Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A balanced approached to toddlers & diet

My relationship with food has always been solid. What can I say, I love food! I plan my day around mealtimes, love to cook, thankfully don't have a sweet tooth and adore fresh fruit & veg. I also adore eating out and sampling new cuisines (I had a ball and spent a fortune at Taste London last week!) Having such a passion for food meant that it was really important to me that my little one also enjoyed food and sampled a variety of tastes and flavours from a very young age.

Before you're a mum it's easy to think that you will or won't do certain things at mealtimes. TV for me is the thing I aimed to avoid. However, like most mothers, I am more interested in my son eating, than worrying about how Peppa & George's adventures are distracting him into doing so. I know this isn't ideal and it doesn't happen at every mealtime (thankfully never when we are out) but, sometimes you just gotta do what's best for your little one at that moment.

One of the biggest surprises to me, as a first time mum, is how everything, even the smallest things can impact on mealtimes. Teething, a cold, being overtired or just a bit grumpy, all impact on mealtimes and how much (or how little) my son chooses to eat. 

I am lucky, Harry is, generally a great eater with a big old appetite (he is after all my son) and I do try where possible to introduce different flavours and textures. Harry is very much a sensory baby, he loves to feed himself and loves to get messy at mealtimes. This is something I actively encourage. Things like yoghurt, peas & jelly all go down very well with him and encourage him to eat more.

Here is a short little list of the best foods, for toddlers like Harry who need a little stimulation in form of taste and texture at mealtimes...

- Meatballs
- Baby carrots
- Giant cous cous (wholemeal is available)
- Sweet potato wedges
- Satsumas
- Oranges
- Sweetcorn
- Peas
- Yoghurt
- Jelly
- Cucumber 

Snacking is a funny thing. I always thought I'd be anti snacking. What I have come to learn is that there is a time and a place for snack. We attend a lot of play groups, these tend to be in the morning and tend to exhaust Harry. Just as we finish these classes I tend to give him a little snack, usually fruit (so as to not spoil his appetite for lunch). Grapes cut in half are quick to prep and easy to transport so this is a firm favourite of mine. If not fruit, a rice cake or two tends to do the trick. Harry is obsessed with the marmite flavoured rice cakes. I found them in Sainsbury's (haven't been able to locate them anywhere else) and they are most certainly up there with Harry's favourite snacks. It's funny really, so many adults can't stand marmite, they find the taste too strong (I am a lover) yet my 16 month old boy, can't get enough! He also loves olives and gerkins so I guess he just loves strong flavours...

Afternoon snacking is a different story all together. In the afternoon we can have a little more fun. Now I know the world has become obsessed with this sugar amnesty, I however am not a believer. I was raised to enjoy everything in moderation and decided from day one to encourage the same belief in my children. 

I remember when planning Harry's first birthday a friend asked me if I was making a sugar free cake for the babies and toddlers. This really shocked me. It's a birthday, and cake is part of a birthday celebration and as long as children aren't eating cake daily or too regularly, I just don't see the problem. Harry loves cakes and chocolate and ice cream (oh my!) and is offered such indulgences sporadically, as an appropriate treat. On holiday, at a friends house, on a special day out and so on. In fact, when he once suffered with tonsillitis, the only thing he would eat was chocolate buttons (he hadn't eaten for a week as his throat was so sore) he would sit and suck them with a big smile on his face and I have never been happier (judge away)

On a day to day basis, I do try and offer a variety of snacks, firm favourites are berries, Goodies alphabet biscuits and the Annabel Karmel cheesy mini bread sticks. I also bake quite a bit and love offering Harry homemade snacks, peanut butter cookies and healthy blueberry muffins go down a treat with my boy (recipes available upon request)

Recently I was sent some new snacks to try, made by The Fabulous Bakers, they are utterly delicious baked treats (flap jacks bars, popcorn bars and muffins) that are jam packs full of natural yummy flavours. 

Harry's favourite in the range are the baked berry oat bars, mine the apricot, almond and white chocolate popcorn bar.. divine! Not quite appropriate for a toddler as the chunks are a little hard, if looking for a treat for the little one I'd opt for the flap jack bars or muffins. 

