Saturday, April 13, 2019

How I protected my baby before she was even born

This post is in collaboration with Brand Meets Blog

April is a pretty big deal these days in our house. Not only is there all the excitement of the Easter bunny coming to visit, it's also birthday month for baby girl. With all the Facebook memory photos popping up on my phone each day, I can't help but reminisce about my pregnancy and all the emotions I felt awaiting her arrival. I remember those last few weeks so vividly as I was so close to finally having our very longed for second baby in our arms. The sheer happiness and excitement that we were going to meet her was also mixed with fear and trepidation as the weeks kept ticking by. The photo below was taken at exactly 40 weeks, I thought for sure she was close, but I still had 5 more loooong days to wait.

I think it's a natural instinct for all mothers to want to protect their baby. For me that instinct kicked in very early, long before she was actually born, in fact it was from the very moment I found out we'd finally conceived {which was at just 3 weeks pregnant}. We'd spent so many agonising months trying to fall pregnant so I was determined to do everything I could to foster a healthy pregnancy hoping to have a healthy baby in my arms 9 months later.

I ate all the right foods. Ok, a better way to phrase that would be I avoided all the bad pregnancy foods. As hard as it was, I avoided soft serve ice-cream, seafood, sushi, soft cheese and pretty much anything that could even remotely give me food poisoning. I did succumb to cheeseburgers and chocolate quite often though.

I consciously avoided sick people {as much as possible}. I was a stay at home mum during my second pregnancy so it was a lot easier than when I was working. I cancelled play dates when necessary and even stopped doing the grocery shopping during the later months of my pregnancy so I wouldn't pick up germs from trolleys at the shops.

In addition to avoiding germs, I also got the pertussis {dTpa} vaccine again while pregnant {after 28 weeks} so baby girl would have protection against whooping cough. New babies can't be vaccinated against whooping cough until 6 weeks so having the vaccination myself while pregnant gave me some relief knowing she'd have some protection should she be exposed to it before she could get immunised. I'm petrified of needles myself, but the thought of her getting sick terrified me more, and to be honest after the constant barrage of weekly blood tests and daily hormone injections while trying to conceive, a once off vaccination needle didn't seem that bad. 

We also made sure all other family members were up to date with their boosters to limit the chance of her being exposed, even to carriers of the disease. Any chance she might contract it was too high a risk. The thought of spending years trying to get pregnant, then 9 months growing her inside me, to possibly lose her to a potentially fatal disease scared the hell out of me. My grandmother has had whooping cough and I've seen videos of infected babies battling to breathe in hospital and it's beyond heartbreaking. I've had severe asthma all my life so I know what it feels like gasping for air and I wouldn't wish that on anyone, especially a tiny baby.

I would have got vaccinated for influenza while pregnant as well {both vaccinations are free for pregnant mothers under the National Immunisation Program} but there was a shortage of the flu vaccine when my GP recommended getting it and it didn't become available again before I gave birth. Influenza can affect mothers quite severely in the second and third trimesters and it can affect the baby in the first few months after birth, even causing death, so it's worth discussing the vaccination with your GP, midwife or obstetrician once you fall pregnant. I'm so grateful that I live in a day and age where we have the medicine available to help protect not only ourselves but also our vulnerable newborn babies from diseases which could have devastating consequences. 

Thankfully our gorgeous girl arrived safe and well in April 2017 and while we've had our share of hardships with allergies, tongue tie and sleep issues, we haven't had to deal with any major life threatening health concerns. It's hard to believe my tiny little baby has been with us for two years already and is now a rambunctious toddler causing havoc and plenty of laughs everywhere she goes. 

Unfortunately the need to protect her and constant worrying didn't stop once she was born, so I just have oh the rest of her life to continue worrying! This parenting gig sure is a tough one.

Toni x

Disclosure - This is a sponsored post as per my disclosure policy. For more information regarding free vaccinations during pregnancy please visit The Immunisation Coalition is a not for profit organisation, and is the leading voice in whole-of-life immunisation in Australia, protecting all Australians against communicable diseases.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Dig, dump, roll sensory bookish play for preschoolers

Ever since I was really little I've always had an innate love of books and reading, so it's no surprise that my children have developed their own love of reading at a young age too. It's probably directly related to the number of children's books we have all over the house. You can never have too many right? Unless you ask their dad, he definitely thinks we have too many... and yet I keep finding even more to add to our collection {sorry, not sorry}. Our latest addition is Dig, Dump, Roll by Sally Sutton.

Dig, Dump, Roll is the follow-up to the wildly popular picture book Roadworks. In this book Sally Sutton uses interactive, rhyming text to entice children to guess what kind of vehicle is at work on each page. Bright cropped illustrations work alongside the descriptive text to give further clues before all is revealed over the page.

Crash-a-rumble Smash-a-grumble 
What’s at work? 
Here’s a clue: It will clear the ground for you. 

 Bulldozer! Coming through! 

My 5yr old can't read herself yet, but she very much enjoyed the descriptive text {it's entirely possible I'm a little too enthusiastic when reading aloud} and guessing what would come next. To my surprise she was very quick to guess the final surprise, but then she admitted to me they'd read this book before at kindy {cheater!}. Clearly that proves that it's a book kids love to read over and over, even when they somewhat remember what comes next. 

Dig, Dump, Roll has been selected for the prestigious 2019 Storylines Notable Book List. Since 1999 Storylines has produced an annual list of outstanding books for children and young people published in New Zealand by New Zealand authors and illustrators during the previous calendar year. The annual list of Notable Books ensures that children, parents/grandparents, teachers, librarians and the public are all made aware of the large range of high quality New Zealand books being published.

