There is something so sweet about children all dressed up for a wedding or special occasion, don’t you think? One thing I’m not keen on (and I’ve been guilty of doing it myself when we had Reuben) is little boys is full suits that replicate Daddy. Yes, they are sweet, but where is the childish charm? Where is the fun?
This year we have an incredibly special occasion coming up, two of our dearest friends are getting married, and as I am a bridesmaid (eekkk!) and my hubby is an usher, I want the boys to feel like they are dressed up too, but without being hot and bothered (it’s a July summer wedding) or feeling uncomfortable.
That is why I have fallen head over heels in love with these gorgeous outfits from La Coqueta. La Coqueta is a fabulous boutique, based in London, that has the most wonderful vintage inspired, truly classic ranges for boys and girls. Their shoes, accessories and clothing are all made in Spain to the highest standards and offer such a timeless look with a modern and fun twist. One of my favourite ‘looks’ at the moment, which I am seriously considering buying for the Toby (as he would look so darn cute) for this upcoming summer wedding is the Sagra boy look. For Reuben I adore the slightly more grown up Rambla boy look. The best part is, take each item individually and its something that children can wear everyday of the week, or for special occasions a smart casual, team it up and voila!
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been feeling a little warn out lately – I’m running around after the boys, working again and caring for a new baby who has about as much respect for night sleep as I do for UKIP. Anyway, I’m pretty knackered and I have been brainstorming a handful of things that can really help to bring your sense of self esteem back up if you are a busy mama and can just give you a bit of a much needed pamper.
- Take 5 minutes and paint your nails.
Ok, I know you are probably thinking ‘How ridiculous!’ but it’s not! I used to paint my nails all the time, even if I only had them clear or french manicured, I would take the time to paint them. Then I had kids and the idea of painting my nails every couple of nights was laughable. So I stopped. I am going to start treating myself to painting my nails again, but this time I’m going to be using gel nail polish – it lasts longer and gives a more even coat, not to mention that it helps strengthen your own nails, helping them to grow. Since this lasts so well I will be making a 5-10 minute slot on a set day once a week to paint my nails.
- Buy some nice bubble bath and have a really hot bath. ALONE.
I can honestly say every night I try to have a nice hot bath, I miss them so! But, it never happens, maybe once every other week if I’m lucky. If it’s not someone jumping in the bath first, it’s the boys climbing in with me, or Edith wanting a feed. Hello cold tap, I’m about to turn you on and freeze my tush off! I hate warm baths. 90% of the time I don’t even bother to get in the bath and I opt for a quick shower. Once a week light some candles, pour some nice bubble bath into the bath and relax – even if it’s the middle of the day or 10pm at night. It will help to lift your spirits!
- Take time to go for a coffee
I miss this sometimes. When you have older children, going for a coffee is like trying to negotiate a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine – it ain’t going to be pleasant and you are going to feel less relaxed coming out than you did going in. Unless its at a play centre, in which case you will be better, but still find your coffee chat punctuated with ‘Mummy so and so hit me’, ‘Mummy I want…’, ‘Mummy!! I needed you!’. Why not leave the kids with Dad or a family member and enjoy some quiet time with friends for a coffee. If your baby is too young (like Edith) to leave for any length of time then don’t, take the baby with you. It will still be relaxing to make time for you.
- Make a date night happen
I hate it when people say, ‘We’ve got a baby (or children) we can’t do date night’. Yes you can and you should. It’s important to have chance to get dressed up, feel special and enjoy yourself. Even if it means putting the kids to bed, the baby in a bouncer and getting the table ready for a take away. It doesn’t matter, date nights don’t have to be about going out (though that is ideal if you can) but they do need to happen to help you feel some kind of connection and relaxation with your partner. It can make you feel like woman again instead of a milk machine if you just have that time to put some lippy on and talk without the interruption of little voices!
- Do something you really love. No that YOU really love.
It can be anything, a crossword, reading a book, playing computer games – whatever. The point is, make time to do it, just half an hour a week would make a huge difference. For me, I love to read, I love to watch The Walking Dead (on my own, without ANYONE around) and I like to sit and re-arrange my charm bead collection – looking at the beads reminds me of all the happy memories I’ve had when I’ve been given or bought them.
So those a a few of the things that I think really lift you when you have had a baby or have toddler… or I suppose children at all. Busy mamas don’t have to be unhappy or miss out on whatever makes them feel special – it’s about time management and asking for help. No, you won’t get to do them daily, maybe not even weekly but do try really hard to do something for you to help keep you out of the rut.
Something I love to do is read. It can’t be a better way to transport yourself to a whole new realm, where anything is possible. This is something that my husband and I disagree over all of the time, he hates reading and tells me he never liked it, even as a child. It bores him, he’d much rather see a movie or watch something on telly. I have often said to him that, though I love telly as much as the next girl (how the hell else would I get to adore Kit Harington aka Jon Snow if not on TV, right?) I do find it so limiting. Where is the boundless imagination? And let me tell you, imagination is soooo much better than having someone else lay it out on a movie for you.
So, though we disagree on the TV vs Reading thing, one thing we both agree on is that we want to make sure the boys love reading and have lots of chances to really enjoy that. The boys have a bookcase in their bedroom and it is over flowing with books! We have everything you can imagine, from classics to modern art books – just everything! Here are a few of our current favourites:
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
- The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
- Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
- Everybody Poos by Tarō Gomi
- Matilda by Roald Dahl
- Lundravar the dragon by John A Blakey
- The Tale of Mr Tod by Beatrix Potter
These are just a few of our favourites, we have so many more. I think it’s vitally important for children to read and be taught to read. It’s about encouraging the imagination and allowing the mind to blossom for itself. When we watch TV all we get is someone else’s version of a story. How many times have you read a book that has been turned into a film, gone to see the film and then said ‘Woahhhh now, that’s not how it happened!’ or ‘That guy didn’t look like that, he’s totally different!’.