What I really love about this  brand is the natural flavours that come through when trying each different product. They use only natural ingredients, nothing artificial and you really can taste the difference. They taste so fresh and flavoursome and despite their honest approach to baking, they don't come with a hefty price tag, which makes them even better.

I guess the overall message I am trying to share is that while mealtimes can be a bit stressful, even frustrating at times if you have a difficult eater, a little fun and variety can make a big difference. At Taste London last week, I let Harry have a taste of pretty much everything I had and he loved it. We all revert to our firm favourites, fish fingers, smiles and so on when we don't have time to think, let alone cook, however, try and encourage a playtime (if that's your thing, and you're ok with mess) at dinner time, it makes a big difference. And when it comes to snacking, don't be afraid of the new things, try flap jack bars and cupcakes bursting with variety and texture, and if you're little ones don't take it something immediately there is no reason to not try it again at a later date.

Happy munching!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Babies & friendship

Sometimes I forget the person I was before I was a mummy, before I was a wife. I forget the many nights spent out and about in London Town sipping wine and gossiping about work, men, fashion and all things frivolous. I forget how it felt to have disposable income, to have no responsibilities (bar rent and the odd bill), to have the luxury of time. Time to indulge in the finer things in life, time to socialise, time to shop and try on clothes, time to dine out and concentrate entirely on the person I was with. Life before I was a mummy is a distant but beautiful memory.

These days, life is somewhat different. Don't get me wrong, it is wonderful, more than wonderful. But it is quite different. I've changed. I've changed so much. Priorities are so different now, as are my interests. I'd love to enjoy a frivolous dinner out, but I feel a little more serious these days, and a lot more grown up. As I have changed, my friendships have too. New people have come along and some old people (not in age, in length of relationship) have sort of dropped off.  Not best friends… friends on the sort of periphery  Now that I don't have the luxury of free time, I have to chose very carefully who I share it with. 

Obviously during the week, when I am not working, my time is spent with the little man and other mummy friends entirely. Play dates, classes, fun activities, meals out are a blur of joy, mess and giggles. I am quite good at balancing conversations (i.e. talking about other things than motherhood) but I do always have one eye on my boy. My mind is a swirl of meal planning, shopping lists, playtime, snacks, drinks, baby books, sleep time, danger zones and worry. This is just the shortlist.

Weekends are largely spent with other 'families' (I find it odd to think of us as a proper family, it feels so very grown up but I suppose we are), out and about doing fun 'toddler' things or doing something that we can enjoy as a couple that we hope our boy will do (such as mooching about town, shopping or going for a meal out). We do occasionally see friends without babies. In truth, most of them (couple wise) like to see us in the evening. They don't say it explicitly but I believe it to be true. Bar one or two who have genuinely spent time getting to know & love Harry, most don't really get it and prefer our attention spent on them. These are the friends who I am a little self conscious around, not about my appearance, about how often I offer 'mummy chat'. I sometimes hear myself talking about Harry and try to reign myself in so as to not bore my company.

When thinking about this topic I wondered if it was just me who felt like this. To satisfy this wondering I asked a group of mummy friends whether they felt that there friendships had altered since becoming a mummy.  All but two of the ten girls I asked did. Some felt less sociable these days, they'd prefer to stay in and see mummy friends who 'get them', some felt so disappointed that there previous friends had dropped them when they became a mummy, apparently a lot of husbands felt this way too, some felt that they had to make so much more effort with older friends as they knew that if they didn't the friendships would fade away. They all felt that they wouldn't have got through the challenge of becoming a new mummy without their new mummy friends, met at classes, through NCT or through other friends.

The two who didn't feel this way had made a conscious effort to not become one of 'those mums', those mums who only talk about babies, always look a mess and generally lose themselves to motherhood (there words not mine) These girls travel forty plus minutes to see friends on a week night, ensure there baby chat is limited and keep up to date with the news/entertainment culture to make sure they have something to say for themselves.

Both groups said their worst nightmare is the obligatory weekly/fortnightly/monthly work drinks. They just don't have the time or inclination to socialise with colleagues. 

I'd say I was somewhere in the middle of both groups. I love working, using my mind, reading magazines, books and keeping up to date with the news. I do feel let down by so many friends who have disappeared since I became a mum (although I largely blame myself) and I feel blessed to have all these new mummy friends who totally get me and what I am going through.

