With all this glorious sunshine, it’s not been at all difficult to entertain two little ones who love being outside. It’s been lovely just to spend time in the garden, and to go to our favourite parks and open spaces.
The paddling pool has been a big hit with both boys, though I can’t believe how small it looks to me now – the last time we had it out we only had an 18/19 month old as opposed to a nearly 2.5 year old and an 8 month old taking up their space in it. With some bath toys in it, this provided hours of fun throughout the week, starting at the weekend when Daddy was around; we’ve had it out both in the garden and on the balcony.
We’ve also had some fun with numbers and letters this sunny week. Andrew is very into them, and he enjoys saying them out loud whenever he sees them written somewhere. One afternoon I took a beaker of water and a paint brush outside and told him that we were going to do some painting. He was excited, and was intrigued to watch me ‘painting’ with water on the bricks of the drive; he then had a go himself, and was fascinated to watch our artwork disappear (pretty quickly in this heat!). We painted a few things on the bricks that were warm in the sun, but his favourite was of course the letters. I heard of this idea a while ago, I think when talking to a friend at a group, but I can’t actually remember who, when or where now. But it provided some cheap and cheerful fun on a sunny day.
One morning we popped up to Anglesey Abbey, our local National Trust property. I blogged about this for Country Kids earlier in the year when it was much colder and Andrew went everywhere with his yellow coat on. Since that time, Andrew has made a new game which we have to play whenever we go, he won’t let me get away without it! There is a path that leads through a part of the gardens with lots of shrubs in, and for each specifies/variety there is a little plaque with a number on next to the plant. I presume there must be some guide book that you can take out with you which tells you what each number is, though we’ve never done that. Andrew’s game is to ride along the path on his bike and shout out all the numbers that he spots on his way. Sometimes they are obvious, and others are hidden under leaves and harder to spot. He would happily go up and down this path all day if he could. Here is (quite a long) video of him playing this fun game!
So that was our week of outdoor fun in the sun. Let’s hope the good weather continues!
Linking up with the fantastic linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog – Country Kids
If there’s one thing that I’ve bought a lot more of at the supermarket since having children, it’s anti-bacterial cleaning products for both our home surfaces and our hands. At home we have laminate floors, which are soooo practical for young children – you can just wipe up any food, drink or nappy-free-time accidents quickly and easily with a muslin cloth and some anti-bac spray – Bob’s your uncle, or bac’s your aunty as we say ;)! When we’re out and about I have some anti-bac hand gel if we’re not able to wash our hands for whatever reason before eating or after nappy changing (for example if we go to the park and do either of those things in the outdoors!) So when the opportunity arose to review some Noroclear products, I was more than happy to give them a go, as I feel we can really put them into action!
What exactly is Noroclear?
We were sent the hygiene pack, which comprises a hand foam, skin wipes and surface wipes. They also make a surface disinfecting spray. According to the Noroclear website, all their products kill 99.99% of superbugs in just one minute, including Norovirus, MRSA, E.coli, Salmonella and H1N! flu. Noroclear was developed for professional medical settings, but now is on sale for domestic use, and it has undergone extensive testing for its effectiveness and stringent dermatological testing (see here for details). I found it interesting to read exactly how the products kill the little blighters of germs – take a look here if you’re interested.
As well as being tough on germs, all the products are kind on skin – they are non-alcohol based and 100% bleach-free. Even better than that, the hand wipes and hand foam contain natural aloe vera for gentle skin conditioning, making them ideal for frequent use and for children.This all sounds good to me.
How did the products fare on our grubby paws and surfaces when out and about?
With the warmer weather recently, we’ve been eating out and about more often, either picnics or cafes. I’ve used the hand foam quite a lot for me after having done an al fresco nappy change or before eating. I love the fact that it is neither greasy nor alcoholic, which other anti-bac hand products that I’ve tried are. Alcohol gels can leave my hands quite dry, but this foam leaves them lovely and soft, and there is no sticky residue, it all soaks in within a minute.
