run out of womb

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Monday, 11 December 2017

The Best Presents for a Sibling from a New Baby

Giving birth is hard enough, but I'm extremely glad I didn't have to also push out the present my baby 'bought' for his new big brother.. It was a toddler version of the etch-a-sketch drawing board. A really, really big version... Good job the new baby Amazon Prime'd his gift rather than buying it in-utero. But it did turn out to be a really good present: his toddler bro loved it, and it was especially helpful in those early weeks when I was feeding the newborn and didn't have free hands all the time - something the new big brother could get along with solo.

Obviously you'll know your own kid's likes and obsessions the best and that will feed into the present - but in my experience of a close gap (mine were born exactly two years, one month and one day apart), you want a toy that your eldest can play with solo, for a long time, and/or which helps them feel involved.

So here are some great ideas for new big brother / sister presents if you've got a toddler (or older kid) who's about to lose his or her I'm The Boss Around Here title...

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Now is the time to say #ThankYouMidwife

Not many memories of giving birth to my two babes are crystal-clear. It's become a bit like one of those BBC sports montages: a mishmash of blood, sweat, tears and then - big soundtrack - the emergence of a tiny human being. 

I know biology's amnesia happens to all of us mamas, and that's the main reason why siblings exist… 

But what I do remember out of the blur are the two midwives who helped me throughout. 

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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Accessories Dreamin' with Mamas & Papas

Sometimes mama-hood can feel a bit like starting school: eyes darting around the Monkey Music room (instead of the classroom) looking for Someone Who Looks Like You To Become Your New (Mama) Bestie. Learning stuff all the time (albeit How to Make a Happy Human rather than double maths). And... making sure you've got the coolest kit. Because, lets face it, parenthood can sometimes be knackering, messy, and a bit gross (whole-outfit-and-carseat poonami, I'm looking at you). Which is why, in the same way that getting the best rucksack/Kickers/hoiked-up-skirt for school was Very Important, with my second pregnancy, I wanted an epic nappy bag.

Yup, there's a sentence I never thought I'd write... First time around I was all, 'any bag is fine', and though I tried a bunch out, I ended up using a Herschel rucksack a lot of the time. I never understand why people spend £50+ on changing bags that literally say 'Yummy Mummy Cupcake' on them (ugh). But I do get why it's nice to get a great-looking bag, since you're going to be schlepping it around for a long time, and a practical one, because you're going to want to grab those nappies pretty sharpish and don't want to be rummaging around in a stamp-sized baby changing room.

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Monday, 27 November 2017

Review: Winter Wonderland for toddlers

This week has been a sleepless one - two babes with colds = two tired parents. But tickets for the press preview of Winter Wonderland were on our noticeboard, and we couldn't pass up the chance to check out one of London's festive highlights. 
With our baby snoozing in his sling all evening (apart from a brief attempt to grab my mulled wine, above) our focus was on Winter Wonderland for toddlers - they're not going to be going on the rollercoasters or downing the tankards of mulleed wine, but they'll still be having a fab time thanks to the special rides, the lights, and the food. So, what's good, what's free, what's worth visiting and when? Here's our guide to Winter Wonderland for tots.


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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Review: family-friendly Algarve luxury at Anantara Vilamoura

With tiniest man born in May, we stayed put for most of the summer - playing in the garden, a few weekends at the beach, exploring London. It was lovely - but when the chilly autumn days started blowing in, we missed summer and wanted some sunshine.

And so we started hunting for that elusive thing: an affordable, luxury hotel that was still warm enough in October, but that didn't mean spending a very long time in a plane ... (you know those hate-filled stares you get when boarding a jet with a toddler? Times those by a million when you embark with toddler AND newborn).

It took a while, but we came across the brand-new Anantara Vilamoura in the Algarve: fab for kids, but still flying under the radar. So we thought we'd shout about it here.

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Monday, 13 November 2017

Review: family-friendly brunch at Eneko

 A big, someone-else-is-cooking brunch used to be *the* most relaxing start to a weekend. A lush cafe/restaurant, all the papers, a couple of hours, sunshine or a roaring fire, the occasional bottomless treat... It was just about still doable with one babe - if you scored nap-time bingo. But two? Nah. All the papers would be gummed by my baby, the sun / a fire are major danger zones, and a couple of hours grazing over brunch? We do well staying put in a restaurant for an half that time.

