Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Real Nappy Week: Bambino Mio Review

When I was pregnant with Ebony, we bought a birth to potty kit of BumGenius cloth nappies. I think it cost us somewhere in the region of £300. Ebony was out of nappies by about 18 months and by then the velcro on some of the nappies was past its best. When I was pregnant with Ember, we replaced the velcro tabs on the nappies to give them an extra life. Thankfully, now most of the nappies are fine but there is one or two where the strip of velcro needs replacing as well and I can already tell you I will never get around to doing that. 

I noticed that Bambino Mio cloth nappies were going to be on sale in Aldi as part of one of their baby events and I decided to go down and get one to try out. It was only £9.99 which is cheap for a washable nappy and I figured it would make life a little easier for me because the more nappies I have, the less nappy washes I need to do. Plus, they had a design with bikes on and Laurie loves to cycle so I figured this would reduce the risk of the 'why are you buying more nappies? We have plenty of nappies' conversation. 

Since buying the nappy with the bike print, I have been back to Aldi and bought two more Bambino Mio nappies (the one with the kites on, since you must know).And I ordered two other designs online that weren't available at Aldi. I love the Bambino Mio nappies so much I figured I should share that here. They easily get the most use out of all the nappies we have because they're always the first ones I reach for. I love the prints and colours of the nappies, the nappies we had for Ebony weren't quite so exciting so it is still a novelty to me that Ember has such beautiful nappies. 

They're also really easy to use. The side tabs are really sturdy and simply pop closed after use so you can protect the velcro while washing. I've been using them for a few months now and the velcro is still good as new, I imagine it will last longer than our last set of nappies did just because the velcro seems to be better protected. The velcro securely fastens the nappy so Ember can't open them and pull them off (also a bonus). 

The nappies are all-in-ones so the inner padding is attached to the nappy (unlike other nappies which have two separate parts; an inner padding and an outer nappy). There's a little tab you can pull before you stick it in the wash to get the inner pad out for washing but it stays attached to the nappy throughout. This is so much easier than having to dig around trying to find all the pieces for the nappy each time. It's only a small thing but it is saving me plenty of man hours. 

The nappies wash really well and dry quickly despite the hefty inner padding. I haven't had any leakage problems with these nappies because the padding is thick enough to absorb anything and everything she throws at it. I haven't found anything I don't like about these nappies yet, they're easy to use, look amazing and are good value for money. My local Aldi still has a few of the nappies in so it's worth popping into your local store to see if you can get them at the bargain price of £9.99. 

Bambino Mio is currently offering 15% off all of their nappies to celebrate Real Nappy Week, so if you're thinking of getting some cloth nappies, now might be the time to do it. You can get one of their all-in-one nappies for just £13.59 for this week only. If you're looking to stock up, you can get their birth to potty pack which contains everything you'll need for the first couple of years for just £212.49. You can browse the options on their website here.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Real Nappy Week: 7 Things I Love About Cloth Nappies

Happy Real Nappy Week! I haven't been very good at blogging of late so I thought this might be a nice chance to throw myself into it again. I used to blog about all things baby related but I seem to be doing things on autopilot the second time around so I just haven't had as much to write about. So, Real Nappy Week is my prompt and this week I will write a little bit about the things we use and why. I thought I'd start off with a list of reasons why I love using washable nappies, here goes:

1. They look adorable
I love how cloth nappies look. I love the bright colours and the different prints and the fact that they give babies massive bums. There is nothing cuter than the sight of a baby with a huge brightly coloured cloth nappy on. Disposable nappies just don't look as good, they are terrible photo props. 

2. I'm doing something
It's easy to get so bogged down in the everyday grind of parenting and family life that you let your morals fall to the wayside. Things suddenly seem too expensive or too difficult to fit in with your busy schedule of changing bums and sleepless nights and everything else. Using cloth nappies is my way of still doing something. Ok, having kids is bad for the planet, but using cloth nappies reduces the impact of that just a little bit. 

3. It's easy
There's a commonly held misconception that cloth nappies are hard work, but it's simply not true. All I have to do is stick a bag of dirty nappies in the wash every couple of days. It's not difficult or time-consuming. Remembering to stick a load on uses about as much mental energy as remembering to buy a new pack of disposables from the shop. 

4. It reduces waste
We recycle as much as we can and always try to donate things to charity shops rather than simply dumping them in landfill. I think it's important to reduce our impact on the planet and that means reducing the amount of waste we create. Disposable nappies are waste, they head straight for landfill. The official estimate is that one baby gets through 3000 nappies during the first year of life (I actually think that estimate is a little high, but even so, it'll be well over 2000 per baby) and that's a lot of nappies to be sitting in landfill. I think anybody who feels concerned about the state of the planet should be using cloth nappies.  

5. They cost nothing
Well, ok, they cost money when we first bought them but that was almost six years ago. The nappies we bought when I was pregnant with Ebony are still being used for Ember today. The upfront cost is more expensive than with disposables but the nappies will last you a lot longer and won't be ending up in the bin by the end of the week. I think it's a shame there isn't more government support for parents who want to use cloth nappies because it would be great if new parents could get an interest free loan to buy cloth nappies to cover that initial outlay. Some places do have cloth nappy libraries where you can borrow nappies to trial using them for a few weeks to see how you get on. 

