Saturday, 21 September 2013

New arrival

Apologies for the silence from Mum Down South - it is all the fault of a certain little lady who entered our lives on July 21st. Meet our beautiful daughter Emily Joan who arrived weighing 7lbs 8oz making us a happy family of four.
Welcome to the world little lady x

Friday, 5 July 2013

Are you a Babe with a Baby?

As a parenting journalist, I am put in touch with various mummy websites and boutiques with the idea that I check them out and see what they are all about. So it was with Babes with Babies, a rather chic and stylish online store offering everything from maternity and nursing clothes to gifts for mummies, daddies and babies. 
Their stuff is rather lovely and I was lucky enough to be sent a couple of tops which I intend to use when breastfeeding (probably rather imminently if the size of my bump is anything to go by!). They arrived beautifully gift wrapped inside a box tied with ribbon, and there were even dried roses scattered across the tissue paper. Very impressed I was.
Anyway, I will review the tops once they come into use but in the meantime Babes with Babies has launched a survey on how to stay sane and stylish during pregnancy and if you fill it in you will receive a £10 shopping voucher to spend with them. Worth a visit if you have the time as I have to say it is all rather lovely and a tenner is a tenner. Click here to enter. To check out Babes with Babies, click here.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Our birthday boy

Three years ago on June 22nd, the little man's daddy and I were sat in our hospital room, shell-shocked, staring down at a sleepy but large-eyed tiny baby, our baby. Wind the clock forward and here we are, running around a church hall, ten other toddlers in tow, throwing our son a party to mark that momentous event that seems such a distant memory now.
There were sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps, a floor littered with toys, balloons and bubbles, entertainment courtesy of Jo Jingles, piles of presents to open, and a fabulous guitar cake made by my hardworking mum, ever up for a challenge.
Boy, parties are exhausted, particularly when you are carrying around an enormous baby bump. And I certianly couldn't have done it without the help of husband and parents, who worked tirelessly the whole morning to make it perfect for him. By the end, the birthday boy was beside himself and spent his bath and storytime wailing. It was all we could to do just crawl back down the stairs once he was asleep, curl up on the sofa and watch TV munching leftover party food (the best kind of dinner).
But it's pictures like these that make you realise it was all worth it.
The birthday boy is in white - he loves those bubbles

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Watch out - health visitor about

I am not naive. I know that going from one to two children is going to be hard. Hard for the little man, used to my full attention, hard for me splitting myself in two and hard for daddy trying to help but with piles of work to do at the same time. But what I don't want is it to be spelt out to me in hard and scary terms by a health visitor. In my own home.
When you are due to have a baby, a health visitor will pay a house call. This is to give you the little red medical book and to give you the chance to chat through any issues or concerns you might have. I imagine it is also so they can see what sort of a household the new little person will be coming into. I didn't give this visit a second thought - just put it in my diary, made space for it during the busy week which meant delaying our usual visit to the swimming pool and when she came (twenty minutes late) I sat down ready to talk. What I wasn't expecting was a 45 minute lecture on how I MUST prepare the little man for the "horrendous shock" he will have, how difficult life is going to get for me, how I NEED to get him potty trained right now (with four weeks until my due date) and how he is far too old to be having a bottle of milk (okay maybe he is but do I need to worry about that NOW?).
Ever since I have been shrouded in the blues that I just can't shrug off. Instead of looking forward to the arrival of our second child, I am now dreading it. If the little man, who is extremely lively, starts playing up, I am plunged into feelings of inadequacy. How will I cope with two if I can't even control one?
I also feel angry. I didn't ask for her opinions. It certainly wasn't helpful having them thrown at me. In my own home. The withering look of disapproval we got as the little man guzzled away on his full fat milk is one I am finding hard to forget. And worse still, will I have to face her again when the baby has arrived and I am at my most vulnerable?
Friends have told me to call up and request she not visit me again. Others apparently have done the same. In fact, do I really need to see a health visitor at all? Last time around, I tied myself in knots each time they put my tiny boy on the scales and warned me that, while he was putting on the minimum amount of weight required, it could, should, be better. He was fine. All that worry for nothing. And now I might have to go through it all again. In fact, it has already started.
No, not this time. I know better. Pass me the phone.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Warning - baby on the way

