Monday, 15 May 2017

3 Brilliant Mouse Books for toddlers and preschoolers

Are you looking for a fun and entertaining picture book that will captivate your toddler or preschooler?

Here I have three Brilliant Books to recommend, all with a mouse theme (with maybe a cat and a handful of other animals thrown in).  Mice seem to be popular protagonists for children's books, maybe it's because they're small and cute and sometimes a little bit cheeky so little kids can identify with them!


How to Catch a Mouse

by Philippa Leathers 

Clemmie the cat is an exceptionally good mouse catcher. There are no mice in her house. She's such a fearsome mouse catcher, in fact, that she's never even seen a mouse!
She has a book about how to identify a mouse which tells her all the distinguishing characteristics of a mouse. She keeps getting it wrong though and mistakes other objects in the house for a mouse. The real mouse, meanwhile craftily disguises its tail, nose and ears and creeps around unnoticed by the blissfully unaware Clemmie. Until she is woken from a nap by a strange noise coming from the kitchen. When she comes face to face with a real mouse she has to work out what to do.
The story is complemented by the cute illustrations which somewhat contradict Clemmie's confidence in her mouse-catching skills!  We have fun pointing out where the mouse is on each page and giggling at its peculiar disguises.
This book was a present from my parents for Emma's third birthday and is now a firm favourite for story time.

A New House for Mouse

by Petr Horáček

This book was a present from Emma's Auntie Katy the Christmas before last.  Emma was almost two years old and was immediately fascinated by the story of Little Mouse who finds a delicious apple that is too big to fit in her house and so sets off to find a bigger house for her and her apple.  

The book is full of holes - literally! Each entrance to the animals' homes is an actual hole in the page, so from one side we can look into the den, burrow or cave and from the other side we can see Little Mouse peering in.  That's a lot of fun!

During her quest, Little Mouse comes across many different animal homes, but there just isn't enough room for the animal whose house it is, Little Mouse and her apple to all fit in.  Along the way, she keeps getting hungry and has a nibble of her apple every now and then.  By nightfall, she is very tired, but eventually finds the perfect little home for her and her apple.  I won't spoil the ending for you, but maybe you can guess whose house it is!

This is a beautifully-illustrated, very sweet story and is still one of Emma's favourites.

Little Mouse's Big Breakfast

by Christine Pym

Winter is drawing in, the weather is getting colder and food is scarce for Little Mouse.  One evening, he realises he has nothing to eat for breakfast the next morning.  However, he knows just where to go.  He creeps in through the window of a nearby house to look for some food for his breakfast and finds all sorts of perfect and not-so-perfect goodies in the kitchen; a blueberry, an apple, a jar of cookies, some cheese, a pickle and a cupcake. Then, he spots the most perfect breakfast of all: a sunflower seed!

He tries to carry it all, but it's just too much for a little mouse and everything comes crashing down, attracting the attention of a large black cat.  That's when Little Mouse realises that he could end up being the perfect breakfast!

Will he escape? Will he get any breakfast?  You'll just have to read the story to find out!

This was one of Emma's presents from her grandparents last Christmas and is wonderfully entertaining with eye-catching illustrations.  I wonder if it could also be a moral tale about trying to take on more than you can handle, or even about greediness!  Maybe that wasn't the original intention, but as a grownup that's what springs to mind! 

I hope you've enjoyed my reviews of these three Brilliant Books.  If you've read any of them, let me know your opinions in the comments below.  Do you have any more recommendations for mouse-themed storybooks?  I'd love to hear them!

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Sunday, 7 May 2017

Successful Potty Training - How we did it + 5 Essential Tips for Potty Training Success

Successfully potty training a two-year-old is no small thing.  It's an important milestone, but one that a lot of parents dread, and if you've never done it before it can be rather daunting (I know this is how I felt about it!)

Everyone has a different experience, with ups and downs, but there are some universal tips for potty training success that I think can apply to pretty much everyone.  I've included my 5 essential tips for potty training success at the end of this post.  It may be quite simple advice, but I think it would have helped me take a more relaxed attitude during the potty training process and not worry so much.

