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

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Summer crafts to keep kids busy

Summer is here! In Northern Ireland, the schools have officially shut up shop for the year, with kids and teachers alike free to roam for the next 7/8 weeks and enjoy the great weather we've been having. doubt the weather isn't going to stay great for the next 8 weeks. So, what can you do on the days when the rain pours down, and everyone is stuck inside? Well, crafts are always a winner! No matter what age your kids are, there is always some art/craft activity they will love, and which will keep them busy for a few hours.

Around Easter time, I posted about how great the crafting materials over at Baker Ross are, and after receiving a big box of goodies last week, I delved straight in to test out some bits and bobs, and create some little craft ideas for you and your little ones to make during the holidays.

In my box I got:
- pearlised acrylic paints
- seaside card shapes
- wooden pirate swords
keyring mirrors
ceramic flowers
self adhesive acrylic jewels

So, what did I get up to with them? Well, I decided that with the paints and the ceramic flowers, I would make a few little gifts for Isabelle's grannies and great-grannies, and a thank you gift for a family friend (who bought her a slide for the garden). I painted the ceramic flowers with the acrylic paint and...WHOA! It was so shiny and sparkly - it looks amazing! I never knew that you could get paint so shimmery, and I love it! Once they were dry, I used a gold or silver pen to outline them, and write on the back, and then some paint pens (actually for decorating candles, also from Baker Ross here) to decorate the front of them. They were so easy to paint and decorate - my only hang up (pun intended!) was the fact that the ribbon was already attached, and it meant that I got paint on it in the process. I think it'd be better for the ties to come separately, to be attached when the paint is dry. I guess I could have untied them...

The pictures really don't show the shimmer of the paint well enough! The ceramic flowers are quite delicate, so I would say this activity would be best suited for children 6/7 and upwards.

Next up, I decided to use my swords, paint and jewels to make a little play sword for Isabelle. I had a great time painting it (with my new favourite paint!) and sticking the jewels on. As the are self adhesive, they were really easy to use, and I was impressed that the protective backing came off without having to dig at it with my nails. A simple thing, but it made the whole process much easier. Isabelle gave her sword a good swish round, but overall she wasn't impressed with my handiwork!

This would be a great activity for kids around 4 and upwards. They get to decorate their own sword, and then indulge in some fabulous imaginary, swashbuckling play - what could be better? Add in some fancy dress, and they will be playing happily for hours!

The little sea side cards were great too, although I didn't get a chance to do too much with them. These would be fabulous to take on a plane with some felt tips, or on a caravan holiday for a rainy day - get the kids to decorate their own postcards! A really nice range of seaside shapes - including a crab and a lighthouse - for them to unleash their creative side.

There you have it - a few little crafts to keep kids of all ages busy during the summer holidays. Didn't see anything you like? Check out Baker Ross and I am sure you'll find something for your little ones! Definitely buy some of the pearlised acrylic paint - how I ever lived without it I'm not quite sure!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Ecoegg Competition Winners

Thank you so much to everyone who entered my Ecoegg competition! 

And the 10 lucky winners are...

Frances Sunshine Hopkins
Sue Seppings
Kim Neville
Tracey Peach
Jayne Townson
Leanne Lunn
Hazel Christopher
Kim Plant
Kellyjo Walters
Kay Lou Smith

An email is waiting for you!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Moving up the 'crunchy' scale...

I first heard about coconut oil while researching cloth nappies before Isabelle arrived. I've heard a lot about coconut oil since then - how great it is as a cloth safe nappy cream, and how it can do pretty much anything on the planet, bar sorting out the weather.

Despite that, I never actually bothered to buy any, as I saw it very much as an ideal of the 'totally crunchy' mamas, and didn't think it would really be that useful for me.

Then, last week, a group of other cloth bum mummies in NI were having a chat about coconut oil and I suddenly decided I needed some in my life. Isabelle has had a very persistent little rash on her chin which nothing has been able to shift, and the warm weather means her little bum is sometimes redder than I would like, so after some chat with the more knowledgable mummies, I decided that coconut oil must be bought.

I was totally fleeced by Holland and Barrett, but I did come away with a huge tub of the stuff. Coconut oil is a weird thing - it comes in a jar, and in some cases a bottle, but it's a solid at room temperature. It melts very quickly on your finger to be liberally applied to any part of your body though, so it's been really easy to use.