Wow this pregnancy is going fast. I now have six weeks to go. Not long but not to worry, I am attempting to be organised. Tiny newborn outfits have been retrieved, washed, gazed at and put away. I have a draw full of tiddly-sized nappies and cotton wool balls (will I really do that whole cotton wool and warm water thing that I did last time around, or will the wipes win out?) The baby car seat is washed and installed - early I know but I'm not going to be caught out and besides, it was in the loft and I don't want to be scrabbling around with two days to go before my due date looking for lost headrests and straps etc. I am yet to cook lots of meals and freeze them but that is on my to-do list for next week, possibly. Unfortunate accessories to this birthing/babies business - breast pumps, breast pads, other sorts of pads (sorry men if you are reading this and getting red faced, it is not pleasant I agree), bras that unhinge for easy access, tops that do likewise are being found or bought in readiness.The moses basket is in position, with new bedding ordered online, delivered and stored away in readiness. The only thing I need to do now is prepare my son for the coming arrival.
Easier said than done. I have talked about it with him but any attempts at discussion are quickly ignored in favour of the more exciting activity he is engrossed in. We have got out all his baby things and explained how he once bounced in that seat or laid on that rug, and that his little brother or sister will soon be doing the same, but he remained unbothered - although he did enjoy using the moses basket as a boat.
We plan to show him his baby photos and talk about the new arrival in that context, and I am going to do a search on Amazon as I know there are plenty of books out there that can help introduce what it is that is about to hit him.
My guess is he won't be too phased by the event. He never takes any notice when I hold other babies and he is not the jealous type (if a toy is taken from him, he mostly just goes off and gets another) but I do wonder how he will be when my attention, which has been his completely for almost three years, is shared with another. At least we have the summer for the four of us to get used to one another and I will do my absolute best to make sure he never feels left out. And I will remind myself that, in the end, even if he isn't too keen on having a sibling about at first, he or she will be a wonderful playmate and companion for him for the rest of his life.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

You can go on holiday with a toddler

Ever since the little man arrived, our criteria for having a nice break away have seriously changed. Flying, for a start, is out. I remember being young, free and single and how my heart would drop as I settled into my seat ready for a seven-hour flight only for a toddler to clamber in next to me. I'm not saying you can't travel with little ones but he is particularly active and I would be stressed. Besides, you can pack so much more into a car and there was a lot I wanted to pack.
Other criteria include:
1, If we're going by car, it can’t be too far away – four hours max if possible. Driving is boring, for everyone.
2, There must be fun things for toddlers to do – the beach, swings, slides etc. Even a pool is out at this stage really - we didn’t want to spend the day taking it in turns chasing our two and a half year old around the pool trying to keep him safe.
3, Self catering accommodation is a must so we can cook what we want when we want with perhaps an occasional visit to a restaurant if we are feeling up to it. He must have his own room too and a living space away from said room so we can relax with a glass of wine (or fruit juice in my pregnant state) after a long day of fun without disturbing him.
In short, what we didn’t want was a holiday that turned out to be more stressful than simply staying at home. So I was delighted when we found Trevorrick farm - a collection of pretty cottages in Cornwall offering an indoor pool, children’s play area, animals to pet and beaches nearby. The owners Melanie and Mike are themselves parents and quite clearly know exactly what every holidaying family requires to make life easy and, therefore, fun. Stairgates, night lights, baby monitors, high chairs, booster seats, socket guards, a pram if needed are all provided for guests. They even promise to fill your cottage with age appropriate toys. We booked on the spot.
So we have now returned from our break away and I am happy to report it was everything we had hoped for. The cottage was indeed pretty and filled with trains, train tracks, building blocks, puzzles and books waiting for him to play with. Every morning, while I got ready, the little man and his daddy would wander about the farm, visiting the turkeys, two Shetland ponies, pigs and chickens. It was idyllic. 
Everyday, we headed out for a day of family fun and there was so much for toddlers to do, not including all the beaches nearby (it was just a bit too cold to venture to the seaside unfortunately). Our favourite was Crealy Great Adventure Park where you pay once and then get a free seven-day pass. We went three times. Bargain. It was there we discovered the little man's love of rollercoasters - at last his daddy has someone to go on with him. We rode the steam trains at Lappa Valley and stared at the animals inside Newquay zoo. We even found time to read our books while our son, exhausted by all the fun he was having, reverted back to his afternoon naps again. One day I ate such an enormous Cornish cream tea I was actually sick but I don't regret it - that Cornish cream is to die for and at one point I did think I was dying. Sometimes in the evenings, we fell asleep not long after putting the little man to bed. It was our first and last holiday just the three of us and it was just what we wanted - fun, stressfree and exhausting with a pile of Cornish cream on the side for good measure.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Our ban on screen time

