Monthly Archives: November 2012

Not so much a baby anymore…

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We took some random shots of Dexter yesterday. Flicking through them it struck me just how much older he looks!

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His hair is really growing now and getting a little darker. We always had visions of growing his hair and letting it become a shaggy mess. I love seeing little boys with mops of hair – it’s definitely one of those 80’s trends that’s making a comeback (think E.T and Kramer vs Kramer). I also think it’s really ‘age appropriate’ – little boys shouldn’t worry about their hair, they should be out having fun. Craig and I are really keen that Dexter doesn’t grow up before his time and I suppose the mop look kind of went hand in hand with this.

Now I’m thinking that long hair won’t suit him. He has these adorable big ears which give him heaps of personality. He looks like a cheeky monkey and his ears add to this perfectly. His hair is also very thick at the back – and isn’t as soft as that on the top of his head. We’ll have to see when he’s a little older but I have a funny feeling that he’ll be sporting a mullet if we grow it out.

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His cheeks have also filled out as a result of his teething. This is giving his little face more definition and structure. His cheekbones and round face come from me, his chin and ears are most definitely his daddy’s. I love the fact there are bits of both of us in there. It’s almost as though someone cherry-picked our best features and planted them on Dexter.

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But my all time favourite thing is Dexter’s sparkly big blue eyes which are very similar to mine. When he smiles, it travels straight to his eyes and his whole face lights up.

He’s so very handsome – we’re definitely the luckiest parents alive. I just can’t wait to see what the next few months / years bring!

Review: Snapfish – How about a photo book for Christmas?

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Craig and I have been talking about photo books for a while now. We’ve got plans to create a book every Christmas so Dexter has a number of volumes by the time he leaves home. As an amateur photographer, this house is full of prints of Dexter and we’re running out of room to house canvasses. I’ve actually used a number of different photo printing services over the last few months – Canvas prices can be really expensive so we’ve traditionally shopped around.

When we were contacted about trialling Snapfish. It seemed the best opportunity to use a more reputable company for our photo book. I’ve had some shocking service from other print providers (late delivery, poor quality, terrible editing suites) – as we knew Snapfish was a HP company, we had really high expectations. As we wanted our photo book project to be our main gift to Dexter, we needed it to be perfect.

Needless to say, we are overjoyed with the result. In truth, every single stage of the process was easy.

SOFTWARE

Uploading our images was simple. We’d already selected our images prior to uploading. As these are scattered in multiple file locations on the laptop, we selected each image individually and they were uploaded in seconds. I also did a quick test to see if the uploader would handle multiple file selection (e.g. Ctrl, Alt multiple images and upload in one click) – and the uploader tool handled this with ease. There was even a click and drag option which is fabulous if your photos are scattered in multiple locations (like ours).

PROJECT CREATION

There were a number of photo book options to choose from starting from just £5.99. We selected the most expensive as we wanted a big hardback book – this was £42.99.

The project creation tool was surprisingly straightforward. You select a background theme, then drag and drop your photos into your project. There is an autofill option if you aren’t technically minded too. It’s then down to you to customise your project by resizing your pictures, cropping them, rotating them, and adding text (you don’t have to do this and can simply delete the text box).

The process took us around an hour as we had some 50 photos and decided to edit each of them. There was also a tip section if you wanted to explore all the possibilities available for your project.

COMMUNICATION AND DELIVERY

Excellent. I had an email to confirm my order, another to tell me it was ready for delivery and to confirm my dispatch address. The book was with me in 3 days and perfectly packaged.

VALUE FOR MONEY

These projects are never cheap; they’re an investment if anything. It’s definitely worth selecting a company like Snapfish as the quality is amazing and the end result is a priceless collection of photographs to flick through for years to come. It’s well worth creating an account and waiting for the latest deals to be emailed to you – there’s always great 3 for 2 offers and seasonal deals.

I’ve tried to show the quality of the sheen on the pages – it’s beautiful

OTHER PRINT SERVICES

As you’d expect Snapfish offer an array of different services including mugs, calendars, acrylic blocks and canvasses, aswell as a number of festive products such as tree ornaments and jigsaw puzzles. There’s some fantastic ideas for Christmas presents for all the family so well worth having a nosy at their website.

You can like Snapfish UK on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to get inspiration for your own project and stay informed about the latest offers and deals.

Disclaimer: I was provided with £35 worth of vouchers and free p&p for my order, for the purposes of this review. All words and opinions are my own.

Worst Customer Service Ever?

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Whilst ringing around to gather some quotes for getting our chimney swept:

(Phone rings)

Anon: Yep

Craig: Um… This is XXXX? You sweep chimneys?

Anon: Yeah

Craig: Excellent. I’m calling to get a quote for having our chimney swept…

Anon: (laughter) … You must be hard up then mate

Craig: Excuse me?

Anon: Money must be tight!

Craig: No. We’ve never had a chimney swept before so I’m just calling around to find out how much it will be. It’s an open fire…

Anon: Best keep calling around then mate (hangs up)

I’m absolutely shocked! I figure he must have had a shocking day. Perhaps his pet died, he walked in on his wife in bed with the Gas Man, or maybe his numbers came up in the lottery and he forgot to buy the ticket… must have been pretty awful to think that this conversation was acceptable.

