Make your own cheapie fleece liners for reusable cloth nappies

I have made a massive, bargainous, money-saving, effort saving attempt this week. I have made my own fleece nappy liners and it has cost me less than £2 for 12 – it’s £7.50 for 10 if you buy them ready made – and they’re so bloody simple and easy that I am making the effort to do a blog tutorial so others can benefit, even though it makes me seem like a total hippy saddo.

Whilst The Girl has been joining us for meals for a few months now, it’s only been recently that she’s actually started eating any substantial amount of solids and – please excuse the tmi – she’s now doing substantial poos to match. Cloth nappies have many benefits, but scraping actual grown-up-person shit off before they can go in the machine is seriously not one of them. I used the disposable paper liners with The Boy, but they were notoriously rubbish: crinkling up into his butt crack and utterly failing at their designed purpose. On a girl this is exacerbated even further by the extra creases it can work its way into.

Liners are useful for a number of reasons and whilst the biggest reason – clean up after a poo-nami – may seem to make a ‘chuck it down the loo’ dispoable the obvious choice, fleece liners may have the edge in other ways: more likely to stay in place, thus catching the poo. You can then just rinse it in the loo; protecting expensive natural-fibre nappies from bottom creams, thus maintaining their absorbency and protecting delicate derrières from wash-roughened sodden cotton inserts.

I was in a well known low-cost supermarket branch two days ago (starts with an ‘A’ ) and, I dunno, think they might have been running a baby event or something, but they were flogging a fleece blanket for £1.75 (marked down from a pricey £2.something) and on the spur of the moment decided to grab one to make fleece liners.

By God it was complicated. I had to trim off the hemming (why do they hem fleece blankets? It’s not like they fray or roll), then use an insert as a template and cut it up into pieces. Done. Bish bash bosh. I may have been lying about the complexity level. No sewing, no fancy stuff, no messing. 12 inserts for £1.75. That’s roughly 15p per liner. Bargain!

If it’s not too inestimably dull I’ll let you know how they work out.


Stupid stuff I beat myself up about on a daily basis

I think we all have this, don’t we? Us parents, anyway. Things we promise ourselves we’ll do better, or at all, and then we don’t prioritise it and it just becomes a niggling worry eating away at our sanity until it keeps us awake until 3am fretting over whether anything is actually going mouldy in the bottom of the washing basket, only to go back to sleep promising you’ll definitely, 100%, absolutely do something about it tomorrow, but you spend all night dreaming you’re trying to do it whilst endless obstacles prevent you until you wake, three hours later, too exhausted to do other than the very bare minimum to keep everything ticking over.

Or is that just me?

1- The laundry basket having, um, well, laundry in it.  With a family of four, including a pukey, newly-weaning baby in cloth nappies, a three-year who magnetises mud and has had a slight continence regression and a husband who cycles to work and spends his spare time tinkering with car engines, the laundry is plentiful, varied and never-ending. The only way I could ever possibly get to the bottom of it would be to make them all move out.  Families make washing. If I can ever learn to accept this my life would be infinitely less stressful.

2- My son’s ’show and tell diary’.  This is a handy journal to help join up what’s going on at home with what’s going on at preschool, but I never remember to write in the damn thing. I do, however, collar the supervisor or The Boy’s keyworker at the door most mornings and have an intense Q&A session with them about the latest biting incident or the fact he’s learnt to, I dunno, write his own name or whatever. I will not get social services knocking at the door because I haven’t stuck in his latest piece of ‘art’ work.

3- The fact I didn’t cook broccoli with dinner last night.  I did, however, feed them shepherd’s pie with grated courgette in – and chopped carrot, too, for that matter. The fact there’s no vegetable also on the side of the plate does NOT mean my kids will get scurvy. Even if they got scrmabled eggs on toast for dinner for a week they would still not get scurvy, rickets, or any other kind of malutrition-related illness. As long as I don’t feed them generic fast-food and milkshakes week in, week out, they will grow up strong and healthy.

4- That I have a friend coming and haven’t cleaned up yet. She’s known me for 21 years now. She knows I favour the chaos-theory style of living. She will be fed and entertained (if you can call being sent to retrieve a rogue three year old from t’other side of the park and forced to critique Strictly with me ‘entertained’) and will not judge me if I haven’t hoovered. Plus we all know I’ll run around cleaning like a blue-arsed fly on Saturday morning whilst the baby is asleep and The Boy is zombified in front of a DVD.

