Haven or Hell – 7 spaces to embrace with kids

Haven or Hell with kidsLast weekend was a family one with grandparents, in-laws and Scrip and D’s cousin staying nearby. Just 17 months apart, the girls played together so well while Baby D padded behind, only being distracted by anything that looked like a ball, a coin or a stick…

An unsettled Sunday meant we headed out for the day to the Avon Valley Country Park, which was good fun. Despite the dry forecast it started to rain, so we made a beeline for the the indoor picnic area. A stark, temporary structure, I would have previously shunned this particular spot. Now, with soggy children in tow, it was a haven.

That made me think how I now see other spaces in a totally different light, post-children. Here are a few that come to mind:

  1. The supermarket cafe – once firmly avoided, now embraced. Good source of food bribes and generally offers a pretty cheap lunchbox.
  2. Service stations – formerly a necessity to be endured, now a little light at the end of a long tunnel (particularly if you tend to inhabit the M25 or A30 as frequently as we do).
  3. Petrol stations – ditto, on a smaller scale. A chance to stretch legs and stock up on chocolate buttons.
  4. WH Smith’s magazine/comic aisle – all that colour, all those cartoon characters, all that cheap plastic. So many gleeful smiles.
  5. Soft play – the noise, the smelly socks, the chaos…and the yelps of delight from children as soon as they enter. Although I still avoid busy times where possible and I follow my husband’s soft play survival guide.
  6. Ikea – and we haven’t even tried the creche yet! Children young and old seem to enjoy playing pretend houses and that’s before they’ve even got to the play area. I challenge you to try and leave without an oversized toy in tow.
  7. Pets at Home – is it just me or is this shop a great mini zoo/wildlife park for those of us who don’t even have pets? Just don’t try and feed the rabbits…

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

In memory of Jo Cox

I sat down today to write a blog
Just a few thoughts about life through the fog
About work, about children, about my day
But then the news took my words away
I didn’t know Jo Cox, the female MP
Whose life was cut short so terribly
I know of her actions, her incredible drive
Her desire for peace, keeping hope alive
I know she has a husband whose recent statement
Was so touching and so eloquent
Also two little children who are far too small
To suffer so terribly from this all
What can we say? It makes no sense
There can be no amends, no recompense
No alternative parent, alternative wife
Just a void for the rest of their life
No replacement for her powerful voice
Trying to do good, giving positive choice
Attempting to bring the world together
Then suffering this now and gone forever
I hope in her name we can carry on
To overcome the hatred; it must be gone
And in the meantime we will celebrate
Her vast achievements, before this fate
A mother, a wife, a female MP
So special, so vibrant, an inspiration to me.

A visit to The American Museum in Britain

American MuseumThe draw of the museum worksheet seems to be strong with Scrip at the moment, luckily. The American Museum in Claverton, just outside of Bath, went one better with a backpack full of activities handed over when we arrived. There are three age-related options – hers was suitable for 4+ years and she loved the little grizzly bear glove puppet who popped out when she unzipped the bag and helped us along the way.

The museum is set in an old manor house – Claverton Manor – in stunning grounds with views around the countryside and down to the River Avon. There’s plenty of parking and a good cafe on the site, plus a gift shop that sells more than just bright, unrelated plastic toys (although I’m sure there were a few of those as well). The museum charts American culture and history from early settlers to present-day with pictures, videos, hands-on displays and period rooms recreated.

The trail booklet inside the backpack guided us around the displays and there was something to do in many of the rooms along the way – ranging from a magnifying sheet to spot something close up, to a little wooden town to build, to a puzzle inspired by one of the beautiful collection of American quilts. She seemed to really enjoy it.

The trail was just the right length and left enough time and energy to have a quick look at the American Toy Story display (on until October 2016). She recognised some of the toys but the best bit was trying on toy costumes and drawing your favourite to add to the wall. Freed from his carrier Baby D seemed to enjoy crawling around here as well.

It’s a shame we hadn’t left any time for exploring the gardens as it’s in a beautiful location and I would have loved to look around. There was also a concert in the afternoon. But unfortunately nap time for D was calling and I think we may just have tired out Scrip as well.

As with anything I visit with small children I vowed to come back alone and actually read the captions of the displays as it was really interesting and a lot of it, moving. And with such a beautiful museum in a breathtaking location I think I may just make it.

More on the American Museum website.

American MuseumAmerican MuseumAmerican Museum

 

We’ve also visited the London Transport Museum, braved central London with a toddler and here’s my London (children’s activities) Bucket List.

My irks with home working

Home WorkingIt’s been a tough couple of weeks, with yet more change and adjustments that need to be made, some much bigger than others. One of the positives (I’m starting to over-use that word) is Baby D’s new nursery which has so far gone well. I say new as after just a week’s notice (!) his first nursery closed its doors eight weeks after he started, and we had to find another one pronto and get him fully settled in. Thankfully, day one at nursery two went very well (despite the over-tiredness in the boy I put to bed an hour or so ago).