Although Andrew is quite fascinated by the foam, I’ve tended to use the hand wipes on the boys, because they are still too young to do it themselves and I found the wipes easier for me to use on their hands – a moving target – instead of getting foam everywhere that I didn’t want to get it ;). I haven’t seen anti-bac skin wipes before, it’s either been hand gel or surface wipes, so I was glad to have this option when cleaning their hands. Each wipe is large, much larger than I expected, and larger than your average baby wipe. I could easily do two or three sets of grubby hands with one wipe. They felt nice and soft, similar to a good quality baby wipe, and again they didn’t leave any kind of sticky residue.
So far we’ve used the surface wipes less, but they have been useful for wiping high chair tables or the picnic tablecloth-come-mat from which Joel will eat directly without a plate/bowl. They are smaller than the hand wipes, but a strong material which allows you to wipe hard and not put a hole through the wipe whilst you’re doing it. I found that both packs of wipes are easy to open and get just one wipe out at a time, which isn’t always the case with packs of wipes.
What do I get for my money?
The hygiene pack contains a 50ml hand foam, a pack of 20 hand wipes and a pack of 20 surface wipes. The contents come in a little plastic zipped pouch, which keeps the three things together so they don’t get lost in your bag, and the size of this pouch is great as it fits nicely in my change bag’s end pocket for easy access.
The pack costs £12.99 to buy from the Noroclear website. I think this is reasonable for what you get. At first glance I thought it was quite expensive, but then I realised that I’ve only ever bought items like the ones in the pack separately and when I break down the cost, it’s fairly comparable to other branded travel size products like this on the market. Plus Noroclear claims to kill more bugs than other brands, and I would say it’s worth a bit extra for the hand foam as this really is the nicest feeling anti-bac hand stuff that I’ve tried.
Overall I have been very impressed by the Noroclear hygiene pack and I would recommend it if you are out and about with little ones, especially if nappy changing and eating where there may not always be a readily available basin to wash hands.
Disclaimer: I was sent the Noroclear hygiene pack free of charge for the purpose of this review, but all opinions expressed are honest and my own based on our experience of using the products.
I don’t know the answer to this, only my boys do. From early on in Andrew’s life, I said that I wanted him to self-wean rather than me leading. In general I’ve taken a very baby-led approach to parenting, letting them settle into their own rhythms and not setting a routine – though Joel has had to conform a bit more than Andrew did, as his older brother’s pattern (that was drawn on a blank slate) was already set, but he seems to have been easy-going enough to cope with this. Breastfeeding is one aspect of my parenting, and an important one at that.
When I said that I would let Andrew self-wean, I didn’t think for one moment that he would still be enjoying mummy milk at nearly two and a half years old. I assumed that as my supply had been so rubbish in the first 6 months of his life, he would soon give up on me and that would be it. But as he quickly took to solid food, breastfeeding became something he did for comfort, not calories, and therefore it didn’t seem to matter to him that there wasn’t a huge amount. I then thought that he would self-wean during my pregnancy with Joel, again thinking that if my supply had been so rubbish before, then it would be even worse as the hormones caused it to dwindle in preparation for the new baby. I wrote a fair amount about this in my pregnancy diary posts every week on the blog (for example here and here). But he carried on, and it is still important for him now, nearly 8 months into his baby brother’s life.
Andrew doesn’t have loads of milk, and some days it’s more than others, but before bed every night he will have a cuddle and some mummy milk and then Daddy will read a story and say a prayer with him before leaving him in bed to drop off to sleep, which he is very good at. I think this regularity helps him unwind and know that it’s bedtime, and if it’s been a busy day, it’s one time that I know we can reconnect and talk about how the day has been for us.
