I have yet to come across a toddler that has never heard of Thomas the Tank Engine, I certainly remember watching the series in the early 90s and since then of course kids tv programmes have gone all fancy with their special effects. W. Awdry created the original toy model of Thomas the Tank Engine, which inspired the character, soon after the first book of stories was complete.
I think Jay was probably 12 months old when we first bought anything from the Thomas & Friends toy franchise but to this day he is fascinated with vehicles, cars, planes, rockets and of course trains. I’ve said many times that our house looks very much like Hamley’s toy store but it was nice to be sent the latest product from the Fisher Price Thomas & Friends suitable for toddlers ages 3+, retailing at £24.99 and is available here.
I was intrigued by the title of the product and when we opened the box we found the following features. The set contains Cranky the Crane and the idea is that the motorised Thomas train goes around the track, passing the swinging cargo on Cranky’s hook which can knock into the warehouse demolishing the building. Thomas can then race through the wreckage.
I have to say that although all the items are of good quality I was perhaps expecting a few more features to engage more interest. Saying that Jay has been playing with the set and likes watching Thomas go around the track. I think if there was a few more buildings perhaps that could be added this would be much more appealing but then additional train sets and track packs are sold separately.
The ITV television series which premiered in 1984, Thomas the Tank Engine has since become the face of a franchise of toys, television programmes, books, and more. Not just a train, but a friend, Thomas is a special train that children love and remember for a lifetime.
Tragic events happen everyday to good people all over the World. A few weeks ago I watched the heartbreaking interview with Lucy Alexander on ‘This Morning’ on ITV whose son Felix sadly took his own life after years of being bullied and teased because he was not allowed to play a violent video game Call of Duty. The World has changed so much and so quickly since my teenage school years. I genuinely feel grateful that I grew up without social media. It can bring people together and yet can cause irrevocable damage. My school years were thankfully good and although I have experienced some bullying in my earlier years I would go to school not in fear. Bullying then I felt was left at the school gates. Now of course it can follow young people day and night due to phones and other electronic devices. I watched this interview while young Jay sat next to me playing with his toy train set. That pure innocence will one day be gone he will be aware of the awful things that go on and will I be able to protect him. I watched the interview with a heavy heart and can’t help but worry about what my son will face as he enters his school years. I know I am not alone in thinking this. This mother has lost her son in awful circumstances and it’s shattered their lives while the bullies go on with theirs. I admire her for the courage she shows in raising awareness.
Young people see lots of things online but are too young to have the maturity to deal with events. I think I was 32 when I started using Facebook and my teenage years were about going to school, hanging out with friends sometimes heading into town going shopping , cinema and basically having a laugh. I was 18 when I first bought my own mobile brick like Nokia phone capable of holding some text messages which you had to keep deleting to make room for more and two games I think.
As a vlogger I have see vile comments made by online trolls, it’s sad to think there are people who do this not really thinking about the consequenes of their words. There is that saying sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me… but the reality is that words can kill. If you are a parent I urge you to read this open letter. I also think schools should be showing this interview to pupils.
Here is Lucy Alexander’s letter to bullies, parents and schools in full:
On April 27 2016 our beautiful 17-year-old son took his own life. He decided to do this because he could not see any way to be happy. His confidence and self esteem had been eroded over a long period of time by the bullying behaviour he experienced in secondary education. It began with unkindness and social isolation and over the years with the advent of social media it became cruel and overwhelming. People who had never even met Felix were abusing him over social media and he found that he was unable to make and keep friends as it was difficult to befriend the most “hated” boy in the school. His schoolwork suffered and he found school a daily struggle. He changed schools for 6th form, something he would not contemplate before, as even though he was miserable he was also terrified of the unknown and was sure that because he felt he was so worthless, another school would make no difference. He did make friends at his new school and the teaching staff found him to be bright, kind and caring. He was however so badly damaged by the abuse, isolation and unkindness he had experienced that he was unable to see just how many people truly cared for him. I write this letter not for sympathy, but because there are so many more children like Felix who are struggling and we need to wake up to the cruel world we are living in. I am appealing to children to be kind ALWAYS and never stand by and leave bullying unreported. Be that one person prepared to stand up to unkindness. You will never regret being a good friend. I have been told that “everyone says things they don’t mean on social media”. Unkindness is dismissed as “banter” and because they cannot see the effect of their words they do not believe there is one. A quote I saw on Facebook recently resonated with me and I think is worth thinking about before posting anything on social media. Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Our children need to understand that actions have consequences and that people are wounded, sometimes fatally by these so called “keyboard warriors”. Not all children participate in online abuse, but they may be guilty of enabling others to do it. They do this by not reporting it, by not supporting or befriending the child being abused, which just validates the bully’s behaviour. I appeal to teachers to look out for signs that children are struggling. Poor grades or poor behaviour may signal a child crying out for help. Listen to parents who may report problems and monitor their social interactions. Are they sitting alone at break time or lunchtime? Are they particularly quiet or are they perhaps too loud? I do not expect teachers to be psychologists but they have a unique overview of children’s lives and they are able to recognise a difficulty early and help signpost towards help. Education is a vital part of change. Children need to be shown from a very early age the necessity of kindness to each other. Incorporate these valuable lessons into the PSHE programme early in a child’s school life. They all have smart phones at a very young age and it is vital that they are guided on how to use them responsibly and kindly. Finally I appeal to parents. Please take an interest in what your children do online. Find out what social media platforms they are using and be sure that their use is appropriate and kind. We don’t like to think that OUR children could be responsible for being cruel to another child, but I have been shocked by the “nice” kids who were responsible in part for Felix’s anguish. Even if they only say something horrible once, that will not be the only person who will have said something that week. Group chats can be a particular problem and they can disintegrate into hate fests very easily. It is too simplistic to say “Why don’t you just block them? You don’t have to read it!” This is the way young people communicate now and many are actually are losing the ability to communicate effectively face to face. On several occasions we removed all form of social media from Felix as it was causing so much distress, but that just isolated him further and he felt that it was a punishment and not a protection. Look at your children’s Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Googlechat and Facebook. Help them understand that if they are writing or posting something that they would not want you to read then they should not be doing it. Help them self-edit before they post. What are they watching online in their bedrooms? Children are witnessing a warped form of reality as violence and pornography are being “normalised” by their ease of access. We have a collective responsibility to prevent other young lives being lost to unkindness and bullying. You may see that I have repeatedly used one word in this letter and I make no apology for this. The word is kindness. I said this at our son’s funeral. Please be kind always, for you never know what is in someone’s heart or mind. Our lives have been irrevocably damaged by the loss of our wonderful son; please don’t let it happen to any other family.
Family charity BullyingUK has given advice on how children and young people can help if they see someone being bullied.
Tell a teacher
Go with the person being bullied and back up what they say to the teacher
Tell the person being bullied that you will help them to tell their parents
Tell your parents what has happening and ask them to have a quiet word with your head of year
Agree with your friends that you will all make it clear to the person doing the bullying that you do not like what they are doing
Keep a diary of what you see going on so that you can give a teacher a reliable account of what has been happening
I am going to finish this post with a quote from my favourite author. The one attribute that I look for in friends.
If you’re looking for Blaze and the Monster Machine fans you’ll find two right here at Along Came Jay HQ. It was therefore lovely to be asked by Mattel toys if we would like to review the Fisher Price Light & Launch Hyper Loop Playset.
The Light Rider Blaze vehicle toy grabbed Jay’s interest straight away once I managed to get into the box. I was happy to see that batteries were already included and it was very east to set up even I could do it. The way the loop set works is by placing the toy car into the Hyper loop and charging up the lever to activate the speed lights. The release button once pressed sends the car into a 360 degree rotation launching Blaze down the track.
I thought Jay would get a little bored of the hyper loop after a while but he seems to be using it daily since we took receipt of it and particularly likes the little car which he pushes around the lounge. I like how the toy can be changed into different configurations, nine in total. As with lots of toys there are additional pieces that can be bought separately to add more interest. I have been looking into purchasing the accessories.
I like how the STEM principle of kinetic energy is interwoven into play but this brings me on the one negative that I wasn’t so impressed with and that was the speed lights feature. The lights disappear quickly and whilst I can see it would be nice to see in a darker room it just didn’t seem to be enough to grab his attention. The spinning loop mechanism is quick and initially took me by surprise with how fast it moves, Jay likes this part the best I think.
He has been using his other toy vehicles placing them in the hyper loop and seeing how far they go in Axel city! I like how this toy doesn’t take up too much room so if you have budding racers in your household ages 3+ the playset is currently available from Argos, RRP £29.99.
