Sometimes the seaside is lovely and sometimes it’s cold and windy (but the kids had a good time)

We went to the beach today. It seemed like a good idea at the time – the children’s centre were renting a beach hut, there’d be activities for the kids and friends for me to chat to, in theory a lovely day. In reality it turned into a day from which each participant emerged with a different story.

Eli would tell you that he had a good time (mostly). He sat on a picnic blanket near the beach and played with shells, spades and pebbles. He had a box of snacks (but would have preferred the snacks his siblings had). At the café he chatted to the other babies and was most put out at not being allowed to crawl about on the, frankly, very grubby floor. He then enjoyed a lovely cuddly sleep in the sling as we walked down the beach before heading home and singing and chatting to Lex in the car.

Tilly and Lex would also tell you how much fun they had. They dug in the pebbles and collected as many shells as possible (although were somewhat disappointed to be limited to taking home two each). Tilly enjoyed the opportunity for some sticking and drawing in the beach hut. They had hot chocolate with both cream and marshmallows in the café and were allowed to chill out with the iPhones whilst the adults chatted and relaxed out of the wind. They then had a chance to run down the beach and explore the exposed rock pools which was fun even if there weren’t any crabs or fish to be seen. All the fresh air meant heading home, cuddled under coats in the car, was a nice time to rest rather than an end to all joy and fun (as it often is).

I had a reasonably good time, sitting with Eli on the beach, chatting to my friends and watching the big kids have a good time. The wind was annoying but on a pebbly, muddy beach at least there was no sand flying into my eyes (except when toddlers digging in front of us threw it in the air but I blame the parents for that). The most entertaining part was on the drive in when, on a narrow stretch of road on which we had priority, an older woman coming the other direction decided to try to push through. There was nowhere for her to go and no amount of her gesturing and driving at the car in front of us made it possible for her to pass us or us to pass her. The stalemate was only ended by R getting out of the car and pointing out to her the priority sign showing she was in the wrong. At that point, with much unhappiness, she made a complete hash of reversing back through the bollards that marked the start of the narrowing, to allow us to pass. She acknowledged R’s cheery wave with what I can only imagine were words not meant for young ears. The incident is still making me chortle hours later.

R did not have a great time. I don’t think watching the big kids whilst I socialise is his idea of a great time. Tilly spilling his drink and Lex dropping his phone on the floor weren’t happy moments either. He was especially narked when, trying to type in his pin code to pay for drinks, Tilly’s constant chatter flummoxed him and caused him to freeze his card through incorrect pin entry. His only happy moment (aside from unable to read signs lady on the way in) was probably when we left and just missed being soaked by rain. The drive back even annoyed him when a learner driver was sent to try his remaining patience.

So, 9/10 for the kids, 7/10 for me (the wind knocked a few points off) and about 2/10 (if we count the old lady as 2) for R.

How often do you manage a family day out where everybody has a good time? We achieve it occasionally but it often seems that at least one person will have a miserable time despite the activities. I’m guessing as the kids get older and their interests diverge it will become even more tricky. Still, at least kids (unlike grown-ups) are relatively easy to entertain even if it is overcast and windy digging in pebbles is great fun!

Worm sausages and tomato snail ketchup

I just can’t help it, my children ask a perfectly sensible question – e.g. ‘what’s for dinner?’ and I’m compelled to give them a very silly answer like ‘cabbages, snails and frog gravy…’. The kids are somewhat wise to this now and tend to double-check with their dad – I sense in years to come they’ll probably not grace my answers with much more than a shrug but yet I persist.

Cabbages are now code in our family for food you might not like (I managed at least 2 years of claiming chocolate was cabbages before they got suspicious and paid more attention to what I was eating). I’ve added snails and frogs recently as cabbages (no offense to those who eat the foul things) didn’t seem quite, well, gross enough any more.

The silly answers extend to questions about what, exactly, has gone into the food we serve the children. R made some sausage rolls for Eli’s birthday party on the weekend and we had some chipolata sausages left over that we cooked for dinner that night. Tilly took one look at what was on her plate, prodded it with a fork and did a typical kid ‘what. is. this?’. In error she asked me, ‘worms’ I said. ‘From the garden. It’s been raining and you know how they all come to the surface so they don’t get drowned?’ (useful to chuck in a quick science lesson if you can), ‘well Daddy thought they were looking particularly juicy so, ta da!’. ‘Mmm’, says R, ‘it’s worms, enjoy!’.

