Thursday, 27 November 2014

Remembering granny

So this summer was a bit of a crazy time. My mum, who been battling cancer for many years, died only 3 weeks before Iz was born. 

As anyone who has lost a parent knows, it is hard without them, no matter how old you are. There are little things you want to ask them or share - how do you test a mango to decide if its ripe? How old was I when I had chickenpox? Look at my baby's gorgeous smile. Etc etc. it's often the mundane things that make you miss them the most. 

I'll always be so grateful for the time she had with D

But this week was my mum's birthday. To be honest beforehand I hadn't thought it would affect me much. I was more worried about my dad. But the evening before I suddenly realised I wanted to do something nice and special with D and Iz and enjoy remembering my mum.

It is only now I have my children that I really realise just how much my mum did for me.

So in the morning we went to their usual swim classes (back-to-back lessons with a baby and then toddler are quite tricky!!) and when they were napping afterwards I made some fairy cakes. When D woke up he helped decorate them. Then we put in two candles and I explained it was for Granny's birthday. The best bit from his point of view was next - blowing out the candles and eating the cakes!!

My little helper :)

It wasn't an amazing cake - far from it. It came from a packet Peppa Pig mix! But for me it was the perfect relaxed way to think about my mum and celebrate her existence whilst spending precious time with my babies. And isn't celebrating on their birthday nicer than on the anniversary of their 'death day'?

So this is going to be our new tradition - to have a slice of birthday cake every year on my mum's birthday. I doubt Doof will complain ;)


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A tale of two babies

Or why following Gina Ford is pointless...

People say each baby is different. And then there's the whole nature vs nurture debate. Well the proof is in the pudding (or the baby in this case) and my family is living proof - it's all down to the baby. 

"I don't want to take after you!"

So whatever parenting strategy you are stressing about employing this week... Don't worry. Relax. Your baby will do whatever they were going to do regardless :)
"Sshhhh listen, don't tell them but this is how it's done..."


D had a nightmare establishing breastfeeding due to undiagnosed tongue tie (read about it here) and was a super scrawny baby as a result, falling across 3 centiles. Iz is a little chuffalump with no problems feeding, latched on in the delivery room and is already over 7kg at 3 months! 

Same age, same feeding strategy... look at the difference!

D always fed every 2-3 hours, including through the night, right up til he was weaned and was perfectly happy to "snack" anytime boob was offered. Iz actually refuses boob if she's not hungry and prefers to feed 4 hourly. She's even gone 10 hours overnight without a feed already.

D's feeds lasted hours. And hours. Iz sometimes takes her time but other days will happily feed for 5 minutes every 4 hours and get enough from that.


D liked sleeping on his side, Iz prefers her back. D had to be kept swaddled til he was 5 months as he just couldn't sleep without it. Iz already regularly breaks free from hers and still continues sleeping.

"I want to break freeeeee"

And as for that elusive sleeping-through-the-night? As I said above, D woke regularly for feeds all through the night until he was fully weaned and aged 2 still wakes at least once or twice each night for a drink of water. That section in his baby book asking "date I first slept through the night"...? Yep, still blank! Iz on the other hand has already slept 10pm-7am on several occasions. I'm not saying she's perfect at all (last night for example she was up til 5am) but for my 3 month old to do that? I'm impressed :)


I think this one is tricky as D had 100% undivided attention from me whereas Iz has to compete for it. But D (from memory) had a much more "even" mood - he was always pretty smiley. Iz on the other hand can do the most heart-crumblingly sad bottom lip tremor and the most heart-piercing screaming. But also has the best baby chuckle ever. Maybe a boy/girl thing? Am I allowed to think that, let alone say it?! Or a first/second child thing? Who knows.


Could any two babies be more different? I don't think so! So what are their similarities?

