Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Happy birthday Monkey

Well I can't stay in denial anymore, my little monkey is all grown up. One today! We've had a wonderful few days celebrating. Here are some of the highlights.

Golden boobies!

Our breastfeeding journey has not been an easy one with all Monkey's allergies. It's been amazing though and I'm so proud to have made it this far.

Monday, 22 June 2015

When Monkey met the monkeys

Monkey turns one tomorrow. I'm kind of still in denial about it. We've had a weekend full of fun and celebrations and I've loved every minute of it but I still don't want to admit my baby girl is growing up.

Anyway that's not what this post is about!

For Monkey's birthday treat we took her to the zoo. It's been booked for ages and today was the day. We were up bright and early to get into town for the coach.

Waiting for the coach

Monkey had never been on a coach before but the journey was fine. Her car seat strapped in so I felt much happier than I would with her on my knee. She soon made herself comfy, said hiya to all the other passengers then promptly fell asleep! She stayed that way all the way to Chester.

Travelling in style!
Chester Zoo is an amazing place. There is so much to see and do. Our coach got us there just before 11 and picked us up again at 5.15. I was a bit worried it would be a long day but there was so much to do that we didn't get bored.

Monkey ready to meet the monkeys!
There's no way I could write about everything we saw so I'll just share a few highlights. Monkey's favourites seemed to be the chimpanzees. She was giggling away watching them climb and chase each other.

The chimps were entertaining but they were VERY naughty! Maybe my Monkey is a bad influence on the monkeys. They were fighting and very noisy. In the end the zookeepers asked everyone to leave their house so they could calm them down.

The other animals Monkey seemed to particularly like were the elephants.

My favourite animals are giraffes so I was very excited to see those, especially baby Sanyu who was just 15 days old - already taller than me though!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Raving with the babies

I'm a 90's girl. I love my dance music, love my clubs and love nothing better than a good old rave!

I realise I'm now a lady of a certain age and I should have grown out of raving. I've found a good excuse not to though - Baby Rave!

Baby Rave are based in Leeds so not too close to us. Monkey's godmother lives over there though and when I saw pics of her enjoying a rave I knew I had to go.

Our first Baby Rave was for Halloween. We went over to The Square Chapel in Halifax and had a great time.

We then went to a huge Christmas rave at Control Nightclub in Leeds.

With Monkey's first birthday coming up I was trying to think of a way for her to celebrate with all her little baby mates. I was really excited to find out Baby Rave did parties and even more excited to find out they would come to Manchester.

I thought it would be really expensive but it was surprisingly affordable.. What I liked was that it was a set priceprice, much better for me than a price per child. With my scattiness I'd either end up paying for people who weren't there or even worse, people wouldn't be allowed in as I'd not paid for them.

Anyway today was party day - Baby Rave for Monkey's first birthday!! We had 15 kids there in the end aged 9 months to 10 years and they all enjoyed it.

The fantastic people from Baby Rave (I'm useless and can't remember their names) were brilliant and made the whole day stress free. They arrived an hour before the party with LOADS of soft play stuff and set the whole room up. I didn't have to do a thing!!

The first half hour of the party the kids played with all the equipment. There was plenty so no fall outs over whose turn it was even if Monkey did hog this little ride on(

The ball Pool was a big hit. Monkey has seemed a bit unsure of them in the past but she got stuck in with this one.

After a but of a play it was time for the main event - ready to rave! Our host was brilliant at getting everyone involved especially as we had quite a wide age range. We started with a few songs then slowly added shakers and pompoms getting louder and louder building up to learning a dance routine. 

The song and dance session lasted 45 minutes.. Everybody got involved and it was very full on. It was a full work out for those of us whose babies aren't walking yet - and so much more fun than the gym!

At the end of the session there was a story time while I got all the food ready. Pure chance but it was one of my faves from when I was small that I now enjoy reading with Monkey -- The Tiger who came to tea!!!

We then had another half hour for food,  more playing and more dancing.

Monkey's party was great, my favourite rave so far! They're all great though, I would definitely recommend checking out their website and getting yourself to a Baby Rave soon. You won't be disappointed

Monday, 15 June 2015

Picnic in the park

Today was our picnic for Allergy UK Free From Feast. We've had a fab afternoon in the park with our friends and raised lots of money for a charity that is so important to me and Monkey.

