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I'm a married mum who loves chocolate & music & having an opinion on just about everything! E-Mail summermama@hotmail.co.uk

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


My only experience of labour was a rather different to ‘normal’ one. Everything seemed to be going very well, then we hit a stumbling block and things went from being lovely and calm and straightforward to being rushed into theatres for a spinal block and forceps delivery, a team of medical staff hurrying around, concern for the health of baby and myself, and the result was that although baby was delivered safely and was absolutely fine, my lady bits were in a mess and I needed a vast amount of stitches afterwards.

Anyone who has ever experienced stitches will understand what I mean when I say that for a long time afterwards, things just didn’t feel right. The simple act of walking upstairs was agony – getting in and out of an armchair or sofa was a tedious task requiring careful planning and something to hold onto at all times – getting in and out of bed was even more difficult. My bundle of joy was such that I managed to smile despite the pain – but one thing that really, really upset me was that I couldn’t use the rocking chair.

Ever since I was a little girl and I saw some film (It may have been Lady and the Tramp come to think of it) with the Mama in a rocking chair soothing her little one to sleep, I wanted a rocking chair in the nursery for my baby when the time came. When I became pregnant, I looked everywhere for one, but sadly as beautiful as they were, they were out of my price range. My pregnancy progressed, and we decorated the nursery just as I imagined it would be – but there was no rocking chair. Instead as the pregnancy reached the final stages, I wondered what we would do instead, to sit and feed our tiny newborn in the wee small hours of the morning, to rock and hum soothing lullabies to get them back to sleep. I wasn’t happy with any of the other solutions (a regular chair just didn’t cut it as far as I was concerned) so I resigned myself to the fact that my beautiful dream of sitting there inhaling the scent of baby talc and shampoo on my little bundle just wasn’t going to be done in a rocking chair as I had dreamed of for so long.

Literally a couple of weeks before I gave birth my mum was walking past a charity shop near to where she works, and she noticed the lady bringing a rocking chair out the front of the shop. It was a little worse for wear, looking a bit sorry for itself, but mum asked the lady how much they were selling it for. The lady looked surprised. “We’ve had it here for months,” She said, “I was just taking it out the front for the binmen to pick up. If you want it, take it!” Mum couldn’t just take something from a charity shop without paying for it despite the kindness of the offer, so she made a donation and took the rocking chair home. She sat and made a cushion for the seat bottom, and one to go on the headrest part, to make it comfortable, and she covered the cushions in the same fabric we’d used throughout the nursery. She added ties onto them so that they would stay in place and once finished, she brought the chair and the cushions to our house. The Hubby gave the chair a thorough clean, sorted it out so it was once again sturdy and squeak-free, and it was installed into the nursery about four days before my due date. I sat in it, hugging the teddy bears that had been brought in anticipation of our baby arriving, and gazed around the room, rocking in the chair. Now, it was ready, I thought. Now, it is perfect.

After the delivery from hell, when I returned home three days post-labour, we had the Moses basket in our room, next to the bed, so actually I didn’t really need the rocking chair ready in there, because The Boy wasn’t actually sleeping in there. But one afternoon, a couple of days after we first went home, he wouldn’t settle, so I was wondering what I could do to help soothe him. It suddenly struck me – the rocking chair – so I went into the nursery with him and gazed at it. Then reality dawned; the seat was a lot lower than a regular chair, and regular chairs were hard enough to get into and out of at that point in time. Plus, I needed to hands to help myself in and out of a regular chair, but I also needed to keep hold of The Boy as I sat in the rocking chair if there was going to be any point to me getting in it. As he cried in my arms, I almost cried myself as the reality dawned on me that I was simply in too much pain to get to that level and rock with him, as I’d dreamed of doing for so very long.

It wasn’t just the whole rocking chair situation, obviously. Initially, at the hospital, I couldn't get him in and out of the cot without assistance, which was quite upsetting - if he cried and I had no visitors, he had to cry til a member of staff responded to my pressing the call button and they'd have to lift him from the cot to me. I couldn't change his nappy - I was reliant on the staff for that, too, unless I had a visitor there. Back home, there was lifting him in and out of the Moses basket – in and out of the pram – I could set the carseat down somewhere high enough that I could get him in and out of that easily enough, but I couldn’t carry it and remain pain-free, and while I was getting it ready he had to be somewhere, so I’d put him in the cot in the nursery and lifting him in and out of that was pretty awful, too. A friend suggested putting a blanket down, lying him on that, and then lifting it – I tried this trick a few times and when it worked it was great, but a couple of times the blanket slipped in my grip and though I never dropped The Boy or anything like that, it was such a near thing it meant I didn’t use the trick often.

As time went on, the stitches healed, things became less painful and I eventually could do all the lifting and putting down, getting up and getting down that I wanted to without wincing in pain every time I did so. I almost forgot how bad it was – almost, but not quite. What I wanted to have for next time, I thought, was some way of being able to do all that lifting and putting down of the baby safely, without the blanket trick and risk it slipping out of my grip.

In March 2012, another Mummy Blogger and very good friend of mine asked me along to The Baby Show at the ExCel centre in London – she’d been given tickets from a company she’d blogged about, and off we went. Mummy, Not Big Milk Thing has a SnuggleBundl herself, and through e-mails and phone calls is quite friendly with a couple of the SnuggleBundl team, so she wanted to find them and say hi.

We found them, and while she chatted, I perused the goods. I admired the funky fabrics, the soft comfort of the materials used, and the basic simplicity of a genius design. SnuggleBundl founder David Solomons had found the same issue of lifting his baby daughter as a newborn due to his bad back, and his wife’s difficult labour, in much the same way I’d struggled, they had.

Here’s what SnuggleBundl have to say about the product:

The SnuggleBundl blanket has many different uses, as you can see here:

The Boy is now too old for me to benefit from and use a SnuggleBundl blanket – but if you’re pregnant or have a newborn, or if you know someone who is, then I honestly believe one of these blankets would make a huge amount of difference. I am definitely aiming at getting one for when Baby #2 is on the way.

SnuggleBundl have provided a fantastic offer to any fans of Summer Mama. If you simply use the code SUMMERMAMAsentme at the checkout for your SnuggleBundl order, you will receive a 15% discount on your order. What are you waiting for? Now you know all about the SnuggleBundl, the only choice you have is which one (or two, or three …) you want to order!

