Monday, 9 January 2017

A Letter to my Five Year Old





Dear Ebony, 

Today, you are five. You awoke last night shortly after midnight and crept into my bed. You hooked your knee over my hip as I lay with my back to you, feeding your baby sister. When you wrap your limbs around me now, they're not the short, fleshy limbs of years gone by, they are leaner and longer. 

This morning you woke up full of smiles and excitement. "Is it time to open my presents?" You whispered excitedly, for once taking care not to wake your baby sister. I looked at my phone, it was almost 7am. On the floor next to me lay your unwritten unbirthday card, quickly pushed aside when you snuck into the room last night just as I was about to write it. 

This is the first time you've been at school on your birthday. It feels strange to be here without you on such an important day. We had a party yesterday. You invited all of your class, all of your friends from nursery and all of your friends from other corners of your life. The room was loud and hectic with children screaming and laughing and running. You helped the magician with her magic tricks, you handed out the party bags and you cried when your helium balloon ended up on the ceiling. 

Normally, I say that it doesn't feel like x many years has passed since I first held you in my arms, but today that first cuddle feels like a lifetime ago. Maybe it is the fact we have Ember now, or the fact we've moved house so I'm not typing this in that living room, or simply the fact that my aging mind is growing hazy, but the day you were born doesn't feel like yesterday anymore. I can remember how much we loved you, how hard I cried when I saw you for the first time and how proud I was to have met you. I can remember that first day together, you sleeping soundly in your moses basket while I peered at you from the edge of the bed. I was exhausted but too besotted to sleep, I didn't want to miss a single breath. 

And now you are five. A curious little girl who loves fiercely, cares deeply and fights for what she wants. I am so proud of you, my biggest girl. You are everything I hoped you would be. You are funny and kind and loving and strong. You give withering looks to anyone and everyone who gets in your way. You are the perfect daughter and a complete nightmare both at the same time. 

I love spending time with you. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the quiet with your sister during the school day, but I love those few hours we all have together before bed. When we draw and read and play and talk about your day. When you tell me who pushed who or why you got cross at school. You direct most of your play at your sister now, singing and dancing and doing pretty much anything you can think of to keep her entertained. And she loves you so much. I love seeing her face break into a smile when she hears your voice. She loves you and you love her so fiercely. She bit me once during a feed and I shouted out in pain. You thought I was shouting at her and you immediately told me that I should never do that again, she's only a baby, she doesn't understand and her ears are very very precious, you told me. 

One morning last week, we were sitting on the edge of my bed. I was getting Ember changed so we could go out, carefully slipping her arms into a new onesie. "You're not a bad mummy," you said, out of the blue "You're a really good one. You take such good care of us. I love you so much." If I'm a good mother, it's only because you made me one. Because, even on the days when I'm perfectly imperfect, I strive to do better because I want you to have the best parents you possibly can. 

So, little girl, let us see what adventures five holds for us. 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Goodbye, 2016








Another year over. They pass so quickly now. One year merges into another almost seamlessly if it wasn't for the stress of Christmas I don't even think I'd notice it all coming to an end. 2016 was a weird year for me. It started so beautifully but everything sort of slumped somewhere near the middle.

At the start of the year, we were slowly starting to tell people about the pregnancy. I was hugely excited about the future and spent hours talking to Ebony about what life might be like when the new baby arrived. You think it will be less exciting the second time, but the magic of seeing your only child become a big sibling adds a whole new level of wonder to the experience. 

I couldn't wait to give birth again, to have newborn snuggles on the sofa and to see Ebony flourish as a big sister. The pregnancy, which I'd expected to be terrible after the nine months of misery I endured with Ebony, turned out to be amazing. I felt great. I wasn't horrified by my changing body this time around, instead, I loved seeing the bump grow every week. 

We spent the spring desperately trying to get the house ready before my parents disappeared on holiday. Once my dad has left the country, so has most of our DIY know-how. I learnt how to tile, Laurie installed a toilet and sink all by himself and managed to fix the wiring in our bedroom whilst only getting electrocuted once. Floors were sanded, rooms were painted and everything felt a little bit nicer. And I promised everybody that I wouldn't insist on anymore decorating for at least a couple of years. 

I turned 30 and discovered it is no fun having a birthday party when you are sober and pregnant. We went on holiday to Portugal with my sister and Ebony spent the entire holiday saying "Auntie Rosie, look at me! Look at me, Rosie!" Also, it rained a lot. My bump was starting to balloon and I spent most of the holiday feeling like my skin might be about to tear open. 