Not only is it imperative that we teach children to utilise their own minds but, if you think about it really carefully, when in life so you not need reading skills? You’re reading right now, you will read when you go to the supermarket, you will read road signs… we are constantly reading something, so in my opinion encouraging a love of literature is super important for future generations, especially with the technology temptation!
If you want more suggestions on what to read check out my what we read series.
You might remember a few weeks ago I wrote a post about family fitness and how to keep fit without even knowing you are exercising? Well, I left something out of that post, or rather someone.
When I look back I realise that not all of the activities were things that Toby could participate in – after all, he can’t bike ride, he can’t roller skate and he can’t rock wall climb (though he can go outdoor climbing and walking). So, Roo gets all these fun and funky gadgets like bikes, skates etc but what does Tobes get? Yeah, I can see this family fitness trip being super fun!
To avoid the temper tantrums that will inevitably ensue if you have one child on a cool bike and a toddler who, like Toby, wants to be involved in everything his older sibling does, you need to try scooters!
Tobes was given his first scooter by his Grandparents when they bought Reuben a little bike to keep up at their house for when he goes to visit. He loves it! I’m not suggesting he goes like the wind or anything, but he loves to push and ride, he feels so grown up and it helps to keep him active – without exhausting his little legs by making him walk everywhere.
Did you know that scooters aren’t just the most awesome fun for kids, but grown ups too? The other thing that is worthwhile knowing, with scooters your toddler will learn an element of co-ordination, but will be strengthening their core body muscles and helping to encourage balance. So if you are quite outdoorsy and you want to give your toddler the perfect summer toy this year, then go for a scooter!
I’ve been thinking about Edith’s Christening lately because I have just booked it and I love a good family get together, especially one of our Christenings! For all of our children we have booked their Christening in the middle of the year when it’s beautiful weather and we’ve then enjoyed spending time with out friends and family out in the beautiful sunshine!
This time around I have also been giving some serious thought to what I want to gift Edie from my husband and I. As a little girl I was given a truck load of jewellery for my christening and one of the things I was given was a beautiful charm bracelet that my godmothers all put together for me. I distinctly remember a little emerald bird in a cage that I was enthralled with from a very young age – it was so beautiful and I just wanted to wear that bracelet all the time. When Edie was born I decided that I was going to buy her a charm bracelet, something that she could have when she was 18, not before, but that I would buy her a charm for for every special occasion. I think that is such a wonderful alternative to the usual silver ‘christening gifts’ and its something that you can add to, or other family members and friends can add to. So, a charm for her bracelet maybe?
If you aren’t a jewellery lover like me and you wanted something else that was a keepsake (which is really what I believe Christening gifts should be) why not try something like a hand print engraving? My son’s Godparents bought them a stunning glass engraving kit each for their Christening’s, and you take an invisible non-toxic imprint which is then sent off and engraved into a glass of your choice. I can’t tell you how much these glasses mean to me, and when the boy’s get older they will make wonderful gifts to pass on to them and eventually their children.
Lastly, my other thought, which is very simple is a baby book. I have two ‘baby’ books for each of the boys – one for their first year, and one for 0 – 5 years. I changed my mind with Edith because I remember the milestone press baby book I came across at a trade show one year. I had to have one – it can be adapted for any type of family and has such wonderful, nifty suggestions for what you could add to the book. You might remember I wrote all about it here. Anyhoo, I think if you wanted to give this as a gift then it would be perfect to add a message from the gift giver in the form of a letter in the wallet at the back, maybe even some newspaper clippings from the day the baby was born (incidentally a friend did this for Reuben’s Christening and it was so lovely!).
P.s – What are your thoughts? What did you give your child/children or maybe if you didn’t gift your own children, how about family members or godchildren?
April and May are always the months when we start to get a little bit more into our outdoor explorations because the weather is generally warmer, but unfortunately there is also more rainy showers in these months and we always end up caught!
Where we live there is a beautiful National Park called Dalby Forest, its so pretty and full of promise for adventures on bikes or foot (with some really awesome play areas for the boys to go crazy too). The only problem with heading up to Dalby forest is that the boys have a tendency to get really muddy and wet after a few hours, especially if we get caught in the rain or if it has rained a lot the previous night and the ground is still damp – you know, kids will be kids and rolling around on the floor is pretty much a daily must do!
I am absolutely in love with these fab spring must haves! What I love the most about the wellies is the super soft furry lining and tie top. Firstly, the lining keeps Reuben’s feet really warm and it means that he doesn’t complain that his toes are cold (which he does – all the time when we are out and he is splashing in puddles!) but for me the tie top means that they don’t fall off when he is climbing and rolling about. That’s something I’ve found all too often with ‘normal’ wellies, and it is guaranteed to happen just as he climbs to the top of a climbing frame, which means I then have to climb after him – no easy feat with a baby strapped to your front!
As for the waterproof trousers, unlike most, these are easy and comfortable to wear. There isn’t that horrible scratchy feeling around his legs (do you remember them from your childhood? I do!) and they are so easy to just wipe down. Perfect. If they get truly filthy – which of course they do, he wouldn’t be doing his job right if they didn’t – then these ones are machine washable at 30C too (just don’t use any fabric softener or washing liquid on them – it coats the waterproof lining and damages it). Reuben will be getting a lot of use out of these because he needs them for when he goes to ‘big boy’ school full time in just over a week (which I’m sure I will be writing all about over the coming weeks!). Reuben’s school is classed as a Forestry school so there will be a tonne of outdoor activity… I’ll definitely be writing all about Forestry schools and what it entails in the months to come.
