Sunday, 28 December 2008

Tales from the crypt...

These days we are not traveling so light ha.ving three children means we are now using the 7 seat option in our 5-7 seater car, not because of the number of children we have, more because of the size of child car seats. You just can't get 3 that will sit side by side in the back of a 'normal' car.

Demoting the 2 eldest to the boot seemed like a great solution at the time - they're further away so quieter and can't faff on with windows etc as there's nothing adjustable in the back. It worked until today when our middle child decided it would be an excellent idea to quietly take his seat belt off. Of course his older sister tattled on him straight away, just as we were driving down a dual carriage way approaching a police car. Faced with this I resisted the urge to vault across the car and grab his throat Homer Simpson style and instead growled through gritted teeth to sit very very still until we can stop and re-do the strap in the interests of avoiding a hefty fine for transporting an unrestrained child.

Middle child has much to thank his sisters for as his hungry + cranky newborn sister saved him from being made to walk the last mile home which is usual punishment for fiddling with seatbelts while we are driving.

Watch this space to see if we end up walking home tomorrow!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Our first week as a family of 5!

Last friday saw the arrival of our third bundle of joy and she is now over a week old already! Though a week is a very short space of time its been such a journey already and we've had lots of challenges and cherished moments already.

The advantage of having a planned C-section (we thought) was the ability to plan many aspects - childcare, introducing the new baby to siblings, coming home as a family of 5 to a thanksgiving at our church.. Actually none of this happened!

With less than 48hrs to go before being admitted our son develped a vomiting bug and that meant that if we respected visiting + infection control procedure our carefully planned introduction could not take place until 48hrs after his symptoms resolved.

Her delivery was longer + more complicated than imagined but the biggest surprise came when she was weighed, our prediction of 8-9 pounds was smashed + she tipped the scale at a massive 11 pounds! This had staff from all over the department calling in to see "the huge baby". We both slept through most of the afternoon and evening and became nightowls together when the ward was meant to be quiet.

Saturday was very exciting, I had no tubes left in, was fairly mobile + had had a shower and was looking forward to heading straight to church the next morning, however that soon started to unravel too! Bethany failed her hearing test meaning we would have to wait to repeat it the next morning (she did pass the re-test) + we would probably be late leaving. That evening our oldest daughter looked decidedly green while visiting so we removed her downstairs for the risk she might vomit + spread it around the maternity ward, just in time as she was sick in reception. As there are lots of other children at church we cancelled the thanksgiving to keep our germs to ourselves and came home as a fragmented family as biggest sis was forced to hang out with Grandma for infection control.

So it was a busy weekend! Topped off in the middle by me catching the same virus as the kids and having to plod on breast feeding. Fortunately I had a lovely husband to look after me!

So she's a week old already and we're so in love but she has already changed so much! I want to remember everything about her forever. Right now she always sleeps with an arm under her head, after feeding she pulls herself off and lies across my stomach with her hands splayed across my skin, she giggles in her sleep + smiles at her brother, wonder how long that will last!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Have you ever seen....

Such a real candid?! This is my exposure test shot prior to setting the self-timer + running (well waddling) to join my family for our weekly family shot.

The actual shot turn out not so different in the end! Like father like son!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Waste of energy?

Everyone seems to be on an economy drive these days, whether it be for environmental or economical reasons. In keeping with that after Christmas we'll be switching to washable nappies with our new addition (I apologise to all hard-core green mums I cannot cope with recovering from a C-section, 2 other children and washing a zillion newborn nappies a day) and today tried some alternative to soap powder - soapnuts and essential oils- in our environmentally evil washer/dryer. I set our central heating timed programs to be cooler yesterday and we've switched to energy saving lightbulbs all over the house in the last few months. Our sky box, which we previous left on all night (*holds out hands for smacking*) has started to help us out by deciding to turn it's self off if we leave it without changing channel for too long.
That said the type of energy I would REALLY like to conserve today is mental energy! Having a C-section scheduled in less than 2 weeks and more than 2 weeks of 2 ill children behind us a good old rest would be lovely, is that likely? No of course not.

After hiding under a quilt with my 3 yr old poorly boy for the morning I managed to coax him out from under it and after a dinner of a piece of cheese and some crisps which it took me an hour to persuade him to eat, we went to get his hair cut in preparation for the seemingly far-off day that he is well enough to go back to nursery. Armed with hat, scarf, jumper and thick coat he unwilling trudged there and back and sat in stoic silence while his unruly mop was tamed.

