Friday, 1 May 2015

How To Help a Little One with the Cold

Originally published on 6th September 2013. Last updated 1st May 2015.

Tips on helping a baby, toddler, infant or child when they're choked with the cold.

We've had another week filled with sniffles, uncontrollable coughing & regular night wakings. Yup, you guessed it, we're a house choked with the cold. We're no stranger to this unwelcome house guest; with both boys in nursery we've always got one bug or another brought home on an almost fortnightly basis. We've all become experts in dealing with runny noses in this household! But there's nothing worse than having a less than 100% wee one on your hands and feeling like you just cant help. So here are my top tips for helping your little one get through this miserable time.

• • •

Steam up your bathroom.
In the same way a steamy atmosphere is a god-send for us grown-ups when we're all choked up, it works just as well for wee ones. When the boys were smaller, I'd take them into the bathroom to breastfeed. The steam in the air made feeding a lot more comfortable for them & prevented the pulling away, gasping-for-air scenario. Now though, I'll pop the shower on for 10 minutes before I run their bath to get things real steamy.
Top tip: Just be sure to change your wee ones clothes after sitting in steam: leaving them in damp clothes won't be comfortable, nor help with the getting-better process.
Wipe their nose & apply a barrier cream.
Yes, it'll feel like you're wiping up snot every 10 minutes, but it really does pay to keep your wee ones nose clean. The brief mump & moan as you mop up the offending snot from a runny nose is much easier to deal with than the dried up snot that takes a good wrestle to remove. Also, to make them more comfortable & ease the nose cleaning process, apply of barrier cream across your child's top lip.
Top tip: Vaseline is good but I find Lansinoh is unbeatable in healing sore skin & removing redness.
Clear their nose.
Can you imagine being filled with snot and not being able to physically blow your nose? Me neither but it is the uncomfortable reality for wee ones. So if they'll let you, try and help your child in clearing their nose for them. My best tried & tested method was using a nasal aspirator! I'm the first to admit that its not the nicest of things & always ended in a vocal protest from the boys but the difference in them following a shot of the 'snot sucker' was obvious. Now they can run away, we're unable to use this method but if I can still get some saline nasal drops to help soften the offending nostril-blockers, it'll help them breathe a little easier.

Vapour rub them up.
Unfortunately, due to recent changes in the law, there isn't a great range of cold & flu medicines for children on the market. One safe product though is vapour rubs (from 3 months old). Smothered over the chest & back, with loose pyjamas on, it's a full-proof way to help your little ones breathe a little easier. Another top tip for helping a troublesome cough is to apply some vapour rub to your child's feet and pop a pair of socks on - don't ask me how it works, all I know is that it does!
Top tip: I like the Snufflebabe range as it's gentler than the adult-aimed vapour rubs.
Prop up their mattress.
Roll up a blanket or a towel and slip under it under your little ones mattress. Similar to how you'd sleep with an extra pillow to help ease congestion and coughing, it'll make your child a lot more comfortable and help assist in sleeping longer stretches through the night.

Lots & lots of cuddles.
Your wee one is bound to be a bit clingier than usual. Instead of complaining that the housework has to be put on hold, enjoy it! As they grow, they'll become more & more independent, making these cuddly moments less frequent, so enjoy it while you can. Plus they're less likely to try & run away from you! Win-win!

• • •

What are your top tips for helping a little one who's all choked up?


Monday, 27 April 2015

Vtech Toot-toot Animals & GIVEAWAY

Review of Vtech Toot-toot Animals & Tree House.
Review of Vtech Toot-toot Animals & Tree House.
Review of Vtech Toot-toot Animals & Tree House.
Review of Vtech Toot-toot Animals & Tree House.

It started with one wee police car at the boys Granny's house that had come in a bag of toys from a kind relative. That little Toot-toot Police Car started an obsession in John. Every time he saw any Toot-toot vehicles, either at friends or families or on TV & catalogues, he went nuts. We never actually bought him any as by the time any birthday or Christmas or Birthdays came around, we figured he'd perhaps be a bit old now, opting for the die-cast variety of cars instead.

Then along came David, who was never allowed a shot of John's cars, so a collection of baby friendly cars seemed ideal. His 1st Birthday came and as did a small collection of Toot-toot vehicles. Amongst them, one of the boys Aunties had gotten David a set of 3 Toot-toot Animals. Knowing how John already was with cars I expected David to follow suit and favour his new vehicles over the animals but boy was I wrong!

At only 1 year old I never expected David to show any huge preference in toys but ever since he received his little Hippo, Tiger & Monkey, they've been played with every single day and are now the go-to toy for calming down a grumpy baby. Each animal comes with a light up button on it's head, which when pressed talks (both English & each animals own mammal-language) and sings annoyingly catchy songs.

