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Sibling Love – Big Brother

This is something I have wanted to write now for awhile, as I wanted it to be documented somewhere so that I could look back on how amazing my son (my 5 year old) has been as a big brother.

When I found out I was pregnant, as excited as I was, my very first worry was about my son, would he cope? Did he want a sibling? Would he feel left out or pushed out? Would he be jealous? These are all natural worries that many of us feel when we have a second child, but it looks like I need not have worried, he has been amazing.

Mother and son in front of lake

From the day we told him I was pregnant, from the scan when we found out I was having a girl and throughout my entire pregnancy he has been so excited, so involved and so into the idea of a sister. I never thought a boy, particularly a 4 year old boy, could be so excited about a girl coming into the family (even at school he prefers to play with boys).

Also, 6 months (the point at which he found out) is a long time to wait, I thought he would lose interest. Instead he counted down the days. We helped him out by giving him some anchors to help him count down (since he couldn’t understand the months of the year), so all throughout my pregnancy we would all chant “first it’s Easter, then Daddy’s birthday, then family holiday, then Grandad’s birthday and then Sister!” these events helped him to count down so he knew how long he had to wait, it worked really well.

When she arrived, Nana brought him into the hospital to meet his new sister and he was so chuffed when he got to hold her.

4 year old holding baby

When we came home, in those early weeks, he was so fascinated with every little thing about her:

“Look how tiny her fingers are”

“Mum look she is waving at me”

Newborn hand holding finger

and my favourite:

“I love you so much sister, I love you very, very, very, very, very much” (he whispered in her ear), yes that made me melt.

The wonderous aspect that I hadn’t realised is that I actually love my son more because of the way he loves his sister. I didn’t think it was possible to love my son anymore, but there was a secret pocket of love just waiting to be released.

Since he is 5 years old now, which I believe is the perfect age gap, he is also being super helpful, running off to grab a nappy or a bib whenever I need it, trying to entertain her and sing to her when she cries and even feeding me and putting water to my lips when I was breastfeeding.

Of course it is not all sunshine and rainbows, that wouldn’t be realistic, in his eagerness he can definitely be too much sometimes. He doesn’t realise his own strength so I constantly had to say “Be gentle”, also he is so obsessed with her sometimes that it takes him forever to get anything done. Mornings can be tough, when I ask him to get his breakfast, or get dressed (which thankfully he can do himself), he almost always says “I just have to check on sister first”, which is sweet but also frustrating when you are trying to get out of the door to get him to school on time.

The last little amazement to me though is how much he loves her to be girly. When we went shopping the other day he shouted:

“Mummy you have to buy this tutu for sister, she will look like a princess!”


He simply loves her to be dressed in girly dresses and outfits and always calls her a princess, or “look how beautiful she is, let’s show Dad”.

Now that she is almost 1 year old, I am surprised by how fascinated with her, he still is. Not only that but she adores him, when he stays over at Nana’s she says ‘brother’ a lot, and nobody makes her laugh like he does. When he is playing with her she does a full out belly laugh, the kind that when you hear it, you rush towards to watch and cannot help but laugh yourself. She also finds the weirdest things funny, sometimes, all he has to do is throw a ball and she thinks it is funny.


I love watching them play together and how fascinated she is by him. But of course he can also be too rough sometimes, and accidentally hurts her, and she accidentally hurts him too – all part of the brother/sister relationship.

My brother and I were really close when we were kids, I really hope that they will be too.

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14 ways to cool the HECK down in Summer

It’s bloody hot right? 31 degrees in Milton Keynes today, hottest day of the year so far and it is only June. This worries me because (whispers) can I let you in on a little secret? I don’t really like the summer! Please don’t tell anyone – it’s like saying you don’t like puppies or icecream – no-one understands. Okay, maybe today you understand, I don’t like it because its too bloody hot! I cannot bear this kind of heat, it makes me grumpy and I cannot sleep. I rarely sleep through the night in the summer because if its not one of my kids waking up too hot it is me, okay it is mostly me! The bright light, the noise from having to have the window open and the heat, that is why I am not a big fan of very hot weather.