But this weekend we found Eneko: a spot with great-cooking, dramatic decor, relaxed, friendly staff, a great brunch, very sippable drinks - and surprisingly kid-friendly. I mean, this isn't Disney, don't expect a character breakfast - but it's part of the gorgeous five-star hotel One Aldwych, sits on the doorstep of Covent Garden and the Thames, for lots of post-meal fun, and had such relaxed, friendly staff who bent over backwards to make sure the toddler, his baby brother and their parents were happy - that it's a luxe family-friendly delight. 


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Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Only Guide to Weaning You'll Need To Produce A Perfect Eater

 
After canvassing much advice and as mama of two, here's the definitive guide to raising a baby to be a non-picky, adventurous eater..

One who hits the scales at weight 'perfect' and turns pale at the thought of refined sugar. You've bought the best weaning gadgets... so follow these steps, and you will have an adventurous eater on your hands in a mere 12 days.

1. At the start of the weaning process, remember that your baby will only be used to drinking sweet milk, so ensure their first foods are soft, liquidised sweet fruit puree such as apple mush.

2. This is true except if you want your child to be a sociable eater when older - one who enjoys eating out in restaurants and gobbles everything put on their plate. In this case, never offer a baby pureed foods - doing so is pandying to their inexperience, and lack of teeth. 

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Friday, 27 October 2017

Review: Car-seat family taxis to the airport *and discount code*

You know how you book a holiday, get super-excited, start planning the epic packing-list and then think.. ugh... we've got to get to the airport. With 18.2 million bags, two buggies, a baby, maybe also a toddler, older kids, sleepy parents... etc? We faced just this dilemma on an autumn trip to the Algarve - we didn't want to schlep a car seat all the way to Portugal just for the airport bit, we didn't want to plonk our kids on our lap and hope for the best in an Uber, we couldn't drive there as we were returning to a different airport... 

But luckily a friend recommended Family Transfers, a taxi business that specialises in getting families to and from the airport - their motto is "so that you can relax from the moment you leave your house" and since it all went so smoothly, I wanted to tell you all about them - and share a discount code for your next family airport transfer.

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Monday, 9 October 2017

Double buggy review: Cosatto Duo To & Fro

As my second-baby bump grew and I pushed my toddler to the swings, I was adamant I wasn't going to need a second buggy. I'd spot huffing, puffing mamas pushing hefty multiple-kid-cart-about-ers to the playground. And I'd smugly think about how my back/shoulders must have become SO strong by now after carrying my toddler around, that I'd spend all my time sling-ing the newborn, and staying nippy with my two-year-old in a light stroller like the City Tour or light XSS.

And then along came tiniest man, and I realised I was wrong.


There's a limit, I now concede, to how much you can carry a newborn in the sling. First, it makes them sleep all the time - which sounds great, until night-time beckons and your babe's been sling-snoozing all day long. Second, mine was born in May: it was soon very hot and I worried about sun protection. Plus we both got super sweaty when walking for more than ten minutes..

So it was time for some swift double buggy research. 
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Sunday, 8 October 2017

Review: Calcot luxury family hotel



 
'Family friendly' isn't the label I usually look for in a hotel. Yup, we're a family, and with two tots who only just escape the two-under-two banner, we definitely want a friendly hotel. But 'family friendly' conjures up images of fish finger kid menus, shrieking swimming pools, garish colours.. And just cos I'm a mum, I still hanker after luxury on a weekend away...

But a few minutes after settling in at Calcot, a 14th-century farmhouse in the verdant Cotswolds, you realise they've managed the double. It's a super child-friendly pad (there's a little kids' pool, a free all-day crèche with more toys than Amazon, and an over-eights’ loft with games, outdoor playground, daily children's high tea, kids' crockery and cutlery and even bibs, and changing mats in-rooms..) plus there are 220 acres of grounds with free bikes, fitness trail, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, epic spa, great restaurants, and cool but still comfy design touches everywhere. We stayed two nights, and wanted to stay longer... so did all the other guests we met. It's family friendly - but luxurious too. And not a fish finger in sight... here's the lowdown on Calcot (where rooms are from £209/night):

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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Review: a baby and toddler-fun day trip to Margate

When a sunny weekend blows into town, I'm drawn towards England's coastline like baby vom to a white T-shirt. The only problem is, so is everyone else. 