Given his love for this three little animals we then decided to ask Santa for the Toot-toot Animal Tree House, complete with a Toot-toot Panda; very apt for life in Edinburgh! The great thing about the Tree House and other items from the Toot-toot range is that the animals & vehicles come with Smart Point Locations, meaning that when you put one in the swing or at the top of the slide, they response accordingly with a, "wee, this is fun," or, "the view from here is beautiful!". Alongside the Tree House, with it's slide, swing, lookout & shape sorter (a real winner as far as David's concerned!), we also received some more animals from the boys other Aunty, including the Toot-toot Lion and Toot-toot Elephant.

We're overall very impressed with the Toot-toot Animal Tree House and love the variety of activities it has to offer. The only gripe I have with it is how easy it I to take apart. It's a real catch 22, as John loves to pull it apart and join it with the pieces of the Toot-toot Garage that David also kindly received from the boys Granny & Papa (every panda needs to see a mechanic from time to time after all!). But it also means David will pull it apart then be upset that his hippo has crashed into a pile at the bottom as opposed to whizzing right around under the swing. Thankfully, it's easy peasy to put together so John can do it for the millionth time when I've had enough of trying to explain to a 1 year old that it won't work if he pulls the thing apart!

Review of Vtech Toot-toot Animals & Tree House.

We love the Toot-toot Animals so much that we've decided to give one way to a lucky wee one. If you fancy trying out the Toot-toot Animals for yourself, then simply enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win a Toot-toot Lion.

1. Open to UK residents only.
2. Winner will be announced on Facebook following closing date & informed via email. If winner does not respond within 48 hours another winner be chosen.

• • •

Disclaimer: We weren't compensated for this review, we just really love the Toot-toot Animal range. The prize is a duplicate gift I'd bought for David without knowing that their Aunty had already gotten him one.


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Ordinary Moments - Hi Ho, Hi Ho

My sister sent me these photos of John on Wednesday. I was working and her & my Mum were watching the boys, a weekly occurrence on Wednesdays. Of course, I laughed. A lot! I wonder if it's because I work in optics and spend most of my days selling, adjusting & fixing glasses that I find it particularly funny to see my biggest boy having a shot of his Granny's glasses and loving it. (But then maybe kids in big glasses is universally funny? You tell me!)

John is getting into a good wee routine now where he expects to see his Granny on a Wednesday and that Monday & Thursdays are nursery days. Tuesday's & Friday's have always been days with Mummy & Saturday's are the 3 of us in the morning until Daddy gets home. With Sunday's being dedicated to boys only days. Which if you're following me, equates to Daddy working 5.5 days a week and Mummy working 4 days. But this might be changing soon.

When I returned to work after having the boys I was only doing 3 days a week, simply because the cost of childcare wouldn't allow me to do any more. Plus the boys were merely babies and I felt like I couldn't be away from them for more than 24 hours a week. But they grew...quickly...and my bank balance didn't grow with them. So I started doing Sunday's to make the whole work-scenario a bit more worthwhile. And we've been making it work. Two days at nursery, a day with Granny & a day with Daddy; a nice balance.

Recently though, there's been talk of me upping the work once more, which would bring me back to full time hours. It's been something that's played on my mind for quite a while. We're by no means 'well off' and the extra cash would be hugely beneficial, especially with bills to pay, debts to clear and a wedding to start planning. I mean, it'd be silly not to, right? Yet, I still feel torn in half.

Between two wee boys who would happily spend every moment in the company and being able to actually provide them with the possibility of a forever home & not just a rented flat. It's he difference between planning a wedding in the next 5 years and the next 10. And it's a case of working my ass off now, paying off debts before the boys go to school so I can maybe even manage to pick them up from school in the afternoon, even a few days a week. Yet, I still don't want to leave hem; mothers guilt & all that.

It will mean missing out at times, letting nursery be there for some of the firsts & milestones, and hoping that Granny will get photos of the moments she has with them too. But my heart tells me I'm better doing what I've got to do now, whilst they're young & adaptable, so that I can be there on the days they need to come home from school earlier because they're not feeling 100%, without worrying if the bills will still be covered. Or take time off in the school holidays, without thinking we'll end up living off a tight food budget as a result. To be able to marry Iain in the next 5 years and to buy a house in the next 10.

