Mum on a Mission Reviews “A Really Incredible Feast”

My husband calls me lucky because I am always winning competitions.  Whether is a defibrillator (yes I really did win a heart re-starter), a hamper of goodies or a book, I am always winning something.  I like to think its because I have an “in it to win it” mentality, and so I just have a go when others can’t be bothered!  But maybe God is just smiling down on me and blessing me with these things.

Whatever the reasons, this month I won a new book from Eden.co.uk , the online Christian bookshop.  I shared my happy news online and asked if you would all like a review of my free book, and the answer came back “YES!!!”.  So here it is….

a really incredible feast hard backed book I got sent a copy of “A Really Incredible Feast (and other amazing Jesus stories)” by Johanna Baldwin and illustrated by Hannah Wheeler.   It has been produced for Scripture Union, so you know it is going to be good quality and well thought out.  The book was bigger than I thought, but I was comparing it to the small “Super Cool Story of Jesus” booklet which was produced for free by the Bible Society for Easter this year.  The two books are quite similar in that they try to make Jesus’ story accessible for children using rhyme and modern illustration styles.

I do prefer the illustration style of the “Super Cool Story of Jesus”, but I think that older children double page spread in a really incredible feast book will like “A Really Incredible Feast” as its a bit more grown up.  The stories are very well written, and use an interesting font with little graphics around the words too to make it feel modern.  However, I do feel that it would again suit an older child better than my 4 year old, as he wants to constantly be turning the pages and there are too many words for him per page at the moment.  I would say maybe 7-9 would be the ideal audience.

written section of a really incredible feastThe stories are very accurate to the bible too, including details rather than simplifying the stories down.  Again, this will be good for older children who have heard the toddler versions of these stories over and over and want something a bit more chunky to get into.

Overall, I love this book but will probably be putting it away until my son is a few years older.  Then I am sure he will love it!  We really are spoilt at the moment with some great resources for teaching our children about the bible, so thank you Eden.co.uk for sending me this lovely example in “A Really Incredible Feast”.    If you want to get hold of your own copy it is only £5.99 from Eden.

a cup of tea with cathy thomson

A Cuppa With Cathy Thomson

a cup of tea with cathy thomson

I got the chance to catch up with Premier Digitals “Up and Coming” award winning blogger Cathy Thomson from Gospel Centred Parenting!  I can’t wait to share our conversation with you all, so make sure you have your cuppa and find a nice snuggly corner for 10 minutes….

It’s really nice to meet you – please introduce yourself to us all!

Hi I’m Cathy. I’m wife to lovely Scott, my childhood friend, and stay-at-home-mum to two cheeky chaps – Reuben who is two and a half years old, and Boaz who is 6 months old. They keep me on my toes and thoroughly reliant on caffeine and chocolate! I have future aspirations to embrace an extreme sports lifestyle with my boy-clan, but in reality I love nothing better than drinking a glass of red wine in front of our wood-burner! Scott and I blog together at www.gospelcentredparenting.com

Where do you live and what do you like/loathe about it?

We live in Hartlepool in the mighty North East of England! Scott and I met at a little Baptist Church here when my family moved to hartlepool years ago – Scott was 13 and I was 9. Little did we know that we would be getting married 12 years down the line! We love Hartlepool, there’s gorgeous coastline, a beautiful nature reserve and friendly people here. After living away for several years, we moved back to Hartlepool to plant Grace Church.

How many kids do you have?

I’ve already mentioned them, but I could talk about them all day – they’re ace! One of our most popular blogs gives you a little insight into the craziness of life with two tinies, and it gives you a flavour of the vivacious personality of our toddler! It’s a good read if you’d like to feel better about your own parenting! 😉 You can read it here.

What is the best thing about motherhood for you?

It’s so hard to pick one! I love cuddling my little ones when they’re sleepy. I love it when Reu has just woken from his nap and be nuzzles his nose into my neck! Or when baby Boaz falls asleep in my arms – it’s just the best feeling.

And what is the worst thing?!

Also hard to pick one…. I think the horror of seeing your child’s sinfulness for the first time. I remember when Reuben purposefully scratched his brother’s head out of jealously, it drew blood and we were all horrified! All three of us cried!

