Friday, 29 January 2016

7 Reasons Why I Shop Online Now I'm a Parent



I am a fan of the occasional shopping trip to buy clothes, makeup or Christmas presents. It’s nice to make a day of it, start with lunch and end with cocktails, and spend the day with someone I love. It’s not something I like to do with Ebony in tow, however. Trying to enjoy a day of shopping with a small child is, quite frankly, ridiculous. It is destined to end in tears for everyone involved. For this reason, I have embraced the wonder of online shopping. It’s just so much easier when new things appear by magic. I love not having to leave the house, especially in this weather. Here are seven reasons why online shopping is the way forwards for parents:

1. There is no extortionate Peppa Pig car ride
It is physically impossible to guide a child aged between two and four years of age past that stupid Peppa Pig car. They just need to go on it. Peppa Pig cars are like crack for preschoolers. The flashing lights, the obnoxiously loud music, the repetitive rocking mechanism that makes onlookers want to kill themselves… it lures them in. They are drawn to the Peppa Pig car ride. The Peppa Pig car ride signals the end of your day. You have two choices, either you spend all your shopping budget on the damn thing or you say no and rush straight home to list your child on eBay. Well, which is it?

2. Can eat crisp butties
When I’m shopping online, it’s totally ok for me to wear pyjamas and eat crisp butties. This is not ok in Manchester. Well, probably you could get away with the pyjamas, but the crisp butty would be pushing it. I always include lunch in a shopping trip, and for a small child, Ebony costs a ridiculous amount to feed. We might go for pizza or falafel or a burger, but it always ends up costing more than I expected. Online shopping is a good way of avoiding the extra cost of eating out.

3. Ebony can’t hide in the clothes rail
When you’re shopping online, you can be wherever you want to be. I suggest, in the comfort of your own home, surrounded by toys to distract your child. You do not have these luxuries when you are shopping in real life. In real life shops, there are no toys, unless you are in a toy shop which you shouldn’t be because this is a shopping trip for you. Your child will use their ‘wonderful imagination’ to create their own games. These games will mostly consist of hiding inside circular clothes rails whilst you run frantically round the shop trying to find them. One shopping trip in a busy city will age you approximately five years. Shop online, it’s better for your mental health.

4. Can use discount codes
Discount codes are the best, aren’t they? Everytime I buy something online, I do a quick search to see if there are any valid discount codes available. If you’re shopping at JCPenney, for example, simply search for JCPenney discount codes and you should be able to see if there are any working codes available. It only takes a few minutes and can save you a decent amount off your purchase. This is something that can only be done online, I would never walk into an actual shop and ask the shop assistant if I could get a discount, but it’s totally not embarrassing to do online.

5. Don’t have to make diversions
Any parent will tell you that certain shops have to be avoided at all cost. For me, it’s the Disney shop. I physically cannot drag my daughter past that damn shop. The ridiculously huge eyes of the princess hypnotise her into a consumer-trance and she gravitates towards the shop. Once in there, she will touch each and every single thing on sale asking if she can have it. After 45 minutes of extreme product touching, I invariably agree she can have something. I then spend another 20 minutes trying desperately to find the cheapest thing in the shop. Guess what? It’s an Inside Out toothpick and it costs £15. Great.

6. No snacks needed
Probably about 80% of my income goes on snacks. Ebony could happily snack all day long. She loves fruit, she loves crackers and hummus, she loves raisins, she loves gingerbread men, she loves falafel. She loves all the food. Everytime I take her into Manchester, I spend a fortune on snacks. Also, I am then forced to carry around half eaten snacks for the rest of the day. This does not happen at home when I am shopping online.

7. No distractions
Online shopping happens at one shop. You pick your shop, but your stuff in the basket, pay for it and move on with your life. You go straight to the shop website by searching for it on Google, you aren’t forced to walk past hundreds of other shops on the way there. This is always my downfall with real life shopping. I physically cannot walk past shops. I must go in. What if they have that thing I want? What thing? Pah, there was no thing, I tricked you and now look, I’ve bought another skirt ha. Evil high street.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

A Little News



I have a little news to share today, I’m pregnant. I’ve just got home from the dating scan, and this baby will be born sometime around the 10 August. Estimated due dates are, obviously, a load of wank, but even though I know this, I’ll be expecting the baby to arrive promptly three days late just like Ebony did.

