27 September 2016

You know you are a blogger when....

I have now been blogging for over two and a half years although it does not seem that long at all. There are some things that as a blogger you do that other people do not and therefore you know you are a blogger when....

You are on first name terms with the postman
There are regular deliveries of parcels arriving at your address, things to review and blog related stuff as well as the Christmas shopping. The postman knows you on a first name basis, he knows what time of day you will be in and pops back with your things when he knows you will be back from the school run/toddler group/Tesco, he almost knows your schedule as well as you do. The postman also brings you parcels from all over the street as he knows you will take them in because the neighbours take in just as many for you.

.....but it is not just the postman, you recognize the faces of the most common delivery drivers and know who they work for, you even recognise the car of the lady from Hermes as it pulls up outside your house, and even she knows the best time to call!

No one touch that parcel 
Everyone in the house knows not to touch the parcel that has just arrived, the Little Ones are dying to rip into it and see what it is but they wait while you get out the camera and replace the battery as you need to get the 'opening the parcel' shot. They arrange themselves around the parcel and halt as you snap, then with the product on the table/carpet they back away as they know you don't want them in that particular shot!

Wait for it, go
Once the girl's hair has been tied back so you can see their faces and you have changed their tops with coco pops down the front! They then gets their hands on the goodies inside and are allowed to play with them, while instead of getting down and playing with your children, you stand there with the camera, trying to capture some good pictures of them playing with or using the goods for the all important blog post that needs to follow.

The 'review' pile
You know the one, mine is piled up on the printer in the lounge, there is stuff that is waiting to be photographed and stuff you need the children to try on, wear, play with while you take pictures and other stuff you haven't quite worked out what you are going to do with yet, but you need to write about it and it stays there in that pile until you have done so.

Your children have a photo pose
Your Little ones are a bloggers kids so they know the score, depending on the situation, they either try to look natural and happy while not looking at the camera or they smile and pose while you get that needed shot. Little 1 has a habit of posing whenever the camera is out and I have lost count of the number of times I have said just be yourself and play, this isn't for the blog.
You arrive somewhere for a day out, a trip or a visit and the children immediately stand by the entrance sign waiting for a photo, this pose is also evident as they have a go on the rides, dive into the soft play or peer at an animal. For goodness sake kids, act natural, just have fun and forget I have the camera out, not every photo I take is for the blog, we want some pictures for memories too. 

But then there is 'the shot spot'

Every blogger has 'a spot' you know the one where you stand the children to photograph them, usually it is outside, the blank bit of wall, the garage door, or that lovely bit of flower bed. For us as the garden needs a thorough tidy and there is a window on the garage wall at the front, the front room has to suffice. There is a spot where the light is better and there are no toys, washing, general mayhem in sight within my viewfinder. You get the children to stand there for those clothes shots, the group shot. Even Little 3 knows the score, as soon as the camera is out and one of the girls stands there he is there like a shot, smile plastered on his face, even if I don't need him in it, he loves the camera.

The neighbours must think you are weird
There are constant streams of parcels arriving at your house and half of the ones that the neighbours take in for you have your blog name on the front (at least mine is not too weird). Your children regularly pose against the garage wall first thing in the morning and dressed up in their party clothes before an event. 
They see you take your children across the road for 5 minutes to photograph them jumping in puddles mid-summer in winter waterproofs and 10 minutes later you are crouching down in the grass of the back garden photographing a product with a 'natural' backdrop. The neighbours do not know that you are a blogger as you think they might think you are strange but then they must do anyway!

Your inbox is full of weird and wonderful press releases
You know you have made it as a blogger when everytime you download your email there are at least a dozen emails and most of them are requests from pr companies, press releases, offers of work or other blog related bits. But then there are the weird odd ones, do I want to feature a non slip shower step on my blog or promote the local tile centre sale, when you start getting emails like this your name must be getting round and you can tell yourself you have made it as a blogger. 

26 September 2016

#MaternityMondays 26th September

Welcome to #MaternityMondays 26th September.

This week it is my turn to host so I will be commenting on all your linked posts.

Last week Emma was reading all your posts and absolutely loved Mumma Lambert's post written by her own mother. She say's it is a lovely post and certainly gives a great perspective of parenting on all levels.