It's taken me a while to get round to it, but I thought I'd give some closure to my Potty Training Diaries , a series of posts I wrote while I was potty training my daughter last summer, with an update on her progress since the last post, a brief summary of how it went and some reflection on the whole process in hindsight.  

We started potty training last summer and now, nine months or so later, the whole business of buying nappies, changing nappies (or diapers!), starting with pull-ups and little accidents feels like a distant memory.  Even the potty is a thing of the past.

I definitely don't have a baby anymore.  I can't even call her a toddler; she's a Big Girl, as she keeps telling me herself.

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The whole potty training experience certainly took a lot longer than the three days I read about in more than a few posts, but it didn't take more than a month to establish the foundations of daytime potty training.  It wasn't completely painless and problem-free (I wasn't expecting it to be, I'm not delusional!), but it wasn't too bad once we'd got over the main obstacle and by the end of the month my Big Girl had definitely "got it" - success!  

Night time training, once we eventually got to it, was - amazingly - completely painless and problem free, 100% dry with not a single accident.  I wasn't expecting it to be that easy at all so I'm very grateful for that!

Before Potty Training 

We bought a potty well before starting potty training, around April or May last year, but I planned to start in my summer holidays in July.  Emma would be 28 months old then, I would be at home for three weeks and we had no plans to travel anywhere, so it would be the ideal time.  I was clueless how to go about it, though.

Before the summer holidays started, I did a bit of research, set up a potty training board on Pinterest and pinned a variety of articles on the topic.  A lot of them claimed it could be done in three days.  I liked the sound of that - get it over with quickly - but was sceptical.  Things don't happen that quickly in my world.  Still, I took away some ideas of how I wanted to go about it:

  • No nappies and no pull-ups, except at night
  • For the first few days set up a "living area" in one part of the house with the potty close by and stay in that area all day
  • Stay at home for the first few days 
  • Give Emma lots of juice to drink and encourage her to sit on the potty frequently 
  • Let her walk around with a bare bottom the first day or two 
  • Use a reward chart with stickers for positive reinforcement and motivation 
  • No negative comments 
Meanwhile, since we bought the potty, Emma's grandmother had been encouraging her to sit on the potty from time to time at a time of day when she usually needed a nappy change to get her used to using the potty.  The rest of the time she was wearing a nappy as usual.  During this time she actually did a wee or poo on the potty a few times, maybe three or four times in about two months.

Our Potty Training Experience 


I bought some stickers, a few pairs of knickers and plenty of juice, I made a sticker chart to stick on the bathroom door and I made sure I had cleaning supplies and a bucket and mop to hand!

You can read about our potty training adventures in more detail in my Potty Training Diary series of posts from that time, starting with Potty Training Diary Days 1 & 2.

Successful Potty Training How To, 5 Essential Tips For Potty Training Success, Potty Training Reward Chart, Potty Training a Two year Old
Emma rearranging the stickers on her reward chart!  Guess I didn't think that one through very well!

Stumbling Blocks

The first few days saw some small successes mixed in with a few accidents, as you might expect.

At first, Emma was spending a long time just sitting on the potty without doing anything.  She was reluctant to get off the potty, but seemed to be holding everything in.

The stickers were a great attraction at first, but the sticker chart soon became redundant as she kept peeling off the stickers that were already on there and moving them around!

The other thing was that we weren't advancing very fast through the chart.  The stickers were of course rewards for doing a wee or poo in the potty, but this was not happening very frequently.  It wasn't that she was having lots of accidents - she had very few of them.  She just wasn't doing ANYTHING!  She also wasn't drinking enough, despite me constantly offering her juice - she would take a little sip and that was it.  She wasn't eating very well either - she's a pretty fussy eater anyway, and it got worse during this time.

