The no interest phase and noisy baby books 

Straight after I started my blog series about sharing books with my baby daughter – Reading with Felicity – she pretty much lost all interest in books. She was about four to five months old and from chatting to other mums I knew this wasn’t true of all babies. In fact around the same age some of my friends were saying that their babies were starting to snuggle up during their bedtime stories – enjoying the cuddle time even if not getting to grips with the intricacies of picture book plots.

Snuggling up for bedtime stories is practically the pinnacle of my idea of contented motherhood so I was a little sad that Felicity was more interested in whacking stuff and, at sixth months, crawling everywhere. Any attempt to read a picture book was met with firm wriggles and trying to escape from my lap, over enthusiastic readings of rhyming books that she loved when really little were not as fun as trying out her new crawling skills. Bedtime stories got borderline hilarious in their lack of interest from her. We’d decided to read the same book every night before bed, partly so if she really did hate it as part of getting ready for bed (sleeping has never been her favourite thing), then it would hopefully just be Goodnight Moon that she disliked rather than books generally. This was not an unmitigated success. Perhaps the lowest point of book before bedtime was reached when Will had to read Goodnight Moon whilst (gently!)  holding on to her ankle to stop her crawling off, whilst she continued determinedly trying to head in the other direction. This really wasn’t the image I had of lovingly sharing books with my daughter.

Usborne's Noisy Animals

This phase did pass (thank goodness) but, even at her most disinterested, books that mooed, sang and generally made lots of noise when pressing buttons were still a winner. Felicity’s particular favourite was Usborne’s Noisy Animals, illustrated by Stephen Cartwright, which I’m pretty sure I now know by heart: ‘This is Mrs Boot with her children…’ And it is still loved even now she’s enjoying all sorts of different types of book. It’s entertained her on car journeys, pressing one of the noise buttons would attract her enough to crawl over to me even in the midst of mischief making and above all she would sit and look and sometimes turn the pages when nothing else could keep her in one place.


It may not be the most beautifully illustrated or original children’s book (although finding the Usborne duck on every page is a classic of children’s literature in my opinion) but sharing it with her really did help us introduce her to the idea that reading books are fun, as well as allowing her to get an idea of how a book physically works by turning the pages and listening to us read the words.

 

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October: birthday and back to work 

October is now a special time for us as it’s Felicity’s birthday month. A year has gone very quickly and she is most definitely a toddler, she’s rampaging everywhere now and we have even had a few tantrums – eek!

Look - a butterfly!

Butterfly house exploring

We had such a lovely time celebrating her birthday though. The actual day was one of my working days, so Will and I booked the day off and took her to the zoo with my parents. She was very very impressed with the butterfly house, it was small enough that she could toddle round and admire (chase) the butterflies. Elephants were dull in comparison. We’re currently debating whether we should get a membership so we can go back with no pressure to see everything in a day.

Happy birthday baby

First birthday puffin cake

We also had a little birthday party with lots of baby friends, it was a little manic but very enjoyable. I even managed to make and ice a cake half-neatly. My grand plans to make elaborate decorations didn’t happen, but luckily my sister-in-law had crafted an amazing puffin to go on top – Felicity’s favourite book is about a puffin, quite a lot of the presents ended up being puffin themed too.

October also saw my proper return to work, rather than just the odd day. I am really enjoying this, but I have been putting a lot of  energy into getting back into the work mindset, as well as getting Felicity used to her new routine and making the most of our days together. And that’s without making sure we’re all clothed, fed and living in a vaguely clean house. 

My big hope for November is that I can maybe do something that isn’t work/Mama-ing/housework or watching Gilmore Girls whilst slumped on the sofa exhausted. Gilmore Girls is obviously time well spent, even if we’re only averaging an episode a night, but I’m hoping I can maybe get my hygge on with some candles at the same time, or actually pick up some knitting or crochet. Wild ambitions!

