All posts by - honestrachael

“He likes girl things”

“He likes girl things” she said, and his face fell.

“What does she mean, Mummy?”

“I don’t know baby, I don’t even know if she knows what she means by that.”

But she did. It was said with an upward curl of the lip and a slight shiver, like she was trying to shake off the thought of, shock horror, a boy playing with something pink.

A pink dino? Argh! Does this go in the girl's section or the boy's? How about just calling it the TOY section ;)

A pink dino? Argh! Does this go in the girl’s section or the boy’s? How about just calling it the TOY section 😉

We were in TK Maxx looking for a birthday gift for a friend. Mushroom was looking at musical jewellery box at the time. He wanted to know how it worked. In fact, it didn’t work (possibly this is how such a beautiful box ended up in TK Maxx for less than a fiver) but he is aware of how these boxes work and wanted to see the doll dance… I’m not sure whether he was more interested in seeing the doll dance or working out how that happened but either way, he was just being a kid. Gender doesn’t even come into it.

Yes lady, by your definition, Mushroom does like girl things. Although he will vehemently deny that he likes pink (he doesn’t like pale pink. To be honest, neither do I. Maybe he’s noticing society’s recation to boys who like pink and maybe he’s copying me. I am still not sure about that), he has no qualms in picking up an Elsa hairband complete with plait and wearing it throughout our shopping trip. I didn’t buy it because he had just been gifted a hairband from a friend that he never wears. He likes what he likes. He’s four.

He liked the music box. That day, he also wanted me to buy: (in no particular order) A Robofish. A Sofia the First themed toy. A stuffed Henry Hugglemonster. A Gruffalo book and a Buzz lightyear backpack…. We bought the Gruffalo book (it has magnets to make up your own story, what’s not to love!).

You know what? Mushroom likes a lot of things. Barbie and Ben 10. Having his toenails painted. The Care Bears and the Power Rangers. Ballet and Karate. I could go on (and I know I’m rambling).

What’s my point? Well, by announcing loudly in a negative way, “He likes girl things” that lady made him question himself for a moment. Is it ok for boys to like pink things? Dolls? These messages are bombarded at our kids from an early age and they are not helpful, they reinforce an unnecessary gender divide. Yes, there is evidence that boys and girls tend to play with different things but how much of this is nature and how much of it is a societal construct…? Until we just let kids be kids, can we ever know..?

This rambling post was brought to you courtesy of a rude shop assistant (no reflection on TK Maxx as a store, I hasten to add). What are your thoughts? I’m not even sure mine are clear as yet but I do feel quite strongly about the need to let kids be kids and avoiding language that may teach shame at a young age… Please do comment below with your experiences and opinions!



Only Photos: More mandalas

Have you noticed how these ‘Only Photos’ posts are a bit lazy! 😉 Well it’s just an excuse to share photos that I think should take centre stage. I wrote about why we’ve been making mandalas last month so this month I’ll let our artwork speak for itself:

Autumn mandalas:


It was Mushroom’s (great) idea to add my puddle footprints around his first solo attempt!


This one was a joint effort

This one was a joint effort.

No Comments

Am I mothering mushroom mindfully?


I talk quite a lot about mindfulness and meditation.

I even wrote a blog post mindful meditation for Story Of Mum around this time last year. As some of you may have noticed, I use my coaching experience a lot in my parenting style and I’m definitely an advocate of gentle parenting. And, as you might imagine, my best parenting moments happen when I am mindful – paying attention to the present moment and taking a breath before responding (rather than reacting) to the situation at hand… So with all this in mind,

Am I mothering Mushroom mindfully?

Um… No.

Well, that’s the short answer. In truth, I try. But honestly, it’s an afterthought more often than I care to admit. However, I am admitting it, and will continue to be honest about how I parent as it’s not very helpful to pretend I’m the Zen Mother when I’m really not, and perpetuating this myth doesn’t help other parents who might be feeling guilty in their moments of weakness….

