Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Talking About The Bad Things That Happen

It's not easy to make sense of some of the things happening in the world right now. And by right now, I mean always. There is always something horrible and upsetting in the news. From equality to violence to terrorism, there is always something that is painful, upsetting or scary to read about it. I don't usually share those news stories with Ebony. She's too little, really, to make sense of a lot of those news. I can't make sense of them myself. I didn't tell her about the Westminster attack a couple of months ago, I wouldn't have known what to say. 

I talk to her about upsetting news stories sometimes. Not because they are in the news, but because they get stuck in my head and I feel it is my job to educate her. I have spoken to her about famine, about inequality, about climate change. I talk to her about the issues I feel are important and which I feel we have even just a little bit of power to do something about. I can talk to her about climate change because I can teach her things to do that can reduce her impact on the planet. I can talk to her about inequality because I want her to grow up and see for herself that things aren't fair and that we need to force change. But how can I tell her about horrible things we can't control? 

"Oh fucking hell, there's been a blast in Manchester." Those were the words out of Laurie's mouth at about quarter to eight this morning as we were all sitting in bed. Ebony was playing with her sister, but she paused when he said it.

"What's a blast?" She said to me. I guess I should be thankful she didn't ask what fucking meant and that she instead focused on the word blast. I shot Laurie an angry glare before realising that, actually, I would have to tell her about it this time. Kids at school would know about it, they would be talking about it in the playground. We don't live far from Manchester, it was possible that someone from her school could have been there last night. 

I answered her question. I told her that a blast was another way of saying a bomb had gone off, that somebody had let a bomb off to hurt people and the police were trying to work out why. She had questions, of course. She wanted to know if we knew anybody that lived there, if people had been hurt, if children had been hurt. She wanted to know who did it. She wanted to know why. I couldn't answer that one, but I did my best, explaining that sometimes people want to hurt other people. 

We got dressed, we read her school reading books and we sat down to eat breakfast. Then she brought it up again. She said people would probably be feeling sad about it today. That even if they didn't know the people who got hurt they would still feel sad because it was a sad thing to happen and it's not nice when people get hurt. And that even if the person who did it got hurt that was still sad because nobody ever deserved to be hurt. And then we cleaned our teeth, we put our shoes on and we walked to school. 

Monday, 22 May 2017

7 Family Kitchen Essentials

‘Family kitchen’ is just a polite way of saying ‘messy kitchen’, or is it in my house, anyway. There are always letters from school cluttering up the side, abandoned hair bobbles and clips (the few that actually return home) on the breakfast bar and dirty cups and plates that have been dumped on the worktop. It is a lived in kitchen. Like, really lived in. Sometimes, it’s clean and sparkly and lovely but most of the time, it’s lived in. I thought I would write a post sharing some of the things I consider to be family kitchen essentials. They’re the things I think make life easier or prettier in a family kitchen. I’ve left out the obvious like wooden wine racks to store All The Wine you need to devour at bedtime.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

5 Ways To Encourage A Love Of Space

The idea of space is somewhat terrifying, nothing makes me feel more insignificant than looking up at a star full of skies and realising just how small I am. I am scared of the deepness of the sea, but space is a whole other kettle of fish. It’s just so big. Too big. So big I can’t even begin to comprehend it. But, I want to encourage Ebony to enjoy science and so I’ve been thinking of ways we can learn more about space together. I don’t want her to be one of the many girls who, by the time they leave primary school, have already given up all hope of ever conquering maths or science. I don’t want her to be limited by her gender. I don’t want her to conform to society’s view that science is for boys.

So, I have been plotting ways to get her enthralled in science. She loves learning about how the human body works, she’s fascinated by animals and she really likes ‘making potions’ (these are, almost always, 99% my fancy conditioner). Here are a few of the ways I am, or wish I was, trying to get her into space (har har har):

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Broken Bed

Every so often, something happens which reaffirms to me that I am not exactly killing it at this whole adulting thing. It might be the frantic search for matching school socks approximately five minutes after we need to leave the house every morning (even writing this won't motivate me to seek out socks in advance of tomorrow's pre-school panic) or the fact that we sometimes have to go and buy ingredients for dinner at dinner time because I forgot to organise it in advance. 

Some days, I get the big one off to school on time, whisk the little one home for a nap and then have a productive two hours writing away on my laptop and other days I can't find my hairbrush. Being the adult and being expected to keep family life running smoothly isn't easy and sometimes I find myself failing. 

Take Ebony's bed, for example. Ebony finally got her own room when we moved into this house. She was two and a half years old when we finally transitioned her out of our room (although could somebody let her know this because she doesn't seem to have taken the hint very well). We decorated her room. We painted the walls white, we dug out brightly coloued toys to add a splash of colour and my parents bought her a bed. We didn't go for solid oak bedroom furniture which, in hindsight, perhaps we should have. Instead, we chose a white wooden bed, simple, pretty, perfect. It looked beautiful in her bedroom (bedroom tour here). Or it did until it got broken. 

You see, the problem with young children is that they love to jump on the bed. On all beds. They jump high and far and with enthusiasm. No matter how many times I asked her not to jump on the bed, I would still hear the familiar creak of the springs giving way under her weight as she leapt around the room. Three weeks ago, she had a friend to play. They went upstairs, as they often do, keen to explore the toys hidden upstairs. I was making dinner in the kitchen, the baby balanced in the crook of my arm whilst I cut vegetables one-handed, so I didn't hear the bouncing of the springs. I didn't hear the telltale creak of the floorboards under the bed or the almighty snap when the bed collapsed under the weight of two excited little girls drunk on the freedom of a playdate. 

