I’m a Planner

This is what the side of our fridge looks like now. I also have a number of notebooks on the go…

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With my husband able to work from home this has already been very useful for us.  He has an idea of how I see mine and Aidan’s day going and he can plan little breaks into his working day to come and play with us. For example I’m not really able to run around the garden with Aidan at the moment ( I’m 28 weeks pregnant and feeling it!) so Daddy can take a break, run around a little bit and then we can all go out for a walk.

The daily break downs are a memory jog for me, I put some cars in the freezer for an activity and completely forgot, but when I saw ‘frozen cars’ on the note for yesterdays PM activity I knew what I was planning to do! (And that precious freezer space could be freed back up should we need it)!

It’s also helpful to have all this there so that if I got sick Daddy would have some inspiration for things to do.  I wouldn’t expect him to “do it my way”, he’s creative and perfectly capable of thinking up activities for the themes, but anything I can do to help ease the stress of a situation like that puts my mind at ease too.

I have planned which themes we’ll do each week all the way up to the end of June, this just helps me focus on the themes for the closest weeks when I’m scrolling Pinterest for inspiration.

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I’m particularly looking forward to the At Home theme, I can’t wait to teach Aidan how to do all the chores I hate… ;D

Follow me over on Instagram to see what we’re doing day to day and check back here for more of my planning posts soon!

 

Charity Shop “Haul”

So in my last post I said I’d been to our local charity shop to try and get a hold of a few bit to help me with our upcoming themes and activities. I thought I’d show you what I got and give you an idea of what I’m going to do with them.

I’ve also done a few Amazon orders and so I’ll do a post about those items soon.

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I was pretty pleased with what I found, I’ll be keeping these things hidden away until they are needed so that they are new and interesting to Aidan when they come out. I’ll break it down into themes.

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I got a farmer and tractor, these will probably end up nice and muddy. A book of various stories and rhymes about Old McDonald and Farmyard bingo.  I’m not expecting Aidan to be able to play this, but we can use the tiles as flash cards so he can learn the animals names and sounds.  I’m also just noticing that there’s a storybook included in that, I’ve not actually opened it yet so we’ll have to see if it’s in there.

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The zoo was a topic I was planning to do very soon, in the hope that we might still be able to get out to the zoo, with the ever changing guidelines and recommendations for high risk groups (I have asthma and am pregnant so currently fall into two of the three groups) I thought it best to put it off until later in the year, even if I can’t get out maybe Daddy can take Aidan out to see the animals.

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This one was a little more for me than Aidan really, I wanted something with some dino facts and nice pictures to inspire me.  It does have flaps though so Aidan will be happy to sit down with me and have a look through. I also managed to grab a few plastic dinosaurs on a more recent trip out. I’ll be doing some messy play with those.

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A few of these things will be usable over multiple topics, these will all get used for our Animal theme.  The puppies at the back will be covered in sticky back plastic and made into puzzles.

These three are just a few extras that caught my eye.  I thought they could be extra visual aids to support themes.  Nice pictures and even though I’m not, for example, expecting Aidan to lean the alphabet from the large flashcards, they can be out and we can still talk about the letters and pictures.

A lot of these things will probably act as more of a prompt for me and help me think about what things fall into certain themes and topics.  In the end I want Aidan to have fun and enjoy playing and I can tell that he enjoys playing more when there’s not hundreds of toys all over the floor and mummy is say on the sofa watching.  Having the themes helps me focus what tops and activities I provide for him and the displacement activity of planning and organising our week around the themes is giving me the mental peace to continue to enjoy playing with him.  I feel like I’ve been productive and have helped make the world a little better for Aidan by planning thing for him to do and so I can allow myself the time to play with him, instead of worrying about things I cannot effect.

Follow me over on Instagram to see what we’re doing day to day and check back here for more of my planning posts soon!

On the Road – Day One

If you’re not sure what this post is about head to my previous post and have a read of that first, then come back here.

I will try and get into the habit of loosely planning out the whole weeks worth of activities, so I have plenty of time to prepare, but organising each activity the evening before or during the day.

Our theme for this week is ‘On the Road’, Aidan loves vehicles and so this was a fairly easy theme to get started with.  I started by writing down a few activity ideas that I can use throughout the week. I wrote down anything that came to mind, from messy ‘Tractors in the mud’ to really simple ‘Pointing out cars on the way to the shop’.  This helped me to see that even the simplest, most every day activities could be a source of entertainment.

Today was off to a bit of a funny start because Aidan woke up early and so he needed a nap by 9am… So we got the day started properly at 10am with some outdoor play.

