Thursday, December 1, 2011

Travelling with children: a review.

One of my many daily struggles challenges is the school run. My car broke down about a year ago and we have never bothered to fix it. We live a half a mile away from the school and I feel bad driving for such a small distance anyway. Also it would take almost as much time to put all the children in the car than it would to walk at least half of the way down. So we walk.

When Elliott was only a few weeks old, I used to put him in the sling that my mum bought us, which was great as it meant that I could hold Noelie's hand while walking along the narrow, potholed country lane. As the weather grew colder, I put Elliott in the pushchair. That's when the whole thing became awkward. Have you ever tried steering a pushchair with one hand and holding a toddler by the hand all the while trying to avoid the pot-holes / muck / puddles / cow dung / water filled ditches on either side? It's not easy, let me tell you. Noelie, unlike many toddlers her age, insists on holding your hand when walking anywhere and will not move if you don't, not that I am complaining that I don't have a little runaway on my hands.

The whole experience of walking up and down to school twice a day was fast becoming a rather unpleasant. And then, Travelling with Children contacted us and asked us if we would like to review the Toddler Mini Back Pack and Reins. I decided to give it a try on the day we received it and have used it every day since. It has completely changed the school walk, for the better. The small back pack has given Noelie the confidence to walk without holding my hand, leaving me with both hands free to push Elliott's pushchair. 

The back pack is small and is designed to be used by children age 6 months to 4 years old. The straps are in fact a 3 way harness and are very easily adjusted. It is big enough for Noelie to put in a snack and a drink, as well as her teddy and her soother. She feels all grown up with her own 'schoolbag' as she calls it. She loves the animal embroidery on the front of the backpack and I love the fact that there is a safety reflector there too. I have peace of mind knowing that she can't wriggle out of it as well as the fact that she can't stray too far away from me (and that I don't have to fish her out of the water filled ditches). It also has an emergency handle that comes in useful when Noelie trips over her own feet (which happens at least once a day). The rein is easily removable and clips back on in no time at all, allowing the child to have a bit of freedom but also allowing the parent to regain control fast, should the need arise. No wonder it won the Mother and Baby Gold Award for BEST SAFETY PRODUCT 2010/11! And it comes in 4 different colours too.

So whether you're travelling home this Christmas or just finding the school run a bit of a challenge, hop over to the Travelling with Children website and see what products they have on offer. They are also offering a 15% discount if you buy any Lodger product (check out these hats or this fleece wrapper. Don't they look cosy?). You can also find Travelling with Children on Twitter and Facebook too. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Breastfeeding? Not for me, thanks.

That's what I thought. Breastfeeding, not for me thank you.

When I had Marie, I was a young 24 year old woman. The thought of breastfeeding hadn't even entered my mind. I don't even think that it was presented as an option in the hospital. I wasn't really aware of it. For me, a baby was fed with a bottle, end of.

By the time I had Noelie, breastfeeding revival was well on its way. A bit too much if you ask me. I felt like breastfeeding was pushed down my throat. It felt as if every midwife, nurse and doctor I met wanted me to breastfeed. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of person who will do exactly the opposite of what people try to get me to do if they push too hard. Telling me that I must read such a book, will only result in creating a very strong aversion of said book in me and ensure that I will never, I repeat never, pick up that book, ever. Same goes for breastfeeding, talk to me too much about it, try and push me too much in that direction and I will not even consider it.

I think that I saw breastfeeding as a bit of a hippy, new age thing to do and something that didn't really fit in with my corporate, busy working mother image. The whole feeding on demand thing didn't seem to make for a great routine that fit in with the lifestyle I had at the time (poor excuse I know since being on maternity leave the whole corporate, working mum image didn't exist anymore).