Lex, full of 6 years of knowledge says, ‘No it isn’t, it’s sausages!’, and starts scoffing his dinner. This reassures Tilly a bit but still, she can’t be 100% sure until I confirm it. ‘Tell the truth Mummy, it’s not really worms?’. ‘Well’, says her compelled to be silly mother, ‘it could be worms or it could just be the sausages left over from the sausage rolls.’. This is apparently not enough reassurance and I put her out of her misery and confirm her brother’s answer (eventually).

Honestly, it’s really entertaining coming up with inventive (and mainly disgusting) descriptions for everyday things – ketchup tonight became squashed tomato snails (Lex will apparently be using Google tomorrow to double-check that I am talking nonsense about the existence of tomato snails). I do try to do it in a way that the kids will find funny – not scary – and encourage them to question and not just accept, without thought, whatever adults tell them. The look on their face before the realisation that it’s just mum being, well mum, is pretty priceless though.

Travelling with cloth nappies – what we’ve done and what we’d do next time

Eli on holiday in the UK.

When you’re using cloth nappies full-time going on holiday – or any extended stay away from home – means a decision is to be made, do the nappies stay or do they go? I’ve been away twice with Eli, once on a 5 day family holiday in the UK and soon after to South Africa for two weeks when my father passed away suddenly whilst on holiday there with my Mum.

Obviously these were two completely different types of trips but whether or not to take my cloth nappies with me was definitely a consideration both times.

For our holiday in the UK the choice wasn’t too hard: we were only going for 5 days and I knew I had enough nappies even though we didn’t have access to a washing machine. As we were travelling by car we had enough space to pack our full complement of nappies. The only issue was where to store the dirty nappies – a nappy bucket wasn’t an option so we needed a good-sized wet bag (or two) which would zip shut to keep any smells contained. After a bit of research I found a set of Bum Deal wet bags which did the job brilliantly. It was great, no need to buy disposables and all I had to do was to put the nappy wash on as soon as we got home.

Eli at my Mum’s house in South Africa.

Travelling to South Africa was a bit different. It was an unplanned trip (obviously) and organising an emergency passport for Eli and sorting last minute plane tickets were immediate considerations. Whether or not to pack cloth nappies was a consideration though once everything else was sorted. I didn’t do it though, I bought two weeks worth of eco-disposables (not something easily available in SA) and it was okay. If I had to do it again though I would do it differently. Firstly as I stayed at my brother’s flat and my Mum’s house washing wouldn’t have been an issue. Secondly the weather in SA would have meant nice and easy nappy drying as well.

So, if you’re flying and packing space is at a premium and weight is an issue, what nappies could you take? I probably wouldn’t bother taking night nappies – a few disposables would be a lot easier to pack than a bulky two-part nappy. I wouldn’t take many (if any) of my all-in-one nappies as they’re fairly bulky too. That leaves my gNappies, which, thinking about it now – now I’m not stressing about supporting Mum and finding appropriate clothes for Eli to wear to a funeral – would have been the perfect choice. I’ve never used gRefills (the disposable inserts for the nappies) but the hybrid nature of the nappies would have been really useful. Taking all my gCloth (cloth inserts) along with a few packs of gRefills would have been possible (I managed to take a few packs of disposable nappies after all) and I could have used a mix of both depending which was more appropriate at the time. Disposable inserts for the plane and long car journeys and cloth whenever possible.

So, on reflection, whilst travelling abroad with cloth nappies seemed really difficult at the time, a hybrid system would have been perfect. Most of the benefits of full-time cloth but also the steady freeing up of space (for presents and suchlike) that using up disposables resulted in. Plus, using the cloth would have meant not as much money needing to be spent on the disposables – pleasing the skinflint in me – or too much heading to landfill – keeping the eco side of me happy.

Getting ready for a birthday party – less than a day’s enough time surely?