Dig, Dump, Roll -  Sensory Bookish Play

After we finished reading the book together I brought out a little small world bookish play activity I'd prepared while she was at school. Bookish play is a general term for any play based activity that is centered around a particular book. Its a great way to extend the story or main theme of a book beyond the pages and onto the craft table or into the playroom. With its descriptive, interactive text, Dig, Dump, Roll is the perfect starting point for some messy, fun, construction themed sensory bookish play. Of course I went with a cutlery tray construction small world because the girls love sensory play and small worlds, so it was a no brainer. 

<<< Please note this activity poses a choking risk to children under 3yrs of age due to small parts. This activity is intended for children aged 3+ and to be done under strict adult supervision >>>

What you will need:

~ A cutlery tray {we use this Ikea one}
~ Construction vehicles {ours are from Kmart}
~ Construction loose parts {rocks, sticks}
~ Sensory construction bases {chickpeas, blackbeans}
~ Chocolate playdough {ours is from Wild Dough Co}
~ Chocolate dirt {recipe further below}
~ Wooden letters

If you've been following me on Instagram for a while, you'll know I love using cutlery trays as a base for small world play {search #cutlerytrayplay for some of my other play ideas}. They're particularly perfect for scenes that use many different sensory bases as each compartment contains the individual bases so they don't mix together {until the kids get to it anyway}. The tray slots are also great for defining separate play spaces like animal enclosures for a zoo, or in this case different construction zones. 

I deliberately chose sensory bases that would all be taste safe, just in case my 1yr old was awake when we did this activity and she wanted to explore it as well. While I never encourage the girls to eat any of the sensory materials I put out for play, I know with a mouthing toddler it's inevitable that it could happen, so I'd rather use items that won't cause harm if accidentally ingested. I chose beans, chickpeas, edible dirt and playdough specifically because they all work in well size and texture wise with the construction vehicles I paired them with. I included the rocks and sticks because this set up was for my 5yr old, however if I intended to do it with both girls I would remove the rocks and sticks to be safe.

We've lived with fake grass for years now so my kids have never really had the chance to play with real dirt or mud. I substitute mud by making oobleck, but until now I've never had a substitute for dirt. This week I watched Lycie's video about how to make cloud dough on Instagram and decided to try and make a chocolate edible dirt version. Full disclosure, I only watched Lycie's instructions up until finding the ratio of flour to oil needed, then made up my recipe amounts based on what I had in the cupboard.

Edible dirt recipe

1 cup flour
1/3 cup chocolate powder
1/8 cup canola oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon and add oil slowly until it resembles a crumbly dirt consistency. Squeeze mixture with hands, it should hold its shape under pressure, similar to kinetic sand. Add more oil sparingly if required.

For our chocolate flavouring and dirt colour I simply used chocolate powder sachets that I've been keeping for sensory play. You could also use cocoa powder, drinking chocolate or Milo. Just insure your chocolate element is powder based so the cloud dough mixes properly.

I added in our small wooden letters to spell out the title of the book, with hints from the vehicles, for some bonus word recognition for my daughter. After we read the book together I brought out the tray and at first she sounded out the words trying to figure out what they were. She got dig and dump relatively easy and needed a little bit of help with roll. I think she did pretty well considering they haven't started on sight words yet at school and they haven't finished learning all the letter sounds. She then drove all the letters around in the different vehicles which was great incidental letter recognition. Eventually her play moved on from reenacting the story to planting the chickpeas into the dirt and using the sticks as plants that sprouted from the seeds. I love how bookish play uses a story as a springboard that leads to all sorts of other imaginary play. An added bonus of this particular activity is that the aroma of chocolate was ah-mazing.

 Learning Opportunities

- Hypothesising {how do the machines work, how can we build with each material}
- Categorising types of construction materials
- Sensory input {touch, smell and taste}
- Hand strengthening {squishing the sensory materials}
- Pincer grip practice {picking up the beans and chickpeas}
- Hand/eye co-ordination

- Language development
- Sight word practice
- Letter recognition
- Imaginary play

Toni x

Disclosure - We were kindly gifted a copy of Dig, Dump, Roll by Walker Books for the purpose of review. All other products featured within this post are part of our personal sensory play resources and were previously purchased by myself. Puggle and Kit {who we got our wooden letters from} have kindly offered Finding Myself Young readers 10% off all purchases, simply use the code YOUNG10.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Small changes at home can have a big impact on the environment

This post is in conjunction with Brand Meets Blog

Since having children, I've become increasingly aware of my environmental impact. It was always instilled in me from a young age to reduce, reuse and recycle. Long before water tanks were mandatory, my mum had us saving our shower water in buckets to reuse on the garden. She'd make us use every last piece of anything and everything so we weren't inadvertently throwing out things that were still useful. Consequently, I've always been quite environmentally conscious when it comes to my life choices, but having little people and thinking about their future really brings home just how important it is. We're all responsible for taking care of the environment and leaving behind the best possible planet we can for our children, and I want to play a positive part in that.

We don't have the cash flow to make big changes like installing solar panels on our roof, or the backyard to cultivate a big veggie patch and compost {I really wish we did}, but our lack of space and funds hasn't stopped us from making other smaller eco friendly changes in our household. Not all environmental changes have to be grandiose and expensive, but they can still have a significant impact on the environment over time. I'm hopeful that making these changes as a family will give our girls the same eco friendly mentality that was instilled in me as a child.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

One of the simplest ways we help is by recycling almost everything that we can. I say almost everything because some of our old packaging like cardboard, tissue paper, bubble wrap and egg cartons are squirreled away to be transformed into weird and wonderful crafty masterpieces. One man's trash is quite often two little girls treasure.

Speaking of treasure, I'm also an avid op shopper and love breathing new life into other people's discarded objects. You could go as far as saying it's a bit of an addiction. I've never met a monkey pod tray or basket I didn't like, and I can find a million uses for them. We also regularly donate our unused items to charity so that someone else can get some benefit from them, instead of creating waste. I really love that the girls are developing a genuine desire to help others {and an appreciation for their own circumstances and belongings} each time they choose to donate some of their old things.