Bonding and books – reading with Felicity

I always say to people who ask what it’s like being a parent that it is a world of extremes – you’re either bursting with love or want to jump out the window and run away with the overwhelming nature of it all. A few weeks ago I had a bad parenting day. Felicity was going through a clingy and upset phase, I think down to a mixture of teeth and frustration at being able to toddle a bit but not really walking well. She was similarly grumpy just before she got the proper hang of crawling. We’d been to get her first shoes in the morning, which wasn’t a roaring success – she hates shops if not in a trolley where she can peer about – and randomly having her feet prodded did not endear her to shoe shopping either.

I then made the error of deciding to pop into Toys R Us next door to look at potential first birthday presents. I assumed they’d have a little section, like our Early Learning Centre does, where she would be able to have a little crawl and, you know, play with some toys. How naive. I hadn’t grasped the whole ‘it’s a massive warehouse with too much stimulation with nothing she can actually play with to maximise parental stress and likelihood of impulse buys and therefore our profits’ element of the shopping experience.

By the time we came out Felicity was so tetchy and fresh air starved that I decided I couldn’t face half an hour of screaming if I stuffed her into the car so went to get a coffee for me and a snack for her before heading home. This then meant we were late for her lunch, then she wouldn’t nap and was generally quite cross about what a terrible day I’d given her. I was very tired and stressed by the time she had another meltdown when I gently dared to try to get her to nap as she was overtired and unhappy.

I’m sure a lot of parents can identify with these days when there’s nothing overtly wrong, just timings have been off, the baby didn’t want to do what you wanted/needed them to participate in. After all, they get no say on whether they feel like going shoe shopping. You haven’t quite got the magic ratio of doing stuff/going out/food/sleep right. As a result you’re worn down by constant demands on you and feeling like you’re failing as a parent as all you want is to have five minutes of peace. By this point they’re so overtired peace is the last thing they can give you. These days are fairly rare for us but still draining when they arrive, always on a day when I’m least equipped to deal with it as well!

This particular day did get better though  because after failed nap attempt number three I reached for a book: A Dark, Dark Tale by Ruth Brown. I inherited this copy from my grandmother as she used to read it to me when I was a little girl. I’d put it on Felicity’s book display although thought it would be one for when she’s a bit older. Will had picked it up after she pointed at the cover and discovered she loved it.

If you’re not familiar with the book it follows a black cat around lots of dark creepy places only to discover (spoiler alert) a very adorable mouse all tucked up in bed at the end. I find it completely charming and it’s a great slightly spooky but not really scary book for Halloween as well. I think it’s generally classed as a book for older children although the one sentence every page turn works well for Felicity as the story moves quickly and there is a lot to look at thanks to the beautiful illustrations. She also gets the point of the plot- the first time Will read it and she reached the end and saw the mouse she squealed with delight. She still grins and points when we get to the last page.

All this is a very long winded way of taking a moment to appreciate how magical sharing books can be for both babies and parents. On this day, still sitting in her darkened ready-for-nap-bedroom we must have read that story five times over as she gleefully squealed at the end. Seeing her enjoy it so much immediately relaxed me as she was happy again, and sharing something I’d loved as a child is a special moment of bonding. The whole day went from tiring and stressful to joyful and content.

I wanted to record it on this space as this isn’t something I explicitly realised would happen when sharing books with my child. I think a lot of people would say they read for pleasure, escape and distraction – and children need that too. I obviously had it in the back of my head that I wanted her to enjoy reading. But I also know I’ve been guilty of thinking too much about the utilitarian and educational ‘you can learn a, b and c’ side of things. It was a much needed reminder of the magic of reading.

September, September: Autumn’s here

Autumn fruits

Parents in the UK may recognise my blog title from the month specific song on CBeebies, all about the joys of chillier days and falling leaves. Not actually the most appropriate as it has felt more like Summer for a lot of the the month, although now we’re into October it is definitely Autumn with crisp, cold or misty mornings and hedgerows laden with berries, hips, haws and other fruit.

