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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, February 28, 2012

Our Dormouse

There was cause for celebration yesterday when I heard the news that my cousin has become a daddy.

Some families aren’t very close, and cousins don’t see one another regularly, but in our family, when I was growing up, my cousins were very much a part of my everyday life. In fact, they were more like siblings than cousins to me. As we got older for a number of reasons we’re not as close as we used to be; but still, to find out that he’s become a daddy is brilliant news.

It’s been a bumpy road for him and his fiancée – first he was under investigation for fits, and they suspended his driving license and he had to have all these tests and scans done to try and find out what was happening (they never did get to the bottom of it, and the fits stopped as suddenly as they’d started) Then his fiancée had some health issues of her own, which resulted in her coming off the pill and she became pregnant.

It’s the third baby for her – she has two older sons from her first marriage, who are young teenagers now – but they knew it would most probably be their only chance at having a baby together, so despite the health risks involved for her and the baby, they decided to go for it. At the 20 week scan it was confirmed their healthy bundle of joy was a girl.

Their daughter was born yesterday via c section due to the health issues, and everything went well. A healthy 8lb baby, she’s already earned herself the nickname of ‘Dormouse’ because she’s so quiet and content to curl up and sleep. She’s also the first female to be born into the maternal side of my family since I was born, which is pretty crazy! It isn’t like a whole lot of babies have come along since me, though – my brother, two of my cousins had sons and then I had The Boy, so not a huge population boom in thirty years of family I suppose! But even so, it is nice to welcome a girl into the family at last.

We’ve been told not to buy her anything – my cousin says his fiancée’s friends are so generous, neither of them can believe the amount of things they’ve been given by people, saying “Oh, have it, my daughter is too big for it now” and they’re ending up with huge black sacks of clothes, half of which still has the labels in. Gifts so far have included a complete travel system, a Moses basket, the nursery furniture and a glider chair, and apparently Dormouse has enough clothes already to wear a different outfit everyday until she reaches nine months old!

Unfortunately despite my excitement it won’t be possible to meet Dormouse and congratulate my cousin & his fiancée for another couple of months – they live a long distance away, and the next time we’ll get together will be at my brothers wedding, which is just under six weeks away. However I will be naughty and buy her a small gift – she doesn’t need clothes or anything like that so I’m going to be creative and see what I can come up with! After all, it isn’t every day we welcome a new family member!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Sensitive Subject

From a young age, I suffered myself with eczema, psoriasis on my scalp and generally dry skin that was prone to cracking in winter. It was dealt with by application of many different creams, ointments, and I remember vividly a particularly nasty alcohol based solution which my mum was supposed to rub into my scalp after washing my hair but as my scalp was red raw this sent me through the roof in tears of pain, so she stopped doing that after a few attempts and we treated it with T-Gel shampoo amongst other remedies.

My father is prone to dry skin, particularly on his face and head, his elbows, knees and shins, and these areas seemed worse on me, too. As a child I wore my hair long, but during summer months the heat made my scalp itch constantly, until I was 11 and announced that I wanted to shave my hair off. As a compromise, mum allowed me to have an undercut, which I kept for two years before growing it out, and since then (touch wood) I haven’t had a flare up even half as bad as it used to be.

The Hubby also suffers from dry skin, which like mine becomes particularly bad in the winter. He remembers the skin at the bottom of his ear lobes cracking open the winter he turned 19 and was doing deliveries on a moped, constantly putting on and removing his crash helmet, and also the skin on his hands and fingers cracking open and bleeding. Like me, he also suffers with the inside of his elbows, the backs of his knees and his shins becoming red and dry.

It seems inevitable, then, that our son suffers as well. From a few weeks old The Boy had one rosy cheek that seemed hot to the touch and dry, but I applied various baby-safe moisturisers to no effect. During his first winter, his whole body broke out in red, sore looking spots of dry skin, so we took him to the doctor who advised it was eczema, and provided us with Oilatum Junior cream and anti histamine for treatment. He also advised that I used only Fairy Non Bio washing detergent, and avoided washing my own hands with scented soap as this could cause a flair up for The Boy.

It had an immediate effect and it was quickly cleared up (The Boy’s cream was so good that it even stopped my hands from cracking and bleeding as I was constantly applying it to The Boy) We used it less and less frequently until around April, when the weather was warmer, the central heating turned off and his skin remained beautiful and soft, like baby skin should be.

Like a bad penny, the eczema returned at the start of the winter again last year. I was prepared, having purchased the Oilatum Junior Bath Additive as well as a bar of Oilatum Soap, I made a return journey to collect the repeat prescription for the Oilatum Junior cream and we started using it all again. We imagined that it would be the same as last time, that it would quickly take effect and would soon be a bad memory.

It didn’t disappear as we’d hoped. Instead of soothing his skin and making it better, it just seemed to keep it on an even keel and stopped it getting worse. As the eczema is concentrated on his back we didn’t think he’d be able to scratch at it, but we were wrong on that count, too – now an inventive little monkey, The Boy has taken to rubbing his back against things to relieve the itching (rather like Baloo the Bear from Jungle Book) He knows that the Oilatum cream helps, though – last night after his bath I was drying him off and he grabbed the tube of cream and was waving it at me. I did the usual thing of putting it in my hands before putting it on him (it’s a thick cream and its very cold straight out of the tube) and as I reached toward him he sat right forward to expose his back to me and was moaning with relief as I rubbed the cream in. He even picked up the tube and put some in his own hand then rubbed the lower part of his back where he can reach – it was so sweet to see him do, but also a bit sad as well, because no child of his age should be so used to using cream for sore skin that he helps you apply it!

While his back is the worst affected area – from the shoulder blades all the way down to his bottom – it is not the only affected area. The tops of his arms and his armpits are prone to becoming red and sore if not kept on top of, his thighs tend to feel a little like he has goosebumps if I haven’t applied the cream and his tummy gets small, penny sized circles of dry skin crop up randomly. I’ve got to the point of coating him entirely with the cream from top to toe, to the point where he’s a slippery little eel and if he was to wriggle away from me I’d never be able to catch him again! Dressing him afterwards is challenging, to say the least – especially getting a nappy on him! (He hates wearing a nappy anyway, so trying to get it on when his legs are greased up and you can’t hold him still is even more difficult!)

We were in town yesterday and I stood outside the doctors surgery for a while debating whether or not it was worth another appointment. Eventually I decided that I’d see what it looked like in the bath last night, and make my decision. When I undressed him it didn’t take much of an assessment to see that it had become more inflamed during the day – though I couldn’t tell you what might have caused that – and as soon as he was undressed he was rubbing his back against things and scratching as much as he could (I try to keep his nails as short as possible but despite that he cuts himself where he scratches so much if you’re not careful) In the bath, he shuffled himself to the end so his back was pressed against the lip of the bath, then wriggled against it. He knows the bath water helps soothe the itching, and he knows we use either plastic pots to pour water over him, or the sponge, and last night was no exception as he even refilled the pots to hand to his daddy to pour over his back, and tried to reach himself with the sponge.

This morning, I rang the doctors surgery and an unusually helpful receptionist spoke to me. She said the soonest appointment was in two weeks time, but if I felt it was urgent she could arrange an emergency appointment today. I said I didn’t think it warranted an emergency appointment, but that waiting another two weeks wouldn’t be helpful, so she suggested that she got a doctor to phone me and have a chat, and we could decide the best course of action from there. Fortunately the doctor who called was one who helped me before with The Boys skin complaints, and he wasn’t surprised to hear it had flared up again or that now, at 18 months, The Boy was being inventive with scratching the itch. He advised that he’d write a prescription for some steroid cream which I’m to use twice a day on the dry skin for a week, which should rein it in and then after a week return to using the Oilatum Junior cream again. I should continue to use my Fairy Non Bio for the laundry, and he recommended more Oilatum products for the bath like I’ve already been using, or else he said that E45, Simple and Dove were good alternatives. I did pick up some kids E45 bath stuff yesterday for sensitive skin, as the Oilatum products are so expensive - the soap bar is around £4 and the bath additive around £10 (but I can’t deny they’re good!)

