All posts by - honestrachael

Nature in the city 12 | We found the rest of Victory Park!

Mushroom and I have been to Victory Park (part of the Olympic Park) many times before, to practice climbing on the rope bridge below. However, we knew there was another part that we hadn’t yet managed to find (admittedly, we hadn’t looked very hard!).

Climbing at Victory Park_MotheringMushroom

The mirrors

Mr B had told me ages ago that he has taken Mushroom to ‘the bit with the mirrors’ but I didn’t know what he meant and hadn’t been able to see it. Then, on the May Bank Holiday*, we were just going for a wander and we stumbled across it purely by accident! I realised then that the reason I hadn’t been able to see it before, is because at the angle from which I had been looking, it simply reflected the grass and became invisible!

We enjoyed playing hide and seek..

and afterwards, we looked and listened out for local wildlife (not as many butterflies as we would have liked and a LOT of birdsong)…

Nature trail Victory Park_MotheringMushroom

and then we came across this guy!

Gorilla at Victory Park_MotheringMushroom

We were lucky with the weather and really enjoyed our day, which ended with some time playing in the giant sandpit hidden away between two blocks of flats just round the corner from Neighbourhood (highly recommended for lunch if you’re in the area!). Even though it was a sunny day, there weren’t many people here. Partly because it’s so hidden but it also doesn’t get much sun in the afternoon (so I was freezing! But Mushroom was happy).

Giant sandpit E20_MotheringMushroom

I am linking this post up to Coombe Mill‘s Country Kids.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

*I’m cheating a bit as this little adventure actually took place over the last bank holiday weekend but it’s taken me that long to sort out the photos! Click on the image above to find out more and read other outdoor adventures.


On seasons, school and being a big boy | From Mushroom’s mouth

I turned four this year. This means I am big. Big enough to go to big school, which starts in the Autumn – that’s when the leaves change colour. I know all about the seasons now, I learned this at nursery. I know lots of things. Numbers, colours, shapes… My favourite colour is blue and my favourite shape is a triangle. Mummy likes circles. I asked her. I know all of these things (and more!) because I am big.

I’m a bit scared, though

I love nursery. I’ve been there a long time and I know all my teachers and I have a lot of friends. I know where the toilets are and what we do at lunchtime (wash our hands, get our placemats out, sit nicely). I know when we have snack time and what to do if I feel poorly (tell a grown-up). School is going to be a big change. Big! Bigger than me! Mummy is going to take me to visit before the summer holidays and this will help but still… Will there be enough grown-ups there to look after all of us? If I’m poorly will someone still phone my Mummy? Where will I go to the toilet? What do I need to do at lunchtime? So many questions! I spoke to Mummy and she said that everyone in my class will be wondering the same things.

Everyone’s a little bit scared

Mummy said that even she still gets scared when she’s doing something new. I asked her what she does about it and she said that sometimes, she avoids the new things but eventually she has to do them. So she takes a deep breath and gives it a go. She said it doesn’t matter if I don’t do everything right because it will take me a while to know what ‘right’ is for some things, and that’s ok. I’m not sure about that (I don’t like to get things wrong, even though Mummy says it doesn’t matter. It matters to me!). I think I will be doing a lot of deep breathing when I start school. I’m looking forward to learning lots of new things though.

Will all this new learning fit in my brain?

My brain will grow

Will all this new learning fit in my brain? Mummy says it will grow so that I can fit in both the stuff I already know, and the new stuff. That’s a lot. I was worried my head would then be too big for my body but she explained that it’s a different kind of growing. She has quite a lot of stuff in her brain and her head looks ok so maybe she’s right.

Butterflies and bumblebees

Sometimes, when I think about scary things, I can feel bumblebees around me. Mummy said that some people call that butterflies in their tummy.  I really like butterflies but I don’t want them in my tummy! I do not like bumblebees as much (although they do look quite nice, they sting!). When I meditate with Mummy (we just sit quietly and breathe. Sometimes she talks, softly. I like to cross my legs) the bumblebees go away. Sometimes I feel a little bit like there are bumblebees when I’m excited too. Mummy said that being excited and being scared sometimes feels similar, so maybe I’m a bit excited about school… I don’t know… I am looking forward to having a big playground to play in though, and wearing a uniform! The big kids in the park wear uniforms. I want to be like them. I hope my uniform is a colour I like.

