Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Missing Out On Special Moments With Shared Childcare

My eldest daughter's time is shared between her Father and me. Do you ever get used to not having your children with you? This year I spent my first Christmas Eve in 6 years without my eldest daughter. She was at her Dad’s house. I’m sure she was full of anticipation for Christmas Day, but I couldn’t help missing her. I tried to distract myself, but my Instagram feed was full of pictures of Christmas Eve boxes and families posing in their matching PJs. I couldn’t join in the fun. Matching PJs or a family picture with my big girl missing wouldn’t feel right.

As excited as everyone was for Little’s first Christmas, my baby didn’t understand what was coming; a Christmas film would be ignored and she’s too young for Hot Chocolate with marshmallows. Once she was asleep I spent the evening tidying the house and wrapping presents. While I appreciated having the time to do these things I would have preferred to have shared the magic on Christmas Eve with both my children. My big girl would have loved to hang her’s and her sister’s stockings. Little is just too young this year...

A baby reaching into a large stocking


Thursday, 22 December 2016

Disney On Ice Presents Frozen Review

Today we went to see Disney On Ice presents Frozen. It was the first time M had seen anything like it and we both had a great time. It was at the O2 in London which I love as a venue, mainly because it is so easy for me to get to. It's a short walk from the Jubilee line and we managed to get home in an hour from leaving the Arena.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

What's My Name?

If you Google ‘changing your name after divorce’ the general assumption is that women want to return to their maiden name. I guess it makes sense that if you took your husband’s surname when you married you would want to return to your own name when you divorce. But I don’t want to. Yes I still share the same surname as my ex, but is that really a problem?

The inside page of a moleskine notepad which reads "In case of loss, please return to:" with a felt tip drawn ? And a blue pen

The main reason I’m in no rush to change my surname is because a very special person has the same surname as me: my eldest daughter. If you don’t have children changing your surname may be a symbolic way to distance yourself from your ex, but I don’t want to distance myself from my daughter.  As my two daughters have two different fathers they will never both have the same surname as me, but changing back to my maiden name would mean not having the same surname as either of them. 

Then of course there is the more practical reason I don’t want to change my name, it’s a huge amount of admin. If you want to take your husband’s surname when you get married your marriage certificate works as evidence of your new name. Send copies off to all the various institutions and hey presto you get sent new cards, driving license, post etc in your new “Mrs” name. When your divorce is finalised if you want to revert to your maiden name then most places will accept your marriage certificate and your decree absolute as evidence that your old name is now your new name. For some organisations this isn’t good enough, you also have to change your name by deed poll. So on top of the faff of contacting everywhere, and paying to change your name on certain documents (like your passport) you also have to pay to change your name.

Alternatively I can just keep my existing surname. No expense. No paperwork. No hassle.

Then there is the decision about what to put in front of my name. Does divorce stop me being a “Mrs”? Clearly my days of being a “Miss” are behind me, so do I change my prefix to “Ms”? As far as I can tell it is my choice and I don’t have to provide any evidence for the change. I wonder if that’s the same as with other prefixes, can I call myself a Lady for instance?

I find it funny that I don’t know what I should call myself yet there are some things which are constant: my email addresses have all stayed the same as before I got married, as has my Twitter name (I don’t think I had Instagram back then). To 1000s of people I am EssexKate and my surname is irrelevant. 
I appear to have a stronger identity on social media than in real life. 

Of course there is always the option to change my name to something completely new. Maybe Ms Kate Essex?

Monday, 19 December 2016

Giveaway: Trio of Dove products

Is one of your New Year resolutions going to be to look after yourself a bit more? If your body needs a little bit of TLC why not enter my latest giveaway? My latest prize is for a trio of Dove products thanks to Unilever. You could win: Deeply Nourishing body wash, Derma Spa Body cream and Original 48h Anti-Perspirant Deodorant. That’s enough to make you clean, soft and smelling beautiful, what better way to start the New Year?

Dove supports Be Real which is campaigning to change attitudes to body image. Dove research found that 7 in 10 women and 6 in 10 girls in the uK think the media and advertisers set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can’t achieve. According to the Be Real Campaign 60% of people in the UK are ashamed of their appearance. That is huge.