It was really grey and miserable when we got up and I thought the picnic was going to be a disaster. Luckily it had brightened up by the time we came out of Monkey's ballet lesson. We did have another problem though - we were 9 miles from home and the bus couldn't get through as there was a car on fire. This was at 11.40 and I'd asked people to be at the park from 2.00. I still had butties to make and just to add to my stress my mobile was dead son I couldn't contact anyone to ask them to come a bit later..

Monkey didn't seem to realise we had a problem and she slept while I stressed.. Luckily the fire service did an amazing job of clearing the road and making it safe for everyone.. Half an hour late our bus arrived and we were on our way.

Once we were home, it was a bit of a mad dash to get everything ready but we did it and we got to the park with time to spare. Of course this gave me time to stress about something else - would anyone actually turn up? I'd forgotten how fab my friends were and it wasn't long before the park was full of babies.

All the food at the picnic was Monkey friendly, so no dairy, soya, egg, wheat, apples or pears. It was all tasty though and even with my over catering tenancies there wasn't much left.. A lot of people ask me what Monkey actually eats when I tell them about her allergies so I'm hoping we've shown them that with a bit of thought and planning she can still enjoy her food. And enjoy it she certainly does!

We had a really lovely afternoon. The sunshine helped and it was also wonderful to just be able to let Monkey eat what she wanted without worrying. The highlight of the day for me was Monkey getting her very first taste of cake. It's impossible to buy a safe cake for her (if you know different PLEASE let me know!) but my super talented friend Catherine is making Monkey's birthday cake so today she brought some of her practice cake. It was amazing! You wouldn't know it was a free from cake at all. Monkey loved it! She sat next to it and was very anti social. She didn't play with the other babies, she just ate cake until she fell asleep in it.

I posted a few weeks ago about why Free From Feast is important to us so I was really pleased with how this afternoon went. I want to say a big thank you to everyone who came this afternoon, everyone who has donated and everyone who has supported me and Monkey with our fundraising and with keeping her safe. Our original fundraising target of £75 has been smashed and we're closer to £200. There's still time to donate here

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The cost of free from living

Scrolling through facebook today, this popped up on my news feed.

It got me thinking. I've often ranted about the price of free from stuff in supermarkets but I've never actually sat down and worked out how much more it costs.

I don't tend to buy a lot of free from stuff for Monkey. The cost puts me off, I make most things from scratch and the combination of all Monkey's allergies (dairy, soya, egg, wheat, apple and pear) mean a lot of the free from foods aren't suitable anyway.

There are some free from foods that I buy regularly though. I decided to do a price comparison of these against non free from foods. I've gone for the brands I would normally buy rather than the cheapest brands.

Pre-allergy shopping list
Warburtons medium loaf - 95p
Tesco wholewheat fusilli 500g - 75p
Tesco cumberland sausages - £1.70
Tesco fish fingers - £1.00
1 litre long life milk - 90p
Tesco tortilla wraps (8) - 89p
Total = £6.19

Free from shopping list
Bfree white bread - £3.00
Tesco free from pasta 500g - £1.40
Tesco free from sausages - £2.00
Tesco free from fish fingers - £2.50
1 litre Oatly oat milk - £1.39
Newburn house wraps (8) - £5.98
Total = £16.27

For a small shopping list of just six items there was a difference of £10.08. Whilst I understand that free from food is a specialist market and may cost more to produce I find a 162% price increase hard to justify.

I've found that when they hear about Monkey's allergies they assume we get food for her on prescription. This is not the case, we get Neocate Spoon to help with weight gain but free from food prescriptions are not currently available for allergies. The cost is passed on to parents who are doing their best to keep their children safe while trying to keep things as normal as possible for them. We have no choice but to pay these prices. But 162% more each week can soon add up, adding money to the ever increasing list of things for allergy parents to worry about.

I'm not quite sure what the answer is. Maybe food could be made available on prescription as it is to people with coeliac disease, maybe some kind of capped limit needs to be put on free from foods. Until then, I think the picture I saw today doesn't even come close to showing the real cost of caring for a child with allergies.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Mummy and Monkey's Monday missions

Mummy is scatty! Very scatty! She has lots of things she needs to get done. And she always means to do them. But then....

So she thought maybe if she put what she had to get done out there for the whole world to see, there was a chance that they might just, maybe, possibly get done.

Mummy's List

Continue to grow my blog - I've been blogging for just over a week now and I'm loving it. People seem to be reading it to which is a bonus! This week I want to make sure I blog every day and also do more with my facebook and twitter pages.