Joel is now at the stage where solid food is taking up more and more of his daily calorie intake, which seems to be quite a lot as he’s also crawling everywhere so needs lots of energy. He too has taken to solid food well, and the amount of formula that I need to supplement with has gone down drastically in the past month or so. He’s feeding less in the daytime, and has most of his milk intake 5am-7am and 7pm-8pm, as well as a few small feeds here and there in the day alongside his solid food.
As with Andrew, I will let Joel decide himself when he wants to stop breastfeeding. There are some days when Tom (my husband) and I joke that at this rate Andrew will be feeding longer than Joel, mainly because Joel is in that stage of feeding quite a bit less now that he’s on solids so it doesn’t feel like I’m constantly feeding him any more and there is a big difference in how that feels to me.
When I look back at how breastfeeding started with Andrew, it’s hard to believe that we’ve ended up where we are – I have two boys who have healthy appetites and are still enjoying mummy milk. How on earth we ended up here I wonder with amazement, things could have turned out so differently. Before Andrew was born I had no idea that it was even possible to breastfeed a toddler, let alone through another pregnancy, and it didn’t even enter my head why anyone would want to do that. I guess if we hadn’t have hit problems and therefore found help through LLL, I might not have even learned that I don’t *have* to wean my baby at 6 months when they start eating more than milk, like all the prominent books and advertising would have us believe.
Everyone has their own breastfeeding goals, and what is right for one family is not the same as what is right for another family. Different mums and babies are ready to wean from breastfeeding at all sorts of different times and for different reasons. This is just our story. At one point I said I would be glad to get to 6 weeks, then I said I’d be glad to get to 6 months, then to 1 year, then through pregnancy, then to 6 months of another baby, then to whenever they both want to stop. My goals have shifted as I’ve lived with one and then two nurselings. I hope that anyone reading this is able to achieve their own breastfeeding goal, whatever that might be.
There’s still more time to enter the main competition of the scavenger hunt, with more than £1000 worth of prizes in the kitty. Just fill in the rafflecopter below! You can read more posts about breaastfeeding at the following blogs…
There are many perks of working for King’s College in Cambridge as Tom does. One is of course that he gets to walk past the amazing chapel every day as he goes into and out of his office in the old building next to it. Another is the free cooked lunch that he is entitled to every day. One that we all get to enjoy is the Family Fun Day, which takes place on the Sunday after exams finish in June every year. This year it happened to coincide with Father’s Day. It starts at 1pm and goes on to the evening with a barbecue and music.
It’s organised by the JCR – the undergraduate student committee, a kind of college-based student union – and they invite all the students and staff of the college. There are several bouncy castles/ inflatable games (suitable for both big and small people), giant games like Jenga and Connect 4, face painting and ice creams during the afternoon. Last year Andrew was still a a little young to really appreciate it, but this year he loved it!
First up were the bouncy castles. As we came to the lawn, where for once we were allowed to walk, we saw the big inflatable fun things and immediately Andrew decided to run towards one shouting “It’s a bouncy castle!” excitedly. Daddy dutifully followed and took their shoes off, and that’s where they stayed for the best part of a couple of hours, running between the different ones. I do think it looks slightly incongruous to see big red and blue bouncy objects in front of the historic buildings that are King’s College with Chapel, but I also think it is lovely that for a few days every year the college are not afraid to do this kind of thing (there is also the May Ball where this kind of thing is allowed).
Meanwhile I sat on the lawn and had a rest while Joel was napping in the buggy. Once he’d woken up, we went and joined the older boys and had a bit of gentle bouncy fun. I even went on a few times with Andrew while Daddy had fun with Joel. I particularly liked racing Andrew along the assault course inflatable – he was actually far better than me at climbing up the cargo net to get to the slide at the end!
We then spotted that the man who was doing face painting had arrived and west up and was starting to paint some faces – there was a chart queue of girl students who wanted various things done from pretty flowers to a dalmatian dog! Andrew decided that he would like a face paint too, and he wanted to be spot the dog. So we waited in the not so orderly queue, half hoping that one of the girls would take pity on an impatient toddler every time one of them got up with a finished face, but they were all too keen to get it done.
