Nurturing Their Dreams

Kid dreaming of being an astronautWhen I was a kid, I was often asked what I wanted to be when I was older. I was a relatively intelligent child and achieved well at school, so from a very young age there were a lot of expectations piled upon me from parents and teachers. Eventually, I passed my 11+ and was sent to a grammar school, where instead of being the brightest in my class, I was one of many clever girls and I hovered somewhere around the middle, in terms of achievement. It was drummed into us from the beginning that we had to constantly have our eye on the distance – end of year exam results dictated which GCSE options we were allowed to take, and we’d need to choose the right GCSE’s to allows us to take the A-Levels we wanted, which in turn were for the purpose of gaining access to the right degree course at the right university.

I was, and still am, a fairly shiftless person. My big dream when I was little was to be an Astronaut – sounds far fetched, but I intended to join the RAF out of sixth form and gain University sponsorship from them, with the hope of going on to train to be a pilot. Once I was told that I had zero chance of flying a plane because of my horrendous eyesight, I went into something of a tailspin. I could never really pinpoint what I wanted to be, and the thought that my career would define the rest of my life never sat well with me anyway.

I can’t help but wonder if my childhood intelligence (which, I have to say, seems considerably dulled by age) is part of the problem. I remember, for a long time, thinking that I’d be a hairdresser when I got older, except when I expressed this to my parents, I was told “You’re too clever to be a hairdresser”. This became a running theme in my adolescence and my passions were trampled under the weight of what I ‘should’ have been doing with my brain. Drama became my new passion and I was pretty good at it, too. I’m fairly extroverted and love performing but once again, it wasn’t considered cerebral enough. I was allowed to take Drama at A-Level, but only as a concession because I took four other ‘serious’ subjects (Chemistry, Biology, English Literature and English Language).

As it stands, I flunked out of sixth form; the mounting pressure got too much and I found myself being anywhere but the lessons I was supposed to be attending. I can’t help but wonder if I’d have been more inclined to attend if I’d not been steered towards subjects that I didn’t really want to take?

Sausage is an incredible kid, with a great imagination, huge intellect (she’s currently reading books at home which are for 8-year-olds, because her school books aren’t challenging enough) and artistic flair. She’s got the potential to be anything she wants to be, but I remind myself almost daily that the key part of that sentence is “SHE WANTS”. We spend so much time telling our kids that they can be anything they want to be and then second guessing their choices because they don’t sit well with our plans for their lives and it’s about time we stopped being so bloody arrogant.

Just this morning, Sausage told me that we wanted to be a nail technician and masseuse. One side of my brain said “That won’t earn you much money. You’ve got so much more potential than that. Why don’t you do that as a hobby, instead?”, but I managed to stop myself from saying it out loud. I adjusted my brain and instead thought “If that’s what makes you happy, then I’ll support you”. And, isn’t that what’s important? Supporting our kids in their choices and nurturing their happiness?

It is to us, at least.

How To Not Be a Baby Bore

Baby bore…baby BOAR! Geddit? Oh, never mind…

When my BFF had her eldest child, 4 and a half years ago, I remember something she said to me as though it were yesterday. She said “Bernard and I are not going to become too ‘baby-centric’ once this one is born” (Her OH isn’t actually called Bernard but, you know, I’m respecting their privacy, yo). Anyway, I distinctly remember thinking “Yeah, good luck with that…”, because that’s what happens, isn’t it? Once the baby comes along, that’s ALL you ever get to talk about until roughly the age that they start to grow facial hair.

Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration, but the problem is, it creates a monster. I’m so used to expecting people to ask me about the baby that I pre-emptively answer non-baby questions with massively baby-centric answers. No longer is “How are you?” responded to with a simple “Fine, thanks”. Now, my answer usually contains a run-down of how many hours sleep BB has allowed me to have the night before, or whether or not she’s had a 4 hour screaming episode in the last 24 hours.

So bogged down have I become, that I forget that I’m a person in my own right, away from the adorable miniature human who I had removed from me a couple of months ago. And, I mean, it’s normal – when your (almost) every waking moment is consumed with keeping another being alive, it’s going to affect the way you think.