Minimising the plastic in our household

For years now I've been very passionate about choosing sustainable open ended wooden toys for the girls as opposed to single use plastic toys that chew through batteries. Most of the toys we own now are extremely versatile, and will likely be passed onto my grandkids at some stage. Instead of adding to landfill with discarded toys the girls have gotten bored of quickly, we invest in quality toys made from sustainable wood that will be used for years {and eventually breakdown much quicker than plastic alternatives}. An added bonus is they also don't randomly start flashing and singing in the middle of the night {thankgod}.

One of the more recent changes we've made to reduce the plastic in our home, is switching to environmentally friendly Boo Boo bamboo toothbrushes, instead of using plastic supermarket ones. Boo Boo toothbrushes are made from organically grown Moso bamboo which is naturally antimicrobial and biodegradable, so it's great for both our teeth and the environment. I'd never really considered toothbrushes to be an environmental issue before, but then I found out approximately 350 tonnes of plastic toothbrushes are thrown into landfill, in Australia alone, each year. It certainly puts into perspective how something seemingly insignificant to one family can have an immense detrimental impact overall.

Thankfully we're no longer adding to this waste as we've all got our own bamboo brush, including the girls. Seriously, how cute are these toothbrushes?! I love the minimalist black and white design and they even have cute sayings on the back that you can read while brushing {and anything that helps motivate the kids to brush their teeth is a winner}. They also get delivered straight to our door with free shipping. Yep free shipping. I love it when being eco friendly is convenient and doesn't cost the earth {see what I did there}.

I'm by no means a greenie, or an environmentalist, but I'm hoping that these small changes we're making as a family, will have a positive impact on the world around us. Imagine the cumulative effect if each one of us took small steps in our respective homes. It would undoubtedly result in a better planet for our children to grow up in and that's one of the best legacies we can leave behind.

Have you made any changes at home to help the environment?

Toni x

This is a sponsored post as per my disclosure policy.
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Monday, January 14, 2019

Back to School with Smiggle

In just over 2 weeks my biggest baby is starting school.

* Insert all the "I don't know how this happened, she was just a baby" clich├ęs here *

Truth is both her and I are more than ready. She had to wait an extra year as she missed the age cut off here in QLD and I think that extra year has well and truly helped us both prepare for the separation anxiety that's to come. In fact I think we're more emotionally prepared than practically prepared. It's been the monumental list of things I've needed to buy/get ready that's been stressing me out the most, not the fact that I'll miss her everyday {although I will miss her of course}.

We're lucky because our school seems pretty laid back when it comes to all the "things" they need. They can have whatever backpack, drink bottle, lunchbox etc that we as parents see fit to get them. Which for the most part is amazing, because nobody wants to be dictated to, but it also meant as a first time school mum to be {that's totally a term} I really had no idea where to look for school stuff. There's been a lot of frantic Facebook statuses asking for advice and trips to the shops where I get so overwhelmed I just panic and walk out. So, when I got an email in my inbox telling me about the Smiggle back to school range of products and asking if I wanted some samples I couldn't say yes please quick enough!


When I think of Smiggle I automatically think of cool stationary and accessories, but to be honest they weren't even on my radar for other school supplies. I didn't even realise they stocked things like drink bottles, lunchboxes or backpacks. I'm sure there's other time poor mums out there like me that didn't know this either so I thought I'd share some of the range here. Please note the images I've used are totally bias because I have a girl, but rest assured they do have plenty of options for boys too.


Smiggle has a comprehensive range of lunchboxes available including snack jars, square lunchboxes, super popular bento styles and double decker ones. The double decker ones {far left in the image below} have plenty of room for a traditional lunchbox in the bottom and an ice brick or fruit/snacks in the top. The cool thing about the Smiggle lunchboxes is most of them can be coordinated with matching drink bottles, backpacks and in some cases stationary too. Lunch containers range from $9.95 to $39.95.


Smiggle have drink bottles for junior preppies right through to the mega thirst option for big {water} drinkers. They all contain straws which can be removed if your child prefers to drink without one. Drink bottles range from $12.95 to $26.95.


Smiggle has a big range of school bags including drawstring bags {great for library bags or to store swimming gear/spare clothes}, book bags, character backpacks and traditional backpacks in numerous designs. We already had a backpack organised, but if we were getting one from Smiggle bub would pick the faves backpack in pink {below} as it matches her lunchbox and drink bottle. School bags range from $17.95 through to $64.95.


The one part of school supply shopping that I've been looking forward to for years is the stationary. Pretty pens, highlighters, notebooks, accessories, tapes, erasers etc get me way more excited than they should, and as far as I'm concerned you can never have too many. However, all my hopes and dreams of going overboard shopping for stationary were dashed when our school announced they have a system where we all pay a set fee and the school buys all the stationary supplies needed in bulk. I mean it's saved me lots of time and probably money, but part of me is mourning all the trips I could of made and all the cute stationary we could have bought. Alas it wasn't meant to be, but we can have super cute stuff for home. She has to do her homework with something...

Smiggle have you covered with basic stationary supplies with notebooks, pens, pencils, staplers, pencil cases, scissors and rulers available in different colours and designs. There's also novelty erasers, sharpeners, pens and pencil toppers. In addition to the basics, they also have cool accessories like keyrings, watches, alarm clocks and lights. See the full range of Smiggle back to school stationary here.

Do you have everything ready for back to school yet?

Toni x

Disclosure - I was sent a Smiggle lunchbox, drink bottle and pen sets for the purpose of  review. I did not receive payment for this post. All stock photos have been used with permission. 
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Thursday, December 6, 2018

PJ Masks gear kids want and need this Christmas

Who are the PJ Masks?

If you're one of those parents trying to decipher what your kid's talking about when they mention the pyjama superheroes or the green gecko, let me give you the run down on who the PJ Masks are. By day, six-year olds Connor, Amaya and Greg go to school like everyone else. As night falls, they put on their pyjamas, activate their amulets and magically transform into heroes; Catboy, Owlette and Gekko - the PJ Masks! 

