31 July 2018

What happened in our lives in July 2018

It is lovely being a family of four, but gosh, don't those little babies just zap all the time? I am not really sure what has happened in July, it has seemingly gone in a flash. We had a birthday party (one month late), had a ballet show where Aili danced, went to the beach, finished reception, planned all kinds of summer activities and mostly just melted in the heat. So maybe it's just easier to make a note of the things that we have loved this month!

family picture at the beach

I have loved:

  • Coming up with bunny-themed ideas for Aili's 5th birthday. And making cakes and biscuits and decorations of course. 
  • Hosting 15 kids and their parents for said party and still having a house left standing at the end of it!
  • Seeing my big girl dance like an "angel" in a ballet show. (Their show piece was called Angels by the way ha ha!)
  • Finally getting to go swimming post-partum! Been to the sea and the swimming pool now. 
  • Baby cuddles of course, and sneaking upstairs for a little staring session in the evenings when she is asleep in the bedside crib. 

Aili has loved:
  • Finishing school - apparently "school is booooring". 
  • Dancing in the ballet show and having spotted her dad in the audience. 
  • Having so many friends come to her bunny party.
  • Going to the seaside. 
  • Having baked and decorated biscuits with mummy. 
  • Her sister - she gives so many cuddles and just does not leave her little sister alone, ever. She says "I love Aija soooo much" at least once a day, bless. 

family picture at the beach

family picture at the beach

family picture at the beach

Hubby has loved:
  • Playing rugby and going to the gym. 
  • Designing the program for the ballet show and getting loads of compliments for it. 
  • Making these very tasty nut/fruit snack bars from one of James Haskell's recipes.
  • That Orange is the New Black is back on Netflix!  

Aija has loved:
  • Milk and cuddles of course, what baby doesn't. 
  • Her Moomin play gym. She could be there forever, punching the Moomins with her little fists and just looking at them. 
  • Being held standing upright, and walking on her feet. She shakes in excitement and opens her mouth looking all happy every time we do this. 

All in all, we had a lovely July, even if we were melting in the heat wave. And it is nice having our big girl back home, even if we are running out of ideas how to entertain her for the next 5 weeks before school's start again!

How was your July?

You might also like: From three to four! How our family has been growing

28 July 2018

My second-born at two months old

Her first month was not the easiest for us. I wrote how we had named her Little Miss Fussy Pants. To be honest, she was just the whiniest baby ever, and with her equally whiney big sister (her whinginess started with her 5th birthday it seems...), they were jointly named as the Whinge Twins in our house. 

But I am happy to tell you, that his is (knock wood) in the past now! By the time she was about seven or eight weeks, suddenly, she just stopped being so... her. Suddenly she started smiling. She started cooing. She started giving us a bit more of a warning for wanting food, and yes, she would still cry very loud, at least she would wait a bit. 

Now she could well be called Little Miss Sunshine. She smiles at us, as soon as she spots as a distance away. She cooes, and she loves having proper chats with us.

baby with flower number two

The other good news was that she has been finally discharged as a hospital outpatient. I mentioned earlier how we had been kept in for monitoring due to blood group incompatibility. This could cause anaemia, and she had get occasional blood tests to monitor for this. Her haemoglobin levels were at the lower point of normal at seven weeks, so had to go in for another blood test at eight weeks. They came back as little bit lower, but as it was still in the normal ranges, so the paediatricians were happy to discharge her as by now the antibodies should be naturally clearing from her system the levels should start rising again. So no more blood tests, just to keep taking her medication for another month and that's it for that. Yay!

baby in a circle of flowers

baby in a circle of flowers

Is this something connected with her sudden good moods? I don't know really. Maybe. I heard low haemoglobin levels can make you irritated. Or maybe she has less tummy aches now as she matures. She's certainly got a little less reflux, although it is still there occasionally. Or maybe she has just developed a nicer personality... 

