Mummy Mondays - Amazon Prime or Netflix?

Monday, 29 September 2014

It's Mummy Mondays again! Today I thought I'd talk about something vital to a mother's well-being: television.

And yes, I know. I know that there are studies suggesting under two's shouldn't watch TV. I also know that you can find a study to prove or disprove anything you want, so unless you feel pretty strongly about it, it's not worth getting yourself stressed about it. In my view, a little bit of TV doesn't hurt (I even think it can help to improve communication, depending on what you're watching. Obviously there would be an advantage to your child watching Mr Tumble as opposed to, say, back to back episodes of Eastenders).


Alright love?

We accidentally have both Netflix and Amazon Prime. Netflix through choice, Amazon Prime because Chris forgot to cancel his free trial and ended up paying nearly fifty (that's right! Fifty!)* English Pounds to have it for a year. Unexpectedly, this has worked in our favour.

Here's why:

It has In the Night Garden.

In the Night Garden (or ITNG as I will henceforth call it) is the one reason I can have a shower. Our downstairs bathroom, which houses the shower, has no safe place for me to put Jellybean now she refuses to be strapped into anything. I need to leave her somewhere safe. So I put her in the travel cot with toys, pop on an episode of In the Night Garden, frantically shower, and then get her out again.

Does this make me a bad mother? Some mothers would say so. Apparently playpens are frowned upon by some. Our child having a head injury or accidentally climbing in the shower with me is frowned upon by us, so travel cot and telly it is.

Anyway. Here are the pros and cons of both, should you be thinking of going one way or the other, from a mother's perspective:

Amazon Prime Pros:

  • Has ITNG, Peppa Pig, and Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom
  • Has a really good selection of kid's films, including some Disney ones
  • Has every episode of One Tree Hill Has a really good selection of American drama series
  • You can pay for a yearly membership of Amazon Prime instead of monthly payments, which also includes free next day delivery for eligible items on Amazon
Amazon Prime Cons:
  • Not a good selection of documentaries
  • Fools you into thinking you can watch new films or TV shows for free when in fact you have to pay for them and they are ridiculously expensive
  • Doesn't automatically play the next episode in a series like Netflix does
  • Slightly confusing layout if you watch it on a PC
Netflix Pros:
  • Good selection of kid's films, and the odd TV series (Dora the Explorer being one)
  • Good selection of documentaries
  • Good selection of comedies (I have fallen in love with Modern Family)
  • Also has a good, but different, selection of American drama series
Netflix Cons:
  • No ITNG, Peppa Pig, or Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom
  • Frustrating menu system which means you can't see everything they actually have to offer, and sometimes they take vital sections (like 'recently added') away so you can't see them. This should really count as two cons because it's so annoying
  • Doesn't have every episode of One Tree Hill
Netflix is currently £6.99 per month, whereas Amazon Prime Instant Viewer is £5.99 per month. However, overall I feel Netflix has the better selection for adults (including a few things made exclusively for Netflix) so the verdict we have come to is to keep it, stop Amazon Prime, and buy Peppa Pig, ITNG and Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom DVDs instead.


Yes Ben, we know you're an elf. You don't have to keep banging on about it.

What do you think? Do you have either one? Do you have a TV ban and, if so, how on earth do you shower in peace? Feel free to comment ;)

* I'm actually grateful Chris forgot to cancel the free trial, as shortly after we secured it for a year, Amazon Prime's yearly membership went from £49 to £79, so really we got an accidental bargain!

7 quick takes #18 - savouring autumn

Friday, 26 September 2014


I missed last week's 7QT! I had a lot of family stuff going on, to be fair. They come first and all that ;)

Anyway, back on track now. I promise.


I love autumn! Love it. I love it when it's sunny but the air feels cool on your skin. Love crunching through leaves in my boots. Sometimes the temptation (for me) is to start immediately thinking about Christmas as soon as the kids go back to school in September, but really, there's a whole season yet before we start wrestling the Christmas tree out of the loft. So here is my autumn to-do list:

1.