Tomorrow is Eli’s first birthday party – his actual birthday isn’t until Monday but having his party on the Saturday means all of his baby group friends can come so on the weekend it is. I love first birthday parties and Eli’s is the last I’ll be organising for a child of my own. We’ve got a semi-theme – cars as Eli likes anything with wheels – so the cake is going to be a garage with little fondant cars. Of course, since it’s us, the cake is still cooking and will have to be decorated tonight. I don’t think we’ve ever done a birthday cake at anything other than the last minute.

We’ve been fairly busy this week and not much preparation has happened at all yet, our birthday party to do list is therefore extensive:

  • bake cake (nearly there)
  • decorate cake
  • buy ingredients for party food
  • make party food
  • buy the last couple of bits for the party bags (yes for sub-one year olds I know, I know)
  • pack the party bags
  • clean the house
  • clean the house again after the kids invariably undo all the tidying I’ve already done
  • panic
  • check to see whether Eli still fits in the outfit I want him to wear
  • try to work out how we’re going to fit everybody in the lounge as the weather looks unlikely to cooperate (60% chance of rain – Eli was supposed to be my chance to have an outdoor party!)

I’m sure it will be fine, that I haven’t really prepped at all won’t be a problem will it? I mean the party’s only at 1.30pm tomorrow – we’ve ages yet…

Of second-hand clothes and hand-me-downs

Boxes of outgrown kids clothes – some waiting for Eli, others waiting for Godot.

After almost 7 years and 2 boys and a girl we have a lot of hand-me-down clothes. As Lex outgrows his clothes we pack them up ready for Eli – Lex is currently in age 6-7 and 7-8 clothes and Eli in 6-9 months so there’s a few batches waiting! Of course Tilly’s clothes have no younger sibling waiting for them and so we have to make other plans as she grows out of them. Then there are the clothes that Eli has now outgrown, there’ll be no younger sibling for those either.

So, the question becomes what do we do with all these clothes?! I no longer have the excuse of the mythical third child to hoard them all and avoid the issue and we really could do with freeing up some really useful boxes for the clothes the big kids are steadily growing out of.

I have so far done a very poor job of passing on my baby clothes – there’s a number of reasons for this, the highlights being:

  • I don’t just want to give them to a charity shop – I don’t know why but I’d like to know where they are going and hopefully get to see them in use again, especially the nicer pieces.
  • I think that eBay sounds like a lot of work for very little reward, e.g. what if the person who wins the bid won’t pay, plus there’s the never getting to see them again thing as above.
  • I love to receive second-hand clothes but I have this, irrational most likely, idea that other people will be offended if I offer them mine so dilly dally about and the moment passes.
  • I don’t know many people with kids the right ages for the clothes I have.

Despite this I have so far managed to:

  • give the 3-6 month girl’s clothes to a friend from baby group (along with the 6-12 month girl’s coats);
  • give the 6-12 months girl’s clothes to an acquaintance from another baby group (and received some boys clothes in return);
  • give the 2-3 years girl’s clothes to my cousin and she’s happy to have any other clothes Tilly grows out of now so I have a home for anything Tilly outgrows from now on;
  • give a handful of 12-24 month girl’s clothes to a friend but there’s still two boxes left.

I think that I’m going to save lots of tiny baby and newborn clothes for Tilly to use with her dolls. The rest of it though, all the boys clothes and the 0-3 months clothes? I just don’t know, I’m hoping my friends will continue to have children and I’ll be brave enough to offer them my kids’ outgrown clothes. Although I think R is much less adverse to the charity shop idea than I am so maybe his desire to clear space in the loft will win out.

So how do you deal with outgrown clothes – do you have an aversion to charity shops and eBay too or are you able to donate and sell with abandon?

Our nappies – Cheeky Wipes

When Tilly was in cloth nappies I tried to use cloth wipes as well. I say tried because I found it a bit of a pain. I couldn’t figure out a convenient way to take them out with us and so we used disposable wipes outside of the house and the containers I had at home weren’t quite the right shape nor did they keep the wipes fresh for long. It didn’t take long before we were using disposable wipes all the time and the cloth wipes were consigned to the cupboard.

