Should I stop my children fighting with each other?

siblings

When Milin and Jasmin fight there’s hair pulling, foot kicking, pinching, scratching, hitting, yanking – they don’t hold back. My instinct is to intervene and pull them apart. I don’t want them to get hurt, obviously. But there’s another part of me which urges me to keep my distance.

I’m not really sure what I’m meant to do when my children set upon each other with every intention of reclaiming the precious toy that’s just been taken from them. (This is the root cause of 99% of inter-sibling domestic violence in our house.) Perhaps I should stop them from fighting with each other – or perhaps I should let them work out for themselves that they’re big enough and strong enough to really hurt each other. And one day when they do, they won’t like it at all.

Milin and Jasmin adore each other. They are constantly looking out for each other, checking up on each other, playing together and plotting together. Only 18 months apart, they are best friends.

But, maybe because they’re so very close, they fight like only brother and sister can.

The fighting doesn’t happen often. Usually there’s little squabbles over prized possessions – these tiffs are pretty regular. But from time to time, they really set upon each other with sheer determination to reclaim the only motorized Thomas whose batteries still work, or the book Daddy was half way through reading to Milin before Jasmin decided to grab it and accidentally rip a page out…

At their young ages (3 and 1), they have no concept of their strength or their power. They have no understanding of their ability to cause pain. They aren’t practised fighters, they haven’t even really experienced pain themselves enough to have an awareness of what they are doing.

Their fights, I guess, are a very natural reaction, an instinct, an action launched into without much thought. I don’t believe their behaviour is learnt. They haven’t witnessed anything like this at home. I sure as hell hope Milin hasn’t seen anything like it at nursery. They’re simply fighting to keep their toys against the competition for them. And once that has been done, they can get on with the really important act of playing.

This new phase – which I know will become only more physical and will continue for years – has reminded me that there is no manual to raising your own children. Just as they are following their instincts, so much I.

So, do I separate them while they try to dig their nails into each other’s arms? Do I pull them apart so they don’t pull out chunks of skin from their beloved sibling’s tummy? Or do I leave them to it?

By leaving them to it, I trust the children to learn from their actions. I trust them to renegotiate boundaries, to learn empathy, sympathy, and restraint. Are they too young? At one and three I’m not sure.

siblings fighting

I want Milin and Jasmin to learn boundaries through play. I want them to explore, to experience, to negotiate. I want them to feel pain, to know hurt, and also to know compassion and empathy.

There’s a delicate balance to be found when it comes to stepping between them. In my head, I’m the calm interventionist, only there when boundaries are close to being crossed. In reality I jump in faster than I would like – well before the littles have a chance to step back themselves. I would like to give them more space to learn through their actions. But I need to trust them first. I need to have faith that the goodness of their innocent hearts will stop them in time from crossing the line between play and pain. I need to give them the space to feel and learn. Why do I find it so hard? Because it means that I am letting them go in the world a little on their own without me.

It’s time for me to step back and watch them work out their own boundaries. It’s time for me to let them see and hear and do and hurt and feel. There will be tears, but there will also be lessons learnt through living.

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Will women really lose the ability to birth naturally?

We have, from the beginning, given birth. As women, our powerful bodies have made us mothers. We have cradled our newborns, we have breathed in their brand-new skin and held them to our hearts.

Yet apparently our ability to continue to give birth ‘naturally’, in the way we have done for centuries, is at risk. The broadsheets and the tabloids have carried the same message over the last few days, they have picked up the warnings of French doctor Michel Odent.

In his new book Do We Need Midwives? the 84-year-old obstetrician and childbirth specialist has argued that the over-medicalisation of childbirth will, in the future, put women at risk of being unable to give birth without intervention.

The controversial comments have of course generated a large amount of publicity for Mr Odent’s book. This is despite the fact that many of the ideas that have been written about have been voiced before by Mr Odent in interviews, written work and public talks.

Still, it seems we’re eager to help him make his points again. Here’s how The Telegraph described his arguments:

Mr Odent pointed to evidence that women are taking longer in labour than 50 years ago, with huge numbers of pregnant women provided with drugs and surgery in labour.The medic cited research showing that women giving birth between 2002 and 2008 took two and a half hours longer in the first stage of labour than those who gave birth between 1959 and 1966.
“To me it demonstrates the obvious – that women are losing the capacity to give birth,” he said. “That is the primary phenomenon . . . the number of women who give birth to babies naturally is becoming insignificant.”

