Sunday, 30 June 2013

Small Steps #1: Fish Gloop

I am joining in with a new linky which is so relevant to us as a family - Small Steps Amazing Achievements at the Ethan's Escapades blog. As you may know Little Bird has autism (not officially diagnosed as yet)and sometimes it can be so hard when you see what other children of the same age can do. That's why it is so incredibly special when Little Bird makes steps forward achieving what may seem like small tasks but to us they are HUGE!

Little Bird playing with slime
LB's attention span has massively increased and his interest in playing with different items. I bought some green slime from a pound shop and we made a gloopy pond. Now usually he will not touch anything too sticky but he sat for such a long time playing with it and laughing a lot!
Play slime pond 
It was lovely to see him so engrossed in sliding the gloop between his fingers and splashing the toy animals in it. He also copies me much more now so when I tilted the bowl to slosh the water around, he then copied. This is MASSIVE to us that he will imitate so much more. I'm trying to teach him more play skills to improve on this further.
gloop tub 
LB has also taken to sitting in his Cozy Coupe car and moving around the lawn in it. Another huge achievement as this did not really interest him before. Nor did he move about in it and sit holding the steering wheel, moving it from side to side. Big steps in his play skills.
Playing in a toy car
Last week we started with an independent speech and language therapist (SALT) as we were not happy with him not having ANY speech therapy from the NHS at all since we entered the system when LB was 15 months old. He will have one going into school but we do not know how often etc. Plus they are overstretched and we simply couldn't rely on the system any longer. Then the feedback from his recent child development assessment said he showed no sign of being able to do PECS (picture exchange system). Humph to that as at home he points to pictures of what he wants for snack etc.... We had faith, we knew he'd do it given the right help. Within 1 week of seeing our new SALT, he is exchanging a card for the item he wants. Hooray!!
Toy fish
Finally, well this a biggy. A big fish shaped biggy. We bought him a puffer fish toy as he loves all animals and playing with them. Suddenly he said 'ish'. Then again and again. Got up the next morning and saw the toy - 'ish' Then saw a decorative fish in our garden....'ish'. On the phone to Nana....'ish'. So happy. It's he first proper word. 

We've had some great eye contact when a neighbour asked how he was. Eating apples, ice cream and cheese (never would touch them before).Having a go at painting. Sitting at the table for longer.  It's been a fantastic fortnight for Little Bird.

Ethans Escapades

Friday, 28 June 2013

Love Bug

umbelliferae Country walks with our dogs.
Tara constantly checks that me and Little Bird are still walking behind. My senior wolf.
Dog walk Sniff, sniff, many stops.
Dandelion clock Little Bird with his backpack to carry his drink and snacks. Lost in his own thoughts. Memorized by the greenery or the birds or the buzzy creatures or the clouds.....
Little Bird on his walk
Many paths to choose. We don't let Billy off his lead for fear he'd get run off and get distracted. He's such a scamp.
By the River Blossoms and cow parsley. Different grasses. Should take my Hubbard book - not the easiest of identification books but I loved it when I used to do botanical surveys. 
Alder leaf beetles. Amorous little creatures.

Alder Leaf Beetles Agelasticaalni lifecycle
They like eating leaves as much as bug passion.
dog walk
Still checking. 
At the duck pond. Billy takes a peek. Tight leash. 
Duck pond
I used to live nearby to here. A new housing estate. Sometimes I wish we all could move back as it's quiet and children play out. Expensive houses though for the size. Little Bird would like it here so it's something to consider for the future.
Wish the sun would come back!
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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Little Bird's Gardening Days

Moneysupermarket gardening starter kit
We were very lucky to receive a gorgeous gardening starter kit from MoneySupermarket for their #KidsGrowWild challenge with Britmums. A cute bag with gloves, watering can, fork, trowel and three packets of seeds. 
Little Bird loves the garden as it is such a sensory experience for him. He loves to feel all the different textures and investigating absolutely every part of the garden.
Happy boy in the garden
Recently I kept finding snails at the front of our summerhouse, only to realise that it is Little Bird collecting snails from around the garden like pieces of treasure. Lovely, slimy, swirly treasure. If any snails are on their side, he put them the right way up. Bless.
Muddy Shoes
Little Bird also loves to find small gaps and holes in the fence so he can peep through at the neighbour's gardens. Cheeky.
Watering can
He loves to help water the seedlings we had planted in our raised bed with his new shiny green watering can. They are all doing very well and not much snail damage - probably because he's relocated them all :)
Raised Bed
Little Bird's idea of gardening is to do lots of dead heading, particularly the purple chive flowers. I find pretty collections of flowers on the stepping stones. 
Picking chive flowers
 Chive Flower
The touch, smells and sounds of the garden make Little Bird very happy and I'm keen to encourage this and have him help out. He's still not in to digging as yet but we will get there. For now he is content with his botanical collections and mini creature studies :) 
Feeling plant textures
Swishy, swashy in the plants.
Garden Playing
His animals like to play in the garden too. Cow often likes to tromp through the greenery.
Animals in the garden
I think Little Bird's flower collections are like piece of art. In fact we used one for his latest preschool homework. 
I hope his interest continues so we can share our love of the garden and pretty flowers.
 photo 9c2e62ab-b977-41d0-8a77-14c9eda0a125_zpsc76beda6.jpg
This post is an entry for BritMums' #KidsGrowWild Challenge. For details please visit the MoneySupermarket website.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Mini Meatball Baguettes

