Friday, 31 July 2015

Why we 'dig' our city

Me and Monkey are lucky to live in a great city.

Today has been a really lovely day - full of fun, all free and a reminder of just how great Manchester really is. There aren't many places where you could fit so much into your day without it costing you a penny.

It started off simply enough, meeting our friends The Smiley Minion and Minion Mummy. We spend a lot of time at the park and fancied a bit of a change today so went to the park known in our bunch of friends (for reasons that are too long and boring to go into here) as 'the nowhere near the motorway park'.

Monkey loves the swings. Her giggle is fab and she's just learning to swing herself. There isn't a roundabout at our usual park though so she tried it out for the first time today. It seemed to be a hit.

After the park it was a short tram ride into town for the main event of the day - Dig the city!

Dig the City is Manchester's summer garden festival. Gardening is not really my thing, I'm not green-fingered at all, but I found it by accident last year and had a lovely chilled out time with a tiny Monkey so thought we would both enjoy it now she is older. I wasn't wrong, we had lots of fun :-)

We enjoyed looking round all the show gardens. Monkey made friends with some lovely ladies from Sow the City who gave her some spinach to grow at home. We had fun playing (and eating mud!) at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital garden and made sure Monkey put some pennies in their tin to say thank you for taking such good care of her.

The National Trust were there promoting their 50 things to do before you're 11 and 3/4. Monkey was still a bit young for some of the activities and after the earlier mud eating incident I didn't think mud pies were a great idea! The barefoot trail wasn't all Monkey friendly but she enjoyed exploring the bits that were.

When we'd finished on the trail we went to see Friends of the Earth and learn all about bees. Monkey did some colouring in and dancing as there was a singer right next to the stall.

Manchester is a fab city but it's not known for it's great weather. We'd not had any rain but by this time it was getting a bit chilly so we headed over to the National Football Museum.

Growing up with me as her mum and my dad as her Grandad, it's safe to say that football will be a big part of her life. She'll be brought up as a FC United fan but just like my dad did with me I'll make sure she knows her red history. She's already been part of FC history by being mascot at the first game at Broadhurst Park and the education continued today.

So there we have it - a fun filled day and all it cost us was the £3 tram fare. The fun wasn't over for us though. We went to meet Daddy Monkey from work and treated ourselves to a cheeky Nandos. It's been a lovely day.

Binky Linky
Red Rose Mummy

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Monkey and the Mega Bloks

One of the toys we bought Monkey for her birthday was the Mega Bloks table. It's definitely been a hit. She spends loads if time playing with it when we're at home.

It's a great toy for Monkey especially now she wants to be standing up all the time. We've found with her being so little that although she can stand, a lot of toys are too high for her. The Mega Blocks table is the perfect height!

That's not to say it's no good if you're taller. Most of Monkey's friends are taller than her and they've enjoyed it too. It even makes a good climbing frame if you're as determined as one little friend!

It was a nice bonus to me to find that bricks were included as I thought we were just getting the table. There's plenty of storage in it for all the bricks too. It folds flat too if you can get your monkeys away from it for long enough.

I would definitely recommend this table and it's half price on Amazon at the moment. Go check it out!


Monday, 27 July 2015

Baby Book Club

Me and Monkey love to read. And we love to spend time with our friends. So when the idea of a baby book club was mentioned at our Free From Feast we were all over it! It sounded like just our kind of thing.

I contacted a few of our friends to see if they would be interested. It sounded like they were so I started planning.

There was never any question about the first book we would read. It's my favourite - and Monkey quite likes it too!

The Gruffalo!

Everybody knows about The Gruffalo (if you don't where have you been?) so I'm not going to explain the story. I'm just going to share what we did at our very first baby book club today.

We had six babies at book club and we started by reading the story. We then had pictures of the Gruffalo to colour in before designing a scary creature of our own.