So here’s some truth: I try to be mindful. I usually start the day pretty well if I’d managed to get in a shower before Mushroom wakes up (if I get time for a hot drink first, then I am pretty zen for at least a few hours! But you can imagine how often than happens before 6am, right?). I know that when I pause before responding to shouty temper tantrums and consider what lies beneath them and respond to that, rather than the scary ball of rage flailing before me, I get a better (and more sustained) outcome than when I shout back. I know that kids spill stuff sometimes (we all do!) and that it’s not something to get cross about and I know that sometimes we all take a long (loooong) time to wind down and get to sleep. I also know that we all have grumpy days when we don’t feel like playing.

And yet…

I wake up grumpy. I get cross when Mushroom walks into the bathroom while I’m still in the shower, whining that he’s hungry and wants breakfast now. I do sometimes shout “Calm down!” when he has a scary tantrum (like that ever works). I have been known to say “Oh for goodness sake” when Mushroom spills his drink into his dinner – as though he did it on purpose – and I have been tempted to tell him to “Go the F**k To Sleep” (Yes that’s a real book. Not for the kids! – also *this is not an affiliate link) when he just. won’t. settle. I could do on but you get the idea, right? Sure you might recognise some of these (and can add a few of your own)! So, my parenting is not always mindful. It’s imperfect, some days it’s really messy (to put it politely). But you know what?

I refuse to carry guilt or shame for this.

Sure, sometimes I feel bad for a bit afterwards, but that’s just processing my thoughts and it passes. If I’m really out of order then once I’m calmed down, I say sorry to Mushroom and he forgives me. Every time. And then?

We let it go (good tip Elsa).

My latest imperfect parenting moments were during half-term. Mushroom went to a fantastic Fit for Sport holiday club (more on that next half-term) for a couple of days and although he enjoyed it, it was a big deal for him. I knew it would be, and that he would need a lot of holding (emotionally and physically) afterwards. I had also promised him a ‘hands-free’ half-term, and had bought a watch especially so I could leave my phone at home… But I failed to explain to Mushroom that I needed to do extra work on the Monday and Tuesday to achieve this the rest of the week. So when I collected him I still had work stuff on my mind, I had my phone on me and I wasn’t wearing my watch. So I checked my phone for the time when I got there, then told him he was too big for a carry because my back was hurting…. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he got mad. Really mad. Bitey mad. He hasn’t tried biting for years so I was taken aback. And so was he. I picked him up. I said sorry, and he said sorry too, “but you promised you wouldn’t do your phone Mummy” with tears in his eyes. Hands up. Yeah I did. We talked. We forgave each other. We’re both human, we both make mistakes.

And then we move on.

In the very early stages of motherhood I worried about whether I was doing things ‘right’ but as time went on, I realised quickly that what’s right for others might not be right for us. And the memory of my own mother strengthened my knowledge that I don’t have to be ‘right’ anyway. She wasn’t actually perfect (who is? But it’s easy to pretend those who have passed had no faults in life isn’t it?)… but as a parent, she was perfect for me. The more parenting challenges I face myself the more I remember how she managed them. As I bring back these memories, I realise more and more that her greatest gift as a parent was not hiding her messiness. Her realness. Herself. I saw her cry in moments of weakness. I saw her shout in moments of anger. I saw her remorse when she did. I saw Her. All of her. And with her, I could be all of me. That’s how I learned what love is.

This. All of this is why I’m writing my Proudly Imperfect Parents e-course

Back in March, I held a coached workshop for working mums. It went well and I enjoyed it but the feedback I got from this, and from many of those who didn’t (or couldn’t) attend, was that letting go of perfection in parenting is a general theme that really needs addressing – for all parents. Whether you’re a WAHM, WAHD, WM, WD, SAHM or SAHD (Dads are part of the parenting equation too), many of us wonder whether we’re ‘good enough’.

