23 August 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

We've survived our first toddler birthday party!

The boys were excited to be having a party, but got it into their heads that it wasn't at our house. Even when the banners and balloons went up, they still didn't work it out. 

They liked getting presents, seeing their grandparents and cousins and of course eating cake, but they're still a little young to appreciate the finer points of pass the parcel (or even the basics).

Unfortunately since then the Calico household has been struck down with a bug. We've spent today feeling sorry for ourselves and praying that the puking is over.

Baby Baby will be taking a little break for the rest of the summer*.

My Mum is coming to stay and I don't want to spend the only two weeks a year that I see her sat at my laptop. 

Also we have the actual birthdays of all the men of the house coming up next weekend. We have three birthdays in four days. Yes, that is an awful lot of cake :-)

*that's the theoretical summer, since it has rained here almost everyday since the beginning of July.



20 August 2010

Review: Reebok EasyTone Trainers

So, the big question...

Do Reebok EasyTone trainers really work?

I have to admit I was sceptical. The idea of a shoe toning your legs and backside by forcing you to balance sounded odd.

I was sent a pair of Reebok EasyTone shoes (£75), some Reebok sports kit and a bag to put it all in. I nervously tried the shoes on, worried that I wouldn't be able to walk in them. They are surprisingly comfortable and of course you can walk in them.

I was tempted to take photographs before and after I took part in the Reebok EasyTone trial, but I didn't. I didn't think the internet really needed pictures of my legs and backside!

I didn't notice a difference in the way I looked, but I noticed a huge difference in the way I felt. You can feel the muscles in your legs and bum working while you're walking. It's a good feeling. I regularly walked several miles in them, pushing a buggy with one toddler in and another on the buggy board. I felt like I'd had a workout by the time I got home.

I found my Reebok EasyTones extremely comfortable. They look like serious trainers too. What I mean by this is - and this may shock you - I'm not what you would call 'sporty'. I felt like this was my workout and I was wearing the trainers to prove it! For someone like me whose only exercise is pushing a buggy these trainers are perfect, you get doubly rewarded for your efforts.

You can read more about Reebok EasyTones on their website. They also have EasyTone flip flops, gym shoes and running shoes.

So do they work?

I think they do and for this reason they get the coveted Baby Baby Thumbs Up



16 August 2010


We make memories all the time.

Some stay longer than others, but the ones I am desperate to always remember are the memories of my boys being small and sweet and innocent.

Presley and Cash are gentle little souls and they play together so beautifully (most of the time).

This weekend we took them to soft play. We all genuinely enjoyed ourselves. Andy and I were proud and delighted to watch their confidence in trying new activities. Presley fearlessly investigated the entire area and took himself off in search of slides and trampolines. Cash needed a little more assistance, but both boys had huge smiles on their faces and bright pink cheeks.

They are less confident dealing with other children. We watched two older boys attempting to get them to hand over their Little Tykes cars. There was no confrontation, but my boys silently held their ground. The older boys then rammed them into the walls in their cars. Andy and I both shouted 'uh uh no!' at the same time and the older boys sloped off.

Presely and Cash aren't the sort of boys to ram and crash their cars. They are more likely to pretend they are driving to Blackpool and park their cars at the imaginary Sea Life Centre and stroll off to see the 'fancy fishes'.

I guess they get their gentle personalities from Andy and I. We don't push ourselves forward and are both more likely to hang back. The boys are always last to get a musical instrument at Toddler Group because they don't know how to push in.

Presley and Cash are at a lovely age. They have beautiful manners (most of the time) and see the good in everything. A trip to the shops is an adventure for them.

I recently took them to Sainsbury's. They always sit in a twin trolley and take it in turns to throw the shopping in. They quite often sing as we're going round. At the checkout they always say hello to the cashier and give a running commentary on what I'm packing into our shopping bags. On this occasion the cashier said to me 

'They're lovely boys, really old-fashioned'

I thanked her. We all waved goodbye. On the way home I thought about what she said and totally agreed. I took it as a compliment. If old-fashioned means sweet and good-natured, then yes they are.

I wonder how long they'll stay that way?

In anticipation of them growing up I'm hanging onto as many lovely memories as I can.

This post was written for the Sticky Fingers Gallery. The theme this week is a memory.


13 August 2010

Bloggers For Pakistan and Blogladesh

I haven't had a great week.

