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You’ve come a long way, baby

‘Good morning, I’ve got no eyebrows’.

Such was the greeting I received from my three-year old this morning. His eyebrows (in case you were concerned) were entirely intact, as were mummy’s, daddy’s and Sam’s (we did a census). Ah, the musings of a three-year old; a threenager. And here I am, the mother of a toddler and a pre-schooler. At least I think I’m qualified to say that. It doesn’t quite feel right to say that I have a baby and a toddler any more. The ‘baby’ has a mouthful of teeth and a head of blonde hair and makes a dash for any staircase he senses within 20 metres. The older one lists all the reasons why he can’t eat his vegetables or shouldn’t go to bed and asks you to help him tell the time.

I’m writing this on the eve of my youngest child’s first birthday. A year ago I was packing my hospital bag and feeling anxious about leaving my (then) only child for a night or two (with his grandparents, we weren’t expecting him to fend for himself). Now I’m baking a birthday cake for a kid who eats ham sandwiches and pom bears and arranging actual school visits for his older brother.

I was hoping to write an insightful and virtuous piece when the baby reached nine months, all about how we’d turned a corner and everyday life was on the up. Nine months came and went and my post remained unwritten. No corners were turned in everyday life, and although things were much easier than in the early days and we no longer had to deal with incidents like this, I was still feeling very much in the trenches. Sam’s reflux had not magically vanished as it had for his older brother (I know, shouldn’t compare) and I was still knackered and generally feeling like I was failing at parenthood.

So, are we an advert for the perfect 2.4 children family now, a couple of months on? Of course we’re bloody not but things are a darn sight easier. Some days my domestic skills would give Mary Poppins a run for her money and others I struggle to butter a piece of toast. It’s taken me a year to work out that the three of us go stir crazy at home, so I try to pack up and go out as much as we can manage. I’ve amassed a year’s worth of tricks to pull out of the bag when needed; some standard (TV and fishfingers); some maybe slightly less so (speaking in French to divert the older one away from the tantrum he was hurtling towards).

Max silly glasses

At the risk of coming across all sentimental (although I won’t apologise for it, what with my baby turning one on the day my mum should be turning 66), these last twelve months have been a bit of a rough old ride. Reading through my blog posts, that’s no secret. Was I suffering a touch of PND? Quite possibly. Though after a few £100 therapy sessions, during which I mostly thought about how many pairs of shoes could have been purchased instead, I concluded that the hormone imbalance of having Grave’s combined with breastfeeding and the general day to day as a mum of two young children were more than likely the causes of my struggles.

It’s taken time, tantrums (mine) and a few brisk conversations with various people but the old me is definitely on her way back. I’m carving out the opportunities and energy to do what I enjoy; running; socialising; writing (ahem, when my head and my children are in the right place at least) to name a few. In 10 days time we move into our forever house. We’re currently modeling it on the very on-trend ‘building site chic’.

So as kiss the curls of my baby and replace the sleepy, flailing limbs of my first-born, I will admit to feeling pretty flipping pleased. I can’t bloody wait to move house and begin that exciting new chapter. And as for the journey that has been this last year, well, I reckon I’ve certainly come a long way, baby.

Sam cute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giving it up

booze

Giving up booze?  No thank you

Is it just me or does there seem to be some sort of obsession with giving things up?

On a recent night out, a friend mentioned that the glass of wine she was about to imbibe would be the first of the year. Now, being mid-March, I guess it wasn’t quite fall-off-your-chair news but still…

Another (and there were only four of us there) had given up caffeine over roughly the same time span and the third had (as far as I could make out) had given up most of my favourite food groups. I sank lower in my seat waiting to be asked what my offerings were.

In reality there is undoubtedly scope for my to cut down on things, most specifically gin, chocolate and biscuits (and chocolate biscuits). But do I have to give them up completely?

I’ve certainly done my fair share of abstinence; most recently, booze whilst pregnant (um, in the first trimester at least). I didn’t drink tea or coffee until my mid-twenties so I guess I enjoyed a long period of being relatively caffeine-free. I spent a few years attempting to give up most food, which obviously left me miserable and hangry.

coffee

I just can’t seem to make it through the day without one (or two) of these

It was about this time when I finally re-entered the world of gaining pleasure from food, drink and other fun stuff that I realised that life doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can be very healthy, happy and well balanced by maintaining, well, balance in your outlook.