I spent a lot of the first half of the year napping. I napped when I should have been working. I napped when I should have been looking after Ebony. I can't tell you how many times I woke up to find Ebony playing really quietly next to me. She always let me sleep when I was tired, my caring, sweet little girl. We read bedtimes stories about babies and birth and being a big sister. Hello, Baby was a firm favourite and we read it over and over again. I cried pretty much every time, my heart felt so full of love. 

Ebony finished nursery and I bought her school uniform ready for her starting school full-time. We spent the summer holidays close to home, not wanting to stray too far away from the safety of these four walls. We went for walks, we saw friends, we watched a lot of movies. I felt on edge constantly, I cried in the evenings because I just wanted it all to be over. Laurie sat by helplessly, ordering curry after curry from the Indian restaurant down the road. 

My due date came, we baked cupcakes. Every couple of days for the next two weeks we baked cupcakes. The baby's birthday cake, perhaps? Ebony got bored of waiting, she didn't think the baby was ever coming out. 40 weeks of counting down and now we were counting up. 12 days late. My mum came over to look after Ebony whilst I went for monitoring at the hospital. Too much fluid. Home birth wasn't a safe option. They wanted to induce. Laurie shielded me while I cried. 

I agreed to stay in hospital. Fiona declined induction at this time. Fiona declined induction. Fiona declined induction. My hospital notes were long and repetitive. Couldn't find Fiona on the ward, again. I walked miles along the short path from the maternity ward to the ambulance bay. If my waters went and the cord prolapsed, at least I'd be in the right place. 40 + 17. She was finally born. She forced her way out into the world, taking her time during the birth as she had in the pregnancy. She was big and beautiful and perfect. I felt like my heart would burst because I was so happy to finally meet her. 

I spent the first night in a hospital bed, sleeping soundly next to my new daughter in the plastic bedside crib. I wanted to be at home, hidden away from the world. Instead, I listened to the cries of other people's babies, I smiled at the nurses coming to do obs and I counted down the hours until I could leave. Ebony came to the hospital with my mum. She'd woken up early, been told the baby had been born and run straight to get dressed. She chose her favourite dress, too short, and a glittery headband for her unbrushed hair. She sat on the sofa at the end of the ward with my mum. She looked so big, so old, all of a sudden. I carried Ember, dressed in a pink romper, in my arms. Ebony looked so proud when she saw her. "I love you," she whispered as she had her first cuddle with her new sister. 

We went home later that day. Everything hurt. I hurt. My heart hurt. I felt in love and proud and raw and devastated and traumatised all at the same time. Every minute was an emotional rollercoaster. I grieved for the home birth I didn't have. I grieved for the safety and support I felt at Ebony's birth. I wished things could have been different this time. I felt angry and alone and heartbroken. I replayed it over and over and over again. I spent hours reading studies and anecdotes online, thinking of things I should have done differently. I was angry at everybody. I didn't want to see anybody. I just wanted to be alone and forget it all. 

Caring for a new baby was easy. It felt natural. It was better this time. The worries, the anxieties, the fear, none of that was there. I knew what I was doing. I soaked in those sleepy newborn cuddles on the sofa because I knew they wouldn't last forever. Everything felt familiar. It was the pain that was unknown. The physical pain of healing after birth, it was so much worse this time. And the emotional pain of healing after a traumatic birth. I thought back to how I felt after Ebony's birth, the pride, the elation, I didn't feel any of that this time. 

It took a long time to stop feeling like that. People made comments that helped. Not the ones who pointed out baby was fine, that didn't help. But the people who said I was being too hard on myself, the people who told me I was high-risk so it wasn't ever going to be the same as last time, the people who listened and said they were proud of me. Their words replayed in my head at night and helped to soothe me when my mind was in overdrive. And, before long, I wasn't thinking about the birth every day. Just every few days. Then maybe once a week. Then every couple of weeks. Now, it's probably once a month. On that day I cry a lot, I feel angry and sad and I don't want to see anyone, but it's getting easier and I'm trying my best.

Ebony started school and loved it. The first few weeks were tough, she was tired and emotional and so was I after the birth. We clashed and Laurie was there as the voice of reason, making sure we all felt loved and cared for. She missed us when she was at school but she enjoyed her new friendships and learning things. I missed her too, but I enjoyed the quiet time with Ember. We spent most of those first few weeks cuddled up on the sofa while Ebony was at school. 

