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  • Finding the Right Childcare

    This is a sponsored post with

    After deciding not to return to work after my maternity leave, I enjoyed a wonderful twenty months at home with Pickle before I threw myself back into the world of office work. It came about a little unexpectedly… I wasn’t particularly job-hunting, but just happened to spot a job I quite liked the sound of and it felt like the right time to try something new. Before I knew it, the job was mine and all of a sudden, I had just a few weeks to find a childcare option we were happy with. With a lot of mixed feelings and totally clueless as to where to start, I opened up and the search began. read more

    Parenting, Reviews
    / March 4, 2019
  • How We Deal with our Toddler Biting

    Our toddler is a biter. And dealing with biting is emotional. It’s by far the thing I’ve tried to Google the answer to the most as a parent (yes, even more than how-to-get-your-child-to-sleep). And whilst I can’t say we’ve found the magic solution (Pickle still does sometimes bite), I wanted to share how we’ve chosen to deal with it in case it’s useful for anyone else, and to help combat some of the feelings of isolation that come with being the parent of a biter.

    I feel I need to preface this post with a massive disclaimer: I am not, in any way, claiming I have the answer to toddler biting. I’m not even sure sometimes if what we’re doing is enough, or right (a word I think has no place being connected to parenting: we all do what we think is best, there is no right way), but it’s what we’ve decided is our current strategy. I am not a child psychologist. I am not a medical professional. I am a parent. And I’m doing what I think is best for us.

    So, what are we doing about his biting? It’s a multi-pronged prevention and reaction plan, that we’ve put together in consultation with his nursery. At the moment, I’m happy with how we’re trying to deal with it (although, ask me after he’s just bitten someone and I might tell you different).

    Analysing the biting behaviour

    To start with, we started to look at the pattern of his biting. We looked at the times of day it happened, the location of bites (e.g. at home, at the park, at nursery), his emotional state at the time of biting and his diet. We wanted to see if there were any clear signs that pointed to situations that made biting more likely, so that we could help prevent those as much as possible.

    The first thing that was clear is that his biting is periodical. It goes through phases. He’s not a regular offender, day in and day out, but rather he goes through a week-long patch or a fortnight where there’s a high number of biting incidents, and then it goes quiet for a few weeks. And those periods? Tend to coincide with the times we think he’s been teething. His nursery had the same train of thought, and were very reassuring when I went in for a meeting with him to discuss his biting, letting us know that they didn’t think it was a behavioural issue, but more an unfortunate result of teething pain.

    That said, we also noticed other contributing factors. He’s much more likely to bite in any heightened situations (both with positive and negative emotions attached – he wasn’t just biting if he was overcome with frustration or scared, he’d also bite if he was really excited or couldn’t contain a feeling of joy). We also noticed he’d be more bite-y if he was tired (either before nap time, before bed time or if he’d not woken up on his own accord), and if he’d eaten rubbish food – sugar and E-numbers are not conducive to a well behaved toddler!


    Once we’d identified the possible triggers for biting, it’s been relatively simple to put some actions in place to reduce the likelihood of those things happening. Now, we can’t prevent teething from happening, but we can try and eliminate some of the pain and frustration that comes with it. We’ve started using Ashton and Parsons teething granules (using a sachet in the morning) if we think he’s going through a teething phase, and given nursery permission to give Pickle a dose of Calpol if they suspect he is suffering from teething pain. We also pack him off to nursery with two different teething toys: a Matchstick Monkey and a green Fisher-Price alligator.

    There’s not much we can do to prevent Pickle experienced heightened emotions, but I am more aware of these situations, and know to watch him like a hawk when he’s getting hyped up. This tends to happen if he’s in a large group of children, getting over excited about a fun toy or activity or when there’s some kind of ownership battle. Intervening early can definitely help: I can swoop in and help solve any toddler disputes (usually by offering some form of distraction, or suggesting the toddlers come to a good sharing arrangement), or if things are getting a bit too excited and squealy, sometimes offering a drink or a snack can help restore some calm.

    Although at home we always let Pickle wake up naturally from a nap, the schedule at nursery means sleeping children are woken up at 2.30pm but we’ve agreed that we’re happy for him to be left to wake up on his own. After trialing that at nursery, they found his behaviour was so much better if he hadn’t been woken and although that might mean bedtime at home becomes a bit more of a challenge, it’s a price I’m willing to pay if it means fewer biting or hitting instances!

