways soon sends ’em packing. Ha!

But, let’s be honest, it does get sticky, eh? Here are some ways to stay cool- I’d love to hear your own!

Buy a Brolly
This is the absolute number one tip of the millennium. Never leave the house without it. You have instant shade wherever you go for both you and babe. I did leave the house without mine yesterday as we dashed off to the seaside to introduce Juno to her two marvelous great-granddads. In order to go for a paddle I borrowed my granddad’s umbrella that hadn’t seen the light of day for years and we wandered around this gloriously bright sunny beach dripping cobwebs and spiders amongst the buckets and spades.Stay Cool when Babywearing Tips

Get naked
Juno hasn’t worn clothes for about two weeks now. In fact, she is so synonymous with naked babies that when a friend’s kid saw another nudey newborn she exclaimed “She’s dressed like Juno!” Of course, their skin is incredibly sensitive so I make sure even her feet are tucked into the wrap.

Choose your own clothes carefully
It’s such a pain we have to wear clothes, eh? Although I’d love to be just wearing my denim shorts and a tee shirt I find that having the belt and zip area alongside the belt of my wrap is all a bit aggravating and sweaty. I am choosing loose skirts and vest tops in cotton as it is the most breathable fabric out there.

Just add water
In a bottle, or one of those frozen ice pack things. Someone suggested this on the Lulastic Facebook page last night and it is so genius! It just goes between you and the baby, keeping your core temperature down.  You can also run your wrists under the cold tap, or put your cool bottle of water on your temples, to have an impact on your whole body.

Go down to the woods today
We have spent a lot of this week just sitting in buckets of water in the garden, venturing outside only once the afternoon cools, but one brilliantly chilled place we go is our little local woodland. Woods are the perfect spot for babies, kids and babywearing mamas as not only are they perfectly shaded but the roots and foliage all seem to absorb the suns energy out of the atmosphere. (See how I said “seems” – I have no idea how this works, I just know woods are like another planet in a heatwave. It’s the atmosphere and energy being absorbed and that, okay?)

Think about owning a summer wrap
There are lots of options out there depending on how much money you have. There are soft structure carries with specifically breathable panels. I have a really simple Calin Bleu gauze wrap which, although not as comfortable as my Didymos is so much cooler. Go for light colours too.

Those are the ways I keep me and my little marshmallow from melting, do you have any extras? Would love to hear them.

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London’s Best Car Boot Sales

14 May, 2013

Whenever we leave London for a countryside adventure we make it a priority to visit car boot sales – there is nothing like scrabbling around a windy field in someone else’s rural junk. It is such a different kind of cast off, there is more tweed and wool and much less “Yes, it is VINTAGE, dahlink.”

But I love the fact that we have so many local London sales – we can spend every minute of every weekend rooting around other people’s dusty possessions if we want (we do want.)

London’s car boot scene is pretty diverse – if you are after something pretty special for a gift those “vintage, dahlink” ones are perfect. Equally though, there are a good crowd of car boots where “vintage” still simply means “really old, noone will want this, put 10p on it” – you might have to search harder but amidst the 6 months out-of-date packets of crisps and plastic toys they’ll be some hidden gems.

Battersea and Wimbledon are well known, but there are others that don’t get much of a shout-out. Always the promoter of the underdog, here are a few others; car boot sales which I reckon are the best. London’s top five!

Car boot vintage suitcases

5- Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, East Dulwich
This is only a small one but it has a great starting time (11am) and is very close to East Dulwich train station, a ten minute ride from Victoria. It is my local so I pop up there often and have found some seriously great stuff. It is worth going to even if you aren’t local because then you can nip down to Lordship Lane and rummage in the vintage boutiques and charity shops and grab a beautiful lunch in the Deli or the many independent cafes. Sundays, 50p Entry, Edgar Kail Way, SE22 8BD

4- Old Kent Road Car Boot Sale, South London
This is run by the same people as East Dulwich, but is brand new. It is a little harder to get to – about a 20 minute walk from New Cross Gate station or South Bermondsey. It gets to number 4 as I got some TOTAL BARGAINS there last time. I spent about a fiver and got a beautiful quilt, a Peppa Pig toy for Ramona, a vintage parasol and a few knick knacks. I was 40 weeks pregnant and on my bike and had to use various bits of string to tie it all on my back. I had quite a few gawkers on my way home HA!  It is a nice and early one –  one to sneak in before you head off on another Sunday adventure. Sundays, 50p entry 8.00am – THE CLUB, Hornshay Street, SE15 1HB

3- The one at your local school.
YES! YOUR local school! Once a term schools will often have a fair and these can be the absolute BEST places to nab a steal. Why traipse around London when you can nip around the corner and have a rummage? The only setback is that you kind of need to keep your eyes peeled for signage or keep in touch with the local paper to hear about it. Worth it though.