On our return home the phone was ringing, of course, force me to walk across our newly laid and lovely floor with my outdoor shoes on to answer it. Of course I now wish I hadn't bothered. On the other end was an education welfare officer calling to ask about our son's poor attendance at his (non-compulsory) pre-school nursery place. I admit to being a bit irritated and curtly explained that due to our local school's inability to provide proper support for our autistic daughter she has to go to a school that takes me over an hour to get to on public transport and does not have a nursery while our son goes to the local school. This means we have to rely on the kindness of friends, family and occasionally strangers to pick up our daughter so that I can get to nursery to pick up our son who finishes just 10 minutes later and (before you ask) does not have an after-school club to go to. I then catalogued the hospital appointments that both children have had over the last term, my own hospitalisation with a heart problem, failure of friend's arrangements meaning we had to keep one of them at home, then passingly mention the string of illnesses he has been sick with since starting at the local germ factory; 2 viruses each taking over 2 weeks to leave him, a chest infection and currently an ear infection requiring a week of anti-biotics.

SO no I am not irritated by the referral leaving us more to deal with, and do not think that the actual referral was motivated by the fact we have previously made a complaint (which was upheld) about the school, no not at all.

In the interests of saving energy we should probably withdraw him from the pre-school place he has, as its not compulsory, and allow him to have fun at playgroups and trips out without causing us stress and continually draining his immune system. Not to mention all the electricity used up in writing such a long blog post!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Photo printing review: snap fish

After seeing a fantastic thread on babyworld linking to a website that hosts links to all the websites offering free prints I decided to try a few out for review purposes.

One of the saddest things, personally, about having 'gone digital' in the time that's elapsed since the birth of our first daughter is that we rarely print photographs these days, and what are photos for if not printing?

First up this week was snapfish and kodak. On the surface Kodak seems slightly more generous offering 30 free prints to snapfish's 20, however their upload interface is clunky and slow (arduously so, I nearly didn't bother uploading all 30 in the end) and their processing and postage times are longer. Hence the reason I can only comment on snapfish's prints today.

The prints arrived promptly and within the stated delivery time, communication was good and I received system generated e-mail every step along the way. They arrived well packaged and protected by masses of promotional information for their gift ranges etc.

On the whole the prints themselves were good quality. I uploaded a variety of colour processing methods and resolutions to see how they dealt with them. All were already in 6x4 proportions. Interestingly snapfish did not agree with lightroom as many of the images which I watermarked show that some cropping and resizing has taken place -the edges of the watermark are missed off. There was some colour distortion where more artistic processing methods had been used also, and I was disappointed in that those files that were very high resolution actually did not look 'that' much better than those that were essentially uploaded at web standard. Perhaps this would have shown up on a larger print.

The one huge unexpected jewel in the crown amongst the prints was a black & white conversion, it was printed exquitly which I certainly did not expect. That particular print has now become our photo album cover.

So overal snapfish provided a good level of service and adequate level of quality in prints, cropping and sizing issues would prevent me using a lab like this for client proofing but would be perfectly good for printing all our post-Christmas snaps.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Let the Christmas madness begin...

Why oh why have we never asked our kids to make Christmas lists for santa? Generally the logic has been that firstly until this year neither of them has been particularly capable of it and secondly in theory we shop during the year to avoid the financial embarrassment December generally brings.

What that actually means is, we put things away during the year, forget what we have and get caught up with advertising more than the kids and buy fashionable toys in the dying weeks of November like everyone else. The we inevitably find things the kids actually like in the cupboard along with a selection of beautiful clothes that no longer fit because we've forgotten they were there.

This years 'fashionable purchase'? Actually is something we wanted to play with, Elmo live, and the subsequent discovery that Elmo has 2 TMX friends of course led to a further purcahse. What?! By Christmas day we'll have 3 children, that's one sesame street character each.... of course if they touch them without asking there WILL be trouble.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Have you ever felt like screaming?

This is my two angelic children watching Thomas the tank on my iPhone while waiting for a paediatrician appointment. It was a brief calm before the storm.

Having one child already diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder at the age of four following, literally, 2 years of begging someone to pay attention to our concerns, you could be forgiven calling us stupid when we assumed that the assessment process would go smoother with our second child. The assessment team know us, they know we are not neurotic, they know we are not after money or charity, they know we have experience with a variety of conditions personally and professionally and we just want proper care and support for our children, so we would assume they would take us seriously second time around. Wrong on all counts.