As I sit here with no make up, a face full of spots and slightly over weight I’m not about to post a selfie of how I look. I don’t love my reflection when I look in the mirror, but I have come to tolerate it. I am hoping I can teach my daughters to be more confident in their bodies than I am in mine. I am careful about what I say about my body in front of my eldest daughter because she doesn’t see anything wrong with how I look. I won’t let people talk about “diets” in front of her, but they can talk about healthy eating. She see’s me putting my make up on and has long been asking to have her own. She is 5 years old. I bought her some make up for her birthday because I want to protect mine, but it is subtle make up and I have made it clear that she doesn’t need it. It is hard to explain why I choose to enhance how I look with make up (or hide behind it) and she shouldn’t. It is important that as she becomes more aware of adverts she is exposed to real people who are beautiful and not just air brushed images.

You can enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget below. All normal T&C's apply (you can read them in the widget). Giveaway closes 1st January 2017 at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 16 December 2016

My Daughter Made Me Cry Again

My eldest daughter is an absolute horror at times. She and I can better manage her frequent meltdowns now than we could in the past, but it’s still a regular occurrence that her emotions take control and she becomes angry or upset. Then there are the times when it is all about her, the times she doesn’t want to share her toys, but also wants to play with all of her little sister’s ones. The ability to see beyond herself and her feelings at times is frustrating, but not totally unexpected at 5 years old. Perhaps due to the the frequency of M’s poor behaviour I have recently been almost reduced to tears over some new behaviour emerging…

There have been a number of times recently when I have been so proud of my eldest girl that I can feel the tears pricking at the corner of my eyes. When she does things that are totally unexpected, but show that she has a beautiful and caring personality. That the feeling of love is just as strong as the more challenging character traits.

A 5 year old girl in red toggle coat, hat and gloves


Thursday, 15 December 2016

Review: The Original London Sightseeing Tour

I love London. I have lived on the edge of it for about 30 years so I think I know it pretty well. There is an endless amount of things to see and do in London, but like many people living close to somewhere I often take it for granted. Thanks to 365 Tickets we were recently given the chance to review The Original London Sightseeing Tour and it seemed like a great opportunity to take a fresh look at the city. 

When I’ve been away on a city break I often go on a bus or a boat tour. I have explored Dublin, Paris, Barcelona and Edinburgh in this way, but never my home city.  

A view of the city of London from the bus including the Gherkin
Take a better look at London's new buildings...

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

My Breasts Are Wonky

This post could also be called “The lesser talked about perils of co-sleeping”.

First the obligatory safety warning: co-sleeping or bed sharing can be dangerous. If you choose to co-sleep please ensure you follow the guidelines. I’m using co-sleeping to mean intentionally sleeping in the same bed as my baby, rather than falling asleep on the sofa together which is not safe.

Further information about co-sleeping:

Now enough about that, I’m going to write the rest of this post with the assumption that safe advice is being followed by myself and anyone who may be encouraged to co-sleep.

Little used to sleep well, but around 4 months it all went wrong. In the months that followed I was pretty exhausted as I tried to get her back to sleep in her cot after the many night time wake ups. On a few occasions my eyes drifted closed while I was sitting up feeding so I decided I would just lie down on my side with my boob out. I cuddled Little next to me, she fed and I fell asleep. Some time later Little started fussing, I had barely opened my eyes before she had found my nipple and re-latched. 

For the last few months when Little wakes up for the first time after I have gone to bed, I pick her up from her cot and we lie down together. I get at least an hours more sleep this way and it’s kept me functioning while we go through this extended sleeping like a newborn ‘phase’.

black and white photograph of a sleeping mother with a breastfeeding baby

Sounds great, but it’s not without it’s downsides, the biggest of them is probably my wonky boobs. Little lies on the outside of the bed rather than between me and my partner. I lie on my side and find it more comfortable if she nurses from the breast which is closest to the mattress so for most of our night feeds she is feeding from the same side.  The magic which is breastfeeding means my right boob can easily compensate for the extra feeds, but it has had the result that it’s become (very slightly) bigger than the left. You probably wouldn’t notice. At least I hope you wouldn’t notice, although now I’m going to worry about what people are thinking if they stare at my chest. 