I wonder this in my work sometimes, which is why the creation of this coached e-course stalled for a while but I’m on it now and I’m creating it for you. So, if you’ve ever read an article or blog post or had a conversation about imperfect parenting and thought ‘yes!’ but inside not really believed it’s ok… Then you might just like it.

To stay up to date with how I’m getting on, you can sign up to the mailing list below. I promise there will be an update before Christmas (and watch out for a super special offer for subscribers once the course is complete)!

Proudly Imperfect Parents logo2Subscribe to the Proudly Imperfect Parents list

* indicates required field


Only Photos: Pumpkin post

A belated pumpkin post for you, as promised earlier this month.


No Comments

Mushroom makes Mandalas

Mushroom had his first piece of homework from school recently.

I won’t go into my thoughts on homework for four-year olds here, that’s probably for another post! But that’s my stuff. He seems to quite like having homework. And to be fair, it’s not dissimilar to stuff we would do anyway as part of our playtime.

All of his homework has been to practise writing his letters. His first assignment was the letter ‘M’ (coincidence?). Only we’re not allowed to call it that. We have to say “now let’s practice writing Mmmm”, which feels really weird to me! Anyway, he tried very hard and was so proud to hand in his first piece of work, which made it to his classroom’s Wow! board. He was very pleased (as was I!) but I tried not to make too much of this as I don’t want him to be upset when a piece of work doesn’t make it to this board!

Anyway… We have been told to practise the sounds of the letters as much as possible so we talked about all the things that begin with ‘Mmmm’ (still feels weird). Mushroom said “Maisie and the mountains” first, as that is how he’s been taught to write it (see Read Write Inc.). Then we talked about the moon, magic and mandalas! Ok, so I brought up the mandalas. He rolled the word around his mouth a few times and got very excited, even before I’d explained what a mandala is (I agree though, that it is a fabulous word).

So, we got whatever natural things we could find around the house for our first attempt:

And created this together!

2015-10-18 15.24.42-1

Then I left Mushroom alone for ten minutes and when I returned, he proudly told me “Mummy I made a mandala! It’s so awesome.” It really is.

2015-10-18 15.39.42

I’m not sure the mini babybels should be in there. Or the salad cream. Or… But I didn’t have the heart to tell him!

I expect we’ll be making many more mandalas soon enough!

If you’re wondering why the obsession with mandalas, well I’ve always enjoyed making them but haven’t done for a while, until Pippa invited the Story of Mum community to share theirs! If you fancy getting creative with nature why not make one yourself and head over to add it to the gallery?


Pumpkins, pumpkins, everywhere! | A Parragon book buddies review

PumpkinsPumpkinsActually they’re not, which is a bit of a pain as Mushroom really wants us to carve a pumpkin this year, thanks to our latest gift from Parragon Books.

He was really excited by this book, asking “is it scary?” as he traced his finger over the glittery moon. I suggested we take a closer look…

It’s a simple rhyming book, with lovely illustrations of children (with all those pumpkins!) getting ready for a Halloween parade. Mushroom and I don’t really ‘do’ halloween at home, other than giving sweets to any trick or treaters who turn up (not many!) and a one-off themed party he had at nursery once but he does like the idea of pumpkin lanterns, having spotted a few themed plastic torches in toy shops lately.

He actually wasn’t that interested in the story this time, preferring to look at the illustrations and come up with his own! So when  said “Pumpkin happy,” he responded with “Yes, because he has all the sweeties!” and “Pumpkin fly” was met with “That boy might drop him!” He asked if the pumpkins were alive and I explained that they were lanterns that people make by carving pumpkins…. And pointed out the pumpkins carved into different shapes, like a spider and a cat, at the end of the book. So now of course he wants us to carve one this halloween!

