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Teaching children emotional intelligence – the ability to recognise and understand emotions

Happy and Sad cards

Teaching a child about to understand their emotions is a challenging task, when it comes to a child with autism the struggle can be even harder. Learning to recognise and regulate emotions is not easy. In fact as an adult we are constantly adjusting ourselves so our expectations of children should be set lower. You might wonder where you begin. I am sure there are many different methods I wanted to share with you what has worked for us.

The Basics – where to start with emotions

You can start with two basic emotions, Happy and Sad. With Ariella we were struggling badly with communication and understanding which then was leading into challenging behaviour. On recommendation of A’s private occupational therapist at the time, we were introduced to a red and green card visual.

Red and Green – Feelings cards

The plan was that both us and nursery would use a consistent approach. When we saw that A was sad (or a variant of that emotion like angry) we would show the red card and say “A is feeling red, sad/angry”. We would then ask her to try and calm herself down and let us know when she was ready to play again and “Go Green”.

You can use this same approach with your child to introduce basic emotions, green – OK/Happy and red – stop/sad.

In Ariella’s case we waited until she had calmed down and showed her the green visual and said “Are you ready to go green? Happy?”, or “Are you ready to play again?”. It took a very short time before she had picked up this system and was able to say “A is RED”. I knew she had great capacity to memorise visual content but I was astounded to hear her using it in context the very next day.

It might take longer for your child, you might have to adapt the wording that you decide to use depending on their personality and their abilities. However It is a great way of starting off understand of very basic emotion. It was the very early journey of learning emotional intelligence and from which we have been able to expand.

Example cards

You can download a copy of the red and green card here. You can print them and bind them, it’s worth carrying them around with you so that they can be used at every opportunity.

Expanding on the basics – other emotions

Rather than moving straight onto new emotions we focused on self regulation, it would be much more motivating and practically useful for A to recognise her emotion is “Red” and know that she can bring herself back to “Green”. To do this we started with another suggestion from A’s therapist, using a wheel. With this A understood the benefit of being able to identify her emotions for both of us.

The wheel has been quite good as it starts to expand on the middle ground between happy and sad but is still very simple. You can apply this method with your own child too!

Early years – self regulation wheel

Emotional self regulation wheel

You can start with a simple wheel, red to green. I’ve created a template which you can print off below, I recommend you laminate the sheet and the arrow and use some paper fasteners to attach the arrow.

It may take some time for your child to pickup on this approach but once the first basic emotions are locked down it should be easier to introduce and expand on these.

Self regulation actions for young children

To compliment this I would recommended self regulation calming actions which you can download here. These help suggest actions that your child can do to calm down, it’s easy to tell a child to calm however offering practical solutions that they can do alone shows how to actually achieve this.

I recommend you print and laminate this red action card which you can use with the wheel/gauge. You can say “A you are feeling red/sad/angry, what can we do to calm down?” and list each action explaining. I use these when A is very upset and past the point of verbal communication still now, regardless that she knows how to do each of these the prompt is often enough to remind her to self regulate. When they have calmed down you can move the gauge/wheel to green again.

If you have an older child whom has mastered this skill already then moving on to a mindfulness app like Calm for children would be useful. It is supported on both iOS and Android devices and offers some lovely calming stories, meditation and sleep methods.

Calm

Image result for calm logo

iOS & Android

“Calm is the leading app for meditation and sleep. Join the millions experiencing lower stress, less anxiety, and more restful sleep with our guided meditations, Sleep Stories, breathing programs, masterclasses, and relaxing music. Recommended by top psychologists, therapists, and mental health experts.”

The downside is there is a subscription for the service but I use this app myself and I find it very valuable.

The Calm App screenshot

Exploring other emotions

Introducing new ideas and new information has to be highly motivating, over the last year we have noticed that A has quite an interest in photos of herself. She enjoys cause and effect also, we wanted to combine both of these things together in a way that could be used to help her learn what her face looks like when she is feeling different emotions.

We decided to use our phones but you could use a mirror. Our iPhone has the ability to map your face to Emoji’s, A will sit and do this for a long time. We can model what faces look like and describe the emotion when asked “Can you show me happy?” and so on it helps her learn that this is a happy face.

