The Morning Drop-Off

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Now that I’m up to four days of work a week, the nursery drop off has become a more regular occurrence. And it is fair to say it doesn’t always go smoothly! However, it is such a part of our daily routine that I’d feel I was missing something important if I didn’t include an example in this blog!

This is not necessarily an average day – there were more tears than usual. But no day is completely without hiccups. Here is how our morning went:

6.30 – Lumie Bodyclock alarm goes off. Mute and turn off light.

6.35 – Phone alarm goes off. Mute.

6.40 – Tom wakes up and starts babbling over monitor. Turn off monitor, get up and go to bathroom.

6.45 – Kitchen. Put together breakfast for Tom and I, then go to get him up. Big smile from Tom, who hands me his blanket for safe keeping. Go sit down for breakfast.

6.50 – Tom wants another weetabix. Stop eating own breakfast and get him one.

6.55 – Tom wants another weetabix. No. Stop eating own breakfast and get his vitamins.

6.56 – Tom takes vitamins, then throws spoon on the floor and asks to get down. Stop eating own breakfast and let him out of the high chair. Tuck him up on the sofa under a blanket, as it is cold in the flat this morning. Hand him an old remote to play with.

6.57 – Finally finished eating own breakfast. Mr Techno gets up and starts running a bath. Can he brush Tom’s teeth first? Yes. Significantly less crying than when I do it. Mr Techno is now on teeth brushing duty for the rest of Tom’s life. Get self dressed in clothes I laid out yesterday evening.

6.58 – Pour leftover coffee from yesterday in a pan and put on stove to warm up. Get last bits together ready to go to Suffolk this evening.

6.59 – Tom toddles back into kitchen just as I pour coffee and immediately tries to grab my cup. No. He can have his water cup instead.

7.00 – Tom doesn’t want his water cup. He wants my coffee cup. No. Because it’s mine. Daddy can’t have it either. Tom is unconvinced by this argument.

7.02 – Tom gives me a book to read him. No. We don’t have time. Sit down on the sofa and read it to him anyway, sneaking sips of coffee in between pages.

7.05 – Time to get Tom dressed. Tom doesn’t want to get dressed. He wants to play with his stacking cups. Arrange stacking cups on coffee table (which is now the change table) and manage to get him mostly dressed whilst he plays with them.

7.10 – Tom is bored of stacking cups. He wants to go in his blanket fort. No. I can’t get him dressed in there. Make him sit on my lap to finish getting dressed. Cue tears, struggling and attempts to run away.

7.25 – Tom now dressed. Time to put his coat on. Tom sees the coat and runs off to find daddy. Fine; I need to talk to him too.

7.26 – Mr Techno puts Tom’s coat on, whilst we agree on arrangements for getting to Suffolk this evening. Mr Techno will either pick Tom and I up from nursery or meet us at the flat, depending on what time he gets home.

7.28 – Ready to go. Grab handbag, lunch and change bag, all of which were packed yesterday evening. Open stair gate.

7.29 – Tom refuses to go downstairs by himself, a trick he mastered months ago. Attempt to help get him started, but have to put down bags in the process. Bags fall down stairs. Contents of handbag now all over hallway floor. Say some very bad words under my breath, pick Tom up and carry him down. Tom grabs a handful of my hair and pulls. No patience left. Yell at him ‘LET GO’. Mr Techno appears at top of stairs to find out why I am yelling. This does nothing for my mood.

7.30 – Forgot to set up buggy before bringing Tom down. Do it now whilst Tom throws all my shoes on the floor. Pick up contents of handbag and pack bags into bottom of buggy. Put Tom in buggy and put hat on him. Mr Techno can pick up shoes.

7.32 – Leave house, 10 minutes late. Tom immediately takes his hat off and throws it on the ground. Pick up hat and try to put it back on. Tom starts crying. Give up on hat and hand him his sock comforter. Start walking.