Anyway, I digress, so here is my top points for keeping cool in the summer, starting with the top two that have really helped me this week, one of which I only just read about!

  1. Have a cool shower, bath or just generally get yourself wet. This is thermodynamics 101. As the water on your body heats up it evaporates and takes the heat away from your body, thus cooling you down.
  2. Wear damp clothes – when you put a load of washing on, don’t dry the clothes straight away, keep a few pieces damp and then put them on periodically throughout the day, even wear a damp nightie. It feels amazing, especially if you have to do anything physical, it really cools you down (for the same reason as number 1). I only came across this idea this week and it is one of my faves!
  3. Open the loft/attic door and let the hot air escape – another one we only tried this week, we couldn’t believe how much cooler the upstairs felt after we opened it!
  4. If the air outside is hotter than inside, keep the doors, windows and curtains closed. We have a thermometer to check, but it is pretty clear when you just walk outside in this weather! Today it was 31 degrees outside but inside our lounge, with the windows and curtains closed it stayed at 25 degrees most of the day. Apparently this only works if your home is well insulated.
  5. Hot drinks vs cold drinks? I did some research on this one and though hot tea actually cools you from the exterior, the research shows that internally the only drink that made a difference to the core body temperature was slush puppies – so basically drinking tiny particles of crushed ice. Large ice cubes melt in your mouth, but small ones travel to your stomach and cool you from the inside. So have a slush puppy or a cool drink with crushed ice. 
  6. To cool the kitchen down, mop the floor, again the room will cool as the water evaporates.
  7. Hang wet clothes, towels etc from windows, same reason as above (though this works less if it is very humid).
  8. Sleep with a fan on, not only is the white noise soothing and drowns out street noise (or snoring) but it feels very cooling even on the hottest of days (I cannot sleep without a fan on me).
  9. Hang out in air-conditioned places as much as you can. Well this is slightly easier for me as I am on maternity leave at present, but I have been spending a lot more time shopping and going to the cinema this week. Most shops, supermarkets, cafes and of course cinemas are well air conditioned, and it is a lovely respite from the oppressive heat.
  10. Spend time in the paddling pool – not just for your kids, get in there with them, or at least just your feet.
  11. Sleep under a damp sheet.
  12. Fill up a hot water bottle with cold water, freeze in the freezer, then take to bed.
  13. Put wet wipes in the fridge (with a touch of water) then wipe yourself down as needed. Quick and refreshing.
  14. Buy an air conditioning unit. Okay that’s cheating, and can be quite costly, though we managed to buy one about 10 years ago from ebay at a reasonable cost and it was amazing, it actually lowered the temperature of the room by about 5 degrees or so. It was heavy though.

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Gifted – featuring Chris Evans #MovieReview

This is a mini-review, that will not contain any spoilers.

Firstly, when did Captain America become cute? Tip: Add designer stubble!

gifted movie poster

But I digress, this is a movie about a Frank (Chris Evans) who takes guardianship of his niece Mary (McKenna Grace) when his sister dies. At first they seem happy and a good team, but cracks start to show when you realise that he gave up a career as a Professor, he was perpetually single and Mary only had one friend – a c30 year old neighbour (Octavia Spencer from Hidden Figures). When Mary went to school her teacher quickly noticed that Mary was gifted (can you multiply 127 x 13?). This 7 year old girl could do math that most human beings could not do, so she was not just advanced for “her age” she was a genius! Her mother, too, was a genius, who tried to take on one of the Millennium Problems (unsolvable math problems) but suffered as a result of her genius, something that Frank wanted to avoid with Mary.

But what would you do in this situation? Send your child to a regular school so she can make friends with kids her own age and develop social skills? Or do you send them to a special school for the Gifted where she will be challenged but not necessarily developing relationships with normal kids of the same age? And to make the decision even harder, she appeared to love Maths and read Algebraic Geometry like bedtime stories! As a parent I can tell you that would be no easy decision to make.

