My Family and other Animals - Guest post

Hello all. I thought it might be fun to run a short guest post series about pets. But not just about pets, specifically about pets that people bought after having children. The sort of "oh there isn't enough pee and puke in the house, maybe we need a puppy too" sort of person.

I myself was guilty of this when at 4 months pregnant I decided one dog wasn't enough so we needed a puppy too (a whole other post) but were other people as mad as me? Well let's find out!

I thought we would start with a lovely post from Colette at Going On an Adventure

"When we got our puppy just months after having our first baby, everyone thought we were mad.

We hadn't planned it that way but our circumstances were a little unusual. We didn't go out looking for a puppy as such, but we had always said that when Mum bred from her bitch Molly, we would have one. It just so happened that my baby and Molly's puppies were born just three weeks apart.

We're going on an adventure - Colette with baby Ben and Thomas

Mum was a complete superstar and kept Thomas, our brindle boxer puppy, at her house for a little longer than usual so she could give him a head start on things like toilet training. By the time he came to live with us he was a good three months old and ready to go out for walks and such like.

We're going on an adventure - Thomas at 10 weeks

I quickly found myself in a bit of a routine which worked for both Ben and Thomas - we would get up first thing, feed Ben and then take Thomas out for a walk around our local park. I soon learned that if I walked Thomas as soon as I could, he was much easier to deal with during the course of the day! Ben would often sleep in his pram for most of the walk and I tended to just stay out walking for as long as he slept - meaning not only did Thomas get plenty of exercise but so did I. With a combination of breastfeeding and puppy walking I lost my baby weight very quickly and without even really having to try.

We're going on an adventure - Colette walking Thomas and Ben

Having a puppy to walk meant I got to know more people in the area - for a start, you don't get to walk a beautiful boxer puppy around without people wanting to stop and talk to you! But we also made friends in the park, other people who were generally walking their dogs at around the same time as us each day. It's not that I'd have gone for coffee with any of them or anything but it did mean I got a daily dose of adult conversation which any Mum on maternity leave with a newborn knows can be hard to come by some days.

We didn't suffer any sort of jealousy issues as neither Thomas nor Ben knew a life without each other, which meant that when we had the girls at a later date Thomas never really bothered with them. Babies were just the norm in our house at that time. We struck lucky with "Toss" - he was gentle and patient and surprisingly calm for a boxer (unless he was chasing around with his sister and then it was a different story altogether). He was always beautifully behaved, even if he did pull a bit when we walked him sometimes, and we trusted him as far as anyone should trust a dog with their children.

Chloe and Thomas

We lost Thomas at the back end of last year, he was only seven and it has been a real shock to all of us but loss is part of life isn't it and far better that our children's first real experience of grief is that of a pet than a family member. Growing up with a pet teaches children responsibility, empathy and boundaries. It shows them how to take care of the needs of others and gives them a friend. Yes, getting a puppy while we had a newborn was probably one of the maddest things we'd ever done but I wouldn't change it for the world."

Burgess family in Heaton Park with Thomas

Thanks' so much Colette for that sweet story. Loving the top tips about exercise and breastfeeding to lose that baby weight, and a dog is indeed a brilliant way to make new friends!

you can follow Colette on twitter at Lollinski

Keep up to date on Facebook at We're Going on an Adventure

And on Instagram at Going on an Adventure Blog

If you got a pet (of any sort!) after you had children, and would like to be featured in this guest series, email me at Tatmummy@gmail.com and include 'Guest Post Pets' in the subject line.

Mexicana Cheese, a hot and spicy review

I have loved Mexicana cheese since whenever, so I was beyond thrilled when they told me they wanted to send me some cheese!

mexicana cheese logo it bites back

Mexicana cheese is a soft mild cheddar with peppers and chilies running through it. Available as original hot for those of you who are wimps not as brave as me, and extra hot for those of a more macho disposition (insert a macho nacho joke here - I'm too lazy to)

The first thing I tried were the Mexicana slices (a brilliant invention as the cheese itself is quite soft so can be difficult to slice, especially thinly ) on a burger. Appropriate as Mexicana are sponsoring the National Burger Awards 

burger in a brioche bun with mexican cheese and home made chips

 I've tried the extra hot cheese on toast (and discovered that I prefer it cold and eaten with biscuits) and I'm planning some spicy cheese and pineapple on sticks, a hotter version of a 70s party snack - and much underrated. I think that Mexicana agree with me as they have a pack of 'Hot Shots' just crying out for the pineapple treatment.

block of extra hot mexicana cheese with flag
I claim this cheese for me!

I'll be posting any other recipe ideas I try with the cheese, I expect I shall try it on nachos, and pizza next.

I think it's safe to say that I think if you like spicy food then you need Mexicana in your fridge.

Disclosure - I was sent the cheese to review but the obsessive lust I feel for it is all my own.

I love Mexicana cheese heart flag


Controlled crying, crying it out, crying babies ... just crying

Why would anyone leave a baby to cry?

I did.