How do you try to help your children connect with God and the bible?

It’s really hard to do with tiny children I think. Reuben is starting to get to the age where you can have proper conversations that sort of make sense, but before this developmental stage it’s really hard to chat about God, because you’re just not sure what they’re computing – it feels a bit like talking to yourself! We’re trying to get more purposeful with our speech in ordinary life though, and we’re beginning to chat to the boys about Jesus in ordinary situations. We’ve written a series on our blog “Gospel in the Everyday” which seeks to help us think about how the everyday things of life can point us as parents to gospel, and then how we might communicate this with our children.

Scott reads a children’s Bible with Reu on a night and they pray together before bed (I eavesdrop next door as I feed baby Boaz to sleep). During advent we did some family devotions as a family of four (which was more about trying to form a habit of doing this, rather than because any of us particularly got much out of it!) But we think it’s really important to set the precedent now, as there’s probably no easy time to start these things.

We’re really grateful for Grace Kids at our church. We have some really gifted people who help teach the little ones the same things that we as adults are learning during the Sunday sermon – this is intentional so that we are able to chat to our children about what they’ve been learning about (which is hopefully the same thing as us!) We also have weekly “life groups” where we meet in someone’s home and have a meal together (all the children come for that part) and then we have a bible study once the children are in bed. This is a great way of helping the kids to feel like they are an integral part of the church, for them to see Christian community lived out and for other adults to disciple our children too.

What is your “mission-field” at the moment?

Being a parent to young children is such a gift evangelistically! It’s great getting to know other parents at play groups – there are few other scenarios where you are free to meet the same people multiple times in the week and chat about whatever you want (even though the conversation is often interrupted to wipe noses/ clean bums/ break up fights etc!). We’re blessed that we have several families in our church with young children which means that as a group of Christian mums we’ve been able to get to know other mums at play groups. Excitingly two of the mums that we’ve met are now regular attenders at our church and are participating in a Christianity Explored course! Praise God. It’s so much easier doing mission in community.

What causes or activities are you particularly passionate about and why?

If I’m totally honest, I would feel like a bit of a fraud to say I’m an activist for a particular cause – most days I feel like I’m doing well if I manage to keep both boys alive and brushed my teeth before leaving the house. In this season I’m investing in our church plant and our tiny kids. Scott is just about to start working a day a week for Grace Church and part of his role will be thinking through how we as a church community can bless Hartlepool. We’re not sure what this will look like yet – perhaps getting involved with the food bank, setting up a Christians Against Poverty debt centre or running a parenting course at a local primary school. When God makes it clear what cause he wants us to champion in our town then that will be our passion. Having said that I care a lot about pro-life issues and we like to promote adoption and fostering on our blog whenever possible.(

Thanks so much for having a cuppa with me!

Thanks for the opportunity Rachel. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you through your blog. Keep up the great work!

mum on a mission reviews the treasure box people

Mum on a Mission Reviews The Treasure Box People

mum on a mission reviews the treasure box peopleLast month I was sent an amazing gift for me and Sam to review – a TREASURE BOX!!!!  Please start off by watching my video about it, and I am going to share some more thoughts about the time me and Sam spent doing the activities below…..

Well what a month we have had.  In the midst of other things, we have kept coming back to our Treasure Box and Sam has definitely learnt lots about the story of the wise and foolish builder.  I love the way that with so many activities provided in this subscription box that I could stretch out that learning over a few nights.  On the first night we read the story book together (with duplo bricks next to us).  Then my mum taught Sam the song about wise man built his house upon the rock (a classic!) which got him even more excited.

book of wise and foolish builder

Story book included in the Treasure Box

The four related activities included in the box we reviewed:
  • Sand Cross
  • Rain stick
  • Family House keyring
  • Slate drawing
activity instruction booklets

Activity instruction booklets included in the treasure box

How did Sam get on?

I have to say that all of them were well thought out, and the homemade rain stick was genious!!  We did the rain stick first as Sam is obsessed with rice.  He loved the sound that it made, so then we read through the story book again together with him making the sound of the rain every time it was mentioned.  I had to help him a bit with the gluing but otherwise it was great activity for him.