I put his ball pool out with some cars in and his bike. Mostly he just wanted to be chased but we did spend a little bit of time using the cars to push balls around and rolling cars as far as we could with one push.  He also had his snack outside which isn’t usual so i think he enjoyed that.

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Then we went for a walk to the charity shops in the village, I wanted to try and pick up a few things that would help me with future activities and on the way we talked about what cars we could see.  I’d asked Aidan before we left what he thought we might see and he wanted to see a tractor, I told him I didn’t think we’d see a tractor but I was wrong! He spotted it way out on the main road and was very excited to point it out to me.

When we got back it was time for lunch, while daddy and I put a few bits together Aidan played by himself. After lunch we put him down for his nap.   The morning nap was 100% required but totally screwed us up for his afternoon nap.  He ended up chatting and singing to himself in his cot for 30 mins or so, long enough for me to clear away all the mornings toys and set out a few new things for him to play with (and put my feet up for 10 minutes with a cuppa).

We spent the afternoon building towers and running cars down tracks, two toys he rarely gets out on his own.  We read a couple of books and talked about what we could see in them.  At about 3 we went back out into the garden to play with a ball and some larger push along toys.  I had hoped he would entertain himself a little so I could wash the dishes but he wanted to play together so we kicked the ball around and he had his afternoon snack.  Getting him back inside was challenging, he wanted to play on his bike and be chased some more but it was getting cold and I was starting to get a bit stiff so I tempted him back inside telling him he could race his bike around while I started tea. Daddy to the rescue at this point, we have a running stroller and Aidan loves going out for a run with daddy so they went out while I made tea.

We played quietly with bricks once we were done and then it was time for his bedtime routine. The day flowed quite naturally, I had quick and simple activities up my sleeve in case we ran out of steam on something so it’s nice to have those in the bag for another day!

Tuesdays and Wednesdays he goes to a childminder and all being well he will be able to do that as normal this week. I will plan another couple of days of activities on our theme and hopefully that will see us through the week. I guess we’re going to be taking each day as it comes for now, trying to keep as much normality as we can until things change. It’s nice to feel prepared though and getting into good habits early will help us later.

Our Day – Roughly…

Chances are at some point in the next few weeks we’re going to be told we have to stay inside. One of my big anxieties is around keeping Aidan, who’s nearly 2, well entertained and myself sane. I took a look at Five Minute Mum’s website and Instagram for a few ideas and her latest blog post was a big help. I definitely find that I need structure and routine to help keep me calm. Not rigid hour by hour type stuff, but I like to have a plan for the day and if I can extend that to a loose week plan it’s even better. I had a look at FMM’s example of how she would structure her day if she had to keep her kids home and used that as a base to create something for us too. Today was day one, I thought I might as well start straight away to get into the habit. It was brilliant! Here’s how I’m doing things.

Our day normally starts around 6 and we try to have a fairly relaxed morning getting ready.

6am – 8am – Free play, Breakfast, Wash and Dress

Aidan isn’t at school so we wont need to keep up with his education, but I do like to encourage his development through activities and play.

8am – 10am – Books, Communication based games, Drawing/colouring. – These are activities that support development of speech, reading, writing etc. obviously I do not expect him to read or write, but drawing helps with fine motor control which supports writing. Being read too supports his reading and doing activities that involve him following instructions are good for his understanding of language.

10am- 1130 – Snack, Outdoor play (clean/dry), Physical play, The World. – at the moment we can still go outside to parks or the shops, these activities would be included in this slot.

1130 – 1300 – Free play, Lunch.

1300 – 1500 – Nap/ Quiet time, Snack. – The length of his nap can vary day to day and some days he wont sleep at all, but I do try to leave him in his cot as long as he is happy. This gives me a bit of a break and I think is good for him. Even if he doesn’t sleep he seems more refreshed after a bit of time in a dark and quiet room.

1500 – 1600 – Outside play (Dirty/ Wet), Messy play, “Science”/baking, Water. – We are lucky to have a nice garden that we (we assume?!) can continue to use so we’ll be out there as much as possible for messy play.

1600 – 1700 – Free play, TV time – This is my opportunity to tidy and cook.  Aidan is not particularly interested in TV unless it’s Peppa Pig in which case he would watch it all day. Most days we don’t have the TV on, but it can be very a useful tool to get a bit of quiet time.

1700 – Tea Time

Aidan goes to bed around 630 so any time after tea is spent playing with daddy and getting ready for bed.

Each “slot” it very rough, they are acting as more of a prompt for me to mix the day up and keep things interesting for him.  If he is enjoying being outside I’m not going to drag him kicking and screaming back into the house because the timetable says he should be playing inside. Likewise if he’s not interested in an activity then he’s free to go away and do something else.