But, and I’m sorry if I’m letting down the Mummy Sisterhood by saying this, it’s really boring, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s ‘second child syndrome’ because when Sausage was born I could wax lyrical for HOURS about which brand of nappy was best, or the best way to solve constipation. This time, however, it’s not such a novelty. Don’t get me wrong, BB is TOTALLY a novelty (when she isn’t screaming…) and I’m just as in love with her as I was with Sausage when she was born. It’s just all the other crap that I’m bored with.

It goes without saying that I adore my kids, “more than anything in all of the universes” as I tell them (and yes, I do mean plural – we’re multiverse theorists in this house), but does that mean I want to talk about them in EVERY. SINGLE. CONVERSATION? No, it does not. I’m perfectly happy to talk to friends and family about the kids when they ask, but when every random stranger in the street is asking me about them too? It gets really tiresome. Sometimes, I get to the end of the day and I feel like every single conversation I’ve had that day has been baby-related. When is someone going to talk to me about something else?!

People mean well, I get it, and it’s nice, it really is. But it’s turning me into a baby bore, so I’ve devised a list of tips to live by:

1. If someone says “How are you?” DO NOT reply with the phrase “I’d be a lot better if the baby slept more/screamed less/didn’t need me to manually help them pass the poo from their body because they’re constipated”

2. If you can, try to take at least five minutes a day to look at a newspaper or watch something current-affairsy on TV so that when you hear someone talking about the situation in Syria your only thought isn’t that it must be something to do with a massive rise in the price of nappies.

3. When you look in the mirror, try not to focus on the eye-bags and saggy, deflated tummy, or anything else that reminds you that you’re a Mum. Try to think about the bits you like…or the bits your other half likes!

4. If you get a chance, listen to some grown-up music. You may secretly quite like the Frozen soundtrack or the music from Rastamouse, but there’s nothing quite like the Wu Tang Clan to remind you that you’re an adult in your own right, away from being a mother.

5. If all else fails, walk around the supermarket in headphones. There’s no clearer “I don’t want to chat to you” sign than that and it should repel every well-meaning octogenarian within a 5 mile radius.

Durex Real Feel Review

32680_DUREX_real_feel_pack_home_landingOkay, so my blog usually focuses on family life, so a review of condoms is a bit of a far cry from my usual content, but since BB was born I’ve not had a chance to arrange a more permanent form of contraception, so the opportunity came along at just the right time. Durex Real Feel condoms are made from a special new material which feels as close to the real thing as you’re going to get whilst being protected and the best part is, they’re latex free. Here’s me, talking about them a little bit more:

 

 

Durex has a dedicated site for their Real Feel condoms, and there’s a whole bunch of other bloggers over their talking about their experiences with the product, so do head over there to get the lowdown on what everyone else thought of them, as well as all of the ‘technical specifications’!

Easter at Thorntons

When I was pregnant, Thorntons Diabetic chocolate was just about the only thing that kept me sane, so when they got in touch and asked if we’d like to review some of their Easter eggs, we jumped at the chance. Yesterday morning, the postman turned up with this:

Thorntons Easter Eggs

Okay, so it may not be Easter quite yet, but we’ve been sampling the eggs already, strictly in the name of reviewing (ugh, my job is SO hard). The chocolate sheep and bunny lollies that you can see at the front are perfect for a smaller child and taste delicious. The Hopalot bunnies are also great for the littlies as they’re super Eastery (that’s totally a word…) without being too massive and getting them all hopped up (HOPPED up, geddit?!) on sugar.

The plain eggs are gorgeously simple, while the Super Scooter and Shining Star eggs are great for older kids who still want to get involved with the egg-giving traditions – and let’s face it, who doesn’t  like being given chocolate?!

My favourite egg was the big Special Toffee egg in the middle. The egg itself is set with tiny shards of toffee, and also comes with a slab of toffee in the box; the whole thing feels deliciously grown-up. Of course, being Thorntons, the chocolate in all of the eggs was excellent quality and everything we were sent both look and tasted amazing. I must admit, when I’m buying eggs for Easter, I usually end up going to the supermarket and doing some sort of multi-buy deal on branded eggs which contain some novelty item or another with a tiny, bland egg inside. However, after trying Thorntons eggs, I think this will be my new go-to shop for Easter treats.