Another night we made the sand cross.  This was a slightly harder for Sam as the peeling off sections was tricky.  An older child would have loved doing this themselves.  Sam loved choosing the colours and hanging his finished cross on our balcony door handle.  He made the connection really easily between the sand cross and the man who built on the sand, and we chatted through the story the entire time we were making it.

The last two activities were slightly harder for Sam as his drawing isn’t great, but he still had a go at making his keyring (my personal favourite as its so cute!) and slate. Here are Sam’s creations:

Sam's creations

My overall opinion

Out of all the things I get sent free to review, this has to be one of my favourites.  I could genuinely see the excitement on Sam’s face to do the activities, and the delight when he learnt a part of the story better.  It meant we had many more bible related conversations, and helped us as parents to teach him the principle of why we should build our lives upon Jesus, the solid rock.  I honestly don’t think that as a tired, sleep deprived, cranky parent I could come up with anything half as good as this.  Yes maybe I might have one day where I am super pumped and inspired, but probably not every month.  It is great value for money, and if you want to invest in your family’s bible knowledge together then I would highly recommend this.  It is delivered straight to your door with everything you could possibly need.

the details

So here is what you all want to know – what are the details on how much and how to get hold of them.  There are various option:treasure box people logo

  • 1 month will cost you £10 (thats nothing!  give it a try….) and you can set up a rolling subscription that you can cancel at any time.
  • 1 bumper box (if you have extra kids!) will cost £15
  • 6 months will cost you only £55 up front (£80 for bumper sized)
  • 12 months will cost £100 up front (£150 for bumper sized)

You can read more about the lovely people who started the Treasure Box idea and subscribe now (you know you want to!) by visiting the Treasure Box People’s website.  Why not buy one and see how you go?  Or buy one as a birthday present for someone instead of a toy? Or….

Try one for free???!

I am hosting a giveaway on my facebook page up until 7th April 2017, so make sure you hop over and enter for your chance to try a Treasure Box absolutely free!

one month treasure box

Mum on a Mission Reviews – CBeebies Magazine

 

I don’t know about you, but I love a good kids magazine.  It has the power to entertain your child for a good portion of the afternoon!  But sometimes I buy magazines and they just don’t capture my sons attention, so I was really excited to be able to review CBeebies Magazine and see how it fared in the “Sam” test!  Here is how we got on….



Well Sam was really excited when his package arrived, especially as the edition we got was a special colouring one so came with a big free gift of pens, pencils and crayons.  We tried to wait until little brother Reuben was in bed to take a look, but the excitement was too much.  One of Sam’s favourite parts of magazines is when they come with stickers, and CBeebies magazine did not let us down.  Sam immediately was drawn to a page about the Furchester Hotel where you could stick baubles on the Christmas tree (some were cookie shaped baubles for the Cookie Monster!)

Even little Reuben tried to join in with the fun!  He was loving the pens and attempting to colour in and we had lots of fun doing it together as a family.
 
Some of Sam’s next favourite pages at the moment are the ones where he gets to practice writing letters and following mazes using his pen control.  The Cbeebies magazine seems to have a really good mix of fun activities and learning too.  These pages tied in really well with what we have been doing on the Alphablocks Reading Programme, and with what your children will be doing at nursery or school, so great secret reinforcement!

 

 
Another great feature of the CBeebies magazine over a lot of other magazines is that each page has a little box for the adults to read, giving you tips of how to interact with your child on the page so they get the most out of it and more ideas of activities that tie in with the theme.   Here are a couple of examples:
We finished off our day and review of the magazine by having some snuggly quiet time before bed reading the stories in the magazine.  Sam loved that they included the characters from CBeebies and he chose to read the Charlie and Lola story.  It was set out more like a comic with lots of pictures, and reinforced listening by asking questions during the story like this:
 
Well, the fun may only last for an afternoon, but CBeebies magazine gives you plenty of ideas on how to extend it.  There is also a great mix of pages from stickers, to crafts, to learning, to stories, to colouring.  Plenty for all children to enjoy whilst interacting with their favourite CBeebies characters.  
 
