Tuesday, 30 October 2012

This week: Halloween

Tomorrow is Halloween and we have been thinking and preparing for it on and off for the past couple of weeks. Now my son is almost four, it's a bit more exciting for him and us! This year we will be taking him trick or treating for the first time. We are going with a few others in our new neighbourhood so it should be fun.

We've carved a couple of pumpkins at home and even branched out this year with a bat shape on one. Continuing the bat theme, we made this simple but effective egg box bat bunting (we just did bats, not ghosts). While we left the paint to dry on the bats, we took a walk in our local woods to look for bats or bat boxes which they apparently have up in some of the trees. We didn't see any but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless playing in the leaves, throwing piles of them in the air which made my one-year old giggle and my son also collected big sticks to make a 'bonfire'.

Do you have plans with your children this Halloween? What will they be getting dressed up as?
photo credit

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Number two is one!

Baby number two will be one later this week! My little baby daughter has brought unimaginable joy to my life. She's also given me a new perspective on my son who has really proved to be the perfect big brother and continued to make my husband and I so proud of how well-behaved, kind and caring he is.

It has been an interesting year watching my daughter grow and develop, going through all the first steps, remembering how exciting the smallest things are when a baby is doing them for the first time. She has similarities to my son but also many differences and I often wonder if they are a result of being a second child or of being a girl. I guess I will never really know for sure!

When my son turned one, I wrote a post about what I had learnt during my first year of motherhood. For my first year as a mother of two, I will share some general observations from my experience of  two children:

The older sibling is adored by the younger one. They can do no ill in the eyes of their younger sister or brother and it is a lovely sight to see their faces light up around them or to watch them follow them and try to copy their every move.

The younger child gets less attention. Everything you hear is true, you don't have the time to take them to all the playgroups and activities you did with your first born. They pretty much have to fit in around the older child's schedule. Maybe this is less the case with a closer age gap than my two...

Parenting two (or more) children is bit like juggling. Sometimes all the balls fall to the floor, sometimes you keep them all up in the air. Balancing the needs of each child is not always easy and some days you do a better job of it than others.

Your time feels very stretched. I often wish I could spend more quality time with each child but between mealtimes, naps, nursery, play dates and household chores, it's a real challenge setting aside that individual time.

Illnesses stick around a lot longer. The older child picks something up from nursery and it's usually impossible to prevent the younger one getting it. Then sometimes the parents get it. Sometimes the recovered older child picks something else up and at times it feels like you're never going to escape the chain of illness. Having an extra person in the family adds to the 'recovery time' for the whole family.

It's hard to remember what it was like with only one child. Maybe that sounds silly but it's amazing how quickly your bigger family feels like it was always that way.

Your expectations can change for the older child. Sometimes I realise I'm expecting a bit much from my son now he's the big brother and have to remind myself he's still only very little himself. You want to make them feel mature on the one hand but you also want them to feel comfortable being a bit helpless and vulnerable at times, as all children are.

The hard work is more than worth it. Despite the days when I am tearing out my hair and counting down the minutes to the children's bedtimes, I am happy to report those days are few and far between overall. Not a day goes by when I don't think about how lucky I am to have these two beautiful, loving children who make me laugh, make me feel proud and bring genuine happiness to my life.
photo credit

Thursday, 18 October 2012

6 things to try before reaching for the chocolate

These past few weeks, I've been struggling to get through some days without something sweet - chocolate, biscuits, cake.... I know something has to be done when it gets to the point of feeling like I need it to get through the day. It's a matter of getting out of the habit, re-programming and actively adopting / resuming healthy eating, exercise and a healthy lifestyle in general.

Often our desire for something sweet comes from tiredness, debydration, boredom or inactivity and it's therefore easy to take steps to rectify the source of our sweet cravings. Here are 6 things to try before reaching for the chocolate / cake / biscuits:
  1. Drink some water. Have a big glass right on the spot. I was reading recently we should ideally sip water throughout the day rather than drinking a big glass here or there. If we're not drinking water regularly though, chances are we are dehydrated and need a big glass or two at that moment. 
  2. Exercise. Go for a brisk walk around the block or if you are tied to the house with a sleeping baby or whatever, then run up and down the stairs a few times, do some jogging on the spot, some star jumps  / jumping jacks. It will invigorate you.
  3. Do a task. Tell yourself you need to do something to 'earn' your treat. Busy yourself with something active like a cleaning job, hoovering, a bit of gardening.
  4. Distract yourself. Make a phonecall, write an email or a letter, tidy up a pile of paperwork, update your calendar, start preparing a meal, invite a friend over, do a niggling task you've been procrastinating on like working on a photo album, clearing out some stuff.
  5. Eat something healthy. Rather than going for the biscuit, chocolate or whatever, first eat something healthy. Try a handful of nuts and seeds, a piece of fresh fruit or a slice of wholegrain toast spread with something savoury.
  6.  Have an early night. This clearly is not something to try at the moment you are reaching for the chocolate but I felt it needed to be included! If we're tired, our energy levels and our willpower are affected during the day. Getting enough sleep is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. If it's not easy to make yourself go to bed early, schedule it in at the beginning of the week. Choose one or two evenings in the week ahead when you must be in bed by 9pm (or whatever time you feel works for you) and stick to it! 
In an ideal world, trying some or all of the above will help you resist the urge for the chocolate / cake / biscuits and the more you resist, the weaker the cravings will become. By incorporating healthy habits like drinking enough water, getting enough sleep and actively making healthy food choices on a regular basis, you won't need the sweet fix to get you through the day.
What is your sweet vice and how do you deal with it if you ever feel like it's getting the better of you? Can you add to the tips above?
photo credit

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

This week: appreciating autumn

The arrival of autumn is a time of year I love. There's a novelty about the cooler temperatures that makes me enjoy getting cosy, cooking warming soups and dressing in big jumpers.