I’m sure I’m not alone in desiring something even more when I have ‘given it up’. And it’s for these reasons that I will be continuing to enjoy my two flat whites a day, my g&t after several (most) of the week’s bath/bedtime shenanigans and chocolate biscuits whenever I see fit. Sometime I have to rein it in, of course. But to go without completely – non merci.

what’s on TV?

What’s going on with the TV these days? Besides Broadchurch there just nothing worth watching.

Yes, I am quite picky about my programmes. When I only have an hour of sit-down time after kids’ bedtime, my dinnertime and going to bed myself, it needs to be a high-quality hour, whatever it is I’m doing*.

It’s becoming an increasingly rare occurrence that Piano Man and I sit down together to watch something really enjoyable. This might have something to do with the fact we can’t agree on what to watch. I have little interest in lasers and hot (female) totty. He doesn’t get excited by BBC dramas and Benedict Cumberbatch. But I wonder whether the bigger issue here is the dearth of decent telly.

TV

My TV.  Off because there’s nothing on

I do recall TV-watching being the highlight of my day when I was growing up. I could always find something good to watch. At the risk of showing my age (although, let’s face it, I show my age whenever I show my face), I would while away many an hour watching The Darling Buds of May, Morse, Keeping up Appearances, May to December. I could go on.

My evenings were full of BBC (sometimes ITV) series. Hardly any reality TV, not loads from across the Atlantic either. I would just lose myself in the escapism that happy, slightly cheesy British family dramas/sitcoms provided. Where have they all gone?

Sitting down last night, I flicked through the channels. Masterchef – I can just about manage it, as long as there are some interesting characters to keep the amusement factor strong. But the voiceover lady can really grate. Then I stumbled across ‘Three Wives, One Husband and ‘Rich House, Poor House’. I mean, wtf? Is this what we’ve been reduced to? Where are Crimewatch? Watchdog or Tomorrow’s World? Or any of the other decent stuff about important things.

I went to bed in disgust (and faffed on instagram for ages).

It must be me, right? Maybe I need to adopt a slightly more conscientious approach and sit down with the Radio Times and a highlighter pen. Maybe stop mourning TV of yesteryear and start enjoying what’s on offer now.

But when you’re just not feeling it, what can you do? I guess switching the box off could have its merits; I could read any of the books in the ‘waiting to be read’ pile; tackle my disproportionately long ‘to-do’ list’ or (gasp) sit and chat to my husband. And, well, there’s always instagram.

 

*for instance high-quality instagram faffing

Wean in 15

Sam Broc

the shock of the broc

Urgh. Weaning. It’s enough to put you off any more children, n’est-ce pas? And I’m saying this as the mother of an easy-weaner.

My first wasn’t. I soon gave up boiling and pureeing. I found it all so disheartening to spend that time, money and effort on sourcing the nicest, most organic ingredients, follow the Annabel Karmel recipes to the letter, decant the specially prepared mush into little pots for it to be met with a look of utter disgust and pushed away.   Whatever Ella was doing was A-Ok according to my first-born. So he and she developed a very cordial dining agreement.

Mush

even a funky grey and orange tablecloth/chair combo doesn’t make the mush look more enticing

This time around, however, I’ve got a hungry chap who will eat anything. The only two things he has ever refused was daddy’s lamb tagine (to be fair, I think harissa is an acquired taste) and eggs (which is irritating as with a bit of toast, they constitute a highly nutritious (and damn easy) meal).

Sam toast

everyone loves a bit of toast

So, (and I didn’t expect this to be the case) alongside the house renovations, potty training, general keeping baby and child amused and the rest of the house shit that falls into my remit, I am really quite enjoying having another go at Annabel’s finest offerings.

It’s hugely rewarding when your littlest bird opens his mouth for spoonful after spoonful of whatever was your latest project to go through the blender. I’d love to say it’s encouraged his older brother to be a bit more open to trying new things. But it hasn’t.