One thing I will say is that non mummy friends seem to appreciate it so much when I make the effort to see them for supper in an evening or a drink, when I call them to check in and remember dates, job interviews  and so on… essentially their news. Which I suppose makes sense. They chose to be friend with me as I was then and whilst they of course are happy for me, they probably miss a bit of the old me.

I recently downloaded this app, it's called 'Connect' and basically, it pulls your contacts from all your social media feeds into a little map. Maybe this will help me stay in touch with my friends and more importantly with their news. It's so easy to become a little self obsessed when your a mummy and maybe I should do a little better at staying on top of my friends lives! As I've already said, they really appreciate it… when one of my friends gets in touch to ask how Harry is, or to ask how a particularly activity was that I maybe posted a picture of on Facebook or Instagram, it makes me so happy. Everything works both ways and as cliche as it sounds, I guess you get out what you put in.

What I like about this app is that it sends you an alert if one of your friends who lives over 100 miles away is in your area so you may end up seeing an old or forgotten (sounds so mean, but you know what I mean) friend unexpectedly. I got an alert the other day about a friend I had totally forgotten about from school, whilst I didn't meet up with her (maybe next time), it prompted me to send her a message and now we are back in touch! Social media is great, it really is, but nothing is more important than a little (real) face time.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Jabs Jabs Baby

After 10 days of utter hell and misery, I am extremely pleased to tell you that the little man is finally back to normal, eating, drinking, smiling and most importantly temperature free..

Let me start from the beginning. I scheduled the jabs to take place a little later than intended, life kept getting in the way, first I was poorly then work got busy, so in the end the 12 months jabs were actually done when Harry was 13.5 months old (which just sneaks into the recommended time frame) 

The jabs themselves are a little crueler and harsher than the previous jabs, three separate jabs (in my opinion a hell of a lot for a little bubba to content with) consisting of the following… 

Hib/Men C booster, given as a single jab containing meningitis C (second dose) and Hib (fourth dose) Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, given as a single jab 
Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, third dose

The wee man didn't respond to them too well as I imagine most babies don't. Lots of tears, lots of attempted distractions by me. Finally a combination of toys, snacks and drinks calmed my poor baby down. After the jabs we headed straight to a playgroup which was enjoyed by both of us as usual, as if nothing had happened. That night, no drama at all. My boy was as happy as usual. The next day, the same thing. I thought I was spared of the dreaded post jabs hell. 

I was wrong, very wrong.

The jabs were on Tuesday morning, by Thursday evening, everything had changed. A night of wake ups, tears and sadness ensued. Harry never wakes up during the night so we knew something was wrong, he woke for the day at 5am (usually he rises around 7.30am) so we knew he wasn't quite right. 

Friday was an unpleasant day, he was miserable, very warm and refusing any food or drink, he also suddenly had a horrific chesty cough and runny nose. By Friday afternoon I was worried, he was so warm, so unhappy, so not himself. 

I called my doc and asked if this was normal/if I should come in. He said yes so off we went. More tears, more misery ensued as we headed off to the docs. The doctor was actually quite worried, his temperature was 39.4, he was extremely distressed and he was refusing any medicine at all. The doc gave me a prescription for a Calpol suppository and sent us on our way, not however before telling me that if his temp rose above 40 that night that I was to take him to A&E… 

Whilst his temp didn't go above 38 for the weekend, he was utterly miserable and still refusing food or drink, coughing, sneezing… we were still worried. He was lethargic, sleepy, unhappy and to me seemed to be in a lot of pain. 

Monday morning I called the doctor again (I hate being 'that' mum but I felt I had no choice)

Off we went again, the only appointment they had was at 5pm. The doc was concerned, no visible improvement, coughing ferociously, runny nose, temperature. He referred us to A&E to have Harry's chest looked at… all the while Harry was hysterical almost to the point of vomiting.

A&E was rammed. I've never been to the paediatric wing and stupidly had expected it to be calmer than the rest of A&E. How wrong I was. Anyway, within a few minutes of arriving he was being looked at by a nurse… roughly two hours later, a doctor looked at him. 

In the meantime they had asked that we try and collect a urine sample… I mean, how??? We tried but failed epically. I deem this to be an impossible task.

