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Pancakes are for life

Not just for Shrove Tuesday and don’t let it catch you out as Pancake day is Tuesday 16th February 2010.  Yes indeedy it is time to pour the milk, crack the eggs, whisk with flour, flip, fill and eat – nom, nom, nom! 

Don’t take my word for it, allow me to introduce you to Lyle, he’s the guy that makes Golden Syrup don’t you know?  Anyway Lil’ H and I didn’t manage to make the Pancake training session Lyle’s Golden Syrup held down in London due to us being in Cheshire and Baby G being so wee still.  However the everything you need to make pancakes kit and new website with Emma Forbes showing us the inside track taught me everything I needed to know when it comes to pancakes and to not have to throw the first or two one away (the pan isn’t hot enough says Emma!) head over to www.welovepancakes.co.uk and swot up!  There is a step by step guide to pancake making  and loads more that will get you in the spirit for this years flipping fabulousness.  Heads up from me there is now an alternative to the, whilst iconic, still sticky, tin of syrup with the new Squeezy Syrup a no drip, no mess (disclaimer:  not guaranteed if used by over excited toddlers!) easy to use bottle.

Pancakes aren’t an annual event at Lancaster Towers they are a regular favourite as they combine a really easy & fun toddler activity.  My best advice is weigh out and measure everything in advance it’s super easy for a toddler to pour, tip, crack & whisk the mix together.  Also best left overnight to relax its an activity that can cover an afternoon shift by making the mix and also late morning making lunch together.  I’ve mentioned before about how involving my H in cooking positively increases the quantity consumed (I own one picky eater already hoping Baby G won’t make it a pair!) and pancakes are a clear winner for this.  Even spinach gets eaten in a cheese, ham and spinach pancake combo as first seen on My Daddy Cooks!  Here is H and I making pancakes together and him sitting down to eat them with the assistance of his digger fork – count the “get my toddler to eat” tricks!

 

Don’t forget: Pancake Day 2010 is Tuesday 16 February – don’t let it creep up on you and get prepared with exciting recipes and new methods to impress your friends and family.  For the complete “Four Steps to Perfect Pancakes”, advice, recipes, tips and more visit www.welovepancakes.co.uk.

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Advice for first time mums

I can hardly post up a media request and not contribute!  So following on from the request for advice for first time mums here’s my thoughts on the questions posed …

How painful IS birth. No *really*.
If you are expecting it to hurt then your expectations will be met and it will hurt but it will hurt because you’re frightened and tense because everyone’s told you it’s going to hurt!  After my first I would’ve said yes it hurts more than I ever would have thought possible but not at all after you’ve had an epidural!  For me it wasn’t the intensity of the pain or pressure that was the issue first time round it was the duration, the endurance and stamina required that beat me down after three days of slow labour.  I also wasn’t expecting the sickness that came with my first labour, I threw up constantly for three days.  Reflecting on my first labour in the hindsight a year or so gives you, I could see just what a mental, mind over matter, mountain childbirth was.  I really engaged with, explored and prepared for my second baby using hypno-birthing techniques (I recommend a visit to Dany at www.tums2mums.com) and indeed second time around I got to the elusive fully dilated 10cms with my mind “in the zone” still waiting for it “to really get going” when in fact, not only had it got going but it had almost gone!  Although baby and I weren’t quite on the same page and I can confirm that there is no pain, no input and no effort required if you deliver under a general anaesthetic with a crash c-section!  For me I think child birth is a rite of passage, everyone’s birth story is their own very personal experience, understand all the options and possibilities and mentally be able to go with the flow, the labour and delivery experience will be what it is and you won’t know what that will be until you reach that point!  Anyway childbirth is the least of your worries when it comes to having babies, it’s over and done within a few days it’s the next 20+ years of child rearing you need to worry about!

