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Having 2 children already meant that when I was expecting my third child I already had most of the equipment I would need for him, cots, prams, baths etc...... but I was determined to have a few things that would be new, just for him and so I started looking into purchasing a new baby walker, that way our old one could stay at my mums house and he would always have something to play with while we were there but he could have the nice new one in our own home. I've never really been a fan of the stand and push along style walkers having seen far too many little ones fall and hurt themselves so specifically set out to find a sit in walker, when I saw the Obaby 2 in 1 walker I knew it was the one for me.
The Obaby 2 in 1 walker is a baby rocker and a baby walker in one, available in pink, blue and yellow there's one for whatever gender you have, we chose the yellow as at the time we were unsure as to the sex of our baby, it also means that we will be able to use it again in future should we chose to try for a baby 4. While quite bulky in size, as most sit in walkers are, it collapses down making it a little easier to store away, this feature also allows the walker to have several different height levels which is perfect for growing babies as it doesn't restrict their leg movement as they get taller. Despite the size of the walker it's lightweight enough to make moving it easy for mummy or daddy, when putting it away, or for baby when they're pushing it along.
When the walker arrived there was some assembly required, while the main of the base was already assembled I needed to fit in the seat and also put together the toy tray, the latter was easy enough but because the seat is designed to fit snugly and securely it is quite tricky to fix in to place initially, and equally as hard to remove which makes its wipe clean fabric a blessing! The toy tray itself features a few different activity sections, it has a light up musical space ship in the centre, to which the battery compartment is located underneath the tray away from your little ones eager fingers, it also has a wiggly rail with 3 movable balls, and 2 flower like shapes on either side of the space ship which can be span and contain beads to make rattling sounds.
While we had the walker in ready before our son was born it is not suitable for your little one until they are 6 months old and even though Jack was a strong baby able to support himself from a young age we stuck to that age guideline. At first we kept the walker in rocker mode which was lovely as it meant Jack could play happily with the toy tray while I gently rocked him and cut out any risk of my older 2 children deciding to take him on a joy ride, the walker comes with a mat which you fix underneath the base when in rocker mode and this protects their feet from brushing on the flooring etc....it turned out to be a very handy feature as my little man wasn't very good at keeping socks and shoes on, so it protected his little feet.
As Jack grew a little older and more confident we switched the walker from rocker mode in to walker mode, this was easily done as the rocking base simply converts into the walker base by pulling on some locking pins and turning in the 2 side sections, this reveals the wheels and once the pins pop back into place you're ready to go. I thought this was a great design feature because it meant you weren't having to store separate bases or additional parts, it is all there in the one item, any new parent will understand how stuck for space you can be with Moses baskets, baby swings, bouncing chairs and all the other baby paraphernalia that comes with young babies so having your baby walker and baby rocker all in one is a great space and money saving option.
Your baby can get quite good control of the walker as it comes with anti slip pads for on wooden/laminate style floors and speed restricting wheels which stop the walker going faster then baby can handle, its also handy for saving mummy and daddys ankles as junior can't get up quite so much speed when they want to run you over in the thing! Jack loved the walker in this mode as it meant he could be a lot more mobile, he was a little slow to crawl but could take the steps in his walker which meant he was able to get around and be a little more independent. It was only with his increasing age and ability to get around, stand and cruise around furniture that the walker started to get used less and eventually not at all, it is only suitable until 15 months though as many babies are able to walk confidently by this age and don't need the walkers support anymore.
While I like and recommend this walker I do think the fixings for the toy tray could be made a little easier to use, you can remove it so your little one can have other toys in the tray compartment, or even snacks if you wish, but the 2 clips that hold it in place are quite fiddly to handle. The toys could also be a little sturdier as once when I hadn't fixed the tray in place Jack chose to drop it on the floor and it split the plastic on one of the floral spinners. Other then that and my complaint about the difficulty in fixing the chair I think the walker is excellent, the adjustable base at first seems quite flimsy and you wonder how it would be secure but after having my 3 year old stand and climb on the sides on numerous occasions I became assured of it's strength. The walker is totally wipe clean with few nooks and crannies for baby goo to become lodged, making it easy to keep clean and hygienic, something I think is important to most parents and overall it's great value for money when you consider you're getting 2 for 1.
Jack adored his baby walker and was always happy playing in it, he loved playing with the toys on the activity tray and also the ability to drive his toys around the empty tray compartment, the padded seat was obviosuly comfortable and gave him lots of support. I always enjoyed watching him play and felt happy that he was safe and secure. There is a lot of debate over the safety of baby walkers and I would never have left him where he could have come to harm, near tables, fires, stairs etc.... I also wouldn't leave him alone long with my older children in the room purely down to the joy riding I mentioned earlier, I personally was happy to let Jack use this style walker and believe it gave him independence rather then leaving him frustrated at being unable to get around. At just under £50 I thought the walker was a bargain, there are so many activity centres and walkers available it's hard to know which to choose and you can get caught up thinking a higher price tag means a better item but the Obaby 2 in1 is a fantastic choice for a great price.
The walker can be found through most Obaby stockists, Amazon and Ebay. Check it out here-
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/qid= 1252263027/ref=a9_sc_1?ie= UTF8&search-alias= aps&field-keywords= obaby%20walker
(minus the spaces)
Review can also be seen on Ciao.x
My little girl loves creative activities especially painting but she isn't exactly the tidiest of artists, I think she gets that from me, so whenever I can I pick up "mess free" creative toys, such as Aquadraw and toys along those lines. Hasbro's My Little Pony- Decorating Starcatcher is just one of those toys and seemed to be a great choice tying in Elsa's love of My Little Pony with her creative side.
Decorating Starcatcher is an oversized My Little Pony, she looks almost identical to her smaller pony version with the main differences being her wings that are smaller and sculpted to her body, unlike the larger separate blue wings of the smaller pony, and her body which, depending on room temperature may be pink, white or blue, rather then just white. Starcatcher herself is a very pretty pony with long curled, pink and blue mane and tail and scrolling symbols on her rump and forehead. The decorating pony though larger is not particularly heavy or bulky making it easy for children to play with and carry around.
Starcatcher comes with a small white comb for styling her hair and 2 small water bottles or "Ice Pens" with caps that remind me a lot of Bingo Dabber pens, the cap unscrews so the bottle/pen can be filled with water and has a filter effect that lets the water flow through. One of the bottles is blue and the other is pink and the idea is that you either fill one with ice cold water and one with hot water or fill them both with water and freeze them (hence the Ice Pen name) When you "draw" with the pens on the ponies body it will change colour, under the white are pink and blue tones which are revealed by the cold water or ice, when you apply hot water the body turns white again.
This is a fun toy for little ones and gives them the chance to decorate and style their own pony without ruining the toy, and is reusable as once you tidy the toy away it reverts back to its white colour ready for next time. It dries out a lot quicker then Aquadraw mats which means Elsa can continuously change the patterns and designs without waiting long for the surface to dry. Providing she changes between the hot and cold options the designs will easily change however if she settled on a design she was content with it would remain for several hours before the pony returned to normal.
While I do think this is a good toy and a nice addition to her pony collection it's not quite perfect. While the Ice Pen creates designs quickly it can take longer for a design to reveal itself if you go for the cold water option, also when you choose to use hot/cold water in the pens rather then freezing them it can flow too quickly through the filter which often results in puddles on the kitchen table, obviously that's still preferable to paint handprints but still not ideal, she definitely works far better using the ice method. Another small problem is having nowhere to store the pens and brush on/in the pony meaning they are easily lost if left in the care of younger children and of course storing the pony in general can be tricky if you're struggling for space amongst your little ones toys because of her size.
