Totseat portable highchair review

Baby Jasmin has been putting the Totseat portable highchair through its paces recently, and it’s definitely passed the test. It’s described as a ‘washable, squashable’ highchair designed for ‘babies who lunch’ and this description is spot on – the highchair does fold up incredibly small and all you need to do to clean it is put it in the washing machine.

The Totseat is incredibly adaptable, thanks to adjustable straps and cleverly designed fabric with well-placed buttons to fold the material in on smaller chairs. It comes with a cumberbund which straps around chairs which don’t have back supports. However, I tended to use this as an extra piece of fabric to secure the Totseat once it was in place – even on chairs with backs. This wasn’t necessary on chairs – but I felt happiest using it this way.

Squished up in a tiny bag, the Totseat really will go anywhere with you. It’s recommended for children who can sit upright and are about eight months or older. Jasmin has just turned one and is a perfect age for it. She’s happy to sit in it for meals and snacks and loves the idea of being on a big chair just like mummy or daddy.

Totseat highchair

We wouldn’t use the Totseat to replace the highchair we use at home. It’s definitely more of an item to keep in the car, buggy or your nappy bag so that if you stop somewhere you know you will be able to seat your baby for a meal without requiring a traditional highchair. All you need is an existing adult chair.

There’s loads of ways to adjust the Totseat so it works for your baby and the chair you have, and it’s really quick to get the hang of. It doesn’t take long to figure out how to make all the adjustments and the Totseat fits a range of chair sizes. We tried out the gorgeous apple print, but there are a range of fantastic design options.

I’d recommend the Totseat as a handy thing to carry with you. If you’re out on the go a lot or travelling a lot, it would be a useful addition to your baby gear.

Do take a little look at my video for how it works, and how easy it is to get baby sitting in it. As I said, I’ve used the cumberbund for extra security around the Totseat – but this isn’t really necessary and is just something I’ve found I like to do.

* We were sent the Totseat for the purpose of a fair and honest review. All images, video and opinions are my own.

Eating out with babies and toddlers – 12 easy steps

1. Choose a restaurant or cafe based on the food preferences of little people. For the child that only eats rice: Japanese is good. For the child that only eats bread on Tuesdays: Italian may work. If you have one of each of these children, take a contingency packed lunch for one of them. Pat yourself on the back for making it to said restaurant with both children in tow.

eating out with toddlers

2. Arrive well before anyone without children is likely to want their lunch. 11.30am is perfect, as you  shouldn’t, at that time, need to navigate a maze of chairs and diners to get your buggy and scooter-riding toddler to a table. Expect to be hidden in a corner. This is a good thing – as long as your baby can see the restaurant and therefore be distracted from waiting for her food.

3. Order quickly and don’t be too adventurous. For the child that only eats rice, don’t get sushi. A bowl of steamed rice, on it’s own, will be just fine. For the child that eats only bread before noon, beware of dough balls. They aren’t toast and they’re the wrong shape. Don’t think your small person won’t notice.

4. Cross your fingers and hope intensely for a short wait for the children’s food. If your baby gets hungry, she’ll rip up and then eat the paper napkins. Your toddler is smarter than that though, he’ll go straight for the sachets of sugar and tear them open with his teeth. When the food arrives, expect your young to protest loudly that they don’t want to eat it. They might not. Don’t worry, they’ll eat yours.

5. In the spirit of being adventurous, and if things are so far going well, don’t shy away from extending the cultural experience that is eating out. Give in to your toddler’s demands, for example, to eat with chopsticks. Don’t be surprised though when he sticks them up his nostrils and starts screaming.

toddler eating with chopsticks

6. If your baby is still in her high chair, well done. She will need to get out of it and sit on your lap as soon as your food arrives. She will then need to stick her hands in your meal, knock over any glasses on the table, and try to eat the colouring pencils put on your table by friendly teenage staff who have no idea that babies don’t do colouring and don’t differentiate between breadsticks and crayons.

7. By now, it’s about time your toddler stretched his legs. It is likely he will run into the knees of staff carrying plates of food. They’re not used to looking for moving objects in the shape of two-year-olds. Expect a dry cleaning sum to be added to your bill.

8. Order yourself a large glass of wine and bribe your children to sit down while you drink it. This may involve feeding them cake. Forget your usual ban on icing sugar and anything involving food colouring. If you want to drink your wine, you’re going to have to deal with the consequences of a sugar rush later.

Eating out with toddlers

9. “Mummy I need to do a poo NOW. NOW MUMMY NOW.”

