My ‘to-do’ lists

Brum, brum… buying a new family car

Finding a new family car has been a major item on the ‘to-do’ list over the last couple of months. We’d had our trusty old blue Renault Clio for almost seven years and been outgrowing it for some time now – the bigger Little Miss, got the smaller the car seemed and trying to get a wriggly toddler in and out of a car seat when you’ve only got two doors (I refuse to say three, the boot is not another door!) was starting to become a Krypton Factor-esque challenge (I’m an 80’s child, I actually loved that show).

Boot space, or lack of, was also an issue. Our Baby Jogger City Mini always fitted in fine (one of the reasons we chose it) but it didn’t leave much room for anything else – a couple of bags of shopping or a travel cot and weekend holdall were about the limit. When we went on holiday last summer we stacked most of our haul into the back seat next to Little Miss and my parents – who luckily came with us (and paid for it!) – had to take a fair bit of extra luggage in their car.

Aside from size mattering, Roo, as we affectionally called the Clio, was also starting to feel his age. In car terms he was an elderly gent, with more than 100,000 miles on the clock and a decade’s driving under his belt. Keeping him on the road was starting to cost more than he was worth.

Buying a family car

So we went on the hunt for some new wheels, spending every weekend for a month or so checking out the local car show rooms and spending our evenings reading up online. Here’s what we learnt…

Start with a wish-list

Knowing what we wanted made it easier to narrow down the search. Our must-have list included four doors, a decent sized boot and the ability to fit two car seats plus the occasional adult across the back seats. My husband is tall so the space between the front driver seat and the car seats in the back was also a factor for us. Ideally, we also wanted a higher driving position than the Clio and, while we knew a bigger car would always be more expensive to run, we didn’t want to go completely over the top and end up with a something that would cost us a small fortune. And on top of that reliability and a good safety record were, of course, front of mind.

Used v new 

When I say we got a new car, I actually mean new-ish. While we hadn’t discounted the idea of buying new at the start of our search, in the end the kind of car we needed was out of our price range new. That said, we did see some seriously tempting deals – such as chunks of money off or 0% finance. Dealers will work much harder to try and tempt you to go new so it could work in your favour. But there is the inevitable downside that it loses value as soon as you drive off the forecourt.

We also discovered the option of buying a pre-registered vehicle, which can be a good compromise if you really want an almost-new car. Pre-registered cars are pretty much brand new but much cheaper because they have already been registered to one owner, usually a car dealership.

Basically, the dealers buy certain models as a way of ensuring they meet or exceed their sales quotas. It means they take the hit in terms of the initial loss of value but does mean that you effectively become the second rather than first owner, which could in turn affect future resale value for you.

The big downside is that you’re restricted to whatever pre-registered vehicles happen to be available and we found these tended to be the less popular models. For us, the choice was just too limited. But it’s worth considering.

Car keysGood things come to those who wait…

It was worth setting aside time to go and try lots of different models. Our favourites changed on a weekly basis and what we first thought would be the best choice for us definitely wasn’t in the long term. And if you’re looking at used cars – which is what we went for in the end – then new ones come on the market all the time. By being patient you can end up with a nicer, low mileage option at the right price. We ended up going for a three-year-old Ford C Max with one previous owner and just over 6,000 miles on the clock.

Test your car seats

Take your car seats with you and use them for a test drive. One salesman swore blind that another family had fitted three car seats across the back seat of a particular model. Maybe they had much smaller seats than us but we were only aiming for two car seats and enough space to squeeze in an adult and found it was never going to happen unless the adult was some kind if contortionist!

Another reason to test the car seats out is so you can see the position your child will be in. In some models we found Little Miss was much lower down and couldn’t really see out of the window. For her this would be annoying as she’s a nosey sort but also we suspect she may be prone to travel sickness so not being able to see out could make this worse. And the last thing we want is a new car being decorated with vomit!

Online research is really useful

Yellow carWe found the Which site invaluable. Here you can read detailed reviews and reliability ratings for loads of different models. We found it really useful for sussing out what was what and also finding ideas for other models to take a look at based on the kind of thing we already had in mind.