Meme and Harri wrote a really honest post worrying whether she can cope with a boy. We think all mothers with one sex of baby worry if they can cope with the other. I certainly did.

So what have you been up to this week? Any #MaternityMonday's babies?

As always, please comment on both hosts' posts and as many of the others as you can.

Grab the badge and tweet us using the hashtag #MaternityMondays and we will share.

23 September 2016

Don't let stress iritate you this National Eczema week

It is that time of year when I notice, Little 1 is scratching again, the backs of her knees and inside her elbows are dry and she has been itching at school, it wasn't that red looking this morning.

Why has it suddenly flared up again? The weather has cooled down and she is still wearing skirts and leggings so it isn't her clothing making her hot and itchy. The heating isn't on so that isn't drying her skin out but she does seem quite tired from being back at school. But come to think of it, my hands are really dry too and beginning to itch but my eczema has been under control for months. 

Going back to school this year has been an adjustment for Little 1, one of her best friends has not returned to her class this year and moved away, and judging by her behaviour is feeling a little stressed. I too am not the most relaxed at the moment, getting three Little Ones ready and the girls at school on time while juggling different pick ups for various after school clubs as well as ensuring both girls are completing their homework can be tricky. 

The makers of AVEENO® understand that at times life can be quite stressful. Taking care of the kids and the household, and having a busy lifestyle can have a big impact on your skin. Stress can exacerbate dry sensitive skin and is also known to cause eczema prone skin to flare up due to the release of the stress hormone, cortisol.

This week is National Eczema Week (17th-25th September 2016) and the makers of AVEENO® have teamed up with Dr Rob Hicks to share some top tips in managing eczema prone skin, stress and anxiety. 

1. Don't suffer in silence- If you are feeling stressed seek support from friends, family or a health care professional.

2. Moisturise frequently- This is essential to manage dry eczema skin to lock in moisture and protect the skin barrier.

3. Regular exercise- It is great for overall health and can help manage stress, release endorphins and helps to improve sleep.

4. Sleep- Aim for 7 hours and moisturise before bed to prevent itching keeping you awake.

5. Try relaxation- Yoga, breathing exercises or meditation can reduce stress.

Little 1 and I both use products from the AVEENO® Sensitive range which are formulated with naturally active colloidal oatmeal. She has the cream on prescription from her doctor and uses it frequently throughout the day and we both use the Bath and Shower oil and the Shower wash too which cleanse and leave the skin hydrated and conditioned. I find both our skin is much less irritated and itchy with AVEENO®, we have been using their products for several years now.

N.B We received a couple of AVEENO® products for Sharing these tips with you.

22 September 2016

Let down by VERTBAUDET, and it is not the first time

Have you heard of the children's wear company Vertbaudet? They are part of a group of several companies but Vertbaudet is the one that sells children's clothes, nursery and Children's bedroom goods.

Recently we have been let down by them, twice and it is not the first time so we have decided to share our experiences with you and let you decide.

This latest order will be our last, I will not be shopping with them again which to be honest is a shame as their clothes are actually quite lovely. We have been ordering from them for the past 7 years since just before Little 1 was born and in that time we have been let down on several occasions with the latest disappointment this week.

All Little 1 wanted for her birthday this year (in 2.5 weeks) was a desk for her room and paper, pens, stickers and other drawing related bits. Daddy and I had already decided that she could do with a desk in her room before she said this and so I was decided, a desk we shall get.

Little 1's room is not huge and with her bed wardrobe, and drawers in there we needed something compact which would replace her toy unit, after looking around online for many evenings and secretly measuring and rearranging her room in my head a hundred times, I found the perfect desk for her from Vertbaudet.

Oh it was gorgeous, small yet large enough to use for study, it was white with a purple fairy silhouette up one side, it had a cupboard for all her paper and pens and 3 cubby holes at the top/back painted inside with pink and purple, perfect for all the stationary accessories we had bought for her, as well as a pink fronted drawer. We knew this desk would look fab in her pink and mint bedroom and at adult desk height we knew she would not outgrow it anytime soon. (I haven't included a picture as I haven't got permission to use one!)