6. It's flexible
Just because you use cloth nappies, it doesn't mean you can't ever use disposable nappies. You don't have to be a committed die-hard fan, you can use a mixture of disposables and washables. I always have a packet of disposables into use if necessary. When we go on holiday next month, I won't be taking cloth nappies and will instead be taking disposables just to make life a little easier whilst we're away. 

7. They start a conversation
When Ebony was born, we did things a certain way because we felt it was important. We used cloth nappies because we wanted to reduce our impact on the planet. Now that Ebony's an older sister, these decisions have the added benefit of giving us the opportunity to talk to Ebony about issues we feel are important. I really hope my daughters to grow up mindful of their impact on the people, animals and environment around them and I think setting a good example is an important part of that. 

What are your favourite things about using cloth nappies? 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Springtime In The Garden

With spring upon us, I've started thinking about the garden. It seems to get ignored during the winter months when the grass is waterlogged and the air is cold. I can go months without even stepping foot in the garden, but as soon as the weather picks up, the garden is one of my favourite places to be. 

Last summer, I spent many lazy afternoons sprawled out like a heavily pregnant beached whale on the sun lounger while Ebony busied herself in the play area. The bottom of our garden is dedicated to fun. There's a huge chalkboard wall to draw on, a rooftop playhouse to play in and a swing set. The playhouse was a new addition my dad created last year. I think every garden needs a playhouse. How awesome is this Fort Limpkin playhousefrom GBC Group?! We had a two story playhouse in the garden when we were growing up and we spent countless hours happily playing in it. 

There's also a sandpit down there and a hopscotch I painted after asking Ebony to write the numbers in chalk. She was three so most of the letters are the wrong way round which I love. There's a little bit more space so we could add a few more toys or activities down there though I haven't decided on what yet. 

One thing I've been meaning to do since we moved in was to create a bug hotel somewhere in the garden. I think Ebony would love helping to design and make it and it would be a great way to learn all about the wildlife in our garden. 

I really really want a corner sofa for the garden and I spend way too much time admiring them online. I almost bought one last year because I thought I would spend the summer holidays breastfeeding in the garden whilst Ebony played. In actual fact, I spent them way too pregnant (seriously, so pregnant) and crying so I'm kind of relieved I didn't spend the money in the end. 

The only problem with all of these ideas is Ember. Last summer, she ruined my plans by staying put in my belly. This year she's ruining my plans by not staying put. I'd forgotten how hard the crawling stage is. Good god, that child will not sit still. A few weeks ago, before she learned to crawl, I could just plonk her down safe in the knowledge that she would stay there until I got back. Not anymore. Now she crawls and cruises and generally disappears. Yesterday, I left her alone for 30 seconds and when I got back she had opened a bottle of lotion (with a screw top. How?!) and smeared it all over her forehead. 

When I take her in the garden she crawls off. Straight off the picnic blanket, over the grass and towards danger. She was so far eaten sand, grass, dandelion, mud and a small plastic thing I managed to wrestle from her mouth. I think this probably won't be the summer I get to relax in my garden. Maybe next year. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

5 Things My Dream House Would Have

I'm not allowed to move house, probably ever. Laurie spent days painstakingly scraping black tar off the floorboards in the living room so that I could have beautiful varnished floorboards. My mum and dad came to help but only if we promised to admire the floor forevermore. So I'm not allowed to move, three people would be very cross with me if I suggested such a thing. And these floorboards are very beautiful. But one day, when I win the lottery and can afford to buy a new house whilst also keeping this house so I can entertain my parents here and pretend I haven't moved because of my overwhelming love for the floor they so carefully sanded, I might move. And, if I do, I would like my new house to be the house that dreams are made of and that means:

1. There Would Be No Black Tar On The Floorboards
This is quite a niche one, I know, but I don't think my marriage could survive under the strain of any more tar. Or polystyrene ceiling tiles. Or anything that requires Laurie to do DIY because he hates it and it makes him grumpy and then I feel like I have to go over the top in my appreciation of the finished job and it soon feels false and awkward. The only DIY job I have ever seen Laurie enjoy was when he plumbed in a toilet and sink (read about it here, if you wish), so he would probably do that again if he had to but he certainly wouldn't take tar off any floorboards in the new house.

2. A View Of The Stars
I think (and I can only dream of such things so I don't know whether it would love up to my expectations or not) that one of the nicest things in the world would be to bathe under the stars. I would love a bath under a skylight so I could look out at the stars as I relaxed in the bath (or, most likely, bathed under the deafening noise of rain slamming against the glass). I would love a big bathroom with a roll-top bath and a big walk-in shower area (not cubicle, I have imaginary won the lottery after all. Take a look at this website for some walk-in shower inspiration). It would all be self-cleaning, of course, the entire house would clean itself by magic. 

3. A Vegetable Patch
This is such a simple and dumb dream that it seems a little ridiculous, but I really want a vegetable patch. We could have some raised beds in our current garden but it isn't really big enough for me to create much of a vegetable patch. I would love to have a big patch with a selection of things growing all year round. I always think I'll get around to sorting something little here but never quite find them time and then it's winter again (why does winter come around so fast?). 

4. A Kitchen Diner
When we bought our house, I didn't want a kitchen diner. About six months later, I wanted one and have wanted one ever since. We have a breakfast bar but it's just not the same (although I am excited about when the day arrives that Ember and Ebony can sit next to each other at the breakfast bar). We have a dining table in the conservatory but we never venture that far into the house, it's either boiling hot or freezing cold down there so it does not a good living room make. I would love a big kitchen with a sturdy dining table and us all sat around on chairs chatting, eating and drinking (wine. Not for the kids). 