I’ve picked a theme for the week and so the toys and books I get out and the activities that I organise will be related to the theme in some way. Again this is just as much for me as it is for him, for example today I found it much easier to engage in his play because I had had little ideas of how this toy or activity could reflect the theme. I encouraged him to play with me as I did things and he seemed more engaged because we were playing together. Aidan is very good at playing on his own and so I must admit that I often find it very easy to disengage from his playtime and scroll Instagram, but today I loved that for the vast majority of the day I was on the floor or in the garden and my phone lay mostly untouched on the counter top.

For my own benefit entirely I’ve written down what we did today and things I noticed him doing that I thought were interesting for example he was able to stack a tower of bricks much higher than I’d seen him do before. I’m doing this to keep me motivated, I can look back and see how he engaged with what we were doing.

I’m going to share some of our days here and if I find any other good resources I’ll try and leave links in case they can be helpful.

Five Minute Mum

What to Expect, When? – We bought a copy of this after having it recommended by a family member that’s a childminder.  It’s great for getting an idea of how children develop from birth to 5 years.  It has some suggestions for things you can do to support development areas.

 

XR Fashion Boycott

A couple of weeks ago I signed up for the Extinction Rebellion fashion boycott.  The below text is taken from the XR Fashion Boycott pledge page, I don’t think I can write it any better than this…

‘We are in a climate and ecological emergency. If we don’t act now, we will face mass food shortages, the collapse of our civilisation and extinction. We can no longer afford to use land to grow crops to produce textiles, or to extract oil to produce synthetic fibres and pollute the air and water.

There is now only one way for the fashion industry to be sustainable – to stop pointless consumption and say no to virgin resources and fossil fuels. We must use what we’ve already got, regenerate the natural world, and envision cultural and economic systems based on the well-being of people and planet.

Fashion is not to die for. Join me in saying no to new clothing and yes to life on earth. This is a 52 week fashion boycott, in which together, we radically change our relationship with clothes.

Sign up by clicking here

For the next year, I’ll be making do with what I have, mending when things wear out and buying second hand.  I actually love the challenge of finding clothes in charity shops or popping to our local clothes swap shop. I challenge you to do the same.

This is also going to be a great opportunity for me to hone my upcycling skills, I’d like to try and refashion a few things and I’ll be looking for clothing items that I can cut up and sew into clothes for Aidan.  So stay tuned for more to come on this and look out on my Instagram for a few outfit of the day pics.

 

Cloth Nappies – Our Set Up

I thought I’d show you what our nappy table looks like (on a good day). I never really expected to keep up the use of the changing table but it’s particularly useful, I think, when using cloth nappies. It’s nice to know that everything is in one place, I’m not running around looking for somewhere to put a wet nappy, or nipping away from a naked baby to find a liner.

This is our changing area, it’s in Aidan’s room so we’ve made it quite a nice spot.

We have a changing mat, a storage box and the wipes on top.  The bin is on the floor to the left and the drawer on the right is our nappy drawer, this has our folded nappies, spare liners, covers and boosters.

The white bin is for rubbish the grey is for dirty reusables.

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On the left we have our reusable wipes and the clean water. In the storage box we keep disposable nappies for night time, we have some biodegradable single use wipes and below is a packet of biodegradable nappy bags.  We always keep a muslin and a towel on hand for snotty noses, sick, wet hands or wee! In the bottom corner are creams and hand sanitiser and a roll of bin bags.

That’s it! At the moment streamlining nappy changes is a must, Aidan’s quite the little wriggler!

Plastic Free July

Signing up for Plastic Free July was a bit of a no brainer for me. We’ve been wanting to do a waste free month since before Aidan was born, but as soon as he arrived the thought of trying to go waste free with a baby was a bit overwhelming. Plastic Free July was a great excuse to throw out all our excuses and get on with it!

If you go to their website and Take the Challenge there are a couple of different pledges to choose from and you can do a bit of mixing a matching. We selected ‘Avoid single-use plastic packaging’ and ‘Target takeaway items (the Top 4: bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups)’ and we are making this pledge for all of July. We are being realistic with ourselves, our aim this month is to REDUCE the amount of single use plastics we use. We’re not going to call it a failure if we end up needing to buy an emergency Hovis from the corner shop, but we’re going to do everything we can to avoid needing to. Likewise, it’s hot at the moment, if we get caught out somewhere with no reusable bottle, we’re going to buy water.

Reducing plastic waste – or any waste for that matter – is all in the preparation. Meal planning, shopping lists, taking bottles/cups/straws and bags with you just in case. But also being prepared to do without. I’m going to be really strict with myself on the takeaway items, if I don’t have my cup, I wont be taking coffee away!