Today we had the pleasure of being totally grilled by a 'professional' who has never before been involved in our children's care and just happened to turn up in our last appointment, and all because we went out of our way to reverse a bad situation we were in to accommodate THEM and make their jobs easier. At an increased financial, time and emotional burden to us I might add.

After I literally turned my back on this offensive person to address the professional we actually came to see every concern we had was dismissed, even physical concerns that had been confirmed previously by medical exam had magically disappeared today. Wow this pair truly are miracle workers.

So we are left to seek a second opinion on the physical stuff and cool our heals over the the developmental stuff having no option but to go with team we have the misfortune of living near. But once again we are looking at houses in other NHS trust areas to escape the parade of questionable care we have recently been subjected to, sadly its not an option right now but as soon as it is they won't see us for dust.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

With a little help from friends.

Having been in hospital last week, facing a barrage of tests coming up, increasing in size and awkwardness and lacking in sleep I have found the temptation to sit at home and hide under the duvet with sky TV or a grey's anatomy box set until the baby arrives immense. Of course I've been foiled at every attempt by a clingy son, the need to food shop and finally after rushing out to buy season 4 of Lost of DVD I was gutted to discover that the second disc is totally out of sync (something which drives me mad) and descends into a screen of chaotic pixels every now & again. Which I wouldn't mind if it was a cheap copy but it wasn't.

Of course I could have wallowed in misery further after all this, my son is normally quite happy to join me in bed as long as he's getting a cuddle, however my lovely friends have been determined to get me going, or keep me going. Straight after getting home some fantastically generous people from our church delivered nutritious home cooked meals to us for 3 nights in a row, in addition to cooking for their own hungry families. We have also had lots of lovely supportive phone calls and invites of help with the children.

Despite feeling a bit worn out we've made the effort to get out & about with the kids, a good friend helped me to realise that much as I might want to sit & watch TV they are not so keen and would rather get out for even five minutes and expend some energy than sit and vegetate! So yesterday we had a short simple trip to the local library with the kids and to meet some friends.

Out to the library

Books are fortunately one of our kids's great passions so in addition to getting to circle around a new environment and meet some new friends and some old ones they had a great opportunity to browse bookshelves bigger than them.

Today we all got dressed up smart (I even put some make up on) to go to church, my husband has insisted I go every week now so he doesn't have to face the 'has she had the baby yet?' questions if I am absent. We listened to a sermon about giving and have to admit to being somewhat ashamed that we have not met our tithe recently. Having seen our earnings drop by in excess of £400 a month in the last year and having a new baby on the way we have been more concerned with ensuring our car payment was made, and not to mention that we could buy the latest Lost DVD boxset, than joyfully giving our finances over to God. It would be fair to say that it pricked my conscience somewhat.

On the way home my 3 year old shouted out that he could see a rainbow, in all honesty I didn't believe him at all but then did catach sight of the most amazingly huge and complete rainbow I have ever seen.

God's promise

The photographs don't do it justice reallly, at all. As soon as she saw it my 6 year old gasped that it was to remind us that God always keeps his promises. A timely reminder to all of us we felt.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Enjoying lightroom 2, and the kids toys...

I was recently persuaded by a review in a photography magazine to download a trial of lightroom 2. Already being an enthusiastic user of lightroom I could not see what additional benefits it would offer over my combination of lightroom and photoshop as my routine for processing is to fix any exposure/white balance problems in lightroom and run and b&w conversions then export to PS for watermarking and any other kind of editing needed. Although this can be a frustrating process when LR's develop module hung and continually exported the wrong image I was happy with that and wondered what improvements could be made for another version.

Well, the main advantage for me in my 5 days of trial use has been ability to apply a vignette to a cropped image and the changes to the crop overlay it's self allow for easier size ration selection etc.

The first image below was edited in lightroom version 1:

massacre in the night garden

The next image was edited with lightroom version 2 using the same action:

in the night garden siege ended

Although it used the same preset the results are quite different because of the ability to apply vignette post-crop.

Not certain yet whether I will spring for the full version once my trial has ended, it depends on whether it become indispensable between now + then. The only teething difficultly is that as I do not have the option financially to also spring for PS CS4 lightroom 2 will not open and export images to CS3 for editing. However, version 1 so frequently exported the wrong image and hung that it may be quicker to export a file and open it myself anyway.

And go on admit it any mother of pre-school children, you have been desperate to take revenge on the characters of 'In the night garden' for years and are very jealous that I have had a therapeutic morning of character squishing in the name of testing a new version of lightroom out!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Onwards again.