Mr Odent criticises high caesarean rates and the use of synthetic oxytocin during labour – saying we will evolve to no longer produce it. Given its role in breastfeeding, the implications reach wider than birth.

I’m not surprised by how widely this story has been picked up – even though it rehashes a lot of old ground. Mr Odent’s arguments are perfect fodder for headline writers, and his words even seem to be pointing towards a complete failing in human nature. He is talking about more than a change in women’s bodies over time – he is drawing a future where the very fundamental first step of our existence, our birth, is going to alter.

Over-medicalisation is a popular scapegoat for rising intervention rates, but much of the news reporting of Mr Odent’s comments also point to a fault among mothers themselves.

While over-medicalisation is held up to blame, the subtext is that women are choosing to have births which are no longer ‘natural.’ Of course this is rubbish – the act of giving birth will always be natural – whether a baby is born vaginally or through caesarean section, there is nothing more natural than a mother giving life to a child.

Yet, as is so often the case with news items on intervention rates, we’re forced to wonder whether the numbers keep going up because of the choices women are making. Is it our fault, we wonder, that we can’t give birth naturally anymore?

The stories this weekend have perpetuated the myth of growing numbers of women who are ‘too posh to push’. They have done so through their hardly hidden blame which falls in two directions. The medical profession has gone too far on its journey to eradicate the risks of childbirth, and, meanwhile, women have chosen to have that risk taken away to such an extent that they have lost control of their bodies.

In reality, very few first-time mothers have purely elective c-sections. Those that do have their reasons – and I imagine many are terrified of giving birth because the way it gets talked about makes it sound like the most horrifying thing we will ever do.

What we should be talking about, instead though, is why the way we give birth has changed.

We are older, we are heavier, our lives have changed and we are growing up apart from the knowledge of the villages and communities that raised us.

Infant and maternal mortality rates have dropped dramatically since the growing use of intervention during birth. The biggest paradox for me in Mr Odent’s comments is this. Because surely the increased use of intervention is a good thing when it saves the lives of mothers and babies?

My first child was born by c-section in New Zealand where the midwife-led care is world-renowned for being exceptional. Yet c-section rates are still far higher than World Health Organisation recommendations (and rising). But as a population, New Zealand mothers are older than they have ever been, they weigh more, they come to pregnancy with health conditions they haven’t always suffered so much from.

I accept the correlation between intervention, mortality rates and risk factors in pregnancy isn’t straight forward. I accept that it doesn’t explain the findings Mr Odent uses to back up his theory.

However, I don’t accept that the outcome will be the loss of our ability to birth without intervention – or, naturally. Carrying a child is natural, having a baby is natural. What isn’t natural is the lack of information and support that women receive in order to make informed decisions. I strongly believe in midwife-led care during pregnancy and birth, where it is appropriate and safe. I also strongly believe in empowering women to know for themselves when that is the case. The news articles over the last few days have carried a sub-text which idealises the perfect birth. It occurs without doctors, even without midwives, and somewhere dark, quiet, and comfy. Such myth-making makes me angry – for there is no perfect birth or text-book delivery. Some of us will require the help of doctors to have safe deliveries, some of us wont. We will all still be mothers.

It takes a village to raise a child – but it also takes a village to raise a mother. So few of us now go through pregnancy learning from the mothers around us in the way our mothers did and the mothers before them. As our lives become increasingly less about this handed-down knowledge and practice, something has had to fill that void. As mothers, however, perhaps we should try to reclaim it as our own. Perhaps we can take on the roles of informers, nurturers, carers, teachers  and providers – in the way many, many mothers have always done.

In the beginning we were mothers. This will always be our power.

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And then the fun began...

Wishing Upon Dandelions…

Jasmin running

One of the best things about living where we do is the green space that the back gate opens out onto. After the week we’ve had, full of disappointment about not exchanging on the house we desperately want, it’s been a space that has come to my rescue.

Milin and Jasmin would live “out the back”, as Jasmin calls it, day and night if they could. From 7.30am most days, she is standing by the French doors, shoes on, and demanding to be let out into the garden and beyond.

