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See posts about: // Isabelle // Parenting // Family //

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Happy Real Nappy Week!

I am guessing that the majority of people out there don't know that this week in the UK is 'Real Nappy Week'. The aim is that cloth nappy retailers and cloth nappy libraries do their best to bring the use of cloth nappies to the fore, and hopefully encourage more people to give cloth a go, reducing the number of people using disposable nappies.

What that means for people like me (read: cloth obsessed) is simple...SALES!

Cloth nappy retailers have a week long sale, tempting all us poor cloth mummies with their low prices, and encouraging us to buy "just this one as well" because "I really do need that too."

The lovely mums of Northern Ireland are no exception, and we kicked off the week by helping the local economy grow by buying lots of nappies from Baba Me at the Blooming Babies Modern Parenting Expo in Belfast.

As the week progresses, we share the links and details of bargains to be had across all websites, resulting in mass buying from almost everyone, and lots of "Oh I really don't need that...but...".

I have made contribution to the economy this week too - how selfless of me! I picked up two bumGenius Elementals from Baba Me at the show,  3 Tots Bots Bamboozles from Babipur, 5 cheapie Tiny Nippers, and 3 Tots Bots easyfits on sale in Tesco. Writing it all down like that makes it seem like a lot...and I still 'need' 2 Blueberry capri wraps from Baba Me online.

But here's the beauty of it - I can use these nappies over and over again. Isabelle is only just 1, she will be wearing nappies for a while to come, and if we are lucky enough to be granted more babies some day, they will wear the nappies too. So, I see it as an investment for the future. (Am I convincing you?!)

In all seriousness, the things I picked up were things we needed. When Isabelle is looked after by Simon or my parents they prefer Velcro nappies (the Tiny Nippers and Tots Bots I mentioned above are for them!) and since she turned 11 months Isabelle has been peeing for Ireland, and the Elementals provide us with great absorbency once I get the right boosters in there too. I have found that as Isabelle grows, our needs from our nappies have changed. We now need something to hold a bucket load of wee, and to do it quickly. She does what are fondly known as 'toddler wees', which is like turning on a powerful tap, and what we had been using just wasn't holding up to this new pee regime. Luckily, RNW came along at just the right time, and so I was able to grab a few bargains. (Let's not discuss overall cost. I just worked it out and panicked!)

So, other cloth mummies might want to know exactly what my stash consists of now. I am almost scared to tell you....some are show below, there are more in the wash...

  • 8 Tots Bots Bamboozles (3 new style, 5 old)
  • 2 Tots Bots wraps
  • 1 Happy Heinys wrap
  • 2 Blueberry Capri wraps
  • 3 Flip wraps
  • 4 Flip stay drys
  • 3 Flip organics
  • 6 Econobum prefolds
  • 5 Tots Bots easyfits (3 v2, 2 v4)
  • 3 bumGenius Elementals
  • 8 Little Lamb OSFA pockets (and 5 more never used)
  • 7 bumGenius Freetimes
  • 18 Tiny Nippers
Hmmm. I think I have tallied that up to be 62 nappies - not including the 5 never used. I have exceeded even my own expectations with that number! I am, in all honesty, totally horrified! I could go for a week without washing and still have plenty to do me! Oh gosh...maybe it's time to pass on some bargains of my own and sell a few. But which ones? I love them all......

And, honestly, I also have another 20+ fitted nappies which I used with Isabelle when she was first born, which are packed away for use with other babies...

I hope your RNW is as fruitful as mine clearly was! Even if you only buy one nappy and use it once every few days, you save a few nappies from landfill every week. And you know what they say, every little helps!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Breastfeeding past 1

If you have read my blog over the last month or so, you will know all about Isabelle's birthday celebrations. I still can't believe I have a 1 year old girl on my hands! The time has flown, and I definitely haven't noticed it disappearing, or seen her changing from day to day.