To go with my wonky chest I often wake up with a painful shoulder from the way I am lying. I don’t think it’s natural to lie in one position all night, but I instinctively do when Little is next to me. This sometimes results in sore muscles. It’s just as well I don’t have to pick up anything heavy so my aching body can recover…

I guess I’m fortunate, due to Little’s interest in my chest she normally stays in one place so I don’t have the acrobatics and head kicks many co-sleeping families report (I get these when she is awake instead). I have tried moving further away from her at times when she is asleep (and unattached), but she tends to wriggle closer again. We repeat this process until the big man is on the brink of falling out of bed. Maybe I should keep going?

Night time activities are a challenge too (I’m not talking sex, my Nana might be reading). If I ever need to get out of bed to go to the toilet it requires careful manoeuvring to avoid disturbing the waking baby. Best case scenario she stays asleep and I return to discover I no longer have an adult size patch of bed to sleep in. I then have to make the decision of moving the baby (and her inevitably waking up) or trying to perform some sleep yoga to fit in to the available space and cover myself in the duvet without getting any too near Little.

If I happen to be wake up before Little, a very rare event, I have no choice but to stay in bed as I can’t safely leave her on her own. I could turn the monitor on, but there is a good chance she would wake up quietly and crawl off the bed before making a noise. When she has finally learnt to climb off things backwards I might be able to try this, but I’m hoping she will start sleeping better in her cot again one day soon.

So co-sleeping causes wonky boobs, aching shoulders, cold nights or uncomfortable bladders and no alone time. Balance that out with getting more sleep? I choose sleep every time.

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Magic of Books

I still remember that my sister and I were read to every night before bed. In our room we had shelves filled with books by Roald Dahl, C S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz books (there were 15 in total) and Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. We would have a few pages read to us each night. I seem to remember my Dad saying that if he was going to be spending all the time reading to us he wanted to read books he enjoyed too.

I don’t really remember watching much TV when I was small, but I remember books being everywhere. My family were (and still are) big readers and for a while I rebelled against it refusing to read myself, but it was inevitable that at some point I would give in. When I was a confident (and happy) reader one of my favourite books was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

It’s really important for me that my girls love books too. It is so easy in this world of tablets and e-readers to not have physical books around. My children often can’t tell if I’m reading a book or on Facebook, but we have lots of children’s books in the house. I think it's only through holding physical books in your hands that you can really fall in love with them.

My eldest had lots of books from birth. They ended up with chewed corners and eventually thrown away, but at a really early age I was proud that she could hold a board book and would turn the pages over one by one in the right direction. She was read to at bedtime and still spends hours looking at the pictures trying to remember the original story or making up her own.

In the last few months something even more magical has happened: my eldest daughter is learning to read. She has known all the letters for sometime, but it’s only with the first term of school she has found the interest and concentration to blend the letters together and start reading words herself. This is such an exciting time. I don’t think she realises just how much being able to read will change her life, but sitting next to her as she works out how to turn the individual letters into a word she recognises fills me with warm cosy feelings.

M’s little sister hasn’t had the same literary opportunities so far. It’s only recently with the prompt from Penguin books that I realised how few books she has. The parts of her big sister’s board books which weren’t eaten have been thrown away (or recycled) and she doesn’t get to play with the paper books for fear she will rip them. 

While Little had a library card at just a few weeks old I haven’t spent as much time reading to her as I would like. Reading formed part of her big sister’s bedtime routine early on, but everything has become much more hectic trying to get 2 girls to bed. This week I was motivated to change this and I have managed to get both girls cuddled up into my bed and read them a story on 3 occasions. This has been really special. It’s not just about the sounds, the stories or the pictures, but taking the time out to cuddle up and share some magic together.

For Christmas I have written a list of some classic first books and some great new ones. I have looked for the stories they produce as board books and Little’s Great Nana has purchased a collection for her. These books will belong to my baby so we can read to her, but just as importantly so she can play with them, look at them and, yes, eat them too. 