The second week of potty training was the most difficult.  It got very worrying when at one point she hadn't done a wee in at least 24 hours and hadn't pooed in two days.  She seemed to be blocking herself, unconsciously holding it all in, which wasn't good at all.  I succumbed to using pull-ups to take her out for walks and I think the exercise combined with the sense of security wearing the pull-ups gave her at least helped her to get it all out - although it was in the pull-ups, but I didn't care at that point.


It did start to get better towards the end of that week.  Emma was beginning to get into a bit of a routine as far as using the potty was concerned.  By the third week of potty training Emma was doing really well and I felt like we'd cracked it (while hoping I wasn't being over-confident!).  

She had a couple of accidents, but the main test came when we had to go to Mexico City.  It's normally a two-and-a-half hour trip, but in reality was three and a half hours due to traffic.  I had decided that it would be easier for Emma to wear pull-ups that weekend, but actually they stayed dry the whole time.  We stayed at relatives' houses and while we were there Emma used the big toilet several times a day, letting me know when she needed to go.  She even used the toilet in a restaurant. I was so proud of her! 

When we got back home after this trip, I noticed that Emma was using the potty more frequently and sitting on it for less time, definitely a sign that she was feeling more comfortable with it.

We kept the pull-ups just for nighttime and used knickers during the day from then on! Those little accidents became very few and far between.

Dry Nights 

Since pretty much mastering daytime training, Emma had continued using pullups at night but more often than not they were still dry in the morning.  Occasionally she would wake up crying in the middle of the night and it would turn out that she needed to use the potty, although she wouldn't tell us as she was more asleep than awake.

So these were clear signs of her readiness for night time training, but still I hesitated and waited longer.  Just to be sure! No point in rushing it, right?

I finally took the plunge somewhere between two and three months after daytime potty training.  We got to the last pull-up in the last pack and I'd decided not to buy any more.  I told Emma she was such a big girl now that she didn't need to wear a pull up at night any longer.  She was quite happy about that and to date she's never had a single accident during the night.  A few rare accidents during the day, yes, but none at night.  I'm pretty amazed at her achievement!

From Potty to Toilet

At around this time, although I don't remember exactly when, Emma made the definitive transition from potty to toilet.  She started using the big toilet occasionally while she was still potty training, but at that time she usually preferred to use the potty.  Of course, she would be fine with using toilets in restaurants or other people's houses when we were out and about, but at home she mostly chose the potty.

Little by little, this preference shifted and it wasn't long before the potty just seemed too small and too inconvenient and Emma stopped using it altogether.  She'd outgrown another phase already.   Later she would say to me, "I don't use the potty anymore.  I'm a big girl; I use the toilet!"  In her eyes, the potty had already been relegated to the realm of baby things.

Toilet conversations!

We've had some funny little conversations with Emma sitting on the toilet.  

She once told me quite seriously, " The daddy is the poo poo, the mummy is the pee pee and the baby is the pun (fart)!"  That really had me in stitches.

Lately, she'll ask me to close the bathroom door.  When I ask her why, she answers, "So they can't see my poo poo!" 

A sure sign that she's finished is when she starts singing at the top of her voice.

Becoming independent

We have a few more things to work on before Emma can use the toilet completely independently.

She can get on and off the toilet by herself but usually she wants to be helped.

She still needs someone to wipe her clean, although occasionally she wants to do it herself. She will need more help and practice to become more autonomous in this.

She can pull her knickers down and up again by herself; the rest of her clothes too if they don't have fastenings, but obviously buttons and zips still pose a problem.

She usually needs help to wash her hands properly; she can reach by standing on a step but it's still tricky to turn the tap on and get soap from the dispenser.  If I let her she spends ages washing her hands and playing that her hands are having a shower!

Anyway, it's all part of a process that takes time, but hopefully the most difficult part is done.

5 Essential Tips for Potty Training Success - your way!

I think these are the most important things to remember, and they can apply to everyone and anyone.

