Advice from the Heart - 29/09/2015

photo credit: Wedgewood II via photopin (license)

This is going to be a short one since I'm in the middle of a holiday in Brazil. We're visiting my husband's family so I mean holiday in the loosest sense of the word. We've probably spent more time in the car here than over the last six months (gosh it's a big country) and every day has involved at least one visit to family or friends.

I'm a bit of a hermit so being surrounded by so many people is quite exhausting. On the other hand, I love seeing baby boy play with a plethora of cousins, aunts and uncles, something that I, an only grandchild, never experienced. It's also been interesting to see Brazilian parents in action.

Here, children frequently go to bed past 11 pm. Children are welcomed at all family events, even those starting in the evening and nobody minds when a handful of overtired toddlers are running around the room at 10 pm. All of my husband's cousins breastfed their babies until at least 2 or 3 years of age. One cousin told me how her daughter (now a beautiful, smart 20-year old) had only breastmilk until she was one, alleviating any fears I had about baby boy's still somewhat erratic eating patterns.

Of course not everything is positive. Everyone jokingly asks to "keep your baby when you go back to Europe" because it's actually quite common for grandmothers to raise their grandchildren. Children are frequently given sweetened chocolate milk as the adults think plain milk is "tasteless" and many toddlers have had more antibiotics than I've been given in 30 years.

On the whole it is enlightening to step out of my own European parenting bubble for a while. It reminds me how important it is to share experiences with other parents, especially those that have a different background or attitude to my own.

Next week we're heading back home and into the rhythm of normal life. I'll finally have a moment to make a cup of tea and read everyone's linky contributions in peace.

If you feel like joining the conversation here are the rules for linking up:

- You can link up to two posts a week, as long as they offer advice or learning experiences for fellow parents (reviews included).

- Please take some time to check out other posts, there's a lot to be learnt! Do leave a comment for the person linking before you and more if you wish. Use #fromtheheart in your comments so they know where you found them.

- Please add the #fromtheheart badge to the bottom of your linked post and tweet @JulieGDutra and @moderatemum to let us know you've joined and had your link RT'd.

Advice From The Heart

Can homeschooled children achieve academically? - Nicola

Not that many years ago we would use children for all manner of things we deemed necessary - cleaning chimneys, selling posies, picking the pockets of well to do gentlemen. Then, quite rightly, we realised that this was not a responsible way to treat these innocent souls but we needed somewhere to keep them under control whilst we got on with doing grown up things in a grown up world. Schools were basically child prisons and it made sense that whilst they were all in one space we teach them stuff so that when they were old enough they could clean chimneys and sell posies immediately and make up for all that pesky time they had lost being a kid. I'm sad to say there are schools that are like this still. 

Of course there are many wonderful schools filled with countless dedicated teachers. Exposure to these amazing people is undoubtedly one of the major advantages of sending our precious cargo to these establishments. I also think schools are very helpful in achieving the elusive goal of raising a 'well rounded' individual. It might be challenging for one family to ensure a child gets the measure of twenty or thirty subjects. That being said being an all rounder is all very 90's, specialism is the new black and can you help grow a handful of extra special talents? Absolutely! Venus Williams totally homeschooled; Taylor Swift homeschooled up to the hilt and they are, obviously, very successful. As your question was about academics perhaps these examples aren't helpful but then my question to you is, how important are academics really? 

I'm not saying the ability to read is overrated but I'm a strong believer in that quotation about the dude and the fish. One salmon supper will keep him full for a day but a rod, some waders and a few tips on the best bait and he will eat for life. Our aim as parents should not be to shove academics into our kids brains like education is an all you can eat knowledge buffet but to foster a desire to learn and encourage the confidence to learn independently and if you want to do that at home I have no doubt that you can. 

Martyn the amazing blogger behind 'Inside Martyn's Thoughts' will address all your homeschooling fears over on his blog. Start here with the importance of unschooling!

thumbnailsizeEthan & Evelyn

Advice from the Heart Linky - 22/09/15

Mrs Roberts was one of my favourite teachers. She was funny and fair and she was passionate about her subject – biology. I remember her lessons as being one of the handful that I enjoyed rather than endured and I decided to choose it as one of my A’ level subjects. On the first day of the new term Mrs Roberts turned to us all and said, ‘Forget everything you knew last year, that was just to make it easy for you to understand. This year you’ll have to learn biology all over again.’

