Sunday, 21 December 2014

Date afternoon

What a busy week this last week has been as everything finished up for the Christmas break.  We've had Christmas parties, birthday parties, playdates as well as all the usual activities, and that's just Lucas and Charlotte.  By Friday I was exhausted and craving some chill out time.

So when my mum offered to have Lucas and Charlotte this afternoon Mark and I jumped at the chance of a spontaneous date.  After 14 years together I still get excited about things like this, when we get to spend time just the two of us.

We decided to stay local and headed to a country house hotel, Meldrum House.  Its so pretty at any time of year, but looks especially magical at Christmas.  As we drove up the winding drive it looked the glow from the candles in the windows looked so inviting - just the place we were looking for to relax on a miserable December afternoon.

We ordered some hot drinks and snuggled up in the hotel's 'Cave bar'.  Its such a quaint little nook of the hotel filled with old fashioned lanterns, leather arm chairs and a wall full of different whiskys. From where we were sat you could see the open fire roaring in the reception making it feel even more cosy and Christmasy.

I love dates like this which are so simple and spur of the moment. As we chatted about life in general and plans for next year we agreed that it had been so nice to take a break from the chaos of Christmas, shut out the world for a couple of hours and catch up with each other.  As much as we love our little ones its still nice to have a bit of time to ourselves.  I always feel like I'm a better mummy once I've had a little me time and feel refreshed and raring to go again. Does anyone else feel like this?  

In 2015 we're going to make an effort to have more of these date nights, afternoons, whatever...  I'm not really one for New Years resolutions but if I was this would be one of them.  Nothing elaborate or expensive (although the odd night away or nice meal would be nice), just a chat over a good coffee or glass of wine sounds like bliss to me.  The simple things really are the best sometimes.

For now though its back to the Christmas chaos and with only 4 sleeps to go until the big day we're all bursting with excitement.  Just a few last jobs to do and then we can relax and enjoy time with family and friends.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, 19 December 2014

Babywearing love

One of my new loves is 'babywearing'.  I had a baby carrier with Lucas (a short-lived experience, but more on that later) but I had no idea it was an actual 'thing' and I've stumbled across a whole new community discovering this.

Nursery drop offs, walking our dog, etc were becoming a bit of a nightmare -  trying to keep hold of my energetic four year old while manoeuvring a pram.  I was also getting tired of the pram being an extension of me (even though I love our trusty Bugaboo) so a sling for Charlotte seemed like a good option.

When we had Lucas we dived in head first and bought a Tomy baby carrier because we needed one, didn't we???? and  a friend of a friend had one and loved it.  Lets just say it was not for us, in fact we used it once, maybe twice before throwing it down in frustration, never to be looked at again until we packaged it up to sell on Gumtree months later.  It was so fiddly with lots of straps and buckles -  definitely not easy to use and definitely not something I could ever see myself mastering on my own, without a lot of practice.  Poor Lucas was tossed about in it like a sack of potatoes while Mark and I tried to figure out the contraption.  So disappointing!

This time around I did my research and found a carrier I am literally in love with and enjoying using so much.

Finding our perfect carrier started when I and stumbled across a network of babywearers on Facebook.  They were so helpful advising me on the pros and cons of different makes - what to avoid, what to look for, etc.  I had no idea these communities existed and that they held local meet ups where you can try different makes and styles of baby carriers.  What a fantastic idea, to be able try before you buy, especially when carriers can be quite pricey and every baby is different.

So after dropping Lucas at nursery one Friday afternoon off Charlotte and I went to our local sling meet where we spent the afternoon trying on lots of different carriers, chatting with experienced babywearing mummies and drinking lots of tea.  Most of the brands we tried were ones I'd never heard of, so it was a real eye-opener to know there were other options to the mainstream ones I was familiar with.

Both Charlotte and I fell in love with the second one we tried on.  The Tula.  We wandered round and round the community centre room with it on and the smile on Charlotte's face said it all.  She was so happy and content looking around and clearly very comfy too, as was I, which sealed the deal.  The next job was to convince my very sceptical husband that this should be our next baby purchase.

