What to do in Quarantine

Since both the U.K. and South Africa are in, essentially, full ‘lockdown’ now (movement restricted, shops and businesses closed), I’ve decided to dedicate a few posts as promised to what it is we, as a family, are doing to stay sane during this extended quarantine.

First things first, we have to acknowledge how incredibly lucky we are right now. As I said in my last post, my in-laws’s home is not a bad place to be quarantined – second only to being at home. I know most people probably won’t have easy access to the space that we have, and I can’t claim it as my own so this is in no way a smug post. What I can do is share ideas which have worked for us, and which can, hopefully, work in smaller spaces, too.

My mother-in-law, since she moved to this house 20 years ago, has become a keen gardener. She’s had the girls helping her with doing the borders – if you have a balcony, terrace, or even a big, sunny windowsill, this is definitely possible.

She’s given me a tutorial in the best things to plant for little kids – they can get their hands dirty AND make the place look lovely! Kids love knowing they’ve been involved with something they can see; they love feeling proud.

Firstly, please, don’t be put off if you only have a sunny window. Secondly, you may think that, in quarantine, you can’t find seeds etc, but most can be found either at your local supermarket or on Amazon. Finally, these are super purse friendly, even after all the corona virus nightmares. If you don’t have a plant pot, find a decent size, deep bowl – make sure to gently drain it the evening after you’ve watered, to make sure you don’t get stagnant water in the bottom.

The best flowers to start with for kids, and ones that yield pretty flowers, are probably sunflowers (seeds available at every supermarket with your fortnightly big shop, on Amazon for less than £3 or Takealot where you can get an entire 2kg for R149) or Nasturtiums (Amazon for £5 or Takealot – R99 for a bulk pack, also including sunflowers!).

Both can be planted in a small-ish pot, either on a windowsill, on a balcony/terrace or in your garden. Make sure to keep the seeds far enough apart, treat them lovingly, and watch them grow! If you have access to a bird table, or space for birds to land, then, once your sunflower has lived its beautiful life you can pop the spent head on the table and watch all the birds flock to nibble on the seeds in the middle. Nasturtiums are, as I’m sure you know, the edible flowers you see on cakes and cheese boards. Plant them now (before the end of April) and they’ll flower all through summer. They’re a no-brainer for kids – they look pretty and they can eat them afterwards!

Other easily bought options are herbs (you can buy them already planted in small pots at most supermarkets), which you can pop on a kitchen window and eat straight from the pot. Rocket seeds are easy to get hold of, and can be grown in 3 weeks (plus, it’s a year-round herb). It can be eaten straight from the pot, and occasional ‘thinning’ (i.e. eating and tasting, so nobody can see) only helps it grow better. French beans and carrots are also easy to grow, and start in small pots – and Sweet Peas are great fun if you want another cute little flower – plant them now, and they’ll flower from May until October.

I understand gardening might not be for everyone, but it’s a fun way to keep kids entertained and concentrating. Another, really easy way to amuse them, especially the younger kids, is to feed the birds. You might think that sounds overly simple, but why not mix it up a bit? Fat balls and suet-based feed (available at bigger supermarkets, on Amazon and Takealot) last for ages. You can make a bird-feeder out of old wire coat hangers, or buy from the same places. My girls love watching the birds (and squirrels, ahem) eating the food they’ve put out for them, but they also really like dividing the food out, too.

It can be difficult trying to keep children occupied when they’re not allowed out of your property (even in the U.K., we can only go out once a day for exercise purposes) – and trying to do things other than screen time can be trying. Much as we’re resigned, for now, to letting the girls watch more telly than usual, we’ve still started saving ideas to do over time. Tomorrow, we’ll be making banana bread. Watch this space!

Oh, Corona…

I know, I know. You must be so very sick of hearing about the damn Corona Virus strain, Covid-19, by now.

Did you know that coronaviruses have been around for decades? Approximately 30% of common colds are caused by a strain of coronavirus. It is not new – SARS was also a separate strain. This strain is Covid-19, and, so far, it’s turning out to be a little bit more severe than people originally thought.