The next morning, Laurie noticed that her bed was a little more diagonal than it used to be. A snapped slat and some broken screws seemed to be to blame. My dad came round, the man who can fix absolutely anything (just ask Ebony - 'you can try, mummy, but when it doesn't work, we can ask papa and he will fix it') with a bit of wood glue and a few spare screws. The two of them disappeared upstairs to fix the bed and appeared triumphant an hour later. It was fixed apart from the slat. That was all we needed to do, replace the slat. That was three weeks ago. Ebony is upstairs now fast asleep on her mattress on the floor because we haven't replaced the slat. Laurie tried, he claims, but Homebase didn't have the right part. I haven't even done that. If I think back to my own childhood, there is no way my dad would have left me sleeping on the floor for three weeks. He would have replaced that slat straight away, he probably had a garage full of spare slats just in case such a problem ever arose. But poor Ebony, with me and Laurie for parents, she has to sleep on the floor. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Motherhood Is

Motherhood is all-encompassing. Five years ago, it washed over me like a tide, dragging me under and pinning me down on the ocean floor as I fought for air to fill my lungs while powerful waves broke over me. Every so often, I summon the strength to swim up to the surface and catch my breath, I fill my lungs with the oxygen I once took for granted but which now feels special as though my very being depends on it, only to be dragged back down to the sandy floor as the next wave crashes over my head. It is exhausting, to tread water in a stormy sea, gulping huge breaths of air into my lungs and not knowing when I might be able to breathe again, so consumed by my battle with and against the ocean that all sense of who I am is lost.

Motherhood is relentless. Even when my bones ache from exhaustion and my brain is filled with nothing more than a dense fog of tiredness, I still rise in the night without hesitation to take care of my children. They come first, their hunger or nightmares or clammy limbs reaching out for a cuddle always take precedence over my desperate need for sleep. I cannot sleep, I have accepted that, not yet, maybe in a few years, but for now, the tiredness is as much a part of me as my left arm. It is always there and, as a result, I have stopped noticing it a lot of the time, but sometimes, as I stare into the bathroom mirror and look at the pink eyes staring back at me, and the dark circles under them and the age lines creeping out at the corners, it comes rushing back to me so powerfully that I fear I will keel over and be unable to get up.

Motherhood is chaotic. It is the desperate juggling act of trying to look after the basic needs of my family whilst also finding the time to write, to invoice, to do admin, to wash laundry and pair socks and cook dinners and shop so that the cupboards aren't bare. It is the endless chore of picking up toys, of cleaning teeth, of remembering birthdays, of making sure everybody is eating well. It is the constant worry that I'm not doing enough, of trying to improve, to be better, to mother in a way that will protect them in the future, it is the late night ordering of parenting books from Amazon and knowing that they will sit gathering dust beside my bed until I finally find the time and energy to read them and, by that point, that it could be too late, that I may already have done everything wrong.

Motherhood is like a kettle boiling, that shrill whistle sounding loudly in my ear while I try to gather my thoughts and think about what to do next, my insides hot whilst frustration bubbles beneath the surface. Motherhood is getting things wrong and making mistakes and wishing I had been better. It is sitting down in the evenings and letting the day wash over me, thinking about where I went wrong and what I should have done instead, it is the never-ending conversation with Laurie about who we are as parents and who we want to be. It is knowing that finding the time for that conversation isn't always easy but that it is always important, that if we stop thinking about it, if we fall into habit and parent without analysis, then we aren't doing it right. There is always room for improvement, there are always apologies to be made and bonds to be strengthened, even when there isn't time because life is in the way.

Motherhood is me. It is always there, even when my children are not. Become a mother rewired my brain and changed the way I see the world. It changed everything. It made the world smaller, it made my fears bigger and it threw my ribcage open and exposed my heart to the elements where it seems in constant danger of getting hurt. It is beautiful and powerful and vaster than any skyscraper. And, sometimes, it's nice to get away from it all. Sometimes, it's nice to escape from motherhood, just for a little bit. I need to walk away from real life, to throw myself back into the past, to meet friends and drink wine and talk about politics and forget about motherhood and all that it entails. That little break, that night away to a different city with different conversations and busy streets and new foods to try, gives me the chance to swim to the surface and take a big gulp of fresh air and remind myself who I am. I am a mother and that is the biggest part of my identity now while my children are little, but I'm also lots of other things and, when the waves break around me instead of over my head, it's nice to remember those things, to breathe them in and hold my breath, letting them rush through my veins, before I am dragged back under again.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Review: Hello Canvas HD Metal Prints

One of the things I love about having this blog is that it's pushed me to get more creative with my camera. Laurie had a pretty good camera but neither of us knew how to use it (Laurie says he does, but why are all his photos so blurry?) so it was wasted on us. This blog became the perfect place to capture my memories of motherhood when Ebony was a baby and I soon began to want decent photos to accompany my words. 

My photos still aren't perfect but they're so much better than they used to be and I love them. I love having gorgeous photos of the girls that I'll be able to look back on when I'm old and grey (now then). I rarely get around to printing the photos though, they just exist in digital form because I'm lazy and cheap and because I take so many photos that it would be truly ridiculous to print them all. I had a load printed when Ember was fresh from the womb because I didn't want to be one of those terrible parents that never gets around to putting photos of the second child up on the wall. I never got around to buying frames for them so they are still in a pile on my desk, so I am just like all the other parents. One day, I will go frame shopping. 

Hello Canvas got in touch to see if I'd like to try out one of their HD Metal wall prints and I couldn't quite get my head around what it was going to be. Would it look like metal? Would it be grainy? Heavy? Too metal? I didn't know what to expect but I decided to try it out. Laurie's family have their walls covered in photos of the girls so I figured another wouldn't do them any harm. I chose a photo of the girls together, it was taken on Ebony's fifth birthday and I really love it. It's so rare to get a photo where neither of them has food on their face so this is particularly special to me. 

The HD metal print arrived and it is gorgeous. It doesn't look like it's printed on metal, it just looks (from the front) like a high-quality gloss print. It's shiny and clear and bright. It doesn't look grainy at all. I was actually surprised by how much I loved it, I'm not really a lover of huge canvas prints because I think the photo quality is diminished when stretched across the canvas, but that isn't true of the HD metal print at all. I really loved how it looked and the in-laws were really pleased with it as well. 