5. Floor To Ceiling Bookcases
This is actually on the list of jobs I have in mind for this house, though I don't know if we'll ever get around to it. Laurie is still recovering from tar-gate and I fear it may take years to convince him to do any more decorating. In the meantime, I will continue to spend too much money on books in the hope of one day owning a bookcase big enough to house them all. 

Obviously, if we're talking lottery win, it would also have acres of land, a view to die for and a little woodland. What would your dream house have? 

This is a collaborative post. 

Goodbye, Baby Days

Ebony was a baby for ages. Years, in fact. Her babyhood stretched on and on. This was probably, in hindsight, due to the extreme sleep deprivation I was suffering at her tiny hands. That baby just would not sleep. Like, ever. I was so tired. So tired. And everything was new and momentous and terrifying. Every time something new happened I would spend hours researching it trying to work out what exactly was the best way to handle it. All of my parenting decisions were thoroughly researched, Google was my best friend. 

The second time around is different. The months are flying by. I can't believe how quickly time is passing. The newborn stage seemed to last about five minutes. She was curled up asleep in my arms for a few weeks and now she's eating and crawling and punching me with force in the face. I took photos, hundreds of photos, during those early weeks and I'm so glad that I did. Photos of her snuggled up in a hooded towel after a bath (is there anything cuter than babies snuggled up in hooded baby towels?), photos of her lying awkwardly across the lap of her proudly beaming sister, photos of her lying on her changing mat staring deep into the camera with her bright blue eyes. Those photos captured a time that already seems like a million years ago. 

One thing I didn't do was write. I couldn't seem to find the time or the headspace to sit down and write about life. I started this blog when Ebony was born (you can read her birth story here - go on, it's beautiful) and I used it as a place to store my thoughts and musings on motherhood. My whole life had been shaken up and thrown into chaos and this was my place to make sense of that. This time, things have been less chaotic. The mornings are pretty hardcore as I try to two small children out of the door on time and bedtime is a stress-inducing hour, but generally, life is ok. I know what I'm doing. I'm not scared of panicked. When rashes appear or bumps happen, I don't panic, I have been here before. And so I didn't find the need to sit and write about it all, though I should do it soon before I forget. I should write about the way she sleeps curled up in the crook of my arm, her feets nestled into my ribs. I should write about the way her entire face lights up when her sister enters the room. I should write about the games she plays with Laurie when he gets home from work. I should write about those things before they escape my memory. 

She doesn't feel like a baby anymore. She's not a toddler, because she isn't toddling just yet but she's well on her way. We call her The Brute and it suits her perfectly (though may lead to identity problems in the future). She is strong and sturdy and never gives up. She's on the move, if I look away momentarily she is climbing into the fireplace or standing by the television. I can't leave her alone for fear of the chaos she will cause while my back is turned. She loves her food, she sucks chews and occasionally swallows pretty much anything I put in front of her. By the end of the meal, she is covered from head to toe in a rainbow of food. She has to be bathed in the sink, hummus dripping from her chin and peanut butter in her ears, so I can get her clean.

She reminds me of my sister. She has the determination and strength that I remember my sister having in her toddler days. She was always fighting to do the things I could do, always wanting to be the same as me despite our age gap. It might be simply that my sister is far away and my heart misses her, so I see her where she is not, but I hope that it is true and that Ebony's little sister is just a little bit like my own. She has the fluffy hair and the ruddy cheeks and she certainly seems to have the fiercely independent streak my sister is famed for (he ruddy cheeks were from her toddler years, she doesn't have them anymore; if she did, I just wouldn't mention them for fear of upsetting her). 

This is a collaborative post. 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

I'd Forgotten

I'd forgotten what it's like to be needed, really needed by a baby. To feel a warm head radiating heat against my cheek. To be entangled in soft limbs that reach out for comfort. To feel my shoulder dampen with tears. To hear the pained cry of a baby in my ear. To hold and rock and soothe and feel utterly helpless. I'd forgotten what it's like to worry, to Google, to ring the doctors. I'd forgotten how exhausting it is to be woken by cries in the night, to sit up and rock and fight to stay awake against the crushing exhaustion in my bones. I'd forgotten how draining it is to listen to cries from noon until night and no that there's nothing I can do to help.

I'd forgotten how much those teeth can hurt, how hard it can be to breathe through a snotty nose, how hungry babies get when they can't feed properly. I'd forgotten how desperately they need to be cuddled even when it does nothing to silence the crying. I'd forgotten what it's like to be somebody's everything, to be the only person who can make the pain even slightly more bearable. I'd forgotten what it's like to not have the time to shower, to watch a baby cry on the floor so I could snatch two minutes to pee. I'd forgotten what it's like when showering is impossible, to be covered with the dried tears and snot of a screaming baby and not be able to put them down to get clean. I'd forgotten the relief of the front door opening at 7pm and knowing that I could have a few minutes of not holding or feeding or cuddling. I'd forgotten the bone-aching skin-crawling reality of feeling touched out.

A baby needs you in a different way to a five-year-old. A five-year-old can wait, she sat patiently on the top step the other day for five minutes while a crimson bead of blood formed on her finger as she waited for her sister to stop crying so she could show me her cut. A five-year-old can soothe herself and often does. I hear her trip, pick herself up, dust herself off and carry on, muttering under her breath about the stupid toy that tripped her up. A five-year-old doesn't need me, she needs anyone. Her dad, her nanny, it doesn't matter, she is soothed by love and attention but it doesn't need to be from me.