Another foodie challenge came my way through Britmums who with Richmond Mini Meatballs are running the #Hungry2Happy Challenge - to prepare a quick meal using their new pork Mini Meatballs. When Little Bird gets hungry there is no waiting around and I like to be able to on some days prepare something quickly and easily. Richmond Mini Meatballs are ready in 8 minutes in the oven and I decided to make some mini meatball baguettes with them that both Little Bird and Daddy Bird would enjoy.

 Richmond Mini Meatballs 
pack of Richmond Mini Meatballs
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 a red pepper, diced
1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
3tbsp of sweetcorn
grated Mozzarella cheese (or Cheddar)
2tbsp vegetable oil
1tsp chilli powder
1tsp dried oregano
1tsp sugar
1/4tsp ground black pepper
1 small crusty baguette
Mini Meatball #Hungry2Happy Challenge
Cook the meatballs in the oven
Saute the onions, peppers, chilli and garlic in the oil for 2 minutes
Add the sweetcorn and the tinned chopped tomatoes
Add the sugar, chilli and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes
Add the mini meatballs to the sauce
Slice a small crusty baguette in  half and scoop out some of the bread to create a hollow and brush with a little vegetable oil
Place the meatball sauce into the hollow and top with cheese and oregano
Place into the oven for 5-10 minutes until crispy and browned

Total time to prepare and cook is no more than 25 minutes.

It was a lovely sunny evening and both boys in the household enjoyed the Mini Meatball Baguette sat on the garden bench. 

Mini Meatball Baguette
This post is an entry for BritMums' Hungry to Happy Challenge sponsored by Richmond Mini Meatballs 

Lightwater Valley Review - Little Bird goes to his first theme park!