So we’re off to the doctors to pick up another prescription, and we start the steroid cream tonight. What The Boy will make of it I don’t know, but he knows now that I put cream on him and it helps the itching so even if it’s a different cream maybe he’ll make the association. Whatever happens, I just hope it works and we can get it under control again before it gets any worse. It’s horrible to see your child uncomfortable like that, and I know how uncomfortable dry, itchy skin can be so fingers crossed this is our last trip to the doctors for a while!!

Jack Of All Trades

My first job was volunteering for a cattery (part of the Cats Protection League) when I was fourteen. I enjoyed the work, got quite involved with the CPL and their various fundraising events, even went out a few times with the local area warden to collect rescue cats or drop some off to foster homes. During summer months I helped my parents distribute Yellow Pages – I’d help sort out the car parking so that people lined up alongside the lorry to load correctly, ensure distributors had enough Yellow Pages for the routes they were doing, unloaded the pallets to the front of the lorry for unloading, shoved bundles into peoples cars until they were full and I had to check they were still legal for road travel on the way home to offload. Once I was sixteen I started working for the cattery more often, and getting paid for the work as I started dealing with the boarding side of the cattery and other people came in and started doing the CPL cats.

Between then and now, I’ve done a wide variety of work for different organisations: From a sunbed shop to a pizza restaurant, a Christmas job in Mothercare and one at Boots, I’ve worked as an Ann Summers party order line call operator and as an assistant dispatcher in the ambulance service, I’ve been trained to fit a carseat and to correctly operate a candy floss machine, I have certificates for food hygiene, CPR and defibrillation skills, I can talk you through delivering a baby or folding a pushchair and I’ve worked in a sweet shop and a fish and chip shop! I’ve had full time jobs, part time jobs, temp jobs and seasonal jobs and the things I’ve seen would spin your head.

Each of the jobs I have done has required me to know very specific information about a very specific thing, and as such the skills earned do not pop up (on the whole) in everyday life. This does not mean I am clueless – in fact I am renowned amongst my family and friends for being a vast information database of all kinds of information. I never excelled particularly well at anything when I was at school – I was average to below average depending on how much effort I put into a subject, and I am very guilty of being one of those people who didn’t put effort into subjects I hated, so History, Maths and Geography were not subjects I excelled in! However since leaving school and finishing college, my learning capabilities seem to have grown. Once I would have struggled to learn new skills, the older I get the more I seem to relish the challenge and take up new skills much quicker than anticipated.

When The Boy was born, it combined two of my longest standing jobs together – my knowledge and experience from the ambulance service (five years service, plus the additional knowledge that comes from one parent being frontline staff for 30 years and various friends within the service) as well as my knowledge and experience from the child products industry (four years) I can be my own worst enemy (I refuse to allow anyone from a retailer to provide a physical fitting on a carseat – I’ll do it myself, thank you very much!) but at the same time I think it’s beneficial because I can talk from experience.

The thing that I struggle with is customers who don’t want to listen to what you have to say. They get on their high horse because they ask you a question and you tell them you’re unable to provide a definitive yes or no answer, you explain why you’re unable to provide a definitive yes or no answer, and they huff and puff and moan at you for a while before they decide to ignore you, they’ll go and do what they want anyway.

It is estimated that in the UK there are 80% of carseats currently in use (seatbelt fitted only) that are fitted incorrectly. That means in 80 out of 100 accidents involving children, the child may as well not be in a carseat for all the use that carseat is going to do in an impact. For this reason, combined with my experience in the ambulance service, I feel passionately that the public should be provided with as much information as possible on fitting carseats. Why are they seen as such a mystery? Simply because manufacturers want to make sure they are properly fitted, so they spend a lot of money on groups of trainers who visit retailers and train staff. These staff are then responsible for providing physical fittings for members of the public prior to the purchase of a carseat. The staff should ensure that the carseat is the appropriate stage for the child, that the carseat can be fitted correctly into the vehicle it will be used in, that the parent or guardian is educated in how to fit the seat themselves, and that the seat is suitable for the needs of the parent/guardian and the child.

Unfortunately it doesn’t always happen that way. Staff regularly leave sales positions and it can be difficult to ensure that all staff currently employed are up to scratch with their training on all products. People can purchase carseats from the internet and have it delivered to their home with no clue whether or not it is suitable, and no clue how to correctly fit it. Personally I don’t think carseats should be available for sale online; make the customer get up and do their research, get to a store and have a physical fitting done. Of course, the reason a lot of people buy online – especially now – is that companies can often offer more competitive prices with online purchases and you can save a lot of money by buying online; but I ask you this question, what amount of money is your child’s life worth?

I couldn’t put a price on it. I don’t deny that carseats are pricey, but quite honestly I’d rather spend out a little extra and ensure the carseat I get is safe and well fitted than save the cash and have an accident and my son ends up another tragic statistic. This is the side of it that people don’t seem to consider – worst case scenario is not that you spend a few extra quid than you wanted to - worst case scenario is that you’re involved in a serious road traffic accident and your child ends up dead. I wouldn’t wish that sort of nightmare on anybody.

For this reason, I find it difficult to stay quiet when I see people transporting children incorrectly. A prime point in case was when I was pregnant and about to enter the local supermarket to do the weekly shop. As I crossed the car park, a man in an older model car pulled into the car park and into a space in front of me. He then hopped out of the drivers seat and to my surprise a young girl of about four then got out of the passengers side – followed by a woman. Not only had the child been in the front seat, but she’d been on the lap of a woman who was not wearing her own seatbelt, so the child and the adult had been totally unrestrained. No matter how long their journey had been, this was a huge risk to take, as in an impact both the child and the adult could have been projected through the front windscreen. If their car was travelling at 30mph and so was the car that hit them, this makes the combined speed of 60mph that the child would have been thrown through the windscreen, out the car, and onto the road. The medical term ‘de gloved’ is applied in many instances to an accident of this nature, and it simply means that the person has travelled at such speed over the road that their skin has been worn away completely or has been literally ripped from the tissue underneath. Imagine for a moment if you will a four year old child, thrown through a windscreen at 60mph and then her exposed skin – her face, arms and legs – being de gloved? If she survives – and that’s a very big if – she will require a very long recovery time and while skin grafts can now offer tremendous results compared to 20 years ago, that child will always have some kind of scarring from that accident. Could you live with yourself, if you did that to a child?

I recommend that any parent does research into any product before they make a purchase, and this is even more relevant to carseats due to the sheer amount of them available, the money you are investing and the task you’re asking them to perform. It’s confusing, I know that, and for that reason I do my best to help educate people should they ask for my assistance.

Recently there’s been a big furore on internet forums about extended rear facing, also known as ERF. It’s a very popular idea in Sweden, where children are kept in rear facing carseats until they are, on average, about four years old. This is due to the fact that it is a lot safer to be travelling rear facing in the event of an impact, as rather than the neck having to take the weight of the head as the head is pushed forwards and back by gravity, the child is pressed further into the supportive back and head rest of the carseat. Statistically speaking, it is safer for everyone, no matter what their age, to travel rear facing. It is due to the design of the human anatomy – since we started walking upright and exposed our vulnerable stomach and genitals rather than having them protected as we walked on all fours, we have also placed our rather heavy head right on top of ourselves, so our centre of gravity is all wrong. After a car accident, the most common complaint from anyone involved is neck pain. It can be simple pulled muscles, it can be whiplash, and rarely can it be a serious neck injury. However when you’re thinking about a young child, the head is disproportionately large and heavy compared to the rest of their bodies - this is when internal decapitation (atlanto-occipital dislocation) can occur. The definition of this is when the skull seperates from the spinal column, which is usually fatal.