With both children in childcare full time, I had a day to work, work, work. I’m enjoying working for myself (although I have to say I’m now over the initial euphoria of being at home with a hot coffee and a laptop screen not being pawed at or slammed shut).

We’re creating a home office but in the meantime it’s the kitchen table, once the breakfast things have been cleared away. There are so many positive parts (that word again) to working for myself and I sometimes pinch myself that it’s actually happening. However, there are also the niggles that only come to light once you start. Here are a few things that have made me wish it wasn’t just me here today:

The printer – I consider myself reasonably tech savvy but I fail to be able to default to the right printer (why do I have a list of 15??), print on the right side of the paper or push page 20 of said paper in far enough to keep on printing.
My new email account – where’s the IT support when you need it? Answer – thousands of miles away on a virtual chat (probably answering a lot of other queries at the same time). I can receive but I still can’t send, a week later…
The workman’s drill – do you choose a day when there are no children to trip over pipes and wires or have a full day of drilling when you’re trying to have a client phone call?
The coffee overload – hot, freshly brewed coffee? Mmmmm. How many cups can I enjoy without getting the shakes? Not as many as I used to I realise as I bounce to the door to greet the postman manically.
The housework – not the temptation to spend my whole time doing it – the opposite. I feel like I need to make every moment of work count so I end up with a house messier than the days with the children plus a basket full of wet washing.
The mum guilt – it’s still there, niggling away. This isn’t a vanity project – I’m earning money for the family as well as doing something I hope I’m good at. Plus hopefully setting a good example for my children. But working from home feels the same as going out to work – you still get those moments where you feel you should be with your children, rational or not.

However on balance what a privilege to be able to do this and hopefully fit my work around my life rather than the other way around. I’m off to pick up the children (once the coffee shakes have subsided).

Save

Rainbow boards – a splash of colourful fun

Rainbow Boards ReviewDo your children remind you of yourself when you were young? Scrip definitely does me, in so many ways. Particularly her imaginary play – she’s always acting out make believe games. Sometimes she brings Baby D into her role plays (much to his bemusement!), sometimes she’s at the dinner table with toys, cars or even the salt and pepper pots and sometimes I find her in a corner of the sitting room with teddies lined up, chatting away.

She’s just started to play ‘teachers’ which was one of my favourite games when I was little. And now she’s got a new prop in the form of a bright, sunshine yellow Rainbow Board – dry wipe board on one side, felt pin board on the other.

As she’s not yet at school she didn’t understand at first how to ‘teach’ using the board but she loved being let loose with the wipe board pens. There’s a nice big area to write on and wipe off again (half the fun) and there’s also the pin board. She loved the responsibility of pinning things on with drawing pins and soon found some drawings, post cards and birthday cards. Plus random pieces of cardboard (we have a lot of those).

Her new, bigger room may be fast filling up with things but when something new is as colourful as this, I’m not complaining. It’s so much nicer than a plain white board and Rainbow Boards come in green, yellow, pink, blue or orange – and all attractive shades.

Teacher Boards also sell notice boards and wipe boards on their own as well as glass boards made of hardened safety glass in a variety of colours which would be nice for a kitchen.

There’s a wide range of colours, shapes and sizes. This one’s large but it’s easy to store as it’s flat. Not that she’s letting me store it at the moment – not while there are teddies to teach.

Thank you Teacher Boards for adding a welcome splash of colourful fun to Scrip’s room.

The Yellow Rainbow Board we trialled was £65 excluding VAT.

A guide to turning one – by Baby D

A guide to turning oneBaby D’s first birthday has been and gone with all its ripped tissue paper, cake crumbs and crawling in and out of cardboard boxes. We were joined by family from both sides of the country and it was a lovely day, despite some worrying news hanging over us.

With Scrip, turning one meant so many things and some were similar to Baby D but some totally different. I keep getting told not to compare the two but she’s my only other baby template so it’s hard not to. With D, one year seems to have been a real marker and he’s been frantically upskilling in the last few weeks so he could hit the milestone with a bang.