We almost had an issue with one of the activities as I'd stupidly bought play-doh without checking the packet. It has wheat in it which means it's not suitable for my little allergic Monkey. Luckily we have fab friends and one of the other mums appeared with home made edible play dough, complete with glitter and sparkle! The dough was used with play dough mats to add features to the animals from the story. That was the idea anyway - Monkey just ate it all!

The next activity was a Monkey favourite as it was all about food. Mouse talks about lots of favourite foods in the story so the babies tried some of them out. Roasted fox seemed to be the most popular!

I was quite nervous about hosting the first baby book club but it seemed to go well and I think everybody enjoyed it. I know Monkey did. We're already looking forward to the next one - We're going on a bear hunt!


Thursday, 23 July 2015

Swimming with Aqua Babies

I love swimming.

I started lessons when I was three years old which was young back in the olden days of the early 80s. I was pretty good at it too and soon worked through all my badges. I didn't keep it up to any kind of decent standard as I got older but it was always something I enjoyed and tried to do when I could. I even did the Great Manchester Swim in 2013.

So when I found out I was expecting Monkey, swimming lessons were the one baby group I knew I wanted to do with her. We visited a baby show while I was pregnant and got her signed up to start at Aqua Babies in the September after she was born.

Aqua Babies have lessons at pools all over Manchester. We're really lucky that our lessons are within walking distance of our house. We use a small hydrotherapy pool for our lessons. I'm a confident swimmer but even if you weren't you would be fine there. I can stand up easily and I'm short - very short! The water is lovely and warm so the babies don't get cold.  They keep it between 33 and 35 degrees.

Monkey was 10 weeks old when she went to her first lesson. I wasn't sure how she'd be especially as this was probably the time when her allergies were at their worst - she was admitted to hospital three weeks later. She seemed to love it from the start though, a proper little water baby! I think the water helped ease her tummy while she was in so much pain.

Those early lessons were all about getting Monkey used to the water. She's learnt so much since then though! The first time I actually let go of her in the water was terrifying but she was absolutely fine. Now she can swim through hoops, hold onto the side, splash in from the side (she's not always sure about that one) and is up to five second swims. 

This morning was our last session before the summer holidays. We're both going to miss it although I'm hoping we'll get lots of swimming in while I'm off work. It was also our last ever session with our lovely teacher Sue. Me and Monkey are really going to miss her. She's been great with Monkey, especially when she was really tiny. We love our swimming lessons!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Library fun

Monday is library day in the Monkey household.

Well actually it's ballet day but as we get off the bus right outside the library on the way home we quite often pop in.

When I was little I loved getting new books from the library but I hated actually going to the library. Everybody seemed so cross and miserable. Talking was out, even if it was about the books.

Luckily it's not like that anymore. The libraries near me are fun places to visit. There is always something going on. They're full of fun and kids are actually encouraged to talk about their books and get excited to them.

When I was on maternity leave I used to spend whole days at the library doing baby yoga, baby massage, playing with lego, meeting friends in the cafe and of course looking at books! We can't do that now I'm back at work but we still enjoy our visits.

Today we met friends in the library cafe for dinner. Although I'm still very upset that our breastfeeding journey has come to an end, it is lovely to be able to eat whatever I want. I treated myself to a ham and cheese toastie and lemon drizzle cake. Monkey had bacon - she loves a bit of bacon!

Us mummies had a nice chat while we had dinner and then we took the babies upstairs to play.

First she did some climbing.

And then she played with some toys.

Next a bit of colouring.

And then finally we chose some books. Today we picked
  • Baby Sparkle Farm
  • Spot loves Sport by Eric Hill
  • Peepo by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
  • Rhyming Stories by Axel Schleffer
  • The Usborne Book of Baby Animal Stories
  • The Littlest Bear by Gillian Shields
We spent a good couple of hours at the library and had lots of fun. Monkey is already enjoying the books we borrowed. Here she is enjoying the glitter in Baby Sparkle Farm.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Baby ballerina

Every girl needs a tutu!

