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

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Teething Pain Is Breaking My Heart

No-one ever warned me how hard this would be. How hard it is to watch my little girl suffer. A baby girl who normally shrieks with laughter when she sees me who now shrieks with pain instead. No-one told me how much it would hurt me to see her pain. I'm struggling.

As you know, I'm normally so mellow about these things. Many of the challenges of parenthood I have taken in my stride but this, I'm not sure I can bear it much longer. When I am at work, struggling to keep my eyes open after a disturbed night, the only way that I can work through the exhaustion is by reminding myself that I still have months, perhaps years (as I was reminded by Baby Genie this weekend), of this ahead of me therefore I have to stay strong – for Lara (and for my job!)

I honestly think that trying to respond to Lara's teething pain has been the part of motherhood for which I have been least prepared. After the first tooth (accompanied by the first cold), I could recognise the pattern... Lara would scream in the middle of the night, often without waking. The skin around her nappy would look a little red (although we haven't had any big problems with rashes or anything). Her cheeks would burn red all day and she would scratch the back of her head, just behind her ears.

Lara now has 5 teeth and all but one of them has brought with it a cold. Right now, she has her side teeth coming through; she has a cold which is making her cough up catarrh; she has totally gone of her food (I think this is just to spite me for having posted about how good she is with food last week) - I have never seen her so miserable. All day we have to struggle to elicit a smile from her. On Saturday she was so ill and so much in pain that in a Calpol-ed stupor she chose to spend the whole day sitting curled up in the crook of my arm, or that of Mr B. on the sofa watching Cbeebies. She looked so sad, so resigned to the pain, so exhausted, so un-Lara-like it was soul-destroying to see. We've tried everything we can to relieve the pain – Teething granules, gel, soothers, cold raw vegetables, teething rings... but nothing seems to work as well as a good munch on her own fist (or my finger). I don't know what else to try. The teeth are coming (I know by the quantities of dribble) I just wish they would hurry up so that I can have my bubbly, giggly, smiley, cheeky Lara back.

Sunday 28 March 2010

The Sunday Review - Nirvana Spa

This week, the very lovely Mr. B. took me to Nirvana Spa to celebrate our wedding anniversary (he also bought me smellies while we were there – how good is he?). After a day at the spa, I was feeling just about as mellow as you can get. Let me tell you about it...

Nirvana Spa is a day spa in Berkshire just outside Reading, a short distance from the M4, Junction 10. For me, it is no more than a 15 minute drive away – temptingly close. This is not the first time I have been (oh, no!) but every time I go, I feel refreshed and relaxed. It's a sure fire way to chill me out.

Nirvana spa's unique selling point is their 'Floatation' experience. Lie back, chill out and float about care-free in a darkened room. The first time I tried it, I remembered all too late that I was allergic to mineral products so the salty, mineral-heavy water irritated my skin. The experience is really not very relaxing when you are trying hard not to scratch and not to bump into other people in the darkness. I am told (by those who are not allergic) that it is normally an incredibly mellow experience. On this visit Mr. B. had a 'Floatation massage' where he received a gentle pressure-point massage as he was floating there in the water. He found it relaxing, but not as invigorating as a traditional massage.

The thing I appreciate most about Nirvana spa is that they have several generously sized pools. I love swimming and I love pootling in water. I can't get enough of it. There is a huge hydrotherapy pool with wonderfully warm water and jets of numerous different types. A fitness pool where you can get your lengths in and a members-only pool. The centre-piece of the whole spa is the fabulous 'Roman Room' with a pool suitable for general-purpose pootling; surrounded by palms and loungers it is a place where you can sit quietly with a cuppa and enjoy the vast selection of magazines and papers.

Most of the day spa experiences on offer include a light lunch in the Garden Room café (which always smells heavenly of aromatherapy oils). The lunch is usually a selection from the salad bar (although you can order off the menu up to the value of the salad); I've never found the food to be as inspiring, or as good quality as at other day spas I have tried but it is fine given that you don't want a bulging belly if you're planning on swimming or having treatments after lunch. Also included in the day spa rate is unlimited hot and cold drinks which I think contributes towards the great value for money to be found at Nirvana spa.

No spa day would be the same without a treatment (or two). Nirvana spa offers a wide range of traditional treatments with their own products although some of their best treatments with the Clarins products are reserved for members. Boo. This week I had a rejuvenating aromatic massage which was totally and utterly perfect.

One of the groovy things about Nirvana spa is that many of the facilities such as the jacuzzi and steam room are mixed so if you are visiting as a couple, you don't spend half your day in totally different places. The aromatherapy steam room is one of the best I've ever been in. Fragrant, comfy, dark and peaceful. There is also a set of monsoon showers where you can drench yourself in hot or cold water. Brrrr.

