31-07-2014

Me and Mine – July

When you work on an ongoing creative project, it’s inevitable that there will be times when it’s exciting and at the front of your mind 24/7, and times when you won’t feel quite as creatively motivated by it, and times when it falls down the priority list a little bit.

Looking back on my Me and Mine efforts over the past few months, remembering that they were all taken at the very last-minute, and on my iPhone, I have realised that this is where I currently am with Me and Mine at the moment.

In fact, that’s where I’ve currently been with photography in general lately. My desire has been to film rather than shoot stills. I actually took a complete break from photography for around a month, which the 2012, 365ing me would have found completely UNBELIEVABLE.

Added to that, it’s the height of summer, when routines tend to disappear, my pace slows down, I spend a lot more time ‘living in the moment with my family’, and it’s easy to lose track of the online world a little bit. Or, if you’re me, it’s easy to lose track of everything.

These things happen for a reason though, and although my photography break was not forced, it was intentional. When the desire to shoot stills eventually returned, I felt my creativity and efficiency at getting ‘the right shots’ had been bolstered. The shots I’ve taken of the boys over the past few weeks are already some of my all-time favourites. And editing has been a joy, rather than something that was getting on top of me.

So, I’m biding my time for the motivation to come full circle with Me and Mine. And in the meantime, I leave you with these hurried and grainy shots from my iphone.

Sorry about the crapness.

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This month I’m sending you to see Lauren over at her awesome blog, Real Housewife of Suffolk County. She’ll be sharing a photo of her family from this month, and sending you along to visit someone else. You can follow the circle around to see what all the hosts have been up to.

Have you taken a family photo this month? Link it up below!



27-07-2014

Making friends when you are three years old

making friends when you are three years old

Arlo has just finished one full year of preschool. In that time, he has developed so much.

He is a very independent little boy now, wanting to do most things “all by myself”.

Every day, he bounds excitedly into preschool and returns with new stories to tell.

In the last year and a half, he has also dealt with some other huge changes, such as gaining a sibling, saying goodbye to nappies, his cot, and breastfeeding. It’s been a big year!

Arlo has soared this year, and we have absolutely loved watching him grow.

One of the biggest changes for Arlo this year has been on a social level. He has had more exposure to similar-aged children than ever before, and it has come at an age when he is really ready to embrace it.

At two, he wasn’t very interested in engaging with other children. Now, it’s the first thing he looks to do.

It is lovely how quickly and easily bonds can be made when you are three years old.

For Arlo, every trip to the park is an opportunity to make a new friendship.

I absolutely love watching him form friendships, and listening to him have conversations with other children.

There are a few important friendships that populate Arlo’s life at the moment. Here are a few words from Arlo (transcribed by me):

To the girl next door – Thank you for being my next door neighbour and for being the same age as me (well, six months older – that part is VERY important). Thank you for also being just as obsessed with dinosaurs as I am. I always watch out of the front window to see if your car is at home, and when I hear you in the garden I run straight out to play with you.

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(Patiently waiting for our neighbour to get home from nursery so he could show her his new dinosaur sticker book. )

To my preschool friends – Thank you for showing me how fun it is to play with other people. Thank you for choosing me as one of your favourite people to play with. I always come home with loads of stories about my friends, and you are the reason that I look forward to preschool every single day.

To my little brother – Thank you for trying to keep up with me. Now that you can walk, we have really fun games and I especially love it when you chase me around. Thank you for thinking that I am really fun and wanting to join in with everything I am doing. You are very good company and I love that we can play together.

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I have teamed up with House of Fraser to write this post in celebration of International Friendship Day. In return, we have been given a voucher to spend at House of Fraser.

27-07-2014

Sun lotion for children with eczema and rash-prone skin

sun lotion for children with ezcema and rash prone skin

I have rash-prone children.

I’ve never known anything like it. Perfume, grass, body wash, lotions and creams (even most of the ones that are marketed as treatment for eczema), 90% of laundry products, the list goes on.

They react to, seemingly, everything, and on top of that, there are the mystery rashes that appear with no obvious culprit.

We have to use the exact same washing powder and fabric softener combination, and I am wary of trying ANYTHING new in the way of skincare for them.

Rory has just gone through a particularly bad few months with his skin – it took a bit of experimenting with several steroid creams to get the right balance in order for his cracked and bleeding feet and knees to start healing.

sun lotion for children with eczema

Normally, I steer well clear from trying any new skincare products on the boys, and anything that winds up on my ’causes of rash’ suspect list gets axed immediately. But because we’ve been having a proper summer this year (yay!), I have been slathering him in sun cream, despite knowing that it was aggravating his skin. When it comes to sun safety, you have no choice, do you?

