30 June 2010

Smell the Coffee

This morning I opened a new jar of instant coffee. As I twisted I heard the plastic lid slowly peel away from the foil, then pop off in my hand. I carefully removed the gold seal - in one piece - and inhaled. I breathed in deeply. I adore that aroma.

I remember my Mum calling me every time she was about to open a new jar of coffee. I got to stab, then peel off the thin film of foil. I was allowed the absolute pleasure of the first sniff.

I don't recall ever opening a jar of coffee and not sticking my nose in. If Presley and Cash are in the kitchen with me they will have a sniff too, although Cash hasn't quite grasped the concept. He blows out, like a woman in labour who is panting as the baby's head crowns because she has been told not to push.

I couldn't write about smelling the coffee without considering its other meaning. You see, I had a realisation this week. I did wake up.

I've spent many evenings recently sat here, at my laptop. I have followed my virtual world closely for some time and sometimes it gets me down. So I have simply decided to spend more time in the real world. I went to my creative writing group on Monday night and had a wonderful time.

I want to spend more time writing fiction. Once the World Cup is over I would like to spend more time songwriting with my husband. I will continue to blog and focus on the positive aspects of my online life, the friends I have made and the opportunities to write, to take photographs and to laugh and cry as I read some amazing blog posts.

I am nervous about walking into Cybermummy on Saturday, but I intend to embrace the opportunity to meet the people I like, love, respect and admire. Be warned, I like to hug. I will most probably scream with delight when I see friends old and new.

Let's make the most of our time together in real life. Let's share a cup of coffee and raise a toast to friendship.

I wonder what my boys will remember from their childhood, when they are older. Will they open a new jar of coffee and think of me? I hope so.


28 June 2010

Let the Dog See the Rabbit!


27 June 2010

And the Winner is....

The winner of the Flexibath is:


Emma from Me, the Man & the Baby.

Congratulations Emma, I'll be in touch.

Thanks to everyone who entered and thank you Random.org.


26 June 2010

836 Words and 3 Pictures

This week there is a Gallery/Writing Workshop mash up!

The joint theme is emotions.

As I spent some time analysing my emotions I realised how complex they are. I am an emotional personal.

Today I could quite easily take my pick and write about sadness, disappointment, disillusionment, apprehension and fear, but you don't want to read about that, right?

After a morning playing in the garden with my boys I could certainly cover off happiness, joy, pride, amusement and love.

So I am listening to The Flaming Lips at Glastonbury (jealousy!) and writing about something wonderful that happened to me this week.

On Tuesday I attended a book launch. A piece I wrote is in the book Word Soup Year One. I am now a published writer.

Excitement built last week as the team from Lancashire Writing Hub projected extracts from all of the pieces in the anthology on to buildings in Preston and Lancaster.

My name in lights!

When I saw these photographs I literally squeaked with excitement and did a happy dance!

On Tuesday night, at the launch,  I was given five copies of the book, beautifully bound, with my name on. 

Here they are:

I felt pride, joy and disbelief. The book is stunning.

The pieces for the Word Soup Year One anthology were selected by the brilliant Jenn Ashworth and I am in the company of some amazing writers: Tom Fletcher, Sarah Hymas, Socrates Adams, Nicholas Royle, AJ Duggan, Mollie Baxter, Norman Hadley, Rachel McGladdery, JA Brunning and Peter Wild.

So how did this happen?

Well, it all began with this blog, my Baby, Baby Baby. In May last year I started writing, tentatively at first. As my confidence grew I tried my hand at creative writing. Earlier this year I read a piece of flash fiction that I had written at an open mic spot at the Word Soup live lit night. I was then asked to submit a piece for the anthology. I was overjoyed to have 'My Old Man', written about my father, selected. I was invited to read my 836 words at Word Soup in April. It is an emotional piece. I made people cry. Result.

You can buy the book here or win one here.


24 June 2010

Carrots and Stickers

How do you get toddlers to behave well?

In my working life I asked/told people what I wanted them to do. I expected that they would do it and they usually did. I wasn't a nasty boss, far from it. I wanted people to enjoy coming to work.