2- Capital Car Boot, Pimlico
Capital Car Boot is a car boot sale that has entered 2013, unlike nearly every single other which tends to be happily settled in the 1970’s, free from most marketing and online presence. Pimlico’s car boot is full of hipsters and gorgeous vintage stuff, but there are great deals to be had particualry compared to normal vintage boutiques. They are in second position because I have spent WAY TOO LONG poking through hedges trying to find elusive car boots that are meant to be on and aren’t and there is no info to be found about it. This one pretty much goes rain or shine and you can find them all over the web. Sundays, Pimlico Academy, Lupus St, SW1V 3AT. £1 from 1pm.

1- Hayes Street Farm, Hayes
This has all the bonuses of a rural car boot yet is only 40 minutes on a train from London Bridge – you can even use your Oyster. From the station it is a ten minute walk, whereupon you will find a MAHUSIVE field filled with country folk and city slickers and the most fabulous array of cheap, cheap knick knacks. It is my favourite London Car Boot fair by about a million and I’d say 50% of all of my booty has come from here. 50p entry from 6am, although I have been at 9 before and got some ace swag. 239 Hayes Lane, BR2 7LB. Get there on the double!!

If you are not in London check out Car Boot Junction for other sales – but remember to call to see it is going ahead.

Part of the beauty of car boot sales, of course, is their hit and miss nature. You just never know if you are going to strike gold or spend a morning in the cold and come out with NADA. Isn’t it this exact thing that makes them so tantalising?! So now, all I can do is give you my faves, but from here you are on your own. I wish you all the bargain-busting luck in the world, my friends. Go well.

What are you favourite London Car Boot sales?

PPS PS Don’t miss a thing! Follow through Facebook or Bloglovin or even just enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Beginning Elimination Communication

28 January, 2013

We have made a few parenting choices that aren’t those made by most others, but possibly the one deemed most odd was beginning elimination communication or bringing up a nappy-free baby.

I heard about Elimination Communication when I was pregnant and remember thinking it an utterly bizarre and implausible practice! Then, when Ramona was 10 weeks old, I decided I would give it a crack. (Me, on everything: “Bizarre? Hmm. I’ll try it.)

A few wees in and I was hooked! (I get a feeling this post is going to be filled with collections of words never, ever used in a sentence together before.) Within days she was responding to me helping her go in the potty and I was able to detect a few signals.

It hasn’t been a simple ride ever since, we have had a grand old share of rogue poos and wet pants. But I have loved our beginning elimination communication,  it made sense for us. I like the emphasis on babies being born with the ability to communicate and get their needs met. I love that Ramona has had a continued awareness of her bodily functions- there was no moment, which I know other toddlers have, that involved a revelation like “WHAT THE HECK IS THAT COMING OUT OF MY BUM!” I liked that we weren’t giving conflicting messages; “Wees go here in the nappy… oh, actually you are now this arbitrary age, now they go in the loo!” I like that Ramona never had her tender little bottom sitting in wee or poo for more than a minute.  It provided another channel for connection. But finally, I have definitely enjoyed the avoidance of any bribe/reward-based or punitive potty training. This has to be potty training at it’s most gentle- a pace set entirely by the child, for us it spanned two years.

Last night I mentioned the word “bath” to my just-turned-two Ramona, and got distracted by something. Minutes later I went upstairs to see Ramona running both taps, a towel helpfully placed on the side, totally nude, doing her business on the loo (no child seat) that she had evidently just discovered she could climb on to!! She is entirely independent of needing our help now and it is a complete relief knowing I will be able to concentrate on the new Spring baby’s elimination needs and leave Ramona to it.

You really don’t have to go the whole hog in order to appreciate the principles of Elimination Communication. Your babe might be a bit older-  commencing toddlerhood, or you might have brand new carpets that would not welcome even a tiny spray of newborn butt-caramel!! Wherever you are coming from, is entirely possible to help your kid understand their body, keep their bums poo free and talk to them about their elimination- all of which will make the transition to their toilet- independence much easier.

If you are wondering about Elimination Communication, or even considering doing it a little bit, this tips here might be a little bit helpful.

Beginning Elimination Communication Nappyfree Baby

1- Don’t expect a linear journey! This isn’t potty training. You don’t begin and get better and better until suddenly there are no accidents.  Some months are brilliant (for example, when Ramona was 5-7 months we rarely had accidents) and then others are a bit harder. Once Ramona was mobile she showed little interest in sitting on the potty, and it felt like a “backwards step”- try not to see it this way. It is so much easier if we can put aside our expectations and just roll with it, accepting whatever happens.