Nothing is finalised yet but it's looking like it's heading that way. 5 days of working times two. 3 days of nursery, one day with Granny, 1 day with a Mummy & 1 day with Daddy, with one final day as a family...once Daddy finishes work in the morning too. At least until we win the lottery that is!

mummy daddy me


Friday, 24 April 2015

How To Explain Death to a 3 Year Old

How to explain death to a 3 year old toddler or pre-schooler

This parenting gig is tough. You can read all the books, ask everyone you know for advice and yet, there will still be times when you're completely stumped with no idea how to handle a situation. And of course, it's sod's law that it'll be a situation where you're barely coping yourself too.

My Papa died a couple of weeks ago. It's shit. We knew it was coming but it doesn't make it any easier. He'd been living with Alzheimer's for a while now and had been admitted to a Community Hospital for a month or so, after things had quickly progressed leaving our family struggling to care for him. I was at work a couple of weeks back when my Mum text me to say he'd been transferred to the Infirmary hospital with pneumonia and that it wasn't looking good. On the 4th April 2015, he passed away. Having visited him just the week before, it was hard to take in. But despite him not really knowing who I was or that I'd even been to visit, I was glad I'd seen him; both before he'd passed but also before his condition had worsened.

Whilst only just accepting the news myself, I was then faced with a dilemma... How do you tell a 3 year old who has been asking to see his Papa Moose for weeks now; that you've already invested time in telling him that, "Papa Moose's not very well and in a hospital," but that it's ok because, "although you can't visit him there, you'll be able to see him when he goes to a new hospital,"; that in actual fact, he's not going to get to see him ever again? Aside from a old guinea pig we lost when he was barely 2 years old, this would be the first time John had ever encountered death. And it was up to me to not only break the news but to also help shape his perception of death as a whole.

Like with most things, I took to the internet for advice and couldn't really find any definitive words of wisdom, so I decided to share my own experience & advice on the subject for those who may find they need it too. I won't deny that I was hesitant in posting this, due to the sensitive nature but I hope it'll at least help someone who is stuck & needing a helping hand in a rubbish set of circumstances.

• • •

Prepare them (if possible).
The very nature of death is that it's unpredictable, so this isn't always possible, although if you have the opportunity to prepare your wee one for what's going to happen, then do so. In our case it was as simple as explaining to John that his Papa Moose was at the hospital, first due to his Alzheimer's (at which point was the Community Hospital for respite) and then when he was taken in due to pneumonia. We didn't take him to visit as I know John wouldn't cope well in this environment but by simply explaining that Papa Moose wasn't well at that he was in the hospital, it meant John could be aware of him not being well.

Choose your moment.
Wait until you're somewhere quiet, able to talk without interruptions (from younger siblings for example - I talked to John once David was in bed) and are in a reasonable state of mind yourself. Avoid times when your wee one is tired, grumpy or otherwise distracted.

Keep is simple.
When I told John about his Papa Moose, the words were along the lines of, "Remember how Papa Moose was in the hospital? Well he was very old and the doctors couldn't make him better when he became sick. Papa Moose died this morning so we won't be able to see him again. We can still love him though and talk about him whenever you want." The thing about 3 year old's is that they're pretty understanding & accepting of what you tell them, so by getting straight to the point, you can tell them what they need to know but also leave the topic open for any questions they may have surrounding it. You know your wee one & what they're capable of understanding; try and tailor it to that.

Be honest with your beliefs.
And don't tell them things that you don't believe. I'm not religious and I'm sceptical about any kind of afterlife. For this reason, it was important for me not to start telling John that his Papa was in Heaven or that he'd "gone to a better place," especially when I'm not sure that I believe it myself. That being said, if these are your beliefs then this is a good opportunity to explain them also.

Avoid using the term, "gone to sleep."
Like I say, 3 year old's are pretty understanding & accepting, for this reason, honesty is best. If you tell them their loved one has gone to sleep, they're likely to accept this at the time but in the long run it can lead to two things: Thinking their loved one will one day wake up and be fine again, or a fear of going to sleep (or of other people going to sleep, such as you) due to a fear of never waking up.

Be ready for questions.
From a simple clarification of what you're telling them, to asking for reassurance that they'll still be able to see other loved ones (in our case, John's Granny Moose). And be ready for them to be asked at any time, even days after the initial conversation. Some may be unexpected also but remember to be honest; if you don't know the answers, tell them that and explain that you'll try and find out - this can give you a bit of time to consider your answers if you're unsure, just be sure not to bury the question under the rug & go back to it when you've figured it out.

• • •

Finally, not so much a tip but important nonetheless; remember to grieve yourself. It's your call whether you do this in front of your wee one or in your own time but it's really important to grieve in the way that best suits yourself. As parents we quickly perfect our brave-face and forget to deal with our emotions the way we need to. But your needs are important too! And if you're reading this whilst looking for answers, sorry for you loss. ❤

Have you had to explain death to your wee ones? Have you any further tips or advice?