Some people have said it is probably because we parents are now starting to anticipate her demands and have learned her cues better, but to be honest, I don't think that's it. I think she is just a generally happier and smilier baby now.  And I am very happy about that! She is actually a real delight now, and I love our little chats. Even in the morning this Little Miss Sunshine loves to have a chat, right after she has had her morning milk.

baby with flowers

baby with flowers

smiling baby with flower number two

Oh yes, and another thing, which is perhaps even better... We have had the first seven to eight hour sleeps! She has started to regularly sleep through the nights, and tends to wake up once at five or six am, and then go for another few hours of sleep. So this mama has finally started to sleep proper nights and my my what a change that makes!

You might also like: My second born at one month old

27 July 2018

Raspberry and goat cheese: Wonderful fresh summer salad

I love berries in summer. They are their sweetest and best. I could eat them all day long really, and for that reason I've tried to incorporate them in dishes that are traditionally savoury - such as salads! Last summer I was all about strawberry-feta-salad, and this year I've gone for a raspberry-goat cheese-salad, a perfect combination really. When the days and evenings are hot and sweaty you don't really want to eat anything heavy or warm, and salads are a perfect alternative. A sweet-but-tangy raspberry-goat cheese combination is gorgeous for a summer salad - here is my recipe and I hope you like it! 

tossing a salad

woman making a salad

salad on a plate

400g raspberries, chopped roughly
200g of goats cheese, cubed/crumbled (I like to use the crumbly semi-hard variety, but you can use the hard goat cheese too)
2 avocados, cubed 
2 heads of romaine / baby gem lettuce, chopped roughly (or use a 300-400g bag of baby spinach)
50g nuts, roasted hazelnuts/almonds best but any do, roughly chopped (I used pecan here)
25ml olive oil
25ml balsamic vinegar
25 runny honey / maple syrup

Chuck raspberries, goats cheese, avocadoes, lettuce and nuts in a big salad container. Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar and runny honey (or maple syrup) in a separate bowl to make the dressing. Taste to make sure that the sweetness of honey takes away the edge of the balsamic vinegar. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss gently, and serve. 

raspberry goat cheese salad ingredients

close up of salad

raspberry goat cheese salad on a plate

That's it. It is such a simple and easy salad, and is just perfect for summertime. Raspberries make it quite sweet, but the balsamic vinegar brings some tanginess to the salad, and goat cheese and nuts and avocado bring the heft to it. 

A recipe for a perfect summer salad - raspberry goat cheese salad. A combination of raspberries and goat cheese makes for a sweet, savoury and tangy perfection!

Have you tried berries in salads? Will you try this one?

A perfect summer salad - a combination of raspberries and goat cheese makes for a sweet, savoury and tangy perfection!

A perfect summer salad - a combination of raspberries and goat cheese makes for a sweet, savoury and tangy perfection!

A perfect summer salad - a combination of raspberries and goat cheese makes for a sweet, savoury and tangy perfection!

15 July 2018

How do you make a staycation feel like a real holiday?

This summer we are staycationing. Neither me nor the bubba has a valid passport and quite frankly, having a new baby, we sadly don't have the money either to go gallavanting abroad. We are going to have all four of us home - me (and the baby) on maternity leave, husband working from home and our older daughter off school. 

It is nice to have the whole family home of course, but at the same time, it would also be nice to have a holiday together. I have wondered thus, how to make our staycation to feel more like an actual real holiday - what kind of things could we do to make it a bit more special, and what kind of things could we go and see. 

So here is a collection of ideas and tips I am planning to follow during our staycation to make it feel more like a proper holiday. I asked a few blogger friends to give me their ideas too, and they had some great tips for staycations!

mum and daughter at lavender fields

Put your out of office on

It is so easy to just do a bit of work when you are home - especially if you are self-employed. There is always something you could do or should do. Even if you are employed it is so easy to just check a couple of emails on your work phone, or start thinking about project plans for the future. 

So be strict, turn the work mode off, and put holiday mode on. Sophie from Soph-obsessed explains, "Reduce and limit the use of phones and laptops. A vacation should mean no working but it's easier to be still responding to emails when you are on a staycation. I still make sure my out of office is on and my phone is on do not disturb!"

Minimise the chores

Chores, chores, chores.... That's probably the biggest thing you are missing when you are on a holiday. Like Maria from Happy Mummy says, make sure you have "no cooking or cleaning just like if you were really away! Get up go out for breakfast, have a nice day out with lunch and stop for dinner on the way home."