I’m reminded of this moment because it’s often how parenthood feels. You’ll be coasting along, imagining you’ve got a handle on everything and then suddenly the script gets flipped and you feel like you’re starting all over again. Take sleep. My son has always found falling asleep a bit of an ordeal but it was a predictable ordeal followed by eleven hours of unbroken shut eye and with sleep wasn’t it the case that it could only get better? Then one day he woke up around five in the morning, I dismissed it as teething; when it happened a second night I tin foiled his windows; when that did nothing I had to accept that this was the new normal.

What a difference an hour makes! My boy, who even as a newborn had woken a happy, cheeky chappy, turned into a grouchy mess each morning; I can’t pretend that his mother was much better. Mornings had always been our high point and my time to get a few things organised but I suddenly had to dedicate most of our early hours to temper tantrums and administering caffeine. I needed to take back control so I went back to the books, I went back to the internet and of course I went back to my friends. I revelled in being a student again because my son is my passion and I never want to stop learning how to be a better mother to him.

I’ve completely embraced the fact that they’ll never be a point when I’ve got ‘being a parent’ completely covered. Every year brings new surprises; every child brings unique challenges. The fact that you never stop growing as a parent makes it one of the greatest roles in the world and I am committed to being a student of parenthood for as long as I can.

Please help me with my studies by linking up your parenting advice posts. Anything on sleep regression especially welcome.

Advice From The Heart

I run this linky with Julie from Happy Mama Happy Baby. The full rules are here but you can link up to two helpful posts (old or new) and please grab our badge and use the hashtag #fromtheheart. Tweet your link to @moderatemum and @JulieGDutra for a shout out. 

If I stare at the laundry will it go away? - Julie's Notebook

When I saw this tweet I had to ask Julie if I could use it because I had asked myself this question or perhaps more honestly - if I ignore the laundry long enough, will it go away. The answer for anyone still searching is catergorically, no. The tale of Charlene and the laundry is a sad but triumphant one. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Once there was a girl she lived in a little house with a creaky gate and a cranky cat. She had a modest wardrobe. Just half of an average sized closet, okay three quarters. She had two pairs of jeans, maybe three proper frocks and a not unreasonable collection of shoes. The girl had a husband that liked to wear navy cords. Everyday he wore cords, she couldn't swear they weren't the same pair of cords. The girl and her husband had a lovely life - they worked hard, had drinks with friends and did washing once a week and then one day, when the moon was waning, they had a little baby and s**t got real.

The baby was very small. Small even by baby standards and yet the couple found that as if by magic their washing grew greater each day. The baby wore the tiniest of socks and titchy little vests but still the basket overflowed. The girl could not understand but try as she might the washing was never done. One day she fell to the floor, piles and piles around her. How will I keep up?! She cried. She closed her eyes and held her breath and wished for someone to help her and when she opened her eyes...nothing had happened. So this is what she did. 

Unclog the system I got rid of everything that would get stuck in the system - everyday items that need dry cleaning; white tops that stain within thirty seconds of wearing; pleaty things that take two days to iron. I refused to let them hold me back any longer. 

End the separation I'm sorry, I know this is going to make some of you feel deeply uncomfortable but I just stopped separating. I'm trying to do my best for the planet and I mainly wash on a lowish heat; very rarely does it cause drama. The odd occasion that it goes wrong is worth the energy it would take to separate my washing. Life's too short to stress about a hint of pink. 

Set the programme We now have a strict system for the processing of laundry in our house. Dirty clothes go from the body into the washing machine. No chance of getting held up by a third party. When the machine is full we do the wash. We put the machine on last thing at night and then empty the drum first thing in the morning. I no longer have to work up the motivation to do washing because one event simply triggers another - I have to put the machine on because the machine is full and I have to empty the machine because otherwise I'll have nowhere to put my dirty clothes. 

Bigger is not better If you're not ready for the maverick laundry lifestyle I've adopted, I'd recommend getting a small laundry basket. In fact a laundry bag is ideal and nothing that holds more than a load. Huge laundry baskets lull you into a false sense of security - la, la, la I don't have to do washing and then BOOM, three weeks of dirty clothes. Don't hide behind your basket - set that washing free. 