I have tried to apply this 'management style' to my parenting with varying degrees of success.

Andy and I use positive, encouraging language with the boys and give plenty of warning about what we would like to happen. We explain what we are doing that day and the sequence of events so there are no surprises. This works pretty well most of the time.

If we are playing in the garden or the park we tell the boys when there are five minutes to go, sometimes we count down the remaining minutes. When  without a fuss.

There are other times where life doesn't run as smoothly. Some days I struggle to get the boys washed, dressed and out of the door by 9.15 to get to Toddler Group, even though they really enjoy going. Other days they give me the runaround so that it’s too late to go anywhere worthwhile so we end up nipping to the garage for bread and milk (and Jaffa Cakes). They dawdle, hide their shoes or just plain refuse to come near me. This is infuriating, but not really ‘naughty behaviour’.

Sometimes there is hitting, kicking or toy snatching or throwing. Sometimes they swing on the curtains when they know they are not allowed to touch them. Sometimes food is chewed up and spat out. Sometimes water is poured on the carpet.

All of these things are ‘naughty behaviour’. They are ‘unacceptable’. I am emphasising these words and phrases as they are ones used by television Supernanny Jo Frost. There’s no denying she gets results, but her methods seem so punitive and negative.

Following her lead we give a warning to the boys that what they are doing is naughty behaviour and if they do it again there will be consequences. We try to relate the consequences to the behaviour. We are consistent and we carry out our threats. If they spit out their food then that is the end of the meal. If they throw a toy it is taken away. These punishments are pretty effective.

If the boys hurt one another or touch my flippin’ curtains, however, they go in the playpen. This is our version of the 'naughty step'. We just call it the 'playpen'.

In true Supernanny style we place them in the pen, get down to their level, explain what they have done wrong and tell them that they will stay in the playpen until beep beep beep (beep beep beep is the sound of the alarm on our mobile phone countdown timers).

When we hear the beep beep beep, usually after two minutes, we get them out, remind them why they were put in there and ask for an apology. Then they get a ‘Mummy/Daddy loves you’ and a cuddle.

I feel as uncomfortable doing this as I am about typing it.

It works as in it distracts them from what they were doing, but it doesn’t stop them doing it again the next day. It feels wrong to manipulate them by withdrawing affection while they are in the pen.

I had an idea to create a sticker chart for them. My goodness, they love stickers. I’d like to reward good behaviour. Surely that’s a more positve way to parent. I’m stuck though (arf) as to how this would work.

What do you reward with a sticker and when? I can’t see much point in waiting until the end of the day to award a sticker for not hitting your brother over the head with ‘Hippos Go Beserk’. Should I remove a sticker each time they go near the bloomin’ curtains?

Why should they get a sticker for completing everyday actions such as teeth cleaning or letting me give them a wash? This doesn’t seem right either.

I have one sure-fire, never-fail carrot parenting technique up my sleeve that works on any behaviour, it got Presley through a haircut last week and a teary tantrum yesterday and it’s what I call the ‘Jelly Baby Technique’.

Yes, I know. That is unacceptable behaviour on my part, but it is 100% effective.

Please share your wisdom. What works for you? Do you use carrots, sticks or stickers?


23 June 2010

The Gallery: Creatures

The theme for the Sticky Fingers Gallery this week is creatures.

I love animals, they're usually so photogenic. I have hundreds of photographs to chose from for this theme. I've had cats and dogs over the years and been to wildlife parks, camera in hand. 

I thought about submitting one of my comedy whale-watch pictures. For every whale tail I have seventeen pictures of the sea or people on the boat - well, there was a two metre swell!

Then, this week, a photo opportunity arose. It was spectacularly difficult to photograph, but I got there in the end.

I have no idea what they're up to!



21 June 2010

Review and Giveaway: The Flexibath

I was offered a new baby product to review and I was happy to try out the award winning Flexibath.

It's a new cool design for a baby bath and comes in a range of funky colours. It retails for £29.95 and the stockists are listed on the above website.