Unfortunately, the majority of people in the UK are in a hurry to get their child into a forward facing carseat because of the belief that the child doesn’t like rear facing and would prefer to be forward facing so that they can see things. How would your child know they would prefer forward facing? As a baby it is law for them to travel rear facing in an infant carrier, so until you introduce forward facing your child thinks rear facing is normal. Why do you think they can’t see things? There are windows in the side of the car and in the back, so your child has just as good a view as you do, they’re just seeing it travelling the other way. My son is 18 months old and I continue to use the Maxi Cosi Opal carseat in the rear facing position as he remains under 13kg. People worry that their childs legs will have nowhere to go, that their ankles look twisted at an awkward angle – let me assure you that my son is taller than average and he is very comfortable rear facing. He watches the world go past through the side window and rear window (one of his favourite motorway games is waving at lorry drivers) and he has plenty of room for his legs. Yet I have had people complain that their six month old child is uncomfortable and squashed in a Group 0+ rear facing infant carrier and ask if they can move baby up to the next stage carseat. I recoil in horror when I see or hear this question, and I wish that I could provide crash test videos showing what would happen to an infant that young in a forward facing carseat during an impact.

Maybe my history of work in the ambulance service, the calls I took, the accidents I sent crews to, the scenes I’ve witnessed when I’ve been out on ambulances (both for work experience as a teenager and as educational while I worked for the service) that have made me particularly aware of the dangers on the roads. Maybe combined with my carseat knowledge, and the knowledge that people on the whole will do as they please even if they’ve been advised against it, this makes the area of carseat and safe travel a particularly sensitive spot for me, but I think it’s beneficial. After all would you rather get your advice from someone who knows all the ins and outs, all the pros and cons, or from someone who reads information from a card and hasn’t got a clue? I’ve also used a variety of carseats myself, provided physical fittings of carseats for people and seen clear examples of unsuitable carseats in vehicles. Of course sometimes people are disappointed – if they particularly wanted a certain make and then find out it isn’t suitable – but they must appreciate that if the carseat isn’t suitable then the label they want isn’t going to protect their child as they want.

The majority of people seem to think that ‘it won’t happen to me’. They read about tragic accidents, of children not being correctly secured in the vehicle at the point of impact, and they think how terrible it is but it never crosses their mind that it could easily happen to any of us. Accidents are called that because they happen due to a split second decision, sometimes through no fault of anyone involved, it could be that the car does something unexpected due to mechanical failure, it could be that the road is slippery due to weather conditions or a spillage of some sort on the road, but that accident can happen just as easily to you or me as it happened to the people in the news article.

In addition to the correct fitting of a carseat suitable for your child, yourself and your car, you should always ensure you use it properly for maximum safety. It’s one thing to have a good carseat fitted securely but once again it becomes pointless if the child isn’t correctly harnessed in before you set off. As a guideline, once the harness is tightened, you shouldn’t be able to get more than two fingers between the child’s chest and the harness straps. In addition, the shoulder harness height should be no more than an inch above or below the height of the shoulders. Ideally, the harness height should allow the harness to sit exactly on the shoulders, though depending on the style of harness adjustment this may not be possible. It’s another reason I love my Opal, because the shoulder harness height is adjusted as you adjust the headrest for the child, and there are so many different heights you can adjust it to I’ve never had a problem getting a perfect fit with The Boy in this carseat. Added to that the Opal can be adjusted width-ways as well, and due to his slender build I still have it on minimum width for the boy, so he is snugly in place – in the event of a side impact he won’t rattle around in there as there isn’t enough space to. It doesn’t take long – he’s in the carseat, harnessed and we’re ready to go within a couple of minutes, and I’m happier knowing he’s safely harnessed in. Another thing I do is remove the carseat once every couple of months to check the seatbelt for signs of wear, and re-fit the carseat to ensure it is as tightly fitted as possible, hence as safe as it can be. Follow the directions of the manufacturer – most Group 0+ carseats require the handle bar to be in the upright and locked position during travel as it acts as a roll bar in event of vehicle roll-over and also absorbs side impact, meaning that the jolt doesn’t travel through baby, it goes up and around the carseat handle. You shouldn’t use a rear facing carseat in the front passenger seat and most companies will advise this is even if you are able to disable the airbag – the airbag is designed to inflate on impact, and there is no guarantee that it won’t, even if it’s turned off.

So while I may be a Jack of All Trades and a Master of None, when you ask me about carseats, road safety and transporting children in vehicles, please take note of what I’m saying because I do know my stuff on this subject. There may not be a certificate to tell you where I learned all this information, there may not be an exam I can take so I have letters after my name and look all important, and you may look at me and think I’m ‘just’ a mum, but rest assured that isn’t all and you should remember never to judge a book by it’s cover.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Home, Sweet Home

Last week, The Boy and I set off on Tuesday lunchtime heading to my parents house, a 100 mile journey down the motorway, leaving East Anglia behind and returning to my South East London outskirts roots! My parents moved home when my mum was pregnant with me, into the house that was home throughout my childhood and that remains their home now. When I was a young teenager they had the loft extension built and my room was jokingly known as ‘the flat’ as it was large and fairly self-sufficient with my own shower, sink, kettle, fridge, television and stereo plus a number of various games consoles over the years left there by boyfriends! The room now is currently unusable – it was never insulated correctly and as a result during winter it becomes an ice box, despite double glazed windows, without a radiator in the room and nobody using it and putting an electric heater on frequently, the sink pipes burst and ruined the cupboard and surrounding flooring one winter and the year after that the shower pipe did the same thing, though the shower wasn’t completely removed the cubicle is filthy and the water has now been turned off up there. Boxes of my old junk and my brothers old junk are stacked around randomly; old furniture painted in the colours of our childhood bedrooms sits lopsided and empty; a doorless wardrobe holds my husbands wedding outfit (in a protective zip up clothes bag) as well as a lilac bridesmaids dress of mine from years ago.

The rest of the house, with the exception of the smallest bedroom at the back of the house, has been redecorated since I lived there. This means that while the house itself seems somewhat familiar and safe, the décor seems wrong because its not how I remember it from my childhood, and so it puts a weird spin on my perspective and I can’t seem to decide if I feel relaxed and secure in this house – as a result, I rarely sleep well when I stay, despite sleeping there soundly for my entire childhood and until I finally moved out, aged 23. To add to my discomfort, I am away from The Hubby, which I find difficult; I am away with The Boy and without The Hubby, which means The Boy is entirely my responsibility, which is stressful, though when I’m with my mum she will help out loads by taking The Boy and doing stuff with him!

The first few nights, The Boy slept in a cot and I in the single bed in my brother’s room. Before our arrival my mum had changed it around and after dinner my dad and I built the cot. I adore sleeping in the same room as The Boy – having the smell of him so close, listening to his soft snoring and mumbling throughout the night, plus knowing when he did wake up that I would be immediately aware and if it was an unsociable time then I’d be quickly able to try and calm him down so he didn’t disturb my parents. However, sleeping in the room with The Boy also meant I couldn’t sit and read in bed as I usually would, it meant I had to be fairly quiet when getting ready for bed myself as while he’s a good sleeper in general, if he hears things he often wakes up purely because he’s nosy and he wants to know what’s happening. Added to that, I was sleeping in a single bed and I didn’t have The Hubby to cuddle up with. It was odd, and combined with the different night sounds my parents house has as opposed to the night sounds in my own home, I found I didn’t sleep awfully well at all.