Even though this pregnancy is already really different to my last, I can’t help but imagine everything being exactly the same as it was last time. It’s hard to think of the baby as anything other than Ebony (sorry, new baby), my imagination is so hindered by the four year sleep debt that I’ve accrued that I simply can’t think outside the box anymore, apparently.

Ebony came to the scan with us. My dad kept her busy in the waiting room until we knew everything was ok, and then Laurie went to get her. She seemed pretty fascinated by the ultrasound probe, but told me later that she was disappointed she didn’t get to see the gel going on.

When we went to Ebony’s scan, I was only about ten and a half weeks pregnant and it’s crazy how much of a difference that week and a half made. This baby looked a little bit more like a baby and a little less like an alien (sorry, Ebony) and was moving around a lot. The ultrasound scan seemed to be over in minutes and didn’t feel as scary as it did last time. As soon as I knew there was a baby and a heartbeat, I felt like I could just relax and enjoy seeing the baby.

We decided not to have the nuchal translucency test, so the whole appointment didn’t take very long at all. Ebony wanted a photograph of the baby to keep for herself, so we got an extra one printed out. It seems to be printed on the thinnest paper imaginable so I can’t imagine it will last very long in Ebony’s care.

I’ve been writing weekly updates throughout the pregnancy, so will upload those over the next week or so. I want to say next few days, but all I do at the moment is sleep, throw up and moan so it might actually take me a while to get around to doing it.

Ebony is really excited to be a big sister. After initially being set upon a little sister, I think we’ve managed to convince her that boys and girls are the same, so it doesn’t make any difference what sex the baby is (I obviously don’t really believe this because I like tiny newborn dresses, but it’s important to set a good example).

The baby should hopefully arrive about a month before Ebony starts school, which I think is pretty good timing. Laurie is planning to take a month off work so hopefully that will allow for a smooth transition from a family of three to a family of four. Four! Holy crap.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Pregnancy Update: Week 11



By this time with Ebony, I’d already had my scan. We already had the photo of a baby in my tummy, the one we proudly sent round to our friends and family members to announce the news. This time, we’ve already announced the news but are still waiting for the scan. It seems to be taking forever.

This week has been pretty crap. I have been being sick constantly, generally feeling rubbish and constantly needing sleep. Ebony managed to catch a sickness bug from somewhere which meant there was two of us fighting to throw up in the toilet. The only upside to having a child with a sickness bug is that they sleep a lot, so we managed to steal quite a few naps together while she was off nursery.

She was off nursery for four days and, during that time, I had zero energy. This was fine at the start of the week because she was poorly, so we lounged around complaining of our ailments together and bemoaning the fact that nobody was looking after us. We did only what we needed to to survive, had plenty of baths and slept often. But for the last two days, she was fine. There’s a 48 hour rule at nursery so she needed to stay off even though she was perfectly healthy.

She was full of energy, longing to see her friends and desperate for someone to play with. I was mostly asleep or throwing up. So, it wasn’t ideal. It hasn’t been the best week, but was sort of nice to have that extra time with Ebony.

Monday, 25 January 2016

In Today's Metro



I just wanted to pop up a short post about how me and Ebony were featured on the Metro online today. I was contacted by PETA recently to see if I would be interested in being pitched to the press for a story about vegan kids. Having worked for charities in my previous life, I know how tricky it can be to find people willing to be featured in a news story, so I didn’t want to let them down.

I didn’t quite fancy being used as a case study in the Daily Mail though, for obvious reasons. I’d definitely have felt really worried about what angle they would take and how many nasty comments the article would attract. In the end, the Metro wanted it and I figured that couldn’t be too bad.