In the afternoon most guests head for the Nirvana Room for a bit of chill-out time. Rows of ergonomically-shaped heated beds fill the room which is silent but for the gentle trickle of the water feature and the occasional snore from someone who has chilled out a little too much! In the past, I've always wondered why anyone would pay for a day at a spa only to go and fall asleep on a bed... but I must admit that this time I did drift off while reading my book. Oops. On a totally different theme, there is also a small gym that guests can use should they have the energy!

If you live within a sensible driving distance then I would definitely recommend Nirvana spa for a relaxing pampering day with no pressure on you to do 'healthy stuff' or 'active stuff'. It is a great way to stay mellow.

Images courtesy of Nirvana Spa

Friday 26 March 2010

GOAL! I made this

This week I achieved another one of my Goals For 2010. A few weeks ago I lifted the poor, unloved sewing machine from its home in the bottom of the wardrobe and I have been making stuff!

It has been a very long time since I have used a sewing machine for anything other than fixing a hole in a pair of trousers, or re-sewing a dropped hem. There is an art to following a sewing pattern that I had completely forgotton – most of the jargon felt like gobbeldygook. So, to ease myself back into the swing of things, I started with something simple...

This is a frieze that I made to show off Lara's swimming badges (I'm expecting her to get a lot of them, you'll note!) I made it from my old winter coat which I chopped up and sewed back together again. Now that's recycling.

Once I had remembered what I was doing, and was confident using my sewing machine, I bought a few very simple sewing patterns from eBay. Every weekend I have managed to do a small amount of sewing during Lara's afternoon nap. This is the result – a striking summer dress! It is clearly a bit big for her at present, but by the time that its warms up enough for her to wear it, the dress will fit perfectly.

There is something very rewarding about creating stuff – I've always loved the “I made this” feeling whether it is a website I've worked on, a product I've coded or a newspaper article I've written! A hand-made piece of clothing is unique – there is no other dress on the planet that looks like this. This is a proud mummy moment.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Introducing... Me!

Meet Emma. Meet the Emma of 10 years ago who developed and printed her own photos (ah, to be back at University!)

Meet Emma, she's a multi-faceted character. Made up of lots of different pieces; a little bit of this.... cut it up and juxtapose it with a little bit of that.... Meet Emma the mum, Emma the photographer, Emma the writer, Emma the software engineer, Emma the... you get the idea.

Meet Emma, someone who, 10 years ago, was never quite sure what or who she wanted to be – this Emma whose outer image was formed from lots of examples 'borrowed' from the world around her; her creative technique a parody of several other people's styles and a wide range of ideas.

Meet Emma who to this day presents a varied face to the world. Emma who found herself, her confidence, her talent, her calling. Meet Emma, a person (a mummy) who is happy to be Emma. Meet the Emma who is beginning to rediscover her creative side thanks to Josie's writing workshop and Tara's Gallery, for which this is my contribution.

Meet Emma, she's very pleased to meet you!

This picture was (or more correctly, these pictures were) taken as a self-portrait 10 years ago. I developed and printed them myself. The print was created through a two-stage exposure using a template to prevent the images from overlapping. I chose it because I am surprised at how fitting the metaphors still are despite having improved my confidence in my own ability over the years.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Baby-Led Weaning - Feeding by Instinct

Until I started writing this article, I had never once read a book, leaflet or a tutorial about 'Baby-led Weaning'. I had heard the buzz-word mentioned online and by my local mummies; I knew roughly what 'BLW' was about but I wasn't about to let anyone 'teach' me how to wean my baby – you know me, I very much like to go with my instincts as a Mummy.

Lara is 9 months old and sometimes people (usually those with older children) raise an eyebrow when they see or hear the things I let her eat. Last week, while enjoying an evening curry with colleagues, we started chatting about whether our children enjoy curry too – I pointed out that lentil dal, or chicken curry with chapatis are some of Lara's favourite meals. I was asked how I puréed the chapatis!!! When I pointed out that I just let Lara eat them whole, it was suggested (admittedly with a sense of humour) that I was a bad mother. Hang on, if we eat curry and chapatis, why can't she?