We set off from home around noon and arrived at their house just before two; The Boy had quietly played for the first hour, and been lulled to sleep for the second hour by me changing the radio station to Classic FM as soon as the reception for Heart East Anglia was lost and we were cruising down the motorway (I am probably one of the only people left in the world with a radio/tape stereo in my car and no tapes I wanted to play) We arrived and were greeted with cuddles and kisses, a strong mug of tea for me and a nappy change and some milk for The Boy.

That first day, we didn’t do much; We originally had plans for two old friends of mine to come over (it would have been their first meeting of The Boy, I haven’t seen either of them for about three or four years) Unfortunately that didn’t happen as they’re a couple and one of them had a migraine so neither came over, so we spent the day with my parents and playing in the snow in their back garden. The following day, I had plans to go and visit other friends, the husband of whom leaves for work at midday, so the idea being that we’d get there in the morning to spend some time with him as well before spending the afternoon with his wife and their son, who is two months older than The Boy. It started snowing first thing in the morning and was coming down quite heavily, and added to that The Boy slept in until almost , which is unheard of. I never like to wake him up because he’s so grotty and moody if you wake him before he’s ready, and I gathered that after a long journey and late night the previous day then he could probably do with the extra sleep. Anyway it meant we didn’t end up getting to my friends house until after lunch, by which point we’d missed seeing her husband, though we had a lovely afternoon together. As we’d not got there until later than planned, we didn’t leave til later than planned, which meant that the possibility of a quick visit to another friend before we headed back to my parents for dinner was out of the window as we hadn’t enough time.

The day after, my auntie came round quite early in the morning – she’s recently retired but still up and about quite early in the day and by nine thirty she was being dropped off in town by her fiancé (she’d spent the night at his house) and then walked from there to my parents house. I was upstairs in the shower when she first arrived and The Boy was still in his pyjamas; It doesn’t matter, really, but it just made it feel like she’d turned up unexpectedly and she hadn’t, but I hadn’t known to expect her so early! After a couple of hours, dad gave her a lift home and I went with them so we could stop off at a shop near her to pick up a few items of shopping. We got home and mum had given The Boy some lunch and he’d gone down for a nap; they’d spent an hour in the garden playing in the snow while we’d been out, and The Boy seemed tired. My friend messaged me to say he’d be over shortly, and my cousin messaged to say he’d be there that evening after work. My friend arrived and was there for a couple of hours, during which my parents neighbour (and good friend of theirs) came over to say hello, hoping to see The Boy and probably feeling quite disappointed when he was in bed again (last time we visited he was asleep when she popped over as well). After she left, it was time to wake up The Boy, and then we played while mum did dinner, as she dished up my friend left and about ten minutes after we’d finished eating my cousin arrived. He didn’t leave til quite late, and then it was time for a quick bath before putting The Boy to bed.

The next day my sister in law came round, with her son (almost eight months old) To begin with, he was asleep in his carseat and The Boy was fascinated with the Sophie Giraffe attached onto the harness using Toy Ties, but as time went on he became increasingly grumpy. We put him in the high chair for some lunch, and of course at that point The Nephew woke up.

Still hungry, grumpy and tired, The Boy was now confined to his high chair while The Nephew was removed from the confines of his carseat and allowed to roll around on the floor. He touched The Boys toys, which The Boy seemed unhappy about, until my sister in law produced some of The Nephew’s own toys, then The Boy wanted to play with those despite the fact they were baby things. After lunch, which The Boy didn’t eat much of, The Nephew sat in the high chair for his lunch, and The Boy helped himself to The Nephew’s toys. He was fascinated by the fact that The Nephew has a blue V-Tech Alfie Bear (The Boy has a traditional brown one) and he was pressing the buttons on both to confirm they did the same thing. After The Nephew finished lunch there was some time for playing together, but The Boy kept passing The Nephew things to play with and The Nephew thought a much better game was to throw the things on the floor again, so The Boy would pick it up and pass it to him again. After a while of this The Boy was becoming tired and not concentrating on his walking so well, which meant much stumbling about and tripping – I got quite worried he was going to fall on The Nephew, and he was rubbing his eyes, so my mum took him upstairs to put him down for a nap.

A couple of hours later, my sister in law and nephew set off for home, and mum went to wake The Boy who was still snoring. After dinner we had a Skype conversation with The Hubby before The Boy had his bath and went to bed. The next morning I woke with a horrible sore throat, banging headache and a cough. I popped pills, slurped syrups and mum mostly looked after The Boy for me while I shivered and felt sorry for myself in my pyjamas for most of the day. Our plans to visit more friends went out of the window given my sickly state, and the fact that apart from not wanting to drive and sneeze my way down the road on black ice and snow, there is the fact that my friends have a young baby and I didn’t want to spread the germs. So we had a lazy day, before our final night there.

My cough got worse the moment I lay my head down to go to sleep – it kept me awake until 3am, when I searched the kitchen for the fourth time and finally found some cough syrup. I took some, with a couple of cold and flu tablets, and shivered my way to sleep. At my own coughing woke me up again, so I took more pills and cough syrup and returned to bed with a glass of orange juice. That morning, the rest of the family were off to church, so mum was racing about getting ready while my brother plodded his way through sorting himself out and my dad sat in the kitchen until the last minute wearing his pyjamas and dressing gown, flicking idly through the paper and gazing about like he hadn’t a care in the world. When they finally rushed out of the door, ten minutes later than they should have done, I breathed a sigh of relief. For the first time since our arrival, it was just me and The Boy, and today was the day that we were packing to head home again.

I said earlier that my parents house has been completely redecorated since I lived there – well the combination of that as well as me sleeping in the front room means that I don’t really unpack when I stay there, so fortunately for me our bags were pretty much done – I’d been putting laundry in a black bag anyway and kept the remainder of the clothes in the bag folded up, so once we were washed and dressed I packed up most of our things, ready to load into the car once the rest of the family got home.

They got back, and I loaded up the car and sorted out the bed things from the front room while mum took care of The Boy. My dad fell asleep in the armchair and my brother disappeared upstairs. Mum cooked dinner for my brother, The Boy and I to eat before we each returned home – my brother was going back to his flat for Uni that evening. The Boy and I sat and ate our dinner while my dad snored in the armchair and my brother was upstairs. Afterwards my mum took The Boy upstairs to change his nappy and my brother finally came down to take the things back upstairs, then he disappeared into his room again without his dinner. Finally we were ready to go so I went downstairs and picked up the final bits and loaded them into the car, then got The Boy ready, put my own coat on and looked at my mum.

Suddenly my dad was awake and wanting to say goodbye and my brother had reappeared from nowhere – typical blokes, they’d got out of helping me sort out the front room and pack the car, got out of helping mum look after The Boy and cook dinner, but now it was all done they were there! We said goodbye and I strapped The Boy into his carseat and we were off.

Home lay two hours away, and Classic FM quickly soothed away my grumpiness as I thought of how nice it would be to get home. I missed The Hubby – I always do when we’re apart – and I know The Boy had as well. I hadn’t missed shouting at The Hairy Hounds Of Hell, but I’d missed their warmth snuggling up to me on the sofa in the evenings as I watched TV, and missed their familiar tap-tap of claws on laminate flooring. I simply missed home – my own little house, decorated the way that The Hubby and I decided, filled with our things, the place I could truly relax in. The Boy slept for most of the journey home, and as I turned into the driveway and saw our house I felt very happy.

