Sunday 31 July 2016

Me and Mine July

July has been a month for juggling - working out how to do everything with a small person firmly attached to me.  It is our second me and mine as a family of 6 and we are all a little more in focus this time! July has been packed full of birthday parties and has seen Dylan and Archie break up for the summer holiday.  We have had enough sunshine that I am leaving the month with happy memories of four weeks spent outdoors.

We are finding our feet as a family of six and with a little bit of winging it and a lot of teamwork things are getting simpler.  These photos were taken in the woods where we spent a lovely afternoon eating a picnic and exploring.  We each wore a baby on our front in slings and a back pack on our back and the bigger two wandered with us.

The month Mama is loving snuggly newborn cuddles, listening to the boys singing to their sister, days out with the whole family and all the birthday cake we have eaten this month

The bloke is loving collecting Pokemon, introducting Dylan to computer games, eating at the Carvery when we can't be bothered to cook and ice cold Coca Cola.

Dylan is loving playing minecraft, counting down to his birthday, lazy mornings in his pjs and playing in the sea.

Archie is loving having his big brother home from school, singing twinkle twinkle to his baby sister, pointing out numbers everywhere we go and playing with water in the garden.

Finn is loving walking along just holding one finger, unravelling the tin foil in the kitchen, cuddling baby Cora and playing in Grandma and Grandpa's garden.

Cora is loving milk, cuddles, her first bathtime and being in the sling.

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Saturday 30 July 2016

My School Years

Apparently I cried on my first day at school - not because I wasn't excited to start, but because I had two younger siblings and one of them was turning one on that same day and I didn't want to miss the party.  I had just turned 4 and with a late August birthday I was one of the youngest and smallest in the school.  This photo is from my first day (clearly before the tears) and I remember the smart red uniform so well.

School was very different 'back then' and my experiences at a private primary school are very different to Dylan's at a small infant school.  Whilst his school is considered small with only 180 pupils, that is double the number that attended mine.  My uniform was smart and strict with a summer and winter look.  Red blazers and hats and very specific brown shoes.  We wore a shirt and tie from Kindergarten although I think for the first year or two our ties were elasticated.

Dylan's uniform is still smart, but more practical.  He wears Polo shirts under his jumper which are much easier for him to get on and off and his school shoes must be black (much simpler to find).  Velcro seems to be the most common style in smaller sizes which is perfect as I haven't taught him about shoelaces yet!  

My mother bought my school uniform from Marks and Spencers and twenty something years on, that is where I am shopping for my son.  Their stainaway technology on their shirts is necessary when you have a four year old eating lasagne with his friends and the non-scuff shoes can withstand the battering he gives them in the playground.  Marks and Spencers asked me to look back at my school days and see how things were different, and they definitely were.

My first year of school was spent in a classroom and we learnt History and Geography alongside English and Maths however Dylan learns Phonics and Numeracy without even realising it.  His days are spent doing 'challenges' and the classroom is far more than one room, with his days spent between the playground, the IT room and the traditional classroom.  

The resources his school have are amazing compared to mine and the topic based learning means that part of the classroom is transformed into a pirate ship or a new planet in a way that encourages his imagination as well as learning.

My breaktimes were spent doing cartwheels and handstands up against the wall.  We played Bulldog and kiss chase and entertained ourselves with just our minds.  We made daisy chains and on sports day we competed in races, cheering when we won and being upset at coming last. Parents took photos and videos that we can still look back on now.  Dylan's 'sports morning' involved no competition, they just took part in sporting activities whilst the parents watched on aware that sharing on social media was prohibited.  His playground is painted with hopscotch, letters and numbers to encourage games and health and safety rules.

Both Dylan and I started school so young and the photos above - my first school photo at the end of the school year and him this week trying on his new uniform show us both at nearly 5 having learnt to read and write and count and learn alongside our peers.    We both love school and are keen readers and we both walked in every day of our first year in M&S Schoolwear.  

 Marks and Spencers are celebrating their back to school range by looking at how things have changed and evolved over the years.  If you want to share photos of your schooldays with them then use #MySchoolYears

Disclosure : This post is in collaboration with Marks and Spencers
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Saturday 23 July 2016

The Start of School Holidays

This time last year I was planning how we would spend the final summer of freedom.  My biggest boy had finished preschool and I knew it was the final six weeks before the start of something new and huge.  The year has flown by and my baby has finished his first year of school.  Reception is done and when he returns to school in six weeks time it will be as a year one student - no longer new but a proper school boy.  

He has grown and thrived at his school and I am so happy that we ended up with such a wonderful one.  He has been so busy and tired that we were all desperate for summer to arrive and so far it has been a fantastic one.  Dylan broke up on Wednesday and ever since the sun has shone and we have been outdoors enjoying it.