So if you want your staycation to feel like a vacation, those chores should be minimised. Get a cleaner in a couple of times a week, and let them deal with the housework, and eat out. Granted, this is not the cheap option, but definitely makes it feel more like a holiday when you don't have the daily drudgery to deal with.

If you can't get a cleaner, spend a day or a couple of days before your holiday prepping your home - deep clean everything you can! And if you can't or don't want to eat out, get takeaways or buy pre-made meals, from the more upmarket brands than you usually would.

mum and daughter at the beach

Explore and experience new things locally

When you live somewhere for a long time it is easy to miss out on visiting the local touristy things - like my husband who still hasn't visited the London Eye, despite it having been here nearly 20 years already... So, when you are having a staycation, it is the perfect opportunity to visit all those interesting places you never seem to have time to do during the week. Even if you don't live in a touristy area, I can guarantee there will be plenty of new places to explore locally. 

Victoria from Lylia Rose recommends making a proper day out of it. She says "plan days out every day so you're out most of the day. Even if exploring the local area, try and go somewhere you've never been. Don't buy normal groceries - go wild and have something different, including lots of treats and easy to prepare meals! Take lots of photos and wear lovely holiday clothes." 

Leaving the house and acting like you are on a holiday helps too. Have a day out, go to a new place to eat, and wear nice holiday clothes, and skip the telly in the evening in favour of spending some quality time together. 

Jo from Cup of Toast says they "have days out so it feels as though we've had a break from the house. Meals out in new places or pubs with large gardens where the children could burn off some energy. Pay for a cleaner to come in a couple of times during the week so we can ignore the chores. When we are at home, turn off the TV and read books instead or play a board game in the evening when the children are in bed." 

Learn something new

I loved the idea from Kate from Kate on Thin Ice for a 6 week, travel from home type of vacation. She suggested prepping a 6 week learning holiday - six countries in six weeks, where you have different recipes and foods every week, and "also incorporate learning about flags, culture and costume" for each of the countries. 

While this requires a fair amount of prepping, I think it would be such a fun and educational thing to do with kids over the summer. With older kids you could also ask them about the countries they would like to learn about and make them do the research, finding out what foods they would like to try and find some books for them to read about the country. In a large city such as London there are also opportunities to visit museums, restaurants and even cultural events to learn more about certain countries!

mum and daughter at a castle

Some things I have in plan for us this summer

This summer I am planning us seeing some new places locally. There are so many gardens and flower fields and other places to visit not too long a drive from us, so we will pack a picnic and go see some flowers or something. Or a new beach. Previously we have been to Hitchin Lavender fields and also a beach just an hours drive away from London and these would be nice to visit again. In addition, I have a corporate family membership to the English Heritage and Historic Royal Palaces so we will see at least one castle at some point. We recently went to Tower of London, and have visited Dover Castle in the past.

I have also converted some of our Tesco Clubcard points to tickets to nearby zoos - always a good idea with kids! And of course, we have London and all the great attractions there at our door step, so where possible, we will be visiting museums and other places there too. 

Staycations: ideas and tips for families. What to do and how to make your holiday feel like a real holiday if you stay home.

What would you do if you spent your holiday at home?

Ideas and tips on how to make staycations feel like proper holidays - what to do and how to do it!

Ideas and tips on how to make staycations feel like proper holidays - what to do and how to do it!

Ideas and tips on how to make staycations feel like proper holidays - what to do and how to do it!

13 July 2018

What happens if you have Group B Strep (GBS) infection in pregnancy?

Like I mentioned in my birth announcement post, one of the issues that kept us in the hospital after birth was a Group B Strep infection (GBS for short). I had it in my first pregnancy too.

Surprisingly few people in UK have ever heard of GBS before, so I thought I'd talk about it here a bit and how my personal experience was, as I think it is quite typical of what others might experience too. I'll talk about how to test for it, how to talk to your healthcare provider about it and what it's likely to be like when giving birth with GBS. Obviously, I'm not a medical professional - I just know how to read - so take this post as personal reflections rather than gospel. I'll add some links that will provide more relevant and detailed information on risks and research.

pregnant mum on bed

Why care about GBS infection?

