Archives for March 2013

Dear Mushroom… You’re two years old!

Dear Mushroom,

You turned two last week. You’re growing into such a lovely little boy and you surprise me all the time with things you do and say. I wonder how old are you now, as you read this? I assume you’re reading because you’d like to know what you were like when you were two. Well…

You are adventurous but cautious with it. You will try any new foods without complaint and even when you’re afraid of something (the wooden bridge at the park, the teddy bear that sings Cliff Richard songs – you have Grandma to thank for that! – and the really high slide at soft play) you will still approach it and give it a go. I admire that about you. Just last week you mastered the wooden bridge – you stood at the start shaking with fear and I repeatedly told you it was ok to get down and try another day. ‘No!’ You said, determined to overcome your fear. After several attempts you eventually walked all the way across without help. You were so proud of yourself. I love your tenacity and I hope you continue to have this approach throughout your life. It took me years to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway,’ this seems to be something that’s just a part of you.

What else? You are so very loving. You often cuddle and kiss me and Daddy, and your friends, and sometimes their Mums too, if you know them well enough. You’re cautious around strangers but curious and polite, and if you decide you like someone you don’t hold back in showing it. You’re very sensitive to others’ feelings and sometimes you become distressed if someone else is upset. This is a sign of emotional intelligence and will help you to build lasting and loving relationships in the future but I hope that we are helping you to understand that although it’s important to be sensitive to other people’s feelings, you must put yourself first and you don’t need to ‘fix’ them. You can try to help them feel better – I’ve seen you do this at nursery by offering a teddy to a crying child. I’ve also seen you hide under a chair when a child cannot be consoled. Sometimes people just need to feel what they’re feeling. Eventually it will pass. I wish I could explain all this to you right now, but I can’t. For now I can just wipe away your tears and reassure you. So far, it seems to work. You believe that magic kisses can cure all ills and that Mummy and Daddy can fix anything. We can’t, we’re only human too but we’ll let you believe that a little while longer.

You love to talk but your vocabulary is limited. Sometimes this frustrates you but you’ve become very good at ‘explaining’ what you mean without using words. Most of the time we can figure out what you’re saying. You say some things as one word although they’re two or more -‘watdat?’ meaning ‘what’s that?’ and ‘eeyar’ meaning ‘here you are.’ Your favourite words at the moment are ‘bubble,’ which is also one of my favourite words) ‘car,’ ‘more,’ meaning ‘again’ as well as ‘more,’ and ‘no!’ You have just started to say ‘apple,’ and you now call all fruits either apples or bananas. I think you tried to say strawberry last week  but you’ve not said it since so I’m not sure. I can’t wait for you to start putting whole sentences together. The longest sentence you’ve said so far is ‘Mummy, up!’ Memorable because it was my birthday and you were refusing my request a lie-in. I don’t mind getting up early really though, it won’t be long before I have trouble getting you out of bed, I’m sure!

You have a great sense of humour and you already think you’re a bit of a comedian. The other day I filmed you having a mini tantrum. You didn’t notice at the time and it quickly passed. Later, I played the clip back to you. You smiled slyly and said nothing. Later, you called me ‘Mummy, mummy.’ You put on a mock angry face and, half smiling, you started to stamp and shake your head ‘Mushroom (said) nonononono!’ Then you stopped and fell about laughing. You were impersonating yourself. It was hilarious. We both ended up sitting on the floor laughing as you did it again a couple of times and then sighed ‘Mushroom… no..’ you giggled and went back to your toys. I expect you will start impersonating me soon and perhaps that will be less amusing!

You’re interests are pretty much the same as they were at 17 months – you like:

Bikes – we got you a balance bike for your birthday and you were so excited, shouting ‘bike!’ at Daddy repeatedly while he put it together. You were pretty good on it straight away but much like your scooter, you’re less keen on riding it outside so far
Scooters – you now have one of your own but haven’t quite mastered the art of riding it yet (I expect this will make for a future blog post!)
Aeroplanes and helicopters…

It’s not all about transport though…

You still love music and dancing…
Cooking and cleaning (real and pretend!)
Making things with Play-doh
Drawing and painting…

And finally, you also love

Animals – You prefer cats to dogs and….
People – You’re more shy now and spend more time watching people but once you warm up there’s no stopping you. You recently made Daddy late for a night out because you insisted his friend sit on the stairs with you for a ‘chat.’ He was so charmed by you that he stayed another half hour.