Thanks for reading
* The Blaze Light and Launch Hyper Loop Playset was sent to us in return for an honest review.
Three years ago I heard about this super green powder which seemed to be the new in thing. Japan’s most revered form of green tea has now become a must-have ingredient. Matcha unlike traditional green tea, preparation involves covering the tea plants with cloths before they’re harvested. This encourages the growth of leaves with better flavour and texture, which are hand selected, steamed briefly to stop fermentation, then dried and aged in cold storage. The dried leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder so there is no bitterness. I know a good few people who include matcha in their general food diet and believe it greatly helps their cognitive performance. I have tried it before but never stuck with it as I would forget to take it. I actually don’t mind the earthy spinach taste but I guess for some it would take getting used to.
When Vivid Drinksasked if I would like to try their Brainbox 14 day Matcha Plan in the hope that it would increase my mental focus and concentration I said yes please after all I need all the help I can get. You may have read my January goals post where I mention how I want to take care of myself a bit more this year and that includes brain health. I accept there will be stress in life but managing it is vital to wellbeing. I was really impressed with the website’s productivity ideas for example having the colour yellow in the office or your workspace has been shown to boost concentration and alertness or adding plants in the workplace can be very beneficial. The higher level of concentration can be attributed to the plants ability to reduce excess carbon dioxide in the air.
Upon opening the Brainbox I found two small boxes each containing 7 single serve sachets. Also included was a wall planner of puzzles, teasers and recipe ideas for each day. The idea of working through them I thought was great to help my gray matter. I’m usually rubbish at crosswords but felt pretty pleased to have completed one in full! Mr M worked out the triangle teaser whereas I was out by 3 but nevermind. I did all on the other tasks and it made me think how giving the brain some daily exercise is just as important as physical exercise. As a busy mum I know how exhausting days can be so on day 5 for example the task was to make a list of three priorities for the day. I am a list maker so this was fine to do.
As for the powder there is caffeine and an amino acid called L’theanine all helping this matcha to be the antioxidant enriched powder that keeps the mind relaxed and alert. This seems to be one health fad that has the backing of science. The ways in which I have incorporated matcha into my diet are by adding it to soups, yogurt, butter on toast, smoothies, hot chocolate with almond milk and I tried to make matcha cupcakes but they didn’t turn out so well. Still I am going to stick to this green goodness. The Brainbox is available in Holland & Barrett retailing at £19.99 and I would love to know if you use matcha and have any recipes you would like to share.
I think I can still get away with wishing Happy New Year to all reading this! I’ve been treading lightly into the month of January. I’m hoping 2017 has started off well for you and yours. 2016 was not a fine vintage in my life scape but that was then and this is now. For those that don’t know last year I experienced personal trauma and heartache in losing multiple babies, a grief that I can’t really put into words other than the most harrowing experience I have been through to date. I am determined to look after myself better this year and when stress inevitably rears its head I have been using techniques to quash it in its tracks. One example is this mindful exercise floating away a red balloon.
Find a quiet space, sit comfortably and imagine a red balloon.
Slowly exhale, filling the balloon with thoughts of stress and tension, then release it into the sky.
Repeat for until you feel calm.
I suppose you can only make changes (even the small ones) if you really want to. I say this because last month you could have placed all the positive thinking books in this World right in front of me but I wasn’t interested I just felt ill and sad and nothing seemed to help. It was a blip on a grand scale realising that even those that live and breathe positivity can fall down and find it hard to get back up again. Resilience is something I know I do possess and the turning point started 1st January 2017 when I began to feel physically better recovering from a chest and cold virus which had knocked me sideways for the whole month of December whilst looking after a poorly toddler. Bad luck runs out eventually!
A few years ago I read a book called Chicken Soup for the Soul. This is one book I think everyone should read. All about uplifting stories that show strength and courage in the hardest of times. Most people I have spoken to don’t really do ‘New Year Resolutions’ it’s easy to say we will do more of this or less of that but the reality is life is busy and things fall off the radar even with the best of intentions. I would like in essence to feel good time every minute of the day and being healthy and happy are my main goals in life ALWAYS. This post is about my little changes and how they are helping me. When you are feeling low for whatever reason it’s hard to sometimes just ‘snap out of it’. I wallowed a bit in self-pity not interested in feeling better not excited by anything and all I was doing was focusing on caring for Jay making sure he was clean, warm, fed and loved… but I was not taking care of me…that is until now I have started putting a plan into action.