And some things haven't changed at all, and one of those things is the fact that I am continuing to breastfeed Isabelle. Now, I know that that is a thought which will make many people pull a little face, and think "Surely she's too old?" But, in honesty, to me, feeding Isabelle today is no different to feeding her 3 months ago. Every day has come and gone, and I have never once thought "That's enough now". Just as I haven't noticed her growing taller, and I get taken by surprise when it's time to get the new clothes out, I haven't noticed the change from feeding my tiny baby to feeding my hefty toddler.

To me, it is just as it has always been. Feeding provides food/drink for Isabelle, and it provides her a huge amount of comfort. In fact, I know that the main reason Isabelle continues to feed is for comfort rather than anything else. If she gets upset, or if she's tired, she makes a very distinct little "feed me mummy!" noise, and a few months ago started pulling at my top when she wanted fed, and most of that is for comfort. She can be in meltdown, and a few minutes feeding creates a totally different child My granny put it perfectly when she simply said "That is just her little thing  for comfort", and she is right. Some babies have dummies, some have teddies, Isabelle feeds. So when people ask me if I am stopping now, I often reply "Ok, I'll stop...but you can keep her for a week!" simply because I know how upsetting she would find not being able to feed when she needs some comfort. And when Isabelle is upset, she is LOUD.

That said, she is perfectly capable of being comforted in other ways - Simon can comfort her easily, as can my family, and I can too without feeding, it's just that sometimes, that is the comfort she wants, and I am certainly not ready to deny her that.

Then, people tell me "It has no nutritional benefit past 1" which makes me laugh, almost as if at midnight on 9th April my milk suddenly turned from nutrient rich goodness into pure water! I could write a whole blog post on this thought alone, as it is just total rubbish and nonsense! Instead, here are the scientific facts:

"In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
  • 29% of energy requirements
  • 43% of protein requirements
  • 36% of calcium requirements
  • 75% of vitamin A requirements
  • 76% of folate requirements
  • 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
  • 60% of vitamin C requirements
– Dewey 2001 (Source: Kelly Mom)"

So, along with the comfort Isabelle is getting plenty of nutrition too - I haven't suddenly started producing mineral water! There are lots of other physiological benefits too, over and above nutrition.

But, even though I am thrilled to be making such good stuff for Isabelle, the nutrition is no longer why I feed her. Now, it's about that all important comfort, and the fact that it makes her happy. We all want to make our kids happy, and this is such an easy way for me to do it. Maybe that's selfish of me - wanting to take the easy route to making her happy and stopping any tantrums and tears - but there we go! Our daily feeding schedule looks something like this:

9am for morning nap
12.30pm for afternoon nap(depending on whether we are in the car or not)
.....any time in between!

More than the comfort, I genuinely believe exclusively breastfeeding Isabelle for this time is responsible for the incredibly close bond we have. Nobody else can provide for her that thing which she needs or wants - only me. Because of breastfeeding, I have never left Isabelle for longer than 5 hours with anyone - and that was purely because I was sick - so she gets concentrated mummy time all day, every day, and it means that she and I are the greatest buddies in the world!

I read a statistic a few months ago which said that less than 1% of mothers in Northern Ireland breastfeed exclusively (using no formula) until 1 year old. I suppose that I move in circles where that 1% flourish, as I know plenty of people 'still' breastfeeding well past 1 year old. We still go to our breastfeeding support group every week, and it's be so wonderful to see babies born in the few months close to Isabelle grow and reach their first birthday, and still be feeding too. It's one of our favourite groups, and I think even if we stopped feeding tomorrow we would still go!

I suppose the obvious question is then "when will I stop?" To be honest, I don't know the answer to that question. I have never set a time limit on feeding Isabelle. To me, it was all about getting past the first few weeks when it is most difficult, and I am so proud of myself for making it to 1 year+, with no issues to speak of. I had assumed Isabelle would start to cut down gradually by now, but we are still feeding on demand so she hasn't! She can easily go for half a day without milk, when she is with Simon or my parents, but that doesn't happen very often. As we are together all day everyday, she is too tempted! I suppose if/when I go back to work she will be forced to cut down, but the earliest that could happen is when she is 17 months, and I think I would continue to feed at bedtime. That said, lately when I feed her in public I have been thinking "I wonder if people think this is strange?" because she is so obviously not a tiny baby - the hair alone shows that! - and as much as I love feeding her, I don't want to end up one of those people still breastfeeding at 7 years old (no offence to them!). I have never cared what people think when I nurse her in public, but every so often now, I do just wonder...