As I’m sure you’ve realised, we’re still stuck in the U.K. With CV19 causing countries, including South Africa, to close their borders, we’re fully expecting to still be here until at least May. Part of the worry about schooling has been taken away, as there are no longer schools in operation anywhere we want to be, but that now leaves us wondering how, exactly, to keep two kids entertained for the next few weeks without museums or soft play centres!

Thankfully, we’ve become almost dab hands at the homeschooling game. I’ll write a whole different post on our favourite activities for children. We’ve found quite a few things we enjoy doing. This post is just about one.

We have fallen in love with country walks. I know, that sounds weird – we’ve always been big walkers. Our dogs get walked daily, when we’re home, and I take them on at least one big trek per week.

Since we’ve been here, however, Stevie has decided her favourite place is out in nature. This is fantastic for all of us – well, apart from Elia, who is decidedly more of an indoor type of person. And we are incredibly lucky: short of being home, my in-laws’ house is definitely the best place to be quarantined. We are surrounded by vast acres of Yorkshire countryside and national park glory. I’m sure it’ll get stifling, eventually, but for now we’re fully enjoying our surroundings. Stay safe, everyone!

To Wean or not to Wean…

The title of this may be slightly misleading to some. The term ‘Weaning’ has different meanings, but both boil down to the same thing.

When you begin to wean, as far as I was brought up in England, it’s when you start your baby on solids. But the majority of people also seem to understand Weaning as meaning stopping breastfeeding. Both terms are actually correct – Weaning (solids) is the beginning of the end of the breastfeeding journey, no matter how far away that may be, because baby no longer relies solely on breastmilk for nutrition.

Now we’ve got that out of the way – this week we’ve started to very gently wean Elia. Weaning meaning the solids version. She meets the full readiness checklist, as suggested by KellyMom (my bible when it comes to infant feeding):

• Baby can sit up well without support.

• Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.

• Baby is ready and willing to chew.

• Baby is developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.

• Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.

On paper, she is 100 percent ready. Yet… she’s just not that keen. Last night, she nibbled on a strip of chicken, chewing away happily. She gobbled a piece of Swiss chard without a blink. It was lovely to watch. But this morning, and the rest of today, she’s not been that bothered. She had a nice chomp on a chicken leg bone (so much like her sister). She had great fun playing in the scrambled eggs and avo I gave her (I didn’t see any enter her mouth, but her breath had a distinctly eggy smell afterwards).But here’s the beauty of Baby Led Weaning – it really doesn’t matter. As we did win Stevie, we want Elia’s experience with food to be fun. Especially at such a young age, it’s more about her tasting her foods, playing in them and fully understanding the fun behind eating. It’s messy and filthy and the dogs definitely put on some weight when Stevie was younger, but I love it. We don’t have to rush – when she’s ready, she’ll show us. And, if she’s anything like her sister, she’ll be eating like a grown-up at 3 years old (and by that, I mean eating when she’s hungry, and declining when she’s not). No, seriously – I’ve never seen anyone that size shovel so much food into their mouths in one day. Little food monster!

Le Roo – Our New Favourite Onesies

I’ve spoken about my friend, Alésia, before. She’s ventured into the scary world of baby clothes – and her onesies are out of this world! They’re proudly South African, made from stretchy t-shirt fabric. We have both colours for Elia, and they are officially our New Favourite Onesie.

I make long, thin babies. It becomes very difficult, once they start moving around a bit and growing properly, to find a onesie that really fits them. Also, I like Elia to have her feet out whenever possible for sensory development, and most onesies don’t offer this – but the le Roo onesies have fold over feet and hands. Since the weather’s getting cooler, this is perfect! Elia can feel her feet on carpets and grass to her heart’s content, until the sun goes behind a cloud and I can snuggle her with her feet nicely covered.

Why such a fuss over a onesie, when there are clothes around that can do the same job? Well I have this ‘thing’ about small babies being in onesies. I think they look adorable. A baby in a onesie is possibly one of my favourite things ever – I could wax lyrical about them for ages, but I won’t bore anyone right now. Suffice it to say, these onesies have satisfied my baby-dressing feels so very well! I mean, just look at how cute she is in them!

To order your own le Roo onesie, call Alésia on 0741722286 or email sales@leroo.co.za

She will also ship products not including courier fee.