Craig actually made this call at work and was laughing about it by the time he returned home. I guess my other half knows me pretty well as he refused to tell me the company name. I’d definitely be on that phone now giving this idiot a piece of advice or two.

I appreciate we’re in a recession and local businesses are feeling the strain. It must be a competitive industry and frustrating to be constantly priced out of the market by bigger competitors – but this is essentially a service industry. This guy probably relies on repeat business from homeowners – and this is probably his busiest time! He needs new clients right now to keep the money coming in to keep him afloat during the slow summer months. What a ridiculous way to speak to people!

Turns out we were pretty naive as it’s only costing us £50; so a pretty minor sum. But we weren’t to know how inexpensive it was when we made that enquiry. He could have quoted us £70 and we’d have gone ahead and booked. A prize idiot it would seem.

Have you had got any incredulous customer service stories? Would you ever name and shame?

We’re Graco Ambassador Finalists!

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We’re hugely excited this morning and incredibly proud to announce that we’re now Graco Ambassador finalists! We’re joined by 4 others who will be reviewing the same product as us… EdSpire , Red Rose Mummy , The Road to Being a Yummy Mummy and Karen Lancaster who tweets here .

Dexter’s first challenge will be to review a Graco Evo Travel System.

It just so happens we were checking this out at the weekend as the suspension on our secondhand travel system has bitten the dust. For some reason the tyres have also needed pumping up every fortnight too (despite us changing both inner tubes within the last 3 months). Although Dexter has found it very amusing to see mummy on her hands and knees over the last few months, I think it’s time to upgrade and get something more reliable.

As you’ll know, I’m obsessed with reading reviews from mummy bloggers to make sure I’m making wise buying decisions – especially on expensive items. We also love going to baby shows and finding out about the latest trends and innovations. Our quest for a new travel system was no exception as, like all parents, we have an exhaustive list of things we want out of a travel system. We’ve picked our top 6 that we’ll be focusing on when reviewing the Graco.

We have some crazy stunts planned to give it a thorough little road-test. I won’t reveal our plans just yet but I can tell you to look forward to some shaky camera footage courtesy of the iPhone (and yes I’ll be starring in said videos… arghh!). You can follow our exploits here on the blog, on Twitter, Youtube, and also on Facebook.

Until then, here’s a close up of the Evo with its pushchair attachment. Pretty sexy hey?

“No Photography Allowed”: Dexter’s First Swim

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So, Dexter went for a swim at the weekend.

Since the disaster with the pool on holiday (Dexter hated it) we’ve been hesitant to take Dexie swimming. Our main concern was the temperature. Dexter likes warm baths and hates feeling cold. I’m not a huge fan of swimming either and didn’t want to take him myself. We’ve always thought it was important to take him though as it’s a skill that might one day save his life.

So off we went to a local pool in Reading. It’s the warmest pool we know of so we hedged our bets. Sitting in the spectators lounge – I had to fight the temptation to whip out my iPhone and take pictures. Dexter looked so cute in his little swimsuit splashing around in Craig’s arms. He was so happy and confident in his Zoggs Trainer Seat, Craig noticed he was even kicking his legs in the water beneath. Seeing that Dexter was having fun, Craig decided to be brave and float him instead. Dexter was happy on his back and even reacted well to being briefly underwater. Finally, as the pool was graduated and had no steps – the swallow areas had only a few cms of water and Dexter was able to lay on his front on his knees and lift his head out of the water.

I’d have seriously loved to have come away with some pictures but was deterred by the massive sign by the entrance to the lounge “No photography beyond this point”. There was only myself and one other person sitting in the lounge area and it was clear that neither of us were pedophiles. She was around 40, engrossed in 50 Shades of Grey, and continually checking her watch – every inch the archetypal middle-aged mum taking her children swimming. It made me think – I’d be horrified if there was man in an anorak and a long lens snapping pics of the kids. But then if I were to shoot Mr Anorak an accusatory glance and whisk Dexter away, I suppose I should extend the same suspicions to Mrs 50 Shades. What makes me qualified to decide if someone is acting illegally or not?

In some ways – it’s like the world has gone mad. You wouldn’t wrestle a camera off a man at Disney World just because it’s full of children, yet in Britain, I constantly hear stories of parents being prevented from filming their own children at a nativity play or sports day in case the pictures are misappropriated. Yes – pedophiles are vile and of course we’d all do anything to safeguard our children from predatory advances, but are we taking the whole thing too far? With breaking stories such as the posthumous investigation into Jimmy Saville – the western world is turning increasingly into a ‘trust no one’ society.

But where does it end? When Dexter takes part in his first school play, all I will have to remind me is a photo of him in his costume in front of my fireplace, and not onstage in character. There won’t be an action shot of him winning an egg-and-spoon race either. These were precious memories for my parents and I remember whole albums dedicated to my school days.