A baby is different. A baby's needs cannot be put off or ignored or asked to wait. A baby cannot be fobbed off on someone else. A baby can scream and cry until she is red in the face even when she is being held tightly. A baby can't explain why she is crying or what hurts. All she can do is cry and reach out for me and let me know that she needs me, even though neither of us know why.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Back To Reality

Well, that was Easter. Ebony has been off school for two whole weeks and it has been lovely. We've been to museums, we've met up with friends, we've had barbecues, we've baked Easter nests, we even managed a trip to Liverpool. You can follow all of our adventures on Instagram here, if you aren't already. I got ill and then Ember got ill and even that didn't stop us having fun, though we may have slumped on the sofa watched a couple of movies when everyone was under the weather. I have had the nicest break from real life and really enjoyed having both my girls together. Ember has been thrilled to have Ebony to play with all day, though she's been manic from lack of sleep because it's just too damn loud in the house when your big sister is home. 

The long weekend has been perfect too, it's always nice to have a little extra time as a complete family with Laurie off work as well. There's nothing Ebony loves more than having all of us together doing the same thing. She loves eating as a family, something we rarely get to do because Laurie doesn't usually get home until after bedtime. And she loves getting to choose who will put her to bed because we're both around. And, when she picks me, I get to put her to bed properly rather than sitting next to her trying to wrestle the world's noisiest and most awake baby into submission. 

But now it's back to reality. It's time to dig out (and dust off) the ironing board to get her school uniform ready. It's time to make sure her clothing labels are still present and her new PE shoes are neatly labeled. It's time to open her school bag and smirk at the homework we haven't bothered to do. It's time to pin her down and brush her hair. Her usual feral locks won't cut it at school where there are nits-a-plenty. It's time to shine her shoes and... just kidding, I'm not a shoe shining sort of a person. 

It's time to try and bring bedtime back to a workable hour. The hazy evenings and slow bedtimes of recent weeks need to be cast aside to make way for a military routine that ensures everyone gets enough sleep (apart from Laurie, he never gets enough sleep). It's time to disturb Ember's dreams once again to snatch her from the warmth of the bed and bundle her into the sling so we can get Ebony to school. It's time to curse the damn school shoes that have once again gone missing (who hides them? WHO??). Tomorrow, we'll be running out of the front door as the school bell sounds, me dragging Ebony along with one arm as she eats breakfast with the other (her second breakfast, I might add, that kid loves to eat). 

Tomorrow morning, I'll walk her to school, lean down so she can plant a kiss on her baby's sister's head and then watch the girl who made me a mother march through the school gates. Then I'll walk home, enjoying, for the first time in weeks, not having to urge anyone to keep up with me or slow down or not walk so close to the road. And then I'll unlock the front door, step inside and be met by a deafening silence. And, yes, I'll get some work done whilst Ember sleeps and I'll enjoy some one-on-one time with my littlest girl, but it'll take a while for me to readjust to the calm and quiet of her sister being back in school again. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

7 Things All Family Bathrooms Need

It's funny how much your home requirements change when you become a parent. All of a sudden, the sharp corners, loose wires and smashable vases are more hazard than home decor. Now that Ebony is five, the house can be pretty much how I want it albeit with an unfortunate layer of 'accidental' felt tip pen scribbles over the top (one day I might paint over this) but with Ember crawling and cruising, we're very much back in that baby-proofing stage. The fire hearth is covered in cushions to prevent nasty bumps, laptop wires are quickly tidied away after use and we're all on red alert for stray pieces of lego. 

The bathroom is a room that I'm particularly terrified of. Why do they make bathroom tiles so damn hard? I live in constant fear that Ember is going to crack her head on the floor or wall. I've spent a while thinking about how I would redesign the room to make it work better with a mobile baby. Here's a list of the things I've decided all family bathrooms need:

1. Storage 
Bathrooms accumulate so much crap, don't they (pun intended)? I bought so much anti-aging stuff from Superdrug last week that they sent me approximately eight million packs of cleansing wipes. Thank god we have bathroom storage is all I can say. Last year, we replaced our standard sink with a furniture sink that has two huge drawers beneath. I love it. Finally, I have plenty of storage and the room doesn't look cluttered. The only problem is that it is in Ember's reach so I'm now living a life of fear about all the chemicals I keep in that bottom drawer. 

2. A Separate Shower 
Our house just has a shower above the bath, but our old house had a separate shower cubicle and I loved it. For one, babies don't accidentally poop in your shower cubicle like they do in your bath so, at the very least, you have somewhere clean to wash after your bath has been crapped in (don't pretend this doesn't happen to you). I used to leave Ebony playing on the floor and then have a shower. She didn't panic because she could still me and I didn't panic because I could still see her through the glass cubicle (check out the huge walk in showers on this website). 

3. Space
Our bathroom is tiny and it doesn't really work well for family life. If I'm in the shower, Ember is playing on the floor and Ebony is washing her hands, the room is officially cramped. I don't have claustrophobia, but if I did, I would need a bigger bathroom. Family bathrooms should have space for the whole family even though all parents want is to use the damn bathroom in peace. 