I have always been in favour of little ones watching the telly - in moderation of course. If you pick the right programmes, it can be educational and entertaining, it gives them a cultural connection with their peers and it can give mummy some much-needed rest time. The little man has learnt to read numbers by watching Numtums and I love the gentle moral message that comes across in Postman Pat - everyone helps each other out and hasn't a bad word to say about anyone (perhaps I need a couple of days living in Greendale).
However, lately we have noticed that the little man is perhaps watching a little too much. I had fallen into the deadly habit of letting him watch YouTube clips of his favourite programmes on the iPad while he had dinner, something that never sat right with me and always filled me with guilt everytime I did it. As our son is very French in the way he eats - he takes ages - we started to tot up the hours he was spending in front of the screen, adding telly time as well, and decided it was getting a bit out of hand. Plus, he was spending a lot of time reciting scripts of his most-watched programmes and he had got into the habit of demanding TV everytime we returned home which was very wearing.
So we decided to go cold turkey. I might add the little man's daddy managed rather skillfully to time the launch of this screen-ban with a "very important meeting" taking him away from home and leaving me to face what seemed like a daunting uphill battle. But his job is with numbers and mine is looking after our telly addict so it was only right really that I face the challenge.
In actual fact, the new regime was remarkably easy to implement. Day one he asked for the usual programmes and "the little laptop" for dinner. I didn't say no, just distracted him and he was fine. Day two he asked once or twice. By day three he had forgotten all about them. Instead, he started doing puzzles again, and reading books - something he had loved doing but that had gone by the wayside as the telly took over. We sat and read book after book. He mastered a 20-piece puzzle, then a 24-piece. He started playing more with his cars and train set. It was more hardwork for me entertaining him (although the beauty is he started entertaining himself more) but the results at the end were just so rewarding it was completely worth it. We could see our little boy coming on leaps and bounds and not once did he ask for the TV. Yesterday he was ill and asked for Postman Pat so we cuddled up and watched it together - I am not a complete dictator.
I don't envisage a future without telly, and I wouldn't want that as I feel he would be missing out, but as far as I can it is going to be a limited passtime to make room for others. Well, let's see how it goes. Now, where did I hide the remote?

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Bump envy

Well my bump is coming on a treat I have to say. I'm 29 weeks now and it seems to erupt a little more every day. My inny tummy button is a distant memory, applying varnish to my nails has become a logistical nightmare and I am left more than a little breathless when I reach the top of the stairs - I think baby has taken more than its fair share of the room where my lungs should be.
What I have noticed this time around is how much attention seems to be being paid to how big the said bump is. Perhaps it is because last time I was pregnant I was surrounded my officeworkers and now my colleagues are fellow mums, often also pregnant themselves, but there is definite eyeing up and comparing being done (by myself included). Some fellow mums coo at how neat my bump is. Others have the opposite view, like my ever-tactful brother-in-law, whose wife is due exactly one month after me and on seeing me guffawed loudly: "Blimey, you are enormous" while looking at his other half's teeny tiny baby bulge. My friendly local butcher, upon discovering I am due the same time as his girlfriend, spent the next five minutes of our conversation casting glances at my belly and exclaiming how much smaller she was than me. Even my sarcastic "Well thanks for that" didn't seem to put him off. That's the last time I buy a sirloin steak from him - well this week anyway.
The other night I went out for drinks and was introduced to a friend of a friend who is also expecting. I cast a quick glance at her tummy and calculated I was at least two months ahead of her, judging between our sizes. She is due two weeks before me. It is her first though, a thought I comforted myself with as I waddled over to the bar to buy a lemonade and lime. You are always smaller the first time around - although I did see a profile shot of my taken just before the little man arrived into this world and was aghast at how big I had actually got.
One friend, due four weeks after me, always greets me with a friendly smile then groans at how big she is compared to me. Funnily, I think the exact opposite - I am sure I am bigger than her, as I should be. 
All this comparing and constrasting I take with a very large pinch of salt (and some handcut chips and fish knowing my appetite at the moment) as I am loving having a bump again. I take great delight seeing baby number two stretch and kick about under the surface and it is fun discovering my old maternity wardrobe again. And when I stroke my burgeoning belly, I remember how, a few months ago, I had longed for this to be happening and what so many of my childless friends struggling to fall pregnant would give to be in the position I am now - although perhaps not my most usual position heaving to get off the floor after clearing up toys left by child number one. I must teach him to tidy up after himself before it's too late and I am left helpless like a tortoise on its back, waiting for my husband to come and pull me upright again.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Can I have a wonderful birth too?