Introducing dramatherapy

Recently A has begun dipping her toes into dramatherapy, if you have yet to come across this branch of therapy it is defined as…

Dramatherapy is a type of psychotherapy using the art forms of drama and theatre. It is one of the Creative Arts Therapies which include, art, music, drama and dance/movement. … Dramatherapy sessions offer a space to express feelings and enhance spontaneity using various methods including play, storytelling and movement.

http://www.dramatherapist.net/what-is-dramatherapy

In short sessions are the perfect place for A to express her thoughts 1:1 with a trained therapist, to give you an example. Throughout the week we might have a worrying situation pop up for A, a new fear or a happy situation that becomes quite fixed in her mind.

These sessions allow her to explore and talk about that incident. An example, when a fire alarm went off while she was at nursery and she was very distressed. We can relay this prior to the therapy session directly to the therapist and they can bring up this memory and coordinate their props.

Visualising the internal

During this particular session A was able to draw the scene, which is the first time we’ve seen such a descriptive image produced. Usually her art is quite abstract, she was able to label that the “dots” were the noise of the alarm and describe how she felt.

You could explore emotions through art with your child, it doesn’t have to be in a professional setting but I do think it has been helpful to build a safe relationship outside of the family to discuss emotional wellbeing.

A's drama therapy drawing

It’s useful to talk around these incidents so that positive reinforcement can be built in, another example working on balloons. A was quite frightened of balloons due to a popping memory at a party last year, since a therapy session and discussing this with balloons – playing with them and seeing that they can be fun and that popping is okay. A’s favourite item this week is her balloon which she took home from therapy.

Hopefully you can see how this therapy is rather beneficial in exploring situations that occur and how the child feels in that situation. However to do this they need to understand and be able to link emotions to events, so you might now be wondering other than the emoji face mapping how else did we achieve this?

How are you today visuals

Emotion visuals girl

We have a visual “How are you feeling today” chart which I’ve created my own version of you here. You can download it if you need for your own uses, print, laminate and buy sticky velcro (both sides). One side attaches to the chart and the other to the visuals.

You’ll need to cut around each visual feeling/emotion. I think this is really helpful up on the fridge, you could add some sticky magnets to the back of your chart to do this or just use any kind of sticky tac.

Emotions visuals for Boys
Feelings book

I hope that all of the above will help you begin to discuss and make emotions part of your daily discussions. If your child enjoys reading or looking at books there are some wonderful options, How are you feeling today? by Molly Potty and for an older child Feelings by Libby Walden.

Social Stories

In addition to books and visuals you can also make your own social stories, the more custom made the better. As an example when we were experience some aggressive outburst or an increase in hitting, biting others we introduced a social story about biting.

Within the story it showed a person biting and how each person felt about it as well as the impact of that action, it is a good way of showing children that their actions have an effect on others.

Many books have social stories written into them to help all children understand this, we also used “Hands are not for hitting” book which worked very well for A. They have a “Teeth are not for biting” also but I have not checked this one through.

These books explain to children all the ways in which they can use their teeth or their hands while discussing the emotional impact of their actions, we have found this really effective.

If you need help creating visuals then you can check out my blog post here and if you are interested in ways to manage challenging behaviour you can also check out my post here.

I really hope that the above helps you navigate emotions with your child, as ever please do let me know your thoughts!

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Christmas Eve 2016

We visited Santa for the second time this year, this time in his Ice Castle! The second time around was much more successful, I hope that might be due to all the exposure Ariella has had to Santa now while playing with toys, watching TV and being out and about. We also considered doing some ice skating afterwards as they have a great ice rink in the Winter Wonderland which is made of ice and maintained after each session. Unfortunately the ice rink was booked up already, not a huge issue for us though as we had planned to eat lunch after (and then Ariella would probably want to go home and nap).

Waiting for Santa, looking a little sad.

The Ice Castle grotto was great, far better than the one we had visited previously. You were walked through it by yourself (rather than as a session group) and they had set it out completely like a little ice cave with moving bears, penguins and lovely frosty lights. Ariella really enjoyed this part, all the staff dress up to and in very realistic costumes. Once we reached Santa she became a little shy but wasn’t crying like last time. Santa looked much more authentic than the last Santa we saw, he almost had me believing too!

Even the little area Santa was sat in was really great, you really did feel like you had made the trip to the north pole. He asked Ariella if she had been good this year and what she wanted for Christmas then we took a nice group picture and Ariella was given a lovely book as a present.

