Sunday, 27 March 2011

Better in Britain- Guest Post over on Transatlantic Blonde

As an extra treat for today, I'm being featured as a guest poster over on Transatlantic Blonde .  I have been following Blondie for a couple of years now, so needless to say I was quite excited to be able to contribute!  So head on over and check her out!  Like me, she's an American expat raising a little boy in the UK, but there's more to her blog than the usual mommy stuff.  Enjoy!

Whenever I get into a discussion with a stranger over here (and it happens a lot- friendly American that I am) there’s almost always a moment, about 45 seconds into the conversation, where they realize that I’m not a wayward tourist, but that I’m actually choosing to live in Britain.  In Wales for that matter.  Why?  They’ll ask, why in the name of Tom Jones and all that is holy would we live here when we could live there?  I get it, or at least I think I do, if all you know of a place is what you’ve seen on holiday or in the movies, it’s bound to look more fun/glamorous/exciting.  I mean, if someone I knew married Mickey Mouse I’d be shocked if they didn’t choose to live at Disney World.  But, while there would certainly be some advantages to upping sticks for America, there are a few things that I think are much better in Britain and that I would definitely miss should we ever move....   Keep reading!  Find the rest of this post over at Transatlantic Blonde  

Real Easy Nappy Review and Giveaway!

I don't think I've really discussed in much detail here that we are a cloth nappy family.  The decision to cloth diaper was one that we made before Iwan was born, and we have learned so much about it in our first year as parents.  Our decision was made on two factors:  Financial and environmental.  I love the fact that cloth diapering both saves money and saves us from sending piles of disposables to the landfill.

A year in, we're in a nice little groove with our nappy routine, we know which types of nappies best meet our needs, and easily field questions from interested but uninitiated friends and family.  But we have come to recognize that this nice little routine will be shaken up in a few months when we add another baby in cloth to the mix.  As you can imagine, I've become interested in reaching out of my fluffy comfort zone and trying new nappies.  And while I've never found cloth diapering to be much extra work, anything to help streamline things is great!

In my first year as a mother, I've found the company BabyKind to be super helpful!  They offer all sorts of great natural baby products, and a wonderful selection of cloth nappies.  I also love that they're a small company based in North Wales, as Gez and I prefer to support local businesses when we can.  So I was very pleased when BabyKind offered to send us two of their Real Easy all-in-one sized nappies to try out, one with a PUL shell, and another with a plush (and adorably spotty!) minky shell.  Admittedly, I have never been much for all-in-one nappies so I was a little skeptical of the claims that the Real Easys dried quickly on a line.  Like many British families, we live without a tumble dryer, so we tend to go for pocket nappies, where the shell and absorbent insert can be separated for faster drying.  But with an open mind, I was ready to put the Real Easys through their paces!

Real Easy AIO nappies- size medium, in Blue Dot minky and Seaspray PUL

Like my super fancy backdrop?  I promise I do own an iron- I just thought the wrinkles gave it an "arty" look... 

After a couple weeks of testing, during which time Iwan diligently gave these nappies the best he had, we have to give the Real Easy a big thumbs up!  The pictures above were taken after more than two weeks worth of heavy use and washing, and it's easy to see how well they've held up.  The soft fleece lining is still fluffy and snowy white, with only the expected amount of pilling.  The colors have stayed vibrant despite days of line drying (we've had lovely stint of sunny weather here in North Wales), and the minky outer is still as soft as the day it arrived.

I loved the way these fit Iwan.  The Real Easys are sized, which I know many people prefer, but I tend to go for one size nappies because I think they tend to be better value for money.  I've gotta say, these were a good deal trimmer than our normal one size pockets.  The rise did seem a bit low to me when I first put them on Iwan, but we never had any leaks or blowouts so it was fine.

And let me tell you, the Real Easys were really put through the ringer:  In a bad mommy moment, we were caught out of the house for a whole afternoon while Iwan was wearing the PUL Real Easy.  In my rush to leave the house I had neglected to check if the changing bag was fully stocked.  It wasn't.  So as much as I hate to admit my mistake, my little boy was in this nappy for much longer than he should have been.  When we got home, I was expecting to have a full-on laundry emergency, but nope, not a leak in sight!  Definitely impressive.

I also wanted to give the Real Easy's a whirl for night time.  Iwan is only a moderate wetter, so I was fairly confident that they would be fine.  Our normal night time diaper consists of a one size pocket stuffed with a microfiber insert and two microfiber boosters.  The directions that came with the Real Easys suggested also adding additional stuffing for night time, so I followed the advice.  In order to see if the Real Easy could beat our normal pocket dipe for night time, I used only one booster (a BumGenius microfiber booster pad, if you're interested).  It made for a much trimmer fit under Iwan's jammies, and after 12 hours of sleep we were leak free the next morning.  If your baby is a heavy wetter you would probably need to add a bit more, or use a more absorbent hemp or bamboo booster.