Sort out the baby clothes - I don't want to admit it but Monkey is growing up. She's still tiny so all the 0-3 month clothes I bought when pregnant still fit a year later. It's really time to sort out all the tiny baby and newborn stuff though. Some to charity, some on ebay.

Have a trial run of free from cupcakes - It's Monkey's first birthday party in two weeks. Luckily one of our fab friends is going to make a Monkey friendly birthday cake so she can still have a decent one. I'm going to attempt matching cupcakes.

Monkey's List

Get up to £175 with my fundraising - I'm taking part in free from feast to raise money for Allergy UK. They have really helped mummy to look after me. This is my just giving page.

Find a fab present for Father's day - My daddy is the bestest! And it's his very first father's day. I want to get him something really special. If you've got any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

We'll be back next week to let you know how we've done!

Linking up with Single Mother Ahoy and setting goals for greatness.

Single Mother Ahoy Goals for Greatness

When free from isn't

There's been lots in the news over the weekend about supermarket's own brand and Genius gluten free products being recalled as they may actually contain gluten. It's been bothering me all weekend but I wasn't going to blog about it as I don't feel like I know a lot about it. But then that's exactly why it terrifies me so much.

As far as I'm aware Monkey doesn't have a problem with gluten. I'm not even entirely sure what gluten is if I'm honest. She does have a problem with wheat though and a lot of gluten free products are also marketed as being suitable for someone with a wheat allergy.

Looking after a baby with allergies is scary. You become an expert at reading labels, know about 752 ways that an allergen can appear in an ingredients list and still you're scared that somehow they'll end up eating something they shouldn't.

Until this weekend though, I never felt that I'd have been happily handing Monkey food she was allergic too. I'm careful about always checking labels, even on safe foods as recipes can change. The label checking is only any good though if the labels are accurate. I've always just trusted them, now I'm not sure that I can.

A list of recalled products can be found on the Food Standards Agency website. Luckily Monkey hasn't had any of them, but that's all it is - good luck. Finding food that's safe for Monkey isn't easy, I need to be able to trust free from labelling. Her only safe bread still appears to be safe but seeing how fast the announcements were coming yesterday I'm not convinced we've seen the end of it yet. I'm expecting to see more products being recalled. I'm hoping there's going to be a proper investigation into how this has happened but until then, I think we'll be sticking to home made.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Rounding up our week

So I had it all planned. This was going to be a week in pictures kind of post. And then I looked for some pics and realised - this week I appear to have been useless mummy. I've hardly taken any photos at all.

Instead I decided to try and sum up our week in 35 words. It's five a day but without the veg!

Here goes...

Buses, ballet, post office, prizes, moo free, nursery, baby bistro, weight gain, xylophone, musical talent, friends, NCT, yummy mummies, cupcakes, nanna, crayons, colouting, penpals, picnic, park, swings, carnival, parade, party, church, escape attempt, roast chicken!

I'll leave you with one of the few pictures I did manage to take this week.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Our allergy life - why it's not all doom and gloom

Yesterday I talked about how we discovered Monkey's allergies. It really brought back how tough things were back then. It was a really frightening time for all of us.

We still have frightening times. Monkey still has reactions. But most of the time she's just Monkey. Allergies don't slow her down or stop her doing things. We might have to do things a little differently now and again but life with allergies certainly doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Here's why;

Monkey is happy and healthy
Does this look like a poorly baby to you? Monkey is doing fab. She's growing up far too fast and is into everything. She's still little but not worryingly so anymore. She's developing as she should and as long as we avoid all her allergens she's a healthy little girl.

Monkey loves her food

With all the food that Monkey can't eat, we're lucky that she's not a fussy eater. We've not found anything she won't eat yet. She will eat ANYTHING, and the more the better!

I'm not getting into the whole breast v bottle thing. As long as you're feeding your baby, how you do it is your business. But for Monkey and me breastfeeding has really made a difference. Monkey was reacting to tiny amounts of milk in my breast milk. I don't drink milk (no allergies, I just don't like it) so this was milk baked into things, eaten by me and then diluted in my breast milk. And she was so poorly! Imagine how poorly she'd have been if I'd given her a cows milk based formula.
My local breastfeeding support group is run by health visitor. Before returning to work I went every week which meant I had a really good relationship with my health visitor and she knew Monkey really well. She has been such a support to us both and really helped us get Monkey the care she needs. The other mum's at the group have also been wonderful which moves me nicely on to...