My poor little blog has been very neglected this last month. I have been working on a few posts but was shocked to discover I haven’t checked in at all since my last monthly round up post. The weeks have just flown thanks to a last minute holiday away, and more settling back into work for me and the childminder for Felicity. I’m very much hoping to get more into the swing of everything when we’re in a proper routine, and catch up on blogging as well as life!

Beachy days

Bucket and spade

Beach crawling
This is the first September since I left full time education that I’ve had the really strong ‘it’s the end of the Summer’ feeling. I think because we managed to time going down to my family holiday home in Kent for a heatwave in the middle of the month we really savoured Summery things. We were incredibly lucky and basically had a bucket and spade holiday a bit late. We swam in the sea and were on the beach for hours every day. Felicity loved it and would have crawled for literal miles if we had let her.

Then all my lovely Mum friends are making decisions about heading back to work (or not) and the routine of mine and Felicity’s weekly meet ups and activities are about to change. Properly feeling like end of the holidays – although maternity leave is definitely not a holiday – September was filled with lots of last days out with the babies, culminating on Saturday with a Mum’s only spa day which was just heaven.

Dahlia

Dahlia festival

Anglesey Abbey

Despite the summery mood we have been embracing the new season with blackberry and sloe foraging, which will soon be transformed into crumble and sloe gin respectively. We also continued our accidentally created tradition of going to the dahlia festival at Anglesey Abbey. We must have been for the last 2-3 years and I think it will be a nice tradition to carry on as Felicity grows.

October is shaping up to be an exciting month, with Felicity hopefully perfecting her walking, her first birthday and getting into our new routines. Also I’m aiming for at least one more blog post than in September!

Finally joining in with #ThisLittleBigLife 

So it’s only taken me weeks but I finally managed to take photos for the great new link up run by Sarah Rooftops and Squished Blueberries. Which is all about capturing the special little uncelebrated moments at weekends and on days off. Our weekends have been so manic this Summer with lots of very big events like weddings that it didn’t seem in the spirit to join in before now. Last weekend was completely unplanned though and I actually remembered my camera – so here we go. 

We quickly nipped to Wimpole Home Farm on Saturday morning as we didn’t want the whole day to disappear into a blur of chores and it was a lovely day. This was the first visit where Felicity was really interested in everything. Her favourite animals were the rabbits, pigs and the shire horse. 

Very intentWimpole piggiesLook a horse

Afterwards we enjoyed sampling the National Trust cake and tea in the gardens, and relaxing on the deckchairs. 

Just relaxing on my deckchair

The rest of the day disappeared into a haze of errands and the worst kind of shopping – buying expensive things that are very dull, in this case a next size up car seat. It was so manic I failed miserably to capture any of the small moments, until we got to bath time when we tried out Felicity’s new hoop bath toy. 

Bedtime

Sunday was an equal failure in photography terms as I was very dopey from a particularly bad Felicity night. We did have a lovely barbeque with Will’s parents and I finally managed to cut some of the sweet peas that Will has been growing for me though. 

Sweet peas

Some brilliant products for travelling with a baby

Even though Will and I have always been keen travellers, we perhaps wouldn’t have chosen to go away quite so much with Felicity in her first year, but circumstances overtook us. With five weddings scattered across the country plus Will’s sabbatical in Scotland which meant a month away, Felicity has clocked up a fair few nights away from home already.

This is not a definitive list of everything you’ll need to take when going away with a baby as children of different ages and temperaments, let alone different parents will clearly need different things. These are just some products we have come across along the way that have made our lives a lot easier!

Travel cot to suit your needs (1.) Before planning our month long trip I read a few baby travel essentials lists. Most of which seemed comically obvious – such as including cots/prams/car seats which I’m fairly confident parents use everyday and have the sense to take with them when away from home (rather than just letting the baby bounce around in the back of the car because you’re going on a longer journey…) So I’m trying to avoid the patronisingly obvious in this list. But a travel cot was something we thought about a lot so I did want to include it.