Please note I have not received payment for promotion of this item – all views are my own except where specified as SnuggleBundl’s own product points.  Please visit SnuggleBundl for further information / queries or comments about the product.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's All So Quiet

It's been a while since I last posted and I feel really bad about that, because I never intended to be a blogger who left large gaps between posts.

However, sometimes things don't go to plan!

First off, there was a period of time where it seemed that if I wasn't unwell, The Boy was. We must have had about six colds each - every time we both managed to shake it, we'd go and catch another! So during that time I was busy feeling sorry for myself and looking after my snotty little monkey. After that, I decided to commit to writing some blog posts, but my PC chose that point in time to have a serious technological error, and for a while it was touch and go whether or not it would ever be back up and running again. Fortunately The Hubby is very tech savvy in that way, and managed to get it working after a couple of weeks of hard effort finally paid off! When I was finally able to sit down again to write, I was struck by the dreaded writers block ... Not because I had nothing to say at all, simply because I had no products that I'd been reviewing that I had to write and tell you all about.

Moving forward though, I've got a few things up my sleeve ... Coming shortly will be a piece about stair gates and toddler-proofing your house now that The Boy is into everything we've had to totally re-think our home, and there's more to it than you first think! Also we've purchased his first 'big boy' bedding - a cotbed duvet and pillow, since he's almost 2 and I was fed up of the tangle of sheets and blankets I figured it was time. Additional to that I'm working on a piece about our travel cot which we definitely got our moneys worth out of, and also branching out more broadly there's a piece about the death of our freezer and the purchase of the replacement - not something that is exclusive to me having a child, but something that every family uses, so I hope it will prove to be more useful information.

I've also been speaking to the lovely people at Leapfrog and there will be a competition coming soon on the Facebook page which I'm very excited about, and a further blog piece on My Pal Scout which was sent to The Boy to review from Leapfrog a few months back, just so you can see how he's doing now and whether My Pal Scout has lasting value with fickle children whose tastes change overnight!

Ah well, better get writing then! Lots to do, I'm going to take advantage of The Boy having a nap!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Our Weekend At The Hallmark Hotel, Croydon

Recently, The Hubby, The Boy and I attended a family wedding. It was held down South, near where we used to live, and to make life easier and so we didn’t have to attempt four hours of driving plus leaving the reception early in order to get home at a reasonable hour, we decided to book ourselves into The Hallmark Hotel, Purley Way, Croydon, where the wedding reception was being held. We found a good online site where we got a good deal on two nights at the hotel, and we requested a cot in the room for The Boy.

We left home later than planned on the Friday evening, and the journey took longer than anticipated, but The Boy slept in his carseat quite contentedly and we arrived at the hotel shortly before . We received a lovely welcome from the lady on reception who was polite, friendly and professional, and we were impressed by the hotel which has recently been refurbished.

The lady on reception confirmed that a cot was ready for use in our room, and asked us if we needed any assistance with our luggage which I wasn’t expecting! The Hubby declined as he was quite happy to sort out the luggage himself, and we headed up to the room. Though still fairly early on a Friday night the bar area was quiet, nobody was in the restaurant, and upstairs the corridors were empty and quiet. The lift took us upstairs, and we found our room was at the end of the corridor closest to where the lift was, which was handy given the fact that we would be up and down throughout the weekend to the room with The Boy for nappy changes etc – which was another reason we chose to stay in this particular hotel, as we knew it would make life easier for practical things like nappy changes, clothes changes, naps and providing us with somewhere quiet we could go to if it all became too much for The Boy.

Our room was small but nicely decorated and clean. Not only had a travel cot been set up, including bedding, but a fold-out single bed had been put up and made up at the foot of our double bed. I’m not sure whether the hotel weren’t sure whether the travel cot would be big enough for a 20 month old, or whether they misunderstood the booking and when we’d stated we would have a child with us as well as requesting the cot, I’m not sure whether they thought we meant we’d have a child and a toddler with us and therefore would need a cot and a single bed. Anyway, the presence of the single bed really limited space in the room so once The Hubby had brought up the luggage from the car we folded up the single bed and put it out of the way as it wouldn’t be needed, and it gave us a bit more floor space in the room.

My first concern about the safety of The Boy in the room was the door. While it had a lock on the inside you could use, this would only prevent someone else accessing the room from outside with a room key – it didn’t stop you opening the door from the inside, and the handle was just the right height for The Boy to reach. Due to this, we had to use the chain on the door when we were in there to ensure The Boy didn’t make a run for it! The TV had Freeview, which was great as first thing in the morning we put on CBeebies to keep The Boy entertained as we got ready.

The bathroom was a good size with sink, toilet and bath, with a shower over the bath, and after the long drive I decided to have a nice bath before going to bed. I discovered when getting in that it was a small size bath, and despite the fact I’m not a particularly tall person it felt a bit cramped and sitting upright my knees were still bent, so it wasn’t the type of bath you could really relax in! As every mum knows, you don’t get any privacy even when you’re in the bathroom, so I had The Boy running in and out (he was far too interested in his new surroundings to go straight to bed) and The Hubby running about after him. The plug wasn’t attached to the chain, so once I’d finished in the bath and tried to remove the plug I soon found that was a problem and it took a while to do! We soon noticed that the sink wasn’t particularly toddler-friendly – it’s a bowl style coming out from the wall, without a pedestal underneath it, and a small silver bin stood in the corner, so The Boy kept leaning down to look at the bin (he’s a real neat freak, and forever finding bits of fluff and carefully placing them in the bins at home, so he was doing the same in the hotel room straight away – he found the empty coffee, sugar and milk packets after our first drink and wanted to put them in the bin for us) So there he was, putting things in the bin, but then he’d stand straight up and into the bottom of the sink! Needless to say this caused lots of tears several times over, as he kept forgetting, and while we did move the bin so he really had no reason to stand under the sink he continued to go to that corner and stand up into the sink, and that became quite annoying very quickly!