Here are some of my (and Sam’s) favourites:

  • Poached salmon with carrots and peas – really tasty and easy. Basically boil potato, carrots and peas and add some cooked salmon. I’m still amazed I have a child who will eat unbreaded fish!
  • Leek and potato puree – this was a great one a couple of months ago, but I fear it may not be as filling as some of the more proteiny meals. The texture is perfect though – thick and smooth. Boil leeks and potato in stock, drain and blitz.
  • Vegetable and cheese pasta sauce. This was actually gobbled by them both – must make again soon. Make any old cheese sauce and add whatever veg is lying around. I blitz, then add to past and blitz again for Sam.
  • Beef stew with sweet potato topping – a great little number from BBC good food. I have been known to adapt slightly and toss everything in the slow cooker.
  • Spaghetti bolognaise – my own version which tends to include as much veg as I can cram in.

Other favourites include yoghurt, toast and chocolate brownies.

I’d love any other inspiration for baby and/or toddler. Comment below if you can help out…

freezer pots

there is very little room in the freezer for chips and ice cream!

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Exercising with a baby and toddler

Perhaps the title should read ‘exercising despite a baby and toddler’.

After having Max, I was quite quick to get back into the swing of exercising – 10 weeks post c section I was back to running laps of the park.

I was probably at my fittest in October 2015. I’d treated myself to a personal trainer, joined the gym and was basically enjoying being strong, fit and relatively lean. Then I discovered I was pregnant. I swapped the treadmill for the pool. And even that went out of the window as sciatica struck at 17 weeks.

My car was my friend, as were ham sandwiches and white chocolate kit-kats. It’s ok, I thought, I’ll be pulling my trainers on in no time.

Sadly, though, a second (bigger) baby and caesarian section took its toll. My one attempt at a park buggy run was declared an immediate failure. The daily grind of having a baby and a toddler, and particularly all the pushing if the double bloody buggy, was no doubt helping me to shift much of my baby weight but I was missing the endorphins a ‘proper’ exercise session provided. Not to mention the escapism that exercise has always been to me. Yet, running was just too difficult for my poor, ruined body.

I needed a Plan B.

I could go to a class at the gym (for which I was still paying membership). But the only time I could be sure my boobs wouldn’t be needed (by the breastfeeding baby, to clarify) was straight after bedtime for a few hours. Realistically was I going to:

  1. put the boys to bed, don my trainers and head out in the cold, dark night to the gym or
  2. put the boys to bed, mix a gin and slim and pop a Cook meal in the oven?

I could take Sam to one of those ‘mother and baby’ pilates classes when Max was at nursery. Only I was a bit confused as to the ‘and baby’ part. Fine if you have one that will lovingly watch as you plank. What if (like me) yours will whinge until you pick him up while simultaneously vomiting all over the (borrowed) yoga mat? No thank you, think I’ll save my £130 for a less humiliating endeavour.

What I needed was a routine I could do at a convenient time in a convenient place. The thing I had noticed about having two children was that time to myself was massively decreased (no shit Sherlock). If I could carve out just 15 minutes to do something purely for me, everyone would benefit from a happier Anna.

I started looking at Youtube workouts. Bingo. There are gazillions out there. Different types (I began with a 10 minute HIIT) different intensities, different lengths. And totally up to you when you choose to jump around your living room (or kitchen or even exercise room – if you are so blessed).

Having always been a first-thing-in-the-morning ‘lets get it out of the way’ exerciser, I have found what suits me best is to leap (ha!) out of bed when Piano Man’s alarm goes at 6, nip downstairs for a 15 minute session (often 10 minutes of prancing followed by a 5 minute ab workout) and be done and dusted before the boys are awake. Doing this every (or at least nearly every) weekday has been a bit of a game-changer. It lifts my mood, gets the day started well and I have noticed results. I’m definitely feeling a tad more streamlined and my stomach is losing its post baby wobble.

Every now and then I like to shake things up and try a new workout or even a new ‘instructor’. Sometimes I even set up tomorrow’s workout on the computer before I go to bed, ready for me to hit play at 6.04.

I’ve been following this routine for a few months now and I love it. It’s free, convenient and really lifts my mood. It is so important to me to do things ‘for me’ and I choose to exercise when the kids aren’t around. Even at the ungodly hour I find myself lunging, squatting and planking, it feels a bit of a treat to be enjoying a bit of ‘me time’.

Sometimes when I’m feeling like really shaking things up, I wait til the school run begins and open the living room curtains!

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Blowing away the cobwebs

It’s been a tough week. We’re knee-deep in New House refurbishment plans, and trying frantically to sell ours.

