W starts school! 

Yesterday was a huge day, W started school. School nursery to be precise, they start early in Wales at age 3.

The run-up

We bought his school jumper and polo shirts a few weeks ago, he’s so small that even school trousers aged 2-3 are too big on him so I checked on the Facebook group for the class parents if joggers are ok to wear… they are… phew!

Didn’t manage to get his haircut in time so looks slightly overgrown.

The day before his start day I had to nip up to the school to get the paperwork I was given to fill in months ago. I had visions of him being turned away on day 1 for not having filled it in!!

I booked this week off as it was such a big event. So W and I spent Monday together, bought him new shoes, had a wagamamas then went swimming… lovely day!

Tuesday and a Wednesday afternoons he was back at Cylch meithrin (Welsh pre-school playgroup), they’ll be doing his wraparound care, was good to get him back into a bit of a routine….

Then it was time for….

The big morning

I didn’t sleep well the night before (I never do anyway!) panicking about how the morning would go!

Both boys woke about 7. I think I managed to get showered and the 3 of us dressed and downstairs by about 7.45 so plenty of time for breakfast before we had to leave at 8.30. At home W sometimes has 2-3 breakfasts so he had cereal and then toast half an hour later to try and keep him full up!

His bag was ready – a spare change of clothes in case of accidents, his packed lunch (which I’d made the night before) and then it was time to go!

The school run

With W on the buggy board, we can walk to the school in about 20 minutes. My OH was able to join us which was lush… it was a lovely sunny morning.

First ever school run!
First ever school run!

As we got closer to the school it was mad being part of the school run… parents and kids coming from all the side streets to join an ever-growing line towards the school… where did all these people come from?!

Off he goes

At his class, the teacher/assistants come and meet the children at their own special gate to walk them into class.

So after some family photos at the big event, it was time to say goodbye and off he went.


He was fine. I knew he would be. He’s been with childminders since I went back to work at 9 months, and then playgroup last term. He’s never been overly-clingy. It must be so tough for parents who have been at home with their little ones this whole time!

When his session finished at lunchtime, his Cylch meithrin came to pick him up, they walked over to Cylch meithrin where had his lunch and then spent the afternoon. They text me to say his morning had gone fine. I kicked myself afterwards for not driving past and stalking them for a look!

When I picked him he was fine but tired. He wanted his dad but I bribed him into the car with a promise of his favourite cakes at home as it had been such a big day!

I didn’t get much out of him about his big day other than he found it funny that there was another boy with the same name in his class!

So that’s it 

I’m not an overly sentimental person but I was hit by the enormity of yesterday! It’s the end of an era, and the start of a new one.

W’s vocabulary, memory, independence have been great. Now we’ll watch him blossom with new skills like reading and speaking Welsh… and hopefully new friendships.

I’m already worried about the years ahead where they might be falls-out, bullying and an upset little boy.

I’ll be back in work next week and I’ll only get the do the school run on Fridays. I’m sure I’ll treasure those Friday school runs!

As I said W is independent but he still needs help getting dressed, wiping his bum etc. He still loves a catch and sitting on my lap to watch TV (on his terms obviously). At the moment he likes me being there when he falls asleep. He joins us in bed during the night. He still needs us, and wants us. It’s sad to know that eventually he won’t.

I guess the enormity is…. our little boy really is growing up! Can’t we just pause the world and stay hear a while?! 

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The relentless battle of the sleep-deprived working mum

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged for nearly 2 months now.

I can.

I’ve been exhausted. Starting a new job after a year of maternity leave, then moving house a few weeks later was/is exhausting!

Maternity leave and the return to work is so weird isn’t it? You work hard to become an expert, build a career and profile, then take time off to have your babies. You then return to the workplace. You can use all the ‘KIT days’ but ultimately, overnight you go from spending your day saying ‘no, don’t put that in your mouth’ and ‘good boy for doing a poopoo’ to ‘yeah I’ll check the numbers and get back to you’ and ‘I think we need to test this particular proposition’

People talk about balancing the two lives, but really they’re sooooo different that you really live two entirely lives. There’s no ‘balance’.