As lovely as it is, to return to the old stomping ground and catch up with all the people there, I really do appreciate the saying Home, Sweet Home now I have my own home. You can never really relax in someone else’s house like you can in your own; Even the night time quietness is somehow unfamiliar and you don’t sleep as well. I’ve never been one to question staying over somewhere if it’s more practical – I make a huge effort to ensure anyone who stays at our house feels welcome and that the room is cosy and they have anything they may need, I’ve crashed on various sofas, floors, armchairs and beds during my life and it never once worried me, but suddenly I’ve become a real home body (Maybe it’s Motherhood? Now I have to protect my young as well as myself I have to be more alert to my surroundings?) That first night home, I enjoyed a lovely long hot shower and washed my hair (my parents bathroom seems determined to stay ice-box cold so you freeze in the shower over the bath – the water pressure is completely unenthusiastic and it’s a struggle to wash my long hair) I then went to bed and fell asleep within about five seconds of my head hitting the pillow! I slept right round the clock because The Hubby was a darling and got up first thing with The Boy and left me in bed, so I didn’t wake up til nearly midday. I felt so much better for it.

I do love going back to my parents and seeing them, but I love coming home and remembering why I moved out in the first place! I love making plans to see people, I just wish sometimes the plans would actually happen like they were meant to but we always have a nice time regardless. I love visiting for a few days because anything longer is a headache for many reasons, but in a few days I don’t settle and I don’t get to see everyone, which is a shame.

The next visit planned is for April, and for a very good reason – my younger brother will be getting married. We’re planning to drive down once The Hubby finishes work the night before, arriving fairly late evening so that we can put The Boy straight to bed (hopefully) as he (should) have had a bit of sleep in the car on the way so (fingers crossed) he won’t wake up properly if I can get him in the hotel and put into bed without too much fuss. Then the wedding will be the following day, and we’ll stay that night in the hotel and travel home the day after. It will be the longest time we’ve ever left the dogs – we’re still not entirely sure who we’re going to get to dog-sit! Whatever happens, it will seem like we rushed there and back again, we’ll have a brilliant time but we’ll be exhausted by the time we get home and we’re looking forward to it immensely but on the drive home we’ll be glad to be homeward bound.

Home is where the heart is, after all.

A Love Story

Today being Valentines Day, I thought I’d share with you a love story.

When I was 17 I got a job working for a pizza restaurant. I got the job through my best girlfriend, who had worked there for a while at that point. I had a boyfriend, we’d been together since we were 16, at high school, and I went to college.

The colleagues I met there became good friends; There was constant banter, affectionate bickering, we’d turn the music up loud in the kitchen and dance while we worked, we’d spend hours in the pub over the road once our shift had finished and at the weekends a small group would end up at someone’s house, drinking more and having fun until the early hours of the morning.

By the time I was 18 my relationship was rocky; we argued all the time (mostly over the fact that I wanted to listen to different music and wear different clothes to what my boyfriend wanted me to) By that point I’d passed my driving test so was even more independent, not having to rely on him for lifts; If I’d been drinking I just slept at whoever’s house I ended up and started from there the following day. I kept my college bag and a change of clothes in the boot of my car in case of going straight to college after one of those nights, as they started happening more often throughout the week. My boyfriend resented the amount of time I could have been spending with him but was choosing to spend with other people. We argued more and more, and as I rebelled against his more controlling side I deliberately became more like what he didn’t want – I dyed my hair from coppery blonde to plum purple simply because he said he’d dump me if I did, and I thought that would be such a ridiculous over-reaction to dyeing my hair that I did it just to see if he would carry out his threat (he didn’t).

My best friend and I remained solidly close, spending a lot of time together and in the company of our friends from the restaurant. There was another pair of best friends there – two guys, older than us by a year, both of which I really enjoyed the company of. They were welcoming, friendly and we’d spent many evenings getting drunk in the pub and playing video games back at someone’s house, having a good time. My best friend and I went on holiday, and before going I tried to finish my relationship with my boyfriend. I missed him while we were away, and when we returned to the UK and I got service on my phone again I had a load of messages from him. We ended up getting back together again, though even as I did it I wondered why.

In truth, one of the best friends had been flirting with me more than usual. He had beautiful eyes that I couldn’t help looking at, and as silly as it sounds he always smelled nice, which I liked. He had a shy smile and was fairly quiet and nervous – nothing at all like my bolshy, loud, shouty boyfriend! I enjoyed spending time with him especially, but didn’t think it meant anything more to him than just being friendly. That illusion was shattered after one evening in the pub when he was telling me about a girl he really liked, but that she had a boyfriend and while it wasn’t going well with her boyfriend he wasn’t sure how she felt about him. I encouraged him to tell her how he felt, my argument being that at least if he was rejected he would know how she felt and could move on accordingly. He agreed that was what he’d do, and soon afterwards I left the pub. A few moments after I got into my boyfriends car I got a text message from my friend simply saying It’s you x

I didn’t reply that night. I didn’t know what to do, or say, or even think. My boyfriend and I had broken up and made up so many times in the past and while I knew it wasn’t working in the long run I didn’t want to end it because of my friend: On the other hand, now I knew my friend felt the same way about me that I did about him, I knew it was unfair to keep my relationship going, because it was bad enough that I felt that way about someone else while I was still in a relationship. My boyfriend knew something was up and was clingy and even more controlling, trying to tell me I wasn’t allowed to go out with other people and not him, telling me where I could go and what time I had to leave and what to wear. I felt suffocated and trapped: We’d been together three years, I’d never had another serious boyfriend like this and at the start of our relationship I imagined we would be together for always. When you get with someone when you’re 16 years old, you either grow up together or you grow apart, and unfortunately we’d grown apart, and the more he tried to stop it the more I encouraged it. I wanted to be my own person, free to decide for myself, but he wanted me to be his girlfriend, one half of a pair, to allow him to direct me. Shortly after my 19th birthday I finally found the courage to tell him it was over between us. He didn’t want to accept it at first, but then the following day he messaged me asking if he could come over and I said yes, then packed all his belongings and some photographs of us into a box and left it on the doorstep of my parents house. He collected the box and went home, then phoned me and asked if he could see me. I said I didn’t think that was a good idea and he started crying. It wasn’t an easy break up and for ages afterwards he kept trying to convince me that we should get back together – I don’t think he knew what to do without me in his life at that point and it wasn’t because it was me, specifically, but more because he hadn’t been single for a long time and didn’t know what to do.

My plan was to be single for a while, to show that I wanted to break up with him because I was unhappy and not because I wanted to be with someone else, and also because if I got together with my friend on the rebound how would I know whether it was a genuine thing or not? Would I just be using him to replace the person in my life I’d just cut out? I didn’t want to treat him that way, knowing how deeply he felt about me – a confessional letter from him on my birthday had him spilling his honesty onto a page for me, telling me exactly how he felt and leaving me in no doubt that he was in deep, regardless of the fact I still hadn’t said anything to him about the text message. It didn’t happen, though – I couldn’t keep away. Then one night, when I knew he would be at a club with friends, I dressed up and messaged him It’s you x then I walked into the club and over to him, leaned over the table and kissed him, and walked out again. I felt like I was on something as I walked out of the club – I got back in the car and drove home. 