Once Mushroom has an art project idea in mind he doesn’t forget it so I had better keep my eyes open for at least one pumpkin, and hope he doesn’t expect me to carve spiderman into it! If we manage to find a pumpkin and carve something that doesn’t look too terrible, I’ll come back here next month and post it below.

We did indeed find a pumpkin (of course we did!) and had a go at carving it:


See the final results here.


Disclosure: Mushroom and I are Parragon Book Buddies and receive a new book to read and review each month. All views are our own. Read my full PR and disclosure policy here.

No Comments

Nina – A Mummy Plus interview

Our last Mummy Plus interview was with Anna Hoffman, full-time Paper Conservator and small business owner. Anna talked about how she manages to balance working full-time, looking after her toddler Oscar and running Kurkuma, her small business making ‘pretty useful gifts for babies and their parents. Take a trip back to July to find out more.

author-photoToday’s Mummy Plus is Nina Garcia, who blogs honestly about the joys and challenges of parenthood over at Sleeping Should be Easy (it really should!). As well as being a prolific blogger, Nina is a graphic designer and mum to three boys – a five-year-old and toddler twins. She is now also a published author and her brand new book, Parenting with Purpose, is being released this month. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy and can tell you that I loved it! As with her blog, Nina writes very much from a gentle parenting perspective, putting the needs of your child first and reminding us of the actual definition of discipline and how building stronger connections sits at the heart of this. I also love Nina’s honesty, in that she reminds us that her credentials are her experience with her children, and reassures us that what works for one child may not work for another, and that’s ok. Nina also has her fair share of ‘off’ days, which she isn’t afraid to share! I caught up with Nina ahead of her book’s release.

Life is pretty busy for you already Nina, what made you decide to take on the challenge of writing a book?
Busy it definitely is! I’ve been blogging about parenting for over five years, so the idea of compiling the principles that have guided me into a book had always been on my mind. Readers would say how much the blog posts resonated with them, and I hope the book will help even more parents with its wider reach.


How did you manage to keep on top of everything – work, blogging, writing and editing the book, designing the cover and promotion? As well as being mum!
I set my priorities and focused on tasks and to-dos that I enjoyed or were important. With blogging, much of what wasn’t necessary was put on the back-burner and I worked on only what needed to be done. I also relied on calendars, to-do lists, and created a system to organize myself and what needed to be done.

I started with an outline, then gave myself deadlines, down to the chapter and when I needed to write it by. I self-edited the book once I finished the first draft, then sent that version to an editor. She and I then worked back and forth to fine-tune the book before I sent it off to the book designer.

Promotion has largely been on me. I designed the landing page, then handed it off to a web designer to code and install. Then I recruited friends (like you Rachael!) to help promote the book.

I did my best to prioritize my family over the book—I wouldn’t work on it if the kids were awake, and I made sure my husband and I still talked in the evenings and we weren’t just glued to our computers the whole night.

I definitely had those intense days, especially when I was writing and self-editing the book, when I thought this was getting too much. I only had a few hours in a day to work on blogging and the book, so every minute had to count.

What were the similarities and differences between writing your blog and writing the book? Do you have a preference?
I used a similar process for both blogging and writing a book for the actual writing part: I’d start with an outline, type a first draft and edit like crazy. The big difference is the format and the purpose. Blogging felt like sharing lightbulb moments with your friends, or the latest news you heard. Book writing felt like gathering all your ideas into one place. Both have their perks. Writing a book with one grand launch is exciting, and blogging gives you the community and interaction with your readers.

Are you planning to write any more books?
Yes! Though in different format and for different purposes. For instance, next on my projects list is to write a shorter PDF book for a specific topic on my blog. As far as writing something similar to Parenting with Purpose, yes to that as well! I have a few topics in mind I’d like to write about that I had wanted to include in this book but figured would do better as a separate one.

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
Entrepreneurs who set a goal or dream for themselves and do what it takes to reach it.

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
All three kids are in school now. The eldest is in kindergarten and the twins are in preschool. My husband and I work odd hours so that we can drop off and pick them up by the time school starts and ends.