A little market after the Grotto, sweet treats!

The ice rink was fully booked, boo!

We headed off back indoors for lunch and we knew where we were going to try first, Wagamama! It was unexpectedly quiet, in fact the whole place seemed much quieter than we were expecting. I guess by this point if you haven’t done your Christmas shopping you are in a small pool of those who haven’t. We were seated at a large table near the back and Jamie ordered our usual, Ariella was most pleased when her’s arrived. Ariella loves the mild curry sauce that can be ordered with the children’s katsu, whenever we order it for her we get an unsure look by the waiter.

The present from Santa

It was quite wonderful to complete the Happyland calendar today, meet the final piece behind the final window. I’m glad it’s done with as there really is too many people for the little cottage now, hopefully Santa might bring Ariella some new Happyland buildings for all these festival villagers to play with. As you can see we bought Ariella the Happyland box/play mat, It was supposed to be a Christmas gift but I never got around to wrapping it and it gave us something to pack the pieces in so we could transport them to my parents home easier.

The final Happyland piece, number 24!

Please totally ignore the crazy hair, we have a storm coming here in England but I felt that Ariella would benefit from a trip out in the afternoon to the park. We needed to use up some time before dinner, she wasn’t too sure about the wind until I put her hood up to keep the wind off her head a bit more.

After a wonderful dinner cooked by my mother, I headed into the kitchen to start mulling some wine. Bring on Christmas Day! Let’s hope that Ariella doesn’t wake up at 6am tomorrow, that seems to be her favourite time at the moment. Merry Christmas!

Mulled wine, cheers!

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Weekly Update – 28 Days until Christmas

Can you feel Christmas in the air? I’m a huge festive fiend and I adore everything Christmas related, the markets, the mulled wine, listening to Christmas music, the warm cosy feeling that this time of year brings.  We’ve had some lovely exciting activities and interesting things going on this week, I’ll start by talking about our London trip. I have a brilliant bunch of mothers who all found solace in each other, sharing the same due date month. From pregnancy to present, all across the United Kingdom they have been there during the early morning and late night feeds, the strange nappies, the illnesses, the good and the bad. Occasionally those local to each other meet up, this week we did just that and it was brilliant to see some of them and their lovely children. Children whom I have watched blossom from tiny little dots to big smiling, stomping, questioning beings.

London felt very festive, a short walk down the river we passed lots of Christmas markets and stalls. It was fitting that there was a wintery chill in the air, but the sun had come out and Ariella even got to experience her very first real life rainbow.

Then the week had a little blimp, you can read about me losing access to my phone here. But I like to think that things tend to balance themselves out again, while I was missing in action we received a letter. A letter that I’ve been waiting to fall through our letter box for a while. We have a date for Ariella’s MRI scan! It’s the first week of January 2017 and it works perfectly for us, it doesn’t clash with our festive plans and things we have booked in already. It’s really reassuring to have a date, I think not having a date was for me quite challenging I’m not the most relaxed when it comes to the unknown, now I know that in a month and a half we will hopefully have the scan done with. I’m going to try and get a copy of the results so I can analyse them myself as we won’t see neurology to discuss the results until February 2017. As odd as this may sound, I did this with my own MRI scan on my spine and could see the various issues which I found reassuring when discussing them after with my consultant.

Other than that there is Christmas and Christmas shopping, now that most of the shopping is done online it’s like Cardboard city in our home. Your biggest challenge is coming up with creative new tetris style solutions to fit the cardboard the best into your disposal bin! I’ve been practically hosting my own depot, but we have hit the list down greatly. Efficiency is key in our lives!

The weekend saw a trip to check out the Godalming Christmas Festival, naturally we had not been before and did not know quite what to expect. It was awesome, mulled wine, great wares, good street food, all the lights were switched on after a big count down. Very welcome, what a great way to celebrate having less than a month until Christmas. Jamie went for a hog roast bap accompanied by crackling and apple sauce, mulled wine and a nutella/cream crepe. I decided to try some satay prawn skewers, sea food paella and mulled wine. Yum yum, well done Godalming! The stalls had plenty of things to buy for Christmas presents, yourself, your home. There were donkeys rides for the children, carols, lots of the restaurants had come out to make their food on the street, local companies all advertising their wares. It was truly the best market I’ve been to in Surrey so far. To keep Ariella sweet we took her for a quick trip to the park before heading around the stalls.

