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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Top) Tips for managing life with a baby and a toddler

double 1

The Double – lifesaver!

I feel I need to start this entry with a disclaimer. I feel totally unqualified to write such a piece as this. I mean, I do have a baby and a toddler and have for just over 9 months. And, yes, we are all still alive. But I feel like the kind of mum who can really give guidance like I am about to is one who floats effortlessly though the day. I don’t do crafts, baking or phonics with my toddler. My baby squawks for attention pretty much the entire time he is awake. However, we are:

  1. all still alive
  2. pretty happy (most days)
  3. probably not all that different to any other family with such young children

So I’ll begin. These are the things that have kept (and keep) me sane. I understand everyone has a very different lifestyle/different prioritites.

double 2

 

  • the double (bloody) buggy. Yes, I curse it pretty much every time I use it. It’s big, cumbersome and so heavy I get a back ache from just looking at it. Its wheels are a dog poo magnet and there’s no storage. Jostling Sam into the second seat underneath makes him puke EVERY TIME. And yet, I really couldn’t be without it. Max is small and not particularly strong, he’s not big into walking. I’m basically the size of a (small) 12 year old so finding ‘slinging’ Sam really hard work (plus, the vom issue means slinging is very much reserved for desperate times). We needed a double buggy and it has meant I haven’t ever felt housebound. Winner
  • Along the same lines, getting out whenever possible. Max still naps so each day is broken into morning and afternoon activities (unless we venture out for the day – rare). We get out of the house at least once a day and I do aim to plan something for each ‘section’ of the day (even if it’s playtime at home). I lose my mind if I don’t have a plan.

    sam swings

    everyone loves the playground!

  • When Sam was born, I went to and hosted bazillions of playdates. I soon learned that they are often really bloody hard work if the toddlers don’t get on. I’ve streamlined it a lot so only see people that both Max and I get on with. That way we both enjoy ourselves and there are fewer arguments over toys. I also try to keep some sort of social life without the kids (generally this involves meeting friends for drinks and often talking about our offspring).
  • My time. This is a toughie – there are not many opportunities for this. But I do carve out ‘slots’ in my day for myself. Sometimes this means getting up early early to do some exercise before the boys wake up; moving heaven and earth to get them down for a nap at the same time or taking some time at the weekend. It is not easy but I can’t function properly without some time alone so it’s very much a priority.
  • I love coffee. I seem to have bred a very urban 21st century child who delights in going to a café. So that’s what we do. We get out of the house, do some people watching (‘mummy, is that a lady or a man?’), enjoy a flat white/babyccino and feel like part of the real world again. Of course, I also keep coffee at home, so I can have a treat without having to go out (though it’s never as nice and I always seem to have to have to reheat it in the microwave).

    caffe nero

    coffee dates are standard most days

  • Lowering my expectations. This only dawned on me about 4 months in. I spent a lot of mental energy beating myself up for ‘failing’ because my baby wasn’t sleeping through the night/my toddler had tantrums/I sometimes forgot to buy milk. I gave myself a good talking to. I was aiming for the unattainable. So I relaxed my outlook, took more time to enjoy playing cars/reading books to Sam and found life that bit easier.

There’s noting mindblowing in the list above. The fact is, it’s hard having two small kids. Harder than I ever anticipated. I feel I have lost a lot of ‘my’ things (yes, I have gained more than I could ever imagine too). I won’t be going back to work when Sam is one. A decision I am happy with. But for my sanity I have to work hard to ensure I am looking after myself as much as my children. So I aim to do whatever I can to make life easier and more enjoyable for the whole clan.

cry baby

There are days when I feel like if my life were to be televised the soundtrack would be the sound of children crying. Every single day of the last week has been of those days.

Sometimes I put it down to me being a slightly shit mum and causing my children to be miserable for a large portion of their waking day. Other times there is a valid reason why they are both crying (often at the same time). For instance that the porridge was too hot or too cold, or in the wrong bowl or because it’s Tuesday.

Max crying

I try, I really try not to let it get to me. I know all the tricks; distraction; anticipating and avoiding the tears in the first place (my particular favourite – gives you so much comfort as they reach full-blown meltdown state); ignoring; cuddling etc etc. But when it’s the twelfth tantrum of the day and you’re still wiping weetabix off the highchair, it starts to grate.

I’m chain-eating chocolate digestives as I write this in order to try to lower my angst levels. Both kids in bed at their own request. This morning has consisted of playgroup where they both cried; the baby because he was tired and the toddler because the other children weren’t sharing the toys. We then went to the café (at the toddler’s request). The baby was now crying because he was hungry. Baby halfway through being fed, toddler’s cheese on toast (his request) arrives and we have to leave early because ‘it makes me cold’. So home to bed before tired/hungry/possibly ill meltdown ensues (managed to anticipate this time).