My next decision was that we’d take it slowly, not rush things, he needed to make an effort to win me over and I wanted to get to know him better, and again that was a decision that didn’t last. Within a week I was staying over at his rented house every night, returning home in the morning for a shower and to change my clothes, heading off for college, and going back to his house that evening. One night as we lay in bed together I said to him, “Do you think we can make this work?” and he said, “Yes, I do.” At that point my ex was behaving badly, showing up everywhere and kicking off, I’d had neighbours call the police on him, his friends walking up to my new boyfriend and threatening him, yet at the same time my ex was trying to get back with me, making promises for a future he didn’t want but he knew I did, trying to persuade me that he would change and be what I wanted him to be – he didn’t seem to understand that the whole point was he shouldn’t have to change, and neither should I. I tried to explain that if we were right for one another we’d be ourselves, open, honest, and it would be fine; if either of us had to change it wasn’t meant to be.

My new boyfriend and I moved in with my parents for a while when the lease on his rented house was up. I didn’t have to pretend in this relationship – I was myself, and it was fine, and I could do what I pleased, go out where I liked and with whomever I liked, wear what I wanted, and because I had that freedom I didn’t need to rebel against anything and I settled right down. I never felt more comfortable, more secure or more happy than when I was being held in his arms.

Our relationship was tested almost four years into it. Relatives from both families died at an alarming rate, and we attended a funeral each week for ten weeks solid, until only our immediate family was left. Then my grandfather died; my world fell apart. I was utterly crushed, devastated and bereft – and then his grandfather died within a month. The pair of us clung to one another, the emptiness inside us both. The Autumn of that year, I lost my grandmother, too, and once again my world collapsed as I watched my mother and father crumble again, watched aunts and uncles and cousins shake with emotion and saw the same minister provide another moving service at the same crematorium that I’d already spent so much time in – I felt the sympathetic eyes of friends on me, the crumpled mess who’d lost almost everyone that meant something in my life. I don’t know what I’d have done throughout that time if it hadn’t been for my boyfriend. Despite his own grief he was always there for me, knew when to give me a hug, knew when to leave me alone, knew when to say something and knew when to be quiet.

The following year, we married. I was desperate for something good, a happy event, after so much grief and sorrow, but it was a bittersweet day as I realised how small our family had become and that my grandparents and so many other relatives didn’t make it to our wedding. After we married we discussed where we would live, where we would build our future, and we thought about moving 100 miles away, to East Anglia.

I’d only visited a handful of times; I’d never holidayed in East Anglia like The Hubby had done when he was a child. I had no experience of this area of the country, had never considered moving away from my roots before – I’d been brought up in the same house where my parents moved when mum was pregnant with me and where they still live to this day, and moving away from familiarity wasn’t something I’d considered before. Then again, everywhere I turned held a memory of someone who wasn’t alive anymore, a time when I went here and there with great aunts, great uncles, or with my grandparents. We discussed the pros and cons of moving away and I found myself telling The Hubby that I thought it was a really good idea. My past was there – my future was with The Hubby, wherever he wanted to settle. We started house hunting and found the perfect place within a few weeks – we moved in within a month. Within a week of us being here it felt like home – we’d lived for two years in a rented property before moving and that was always ‘the house’, with my parents house remaining as ‘home’, but within a week of living here that changed and this was ‘home’.

In December 2009 I discovered I was pregnant – The Boy was born in August 2010 and the closeness and love I had for The Hubby before has increased even more now he is the father of our beautiful child. He’s still as thoughtful and sweet and kind as he was when I first got to know him, and he knows me better than anyone. Throughout labour with our son, The Hubby was the perfect birth partner, he knew exactly what to do and when (no mean feat, considering that literally everybody else who was involved pissed me off at some point during the experience!)

We’ll have been together for 12 years in July this year – I’ve still got the first photograph ever taken of us as a couple, taken about a week after we got together and we still say “I love you” at least once a day to one another. I try not to get the hump with him and if I do I just say it and get it out of my system rather than have a fight with him about it – in 12 years we’ve not had a major fight, we’ve only had occasional bickering and a bit of annoyed banter. I still miss him when we’re apart; we still message one another several times throughout a normal day and finish our text messages with kisses. I used to wonder how my parents put up with one another – they’ve been together for almost 40 years and married for over 30 years – but now I realise that if it’s the right person then it doesn’t feel that long, and it isn’t that much of a challenge. Obviously there are times when you argue and bicker and things aren’t going smoothly, but you get through it together and it makes you stronger and happier.

The Boy and I were away last week, and we arrived home on Sunday. The Hubby had been busy - as well as doing all the housework, he’d started the laundry and been shopping! Yesterday morning he got up with The Boy and left me to have a lie-in; last night he cooked us a lovely dinner.

For me, it’s still him – it has been for years and I can’t see that changing any time soon. I can’t imagine my life without him in it. So, this Valentines Day, rather than spending a lot of money on stupid teddies, pointless trinkets and overpriced cards, I’m going to cook him dinner and tell him I love him, just like I do every other night of the year – after all, it doesn’t have to be Valentines Day for me to appreciate him!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Product Review: Mega Bloks

Up until a few weeks before Christmas, The Boy hadn’t shown much interest in building blocks apart from knocking down the towers of wooden blocks that The Hubby and I built while playing with him. That changed one afternoon in late November when we attended a birthday party of a friend’s son who is a few months younger than The Boy. For the birthday boy I had asked his mum what he liked, and she immediately replied, “Something he can build” so I went out and found a lovely big bag of Mega Bloks (suitable from 12 months) The fact that the blocks are nice and chunky and brightly coloured means that your little ones should enjoy playing with them and exploring the shapes and colours, they’re easy to click together and create something, and the fact that they came in a handy bag (with a handle) meant that when the fun is over and the toys are packed away they have a convenient storage bag which can be easily transported if you want something you can take away from home with you for entertainment (Always a bonus for me, as some friends don’t have babies and some family members don’t have anything suitable for The Boy to play with, so we’re forever carting toys around with us when we go out!)

As soon as the Mega Bloks were opened and the birthday boy delightedly playing with them, The Boy jumped in as well and forgot his shyness (until that point he’d been attached to me or The Hubby) Within a few minutes a group of five young children were in a circle on the floor, the Mega Bloks between them, building and playing together happily.

The shop I’d brought this set of Mega Bloks from is local to home, and a couple of weeks before Christmas I headed in there to see whether I could pick up a bag for The Boy. Unfortunately they had none of the bags left, but they did have a fabulous pull-along cart containing Mega Bloks as well as the police station playset. At the time I didn’t have the car with me and the pull-along cart was too big to contemplate walking home with (I could have pulled it I suppose, but that would have got the wheels dirty before The Boy had even seen it!) I wasn’t keen on the police playset as it seemed to include more accessories than Mega Bloks themselves, so I didn’t end up buying either.

My mum phoned that night and excitedly told me that my dad had found a bag of Mega Bloks in a local charity shop (it turned out to be the same style bag I’d brought for the birthday gift) He’d snapped it up straight away as he knew I was looking for some for The Boy, and then to add to his delight the people in the shop had found a second bag (this one a smaller size) and given him a really good deal since he straight away said he’d take both. I was pleased that The Boy would have some Mega Bloks for Christmas as it seemed something he was suddenly very interested in.

On Christmas morning, The Boy was thrilled to open two bags of Mega Bloks and quickly he and The Hubby were building all kinds of things with them. Another gift from my parents caught my eye as the paper didn’t quite fit around I could see it appeared to be a box of Mega Bloks. The Boy opened that one and to his absolute delight discovered it contained the In The Night Garden Mega Bloks set, which comes complete with Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy and Macca Pacca characters, as well as a carousel and bridge to build. Many, many happy hours came from this discovery, The Boy apparently even more pleased when he discovered that all the blocks could be used together, and giant walls of colour were built upon which the Night Garden characters were sat. (The Boy is a big fan of In The Night Garden, in particular Iggle Piggle, and he was very impressed with the characters that were included in this particular set). There weren’t that many actual blocks in this box set which was a bit disappointing considering the size of the box itself, however since you do get the characters and carousel it doesn’t leave much space in the box for too many blocks.