Ariella

Ariella in the swing

Autumnal Tree

Godalming Christmas Festival 2016

Godalming Christmas Festival 2016

Godalming Christmas Festival 2016

We decided to visit twice, once during lunch which was perfect as the crowds weren’t as busy. Then we popped back for the light switch on in the afternoon, which by then it was difficult to navigate around, many of the stalls selling homewares had sold out of lots of items and I would have preferred to use the Tula carrier if this was our only visit.

It was very festive but crowded, we watched the count down and the light switch on but then left once the bands started. Ariella was quite tired, so I think while it was lovely to see the lights I would probably just go for the day next time.

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During the break between we had a surprise delivery, I had ordered a starry sky decal with 1000 individual sticky dot stars combined with a comet, three shooting stars and a moon. I bought it from an Etsy store called Stella Murals which is based in New Zealand (hence not knowing when it was going to arrive). The designs are truly exceptional, beautiful pieces of artwork and so realistic. I hadn’t considered how long it would take to stick 1000 dots randomly, in star like patterns onto the ceiling of Ariella’s bedroom. It took quite some time as the dots varied from reasonably big to tiny, we took it in shifts between us which worked well. Share the burden!

I’d love to have got a picture of it once done but I can’t seem to get one to show up on my phone, but it looks exactly like the pictures on the advert with some different placement naturally.

Stella Murals Etsy

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I’m obsessed with space, I hope that Ariella enjoys all the effort the night we installed them she fell asleep immediately. That’s a good sign!

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Adoration

I’m so glad we had newborn photos taken of Ariella, even though she’s older now and has developed a more child like face it’s lovely to look back in such detail. You forget the details you see, the dry skin on their hands and feet from being cooped up in a liquid world for so long. You forget that they always had the little face they have today, but it was just slightly changed. Photography today captures childhood completely, all the minute details, the milky beards, the fresh new nails, down to the odd hairs on her ears (anyone else?).

Yes I’m glad we captured that moment for eternity, I’ve been debating for some time when is best to next get more photographs taken. We decided not to for her first birthday even though I would have been first in line to do a “cake smash” style setup, I just did not get around to organising it. When next? Perhaps when she is two?

It must be something to grow up in the new world with every moment of your childhood documented, recorded and adored. I think my own parents who had four children they have a lot of their first born, some of their second. I was their third child and I do happen to have a photo album of key events, my youngest brother he only has a couple of pictures of himself as a little baby. Then of course there are our children, I think I’ve probably got a photo or video of every day Ariella has lived. I’m glad that I can offer her such a vast amount of memories to share with her when she is older, to show her all the things we did together. How much she was adored.

A camera is a save button for the minds eye – Roger Kingston

I remember once seeing a video of another parent who took a video of his daughter every day for many years, he collated the pictures together. You can watch it below, I’d love to do something like this with Ariella when she is a little older! If you don’t have the video opportunities you can always just use photo’s (another example below too).

I hope you might leave here inspired to go and capture your own children’s childhood eternally, I can’t imagine the dedication required to stay the course in capturing each image every day or week but I cannot argue with the overall effect. I myself am certainly inspired!

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Godalming Fireworks Extravaganza 2016

We all have favourite time of the year, some love the summer or the spring and some of us enjoy Autumn or Winter – perhaps both. I have two times of the year that I enjoy the most, two eventful days that I adore the run up to (well I suppose one is actually more like a week). Halloween/Bonfire night and Christmas, I bundle Halloween and Bonfire night together because they really are so close, they go hand in hand. It’s not just the actual day itself but all the festivities and food that really make me love the nights getting darker. Last year we stayed home, pretty unintentionally as I had purchased some baby ear defenders for Ariella from Baby Banz of Amazon and I was all set to go.

Ariella wearing baby bans ear defenders

Ariella wearing baby bans ear defenders 2015

Then our plans dropped out due to our friends daughter being unwell and we would have been going alone, it was dark and cold – Ariella was much younger then and we ditched it in to watch them instead from the window in the warm. Now that I think about it, we even missed them the year prior while we were living in London – Canary Wharf. I was pregnant and did not fancy going out, waddling around the London crowds when we had such a great view of the fireworks from our apartment.