Spot then decided that he liked the look of the ice cream cart that had arrived when we were queueing for the face painting. We had been thinking that it was probably about time to go home, but as Spot saw more and more people flocking to join the queue for a Toni’s Ice (famous around these parts), he insisted that we should get an ice cream. And it wasn’t too hard to persuade us.
So we got the boys back in the buggies and got an ice cream each (except Joel) to eat on our way home. We’d had a great time, but Andrew was getting tired and Joel (as usual) had refused to feed when out so would soon get grumpy. We weren’t as hardcore as the student revellers who would stay until it got dark (and who probably wouldn’t be woken up at 5am the next morning). Sure enough, Andrew dropped off after he’d finished his ice cream and Joel fed enthusiastically when we got home. It really was a family fun afternoon for us all.
Linking up with #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog again this week 🙂
I posted a picture of Joel eating a few weeks ago for Photo of the week, and here I am with another classic one of him with a mouthful of food! You can tell it’s full because it’s closed – he always smiles with a big wide grin otherwise. He has taken to solid food very well, and is now just eating the meals that we eat very happily. He’s still working on some teeth, but he’s managing perfectly well without any, just gumming things until they go soft enough to break up and swallow. Yummy!
I’ve been thinking for the past few weeks as I put together my pictures for my Country Kids post that they are mainly of Andrew, with the odd one or two of Joel. This particularly hit home to me when Fiona (who hosts the linky over at the Coombe Mill blog) commented last week that it was nice to see a picture of Joel and me – I’d given my phone to Tom for a couple of minutes and he took one of the two of us. The reason I rarely get photos of Joel when we’re out and about is that I’m always wearing him in our wrap, so he is right next to me and it’s pretty difficult to get good pictures like that – I’m not very good at holding the camera at arms length and getting a good shot of myself.
When I was pregnant with Joel, knowing there would only be 21 months between Andrew and the baby, I wasn’t sure whether to get a double buggy (I blogged quite a bit about my thoughts back then) because they all seemed too big for our small flat, amongst other reasons. In the end I decided to buy a good sling and wear Joel in that whilst pushing the single buggy with Andrew in. And this has worked very well, even up to 7 months, and we’re still going strong, although I will need to switch to another style of sling or our framed back carrier fairly soon as he’s starting to outgrow the stretchy wrap.
I decided to buy a stretchy wrap because I’d heard that they are very comfortable, and I loved the idea of wrapping my baby snuggly next to me. I went for the Moby stretchy wrap in this lovely lace design, because I felt like it was another layer of my clothing which I would be wearing a lot and therefore it was worth getting something pretty that would look nice with my other clothes. I did consult Tom, because I wanted him to feel confident in wearing the baby in the wrap occasionally, and he said he wasn’t bothered what colour or pattern it was. He has generally concentrated on looking after Andrew whenever we’re together as a family, but he has been kind and taken Joel sometimes when I’ve been too tired, needed a bit of a break, or wanted to spend time just with Andrew.
So whenever we are out and about, Joel mostly comes with me in the wrap. I love it because I have my hands free to play with Andrew, and it’s so comfortable that I can wear him for hours and not get any aches or discomfort. We do a lot of walking in our everyday lives in Cambridge, and it’s so easy to wear Joel for it all. He loves it because he can see what’s going on easily as he’s at a good height to survey the scene, and it’s also the only place he will reliably fall asleep with no fuss during the day when we’re out and about.
As well as out and about close to home, I’ve also worn him comfortably on holiday in the Lake District and on day trips such as those I’ve written about in previous Country Kids posts. The rain cover that I bought has been essential, and is a simple but ingenious solution to wearing a baby in wet and windy weather. Not that he’s ever cold in it, in fact we do get quite warm the two of us next to each other, so I find I have to adjust our layers accordingly when going out with the wrap.
