Pets At Home?

A lot of my family members have pets such as dogs and cats. When I was growing up we had a number of them over the years.. Hamsters, fish, birds etc etc. I think it’s an important part of childhood to have something that you are (kinda) responsible for and that you can take care of.

There are lots of benefits to having pets whilst growing up, you can read about some of them on the What To Expect website.

Izzy and Chloe are still too young in my opinion but when they are older I definitely think we will look into having some sort of pet. Hamsters are great but I’m not a huge fan of the smell and the constant scratching around the cage or the squeaky hamster wheel would definitely get on my nerves. After watching my parents struggle with their new dog and spending two weeks looking after my sisters cat – who knew cats pooped so much? I’m thinking that some fish will be our easiest option! At least until they are old enough to take a dog for a walk or empty a litter tray!

I’ve been looking at some pretty amazing fish tanks and aquariums over on the All Pond Solutions website and I’m loving the look of this cabinet tank which looks stylish as well:

IMG_4254.PNG

I already know how much Izzy loves to gaze at the fishies from the hours she spends playing in her grandparents garden and nosing at their pond plus I think there is just something so calming about watching fish swim about. I can always do with a little bit of calm in my life.

IMG_4250.PNG

What kind of pets do you have? Did you have them before having children? Do you think children benefit from having pets?

*Collaborated Post.

Birth Trauma – What is it?

A year ago I had no idea what birth trauma was.

To be honest even a few months ago I had no real idea about what it meant.

I knew I had a traumatic delivery and birth experience with Chloe. But that was it.

I knew how I felt but I didn’t realise that a LOT of other people felt the same way. I didn’t realise I wasn’t the odd one who felt this way. I’ve felt very strange about it all. I have 3 older sisters and a mum who have between them given birth to 16 children – none of them have had dark clouds of anxiety lingering over them and birth flashbacks almost daily. I started to feel it was just me. Maybe I was just weak, a bit useless. A bit of a wimp.

Recently I’ve read lots of articles on birth trauma and it’s a lot more widespread than I thought. I’ve also found that typically birth trauma occurs because of one particular thing which happens during or prior to the birth.

Yes of course birth trauma occurs on a serious level for people who experience stillbirth, health issues with their newborn or themselves which I imagine must be horrific and cannot comprehend how you deal with losing a child or a child having life threatening health issues BUT sometimes birth trauma happens for what others may consider minor reasons. After all birth is on most occasions a painful and possibly scary time so why is my experience any different to anyone else’s? Why was this birth so different to my first child’s birth? They were both hard. Both painful. Both resulted in wonderful and healthy children.

The Birth Trauma Organisation and other websites list the following as causes of birth trauma:

* A bad experience with a care giver or doctor.
* A woman is given an episiotomy without her consent.
* A traumatic or stressful pregnancy
*Not being fully informed of procedures or problems during the birth.
* Feeling out of control during or before the birth.
*Lengthy labour or short and very painful labour
*Induction
*Poor pain relief
*Feelings of loss of control
*High levels of medical intervention
*Traumatic or emergency deliveries, e.g. emergency caesarean section
*Impersonal treatment or problems with the staff attitudes
*Not being listened to
*Lack of information or explanation
*Lack of privacy and dignity
*Fear for baby’s safety
*Stillbirth
*Birth of a damaged baby (a disability resulting from birth trauma)
*Baby’s stay in SCBU/NICU
*Poor postnatal care
*Previous trauma (for example, in childhood, with a previous birth or domestic violence)

Out of the above list of 21 causes I experienced 11.

As you can see there are lots of reasons why it can occur but it can still be incredibly hard to get help or to begin to deal with it.

Doctors don’t seem to take it very seriously and health visitors (mine anyway) barely discussed it with me even though I openly on many occasions told them how I felt.

I had a very stressful pregnancy with a number of problems throughout. I was in hospital most weeks and it was a very scary period of my life. Externally I felt I was dealing with it well at the time but internally I wasn’t at all.