When the doctor finally examined him, she confirmed my suspicions.. he had tonsillitis she said but there was nothing she could give him… I begged her to prescribe something, she said she had to speak to her superior and that she would come back to me. Two hours later, they sent us away, no prescription, nothing. I was not happy.

The next morning he woke and he was worse. At this point I decided to take things into my own hands by calling a private paediatrician. I am not one to generally do this. In fact I have never felt the need to do this before. 

She looked at him and immediately decided that he needed penicillin. I am not sure why, nor is she, they didn't prescribe it in A&E. She said there is no way it could have got this much worse overnight… The heartbreaking thing was, the second he had his first dose he was considerably better. That night he ate dinner and slept through, as the days have gone on, and the medicine has been consumed (not an easy task, we have gone for the syringe approach) he has transformed back into our boy.

When I saw my NHS doc on the Friday and then on the Monday, he was sure that Harry's sickness had absolutely nothing to do with jabs.. the funny thing is that of my antennal girls, 7/8 of the babies have been horribly unwell with high temperatures and other symptoms since having the jabs. One baby also developed tonsillitis days after having them.. surely there is a connection even if it is just that their immune systems are low and thus they are more likely to pick something else up?

I don't know, all I know is that it has been a horrible few days and that I feel utterly let down by A&E… I am also a little put off these jabs that are positioned as a necessity. 

I am not saying I wouldn't give them to future babies in the future, I most likely will, but I will certainly clear my diary and mentally prepare myself for the potential 10 days of hell that lie ahead!!! And if there is reaction, I will most likely head straight to my private GP...

Monday, 16 February 2015

Happy 1st Birthday

I can't quite believe I'm saying this but the day has been and gone and my little man is one. What a phenomenal, draining weekend. 

Kicking off on Friday (the actual birthday... Friday the 13th lucky for some!!) with a trip into London to see the fishies at the London Aquarium followed by a spot of lunch with the hubs, then rushing home for bath and bed before an evening of party prep!!

Continuing into Saturday with the big p-a-r-t-y! The hubs was amazing, off he went first thing in the morning armed with a list of necessary last minute items I needed to make the Mickey Mouse themed party a total success, whilst I was busy entertaining the birthday boy and prepping all the food... all the food...

I've never been one to under-cater and I'm a great believer in stuffing adults full of treats at these parties (particularly dads to make them bearable!) 

I was particularly proud of myself of this... not bad considering I'm not at all crafty!!

For the kids, I transformed my lounger into a soft play haven complete with giant ball pond and life size Mickey Mouse!!

The party was a roaring success... with over 50 guests in attendance (17 of them babies) the house was heaving but at no time (I believe thanks to the buffet) felt too crowded. Most importantly, my little man had the greatest day EVER! He was so happy and so content watching everyone busy around him, he was full of energy right up until bedtime when he literally past out in his cot.

The highlight of the day was the singing Happy Birthday. To think, all those people were there, singing to my little boy who suddenly feels so grown up.

What a very special day it was, I will remember it forever. My little man is one!!! I can't quite believe it!!!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015


I know I keep blubbing on about how emotional I feel about my boy nearly turning one. But the year just seems to have flown by so fast. So much has changed. I've changed, my husband has changed, our marriage has changed, my friendships have changed, even my parents have changed.

Everything has been altered by this one little man. 

Let's kick off with my parents. 

We've always been an incredibly tight knit family. Speaking on the phone half a dozen times a day, relying on each other for everything and generally behaving more like close friends than family. My mum, never really a baby person before, has surprised me the most. She is so honestly in love with my son, so caring, so considerate, so thoughtful, so wonderful. She helps me constantly and I've never ever felt so close to her. It's not even that I need her, we are so different, have different approaches to parenting and so on, but I want to be with her all the time. I love hanging out with her now. Something than seems to grow and grow as the weeks go by.

My father, to say that he loves my son seems inadequate. He is moved by him on a daily basis. He misses him seconds after leaving him, he calls constantly to check on us all (the hubs included) making sure we have everything we need, and that H is ok. He is so proud of me and how I am raising H, that he doesn't permit me a moment to wonder if I am doing the right thing. He is absolutely and 100% behind us as a family and I know how rare and special that is. We talk all the time, I vent, I moan, I laugh, the lot. Thankfully, he's always to hear it.