Kick around in the leaves, stomp on them, play with them, admire them ... etc.

2.

Go blackberry picking and then make and eat some sort of crumble

3.

Go to a cafe and drink an overpriced pumpkin-spiced based coffee

4.

See the fireworks on Guy Fawkes' Night and make parkin to celebrate

5.

Burn cinnamon, apple, or cookie dough flavoured candles (mmm) until the smell gets up my nose almost permanently

6.

Make autumny crafts with my niece (this may be forced upon her soon)

7.

Eat a pumpkin! Or a squash! And let Jellybean play with the weird gooey inside bits.


Now I've written it out I'm excited. For all the spider dodging, sudden downpours and wrist-achingly dangerous pumpkin chopping, there are a lot of nice things to do too. Yay for sunny autumn days, for darkening evenings, warm jumpers, and snuggly evenings on the sofa!

So, have I missed anything? What are you doing this autumn? x

Mummy Mondays: Mumsnet 2-minute cheese sauce - tested!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Recently I repainted our kitchen. It was long overdue a touch up. The thing is with painting is that it's never neat and tidy, is it? There's just stuff everywhere. At one point I was balancing on the worktop shrieking to Chris to grab the baby because she was crawling toward the paint lid with a big smile on her face (he literally turned away from her for like, a second. She's an opportunist. She sees mischief - she goes for it).

Anyway, after a long day painting (and scrubbing the top of our oven's filter hood thing - disgusting!) we had friends coming over and I had to do a manic wash-paint-out-of-my-hair-and-change-and-cook-dinner thing.

Luckily I had already made Mumsnet's two-minute cheese sauce recipe before, and found it really easy to do. I doubled it this time to make a pasta bake.

I like this recipe because everything is measured in cups, giving me the opportunity to use these:


Which is always a good thing. Plus it's easy. Mix everything together, put in microwave for thirty seconds, stir, repeat.

I doubled the recipe this time, which meant a longer cooking (or rather, microwave blasting) time, but it was still done in two minutes and thirty seconds. Much quicker than when I make it on the hob. It looks unpromising and watery for a while, but eventually it will be thick and creamy looking:


Next time I might try and use different cheeses too. Mmmm.

I made a pasta bake with this - which involved cooking a bag of pasta along with a handful of frozen spinach cubes, mixing it all up, adding a tin of tuna, grating cheese on top, and popping it in the oven for fifteen minutes.


It wasn't beautiful to look at, but it made our bellies happy. This fed three hungry adults and one hungry, pasta-loving baby. Who, by the way, was only happy when she was in this position:


My poor, poor hip.

So, two minute cheese sauce! (or 2.30 if you're doubling!) To see it, go to Mumsnet's Youtube channel and subscribe - it takes two seconds and it's worth it for ridiculously easy and quick cheese sauce. They have other recipes on there too.

That's it for Mummy Mondays ... have a great week!

***
I should say that I tested and wrote this by myself. Not prompted at all by Mumsnet. I just like this sauce ;)

Mummy Mondays - three sensory ideas for babies that won't drive you crazy

Monday, 15 September 2014

Welcome to Mummy Mondays! This is the start of a series of posts, on Mondays, that will be (hopefully) quick, snappy, and offer some sort of review/instruction/recipes, or something else vaguely useful to other Mums.

The main rule for Mummy Mondays is - NO WAFFLE. ;)

So in the spirit of things, let's crack on:

If any of you send your children to nursery, you will probably be able to tell me how spectacularly dirty and messy they get while they're there. That's because nursery assistants know how important it is for children to enjoy activities that involve all their senses. When babies stick their hands in mud for the first time, when they slam their feet down in water and feel it splash up their legs, when they wave their fingers through blades of grass, their brains are working overtime, making vital connections. They are learning about gravity, about force, about matter and texture, colour and smell. They are learning how their bodies work, and how they can control their bodies to manipulate things around them.

Messy play is a really good way for babies to do that. And it's super cheap! No expensive educational toys involved. It's like a free brain boost for little ones.