So really, I've no idea what the future holds. All I do know is that feeding Isabelle is something I am so proud of, and something which she values so very much. And that means that we won't be stopping for a while to come...

2 great sources for breastfeeding mums:
La Leche League International

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Isabelle's birthday celebrations

It's now been 1 whole week since Isabelle's birthday, and we are still recovering from the excitement and exhaustion of it all! After months of pinning ideas, and quite some time thinking about what I wanted for Isabelle's birthday, I am pleased to say I was thrilled with everything.

As her birthday was on a Thursday, we decided to hold off on her party until Saturday so that my brother, sister and brother-in-law would be able to attend. Of course, we still wanted her birthday itself to be really special, so we decided to do things that she loved all day. In the morning we went swimming with Simon's parents, my nephew and my dad, and she had a great time. Afterwards, my sister-in-law and my other nephew, and my mum, joined us all back at our house for a "mini party". We had lunch, the kids played, and we spent some quality time together with our family. Isabelle opened some presents throughout the day (although she was distinctly underwhelmed by the actual gift opening, so I got to do it all!) as we didn't want to overwhelm her at any point. She did enjoy them once they were opened, and her activity cube is definitely her new favourite. She was lucky enough to get lots of lovely bits from everyone, including a really special book from her auntie - The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name - which was personalised for her. Since Isabelle is quite a long name, the book is quite long which is great! For dinner that night we had pasta, one of her favourite things, and she got some of her favourite snacks during the day - pomegranate seeds and rice cakes! She is a girl of simple pleasures! Since we were saving her party dress for Saturday, I bought her a special '1' top from Olive and Moss to wear, and although it was way too big, it was very sweet.

Her party on the Saturday was a family only party - but because I have such a big family there were over 20 people there, so not particularly quiet at all! I didn't have a theme or any huge number of decorations for her party, but all the decorations we had were ones I made myself, and I am ridiculously proud of how it all turned out! I adore bunting, so knew I wanted some to decorate the food table, and the fireplace as well. I made it using some pretty paper and lace ribbon, and a hefty amount of glue! I was so pleased with how well it turned out, it looked so pretty and girly. Even better, it survived the day totally intact so I have now popped some up in her bedroom and in the playroom to remind us of the day.

I knew I wanted some balloon bundles as well, either side of the table and either side of the fire place. I had wanted all see through balloons, but couldn't find any that were coloured, see through and a reasonable price! So I bought some clear balloons and some in pastel colours. Once blown up with our helium (just realising we didn't take full comedy advantage of the helium at all!), Simon spent ages getting them into the perfect bundles, with my expert guidance of course! I filled the clear balloons with confetti, but it was hard to see once the bundles were up.

On Tuesday, I posted Isabelle's 1 year update, and showed you the chalkboard I made for her birthday. I had initially thought of buying one, but decided to give making my own a whirl, and I am so glad I did! I was so pleased with how it turned out, and it feels wonderful to know that I did it myself. Simon framed it in a plain wooden frame which I painted peach for a big pop of colour. We hung it above the food table, but now the party is ver it will be hung in the playroom. The last thing I made were two 'ONE' signs, just as a little something extra.

I had planned an Easter egg hunt and some games for outdoors, but sadly the weather didn't cooperate. The kids were more than happy playing in the house anyway, so it all worked out perfectly anyway.

Food wise, I did a huge amount of delegation! I made 2 quiches and some rainbow fruit kebabs, and provided the crisps. My family made sandwiches, salads, pasta and much more. In true Gray fashion, there was plenty left over, and my brother-in-law even complained he had eaten too much, so I'd say it was all a success! Simon's mum very kindly made the cake for us, and it was gorgeous! Lots of buttons which I adore, and absolutely delicious as well.