I still felt a little nervous about what the article might say. I mean, if they’d chosen my nanny to be the nutritional expert then the piece would have had quite a different tone. I can handle criticism, but I didn’t love the idea of opening Ebony’s life up to scrutiny. I mean, I guess I’m doing that by simply having this blog, but I don’t have quite the circulation as the Metro so I’ve never really worried about that before.

I did ask Ebony if she wanted to be featured and she said yes, because she thought other vegan children might see it and then know she was vegan. So, erm, hopefully that has happened. She currently only really has one vegan friend and when I showed her the article she immediately asked if her vegan friend had seen it. I said yeah, but this may not be an accurate answer.

Anyway, I sent off some photos and answered some questions last week, but wasn’t sure when the piece was going to appear, or even whether it definitely was. I only found out it had gone in because I picked up my phone and found a stream of text messages from various friends about it the afternoon. I was a little bit nervous when I clicked on the link, but I needn’t have been.

It is a really positive, informative piece and I’m really pleased I agreed to be featured. Not only are my choices portrayed positively, but there’s actually a nutrition expert quoted who fully supports vegan diets throughout childhood.

You can read the full piece here.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Motherhood, My Wardrobe & Me



I often find myself looking through Ebony’s wardrobe in wonder. She just has so many pretty dresses, so many gorgeous little tops and all the cords a girl could wish for. She doesn’t wear any of them, of course. She spends most of her time in a school uniform these days, and it is near impossible to prise off her after lunch.

When choosing her own clothes, Ebony usually selects the closest thing she has to a ballgown to be coupled with a sparkly cardigan and the cold winter weather. After some negotiations, she is usually convinced that, perhaps, a sleeveless dress is not the best idea for a January afternoon at the park. Of course, I could let her discover this for herself, but then I’d be the one crying an ice blue, sobbing four year old home from the park. She might be tiny, but she’s still way too heavy for my to carry nowadays, even with a distinct lack of heavy attire.

Her own wardrobe puts mine to shame. I will be honest here and say that I’ve never really been that into clothes. I was never one of those girls spending my pocket money in Primark desperately trying to mimic whatever celebrities were wearing that week. I’ve never maxed out a credit card because my desire to earn a piece of designer clothing simply became too much for my rational brain to handle. I’m just not that into it all.

I like to have clothes I like. I need a healthy selection of pretty dresses in my collection, usually floral. I need plenty of tights and a pair of warm winter boots. And in the summer, I need a few summer dresses that will, without doubt, get caught in the wind and show my knickers to the world. On your average day though, I’m perfectly happy in a pair of jeans, a jumper and a comfy pair of converse.

I’m not bothered about having this season’s floral dresses, I’m perfectly happy wearing the ones from last year. The location of the frills may have changed slightly, and the neckline may be different, but a floral dress is a floral dress in my eyes. Sometimes I see something that I love and truly feel like I need it, but most of the time I’m happy with what I have. I don’t love the idea of buying lots of cheap fashion that is made in sweatshops on the other side of the world. I’d rather have fewer, ethically made pieces than lots of cheaper clothes.

There is only so much money, and I can always think of better things to spend it on than clothes. New clothes just never make it quite to the top of my list of priorities. I’m not saying if I won the lottery I wouldn’t buy any new clothes. I’m sure I would, but I don’t think they would be the first thing I spent my winnings on. In a similar way, Ebony’s beautiful clothes are a little wasted in our house. I love it when she looks cute in a pretty dress, it makes for a great photograph, but it’s not the most important thing to me. I love having a little girl who isn’t afraid to get muddy. One who covers her clothes in mud, paint and glue without so much as a second thought about whether she’ll get into trouble.

I’m glad my four year old isn’t worried about her looks, or obsessed with her clothes. She’s too busy climbing (and falling out of) trees, filling her pockets with pine cones (admittedly, not ideal if you’re the one who does the laundry) and playing with her friends. I mean, she also often has pasta sauce smeared around her face and she wears her hair clips at the very top centre of her head, so she may actually have gone a little too far the other way, but that’s ok. She’s my wild four year old, and I love that about her.



