Category: Toddler

Tick Tock: The countdown to baby no 2 is on

Why did you decide to have a baby? Was it because you had got married and it seemed like the next thing to do? Have you always dreamed about having children and just waited for the right time? Was it an accident and hopefully a pleasant surprise?

I’ve always known I wanted to have kids. But after we got married I felt a lot of pressure to have a child. Mainly because it seems to be the only thing people ask you once you have tied the knot. But in the end, the reason we started a family was all down to broodiness. I don’t get broody around other people’s children. In fact, pre-kids I was one of those people who frowned at your children running around the restaurant and thought they should be better behaved. Don’t get me wrong, I loved cuddles with my friends’ babies, but I was more than happy to give them back. [Aside: what makes me broody now is looking at pics and videos of the J as a baby – she was so cute!!]

So why did we have kids, you might ask? I had been on the pill for a good 10 years and decided to take a break (with a view to maybe have children in the next few years). Then, a few months later I went through my first period of broodiness. It was a weird primal feeling that I just really wanted to have a baby. It was like my body was telling me you should be having a baby now. But I ignore it and it went away. Then a few months later it came back again. The third time that it returned, I realised that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. So we decided to tentatively start trying and two months later we were pregnant. By then it was too late and we couldn’t change our minds!

Fast-forward to the present day and we have an almost three year old. I knew I didn’t want to have a small gap between kids, at least two years if not three. The thought of 2 kids under 2 fills me with dread. We decided that the J would benefit from having a sibling as she loves her younger cousin and is so sweet with babies. So, we would start trying for a baby last summer – that was the plan. But then my brother decided he wanted to get married in Fiji in the October. As I had terrible morning sickness for the first 4 months of my first pregnancy, I decided I didn’t want to risk having morning sickness on a long flight.

We changed our plan and decide to start trying while on holiday – only a few more months to wait. Luckily, a chance conversation with a friend about our trip and perhaps some joke about shagging in Fiji, I mentioned our baby-making plans and she brought up the Zika virus. After a trip to the doctors (who was no help and simply looked on the World Health Organization website!) and a fair amount of my own online research – much of which was misleading – we realised we would have to wait for 6 months after our trip to start trying to get pregnant.

There’s conflicting advice about Zika virus and conception. If you are pregnant, the advice is clear – do not go to places with a high or moderate risk of Zika. The risk of what can happen to your unborn child if you contract Zika is unthinkable and just not worth the risk. I was surprised that Princess Meghan went to Fiji (around the same time as us) while she was preggers.

But if you want to have a baby, the advice is a bit murkier: some sites say that if you show no symptoms you should wait 2 months, others say that you can have Zika with no symptoms, if you are a single person its 2 months but a couple is 6 months as there is a small risk that it can be sexually transmitted. Surely, if you’ve both waited 2 months then the disease has gone??? It doesn’t make sense to me, but to be sure we are waiting for 6 months.

The only problem with having that long to think about making a baby, you start to question your choices! Do we want to go back to the sleepless nights? Am I ready to give my body over to another human for 9 months plus? And so on. I tend to prefer spontaneous decisions that you can choose to regret later.

So the countdown is on – we are almost three months in to the six month ‘no unprotected sex’ period. I have to say, I am pretty desperate to get cracking, with very frequent broody periods yet again, but patience is a virtue. Perhaps we should see it as a blessing in disguise. By the time we potentially have the baby, the J will be 4 years old and on her way to school the following summer. She’ll be old enough to help out with her younger brother or sister and should understand what’s going on. Grump says that he clearly remembers his sister being born when he was 3 years, 10 months and that it was very special. While I was under 2 when my brother was born and have no memories of it.

As a final note: I’ve been doing dry January this month and have been offered FREE prosecco twice that I have turned down. It has been a tough time. I didn’t drink any alcohol in my last pregnancy and don’t plan on doing it with the next one. That means I’ve got Feb-April to get my booze on… perhaps my next blog post will be about mum hangovers!

Christmas traditions…is it time to break them?

What are your Christmas traditions? For Grump and I, who have been together for a looooooong time, we always go for a curry on Christmas Eve. Pre-kids we used to go to the pub with our friends and then off for a drunken curry at 10pm (not ideal for digestion or the hangover the next day, I know!). Since having the J, we have still had our Xmas Eve curry, but as a relaxed takeaway at home, once she had gone to bed. She is now coming up to 3 years old and I feel that this is the first year she really understands Christmas. So it got me thinking about traditions and what we could start with her.

The J is old enough to get excited about Father Christmas (FC) and receiving presents, but young enough to not really understand or question the mechanics of how it all works. This year, I plan for us to write a letter to FC and leave him a mince pie, a glass of sherry and a carrot for Rudolph (as I did as a child). FC will bring her a stocking on Xmas day (full of Pound Shop goodies) and then all of the other bigger presents will be from family members/friends. Why should a fictional character get all the credit for the lovely presents that other people have bought her?!

