Wednesday, 31 August 2016

My smiley baby

I’m not the first parent to be surprised at just how different their children are. Even in the womb the movement of my babies were different. Big girl seemed to do a lot of somersaults and dancing, small girl did more kicks. The pregnancies were pretty similar really, and my bump didn’t look too different (other than me being a few kilo’s heavier the second time round) but the movement was definitely different.

When M was born she cried and cried. One of the midwives made a comment about how she was going to be a difficult baby. A bit unfair to judge a baby so soon when they have just been pulled out into the cold I thought and she soon calmed down with a bit of mummy cuddles. 

Little’s birth was much calmer. She was passed straight to me for skin to skin, feeding and cuddles before the traumatic things like being plonked on a cold scale and measured. It’s not surprising that her cries were quieter and she cried less. I was more relaxed and over that first night the second time round I was filled with the confidence of having been there before. 

My early introductions to my babies were different and as we spent more time together I noticed a definite difference to their personalities. Little was a much calmer baby and cried less. 

It’s hard to know how much their behaviour and personalities were influence by their early days and my different style of mothering. M spent hours crying in my arms as I misguidedly believed babies only needed to be fed ever 3 hours so if she was crying half an hour after a feed it couldn’t have been because she was hungry. Little I would just pick up and place on my breast whenever she showed signs of unhappiness. M I repeatedly placed down in the moses basket where she cried, Little I held next to me if she wouldn’t settle. 

Of course after speaking to other mum’s and reading various attachment parenting posts I learnt that there was another way and I started following my instincts rather than my health visitor and Gina Ford influenced routine mums. Did those first few weeks of tears affect her personality? I remember that M as a baby was always laughing or crying. A child of extremes. She shows the same strengths of moods now and I have to admit that I recognise my own personality in her.

With Little I had different expectations of how a baby behaves, more ideas in my toolbox, more sleep and more support. There were those long nights spent awake of course, but this time she was attached to my breast in bed rather than in my arms as I walked around like a zombie rocking her.

Little started to smile at 6 weeks and I have lost count of the number of times strangers have commented on how smiley she is. Sometimes, particularly if she is tired, she will look at strangers with a slight frown, but she will normally break into a big gummy smile soon afterwards. M used to smile as a baby, but I wouldn’t discover she had randomly be smiling at the person behind us in a queue as happens all the time with Little.

M exhibited an early weariness of strangers. There were a number of people, usually men, who she would burst into tears at on sight. I remember an early visit to the GP where she burst into tears as soon as she looked at the doctor. The doctor found this hilarious and decided to repeatedly traumatise M by waiting until I had turned her away and stopped her crying before getting in her eye line and setting her off again. He even went out to reception as I left to show the trick to the Receptionists. “Kids love me” he claimed, I honestly have no idea why.
Two girls in red dresses. The older girl (M) is cuddling the baby (Little) who is smiling

Now she is older M frequently has me in stitches, she is so funny. She is also kind, confident, smart and shows a lot of love, but boy is she fiery. She knows how to push my buttons and she goes from calm to mad in milliseconds.

When I go in to Little after her nap she gives me a huge grin. When I am struggling through the day due to tiredness she smiles at me and I smile back. Little is only 7 months old, I have no idea what she will be like as a toddler let alone at age 5 (M’s almost age), but I do know she is going to be different to M. Her smiles make things easier and make me a better mum. I always smile back at her and give her more happy kisses. She demands attention because I know I can keep her from crying, instead of me having to give her attention to stop the crying.

When I was pregnant with M I said I didn't want one of those boring, quiet, always behaving children. She definitely heard me. She has all the personality I could wish for and more. I wouldn't change her for the world, but I don't think I'm a strong enough mum to have two like her. She makes me need to count to ten, repeatedly. When M makes me fall apart, Little glues me back together. I am so grateful for my crazy, loud, clever, funny, creative girl, but I am so appreciative that I have a smiley, happy, calm girl too.