They also do a whole range of other eggs, including smaller, brightly wrapped chocolate eggs which are perfect for Easter egg hunts, a great activity for getting the kids outside in the sunshine on a beautiful spring day.

Spring Cake Pops with Renshaw Baking

logoWhen the people at Renshaw Baking got in touch and asked if we’d like to enter their competition to make some Spring-inspired cake pops, Sausage and I jumped at the chance as it seemed like a great activity for the Easter holidays. Our bundle of goodies arrived in the post and included the following:

200g Colour Melts Blue Tub, 200g Colour Melts Green Tub, 200g Colour Melts Pink Tub, 200g Colour Melts Red Tub, 200g Colour Melts White Tub, 200g Colour Melts Yellow Tub, 250g of flower and modelling paste, 130g of Multi-Coloured Sprinkles,165g of Multi-Coloured Hundreds and Thousands

We decided to make our lives easier by using a bag of pre-mixed sponge mixture and ready-made icing, so it was just a case of chucking the cake into a bowl with some milk and egg, baking it and then crumbling it into a bowl once cooked and cooled. We added the icing, spoon by spoon until we’d achieved a good ratio of cake:icing and a pleasant consistency (which can ONLY be judged by tasting copious amounts as you go along. Ahem…) Sausage and I decided to use all of the melts and just wing it, hoping that something beautiful would happen spontaneously. Here are our results:

IMG_20140413_182900

What I will say here is that making cake pops is NOT as easy as it looks! Here’s how we did it, along with some handy tips:

1. Once you’ve mixed your cake and icing and achieved a good consistency (not too sloppy as it needs to bind well into balls) you’ll need to roll it into balls using your hands. Remember to remove any rings as they’ll end up very cakey and will hinder your ability to roll good balls.

2. Make sure your balls aren’t too big. When we first started rolling, we made our balls about the same size as a golf ball, but this was FAR too big and when you put them on the sticks, the cake balls slide down under their own weight. We then halved them and they were perfect.

3. When you melt your colour melts, give them an extra few seconds to make sure they’re slightly runnier as  otherwise when you dip your cake, the weight of the melts will pull the cake off of the stick if it’s too thick.

We were pretty easy-going about decorating our pops, trying different colour combinations as we went and the first few were disastrous, but I think our successful pops were pretty cool, and definitely reminiscent of spring! We also bought some edible flower decorations and stuck them into the melts just before they completely solidified and the effect was great. We also noticed how much they looked like Foofah from Yo Gabba Gabba, so if you wanted to make some Foofah cake pops for your little one, this is a really easy way to do it!

Have you ever made cake pops before? Do you have any pro-tips to add? Let us know.

Blog Your Heart Out

image

One of my favourite bloggers in the whole world, Sonya from The Ramblings of a Formerly Rock and Roll Mum, has tagged me in a meme (ooh, I do love a good meme…) where I have to answer some questions about blogging. So, here goes…

Who/What encouraged you to start blogging?

I started blogging when Sausage was 2, back in 2010 – I was still in the grips of postnatal PTSD, spending a lot of time shut indoors, scared of the outside world. I somehow stumbled on some American blogs while trawling the internet during one of Sausage’s nap times, and thought “I could do that”. I’ve always been an over-sharer and it seemed like it could be really cathartic for me.

How did you choose what to blog about?

I don’t think I ever did, to be honest! This blog has always just been a random selection of whatever falls out of my head and onto the keyboard. I’m the sort of person who would get bored of only writing about one topic and even now, I still toy with starting new blogs to have somewhere to write about other things which may not quite fit with my site.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

That’s a tough one…over-sharer here, remember?! Erm…okay…I did belly dancing for two years in my early 20′s and actually got pretty good at it. I performed in a few proper shows and even trained with a couple of world-renowned professional belly dancers.

What three words describe your style?