Isabelle decided that 2pm, when the party began, was perfect time for a nap, so she was MIA for 40 minutes, and then slightly wary for a little while, but was soon playing in the ball pool with her cousins, and throwing balloons around with everyone else! She wore a gorgeous little party dress which my wonderful friend Brooke and her daughter (also Isabelle!) sent us from Australia at Christmas. It was so perfect for her party teamed with a little pink cardigan as it wasn't overly warm, and she looked adorable as always.


Overall, her party was relaxed and family centred, exactly as we had planned. It is definitely the last big birthday we will be throwing for a long while as we were shattered afterwards, but it was so worth it to have the perfect day for our special little lady.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Isabelle's 1 year check in...

My baby girl is 1! While that seems so old in some ways, when you think about it, one year old is barely anything at all. Only 365 days - that doesn't sound like much at all, does it?

Since her last check in, Isabelle has changed so very much. The biggest difference is that now she can WALK! After months of tootling round with her walker and cruising the furniture, she took her first proper steps (4-5 in a row) on March 2nd, and two weeks later (although it seemed like forever!) she was off properly. There is no stopping her now, as she bundles around everywhere, and although she is getting more steady every day we still have lots of falls and bumps as she is quite often like a little drunk old lady waddling about! Since she can now walk and was so very eager to get outside, just before her birthday Isabelle got her first pair of shoes, and we are definitely getting our monies worth from them as she ploughs around the garden, which is her favourite place to be.

Her understanding of what we are saying is great, and she is able to identify, and bring us, objects when we ask her about them. It's so strange to think that although she can't say the words, she knows exactly what they mean - babies are truly marvellous little creatures.

And finally, after 3 months of only having 2 teeth, her top 2 teeth popped in right before her birthday!

For her birthday, I decided I wanted to make Isabelle a chalkboard print after seeing them on Pinterest and loving them. So, I'll let it tell you the rest of Isabelle's vital stats for her big birthday check in...

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Make your garden even greener with B&Q*

I am definitely not the green fingered one in our family - my only house plant died a painful death recently, despite my best efforts. Luckily, Simon is great, and he loves being in the garden, which means we have a pretty extensive vegetable patch and some beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees as well.

Simon spends loads of time out in the garden in the spring and summer, getting everything just perfect to make sure we have the very best produce growing for us. As a really eco-conscious family we are always looking for ways to be even more green than we already are - and now thanks to B&Q we can be even more green in the garden (pardon the pun!).

B&Q are the first company to remove all polystyrene packaging from their bedding plants, replacing it with a 100% recyclable alternative called easyGrow. We all know that polystyrene isn't very eco-friendly as it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, so it definitely isn't an ideal material to be using when it comes to keeping ourselves eco-friendly. But, thanks to Paul and John Tyson - 2 brothers from Hull - B&Q are able to change that!

B&Q will sell over 80 million bedding plants between now and June, and with traditional packaging that would create that over 87,000 wheelie bins worth of polystyrene going in to landfills! That is pretty scary! 

Instead of using peat as a growing material, easyGrow uses coir (coconut husks), and is held in a corn starch 'tea bag' which is placed directly into the ground, and which will biodegrade quickly and easily, leaving no trace of anything nasty in the ground after a few weeks. Being 95% peat free also reduces pressure on peat bogs - which are under threat across the British Isles, and which are a unique habitat for flora and fauna.

Using easyGrow means healthier plants, easy to use, better for the planet - what's not to love? Such a simple change but such huge impacts across for the planet! You can buy easyGrow at your local B&Q - find your nearest store here.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Happy Birthday, Isabelle!!

Today my baby girl has turned 1!!! I can't believe it! These last few months she has just sprung up, and is now a beautiful little toddler. It's crazy to look back at pictures of her when she was just born, and to see her now - such huge changes which I never noticed happening.