I think it would be fair to say I am now obsessed with the stuff. It really can be used for almost anything - from bum cream to cooking, from toothpaste to reducing the itch of a bug bite. It's antibacterial, anti-fungal...There is seemingly nothing it can't do! Here is a list of 101 uses of coconut oil, just in case you're curious...

So far I have applied it at every nappy change, leaving Izzy's bum deliciously soft, coconut smelling, and rash free. I have also been applying it pretty liberally to her chin as well, and I definitely think it has helped start to clear up her little rash. I stuck a whack into her bath these evening, and now her skin is perfectly baby soft (and yes, the whole bath is greasy), and I've used it as a lip balm on myself. I have a persistent patch of eczema on my forehead, and after reading it could help with that, I've been rubbing some in to that too.

And we've only been had it for 2 days....

I now feel that this use of coconut oil has moved me up to a whole other scale on the crunchy scale. My little cloth bummed, (extended and exclusively) breastfed, 'baby worn', amber wearing, baby led weaned girl is now also covered in coconut oil. And, as far as I can tell from the very reliable (and hilarious) 'Crappy Moh's Scale of Crunchy Mamas', I am coming in around a 7. But trust me, I don't think I'll be progressing any further at all...

Monday, 23 June 2014

Standing up for yourself...

I would say that it's pretty rare in the 'adult world' that we need to truly stand up for ourselves. It's certainly not something that pops up in my day-to-day life. And so, I think that when a situation arises in which we should stand up for ourselves...sometimes we falter...

So, I am extremely proud to say that today I stood up for myself.

After a very upsetting two weeks, during which I was treated very poorly by someone I have shown nothing but respect to, I stood up for myself. I let the situation linger probably longer than I should have done, but deep down I hoped that this person would seek me out to explain, to maybe even they should have done. But that never came. Moreover, their lack of action in speaking to me meant I found out some 'not-so-great' news from people who assumed I knew because they did....and yet I had not been shown the common courtesy of being told before it became idle gossip.

And I was angry. And upset. And hurt. And pretty darn humiliated too. So I decided I couldn't let it slide, after it plagued me day and night for two weeks. So today, despite my reservations, after two weeks of practise in my head of what I was going to do, and various idle threats about strangling/murdering/keying cars....I stood up for myself.

Luckily, when I went to speak to this person, I wasn't standing alone. I went in by myself, but I knew I had the support of many others behind me - my friends, my family, my husband. People who knew the situation first hand supported me, those who heard it only through me supported me. And so I didn't go in alone, not really.

And, I am proud to say, not only did I speak to this person, but I did a pretty damn great job of it too! I said everything I wanted to say, and said it eloquently. You know sometimes adrenaline runs away with you and you aren't even 100% sure what you are saying until afterwards? Thankfully, that didn't happen. I had practised enough times that I got it all out perfectly, some bits came together even better in the real thing than they had in my practise runs!

Did I get an apology? Or an explanation? Well...what do you think? I got nothing. In fairness, I did say I wasn't looking for explanations, or reasons, I just wanted to let them know how I felt....but even still. I got nothing, not even a sentence in return.

But tonight, instead of stewing over the situation like I have been for the last 12 nights, I feel content, and at ease with the whole thing.

Most of all, I am proud of standing up for myself, especially to someone who is used to being the top dog, and not having people stand up to them. It won't change my situation, and it won't change the way the person acts in the future, but standing up for myself today meant I was able to reclaim some of my pride and self-esteem from where they trampled on it during the last two weeks.

So overall, I feel like today was a victory for me, and I am so glad that despite my nerves, and reservations, I stood up for what was right today, and I am unbelievably grateful for the support of everyone around me who helped encourage me to do so.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Hello sunshine!

The weather has been lovely here this weekend. Sadly, we've been too sick too really appreciate it, after being struck down with the cold. So we have all been feeling more than a little rough, but luckily Isabelle seems to be recovering now. Since she got it first, hopefully that means Simon and I are going to follow suit soon.

Isabelle spent the day with my parents yesterday while I went to a warehouse sale and picked up some bargains for Christmas and her next birthday! The fabulous Baba Me had a great sale on, and we all had a great day picking out the bargains, then having some shortbread and goodies (and a chat) afterwards.