10. Put down your wine. Survey the mess you have created – the food on the floor, the spilled drinks, the torn up fancy menus, the crayon on the chairs. Hope you make it to the toilet on time. Pray no-one is using the hand-dryer because your toddler is terrified of the noise.

11. Tip generously, negotiate with your baby until she is strapped into her buggy, hold your toddler’s hand while answering questions about the toilets, swig unceremoniously from your wine glass because you deserve it, and walk away like you do this every day.

12. Wait a couple of months, recover, and (having forgotten what happened in points 2-11 above), repeat.

 

 

Can working mums have it all?

It is the start of my second week as a working mum. My clothes for the morning are hanging up and my lunch is packed. The children’s clothes are laid out and their meals are in the fridge, ready to be heated up. (Not by me though.)

Last week, fresh from the shock of leaving my babies for the day while I got on the tube and went to the office, I wrote about how hard this is. But today, at the start of a new week and at the end of a weekend spent making the most of my precious time with them, I can write about the other side.

I don’t expect leaving my babies for the day to ever get any easier. But, there is much about returning to the office that I’m glad about.

Two months ago, on a ticket I’d won through Mumsnet, I went to Workfest - a one day careers conference for mothers. During the course of the day, I listened to a careers coach, to a headhunter, to a recruiter, to mums who held positions at the top of their field, and to other mothers like me, who were feeling a little lost. I went home at once excited and daunted. I loved working, and I was looking forward to going out to work again – but would anyone hire a woman who had spent the last two and a half years making babies?

In the month after Workfest, I rewrote my CV and spent hours asking myself what it was I really wanted. Workfest dared me to dream that it was possible to have the work and family life I wanted –  but first I needed to be clear about what that was. What did I want for my family, what did I want to do all day when at work, and how did I see the balance playing out?

I have always told myself I wanted to wait until Jasmin was at least one before going back to work. I also only wanted to work part time while the children were very young.

Workfest made me made me realise that in addition to this, I want to work for someone who values me as a mother. I want to work for someone who understands that if Milin has his summer performance on Tuesday afternoon, I need to be there. I want to work for someone who knows that my favourite part of the day is having cuddles with my children before they go to bed. Getting home past bedtime is not an option.

And so Workfest made me confront the realisation that I didn’t want to go back to the newsroom. Not now, not yet.

It hasn’t been an easy decision to come to terms with. Newsroom are what I know and love. The thrill of nailing a front page lead or an exclusive, the buzz of presenting a cracking news list for the next day’s paper. My career has been spent working at a manic pace against deadlines and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

But right now, with my two-year-old and one-year-old the most important people in my world, I don’t want the 12-hour days. I don’t want the stress of managing a team of reporters who are all going to file late. I don’t want the sleepless nights about how the front page will be received in the morning.

Workfest gave me the courage to look at the skills I have and to value them, and it made me seek out what I need for me and my family. The newsroom might be that thing I want again one day. If it is, I hope I’ll be able to work my way back in.

But now, I’ve started work at Wauwaa, an online retailer which also provides multi-media content for parents. It’s a community management role with scope for writing – and about a million miles away from a newsroom. I am working three days a week and once I’m settled, two of these will be from home. What that will mean in practice will be that I’ll save two hours of commuting time every day. Those two hours will be spent with my babies.

I’m going to keep freelancing too, because I’ve earned a small but steady income from writing since Milin was born and it’s something I love doing. That work will still be done once the little ones are in bed, and I’ll still be wishing there are more hours in the day.

Three years ago I would have scoffed at this departure from the newsroom, this stepping off of the ladder, this waving goodbye to a management role. I wanted, you see, to ‘have it all’.

But having it all, right now, means working for an employer who values my skills and experience as a mother. It means doing a job which I enjoy but which offers me flexibility. It means doing a job well, yes, because I won’t ever work any other way.

Am I annoyed that I’m leaving the newsroom to do this? Am I angry about not being able to find a way to progress my career in a male-dominated industry? No. Not at all. This is all my choice. I love the news industry for what it is, but right now, I’m turning my back on it because it can’t give me what I want. That’s ok.

Having it all means knowing my children are well looked after when I’m at work. It means having 90 minutes with them in the morning before I have to leave for the day. It means being back for stories and cuddles and bedtime every night. It means being there for all the things which are really important.

Having it all is about finding the things that matter, and then finding a way to make them happen. Now, more than ever, I get this.

Milin, six months, comes to the newsroom to see me, acting head of news

Milin, six months, comes to the newsroom to see me, acting head of news

Precious moments

After another sleepless night and another tantrum and another fraught meal time and another day just like the one before, these are the things that set the world to rights… They are precious moments.