This time around, when I was asked during my first visit in hospital if I intended to breastfeed and I answered no, nothing else was said about it. No disapproving look, no lecture, nothing. I didn't think anymore about it until during the last couple of months of my pregnancy. My breasts started leaking, quite profusely at night and I joked with Mr Foodie on a few occasions that maybe I could breastfeed this baby. It was never really serious and I never read up on it or anything (apart from what I read in the blogosphere). We bought our bottles etc (we still had the steriliser from Noelie) and were all set for another round of bottle feeding.

Until after the birth that is. When the nurse came around, a few hours after the birth and said it was time to feed this little man, she asked me how I wanted to feed him. Automatically, I answered bottle. Mr Foodie looked at me and mentioned the fact that I'd said I might give breastfeeding a try. I looked at him and at the nurse and said OK, I'm going to try it. Mr Foodie and I had never really discussed it, well, not very seriously anyway so I have to admit that I was a bit surprised. The nurse helped Little Man to latch on and off we were on our breastfeeding journey. I had no idea what to expect having never really given it serious thought and never researched it. It just felt like the natural thing to do at the time.

It surprised everybody around us, I think. Having bottle-fed Noelie, people expected us to do the same with Little Man. We don't come from backgrounds where breastfeeding is common and we had never mentioned it before. My only experience with breastfeeding was that of  my aunt who was advised by her pediatrician to switch to bottle feeding as she managed to overfeed her baby while breastfeeding. That being said, she also managed to over feed him on the bottle and the poor child was wearing 2 year old clothes at the age of 8 months. Despite being surprised, nobody had anything negative to say about it. I know that some of them felt rather uncomfortable at the idea of me taking my boobs out to feed Little Man. I think others felt a tad disappointed too (and still are) at the exclusivity of the whole breastfeeding experience as they wouldn't get to feed Little Man for a little while. But if they do think anything negative about it, they certainly never mentioned it to me or to Mr Foodie. The nurse later said to us that she had never met a couple that made the decision between breast or bottle in such a natural, easy going, spur of the moment kind of way.

Maybe it is because we made a natural decision, with no expectations or pressure (self inflicted or otherwise) that breastfeeding has worked out so well for us. Maybe it was because I knew I could give up whenever I wanted if it didn't feel right, or if it wasn't working out without feeling guilty but rather proud that I gave it a go. Maybe it is because we did approach the whole thing with no knowledge whatsoever. We have since spent hours reading up on it but I think that if I had read about it too much beforehand, I probably would never have given it a go. If I had been told of cracked and sore nipples, of toe curling pain (and, yes, you literally do curl your toes), of no feeding schedule as such, of times of cluster feeds, I wouldn't have given it a go. And I am so glad that I never did read about all that, because, despite the hard times and the pain, despite the tiredness, breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful things I have experienced with a baby. It is not easy and there were times where I was close to tears with the pain and the tiredness. Little Man didn't latch on properly until a couple of weeks ago and I had terribly cracked nipples (it looked like a quarter of my nipple had been peeled off at some stage) and the pain was near unbearable  for a few seconds but once it stopped, it was fine.

Mr Foodie has been extremely supportive through the whole thing and has become very knowledgeable on the subject. I know he is proud of me for giving it a go and for sticking to it. And I am very grateful that he has been so supportive. He will tell anybody who will listen (people like the other blokes at work) how great breastfeeding is. He, too, is a convert. We love the fact that there are no bottles to wash and sterilise, that there is no paraphernalia to carry around when out and about. You don't need to worry about heating up bottles or having enough formula. You don't need to remember to buy it in the supermarket. It is there, at the right temperature, in the right amount and free.