Today, we've done not a lot at all as we just don't feel well enough. Isabelle has been playing in the sun at home and at Granny and Grandad's - where she loves to play in the new play house Grandad bought her, and ride in the trailer as Jacob drives the tractor! At home she is continually asking for 'Bubble! Bubble!' to be blown, and she looked as cute as a button today in her little dress from Next, which is nice and light and has kept her cool in the heat.

The weather forecast says it is to be even warmer later in the week, so her sun hat, sun cream and summer clothes are at the ready as she is to spend the next few days with Grandad or Daddy while I head off for a few days at work. Just my luck to be stuck inside in the nicest weather of the year!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Are you a negative or positive parent?

Having a toddler is a challenge, every parent knows that. They are constantly pushing their boundaries, simply because they don't yet know what the boundaries are. It's kind of their job to test the waters, and establish what is OK and what isn't.

But that means they do things we think are naughty...even though a lot of the time they don't realise that it is being naughty. For example, Isabelle doesn't know that it's naughty and dangerous to play with the plug sockets, to her they are just something fun and interesting looking.

And that happens a lot. Feeding the dog her lunch, pulling my glasses off (and apart), tearing a page in her book - she doesn't KNOW that these things are wrong, I have to TEACH her that these things aren't quite the correct way to behave.

But, how to go about that? I'm sure other parents get sick of constantly saying "No, don't do, don't touch that, no, no no" - I know that I do. And, personally, I don't think it's good for kids. At the sing and sign class we go to, there is a song that goes like this,
"Don't wipe your nose along the sofa,
don't trap your fingers in the door.
You shouldn't, you mustn't, you can't do that!
And don't eat that biscuit from the floor!'

Personally, I hate the song. Imagine having a song for toddlers which is based on telling them what they can't do, and what they are doing wrong. It's so negative, and for such tiny people. I know the song is only light hearted, and that it doesn't really mean much, but it's just the whole idea behind it that we are constantly saying NO, DON'T to our kids which sits uncomfortably with me. I also think that overuse of any word makes it pretty ineffective and meaningless, and if a child hears no all day, they will just tune it out.

As a teacher, we get told about positive behaviour management - how to encourage positive behaviour to try and get the outcome we want, rather than constantly be discouraging negative behaviour. And I think that that is a great way for me to parent as well. I don't want to be negative all the time, telling her no 100 times a day. Instead, I want to try and encourage her positive behaviour, by telling her when she does stuff correctly, or when she has done a good job with something. I want to allow her to explore her boundaries so that she can learn for herself when something isn't a great idea, instead of me telling her. So, I let her put stones in her mouth, and I let her bang her head on the furniture (really, she does that), and I let her do things that my initial instinct would be to yell 'NO!' to. Sometimes I tell her "I don't think that is a great idea", but ultimately I think it's important that she learns some of these things for herself. She knows stones aren't tasty, she knows that it will hurt her head to bang it...those aren't things she can learn just from me telling her, they are things she learnt for herself by making mistakes. So, I try to be positive, and I try to be patient as she learns things for herself.......

But, let's be realistic, all this positive parenting is great in theory, but if my child has her fingers half way into a plug socket, I can't not say "No!". While many things she can learn by doing for herself in a safe environment, some things are just too dangerous. And sometimes, she is just too little to be allowed to do something, or she doesn't have the understanding to realise that even if she does it, she shouldn't.

So, sometimes, no is needed. But, I don't think NO is enough. And, despite the fact that I will admit I have said it to many of my pupils in the past, the reason "Because I said so" isn't really a great reason is it? I heard a story recently about a little girl of about 10 who kept being told "Don't, no, don't touch that, stop it!" until she turned around and, rather impolitely, questioned the authority and reasoning behind those requests. The point of the story was about how shocking it is for a 10 year old to be so confrontational and precocious, but all I could think was "Good for her!".

If somebody told you not to do something, would you just stop, and accept that? I doubt it. Natural curiosity would make us say "Well...why can't I?" You would expect an explanation, and I think that explaining to little people why they can't do something is one way to get around the negativity, and also a way in which we can show them that - despite their limited years - we respect them.

Instead of just saying "No, Isabelle!", I try to say something like "Don't do that, or it will really hurt you" or "No, that is dangerous!". I know that she doesn't understand everything I say, but one day she will understand, and I think it's important for us to be set in our ways for when she does.

