Mellow Mummy: January 2010 : Taking life as it comes...

Saturday 30 January 2010

My Life Plan - A Meme

I've been tagged by Catherine of Baby Genie in her brand new 'life plan' meme. Its a good one! I think it really demonstrates how our dreams and goals change over the years, ESPECIALLY when you become a parent. If you read on, you'll see that I often meet my goals, but that my career plan has slowly changed from the very creative... to the very technical.

I don't remember having a life plan until I was about 13 (although I'm sure my Mum will correct me when she reads this). At the time, I had just decided to abandon my dreams of studying maths and physics at Oxford and following in my Mother's footsteps and had decided to go with my creative streak instead. I wanted to be a fashion designer and travel the world with my designs for sensible, but funky clothing. At this point, I KNEW I wanted to get married in a dress made out of Crunchie wrappers.

My little sister sporting one of my more unusual designs!

By the time I was 15 and planning my higher education, I'd decided that I wanted to be an advertising copywriter – a plan that I pretty much stuck with right up until I got to university where I was taking Media Studies. When I started Uni I was interested in news journalism, and I discovered a skill for photography. I attempted a few weeks work experience with a local newspaper and a portrait studio – I hated both of them! Photography was definitely meant to be a hobby for me, not a job!

By 21, at the end of university, I had changed my mind about my future career a million times but kept coming back to marketing. When I left, I got myself a job as a marketing administrator in the City for an IT recruitment firm (for administrator see 'making cups of strong coffee for over-boozed team-members'). That summer I finally got together with the guy I'd had my eye on for years and life was looking good. It was at this point in my life that I promised myself that I would have kids before I was 30 – it gave me time to achieve stuff (unspecified), gave me something to look forward to, and ensured that I wasn't going to be an ancient mummy! I just had to wait for my other half to finish university himself and then we could get married (at Silverstone racecourse, in a yellow wedding dress), settle down and build a family together... right?

One day I found myself running a stand at a graduate recruitment fair and had a complete change of plan. Here were people the same age and background as me earning three times as much: this was not right! I enrolled on an online software development course, got accepted for a masters degree in computing at the same university as my other half and was sure that in 12 months time I'd be working in the IT department of a big bank, bringing in the big bucks! I gave up work, moved in with my boyfriend and took out a huge loan to cover my fees.

12 months later, and at 23 years old, I was actually working for the 3rd largest software company on the planet. I was beginning to worry about the 'settling down' part of the life plan as my other half now lived about 100 miles away and had his heart set on a career that involved spending large parts of the year on remote pacific islands... the kinda place where there is not much call for enterprise software developers.

The next change in my life plan came in summer 2003 when I was 24. If you've read my contribution to the favourite photo meme you'll know that this is when I got together with Mr. B. I was on a training course in the USA and I abandoned my poor old boyfriend in favour of a work colleague (the ex didn't know it yet because he was away on a remote Caribbean island!) I had a really good feeling about it – I guess I knew then that I was going to be the future Mrs. B!

By 25 I was renting a house with Mr. B and we were both vaguely hankering after a job that would bring in enough money for us to afford to buy our first house together. I planned to find a job in IT consultancy.

At 26, we both had jobs in IT consultancy and bought our first house. At 27 I decided that if I was going to remain sane, I needed to give up the daily trek into the city. I found a relaxed job, close to home and finally got that banking role I'd planned for - I write software used by the world's biggest financial bods. The life plan now was to save up for a wedding and to start making babies! We got married when I was 28 (I didn't wear a yellow dress, or one made from Crunchie wrappers and no, it wasn't at Silverstone racecourse). Last year, three weeks before my 30th birthday, we had our first child. Phew, just made it before my self-imposed deadline!

The life plan now? Well, from my goals for 2010, you'll know that the plan is to find a new house which kinda leads on to breeding a bigger family! I plan to work for as long as I can balance it with family because I enjoy what I do and want to be the best at it. I'm aiming for a management role. In a few years time when our family is bigger and life has settled down a little (does it ever once you have kids?), both myself and Mr. B would like to live abroad for at least 12 months. We haven't decided where, or how we'll fund it, but we'd love to give our kids the opportunity to soak up a totally different culture.

So, that's my life story in a nutshell! If you would like to join in the meme, go ahead. But to keep things flowing, I tag the following people (because I think there will be some very revealing stories about how their life plans have changed over the years):-

Claire at The Life Of The Twenty-Something Mum
Tara at Sticky Fingers
Kathryn of Crystal Jigsaw
Hayley at Single Motherhood Challenges

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Birth Choices - Your Posts

Following the popularity of my "Maternity Matters - The Choice of Where to Give Birth" blog post, I am inviting you all to post your stories of what choices you had, why you chose where you did to give birth, whether it worked for you, and whether you would make the same decision again.