Having two little boys at different stages of development and working in the children’s retail sector for so long, I’ve picked up a fair few bits and bobs about how children develop socially and what we can do to help them. I’m not saying I’m a child development expert – I’m not by an stretch of the imagination – but I do have experience with how my children and their little friends interact.
I thought about this last week and I think it’s funny how children learn to notice each others emotions – take for example when a child is upset and throwing a temper tantrum in a supermarket. Every child I have ever seen (Toby and Reuben are so funny at this) look at the child like it has two heads. You can see, they are trying to figure out why the child is doing what they are doing. Why are they letting out their emotions in that way? Are they playing? Are they sad? Only recently, Toby has started to show empathy in this kind of situation – he will often bend down to the tantrum thrower and ask (in his toddler babble) what is going on. I think around the age of 2 – 2.5 is the time that children start to recognise other’s emotions and empathise with them, would you agree?
Before the age of 2, we can tell that children do associate facial expressions with certain emotions, they cry at a frown, laugh for a smile. I’m not so sure that they can actually empathise though. Take example Edith, when her brothers are throwing temper tantrums (which they do frequently) she doesn’t start to cry or get upset, and she doesn’t if she hears their laugher, but if you frown at her or smile, she responds accordingly. I do believe that this is something that only comes once your child starts to make ‘friends’ and I think understanding emotions is a fundamental part of building good social relationships and behaviour – think about all those smacking, biting, pinching or whatever episodes that children go through, it’s only once they understand that these actions have consequences and that they hurt or affect others that they grow out of this phase.
One of the most important things for encouraging children to empathise (which is so important for helping them to build relationships with their peers) is talking to them about emotions. I’ve always been a big believer that you shouldn’t try to shield children from any emotion – good or bad. If you are crying or upset, explain that feeling to your child, even if they are only 1 or 2 years old. I have often said to Reuben that I am crying or sad because my heart is hurting, over a variety of reasons, but I’ve reiterated that it isn’t something to be ashamed of or worried about. Showing them emotion cards or asking them about their emotions and if they can explain them can also help a lot it gives children the chance to talk about emotions before they are feeling them.
What are your thoughts on helping children to understand emotions? Did you do anything or do you disagree? I’d love to know your thoughts
Family holidays are the perfect way to create fantastic memories that your children will hold onto for the rest of the lives, yet finding the perfect destination can be complicated when you have tiny tots in tow. If it’s luxury you are seeking then there are plenty of places that offer that type of holiday with children (you might remember my post about luxury holidays with kids if you are a long time reader? If you don’t and that is what you want you can catch it here). As much as we all love beach trips and city breaks, you either have to be completely organised or accept that they are going to be accompanied by little voices wondering what you’re going to do next – after all, most children fail to see the allure of lying on a beach all day, visiting crumbling historic monuments, or traipsing up mountainsides in 30 degree heat.
Luckily for us mamas, there are some holiday destinations that are built around creating the perfect family holiday. These infantile wonderlands are filled with endless delights for young minds, and a welcome respite for overworked parents is usually built into the package – not to mention, if you are like me in any way at all, they will probably be something of you secretly dream of visiting yourself! If you’re looking for the perfect haven to keep your children (and yourself!) entertained this summer, these are three places that make it onto the 2015 top family destinations.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando
Only recently unveiled, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter offers the perfect getaway for every Harry Potter-obsessed child. As a child I remember my mum reading me the first Harry Potter books (you know, back when they were brand new and unheard of…) and falling madly in love with them. Even as a slightly geeky teen I would be the first in line for the midnight unveiling of the newest book at one of the book stores. This place is an absolute dream for me and is somewhere that I will be taking the kids when they are just a touch older and can all enjoy it. The hot Florida sunshine is perfect for me as a sunshine worshiper, whilst the destination itself is the perfect playground for kiddies everywhere. If you or your children would revel in the chance to explore Diagon Alley, cast spells, escape from Gringotts, and feast on enchanting delicacies like Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, then this could be the ideal location for you. If you do manage to make it there this year, let me know how AMAZING it is so I can get even more excited about the trip I’m planning in roughly 4/5 years time!
SeaWorld, San Diego
This is another place that I would urge everyone, big and small, to visit. We are crazy about our local SeaLife Centre, we even have an annual pass, so this is something that I know the boys would be crazy for – even at the tender age of two like Toby. It’s just a dream destination for every animal loving child, offering the chance to see everything from killer whales (erm, how exciting!?) to bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, penguins, and sharks (Toby’s favourite) up close and personal. As well as enjoying the San Diego sunshine, the kiddies can make memories they’ll treasure forever, with the chance to watch the animals being fed, meet the trainers, and spend time exploring the many delights of SeaWorld’s amusement park.
Disneyland Paris, Paris
We were planning on taking the children for a small trip to DisneyLand Paris before we go all out and have a big trip to Florida in a few years. What could be more ideal than a quick trip across the channel for the chance to meet all their favourite disney characters? The choice of ferry, aeroplane or Eurotunnel (all of which are part of the excitement for kids half the time), makes it easy as pie to reach. It offers all of the magic of Disney at a fraction of the price of its Florida counterpart. Visit Cinderella’s castle, charge up Space Mountain, and dine with Mickey and co in the park’s enchanting grounds – Disneyland is every child’s dream come true.
If you want more family friendly ideas for your summer holidays, take a look at this article by Ice Lolly. Family holidays are perfect for building memories that will last a lifetime, and although you can travel anywhere in the world and make special memories, these kind of resorts can just help to cater to your children more, hence the reason we love places like Center Parcs – if it’s designed with children and families in mind, then you really can’t go wrong.
