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Going on a Bear Hunt

It seems that people read my blog. A few murmurings recently have indicated that not only is this the case but that it has been noticed that I haven’t posted for a while.

It was all going so well, I had lots of things that I felt warranted some air time and just about enough time between batch cooking bolognaise and wiping snot to jot these ideas down (on the internet, as it turns out). Then, boom, Max stopped napping. We went from daily two-hourly loafings in bed to nothing. Just like that. No warning, no gradual decline of the nap. Hero to zero in 24 hours. So now we have two hours a day extra of reading Mog’s ABC and trying to fathom what ‘craft’ to do with lolly sticks and pipe cleaners. And two hours less to clear up ten thousand miniature dinosaurs, cook something relatively nutritious for dinner and, yes, blog about our escapades.

And if anyone has successfully managed to enforce ‘quiet time’, tips very much wanted here please.

So, anyway, I have managed to find some time (it’s 7am on a Sunday morning) and I’m back with tales of Max’s third birthday party, which happened yesterday.

Now before you go thinking I’m some kind of Pinterest mom, it took all the strength I could muster to not try to fob him off, party-less, like I did last year (poor boy didn’t even get a cake). But, I thought I should take advantage of having a summer-born child and aim for a garden-based party for a few of his friends. I kept the number of invitees right down; we live in London, so naturally our garden is typical postage-stamp size. Plus, he was turning three, I figured I have years ahead of me of having to invite the whole class or whatever the current etiquette is.

Having a theme somehow made the party-planning seem a lot easier, so, racking my brains for all of 30 seconds, I came up with the Bear Hunt idea. It’s one of Max’s favourite books and it seemed like a fun (and, moreover, easy) idea to organise.

blackboard

I honestly don’t know what we did before Amazon. Probably we didn’t spend a month’s salary on shit that somehow seemed necessary in order for 8 three year olds to enjoy their two hours chez nous.

But after just a few easy clicks, we ended up with a plethora of bear-themed tat. My favourites being the bear paw decals which may in fact become a permanent feature in our hallway and the plastic binoculars which immediately caused Max to cry as he ran eye-first into something whilst looking through them.

paw prints

After half an hour of hard-core chasing balloons around our too small living room, I managed to get all kids binoculared-up, sitting on he kitchen floor ready to start the bear hunt. Almost from nowhere my teacher skills re-emerged. I have no idea how I can be so incapable of getting my own children to do anything I want them to, yet faced with a group of pre-schoolers, any command I issue is followed without a blink.

As the inrepid bear hunters we are, we swished through the long, wavy grass (crepe paper stapled to elastic and stretched between two garden chairs); splashed through the deep cold river (paddling pool); squelched through the thick oozy mud (some soil, in a washing up bowl, my child, naturally, leading the way stepping into it); stumbled through the big dark forest (a play tunnel with some plants at the entrance); the swirling whirling snowstorm (trusty bubble machine) and tiptoed into the narrow gloomy cave (play tent decorated in brown crepe paper with trusty ‘Big Ted’ holding fort within). Those (mainly dads) taking shelter from the weirdness going on outside were slightly bemused as the party ran into the living room and leapt under the duvet (although it did clear up the question as to why there was a duvet on the sofa in the first place).

So, the most basic, simple props and the kids seemed to love it (as did I). We picnicked with our teddy bears outside on rugs. Fortunately (and it was touch and go) the weather held long enough to take the mealtime carnage outside and we ate/trod crisps into picnic blankets while our cling-film flew around the garden threatening the wildlife of South East London. I made each child a bear bag and filled it with sandwiches (mostly uneaten), a tub of grapes (not even looked at in nearly all cases), a juice box, pom bears and barney bear biscuits.

Luckily Sainsbury’s do a bear birthday cake which was a stroke of luck. I am not a baker, and I wasn’t going to teach (embarrass) myself by making a bear for my first birthday cake effort. Moreover, the boy doesn’t like cake. We had to have one for the obligatory candle-blowing-out but I felt I could get away with a shop-bought short cut since he wasn’t even going to eat any.

And there we have it. Two hours of bear and bubbles fun, sugared up kids (two of whom got drenched in the paddling pool, one being my own baby) and only one unclaimed bear at the end of it all.

 

 

 

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Bedrooms for the boys – part 2

I talked about Sam’s bedroom in this post, now it’s Max’s room’s turn.

I feel bad for Max with the straw he has drawn bedroom-wise. Totally a first world problem. There are children who live in mud huts with no bedrooms and those who have one bed between four. But in true middle-class parenting style, I’m irked by the fact that he’s got our ‘storage wardrobes’ in his room.

Like many Londoners (and lots who live elsewhere), space is tight and we have many of our worldly goods, including my wedding dress (which I think stopped fitting me 13 minutes after I got married) and my handbag collection in a massive built in wardrobe in (what was) the spare room. Two children later and the ‘spare room’ is now a home to a cute rocket duvet cover and an assortment of toy vehicles.

Following advice from a friend who said to change Max’s bedroom no less than three months before his brother was to be born, we moved him about 2 weeks before my planned C section day. He was absolutely fine with it. There was too much excitement over the tractor rug to even contemplate losing his old room (the only bedroom he’d known, sob).