I’m not going to recommend a specific brand or type of portable cot. You may be cosleeping in which case you won’t need to worry. You may be in a small tent in  which case a full size version is not a possibility. Or if travelling by public transport weight and size is probably the most crucial element.

All I will say is price doesn’t really matter if it works for you as a family. We got an excellent travel cot for twenty pounds from Aldi (the Hauck Dream’n Play if you’re wondering) and we find it brilliant because it folds up and down in three minutes flat and, even better, fits Felicity’s full size cot mattress from home in it. She’s a bit of a princess and the pea around sleep – we had to give up on the under mattress breathing monitor as she didn’t like the hard lump- so lugging a massive mattress around is worth it for us. Even if we had a smaller car I would happily compromise my own luggage if it meant we can bring the mattress and get some sleep.

Clearly recommending taking a full size cot mattress around with you isn’t pack light advice, we couldn’t do it if we were flying, but for the long trips we’ve been doing it’s worked for us as everything is the same as at home from the mattress to the bedding. If we were flying I would look at getting a softer mattress insert or a different travel cot as the mattress of the Hauck one is quite hard. Go with your instincts about sleeping arrangements when away – just like at home really!

Cold water sterilising tablets (2.) my mother in law suggested these when we were having to do lots of little bits of sterilising when Felicity was on reflux medication. I have to say initially I was a bit dubious as they seemed faffy compare to our microwave steriliser but I’ve been converted. We used to keep a tupperware box on our worktop which we chucked things into as and when, which was very easy as you just need to change the water once every 24 hours and then you’re done. Super small to pack and you can use a zip lock bag or any lidded box (like an ice cream tub) to set up your portable sterilising station whilst away.

Gro anywhere blackout blind (3.) People seem very divided on these portable black out blinds, there are some quite negative reviews online saying they don’t work. I have found completely the opposite, they darken the room well and stay attached. I haven’t just been using them on a standard window either – they still stayed up even when stretched over a half open window in a recent heat wave, and round a slight corner due to the particular way this window opened. You do have to spend a bit of time making sure all the sucker pads are moist before attaching, the only time one fell off was when I was being lazy and skipped this bit. It maybe takes three minutes more to do this though so not exactly a hardship. They work great for us as there is no way we’d ever get Felicity into her bed during the Summer without something to darken her room.

IKEA Antilop high chair (4.) Again this is more for when travelling by car if space is less of an issue but we’ve found this super cheap IKEA high chair is actually very easy to pack up and take on the road, as the legs pop off and on very easily. I stuff it in the car very regularly when heading over to friends’ houses. Even if you don’t have room for the whole chair, the padded blow up insert is also really good in the early days of weaning and is portable for restaurant high chairs which may be a bit big for baby initially. We also have a fabric over-seat high chair which is much better space wise but isn’t always very good for bringing Felicity up to the height of the table, so the Antilop is still my favourite if there’s room.

Lassig long sleeve bib (5.) I admire the parents who freestyle it with tiny little bibs when weaning. For Felicity I’m a fan of the coverall smock and she still usually manages to make a mess all over her clothes. We use cheap supermarket towelling ones at home but these can rarely be reused without a wash so aren’t the best for out and about. I love these German made bibs though, you can both give them a quick wipe with the washing up like a plastic bib, or a very quick handwash at the end of the day, and you can still machine wash. Very fast drying as they’re mega light and they fold really small which is also a win for travelling. They’re also not too expensive if you compromise on choice of pattern, and are produced in an ecologically conscious way as well.

Tiny tots bath (6.) I’m a bit obsessed with this blow up bath. I bought it in a panic when suddenly realising we weren’t sure if we would have a bath on one of our nights away. We rely on our bath time routine too much for Felicity’s sleep to wing it. This bath can fit in a shower tray and was about ten pounds so I ordered one, worried it would be a bit of a gimmick. It’s actually amazing! We’ve started using it every night at home rather than use a bath seat. For Felicity, who randomly flings herself at things, the blow up soft sides are only a good thing, and it also saves water as you don’t have to fill up the whole tub. It’s easy to blow up without a pump and obviously folds down smaller when deflated. It even has a hook so you can dry it off before packing it up again. Stupidly one of the most unexpectedly good baby products we’ve bought overall, not just for travel.