I’ve often found that I’ve felt a bit stuck for clothing when I’ve been breastfeeding. Obviously, I need to be able to feed on demand, wherever I am, which is an issue if I don’t have the right clothes for the job. I usually wear shirts over a vest top, but now that the weather is improving I’m missing pretty dresses and skirts.
You might remember that around a year or so ago I wrote about the clothes the boys had from Frugi (you can catch it here if you missed it). Well now Frugi have launched a range of maternity and nursing clothing that is just like the rest of their range – fun, vibrant and beautiful. Not to mention that luscious organic cotton that they use in all of their products.
I’ve been wearing the lovely summer tie dress in the nautical theme and I can tell you it is so comfy! I just love style, it doesn’t cling to the places I need to avoid (hello, post baby belly!) but it means that I can enjoy wearing something that makes me feel pretty and feminine, even though I’m breastfeeding.
So, this summer, nursing clothing doesn’t have to be boring and you can still enjoy wearing pretty dresses everyday (without the hefty price tag that you get with occasion dresses).
This is something that I have a lot of experience with, I’ve been baby swimming with my kiddos since Reuben was 8 weeks old, and it is only this month that Roo has jumped into swim classes without me in the pool with him. So over the years I have learnt what does and doesn’t work for preparing for your first lesson , and I have seen so many babies and parents start their journey learning to swim that I wanted to share a few of my top tips to try and help parents feel more prepared and put aside the nerves that come with baby swimming for the first time.
There is something about having a new or young baby that means you need a truck load of stuff with you constantly! Be organised, pack your bags for swimming the night before – arrive before you think you need to. Generally you need to remember a towel for you and for baby, swimwear for you and baby, a disposable nappy, a wetsuit nappy to go over the top and a nappy for afterwards. On top of all of this you need to take with you whatever you normally would for a day out with baby. I would suggest if you aim to arrive a good 15-20 mins before your class starts, you won’t feel rushed. I always tried to get to the boys swim classes early to feed them and get changed without rushing.
Don’t give baby a full feed directly before class, but do give them a little top up if they are hungry
You will find that when you start baby swim classes you will be advised to avoid feeding baby up to an hour before swimming. This is because if they have a full stomach and get water up their nose or down the wrong way, they can be sick… pretty much just like you. Unfortunately babies don’t accept this advice very often! What I would suggest is have a feed prepared or scheduled for afterwards, but try to give baby a little top up 15-20 mins before class. That way the hunger will be put off for a time and they will be able to enjoy the class more. So many people over the years have told me they stopped swim classes because they could only do them at a time she they knew baby needed a feed and then there was nothing but tears all class. I’m not saying ignore the rule, never give baby a full feed, but a little top up is ideal.
Be prepared for tears every so often, it doesn’t mean they hate it
Ok, when you start baby swimming you are trying to get them used to water and water confident. Often during baby swimming your baby will be submerged at one point or another, and if not they are certainly going to be splashed in the face with water. Don’t panic if they cry! It’s not a sign that they hated it, its a sign that they need you to reassure them and remind them that this isn’t something bad or scary, just different. I also find that the younger baby is when you start, the less bothered they are by water to the face or being submerged, after all, they have spent the last 9 months in water you know!
SMILE. A lot.
It really doesn’t matter that you are nervous, you need to smile and look like you are having a great time. If you don’t then your baby ill sense this and might think that something is wrong. Is it scary taking your new baby under the water at however many weeks old? Yes, but if you let them know that then you are setting up for disaster. This is something that is going to be a life skill for your child. Reuben is just 4 and he is swimming at the competency level of a 5-6 year old – we have had years and years of enjoyment together during our swim classes and I think that is something that every newcomer to baby swimming should keep in mind.
Baby has a cold, it doesn’t mean you can’t swim.
So baby has a bit of a snuffle and you are worried that it might not be a great time to start swimming or take them. As long as there is no chesty cough, no temperature and you think baby will be happy to swim, a cold doesn’t mean you can’t swim. You can – in fact, chlorine will often help to clear the cold away. Go with your instincts and remember that you both have to be confident in the pool, not just the baby.
So they are my top tips, it’s easy to feel over whelmed and nervous for your first baby swimming class, but you don’t have to and I promise that you will love it once you get over those nerves.
This simple vegan Victoria Sponge cake is always a easy and pleasing sweet. I made this for my family and it was enjoyed by everyone. Yumm!!
If you are a long term reader of the blog you might remember I wrote about some fabulous wallet cards that I found from So Awesome? Well things have certainly progressed with these wonderful cards since the last time I wrote about them. There are now several different designs of wallet cards to choose from, all of which have a different thing to teach your child. You can now choose from number and alphabet cards and you can pre-order their new styles: emotions, seasons, household items and pets (must be pre-ordered by 28th April).
Ever since my children were tiny (literally from sitting up as a baby), they would almost always empty out my purse or fiddle with my keys. There isn’t any educational benefit to that really and lets be totally frank, there are only so many £10 notes I can afford to find torn up before I go insane. What I truly love about this concept is that your child feels they have their own wallet that is filled with those cards they simply have to get their mitts on too but the cards range from ‘play shop’ credit style cards and money to educational cards that will help your child to learn and develop – without them ever knowing it! I call that a parenting win! Take for example the new emotions deck which has 36 cards (yes a whopping 36). Each card has the photographed face of a child expressing a certain emotion such as happiness with a big smile or sadness with a big frown. This is something that most child development experts recommend for a nursery or preschool age child to help them strengthen social-emotional skills, as it helps them to navigate their way through the social emotional language of the people they meet everyday.
What makes these cards from So awesome stand out isn’t just the quality but the illustrations on the cards – they are genuinely beautiful and each one contains so much detail, it would be impossible to get bored! I just love the seasons cards – so cool and perfect for explaining to children how to dress and what they can do in different seasons.