A couple of days later saw us travelling to visit The Hubby’s sister for our Christmas celebrations, and The Boy had a very big present waiting for him there! It took him a while to open it (he tries so hard to unwrap presents carefully, as if he thinks the paper is part of it and he doesn’t want to damage it!) Once he had opened it though, inside the paper he was delighted to find the Mega Bloks workbench!

The workbench starts off as a big red plastic Mega Bloks box with a bright yellow lid. Inside you get a selection of Mega Bloks, plus a screwdriver, hammer and spanner, and two shelving units. Using the blocks and the shelving units you build your workbench using the box as your base, and the tools can then be stored in their own special shelf. The Hubby and The Boy built the workbench as soon as they were able to, and both were thrilled. It has provided many happy hours of entertainment, and The Hubby’s sister was very pleased that she’d got such a winner of a Christmas present for The Boy (completely on a whim – she hadn’t known about his recent love for Mega Bloks, nor did she know he’d already received some for Christmas)

The Mega Bloks workbench needs the benefit of at least another bag of blocks to make it more fun, as included in the box you don’t get that many, and The Boy does like to build a good, tall tower of blocks at every opportunity! Once the workbench is made up there are no leftover blocks, so The Boy likes to build the workbench and then use his other blocks to make his own additions.

Mega Bloks is something that The Boy has introduced me to, I wasn’t aware of this product before becoming a mummy (I remember Duplo, the younger version of Lego, and thought that was the only option!) However these great value bags, the Night Garden box and the workbench have shown me that Mega Bloks know their customers well and understand what makes a good toy. Bright colours, ease of use, plus familiar additions such as the stickers for the Night Garden ‘Ha-Hoos’ and the characters make these fun, practical and great value for money. The fact that I can pack them into their own carry bag or box for storage and transportation puts another big tick in the box for me and I expect many more Mega Bloks sets to be introduced to our household before The Boy grows out of them! They don’t mark despite lots of use and abuse, and if they get dirty or sticky (we all know what toddlers are like!) since they’re plain plastic you can either wipe them over or (as I do) plonk them in a bowl of warm water with washing up liquid for a quick clean. (Remember though if you’ve put stickers on the blocks they won’t fare well in water & washing up liquid!) As The Boy gets older you can go on to the more grown up versions of Mega Bloks, with the blocks becoming smaller and more difficult to connect together, encouraging the development of dexterity and problem solving. I would recommend these to a friend and will be making further purchases myself, both for The Boy and for any friend’s birthdays!

I rate Mega Bloks four out of five, improvement only to be made by getting more blocks included with the sets, though due to the economical prices of the bags of blocks you can easily (and affordably) add to the collection.

Ice & Easy with the Maxi Cosi Mura 3

Some of you will know from reading my previous blog entry about the Maxi Cosi Mura that I have taken it out and about in snow before and have been enthusiastic at the way it copes with the weather that brings the rest of the UK to a standstill. With this recent snowfall, I decided to write again about how it handled, not because I want to tell you all the same things again, but because I believe a pushchair can handle very differently depending on the age and weight of the child using it, and as The Boy was very young and in the carrycot addition for our previous snowy adventure, this time it would be different.

Obviously The Boy is heavier now than he was previously – the maximum weight for the carrycot addition is 9kg, but you must also stop using it when the child is able to sit up unassisted, or when they become too big for the carrycot, whichever comes first. While I was disappointed that our Moses basket wasn’t big enough to accommodate him by the time he reached four months old, the Mura carrycot remained a useful addition to the travel system and I was able to continue using that until he was almost six months old. Now at eighteen months old, The Boy weighs in at 12.5kg (26.6 lbs) Due to his height (now approx 88cm) he grew too long to comfortably use the Mura footmuff last month (he was 17 months old) which was disappointing as it is such a useful, cosy footmuff, however we have cobbled together some pram blankets to use on the Mura seat unit instead to keep him cosy while we’re out.

I still have The Boy parent facing on the whole. It does mean that the seat unit doesn’t sit in the absolute upright position it would if I transferred him to world facing, but I’m in no hurry to do that and he is still quite content to ride along as he is. I like parent facing as I can see if he’s falling asleep and recline the seat to make him more comfortable: I can see if the sun is in his eyes and adjust the sun canopy accordingly, and most importantly (to me) we can make eye contact and have a chat while we’re walking along. I hate it when I see people out with babies – often younger than The Boy – in forward facing buggies, they’ve got the sun in their eyes or they’ve fallen asleep sitting upright and don’t look comfortable, and the parent is marching along behind them oblivious to their comfort, ignoring them completely (usually chatting on a mobile phone but that’s another story!) As we walk, I identify things to The Boy that he can see, in an effort to help him with his vocabulary.

Yesterday afternoon we needed to make a trip to the local shop for a few bits – nothing major, though a proper shop is needed as we weren’t taking the car we decided to get only the necessities as we would be carrying them home. It isn’t a long walk from the shop back home, but not one I wanted to make loaded down with a weeks worth of shopping, with the pushchair to control and the snow to consider. We wrapped ourselves up warmly, The Boy included, and set off with the Mura.

The front path from our garden gate to the front step was virgin snow as we hadn’t ventured out since the snowfall, and it was a good four to five inches deep. As such, the Mura did struggle slightly to get going – the wheels are large size (12”) and air filled, so once it got going it was fine, though heavy to push due to the resistance. We made it down the path, and once we reached the road it was easier going as people had driven on it, so while it was still snowy it was more compacted and not as deep. The Boy gazed around in wonder as we bounced down the road over the mounds of snow and he kept pointing at everything and saying “Ooo”. For a child of his age, the fact that everything was covered in this sparkly white substance must be weird, and the bouncing motion of the pushchair gave the impression it was him bouncing in the seat rather than the pushchair itself bouncing, so we started singing as we walked and this made him laugh and enjoy it all the more.

Once we reached the main pathways heading into the town centre we found some issues with the grimy snow that had been pushed to the curbside by drivers on their way through, as it had become that hard, compact, icy substance which provided an additional step to negotiate with the pushchair, which wasn’t easy. Though I usually adore the three chunky wheels of the Mura 3, this was one occasion where I did think that the Mura 4 would have coped better, for the laws of physics are more on your side. I had to be very careful maneuvering the Mura around the roadsides as it would have toppled very easily due to the way you had to keep pushing against resistance. Usually with the Mura I don’t need to rock it onto the back wheels to get it up curbs unless they are particularly high – the front wheel bounces up without hassle and the back wheels follow merrily – but as I was needing to try and rock it onto the back wheels to lift the front over the compacted snow roadside it did make it slower going than normal and I did feel quite vulnerable as I tried to get it up the curb after crossing the road, so you’re standing in the road battling with it. Luckily though there weren’t many drivers out so we weren’t holding up any traffic, and those that were out seemed to be the nice sort of people who didn’t mind waiting a moment for a lady with a pushchair to get out of the road!

