Saturday, 5 October 2019

While baby sleeps...

Originally posted on Cheltenham Maman's Blog, I am reposting here so my words are not lost once her site closes next month. Wishing you the best of luck for the future Kate, thank you for the memories! 

22nd January 2018

As many of us know, when you have a second child, managing your first-born becomes a whole different ball game! Rare are the days of sleep while the baby sleeps, as their older sibling needs and deserves your time and attention. Honey has always been good at occupying herself, but while I was pregnant, we encouraged her to engage with more independent activities so she’d be prepared when I was flying solo and needed to turn my attention to feeding and nappy changing instead of concentrating on her full time. 

In the early days after Ace was born, I was a huge fan of pre-prepared craft activities, even better if the activities had a purpose such as a card for someone’s birthday or a thank you picture (love a bit of multi-tasking)! I made up or bought little packs for Honey to create cards and pictures with and set up an easy access craft cupboard so she could go and get them by herself if a feed was taking a particularly long time.  

Colouring in and activity books were and continue to be so useful, especially ones that are small enough to pop in the changing bag with a small pack of crayons, that way, they’re ready to whip out if you need to make a pit stop to feed baby while you’re out in town. We also keep our library card in the changing bag, the library is a great place to take a toddler while your baby is napping in the sling or buggy, as it’s such a quiet, calm environment! 

Stickers are the one. Oh my goodness, the many, many, many hours that Honey has spent ‘stickering’ cannot be counted. It started when I was pregnant with Ace and had really bad morning (all day) sickness for months. We bought Honey a wedding sticker book to help prepare her for an upcoming family wedding and also to buy me some lying on the sofa time! Since then, she’s had just about the whole range of Usborne sticker dolly books, which have kept her occupied for a cumulative total of 9732 hours. They have also been great for her fine motor skills and have broadened her general knowledge thanks to the wide range of subjects they cover. 

Whether we like it or not, our children are growing up in a digital age (that’s a whole other blog post) and personally, I choose to see it as a blessing that there are channels and apps that have been purpose built to reinforce our children’s play. If I need to get on with something, Honey loves using the CBeebies Storytime app to help her read stories to her class full of toys and imaginary pupils, the Bee-Bot app to make treasure maps for her pirate Lottie doll and loves playing the Go Jetters game on the CBeebies website.  

Once Ace began to have longer naps, Honey and I found bigger chunks of time to spend together. Although we love to play, sometimes there are also things that need doing during those precious hours when your youngest is asleep. This is where you can multi task, by getting your toddler to help you with chores, youre getting to spend time learning and chatting together while getting some jobs out of the way. Honey is a dab hand at emptying the dishwasher, washing up and transferring the washing from the washing machine to the tumble drier and once that’s all done, there’s usually plenty of time left for a spot of Play Doh or Bug Bingo!

We have always kept downstairs books and toys in an easy to access storage unit and Honey often spends the few minutes it takes to put Ace down for his nap upstairs, tidying up then settling herself down with her chosen toys or activity. During the post Christmas sort out, I also realised that there were so many toys up in the kids bedroom that rarely saw the light of day because we’d forget they were there, so Honey and I created a toy menu. If she wants to play with something from upstairs, she can choose from the list and comes up to get it when I go up with Ace.

Now that Honey has started school, she loves any opportunity to show off her writing skills so we capitalize on this by using some nap times to plan adventures together. Honey uses her sounds to write lists of things she would like to do, this can range from wanting to light a candle or making a list of baking ingredients, to planning a camping trip and everything in between. 

Sometimes, Honey has homework or reading to do, which she loves and she often creates her own extension activities, which usually unfold on the floor while the baby sleeps! This can be giant story maps (a great use for the totally excessive Amazon packaging paper) based on a book she’s been reading or using magnetic letters to spell tricky words on the fridge. She also adores cutting up old magazines and catalogues to make scrapbooks and collages. 