Hopefully entertaining, yeah?

What do you love to do when you are not blogging?

These days its mostly an elaborate juggling act of trying to care for Burrito Baby, spend time with Sausage, earn some money, stop the house from looking like a squat (and mostly failing) and trying to squeeze in some quality time with Husband (which usually means me falling asleep in front of The Sopranos). The elusive balance! I really want to start writing more, about different things, and I’ve had the basis of a novel in my head for a while now so this might be the year that I finally get started on that, too.

Now for the tagging! I nominate the following bloggers to Blog their Hearts Out:

Ruth at Dorky Mum
Emma at The Syders

Tips for Bottlefeeding

tips for bottlefeedingWith the current Government push to encourage breastfeeding, it seems like ‘bottle’ has become a dirty word. Midwives and Health Visitors aren’t supposed to dole out information regarding bottle-feeding, in case it goes against the ‘Breast is Best’ ethos and even formula milk adverts have to make a big deal of saying “OBVIOUSLY we recommend breastfeeding…”. However, for many families, it’s not that simple and breastfeeding isn’t an option, for whatever reason. For me, being pro-choice is about so much more than the right to certain medical procedures – it’s about giving people the choice to live their lives how they choose, and if bottle-feeding is my choice and my kids are well nourished, surely that’s all that matters?

It occurred to me that there’s a whole load of breastfeeding tips and resources out there, but not so much for us bottlies, so I though I’d share my top tips for bottlefeeding here.

  • Preparedness is key – I tend to sterilise all of BB’s bottles at once (we currently have 12) and fill them with the correct amount of boiled water. This way, I just have to add the right amount of scoops when she’s ready for a feed. It makes everything quicker and stops her going into full hungry-meltdown when I don’t feed her fast enough!
  • If you use a brand of formula which comes in a round tin, or doesn’t have the handy bit inside to flatten off your scoop of powder, keep the scoop from an old tin and use the handle to flatten off instead. It saves having to find a clean knife every time you make a bottle.
  • Stopping to wind your baby after every ounce or two, rather than trying to do one big winding session at the end, can really reduce the amount of trapped wind that builds up and could save a lot of pain and tears for baby.
  • Keep them upright for at least half an hour after feeding is a good rule of thumb for all bottle-fed babies, not just those with colic or reflux, so a good sling can be a good investment.
  • Make sure you’re using the right teat. Sometimes, if the teat is too small your baby will swallow too much air or simply exhaust themselves with all the effort it takes to suck. By the same token, if the teat has too big a hole, they’re going to overwhelm themselves with more milk than they can swallow. Also, if you’re using a pre-thickened milk for reflux or hungry babies, bear in mind that the milk is denser and will need a bigger teat (if you’re using Tommy Tippee bottles, their Variflow teats are excellent for thicker milk).
  • When feeding, make sure that the teat is full of milk at all times, and adjust your feeding angle accordingly if it’s not as a half-empty teat could lead to too much air being swallowed and the dreaded trapped wind build-up.
  • Muslins are your friend. BB is a bit of a messy feeder so I tend to put a bib on her and keep a muslin wedged under her as well to catch the bits that don’t land on the bib. They also come in handy to cover yourself with when you’re winding baby so you don’t have to change your top 5 times a day!
  • Try different positions when winding – lots of people hold baby against their body when winding, but sometimes I’ll sit BB with her bottom on my knee, resting her head in my left hand and patting her back with my right. It really helps her to move the wind and sometimes the change of position alone will be enough to get a big burp out of her.
  • If baby falls asleep during feeds, don’t assume that they’re full. BB often dozes off and uses the teat of her bottle to suckle like a dummy, but as soon as I try to take it away she’ll latch on and suck properly again! If they’re really asleep but only part way through a bottle, try winding them, changing their nappy or getting them into a different position and it may re-invigorate their interest.

If you’re a bottle-feeder and have any tips for Mum’s the Word’s readers, please leave us a comment below.