We were sent the 16 x 20 inch HD metal canvas to review RRP £79. Prices for HD metal prints start from just £19 (currently £15 in the sale), take a look at the Hello Canvas website to see the full range. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

On Turning 31 And Not Knowing WTF I'm Doing

I'm 31 today. It's an age that would have sounded horrifically ancient to me in my youth but which now I can argue is still pretty damn young. I'm not old just yet. Is there ever an age where you accept that you have crossed over to the wrong side of young? I can't imagine reaching it. In many ways, I felt old as soon as Ebony was born. I was 25 years old but I felt ooold. My friends were still young; they were focusing on their careers and going on holiday and posting drunken photos to Facebook and I was breastfeeding and changing nappies and reading blogs about gentle parenting. Life changed. Just like that. 

Now my friends are catching up with me. Lots of them have settled down, some have had babies and sometimes we sit together and talk about how hard it is to be a parent. Being a parent isn't aging me anymore, but my age is. I've finally reached that point where I have to be careful of my references because younger people might not know who Harold and Madge from Neighbours are (imagine if you didn't know who Harold and Madge were?!). My sister told me yesterday that people born in 1999 are now legally old enough to drink, that blew my mind because, er, wasn't 1999 like five minutes ago? Is my love of 90s pop now really that outdated? 

I feel like 30 passed me by. I was pregnant and in the middle of all the decorating and my 30th birthday just kind of happened. There was a party, I was sober, it was as terrible as you would expect a sober birthday party to be. I wanted to think deep thoughts about growing older and reflect on the passing of my twenties but I was so damn pregnant and tired. It's hard to reflect on anything when you can't make it off the sofa without getting heartburn. 

31. It's the age my mum was when she had me. It doesn't sound that old anymore. Growing older is just making me realise that nobody has a clue what they're doing. When you're young, you assume that everyone older than you has it together. You believe your parents know what they're doing. You think that one day it will just click and you'll know what you're doing, too. I'm starting to realise that that's not the case. Or not for me, anyway. I still don't have a clue what I'm doing. We're late for school most days (not late book late, but late nonetheless), I pretty much always overspend by the end of the month (sometimes by the middle) and I still find it really stressful dressing for formal occasions. 

I forget about homework, I do my work scarily close to the deadline and sometimes things just slip my mind. I can never find matching socks (unless they're Laurie's) in a morning, I stay up too late on school nights and the cupboard under the stairs is so full of crap that I have given up going in there. I am not adulting with finesse. I have no clue what I'm doing. Please tell me I'm not the only one. 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

5 Things That Guarantee Me A Good Start To The Day

I'm not a morning person. I never have been. I have spent pretty much my whole life waking up tired and grumpy. There just isn't enough sleep in the day. It didn't matter for a few years when Ebony was little and we could spend lazy mornings slowly dragging ourselves out of bed, but she's in school now so I have to get up. We're rarely there on time, though that is actually down to Ebony's time management skills rather than my own. I can be up and dressed half an hour before we have to leave and Ebony will still make us late by misplacing her shoes or getting distracted by a game.

I'm not a big caffeine drinker so I don't rely on a mug-full of commercial coffee machines and gourmet Fairtrade coffee to get me through the day. I occasionally dabble in the whimsical world of the fruit teas, but that's about as exciting as it gets. And I rarely have time for a hot drink before the school run because I'm too busy trying not to shout at everybody (this takes a lot of effort). I usually have my breakfast when I get back dropping Ebony off at school. I have noticed that it's the little things that matter in the morning. Like, whoever it is that hides Ebony's school shoes every single morning, WHY?! But also, it's the little things that make me feel happy and set me up for a good day. Here are five of them:

1. Waking up before my alarm
There is nothing quite so terrible as being dragged out of a dream by a piercing alarm shrieking next to your head. There is no such thing as joy on a morning like that. If, however, I manage to wake up before my alarm, I feel like a million dollars (even though I've probably had less sleep, go figure). Anything pre-alarm feels like bonus time so it always puts me in a good mood to be awake to see that time of day (as long as it's like 20 minutes before and not two hours).

2. My FitBit
I love my Fitbit. I got it when Ember was born and it has changed my life. It records how much I sleep I get which is both wonderful and terrifying. Mostly, I get enough sleep but on the days I don't, it's depressing to see, in graph form, how many times I was woken up by my many children. Usually, the FitBit brings me good news and, even though I wake up feeling tired, I am soon convinced that I've had enough sleep. Seeing that I've had seven hours sleep instantly makes me feel less tired. It is genius. All new parents should have them.

3. Having the school uniform ready
I want to say I'm the kind of person who irons an entire week of uniform on the Sunday. I think I've managed it once. It was a good week. But I usually spend my Sunday evenings panic-washing the uniform and so it isn't ready to be ironed. Half the time I can't even find most of it. So, I'm not that person. Sometimes, I actually manage to iron her uniform the night before and hang it on her bedroom door. On those mornings, I don't have to run around trying to find matching socks or iron any polo shirts, so those mornings are the best. I should really prepare clothes the night before more often.

4. Looking human
Trying to look human is never easy, especially when you have a baby who can find danger in less than a second. I have to get up early so I can shower before Laurie leaves for work. Then I have to dry my hair whilst Ember shouts angrily at me in baby language (I don't know what she says but it looks a lot like 'pick me up, woman'). If I manage to straighten my hair, put on some mascara and wear a clean t-shirt, life feels good. If I catch sight of myself in the hall mirror on my way out and don't feel like crying, I know I'm going to have a good day.

5. Leaving the house on time
This one is hypothetical since such a miracle has never actually occurred, but I'm pretty sure leaving the house on time would make me feel amazing. I think I'd strut to school feeling like a mum boss (as in boss of being a mum, not the patronising term for a boss who happens to have children). I would walk up to those school gates and wish people a good morning. There would be on hell of a spring in my step. Probably. Not that I'll even actually find out.