I started walking, putting Ember in the wrap and walking for miles around my neighbourhood. I love where I live, surrounded by canals and country walks. Ember grew bigger and stronger. She started pushing herself up and leaning out of the wrap as I walked, desperate to see the world around her. The newborn days of her cuddled up on my chest disappeared so quickly. Everything seems to be over sooner this time around. The newborn days, the cluster feeds, the grumpy nights, they don't seem to last so long the second time around. 

Ebony grew up so much in 2016. Our family grew bigger. My heart grew a little bigger. 2016 was a year of change. Ember joining the family has been the most amazing, wonderful thing to happen and I truly couldn't love her more if I tried. But I will always feel sad about she made her entrance into the world, I hope one day I can think of it without crying, but I'm not there yet. I know I am lucky that the difficult start didn't affect bonding, that I was able to fall fast and hard and end up well and truly in love with her in spite of how broken I felt in those early days. 

2016 was mostly amazing, but I'm glad it's behind us now. Here's to 2017. 


Monday, 2 January 2017

Review: Trespass Kids' Coat








Ebony has been wearing the same tan coat since last autumn. It still fits but it’s suffered a few too many grass stains after a summer spent rolling around in the grass with her best friend. It’s a beautiful coat but it has paid the price of belonging to a child like Ebony instead of a well-behaved sit down and smile politely kid. I once heard Ebony shouting me from the bushes. When I got there, I found her dangling from her coat hood from a tree, her feet about a foot off the ground. It is one of my most favourite memories.


Anyway, that tan coat may give me love heart eyes but it is not particularly warm. One day last year, her nursery teacher told me she had been standing in the playground shivering, The teacher thought she might be getting ill, but I knew it was my love of stylish tan coats over sensibile thick coats that was to blame. So, when Trespass asked if we wanted to review a warm coat, I said yes. Obviously.


I considered getting her a thick all-in-one, but I decided a coat would be more practical because she could wear it to school. She spends lunchtime and breaks running wild with her friends at school, so I figured a warm coat would come in handy. I looked through the many girls ski jackets on offer, thinking those would be great for the colder months. Trespass have a good selection of coats and not everything is pink. I eventually settled on this Skylor ski jacket in blue. I’d told Ebony she was getting a new coat and she was really excited when it arrived. There was an unofficial unboxing ceremony, a fashion show, she pulled out all the stops.


At first glance, the coat is good quality. It is well made and looks warm. I love the star design and the bright blue colour. Ebony loves the striped hood and all of the pockets. So many pockets. She keeps a folded up pirate map in the pocket on her forearm. She keeps a collection of coins (mine, no doubt) in the inside pocket and all her tissues and boxes of raisins in the normal pockets. She’s a pocket lover. The hood detaches from the coat which I discovered the morning after it arrived when Ebony sheepishly asked me if I could reattach it.


She’s been wearing the coat daily for a few weeks now and she loves it. It’s warm and snuggly and she loves the colour of it. And the pockets, obviously. She has worn it in the snow and not complained about the cold. It’s windproof so once it’s been zipped up, so it keeps her warm even when the wind is at its worst. I send her into school with a jumper or cardigan on under her coat and she always runs out at 3pm without them.




Thursday, 15 December 2016

10 Perfect Gift Ideas for Vegan Kids



I’ve been collecting Christmas gifts for Ebony and Ember for a few months now. In fact, I think I’ve got pretty much everything I need this year. We don’t go crazy for Christmas. I think there’s a tendency to overspend on things just for the sake of it in modern society. Whilst teenagers may want the latest electronics, younger kids are just as happy with cheaper toys so it seems unnecessary to spend more. I’ve chosen things I know Ebony will love rather than things that cost a lot.

A couple of the things I got for Ebony are vegan-focused so I thought I’d write a post of gift ideas for vegan kids. Ember hasn’t got much for Christmas, just a few little bits to keep the illusion of santa alive for her older sister who would otherwise question why Father Christmas hadn’t bothered bringing toys for the the baby.

If you have a vegan kid to buy for this year, here are a few suggestions for gifts vegan kids will love:

I cannot express in words how great this book is. I actually took photos for a review when I was pregnant but never got round to writing it up because babies. Ebony loves cooking and this is a completely vegan cookbook aimed at kids. She loved picking out a recipe and then making it together. And the recipe she chose was full of healthy ingredients which was pretty pleasing. This book is definitely the perfect gift for the little vegans in your life. You can order it from Amazon for £13.48.

2. Vegan clothing
Ebony has a Sea Shepherd t-shirt I bought her earlier in the year and she loves it. She’s always really proud when she wears it and she makes me read the writing to her over and over again. I ordered this vegan baby vest for Ember this Christmas after seeing it in a vegan parenting group on facebook. I absolutely love the green leafy design. I contacted the company who make them and they made me a matching t-shirt for Ebony too, I cannot wait to see Ebony’s face when she finds out they have matching clothes, she is a great believer in the ‘twinning is winning’ philosophy.