Starcatcher is at the more pricy end of the My Little Pony range at around £25, she can be found in most toy stores that stock the range as well as online. We got her for Elsa's birthday otherwise she probably would not have ended up with her due to the high price, Elsa greatly enjoys playing with Starcatcher despite the few small problems I've mentioned and she's the perfect toy for Elsa to play with while I'm creating Custom Ponies of my own. I would recommend the toy but only as a "special occasion" toy and would definitely say go straight for the ice option as it gets far quicker results.
Review also on Ciao (Piggypine)
Despite having purchased a tandem pushchair to use when my new baby was born last year I wasn't confident in my ability to be able to push it and so I decided at the same time to buy a separate pushchair and a buggy board to match, so when I was out on my own with the little ones I would be able to manage as it would be much lighter and also allow my little girl the freedom to walk for as long as she had the energy. After much research I decided on the Obaby Atlas stroller in blue circles.
The Atlas stroller is suitable from birth which was a very important aspect when it came to my buying decision, I wanted a nice buggy that I could use straight away knowing my little boy would be comfortable and able to lie back when he needed sleep but also a buggy that would last, have space from him as he grew and that would simply be a bit more pleasing on the eye then many of the black and grey themed pushchairs that you see around. It is a lightweight buggy making it easy for me to manage, even with my nearly 1 year old chubby son and a basket full of shopping I still do not struggle.
The Atlas folds down nice and compact with an umbrella fold mechanism, a simple case of pull up on the handle behind the seat and push down on a lever at the side, then fold the buggy down on itself and you're ready to go, it's quick and easy to achieve which is perfect when you've got a small tribe of children you're trying to get in or out of a car. It's compact folded size means it can easily be put in a car boot and still leave room for a full grocery shop ..........or clothes, shoes, toys...........whatever shopping trip you fancy as well as being a fantastic buggy to be able to take along with your luggage for a holiday.
The reclining mechanism for the buggy is one I've not seen on other buggys and involves having to simultaneously press down clips on either side of the chair and sliding them back lowering the incline of the chair, at first this seemed a really good mechanism and for the most part it is, it's a smoother way of laying back the chair which means if baby has fallen asleep they aren't jolted around and it is also easier to access unlike chairs with the reclining mechanism on the back on the chair, the main problem I've found though is occasionally the buttons can stick and I'm unable to move the chair at all, not good if I don't have a burly man around to use a little extra force as it means my sleepy babba has to stay sitting up.
As well has the seat having multiple reclining positions, from upright to nearly flat, it also has the 5 point safety harness giving parent's the reassurance that their little one is safely strapped into the buggy, the straps are adjustable at all 5 points meaning it can be adjusted to your childs own needs depending on their size, in my case that means holding him in tight otherwise he takes his arms from under the top 2 straps and gives me a minor heart attack!
The front 2 wheels on the Atlas fully swivel making it very easy to manouver , something I find very usefull on busy school runs when small children are running chaotically in every direction or on shopping trips when I don't have the time to wait for every other passer by to move out of my path, they are lockable though should you desire to fix them in place and the front locks are very strong, once in place I've never experienced swivelling or similar movements to the wheels. The rear wheels feature the brake that will actually stop the buggy moving in general, it's an easily operated system where both wheels are joined by one lock so if you press down properly on one side but not on the other there will still be pressure applied to both brakes preventing the buggy from moving forward, this for me was essential living in a hilly area and totally paranoid that should I even pause for the briefest moment my child would roll of down the hill in the buggy and meet a sticky end.
Other features of the buggy include the 2 separate foam padded handles which, unlike other foam handled buggys, have not split, are very comfortable and at a good height for me. The shopping basket under the buggy could be larger and can really only hold about 2 bags when the chair is upright, if the seat is fully reclined then you're reduced to space for 1 bag and it's not accessible as the chair rests against the frame for the basket. The chair itself is nicely padded and seems comfortable enough, the sun hood gives just enough shade to cover the face but would have been nicer just a little larger and with a small window in the fabric for me to keep an eye on my little one through. The buggy comes with a rain cover which can be easily attached in bad weather, unfortunately due to the small size of the basket if you want to take the cover along "just in case" then you're unlikely to fit anything else in the shopping basket.
There are also small features, such as the carry handle on the side of the buggy and the hook which latches across the buggy when folded preventing it from falling open, that really make this buggy a good one. The carry handle for example is such a simple idea but perfectly placed and strong, making it easy for me to carry to the car but also for my little girl to hold onto while we're out and about, it keeps her near me and my nerves eased.
I really like my Atlas despite the few issues, the main problem for me is the sticking recline mechanism, the basket size doesn't bother me too much as I have a naughty habit of hanging bags on the handles (another handy time for that strong brake!) I love the fun bright colour it came in and have been pleasantly surprised that it hasn't faded or lost any of it's colour, despite the amount of washes its needed due to the sticky fingers of my now 11 month old son! On occasion all of my children, even the 4 year old, have sat in the buggy and it handles their differing weight and size well, the poor thing has stood up to a fair bit of wear and abuse at our hands.........different terrains, long walks, being thrown in and out of the boot as we try to get places in a hurry.................but it's still in great condition and as strong as ever after a year of very regular use.
I purchased my Atlas off of Amazon for £55 which was an absolute bargain considering the use I get from it, but I have also seen them on other sites including Ebay and in Mothercare. The Atlas comes in a wide variety of colours include the fabulous blue, girly pink, navy, grey, black..........there's something for pretty much every taste. Accessories are also available including matching foot-muffs and parasols and there is even an Obaby buggy board which fits most Obaby pushchairs and other brand buggies. I would certainly recommend this buggy as a great everyday run around, it's perfect for a "from birth" buggy when you don't have the space for more traditional prams and travel systems, my little ones seem to like it too.
Check out the Atlas here-
Review also on Ciao (Piggypine)
My little girl is a huge fan of Disney Princesses and has quite an impressive collection of dolls considering she's not yet 3 years old. She received the whole set of princesses from different relatives for Christmas and Cinderella was one of the first she wanted open.
Cinderella is much the same as a Barbie or Sindy doll with (almost) human proportions, plastic body, movable limbs etc..... She has the classic, slightly bendy legs which allow her to sit but the arms are solid, on ball joints to allow movement, but not actually flexible in the arms themselves. Her head is separately molded in a softer plastic and her features are nicely molded, I wouldn't go as far as to say she looks like the Cinderella of the movie, in fact even in her proportions she's probably taller then her movie counterpart with the dolls bodies, regardless of character, obviously being from 1 mold, she does however have a pretty face and her features do differ from the other princesses. Cinderella has lovely light blonde hair wound into a bun atop her head and comes with clear plastic heeled shoes and a simple blue gown that resembles the dress Cinderella wears in the film, which is removable enabling you to change the dolls clothes if you like.
Being a Disney product you expect high quality and, as far as Cinderella goes, it's a little hit and miss. The doll itself is well made, her joints are strong, her features are defined, her hair his well sewn into her head however the dress she wears is very simple and lacking any embellishment other then a simple net like part around the waist which unfortunately frays quite quickly. Also while at first glance her hair is lush and long it soon becomes clear, when the elastic band holding the bun in place is removed, that in order to create the tidy bun they've only given her long hair on half her head,the other half is only around and inch long which not only looks silly if left loose but is difficult to tie back into any kind of ponytail or other hair style.
These faults aside though Elsa loves playing with her Cinderella and will spend hours will the dolls, in true 3 year old fashion the shoes were quickly taken off and I've put them out of the way for now otherwise they'd be lost never to be found again, the dolls swap and change clothes and Elsa enjoys making them "walk" around and chat to each other, they're one of her favourite things to play with and a great carry along size meaning Cinders or one of the others usually comes along whenever we go out. Cinderella has stood up to a lot of play and aside from the frayed dress is still in excellent condition, she does get a little disheveled when thrown into her toy basket along with the other dolls but it's easy enough to straighten her out again.