5- That I still don’t have a job lined up for when The Girl starts school (four years hence I might add), or any work experience to switch into broadcasting like I want to, or a life plan in general other than ‘keep myself and my children alive until they’re old enough to do it for themselves’.

So there you go – five of my current brain farts. What kind of stupid stuff keeps you awake at night?


John Lewis versus Sainsburys – battle of the Christmas advert 2015!

I remember last year well. My belly was swollen with child, my Boy was not yet 3 and, therefore, still rather sweet than otherwise, Christmas music was playing on every speaker and the John Lewis Christmas advert with the penguin was on repeat on my laptop for The Boy’s amusement.  Not so this year. We’ve watched the ‘Man in the Moon’ just twice and then he completely lost interest and hasn’t mentioned it since.  Yesterday we were notified of the new Sainsbury’s ad and, oh dear John Lewis, you’ve lost your crown. Mog the cat in all her CGI glory, thankfully resurrected for Christmas 2015 – walking tree and all.

It’s only 10.30am but we’ve probably seen it five or six times this morning already and the only reason we’re not still watching the damn thing is because I wrestled my laptop back off The Boy in order to write this post!

In my humble opinion JL is flogging a bit of a dead horse. OK, so it’s a girl this year, not a boy, and it’s a Man on the Moon, not a penguin, but there’s still a child with an imaginary friend, a saccharine Ellie Goulding-style cover version of a golden oldie, a touching sentimental act and lots of Christmas sparkle. I have no issue with sparkle (I’m not a Grinch or anything) but I felt like this year’s ad was just a tired remake of the 2014 one, with some rather clunky product placement to boot (check out the scene with the scooter) whereas the Sainsbury’s ad was something completely new and different – from John Lewis and from their own, rather excellent, 2014 offering.

I’ve embedded all four of the adverts below so you can compare and contrast for yourself, but I think you’ll agree the Mog one has something special about it in the same way Monty the penguin did last year. Plus, yaknow, it gets The Boy’s seal of approval. Think the penguin still wins overall, though – I just had to view all the vids to get the embed code and I was made to watch Monty the Penguin twice more before I could finish. So Sainsburys may have won this year, but JL win over the last two. Can’t say fairer than that. But next year, John Lewis – you’re going to have to bring it.



Monty the Penguin – still our favourite. What do you think?


Review: Cosmic Kids Yoga Youtube Channel

Cosmic Kids Yoga website
I may have mentioned once or twice than The Boy, like many (most?) three year olds is a tiny bundle of seriously high-energy, wired over-tiredness, a ticking time bomb of half-understood emotion and high spirits just waiting for a thwarting of his will to completely lose.his.shit.  Preschool have suggested some strategies, The Man and I have done our research and read up a few parenting books and tried all kinds of different ways to help him regulate his emotions and behaviour. Banning television has helped, to a point, and I thought mindfulness might be a useful skill for him to learn, but when I tried it we actually ended up with our biggest meltdown ever – turns out the difficulty of teaching your own children anything starts pretty early.

Anyway, one day I was doing my early-morning yoga (Erin Motz 30 day yoga if you want to look it up) and, as usual, the kids were fascinated: using me as a tunnel, bridge and all-round climbing frame (yippee). Having spotted some childrens’ yoga on the menu I asked The Boy if he’d like to have a go at one and he jumped at the chance.  We had a few trial and error fails (awful American accents, patronising instructors etc) but then I lit upon Cosmic Kids Yoga Youtube and I knew we were onto a winner.

The instructor, Jaime, is warm, friendly, straightforward and English – actually based in South Oxfordshire! Her enthusiasm is never failing, her approach is beautifully aimed at younger yogis without being condescending and, for a free-to-view channel, the production values are extremely high, with lovely animations and high-resolution viewing. They even have two age-group categories so there are film-based sessions for older kids (like this Harry Potter one below) and animal stories for 3-6 year olds.

The Boy, not known for his long attention span or focus, frequently does two or three of these in a row (that’s half an hour to 45 minutes of peace and quiet!) and even, occasionally watches the Cosmic Kids Zen Den, which focuses on mindfulness and meditation.

