Swimming with Splash About

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Only yesterday I was congratulating myself on managing to get through a swimming lesson for my son which I had to take my daughter to as well. When I say get through, I mean manage to survive without one of us coming to some serious harm.

As my first born learns in a school pool, there are no fancy viewing galleries or even chairs to watch from. The parents sit on the floor around the pool, with only 2m of bobbly concrete between the wall and the poolside. Even in winter, the temperature is set to about 30 degrees, so the overall effect is like sitting in a sauna, fully clothed. Have you ever heard a parent say they love swimming lessons? No! Well that’s why. Don’t get me wrong, the lessons are brilliant, the teacher’s an angel with the patience of the saint. It’s just the heat that gets me.

Our local public baths, on the other hand, has water that is so cold you have to edge yourself in a centimetre at a time. So when I took baby gal for a dip this afternoon, I was glad she had a new swimsuit with a little bit more protection than a regular one. I was asked to review a Splash About BabyWrap and was eager to try it out.

The suit looks great, it’s made from a thick but soft neoprene fabric in a really pretty apple and pear print. It comes in a carry bag, which is a huge bonus for getting my little one interested, as she has a major thing about bags at the moment. Anything with a handle, and she’s there. So after we’d played with it a bit, it was time to try it on. Getting her into the BabyWrap was a bit like wrapping a present, albeit a very wriggly, chubby one! It was really easy to get on and has thick Velcro fastenings which mean you can whip it on and off extremely quickly, something which is priceless when wrestling an excitable, running baby. It’s been such great weather today so I took her into the garden in it to play before we set off to the pool, partly to see how she moved in it and partly so I could get some photos of her wearing it!

Once in the pool, she felt lovely and warm, with no goosebumps after 20 minutes or so like you sometimes get in cooler pools. Having spent a bit of time on UK beaches this summer, I have to say it would have been great to have the BabyWrap then, as it would add that at little bit of extra warmth when swimming outside. It also has a an SPF of 50, meaning fewer places to remember to put the suncream on. As we opted for the large (18-30 months), it fits really well now but has plenty of growing room too. With having the Velcro fastening, you can pull it in to fit as much as you like. An all-round thumbs up from me and a great big “Yeeeaaaaahh” from baby gal, as she can’t yet do the thumb thing.

Many thanks to Splash About for asking me to review the BabyWrap in Tutti Frutti.

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Shoes

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I seem to have been buying lots of shoes this month, what with the start of the new school term and my son needing new school shoes, PE pumps and football boots. He may only be five but he’s inherited his dad’s height and is on a permanent growth spurt.

My little girl needed new shoes too, as her first pair – white sandals – were proving impractical on cooler days and in muddy parks. See here for evidence of that!

I got these bunny ones from Clarks and she’s already had so many compliments on them. I think she’s channelling the Charlotte Olympia kitty flats that were seen on all the cool cats’ feet a couple of years ago.

As for me, well I live in flats, sandals, loafers, ankle boots, whatever, but it has to be flat. Before a night out last weekend, even my mum questioned why I didn’t have any heels with me and very kindly went with me to buy some gorgeous new going out shoes. I have one pair of black heels which tend to come out whenever I need to smarten up, so a second pair will certainly come in handy. These ones, from Moda In Pelle, are patent, block heels which are slightly 60s style and surprisingly comfortable to wear.

These Campers are so cool, I love their styles for boys and men. I bought a pair of navy ones similar to this for first born to wear at our wedding just before he was two. At £60 they were a bit of an expense but worth it I think for a special occasion, and they wore seriously well and kept him looking cute for months afterwards. I bought these mini brown ones in a sale a few months back, they were such a bargain, even though they are a size 12 and too small for my son I couldn’t leave them for the price so snapped them up to either pass on to a friend or sell on eBay.

I’ve photographed them next to my husband’s Campers. He splashed out on a few pairs just before he fell ill last year, so sadly these have been languishing in the wardrobe yet to be worn. Next spring they’ll be out I’m sure.

Pictured are my son’s beloved crocs, which I’m not so keen on for adults but love how easy, practical and comfortable they are for kids. What’s not to love about a shoe you can hose down at the end of the day? I’ve snapped them next to a pair of Zara boat shoes we bought him for a wedding, hoping he’d wear them through the summer as well but that never really happened. Maybe a case of what I want him to wear versus what he wants to wear!

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Photos from top: Zara boys boat shoes; Crocs Kids Crocband; Clarks Iva Bunny Fst; Campers; Moda In Pelle Cabo in black patent.

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Perfume

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I sprayed some perfume on the other morning. First born said to me, ‘Mmmm, mum, you smell better!’