You can sign up for a one-month trial for just £1 then cancel your subscription once you’ve read all you need to.

But you don’t even need to sign up to read their Top 10 tips for buying a family car, which is a great starting point. The AA Car buyers guide is also worth a look.

Car sales men can be a strange breed!

At least the ones we saw were (and we didn’t encounter any ladies at all). There was the nice guy with the unnaturally orange tan – we never worked out whether he’d genuinely been away or if it was out of a bottle.

There was the younger lad who asked if our two-year-old could walk and talk yet, when she’d clearly already made her presence known in the showroom! He was then so desperate to please that when my husband rang to chase some details and mentioned that he’d already left a message he offered to hang up there and then, find the missing message, listen to it then call back again rather than just answer his questions there and then!

Then there was the guy that looked at me as if I’d landed from Mars when I asked if he had a printed list of details for the cars he was trying to sell us. Surely an obvious request?!

Red car Tips from other parents…

As well as our more official online research, I also took to Twitter to see if any fellow parents had any helpful advice. Of course they did…

Life with Munchers @Meandmymunchie, who has handily worked for VW, offered the following fab advice:

– Light coloured upholstery is a no no! Leather upholstery is easier to clean, however you can get a Supaguard treatment for cloth which will make it more water resistant.

– Colour… it can get hot in summer, so stick to light coloured cars (whoops, we ended up with black!).

– Check your buggy/pram fits in the boot easily and still allows room for shopping.

– Check the car seat fits (she had to buy a new one).

we3threeblog @we3threeblog said:

Use the DVLA website so you can check when work’s been done and if it’s ever had serious faults etc.

BloggerMumma @BloggerMumma said:

Look for a ‘green’ car they chuck out less co2! They are also lower on road tax and insurance so cheaper for your bank balance.

Stone Bridge Hair@StoneBridgeHair says:

If you can get separate chairs for everyone, that is brilliant. No “Mu-u-um, he’s breathing on me…!”

Yummyblogger @yummyblogger

Recommends the guide to buying a family car

Categories: My 'to-do' lists | Tags: | Leave a comment

Notes of a new mum – my best ever list!

So, as you’ve probably gathered from my blog’s name, I’m a bit of a list maker. Well, this weekend I re-discovered what must be my all-time-favourite list, the mother-of-all lists if you will. I can’t take all the credit for this little beauty. It was written in cahoots with my sleep-deprived, first-time dad husband (in fact, he did most of the actual writing). It makes for hilarious, heart-warming and ever so slightly worrying reading!

Charlotte3 006

This list was made during the first five days after bringing our newborn daughter home from the hospital. It details her every activity. Every nappy was analysed and compared against the NCT poo colour chart we’d been given as a handout during antenatal classes. Every feed was timed and written down, along with which breast had provided the said sustenance.

For some reason, in the new baby blur, we both became convinced that when the midwife came to check in on our tiny charge she was sure to give her hapless, exhausted parents an FBI-style grilling. I’m not quite sure what we thought might happen. It was as if  we expected to be asked to sit some kind of parental exam to assess our fitness to take care of this helpless little person.

Since we were both in a sleep-deprived, emotional haze we must have decided that neither of us, not even my usually cool-as-cucumber husband, could be relied upon to provide an accurate enough account, so we’d better just write it all down, just in case.

It seems so funny reading it now, almost two years on, but back then it must have felt like a totally sensible thing to do. Another thing that had seemed entirely logical at the time was ordering another three baby care books from Amazon at 3am in the morning from my hospital bed, just hours after I’d given birth! I already had at least two at home but as the enormous weight of responsibility hit me it was all I could do to feel that little bit more in control. And I couldn’t bring myself to sleep when I had such a precious bundle lying next to me.

So here is the first 24 hours from that list, our daughter’s second day in the world… it may be a tad repetitive!

1.15am (when the list appears to begin) – Big nappy change, dark.

1.25am – Right side feed, ten minutes.

1.45am – Left side feed, 20 minutes. Unsettled until 2.40am then another feed, right side 20 mins.

3-4am – Husband settling her.

4am – Sleep on/off, 5.45 am swaddled.

6am – Unsettled.

6.15am – Big nappy change.