This year however, there was no backing out. Even if we were going alone it was happening, the tickets were booked ahead of time and Godalming were doing a torch little procession – of which we had a touch booked too. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have dreamt of being part of a town that gets to hold a flaming touch and walk it through the high street, the only downer was that the bonfire at the end was binned off this year. Health and safety of all things, I’d hope that next year this might be rectified with a few volunteer stewards and the like. Apparently people like to lit up the bonfires ahead of time, vandals I guess. Personally I can’t see why anyone would want to ruin the fun ahead of the event, but I am getting old now -ha-.

We heading off around 6:30pm to pickup our torch, the firework display wasn’t until 8:00pm and I had wondered how the time would pass between those two points. It was a pointless thing to be concerned about, Ariella cocooned nicely into the Tula Toddler carrier was completely dazzled by the light up gizmos on display and glow sticks.

Torches

Alongside this a band played, she was well catered for. We stood for quite a while before everyone set off and torches were lit around 45 minutes later. I hadn’t really comprehended the impact of so many townsfolk carrying flames down such a historic high street would have. The band played a matching tune the whole way to the firework field and many members of the public had come to watch the torch lit procession,  great sense of community.

Procession

Once we arrived at the firework display area Ariella’s attention was drawn to the carousel wheels and bouncing harness attractions for children. This again was the perfect distraction as by now we were well past her normal bed time (6:30/7pm).

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The firework display popped into action after a little speech by the mayor, thanking everyone whom had a hand in arranging the event this year. The display was immense! It had been a long time since we had been to a display, mostly smaller displays at our families homes or watching from a distance in London. They played a variety of music alongside and even had a couple of sections with children’s favourite movies and low bang fireworks mixed in.

Me & Ariella

We weren’t sure at all how Ariella would respond, she is usually quite particular about certain sounds and is quite wary of new things. However it seems fireworks are a complete exception, she was completely mesmerised by the light show. I kept my mitted hands over her ears but half way through she demanded I remove them so she could listen properly.

It reminded me much of days gone when she was younger and the wide eyed look they have when they experience something for the first time, something truly amazing.

Before long the show had ended, there were different stalls setup if you fancied a burger. I’m not a huge fan of waiting in line with Ariella as lately she has taken to having a bit of a meltdown about this. So instead we had our eyes on the Fish and Chip shop – Deep Blue – on the high street. Making a quick exit we managed to get in just as a huge queue of people turned up behind us. By this time Ariella was now -very- tired, safe to say she fell asleep pretty quickly once home.

I was so pleased we decided to take her, we weren’t alone. There were many children the same as Ariella who were up past their bedtimes. We will definitely be going next year again and hope that perhaps the bonfire is reinstated (you can see it below in 2015).

Godalming bonfire 2015 - Picture credit to Getsurrey,co.uk

Godalming bonfire 2015 – Picture credit to Getsurrey.co.uk

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The Nuna Rebl car seat battle

Picking a carseat is no mean feat, there are so many to choose from and every parent just wants the safest seat they can afford. When trying to decide many parents go to trusted comparison websites like Which? and look at safety test scores that are conducted against the seats. You may have even heard of the new phrase i-Size which is a new standard of seat that some of the latest car seats are advertising, you can find out about the i-Size standard here in more depth. Recent testing and research has found that using the new extended rearward facing (ERF) car seats (keeping them rear facing for much longer) is five times safer in an accident than a forward facing car seat. This is due to the fact that frontal collisions are the most dangerous collisions you can have in a car, they come hand in hand with the two deadly variables high speed and strong force. As you can imagine if a child is facing rearward in a frontal collision then they are not flung forward but instead cupped and supported inside the carseat. This is why the statistically outcome is some much more favourable.

The NUNA Rebl Many of my parenting friends like us have forked out large sums – £395 to be precise on the latest ERF car seat which is why it came as quite a shock when Nuna’s Rebl i-Size car seat came out with a fail in the ADAC test. Shockingly Nuna claim that the carseat is safe as it still passes the European safety standard tests (ECE R129) but these tests only reach speeds of 30mph. In the The German Automobile Club (ADAC) test which you can see in the video the base sheered right off the seat, subsequently Which? have now downgraded the Nuna Rebl carseat to their “Don’t buy” list. Nuna announced a statement on their Facebook page claiming that the ADAC test was “extreme” and not recognised as a standard in the UK, personally I’d rather car seats were tested more extremely than not.