    We’re also much more aware of what he’s eating, and have started curbing those little sweet treats that had started as a one-off-treat and soon accidentally became more regular. We’ve swapped out some of the higher sugar content treats and replaced them with savoury alternatives or treats that have naturally occurring sugar like fruit. Luckily, Pickle is a pretty good eater and so this hasn’t caused too many problems as he’s quite happy eating a wide range of food but a good rule of thumb: if he can’t see it, he won’t want it.

    After his first biting incident at nursery, I hurried over to Amazon and bought a book that was highly recommended: Teeth are not for Biting. Annoyingly, it’s often a book that gets shoved under the sofa or dropped down the back of the bed so it hasn’t gotten read as much as I’d like as we keep temporarily losing it, but repeating the phrases in the book: Ouch, biting hurts. Teeth are not for biting helps to reinforce the message to Pickle even if we haven’t got the book to hand.


    The hardest thing to pin down and decide upon, is how we react after a biting incident. Now that we’ve put all of these preventions in place, hopefully, biting incidents will continue to decrease in frequency but they still need dealing with.

    There is such a huge range of advice when it comes to reacting to your child biting, which different strategies to suit different styles of parenting. But this is what sits best with us, although sometimes it’s easier said than done.

    1. Comfort the bitten child

    Whenever I’m out and about with Pickle, I’m always on bite-watch. I’m never far away from him, and I’m constantly poised to react (which I wish wasn’t the case… but it’s definitely needed at the moment) so as soon as a biting incident occurs, I’m usually the first adult on the scene. Straight away, I offer comfort to the child that has been bitten. Mainly, that’s just instinct, isn’t it? You see a child that’s hurt, and you offer them some comfort. But I also do it to teach Pickle empathy. He looks to us, his primary caregivers, for the instructions on how to behave, and seeing how we react to others being sad, hurt or upset is so important.

    It also gives me a chance to assess how bad the bite is. And I’ve seen a wide range! Sometimes, Pickle will just nip at clothing and barely leave a mark, and on occasion, he’s really sunk his teeth in. It’s absolutely heart-breaking to see another child in pain because of your little one, but knowing how bad it is means we can make sure the child gets the right treatment – which sometimes means finding a cold compress and always means lots of cuddles and reassurance.

    2. Calm Pickle Down

    We know that most bites occur when Pickle is hyped up about something – either he’s gotten frustrated, angry or is just really excited. As soon as the bitten child is safe in the arms of their parent or guardian, it’s time for me to focus on calming Pickle down. Depending on the situation, this could mean taking him out of the room, or to somewhere quieter, but if it’s appropriate and suitable for stay nearby, that is usually my preference as it makes the next bit much easier.

    In an ideal world, it’s now that I’d talk to Pickle about what has happened. I ask him lots of questions to try and get him to process the events and realise the effect. I always make sure I can make level eye contact with him during this, usually either sitting him on a chair with me kneeling in front, or sat on the floor together.

    My questions are currently prescribed by Pickle’s relative lack of vocabulary, but tend to be something like:

    • Shall we have a think about what just happened?
    • Did you bite him/her?
    • Did it hurt?
    • Are they really sad now? Can you hear how upset they are?
    • What should we do now?
    • Do you think we should say sorry?
    • Shall we give a sorry hug?

    Once his speaking improves, I’ll start to ask more open questions but for now – sticking to things he can answer yes or no to seems to be working quite well. If we are near the child who’s been bitten, it helps him to understand the effects, and seeing the other child in distress sometimes makes it quicker to get to the point in the conversation when he’s ready to apologise.

    Although sometimes my emotions get the better of me (in a flurry of embarrassment and shock), I don’t think it’s best to tell him off. Shouting and raising my voice will only keep him in his heightened state of emotion, and just run the risk of further biting. I want him to know I’m serious, but I’m not sure him thinking I’m angry will make the situation any better.

    3. Apologising

    The final stage of our reaction is the apology. Once Pickle is ready (by which I mean he’s calm and wanting to), I go over with him to say sorry to the child he’s bitten. He can’t quite say sorry yet, so his apology comes in the form of a hug – which I’m happy to say, no child has refused so far.