What are your morning wins that set you up for a good day?

This is a collaborative post. 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Why Timber Is The Perfect Material For Your New Conservatory

An orangery is a great way of adding space to your home. An orangery can provide you with that additional room to make your living space a little homier. Orangeries have been around for years and have historically been seen as a luxury for the upper classes. Though they still offer high levels of luxury they are now much more affordable thanks to modern building methods and materials.

Though conservatories have traditionally been home to uninspiring wicker furniture, orangeries have always been seen as a classy and stylish way to extend the home. Rather than appearing like an add-on to an existing home, orangeries have character that will improve your home. Some people use orangeries as dining rooms, others use them to create a large versatile family space and others use them as a more traditional garden room.

If you want an affordable extension that will last, you should consider a timber orangery. Modern timber is long-lasting and stylish, allowing you to create a conservatory that will last. Using timber allows you to get the look right, you can choose any number of wood stains and paint colours for your orangery. As part of their impressive range of home improvements, Reddish Joinery offer timber orangeries made from a high performance and long-lasting engineered timber known as accoya.

Orangeries are an affordable way of extending your home but they are also great at creating the light and airy feel that is popular amongst contemporary home owners. The glass lets plenty of light into the room and allows you to make the most of your view. You’ll be able to sit comfortably and watch your garden bloom in the summer or the golden leaves fall in the autumn. Unlike many conservatories, orangeries don’t have to be stuck onto the back of your property like an afterthought either, in fact, many homeowners choose to integrate them into the living space of the room. Open plan living and a surge in popularity for kitchen-diners that lead out into the garden have seen an increase in the number of people choosing to add timber orangeries to their homes.

Timber has properties that allow it to naturally retain heat which means your conservatory will retain warmth in the colder months. Combined with modern glazing, this means the timber orangery will stay warmer in the winter months. The combination of engineered timber and modern glazing will also work to keep the room cool in the warmer months, making it the perfect addition to your home.

If you’re not a fan of the look of PVC conservatories, then a timber orangery might be the extension you’ve been looking for. The timber makes contemporary houses look even more modern whilst also looking at home on period buildings, it’s a timeless building material that suits pretty much any style of home. The long-lasting building material doesn’t require much in the way of upkeep either, aside from the occasional wood treatment, there’s very little you need to do to keep your extension looking brand new.

This is a collaborative post.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Real Nappy Week: Cheeky Wipes Review

This week is Real Nappy Week so I figured now is as good as time as any to talk about real baby wipes. I don't actually ever use the term real because it sounds weird to me, I usually say washable. I don't want other mums to get worried that I'm implying their nappies are mythical or imaginary next to my really real ones. 

We have used washable wipes ever since Ebony was a teeny tiny newborn (she never seemed tiny at the time because she was 9lb, but now I've pushed out a 10lb7 blob, I think of Ebony as a little dot). We knew we wanted to use washable wipes because they are better for the planet. A friend recommended Cheeky Wipes and we haven't looked back since. 

Baby wipes have a pretty terrifying impact on the environment. Most contain plastic fibres which do not biodegrade and so they exist, in some form, forever. If they make their way out to sea (and many do), baby wipes are ingested by hungry sea creatures such as turtles who mistake them for a healthy snack (specifically a jellyfish), this can be fatal to the sea creatures with bellies full of plastic. Even if you don't flush your wipes, they end up sitting in a landfill forever. 

Cheeky Wipes are an eco-friendly alternative to disposable baby wipes. We already had a decent stash from our first child, but Cheeky Wipes very kindly sent us an All-In-One Kit to review this time around. The kit features 25 terry wipes (you can choose other fabrics such as bamboo and even a choice of colours), some essential oils to add fragrance to the wipes, two storage tubs (one for clean and one for dirty) and some bags to store your wipes in when out and about. 

We were sent the terry wipes this time but also have some bamboo ones left from last time. They are both really soft and easy to use. The terry ones are thicker but the bamboo ones have the edge when it comes to softness. Personally, I like having a mix. I like the bamboo ones best but the thicker terry ones are great for messy bums. We just have the white wipes but I really love the brightly coloured sets, they would brighten up any nappy change area. 

If you've never used washable wipes before, you're probably thinking something along the lines of 'eeeew you must get poo everywhere'. You couldn't be more wrong. I find Cheeky Wipes way cleaner to use the disposable wipes. Disposable wipes are so thin, and they end up getting messy quite quickly when you're doing a dirty nappy change, but Cheeky Wipes provide much better protection. 

We use washable nappies too so we just chuck everything into the dirty nappy bin and it all goes into the washing machine together. The wipes wash really well and dry very quickly. We use a tumble dryer and they take no time at all but I have also dried them on radiators and on the line on occasion and they dry really quickly even without the modern godsend that is the tumble dryer. We have plenty of wipes so there are always some clean, so it's worth getting a couple of packets to make sure you have plenty to hand. 

The wipes are really soft and I've never worried about using them on my baby's skin. Even in those early days when most people are using cotton wool, I've just used the Cheeky Wipes as normal. They don't contain manmade chemicals like many disposable wipes so there's no reason to avoid using them on a newly born bum. 

The essential oil mixes smell great though we don't use them very often anymore. I used them a lot during the newborn days when Ember would lie peacefully on the changing table and await her butt being wiped, but there days nappy changes are a bit more hectic (rolling, crawling, cruising death-defying eight-month-old adventure baby, anyone?) and I tend to just wet the wipe under the tap as I wrestle my naked baby out of her dirty nappy. But, back in those lovely early days, I had one of the tubs constantly filled with sweet-smelling Cheeky Wipes ready for that next nappy change. 