Peppa Pig (kinda…)

If anyone in the Gauteng area with children has somehow managed to miss this, Peppa, George, Mummy and Daddy and their friends are at Emperor’s Palace for a few days. And, as a part of her third birthday present, Stevie and I went on a Mummy and (eldest) Daughter day to watch it.

I have been so excited for today. Since we’ve had Elia, Stevie has been very Daddy-reliant, as you’d expect, and I’ve been dying for us to do something nice, just the two of us. Stevie was excited for the Peppa Pig portion of the day – I was excited for her excitement.

Emperor’s was heaving. I have never seen so many giddy toddlers in my life. We managed to get ourselves a snack box, a George cuddly toy and a magic glow stick before taking our (fantastic) seats. Stevie had just woken up from a nap on the way, so she was taking a while to come round / but she seemed happy to be there, taking in the whole atmosphere.

The first half was fantastic. The compére, ‘Anna,’ was very charismatic and her voice was great – and the puppets were nice and realistic, exactly what someone Stevie’s age would enjoy. Everything was very interactive, and the end-of-act-one section was excellent, with giant, bouncy beach balls floated across the crowd and bubbles floating down from the roof everywhere! The kids were going crazy! Well… most of them. Hmm. Something wasn’t quite right here.

We went to the loo in the break, but before we could buy a ‘busy pack,’ we were called back in again. On the way we passed our friends, Alésia and her daughter, Nikki, who wasn’t feeling or looking great. Then we sat down. The second half started where the last one picked up, with great singing and dancing and entertainment for everyone to join in with.

But unfortunately I couldn’t really pay attention to this bit, and nor could Stevie. She cuddled into me, not wanting a drink or any of the snack pack (I had eaten the crisps already). Something wasn’t quite right here. And, unfortunately, 20 minutes before the end, I ended up with toddler vomit down my top, doing a quick shuffle out of the theatre with a very lethargic (and disappointed) little girl.

So here, my review comes to an end. Neither Stevie, nor I, knows how the show came to a close. We managed to snag ourselves a queue-free busy pack, which was great. But the fun was over, as Stevie seemed to have the bug that has taken over the school (I don’t think it’s listeriosis, no panic! She’s fine now). We quickly called Daddy to come fetch us, and she slept the whole way home, cuddling her cuddly George.

I honestly thought I was more disappointed than Stevie. But, hey ho, we had fun and she enjoyed what she saw. But she did, honestly, break my heart when she felt better later on, and said, “Mummy, I’m not sick anymore. I want to see Peppa Pig.” So, disappointment all around but she obviously enjoyed the show. I actually enjoyed the show. And, therefore, it gets top marks from us.

Peppa Pig Live is at Emperor’s Palace until the 2nd April, and tickets are still somewhat available at Computicket.

Boredom and After School Activities

A piece of writing went viral last week on the problem with organising your toddler’s day after they’ve finished school.

Stevie’s preferred after-school activity.

And it made me think.

Right now, with Elia so small and needy, it’s easy to organise every last aspect of Stevie’s life, to keep her occupied whilst I’m busy with Elia. But what if I’m giving her too much to do? A few days ago, Pete and I were busy and she brought her Duplo brick through to the lounge and happily played with them for hours. On other days, she’ll ask to paint or play with her Play-Doh. And, yes, at times she’ll want all of my attention, and sometimes have a breakdown if she doesn’t get it – but, surely, that’s a really important part of life for her to learn?

Oh hi, Rome!

I used to think I was doing her a favour when I organised things for her to do. But, having watched her deal with her own boredom by requesting to go in the pool, or play hide and seek, or help Daddy around the house, I can see that by letting her decide what she wants to do, I’m giving her a really important responsibility to control her own fun. In effect, she’s teaching herself a valuable resource for later life. So, from now on, she can decide what she wants to do on an afternoon, if possible (but not Tuesdays – horse riding is her one requested hobby, so that’s staying). Let’s see how it goes…

Kikki and Franki

Just under a year ago, at a random kids’ pop-up market near my house, I made the amazing discovery that is Kikki and Franki. I got chatting to Stacey, and bought some beautiful cupboard separators for presents for certain people. Well, their babies were born and they were gifted the things, and I thought nothing more of it really – until the next market when I saw Stacey again, and told her about my blog. She insisted they send me something for the new baby, and wow did they send something lovely.