It can seem that it was a toddler's mission to arrive on earth simply to test your patience, and there is no denying that after saying "Don't do that, it will break the toy" four times I am more likely to just say "NO!" firmly as I run out of patience. But, I would like to think that those times are in the minority, and my more positive approach to parenting and behaviour management is the normal in our house hold.

Is anyone else sick of saying 'No!' all the time? What do you do about it?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Review: Tots Bots Bamboozle Stretch

Another cloth bum review today. I was recently advised to try these out by the most experienced cloth mumma I know, who said they were her all time favourite nappy. When they dropped to half price in Tesco, I had to give in and get a few to try!

Tots Bots Bamboozles

A bamboo fitted nappy, in velcro fastening, with a snap in booster, which comes in three sizes:
Size 1: 6-18bs
Size 2: 9-35lbs 
Size 3: 35lbs+

It's probably true to say that fitted nappies are amongst the most bulky. But I find the Bamboozle Stretch is a very slim fitted nappy. I use size 2, which are almost BTP, and find it so easy to get a great fit thanks to the rise poppers and velcro waist. They fit nice and snugly, and have a wide crotch which is my personal preference. 


Second to none. Isabelle is a power wee-er, and these contain her pee no problem. They are unbelievably absorbent, and the only nappy I don't have to additionally boost. With the booster provided, I can easily get 3 hours, which is unheard of in our household. Most often, the whole nappy isn't even wet when I take it off! 
Solids containment is great as well, as the elastic is nice and strong, although nice and soft too.
That said, as with any fitted, containment is really only as great as your wrap and your wrap 'putting on' skills!

Ease of use:
Everyone in my family can use these - so they are very simple to use! The only issue they may cause to people is that they have to have a wrap over the top to make them waterproof, and if you don't fit that well, the nappy will leak out the side. But we have never had any issues. Simply layer a liner inside, and off we go!

Quality and Appearance:
Quality is absolutely superb, by far the best Tots Bots nappy, in my opinion.
One thing which makes these nappies stand out from the crowd is that they come in colours - which most fitted nappies don't. I used to think it was pointless since you cover it with your wrap, but since getting my own, I love it! It's so nice to not have to have boring white coloured fitted - the colours just add a bit more fun. They also come in 3 great stripy patterns, and I think they look wonderful. They do come in 'natural' colour too, for those traditionalists.

Pretty comparable with the closest competitor, but slightly more than many other fitted nappies. Size 1 nappies start at £10.99, and size 2 start at £11.99. Since you also need to buy a wrap, this raises the cost of using the system.

Bug bears:
The bamboo is amazingly absorbent...which means it's another slow drier. They take up to 3 days inside in winter. I am also not the biggest fan of how the blue nappy managed to dye some of my organic cotton in it's first wash, despite a colour catcher being used!

It's a 4.5/5 from me for these nappies. These are a new staple in my household, and I just wish I had bought a load when we first started, as I adore them. They are so absorbent, and look great in their lovely colours. Soft and generally lovely! The only slight issue is the drying time but we can't have it all, can we?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Review: bumGenius Elemental

It's been ages since I've done a cloth review which, considering how much I've been buying and selling, is definitely shocking! I'm hoping to get back to doing one a week...

Today's review is of the bumGenius Elemental nappy. BumGenius are a HUGE brand in the cloth nappy world and, for that reason, I was a little reluctant to buy into the hype when I first started cloth bumming. Then, I tried out the Freetime nappy (review coming soon) and adored it but, as Isabelle got older I found I needed more absorbency....enter the Elemental. The new style of Elemental nappy was released in 2013, and although I was initially a bit dubious about them, after buying some more I have totally fallen in love.

bumGenius Elemental

A birth to potty all-in-one nappy with snap closure. The absorbent inner is made of 6 layers of organic cotton. 

These are the slimmest nappies I have ever tried out, even when boosted. They have the patented bumGenius stretchy tabs which help get a great fit at the waist, and I have had Isabelle on a small waist setting for the entire time we've used these (since she was 6 months) so there is plenty of growing room.


For wee, this is just incredible. They are insanely absorbent, and unless left on for a ridiculous length of time, or fitted wrongly, I can't see how they would leak any wee.
Great solids containment as well, thans to the really strong, but soft, leg elastics and waist elastic.