I can understand why some people do not want to try, or are not interested. I was one of them once. Some of the literature you can read feels a bit like german propaganda in the 1940s. Some people are way to pushy or judgemental if you say that you have no interest in breastfeeding. I think it takes a certain maturity and a certain confidence to attempt breastfeeding. It is demanding from a physical and mental point of view but it is also strangely extremely rewarding. I had never thought I would be a convert to breastfeeding but I am. I won't be joining the so-called breastapo soon as I believe that everybody is free to choose which way to feed their baby (and some people sadly have no choice in the matter). I didn't join any breastfeeding groups etc and I will not be criticizing or judge anybody who decides to bottle feed their baby. I bottle fed my 2 girls and don't regret doing it. It was what was right for me at the time. And at the end of the day, it's all about what's right for you and your baby at the time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The wedding part 1

A little over a week after giving birth to Little Man, Mr Foodie and I got married. Before I tell you all about my wedding day (I'm sure you are all dying to know about it!), I feel like I have to give a little background information as to why we did things the way we did.

We got engaged on my 30th birthday, a couple of years ago and had been talking about getting married  ever since. However, our circumstances were such that we never really got around to doing it or even planning it in any serious way.

However, the impending arrival of baby number 3 and the fact that by getting married we would get an extra 300 euros a month in our wallet (don't ask, it's just the way the stupid system works here in Ireland!) tipped us over the edge and we started thinking about it more seriously. One small problem though. We couldn't agree on how to do it.

Before any of you start thinking 'Here comes the bridezilla.', let me be clear: I am not the type of girl who has been dreaming about her wedding day since the tender age of 3. I have never dreamt of white horse drawn carriages or pink meringue wedding dresses. I couldn't tell the difference between satin and silk, have never thought of table centerpieces or grooms men outfits (I do quite like kilts though) and certainly never given any thought to what flavour I would like my wedding cake to be (that would have to be chocolate though). I have never bought a wedding magazine and do not intend to either. So don't start blaming me before I even start!

There were 2 obvious options: getting married in Ireland or getting married in France.

Unfortunately, getting married in France was not an option. Indeed, Mr Foodie's mum will never get on a plane and has recently decided that she wouldn't like to get on a boat either. There is also the small matter of food, that the Irish side wouldn't eat. And all the going back and forth that would be needed to organize everything incurring more cost.

The second option would be to get married in Ireland. It would definitely be easier to organize. However, it would mean that my family would have to travel and bearing in mind that wages are much lower in France than they are in Ireland it would mean quite a big expense. Also I would be rather embarassed to serve the kind of food that is served at weddings here to my French guests as for them it would amount to a normal, dare I say, everyday dinner and not a celebratory one. Finding the food served at French weddings here is near impossible, or at some ridiculous cost. There is also the small problem of having to invite half the neighbours off the road as well as the uncle that you haven't seen since you were 4 and the cousin that you hate, as seems to be tradition in Ireland. And that is without considering the cost of a wedding here (we know off people that have taken out loans to pay for their wedding!). So, Ireland was also struck out.

The easiest solution was to get married abroad. It would solve the problem of who has to travel as everybody would have to. It also solves the problem of who gets invited, what food to eat etc... It didn't solve the problem of Mr Foodie's mum not willing to get on a boat or a plane. I offered the solution of getting married by ourselves, just Mr Foodie, the kids and myself.

We spoke about our dilemna with friends who advised us to do what was best for us (not so helpful advice). Eventually, we spoke to my parents about it as well as Mr Foodie's parents. My parents have always said that they wouldn't travel for a wedding only (even if it was mine) and that at the end of the day, it is an affair between 2 people and that you don't need the world and its mother there with you. Mr Foodie's parents weren't as open minded. They were fine with a small wedding involving parents and brothers (as we have no sisters), they also said that they were ok with us getting married by ourselves although they would rather be present. We went around in circles over the next couple of months as Mr Foodie wanted his family there on the day and I didn't want to have his family and not mine there. There was also the problem of the 3 months notice you need to give to the registrar as well as the fee.

After looking into various options, we finally set a date that would solve the problem of my parents not willing to travel only for a wedding as they would be over on holidays. We also decided to get married ''abroad' although it didn't involve Mr Foodie's mum to get on either boat or plane since we were going to get married in Northern Ireland (cheaper fee and shorter notice period). We also decided that we wanted only our kids and parents present on the day. That decision proved to be the most controversial one...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baby Elliott AKA Little Man

On Wednesday 10th of August, at 1.40 pm, Elliott also referred to as Little Man was born.