I get home from a day of meetings, planning, activating campaigns, managing another adult… to cooking dinner for my boys, and trying to get them to eat instead of fling their food across the room.

Boys’ bathtime and then *relax*…. an hour or two to clean up the carnage, do the chores and it’s time for bed.

Now maybe if we getting 7 hours of sleep a night I might feel better. But S generally wakes once or twice a night for milk. (My bad) And since we’ve moved and put W in his ‘big boy bed’ he’s started waking in the night and getting into our bed and saying he’s scared of the dark.

3 months after my return to work and my OH still hasn’t started his planned career break due to some complications at his workplace. So we’ve been fudging childcare all summer, we’ve all been a bit all over the place.

And on top of all this, our new house is very much a work-in-progress. The top half that is ‘finished’ still needs curtains, blinds, finishing touches. The bottom half is about to be turned into a building project. 

It’s funny that despite their parents being exhausted, the boys are flourishing! W starts school (nursery) this week and is full of chat as always. S has taken a few steps and just today started climbing the stairs! He is full of chatter and pointing. 

We’ve made some lovely memories over the summer… Castell coch (fairytale castle), Cardiff Bay on the train/boat, Aberavon beach… Paw patrol live!…

They are both so full of energy from the minute they wake up to the minute they go to bed… how on earth do they do it?!

*Sigh*

A couple more months and my OH should be at home with them which will help.We should have a beautiful kitchen/diner extension.

We will have 2 boys that will sleep through the night. Me and my OH will be full of energy and will resume all of our social calendar activities. And pigs might fly 🙂

Don’t worry I know ‘this too shall pass’

But please tell me it’s not just me who feels this tired!? 

Baby S turns 1!

I feel so guilty that I’m nearly 3 weeks writing this up, but in my defence we have moved house which has consumed my life for the last month!

So, S turned 1! 

I still can’t believe it in a way, he’s still so small and baby-like! When I look back over the year it feels like we’ve had a year of two halves.

The first year

The first 4-5 months were hard. After a pretty easy labour, we had weeks of breastfeeding struggles and actually a few months of bottle feeding struggles. In hindsight, he may have had silent reflux or something but we muddled through the long days of endless screaming and eventually came out of it the other side!

At 8 weeks old he was admitted to hospital with what turned out to be a cold. At that point I feared that he was going to be a sick sicky baby. And of course I felt some blame because he wasn’t on breast milk. But actually since that blip we’ve been blessed (touch wood!) with good health… very few niggles or sniffles.

So after those first hard few months, he turned into this happy, laid-back baby. He loves music, he loves eating and he loves his big brother.

Development

Again, because of those tough first few weeks/months I feel like he’s always going to play catch-up in terms of his development. At a year old he’s finally bum-shuffling around with great pace, he skipped the crawling phase. He still can’t quite pull himself to stand up… any day now!


He understands some words like kiss, clap your hands and ducks! He babbles a lot, he’s good at copying sounds and copying movements like trying to blow bubbles when me or W do it! Whenever I have time with him I try to teach him new words etc but poor thing has had a mad few months of childcare… we’re all over the place.

He’ll catch up eventually!

The main thing is he’s happy! He loves life, doesn’t sit still. Loves playing and making noises.

Routine

As I said, he eats well, there’s not much food he doesn’t like. His favourite is still avocado! He switched to cow’s milk fine in the week of his birthday. He has 9oz before bed, usually none in the day now unless he’s a bit grouchy.

He goes to bed by 7pm every night after his bath, bottles and book. He loves bathtime!

Sometimes he sleeps right through til 6/7am but quite often he’ll wake at 11pm or sometimes 2am, we give him a bottle of milk and he’s straight off back to sleep. But of a bad habit as I don’t really think he needs the milk, but it’s not too bad so we just do it!

If he wakes early, say about 6, we give him milk and he’ll go back to sleep til about 8-9! We never had such luck with his older brother! He usually naps once a day, for about two hours, usually about noon. He still grizzles/cries for a few minutes every time!

Vital stats

I think he was, at his first birthday, about 18 lbs, so still on the lower centiles. He loves his food so much… I don’t know where it goes!

He still fits in 6-9 month clothes but mostly wears 9-12 now. He’s in size 4 nappies.