With Eli, I wanted to use cloth wipes again (to save money on buying wipes if nothing else) and knew I needed a better solution and then I found Cheeky Wipes. Basically, a Cheeky Wipes set comes with two wipe containers, one for clean wipes and one for dirty, 25 wipes (cotton terry as standard), two bottles of essential oils, again one for clean wipes and one for the dirty wipes box and two waterproof bags for carrying your clean and dirty wipes when you’re out of the house. You can get a mini-kit for cloth nappy users that excludes all the dirty wipes bits (box, essential oil, waterproof bag) as you can just pop the wipes in the nappy and into the nappy bucket. We have the full kit because we started using the wipes before we switched to cloth full-time – Cheeky Wipes are brilliant even if you’re using disposable nappies! We’ve also now bought a second mini-kit set with coloured wipes that we use for cleaning Eli up after eating – we’ve saved a fortune not using disposable wipes.

Pros

  • they are much better than disposable wipes at cleaning up poo – one Cheeky Wipe can take the place of three (or more!) disposables
  • long-term they are much cheaper than disposables
  • they are easy to take out-and-about – I just pop the bag of clean wipes in with the clean nappies and off we go
  • they don’t have any chemicals in them that irritate Eli’s skin
  • they smell great (even though I’m not a massive fan of lavender usually) – I especially love the rose and geranium and use it for the hands and faces wipes
  • they work just as well on faces and hands as they do on bums
  • easy to wash with the nappies
  • the boxes are great and the latest versions are watertight which helps when an inquisitive baby is using them as a drum and moving them around the lounge
  • they are much nicer than the cheap cloth wipes I used to have – they are very unlikely to fray around the edges and the cotton terry is much higher quality

Cons

  • sometimes get a bit stained (but a bit of sun can bleach that out)
  • getting the dirty wipes from the mucky wipes box into the machine can be gross (if you just put the wipes in the nappy bucket that’s not a problem though)
  • can seem a bit expensive initially (but they will save you money if you use them) – definitely look out for sales though, none of our kits/wipes were full price

The vital statistics for our Cheeky Wipes:

How many do we have?

  • 50 white cotton terry wipes
  • 5 bamboo terry wipes (came free with our original kit)
  • 25 pink cotton terry wipes
  • 25 blue cotton terry wipes

How long do they last?

I’ve found that 25 wipes will often last me for 4 or more days and I haven’t had any issues with the wipes smelling stale at all.

How easy are the wipes to wash?

We wash our bum wipes with the nappies and the hands and face wipes with an ordinary coloured load of clothes.

How long do they take to dry?

Not long in the tumble drier or if air-dried – they don’t need to be dried after washing if you are going to put them straight into the clean wipes container.

I’m always impressed at how a visit to A&E can make a poorly child well again – even before they see a doctor

Yesterday, at about 10.00am, Eli started throwing up. He then proceeded to sleep, wake, scream, arch his back, retch, vomit, scream, relax, sleep in a regular cycle that lasted about 20 minutes at a time for hours.

By 16.30, when it clearly wasn’t abating, I thought I’d give NHS Direct a call so they could tell me he probably had a virus and I should just keep him hydrated. Basically I wanted them to validate what I thought was the right course of action but, without access to my GP (why do these things always happen on a weekend?) figured NHS Direct would be the next best thing. They told me to go to A&E. Dammit. Of course, once you’ve been given advice like that you have to go otherwise what if it really is serious and you ignored it…

Packed up a bag with all the muslins I could lay my hands on and off Eli and I went. He finally asked for a feed whilst we waited in the waiting room and then proceeded to be violently ill about 10 minutes later. Yay to another mother in the room who helped me clear up the mess as cuddling Eli meant I couldn’t do much but stare at it. We didn’t have to wait long after that incident for a nurse to see us and she rolled her eyes when I told her what NHS Direct had said. Eli was looking ok, just a bit pale, but she had to double-check he could tolerate fluids so she started us on a fluid challenge, 5 ml of water every 5 minutes.

Poor Eli, he was so thirsty that he sobbed each time the syringe of water finished. He wasn’t sick again though and by the time we saw the doctor it was pretty clear we didn’t need to be there. Two hours after we arrived Eli was waving at other children in the waiting room and trying to talk to them. He was having 10 ml of water every 5 minutes and had had 5 minutes of milk without incident. Honestly, you would never have known he had been so ill for most of the day.