I’ll be doing some weekly updates on my Instagram stories as well as looking at some daily challenges and tips from others who are taking part. At the end of the month I’ll do a full recap here and let you know how we got on.

Are you taking part in Plastic Free July? Let me know I’d love to follow your journey too, if you’re sharing.

Cloth Nappies – What do you need?

I feel like there are two options for starting out with cloth nappies.  You can ease in, in which case you’ll probably do really well with just a couple of nappies and something to put dirty ones in. You can build up from there as and when you feel ready.  Or you can dive straight in and get everything you need in one go.

Here’s what we use, it works really well for us but of course this is not the only way to do it! Try things and find what works for you.

1. Nappies! We have around 15 nappies in our regular rotation, and four night time nappies which we use if we’ve been a bit disorganised and nothing’s dry. We don’t currently cloth at night. I really enjoy having a couple of different types of nappy, I’m not sure why! We currently use two brands, Totsbots and Bambinomio. I’m going to do a more in depth look at our nappies in a future post.

2. Liners. Technically I guess these are optional but we find them to be absolutely necessary. There are a couple of different options: you can get reusable liners, biodegradable and, I believe, you can get flushable but I’m not sure if these are recommended as you should really only flush toilet paper down the loo! I made our liners out of an IKEA fleece blanket, I measured up against the nappy and just cut the blanket up into strips and they work brilliantly! The fleece helps keep moisture away from little one’s skin so even if the nappy is really wet he normally feels nice and dry. They also help protect the nappy and keep it clean. More on liners in a later post!

3. Wipes. If you’re going down the reusable nappy route you might as well use reusable wipes too if you ask me, but whatever you go for pick something that’s going to be kind to your baby’s skin. No point using a lovely fresh chemical free cloth nappy and then wiping nasties all over their little bum! More on wipes in a future post.

4. Somewhere for dirty nappies. We use a swing lid bin and a totsbots mesh bag. It’s tempting to get a bin or bucket with a tight lid to try and keep smells down but letting them have a little bit of air will help keep them fresher for longer.  We never keep soiled nappies hanging around, they always get rinsed straight away. Guess what! I’m going to talk more about washing nappies in a future post 😉

5. Wet bag(s). I know there are some people who just use reusables at home, we did that in the early days, but if you’re taking your nappies out and about you’ll need somewhere to put them when they are wet or dirty.  A zipped waterproof bag is all you need. We have one with two pockets, we use the smaller front pocket for clean bits and the back pocket for the dirty.

6. Nappy wash. Depending on what brand of nappy you choose, check with them about what they recommend for washing. Normally powder is recommended as liquid can build up more quickly.

That’s it! It really doesn’t need as much stuff as you might think. Like I said, there are lots of options and depending on which kinds of nappies work best for you there might be a couple of extra things you need.  Did I miss anything that you think is really useful? Let me know!

 

 

Cloth Nappies – When, Why, How.

Before Aidan was born we were firmly in the camp of the cloth nappy. After speaking to a few friends who cloth bummed, we made the decision to wait until he was around a month old and then to cloth in the day and use disposables at night. Pretty much everyone I spoke to said they found using cloth a night to be inconvenient and disruptive.  We ordered a tester kit from Totsbots which had a couple of options to try out.  We also got a few second hand nappies from a friend. Perfect! We had already saved money and we had everything we needed right? No stopping us now!  Well not quite.

We tried on and off but we just couldn’t get it to work for us, every nappy leaked and we were going through clothes faster than ever before so, we stopped.  We tried a biodegradable nappy which wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite as absorbent as the Tesco or Aldi brand ones that were sooooo much cheaper. We had to ask ourselves a few questions.  Why do we want to cloth nappy? Why is it not working? How can we make it work!?

We wanted to cloth nappy for two reasons really.

1. Cost. Sure the outset can be expensive if you buy all new nappies and if you’re like every other cloth bum mum/dad and can’t resist all the adorable prints, yes you could end up spending a lot of money. But in the long run you save money and if you use the nappies again for a second child you’ll end up saving even more!

2. The environmental cost. We know that nappies and baby wipes are really bad for the environment.  It’s really hard to justify using disposable nappies and wipes.

Here’s an article on The Nappy Lady from Totsbots about plastics in disposables vs reusables.

Why was it not working? The two main reasons it wasn’t working for us were that the nappies we had been given had been well used for 3-4 years and two children prior to ours. Cloth nappies, of course, do wear out and sadly many of the ones we had been given had done just that. The ones that hadn’t worn out however, were still leaking.  When cloth nappies are put under pressure by clothes or straps, like in a pushchair, they can leak.  We hadn’t taken Aidan’s, now larger, cloth bottom into account when dressing him.