7.35 – Tom throws sock on ground. Pick it up. He wants it back. Give it back to him. He throws it on the ground again. Sock is confiscated.

7.40 – Halfway through park, Tom starts whining. Does he want sock? No. Is he cold? Won’t wear hat or gloves. Give up and walk on.

7.45 – Realise I am doing very angry marching. Stop. Take many deep breaths. Look down into woodland. Try to remember how lucky I am. Say to Tom ‘I am having a bad day today’. Tom seems to agree.

7.50 – Resume walking and reach the end of the park. Still in a bad mood, but feeling a little calmer. Tom settles down to watch the cars whizz past on the road.

8.05 – Finally arrive at nursery. Somehow only 5 minutes late (due to angry marching). Tom greets his key person with a huge smile. Kiss him goodbye, put buggy in store and head for tube station.

8.15 – Feeling oddly light. Oh. Have left handbag at nursery. Run back. Get laughed at by staff as it is the second time this week.

08.25 – Get on tube. Oddly empty. Where is everyone?

08.40 – Get off tube and walk to work.

08.45 – Made it! Have big cup of coffee and a piece of shortbread to celebrate.

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Family Visit to Epping Forest

It’s been a while since Mr Techno and I have both had a full day off at the same time. Which means we hadn’t been on a family day out since our visit to Winterville before Christmas. Fortunately, we both had Wednesday off, so it was time to address this terrible situation!

Our first thought was a visit to Brooks Farm in Leyton – we haven’t been yet and it is only a half-hour walk from our flat. But, just as we were about to leave, I checked the website for the opening times and found that it was closed due to staff sickness. So I guess we will have to save that for another day.

Instead, we piled into the car and headed for Epping Forest, which is a bit too far for us to walk. There are a number of visitor centres for the Forest – the one we headed to is our closest one, which is called the View. Not only is it the closest, but it is also right next to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, which I really wanted to look round.

There was a very fine drizzle when we arrived and parked the car, but we could see from the clouds that it was likely to get worse, so we decided to start our visit with a wander around part of the Forest. Being an ancient oak forest, Epping is perfect for little people – the trees are widely spaced and leave lots of room for exploring, without getting tripped up by undergrowth. We enjoyed a lovely, if rather muddy, walk through the trees. Tom handled the walking really well – he’s always been pretty confident outdoors but I’ve really noticed his balance and speed improving in the last two weeks. He did trip twice, but bearing in mind the uneven ground and the scattered leaves and sticks, that was pretty good going. He had a great time, especially when Mr Techno and I took his hands and swung him between us, which led to lots of giggling.

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We came to the end of our short loop, and the rain was getting heavier, so we headed for the Hunting Lodge. Before we went in, we had to admire the view and make friends with the wooden deer statues outside.

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A staff member from the View came over to let us into the Lodge and told us a bit about its history. It was actually built for Henry VIII – in his later years, Henry was too fat to easily ride, so he had a number of lodges built in his game parks. The gamekeepers would drive deer to the clear area in front of the Lodge, and Henry and his nobles would shoot at them with crossbows – all the bloodletting with none of the risk or exercise involved! However, the original Lodge was fairly basic. It was done up for Elizabeth I, which is probably how it got its name. The Lodge was then used as a farmhouse until the 19th Century, which likely helped it survive in a fairly unaltered state. A Victorian extension was built, but was torn down later so that the building could be more easily presented as a Tudor Lodge (I’m not going to get into it here, but for reasons relating to good conservation philosophy, that was a choice I don’t totally agree with).

The Lodge has been very much ‘dressed’ to highlight its Tudor origins, so is a fun visit for kids. The first room we went into had a mocked-up Tudor feast laid out, complete with rather creepy figure of a Tudor beggar.

Upstairs, there was a dress-up room on the first floor. The clothes were on the large side for our little man, but he was interested in poking the ‘tapestries’.