To me, feeding Lara has always been about letting her fit in with how and what we eat. Mr & Mrs B love food; we love eating (perhaps too much) and we love talking/thinking/socialising about food. We want Lara to enjoy food as much as we do. Since well before we started weaning her, Lara has taken her place at the dinner table each evening to enjoy the social aspect of mealtimes. When I serve food for myself and Mr. B, it doesn't seem to make sense (in terms of time, effort, money and practicalities) to set to and prepare a totally different meal for Lara. At most dinner times, Lara will eat what we eat. In some cases that means that I have to subtly change my normal recipe to cater for Lara's needs. At other times (perhaps if we are having a particularly special meal) I will take time out to make Lara a different meal, or a slightly different take on ours. We follow a few sensible guidelines; no added salt or sugar, no low-calorie fat replacements, no nuts for a few more months, likewise honey, shellfish and some fresh fish. I have also been warned against citrus fruits and kiwi, and reminded to always chop choking hazards (such as cherry tomatoes and grapes) in half lengthways. In general however, we eat our evening meals as a family.

I had never intended taking the BLW approach. It just kinda happened. I was given a guide to weaning in my NCT classes and after 2 weeks I realised that it was clearly written for a baby with a MUCH smaller appetite than mine, and so I decided to go by instinct alone. When I went back to work, Lara was 7 months old and was happily eating finger foods. It was clear to me that if I wanted to have any free time at all in my evenings, I was going to have to ensure that Lara could eat the same meals as us, so that's what we did.

One of the reasons why I had never looked further into the 'theory' of Baby-led Weaning was that I got the feeling it was too prescriptive. BLW is an approach that generally recommends (as do the government) that you don't start to wean until 6 months and, when you do, most BLW resources seem very against the idea of spoon-feeding. Every baby is different. If I had waited until 6 months then I would probably have lost my mind. By 17 weeks Lara was stealing food from me and I was physically exhausted trying to keep up with the milk feeds she was demanding. I started weaning but couldn't offer finger food because she wasn't developed enough to feed herself – I had to spoon-feed her and I still occasionally do. If we eat things that require a spoon, so does she – I just don't let her loose with the spoon yet! The 'no spoon feeding' rule is too rigid for me.

Baby-led weaning, as an instinctive approach rather than a prescriptive one, has worked for us. We did it without guidance, based purely on instinct, both Lara's and mine. It requires great confidence in your baby's ability (you'll be surprised how much they can chomp even before they have teeth) and in your own ability to tell when they are struggling. I don't know Lara's boundaries – she does, and it's up to me to offer her tastes, textures and shapes which challenge her without stressing her out so much that she loses interest.

The ONLY area where we struggle is lunchtimes with the childminders. I always provide a main meal for Lara at lunch but I tend to err on the cautious side with the childminders and I am still providing mashed foods for them every other day. The reason for this is three-fold. Firstly, I don't feel that I should expect them to have to teach my child to eat, to have to worry about her ability to cope with the food I provide, to have to push those boundaries I told you about. Childminders simply don't get paid enough to do that (plus, they usually have other children to look after too so they can't provide the 100% attention that it often requires). Secondly, it is a big ask of Lara to handle two main meals by hand each day. If I know that she has eaten a large, easy lunch, then I don't need to worry so much if she struggles with the food I provide her for dinner. Over the coming weeks I will be providing more challenging foods for the childminders to feed her. Finally, I feel like it part of my adventure with Lara. Learning to explore new foods, to gain new culinary experiences – that's something I don't want to share with the childminders!

Monday 22 March 2010

Flying Families – A Blogging Carnival

Today I am spreading the blogger love in thanks for all the great tips I have been been given to help me remain mellow for my forthcoming trip across the Atlantic with a 1-year-old in tow.

I've compiled a list of all your great posts about flying with children so that we can share the pain and pass on hints. So, please ensure your trays are folded and your seats are in the upright position; fasten your seatbelts, sit back and enjoy the flight!..

Redtedart is now officially on 'travel strike', find out why at The Good Life Blog.

Natasha at Moaning Mummy tells us about a trip that is the stuff of nightmares!

The Dotterel is longing for an upgrade (and a holiday), read about his Traveller's Tales.

A Brit in Bosnia compares the stresses of flying with and without children in her entertaining post.

Saffia at Motherhood and Anarchy has a truely inspiring post about Travelling with Children and some great tips for flying with children; she also has some amazing photos on her site of some of her travels.

Last year, A Modern Mother reminded us that nightmare of long haul flights with children can be even worse for those around us but that it really does get easier when the kids get older.

Sunday 21 March 2010

The Sunday Review - Trainer Cups On Trial

In much the same vein as my review of pelican bibs a fortnight ago, here's my take on a few of the trainer cups and beakers that Lara has been trying out.