Sometimes, however, I look at the array of amazing looking messy play activities I have collected on my Pinterest board and think: I just can't deal with the preparation and clean up.

So if, like me, you want the benefits of a bit of sensory play without having to run a bath (for yourself and the baby!) afterwards, here three easy things to do which are cheap and, more importantly, very easy to prepare and clean up:

Boring safety related notice: obviously you need to supervise your baby at all times when doing messy play stuff. I don't know why I even need to tell you that. Sorry. Also, all of these are even easier to deal with if you strip baby down to nappy first!

1. Water



Towel + baking tray + water.

That's it.

If you want to get fancy, maybe add a big measuring spoon or colander to scoop and pour with.

Jellybean particularly loved this when she was around five months old and a bit more able to move. Splashing = hilarious.

2. Flour




Kitchen floor or splashmat + flour.

Jellybean still enjoys this now that she's one. She wiggles her little fingers through the flour and claps her hands together to create big sprays of flour (lots of giggles with that, too). 

Afterwards I either sweep up or get the little handheld vacuum out (which, by the way, is an awesome thing to own with little ones around). Then I give the baby a brush down while she wiggles like a little squirming eel and shrieks at me stands beautifully still.

3. Porridge oats



Cheap, value porridge oats + containers to scoop with + high chair tray

This is a good one to keep babies occupied while you try to cook/gulp down a coffee in relative peace. I'd recommend this once you're past the excessive mouthing/will try to eat anything stage. Super easy to clean up and handy for babies who are obsessed with trying to perfect their pincer grip by picking up the smallest things imaginable. Or babies who are obsessed with emptying and filling things up again.

There we go! Mummy Mondays! I'm excited to start another section on my blog. Let me know any easy to clean up messy play ideas you have in the comments :)

No more wasting time.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

My baby watches me all the time. Constantly. In my finest moments, and in my weakest. She watches, because instinctively she knows that's how she'll learn.

She copies everything we do. She knows that the big button in the middle of the xBox controller turns it on and off. She knows that you strum a ukelele and you bang a drum. She knows that the light in the bathroom goes on and off if you pull the cord. She knows that food lives in the fridge, that the blusher brush goes with the blusher, and that phones are for holding up to your ear and talking into. She knows that giving us kisses might get her out of trouble (! must remember to nip that one in the bud). She knows more, basically, than I give her credit for.

She learns from watching me (except the kissing thing. She came up with that one all by herself).

She watches. And watches. And watches.

She watches me on days when I feel not so good about myself.

Watches her mother shrink back in social situations because I feel inferior without a degree or a career.

Watches her mother fall silent because she feels that her week wasn't exciting enough to talk about.

Watches her mother complain about the sofas that need updating or the holidays we aren't going on.

Watches her mother look critically at herself in the mirror because her clothes aren't nice enough and she doesn't look quite right.

We all have days like this, right? Days where we just look at ourselves and think: meh. I can't be perfect 100% of the time. I can't control my emotions 100% of the time. And to do that would be false. To do that would be to say, Don't feel anything, don't let anything show. Which is not a healthy message to send anyway.

But sometimes it gets on top of me. Sometimes I look at other mothers juggling everything beautifully and I wonder what they think of me, just being at home with my one baby, not doing much else. Especially when it's hard. Especially when the baby won't sleep and I've got bags under my eyes and my house is a tip and I'm tired. I feel I have no right to be tired. Sometimes this feeling of inferiority opens up wide and spills out into my life, my thoughts, my actions, my words.

***

And then.

Something will happen.

I tickle her (nappy changing distraction technique) and she giggles. Afterwards, she climbs up me, not really for a cuddle, not for kisses, just to be close. She says 'Mama' in this kind of full, round-cheeked way. 'Mama.' Like her mouth is full. She says it again and again, feet climbing up my thighs like she can't stay still, 'Mama. Mama. Mammmm-ma.'