4. Huge Baths
Nobody wants to take a bath with their whole family (apart from my five-year-old who wants exactly that pretty much every day) but there should be enough space in the bath that you can, should you wish to. I don't wish to, yet every damn bath I end up with at least a baby in there and often a five-year-old as well. I wish the bath was bigger. 

5. To Not Be Home To The Only Toilet
Small children have no manners, they won't wait for you to finish your relaxing bath before they stroll in and take a dump on the toilet. My bathroom is so small that, when bathing, my head is right next to the toilet. Lovely. Also, grim when you have a child who needs the toilet. The downstairs toilet has changed my life. 

6. Bubbles
All family bathrooms should have a never-ending supply of bubbles. Bubble bath, bath bombs, gels, lotions... kids love them all. As do I. Also, candles. On the rare occasions that I get to have a bath all by myself, I want to enjoy it. It must feel like a mini spa getaway in the comfort of my own home. And, when I don't get a bath to myself, I at least want to see the glee on my five-year-old's face when we use a bath bomb or the joy my baby feels when she eats bubble bath. I'm currently enjoying bath products made by The Dirty Vegans

7. A Cleaner
We don't have a cleaner (or a clean bathroom), but we should. I would love to have a clean, especially one who was charged with making the bathroom sparkle again. I think I would enjoy the bathroom way more if we had a cleaner. Without one, my bathroom is a constant state of being cleaned. It is impossible to finish a job with a seven-month-old baby on the loose. 

What have I missed off this list?

This is a collaborative post. 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Why Don't People Just Google Things?

I don't know how people parented before Google was invented. Ebony is only five and she has already asked me so many questions I don't know the answer to (What are fossils? Why don't people live on Mars? Why does Daddy forget things?). How would I know what to say if I couldn't find the answer on my phone? It doesn't bear thinking about. I use Google to decide what to make for dinner, to figure out the best way to handle 'challenging' times as a parent and to obsessively check the weather forecast to find out when the sun is coming out (remember when people used to have to look out of their window to see the weather?). 

I use it a lot, but it seems some people don't. Don't they teach Google in schools now? Everybody should just be Googling everything all of the time. We shouldn't even have to speak to each other anymore. We should be able to find out everything we need to know by looking at our smartphones. But people don't Google things, they just continue through life with unanswered questions and I don't understand why.

According to a survey carried out by Data Label, over half of All The People didn't understand laundry cleaning icons and many had an item of dirty clothing hidden in their wardrobe that they don't know how to wash. People, specifically those who answered the survey, would rather make their entire wardrobe smell like dirty clothes, and never wear an item of clothing again, than Google what washing label instructions mean. How is that possible? I mean, ok, maybe some people would be too lazy to find out the answer, but over half? Isn't that more than a little bit scary? It's no wonder Brexit and Trump are winning, the people too lazy to work out washing labels are hardly going to carry out a thorough analysis of election manifestos, are they? 

Facebook parenting groups are filled with new parents asking questions that are not only easily answered with a quick Google search but more accurately answered by a quick Google search. When you look for the information you want online, you can choose a source you trust. When you ask in a Facebook group of random people, you're not necessarily going to get the best answers. Breastfeeding mothers moaning about lack of sleep are usually pointed in the direction of the bottle. Mums of formula fed babies are told to give their babies solids early to guarantee a good night's sleep. None of this stuff is scientifically proven and a quick Google search would throw that up in less than a second, but that doesn't stop outdated advice being passed from parent to parent online. 

People log onto forums to type in questions that could easily have been typed into Google and at least that way they'd get a proper answer. People ask questions on their Facebook profiles to hundreds of people they may not even really know. Google it. Or, indeed, ask a friend directly, one you know and trust. I have a few friends who, when I'm looking for that tried and tested advice I can really count on, I can harass with endless questions about what colour to paint my walls or what my baby should be eating for breakfast. Not everything has to be answered by a faceless search engine, but ask people you trust rather than turning to an online room of people no more qualified than you. 

If you don't know something, Google it. It's 2017, that's what Google is there for. And if somebody asks you a stupid question, send them to Let Me Google That For You.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Mother's Day Gift Guide

1. Moomin Mama Mug £17 from Amara (they have lots of other designs too, I need them all to hang from hooks above my breakfast bar, right?)  //  2. Luxury Large Vegan Gift Basket £31.99 from The Dirty Vegans (how amazing does this look! I can't imagine a more relaxing gift.)  //  3. Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood by Hollie McNish £6.29 from Amazon (I need this book. I love Hollie McNish a lot.)  //  4. Mother's Day Box £20 from A Kind Mama (how amazing do these donuts look? I need them in my life. Also, the brownies.)  //  5. Selfish Mother Sweatshirt £50 from John Lewis (it wouldn't be a Mother's Day gift guide without one of these, would it?) 

So, buy me all of the above, please, thank you.

This is a collaborative post. 

Friday, 10 March 2017

5 Things I Want To Do This Summer

I'm in summer mode. I have been leaving the house without a coat, I have been eating ice-cream and I bought a dungaree dress. I am all over summer. Obviously, it's not summer yet which is the only thing holding me back. It was half not term not long ago and we had the best time. I am constantly terrified of becoming one of those people who doesn't do things because of being a parent. It's too easy to use your kids as an excuse not to do something. When Ebony was a baby, we just took her along with us. 

