Saturday, 9 September 2017

An autumn wardrobe with Lyst

I like summer, but it doesn't really feel like we've had much of one this year, so I have been keenly awaiting the arrival of autumn. As soon as September arrived, the temperate dropped and the evenings are now cool enough for me to snuggle under a blanket and think about how I should really get on with knitting that winter hat for Ember. I will, at some point, actually start it, but it takes me a good few weeks of thinking about before I pick up my needles.

After months of wearing vest tops and summer dresses, my mind is now focused on clothes for cooler weather. I need to stock up on warm jumpers and long-sleeved t-shirts and, best of all, some winter boots. I hate doing the school run in trainers when it's raining, my feet end up drenched by the time I arrive home.

https://www.lyst.co.uk/Online shopping portal Lyst asked me if I'd like to put together some of my favourite pieces from their site, so I figured I would share my top autumn picks. Obviously, my school run duties leave me loving practicality and clothes that will shield me from the rain so that's what I've focused on. Bare legs and cropped tops might be ok for the young, but they're no good for me when I'm running down the street in the rain because I'm about to be late for pick up.

Here's what I picked:

1. Mustard yellow floral print scarf £9.99 from Starvidarious (is it even autumn if you're not wearing any mustard?)     //   . 2. 60s swing coat £45 from La Redoute (I couldn't love this coat more if I tried, anything with 60s in the title gets a vote from me) .    //     3. Stencil floral birdcage umbrella £23 from Fulton (Birdcage umbrellas are the ultimate umbrellas. I let Laurie borrow mine and it came back completely broken, so I need to get a new one and I love the floral detailing on this one)     //     4. Denim pinafore dress £35 from Monki (I love pinafore dresses, I think they are so comfy and I love how they look, plus they remind me of being pregnant and finally embracing my lifelong love of all things dungarees)      //     5. Stripe long sleeve t-shirt £12 from Weekday (stripes and dungarees, it's the obvious choice)     //     6. Gangster wellies £18 from ASOS (I have these and I love them, they're so shiny and really good quality)

This is was inspired by Lyst. 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A first birthday paint smash photoshoot








I love cake smash photography shoots. I think photos of adorable babies completely covered in brightly coloured buttercream are painfully cute. However, I'm also way too strict to let my baby consuming that much sugar. I know, I know, they probably don't eat much of it and it's only one time and it's their sodding birthday. But still. I considered it and, in the end, I decided I wasn't keen on the idea. 
I did want to do something, though. I wanted to end up with a few beautiful pictures of colourful chaos that would serve as a reminder of just what life was like with a one-year-old (chaotic, messy, exhausting). I considered a tower of fruit, Ember can make so much mess with a punnet of raspberries I figured she was born for such a challenge. But the thought of having to change the resulting nappy put me off. 


I finally settled on the idea of a paint smash. I knew it would result in a colourful mess and that was exactly what I wanted. Also, as part of Ember's Second Child Syndrome, she had never been near paint before so I thought she would probably enjoy it as well. 

I ordered a photography backdrop (this one for £13.55 from Amazon) so that the photographs wouldn't be lumbered with my usual backdrop of pasta-handprint smothered walls. I also bought some colourful decorations to put up, as well as some painting accessories to let Ember explore. And I bought a huge roll of white paper to cover the floor. I was planning to buy a lamp to use for lighting, but I decided to take the photos in the conservatory which guaranteed me some decent natural lighting (and meant my living room would be protected from paint spills). 

I dressed Ember in a beautiful white bridesmaid dress Ebony wore when she was a bridesmaid a couple of years ago (Ember is a giant compared to Ebony) and poured out paint across the floor. Laurie and Ebony were on standby to make loud noises so that Ember would glance in the direction of the camera at least occasionally, and they helped out with keeping her entertained while I took photos. 

As predicted, things got pretty messy. Ember and the dressed ended up covered in paint (and so did Ebony who wanted to feature in a few of the photographs). I really love the photos. They're not perfect, far from it, but they are something I will treasure for a long time. I love the bright colours and the fact I didn't have to deal with a sugar-induced temper tantrum as a result. 