So when we were invited to visit Dreamland, Margate with face-painting specialists Snazaroo, in the middle of September - it sounded ideal. We hit the weather jackpot as the sun came out, there were no queues for any rides, and Dreamland - the retro fairground that dates back to 1908 and is compact and walkable, has lots for tots, and is packed with smiley staff and lovely designs - was brilliant. 

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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

No Phone Zone at Chessington World of Adventures

My toddler kept picking up my phone, dumped on a sofa or left on the floor, and handing it to me quizzically as if I'd left my arm lying around and really needed it back. It made me realise how near-surgically-attached I must seem to be with my iPhone.. And it made me feel guilty.

So when Chessington World of Adventures got in touch with research saying almost two thirds of kids reckon their parents pay more attention to their phones than them, and did I want to visit their theme park if I vowed to give up my phone for the day - the answer was definitely yes.

Entering via Chessington's No Phone Zone entrance, we checked in our mobiles at the gate and were handed a disposable camera (remember them? And the exciting week-long wait to pick up holiday snaps and see how they came out?!) to take photos of our day.

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Five best mumhack gadgets

One thing I love about my 'mum friends' - the ones I've met at the playground/rhyme time/etc - is they get the whole excitement about things your old friends would think bonkers. Like being in bed at 9pm... Or a poo landing in the potty.. Or four consecutive hours' of sleep... Or the fact that your most-regular shops are no longer Anthropologie / J Crew (just too devastating when a £25 (albeit beautiful) mug is smashed, or £60 top gets pawed by a toddler) but Tesco and .. Lakeland. Yeah, the fact that the plop of the Lakeland catalogue on the mat gets my pulse racing is a bit of a surprise to me too...

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Sunday, 10 September 2017

Review: family-friendly luxury at Coworth Park

There's a knock at the door and opening it reveals a suited man. Balanced in his palms, like a sacred offering, is, he announces somberly, "your room request." Then he hands the item - a plastic green potty - over.

It's typical of Coworth Park, the Dorchester-owned country house hotel where service is everything, and every need catered for, whether that's a 3am demand for a helicopter, an eighteen-course picnic or, as in our less-romantic case, the rather urgent requirement of a potty after tiny man's announcement of an imminent arrival..

In the growing collection of uber-luxe English hotels where kids aren't just allowed, but welcomed with outstretched (potty-filled) arms, Ascot's Cowarth is seriously good. The experience starts at check-in, where tiny man (aged two) and his tiniest brother (three months) are proffered wrapped perfectly-pitched presents (Paw Patrol car and Fisher Price shape-sorter). Then our room was stocked not just with two cots, a changing mat, and kids' toiletries, but also Coworth teddy bears sporting towelling robes, matching ones plus slippers for tots, and even gingerbread men waiting to be gobbled...

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Monday, 28 August 2017

Review: Vtech's 5-in-1 Stroll & Grow and the Tour de Trike

Summer 2012 was one of the best of my life - my journalism job led to track-side seats for some of the London Olympics' most-memorable moments, and then in August, as the athletes left town, Mr ROOW and I got married on a sunny bank holiday weekend. 

So the Olympic park hosts lots of happy memories - but, living in deepest north London, I've rarely ventured back, and never with tiny man. All of which meant, when Vtech got in touch to ask if he (and I) wanted to check out their newest vehicle at the Olympic Velodrome, we were there faster than Usain Bolt (OK the trip involved the north circular, so this is definitely not true..)
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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The 11 Definitive Steps to a Perfect Sleeping Baby

After canvassing much advice and as mama of two, this is the carefully-honed, definitive guide to how to get a baby to sleep, eat and thrive. Follow these 11 steps, and you will be the perfect parent*.

1. To a newborn, the world is a big, scary place, so it's best to rock them gently to sleep in your arms in the early days. If, however, your baby was born on a day with 'y' in, you'll need to worry about over-attachment and your kid not sleeping solo until they're at uni, so never rock a baby to sleep.