With two kids, that's a little more difficult, especially when they have such different needs because of the age gap. But, I'm still determined to Not Be One Of Those Mums. It's tricky striking a balance between that and trying to do too much only to end up regretting it. I could have taken the kids down to London during half term but in the end decided it might be a bit much. So instead, we did as much as we could without straying too far from my comfort zone. And it was great. Ebony had a really lovely week off, Ember loved having her big sister around and I ended the week feeling pretty damn smug about how I was getting on as a mother of two. 

With a successful half-term tucked securely under my belt, my mind is now busy thinking up fun things to do during the summer holidays. Five whole weeks of free time. By then, Ember will be well and truly on the move which will complicate things slightly, but I'm hoping we'll be able to find plenty of things to do that they'll both enjoy. Here are a few of the things I have planned:

1. Bike rides
Ebony can ride her bike now so I'd love to take her on a proper bike road. And since she won't be needing that bike seat on the back of Laurie's bike anymore, Ember can perch happily in there. I have no bike and am not particularly gifted on two wheels, in all honesty, I would be much better suited to electric bikes because peddling and steering seems to be too much for me, but I will give it a go. 

2. The beach
One of my favourite days ever was when I took Ebony to the beach. I picked her up early from preschool and we got about eight zillion trains and walked for 3000 miles and then spent the afternoon eating a picnic on Formby beach. It was a really hot day and it was just perfect. We splashed in the sea, we built sandcastles and we dug holes in the sand. I want to do that again this summer. 

3. Camping 
Laurie got a tent for his 30th, I think we managed to go camping three times before the winter set in that year. Last year we didn't go once because I was pregnant, so I want to make up for it this year. I am already planning the places we can go and the things we can do. I know it will be hard work with a crawling baby but I think both the girls will love. 

4. Forest Walks
I love going for walks. I've been taking Ebony on long walks through forests since she first learned how to toddle. We went for a forest walk during half-term and had the best time. Ember had a snooze in the sling while Ebony climbed trees, jumped in the mud and ran wild and free. I have a book of outdoor forest school activities so I'm hoping we can work our way through that during the summer. 

5. Museums 
We didn't make it to any museums during half-term. We ususally do, but I decided it would be hard work with a baby who would eventually tire of being in the sling and a five-year-old who probably wouldn't want to sit in the baby area for very long. I'm going to make sure we go to museums in the summer. I love having a day out in Manchester and the cinema will probably be impossible with a nearly-one-year-old so I think we'll focus on museums instead. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Baby Summer Dresses I Love

1. Painfully Adorable Rainbow dress £15.20 // 2. On Trend Cactus Dress (I am majorly feeling the cactus love right now) £11.20 // 3. Peter Pan Collar Dress (How cute?) £17.60 // 4. Chambray Leaf Dress £12 // 5. White Daisy Dress £5

If you're buying anything from Debenhams, make sure you check for Debenhams voucher codes on Codesium. They currently have a 10% discount code so grab yourself a bargain. 

I know it's technically not summer yet, but I can see the sun shining outside my window so I don't think it's too early to start thinking about these things. We're going on holiday in a few months and, despite having bags of baby clothes for her to grow into, I've already started buying bits for Ember to wear on holiday. I walked into Next with a £50 gift card the other day and left with a bag full of summer clothes. I cannot be stopped. I am a summer fanatic moving at speed towards my summer holiday. I got a couple of dresses for Ebony too and have spent the past few weeks arguing with her about whether she can wear them to the park yet (she can't, it's arctic out there, she doesn't care).

The rainbow dress is my absolute favourite. If I hadn't recently had a baby, it would probably make my ovaries explode. I am fighting the urge to buy it on account of the fact I have no money, but the voice in my head is growing louder and more insistent that buying it will bring me all kinds of joy. We have a couple of weddings this year and I feel like maybe this is the dress Ember needs to wear to one of them. Right?

One of my favourite things about having a second child is that we have a little more freedom clothes-wise this time around. With Ebony, we had to buy everything so when she moved up a size, we had to get a whole wardrobe of clothes in a short space of time which meant cost was a factor. This time around, we have all of Ebony's old clothes plus a bundle of hand-me-downs from a very lovely friend so Ember wants for nothing. That means if I see something and love it, I can usually afford to treat her (Laurie would probably disagree with this statement...).

This is a collaborative post. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Goodbye, Pregnancy Symptoms

Pregnancy symptoms, you either love 'em or you hate 'em. Just kidding, everyone hates them. What kind of person would love throwing up all the time, getting stretch marks and having heartburn? Nobody loves those things. They are things to be endured on the journey to motherhood. I hated being pregnant the first time but found the second time much easier. Perhaps because I am older and wiser (so wise, guys). Perhaps because I knew it would be worth it. Perhaps because I wasn't anxious about the birth (totes should have been). Perhaps because I was so busy napping I didn't have time to hate being pregnant. For whatever reason, I loved it. And now I miss it, sometimes, just some of the things. Not the waddling or the breathlessness or the general feeling of whale-ness, but somethings. Here are just a few of the symptoms I have said goodbye to: 

Goodbye, Hair
I think my favourite thing about pregnancy is the hair. Not the stuff that grows where it shouldn't, but the abundance of shiny hair atop my head. I don't really remember the extra hair when I was pregnant with Ebony, I think I was too busy Being Exhausted And Miserable to notice any of the good pregnancy symptoms. But, with Ember, I noticed. All of a sudden, my hair was thicker than ever before. I am most definitely a thick-haired woman trapped in the miserable body of a woman with thin hair. I loved it. A lot. It took ages to dry after a shower but it was worth it. 