P.s – Maybe its the blogger in me, but I have to recommend that you visit So Awesome’s blog, it’s great and packed full of treats, ideas and educational tips for how to get the most out of your cards and your kids.
P.P.s – For my UK based readers the $45 Reward on Kickstarter has discounted international shipping at just $5 – This includes the full bundle of all the new decks!
Easter parties are something that all children (and adults) enjoy, especially with an Easter egg hunt involved – it’s a case of hunting about for chocolate… to be fair, who wouldn’t love it! Last year I wrote about Easter egg hunts and gave you a few ideas of what to do for the kids for Easter with safety tips and organising a hunt, but I thought I’d get a bit more specific this time… how do you have the best Easter egg hunt ever? What about a proper party for Easter, with lunch included. I’ve organised an Easter party and egg hunt for the kids next week with some little friends during the Easter holidays which is something I’ve done for a few years now and each time it gets more fun and more exciting!
I’ve put together a few tips on how to make your Easter party so much fun over the holiday:
- Check out all of the dietary needs of the children coming.
It’s not fun to be the only child at the party who can’t enjoy any of the treats. This year we have a little friend who is coming who is dairy intolerant, which means that he either needs something different to some of the other kiddos to hunt for. I’m super lucky because his mummy told me in advance and has kindly gone out and sourced some of his favourite treats so he won’t feel left out or upset. If this happens to you think about making something alternative like jelly sweets, fruit, dairy free chocolate etc. To make sure that the other little ones don’t find his/her prizes you can give each one a sticker and put matching stickers on the treats for each child. That way, everyone gets even, no one feels like they are singled out and we all have fun.
- Don’t forget to decorate!
There is something about finding little rabbits and things about the garden that is just too much fun. Let’s be honest, these little decorations cost nothing and they look super sweet. The other thing you could try would be to buy some of these little tassels (I’ve got mine from My Little Day) to put in the trees, just to spruce up the garden a little bit.
- Try not to over do it.
There is nothing worse than finding out you have a mountain of chocolate eggs but you can’t stop searching because there are a tonne of things still hidden. Don’t go crazy, the kids won’t appreciate it and neither will the grown ups when they have grumpy, hyper kiddos at home. On the same note, remember that these are children, you really don’t need to make it a MENSA style hunt, simple clues will suffice.
- Don’t forget lunch!
All that chocolate is enough to make anyone forget about Lunch – who wants carrot sticks and sandwiches when they can have Easter eggs?! Unfortunately the last thing you want to see is a group of crazy hyper children who have nothing in their bellies but chocolate – so a lunch or dinner meal is essential for an Easter party. I’ve got a tonne of fun suggestions for Easter treats (savoury and sweet) on pinterest, but if you aren’t feeling overly creative then why not just have a normal picnic? There are few things more fun than a picnic when you are a child, and it’s something you can do indoors or out.
- What happens if it rains? The best indoor parties…
Raining? In April, in the UK? Noooo, never. Ok, all joking apart, chances are that it is going to rain over the Easter holidays and as is sods law it will do it just after you have organised a glorious Easter hunt in the sunshine, complete with picnic and games. Well, that doesn’t matter! Easter parties are just as much fun indoors as they are out. Get creative with you hiding of Easter eggs, but if there are places you don’t want the kids to seek out, make little clues that help lead them to the eggs. As for a picnic, a big blanket in the living room with all of the sofas pushed out of the way is a weekly thing in our house – don’t let them weather be a party pooper, be prepared for indoor fun too!
- Don’t forget the grown ups!
This is so easy to do, and I’ve done it myself before. Don’t forget the mums and dads that you invite! They want food and drink too, not just your company. My mum and dad used to host the most wonderful Easter parties, but not only did they do little picnics for the kids, there would be a wonderful spread for the grown ups too, complete with Easter punch and a keg of beer (ok, they had THE best parties ever). There really is no need to go mad, a platter of open sandwiches, some hot cross buns and a few different juice options will make a world of difference!
That’s it for top tips, I hope you do invite friends over and have a little party, it’s so much fun and something that really made Easter for me as a child… not just for the chocolate!
With spring now upon us, I’ve started to pack away my winter accessories and big thick quilts in favour of lighter sheets and fresher decor in my room. You might remember that not too long ago I redecorated the boy’s room (you can read about it here if you didn’t catch it) and designed Edith’s nursery t0o (again, if you missed it, check it out here) but I like to keep kiddos rooms relatively season and age free – after all, you would be redoing them every other month if you went with ‘trends’. That being said, this upcoming Spring/Summyer season I think there are some fabulous ‘trends’ for home ware, that can be incorporated into any room – no matter what your colour scheme really is. I thought I’d tell you about a few of them and how to add these Spring styles to your room without changing too much.
For Something Ethnic
The effortless look of bohemian chic is a timeless look that is perfect for a spring/summer bedroom. I just love this look, and when I think of it I always channel those hand block printed quilts, or these stunning quilts from OM Home (remember those jasper cotton pjs the boys had a few years ago? Yep, quilts like that – hello!) This kind of theme is so beautiful with wooden bed furniture, it just completes that earthy feel that can be super relaxing. This look will definitely make you feel luxuriously cool, even if you don’t get the chance to spend much time in your bed once the kids get you up!.
For Something Floral
Florals are the staple trend for any spring/summer look, not just in the bedroom. Add a little sweetness to a fairly neutral room with some big scatter cushions (have I ever mentioned I have an obsession with scatter cushions? No? Well I do!) that have floral prints, or even a floral print quilt. Add a bouquet of fresh flowers on the window sill or on the dresser, with candles to keep that wonderful fresh scent and make it feel like you are in a meadow.