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On the second floor, as well as an incredible view, there was a table display about how traditional timber framed buildings were built, along with a dendrochronology activity (that’s tree ring dating, for those who don’t speak archaeologist). The part of me that works in building conservation was very pleased with this part, as well as the handout we were given that explained how to ‘read’ the building, pointing out taper burns, carpenters’ marks, and apotropaic marks (to ward off evil). When Mr Techno mentioned to the staff member that I work for the SPAB, he pointed out that the Lodge also has links with William Morris, our founder, who was apparently inspired by the Tudor tapestries that used to hang in the Lodge when he was a child growing up in nearby Woodford.

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After thoroughly exploring the Lodge, we headed back over to the View, which had a lovely little display about the various seasons in the forest, including sound effects. Tom was very keen to press the buttons and hear the birdsong.

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By this time we were all getting hungry for our lunch. Options were fairly limited – there was a pricey coffee shop or a Brewer’s Fayre attached to the Premier Inn (which has somehow landed planning permission to be right next to the View). Needing somewhere kid-friendly, we headed to the Brewer’s Fayre to join a host of other families also in need of sustenance.

Despite the less than stellar weather, we had a lovely day out. I definitely intend to spend a lot more time in Epping Forest as it gets warmer – the View maybe our closest visitor centre but there are places to get into the Forest much closer to us. And as Tom starts sleeping less, we will have more time to explore! We’ll be back to the Hunting Lodge too when he is old enough to appreciate it.

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Wander Mum

Using Cloth Nappies at Nursery: A Beginner’s Guide

We started to look for childcare for Tom before he was even born. Competition for the best nurseries can be fierce in London and we knew I’d be going back to work when he was 6 months old, giving us slightly less time to find something than we might otherwise have had. Luckily, we loved the first nursery we saw (don’t worry though: we did visit others for comparison). Now 16 months old, Tom has been happy there for over 10 months and we still love it too.

It’s important to ask questions when visiting nurseries, but one of ours was a slightly unusual one – ‘how do you feel about a baby in cloth nappies?’ We knew we wanted to try using them, so it was important to us to find a childcare setting that would be comfortable with the idea.

As it turned out, the nursery we ended up choosing had never had a baby in cloth before. They said they had people ask before the baby was born, but none of them actually ended up using them. So we presented them with a bit of a learning curve!

10 months on, we (and they) are so experienced with the nappies that no one even thinks twice anymore. We are all just in a routine with them. So for other parents wondering about how to keep using reusables when their baby starts nursery (or other childcare), here is my beginner’s guide to making it work.

Step one: Choosing childcare
Let’s face it, when you are choosing childcare, their attitude to cloth nappies is probably not top priority. Nor should it be. Whether you and your child are comfortable with the setting is the key to making sure that you are both relaxed and happy, so I wouldn’t turn down an otherwise brilliant option just because they aren’t sure about using cloth nappies. However, I would be wary of a nursery or childminder who gives a point-blank “no” on this issue. That kind of lack of flexibility does not bode well for future discussions. And there will be some. What you want from a childcare setting is support in your parenting choices, plus gentle steering on some issues, if you ask for it. A flat no on any issue is not a good start to building that supportive relationship. If they aren’t willing to even consider it, I’d be looking at other options to see if I could find someone who would. My nursery have had to deal with other unusual choices from us, including baby led weaning and turning up with bottles of pumped breast milk, so knowing from the start that they were willing to discuss things with me was important.

If the nursery are willing to give it a go, that is great! If they seem reluctant, but are open to trying, then make it clear you are willing to compromise. That is the situation we found ourselves in with our nursery. The staff were dubious at first, but I made it clear that it was not an all-or-nothing thing. We agreed that I would bring some nappies with me during the settling-in period, so they could see how they worked. If it was too difficult for them to manage, I said we would be open to switching to disposables instead. That way they didn’t have the nappies forced on them and were more open to a trial.