I’ve previously had things like, ‘Granny smells like perfume, but you just smell like lemons!’ Now I did used to smell like perfume, back in my teens and 20s, when I religiously sprayed myself every morning – even before school – with something like The Body Shop’s White Musk (didn’t we all in the early 90s), the heady LouLou, or Calvin Klein’s Eternity.

My first pregnancy put paid to that, as the smell of any kind of perfume made me wretch, and the only scent I could stand was fresh air or anything citrusy.

Ever since I’ve stuck to lighter, fresher scents such as Clarins Eau Dynamisante, Molton Brown’s Vitalising Vitamin AB+C Eau Fraiche or the most lemony of all, Verbena from L’Occitane.

I’m ready for something new now, and the other day caught a whiff of a fragrance worn by a friend and fell in love. Tom Ford’s Santal Blush. It’s definitely on my wish list.

In the meantime I could always make do with the perfume made for me by my son, after I had to spend a few days away this week with work. I came home to find him busy in the bathroom, making his own perfume just for me. He’d cut some flowers and fresh mint from the garden, added them to his bubble bath, poured it into a bottle, decorated the bottle with a face, and hey presto! Cutest thing ever, as was the note he wrote to go with it. I reckon he could teach Coco Chanel a thing or two.

What’s your favourite fragrance?

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Working it, trauma and TPN

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I had the mother of all Sunday night feelings last night. Right now, I’m on my way to work for my first full day after 16 months at home. The fact that I’ve had a baby in that time seems pretty much incidental, as what was supposed to be 12 months off on maternity leave turned out very differently.

While many expectant mothers spend their last day in work being spoilt with baby gifts, cards and cake, mine ended sitting by my husband’s side in intensive care. An emergency which would lead to eight months in hospital and many more months of nursing care at home.

He’d been off work that day poorly and was supposed to be taking our son, who was then four, to nursery. It’s just that none of us realised just how poorly he was.

He’d been suffering for nearly a week with intense back pain, and hadn’t been able to hold down any food for days. He’d been seen by several GPs, all of whom told him the pain was a result of a sports injury and to take painkillers and rest. But this morning it was clear his pain had not been brought on in the gym.

When I got home, he looked so ill I called an ambulance straight away. I later called a work colleague and asked her to switch off my computer as I wouldn’t be back in that day. I didn’t think for one minute that the next time I’d be back at work would be nearly a year and a half later.

Later that morning, I would be sat down with my brother-in-law and was told my husband had suffered two massive blood clots – one of which had cut off the blood supply to his intestine, killing it off and meaning it had to be removed. They wouldn’t know until they opened him up just how much would have to go, and crucially whether the amount which remained would be enough to keep him alive. The consultant told me he had a 50-50 chance of survival. Devastated, all I could think about was our son, and what I would tell him if his dad didn’t make it. I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t take it in, as I sat with his brother, sister, mum, sister-in-law and my parents in that hot, windowless room. Thank goodness they were there with me and I wasn’t on my own in those devastating hours.

By some miracle, he pulled through, and I was able to see him in intensive care not long after he came back from the operating theatre. In that cloud of panic and despair, I felt baffled by the medical explanation of what had happened. He’d developed these blood clots and nobody knew why, and one had led to a thrombosis in his portal vein, right next to his liver. The other was removed with the part of the bowel which never made it. It would be four or five days before we were told the clots formed as part of a blood disorder called Essential Thrombocythaemia, which means his body makes too many platelets. There were no symptoms, perhaps because he was so fit before this illness that his body masked the fact that things were going wrong inside.

As my husband was left with 3m less small bowel than he’d started with, he was left with a temporary stoma and fed intravenously with a 3L bag of TPN. This was a situation he lived with a year, until finally he had his stoma reversed in May this year at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Our lives have changed so much since then, and his recovery has been amazing. So good, in fact, that we managed to go away twice this summer and he’s now focusing on going back to work. I feel so proud of how he’s managed to get through an experience which would have broken so many.

So I have a new job – albeit in the same company and at the same desk – and a new lunchbox, and I’m ready to go.

I feel like taking the deepest of breaths, and as my friend told me the other day, just gliding through any stress into the next stage of our lives.

By the time I finished writing this post my first day was done, and I have to say I enjoyed it. I’ve been a working mum before and so going back this time at least I know that the kids will survive without me, flourish even, and getting into a new routine will be a break for all of us.

Much as I adore my babies, there’s something to be said for some adult conversation (I’m lucky enough to work with some fab people), hot tea and getting stuck into a new project at work.

This is getting long now so I’ll finish, if you’ve made it this far then well done! Thanks for reading, and if this helps at least one person feel they can get through something horrendous, then it will have been worth it.

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Mud!