So how do we make it work for us?

We bought more nappies.  We were able to make the second hand ones last us while we slowly replaced them, we now have around 15 nappies which we wash every other day.  We upped Aidan’s clothes size.  He’s now usually in a vest one size up from what he “should” be in and we are conscious of how tight trousers are on him. And finally, we persevered, and we got the hang of it.

We’ve now been full time (during the day) since January and it’s become so easy for us it’s a wonder that we ever did anything different!   We would definitely do it again next time round, probably from day one if we can get enough newborn sized.

To avoid this post being too long I’m going to go into a bit more detail on some of these points in separate posts.  I’ll add links to those posts into this post, so bookmark it if you want to see more details later.

Breastfeeding Journey – Part Two

This is part two of my breastfeeding story. Part one is here. Or for a quick recap…

Our baby was bottle fed a mixture of expressed breast milk and formula, for the first 11 days of his life, and then with the help of nipple shields we packed away the bottles! Fantastic, big step forward!  But then nipple shields are just like bottle teats that you put on your breast so again, I was reminded by midwives about nipple confusion, I might always have to use shields, and because they can effect your milk supply my milk might not be enough and we might have to top up and then he’ll prefer the bottle because its quicker… We got in a lactation consultant who was fabulous and so encouraging.  She diagnosed his tongue tie, which we had released, and encouraged me to carry on offering him my breast without shields whenever I could. 

The tongue release didn’t have any noticeable effect, although I guess in some ways we’ll never know.  I continued to offer without shields occasionally, but had made my peace with them, I had accepted that he would use shields and I was OK with that. Really once I got into the swing of things with them, it was just as easy as feeding without (most of the time). Occasionally Aidan would grab one and throw it on the floor or there would be a bit of a panicked moment  if I’d not run the steriliser, but all in all using the shields wasn’t too bad.

Then, a few weeks we offered him a bottle for the first time since starting with nipple shields. I had mastitis and felt so ill, I was worried I might not have the strength to hold him so I expressed and my husband tried the bottle. Aidan flat out, completely rejected it, with full on screaming and thrashing. OK, good to know.  But he then went on to reject the nipple shield, uh oh, had we screwed him up completely?!

Nope! He latched on without shields and ate a full feed like that for the first time EVER in his life. It was totally random, no problems getting him latched on and off he went, like he’d been doing it since day one! He was about 15 weeks old. Barring a few days when he was feeling a bit under the weather and I guess just wanted a comfort and something very familiar, all of his day time feeds are now without shields. I then started using the shields only as a bit of a bedtime indicator but the last couple of days I’ve stopped doing that too.  What a complete turn around! At 18 weeks old my boy is breastfeeding without the help of shields. It feels amazing to be feeding my baby the way I had imagined.

A few things I want to say that I couldn’t pull together into the above.

  • At the time when my emotions were all over the place, hearing people say ‘it doesn’t matter how he’s fed’ really upset me, because it mattered to me. It’s OK to feel disappointed or upset if things aren’t working out how you imagined, whether that be with the birth, gender disappointment, feeding or anything else. It is 100% OK and normal.  Talk to someone about it, a partner, parent, friend or your midwife. No one will judge you for your feelings.  Sometimes it’s just important to vocalise your feelings and then it feels like a huge weight is lifted.  Once I told my husband that it mattered to me how we fed our son it helped massively.  He knew that I was going to need a bit of extra emotional support and he was fantastic.
  • Feeding with nipple shields is not second class breastfeeding.  If you look online you will find people who believe that the only way a baby should be fed is from your bare breast.  It’s true that sometimes feeding with nipple shields can change your milk supply, I’d recommend finding a good lactation consultant or a reliable breastfeeding support group with trained professionals if you’re going to use nipple shields.  They can offer lots of help and support.
  • If you are expressing and feeding your baby that way, your baby is still breastfed.  Just because the milk is coming from a bottle doesn’t change the fact that they are getting breast milk and you can still get that closeness and bond with your baby in the same way while giving them a bottle.  If you are feeding them exclusively breast milk this way then you are absolutely brilliant, huge respect mamma.  It is possible, here’s a link to an amazing woman I follow on Instagram who is worth a follow for so many reasons, she is expressing so her baby can remain exclusively breastfed while she works full time. Stretch_studentmidwife

I would 100% recommended anyone who is struggling with feeding to see a lactation consultant.

So I guess the next stage on the journey with be weaning! Stop growing up little bean!