Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Counting my blessings

I'm probably not alone in saying that I didn't really enjoy school. Although I have a few treasured school friends who I'm still in touch with, I spent a lot of my school life feeling like people didn't like me. And the problem is, feelings like that stick. There are still times when I fret about it. But anyway, this post isn't a pity party, I just wanted to say that I've never felt like I make friends easily.

I suppose that fact makes me more surprised and amazed and grateful for what I have now. After two pregnancies and umpteen months of maternity leave I am lucky enough to have a really, really amazing group of people that I can call friends.

So, this post, in the Christmas spirit is a thank you.

It's a thank you to the girls from my very first antenatal group for keeping in touch and giving me a lifeline in those first shaky days of parenthood. I met some fellow fabric addicts and I've never looked back.
It's a thank you to the girls from my first baby massage group for every walk in the woods, every cup of coffee, every shared birthday party, babysitting swap and girls night out. You have all been my rocks and I really feel like I couldn't have done this without you.
It's a thank you to the girls from my second antenatal group who are sharing in my newest journey and making it so much more colourful and enjoyable. We were a big group and I didn't know if that would work but it really has.
It's a thank you to the friend I randomly met in the park a day after my Littlest Monster was born, the friend I made when I picked up some baby clothes one day and the friends I've inherited from other other antenatal groups who have invited me into their lives without question.

And to make this post complete, I need to thank my husband who puts up with his hormonal nightmare of a wife and who is a pretty awesome dad to these two monkeys:




Merry Christmas all. I hope the new year brings love, laughter and, for the Antenatal Class of 2014, a full night of uninterrupted sleep. xxx

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Things I Wish You Understood

My darling boy.

I wish you understood now how your hurts hurt me. How I feel every bump to your head and scrape to your knee. How I would gladly swap places with you when you're ill to save myself the pain of watching you suffer.

I wish you understood that making you smile and laugh lights up my world. That I would give you everything you wanted if it wasn't for knowing that it's my job to teach you the value of earning it for yourself.

I wish you understood that, far from wanting to control you, my heart swells with pride at each step you take towards your independence. But I also know that some things are more important than your feeling of independence right now. Things like cleaning your teeth and eating a balanced diet and keeping you safe.

I don't want to fight with you, my baby. I wish every day could be full of love and laughs and new experiences and I'll do everything I can to make it that way. But I owe it to you to give you the best start, to show you how to be the best that you can be. I owe it to you to be able to say no.


Monday, 1 September 2014

Perspective

Today is a teary day. It's a day when the newest Little Miss won't sleep. A day when Little Monster is clingy and whiny and doing everything he can to push my buttons. A day when my morning coffee eluded me and Little Monster getting hurt while I was breastfeeding gave me a good dose of second child guilt.

I knew the tears would come. I knew that there would be days where I felt I couldn't face the world and that I would never know a good nights sleep or a moment of sanity again.

But I also know that tomorrow will probably be better. Tonight might be the night where Little Miss settles happily after a bottle or where she gives me a stretch of 4 hrs sleep to make me feel new again. Tomorrow might be full of happy moments and laughs.

Having a 2.5 yr old Little Monster has given me the perspective, the living proof, that this phase will pass quickly. I know that Little Miss won't nap solely on me forever. I know that she'll gain weight and stretch out her night sleep and figure out how to self settle. I know that I'll be able to regain some time to focus on Little Monster and the guilt will subside.

So, for today, to make it through today, I just need to find some smiles. And with a 2.5 yr old on tap, those smiles are probably hidden somewhere I'm not expecting, waiting to spring out at me.

Maybe I'll try to tease them out with some tickles. X


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Getting carried away :)

Since we'll soon be welcoming another bundle into our beautiful family, I decided that I needed, I mean really needed, to get another baby carrier. Not that I don't love my Close Parent carrier which is great for the newborn stage and our Little Life backpack carrier which is awesome for longer walks...but something was definitely missing from my collection - a Soft Structured Carrier (SSC). A friend introduced me to her Boba Carrier at some point during my first year with Little Monster and I love how versatile they are - lightweight and easy to take with you, good for back wearing and front wearing and actually quite a lot easier to use than a sling.

So I started to investigate costs and whatnot and fairly quickly concluded that I couldn't justify the £90+ price tag for a soft structured carrier in the UK. Instead I discovered the awesome SweetPod Baby Carrier pattern by Seedpod and decided to have a go...

1. Sourcing supplies in the UK
The incredibly talented designer of the Sweetpod, Jessica Croker, is based in the US and unfortunately for us in the UK, the supplies required are a bit harder and more expensive to source so I've compiled a list of the stuff you need, where I got it from and how much I paid. Hopefully this helps someone out there!