The Nuna Rebl i-Size scored so badly in our front-impact crash tests when tested rearward facing with a crash test dummy representing a three-year-old, that its score was downgraded overall, making it a Don’t Buy. – Which.co.uk

Many of the parents I know who bought this car seat have struggled to gain any answers from their retailers about refunds with some varying replies ranging from no refunds, discuss it with your retailer to yes we will refund you. Nuna’s initial post in response to the Which? announcement on the 26th of October

At Nuna, we strive to continuously provide the best, safest gear possible for your customers and their families. That is why we designed our award-winning REBL i-size car seat to both meet and exceed the ECE R129 standard as tested by the VCA (the UK executive agency of the Department of Transportation and leading certification body).

We were disappointed to hear that recently a German automobile club, ADAC, gave the REBL a less than favourable rating when they performed their own tests on it, which fall outside of the government mandated guidelines for i-size child car seats. These results were reported in the UK by Which? Rest assured, our REBL has always and continues to be a safe and secure riding solution as it not only meets but exceeds the i-size standard, as demonstrated in the matrix below. 

However, we understand that in some cases, ADAC’s rating may play a factor in a family’s car seat choice. Should you have any questions about the REBL please do not hesitate to reach out to our customer service team Monday through Friday on 0800 9520 061 between the hours of 9am to 5pm or email us directly at infouk@nuna.eu and we can discuss all with you. – Nuna Facebook

No talk of any kind of refund which corresponded with the many parents I’ve heard from. The results of the german test had lots of parents in a panic who have now gone out immediately to replace their car seats before other competitors run out of stock. On the 28th of October Nuna clarified further “We will not be conducting a product recall unless the recognised relevant national authorities deem the seat is unsafe.” It appears pressure from customers however has given the team at Nuna a change of heart, as today they posted the following statement on their Facebook Page.

Your peace of mind is important to us and should you need immediate assistance, we recommend you reach out to your retailer. We are partnering with their teams to help you with next steps, including the option to replace or refund so that each of you can best be assisted. – Nuna, Facebook

Luckily we didn’t buy the Nuna Rebl and opted for the Cybex Sirona (which I shall review here in the near future) instead, but if you’ve had trouble getting a refund yourself I’d love to hear about it! You can contact Nuna’s customer service team on 0800 952 0061 or email them at infouk@nuna.eu .

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The Pumpkin Patch trending in England

Up until now you’ve probably skimmed through some pictures or articles online of Americans visiting pumpkin patches with their dear children during the run up to Halloween. This trendy idea seems to reached the shores of the UK with a storm this year, lots of local farms opened their doors for a short duration to allow you to go pick your own pumpkin, often incorporating tractor rides, face painting, seasonal food and other activities.

This year, having heard about this being advertised on Facebook and reading about it in one of my lovely mummy friends blogs (you can check her out here – Another Surrey Mum) we decided to take a trip to our local farm shop Secretts in Milford. They had plenty on offer, for only £1 each entry we could ride on a seasonally decorated tractor down to their pumpkin patch, hunt out our favourite – mostly my efforts – and bring it back home to eat or to carve. I bought a everyday regular carving pumpkin from a large retail store just in case I couldn’t carry Ariella and the pumpkin home. But safe to say, the Secretts pumpkins were so much better quality inside and out.

They recommended you wear wellies so I had to go shopping in a bit of a mad rush days before to find a pair in Ariella’s size. Opted for some Jojomamanbebe yellow ones with fox liners, she looked adorable! I went for a bigger size than needed as she isn’t quite walking yet so I want them to have extra room for when she is – also I wasn’t sure how much the liner would fill out the boots.
We had a blast! Ariella wasn’t too fond of waiting in line for the tractor, I like many other mums there decided to go for the carrier rather than taking her stroller. I’ve had good use out of this Tula toddler which I’m working on reviewing in the coming weeks.
I hadn’t expected how fun it would be to visit a pumpkin patch and all the extras with it. Everyone there seems really hyped up and it really got us into the spirit of Autumn. I have to compare it to going to a Christmas market or buying your first cup of mulled wine, it was throughly enchanting. The tractors were setup with hay bells to sit on in a long line, so it was close quarters on that front but added to the fun and Secretts didn’t skimp on the ride down, taking the long route there with lots of twists and turns.