The generic body shape of the dolls does allow you to swap and change their outfits and they fit in nicely with other Barbie style dolls, however it doesn't quite represent the characters properly which is a shame as they're not teaching the "everyone is different" idea that doll ranges had promised and they could be passed off as any other doll character rather then their specific princess.
Cinderella is available from many toy stores including Toys R Us and also from some supermarkets including Asda, she costs around five pounds which isn't too bad for a basic dolly, I would have liked at least a little more dress detail for the money though as the next quality stage up seems to double, almost treble the price which I'm not willing to pay for a 3 year old. If your little one is a Cinderella fan then this isn't a bad item to get, providing her hair doesn't come loose, however if it's just Princesses your little one likes then one of the other characters such as Belle or Sleeping Beauty would be a better choice.
I have always loved reading and when I had my own children I was determined to pass that on to them, even before my first child was born I had bought him a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, since then we have built up quite a library of children's books and even baby Jack, at the tender age of 8 months, loves sitting "reading" a book.
"Be Gentle" by Virginia Miller was part of a set of books by the author that we were given and proved to be quite handy when we got our first pet, it centers around a young bear called Bartholomew, "Ba", he's like a typical young child, wanting to play and have fun, not wanting to go to sleep when he's told..........generally just causing some mischief. Ba lives with George, an older bear who comes across as the father figure but is never actually given that particular title, it is George that seems to try and keep Ba on his best behaviour and usually manages in the end. In "Be Gentle" George gives Ba a small black kitten and tells Ba to "be gentle" using his trademark retort of "nah" Ba begins to play with the kitten but his games are a little too boistrous, like many young children, and he ends up scaring the kitten, Ba becomes sad when he is unable to find his kitten and soon learns that being gentle is a far nicer way to be with animals.
The book itself is available in both paperback and board book styles, ours is a board book and for the most part is white, the illustrations are lovely, gentle images depicting Ba, George, the kitten and some of the surroundings, there are no real busy backgrounds though enabling your child to focus on the main activity of the images and connect it to the words they are reading or being read. The words are printed in large black letters which are perfectly clear for younger readers, my son Christopher is 4 and has just started reading at school and he finds piecing together the words to tell the story easy as well as fun and rewarding, the sentences for each page are relatively short but get the idea of the story across well, I always enjoy sitting down with him and listening proudly as he blends his sounds, making words and telling the story.
As I said earlier the book was excellent when we were given our first pet, a kitten called Marty, having never really been around animals before Christopher and Elsa, who were 3 and 18 months at the time, didn't really know how to handle a cat and of course being toddlers they were very much boistrous characters like Ba in the story. I found that sitting them down and reading them the story not only encouraged their love of books and gave us that lovely quite time together that reading brings but also sent across the message that they needed to be gentle with Marty so he didn't get scared or hurt. They always enjoy the book as a story in it's own right and now they are used to having pets the educational side only really acts as an occasional reminder, but they still like to read "Be gentle" as a sweet and simple, enjoyable story with a character they both love.
"Be gentle" can be found in book stores such as Waterstones and also online at Amazon, it costs around 5 pounds for the board back or paper back copy, which admittedly is quite a lot for a single child's book but my little ones enjoy it and it has lasted through from when Christopher and Elsa were tiny to baby Jack's arrival and developing passion for books, it's still in wonderful condition despite the amount it's been read, overall it's a firm favourite.
The Fisherprice table top play mat is designed to encourage young children to eat at the table, it is made up of a wipe clean central mat and 2 outer blue sections which feature a range of stimulating toys including spinning beads, a flip button revealing a small mirror, a slide switch, click switch and more.... it's combination of bright colours, textures and different sounds provide a great combination of sensory experiences, fun and the ability to develop and improve hand/eye skills. Under each of the blue sections is a large orange suction cup which allows the mat to stick to the table or desired surface without it slipping around or being picked up and thrown by an over excited baby or toddler, these 2 cups also stick together allowing you to fold down the center mat between them making it more compact for easy storage.
At 8 months old Jack isn't old enough to eat at the table however we do pull his highchair up to the table during meal times, while the suction cups do attach the mat to the highchair tray it is far too long to fit properly and works better if you only fix one end to the tray and let the other end dangle however I'm not a huge fan of toys at the meal table, after all the table at dinner time is a place for eating, maybe chatting about your day with the family not a place for playing and so I've never used it for Jack in that sense, while it may have been designed to encourage young children to eat at the table I know it would simply prove to be a distraction for Jack and he's already tricky enough to feed as he's so nosy and too busy watching everyone else to concentrate on eating.
While Jack was still unable to sit unaided we used the mat to encourage him to spend time on his tummy, he's never been fond of tummy time but the toy encouraged him to push himself upwards, reaching out to play with all the different features, while he still isn't fond of being on his tummy it does encourage him to stay there longer which will undoubtedly help in preparing him for the crawling stage. Now he's older and more confident sitting unaided we simply lay the mat out in front of him to play with, he'll happily stretch out for the toy which helps him gain in strength and balance.
While I may not use the mat in the way it was intended I can see how it could be a lifeline for people who's little ones are particularly reluctant to sit at the meal table, it is very brightly coloured and bound to catch the attention of a small child, with sections on the mat depicting a place for the bowl and cutlery it could also help in teaching the child a little meal time etiquette in regards to where everything gets set, and the outer toys will keep them entertained when they've finished eating, stopping them becoming bored and encouraging them to stay at the table with the family rather then wanting to rush off or disrupt everyone else, the image of the plate even features brightly coloured fruits starting off the encouragement to eat healthily from a very early age. The whole toy is wipe clean which is absolutely perfect for a toy designed for use at meal times, younger children aren't always the tidiest eaters and there are bound to be the occasional drip, spill or assault from sticky fingers.
Jack will play with the toy happily for long periods of time, being very young his attention span is quite short and he'll usually go from toy to toy but he always enjoys playing with the mat especially flipping open the mirror section and batting it back down again. One fun way to encourage him to explore the toys is to pop a treat, some grapes or similar in the section with the pop open lid, he can obviously see his reward but has to work out how to reach it, it's wonderful watching him work out how to get to the fruit and then see him enjoy his success.
We were given the toy as a gift and while Jack does enjoy playing with it I wouldn't have bought it myself, simply because it's a dinner time toy and I try and keep a "no toys at the table" rule, it would hardly be fair on the older children to be taught one set of rules and manners and then Jack to be given another. It is however a fun toy for youngsters and is very good quality, I would certainly recommend it even if we don't use it in the regular way.
The mat can be found in toy stores such as Toys R Us and from other Fisherprice stockists in the range of ten pounds, which is pretty reasonable considering all the features and potential benefits.
Of all the dozens of toys designed to soothe upset babies that I have been given over the years I've found few that actually do what they promise, there is however one that we were given for baby Jack which never fails to settle him no matter how upset he is. The Playgro pull cord Thomas The Tank Engine was a favourite from his very early days and he still loves it now he's 7 months.
The Playgro pull cord Thomas is a soft toy in the shape of Thomas The Tank Engine, made of soft fabric but featuring all the features you would see on the book and TV character, he features a musical mechanism within his body and when the cord on his underside is pulled down it gradually works its way back up all the while playing "lullaby" The toy has 2 red fabric ties on top of it allowing you to tie it to cots, cribs, buggies etc.... and the dangling cord has a round disc at the bottom which not only makes it easier for baby to grip but features a small plastic mirror which will either catch the light or show baby their reflection.
The inner mechanism of the toy is much like a classic music box in it's sound, it's gentle twinkling music is delicate but it's easy to make up the tune that it is playing. The length of music you get all depends on whether the cord is pulled to it's maximum length or not but this has no effect on the tunes speed which remains steady making the music pleasant to listen to. It's not battery operated in any way and the entire thing works off the basic pull cord mechanism, this is a great asset as it means you wont have any fiddly expensive batteries to replace, no machine parts that might breakdown, and allows the sweeter, crisper sound that you might not otherwise get in a battery operated toy.