He has 8 teeth. And lots of hair. We let him keep all his hair til he turned one, and then chopped it off last weekend!

His first birthday 

So again in true second child syndrome, we didn’t do anything for his birthday really… just a little tea party with his grandparents. In our defence his birthday fell in a heatwave, it was too hot to do anything or go out for the day!

Opening birthday presents

We never go mad with presents, we slashed out on a Fisher-price Beatbo for him… he loves it! And actually W loved all his presents more than S did!!

So I think that’s it for now. Our little baby is a year old, growing up too fast baby boy xxx

One week left of my last ever maternity leave!

A week today I will have just done my first day back in work. In a brand new job *gulp*

As most working mothers do I suspect, I have mixed feelings about it.

I’m really looking forward to starting the new job. It’s a brand new role, in a relatively new team. So hopefully fewer distractions and office politics to worry about. No predecessors to live up to. No trying to back up to speed and suss out all the things that have changed in a year – people, politics, processes.

But it will be strange not going back to a place where I’ve spent over 10 years of my working life! Easier to leave there while I wasn’t actually there… otherwise I don’t think I ever would have left! (Does that make any sense lol?!!)

I’m not looking forward to the new level of tiredness. Baby S still wakes once a night. I’ve felt like an absolute zombie the last month or so… OH is busy getting our new house ready in the evenings so my days with the boys have been long. 

I’m hoping it will be a different type of tired. Like ‘using-my-brain-tired’. 

But it will be hard. Those days when you’re absolutely shattered and you decide to have a lazy day in your PJs watching cartoons… I’ll have to be up, dressed, make-up on and out the door!

It will be hard getting back into the daily grind, the routine… but then with our new routine of taking W to pre-school, it will feel easier than first time around when we could just do whatever we wanted every day!

Obviously I will miss the boys, but I’m looking forward to some time away from them. I could not be a SAHM forever. With the 2 of them, and W’s pre-school times, I find it harder to arrange meet-ups/play dates… so I’ve spent a lot of time with them… and not enough with other adults.

Hopefully my time with them will become more special. Less of the grind, fewer days where I don’t seem to actually spend proper time with them but just do chores all day. Chores… not sure how we’ll fit those in!

Having returned to work once before, I’m sure it will all go fine. But it’s certainly the end of an era. We are no way in a million years planning on having any more children, so no more maternity leave for me.. ever!

I’ve tried to spend the last few weeks making as many memories as possible through days out etc. W remembers and relays what we do weeks later, and Fridays will still be mummy-time and I’m sure we’ll get up to lots of Friday fun over the summer!

But yeah… still the end of an era :/ 

Baby S’s 11 month update

After seemingly a few months of few changes, this month S has been busy!

He came out of leap 7 early in the month armed with new skills:

  • he can clap
  • he’s trying to crawl, and stand up
  • he can shuffle backwards depending on the floor material
  • passing things
  • sorting things
  • he can turn around 360 degrees sitting down

Poor thing – it’s been nearly a month and he still hasn’t mastered crawling or pulling himself up – he’s desperate to do both so I’m sure it won’t be long!

He loves a good bouncing session in the Jumperoo at the moment – and generally loves ‘dancing’ – bouncing up and down while sitting down on his bum!

Sleep

All these new skills he’s trying to do means his sleep has taken a backwards step. He’s only slept through once or twice this month – pretty much every night he’s woken at least a couple of times – sometimes a cwtch/foot rub/bottle can easily settle him, sometimes he’s been really unsettled. He’s always gone down to sleep quite easily after his bath and book but even that hasn’t been working so well this month – he’s a lot more clingy and often won’t nod off to sleep unless we stay in the room with him.

Teeth

Tied in with that, his 5th tooth finally cut through at the start of this week (about 6-7 months after his first 4 cut through!) so I’m sure the 6th is imminent and he’s currently in a grouchy, teething phase and the hot weather probably isn’t helping!

Weight

Also tied in with the new skills, I think he’s had a bit of a growth spurt the last few weeks – he’s still tiny, I think we weighs about 18lbs and so is still on the 9th centile curve – for ages it seemed like he was stuck on 17lbs (although I just weigh him at home so it’s not particularly accurate!) He’s still in 6-9 month clothes.