I recently came across and bought a cheap tandem (inline double) stroller that umbrella folds like the classic Maclaren stroller, which I hadn’t seen when pregnant, and this fits easily into our flat. There are some occasions when I prefer to take the double buggy: I realised that Joel was spending less time on playground equipment at the park than Andrew had been at his age, because whenever we went Joel was wrapped up and often asleep, so there was no way I’d go through the palaver of getting him out, so if he’s in the buggy, it’s easier to get him out and in again; as it gets warmer, I’m aware that we’re both getting very hot next to each other, and when I’m pushing the buggy too, I can work up quite a sweat, so I feel less comfortable wearing him if I know I’ll get sweaty and have to sit at a group for a while.
It’s all about having options – there are three different ones that I have for getting out and about on my own with the boys. The wrap and single buggy is one, the double buggy is another, and the single buggy plus buggy board is another (which I use when we’re not walking too far).
But overall my favourite option, the one I come back to most often, is the wrap plus single buggy. Joel is a wrapped up country kid and Andrew is a country kid on wheels (when he’s not walking next to the set of wheels!)
For a while now I’ve been wanting to write a post on Joel’s language acquisition. I have lots of things to say about Andrew’s at the moment, but in some ways Joel’s is even more fascinating right now. In the past couple of months he’s gone from making just baby sounds that I blogged about here, to producing sounds that are syllables with a consonant and vowel, and repeating these several times in a row – he’s reached the babbling stage. I find this so fascinating because it is the real beginnings of a recognisable language; of course he’s a long way off speaking English (or French or German – still trying to speak bits of these to the boys), but the sounds he’s currently making at least sound like a real language rather than just gurgling or crying.
Although he’s been babbling for a while, I haven’t got round to writing about it because I’ve been trying to catch it on camera but I’ve hit the Observer’s Paradox so many times! Point my phone at him and any babbling that was going on immediately ceases in favour of looking at the pretty colours (with cover) or shiny surface (without cover). With a fair amount of patience and loads of videos that turned out to be silent or just me in the background trying to encourage him to talk (which never works), here’s what I eventually managed to capture.
After lots of laughing at the start (as if he was saying ‘ha ha Mummy, I’m not going to talk for the camera!), we do get some talking eventually near the end of this video.
He’s absolutely desperate to crawl and now can go backwards, side to side and around in circles but not quite forwards; often his attempts are accompanied by frustrated vocalisations, as we see in this video.
He often does some lovely talking when he’s bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5.30am, when I’m less keen on encouraging talking until I realise that it’s actually quite cute, as was the time that I took this video.
In general, Joel seems to be loving food, there’s not much he hasn’t eaten when we’ve given it to him. I’m sure he’ll get fussier as he gets older, but hopefully he’ll be similar to Andrew and like most things despite the odd fuss here and there. One thing in particular that both boys like is extra mature cheddar cheese – Joel would eat loads of this if I let him (I’m watching the salt), and Andrew would polish off the rest! And a couple of things that Andrew is less good at (unless they are cooked in something) and I hadn’t tried Joel with are spinach and tomatoes.
So I decided to make some savoury mini muffins packed with cheese, spinach and tomatoes. Having been searching for a while for a cheap silicone mini muffin mould, I eventually found one last week at a homeware store that opened a while ago near our local supermarket but I’d never heard of the brand and assumed it was an expensive one (we live in Cambridge, this is the norm). But as I walked past it the other day, I took a closer look and realised it was in fact a Wilkinsons-style shop – ever since we moved here 7 years ago I’ve missed having a Wilkos to get bits and bobs from.
This recipe would also work in a fairy cake tin (mine have seen better days, hence my search for a new silicone mould) or a normal-sized muffin tin. I just like the mini-ness of them for little fingers to grasp. And these muffins were very much devoured by the little mouths on the receiving end of the little fingers’ grip.
This recipe made 24 mini muffins, some of which we ate fresh and some of which we froze for later to keep them fresh.