Would I do it again? Most probably not if the circumstances were the same, but in some circumstances, yes, yes I'd try it, and before you shout me down here's what I did, and why I would, or wouldn't do it again.

When DD was born (17 years ago!)  I was a novice mum. I didn't have a lot of close friends living near and none that had babies. All my school mates had moved away and none were married. My mum lived hundreds of miles away. The Internet existed but not with social media like it is today. I joined a small message board of mums, they were almost all American, everything from our 'diaper' choices to feeding methods were very different, though everyone was friendly. Mostly I bought some books and took advice from my midwives and health visitors (who were all lovely and really helpful btw)

When DD was born I was able to take a year off from work and Mr TM was already retired (and planning to be a SAHD and DD's main carer when I went back to work) so we had a whole year, just us and a baby (and 2 dogs). In the first few weeks I didn't get much sleep. Although Mr TM slept in a separate room (so he could be awake in the day and do lots of the chores, walk the dogs etc,) night feeds, in fact all feeds, were provided by my boobs so I had to be awake. Feeding on demand was recommended (quite rightly imo) at least in the first weeks to help milk supply. A feed could take an hour with a 2 hour nap after (for DD!)  and then more feeding, so you can imagine how tired a breastfeeding mum is, also she's making milk, in itself tiring - medals all round ladies!

Also anyone that tells you to 'sleep when the baby sleeps' is an idiot. Do they suggest a quick nap in aisle 8 of Sainsbury? A 20 minute sleep while driving? A doze in the park while walking the dogs? You are using those 2 hour windows of sleeping baby to wash, eat, clean the house, chat to adults, just 'be'. 

 So by week six I was running on fumes. I had no idea at the time that I had Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (which has the joyous side effect of making you more tired than 'normal' people, and making ordinary tasks more tiring still) so that may explain some of it, but what ever, by week 6, late one night as DD cried, after I'd tried feeding, changing, cuddles, singing, swearing, begging, crying (me not her)  I looked to books for advice and I read about letting babies cry.

baby sleeping in moses basket

In the 50s babies were encouraged to cry. It was 'good for their lungs', gave them some exercise, and, if done outside, got them some 'fresh air'. So it was with no surprise that I found many books that suggested the crying it out (CIO) method. This, apparently relied on checking everything was well with the baby, they were fed, burped, changed, clean and cuddled, and them popping them safely into pram or bed and leaving them to it. They would eventually fall asleep.

Even in my desperate state this sounded a tad tragic! Poor little baby, no doubt it would sob itself through hysteria into exhaustion and then fall asleep. So it would work, but at what cost? And wouldn't the baby get more distressed at each consecutive bedtime? Knowing and learning that bed and pram was a lonely prison?  No CIO was not for me.

Then I read about the controlled Crying method (CC) controlled crying started the same way, check baby was fed, burped, changed, clean and cuddled, and them popping them safely into pram or bed, but then not leaving them until they slept, but rather, settling them, saying a calm goodnight, and leaving, if they cried, waiting a minute before returning, settling the baby again, leaving, if they cried waiting 2 minutes, settling the baby again, leaving, if they cried waiting 3 minutes...and , well you get the picture. This I could cope with.

I tried it...the first night was hell. When your baby cries, a minute feels like about 30 years. You have been sitting staring at the clock for an eternity (a minute) and then you rush to the baby, soothe, settle, leave and repeat. I was more tired after the first night of CC than before I had tried it! (she eventually fell asleep after 10 minutes). The second night I tried again....she was asleep after  5 minutes, and the third night, she settled and went to sleep with no tears at all...and the most amazing thing was that she also slept all night (well from 11pm at last feed until 6am and first feed - but that's all night in my book!) And this continued. I had a six week old baby that just went to bed at 11pm and slept through! (I'm sorry if you hate me - I'm sure luck plays a huge part here too)

I was a changed woman. Days were fun again. I could walk the dogs, Mr TM and I could spend time (awake) together. I could do cooking and housework. A miracle.

But...would I do it again, probably not.

I think as I had a year off and a supportive husband at home I could have just weathered the lack of sleep for a few months until she gradually learned nighttime was no fun, and reserved for sleeping.

If circumstances were different however, if I had to go back to work, or had other children to care for in the day, or no husband at home, then yes, I think I would at least try it for a few days. I think that if the times were getting longer to take the baby to settle, I would stop. If after a few nights she still wasn't settled happily at bedtime, I'd stop. But I think for exhausted parents, with other things and other family to manage, who don't have the luxury of focusing totally on a new baby, then yes CC has a place.

The conclusion I've come to is that lots of things that are 'best for baby' don't take anyone else into consideration. It's nice of you can do what's 'best for baby' but there are other people in the house too, mum, dad (maybe 2 mums, 2 dads whatever, you get the picture) other children, and there may be a job you need to go to to have money to feed and clothe everyone. So sometimes, what is best for baby is a fully functioning household.

baby sleeping on her back

And so I don my flame suit and pop this (sure to be unpopular) opinion out onto the Internet. I'd love your comments.