At the time the desk was showing as available early October, just a few days before her birthday so I dropped customer services an email enquiring about the availability of the desk and whether it would be delivered in time. The reply came saying that the desk was available and in stock and would be delivered in their normal delivery window of 5-10 days. 

I popped back on the website later on noticing that it now said 'available' where it had said October before. I ordered the desk and also ordered a matching white chair and a butterfly waste paper bin that would go well in her room.

Fast forward 11 days and apart from an email order confirmation, there was no word about my order, so I logged in and all items were still pending according to my account. The following morning I woke to an automated email informing me that the desk was no longer available and had been cancelled.

Gutted was how I felt, this desk had ticked all the boxes and I knew she would have absolutely loved it, I couldn't wait to see her face when she came home from school and found it in her bedroom on her birthday. The desk was still showing as available on the website so I emailed customer services again and contacted them on twitter (who advised me to email) to try and find out what was happening, this was late Friday morning. 

The thing is that it is not the first time that Vertbaudet have cancelled an item after it had been pending for this length of time, this has happened several times to me in the past. It states on the website that many goods are held in their France warehouse and this is why standard delivery time is much longer than many other companies as they have to be shipped to the UK first. It makes me wonder if items are reserved for UK orders or continue to be sold and shipped in France leaving none left to fulfil UK orders. It seems from my experience that things are suddenly cancelled and become no longer available as the rest of the order is sent to the customer, this has happened to us 4/5 times now.

Over the weekend the desk was still apparently 'available' right up until Monday night when is said 'sold out' (I wonder how many people ordered it in that time and will be disappointed). Tuesday I still hadn't received a reply to my email and the remainder of my order appeared a whole 15 days after placing it (they say standard delivery is 5-7 days if items are available), the chair was fine but the bin arrived completely flattened.

my 'round' bin and the two bags.

I am not surprised it arrived like this as instead of being well packed, it was inside 2 plastic bags, no padding or anything, even a box, just in a delivery bag. Being metal this meant it was ruined and the paint was cracked so I tweeted Vertbaudet a photo and they advised me to email to which I replied I was still waiting on the reply from 4 days previous.

I emailed again also including a copy of the email from Friday, and it was at teatime the phone rang. I had not been expecting a phone call and as I was in the middle of serving up tea with a hungry toddler strapped in the highchair my mind was not really on the call. The man on the phone apologised for the issues and offered to refund me for the bin and send a replacement out too. He also said that as I had tweeted them he had been checking out my twitter profile 'to get a feel of the customer'. Probably wanting to see if I was a serial complainer or something like that, I have never complained about anything before. No doubt he noticed that I was a blogger as it is splattered all across twitter and having noticed a picture I put up of Little 3 pointing at stuff in a clothing catalogue captioned 'choosing his Autumn wardrobe' he offered to send me an item for Little 3 as a gesture of goodwill. I did point out that it was Little 1 who's birthday gifts had been cancelled and damaged and so he said I could chose something for her too.

There isn't much on the website at the moment with it being the sale of summer stuff and too early for the Winter collection and a lot of bits I liked were out of stock in the right size so I ended up choosing a set of long sleeved tops for Little 3 and a nightie/leggings set for Little 1. We shall see whether these items turn up and if the bin arrives in better packaging so watch this space.

19 September 2016

Mummy feels a little lost

Little 2 has now been at school two weeks, I can not believe how fast it is going really. So far she absolutely without a doubt loves it, however when I ask her about her day she says she has done colouring, played in the sandpit, listened to stories and had lunch, oh and judging by the state of her uniform played with black pens and glue! She did say she had learnt how to count backwards from ten though, but she could already do that. I do hope that once they do a little more learning that she will still love it just as much.

The thing is it is all very different at home and it all feels a bit weird and a bit wrong too. Last year Little 2 did 3 full days at preschool so it isn't as if she hasn't been away during the day before but she had 2 days at home with Little 3 and me and it is that which I am missing.

I gave up work after having Little 2 and became a Stay at Home Mum, financially having 2 children at nursery didn't tally and so the decision was made. This means that Little 2 has always been at home with me and much of the time it was just us as her elder sister started pre-school and then school too. 