Monday, 29 August 2016


This post is an entry for BritMums #HartleysYourLunchbox Linky Challenge, sponsored by Hartley’s Jelly
Sticker stating "Hartley's Your Lunchbox" on a yellow background

When I was at school I’m fairly sure I would have a sandwich and a chocolate coated biscuit in my lunchbox. With my eldest daughter about to start school I thought it was time to look into what the rules are now as I’d heard that you aren’t allowed to have sugary things, but I’d never really paid much attention, I hadn’t needed to.

So what are the rules of children’s packed lunches?

Each day the lunch must include:
  • One portion of fruit
  • One portion of vegetable or salad.
  • Meat, fish or other non dairy protein
  • A starchy food e.g. bread, pasta, rice, noodles, potatoes
  • A dairy food e.g. milk (skimmed or semi skimmed) cheese or yoghurt

And no:
  • sugary drinks (e.g. fizzy drinks). Fruit juice and smoothies are allowed
  • crisps
  • chocolate bars
  • chocolate coated biscuits
  • sweets

I’m seriously considering school lunches until my daughter’s leave school!

For me a school lunch has to meet the following criteria:
  • It tastes good. If it’s not eaten then children won’t be able  to concentrate and you will waste lots of money.
  • It needs to be ok with getting warm. You can put it in an insulated bag or include an icepack, but I would still worry about meat etc staying fresh
  • It needs to survive the journey. Children aren’t going to treat their lunch like a precious cargo so it need to survive being shaken, jiggled and thrown. If there is a drink and ice pack in there as well these will just add to the bruising.
  • It needs to have a long life. Fresh ingredients are obviously great, but I don’t want to be shopping every few days.
  • It needs to be quick to make.

My lunchbox ideas

Sandwiches with fish or sliced meat filling, pasta or potato salad

An apple, small orange thing (eg satsuma), banana, raisins or dried apricots for when I have nothing fresh
Carrot sticks, cucumber, tomato 

Something fun:
Breadstick, crackers or Hartley’s No Added Sugar Jelly Pots.

M doesn't eat dairy so I don't need to worry about that guidance, but an occasional soya yoghurt might make a change

Bottle of water 

To make sure everything is as in as good condition when opened at lunch time as when packed I plan to get lots of pots and wrap a napkin around the fruit.

Of course the important thing I was missing is that they all have to be carried in a great lunch box which is big enough and that children are proud to carry.

In stores from July onwards, Hartley’s will offer consumers the chance to collect 12 special edition green lids from across the No Added Sugar Jelly Pots (115g), to claim a free Hartley’s lunchbox and stickers.
A yellow Hartley's lunchbox being decorated with stickers by a child's hand

Consumers can claim their exclusive lunchbox by heading to the Hartley’s website Each one comes complete with a sticker sheet of Hartley’s much loved characters and a sticker alphabet for children to personalise their lunchbox.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Top Tips for Meals Out When You Are Baby Led Weaning

One of the worries Mums often have after they start baby led weaning is how to do it when they are away from home. No one wants to stay at home the whole time or only go out for a few hours so I hope that my suggestions will help people feel more confident.

In the early days of BLW food choices are limited because babies often doesn’t have teeth, they find it harder to get small pieces in their mouth and they tend to make a lot of mess, but with a little bit of planning I find eating out with my weaning baby stress free. I also have a post you might like to read if you want to find out how to baby led wean with less mess at home


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Blogging: No such thing as a freebie

Title text of "Blogging: No such thing as a 'freebie'" over a blurred background showing a laptop on a table surrounded with various clutter of family life
From humble beginnings blogging now provides vital income to many parents. The flexible hours mean it fits well around family life, but it is hard work to make it bring in good money. In surveys people have repeatedly said they are more influenced by blog posts than many other forms of advertising so why do so many people expect bloggers to work for free?

Like many bloggers my blog is a combination of personal posts, reviews and sponsored posts. When I am writing a post in collaboration with a company it takes much longer than "opinion' pieces or the posts I write to share what is happening in my life. I have to take time to plan how I can make the post interesting and relevant, I have to work much harder to take good photographs and I have to take time to research or try out a product/ service. Once the post is live I also have to spend time promoting, not to mention all the time I spend trying to build my readership and professional contacts.