Maybe school will be ok. I will let you know what I think when I’ve actually started!

Can you remember when you started school? Were you scared? Do you still get scared now..?




Encouraging creative entrepreneurs from childhood

As many of you know, when I’m not blogging about parenting and family life, I’m a freelance writer, poet and personal coach. These roles used to be something I did around a more traditional day job (although that did include writing and coaching) and it’s only last year that I took the plunge and went fully freelance. So far, it’s been the best thing I’ve done. I liked my job enough… But I love what I’m doing now.

So, what stopped me from doing this before? Well, a number of things that I’ve managed to move past but really, it was only when I hit my 30s that I even really considered having my own business as an option. It certainly wasn’t something I thought about as a kid. Back then, role models in books and on TV tended to have more traditional jobs such as doctor, policeman, fireman, builder, teacher secretary etc… If you asked a class full of kids then what they wanted to be then, you would usually get a variation of these roles, with the odd aspiring astronaut thrown in. Things have changed now, but not that much. We’ve got Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder, Postman Pat… And what about the women? Doc McStuffins’ Mum is a Doctor but otherwise they tend to be second to the men in these programmes. The only people in business are usually men running big corporations and are rarely portrayed in a positive light (remember the Lego movie?). So where are the entrepreneurial role models for our kids?

As for me, I was lucky enough to have some role models around who did have their own businesses but they tended to be of the more traditional sort – running a restaurant or shop, for example. So while I saw the work that went into being self-employed, I never thought that more creative ventures were viable careers. So, although I dreamed of being a ‘writer’ of some sort, I told people I wanted to be a teacher because I liked kids and it seemed like the most creative option at the time.

Fast forward to now and Mushroom and I have had lots of conversations about the work I do. He understands that I write (and likes it when I make up stories for him!) but I think he’s still not sure about the coaching. What matters (to me), though, is that he understands that different people have different jobs and that it is possible to do what you love and love what you do. The other day we played a game where he said he was going to buy ‘a really big boat’ like the one we saw on holiday (a yacht) and when I asked him how he would buy something so expensive he said “I did a lot of writing work so now I have a lot of money.” I love how anything is possible for him!

Mushroom is lucky enough to have many different role models to look to when it comes to work. But how can we encourage entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation, regardless of their immediate influences? That’s where the people behind Clever Tykes come in. Set up in 2012, Clever Tykes is a series of books aimed at children aged 5-11 (reading age c.8/9years), which introduce children to positive entrepreneurial role models. Each story follows a child’s journey as they follow their passion to create a venture that they love. There are currently three titles in the series: Code-it Cody, Walk-it Willow and Change-it Cho.

Mushroom and I were sent Code-it Cody and Walk-It-Willow to review towards the end of last year. I read them both first and while I thought they were great stories that clearly championed essential characteristics including innovation, hard work, goal-setting and teamwork, I felt that they were a bit old for (then 3 year old) Mushroom. However, a lot changes in a few months at this age so we tried reading Code-it Cody together recently (over a week, it’s quite long for little ones) and he really enjoyed it! With this title, I loved that Cody’s disability (he has a hearing impairment) is simply a part of who he is rather than being a big part of the story, as can often end up being the case with characters with disabilities. It would be good to see a girl in a similar role in a future book, to encourage more women to get into technology but across the series Cody is the only boy so I can’t say it’s not diverse.

Clever Tykes complete series

Clever Tykes are already working with dozens of schools across the country and they aim to eventually offer their books and related resources for free to all schools in the UK but you don’t need to wait until they reach your child’s school to get hold of them. If you would like to order one (or all!) of these books to introduce the idea of self-employment (other than your own job if you’re already self-employed!) to your children, you can do so by clicking on the image above.

Disclosure: Mushroom and I were sent copies of two books for the purposes of this review, which also contains an affiliate link. All opinions are our own. Read my full PR and disclosure policy here. If you are a blogger and would be interested in partnering with Clever Tykes, email



Proudly Imperfect Parents

Earlier this year, I ran a coached workshop for Working Mums; the first in a series of workshops I’m developing this year around letting go of the notion that there is a ‘right’ way to parent and finding what works for you and your family.

Good Enough_WritingPeoplePoetry

I wrote about the workshop over on my website last week if you want to find out how it went!