Bub's loved them for over 2 years now. She first discovered them on YouTube before they were on ABCKids. Back then I was hoping I could find some PJ Masks merchandise somewhere, but given they were only on Nickelodeon it was pretty much impossible. Fast forward a few years and now every kid in Australia knows who they are and the merchandise is available everywhere, which thankfully makes it super easy to shop for Christmas.

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of licensed products, I much prefer open ended wooden toys, however there comes a time in a child's life when they start wanting everything they own to be covered in their favourite characters. I'm pretty sure it's inevitable. I don't want to be a mean mum and say no to everything, but I also don't want my house overrun with licensed everything, so I've created a rule when it comes to licensed products entering our house. My rule is basically anything licensed has to be something useful that's replacing a product I'd already buy, so think things like cutlery, drink bottles, lunch boxes, backpacks, books. Incidentally they're also things that can be packed away easily so it doesn't look like Nickelodeon has been plastered all over my house {winning}. If you follow the something they want, need, wear and read method for Christmas the following items can cover both want and need for most PJ Masks loving kids.

1. PJ Masks Feeding & Snack range

I absolutely love licensed dinnerware because kids always need bowls, plates and cutlery and anything that makes them more excited to eat food is a winner. Drink bottles are also really handy if you have a child in kindy or school because they're always going missing and need to be replaced. Dinner time will go at super-cat-speed with the PJ Masks mealtime and snack range including: 

  • PJ Masks Melamine Plate - 100% melamine plate for $5.00
  • PJ Masks Melamine Bowl - 100% melamine bowl for $5.00
  • PJ Masks SS Cutlery - 2-piece stainless steel cutlery set with spoon and fork for $6.00
  • PJ Masks 473mL SS Bottle - 473mL stainless steel bottle with pull out spout for $11.00 

Available now from Woolworths.

2. PJ Masks Hooray for Christmas 

The PJ masks new Christmas-themed colouring and activity book lets kids decorate Headquarters to look like a Christmas tree, match each villain to their Christmas stocking, plus lots more festive fun. The 48-page colouring and activity book starring the PJ Masks also has over 30 holiday and hero stickers! Hooray for Christmas is available now from Big W, Kmart, Target and all good newsagencies and bookstores for $7.99

3. PJ Masks Ooshies

Ooshies are another craze I've successfully avoided for a while now because to be honest I thought they were just little plastic character toys, but now I know they fit on pencils or crayons I'm happy to allow a few into my house. Bub's going to school next year so they're kind of useful haha. Ooshies are available from Kmart, Big W or Toymate for $3.99

These goodies will be making their way to our place for Christmas thanks to Santa.

Do you have a child who loves PJ Masks? 

Toni x

Disclosure - I was kindly gifted the above mentioned products in exchange for this post. Santa will be bringing them to one very excited 5yr old on Christmas day. I did not receive payment for this post.
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Friday, November 9, 2018

Count down to Christmas with the Smiggle 2018 Advent Calendar

I don't want to alarm you, but did you know there's only 46 days until Christmas? How did that happen? 

I swear it was just January. 

That's a little over 6 weeks to get everything organised before the big day. 

But, if you're like us and celebrate the countdown to Christmas with an advent calendar then you only have 22 days to grab one of those. Eek

It's a bit of a tradition in our household to get a non chocolate advent calendar, for a few different reasons. It started out because my big girl had allergies so she couldn't eat chocolate anyway {and the allergy chocolate ones sell out super fast each year}. I also love the idea of giving them something that lasts more than 2 seconds. There's so many different ideas for non chocolate advent calendars if you just think outside of the box. My personal favourites are an activity prompt advent calendar or a Christmas book advent calendar, however we incorporate activity prompts and books into our December 1st box already so for the last few years we've opted for a stationary advent calendar. This year my big girl's getting the Smiggle 2018 advent calendar. We got the Smiggle advent calendar last year and she absolutely loved it, so I'm super excited to watch her open this years one. I get just as much buzz seeing what's inside as she does.

What's inside the Smiggle 2018 Advent Calendar?

Without a doubt the most common question I got last year was Is the Smiggle Advent Calendar worth it? Having seen all the goodies she got last year my answer is a resounding yes, especially if you have a 5-12 year old child who loves novelty stationary. Or even if you're a 34 year old adult who loves novelty stationary. The Smiggle goodies remind me of my school days... decorating my notebooks with gel pens {while I probably should of been listening to the teacher} and hanging cool keyrings off my pencil case. Ah memories.

This year I've kept the Smiggle Calendar hidden so she doesn't even know she's getting it, so I have no idea what's inside it, but I can guarantee there's 25 pieces of limited edition stationary worth over $70. Last year there was lots of cool stuff like scented rubbers, pencils, pens, keyrings, rulers and a really cool slap bracelet {that she still plays with 11 months later}. If you head into a Smiggle store you can get a sneak peek of what's inside and if you go on YouTube there's a few unboxing videos you can search for. I'm resisting the temptation though so I can keep the suspense alive. I want to be just as excited as her when she opens each number.

Win 1 of 30 $1000 Smiggle Shopping Sprees

The added bonus of the Smiggle Advent Calendar is that it comes with a lucky ticket and the chance to win a $1000 shopping spree! I can just imagine my kids going insane in a Smiggle shop grabbing $1000 worth of goodies. Alas they won't be this year as I opened our ticket and we didn't win. Yeah I resisted the urge to peek on the calendar, but the willy wonka style lucky ticket envelope was way too tempting. Good news for you guys though, it means there's still heaps out there to be won.

So how will you be counting down to Christmas?
Have you done all your shopping yet?