A few months ago I was at a party and one of the other mums there was telling me how wonderful the birth of her baby daughter had been. Yeah right, I had thought. Thinking back to my experience, I found it hard to imagine how anyone could find giving birth wonderful. Life changing yes. Momentous. Totally worth it. But wonderful?
Another mum there had also had a similarly positive time with her children and I found myself returning home that evening with a copy of Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan.
The cynic in me sighed wearily at the thought of ploughing through the book but pretty soon I was hooked and with each page turn, I began to feel that maybe, just maybe, I could have a wonderful birth too.
The idea behind hypnobirthing, if you haven't come across it before, is not, as you might imagine, to hypnotise yourself or be hypnotised so you are in a trance-like state during labour. Rather, it is about learning breathing and imagery techniques to keep calm and relaxed. The theory goes, you only feel the pain when you are scared of feeling the pain. While the muscles in the uterus do their work shuffling the baby down and out into the world, any additional tension caused by fear makes all the muscles spasm against each other and this is the pain we feel. I have watched YouTube clips of women giving birth quietly and calmly. Sometimes these mothers are so horizontal in their approach, their midwives are convinced they cannot be in full labour until suddenly a baby appears.
So I have enrolled in a four week course, starting tomorrow with a lovely woman called Rose. I don't know whether it will work or not but it seems to me certainly worth giving a go. What's more I have a commission from an editor to write about my experiences which feels such a positive thing to do because, if it does work, I will be wanting to shout about it from the rooftops. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

My pre-baby to-do list

As my due date looms in the middle distance, approaching at an alarming rate it feels to me, I am conscious there is a list of things I want to tick off before our family expands from three to four.
To start with, I must, must sort our photos. After much prevaricating, I have managed to mount the little man's first year in an album and was rather chuffed with the end result - so much better than flicking through images on a screen. But what about the next year and a half that follows? I must get this beautifully categorised and presented before I become absorbed in night-time feeds, endless winding and all the 24/7 caring that comes with a newborn. Reading back, this makes me sound as if I am dreading the prospect which I am not. Quite the reverse. We have longed for a second child and know how lucky we are to be having one - it's just this bloomin' list that is causing the trouble.
Next - I must hunt down all the teeny tiny baby things we have put away in storage, then work out how they can share space with a toddler's bits and pieces. Which reminds me, number 27 on the list - find a beautiful, groaningly big family home (with huge garden, next to a park ideally but still in the catchment for our local excellent schools) as we will find our current domestic arrangement somewhat squashed, as much as we love it. Practically speaking, this won't be until next year and that's fine so I'II put that to one side for the minute (although that won't stop daily scouring of Rightmove).
The biggest 'to-do' on my list is deciding on suitable transportation for the children. I still use a buggy for the little man when we walk into town as he doesn't like to walk or hold hands, but prefers to run full pelt. I can't imagine being able to keep proper, safe control of him while at the same time pushing a pram with a newborn in, so does this mean investing in a tandem buggy? Or perhaps a buggy board might work out (I am borrowing one from a friend to try out next week)? Or can I pop him in the stroller as usual and carry baby in a sling? All possible options which I am investigating by visiting shops, trawling websites and talking to fellow mums.
Thankfully, I have managed to tick off the big one - booking a family holiday. After asking your advice a few posts ago, for which many thanks, we have found a great little cottage on a farm in Cornwall that is run by parents Melanie and Mike and is specifically designed to entertain kiddies, with an indoor pool, play equipment, stairgates, baby monitors etc. They even ask how old your children are and promise to fill the cottage with age-appropriate toys. We will be going in just over a month and cannot wait. It will be our last break away the three of us. Now, number 56 on the to-do list - holiday shopping...

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Thank you grandma and grandpa

Grandparents - what would we do without them? I thought this as the little man's daddy and I took a wonderful early morning walk through a park just the two of us. We held hands, chatted about this and that, pointed out houses we liked the look of. We gazed at the snow covered fields glistening in the sunshine. Everything, in short, we wouldn't be doing had we had a toddler in tow. 
While I did glance sadly at the play park we passed by, feeling the aching pull of my maternal heartstrings, it was so nice to have some time out as a couple again. And this was all thanks to my parents, who had kindly agreed to babysit for us while we went to a friend's wedding in Birmingham over Easter.
The support I get from having family close by is so important. I am able to work, go away for weekends occasionally or visit the shops solo if I need to. We can pop round for a quick coffee or all head out for the day together. It just makes life so much easier and I know how lucky I am to have that near. Which is why I decided to write a feature on grandparents and the extraordinary help they are giving the young mums of my generation, featured *shameless plug* in this month's The Green Parent magazine.
Around 50 per cent of working mums rely on their parents when they go back to work after maternity leave. Almost one in five British grandmothers provide at least ten hours of care a week, according to an ongoing study being carried out across Europe by researchers at King’s College London. That's a good chunk of their retirement being taken up with nappy changing and spoon feeding, and I did begin the piece wondering if I would be confronted with unlying bitterness or resentment at the time being given up by these women who more than likely had been stay-at-homes mums all those years ago. In the end, I found no such negativity, in fact the complete opposite, and ended up writing an uplifting and hugely warming insight into the close ties that come when grandparents look after children, with one granddad admitting this time was the best in his life. 
I know my parents love being with their grandson and I love the relationship that has flourished from this one-to-one interaction they have each week. I can only hope their enthusiasm continues when baby number two arrives on the scene!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Table manners