The toy is very well made despite the cord and ties looking quite flimsy, my little boy will tug quite hard on the toy to get the music to play but there are no signs of wear or damage, the stitching is still perfect and the toy looks as if it were new even though it gets played with regularly. It is made of fabric with stuffing however features such as the funnel and wheels are made and attached seperately which seems to help the toy keep a good overall shape despite all the pulling and tugging it deals with. We fixed the toy to Jacks baby swing and initially would set off the music just to entertain him however we quickly noticed that if the music was playing when he was upset he'd quickly settle down, as soon as the music stopped he was upset again but with another pull on the cord he was happy again.
There are a few things about the toy which prevent it from being perfect, firstly it's size.......it's quite bulky which means that it doesn't fit well onto smaller cribs and buggies, it's also too heavy for moses baskets. Then there is the limited amount of time the tune plays for, while you get the benefit of purer music by is music box style it also means that you only get relatively short bursts of music, whereas if it were battery powered you could allow it to play longer which would obviously lead to baby being settled longer and mummy or daddy not having to get up frequently to set the music off again. And of course there is the price, at 12.99 it's quite expensive for what it does, yes it will always settle Jack but it has no other features then the music and small mirror, no variety in tunes and of course only plays for a short while each time.
We were bought the train as a gift and at 12.99 I wouldn't have purchased it myself, yes Jack loves it but the price would have put me off before we'd have a chance to realize that fact. It is available from many toy stores and I believe ours was from The Entertainer. As a simple, sweet toy that serves a very basic purpose I would recommend it, it's well made and does the job of settling Jack well, however, if you're after something more interactive with lots of features for your money then it's perhaps best to avoid it, here you're paying for brand name and good quality rather then interactivity and features.
It is nearly 5 years ago now that I had my first child Christopher, I was very lucky and had many gifts bought for him but one of the things I bought for him myself was the Playgro Wiggling Giraffe, that was in 2004 and now in 2009 the same giraffe is entertaining my 3rd child just as well as it did my first.
The Playgro Wiggling Giraffe is a simple toy designed to clip onto buggys, pram hoods, play gym bars etc.... it is an adorable stuffed giraffe with a pull cord attatched to a chunky claw like clasp. When the toy is pulled, straightening the cord, and the giraffe released it slowly winds the cord back in making the giraffe wiggle away until the cord is fully rewound. The giraffe itself is brightly coloured and eye catching, sure to grab the attention of young babies, he has a cute little face and is almost cartoony but still looks like a giraffe unlike many similar toys. The clasp is easy to fix onto whatever place you want it and works much like a big peg, it's made of chunky plastic making it easy for parents to handle comfortably.
I've used the giraffe for all 3 of my babies and they've all loved it, I would fix it to their buggy or car seat straps, onto the hood of their moses baskets, wherever it would possibly clip onto, they would happily just stare up at him when they were very tiny and as they got older enjoyed reaching out trying to grab hold or bat at it. The wiggling and slight buzzing sound as the cord rewound itself always made them giggle and was a great distraction if they became grizzly while we were out and about.
The giraffe is suitable from birth and will probably hold a little ones interest until around 12 months, Jack is just under 7 months and he still loves it. I may have bought my particular giraffe all those years ago but the exact same design is still available for around five pounds in toy stores, ours came from The Entertainer. I think it's a great testament to the quality of the toy that it's still working perfectly and is in great condition despite all the years. He's been tugged on more times then I can count but his cord is still intact, his winding mechanism is still perfect, he's just like the day we bought him.
I have had to give the giraffe a good clean a few times, especially before each new baby used it for the first time but a quick whizz in the washing machine cleans it up nicely, just a cool wash and preferably inside a pillow case or something because the clip can cause quite a racket. There is only one small problem i have found with the giraffe and that is on certain surfaces the clip isn't strong enough to stop it being pulled off, a hard tug from an overenthusiastic baby/toddler might see the giraffe pulled loose, not a health risk to baby in any way but frustrating for mummy or daddy and provides the opportunity for it to get lost
I would highly recommend this toy to parents of new babies or those expecting a little one in the near future, it has entertained all 3 of my children, is still perfect after all these years and I wouldn't hesitate to use it again if there is ever a baby number 4.
When I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism late in 2008 I was a bit surprised, I hadn't been feeling unwell, or at least in any way that couldn't be put down to being a busy mum of 3 children, one of which was less than 6 months old at the time. I hadn't even attended to doctor for any condition of my own so was slightly taken aback when, after examining my little girl and advising me on her treatment, he asked me to tell him about my thyroid, as far as I was aware there was no problem and so I just stared back at him slightly dumb struck, after an examination of my neck and thyroid gland he informed me that there were a lot of nodules on the gland and I would need not only a blood test but an ultrasound scan on the gland in order to rule out the presence of any cancerous growths. And so I left the surgery that day with a daughter who was on the mend but a whole list of appointments for myself and a condition I never even knew I had, we presumed the gland would be over active rather than under active based on my "symptoms" but we would have to wait for the test results to be sure.
2 weeks later I found myself at the local hospital awaiting the scan, it felt strange being there as the only occasions I've visited before were during my 3 pregnancies, at least with those scans you were likely to see something nice and positive,but this scan was very different, during my pregnancy scans I was spoken to and guided through what was going on, I saw what was being shown by the scan, the whole atmosphere was warm and friendly, this time though i lay in silence as the phonographer scanned my neck, he asked few questions and was not allowed to describe what he was doing or what he could see, I left knowing as little as when i went in and would have to wait up to 2 weeks before my results were ready. My blood test was a week later, a simple matter of drawing the required amount of blood but my least favorite part of the whole process as I'm not a fan of needles, my veins always deflate, my blood pressure drops and occasionally I even faint! Not my idea of a fun day out.
Eventually all my test results were ready and so I made my appointment to go over the results, I had Hashimotos disease, a fairly common condition of the auto immune system that causes the Thyroid to attack itself, leading to not enough of the thyroid hormone, Thyroxine, being produced. I was informed that I would require medication for life as well as regular blood tests and checkups, at 27 it was quite a daunting fact, not least because I'm not the greatest person at remembering such things as medication but also because i have no real way of knowing how the condition will change and develop over time.
The Thyroid Gland and its hormones-
The Thyroid gland is located in the neck of both men and women, shaped like butterfly wings it is just below the larynx and sits over the windpipe like a bow tie. The function of the gland is to produce the hormone Thyroxine, it is not known the exact purpose of the hormone but it is carried around the body in the bloodstream and helps keep the metabolism working at the right speed.
The Thyroid gland is under the control of the Pituitary gland, the Pituitary produces a hormone called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) which increases the amount of thyroid hormone released from the gland. If the level of thyroid hormone falls the pituitary gland releases more TSH in order to increase the level and vice versa, this results in a relatively constant level of the hormone released. However the pituitary is under the influence of the hypothalamus and the amount of TSH released can be increased if the hypothalamus releases TRH (THS releasing hormone)
All of this becomes even more complicated when you realize that the thyroid hormone comes in 2 forms, commonly known as T3 and T4. The gland releases both types into the blood stream but the dominant hormone is T4 which gets converted into T3 by the tissues. When the tissues alter the way in which they convert the T4 they produce an ineffective hormone called Reverse T3, this means that there will be less thyroid activity in the tissues even though the amount in the blood stream is correct.
It is these differing levels of T3 and T4 which are monitored to detect Hypothyroidism (as well as Hyperthyroidism, over active gland) and are constantly monitored to ensure correct medication levels.
There are several forms of thyroid problems that can lead to Hyperthyroidism. Around 1 in 50 women and 1 in 1000 men develop an under active thyroid with it becoming more common with increasing age. It can however occur at any age and can effect anyone.
Simple Goitre- swelling of the gland thought to be caused by lack of iodine in the diet, it is usually unnecessary to treat a simple goitre but some cases may need to be treated with thyroid hormone tablets.