    It’s important that he wants to give the apology and it’s his decision to go over. Although I strongly encourage him to do so, I’ve learned from experience that trying to make him say sorry when he’s still hyped up or not ready can actually just result in more biting. If he’s showing no signs of calming down, that’s when I’d instead make the decision to go home (if we’re not at home already) to prevent the risk of further incidents.

    On the whole, he is good with it. If he’s calmed down and chatted to me, he understands that he needs to say sorry, and sometimes he’ll kiss the spot where he’s bitten too (which is always a little bit of a nerve-wracking moment!).

    It Doesn’t Always Work

    It’s all very well writing out how we aim to deal with biting, but I have to confess that it doesn’t always go to plan. Sometimes I let my own emotions get the better of me, and I struggle to keep my cool, letting my embarrassment show as anger. It’s easy to do, but it doesn’t help the situation. If Pickle can tell I’m hyped up, he’ll stay hyped up and we’ll just keep each other in a heightened state that ends with us both usually in tears.

    Some days, I have more patience than others. And some days, I feel more of a social pressure to act or behave in a certain why. Although this is how we’ve chosen to deal with biting, I know that it’s not how all parents would chose to react. Ordinarily, I try not to let the opinions of others influence me, but there are definitely times when that’s easier said than done. All we can do, is try and keep as consistent in our approach as we can, when we can.

    Should you Bite Your Child Back?

    I cannot tell you how many times heard people telling me I should just bite Pickle back. I’ve heard story after story: I bit my toddler back, and you know what? He never bit me again. It’s by far the most common piece of advice I get told when I tell others Pickle is a biter. Trust me, I know it sounds cruel, but it works. Once they know it hurts, they know not to do it again.

    Although I’d love to believe that there’s a quick fix to biting (and trust me, I’ve been tempted at times!), I’m a strong believer in modeling the behaviour you’d like to see in your child. How on earth can I tell him not to bite if I’m doing it myself? I’d be undermining my own authority. Besides, I think the reasons for biting are less cognitive than that, and knowing if it hurts or not isn’t necessarily going to be enough to suppress the biting instinct when it arises.

    I make this point not to shame or call out those who do (because, this is advice I’ve received from mothers who I absolutely adore, respect and admire for all sorts of reasons, including my own mother!) but because I think it’s important for other parents, who feel like me, know that they aren’t alone, and to reassure that alternative approaches are an option, and that they do work.

    Is it working?

    Well, at the moment, I have to say yes. Despite a lot of recent upheaval in Pickle’s life (a recent house move) giving cause for a higher risk of feeling unsettled and emotional, we’ve had a really good run of very few biting incidents. In fact, in the last month, I can only think of one occasion when we’ve had a report of biting at nursery.

    I’m not naive enough to think we’ve ‘cracked’ it, and I’m sure we’ll have some more biting phases in the future (especially as his back molars are still yet to come through), but I think our approach is helping. And for the time being, I’m happy to stick to it until that changes.

    Aged 2+, Parenting
    / September 26, 2018
  • Getting a little bit messy with DoddleArt box supplies from Doddlebags

    Painting with the DoddleArt Box

    Initially, I was nervous about sending Pickle to Nursery. I was worried he’d be confused by it all. I was worried they wouldn’t care for him in the same way I would. And I was worried it wouldn’t be worth the money. But I needn’t have worried – Pickle absolutely loves it there. In fact, most nights he doesn’t want to come home. He gets to play all day long with his friends, he loves eating with them all at the little table and they spend lots of time outside – which is always his favourite way to spend time. And they also do lots of crafts.

    Crafting with Toddlers

    Pickle loves it: he paints, he glues, he sticks, he draws, he bakes, he decorates… they make super cute cards that have handprints or footprints on and it means I have those lovely little toes imprinted forever without having to contend with the mess myself. I know these are the things I should be doing more with him. But we all know what it’s like, don’t we? The thought of the post-activity clean up operation is enough to make you think twice! The risk of adding further to the stains on the carpet is too high. What I initially think is going to be a lovely, cute little bonding activity just turns out to be a right stress fest.