My husband, Andy, wrote a song recently called 'Middle Class Blues'. This tongue-in-cheek ditty includes the lines:
It's far too hot
In our conservatory
Which cuts its usage

Andy probably could have drawn inspiration for another few verses from the events of this week:

We both had upset stomachs from eating dodgy king prawns, we wasted Andy's day off by sitting around - close to the loo.

We're changing estate agents. The outgoing shower infuriated me so much I had steam coming out of my ears.  I called them and asked for the email address of their Managing Director so that I could make a complaint. They said they didn't understand the question.

Presley had the mother of all tantrums because Daddy had to go back to work. He didn't want to spend the day with Mummy.

Due to the aforementioned tantrum we turned up at a teddy bears picnic with no picnic and had to go home.

I had a nightmare and fell out of bed. My hip now aches a bit.

I punched myself in the face when I was tightening the straps on Presley's car seat.

I became one of those mothers who shouts at her children in the supermarket as they play with the food in our over-loaded trolley.

I ordered some shoes from the Debenhams sale. They're hideous, I have to go to the trouble of sending them back.

I complained that my inbox is overflowing with approaches from PRs and I can't keep up with them all. I haven't replied to some emails from 6 weeks ago. The blogger I complained to has only ever received two emails from PRs. Yes, I know how crass this makes me sound.

I finished reading 'Her Fearful Symmetry' by Audrey Niffenegger and was a little confused and disappointed by the ending.

I also complained to my friend, who has cancer, that I had a bad experience at the dentist. I whined about the filling that hurt a little. Then I remembered that she has cancer, is in the middle of chemo and I apologised, but she said not to worry, it's all relative.

It is. It's all relative.

I haven't got anything to complain about really, but it doesn't stop little things getting me down. Then I feel guilty, but I know I can't solve the problems of the world on my own. How do we deal with greed, the imbalance of wealth, hunger, poverty, disease, war?

There is no magic wand.

I can do something though, it's better than doing nothing and waiting for someone else to take some action.

So tonight instead of spending £20 on a takeaway I'm making a donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). They're coordinating aid for those affected by the devastating floods in Pakistan.

If you're on Twitter you can follow the hashtag #BloggersForPakistan to see what else is going on.

For example, Nick at My Daddy Cooks is auctioning himself on Ebay. Seriously, check it out!


I'm also following with interest Josie, Eva and Sian as they prepare to go to Bangladesh with Save the Children

If you're on Twitter you can follow the hashtag #blogladesh


I'm now going back to my middle class life and have to clean gloopy glue off the dining table.



10 August 2010

My Interview With Melanie C

This blogging lark has some amazing perks.

First of all you get to write, writing is fun. Writing is my hobby.

Secondly you make friends with like-minded people all over the world, you even get to meet some of them in the flesh. When you get together you feel like you've known them for years. My bloggy friends are my support network.

Thirdly there's the freebies, you get to try new products and services. If this all stopped tomorrow, I'd still write Baby Baby. Having said that, Presley and Cash have tested some great toys recently!

Then, sometimes, out of the blue, you get an opportunity. I had that opportunity recently. I was invited to meet someone I admire, someone whose records I own. 

I got to interview the beautiful Melanie C (yep, that Melanie C, Mel C, Sporty Spice, A SPICE GIRL)!

My new mate Melanie was representing the Pampers Village Parenting Panel. Pampers had set up a World of Never-Ending Play in the Trafford Centre, Manchester. They were promoting their new Dry Max nappies. I had already swapped to these nappies as they are 20% less bulky than the previous Active Fit nappies.

I was introduced to Melanie and she immediately put me at ease by asking about the boys. She got down to their level and said hello to them. You could tell she adores children.

We spoke for a while and then sat down for our official interview. I had a few questions prepared, but found that Melanie was very easy to talk to so we ended up just chatting. She kindly asked the photographers to stop taking our pictures as I had said I didn't want the boys on film. So thoughtful of her.

Melanie's eyes shone as she spoke about her daughter, Scarlet. I asked her whether she was able to do things that normal mums do, like going to toddler groups. She said that she had decided early on in her career to avoid the whole celebrity thing, so she can take Scarlet out. She said that being a mum means she has a lot in common with other mums, there's always something to talk about. 

We talked about going back to work after having a baby. Melanie said she decided to be a full time mum while Scarlet was small so that she had some time to think about what she wanted to do next. She left her options open and went back to work when her daughter was seven months old. She said she is lucky that she can pick and choose what work she does now. She still has her music and if she has a busy week, will clear her diary the following week to spend time with Scarlet.