There weren’t a great deal of plug sockets in the room – just enough for what you needed – and they were all positioned fairly high up – a couple over the dressing table, a couple more in the built in wardrobe section and a couple by the kettle, so they were all well out of reach of little fingers, which was great. There was a free standing lamp on the dressing table but it was wired into a switch rather than a plug so that was fine, and the lights either side of the bed were also on switches rather than being plugged in, so while he could reach the switches and spent a lot of time merrily turning them on and off, there was no way he could pull the plug out or anything so it was quite safe. He did pull the drawers out of the bedside tables, and he thought the cubby hole at the bottom of the wardrobe was specially for him to climb in so we couldn’t use it to put anything in as he kept turfing it out for his own purposes,

When the light was on in the small entrance hall of the room, The Boy was thoroughly amused by the full length mirror on the back of the door and kept walking up to it and pulling faces at himself, laughing and running away. However when we decided that we wanted to calm things down and get ready to settle down for bed, we turned this light off – and almost immediately The Boy forgot that there was a mirror on a door there, and went belting across the room and the entrance hall at full speed, running headlong into the mirror. Again, more tears (and a big bump on his head) it’s a wonder he didn’t crack the mirror he hit it so hard. Despite the grippy bumps on his sleepsuit feet, he slipped over quite frequently on the laminate floor of the entrance hall and on the tiled floor in the bathroom; more tears, more bumps, and both me and The Hubby worrying that for the wedding photographs The Boy would be black and blue!

The following morning I went for a shower before getting ready, and this was a bit confusing as the shower tap was fitted the wrong way round; when you set it to be hot, it came out freezing cold, and vice versa, so it took me a couple of minutes to get the temperature right before I hopped in the shower and once in there I noticed there were quite a few cracked tiles around the bath and shower too. I’m not saying I expected five star luxury, but I was a bit disappointed about these minor things as it isn’t what you expect when you book a hotel room in a place that has just been refurbished and looks as good as The Hallmark does look on their website.

Once we were ready we headed off to church for the ceremony, which was at . We’d tried to get The Boy to eat plenty during the morning but he wasn’t interested, so by the time we got to the church he was fussing for something to eat. Luckily my mum was on hand with a packet of breakfast biscuits for him to munch on, and the groom assured me that the hotel had been made aware of the provisions required for all the young children present – a high chair had been arranged for The Boy to use, and the children would be served their meal first, as the waiters brought the starters out to the rest of us.

Back at the hotel, we spent a long time mingling in the reception area with the other guests as the photographer took some more photos in an area in the suite where the reception was held that had been set up specifically for photographs. We got back to the hotel around four, and had taken The Boy straight upstairs for a nappy change, but by five he was creating a fuss as he’d refused breakfast and only had a packet of breakfast biscuits and some fruit as his lunch, and the staff assured me that dinner would be served soon and confirmed the children would be served their meals first.

When we did go into the Amy Johnson suite for the reception I knew where our table was positioned in relation to the top table, and straight away noticed the high chair in place for The Boy. I was pleased about that as it meant I didn’t have to fuss about asking someone for a high chair, then setting it up etc, but I was disappointed to find that it was stained on the tray from previous occupants and that the harness was broken so I couldn’t harness him in properly. Anyone with a toddler knows that you can’t risk not harnessing them in, as they’ll do their best to escape, so we used our own walking reins to put on the boy and secure him into the highchair – so it’s just as well we had them with us.

Waiters started emerging from the kitchen with the starters. The Boy started flapping with excitement as he realised food was coming – but then nobody came over with his meal. More and more waiters came out and served the adults with their starters, but still the children’s meals were nowhere to be seen and The Boy became increasingly frustrated that everyone else had started eating and he hadn’t got anything. The Hubby and I tried to get him to try our starters, but he wasn’t interested so he continued moaning, crying and banging on the tray of the highchair. The head waiter kept checking everyone was OK and that the food was OK and I asked him if we could hurry up with serving the kids meals as it was very difficult to keep The Boy calm and entertained as he was hungry and annoyed that everyone else was eating before him, and he rushed off to the kitchen so I thought within a couple of moments the children’s meals would be served. Instead it was another full ten minutes later that chicken nuggets, chips and beans were served for the children; by which point The Boy was creating a hell of a fuss, and I was becoming very annoyed as the staff seemed oblivious to the fact that if only they’d sort out his food he’d be happy, and they continued to serve starters, water and wine as if they had all the time in the world. When the food did emerge for the children the waiter put the plate on the table which was great, but then it was obviously just out of the oven as it was boiling hot and no way could we give any of it to The Boy straight away. Of course this frustrated him more; he could now see his food and as far as he was concerned we were just being mean by not allowing him to have it straight away. More bashing of the highchair tray, stamping of his feet, screaming and crying ensued as we desperately tried to cool the food down quickly so that he could eat. The plates from the adults starters were removed and there was a very long gap between this and the main course being brought out, during which we tried to give The Boy some food and keep him happy but by this point he was pissed off and over tired (he usually naps between three and five, and he hadn’t done, so he was very grumpy and the delay over dinner really hadn’t helped matters either) By the time the main course was served, The Boy’d had enough of his meal, though he hadn’t had much he’d lost interest, so then we faced the issue of trying to keep him entertained while everyone ate their main course. We had Scout with us to play with but he was being a real grump and wasn’t in the mood for that, and we had a small wooden train with us that kept him amused for a while, but then he started throwing pieces around as he decided it was more entertaining to watch us scrabble on the floor collecting up small wooden train carriages and animals.

Dessert wasn’t served until almost , again a long delay between the main course being cleared away and the dessert coming out. For the kids, there was ice cream, which The Boy was pretty pleased about and ate a fair bit of it, but by this point he’d been in the highchair for ages and he was annoyed about that and wanted to be free. People finished their dessert and started getting up and sitting at other tables to mingle for a while, and we got him out of the highchair but kept him on the reins in order to keep a close hand on him; in a room full of strangers, a door constantly opening and shutting into the hotel kitchen and another door standing open that lead out to the suite bar area and a million places The Boy could hide in, we decided this was the safest option. Throughout the speeches I was loitering around the back of the suite with The Boy on his reins and the other children playing, which meant I pretty much missed all of the speeches but I just wanted to ensure The Boy wouldn’t kick up a fuss and start screaming and crying right next to the guy videoing the event!