So this is Baby D’s guide to turning the ripe old age of one year old:

  1. Reveal your lightning quick crawling and start pulling up on everything – particularly relatives. Remember, walking’s for wimps (but if ‘helpful’ people encourage you to try to walk, respond with stiff legs and an instant sitting position).
  2. Use this occasion as an opportunity to eat as much as you can (don’t forget, honey and runny eggs are now fair game). If there’s a party, polish off crisps and at least a few pieces of cake and hoover up any dropped crumbs quickly and efficiently.
  3. Grown ups are likely to be distracted with ribbon and nibbles so now’s the time to try and get into those places you’ve only ever dreamt of going. Like the understairs cupboard, toolbox or a peep inside the (hot) oven [yes, this happened].
  4. New toys are for exploring – namely banging together or throwing, whatever kind of toy they are. Ride-ons are for pulling up on or pushing over. And it’s important to move on from each toy with record speed.
  5. Lull your parents into a false sense of security with a few nights of sleeping through around your first birthday (‘we’ve finally cracked it!”) and then bring them down to earth with a bump the day after.
  6. Your sister is now fair game for hitting (hilarious), pulling hair (even better) or wiping your nose on (convenient).
  7. And whatever you do and however much mischief you cause, know that your family couldn’t love you any more if they tried.

Happy one year Baby D. 🙂

 

#MySundayPhoto – 10th April 2016

Dandelions and baby

This was the first time Baby D has ventured off the rug and into the wilds of our garden. The grass hasn’t been dry enough to cut since we moved in so it’s overgrown by normal standards, but the children love it. Scrip keeps picking dandelions and daisies for ‘Mother’s Day’ (bit late!) and D is enjoying the feeling of the grass. A happy, sunny afternoon this week.

OneDad3Girls

Win tickets to the Baby & Toddler Show (and 1/3 off for everyone)

Baby & Toddler Show Win

Tomorrow is a year on from Baby D’s due date. He actually kept me waiting 12 more days but this time last year anticipation was building. Now I can barely believe I’m almost a mother to a toddler.

There’s been a lot of Googling first birthday presents and trying to find things we don’t have already courtesy of his older sister. Also things he’ll enjoy but won’t be quickly taken off him (no guarantees there). We’ve only bought some board books so far but we’re still researching.

To find anything and everything you can possibly want or need for your baby or toddler, the Baby & Toddler Show is the place to go. It’s in Sandown Park in Surrey from 15th April (which happens to be D’s first birthday!) to 17th April.

We’ve been to the Baby Show twice and, although I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it it was a fab day out – packed with so much to see, do and play with and lots of pushchair miles to push around (good for ensuring a long nap afterwards!) We got some great deals on products like our Ergo baby carrier and Mia Tui changing bag, and there were some useful talks and goodies.

This one is the biggest of its kind and Sandown Park is really easy to get to, with free parking, easy access for bumps and babies, and a huge Vital Baby Feeding Area and Baby Changing Area. Here’s what you can expect:

* Money saving with deals on baby essentials – 100s of unique and useful products which you won’t find on the high street

* Guaranteed best prices on car seats, prams, buggies and furniture – find all the big name brands in one place including Bugaboo, Britax, Mamas & Papas, Maxi-Cosi, Quinny, Silver Cross, Cosatto, Bloom, Cybex, Joolz…

* Over 150 top brands and products to test, try, compare and buy – meet knowledgeable experts and have hands-on demos to find the right products for you

* Hear from expert speakers giving new parents everything they need to know on sleeping, feeding, budgeting, first aid and more

* Plus – all mums-to-be and new mums will receive a goody bag which includes nappies, cream, wipes, cosmetics and more.

To win a pair of tickets for any day of the show, just enter via Rafflecopter below.

Or to save 1/3 on tickets go to www.babyandtoddlershow.co.uk and quote code SBT23 – adult tickets £8.

All tickets with a promotional code MUST be booked online ahead of the show. The online box office will close at midnight Thursday 14th April.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The small print

  • Entrants must be 18 or over and UK residents.
  • The prize includes a pair of tickets to the Sandown Park Baby & Toddler Show 2016. They can be used for one day on or between 15th – 17th April 2016.
  • Competition closes at 12.00am on 10th April. Any entries submitted after this date will not be included.
  • Tickets must be booked before midnight on Thursday 14th April.
  • The winner will be selected randomly through a prize draw and announced on newmumblings.com and through email.
  • There is no cash prize alternative.

Ethical and healthy – 7 ordinary uses for coconut oil

Coconut oil usesIn the aftermath of the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, when Sri Lankans were having to rebuild their lives and livelihoods, some hope came in the form of the creation of new, sustainable businesses. One of these was Coconoil – a range of products made using virgin coconut oil made from Sri Lankan coconuts.  Just over a decade later, 200 people are employed by the company.

They’ve recently set up a new project with 200 smallholders from five villages in Ghana and they hope they can replicate some of the success they have seen in Sri Lanka, helping to create much needed work and income streams.

I love coconuts, whereas my husband’s not so keen, so it’s not something we have a lot at home. But as well as being interested in its ethical production, I’ve loved having my tub of Coconoil on the side in the kitchen. I could equally have it on my dressing table. It’s an amazing, adaptable little product that I knew very little about before.