2- Learn the lingo and develop the communication. “Signals” are when they let you know they need to go- it might be squirming, crying, pursing lips, grunting or lifting legs. “Cues” are sounds they learn to associate with wees and poos, they end up being a bit of a trigger for them We used “Psst” for wee and a “poopoopoo!” for poop. “Offering” is suggesting to them they might need to go or “pottytunity” is sometimes used to!

3- Play with different places for pottytunities. Babies and tots will have a preference. Try the sink, the loo, a big potty, a small potty, by a tree. Adding variety might get them back into it. Plus certain potties are uncomfortable, so don’t insist if they aren’t up for it.

4- We ALL like entertainment on the loo, eh? A good book and a poo = perfect combo. Have a stack of toys/ books/ action songs that you do to encourage them to stay on the potty until they have been.

5- Get into a rhythm of offering at certain times. We always offered upon waking, upon leaving a place, upon arriving at a new place, upon getting in and out of the sling/ buggy/ car seat. This helps them get a sense of when their next pottytunity might be.

6- You will soon pick up a natural rhythm – for us in the early day between 3-6 months it was every 20 minutes or so. You will soon learn how long their little bodies take to process breast milk and you’ll be able to offer when you think they are due. And then they will still surprise you every now and then! Once they are drinking juice and water you will be surprised at how quickly that comes out the other end!

7- You will soon learn what you are comfortable with when out and about. We used to hide behind bushes and trees for a wee, or aim down drains in alleyways,  and do poos in a plastic bag like a doggy poop bag! Ramona didn’t used to like going in public loos at all. Other people have used the foldable portable potties, or even just an old ice cream carton. And others still don’t like offering in public at all.

8- Clothing completely depends on the season, but you will very soon discover that those baby grows with poppers are not workable! We very quickly moved on to leggings/ tights and tee shirts that could be quickly pulled up and down. Some people cut a gap in the leggings for even quicker access. Summer is the absolute best as they can be nudey pants all day!

9- Baby Bjorn do a couple of great pottys for Elimination C.ommunication We had their little potty for a while, and loved it, but we lost it on a camping trip. To eplace it we paid £1 for their potty chair on Ebay. It is HUGE but incredibly sturdy so really nurtures independence.

10 – Don’t be scared of nappies. There is a mixed feeling about this. But for a while I was hung up about putting any kind of nappy on. It annoyed me to concede to the nappy if we were in a “missy” stage after a “miss free” stage. However, when in other people’s homes, or somewhere where a miss might be awkward a nappy will help you relax and that is most important….

11- Relax. You would not believe the effect our own emotions can have on a child! They WILL pick up on any anxiety you have, and you could well get in a vicious cycle of tension based misses.

12- Avoid praise, if you can! Your child is only doing what is natural, when she does her business on the potty you WILL be thrilled. But try “Thank you for doing it on the pot, it makes it much easier for mummy” or “Doesn’t it feel nice letting it all out into the loo?” The last thing you need is a tot unable to do a poo without a clap (true story, by the way…)

13- Nurture independence from whenever they are ready. For us that was when Ramona was 1. We encouraged her to help us take her undies up and down, to wash her hands and flush the loo. Allowing them to be their own person is SO important at all times, but even more so when it comes to their bodies, eh?

14- Often, in a series of misses we just had to step right back, rather than constantly offering. Sometimes they can respond pretty sourly to us crowding them, offering all the time, which what we inevitably tend towards during a bout of misses. Better for them to miss and keep their independence then have a helicopter parent.

15- Once you get cracking join the Facebook EC group and Born Ready – the most amazing information packed website. It is vital, when choosing a more unusual path, to have people around you who have chosen the same. They are a WEALTH of wisdom and expertise and there will not be ONE issue that you come across that someone hasn’t not faced before!

16 – Consider getting some Flaparaps. They are little pants that flip open, for even the tiniest baby, we LOVED ours and highly recommend them.

There are 16 little pointers, the things I wished I had understood in my first week.  Would love to hear your thoughts on beginning elimination communication, if you are doing it, and what you would chose to share!