Toni x

Disclosure - I was provided a Smiggle advent calendar for the purpose of review. While we haven't opened it up yet {because that would be cheating}, I'm confident it is awesome and your kids will love it. I did not receive payment for this review.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Nothing strikes fear into an allergy mum's heart like a dirty floor

It used to be so easy to keep my house clean pre kids. Then I gave birth to a small person... she morphed into a toddler tornado... and I said goodbye to my tidy home.

No more neatly arranged decorative items or spotless floors. They were replaced with random toys and tupperware... all over the floor, chairs, stairs, shelves, under and in the couch. It's like a lucky dip when you sit on the couch, you never know what you're going to find stuffed behind the cushions. My house quickly began looking like a ransacked toy store. With a healthy side serve of dirt, sand, grass and anything else the small child decided to traipse inside. It wasn't pretty all the time, but it was manageable. Then entered child number 2, destructor baby, and everything turned to complete and utter chaos. Now most of the time I can clean all day long and it still looks like a crime scene at the end of the day. Sometimes I feel like all I do is follow them both around with the vacuum cleaner and baby wipes, yet they still manage to cover the floor in crumbs, smear sauce in random places and sneak biscuits onto the couch.

I'm no stranger to mess, in fact you could go as far as saying I embrace it given we do lots of messy sensory play. The reason I get so stressed out over mess on the floors, particularly discarded food, is because of baby girls multiple food allergies. Nothing strikes fear into an allergy mum's heart like watching their child reaching for unsafe food they find on the floor. If she eats the wrong crumbs, finds a random piece of cheese or even a discarded spoon that's touched milk, it can mean hours of pain, screaming, rashes and no sleep... and nobody wants that.

We've navigated food allergies before, when her sister was little, but it was a lot easier with only one child. I always made sure unsafe food was kept away from her up high when we ate and because we didn't drop food on the floor ourselves, any food she dropped and found later was her own safe food. I didn't have to be so vigilant and follow her around micromanaging every speck she picked up. Having an allergy toddler and an older child is a whole different ball game though.

Big sister has outgrown her allergies now, but a lot of the food she eats is still dangerous for her little sister. She's pretty good at asking before she shares food with her, but no matter how many times I tell her not to make a mess or drop food, I can guarantee there'll be a trail of crumbs left wherever she's been eating. There'll also be a curious toddler eagerly waiting to swoop in and eat every last crumb.

Baby girl is only 18 months old so she doesn't understand that she can't eat certain foods, or why, she just wants to eat everything her sister does. Unless our whole family goes dairy, soy and nut free there's always going to be the possibility she can find some food that she shouldn't eat, so right now it's necessary for me to be the mean mummy and take things off her, until she's old enough to understand how to manage her allergies herself, or hopefully outgrows them. 

On top of all of her food allergies, I have quite severe asthma myself and am allergic to cats and dust so I have to clean like a ninja for my own health too. Did I mention we have an indoor cat and our entire upstairs level is carpet? Not exactly the ideal living situation for an asthmatic. I know I shouldn't have a cat when I'm allergic, but he's soooooo cute and so good with the kids, he's basically our third child.

Pre kids {and cat} I could get away with a light vacuum here and there to keep the dust situation and my asthma under control. Now there's a whole different level of carpet cleaning going on, even when the carpet looks clean to the naked eye I can guarantee if I vacuum there'll be all sorts of dirt coming out of it. Between the kids walking food and dirt up the stairs, the cat molting and general household dust build up, I'm cleaning the carpets almost every single day. All the allergies in this house have turned me into the cleaning fairy I always wished I had.

Even though our whole family is well versed in handling allergies, my kids are still messy like everyone elses. Like most mums, I can plead with them til I'm blue in the face please don't drop anything on the floor, please don't eat that, we don't eat food off the floor etc and they'll still do it. Mess is part of our everyday lives. Unlike most other households however, it can have dire consequences, so I have to be on the ball all the time. If you have friends or relatives with allergies please be mindful when you visit them because they're likely as highly strung as I am. Also please don't be alarmed if you ever see them running around like a headless chook picking up stuff off the floor, it's just what us allergy mums do..

Toni x

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Super easy halloween toilet paper roll mummies

Do you hoard all the recycling in the hopes of making crafty masterpieces with your kids? Nope? Maybe it's just me... I have so many cardboard boxes, empty containers, pieces of used tissue paper and bubble wrap just waiting in my garage for the day they'll be reborn into something amazing. Sometimes that day takes a loooong time to arrive, but I can always find useful ways to reuse things, like these really easy toilet paper roll mummies.

You and your kids can make them in about 5 minutes and you don't even have to be a crafty mum.  They're so simple, bub started making them when she was 3 and only needed help gluing on the googly eyes. The rougher they are the better they look in my opinion. Also good news, empty toilet paper rolls should be readily available in your household, even if you're not a hoarder of all the things like me.

What you will need

- Toilet paper rolls {as many as you want to make}
- Black washable marker or black paint
- White masking tape
- Googly eyes
- Glue

To turn your toilet paper rolls into spooky halloween mummies 

  1. Colour in {or paint} a black rectangle about 1.5cm from the top of the toilet paper roll. It doesn't have to go all the way around as you'll only see a small part of it at the front.
  2. Rip masking tape into skinny strips and stick over the toilet paper roll in a haphazard criss cross pattern, leaving the black section uncovered at the front.
  3. Glue the googly eyes onto the black section.
If you want to get even more creative make a few of them and poke holes on the left and right sides half way between the top of the roll and the eyes and thread them onto a string to make a decorative bunting. Or tie string on them and hang them from tree branches for a spooky decoration. They also make great props for halloween play.

Find more halloween play and craft ideas for toddlers on my halloween pinterest board or click here for halloween sensory play ideas for toddlers.

Toni x

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A whole new world of popcorn

Being on a restricted diet is really hard. I've never dieted before in my life and having cut foods for baby girl's allergies for 18 months now I can 100% say I'd never be able to stick to a diet for myself. The only reason I've stuck to my restrictions this long is because it's for my child and seeing her pain free is worth all the inconvenience I'm going through with limited food options.