If you have a story you would like to share, add a link to your post below using the MckLinky widget.

Looking forward to reading all your stories.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Maternity Matters – The Choice Of Where To Give Birth

On Wednesday the 27th of Juanuary, Women's Hour on Radio 4 discussed the 2007 'Maternity Matters' government promises on the provision of maternity care. Among these promises was the guarantee that by the end of 2009, every woman in Britain would be granted the choice of where to give birth – in a hospital obstetric unit, at a midwife-led Birth Centre, or in their own home.

From what I've read, I think that I am one of the lucky few who was really offered this choice. In the local authority where I live, I could choose from our local midwife-led Birth Centre (its no more than 3 miles from my house), a home birth with the midwives from said Birth Centre, and a choice of three major hospitals, two of which had Birth Centres on-site. Admittedly, no-one ever actively discussed the options open to me, or 'sold' me the concepts of a home birth or of a midwife-led Birth Centre but I did my own research and made my own decision. Its a shame though, I imagine that there are a large number of mums who have no idea that they can give birth anywhere other than a hospital.

You may ask then, if I had the freedom to choose a midwife-led birth, why did I opt for the one hospital that didn't have a Birth Centre? I chose, very early in my pregnancy, to give birth at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. It is a good 20 minute drive away from home and in a different county to where I live but there were a number of reasons why it was my number one choice:-

  • My husband, his siblings, nieces, nephews, and many of my friends were all born there so it couldn't be that bad!
  • Despite being the farthest hospital away from home, it is actually the easiest to get to (but the most evil to park at... have you ever had to do a 103-point turn to get out of a parking space?)
  • It has, for a long time, been the hospital where our families have been treated so I knew I could trust the level of care there.
  • My local Birth Centre is directly opposite Ascot racecourse and Lara was due during Royal Ascot week... I didn't fancy getting stuck in race-going traffic at my hour of need.

During my pregnancy I visited the hospital to view the maternity provisions and I'm sure that if I hadn't liked what I'd seen then I would have changed my mind, but from my experiences of my local Birth Centre, I knew that the hospital I had chosen would offer a more professional level of care. I had all of my antenatal and postnatal care (other than scans) at my local Birth Centre and was continually appalled by the level of service, the lack of communication, the lack of urgency and the miserable d├ęcor that gave the place an air of 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest'. Due to a lack of midwives, I spent several hours waiting for appointments before the birth and, in those first few weeks after the birth, I never once received a home visit from a midwife – I had to go to them each time, and even then I experienced cancelled appointments and delays. I was not impressed.

It was important to me that the hospital I chose had a birthing pool available. I wanted to try for a natural, drug-free birth (but, being the mellow mummy, I wasn't obsessed about it). As far as was possible, I managed my labour in the pool without drugs but then, due to complications ( a very stressed baby and a very shattered mummy) I left the pool, got hooked up on the drugs and ended up giving birth on an operating table. Lara was delivered by forceps following a failed ventouse.

Now, my NCT lessons had me believe that by choosing to give birth in an obstetric unit, it was inevitable that I would have an assisted delivery. To settle my mind, I have spoken to my local midwives since the birth who assure me that if I had been in the birthing pool at my local Birth Centre when the complications has happened, then I would have had to be rushed by ambulance to one of the larger hospitals as they wouldn't have been able to manage the delivery without medical intervention.

So, given my experiences, will I make a different decision next time round? Will I feel confident enough to opt for a Birth Centre? Or even a home delivery? Err... no. I was more than happy with my birth experience. The level of care was great, the facilities were outstanding (although I did have to wait for a delivery suite, and then again for a bed on the maternity ward), and I still feel like they did everything they could to help me attempt an intervention-free birth. To top it off, I now feel even more conscious that if I were to need assistance then all the medical practitioners would be there, on-site, with no need for an ambulance trip.

So, did you have a choice of where to give birth? Were you happy with your choice? Would you make the same decision again? I'd be very interested to read your comments below.

Sunday 24 January 2010

The Sunday Review – Splash About Happy Nappy

I first took Lara swimming at 3 months old and she started her first swimming lessons at 4 months. I bought her a 'Happy Nappy' by Splash About because it is the brand of swim nappy that was politely insisted upon by the company that offered baby swimming lessons at my local pool. I ended up choosing a lesson provider who doesn't insist on any particular brand but despite being given a Kooshies swim nappy for Lara to try out, I wouldn't change my decision to use the Splash About Happy Nappy at all. I'm so pleased with the Happy Nappy, that I have recently invested in the next size up.