Melanie mentioned that she was in the West End for six months playing Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers. I love Blood Brothers and I said I wished I'd seen her in it. Her eyes lit up as she told me she will be in the touring version for two weeks in November in Liverpool, her home town. I'll be there, crying all the way through!

Working in the theatre meant that Melanie had her days free, but she missed putting Scarlet to bed six nights out of seven She said she found that difficult. I wondered whether she got sick of singing the same songs night after night, she said she didn't as each night was a new performance.

We chatted about our children, agreeing that they are at a lovely age. They do new things every day. We even chatted about nappies and both admitted to being nappy snobs - we've both used Pampers for ages. Then that was it, time for the interview to come to an end. We posed for photographs. I felt like quite a celebrity, facing four cameras at once!

I must admit I hadn't known what to expect, but Melanie was gorgeous, friendly and down to earth.

I just wish I'd told her that I was a fan.

We rounded off our visit with a tour of the Pampers Never-Ending Play pods. We then bumped into lovely bloggers Amy and Suzie who were also there to interview Melanie.  My boys were so well-behaved all morning, I treated them (and me) to what they call 'A Donalds'. This was the highlight of the day for them. Mine, of course, was meeting a Spice Girl.

Huge thanks to Pampers and Fleishman Hillard for arranging my interview with Melanie C.


4 August 2010

The Gallery: Playtime

The theme for the Sticky Fingers Gallery this week is playtime. Tara has joined forces with Cathy at Nurturestore for her Play Academy, making learning fun.

Presley and Cash play together all the time now. They play imaginatively, mostly copying mine and Andy's daily activities.

Here they are 'working for money' as they know this is what Daddy does Monday to Friday.

If Andy pops out of his office for a cup of tea they tell him to get back to work!

They spend hours with Tupperware tubs and wooden spoons, pretending to cook. They go shopping with a toy trolley and pushchair. I hear them copy my exclamations. The other day Presley said 'it's pouring with rain we need to put our coats on then we put the shopping in the car'.  They brum their cars to grandma and grandad's and park on the bumb (the kerb).

If we're in the garden, they love to help. They will happily collect leaves and sticks to put in the brown bin. Most of the time though, you can find them in the greenhouse.


3 August 2010

Would you like to meet David Beckham?

*This is a sponsored post*

Would you like to meet David Beckham?

Stupid question! Of course you would, you're only human.

Once, years ago, I worked for a company who had season tickets for West Ham. Every other Saturday the directors entertained clients at the football. One Saturday not all of them could make it, so they asked me to join them. We met our clients at the Swallow Hotel at Loughton. I was at the bar when Alex Ferguson and the Manchester United team filed past me to get on their coach. I was inches away from a young blond David Beckham. I played it cool, when I really wanted to squeal


The lovely Mr Beckham is supporting the Young's GO3 Superheroes Challenge to get us off our sofas and get fit together as a family. It's all about taking taking small steps and having fun.

As part of the Superheroes Challenge there is a competition to win a five star, all expenses paid trip to meet David Beckham where ever he is in the world.

Yes, the winning family (four people) will be flown to meet Becks. Wow!

For another chance to win, check out the special packs of Young's GO3 products.

Right kids, it's fish fingers for tea.

Good luck!


2 August 2010


Having worked for the best part of twenty years I was totally unprepared for motherhood. Yes, I'd read all the pregnancy books. I knew from week to week what my apple, grapefruit, football sized fetus was supposed to be doing developmentally. I read the pregnancy symptoms guide and was grateful to only have heartburn (so long as I had a bottle of Gaviscon to swig from). We had names chosen and baby clothes bought, washed, arranged and then rearranged seventeen times in their drawer. I had written my birth plan - yeah yeah, complete waste of time, didn't take it out of my hospital bag. 

I couldn't see beyond the birth. I could not imagine what it would be like to have a child. I had a couple of friends with babies, but I was never really that interested. Before I met Andy I had resigned myself to never having children. I suppose I had distanced myself from all things maternal to avoid that ache, that need to be a mother.

When we brought Presley home from the hospital I stood with him in my arms. I had absolutely no idea what to do next. I put him in his pram, put far too many blankets over him, and sat and watched him breathing until he woke up. Then we muddled through, trying to work out what he needed. Trying not to break him.

The next day I got the thunderbolt. I felt such an overwhelming rush of love for this tiny boy. I couldn't believe he was mine. I still can't. He is amazing and it is too much for my little brain to take in, but we made him and his equally amazing little brother. 