After cutting the cake and more photographs, the DJ started up with the first song, throughout which I kept The Boy on his reins much to his disgust, after that I decided to take the reins off and let him run about. This meant The Hubby and I were running around like mad things after him, and soon my mum joined in, as well as my cousin and the best man, all trying to keep The Boy safe and entertained. Every time the door was left open to the area behind the bar, The Boy was running in there and trying to touch bottles of alcohol, the fridges, the glasses etc, and the staff running about behind the bar almost falling over him, it was dangerous and I kept closing the door to stop him getting in there, but the staff kept opening it to come in and go out and leaving it open, so a few minutes later the same thing would happen again.

By eight thirty The Hubby and I were exhausted by running round after The Boy, so I suggested that The Hubby went to our room with him to see if he would settle down to sleep – since he hadn’t had a nap all day and it had been such an exciting day I was hoping he’d go to sleep easily and sleep well throughout the night – especially adding on top of that the fact that he’d not settled on the Friday night until almost 2am on Saturday morning! So The Hubby disappeared upstairs with him, and I could finally relax a bit!

I went upstairs a couple of hours later, and found The Boy asleep – still in his clothes, but that didn’t matter, he’d climbed onto the bed to lie with his daddy and have his milk and fallen asleep there, so The Hubby had just put him into the travel cot and not worried about getting him into his sleepsuit. We took the rest of the night in turns; one of us staying in the room with The Boy while the other enjoyed some time at the reception party which was in full swing downstairs.

So it happened that I was in the hotel room watching TV when The Boy woke up. So much for sleeping through! Wide awake, he was jumping up and down in the travel cot and creating a fuss, so I let him out and we had a naughty late night snack since he was so interested in the little packets of biscuits the hotel supplied to go with the tea and coffee. The Hubby returned to us around twelve thirty, by which point he said everyone had gone home and the party had finished, so we gave The Boy a while to run around in the room before getting his nappy changed and putting him into his sleepsuit and giving him some milk. That seemed like the magic answer, and by he was sound asleep in the cot and The Hubby and I crashed out ourselves. It had been a long and exhausting day and we were desperate for sleep, but unfortunately once again didn’t sleep particularly well; The Hubby was up at eight in the morning, dressed and reading by the time room service arrived just before nine with our breakfast tray. When they arrived, The Boy woke up, so the three of us sat on the double bed and ate our fill of cooked breakfast, toast, fruit, yoghurt and cereal, all of which was superb and just what I needed to start me off for the day.

Another shower later, I found The Hubby had done most of the packing by the time I emerged from the bathroom. After I dressed we took it in turns to go downstairs for a cigarette, bumping into the bride and groom eating their breakfast downstairs. We were packed and ready to go by , which was great as the room had to be vacated by eleven, but then in the reception area we had a problem keeping The Boy happy as we queued behind others to check out. In the car park I was thoroughly annoyed to find some idiot had parked their car at an angle with the back end right up next to the door we needed to open in order to get The Boy into his carseat. I had to pull the car out of the space in order for The Hubby to have enough room to open the door and get The Boy in.

All in all it wasn’t a relaxing weekend but it was a thoroughly enjoyable one, and The Hallmark Hotel didn’t do a bad job, but I would have liked to see some more effort made toward the children that attended the wedding (The Boy was the youngest of about ten children there) Getting the kids dinner out quickly and ensuring doors were shut would have made things a lot easier for everyone. I appreciate The Hallmark isn’t particularly geared toward being a ‘family’ hotel, but at the same time they made excellent provisions in as much as the travel cot being ready in our room, and though the highchair wasn’t in very good condition at least they were able to supply one, as some places may not have done. Also a couple of parking spaces marked out for people with children to prevent cars parking ridiculously close so we couldn’t get our child into the carseat would be beneficial, though again this probably won’t happen as it isn’t a concern for the majority of guests at this hotel.

I’d give the hotel three out of five, because the staff were friendly and an effort had been made, but to my mind more of an effort could be made and the basic issues like the shower controls being the wrong way round was just a simple thing that should have been noted and rectified long before now.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Pal Scout - More Than Just a Cuddly Toy

Before The Boy was born, all throughout my pregnancy, I was adamant that he wouldn’t be one of those children whose bedrooms were swamped with a variety of cuddly toys or whose cot was overfilled with stuffed animals. I purchased him four cuddly toys from Sainsburys because they went well with the colours in the nursery, he had the tag blanket and the teddy bear that went with the “Please Look After Me” nursery range from Mothercare that we used in the nursery and my work colleagues brought me the mobile to match the range, which had dangling teddy bears on it. As far as I was concerned, that was enough.

In the last couple of weeks before his birth, suddenly we received an abundance of gifts from people, most of which were cuddly toys. We ended up with a giant Rupert Bear and an equal size black bear with red ribbon from a friend at work: An enormous Eeyore that is about the same size as our Boy Dog from my MIL: a variety of knitted things from MIL and more teddies and cuddly toys then arrived after his birth in a variety of shades from baby blue right through to navy, all of which had been lovingly picked out by people but none of which I particularly wanted to give space to!

However, by that point I was willing to admit that the reason most children end up with such an abundance of cuddly toys was not because their parents had been obsessively buying everything they could find, but due to the kind nature of family and friends who see these cute things and buy them with your baby in mind – and to be fair, you can’t moan at them for that, can you. So I smiled graciously with every new addition and they were all arranged in and around the cot/bed.

It wasn’t an issue when he was really tiny – he slept in the Moses basket in our room, so it didn’t matter that the cot was practically full up of soft toys. When he did transfer into the cot he was almost four months old so the excessive amount of toys didn’t hinder the amount of space he had, as he didn’t need a lot and he wasn’t moving about much so it wasn’t a concern. As time went on though, he moved about and needed more space, and the toys had virtually taken over. I’d go into his room when he awoke and find the toys littered over the floor where he’d thrown them out – or else he’d be hidden under a pile of them, which worried me, as I was concerned if that happened while he was asleep he could suffocate. So I purchase a big plastic toy box and shoved the cuddly toys into it.

A few remained in the cot – his favourites. This way he has something to snuggle into, because since he could move around the cot he’s been very fond of using a cuddly toy to snuggle with, normally the softest, plushest one he could find, and he’d fall asleep sucking his thumb, the other arm wrapped tightly around the toy keeping it pinned to his cheek and his fingers rubbing the soft fur. I was happy to leave a couple in the cot, and after a while packed some of the bigger ones away in the spare bedroom wardrobe (they just took up too much room, and he’s never been interested in playing with them).