Eating

He still loves his food though, and this weather has led to lots of al fresco picnic style meals. He usually has a Weetabix for breakfast, toast as a mid-morning snack (maybe with avocado on it) – lunch is usually sandwiches/ham/cucumber sticks/boiled eggs etc a mid-afternoon snack might be rice cakes etc, and then dinner is usually something like pasta. I still try and top him up with Ella’s kitchen pouches too. He loves eating so much that I’ve caught him eating paper in the house, and leaves in the garden – you can’t leave him for a second! Also, this month he’s really enjoyed throwing all his food off the highchair… he thinks it’s a very fun game!

Oh that reminds me, another new skill is he likes spoon feeding himself now so if I try and feed him yoghurt he’ll take the spoon off me and do it himself – great skills but again, lots more mess!

He seems to have a good digestive system – poos 2 or 3 times a day!

Weaning

As he’s been eating well, I’ve been trying to naturally drop his milk feeds down in the day but we’re a bit all over the place. The hot weather means I’ve been giving him milk as I don’t think he drinks enough water to stay hydrated. When the weather’s mild and he’s not being grouchy, he can get through a day without milk and just have a bottle before bed (and during the night!!)

Routine

Our routine’s been a bit all over the place. He always has 2 naps a day but these depend on how well he’s slept at night, and what time he wakes up so e.g. if he’s up at 6 he’s usually napping by 9 -if he’s had a bad night and sleeps til 8, he might not nap til 11. Doesn’t help that I’ve had to wake him from a few naps to pick his older brother up from pre-school which is a new thing!

Likes and dislikes

He loves his big brother W, his face lights up when he sees him and they have lots of fun together! He loves music and ‘dancing’ and enjoys watching cartoons and Baby TV. He loves bath time, and messy play.

I actually can’t think of anything he dislikes at the mo! He’s usually pretty easy-going and smiley 🙂

I can’t believe he’s a year old next month – he still seems so tiny!

An apology letter to our second-born son

As we approach your first birthday I just wanted to say sorry…

Sorry…… that 99% of your clothes are your brother’s hand-me-downs and you have hardly any clothes as we’ve run out of space!

Sorry….. that we’re always comparing you to your big brother… but it’s hard not to! (Don’t worry, you’re the best eater and were the best sleeper – now that up’s for debate this month ;))

Sorry…. I didn’t persevere with trying to breast-feed you. I think I would have if you’d have been my first-born but just felt so stretched at the time! Despite this I’m so glad you’ve had really good health all year apart from your blip at 2 months

Sorry…. you get woken from naps and driven around to drop or pick W off at pre-school… some days it feels like your day just revolves around W’s routine

Sorry…. you don’t have your own room yet and your snuzpod (thank god you’re still small enough to fit in it!) is wedged between a laundry basket, spare bed and the airing cupboard! (Only a month now til you have your own room in our new home… with W’s hand-me-down cot bed of course!)

Sorry…. I didn’t take you to half as many baby classes as I took your older brother to. You would have hated it in the early months though. And at least I made some friends this time around so you’ve seen plenty of other babies

Sorry…. you’ve probably had a few more injuries than your big brother had at this age… mostly his fault like when he’s dragging you round the room :0 he does love you really!! And I’m sure you’ll end up far tougher and more laid-back than him…. or you’ll get your revenge 😉

Sorry…. we don’t have any photos of you adorning our walls. I’m pretty sure I was equally bad with your brother. We’ll resolve it in the new house I promise! (Now I really must change my phone screensaver so you’re on it too!)

But of course I’m being silly…. you’re greatly loved, and you’re watered, fed and played with. But most of all you have one thing your older brother will never have… an older brother! He idolises you and I think he will always be watching out for you, he makes you smile when nobody else can make you smile, he sings and you dance….your face lights up like that for nobody else!

You’re a very lucky boy! Xxx

Planning a birthday party for a 3 year old in Cardiff (or wherever you are!)