When I first started weaning Lara, I began offering water with her meals; I gave her a MAM transition trainer. We use (and love) the MAM feeding bottles so it seemed like a natural progression. At first Lara used the cup with a traditional MAM teat fitted so that she could get used to holding the cup without changing her drinking technique. After about a week I fitted the soft teet-like spout and she took to it straight away. The soft spout is more robust than a teet. It has a small plastic insert which holds the spout rigid and prevents spillage. For about three weeks I switched between the teet and the spout depending on Lara's mood. I found the transition trainer to be the perfect way to introduce a cup to my daughter.

Lara has now moved on to a trainer cup with a traditional rigid spout. We have tried both the Lindam Annabel Karmel Cup (because we loved their weaning spoons) and the Anywayup Cow Cup (because it looks groovy).

The Lindam Annabel Karmel Cup is a non-spill cup with flexible handles. It is sturdy, has a soft rubbery feel (which is easy to grip), it easy to open and has an effective non-spill valve which can be removed once your child gets used to NOT throwing their cups around (do they ever?) The cup comes with a matching cover to prevent leaks and to keep the spout clean – the colour matches so well that family members and childminders have been totally thrown by it and haven't realised that it is a lid! Ehehehe – then they seem surprised when Lara throws a wobbly because she can't get any liquid out. When I first moved Lara onto this cup, she found the sucking motion against the valve to be hard work. It took a few weeks of getting used to. I am extremely pleased with the Lindam cup and would have bought more of them if I weren't the type of Mummy who likes to try a little bit of everything!

The most recent cup that we have tried is the Cow Cup by Anywayup. It is very similar to the Lindam cup in shape and purpose but has a small lip at the base of the cup to prevent it from falling over (it can't however, prevent Lara from picking it up and tipping it over). The non-spill valve on the Cow Cup is slightly different and allows Lara to drink more easily – however, the valve often seems to fall out and I find it floating in the dregs of the water when I open it up. The spout cover on the Cow Cup is very tight-fitting to ensure it keeps the contents in. I have no worries leaving the cup rattling around inside the changing bag but I do have worries trying to open the blimming thing to wash it! I often end up pulling so hard that when the lid finally does come free, it catapults me across the kitchen. The lid on the cow cup is useless – it doesn't have any means of staying put so I just go without. My feeling is that the Cow Cup looks pretty, but isn't quite up to the job.

Friday 19 March 2010

Who Is Lara???

Last weekend I did a little research into the name that we chose for our first child – Lara. Name origins weren't something we looked at when we were thinking of baby names, we just came up with a list of names that sounded good to us. Lara was a name we both liked and when she arrived, she was most definitely a Lara!

Despite her astonishing strength, mobility and her can-do attitude, Lara wasn't named after Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Nor was she named after a brand of fruit bars (although her nickname is Lara Banana). Lara is just Lara.

The Latin meaning of the name Lara is “protector”. The origin is the term Lares. Lares were the Roman gods who were thought to protect individual households by looking after homes and fields. There are also Spanish-Latin roots to the name which mean “the famous one”.

The more commonly accepted Russian origin of the name Lara is as a shortening of the name of the ancient Greek city of Larissa.

The Greek meaning of the name Lara is “cheerful” which is certainly fitting for my little munckin; I think that is the word that currently describes her best (apart from in the middle of the night when her teeth hurt).

I thought about turning this post into a meme but then I realised that lots of bloggers don't like to reveal the names of their munchkins so if you do fancy joining in (perhaps for your children's names, perhaps for your own) then add a link to your post below.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Totseat Travel Highchair

Earlier this week I reviewed the Totseat travel highchair for the Family Panel reviews website. I wanted to let you all know about the review because I really feel that it is a little piece of genius and since I got it a few weeks ago it has come out with me wherever I go and has helped me (and other mums) out of complicated highchair situations!

Anyway, if you fancy reading the review, you can see it here where they also have a money-saving discount code.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

A Colourful Honeymoon

Welcome to my entry for this week's photo gallery at Sticky Fingers . I started looking for pictures in my honeymoon albums on PhotoBox because I knew that there were some stunning colourful photos in there but the problem is, I couldn't decide on a single photo. So here, for all to enjoy, is a small (miniscule) selection of my honeymoon photos from March/April 2008. In case you're interested they are (in order) Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique.

Sun setting over the Zambezi river basin

Early morning moon looking down on Mr. B

Sunset over the Chobe river

Shallow waters from the air over the Mozambique coast

Benguerra Dhows

Sails in the sunshine

Sunday 14 March 2010

The Sunday Review - Aveeno Dry Skin Care

The Mellow household has recently discovered Aveeno skincare products – a range of products specifically designed for very dry skin. Mr B. suffers from dry skin from head to toe, baby B. on her arms and legs, and me, well I only really suffer from dry skin on my hands normally, but ever since the new year when I gave up breastfeeding, I've had an alarming change to the skin on my arms which has gone all red and patchy, similar to the Psoriasis I suffer from at times of stress. As you can imagine, we were all pleased to be offered the chance to try out some of the Aveeno products.