After a bad experience at our local hospital last week I was a bit nervous about heading back to our out of town option this morning for a consultant appointment. Not that I thought they would be as bad but was not relishing the prospect of trying to explain what had gone on last week to a team who had no access to my notes from the time and nothing but my word for it.

It didn't get off to a great start as half way there in morning rush hour traffic we realised I had left my hand held maternity notes on the sofa and had to arrange for my mother to go get them and meet my husband at the half way point, which meant I'd have to be dumped on antenatal on my own to wait for the verdicts.

Other than these hiccups it actually went really well, there was no pulling of hair our over lack of notes and no patronising assertion, as had been suggested several time by the other hospital, that sitting on the floor putting my son's shoes on cause a panic attack which lasted 12 hours.

To counter act a panic attack on the part of my son at the thought a doctor or nurse might suddenly kidnapp his mother we had a lovely walk around the park to take some pictures and were very nicely blessed with some fab winter sunshine!

So onto the next weeks worth of medical intervention, a 24 hour ECG trace, a glucose tolerance test, a cardiac echo and follow up next week. Phew! Well at least we are paying tax to finance all these NHS hours....

swirls ~ HBW

Sunday, 19 October 2008

First the good points....

Having a had a bit of a stress this week we found ourselves once again in the care of our local hospital, anyone who knows us knows where that is, I won't name & shame but anyone who wants pre-warning please feel free to e-mail me and I'll let you know which it was.

After having lunch and just getting ready for work for no reason my heart started pounding in my chest, very fast & very hard. After 10 minutes it didn't slow down and my husband could see it beating from across the room so we decided a trip to hospital might be in order. Its at this point we are always faced with the same decision; where? We are equidistant from 2 hospitals but live within the borders of one health care trust who we, ironically, have never trusted. The list of reasons is long and monumental, going back years to before our children were even born. So in that moment we have to decide whether to go with our slightly closer local A&E or travel 5 minutes longer and go to the trust in which we trust and where we are booked to deliver our third child. In the end we decided to go local only because the hospital from the other trust has an A&E which is in a separate building from antenatal care so we thought (wrongly, obviously) that going to our local hospital where its all together would mean the baby would be looked after too.

Before I chronicle the list of health care crimes that ensure I will NEVER cross the doors of that hospital again unless I am unconscious in an ambulance and have no choice I will point out that: the triage nurse wasted no time and immediately took me to an area to be monitored after seeing what my vitals were, its the first time I have ever been to said hospital and not felt like they couldn't care less about what I was saying and that I was out the door before I had finished my sentence, the doctors and nurses in A&E kept us informed and up to date with what they were doing all the time and I saw several different doctor in ascending rank from the same team so they had obviously sought and taken advise from other members of the team.

Once I was admitted and transferred from A&E though it all went down hill rapidly. The staff on the late shift were lovely but massively over stretched dealing with wandering dementia patients, dying patients, patients with learning difficulties who had no carers accompanying them as well as the usual level of sickness and pain you would expect. One nurse told me she had been assaulted by patients on 5 separate occasions that day. I wouldn't have blamed her for going home at that point. My first concern once I got to ward was if anyone would check on the health of our baby, we had had only 20 seconds of reassurance with a doppler in A&E, I was assured a midwife would come over during the evening and in the morning to check on her. He/she never materialised, I assume she is still wandering around geriatric wards looking confused when she cannot find a heartbeat in the stomach of an elderly patient who is full of wind.

The night shift staff were equally lovely, and equally thin on the ground. But that's no defense for the appalling lack of infection control practice, not only were patients with active diarrhoea and vomiting in an open bay and not a side room but during my 24 hours on the ward I only witnessed 2 hand washes in all that time. Nurses and auxiliaries went round from bed 1 to bed 6 doing drug rounds and observation rounds from one patient to another without so much as a splash of water on their hands. Being the patient in bed number 6 I was left to wonder what sort of bug I would contract through my bed-number lottery, would it be MRSA or would I get off with a little vomiting bug?

To add insult to injury the overhead fluorescent lights were flicked on at 6.30am, well why not? The staff are awake why should the patients sleep? Its not like we had all been awake most of the night while drips alarmed ignored for long periods of time and our bay-mate vomited the night away?

The morning staff were an interesting bunch, seemingly unable to speak to patients directly, I found out I was being discharged when 2 nurses had a conversation at the bottom of my bed 'she's going home isn't she.....?'

So after being discharged we had a cup of tea at home and headed up to the other hospital to check on the baby, who is fine. The staff there were appalled by the treatment we had received and thankfully made any future decisions for us, 'don't bother going there, just come straight to us.'