Step two: Starting out
If the setting you choose have used reusable nappies in the past, then you are probably away clear, though they may need a quick demo of the particular brands you use. If, like our nursery, they have never used cloth nappies before, then you are going to need to support them a bit more. Take some nappies in during the settling-in period and demonstrate how they work. If you are using washable wipes too then take those as well so they don’t get a shock later. When your baby starts to go for full days, write a short instruction list and pop it in the change bag. Our nursery have put ours up on the wall by the change mat so that everyone has an easy reference. Expect some hiccups at the start – I used to pack a single disposable as an emergency back-up whilst the staff got used to the system.

A note on nappy styles – for preference, I like the two-part systems which have a separate inner and a waterproof wrap. They are a bit more bomb-proof. However, they are more complicated to use. To make things simple for nursery staff, we use pocket birth-to-potty nappies when Tom goes to nursery. They are much closer to a disposable in use, so were easier for the staff to get comfortable with.

Step three: Packing your change bag
This is a dilemma that parents who use disposables don’t have to face. They just drop a pack of disposables off every couple of weeks. But a cloth nappy user has to pack fresh every day. So how many nappies do you pack? What do you do with the dirties?

The answer is to find out how many times the nursery does nappy changes – most do it on a schedule. Ours does three throughout the day. So I pack three nappies for those changes. I add one spare in case of extra poo, and another spare for emergencies. So that is five in total. I sometimes find they use four, but never all five. The nappies go in fully assembled, with a fleece liner positioned ready on top. I add 10 wipes, pre-soaked, in a waterproof bag (we use one from Cheeky Wipes, but a simple zip-lock would probably do the job). I’d only expect around 6 of those to be used. I also pack a change of clothes, and a waterproof zippered bag for the dirties. It holds three easily and four at a push. I usually put a little bit of cotton wool soaked in tea tree oil in the bottom to help mask smells. Pack the bag the night before, or you are guaranteed to forget something in the morning rush!

A note on change bags: go big. Those cute little roll up kits you sometimes see parents using? Those little backpacks your toddler can carry? Neither of those are going to be able to fit all the kit you need when you use reusables. Ideally, choose something with compartments so that clean clothes, wipes and nappies can be easily located. I can’t recommend any, I’m afraid, as ours came off E-bay and I have no idea what brand it is.

Step four: The big wash
I going to assume that if you are dedicated to using cloth nappies, you will already have gotten in to a washing routine by the time your little one starts going to childcare. We wash every two days. However, going up to four days of work, combined with the winter weather, has meant I have had to add in an extra wash to make sure we have enough nappies clean each day. If you think about it, packing the change bag the night before means you need to have 7 clean nappies ready when you get home in the evening. 5 to go in the change bag, 1 on your baby’s bum to sleep in, and 1 to put on in the morning. Depending on your drying arrangements (we don’t have a tumble drier), that means having at least 14 nappies. More if, like us, you have to rely on radiator heat or sunlight. So factor that in when deciding how often to wash and how many nappies to buy.

I’ll be honest, the washing is the worst part of using cloth nappies whilst working. After a long day, the last thing I want to do is sort through dirty nappies, find the one or two which contain poo, and put that poo down the toilet. Especially as it is likely to be pretty caked on to the fleece liner once it has been stuffed into a change bag all day. If you just can’t face that, disposable liners are definitely the way to go. Even then, you are likely to have to run a wash in the evening, which means getting your tired body off the sofa to hang them up to dry (or sort them if you have a tumbler drier). You could, I suppose, use a laundry service instead, but beware that this may negate much of the eco-credit of using cloth in the first place. As will too much reliance on the tumble drier, for that matter.

The other way round this is to have a large stash of nappies (though see above about eco-friendliness). We’ve compromised by having a back-up stash to our core ones. The core stash, of 14 nappies, is what we use regularly and I aim to keep up with the laundry so we don’t have to go beyond this. Sometimes though, especially if I’ve been away overnight with work, this just doesn’t happen. So we have a second stash of 5 that we bought second-hand. They are a little bit less reliable on leaks as they were heavily used before we got them, but do the job pretty well. We’ve never had a poo explosion anyway! We also have a couple of disposables hanging around from our last weekend away, but I’d expect them still to be there when we next go away, short of the washing machine breaking down.