I hate to admit this but I still spoon feed the little man. There, I have said it.
As you reel back in horror - he is two and a half after all - let me explain. He is more than capable of lifting a spoon or fork to his lips and shovelling in the food, the thing is he just doesn't want to. He has no interest. I know a lot of tiddlers are very independent (and he is in so many other ways) but he likes someone else to do the hard work at meal times. And because if I plonk the food into his mouth, he ends up clearing a plate and I know he has had a good meal and got all the right nutrients a growing boy needs, it seems the better, okay the easier, option. It is also much less messy.
It isn't all food. He munches crisps, biscuits, sandwiches, Humzingers (fabulous dried fruit sticks if you haven't heard of them before) etc solo no problem. It's cereals at breakfast and main meals at dinner where he becomes the baby again.
But I know I must break the cycle. I can't pop round to his school every lunchtime to spoon in whatever the dinner lady serves up as if he were royalty. He had a playmate over last week and while I was giving them lunch (she feeding herself, me surreptitiously poking savouries into his mouth so as to not ruin his street cred) she spotted what was going on and asked, quite reasonably, why I was feeding him. It was a bit embarrassing. I was made to feel red-faced by a not even three-year-old.
So I have decided to toughen up and tackle the problem. I will be patient and encouraging. We will try to have more dinners together despite finding his early mealtimes just that bit too early for us - I can find myself reaching for a bowl of cereal ravenous at 10pm if we do eat with him.
There's no hurry, no pressure to get it sorted which is nice so hopefully in our own time I will have my own little independent feeder at the dinner table. Now, if I can just sort the potty training...

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

No nappies? It's enough to drive me potty

The day is coming, very slowly, but I'm pretty sure it's coming when I am going to attempt to potty train.
The signs are all there. He can wake up from a night's sleep dry (occasionally), he tells me when he is going, but not before unfortunately. He takes his trousers off once he has gone, and his nappy if I don't get there first. He loves his "big boy pants". The only problem is he doesn't like sitting on the potty.
I tried putting him in just pants for a day but by the end he was so distressed when I asked him to go on the potty, I knew I was doing more harm than good so we went back to nappies.
I have read all the books, talked to other parents, bought a soft leather seat to fit inside mummy and daddy's toilet - I am ready even if he isn't. Ideally, if I could get him out of nappies before I have another little one in them, that would be great, but I won't let that be a benchmark. He is two and a half so there's still plenty of time.
But how to make the potty a pleasure rather than a pain? None of the books really address this issue which is rather frustrating. Perhaps I could use a book, or even the telly, to encourage him to sit, but I don't want to dig myself into a hole. I reckon once he has got the hang of it once or twice, he will be away but it's this initial hurdle we have to overcome.
For now, I will continue as we are, talking about the potty, explaining how things are done, and hopefully one day it will click. In the mean time, any ideas fellow mums?

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Toddler-friendly holidays - do they exist?

As the weeks tick steadily by towards the arrival of baby number two, we have been turning our thoughts to the possibility of a little holiday, just the three of us. We didn't have a proper break last year and the need to get away from it all, as they say, is quickly becoming less a desire and more an urgent necessity.
But where to go when you have a toddler who runs and never walks and needs constant hurding out of imminent danger - in short, a normal, although extremely active, two-and-a-half-year-old? What we don't want is to be somewhere that poses more work than we get at home. Anywhere with lots of steps, steep hills or perilous cliff edges is out. Even a wide expanse of open land is a bit of a no-no unless we are willing to run after him the whole time, because he doesn't stop and he doesn't mind how far he gets from us (I think - I haven't had the courage to test this fully).
Of course, we know that the days of snoozing on a lounger by the pool are over for now, for both of us at the same time at least, but if we could sit and relax for a little bit while watching him safely playing that would be marvellous. The beach is an obvious place to start. A pool would be good too as he does love splashing about. A play area with swings, slide etc would be really handy as a week is a long time to entertain a little one. Some sort of tiny tots club where he can do painting and playdough could come in handy. A private patio area completely contained would hit the nail right on the head. Most of all, we want somewhere that is child friendly and where there won't be other adults casting evil stares at us if the little man starts doing his own thing. In short, we want everything we have at home, but somewhere nice and hot.
So far, I have looked into family cruises, Centre Parcs and a rather attractive-sounding website called Luxury Family Hotels where adults and kiddies are all catered for under one rather posh roof. Camping is on the list (although I'm not sure I fancy sleeping on an air mattress at seven months pregnant gone). The best bet so far is a lovely complex of bungalows in Lanzarote. By May, it will be balmy but not over-bearing, there is a beach, a pool and a play area. I admit I am a little daunted by the four-hour flight but our trusty iPad should ease any problems there and, come on, I only have one child after all.
That's as far as I have got for now. The little man's daddy is snowed under with work and we are reluctant to book anything too far in advance in case we have to cancel which does leave me plenty of time to find the perfect place. If any of you seasoned mums and dads have ideas on good places to go with toddlers, I would welcome any suggestions. 