I’m sure there’s a lot more to be said but these are the things that come to mind right now. I wouldn’t say that they define you – as I have no idea what goes on in your head – but they give a good picture of the you that I know at the moment. I look forward to seeing who you become over the years and supporting you along your way to adulthood and beyond (if you’ll let me!).

With love as always,

Mummy Xx

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Louise – A Mummy Plus interview

Back in the summer of 2012, when the UK was caught up in the excitement of the London 2012 Olympics, I launched a series of Mummy Plus interviews. To find out more about why I started these interviews, pop back to August 2012 and read my first interview, which was with Helen. Helen was a Mummy Plus Games Maker for London 2012 and in her interview, she shared her experience of being a volunteer and how she juggled the hours with the inevitable childcare challenges. I did put a call out for more Mummy (and Daddy!) Plus interviewees at the time but if I’m honest, I didn’t put that much time and effort into it.

This year, I’ve decided to revive the Mummy Plus interviews again. This time round I plan to interview someone every couple of months. You don’t need to be a Mummy or Daddy blogger to take part, you just need to be responsible for at least 60% of your child’s care, and tell us what you do/who you are when you’re not being Mummy or Daddy.

To kickstart the series, I caught up with Owner/Manager of Tatty Bumpkin South East Oxfordshire, Louise Steele. Tatty Bumpkin is a franchise and Louise purchased South East Oxfordshire as a territory in May 2012. The business provides yoga-inspired sessions for children – where adventures centre around the awesomely named Wobble Farm and Giggle Tree – Baby Yoga and Baby Massage. Louise has practiced yoga herself for the last 10 years. She also enjoys music, walking and cycling. In addition to this, Louise is also Mum to a beautiful four-year-old girl. Before Louise started her own business with Tatty Bumpkin, she lived and worked in London. She was a booking agent at Coda Music Agency, and before that Sony Music UK, where she represented a roster of artists including Calvin Harris, Adam Ant, Cold Specks and The Wave Pictures, booking their touring and their festival appearances across the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia.

What was your greatest challenge at work, then?
When I became a mum in 2008 coping with the hours demanded in the music industry became very difficult. The live music industry is not very mum-friendly and although my company did make an effort to support me I was one of a small handful of women who were mothers and agents. The industry definitely lacks female role models (especially those with children) for young women to look up to and aspire to be like. I wanted to be the best agent I could be and also the best mum and that was very difficult to balance. I also think I cared too much – you need a really thick skin to survive in that world! My bands were great but I took on a lot of responsibility for them and found it difficult to switch off when outside the office. It was very much a 24/7 job all year round.

What made you decide to set up your own business? 
I had been thinking I might have to change my career to fit in with family life as it was becoming increasingly difficult to juggle the two. I needed flexibility with working hours, independence from an office environment (and London) and a challenge, so starting my own business gave me these choices.

Louise being Mummy!

Tell us more about Tatty Bumpkin
Tatty Bumpkin is a franchise (see: ), which operates throughout the UK. I discovered it in March last year and attended one of their free ‘Discovery Days’. I was happy to find out S.E Oxfordshire was available, completed my training in May and started the business that June. It was all a bit of a whirlwind and happened so quickly but I fell in love with the company and it’s ethos and it just felt exactly the right thing for me to do next. It enabled me to move from London back to the countryside (which meant better school options for my daughter) and also choose my working hours to fit in with childcare. It captured my eye because of the name and the graphics/logo and as I read more I found it was heavily grounded in child development and after studying psychology at university had an interest in returning to work in this area. I now offer Tatty Bumpkin and Baby Bumpkin sessions privately, in nurseries, Children’s Centres, primary schools, parties, fetes, etc. throughout S.E Oxfordshire and employ a teacher to help me cover this. I am actually looking to recruit another teacher shortly too. The sessions follow the adventures of Tatty Bumpkin or Baby Bumpkin on Wobble Farm and incorporate simple yoga postures into the story in a fun, imaginative way encouraging movement and enhancing development in the children. It is fantastic for increasing self-confidence in children and sessions can be adapted for special needs and even taught one-to-one.