Then there’s this blog. I’ve posted hundreds of photos of Dexie. I don’t even bother changing our names. Why should I? This blog is in the public domain, completely unprotected and anyone can view it. But why should I worry? There are millions of pictures of children in their nappies all over the web. Every time we buy a packet of Huggies or Pampers there’s a semi naked baby posing adorably on the packaging!

So what is the solution? Should we ID parents on entry to a swimming pool, school gate, cinema? But wouldn’t this limit the freedom of grandparents and family friends to take children out for the day of fun? Of course this is a ridiculous suggestion. So is the only solution to ban photographing your children in public places? Couldn’t that very same person with horrific motivations be swimming alongside my child in the pool!?

I did manage just a quick one of the boys at the side of the pool and was careful to get no one else in it – but the photo is so awful I was reluctant to post it. Dexter looks so chubby it doesn’t even look like him – but hey for prosperity’s sake – here’s my baby on the day of his first ever swim with Daddy. Yet another example of me flaunting the rules… ssshhh don’t tell anyone!

American Pie: The Reunion… the antidote to PND?

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When the doctor first diagnosed me with postnatal depression 2 months ago – I was literally knocked sideways. I had just given birth to a beautiful and healthy baby, had an amazing man by my side, and had nothing to be unhappy about! I only went to the doctors as I had separation anxiety when Dexter and I were apart and was I hugely self-conscious about it.

Since that day, things got progressively more difficult in our home. I found myself analysing my relationships even more; with both Dexter and Craig. I was so consumed with parenting, poor Craig didn’t get too much of a look-in. A typical day would involve Craig going to work, returning home and cooking dinner with Dex, whilst I had some hands-free time. We’d eat in silence as the television was on, bath Dex, feed him, and settle him down. With all the practical bits of running a home, Craig and I would rarely get any quality time together. I’d go to bed first, and would often be asleep by the time Craig finished up downstairs.

It’s always been in the back of my mind that Craig and I need more ‘alone’ time – but until this weekend I just couldn’t seem to put it right. We’d just got so used to our routines. I was constantly tired and our little bundle of joy just seemed to need me more than Craig did.

The by-product of all this obsessing meant it got to the point where all our conversations were about Dexter and we rarely laughed together or had a kiss and a cuddle. I mistakenly thought that Dexter was the centre of our world and that it would be our achievements as parents that would make us stronger as a couple. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Craig and I were ever in danger of falling out of love with each other – I just lost track of what was important.

Reading Festival – 2011 – Life before Dexter

The realisation came for me when we watched American Pie: The Reunion this weekend. Craig got home on the Friday with a bottle of wine and a dine-in-for-two type affair. I was bored of I’m a Celebrity (shock – horror!) and was fed up of staring at the laptop, so suggested we pop on the latest offering from Lovefilm.

The film wasn’t great. It was typical American Pie humour; cringeworthy and ridiculous. But ironically there was something I could actually relate to this time round. Michele and Jim had had a baby and were struggling to make ‘time’ for each other. This was the overrunning theme the whole way through – at first it was their son that got in the way, then their friends; they were both out of sync and concerned about the impact on their relationship.

It wasn’t lost on me that Craig kept glancing at me. He’s tried to talk to me about it before but I’ve always quickly changed the subject. I must admit that there are parallels between their relationship and ours – but (for me) these aren’t the obvious ones. What struck me most was what worked about their relationship are the same things that work in ours. The reason Craig and I got together in the first place was because we were able to make each other laugh. Somehow, along the way, I’d forgotten this – but Craig hasn’t and he’s been missing me.

So many times we’ve discussed how “We’ve changed” as a result of having Dexter. We’ve quite rightly “grown up” and have new “responsibilities” – all the old clichés. I think I took this a million steps too far though and fell into the trap of thinking Craig would be impressed if I was the ‘perfect parent’ and would love me more for it. What I’ve realised is that being a good parent is one thing, but it’s also important to be a good girlfriend. Both need equal amounts of my energy and time.

I always found it a little strange that some mothers blog so candidly about their experience with postnatal depression and their relationships. I couldn’t stand the thought of Dexter ever reading that I was sad, or that his mummy ever ‘struggled’. I grew up in a household blighted by my own mothers depression, and desperately didn’t want Dexter to experience the same thing. My friends and family also read this blog and I honestly believe that some things should remain private. So what’s changed now?

This blog is all about our family; Craig and I are just as much protagonists as Dexter is! I’m just as likely to feel compelled to write about Dexter’s little achievements as I am about ours. This week I smashed the hell out of PND – and that’s a pretty big deal.

I just feel differently about depression now. It doesn’t define me and it’s not like I’ve done something wrong. PND is simply a result of my post-baby hormones and isn’t any more than that. I’m not going to give it anymore thought or attention – I’ve got more important things to do with my life – like play with Dex and Craig.

I don’t have to worry that Dexter won’t understand why I’ve decided to write this post. All he’ll know is that he has a fun-filled house with a mummy and daddy who are human and do their best. There’ll be plenty of stories behind our success as a family – this is simply one of them.