Also, don’t forget – Mum’s the Word has been nominated for a Best Pregnancy Blogger award in the MADs! If you’d like to vote for us, please go here: MAD Awards voting form

Living With a Baby Who Cries a Lot

crying-babySausage was a very quiet, chilled out baby. People often commented how little she cried and how she always seemed so content. The same cannot be said for Burrito Baby. BB has been dealing with a horrid combination of reflux, constipation and colic. Her special reflux milk causes constipation. The Infacol worsens the reflux. No one can tell us what causes colic but it all just seems to be a vicious circle which conspires to keep our baby in pain. Babies who are in pain cry. A lot.

Living with a baby who cries a lot makes you feel like you’re failing as a parent. 

Living with a baby who cries a lot means that every moment when they aren’t crying feels like a small victory. 

Living with a baby who cries a lot means that although every moment when they aren’t crying feels like a small victory, you live in a state of anxiety because it could start all over again at any moment. 

Living with a baby who cries a lot means that you feel utterly guilty for not being able to soothe their pain.

Living with a baby who cries a lot means that you feel utterly guilty for being relieved once they fall asleep. 

Living with a baby who cries a lot means that you’ll try just about anything to stop them from crying. 

Living with a baby who cries a lot means that it’s not unusual to find you bathing them, walking them around the block in their pram, driving them around, pacing around with them in a sling…all at midnight. 

Living with a baby who cries a lot means that you’ll feel closer to the end of your tether than you’ve ever felt before.

Living with a baby who cries a lot means that you feel as though your heart is going to break when you look at their pained, pleading face and realise you don’t know how to help them.  

Living with a baby who cries a lot means that you feel as though you can’t go on, that you’ve got nothing left to give…

but you do go on. 

You find that shred of resolve that’s hiding deep inside you and you go on, and eventually the crying stops, and although you feel as though you have pins and needles in your brain you use the quiet time to mend your weary soul so that you have what it takes to deal with the crying, if and when it starts all over again. 

BB has now been given Ranitidine for her reflux, which seems to helping. We’re so sick of seeing her in pain and feeling like nothing we do is helping, but we’re really hoping this will help her turn a corner. Dealing with this has made me realise how hard single-parenthood must be at times like this, and I’m hugely thankful that I have Husband on my team, doing late-night walks around the block with BB when nothing else will settle her.

Team Crammond vs. reflux – We will win.

Why My MAD Blog Awards Nomination Means More to Me Than You Could Imagine…

MAD Blog Awards

Last week, the finalists of the MAD Blog Awards were announced and I was absolutely blown away to find out that Mum’s the Word had been shortlisted in the ‘Best Pregnancy Blog’ category. This meant that not only had people read my posts about being pregnant with BB but they’d enjoyed them enough to nominate me for an award. That, in itself, is incredible and I can honestly say that I’m grateful to have even got this far. However, there’s a couple more reasons why being nominated for a pregnancy blogging award means so much to me.

When I met Husband in early 2006, I didn’t want kids. Or, what I should really say is that I’d managed to convince myself that I didn’t want kids. I’d suffered with gynaecological issues since the age of eleven and was told that my irregular periods and polycystic ovaries meant that it would be very difficult, and potentially impossible to conceive. My barriers went up and instead of allowing my body to dictate what my future held, I tried to regain some control by telling myself that a childless future was a conscious decision.

Meeting Husband threw a spanner in the works. He didn’t want kids either to begin with but eventually our love for each other meant that we both came around to the idea. We knew it would be difficult and could potentially end in disappointment but we took a ‘let’s see what happens’ approach.

It took about a year, but eventually we struck gold. If you’ve read Mum’s the Word for a while, you’ll probably know that my first pregnancy was a nightmare and my first birth even worse. In fact, the trauma of what happened was so great that I vowed never to have any more children. I suppose, in a way, the trauma is also what led me to start blogging – I was depressed and felt isolated, so I decided to give myself a way to pour my thoughts out.

In the meantime, I also started Maternity Matters with Susanne from Ghostwriter Mummy, a place to collate news, birth stories and other maternity related posts, our attempt to help other parents who’d been traumatised like us. It was a resource for lots of parents, but I think on a more personal level it was an attempt by both of us to draw something positive from what had been a dark time in our lives.