Normally for a review post a brand (or someone on their behalf) will send you a product or invite you somewhere with the expectation that you will write a post, this isn’t paid for but the blogger gets to keep the item/ experience. A sponsored post is a where someone asks you to write or publish a post and will ask you to include certain things e.g. links. Sponsored posts are paid for.

Regardless of the value of a review item or how much I am offered for a post the most important thing to me is credibility. I will not promote something I don’t believe in, I will not post false information and I won’t provide a rave review and encourage anyone to part with money if I don’t think the item is worth it. Like most bloggers I put a lot of time and energy into this and previous blogs and my reputation is extremely important to me.

Why should a company pay for a blog post?

When a company works with a blogger they get a package of the actual blog and all other mediums where bloggers can interact and influence people through the following they have built up. Having a large number of page views or followers on Twitter doesn’t on it's own mean that the blog has a high level of credibility or will persuade people to part with their money. A good blog with a small readership which only promotes the occasional product may lead to more sales than a much larger one because readers trust what is being said. For a brand to work with a blogger really depends on how good a fit the brand thinks the blog and blogger is to their product and how much they think the relationship is worth. Huge brands spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on television advertising, but have been known to ask bloggers to publish a post for “exposure”.

I will happily publicise anything which I strongly believe in, but when asked to work with a brand I am under pressure to provide a quality post which will need to be promoted so I have to consider the value of what I am being asked to do. If the package of work is going to take me hours to do I’m unlikely to do it in return for a £5 item, there will always be some bloggers who will though. Unfortunately while we (as bloggers) choose to occasionally work for below minimum wage we massively under value our influence and companies will continue to ask us to work for free or close to it. Brands need to be cautious though because the less they expect people to work for the less likely they are to get a high value post which will influence a wide audience.

It might surprise some people that bloggers get paid to publish posts and most established bloggers have received comments from people they know about how lucky they are to get all the freebies. Some have had friends request they contact brands to get an item to pass on to them. One brilliant blogger Jaime from The Oliver's Madhouse has even been impersonated so someone could get a high value item in her name. The scary thing is that this might not be a one off and how many people have had their reputation damaged without realising it?

I love blogging. I love finding out about new and interesting products before other people and when I find something I will shout about it loudly on my blog, across social media, to my friends, in baby groups, possibly even to my cat. I know lots of people who have parted with money on my recommendations and I really hope I have made people’s lives easier by introducing these products into their lives, I hope countless children have had hours of fun thanks to places or toys I have recommended. I really do get a kick out if it, but it takes a huge amount of my time and my time is worth something. If someone wants me to spend my time advertising for them I deserve to get something out of it.

I recently completed a diploma in Social Media Marketing and one of the main benefits was the realisation that I was already an expert at what I do. I have a brilliant understanding of social media and how it works and I know far more that the average small business owner. I understand tone, reach, etiquette, scheduling, how to increase traffic and readers as well as how to use a variety of analytical tools. In any other career that expertise would be rewarded financially, why not in blogging? 

Almost daily I hear about companies who expect bloggers to work for free, or for very little or companies who don’t pay bloggers invoices on time leading to stress and cashflow problems. Bloggers are sociable creatures and we have many networks where we share advice and concerns. Yes there are undoubtedly some bloggers who are cheeky and will request items or payment for far more than they will benefit the brand, but they are in the minority. I’m not going to try and get a car for instance because my promotion definitely isn’t worth £10,000s, but I am worth something. All bloggers are. Even the smallest blog has something to offer. Let’s know our worth and have pride in our work.

Monday, 22 August 2016

A card for every occasion giveaway

I can be forgetful. None of my friends and family are particularly surprised if they don't receive a birthday card for their actual birthday. While I give them the benefit of an extended birthday it's not something I am proud of. To counteract my absent mindedness I try to be as organised as possible and plan in advance. This means lots of lists, using a diary (unfortunately only helpful when I actually put the event in there) and bulk buying. When I see pretty cards, or cards I think are perfect for people I know, I buy them. Some days I get them in the post too.