Most swimming pools that run baby swimming lessons insist on the 'double nappy system'. By this they mean that to ensure that stinky accidents don't cause the pool to have to be drained for hygiene reasons, your baby has to wear two layers of nappy. The inner layer should be a disposable aqua nappy (I use Huggies Little Swimmers) and this should be held securely in place by an outer layer of fabric swimming nappy that is tight against the skin.

The Splash About Happy Nappy is made of neoprene (the material from which they make wetsuits) which is designed to keep baby warm. The wide legs and waistband are made of a stretchy, rubber-based fabric which ensures that they stay firmly against your baby's skin without being so tight as to cause discomfort. The nappy is supple so doesn't restrict swimming movement and it is easy to get on and off as there are no ties to do up.

Lara has left me a number of surprises in her nappy during her swimming lessons but I can get into the pool each week with total confidence that if she does, then it won't leak and cause the lesson to be abandoned (which would cause a lot of embarrassment because it would mean that all lessons for the rest of the day would have to be cancelled).

The Happy Nappy comes in a range of bright colours and in sizes from early baby right through to toddlers. They cost around £8.50 to £9.50, depending on where you buy them. Splash About also sell body-wraps, full-body swim suits and a number of UV protection products which complement one another. They have also recently launched their own inner-nappy which is a double-nappy system that uses a re-usable cotton nappy wrap and avoids the need to use a disposable aqua nappy.

Friday 22 January 2010

An Email From Mummy - How're things going with the childminders?
Subject:How are things going with the childminders?

Dear Lara,

How have you enjoyed your first real week with your childminders? Last week you only got to spend one day with one of them, and two with your naughty Auntie so I guess this week has been very different for you with two whole days spent with each of your new carers.

Do you miss Mummy and Daddy when we leave you and head off to work for the day? Or do you have so much fun playing with the older children and seeing new faces and places that you forget about us?

You're such a lucky girl to have so many new friends of different ages to walk to and from school with in the mornings and afternoons - it'll be a few years yet before Mummy has to do a school run! And (not that I'm jealous of your social life or anything) you are very lucky to get to go out and do exciting things like meeting lots of other babies at the toddler group or going to the playground to watch the older children play in the cold - these are things you rarely got to do when I was at home with you.

I've heard that you have had lots of trouble with your teeth this week. Poor you. But, thank you for making the childminder's lives hellish, rather than mine! ehehehe.

I know that the format of your day is a bit different to what you had been used to recently. It's not that surprising really because Mummy never had to go out in the afternoon to pick children up from school. I'm sure you'll get used to it very soon because you're mellow about these things, like me. Plus, it'll do you good to have different schedules with different people on different days of the week - it means you won't get stuck in a rut and that you'll be more flexible to change. Cool.

I just wanted to say a massive thank you for the cheeky smile of recognition that you give us each evening when you notice us as we come to pick you up from the childminder. It really makes my day. Whatever you're doing (whether its violently throwing toys about, clinging on to your childminder, or sitting up at the dinner table with the big girls), when you hear our voices you turn your head towards us, your eyes twinkle, and slowly your face transforms; that wonderful, unique smile that you save for just that moment creeps across your face. It almost makes it worth leaving you for a whole day just to see that smile!

I hope that you are enjoying your new way of life with the childminders but I also hope you'll enjoy your Mummy-days just as much.

Love you loads

Mummy x

Tuesday 19 January 2010

To Store, Or Not To Store

Right folks, I need your advice. I've a bit of a conundrum that I've been pondering over for a few months but now it is approaching crunch time. Should I keep all of Lara's baby stuff for 'potential future baby', or should I get rid of it?

I had always planned to keep all of the baby bits and pieces that I had accumulated for use if (or when!) our family grows again. However, I feel like our house is being taken over by baby stuff!Lara is seven months old this week and we already have 5 cardboard boxes of clothes that she has grown out of, a Moses basket, a play gym, a crib, shed-loads of breastfeeding equipment , a complete set of small reusable nappies and a car seat. To top it off, I have bags full of maternity clothes, nursing bras and tops, a birthing ball, a TENS machine... the list is endless. All of these things are now sitting, unloved, in our hallway or stashed out of sight in our loft. If it goes on at this rate, we will run out of space in our house in about.... err... tomorrow.

The baby dump!

We don't have a large house - you'll note that one of my goals for 2010 is to find a bigger one! I'm sure that if we ever actually got around to sorting out our loft space (do we really need offcuts of carpet for each room of the house?) then we could find space for all of Lara's cast-offs. The more stuff we secrete in the loft, the more stuff we'll have to move later in the year when we relocate – can I be bothered with the hassle? Is it really worth it? Will I really be frugal (or selfish) enough not to buy new clothes, toys, bottles and whatnot the second time around? Will I want to buy clothes especially for the newbie? Or would I be happy dressing them purely in Lara's hand-me-downs? What if future family members are male? Aaaaargh!