Or, I'll be pushing the buggy through the park like I do every day, trying to get her to go to sleep or rushing to get to the shops, and I'll just stop and look at the view. Just for a sec. I'll feel the cool air on my face. And I'll smile, that I get the chance to stop and look at this.

Or I'll be trying to do my Bible study homework. Knee-deep in study, trying to get my head out of my own life and into the divine, she'll come crawling over, treading on my book, trying to grab my pen, trying to get my attention, gabbling away in a sing-song voice. Look at me. And I'll stop and look at her and sing a song or do whatever it is she wants me to do, and then she'll wander off and I'll think, as far as distractions go, that's a good one.

Or I'll be cleaning up after lunch, wiping down her high chair tray absent-mindedly, filing away paperwork, or making a phone call, and suddenly I'll notice that she's doing the same. She's grabbing a wetwipe and wiping the tray, she's playing with my discarded papers, holding them way above her head to look at them, she's grabbing the remote control and holding it up by her ear and saying something really quietly.

I think, I love this life. Thank you God, that I get to live this life, that I get to spend this much time with her.

***

I have a flashback.

I'm sitting in the car with Chris on the way to the hospital, and I'm screaming in pain. I'm about six months pregnant and I have a searing pain low in my belly, stronger than anything I have ever felt before. It went from manageable to throwing up within about twenty minutes. I'm shaking, gripping onto my seat as Chris drives (trying not to panic) and I'm willing him to go faster, please get us there quickly. I tap my belly a few times. Baby doesn't respond. Fear floods through me and I can feel it pumping through my veins, a fear I haven't felt before: I am afraid for the life of my unborn child. What if I'm going into labour? What if I'm losing her?

We get to the hospital. I am separated from Chris in a little cubicle. Suddenly the baby leaps into action. I can see her, squirming around in my belly, poking her hands and feet out. Relief comes. The doctors realise I am not in immediate danger of giving birth. They leave me for a while. I relax.

The pain starts to subside, and it turns out to be something entirely unrelated to the baby, and pretty easy to fix. The doctors decide against putting me on a drip and send me home with antibiotics.

I got in the house that night and praised God for the safety of my child, for the hospital, for not having to actually stay in the hospital, for everything. Because in that moment where I thought something might be wrong with my child, I could see the bottom start to drop out of my life. Hopes and dreams are attached to this little squirming person in my belly. And I never knew how much I loved her already until I thought I might lose her.

***

And it startles me, how much time I waste in comparison when I should be praising God for my circumstances, my health, my family.

The truth is, I don't think Mummy Wars really exist outside of journalism. I don't think that real life people are actually that worked up about staying at home vs having a career, or anything like that. I think most parents - most people - are just trying to get on as best they can. We all search for things to define us. And really, it's a mixture of things, isn't it? What defines us is not money. Or status. Or power. Or possessions. Or holidays. Or clothes.

It's not even careers, or talents, or interests.

It's not even family, or children, or friends, or relationship status.

It's a mixture of everything, isn't it? A mix of it all. And everyone's got stuff they feel inferior about. Right?

I think that there's a power in the world that would happily see us wasting our time in constant competition and comparison. I think that there's someone out there that would happily see women tearing each other down for their life choices, or judging each other based on how many qualifications they have, or what profession they are in. It is a massive waste of time. A waste of energy. A waste of thought. A waste of resources. The burden that women are under - and place themselves under - to be everything, to do everything, to look good all the time - is massive. I got that impression from one parenting magazine, which read, if I'm honest, a bit like a Mummy version of Cosmo, a collection of conflicting articles that pile on the pressure:

If you are a mother, you must also have a meaningful career or be going into education. But don't neglect your kids! Don't let them watch too much TV! Make sure your house looks nice! Are you keeping your relationship alive with your husband? Are you still sexy? Make sure you look good all the time, like these celebrity mothers do. And make sure you have something else to do outside your kids. A hobby, or an interest, or something. In case you 'lose your identity'. 