6.25am – Swaddled.

6.45am – Left side feed, 20 mins, then swaddled (after a few more days we realised that Little Miss actually didn’t like being swaddled, she much preferred to stretch out all her limbs and kick her feet!).

7.05am – Sleep.

9.40am – Right feed, 15 mins.

10.10am – Little bit sick – uncomfy (windy?)

12pm – Left feed, 20/25 mins

12.45pm – Right feed, 30 mins. Bit of a struggle getting into position.

1.45pm – Nappy change, dark poo. No smell, poss bit wet?

3.10pm – Midwife visit.

3.30pm – 15 mins feed each side. In-laws visit.

5.45pm – Feed, 20 mins left, 15 mins right.

6.45pm – Left feed and right (15 mins each until asleep).

7pm – Nappy change – poo bit lighter. More poo while being changed.

9pm – Left feed 10 mins.

9.30pm – Cleaned top and tail and changed wet nappy – pinkish tint, no poo.

9.50pm Right feed 15 mins, then sleep.

And so it continued. Poo became green, then yellow. We had some hiccoughs, some grunting and a few more sick spells. As the days go on, the lists get that bit shorter until we finally realised that, actually, we are doing ok and don’t need to do this.

Are we the only new parents to have done this? Did anyone else do anything similar?

And hope you like the early picture of my gorgeous Little Miss.

Categories: Motherhood, My 'to-do' lists | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

New year, new list (sort of)

So, it’s that time of year when I feel compelled to join in with the tradition of resolutions. If I sound a little jaded it’s probably because some of the things I want to do better at in 2014 are the same things I’ve had on the list for many years but never really achieve. I’m hoping that committing this year’s resolutions to cyberspace will help me do a better job at staying on track!

1. Keep on blogging

This is a new one, and perhaps a bit obvious, but I’m still relatively new to all this and finding my feet. I started this blog back in October, having carried it around in my head for much of the year before that. Finally getting started was one of my big achievements of 2013.

This fab post of blogging resolutions from fellow newbie My Petite Canard got me thinking about how I want to develop this blog in the coming months and I’ll definitely be adopting some of them. I know I need to commit to a more regular schedule and plan to set up an editorial calendar to get my ideas down and keep me on track. I also need to bite the bullet and get to grips with analytics and SEO. Wish me luck!

2. Quit procrastinating

Given it took me the best part of a year to get going on this blog, you’ve probably already guessed I’m pretty good at putting things off. My main hurdle is my inner perfectionist. I worry so much about getting it wrong that all too often I don’t get going at all. Duh! The instant, fast-paced nature of blogging is helping me to overcome this somewhat. So now I’ve finally got going in this one area, I’m hoping I can transfer the momentum to other jobs on my long-term ‘to-do list’. Again, wish me luck!

3. Finish the Olympic scrapbook 

Linked to the above, I promise that I we (as it was meant to be a joint project with my husband), will finally finish the pesky, much-anticipated, half-done 2012 Olympics scrapbook that is sitting gathering dust in our bedroom!!!

4. Think positive 

I say this every year but I really, really want to try much harder with this in 2014. I’m one of life’s worriers and have been for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it’s helpful, being conscientious at work for example, but more often it’s a hindrance that, if I’m not careful, can sap my energy and enjoyment of life. I know what I need to do, I just need to do more of it. End of.

5. Be more grateful 

It’s all too easy to see the negatives when actually my life is full of blessings. I often get far too het up over minor problems or inconveniences when actually I need to stop and recognise how lucky I truly am. Top of the list, I have a gorgeous daughter, who fills every day with joy, and a wonderful supportive husband, who does so much for both of us.

6. Join in the Picture Book Reading Challenge for 2014 

It’s always good to start the year by taking on a challenge so we’ll be joining blogger Child-Led Chaos and doing the Picture Book Reading Challenge. The aim is for Little Miss and I to read 300 different picture books over the year, which comes to an average of five or six different books a week. Find out more and join in here

7. Read more grown-up books again 

While I’ve loved sharing books with my toddler, I’ve fallen out of my own personal reading habit over the last year and it’s something I miss. I love getting lost in a good book. It’s a great way to unwind at the end of the day and I love learning about new things. So my New Year’s gift to myself will be to ditch the smartphone in bed and make a bit more time to enjoy reading proper books again.