The Cheeky Wipes All-In-One Kit comes with bags to make transporting your wipes even easier. There's a little bag for clean wipes and one for dirties that you can just chuck in the wash when you get home. There's no need to use disposable wipes just because you're out of the house, Cheeky Wipes are easy to use at home and on the move. 

I really love the Cheeky Wipes, they're one of the best products I have found since being a parent. They are so easy to use and can really reduce your impact on the planet. If you buy them this week, Cheeky Wipes are offering a 25% discount on all orders made during Real Nappy Week so you'll get a bargain. Make sure you take a look at their site today

ps I've just noticed they do a weaning kit of wipes and that is probably the most genius thing ever. Weaning is so messy. 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Real Nappy Week: Bambino Mio Review

When I was pregnant with Ebony, we bought a birth to potty kit of BumGenius cloth nappies. I think it cost us somewhere in the region of £300. Ebony was out of nappies by about 18 months and by then the velcro on some of the nappies was past its best. When I was pregnant with Ember, we replaced the velcro tabs on the nappies to give them an extra life. Thankfully, now most of the nappies are fine but there is one or two where the strip of velcro needs replacing as well and I can already tell you I will never get around to doing that. 

I noticed that Bambino Mio cloth nappies were going to be on sale in Aldi as part of one of their baby events and I decided to go down and get one to try out. It was only £9.99 which is cheap for a washable nappy and I figured it would make life a little easier for me because the more nappies I have, the less nappy washes I need to do. Plus, they had a design with bikes on and Laurie loves to cycle so I figured this would reduce the risk of the 'why are you buying more nappies? We have plenty of nappies' conversation. 

Since buying the nappy with the bike print, I have been back to Aldi and bought two more Bambino Mio nappies (the one with the kites on, since you must know).And I ordered two other designs online that weren't available at Aldi. I love the Bambino Mio nappies so much I figured I should share that here. They easily get the most use out of all the nappies we have because they're always the first ones I reach for. I love the prints and colours of the nappies, the nappies we had for Ebony weren't quite so exciting so it is still a novelty to me that Ember has such beautiful nappies. 

They're also really easy to use. The side tabs are really sturdy and simply pop closed after use so you can protect the velcro while washing. I've been using them for a few months now and the velcro is still good as new, I imagine it will last longer than our last set of nappies did just because the velcro seems to be better protected. The velcro securely fastens the nappy so Ember can't open them and pull them off (also a bonus). 

The nappies are all-in-ones so the inner padding is attached to the nappy (unlike other nappies which have two separate parts; an inner padding and an outer nappy). There's a little tab you can pull before you stick it in the wash to get the inner pad out for washing but it stays attached to the nappy throughout. This is so much easier than having to dig around trying to find all the pieces for the nappy each time. It's only a small thing but it is saving me plenty of man hours. 

The nappies wash really well and dry quickly despite the hefty inner padding. I haven't had any leakage problems with these nappies because the padding is thick enough to absorb anything and everything she throws at it. I haven't found anything I don't like about these nappies yet, they're easy to use, look amazing and are good value for money. My local Aldi still has a few of the nappies in so it's worth popping into your local store to see if you can get them at the bargain price of £9.99. 

Bambino Mio is currently offering 15% off all of their nappies to celebrate Real Nappy Week, so if you're thinking of getting some cloth nappies, now might be the time to do it. You can get one of their all-in-one nappies for just £13.59 for this week only. If you're looking to stock up, you can get their birth to potty pack which contains everything you'll need for the first couple of years for just £212.49. You can browse the options on their website here.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Real Nappy Week: 7 Things I Love About Cloth Nappies

Happy Real Nappy Week! I haven't been very good at blogging of late so I thought this might be a nice chance to throw myself into it again. I used to blog about all things baby related but I seem to be doing things on autopilot the second time around so I just haven't had as much to write about. So, Real Nappy Week is my prompt and this week I will write a little bit about the things we use and why. I thought I'd start off with a list of reasons why I love using washable nappies, here goes:

1. They look adorable
I love how cloth nappies look. I love the bright colours and the different prints and the fact that they give babies massive bums. There is nothing cuter than the sight of a baby with a huge brightly coloured cloth nappy on. Disposable nappies just don't look as good, they are terrible photo props. 

2. I'm doing something
It's easy to get so bogged down in the everyday grind of parenting and family life that you let your morals fall to the wayside. Things suddenly seem too expensive or too difficult to fit in with your busy schedule of changing bums and sleepless nights and everything else. Using cloth nappies is my way of still doing something. Ok, having kids is bad for the planet, but using cloth nappies reduces the impact of that just a little bit. 

3. It's easy
There's a commonly held misconception that cloth nappies are hard work, but it's simply not true. All I have to do is stick a bag of dirty nappies in the wash every couple of days. It's not difficult or time-consuming. Remembering to stick a load on uses about as much mental energy as remembering to buy a new pack of disposables from the shop. 

4. It reduces waste
We recycle as much as we can and always try to donate things to charity shops rather than simply dumping them in landfill. I think it's important to reduce our impact on the planet and that means reducing the amount of waste we create. Disposable nappies are waste, they head straight for landfill. The official estimate is that one baby gets through 3000 nappies during the first year of life (I actually think that estimate is a little high, but even so, it'll be well over 2000 per baby) and that's a lot of nappies to be sitting in landfill. I think anybody who feels concerned about the state of the planet should be using cloth nappies.  

5. They cost nothing
Well, ok, they cost money when we first bought them but that was almost six years ago. The nappies we bought when I was pregnant with Ebony are still being used for Ember today. The upfront cost is more expensive than with disposables but the nappies will last you a lot longer and won't be ending up in the bin by the end of the week. I think it's a shame there isn't more government support for parents who want to use cloth nappies because it would be great if new parents could get an interest free loan to buy cloth nappies to cover that initial outlay. Some places do have cloth nappy libraries where you can borrow nappies to trial using them for a few weeks to see how you get on. 