I'm sure that if I keep all of the baby bits then I will save myself a whole load of cash. My crib is fantastic and it would seem such a shame to get rid of it, only to have to buy (or source) a new one a year or two down the line. The baby bath (barely used – read why here) takes up so much space but it is guaranteed that if I get rid of it, I'll regret it! The play gym is in full working order; it was a gift from my colleagues and it would be wrong to get rid of it, wouldn't it? And the clothes... ah, the clothes... some of them are barely worn, they're just too good to throw out. I have identified only one or two things I am 100% happy to get rid of.

My other option is to start the time-consuming process of listing all of the items on ebay and freecycling anything that won't make me rich! I guess that way I would at least be (a) making money to spend on new clothes and toys for Lara and (b) helping out people who need the baby stuff more than I currently do.

So, answer me this:-

  • Should I store or should I sell/donate?

  • Will I really use the stuff I keep ever again?

  • What would you keep? And what would you throw out?

  • Have you stored baby stuff and used it? Or have you stored it and then found it useless?

Friday 15 January 2010

One Week Down...

Image: djcodrin /

I had intended this blog post to be a summary of what it feels to have been back at work as a new working mum but it has been a bit of a funny week and I'm not sure I can really tell you!

Monday was about as normal a working day as you can get. We had to get up outrageously early (Lara has always been very good at lie ins), had a mad rush to get ourselves clean, fed and presentable... then even more of a rush to get Lara clean, fed and presentable. As my hubbie packed all the bags of baby gubbins into the car, I had a slightly emotional moment – but you know me, I wouldn't possibly get weepy and emotional about these things, would I?

We dropped Lara off with her childminder (No. 1) at 8.30 and then spent an hour in a traffic jam on a journey that should have taken 10 minutes. As I walked back into the office, it was (as many people told me it would be) just like I had never been away. I picked up exactly where I had left off last May... even working on exactly the same project. Thrilling.

On Tuesday (and today), Lara spent the day with one of her doting Aunties because childminder No. 2 was on holiday. Lots of people worry about choosing a childminder over a nursery because there is no-one to cover when the childminder can't provide care; but my two-childminder arrangement, with the backup of lots of willing relatives means that I will hopefully never have a problem. Somehow, sending Lara to spend a day with a relative doesn't really feel like leaving her... it feels very different... as if actually I'm doing them a favour, rather than them helping me out for the day.

If I had needed anything to support my decision to send Lara to a childminder over sending her to a relative for full-time care, then I got it this week! At 7 months old, she was treated to her first ever Macdonalds drive-thru! Special Aunties are for spoiling you with special treats, not for boring, every-day childcare!

On Wednesday I couldn't get to work! Having spent an hour in the car we had to abandon it about quarter of a mile away from home. We trekked back home in the snow – Lara thought it was great fun and giggled all the way! While the other half spent the day working from home of the laptop, I entertained Lara. Even after just two days away from her it seemed like awfully hard work looking after her demands all day!

Thursday saw the start of a new term of swimming lessons. Lara, as always, loved every minute of it – she'll be swimming lengths before I know it! Much of my day was spent either pushing other people's cars out of the snow, or being pushed out of the snow myself.

Today I had to really knuckle down to work. I know that there was nothing I could do about the snow on Wednesday, but I did feel weirdly guilty about not having been able to work, especially as it meant I missed my first deadline this afternoon. In the past, I would have stayed late to get the work complete but my 'back to work resolutions' mean that I simply can't do that any more and I'm hoping that the guys at work understand that.

So really, it hasn't been a particularly representative week. I can tell you now that when I'm at work I don't miss Lara per se – I'm too busy working. There are times when I feel so comfortable doing my work, so relaxed back into the rhythm of things that in fact, it feels like the last 7 months never happened! But then, when I read my twitter feed, receive a blog comment, or receive a MMS with a picture of my sleepy little girl, I remember that I'm not just a programmer now... I'm a mummy. I can officially multi-task!

Thursday 14 January 2010

My Top Ten Freebies - A Meme

I have been tagged by the very friendly Make Do Mum in the 'Top 10 things in your life that are FREE' meme. If you've read my lessons on Baby Stuff For Free then you will know that I'm a frugal mummy. I'll try not to repeat myself here, but there are a few things from the lessons that I feel are more than worthy of inclusion in my Top 10.