    It all means that when I was contacted by Doddlebags to try out their products, I jumped at the chance. They make reusable pouches that can be used for a variety of things from weaning purees to yoghurt (like above), from washing up liquid for your camping trip to salad dressing for your lunch at work. Me? I wanted to use them for painting, and so received a DoddleArt box which gave us all the supplies we needed to have many fun filled afternoons of creative fun.

    The DoddleArt box from DoddleBags

    The DoddleArt box contains:

    • 1 x reusable cardboard satchel
    • 1 x DoddleBrush pack (4 x 100 ml DoddleBags, 4 anti-choke caps, 4 colourful stickers and 4 screw-on brushes)
    • 4 x colour powder paints (white, yellow, red, blue)
    • 1 x DoddleSticker pack (10 DoddleStickers)
    • 1 x kid’s apron
    • 1 x white canvas

    Getting Started

    I popped down our Messy Me mat (which I’m still absolutely loving, by the way), and set about trying to mix up the paint. I found it quite difficult to know how much paint powder and water to mix together – there was a lot of trial and error going on, particularly as I kept making the paint far too runny. Which probably says more about my instincts to use things sparingly to make them last longer… but in hindsight, I’d recommend using the powder liberally.

    The DoddleArt box comes with four paint colours (red, blue, yellow and white), but obviously you can mix these up to make pretty much any colour you like! I went for a yellow, red, orange and purple.

    How do they work?

    The bags work by having a sealable zip at the top (so you can open the full pouch for easy pouring or spooning in), and a spout on the side. For food substances, there’s a spoon attachment you can screw on to the spout, but for painting? You can use the brush attachment.

    Pickle didn’t waste any time getting stuck in – he knew what to do and immediately starting painting. In the first instance, I definitely made the paint too runny, and as I’d placed his paper on a slanting surface, the very liquidy paint just ran down the page and made a little puddle on our Messy Me mat – thank goodness we’ve got it! What’s good about the pouches is that once I knew the paint needed to be thicker, it was really easy to open up the seal and tip some more paint powder in. Just remember to unscrew the brush first and replace with the normal cap otherwise you could end up with paint everywhere!

    Once I’d let him test all the colours out, I let him go to town on the canvas. I love the idea of letting your children paint on canvas – the sheets of paper just end up going scrappy and horrible in the end, don’t they? But a canvas is a great way to keep their artwork pristine and beautiful.

    As you can see here, by the end, I actually just unscrewed the brushes and let him use those. They were already really saturated with paint, so he didn’t need anymore and it meant my runnier paint didn’t end up getting sploshed everywhere.

    Was it really mess free?

    In all honesty, it wasn’t as mess free as I had envisioned – but it was definitely easier than having pots of water and paint lying around ready for spillages and knocks. And Pickle had a whale of a time. I’ve popped his little canvas on our mantel piece in the lounge, and I’m so proud of his little creation.

    If you’re interesting in knowing more about Doddlebags, and their DoddleArt box in particular, you can find more about them at the Doddlebags website. The DoddleArt box costs £29.99, with all the pouches and brushes being reusable. I’ve also just spotted there’s a new product available: a DoddleNozzle set for baking! SUCH a good idea.

    Disclaimer: we were sent the DoddleArt box from DoddleBags in order to do this review. We weren’t paid for our time, and all opinions, views and content ideas remain my own. 

    18-24 Months, Crafts, Parenting, Reviews
    / July 1, 2018
  • Pickle playing in the park with a sun hat on

    Dear Pickle: Your First Parents’ Evening

    Dear Pickle,

    Oh, my baby boy. We are so very proud of you. This month, we had your first ever Parents’ Evening at Nursery and I don’t know why, but I was quite nervous beforehand. You see, it’s difficult to know how you’re doing, developmentally. I’m not a toddler expert. I don’t know what’s normal at your age. It’s difficult to know if you should be doing more. Saying more. Communicating better. Or whether you’re doing exactly what’s expected of you.

    I don’t want to compare you to your friends, as all children are different! Some of your friends are incredible talkers – they can properly hold a conversation and make up their own lyrics to songs. Some of your friends are amazing physically – they can kick balls with precision, have brilliant throwing arms and are fearless climbers on the park. Some of your friends show incredible empathy for others! They are kind and really socially confident. You and your friends are all so unique and wonderful, each in your own way, each with your own strengths… how could I possibly compare? You all excel in different things, but does that mean I should worry if you seem ‘behind’ in certain areas? Should I be worried that you don’t sing nursery rhymes or tell me when you’ve got a dirty nappy?

