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!

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…

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!

Guiding hands and growing up

Eli is currently putting shapes in his shape sorter for the 5th time in a row. Each time all the shapes are in the sorter he complains until they have once more been released. It’s a bit of work for his helper – he’s still too little to find the correct hole for each shape and needs some help at points to orientate the shapes to fit them through – but the shouts of glee once the shape is in definitely make you smile.

Other than shapes, Eli most likes to play with balls. He’ll play by himself, throwing the ball and then chasing it, or with someone else, throwing the ball to them and waiting for it to be rolled back to him.

It’s in these games that his growing understanding and ability to communicate shine through. He was playing with a little toy golf ball the other day and when he threw it, it rolled under the side table next to the sofa I was sitting on. Unable to retrieve it himself Eli decided a big person should help and so he pulled himself up on the sofa, grabbed my hand and pulled it down gently willing me to get the ball for him. As we then passed the ball between each other it became my job to find the ball as it got stuck under the sofa. He’d have a good attempt at getting it himself but when that didn’t work my hand would be grabbed once more and I would be directed to do my part.

Moments like these remind me that whilst he is still my baby, it won’t be long before Eli is no longer an actual baby – toddlerhood is almost here.

It’s a recurring theme but we have a poorly boy again

A poorly (but smiley) Eli.

It is fascinating, in a completely sleep-deprived way, how each of my children has suffered teething differently. Lex’s first teeth resulted in fevers and a clingy, limp, sleepy (except at night) baby. With him Medised, now outlawed, was brilliant as it helped him sleep despite his discomfort. Tilly didn’t have the fevers, I do remember disturbed sleep but generally teething did not bother her too badly (that I remember – maybe I’ve blanked the memory!). Eli seems to be following in Lex’s footsteps and throwing in a couple of variations of his own.

It’s been a rough couple of days and nights for Eli and those of us he has been depriving of sleep and I think that he has another tooth (or two) on its way out. Of course whether or not I’m right won’t be proven for a day or so but it helps to have something to blame!

Just like last time he cut a tooth we have a feverish boy – his temperature’s been up for the last two days, at its highest reaching 38.9°C (easily controlled using paracetamol or ibuprofen luckily). A new variation on the theme was the D&V he had after his nap this afternoon. Whilst smelly and messy it was a good opportunity to end the extended play date Lex and Tilly were having with some of Lex’s friends from school who live nearby. Eli’s nappies generally have been yuck and frequent for the past couple of days.

No sign of any other illness though and there is a massive bump next to his one existing top tooth. I really hope I get some sleep tonight but I won’t expect it, pity it’s R’s turn for a lie-in tomorrow morning.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…

Throughout the year Tilly asks us “Is it summer now?” and for the quarter of the year where the answer is yes (regardless of the actual weather) her next question is always “Can we go to the beach?”. As we don’t really live too close to beaches that we (grown-ups) particularly like – I grew up in South Africa, beaches to me should be primarily white sand, not pebbles, mud or whatever else tries to pass for a beach on this island – to answer yes to the second question requires a good weather forecast and an early morning lest we spend too much time fighting for parking.

So last night, with a great forecast for today and an agreement to forgo a lie-in this morning, we decided that today would be our beach day. Despite Eli’s attempts to prevent us having any sleep last night, R managed to make the sandwiches and I managed to get out of bed and together we were all out of the door by 8.30 for the journey to the sea.

It was a lovely day. Eli touched sand and sea for the first time (not too impressed with either but began to enjoy the sand eventually). The big kids dug holes, built castles, splashed and ran in the sea. We visited the pier and the town and ate packed lunches and bought ice-creams.

Now we’re home, kids are washed and in bed and R. has headed to the local 7-11 to buy cake. Absolutely brilliant day.

Our nappies – Tots Bots Easyfits

The first ever cloth nappy I bought was a Tots Bots, a blue Tots Bots Cotton Tot, a shaped nappy made from terry cotton. When Tilly was in cloth she was in Tots Bots Flexitots a two part system. Needless to say I love Tots Bots nappies and they’ve moved on massively since my first cotton tot – when I discovered the Easyfit whilst choosing nappies for Eli I promptly bought a few to try. I then bought quite a few more as they were great and when they brought out the version 3 we then bought even more!

Pros

  • can last for ages without leaking
  • lots of colours and prints to choose from (I love the limited edition London nappy best)
  • one-size and generally easy to find a good fit
  • not the slimmest fitting nappy we have but still not too bulky
  • easy to put on – if my Mum needs to change Eli’s nappy (not often) this is the type of nappy she will always choose
  • they’re designed and made in Britain (Scotland to be exact)

Cons

  • can leak around the waistband if trousers are too tight fitting

The vital statistics for our Easyfits:

How many do we have?

  • 13 Easyfit v2
  • 7 Easyfit v3

Which sizes do we have?

