Friday, 25 November 2016

The Asbestos Hiding in my Home



As the colder weather is drawing in and the darker evenings are forcing us to spend more time indoors, I’ve been looking around the house for things to change. Perhaps it’s being home with a baby all day, but I’ve been noticing unfinished DIY jobs that need sorting. This will be our first Christmas in the new living room and that’s not massively exciting to the rest of the world, but I’m looking forward to being able to take some nice photos of Ebony opening presents on Christmas morning.

We didn’t really plan to decorate this room, we just sort of ended up half doing it whilst we were in the midst of lots of DIY earlier in the year. We stripped, sanded and varnished the floors, painted the walls and painted the fireplace. But we didn’t do the room properly. This whole house got intensively abused at some point during the 1980s and the living room seems to have suffered the most. There is an artex ceiling, fake arches in the alcoves and strip lighting hiding in the fake arches. It’s, erm, interesting.

I would have loved to have rid the room of archways. We did manage to take one out when we decorated the kitchen. They seem to be made of chicken wire (probably not the official jargon) and just moulded into an arch shape then plastered over. Lovely. The final two archways had to stay because the artex ceiling is attached to them. If we took the arches out, we’d also have to remove the ceiling and then get it all replastered. Obviously, this definitely needs doing but we didn’t have the budget to do it this year.

The artex ceiling has probably been in place for a while so I suspect there’s a chance it was made using asbestos. If it was, it’s not a diy job we can do ourselves. Asbestos is a nasty thing which can cause a cancer called mesothelioma. Asbestos particles released into the air are pretty much invisible to the naked eye but, if inhaled, can cause this deadly disease. For this reason, it’s important to have asbestos specialists handle any potentially risky jobs in the home. And that can be really expensive which is why we decided not to proceed with the removal of the ceiling at this time. We’d have to get the artex tested by a specialist and, if it was found to contain asbestos, it would be costly to get specialists in to remove it.

If you want to find out more about the risks of asbestos in your home, take a look at this guide produced by Slater & Gordon who specialise in mesothelioma claims. Asbestos was popular until the late 1990s, so it could be lurking in your house. It’s totally safe until disturbed, so you don’t need to get rid of it just because it’s there, but you do need to be mindful of it when embarking on DIY, especially if you live in an older house. This is one cost we didn’t really consider when moving into the house, but it’s something I would be wary of in the future.


This is a collaborative post.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Babywearing in Cold Weather



Now that Ebony is in school full-time, the weekends feel really precious. It feels like a rare treat for us to get to spend time as a complete family unit because the weeks feel so hectic with everybody doing their own thing (for me, hectic might be a bit of a stretch because I am mostly sat watching Gilmore Girls). We’ve been trying to have a family day out each weekend so we get to do something different and make the most of our quality time.

We’ve been to Gulliver’s World, to a grow your own pumpkin farm and Blackpool illuminations. We’ve also tried to include some cheaper options to stop us bankrupting ourselves, so we’ve also been going on plenty of walks. We have a National Trust membership so we’ve been to a few walks at the properties near where we live, but we’ve also explored some other country walks.

One weekend I was hoping to go to Dunham Massey, but we forgot our National Trust cards so ended up at the Roman Lakes in Marple. The Roman Lakes are really beautiful and there’s lots of wildlife so it’s the perfect place for a walk in summer. In autumn, not so much. It was basically a giant bog. At one point I thought I was going to be swallowed up into the mud never to be seen again. Ebony ended up covered in mud. And Laurie regretted not wearing wellies.

I’m pretty much living in my wellies at the moment, I spend a lot of time walking and everywhere is muddy thanks to all the rain. I’m also still trying to work out what are the best things to wear for babywearing now that the weather is cold. Simply Be got in touch to see whether I’d like to try out some of their winter wear, so, of course, I said yes. I chose a simple black duffle coat from their selection of women’s coats. It’s usually pretty hard to find vegan winter coats (who doesn’t love to eat a bit of coat?), but Simply Be had a good selection. Frustratingly, most coats seem to only be able 4% wool (why bother?), but since a lot of wool comes from slaughterhouses, I’d rather find coats that don’t have any in.

The coat is perfect for the school run. It’s really warm and big enough that I can still fasten the bottom of it even when Ember is in the wrap. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have gone for a black coat because it does end up covered in baby slobber a lot of the time. I also chose a black and white stripy jumper from their women’s jumpers selection. I find that jumpers can become too warm when I’m out walking whilst babywearing and it’s actually harder to tighten the sling if I’m wearing knitwear (why?), so I don’t wear jumpers out of the house too often. I tend to either wear a three-quarter length top or a t-shirt with a cardigan over the top. This works well because the cardigan can go over the wrap so I don’t worry about the wrap being too loose although I do have to worry about looking like a dickhead when I forget my cardigan is on over the top and start trying to take the wrap off. Babywearing problems.