1. I have magical superpowers. (Well, I don’t really, but Milin thinks I do. My kisses make bumped knees and stubbed toes feel better; my cuddles soothe most meltdowns. I, as far as my babies are concerned, can make almost everything better.)

2. Laughter. Me, Milin, and Jasmin – we laugh together all the time… OK, maybe we don’t, but when we do laugh together, it feels like we should and could do it always.

3. Sometimes nothing else exists and nothing else matters, but Milin and Jasmin. This is usually in the middle of the night while the rest of the world sleeps. Sometimes it is just me and one of them, closing our eyes and ears to everything else. While we wait for sleep, it’s just us being together with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

4. The way my children smile when the see me. Jasmin, with her hands outstretched to me, Milin with his nose and eyes crinkled up – these are smiles which carry no strings. They mean one thing: happiness.

5. Storytime. Reading books together – it’s possibly one of the loveliest things we do. Jasmin’s current favourite is Dear Zoo, while Milin is going through an Oliver Jeffers phase.

6. There are no conditions. I love my children no matter what. They love me, no matter what. Is there anything else in the world so simple and so wonderful?

Setting the world to rights

ordinary moments

A working mum

So this is being a working mum.(That is, one who goes to an office now.)

During the day, when I’m not with them, they laugh and play and joke and sleep and eat and everything is just like normal. Except I don’t see it. I don’t see them.

I don’t see them play together. I don’t see them smile. I don’t dress them or hold them or kiss them.

I miss them.

This is being a working mum. It is not being with the people who matter most in the world. It is missing the things they do for the first time. It is missing them crying, missing them laughing.

It is practically running from the station to the office so I can start earlier so I can finish earlier so I can get home earlier.

And then. When the door opens I see that sudden smile as she realises it is me and I am home. She raises her arms to me. If she could talk she would tell me to pick her up. I think she would tell me she missed me. And the little boy who can talk tells me the important things about his day: “My snail isn’t in the garden anymore because it went to live in the bushes.” And then he lets me pick him up because, really, he missed me too. I wish I’d helped him look for that snail.

I wish bedtime would take longer. I wish they would stay awake a while and sit in my lap for more time. I wish I could hold them to me for hours now. I could sit by their bedsides long after they have drifted to sleep. Listening to them. Touching their skin. Just being with them. These are my two babies who I didn’t see for almost a whole day.

So this is being a working mum. It is learning to live with an ache. A constant feeling of being apart, of being separated.

It is learning to accept there will be things I won’t see, moments I won’t be around for. Not only now, but next year and the year after and the decade after and the decade after that. We have to learn to let go, slowly, gradually, so our children can be free. If only they weren’t so young when I started to learn this lesson.

brother and sister

 

No more motherhood confessions

There will be no more motherhood confessions from me. There will be no more telling of secrets, no more whispered revelations, no more admissions of the things I have quietly done.

I know motherhood confessions are ‘a thing’. I wrote a list of some of mine, nearly a year ago and included things like how I watch the clock waiting for my husband to come home, and how I want to hide under the duvet when the kids wake up in the morning. Last week, blogger Brummy Mummy of 2 was criticised  for her list of ‘dirty mummy secrets‘ (which I, by the way, thought was brilliantly funny and wonderfully honest). I can recall, over the years, reading other lists too. They all prompted other parents to share their secrets – but also led to sadly inevitable bitchiness.

But it isn’t the response to motherhood confessions that I’ve been thinking about. People who are cruel and mean don’t warrant much thought, in my view. Instead, it’s the confessions themselves. Or, rather, the reasons behind the confessions.

I don’t like, I’ve realised, that we need to ‘confess’, or tell ‘secrets’, or ‘admit’ to the things we do as parents. I don’t like that there is some sense that all of these everyday things are actually aspects of our lives which are usually hidden. Why should these thoughts, these actions, these truths, be secrets? Why can’t we be more open about them whenever we want. There is no shame, surely, in us doing whatever we need to do in the course of our everyday lives?

Yes, I often feel bored and lonely. Yes, I often wish I could stay in bed for another half hour. Yes, I ofter my son chocolate spread on toast for dinner more often than I should. But none of these things should be secrets. And so, they won’t be any longer.

Motherhood is repetitive, exhausting, tiresome, bloody brilliant, like nothing else, full of all the best things in life, and in the same hour, it is the hardest thing in the world. None of us should feel we can’t be honest about our experience of it. None of us should believe we  have to hide the things we do.