Image courtesy of Shinyred

Aveeno products are made from naturally active ingredients – namely oats! Many of their products feature colloidal oatmeal as their main active ingredient which work as a natural moisturiser and can relieve irritable skin. Oatmeal can also help to cleanse rough dry skin, which is why the Aveeno range comprises not just moisturising lotions, but also cleansing oils and body washes.

I have been using the Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturising Lotion on my blotchy arms for two weeks now and the transformation is certainly noticeable, but it hasn't blown me away. My skin does feel more supple and moist; not once since I started using the lotion have I been conscious of the dry skin: no itching, no rubbing on my clothes, nothing. However, the red patches still remain, they just don't cause me any bother any more.

Mr. B. Has been using the Aveeno Daily Moisturising Lotion which is a little lighter in texture. Mr B. has a 'thing' about greasy or heavy creams and lotions which mean that he is often put off the very idea of moisturisers after trying a new moisturiser on his dry skin. With this one though, he seems totally won over and has already started to see an improvement in the condition of his skin.

The Aveeno Hand Cream is my favourite product from the range. I love a good hand cream, me! Its light, very easily absorbed (so doesn't leave me rubbing my hands for ages after applying it) and is able to withstand handwashing. My hands feel great after using it and I don't find myself pining for it when I'm at work so it must be pretty long-lasting. I can't say its the best hand cream I've ever used (that accolade goes to a brand I tried once in a hair salon and have never come across since – sigh) but I'm happy that it is coping well with my new-mummy over-worked, over-washed hands.

Friday 12 March 2010

Call For Posts – Flying Families Carnival

This week my sister got married, stateside! I wasn't at 'The Wedding' (boo) but I will be at 'The Wedding – Part Deux' in June and that, dear readers, is where you come in. The wedding takes place in New York and I am beginning to get slightly tetchy about the prospect of a 7-hour flight with a one-year-old in tow (Lara will have her first birthday in New York). Admittedly, we did manage an extremely successful trip to France when Lara was just 3 months old (despite the horrors of Gatwick security control and the logistics of breastfeeding in an aeroplane seat that isn't big enough to hold an adult, let alone one with a hungry baby) so I should be a dab hand at this, but I get the feeling that things could be VERY different this time around.

And so, I thought I would invite you all to submit to me your posts about the joys of flying with children. This is a chance for you to share your tips, your success stories, your trials and tribulations... basically anything that will help me and those like me, to prepare for a flight with a little one. The deadline for submissions is Friday 19th of March. The Flying Families carnival will be held on Monday the 22nd of March.

Submit your posts by adding your URL and comment below or by emailing them to me at jumblyMummy[at]googlemail[dot]com. I look forward to reading your stories.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

7 (am) - My Favourite Photos

This picture was taken in late summer 2002. I was on holiday in Cornwall, staying in a B&B in Penzance. I couldn't sleep – those goddam seagulls! I woke up and tiptoed out of the building and just started walking. Trusting my instinct (and my distant memories from childhood trips to visit my Grandfather) to direct me into the town centre and down onto the seafront, I strolled through alleyways, across parks and among the deserted streets of Penzance.

It was seven o'clock in the morning and there was barely a soul to be seen. At the harbour there were fishermen lazily packing their gear away after a busy morning – they wolf-whistled as I went by. An early ferry to the Scilly Isles had just finished boarding and was preparing to depart. It was quiet, quite eerily so, only the screech of seagulls breaking the silence. Then the unmistakeable sound of a helicopter rang out across the bay, whisking its passengers off the isles – a lone shape in the otherwise empty skies.

I remember taking this photo before walking back along the promenade. I remember thinking how warm the sun was given that it was only 7am and how calm and inviting the water looked, disturbed only by a single tiny fishing boat. I felt privileged to be able to witness this peaceful, untouched landscape before the rest of the world woke up, and I felt pleased with myself for having remembered to bring the camera! I have always found St. Michael's Mount mesmerising – I find it hard to take my eyes off it. In the distance I can just make out the silhouettes of one or two of the huge satellite dishes on Goonhilly downs.