The first day was spent in my parents' garden, naked boys running in and out of the paddling pool, picnic lunch outside and a day that reminded me of being their age and playing with my brother and sister.  

Friday we headed to the beach, threw shells into the sea, built sandcastles and stayed out late because we could.  We ate ice creams, kicked a ball around and stopped for burgers and chips on the way home.

Today we went to the local woods to celebrate a friend's birthday.  We had a picnic and then explored, the babies in slings and the boys on foot.  They painted their faces with charred wood for some strange reason and they picked up every log to look at the wildlife underneath.  They snapped twigs to see how strong they were and searched for the perfect sticks.  They came home with mud under their fingernails and dirt on their knees and the bath has never been more needed.

We are only three days in to this six weeks of freedom and it feels perfect to be spending every day outdoors enjoying the weather.  The perfect antidote to a year in a classroom, a perfect way to enjoy all four of these beautiful children we created.

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Friday 22 July 2016

Pure Love

This is a paid advertorial for WaterWipes

Every morning since Cora was born, we have done the first feed of the day in the same way. After a long night of feeds and nappy changes and restless sleep, I take off my pyjama top and her sleepsuit and we snuggle up together, her skin against mine. On the chillier mornings we pull the duvet around us, on the warmer ones we just lie there together, enjoying the slow pace, the quiet of just us two and the feeling of skin to skin. It is one of my favourite parts of the day, a way of connecting before the madness of the school runs and a noisy house.

There is no better way to wind down after a busy weekend than with those same special skin to skin cuddles and Sunday night is hairwash night for the boys and bath night for my baby girl and I. Her first baths are always with me, so that we can have skin to skin, relax and unwind together. We cuddle and feed and enjoy the calm of her brothers being in bed. She would probably fall asleep on my chest in the water if we stayed in any longer.

I read about the wonders of it during pregnancy and all of my birth plans have stipulated immediate skin to skin. I can only imagine how cold and scary the world is after nine months in the womb and the familiar sound of my heart beating, the reassurance of my warmth and smell and the closeness to milk has offered them comfort, and continues to for weeks and months. With Cora we stayed together for hours having our first skin to skin cuddle, there was no rush as we were at home for either of us to get dressed and it felt natural and perfect.

Skin to skin can regulate baby's biology and is evidence of how our bodies continue to care for and nurture our children long past the nine months we spend growing them. In this wonderful video 'Pure Love' from WaterWipes  they show how being on their mama's chest can regulate baby's heart rate, body temperature and oxygen levels as well as keeping them Calm.

Us mama's have super powers and alongside the fact we give birth, can sustain a baby for months with milk our bodies make and of course those magic kisses that heal any wound, we can also regulate our baby's biology purely through the power of skin to skin contact.

Our mornings will continue to start with skin to skin cuddles and our weeks will continue to end with them.

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Our Rainbow Buggy - Stokke Summer Kit

Summer is full of colour from the green of the healthy grass, the blue of the sky and sea and the yellow of the sunflowers.  The new summer kit from Stokke is perfect for enjoying the colour with its  vibrant rainbow stripes and it stands out everywhere we go.

The summer kit fits onto an existing pushchair and comes as a hood, back panel, bumper bar cover, terrycloth seat liner and sun sail.  The hood has UPF5 50+ protection  to keep baby cool even in the heat and the packaway sun sail shades them from direct sunlight.  The liner absorbs moisture to keep the little one cool and is easily washable.

Everywhere we go, we turn heads, this pushchair stands out for all the right reasons and I am going to be very reluctant to go back to our usual red when the summer comes to an end. 

This summer kit is suitable for the Stokke Crusi, xplory, trailz and the xplory carrycot and costs £119.  We are using it on our Stokke Crusi for Finn at the moment - I love how high up he is and how comfy he looks in the seat.  It is brilliant to be able to completely update our pushchair each season and I am definitely planning on getting a winter kit when the weather cools!

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Wednesday 20 July 2016

Four Under Five

Four, three, sixteen months and newborn.  When I tell people the age of my children I am often met with the same shocked impression and a variety of  'wow, you are crazy', 'You have your hands full' and 'rather you than me'.  There is the odd person who says something positive, about how wonderful it will be to have them growing up so close.  All of these things are true, I am a little crazy, my hands are most definitely full, rather me than them and it is amazing seeing how close these babies of mine are.

Four under five is exciting, challenging, noisy and a constant learning experience.  We are only three weeks in to this new adventure and I won't pretend to know what I am doing, but I am feeling confident about the challenges ahead.