You moved from London to Oxford in 2012 Why Oxford? 
I have family in the area as I was brought up and went to school about 20 miles from here. I wanted to return to the countryside for my daughter’s sake (schools and green spaces!) and also to be closer to family for both of us. Plus the franchise was available so a new, more child-friendly, career was a possibility here. We also needed to be close to London for family reasons.

How do you find Oxford after the fast-paced life of London? Do you ever miss the city?
Actually that’s one of the reasons I moved – to slow down! If you’d had asked me if I missed London three months ago I’d have said no… but now, yes, a little. Although I can be in West London in less than an hour so I visit a lot and actually appreciate it more for that reason I think. Oxford is beautiful with lots of culture but I still have a lot of friends in London and visit often.

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
My daughter goes to nursery four days a week and is about to start school in September. I am lucky now in that 90% of my work is when she is at nursery/during school hours.

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
Spending time with my daughter, practicing yoga and watching films. I also like reading, walking, cooking…. and there is lots more time for all this since changing my career and moving from London!

What’s your biggest challenge at work now…?
I always knew running a business was going to be hard work but I think the biggest challenge is constantly being motivated when working from home, alone. It’s very different to being in an office with colleagues around you for advice/encouragement. I am very lucky as head office are very supportive and I have a wonderful neighbouring franchisee in Oxford who is always only a phone call away (as are any of the others nationally – it’s been a very supportive experience).

If money was no object, what would you do with your time? 
I’d travel the world (in school holidays with my daughter of course!). So many places I’d still love to go…. Nepal, Tibet, India, Africa… And then in between holidays whilst my daughter was at school I’d like to do more work with a fantastic charity called Kids Company. Camila Batmanghelidjh and her team are doing an incredible thing, changing children’s lives in London and beyond so I’d donate my time to them and perhaps help them expand outside London.

If you had to describe your daughter in just three words, what would you say?
Vivacious. Kind. Thoughtful.

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words (including these ones).
‘I’m a Mummy Plus… Owner and Manager of Tatty Bumpkin S.E Oxfordshire, lover of yoga (Vinyasa Flow), gig/festival-goer and avid bookworm.  I used to live in the world of music but now it’s a passion rather than a job.

If you enjoyed this interview, and have more questions you would like to ask Louise, please leave a comment below or email me, and I will pass them on.

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

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Kelloggs launch lower sugar range

My personal favourite cereals growing up were Weetabix’ Alpen muesli – Original, not the low sugar version (I don’t think it existed back then!) and Kellogg’s Coco Pops. Both of these are pretty high in sugar and all that other nasty stuff we’re not supposed to be feeding our children. I still eat them both (less of the Coco Pops). I also eat sugary sweets and full fat Coke (If I’m going to drink Coca-Cola I may as well go all out). I’m an adult though, and therefore aware of the crap I’m putting into my body. I try to be better with Mushroom. Sugar did not pass his lips until he turned one. He had a chocolate cupcake that day (he ate the whole thing at once and grinned) and now has such things occasionally and understands that they’re treats (Coco Pops included). So, when Kellogg’s got in touch to say they were launching four new wholegrain cereals, with a lower sugar content (low enough that they can now advertise on Children’s TV) I was interested. I accepted the offer of a box of each to try.

Kelloggs' four new cereals

The first thing I did was look at the nutritional information. I won’t list it all here but one average, each of the above cereals have (per 30g serving) around 113 calories, between 5 and 9g sugar and  the salt ranges from 0.1 – 0.42g (Honey Loops – guilty). I compared these to Rice Krispies (115 calories, 3g sugar and 0.3g salt) and Mushroom’s current favourite – Weetabix’ Ready Brek (112 calories, 0.3g sugar and less than 0.10g salt). It’s not that different! However, I looked up the nutritional information for Coco Pops and found (116 calories, 0.8g fat and 11g sugar)! So although nutritionally, the clear winner here is Mushroom’s favourite, the new cereals are marginally healthier than other sugary/chocolate covered cereals out there. Looking into this has made me think more about what Mushroom eats for breakfast but as some days he just has a banana, I think we’re getting it about right.