Successful Potty Training How We Did It + 5 Essential Tips for Potty Training Success

1. Timing is everything

So you think your child is ready for potty training, but are you? Make sure the timing is right for everyone involved.  Firstly, are you in the right place and state of mind to tackle this new adventure? If you're having to deal with big upheavals in your life, or family problems or more than usual work stress then this is not the time to start potty training.

If there are a lot of changes going on in your child's life maybe it's best to wait until things settle down a bit.  Adding another big change like potty training to the mix is probably not going to be a recipe for success.

2.  All children are different - and so are all parents.

Therefore, what works for one child - or family - may not necessarily work for another. There are so many different methods, tips and hacks to read about out there and plenty of people willing to give you all sorts of advice, but you can't do it all.  Take what you consider to be the best tips and techniques, try them out, ditch the things that don't work for you or your child, try something new if you need to and find your own way.

3. Don't compare - find support

Again, everybody's different.  Each child develops at his or her own pace, has different reactions in different situations, has different strengths, preferences, dislikes and fears. There's absolutely no point in comparing your child to other children or in comparing yourself to other parents.  Instead, look to others for moral support and advice.  Reading about other parents' experiences of potty training can be helpful, especially if you find they are going through or have been through the same problems you're having.  They can probably give you some useful tips and even just getting a bit of support and encouragement is invaluable.

4. Be flexible - if something's not working, change it!  

Don't feel you have to stick to a particular technique or set of advice just because it worked for someone else.  Don't be afraid to change your approach and even do things you had decided not to do if you find you need to.
You don't have to stick to the plan if the plan's not working for you.

5. No pressure

Don't put too much pressure on yourself or your child to master potty training within a certain timescale.  A deadline is probably not very helpful in most cases. It's a process that takes time and there will probably be advances and setbacks along the way, but don't worry. Your child will be potty-trained sooner or later, and getting stressed isn't going to make it happen any faster.

You can read about how we started potty training in more detail in my Potty Training Diaries, starting here with Potty Training Diaries Days 1 & 2.



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Sunday, 26 March 2017

40 Things I'm Grateful for at 40

Last Monday I turned 40!  As I write it, it doesn't seem real, I don't feel this old.

Maybe I'm a little scared of this number, threatening to make me old when I don't feel that old in my head.

Life isn't perfect but I don't want to dwell on the negatives so I set myself the challenge of listing 40 things I'm grateful for in my life so far. 

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Then I worry; 40 is a big number. What if I can't actually think of 40 things? I'll have been writing this for nothing! I have to get those 40 things from somewhere. Here goes...

Gratitude, turning 40, achievements, happiness, family, self-improvement, motherhood

Family and Home

1. My daughter - she has changed our lives completely and inspires me to be a better person.

2. My family - I'm grateful to be surrounded by a supportive family; both my family here in Mexico and my family back home in England.

3. My parents' deserve a point all to themselves - I'm so grateful for their unconditional love and support, and all their help over the years.

4. A roof over our heads.  We're very lucky to have this house, thanks to my parents' help.

5. I like the area we live in and love that we can buy almost anything we need at the shops nearby, just a short walk round the corner or across the road.  It's very convenient, especially since I don't drive.

6. We don't earn a lot of money but we always manage to put food on the table, pay the bills and sometimes treat ourselves.

7. Emma has a devoted and loving daddy.  Not all kids can say that.

8. My mother-in-law looks after Emma while I'm at work, which makes working a lot easier for me.  She gives us a lot of help and support with Emma, who is devoted to her grandmother.

9. We've been lucky in that since she was born, Emma has been given lots of clothes and toys from her older cousins in Mexico City.  While we have bought her quite a lot of things,  probably most of her clothes and toys have been hand-me-downs, which has definitely saved us a lot of money.

Gratitude, turning 40, achievements, happiness, family, self-improvement, motherhood


10. I have good health in general, I feel healthy and don't get sick very often.

11. My daughter has been very healthy so far and we've been lucky that we haven't needed to take her to the doctor very often.  When we have it hasn't been for anything very serious.