However there is an unexpected upside, you value food much much more when you can't freely have it. Even better than that, when you can add a food back into your diet, it's like winning the lotto. Thankfully over the last few months we've had a few small wins and we can both now eat rice and corn. Hallelujah 

I know what you're thinking, it's rice and corn calm down, not like it's chocolate Toni. I can assure you after basically living off pasta, meat, restricted veggies and salad for more than 12 months, rice and corn are amazing. They open up a whole new variety of foods and not just stirfry with actual rice {although that's been pretty good too}. Initially I went nuts eating sushi as often as possible, simply because I could, and now I've started a new love affair... with popcorn!

It's funny over the last few months I've become so accustomed to eating the same meals day in and day out I'd forgotten about so many of the foods I loved eating before. Popcorn totally slipped my mind for over a year. I stopped noticing it in the supermarket because I walked straight past that section in the aisle. Now it's permanently back on our shopping list and the girls are super excited for movie nights {well movie days because they go to bed too early at night}. We set up our own home cinema the other day complete with cushion chair aisles, popcorn and {fake} ice-cream.

The other awesome benefit is we now have another snack option for baby girl who's well and truly reached the fussy eating stage. A food refusing toddler who has limited options to begin with = a super stressed out mum. I've spent so many hours over the last few weeks pleading with her to eat her meals or snacks it's not funny. Right now popcorn is one of the only things she always says yes to and eats without a drama. It's surreal to think that last year it would of caused her so much pain and now it's one of her favourite foods. I'm so thankful we've been able to overcome her corn allergy.

What's really cool too is that Cobs popcorn have a new multipack with 10 x 13g snack size packets of popcorn {3 x Cheddar Cheese, 3 x Sea Salt and 4 x Lightly Salted, Slightly Sweet flavours}. After watching her sister eat chips and biscuits {that she can't eat} out of packets for the last year, and begging to have them every single time, she's so excited she can eat something out of her own mini packet. Pretty sure she feels like a bonafide big kid now. The snack packs have been great when we're out and about and they'll be a great lunch box size for when bub starts school next year too.

I only recently discovered there's so many different popcorn flavours available. I naively thought popcorn was just popcorn and maybe you add a bit of butter {not me because I still can't eat it} or salt and that's it. Apparently I've been living under a rock and there's a whole other world of popcorn out there I've been missing out on! I'm making up for it now of course.

We're all split over which are our favourite flavours though. Bub's favourite is Best Ever Butter, because "it tastes just like at the movies" {you can't really go wrong with a classic butter and salt combination}. Their dad keeps swinging between Cheddar Cheese and Best Ever Butter depending which day you ask him {I'm pretty certain he'd eat any popcorn you gave him though}. Baby girl & I are loving Lightly Salted, Slightly Sweet, it's got the savoury goodness of salt then a slightly sweet kick at the end, yum!

Do you love popcorn too?
Could you survive 18 months without it?

Toni x

Disclosure - I was kindly gifted some packs of Cobs popcorn in exchange for this post. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this post and all opinions expressed are my own based on our experience with the product. Cobs new Best Ever Butter is available from Woolworths and multipacks are available from Coles.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Celebrate Halloween with PJ Masks

A few years ago I was very anti Halloween... I'm so scared of anything supernatural and gory it's not funny. Harry Potter scares me, that's how much I don't do supernatural, so the thought of dressing up as a ghost, witch, zombie, or anything with fake blood totally freaks me out. Halloween has never been my cup of tea, however apparently my daughter is the total opposite of me.

Since she was about 3 she started getting into Halloween as it's been gaining more popularity here in Australia. By getting into it I mean she watches cartoons about it and wanted to decorate the house. Each year she gets more and more into it and literally starts asking me from November when it's going to be Halloween again. She wants to go all out these days... decorations, costumes, trick or treating etc. So, I've relaxed my stance a little and we do a few Halloween play activities, and we even dressed up and went to a Halloween party last year.

Of course she wants to repeat it all again this year, but truth be told I wasn't a huge fan of the witch outfits we used last year and the gory kids Halloween costumes still freak me out. Perhaps I'm a bit of a prude, but I don't see the need to introduce young kids to such creepy things. The main reason she loves Halloween is because she gets to dress up and eat lollies, she basically thinks it's just a big dress up party, so that's what we're doing this year. No gory costumes in sight. This year it's all about the PJ Masks!

If you have a child aged 3-6 you're probably well aware of the PJ Masks by now {if not I've put the theme song video below, it'll get stuck in your head, you're welcome}. By day, six-year olds Connor, Amaya and Greg go to school like everyone else. As night falls, they put on their pyjamas, activate their animal amulets and magically transform into superheroes - Catboy, Owlette and Gecko.

Trick or Treat this halloween as Catboy, Owlette or Gecko

The PJ Masks are the perfect kids dress up idea for Halloween because they're night time superheros! They've been favourites in our house for years now with bub first discovering them via YouTube before they became a permanent fixture on ABC Kids. Owlette is her absolute favourite so when she got her very own Owlette costume she was beside herself excited.

Her costume is one of the new PJ Masks Hero Dress Up sets {RRP $39.99}. It's a full body onesie costume and her favourite part is it comes with real wings. The costumes are available in all characters and come with a fabric mask. The sets are available from Target, Big W, Myer, Mr Toys, Toymate, and Toyworld. In the photo above she's wearing the new Owlette costume mask, available separately in all characters from Kmart, Target, Big W, Myer, Mr Toys, Toymate, and Toyworld. 

Each year I always worry about having lollies on hand for trick or treaters. Admittedly this worry is mainly because I remember I only have packets of loose lollies in the cupboard late Halloween night and it's usually too late to run to the shops to find individually wrapped ones. For someone who's usually over prepared for everything, the candy is always my downfall. Not this year though.