They are one-size nappies so will fit from newborn to toddler – there are two levels of poppers on the front to make the nappy smaller.

How long would we be able to use just this part of our stash?

About 3-4 days, I could (if I didn’t love some of my other nappies so much) only use these and still not have to do much washing.

How often do these nappies need to be changed?

These nappies can easily last 3+ hours – the version 3s especially are brilliant at not leaking even after 4 hours.

How easy are these nappies to wash?

We wash all our nappies together and don’t need to do anything special for these. I do take the tongue out of the version 3s because, unlike the version 2s, I find that they don’t tend to come out in the wash.

How long do they take to dry?

  • I tumble or air-dry the version 2s and they don’t take too long to dry via either method.
  • I air-dry the version 3s and they’ll generally be dry by the following day if I hang them inside and within a few hours if outside.

So, how long did you breastfeed the others for?

Through our baby group I’ve made friends with a great group of mums all of whom are first-timers. To begin with, and surprising to me considering the breastfeeding rates in my local area, the majority were breastfeeders. This has changed slightly over time and I think we have a 50/50 split now as people have weaned onto formula for a variety of reasons. As our babies get older, the first two soon to hit the 1 year mark, there’s more talk of weaning and the question has been asked, ‘So how long did you breastfeed the others for?’.

The person who’s asked is handily the one who is most able to understand that everybody does what is right for them and my choice does not mean I expect you to do the same. I’m not ashamed that I fed the other two until they were a few months past their third birthdays but I know how strongly people can react to the idea of feeding a young toddler let alone a walking! talking! able to ask for it! pre-schooler. I’ve heard one person voice the idea that ‘it’s wrong when they’re bigger’ and it makes me sad and frustrated that it’s this attitude that can make extended breastfeeders hide away feeling that they are doing something strange and that they aren’t supported.

I hope that my answers to this question or its companion – ‘so how long are you going to breastfeed Eli for’ given truthfully puts a normal face to longer-term breastfeeding rather than the ‘look at the strange weirdos’ image the media likes to put across. I also hope that it shows that you don’t ‘have to’ wean at 6 months/1 year or which ever arbitrary milestone is reached whether or not mum and baby want to continue. Of course mostly I’ll be carrying on doing what works best for my family and me and happily supporting my friends in what works for them.

Why is a developmental milestone so often followed by a parenting fail?

Yesterday Eli figured out how to climb stairs for the first time. He has been trying to figure out how to climb – mainly into the shower cubicle to access toys he’s thrown in there – for a little while but yesterday it clicked and off he went.

It probably helped that one of Tilly’s toys was sitting there, tantalisingly out of reach, providing a great target for an almost one year old to try to reach.

Of course, no good developmental leap is finished without a bit of parenting fail attached. I didn’t move the toy. I just left it there, sat on the stairs, and then we fast forward to today. Today Eli had the most epically awful pooey nappy – it was one of the reasons why cloth nappies are both perfect and horrible. It was in his night nappy and thankfully contained by the wrap so not many of his day nappies would have coped and a disposable, no chance. I mention this not in the way that parents feel they need to talk about the contents of their baby’s nappies but to explain why I might have been a little distracted.

Eli was playing with Tilly in the lounge (or so I thought), I was finishing sorting out the dirty nappy and then I heard the – in hindsight inevitable – bump, BUMP, WAAAH! I gathered up Eli from the foot of the stairs, cursed my shoddy parenting, despatched Tilly to her bedroom with the offending toy and was thankful that said toy was only a few steps up. The boy had given himself a fright but had no injuries. We now have a policy that nothing is to be left on the stairs and I’ve had a reminder that new skills will be practised, preferably supervised and regardless of pootastrophies.

Kids always have to prove you wrong

Today at our baby group (only allowed to attend one more session <sob>) while watching a 5 month old who had just conked out on the mat, I said to those around me that I have never had the type of children who could just fall asleep anywhere, like in a highchair for, I don’t know, an example.

Guess what Eli did tonight… How does a baby do that – you say, oh he never does x, y or z and within no time, and despite not having the receptive language skills or forward planning to make their parents look silly, they’ve done whatever it is they never do and you look like you don’t know your child very well.

Today it is possible that Eli had just not had enough sleep during the day as a trip to the zoo and then baby group had scuppered his ability to nap but it was, almost certainly one of the funniest things I have ever seen. The poor child was trying desperately to eat but just. couldn’t. keep. his. eyes. open. He then tried to sleep in the high chair but only lasted a minute before he realised he was horribly uncomfortable and started screaming. After I released him from his plastic not-a-bed he snored happily on my lap until bath time. Of course I was concerned that his impromptu nap would mean difficulty in getting him to sleep at bed time but no, he really was tired and had no issues dropping off in bed.

Sadly of course, this type of one-upmanship does not take place when you say things such as ‘they never sleep through the night’ or ‘they never spend days not bickering with their siblings’ <sigh>.