Thursday 27 July 2017

5 things you need in your entrance hall

Your entrance hall gives visitors a glimpse into your home. It's the place they stand when they make their first impression of your home. And, more importantly, it's the first place you step foot when you get home after a long day. It should feel welcoming and homely, encouraging yourself and your guests to feel at ease upon entering the house. 

Thursday 20 July 2017

5 ways you know you're overdoing it at baby group

Having a baby is a bit of a shock. All of a sudden, you’re plunged into this world of baby groups and nursery rhymes, and obsessing over the appearance of poo. It’s not a good place to be. There are overly enthusiastic women singing nursery rhymes you don’t recognise in shrill voices, health visitors wanting to know whether you think about hurting yourself every minute of the day, sometimes or never, and all kinds of suspicious-looking rashes appearing on your baby every single week. In short, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and a little lost.

When Ebony was born, I was lucky because I found a mum friend who I loved within a couple of months of the birth. She was ridiculously sarcastic, stupidly funny and loved calling her baby a dick (behind her back) as much as I did (about my baby, I didn’t call her baby a dick). Those early days though, when I was desperately trying to find my tribe (we all need a tribe, especially when we have leaky boobs, sore fannies and a desperate urge to pretend our baby has ‘friends’), I experienced some hideously cringy moments at playgroup while I tried to make BFFs with everyone who sat next to me.

You’d think it would be easier the second time around, that I’d already have a tribe in place, but the big age gap between my girls has left me somewhat of a newbie again. Most of my mum friends had their kids closer together and have now thrown themselves back into real life while I’m still walking around with a bag full of nappies and wipes and soggy rice cakes. If anything, I’d say it has been more difficult this time around because I’m busy with the school run and working and a million other things I didn’t have to worry about last time. I have, on occasion, noticed myself sounding a little desperate (read: completely mental) at baby group. Here are 5 ways you know you’re overdoing it at baby group:

1. When you invite people out too soon
Urgh. At some point, there comes a time when it’s ok to invite another mum to hang out with you. A day when your friendship progresses from random bumping into each others at baby group to let’s set a date and do lunch. I am bad at judging this. I have a terrible tendency of inviting people out way too soon, so they either politely decline or we go and then it’s a bit weird because we don’t actually know each other. If you wait too long though, it’s equally awkward because then you’re firmly in the acquaintance camp and it’s a big jump to try and force them into your tribe.

2. When you talk too much because you haven’t had an adult conversation all day
Anyone else guilty of this? I have a bad habit of oversharing at baby groups because I’m excited to be with other adults. I chat all day to my baby but she does little more than stare back at me with a blank expression and occasionally laughs in my face or tries to ram her finger up my nose. I had this under control when Ember was first born because I was doing the school run and chatting to other parents at the gate. But, alas, now we have fallen into bad habits and are usually running (very) late for the school drop off so I don’t always see other people then. And so, I go into overdrive and talk too much at toddler group because I’m excited to be having a real life conversation with an actual adult who might even speak back to me.

3. When you pretend your babies are friends
Babies don’t have friends. They have the worst social skills on the planet (did I mention that my baby likes to ram her finger up my nose?) and only see other babies as competitors for the decent toys at playgroup. My baby likes to pat the heads of other babies, she likes to poke other babies in the eye and sometimes she steals their toys. I call these victims her ‘friends’ in the hope that it will help to endear the other mums to us so we can all be ‘friends’.

4. When you have to keep dragging your baby back to where you’re sitting
Baby group is for babies, right? Er, no. It’s for mums. It’s easy when your baby can’t move, you can plonk them down in front of you and know they’ll stay there for the duration of the group. I have no such luck these days. I can collect all the interesting looking toys in the room in an attempt to try and keep Ember entertained, she will just plough through them on her way to Very Far Away which is where she likes to hang. She doesn’t care if I’m in the middle of an interesting chat or speaking to someone new, she just wanders off and finds the most dangerous situation she can put herself in. With Ebony, I would have just followed her around the room. This time, I try (and fail) to get Ember to stay close to me.