I love the way there is a wind down session at the end when Jaime helps kids deal with big emotions like fear or worry , and even discusses listening, focusing and concentration – all Big Topics, Chez Oxfordshire.

I really cannot recommend Cosmic Kids Yoga highly enough. I have not been asked to review them, I have received no money for doing so. I just think they’re the bee’s pyjamas, the dog’s knees, the cat’s bollocks and I had to do a review.


Portrait of a stay at home mum

The Man is currently off sick with a chest infection, so he’s cocooned in a duvet on the sofa feeling sorry for himself whilst The Girl, who’s just had a nap, bounces up and down on his lap. How To Train Your Dragon, a family favourite, is playing on the television because it’s filthy weather outisde and we’re all a bit run down. The Boy has taken it into his head to dress up as a knight and is fighting imaginary dragons in our (tiny) sitting room whilst The Girl laughs at the floorshow. I am running in and out to check everybody is OK whilst also making leek and potato soup for lunch from our allotment produce.

This afternoon we need to put the finishing touches to the papier mache dragon head The Boy and I are making for his Halloween costume and I have to construct a tail for The Girl and dragon wings for The Boy.  I also need to get the pizza dough made for dinner and meringe ghosts for the Halloween party tomorrow (I will almost certainly do a tutorial post on this).  I also need to stay on top of the washing up, find somewhere to hang the wet washing so it can dry without getting in anybody’s way (a hard task in our bijou residence) and clear up from all craft activities. I doubt I will get round to the hoovering. This is all before the BIG DRAMA of dinner and bedtime.

What do stay at home mums do all day? I’m not entirely certain because it never feels like anything actually gets done, but my family are healthy, happy and well fed and the kids will have costumes for their party tomorrow. I have even managed to wrangle a blog post out of it, though whether it actually gets posted the day I wrote it is another matter. (The answer to that is a big resounding no. I wrote this over a week ago and am only just editing it now. Oops. Saw that one coming!)

portrait of a stay at home mum

just some of the emotions experienced on a daily – nay – hourly basis…

Does this post sound a little smug? Perhaps it is, but that’s mainly because I feel a constant need to justify my position as a SAHM, even though my baby is only 7 months old and I am actually self-employed as well. Look at me, I exude through every action, I am worthy of respect, I do have value, even though I earn very little money. But who places a value on raising the next generation?


The clothes on the kids go round and round – the art of second-hand parenting!

I was sitting on the floor with my mum, surrounded by bags, boxes and towering piles of childrens’ clothing – boy and girl – when I had to jump up and take a photo. Ever since I first got pregnant with my first child I have been playing this game, where friends give you all the cast-off clothing from their kids and you go through them and get to decide what to keep (most of it) and what to bin (anything very stained) and what to charity shop (colours that don’t suit your kid, weird psychotic rabbit cartoon designs you can’t face looking at etc) and then, when the time comes, you bundle up all your kid’s things and pass them on to a friend with an appropriately aged child. Never, though, has this game seemed quite so absurdly funny as it has these last couple of months.

I have multiple streams of incoming clothing – two friends with boy and girl combos just slightly older than my two, two friends with girls the same age as my boy and boys just slightly younger than my girl, and it’s these last two who have me laughing the hardest. Let me paint you a picture.

One friend, let’s call her Lucy, shows up on my doorstep with four enormous bags. One full of girls’ clothes (age 2-4), one full of girls’ shoes and wellies, two full of baby boy clothes (2 – 4 months). She has a 3 year old girl and my girl has been getting all her old clothes. In return I pass her all The Boy’s old clothes for her baby boy born in May this year.  When he’s finished with those she brings them back to be passed on to my other friend, let’s call her Kate, who has a baby boy born in September.

That’s not the end of it though. Kate has a three year old girl also, so we get all her daughter’s old things for the Girl, too. We also all shared round our maternity clothes as our pregnancies were staggered. Are you following this?  I’m amazed if you are, because it makes my head spin and I’m living it.

So I turned up at Kate’s house triumphantly waving two large bags full of baby boy clothes, full of relief at getting them out of my (tiny) house. She smirks at me and produces a similar sized bag of yet more returned maternity clothes, plus two BOXES of girls’ clothes age 18mo – 3.