So… The new cereals. Well, despite the makeover, they still have a fairly high sugar and salt content so they would be more of a treat for Mushroom but we tasted them all over the course of a week (both with milk for breakfast and dry, as a snack), and here’s what we thought:

Mushroom takes the taste test very seriously

Mushroom takes the taste test very seriously

Honey Loops
Yum Yum* score: 2
Dry taste test: He liked the crunch but tried a few others before coming back to these ones.
With milk test: He refused to have these with milk until today, when he swiped some from my bowl! He asked for more.
Mummy score: I like that they stay crunchy. They are very sweet, but I like that about them so 8/10

Coco Pops Croc Prints
Yum Yum score: 3
Dry taste test: He ate one of these, his eyes widened, he tried something else (a Honey Pop) and went back to the Croc Prints, eating them all.
With milk test: He liked them at first but as they started to go soggy he spat them out!
Mummy score: Not keen on these at all. I agree with Mushroom that they go soggy far to quickly but they are too chocolatey for me to start with, I think. 4/10

Rice Krispies Multigrain Shapes (Strawberry flavour)
Yum Yum score: 2
Dry taste test: He ate one, frowned and spent some time examining the next. Something then ‘clicked’ I guess, as he nodded, said ‘Yeah,’ and slowly ate another before moving on
With milk test: He wouldn’t have them with milk
Mummy score: Not keen on the strawberry flavouring (it’s my least favourite milkshake flavour, which is effectively what you get in the end…). They taste alright with milk but I have to eat them while they’re still crunchy. 6/10

Honey Pops
Yum Yum score: 1
Dry taste test: Again, he liked the crunch. Dry, he preferred these to the loops.
With milk test: He enjoyed these and occasionally asks for them after eating his fill of porridge
Mummy score: I like these, they remind me of a cereal I used to eat when I was younger and they stay fairly crunchy too. 7/10


While the Coco Pops Croc Prints were a clear winner in the dry taste tests, Mushroom made the most appreciate noises while eating the Honey Loops. This was the only time he asked for more. However, at the end of the week I let him choose his own cereal. What did he pick? The Ready Brek. And he asked for fruit. I guess he knows what his body needs! I, on the other hand, have been eating the Honey Loops and they have nearly all gone (I think Mr B likes these too so it’s not just me)! I’m sure Mushroom will ask for the others at some point, and I will continue to give them as dry snacks sometimes as they are very handy for that… I’d recommend them all but I’ll be giving them more as an occasional treat rather than an everyday breakfast cereal.

If you would like try the new cereals for yourself, then you’re in luck! Kellogg’s have given Mushroom and I a box of each for one lucky winner. It’s enough cereal to keep you going for some time! To win, just add a comment in the box below telling me what your favourite childhood cereal was and what your child(ren) usually eat for breakfast. The winner will be picked at random – I’m just nosy curious! The competition closes on Friday 29 March.

*Very scientific this, it’s the number of times Mushroom says ‘Yum yum,’ while eating.

Disclosure: We were sent four free boxes of cereal (one of each in the new range) and asked for feedback. Writing a blog post was optional. Opinions are mine (Mushroom’s Mum) and Mushroom’s own. Kellogg’s are providing the four free boxes for the competition. Read my full PR and disclosure policy here. 

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Nurturing a nest egg for Mushroom’s future

Hands up who likes thinking about finance? No? Me neither. It’s one of those tedious tasks that always gets pushed to the bottom of my ‘to-do’ list. I know some of you might love numbers and thinking about interest rates and the like is an enjoyable pastime for you (my brother is one of these people. He finds creativity in numbers. I just don’t ‘get’ it) but me? No. In true 1950s housewife style, I usually ask my husband about these things.* It’s not that I’m completely ignorant, I just need someone to explain things to me in a really simple way before I get it.