6. It's flexible
Just because you use cloth nappies, it doesn't mean you can't ever use disposable nappies. You don't have to be a committed die-hard fan, you can use a mixture of disposables and washables. I always have a packet of disposables into use if necessary. When we go on holiday next month, I won't be taking cloth nappies and will instead be taking disposables just to make life a little easier whilst we're away. 

7. They start a conversation
When Ebony was born, we did things a certain way because we felt it was important. We used cloth nappies because we wanted to reduce our impact on the planet. Now that Ebony's an older sister, these decisions have the added benefit of giving us the opportunity to talk to Ebony about issues we feel are important. I really hope my daughters to grow up mindful of their impact on the people, animals and environment around them and I think setting a good example is an important part of that. 

What are your favourite things about using cloth nappies? 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Springtime In The Garden

With spring upon us, I've started thinking about the garden. It seems to get ignored during the winter months when the grass is waterlogged and the air is cold. I can go months without even stepping foot in the garden, but as soon as the weather picks up, the garden is one of my favourite places to be. 

Last summer, I spent many lazy afternoons sprawled out like a heavily pregnant beached whale on the sun lounger while Ebony busied herself in the play area. The bottom of our garden is dedicated to fun. There's a huge chalkboard wall to draw on, a rooftop playhouse to play in and a swing set. The playhouse was a new addition my dad created last year. I think every garden needs a playhouse. How awesome is this Fort Limpkin playhousefrom GBC Group?! We had a two story playhouse in the garden when we were growing up and we spent countless hours happily playing in it. 

There's also a sandpit down there and a hopscotch I painted after asking Ebony to write the numbers in chalk. She was three so most of the letters are the wrong way round which I love. There's a little bit more space so we could add a few more toys or activities down there though I haven't decided on what yet. 

One thing I've been meaning to do since we moved in was to create a bug hotel somewhere in the garden. I think Ebony would love helping to design and make it and it would be a great way to learn all about the wildlife in our garden. 

I really really want a corner sofa for the garden and I spend way too much time admiring them online. I almost bought one last year because I thought I would spend the summer holidays breastfeeding in the garden whilst Ebony played. In actual fact, I spent them way too pregnant (seriously, so pregnant) and crying so I'm kind of relieved I didn't spend the money in the end. 

The only problem with all of these ideas is Ember. Last summer, she ruined my plans by staying put in my belly. This year she's ruining my plans by not staying put. I'd forgotten how hard the crawling stage is. Good god, that child will not sit still. A few weeks ago, before she learned to crawl, I could just plonk her down safe in the knowledge that she would stay there until I got back. Not anymore. Now she crawls and cruises and generally disappears. Yesterday, I left her alone for 30 seconds and when I got back she had opened a bottle of lotion (with a screw top. How?!) and smeared it all over her forehead. 

When I take her in the garden she crawls off. Straight off the picnic blanket, over the grass and towards danger. She was so far eaten sand, grass, dandelion, mud and a small plastic thing I managed to wrestle from her mouth. I think this probably won't be the summer I get to relax in my garden. Maybe next year. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

5 Things My Dream House Would Have

I'm not allowed to move house, probably ever. Laurie spent days painstakingly scraping black tar off the floorboards in the living room so that I could have beautiful varnished floorboards. My mum and dad came to help but only if we promised to admire the floor forevermore. So I'm not allowed to move, three people would be very cross with me if I suggested such a thing. And these floorboards are very beautiful. But one day, when I win the lottery and can afford to buy a new house whilst also keeping this house so I can entertain my parents here and pretend I haven't moved because of my overwhelming love for the floor they so carefully sanded, I might move. And, if I do, I would like my new house to be the house that dreams are made of and that means:

1. There Would Be No Black Tar On The Floorboards
This is quite a niche one, I know, but I don't think my marriage could survive under the strain of any more tar. Or polystyrene ceiling tiles. Or anything that requires Laurie to do DIY because he hates it and it makes him grumpy and then I feel like I have to go over the top in my appreciation of the finished job and it soon feels false and awkward. The only DIY job I have ever seen Laurie enjoy was when he plumbed in a toilet and sink (read about it here, if you wish), so he would probably do that again if he had to but he certainly wouldn't take tar off any floorboards in the new house.

2. A View Of The Stars
I think (and I can only dream of such things so I don't know whether it would love up to my expectations or not) that one of the nicest things in the world would be to bathe under the stars. I would love a bath under a skylight so I could look out at the stars as I relaxed in the bath (or, most likely, bathed under the deafening noise of rain slamming against the glass). I would love a big bathroom with a roll-top bath and a big walk-in shower area (not cubicle, I have imaginary won the lottery after all. Take a look at this website for some walk-in shower inspiration). It would all be self-cleaning, of course, the entire house would clean itself by magic. 

3. A Vegetable Patch
This is such a simple and dumb dream that it seems a little ridiculous, but I really want a vegetable patch. We could have some raised beds in our current garden but it isn't really big enough for me to create much of a vegetable patch. I would love to have a big patch with a selection of things growing all year round. I always think I'll get around to sorting something little here but never quite find them time and then it's winter again (why does winter come around so fast?). 

4. A Kitchen Diner
When we bought our house, I didn't want a kitchen diner. About six months later, I wanted one and have wanted one ever since. We have a breakfast bar but it's just not the same (although I am excited about when the day arrives that Ember and Ebony can sit next to each other at the breakfast bar). We have a dining table in the conservatory but we never venture that far into the house, it's either boiling hot or freezing cold down there so it does not a good living room make. I would love a big kitchen with a sturdy dining table and us all sat around on chairs chatting, eating and drinking (wine. Not for the kids). 

5. Floor To Ceiling Bookcases
This is actually on the list of jobs I have in mind for this house, though I don't know if we'll ever get around to it. Laurie is still recovering from tar-gate and I fear it may take years to convince him to do any more decorating. In the meantime, I will continue to spend too much money on books in the hope of one day owning a bookcase big enough to house them all. 