Parenthood does funny things to your identity, it's true. Because being a parent is all about service. All about giving. You give and you give and part of you always goes into your kids, more than DNA, but just ... everything. Life, energy, personality, time, everything. You know? Day in and day out, you give yourself to your children, and they don't always thank you for it. (Some of you are thinking: they never thank me for it.) But you do it. And yet, even though that should be a raw deal, it kind of isn't. It makes you feel fulfilled even though you are perhaps in some ways less of 'you' than you were before. You are something new.

And that is a massive, massive privilege.

It is something to praise God for.

***

Years ago I remember turning to my pastor for help. I went through a rough time as a teenager, and it's something I have taken years to come to terms with. I finally felt that I was in a place to open up about it. To perhaps help others who were going through the same thing.

One thing I was worried about, though, was being defined by that bad thing. I said something along the lines of 'I don't want people to think of me as a victim and nothing else. I don't want to be defined by what happened. I don't want my life to be all about that one thing.'

He just looked at me and said 'Megan, that thing doesn't define you. What defines you is Jesus. That thing was just a catalyst into finding who defines you now and will define you forever.'

Yes and amen to that. Jesus is who defines me. And if I felt that it was the right time to tell the whole story of how that came about, I would do. (It might take a few posts, mind).

I refuse to be a casualty of the 'Mummy wars'. I refuse to participate in this culture of constant comparison. I refuse to rank myself against other women, sizing myself up by career, by looks, by the size of my brain. I don't want any part of it. I don't want to waste my time with it. Not when I am so richly blessed. It is ignorant of me to fixate on myself being 'less than' instead of focusing on the tasks that I have been given. That I am more than capable of.

This is what I want my daughter to see, and therefore, this is who I have to be:

I want my daughter to see me radiant in the love of Someone much bigger than myself. I want my daughter to see me confident in my decisions. I want my daughter to see me making wise, considered choices. I want my daughter to see me doing what I feel in my heart is best - even when it's hard. Even when it goes against the grain.

I want my daughter to see me joyful. Not giving time to the things in the world that would grind us down. But laughing, singing, praising, playing, loving. And counting my blessings.

Always counting my blessings.

7 quick takes #17 - ukulele playing gnomes

Friday, 12 September 2014

1.

So I've made the executive decision to refer to our baby as Jellybean on the blog now. I don't really like to show her face or reveal her real name, for personal reasons, but she's getting to the stage of not-quite-baby any more, and I won't be able to refer to her as Baby B forever. So, Jellybean. It's an adaption of something we call her at home, so makes sense to me (kind of).

2.

After months of denying that we have to do it, we've decided to start adjusting Jellybean's bedtime routine so she learns to go to sleep without a) milk or b) cuddles.

It's really hard.

We've decided to stay in her room while she goes to sleep, which helps. That way, I know her crying is not from fear over us leaving her, but just because she's not getting her own way. I can handle that.

Still, it took an hour and a half, lots of tears, lots of mournful calls of 'Mama!' and 'Dada!', two angrily discarded teddy bears, one tangled-up-in-blanket situation, two accidental head bumps on the bars of the cot, and approximately one million wiggles before she finally fell asleep.

I felt awful.

But learning to go to sleep is quite an important life skill, isn't it? She can't be having milk and lying in our bed to go to sleep when she's a teenager. That's what I chanted to myself over and over again for an hour and a half last night, anyway.

Starting to dread bedtime already. Arrrrrgh. Is anyone else as soft as us?!

3.

How do you manage Christmas with not much money? That's what I am pondering at the moment. I've been Googling some thrifty present inspiration. Any more ideas are very welcome.

Pinterest is my friend right now, though. There are some very clever bloggers out there crafting away for Christmas and I am picking my way through trying to find the most idiot proof ideas.

4.

Jellybean is learning to talk! She has added Diee-Dahh (Spider) and Uh-Uh (Uh-oh) to her vocabulary in the last few days. She uses them in context a lot too! *Proud mother face* Usually she saves 'uh-oh' for when she's about to lob something out of her buggy.

It worries me when she says 'Dieeee-Dahh' in a sing-song voice because I think she's seen something I haven't. I hate spider season.