Thursday, 21 January 2016

Being in the Audience



Ebony has started doing shows. I am her audience. I now totally understand how Fran’s dad felt in 1993. When I was little, I had a friend called Fran. When I went to her house to play, we would devise, direct and perform very complicated and detailed plays. We usually got all our younger siblings involved. We would do our costume changes in the toy cupboard, and feel pretty talented. At the end of the show, Fran’s mum (Julie Andrews) would clap enthusiastically. She would even ‘wooo’ sometimes, so moving were our performances. Fran’s dad wouldn’t. He would sit next to Fran’s mum (Julie Andrews) like he was on death row, and when we finished the show, he would just stare at us. Most likely because he didn’t know the show was over, because he was bored out of his mind and had stopped paying attention. Perhaps this is why Fran’s mum (Julie Andrews) made loud ‘wooo’ noises, in a desperate attempt to wake him up.

The good thing about being a child is that, even when someone doesn’t clap, you still think you are amazing. I thought Fran’s dad didn’t clap because he didn’t get it, our concepts were simply too above his level. The fast costume changes, the dance routine, the accents, it was all just a bit professional for him. He was probably more of an amateur theatre lover and, sadly, we couldn’t offer him that. We might have only been seven years old, but those seven years were filled with experience, improv and theatre skills. In short, we knew our shit.

Ebony is just four, and yet I already recognise that shit in her shows. Her shows are almost always musical. There is no singing, just music playing in the background. It is often the Frozen soundtrack, but at other times, it is Blurred Lines. Her shows involve a great amount of audience participation, something which might be intimidating to people less initiated into the world of theatre (see above for a brief description of my theatrical qualifications). She works in improv, there is simply no time to rehearse when you are putting on up to 10 different shows each day.

She bounces off her audience, making each and every show truly unique. Some days, she lets me pick the music (Blurred Lines, I know, I’m sorry. She doesn’t understand the words, I’m sure. It’s catchy. Sexist and catchy, a lethal combination) and other times she demands particular songs (“Elsa!”). When the music starts, she makes her way to the middle of the room, or wherever the small patch of visible carpet happens to be amongst the scattering of toys in the playroom. As the audience start to feel on edge, she begins her dance.

She has devised and perfected a move that currently has no name, it is not yet known about in the art world. It’s pretty avant-garde. It’s a whole body move that combines a twisting of the knee, a jerking of the elbow and an uncomfortable-looking hip movement. The audience is left wondering, is this comedy? Can I laugh? And this is one reason why the show is so different, it leaves the audience feeling confused and uncomfortable almost the entire way through. It doesn’t fit into any of the traditional genres, it is in itself a genre, and that leaves people doubting their reactions.

At times, it seems like the performer has completely forgotten about the performance. She becomes withdrawn, distracted. She might suddenly sit with her back turned to the audience, playing with Lego, or she might walk out of the room to get a snack. Of course, audiences have been left alone before, but after a 10 minute wait, most audience members assume that the show has finished. Upon standing to leave the auditorium, or pulling out their smartphones to check Facebook, the performer will re-enter the theatre, screaming like a banshee that the audience is missing the show. That orange she’s eating? The lego house she just built? They’re a part of the performance. And so are you. Is this the performer’s way of showing the world that art shouldn’t conform to the public’s timeframe? Maybe art doesn’t care about your dentist appointment, could the piece be about that?

It’s just one of many unanswerable questions brought to mind by the performances. Each show is different, and yet the audience experience remains the same. The audience is bored, confused and, even, scared at times. As a society, we like to predict what will happen, we like to know the appropriate way to respond to things. We clap when others clap, we laugh when others laugh. These performances have only a single, solitary audience member, so the pressure to respond appropriately heightens and the fear can become all-consuming.

The show might end when the music stops or it might end 10 minutes later. Each performance is unique. Even if you sit through 100 shows, you still won’t be able to recognise the end approaching. After sitting silent and full of self-doubt for at least 10 minutes, the show will end. It is at this point that the encore will start. The performer will bow, the audience will clap, the performer will disappear, the audience will breathe a sigh of relief. And then there will be an encore. The encores won’t stop. They won’t stop until the audience stops clapping. But when you are the only audience member, it can take a while to pluck up the courage to stop clapping when the performer is making eye contact throughout each bow. Is this ending a stark statement on the lack of appreciation for the arts within modern society? Is it about the cuts to art funding, or the lack of young people going to the theatre?