Monday, 4 March 2013

Finally, I twigged it

Today, the little man and I went to the park to make the most of a rare glimpse of sunshine. He had great fun, running about, occasionally climbing steps and whizzing down slides or asking to go "higher", ever "higher" on the swings. Then he spotted some twigs that had fallen on the ground from a nearby tree and his concentration was hooked. He was so busy playing with his new finds that he forgot to hang onto the roundabout and dismounted rather spectacularly head first. He was okay - he had his sticks.
As the sun descended, I tucked him up in his buggy ready for home. He was still intently playing, now with a single stick which he had spent a good half hour pretending it was a "tooty flute", holding it to his lips and making a high-pitched squeak. It was only when I had almost got home that I took a closer look at his pretend instrument and saw to my horror that it wasn't in fact a stick at all but a chewed lollipop stick. Nice.
Lesson number 325 on my journey as a mother - always check what bits of tat your son picks up from the floor.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Every Lidl helps

Lidl has been the talk of my fellow mums for some time now. They enthuse about the fruit and veg you can get there, all of it tasty but cheap. Their shopping bills have never been so low, they tell me. Even my dad has begun venturing in, returning with cut price dishwasher tablets and great slabs of chocolate like it's Christmas all over again.
So when my weekly shopping bill from Tesco hit a staggering £160, I decided it was time to take a look myself.
With the little man asleep in the car, and his daddy quite happy to keep him company and grab a nap himself, I took hold of my enormous trolley and ventured into the store. It's much smaller than Tesco and there are a lot of packets and boxes with obscure names and unreadable recipe information on the side but there are some old familiars there too - HP sauce, Branston pickle, Weetabix. I thread my way down the aisles stocking up the trolley.
Most of the cereal is unfamiliar but I take a chance (it is actually all very good). The seeded batch loaf I usually get is about 70p cheaper and delicious. Hot cross buns are in stock ready for Easter and are reasonable in price and taste. I even find some 100% fruit smoothies for kids at about half the price of their Innocent equivalent, although they are watered down so I don't think I will be getting them again. Crumpets, Heinz chicken soup, chorizo, wholewheat pasta all go in. The fruit and veg is indeed very good. A whole cucumber for 79p, a large pineapple for £1, a large ripe mango for half the price of Tesco but has yet to be tried and tested. There are organic carrots and onions and A LOT of cider on sale, if that's your thing.
So you can't get everything. There are no Pampers. I couldn't get hold of cream of tartare (for playdough which is the activity of the moment but I realise that is obscure) or parmesan or risotto rice. The miniscule packing area at the till suggests this is a supermarket not designed for big shops in mind (so why the enormous trolleys?) and most of the other customers I note are buying fairly small amounts of groceries, or a job lot of extra strength beer like the two retired men in front of me. With the tight squeeze and a growing queue behind me, I struggled to keep up with the urgent processing of the friendly man scanning my shop and did feel a bit hot and bothered by the end. Oh, and they don't take credit cards.
My final bill came to £89. I hadn't bought any meat or cleaning products or nappies but still it was a vast improvement and in the future I will certainly be using a combination of Lidl and Tesco, with the local butcher for meat and Jo the Fish in the town centre for, well, fish.
If you are feeding a growing family and trying to balance the books, I recommend discovering Lidl, if you haven't already. Good food, small bills, but even smaller packing areas.
One last tip - go armed with bags as they charge for them and you don't want a house full of Lidl bags for life - or is that the snob in me?

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Unleashed and out of control