With the lullaby function available on My Pal Scout, I decided immediately to try it, which meant putting it in the cot with The Boy, and I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about that – other toys I thought he’d like in there that he didn’t he quickly throws over the sides, and some I didn’t think he liked that much and packed into the toy box he rescues the next time he is able to and throws them into the cot, so the first day we had Scout and The Boy went for a nap, I put Scout in the cot with his lullaby setting on for 10 minutes, and waited to see what would happen. After waking from his nap and crying for me, I went into his room and found The Boy still cuddling Scout and having pressed the buttons was merrily chatting away to the plush green puppy. Within a few hours of being in the household, Scout had already been promoted to a cot toy, an acclaimed position that not all get to!

That night at bedtime I did the same thing, and the following morning rather than The Boy crying when he woke up and waking me up, I was awoken to the much nicer noise of The Boy giggling. When I checked the monitor I saw that while he was awake, he was quite content, cuddled up with Scout pressing buttons and chatting away. He stayed like that for a good ten or fifteen minutes, giving me time to wake up properly before launching out of bed, as is the usual start to my day.

Since then, Scout has been with The Boy at all times, and I do mean all times; he’ll dash out of a room, then come to a halt, spin around and run back, grab Scout and then continue to where he was originally headed. Scout has been sitting at the highchair with The Boy for mealtimes, and for each mouthful The Boy has, Scout gets one, too, as well as a drink, and when we’re changing The Boy’s nappy we put Scout at the end of the changing table and play the daytime songs that I sing along to. He’s also been introduced to all the other cuddly toys, and when it was time to pack away The Boy was very careful to put Scout in the rocking chair while he put the others back in the toy box!

The Boy has always been very keen on music – when I was pregnant and listening to music he’d be wriggling about, and after his birth was no different; from a young age he has been the sort of child to listen to the start of a song very carefully to decide if he thinks he’ll like it or not, and if not he shakes his head and if he does he’ll dance. He loves ‘Show Me, Show Me’ on CBeebies when they practise their groovy moves and dance to music, and he’ll always join in – the same applies to the opening music of certain programs, and he’ll always dance if I put music on the radio or a music show on TV. In the car once he’s in the carseat and the radio comes on he’ll clap his hands, waggle his feet and wiggle about in the carseat like he’s dancing. Having music on Scout only serves to encourage his dancing, and he’ll start as soon as the music does, laughing and clapping as he’s doing so, which is a joy to see.

I think it says a lot for Scout that he has already been chosen by The Boy as one of the clear favourite toys … He will be joining us for our epic weekend away this weekend, though I’ll have to keep a very close eye on him I’m hoping that as he serves to entertain The Boy so well and The Boy is so keen on him that the two of them should be side by side on a constant basis, but just in case I am going to put his name on Scout’s label! We learned the hard way with the loss of his favourite ever cuddly toy a few months ago – he went out with it attached to a Toy Tie on the pushchair, and when he returned it was gone. The Hubby and I searched the town for two solid hours for it to no avail, I even made up ‘Missing’ posters and put them through shop letterboxes and handed them out to people with my contact details on it, and we heard nothing. Luckily for us on that occasion my good friend Mummy, Not Big Milk Thing found an identical cuddly toy on E-Bay that was delivered within a couple of days which averted what could otherwise have been a major disaster! But for that reason I will keep a very close eye on Scout while we’re away this weekend.

The Hubby had a look at Scout for the first time properly last night and came to the conclusion that “it’s pretty good really” – trust him to be understated! I will be recommending Scout and Violet to all my friends with suitable age children as I can see how attached The Boy has got so quickly and I think that shows a good toy that has been well produced with kids’ interests in mind. The Boy and Scout really have become best pals just like Scout’s song says!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Product Review: My Pal Scout - First Impressions

I was very excited to finally receive my parcel from Leapfrog yesterday morning. The courier arrived shortly before eleven, and I hurried to rip open the paper and confirm that My Pal Scout had safely arrived with us. I make it a rule not to open parcels in front of The Boy on the off chance that something is wrong and I have to send it back – I learned from the mistake of a good friend who brought her son a scooter at The Baby Show, when we got back to her house she told her three year old that she’d got him a scooter, showed him the box, he was thoroughly excited and then when the box was opened it was a pink scooter instead of the green one she’d thought she’d purchased! Of course by then her son was far too excited to not play with the scooter, so the pink one got used and then she couldn’t send it back for an exchange. Remembering this tale of woe, I stayed in the kitchen to unwrap Scout.

My Pal Scout is a plush green puppy (My Pal Violet is the purple version) To begin with, I like that Leapfrog have chosen green and purple as the colours, rather than the standard blue and pink options. Scout is suitable from six months to three years, with an RRP of £19.99. Scout comes with his own USB lead to plug him into your computer and personalise him specifically for your child, and the information you use is then used in Scout’s songs and in what he says to the child.

Immediately on arrival, Scout (and Violet) requires plugging into the computer for this, so if you get this as a gift I highly recommend taking it out of the packaging and doing this before the child sees it. Unfortunately where my computer is positioned The Boy can clearly see it from the front room, so as soon as I had Scout out of the box and was getting ready to plug him in, The Boy laid eyes on it.

Well, I wish I’d had the camera in my hand at that moment! The Boy’s eyes literally lit up, he gasped and smiled, stamped his feet and held both hands out reaching for Scout! He’s seen one before, a friend of his has one, and he’s always been fascinated by it whenever we’ve been to their house, so he knew the idea of Scout and couldn’t wait to get his hands on it! He had to wait, though, and that was quite difficult!

To begin with, you have to download the Leapfrog Connect Application if you’ve not already got any Leapfrog toys that require it. Depending on your system and your internet speed, downloading and applying this software varies in the time it takes to do, unfortunately for me it took a long time – half an hour of downloading software later I then faced a further forty minutes to install and begin running the software. By that point The Boy had thrown a fit about not being allowed to have Scout right away and lost interest, having wandered off to play with something else.