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
The minute I pick up my kids, I’m in ‘off’ mode. I wouldn’t have enough space in my mind to balance both! If I need to capture an idea in my mind, I write them down on my notes or my phone so I can let it go and get back to the moment.

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
I would blog and write.

If you had to describe your children in just three words, what would you say?

FREE Kindle version- from 18 - 22 Oct ONLY!

FREE Kindle version- from 18 – 22 Oct ONLY!

Inquisitive. Delightful. Strong.

If you’d like a preview of Nina’s book, you can download a free chapter from her website now. The book is being released on Sunday 18 October and the Kindle version will be available for FREE for the first five days (until 22 October)! To stay up to date with all the latest book news and be first for special offers, sign up for the Parenting with Purpose newsletter now. You can also connect with Nina on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – she’s very easy to chat to!

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.

No Comments

Do we underestimate the impact of stories and role models on our children?

This is a guest post from Ben Cook, co-founder and creator of the Clever Tykes books, helping children ages 6-9 think more positively and be more enterprising.

Stories are so important to us. Our lives are made up of an intertwined series of stories involving different characters, plots and twists. Stories take many forms; fact, fiction, long and short, simple and complex. We use stories to educate, inform, inspire and entertain. They’re so powerful because they take us on a journey that changes the way we think about something.

Sometimes, I think we underestimate how important stories are. See if you agree.

We humans are complex and intelligent (at least we like to think we are!) but much of our learning processes remain instinctive. We learn from our experiences and the experiences of others. How quickly do even the most primitive of creatures learn not to touch something if it gives them an electric shock, for example? But more than that, if they see another creature suffer the same experience, they too will avoid the booby-trap. And it’s this that has meant stories have been used to pass on knowledge and wisdom of thousands of years.

Kids make a lot of mistakes – and that’s great.

It means they’re trying something new, not fearing failure and they’re going to learn valuable lessons. But we don’t want them to have to make every single mistake anyone has ever made – we help them to avoid some of them by passing on our own experiences and those of others. And that’s where stories come in. Rather than telling children what is right and wrong and why they should or shouldn’t do something, stories are a powerful way to convey these messages.

A myriad of life lessons are to be learned from fairy tales, fables and children’s stories with strong morals. So it shouldn’t be underestimated how important the stories to which we subject today’s children are. Who are their role models? Who are the heroes they aspire to be? Are they the characters you want them to learn from? Unfortunately we live in a society where sex sells and controversy commands, which means we see a lot of questionable role models in the media.

If we’ve been using storytelling for millennia to inspire and educate children, are we paying enough attention to what they’re seeing today? The world is so fast-paced, the skills and attitudes required to succeed in modern society are much changed from even only 20 years ago. Do today’s stories really match up to the values and traits we need to see in children?

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

– Alvin Toffler

Code_It_Cody_CleverTykesI think this is very apt with the developments in technology in today’s society.

That’s why we decided to develop the Clever Tykes books – to create role models and stories that are applicable both to today’s challenges and opportunities. Technology plays a role in the stories, particularly Code-it Cody (as you might imagine!) whilst focusing on those skills and traits that are universally important and always will be – creativity, resourcefulness and resilience.

Being mindful of the experiences children learn from in today’s fast-paced media and marketing-driven society is probably more vital than ever before.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, you can read my full PR and disclosure policy here.

No Comments

Making friends with the school monsters | From Mushroom’s mouth

Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve got to talk to you directly. I’ve been a bit busy, you see. Since I talked about being big and starting school in May, I’ve been hanging out with Mummy over the summer and getting ready to actually start Big School (you know, in Real Life).

Here are some of the words I’ve been using to describe school the past couple of weeks (I have learned some new words. Some are a bit big): Scary. Exciting. Weird. Confusing. Awesome. Wrong (they do some things all wrong!). Silver (I am on silver in my class because I am helpful and kind). Grown-up. Cool (I think I am cool now. I even carry my school backpack on one shoulder like the big kids. Mummy does not appreciate this).