The plus points:
  • It folds up flat - you could even take it on holiday in your suitcase!
  • It's made from BPA-free plastic
  • By not filling the tub you're saving water
  • It has a plug to empty it (although it was just as easy to pour the water out into the tub!)
  • The colour range is superb
  • It's non-slip
  • It's suitable from birth to age four
  • Once it is no longer being used as a bath it would make a handy toy-box, laundry basket or could be used for water play in the garden

Our test:
  • You can fit two children in, but ours decided to go all Greta Garbo on us and bathe alone. I think they felt a little cramped, but then again they are nearly three and nearly two.
  • It's simple to fold and unfold
  • It's robust
  • It totally does the job
  • I wish this had been on the market three years ago!

The downside:
  • It's fairly heavy, so although it would fit in a suitcase it would use up a fair amount of your baggage allowance if you were flying.

Our verdict:
  • Love it!
  • We'll be taking it on holiday with us (if we ever pluck up the courage to go on holiday)!!

The Giveaway:

We have one Flexibath (in a colour of your choice) to give away to a lucky Baby Baby reader

How to enter:

Leave a 'pick me' comment on this post.
Please also leave your email address or Twitter ID so that I can contact you if you win.

This giveaway is for the UK only - sorry.

The winner will be drawn by a random number generator on Sunday 27th June 2010 at 8pm.

Good luck!



19 June 2010

Father's Day

"Shall I come over on Sunday next week, Dad?"


"It's Father's Day"

"Alright then, I never know when it is. Don't get me wine gums this year, dear. I've gone off them"

That was five years ago. Back then we had no idea it would be my Dad's last Father's Day. I unwrapped and ate the wine gums and then went out and bought toffees. Dad wiped away a tear when he read his card. It must be bittersweet receiving one card saying that you're the best dad in the world when, if life was fair, it should be one of three cards.

My heart goes out to fathers who will not receive the right number of cards and to those who will not be sending cards this year.

This week Presley and Cash made cards for their Daddy and their Grandad (Andy's Dad). In fact, they made cards and decorated envelopes every day. Who am I to stop their creativity and enthusiasm? They chose presents too when we were out shopping. I asked them to think of things that Daddy and Grandad would like. They haven't quite grasped that concept as they chose gifts that they would like, but don't we all?!

I looked at the wine gums, but didn't buy any.


18 June 2010

CyberMummy Meet and Greet

Two lovely bloggers, Carly at Mummy's Shoes and Ella at Notes From Home both had the brilliant idea of inviting the bloggers attending CyberMummy to introduce themselves, on their blogs, before the big event.

At the time of writing twenty out of the one hundred and eighty attendees have linked their introductions on Mummy's Shoes. It is a little daunting to attend an event with that many strangers, but we're all in the same boat. I've loved meeting fellow bloggers at previous British Mummy Bloggers events. So I'm looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones. If you recognise me, do come over and say hello. I'll be masking  my shyness by appearing rather confident!

So, this is me:

Name:          Sandy Calico
Blog:            Baby Baby http://sandycalico.blogspot.com/
Twitter ID:    @SandyCalico
Height:          5' 7"
Hair:             Brown bob
Eyes:            Blue, hidden behind my glasses
Likes:           Reading, writing, arithmetic (seriously), children,
                    animals, stationery, card-making, music

See you in two weeks!


16 June 2010

Would you tell me?

Would you want to know if you had made someone feel unwelcome?

I know I can be crass and insensitive at times. I frequently only open my mouth to change feet. Occasionally I feel so upset and angry that I speak out, enraged by injustice or bullying. Mostly, though, I'm mild-mannered and avoid confrontation.

I think I'm pretty consistent both online and in real life. I'm sensitive, perhaps too sensitive. I take things to heart far too readily. Despite my apparent confidence, I'm a delicate little flower.

Missed opportunities eat away at me, niggling and nagging. I lay awake at night thinking of what I should have said, but didn't. I replay conversations and kick myself at the points where I made an idiot of myself, where I gushed, where I over-shared or where I filled the silence with noise.

What I struggle with, above all of this, is that I only want to be accepted or liked or part of a group. When I feel that I am on the periphery or only being tolerated or being excluded I want to curl up in a ball and disappear. When I feel uncertain about my relationship with someone, because sometimes typed words lose their meaning or because sometimes they are very clear, I want to switch off my computer and walk away and keep on walking.