What do you DO with your newborn baby all day?
The first two weeks or so they feed & sleep pretty much all the time and you’re busy with visitors and staring at your precious bundle.  There’s washing but not much else to do as I found a flurry of people around “helping”.  As baby gets older they spend time in their baby gyms, bouncy chairs etc. and you take hundreds of photos of them, download them and email them to people or upload them to Facebook!   You will start getting out and about meeting up with ante natal and post natal groups, hitting the coffee shop circuit and going to each others houses for baby to try out a different baby gym, bouncy chair, bumbo, door bouncer etc.  Very quickly by about 3 months baby can start to get bored if left too long and require some entertainment, read first board books to baby, massage baby, go for a walk, you will learn to play with your baby – grandparents are good at teaching you how to do this!  Whatever it is that makes baby smile or laugh you will do a thousand times over for that smile or giggle.  If popping out from behind the newspaper with your cheeks puffed out & eyes crossed gets a guaranteed laugh, the fact that you used to be a highflying barrister is irrelevant.  You will do it and it won’t stop there, you will then do it in front of other people just to show them how adorably cute your baby’s giggles are.  Don’t believe me?  Just you wait and see!

What’s the best way to avoid losing your marbles with lack of sleep/adult company etc?
Get dressed and get out of the house at least once a day. Irrespective of season and weather get some fresh air every day.  I also recommend taking a multi vitamin, make sure it contains B vitamins too such as Femibion  

Can you breastfeed while technically asleep? Like a cowboy sleeping upright with his eyes open etc?
I fed both of mine lying down in bed at night and as hard as I would try to not fall asleep I would more often than not.  I was paranoid with my first that I would roll on him, unless you’re on medication or have had a drink I do think a mothers natural awareness and instinct would never let this happen, I had never moved an inch when I did fall asleep.  Dads however don’t have that instinct so I use to lie between Dad and baby.

And on that vein, is there any way to have a drink while breastfeeding?
It’s all in the timing with this one, I used to find a glass of wine in the evening after baby is in bed around 7pm would help me relax and also when I was expressing to express and I wouldn’t feed again until 10:30pm.  If you want to have a night off the boobs I would express 2-3oz a day and freeze it, ‘til I had enough for three full feeds then I would feed baby at 7pm go out and Daddy or Grandma could feed baby at 10:30pm and also the morning feed.  I found I needed to pump and dump when I got in for my own physical comfort.

What will seem like a good idea initially – and what I will quickly realise is a total nightmare?
In the very early days deciding you need to get out and get some fresh air as you head off for your walk you will remember you have vaginal stitches which is why you have been sat down on your ass inside for days!

Am I really going to be forgetting my name and putting the loo roll in the fridge for a few months after birth?
I have lost my purse, to date remains uncovered but I swear it is in the house, the lost car key has been discovered in fridge, I left mail over the microwave combi oven nuking a jacket potatoe and very nearly burning the house down and I have also recently burnt rice – who’d have thought that was possible!  I regularly walk into rooms and have absolutely no idea why I am there but I irritatingly know there is a reason which comes to me eventually, usually all too late.  It goes on for at the least the first year!

How does it change your relationships?
For me friendships weren’t massively impacted, I have less time and I think those with babies and children are in the same boat and those without are always pleased to catch up when you get a chance.  Extended family relationships can be put under a lot of extra pressure.  A new family addition of a grandchild, particularly if it the first grandchild, can cause some significant tensions amongst families.  I’m just going to say the dreaded words – the in laws!  The in laws can become the out laws very quickly if expectations aren’t managed, feelings and wishes not respected – bottom line is good communication, be aware it goes out the window with hormones and tiredness.  Be proactive with managing the in law relationships explain how you want things to be when baby arrives, which visitors are welcome to the hospital and how visiting will be managed.  I’d recommend researching and buying “a guide for grandparents” for both sets – you are all new at this!  Sadly extra weekends don’t come with baby so if the new grandparents are overzealous in their weekend visits your opportunities to see others may shrink considerably.  Do not be afraid to say “no that doesn’t work for us”, “it would be helpful if you could bring your own bedding/meal etc” and also to ask for your baby back just say “I think baby needs some mummy time now” and take baby back.

My best practical tip
My best practical tip would be when your baby’s nappy explodes, and it will, leaving you with a baby with poop right up to their neck.  Strip them down to their vest and get a pair of scissors and simply cut them out.  By all means you can wrestle them out of the poop filled vest over their heads and scrape, stain remove, wash and stain remove the vest some more if you like but when you’re standing in the baby change at John Lewis with a parcel that is more poop than baby gurgling back you you’ll be glad you read this post as you use the scissors you’ve just bought from the kitchen department!

