Are we there yet?

I’ve recently handed over my role as Editor of The Voice, quarterly magazine of the Cambridge branch of the NCT. I very much enjoyed volunteering for the charity in this way, but it was time to move on being as we no longer live in Cambridge and I would like to take on other things (mainly Sewn Down Purple Lane). During my time as Editor, I wrote quite a few articles, some of which I think are relevant beyond just Cambridge, so I thought I’d share some on this blog. First up is an article I wrote recently about our experience of long distance car travel with little ones. I hope you find it useful if you’re planning a long journey with young children soon.

The location of our boys’ grandparents’ (holiday) homes – Devon, West Midlands and Lake District – means that we’ve done our fair share of middle-to-long distance car journeys with them at various ages. Before kids, we used to catch the train down to Devon, but as the route means two (overground) trains as well as hopping on the tube across London, we haven’t fancied that with a baby, toddler, or baby and toddler, plus all the paraphernalia that travels with them for a week away. Cross-country (i.e. not through London) train services to the Midlands aren’t something we enjoyed even without kids. And for the Lakes, it’s handy to have our own car for getting around once we’re up there

Cumming car 1

Planning ahead

The first time we attempted the Midlands trip – which takes about 1 hour 45 minutes in good traffic – with each baby, they were 2-3 months old. As they were still quite unpredictable with feeding and sleeping, we couldn’t really tell when was the best time of day to travel from their point of view, so we just went for it and ended up stopping for a feeding break or two, even though we’d normally do this distance in one run.

For about the first 6 months or so, neither of them liked being in a car seat for very long awake, so we took it in turns to sit in the back and try to keep them calm and reassure them. Joel didn’t seem as distressed as Andrew did at the same age, probably because he had his big brother in the back with him too, pulling silly faces and chucking toys at him! If you have to drive alone with a rear-facing baby in the back, a mirror attached to the back seat’s headrest means they can see your face reflected in your rear-view mirror.

As they got older, we would usually time our journey for when they would normally nap or sleep (early afternoon or evening), since they both started to sleep well in the car, though Andrew is less likely to drop off now that he’s just turned 3. But neither of them have slept for the entire journey to Devon or the Lakes – about 6-7 hours with a couple of breaks in good traffic.

Entertainment central

Cumming car 2So what to do during awake time? As babies, toys attached to the car seat were handy, so when they inevitably got thrown out, whoever was sitting in the back could easily retrieve them. It’s also amazing how long games like ‘peekaboo’ and ‘pulling silly faces’ can entertain a bored baby in a car.

One of our best buys since having kids has been our in-car DVD player for long journeys from around the age of 1. It attaches to the back of the driver’s/front passenger’s headrest for back passengers to view, or on the back seat’s headrest if baby/toddler is still rear facing. I have also heard of iPads/tablets (which we don’t have) and a car headrest holder (available to buy online) serving the same purpose. The novelty of a new (to us) DVD or one not watched for a while has worked wonders at entertaining them in the car. Of course music CDs go down well too.

So far Andrew seems to be fine at reading on the go (something which makes me car sick), so a new magazine does the trick of amusing him for a good hour or so. We’ve also just got into playing the simple game of ‘spot the [insert colour] car [or other common/rare vehicle]’, particularly in slower moving traffic, and this encourages him to look out of the window and take in our surroundings. As much as we don’t like being stuck in traffic, watching out for emergency vehicles if there has been an accident is very exciting for a vehicle-obsessed toddler.

As they get older, I’m looking forward to playing more games, some of which we used to play as children on long car journeys, for example ‘I spy’ or making words with the letters on registration plates, and some of which I have discovered from friends or the book Are we there yet? by Jo Pink. One friend of my parents, who has two girls a few years older than Andrew, takes an Argos catalogue for each daughter on long car journeys: she sets the girls ‘tasks’ from the catalogue, for example they have to find the cheapest set of saucepans or the most expensive television, or they have to plan their dream bedroom or toy collection and add up how much it would all cost (if they were ever lucky enough to get it!) Apparently this keeps them amused for hours, and it’s totally free!