When I arrived in hospital for the last time 4 days prior to the birth I was already a bit of a mess but the beginning of the trauma in my mind was a particularly painful and frightening time with a consultant. She was cold, uncaring and treated me in a harsh way. I won’t go into details as they aren’t pleasant but I was left in a lot of pain and I was so very scared from that point on.

10 months on I think of that moment and I still want to cry. I can feel the pain as clearly as if it happened five minutes ago.

The only thing that has begun to help me is talking about it. With my mum, with Andrew, online friends and with a counsellor. I’ve found websites where people talk about their own experiences which I imagine will help some people but I still find it all a little raw and too hard to read. I can’t watch films with birth scenes and my love of One Born Every Minute has gone forever. I know I could never have another child because I couldn’t face it again.

There are lots of forms of support for people who have post natal depression and rightly so. I have in fact suffered with this myself this time and I’m grateful for that help but I don’t think there is enough support for women who have birth trauma. The repercussions of it being left untreated/not talked about are huge. Even for myself, someone who has openly discussed it I suffer with anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks.

So what can be done?

Talk about it. Blog about it. Raise awareness. If you have it, go and see someone. Don’t let it fester. If someone you know may be experiencing it, go and chat to them. Tell them there are people who can help. Blogs they can read. Websites which offer support.

Above all treat it as you would if someone had an injury. Because that’s what it is. It’s a trauma. An open wound which untreated will not heal. It’s not a silly thing or something to be embarrassed about. It’s serious and life changing. Admitting you have birth trauma does not mean you regret your child being born or that you love them any less.

Dear Izzy

Yesterday you turned 3. I swore I wouldn’t be like everyone else. Getting teary just because you are getting older. Spending far too much of the day reminiscing on your first few days. Looking at newborn pics of you and already dreading that day in January when you start school. But I did all of those things. You are the twinkle in our eyes. The surge of love in our hearts. Last year you were our world. Now you share that with your sister. It was your first birthday where you had to share our attentions as we also looked after your sister but like everything else you took it in your stride. Cuddling your sister when you woke up and telling everyone that your presents were from mammy, daddy AND Chloe. What a day we had.

You are funny and daring
You laugh all day long
You say the craziest things
And sing the best songs

You squeeze us
And kiss us with a smile in your eyes
You are brave
Independent
But still hate goodbyes

You eat so much food
But burn it all off
You are tall
And so beautiful
You make everyone laugh

This year has seen changes
Big ones at that
No nappies
No dummies
And no more cot.

You are a big girl now
I say it almost daily
But deep down inside
You are always our baby

You changed our worlds
In every which way
When you came along
That September day.

I will always be thankful
For that big surprise
You have no idea
What you bring to our lives.

We love you Isabelle. Izzy. Iz. Izzy Whizzy.Busy Izzy. Big sister. Best buddy. Daughter. Granddaughter.

IMG_4236.JPG

A Spot Of Healthy Indulgence With Giovanni Rana

This post is an entry into the Giovanni Rana/Foodies100 competition to win a place on a pasta Masterclass.

We eat a lot of Giovanni Rana pasta in our house. I’m not just saying that, we really do. I tend to buy it whenever it’s on offer in Asda. It’s so quick and easy to make yet also so good that it was a life saver in the first few months after Chloe was born. In fact it was our first meal at home after we returned from the hospital. I normally just cook it as per packet instructions and then toss it in a little olive oil/butter and black pepper. Sometimes I add wilted spinach or rocket or a sprinkling of cheese. It’s delicious.

Inspired by this recipe challenge I decided to do something a bit different with my pasta ..I put my thinking cap on and created this healthy (ish) pasta bake recipe.
Most pasta bakes are laden with cheese or cream and as I’m currently watching my fat intake I decided to try to cut out as much of the fat content as possible whilst still being a tasty dish.

This happened to be made on a (very) rare day when I was lunching alone. Normally I would just have a sandwich or some toast so this was a lovely treat for me. For a meal for two just double the quantities.