If I could only offer one piece of advice
The best piece of advice I received and if I could only pass on one tip to an expectant first time parent it would be this – don’t be too hard on yourself.  Life with your first newborn baby is unknown territory, hormonal, emotional, exhausting and really difficult.  It does get better though and continues to get better and better and better.  You will wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.  You will understand just how small and insignificant things in life that used to stress you out are and your life will have real proportion to it as well as a gorgeous new person in it.

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Chambers & Beau Giveaway

For a good while now I have hankered after a piece by Chambers & Beau – I love my kids, I love beautiful things and I love jewellery.  Amy, the talent behind the brand (creep, creep, please pick me, *sighs* bloody random number generator!) is running a FAB competition.  She is giving away one of her fabulous pieces of jewellery of your choosing, from their new collection, to the value of £150!  In order to enter, you must simply post a link to the competition on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments section of Amy’s blog!

I know exactly which piece I will be having if I win and have literally everything crossed!

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Media Request: Advice request for 1st time mums!

A freelance friend is putting together a piece for The Guardian Family section gathering together the sorts of practical and emotional pearls of wisdom for first time mums the sort of nuggets that you can’t find in books and you only discover when you’ve had a child.  The inside track if you like, the amazingly useful insider bits of advice that can really help, and also the stuff that makes you laugh and other mums nod knowingly as well! 

These pearls could include:

  • The anecdotal no-holds barred things that only mums know (even those that fly against conventional advice)
  • The thing you wish you’d known before you gave birth/became a mum
  • The thing “they don’t tell you”, or that are glossed over in books etc/conversely the things that are exaggerated?
  • The answers to questions that perhaps you felt you should be asking (there are a few listed below….)
  • The handiest, most invaulable thing that someone told you
  • Best practical tip
  • The most surprising thing about becoming a mum

If you have thoughts, answers or have written a post or posts touching on any or all of these elements (I’m not sure I write about much else!) please comment and include any relevant links in the comments below – serious, humorous, wry, any flavour is good!  If you’d rather contact her directly drop me an email at claire@dandelionlounge.co.uk and I will send you her email address with pleasure.

Names can be changed and even just a one liner or a tweet is useful.  You may have something that leaps to mind – but if you need inspiration then here are some questions from my friend that may spark an ‘oh *yes*, I remember wondering about that…” moment….., she is yet to have kids ;-) 

  • How painful IS birth. No *really*.
  • What do you DO with your newborn baby all day?
  • What’s the best way to avoid losing your marbles with lack of sleep/adult company etc?
  • Can you breastfeed while technically asleep? Like a cowboy sleeping upright with his eyes open etc?
  • And on that vein, is there any way to have a drink while breastfeeding?
  • What will seem like a good idea initially – and what I will quickly realise is a total nightmare?
  • Am I really going to be forgetting my name and putting the loo roll in the fridge for a few months after birth?
  • Does a gulf open up between you and your child-free friends? How does it change your relationships?
  • Am I going to surprise myself – and if so, how? (my capacity to not sleep, the depth of emotion, the complete absorption with my baby, my ability to puree things, my time management skills etc?)
  • What won’t I care about half as much, after I’ve given birth/am a mum?

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Babies cry but…

Is it harder to love a baby that cries a lot?

Isn’t that just one big mother of a question right there?!  It’s huge!  I love this question!  I‘ve been asked this question and would like to share with you why, why I’ve been asked and why I love it.  Now if you read my blog but don’t follow me on Twitter then the last time I really blogged about my life as a new mum to Baby G was her birth story post however if you were following me on Twitter back in November & December you would have definitely been aware of some dark times here at Lancaster Towers, you may even have heard some crying and if passing seen floods of tears flowing from the door!  We are now in a good place and Baby G is a delight but for a while there things were seriously, seriously tough.  I mean like proper “considering-going-back-to-work-full-time-and-getting-a-nanny” tough!

Baby G is 15 weeks old now, so here’s a quick rundown of how those first few months with two have been. 