Since she arrived at 5.54pm on 10th April last year, she has filled our lives with unmeasurable joy, and is the sweetest, funniest, silliest, most beautiful person I know. The little baby cuddles she gives me every day are beyond anything money could ever buy, and I feel so privileged to have this special little lady in my life. She quite literally runs rings around us, and has captured the heart of every single member of our families, and is so lucky to be adored by so many people.

We are spending the day with family, doing all Isabelle's favourite things - swimming, playing with her cousins, eating pasta, pomegranate seeds, rice cakes and porridge to her heart's content! Her birthday party is on Saturday, and I can't wait to share it with everyone, after putting lots of time into making all the different bits and bobs to decorate.

So, to our beautiful, special, clever little girl - the very biggest HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Crafting for Isabelle's birthday party with Baker Ross

I was thrilled recently to be asked to be an official blogger for Baker Ross, a company specialising in top quality arts and crafts supplies. No matter what you are interested in when it comes to crafts, Baker Ross have something for you.

I was really excited to receive my first box of Baker Ross products, and was delighted to find that they were all Easter themed - and many of them were absolutely perfect for Isabelle's birthday party! As we are having a small family party, there will only be a few children there ranging in age from 5 months to 6 years old (and all boys, apart from Izzy!). I hadn't planned on doing much to keep them occupied as they are really good at playing together, and I hadn't planned to give them party bags...but that all changed when I saw the great stuff Baker Ross had sent me.

The first thing that caught my eye was the chick and bunny gift bag kit - what perfect party bags! The kit came with 4 bags (exactly how many I would need as Isabelle and Isaac are too little for party bags), and when I opened it up it had almost everything needed to make some gorgeous bunny and chick gift bags. I say almost everything needed, as you do need some super glue to stick on the bunny ears, and one of my chicks had no eyes - I improvised with a Sharpie! Other than that, the bags were so quick and easy to put together, but look like I have spent lots of time and effort on them! They will be perfect for the boys to pop their little treats from the Easter egg hunt in to before they leave.

For the Easter egg hunt itself, I thought the craft boxes would be perfect to personalise for the kids to find along the way. After using my gold and silver markers to write each child's name onto a box, I filled each one with some shredded paper from Baker Ross, and will pop a little chocolate egg inside as well.

If the weather isn't on our side and we get stuck indoors, I think that the Easter gift box kit will be great to keep the 3 older boys entertained, while the very cute Easter and spring themed sponges will keep Isabelle and Brandon busy - using her Aquadoodle instead of paint for these under 2s.

The last thing I have earmarked specially for Isabelle's party are the lovely Easter sprinkles. These sparkly little pieces of Easter themed confetti will be perfect to decorate the table, and also to put inside the clear balloons to add a little something special and sparkly to the balloon bunches.

So, now Isabelle's party will have that extra little touch of handmade crafts, both made by me and by the kids themselves. Baker Ross have a huge selection of Easter crafts to keep everyone busy this Easter - from little people like Isabelle to big people like me.

I have plenty more in my Baker Ross box to share with you over the next few weeks in the run up to Easter, so keep you eyes peeled for what I get up to, and check out Baker Ross to get some Easter crafts of your very own.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Keep everyone busy this Easter with Home Bargains

As a teacher (in my pre-baby life), I have spent my entire life looking forward to the next set of school holidays - in recent years probably more so than school children! But, I have lots of memories of the school holidays seeming to drag on forever, and getting duller every day.

This Easter, you can make sure your little people don't feel the same, by keeping them busy with the piles of Easter crafts and goodies available from Home Bargains. Until recently, I had never been inside Home Bargains, and now I am absolutely hooked! They are one of those shops that just seem to sell exactly what you need, and when I wanted a bubble machine for Isabelle I knew to head straight there.

So, it comes as no surprise to find that they have a great range of Easter goodies to keep any family busy over the holidays. From arts and crafts, to games, to the traditional Easter chocolate, they have it all!