What do you wear when babywearing in winter?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

5 Things I Love About My Home



That title is a bit misleading actually, because if you look at the official paperwork, this home is most definitely Laurie’s. When we bought this house, I only had one year’s proof of income. Getting a mortgage as a self-employed person is complicated. You need to have your official HMRC statement thing as proof of earnings and even though I’d been self-employed for about two years when we bought the house, I only had a statement for the first financial year. And in that year, I’d only registered as self-employed about two weeks before the end of the tax year and so my statement showed I had made a whopping £200.

Unsurprisingly, the bank wasn’t overly keen on the idea of giving me a mortgage and actually suggested leaving me off the documents because simply being on there was reducing the amount we could borrow. Way to boost my business woman ego, guys. Whether I’m on the mortgage listing or not, however, this is my home and I love that it’s ours. Here are five things I love about owning my own home (even though I don’t technically own it: see above):

1. It’s cheaper
The world has actually gone crazy. It’s way cheaper for us to have a mortgage on this house than it would be to rent this house. I think this house would cost a few hundred more each month if we were paying a landlord instead of a mortgage. Isn’t that crazy? How is anybody meant to save for a deposit when renting costs to much? I think it’s ridiculous. I hate this culture we have over here where it has become pretty much impossible for young people to buy houses. It’s even worse when you think about how the people renting are worse off simply because rental prices are so high.

2. The damp
Over the years, I have lived in five rental homes. Every single one of them had damp issues. The last house I lived in, a rental in Oxford, was pretty much made of water because it was so damp. We used to get the biggest spiders ever, I’m pretty sure they love the damp. A lot of houses suffer from, especially old houses and this house was actually pretty damp when we bought it. As soon as we moved in we had a damp proof course put in, fixed some structural issues and re-rendered the exterior. When you live in a HomeLet, you have no control over the situation. I’m pretty sure every landlord I’ve ever had said all damp issues were caused by condensation. Erm, no.

3. I can decorate
When we moved in, this house looked like a standard rental home. Everything was magnolia and the floors were carpeted in a cheap brown resilient carpet. Some of the house is still like that, but we have been able to decorate some rooms since we moved in. I hate the magnolia so am slowly painting the whole house white (why always white? I’ve no idea. I must lack imagination). We’ve put a lot of work into the house so far. I can’t count how many hours Laurie spent stripping and sanding the floorboards in the living room, but we really would never have gone to such effort if we didn’t own the house. In fact, after all the work Laurie put in on the floor, I’m pretty sure he’ll want to live here until he dies.

4. Living with the little things
If this was a rented house, there are certain things that would be driving me crazy. The unfinished panel to cover the pipes in the downstairs bathroom, the ramshackle conservatory at the back and the face you can’t get into the small loft. These things would annoy me so much if I was waiting for a landlord to sort them out. But, as it is, I have to sort them out myself (or get my dad to) and so I’m not in such rush. Who can be bothered sorting the loft out, really? Not a landlord and not me either.

5. Security
Life is never certain, but I do feel that there is some level of safety in owning your own home. Obviously, there is a mortgage to pay and so it’s not entirely ours, but we’re not at the whim of a landlord. I would hate to find out our landlord was selling and so we would have to find a new place to live. And I’d hate for a landlord to put the rent up and price us out of our own home. I don’t think you can really get attached to something that isn’t yours, which is one reason I love that this house is ours.

This is a collaborative post.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

10 Things I've Learnt Since Having My Second Baby



The past 12 weeks have been a time of a learning. I have learnt shitloads. I’m now an expert in having an almost five years old and a new baby. Everything beyond that is unknown territory, of course, but if I should ever be confronted with an almost five year old and a new baby again, I’d know exactly what to do. Here are some things I’ve learnt since embarking on this whole mother-of-two thing all those weeks ago:

1. It doesn’t matter how much you plan, the baby will fuck it up
My baby was going to arrive promptly halfway through the summer holidays. The timing would be perfect, giving me a couple of weeks to cherish having her big sister all to myself and then allowing for plenty of family bonding time before school started. I’m not a fool, I know you can’t plan these things to the letter and that is why I allowed a flexibility of up to three days either side of my due date. And then the baby didn’t arrive. Like, at all. For weeks. She totally didn’t get the memo about her due date. And she screwed up my summer holiday plans as a result.

2. It doesn’t matter how much you prepare, you will fuck it up
My first born definitely absolutely wasn’t going to feel left out at all when the new baby arrived. I had it all planned. She was going to continue to feel loved and nurtured and important even when I was busy pushing the new baby out. I had planned for it. I had read shitloads of books preparing Ebony for becoming a big sister. I’d warned her about how often babies feed. I’d bought her a Special Box Of Things To Keep Her Occupied so that she wouldn’t be bored. And her dad had taken four weeks off work so he could be there to help with the transition.