The first three weeks with two

Weeks 1, 2 & 3  At the beginning all was good with Baby G, breast feeding well, waking once or occasionally twice in the night to feed, sleeping most of the time.  Lil’ H adoring of his new sister but he was struggling with the change to his family unit.  His night time sleep went out the window.  My poor little guy desperately trying to make up his mummy time at night I think.  He went from sleeping through the night from being just a few months old to waking multiple times a night.  As a result of his poor sleeping his tiredness saw his behaviour spiral downhill.  Desperate to not be telling him off but everyone’s shattered, patience and best intentions have left the building and he’s being, well frankly naughty, so guess what?  He was being told off and frequently and that just made me so sad.  I kept thinking I did this to him, I knew this was all his emotional reaction to the change,  I now know and can see how hormonal a time it was too.  So positive mummy time dropped to an all time low and we spent the best part of a month in one very hideous viscous circle!

Farewell sleep, hello colic

Weeks 3-8           I had a moment of clarity amongst the fug of breastfeeding tiredness and could see the number one way to make some improvements was to tackle H’s sleep.  Bottom line was we wouldn’t be tolerating this if G hadn’t arrived so it was time.  There were two issues firstly he wouldn’t go to sleep by himself, insisting mummy/daddy stayed or he’d be out of bed and out the door.  Then there was the night waking multiple times a night.  I prioritised the night waking on the grounds it would have the biggest positive impact on his tiredness and therefore his behaviour.  We got the stair gate out and put on his bedroom for the first time ever and used aromatherapy and Indigo child essences (both which I still use).  During the day I introduced “The Sleep Fairy” and her chocolate coin incentive programme!  The premise was simple, Mummy had called the sleep fairy, she would watch over Lil’ H and if he slept in his bed all night she would leave a chocolate coin.  Lil’ H and I made a reward chart by drawing and cutting out and sticking on pictures and photographs a reward chart.  It has been invaluable to have a photo of Hugo asleep in his bed, he so clearly understood what we were asking him to do.  He loves going on the little steam train at Brookside so a straight week of sleeping in his own bed and a ticket to ride he would have! 

First night – when it came to bedtime I stayed with him whilst he went to sleep, 2am he woke, crying “Mummy” and rattling the gate, joy!  I went to him hugged him over the gate told him he was safe and told him to go back to bed.  He didn’t, I did.  I then simply spoke to him through the monitor and said Mummy would scare the sleep fairy away if she came into his room.  This was met by silence!  Quickly followed by the pitter patter of feet back into bed!  The sleep fairy came and left a coin and a very proud and not so tired boy awoke the following day.  Night 2 similar but I never went to him just spoke to him.  Night 3, the wheels fell off and I had to go into him and but of course there was no coin from the fairy in the morning L That was that though, the fairy came for three weeks and then had to be “dismissed”.  Which we did by her leaving a chocolate coin, a special present and a magic fairy wand, this is important because if we need to call the fairy back which we have had to a few times we use the wand when we are going to bed and ask her to help H sleep in his own bed.  To date it has been very effective – the Sleep Fairy and her chocolate coin incentive programme rocks! 

During all this Baby G had been a dream, breastfeeding well, sleeping well, napping well.  Toddler sleep issues resolved, make way for Baby crying issues.  It came from nowhere when G was about 3 weeks old this crying started late afternoon say about 4:30pm ish and I would get her to sleep, like to totally floppy arm asleep, put her down and seconds later eyes wide open hysterical screaming.  It was colic.  That was my worst nightmare a baby with colic and it just got worse.  It was for a few hours in the early evening which go longer ‘til it was pretty much 6 hours straight ‘til 10:30pm when she’d be fed and go to sleep and then be put down exhausted.  Then it started to start earlier and earlier and earlier and eventually it was ALL DAY.  I timed it to go to the doctors one day she cried for 5 hours between 9:30am and 4:30pm and solidly without sleeping from 4:30pm until 10:30pm.  Baby G cried for just over 11 hours that day and that was a “regular” day.  She didn’t feed well, she cried, got wind, her tummy hurt, she cried more – yet another vicious circle.  I had the infacol, the Colief, the gripe water, the Gaviscon, the massage pad, a pal on Twitter was sending reiki, the white noise of the hairdryer was rescued with a white noise CD (which is great and we still use).  I’d cut out wheat, dairy, caffeine and alcohol, I’d seen breast feeding consultants and tried most bottles (Baby Born Free have all the latest on BPA Free, were hugely supportive and deserve a thank you!)  But Baby G was still crying it was getting worse if anything, if something did work it almost never worked again there was no consistency, no pattern, preferences or routine were emerging.  My hair was going greyer I swear visibly by the day, the stress lines were deepening and arriving at a pace.  I didn’t want to go out, it was so exhausting and difficult to visit other people, I was frightened she would just scream the place down, family or good friend or not I didn’t want to be observed struggling with my Baby.  I was in yet another very hideous spiral, this time one of very real and total panic.  Life felt like a tent with no pegs in a hurricane.  I don’t believe any child is “easy” they all have their moments and challenges and it just might not be whilst they are babies but it was only now that I understood what all the conversations I heard amongst my ante & post natal groups with H were about.  Only now did I “get it”, this was the nightmare they were all going on about!