Fab friends
Since having Monkey, we've met lots of lovely babies and lots of lovely mummies who we're now lucky to call friends. Our friends are fab! They make sure Monkey can join in with everything, keep unsafe food away from her, try their very best to cater for her at parties, bring Monkey friendly picnics on days out and have become a second pair of eyes for me now Monkey is on the move. They help me relax and stress a bit less, even giving my head a wobble if needed!

And finally....

Nando's was always a favourite pre-Monkey so I was very excited to find out about their wonderful allergy file. It's so detailed and even better you can tell that the company actually puts the training in with the staff too. We've eaten at loads of different Nando's and they've all talked us through the menu, cooked Monkey's separately on clean grills and brought hers out first.
Pizza Express also deserve a mention. Their gluten free base is Monkey safe and they'll even put your dairy free 'cheese' on for you if you take a sealed packet. We can even have a pudding!!! :-D

I'm linking up with Monkey Footed Mummy for Thankful Thursdays.
Adventure of a Monkeyfooted Mummy
Linking up with Mummy do it for the Blog Fair

Mummy Do It

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Free From Feast - and why it matters.

This month Allergy UK are organising a Free From Feast.

It's not the first event organised by Allergy UK, but it's the first one I'm taking part in. This time last year it would have passed me by unnoticed. I was kind of aware that a few people may have allergies but I had no idea of how that affected their lives or just how serious it could be. I'm ashamed to admit I was one of 'those' people - I didn't really believe in allergies. Surely nobody could be allergic to all that, they were just fussy eaters with over anxious parents weren't they?

And then I had Monkey.

Monkey is allergic to dairy, soya, eggs, wheat, apples and pears. And now I believe in allergies! There's nothing quite like seeing your baby lying in a hospital bed to make you realise. Monkey's problems started quite early. She was first taken into hospital at 10 days old due to concerns about her weight.

Knowing what I know now the signs of allergies were there right from the start. Monkey seemed to have lots of 'tummy bugs' and although on the whole she was a happy smiley baby, when she cried she REALLY cried. It could go on for hours at a time and absolutely nothing would console her. I didn't think much of it at the time though. After all babies poo and babies cry. Monkey was my first baby, maybe I'd just underestimated how hard it would be.

Then when Monkey was around three months old things really took a turn for the worse. She screamed constantly, we were going through a full pack of nappies a day and she was sick a lot. We spent a lot of time on the observation and assessment unit of our local children's ward. It was at his time that allergies were first mentioned. I wasn't convinced. Monkey was breast fed and not on solids yet - how could she possibly have food allergies? I trusted the doctors knew more than me though and agreed to cut dairy from my diet to see if it made a difference.

A week into elimination we were out for a meal when Monkey's feet began to swell and she started to wheeze. We took her straight to A&E and she ended up being admitted into hospital for a week. I think it was only then that I realised how serious things had got. Doctor's were coming in from other departments to check she was ok as they had heard her crying and 'it's not a normal cry'. Dairy and soya allergies were confirmed. Weight was still an issue, Monkey was weighed daily and we were told we would have to stay in until she was back on the chart. This didn't happen though but we were allowed home when they started to see a steady gain.

The few weeks after we came home were probably the hardest for me. Allergens can take up to six weeks to leave breast milk so every time I fed Monkey I felt like I was poisoning her. It was horrible, I had to feed her but feeding her was making her poorly. With every week that passed it got a little easier though. The dietitian advised early weaning and prescribed a food called Neocate Spoon to help her gain weight and ensure she was getting all the nutrients she needed.

Weaning brought a whole new set of challenges. What should have been a fun and enjoyable time was full of fear. Every new food had the potential to make Monkey poorly and we did find some that did. Luckily though Monkey loves her food and we had the lovely people at Allergy UK to help - I spent many hours reading pages on their website in the early days and I still find them very useful today.

And that's why Free From Feast is important. Allergy UK desperately need funds to enable them to be there for children like Monkey. But more than that it's about raising awareness. So people are more understanding than I used to be. Allergies are a very real thing. It's not about Monkey being fussy, in fact she'll eat anything!

Monkey's fundraising is going really well so far. She's had some very generous donations on her just giving page. The lovely people at Moo Free, Allergy Buddies, Essy and Bella and Newcastle Vegan Festival have donated some wonderful raffle prizes. We're planning a picnic in the park, cake sales and lots more all through June. We'd love it if you join us.

Binky Linky