After some persuasion and a lot of "You should see how much Charlotte loves it" Mark gave in, although I'm sure he understandably thought it would be as much of a disaster second time around as it was first time.

 I spent ages eyeing up all the pretty fabric patterns on the Tula website and finally decided on the 'Billow' print.  A simple, but striking black and white print which I absolutely love.  It arrived within a couple of days and in Charlotte went straight away.  I proudly showed Mark just how easy it was to put on and Charlotte's face just beamed.  Was Mark starting to come round to the idea???  Yes, because the next weekend he casually put it on, popped Charlotte in and out they went with our dog Roxy for a walk.

One of the main reasons I love it so much is that it's so easy to put on yourself.  No stress for me and none for Charlotte.  One clip round the waist (with an added safety loop) and one buckle behind your shoulder blades, which is easy to reach and snap together.  That's literally it, you're done.

I also love that the material is strong, so your precious bundle is all safe and secure, but unlike a lot of carriers I'd previously tried, its not bulky so you're really able to have your baby in close to you and feel like you're just cuddling them as you walk along - bliss!

It also has some nice little touches too, like a pouch on the waist belt just big enough for your phone, keys and some money.  How handy and easy to reach, even with baby in the carrier and it means you don't have to worry about a bag.  It also has a little hood feature which snaps on and up over baby's head.  You can use this to shelter them from the wind or the sun or even as support for their head if they fall asleep so they don't do the 'nodding dog'.  I also love that around the leg holes there is super comfy padding which means the material doesn't rub or cut into Charlotte's delicate little legs.  The straps that go over my shoulders are also really well padded which makes it comfy for mum (or dad) too.

Another reason I chose the Tula over the more mainstream carriers is because of its Ergonomic design (here's the science bit).  When Charlotte was born she had some problems with her hips.  They're completely fine now after a lot of care and attention in her early weeks but I still take a real interest in things that are better for my little one's developing bones.  The Tula has a wider base which makes them sit in the 'froggie' position - much better for their hips.  This was a big selling point for me.

A Sunday afternoon walk in our breathtaking local countryside is a favourite of our family and babywearing just makes it that bit more enjoyable and means our route isn't restricted by a buggy.  Lucas can choose the bumpiest farm track or the muddiest path and it's fine.  Each time I've worn it Charlotte is asleep within minutes.  She is so comfy and cosy and really snuggles in which I can't get enough of.

We've rented a house in the countryside with some friends for New Year and the Tula will definitely be coming with us.  Its just so handy and loved by us all, most of all Charlotte.

What's your babywearing experience?


Monday, 15 December 2014

Winter colds

So Charlotte and I have both been feeling pretty miserable this last week with the dreaded winter cold. My poor little toot has really been suffering - its her first cold and its been a pretty bad one.  She's had a streaming nose and a horrible cough which has made feeding a bit tricky too and made her even less happy. Its weeks like these when you feel like just snuggling back under the duvet and shutting out the cold wintry weather, but no luck when there's still nursery runs to do. Thankfully though it finally looks like Charlotte's almost rid of it and starting to be back to her usual smiley, cheeky self.

I normally manage to avoid most of the colds at this time of year but I think my immune system this year is running pretty low.  Lack of sleep, racing round after two children, nursery bugs and also not having the healthiest diet recently have all just made me a bit run down - a sure fire way to catch a cold.  When it comes to my diet I'm going to use the excuse that as a busy mum I'm always grabbing something to eat on the go and when its wet and miserable outside an apple just isn't going to cut it.  But if I'm being completely honest though I just like a biscuit or piece of cake too much.

To give my immune system a helping hand and boost my energy levels (always a good thing when you have children) I have succumbed to the green juice trend.

A little late to the party I know but I thought I'd give it a shot, if only to shift this horrible cold and stop any more in their tracks.

So yesterday I tried out this recipe with the help of my little assistant Lucas.