And so the last few months, we’ve been through a bit of a rollercoaster of trying different types of sun protection in an attempt to find one that worked well for both boys.

It’s one of those things where a recommended brand might work brilliantly for one person, but not for another, so unfortunately it usually involves a frustrating process of elimination to find the right sun protection for you and your family.

Here is our account of the mission to find a sun lotion for children with eczema and rash-prone skin:

Nivea kids sun cream spray (SPF 50+) was the first, and really the only, sun cream we had used up until recently. It was always fine on Arlo, but Rory reacted very badly to it, and actually, Arlo did too this year, so maybe they have changed the formula.nivea kids sun spray

After a quick google, we then moved on to the most popular recommendation for children with sensitive skin, Sunsense Toddler Milk (SPF 50). Unfortunately, this also caused a similarly bad rash for Rory, but Arlo has been able to use this cream with no issues.

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I’d read that the higher the factor, the harder it is for skin to breath. So we swapped our factor 50+ for a factor 30 kids sun cream.  Ambre Solaire Resisto Kids High Protection Lotion (SPF 30) This caused a mild rash on both children. Nothing major, but not perfect.

ambre solaire kids sun cream

Next up we gave P20 (SPF 30) a go, as a friend had left his bottle at our house. Rash for Rory. Arlo was fine with it, but he has taken a dislike to the spray bottle, so it was a no for this one too.

p20 sun lotion

And then we tried Mustela Very High Protection Sun Lotion (50+). (*It is a PR sample, I requested sun cream specifically. Read the disclosure at the bottom for more info on how I feature skincare samples on this blog).

mustela childrens sun lotion

And it works! No rashes for Rory or Arlo. This has been our go-to sun cream over the past few weeks during the heatwave.  It’s a lotion rather than a cream, and the formula is quite thin (be careful, it gets a bit sloppy when dispensed), and I wonder whether that might be part of the key to its success. Either way, our bottle is practically empty, and I’ll definitely be repurchasing, as so far it’s the only sun cream I’ve found that does not cause any irritation for my children.

We’ll be sticking with Mustela for the time being, but I’m still going to keep searching for eczema-friendly sun creams, as, ideally, I like to know I have options.

Next on the list to try is Green People’s children’s sun lotion, and I will be popping a bottle of Aldi’s Lacura sun cream into the trolley on my next shopping trip, as I’ve heard good things about Aldi’s own brand sun cream.

sun lotion for children with eczema

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The Mustela sun cream is a PR sample.

As I occasionally write about my eczema and rash-prone children, we frequently get offered skincare products to test. My policy is to tell PRs that they are welcome to send samples, but due to my reluctance to stray from our strict skincare routine, I offer no promises that the product will get a mention on the blog.

This means I can guarantee readers that the only skincare products that you will see mentioned and reviewed on my blog are ones that have impressed us and made a real difference to the boys’ skin. 

20-07-2014

Stopping breastfeeding at almost four years old

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I didn’t think this would make me emotional.

I wrote this whole post down on my phone a few days ago, matter of factly and without the slightest of wobbles.

But as I was looking through the latest photos of Arlo to use for this post, it hit me with a sudden woosh.

Because this is the greatest signifier that my biggest boy is growing up before my eyes. This is the biggest change to our dynamic as mother and child so far.

And it’s also the first time I’ve weaned a child from breastfeeding.

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If you’ve been reading my breastfeeding posts, you will know that I’ve been keen for Arlo to stop breastfeeding, and that I’ve been upping the frequency of conversations about how big boys and girls stop breastfeeding eventually, when they are ready.

One day a few weeks ago, I chose an opportune moment to drop the weaning topic into conversation yet again.

“Arlo, do you think maybe you might stop having nonnos soon?”

I think for this particular conversation, Sam was also there to chime in with a bit of helpful encouragement and reinforcement of our message. “Yes, not many big boys need nonnos any more. And you are such a big boy now!”

Usually, at this point, Arlo would say, “But SOME big boys DO”, and we would leave the conversation at that. I never wanted to force him, I just wanted to let him know that the option was there when he was ready.

But this time he responded with, “Hmmm, I think tomorrow. Tomorrow morning I WON’T ask for nonnos”.

The next morning rolled around, and Arlo stumbled into our room, and DIDN’T ASK FOR MILK. Instead, we had a chat and a cuddle, and headed downstairs for breakfast.

I’m not sure about Arlo, but for me, this felt quite strange. We’d NEVER had a morning that played out like that before. He’d NEVER not had morning milk whilst I was around.

Sam and I had a hushed chat in the kitchen whilst waiting for the kettle – we couldn’t believe that he’d stuck to his word and just done it with no fuss or ceremony.