I hope I've never made anyone else feel like that. If I have, would you tell me? 

This post has been written as part of the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I chose prompt no.4 Tell us about a time when you didn't feel welcome.



15 June 2010

The Gallery: Motherhood

The Sticky Fingers Gallery is back and the theme this time is Motherhood. If you haven't taken part in the online Gallery, now would be a good week to join as there are prizes and the photographs will be displayed in a real life gallery at CyberMummy.

So, motherhood. What is motherhood to me?

Motherhood is an uncertain road. You can read as many baby advice books as you like, but ultimately you're on your own. Making it up as you go along.

Motherhood is the hardest thing you will ever do. It is staying up all night nursing a pooly child, but it is worth every tear, tantrum, vomit, bite or kick. It is worth it because one day they will say 'I love Mummy'.

It is worth it when you've nodded off in the armchair and you're woken by a little voice saying 'Mummy help!' because your child has got his hand stuck in the radiator.

It is worth all the despair, worry, monotony and confusion to get a smile, a laugh or someone calling you Mummy. Looking back over my life I realise this is all I ever wanted to hear.

You will feel pride, hope, joy and overwhelming, unconditional love.

That is motherhood.

This is a photograph, taken by my husband, Andy, of the first time I held Presley in my arms. He was ten hours old.

I don't want to blog about his birth, as one day he may read this. Let's just say we had a difficult time and were both in distress. After he was born he was taken straight to the Special Care Baby Unit and I was taken to surgery. 

While I was in recovery I couldn't quite believe I was a mother. It is the strangest experience to know you have a child, but you can not see them or touch them. Even when I was finally wheeled to the SCBU and he was placed in my arms it was still rather surreal. 

It still is sometimes.


14 June 2010

Win a Ticket to CyberMummy

The 2010 CyberMummy conference is less than three weeks away.

For your chance to WIN a ticket to this exciting event, all you have to do is follow Arthritis Research UK on Twitter:


then retweet this competition message:

"Retweet this message for a chance to win a ticket to the#CyberMummy conference on 3 July. Winner picked on 16 June#ArthritisResearchUK"

Good luck!

Arthritis Research UK is vital charity for anyone who is suffering from the debilitating pain of arthritis.

Here is a little more about them:

Our Vision

Our vision is a future free from arthritis.

Our Mission

Our mission is to reduce the pain and disability resulting from arthritis by:
  • funding high quality research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis and translating the results of that research to benefit patients
  • educating and informing the general public, patients and health professionals on all aspects of arthritis
  • campaigning for better treatment and support for all those living with arthritis
  • working in partnership with others to make a greater difference for people with arthritis.


8 June 2010


I am looking at my right leg, my hand stroking upwards from ankle to knee in search of stubble. My index finger lingers on a scar just below my knee.

I am in Mark Smith's garden with his sister Janice and Joanne and Wendy. We are all running through the long grass, jumping over bike parts, crates and Janice's old pram. The chain link fence that separates his garden from next door hangs loose, twisting away from its posts.

Pop! Snap! Mark fires his cap gun. I am near enough to smell the gunpowder. I love that smell and sniff the air, little sniffs in.

"You're dead," Mark said. 

I sink to my knees intending to die dramatically. My right knee lands on a sawn off fence post, slicing a triangle of flesh.

Game over.

I limp home to show my mum. I feel a bit sick, but it's worth it for the drama. Mum looks concerned, mentions stitches. I've never had stitches.

I sit on the sofa, raising my leg. Mum brings hot water mixed with Dettol, wads of cotton wool, the plasters and a towel. She deftly bathes my wound, washing away the blood and rust. She gently pulls back the cut flap of skin to reveal a triangle of white. I was expecting my insides to be red, the white was a shock. I feel faint.

Mum carefully puts me back together. 

"They need to cut their grass", she says.

I work out that this scar has been with me for over thirty years. Even after all this time, whenever I notice it I am transported back to Mark Smith's garden.

What about the scars you can't see? What about the emotional scars?