Oh and the biggest irony..... the day I was admitted the self same hospital was all over the local papers for getting a top star rating and being so clean. The mind boggles it truly does.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Wave of light - babyloss awareness

wave of light 2008
Today is babyloss awareness day across the UK and the rest of the world. The aim of the wave of light is to help and allow parents to knowledge their losses and try to promote understanding of the impact of pregnancy loss and baby loss in the wider community. Over 250,000 parents suffer a miscarriage every year and around 17 babies a day are still born or die in the first 28 days of life. But statistics do not help you to understand the impact that such a loss has on a family.

Last year we lit candles for our angels, those of friends and those lost in the unit where I worked. Currently we are blessed to be 7 months pregnant waiting for our third child's safe arrival, God willing. The begining of the pregnancy was stressful and fraught with worry then at around 12 weeks we found out our baby number 3 started our as baby number 3 and baby number 4, but that one had quietly passed away to allow their sister a chance at life. So we thank you little one for the time we had with you and for quietly going to sleep and allowing your sister to continue to bring us blessings, we know she we always have a special angel looking after her.

Psalm 139:

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Peek-a-boo QE2

Or is that hide and seek? Last time the cunard liner Queen Elizabeth II was scheduled to sail up the river Tyne we jaunted down to South Shields to watch it, and we waited, and waited, and waited, and then waited some more. Then the kids got tired and annoyed so we went home and the ship came in a few minutes after we left, of course.

So happily this time she arrived on the Tyne at 7am and we were able to confirm that had actually taken place before heading off to see the humongous piece of metal.

Parked next to the normally impressive DFDS North Shields to Norway ferry everything else on the Tyne became suddenly dwarfed and took on the look of a child's toy. Its a shame the ship was not open to the public to have look-see, I suspect cunard don't trust us geordies with the luxurious interior...

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Great North Running

The first weekend in October in Newcastle means Great North Run time. Thousands of runners, probably millions of bottles of water, slices of orange and shrubbery-type toilet stops and of course for local residents like us the inability to drive anywhere at all, all day.

We have special front row tickets for the event every year as our house is less than a 10 minute walk from the half way mark, so what better opportunity to teach our kids about people doing self-less things for charity, I doubt there are many more self-less ways to raise money than to run a half marathon often times in fancy dress.

Always a great entertainment opportunity as well, about 30 seconds after I finished saying to my children that there was always a scooby-boo every year and they should try to spot him he ran passed. We also had a series of Batmans and Robins, Mr Men of a few varieties, fairies, goblins, and many other mystical characters. I would imagine just about every charity in the UK is represented and the run earns huge revenue for charities all over the country, even in this time of financial concern for many.

In amongst all the good feeling I have to say I was quite disgusted to witness the behaviour of severe local 'kids'. We witnessed them on several occasions throwing water randomly into the faces of runners, all very nice and refreshing if you choose to do it yourself I'm sure, but a jolt and a shock you don't need in the middle of a half marathon. I hope they did not spoil the experience of any of their victims or indeed their perception of the region by behaving like total idiots when they should be applauding with everyone else, especially as they are unlikely ever to get up from their games console and do anything for anyone other than themselves. I'm glad though to say that mindless morons like these are few and far between as the amount of runners and road-side support shows, a warning for them next year I will be quicker and have their photographs for everyone to see what a true idiot looks like.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

The kindness of strangers...

More baby purchases arrived this week, not without their trials of course.

Having splashed on the phil & teds vibe (pics & review coming soon) we realised this was actually not a good choice for public transport which is how I get around most of the time as I can't drive. So we set about finding a reasonable addition that would be easy to fold & unfold and ideally worked with our car seat (the maxi cosy cabrio) fitted to it.

We decided in the end on the quinny buzz, the thought of a pram that springs its self open when I have a newborn in a car seat on one hand and a 3 year old in the other, and possibly a 6 year old held between my teeth if she is not at school was just so attractive. Attractive and expensive though. So we set about trying to find one on ebay for less. Competition was steep especially as we wanted the newer version with a proper plastic catch to prevent it springing open in your face.... but eventually we did manage to secure a bargain. Not only did we manage to get a buzz 3 for much less that in the shops but it also had the extra set of wheels allowing us to use it as a buzz 4, as well as including a cosytoes, raincover, mosquito net and alsorts of other gadgets (strap extension kit, spare press studs..) we were very excited!