So a couple of days ago I decide to go through all these clothes, sorting out what I have, what I’ll keep of The Boy’s for The Girl, what I’ll pass on, what I’ll keep of the new batch of incoming clothes. Here’s a photo of the resultant chaos:

sorting childrens' clothes

You know the really scary thing? That’s not even all the stuff. That’s just what I could fit in the frame! I am not complaining, because in the last 4 years I have had to spend almost no money on children’s clothes, yet both my two are always beautifully dressed, but oh my word – the logistical nightmare of keeping on top of what fits, when, and storing the too-large stuff in a very small house. Well.

If you’re interested I have three super large clothes storage bags and keep everything in those, separated into age groups. These live in top of the wardrobe in The Boys’ room.  I periodically sort through these to make sure I’m only keeping things we will use – if there’re too many things to fit in just those three bags, some of it has to go. It’s the only way to stay on top of things.

I have now identified a boxful of childrens’ clothes, mostly girls’ (as the boys’ stuff is being passed along to friends) that needs a home. I will either give it away, sell it or charity shop it. Part of me hurts at having to let go of the things my babies have worn (I even did a post on the subject) but mostly I am relieved to have the space, both physical and emotional/mental – I‘m done having babies, after all – plus I need to keep paying the clothing karma forward.

Shame my sister isn’t close to having babies yet, I could offload on her! I doubt there’ll be anything left by the time she gets started. Oh well.

What do you do with your old baby things? Is it harder to pass them on if you bought them all new?

NaNoWriMo rides again

So, November is fast approaching, which for some of the foolhardy amongst us (well, it is foolhardy when you have two children and no childcare) means NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. Despite not having taken part in National Novel Writing Month for several years I have participated – and ‘won’ (ie- reached 50k words in a month) before, so I know it’s possible. That was long before children, though, and during a bout of unemployment, so the challenges will be that much greater this time.

I may not complete the challenge. I may only manage a few thousand words. I may be entirely silent on my blog whilst I struggle once more with the fictional word. I will never know until I try.

Things to my benefit – I have far greater life experience now. Nothing like having babies and a run-in with a life or death situation to broaden your horizon. I also have almost no free time, which ought to focus the mind. What is it they say? If you want something done then give it to a busy person? Well I’m busy alright.

Anybody else thinking of taking part?


5 top tips to marriage – advice for a life together

This weekend just gone The Man, The Girl and I were at a wedding. The guest book was a lovely departure from the norm of intimidatingly blank pages and provided a series of ‘prompts’ to answer, with glue dots to attach them and stickers to decorate. I am not very happy with the prompt I chose and the answer I gave. I was tired and distracted with an over-stimulated baby wailing on my back and have been kicking myself ever since. The one I should have answered was “What 3 pieces of advice would you give us for a happy future together”. Well, after 11 years together, seven of them trapped joined in marriage, I’d like to think I have a little bit to say on this topic, so R & K, this blog post is for you…

1 – Always be quick to apologise. Even if you don’t think it was your fault. Even if you were both in the wrong. Take the first step to saying sorry, and you’ll be able to have a real conversation from there and, hopefully, resolve whatever required an apology in the first place. If you’ve married the right person then they’ll apologise too if they were in the wrong.
If you really really weren’t in the wrong then you can still find something to apologise for. Example: “I’m really sorry I started crying and walked away. I just needed some time to calm down. Can we talk now?”

2 – Don’t make unilateral decisions. You were hopefully a team before you got married, but you’re legally committed to each other now and are responsible for each others’ decisions, so make sure you talk about them. I mean, you know, not about whether you wear the blue dress or the red dress to his mother’s party (unless there’s a ‘thing’ with his mum, obvs) but the big stuff like having children, buying a new car or stringing the Christmas tree with white or coloured lights (that’s a big cultural preference y’know. The Man and I still agree to disagree on this).

3 – Have faith in each other.  This is bigger than just trusting each other – that’s only about monogamy. No, having faith in each other is trusting that the other has your best interests at heart and has your back. Having faith in each other means trusting that your spouse is doing their very best, trying their very hardest, even if you feel they’re not entirely doing their fair share.  In return you need to be deserving of that same faith: have your spouse’s best interests at heart and have their back at all times.  Always try your very hardest.