Individual Chicken, Bacon and Rosemary Pasta Bake:

IMG_4186.PNG

You will need:

1/2 packet of Giovanni Rana chicken and rosemary large ravioli
3 tbsp natural yoghurt ( I used fat free)
2 tbsp of breadcrumbs – I mixed a little garlic powder in with mine
2 tbsp of bacon lardons or cubed pancetta
A large sprig of rosemary ( 1/2 diced and 1/2 for decoration)
1/4 red onion diced
Knob of butter
A pinch of crush black peppercorns and seasalt

Preheat your oven to gas mark 6. Sauté your bacon, diced rosemary and onions in a large pan. Add your butter and once golden take off the heat. Cook your pasta to packet instructions, drain and place into the pan, mix together and place in a small ovenproof dish. Pour over your yoghurt and top with your breadcrumbs, seasoning and top with a sprig of rosemary.

IMG_4189.PNG

IMG_4188.PNG

IMG_4191.PNG

IMG_4192.JPG

Bake for 15 minutes until the breadcrumbs look golden.

Eat whilst still hot and enjoy.

IMG_4193.PNG

IMG_4195.PNG

The Big Feastival 2014

This was our second trip to visit the home of Alex James and spend a little time playing in his garden. The Big Feastival is a magical weekend and I have to say we enjoyed this trip even more than our first.

IMG_4217.JPG
Having a nearly 3 year old along for the ride as well as 9 month old Chloe just made everything a bit more special. Seeing all that was on offer through their young and excitable eyes was wonderful.

In one short weekend they were able to:

Make necklaces ..from fruit..
Sit on a tractor – a real one.
Ride on a tractor – toy ones.
Hold a chick

IMG_4204.PNG

IMG_4205.PNG

IMG_4206.PNG
Feed a goat
Stroke a donkey
Pretend to drive a car
Watch DJ BBQ rock the bandstand with his set and dance metres away
Make a million new friends

IMG_4207.PNG

IMG_4208.PNG
Watch Justin Fletcher bopping on stage
Watch Mr Bloom singing all about his veggies
Ride on teacups
Eat LOTS of new and exciting food…

And so much more than that. Sounds a bit good hey?

That’s just what she did.

We ( Andrew and I) also ate a lot of new food. Katsu burger anyone? Or deep fried risotto balls? Yum. We drank some totally delicious cider in the wonderfully relaxing Westons Wyldwood cider teepee.

Have you tried Wyldwood cider?

Westons has produced organic cider for over 15 years and Wyld Wood is a brand that comes straight from the heart of our values. It illustrates our deep and on-going passion for good quality cider and our respect for nature and wildlife. It was re-branded Wyld Wood back in September 2011 to emphasise its organic and rural origin. We wanted to refresh the brand so consumers feel more connected with the simple, natural beauty of its origin.

Wyldwood were the official cider of Jamie Oliver and Alex James’ Big Feastival, the family-friendly foodie and musical festival for 15,000 in the Cotswolds, for the second year running (29th – 31st August). The Wyld Wood Cider Bar was located within a cool tepee.

IMG_4201.JPG

IMG_4202.JPG

We both tried our hand at cooking new dishes in the AEG cooking academy:

IMG_4105.PNG

IMG_4106.PNG

We went to coffee and cider master classes and spent an awful lot of time at the AEG big family kitchen.. Izzy playing and me drooling over the state of the art kitchen equipment especially the new ProCombi SousVide cooking system.

IMG_4211.JPG

IMG_4212.JPG

All in all we had an absolute ball and really hope we get to go again next year.

* Thanks AEG and Wyldwood Cider for inviting us on such a fun weekend.

Happy Birthday Mam

It’s my mums birthday today. Mum, mam, mammy, mother, ma. All just words which do not really begin to describe what this woman is to me.

Anyone who knows my mother thinks she is wonderful. And they are right.

She is generous, loving and supportive with seeming endless depths of love.

She has ten children – yes I’m one of ten. Read here for more about that.

She is there for each of us. Whenever we need her and whatever we may need.