As part of the Britmums and Penguin Round House Children’s Books Christmas Present Challenge I received 3 books and I was challenged to share who I would be wrapping them up for. 
I received: 
The Little Elephant Who Wants To Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Foreseen Ehrlin and Illustrated by Sydney Hanson.
The Dinosaur that Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter Illustrated by Garry Parsons
Max and Bird by Ed Vere

These are a lovely selection of books and I must admit to giving each one a quick read (very carefully so they don’t look like they have been opened). I have heard of The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep when it was recommended to me as a way to try and help my eldest go to sleep. The elephant book is a new version following the same idea so this book will be wrapped up and given to M for Christmas. I love the idea that through the gentle repetition and story it can help people to fall asleep.

The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas is written in rhyme. While i’m not a fan of talking about poo, it does seem to be something which children find funny. My baby is too young to understand the words, but she will enjoy the pictures and the sing song pattern of the words so this book will be wrapped for her.

Finally Max and Bird is a story about a bird and a kitten which become friends, it could all end badly (but •spoiler alert• it doesn’t). This book will be going to my nephew to enjoy.

I hope they enjoy the books and I wonder whether they will be one of the stories they remember when they have grown up.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Expressing Milk When Out and a Review of The Tommee Tippee Manual Pump

Looking back a month on from my first day away from my youngest daughter I think what I struggled with most was the discomfort from not breastfeeding all day. I had been so focused on how she and I would feel emotionally I hadn’t really considered the practicality of needing to express. Last week I had my second day away from my daughter, but this time I was armed with the Tommee Tippee manual breast pump. Being able to pump milk while I was out made a huge difference to how I felt. 

I was kindly sent the Tommee Tippee manual breast pump to review and found it perfect for relieving the pressure in my boobs from not feeding. Just 10 minutes use in my lunch break was enough for me to avoid the painful engorged stage. It also meant that when I got home Little could feed without being overwhelmed by the speed of my let down.

The Tommee Tippee manual breast pump box, the steriliser box, the pump parts, the closer to nature bottle (with breast milk in) , the milk storage pot and disposable breast pads
What's in the box (with added breast milk)


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Giveaway: Disney Tsum Tsum

In my latest giveaway you could win a Disney Tsum Tsum 9 pack. I love these little stackable figures from Jakks which are small enough to slip in your pocket. They come in a huge range of characters, but in this pack from series 1 there is Olaf, Dumbo, Tigger, Gus, Stitch, Sebastian, Goofy and Minnie as well as a surprise figure.

Latest giveway prize

To try and win them just enter via the Rafflecopter (if you live in the UK and all the other normal T&C's as in the widget) or you can buy your own here if you can't wait.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disney is so powerful. I love how these sets combine characters from films that are older than me (Dumbo, Cinderella), films which were released when I was a child (The Little Mermaid) and more recent films (Frozen). It's pretty hard to avoid Disney while you are growing up or if you have small people living in your house, and why would you want to? They might not always set the best example (everything will be all right if you marry a prince for example), but the magic is enough to win me over every time.

One of the ways to enter the competition (via Rafflecopter) is to comment on what your favourite Disney character is, so I have been thinking about who mine is. When I was younger I used to love the Little Mermaid so I think Arial was probably my favourite. Now I'm more picky and can't just enjoy a leading lady for who she is in the films. Most of the female characters from the older films are a bit too wimpy for me. I much prefer the more modern heroines like Anna, Elsa, Merida and Mulan. The more subtle humour of some of the animals in the films appeals to me more now I'm older too: Pascal in Tangled, Abu from Aladdin, and the evil Scar from The Lion King are all great. There are so many to love though across all the films that I could have a different favourite for every day of the year.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Review: Funky Giraffe Outfit

We have been a big fan of Funky Giraffe bibs for years. I love them because these super absorbent dribble bibs have kept my babies necks dry, they wash well, they are excellent value and they come in a huge range of lovely designs. When Funky Giraffe offered us one of their new outfits to review I was really excited to see that the fun designs had made it on to trousers and hats.  We absolutely loved the print of this outfit, although Little isn’t so keen on wearing a hat even when it’s freezing outside.
A baby wearing Funky Giraffe Funky Toucan trousers and bib and holding the hat
Funky Giraffe Outfit in Funky Toucan print