The uncle thinks one way and the rich grandmother thinks the other and they go to court to fight for her.

The movie is powerful and sad and effortlessly funny throughout. The acting feels really natural, particularly between Frank and Mary, who steal the show. It was a great movie and had a few twists I didn’t expect. I would definitely recommend this movie for ease of watching and gentle comedy.

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A Beach that is worth paying for… at Frosts

Imagine this…it is the summer holidays, you are sat on a comfortable chair watching your children play nicely, they are playing party games, are listening to the child-care workers read them a story, they are digging, building, panning for gold and writing postcards and you haven’t lifted a finger…no this is not a joke…oh and even more importantly you are gorging on the most succulent brownie you have had in a long time, with cup of…dare I say it…HOT tea.

tea house afternoon tea

Yes I kid you not, hot tea and you get to finish drinking it, without re-heating it in the microwave twice…where is this mythical land of brownie-eating, tea-drinking, child-behaving paradise you opine? Oh it is Frosts of course! So off you go to book a ticket, because this beach is the beach worth paying for.

I love Frosts, but I am afraid to say not (just) because of their superior quality garden-wares, which are fabulous (I’m just not a gardener). It’s because of 2 main reasons:

1. The restaurant, and in particular the cakes, are fabulous, and

2. The kids events that take place through the year. We have been to visit Santa most years, we went to the Circus, had Halloween afternoon tea and made bird boxes.

This summer we will not be visiting the sea-side, because we had our family holiday back in March, and living over 2 hours away from the nearest beach means we will not be going on any day-trips either (as we have a 9 month old who will not cope with the long journey). How lucky we are to be living in the time where beaches are popping up all over, and you will not find a better indoor beach than the one at Frosts.

5 year old playing on beach

We went to the beach (at Frosts) last year, which was really nice, but this year they have outdone themselves. They have a Wild-West theme and because of that the beach is so much more than a beach and that is why it isn’t free and is very much worth paying for. This is what you gain for the £6.99 cost:

– A two hour session in the private wild-west themed beach area (numbers controlled so no over-crowding)
– A large beach
– Plenty of buckets, spades and beach paraphernalia
– Qualified childcare assistants to entertain your children (this is the best and most unique aspect I believe)

children playing games at frosts
– Panning for Gold (Children receive a gold coin on production of gold nuggets)

– Tin-can alley

tin can alley game at frosts
– Story tent (which is a beautiful and comfortable tee-pee)
– Craft area to decorate postcards (with a weekly competition)

post box
– Free juice, water and fruit

The beach is open from now until 3rd September, and they run 3x 2 hourly sessions a day at 9:30am, 12noon and 2:30pm (Sundays 11am and 2pm only). Tickets to be purchased in advance either online, phone: 0800 9549484 or in store.

There are alternative free beaches in the area, and I have been to those too, but what I love about Frosts is that you are given a rare moment of downtime! Since they have childcare workers, reading, playing games etc with the kids, you can actually sit with a cup of tea, a piece of delicious cake and enjoy some peaceful, gluttonous me-time. Let’s be honest, that does not happen often, especially when you have taken the kids for a day out – days out are all go, the last time I took my little one to another indoor beach I was shattered after, and we were only there for 2 hours and we ended up spending money anyway because though the beach is free (in Middleton Hall) they have so many rides and stalls just outside that it is near impossible to ignore your children’s plee’s. So what a lovely retreat Frosts is, and it is beautifully decorated, thus creating a calm atmosphere. I cannot wait to bring my son back there, and no doubt we will be back again at Halloween and to see Santa…

sheriff frostie and children

*My son and I were given free entry to the beach at Frosts, in return for an honest review.

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Savannah – 9 Month Progress Update

My last update of Savannah was at 6 months. It’s time for another, there have been so many changes.

8 month old baby girl

Sleep
Can you believe my 8 month old was STILL not sleeping through the night? My heartache of being sleep deprived was laid out to bare last month. But fingers crossed at 9 months she has recently began to sleep through, long may that continue! How did we finally accomplish that?