Tractor rug

I haven’t done a great deal in here as we’ve known we were going to move since before we switched the bedrooms around. I bought some new curtains as the old ones were useless at keeping light out, these blue ones are from Dunelm and do a great blackout job (crucial).

The tractor rug and the storage boxes were from Next and (I think) give the room a bit of colour consistency. It was a revelation to be that you didn’t need to buy actual Kallax storage boxes to go in the Kallax – who knew?

Max books

As I mentioned in my post about Sam’s room, the Mamas and Papas furniture matches in case the boys ever fancy sharing a room. I’m hoping (as my kids are on the wee side) that the toddler beds will last them for quite some time (12 years if they take after me in the height stakes).

In a bold move, we decided that last weekend was both potty training weekend and take-the-sides-off-the-cot weekend. It’s gone well (if you don’t count requesting his cot back at 2.30 on night one).

Max bed

I love the little (Ikea) table and chair, mainly because I love the idea of Max sitting doing puzzles on it. In reality it is never used and really should be relocated to the playroom. But we don’t have a playroom and we have no space downstairs where the crayons are so here it is.

Max table

So, there you have it. Another corner of my house. And one which ‘ll look back on with fondness as I remember playing on the tractor rug (and spending hours tracking down all the bloody little wooden people from the bus who have to ability to scatter unbelievably far).

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Jean Genie

It may have something to do with being born to ex-hippy Beatle-maniac parents, but since the age of about 10 I have lived in jeans. Every now and then I vow to wear a skirt or (gasp) even a dress but I can’t bring myself to. Or, mostly, I just forget. My excitement about going on maternity leave for the first time was more about the fact that I could wear jeans every day for a year and less about the new life I was about to bring into the world.

Now that I am on maternity leave indefinitely, it seems unlikely that I am going to kick my denim habit any time soon.

Which is just as well as I have been stocking up. Knee-high to a (diminutive) grasshopper, I find it incredibly difficult and frustrating finding clothes that fit. I have a loyalty card for the local alterations shop. But I don’t always want to fork out another £10 to essentially cut off and throw away some of the clothing I have just bought.

In a quest to find the perfect skinny, I bought a pair of Next petite 360 super skinny jeans. Wow! Is all I can say. I am still buzzing a month (and two additional pairs) later. Unusually (even for a petite range) they are not too long, the high waist doesn’t dig and (if I may say so) they make my bum look fab. I feel pulled up and in in all the right places.

Jeans and tea

Apparently they are constructed to give you 360-degree movement. I don’t know what that means, but can only assume that other jeans from the same retailer may hinder your ability to spin around. These certainly do not.

Seems, though, that the dresses and skirts are set to gather dust for a little while longer.

Jeans pose

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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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Getting it wrong

Getting it wrong

Sweet Jesus, this entry could be about anything. I’m not even going to list the things I have/may have/am about to get wrong. I wouldn’t be finished and my dinner (lovingly prepared by my husband (and Cook) would be cold).

The one thing I keep getting wrong of late (probably always but I have noticed it more so recently) is my outfit.

It may not be a coincidence that it was, in fact, the same outfit worn twice in close succession that has been wrong on (at least) two separate occasions.*

First outing – and in fact this leads on from an outfit fail a couple of weeks ago. So, to backtrack…it was bloody freezing on the week in question. Snowing, if I remember rightly. A friend had requested my presence on a park walk – I nearly PMSL when she wondered out loud why the park was so empty – IT WAS FREEZING and SNOWING (not the fun snow, the cold, wet non sticky stuff). I digress, I met her wearing my thick warm padded coat and Ugg boots. Not even my overactive thyroid was going to keep me as warm as those (albeit naff) beauties. She was wearing HEELED BOOTS. WTF indeed!

So, when she requested my presence on another walk early last week, I turned up in my (not high you understand) heeled boots and smart coat. Said friend was in trainers and sports gear (still managing to look much more glam that me). What? Nobody sent me the memo. 5 miles later and dearly wished for my trainers (or at the very least my faithful Uggs).

To everyone’s surprise my outfit remained (relatively) baby sick-free so was completely wearable a couple of days later. To cut a long story (involving a patio door shop based excursion to Wimbledon and a circuitous drive to Richmond Park) short. I was blindsided by the promise of a ‘concrete path’ and blocked the (very relevant) ‘park’ word out of my outfit plans. Needless to say, I ended up freezing and totally unsuitable attire by about lunchtime.

My smart coat and heeled boats then enjoyed a two-hour deer hunt complete with long wavy grass, thick oozy mud and deep cold puddles. What fun! I’m not cut out for this shit, I’m from the deepest depths of suburbia. Yes, I own wellies (gold Hunters, if you may) but I’ll be damned if I know when to use (wear) them. Is it really necessary to do a risk assessment of my getup every time I leave the house? Fortunately my Wednesday night PJ bottoms and fluffy jumper combo seems to be working so far. Hurrah for that!

 

*and possibly more but if that be the case then I haven’t noticed and my nearest and dearest have the good grace not to mention it.

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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?