You can buy CBeebies magazine from your local newsagent or supermarket.  I know I will continue to buy this for Sam – it definitely passed the Sam test and the Reuben test!!
 
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of CBeebies Magazine to review, but all opinions and comments are my own.    
 

   

Choosing a school – am I a proper mum now!

 
The letter arrived last week – a slightly more exciting letter than others I have received lately!  The one where they say your little baby son (or daughter) is now old enough to apply for a place at school.  A place in Reception Class.  I am filled with a mixture of excitement that my son is growing up and gets the chance to learn and grow even more, and dread about making the wrong choice.
 
How do you make a choice like that?  Maybe I am making this too big a deal.  I feel like it is something that takes me from the ranks of baby and toddler wrestler into the ranks of proper parent.  You know – one of those mums at the school gate.  It will bring with it amazing opportunities but also new challenges, as I learn to support my little man through all the ups and downs of school life.  
 
So what I would like to ask all you school mums out there is this – what advice would you give me now?  What things should I take into account when choosing a school?  And what should I take advantage of whilst I still have my little boy at home with me?  Tell me now so I don’t miss out or mess up! PLEASE!!!  

 

Tips for dealing with two

 

So I am now one month in to being a mum of two crazy kids, and thought I would share my wisdom (ha ha!) with you all on how to cope with two.  There are some tips in here that I had read elsewhere and have worked brilliantly and a few tips that I have learnt the hard way.  I am sure I will keep adding to these as the boys grow, but here’s just a few for starters…..
A photo posted by Rachel Ridler (@ace_rach) on
  • Keep your routine.  You will have spent the last few years developing a successful routine that works for your other child, so why throw away all that hard work!  As best you can, keep to their schedule so that there is some consistency for them.  New baby doesn’t know any different so will just have to fit in! We found that within a couple of weeks Reuben had adjusted his bed time and final feed to roughly when Sam was going to bed, so already fitting in with family life!  And he was more than happy to come along to Sam’s toddler groups and watch the chaos! 
  • Make the most of paternity leave.  Those precious few weeks when dad is around so you can be one on one with each child really can make a huge difference. Focus on recovering from labour, establishing feeding and some start of routine and just generally prepare for when you have to fly solo.  I was lucky that my hubby managed to save a weeks holiday so he had three weeks with us instead of the normal two, and by the end of the third week we were almost back to normal life (well at least we had emerged from new born haze…..)
  • Deal with the toddler first, baby second.  Who will remember you ignoring them?  Who will follow you round and go into complete meltdown if you don’t deal with them?  It might seem really hard and heartless to leave your tiny baby crying, but it will be much easier to deal with their needs if you have a happy toddler who thinks he is number one. Yes it may then take a little longer to soothe baby, but at least you won’t have to do it with another crying child wrapped round your leg.  
  • Try to put baby down as much as possible so you can play with your older child more.  I remember getting really upset in the first few weeks of having Reuben that I was missing out on time playing with Sam – he was my world before I now I was pinned to the sofa with the new baby.  So pretty early on I have started trying to put Reuben down to play and also once he is asleep so that I am freed up to have some fun with Sam.  Sam then feels valued and less like the rejected child, and we also get more proper play time rather than tv watching time! 
  • Don’t give up on discipline.  It is really tempting to give extra warnings when you are tired and who can be bothered to drag a toddler to the naughty spot whilst you are breastfeeding?  But I promise you that if you waiver on your chosen method of discipline your toddler will notice and take advantage!!  They will push to see how far they can get before you will actually go through with it and by then you will be ultra tired and unable to deal with it.  Be consistent and it will make your life a lot easier!!!
  • Prepare yourself for whinging, jealousy and set backs.  No matter how much you talk about the baby coming, read lovely story books about new babies and get your older child a present from the baby, it will still be a HUGE adjustment for them when the baby actually arrives.  And so you never know how they will react.  There probably be whinging, crying, meltdowns and regressions.  We had potty training regression and emotional meltdowns which was super fun!
  • Look after yourself.  The days are long, and if you skip your lunch or snack then you won’t have the energy to look after your two lovely kids. Will it scar your baby if you take an extra minute to make a cups and grab a snack before you feed them?  Or to make your toddler sit quietly for half an hour so you can have a rest.  Looking after you will ultimately make you a better and more capable mum so make sure you prioritise it! 
  • Preparation and organisation is key.  I am not suggesting you have to schedule every second of every day, but the better prepared you can be will make the day run smoother with two.  I like to plan at least one trip out of the house each day, even if it is just a walk round the block.  And now it is winter I plan and prepare a craft activity to do in the dark afternoons to keep the toddler busy.  I also try to get all snacks and meals out in the morning and ready so that pre-mealtime whinging is reduced!  Plan and prepare for a short time once the kids are in bed and you will be really grateful the next day when you have fun activities ready and meals sorted. 
  • Distract your older child with new activities or treats.  As I mentioned above, it’s good to have some crafts or other activities prepared, and new ones will be exciting for your toddler and make them feel like you have put in that extra effort.  I also tried to save up vouchers and ideas for treats before baby came to use after, such as free entry to play centres. Distraction is key so that your older child doesn’t get bored or annoyed that your attention is now split with the new baby. 
  • Sometimes opt for the easy life.  When you are super tired and have a whingy toddler, opt for the easy life and let them watch tv for a bit or play on your iPad.  Yes you don’t want them to sit in front of screens all the time but for those times when you really can’t cope with the battle, let them sit and watch twirly woos for the hundredth time and enjoy the respite. 
  • Don’t feel guilty when you can’t do it all.  We all beat ourselves up when we can’t be super mum, but we know that we shouldn’t!   Let a few things slide and if you get to the end of the day with two children who have been fed and changed then you have done a good job. 