As well as spending time with Honey and getting plenty of chores out of the way, I sometimes use the time to work with Honey to set something up ready for after Ace’s naptime. It can be something simple like dragging out the road mat or building a cool train track but occasionally, we do something crazy like put a box in the garden and throw in the finger paints (the smiles and giggles totally cancel out the extreme mess on this one).

Speaking of the garden, don’t forget about it, even in winter as it can be a really valuable space. While we don’t tiptoe around while Ace is asleep, he undoubtedly sleeps for longer when he has a bit of peace and quiet! This is where the garden comes in, we can draw on the outdoor blackboard, have a tea party in the playhouse or use the time to practice the skill of moment which might be scooting, hula hooping or bike riding depending on your child’s stage. 

Fiddly toys that aren’t baby friendly can come out during naptime without fear of anybody choking. Hama beads are a favourite here, it can take a whole nap to place the tiny beads on those boards and boy do we have some funny and random conversations while we ‘work’. 

I could go on all day, the possibilities really are endless but instead, I’ve put together a Pinterest board linking to some of activities mention (and a few more) incase you fancy trying anything outI’d also love to hear what you guys get up to while the baby sleeps, so please do comment on the post or get in touch via social media!

A Guest Blog from Steph Gore
About Steph

Steph lives in Cheltenham with her wonderful, paramedic husband and two gorgeous children. She is a primary school teacher and also loves to blog about the places and products that her family enjoy.  She adores organising and fully believes that you should never put off anything until tomorrow that could be done today! If you want to say Hi, Steph would love you to follow her on FacebookInstagramTwitter or over on her blog, which has recently been nominated for the Cotswold Blogger Awards

All about that space...

Originally posted on Cheltenham Maman's Blog, I am reposting here so my words are not lost once her site closes next month. Wishing you the best of luck for the future Kate, thank you for the memories! 

25th August 2017

When I was pregnant with Honey, we wondered if we’d be able to fit a baby in our two-bedroom end of terrace and set about purging and reconfiguring the spare room so it could accommodate nursery furniture. Then Honey came along and as she grew, we slowly but surely changed everything about our house in order to create a calm, stress free environment for us all to live in. 

We had sold our house while I was pregnant with Ace but after two different houses we had offers accepted on fell through, we lost our buyer and with only weeks to go before a new member of the team arrived, I was too pregnant to carry on tidying up and deserting the house for viewings!

Don’t get me wrong, we are lucky, VERY lucky. I know people cope with far less space than we do, but I am really proud of how we make our space work for us. When friends visit us for the first time, they usually comment on one or more of our space saving ideas (maybe just to be polite) and that’s what gave me the idea for this post. 
I am in total agreement with William Morris who said ‘have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to beautiful’ and also feel that it’s invaluable for our children to be able to access our home without us constantly having to move things out of reach and ask them not to touch things. Our home isn’t perfect, but it’s perfect for us. So here is a whistle-stop tour of some of my favourite storage ideas and space saving options.

In the kitchen, we hang the frame for our travel system on the wall. I had the idea and my very clever husband made it happen (this is usually how we work). There’s no room to keep it up all the time (oo er) and we haven’t got a garage or playroom to keep it in. It has worked brilliantly for us; just make sure whoever is doing the DIY uses extra strong screws and rawl plugs! We also have a random space by our fridge. We considered a built in unit here, but as we were thinking about selling the house at the time, we didn’t want to spend loads so settled for a set of shelves and some Really Useful Boxes (our house is practically sponsored by these). In the boiler cupboard, we store the buggy seat, steam mop and lunch bags. A great way to scrap messy noticeboards is to use blackboard paint to cover cupboard doors. We use ours to note down shopping lists, cooking instructions and meal plans.
The lounge is our only downstairs living space, so we like it to be child friendly but easy to turn back into a grown up space once the kids are in bed. Ikea is our best friend here. We use high, wall-mounted storage for DVD’s, Wii games etc and these also help to childproof the room! When Ace was little, we saved space by using items that would fit under the sofa and in the ottoman; our top picks were the Space Saver Jumperoo and the Poddle Pod. We also have a basket stowed under the armchair containing nappy changing supplies. Recently, I have mounted a couple of the kids’ toys on the wall, this not only saves space but the toys are played with much more often than when they were lying around! Finally for this room, having two children, I find my tumble drier invaluable and absolutely HAD to find a way to fit it into the house. Handy Hubby strikes again to drill a massive hole in the side of the house to create a vent so we could have it in the awkwardly shaped cupboard under the stairs!
Last Christmas, we asked Honey and Ace’s grandparents to help us buy them a playhouse for the garden. Their playhouse now contains their wooden kitchen, a small table and chairs and a selection of books, leaving space for other things indoors. Everything in the playhouse is accessible and easy to get out and crucially, put away.