So, what was my first day like? Well, I hitched a ride on Daddy and that was fun. I was so excited to be in my uniform and really starting… but when I got there I was scared. I wanted Mummy and Daddy to stay and keep me safe. They stayed a little while but then they had to go. I cried for my friend in another class, and all my nursery friends who I knew and missed. Everything was so new and big! I thought I could see monsters everywhere and I didn’t feel very big.

The day got better. I had a nice time but was so tired at the end of the day. I fell asleep on the sofa and Mummy woke me for dinner!  I Was. Not. Happy. But once I’d calmed down, I told Mummy about the monsters and we talked about making friends with them. I felt a bit better but I was still scared in the mornings for the next two days and cried a bit (big boys do cry, you know). However (do you like my big word?), by the end of the week I was getting used to my monsters and there were no tears. I was still nervous going in but there is just so much to look forward to each day!

Pencil sharpeners are awesome. And a bit weird.

Pencil sharpeners are awesome. And a bit weird.

Last week I started going to breakfast and teatime club some days and that was like starting all over again. I get a big breakfast if I want (spaghetti hoops on toast!) but mostly I had cereal as I find it hard to use my big voice to ask for things. Mummy asks for me sometimes. On the days I do both clubs I get so tired and want to nap! Sometimes I get a bit cross with Mummy or Daddy when they come to get me because all I want to do is sleep. I have made a good friend though, he’s bigger than me – 6, nearly 7! – so I listen very carefully to everything he tells me about school because he knows so much. He told me he used to be very quiet at school too, when he first started. He’s not quiet now! I like him a lot.

Remember those monsters I thought I saw on my first day..? Most of them have gone now. Mummy and I are getting used to the new routine (Friday is ‘treat day’ after school, that’s my favourite) and I’ve made some lovely friends. So, even if more monsters show up, I think me and my new friends can take them on together.

How about you? Are your kids getting used to school/being back at school? Are you? Do you have monsters you need to make friends with too..?


Rainy day solutions from Parragon Books – A review round-up

This summer we received two treats from Parragon Books, both of which were fantastic for surviving the rainy days (and waiting in restaurants, among other things!): The Massive Monster Activity Pack and Spot A Lot: Animals Jigsaw.

The Monster Activity Pack came in July and we are still making the most of it! It really is a monster of a pack, made up of four books: doodles, muddles (that’s monster-speak for puzzles!), a colouring book, and – Mushroom’s favourite by far – a sticker book with 500 STICKERS! The sticker book came on a few restaurant trips with us during the summer and diverted at least two potential meltdowns.

Both of the Monster Pack and the Spot A Lot book and jigsaw set come in lovely briefcase-style packaging, perfect for little hands to cart around when on trips although as the title of this post suggests, we made the most of these during some of the rainy days we had this summer.

The Spot A Lot: Animals Jigsaw  set came in August and Mushroom was excited because we already know the story as we received the large book last October (our first title from Parragon!) so he couldn’t wait to put the jigsaw together. I didn’t tell him about the reverse side until we’d finished and he looked at me like I was mad when I suggested we turn it over… His response? “WOW! Mummy that’s AWESOME!” Can I colour it? Really?”

We are colouring it a little at a time and still have much of the picture to complete but we’re not in a hurry. And we still have all those monsters to colour in too!

Both of these books would make great presents (and I highly recommend the Monster Pack as a travel companion), especially if you add a pack of colouring pencils or crayons – you could even pop them inside, so the happy recipient is good to get started right away!

Disclosure: Mushroom and I are Parragon Book Buddies and receive a new book to read and review each month. All views are our own. Read my full PR and disclosure policy here. Spot A Lot: Animals Jigsaw is available at Smyths Toys.

No Comments