I've also tried to keep my Top 10 very practical – everyone knows that I love Mr B. and my little girl (even more than I love biscuits) and although I wouldn't strictly describe family life as 'free' (parenthood is a very pricey business), the happiness that they bring me every day is immeasurable and self-evident, so I've ruled that it doesn't count for this meme!!!
  1. Growing your own veg. Not strictly free given the initial investment and time/effort required but it does mean you can avoid the supermarkets and it does mean great tasting, healthy veg for you and your family with zero food miles. I know the weather is not conducive to veggie growing at this precise moment, but I'm starting my chilli plants indoors soon and this summer there will be potatoes, herbs, courgettes, beans and all sorts of yummy things for Lara to sample.
  2. Competition Prizes. If you've not read my lesson on how to win free baby goodies (and lots more)... then where have you been? Since I wrote it I have won a cookbook, a diary and some more smellies. Go on, give it a try.
  3. Free Wi-Fi. My scrumptious OH bought me an Ipod Touch for Christmas. Ever since then I have been scouring the airwaves for free Wi-Fi so that I can surf the net wherever I am... for FREE! Thankfully, I found a free network within reach of my desk at work. Phew: I was wondering what I'd do without access to Twitter and the blogosphere!
  4. Photo Souvenirs and Memories. Last Christmas, in a piece of ingenious forward planning given the new baby on the way, my present was a shiny new digital SLR. I love taking photographs of Lara (I've already had to archive off a whole load of them because they filled up my PC... oops) but my speciality is landscape photography. When I'm on holiday I struggle to find inspiring souvenirs but when I get back I always have a set of amazing photographs which are totally free and which mean much more to me than any piece of tourist tat. Here is just a taster!

  5. The wonderful worlds of Freegle and Freecycle – always worth a try for a few freebies.
  6. Reusable Nappies. I know, I know... they're not free because you have to fork out for the nappies, covers, liners and all the gubbins to deal with them... and you have to wash them. I know! But I've done my calculations, I am pretty certain that if you ignore the washing costs then I broke even nappy wise at 4 months so in my eyes, every reusable nappy that I now change counts as a FREE nappy. I do still use disposables occasionally and it always shocks me how much they cost. If you're interested in giving it a go, check out my Links for suppliers.
  7. Online Rewards Schemes. I touched on this briefly in Baby Stuff For Free but right now, I don't know what I'd do without the likes of Kidstart, Nectar e-shops, Mutualpoints and the whole host of online surveys I complete. I've had £55 in vouchers from various places so far in 2010 which has been a welcome contribution to the 'new baby car seat fund'.
  8. Free Coffee. On Monday I was incredibly grateful for my Caffe Nero loyalty card. All those trips to the coffee shop during maternity leave for a cheeky Mocha have paid off. It was lunchtime, I was tired after just half a day back at work, I was cold from tramping through the snow and all I wanted was a hot, warming, caffeine-packed coffee. Armed with my little piece of coffee-currency, I exchanged my loyalty card for a free cuppa and life was once again groovy. Genius.
  9. Free Music. Since I got my IPod I have discovered, a website that recommends music to you based on what you like and what you are currently listening to. You can listen to samples from their recommendations online, or through their Ipod application. If you like what they recommend, then you can choose to buy, or choose to listen to something else. They also have a lot of totally free mp3 downloads available on their site.
  10. Free Money. Yes, there is such a thing. Dear Government, Thank you very much for your gift of £250 for Lara's child trust fund. Thank you also for my child benefit which, although small in the grand scheme of things, is just enough to make me not have to worry about finances during the month. Oh, and thank you for the 'health in pregnancy 'grant, the maternity pay, the child trust fund tax breaks and the tax incentives on the childcare vouchers... you'd be mad to withdraw them because working mums like me might give up altogether leaving you with a smaller workforce and less tax income. Sometimes I feel lucky to be a UK mum.

I'm passing on the meme to Rebecca at Beetroot and Gherkins and Catherine at BabyGenie.

Monday 11 January 2010

The Right Time To Give Up Breastfeeding?

This week I have made the big decision to give up breastfeeding Lara. That it has coincided with my return to work was not the plan, it just kinda happened.

It has been fun – I'd highly recommend it. I'm not a breastfeeding evangelist, but I do feel that every mum who can, should give it a try. If it works for you and your baby then it's a wonderful bonding experience, considerably less labour-intensive than bottle feeding, less expensive and biologically, its the most natural way to go. I think I was one of the lucky mums to whom it came naturally; other than that first emotional week, there have been no real problems.

I breast fed Lara exclusively for 3 months and since then I have been slowly replacing the feeds with bottles in preparation for my return to work. In truth, I had hoped to start the process a little later but I found that I couldn't keep up with Lara's demands – ever since she was born, she's had an appetite to rival most adults and now she is on three full meals a day, I still find myself surprised at how much she can put away.

The plan had been to continue breastfeeding Lara first thing in the morning even after I had gone back to work. I know there are mums out there who manage to continue exclusively breastfeeding (or at least offering breast milk) once they return to work but for me, I just couldn't imagine sitting in a darkened room (in an office full of male programmers) with my breast pump. My childminder arrangement doesn't really allow for me to pop back for a quick feed several times a day. Being able to leave bottles of formula for my childminders means that I'm relaxed and can stay mellow.