Despite the awe, I found it difficult being at home with a baby. Before I went on maternity leave I was a senior manager. I was used to being in control. My days had structure. When Presley was small it was an achievement to get washed, dressed and out of the house for some fresh air. If I arranged to meet my NCT friends I struggled to get there on time, even though I had spent all morning worrying and calculating when I would need to leave, allowing plenty of time. We'd be heading out of the door (on schedule) when, uh oh, I needed to change his nappy, his clothes, my clothes. Chaos.

One day, when Presley was about eight weeks old, I had a flash of inspiration. I realised that being a mother was my new job. I decided to treat motherhood as my new career and this totally changed my outlook. I relaxed.

I didn't have anything else to do apart from care for this lovely baby.

So that's what I did.  That's what I'm still doing. My life revolves around my children and making sure they're happy. Sometimes I forget this, as I walk over to the laptop to check my email. Mostly though, I only look at the online world when my real life world is asleep.  I have a routine, but it's all for them. Being a parent is the hardest job I have ever had, but of course it is by far the most rewarding.

There is no job like it, no job where you will get a cuddle and a 'love Mummy' from a nearly two year old.

My job today involved watching my boys play shops. They loaded toy food, books and cars onto the conveyor belt (also known as our sofa). Nearly three year old Presley looked up and saw me smiling. He said 'make Mummy happy'. Yes, my darling boy, you do.

This post has been written as part of the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I chose prompt no.2 - Tell us about a eureka moment, when you had a sudden flash of inspiration and insight.


1 August 2010

Introducing the Baby Baby Thumbs Up

Ta daaaaaa!

I made a badge! A great big badge!

Thank you to the lovely Liz at VioletPosy for the 'how to' instructions.

So who deserves the Baby Baby Thumbs Up badge this month?

Polaroid Sunglasses

Presley and Cash were both sent a pair of Polaroid Polarized Sunglasses to try (£19.99 per pair). As well as looking cool, these sunglasses offer 100% UV protection. Both boys took to wearing them straight away and they now put them on as soon as the sun comes out. I've let them play with them and take them on and off repeatedly and they appear to be indestructible. We can't fault them. Thank you Polaroid. Thumbs up!

Hello Baby

Trevor from the online nursery shop Hello Baby very kindly sent the boys a toy each to test. 

We loved the Brio Pull Along Helicopter (£9.99)

We also loved the Brio Classic Wooden Car (£4.99).

The boys have taken them both for a 'brum about', as they call it, almost every day. The toys are wooden, well-made and feel fantastic. They arrived well-packaged and I found the website easy to navigate too. Thumbs up!

Fairy Non Bio Gel

I was sent some Fairy non bio gel, fabric softenener, Timmy Time toys and some toddler tips and an advice leaflet from Dr Carol Cooper (Fairy's ambassador and author of 'The Baby and Child Question & Answer book'). The advice was actually really useful and covered reading, sharing, independence, nursery and clothes. If you would like some more details, please ask.

I was really pleased with the Fairy non bio gel (£7.14 for 962ml/26 washes). It was the first time I had used gel and I was totally satisfied with the results. I've always liked Fairy because we all have sensitive skin and we can be confident that it won't affect us.

You can currently collect FREE Timmy Time books with every purchase of Fairy. See special packs for details.

Guess what? Thumbs up!

Wilkinson Nappies

I was sent a pack of Wilkinson nappies to try (£3.74 for 24 size 5 nappies, two packs are just £7). I couldn't fault them (and I am a self-confessed nappy snob). Yes they're basic, but they did the job. Thumbs up!

Leapfrog Toys

The lovely people at Leapfrog have been rather generous. We were sent The Leapfrog Tag Junior reading system (£29.99) and a couple of books (£9.99 each). The reading device was simple to set up and personalise by connecting to the Leapfrog website. Best to do this when your children aren't around, because they will not want to wait. Both boys found the reading device easy to use, although the on/off button is too accessible when you have an over-eager toddler who likes pressing buttons. They were able to use it as intended really quickly. Presley spent ages trying to figure out how it worked! I have to say that while Presley and Cash both read regular books every day, they don't currently play with this every day. Perhaps that will change as they get older. 

We were also sent an electronic book 'Goodnight Scout' (£13.99) from the My First Book series. Cash has a Leapfrog My Pal Scout that he plays with every day, so his eyes lit up when we gave him this book. It is really sweet and also plays lullabies.

Finally, we also received the brand new Leapster Explorer (£59.99). As it is suitable from age 4 years (and therefore a little advanced for our boys) we haven't opened it yet, but in the interests of disclosure I wanted to mention it.

Thumbs up!


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