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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Family travel review: Abama, Tenerife

Ritz Carlton Abama Tenerife
In holiday-planning, picking Tenerife was the easy part: if you want some winter sun, a not-too-long flight (it's around four hours), budget airlines, all-year sunshine and no risk of Zika virus, then the Canary Islands are the best (only?) option - and Tenerife is one of the most family-friendly around. 

But which hotel/resort/villa to pick? We spent so long trawling websites and Tripadvisor that I thought a full review of the Moorish-style Ritz Carlton Abama, from where we've just returned from a week's break, and its family-friendly credentials would be useful for those looking too. So, here goes:

The Location

The Abama is about a 30-minute drive from South Tenerife airport, and we then prebooked a transfer with Kiwi taxi. The company was cheaper than a hailed one or a hotel transfer, at €47 for a mini van; you can also pre-order a free car seat which normal taxis don't offer. (Although it wasn't the newest/cleanest car seat around, it worked!)

The Abama is quite isolated - there are no villages or shops that you can walk to - but there's a shuttle to a big international mall, and a local village about a five-minute drive away. We, however, (and I'm a bit embarrassed about this) didn't end up leaving the resort - for the first time ever..!

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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Two under two? This is the hideous advice from strangers that you won't be able to avoid...

 
Something I learnt on the first day I stepped onto the Tube wearing a 'Baby on Board' sign: if you're pregnant, you're the *top* story on the rolling news channel of Joe Public. 

You'll be judged, discussed, interrogated, poked and reprimanded. Previously you could walk down a street and exchange nothing more than a nod with a passer-by or two; as a parent-to-be, you suddenly become public property.  

And never is that more true than when you become pregnant to a second babe, after just a small gap. 

Not just those parenting Irish twins - a pair of siblings born less than 12 months apart, but "anyone with kids who doesn't look like they waited a decade or so before having sex for a second time," according to one mum of two-under-two.

I just escaped that bracket - my toddler was two years and one month when he walked into the hospital to see my newborn - but still, if I had a nappy for everytime Mr. R. Random had quizzed me, "so, it can't have been planned?" then I'd never need buy any Pampers for no. 2. 

Here, some epic mamas of two under two reveal the batshit crazy/downright rude/plain unhelpful things total strangers have said to them...

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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

WIN! Hotel Chocolat goodies worth almost £350.. and the chance to be in a book

'Scuse the small interruption to normal Run Out of Womb services, but who DOESN'T want to finish off a hard day's parenting with an amazing box of Hotel Chocolat Summer Sleekster desserts (36 chocolate petits fours, from patisserie to sorbet via cheesecakes and more...)? 

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The 10 Signs You're Turning Into Your Parents

For me, it was when I looked at my car radio and realised the 'Classic FM' preset was getting more use than my old faves Radio X, Absolute, etc. Sure, it's because I hope those instrumental dulcet tones will soothe tiny man and tiniest man to sleep... but it still reminds me of long car journeys as a kid, begging my parents to switch to Capital but being stuck with Beethoven... Yup, I realised, two years a mama and I'm turning into my parents.

Here are some other classic signs that you're mama or papa-ing just like the ones who made you...

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Thursday, 27 July 2017

Review: Redwood Lodge toddler garden playhouse

We spent two years Zoopla-ing and Rightmove-ing and trying to find and buy our family house. Luckily, sourcing and building a playhouse for the back garden was a lot simpler. The lack of lawyers' fees was an especially nice contrast...

But, because I overthink things, it still took a while. There are loads of places to buy playhouses online - some are simple, cheap shells a bit like a shed; others are more luxurious than the average London home.

In the end I picked the Redwood Lodge Playhouse. I didn't want one that overtook our garden - and this one has a small footprint of one metre squared, but since its topsy turvy design means it expands as it rises, there's plenty of playing room inside.
 

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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Best at-home beauty services for mamas

The old days: you had a big party/wedding/work do coming up and you wanted to treat yourself, so you popped out for a mani/blow dry/make-up. On the day, you had a long bath, did a face pack, slathered on the fake tan.. and felt fab.

Nowadays: you're a mama, 'me time' is no one pulling your hand/yelling questions at you whilst you do a wee. Pampering has got to be a bit different..