A note on second-hand nappies: I guess some people might find this gross, though I can’t say it bothers me. Just launder any you get before use to make sure they are clean. I’ve found the best place to buy them is Pre-Loved, rather than auction sites like E-Bay. E-Bay bidding on cloth nappies is ferocious and I have very rarely managed to win one. Prices also often exceed my self-imposed limit of half the price of the item new (including postage). Pre-Loved is gentler and tend to attract people who just want to get rid of their stash quickly, rather than for the best price. I paid 15 quid for 5 on there and trust me that is a bargain. Freecycle is worth a try as well, but I’ve never actually seen any on there – most people who use cloth are assuming they will get some of the initial outlay back by selling them online when they are done. As I plan to. After baby no 2 has had a go with them of course (no not pregnant).

It may seem daunting at first, but using cloth nappies whilst your child is at nursery is actually very doable, for both you and them. Our nursery have even found it makes them more attractive to other parents – they grabbed me the other day to show a prospective mum with a baby in reusables the bag we use for dirties, proving they already know how to use them.

Plus who can resist a squishy cloth bum?

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A New Park and a Winter Picnic

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Brr, it has been chilly the last few days. It’s taking me much longer than usual to get Tom and myself dressed in the mornings – we’re both wandering around wearing enough layers to be cosy in the arctic!

We’ve been trying not to let the cold scare us off going out. Mostly pretty successfully. We’ve walked to and from nursery every day that Tom goes, he and Mr Techno have started their weekly nature club, and Tom and I spent a great weekend wandering around the Marshes and Springfield Park.

Wednesday is my day off, and Mr Techno had to work, meaning family day has had to be postponed until Sunday. Irritatingly, the parcels that were supposed to be delivered earlier in the week hadn’t turned up, so we had to make a trip to the sorting office, a half hour walk away. As Tom has taken to napping late into the afternoons, it had to be a morning trip, which wasn’t going to leave us much time to get there and back before Tom wanted lunch.

I was determined not to give up our outdoor playtime, so had a good look on Google maps and spotted a little park close to the sorting office; one we had never been to before. And so a plan was hatched – we’d pick up the parcels, have a play in the park, then have a winter’s picnic before heading home for Tom’s nap.

The park turned out to be pretty small, with not much open space. But that didn’t matter at all as it had a huge play area. My one complaint about our local park is that even the toddler equipment doesn’t have easy to climb steps, so Tom needs help using it. No such issues here – there were perfect Tom-sized structures.

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After a good play, we settled down on a bench to enjoy a sandwich and grape lunch.

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By this point we were both pretty cold, despite our layers and the winter sun. So it was time to walk home for cuddles and naps.

I’m glad we made the effort to fit in some outdoor play and discovered a new park into the bargain!



Life Unexpected

A Small Step to Greener Living

I have discovered something amazing! We have a milkman. We’ve lived in this flat for 2 and a half years and I had no idea we had a milkman. 

I only discovered this by chance – just before Christmas they came round all the flats in our street in the evening to try to attract new customers. Normally we wouldn’t have been home, but it was a bit drizzly, so Tom and I hadn’t stayed long in the park on our way home.

Not only do they deliver milk right to our doorstep, which is hugely convenient and helps keep some of our money out of the hands of the big supermarkets, but they use the proper glass bottles and collect them once a week to re-sterilise and resuse. So it is helping cut down our weekly waste as well.

And the company are a small family business that is based locally. And the milk is from a farm in nearby Essex. And they offer extras like organic free-range eggs and fresh juice.

I’m very pleased we were home in time to discover their service. Though slightly ashamed I had never thought to check if we had a local milkman at all…

Anyway, it’s another small step towards greener shopping habits. Every little helps and all that!