Kikki and Franki make wall art and milestone blankets for babies. Not knowing what to do with Elia’s room, not knowing whether she was a girl or a boy, and knowing she wouldn’t actually sleep in here for a year or so, we were at a bit of a loss. Which is when Stacey sent me her wall decals.

Okay, here’s the honest reason it’s taken me so long to write this review – I was really worried by how bloody fiddly the decals seemed (I asked Pete to do them in the week before Elia joined us, not being able to climb a ladder, and he got very annoyed very quickly). It kind of put me off. But, of course, I found them the easiest things ever! I wish I’d done them sooner. Hey ho!

We love them, they really suit the colour we chose, way before Elia was even thought of, to paint her room. For a unisex bedroom they’re beautiful, still, and different to the usual things you see. Plus – they’re moveable! So when we eventually put Elia in her own room, we can move them to suit whatever we put in here. And how cute is the ‘Elia’ frame our next door neighbours bought us?

Baby Things – Good or a Waste?

So recently my friend Billie Brown, of Young London Mum, asked me for my list of what’s good, and what’s not-so-good, to buy for baby. I thought I’d post my recommendations here – and add a couple more, of course!

1. Top 5 Buys

– a stretchy baby wrap. I now have two that I interchange. I started with a Jojo Maman Bebe wrap with Stevie, and now with Elia I primarily use a Mona Lisa Mamas wrap (a homegrown South African company). You can also make your own using t-shirt fabric!

– a baby bath seat. We bought one for Stevie originally in the UK, and we bought another one for her when we loved to SA. We now also use it for Elia- babies are slippery to hold in the bath, and much as it sounds lovely to bathe with them all the time, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way.

– a good bouncer/rocker. Brand really doesn’t matter (although we love our Tiny Love rocker), just find one you like and it’ll prove invaluable – so handy for when you need that 5 mins just to have a quick shower or make a cup of tea.

-a great quality, long-wearing travel system. We have the iCandy Peach, which we bought before Stevie was born. We did a LOT of research into different brands, and we liked the giant wheels and the slightly higher vantage point of the seat. Besides missing a bar (I think it’s still in my cousin’s car) it’s lasted us well for 3 years! It fits either a Maxi Cosi or BeSafe car seat, then has the pram attachment and the buggy. Stevie still uses the buggy bit, and Elia has taken over using the car seat and pram. Special shout out to the BeSafe car seat, which has also lasted 3 years!

Mimijumi bottles. Essential for a breastfeeding mum with a boob monster! The shape mimics that of a breast and baby needs to suck to get out milk, thus making it the closest bottle to a boob. Weirdly, it even looks like a slightly odd nipple! Every other bottle was useless for us – Stevie refused anything but the real thing until this bottle came along. It’s pricey, but totally worth it.

– a baby nest. We stupidly left our Sleepyhead sleep pod in storage in the UK, but we found a new one! A must for any mum, it can create a safe co-sleeping space (nice, firm walls) or a safe space where they still feel cocooned inside their cot.

2. Useless things

– Tommee Tippee breast pump. Sorry to the makers of this breastpump, but if I’d have known how long I’d be feeding for (nearly 3 years now) and how much expressing would have to happen per trip (hi, model who looks like a dairy cow in designer clobber) I’d have gone straight for the big guns in the form of the Medela Swing and saved myself a load of hassle. Frugal doesn’t always mean sensible!

The joys of pumping and travelling – this is on a 16-hour direct flight on the way back from Mexico

– Moses basket. Thankfully we didn’t invest in one, but we know lots of people who did and who weren’t happy. It’s cumbersome to move with one hand (whilst holding baby) and just gets in the way – and baby grows out of it so quickly, it just seems a waste of space.

– breastfeeding pillows. I used one with Stevie, but I haven’t needed one at all with Elia – I’ve realised far too late that any cushion will do the same job!

– dresses for girls and fussy clothes for boys, in the 0-6 month size category. Super cute but totally uncomfortable and impractical! Our girls have been stuck in them for photos, but for everyday wear, stick to a cute baby grow or trouser/top combo.