1 apple
2 handfuls of spinach
1 stick of celery
1/2 cucumber
juice of 1 lemon
small cube of ginger
Coconut water

I roughly chopped all the ingredients and then let Lucas chuck it all into my Breville 'Blend Active' and hit 'blend'.  He loved getting involved and was so amazed and giggly as it turned into the bright green juice.  We both had a taste and agreed it was pretty good!

I bought this blender not long after Charlotte was born and swore that I'd use it every day for smoothies and juices as a way of shifting the baby weight.  A couple of weeks down the line and I have to admit, my husband was right (he'll love that) and I barely used it.  Not because I didn't rate it but because I just lacked the motivation and organisation to make something every morning when there was always a million other things to do first (another excuse I know).  Well I'm determined its now not just going to gather dust on my kitchen worktop but I'm going to start experimenting more with different juices.  I've now got the added motivation of how much Lucas loved helping me make it, while asking lots of questions about the different ingredients.  Who knew that while trying to shift my cold I'd stumble across a fun activity to do with Lucas and what a bonus if it gets some sneaky extra vitamins into him in the process!


Saturday, 13 December 2014

6 months old

Wow, I can't believe this picture of Charlotte and her daddy was taken 6 months ago when she was just an hour old.  If the next 6 months go as quickly as the last she'll be 1 before I know it.

I struggle to remember exactly what Lucas was like at this stage (what he could do, where we were with weaning, etc) but maybe this is quite a good thing so there's not the temptation to compare them too much.  After all they are little individuals, doing things at their own pace and in their own special ways.

So what is Charlotte up to...


I really count my blessings where sleep is concerned with Charlotte.  She's been an amazing sleeper since she was born (well as long as you don't count her first two nights when she screamed the maternity ward of Aberdeen hospital down and even the midwives couldn't pacify her).  I still go to bed every night though thinking this is going to be the night she'll catch me off guard and be up at 3am.  Why is it that we do this to ourselves - worry about what might never happen??

She has her last feed around 8.30pm and by 9pm she's sound asleep in her cot, snoring her head off.  That's her usually until between 6.30-7am.  I'm hoping to start edging her bedtime back a bit so that her and Lucas have a similar one, around 7.30am.  Being completely selfish, I'm really looking forward to Mark and I getting our evenings back so we can spend time just the two of us, even if its just to catch-up or watch a new box-set together.

When it comes to naps during the day, Charlotte has never really been one for them.  The most she'll have is 20 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon.  This isn't every day and there are some days she doesn't nap at all.  These are the days when I literally feel like I get nothing done.

Eating/ feeding 

We started weaning Charlotte about 3 weeks ago and I'd forgotten just how messy it is, especially to start with, when they are exploring everything an getting to grips with their co-ordination.
Baby-led weaning is a completely new thing to me.  With Lucas it was just purees, purees, purees.  With Charlotte we've decided to do a bit of both so she still has some purees (either homemade or Ella's Kitchen pouches, depending on how organised I am and how busy our day is) but she has also been having finger food.  So far she loves bananas, avocado, cucumber and toast.  Its amazing to see how quickly she masters a new skill and 3 weeks in she's managing to eat more now than what lands on the floor or is smeared all over her face :)

I'm still breastfeeding her too.  After not managing to breastfeed Lucas I really wanted to give it another go second time round and when it was a success (as well as a struggle to begin with) I really wanted to be able to keep it up until she was 6 months old.  Now that I've reached this milestone I'm in no hurry to stop.  Sure it would be nice to have a little bit more freedom to be me and not just mummy, but Charlotte is so content in our little routine and I love the time especially in the evening when we're snuggled up together feeding, so I'm happy to keep going. It might be a different story however once her first tooth comes through.


It was Charlotte's 6 month check-up with the Health Visitor yesterday and I was desperate to find out what she weighed after not taking her for a while.

My petite princess now weighs 14lb 14oz and is 64.5cm long.

She is still in most of her 3-6 month clothes but I think by Christmas she'll be ready to move up to the next size and into some new super cute outfits.