I’m not convinced on Christmas Eve boxes, as it is giving yet more presents and the J got very overwhelmed with the level of presents last year. This year we have cut back massively. For me, the magic of Christmas is spending time with people you love – and eating an obscene amount of roast potatoes. Perhaps in the future, we could watch a Christmas film together as a family on Christmas Eve? And when the J is a bit older, we can get her properly into eating curry! Annabel Karmel’s microwave chicken tikka just doesn’t cut it.

I know that FC is about creating Christmas magic, but all of this lying is very stressful as a parent. I’d be interested to know what you tell your kids about FC and also which presents are from him? To make things worse, everywhere we go we’ve seen an FC with a very fake beard. Even in Sainsbury’s! Do you say it is a regional representative of FC? The lies are spiralling. But, I’m not going to be that parent who tells their child the truth and ruins Christmas for everyone else.

So this year we are breaking our tradition as a couple and all going for an early dinner at a local pub with my parents, as we won’t see them on Christmas Day. The plus point is that we can walk there in under 5 minutes and they serve delicious food (and wine…)! While it isn’t curry, the world isn’t going to end because we have broken tradition. I’m pretty sure that Tom’s family will thank us on Christmas Day when we aren’t doing smelly curry farts all day, too!

While I am keen to start a family tradition with the J, I also don’t want to be tied down to having to follow through with something elaborate and expensive every year. Don’t even get me started on Elf on the Shelf – that little sod is not welcome in our house.

As a final note: don’t forget to explain to your little ones that they can’t open presents sitting under the tree. Last night, I heard rustling and caught the J opening one of the presents (ironically it was for her). I did tell her off, but she was a bit confused as to what she had done wrong. I might have forgotten that we hid the presents last year and had not made it clear that we don’t open anything until Christmas Day. Bless her heart!

Happy Christmas to you all, whatever your traditions are.

Why I love name labels…

When Petit Fernand approached me and asked me to try out some of its personalised clothing labels, my initial thought was that I probably don’t need name labels for an almost two-year-old child. Those sorts of things are for children who are going to school, surely? But I was wrong. It turns out it is very useful to have name labels for a toddler. Mostly because they leave their stuff EVERYWHERE!

First and foremost, I labelled the J’s shoes, coat, hat etc. for when I take her to the childminder. That way, if something gets left behind (likely) or taken home by someone else by mistake, it is obvious who it belongs to. Those readers who know me well might be aware that I can be a little bit possessive about my things (and now the J’s things). It stems from lending people rubbers and pencils at school and then never getting them back. I like to know where my things are and I get very stressed when I can’t find something or lend something and don’t get it back within a reasonable time frame.

Labelling the J’s clothes reminded me of when I was at university and I decided to put a little blob of pink nail varnish on the underside of the handles of my saucepan set. In the second year, one of the girls I lived with had a very similar set. When we moved out and were sorting out our belongings she was adamant that a particular saucepan was hers. She could be very persuasive and I almost gave in to her when I remembered my nail varnish. I looked underneath the handle and low and behold there was a little blob of pink. Ah ha! I very smugly took back my saucepan.

So, I was pleased to be able to indulge my mild-OCD habits by labelling most of the J’s clothes and shoes. I also realised part way through the labelling-fest that I also had some ‘item’ labels too, so I have now labelled all of her drinks bottles and cups – again useful at playgroup when most of the kids have similar cups. I also think that name labels are a good tool for the J, because every time she has a drink, gets dressed or puts on her shoes, she is looking at the label and seeing her name. Plus, the picture and bright colours catch her attention. While she is far too young to start learning to read, it can’t hurt to get her used to seeing her name written down.

I also lent a bag of baby clothes to a friend the other day and rather than write out the J’s initials on the washing label of each item, I just stuck on a name label. It saves any awkward conversations when the time comes to return the clothes and you aren’t sure who lent you which items and what belongs to whom!

I tried out the starter value pack from Petit Fernand, which gave you a mix of stick-on labels and iron-on labels. Both types were quick and easy to apply. The starter value pack has 20 stick-on clothing name labels; 20 iron-on clothing name labels; 10 stick-on item name labels; 10 stick-on shoe labels; and 20 stick-on item name labels.

My favourite thing about these labels was that they could be personalised with a small image (we chose a unicorn obvs!) and then different colour schemes and patterns. I designed these for the J, but it would be fun to do this with an older child – giving them a say in the image and colour choices.

My only criticism was that while you could change the colour scheme and pattern, you could only choose one image for each different label in the starter pack. It would be nice to be able to choose 4 or 5 different pictures to go with the different designs as there were so many cute ones to choose from!