The boys absolutely adore their little sister which makes everything a bit easier.  They are used to sharing, used to life with siblings and one extra is exciting but not as world changing as getting a brother or sister for the first time.  They love to stroke her, cuddle her and cover her in kisses (Finn).  They hold her hand and sing her songs and interpret her squeaks and expressions.  Finn is still too little to understand the term gentle, but he is wonderful with his baby sister and his face lights up when she is put down within his reach and he crawls over to show her love.

We are very lucky in that the bloke works from home and his job has some flexibility.  The key to these early days for us is teamwork and for the three mornings a week where Archie is at nursery we split the school runs, I take the biggest and the baby to school and he takes the middle two on the nursery run.  Being able to divide and conquer, or to take all 4 for a short while whilst one of us cooks in peace makes things much easier.  

Planning is most definitely the best way to combat stress and taking them out on my own involves a very large bag, enough supplies for a small holiday and a double buggy.  Having more nappies and spare clothes than we can possibly get through seems sensible and having a large supply of snacks means we are prepared for all eventualities.  Cora is mostly in a sling at the moment, but having a double pushchair means I have the option to put her down should I want to and more space for storing the mountain of 'stuff' that we need.

The school holidays are looming close and I know things are going to be manic.  I am looking forward to the more laid back mornings as we won't have the school runs to force us out the house so early, and my plans involve meeting friends at the park and beach as well as plenty of playdates in confined gardens and houses.  Finn is the hardest work at the moment as he isn't yet walking but he just loves to climb so the biggest challenge will be keeping him happy and safe whilst looking after three other little people.

In these past three weeks we have discovered the best way to fit us all in the (new 7 seater) car, how to get all four in bed (well three as Cora stays up with me still) and we have even braved eating out as a family of six (it wasn't really any different as the littlest one slept through the entire meal).

I may be looking frazzled and tired this summer, but I think it is going to be a great one with my tribe of small people.
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Sunday 17 July 2016

iCandy Newborn Gift Set

We have been iCandy fans since before our first baby even arrived and I am loving having the opportunity to work with iCandy now through my blog.  They sent me this beautiful gift set before our baby girl arrived and I love the simple classic style.  It comes in a little white case which is perfect for saving those baby keepsakes and comes with a hat, mittens, booties, a ribbon tape measure and a wonderful toy.

It isn't quite the weather to wrap up warm but these accessories are so cute and are such amazing quality.  The pram toy will be hanging on our iCandy Peach ready for Cora when she can control her arms a little better and the tape measure has gone round my bump as well as measuring all 52.5cm of baby girl.

The accessories are all perfectly sized for a newborn baby - they fit a nearly 3 week old Cora just perfectly.  I adore the little booties, there is something so sweet about shoes so tiny!

This beautiful gift set is £50 and available from the iCandy website.
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Friday 8 July 2016

The First 10 Days

10 days ago I gave birth, we welcomed a daughter, we became a six.  It was a wonderful homebirth,  It was calm, quiet and everything I hoped for.  Her first hours were spent on me, feeding, cuddling and having skin to skin.  Her first night she spent on my chest, something that felt natural to us both and I woke in disbelief that this perfect tiny girl was really mine.

These first ten days have gone fast, we have spent every moment together, every day attached and every night cuddled up together in my bed,  I have had the opportunity to do this my way, something that wasn't possible with Finn.  I spent his early days in fear, not knowing what was wrong, worrying for his future, watching him through his fish bowl, only allowed to hold him at certain times, not able to feed him myself.  With this new little baby of ours I have been able to hold her and feed her and enjoy these precious first days and I feel so thankful for that. 

After a few days we finally decided on her name - Cora Jayne.  She is the first of our babies to get her 'bump name' - the name I envisaged her having throughout the pregnancy and it feels just perfect for our little girl.  On day 9 we made it official and registered her birth.  The boys mostly still call her 'the new baby' but they also proudly tell people her name.

We have welcomed so many visitors and tried to find time to just be on our own too.  We have eaten cake every day and I have drunk more cups of tea in these 10 days than in the last 10 months.  We have cuddled up on the sofa together, had nap time together, gone out together and shared these early days.  I have hardly picked up my big camera, but I have taken so many phone snaps in these 10 days.  Every night I feel emotional that another day has passed, that she is that little bit older and bigger.

At 10 days old our baby girl is still a little limpet, happiest on her mama.  She is breastfeeding well after a few problems with her latch and she is sleeping most of the day with a few periods of being very alert.  She hasn't quite got the message that the crib is her bed and she much prefers being with me at night.  She wants to sleep on her tummy - turns out she can't read the books yet that tell us babies must sleep on their backs, and she loves being snug in the sling.  She is squishy and warm and just perfect and we are still in that wonderful newborn bubble.  Next Monday is the end of paternity leave and the start of our new normal and I am nervous and excited about the challenges that involves.  For now, I don't want to imagine her being any older than she is now, I don't want to wish away any time, I want to enjoy these precious and amazing early days where she is so new and we are learning so much about each other.