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

7 things I didn't do on the first day of school



The first day of school, the cold hard jolt back to reality after a summer of lazing around, hiding from the rain and visiting various tourist attractions. I had a plan. I was going to be organised and the whole day was going to run like clockwork. Well, that was my aim, obviously, it’s not exactly how things panned out because, well, life. I woke up tired (a constant affliction), realised we didn’t have anything exciting to offer up for breakfast (porridge, anyone?) and gave my daily lecture about the importance of good timekeeping while leaving the house later than planned.

If anything, today served as a reminder that I will never be the organised, well-presented shit-together woman I dream of being. Here are seven things I didn’t do on the first day of school:

1. Shout
Hooray for small mercies, right? I didn’t shout or get exasperated this morning, even as the time ticked away while I scraped porridge from the neck folds of my toddler. I didn’t have to cajole the eldest into getting dressed because she appeared by my bedside fully dressed as an ungodly hour. I didn’t storm around the house lamenting the lack of matching socks because, by some miracle, I had got all the uniform ready the night before.

2. Cry
I didn’t cry from the frustration of always being late or the misery of watching my big girl skip happily into the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she wanted to go. The few days where she hasn’t, my heart has broken as I’ve tried to peel her from my leg and gently push her in the direction of the school gates. And I didn’t cry with relief either. I haven’t been counting down the days until the end of summer, I have loved having her home with me. The past five weeks I have watched the bond between my two kids flourish and strengthen as they have played and giggled and cuddled. I’m not going to say I’ve loved every minute of it, but it has definitely been a pleasure having them both together for so long.

3. Get there on time
I thought I would, truly I did. I thought we’d get up bright and early and be out of the house on time. I was woken up early, but I was far from bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Porridge for breakfast is not a good idea when you’re short on time. It takes a ridiculous amount of time to make porridge and even longer to clean it off a sticky one-year-old. Despite all of the stuff we needed waiting at the front door, it took a long time for us to gather it all up and get out the damn door. We walked out into the street in a cloud of the usual chaos while I moaned and groaned about the stress of being late (again).

4. Tidy the house
I had plans, such big plans. I was going to get the house in order. It was going to be spotless. I did not achieve this dream. Instead, it’s messier than it was this morning. In fact, the only room that is tidy is Ebony’s bedroom, a room that I don’t spend much time in. I did manage to clear the kitchen side though you’d never know it now after Ebony suggested lasagne for dinner (the messiest of meals). I thought perhaps I’d get on top of it tonight after the kids were in bed, but alas, bedtime was so drawn out that I don’t have the energy now. Instead, I will add it to my stresses of tomorrow, along with the laundry and everything else I didn’t do today.

5. Work
After taking a few weeks off for the summer holidays, my to-do list is now scarily long. I have a lot of articles I need to write and I was looking forward to getting stuck into them today. In reality, I managed to write a title before Ember woke up from a ridiculously short cat nap this morning. And then when I put her down for her long nap in the afternoon, I fell asleep myself. We slept like babies, cuddled up under the duvet as the rain tapped against the window. It was lucky I had set an alarm to remind myself to do the school run because otherwise, I wouldn’t have been there to pick her up when the school day finished.

6. Pick her up on time
And that alarm didn’t really account for the fact that I might be asleep. It allowed me enough time to stick Ember in the sling, grab Ebony’s after-school snack and run out of the door. It didn’t give me enough time to wake up, wake Ember up, calm her down (she has inherited my hatred of being woken up), get her dressed, scrape the smudged makeup from under my eyes and find shoes and slings and umbrellas. So, we were late. Luckily, they were late coming out so Ebony had no idea that I wasn’t there when the bell rang otherwise she’d probably have been mad.