Our bedroom is mostly taken up with a Super Kingsized bed, it’s brilliant and has totally come into its own since having children. The rest of our furniture had to be carefully thought out to maximise the use of the space we had left once the bed was in. Instead of bedside tables, we have wall-mounted units with a small shelf underneath. This leaves us with space underneath which came in handy when there was a crib next to the bed and now means one less thing for Ace to try and pull over on himself! Once again, Ikea provided us with the inspiration for our clothing storage and we have a wardrobe with sliding doors (traditional doors wouldn’t have room to open due to the gigantic bed) and a tall, spacious chest of drawers.
When we realised we were staying put, the main area of concern for us was where the new baby would sleep. As previously mentioned, a crib fitted nicely by our bed, but when we felt it was time for Ace to move to a larger cot, it became a bit of a squeeze in the other bedroom. With some rearranging, a cot was added and Honey still had her own little area but I was unhappy with the toy storage situation and couldn’t wait to have a bunk bed in place! This has now happened and has revolutionised the kids’ room. It’s been redecorated to suit both of them now and they can play with and tidy up their books and toys independently as the reclaimed space means that everything has an easy access place instead of being shoved under a bed or cot. Wardrobe organisation has also helped Honey to be independent. Coloured hangers and Really Useful boxes let her know where she needs to look for her things or where to grab Ace’s spare clothes from in case of poonami or vomnado!

Lastly, the bathroom. My husband spent last summer completely gutting this room, removing around 1 million white tiles and reclaiming valuable extra centimetres of space by installing a new toilet with a concealed cistern, a slightly narrower bath and a foldaway shower screen. In line with the rest of the house, all the children’s stuff is accessible and easy to tidy up. Ikea to the rescue once again for bath toy storage (with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage) and an under sink cupboard houses Honey’s Child’s Farm collection so she can sort out her own bubble bath and hair products!

Overall, the biggest thing that makes it easy to live in a smaller home, is regular and ruthless decluttering. It’s tempting to stick things in the loft out of sight and out of mind but if something isn’t used or has been outgrown here, it gets passed on, donated to charity or sold on Facebook. Mail is sorted at the point of opening so paper doesn’t mount up and as previously mentioned, the kids shoes, coats and toys are organised so that they’re super easy for Honey and Ace to put away themselves or for one of us to quickly scoop up at the end of the day.

When we bought our house, we were a pair. Since we moved in, we have been engaged, got married, my husband has retrained and begun a whole new career and we have had two children. We used our wedding money to buy new windows and doors, have completely changed every stick of furniture we previously owned and have decorated and renovated so almost the whole place is totally to our taste. There are a lot of memories here and I love it but when the time comes, I’ll be ready to say goodbye and turn another house into our perfect home.

A Guest Blog from Steph Gore
About Steph

Steph is wife, mummy, blogger and primary school teacher who looks on the bright side of life. She lives in Cheltenham with her paramedic husband and their two children Honey (4) and Ace (1). Steph loves organising and adores being out and about with her tribe. She is currently working out how to make a life-sized replica of Honey so that Ace won’t miss her too much when she starts school in September! Come and say hi to Steph over on her BlogInstagramFacebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit Oobaloos Photography

Swings and Roundabouts...