Yet more unanswered questions. The audience is given a few minutes to rest, and then it’s time for the next performance, one that will be very different to the last.

Shows are performed daily in the playroom. Tickets are free. It’s probably not worth going to see.

NOTE: It was later brought to my attention that Fran’s mum is not actually Julie Andrews.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Pregnancy Update: Week 10



I’m 10 weeks now and, according to my pregnancy app, the baby is about the size of Lego figure. I thought I’d gotten away without to endure the horror that is morning sickness, but I was wrong. I was sick a few times over Christmas, but I’ve mostly been suffering from nausea. Until now. All of a sudden, I can’t stop throwing up. There is a bad taste in my mouth at all times, I am overdosing on polos to try and get rid of it (I don’t think this is helping) and I am being sick after eating. A lot.

I feel unable to drink much because every sip seems to make me throw up. I’ve spent the last three years telling pregnant women to drink eight glasses of water a day, and now I can barely manage two. The fruit teas I usually love are making me throw up, and even fruit juice has been violently coming back up. So I’m dehydrating myself slowly, it is the only way.

I feel really exhausted and have noticed that doing anything more than the bare minimum is too much for me. I keep having to nap in the afternoon still, and poor Ebony tells me that she has nobody to play with. What does she think I’m trying to do here?!

I’m off my food and have to be really careful about what I eat. It’s really hard to enjoy a food you’ve recently experienced in reverse. I spent most of the weekend in bed, trying to force myself to work but mostly just sleeping. I’m really hoping this fatigue passes soon because it’s really not sustainable as a mother and self-employed writer for me to sleep all day.

The good thing is that my anxiety levels have decreased, the morning sickness is finally allowing me to feel confident about the pregnancy. So, horrible as it is to be sick all the time, I can’t help but feel slightly relieved each time I puke. I know this joy will pass quickly, though.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Our Christmas 2015








I know, I Know. Who wants to read about Christmas in the middle of January?!

This Christmas felt like a chance for some long-awaited family time. Laurie hadn’t really had a block of time off work for a while, and with me sometimes working weekends still, it means we don’t always get to spend much time as a complete family unit. I was looking forward to having Ebony off nursery for two weeks, and was pleased to find out she was really excited about this too. She said she was happy about spending some time just the three of us, I know one day she won’t feel that way anymore, so I’m making the most of it now.

Laurie took two weeks off work and even though I was meant to work over Christmas, I ended up abandoning that plan on the first day of the holidays. So my to-do list hasn’t gotten any smaller, but I had a decent break and felt pretty relaxed by the end of it.

I’d been preparing for Christmas for months and had pretty much all the presents sorted by the end of October (I know, that’s sick, but I hate leaving things to the last minute and there is nothing I despise more than Christmas crowds at the shops), but had trailed off towards the end and so still felt like there was a lot to do in the days leading up to Christmas.

One of the most difficult parts of Christmas, I think, is knowing when to put the stocking at the end of the bed. Ebony often wakes up once in the night and comes to find us in our bed. This can happen at midnight, at 4am and something it doesn’t happen at all. If she’d woken up to find a bag of presents as midnight, we’d have been in trouble. I decided to set an alarm for 5:30am and do it then. Ebony was still fast asleep and snoring as I quietly stole the stocking from the end of her bed. I was just loading presents into it (not a quiet job), when I heard her stir, so I had to ditch the presents and put the stocking back and then hide. This felt a lot like being on a spy on a bloody dangerous mission. She started snoring again so I grabbed the stocking again, filled it as quietly as I could, ditched it on her bed and then ran back to bed. Imagine being caught playing Santa by your three year old. Her future therapist would be hearing about it for years!