Having used these labels for a couple of months, they have lasted well and retained their ‘stick’ – they haven’t faded at all. At £22 for 80 labels the starter pack is excellent value for money and gives you everything you need for one child. Petit Fernand also sells packs for nursery, school, holiday camps/school trips, as well as personalised water bottles and lunch boxes.

Disclaimer: I was given a starter value pack of labels from Petit Fernand in return for writing an honest unbiased product review.

Me and my fussy eater: a daily battle I’m never going to win

Photo by Providence Doucet on Unsplash

 

I’ve never understood fussy eaters – whether child or adult. I absolutely love food, as my waistline has started to reveal now that I’m in my 30s and have birthed a small person. There aren’t many foods that I won’t at least try and I am one of those sad people who looks forward to every meal. I think that this is due to my own mother’s amazing culinary skills and the fact that she was (and still is) a ‘feeder’ and shows love by politely forcing food on anyone who comes to her house. Today, it was home-made chocolate brownies – typically I am on a health kick (see above comment about expanding waistline) so had to sit and watch Grump eat one… smug skinny bastard.

Whenever I’ve seen people being fussy with their food, I’ve always silently judged them. So when I thought about feeding my own children, I knew that, of course, they wouldn’t be fussy at all and would follow in their mother’s (and father’s) footsteps by loving food. How wrong I was!

I should have cottoned on that the J would be a fussy eater from the start when she was a difficult feeder. As a smallish baby at 6lb 13oz, she was always on the lower end of the percentiles and, while I was breastfeeding, I was constantly worried that she wasn’t having enough milk. After four months of stress and pain, she started refusing the breast and seemed much more content on formula. When we moved onto purees and finger foods she seemed to be doing ok and I felt like I was on the right lines. As you do with parenthood, I thought I had it sussed and then everything changed.

It’s only a phase

Since starting our weaning journey, the J has thwarted me at every turn. Here are some of her food-fad phases, past and present:

► After enjoying my home-made pureed vegetables and fruit, I moved on to proper meals and the J decided that she hated my cooking and would only eat shop-bought pouches; this lasted for a good six months. I kept on trying her with my cooking and ended up throwing away so much rejected food and then felt like a terrible parent for giving up and using pouches.

► The J’s appetite can sometimes be almost non-existent. In the past, when I tried to encourage her to eat and she didn’t want to she started throwing her plate on the floor. A low point was at a BBQ at my parents’ house when she threw a bowl of pasta in tomato sauce and it landed on my chest. I don’t know if it was pure shock or anger, but I sat completely still caked in tomato sauce. After about 30 seconds, I got up and calmly walked away. Thankfully I was not wearing a white dress and my Mum is a similar clothes size to me. After that we bought those special plates that have suckers on the bottom – luckily that phase didn’t last too long and I soon learned not to push her if she’d had enough.

► She constantly changes her tastes. She loves blueberries one day and will consume almost a whole punnet, but a few days later she hates blueberries and won’t eat a single one. So frustrating.

► She won’t eat anything with a sauce. I spent hours making different sauces for her to try, but she still likes plain couscous and pasta. She also went through a phase of only eating one or two things, such as peas and sweetcorn or Thomas the Tank Engine tinned pasta.

► She often refuses to eat her own food, but will eat exactly the same thing from my plate. This means I have to eat dinner with a child on my lap and with one hand. She also drops a lot of food on me and the floor. She also picks up our cutlery and waves it around with gay abandon. The other day, she almost took Grump’s eye out with a knife. I’ve been forked in the face more times that I can remember.

► Recently, she started refusing to sit in a high chair. So off we went to Bluewater and got her a booster seat. She sat in this happily for a few weeks and then decided the grown-ups’ bench looked more fun. A bench is the devil’s work, as there’s no back support and she can easily stand up, climb on and off it, and up onto the table, fall back and generally cause us stress at mealtimes. However, at the childminder and the grandparents’ houses, she sits in a high chair…

Live and learn (or not)

My life lesson learned is that you cannot control whether or not your child is a fussy eater. I followed all of the advice re offering vegetable purees first and then fruit so they don’t get a sweet tooth (the J asked for a mini-milk for breakfast the other day… sigh). I tried her with a range of different flavours and tastes from a young age, and have done my best to cook her a range of nutritious and healthy meals, most of which have been hoovered up by myself or Grump or have gone in the bin. You might be reading this and thinking that maybe I am a terrible cook, but my husband and friends tell me otherwise, so I’m not taking the blame for this one.

Some children are fussy and some are not. If you have a non-fussy eater then lucky you. I will continue to cook for the J and try different recipes, but sometimes it will be a chicken nuggets and baked beans dinner with a fruit corner for pudding and I can live with that. (Oh and sorry for judging fussy eaters… but seriously what is wrong with you? Food is the best.)