The claims of fast drying held up too.  These nappies took no longer to dry than the microfiber inserts I usually use with my pocket diapers.  Again, quite impressive.  Although, I still enjoy that with the pocket you have the versatility of using the shells (which dry super quickly) with additional dry inserts if need be.  You lose out on this with an all in one, but in reality I have enough nappies in my stash that I never need to do this anyway.  For someone just building their stash, it could be something to consider.

All in all, I really liked the Real Easys, and they've become a useful component in our cloth diapering routine.  Because they're so foolproof, they'd be great to send along to nursery, and perfect for someone making the switch to cloth diapering.  I do wish that they came with an option of a hook and loop closure, and not just snaps, but that's a purely personal preference.  This is a great diaper, and it really is "Real Easy."

Now for the fun part!


BabyKind will be giving away a free MINKY Real Easy all-in-one nappy to one of my lucky readers.  The winner will be able to choose the size and color/pattern.

The best part is, BabyKind has kindly (hehe, get it?) offered to ship the prize anywhere in the world, so this giveaway is open to everyone!!  Here's how to enter (both steps must be completed in order to win):

1.  Follow my blog publicly and comment that you do (or that you already do).

2.  Go on over to BabyKind's website and have a browse of all of their amazing products.  Leave a separate comment saying what product you'd like to try (it doesn't have to be nappy related)- they have loads of great stuff!

The giveaway will close on Sunday April 3rd at 9 pm GMT.  A winning comment will be chosen at random, and the winner will be posted here on the blog- be sure to check back to see if you win!

Good Luck!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

This is going to hurt me a lot more than it will hurt you... Lessons in discipline

If I had a penny for every time someone took a look at my son and said "well he's a bruiser!", well, I wouldn't be rich but I might be able to treat myself to an upgrade in popcorn size at the cinema (that is, if we ever had time to go to the cinema), but I digress.  I have a big boy, but for the most part he's a gentle giant.  As one of the youngest in his group of little friends, he's quite happy to watch and learn, and follow the lead of the bigger kids.

Lately though, things have been shifting.  As Iwan has become more active and mobile, he's increasingly intent on exploring.  He not only wants to explore his environment (hey, what will happen if I bang this ceramic elephant on the fireplace hearth?!), but he also wants to explore his ability to effect the world around him (hey, what will happen if I smack this kid in the face?).

While all of this is developmentally appropriate, it's clearly not okay for Iwan to go around smacking kids in the face.  Especially because, the favored variant of this game is "what will happen if I smack mommy in the face/pinch her neck/bite her arm?"  Again, not okay.

Bolstered by advice from other mom friends, we tried redirecting (I don't know how many times I've used the phrase "no, gentle, nice!"), putting him down for 30 seconds (yeah, he didn't care), and many other gentle techniques.  The hitting still continued, so clearly he wasn't seeing a connection between his behavior and the consequences, or the consequences didn't really bother him.  Methinks it was the latter.

I struggled with what to do.  In my former life as a teacher, discipline always seemed to work best if it was a logical response to the behavior, a learning opportunity.  This philosophy is one I hope to extend into my parenting, but maybe this time I just needed to take a hard line and nip things in the bud.  It became increasingly clear that this was necessary after this weekend when Iwan not only smacked his older (and bigger!) cousin in the face, but also managed to pull his hair a couple of times (in Iwan's defense, his cousin does have some awesome curly hair, and I think he just wanted to get his hands into all of that goodness).  I don't want my son to be a bully, or the mean kid.  I don't want him to think that aggression is the proper outlet for feelings of frustration, curiosity, or excitement.

And so the next day the two of us were playing at home.  He stopped in the middle of our game of rolling a ball, looked at me intently (I could see the decision in his eyes), reached out and smacked me hard in the face, keeping his eyes on me to gauge my reaction.  I leaned over until my face was level with his and firmly said "No.  No hitting."  His eyes widened in shock, and then his face crumpled.  He erupted in tears, and cried for all he was worth.  While we have certainly told Iwan "no" before, I think this was probably the first time he understood that I was unhappy and what he had done was unacceptable.