Thanks Julie for letting me share your tweet! Julie blogs over at Julie's Notebook, please say hi! Laundry is the dirty secret that all families battle with. If you have any washing tips, I'd love to hear them. 

My Random Musings
Advice From The Heart

Advice from the Heart Linky - 15/09/15

I sometimes like to imagine what it was like to be a mum before the internet, TV and books were invented. You grew up, watching your mother and aunts tend to your siblings and when you had your own baby you did pretty much the same. You didn't worry about the newest research or about what your friends were doing with their own babies (because they were all doing the same thing). Although you undoubtedly were scared and unsure as any young mum, you had the safety net of tradition and extended family breaking your fall.

Don't worry. I'm not saying we should all go back to the dark ages. Tradition can be great at creating confidence but it can also perpetuate practices such as not giving babies colostrum, or swaddling them so tightly it causes hip dysplasia. Definitely not a good thing. I love research, I love information and I love that we can now make informed choices about how to bring up our children.

But it's also stressful. Every parenting decision can be debated. You read one article and only feed your baby pureed carrots but your friend reads a different one and says the only proper weaning food is fish soup. Conflict ensues. Because as friendly as we try to be when talking about our own personal parenting decisions it is difficult not to sound judgy or feel judged. Since we make these decisions with our children's best interests in mind, by default we are sort of saying that "if I do A, I obviously think that you doing B is wrong".

I believe this has created two types of parent: first there are the ones who overshare, who are convinced they have found the holy grail of parenting and have to tell you what to do. No matter how smiley and friendly they are when they do it, it makes your skin crawl.

The second type is hyper apologetic and never dares to contradict their friends. They are terrified of admitting that they do things differently in the fear of being shunned by the group. This parent just nods and smiles and continues feeding the baby chocolate mousse on the sly.

I'm pretty certain I've already been in both camps. I feel guilty both about giving advice and withholding it. Which is silly. Because when I'm in advice-giving mode I'm really just trying to help another mother out with a few suggestions. I'm well aware that her baby is not my baby and what works for me might just not work for her. Also, if it's a good friend I hope she knows she can just tell me to shut up. Keeping my mouth shut is even worse in a way, because the other mum might be desperate for some tips.

This is why I love the internet. We can throw those bits and bobs of advice out there and know that we will never be overbearing. If what I write doesn't suit you, just close the page and move on. If you want to know more, ask me a question. I'd love for mothers to feel less shy about sharing advice in person, but for the moment, the internet is a good place to start.

If you feel like joining the conversation, the rules and linky badge are here

Advice From The Heart

What Makes a Good Dad - Guest Post From ODaddyBee

Sometimes being a Dad is the best job on the planet. You can put it up there with feats such as ‘winning the lottery’ (although I am yet to experience that yet.). Better still, imagine that six-fold accumulator you placed on the weekend banking on your six chosen football teams to win, lose or draw and accurately getting each result correct… 


Until 16:45pm, you didn’t realise that pigs had wings other than in Red Bull commercials nor the day of reckoning being finally upon you. You sir are the CHOSEN one. 

Please don’t think it’s all fun by my account. If you dreamt fatherhood to be rosy, happy days everyday baring the smile of a Cheshire Cat, you’re in for a shock. It’s far from that as your son/daughter get older however put in the work, scrutinise yourself as a Dad from your head down to your toenails and believe me your life as a Dad will be great.

If you’re a ‘soon to be’ Dad or a Dad already, you may of already played out the quotes in your mind made by people on your typical morning talk show. 

“I’m gonna do EVERYTHING for my Child. Play EVERYDAY and EVERYTIME they call me. ANYTHING my child want, I WILL get it for them.” 

I’m not saying you won’t be the above things but I’m saying first hand that sometimes you may wish you was born with a shell which could camouflage amongst your furniture and go unrecognised to your children’s inquisitive eyes. Children are hard work. The newborn stage does not last long enough so watch out as your personal air space gets violated daily. 

This led me to think…’What Makes a Good Dad?’ We come into the game inexperienced. The rules of fatherhood remain un-explained. We take advice from our peers and observe society traits. We look at our parents for answers but even then, it’s not fulfilling enough to know our own personal role amongst our children. 