Originally posted on Cheltenham Maman's Blog, I am reposting here so my words are not lost once her site closes next month. Wishing you the best of luck for the future Kate, thank you for the memories! 

4th July 2016

Me while Pitville Park was under construction: (sharing every Facebook update from Cheltenham Borough Council) How exciting, this looks amazing, can’t wait to go!

Me on opening day: I won’t tell Honey the park is finished, it’ll be rammed on a sunny day like this…..

Me after seeing Facebook posts and photos from friends who had been: Wow! It’s still rammed, we’ll just wait until after half term.

Me after visiting, a week after it opened: What am I doing here? Why is it still so rammed?

It turns out that all the schools in Tewkesbury were closed due to a burst water main on the day we visited the new park and guess where everyone gravitated to? So, it wasn’t quite the calm(ish) quiet(ish) experience I’d imagined but that being said, the zoned layout of the park encourages people to spread out and Honey was able to try out quite a few of the new toys.

There are benches scattered about the place, meaning that older children can run off and play but still have a place to check in with their parents and conversely, where parents can recover from energetic swing pushing, have a chat or drink coffee. On the subject of refreshments, the addition of a small ice cream kiosk is a welcome one. although I can see myself having to ‘forget’ my purse fairly often to avoid having a toddler with a permanent sugar rush!

The designers have clearly thought about their young, yet wide ranging demographic and have catered accordingly. There’s a super cute toddler area with loads of low, easily accessible activities and a ridiculously awesome and MASSIVE tree house inspired climbing frame which is aimed at older children and has sections that can only be accessed by climbing a vertical wall (eek!) For those who prefer something a little more subdued, there’s even a music area where your child can practise those all important scales and arpeggios!

There are however, a couple of things I’ve been wondering about:

  1. The sand pit. Kids love sand, that’s true…. But who is going to keep it clean(ish), who’s going to pick out the inevitable cigarette butts (and worse, as the latest, disgusting reports have detailed). My child eats sand and the thought of this sand pit in a few months makes me feel a little queasy!
  2. The tree house. It’s high, really high. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have been the first one to the top when I was a child and I’d never discourage anyone from giving it a go…… But it is high….
  3. The tunnel through the hill is, at some point, going to have something really disgusting hidden in it. These tunnels always do and in my experience, they usually continue to be minging for absolutely ages because whatever has been left, is left and left and left….
  4. My children are likely to learn a whole new lexicon of questionable language. People can’t let things be nice and the inevitable scribbled messily (because it’d be much more acceptable if it was neat) on the side of the climbing frame is sure to be a talking point for my phonics obsessed pre-schooler!

Overall, the new park is incredible and something to feel proud of and thankful for. My main hope, is that people of Cheltenham (and beyond) look after it and protect its awesomeness! It has at least tripled in size and has been finished to a really high standard. It has largely been well thought out, has been built using sturdy materials and is finished in bright, engaging colours. The addition of a water play area is fantastic and I just know that every summer time play date we have, will end up being at Pitville Park, so we’ll probably see you there!
Honey wears…. Strawberry sun hat by H&M 

About Steph
Steph escaped to Cheltenham in her early 20’s after growing up in the small Cotswold town of Moreton in Marsh and lured her then boyfriend (now husband) away shortly after. She is Maman to 3 year old Honey and her baby brother Ace and her blog follows their adventures including groups, classes and days out in and around Cheltenham. Steph is also a supporter of local businesses and loves to review products and services, many of which are created or owned by her fellow Mamans de Cheltenham. Visit Steph’s blog or follow her on Instagram.

It's all about you...

I was kindly gifted these books in exchange for an honest review. When Wonderbly got in touch to see if I would be interested in choo...