My friends. Well this is a funny one. Over the last year a lot has changed. My "old" friends, if I am honest seem completely disinterested in me. I am sure in time these friendships will re-form, or not, and I know it isn't all there fault. I am different, I am harder work in terms of arrangements and probably a little less "fun" (bare in mind that most of my friends are just on the cusp of marriage or still young, free and single). There are times when I feel a bit sad, a bit lonely, like I am so out of the loop with so many people. I do try and stay in touch with people but it just seems so hard. Conversations with newer "mummy" friends seem so much easier and natural. This makes me sad but I think it is something a lot of women sadly go through... maybe in the future when they are more where I am, things will change and friendships will re-form, for the moment though, I don't think there is much I can do fix it... one of those things perhaps?

The hubs and our marriage. Well, to say things are different now is perhaps a bit of an understatement. I love my husband, more now than I ever have. He means so much more to me than just being my husband, he is a father, and an amazing one at that. He is my partner and whilst we don't agree o n everything, we appreciate more than ever how to use our own skills to best manage. He is better at cheering H up when he is in pain, at chilling him out, at bath time and so on. I am better at the more mundane tasks. Feeding, soothing and so on. We talk a lot about our son, and our future home and family and have what I call "grown up conversations" a lot more. It might be a but calmer (more boring) than what we used to do/talk about but we are happy and wouldn't (I think) change a thing.

Me? What can I say. I am an entirely different being to what I was before. I am calmer, I am more selfless, I am forever positive and I am patient. These are not words I would have previously used to describe myself. I also no longer sweat the small stuff. Things that bothered me before seem so silly and irrelevant. I am true to myself and put my husband and my son before ANYTHING. They are my world and if that means regular date nights, and obsessive over planning well so be it. I have to look after my boys.

This year has been so very special. I can't really put it into words. All I can say is that it has been the quickest, but more memorable year yet. I remember every day, every moment, every smile, every tear. That boy has deeply changed me, I hope for the better and whilst there may have been a few hiccups and friendship causalities along the way, it's been so unbelievably remarkable.

To conclude, I'd like to share this video with you. It's a campaign from Pampers in Japan, but it really sums things up. Feb 13th is not just Harry's birthday, it's my first "mummy birthday". To all those mums out there about to celebrate there little ones first birthday's, take a moment to wish yourself a happy birthday. You've done so well and I for one know what an emotionally incredibly journey it has been.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Turning one

In a matter of weeks my little boy will turn one. I've heard people murmur the phrase "l don't know where the time has gone" in the past, and have grimaced at how cliche they sound. I now can entirely relate.

I can't really relate to those who claim to not remember life before the arrival of heir beautiful bundles of joy. I of course remember life, I just don't like it very much!!
This year has been the best, fastest, most memorable, spectacular, exhausting, emotional year of my life. Despite its speed, I literally remember every second. Which is confusing to me. Usually when something flies by I struggle to remember the detail, it's all sort of a blur. Not this year.
 I have a (documented through photographs) memory of every single day. It really has been so very special. It's amazing to me really that so many people get to experience this, it makes me question why the world isn't a happier place?? I've spent the last year of my life elated. 

I've made some incredible friends, lost a few less incredible friends. Made a life, cemented what was already an amazing relationship with the hubs, felt more tired that I knew possible, spent a LOT of time in my house and obsessed over the following... (to name a few)

- Poo
- Wee
- Vomit
- Weaning
- Teething
- Smiling
- Rolling over 
- Sitting up
- Walking
- Cruising
- Waking
- Baby classes
- Prams
- Car seats
- Nappies
- Nappy bags
- Breast feeding
- Formula feeding
- Bottles
- Sterilisers
- Water
- Blankets
- Working

It's been mad. Unbelievable. Mad.

I can't believe he's going to be one. It's so significant to me which is a bit surprising. I guess from one they start to become a bit more independent. Of course he'll need me for the foreseeable future but he's not a "baby" anymore.

What a year. I can't believe it's coming to a close... As the plans for his first party continue I'm gonna enjoy my boy. Every little second as I have done for the last 11+ months. I don't think any other year in my life will be quite as special or significant.