She's sitting up all by herself now and is getting more and more steady each day.  She has also started bouncing herself forward whenever she's sitting on someone's knee, a sure sign she's desperate to be on the move already.  I think seeing Lucas running about the place is all the motivation she needs to get moving, but second time round I know that life becomes that little bit more crazy once they're crawling, so I'm happy for her to just take her time.  Lucas took ages to crawl.  He was quite happy to just sit in one place and play.  I have a sneaky feeling though that Charlotte is going to be on the move a lot sooner.

She's now also recognises familiar faces and voices and gets really excited by them.  She gets especially excited when Mark walks in from work.  As soon as she hears his voice telling us he's home and see's his face at the living room door she starts shrieking and her arms and legs go wild.  I love this stage when they really start coming into their own and showing their personality.  She's definitely a lively little girl with such a sweet, smiley nature.

Happy 1/2 birthday my little Charlotte.  Its been a whirlwind 6 months which I wouldn't change for the world.




Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Bedtime stories

As I finish getting the last few Christmas presents for Lucas and Charlotte I notice that books are always on my list of things to buy them.  Whether its birthdays or Christmas I always use it as an excuse to add to their collection.

I don't think children can ever have too many books.  Lucas loves them and has done since he was really little, so he's never disappointed with this as a present - I hope this lasts! In a world with more and more technology (which, don't get me wrong I love) its nice to be able to hold onto something simple for them, don't you think?

One of the highlights of my day is story time with Lucas, right before bed.  Even on one of his more hyper days, as soon as we snuggle down in bed with his book of choice for that evening its amazing just how calm he becomes as he listens intently to the story and is transported into its world.  It might be the 100th time we've read the book but it still has the power to capture his attention which amazes me.

I love that books have also helped us introduce new things to Lucas and am sure it'll be the same with Charlotte.  Before Lucas's first trip to the Dentist I read him 'Topsy and Tim go the the dentist'. Rather than me try and explain to an 18 month old what the Dentist was all about and reassure him about the visit, the story brought it to life in a much more fun and interesting way and helped him understand.  We also used a fantastic story book when toilet training him, which was all about a pirate becoming a big boy and using the toilet.  Don't get me wrong, it didn't make toilet training plain sailing by any means but I'm sure it helped a bit.

With an overflowing book shelf in his bedroom, asking Lucas at the weekend what his favourites were could have been met with a lengthy response full of ummm and emms, but straight away he pulled these ones out and called them his favourites...

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • The Snail and the Whale
  • The Tiger who came to tea
  • Five minutes peace
  • The Highway Rat
I love that some of these were books I read as a little girl.  My all time favourites though were anything by Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl.  I can't wait to introduce Lucas to the likes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits in a few years time.  They are such wonderfully creative, mad stories which never date.

Since becoming parents both Mark and I agree that its so important for children to have books around them and be read to from an early age.  Charlotte has a couple already and is just mastering turning the pages and of course chewing all the corners (as I've said before, everything is a teething toy at the minute).  But as a lively 5 month old who tries her best to launch herself off my knee at any given moment its a bit of a challenge to read even the shortest of baby books to her at the minute.

What she does love though is when Lucas reads to her.  More and more I catch him, book in hand, reading his version of the story to Charlotte or even to our dog, Roxy.  He gets the jist of each story but tells it in his own way which is lovely to listen to as its sort of a window into his mind and how he's processed the stories we've read to him.

So as I squirrel away Charlotte and Lucas's new books for Christmas Day I'm already looking forward to sharing them with them and wonder if they'll be new favourites?  As much as I love Lucas's current favourites I'm hoping the new additions, come Christmas morning, will mean a break from The Snail and the Whale, even if only for a couple of nights!

What are you and your children's favourites?


Friday, 5 December 2014

The jump from 1 to 2

I think Mark and I always knew that at some point we'd like to try for a second child, it was just making that leap.

Was it the right time? What was the right age gap between children? Should we just stick with it being the three of us?  I'm a planner and a bit of a control freak which means I always torture myself with a million questions before making any decision, so something like this wasn't going to be any different.