Endemic Goitre- once again a swelling in the neck caused by a lack of iodine in the diet, this may lead to a deficiency in the thyroid hormone and may require the addition of iodine in the diet to treat the condition. In both cases of goitre the swelling should ease with treatment.
Dyshormonogenesis- an inherited abnormality in the way the gland makes the hormone. A low level of hormone in the system causes the same effects as Myxoedema (see below) often with a large goitre, thyroid hormone tablets will be required for treatment.
Congenital Hypothyroidism- failure of the foetal thyroid to develop, severe mental and physical complications will develop but with early diagnoses during pregnancy and treatment normal development can still occur.
Myxoedema- Inadequate hormone levels are produced usually caused by auto immune failure or Hashimotos disease, the thyroid is either attacked and cells destroyed or a long term inflammation occurs causing thyroid failure. Condition develops slowly and will require replacement of the hormone in tablet form.
There are many different symptoms and not all of them will occur in every patient, some are more common than others, they include
Dry, rough skin
Intolerance to cold
Increase in weight
Swelling of the gland
Mental slowing, memory problems
Irregular/heavy menstrual periods in women
Loss of sex drive
Carpal tunnel syndrome
The most common form of treatment for hypothyroidism is hormone replacement in the form of Levothyroxine (thyroxine) tablets daily. The required dose will vary depending on the level of deficiency and will often require monitoring and alteration of the dose in order to find the correct level for the individual. Most adults require between 50 micro grams and 150 micro grams but will be started off on a lower dose which will be altered over time. Personally I was started of on 25 micro grams once a day for 2 weeks, after 2 weeks I had to double the daily dose until 10 weeks later after the first of my 3 monthly blood tests.
The condition itself is easily treatable and may not seem all that dramatic considering how common it is in women however if left untreated it can lead to several health problems, you may have an increased risk of heart disease, suffer an enlarging of your heart, if you are pregnant or fall pregnant you are at higher risk of pre-eclampsia, anemia, premature labour, low birth weight, stillbirth and serious bleeding after birth, there is also the very rare complication of a hypothyroid coma. Naturally with treatment there will be little or no risk of these complications, which in themselves are quite rare, and missing one or 2 tablets will not cause too much harm, however it is not a condition to take lightly and you should never stop taking your medication or try to self medicate, always discuss such moves with your GP.
Providing you are correctly taking your medication your symptoms should eventually go.
Women suffering hypothyroidism who fall pregnant may need to increase their dose, they may need their TSH levels checked around every 2-3 months during the pregnancy and once 2 months following the delivery in order to check they are receiving the correct level of medication. 10% of women who have recently had a child will find themselves suffering post-partum Thyroiditus which can be an under active or over active gland, the condition will clear in up to 18 months in 80% of cases and will be treated in the same way as regular hypothyroid cases.
My Thyroid and me-
As I said earlier discovering i had hypothyroidism was a bit of a surprise to me, yes I had recently been feeling tired but I put that down to a young baby who slept poorly and 2 very active children, I also felt nauseous a lot but connected that to the tiredness and lack of sleep. After the initial suspicion over my health arose I resigned myself to the fact that I would be hyperthyroid and have an over active gland, after all any symptoms I could attribute to a thyroid problem were those for hyperthyroidism........intolerance to heat, tiredness, anxiety, increased appetite, weight loss............. my doctor was as surprised as I was when he read out the results but at least I had the reassurance that it was simple to treat, would not require an operation and most importantly was not cancerous, as a young mum to 3 small children it was a possibility I hadn't wanted to consider.
After being taken through the results and what it would mean for me I was prescribed a low dose of Levothyroxine to take daily, it could take as much as 2 weeks to start showing effects at which point I needed to double the daily dose, 10 weeks later I needed another blood test and they will continue every 3 months until my hormone levels even out, then the tests will be reduced even further to once a year, which can't come soon enough for me. It was just over 2 weeks when I started to feel some positive effects from the medication, the swelling in my throat had gone down and swallowing felt easier even though I'd never noticed how bad it had become before, I stopped feeling sick so often as well which made daily life a lot more pleasant, however I couldn't shake the fear that I had been suffering symptoms for the opposite condition, my medication was designed to increase my hormone levels, if I should have been gaining weight as a result of the condition but was now taking tablets that would put an end to that would I start suffering weight loss instead? I started weighing myself regularly and my fears were soon realised as over a period of 5 weeks i lost over 5lb, that may not seem like a lot in terms of loss over time but I was already dramatically underweight for my height and fighting to maintain the weight I was, even the Christmas period saw me lose weight . I soon noticed other changes which included dry skin on my hands and intolerance to the cold where before I loved the cold weather, these smaller changes are bearable although unfortunate, the weight loss however is a real concern and I am having to closely monitor what I eat making sure I have more than my recommended daily allowance of calories etc...
It is uncommon but not impossible for a sufferer of a thyroid condition to experience the symptoms of the reverse condition but I have no short term or immediate way of knowing how the medication will effect me and my weight in particular, I try to take my medication every morning before breakfast although there have been occasions where I have forgotten, I have a terrible memory for such things and of course I have a lifetime of pharmacy visits ahead, at least by the time I'm 50 I should be used to taking the pills daily! I've come to terms with the condition and while I don't appreciate getting it so young I know it's treatable and I can get on with my life almost as if there were no problem at all. It has had the strange effect of bringing out peoples concern for me though, my mother is constantly fussing over me making sure I'm taking the tablets, ensuring I'm eating lots etc.... and even my mother in law asks how I am whenever she calls, it's funny how being "ill" can make people treat you differently.
I might not like having the condition but I'm stuck with it, there are far worse things I could be going through and as long as I can enjoy my life and my wonderful children then that's all that counts!
For anyone reading this who like me is young and suffers the condition you should know you're not alone, just as anyone with reverse symptoms is not. I have researched the condition a lot and visited many forums but have yet to find many people suffering the condition like I do, I just want to reassure others like me, you're perfectly normal!
For information on the thyroid and it's conditions visit-
We were given our V-tech Moosical Beads toy back in 2006 for my little girl, the toy had undergone a radical design change from the flat cow design with bead tracks to a soft toy holding a plastic ring featuring lights, buttons and beads, for the age group the toy is aimed at the soft toy design is far more suitable. The newer designed toy is a cute soft toy cow who holds a large plastic hoop in his hands, the hoop is angeled and sits just behind the cows head and just in front of his feet, there are 2 small plastic beads on the top half of the ring and on the bottom half there is a large, square, blue plastic bead featuring a sun on one side and a moon on the other, there are also 2 buttons which light up when pressed,the round red button features "ABC" and the triangular green button features "123" the cow also has an on/off button on his chest. The cow sings several tunes, names colours, numbers and letters and describes daytime and nighttime depending on the buttons that are pressed or if the blue bead has been span.
When we originally got the toy Elsa didn't seem very keen, in fact she barely played with it and so it lingered in the toy box, however i dug it out for baby Jack to play with hoping that we might get some use out of it and he was immediately taken with it, the flashing lights caught his attention and he quickly caught on to the fact that if he touched the buttons and beads the lights would flash more. At 6 months old he's too young to get much educational benefit from the ABC and 123 functions but he loves the songs and music and eagerly reaches out for the toy whenever it's nearby. Although the cow is in the sitting position it's not exactly stable when sat on a highchair tray and bashed by a young baby, i spend lots of time picking it back up again and now try to keep Jacks use of the toy to when he's sat on his play mat, with me on the sofa or on someones lap, there's less chance of him knocking it away from himself that way which stops him getting frustrated but also stops mummy having to endlessly pick it up.