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Saturday 2 July 2016

A Homebirth Birth Story

If you had asked me in my first three pregnancies whether I wanted a homebirth, I wouldn't have been able to say no quick enough.  I didn't understand the appeal, I felt comforted and safe in a medical environment and giving birth in the hospital was just what people did.  This time though, it felt different and I decided very early on that I wanted to this baby at home.  I had had three complication free births, one in the labour ward and two in the local midwife unit and so I had a lot of faith in my body and its ability to birth.

I brought up the idea at my booking appointment and my thoughts were recorded and throughout the pregnancy it was agreed that I was low risk.  It became more of a question when they decided that our baby was very large, but the consultant was happy to sign off on a homebirth and from 37 weeks we were all good to go.

I had decided that Sunday night would be a really convenient time to give birth, so the Sunday before my due date I felt a bit restless. I walked into town to pick up some last minute bits and went for a long walk along the esplanade.  I watched films sat on my birthing ball but went to bed a bit deflated that nothing was happening.  I don't know why I expected it would, but I had got my hopes a bit too high.

I woke up on Monday morning around 4am with a mild contraction.  I was pretty convinced that it was a contraction rather than a Braxton hicks but it was mild and I dozed on and off the rest of the night waking slightly for some surges but nothing big.  I got up at 7:30 and we got the boys ready for school.  I asked the bloke to take them as I felt like I wanted to be at home.  I spoke to my mum and she offered to take Finn for a few hours so that I could concentrate on what my body was doing.  Things were getting stronger but they were still incredibly irregular.  I felt confident that this was the start of it all, but I didn't know how long this early labour stage would last.  

At 10am I rang the hospital to let them know that I was in early labour and whilst I didn't need a midwife yet, I wanted to make sure that everything was still in place and that the midwives were on call.  They took my details and I was told a midwife would ring me later.  I started tidying up the living room and creating a cosy area with everything I would need for the birth.

The midwife rang me at 10:45 and as she was in the area she wanted to come and start the paperwork.  She got to me at 11am and typically I didn't have a contraction for the first 20 minutes that she was there.  My contractions were incredibly irregular with three in ten minutes followed by a 10 minute break and just all over the place.  My body told me to walk though and that is what I did, around the house and up and down the stairs.  The midwife took my blood pressure and felt my belly and told me that baby wasn't yet engaged but was head down.  At 11:50am she suggested that she go away for a while and come back once I was in established labour.  At this point my contractions had really stepped up and whilst they weren't regular in duration or time, I knew that my body works fast.  We agreed that she would examine me and her shock was evident when she declared me 4cm.  

As I have a history of short established labour she decided to stay.  She wrote a few notes whilst I got comfy in my birthing space and started on the gas and air.  She rang the second midwife to let her know that she had time to finish up her visit but that she should head over soon.  

Everything suddenly became very familiar- the nausea, the intensity, the doubt in myself and the urge to push.  Leaning over the sofa I let my body do what it needed to without me trying.  It was at this point that the midwife suddenly grabbed her gloves and apron and put them on as quick as she could.  I tried to let my body birth the baby and it did without me really pushing.  The waters broke as her head came out and at 12:31pm our little girl arrived.  She was passed up through my legs and I sank into the sofa with my baby.  She had started crying before her shoulders were born and she was pink and beautiful.  

We cuddled up on the sofa for some skin to skin and the second midwife and her student arrived.  Everything was so calm, the bloke made us all tea and the biscuits came out.  I was left to have skin to skin and feed the baby for the first hour with no intervention and then she was weighed and checked over whilst I delivered the placenta.  She was much smaller than we were expecting and a healthy 7lb 13oz.  Everyone cleared up around me and it wasn't long until the house looked tidier than it had that morning.

After two hours the midwives left and it felt so strange and wonderfully to already be in our home.  I could take a shower without having to wear flip flops, choose my comfiest clothes and spend as long having skin to skin as we wanted.  The bloke left at three to go and collect the big boys from school and nursery and when he came home the baby and I were snuggled on the sofa ready to meet them.

In some ways having a home birth felt like less of a 'big thing' - there was no coming home outfit to plan, no posing with the car seat as we leave the hospital, no big balloons, but it was the perfect decision for us.  It was quiet and comfortable and our baby girl was so alert and calm from the beginning - I am wondering whether this is a reflection of her entrance into the world and first hours.  We had everything we needed and I could listen to my body completely.  The midwives were respectful of my wishes and birth plan and I felt incredibly supported at every point.

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