5. When you ask about schools while your kids are still in nappies
I would never have done this Ebony and I think it’s the low point of my desperation the second time around. Ebony’s baby best friend went to a different school, so after years of being best friends and going to preschool together, they went to different schools. With my first child, school seemed like something futuristic and it took years to arrive. This time, I think it’ll be here in no time. To complicate matters, Ember was born at the very end of August so a lot of the babies her age will be going to school a year later. I know this will stress me out, I’m already worried about her being the youngest in the year and how she’ll cope with the long days when she’s still so little. So, I know having friends who get an extra year with their similar-aged babies will be rubbish, for me, not for them. So I’ve developed a weird habit of working out which school year the other babies will be in.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who looks this desperate at playgroup.

Oh god, I am, aren’t I?

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Making Time For My First Born

One of my big regrets from when Ember was born is that I didn’t carve out enough time for just Ebony. We made the most of our time together when I was pregnant so I could soak up those final months of it being just the two us. We went on adventures, we took trips out and we snuggled together under a blanket and watched movies (I might have fallen asleep a lot). But when Ember arrived, I didn’t do enough to spend time with Ebony. I was so busy breastfeeding, napping and crying (always), that there just didn’t seem to be enough of me to go round.

Saturday 15 July 2017

6 ways to keep your food shop affordable

I’ve gone a bit crazy with my shopping budget of late (1950s housewife, anyone?). I think it’s because we have an extra mouth to feed and that mouth is attached to hands that love to throw food on the floor (oh the joys of baby led weaning). Also, snacks cost us a fortune because Ebony has a Nakd bar most days and they aren’t cheap, but they do contain nuts so I see it as a good investment for her health.

Thursday 13 July 2017

10 Things That Happen If You Follow Baby Led Weaning

Baby led weaning is probably one of my favourite things ever. It just feels like the obvious thing to do this time around, but with my first, it seemed like I was part of a revolution. Everyone around me was busy spoon feeding their babies purees and I was knee-deep in dropped salad in the middle of a restaurant whilst servers looked on at me in disgust. Revolution! 

Wednesday 12 July 2017

5 ways to refresh your family garden

After a long winter-spring-summer of near-constant rain, you can forgive your garden for looking a little worse for wear. We're at the bottom of a hill so our lawn becomes pretty pond-like after too much rain and it takes ages to recover afterwards (I hate the rain).

Sunday 9 July 2017

Competition: Canesten® Conversations & How To Raise Feminists

Having two daughters is pretty scary. The world is hardly an equal playing field for boys and girls, nevermind for men and women. I see it as part of my duty to raise the next generation of feminists, although sometimes I wonder whether that job is even more important if you have sons.

Friday 7 July 2017

10 things I do during night feeds

In all honesty, I was dreading the night feeds the second time around. I don’t think I’ve caught up with my sleep debt incurred from my first born. She used to feed all night long and I was left sleep-deprived. In truth, at times, I felt completely insane because of the lack of sleep. This time around, things have been easier. That’s not to say I haven’t done my fair share of night feeds. Babies feed in the night, there’s not much you can do to change that.

Thursday 6 July 2017

The Curse Of Being Different

It’s not easy to be different. We’re all different, I guess, each of us has something that makes us stand out from the collective identity we believe society holds. That thing we carry around with us, it could be anything really, that makes us different, the part of us that other people can’t relate to. These differences seem bigger when you become a parent when, all of a sudden, everything you do is up for discussion as people pass comment on your parenting.

Tuesday 4 July 2017

A Family Holiday To Majorca

We recently spent 11 nights in Majorca (two weeks sounds too long and one week sounds way too short so I always find something in between). It was our first holiday as a family of four. I wanted somewhere affordable with good weather (no more rain, thanks, Portugal) and things to keep Ebony entertained. After some prosecco-induced holiday browsing on Christmas Eve, I booked us a self-catering holiday at Blau Punta Reina Resort near Porto Cristo. We always go self-catering, I'd be too worried about the potential lack of vegan options on an all-inclusive holiday. The only time I haven't been self-catering was on our honeymoon when we went to the fanciest place ever and they made us a special vegan menu which they wrote on a scroll and sealed with red wax. We don't really go to places like that anymore. Sob. 

We paid a little extra for a sea view (thanks, Christmas Eve prosecco) because I figured we'd be stuck at the apartment in the evening and it made sense to have something nice to look at. I thought we'd probably only be able to see a bit of the sea but that it would be nice anyway. In actual fact, we could see the whole ocean, or it felt that way. Our apartment was sort of on a cliff that jutted out into the ocean. We had a terrace, then there was a little path, then a bit of grass and, then All The Sea. I have never been anywhere more beautiful. It was so lovely to sit out on sun loungers in the evening, the kids tucked up asleep in bed, and watch nighttime appear over the sea. 

