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2015

Alice at two months

Alice at two months

by Clare Mansell

Another month has gone by and Alice’s personality is starting to emerge. While some people mourn the passing of the newborn days, I find babies more interesting the older they get and once the first six weeks had passed Alice became noticeably more alert and interactive.

She is now sleeping through the night from about 6:30pm to 7.30am with a late feed at about 11pm and she has about two and a half hours sleep in the middle of the day. She has started cooing and trying to find her voice and is laughing and smiling too. Where as Theo’s first laugh came as a direct result of some underarm tickling, Alice seems to giggle at jokes none of the rest of us are aware of. She finds her big brother fascinating and saved some of her earliest smiles just for him.

two months old

Whilst Theo is the thing she finds most interesting to look at, the thing she enjoys listening to most is Noah & The Whale! I also used to like Noah & The Whale until Alice came along and now playing it has become the default solution for getting her to stop crying and so I’m getting slightly bored of hearing the album every day!

Apart from the odd spell of crying when she is tired, she is generally a very content baby. We used a dummy with Alice for her first few weeks which provided comfort for her when we were doing the school run or she was having trouble settling, but as with Theo the use of it tailed off naturally and she stopped needing it at about six weeks old, much to Theo’s disappointment as he’d just learned how to sterilise it in the microwave!

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During her six week check the GP diagnosed Talipes (better known as club feet) It was spotted at birth, but the midwife wasn’t overly concerned. The GP however is being cautious and has referred us to a physiotherapist. While we await her appointment we are doing some simple exercises with her at every nappy change to try and encourage her feet to straighten up. We are not overly concerned at this stage, but it would be nice to have her looked at by an expert.

Despite her wayward feet she has incredible strength in her legs already and was able to support her weight on them when she was just over a month old. She seems quite a determined soul when she locks her legs in place, tries to hold her head up and babbles at us!

Just before Christmas she had her eight week vaccinations. Having not received a letter from our GP I was unaware that they have added two inoculations to the list and was a little thrown to find out at the appointment that she would be getting the rotavirus and meningitis B as well as the other jabs Theo had had. Despite the warnings of the risk of her running a temperature and having a disturbed night, she actually slept through without any issues at all, though I spent all night repeatedly waking anticipating problems… of course!

Over the last couple of weeks she’s been lapping up all the attention that the Christmas period has brought having lots of cuddles with her cousins and a few lunchtime naps at her grandparents so that we can run errands and leave her to doze. She prefers to be held rather than sitting in a chair, but s each day passes she manages longer and longer stretches on her own which is all good news for next week when Jim goes back to work and I’m left on my own!

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A year of Living Arrows portraits

A year of Living Arrows portraits

by Clare Mansell

So it’s the final week of Living Arrows for 2015. Today I am sharing the final photo of the year and my favourite images from the 51 weeks preceding it, but there is something else I want to share with you too…

I joined Living Arrows at the beginning of last year as a challenge. I wanted to give myself a project that would stretch my photographic abilities and it does… every week. Behind every photo is a degree of planning, then selection (I take many and bin several!) and finally editing. Cameras lie, they have a fraction of the capability of the human eye and so part of the job of a photographer is to restore what you saw and create the image you envisaged.

I am very rarely satisfied with my photos. On Instagram and Bloglovin I have surrounded myself with people who take better photos than me and so every week I beat myself up about my pictures not being good enough. When someone publicly complimented me last year on the photos I had taken I worried the ones I would take this year would disappoint, but yet there is magic when you collect them together. They are more than the sum of their parts, they tell a story of two people growing either side of the camera lens and it is so worth the time it took to create them.

Next week I’m going to be starting a new monthly photography project which will be about recording our family lives. If you fancy joining me, please come back on Friday to find out more…

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And the last one of the year…

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Living Arrows
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Living Arrows 51/52

Living Arrows 51/52

by Clare Mansell

The penultimate week of the second year of children’s portraits. Here’s what’s been happening with our two…

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Alice – 7 weeks

Has started to smile, learning to enjoy her bath but still screams in panic when she is lifted in and out, loves listening to Noah & The Whale,
now sleeping through most nights, but doesn’t like being put down for any length of time

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Theo – 4 years

Finished his first term at school, has learned how to warm his sister’s bottle in the microwave, was allowed to eat the chocolate
behind the door of 25 on the advent calendar at school because he was kind to a new girl who came to visit,
still resisting a haircut and knows the exact number of days left till Christmas

Living Arrows
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Every family celebrates Christmas in a slightly different way with different traditions and different ways of doing things. White Stuff recently asked me to write about the way we celebrate Christmas as a family, so I thought I’d select a few things we do and tell you about them…

Crackers

A few years ago I got fed up with buying crackers and paying for things which, however posh, always ended up in the bin. After all there are only so many keyrings, miniature packs of cards and nail clippers one person can use in a lifetime! So instead we started stuffing our own, it is a bit more work but it doesn’t necessarily cost any more. One year we bought a load of different novelty USB sticks (which can be picked up really cheaply on eBay) themed according to the receiver’s hobbies or tastes. I’ve also bought nail polish, tape measures (for the sewers in the family) mini Green & Blacks bars and torches. It definitely adds a bit of fun to the Christmas lunch knowing that your cracker contents have been tailored to you rather than being filled in a factory with millions of others.