I first heard about this infection during my first pregnancy after reading online mums forums in my native language. I was really surprised to hear that in UK this is not routinely screened for. Most comparable developed countries do screen for GBS infections in pregnant mums, including my own home country.

About 20 to 40% of women have a GBS infection. It is also transient - so you might not have it now but develop it later, or have it and lose it later. If women have an active GBS infection at the time of giving birth, their babies may develop GBS infection as well. A small minority of babies born to mums with the infection end up very poorly. About one baby in a thousand births in UK develops a GBS infection. Of those babies one in ten will die and five in ten will have some sort of a lasting impact

How did I find out I had GBS?

After doing some reading I decided to get a private test done - I did this for both my pregnancies, after the 35th week of pregnancy as recommended. It is quite easy and affordable to get a postal kit. The actual testing and taking of the sample is easy, however a bit awkward, as this involves sticking a cotton bud up your fanny and bum. I'd recommend employing a small handheld mirror. And you should test early enough in the day so you can post it the same day (Mon to Thu) so the sample doesn't deteriorate in post. 

I used Strepelle this time, and was very happy with them. Unfortunately my first sample was lost in the post and after I contacted Strepelle, they sent me a replacement test the same day. I received it the next morning, thankfully, as at this time I was already overdue. I was really pleased how quickly it was sorted and a replacement test sent to me immediately. So I redid the test, sent it off on a Tuesday and got the results via a text message on Friday. A letter confirming the results was delivered the following week.

What did I have to do with the positive result?

If the results show as infected with GBS, you should talk to your midwife/doctor, and they will include it in the labour notes. It is worth making sure they write it in, and stamp it too, and it is worth adding the letter to the birth notes too so you can refer to it if anyone questions it. 

Because I got my results after I had finished all my appointments, the positive result hadn't been officially added to my notes. Although my notes did mention previous GBS and my obstetrician had written in my notes I should have antibiotics in labour again, I had to refer to the letter in the delivery room, as the midwives were umming and arring over whether they should indeed give me antibiotics, if there really was a GBS infection or was it referring to my first labour and blah blah blah. Much easier to sort this at one of the normal appointments, and even then, keep the letter handy.

pregnant mum on bed

What happened during and after labour?

During labour you get IV antibiotics. To ensure these get started early enough, you should get to the hospital as soon as your waters break or you go into labour. You are meant to be given the antibiotics four hours before the birth happens for them to have an effect.

In practice, having the antibiotics doesn't affect birth choices. All options, including water birth or a midwife-led centre, are available. I personally gave birth both times at the hospital labour and delivery ward because of other concerns, even if my first original plan with my first baby was to have a serene water birth. (Side note, with my second baby my birth plan only had one word - epidural...)

I had my antibiotics started as soon as my waters were broken. It can be annoying having the IV line though - I found I had to hold my hand in a very specific position for the antibiotics to drip in. And it took ages. Thankfully there are several hours of break between antibiotic dosages so it didn't bother my labour process too much.

After giving birth I was told that my baby would be monitored for 12 hours for temperature and heart rate and would also be reviewed by a paediatrician before discharge. While the guidelines technically say that if you have had antibiotics during labour this is not needed, in practice the doctors seemed to have quite a cautious approach to managing GBS. Unfortunately, even if you have the antibiotics your baby can still develop GBS, although thankfully it would be very rare occurrence. As we were recovering midwives would pop in our room every hour, or couple of hours to do those observations, and had there been anything they would have alerted the doctors.

In the end both my first-born and second-born ended up on IV antibiotics. For both of them it was more of a precautionary measure - with my first-born it was because of my own infection, and with my second-born, there were a "combination of minor markers" which in themselves I was told weren't of great concern but together made the doctors worry.

In both cases the doctors thought it would be better to start my babies on IV antibiotics while waiting for blood results to come back (in 48 hours) to see if there was an infection brewing. Thankfully, neither were affected and after the blood results were clear, IV antibiotics could be stopped and we got discharged from the hospital!

Like I mentioned before, I was quite surprised that this infection wasn't being tested on NHS and that there was very little information about it given, considering how seriously it was dealt with once you were confirmed to have it. I did my own research and personally, I am glad that I tested for it and it did make me feel safer knowing either way.

Have you heard of this infection before?

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