I was lucky enough to receive a selection of Home Bargains goodies to get us ready for Easter, and I have to say that there are so many little bits and bobs that they offer which I would never even think to look for! Since Isabelle is still a bit young for crafting, I sent a pile of goodies off to Jacob to keep him busy and get him in to the Easter spirit. But, I kept a whole load more for myself - including the tasty chocolate treats and the adorable furry little chick which is Isabelle's newest pal.

I plan on using the Easter Egg Hunt kit and the Egg & Spoon Race kit at Isabelle's birthday party, to provide some activities for the kids, and help get them into the Easter spirit. Each of the kits comes with everything you need to set up the activity, and the Egg & Spoon Race even has some medals for the kids to make to be given out to the winners! I can't wait to set the Egg Hunt up up for the kids, and hope the weather stays nice enough to do it outside. And the cupcake box and cupcake cases will be perfect for making and storing cupcakes ready for Isabelle's big day.

Meanwhile, Jacob has been busy painting eggs, and making cute Easter crafts with the array of feathers, nests, eggs and stickers!

Home Bargains really have something to keep everyone happy this Easter. Let your little people get crafty and make their own Easter bonnet, use the chick bags for an Easter egg hunt, or as party bags for your Easter get together, and let the kids have a riot playing the different Easter themed games, with no hassle in having to set it all up. Let Home Bargains take care of it all, keeping the little people happy and busy, and giving you a chance to relax this Easter - you can check out their website to find yoru nearest store.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Places I see faces...

I do feel a little crazy saying this in case nobody else is the same, but....I SEE FACES! It seems to be that everywhere I look, and in the most everyday of objects, I see a little 'face' staring back at me. Not in a 'a see the Virgin Mary in my Nutella' kind of way, in a 'that looks like two eyes, a nose and a mouth' kind of way. I can't believe I am the only one?

Apparently, the human brain is programmed to recognise faces - which makes sense - so I suppose it is understandable that we pick faces out where there really aren't any. But, still, it's something that never ceases to amuse or amaze me, the fact that I seem to be able to find faces in the most random places. Here are some pictures of places I have seen faces this week...

On this trailer as I drove to our breastfeeding group (this one reminded me of a bear)...

In my mum's candle holders (these faces both look aghast. As I would if someone put a burning candle in my mouth!)

On this (kind of dirty - must get on that) shower switch in our bathroom...

On all our door handles with locks...

In my car...

This is just a little selection from this week. I see faces in houses, I see faces basically everywhere! So, please tell me I am not alone? Do other people see faces in random places too?!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Fun in the sun!

The sun has been out! Hurrah! The weather here over the last two days have been lovely, nice and sunny and, while certainly not hot, pleasantly warm. This, coupled with the buying of Miss Isabelle's very first pair of shoes last week, has meant that she and I have been able to venture out into the garden properly for the first time. She's been out before with me, but never really had a chance to explore as it's been so wet. She has been desperate to get outside since she began to walk - I caught her two weeks ago with one foot on the back step and the other about to go out too! That doesn't sound too bad - but the back step is actually two pretty high paving stone steps, onto a patio - my heart stopped for a fraction of a second! Her walking is still a little wobbly, and she isn't quite ready to master the bark path on her own, but other than that she has been zipping round like a little rocket.

Yesterday, though, her wish came true, and we ventured outside for some fun. We dined al fresco for lunch, and had a potter about. Today was even better - the sun was blazing and it was slightly warmer, so we were outside all afternoon. After lunch we popped our shoes on, and only came back inside for a quick nap, dinner, and then to go to bed. It has been so nice spending time out in the fresh air, and Isabelle has had a great time pottering about. She seems to love the pegs, so a lot of what she does is centred around the pegs, or she takes a peg with her as she toddles off! It's so funny to think that everything out there is new to her, and so exciting. From the fence to the walls of the house, and the grass to the bench, she is equally fascinated by everything, and it's great to see her enjoying herself and exploring so freely.

Next week is her birthday of course, and we will be getting some lovely outdoor toys - a sand pit, water tray and a paddling pool - so I am hoping that over the next few months we will be able to spend lots more days outside like today.

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