Monday, 27 February 2017

Making The Most of a Small Bathroom


Our bathroom is tiny. Like, really small. I loved the house so much when we looked around that I convinced myself it was ‘just normal size’ and that we had been spoilt by our bathroom at the old house which was big. But, erm, no, it’s just small. It makes me miss the old bathroom, though the rest of the house makes up for it (apart from the conservatory which is terrible).
When we did work on the house last year, we made a couple of small changes to the bathroom to try and maximise the space. It has made a huge difference, it’s still a small room but it feels less claustrophobic now. Here are a few tried and tested tips for making the most out of a small bathroom:
  1. Invest in a clever shower screen
    When we moved in, the shower screen was a huge rectangle of glass that jutted out up to the toilet and meant you had to contort your naked body into crazy shapes just to try and step in the shower without falling over the toilet. It was most annoying. We replaced it with a glass screen that folds away when not in use. It has made the room feel much more open and has made a huge difference to how big the room feels as you walk in.

  2. Choose space-saving items
    If you don’t have much in the way of space, it’s important to choose items that will work in the room. I learnt this lesson the hard way when I had to fit two giant sofas into a rental house. Our bath isn’t full-size, it is plenty big (unless you’re nine months pregnant and then it’s a bit of a squeeze) but a little smaller than your average bath. Measure your room and take a look at the baths on offer at Better Bathrooms to see what would work in your bathroom.

  3. Create some storage space
    Bathrooms are full of bottles and toilet rolls and towels, so it’s important to have some storage space available to minimise clutter. Last summer, we changed the sink for a vanity unit which has two huge drawers underneath it. It’s a lot wider than our old sink so I was worried that it might make the room feel smaller but it hasn’t at all. And the drawers hide all our clutter perfectly.

  4. Let there be light
    A light room is a bigger room, that’s what I say. We’re not responsible for any of the light in the bathroom, but there’s a big window and four spotlights and they help to make the room feel less tiny. Choosing a light coloured suite can also add light to the room.

  5. Think about layout
    We didn’t do this because we only added a few bits to the existing bathroom. If we had the money to completely redo it, I would have ripped everything out and gotten rid of the beige tiles that line the walls and floors. I hate those beige tiles. I want a white bathroom (but not enough to tile a whole bathroom, no matter how small it might be). Sob. If we could start from scratch, I would definitely change the layout of the room to try and create a better flow.

This is a collaborative post.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Breastfeeding-Friendly Outfits




Clothes cause me no end of stress. I wish that wasn't true, but it is. I never know what to wear and I hate trying to find clothes I like. Shopping is the worst. I have a wardrobe full of dresses but most of them are no good now that I'm breastfeeding again. I am a big fan of the vest under top breastfeeding hack, I think breastfeeding clothes are a total waste of money. I don't want to spend £80 on a dress I'm only going to need to wear for a short amount of time. When Ebony was a baby, I was a big fan of the milkchic website and often used it to find breastfeeding-friendly dresses. 

This time around, it's a lot simpler. Ember doesn't feed for anywhere near as long as Ebony did (I was basically always feeding Ebony) so I worry less about feeding her in public. I have made sure, however, that I have a few outfit options I like so that I do have clothes I can breastfeed in. For me, that means wrap dresses and button down shirts. They make it so easy to whip a boob out and feed a baby without worrying about people seeing. 

JD Williams got in touch to see if I'd like to try out some of their clothes so I decided to use the opportunity to get a few breastfeeding pieces for my wardrobe. I decided to get a shirt to wear with my trusty black jeans (actually not that trustworthy because they suspiciously disappeared over Christmas so I had to buy another pair) from their selection of blouses. I chose this chambray print shirt and I love it. 

I wanted to get a couple of dresses because I don't really have many that are ok for breastfeeding in. I chose this wrap tea dress to wear to my Granny's 97th birthday meal. I figured a wrap dress would be easy to feed in though I have since discovered it is also easy for a hungry baby to whip your boob out without warning so, you know, swings and roundabouts. I wanted a casual dress too so I chose this denim dress which I think will be perfect for spring. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Playroom Inspiration





1. Melissa & Doug Puppet Theatre £59.99 from Amazon 
I had my eye on this for Christmas but in the end decided it would take up too much space. Ebony would absolutely love it though. I have a homemade one when I was little. So homemade that it would quite often collapse on me mid-performance, but I loved it. 

I always love the look of blackboard walls in playrooms, but I find that chalk creates a lot of dust and can be quite messy. I think a whiteboard wall would be just as much fun and wouldn't create so much mess. It would also keep the room light and bright which I think it important in a playroom. 

3. Marietorp Frame £12 from Ikea
There's a big white wall in the playroom that would benefit from a bit of colour. I love the idea of framing Ebony's artwork to put on display. We currently have a noticeboard above the fireplace but it looks a little untidy and there's so much 'art' on there that nothing stands out. Ideally, I'd buy about six of these big frames and then frame some of her pictures. It would be easy to freshen up the room then too by simply changing the pictures. I'm hoping to get around to this at some point soon because I think it would look amazing.  

4. Berlingot Child's Desk £90 from Maisons Du Monde 
The other day, Ebony said to me, "Mummy, can I have a desk one day? Please?" Poor child. She has a table, but this is not the same, so now she wants a desk. I love the colours on this one from Maisons Du Monde.

5. Indoor Climbing Frame £105.99 from Amazon
We definitely don't have the room for this, but how amazing would this be! I find we don't use the garden much during the winter and it's easy to end up with cabin fever during rainy school holidays, but this would definitely solve that. 