Photo courtesy of 007 Breasts

For the past month or so, Lara and I had settled into a rhythm of one breast feed, two bottles and three solid meals a day. Even when Lara got her first teeth in December, we managed to carry on. But, over the last fortnight I had noticed that my little girl had begun to lose interest in her morning feed and then towards the middle of last week she developed a really evil habit! She would lift her head slightly when feeding, make eye contact with me, smile (very cheekily) and then CHOMP, right down on the nipple!

I persevered for a couple of days but then I began to recognise that cheeky grin and decided at the weekend that enough was enough! Its a difficult decision and one that only I could make. I don't feel guilty about it , perhaps just a little disappointed in myself, that I didn't manage to keep her interested. I am, however, proud that I made it this far.

Sunday 10 January 2010

My 'Working Mum' Resolutions

Time's up. I am back to work on Monday after nearly 7 months of maternity leave. I'm determined to make the 'working mum' thing work for me and Lara so I've made myself some promises that I'm going to try to stick to... they're a bit like New Year's resolutions!

  1. Don't Offer My Time For Free
    I'm not a "career woman" but I enjoy what I do (I'm a code monkey, I write financial software... its not thrilling, but I'm good at it) and at work (and pretty much nowhere else), I am a perfectionist. In the past I would have stayed in the office much longer than the 9-5.30 they pay me for just to make sure that things are ship shape. From now on, I'm going to have to stick much more closely to my hours; not only because I can't afford to mess the childminders around, but also because from now on, evenings are going to be sacred... my Lara time!

  2. Don't Take Work Home
    If I'm leaving the office on time, I know the temptation (and perhaps the expectation) to bring a laptop home will haunt me. I shall resist as long as possible. Its not fair on Lara if her Mum and Dad spend all evening working.

  3. Make Thursdays Fundays!
    Thursday is my one day of the week when it'll be just me and Lara. Ooooh, the possibilities! I promise not to spend it in front of the television, but I also promise not to jam pack it full of activities... I want to spend some time just chilling out with my little girl. We have swimming lessons booked and who knows what else we shall get up to – I shall keep you posted.

  4. Make the Most of Weekends
    In the past, weekends were for (a) getting drunk, (b) doing the housework, (c) doing the shopping & other admin and (d) vegging out in front of the TV. I think we should try and make sure that B and C get done at other times in the week, reduce D and instead, make sure that we get out and about and spend some fun family time together. I shall reserve judgement on A.

  5. Keep On Blogging
    I've really enjoyed the past couple of months in the blogosphere and don't want to give it up. If I find the time, I shall write! I'm going to try and do one ramble, one review and a picture during the week and provide a couple of comments every day on all of the other lovely blogs out there... what are lunchbreaks for, huh?

  6. Feed The Family Well
    I WILL find time to make scrumptious home cooked food for us all! Lara is pretty much eating what we eat now, just with less salt and sugar and generally in a more mashed form than us; so things shouldn't be too difficult. I'm on a mission to keep at it and not to revert to packets, tubs and processed food (and to takeaways on a Friday night)!

  7. Make Time For 'Us'
    I work with my husband. It has its highlights... While I've been on maternity leave, I have missed our quiet walks (and rants) at lunchtime and our chats in the car to and from work. That said, I don't want our work time to be our only time being 'Mr. & Mrs. B' rather than 'Mummy & Daddy'. I intend to find time, every so often, when we can escape the munchkin and enjoy being a couple together.

  8. Stay in Touch With Mummies
    In my line of work, my path rarely crosses that of any females! I work in a male-dominated industry and in general my friends, even since college, have all been guys. Since the summer I've made some great female mummy friends both online and in person; it would be sad for me to crawl back into my male-only world. I hope to keep in touch with as many mummies as possible.

  9. Keep Healthy
    I'm well aware that my gym membership is going to be underused once I go back to work. Once I've picked Lara up from the childminders, fed her, fed myself and the OH and spent some quality time with the family, there is not going to be much time left for swimming or gyming. But if I can get out at lunchtime for a walk instead of eating lunch at my desk then that's better than nothing. Also, I WILL NOT succumb to the temptation of unlimited free cans of diet coke from the machine in the kitchen at work... well, maybe on a Friday.

If you can think of any other things I should be wary of, let me know with a comment below. Wish me luck!

Friday 8 January 2010

Maclaren Baby - Beginning... Range: Did you know they made smellies as well as pushchairs!

I love smellies. I don't tend to splash my cash on clothes or music or other such vices, but I do allow myself to splurge when it comes to skincare products. Organic, non-organic, big brands, small secret brands... you name it, I love it! I love trying out new products and occasionally I find a gem that I'll stick with for years (perhaps always?).