7. Get organised for tomorrow

I managed to find some uniform and hang it on Ebony’s door before they eventually fell asleep and I bought something for breakfast in the morning, but I didn’t do any of the other things I wanted to do. I have no idea where her school shoes are, but I would put all of my savings on that they aren’t at the front door where I so need them to be. And I can already feel my long-anticipated early night slipping away from me. And the kitchen is messy so breakfast will be joyless. And I really, really need to do better tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I can get on top of things and be more organised and get to school on time… right?

ps, the photo is Ebony holding a sign saying what she wants to do for a job (an idea I stole from my clever friend Adele from Beautiful Tribe) and it says 'sanctuary' because that's Ebony's dream job.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

5 Reasons To Take Your Kids To The Park

When Ebony was younger, the park was one of our favourite places to hang out. We would take a wander into the village, swing by the charity shops and then head to the park for a couple of hours before walking back home. Now that she’s in school, there isn’t as much time for trips to the park, but we try to go after school when the weather is nice.

Now that Ember is officially a toddler (sob), she loves the park. It’s almost not worth taking her because she cries so much when it’s time to leave. Her days of being stuck in a swing watching the bigger kids have fun are behind her, now she can stomp around clambering on the equipment by herself. I sometimes take her for a little play straight after we drop Ebony off at school. The park is usually quiet then so she has the playground all to herself. But she’s happiest when her sister is at the park with her so she can follow her around from slide to swing, demanding to play with her.

Here are five reasons why you should take your kids to the park:

1. It provides plenty of opportunities for risk taking
We live in a risk averse society, we’re all scared of everything all the time and this is having an impact on our kids. Older generations love to go on about how much freedom they had as kids, climbing trees and going on day-long bike rides all by themselves. And it’s true, kids these days do have a lot less freedom. Places are more built up, roads are busier, and the media is full of horror stories of child-snatchers. Helicopter parenting means kids are taking fewer risks than ever before, many parents seem terrified of letting their kids suffer a grazed knee or bumped head.

Risk-taking is important, especially during the early years. Kids who play organised sports are less likely to engage in risky behaviours off the field. Why? Because they’re taking risks during games and enjoying a natural high that way. Early years risk taking is just as important. Children need to climb trees, fall over, tackle the big slide, and swing so high they feel like they’re flying. By giving your children the freedom to explore the park, you’re allowing your child to take risks in a safe environment.

2. Kids need to exercise
Childhood health can be a risk factor for adult obesity. Kids who have unhealthy diets and spend time cooped up indoors staring at screens rather than running around in the fresh air are more likely to be obese in later life. One in three children are now overweight, which is a pretty scary statistic if you think about what the future impact of that will be. If you want your kids to grow up into people who value exercise and health, you need to instill that belief now. That doesn’t mean you have to fork out for costly organised sports, a simple trip to the park could be all you need to get the blood flowing and show your kid that exercise is fun. Climbing the huge climbing equipment, jumping off the swings and running towards the next piece of equipment are all simple exercises your kids will enjoy during a trip to the park. For a bit of extra exercise, take a ball and play a game of football while you’re there.

3. It’s good for their development
You might be surprised at just how valuable a trip to the park can be for your child’s development. For younger kids, playing at the park allows them to build on their motor skills. Kids learn through play and while your kid is busy trying to go down the big slide, she’s learning how to climb and how to balance. Coordination is a really important skill and you can’t beat a trip to the park for mastering that important skill. As your kids grow, so too do the number of development opportunities at the playground. Balancing upside, swinging on the monkey bars, balancing on the trim trail - there are loads of different skills involved in each of these activities.

4. They’ll learn social skills
Going to the park encourages your child to mix with other children. They will make new friends, speak to new people and navigate complicated social situations (read: deal with the awkward kid who won’t budge from the top of the slide). The best way to teach your child social skills is to create plenty of opportunities for them to socialise with different children. The park is an easy place to do this because it is usually filled with children of various ages.