6. Grimm's Rainbow £59.89 from Amazon
I always wanted a little one of these when Ebony was little, but I love the look of this big one even more. It would look great in the playroom but also I think the girls would be able to find lots of inventive ways of playing with it. 

The playroom is usually a mess. It is full of toys and dressing up outfits and craft things and all of these end up strewn across the floor. I have spent way too much of my mothering years tidying it or trying to cajole Ebony into tidying it. It seems, however, that five might just be the magic number. Five-year-olds, it seems, can actually keep their playrooms tidy. I never thought I would see the day. 

Ebony is obsessed with the idea of having friends over (without their parents. She hates when I'm friends with the parents) or going to other people's houses All By Herself. So, two weeks ago I made a deal with her. If she could keep her playroom tidy for a week, we could invite a friend round after school. I didn't think she'd manage it, but she did. Every evening before bed she took me into the playroom so I could see it was still tidy. Everything she played with was put away neatly before bedtime. So we invited her friend round. Ebony managed to keep the playroom tidy in the four days leading up to that as well, much to my amazement. 

The day of playing was yesterday. Her friend came after school, Ebony was so excited that had there been walls lining the way home from school she would have been bouncing off them. They played dress up, they played sisters (this is a game, apparently), they giggled, they whispered, they had a ball. And when her friend left, Ebony immediately started tidying up the room again (so she can 'have another friend around next week too'). 

So, there you have it. The playroom that has been the bane of my life for all of these years is now the tidiest room in the house. I need to up my tidying game before she realises and goes on strike on account of the fact that my office looks like a bomb has hit. 

Now that the room is tidy, I've been thinking of ways to make it nicer. It's not exactly easy to make a playroom look pretty. Some of the toys are big and bulky and take up too much space. We have shelves in the alcoves on either side of the fireplace and these are filled with toys, so that makes it look a little neater than it would otherwise. 

My dad made Ebony a storage rail for her dressing up clothes. It's big and pink and filled with all the outfits and accessories a girl could need. She loves dressing up and putting on shows. There's a bay window in the playroom and I keep thinking that if I hung some red fabric across it, we could make it into a makeshift stage. But then I'd have to watch even more shows so I'm not sure that's the best idea. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Life With Two Kids





I've had two kids for five whole months now, so I'm pretty much an expert on all things related to double numbers. Of course, these have probably been the easiest months. My friend warned me the other day that shit was about to get real (I'm paraphrasing) and that my life will be infinitely harder once Ember is on the move. And I'm sure she's right, but for now, things feel pretty perfect. 

The most difficult part for me was those first few weeks. The weeks when you're too sore to play, too emotional to be patient and too tired to think carefully about how you're parenting. Once we got over those hellish first weeks (made particularly hellish by the start of school and the cataclysm of emotions there), things were easier. 

Since then, things have been good. Ebony is a better big sister than I imagined possible. She is so loving and sweet and helpful. She keeps an eye on her sister for me so I can do exciting things like shower or put a load of washing on. She sings to her when she cries, she makes her laugh and she chats away to her after school every day. To say Ember loves her would be an understatement. Ebony always gets the biggest smiles. Ember cranes out of the wrap now as we walk along because she's desperate to see what her big sister is up to. Ebony is already talking about getting bunkbeds so they can share a room when Ember is bigger. Imagine how much room there would be in my bed then! 

I think the big age gap has been perfect for us. It means Ebony is big enough that she doesn't feel jealous or left out and any issues she does have can be discussed whereas a younger child may struggle to find the words. It also means I am free to enjoy having a baby all day while Ebony is in school. This is probably the best part of it for me, the lazy cuddles on the sofa when it's just the two of us in the house. It contrasts strongly with the chaos of after school when Ebony is dancing around the room while Ember chatters away at her. 

Ember is five months old now. I'm starting to think ahead to weaning her next month. Ebony is excited about being able to share meals with her little sister. I am dreading the mess. I remember with Ebony I was so excited to finally give her solid food. This time around I'm more like ach, already? But the mess! Sob. I know my white walls won't stay white for very long. Ebony only stopped leaving pasta handprints on them about 18 months ago and now there will be a fresh splatter of tomato sauce in her place. 

Sleepwise, we're doing ok, though I hate saying that out loud in case it jinxes things. I'm pretty sure Ebony is still the one keeping me awake. Ember feeds in the night but cosleeping means this is easy and I don't often notice it happening (it's a help yourself affair in this house). My Fitbit tells me I'm getting between 6 and 7 hours sleep a night which isn't too bad. Admittedly, it's spread over about 10 hours in bed but I can handle that, it's only short-term. 

I'm finding everything to be much easier the second time around. I'm not exhausted and I know it won't last forever. I'm embracing early nights and getting as much sleep as possible, last time I would have been staying up late because THIS IS MY LIFE, but this time I know it's not, it's just a short window of time. 

The biggest shock has been how quickly the weeks are flying by. It is crazy to me that I have a five-month-old, it really doesn't feel that long ago that my fanny hurt like hell. Can it really have been five months? Surely not. I don't know whether it's the routine of school, the calm of being a second-time mum or simply the fact I know what I'm doing, but the weeks are disappearing at an alarming rate. 

Writing is proving more difficult than I expected. I had forgotten the unpredictability of naps. How long they last, whether they happen at all. Some days, I can sit down and write 2000 words while Ember sleeps peacefully upstairs. Other days, I manage just a sentence before I hear her stir over the baby monitor. Snatches of time, that is all. 

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. 

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