In town, as expected, the roads and pathways were fairly clear, and we headed straight to the shop. We had some trouble negotiating the curbsides again immediately outside the shop, but we managed it after a couple of attempts and learned that there was a way of handling the snow drifts with the Mura and if you remembered to do it carefully and take your time it would be fine. We went round the shop and gathered what we needed, and were complimented by the lady at the checkout that we’d made it out with the pushchair in the snow! On the route home we took a detour over the bridge so we could feed the ducks on the river as we passed through. The bridge hadn’t been cleared but had obviously been used as the snow wasn’t particularly deep and had again compacted to that brown icy substance. It was fine getting the Mura up and over the bridge, and once at the centre section I applied the brake so we could stop and feed the ducks, and was pleasantly surprised that even in these conditions the brake held the Mura solidly. Coming down the bridge on the other side was a bit slippery but the combined weight of the chunky Mura with The Boy in it was enough to stop it running away from me, and we were soon on the return journey home.

Coming back up the garden path was awkward, as the only places the snow was disturbed was where we’d walked out, and I did end up pulling the Mura up the path backwards. I know that’s not recommended (it’s a pushchair, not a pull-chair!) but as the Mura back wheels are joined by an axle the wheels didn’t splay out and as I don’t make a habit of dragging it along backwards I didn’t feel that it would have any long term impact on the chassis. (You know those times in shops when you find yourself squeezed into a small space and you have to pull the buggy backwards to get out of it? I’m one of those smug people that doesn’t have that problem, because despite the size of the Mura it has an excellent turning circle and it isn’t a problem to spin it round and push it out of the smallest of spaces).

We got back into the warm house, locked the door and let The Boy out of the Mura and he was quite happy. He thoroughly enjoyed his adventure and I must say that the Mura impressed me with how well it coped, as I’d been thinking due to the additional weight in it in comparison to last time I went out in snow, we’d get bogged down and stuck, but we didn’t. I believe it would have been even easier with a Mura 4 as one downfall of the double front wheel unit on the Mura 3 was that snow filled in between the wheels and every now and then we had to stop and get rid of that snow. In addition to that, as I said previously, the Mura 4 may not have had the same tipping issues when getting it off the pavement onto the road, but that isn’t something I normally find an issue with on an everyday basis, I’m thinking it is do to with the way it was sliding on the snow as we were attempting to get off pavements.

The bringing home of the shopping would have been made easier if the Mura basket was larger and capable of holding a half decent load, but we had the raincover folded up in it as well as the leftover stale bread for the ducks and The Boy’s beaker, and this took up most of the space. In addition to that I didn’t feel comfortable putting shopping in the basket as it was likely to get covered in snow and ice from the journey home again. I did buy a set of bag clips recently which hook onto the chassis and allow you to put shopping on them but they’re not recommended by Maxi Cosi due to the additional stress they put on the chassis, and the fact that you can easily overload the pushchair and the additional weight on the handlebar can make it easier to tip. As The Hubby was with us for our snowy adventure he carried the shopping home!

I wish the Mura footmuff was that bit bigger and I could still use it for The Boy, as he isn’t walking very often yet when we’re out and I’m conscious of him becoming too cold, especially in weather like this, when we’re out for any length of time and he’s sitting in the pushchair. The Quinny footmuff, which I use on my Zapp and Zapp Xtra, is much bigger and still comfortable for him (it’s also less hassle to get him in and out due to a much simpler, more straightforward design) however I can’t use that footmuff on the Mura without removing the T-bar as there is no way the Quinny footmuff can accommodate the T-bar, and The Boy loves to hold the T-bar (he pretends its motorbike handles and makes ‘vroom’ noises as we go) and he has one of those toys that wraps around the T-bar to keep him entertained. After viewing the new Quinny Moodd recently with the footmuff on there which is designed to be used with the T-bar I am sorely tempted to get one! Though the T-bar doesn’t come all the way through the Moodd footmuff, it stays inside the footmuff, so I’m not sure if that would irritate The Boy or not. Maybe it would encourage him to keep his hands inside the footmuff – and therefore warmer! – because maybe he’d want to hold the T-bar while we travel, as he does at the moment with the Mura T-bar.

I do love the Maxi Cosi Mura and I’m very pleased that we chose it as our main travel system for The Boy, but as time goes on I do find things that could do with improvement! I don’t find them major issues, but it depends on what you want from your pushchair, so here’s my list of what could be changed to make the Mura even better!
1 – The seat unit should be able to sit completely upright when in parent facing position. The same ‘parent’ company (Dorel) have just achieved this in the new Quinny Moodd, so I think the existing products from their brands should be re-examined and the same seating position offered whether parent facing or world facing. I know a few mums and dads who say that they want to talk to their child but the child doesn’t like having to be slightly reclined when parent facing.
2 – The shopping basket should be made into a more basic cube design. At the moment it has a sloping bottom and a low section at the back which does make it easier to slide things in the basket, but also makes it easier for things to slide out! A deeper basket (like the one on the Maxi Cosi Mila) would offer a much more practical solution.
3 – The Maxi Cosi Elea comes with a baby nest for newborns and you can get a footmuff for children from about 6 months old. I think the Mura package should be the same – a snugly baby nest for newborns as an additional item to the footmuff would allow them to make the footmuff larger to accommodate an older child and yet you’d still be able to use the Mura from birth because you’d use the baby nest and your newborn wouldn’t be getting lost in a great big footmuff.
4 – The sun canopy is too low – at 18 months old I appreciate The Boy is above average height, however the sun canopy is literally about a centimetre above the top of his head which makes it awkward to adjust, as if you pull it forward when he’s in the seat you’re pushing his hair or hat over his eyes, and if you push it backwards you’re pulling his hair or hat off the back of his head. I understand that as mine is a 2010 model Mura it has a different sun canopy style to the 2011 and the 2012, however since I’ve not seen either of those in real life I’m unable to comment on whether the sun canopy is any further away from the seat unit. If there was a way of being able to attach the sun canopy further up the chassis it would eliminate the problem by providing the additional space required. It’s a disappointing let down, as the seat unit itself is large enough to accommodate a child way beyond the recommended 3.5yrs old (15kg max weight) and the chassis is sturdy enough to cope with a lot of abuse, but due to that sun canopy positioning I think The Boy will be too tall to use the Mura with the sun canopy beyond his second birthday. Obviously I can remove the sun canopy if I choose to, however without it in place there is no protection from the sun and also there is nothing there for the raincover to go on so that seems quite pointless to me!
5 – I understand that the Mura 4 was discontinued in the UK as it wasn’t a popular enough model and simply didn’t sell well. I think the company should alter the style of the chassis so it is more similar to the Quinny Buzz and Quinny Moodd in the way that you can remove the front wheel unit and replace it, giving Mura owners the option of 3 or 4 wheels. I would definitely have a four wheel front wheel unit for the sake of making life easier in snow, even though it isn’t required particularly often, I think the difference it would make for the times you do need it would make it worthwhile. In addition to this I don’t feel that the Maxi Cosi Mura is promoted enough and not enough people are aware of this amazing pushchair/travel system option. It isn’t sold in most shops, it seems to be an online purchase only, and my argument would be that you wouldn’t spend that much money on a travel system without ever being able to see it or play with it prior to making your purchase. Even if there is only a display model available in some stores and if you decide you want one you have to buy online I think that would improve the sales of the Mura as it really is a brilliant pushchair and once you’ve seen it and played with it many people are surprised at how much it offers and how well it handles, despite the chunky size and heavy weight.

After our excursion yesterday I flopped into the sofa exhausted – it’s a good workout pushing a Mura (containing an 18 month old) through the snow let me tell you! It handled it well, and while there were aspects that were difficult I know for a fact my Zapp/Zapp Xtra wouldn’t have even made it down the garden path and while we were out we saw many people with many other makes and models of pushchair who were really struggling, which says to me that my problems were minor compared to some.

My rating for the Maxi Cosi Mura remains a solid four and a half out of five, because the issues with it even in snow are so minor, they don’t really taint the Mura love that much for me.