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Embracing Natural Waves

Ditching the straighteners and embracing natural waves. The curly girl method for wavy hair.

My hair and I have had a pretty rubbish relationship in the past. From the moment I discovered hair straighteners in my early teenage years, I used them religiously, aiming for that perfectly straight Avril Lavigne look. Then the hair dye abuse started... Pink, black, blue, bleached blonde, green (by accident...), raccoon stripes, red; I've had them all, even achieving Most Frequently Changing Hair in our school yearbook! It wasn't until I was closer to 18 that I actually decided to start treating my hair with a little bit of love but the years of damage took some time for any kind of recovery to happen.

Despite my hair being much healthier than it was in High School, I was still never really happy with it. I'd grow it, cut it, grow it, cut it, never really finding the style I wanted. I'd had every colour & style you could imagine (hello, liberty spikes!) but the one look I'd longed for was the natural one. To be able to wash my hair and leave it - knowing it wouldn't turn into a ball of frizz or resemble a birds nest - was something I'd dreamt of. I'd tried a couple of times to embrace my natural waves but found that I'd quickly get impatient with the frizz & unpredictable nature of it and end up reaching to the straighteners once more. I even considered a perm for a short while thinking it might give me some more hold to my hair!

Then kids came along. I was still going through the grow it, cut it phase, opting to keep it long enough to tie back and reducing washing & straightening to just a couple of times a week (due to necessity more than anything else). But when the prospect of returning to work after having David rolled around, the idea of getting up at stupid o'clock in the morning to singe my hair into place, with two kids clinging to a leg each, just seemed like a complete nightmare. There had to be a better way to achieve nice hair with minimum effort... Google led me to discover the Curly Girl Method. And let me tell you, it's changed my hair for the better, in so many ways! There's not much to it really but when you're in the realms of 'normal' hair habits, it can all sound quite foreign and ridiculous. Let me break it down for you...

The Curly Girl Method is all about letting your hair be, cutting out the products that create a vicious cycle and embracing & loving your curls. Let's start with conditioner. Pretty much very conditioner you buy in the UK will contain silicones, which if you've never really thought about what's in your conditioner before you're probably not aware of, nor particularly care; I know I never! Turns out silicones aren't great for your hair. What they do is create a plastic tubing around the hair strand meaning any moisture (which your hair is likely to be lacking in if your a heat & dye abuser like I was) is kept in but it also means no more can get in either because silicones aren't water soluble. So who's do you get silicones out your hair? That's where your shampoo comes into play!

Like conditioners, shampoo isn't too great for your hair either. Because your conditioner is packed with silicones, your shampoo needs to be packed with sulphates (the ingredient that makes your shampoo bubbly) to break the silicones down and prevent them building up. Unfortunately, sulphates will also take any natural oils from your hair in the process too. In fact, check your shampoo against your dish liquid - you'll find he ingredients are spookily similar, yet you wouldn't buy fairy to wash your hair with! So begins the vicious cycle of silicones & sulphates.

So what's the solution? Simple - cut out silicones & sulphates! But with very few products on the UK market offering silicones & sulphate hair products, it's a bit tricky. There are a few sulphate-free shampoos [sometimes referred to as "low-poo"] out there or the other popular option is to wash with a silicone-free conditioner [often called "co-washing"]. Anyone I ever mention co-washing to inevitably ends up picking their jaw off the floor because the idea of washing your hair with conditioner conjures up images of greasy, build-up covered hair, however with using silicone-free conditioner this isn't that case at all. Because the conditioner you use contains only water-soluble ingredients, there's no build up and it does the job of your shampoo without stripping your hair from its own natural goodness, although a little more elbow grease is needed due to the lack of bubbles; that being said, massaging the conditioner into the scalp to lift any dirt is great for encouraging hair growth!

I'm currently using a variety of low-poo shampoos as because my hair is more wavy than curly, I find this suits me better (co-washing tends to weigh my hair down a bit as it doesn't need the same amount of moisture as someone with tighter curls). I've also found a great selection of conditioners and styling products since starting the Curly Girl Method that work for me too and they're all available on the UK High Street. Best of all, I've only had straighteners touch my tresses once in the past 10 months! I'm most definitely a convert to my natural hairstyle now.

Ditching the straighteners and embracing natural waves. The curly girl method for wavy hair.

I'm going to be sharing my favourite low-poo shampoos, silicone-free conditioners & Curly Girl friendly styling products with you all over the coming weeks, as well as some tips & tricks I've learnt along the way. So if you've any questions about the Curly Girl Method or how I care for my hair in general, I'd love to know! Just leave a comment & I'll do my best to answer all of them along the way.


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