Maybe it is just because I am always sprinting full pelt trying to stop my little pocket rocket from running off the ends of the earth - or into a road - but it does seem my toddler has at least twice as much energy than others his age.
Boy he can move, as demonstrated at my in laws recently when, upset at the thought that I was downstairs and he was upstairs, he launched himself at the stairs and tumbled head over heels to the bottom. No one could have stopped him at the rate he was going. Thankfully, everything was carpeted and it wasn't a big flight of steps but rather unpleasant non-the-less.
But it was at our local soft play, housed in a garden centre, that I admitted defeat and concluded that sometimes I simply cannot keep up with this little one. I paid for a one-hour session, and he trotted off, shoeless, to roll around and let off some steam among the oversized sponge shapes, ladders and slides. This was all fine for ten minutes at the most but pretty soon, having seen me sipping my decaf latte through the glass just outside, he decided that he didn't want to be in there, he wanted to be out in the shop, running around in between the rows of displayed china and climbing on the sacks of compost.
Fair enough, I thought at first, he wants to explore, but after fifteen minutes of me running after him, herding him away from breakables and giving every impression of a mother who was out of control to all the customers, which I am afraid to say I was, I admitted defeat.
Hot, sweating, red-faced (in both senses), we put our coats on and left my poor friend and her altogether much calmer boy alone to finish her coffee in peace. I could almost feel the sighs of relief from those around as we made our exit, particularly from the woman on the next table who rather unkindly I thought put her fingers in her ears while the little man protested at his break for freedom being cut short. Okay he was loud but she could have hidden her discomfort a bit more for the short time I took a rest to get togged up and ready to leave - or not sit right by a children's play area?
I got home feeling rung out and filled with different emotions. Frustration at what the afternoon had turned into. Wonder at why he felt the need to escape when all the other kiddies played nicely in the soft play. Guilt at having got angry with him. And admiration, for while his energy levels can at times be difficult, it is a part of him that I love. He knows his own mind, he is confident, he is not afraid to go off and explore. Exhausting as that can be, it is a side of his personality I would run a mile to crush. And the other day, I reckon I covered a fairly good distance doing just that.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Any cures for a cough?

The little man has been a bit under the weather recently. It came on just before the weekend, cancelling a visit to the grandparents and a rare Friday night out. At its worst, his temperature shot up which was the most worrying although Calpol and Nurofen did the trick and he was soon back from the firey brink. I must add at this point how relieved I was that I had paid that bit more and invested in one of those digital in-the-ear thermometers the doctors use rather than perservering with the forehead sticks that I never seemed to get the hang of. If you are in any doubt as to what to get, I recommend the Braun ThermoScan. Totally worth the extra pennies.
He has been left with a runny nose and a horrible cough that just heaves his little body constantly. He has always suffered from coughs, an inevitable after-product of any cold - and they go on for an age. Having dropped his daytime nap, he is back to having a two-hour sleep, as he is so exhausted by constantly coughing.
It can be so frustrating as there seems to be very little you can do about a cough.I am adminstering Calpol and cough medicine periodically and I have invested in some Manuka honey that an assistant at the local health shop said worked with her children although he doesn't seem to like the taste (and a drop of that ain't cheap I tell you). I am going to try sitting him in a steamy bathroom later this evening to see if that eases it. In the meantime, if anyone has any top tips on eleviating a bad cough, they would be most welcome.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

My new best friend - jeggings

On Saturday, as excitedly anticipated in my last posting, I hit the shops.
Childless, with credit cards burning holes in our pockets, my fellow mummy friend and I did our best to boost the economy, and our wardobes.
Being 15 weeks pregnant, buying "normal" clothes might seem to you a little bit like madness, seeing as a burgeoning bump would make them all but useless for the best part of half a year (or more depending how quickly I lose the dreaded baby weight). I might have once agreed, but that was before I came across the wonderful invention that is the jegging. Take the humble leggings (which I love and wear far too much), cross it with a pair of jeans and there you have it - trousers that look like denim but are stretchy and just so so comfortable. Okay, so the pair I chose from M&S looked dreadful on the hanger, with an extremely unflattering elasticated waistband that did it no favours, but once on they were a dream. And as I am hardly likely to be donning a crop top in my condition (I refer to age as well as baby), the offending waistband will always be safely hidden under a top.
Here is the pair I got:

Pull On Denim Jeggings
Pull on denim jeggings from M&S, priced £19.50

Although they might not bear the strain for the entirety of the pregnancy, these trousers are a perfect compromise for now and I can see them fitting perfectly for after the little one arrives which is value for money you can't argue with.
I couldn't resist buying a few things for the little man too - stripy socks, vests (can't have too many of these in my opinion) and a cute pair of thermal pyjamas with stars on, his favourite. We also managed to fit in a very civilised lunch and a much-needed afternoon pot of tea with large slice of cake on the side. Although we didn't have to, it ended up that we both got back in time for bath and stories which was rather a nice way to round the day off. A bit of me-time, a bit of mummy-time. Perfect.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Some me time at the shops