It didn't feel great.  I was quite tempted to sweep my baby up in my arms and calm his tears.  But then I thought that this is one of those times that being a good parent isn't so fun, and to undermine the standard that had just been set would only make things more difficult for the both of us in the long run.  After waiting a short time, I picked him up said something I can't even remember about being gentle, and distracted him with a new activity.  This was a few days ago and there has been no hitting since.  Or, no aggressive hitting I should say.  A couple of times he has hit me playfully, looked at me gravely, and then shook his head "no."  As if he's saying that he knows it's wrong to hit.  I really hope this is one of the first steps of Iwan learning to explore his world carefully and gently, as he learns to reconcile those (sometimes overwhelming) feelings of curiosity, excitement, and frustration with the feelings of others.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Gourmand

When we eat out at as a family, I have two criteria when ordering food for my son:  It has to be non- messy and it has to be pretty cheap (this might make me sound like a mean mom, but I don't want to wince every time he throws something on the floor.  That would be a lot of wincing).  So we tend to steer clear of tomato sauce, baked beans, barbecue sauce and the like.  Iwan's restaurant meals tend to be relatively beige and practical for now.  This is okay because a.) we don't eat out very often; and b.) Iwan gets lot of messy, fun, colorful food at home.
Well, we happened to go out for lunch today during a day out in Chester.  We ordered Iwan some very beige and practical cheese on toast, which he loves.  There was no cheese on toast listed on the kids's section of the menu, so I asked Gez to make it clear that it was for a baby when he was at the counter ordering (in the hopes that they would give us a smaller portion and charge a bit less).  Apparently the message didn't get through because the server eventually brought out a small pile of cheese on toast, accompanied by some lettuce, tomatoes, and a bulgur wheat salad.  Hmmmm.
Iwan happily tucked into his toast, and I tasted the bulgur salad.  It was really nice.  Quite delicate and zesty, dotted with colorful corn, beans, and red onion.  I shrugged and decided to see if my little boy would taste it.  I put a little on a fork and he obligingly opened his mouth and tasted it.  He chewed thoughtfully for a couple of seconds, and then his eyes lit up and he smiled.  And proceeded to eat up every bite of that bulgur.  I'm not sure why I was really surprised.  He's never been a picky eater.  One of his favorite foods right now is mushrooms, which he'll pick out of his food and gobble up before anything else.  I guess I just assumed that bulgur wheat salad is a very adult taste, and since it's not something you'd normally see a child eat, my child probably wouldn't like it.  But the thing is, nobody's told him he shouldn't like it, nobody's ever restricted him to the children's menu, which means he's able to make up his own little mind about what he likes and doesn't like.  And apparently one of the things he likes is bulgur wheat salad.  Okay then.
I couldn't help feeling just a little proud of my adventurous little eater.  When we put him back in his stroller after lunch, I passed him a bit of a baguette to nibble on.  He looked like a little foodie, relaxing back and casually biting chunks out of his bread as we strolled along the River Dee.  Not to mention that I had managed to put on both sunglasses and a necklace before we left (the idea of accessorizing, sadly, doesn't often make it into my brain space these days), so I fancied we made quite the striking mother-son pair, what with baguette and accessories and everything (yeah, yeah, laugh it up).
Behold the baguette

Emboldened by Iwan's adventure with the bulgur wheat, we decided to serve up some cous cous with roasted vegetables for dinner tonight.  We watched eagerly as Iwan picked up a bit of roasted butternut squash and conveyed it into his mouth, just knowing that his sophisticated little palate was going to sing with joy at it's taste.  Yeah, he spat and sputtered and scraped it off his tongue, as if we'd given him rotten cod liver oil.  He then spent the next half hour happily throwing handfuls of cous cous over the side of his high chair.  Kids are fickle.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Desperately Seeking Sunshine