PS Read all my posts on elimination communication:

Beginning Elimination Communication
Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
Elimination Communication with a newborn baby
Elimination communication at three months old
Elimination Communication at one – the highs and lows
Elimination communication at one –  (a poo in a shoe!)
Elimination Communication at 17 months old plus seven elimination communication tips
Elimination Communication is stress free potty training!

beginning elimination communication


Charity Shop Tips from an Industry Insider

2 January, 2013

So, January, eh? Only the biggest month EVER for charity shopping! The shelves are BENDING under the weight of not-quite-right Christmas presents, and the rails are rallying in protest at being crammed with gorgeous clothes as all the New Years Resolution Keepers declutter their wardrobes. (Are you one of them? I wish I was but minimalist is never going to be my bag.)

A few weeks ago I posted my own best Charity Shop Tips and today, as a thrifty treat for you lovelies I am going next level with six MORE tips from an industry insider and charity shop queen. Welcome, Missie Lizzie of the wonderful blog Me and My Shadow who is guest posting below. Not only is Liz a crafty and thifty wizard but she is also one of the nicest people you’ll ever come across, and here she reveals her strategy for nabbing great bargains for toddlers…Tips Charity shopping

I love charity shops. Can’t get enough of them. Every time I go to a new town or visit a new place, I’ll pop in to their charity shops to see what they have on offer. To me you can’t beat the satisfaction of finding a vintage gem, a bargain hand-knit or a budget price designer piece.

In the UK, approximately 1.5 – 2 million tonnes of textile waste is generated each year and of this, around 1.2 million tonnes enter the household waste stream and end up in to landfill. Textiles present particular problems at landfill as synthetic fibres don’t decompose and although woollen garments do eventually rot down, they emit methane gases which contribute towards global warming.

Charity shopping is ethical, cheap and original.

Before I had my daughter, my job for 4 years was in this sector and I managed two charity shops – one the traditional shop selling clothes, books and bric-a-brac, the other selling second-hand furniture. I could tell you plenty of stories, but that’s perhaps for another time.

I’m going to share my top tips for getting a bargain. These are mainly aimed at purchasing kids clothes, but could equally apply to adult clothes or other bits and bobs. For some reason there always seems to be a shortage of kids clothes for the 2-4 age group, and I’ve never figured out why. You can get any number of sleepsuits for babies, or high-fashion outfits for 8 year old girls, but the toddler age group always seems to be thin on the ground. I still however manage to buy quite a few bits for my daughter, and intend to make the most of it before she gets to the ‘I wouldn’t be seen dead in second-hand clothes’ stage! Here are my tips:

Visit regularly.
Most shops have a ‘rotation’ policy – typically around 2 weeks. If an item hasn’t sold within that time it is taken off the shop floor and sent off to another store, usually a ‘sale’ store. You need to call in as often as you can or you’ll miss out on items. When I worked in charity retail, there were a hardcore of people who ‘did the circuit’ popping into every charity shop in town every day. No matter how well we thought we’d integrated fresh stock into the rails, they would seize on it! These people can spot a ‘new’ jumper or jacket at 50 paces. For this reason, the best items don’t hang around long, and if you only go into a charity shop once in a blue moon you are unlikely to find many real gems.

Be friendly.
Most shops are staffed by volunteers who are giving their time freely (although many have a paid manager). Take the time to say hello or good morning. Not only is it nice to be nice, but if you build up a relationship with the staff, they will generally see you right. If there’s something specific you are looking for, then let them know. I often used to keep bits aside for regulars who I knew were looking for a particular item. We referred (privately of course!) to people whose name we didn’t know as ‘teapot lady’; ‘linen lady’; ‘gold lady’ or ‘toy car man’ depending on what their purchasing habits where. We also had a ‘stockings and bra man’ but I won’t go into that.

Dropping donations in is also a great way to build up a good relationships, so have a clearout and take some stuff in to your local shop. While we’re on the subject of being nice, you’ll find a packet of biscuits or a cake never goes amiss with volunteers!

Look outside of your size-range
Most charity shops now will have presentation standards which include size cubing on hangers. These generally go by the label in the clothes, but if there is no size inside the garment, it will be a pure guess. Go by eye – you know what size your child needs. Just like adult clothing where one manufacturer’s size 12 might be smaller than another’s size 10, the same applies with kids clothes. Also, you can often buy completely outside the usual size range. For example my daughter is 2 and a half, but she can happily wear a top for a 5 year old as a dress over jeans or leggings. I also recently found a beautiful needlecord floral print skirt that was for an 11 year old. I cut it in two horizontally, re-elasticated it and got 2 skirts for the price of 1. Easy, a moron can (and did) do it.

Don’t dither
If you see something you like, buy it there and then if you can. Don’t assume it will still be there tomorrow. Of course, unlike regular shops, these items are one-offs – they don’t have an endless supply of similar items out the back! Going back to my earlier point, if you’ve built a relationship with the staff, you may be able to ask them to hold the item for a few days if you don’t have the money on you. My advice would be, if you like it, buy it! Check if the shop has a returns policy, so you can bring it back with a receipt if it’s not right.