Week 8                 By the time Baby G was eight weeks old she had the six week check, all was well, I’d been prescribed the gaviscon and I had returned twice because “my baby cries all the time”.  I wasn’t dismissed to say I was would be unfair, Baby G was checked out and I was told she was fine, it would pass but to come back if I continued to be worried.  I was worried, worried it might never stop, even my mum started to say “do you think there is something wrong with her?” Family and friends would visit – arriving with their knacks, tricks, secrets, songs and rhymes and declare “oh give her to me I’ll settle her.”  Part of me is proud of G that without exception she saw everyone off and didn’t settle for a single one of their secret-special-fail-safe baby–charms!  I had seen an osteopath when I was pregnant and I had taken Baby G along when she arrived.  I was back there on an emergency appointment to see if anything had changed or could be helped or preferably fixed.  I was running out of routes to explore, next step was going to have to be… I was all out I didn’t have an next step – wait until she was 12 weeks old and allegedly all this colicky screaming would stop that 12 week milestone was a lifetime away.  The osteopath was just lovely and listened and examined Baby G, placed her hands on her head and said, almost immediately, “this baby has an ear infection”.  In my heart of hearts I didn’t really think I’d get an answer from going to the osteopath, I was just dealing with such an alien situation it made me feel better to be doing something, doing anything, I just wanted her to stop crying.  “This baby has an ear infection” I was blown away there was a possible answer, now I feel guilty that wasn’t on my radar as an option, could I have know?  Should I have know?  Oh my God I could have an answer and one that is treatable – I was excited, inappropriately pleased my baby might have an ear infection because if she does we can treat it and she won’t be in pain and she won’t be crying for unknown reasons anymore.  Baby G had her a full osteopathic “MOT” and treatment and then we headed straight back to the doctors.  I called en route as it was gone 5pm telling them I wanted someone to look in my baby’s ears tonight.  The doctor looked in her ears and confirmed.  Calpol and antibiotics were prescribed.  Calpol and 20 minutes later I had a different baby.  We had seen her smile before but we didn’t see it very often, we didn’t know that she is a smiley girl and she is.  Just look!

Happy smiley girl

Best friends are allowed

So that is why my best friend asked me “is it harder to love a baby that cries a lot?” I love that question because I knew the answer without thinking, I love the fact that I knew without stopping for a nano second, I love the fact that the question made me really think about the first few months with Baby G.  I love that question because it says so much about the strength and openness of both our friendship and the people my best friend and I are.  It’s a friendship I am incredibly proud of .

So what is the answer to the original question “is it harder to love a baby that cries a lot?”  The answer is simple “No” but there are far fewer moments to recognise, reflect and feel that love because all of the attention that is demanded and exhaustion created by the crying.  It is harder to have those moments of calm and quiet and it is those moments when you gaze at your sleeping baby and get to experience rush of love for your child flood over you.

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Simple Pleasures No 5

A bath with my favourite bath oil – my choice for bathtime is Lime, Basil & Mandarin by Jo Malone 

Its Sunday night the children are asleep, the bath is run, hot & got my name on it!  Until next week folks! 

Claire x

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