Ever notice the effect that the slightest hint of a nice day has on people in March?  It's as if, by this point, we're so desperate for any sign of Summer that we're willing to to great lengths to pretend it's actually July.  We had a gorgeous day here last week.  The kind of day that made me want to open every window in the house, turn on some samba music, and whip up a big pitcher of sangria.  Apparently it was a beautiful day the length and breadth of Wales, because I heard from my sister-in-law that the university students in Cardiff could be seen making their way to the city's green spaces, dressed in shorts and flip-flops, and setting up barbecues.  Doesn't that thought just make you happy?  I mean, if we're being realistic, shorts and flip flops are probably pushing it, but we're talking about students here.  Students have a heightened sensitivity to the arrival of Spring, so seeing several of them draping themselves languidly over the park grass, sunglasses in place, and red plastic cup in hand, is as much a sign of coming warm weather as a robin pulling a worm from the garden.
So the report of students starting their migration this year was welcome news in our house.  We're feeling ready for some sunshine.  Apparently, however, the temperature in North Wales was not quite as balmy as in Cardiff, because there was still a bit of a chill in the air, which meant Iwan and I could not yet lie languidly in the garden soak up the rays.  The sangria would have to wait (several years in his case, several months in mine).  Luckily though, our house is equipped with a wonderful in-between option:  The conservatory, or a sun room for you Americans.  Since we moved into our house in late November, we hadn't been able to properly use this space.  It's main job until recently was to hold unpacked and broken down boxes, Christmas  wrapping, and various bits that needed to be taken to the garden shed.  However, being not that far removed from students ourselves, our springy-senses were a-tingling last weekend, and so we my husband spent the better part of Saturday tidying the place up.  The man was a machine.  He swept up yucky dead spiders (that I had noticed for a month or so but didn't go near because they were scary), mopped, vacuumed, and even scrubbed windows.  With the sunshine streaming through the newly sparkling glass, it was easy to see what a pleasant space this would be for the next several months.
And with that, we've begun our emergence into the sunlight.  Like animals emerging from a den, it felt nice to let the fresh, chilly breeze blow over our skin, whisking away the winter blues with promises of even nicer days to come.  I can't wait for warm summer days, when Iwan and I can play out on the patio or the lawn, while the doors of the conservatory are thrown open, and the new baby naps peacefully (delusional much?) in the moses basket.
We've got our flip flops and sunglasses ready to go!  What are you looking forward to this summer?

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Splish Splash!

As a full-time mom, I confess that I often struggle to think of fun new things to do with Iwan.  We've become pretty permanent fixtures at the playground, library, and various community playgroups.  But sometimes I get the feeling that we're just making the rounds, and I get the urge to mix it up a bit.  But this where I often come up against a brick wall.  I love crafts, but Iwan's still a bit too young.  Playdough would be fun, but he'd probably eat most of it before I could roll out my first snake.  He loves to read books and sing songs, but we already spend half the day doing that.

He does get more fun every day, though.  I can tell the next few months are really going to be a blast, as he masters new skills and we can do new activities.  It's a far cry from when he was a newborn.  Sure he was cute and sweet, but newborns don't really do anything.  As much as I cherish those early days, I have clear memories of exhausting my newborn baby entertaining repertoire, and finally looking at him with an "I've got nothin', sorry kid."  He was cool with it, though, because although newborn babies don't do much, they also don't tend to get bored.  He was happy to chill in his bouncy chair watching a patch of light on the wall.

Not so much anymore.  Which is why I've been racking my brain (and google) for novel fun things to do with an almost-one-year-old.  The other day a friend mentioned how her two boys love to play outside with their water table.  A water table, what a great idea!  Iwan would love that!  Problem is, said friend lives in sunny California, not North Wales.  It's not really outside water table weather here yet.  No problem.  Tiled kitchen floor?  Check!  Wash bowl?  Check!  We could make this happen.  And we did.

It was a fun change.  Yes he got soaked, and so did the floor, but the reality is that he wipes dry and my floor can always use a wash.  I had toyed with the idea of stripping Iwan to his nappy, but the idea of sitting barelegged on a cold tile floor didn't seem too appealing to either of us.  He didn't mind his clothes getting wet, and he had a blast scooping, splashing, and pouring. It beat the afternoon doldrums and tired him out for his nap.  All in all, a good rainy day activity.

What are some of your go-to activities for the littles in your life?  No really, I could use the ideas!

What's in a name?

Quite a bit, it turns out.  You may have noticed that our blog title has changed.  This is a development that I'm really excited about, as "Baby Jones" was only ever meant to be a place holder.  It was fine, and sort of cute (I thought anyway), while the purpose of this space was to keep my far-flung family and friends updated on my pregnancy with Iwan.  But now we're headed onwards and upwards, and it was time for a change.  I love the new name, it's funny and sweet and kind of ironic- sort of like me sometimes (or so I flatter myself). So, welcome to The Rare Bit, there'll be more exciting things coming your way soon.  I've got some fun guest posts, reviews, and giveaways comin' atcha.   And because I don't really like it when bloggers blog about blogging, that's all I have to say about that.  That's right, I Gumped ya- don't pretend you don't like it!

Monday, 7 March 2011

It's not you, it's me...Breaking up with the TV

So... yeah, the television.  I have a weird relationship with it.  On the one hand I love it, and I want to write it poetry about how grateful I am that it allows me 15 minutes to drink a cup of coffee in peace while entertaining my child with singing puppets.  On the other hand, every second that it's on while Iwan is awake makes me feel like a lazy, wretched, excuse for a mother.  So in order to try and reconcile these feelings, I try not to have kids shows on.  I mean, the news isn't bad, right?  Surely there's some educational value to Homes Under the Hammer, yes?  No... no there isn't.