12. Discovering yoga  - it always makes me feel better and I'm trying to stay constant and practice it at least several days a week.  I follow Yoga with Adriene on YouTube so it's also free and I don't have to leave the house to go to classes.

13. I like healthy food in general and try to eat a more or less balanced diet (most of the time!)

14. It was three years ago now, but I'm thankful I had a problem-free pregnancy (I actually didn't want it to end, I was quite comfortable being pregnant and rather scared of what was coming next!).  Even the birth went relatively smoothly, despite having to have an emergency c-section; it all happened very quickly and everything was fine.

Gratitude, turning 40, achievements, happiness, family, self-improvement, motherhood


15. My job - I enjoy it, I like the school where I work and its philosophy and I love the fact that I don't usually have to take work home with me.

16. The fact that I have a job in which they actually make a fuss of your birthday - my kids' mums 
brought a cake to class on Friday to celebrate and I got presents. That's one of the nice things about

17. The fact that I get lots of school holidays!  And we've just  had a long weekend and my birthday on Monday was a day off!

18. Everything I've learnt in my current job. Kindergarten was new for me and I feel like it has been a very rich and rewarding learning experience so far. Lots of things I can apply with Emma, too, as she's just coming up to kindergarten age (in Mexico it starts at three years).  And I still have a lot to learn.

Gratitude, turning 40, achievements, happiness, family, self-improvement, motherhood

Living in Mexico 

19. Being bilingual

20. Being able to bring up my daughter to be bilingual

21. I live in a beautiful country with so much to see and such a variety of landscapes and climates. We'll never run out of places to visit!

22. We get plenty of sunshine!

23. Mexican food - delicious and so varied. I enjoy writing about it, too, something I should do more often.

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24. My optimism 

25. My adaptability - I've been able to adapt to living in a different country and a different culture, different work situations and many other changes.  I think it comes relatively easy to me, adjusting to 
new circumstances; I'm not resistant to change and I think that's a useful skill in our ever-changing world.

26. I have goals and aspirations, things to work towards and give me purpose

27. I've never lived in a war zone or been affected by natural disasters or tragedies. That makes me extremely lucky.

Gratitude, turning 40, achievements, happiness, family, self-improvement, motherhood


28. Skype and FaceTime, so glad they exist so I can stay in touch more easily with my family back home in the UK, and we can actually see each other, and they can see Emma.

29. My iPad, a present from my sisters a couple of years ago when our laptop started giving up the ghost.  Now I use it for everything and more!

30. My phone - for ages I didn't have a phone, but eventually got one at the end of last year.

31. Music - the fact that through the Internet and apps like Spotify, I can find and listen to just about any music I want, discover new music and artists and rediscover old ones, and all for free, or almost free. It's something that my teenage self in a pre-internet age, would have been amazed and delighted by.

Gratitude, turning 40, achievements, happiness, family, self-improvement, motherhood

Things I love

32. Coffee.  What would I do without it?

33. Chocolate / chocolate cake!

34. Teabags from England! (Thank you!)

35. My blog - It may not be much at the moment but it's something I feel motivated and inspired to keep working on, it's my space to express myself and be myself.

36. Being able to write my last post Three Thoughts for my Three-Year-Old which I was very proud of.

37. The opportunities I've had to travel and live abroad.  

Gratitude, turning 40, achievements, happiness, family, self-improvement, motherhood

Things to look forward to 

38. My sister's visit - very soon!

39. My parents' visit in summer. 

40. Trip to Cancun at Easter with my sister - will be our first time in that part of Mexico and I hope we can make the most of it. I'm definitely looking forward to it!


I did it! 40 things.  

The funny thing is, now that I've finished the list I keep thinking of more points I could add.  It's a list that could just keep growing and growing, and that's another thing to be grateful for.

I saw this quote the other day, not sure who said  or wrote it but I love it and want to share it:

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Sunday, 19 March 2017

3 Thoughts for my Three-Year-Old

My darling daughter,

You've just turned three, a milestone I can't believe you've already reached. It is a cliche, but three years have flown by at the speed of light, it seems, each year faster than the last.