When I was five, my mum took me shopping to Debenhams. We covered the ground floor, gathering up clothes for me try on and then commandeered a large changing room just the right size for the two of us and all our hangers of dresses, skirts, tops and trousers. As I tried on outfit after outfit, with my mum rushing back and forth to get different sizes and colours, I had a moment of blinding clarity - in short, the sheer joy it was to go clothes shopping. As they say, it was like a lightbulb going off in my head, blinding my other senses to this one overriding feeling of euphoria. A true shopaholic's high.
It is a fond memory we both share. My mum says she can still recall the subtle change in my expression as it dawned on me that what we were doing wasn't something to get over and done with before heading for the book shop or cafe for a sticky bun, it was the whole point of the day and it was fun.
My love of shopping has not dwindled over the years since then, although becoming a mum myself has seriously curbed the amount of time I have to dawdle round the shops. In fact, most of the clothes I get are for the little man and I get just as much satisfaction buying these as anything for myself.
However, this weekend, another mum friend and I are putting on our heels and lippie, kissing goodbye to our little ones and are hitting the shops. We are both very excited. She has already written a long wishlist and we are putting together a military-style plan of action to make the most of the time we have. It will probably go something like: coffee, shops, lunch with long conversations not interrupted by toddlers or babies, shops, coffee (or something stronger for those not expecting) then home, hopefully armed with bagfuls of goodies. Bliss.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Our little miracle

So there it is again. The fuzzy black and white form, tiny arms and legs waving about, jaws opening and shutting, heart beating frantically it seems. Our new baby - all 6.7 centimetres of him or her. Isn't life incredible?
Yes, our news. Our three is, if all goes to plan, to become four in July - I know, the same time as a certain royal although probably without so much fanfare and ceremony - and we recently had the 12-week scan to confirm all is okay.
I remember the first scan we had when I was expecting the little man. The screen was angled towards the sonographer and out of my sight so I could only watch the reactions of daddy-to-be which was actually rather wonderful. The big grin that spread across his face told me that whatever he was seeing, it must be good. I am not sure what we were expecting to see that day, but we were both surprised at the fully formed little person in front of us, jumping about and wiggling its limbs like it was having its own little disco inside my uterus.
Things have come on a bit even in this short space of time and we were treated to a large wall-mounted flat screen monitor for us to peer up at. Again, it was lovely seeing this tiny being for the first time. There weren't scans like this when I was that size, my mum commented as she absorbed the photos we returned with from the hospital and it made me think again how lucky I am to be given this short glimpse at our new family member-to-be. Actually, having had rather an uphill struggle getting number two even to this stage, we are feeling pretty lucky all over.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Look who's sharing

Yesterday, the little man had a friend to play. I love having other tiny people over as I see it as a good opportunity for him to learn to share his toys. You never know quite how that's going to go, so I watched with pained interest as his playmate's eyes rested on this Christmas' favourite present - the accordian.
It was a gift from my parents and since it was unwrapped, it has gone everywhere with him. I thought perhaps this musical acompaniment to my life might grate after a while but so far, it remains rather pleasant, like a one-man folk band following me about.
I went to fetch it and the moment he saw it, the little man stretched out and took it in his arms. Gently, I said that his friend had asked if he could play with it and suggested he go over and give it to him. I held my breath. Then, he walked over to our guest and gave him the accordian. Relief and pride flooded over me.
I know this generosity might only be temporary. That another day, he could fight tooth and nail before sharing but for the moment it seems to be going in the right direction and that's all I can ask for really.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Be prepared - muddy puddles

Becoming a parent is such a huge learning curve and sometimes I wonder when exactly I will have it all sussed. Take the other day for example. I want to be the kind of mother that, when out and about, has everything for all eventualities. Pack of pocket tissues for a runny nose - tick. Tupperware box of snacks if hunger starts to bite early - tick. Waterproofs and wellies (plus thick socks to stop them constantly flying off when on the swings or being carried) - tick. Well yes, tick to the last one except the other day, I left it all in the car and let the little man sprint off to a play park in expensive leather shoes and tracksuit trousers. Very absorbent tracksuit trousers.
While other parents were happily watching their offspring jump about in puddles safely ensconsed in head to toe raingear, I was running around after him desperately trying to stop him getting wet and explaining that he couldn't jump in the puddles as he didn't have his wellies, or rather his mother was stupid and had not thought to put them on. It wasn't raining in my defence, and I hadn't reckoned on what all that blinking rain over Christmas might have left in its sopping wake.
In the end I gave up and let him splash about to his heart's content and when we did eventually return to the car he was thoroughly soaked through, especially as he had decided to sit down in one of the waterholes, giving his nappy the ideal opportunity to display just how absorbent it can be when put to the test. Well done Pampers.
I hated trying to stop him having fun, and it was all the more galling when I had the blasted stuff in the car. In theory I was the organised mother of my dreams - prepared for puddles - I just hadn't followed it all the way through.
So my New Year's Resolution is to be more prepared, and when I am prepared, don't ruin it all by not thinking things through. Oh, and always have a towel in the car for drying off soaking wet little bodies.