We recently hosted a birthday party for our 3 year old and, having not organised a children’s party before, I found the run-up quite stressful! So thought I’d share my tips so your preparations can be as stress-free as possible 🙂

Numbers

I guess you start with how many children you want to invite. W doesn’t have a huge amount of playmates, so we had a list of about 10 but then it quickly grew once we added some of his cousins, family friends etc. Before we knew it we had 25 children confirmed (but it soon went down, and on the day it was 18 – which seemed like a perfect number!)

Venue

This is one of the things that stressed me out most – where to host it!!?

Home: Nobody seems to host parties at their home any more but I definitely would have considered it if we had a bigger house! A garden party would be lovely, if only you could guarantee the British weather!

Village hall: If your house isn’t big enough, you could always hire out your local church hall/ scout hall/ village hall. From what I understand these are really cheap to hire (£20-£40 ish e.g. Rhiwbina Baptist church hall is £40, Maes-y-coed community centre is £50) some of them have lots of toys to play with, and most will have kitchen facilities. You could hire a bouncy castle and softplay equipment to go in the hall from local companies like Cardiff Event Hire for about £100. Some halls have an outdoor area which would be fab!

Softplay: We thought about a softplay party – for example toddler-friendly WamBam Boomerang’s has party options starting at £6.50 per head including food (so would have cost us about £130) and you can pay extra to have exclusive use. We were close to booking this as W loves WamBam’s, but then we thought he loves it a bit too much and it might be a bit overwhelming for him! Great value though – most of the other play places have party packages e.g. Zone on Penarth Road and Mambo’s . Actually a play area we love is Play loft in Whitchurch which is REALLY toddler-friendly and only costs £80 for exclusive use, but the parking there isn’t great. (involves crossing a couple of roads).

Leisure centre softplay: After debating the local hall in Danescourt, and WamBam options, we ended up going down the council leisure centre route – Fairwater leisure centre is just down the road from us so very handy. We paid £130 (I think!) for 2 hours in the hall with a brilliant bouncy castle and soft play equipment, and a table and chairs. I worried that the kids might get bored. They didn’t – the bouncy castle had a steps and slide too, and we really struggled to get the children off it! I would add the staff were all really friendly and helpful too. Other similar options are Llanishen leisure centre, Canton community Hall and Western leisure centre in Ely – visit the Cardiff council website for more info and be aware that all the places have different time slots etc

If you fancy this but it sounds a bit expensive, similar venues in neighbouring Rhondda Cynon Taff (e.g. Hawthorn, Church Village) have a similar set-up but think they’re closer to the £100 mark.

Other options: the only other ‘different’ thing we found, which we might consider for next year is Mountain view ranch do a Gruffalo party for £10 per head which would be fab!

When to host it

We decided on the Saturday afternoon after his birthday. Lots of people do weekday late afternoon but I think some people (e.g. working parents) might struggle to attend those. Either way, just go with what suits your toddler and his/her nap times!

Entertainment

So with the venue booked, numbers confirmed – do you want/need any additional entertainment? If we’d have gone down the church hall route we might have booked Hartbeeps to come in and do a fun creative play session – I take the boys to these classes quite often and they love them! Think it costs £100, so probably only works if your other costs like venue are low! We went to a 4th birthday party who had Little Fizz (or Party Fizz) as the party entertainment – they were great too (although my son was 2.5 at the time and just wanted to do his own thing!)

The one thing we did book was his favourite Paw Patrol characters to come and pay him a visit! We booked this through Hancocks – I thought it was great value at £25 for a 15 minute visit, including a card and present. They got really involved with the children, including jumping on the bouncy castle with them! I highly recommend them 🙂

Marshall on bouncy castle

Theme and Decorations

Talking of Paw Patrol, that was our sort of theme for the party. I didn’t want all the tableware to be Paw patrol (plus the cost adds up!) so we just got a Paw patrol table runner but the plates and cups we went for something a bit plainer! If you are planning a party with a theme, then Little Party People Supplies in Barry come highly recommended from other Cardiff mums – they can source the most unusual of themes for you!

paw patrol napkins
Food, food, food

The other stressful part of the party was working out what food, and how much to make!

In the end I think we used 3 loaves of bread – used 2 for ham, 1 for cream cheese sandwiches. We bought some packs of sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, quavers, pom bears and babybel cheese. And as a healthy option, I prepared carrot and cucumber sticks. It all went down a treat and there was plenty to go around. Other options could be fruit, cheese and pineapple on sticks, pizza slices?