But with good old straight talking Arlo, I suppose we shouldn’t have expected anything else.

I hesitated to acknowledge it verbally with Arlo, as I wasn’t sure if bringing it up would upset him or make him remember what he was missing. But I wanted to let him know how proud we were of how he handled it, and also to keep that encouraging message fresh in his mind before the next morning. So, at bedtime we had a big cuddle and Arlo beamed all the way through our chat about how amazing he had been at not having milk.

He has been proudly and excitedly telling anyone who will listen about how he no longer has nonnos any more. And whilst this can be mega awkward for me, I am very happy that he sees it as an exciting newsworthy item, in the same way that he will tell people “T-Rex is not my favourite dinosaur any more, my new favourite dinosaur is Muttaburasaurus!”

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I am thrilled that it is a happy new development for him, rather than a traumatic one.

The thing with weaning an older child, is that their memory lasts so much longer, I was worried that there could be a much greater sense of loss for him than had we weaned at 18 months or earlier.

You don’t forget things that quickly or easily at this age. I was wary that there could be a mourning process and that this phase could last for quite a while. I am also wary that the mourning part could still kick in, even though we haven’t experience it so far.

(As a side-note to this, I’m no longer granting Rory snacky feeds during the day or at nap times. He currently has one feed in the afternoon, one feed before he goes upstairs to bed, and then we are still on demand at night-time, although this has now reduced to 2 feeds on a standard night. With all these dropped feeds combined, I’m wondering whether there will be an effect on the breastfeeding amenorrhea that I am still experiencing. In fact, due to having 3 pregnancies in 2012, I only had 2 periods in that year, and nothing since that summer. So that’s gonna be a bit of a reality shock when my cycle kicks in again. My breasts have reduced a small amount in size since cutting down feeds – this is the most I’ve ever cut down in one go – which gives me hope that one day when I eventually stop breastfeeding altogether, my breasts might return to a size that I am happier with. Woohoo).

Our mornings continued in the same manner as the first, and as I am writing this post, it has been two weeks. So I think I can say that Arlo is officially weaned from breastfeeding at almost four years old.

It would be wrong to call it ‘self-weaning’.

If it wasn’t for the persistent hinting from me, actively putting that thought in his head, I think he would have been happy to continue having milk in the morning indefinitely. He is so focussed on routine, he’s definitely not one to casually ‘forget’ to have milk one morning.

But I had made the decision a long while ago (at around the time that I realised he was not likely to stop) that I was OK with gently pushing him in that direction. And when it came down to it, the final choice was his.

I do feel a little bit emotional when I remember that he’s not breastfeeding any more, but that’s just the usual pangs of “oh my god they are growing up so fast!!” that familiar emotional territory whenever your children reach a milestone.

In reality, weaning happened so smoothly that by day 3 I’m not sure either of us even took the time to note the absence of our long-established morning time habit.

I’m taking that as a sign that it really was the right time.

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16-07-2014

California Drawing

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When Visit California emailed to tell me that they had chosen me as one of 25 bloggers in with a chance of winning a dream trip to the Golden State, it was a no-brainer that we were DEFINITELY up for getting involved with the #DreamBigAwards

Sam’s big travel plan has always been to embark on a great American road trip. (It was what he was working towards when we were surprised with Arlo). He loves all things Americana, and California is his number one place to visit, so he practically begged me to let him do all the child-wrangling for a day so that I could crack on with creating our entry.

For me, California most appeals because it’s the most familiar place that I’ve never been to before. I am really intrigued to visit all of the places that I know so well from film and television. Also, I love beaches and American food, so California is a win-win there.

And there’s no doubting that the kids would have a time to remember – California has some of the best attractions and activities for families. Sam and I are past the days of longing for chill-out holidays where we relax by a pool with books for two weeks. Nowadays, we are all about having the best possible time with our children whilst they are young and still want to hang out with us. We are all about having fun and creating lasting memories.

California would be a great big adventure for all of us.

As you might have noticed, I am rather partial to a visual blog post. But I don’t have any of my own images of California to show you.

So, how could I write a blog post explaining all the things we love about California without using impersonal stock images? How could I avoid long paragraphs and too much typed text? And, as this is a family trip, how could I involve the whole family in our entry?

Well, the result was this – ‘California Drawing‘.

(If you are reading via RSS you may have to click through to the actual blog post to see the embedded video).

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This post serves as our entry into the Dream Big Awards competition with Visit California. 

If you have been to California, what was your highlight? Or if you haven’t been, where in California would you most like to visit? I’d love to hear about your ‘must-dos’.

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