It was quite a big complex with three pools and a separate kids splash zone complete with pirate themed slides. I'm not really one for lounging by the pool, I'm much happier on the beach or holed away on a balcony, but I spent a couple of afternoons by the splash zone watching Ebony play in the water. There was a kids club on the resort so Ebony spent a couple of sessions there and loved it. They did crafts, played at the splash zone and had a pool party. We've never used a kids club before but it was fun for Ebony to hang out with other kids and it meant Ember could nap in peace. 

The resort was located between two beaches, we spent most mornings at Cala Romantica. It was a gorgeous little sandy beach and Ebony spent hours jumping over waves and building sandcastles. Ember ate half the beach. We got there early and stayed for a couple of hours before heading back to the resort to hide from the midday sun. Keeping Ember in the shade proved to be hard work and getting her to wear a sun hat was near impossible. I spent most of the holiday trying to distract her so I could firmly fix a sunhat to her head. 

We went self-catering which probably would have been fine if we'd hired a car to drive to a supermarket. The resort isn't near any supermarkets so it was difficult finding food. The nearest shop was a Spar which didn't sell any vegetables. Laurie got directions to 'the supermarket' and trekked there in the heat only to discover it was a slightly bigger Spar with a selection of about five vegetables, but we made do. It wasn't the healthiest holiday and I can't see myself wanting to eat pasta anytime soon. The apartment itself was small, definitely the smallest self-catering apartment I've stayed in. There was no oven which wasn't exactly ideal. 

We had a cot in our room but no highchair. Hot weather and baby led weaning do not mix well, it turns out. After a couple of days, Laurie snuck out early and stole one of the highchairs from the hotel bar and we kept that for the remainder of the holiday which made life a lot easier. It's not a holiday if a crawling baby is rubbing pasta sauce into your legs. Without the stolen highchair, I think the holiday would have felt like hard work because that much mess three times a day is absolutely no fun. 

Ebony made friends with a little girl from a few doors down and they managed to play quite happily without any idea what the other was saying. Laurie dusted off his GCSE German a couple of times to help out with some translation. Ebony really enjoyed the holiday, she's never happier than when we're all together. Ember really loved the beach and the pool and getting to smear pasta sauce all over the floor. There was free wi-fi at the hotel and it actually worked (this took me by surprise) so my dream of an internet-free holiday didn't quite happen but it was still lovely to get away from home for a while. And, in the end, the internet proved to be quite useful because our baby monitor broke whilst we were out there so for the last few nights we used our phones and the wi-fi to create a makeshift (and very expensive) monitor so we could still sit outside and drink under the stars. 

We've not even been home a month but it already feels like it was a million years ago. That's the worst thing about holidays, isn't it? How quickly they become distant memories. 

Monday 3 July 2017

10 Things My 10-Month-Old Loves

I had forgotten the joys of having a 10-month-old. One of the good things about a bigger age gap is that it’s a bit like going through it all for the first time again (this is also probably one of the bad things about the big age gap). Ember is such a happy baby, she spends most of the day pissing herself at things I don’t quite understand and the rest of the day furious that I won’t let her touch the oven/fall down the stairs/eat the cat (delete as appropriate). Here are ten of the things she loves doing at the moment:

1. Dancing
She has just recently figured out how to dance. I taught her everything she knows, of course. Her down-to-the-floor bounces are out of this world. It’s her only move which is similar to my own catalogue of dance moves (1. awkward swaying and 2. down-to-the-floor-bounces) though I’m not sure I could do them justice at my age (31 is tough). She dances to all the music she hears, even music blaring from passing cars while she’s in the sling, she will suddenly kick her legs out and try to bounce.

2. 5am
If I had to try and pick what her favourite thing was, it would be 5am. She loves it. She cannot get enough of 5am. She is at her loudest and most excitable at that time of day, much to the detriment of our neighbours. And myself, of course. I only fall asleep at midnight, so I am not clocking those much-needed eight hours of beauty sleep at the moment (and you can tell). My day starts at 5am now. It is terrible, but she loves it and if I try to convince her to go back to sleep, she crawls across the bed and starts slapping Laurie or Ebony in the face and laughing so I just have to get up at 5am now.