This year I'm prepared with a heap of PJ Masks PEZ dispensers. They make the perfect Halloween candy because they're already individually sealed and the kids can keep using them after Halloween is over. Now I just have to make sure the girls don't find them all before Halloween!

PJ Masks PEZ dispensers, Catboy, Owletter and Gecko are available in major retail and department stores for $3. Flavours include strawberyy, lemon, orange, cherry, raspberry, cola and fizzy.

Do you do Halloween at your place? What will your kids be dressing up as?

Toni x

Disclosure - Bub was kindly gifted a costume and some pez for the purpose of this post. 
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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Chalk and cheese

The very first thing I noticed when baby girl was born was that she looked almost identical to her big sister. Apart from hair and eye colour, every other feature looked the same. They were almost born at exactly the same weight too {only 50g difference} despite me going a week overdue the second time around. A feeling of calm washed over me as soon as they put her on my chest because it was like meeting someone I already knew. It was all so familiar. 

However, it's become inherently obvious that their personalities and likes/dislikes are completely chalk and cheese. The food they eat, the clothes they like, the toys they like, the way they play, reaching various milestones, learning to talk, the sleep {or lack thereof}... it's all been so different. Which basically means everything that worked the first time around is pretty much irrelevant now.

I'd done this parenting gig almost four years before this little person came into my life, yet I still constantly feel like I know nothing. Nothing. That's a tad disconcerting as a second time mum who should {apparently} have it all figured out.

So what do you do when your second child is so different?

You wing it adapt. Make changes. Try everything, until finally something works. It's basically like being a new mum again and starting from scratch. Fun times!

Take sleep for example, first time around I thought we had a bit of a rough time, but now I know we had it pretty easy. She had her normal unsettled periods, regressions and the poop nights when she was teething or sick, but for the most part she slept through the night from a few months old on her own and in her own bed. I honestly have no idea how that happened because we never sleep trained, never used white noise, never tried getting her attached to a comforter, we never stuck to a strict routine. Our only routine was feed, get into sleeping bag, go to bed. Oh and her muslin wrap became her blankie {purely by chance}. She kind of just fell into her own groove and we ran with it. No such luck with her sister though.

This time around we've tried it all. We swaddled, arms in and arms out, and then tried sleeping bags {she hates them}. We used a dummy, until she rejected it and decided I was her personal dummy instead. I've rocked, shushed and patted for hours in the middle of the night. We tried white noise toys and apps, a lulla doll {this works as a sleep association, but doesn't keep her asleep all night}. We even went to sleep school and tried implementing a routine. No luck. This child was sent to break me I swear. Seems she's a stubborn, independent, free spirit who will only sleep on her terms.

The only thing that's worked to get me a minute amount of broken sleep each night {and stopped me going insane} has been co-sleeping and letting her snuggle against me and feed all night. Now don't get me wrong I love cuddles, and to some extent I think I've become co-dependent needing her next to me at night too, but after 16 months of chronic sleep deprivation something needed to change. It's lovely having snuggles but it's utterly exhausting having zero personal space within a 24 hour period. Times that 24hrs by 16 months and I was seriously beyond touched out.

I thought I'd tried every type of sleep aid available, then I got to see the new Gro company Groromper at the Brisbane bloggers brunch. In simple terms it's like a quilted onesie you can use instead of a sleeping bag, but it has some really cool added features like underarm breathable mesh vents, a reversible zip and foldover grippy foot covers. It's like the best features of a onesie and a sleeping bag all rolled into one. This video probably explains it a lot better than me.

I couldn't put my hand up to try it fast enough, and I'm so glad I did, because my child is now sleeping without me for a few hours a night. Yes I repeat, I can put her down and walk away without her waking up screaming every 10 minutes. It's a bloody miracle.

I think the key is that the Groromper has helped to regulate her body temperature at night, keeping her warm and then helping her cool down through the mesh vents when needed. It's something we've always struggled with as she absolutely hates having anything restricting her legs at night. She screams and kicks off blankets and when I put her in a sleeping bag she flails around like I've just locked her up in a straight jacket, even though her legs can still move around in a bag. The Groromper allows her to have complete movement, including rolling all around the cot {which she does all night long}, but she can't kick it off and the best part is she doesn't feel like I've layered her up in anything. She just thinks the Groromper is her pyjama onesie. 

She was a little wary of it the first 2-3 nights, mainly because I roll the foot covers over so her feet stay warm and she hated that. We sleep in air con though so she has to have her feet covered or she wakes up as soon as she gets cold. Once she accepted that she's grown to love it. In the morning when I take her out of it she grabs it and puts it into her cot and snuggles into it.

We've been using the long sleeve Groromper mostly because 90% of the time we have the aircon on in our room at night so our room sits at about 18 degrees. We'll {hopefully} be moving the girls into a shared bedroom together by the end of the year and that room has no aircon or fan. With summer on it's way I'm glad there's also a short sleeve Groromper available for warmer temperatures, so we can avoid WW3 trying to get her to use sleeping bags again. Thankgod.

Not going to lie, I'm kind of dreading moving them into a shared room because I'm scared her sleep will go to poo again.

At the moment she feeds to sleep initially and wakes once or twice a night for feeds. I feel like we're in a much better place sleep wise {finally}. I can now put her down and know I have at least 2 hours of free time at night, I'd have more if I could keep my eyes open longer. I finally feel like I have a teeny bit of personal space and free time back. I know she's warm or cool enough and I know she can't get tangled up in any blankets. I'm actually so relaxed about her sleep at night I forget to use the video monitor {which is huge given I have major anxiety}. I feel like we've finally found our groove.

Of course that may change again in a few weeks when we try to move both girls into a shared room, but hopefully not. Wish me luck!

Have you had non sleepers too?