They both model leg warmers well:

They both look cute in the same PJs:

And they do both have crazy big heads. But at least they had the decency to grow from the 50th to > 99th centile *after* birth... ;)


So you may wonder what I did differently second time round. What things did I change to try and improve on last time? To be brutally honest, nothing. For all the sleepless nights I think Doof is pretty perfect and I wouldn't change anything about him. So with Iz we employed the exact same wing-it-with-no-routine style of parenting, offered her boob whenever I (or she) felt like it, fed her to sleep, used babywearing if she wouldn't sleep in her cot etc etc etc. All those *awful* props you get told will break your baby... Yet still she slept through at 3 months.

We'll have to see what happens about weaning (Doof was ace at it) and nursery settling (not D's strongest point initially although he loves it now...). 


So what's the moral?

If you followed Gina Ford and your baby slept through from 2 days old, don't be too smug... It was probably due to your baby, not Gina.
Which will you get? Luck of the draw...

And if your baby/toddler/child has *never* slept through the night (ahem, not looking at anyone Doofy...) then don't despair. Your second child may be a whole different (nicer!) ball game... (thanks Iz!).

Little cuties :)

Friday, 14 November 2014

Toddler cooking (6) - 3 ingredient cookies

It's week 5 of "Little Chefs" link-up over on Baked Potato Mummy. We've missed a few because of being away but are excited to link-up this week :)

So following the healthiest (and easiest!) pancakes in the world a few weeks ago I decided to re-jiggle the breakfast bar recipe I made when Doof was weaning. And here are the results - delicious cookies, using only 3 ingredients - all of which are super healthy :)

  • Sugar-free
  • Gluten-free (depending on oats)
  • Dairy-free

First is the original recipe and below are 2 variations that we tried (and loved!):


Strawberry-banana cookies

1 banana 
5 strawberries
Cup wholemeal oats

1. Mash up the banana ("over-ripe" ones with black bits are perfect for this, especially if your kids pick at the dark bits and won't eat them!)
2. Chop the strawberries into small chunks and add to the banana
3. Mix in the oats (I used M&S wholemeal oats as then the cookies were even more healthy with extra fibre!)
4. Leave to stand for 5 minutes - this is important as it softens the oats slightly before cooking and makes the cookies extra tasty. If you forget or are too impatient, don't worry - they still taste good but the oats are a bit more chewy
5. Shape into flattened small balls and place on buttered or lined baking tray
6. Cook for 15ish minutes at 160 degrees in fan oven (180 in normal oven)
7. Remove from oven when golden brown on top 
8. Either eat straight away (they are soooo delicious warm) or place on a cooling rack - they keep ok in a Tupperware for a few days

So there you go - cookies just made with fruit and wholemeal oats. Even if you eat the whole batch in one sitting (hmmmm I may be guilty of that...) all you've eaten is a cup of oats and some fresh fruit. Perfect!


Pear-raspberry variation

2 pears
Large handful raspberries
1.5 cups wholemeal oats

1. Peel and square the pears
2. Mash up in a bowl (the riper the pears, the easier this stage is)
3. Add in roughly chopped raspberries
4. Mix in oats
5. Leave to stand for 5 minutes
6. Place on baking tray in shapes of cookies, or bars, or any other shape that takes your fancy
7. Cook for 15-20 minutes in 160 degrees fan oven (I found the pear ones needed slightly longer than the banana-base ones)


Pomegranate-banana variation 

We experimented with pomegranates as I'm always reading what a 'superfood' they are etc but I can never think of where to put them in my regular diet...

1.5 bananas
Handful pomegranates 
Cup oats

To show how easy these are to make, Doof made this batch from start to finish. Here are the steps he took:

Mash the banana and ad a spoon of oats

Add the pomegranates

Add the rest of the oats

Mix everything together well

Put round or bar shapes on a lined baking tray

Laugh when you accidentally throw some mixture across the room

Be sure to scrape out the whole bowl - it would be a waste to leave any behind...

Then the only bit I did was putting them in the oven (cook for 15ish minutes 160 degrees fan) and taking them out. 

Making cookies? Child's play :)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Shocked beyond belief

***This post contains some sensitive material that people may find disturbing so please use your discretion before reading. There are no images but even the thought is disturbing in my opinion***

A cheery pic for you before you start reading...