Obviously, if we're talking lottery win, it would also have acres of land, a view to die for and a little woodland. What would your dream house have? 

This is a collaborative post. 

Goodbye, Baby Days

Ebony was a baby for ages. Years, in fact. Her babyhood stretched on and on. This was probably, in hindsight, due to the extreme sleep deprivation I was suffering at her tiny hands. That baby just would not sleep. Like, ever. I was so tired. So tired. And everything was new and momentous and terrifying. Every time something new happened I would spend hours researching it trying to work out what exactly was the best way to handle it. All of my parenting decisions were thoroughly researched, Google was my best friend. 

The second time around is different. The months are flying by. I can't believe how quickly time is passing. The newborn stage seemed to last about five minutes. She was curled up asleep in my arms for a few weeks and now she's eating and crawling and punching me with force in the face. I took photos, hundreds of photos, during those early weeks and I'm so glad that I did. Photos of her snuggled up in a hooded towel after a bath (is there anything cuter than babies snuggled up in hooded baby towels?), photos of her lying awkwardly across the lap of her proudly beaming sister, photos of her lying on her changing mat staring deep into the camera with her bright blue eyes. Those photos captured a time that already seems like a million years ago. 

One thing I didn't do was write. I couldn't seem to find the time or the headspace to sit down and write about life. I started this blog when Ebony was born (you can read her birth story here - go on, it's beautiful) and I used it as a place to store my thoughts and musings on motherhood. My whole life had been shaken up and thrown into chaos and this was my place to make sense of that. This time, things have been less chaotic. The mornings are pretty hardcore as I try to two small children out of the door on time and bedtime is a stress-inducing hour, but generally, life is ok. I know what I'm doing. I'm not scared of panicked. When rashes appear or bumps happen, I don't panic, I have been here before. And so I didn't find the need to sit and write about it all, though I should do it soon before I forget. I should write about the way she sleeps curled up in the crook of my arm, her feets nestled into my ribs. I should write about the way her entire face lights up when her sister enters the room. I should write about the games she plays with Laurie when he gets home from work. I should write about those things before they escape my memory. 

She doesn't feel like a baby anymore. She's not a toddler, because she isn't toddling just yet but she's well on her way. We call her The Brute and it suits her perfectly (though may lead to identity problems in the future). She is strong and sturdy and never gives up. She's on the move, if I look away momentarily she is climbing into the fireplace or standing by the television. I can't leave her alone for fear of the chaos she will cause while my back is turned. She loves her food, she sucks chews and occasionally swallows pretty much anything I put in front of her. By the end of the meal, she is covered from head to toe in a rainbow of food. She has to be bathed in the sink, hummus dripping from her chin and peanut butter in her ears, so I can get her clean.

She reminds me of my sister. She has the determination and strength that I remember my sister having in her toddler days. She was always fighting to do the things I could do, always wanting to be the same as me despite our age gap. It might be simply that my sister is far away and my heart misses her, so I see her where she is not, but I hope that it is true and that Ebony's little sister is just a little bit like my own. She has the fluffy hair and the ruddy cheeks and she certainly seems to have the fiercely independent streak my sister is famed for (he ruddy cheeks were from her toddler years, she doesn't have them anymore; if she did, I just wouldn't mention them for fear of upsetting her). 

This is a collaborative post. 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

I'd Forgotten

I'd forgotten what it's like to be needed, really needed by a baby. To feel a warm head radiating heat against my cheek. To be entangled in soft limbs that reach out for comfort. To feel my shoulder dampen with tears. To hear the pained cry of a baby in my ear. To hold and rock and soothe and feel utterly helpless. I'd forgotten what it's like to worry, to Google, to ring the doctors. I'd forgotten how exhausting it is to be woken by cries in the night, to sit up and rock and fight to stay awake against the crushing exhaustion in my bones. I'd forgotten how draining it is to listen to cries from noon until night and no that there's nothing I can do to help.

I'd forgotten how much those teeth can hurt, how hard it can be to breathe through a snotty nose, how hungry babies get when they can't feed properly. I'd forgotten how desperately they need to be cuddled even when it does nothing to silence the crying. I'd forgotten what it's like to be somebody's everything, to be the only person who can make the pain even slightly more bearable. I'd forgotten what it's like to not have the time to shower, to watch a baby cry on the floor so I could snatch two minutes to pee. I'd forgotten what it's like when showering is impossible, to be covered with the dried tears and snot of a screaming baby and not be able to put them down to get clean. I'd forgotten the relief of the front door opening at 7pm and knowing that I could have a few minutes of not holding or feeding or cuddling. I'd forgotten the bone-aching skin-crawling reality of feeling touched out.

A baby needs you in a different way to a five-year-old. A five-year-old can wait, she sat patiently on the top step the other day for five minutes while a crimson bead of blood formed on her finger as she waited for her sister to stop crying so she could show me her cut. A five-year-old can soothe herself and often does. I hear her trip, pick herself up, dust herself off and carry on, muttering under her breath about the stupid toy that tripped her up. A five-year-old doesn't need me, she needs anyone. Her dad, her nanny, it doesn't matter, she is soothed by love and attention but it doesn't need to be from me.

A baby is different. A baby's needs cannot be put off or ignored or asked to wait. A baby cannot be fobbed off on someone else. A baby can scream and cry until she is red in the face even when she is being held tightly. A baby can't explain why she is crying or what hurts. All she can do is cry and reach out for me and let me know that she needs me, even though neither of us know why.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Back To Reality

Well, that was Easter. Ebony has been off school for two whole weeks and it has been lovely. We've been to museums, we've met up with friends, we've had barbecues, we've baked Easter nests, we even managed a trip to Liverpool. You can follow all of our adventures on Instagram here, if you aren't already. I got ill and then Ember got ill and even that didn't stop us having fun, though we may have slumped on the sofa watched a couple of movies when everyone was under the weather. I have had the nicest break from real life and really enjoyed having both my girls together. Ember has been thrilled to have Ebony to play with all day, though she's been manic from lack of sleep because it's just too damn loud in the house when your big sister is home. 