Toni x

Disclosure - I was sent a short sleeve and long sleeve Groromper for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed within this post are based on our experience using the Groromper {and my immense sleep deprivation}. I did not receive payment for this review. Stock photo has been used with permission from The Gro Company AUS.
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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Coles Little Shop mini collectables help kids understand why plastic is bad for the environment

If you live in Australia and you shop at Coles {and most likely even if you don't shop there} you should have heard about the Coles Little Shop mini collectables over the last few weeks. For those who aren't aware they're a set of 30 miniature supermarket items that can be collected individually in blind bags each time you spend $30. They've caused a massive uproar because they were launched relatively close to the introduction of the single use plastic bag ban across the eastern states. Why eliminate plastic bags to replace them with useless plastic crap has been the catch phrase of numerous Australians across social media since their introduction. I can see where people are coming from in regards to the complaints about plastic, however I do think it was just an unfortunate case of bad timing for Coles. No doubt this national promotion was planned months in advance and coincidentally launched close to the plastic bag ban in some states. A genius marketing concept, but a PR nightmare {or perhaps not, any publicity is good publicity as they say}.

Controversy aside though, I have to put my hand up and admit I was always going to collect them. Normally I'm not a fan of plastic toys, but there's just something about little tiny versions of everyday items that's had me as excited as my 5yr old. In fact I've possibly been more excited than her, it's a close call. My inner child is very much alive and well and has been getting an adrenaline rush every time we've gone shopping over the last few weeks. I need to have them all... every single one. Tiny pieces of plastic that literally do nothing, except make my heart explode with happiness every time I hold them {it's entirely possible I have a problem}. It's OK, I let the kids touch them too, occasionally. Last time I checked I was a 33yr old adult, yet I'm as giddy as a school girl.

But what do you do with a bunch of mini plastic stuff once the adrenaline rush of collecting them is over? Contrary to popular opinion, they aren't useless at all, they can actually be quite educational. Learning through play is something I'm extremely passionate about and one of my favourite ways to inject some learning into our days is to do small world play with my girls. Small worlds are little real life environments that give children an opportunity to act out scenarios to help them process new concepts through play. The Coles minis are perfect for small world play because they're real life items and they're already small {be still my beating heart}. 

The obvious choice for a mini collectables small world would be a supermarket, but I've come up with an idea that helps use these little bits of plastic to help educate children why plastic is bad for the environment. Yes I see the irony. Rubbish and the environment have been keen areas of interest for my 5yr old lately and this has been one of the most thought provoking small world scenes I've ever done with her, so I thought I would share it so you can recreate it, or your own version, with your children too.

< Please note this activity is not recommended for children under 3 as some items may pose a choking risk. Full adult supervision is required >

What you will need:

~ A deep tray {we used the Kmart drinks tray}
~ Marine animal figurines {ours are from Oh Ivy}
~ A few pieces of rubbish {plastic, lids, twisty ties etc}
~ Ocean themed loose parts {aquarium plants, rocks etc}
~ Coles Little Shop mini collectables
~ Tweezers, handy scoops or tongs
~ Food Dye {optional}
~ Water

For our small world I went with a rock pool theme using animals found in shallow water relatively close to the shore, so it would be easier for my 5yr old to understand how they could get entangled in litter dumped by people at the beach. You could of course use any marine animal figurines. To set up the small world I first placed all the rubbish, animal figurines and mini collectables into the tray. In a separate container I mixed a few drops of blue food dye with some water then filled the tray with the water. I made ours quite shallow because I didn't want it being splashed everywhere {which eventually always happens}.

I used a mixture of real rubbish which I knew my daughter would recognise {clear plastic, part of a milk bottle lid, a twisty tie and cut up straws} and the mini collectables to represent the dumped rubbish. I knew the collectables would entice her to play and the household rubbish would make the experience even more real for her. I only used collectables that we had doubles of {so our good ones in the case didn't get damaged} and deliberately chose mainly drinks as they're more likely to be dumped at the beach. Please be aware the stickers on the minis may peel off after being in the water and the cardboard ones will disintegrate, so don't use your most cherished ones as they may get damaged {or use a dry sensory material like dyed rice, coconut or beans as a substitute for water}.

I included a pair of tweezers and handy scoopers with our set up to encourage her to remove the rubbish and rescue the animals. I left it up to her to choose which one she used, or if she wanted to use them at all. You could use tongs or a ladle as a substitute or they can just use their hands.

When I first brought out the tray we had a conversation about how it's really bad for the environment and animals when people throw rubbish into the beach instead of in the bin. She was naturally curious so this lead to discussions about the type of rubbish and how each animal had been affected, where the rubbish should have gone instead and we counted how many pieces of rubbish was in the ocean. She then used the handy scooper to remove all the rubbish and rescue the animals {added scissor skill practice without the need for scissors}. There was also a lot of imaginary play with the animals and she repeatedly put the rubbish in and out of the tray freeing the animals each time. You can see our actual play in this post on Instagram {swipe across for videos}. There are so many learning opportunities from this small world, depending on how your child plays with it. I love open ended, child led play and will usually answer and ask questions based on topics she naturally brings up while playing.

Learning Opportunities

- Environmental awareness
- Categorising types of rubbish {recycling, non recyclable}
- Language development
- Animal facts{names, what they eat etc}
- Fine motor skills {removing the rubbish}
- Hand/eye co-ordination
- Hypothesising {how did the rubbish get there, how can it hurt the animals}
- Imaginary play
- Sensory play
- Counting

If you recreate this small world I'd love for you to share and tag me {@finding_myself_young} on Instagram so I can see it. Also, if you have any other awesome ideas for using the Coles minis let me know. I have a few more ideas up my sleeve, but I'd love to hear yours too.

Toni x

Discosure - I did not receive payment or product in exchange for this post. I am in no way affiliated with Coles.

*Some affiliate links have been used within this post. They do not affect the price you pay, but if you decide to purchase I may earn a small commission {to fund my toy addiction}.
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