This post was written for Tara's Photo Gallery with the theme, 'Numbers'.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Why Every Parent Should Write A Will

This post was inspired by Really Rachel who blogged this week about becoming a Godmother. I'm hoping it won't be a morbid post – I certainly wasn't intending it to be so. I don't pretend to be an expert on the topic of wills and I am not making any legal recommendation or statement by writing this blog – I just wanted to let you know why I personally feel that every parent should write a will.

I know it doesn't bear thinking about, but just have a quick thought, just a tiny one, about what would happen if you passed away, leaving your child(ren) without their parents. Do you KNOW who would assume responsibility for them? Do you KNOW who would provide for them, and how? If you don't have a will in place, then the law makes these decisions for you, not your family or friends.

Lara didn't have a Christening, instead we threw her a Naming BBQ last August. On that day, we named Lara's 'Godparents'. By that, I mean the people who we would choose to be Lara's legal guardians in the event of our deaths. Having discussed it with them (they thankfully agreed!), we wanted to ensure that our wishes were documented thoroughly and in a way that was not open to mis-interpretation. We also wanted to ensure that Lara's guardians would be properly compensated for the time, effort and expense involved in bringing up someone else's child. There are lots of other things you can and should consider when writing a will, but these are the things that make it most important after you become a parent.

The Mellow Family wills are not complicated documents. As a married couple, with plenty of close family, we have about the most 'standard' arrangement you can have. In most cases, our will is no different to how the government would choose to execute our estate if we were to have no will in place. For us, the only reason we HAD to write a will was to nominate Lara's legal guardians. If your relationship is a little more complicated, or if you are a single parent, it's probably all the more important that you document your wishes for inheritance and for guardianship.

Writing a will doesn't have to be an expensive process. As long as you have a written statement of your wishes, and that at least someone you may leave behind knows where to find that written statement, that should suffice. You can choose to write your own will using a template that you can buy online, or in some high street stores. If you want something more official, you can invite a will specialist to your home to prepare a document full of appropriate legal jargon (which is what myself and Mr. B. did when we first wrote our wills after taking out a mortgage together). Or (as we did after Lara was born) you can approach a solicitor to do the full she-bang, packed full of complicated legalese:- it'll cost the earth but at least you'll know that you've covered all your bases and that it has been written by someone who knows how the probate system works, and how your will is likely to be executed in the event that it is needed.

For more information (in the UK) on why and how to write a will, take a look at the DirectGov website.

Monday 8 March 2010

She Moves!!!

Lara has reached one of the most exciting milestones in her life so far - she has learned how to get from one place to another. Admittedly, she can only crawl backwards at present (I've been told I need to fit her with a reversing siren and lights) but backwards seems to do the job just fine.

I wanted to take this opportunity to ask whether anyone else has any experience on whether or not real nappies inhibit your baby when learning to crawl? My childminders have both commented that when Lara gets into the crawl position, that the nappies seem to restrict her legs. Any thoughts on this?

P.S. I know, I know, I need to remove the cables from the background! Our house needs to be totally baby-proofed in the coming weeks.

Sunday 7 March 2010

The Sunday Review - Pelican Bibs On Trial

At eight months old, Lara is beginning to master the art of finger food. It's a messy business but incredibly good fun. I've found that when I give Lara finger food, her tie-neck fabric bibs are no longer enough to protect her clothes from the food chaos. I have recently been trying out several different pelican bibs trying to find one that will keep Lara dry when she drinks, clean when she eats and which will catch the piles of half-chewed food that are discarded during her mealtimes.

Image courtesy of Brother Max

The first bib we tried was the Brother Max Combi Bib. The Combi Bib comprises a soft plastic 'crumb-catcher' (crumb???) and a set of 3 white cotton tops which you snap into place to create the bib. This means that you can use a different cotton bib top for each meal of the day. The cotton tops are backed with a leak-free lining to keep your baby's clothes dry but although they are machine-washable, I found that I was not able to wash them at a high enough temperature to remove the food stains from the white fabric. After just a couple of weeks, the bibs looked discoloured and grubby. You can buy additional cotton tops without the need to purchase further crumb-catchers; I have needed at least 6 of them to avoid me having to run the washing machine every evening.

The best thing about the Combi Bib is that I can fold the cotton top and any spoons that I need for the day into the crumb-catcher and button it shut making it compact and therefore the most practical bib with which to travel.
Image courtesy of Tommee Tippee

Next, Lara tried the Tommee Tippee Comfi-Neck Catch-All Bib. Unlike the Brother Max bib, it does not roll up or collapse at all (although Tommee Tippee do make a roll-up bib). For this reason, I found the Catch-All bib to be too bulky to take out with me during the day. The Comfi-Neck bib is adjustable to 4 different neck sizes and is held in place with a push-through button which we found came undone very easily. On the plus-side though, of all the bibs that I have tried, it is by far the easiest to clean because the BPA-free plastic can be simply wiped clean. The area of the bib designed to catch food (I refuse to call it the crumb-catcher!) is generously proportioned and means that most of the food manages to stay in the bib, rather than on the floor!