We tried sleep training at 6 months which went horribly. So 3 weeks ago we decided to try and wean her off the bottle over night using a more gentle approach, which I did successfully with Nate but did not work for Savannah.

what age can baby feed themselves?

We reduced her formula slowly, 1oz at a time and then replaced it with water. So she got a full feed at 10:30pm but then when she woke overnight (usually between 2-5am) we gave her a bottle of water, usually 5 or 6oz and she drank all of it, every time! Supposedly, if you only offer water at night babies are supposed to stop waking up, but after 4 weeks she was still waking! I tried the controlled crying technique of shushing and patting when she awoke but that just made her worse, therefore the only method left was letting her cry it out. I prefer to think of this method as ‘letting her sooth herself’ rather than cry-it-out as it sounds better and we are basically trying to help her help herself, she needs to learn to sleep. So that is what we did.

It went like this:
Night 1 – cried for 1.5 hours (and so did I, it was horribly painful for me)
Night 2 – cried for 35 minutes
Night 3 – cried for 10 minutes
Night 4 and 5 – she had a bad cold, so I didn’t feel that I could let her “self-soothe”, I gave her water,
Night 6 – back to scratch she cried for 1 hour 10 minutes
Night 7 – cried for 20 minutes
Night 8 – she slept through the night

Of course we are probably going to have to sleep train her again to wean her off her 10:30pm dream feed – unless she miraculously drops this feed herself.

Weaning
This has been a mixture of hard work and fun, from 5.5 months Savannah has chosen the baby-led weaning approach. She would not let me put ANYTHING in her mouth, no food, no spoon, no medicine even! If I tried to spoon feed her she would just spit it out! So for those who disagree with spoon feeding because they think you are force feeding your child, I can tell you now – you cannot force-feed your child! Your baby is always in control of the food they swallow no matter how you feed them!

But all that changed last week and she is suddenly hungry and letting me feed her! She seems to be really enjoying the food too. I’m still letting her feed herself though so I guess we are combination feeding now, again I’m taking my steer from her so it really is baby-led.

8 month old eating brocolli

Her favourite foods right now are brocolli and corn on the cob. When we are out and about we tend to give purees as it is less messy and it is more convenient. We did start with Ella’s kitchen, but actually now I prefer cow and gate/Heinz or Hipp Organic jars as they actually look like real food they actually have rice and pieces of vegetables, Ella’s Kitchen pouches are so pureed that they don’t look real. But that’s just my personal preference.

Verbal Development
Savannah is doing very well with talking. She can now say Dada, Mum and bye-bye (she also waves with that one). She is a right chatter-box, she pretty much says da-da all day long and basically chatters away most of the day and even over night!

Physical Development
She can sit up unaided but still cannot crawl properly yet though she can get around. She spins herself around, goes into a crawling position and sits herself back up, rolls all around. She can wave and takes great enjoyment out of playing with her toys. Thanks to baby-led weaning she can pick up small pieces of food between her finger and thumb and pass them between her hands. She can fed herself her bottle, which is super helpful, and she can pick it up if she drops it.

She has two teeth and two new ones are starting to break through.

Family Holiday

family posing on lake at centre parks

Since the last update we have been on our family holiday, which was to Center Parcs at Woburn. We had such a great time, it was exhausting obviously, as family holidays with a young child is not really a holiday so much as a change of location of the madness but we did love it. The staff were amazing with our kids, they seriously went above and beyond. The restaurants (all but one) all have soft play in them, which meant that we were able to eat out every night and enjoy it, as Nate (our 5 year old) was entertained. They provide free baby food (cow and gate jars), bowls, spoons, bibs, wipes, bottle warmers and microwaves in all of their restaurants and the main sports plaza, which is a lovely touch that we took full use of. The Sub-tropical paradise swimming pool was the winner though, we went everyday. It is free, immaculately clean, still looks new and is so much fun. My son and I have a fantastic time, and even though he is a stage 2 swimmer we decided to brave the wild river rapids (with him on my lap) and we both absolutely loved it – we went on 7 times in a row at one point.