I had been going a bit crazy, slowly but surely, waiting on his arrival. I had been told (and was more than happy to think) that Little Man would come a bit early, like both his sisters. Since the beginning of July, every twinge, every pain, every unusual feeling prompted the question: Is this it? Do we need to go? Marie wasn't there to keep me company, she was way too busy having a great time in France and Noelie was spending some time in her grandparents' on and off during the holidays so I was on my own a good bit of the time. I had plenty of time to rest, and plenty of time to slowly go mental. Towards the end of my pregnancy, Mr Foodie's brother didn't help the situation by asking 3 or 4 times a day where his nephew was. Bear in mind, he is closer to 40 years old than he is to 4 (had he been 4 I could have handled it, but the fact that he is a grown adult and that he kept doing it despite being asked to stop, made it even worse. In actual fact, I broke down crying about it, blame the hormones). I was sick and tired of waiting for the arrival and tried every single old wife tale out there. Nothing worked. Also I was getting quite irritated by friends and family's kind words. Why is it that people think that your due date is some kind of limit. Most babies aren't born on their due dates so why do people send you texts wishing you 'good luck today'? If there was ever a day I knew this baby was not going to come, it was his due date!

2 days past the elusive due date, we went back to the hospital for a check up. Every week, we had met the same couple there and we'd laughed that we were still there. She was 11 days overdue at this stage. I was silently panicking as the wedding was getting ever so close and this baby was still not born.  We were told that they usually wait until you are 12 days past your due date to induce you. 12 days past my due date was 2 days before our wedding which meant that I would never be out in time to get married. Mr Foodie spoke to the consultant and explained our dilemna. The consultant did an ultrasound and an internal exam and found that the level of fluid around the baby was a bit low. He told us that there was a good chance that I would go into labour on my own that same evening as he could feel the baby's head and my cervix was nearly fully effaced but if not, to come back the next day to get induced.

After coming out of the hospital, we walked and walked and walked for miles, trying to get labour started. Suffice to say, it did not work. I had no idea how this whole thing was going to work, we had been so caught off guard by the whole induction possibility that we never got a chance to ask many questions. We did stop by the admissions office to try and see if there was a time we had to be in for. It turns out we could pretty much come in at any time.  So the next day, we trotted off to hospital, not knowing what to expect. We went to the admissions, signed a few papers, got admitted and walked to the labour ward. I had never been to the labour ward before despite giving birth to 2 girls. For Marie, I was taken straight into the delivery room, and for Noelie I was taken straight into theatre. The midwives were lovely and helped me get settled in. I was put on a monitor for a while and then was seen by a consultant who decided now was the time to induce me. Because of my previous c-section, I was induced in a quite 'natural' way. No drips or drugs for me. All she did was break my waters. It was 11h55.

Mr Foodie was there with me, a bit nervous and not knowing what to expect. Listening to the the screams and moans of some of the other women in the ward mustn't have helped. After being monitored for a bit again, I was allowed to walk around. I was to report to the midwife whenever I started feeling pains. They started about 30 minutes after my waters broke. The pains were quite mild at first but were increasing in strength and duration. Mr Foodie tried to crack a couple of jokes during some of the contractions but I think that my reaction showed him it was better not to. We walked around for a bit. The contractions were coming closer and stronger. At some stage I told Mr Foodie that I wanted to go back to the bed in the ward as the most comfortable position for me was crouching and I didn't feel comfortable crouching in the middle of the corridor! I asked Mr Foodie to time the contractions as they were getting quite strong and close. I soon realized that he had no idea what he was suppose to time. He started noting only the time the contractions started at! So, between two contractions, I explained to him that he had to time the length as well as how far apart they were. It turns out that they were lasting about a minute and were 2 minutes apart. As each contraction was happening, they were increasing by about 10 seconds and the interval between them was also decreasing by 10 seconds. By the time, they were lasting about 1 minute 30, I went to see the midwife.  She told me to lie on the bed to measure and see if it was time for me to go into a delivery room. As soon as she started the exam, I felt the urge to push. She told me to stop pushing, that the baby couldn't come out in the labour ward, that they had no equipment etc, pretty much any argument she could give me to try and stop me pushing. All the while, she was screaming at one of her colleagues to get her a wheelchair quickly. Mr Foodie was standing by, a bit lost, at a loss as to what to do.