Its funny though, as soon as Lucas turned 3 so many people took an interest in whether or not we were going to have any more children.  I suppose 3 years is a common age gap and so when Lucas reached this age and there was no sign of baby no.2 people started to wonder.  But honestly, we just couldn't believe how quickly Lucas had reached being 3 and were we ready for another just yet?

A sticking point for us was that we were trying to move house but were having no success.  I ideally wanted to be moved before we started trying but the longer this took the less this seemed like a good plan.  As luck would have it the week we found out we were pregnant with Charlotte was the week we finally had an offer accepted on a house.  I'm a great believer in things happening for a reason and that what's for you won't go past you.

Looking back, I don't think we had any expectations about how going from 1 to 2 children would affect our family dynamic, we just went with it.

Obviously friends who already had more than one child told us it was how hard work but so was Lucas at times...

When our little bunny, Charlotte made her appearance on a sunny day in June this year we were instantly in love with her and so excited (and a bit nervous) for Lucas to meet his new baby sister.

He had been our baby for 4 years and had our undivided attention and love, so how would this all work?  It was like being a first time parent again where you are just figuring everything out.

Thankfully Lucas was as excited as us by her arrival and immediately wanted to shower her with kisses and cuddles.  What a relief!  As he held her for the first time it was one of the best moments of my life.  My heart just wanted to burst with happiness and pride.  My little Lucas didn't look quite so little any more and with a lump in my throat I knew a new chapter of our lives had very much started.

So, what has the jump from 1 to 2 been like day to day...

Of course I'm going to say its great and I do feel very lucky when I look at our family which feels complete now, but wow is it hardwork and some days (most days) you feel like you need to split yourself into a million pieces just to get everything done, make sure everyone's happy and keep hold of your sanity.

One of the hardest things I've found has been trying to share yourself equally between both children.  Lets just say I think this is impossible, at least to begin with when a newborn needs so much of your attention and is reliant on you for everything.  This is where the guilt comes in, or at least it did for me.  I remember feeling that some days I would say "Just let me (feed/change) Charlotte first" or "Give me two minutes to do this and I'll be with you" to everything Lucas asked.  In reality this probably wasn't the case and it was just 'mummy guilt' creeping in.  As we settled into our new lives a bit more I discovered a whole new meaning to the term 'multi-tasking', which helped with this.  I would find myself sitting on the playroom floor breastfeeding Charlotte while doing a jigsaw with Lucas!  I'm sure other mummy's can relate to this.  Now  a few months on Lucas has got used to Charlotte being part of the family and understands that I can't always do what he wants straight away like I used to and I genuinely think this has done him the world of good.

Another change going from 1 to 2 is that when little Miss Charlotte came along life couldn't stop as it had when Lucas arrived.  I couldn't stay in my jammies all day if we'd had a tough night with not much sleep because Lucas still had nursery or Gym Tots to get to.  This also meant that things like Charlotte's feeds and sleeps couldn't be quite as regimented as they were with Lucas.  Some days I swear Charlotte looks at me as if to say "not my car seat again Mummy" and bless her, its always just when she's nodding off that we have to be somewhere and so into the car seat she goes.

But the jump from 1 to 2 has also made me relax a bit more as well I think (Mark might disagree) but whereas with Lucas I would stress out if we slightly deviated from his routine, I have come to accept that with two, most days you just have to go with the flow and getting from the start to the end of the day with everyone fed and watered and in the right place at the right time (and if I'm lucky a few cups of lukewarm tea for me thrown in) deserves a pat on the back. 

Having two children is also so rewarding in its own special way, like when they start interacting with each other.  Now that Charlotte is sitting up, making noises and is so lively its amazing to see how they are with each other.  They have a look they give each other as if they're in on a big secret - I'm sure this is only the start of things to come and I kind of like it.

Lucas is by far Charlotte's favourite source of entertainment and beats any toy at the minute.  He doesn't even have to do anything and he has Charlotte giggling and snorting away,which he loves.  And he idolises her and just wants to help in anyway he can.  Whether its fetching a new bib or making her a bed out of a muslin (which is usually covered in sick - its the thought that counts).  The bond they have already is so strong and I can't wait to see this develop.  I'm not kidding myself though, I know it won;t always be like this between them and with every mischievous look from Charlotte I know there's going to be trouble ahead, especially once she's on the move - Lucas watch out! But for the time being I'll just enjoy how much they love each other.