Eli today – if you hadn’t just read this you’d never know he’d been ill yesterday…

It’s always a bit embarrassing when you take your very ill honest! baby to A&E and they are clearly in absolutely no danger of anything except an over protective mother by the time they are seen. That said, all I have to do is remember the time I thought Lex (at 4) had a bit of a temperature and a cough and I eventually took him to the walk-in centre and he ended up in hospital for a week with pneumonia (in my defence he’s always been a bit stoic about pain, it really wasn’t obvious at all how ill he actually was!). So I go to A&E when advised even if I don’t think I should, even though I’m 99% sure it’ll just lead to a miraculous recovery and the doctor will think I’m nuts – ‘So he’s your first?’, ‘No my third.’, ‘Oh…’ – just in case!

Using gNappies – putting them together and putting them on

gNappies are great nappies – they’re incredibly slim fitting and look great on – but they do have a few idiosyncrasies that makes them not like any other cloth nappy that I’ve owned/seen. This is not a bad thing but does mean putting them together and putting them on is a bit different too – I thought a little run through might be useful for anyone considering using gNappies (or for anyone already using gNappies but struggling to get a good fit). gNappies come in three parts as shown above: the gPant, a cotton outer (not waterproof); the gPouch, a waterproof pouch to hold the absorbent layer; and the gCloth, the absorbent layer with a fleece top to keep baby comfy and hemp and cotton for absorbency. You can replace the gCloth with gRefills, which are a fully biodegradable, disposable option.

To put the nappy together the gPouch is first poppered into the gPant. This poppering makes it really easy to replace the pouch when you do a nappy change. It also makes the pouch more flexible within the nappy which helps the pouch keep a good seal (when it’s fitted properly!). The gCloth can then be laid in the pouch. The cloth is slightly larger than the pouch which causes the nappy to fold in half slightly – this is expected and makes sure the nappy fits without the cloth moving about and possibly escaping the pouch.

I tend to make up all our nappies at the same time – makes nappy changes a bit quicker. As we have twice as many pouch/cloth combos that gPants I also put the spares together so that I can change Eli into a clean gNappy and then snap in another pouch to the previous gPant. We’re all about saving ourselves a bit of time at the nappy changing station!

Right, so now the nappies have been put together, it’s time to put them onto a baby. The main points to remember when fitting a gNappy are:

  1. The ‘g’ logo is on the bum – yes this means that they do up around the back.
  2. The tabs must be done up straight and not too tight.
  3. The pouch edges must be within the crease of the baby’s leg – very important!
  4. Give the gPant a little tug at the back when you’ve finished the change.

Doing up the tabs

gNappy tabs do up at the back which must be great with a toddler – no tempting tabs to yank undone! It’s a bit strange to do a nappy up ‘backwards’ at first but you soon get used to it.

Doing the tabs up straight means no uncomfortable rubbing for the baby. Don’t be tempted to do the tabs as tight as possible – you’ll just end up with lots of leaks around the waistband as the seal will be broken at the top of the pouch.

Checking the pouch

To make sure that the pouch has a good seal around the legs you need to push it inwards so that it is right in the crease of your baby’s leg. This is definitely the most important part of getting a good fit on a gNappy – if the pouch edge is too far out you’ll struggle to avoid lots of leaks around the legs.

All done

Just give the gPant a little yank at the back (the back should be slightly higher than the front) and baby’s all set for 2-3 hours of gNappy wear.

Cloth nappy wishlist

I’m really happy with the cloth nappies that we’ve chosen for our current stash but there are so many other types of nappy out there though and I’d really like to try a few just to see what they are like, all in the interest of blog research of course…

So, each month I’m going to buy a nappy or wrap, use it for a bit and write about it here. Might need to buy a new nappy box first though since the existing two are already full to bursting…

My current fluffy wishlist is (links are to the manufacturer’s website or to retailers that I’ve used and been happy with in the past, links in bold are to the results of my nappy trials):

With one a month this could take a while to get through but I’m going to try as many as I can before Eli potty trains.