Apparently time heals all wounds.

I don't agree. Yes, grief changes over time, the outpourings are less frequent. But once you have lost someone close to you, that loss is always there. That pain is not healed by the passing of years. It is just beneath the surface, waiting for a trigger to release it all over again.

I expect I won't be able to watch the film Gladiator again without mourning a friend who passed away earlier this year. I will see him, not Maximus, walking through the fields and I will weep as I am weeping now.

I only have to hear one of the songs that we had played at my brother's or my father's funerals to feel utterly bereft.

I still pick up football tat in shops and wonder whether I should buy it for my brother. This week I picked up a pack of Panini World Cup Stickers. Then I remember that Peter died in 1997.


Six weeks before Princess Diana.

So time passes.

This post was written as part of the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I chose prompt no.5: Time.


7 June 2010

Win £75 of Plum Baby Goodies

The lovely people at Plum Baby sent us some products to review. I have to admit that both boys were weaned on Plum porridge and muesli so I already knew that Plum products would be high quality and organic with no nasty ingredients.

My chief testers, Presley, 2 and Cash,1 were over the minky moon to try these delicious biscuits. Minky Moons are organic spelt biscuits flavoured with camomile and vanilla.

These were my favourites, organic baked Oat Rounds, flavoured with orange oil and ginger. Well, I take my reviewing seriously so I had to try them myself, three of them, with a cup of tea. The boys ate the rest.

We were also sent some meals. Both boys are both a bit old for mashed up meals. Presley wouldn't even try them, he has always refused prepared 'baby food', so I wasn't surprised. 

Cash on the other hand really likes my thick soups with chunks of bread and he enjoyed this Sweet Cape Curry with Beef and Green Lentils.

He also liked the Giant Cous Cous with Chicken, Squash and Red Pepper.

The folks over at Plum Baby have given me one month’s supply of baby food, nibbles and treats to give to one lucky reader.

Plum Baby is all about real food for babies and not just baby food and all the products are made with the highest quality organic ingredients. They offer babies a taste of what’s to come and are full of nutrients and nothing artificial.

The prize includes: breakfast cereals and mueslis, savoury pots, sweet pouches, yummy spelt biscuits and sauces – worth £75.00 and the winner will receive the pack most appropriate for their babies age.

To enter, simply go to the Plum Baby newsletter  (http://www.plum-baby.co.uk/plum-mums/plum-mums-sign-upand sign up using the code "Baby Baby” - a winner will be picked at random in 7 days time.

Check out www.Plum-Baby.co.uk and discover more yummy products from the Plum Kitchen.

Good luck and let me know who wins!

3 June 2010

Where did my babies go?

I call them my babies, they'll always be my babies, but they're growing up. 

Presley is nearly three. He is a tall slim boy and has never really had a baby face, he has always had the face of a boy.

Cash is nearly two. He has always been a little fuller in the face, but acts so much older than his 21 months. I expect that is because he is the younger sibling and copies his brother. You wouldn't really call him a toddler any more.

I have two boys.

Each day they become more independent. They can clean their teeth on their own. They use knives and forks and cups without lids. They can undress and dress themselves - after a fashion!

Presley and Cash play together a lot more. They have invented games called 'going to Aunty Helen's house' and 'hopdyhoptic'. No, I haven't a clue what that means either, but it appears to involve opening and closing the kitchen door over and over again.

They run around the garden and clear up leaves and sticks, placing them the garden bin. They 'help' around the house and repeatedly try to put their toy cereal boxes in the recycling box.

They are wonderful little lads.

They still need their Mummy though. Mummy rubs it better and Mummy kisses it better each time they hurt themselves. They can be howling inconsolably over a bumped arm, but as soon as Mummy has rubbed or kissed it they stop the tears and declare 'that's better now'. 

This was Presley's first scabby knee of the Summer. Short trousers are no protection against running too fast over stoney tarmac.

Cash still has a bottle of cow's milk three times a day. I expect the health visitor will comment on this when he has his two year development check. I'll miss this closeness when he moves over to a cup to drink his milk (or a cereal bowl once the Coco Pops have been eaten, like his brother).