Monday, 1 December 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Happy December everyone!  The 1st of December to me is like a green light giving you permission to be excited about everything Christmasy.  In our house the countdown really is now on...

One of the things I like most about Christmas time and the run up to the big day is the traditions.  Everyone has them and I find it fascinating to find out what different families do.  It's the traditions for me that knit everyone together.  They are so comforting and make everything feel just that little bit more special at this time of year.

The family traditions that stick in my memory most from when I was a little girl are reading 'The night before Christmas' every Christmas Eve before bed and on Christmas morning my sister and I clambering onto my mum and dad's bed to open our stockings.  There was no peeking though at our main Santa presents in the living room until we'd had breakfast and got dressed. The anticipation made you feel like you might burst and its one tradition I love carrying on with our own family.

Now with my own little family its so exciting to start our own traditions and watch my four year old, Lucas get as excited as I used to. Its these little things that make such special childhood memories.

Although Lucas understood Christmas last year and was excited by it all, this year its on a completely different level.  He's been making his Christmas list and asking "how long til Santa' since October. I try to put myself in his shoes though.  When a four year old sees Christmas trees and lights popping up everywhere as soon as Halloweens' over it must be hard to understand why Christmas Day and Santa coming are taking so long.

One tradition we started with Lucas a couple of years ago, which was a hit is reindeer dust.  For those of you not familiar with this its a little oats and glitter (edible so safe for the birdies) mixture which you sprinkle outside on Christmas Eve and is meant to light the way to your house for Santa's reindeer.  Lucas loves this and gets so excited to go out in the garden in his new Christmas pajamas right before bedtime on Christmas Eve to scatter it ready for Rudolph and Co.  This year we picked up a little packet of this at Lucas's school nursery's Christmas fayre, so we're super organised for once!

Another tradition we started last year (actually my sister introduced us to it) was the Christmas Eve box.  One of my husband, Mark's family traditions growing up was getting to open one present on Christmas Eve, so this is almost our version of that tradition.  On Christmas Eve afternoon we sit around as a family and open the box which is full of goodies to create the perfect, cosy Christmas Eve.  Last year my sister had packed the box full of Christmas pajamas for us all, cookie mixture, a Christmas DVD  and a Christmas sticker/ activity book.

By mid afternoon all three of us were in our jammies, DVD on, tucking into the Christmas cookies which had made the house smell amazing!  Perfection!

This year will be Charlotte's first Christmas which makes it even more special.

One new tradition we have started this year is Lucas and Charlotte picking a new decoration each year for the tree.

We've started off this tradition with some super cute ones which Lucas chose for him and Charlotte. He picked a Christmas bird for himself and the little Rudolph for Charlotte.  He's now desperate for us to put the tree up so he can hang them on it.

I love the idea  that in years to come we will have a collection of ornaments they have chosen and perhaps even be something we can pass onto both of them when they start their own families.

The other tradition the McCluskie household is fully embracing this year is Elf on the Shelf .  I have to admit that I may be more excited about this than Lucas.  Ever since our Elf doll and book arrived a couple of weeks ago I have been addicted to Pinterest, looking for ideas (24 different, fun scenarios to come up with is quite tricky).  On Friday night we started the build up to our very own Elf arriving by reading Lucas the book.  Its such a lovely story and the illustrations are magical.  Lucas was completely captivated and so excited for our own Elf to make his first appearance.

This morning a brown paper package with  his name on it was waiting for him at the breakfast table.  As he sat down to open it and discovered the Elf inside clutching a letter from Santa his face just lit up!  Lucas has named our Elf, Smartie, who is currently sitting proudly on our kitchen shelf with Lucas awaiting what he'll do next.  Check out my Instagram for updates on our Elf's antics.

What Christmas traditions do you and your family have?