Of course that didn't last long. After sending a begging e-mail to colleagues to ask them to organise paper work for me so I could wait all day Tuesday, nothing arrived. After my husband and I racing around like lunatics making sure someone was in all day Wednesday; nothing arrived. After DHL's 48 tracking malfunction it finally came back online on Thursday morning. I was tempted to cry when I saw it had been delivered at 15:01 on Tuesday... to someone else.

Many irate phone calls and e-mails followed, the seller did believe we hadn't received it, but didn't know how to help us as the courier company refused to accept a lost item claim because it had been signed for and had the correct address on the label. After much hand wringing we accepted we had lost the pram, and the money that paid for it and I would have to use a sling on the bus (I should add that we ironically sold a lightweight buggy we had used for our son to make room/ make funds for one we could use with the car seat we have).

Then on Friday afternoon with glum faces my husband and I set off for the schools (miles apart as they are) that our children attend to pick them up before the weekend, only to get home to discover that in our absence a big white van had turned up and delivered our buzz to our next door neighbour!

The courier company (parcels2go who I have already previously struck off my 'will ever use again' list because of their incompetence and shocking customer service) refuse to admit they sent it to the wrong address and picked it up and re-delivered it. All the tracking information and barcodes had been removed from the packaging when we received it all that was on it our hand-written address and a tiny DHL label with no tracking code.

So we must thank the person who received it for their honesty in reporting it (guess they didn't want pushchairs cluttering up their hall unlike in our house....) and hope that one day companies like parcel2go learn to do business in such an honest way.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Things you can rely on..

  • The day you want to sneakily watch Sex & the City on your mac while the kids watch cbeebies you will not have the chance to sit down
  • When your 3 year old comes home from nursery with his shoes on the wrong feet there is more to the story
  • When your 3 year old comes home with someone else's trousers on there is still more to the story
  • When your 3 year old comes home with someone else's pants on you are going to have to ring the school and find out why
  • When it turns out your 3 year olds wet clothes are lying in a carrier bag and no one bothered to tell you you are going to have to walk back there to get them
  • When your 3 year old cries his eyes out at the prospect of walking anywhere you are going to have to let him ride in the pram intended for your new baby while is not due for another 10 weeks...
  • Said new pram (phil & ted vibe) is so comfy 3 year old promptly falls asleep

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Mini-review: bababing play mat

As we are expecting our third child we are currently on the look out for any product that will make life easier to slot this baby into life with 2 other children who both already have social and education commitments, without being too costly of course!

This week (after much online reading and soul and bank account searching) we took delivery of the bababing playmat (and diaper bag but that's another story...). We thought about getting this product basically because we go out, we go to friends houses and often babies just need somewhere to lie to have a stretch out especially if they've been captive in a car seat for a while. Yes the same could be accomplished with a simple blanket I suppose but this little device has some fab features which make it ideal...

It arrives rolled up for easy storage, its evident that the material is high quality as well as the finish. Velcro straps secure it in position and there is a convenient carry handle, perfect for slipping it onto the stroller handle.

It also has integrated buckles which allow it to strap onto the also available day hiker backpack. We have decided against this bag but its a great option for more outdoor-sie families. The backing material is waterproof (great if you have other children who spill drinks or do want use it when you are out & about & the ground may be damp) and very hard-wearing.

In contrast the inner red unisex blanket linning is soft & comfortable ans has a cute company logo embroidered on it. Its not a tight fit to the zips onto the backing material so toddlers slip-sliding may be possible, but it also means after washing it is not going to shrink beyond the reaches of the zip and be un-usable.

The inside cover zips off and is machine washable for convenience, the hardwearing backing is wipe clean and hand wash only.

The re-rolling processing is fully labelled for those moments where you forget how to do anything from lack of sleep, of course the labelling is on the back so you don't see you've done it wrong until you start but its still a helpful pointer...

The only slight downside we have seen is when re-rolling its easy to miss the securing straps by rolling it too tight, which is opposite to what we expected.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Starting down the road...

I can't believe it my little baby girl turned 6 years old today, it seem like only 5 minutes since she was hoisted over the blue surgical drape and blinked her eyes in disbelief at the shockingly white world which greeted her.

In the interests of developing a common interest to cultivate in her older years and spend some time together (and honestly not aimed at persuading her to take her hands off my Nikon D300 forever) we bought her her very own digital camera.