Parenting, advice, life, mother to daughter, love, strength, wisdom

Three years ago you were a tiny newborn, and we were clueless first-time parents who hardly knew what to do with you. 
Two years ago you were crawling around, holding on to the furniture to stand up and preparing to take your first tottering steps. 
One year ago you were a chattering two-year-old, starting to speak in a mixture of two languages.
Now here you are, growing so tall, so beautiful, the keeper of the best cuddles in the world.  You surprise us with your own points of view and your achievements, doing more things on your own. My heart is full of wonder and pride when I look at you, but also fears and worries for the future. So here are my three thoughts, three qualities that I hope I can transmit to you and inculcate in you as you
grow because I think these three things are really all the tools you need to stand you in good stead for the future.

Thought, advice,life, parenting

Three thoughts for my three year old.


Love is the foundation of everything.  Most importantly, love yourself.  If you love yourself then you
will be capable of loving others, loving your life, loving what you do, loving the world you  live in.  This love will become your guiding principle; it will tell you what is right and wrong and how to live your life.

You know that you are loved deeply and unconditionally; you are our most precious treasure and we love you no matter what.  I hope you can grow up with the knowledge of this love secure in your heart, something constant and unchanging to give you strength when you need it.  I hope you will transmit your love through your actions, doing what's best for you, taking care of the those you love, taking care of the world you love, living the best life you can.

Parenting, life, advice, mother to daughter, love, strength, wisdom, milestones


Your first name, Emma, means "strong woman"; I love that about your name.  I'm always telling you how strong you are when you pick up or move a heavy object, but here it has a different meaning.

Strength means "resilience"
In life there will always be problems, setbacks, disasters, pain, loss, failure; these things are inevitable.  Hopefully you will be lucky and your problems will be small, but there's no way 
of knowing.  What you will be able to count on is your own inner strength that will enable you to overcome difficulties, bounce back from troubles and find your happiness and self worth.

Strength means "confidence"

Be who you are and who you want to be no matter what other people may tell you.  There is so much pressure from society, media and our own perceptions.  Sometimes our own insecurities try to stifle us.  So have confidence in yourself, have the strength to stay true to your beliefs and principles, to fight for what's right, to be yourself and do what you want to do, even if that means taking a risk, being different, being a lone voice.  It may be scary, but be brave if you know you are doing the right thing.

Strength means "perseverance"

Don't give up!  Set your goals and find a way to achieve the things you want.  Don't let your own doubts and fears stop you from going after your dreams.  Don't let others dissuade you from something that is important to you.  Don't let failure put you off; keep trying and trying and you'll eventually succeed if you stick with it long enough.

Parenting, advice, life, love, strength, wisdom, mother to daughter


I don't mean intelligence, although that helps.  For me, wisdom means making good decisions.  It sounds simple, but it isn't always easy.  It is one of the keys, however, to a happy and successful life.  Some decisions seem small and insignificant but can have a big impact; putting on your seatbelt, studying for an exam, deciding not to react negatively to provocation, being nice to someone.  All these decisions could have just as important an effect as apparently bigger, life-changing decisions.  

Choose the people you spend time with, the people who will influence you.  They are important, make sure they give you something positive.  Sorry you can't choose your family, but you can decide how to interact with them, how much you let them influence you or not.

Make your decisions wisely, but also don't worry too much about making mistakes - just have the wisdom to learn from them and not repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  Know that when something goes wrong it's not the end of the world, there is always a solution.  Wisdom is also knowing how to put things right and learning from the experience.

Thoughts, life advice, from mother to daughter, parenting

To end with, I want to give you one of my favourite quotes ever.  Success is often seen as being based on material things: career, money, possessions, but I think Maya Angelou's definition of success is just perfect.  It's also a definition of happiness, in my opinion; here the two go hand in hand.

"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it."

Success Maya Angelou quote

All my love,

Your Mummy xx 

Mummy Times Two

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