The falling leaves with their changing colours and crisp texture under foot never cease to delight me. Our nearest green space since moving house is now a woodland area and seeing all the trees amidst a new carpet of orange/tan leaves is a beautiful sight to behold. I can only imagine how much more enchanting it will look later this month as the pace of falling leaves picks up.

October is the month of pumpkins, Halloween and also a new birthday to celebrate in our family, as my daughter will be one next week! It's definitely an enjoyable time of the year for me. How about you - are you embracing the arrival of autumn or for you is it just the beginning of the long cold dark months ahead?

I'll leave you with a couple of previous autumn-related posts from Mummy Zen that you might like to re-read:
3 easy autumn crafts for toddlers
10 indoor activities for toddlers
Embracing the seasons
photo credit

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

My go-to baby balm for soft smooth skin

I'm not one to write about any kind of product and let me start off by saying, I'm not receiving any freebies or perks for the recommendation I am about to write. However, I felt compelled to share something that has really worked wonders on my baby daughter. I didn't know about it or use it four years ago with my son but now it has become my go-to magic potion for any kind of skin issues!

Both my children suffered from cradle cap as young babies and my daughter had quite a severe case. I tried a few products, always trying to stick to the most natural to avoid subjecting her delicate scalp to any harsh chemicals. I was online shopping at Content one day and decided to pick up a tube of Suvana Paw Paw and Honey Balm.

I used some on my daughter's cradle cap and it proved to be very effective in softening and loosening the flaky skin and leaving the underneath skin smooth and soft. Maybe it was coincidence and she was growing out of the cradle cap anyway, but it quickly cleared up. However, every now and then she will get a little bit of cradle cap reappear. I only have to apply a bit of the paw paw and honey balm at bedtime and in the morning her head is clear of it.

I've since tried it on nappy rash and again found it to be very quick in relieving the sore red area. I will also apply it to random dry patches of skin. As we get into colder weather, I think it will be especially useful to have on hand.

I will say it is very sticky stuff. It has honey in the title and is a bit like applying honey! I therefore tend to apply it at night time to any visible areas so that it has a long spell to soak in. By morning there is no sticky residue.

Suvana paw paw and honey balm is made from 100% natural and organic ingredients. It's good value, with only a small amount needed for any application. It's quite a small tube but lasts a long time and is also a handy size for carrying around or travel. If you struggle with treating cradle cap, dry skin, nappy rash or any other skin issue with your child (or yourself of course), I would urge you to give the paw paw and honey balm a try.

What is your go-to product for keeping your child's skin in tip-top condition?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Note to self: practise what I preach!

How often do you think to yourself that you should really know better? I've been thinking that lately in regard to a few things. It feels even worse to me when I know I've written a blog post about it, as I should definitely practise what I preach!

I'd barely been drinking any water lately and I remembered my post on the simple way to drink enough water each day. I've since made an effort and almost immediately felt better for getting more water in my body. A recent bout of colds with both children reminded me of heeding my own advice in When your child is unwell: 10 tips. I had a brief lie-down one day when my son was at nursery and my daughter was sleeping and even though I didn't sleep, just taking a moment to rest really recharged me.

Then there are the days when I know I need to calm down, step back and breathe! Sometimes I could do with following the suggestions in my Quick-fix Calming Techniques. I find that deep breaths and distracting myself with something completely different really helps.

I am sure I could think of other examples of where I really know better but I allow laziness or some other reason or excuse to take over.

Are there any recent situations when you have thought to yourself that you ought to know better and practise what you preach?
photo credit

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Children's birthday cakes

Now we are into chilly autumn, it's time for me to start thinking about birthdays for my two children. My daughter will be one later this month and my son will be four in early December. My daughter's birthday celebration will be a very simple, very small gathering of friends at home so not much to think about except for the cake. I do enjoy the fun and challenge of making a nice birthday cake.

For my son's three previous birthdays I made a teddy bear, a train and animal mini-cupcakes. We have yet to decide on what his will be this year but he has mentioned a pirate ship and also pointed out a very complicated looking Noah's ark!

I have used the Kids' Birthday Cakes (Australian Women's Weekly Essential) book and then recently bought 50 Easy Party Cakes. Both have a good range of types of cakes for boys and girls and easy to follow instructions for more amateur bakers like me! My only slight gripe with the Australian Women's Weekly book is that a lot of the decoration of the cakes depends on Australian sweets that can't be found over here. You can usually get by or improvise so it's not a big deal.

My mother always made lovely cakes for my birthdays. A hedgehog and a merry-go-round specifically stick out in my memory. She is my other source for ideas ;-). I do like having the books for inspiration even if I don't always follow their design exactly. It's also nice to look through them with my son and for him to point out cakes he likes the look of to help me decide on what to make for his birthday.

Do you make birthday cakes for your children or do you prefer to not have the stress of making it yourself?! Any favourite cakes from your childhood or that your own children have had for their birthdays? Any other books you would recommend?