Why 13 months is my favourite age

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Like mother, like daughter – I always knew she would have a shoe obsession from an early age!

So it turns out, I’m not really a baby person. They are cute, but also quite boring. They just don’t do much. I have only recently come to realise this, as I am absolutely loving the J at the moment. She is almost 14 months and she is so much fun. She’s just started walking and she’s trying her best to talk (it’s mostly random sounds, but she really goes for it with the baby babble as if she is having a proper conversation).

Her personality is starting to come through, which is slightly unnerving as she really is her mother’s daughter – we are talking tantrums, mood swings and hanger. She is fascinated with everything and has this pure, ecstatic joy when she likes something, such as going on the swings, playing with her best dog pal Alfie, and getting a biscuit. There is something pretty special about watching your child discover the world. The crazy thing is, I know that she is hitting all the normal milestones at the normal times, but every time she learns something new, I feel like she is some sort of child genius and I am so amazed by her. She has this thirst for life, which is infectious.

The bond she has with both sets of grandparents is just lovely to watch. She wants to spend time with them and they seem to love being with her. They have that same sense of joy at watching her learn. It is almost as if they haven’t had children of their own and are experiencing it all for the first time. We all sit there, getting excited about the fact that she pointed at the dog and said “woo woo”. (Ignoring the fact that she also pointed at the chair and said the same thing.) She must be a bright! A child-genius in the making!

Typically, this period of fun has coincided with me working almost full-time and Grump being on Easter holidays – so he is off having great fun with the J and I am slaving away in the office. To be honest, I can’t complain. I love being back at work, and although it is tiring, I feel like I have a higher purpose. I really like being part of a team again and I’m finding pride in being my own boss, bringing in a bit of extra cash (and planning how to spend it), managing my own invoices and getting advance bookings.

I know that freelancing can be tough and I certainly found that out when I had two and a bit months with not much work. Plus the hours can be unsociable – I stayed up working until 11.30pm the other night, because the client didn’t send me the work until 8pm and I had to finish it that night (if you are a non-parent reading this, 11.30pm is VERY late for tired mummies and daddies to go to bed. In fact, 10.30pm is late. My ideal bedtime is 9.30pm and if I’ve had a really busy day 9pm. Oh how times have changed!). I also find that I do bits of work at the weekends and on my ‘days off’ (I’ve put this in speech marks as it may be called a day off, but I’m looking after a now fully-mobile toddler, so it can’t really be considered a break). But I’m enjoying the work, the responsibility and the flexibility that being freelance brings.

But back to the main subject – the best age so far. I’m sure as the years go by there will be other ages that I love and there are elements of each stage that have been fun, frustrating and bloody hard. I miss those lazy days of cuddling your newborn baby on the sofa, watching endless episodes of Downton Abbey/Games of Thrones/(insert favourite box-set here), drinking hot chocolate and ordering Grump to bring me things because I was breastfeeding and couldn’t move. I liked taking the J to baby sensory and watching her lay on the floor (not rolling over or crawling away) and staring up in wonder at the pretty lights and floaty mobiles. I liked watching her learn to crawl and discovering the different tastes of baby rice, puree and solid foods (now she only eats sweetcorn, peas and blueberries – and she will not be spoon fed).

All of these things I liked, but at this age, right now, I am so in love with my little girl. In the past, every now and again, I would get a moment where my heart melted and I felt this surge of love for her. I get those moments every day. Perhaps it is amplified, because I am at work from 9am-5.30pm and so the time first thing in the morning and in the evening is precious? But she is constantly surprising me, making me laugh and showing me her new skills. She seems so much cuter, more fun, more herself.

She has suddenly gone from baby to child. It is as if she has found herself and is loving it. When she catches her reflection in the mirror and gives herself an almost flirty look. When she hears music and starts to do her funny little bobbing dance. When she knows she is about to do something that she’s not supposed to and she turns to look at me and gives me a cheeky, knowing grin, and then does it anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, having a child with a big personality means that she also goes big when she’s in a bad mood. And my goodness, she lets you know if she’s not happy. Things that upset her include:

  • Having her nappy changed

  • Being given food she doesn’t feel like eating

  • Having anything taken away from her (toys, stones, the dog’s ball, dirt she picks up from the floor)

  • Pointing at something and you not bringing her the correct thing right away

  • Getting dressed, undressed, basically any removal of clothes

  • Having her face and hands wiped (I think this is true for all children, though)

And sometimes, there’s just nothing wrong at all and she throws herself down on the floor in a rage as if the whole world is ending. I thought tantrums didn’t start until they hit two years old? But I wouldn’t change her for the world, even if it made my life a bit easier. So here’s to enjoying motherhood – it’s only taken me 13 months, but I can finally say that I’m properly enjoying it… for now