Spring, traditionally a time of rebirth and all that, tends to be a good time for me to dust away the cobwebs and start giving some thought to my future. This year my thoughts are on future finances. I know I need to write a will. Thirty-*coughs and mumbles* might seem young to be considering this, but sometimes people go before they expect to and as my Mum didn’t have a will, I know the extra grief this can cause for those left behind. I, however, fully expect to live a long life so I also need to review my pension, to make sure Mushroom doesn’t grow up thinking he needs to provide for me in my old age. I need to make sure I have enough funds to look after myself, so that he can get on with the business of living his life.

It’s all rather grown-up, isn’t? Enough to give me a headache anyway. So, I’m starting with thinking about Mushroom’s future. Mr B did plenty of research when Mushroom was born, and we decided very early on to open a high interest savings account that will transfer to adult status when he turns 16, unless we decide to continue being trustees – which, to be honest, we probably will for a bit. Who’s ready for a windfall at 16? However, we do pay tax on the interest on this account. This year, I’ve been thinking about adding to this, after all, perhaps it’s best not to have all Mushroom’s (nest) eggs in one basket (I know, I know, I can hear you groaning from here). So, when the lovely people at got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in having a look at their Junior ISA infographic, the timing could not have been better.

What’s an infographic?

‘A graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly’ (thanks, Wikipedia)

Basically, it’s an ‘idiots guide’ in picture form. Here’s the one about Junior ISAs:


Having had a good look at this, it really does simplify the complicated world (to me) of finance into something that I understand. There are pros and cons of taking out a junior ISA so I’m still undecided as to whether I will do this, but seeing as I found the above useful, I thought perhaps you might too…

If you are considering taking out an ISA for your chicks this Easter (They’re coming thick and fast today, huh? Maybe I should be a comedian. I’m wasted here), then now is the time to do so as the new tax year starts on  6 April.

How are you providing for your childrens’ future? Have you got savings/ISAs/something else? If not, what are you thinking of doing? I’d love to hear different ideas as, like I said, I am still undecided! Do leave a comment below.

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Mushroom’s guide to making friends

I was over at Sarah Pylas‘ blog, Grenglish, last week, reading her lovely post, Best Friends, about how her son will be separated from his current best friends when he starts school in September. I commented that Mushroom was soon to move up to the toddler room (my baby’s no longer a baby!) at nursery and wondered how much he would miss his best buddy from the baby room, who’s a couple of months younger than him. Sarah reminded me how fickle they are at this young age, and reassured me that Mushroom would find it easy to make new friends. Of course, she was right. In fact, the first ‘settling in’ day in his new room at nursery, Mushroom was supposed to return to the baby room after his nap. He was led to the door, and he just stood there and frowned. Eventually, he was asked whether he wanted to go back to the toddler room, at which he nodded enthusiastically and ran off to play. So much for missing his best buddy.

Mushroom and one of his current 'best' friends

All this got me thinking about all the friends he’s made so far, including those that have lasted just the duration of an afternoon at the park, and how he goes about the business of making friends. The result was this simple guide – from Mushroom’s perspective – on how to make friends.

  • Meet someone you like the look of. Age unimportant. One of my favourite (non-family) friends is about 100 (he’s probably about 60 Mushroom – Mum). The first time we met he showed me how to put a leaf on a stick. He’s a genius
  • Go up to them and smile. Say something. It doesn’t matter what/whether they understand or not
  • If you get a positive response, you could try and give them cuddle. Warning: Not everyone likes this. Don’t go in too quick
  • Follow them around, mimic them a bit (not too much! You have to do your own thing a bit, too. Don’t lose yourself). Then try to get them to follow you.
  • Offer to share your snack with them.
  • If you’d like to see them again, try and get your Mum/Dad to make friends with their Mum/Dad. If you can’t talk yet, I find talking loudly and pointing wildly helps. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t see them again, the most important thing is to have fun
  • Wave and blow kisses when you/your friend has to leave. It doesn’t matter if they don’t see, it’s the thought that counts. If you really liked them it’s ok to cry. Best to let it out in the moment rather than dwell on it later.

Mushroom, like most toddlers, sees every child he meets – in the park, in the supermarket, in the street – as a potential new friend. He’s more shy with adults and defers to me before approaching new grown-ups but still sees them all the same way. I think this is a lovely way to look at the world and wonder if there come a point when as adults we – consciously or unconsciously – decide that we have ‘enough’ friends and stop making the effort. What do you think…?