Well they do say if a child isn’t mucky then they’re not having fun, so there’s no surprise my baby gal got herself in a state when she had to go back in the pushchair after our trip to the park yesterday! Bless that little face. She soon got over it with the aid of a strawberry Mini Milk.

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I’m joining in with Wicked Wednesdays over at brummymummyof2‘s blog.

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Kids clothes for Autumn days

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I’ve only just unpacked my suitcase and washed the sand and suncream from my shorts and suddenly I’m reaching for my jumpers, jackets and socks! Although the sun’s out here today, the leaves on the trees are turning brown and there’s that Autumnal chill in the air. It coincides with that back-to-school (and back-to-work for me) feeling that spells new uniforms, shoes and (eek) sewing in name tapes.

My son, who is just coming up to five-and-a-half, has always been big for his age, but this summer he must have had a massive growth spurt as he’s busting out of all his age 6 trousers. I usually shop for clothes for him at Gap, Zara, Boden, M&S and Next, and as we were given a Next voucher for baby gal’s birthday I headed there for a few new things for the kids.

I’ve heard mums (I hate to be stereotypical but it’s usually of girls) say their children love shopping, and the whole experience of choosing outfits and trying things on. If I took my son shopping, he would just pretend the whole thing wasn’t happening and pester me to go home! Maybe when he gets a bit older he’ll like his old mum coming along with him to treat him to some cool new threads, but for now, I’ll just buy the stuff for him.

I picked up a pair of khaki trousers for him, and a few dresses for my daughter. I’m new to this clothes buying for girls thing, and can I just ask, what is the point of footless tights? Won’t her feet get cold?! Anyway, I couldn’t resist this grey floral outfit with matching (footless) tights, so I’m giving it a go. I’ve just dressed her in it, and have to say the button detail on the ankle is providing some entertainment while she’s lying In her cot if nothing else!

I also just remembered about a gorgeous red and black blouse which my friend bought baby gal for her birthday. It’s from Mini Club at Boots and I wouldn’t mind the same in a size 12!

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Bringing your holiday home

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Whenever I travel to somewhere new, I always like to bring a little bit of my trip home.

I love collecting either things for my home of pieces of jewellery as little reminders of my holidays. One of my favourite bracelets was bought after far too many glasses of wine at Trastevere market in Rome, and I have framed prints in my kitchen which were bought on the first trip away I had with my other half. It’s nice when you go into someone’s house and things tell a story, don’t you think?

So the other week, when we had nearly reached Abersoch and my son decided he was desperate for the loo, it was more than a happy accident that we pulled over at Parc Glynllifon near Caernarfon. With a play area for children, pretty woodland and fab Black Cat cafe selling locally sourced food and drinks, it was a hidden gem I can highly recommend.

Luckily for this eagle-eyed mama, there is a stylish gift shop selling gifts all made in Wales, with loads of gorgeous things from designers including my friend’s sister, who I have written about before, Cathryn Weatherhead. Adra Home is a treasure trove of handmade gifts, and I had to treat myself to a couple of things.

I bought a print which reads ‘Croeso’, or ‘Welcome’ in Welsh; A card, which says ‘World’s Best Mum’, also in Welsh; and another which has a cute illustration of a witch and a baby, and the words ‘Best Friends’. I didn’t realise until I put a picture of this one on my facebook page and my Welsh friends pointed this out, but it’s actually an image from children’s book Rala Rwdins. I need to get hold of a copy of a few of these books, as I absolutely love the images. I’m going to get my prints framed later on today.

The black and white image Is a card I bought from the art gallery in Llanbedrog, Plas Glyn Y Weddw, last week, by designer Gwyn Williams.

Finally, because I can’t resist a bit of bling, I bought a jewelled necklace from a boutique in Abersoch called First Light. Love it!

What are the best things you’ve bought on holiday? As I write this I’m thinking I once bought a jumper in Pisa as it was so damn cold! I’d love to hear your travel shopping secrets.

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Baby starfish and bodyboarding

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We’ve been lucky enough to get away for a second family holiday this year, as I am still on maternity leave for just a few more weeks and making the most of the rest of the summer school hols. I think seeing as we missed out on a summer break last year we kind of deserve it, and hey we only travelled a few hours from home this time so it really was a breeze compared to the day-long car journey down to Devon a few weeks ago!

We went on a whistle-stop tour, starting at a friend’s caravan near Abersoch on the Llyn Peninsula and ending in a cottage near Newborough on Anglesey. Abersoch holds a special place in my heart as not only was it the first place we holidayed with our first born when he was three months old, it was also the scene of so many of my own family holidays when I was a child. I know my sister and I have very fond memories of the Welsh rain beating down on our canvas roof, as our dad crept out of the tent at night, mallet in hand, hitting in the tent pegs again just to make sure the whole thing didn’t blow away! Those holidays also make me think of my mum’s collection of mohair cardigans, which, reserved for the coldness of camping, were knitted by my grandma, massively oversized and came in 80s hues of bright pink and blue.