Once it was ready to go, I plugged in the USB cable to my PC and the other end into the box on Scout, and it registered the connection and asked for the name of the child that owns this product. Once you’ve done that you go ahead and set up the rest of the personalisation. The first screen brings up a range of names that closest match what you’ve typed in, and you go through these to get the correct pronunciation of your child’s name. Then you enter the birth month and year, and the developmental stage of the child. After that, you have to really start thinking, because it asks for the child’s favourite food, favourite animal, and favourite colour! A lot of thought has obviously gone into this part as there was a huge variety of things to choose from. I decided on cake being the favourite food as The Boy is very partial to a bit of cake (just like The Hubby!) and dog as his favourite animal purely based on how much he adores our Hairy Hounds of Hell and how excited he gets when we’re out if he sees a dog. For his favourite colour, I was stumped; he’s never shown preference to a particular colour before, how on earth should I pick? In the end I randomly selected blue! Finally you choose five daytime songs and five lullaby songs – again, this is from a very long list, so make sure you’ve got some time to sit and go through this properly! I chose daytime songs that were bouncy, funky and familiar – ABC, Babaloo, Down In Jamaica, She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain and Treasure. For the lullabies I chose calming, peaceful tunes - Beethoven Pastoral, Brahms Lullaby, Gentle, Peace and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Once I’d done that and all the changes had been saved to Scout, we were ready to go …

Scout has a patch on each of his four paws. There is a pink bouncing ball patch to mark the ‘activities’ paw; a green music note for the ‘daytime songs’ paw; a blue moon and stars for the lullabies paw and a red on/off paw. Scout’s songs include a song about the child, where Scout spells the child’s name; a song about the favourite things you’ve selected (so we end up singing a song about wanting a blue dog that eats cake!) There’s a lovely song ‘Me And My Pal (child’s name)’ which never fails to bring a smile to The Boy. The voice of Scout is perfect in my opinion – clear, English speaking, gentle and childlike, it sounds friendly and encourages the child to think about responding by asking questions of the child, such as “My favourite colour is *colour* - Is that your favourite colour, too?”

Scout is a friendly puppy who likes to ask for cuddles, which The Boy is very obliging about and more than happy to provide! Scout is so brightly coloured, soft and well made that it is a gorgeous addition to any child’s toy collection, with the added bonus of being so interactive. One thing I absolutely love is that Scout’s lullaby button can be pressed once for two minutes of songs, twice for five minutes, or three times for ten minutes of lullabies. This feature is fantastic, and when he went for a nap yesterday and today and when he went to sleep last night, I set Scout to play lullabies for ten minutes and each time The Boy has cuddled up with his new friend and been asleep by the end of the ten minutes.

I will continue to write more about Scout as time goes on, but my first impressions of this product are very good and I wish I’d got a Scout for The Boy months ago. As it is advertised as suitable from six months, by the time The Boy was a year old I worried that Scout would be a bit babyish – after all, some of the stuff he has is meant to be from 6-36 months and he wasn’t interested by the time he was a year old, so I was a bit dubious, but you get out of Scout what you put in, and as the developmental stage can be changed Scout grows with your child, preventing it from being too babyish too quickly. He is already very taken with Scout, and since it arrived and I finished personalising it The Boy has had Scout by his side. I highly recommend this product for anyone with a young child not only for educational but also for entertainment, I can see Scout coming on a lot of adventures with us in the future!


Suitable from 6-36 months – Can change developmental stage as child learns and keep track of their learning with the Leapfrog Learning Path (online)
Can be used alongside a variety of other Leapfrog products to continue encouraging your child to learn
Brightly coloured, well made plush toy – so much more than just a cuddly toy, but still nice for little people to cuddle
Very good value for money. USB lead included and nice clear instructions on how to set up.


Took a while for me to download software and install
USB lead very short – my computer tower is floor level so this means poor Scout has to sit on the floor while he’s plugged in, so I had to put him in a plastic bag to stop him getting hairy and stop the Hairy Hounds running off with him!
The box that contains the information is a very tight squeeze to get into Scout once you've finished personalising it and want to give it to the child - it took me a while to wedge it in the gap and do up the velcro over it.
Not sure how easy it would be to personalise it for a six month old baby!

Every time Scout says The Boy’s name he smiles and claps and is utterly delighted; he seems captivated by this perky puppy, and the fact that it combines some of his favourite things together (technology, a dog, and a blue light flashing in the ‘Scout’ name tag) makes him like it even more. I think we have a new favourite toy in our household! Yay for Leapfrog and yay for Scout!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Product Review: Quinny Bag

I am not the type of woman who has an excessively large number of bags or shoes; I’m not a particular fan of shopping for things like that, I don’t actively seek out particular brand labels or desire the latest celebrity craze. I’m happy with practical and functional, and for this reason for some time I have used a £15 rucksack from Argos as the nappy bag for The Boy.

When I purchased the travel system prior to his birth, I opted to have the Maxi Cosi bag that was available at the time to ‘match’ the Mura. (This has now been replaced by the Flexi-Bag to go with all the Maxi Cosi range). Unfortunately despite it seeming quite promising – it comes with a changing mat, it has insulated pockets at either end, a pocket in the back with a tag for your keys to be attached to and a pocket inside – I never found it was quite big enough.

The bag itself is made of tough canvas fabric, and while practical this offers no ‘give’ so when trying to cram in a change of clothes, nappies and nappy changing necessities, bottle of milk and beaker of water, etc etc etc, I simply found there wasn’t enough space. When I attempted to streamline my nappy bag by removing the change of clothes, I always found I needed them and a day out was cut short by a nappy leakage drama, wet clothes, and us returning home quickly to change The Boy; Likewise if I ever dared step out the house with only one spare nappy, The Boy would require two changes within the first hour out of the house, and we’d be forced to return home or buy more nappies while out. The pockets were so tight on space that my house keys (three house keys and one keyring) wouldn’t fit in the gap and I certainly couldn’t get my purse in there along with the stuff for The Boy, which meant carrying about a handbag for myself as well as the nappy bag for The Boy, which doesn’t suit me at all! I’m by far a ‘less is more’ person!