I’ve written about this amazing space tucked away in our leafy North London suburb before. But this weekend reminded me that despite our heartache at not getting what we thought would be our dream home last week, we really are lucky where we are. It’s not practical forever and it’s not ours, but in so many ways it is perfect.

Jasmin, Milin and I went out looking for adventures this weekend, and, just as I knew would happen, I felt so much better about the world as a result. Of course, fresh air doesn’t solve everything – in fact, it solves none of our problems about where we will live – but it does give my head a break from the stress of thinking about the mess we are in.

London forest walk

As happens on every walk, Milin found some brilliant sticks. The best came home with us. Some got thrown in the brook. Others were left behind for people walking their dogs. We picked daisies, explored the forest, the kids ran through the grass so fast their hats fell off, and Jasmin finally mastered the art of blowing the seeds off a dandelion.

It was just what I needed. Life in those moments was so uncomplicated for us. We were together, there was no limit to our adventure, and we were happy. It’s amazing how a little sunshine and a big open space, along with my two best friends, can inject so much joy into a week I’d all but give up on.

dandelion dreams

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The Perfect Jumpsuit for Summer

jumpsuits zara H&M Stella McCartney

I’ve been wondering about whether to get a jumpsuit for ages. Every time I’m about to take the plunge, I convince myself that either I’m too old or too short or they’re too much effort to go to the bathroom in… But, finally, about two years after everyone else, I’ve found one that could finally make my mind up for me. Look how lovely it is…

Zara jumpsuit

It’s a Zara jumpsuit that’s online now and – basically, I love it. The high waist and gathering around the top of the trousers are the features that are calling me me. I also love that the suit is so simple and could be worn with flats or heels.

I’ve also been admiring this Stella McCartney number – although you would bake in it over summer!
stella mccartney jumpsuitThere’s so many printed jumpsuits around at the moment too and while I think these would be so much fun to wear, I don’t think I’d have the confidence to pull one off. Here’s my current favourites though – let me know which ones you love. I’m definitely still picking the plain black Zara number as my favourite!

jumpsuits zara H&M Stella McCartney

 

A Tube Ride and Quality Time on the Northern Line

Jasmin on tube

The simplest things in life are often the ones that make us see the important things, aren’t they? The other day, a little tube ride with Jasmin made me realise exactly this. It was such a basic thing that we did, but its impact was huge. That little ride, on a day I was feeling blue, made me remember how unbelievably lucky I was to have Milin and Jasmin and Tony. It made me put things into perspective and see the bigger picture and all the bright things in life. And, on that tube ride, I had more fun than I’d had in ages.

So where did we go? Well, nowhere at all really.

You see Jasmin LOVES the tube. Unlike me, she doesn’t take it four days a week in rush hour, pushed against grumpy commuters jostling for enough space to open their newspapers – so she only knows it as something that is fun.

So on Friday morning, the only time in the week when I get Jasmin to myself as I’m off work and Milin is at nursery, the two of us went for a ride. We got on at our local station, travelled five stops, crossed the platform, and travelled back. That was it. But Jasmin was the happiest girl in North London. And, suddenly, I was the happiest mum.

We didn’t need to go anywhere to make the outing an adventure. We didn’t need to get off and explore somewhere new. We didn’t need to grapple with stairs and escalators. We just hung out together on the tube.

Jasmin on the tube

Jasmin sat in the seat next to me, her little feet not even long enough to hang over the edge. She held onto her new bag, chattered happily, pointed at the other passengers and told me about them (“Mummy, man… book!” to the man that was trying to read but couldn’t help but smile. “Mummy, make-up, make-up” to the girl somehow managing to apply her mascara on the Northern Line.)

She got super excited while we were above ground and trains passed us in the opposite direction. “Mummy, a-other train! Train!” And, of course, going underground into a tunnel was brilliant in her eyes. She can’t say exciting, but if you ask her what she did with Mummy, she’ll say “Mummy, train, ‘citing, ‘citing!” It melts my heart a gazillion times over.

Jasmin’s complete and utter joy at simply travelling five stops up the Northern Line and back made me reassess the pressure I put on myself to take the kids on extravagant outings and day trips. What mattered on our little tube ride was that we were doing something together. It wasn’t anything spectacularly fancy and it wasn’t anything that involved planning or preparation. It was just indulging Jasmin a little in something she loves, and being by her side for the ride.