My latest giveaway is a collection of cards you can use to brighten people's day including 4 birthday cards and 8 cards for other occasions, like just because sometimes it's nice to get post.
Picture of 12 cards which are the giveaway prize
The giveaway prize

Entry open to UK residents only.
Closes midnight on Sunday 4th September 2016.
Entry via Rafflecopter widget (which has all the normal T&C's in).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 21 August 2016

#MySundayPhoto - Flowers and Sunny Days

This week I went to Bedford for a picnic with some lovely bloggers and their families. As the route went vaguely near Hitchin I took the opportunity to stop off at Hitchin Lavender. I follow them on facebook so I knew that not only do they have a field of beautiful purple lavender, but their sunflowers were in full bloom. The weather was beautiful and it was lovely walking through the flowers and spotting all the different types of bee. I spent longer than planned wandering around and ended up late to the picnic. It was worth it though.

A close up of a bright yellow sunflower with more sunflowers in the background


Thursday, 18 August 2016

Taking better photographs with your iPhone - Review of the ExoLens Case

I love taking photographs and my phone is my most used bit of kit. While the photo quality isn’t as good as my DSLR my phone is always on me so it allows me to capture the moment where ever I am.

While my phone can’t be beaten on convenience it is rather limited in terms of what is can do. I have an iPhone 6 which allows me to change the area of focus, adjust exposure, and zoom in digitally. The problem with zooming in digitally is you lose some of the quality so you really need to get closer to what you want to take a picture of, but not too close, it needs to be about 5 cms away to be able to focus which rules out really good macro pictures. 

At the BML16 conference in June I was talking to Fellowes and I had a play with the ExoLens Case kit they had on their stall. I really enjoyed trying out the different lens quickly so when I was offered the chance to be sent one to try out the lenses at my leisure I jumped at the chance.


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

When you feel you aren't Mum enough

I walked into the kitchen to put my mug down, returned to the lounge and heard a thud. Little had just face planted on the floor. I had left her next to her big sister, but I hadn’t been paying enough attention. I also hadn’t asked M to keep an eye on her.

The words "good parenting is probably 50% luck" on a gold background

Friday, 12 August 2016

A day in the life of Hoppy

It's hard work when you are a favourite cuddly animal of a baby, but what does an average day look like?


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Questions I can't answer

Children can be curious creatures. I am lucky that M never really went through a “why?” phase, but she does ask a lot of questions. One of the questions which M has asked several times over the past few years is about boys having short hair and girls long hair. Each time she says it I have taken time to point out the people she knows that prove this isn’t true. She accepts what I say, until raising it again some months later.

Several years after first making the comment about gender dictating hair length M has started asking how you know whether someone is a girl or a boy. She stated men don’t wear skirts so I showed her a number of pictures I took at London Pride last year of men in dresses. So there are transvestites, transsexuals, men in kilts and M already knows that females wear trousers. If hair length doesn't help and neither does clothing this leaves her with the confusion of how do you know what sex someone is? 
A man in drag (red ball gown and union jack boa) taking part in the 2015 London Pride procession
If you want to dance down the street in a ball gown why shouldn't you?

Monday, 8 August 2016

Rainy Day Giveaway

When I was 18 I went away on my first beach holiday (2 weeks on an 18-30 holiday so I really jumped in at the deep end). After 2 weeks in sunny Kavos I remember missing clouds. All day every day the sky was a never ending blue. While I wouldn't mind a few more sunny days here in the UK I still love that we actually get weather. One day it could be raining and the next day the temperature jumps by 10 degrees and it's too hot to move. It makes life more interesting, but also harder to plan.

Some days you just don't feel like going outside, but children still need entertaining so my latest giveaway is for a bundle of rainy day activity fun. Filled with lovely animal crafts from Hobbycraft I am giving away: an owl suncatcher, farm animal nesting dolls painting kit, felt monkey sewing kit, pom pom kit and felt tips. That should give you time to at least have a cup of coffee. Entry via the Rafflecopter widget below. Closes Sunday 21st August at midnight.