When I first became pregnant and I discovered the whole world of mummy-beauty products, I was given two travel packs of Maclaren beauty products – one for me, and one for baby. Maclaren, being best known for their pushchairs, is a big baby brand and I didn't expect anything less than the highest quality of their cosmetics, even though its not really their forte.

The Beginning... Range contains around 13 products and several gift sets. The products are all made from organic, natural ingredients and they are designed to take advantage of the properties of aromatherapy essential oils. The travel sets contain trial-sized versions of a number of the products.

All of the products smell heavenly and make you want to put them to use straight away but as with most essential-oil products, you have to use them quickly once opened or else the oils loose their potency. I only received trial-sized bottles of each product and found that in most cases, I couldn't use them up fast enough and that their fragrance disappeared over time, leaving them smelling a bit carboardy. I can't imagine ever requiring a full-sized version of most of their products. I used the 'Alleviating Leg Lotion' during the final days of pregnancy, and their 'Balancing Facial Mist' during the first stages of labour but I wasn't wowed.

Their baby products are more of a winner for me. I used the 'Cocooning Massage Oil' for my first forays into the world of baby massage but I have since come across cheaper, basic oils that perform just as well. My absolute favourite product from both travel sets has to be the 'Absorbing Dusting Powder' which is a talcum powder alternative. It is made from corn starch, kaolin, lavender and tea tree and is an incredibly fine powder. I use it often during nappy changes and after a bath and a little powder goes a long way.

The dusting powder is the only product from their range that I felt strongly enough about to buy the full-sized version. It probably explains why this product recently won an award for 'Best Organic Baby Product' at the Natural and Organic Awards 2009. Because it is not liquid-based it keeps for a lot longer than the other products, and due to the tiny amount you need to use, it seems like good value for money (even though it costs 10p a gram).

All of the individual products can be bought online and most of them cost £15 (there are a few exceptions, for instance a soap for £8! and a candle for £25!!). The site is easy to navigate and the purchasing process is easy, although I got the impression from the emails I received, that they don't deal with very many orders through that route... it seemed just a shade unprofessional.

In summary, the products, although scrumptious for a short amount of time, don't feel like good value for money and as a set of high-end organic, holistic pampering products, I'm not convinced how well they sit within the Maclaren brand.

Thursday 7 January 2010

My Favourite Photo – A Meme

I was very excited when I was tagged by Rebecca at Beetroot And Gherkins in my very first meme – the “Your Favourite Photo” meme started by Tara at Sticky Fingers and the rules are simple:-

What is your favourite photograph. And why?

It's as simple as that.

It can be your wedding day, your children, walking in the park/on a beach/hand in hand. It can be your backgarden on a frosty morning, a holiday photo, the day you met someone famous, the day you met your other half.

It can be a lost relative, a family gathering, a picture of you in your youth.

Post it, say why it's your fav then invite someone else to do the same.

There is one minor problem... I'm an amateur photographer. I love taking photos and have done ever since I was wee! I have a LOT of photographs, in fact, the roof above me is straining from the weight of the photos in my loft and I have a PC upstairs dedicated to my more recent, digital images. Holidays, friends, events, cats, cars and of course, a shed load of photos of Lara because I've been shoving the camera in her face every day since she was born! I was determined to find a photograph that included me in it, but (because I am normally the one taking the photos) those are pretty rare. It took a while, but here goes...

My picture was taken in July 2003 at the top of Niagara Falls in Canada. I know that the yellow pac-a-macs aren't very flattering, and that we don't look that thrilled to be there but trust me, the reason why I chose this picture is because I KNOW that when it was taken, I was incredibly happy!!!

That summer, I was on a 3 month training course in Long Island, New York accompanied by a small handful of my fellow Brits, one of whom I was slowly falling for! One weekend in July we took a road trip to Niagara Falls (a round journey of 1000 miles just to see a waterfall). When we arrived at Niagara, we had to leave the hire car in New York state so we took a coach trip over the border to see the more spectacular Canadian side of the falls. It was on this trip that I found out that the the guy I was falling for, was also falling for me – there's nothing like standing underneath a wall of thunderous water to cement a relationship! That guy (the chap in the middle of the photo) was to be my future husband.

Immediately before this photo was taken we had been down into the depths of the rock below and had ventured out under the Horseshoe falls where we were pelted by the powerful mist. It was an awful lot of fun, shouting, singing and giggling under the roar of the water around us. I also remember smiling and flirting with Mr. B. as we both got steadily more sodden in the mist and water – I just couldn't stop smiling.