She has thirteen grandchildren and treats each one as if it were her first.
We are loved.

Chloe is held and squeezed and kissed as if she were the first baby to be born in our family. She is loved.

Izzy is adored and spoiled and coddled in the way that only grandparents can. She is loved.

My mum does so much for her church, for the community ..for extended family and for friends. She doesn’t ask for anything in return.

The last year has been so difficult but she ( and my dad) have lightened the load in every way they can. From a pile of washing and ironing to Sunday roasts or simply taking the girls for a few hours. It all helps. I actually don’t know what we would have done without her this year.

We are so lucky to have her in our lives.

Happy Birthday Mam xxx

IMG_7613.JPG

My House Is Like A Toy Shop

We have so many toys. So so many.

Izzy and Chloe have 10 older cousins and they gets lots of toys and games passed on – this is great of course. It saves us an absolute fortune and they love them.

But my house well… It’s overtaken. I think I just have to accept that until they are ..teens possibly..that every room has the potential to be a lego foot injury.

Izzy has her favourite toys such as her horses, cars and dolls house. Chloe has her favourites such as her Fisher Price toys which have been passed on from Izzy now that she is a big girl. They have both had hours of fun putting things in and out of the cookie bowl shape sorter and making pretend calls on the chatter phone.

IMG_4200.PNG
It’s Izzys birthday next week and amongst other things I’ve had my eye on this Fisher Price pirate ship that I found on the Tesco website. Izzy loves pirates and boats and toys which have previously been seen as typical boy toys – I’m so glad that gender specific play seems to be disappearing slowly. It’s now not so shocking to see a boy play with a doll or a girl play with a tractor. Yay.

IMG_4199.JPG

Although she would be equally happy with the princess castle I’m sure. Because boy toys or not the girl loves pink. We haven’t encouraged or discouraged it but it’s her favourite colour by far at the moment.

We try not to spoil the girls too much. As much as we love to treat them I just don’t think it’s a great idea to constantly be buying them the latest fad. So typically for Christmas and birthdays we buy one toy type present for Izzy ( around the £20-30 mark) and she will also get something she needs ( clothes normally) and something we like her to have ( books or learning materials) – this is something we hope to continue with Chloe. I guess it’s easy for us to not feel the need to buy much when she gets so much passed on from family anyway.

My lounge may no longer be a calm and serene room and yes I may find the odd toy under my duvet at night BUT I’m learning to embrace the clutter. After all in 10 years time when my children are sat in a world of their own with headphones on, latest gadget in hand I will be wishing that they would ask me to put the pink shoes on the horsey just one more time.

Does your house feel like a toy shop? What are/have been your children’s favourite toys?

* this a collaborative post.

Tefal Cook4Me Review – Part 1

Over the last week I’ve been reviewing a Tefal Cook4Me multi cooker.

What is a Tefal Cook4me?

IMG_4171.JPG

Well it’s a pretty clever cooker:

*50 pre-programmed savoury and sweet dishes with a maximum of six ingredients
*Automatically sets cooking temperature and time
*Cooks with no need for supervision
*Keeps food warm for up to 90 minutes after cooking
*Can be timed to start up to 15 hours in advance
*Easy to clean – the ceramic- coated bowl is non-stick, removable and dishwasher safe

It can currently be purchased from Lakeland at the reduced price of £220 ( normally £249 )

As I said we only received the item last week but we have already used it to make two of the pre set recipes. Firstly we tried the butternut squash soup which was delicious and we all really enjoyed including Chloe who had seconds!

IMG_7383.JPG

IMG_7381.JPG

IMG_7350.JPG

Apologies for the slightly blurry pic of the cooker. It was a very bright day and I struggled to get a good photo in my kitchen but I will get some better ones this week and add them to my next post.

It’s super simple to use with clear instructions on screen telling you exactly what to do. Perfect for newbie cooks or those with a busy lifestyle.

We also tried spaghetti bolognese which turned our fabulously well considering the cooking time is just 16 minutes. It’s a breeze to clean afterwards which is another big perk in my book.