I went back to bed but didn’t really sleep, much like I imagine James Bond doesn’t sleep after he gets back from his night of death-defying stunts. At about 7am, Ebony came running in to tell us it was Christmas. She hadn’t yet noticed the stocking of gifts so we all went into her room together. She’d asked Santa for some lego, so as well as a big tub under the tree, there were three lego people wrapped in her stocking. This was pretty exciting, as was the princess dress and other bits she unwrapped. Everything was carefully inspected, played with and appreciated before being tossed to the side so she could unwrap another. I’m enjoying this age where she is excited about everything and wants to play with each thing before moving on.

After the presents were opened, we went downstairs to have breakfast. We always have lardy cake for breakfast, my talented dad makes it and drops it round before Christmas Day. I have had lardy cake for breakfast every since I was little. Originally made with animal fat, then when I went vegetarian, butter, it’s now a much healthier vegan version that still tastes pretty decadent for breakfast. We ate our lardy cake whilst opening the rest of our presents around the tree. Ebony was really pleased with all her gifts and the entire house was covered in a sea of wrapping paper by the time she’d finished opening them.

The only downside to her playing with each present as she opens it, is that it takes a hell of a long time. We were hoping to go for a walk before my parents arrived, but in the end, we only had time to go and feed the ducks at Etherow Park. A couple of years ago we managed a Christmas Day walk and it was really lovely, so I was hoping we’d make it into a tradition. We fed the ducks and had a little wander before rushing home to find my parents had arrived before us.

I was really hoping my sister would be spending Christmas Day with us, she hasn’t for the past couple of years because she was living in Canada so the idea of a full family Christmas was pretty exciting. In the end, however, she had to work. She works in a pub that serves Christmas dinner, they charge about £70 a head and, for her eight hour shift on Christmas Day, my sister received just £20 on top of her usual minimal wage. That works out at about £2 extra an hour for working Christmas Day. She wasn’t told this in advance, only that she’d get a big bonus. Pretty disgusting, right? So, if you eat out on Christmas Day, make sure you choose a venue that properly compensates the staff for working on what should be a family day.

Sorry, that was a bit of a tangent, but I’m still really cross for her. Imagine how much extra money the owners made for opening on Christmas Day, and how little of that they passed on to the people who actually worked. Gah.

Anyway, so it was just my parents joining us for Christmas. They arrived at 2pm and then there were more presents to unwrap. My childhood was filled with amazing homemade toys thanks to my very talented mum and dad (this talent was not passed down genetically to the next generation), and for Christmas this year, my dad had made Ebony a place to keep her dressing up clothes (of which she has many). It was a place for her hats, plenty of room for her costume, hooks for her accessories and a place for the shoes. And it even has a mirror so she can see how she looks. In short, it’s amazing. And it has finally solved my problem of where the hell should all these costumes go!?

After the presents were unwrapped, I made a start on dinner. My parents aren’t vegan but they always join us for our vegan Christmas Dinner. I usually make vegan haggis as the main, but this year I cheated and bought a nut roast. It wasn’t so great, so next year I’m going back to making something myself. I just decided to try and avoid extra stress this year which is why I let Tesco do the work for me. Yorkshire puddings are the most important of the meal, I think, probably because it took years of being vegan before we stumbled across a recipe that actually worked (it’s this one).

We ate Christmas Dinner, watched Christmas television and playing with Ebony’s new toys. Then it was time for bed, and she was exhausted so it wasn’t too difficult getting her to sleep that night. The only problem was I fell asleep with her (happens a lot), so I didn’t get back downstairs till after 9pm. We spent the rest of the evening playing board games and eating chocolate mints. It was an exhausting day, but a really wonderful Christmas.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Pregnancy Update: Week 9



For the first time this pregnancy, the weeks seem to be flying by now. It seemed to take about eight zillion years to get to eight weeks, but then nine weeks arrived in the blink of an eye. I think I’d been desperately waiting to see the midwife, and once that was over I felt able to relax a little.

Week nine has been all about the exhaustion. I keep falling asleep putting Ebony to bed and the other day I didn’t surface again until 9pm. Obviously that meant I then couldn’t sleep at night, so it’s hardly ideal, but at least I managed to get a little bit of sleep.