Right now I still get to cradle him like a baby and have him relax in my arms.

Right now I still get to cuddle them both on my lap, whenever I want, and cover them with kisses.

I know this won't last forever and I am clinging on to it as I cling on to them, stroking their soft skin and hair.

One day they won't want a kiss from their Mummy.

One day they won't let their Mummy cuddle them.

One day they won't need me to rub it better or kiss it better.

One day I won't be needed and this makes me feel sad right now, although I expect that by the time I have two amazing teenage sons I'll be heart-burstingly proud of them - all from a respectful distance of course. 



1 June 2010

New Baby Advice

This is a photograph of Andy with a five-day-old Presley.

When we had him we were both pretty green.

Well, I say that. We had read countless books and attended NCT classes, active birth classes and NHS ante-natal classes. In fact no one could have been more prepared than us, but it still wasn't enough.


I suppose it is difficult to see beyond the birth, but I had no idea what to do with my darling baby.

On the day that we came home from the hospital, I gingerly lifted Presley out of his car seat. I stood in the middle of the lounge, with my tiny baby in my arms, and said 'what do we do now?'

Over the following days, weeks and months we worked it out.

Andy's sister had her long-awaited baby last month. He new daughter is a beautiful bundle of joy. I don't like to wade in and tell my sister-in-law what to do, but I can share my new baby advice here, on Baby Baby.

When your baby cries check the following:
Is he/she hungry? How long since his/her last feed?
Is he/she tired?
Does his/her nappy need changing?
Does he/she need winding?
Is he/she too hot or too cold? In a centrally heated house you really don't need four blankets!
Are his/her clothes uncomfortable? Check labels in particular as these can rub.
That hopefully covers most eventualities. By the time you've checked all of these he or she will probably be hungry again!

Babies really shouldn't cry all the time. In my experience they aren't exercising their lungs. This isn't what babies do. They are crying for a reason. If you have checked all of the above and your baby regularly cries take him or her to your GP. Cash had reflux and screamed with pain for quite a few weeks before we saw a consultant. As soon as he was treated with Gaviscon Infant he was a different baby. Trust your instincts - you are probably right.

When your baby is tired let them sleep.
Babies need plenty of sleep, it's when they do their growing.
At the first sign of tiredness (rubbing eyes, crying) put your baby down in their moses basket or pram.
It is useful if your baby can learn to fall asleep on their own (although you can rock them to sleep as much as you like, after all who doesn't want to cuddle their baby?)!
If you are swaddling or using a dummy this will be an additional sign for them that it is nap time.
Once you have done this a few times your baby will settle very quickly.
Put the kettle on or go for a walk and show off your shiny new pram!

Establish a bedtime routine as soon as you can.
At around six to eight weeks we started a bedtime routine.
We tried to keep our babies awake from around 5pm.
At 6pm they had a baby massage, then a bath.
Once dressed they had a bedtime story and a feed.
At 7pm we put them to bed in a fairly dark room, away from any noise, but close enough so we could hear them.
If they don't settle, give them a quick cuddle and try again.
After a few days they will get used to this new routine and you can have your evenings back.
Even if you only have dinner and a quick chat with your partner or maybe watch some television (or blog!) you will have had some time to yourself.
We found that our young babies would wake around 10pm for a feed and then straight back to bed again. As they get older they will go longer and longer between feeds at night and eventually you will achieve the holy grail of parenting, your baby will sleep through the night!
Our boys still have pretty much the same bedtime routine and always go to bed at 7pm.

Teach your baby the difference between day and night.
This follows on from the bedtime routine.
It's really handy if your baby understands the difference between day and night.
You can teach them that daytime is for playing and night time is for sleeping.
If you can have them sleep in their pram during the day and their moses basket or cot at night this will help establish day and night associations.
Make night time nappy changes and feeds as low key as possible.
Keep lighting and chat to a minimum during the night.
Enjoy those late night cuddles as they don't last that long.

So that's how we did it in the Calico household.

Do you have any new baby advice? Please share your top tips in the comments.

Please note that I am not a parenting guru, neither am I medically trained. I'm just passing on what worked for us.
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