 Pumpkin Patch - Ariella

Once you had chosen your pumpkin you could pop it through various sized holes to find out how much it was. Given it was just the two of us, we went for a smaller pumpkin costing just £2 but they also had monstrous sized ones back near the event setup for £15 each. Understandably these weren’t to be picked as you’d struggled to carry them back and fit it on the tractor with everyone else.

Me and Ariella
Plenty of lovely food, pumpkin curry and beverages although we decided not to eat as Ariella was at this point rather tired. But had she not been she certainly would have had a go on the mini children’s tractors and a lie down in the huge hay bed all the children were playing in. It was a great day for it weather wise too, if you enjoy this time of year as much as we do then I highly recommend you jump on this trend for 2017 and hopefully you’ll see the joy in a pumpkin patch too.

Certainly this will be on our list next year again, hopefully on a weekend so we can go as a family or with friends as it was a great day! Here’s a quick shot of my pumpkin carving skills, you can see I got quite bored after one pumpkin, must try better next year.

Ariella ready to goimg_9504

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Technology, evolution or the downfall of human social interaction?

I had seen this video circulating the web the past week, after watching it I had so much I wanted to say but rather than start a Facebook debate I figure I would voice my opinions in a way that don’t get lost in a mirage of abusive comments. If you watch the video you might think that the author is being hypocritical given the media he is using the output his voice. You might agree, you might not I don’t really think it matters in all honesty.

What the video made me wonder is this, are we now evolving using technology? Rather than needing to know everything about a subject now, we have a vast sea of factual information in the palm of our hands. We don’t need to retain that knowledge but instead we practice how to manipulate the knowledge into usage. There will always be a place in this world for people who do have brains geared up for data retention, we will always need people who understand in-depth one area without reference though.

Back to the point at hand however, the video seems to be suggesting that using technology excessively is reducing the potential for opportunities in “real life”. Is that really the case? Let’s take the lost person as an example, so the likelihood is that you use your phone to navigate these days if you are lost. In this example the guy doesn’t meet his “soul mate” because he doesn’t ask her for directions. There are lots of opportunities to meet people online, it’s true that this scenario could happen but you could say the same about any situation without technology. It’s a should have, would have, could have mentality and while I agree that I think it’s a nice idea in truth you never know when you with cross paths with the important people in your life. There is nothing to say that won’t be online in a chat room, in the street, on Facebook or other social media.

I think the we are evolving through the use of technology vastly seen in the use of the internet, I say this because we have access to a variety of information (accurate and not so), we have the ability to connect with others across the world, we have a world that never sleeps open for communication, we can work all hours of the day, we speak our minds without any though for the consequences of our actions, everyone has a voice and can be heard if they scream loud enough or invoke the masses to help them. It’s a medium in which the very best and the very worse of human kind can be seen for all to see, I’ve heard so many times people so surprised at the way people talk to each other online. But I always find it amusing because just consider, I’m sure people have been talking about others all along, the only difference is whether it’s in public or not.

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. – Albert Einstein

The other side of this of course is that we only have a limited amount of hours in the day, time spent boosting our online personas is  time not spent with the physical world. I enjoyed as a child playing outdoors, but I also enjoyed playing games online and social media in my teens. What I love about our time right now is the choice, if you want to go play outdoors you can. Obviously children who stay in playing games and talking to their friends online must find that easier or more enjoyable than going outside.

It seems like we are on the edge of learning to live differently, we no longer need to learn the roads we drive, the streets we walk, we are always just at the end of a phone ready awaiting for your call. The main theme being always connected, whether that be to people, systems, information we are no longer ever truly alone and yet physically we can be. Learning to live with yourself physically is the new challenge, but people are evolving to learn to accept that physical proximity is not required online.

Personally I like a balance, but I don’t know how long that balance will be able to hang on until one wins over the other. I am excited by the future, the projects that are currently being considered. I believe that technology is going to aid health care (nanotechnology, new prosthesis limbs) and it seems only fitting that the way we socialize and communicate will change along with that. How long before your phone is no longer required and instead we move towards biotechnology and the device is no longer a physical device but part of our body. There will be no device to put down and the database of the internet will be accessible to all, surely this is evolution whether you agree with the direction or not?