I came to realise last month that I needed to seek help to deal with the losses I had been through. I have contacted The Miscarriage Association, Tommy’s and Sands all incredible charities that I support. I have been lucky to have support from family and friends but I fell into what I can only describe as a void with no one to pull me out. I have only just started the grieving process but I am of sound mind to know that there is nothing to be ashamed of. We are all dealt cards in life some are easier than others. I’ve had to visit some dark places but the idea is that I want to let go of these feelings of sadness except that you can’t always control what happens to you but it’s what you do after that really matters. Some people find it easier to cope with things better than others but this sentence which I read in the book has really stuck with me.
‘Change your thoughts and you change your World’
Keep a Gratitude Journal
A common method to develop the practice of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. The idea consists of writing down every day a list of three to ten things for which you are grateful; you can do this first thing in the morning or before going to bed at night. Another exercise you can try is to write a gratitude letter to a person who has made a positive influence in your life but whom you have not properly thanked. Some experts suggest that you set up a meeting with this person and read the letter to them face to face I think I would have a lot of meetings in that case! Despite my difficulties last year looking back I wonder if I had kept a journal in 2016 would it have helped me deal with things better? hard to say but I guess I am now much more aware of the positive things in my life. Once you become oriented toward looking for things to be grateful for you begin to appreciate simple pleasures those little things that you previously took for granted. I know when I get messages from my readers or YouTube Channel Viewers it means a lot to me and I feel happy that people take time out of their lives to read what I have to say or watch a video I made.
If the eyes are the windows to the soul, as the old saying goes, then the windows are the soul of our house. Every weekend I open all windows and doors to let air in for 5-10 mins yes it’s freezing in January but there is definitely a sense of a cool freshness which is strangely satisfying. I view the home as an extension of your body and spirit. Some people burn sage to absorb the extra emotional vibrations and I burn candles to make my living space feel like a sanctuary that I feel comfortable in. I believe you have to love where you live make it your home.
Weekly Meal Planner/ Cook more meals
I have been cooking every single night of January so far, no ready meals or packet sauces and I am really enjoying eating vegetables and aiming to get my 5 a day although Mr M reckons it’s now ‘7 a day’. In 1990, the World Health Organisation (WHO) introduced the concept of ‘5 a day’. Along with the UK’s Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition (COMA), they set the recommendation that we should be consuming 400g of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. I’ve also discovered that 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree counts towards this quota! This was then adopted by the UK government, and it is now widely recognised that fruit and veg should make up a third of our daily food consumption. How many of us actually reach this target. I have scoured my many recipes books and have listed a weekly meal plan to try and get more veg into our meals I want to nourish my body better with good stuff and enjoy the treats too so there is a balance. I like one pot or tray bake style recipes which are quick and easy to do and a great way to eat more veg. Some of you may know I get to work with Icelandas part of my vlogging role with Channel Mum and have embraced the power of frozen. We rarely throw food away now as I don’t like waste and spend sensibly on good produce.
Drink turmeric water
The health benefits of drinking turmeric water each morning are mostly due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. This spice is popular in most curries but have you tried giving this tonic a go. I’ve read it’s a wonder beverage and one I am prepare to drink more of, just mix a quarter or half teaspoon of turmeric with some warm water in a glass and add lemon juice if you prefer. I actually don’t mind the taste although it’s a face puller if you haven’t had it before.
My Yes Mum positive affirmation cards get used daily I keep them where I can see them and repeat the words every now and then throughout the day. Words are powerful and make an impression even though we may not realise it. Sometimes I catch myself picturing the cards in my head. If you or anyone needs a boost I definitely recommend these.
Puzzles and Adult Colouring in books
I usually walk past the books and magazine stands in stores but the other day I found myself purchasing a word search puzzle book. I complete a word search puzzle a day. I’m not clever enough for Sudoku puzzles, my mum on the other hand surprises me with her ability to conquer the killer ones..I don’t know how she does it. I think it definitely helps exercise this organ which we all have called the brain. Colour Yourself Calm Mandalas by Paul Heussenstamm is a mindfulness colouring book. The very act of colouring is calming, a soothing activity feels so similar to painting my nails which incidentally I’ve managed to grow naturally without anymore trips to the Nail Salon for fake nails! The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala represents wholeness. This is another mindfulness exercise which can help reduce stress levels.