We stopped by at the playground on the way home – again it’s not somewhere special, it’s somewhere we go all the time, but it topped off the morning perfectly.

jasmin on swings

I miss the kids so much when I’m at work. The tube ride though was precious time for me and Jasmin to spend together. She reminded me that the time I’m not at work doesn’t need to be crammed full of activities. The best adventures are the ones when we’re together.

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Fathers Day Giveaway – British Tea Lovers Breakfast Tea Gift

I find it so hard to buy presents for my Dad, and his birthday is quite close to Father’s Day so at this time of year I’m often scouring the internet looking for the perfect gift. If you’re stuck like I usually am, then I’ve got the perfect giveaway!

I’ve got a tin of British Tea Lovers Father’s Day English Breakfast Tea to give away. It’s a delicious ceylon tea that is not just for dads. Specially selected, high quality and richly selected ceylon tea leaves from the best tea gardens make this the perfect tea to start the day. We love tea in our house – we drink a lot of it – and this tea is a big hit.

Trying it out has made me think about the importance of tea to our family. For as long as I can remember, my dad has made the tea first thing in the morning and last thing at night for him and my mum. It’s their ritual, but that start and end of day cuppa is one Tony and I have adopted. I’m a china tea cup girl with weak black tea, while Tony likes a bigger china cup than me, much stronger tea and a dash of milk. It’s funny how we’ve refined these tastes so much over the years and now they feel like a part of us!

I hadn’t thought about a gift of tea for my dad before British Tea Lovers got in touch, but, actually, it’s perfect. Tea’s my family’s drink. When we’re together, when we have gatherings, parties, crises – whatever it is, there is always tea. At every important moment, there’s tea.

british tea lovers

British Tea Lovers are giving Mummy Says readers a 10 % discount on orders by using the code DAD152 and you can also get an extra 10 per cent off orders if you sign up to their newsletter. They’re British Tea Lovers over on Facebook too if you want to pop on over:

If you’d like to win one of these gorgeous tins of delicious tea in time for Father’s Day – June 21 this year – just enter the giveaway by Rafflecopter below. Good luck! X
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Exchanging Contracts In A Chain – And The Deal Falling Through

I had everything hinging on one day, and that day went wrong.

We didn’t exchange on the house. We have been left in a state of not-knowing, a place where there is a lot of darkness, and a place where we feel like the ground beneath us isn’t very stable.

To cut a long, complicated story of house-not-buying short, the top of the chain got cold feet (we’re at the bottom), and the deal didn’t go through. It still might, but more than ever now, it also looks like it might not.

It was a horrid day. I had begun, finally, to let myself believe that I might spend the weekend in furniture shops. I had begun, finally, to hope that we might spend the one week we had between exchange and our intended completion date madly packing boxes.

Instead, exchange day got worse and worse every hour. I hung on to hope for as long as I could. But it didn’t do any good.

I’ve learnt a lot about myself in this house-not-buying process. I’ve learnt that I’ll always be guided by my heart, no matter what. I’ve learnt that there will always be a part of me that actually would rather run away from London and go back to live by the sea in New Zealand. I’ve learnt that no matter what, it’s what’s best for the kids that comes before everything else. I’ve learnt that I find it harder than I thought to really open up about heartache, despondency and disappointment. And I’ve learnt that a new pair of shoes, two pairs of trousers, two cardigans, seven pretty tops, some new make-up and a good amount of chocolate will help me feel better.

There’s not really much more to write about I guess. We don’t know what we’ll do. I know our lives aren’t bad and we’re so fortunate in so many ways, but we always had our own flat then home in New Zealand, and we miss having a little place to call ours these days. We want to put down roots for our family. We’ve been in London for two and a half years now, and we’re still not settled. Of course we’re still hopeful that next week brings better news. But more than at any point in the six months since we offered on the house, I’m not sure I have any more hope to give it.

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We Are Trying To Buy A House

Life could change completely for our little family over the next day or three – but we have no bearing over whether or not that will happen. I don’t think I’ve ever felt less control over a situation that is so important before. I hope never to feel it again.

We are trying to buy a house.

I’ve not written about it much because it’s felt for so long like it might not happen. Now though, it feels like it is so close. Even though it could still all fall through.