If you like the idea of these workshops, then I’d love your help to develop more and create an online programme later this year so, if you haven’t already via the website, could you spare five minutes to take part in a short survey? Just click on the image below and it will take you straight there. Thanks in advance for taking the time!

PIP survey_MotheringMushroom

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Mushroom’s mouth | My annual interview

Last year, Mummy did an interview with me for the first time ever.   It took a while because I got bored of the questions quickly so she had to ask a few a day but I know how much you love to hear from me (and it’s been a while since I last had my say!) so I let her interview me again this year. This time, we did it properly. I sat down and she asked me all the questions (all the questions – so many! *sigh*) and I answered them all while eating my dinner. Don’t worry, I didn’t talk with my mouth full!

So, here you go…

How old are you?

Four. *big grin*

When is your birthday?

It was at nursery. I had it already. (Mushroom had a little party at nursery the day before)

What did you do for your birthday?

Go bowling with Strawberry*!

Why do you like bowling so much?

Because I just like it. I like when I throw the ball, like this… *mimes bowling*

What’s your favourite colour?



Yes. Blue.

What’s your favourite shape?

Triangle. It’s got three sides.

What does ‘I love you’ mean?



Nothing. Just I love you.

What is love?

*says friend’s name* and I just love you.

What’s your favourite TV programme?

Let it go! (Frozen), Spiderman! Oh, and Turtles (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

What’s your favourite activity?


Um, what’s that?

Nothing. I like umbrellas. Um… Cars. But you can’t play with the old cars any more. They’re not there.

What happened to them?

They’re not there. I miss them.

What do you like to do best at the park?

Slide. Climb.

Do you like sleeping?

Yes. I’m sleepy now. *pretends to fall asleep*

How old is Mummy?



No. Four.

…and Daddy?

Three… No, 90! *checks reaction* Four..?

What do you like best about nursery days?

Going on the bouncy castle. You can only have two people each time. It’s just a short time. You have to take turns.

What do you like best about days at home with Mummy?

Playing in the park.


*rolls eyes and turns away to indicate interview is over*

As Mummy didn’t ask me about school (I know, can you believe it? She said she wanted the questions to be the same as last year or something), I’ll come back again another day to share my thoughts on that – sometime before I actually start. I hear I will have to go all day, every day! Crazy. Not sure how I feel about that so like I said, I’ll be back. Watch this space.



Nature in the city 11: We’re going on a bug hunt!

Ok with that title, you know where this is going…!

NatureReserve_MotheringMushroomLately, with the lovely weather we’ve had this past week, I’ve often exclaimed, “What a beautiful day!” Mushroom always follows this with, “We’re not scared!”

So, we’ve been on a few bear hunts lately! There is some swishy swashy grass near us that’s perfect for playing this game and much as we both love pretend play, when I suggested last week that we make it a real hunt… A bug hunt – Mushroom loved the idea! So we headed to the old East London Waterworks, which is now a nature reserve.

We stopped to play our version of Pooh sticks at the river (we used wild flowers, which makes for a prettier result not apparent in this photo!)…


…before heading to the minibeast hotel. We did see a few ants and plenty of bees but no ladybirds, unfortunately!

As this week’s mission was to find bugs we didn’t go to the viewing platform to see the ‘special’ ducks but here are a few photos from the last time we went, to give you a taste!

We did, however, pop into the cafe for lunch and to say hello to the fake ducks and educate ourselves.

Although this bug hunt was a little disappointing, Mushroom wasn’t fazed. The next day we only popped out quickly to the shop but Mushroom was still on his bug hunt mission… And he wasn’t disappointed! As we cut through a car park, he stopped to examine a hedge and discovered this little lovely:


We will definitely we going on a bug hunt again!

I am linking this post up to Coombe Mill‘s Country Kids . Click on the image below to find out more.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Dear Mushroom – now you are four!

Dear Mushroom,

I’ve enjoyed writing these annual letters and looking back on each year at how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come. Every year you grow into so much more of yourself and it’s lovely to watch and record.