    I like to think we do lots of enriching activities with you, but how do I know if I’m doing enough? Or doing the right things? Although we go on nice trips out and enjoy time in the park, we are a bit of a CBeebies family. Is that okay? Are we doing all we could to help you develop the way you should be? It’s so hard to know.

    I wanted to know from Nursery what they thought. They see children come and go all the time. They know all about the Early Years Foundation Stage. They know where you should be at, so your first Parents’ Evening is a big deal to me. But I needn’t have worried that much. I was blown away by their feedback.

    They split their report into different areas, covering all aspects of your development. It covered all the Early Learning Goals: communication and language, physical development, personal, social and emotional development, literacy, mathematics, understanding the world and expressive arts and design. Your key worker gave you a development band for each. I was beaming with pride when she told us that you were either bang on where you should be, or even a little ahead. There was one area you are struggling with: managing feelings and behaviours. But don’t worry, baby boy. I’m on it! I’m going to do some research, and see what we can do to help you here.

    You know what? You’re just doing so well. I can’t believe how well! And I am so proud of you. I always want you to know that. Your very first Parents’ Evening and it was wonderful. Keep doing what you’re doing, little one. Keep learning through play. Stay curious. Be adventurous.

    But maybe stop trying to hit people, yeah?

    Dear Pickle, Parenting
    / May 22, 2018
  • Pickle walking off into the distance wearing his rucksack and carrying Monkey

    What hasn’t Nursery been telling me?

    I was left in tears this week after a phone call from Nursery. It was about 3pm in the afternoon, and I could feel my adrenaline spiking when I saw the Caller ID display – what had happened? Was Pickle okay? I must have sounded slightly panicked when I answered as the first thing the Nursery Manager said was “Don’t worry, everything’s fine. I just wanted to have a quick chat.”

    Let me set the scene. Pickle has only been going to nursery since the beginning of February. He’s not yet had two full months there. It’s still all a bit new to him (and me), and although he’s been seemingly fine and happy to be left at nursery three days a week, it must still be a bit strange to him. He’ll be two years old soon, and he seems to be getting more grown up by the minute. He likes the routine of nursery – he likes getting out of the car, putting his coat on and his woolly hat, carrying his rucksack and holding my hand as we cross the car park and head into his nursery. He smiles at the staff on the door, he climbs the stairs, points to his peg for his coat and happily enters his room, excited and ready for breakfast. Today, he even ran straight up to his key worker and gave her a cuddle. He doesn’t even need me to ask for a kiss goodbye now – he offers me a kiss, gives me a wave and I watch him sit down nicely, waiting patiently for his bowl of cereal. He’s never once cried that I’ve left him.

    At the end of the day, I love hearing what he’s been up to. The staff give me a run down of what he’s been up to, what he’s eaten and when he’s had his nappy changed. Pickle sits on my lap, with his arms around my neck as they tell me what he’s played with, or what skills he’s been practicing. I praise him for eating all of his dinner, and marvel at his paintings or hand-decorated chocolates. He likes putting his coat back on, his hat, and wearing his bag, and he happily toddles over to the car with me – always pointing out which one is ours, and I always chuckle at how excited he gets about seeing the car! It’s lovely. This is what I see of him at nursery. This is all I know. For what I’ve seen, and what I’ve been told, he seems to be doing really well. I’m proud of him.

    So to get a phone call out of the blue to tell me that they’ve tried him in a different room to help tackle his ‘behaviour’ completely threw me. Sorry? What behaviour? Why is this the first I’m hearing of it? I was too shell-shocked and aware of being on the phone in the office to think about probing further and just decided to ask more questions when I picked him up instead… but it meant a whole two hours at work, worrying and speculating as to what could be the issue. Before I knew it, tears were rolling down my cheeks and I felt like I’d been completely left out of the loop. Maybe he wasn’t getting on as well as I had thought? What was he doing that was so problematic? Why hadn’t they told about it sooner and how bad was it? I feared him being labelled as ‘the naughty one’ and treated differently. I worried other parents had complained. I questioned my own parenting decisions and wondered whether I hadn’t prepared him enough for this change?