Another contraction came and the urge to push came again. The poor midwife was now giving out to me, not shouting, but in a very stern tone was telling me to stop pushing. I felt like I was a child again being told off by a teacher. Between two contractions, I managed to get onto the wheelchair and was rushed into the delivery suite. Before another contraction came, I climbed onto the bed. The midwife barely had time to write my name on the papers. She was telling me to wait until she at least got her gloves on before pushing again. There was nothing I could do, I had to push. Less than 1h45 since my waters had been broken, and within 1 minute and a half  of being admitted into the delivery suite, baby Elliott, AKA Little Man, was born. A healthy 7lbs4 (3.290 kgs), 50 cms tall with the most teeny tiny face I had ever seen. I wouldn't say it was a pain free delivery as there is no such thing, but it was certainly a fast and drug free one with only a minor tear that only required 2 stitches.

We stayed in the hospital for 2 nights (although one of the nurses wanted to send me home the next day). Visits were restricted to grand parents and siblings only and Noelie came to visit her new little brother. She brought some cards and a couple of presents for the baby. She had everybody in stitches as she started singing happy birthday to me when I was opening the cards and presents. She also fell in love with one of the nurses, Emma who was the nicest nurse on the ward and gave her a box of chocolates. She wasn't phased at all by the fact that I was in hospital and that there was a new baby there too. We went home on the Friday and started settling in as  much as we could with our wedding looming 10 days later.

A third baby, a third birth experience, completely unique and different from the other two. I went from a completely natural, drug free, premature delivery with Marie to an emergency c-section with Noelie, back to a natural, drug free yet induced delivery for Elliott. He is 7 weeks soon and I couldn't imagine life without him now. Despite all the backaches, kidney infections and rib punching he gave me during pregnancy, I fell in love with my Little Man the moment I saw him.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

4 - 3 - 2 - 1

I have been pretty absent from this blog the past month but with good reason. 4 reasons really.

4: weeks ago, baby Elliott was born. After nearly going crazy and overdue by a few days (when I thought I'd be going early because both girls were), I was eventually induced on the 10th of August at 11.55 am. A healthy baby boy was born at 1.40 pm. He weighed 7lbs4 (another thing doctors got wrong, the day before I was told he was about 6lbs!). A very positive birth experience (if you ignore the fact that I left it too late to tell the midwife and nearly had him on a wheelchair) that I will write about soon.

3: weeks ago, Mr Foodie and myself were trying to get used to life with a newborn again and to breastfeeding. We were also very busy organizing the event that took place.......

2: weeks ago when Mr Foodie and I got married. We managed to organize our wedding between the time we got out of the hospital and the time Elliott was 12 days old! Granted, it was a very small wedding but it was still a wedding. 

1: week ago, Marie went back to school after being away for 6 weeks. She came back fluent in French and a few inches taller than she was before she left, hence why all the 'going back to school' shopping was left to the last minute.