Expect the unexpected

Cumming car 3Apart from thinking about entertainment, it’s important to plan food, drink and other supplies when driving with little ones. We always take more than we think we’ll need, in case of hold ups, and a substantial packed lunch and other snacks mean we can eat and drink if stationary rather than having to wait to pull in at the next services. When travelling in winter we pack coats and sturdy shoes so they are easy to get at if we need to stop or were to break down. And in (warm) summer we take plenty of drinks. On that note, the potty is also handy to have close at hand

I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed every single moment of car journeys with the boys, but we’ve certainly learned how to make the most of them and try to avoid pitfalls.

Noroclear anti-bacterial products (review)

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.

noroclear 3 Collage

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.

noroclear 4 Collage

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.

Not a great picture of the surface wipe in action - Tom was using it still folded up for some reason as I took the picture! It's bigger than this when unfolded.
Not a great picture of the surface wipe in action – Tom was using it still folded up for some reason as I took the picture! It’s bigger than this when unfolded. Joel ate directly from the table in front of him here.

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.

noroclear 1 Collage

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.

And finally…

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.

Grobag Gro-ing Places Chair Harness

Just recently there have been a few occasions when we’ve thought that a travel high chair would be a good idea. Usually cafes and restaurants have them when we eat out (not that we do it that often, and the kinds of places we go to are family friendly), but we’ve been a bit stuck when going to lunch in the home of friends who don’t have kids. When Andrew was less independent we could manage with him on our lap, but now he wants his own portion and the chair to go with it, squirming and wriggling for freedom from the harness that is his parents’ arms.

I’d heard about travel high chairs but not really looked into it until Andrew’s friend and her parents came for lunch, and brought with them hers. They had a Totseat in a very sensible greeny colour with a strong pattern, so food would not be too obviously visible. So this prompted me to do some Googling, and I ended up buying a Grobag Gro-ing Places Chair Harness. I’ve not done any reviews yet on the blog, and I wasn’t asked to do this, so it’s more just about me telling you how useful we’ve found it rather than an actual review.

Basically it is a piece of fabric with straps and clips that fit over almost any adult chair that has a back to it. You can tighten and loosen the straps to fit each chair and your growing child.

It is made out of a lightweight but strong fabric, which very handily folds in on itself into a little carry bag (a bit like one of those cagoules that folds into itself). That way there’s no way you can lose the bag to carry it in. This is useful when you have a toddler and your eyes are not usually kept fixed on the same task for more than 30 seconds because said toddler has toddled off. I like the fact that the fabric is patterned, so that food spillages are not too obvious. But it’s also machine washable and also just easily wipeable after a meal. Let’s face it, it’s going to get messy! The first time I got it out and tried to fix it onto a chair, it looked quite complicated. But once I’d followed the instructions and had a couple more goes on my own, it soon became easy. The hardest part was getting Andrew to sit still for long enough for me to tighten the strap around his waist.

As Andrew is only 13 months old, he is a bit low still on adult chairs, so we find that we either have to give him a cushion to sit on, or one of us adults holds his plate off the table in front of him at the right height. I’ve got used to eating with one hand since having a baby, so that doesn’t particularly bother me – I can still get on with mine and hold his plate.

I’d say this chair harness is very good value, and we’ll certainly have it with us when we’re out, just in case we need it. It’s so compact that it slips into the change bag easily along will all the other paraphernalia. I didn’t buy many items of baby equipment until I’d either tried one out through a friend, or lived with Andrew for a while to see what would really be useful. There are so many things out there that we’re told we ‘need’ for baby, but it’s not always a case of ‘needing’ everything. This chair harness, however, has definitely been worth it, and it’s hard to imagine not having it now, as it makes our mealtimes much more pleasant for everyone when we’re out and about. Andrew gets to feel all grown up in a grown-ups chair, and we get to eat without a toddler’s body crossing the flight path of our fork from plate to mouth.