5. Fresh air is good for all of us
Today’s kids spend less time outdoors than previous generations. We’re at risk of raising a generation of vitamin D deficient kids who only want to sit indoors and stare at computer screens. Time spent in green spaces improves mental health, lifts your mood and promotes good health. FResh air is also famous for helping kids to sleep at night. When Ebony was younger and bedtime was a battle, I made sure we always spent a couple of hours outside. The fresh air seemed to make all the difference because she would come home exhausted and ready for sleep. That in itself is enough of a reason to try a trip to the park today.

This is a collaborative post.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Exactly One Year Ago



Exactly one year ago, I didn’t know you. We’d never met. I’d expected to meet you weeks earlier, but you hadn’t shown up. You’d kept me waiting, dragging out the pregnancy so that it felt it might never end. And, at some points, I genuinely worried it might never, that I might actually be the first woman to be pregnant forever. I can remember the patient look on the midwife’s face when she asked if I had an idea of when I might agree to induction, should labour not start on its own.

**

Exactly one year ago, I wrote you a letter pleading with you to come out. I was so ready to meet you, so ready to finally hold you in my arms and know that you were ok. I sat in an empty hospital room, waiting, but, for the first time in days, feeling hopeful that you would arrive soon.

**

Exactly one year ago, I realised you were on your way. Those pesky Braxton Hicks I had grown so accustomed to felt stronger, different somehow. I felt relaxed, even in my hospital bed, and I knew you were finally ready to make an appearance.

**

Exactly one year ago, I realised I might have been wrong, that perhaps you weren’t ready to make an appearance quite yet. You wanted to drag out the ending as much as you had dragged out the pregnancy. The hours passed quickly at first, then slowly, as though the entire world were on standstill with baited breath waiting for you to arrive. I watched the hands tick by on the wall clock as I sat in the pool, wishing you would hurry up. A lot of people had a lot of opinions on how you might best be coaxed into the world.

**
Exactly one year ago, you were born. You were caught by a motherly midwife who had supported women all over the world to give birth, all the way from the bright lights of Stepping Hill delivery suite to underfunded and ill equipped maternity units in developing countries. A little girl, pink and screaming, crying out for me. The midwife gathered you up and placed you on my chest, your head, the hair still damp with vernix, rested in the groove of my arm, as somebody draped a hospital blanket over us to keep us warm. You stared at me, your eyes deep and dark, as I fell in love, letting myself breathe in every bit of you. The little fingernails, the dark hair, the rolls of fat on your legs.

**
Exactly one year ago, I felt that familiar rush of becoming somebody’s mother. Only this time, there was no fear or self-doubt, it felt exactly as I knew it would. I knew you as soon as I saw you, as though I had known you forever.

**

Exactly one year ago, I held you to my breast and fed you, watching you drift gently to sleep as your tiny stomach grew content and full with milk. I wrapped you in a rainbow striped blanket I had knitted for you during the pregnancy, each stitch crafted with love and hope, then I gently placed you in the plastic see-through cot next to my bed, only inches away from where I slept. Your dad slept on the other side of me, hunched over in a chair, exhausted from the hours of stolen sleep the night before.

**

Exactly one year ago, I dressed you in a pink flowery romper your big sister had chosen for the unknown baby growing in my bump. I lifted you up gently and held you in my arms, savouring the smallness of you, and I followed your dad down the hospital corridor to where your sister was excitedly waiting. I carried you through the double doors and out into the waiting area to where your sister sat on a sofa. She was dressed in a red dress, a glittery headband sitting in her messy hair, her eyes heavy with bags and her mouth wide in amazement as she saw your pink romper and realised you were a girl, a little sister just for her. We sat next to her on the sofa and she leant in to whisper in your ear, telling you how much she loved you already. I placed you in her arms and she cradled you so carefully as though you were the most precious thing in the world.

**

Exactly one year ago, I carried you over the doorstep and into your new home. Your sister was waiting excitedly in the house your nanny had cleaned for your arrival, the fruit bowl overflowing with fresh fruit, piles of clean washing piled high in the utility room. I sat on the sofa and breathed you in as you slept against my chest, your sister cuddled up beside me as we started life as a family of four, all us together at last.

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