5.

Next Thursday, our Bible study group meets again to start studying Esther. Cannot. Wait. I really miss Bible study on Thursdays, because I need someone to anchor me to actually doing the work at home. I love Esther anyway, and have studied it briefly before with friends.

I will report back any interesting facts I find out.

6.

We've discovered Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom.


Words cannot express my joy at this discovery. Finally a show that is better than In the flipping Night Garden. Better than Peppa Pig! Better than the terrifying Baby Jake! I'm so happy!

It really is the little things that make a difference when you're a stay at home Mum ...

7.

You should totally check back here on Monday! Where, hopefully crosses all limbs and digits that can possibly be crossed I will have something new for the blog!

So, until then ...

Have an amazing weekend!

***

Anticipation.

Monday, 8 September 2014

What is it about September that provokes new beginnings?

Maybe it's ingrained in our memories from school days. That feeling of newness. Stiff new uniform and shiny new shoes. School bags empty and pencils sharpened. Ready to start again. Ready to re-fill our brains after long, lazy summers emptying them. Maybe that feeling of Back to School stays with us forever, and part of us will always yearn for something new on September the first.

Or maybe it's because the weather is changing. Maybe the nights drawing in and the cool feel of the air on our skin makes us think more seriously. That feeling of summer spontaneity starts to lose its grip, long hazy days are fading, and we begin to feel a kind of straightening up. A seriousness comes over, and we start to make plans for the future.

Or maybe it's just me?

I love September. September is way better than January for new starts.


Our girl is one.

We are recovering from the celebrations, of family here, pouring love and affection onto our little girl. Everybody gathered, partly to wallow in nostalgia for the past year, partly in excitement because she has grown, because of what is to come. She has taken her first steps, a little wobbly, a little clumsy, but determined. We are taking deep breaths. Steeling ourselves for toddler-dom. And welcoming every new milestone with excitement and smiles.

That is how I feel about life right now.

It feels like a time for starting again. Not just because the season is changing. Not just because our children are filing back into school, themselves starting a whole new journey of learning and growing. I think it's partly because my church has started a month of prayer and fasting. Seriously, prayerfully considering what is to come. It's like we're all taking a collective deep breath. Lifting up our future to God and feeling that tingle of anticipation, of what is to come.

What is to come?

I don't know. It is both exciting, and scary. 

I love it.

I like the thought that we might start to stretch ourselves.

I have spoken recently on taking risk. On doing things that scare us. Because sometimes that's really important, to stretch a little. You know? And sometimes you need a prompt. A little nudge. A reminder. Don't forget this thing you keep dreaming of doing! Don't forget those plans you made! Don't forget the places you want to go to, the things you want to do, the person you want to become!

I like to think that God gave us seasons as a way of reminding us that it is time for change. Or at least, to check that we're on the right path.


I've been thinking about Psalm 130:

'I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.'

In the Beth Moore study I'm doing, it says this:

'No more beautiful sight existed for the watchman than the sun raising its fiery head on the eastern horizon. The watchman could gather up his robes, store his weapons, kiss his wife good morning, and fall into bed with the relief of a job accomplished.'

This is how I want to be right now. Even more than the exhausted watchman waits for the first signs of the sunrise, so I will wait for God. Stood on my tiptoes. Watchful. Waiting for the first glimpse of Him. Poised for action as soon as it needs to be taken.


I can't wait to see where we'll go.

7 quick takes #16 - 7 memories of summer

Friday, 5 September 2014

Sorry for the lack of posts recently - Chris has been off work and we've been enjoying every minute of him being home, clinging onto the very last dredges of summer. Back to normality next week though! For now, here's seven pictures that remind me of the season coming to a close:

1.


Sandy toed baby.

2.


Early morning trips to the park.

3.


Exploring beautiful places

4.


Feeding the ducks!

5.


Starting to eat better.

6.


Deckchairs!

7.


An unexpected burst of September sun.

Hoping that everyone has had a good week, especially if that week involved school runs!

***

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