Books Reviews Trending Topics

The Shock of the Fall

I actually finished this book a little while ago but things have been super busy around here! I wanted to review it before I finish my next one which I’m currently reading though! (The Husbands Secret). I’m going to attempt to review without giving any spoilers away as I think that ruins the enjoyment of the book.

The Shock of the Fall is by Nathan Filer and it was Costa Coffee’s book of the year for 2013, it’s also Nathan’s first novel. Interestingly he has a background as a mental health worker and uses this to his advantage throughout the book very successfully. I suppose I should start of by saying it’s not a long novel, I think I finished it from cover to end in about two days but I did read for 3-4 hours a day.

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

The style of the book jumps around so if you don’t like that kind of story then this book is not the one for you, but if you can handle a disjointed timeline I would totally recommend reading it. It’s written really well considering it’s Nathan’s first novel and I found it to be an engaging read which you could not put down. The book is also written almost like a diary, so again if you prefer a story with a high level of detail which is easier to navigate then this is not the book for you.

So here is the hard part, trying to tell you a snippet of the story without ruining it. The novel is all about the journey of a boy who has a brother named Simon, their story, their lives and sadly the death event. I’m sure you could possibly work most of that out from the synopsis quoted above but hopefully that gives you a little more information to decide whether you want to read it or not.

I purchased the book online from Amazon rather than in a store although I did as I usually do check the book out in the store beforehand. The Shock of the Fall isn’t going to break the bank, so even if the turns out you don’t enjoy it you can be happy in the knowledge that you did not spend too much money on it anyway. Amazon are selling it right now for £3.85 with free delivery in the UK a least.

When you consider the price, the good reviews and the fact it’s a short read so it isn’t going to take took much of your time then I would highly recommend you buy this book. It’s an easy read which you can fling in your bag and take with you to your next coffee shop visit, besides if you don’t enjoy it then someone you know will!

Pre Baby Trending Topics

February Tube Strike Madness

As I am sure you have heard this week there was a tube strike in London for 48 hours,  personally I have been able to avoid the strike and stay indoors. However this is the first tube strike that I have been in London for, although I have seen them on the news back when I lived in the South West (SW). I could not believe the massive impact it had on London, everyone here seems to be so used to the tube being excellent and when it was taken away people struggled trying to find any way into work.

Having been on the outside looking in previously tube strikes that were plastered over the news invoked very little sympathy from me, London is the rare example of excellence in the UK for public transport. Back in the SW buses don’t always show up and you usually have at least 10 – 15 mins if not much longer to wait between them, many of the buses only come every 30 mins or each hour. The trains were always cancelled and late, my husband used them for about five years and they were more often late or cancelled then on time!

People generally drove to work, I certainly did! Some of my best memories are sat in the car waiting, did you know that Bristol is the most congested city in Britain?  Traffic would be pretty terrible if there were any accidents on main roads but you just a few routes in your head which you could take. Oh route A is blocked? I’ll take route B, or C, or D .. you get my drift, of course everyone else would try and take those routes too. So when we would see that the poor Londoners had to wait longer than 1 – 5 mins to get a tube which would get them to work in record time, forgive us but we did not have much sympathy.

Now living in London I can see how much London just caves when the tube is not working, I can’t believe that the tube employees can even go on strike. Everyone panics because they are so used to good public transport via the tube that they just don’t know the bus routes, they don’t drive very often so they don’t know the roads. They don’t have a route B, C or D to rely on and suddenly everyone starts trying to get any bus they can.

On Wednesday morning tube stations which should have been open were shut, people were queueing to take a boat, queueing to take a bus, all the bikes were gone and people were actually dusting off their cars to try and drive. Of course though London is set up to give right of way to public transport over cars, so the traffic by car just added to the mess.

I’ve never seen all the offices over the road totally empty on a morning, I would put the level of frustration on par with snow days in the SW. People just could not get to their destination, they would have to take a boat then a bus, then another bus. The other transport methods just were not able to cope with the amount of people trying to use their services.

They think that it has costed London 50 million pounds each day of the strike and who knows how many people had their plans totally ruined. Sadly we have it all to look forward to next week again! Crossing my fingers that the strike doesn’t happen. Hopefully David Cameron will get his way and make the Tube a essential service!