For Something Vintage
In recent years, the vintage countryside look has been creeping its way into interior Spring/Summer trends; and with good reason! With patchwork cushions (which you can easily make yourself – possibly even from your little ones old clothing for a really personal touch) and soft, sweet tones, this pretty as a picture style is ideal if you want something that is timeless and maybe not so daring. It is therefore perfect for those who may only want a subtle change to their spring/summer-inspired bedrooms and works well with pretty much every style of furniture.
This spring/summer is all about keeping things real and simple, and as parents we often don’t have the time to think about chafing our rooms from a ‘wintery phase’ to a ‘spring phase’ – let’s be honest, do you even remember the last time you did a ‘spring clean’, let along a total remake of something just because the season changed?! What is great about these styles is that they can easily be incorporated into your existing bedroom colour scheme, all the while still looking as though it had always been there, with hardly any effort from you at all! So join me in packing away the wintery accessories and spruce things up for Spring!
We’re all about eggs at this time of year aren’t we? I’m convinced that egg sales must sky rocket, and I don’t mean chocolate eggs. So those of you that have a family that doesn’t really eat eggs all that often but went out and bought that pack of eggs to make your child the painted egg for school and you now have loads left over? This is for you.
How to make the tastiest frittata for those Easter holiday picnics and nibbles.
- 8 – 10 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups of cheese, grated
- 1 small onion, diced
- Splash of cream or milk
- salt and pepper
- Whatever else you can find – tomatoes, bacon, ham, courgettes, mushrooms, peppers… anything!
You know those recipes that claim to be idiot proof and then you have to have a cookery degree to get them quite right? This is not one of those.
Set your oven to GM 6, 400 F, 200C.
Beat your eggs up, add your cheese, salt and pepper. Fry your onions for roughly 2-3 mins until they are translucent and cooked. If you have anything else that you want to fry or cook then do it now (top tip: peppers are great in frittatas, I like them roasted.)
Add everything to a pie dish (or flan dish) and bake for 30-40mins. There should be no movement in the middle and a skewer should come out clear.
Boom. Picnic hard my friends.
I am constantly trying to find new ways to engage the kids in reading and since they are currently so obsessed with zoos and animals in general, I have found these awesome books from MIBO for them to read and enjoy.
There are 3 books: The Safari Set, The Polar Set & The Jungle Set. Each one focuses on the animals that would live in that climate/area, while treating the reader to the most sumptuous illustrations that you would come to expect from MIBO. I love them!
One of the best things (for me) is that these books get it right, there is nothing more frustrating than reading a book and being corrected by a 4 year old because Lions are not jungle animals, didn’t you know?!
You might remember my post about MIBO pop out animals around Christmas (if you missed it, it’s here) and these books have exactly the same adorable little pop outs in the pocket at the back, so you can bring the stories to life too.
You can find MIBO books here.
Breastfeeding is such a wonderful thing, I feel such a bond to Edith when I am feeding her – those trusting little eyes looking up at me, the way her finger holds mine. It’s magic. Having said all of that, every breastfeeder I have ever known has said that at some point or another they have felt completely tied to the baby with little to no freedom whatsoever. For some this is no issue, for other’s it becomes an impossibility and in days gone by we would simply have to give up feeding.
Now we have the wonder that is breastpumps! Despite making you feel like a cow stuck in a milking machine, these little contraptions make your life YOUR life again. In my case, I am going to be a bridesmaid for my dearest friend’s wedding, so there is a weekend hen party to consider and all the pre wedding stuff, most of which Edith will be with me for, but what about the times she isn’t?
There are so many breast pumps on the market, but the Medela range has always been my favourite (even before I had children and was working within the sector Medela was always one we recommended). I’ve been using two breastpumps – the Medela Harmony (manual) and the Medela Swing (electric).
What is the difference between Manual and Electric (other than the obvious!)?
One of the questions I would be asked the most when I was selling breastpumps is, ‘What is the difference between electric and manual, and which one would suit me better?’ Well, the primary difference is that one is electric and takes care of the pumping for you, while the other is hand expression and you pump yourself. Depending on the level of expression you are wanting to go for will affect your choice of style – I am hoping to express quite a bit for Edith, I want her to be used to a bottle and I want to be able to head out without her on occasion – purely because I have to for work, for events for the boys and for my own sanity. If you are wanting to express quite a lot then an electric pump is likely to be the best option for you, if you are dabbling with the idea and unsure as to how much you will express – or for how long you will feed – then a manual will probably suit you better.
Why do I love Medela so much?
Simply because of their dedicated research. They have designed a 2 phase pumping system, which no other brand seems to replicate. If you ever watch a baby feeding (or even a little lamb, they do it in exactly the same way!) then you will notice that they start off super fast, like they haven’t been fed for weeks, which stimulates your milk flow, and after that, they take long slow sucks that replicate having a cold beer on a hot day. Or something like that.
Each Medela pump has this revolutionary 2-Phase Expression technology, which consists of:
- Stimulation mode(for rapid stimulation of the milk ejection reflex)
- Expression mode(for gentle and efficient expression)
And I can tell you, not only from first hand experience, but from years and years of talking to other mums about it, that this makes all the difference to getting those extra ounces of milk that you just couldn’t express before.
How to get the best out of your pumping sessions.
This is something that I have learnt over my pumping journey with Toby & Edie. Pumping isn’t for everyone and sometimes its really difficult to do, so I thought I might put together a couple of my top tips for helping you get the best out of your pumping experience.
- Try not to think about what you are doing too much, okay? Look – it’s not the most glamourous thing – you know it, I know it too – but try not to think of it in any way other than providing milk for baby. You don’t feel grossed out and conscious when you are breastfeeding, so don’t when you are pumping.