4 – Look after each other. This is a reciprocal arrangement, a little like number 3. If you always go that extra mile to look after them, and they always do the same in return, then both of you will always feel – and be – cared for. Make them that cup of tea, buy them that unexpected present, let them have a lie-in when the kids get you up at 4am.

5 – Have fun together. Life is serious and no-one gets out alive. Take time to be silly together. Have in-jokes, act childish, splash each other in the sea, goose each other, play kiss chase, hold hands. Don’t let the daily grind grind your spirit to dust before your body gets there. Enjoy the life you have together.

marriagetipsThese are the five tips I would give anybody embarking on a life together.  I wish I had written them in that book. On the way home from the wedding I confessed as much to The Man who turned to me with a smile and told me that he had gone back later and written something for a change and which one had he chosen? The three tips: have fun together, be quick to apologise, have faith in each other…

I don’t know if that explains the strong marriage, or is the result of 11 years mind-meld ;-)


What’s on in Oxford & Oxfordshire, Autumn 2015 half-term?

I know many of you, like me, are faintly dreading the coming week and wonder “what can I do with the kids?” Well, Oxfordshire is a veritable smorgasbord of free, cheap and low cost entertainments, both indoors and outdoors. What with The C word (yes, I went there – Christmas) on the horizon, Halloween at the end of the week and fireworks night shortly thereafter there are all sorts of themed activities to do across the county. I’ve outlined a small selection for you below, a gateway if you would, with something to do each day, but most of the venues listed are holding more than one event and it would be worth looking through their sites. Google is also your friend if you’re looking for something in a specific town.

24th October – 1st November – Halloween at Blenheim Palace
A (in their words) “delightfully spooky itinerary of events and activities to entertain your little ghouls during October Half Term”. From ghost trains to pumpkin trails there’s a mix of activities for all ages.

24th October 2015 – Nick Cope’s Songbook
The Story Museum is hosting the lovely Nick Cope again as he regales his audience with songs about Pirates, Poo and Another cup of tea. Do not miss it. (If I wasn’t at a wedding I’d take my own advice)

26th October 2015 – 28th October – Egyptastic at the Pitt Rivers Museum
Come and meet the Pitt Rivers’ Ancient Egyptian mummy and discover more about Ancient Egypt. Make a spectacular amulet.

27th October 2015 – Lino cut relief printing in the woods
Work with  professional printmaker & Oxford University Artist in Residence at Wytham Woods. Sketch from the Museum’s collection to create your print composition. Learn about and try preparing the block, image transfer and carving technique and printing the block. For older children/teens.

27th October 2015 – Owls for October at the Harcourt Arboretum
For younger children – find out about the resident barn owl and get creative with some owl related and Autumnal crafts to make and take home. 

28th October 2015 – Woodland Adventure
An expedition for 5-8 year olds. Use your detective skills to discover our secret destination where we will explore, build and play!

28th October 2015 – Advent at the Arboretum
Forget Halloween – it’s all about Christmas here. Get ready for advent with some seasonal crafts.  Collect natural materials to make a wreath and tree decorations.

30th October – 1st November 2015 – Trick or Treat at the Oxford Castle
A ghoulish line-up of inmates will be locked up in the old cells of Oxford’s former prison this Halloween to put the fun and frights into trick or treating at Oxford Castle Unlocked.


mat leave header

10 things you really need to do once you’re on maternity leave, but before giving birth

Congratulations mum-to-be! You look great, really. Are you enjoying maternity leave? Not long until the baby arrives now, right? Well, maybe. He might come early, you might be hanging around for three weeks more than you thought. Whichever it is would you allow me to offer a little advice? These are things I want to say to every first-time mum when she announces she’s off on mat leave or approaching her due date, but often can’t because, you know, people don’t like being given advice out of the blue. But you’re looking for suggestions, aren’t you? Looking for what to do while you wait? That’s why you’re here. That makes you a captive audience so allow me to get this off my chest! Hurrah!maternityleave2

1 – line up breastfeeding support
Ok, maybe you’re not planning on breastfeeding, or there are medical contraindications in which case skip this one and go right to number 2. The majority of mums, however, are probably planning to breastfeed so do yourself a favour – get the information lined up now. Read up on it  for a start – ‘The Food of Love‘ is a fab book – lighthearted, funny, very very informative.