Look out for hand-knits
Hand made jumpers look great on kids, however I’m pretty useless with knitting needles. Many shops have knitters who donate beautiful new jumpers, cardigans, hats and scarves etc. I often think they’d be horrified if they saw they were being sold for a couple of quid. Some shop managers have a personal dislike of hand-knitted items (goodness knows why!), so its worth asking if they have any ‘out the back’. And if you’re as naughty as me, once you find a gorgeous hand made Aran jumper, you’ll put in on your child and pass it off as all your own work.

Visit them all!
It is often said that charity shops in more affluent area have better quality of stock. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but they do generally have higher prices! A lot of the national charities’ shops are stocked centrally, with items coming from bag-drops (doorstep collections), and these are usually from outside the area. Only a small percentage of the items on sale within a shop will have come via local people donating directly to the store. Don’t be put off visiting a shop because of the area it is in.

Don’t be put off unduly by imperfections
You may think this controversial, but before an item reaches the shop floor, it will have been sorted and met certain standards. Most shops don’t have laundry facilities, so perfectly good quality clothes which are not clean will often end up being sold on to a rag merchant rather than being sold to customers (so if you’re donating, please please wash the clothes first!). For this reason, you will rarely find an item with a mark or stain on, or a missing button. But if you do, they are well worth considering. I have bought many items at knock down prices because they have pen marks or paint on. Most will come out in the wash or with a bit of stain removal – but it is a gamble so think carefully. Also, haggling in a charity shop is not de rigueur! The price on the ticket will probably already reflect any imperfection with the item.

Those are my ‘insider’ tips, hope you find some of them useful. If you have any of your own, please do share via the comments box, and I’d love to hear about your fab finds.

THANK YOU! And do pop over to Liz’s blog where you will find thrifty and crafty posts galore! 

Finding things, Thrifty

Car Boot Bargains – hustle or hope?

4 March, 2012

Let’s go carbooting naked in the rain…

We weren’t actually naked but we were very much in the rain, and this nineties one hit wonder was this morning’s theme tune. Ramona and I had a couple of hours to kill so excitedly sought out the legendary Rotherhithe Car Boot sale. Alas,  I was astonished to find that South Londoners are seriously lightweight carbooters – instead of 200 stalls there were FIVE!!!!! But with a similar number of punters. You can imagine the carnage. It was like opening five tiny Primarks during lunch break at a girls school with Justin Beiber cutting the ribbons wearing nothing but Krispy Kremes.

Us punters were desperate -shivers, I didn’t catch two buses here to go home empty handed- and many of the sellers were milking it. Fortunately I managed to nab three large Ikea frames for £7 (and you know I always snap up large frames for teatowel repurposing) and two of them even made it home unbroken! And I also found these glorious little tiles, three for 50p. They are hand screen printed from Jersey Potteries. What a riot of Seventies dazzle.

I am stoked I didn’t fall into the trap of buying stuff at a clear mark up and as I traipsed home I got thinking about the dynamics of carbooting. Obviously the best price for something is one which you are both happy with. But what can you do to not be taken for a complete chump? The last time I went to Rotherhithe I went with a bunch of people and one couple fell in love with a tea set, but it didn’t seem worth the £10 the seller wanted. So they got one of our other friends to inquire a little bit later and the seller asked for half that. The friend bought it (he fell in love with it too) (haha, just kidding, he bought it for them, obvs) so they got their tea set without anyone getting hustled too badly.

I tend to point nonchalently at something as I ask the price, if it is more than I’m happy to pay I ask them to knock a third off – usually with a cheeky remark (a friend read a book once which told her that if you make someone laugh as you bargain with them then they will more likely meet you.) I don’t really haggle beyond that, just throw my price at them and hope for the best!

I also try to make a point of greeting the sellers and having a nice chat with them, not only does it make the haggling a little less awkward, I also remember what it is like sitting behind your junk while people treat you like a vending machine. The banter is one of the coolest things about a car boot. Although, got to admit, I do sometimes let this slip when faced with boxes of manky treaures and a sign saying EVERYTHING 50P- it is easy to forget oneself when one is diving through piles of junk hyperventilating.

Do you enjoy a good haggle? Have any tips for getting the best bargains at boot sales? Feel like sharing all your secret squirrel bargain hunter tips and tricks here eh?

And don’t forget to check out all the other magical Magpies over at Liz’s Magpie Monday.