- Have baby near or, if you can’t, have something that smells of baby. I know this sounds silly, but everyone will have heard that in order to get the best expression you should either feed baby on one side, or try to have them on you lap/close to you. I don’t get how experts can offer this as advice when one of the most common reasons women breast feed is so that they can go back to work! If you are that woman and you can’t feed or have baby close, try taking something with you that belongs to baby – a bodysuit, a teddy bear, anything – and hold it close to you while you are pumping. I found that helped, even if I did feel a little creepy doing it! You could even have a little recording of baby playing (or crying for food if there is some way to capture that without distressing baby!)
- Warm the end of the pump. This is super helpful and you can buy a tonne of products that will act as heat packs around your pump head (my favourite is this one from Lansinoh). Keeping your breast warm will encourage your milk production. If you have the luxury the best place to express is the bath.
- Drink plenty. I know you will already know this because you are a breastfeeder – drink plenty is probably one of our mottos (along with all hail nipple cream) – but it is easy to forget if you are out or at work. So don’t try to pump if you haven’t been drinking plenty and don’t forget to eat too.
That’s it for breast pumps! If any other ladies have anything that they can add it would be great to get some other insight into what other mamas do, and maybe help me fill up my fridge!
Although so many of us understand the importance of fitness for our family, more often than not, it can be trying to say the least to encourage your family members to exercise as often as we’d like. There is a whole host of concern regarding the growth of obesity combined with the temptation of games consoles and fizzy drinks, keeping the younger members of your family fit and active is a struggle, but something that I genuinely believe should be persevered with and promoted rather than avoided at all costs. Whilst sports and activities such as jogging or football may not appeal to you or your loved ones, they certainly never have to me; there are plenty of alternative methods of keeping active that can be enjoyed by the whole family, here are just a few.
Yoga may seem like a hobby usually associated with yummy-mummies, it is certainly a work out method becoming more and more popular with a wider audience. Don’t be fooled though, this exercise is definitely more strenuous than you’d think and really helps to tone and define the body, improve flexibility whilst helping to clear the mind too. It’s one of those thing that the whole family can join in to a variety of levels – from baby yoga (which starts when you baby is crawling and is all about getting them to use muscles that they might not otherwise use often) to Madonna-style extreme muscle toning for adults who have been doing yoga for years.Yoga is fun, easy to get into and the best thing is that the classes run for children and babies won’t even feel like exercise classes so your little ones will be keeping active without knowing it!
For the adrenaline junkies among you, climbing can provide you with a real thrill and is something the whole family can enjoy. There are many climbing walls housed in former industrial buildings and reclaimed warehouses up and down the country, meaning you’re not restricted by the adverse weather conditions we so often encounter in the UK. Although challenging, climbing can help to improve inner and outer strength and after a few sessions, you’re certain to see a positive change in yourself. As you know, we go to Center Parcs villages at least twice a year and this is one of the activities that is super popular amongst boys age 6+, one of the highest affected age ranges for obesity. You don’t just have to do walk climbing either, when I was a little girl my Dad would take me out to the moors near his home and we would spend whole days walking his dogs and climbing. Nothing too extreme because I was no older than 8/9 years old but just climbing amongst the rocks and taking routes – its something my parents did for years and, living with close proximity to the lake district and in Yorkshire, we are blessed with some of the most wonderful mapped out walking routes that combine outdoor ‘climbing’.
It may remind you of bad 90’s music videos or being dragged down the street by your childhood friends, but roller skating is an extremely fun way to get back into shape, and is guaranteed to get your little ones moving. I have some wonderful memories of my mum (who was 40 years old when I was born!) skating around the kitchen with me in tow, singing into sweeping brushes ‘Do you love me’ by The Contours. Little did I know (and the post man who was greeted by this scene) that this was a full blown work out for both of us – all I remember is my awesome mum playing with me and making me smile. Investing in protective gear is a must if you want to avoid those inevitable bruises and grazes, but roller skating is a superb strengthening exercise and great for building up muscle strength.
You might remember me mentioning that I am a Water Babies advocate and that my children have been swimming since they were mere weeks old. Swimming is something that children see as extremely fun, even teenagers love to get into the pool and have a splash, but what most kids (and adults) don’t realise is that swimming challenges your muscles in ways that very few other things can do. For a baby the action of kicking their legs is a fabulous work out, for a toddler who is swimming on a woggle they are building up their core muscles by balancing and coordinating their arms and legs. For adults and teens swimming lengths can therapeutic and combines cardio and muscle workouts.
Cycling is a fantastic alternative to jogging as it is much easier on your joints, and no matter whether you live in the countryside or are limited to using the city cycle paths, it’s an easy way to include the whole family in your exercise regime. You might have seen my post about our recent trip to Center Parcs for Reuben’s birthday (you can catch it here if you missed it) when he got his first bike. He was so excited and was immediately on it, he’s even tried to bike it around our living room a few times, which had the cats running for the hills! Reuben having his first bike has made my husband and I determined that we are going to get a couple of bikes (he literally doesn’t have one, and mine is a rust bucket!) and take some lovely long bike rides, complete with picnics (cycling not only clears the mind, but it burns plenty of calories too, so it’s important to ensure your family have a balanced diet to provide them with enough energy to do so) over the coming Spring/Summer months. It’s also important to invest in reliable equipment to do so, and companies such as Fat Birds Don’t Fly stock a wide range of cycles and equipment that can make exercising on two wheels a much safer activity.
I hope this encourages you to get out and get active this Spring/Summer – I know it can be hard to inspire children (not to mention yourself) to get involved in family fitness but the simplest and most fun activities can be full blown workouts that you never knew you were having!
Get active and enjoy!