OiOi fold up changing mat (7.) This is a luxury one as they’re quite pricey, but I love the pattern on mine so much (and I got an in packet brand new one for two pounds secondhand, which also helps). There’s room in the side pockets for a small pack of wipes and a couple of nappies, plus a zip pocket which I use for nappy sacks. Great for slinging in a backpack before heading out, and not lugging the whole changing bag across crowded cafes.

Happy travelling!

August, already? 

July has whizzed by at a quite scary rate. Home after our long trip, there has been much catching up to do, both with friends and starting to do stuff on the house for the first time in ages. As a result life has felt pleasantly busy and full, without seeming too manic. I have also been starting to look towards the end of my maternity leave in September/October, and have been  discussing plans to return to work on a part time basis. Simply because I feel like I’m counting down towards the end everything has obviously sped up.


Felicity is becoming more fun every day, learning new things all the time and properly interacting with everything around her, which is a joy to see. We’ve spent lots of time outdoors in the glorious recent weather, and she loves her paddling pool. She has even started napping in her cot (rather than on me or in pram, sling or car), it just seemed to happen one day and having around two hours to myself is amazing. It’s also made her happier too as I can get on with things whilst she naps rather than her getting bored whilst I do the things that have to be done like ensuring we have some clean clothes and food to eat. It’s also made me more relaxed about sleep at night as I just have to have faith that, like naps, it will just suddenly click and get better. Fingers crossed naps are a fixture for a little while at least, as it will help when she’s at the childminder as well.

I had a bit of a freak out when going to meet our lovely childminder for the first time, at the idea of leaving her and whether she will be OK. It was all a bit illogical as we’d talked and talked about the right thing for us as a family and decided this was it. Logically I know it is better to start her at the childminder earlier for a very gradual introduction to the new environment away from home. Everything I’ve read says it’s best for her to have a really gentle handover, to ensure she’s comfortable before I leave her alone for the first time, but at the same time it feels like I should still have two months, not be thinking about ‘abandoning’ her already. Aside from these wobbles I’m actually looking forward to getting back into the swing of work so everything is crossed that she settles quickly. The two times we’ve been round to the childminders she’s been off harassing the older children without a backward glance, so hopefully that will continue.

Our social calendar has calmed down, with only one wedding and a Christening since my last catch up post(!)It has been the most lovely summer of celebrating friend’s happiness. There is also the perk of getting to go on mini breaks in nice places – most recently York. Sure I’ll talk about this in more detail at some point (when I get caught up with all the other travel posts I want to write…)

Wandering round York was also a chance to catch some Pokemon – yes I sadly wanted to be in on the latest craze. I tend to have limited attention span for these things but wanted to understand what Will was on about – I swear I had five minute conversations with him where I had no idea what he was on about until I started playing too. I have to say in terms of seeing the effects of it out and about I have never known any – I guess you could call it cultural – event like it. Once you get your eye in you see people wandering around slowly staring at their phones and doing the characteristic upward swipe all the time. Or saying random things like ‘there’s a growleth somewhere around here’. It might all be some distraction tchnique and the world is about to end while we’re all too busy trying to catch cartoons – but at least it’s something a bit happier right?!

As it’s July 2016 I also have to mention – the new Harry Potter play scripts have come out! I have just reread all the books again so it was very exciting to get a new part of the story. I was also incredibly lucky we were heading back from York so I had a car journey to read it in, I was sure I would never get the opportunity to read it in a day, as I did with all the novels, with Felicity rampaging about. Long car journey whilst baby napped saved the day though. I did enjoy it although it isn’t as good as the main seven books (no spoilers here beyond that!), the play itself must be an amazing spectacle though so if you’ve got tickets you are in for a treat, and I’m jealous!