Now you are four_MotheringMushroom

This year feels a bit different. You have now been at the same nursery for three years and in September, you’ll be starting school. That feels massive for me! We just found out this week which school you’ll be going to, and that your close friend who lives just around the corner will be going there too. You’re happy about this, I think but some days you can’t wait to start school – “I’ll have a uniform Mummy!” (you love the idea of a uniform, I think to you it says ‘I’m a BIG boy!’ – but others you can even get a bit tearful, saying things like “I never ever want to go to school! I just want to go to nursery and stay with Mummy!” I suppose it’s a little like that for me too. I want you to go to school, to learn new things, make new friends and enjoy this new adventure… and yet, at the same time I’ll miss our Thursdays and Fridays together, that special me and you time we’ve managed to preserve, before you head into your school years. We’ll both be ok though, we have a few months to ease ourselves into the idea!

Mushroom's favourite exhibition piece! *click for source.

Mushroom’s favourite exhibition piece!
*click for source.

Although four is a big birthday, we didn’t have a full on party this year but you did have your share of treats! We marked the occasion by visiting the Art of the Brick exhibition  a few days before your birthday, to foster your enthusiasm for Lego bricks before giving you loads of Lego for your birthday, with which you love creating things, having only had mega blocks and duplo up until now. On the day itself, we headed out with your friend Strawberry* for your new favourite activity (since New Year), bowling! You were very proud to be able to show Strawberry (who had never been bowling before) how it’s done… As well as some of your best breakdancing moves.

Over the weekend you spent a day with Auntie L, with whom you made this beautiful mug for me, and plate for Mr B, at Creative Biscuit.

Perfectly imperfect

Perfectly imperfect

When you presented me with the mug, you were quick to tell me that “It’s not supposed to have this bump here” and that “It was supposed to be more orange there” but I was just impressed that you had put so much thought into it – you painted it green because that’s my favourite colour, with an orange handle because “you like it a lot and it makes you feel happy but it’s not your favourite.” All these little details you remembered and considered. It’s one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received and the imperfections make it even more perfect in my eyes.

So, what’s new? Well, your main interests haven’t really changed; you still love all forms of transport (planes, trains, cars, your scooter and the bike we still haven’t got round to buying for you!) anything creative (cooking, drawing, painting and sticking) and cleaning (which is actually quite helpful now – you even wash your own dishes better than I do!). You still love singing and dancing and your sense of humour is developing along with your use of language.

I don’t have as many funny little sayings as I did last year as your vocabulary has expanded so much (although a few of these ‘Mushroom-isms‘ still apply!) but I love the way you think about things and you often offer me wise advice, telling me when I’m stressed that I should ‘just be like a baby and play all day’ because, you’ve noticed, babies don’t get stressed. There’s a whole other blog post in that! On that note, you’re still as sensitive and empathetic as you’ve always been, although you have your moments and like to push the boundaries every now and then… You’re very grumpy and emotional when tired (can’t think where you get that from!) but generally your nature is pretty laid-back and loving.

This year the changes have been more subtle – your favourite TV prgrammes have progressed from Peppa Pig to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and you like the old Hero Turtles series we found on YouTube, which reminds me of your Uncle L at your age!) and you fight bedtime a little less now that you’re starting to drop your nap but essentially you’re still the same… Just a little more… You.

I’m sure school will be a great adventure for you and I’m looking forward to seeing you grow even more as you (and me!) negotiate the new challenges this will bring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think this year can probably be summed up with one particular conversation we keep having, where I call you ‘baby’ and you shout “I’m NOT a baby!” but then won’t go to bed without me there to hold your hand because “I’m only little.” You’re so desperate to grow up but when it comes down to it, in many ways you’re still a baby. And you know what? You’ll always be my baby.

Love you to the moon and back,

Mummy x




Nature in the city 10: An Easter treat at Brooks Farm

2015-04-02 12.31.26Spring is finally here!

I’ve talked before about what this season means to me and how I associate it with new beginnings and this year is no different. We didn’t have any big plans this year – other than eating chocolate! – so when Easter rolled round (pun intended, sorry!) we decided to celebrate by heading back to Brooks Farm for the morning.

Last year we saw some baby goats and were a little disappointed not to see any lambs… Well this year we were blessed! We saw four little lambs and we learned that the cow is pregnant and her calf is due in June… So we will be back in June (if not before!) to meet the new arrival.

2015-04-02 12.06.05

We talked a bit about babies and whether we would see any piglets this year (Mushroom loves the pigs and we enjoyed watching them grow last summer) but we were regularly interrupted by a screaming peacock.