To my dearest daughter Edith,
As you snuggle against my chest in your sling while I type away, trying desperately to edit those last few posts before I take your crazy brothers out for the afternoon, I’m suddenly struck by all the things I want to tell you. I feel overwhelmed by it. There is so much that I know I need to tell you, that I know I need to help you understand so that you can become a well rounded and confident woman.
I want to tell you that I consider myself a bit of a feminist. I make that statement without apology, I’m proud to consider myself as such and I abhor the suggestion that it makes me something I’m not – a bunny boiling, bra burning crazy. I hope that you will consider yourself a feminist one day too because, sweetheart, being a feminist means only one thing – that you are proud to call yourself a woman or, if you are a man, you believe that being a woman isn’t tantamount to being a second class citizen (and yes, men can be feminists too, many many are). If you look it up in the dictionary feminism is defined as ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’, isn’t that something that sounds like it should be norm in the world you will grow up in my love? Isn’t it just common sense? Well, no, sadly it isn’t – so we have feminism.
Feminism often gets a jolly good bashing in the newspapers – you know, the same ones that celebrate male achievement while limiting female achievement to who has the biggest breasts and who can queef the alphabet (something that I assure you, you don’t need to do to make friends, and something that you DO NOT share on the internet if you find you have a talent for it.) Frequently you will see comments, often most frustratingly from women themselves, about how feminists are the ugly women, the ones who can’t get a man, the ones who are insecure in their relationships and so on and so forth. What I really want to impress upon you, what I need you to know sweet girl, is that feminists are the ones who don’t NEED a man. They are beautiful on the inside and the outside because they are confident in their own ability to be a human being who doesn’t require a member of the opposite sex to complete them. The woman on the telly talking about her nail salon and how she has boosted her sales figures is a feminist, she isn’t ugly or a man hater, but she has gone into the big bad world and paved a path for herself and demanded that the economy treats her with the same respect it would a man.
I also want to make something crystal clear Edie, and if I ever here you say these words I will smack you around the head with a wet fish because nothing bugs me quite so much: You are not an anti-feminist if you are a ‘housewife’. You are not letting the side down if your life goal is to love and adore your partner and have a bundle of kids and stay at home with them. You can be just as much a feminist as the female CEO of a large company because, here’s the kicker, you are choosing YOUR path, YOUR way without societal pressure impacting you. Look at me, I work from home, Daddy works out of the house from early until dinnertime. Do I cook? Yes. Do I clean? Neurotically. Does your Dad expect this from me? To a degree, because we are a team. My darling girl, dinner won’t cook itself and if Daddy isn’t here and we don’t have the money to buy a take out every night then guess whose cooking? Me. It doesn’t mean I’ve demeaned my rights as a woman by taking on the role of cook in the kitchen (and when I was pregnant I often did it barefoot!), it means that I choose to do these things for myself and our family. I choose. Those words are immeasurably powerful sweetpea because not everyone, and certainly not every woman, has that opportunity in this world – no matter what my choice, I would fight to my last breath to ensure I had one. That’s a feminist.
Of course there are extremists in feminism too, there are extremists in every political and religious section of the world. There will be people, often women, who claim to be feminists but at the same time tear you down because you chose to wear a pretty dress instead of a pant suit and that’s pandering to male perceptions of weak women don’t you know. Or because you stay at home with your children and cook your husbands dinner while he works, you’re taking us back to the 1950′s dear! These people are not feminists. They are quite the opposite because they strip you of your choice in life, your value, in exactly the same way as the media. In equal terms there will be people who tell you that you are a ‘bad mother’ because you work a 90 hour week and a ‘bad wife’ because you have your husband at home caring for the kids instead of working (though trust me, the aggro he will get for that would be far greater – he will be ‘lazy’ or ‘sack less’ for a good portion of the time – if you meet a man who values your career and you both choose, together as a couple, that he will be the primary carer for your kids during the week, then he can don his feminist hat too) but I say to you, ignore them, they devalue themselves at the same time as they do you, because as women (and feminist men) we have to stick together and not tear each other down. She chose to work, awesome. She’s chosen to be a stay at home mum, awesome. The overriding factor is that she chose – if she were a man would the world question her choice?
So darling please, grow up bold, grow up strong, don’t let them tell you that you are bossy while your brother’s are assertive. Don’t let them tell you that you can’t have sex with who you want, when you want because it makes you a slut, while your brother’s are just ‘sewing their wild oats’. Don’t let them take your choice.
Be a feminist, love the men and women around you equally, value their contribution to the world equally and stand up for what you believe in and who you are.
You might have noticed that there is a new option across the top menu bar on the blog?
Well, I’m now inviting you to ASK ME! It’s a totally free, 100% impartial service that I am now offering to parents-to-be and parents who read the blog. For the better part of a decade now, I have worked in the pregnancy, baby and children retail sector and I have to say that there is very little that I don’t know about the products available in this area.
Unfortunately there is nothing more daunting that buying your first car seat (Aren’t they all the same?? Nope is the answer!) or know why a certain pushchair won’t work for your lifestyle… and it’s even harder to figure out whether or not you are being given genuine advice by the retail assistant in the shop, or whether they just want you to buy their products. That’s why I have set up this service.
It’s totally FREE for you, all you need do is email me at email@example.com with your questions. You can literally ask me anything and I will do my best to answer you within 2-3 days. So ask me about car seat safety, weaning, baby bottles, breastfeeding, milestone toys, children’s fashion… just go ahead, ASK ME!
P.s – I am 100% impartial with my ASK ME! emails. I do not accept any restitution, financial or otherwise, to recommend products or give parenting advice. If I’ve tried it, trained on it or worked with it – I may recommend it if it fits the questioners needs.