I hope you'll forgive my absence, but as you can see it has been a very very busy summer. I promise I'll give you more details soon. 
Mrs Foodie Mummy ;-) 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

'Documentaries on 4 sponsored by Honda'

While I am waiting for this baby to make its appearance, I have to admit that I am clocking in quite a few hours of rest. Rest for me can be anything from sleeping (something I can't seem to manage to do much at night but doesn't bother me that much during the day), to watching a lot of TV while lying on the sofa (it is after all much more comfortable than sitting down!).
Of course, I love all things cooking and will watch quite a lot of that, but I also like watching documentaries. And Channel 4 now has a new series of documentaries on. Last year, the documentaries were sponsored by Honda, and the catch phrase: 'Documentaries on 4 sponsored by Honda' has become very familiar. Mr Foodie is the type of person that will get hooked on a catchphrase from an ad, or sponsor and we will hear it 10 to 15 times a day, until another one takes its place. Don't ask me if it drives me mad, it does.... 
This new round of Channel 4 documentaries is no different, it is sponsored again this year by Honda. The programs are being introduced by little Honda films, created by Wieden and Kennedy (W+K) London, all of which star a real life Honda user, but one that uses it in unusual or quirky ways. The first one of 4, currently on, has really caught my eye. It stars Philippa, who uses her Honda on her Alpaca farm in Oxfordshire (who knew you could breed Alpacas in the UK?). I can't wait to find out what the other 3 Honda users do with theirs!

 Throughout the year, Honda will be releasing a series of mini documentaries featuring some of their real life users, an online hub as well as the little spots used to introduced the Channel 4 documentaries. Each little spot contains a unique URL that gives you access to extra content online on the Honda hub website. You can also find a 'Take Part' section on the website, where you can leave your own story on how you use your Honda product in an unusual way. Wieden & Kennedy will chose their favourite and turn it into a final little mini documentary and ident that will be used on TV. So why don't you follow the links? Have a look at the documentaries, see how people use their Honda products. Could you use them that way? If so, why don't you take part and see if you can appear in your own little mini documentary and ident?

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

The name game.

With a little under 5 weeks to go now, you would expect us to know what we are going to name the little monkey that keeps me awake at night. At this stage of pregnancy, most people have the name picked out whether or not they know if it is going to be a girl or a boy.

I have written already about the added difficulty for us to find a name. We need to find a name that works in French and in English. Too Irish a spelling and you've got the French side of the family unable to read it (or even pronounce it, I still can't pronounce Oisin properly, no matter how many times I hear it), too French a pronunciation and it's being continuously butchered mispronounced by the Irish side. Marie's name was picked out even before she was conceived and is pronounced in a similar way in both languages, Noelie's name we found by chance on a Christmas card while shopping (she was born at the end of May, so plenty of time in advance!).

This time around, we know we are having a boy. A few months ago, Mr Foodie asked if he could chose the name. I personally don't have a problem with that as long as I like it too. There is no way that I would let him pick a name that I don't like. However, we seem to be having a problem. We can't seem to find a name that we both like, or that works well within our unusual constraints. And I'm getting antsy now. What if this baby comes and we still don't have a name? My family keep asking if we have found a name yet and we haven't.

A good few weeks were spent on various X-Men and superheroes' names, another few were spent on the most popular chinese and japanese names, a lot of precious time was wasted on names that don't even deserve a mention. And in the meantime, we still haven't got a name for Peanut. I am getting a bit anxious now as the birth is getting closer and we can't seem to find the right name for us.

Now we are not completely at a loss. We have found a few names that we like but we have thrown so many names at each other that we keep forgetting which ones we liked. I know, it would be very easy to write them down but we keep forgetting to do it to. A friend of ours has even compiled a list with a name for every single letter of the alphabet. Mr Foodie has asked all of his Facebook friends for ideas. We even went through the French calendar where a name is displayed daily to try and find one.

We have managed a shortlist of about 5 or 6, but it feels like people are taking pot shots at those daily. No later than this morning another one had to be struck off the list because one of Mr Foodie's coworkers' wife gave birth last night and picked the name already. Arghhhhh.

Hopefully, we will be able to settle on a name soon and all will be well by the time the baby is born. In the meantime, if you have any ideas, please don't hesitate to leave any suggestion in the comments.

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