And every mummy needs an excuse to buy one :-)

I'll admit it, it was the thought that Monkey would look VERY cute in a tutu that first had me typing baby ballet lessons into Google. She was far too young for most of them though. They seemed to start about age 3 and be very serious - all rules, gradings and competitions. And whilst we may do the whole competition thing as Monkey gets older, it wasn't something I wanted to start so young.

And then I found BabyBallet!

Lessons start from age six months. Monkey was seven months at the time so we were ready to go. Baby ballet offer a three week trial for £15 so you're not committing yourself to anything if you or baby don't enjoy it.

Monkey had her first lesson on 25th January. We were very excited.

All ready for her first lesson
Once the three weeks are up you can then become a full member of Baby Ballet. It costs £10 for membership and then lessons are paid for termly at the start of each term. The cost varies depending on where you are but for us it's £4.50 a week.

Monkey's membership pack was almost as big as her!
When you become a member you get a fab membership pack which includes a membership card, sparkly wand, bubbles, colouring sheets and crayons, discounts at lots of local businesses, info about your lessons and even a cd to practice with! And even more importantly - the uniform order form!!!!!!

In her uniform for the first time

It even has wings!
I love the uniform. It looks so cute. But while I'll admit that's one of the reasons we started at ballet it's not what has kept us there for six months. Monkey loves it! She really enjoys anything musical so she joins in and dances away with a big grin on her face.

There's lots of repetition at baby ballet. It's great because I can really see Monkey getting the idea of the dances and what's coming next. There are some things that are always included -- baby ballet warm up, good toes naughty toes and the baby ballet lullaby. Other songs are changed each term. At the moment Monkey's favourites are Row Your Boat (especially if she manages to grab the cuddly crocodile puppet) and she loves playing with the balls for Jelly on a Plate, even more now she's realised she can throw them!

At the end of each lesson the babies are rewarded with a sticker and each term they receive a baby ballet certificate. It was a very proud moment when Monkey got her first one.

Getting her first dance certificate from Miss Sarah
If they have baby ballet near you, you should definitely check it out. There's lots more to it than just cute tutus. I'll leave you with this collage of pics from this mornings lesson.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Breastfeeding - The end of a journey?

I never planned to breastfeed for a year.

I never really had any sort of plan. I knew I wanted to give breastfeeding a go but while I was pregnant that was as far ahead as I'd thought. I think I was probably more determined than I realised though.

Before Monkey was born I'd read Gill Rapley's book Baby-led Breastfeeding: How to make breastfeeding work - with your baby's help and this was the approach I wanted to try. Monkey was delivered straight onto my chest and began to feed away. I was lucky that we both took to breastfeeding quite easily. I didn't get any soreness and Monkey seemed to feed quite happily.

In those first few days it seemed like our breastfeeding journey was going to be absolutely fine and problem free. I wish I could say it stayed that way.

At ten days old Monkey was sent to hospital due to concerns about her weight. I was surprised that they seemed to suggest formula almost straight away as I thought the NHS encouraged breastfeeding. I'm not quite sure what had happened in those ten days but I'd changed from someone who was going to try breastfeeding and see how it went to someone who was passionate that that's what I wanted for my baby.

I was put under quite a lot of pressure to put Monkey on a bottle but I felt sure she was getting enough milk. In the end I agreed to breastfeed on demand as I had been doing but also to cup feed expressed milk as top up so we could have some kind of measurement.

This arrangement was awful. I'd had no problems with breastfeeding until this point, now I hated it. It felt like I was always either feeding or pumping. I struggled to express and felt guilty about not spending time with Monkey while I was doing it, especially once daddy went back to work. Add all this to the tiredness and hormones that come with being a new mum and I was a mess. In this whole year of breastfeeding that was the only time I thought about giving up. I was so close.

And then in walked my health visitor!!

I was dreading her coming. I thought she was just going to be another person telling me I was doing it wrong and starving my baby. She was great though - saved our breastfeeding and continues to be a great support to me and Monkey.

She watched me feed and said there were no obvious problems. Monkey had a slight tongue tie but it wasn't affecting her latch and she was feeding well. She told me about a breastfeeding support group she ran where I could get Monkey weighed and talk about any issues we had.