So this is a completely unplanned blog post but I have been so shocked and disgusted by something this afternoon that I had to vent...

You often read about Facebook banning photos of mums breastfeeding or cuddling their newborns after birth when a bit of flesh is on display. Today one of my Facebook friends commented on a photo that someone else had posted, meaning it appeared in my timeline. I am deliberately NOT going to say who the post was by, post a link to it it put up a screen grab as that would just give them the attention they want.

A "Facebook appropriate" breastfeeding photo...

Instead I will very briefly describe it, only so you understand. It was a collection of 4 photos. Each contained a dead baby. Abandoned in a field/by a river/somewhere out in the open. I do not know if it was repeated photos of the same baby, or 4 different ones. I did not look at the images long enough to tell. But each was bloodied and broken, all on their own and looked like they had just been thrown away. All looked like newborns.

In my line of work I have seen lots of dead bodies. Sad but true, it's a fact of the job. And that has included dead babies. But I was truly shocked by these photos. Who posts them? Who likes to see them appear in their timeline? When you look back at the poster's homepage they repeatedly post things like that to receive lots of comments (for example, "you have to say amen for these babies" - cue 10k+ likes (WTF??!!) and the same number of comments). Do people really find it so exciting to receive Facebook comments that they would post this sort of material?

Anyway so that was shocking. But it gets worse. As any normal person would do I reported it to Facebook. Surely posting pictures like that breaches one of their guidelines? Well, no. They wrote back saying the photos were not inappropriate. I couldn't believe it, surely they had maybe looked at the wrong photo? So I reported it again. But no, they were serious. This is their exact reply:

We reviewed the photo you reported for annoying and distasteful humor and found it doesn't violate our Community Standards." (click to see their definition of community standards).

I am speechless. How do these photos not fall into the "Graphic content" section? Or the "Nudity" section? How on earth do these not violate everyone's "community standards"?!

I have never been tempted to start any sort of campaign/speak out about anything before but this has completely appalled me. How can this be right? What sort of society are we living in that it is deemed not acceptable to see a mother breastfeeding but is to post photos of dead abandoned babies to garner "likes"? What makes me even more sad is that my children will grow up in such a society.

So have a think. What do you think? Should you be allowed to say anything to anyone? Be aware - on Facebook you don't have to actively "like" things yourself or follow people directly to see such material. It can come via a friend, or even a friend of a friend, liking or commenting on a post.

It could appear in your kid's timeline next time.

Or the timeline of your friend who just lost their baby.

Or just an average person like me who still thinks this is shockingly disturbing.

I don't know about you but I would much rather see a newborn suckling on their mother's breasts (even with an exposed nipple...) a hundred times a day for the rest of my life than see anything like that again.

I think Facebook need to wake up and accept more social responsibility, and act accordingly.


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Top tips for travelling with a toddler

Having recently road-tripped up the East coast of America with a 2 year old and 2 month old (yep we are crazy!) here are my top tips...

1. Long haul? Really?

Think of the flight length. And then the time difference... Arghhh, suddenly the nice family trip to Sydney may not seem as appealing. But sometimes you have to just do it. Our latest trip was to attend a very close friend's wedding - so in that case you just suck it up and enjoy (hah!) the ride :)

Would you trust him as your pilot?
2. Who needs toys?

Obviously luggage space is a premium but never fear - when hotel rooms have phones and electronic safes to play with no toddler will ever get bored...

Hmmm I'm going to keep my biscuit safe from my little sister...
Hello?? Room service please :)
3. Switch body clock ASAP

There are lots of "best" ways to get over jet lag but I find the just-get-on-with-it approach usually works best - just go with whatever time it is in the country you are in at the time. Even if it means they nap at slightly odd times in the first few days. Even if it means they miss a few of the famous sights!

Wasted on him!

4. Ditch the controlled crying

Even if you advocate controlled crying at home (I don't) then don't do it for the first few days of holiday - they didn't ask to be taken away and be put in a strange hotel room. So just roll with the punches, let them nap when they want to (as long as not after 3.30pm) and settle them gently to sleep.