My advice as to ‘What Makes a Good Dad’ is in no particular order but has some of the attributes which are necessary in becoming that undisputed ‘Superdad.’ 

Patience: Children will have days where they can try your last nerve. You are tired and you’re one toothpick away from snapping. Unfortunately we cannot shut ourselves off from the world which can be the normal default button after a ‘barney’ with the missus (the man sulk. We’ve all done it.) I’m a firm believer of karma so believe we must use what energy we have to entertain our child’s needs. You will be loved so much for it and them nurturing skills you currently have will be made to good use when your children look after you once in your old age. 


Be firm…BUT FAIRUttered by the famous boxing referee ‘Joe Cortez’ but reigns true through fatherhood. I always explain to Pop if she behaves and listens, she would have the coolest Daddy ever. What child doesn’t want that? Pop wants to go to the Park and was good. Yes. Why not? Go McDonalds? Of course, you was well behaved. You deserve a treat of some kind.

I like to think I’m easy going but when Pop crosses the line, she might feel the ‘Big Bad Wolf’ exists. 

Dependant on the age of your son/daughter, you can instil discipline but it does have boundaries based on age so if your child is young and has misbehaved, don’t hold grudges. Think it through. They may have been active all day and so are tired (sometimes the hardest art is teaching a child to sit down whilst on a natural happy ‘high.’) Make your point that you’re cross, teach them to apologise when wrong and bring it in with a ‘duggee hug’ (CBeebies children show if wondering. Give it a watch) 

Delve into the Toddler world: First things first. Let your mind be free. Don’t overthink anything. Become free-flowing in mind like water whilst interacting and using your imagination with your child. Children think of the the wackiest things to do with not much at their disposal. You’ll be surprised. 

Here’s a test. Think of two imaginative things you can do in a bath with: 

A Bucket 
Three Small Frozen Plates 
A Spade 
Plastic knife and Fork 
An Olaf Frozen Flask 

CLUE: Don’t think too hard (answer will follow after post) Some of your best experiences come from you and your children interacting. I cannot preach this enough. Work this side of your children's development like a full-time job. The rate of pay is great! 

BONUS PIECE OF ADVICE: Me Time - The family always comes first but a very close second is yourself. It takes a lot to be a ‘Superdad.’ We don’t often get it right and sometimes it’s left for our dear partners to pick up our mess. There is a great joy in being a Dad especially when we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes When it is that time to wind down, whether it is going to the gym, meeting friends, reading a book of just taking yourself away from it all; just do it and make ‘every second count.’ It all begins again tomorrow… 

Thank you to @moderatemum for having me guest post on your page. Do you have any additional points which can be added into ‘What Makes A Great Dad.’ I would love to hear from you.

Make sure you visit Troy's blog ODaddy Bee and show him some love on the Twitter Tweeps.

PS: The answer to the two imaginative you can do in a Bath with the items are:

Make a chocolate cake 
Make a water castle with floating plate boats and a MASSIVE paddle 
The point is. It can be anything you want it to be. Let your imagination run wild with you children.

Are you the lucky ones? A Skibz giveaway!

They say the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I can confirm this. I peeked over and the lawn was bright and lush and covered with plump, happy babies sucking on dummies. You see Roscoe could not, would not have a dummy. I bought ridiculously expensive, orthopedic ones and cheap as chips, pack of three ones. I got blue ones, pink ones, fat ones and thin ones and each time he looked me in the eye, wrinkled his little nose and let it fall from his gummy mouth. My friends said, 'Oh you're lucky! You don't want him to have a dummy.' 

So when I braved my first night out of the house, at a small chinese restaurant in the east end of London and he screamed through two courses of sweet and sour flavoured freedom, I tried to remember - we were the lucky ones. 

When my husband went on business for a month all I wanted was a quiet night with a boxset and a box of wine. I learned that you could teach them to keep the dummy in by tapping gently on it. I tapped until my wrist got RSI and then my beautiful boy gently spat out that dummy with a 'nice try' smile and I whispered to myself, 'we are the lucky ones'.

My first night away with my other half we left the tot with his aunt and she had to drive across county lines to get him to settle. Was there anything she could give him for comfort? Of course not. I just had to swallow down the guilt of abandoning my child and hold on to the fact that we were the lucky ones. 