I'lI never be able to explain how much that group meant to me. I went every week until I went back to work and I still try to go when I'm off. I've met a great bunch of mummies there who have become good friend's, I've had lots of support for Monkey's allergies but most importantly in those first few weeks when I was feeling so vulnerable I was given the support, encouragement and confidence to continue to breastfeeding feed.

And what a good job I did.

Although we didn't know it at the time, Monkey's weight issues were down to a number of allergies - the worst one being dairy. If I'd done as suggested and given her formula then she would have been so much more poorly. Her reactions to food I ate through my breast milk were scary enough.

Once we knew about Monkey's allergies I was given the choice to put her on a special hypoallergenic formula or change my diet to continue breastfeeding. We were three months into our breastfeeding journey at this point and now we had such great support there was no question.

I was told if I didn't want the formula I would have to breastfeed for at least a year. By now I was convinced it was the best thing for her but a year seemed like a very long time especially without a lot of my favourite foods.. The countdown to when I could eat normally again was on!!

And then Monkey turned one......

This was when I should have stopped, when I could eat whatever I wanted,, the day I'd been counting down to. But I was in no rush to stop. I love breastfeeding -- the closeness, the cuddles and that special bond you can't explain. I love her being my baby.

She's growing up though. And she's been dropping her feeds. She's not had a breastfeed since Saturday now and I feel sad. I miss it much more than I ever thought I would. I don't quite dare go back to my normal diet yet but it looks like our breastfeeding journey is coming to an end.

While I'm sad I'm also incredibly proud. She's had my milk for a year, when I look back to how I felt at ten days that's amazing. And she's completely self weaned, I've never refused her a feed.

It's been an amazing journey :-)

Domestic Momster

Monday, 6 July 2015

Dietitian Appointment

Today has been a good day. I didn't think it would be though. In fact, I've been worrying about it for a while. Today we met Monkey's new dietitian for the first time.

I'd spoken to her on the phone a few times and she seemed lovely. That wasn't why I was worried. My GP is asking for a medication review for Monkey and that combined with lots of people talking about reintroduction aged one had left me feeling stressed.

I last spoke to the dietitian on the phone in May. At that point we agreed to try her with a bit of wheat and see how she got on. It didn't go well. I only put one stock cube in tea for the three of  but it definitely affected her. Her skin was a mess, she had weeping eczema behind her ears, coughing, wheezing, bloating and bad nappies.

I'm not against reintroducing foods to Monkey's diet. In fact I would love to as it would make life so much easier for both of us. I carried on going with the wheat for a few days as I thought I was just being paranoid and waiting for a reaction. When other people started noticing her reactions though I knew it was time to stop.

Our phone conversation in May had talked about introducing wheat to make the milk ladder easier and then to use the milk ladder to reintroduce dairy aged one. And that's why I was so worried. I thought they would make me carry on with wheat and introduce dairy too. I do want to do that, I just don't think she's ready yet. It's taken us such a long time to get her to a point where she's well and happy, I don't want to ruin that now.

I really had no need to worry though.. The dietitian was lovely. When I spoke to her on the phone she had thought her weight in pounds was her weight in kilograms so was much less worried about her as she thought she was quite big. She was surprised when she saw her but once she got all her notes and charts out she said she is small but was growing well.

After looking at everything the dietitian has said that Monkey's allergies are far too severe and acute to be thinking about reintroduction yet. While severe and acute sounds a bit scary it was a relief that nobody was asking me to do a reintroduction plan I felt uncomfortable with. We've agreed that I'll try her with some apples or pears as I think her problems with these might be related to her GORD rather than being a true allergy. If this goes well we may try a bit of well cooked egg but anything more than that is being left until she's at least 18 months old.

I might have been worried this morning but once again Monkey took it all in her stride, making friends with all the staff and looking very grown up sitting at the table to do her colouring in. She's such a brave little thing and I'm so lucky to be her mummy :-)