Image courtesy of Bibetta

Finally we tried the Bibetta Ultra Bib. Bibetta make a range of brightly-coloured bibs made from soft, absorbent Neoprene (the stuff from which they make wet suits). Their choice of material means that the bibs are flexible enough to roll up, absorbent and thick enough to keep liquids away from baby's clothes, largely stain resistant and machine-washable. I love the bright patterns on offer (Lara has a gorgeous bright pink floral pattern) and it is fabulous that I can choose to either wipe it clean, rinse it, or, if it gets really mucky, wash it.

The Bibetta bib features an ingenious catching pocket designed such that the bib naturally lies flat to allow you to roll it and fold it when it is not in use; When you need to use the bib, you just reverse the pocket so that it juts out from the front of the bib. The bib has a Velcro fastening which can accommodate little necks of various sizes; it stays put on Lara much more effectively than any other bib we have tried. I have put the bib through the wash once after a particularly messy tomato pasta incident but I'm not yet 100% confident of the stain resistance of the patterned Neoprene so I tend to rinse it immediately after a meal; I have found that the fabric can take a good few hours to dry after washing – it's worth the wait though.

All three brands of bib have their pros and cons so I am glad that I have one of each available to me. If I had to choose one, it would be the Bibetta Ultra Bib because I have found it to be the most effective at keeping Lara clean.

If you have a review of a bib that you think would be useful to my readers, please add it below:-

Friday 5 March 2010

The Photo Lottery - A Meme

I've been tagged by Mummy's Little Monkey in the latest photo meme.

The instructions are:-

1. Open the first (oldest) photo folder in your computer library
2. Scroll to the 10th photo
3. Post the photo and the story behind it
4. Tag 5 or more people to continue the thread

Being a techy, and a keen photographer, I tend to archive my photos frequently so there are not many photos on my computer, therefore I've done this meme by going to my PhotoBox account and choosing my oldest album from there.

This photo is of a persian leopard. It was taken in 2005 in someone's back garden near St. Albans! My parents gave me a photography experience as a gift which involved tuition on how to take great photos of big cats. When I turned up, armed with my Canon SLR (in those heady days of 35mm film!) I felt massively under-qualified for the event. Everyone else there had a minimum of three cameras, and a massive library of lenses; there was tiny old me with my standard-issue lens and a crappy digital snappy thing for backup.

Despite this, I learned a lot that day and got some truly amazing photographs of pumas, african leopards, persian leopards and absolutely stunning clouded leopards. It was mesmerising watching the animals at such close quarters. In some cases, I was able to lie down on the ground outside the cages and listen to their peaceful breathing and the gentle rumble of a big-cat purr. If you're lucky, I'll post some of my other photos from that day on my blog some time in the future! I'm very proud of them.

I tag the following bloggers who I only discovered this week:-

Thursday 4 March 2010

The Job Interview – Mum versus Geek

Being a parent is one of the most demanding jobs in the world but no-one ever interviews you for the position, no-one checks to see if you are well qualified, or what you can bring to the role. There are two Emmas:- The software developer who has blagged her way though many a job interview, and the Mummy who takes life as it comes.

Choosing prompt 1 from this week's writing workship at Sleep Is For The Weak, I thought it would be interesting to see how the two Emmas would differ in an interview situation!

What made you apply for this job, and why do you want it?
Techy Emma: I'm looking for a more hands-on technical role where I can really show off my technical skills. The time is right for me to move up into a team-leadership position and my heart had always been set on working in the financial services industry. The company is local to me which not only means I don't have to trek in and out of London on the train any more, but means I can afford to spend more time in the office while still having plenty of time in the evenings to spend with my family.
Mummy Emma: I'm 30, Life is good. I've achieved lots of the things I had planned to in life and I'm settled and comfortable. All of these things mean that right now, I have the resources and dedication to bring up and support a family. The time is right. Oh, plus I'm longing for a bit of female company and this seemed like a good excuse.

What qualities do you think you can add to this role?
Techy Emma: I'm something out of the ordinary when it comes to being a coder (not just for the fact that I'm a woman, and in my experience, that's still pretty rare); but also that I have come from a non-technical background. With a history in marketing and creative media I think I bring a creative, less-analytical approach to software development that some development departments currently lack.
Mummy Emma: I can bring a can-do attitude, a slightly less girly approach to motherhood and a great range of silly songs to sing (inherited from my mother and grandmother).