Which is why the blast of new at-home beauty apps and services are the answer. I've tested out a handful now; the gist is the same - call or download an app, book a service (hair, make-up, nails, massage, waxing, tanning: all covered) and the therapist turns up at your home, with towels, all the equipment (and even atmospheric candles at the top end of the market..!), do their magic, clear up, and leave.

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Saturday, 8 July 2017

Baby books and scrapbooks - the easy way..

"Everything you do for your first, you'll have to do for your next kids..." was the stark warning delivered when I showed off my latest creative effort for my firstborn. He'd snooze all day long in those early days, and I'd be sweating over baby scrapbooks, editing his 1 Second Everyday video, printing photos...

And yup, it's definitely not been as easy second time around. On the crazy rare occasions we hit Nap Jackpot (tiniest man and his toddler brother snoozing At The Same Time), I'm trying to sleep myself, or shoving a wash on, or making a meal..


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Monday, 3 July 2017

Prep for another baby - and the best presents for a second-time mama

When you're on baby number two (or three, or four, or..) and you've been there, done that, got the kiddo (and the stretch marks) and forgotten allllllllll about birth, you've got almost everything you need in the loft/squashed under the sofa/in carefully labelled moth-proof bags, depending on your levels of organisation. But what do you need this time around? And if you're thinking up present ideas for another-child parents, what should you buy? Here's your list...


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Friday, 9 June 2017

Luxury family travel: Lime Wood in the New Forest

 Lime Wood is the kind of place you go on a babymoon or minimoon (it has the most amazing food, a beautiful spa and a lovely New Forest setting), laze happily by the pool, fall in love, and fear you'll never be able to return to once you Become A Parent.

Luckily, having just returned from a brilliant two-night stay at the 32-room hotel just outside Lyndhurst, we can report it's a brilliant place to go as a family too. In fact, it might just be one of Britain's nicest luxury mini-breaks: fancy but not fussy; interior design that makes you wander if they'll notice if you fork-lift, say, the entire bathroom home with you, and food so good you're uber-grateful the New Forest is a (free-to-borrow) Hunter wellies waddle away, because you need those good long walks. 


We checked into Crescent Three, the ideal stay for families because it's probably more spacious than your home, if you live in London. The master bedroom is upstairs with a big private balcony gazing out over the forest, a king-sized bed with soft-cotton sheets, a roaring fire (with safety guard), beautiful decor touches (I loved the vanity table..) 

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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

About to become a mum of two (or more)? You need to read this.

I've been a bit blog-silent for a few weeks because our family of three has just become four: tiniest man was born two weeks ago.
He arrived two hours after I strolled (ha! huffed, puffed and almost rolled) into the (amazing) Whittington birthing centre. 
The second-time-around birth was definitely a whole lot easier. But whilst I spent huge chunks of pregnant time musing about birth and sleepless nights all over again, I hadn't really planned or thought much about the difference between looking after one toddler, and two children.
And now I'm a veteran mama of two (hey, got a fortnight's experience), I've realised it's really different. Maternity leave with one? It was all fab baby cinema trips, relaxing Brent Cross visits, culture days in town. I even wrote a smug post about it here...
Maternity leave with two? Desperately hoping a howling babe doesn't wake the toddler next-door; getting naps to coincide being the highlight of your month, that first Brent Cross visit requiring parental assistance and a stream of toddler food bribes and getting both into their car seats at the same time, without any sobbing, seeming tougher than organising a jail-break.   

So I asked the wise, experiences mamas of Facebook, what are your tips for life with two or more babes? And these are their brilliant answers. If you're pregnant with a second/third/fourth/seventeenth (and if the latter, Channel 4 wants to make a documentary about you)... read on. And get shopping..

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Which holiday-packing parent are you?

The Facebook parenting group posts start around May. "I'm planning my August holiday packing-list (first time abroad with the babe) and I'm on my fourth sheet of A4. Has anyone ever travelled easyJet and taken over the plane's entire luggage hold with their kit? Is that doable?" 

Or something like that.

Because parenting out of our comfort zone (basically the four walls of your home, in the early days) can be scary. Those adventurous sorts who use a year's maternity leave to visit 792 countries of the world, with only one rucksack between the three of them: HOW? 

So I thought I'd put together a tongue-in-cheek guide to the simplest way to pack for a holiday. Just match your personality to your trip, and start that pile of gear..

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