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We’ve been to a few parties where the children’s food has already been put in little boxes for them – I did like this idea, the boxes are cute and it probably helps with organisation but I didn’t like the idea of the waste as they’d all go straight in the bin after! (Also, this can mean no food for the adults, but I like the idea of the adults being able to eat too!)

For drinks we took some jugs which we filled with water and squash.

We did, as most people seem to do, served the food about halfway through the party. The leisure centre staff kindly deflated the bouncy castle so that all the kids would sit down, and put it back up for us when we were ready – the kids literally couldn’t wait!

img_4573You 
W’s aunty had got a Paw Patrol cake made for him which he was very excited about – plus cupcakes. The children all had a cupcake each, and we cut the main cake up for the adults 🙂

Party Bags

These can be a contentious issue for many parents who might not like a) junk food/sweets etc b) plastic tat in party bags. Now I don’t mind plastic tat, and W loves it but I thought I’d be mindful that lots of people don’t like it… so we just bought Paw patrol bubbles for the Paw patrol party bags and put a slice of cake in there (which we had prepared before the party!)

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We also bought a load of Quentin Blake-illustrated books from The Book People, wrapped them in tissue paper (to avoid any fights!) and gave one to each child. The book people is great for deals – these books came in at under a pound each but the RRP is £7! We’d borrowed the idea from another party we’d been to – I think a book is a lovely gift – figured you can’t go wrong with a book and bubbles!

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You Things to remember to take

  • food, jugs for drinks, plates and cups
  • knife, candles and matches for the cake
  • party bags
  • rubbish and recycling bags for tidying up after
  • kitchen roll and wet wipes for any accidents
  • balloons – you can’t go wrong with balloons and it’s something else the kids can take home with them

Things I learnt

Everything went smoothly in the end, all the kids including W behaved really well and even W didn’t get overwhelmed or anything. So as with most things, the anticipation was far more stressful than the event itself!

There are a couple of things that are tough about being the host/hostess – you have to split your time between all the guests, so you’ll feel guilty for not chatting to everyone properly! Also, I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked as I was so busy chatting etc. so – in future I think I’ll ask everyone to take photos, and it’s something I’ll be mindful of at other parties we go to!

And finally….

Don’t forget the ‘thank you’ cards – not everyone does these, but I do for the boys as I want them to write their own when they’re old enough. It’s an excuse for me to use websites like Vistaprint to create photo cards 🙂

Did I miss anything? Can you think of other options/tips that would be useful? If so, please leave a comment so that other parents see it! And if you found this useful I’d love it if you could share it with your friends, thank you!

W turns 3!

2 weeks ago our beautiful, lively, fun-loving, clever first-born turned 3!

It may be one of the biggest years he will ever have in terms of development – since he turned 2, his language and vocabulary have progressed like a dream, he was potty trained at about 2 and a half… but the biggest milestone he’s hit is becoming a big brother! Continue reading “W turns 3!”

A life update – lots of changes!

It feels like it’s been/still is the busiest few months of my life! I have about a month left of my maternity leave and…

Time on my own

A month ago I went to Marrakesh for 4 nights with my sister and her friend. It was SO lovely to have a child-free break, and just time by myself to relax, wander round etc. I really managed to switch off and relax, and I don’t feel guilty about it at all – I am definitely not the clingy mum type, I’m more than happy to have time away from them!


It was actually really hard coming back (a nightflight didn’t help!) and then was thrown straight into….. Continue reading “A life update – lots of changes!”

Baby S’s 10 month update 

Baby S has spent most of the last month in wonder weeks leap 7…. and you can tell. We’re a bit all over the place with routine, milk and sleep, and he’s been a bit up and down grouchy wise!


At the start of the month he was teething quite bad too and we had a couple of bad nights where nothing would settle him and we were awake for hours! Overall he’s been ok though… leap 7 is all about them learning sequences and we can see that in action now… he’ll drop something over the side of his high chair and then look down to see what’s happened to it!

Continue reading “Baby S’s 10 month update “