To say she seems pretty taken with it would the understatement of the century, she's managed to take over 200 photos with her little fisher price camera in less than 4 hours. Not sure even my D300 would beat her on continuous, hmm maybe we'll have to try one day, a shoot out of the photography variety. Of course most of them were very 'bad', she likes self portraits, but often focuses on just her mouth of ear, I fear she would hit explore if we were to post her greatest hit from today on flickr, who knows what drives the magic donkey?

Anyway, my position as house photographer is safe, so long as I have photoshop on my side...

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Moments like these...

Well, I had hoped to be showcasing our lovely new shinny pram and writing about all its lovely features and comforts for the little one who will be joining us in December but sadly everything has gone a bit pear shaped this week! After much deliberation we decided we had chosen too early and based our choice only on what we hadn't had for the other 2 (a large impractical springy status symbol with a designer badge) and promptly went and bought that. We (I) realised since that when its throwing it down or snowing and your picking your middle child up from nursery you won't care what pram you are pushing so long as 1) your youngest is warm & dry, 2) you can steer it home quickly. So our choice of the mamas & papas ultima only met half of the criteria for sensible winter pram.

Hot on the heels of this realisation a new mamas & papas brochure landed on our door step and we saw they sell a model which will face the parent, and fold small and has a nice separate carrycot. We contacted customer services & they told us yes we could exchange as long it our original was in salable condition. So we trotted off home with our new mamas and papas switch 3in1 in prim to slot it altogether and stroke it basically!

However, once put together it became obvious this is not a well design pram. The hood does not recline it goes only half way down so it would be difficult to slot my newborn into the pram while keeping an eye on 2 other children. The apron does not actually attach to the hood (or it didn't on our model) so you get the impression it would blow off with a gust of wind. The hood continually slouches down like a lazy teenager and impacts of the length of the zip on rain cover leaving half the carrycot exposed to the rain.

After much hand wringing we called customer services again and handed the pram back and to our massive surprise got a refund (even without the box which we binned straight away!). So we skipped down to another pram shop only to find our next choice is not in stock, never fear, candidate number 3 should be here on Thursday all being well, am so looking forward to ripping it open.......

Processing preset will be available on the other blog this week...

Monday, 18 August 2008

One for you, one for me...

Having been very excited about all the lovely, outdoor, active, sunny, photogenic activities I would enjoy with my 2 children over this summer the last few weeks have been marginally disappointing because of all the rain, cloud, wind etc.

So when I friend suggested ceramics painting we jumped at the opportunity even though it was away from our intended free activities for this week! And we're glad we did we managed to (mostly) amuse 5 children aged between 9 and 4 weeks, smell some pretty intense varnish and then of course reward ourselves for being so child-centered by popping off for coffee, milkshakes and cakes afterwards. And yes we ALL ate all of our dinner too.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Tired of ebay & paypal?

Yes, us too!  Having been a seller on ebay for many years (pushchair addiction knows no bounds and is easy to indulge with ebay saved searches...) I periodically swear off the whole site alone with the paypal payment system in disgust at a fee rise, change in feedback policy or listing guidelines or as recently all three at once.

There are reams of websites devoted to HOW evil paypal and ebay are, but realistically if you want to make a little extra cash there are few other options to do so online.  That said is there actually any money made in the end?  With buyers moaning about paying for packaging as well as postage, listing fees, final value fees, paypal payment fees and paypal transfer fees can anyone seriously expect to come out with more than they are paying the vast corporation that operates it?

Despite all the expenses involved my number one irk remains the inability to have even medium speed access to money you have 'earned' through ebay, never mind fast.  Having recently been away for a fantastic weekend at center parcs Nottingham I went into overdrive planning auctions, ironing baby clothes, finding old textbooks and hours photographing and listing in order to ensure whatever money was raised would hit the bank before we went away so we could have some extra treats.  And what happened?  None of the buyers paid on time they all delayed by several days and the funds we raised hit the bank when we got home.

So I was all excited to hear about a paypal top up visa card, excellent idea to be able to transfer smaller amounts of money free onto a more readily accessible format.  Great idea, of course subject to the usual paypal drawbacks.  Having decided to be sensible and not transfer my whole paypal balance (a whopping £60!) at once incase it all went horribly wrong I test transferred £10 to my shiny new paypal visa.  Of course despite the fact paypal state it would appear on the card the next day, it in fact took 3 days, although it whizzed out of my account instantly, as ever.  Having complained and actually received an e-mail reply which apologised for teething difficulties I decided to try again and transferred a huge £20, which dutifully left my account 2 days ago, I'm still waiting for it to arrive on the card.

So the moral of the story is, no quicker, no cheaper, same old story.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Making her premiere appearance..