I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on my work. I’m just so tired in the mornings, I think I’m working at about half my usual speed so it’s not been a very productive month. I’m not catching up in the evenings either, because I’m too busy napping.

The nausea seems to have passed now, I still get the odd wave every now and again but mostly I’m ok. I can even take my prenatal vitamins without gagging so things have certainly improved. I’m feeling bloated and look quite fat in most of my clothes now, but am nowhere near to having a bump. It’s been depressing to realise just how shit my stomach muscles are these days, I look about six months pregnant by the end of the day.

Ebony turned four this week, it’s so weird to think it has been four years since I became a mother. I can’t really remember life before Ebony. What did I used to do in my free time? What things did I obsessively google? How much sleep did I used to get?

When we first told Ebony about the baby, we used milestones like birthdays and Christmas to explain when the baby would come. So on her birthday she announced that she was glad it was her birthday because that meant the baby would be here soon. It’s really lovely to hear her talk about the baby, she is really excited to be a big sister. As long as the baby is a girl. This week we had the following conversation:

Ebony: I really love the girl baby.
Me: It might be a boy.
Ebony: Then I don’t like it.

I still feel like maybe it is a boy just because this pregnancy is so different to the last. I know that is in no way scientific and, as a pregnancy writer, I should know better, but I do keep wondering if the lack of symptoms is a hint that this baby is a boy. With Ebony, I was still throwing up in week nine. Most food I ate would come back up and I spent quite a bit of time each day slumped over the toilet. This pregnancy just couldn’t be more different. I’ve had some nausea and thrown up a few times, but nothing compared to last time. I’m not mainlining polo mints or obsessively carrying a packet of ginger nuts in my handbag, I just feel fine. Tired, but fine.

I think most people know about the pregnancy now, so it feels a bit weird not to talk about it on my blog. I’m struggling to think of things to write about because, in my head, everything comes back to the pregnancy so it feels like I’m being misleading by missing that part out. But I don’t really know how to announce it without a scan photo, it seems a bit of a risky thing to do. What if something is wrong at the scan? Would I regret having shared the news too soon or would writing about it be a way of coping? We have a date for the scan now, so in just over two weeks we’ll get to see the baby. I’m excited but also nervous, I wish it was sooner so I could have some peace of mind.

My friend gave us some baby toys this week, some things her own baby has grown out of it, and it made it all feel a bit more real. I really want to start getting things out of the loft and sorting through what we have, but I know I’d regret it if I did it this soon, I’d just end up tripping over them for the next seven months.

Friday, 8 January 2016

New Year, New Finances



I had really hoped that 2015 might be the year I found my fortune, but alas, it was not to be. There were no winning lottery numbers and no unexpected cheques arrived in the mail. All in all, a most disappointing year. Now that it’s 2016, I’ve been thinking about how to manage our finances this year and trying to come to terms with the fact that I will probably never be a lottery winner. Here are a few of the financial resolutions I’ve set for 2016:

1. Budget better
I am usually good at budgeting, but I’ll be honest and say that last year I went a little off spreadsheet. I think after spending three years surgically attached to Ebony, it felt good to enjoy a little bit of freedom. I didn’t turn down nights outs or worry about money when I agreed to meet friends, I just decided to make the most of the freedom I was finally able to enjoy. Now, I can safely say that freedom comes at a cost and that I need to stop doing this. So for 2016 I need to be stricter with myself about how much socialising I can actually afford to do.

2. Pay off debts
I think 2016 should be the year we all get our finances in order, you too. Get those personal loans paid off, tackle that overdraft and try and build up some savings. I’ve noticed that I just keep getting older so really feel like I need to get these things under control. We don’t have any bank loans, but we have borrowed money from our savings into our checking account that we need to pay back, so I’m hoping we’ll manage that this year.  