– expensive baby clothes. Okay, so this one is kind of a given – but it’s still true. Babies wear their clothes for maximum 3-4 months, and I guarantee that they’ll poo/puke in the most expensive item you own. My MIL bought a beautiful Petit Bateau baby grow for Stevie, white velvet with a Peter Pan collar. So pretty, but the Cursed Onesie. If we ever needed her to have a poonami, we’d pop her in that. Rather stick to Asda/Tesco or Morrisons clothes in the beginning – they wash nicely and you won’t get upset if your child explodes in them!

On Tandem Nursing and Adjusting to a Little Sister…

Elia is 3 weeks old today. 3 whole weeks! Time has flown by so quickly. I knew it would – it seems like yesterday Stevie was this small. And I’m literally pinching myself every day, trying to remember every single moment, because I know that, in the blink of an eye, it’ll be June and I’ll be going back to work, missing my now-chaotic little household.

But I will be completely honest – adjusting to having two children, and also tandem feeding and letting Stevie adjust, hasn’t been the easiest – and I didn’t expect it to be.

Right now, Stevie is about 90% in love with her little sister (maybe more like 95%, actually – her love grows day g day and it’s wonderful!) but 5-10% jealous and trying to get used to not being the centre of our attention all the time. Thank god for tandem nursing!

Baby bums!

Tandem nursing has been our saving grace, but also my biggest adjustment. Stevie loves sharing her booby with her baby sister, but I’ve been trying to limit Stevie’s intake still. Which may turn out to have been a silly idea – from tomorrow, I’m going to let my girls have a lot more control over their routines. The hardest thing for me has been adjusting to having two creatures demanding not just my time, but my body. But then I sit and think how small they both still are (even though Stevie now feels giant) and I just melt. I love feeding both my girls, so I’m going to do it as they want it. Besides, Elia’s already put on 700g (900g if you count from her lowest weight) so I’m obviously doing something right!

Sorry for my slightly ranting, verbal vomit post, but I like to keep people informed. I know tandem feeding is a controversial subject, but I see nothing controversial about it for my family.

Tandem Feeding Info

Every Baby is Different

I was so spoilt with Stevie. She was the world’s most perfect baby – she fed well, she slept well from day one. The only issues we had were that my own, personal sensitivity to cooked onions caused her extreme discomfort, and she never pooed. Seriously, even before the expected 6 week mark, Stevie pooed once a week – and my god did she poo. Once, she showered Pete, the wall, the door and the floor (and there may have even been spatters on Rome).

Baby Stevie – the face that launched a thousand poonamis

I appear to have been spoilt with Elia, too. This little poppet came out of the womb with the world’s most perfect latch, cluster feeding her way through the day. But she doesn’t seem to like dairy. And by that, I mean the fairly common intolerance that babies sometimes have to cows’ milk proteins, transferred through mum’s milk. In formula babies, this often results in transferring to expensive, sensitive formulas made with soy or other substitutes. In breastfed babies, this means mum has to cut all dairy out of her diet.

Little Miss No-Dairy

This isn’t the worst thing for me. In order to get my body ‘back,’ I’m going to have to look after myself, and I don’t mind admitting I need to cut out my addiction to cheese. Thankfully, that’s my only dairy weakness. But wait – what about my porridge?

Bring in the almond milk and coconut milk. Almond milk porridge (half water, half almond milk with oats. Stir in a tablespoon of real maple syrup and a teaspoon of Flavorgod Gingerbread Cookie and let simmer fill at your desired texture) or coconut milk quinoa porridge (about 2 parts coconut milk to 1 part quinoa, with cinnamon powder or Flavorgod Chocolate Donut simmering but not stirring until fluffy and light) – and you can also do chia seed puddings with either, letting the chia seeds soak in the fridge in your desired milk overnight. I like mine done in coconut milk with vanilla essence, topped with berries the morning after.

Thankfully, the possibilities are endless. Now, to just convince myself that I don’t miss my stinky cheeses…

Chia seed pudding topped with pineapple, with banana loaf and almond butter

Quinoa porridge with coconut milk, topped with bananas, blueberries and coconut bits

Banana and egg pancakes – that’s it! No more ingredients! Top with whatever you please – lemon? Yup. Real maple syrup? Yup yup.

Flavorgod ships worldwide, including South Africa, for a small fee. Head to Flavorgod.com for prices.