    But above all, I felt silly. I had just assumed his nursery workers would fall in love with him, our little charming boy. I thought he’d be the kind, sweet, generous soul I see him being at home. I thought he’d make tons of new friends, and be a good role model to others. But maybe I’ve been blinded by mother’s bias, and maybe he’s not any of these things? How had I got the measure of him so wrong?

    I shot out of work as quick as I could at 5pm. I practically ran to my car as even though I was so anxious for the conversation that awaited me, I was desperate to know what was going on. I needed to know. I entered his new room, and there he was. My little man. Picking up the toy cars and putting them away in their basket. He beamed at me, showed me the cars and looked the picture of youthful innocence.

    I was told: “He’s been much better down here – don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a few problems with him – but he’s been a lot better.” I blurted out that I didn’t even know there had been a problem. No one’s told me anything. What exactly has he been doing?

    Throwing. Apparently, throwing has been the problem. He’s been throwing stuff. I didn’t ask for details, but I wish I had (and I need to be more assertive next time to get the full story). I want to know what kinds of things he’s been throwing? Has he been throwing stuff at other children? Has he hurt someone? How long has this been happening? Is there a particular time of day when the behaviour is worse? Is this common? But mainly: WHY didn’t anyone tell me? Is there not a procedure in place for reporting this kind of thing?

    On the one hand, I trust the nursery. I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving Pickle there if I didn’t… but on the other hand, I can’t help but wonder what else they haven’t been telling me? I feel paranoid about it. This happened on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Pickle was sent home for a suspected stomach bug and possible chicken pox. I was told he’d done such a watery nappy that it went all up his back. I was told they’d noticed spots on him whilst changing, including a ‘big one’ on his leg. “It might not be anything to worry about, but we have had three other confirmed cases of chicken pox this morning.”

    But… it didn’t dawn on me until I’d hurriedly shut down my work computer, left an apology note for my line manager, picked him up and brought him home… that he was wearing the same clothes I’d dropped him off in. They were clean. Surely an explosive nappy of such proportions they were telling me of would have necessitated an outfit change? They told me the poo went all the way up his back. Why didn’t it dirty his vest? Surely the poo would have gone everywhere? I stripped him off at home, to see what spots I needed to keep an eye on… and didn’t find a single one. Not even the ‘big one’ on his leg. Had they vanished already in the space of half an hour?

    I’m left feeling like I’m not getting the whole story. That there’s something else at play here that I’m not aware of. I’m reminded of a latin phrase used in The West Wing: post hoc ergo propter hoc. After, therefore, because of it. The assumption that because things happen in sequence, they must be connected. Cause and effect. Maybe this episode of sickness today has nothing to do with the behaviour revelation of yesterday. But what if it does? What if a bit of a loose nappy was a good enough excuse to not have to deal with him today? Or tomorrow.

    I guess we’ll just enjoy an extra couple of days at home with Pickle, and keep our fingers crossed that Wednesday’s phone call was nothing more than the nursery being overly cautious at a time when there’s lots of bugs going around. But it’s a lesson for me in being more assertive and demanding with nursery. I need to ask the important questions. I need to know what’s going on.

    A much needed postscript: 

    I’m writing this as an addition to the emotional, hormonal train of thoughts above. Turns out, there was a very biological reason behind my over-reaction to the phone call from nursery: after twenty two months of breastfeeding, Mother Nature has finally caught up with me and I’m back to the normality of having a monthly cycle. My periods are back, my friends, along with the fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone that means my mood is all over the place. Joy. More roller coasters here than at Drayton Manor.

    Even though Pickle didn’t return to nursery today, I spoke to the manager on the phone to clear a few things up. It turns out I was perhaps reading between the lines a little too much and imagining the worst when in fact:

    • they didn’t move him into the new room because he was naughty – they moved him because they realised he was noticeably older and more physical than the other children in his old room
    • if there was a concern over his behaviour, they would communicate that with me and call us in for a meeting to discuss an action plan to tackle it
    • they are always happy to discuss a child’s behaviour (whether that’s problems in nursery or at home) and are happy to offer advice where they can
    • as he didn’t have the stomach bug as suspected, we could have taken him into nursery today as usual

    So I completely made a mountain out of a molehill. I suspect this won’t be the only and last time I do this. Parenting with PMS. This is a whole new ball game.

    / March 30, 2018