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g extra mature cheddar cheese (or you could use any strength you like)
100g fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
about a dozen cherry tomatoes, chopped into quarters
50ml olive oil
Put the flour, baking powder, cheese, spinach and tomatoes in a bowl and mix until roughly distributed.
Mix the milk, eggs and oil in a bowl until the egg is broken up – don’t over beat, you don’t want to end up with mayonnaise!
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones along with a good grind of black pepper and stir until well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the mini muffin mould so each hole is full.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes at 180ºC (fan).
Remove from the oven and allow to cool only as much as you need to in order to eat them!
Freeze any that are not eaten within a day or so to keep them fresh.
This must be one of the easiest recipes I’ve made. After the success of banana oatmeal pancakes, I wanted to make some more pancakes with a different fruit in. We also had quite a lot of natural yoghurt in the fridge, so I thought why not make pancakes with that – I’ve heard that buttermilk makes good pancakes, and yoghurt is very similar to this. So I mixed up a quick batter with half flour, half yoghurt and an egg. The fruit I chose was blueberries, because Joel hadn’t tried them yet and I knew they would cook down well and give a great flavour, texture and, most importantly, colour! They should be called purple-berries when cooked 🙂
These were a real hit with both boys. The recipe made about 10-12, so I froze some to bring out as snacks throughout the week.
120g plain flour
100g fresh blueberries
Mix the flour, yoghurt and egg in a bowl until a thick batter forms.
Stir in the blueberries (whole) until evenly distributed.
Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan.
Blob heaped teaspoons of batter into the pan and press down slightly.
Let them cook for about 5 minutes on one side until they are nicely browned.
Flip them over with a fish slice and let them cook for another 5 minutes or so until that side is nicely browned too.
Remove them from the pan and place on kitchen towel.
I’m trying to make sure that Joel goes swimming as often as possible. As I myself was a little water baby and have loved swimming for as long as I can remember, it means a lot to me to take my own babies swimming and get them confident in water. When Andrew was Joel’s age, we went swimming once a week together, sometimes more often. I know that second (and third/fourth etc.) children will never get the same experience as the first, and generally I accept that because I can see the good points of being the second as well as the bad. But if there’s one thing that gets to me, it’s not being able to take both boys swimming on my own.
We go as often as we can as a family as well as with grandparents whenever we’re with them, which seems to have worked out at once every 2-3 weeks since Joel was 8 weeks old. So I was particularly happy when the boys naps/feeds/meals conspired in our favour on Sunday afternoon and meant that we had a time to go swimming. Plus it was drizzling so we thought swimming was better than going for a walk anyway.
Now Joel is desperate to crawl. He can see his big brother (an advantage of being a second child) and clearly wants to follow him. So he has figured out how to go backwards and turn around on the spot and generally he lies on his front flapping his arms and legs A LOT! If I put him down on the floor on his back, he immediately rolls onto his tummy and starts his attempts to move (and conquer the world 🙂 ) Watch this video if you want to see some attempts to crawl on land, including leg kicks and arm flaps that would serve him well in a swimming pool, especially towards the end of the video.
We’ve been joking recently that he looks like he’s swimming on land, so it’s lovely to watch how he reacts in water when he’s on his tummy (again he doesn’t really like being on his back, just like on land). He does the same crawling action, flapping his arms and legs, which of course looks so good in water – baby crawl! In fact he looked more like an adult swimmer than his big brother who, as usual, was busy flitting between playing with different toys and being upright in the water a lot of the time rather than just swimming back and forth on his front.
Although it’s been a few weeks since our last swim, I was so pleased that both boys took to the water just like ducks, happy to splash and play in the pool. I think the most important point about swimming at this age is just to have fun and get used to the water, which we seem to be achieving, so that makes me happy too. Hopefully it won’t be long before we go again, probably the weekend after next, and Joel can show us some more baby crawl action!