3. Throwing her food on the floor
The first time around, this stage drove me insane. WHY IS ALL THE FOOD ON THE FLOOR? I would sob this daily while picking cat hairs out of the pasta I was returning to the highchair tray. With Ember, it’s much easier because I know it’s only a stage and at some point she will realise that ‘food is for eating’ (said in a sing-song happy voice). Plus, she loves cat hair. And the floor is laminated, it was carpeted in our old house. Carpet is a terrible idea for baby led weaning. The carpet started off cream and ended up looking like an 80s pub carpet, bright blotches of pasta and curry creating a disco of patterns around the highchair.

4. Tipping her water on the floor
Ah, sippy cups, why don’t they come with a magical force field that forces all spilt water back into the damn cup? She drinks probably three drops of water and then the rest of the contents are tipped onto the floor. With wooden floors, this creates quite a slip hazard. Obviously, she then slips in it and looks across at me as though I am a monster. Me, the person who knows how to use a sippy cup. It is really not worth giving her a drink of water unless I am trying to give her a stealth bath, hiding behind her with shampoo, because it inevitably ends up all over her.

5. Tickling
Ember loves to tickle, it’s her favourite game. She reaches across and lovingly tickles anyone who’ll let her. She laughs crazily the whole time. The only problem is, she’s not very good at tickling and, actually, it’s more like scratching. Ok, fine. She loves scratching. She scratches my face, my boobs, my arms, her sister, everything. She is very good at scratching. She has a great future ahead of her in scratching. She even scratches herself.

6. Things that light up
We go to a couple of playgroups each week. You know the type, church halls filled wall-to-wall with sleep-deprived mothers sat around clutching cups of coffees while their children are kept safely indoors thanks to a safety gate at the exit. To mix things up a little, I signed us up to a fancy baby group recently. It’s £5 for 45 minutes which makes my purse cry tiny tears in the corner of the room, but Ember loves it. The women who run are enthusiastic (too enthusiastic, some might say). They have shitloads of props, deafeningly high-pitched songs and plenty of flashing lights. It turns out, my ten-month-old loves flashing lights. The rest of the babies are only just sitting, they sit politely admiring the lights from afar. Not my baby. She’s all over that shit. The first week, she managed to get the batteries out of one of the lights. The second week, she took the light up centrepiece and crawled off with it (I tried but I couldn’t get it back off her).

7. Pulling books off shelves
I like shelves. I like arranging my books so everyone can see how well-read I am and I love organising the books by colour so everyone can see how creative I am (or how much time I spend on Pinterest). Ember loves shelves too. She loves destroying them. She rips down the books, hurling the light ones over her shoulder and dropping the heavy ones right on her toes (then shoots me an evil stare as if it was my fault). She loves pulling all the books down. Not just at home, but everywhere we go. We no longer get invited, like, anywhere.

8. Untidying
I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough lately. It turns out, if I tidy up Ebony’s bedroom every day, it doesn’t get too messy. This might sound a bit obvious, but it has taken me five long years to learn this trick of the trade. It has become part of my daily routine when Ember wakes from her morning nap, we pop into Ebony’s room and quickly put books back on the shelves, pick up the toys and sort out the bed. Well, I do. Ember follows me closely, quickly undoing absolutely everything I do. She drags more books down off the shelf, tips the toy box over and drags clothes out of the chest of drawers. I am now a very speedy tidier, I have only speed on my side.

9. Pooing on the floor
That kid can whip her nappy off and curl one out on the floor quicker than you can say PLEASE DON’T SHIT ON THE RUG. It’s her signature move. If she is left without a nappy on for more than the blink of an eye, she will crap on the floor. Sometimes, she stands up, walks away from the potty and then poops just in front of it. This is gross but it’s not as bad as the time Ebony smeared poo all over herself, her cot and my side of the bed so I can forgive a bit of poo on the floor. I cannot forgive poo on my pillow.

10. Anything she isn’t allowed to do

She definitely understands the word no. I know this because of the way she smiles at me while she continues to smack the tv/climb over the edge of the sofa/open the grill. She never stops what she’s doing. Never. Not once. She knows all the things she isn’t allowed to do, and she does them with glee. The only thing that keeps me sane is the manic laughter that erupts from her as soon as she gets hold of something she shouldn’t. It’s like a warning siren. Silence, fine, I can handle that. Crazy evil laughter? Shit, she’s done something.

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