I would do all the housework and shopping etc with Little 3 when she was at pre-school and on her days off we would have a little bit of a routine. She always asked for a 'hot chocolate' (warm chocolate Nesquik) and a biscuit upon getting home from dropping Little 1 at school. If we were staying at home we would play and do creative things with Little 3 before he went down for a nap. As soon as he was in bed she would get out a disney film and ask to sit and watch it with me or ask to play with playdough or bake, this time was our time, an hour while her brother was asleep twice a week. I miss that hour.

If we were going out, we would usually head to somewhere with a cafe, (more often than not with Nanny as it was her day off too) we frequented the local garden centres and toddler hot spots sometimes venturing into town returning in time for the school run. Nanny and I would chat, and Little 2 was totally happy to sit and do colouring or we would all wander around somewhere outdoors, go for a walk and take in a play park or two. 

Little 2 is now, as of today, full time at school and it just feels quite strange, it is totally different to her being at preschool, now she is there all week. Even with Little 3 running around creating havoc at home, toddler groups and keeping busy with housework (and blogging too) it feels a little quiet at home and I have to admit I am feeling a little lost without Little 2 around.

#MaternityMondays 19th September

Welcome to #MaternityMondays 19th September.

This week it is Emma's turn to host so she will be commenting on all your linked posts.

A great big Thank You to Meme and Harri for linking her post 'I should be a pro at this' detailing her feelings of pregnancy the third time around. The stresses and strains are still much the same even if you have done it all before.

And Thank you also to Naptime Natter who's post tells truthfully the pregnancy essentials that you REALLY need. Having said that, my pregnancy essential was a very large bottle of Gaviscon, I can still remember the heartburn.

As always, please comment on both hosts' posts and as many of the others as you can.

Grab the badge and tweet us using the hashtag #MaternityMondays and we will share.

Have a lovely week.

15 September 2016

A kid with character...Little 3

Look at that scrummy little face, the big smile and the cheeky grin, those eyes that light up and that blonde (ish) curly hair. This little boy (and yes I am somewhat biased) is gorgeous and it doesn't stop there. 

Little 3 has such a lovely character, he is a happy little soul with an abundance of cheekiness too. He smiles and waves at strangers from the pushchair and draws the attention of all the ladies in the post office, we are always being stopped with comments on how happy he is or ones about his hair.

Little 3 will have us in stitches with his infectious giggles as he spins around in circles until he falls down saying 'oops' in the cutest way you can imagine. He will tear around the living room narrowly avoiding corners squealing with delight as he wants us to chase him, peeping out from the curtains and shouting 'boo'. He is almost always happy.

He is so darn clever too. Already at just about 18 months, he will deliberately hide if you ask him to come and have his nappy changed, but he goes and stands behind the net curtain with his back to you where he thinks you can't see him, arms hunched up, giggling quietly. Or if you tell him he can't have something and he will throw his arms out and have a second or two cry and then stand a few feet away with his back to you and he will not come back to you for several minutes until you go and get him or he gets bored and goes off to play.

Last week we went swimming and he wanted to go back in the centre when we had all come out, he stood in the doorway with his back to us, not attempting to run in at all but not wanting to walk away with us either, we said 'bye' and began to walk off, he stood fast and did little steps backwards when he thought we weren't looking. I am impressed by his behaviour and depth of understanding, he is barely even one and a half but acting like a two year old.

This little fella knows what he wants and how to get it, he will fetch his wellies and stand by the back door each morning to water 'his' tomatoes, he will stand by the water butt with the watering can under the tap waiting for you to turn it on, one can full per pot and then he is happy, such a cute little ritual we do together.

He seems to have no fear and bombs around with the girls as if he is as big as them. Football in the garden, no problem. He runs up and down giggling getting in on the centre of the action, if he tumbles he just gets back up. He wants to climb and run with them, sometimes you have to help him do what they do otherwise he will get cross and have a little paddy, he simply does not understand that he is not yet even 2.

He wants to be one of the gang, get in with the games and join in the fun although his efforts are not always appreciated by the girls and we do have to be careful if they are playing with something small as he does still have a tendency to put small things in his mouth.

He wants to make sure he gets the attention too, I was taking those yearly first day at school photos of the girls and along he comes with a big posed smile on his face looking straight at the camera and reversed his little behind in between the girls. Whenever I am taking a picture he does this, he loves the camera.