What's your greatest strength?
Techy Emma:
I'm über-organised! I pride myself on having never missed a deadline and I feel that my ability to multi-task and my methodical, orderly approach to tasks has contributed to this.
Mummy Emma: I'm Mellow! By that I mean that I have confidence in my Mummying skills. I have belief in my own ability to cope with a wiggly and cheeky baby, with stinky nappies, illness, tantrums and whatever other fun things Lara has to offer. I feel that my confidence rubs off on my daughter meaning that she takes new challenges in her stride, resulting in a generally cheerful, energetic and sociable little girl.

What's your biggest weakness?
Techy Emma: A lack of confidence in my own technical ability means that I often look for the easier, less invasive solution to a problem when the tougher option is really the best way to go.
Mummy Emma: Sometimes I feel that my mellow-ness is actually a bad thing for Lara. Perhaps her colds and her eczema wouldn't be as bad if I worried more about her health. Perhaps she would be crawling by now if I worried more about her mobility. I try not to get myself hung up on these things.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Techy Emma:
In a leadership role, perhaps something more organisational than hands-on techy but I don't want to lose all involvement with software development.
Mummy Emma: In a big house with a big garden full of home-grown veg that my children (plural) help me to tend (and eat).

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Can Reusable Nappies Work With A Childminder?

Lara wears re-usable nappies. I'm not an eco-warrior, I don't use them 100% of the time but I do feel it is my duty to do as much as I can to reduce our family's waste, and I KNOW (because I've done some very complex calculations, including electricity costs and water usage!) that it saves me money. When I was looking for childcare last year, the prospect of having to give up using the cloth nappies was a very real worry for me.

I didn't KNOW when I started looking whether nurseries would allow us to continue using re-usable nappies but it became very obvious after we had looked around a couple, that nurseries are very much geared up for disposable nappies – in very high volumes! It became quickly obvious that it was a non-starter. I won't say that it directly contributed to our decision not to send Lara to nursery, but it was certainly something that we thought about when we made our decision.

Each of the childminders that I interviewed seemed willing to give the re-usable nappies a try (I've heard that many simply won't entertain the idea). For many, it was a totally new concept that nobody had ever suggested to them before. For one or two (mainly the ones with a history as Nannies), they had tried them before in different guises. I was worried that my childminders wouldn't want to deal with reusable nappies because of the bother of having to deal with different nappies for different children – but because most childminders ask you to provide your own nappies, it is very little additional effort for them to deal with reusables rather than disposables for one or more of the children in their care. Both of my childminders were more than happy to try reusable nappies out.

I gave each of my childminders a roll of liners, a packet of nappy sanitiser (for soaking in the event of a really evil nappy) and a drawstring bag for carrying wet nappies when out of the house. Each morning, I take them an empty nappy bucket, two nappy covers a pile of six pre-folded cotton nappies. I have yet to find a well-sized bucket with a truly sealable lid, so if the nappies have been soaked, the childminder has to drain them before we take the bucket home.

I wash the nappies every two or three days. Since I started back at work, I've found that I could do with a few more nappies and covers than I did previously. Much of this is to do with the childminders not having totally adapted to the reusable nappies. There have been some extremely wet nappies that could have done with changing much earlier than they were, and some ill-fitting nappies where all sorts of horrid stuff has escaped. It's a learning curve that I had to deal with; and they'll get the hang of too soon. I also find that I have to be well-prepared when it comes to washing nappies. When I was on maternity leave, when I could see I was running out, I could put a wash on, hang the nappies up to dry and the whole process would be turned around before the end of the day. These days, I can only wash and dry overnight so I have to always be thinking one step ahead.

When I take Lara out and about, I normally take disposable nappies with me to make changes faster and less messy (and to save on space in my changing bag). I provide the childminders with a pack of disposable nappies so that they can do the same. It turns out that childminders have much more of a social life than me (!) so they get through a lot more disposables than I did when I was at home. Despite this, they're doing well at using the reusable nappies as often as possible and in 2 months they have used around 20 disposable nappies between them.

I have received no complaints from either childminder about using cotton nappies – in fact the feedback is good. One of them is currently pregnant but I'm not sure I've done enough to convince her to use them herself when her second child comes along (I have a few months yet!). I am happy that I've given it a go, that I've been confident enough to request that they do things my way and that I haven't had to give up what I believe in. I've learned that you CAN continue using reusable nappies even when your child goes to a childminder.
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