Next week I’m going to try some of their preset desserts and also some of my own recipes in the cook4me and feed back to you on what I think but for now I’m firmly in the loving it camp.

It’s worth being prepared for the massive jet of steam that pours out of the top when the cooking time ends. My daughter compared it to a rocket and loves to watch it :-)

She’s Just A Skater Dude*

Izzy is just started to get into the whole world of skateboards and scooters. Her dad loves skateboards and surfing so I think he would love it if she followed in that hobby…if only so he gets a chance to do it more.
When we first met he would often be popping out skating and he would sometimes bring his skateboard out whenever we went somewhere for a walk.. which often meant me lagging behind! I tried once or twice but as with surfing I’m just a bit useless.

This is Izzy on her first attempt at just 18months old:

IMG_4197.PNG

I can see Izzy being good at it. She’s pretty daring and will try most things and loves to be just like her dad.

Skatehut have a really wide selection of skateboards and scooters on their website to suit most tastes. We have been taking a look at possibly starting Izzy out with a scooter for her birthday next week and maybe a skateboard for Christmas.

As with any kind of sport it’s worth looking into getting protection such as knee and elbow pads as well as a helmet for your children. While they may not think it looks quite so cool it’s definitely needed with the amounts of knocks and bumps they are likely to get.

If you have children who are interested in the skating scene why not try looking out for your local skate park. We have two quite close to us that we hope to take Izzy to soon. Mainly for her to watch all that goes on rather than participating. She is only 3 ( well nearly) years old you know!

If your child is a little too small for skateboards or traditional scooters I found these pretty cool ride on scooters on the SkateHut site which enable your toddler to sit on the scooter until they are ready to scoot :-)

IMG_4198.JPG

Does your child like any adventurous sports?

Nine Months Later..

It’s been over 9 months since I gave birth to our daughter Chloe. It’s a bit of a cliche I know but it really has flown by.

Aside from the updates and developments which I will share with you as they happen I thought I would tell you how my life is 9 months after a traumatic birth.

Yes. It was a truly incredible day. The day that our second daughter arrived in the world and obviously one of the most important days of my life.

It was also one of the worst. I think it’s a good thing that I am finally ok with saying that.

For a long time I felt guilty, embarrassed and just really selfish to think that way about the day of Chloe’s birth. But it’s not her fault. Or my fault. I love her very, very much. In fact this is really not about her at all.

The days around her birth and the days after are a blur. Some days I can think about it clearly and other days the thought of it makes me want to sit and cry.

Last week I had a nightmare with flashbacks from the birth for the first time in quite a while and it was so real once again. Since then I feel like a bit of a dark cloud is hovering over my head. I know by next week I will feel ok again but when will it stop completely? Soon I hope.

A lot of people don’t really understand what a traumatic birth is. They may that assume my life was in danger or that my baby was seriously ill and whisked off to intensive care as soon as she arrived.

It was none of those things. In fact in many ways things went well.

In many ways it also didn’t.

Like in my head and how I felt so completely out of control.

And why I still hate that fact.

9 months on I still have nights when I lie in bed and remember something new that happened during labour. Something the midwife or my mum or OH said to me or something I tried to say in return. Something I thought or something I felt.

It’s annoying and to a point a bit embarrassing.

I’m a grown woman. Women are supposed to just deal with childbirth. Yes it’s hard. Yes it’s painful but it’s what we do, our bodies were built for it.

I still feel ashamed for feeling this way.

I’ve finally been proactive in that I have chased up my therapy appointment and also went to see my GP on Friday, he suggested medication as I imagined he would but I am hoping that if I can get an appointment for counselling sometime soon it’s possible I can avoid that. If not then perhaps medicine is a route I will have to take in order to feel better.

Accepting that I have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and also possibly post natal depression is very hard. I feel like a failure almost. I want to be the happy me. The laid back me. The person I know who is still inside but for some reason is being overshadowed by all of this. When will I see her again?