3. Animal adoption
There are a number of vegan sanctuaries in the UK who you can support. I think giving kids charity gifts is a great way to encourage compassion. Kids end up with so much plastic crap at Christmas, a heartfelt charity gift is different and can be extra special. Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk is a reputable vegan sanctuary and they offer adoption memberships for a number of animals. You could adopt an animal for s little as £13, you can see a full list of the animals available for adoption here. You’ll receive a presentation bag with info about the animal and updates throughout the year.

4. Vegan tattoos
My four year old loves a good tattoo. Temporary tattoos are always a big hit so I was really excited to find this set of vegan temporary tattoos. There are two different designs, I went for the sheet of tattoos without swear words (Ebony thinks blah blah blah is a ‘spare word’ at the moment and I’m happy to keep it that way for now). A sheet of vegan temporary tattoos costs £5 and you can order one from Things I Care About. I think these are the perfect stocking fillers for vegan kids this Christmas.

I bought this book for Ebony when she was a lot younger. It’s a simple rhyming book in an abc format that focuses on veganism and I absolutely love it. It’s sweet and simple and positive, which is exactly what vegan children should be. Ruby Roth has a few other books which are also great but most of them seem to be for slightly older children so V is for Vegan is a firm favourite in this house. You can order it from Amazon for £10.26.

Vegan wagon wheels. Game changer. I love vegan wagon wheels. I attend every vegan fair in a 20 mile radius just so I can buy vegan wagon wheels. I’m obsessed. They are so good. Every child needs one, especially at Christmas. They’re made by Ananada Foods and they’re just so tasty. Can you tell I like them? Anyway, they’ve released special Christmas ones this year which you can order from Amazon for £3.20. I will be finding one in my stocking this year, I’ve already had a word with Father Christmas.

7. RSPB membership
Going back to my love of charity gifts, I saw vegan parents discussing their favourite youth memberships and the consensus seemed to be that the RSPB kids membership was best. It’s apparently great at encouraging kids to engage with and enjoy nature. It sounds amazing and I wish I’d found out about it before I finished my Christmas shopping (and spent all my budget) for this year. It’s definitely going on the Christmas gift for less year. Members get free entry at nature reserves across the country which is something Ebony would love too. It’s just £21 a year for one child or £32 for multiple children and, of course, your money goes to an important cause. You can order a youth membership here.

8. Bath bombs
Ebony loves bath bombs so for Christmas this year I bought her a set of vegan bath bombs from Superdrug. In fact, if you’re looking for anything pamper or beauty related, Superdrug is the place to go because they label their products as vegan. Lush is another great place to check out if you’re looking for bath bombs and other luxury pamper treats. Also, check out Soapy Solidarity who make vegan soaps to raise money for an animal charity based in Palestine.

9. Vegan Christmas cards
Ebony treasures her cards as much as she treasures her presents, she has a stash of cards she’s apparently going to keep until she dies. I love these vegan-themed Christmas cards by ForVegans, especially the unicorn one. I cannot express how much Ebony would love the unicorn one, I think the concept of a vegan unicorn would blow her sweet little mind. You can order a set of 6 vegan Christmas cards from ForVegans for £10.99 here.

10. Chocolate coins
It wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolate coins, would it? After years of hoping and wishing and waiting, there is finally something that sort of resembles chocolate coins. They’re not actually coins and they’re not in the gold foil wrappers I remember from my youth, but they’re disc-shaped and wrapped in foil and that’ll do me. I think a few of the supermarkets are selling this year, but I got mine from Tesco. I bought a bag to put in Ebony’s stocking along with a satsuma. I’ve also bought her a chocolate orange bar from ASDA because they taste like Terry’s chocolate orange and I always used to find one of those in my stocking when I was a kid.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Five Ways My Cat Will Sabotage My Perfect Christmas


I’m an animal lover, that goes without saying, right? I was walking down the canal with my mum and dad and we were reminiscing about all the animals we shared our home with when I was growing up. My mum lost track of the names halfway through the conversation and started simply referring to them as ‘the grey rabbit’ or ‘the one that bit me so hard I had to have stitches’. I knew all of the names, of course, partly because I was always an animal lover but mostly because I had to detail their names and physical characteristics so many times in French class that the details are permanently tattooed in my memory.