The toy is very well made but i would expect nothing less from V-tech, it is robust but still appears nicely detailed, the stitching on the cow is strong and it certainly withstands the knocks and tumbles your baby can put it through, my only complaint as far as quality goes is that the sun and moon pictures are stickers, my little one has had a good chew on the bead and now half the image of the moon is damaged. Being electronic means it cannot be put through a washing machine which is probably the toys only major downfall, obviously being aimed at young children you should expect it to become a little grubby, after all babies and toddlers are famous for drool and sticky fingers, you can surface wash the toy but that will not achieve the same results as a proper wash in the machine.
The toy requires 2x AAA batteries which come included, they're housed within a compartment in the cows body which is very secure and also fastened by strong Velcro in order to stop little fingers getting hold of them, the compartment doesn't take away from the softness of the toy though. Moosical Beads are suitable from 3-18 months which is quite a strange age range, i can agree that from 3 months babies will start taking an interest in the toy and by 6 will be able to hold it and play with it as designed but i don't think it would hold the attention up to 18 months, yes the educational side is appropriate for that age group but the toy design will be too simple and young for an 18 month old child.
The toy retails around 9.99 and is available from toy stores and online from such places as Amazon. I think it's a very fair price for the toy especially for a V-tech which are often a lot more expensive, it has a good range of functions and entertainment value for younger children and babies making it good value for money in my eyes. As with all toys whether your child will like it will be hit and miss, my daughter wasn't keen but my son loves it, that it is still working perfectly after 2 years and is still using the same batteries etc just goes to show what good quality it is, i can certainly recommend it.
Baby Jack is just gone 6 months old and has been on "solid" food for some time, he's a big boy and loves his meals so I like to give him a good variety, I do make a lot of meals up myself but like to keep in a few jars and packets of food so that there's not only something quick and convenient in case of an emergency but also because it gives him the chance to sample flavours he might not usually get due to the limitations of my cooking abilities. Because the jars can work out quite expensive per meal I like to buy them on offer and so when I noticed Asda running an 8 for £3.50 offer on the Heinz Mums Own 128g jars I purchased a variety of flavours including "apricot, butternut squash and chicken risotto"
Heinz Mums own 128g jars are suitable for babies from 4-6 months, they contain no artificial colourings, preservatives, flavours, gm ingredients, additional salt, gluten or egg making them as close to home cooked food as a prepared meal can get and giving parents the reassurance that their little one will only be given healthy and natural food.
The Apricot, Butternut Squash and Chicken Risotto is naturally one of the savoury options, it's colour and texture is very similar to tomato soup, a bit too orange and quite runny. Taste wise it is quite bland, yes I do end up testing them as I have to check the temperature before offering it to Jack, the dominant taste is the squash and carrot (one of the ingredients not in the title but listed in the ingredients) and I find it hard picking up any chicken or apricot, it's quite a soulless flavour really and provides little excitement compared to other flavours in the range, it also comes across as quite a powdery flavour almost like when a bit too much flour has been added to a sauce and makes it claggy.
There is little appealing in the smell of the product, it's scent certainly doesn't make it distinct from other jarred foods which is a shame as I know from other flavour in the range, such as lemon soufflé, that the scent can indeed be distinct and appealing, the lemon soufflé version had me wanting a similar dessert for myself that evening but the risotto version had me turning my nose up. The texture of the food is appalling and quite disappointing, I know that 4-6 months is the early stage and babies need to food to be puréed finely at this age but the food was like a liquid, it was difficult to keep it dripping from the spoon, you couldn't get a decent amount with each spoonful and Jack was quite frustrated at not being able to have a proper mouthful each time, it left me trying to spoon it in at breakneck speed just to keep him happy, but half of it ended up dripping off the spoon, down his chin and all over his bib.
Nutritionally the food isn't too bad, for 100g your little one is getting-
1.0mg iron (17% RDA)
I like the inclusion of the iron as it can often be difficult to ensure that your little one is getting enough iron in their diet, their iron stores from birth are usually gone by 6 months so it is important to ensure they are getting it in their diets either by food or follow on milks.
Serving the food and portion size will be down to the individual, the tastes and needs of each baby will vary. At 6 months Jack will clear the entire 128g however my cousins little boy who is the same age will only have ½ a jar. You can serve it at room temperature although I wouldn't recommend that with this particular flavour, you can also stand the jar in a pan of boiling water to heat it or use the microwave as once the lid is removed there are no metal elements to the product. You can serve using a bowl or simply feed from the jar which is great if you're out and about but unable to take all the feeding equipment you may need. Providing the product has not been heated and you've not fed directly from the jar then any left-over's can be refrigerated and kept for up to 48 hours.
Now you may have guessed from my flavour, smell and texture description that I'm not overly impressed with the product. It's really quite disappointing as their Mums Own flavours are usually very good and Jack is quite a fan of Butternut squash but the flavour just wasn't exciting enough for him and it was hard to keep up with his demand due to how runny the food was, it's left a nasty orange stain in the bib which not even Oxi powder will shift and we didn't even finish the jar as we were having so much trouble with it that I abandoned it in favour of some mashed banana.
The jars are usually between 55 and 65p each and occasionally they do come up on offers, they're definitely worth picking up if you're a jar user but just not this flavour. The recipe was taken from a mum called Louise Brown and I'm sure this certainly wasn't what she had in mind when she created it, her home version is no doubt delicious, it's just a shame that Heinz have been unable to transfer it well into the jarred food. Jack is due to move to lumpy food any day now but if he were still on 4-6 month food I wouldn't be buying this one for him again.
A bath time for children needs several things to make it fun, firstly there's bubbles you just have to have bubbles, and then of course there's toys, my little ones have lots of different bath toys which do various different things and their ever growing collection features Tomy's Do Rae Mi Dolphins.
The Tomy Do Rae Mi Dolphins are 8 different coloured plastic dolphins each with a matching ring to help it float, each has a different expression and they are rather cute looking, they feature every colour of the rainbow with an additional green on accounts that there are less rainbow colours then musical notes. The dolphins are hollow to allow water to pass through but more importantly to trap air, when floating in their rings you can press down on each of the dolphins and the action of the water expelling the trapped air produces a musical note, each dolphin produces a different note to cover the full range on a scale, hence their title "Do Rae Mi" The dolphins floats all connect together or they can be used separately floating happily atop the bath water.
Our dolphins were originally a gift for baby Jack despite them being for 18 months plus, he uses the big bath now with the help of a support and quite enjoys it but he's more interested in grabbing hold of his feet then trying to play with the dolphins or any other toy for that matter, I try and get his attention by tapping on them to release notes and generally let them all float separately so the colours are more fun to look out but currently I think my efforts are wasted on him. My little girl however is quite fond of the dolphins, she enjoys colour coding them with their floats and trying to make tunes, although she does find fixing the floats together quite tricky so that is usually a job for mummy, you don't really get a lot of benefit from fixing them together though as you still have to press each one individually to get a sound, they don't produce a chord by pressing a group joined together. While part of the idea of the dolphins is to try and get the notes in the right order we've not really attempted that with her yet, she enjoys playing with the dolphins and making it up as she goes along.
The set is sweet and quite a novel idea, certainly a change from the standard boats and water wheels, but it takes quite a push down on the dolphins to get a clear note of any decent volume and even then it sounds a bit too breathy and not very crisp, while it is enough to keep the attention of my 2 year old, my 4 year old soon tires of them and would rather not have them in the bath, 8 of them take up valuable space for Thomas the Tank Engine squirters and other such fun toys, the main appeal for him when using them now is to try and capsize them by sending waves of bath water in their direction.
The dolphins are available from most toy stores including Toys R Us and retail around £10 for the set, as I mentioned earlier our set was a gift but I'm not entirely sure I would purchase them myself. £10 seems a lot of money for what they do, granted it works out just over £1 for each dolphin which might not seem bad value for money but were I to buy floating dolphins for the bath I wouldn't get as many as 8, 2 would be about the maximum. My kiddies do enjoy playing with them but I really think they are restricted to children about 12-36 months in age for their entertainment value, although I can't speak for children 18 and over, I'm sure there are a few out there who'd have a play when no-one else was watching.