The thing is,  Iwan is 11 months old, he can't really follow a storyline, so for him there's not a huge difference between CSI and Postman Pat.  Sure, the bright colors and songs of children's programming will induce him to look at the screen a bit longer than otherwise, but he'll still look up from his toys and clap and dance when the theme to The Wright Stuff starts playing, which tells me that to him TV is TV.  And, oh television, you've become too much of a crutch around here.

Pregnancy is my main excuse, and granted I don't have the same amount of energy I had even a few weeks ago, and so while putting the telly on when I need a 15 minute break would certainly be understandable, it doesn't go very far to explain why I leave it on as "background noise."  We just plain have it on too much these days.  It needs to go.

Ok- so not the whole television.  But the screen time needs to be drastically cut back before we start setting a bad precedent.  The reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks this morning when I noticed Iwan wasn't even listening to me read him one of his favorite books, but was staring at a news story on BBC Breakfast (that was on just as "background noise")- ooff, bad mommy.

So TV- we're officially on a break.  I'm going to try keeping you turned off between the hours of 9-5 for a few weeks.  I love you, but I'm not in love with you, and quite frankly, there's somebody else.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Dating Game- Mummy Style

No, Gez and I haven't decided to become swingers.  I'm talking about mothers making friends with other mothers.  While I'm certainly not the first person to liken this process to dating, I'm going to go one step further and say it's harder than dating.  (::cue single friends rolling their eyes::).

Seriously though, when you're a new mama, you instantly become thrust into this new, unfamiliar, social group.  Maybe you're lucky enough to already have a large group of friends with a passel of kiddos just waiting for you to sashay into playgroup- I wasn't.  If you're the first of your friends to have a baby, or, like me, you live far away from any friends with children, you're left to fend for yourself.  And it's a scary place, my friends.  The bars and clubs of yesterday become the parks and playgroups of right now.  Flattering mood lighting becomes harsh daylight, and your group of socially savvy girlfriends is replaced by a crying, squishy little thing that you only hope doesn't erupt in an explosion of poo just as you're making you're move on that nice group of girls over there.  There's no social lubricant of cosmos or manhattans, no loud music to drown out awkward silences.  It's hard.

But the thing is, you don't really have a choice.  Both your kid and your sanity are depending on you to put yourself out there, so you do.  When we first moved to North Wales, I must have tried eleventy billion (yes, that number is a FACT) different playgroups, trying to find friends for me and Iwan.  We had a good time at each of these playgroups, but it took awhile before we found the right one.  And just like with real dating, when you find the right one, you just know.  These girls were smart, fun, and people I felt like I could be friends with outside of kid stuff, you know?  So imagine my dismay when, a couple weeks into this new playgroup the leader announced that it was ending.  Panic!  My hard earned attempts at friendship were going to be lost.  It was last call, the lights were coming on and I didn't have any numbers.  Should I give out my number?  Would that be weird?  Thankfully, before I could devolve into socially-inept hysteria, it was coolly suggested that we all exchange numbers and try to get together outside of playgroup.  Yay!

So, I've managed to make a few friends with kids.  Iwan and I have things to do during the week, and the world isn't such a scary place.  I don't have to walk into the club alone anymore.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

You want the cute? You can't handle the cute.

Seriously- you can't.  Every time I look at this picture my heart explodes a little bit.  Although I'd enjoy dressing Iwan up as ye olde fashioned lad on any given Monday, this was actually for St. David's Day last week.  The fact that I managed to take a picture that included a simultaneous smile, unmolested daffodil, and jauntily placed flat cap is nothing short of a miracle.

I'm not even going to apolgize...

::Looks down at last post::
::Looks at baby, now nearly 11 months old::
::Hangs head in shame::

I have really really good excuses though!  Want to hear 'em?  We've moved a couple of hundred miles, and are now settled in North Wales, which meant we were holed up for several months with my in-laws while we searched for a suitable place to hang our hats.  We also took a wonderful (and much needed) holiday to visit my family in America over Christmas.  Iwan and I were there for 5 whole weeks, and I braved the flight back by myself (the husband had to return 2 weeks earlier) with the baby.  But do you wanna know my biggest excuse?  Are you ready for it?  We're expecting another baby! I'm due on June 28th, and will be pleased if you will hold all questions about my sanity until a later date.  So now that I've begun wrapping my head around the concept of two under two, moving into a new home, travelling internationally with someone who lacks the capacity to wipe their own bum, and the general craziness of life with an almost-one-year-old, I'm ready to give you my undivided attention.  Everybody buckled and ready to go?  Good.  It's gonna be a crazy ride.