The long weekend has been perfect too, it's always nice to have a little extra time as a complete family with Laurie off work as well. There's nothing Ebony loves more than having all of us together doing the same thing. She loves eating as a family, something we rarely get to do because Laurie doesn't usually get home until after bedtime. And she loves getting to choose who will put her to bed because we're both around. And, when she picks me, I get to put her to bed properly rather than sitting next to her trying to wrestle the world's noisiest and most awake baby into submission. 

But now it's back to reality. It's time to dig out (and dust off) the ironing board to get her school uniform ready. It's time to make sure her clothing labels are still present and her new PE shoes are neatly labeled. It's time to open her school bag and smirk at the homework we haven't bothered to do. It's time to pin her down and brush her hair. Her usual feral locks won't cut it at school where there are nits-a-plenty. It's time to shine her shoes and... just kidding, I'm not a shoe shining sort of a person. 

It's time to try and bring bedtime back to a workable hour. The hazy evenings and slow bedtimes of recent weeks need to be cast aside to make way for a military routine that ensures everyone gets enough sleep (apart from Laurie, he never gets enough sleep). It's time to disturb Ember's dreams once again to snatch her from the warmth of the bed and bundle her into the sling so we can get Ebony to school. It's time to curse the damn school shoes that have once again gone missing (who hides them? WHO??). Tomorrow, we'll be running out of the front door as the school bell sounds, me dragging Ebony along with one arm as she eats breakfast with the other (her second breakfast, I might add, that kid loves to eat). 

Tomorrow morning, I'll walk her to school, lean down so she can plant a kiss on her baby's sister's head and then watch the girl who made me a mother march through the school gates. Then I'll walk home, enjoying, for the first time in weeks, not having to urge anyone to keep up with me or slow down or not walk so close to the road. And then I'll unlock the front door, step inside and be met by a deafening silence. And, yes, I'll get some work done whilst Ember sleeps and I'll enjoy some one-on-one time with my littlest girl, but it'll take a while for me to readjust to the calm and quiet of her sister being back in school again. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

7 Things All Family Bathrooms Need

It's funny how much your home requirements change when you become a parent. All of a sudden, the sharp corners, loose wires and smashable vases are more hazard than home decor. Now that Ebony is five, the house can be pretty much how I want it albeit with an unfortunate layer of 'accidental' felt tip pen scribbles over the top (one day I might paint over this) but with Ember crawling and cruising, we're very much back in that baby-proofing stage. The fire hearth is covered in cushions to prevent nasty bumps, laptop wires are quickly tidied away after use and we're all on red alert for stray pieces of lego. 

The bathroom is a room that I'm particularly terrified of. Why do they make bathroom tiles so damn hard? I live in constant fear that Ember is going to crack her head on the floor or wall. I've spent a while thinking about how I would redesign the room to make it work better with a mobile baby. Here's a list of the things I've decided all family bathrooms need:

1. Storage 
Bathrooms accumulate so much crap, don't they (pun intended)? I bought so much anti-aging stuff from Superdrug last week that they sent me approximately eight million packs of cleansing wipes. Thank god we have bathroom storage is all I can say. Last year, we replaced our standard sink with a furniture sink that has two huge drawers beneath. I love it. Finally, I have plenty of storage and the room doesn't look cluttered. The only problem is that it is in Ember's reach so I'm now living a life of fear about all the chemicals I keep in that bottom drawer. 

2. A Separate Shower 
Our house just has a shower above the bath, but our old house had a separate shower cubicle and I loved it. For one, babies don't accidentally poop in your shower cubicle like they do in your bath so, at the very least, you have somewhere clean to wash after your bath has been crapped in (don't pretend this doesn't happen to you). I used to leave Ebony playing on the floor and then have a shower. She didn't panic because she could still me and I didn't panic because I could still see her through the glass cubicle (check out the huge walk in showers on this website). 

3. Space
Our bathroom is tiny and it doesn't really work well for family life. If I'm in the shower, Ember is playing on the floor and Ebony is washing her hands, the room is officially cramped. I don't have claustrophobia, but if I did, I would need a bigger bathroom. Family bathrooms should have space for the whole family even though all parents want is to use the damn bathroom in peace. 

4. Huge Baths
Nobody wants to take a bath with their whole family (apart from my five-year-old who wants exactly that pretty much every day) but there should be enough space in the bath that you can, should you wish to. I don't wish to, yet every damn bath I end up with at least a baby in there and often a five-year-old as well. I wish the bath was bigger. 

5. To Not Be Home To The Only Toilet
Small children have no manners, they won't wait for you to finish your relaxing bath before they stroll in and take a dump on the toilet. My bathroom is so small that, when bathing, my head is right next to the toilet. Lovely. Also, grim when you have a child who needs the toilet. The downstairs toilet has changed my life. 

6. Bubbles
All family bathrooms should have a never-ending supply of bubbles. Bubble bath, bath bombs, gels, lotions... kids love them all. As do I. Also, candles. On the rare occasions that I get to have a bath all by myself, I want to enjoy it. It must feel like a mini spa getaway in the comfort of my own home. And, when I don't get a bath to myself, I at least want to see the glee on my five-year-old's face when we use a bath bomb or the joy my baby feels when she eats bubble bath. I'm currently enjoying bath products made by The Dirty Vegans

7. A Cleaner
We don't have a cleaner (or a clean bathroom), but we should. I would love to have a clean, especially one who was charged with making the bathroom sparkle again. I think I would enjoy the bathroom way more if we had a cleaner. Without one, my bathroom is a constant state of being cleaned. It is impossible to finish a job with a seven-month-old baby on the loose. 

What have I missed off this list?

This is a collaborative post. 


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