Photo of giveaway prize of: an owl suncatcher, farm animal nesting dolls painting kit, felt monkey sewing kit, pom pom kit and felt tips

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 6 August 2016

You can't do a little bit of baby led weaning

I'm just going to say this here and walk away. I don't want to go on about it, but it really bugs me so I need to get it out there to save me ranting at the large number of people I have heard say this recently: YOU CAN'T DO A LITTLE BIT OF BABY LED WEANING. You either do baby led weaning or you don't. The other types of weaning will almost certainly include purees and finger food. Giving your baby finger food is a natural development in weaning however you do it, but if you have also done spoon feeding you are not doing baby led weaning.

I am not going to say any type of weaning is better. I'm not going to debate at what age weaning should start. The information is out there and everyone has an opinion (including other parents, grandparents, friends, medical professionals, your dog). Wean however you like, whenever you like, but please use the correct terminology.

The most important principle in baby led weaning is that the baby controls what goes into their mouth. This inevitably means you start them on finger foods because they are the easiest thing for them to feed themselves, but you could theoretcially start them on purees which they picked up by the handful, they just wouldn't manage to consume very much for a while.
Little in her highchair in a pink bib covered in bolognese sauce
What are you talking about?
Baby led weaning is letting your child choose what and how much they eat right from the beginning of weaning. That means at all meal times. You can't say I let my baby control what they are going to eat, except at breakfast or when I'm in a hurry or when I want less mess, and call that baby led weaning.

While I appreciate that however your baby feeds you can't force them to eat (or drink) there is a big difference between putting a spoon in their mouth and putting the food in front of them to pick up.  So wean how you like, just don't tell me you do baby led weaning if you also spoon feed them.

...Walking away quietly now

Friday, 5 August 2016

The great baby questions...

Why do babies prefer to play with a baby wipe packet than the most sophisticatedly designed baby toy?
A baby on a changing mat playing with a packet of Johnson's Baby Wipes

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

My Birth Story - Little, January 2016

Yesterday I was talking to someone at baby group who said they were still traumatised by the birth of their daughter 10 weeks before. It reminded me that at 6 months post birth I hadn't written Little's birth story. It also made me grateful that I had a birth I was happy with so I thought I would see how much of it I remember.

(Warning: birth is messy so don't read this post if that is going to offend you. I've only included the non gory pictures though).
Me standing sideways wearing black showing my pregnant belly
40 weeks pregnant


Monday, 1 August 2016

Me and Mine - July 2016

I have left this to the end of the month and the end of the weekend as I was really hoping to get another picture of the 4 of us, but it didn’t happen. Yesterday we were all dressed up nicely to go to a Christening, but it was all too much off a rush to get the tripod out and I forgot to ask anyone to take a snap of us. At least I got people to take some pictures while we were on holiday. None of them are perfect, but they make me smile. I've even braved putting up pictures of me in a bikini! The water and children make a good cover up of the wibbliest bits.
A family of four next to a brick wall with a vine in France
July has been a good month with plenty of sunny days. We started off the month catching up with one of M’s best friends who moved to the other end of the country. After some initial shyness it was like they had never been apart. The next day we went to a birthday party of a friend from nursery where M was initially scared of Cinderella before joining in and trying to win all the games.

I had the last of my baby groups before the summer break. I understand that it’s harder for people with older children and they want to use the space for different things, but 6 weeks without catching up with local mums is a bit of a shame.
Me in a bikini holding my baby Little in the swimming pool
The highlight of the month was spending a week with my family at my mum’s house in France. The weather was beautiful and I love spending so much time with M and G. I blogged more about the holiday here.
Me and G in the swimming pool with M in arm bands and pink swimsuit and Little in a floating baby ring
Since we came back from holiday I haven’t really caught up with anything. I have seen friends, had decking put in the garden and met our new kitten (warning there will be kitten spam when it moves in), but I feel everything is in a bit of chaos and I am aching to get the house in order. 
Oh well August is a new month.

As normal I am linking this post up to Dear Beautiful's Me and Mine Project. Do go along and check out everyone else's July.
The Me and Mine Project