We are trying to buy a house.

I don’t write, ‘We are buying a house.” It’s because until tomorrow, we won’t really know if we’re going to pull it off. It’s all been such a process and yet its something we are still trying to do. Like we are playing grown ups at this game between agents and solicitors and deal progressers and sellers. We are just the lowly couple at the bottom of the chain.

Because of deadlines imposed around the chain, we hope to exchange tomorrow and complete in a week. If we manage it, we will all be left confusedly coming up for air as home-owners. If we don’t manage it, we will sulk around for a little while and then wonder what on earth we shall do. There is no plan B.

We saw the little house six months ago. We made an offer immediately. And since then we have tried to push it out of our minds.

I have tried not to imagine the sideboard I’d like for the hall and the mirror I’d like for above the back fireplace. I’ve tried not to see peonies in vases on the dresser and a buggy in the porch. I’ve tired not to see Tony’s prints on the bedrooms walls and our wedding glasses in the cupboards. I’ve tried not to picture our friends around the table and I’ve tried not to see myself in the kitchen, looking out of the window while the children play on the lawn.

For six months, I have been involved in an arduous game of shutting out from my mind the place we want to call home.

In the next day or so, I might finally find out whether or not we miss the deadlines and say goodbye to the little house forever. Or I find out that the next chapter of our lives is ready for us.

It has taken months but felt like years. We still might not have answers, as solicitors drag their feet and agents talk in circles and vendors try to slow things down. But we might finally know where our lives are going. The boxes that have been in the shed for two years, the boxes we never unpacked when we arrived in England, might finally be rummaged through.

The little house with lillies in the front garden might fade from our grasp forever over the next few days. Or it might work its way into our lives and our children’s lives for good. More than anything I’ve hoped for in what feels like an eternity, I hope the little house becomes ours.

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This Is What Sleepless Nights Look Like

world breastfeeding week

The sleepless nights start before the beginning. Before the world changes and your baby is born, you slowly realise you can no longer sleep like you once took for granted. You need the toilet every few hours, your hips ache, your legs cramp, you wake up worrying about not having enough nappies in your hospital bag. You think you are tired.

And then your baby is born and you discover you never really knew what tired was until near the end of that first week you became a mother. You truly haven’t slept for months, you have given birth, your body doesn’t feel like your own, and you know unbroken sleep is very, very far away. Your baby won’t stop crying until you hold her. And you are too afraid to doze off with her in your arms. And so you sit up, with your newborn, for what seems like nights on end. It is.

And you cry. Because you really are now so tired that you don’t know what else to do. There’s nothing else, really, but you and your baby and your tiredness. You don’t think you can keep trying to feed her, you don’t know if you can keep holding her the right way. But, somehow, without you knowing how, you do.

After the first week, you doze off with your baby in your arms because she still won’t sleep anywhere else and you are desperate. Desperate? Yes. Your baby is awake for an hour. Then she sleeps in your arms for two hours. If you try to put her back in her basket she wakes and cries and takes hours to resettle. And so your cycle begins again.

You lie on the sofa exhausted (for yes, now you really are) and watch as your husband walks around the kitchen, up and down, singing, shushing, swaying, rocking… but your baby still cries. More than anything you want to go to sleep, but you can’t leave them because those cries keep you in the room.

These nights do get further apart though and very very infrequently you get a whole night made up of stretches of three hours of unbroken sleep.

Suddenly, you can sleep at any given (or not fully given) opportunity. You never used to be able to take a mid-afternoon power nap. You now fall asleep before you’re even lying down fully, before you’ve propped up the pillows, or straightened your blankets. Wake me up in 20 minutes you say. But your husband leaves you to sleep because you need it and it’s two hours before the baby cries for food again…

As they grow, there are good runs and bad runs. Over winter it doesn’t end, this relay of broken nights. They begin with sickness and end with sickness, the washing machine spins constantly, the soundtrack to dark.

sleep

You cope, somehow, with the new normal. The days start with heavy limbs, limbs that you don’t feel able to stir awake. But you don’t have a choice because the children are already pulling your feet over the side of your bed and lining up your slippers for you to push your feet into. You don’t have a choice even though you know you could sleep for a year.