If you’ve ever lived through a house-sale with young children, you’ll understand that it isn’t for the faint hearted. Calls from the estate agents are generally followed by me running around like a demonic, headless chicken (the worst kind of fowl) tidying up the 150 dinosaurs that appear to have procreated around our living room. The baby will inevitable manage a projectile vom which will need mopping up (with the actual mop and not just a few babywipes) and I’ll be leaving the house with whinging and/or bawling children only half strapped into the double bloody buggy when the prospective buyers are turning up on the (carefully swept) doorstep.

Needless to say, we’re still waiting for the hallowed ‘right person’, as promised by the agent, to waltz through the door.

I have just about picked myself up from the heap into which I fell, exhausted, at the beginning of the week. Sleep has reached an all-time low; I know people who maintain they can get by on just a few hours sleep, maybe with a latte and a muti-vitamin thrown in to help them along. I am not one of these people. An average of 3 hours sleep a night is never going to work for me. Even if I set up an intravenous berocca and coffee drip.

Desperate times called for desperate measures.   The baby has been undergoing some sleep training (it’s for his own good). It’s going well, although he refuses to look me in the eye.

With all this going on in our pokey South London terrace, we’re all really feeling the need to bust this joint. I’m not talking about any far-fetched plans to go on holiday (please, I risk ROFL at the mere thought). But with the weather just a tad less arctic, we’ve been enjoying the odd park trip and National Trust day out.

I’m not particularly outdoorsy; my favourite kind of ‘walk’ generally consists of hardcore pavement pounding around a shopping centre. But I do recognise the benefits of some fresh air on everyone’s mood. And toddlers being like dogs, it’s important that ours has a run around to stretch his pint-sized legs.

With spring on its way (!!) I’m really looking forward to donning my gold wellie boots and getting out in the fresh air. It’s just so good for the soul.

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Yellow Roses (and red toenails)

This post was nearly never written; you might think that I should have kept it that way (no need to tell me).

Last week wasn’t a bad week, and I’m even sure lots of nice things happened. Though right now I might be pushed to list more than one or two (I might even be pushed to list one or two). As weeks go, it was a bit meh with a dash of shitty thrown in.

We sold our house (yay). Then 24 hours later we hadn’t sold our house (boo). Totally standard for house buying and selling. I know, I know. But you can’t help feeling a bit, well, flat when it happens.

And, of course the rescindment of the offer came after I had loaded the car with baby and all related paraphernalia and driven to the solicitors, parked in the only available space a mile and a half (exaggeration) away and waited for something like 17 years while the lady-with-long-nails photocopied the 364 pieces of paper I had been instructed to bring. She took one away, permanently, saying she needed the original. I wasn’t convinced. Neither was Piano Man when I recounted the story later.

Don’t you just love doing epic chores needlessly?

My meh week was also littered with other (mainly) First World problems. My dishwasher broke. I mean, I do not know how anyone can expect me to run a household with no dishwasher. I had just spent Saturday evening cramming it full when the failure to compute took place. Piano Man and I argued over who would wash up and who got the kids (witching hour on Saturday night). I won the toss and donned the marigolds. The repairman is booked for Thursday, it’s Monday. I took the boys for lunch in The Café earlier (how can it take 30 minutes to make one child-sized portion of cheese on toast?). But I have a children’s tea party play date later and I want to cry.

Saturday night’s Date Night, in the local shabby Thai with the flickering spotlight – guess I was feeling pinched after our house sale failure, was (naturellement) followed by the baby forgetting everything he had learned at Sleep Training Boot Camp. We were all really thrilled at the 4.30 start which followed the late night (and Singha beers).

So when I sat down yesterday to write a witty and enlightening (ahem) entry. I was literally stumped for words. So I didn’t write anything. Instead I went out and bought some broccoli (dull) and some yellow roses. Then I came home and painted my toenails red. Then I felt much better. You can’t feel down if you’ve got yellow roses and red nails.

And then someone told me today that she liked my blog. Never mind that it’s one of eleventy million ‘mum blogs’. It is read and liked by (at least) someone. So I wrote. I wrote that things really aren’t so bad. And even though the washing up is piling up and someone’s eaten all the biscuits (come on, I need that nap-time treat) and I’m tired and we haven’t sold our house. I’ve got yellow roses, how bad can it all be?