 

 

Independence VS Motherhood

Everyday my little boy gets more and more independent.  At first I loved it – it meant he could crawl and I didn’t have to carry him any more.  It meant I could eat my own dinner whilst he ate his own by himself.  It meant that I could ask him what was wrong rather than trying to guess.

But now I am at the point where I understand the people who used to say to me “enjoy them whilst they are young as they grow up so quickly!”.  And it is soooo true!  Now his vocabulary is amazing, he understands most of what I say, but can actually argue back (well, he says no a lot..).  Independent but annoying!  He knows exactly how to make his own breakfast when he comes down in the morning – if only the cupboards didn’t have child locks on he probably would do it all on his own!  And he is thriving at nursery, learning phonics and playing nicely with the other kids.

Really, it is all I ever wanted for him, and I feel proud watching him learn new things.  I know that the value of a parent comes in teaching and bringing up your children to be more and more independent.  And yet I can feel that tugging sensation that makes me sad he is a little more grown up each day.  Where did those 2 years go?!

I always think of this verse when I think of how I want to be with my children:

Servants in the church are to be committed to their spouses, attentive to their own children, and diligent in looking after their own affairs. ” 1 Timothy 3:12

So I guess my question to all of you out there reading this is this:  How do I be attentive to my child but also nurture his own independence?  And how do you deal with that feeling of wanting to mother them too much!

Mix and Match Parenting

With the arrival of a new baby Ridler in 2015, it got me thinking about what kind of parent I am.  I guess with our first child we decide before they are born how we think we will parent them, the choices we might make, and then when they actually arrive our whole worlds are thrown into disarray and sometimes those decisions go completely out the window!!

When Sam was born, I was determined to breastfeed – we had no money so this was more an economic decision than anything else.  But a high pallet and extremely strong suck left my nipples sore and bleeding and I gave up after a week in tears.  I managed to pump for 6 weeks until I went back to work, which was fantastic, but then we moved onto formula and never looked back. 


Again, with nappies we were generously given some money before Sam was born so decided to invest it in reusable nappies that would cut down our weekly bills.  These are absolutely fab, and I would highly recommend them.  But after nights of Sam drenching through the nappy and waking up in puddles of wee, we decided that disposables would have to do for the night time and when we were out and about (as I wasn’t really a fan of carrying around dirty nappies with me everywhere!).

When it came to weaning, I took a very random approach – some purees, some whole foods for him to grasp, and then eventually he just had a smaller version of what we had for tea (with the occasional fish fingers and beans when I had run out of everything else).