Skyrider ride at Lightwater Valley
It was our lucky day when we were offered tickets to Lightwater Valley theme park in exchange for a review. I had never been before but have wanted to go since I was a teen. However, I'm not as brave now and won't go on roller coasters but Daddy Bird and the Junior Birds (8 and 12 years old) would. I was a little apprehensive about Little Bird as he has autism and can get anxious but it all worked out fine. 
 Angry Birds Activity Park
It was a beautiful sunny day for our trip and armed with a picnic we headed up to North Yorkshire, near Ripon to Lightwater Valley. Right near the entrance is the theme park's newest area - the Angry Birds Activity Park. Wow, it was superb! Absolutely spotlessly clean, helped by the no food policy in the play area and full of the most imaginative and amazing interactive play equipment. Big Angry Bird heads and benches are dotted around with lots of quirky details. Whirly slides, climbing walls, ropes, bridges and the dance zones which we loved. You can see that a lot of thought has gone into this play area and the attention to detail was well appreciated by the Angry Birds fan in our group. Safe too which is always my first worry with equipment and this had the most spongiest of surfaces. My Little Bird ran around with such a huge smile, not quite ready to attempt the equipment but loving investigating and noticing the numbers and colours on the floor. Junior Birds were straight up there climbing, crawling and sliding.
 Angry Birds Lightwater Valley play area
The Angry Birds play area will keep the kids entertained for a while and burn off some energy and stretch legs after a long drive. Gets everybody excited for all the rides in the theme park. 
Angry Birds  Carousel
There is also the Angry Birds Space Indoor Activity Centre - all in the dark with twinkling stars,a glowing moon and a small cafe area. This is for younger children which I didn't realise at the time. Little Bird had a go on the slides as it was a little quieter for him. We probably spent nearly an hour in Angry Birds before moving on to the rest of the park.
Angry Birds Space Indoor Actvity Centre
The rides at Lightwater are split into three categories - Mini Adventures for those under 1m and Mega and Ultimate Adventures for above this, although each ride may have further height restrictions or that an adult must ride too. Junior Birds were keen to show how brave they were except we had a few changes of mind at the last minute.
Carousel Horses
The Eagle's Claw was braved by Daddy Bird and Bird (12). Slightly green after this ride. Perfect for thrill seekers. It did have a slight mechanical fault whilst they were queuing which extended the wait a little but the queue was not big at all and it was soon fixed.
Eagle's Claw Scary Ride When you are too little for a scary ride
The theme park is great for all ages, there are enough rides to suit everyone. Little Bird was very happy to run around whilst the boys went onto the roller coasters and older rides. We did try and take Little Bird on one of the new attractions- Eagles Creek Farm, a tractor ride around a farmyard with real animals. We thought this would be a great introduction to rides for our 3 year old. Unfortunately the attendant said that children must sit in the front of the tractor at the steering wheel and parents must sit in the back.  There was absolutely no way that this would happen as he'd want to sit with one of us for security or else he'd be climbing out with anxiety. Bit of a shame really as he would have enjoyed seeing the animals. We were stuck then at the front of the queue behind a fence and nobody helped us out of the ride which was very awkward with a now screaming Little Bird. Fortunately a walk to the next area of the park dried the tears and we were ready again.
Angry Birds Balloons
The grounds at Lightwater are stunningly beautiful and there is a lovely area by the Swan Boat lake to picnic on whilst watching the rides around you. When looking for cold drinks there were lots of vending machines or kiosks around and plenty of food options if you don't take a picnic. 
 Wild River Rapids
The boys all went and got soaked on the Wild River Rapids - I think this was their favourite. The queue was definitely the longest as you would expect on a hot, sunny day and this also broke down. I think we were unlucky that day, perhaps rides suffer in the heat too as 4 of our rides had issues. However, it is good to see that safety is so important and problems were soon sorted out.
Wiggle Wire
There are different areas around the park with several rides and activities grouped together. This is good so you can pick the shortest queue at a glance or if your group splits as we did so Dad and Junior Bird (12) could go on the scary rides, the rest of you can seek another activity or grab a drink. There's lots going on and being in my opinion a medium sized theme park attraction-wise, it is a bit more personable and easy to get around that others I have been to. I liked attractions such as the Falconry as purely roller coasters and big rides overwhelm me. It's more pleasurable to have breaks in between thrill rides to relax especially if you have younger children in the family. Themed areas like Skeleton Cove with its pirates provide an exciting setting for rides and just sitting and watching too as I did with Little Bird. 
Whirlwind ride at Lightwater Valley
A great coaster, The Ultimate that goes on for ages - 1.5 miles to be exact. Another one for the brave is the Whirlwind, upside down and round and round - not for me these days. Anybody else like this? I was so brave when I was younger and now a complete wimp! 
 The Ultimate roller coaster
Another great mini attraction were the Skate Karts, the boys kept returning to this whilst we sat on a grassy area for a relax. It's hard work when you are the picnic bag holder, pushchair keeper, coat and drinks holder.   
Skate-Karts The Twister
There are about 30 rides and we did not get around them all. I'm sure an older party without pushchairs etc would do as the queues are really not too bad and you can get on most rides almost straight away. I have in the past elsewhere, experienced waiting for over an hour for a ride so it was pleasing that the boys got on everything they had the nerve for. I'd say this factor alone makes it worth the entrance fee. Everybody will go home happy that they got on their chosen rides.
Swan Boats on the lake
Lots of fairground type games and arcades. A swan boat ride to chill out after lunch perhaps.Truly gorgeous scenery especially from up in the nature area .It's a large park so it doesn't feel busy or congested as you walk around but your feet might ache at the end of the day :)
Little Bird loved the areas with the smaller, gentle rides such as Noah's Ark. There is plenty for younger kids to keep them amused and absolutely no waiting to get on. He was not upset apart from the earlier mentioned queue leaving episode so I was very pleased that he had taken a reasonably busy environment in his stride.
Small rides at Lightwater Valley
Such a pretty park and I could have gone snap happy all day. 
Clown-A-Round Trauma Tower
Great views of the extensive grounds from the lofty rides. 
Lightwater-Wheel Kiosk
Nestled at one side of the park amongst the trees and the wild flowers is The Caterpillar. We couldn't resist it's goofy grin and hung around here for a while, walking through the beautiful grassy meadows and wooded areas. This was a nice end to the day, a chance to unwind before heading back to the car. On the way back to the car park there are even some cute little shops and a crazy golf so it really is a full day to visit here. 
Caterpillar Coaster
We were very very happy with our visit and it was great for Little Bird to experience a theme park. For good all round entertainment, clean, beautiful landscapes and enough rides to keep the whole family happy, Lightwater Valley is a fantastic day out. I particularly loved the nature areas and the lake with the train running alongside. I'd like to return again as Little Bird gets older and perhaps go in the autumn when the park becomes Frightwater Valley for Halloween.
The Lightwater Valley website has videos where you can view the rides in action and has lots of information to enable you to plan your visit.  
Lightwater Valley
Little Bird fell asleep on the way back to the car and the two older boys were soon nodding off on the journey home. A fab day out.
Tired Out Boy
{ I was sent Lightwater Valley tickets for a family group for the purposes of the review but all the words and pictures are my own honest experience and thoughts on the visit}