Little 3 is one of those children who likes his comfort and cuddles, he may be a cheeky chap but he loves his cuddles. Dozens of times a day he will come over arms outstretched saying 'up, up, up'. As soon as you pick him up he goes for the left shoulder, he lays down his head, pops his thumb in his mouth and crawls up on his knees as high as he can get kneeling on my chest where he will stay for ages. I love my cuddles with him, he gives the cutest kisses too.

You can not help but adore him, such a good little boy, he is funny, happy and clever and so full of character. I can not believe he is 18 months old already.

13 September 2016

We took on the Wicked Uncle Challenge..

Are you ever stuck buying gifts for other people's children? I know I get stuck sometimes, a gift for a little girl under the age of about 8 or a toddler boy and I am sorted I tend to know what they like having my own of that age. But when it comes to my 11 year old nephew or a friends 10 year old daughter I am totally stuck. With my thoughts turning to the Christmas shopping I have no idea what to buy for several children. 

I have recently come across the website Wicked Uncle who sell gifts for children, babies right up through to teens and they promise to help you find the perfect gift even if you do not know what you want to buy-yet. We were invited to take the Wicked Uncle blogger Challenge and put this service to the test.

We needed: 
A child to receive a gift (well, the three Little Ones were definitely willing there!)...
A Wicked Uncle (or Aunt, sister, friend etc) who needed help buying gifts for the child/ren, Uncle M (my brother) volunteered for that role...
and one blog to write all about it! Challenge accepted.

Wicked Uncle sent Uncle M a voucher to use on their website to buy the Little ones some super gifts using their service. Then we waited for them to arrive and see whether Uncle M, with the help of Wicked Uncle, had got it right.

Uncle M told us all about the website,
'It was easy to navigate and they came up with some good different ideas for presents that I would not have thought of and I liked that you could search by age, gender as well as a category of interest too.
Quite a few of the products listed for 1/2 year olds said they were not suitable for under 3 years so I had to be careful with what I chose for Little 3. (Little 3 at 17 months still puts a lot of things in his mouth).
You have to pay a flat rate of postage per order (£2.95) so that can make a smaller gift become quite expensive and even if you spend quite a bit you still have to pay postage on top. I did like that you can add gift wrapping or a card to be super efficient when buying a birthday gift though.'

So with the parcel on its way and myself and the Little Ones having no idea what that been chosen, I had a peep at the website and thought what they had listed for each of my children's ages was pretty much spot on, there was loads of stuff they would have liked to receive. 

We didn't have to wait long, the parcel arrived a couple of days later and Uncle M even got an email to say his parcel had been delivered, we invited him around to see the children open their gifts. But did they like them??

Chunky dinosaur puzzle £8.95

Little 3 received a Chunky dinosaur puzzle and you can tell by the look on his face that he was quite amazed. Lovely colourful chunky wooden dinosaurs that fitted into matching spaces and the pieces stand alone too so they can be played with. He loves his puzzle with 'putting things in and out' being one of the things that he likes to do at the moment.

Little 2 received a Beginner's Building Set of Gears and she was pretty impressed, the box was immediately opened and all three Little Ones got busy with that, building and turning the handle to make their creations go around. There was lots in the set so plenty to go around and instructions to make cool things like a caterpillar too. This has been a huge hit and played with on a daily basis by all three particularly Little's 2 and 3.

Beginners set of gears 96 pc £23.00

Uncle M's gift to Little 1 was a Natural History Museum Pocket Microscope, small, light and compact it works just by turning on the light and holding it up close to something so she has been venturing out into the garden and eying up all the creepy crawlies. She also found it fascinating looking at her skin (and scabs eugh!) too. It also comes with a stand and slide to you can use it like that as well.

Natural History Museum Pocket Microscope £11.95

Well Wicked Uncle had some great stuff to chose from and Uncle M got each of the Little Ones something they think is great. Now just to get them to write the little Thank you card that came in the parcel and give him a little surprise back. Thanks Wicked Uncle.

N.B Uncle M was gifted a £40 voucher to use at Wicked Uncle for the purposes of this challenge. All opinions are our (and Uncle M's ) own honest thoughts.