With sleeping I was determined to crack it and borrowed an excellent book from our local library (which I then bought!) called “Good Night, Sleep Tight“.  I wanted to be firm with Sam but also loving, so the strategies provided in this book were understandable but also doable for any sane parent.  It sits nicely in the middle of “cry it out” and “cuddle them to sleep forever”.

So I guess in summary I am what I would call a “mix and match” parent – I think there is value in all the different choices, and for me I have used different things for a season when it has been appropriate.  How you parent should always fit your lifestyle, and so as mine has changed and evolved I have changed my parenting with it.  With new baby I am hoping to breastfeed again (I live in a crazy part of the country where they will actually pay me to do that!) and as I am planning to have 6 months off this time instead of 6 weeks this will hopefully fit my lifestyle well too.  But when I go back to work after those 6 months I know that will change, and if baby doesn’t take to it then I will make the right decision for us then.

I know the reusable nappies will come in handy again (if I have managed to overcome the potty training hurdle with Sam…) and sleep will definitely be a priority for me with the new one as it makes everything so much better when your child sleeps well.  So that is me in a nutshell!  I love that we can all parent differently, so how do you “mix and match” your parenting styles??

Screaming, splashing and a whole lot of laughing

Three or so months ago I embarked on something huge – I signed Sam up to “swim-a-song” lessons.  I thought it would be a fun activity we could do together, time with a church friend and her baby, and also hopefully I would meet some new people and start some great friendships.  Everyone is always raging about the friends they make at mums groups so I thought this would be no exception!

After the first week I knew my expectations were way too high.

Pre-screaming, looking angelic!

The second Sam stepped foot into the swimming pool was when it started.  The screaming that is.  And for the first half term of lessons it continued.  Every week, at least once during the half an hour lesson, Sam would be screaming his lungs off.  It was endearing to start with, cute even.  Everyone felt sorry for me and the child who hated swimming.  You know what – it’s really difficult to have a meaningful conversation with someone when your child is screaming. 


But we persevered and I signed us up for a second half term of swimming.  I was dreading the first week back and the sound of screaming was echoing in my ears, but I really wanted to see the other mums again and endeavour to become friends.   It paid off.  The first week back and Sam was a different child! He splashed with the other kids, he high fived the instructor, I even managed to get in a few conversations!!!  

I guess my whole point is this – keep on persevering.  Friendships don’t happen over night.  I was on the verge of giving in, not only because of the screaming, but because it was so hard to start friendships there.  You are concentrating most of the time on not drowning your own child that it is hard to get to know people.  And then at the end you all go off into the changing rooms to sort you and your child out, disappearing without a trace when you are done.  But as the screaming has started to die down, in between “horsey-horsey” across the swimming pool on woggles and “humpty dumpty” on the swimming pool wall, I am now actually getting to know people.  Perhaps I will eventually pluck up the courage to see if anyone wants to grab a cuppa before the lesson (afterwards is just mental!), perhaps I won’t.  But at least I am there giving it a go!

Me and Sam with his “Swim-a-song 1” certificate!  We made it!!

 

Mum on a mission vs The move to the big boy bed …..

So yesterday was the day – the move from the cot to the big boy bed.  All was going smoothly the day of the move.  Sam was excited about it, he even helped daddy take the rails off the cot and screw it back into a toddler bed.  The toys had been lined up in bed, as per normal.  Nap time had been successful during the day.  It was all looking good for bedtime.

And I am delighted to say that it all went well! He slept from 7pm-6:30am with no whinges, cries or anything.  Am in shock, and I know that this is just one battle won (who knows what will happen when he figures out he can get out of bed and play with his toys instead of sleeping….).

Sometimes we just have to bite the bullet and make a change, whether that be in our children’s lives, our own lives or in our relationship with God.  I have been putting this off for weeks, but I know that it was worth it now.  Sam is so happy to be in his big boy bed and have a little bit more independence.  Maybe I need to assess what other things in my life I am holding back on and just ask God whether it is time to bite the bullet on them.  If it is the right time and the right thing then God will bless it abundantly.