During my pregnancy, a friend had got me a Bebe Confort changing bag – she is a huge fan after having the Loola travel system for her first born, and she’d got it with the bag and found the bag invaluable. It has a more rounded appearance, with a removable insulated bottle cover, a changing mat, handy pockets and even an additional space you can unzip to make the bag deeper in appearance, which is another little separate space ideal for storing snacks if you’re out. However, while I got along well with the removable insulated bottle cover, which I used constantly and still do even now, I found the bag itself still not quite satisfying my needs. Add to this neither bag sat particularly well on the Mura pushchair itself (especially when using with the carrycot or the seat unit in parent facing position) I looked around for alternatives.

Staring me in the face was the perfect practical solution – a rucksack. Plain black, it was designed with a net pocket on one side (perfect for holding a beaker of water or a bottle of milk in the insulated pocket from the Bebe Confort bag) a mobile phone pocket on one strap (so that it would be against your chest if you were wearing the bag, but as I hung it over the handlebar of the Mura this pocket was by my hand as I held the handlebar) The front pocket provided ample storage space for all changing necessities, including little elasticated pockets meant for pens that I used to store water free hand sanitiser and sun cream – a separate plastic front zipper section in this front pocket was perfect for storing wet wipes and Bepanthen wipes (invaluable if your small person ever suffers nappy rash, so much easier to deal with when you’re out than the cream itself) The main part of the rucksack was separated into two parts – the back section I used for a change of clothes for The Boy, sun hat, fleece, blanket and sun glasses, the front section I used for my purse, camera and his lunch bag as we never go anywhere without a selection of snacks!

For months, I have got along fine with this arrangement. However a little while ago I noticed the changing bags launched by Quinny …

L-R - Light Sand, Shadow Grey, Round Black and Square Black

Hailed as luxurious, beautiful, practical and functional, I adored them from the first time I saw them. The special added touches really appealed to me – the lining of the bag is the purple Quinny logo on silky feel fabric, the zippers are chunky trendy O shapes with the Quinny ‘Walk Your Way’ slogan printed around them and I liked that they were suitable to use as a combination handbag and nappy bag, since this is something I feel comfortable with. Here’s what Quinny themselves have to say about the bags …

After working myself into a salivating frenzy over these utterly gorgeous bags I then had to stop myself clicking ‘Buy Now’ when I realised the RRP - £80. Gulp. These bags are not for the end of the account balance that I tend to play in! I continued to covet but carried on with my rucksack, not entirely convinced my life would be complete without a Quinny bag but not able to do much about it.

Mother’s Day on March 19th this year I received a Number 1 Mum keyring from The Boy and a handmade card. I was happy, he was happy (or should that be oblivious?) I thought no more of it until I got home the other night and The Hubby was looking rather pleased. He announced my Mother’s Day present had finally arrived, and when I was flummoxed he explained that he’d ordered it before Mother’s Day but it had been out of stock til a couple of days later. It had arrived while he’d been at home, and he proudly presented it to me.

Inside the package was a gorgeous Quinny Square Bag …

It has a pocket inside each end which is insulated for storing bottles or drinks: There are plenty of spacious pockets inside, even a removable pacifier pocket has been included, and the bag feels well made and durable – it looks and feels like a proper quality product. I loaded it up with all the nappy bag items – and there is plenty of room for everything! (Including my purse, camera, keys and mobile phone!)

There are even poppers on the adjustable shoulder strap …

So that you can attach the bag to your pushchair chassis by making a loop using the poppers …

Now the official line is that Quinny don’t recommend you hang anything from the handlebar of the chassis – fear of tipping, etc etc – but they obviously know every mum does hang stuff from the handlebars and nine times out of ten it is the nappy bag. What I’ve found great is that this simple way of attaching it onto a Quinny chassis means that I can fit it nicely onto my Mura chassis and it slides into position directly behind the seat unit (Now The Boy is world facing it isn’t a problem – in parent facing mode this would mean the bag is in his lap!) The weight of the bag in this position is directly above the large back wheels, so the chassis isn’t being weighted in an unfamiliar or unstable way, and it remains perfectly stable at all times with the bag attached. The bag is at the right level for me to not hit my knees as I’m walking, to reach it without stooping down too low and reach it easily enough that I’m not scrabbling about for ages in a shop trying to get my purse out.

I love my new bag, and it’s so beautiful I will be able to take it to the wedding and it won’t look awful next to our posh wedding clothes!

I have discovered two down-sides to this bag though. The first one is that the poppers don’t seem to click together if you’re trying to do it quickly or not quite the right way – you have to be very exact and they click together – otherwise they pop undone and the nappy bag falls like it did twice to me the first day I took it out! The second down-side is that the circular shapes on the zipper to hold the funky Quinny keyring zip-tag in place doesn’t seem to have been closed very well – the one from the main part of my bag has already come off and been lost while we were out on our travels, and the one from the pocket came off when I undid the pocket the other day, so I put that one back on and have a keyring to use for the other zip but as you can imagine I am quite disappointed that I’ve already lost one of them! It’s my own fault though I noticed that it looked like it probably would come off and I didn’t do anything about it before the maiden voyage and when we got home it had gone!

These bags are definitely a luxury item and not a necessity – but if you’re going to go for a good nappy bag with plenty of space but that looks good on you as it is practical, I definitely think these bags tick the boxes. Available in four different colours/styles, the Quinny bag is a gorgeous treat for any mum!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Maxi Cosi Opal Goes Forward Facing!

When The Boy was nine months old he became too tall to safely continue using the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix carseat. They recommend the harness is no more than an inch below the height of the shoulders, and after a growth spurt one day it was definitely more than an inch for The Boy. I was faced with a dilemma – at nine months old, and not even 10kg, I didn’t want to even consider a Group 1 carseat; He was far too young for that. However, I also knew that any other Group 0+ carseat would suffer the same problem as we’d found with the CabrioFix – it simply wouldn’t be long enough to accommodate him safely. I did some research and discovered that Maxi Cosi had launched a combination carseat Group 0+ and Group 1 called the Opal (Review Here). This meant the seat was suitable to use from newborn right up until the child reached a maximum weight of 18kg and required a Group 2/3 High Back Booster seat instead of a carseat with an integral harness. The combination of groups meant that the Opal answered my needs; the seat was designed to be suitable for a child of up to 18kg, which is around three and a half years old, so it is a fair size seat, chunky and tall so the child can easily see out the windows. As it is also designed to be used from newborn, though, you have an adjuster on the front of the seat, allowing you to widen and narrow the wings down the sides of the seat, enabling you to ensure the seat fits snugly against your child for optimum protection. The Opal can be used as a rear facing carseat from birth to maximum weight of 13kg, and then used as a forward facing carseat from 13 to 18kg. This combination of the size of seat and the crossover of Group allowed me to keep The Boy rear facing in the Opal until he reached 13kg – which considering he was too long for the CabrioFix by nine months old I am very proud to say he continued to travel in the car rear facing until he reached eighteen months old.