Life went on and Sausage grew into an amazing little human. A human who, eventually, started asking for a sibling. It took Husband and I a long time to come around to the idea of having any more kids, but ultimately we decided that we wanted to try. It must have been something that was definitely meant to happen as it took less than 2 months after having my implant removed for me to fall pregnant again! I hadn’t started my blog until Sausage was 2, so this was my first time blogging a pregnancy.

Nothing was straightforward and between potentially heartbreaking decisions, worsening gestational diabetes, crippling SPD, high blood pressure and a long stay in hospital I’ve had plenty to write about over the last 11 months! On top of this, we’ve been sent some amazing products, as well as being chosen to be ambassadors for Britax and MAM, and also been asked to write for other parenting sites too. Pregnancy seemed to bring with it a host of opportunities.

But, you see, it’s not the nomination, or the freebies, or the opportunities which make this so amazing (although they are obviously a HUGE deal), its the fact that I sit here with my biggest baby, my incredible big girl who is so brave and clever on one side of me and my tiny baby with lungs like Pavarotti on the other side of me, both sleeping soundly and that never in a million years did I think that I’d be blessed with not one, but two kids. Pregnancy was not something that was supposed to happen for me, but not only did it happen twice, I’ve been nominated for an award for writing about it.

And that, my friends, is a miracle.

If you’d like to vote for Mum’s the Word to win Best Pregnancy Blogger at the MAD Blog Awards, please go HERE to vote. Also, you can see the list of other nominees in my category below.

Circus Queen

Edspire

It Started with a Squish

Me the Man and the Baby

The Pronoun Game

We’re still at that stage where we can’t walk more than 10 feet without someone sticking their head into the pram and cooing over BB, which obviously becomes exponentially worse in Waitrose because the main demographic of shoppers is already drawing a pension and therefore are drawn to small babies like a fly to the proverbial ‘you know what’. It’s sweet that people are so nice and want to pass on that positivity, even if answering the same 3 questions (“Yes, she’s very little.” “She’ll be 6 weeks on Monday” “She sleeps brilliantly for a newborn, yes”) does get a little tiresome at times.

But today, I went renegade. I battled against conformity and threw everyone through a loop. I took BB out dressed…IN BLUE! This, so be specific:

IMG_20140317_145212

It’s a hand-knitted cardie that used to belong to Sausage and she was wearing it with a red babygrow,

I immediately noticed a change.

“OH! Isn’t she beautiful!” instead became “OH! Isn’t your baby lovely!”

Because, by dressing her in blue, I somehow seem to have challenged the gender perceptions of the septuagenarian population of Essex. They could see the pink blanket, my very pink changing bag but the addition of blue knitwear made everyone err on the side of caution. It made me think about MY perception of gender. If I saw a baby dressed head-to-toe in pink, I’d automatically assume it was female, but would a parent not have as much right to dress a little boy in pink, as I do to dress BB in blue?

I’m constantly telling Sausage that pink isn’t just for girls, girls can play with cars and Meccano if they want to. Just yesterday, Husband and I were telling her what it is to be transgender and that some people may appear to physically be one gender but actually feel like they’re something completely different. But how can I expect my daughter to understand gender issues when I buy into them myself?

And then, it occurred to me.

The reason people play the pronoun game is so as not to cause offence. People say ‘your baby’ or ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ because they think it would be rude to guess wrongly at a baby’s gender. But…why? I guess parental pride could play a part, plenty of parents would find it offensive if someone guessed wrongly at the gender of their little darling, but that seems crazy to me. Sure, some babies really do look overtly masculine or feminine, but let’s face it, most of them are fairly neutral.

We need to stop treating gender as some hot-button of embarrassment and quit being so ridiculous about it. Dress your boys in pink and your girls in blue – colours shouldn’t automatically signify gender, they should be accessible to all, and when a myopic old lady calls your little dude “she”, laugh it off. It’s really not the end of the world, is it?!

What do you think? Would you be cross if someone got your child’s gender wrong? Do you dress your baby in the ‘wrong’ colours for its gender? Let me know!