It’s also fashionable with the likes of Hemsley & Hemsley extolling its health benefits (its fatty acid speeds up the metabolism and can lower the risk of heart disease). It’s also found favour with British celebrities like Alesha Dixon, who says she’s ‘addicted’ to it, and Tinie Tempah (that one surprised me!). Coconoil is cold pressed, meaning there’s no heat involved which can reduce its benefits.

I particularly love the subtle coconut flavour in cooking. It’s probably not cheap enough for everyday family use but it certainly adds something to a stir fry, sweet dishes or even roast veg. But I’ve also tried it on my skin. It’s worth saying it comes as a tub and is set, with the texture of thin butter.

Here are just a few of the uses I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks:

  1. Some oil on my face during this cold weather – warm it between your hands first. Research showed it was better than mineral oil and I loved the feel of it on dry skin.
  2. Handcream – I wash my hands a lot during the day and this is a nice alternative to commercial handcreams.
  3. Lips – it sinks in well and has a subtle flavour.
  4. Smoothies – a few teaspoonfools give a nice taste to a healthy smoothie.
  5. Frying and roasting – it doesn’t smoke until it gets very hot so is good to fry with.
  6. Flavouring – great for Thai curries.
  7. Sweet snacks like seed filled flapjacks. Yum.

Worth a little try.

Thanks to Coconoil for sharing their story and letting me try a tub. Prices start at £4.94 and you can buy online.

Breast friends? The good and the bad about breastfeeding

breastfeedingI almost called this post ‘my love/hate relationship’ with breastfeeding, but that would be too strong. I’m nursing an injury tonight from a teething Baby D who sneezed whilst feeding and bit down on my nipple. Ouch. I swore, he cried, and that was it for the evening.

I’m still breastfeeding him at a month short of a year, which has sort of crept up on me. Because I’m starting to work for myself there was no need to wean him earlier and I’ve generally found it a positive experience, convenient and useful – especially when he’s teething or under the weather. However, him not taking a bottle has meant there’s no let up and I’m not sure how weaning will eventually go.

I breastfed both of my little ones and I’m pleased I’ve done that – seven months first time around, 11 months and counting this time – but I was pretty sure I’d carry on come what may. We’ve been through thrush in my milk ducts (excruciating), tongue-tie and a shallow latch, and it’s pretty much never been pain-free with Baby D.

A family member recently said I’d inspired her when it came to breastfeeding her two, which was a lovely thing to say. For me it’s something I wanted to do, but haven’t necessarily felt the need to trumpet. I’m really happy to talk about it and give tips or advice or even have a bit of a moan after a nipple injury, but it wouldn’t be the first thing I bring up and I’d never comment on someone choosing or ending up with bottle over breast.

And the reality is, it can be hard. It can be painful and tough for both of you, particularly at an overwhelming and exhausting time. I credit a breastfeeding counsellor for helping me turn a corner with Scrip and continue when I was at a particularly low point. So I’ve been thinking about the good and the bad from my 18 months’ experience of breastfeeding two little ones:

The good

  • The closeness – particularly with Baby D as he’s a real wriggler and this is the only time he’ll be still in my arms
  • I love the snuggles in the early, hazy days where feeding mingles with sleepy cuddling
  • I love the contented look they have when feeding well. Baby D now catches my eye and sometimes gives me a cheeky grin (with his mouth full!)
  • It’s good to feel you’re protecting them with natural immunity
  • It’s helped me lose some of the weight, whilst eating cake or croissants
  • It’s a good comforter and a great way to get them back to sleep (not that it should be at this age, probably…)
  • It’s hassle-free – particularly in the middle of the night. No need for fussing with bottles
  • It’s free
  • I feel proud I’ve been able to stick with it

The bad

  • It’s something just for mums – and as D’s not been taking a bottle until very recently, I haven’t been able to share this closeness
  • It can be hard – it doesn’t always come naturally to you or the baby, so it often takes work. Baby D wouldn’t latch on one side for weeks and it could take literally half an hour and lots of tears for him to do it
  • It takes a while to get used to doing it in public
  • It can be painful and not just when you’re starting. After being tongue-tied Baby D has never had a very full latch and my nipples have suffered
  • It’s easy to worry you’re not producing enough milk or it’s not the right quality
  • You may get more green nappies!
  • Your body’s still not your own, even after pregnancy – you have to watch what you eat and drink
  • The early daily pumping can get exhausting
  • You get big, painful boobs when they’ve gone too long without feeding
  • Exclusive breastfeeding means they may not take a bottle, which might make it harder for you to have a break
  • You need to plan what to wear and stock up on nursing bras

Part of me is looking forward to winding it down and hopefully shifting the last of my stubborn baby weight. But the other part will miss it – especially if we don’t have any more children. So we’ll carry on for a bit longer and see where we end up. My mumnesia means I’ll no doubt just remember the good parts.