I am a fan of ERF, by the way – I think it’s far safer to keep children rear facing for as long as possible. Unfortunately my car is not suitable for a standard Group 1 ERF seat – I have had every one physically fitted (by members of staff and by myself, as I am carseat fitter trained) and not one ERF seat is suitable for use in my car that is currently available for sale in the UK. I kept The Boy rear facing for as long as I possibly could in my car, and I’m proud of how old he was before we made the switch to forward facing.

You have to remove the Opal carseat and change it from rear to forward facing and re-fit it, so it seemed like a bit of a momentous moment when it happened. The Hubby took advantage of our removing the carseat and cleaned the car inside and out. He commented about the marks on the rear seat and the seatbelt from the carseats, but it isn’t something that concerns me; I would rather ensure my child is as safe as possible in a carseat fitted as tightly as it can be with a three point seatbelt than worry about marks being left. A car is a car and my child’s life is far more important! Anyway once he’d cleaned it and hovered it all the marks on the seat were hardly visible. I took the opportunity to wash the carseat fabrics and was again amazed at how well they come out of the machine (handwash cycle, 30 degrees, Fairy Non Bio, they’re the Intense Red colour and they come out as good as new) the fabrics dry really quickly too – they remain in a carseat shape which is odd, so I stand them up on an airer in front of a radiator and within a couple of hours they’re good to go again. I left them overnight to ensure they were properly dry, then put them back on the seat. I set up the seat in the forward facing option and went out to the car.

As I hadn’t fitted the seat forward facing since my training I thought it would be awkward to do but it’s very easy and bearing in mind how fussy I am it was so quick to fit the first time I did it that I couldn’t believe I’d done it properly, so I took it all out and started over again! I still love how you can hide the seatbelt under the fabric popper section on the back and it feels good and sturdy when it’s in place properly.

Now forward facing, there are recline options available. As I know it’s safer for The Boy to be as reclined as possible in the event of an impact now he’s sitting facing forwards to protect his neck and back as much as possible, I have kept the seat in the furthest reclined position – it doesn’t look that reclined, until you sit it upright and you realise it is quite reclined. The Boy looks chilled out, laid back and relaxed in this position. I did notice though that despite it being reclined, when he falls asleep his head does roll forward and he ends up with his chin on his chest. I know he’d wake up if he was immediately in pain or having difficulties breathing, but my concern is if we go on a long journey and he sleeps like that for a long time, it’ll be sore when he wakes up and that’s not going to be fun, so I have brought him a Safety 1st Nap & Go carseat pillow which was recommended by a friend.

In addition to this, I find it much more difficult to get him in and out of the seat now it is forward facing. It’s too high to allow him to climb in himself – he simply can’t reach that far – but at the same time the ‘wings’ at the side are very deep, and that makes it very difficult to get him in now because you have to try and reach around the wings and slot him into the seat. Maybe it’s because I still use it on the narrowest setting, as he is so tall and slender, and if it was on a wider setting this could be less of a problem as the wings wouldn’t be so upright. Between the height of the door opening on my car, the plastic hanging/grip bar above the door and the angle I have to try and get him into the carseat it’s a bit awkward. There's also the fact that now he is forward facing he slides down the fabric slightly as we're getting him in, which leads to the fabric rucking around his lower lumbar region, which he fusses with and moans about unless you deal with it right away, which is a pain!

On the up-side, now forward facing it is much easier to get the harness properly tightened up first try. I don’t know whether it was just the wrong angle when rear facing, but it seemed to stick every now and then and would take two or three goes to get it properly tensioned and tight enough. Now I do it once, it slides through smoothly and it’s properly tensioned and we’re ready to go.

I still wouldn’t recommend this seat for someone to use with a newborn baby simply for how awkward it would be to get a newborn baby into any seat already fixed into the car – that’s the whole point of infant carrier carseats! I loved this carseat for keeping The Boy rear facing from nine to eighteen months old, but I must admit now we’re using it forward facing I am loosing a little bit of love for it.

A good friend of mine has the Axiss and absolutely loves it; my sister in law has already purchased an Axiss for when her son requires a Group 1 carseat; I was in Sainsburys supermarket the other day and the lady parked in the parent and child bay directly in front of me came out of the store, popped her toddler son into the Axiss and had him ready to go in no time. It’s a brilliant idea, because it must be so much easier to get them into a seat facing you directly than trying to slot them in at a sideways angle; having them facing you to get them into the seat also means you can be confident the harness is done properly as you haven’t got to feel around the side that you can’t see like you do with a regular carseat at a sideways angle to how you’re standing beside the car. I really like the Axiss, but I’m determined to see whether I can overcome my problems with the Opal first, as I really do like the look of this carseat and the quality feel of it. It’s a chunky seat, heavyweight and it sits firmly in position, whereas the Axiss appears taller and slimmer (though potentially that would make it more suitable for The Boy). I will continue with the Opal for now, but I am already thinking of donating it to my mother in law as it’s a combination seat it would be useful for her as it would mean she can use for The Boy as well as The Nephew, and the number of times she is likely to use it means that it doesn’t have to be the easiest or quickest thing in the world to do because it would also be one of the rarest!

On the whole I think the Opal covers a very good market – I would have had to put The Boy in a Group 1 carseat at just nine months old without a crossover Group 0+ and Group 1 carseat like this to fill the gap. However, as a forward facing carseat I don’t feel it meets the standards set by the others available. It was brilliant to be able to keep The Boy rear facing for as long as I did, but I don’t think my Opal love affair will continue as long as it should. This carseat is suitable until The Boy reaches 18kg (approx 3.5yrs old) I’m not convinced I can live with it for that long!