What we do, think, feel, believe, imagine – whatever it is that makes the days brighter or more bearable or simply just pass – whatever it is, it is ours. Our experiences of motherhood are valid and equal and simply a part of our lives. We don’t need to pretend they don’t exist. We don’t need to hide them in corners, we don’t need to confess any longer. We are mothers, and we are doing whatever we need to do. We might not like some of the stuff, we might not be proud of it – but let’s not feel the need to keep secrets any more.

Yes, the days can be long and repetitive and feature too many bodily fluids on the carpet and a never-ending soundtrack of cartoons. Yes there are tantrums and tears and bribes and too many chocolate biscuits. Yes there are fevers and stresses and worries and dramas and forgotten appointments. Yes there are arguments handled badly and days of laziness when the dishes sit in the sink and dinner comes out of the freezer. Yes, there are also all the many millions of brilliant moments, of beautiful memories-in-the-making, of the best things in the world.

This is what life looks like. We shouldn’t have to keep any of it a secret, even when it’s crap. Because sometimes it is. Because life is never perfect.

The woman in the mirror

Shuffle card games – review and giveaway

The Shuffle card games are a new range of playing cards which can also be played with apps. We have been playing with some of the games from the range recently and I really like the way the apps put a modern twist on playing traditional games.

I’m running a giveaway for the entire range of 12 Shuffle card games.  All you need to do to enter is comment below saying why you want to win.

The 12 Shuffle Card games are a mix of classic family favourites and newer games. Here is the full list:

Battle Ship
Cluedo
Littlest Pet Shop
My Little Pony
Guess Who
Boggle Slam
Monopoly Deal
Nerf
Pictureka
Play-Doh
Transformers
Trivial Pursuit

Each pack of cards is beautifully illustrated, comes in a lovely box, and also contains instructions for how to play. The games can be played just as straight forward card games, or you can also download the corresponding app to take the game up to the next level.

Milin loved playing Littlest Pet Shop, probably because of the characters on the cards. We didn’t play by the rules, but instead worked on finding matching pairs, counting, and playing snap.

The games are great for encouraging creativity, problem solving, quick thinking, role playing – and they are also brilliant for getting the family together and having fun. We have really enjoyed playing with them together, even if we haven’t strictly followed the rules. They’ve brought us all together to play – which in my book is a wonderful thing to do. If you’ve got children who love card games, or playing anything online via an app – this set is for you. They Shuffle cards would make a great gift, and with such variety in the set of 12, there has to be a game every child would enjoy.

To enter, just leave a comment below saying why you want to win. The competition closes on September 1 at 10pm. It is open to UK residents aged 16 and over.

What motherhood hasn’t taught me

Motherhood has taught me more than I could list. I’ve learnt to recognise what’s really important to me, I’ve learnt to change nappies, I’ve learnt to bath babies…. In fact, the last two and a half years have been spent mostly travelling in the right direction on a steep learning curve. It would seem though that a two-year-old and one-year-old can’t teach you everything. Here’s the stuff I’ve still got to get my head around:

* How to get Milin to eat vegetables. I’m hoping to learn this one before he starts school. Or university.

* How to stay on top of the laundry pile. It doesn’t matter how much I say I’m going to put it all away at the end of each day, I still haven’t figured out how to just make all the washing just disappear.

* How to get the kids to sleep in. Why oh why don’t they just sleep past 6am for one day of the week?

* How to leave the house with everything I need. You’d think I’d have figured out by now that it is never safe to leave the house without wipes. But no, there’s still the odd occasion when I think everything will be fine if I just pop out quickly without them. Even a disastrous vomit-in-car episode hasn’t made me learn my lesson.

* How to arrive on time. Yep, still to figure this one out too. I blame the kids though – guaranteed that just as we’re about to leave the house one will need a poo or vomit everywhere or suddenly have a tantrum about the clothes they are in.

* How to read my toddler’s my mind. Somedays he needs Rice Krispies for breakfast, somedays it’s Cheerios. The fact that I have to ask makes me the worst mother in the world. Oh, and so does the fact that I sometimes dress him in his fire engine Tshirt when really he wants to be wearing the one with the fast car on it.

* How to dress myself. Why do I keep wearing white tops? And then feeding Jasmin creamy spinach pasta for lunch? I don’t know either.

* How to keep the playroom under control. First, we gave them a whole room for their toys. Then we bought them bigger storage boxes to put them in. But somehow I still seem to spend a ridiculous amount of time standing on Lego and tripping over Little People.

* How to get it all right. I’ll always be learning how to be a mum. Hopefully my two little ones know that I’m trying my best.

 

 

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