I remember this time last year writing about 2007 and the year I'd been through, I wanted to continue the trend for 2008 but liked this Q&A take on the subject so thought I would try it instead, it's always good to reflect on things and helps you learn from past mistakes. There were some big moments for me last year and I think overall it was a big improvement on 2007, I'm optimistic about 2009.
So here we are, my round up of 2008, a little insight into the life and thoughts of Butterbear (AKA me!)
1) What did you do in 2008 that you have not done before?
Invested in "property" or rather a holiday home (caravan ;) ) my family had owned a caravan on the Butlins site for 8 years but it was coming to the end of it's life so together we decided to invest in another one, this time it's part mine and with it come the responsibilities of lettings, bills, maintenance etc.... but I'm also guaranteed a holiday there for the next 10 years and a share in any profits/losses from renting it out to holiday makers.
2) Did anyone close to you give birth?
Me! My cousin did too and a few friends but you can't get closer then me, right! Jack, or Doodles as we like to call him, arrived 8 days late on the 14th of July, almost 6 months now he's fabulous and full of character!
3) Did anyone close to you die?
No, thankfully, 2007 had been a bad year and we'd lost several close friends and family members, my Granddad is 93 and in very poor health and we'd not expected him to make it through 2008 so it is a blessing that he is still here.
4) What countries did you visit?
Wales, I'm not much of a traveller, especially considering the heavily pregnant/new born baby stage I went through In 08, we managed a trip to Wales to see White Christmas on stage, a very pleasant show but the real fun was getting lost thanks to the sat nav' and going and hour and a half in the wrong direction!
5) What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Time. There never seemed to be enough of it to sit back and really enjoy life, but I guess with 3 children it'll feel like there's even less of it in 08. I feel like there is much of last year which I don't really remember or that is hazy, I'd like to be able to spend an extra 5 minutes on everything I do just so I can appreciate it and enjoy it more.
6) What dates will you remember from 2008?
July 14th, the date my little boy arrived, it's also my mums' birthday which made it all a little extra special. There were many events that were memorable for various reasons but when it comes down to the most memorable date it has to be this one.
7) Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, an auto immune disease which causes the Thyroid gland to attack itself, making it produce too little of the Thyroid hormones. I never realised I had a problem until I took my little girl to the doctor when she was poorly, I went in to get her looked at and came out with scan and test dates to book, after a bit of messing around and delayed appointments the results came back and I'm now on life long medication and 6 monthly blood tests, oh such fun!
8) What was the best thing you bought?
That's quite a tricky one! I bought lots of useful things, especially as far as baby items were concerned. There were a few rather valuable things too, like my ruby and diamond ring I saved up for...........but the best thing? I guess actually that would be my own vacuum cleaner (how exotic!) I'd been borrowing my brother old one and it didn't really work any more, being able to buy my own made a huge difference and came at the right time with Jack arriving and me becoming obsessed with the place being clean for him. How positively grown up of me that I choose a vacuum cleaner as my favourite purchase of the year, it was so excited when it arrived though and it's got more tools then Lara Croft!
9) Whose behaviour has merited celebration?
I felt the most joy over the behaviour of my 4 year old, he started proper school at the end of 07 but really excelled in 2008, he started learning sounds of letters and began reading his first words, he's had glowing reports and the teachers, class mates and students all love him.
10) Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
It'd take too long to list those in the public eye. In my own life I've been very disappointed with some of my sisters choices, lies she's told and people she's hurt along the way. Yes she's entitled to her own life, feelings, enjoyment...but when it so severely affects those around her, my mother in particular, I had hoped she would be a little less selfish, and foolish too.
11) Where did most of your money go?
Bills, bills, bills...............life as a family of 5 isn't cheap, the new arrival certainly boosted our outgoings, but my kiddies are worth each and every penny I've had to spend on them. I wouldn't change being a "stay at home mummy" for all the world, I've seen so much that I would have otherwise missed out on, and I take my hat off to working mums as after spending a day away from my kiddies this week I know I couldn't do it full time, but the 2nd wage would certainly be handy at times.
12) What did you get really excited about?
You'd think it would be my little boys' arrival but I actually felt a lot of concern and worry over that, once he was here the fun began! But I got a lot of excitement preparing for Christmas, from the decorations to the presents.....taking the kids to see Santa for the first time, writing letters to Santa and seeing their faces when they received letters in the post in return, the "he's been" moment.........ahhhh I love Christmas, having my children has really bought back the magic. I just wish everyone wasn't in such a rush to get it over with, why can't we enjoy the moment a bit longer.
13) What song will you remember from 2008?
"I'm already there" by Lonestar, I don't know if it's a new song or even released in 08 but I heard it on the X-factor and it bowled me over, such a passionate song with beautiful lyrics, I've not been able to forget it since.
14) Compared to this time last year are you- happier, fitter, more productive.
I left 2008 feeling much happier then I started it and feel a lot more positive currently. I'm hoping 2009 is a successful year and I have a good feeling about it, let's just hope I'm right. Productivity is probably the same as always but I'm determined to make better use of my time this year, not that it was wasted last year but I want to be able to remember everything better this year.
15) What do you wish you had done more of?
Enjoyed my pregnancy, its hard when you already have children and you've got a house and pets to keep going, I had little time to really sit back and enjoy all the changes and experiences, all the little kicks and wriggles within my bump, the scans and appointments. I did suffer a lot of pain in my back during it and in the end was eager to get the pregnancy over with, I somewhat regret that now and wish I'd taken time to enjoy it.
16) What do you wish you had done less of?
Fought with the hubby! We've never really fought before but from about September onwards last year it was a more regular occurrence, I think with an extra child to look after life was a bit more strained for me, and my other half doesn't really have much to do with family life, rarely helping out or having quality interaction with the little ones. I'm not one to sit by quietly and he's not one who likes to be criticised so there were a few rows, he seems to be making more effort at the moment so we'll see how 09 pans out.
17) What was your favourite TV programme?
I really got into Miami Ink last year, I know it's been a round for a while but I've never seen it before, I really enjoy the comradary between the guys and appreciate their talent. While I'd love a tattoo myself I'm scared to death of needles and don't handle pain well, I can still enjoy the show though, I fact I've become quite an addict. I also loved Masterchef, Merlin and as I do every year followed Britain and Worlds Strongest Man, cheering our men on excitedly as they did such bizarre challenges as pulling huge planes!
18) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year?
No, I don't hate anyone, it's a very strong term and would require some very wrong actions for me to feel that way.
19) What's been the best book of 2008?
I didn't get to read much in 2008 that wasn't baby related, there just never seemed to be time. I managed to read a few short romance stories and also started a book of Dragonlance short stories but I've not managed anything more challenging and certainly no 2008 releases.
20) What was your greatest musical discovery?
My 2 year old daughters' talent for turning everything into a song, I know that's not what the question really asks but I didn't follow the charts or take note of new acts, I listened to the same variety of music I have done for years. My little girl has provided much entertainment though with the soundtrack of her life and she has a hilarious talent for lyrics, the "kiss my bum" song she made up on a day when she'd fallen and hurt herself had the whole family laughing for the entire day.
21) What did you want to get in 2008?
New glasses. My current ones are 4 years old and weren't strong enough when I was give them let alone now! I vowed 08 would see me with a new pair but I'm still here in the same beaten up old pair, their arm held on with black tape!
22) What did you want and didn't get?
A decent crop of tomatoes, I worked as hard as possible on my fruit and veg' patch considering my "condition" last year only to have my tomato plants were battered by wind and storms and my lovely vines ended up ruined, I ended up with 3 tomatoes in total!
23) What is your favourite film of the year?