Ease of use:
As an AIO they are pretty simple to use. The only thing which seems to cause issue is that the organic cotton section is sewn in at both ends, and so needs to be folded for smaller babies, which people seem to find tricky. For Isabelle, I simply need to stick a liner in and off we go!

Quality and Appearance:
Excellent quality, a truly superior nappy in my opinion. They come in the traditional range of bumGenius colours and prints, including Limited Edition prints. I'm not usually the biggest fan of the bG colours and prints, but there are a few I adore and am happy to have lots of. With a large range of colours there is definitely something for everyone.

Ok, so this is the sticky bit...they are £17.95 - more if you want a print. That's a heck of a lot of money, and it really put me off buying them to begin with. But they really are worth it. I have sold almost everything else I own to buy these, because they work so well. And they hold their value superbly. They are very rare to find preloved at the minute, so they are sold for almost RRP even when used! 

Bug bears:
The organic cotton is wonderfully absorbent...and so it takes ages to dry. If I dry inside in winter, it can take up to 3 days....

It's a 4.5/5 from me for these nappies. The only slight problem is the drying time but, to be honest, it really doesn't fuss me that much. I was initially a massive sceptic about these nappies, but have definitely been converted, and would recommend them highly to everyone!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Are you the type of mummy you thought you'd be?

Are you the type of mummy you thought you'd be? If you're anything like me, you thought about having a little person, and how that would change your life, how you would respond to that change by becoming a parent and what 'type' of parent you would be.

I really dislike using terms to describe types of parenting, simply because I believe that all parents take a little bit from here and there and combine it to form a truly unique parenting style that suits them. Despite this, it would be true to say that I subscribe to many of the 'attachment parenting' views, and see myself as that the of mummy.

Is that the type of mummy I thought I'd be? Not in a million years. As a little example, I always imagined how much fun I would have pushing a buggy (which now gets used for the odd dog walk!), and seeing myself changing Pampers bums (I don't know if you've heard I use cloth?!)  If you told me 3 years ago if I would be a cloth bumming, baby wearing, extended breastfeeding, amber using type of mummy, I'd have laughed and told you people who do those things are a little bit bananas, and I would never be a hippy like them.

But then, as Isabelle's arrival loomed and I started to read online forums I realised that many of the more 'traditional' parenting aspects didn't sit that comfortably with me, and the style of parenting I thought suited our family most was attachment parenting. And not just for the things mentioned above - those are the more 'superficial' parts of AP. Instead, I believe in that type of parenting because I believe it describes accurately the way I want to raise Isabelle, and have our relationship develop. But as I said, I don't really like using a label - we simply parent as we see fit.

Since Izzy's arrival, I have had the privilege of meeting lots and lots of mummies across Northern Ireland, and becoming friends with some wonderful ladies. Some of them, like me, are on their first baby, and some are on their second or more. I always find it really interesting that many describe the experience of their first baby as being so different to how they are dealing with the second in terms of their parenting style. It seems that many people don't find what sits most comfortably with them, or realise what type of parenting they really feel fits their family, until the reach baby number 2. Then, it would seem that many mummies tweak and change their parenting style to a 'type' of parenting with which they feel more comfortable. And I know quite a few mummies who wish they had 'discovered' their true style of parenting early on with number one.

One of the biggest compliments I have ever had was a simple passing comment from a friend at a baby class. We had been chatting about how when you have a baby you become public property as everyone feels they have a right to comment on your parenting, and I had said that while other people may not agree with the way we raise Isabelle, they could suck it up as that was our choice. My friend just smiled and said "I wish I had been as confident in my style parenting when I had my first as you are with how you are raising Isabelle."

I was so amazed that someone with much more parenting experience than I have would have any reason to admire my own parenting. She went on to explain that she was one of the people who wish they had done things differently with her first, and not given in to 'peer pressure' from those around her, and how she didn't truly find her real style of parenting until number 2 came along.

Who know, maybe if/when Simon and I have another baby, we will decide that the way we have raised Isabelle isn't quite right for us after all, and we would like to move towards another style of parenting. But, we often chat about how the decisions we've made just feel so right for our family that I really doubt that. No doubt our parenting will change and evolve as we have more babies, but I am pretty sure we will still follow the route we are on. So, even though we may not be the parents we ever imagined, we are very happy with the choices we have made and the 'type' of parenting we have chosen to follow.

What about you? Are you the type of mummy you always envisaged? Or have you found that, actually, something else suits you and your family much better?

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