Research some support groups you can go to – the last thing you want to do is try to find out about these at three in the morning when you’ve been struggling all night and want to go talk to somebody. Try the La Leche League, Baby Cafe, your local maternity unit. Whatever is available. You can even go before you have the baby, that way it’s already a familiar environment that you’ve experienced before you’re sleep deprived, hormone-riddled and lugging a new baby and all their crap around with you.

And make a note of this: The national breastfeeding support helpline. Open between 9.30am and 9.30pm it is a fabulous resource.

2 – read up on the fourth trimester 
This is the period of time right after a baby is born when, in all other mammals, they should still really be in your womb, but have had to be evicted before their head got so big they wouldn;t fit through your pelvis. If you know all about it then you’ll be more inclined to accept some of the newbrn behaviour and just roll with the punches, rather than trying to get a totally dependent newborn to fit to a ‘routine’ just because your mother has been guilting you about what they did ‘when you were a baby’.

Here’s one as a start, and another, but just google ‘fourth trimester’ and you’ll be able to read up to your heart’s content.
3 – read up on ‘going overdue’
There’s a lot of pressure put on women to seek medical assistance when they go ‘overdue’ – but do you know when that is (42 weeks, by the way. NOT simply after your due date), what the risks and benefits are of doing something versus doing nothing, or how you’d feel about undergoing some of those procedures? I highly recommend making sure you’re fully informed of all the ins and outs so that whatever decision you make is an educated one and not a reaction to undue pressure being put on you by someone in a position of authority.
this article is quite helpful

4 – line up a load of DVD boxsets (I’ve made some recommendations in the past)
You spend a lot of time curled up on the sofa when you have your first baby (not so much with subsequent kids but oh well). Do yourself a favour and buy in some boxsets, subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Fire or NowTV. You’ll thank me later.
5 – join an online ante-natal group
Go to Mumsnet, Netmums, wherever. Find other mums due the same month. Talk anonymously, migrate to Facebook. Whatever you do you will be so grateful to have all these other women to go through it with you – the late pregnancy insomnia, the birth, the feeding issues, the late night/midnight/early morning feeds, the weaning, the walking, the potty training…
I’m still in my group from The Boy, it’s been more than four years now and we’ve seen each other through so much. Second and third babies, divorces, mental health issues, cancer, fertility issues, terrible twos, threenagers – I can’t tell you.  This is solid gold, diamond encrusted advice. Take it.
6 – book lots of exciting activities to do
Nothing worse than waiting around for that baby to arrive. Book things to do every day so you’re not just twiddling your thumbs and waiting. Far better to have to cancel stuff.
7 – get a massage or some chiropractor/osteo treatments.
This is not just in the name of self-indulgence, although this might be your last chance for a while. No. A good osteo-type treatment will help open up your sacroiliac joints helping prepare your body for labour and improving the likelihood of a straightforward birth.
8 – take some photos of yourself
I was inspired to take some photos of my mega bump one morning, not knowing I’d go into labour that night. I love being able to put the photos of my bump and my baby together knowing there was only 24 hours between them.
9 – find/go to baby groups
As with the online groups – friends in similar situations are what will get you through those early days and, as with the breastfeeding support groups, it’s much easier to go into those situations as a sleep-deprived, vulnerable new mum if you’ve been before and sussed out the parking, the location, the cost, the tea/coffee etiquette etc
10 – learn how to use all the stuff!
Do you know how to fold and unfold the buggy? Fix the car seat into the car? Run the steriliser? Swaddle a baby? Change a nappy? Do NOT let your first try at these complicated skills be when you have a newborn SCREAMING at you. I speak from bitter experience.
Also – find places for all the stuff to live, otherwise you’ll suddenly have to frind home for baby bouncers, moses baskets and god knows what else all in one hit.

Bonus tip! – read all the stuff! Here are some of my suggestions/recommendations for really useful reading while you still have the time and brainspace to do so – enjoy! I may do a whole post on this if my list gets any longer, but for now…

The thinking womans’ guide to a better birth,

Gentle birth, gentle mothering,

Bump: How to make, grow and birth a baby