The only thing was, I’d forgotten how much your fanny hurts after having a baby. I spent the first three weeks after the birth trying not to walk/cry/move. I snapped a lot. I cried a lot. I walked a lot like John Wayne. I had no patience. I mostly sat on the sofa obsessively watching One Born Every Minute whilst sobbing out my medicalised birth and popping arnica pills like there was no tomorrow. I wasn’t the happy loving peaceful earth mama I had envisaged myself being. And nothing makes a four year old feel rejected quite like her mama being replaced by a pill popping weepy hormonal bleeding mess who nobody can go near for fear of the rage.

3. There are too many different types of sanitary towels
When you’ve recently had a baby, you need all the underwear protection you can get your hands on. You need cupboards stocked with maternity pads and sanitary towels and you will need enough to last you for weeks. This sounds easy enough, but actually, it’s not. I would send Laurie off to do some shopping and would ask him to pick up some sanitary towels. Which ones? Just normal ones, I would say. It took me a while to realise that Laurie does not know what this means. I now have an impressive selection of all the wrong sanitary towels. I had freakishly long ones (why are they so long, I don’t understand how anyone’s undercarriage can stretch so far), horrendously scented ones (It is bad enough down there post-birth without adding in an offensively floral smell) and incredibly thin ones (please, I AM DOING ALL THE BLEEDING, wafer thin goods will not suffice).

4. It doesn’t matter how much time your husband takes off work, they still want you
I wish I’d known this before because this is truly one of my biggest regrets at the moment (apart from the whole agreeing to go in to be monitored at 40+12 but that’s a whole other story…). Laurie had three weeks off after the birth, it should have been four but he ended up having to use one week whilst I was living it up in hospital. It was amazing having him around. He made me huge salads filled with all kinds of goodness, kept my sparkling water topped up and icy cold and he spoke to many pharmacists about how sore my fanny was (who else would do such things, really). And he was there to look after Ebony. I focused on the baby and he focused on the surprisingly giant child we had (she’s actually tiny, but seemed huge when I got home from the hospital).

He comforted her in the night, he read stories to her, he played with her. He did it all. And I did nothing. I thought it was easier that way. It was, for me, I guess. But it wasn’t for her. I should have made more of an effort to make time for her. I should have made sure we had some time just the two of us every single day. But I didn’t, because I didn’t think to. I was too tired and too raw and too emotional. I wasn’t thinking about anything but that. She absolutely loved having Laurie’s attention all to herself, but I think life would have been a bit easier if I’d carved out some time to spend with her, too.

5. Everything is easier the second time
If anxious first-time mother me from five years ago could see totally relaxed second-time mother me from now, she’d wonder what the hell I was playing it. Why aren’t I googling every single worry that runs through my head? Why aren’t I obsessively checking the temperature of my baby because she feels slightly warm? Why aren’t I making myself sick with worry about everything? Because I don’t give a crap. I am so much more relaxed this time. It’s a completely different experience. Life is so much easier when Google isn’t constantly filling your mind with worst-case scenarios. I’m just trusting my gut because I already know I can do this.

6. Dinnertime is hell on earth
Take one exhausted-from-school-hangry-four-year-old and throw an overstimulated-hungry-tired-clingy-baby into the mix and you have got every single 5pm of my life for the first two months of Ember’s life. Holy shit. I either had Ember screaming the house down because she was desperate to be held or I had Ebony kicking off because she was GOING TO DIE OF HUNGER RIGHT NOW. And then there was all the crying, from me, obviously. The bouncy chair appeases no-one, even the sling didn’t help some days. It was terrible, truly terrible. I began to wonder why we can’t just all buy space food and be done with it. But then, as Ember became more alert, things got a little easier. All of a sudden she was happy watching her big sister and her big sister was happy being the entertainer. Now I can cook in peace.

7. There is still plenty of mother guilt
Everything is easier the second time, apart from the guilt. That’s the same. With Ebony, I had a whole list of bizarre and unimportant things I felt guilty about. This time, it’s the crying. Ember cries more than her big sister ever did because she’s not the only person I have to look after. With Ebony, I would happily skip meals and comfort and sleep if it meant she was happy. But this time around, well, I have to make sure her big sister is fed and comfortable and happy and, unfortunately, sometimes that means Ember cries for a little longer than I would like. And it means I get to have crying in my ear for extended periods which is just so much fun.

8. It’s easy to wake a sleeping baby
I would never have woken Ebony up from a nap. Never ever. My world revolved around her and her every whim. This poor second child is dragged out of bed every morning. I wake her up two minutes before we leave the house. She goes from the warm cocoon of the bed to the harsh weather outside the front door within minutes of opening her eyes. And she just has to put up with it because there is no other way of me getting Ebony to school on time. Well, not on time, but, you know, before they lock the gates. On time-ish.