Limit sugar intake
Sugar is a killer says my 75 year old dad and Diabetes does in fact scare me. There isn’t a history of diabetes in our family and yet I did have gestational diabetes while I was pregnant which threw me into a wave of panic but in some ways it was a good wake up call. I am much better at managing my sugar intake now. I study product labels perhaps a bit too much but if I feel it’s going to do more bad than good I won’t buy it. The basic rule I work by is that if there is more than 10g of sugar in 100g of the product I won’t eat it. I made the mistake of eating high sugar fruits during pregnancy which I think contributed to my condition then but we all have different insulin levels and it’s important to really be aware of the hidden sugar. I have also been caught out by some low fat products which actually have a lot of sugar. Best to take a moment and check the labels of the food you love eating just so that you’re aware.
Go to bed at the same time each night
Early to bed early to rise another saying that my dad thinks is good practice. Lack of sleep has been linked to a myriad of problems. I try and stick to 9.30pm even at the weekends. I set a daily alarm on my phone 8.30pm to remind me to start finishing up tasks and shut down the body shop. That way come 9.30pm I am physically in bed. I used to look at social media before bed but I am finding I sleep better when I am not looking at my phone screen. I definitely feel better and don’t yawn in the mornings like I used to with the sleepy eye look through not getting enough sleep. There are exceptions because children like to wake up and in turn wake you up. Thankfully the little man has been fine sleeping through the night without any fuss although I suspect it’ll change at some stage.
I have been a blood donor for 8 years now and feel strongly about helping others especially if it can help save a life. I know not everyone can donate blood which is a real shame as there is always a shortage of blood. I love the chats with strangers after the donation process when you get a cup of squash or a tea and choice of biscuits. This is a little post I wrote a while ago on the very subject.
So this is a bit of an experiment and no idea if I will still end up looking like a shrivelled up prune in my later years. I won’t be having plastic surgery that’s for sure. I drink this apparent elixir of youth each morning with the primary aim of improving skin tone. I’m not keen on the taste but I am prepared to give it a go and see if it will help slow down the ageing process. Forty isn’t old in the grand scheme of things but if I can help my skin with the help it needs especially in the winter months then why not.
Treat yourself to something new each month
In my days Pre-Motherhood I was a stickler for spending a lot of money on makeup and candles. So nothing much has changed then. But I definitely don’t buy things for myself as much as I used to that’s for sure. Most purchases I make revolve around Jay. While I am unable to walk past a department makeup counter without parting with my earned pennies I thought I would remind myself that it is okay to buy things for yourself with the caveat that you only buy if you can afford to and it won’t stress you out later.
Charlotte Tilbury Lipstick Kidman’s Kiss
Charlotte Tilbury Lip Gloss Port-to loo girl
Molton Brown Ambrusca Cleansing Shower oil which leaves the skin on your body feeling super soft and smelling wonderful.
Play with Jay
Life at the moment is making sure I have quality time with my little boy and getting to play with him. I am aware that one day he will be doing his own thing and after everything I have been through to become a mother, these years are short and I will be as silly as I can with him. He is angelic and not so angelic in equal measures as he approaches the threenager years. I tell him that I love him everyday but it’s even better when he says it to me. I do feel it’s important to tell the people we care about how special they are to us. Why leave it till it’s too late.
Digital detox phone and electronic devices
I know quite a few people who are ditching their Social Media profiles whether it be Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. I have been using it less as I do think it is an addiction of modern times. Social media isn’t necessarily think a bad thing but there is a time and place for everything. I’m so glad I grew up without social media when people actively arranged to meet in person and talk but I do feel that is now lost in many ways and we chat behind screens. My writing is awful, and yet I love receiving letters from two wonderful friends of mine called Geoff and Beryl in their late eighties with the most wonderful writing. I feel a little embarrassed sending letters with my writing but there is something special about putting pen to paper. I used to write to my brother when he first moved to the States. These days you are only a few feet away from someone using their phone. I know Mr M isn’t a fan of social media. I use it as part of my job and of course its nice to be able to connect with people but I am enjoying time away from the phone too.
So there you go an extensive list you could say but I am trying to make a conscious effort, I also know there are bound to be times when things don’t go to plan but accept that’s part of life’s tribulations and it’s okay not to be perfect. Please let me know what things you are also trying.
Try something new this month whether it’s eating a vegetable you’ve never tried before or calling someone you’ve not spoken to for ages. Anything but something.