My friends tried to tell me that they were always losing them in their bag but with Skibz Bibs suckerz range your dummy can attach to the bib with it's handy popper, so it's always within reach. They told me that they could never keep them clean but with it clipped into place there'll be no muck and fluff on those suckers. So if you're one of those 'unlucky' dummy mummies* maybe your luck is in - Skibz have offered me one of their new 'made in Britain' Doublez Poppers in Brittania with a red spotted ribbon Suckerz (as pictured) to giveaway (UK only). To enter just leave a comment below and let me know why you feel lucky today! 

*or daddies but come on, you gotta love a rhyme.

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Motherhood is like a tent in the woods - Advice from the heart linky

I went camping over the weekend. In a tent. I did this because my beautiful friend Sharon is soon to be turning forty and a group of her closest friends had arranged to surprise her in the woods. I know that sounds like the start of a horror film but she was very touched.
I wasn’t completely enamoured with the idea of communing with nature in September in England. The last time I camped was with the South Norwood brownie guide troop in 1990. My overriding memories are not peeing for 48 hours, for fear that a spider would bite my bottom and begging my dad for KFC on the way home.
I camped. I did it because the need to see a smile on my wonderful friend’s face was worth wearing thermals. I did it because she is a friend I would camp for (‘You are a friend I would camp for’ - I’m thinking of getting badges made). I did it because the work and the muck was how I wanted to say I care for her. Which is why camping made me think about motherhood.
It doesn’t matter how many books you read you can never predict how your camping experience will go – maybe it will rain, maybe the ground will be hard. You can prepare all you like but at the end of the day you have to lean in and work with what the elements throw at you. When I was pregnant I read all of the books. All of them. The funny ones, the clever ones, the celebrity ones – nothing would prepare me for the trials of parenthood.
It rained, of course it rained. And we made it fun, we made it part of the adventure because what was the alternative, sitting and crying and allowing life to end something wonderful? I do this every day with my son, battle through the rainy bits, because I need him to know that he is beautiful and no matter what I will do whatever I can to make life beautiful for him.
At the weekend, when we needed to eat, we had to build a fire. No matter how difficult and boring it got we kept going and the perseverance made it better, because each night we could sit round that fire, get a little bit drunk and celebrate this thing we had made together. That’s the important bit. Camping and parenthood is so much better when you share the highs and lows and celebrate the wins as a team.
I’d like to think that as parents we’re one big team, working together to help another generation shine brightly. I so love hearing your stories because they lift me up on the days when motherhood feels like being alone in a tent in the woods.
If you’re a blogger and you’d like to share one of your posts please see the rules here. Last week Appealing rabbit offered to give a card game to our two favourites and those were ‘Our Battle with Ezcema’ from Pinks Charming and ‘Parenthood and Relationships’ from Baby Pixie and Beauty.

Advice From The Heart

All the jobs I've ever done (sort of) - #blogajob challenge

About six years ago Alice at Nipper and Tyke nominated me for the #Blogajob challenge. Today I have accepted the gauntlet. Sort of. I have worked supporting children and families for many years but my roles and experiences in that field would be too much to cover in one post. Hopefully I can talk more about them in another post. For now I have decided to cover the part time jobs I have attempted. There was still a lot to learn…


My mum basically set me up with a reputation for being quiet, bookish and responsible. Which was pretty much true but not for want of trying to be otherwise. Babysitting was an easy gig. In short I let my wards do whatever they liked as long as it didn’t cause visible damage. Whatever bedtime their parents had told me to enforce, I would tell the child I had been told to put them to bed half an hour earlier. They would then think I was being ridiculously cool by letting them stay up thirty minutes past bedtime. Following which I would lie on the sofa and watch soaps. Ten minutes before the parental return I would shove any mess into a corner, turn off the TV and get out my homework. The parents would be enthralled by the peace they found on their return.

Lesson learned: Branding is everything


'TheVoice' is Britain’s favourite black newspaper. It amuses me that it is the ‘favourite’ and not the ‘best’ as this moniker was clearly garnered from an impromptu street survey carried out in the mid eighties. At the time, a confused A’level student trying to cover all my bases with geography, biology and English, I told my mum that I had decided on the career of journalism. Being the encouraging woman she is, she told me I wasn’t tenacious enough. To prove her wrong I wrote to the newspaper with an example of my work, I'll date myself by admitting it was a review of Mariah Carey's newly released single ‘Butterfly’. They actually responded to my brazenness and let me write their young voices page! It turns out my mum was right because after a year I gave it up for the next job.