9. There is nothing nicer than watching their bond develop
At first, I think Ebony loved her sister because she knew she was meant to. She cried when she started school because she said she missed Ember so much. My mum gently told me that what she actually meant was that she missed me, not Ember. When visitors came to visit, she would play up the big sister thing for attention. She would give lots of kisses so people would remark on what a lovely big sister she was. But as Ember is growing older and more alert, they are developing a strong bond. Ember loves her big sister so much, she always gives her the biggest smile when she sees her. It’s lovely to see. And Ebony seems to enjoy having a baby sister. She loves having a captive audience for her incredibly long shows and having someone she can blame for trumps.

10. The days go way quicker when they’re broken up by the school run
When Ebony was a baby, the days were long. I can remember I would sometimes count down the hours until Laurie got home from work. If he was running late, it felt unbearable. We went to groups, met friends, went for walks, had lunch out… but the days still felt long. This time around, they feel painfully short. We get up early to get Ebony to school on time, we have time to see friends, go to groups or get things done and then it’s time to dash back to school for Ebony. And those last few hours before Ebony goes to bed are easy because Ember loves nothing more than watching her big sister storm around the house leaving chaos in her wake.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Fourth Trimester



I don’t feel like I have much time to sit down and write these days. Or even much time to think. When Ebony was little, I would spend hours thinking about what motherhood meant to me and then I would eventually find the time to sit down and type it all out. I just don’t seem to do that anymore and, as a result, I worry that I’m failing to note down these early months of Ember’s life. Ebony doesn’t have much in the way of a baby book, but at least she’ll be able to read about her early life thanks to the stuff I have noted down here. Ember will have no such luck.

I can’t believe she’s already 12 weeks old (is she?). She’s been here for almost three months though it already feels much longer. In one sense, I fear she is growing up too fast and changing daily. And then at the same time, she has always been here for as long as I can remember. And now she has woken up, as she often does when I sit down to type. She’s leaning back in the sling, reaching up to smile at me, chewing on her fingers. She found her thumb last week and now she often drags her slobbery hand across her face, covering herself in drool, desperately waiting for her thumb t magically slip into her open mouth so she can start sucking loudly.

She can use her hands now, she reaches up to bat her toys and grabs for things that take her interest. She takes great pleasure from pushing away my phone during feeds. This newfound ability to grab, to shove, to hold comes in useful when I have things to do. For the first time since was born, she is now happy to be by herself for a little while. I can pop her in the bouncy chair or under her wooden play gym and she will be content for a few minutes. I can sort the washing out (or more likely put it on again because I didn’t manage to empty the machine the day before), clean the kitchen or bash out a few hundred words before she starts to whimper. I guess this means that the fourth trimester is coming to an end.

I know some mums simply tolerate the fourth trimester, that three month period where all your baby wants is you. Those early days where you are stuck on the sofa breastfeeding, holding your baby close and constantly being needed. It’s not always easy, sometimes I long for just ten minutes of not being touched so I can relax. But these are my favourite days, this extra trimester where your baby is on the outside. I know I will miss it when it’s gone. Don’t get me wrong, I love those extra minutes of freedom each day so I can sort things out. But this marks the end of the newborn days for me.

Ember is alert know, I can see her brain ticking over as she looks around the room. She’s not just working on eating, sleeping and growing bigger anymore. She’s starting to want more, she’s reaching out to touch the world and taking it all in, and I know the exhausting part is coming. I know the four-month sleep regression is just around the corner and I am dreading it. Ebony slept so well for those first four months and then bam, the four-month sleep regression, I’m not sure she’s slept since.

I feel like I’m coping really well. I’m getting two kids out of the door almost on time every morning, I’m making my big girl healthy dinners she enjoys, I’m managing to do the odd bit of work, I’m staying in touch with friends, I’m going to groups. I feel like myself. I don’t have the intense brain fog I did with Ebony, I’m still me. But I worry all that will change with the four-month sleep regression. I dread that intense tiredness that makes your teeth hurt and renders you unable to make conversation. And the fact that if that happens, I’ll still have to do the school run in the morning. There will be no sleeping till 10:30am like there was last time.


But, for now, I will focus on enjoying the sleep while I can. I will treasure every time she falls asleep in my arms. And I will use this time to watch Gilmore Girls because it makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I will soak up each and every minute of having a baby because I know it will be over only too soon. I can already imagine Ember as a toddler, I can envision sending her off on her first day of school, I can hear her telling me about school. I’ve taken all those steps before with her big sister and so I know just how soon they will be upon us. And this little (big) girl, she already seems so much more intent on growing up than her big sister ever was.

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