After my first pregnancy, I didn't notice my hair falling out for quite a while. And when it did, it fell out slowly. Not this time. This time basically my entire head of hair came out in one bath. The most terrifying bath ever. Ember was in the bath with me and she ended up completely tangled in loose hairs. I had to pick them out from between her fingers and toes. It was almost enough to make me consider immediately having another baby (for the hair, obvs) or having Advanced Tricho Pigmentation Treatment

I must have lost half the hair on my head during that bath. Now I am back to just having my usual three hairs and it's depressing. I'm probably saving a fortune in conditioner and I'm definitely saving a lot of time. 

Goodbye, Restricted Diet
I turn into the world's fussiest eater when I'm pregnant. Not deliberately, of course. I get this awful taste in my mouth which lasts approximately nine months and can only eat a small selection of foods to get rid of it. If I eat the wrong thing, the taste multiplies and makes me want to die. And so I eat curries. All the curries. So many curries. And jelly. I don't know why jelly, but that's basically all I ate during the pregnancy. Curry and jellies, but never curried jellies. Though I totally would have if that was a thing. 

Goodbye, Stretching
One of the worst things about pregnancy is that constant feeling of stretching you get from about 16 weeks onwards. The skin on my bump felt tight constantly as though I could feel it stretching apart. It was horrible. But, admittedly, it looked better than the deflated sagged balloon I'm left with now. It is hard to choice which is the lesser of those two evils, the constant stretching or the wrinkly ball bag hanging where my midriff once was. 

Goodbye, Me-Time
This one wasn't so much a pregnancy symptom, as one of the perks of pregnancy. Not only can you nap whenever you like, you will also be given plenty of time to yourself. You can use this time for napping, if you like. I napped, read books, wrote, bathed and relaxed. It was lovely. It's basically society's way of preparing you for the fact that you won't have a second to yourself for the next twelve months. 

I now have no me-time. None whatsoever. For the first few weeks after the birth, I did manage to have a bath every day. Who would begrudge a woman with a painful undercarriage such a basic right? But now, not so much. Ember likes to be held all the damn time. The other day I put her down so I could pee and she immediately fell over and banged her head on the floor then looked at me as if to say 'See what happens when you neglect me' whilst screaming. I was mid-pee. The bump has since turned into a bruise which she thrusts in my direction each time I so much as think about having a wee. 

Goodbye, Clumsiness
Pregnancy basically turns me into goofy. A giant lovable idiot with an inability to avoid precarious situations. We decorated our bedroom in May and Ember was born at the end of August. During that time, I had a massive brown bruise just below both knees from walking into the corner of the new bed. I bashed into it every single time I walked past it. I walked into doorframes, supermarket shelves and pedestrians. I dropped things. I cut myself. I banged my head a lot. I have a friend who has a habit of warning me when there are steps, even when I'm going down the stairs, as you might for a frail elderly woman. I always thought this was slightly ridiculous until I got pregnant and fell down the stairs, then I wondered why she hadn't warned me to be careful on the stairs that day. 

What pregnancy symptoms do you miss and which were you happy to see the back of? 

This is a collaborative post. 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Making The Most of a Small Bathroom

Our bathroom is tiny. Like, really small. I loved the house so much when we looked around that I convinced myself it was ‘just normal size’ and that we had been spoilt by our bathroom at the old house which was big. But, erm, no, it’s just small. It makes me miss the old bathroom, though the rest of the house makes up for it (apart from the conservatory which is terrible).
When we did work on the house last year, we made a couple of small changes to the bathroom to try and maximise the space. It has made a huge difference, it’s still a small room but it feels less claustrophobic now. Here are a few tried and tested tips for making the most out of a small bathroom:
  1. Invest in a clever shower screen
    When we moved in, the shower screen was a huge rectangle of glass that jutted out up to the toilet and meant you had to contort your naked body into crazy shapes just to try and step in the shower without falling over the toilet. It was most annoying. We replaced it with a glass screen that folds away when not in use. It has made the room feel much more open and has made a huge difference to how big the room feels as you walk in.

  2. Choose space-saving items
    If you don’t have much in the way of space, it’s important to choose items that will work in the room. I learnt this lesson the hard way when I had to fit two giant sofas into a rental house. Our bath isn’t full-size, it is plenty big (unless you’re nine months pregnant and then it’s a bit of a squeeze) but a little smaller than your average bath. Measure your room and take a look at the baths on offer at Better Bathrooms to see what would work in your bathroom.

  3. Create some storage space
    Bathrooms are full of bottles and toilet rolls and towels, so it’s important to have some storage space available to minimise clutter. Last summer, we changed the sink for a vanity unit which has two huge drawers underneath it. It’s a lot wider than our old sink so I was worried that it might make the room feel smaller but it hasn’t at all. And the drawers hide all our clutter perfectly.

  4. Let there be light
    A light room is a bigger room, that’s what I say. We’re not responsible for any of the light in the bathroom, but there’s a big window and four spotlights and they help to make the room feel less tiny. Choosing a light coloured suite can also add light to the room.

  5. Think about layout
    We didn’t do this because we only added a few bits to the existing bathroom. If we had the money to completely redo it, I would have ripped everything out and gotten rid of the beige tiles that line the walls and floors. I hate those beige tiles. I want a white bathroom (but not enough to tile a whole bathroom, no matter how small it might be). Sob. If we could start from scratch, I would definitely change the layout of the room to try and create a better flow.