Our Christmas year book

Just after we got married I discovered this brilliant Christmas year book and bought a copy. Every year since it has been dug out of the box so we can read the previous year’s comments and write about how we are spending Christmas and what are hopes are for the year ahead. The first Christmas in 2007 it was just Jim and I celebrating in the Rockies, then we moved back to the UK and had Christmases with family, before having our own children. My niece and nephew were at primary school when they first wrote it in it and my nephew will be nearly 31 by the time we have filled it up! He may even be married with children of his own by then!

Cards

I don’t send a huge number of Christmas cards, but I do always do personalised ones with either a festive picture I have taken especially or a collection of images from the year. One year we had these ones made by Truprint and this year we weren’t quite as organised (might be something to do with the small baby!) and had to rely on Moonpig who aren’t as cheap, but are very speedy!

Presents in age order

We open our presents after lunch (a torturous tradition when you are a child) and drag it out by opening all the gifts one at a time in age order with the youngest starting first. It’s not quite as ordered as it might first appear, because after a couple of rounds the system always falls apart because the youngest members of the family always have the most to unwrap, so the older ones start skipping turns and it comes back to the kids quicker and quicker.

Our Canadian tree

We spent our first Christmas together as a married couple in Alberta and so the bulk of our decorations were bought there and we went full out on the Canadian theme. As I mentioned in this post we now have a tree which is covered in Mounties, ice skating beavers, a family of bears in a canoe and cowboy boots. It’s even topped by a moose instead of a star. I’m sure Theo will one day realise this is rather odd, but on the other hand my childhood tree was topped by a one-legged Sindy, so maybe not?!

What are your family traditions? And have you created any new ones since you’ve had children?

With thanks to White Stuff for our lovely festive bundle of goodies…

whitestuff

 

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Muddy Puddles 3 in 1 jacket

Kids clothing for winter walks

by Clare Mansell

A good friend of mine has a simple theory about how to successfully introduce children to the activities you want them to enjoy in life. Just make sure they are always warm, dry and comfortable. Make the activities fun, let them do it with people they like spending time with and make sure they get fed and watered at the end.

We have been putting this theory into practice with dog walks since Theo was born and it’s proved pretty successful. We walk (or cycle) to school and back every day and do longer cross-country walks at the weekends. There’s always a hot chocolate waiting at home at the end and we try to ensure he’s kitted out for whatever the weather throws at him.

People seem to surprised that we still walk to school in the rain, but children often enjoy bad weather more than sunshine and when you look at this picture you can start to understand why…

Muddy Puddles 3 in 1 jacket

When Muddy Puddles asked us to review their 3 in 1 Explorer Jacket it was pretty much a match made in heaven, a small boy who loves the outdoors and a tough and versatile winter coat. The 3 in 1 coat comes with a fleece jacket which detaches from the waterproof outer and can be worn on its own or as a warm lining for the waterproof outer.

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Jim who can be a little cynical about items we are given to review, immediately declared that it was “probably the best children’s coat he had ever seen” – Bold words indeed! But there was a tougher critic we had to run it by. Theo is notoriously picky about clothing and I was keeping everything crossed that he’d agree to wear it, a bit of a gamble considering it wasn’t in his favourite colour of red!

Fortunately after some initial reluctance to try it on, he’s worn it every single day since. With his unruly mop of surfer-boy hair, he looks a little bit like a Brit Pop singer and it keeps him both warm and dry.

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I have heard from other parents that their sons have refused to wear coats with fur lined hoods because they are “girlie” or “tickly,” interestingly this version of the jacket (there are three others) is supposedly designed for girls as it is more pulled in at the waist. I picked it because I liked the fur hood and only realised it was gender specific later. If your boy or girl doesn’t like the trim it does detach for washing so you can always remove it.

Of course a winter jacket is only half the kit a small boy needs, footwear is quite important too and a couple of months ago we stumbled across the perfect boots to wear with our Muddy Puddles jacket. These waterproof sheepskin lined wellies are from Cuckooland.

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When I first saw them on their website I didn’t believe they could possibly live up to the claim of being entirely waterproof, but after several months wear I am seriously impressed, I’ve even bought a pair for myself, although if I am completely honest they do look better on smaller feet and in the darker colour. The waterproof coating is only really visible close up, so most people just think they are a pair of Ugg boots.

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Both the jacket and boots have had some pretty rigorous testing over the last few weeks with the harsh winter weather we have had on the south coast and I’m really pleased to be able to confidently recommend both. There is only one thing I would do to improve the jacket which would be to have it in a range of brighter colours… But then again there’s nothing in life that I don’t think could be improved by adding more brighter colours!

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Stockists….

Coat – 3 in 1 Explorer Jacket from Muddy Puddles
Boots – Blackfox snug boot wellies from Cuckooland.com



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