And through this hazy fog are days that are spent with the children who don’t sleep and for whole hours of these days you forget. Because when they lock eyes with you and laugh at you and hold your hand, you forgive them every minute of every hour.

You put them to bed knowing you have a short time before their cries splice your evening. You rush to do what you need but you never get it all done because there they are, the screams in the night. Even after the back molars are through and the children are well and the night terrors are over, the nights are still broken.

You’ve given up spending hours trying to resettle your baby because you’re just too tired because you really haven’t slept properly for years. You bring her into your too-small bed and try to stay awake while she settles. Quickly, because she can touch her fingers to your face and hold your hand and lie right beside you and squish into you until you almost fall out of the bed. She doesn’t mind that you have work tomorrow or were planning to get up early to finish your paperwork.

You are already dozing off maybe before she is and when you wake up aching and stiff it is night and you still aren’t in your pyjamas and you still haven’t done your teeth but you’re just too tired to get up and move her because she might wake up. And you must have fallen back to sleep but next time you wake up you decide you have to get up and so you chance it and you move her back into her cot. You’ve practised it a million times, lowering her slowly so she doesn’t wake up. Tip-toeing across the hall for the quietest tooth brushing ever. And collapsing back in bed.

You should be able to sleep. The children are in their beds.

But this is broken sleep. It is the awake hours now for no reason.

For a while at least. Because then too soon you’re woken again by cries. Your body can’t move it’s just so tired. But outside it is light.

And they jump on your bed like they’ve slept for a week. And the day begins. With a hazy, blurry start. You hold them to you, breathe in their morningness, and know that one day you will miss these nights when there is just you and them and the night. And all they need is you.

 

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Thomas & Friends Breakaway Bridge Review and DVD Giveaway

thomas break away track

As you know, we’re big Thomas fans in this house. Milin was two when he saw his first Thomas & Friends episode and a year later, he still loves the really useful engine just as much!

We’ve been watching the newest DVD, the complete series 16, and I’m delighted to have one to give away to another little Thomas fan too.

It’s the perfect time for this giveaway as we’ve just helped Thomas celebrate his birthday. It’s been 70 years since Reverend W Awdry created Thomas and the other engines on the Island of Sodor. And we were lucky enough to help celebrate this milestone at a birthday party for Thomas at the British Museum last weekend. The kids had a brilliant time – there was a life-size Thomas which they were both incredibly excited by, and they of course loved meeting the Fat Controller and seeing all the other engines on display. There were Thomas-themed games, there was a Thomas cake – it was basically Thomas heaven for my little ones.

the fat controller

 

We’re always playing Thomas games in this house – building tracks and turning our living room into the Island of Sodor, acting out scenes from the books and DVDs with our toy engines… you get the picture! Still, Milin was incredibly excited to be sent the new Thomas & Friends Breakaway Bridge Playset with a motorized Thomas and Samson to speed around the track.

thomas & Friends breakaway motorised track

It’s a clever little track – and even if you think you’ve got plenty of Thomas tracks around the house – this one really is a little bit different for the kids. It looks like a bit of track which has broken away from the land – yet the trains still manage to cling on and toot around it on just the wheels on one side. Milin and Jasmin were fascinated watching it and they really did think Thomas and Samson were magic. Too cute!

The Thomas & Friends motorized playset attaches to the rest of the Thomas tracks we have so it is great to be able to extend our network. We have an old wooden track too and getting these two to loop over each other and around each other is quite a feat!

When we’re done playing, Thomas & Friends DVDs are among our most watched for down time.

I’m delighted to be giving away the complete series 16 which features 20 episodes and over three hours of Thomas stories. Little fans will love it! There’s the new engine Stafford, Thomas becomes a scarecrow for a day, and the visit of a famous composer. (This is one of our favourite story books so it was fun to watch ‘the noises of Sodor’ on the screen.) Some of Milin’s favourite characters were there too – Salty, Charlie (in the story with the snow – we love this one too!), and there’s also the Fat Controller’s birthday party.

It’s been a pretty amazing 70 years for Thomas & Friends when you come to think of it. It’s such a simple idea for a story, but one which children generation after generation just love.

If you’ve got a little Thomas fan at home like me, enter the competition below to win the new series. Good luck! x

Thomas-Friends-The-Complete-Series-16
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