Back to our mini break, and the highlight for me had to be getting in the sea on my son’s bodyboard when most sensible people were sitting on the beach behind windbreaks, in coats, nursing cups of tea. Walking down the hill to Whistling Sands (our favourite beach on the Llyn Peninsula), first born was wearing his wetsuit and clutching a brand new bodyboard. I must admit, the weather was forecast to be a hell of a lot better than it was and myself, his dad and baby gal were all dressed in shorts and t-shirts despite the wind blowing us halfway down the hill and spitting us out on the sand below. To cut a long story short, we couldn’t talk him out of bodyboarding, so I had to get into my swimsuit and join him in the sea. Sans wetsuit, I was cast more than a few sympathetic glances, but once in I was up for giving it a go. Even my son had second thoughts when he was the high waves, but after a few minutes’ paddling, I just thought what the hell grabbed the board and gave it a go. It was amazing! I hardly carried it off like a surf chick, but I was in, riding those waves and freezing my a**e off!

It was one of those times when I thought, do you know what, I need to show my son how to just give things a shot, even if I’m going to be rubbish at it and make a total fool of myself. He was pretty quiet afterwards, husband joked I’d shown him up by using his little board first, but I keep telling him, there’s still a few weeks of summer left for second thoughts…

Here are a few of our photos, cutest ever has to be the baby starfish found on Abersoch beach.

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I’ve joined this post with the What’s Happening? What’s Happened? link up over at Red Rose Mummy’s blog.

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Stories time

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I’m not sure how this label’s escaped my attention for so long, but it seems that as soon as I started looking, I couldn’t stop! I’m talking about Swedish store & Other Stories. As you will know I’m a huge fan of shopping online as it allows for lots of time for browsing, shopping around, and mostly it’s child-free. It’s much easier than trying things on in a changing room while one of my kids either tries to open the door, or ends up crawling around on the floor! So I read about & Other Stories and thought I’d check it out.

I always go towards simple, clean lines in mostly block colours, with fabric and yes, sadly comfort and practicality are important to me too. So much of these styles are what I would called my kind of thing, so with a sale on I quickly ordered a few things just to see what they were like. I loved all of it, and have since told a few others about the website and they’ve ordered stuff too. My mum is now a fan too – see there is my theme of mummy-daughter clothing going on now as well.

So here’s what I went for. A classic, easy black sundress with best top and drawstring waist. A cream-coloured jersey peplum top (which I think has now sold out), a pale pink cardigan and a gorgeous pair of black leather slipper shoes. The shoes will be great for autumn, and though it’s a bit early for me to get out of my flip-flops, I have a job interview this week (eek) so it was kind of necessary!

If I was putting together a wishlist, I’d definitely go for some of the jewellery, like this insect ring, the ring necklace or thread bracelet.

Have you ever browsed or bought anything from & Other Stories? It reminds me a bit of Whistles, which is one of my faves but a bit pricey for me for everyday, and Cos, which I’ve never shopped in but always like to have a look online. What are your favourite sites for window shopping?

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My week in pictures – week two

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So, my second week in pictures is coming more than seven days after my first week, but you know, it’s school holidays, we’ve been away, and things are all going a bit more slowly at the moment. But here’s a peek at what I’ve been up to…

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1. Here’s my baby gal on Bigbury beach on our holiday in Devon. She’s dressed as a strawberry, just like I was when I won a fancy dress competition in the mid-80s. Only thing is, my mum made my costume and this little number was a birthday present from my sister, and is from H&M.

2. We went to Kingsbridge In search of fish and chips, and stumbled upon their annual carnival. Here’s one of the floats, complete with 1960s vibes.

3. Here’s my daughter and I, you can’t quite see here but we are both dressed in green and blue (my colours are on my skirt). Matchy-matchy style!

4. My new Daisy Chain bracelet made by Joma Jewellery. My husband and son bought it for me from a cute shop in Dartmouth. First born insisted he buy me some jewellery, so who am I to argue?

5. I’ve been buying new baby presents this week, and this one is from my favourite West Kirby children’s shop, Cowboys and Angels. It’s a sleepsuit with gorgeous little dancers on it, from Powell Craft.

6. I washed the guinea pig! After a week away and a roll in some hay at an otter sanctuary, I thought I’d better give Snubby the toy guinea pig a bath. I was worried he’d never look the same again, but luckily for me he made a full recovery.

You can follow me on Instagram at Instagram.com/rainbeaubelle.

X Julia

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