Siblings
Nate is still obsessed with her, always wants to be with her, touching her, playing with her etc. which is obviously very nice, but is also problematic as he simply won’t leave her alone, to the point of making her cry sometimes. He tells me (and her) all the time how much he loves her, which makes my heart fuller than I ever thought possible, so I am trying not to get too irritated when he treats her like a doll. He always means well, he absolutely adores her, more than I thought it was possible for a 5 year old to do. In return, she loves him and appears to worship him already, plus no one makes Savannah laugh as much or as loud as Nate can.

5 year old on swing with 7 month old

What has your baby been up to lately?

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Hitting the Wall (of sleep deprivation)

So it appears all my friends hit the wall around the same time. Did you?

First you get tripped by a hurdle around the 2 week mark (after baby is born) because all the adrenaline you were running on is out of your system and 14 nights of sleeping in 40 minute to 2 hour shifts (if you’re lucky) has suddenly taken its toll. Then you get tripped up by a lot more hurdles along the way such as nights of endless teething, illnesses, the 4 month sleep regression etc. But if you are one of the unlucky ones whose baby doesn’t sleep through the night in the first 6 months you will thereafter quickly start to lose your sense of humour. 7 months rolls around and you start to think ‘this is not a joke anymore’ and then we hit 8 months and that is where I was not just tripped up by the teething hurdle, I smacked head-first right into the wall! The wall of sleep deprivation. That was it, I had reached the end of my rope. I completely lost it one night after 4 nights of teething.

brick wall

I haven’t slept through the night for 8 god-damn months!! It’s in-humane it’s UNsafe it’s UNrealistic, it’s UNreal, it’s UNbelievable it’s… UNFAIR!!

I feel drugged, I feel like I am walking around in a haze, I don’t feel like myself, or that I am living my real life. I haven’t had an evening in over a year, because I have to go to bed early every single night! I am mum but I am not myself anymore, people have even said to me that it seems like I am not really there, I even got a comment that I am cold and less loving than I used to be – well you know what – that is not helpful coming from someone who gets to sleep. I am in survival mode right now. I have done this before, but last time round my son slept through at 5.5 months, so at this point, when I had an 8 month old baby I was actually enjoying my maternity leave, I could experience it clearly, I was sleeping and though still exhausted from taking care of a baby I was able to get bits of my life back. For now, I don’t have a life!

The worst part about it is that you just don’t know when or if it will get better. In theory you know that 99% of babies do eventually sleep through the night at some point in the first 2 years of life but there is that 1% those horror stories of babies/children that you hear about that never sleep (and we all have a friend or a friend of friend with that child) and in this dark hour you have convinced yourself that you have given birth to that!

Even if your baby is destined to sleep through at some point, you don’t actually know when that might be. It’s not like your due date where you know you will have a baby roughly 2 weeks either side of that date, with sleeping there is no date. It could be tomorrow it could be 5 months from tomorrow. The fact that you don’t know makes it harder to cope with because you don’t know if the end is in sight or not.

sleeping 7 month old baby girl

I think I would rather know that my child won’t sleep until she is 1 year old then have it happen by accident one day when she is c9 months because at least you won’t be lulled. At baby classes instead of asking ‘does she sleep through?’ You would ask ‘what date did you get? 6 months? Really? You lucky thing, I was given 9 months. Yeah I know, never mind, at least I know when it will be’!

Can you imagine that?

Anyway, so if you hit the wall at around this time, or maybe it was earlier or later, it will probably happen at some point, and when it does, like me, have a good cry, go speak to all your mum friends, compare notes, share…I promise you will feel better. And even better maybe bribe you partner to let you have one single solitary night of UNinterrupted sleep, go away, get a babysitter, ask a family member, do something if possible to break up the very long stint, because, we do not know when it will end! But I guess until then, we can take heart in the fact that it will happen at some point, and we just have to hang-on in there, be kind to ourselves, have treats, take breaks where we can, leave the house-work, and do whatever we can to just survive this period of limbo.