Sam cryinh

I’m fully aware that it’s my own fault for having two with such a small age gap.  I also understand (hope) that it won’t always be like this (those wonderful words spoken by people who have lived through this exact thing). But for now, the sight of snot and tears is beginning to leave me slightly deranged and the half bottle of chardonnay in the fridge is calling my name.

I know there is so much I’ll miss of these days when my babies are older and hairier. But the whinge ping-pong? Not so much.

 

Mothering Funday

Was anyone else feeling the Mother’s Day pressure this year? Has it got worse? Or is it simply because I’ve upped my game on social media and as a result am seeing more insta-happiness wherever I click. Maybe it’s because I have two children now so the chances of one of them not spoiling it are higher.

me and Max

with my eldest – he really wanted daddy to take him swimming

I don’t know. But in an act of rebellion (I know, go me) I had a minor teenage strop and decided that the day was nothing more than commercialised hype and I wasn’t playing this year. A silly thing to do? Yes indeed. I mean, who doesn’t want an excuse to declare the day as a feet-putter-upper and insist on being exempted from any household chores for a day?

It just seemed that everyone around me (ok, on Instagram) was deep into ‘what are you doing/getting for Mother’s Day?’ like it was some globe-stopping event. Some people I spoke to were looking forward to having time off the kids. Which is a great concept – and one I certainly need at times. Though it stuck me as a bit sad to purposefully seek out time away from the very reason you are a Mother on your day.

me and Sam

with the baby – bless him.  He whinged, sneezed and dribbled his way through day 4 of a horrid cold

Piano Man was taking requests – I think he would have agreed to just about any gift (s) or programme for the day as long as it kept me happy (i.e. quiet). I asked for a card – I always like to receive a card. The wobbly pretend child’s handwriting makes me giggle. And with it I got some lovely flowers. But I choose not to make any special Mother’s Day arrangements.

Maybe I’m just an old grumpus but I generally find (especially when a two year old and a baby) are involved that the best laid plans have a habit of really going awry. Going out for lunch is a lovely idea, but it impinges on naptime that bit too much to be completely relaxing. Plus, the world and his wife have hit every local restaurant on the same day. Likewise, a family day out may have sounded fun. But the baby is full of a cold and utterly miserable and the toddler is recently potty trained. It just wouldn’t have the relax-appeal.

So, in a quest not to build up my hopes, I decided to have a ‘normal’ day. We were (almost) first in the (really bloody chilly) pool at 7.45. And, yes, I was the only mum there. We did coffee, park and swings en famille, and after cleaning the pre-lunch wee accident, I made myself half a goat’s cheese and beetroot sandwich (why half? Wasn’t sure it would be nice). Later, I slipped in a (Mother’s Day?) request to go to the pub. That was nice, at least until the baby projectile vomited his supper and we decided to head home.

In all, yesterday was a lovely day; time with my eldest, time with my youngest and time with my husband (over a Cook meal – see I did get out of some duties). Proof they can exist, even with young children. I don’t have any insta-worthy photos, though. It wasn’t that kind of day. And yes, I’m glad I didn’t try to arrange a knock-out Mother’s Day. I might have been disappointed. Sometimes, when you set your sights a little bit lower than you might want to you realise that even the ordinary days can be special. And the special days – hmm, they can be ordinary too.

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day…

yummy mummy

… to all the mums, mummys, mams, moms etc out there.

I hope you have a lovely day whether you choose to celebrate or not.

I hope also that you get exactly what you wish for, whether that be flowers and chocolates, a new car or a bottle of pinot grigio and a packet of Marlborough lights. I am most hoping for good moods all round and the toddler to finally make the connection between bowel movements and the loo (apologies for the Mothering Sunday scatology).

Whether or not you dig the Mother’s Day (commercial) hype, I feel there’s a nice excuse there to stick your feet up and have someone else make the dinner.

Lovely.

The (annual) Easter Story

I bloody love nap time.

I make it my mission on the days that Max isn’t at nursery to get the kids down at the same time so that I can have this time to myself. Often this is when I get my writing done (aka pissing about on the computer).

Yesterday, though, I decided I should really spend some time on house renovation stuff. So, there I was, busy as a worker bee researching stair runner taping – I didn’t even know it was a thing. But now I know about it, I need to have it.

Just as I was getting really stuck in, my phone buzzed. Ah, Piano Man. Lovely. Not put off by his 7 unanswered calls earlier on (I missed them all and was eventually pulled away from winding the bobbin up by the plumber who turned up at playgroup for the money I was supposed to have dropped round to the new house) husband was back and with some all-important Easter holiday questions.

I had the shock of my life when someone mentioned Easter this week. Especially when it was in relation to my Monday morning saviour (playgroup with age-appropriate toys for each of the kids and decent coffee for me) being closed for three weeks, THREE WEEKS after next week. Apparently Easter will be upon us very soon. And with it the age-old pondering of how to celebrate it.