Sleeping Beauty, I know it's not a 2008 film in fact it's older then I am but it was released last year on special edition DVD and I love it, me and Elsa will sit together and watch it happily, it's a lovely film with a nice story and pleasantly animated, no need for fancy computer techniques or all star voice casts, it's classic animation. As far as 08 releases go I never actually saw any, I'd wanted to see Hancock and Dark Knight but was due with Jack at the time they were released so couldn't go and see them, I have them on DVD now though so hopefully I'll get to see them soon.
24) What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
I was 27 (My birthday is right at the beginning of the year, I've already turned 28!) I spent the day helping out a friend at her jewellery store, where I used to work before the kids, I kept it secret all day, I prefer to keep it low key, that way there's less chance of disappointment if it goes badly.
25) What political issue stirred you the most?
Loss of information (think that was taking place last year) I couldn't believe when criminals were getting compensated for loss of their details but my details got lost in the child benefit info' bungle, out in the world for anyone to know about me and my kids, and yet barely got an apology!
26) Who was the best person you met?
That has to be baby Jack, he's the cutest, funniest, most adorable and unforgettable person I met last year (even if I had no choice but to) My life, had I not met him last year, would be a little darker and less fun filled, although I'd still have my older 2 lighting up the world.
27) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008?
To take more time to appreciate things and to remember who I am, being a mummy and wife can be very demanding, I love it and wouldn't change it but I began to realise last year that I wasn't doing anything for me anymore, all my hobbies and interests had gradually faded and even my writing had become about other people, so I decided to take some time back for myself, started up my hobbies again and reminded myself that yes my kids are the most important thing in my life but when they've grown and moved on I still need to have a life of my own to fall back on.
And there it is, 2008 in a 27 question nutshell. It was interesting looking back on the year in this way and opened my eyes a little as to how much I missed out on last year. It's given me the inspiration for a New Year Resolution that I had been lacking though, this year I'm going to spend more time enjoying what I do and less time rushing around, I want to be able to look back at the end of 2009 and remember every moment, how much fun I had, all the things I did and people I met. 2009 is about 5 minutes extra for me, just 5 minutes more to really enjoy what I'm doing, and I think it's something a lot of other people should consider too.
Happy 2009, I hope it's a good one for you all!
For young babies sometimes the simplest of toys are the most fun and in the case of the Bight Starts Chime Along Friend it's certainly true.
The Bright Starts Chime Along Friend comes in 3 animal varieties, a lion, elephant and giraffe, it is a simple toy designed to be suitable from birth and has a clip which allows it to attach to buggy straps or onto other Bright Starts toys and similar open circular clip styles, like those that come with many Fisherprice toys. We have the giraffe version as I thought he had the cutest face and the other 2 animals looked a little odd, it's made up in a few sections starting with the clip at the top which is fixed to a strip of fabric, from this strip hangs a fabric coloured cylinder which contains a chiming bell and then from another fabric strip hangs the small, soft fabric giraffe.
The toy is no more then 13 inches from top to bottom and is great for fixing to an overhead toy bar or baby gym for your little one to try and grab or hit, as the toy moves or is shook the bell tinkles releasing a really lovely sound, for want of a technical description is more of a "ting-a-ling" then a "ding dong" and is quite pleasant to listen to. The sound is fun for your little one and encourages them to reach out for the toy in order to make the sound again, that combined with the bright colours makes it a very fun stimulating toy for your baby.
I like to hang this on Jacks swinging chair or fix it to his buggy when we go out, he loves grabbing hold of the giraffe and shaking it in order to ring the bell and he's quite fond of having a chew on the soft giraffe too. The toy seems very good quality and has stood up to his tugging and chewing very well, all the stitching seems strong and neat and none of the pieces are starting to come loose. I wouldn't want to try and wash it in the machine due to the plastic clip and the bell cylinder but it would be surface washable so if Jack happens to get baby goo on it I'll be able to clean it up nicely. It fixes well onto his Fisherprice Kick and Drive gym and onto several of the hanging toys for his swing chair which allows us to alternate a lot of his toys, stopping him becoming bored with the same thing all the time.
We paid just under £3 for the toy in Asda and Jack adores it, he's 6 months and is able to grab for it easily, when he was younger it was quite an achievement for him when he hit it or caught it in his hand but he's always enjoyed the toy. It's not going to last them past 12 months of age, not because of quality, but because of entertainment value, it's not the most complex of toys but at 6 months old you don't need that, a toy that is fun and stimulating is more than suitable. I would highly recommend this sweet little toy to parents of young babies, both Jack and I love it.
It's quite amazing how many toys children end up with, even more so the amount babies end up with considering how little they can actually play with them in the beginning, Jack is no exception to the rule and one of his many toys is the Tomy Baby Shh.
The Tomy Baby Shh comes in 2 designs, a green frog or a bumblebee, it is a soft bodied toy which features vivid colours and different textures to stimulate baby, it has a 10 inch strap which threads through a loop in the back of the Shh's head that has strips of Velcro at each end, these allow you to attach the Shh to babies buggy, cot, play gym, even around your wrist. The Baby Shh's head is actually a pouch which is sealed by a Velcro strip, within in the pouch is a circular box which features 2 buttons, when concealed in the head pouch the buttons lie under "x" that mark the animals cheeks and each button has a different feature the left playing a tune and making fun sounds, while the right has to be held down for several seconds before it will play a "melody"
They toys are sweet looking, we have the bumblebee who is made up of bright, bold colours, his cheeky face is very appealing and he is complete with crinkle effect wings, his antennae and 6 feet hang from soft woven rope and give the toy an added feeling of movement. He feels very well made, the soft fabric is well stitched together and it feels like a very good quality toy, capable of dealing with whatever your child can throw at it (literally!) the box featuring the buttons is completely removable, meaning that the toy can be washed in the machine, but the batteries (3 lr44) are within a screwed down compartment so there is no risk of baby getting them out.
The sounds the toy makes are crisp and very audible, the sound box within the head does have 2 sound levels but we've always found the lower level loud enough. The left button has 3 sounds which are meant to catch the little ones attention, this includes a short tune which is made up of quite pleasant tones rather then be flat and monotone. The right cheek is a bit more unusual, after being held down for around 3 seconds you are treated to the oddest version of "Twinkle Twinkle" which is backed by an assortment of strange sounds and also speeds up and slows down throughout the length of the song.
Apparently the toy is scientifically designed to turn a crying baby into a happy baby and "Features powerful "curiosity triggers" designed to make baby forget the reason for crying" (Amazon product description) the changing tempo and unusual sounds are in some way meant to distract baby and cheer them up. Now while I agree that it is a eye catching, stimulating and sweet toy I can't agree that it changes a crying baby to a happy baby, it is suitable from birth and I don't know about anyone else's newborn but mine would usually cry through hunger, tiredness, the need for a clean nappy.......no amount of funny noises or odd music will cheer up a hungry 1 week old. Jack is now 6 months and quite enjoys the toy when he's in a good mood, however if he gets upset the Shh is the last thing he wants to play with, the music and noises just seem to upset him more.
While this is a cute toy, and very well made it's clearly not perfect, it fails in its mission to cheer up my crying baby and I personally find the sounds quite irritating. The Velcro strap is handy for fixing it to the buggy etc.... but I tend to make sure it's high enough that it can be seen by Jack but not pressed, he doesn't like the sounds, I don't like the sounds so why bother with them, it can just be stimulating for his vision instead. The removable box is also a good design but can be tricky to get back in the pouch and be sure the buttons are correctly aligned with the cheeks.
The Shh retails around £14.99 which is insanely expensive for how little it actually does, I suppose if it worked for your little one and soothed them when they were upset it would make it seem better value but currently I have an awfully expensive soft dangling toy for our buggy which could be easily replace by a £2.99 pram toy which would be just as appreciated. Fortunately this was a gift, admittedly chosen by myself when I had higher expectations of it, but I would not pay £14.99 for it myself, what I would recommend is you test it with your little one in the shop before spending so much.