3. Be realistic
I have so many plans for this house. At the moment they all feel completely unachievable, but I know that one day we’ll get round to them. Every room left to do needs something big doing (built in wardrobes removing, walls knocking down or artex ceilings destroyed) which means none of the remaining jobs are small or cheap. I think this probably means we can’t afford to do any decorating jobs this year, and while that is quite soul destroying (so much magnolia) I know it won’t be this way forever. I was really hoping we’d be able to get our room done before the end of the year, but then we booked a holiday, which brings us nicely onto the next point…

4. Value your valuables
You should spend the money you do have on the things that make you happy. For us, that’s quality family time away from the stresses of work and everyday life. We didn’t manage to go on a proper holiday last year, so we’ve booked a holiday for this summer. It’s been two years since we went away as a family, and our last holiday (you can read about it here) was so lovely I’m really looking forward to the next one. If we don’t go away, Laurie doesn’t really get a proper break from work. I need to get him away from wi-fi and phone signal in order for him to truly be able to relax. We could have spent the money on sorting out the bedroom or doing something else around the house, but uninterrupted family time feels like the most important thing we could spend the money on, so we did. There’s truly nothing better than just getting away from it all for a couple of weeks.

5. Planning for the future
I think part of the skill in budgeting is looking to the future and trying to plan for it. I’ve already started saving for next Christmas so it won’t be a surprise for my purse when December arrives. I know that some months will be more expensive than others thanks to birthdays and family commitments, so it’s about planning ahead for those things.

What are your financial plans for 2016?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

A Weekend in Blackpool





Happy New Year! The blog has been a bit quiet of late, I wasn’t planning on taking time away from the blog over Christmas but, well, it just sort of happened. Life is pretty hectic with an almost four year old so when nursery is closed for the holidays, I find I’m pretty exhausted by the time bedtime rolls around.

The weekend before Christmas, we spent a couple of nights in Blackpool. I’ve never stayed overnight in Blackpool before, we usually just pop in for the illuminations and then leave a few hours later. Christmas is always a busy time with lots of wrapping to do, friends to see and family to visit, so when Travelodge asked whether we’d like to stay at Travelodge Blackpool South Shore for a couple of nights, it seemed like the perfect way to guarantee a bit of quality time for the three of us before Christmas.

We turned up at dinner time on the Saturday and it was more than raining. There was a torrential downpour that just wouldn’t let up. For some reason, we decided to go for a wander in the rain (hello, wet dog smell on my coat) to get some food. Ebony managed to stay perfectly dry the whole time, I guess this is the benefit of being umbrella stick height. By the time we got to a cash machine, Laurie looked like he was dressed in head-to-toe lycra on account of being piss wet through. Me and Ebony decided to give up and we ran back to the hotel where we got into our pyjamas and watched Pinocchio. It wasn’t long before Laurie got back with some food for us all.

The next morning we got up early (well, Ebony did) and walked down the beach to the Sandcastle. For those who don’t know, the Sandcastle is an indoor water park. I went a couple of times in my youth but hadn’t been for years. Laurie had never been and I think we really went for him rather than for Ebony as she’s probably still a little young for a lot of the attractions. It isn’t cheap, at all, but we figured it was worth it since we were in Blackpool for two nights. We got there at 10am when it opened and for the first hour we were amongst the only people there. It got pretty busy after 11, but that first hour was blissfully calm. Ebony loved the wave machine and eventually braved the big water slides with me and Laurie in tow. After initially being too scared to try the slides, she then spent an hour or so dragging one of us back up the steps to take her down again.

After tiring herself out going up and down the slides, Ebony decided it was time for lunch. There was a Whetherspoons across the road and we decided to just pop in there for ease. Whetherspoons have got a few vegan options on the menu so it’s always an easy place to go for a quick refueling. Ebony nearly fell asleep in our booth because she was so exhausted from all the waterpark fun, but we eventually managed to convince her it was time to go.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to Blackpool in December before and I can confirm that it is pretty weird that time of year. Pretty much everything is closed and it feels a little like a ghost town. The normally heaving promenade was full of closed shutters apart from the odd arcade still open for business. We, of course, took Ebony to an arcade to teach her the joys of gambling, losing money and winning plastic crap you don’t want or need. Once it got dark, we made our way back to the hotel to watch a quick Christmas movie before bed.

Thank you to Travelodge Blackpool South Shore for the two night stay at the hotel, and for the vegan breakfast.  

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