Peacock shouting at the 'competition'_MotheringMushroom

Mushroom asked why he was screaming and, with the help of one of the farm volunteers, I explained that he was screaming at his reflection as he thought it was another male peacock and he wanted to be the only man! A little later, we were looking at the herb garden, followed round by the peahen, who was making a bit of noise herself. Mushroom said she was probably “telling Mr Peacock to stop shouting”. We talked a bit about peacocks and peahens and how and why they look different before wandering over to see the rabbits, most of whom were… er,  a little busy! Before Mushroom could ask any questions about this we were blessed with  beautiful distraction…

Fed up with screaming at the ‘competition’, the peacock flew across to a prime location (within the hen’s gaze) to strutt his stuff. Mushroom was impressed with the flying, saying “Look Mummy!” but when he opened his feathers and turned to show them off he was dumbstruck. After a few minutes he whispered “He is  so beautiful.”

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He really is, isn’t he?

After looking all around the farm one more time, saying hello to the ducks and goats and stopping for some ice cream from the farm cafe, we headed out to play in the adventure playground, which is built to make the most of the natural surroundings.

So, we had chocolate eggs, ice cream and sweets for Easter but for Mushroom, ‘Mr Peacock’ opening his feathers was his real Easter treat!

I am linking this post up to Coombe Mill‘s Country Kids . Click on the image below to find out more.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Doodles, Spots, Stripes and Squiggles | A Parragon Book Buddies review

Mushroom’s favourite way to spend time indoors is to create. Building with bricks, sculpting with play dough, sticking, painting, drawing and colouring are high on the list of his favourite activities.

So when we received a copy of Doodles, Spots, Stripes and Squiggles from Parragon Books this month he was very excited. “A colouring book? For me? It’s so big! There’s so much things to colour!”

Doodles, Spots, Stripes and Squiggles

We’ve loved all of the books we’ve received from Parragon so far and this is no exception. For me, it was win-win as finding something we can do together, that I also enjoy, is always a bonus.

Each page of this book is partially illustrated with images and patterns to get the imagination going. The idea is that it inspires the artist in your child (and you, if you’re anything like me!) to get creative and continue the doodles to create their own masterpiece.

Here’s Mushroom creating some of his own artwork from the prompts:

We both find creating very therapeutic, and when either one of us is on the verge of a tantrum (yes, us parents have them too!) it’s a great diversion and a way to bring us back to the present by doing something together that makes us happy.

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.

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A Mother’s Day moment

My Mother’s Day moment didn’t actually happen on Mother’s Day.


On the day itself, I received two cards from Mushroom. One he’d made for me at nursery and another he chose together with Mr B. We went out just the two of us for mini cakes and a babychino (for him! Hot chocolate with cream for me) and played together in the afternoon, during which time we had a bit of whining, and the witching hour was still… Well, the witching hour! Mr B bought takeaway so I didn’t have to cook, which did ease the evening a little… So. My Mother’s Day was… Perfectly Imperfect (yeah I know, I say that a lot. That’s parenting!).

My Mother’s Day moment came the next day…

The below photo is me and my Mum, who passed away in 2007. It was sudden and unexpected and it took a long time to find what the new normal looked it afterwards. Mushroom was born in 2011, four years later. I see a lot of her in him and sometimes that’s lovely, and sometimes sad. It’s bittersweet.


Mushroom and I talk about my Mum every now and then, and he knows that sometimes I get a bit sad because I miss her. On Sunday he had asked a few questions about her during the day and then we went on to talk about other things. It wasn’t a big deal.

I had forgotten about our conversation by bedtime on Monday, when he asked to brush my hair. He had been playing me up and I thought it might relax us both so I agreed. It’s not an unusual request, he does fancy himself as a bit of an artist and this is just another opportunity to create. What was unusual is that he clearly had something in mind as he worked. He brushed, and rebrushed, moved to stand in front of me to get my parting just so, saying ‘No no no. Keep still. Turn this way,’ holding my chin to view his work. Finally, he announced, ‘finished!’ My hair had a centre parting and hung a little in my eyes (as much as frizz can). With a satisfied look in his face, Mushroom said, ‘Now you look beautiful. You hair is like your Mummy, see?’ I caught my breath. He had been trying to make me look like my Mum… and for me, that was the most beautiful Mother’s Day moment.