When we came back to the surface, the sun was setting and the floodlights came on, making the falls look magical. I remember being cold, soaked to the skin, and totally on top of the moon! I guess the reason why I love this photo so much is because it reminds me of the beginning of my relationship with Mr. B and it stirs up all sorts of happy memories of my trip to the USA.

And, just in case you wanted to see a picture of Niagara Falls that isn't in total darkness... here's one or two that I took from the USA side of the falls!

And now its time to pass the baton. I tag...

Emily at Days With the Walker Family
Jacqui at Mummy's Little Monkey
Hayley at Single Motherhood Challenges

... my apologies if you've been tagged already.

I hope you enjoy searching for the right photo as much as I did!

Monday 4 January 2010

The Last Week Of Maternity Leave

So this is it. It is 7 months since I started my maternity leave – my, how that has flown by! Next Monday I return to work for 4 days a week.

I won't go as far as to say that I am 'looking forward' to my return to work, but somehow it just feels right. I knew it would... new year, new routine. I knew a few weeks ago when I suddenly realised that there was no way I could face daytime TV any more. I knew when Lara started eating a full 3 meals a day, and I knew when she started to lose interest in her only remaining breast feed of the day that she was ready to move to a childminder. I knew when people started mentioning to me that Lara seemed very good at entertaining herself for long periods of time. She doesn't need me 24/7 any more; friends, relatives and childminders are just as fun, and just as helpful (but nobody's silly hair makes her laugh so much, so that's OK).

This week Lara is spending 2 mornings with each of her 2 childminders. Mr B. is back at work so life feels a bit empty.

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that this time next week I will be back at work and will no longer get to spend all day every day with my munchkin, and I'll no longer have the freedom to make coffee dates and go on mummy walks whenever it suits me. My question to you is... how do I make the most of the next 4 days? Bargain Hunt & Twitter don't seem like the best use of my time now, do they?

Sunday 3 January 2010

Bambino Merino Sleepsuit - Snugglycute!

If you have been following my blog you may remember that my mum recently won a Bambino Merino sleepsuit for baby Lara.

Ever since Lara was a bump, I've had my eye on a Bambino Merino sleeping bag. They look so snuggly and super-cute; in fact I even went as far as to invent a new word to describe how they look - “snugglycute”. I was getting as excited about it as I would about Dolce & Gabbana clothes or other designer items that I would get for myself. I was over the moon when Mum's prize arrived and couldn't wait to give the sleepsuit a try but when I saw the special insert which explained the washing instructions, it dawned on me that merino is a type of wool, and as such, needs some special care. Eeek.

Merino wool is a super-fine wool which is incredibly light weight (much lighter than any of the cotton and synthetic sleepsuits I own) and if you didn't know, I bet you wouldn't guess it was wool! It is soft and breathable and is the ideal fibre for helping your baby to regulate their temperature during the night because it can keep in heat when its cold, and allow heat out when it is warm.

The other great thing about merino wool is that it is odour-resistant which means that unless the suit is soiled, it does not need to be washed as frequently as other sleepsuits. My concerns about what to do when it does need a wash have been largely unfounded; the wool is machine washable so long as you run it through a wool wash with a detergent that explicitly states it is suitable for wool. I have put mine through the washing machine a few times now with no ill effects.... phew, I could never have faced hand-washing it.

During the last few weeks of chilly weather, when Lara has been wearing her Bambino Merino sleepsuit she has still looked all snuggly and warm and yet the outfit feels so light and summery! I wish I had owned this sleepsuit earlier in the year when we went to the Med, it would have been great to have a long-sleeved sleepsuit to protect from mozzies, but which would have kept her cool during the sticky nights.

The sleepsuit I have is suitable for 6-12 months which is quite a wide age range; however, because the fabric is so light and flexible, I have no doubt that it will last Lara well into the new year. As well as the pink suit that Lara has, you can also buy it in blue and ivory.

We were also sent one of Bambino Merino's iconic hats which I admit is incredibly cute, but despite the fact that the merino wool is supposed to be breathable, I just can't bring myself to use it for anything other than making Lara look snugglycute (if you want to know how I feel about baby hats read this article).

If you've read my blog series on Free Baby Stuff then you will understand why, when Lara is 7 months old, I have only ever bought one pack of sleepsuits and that it cost me £1 at an NCT sale! I've had so many gifts and hand-me-downs that I just haven't needed to buy any, and if I had, I certainly wouldn't have spent £24.95 on one – it just doesn't seem like an item of clothing that I should splash out on. The Bambino Merino sleepsuit is very expensive but if you were looking to buy just one or two very high quality sleepsuits, that would last you more than a couple of weeks, and which didn't need washing every night... then you may be able to justify the expense; after all, it is snugglycute!

The Bambino Merino sleepsuit can be bought online for £24.95 including free delivery.
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