We had a cat called Tiddles when I was growing up. My mum and sister took him in after the vet told them he’d been found on a back street in the rain. My mum is a sucker for a sob story. You can take any animal to her with a sob story and she will take it in. Maybe not anymore, but certainly in the 90s. Tiddles was still a kitten during his first Christmas with my family. When it came time to decorate the tree, my sister and I went to fetch some tinsel from the tinsel box (1990s Christmas must-have) and found Tiddles lying in it having the time of his life with all the tinsel. Please see the photo evidence at the bottom of this post.

Tiddles is long gone, but now we have a cat called Bear. We got Bear just a couple of weeks after we moved into this house. As the classic saying goes ‘new house, new cat’. She was one of a litter of kittens born to a rescued cat taken in my one of Laurie’s friends. She was the most adorable scrawny black kitten and she used to run manically around the house attacking everything in sight. Ebony adores her, sometimes too much. Ember is yet to notice that she exists. I have actually watched Bear go right up and sniff Ember’s face and still Ember blank stares at nothing. She may be cat-blind.

Anyway, Bear ruins my life. I jest, of course, for she is an animal and I am an animal lover. But sometimes I do worry if she was sent here to break my animal loving spirit. She loves to do all of the things I hate her to do. She has a meow that would make Tabby McTat turn green with envy. And she loves to sit with her anus directly in my face when I am trying to read. Why, Bear, why?

It goes without saying that she will stop at nothing to ruin Christmas for me this year, and here are five ways will go about it:

1. She will eat something she shouldn’t
Bear will eat anything. Anything. Sometimes cat food, but mostly things she finds lying around the house. I once dropped a piece of courgette from a vegetable kebab and she polished it off within minutes. I have caught her eating avocado, lasagna and porridge. I don’t even know how she digests half of the food she steals. And she is never sick. It makes no sense to me. The only thing she won’t eat are Alpro yoghurts, she turns her nose up at those. So, I’m pretty certain she will ruin Christmas by stealing food. She will run into the dining room when I’m not looking and steal a sprout or she’ll finish off the dips when I’m not looking. I don’t yet know what she’s going to eat but I know damn well she’s going to eat something she shouldn’t.

2. She will ignore her Christmas present
The cat has a stocking. This was not my doing, but my mum got it her and it’s currently hanging from the fireplace in the living room. Last year, Ebony was so excited about Bear’s stocking that she neglected her own. The very first presents she opened when we got downstairs on Christmas morning were for the cat. Ebony was so excited that Santa had included Bear but Bear couldn’t give a crap. The Christmas Tree toy, the tinsel balls, she ignored them all. Ebony ran around excitedly trying to get her interested but it didn’t work. And yet, Santa has to keep buying those crappy cat presents because otherwise, people might think he isn’t real.

3. She will break baubles
We have one Christmas decoration for the cat. A single bell hung on a low branch. She can play with this all day every day and nobody will bat an eyelid. Of course, she doesn’t. She totally ignores it. Instead, she attacks all the other baubles. Especially the breakable ones, they’re her favourite. As I type this, I can see five Christmas tree decorations on the floor.

4. She Will Wake Us Up
I cannot explain how loudly Bear meows, but it’s definitely louder than a pneumatic drill. Way louder, in fact. She definitely wakes the neighbours on the rare occasions that Ebony hasn’t gotten in their first. She meows deafeningly loud to come in. Unless she’s in, then she meows deafeningly loud to go out. Or for food. Or because somebody (her) pooped in her litter tray. Or just because she likes to play torturous mind games to drive me insane. She will wake Ebony up on Christmas day long before the excitement has a chance to.

5. She will sleep on the stocking
Bear loves to sleep in places I don’t want her to sleep. This week, she is sleeping on the changing table. Admittedly, I find this hilarious. But it is not so funny when I am one-handedly trying to deal with a poop explosion whilst trying to shoo the cat down from the changing mat. She likes to sleep on my coat when I am running late to leave the house. She likes to sleep on a pile of Ebony’s clean but unironed uniform on Monday mornings when I am mid-breakdown about being late. You need it, she’ll sleep on it. So it goes without saying that on Christmas Eve when I drunkenly sneak into Ebony’s bedroom to be Father Christmas, she will be sprawled out fast asleep on the stocking at the end of Ebony’s bed and that if I disturb her she will meow so loudly she wakes Ebony up.

Will your cat be ruining Christmas for you this year?




This post is a collaboration with WHISKAS®, but all thoughts and cat-related nightmares are my own. Check out their website for more information on their cat food and their YouTube channel for their fantastic Kitten Kollege videos.

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