This is a collaborative post.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Breastfeeding-Friendly Outfits

Clothes cause me no end of stress. I wish that wasn't true, but it is. I never know what to wear and I hate trying to find clothes I like. Shopping is the worst. I have a wardrobe full of dresses but most of them are no good now that I'm breastfeeding again. I am a big fan of the vest under top breastfeeding hack, I think breastfeeding clothes are a total waste of money. I don't want to spend £80 on a dress I'm only going to need to wear for a short amount of time. When Ebony was a baby, I was a big fan of the milkchic website and often used it to find breastfeeding-friendly dresses. 

This time around, it's a lot simpler. Ember doesn't feed for anywhere near as long as Ebony did (I was basically always feeding Ebony) so I worry less about feeding her in public. I have made sure, however, that I have a few outfit options I like so that I do have clothes I can breastfeed in. For me, that means wrap dresses and button down shirts. They make it so easy to whip a boob out and feed a baby without worrying about people seeing. 

JD Williams got in touch to see if I'd like to try out some of their clothes so I decided to use the opportunity to get a few breastfeeding pieces for my wardrobe. I decided to get a shirt to wear with my trusty black jeans (actually not that trustworthy because they suspiciously disappeared over Christmas so I had to buy another pair) from their selection of blouses. I chose this chambray print shirt and I love it. 

I wanted to get a couple of dresses because I don't really have many that are ok for breastfeeding in. I chose this wrap tea dress to wear to my Granny's 97th birthday meal. I figured a wrap dress would be easy to feed in though I have since discovered it is also easy for a hungry baby to whip your boob out without warning so, you know, swings and roundabouts. I wanted a casual dress too so I chose this denim dress which I think will be perfect for spring. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Playroom Inspiration

1. Melissa & Doug Puppet Theatre £59.99 from Amazon 
I had my eye on this for Christmas but in the end decided it would take up too much space. Ebony would absolutely love it though. I have a homemade one when I was little. So homemade that it would quite often collapse on me mid-performance, but I loved it. 

I always love the look of blackboard walls in playrooms, but I find that chalk creates a lot of dust and can be quite messy. I think a whiteboard wall would be just as much fun and wouldn't create so much mess. It would also keep the room light and bright which I think it important in a playroom. 

3. Marietorp Frame £12 from Ikea
There's a big white wall in the playroom that would benefit from a bit of colour. I love the idea of framing Ebony's artwork to put on display. We currently have a noticeboard above the fireplace but it looks a little untidy and there's so much 'art' on there that nothing stands out. Ideally, I'd buy about six of these big frames and then frame some of her pictures. It would be easy to freshen up the room then too by simply changing the pictures. I'm hoping to get around to this at some point soon because I think it would look amazing.  

4. Berlingot Child's Desk £90 from Maisons Du Monde 
The other day, Ebony said to me, "Mummy, can I have a desk one day? Please?" Poor child. She has a table, but this is not the same, so now she wants a desk. I love the colours on this one from Maisons Du Monde.

5. Indoor Climbing Frame £105.99 from Amazon
We definitely don't have the room for this, but how amazing would this be! I find we don't use the garden much during the winter and it's easy to end up with cabin fever during rainy school holidays, but this would definitely solve that. 

6. Grimm's Rainbow £59.89 from Amazon
I always wanted a little one of these when Ebony was little, but I love the look of this big one even more. It would look great in the playroom but also I think the girls would be able to find lots of inventive ways of playing with it. 

The playroom is usually a mess. It is full of toys and dressing up outfits and craft things and all of these end up strewn across the floor. I have spent way too much of my mothering years tidying it or trying to cajole Ebony into tidying it. It seems, however, that five might just be the magic number. Five-year-olds, it seems, can actually keep their playrooms tidy. I never thought I would see the day. 

Ebony is obsessed with the idea of having friends over (without their parents. She hates when I'm friends with the parents) or going to other people's houses All By Herself. So, two weeks ago I made a deal with her. If she could keep her playroom tidy for a week, we could invite a friend round after school. I didn't think she'd manage it, but she did. Every evening before bed she took me into the playroom so I could see it was still tidy. Everything she played with was put away neatly before bedtime. So we invited her friend round. Ebony managed to keep the playroom tidy in the four days leading up to that as well, much to my amazement. 

The day of playing was yesterday. Her friend came after school, Ebony was so excited that had there been walls lining the way home from school she would have been bouncing off them. They played dress up, they played sisters (this is a game, apparently), they giggled, they whispered, they had a ball. And when her friend left, Ebony immediately started tidying up the room again (so she can 'have another friend around next week too'). 

So, there you have it. The playroom that has been the bane of my life for all of these years is now the tidiest room in the house. I need to up my tidying game before she realises and goes on strike on account of the fact that my office looks like a bomb has hit. 

Now that the room is tidy, I've been thinking of ways to make it nicer. It's not exactly easy to make a playroom look pretty. Some of the toys are big and bulky and take up too much space. We have shelves in the alcoves on either side of the fireplace and these are filled with toys, so that makes it look a little neater than it would otherwise. 

My dad made Ebony a storage rail for her dressing up clothes. It's big and pink and filled with all the outfits and accessories a girl could need. She loves dressing up and putting on shows. There's a bay window in the playroom and I keep thinking that if I hung some red fabric across it, we could make it into a makeshift stage. But then I'd have to watch even more shows so I'm not sure that's the best idea. 

This is a collaborative post. 


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