Lesson learned: Listen to your mum


I loved the idea of a place with camaraderie but Safeway on Streatham High Road was the most depressing shopping spaces I’ve ever experienced. Perhaps it’s because Streatham High Road has been voted one of the worst roads in the UK but, everything – the managers, the staff, the lettuce – was sad. I tried my best to be perky and to entertain myself by making amusing comments about my customers wares. I got a reputation and often had a bit of a queue. I left after Christmas because I have saved enough to by my mates Ministry of Sound albums and because the uniform was scratchy but before I went a pensioner bought me a bunch of flowers for brightening up his mornings.

Lesson learned: A little can go a long way


Okay, I’ve never admitted this but I’m basically responsible for all those people ringing you and telling you they can help you claim back PPI payments. I had no idea what I was selling or why and it clearly showed because in the brief time I worked there I made NO SALES. Since the job was commission only I’m not even sure it counts as a job. Actually, my lack of success means I’m not responsible for those calls! They put all our names on a board and updated it if we made a sale. I think the public shaming was supposed to be motivating but I’m definitely a carrot girl.

Lesson learned: Ignorance is not bliss


I found this role in the back of Cosmopolitan magazine which as far as I'm concerned was a legit endorsement. When applying I was vaguely concerned about the fact that I have no psychic ability but it proved to be unnecessary. Weirdly the service routed calls to your landline so during the hours you were working you could never be sure if your mum or a girl from Essex wanting to know if she should dump her fiancĂ© was calling. I used tarot cards and genuinely learned what each draw meant. I quickly established that people did not want to know what the spirits really thought, they wanted to know that they were going to get married/win the pools/meet Peter Andre and, in honesty, they didn’t really care if it was true or not. Where appropriate, I was happy to oblige.

Lesson Learned: Give the people what they want

Thanks for the tag Alice. I'd love to hear about what you learned from your work history. If you're on Periscope come find me this month! I'm @moderatemum and I'm trying Working Mom Magic's challenge.

Brilliant blog posts on
Friday Frolics
photo credit: Shopping trolleys via photopin (license)

Advice from the Heart - 01/09/2015

Round about a year ago, I gave birth to a delicious baby boy.
This year, around the same time, I gave birth to a Linky.

Both projects took a while to mature and would have been impossible without a partner. And within instants of seeing the light of day, both baby and linky have never failed to amaze and inspire me (although funnily enough both also require a fair bit of work...although at least the Linky sleeps quite predictably from Saturday to Monday).

The idea behind the linky was to create a place for parents to share all the bits of advice they'd picked up over the years. I was certain that there was so much good information out there, just nobody knew how to find it. It seems my hunch was right:

The first issue's posts on silent reflux bowled me over - in one, the writer describes exactly the symptoms my baby had in his first few months and that no health professional correctly identified. If only I'd had access to the linky then.

Advice from the heart has included posts about sleep, sophrology (yes, I had to Wikipedia that too) and work both at home and outside. I never imagined how much fun I would have reading through the submissions and I hope that the contributions have been as helpful to other bloggers and readers as to me.

Babies, whether of the human or virtual kind may require a lot of work and be difficult at times, but they never fail to amaze you. There's the first smile, the first tooth, the first step... or the first competition! Thanks to the lovely people at The Appealing Rabbit, this week our two favourite contributions to the link-up will win a set of their alphabet game cards.

Who knew our linky would grow so quickly in just three weeks? I'm sure pretty soon it'll be staying out late and leaving old socks all over the house...

Here, as usual, are the rules:

  • You can link up to two posts a week, as long as they offer advice or learning experiences for fellow parents 
  • Please take some time to check out other posts, there's a lot to be learnt! Do leave a comment for the person linking before you and more if you wish. Use #fromtheheart in your comments so they know where you found them.
  • Please add the #fromtheheart badge to the bottom of your linked post and tweet @JulieGDutra and @moderatemum to let us know you've joined and had your link RT'd.
The linky will close at 23:45pm on Friday!
Advice From The Heart