Today was our second daughter (third child) who is due to join us in December. Being the child of an aspiring photog of course she behaved perfectly, laying nicely turned to get everything measured and showing off her cute foetal tricks, thumb sucking, hiccuping, kicking and waving. She was so photogenic in fact that they asked someone else to come in to practice their scanning and measuring technique.

Well, long may it last, I hope she's ready to be posed for her newborn session, I have had a long time to think up cute ideas for her!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Gluten free gooey-ness

Having time of to do things with the kids is great, unless its raining. Of course there are lots of other things you can go, baking used to be my personal favorite until I had to go on a gluten free diet and could no long join in licking the bowl.

So in need of amusement to the kids, some chocolatet gooey-ness for me and the need the mess up every surface in my kitchen I turned to Nigella Lawson to see which recipe I could adapt to a gluten free version and found gooey chocolate puddings, just whats needed on a dismal summer day!

If yo would like to try them, here's the recipe, its fast easy and not too expensive:


125g good quality dak chocolate (its about a bar a a half when you're out shopping)

125g unsalted butter

3 large eggs

150gg caster sugar

35g Dove's wheat + gluten free plain flour

Butter and flour for preparing ramekins

Makes approx 6 250ml ramekins.

Melt the chocolate + butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Whisk together the sugar, eggs and flour.

Whisk the melted chocolate and butter into the egg, sugar and flour mix a bit at a time.

Set the mixture to one side to rest.

Grease your ramekins with butter then add flour to cover the butter and tapp off the excess.

Pour the mixture into your ramekins and place them on a baking tray.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200oC for about 10 minutes.

The tops should be firm and beginning to crack slightly and the edges set.

Serve hot with cold cream.

If you have extra left over (like us having only 4 ramekin dishes) cook the rest in something else, we cooked ours in rabbits until entirely set to make some bunny cakes for later!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Fogged off + fogged on

Fog, along with the NHS, has been another virtually constant feature of our lives in the last 7 days. Causing disruption when my friends husband was fogged on the rig in the middle of the week when his eldest son was in and out of hospital and holding off the air show we had agonised over attending.

Having no turned on local radio we had no idea there was even any fog at all when we set off front our sun-bathed front door to set the red arrows however we soon realised the number of cars driving in the opposite direction did in fact have a good amount of significance.

So we opted for ice cream at the top of Marsden cliffs, where you couldn't see the bottom because of the fog and walk back to the car park, that again you couldn't see from the ice cream van.

My Grandmother would have serious words with me for taking my kids outside in the fog, she swears she got asthma from being outside in the fog...

Friday, 25 July 2008

The highlight of an 8 hour day with the NHS....

Isn't it always to case, you offer to do nice things all the time and the one day someone take you up on it is the day your husband is at work and you've no cash in the house, its 20C and you ironed jeans and warm tops for everyone the night before...

Of course it is, it didn't make me hesitate when a friend asked for help today though, it did of course take me longer to get out the house. Opting to throw my 3 yr old into the buggy and instruct my 6 yr old to walk very fast rather than wait for the bus was the best option and we arrived quicker than expected. The friend in questions has had a seriously bad time in the last 3 weeks, having had a sick newborn for 2 weeks of in-ing and out-ing of hospital her 18 month old decided to take his turn and has spent this week back and forth to our local NHS foundation facility.

After a quick look over him from me and a phone conversation with his GP mum was advised to take him back to the hospital, again should I add? With the assurance that is she wasn't happy with the outcome the GP would refer to somewhere else. So began the day..

After calling my other half home from work to take care of our two we headed up to the children's day care unit. The day went surprisingly fast, little man slept soundly on one of our knees often and we swapped the kids back and forth as they got sick of the helping hand and needed mum. There were many conversations and misunderstandings regarding the various diagnosis, since Saturday when this merry band first graced the doors of the hospital (who's name I will spare the shame....) he has been diagnosed with; anaphylactic shock, uriticaria, erythema multiform, a viral rash, a bacterial ear infection, labrynthitis, and finally suggested myelitis or post-viral irritable hip. Poor little one has just about been through the dictionary.

So after another round of vampirism we wait to see what these bloods say, and the highlight of our day? An otherwise clean-looking cubible, where all the soap dispensers were empty and there were 2 disgarded syringes from the previous patient left lying in the cot. Nice touch I thought... and the ultimate irony? I was on the phone with the head of the woman's & children's services as I tried to get out the door resolving a complaint I had over the standard of care I had received......