5. Take calpol and/or nurofen sachets

You never know when teething might strike... For us it was at 20000 feet as we were preparing for descent! The sachets are small enough for hand luggage and are just the right size dosage-wise for most toddlers :)

6. Don't go when they're sick

Difficult to predict 6 months in advance when you book your holiday but this one is pretty critical...
Both ours had colds with temperatures for the first few nights. Baby + snot + toddler + temperature + jet lag = pretty horrific combination!

7. Never underestimate the power of the sock

Especially if they have faces on... This tip is also known as " don't ever forget the remote control for the portable DVD player". Doofy's socks entertained him for hours in the car - for which we will be forever grateful :)
Roooar, my right hand lion sock is going to eat my right hand lion sock...

8. Snack-happy

Along with the jet lag, change in routine, extra travelling I think you need to have an element of flexibility. Doof ate lots some meals, very little other meals and was very good at putting up with his meals being at completely random times. At home/nursery he eats lunch at 11.30-12.00 every day. On holiday he had it anytime from 11.30 to 1.30. To counteract any hunger pangs we had a supply of healthy (most of the time!) snacks kept in the car.
Who ate the rest of my cake?!

9. Museums (in America at least) are awesome!

Nearly every town in America seems to have a "Children's museum". We went to our first one by mistake and I expected it to be a museum about childhood (a bit like the one in East London). However they aren't. They are awesome!!! Basically they are a combination of soft play, creative space (eg bakery with fake food and drink to serve) and interesting things to do/see/play with. Underlying each activity is some sort of educational benefit but to be honest it is just all so fun! And even better if you go midweek when all the local kids are at school you quite often have the place (especially outside the large cities) to yourselves.
Even learnt to spell when we were away ;)

And lastly... 

10. Never try to open a hotel door or operate a lift without their help

At your peril attempt to do either of these without them... I think there must be some unwritten law of toddlerdom that this is their domain - hence why there is BIG trouble if you try to impinge on their territory. Just don't. Humour them. It'll make their day :)

Button... button... BUTTON!!!

Munchkin Undersea Explorer review

A few weeks ago we were sent the Munchkin caterpillar spillers (see here for review) and loved them, so jumped at the chance to "road test" another Munchkin bath toy. This time we were given the Undersea Explorer – a mini submarine for the bath.

What we liked:

1. The size

The toy is about 15cm long and nicely “chunky” so perfectly sized for toddler hands. 

Instantly fascinated by the water trails...

2. The portability

Linked to point 1, this is a great size for a "travel toy" - indeed ours came with us to the States as a familiar bath toy to try and keep the bedtime routine similar despite different hotels each night.

One of the hotels had the perfect sized cubbyhole for it in the bath!
3. The plastic-ness

Sounds a bit weird initially? But I'm fed up of all the squishy plastic bath toys (like our ducks and squirters) that all go mouldy inside after a few weeks because you can never completely empty them of water.

4. The bubbliness

When you submerge the submarine underwater it generates loads of bubbles :) for someone as bubble-mad as Doof this was a definite plus point :)

Difficult to see in a pic but he is watching the bubbling!

5. The scope for imaginative play
It's nice to have toys which represent real-life things (rather than just cups etc). With this submarine Doof has started to act out “real life” scenes and situations, which I imagine will only develop further with time. He also enjoys spinning the cabin round and seeing the man inside flip round and round.

Spin spin spin

Overall impression:

To be honest it's a pretty inoffensive toy - there's not much to actively dislike. However it hasn't become a firm "favourite" yet either. This may be because we've been travelling for 3 weeks and so living out of our suitcases. Or because D has a plethora of bath toys and so is spoilt for choice now we are home. But it will be interesting to see what happens now we're back. There is a LOT of competition in Doofy's bath toy basket so you've got to be pretty special to get to the top!

Would I buy it if we hadn't been given one? 

Yes - if I saw it in a shop (it retails between £6-£8 depending on where you look) then I would. The bold colours, size and design and all the different features it contains makes it appeal to me (and so hopefully my children!).