All that bank holiday-ness sends me a bit shivery. I mean, you kind of have to fill it, don’t you? It’s just wrong just to let the longest weekend of the year go to waste. But, equally, I hate the pressure of planning a high-quality break.

Now, why did the powers that be put it in April – or worse, March, on some years. Sorry, Christ, insensitive, maybe you didn’t choose when to die and rise again. But if He had, surely the summer would have been a better bet. April is notoriously mean for lulling you, back in frosty February, into believing that it will be warm and sunny. Perfect, you think, for a nice spring break. You have visions of talking countryside rambles or seafront strolls wearing your cropped trousers* and Boden spring jacket. Then the realisation dawns as you’re packing for your annual First Bank Holiday weekend away that it’s still bloody freezing.

We went walking in snow drifts one Easter. I actually wore ski trousers in April, and not in Morzine. We squelched home at 3 every afternoon for hot crumpets. Lovely, yes. But spring-like? Not so much.

Piano Man and I aren’t really travellers. I know lots of people who really haven’t let their children stand in the way of their amazing holidays and excursions. And I take my hat off to them. They even manage to have a wonderful time. I find holidaying with my offspring stressful. Whoever first said ‘same shit, different view’ had clearly endured similar trips to the ones I have known.

coffee in South of France

Holidays looked more like this pre-children

So, yesterday afternoon’s conversation had a starting point of ‘which family members are we going to see over Easter?’ We then moved on, in favour of a more adventurous idea that resembled an actual holiday.

What followed was a series of whatsapped photos of my computer screen with different prices for Centre Parcs accommodation depending on whether we manage to rope any grandparents in and whether I could persuade Piano Man that we needed a sauna and coffee machine for the weekend. I was gee’d by the do-able cost of CP at Easter and the promise of some grandparent time for the boys. Until I was informed that I was looking at next year’s prices. There’s basically nothing left for this year (unsurprisingly) and what is left is eye-wateringly expensive. Which is too big a risk to take on this first family-of-four holiday.

Not to be deterred, I upped my game. Maybe we should just do it and go abroad. I started clicking on various kid-friendly overseas ideas. Totally seeing the boys splashing in aquamarine pools while I sunbathed in my Audrey Hepburn-style shades. Then I remembered, we’re still talking about April. Just a few weeks away and I was wearing my scarf today. Even in Greece, it’s just not going to be that hot.

Max by pool

Not too tough taking just the one baby away

Naptime ended. And so, pretty much, did our Easter holidays discussions. Just leaving the final choice to make – his parents’ or mine!

 

*don’t own cropped trousers – true

When your baby grows up

Max sunny day

Ok, so he’s 2, perhaps slight exaggeration in the title. But this week has felt like it has been a big ‘growing up’ week.

Max baby

I blinked and this baby grew into a little boy

It’s not my intention to make parents of toddlers feel rubbish if they have been having a shitty week with theirs (standard), mine is in no way an angel. But things have been somewhat easier in the last few days*.

Max tantrum

Though this tantrum face from two years ago looks very familar still

We decided to make the leap into the pant-wearing world, catching some enthusiasm last Friday and running with it and it’s gone relatively well. Although it dawned on me yesterday that I have no idea what ‘relatively well’ is in the world of potty training.

For once I hadn’t armed myself up with literature on the subject. Maybe I wanted to take a relaxed approach and not worry about what that books say. Or more likely, I’m up to my eyeballs in bathroom tiles and shower fittings and trying to spend every spare (ha!) minute writing and taking pictures (aka pissing about on the computer). But so far we’re all feeling ok about it and the lurid pink potty is getting a decent amount of airtime (and has become a regular feature in the pile of junk we are obliged to cart around with us).

It might be the sudden swing in attention from his baby brother round to him, or the excitement of wearing ‘big boy’ (Thomas the Tank Engine) pants or maybe it’s just the feeling of being free from a great big soggy nappy (normally down to his knees) but Max has been a delight through it all. In a way that has really made me enjoy spending lots if time with him. It hasn’t even occurred to me to run off to do important (and child-free) ‘chores’, I’ve loved playing, reading stories and generally pratting about with my first-born.

His grown-upness encouraged us that it was also time to transform the cot into a cotbed. Nothing like doing it all at once! This was met with slightly less success when, at 2.36 on night one he decided he wanted his cot back. But he seems to have come round to the idea.

I won’t lie to you and say I find the automatic, sing-song ‘why?’ after every question/statement/utterance sweet. And I could probably live without ‘But daddy said…’ or ‘Actually, mummy…’. But I am enjoying this phase, I find it so rewarding to see the person we are bringing up (I’m sure you’ll hear more on my thoughts on babies – not a fan) and I am excited at what lies ahead as they both get older. But for a minute this week through all the laughs (and wee) I did want to lean in close and whisper ‘good job with the growing up, but let’s just slow it down a bit.’

 

*I realise I am about to jinx it all.

Max with walker

Stay this beautiful forever, little one