Mummy Times Two
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My Year of Living Danishly – The Happiest People in the World

I just love reading about what other people are reading, as it gives me inspiration so here is some for you! I am totally obsessed with reading right now, it is the one activity that I can easily fit-in, in little snippets, whilst taking care of my baby girl – how you ask? How do you have time to read when you have a baby? Well if you don’t already know me, this may be a surprise, or maybe not…audiobooks!! Sorry if you are bored with my harping on about audiobooks, but I have been a big fan of them for like 5 years now, and I have never read and enjoyed so many books in my life! There are two ways I read audiobooks, one through my library (which is free), they have an app called OneClickDigital which enable me to “check out” an audiobook and listen to it on my phone. Though they don’t have many books to choose from.

The best, but not free version though is Audible – I love audible, they have more audiobooks than any other company, their app works perfectly, they are part of amazon so I use the same login, and if you purchase a pack of 12 audiobooks they come down in price to about £4-£5 per book and you own the books, so if you cancel you account, the books are yours to keep forever.

Listening to books mean that no matter what you are doing, you can be reading e.g. on the school run, cleaning the house, at the gym, shopping, waiting in line, driving!

I digress, so what have I been reading recently (or listening to), well my favourite, which I listened to in 5 days (how often do you read an entire book in less than a week?) is “My Year of Living Danishly” by Helen Russell.

happiest people in the world book cover

I read it so quickly because I loved it. Her writing style, her quirky nicknames and the way she describes life just had me captivated. I also loved learning about a country that I had never even considered visiting, I knew absolutely nothing about Denmark, before reading this book. Okay I have to be honest and say that I didn’t even know where Denmark is – my geography is not very good. The fact that they are the happiest people in the world, was interesting, and I enjoyed learning why – some of which anyone could adopt and I was totally fascinated by their amazing way of life over there.

After inhaling this book I immediately read Helen Russell’s second book “Leap Year” because that is also set in Denmark and had the addition of her toddler “Little red”. I love reading books about family life. Leap Year was more about making changes and becoming happier over the course of a year. Also a good read though not as captivating as her first endeavour.

Another highlight of reading these books is that I told her on twitter how great they were and she actually replied to me! It’s so exciting when an author replies to you, I also got a tweet from Jodi Picoult once!

where is denmark map

10 things I learned about Denmark:

  1. Lego is Danish – and if you work for Lego, you get to play with Lego in meetings – how fun would that be?!
  2. Hygge – have you heard of Hoogah (Hygge) it is the art of living a cosy life, this is how the Danish survive their long harsh winters!
  3. They only have 11 hours of sunlight per month, in winter and it gets as cold as -20DegreesC – that certainly shut me up when I was complaining about our particularly cold and rainy winter this year.
  4. The state pays 75% of their childcare, so for a full time nursery place they only pay £200-£300 per month!! That’s nuts, we pay that per week in England!! I almost starting packing my bags on hearing that!
  5. Because childcare is so cheap, everyone works and women have equality, the gap between what men and women earn is less, and the gap between the rich and the poor is very narrow so the quality of life is fantastic.
  6. The state pays all university fees and life-long learning up until the age of 30 years!
  7. If you lose or leave your job you are paid up to 2 years of earnings to look for a new job! And because of this they leave their jobs/careers whenever they are unhappy – how lovely to be able to do that.
  8. They have Danish Patries – okay I did already know that, but I didn’t realise how amazing they were or how long you have to train to be in the pastry business. I have totally had cravings for Danishes ever since I read this book, yum!
  9. Denmark is a very small country, with a population on par with London.
  10. They trust each other, doors are left open, babies are left in prams outside of restaurants and cafes – wow what a world to live in.
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Baby Savannah – 6 month Progress Update

I cannot believe the changes since I wrote the last update about my beautiful daughter Savannah at 3 months old. A lot changes in 3 months, in the world of a baby.

6 month old sitting up

Physical Development

This is the area that she has changed the most, at 3 months she  Continue reading