And, for once, I think I’ll leave it there while the list is nice and manageable.

Categories: Mind matters, My 'to-do' lists | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Loitering on the list

ID-10051081My ‘to-do’ list. Where to begin? Well, as you may have gathered, the name of my blog is based on my penchant for making lots of lists… and then all too often failing to do the things on them! Actually getting this blog up and running is by far one of the biggest things I’ve recently ticked off my long-term list. You can see how long it took me in my introductory post.

However, it would be wrong to say I never get anything done from my lists. It may feel that way sometimes but generally the most pressing household admin, like paying the bills and nursery fees, making and getting to the right appointments at the right time and remembering family birthdays, gets done. And I’m a stickler for making sure the laundry basket is kept under control!

The things that loiter longer on my lists tend to fall into two categories. One is the creative ‘me’ projects that I always vow to carve out more time to do. This where starting this blog resided for many months, existing only in my head.

Another casualty was an Olympic scrapbook project. My husband is chuckling as I write this as it’s become something of a running joke in our house. Basically, last summer we were both captured by the Olympic spirit, especially as we’ve always been big athletics fans. As our daughter was born in that glorious home Olympics year, we thought it would be nice to commemorate the occasion by saving newspaper clippings and other souvenirs and making a scrapbook to show her when she’s older. Easy, right? Well, I started off with much enthusiasm but somewhere along the line, around about page eight of the scrapbook, activity ground to a halt and for the last year it has been unceremoniously stuffed in a carrier bag under our bed, waiting for someone (aka me even though it started out as a joint project) to finish it. I could blame my procrastination on the epic task of weaning, which took on huge significance around this time, followed by organising a Christening and then sorting Christmas. Either way, the scrapbook remains incomplete.

The other category of list loiterers are those things that don’t, at the present moment, seem to be immediately urgent but actually they are really important. This is where the slightly scary prospects of life insurance and making a will currently sit. I know, I know we should have sorted this as soon as our little one arrived. I suppose it’s a subject I prefer not to think about. It just seems so big. So I’ve subconsciously pushed it to one side. I take some solace in knowing I’m not the only one. It came up in conversation in a group of my new(ish) mum friends recently and half of the group were in the same boat as me. But that doesn’t excuse me.

I suppose I am just better at responding to things where there is an immediate time constraint. I used to be a journalist so I’m used to working to short deadlines. Anything beyond a few weeks into the future and my natural inclination is to put it to one side until ‘nearer the time’. The problem where life insurance is concerned is that nobody knows when that deadline will be.

So now that it’s once again been highlighted as something that needs to be an  item at the top of my ‘to-do’ list, I’ll be reading up on the advice being offered by Aviva in conjunction with Mumsnet to make sure we protect our family.

This post has been written as part of a Mumsnet blogger network competition with Aviva.

(Thanks to 89studio/ for the image)

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Lift off from the list!

Muffin with number one candle onOk, here goes… first post! As the name of this blog suggests, I’m a new(ish) mum who finds herself writing a fair few lists.

Secretly I love a list. They make life feel that little bit more under control. Only problem is, many of the items on my lists have a tendency of staying there far too long, this blog being the perfect example. It went on a list around 18 months ago, shortly after my darling daughter was born! It had good company, there were a whole host of other fab things I thought I’d be able to fit in while I was on maternity leave that, once the baby haze kicked in, never made it further than the pages of my notebook.

But (drumroll), this particular project has now finally made it off of a piece of paper and into cyber reality. Well done me! And the best bit? Being able to tick it off the ever-growing ‘to-do’ list of course!

I hope this blog will encourage me to get more things ticked off our family wish lists and perhaps give others a few ideas along the way. It will also be a space for me to record and make sense of the trials, tribulations and, most importantly, joys of parenthood. I hope you’ll join me.

And I’d love to know, what great ideas were on your ‘things to do while on maternity leave’ list that never saw the light of day?

(Thanks to Marcus/ for the image)

Categories: Motherhood, My 'to-do' lists | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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