Fabric

  • 1/3 yd. home decorator print fabric (for main body decorative panel) (You’ll need 5/8 yd if your fabric has a directional print.)
    • If you make curtains or cushions, the chances are you have a big enough offcut knocking around. You actually only need one panel 9" wide by 19" long.
  • 1 yd. 60” wide heavy weight solid fabric in a coordinating color (7-10 oz. denim, canvas, or twill)
    • I decided I wanted black canvas (aka duck cloth) for the main fabric of my carrier. I found this incredibly hard to find in the UK. A lot of suppliers sell white canvas but not dyed. I eventually sourced it from Calico Laine for a fairly reasonable £6.99 per metre.
  • 1 yd. 42-45” wide quilter’s weight solid fabric in a coordinating color (for lining and sleeping hood)
    • I used 1m of Moda Bella Solids in Dark Teal from Fabritastic which was also £7/m
  • 18” x 20” piece of cotton batting (Warm & Natural)
    • I already had an offcut of cotton batting so I didn't have to purchase this but the best prices I found were on eBay. Unfortunately the smallest size I could find was a cot quilt piece which makes it quite expensive. If you have a local haberdashery, that try that first as they may be able to sell you a smaller quantity off the roll.

Webbing

  • 4 yds. 1” wide nylon webbing
  • 1 yd. 2” wide nylon webbing
    • I found nylon webbing really hard to source in the UK. I found it on eBay but the prices were going to be pretty high so in the end I bought polypropylene webbing from the haberdashery stall on my local market. I bought both the 1" and 2" webbing for a total of £4. 

Foam

  • 6” x 24” piece of 1/2” thick high density closed cell foam for hip belt (this foam should feel stiff)
    • Sourced from Easy Foam in a custom cut size for £8.70.
  • 12” x 24”piece of 1/2” thick high density open cell foam for shoulder pads (this foam should be squishy)
    • Bought from my local market in a custom size for £1.11. After cutting what I needed I realised I could have purchased just 10" x 17" since I had quite a bit leftover.

Hardware

  • 2 heavy duty 1” side release buckles
  • 1 streamline 1” side release buckle
    • I decided to just buy 3 identical 1" side release buckles. Purchased a quantity of 6 from eBay for £1.72.
  • 1 2” side release dual adjust buckle
    • Purchased a pack of 2 from eBay for £2.50.
  • 2 sternum strap adjusters with 1” slides and 1” loops
    • I couldn't find anywhere in the UK that stocks these, including online retailers who specifically sell gear for making outdoor equipment. These bits are to fix the chest strap onto the shoulder straps and allow you to move the chest strap up and down. Since I'll be the only person using the carrier, I decided to go without this and I just sewed the chest strap into the position I wanted it on the shoulder straps instead of having it be adjustable.
  • 2 heavy duty ladder lock buckles
    • Purchased a pack of 10 from eBay for £1.08.

Notions

  • 16” 1/4” elastic
    • I used some 5mm elastic that I already had. Readily available from your local market or John Lewis for around £1 or less, depending on the length you buy.
  • 7-9” invisible zipper
    • Based on the instructions which say to trim the zip to 7.5", I went for an 8" zip. Again, purchased from my local market for £1.
  • 10 snaps (size 16 or 20 will work)
    • I bought 11mm snaps (poppers) in a pack of 12 from eBay for £3.49.
  • • high quality polyester thread (I like Gutterman polyester thread.)
    • Readily available from the market or John Lewis or online for about £1.

Based on the above and including the cost of purchasing the Combined Sweetpod Carrier and Saddlebag pattern, I spent just under £55 on materials. Although this is still fairly expensive, it's a considerable saving on buying a new carrier!

2. A few notes on making the carrier
For the most part I didn't deviate from the instructions which are very thorough. One which I've already mentioned was the chest straps since I didn't purchase strap adjusters. These are my straps - at the moment they slide up and down because I haven't been able to properly fit the carrier (since I'm still pregnant!). Once I've fitted it and determined where they need to be, I'll fix them in position.


The other area where I deviated slightly was the sleeping hood and the sleeping hood pocket. The zip for the sleeping hood pocket is supposed to attach onto the decorative panel without the ends of the zip spilling over onto the canvas (you'll see what I mean when you get there). I think I must have gone slightly wrong on my seam allowances or my cutting but I ended up needing to put in a 7" zip, instead of 7.5". That caused a knock on issue where the hood would always have been rucked when it was pulled out of the pocket since it was designed to pull out of a 7.5" space. I got around the issue after I had made up the hood by putting a couple of small pleats in the hood before attaching it to the inside of the pocket. This makes the neck of the hood just a smidgen smaller so that it fits better as shown here:


And here is the finished article! I'm really excited to try this - now all I need is a 15lb baby. Oh, and to not be pregnant anymore :)



I'd love to hear if any of you have done or are planning to do this project. Happy sewing :)

Monday, 30 June 2014

Two's Company...?

Well it's been a while! Life has moved on and Little Monster is not quite as little (though still a monster). Here he is now in all his cheeky glory. (Can you believe this is the same child I first posted about over
2 years ago?)

Little Monster, hubs and I are embarking on a new adventure in a few weeks when LM becomes a big brother. Yes I'm really excited. :) But I've been here before and there's more than a little apprehension too. So I got to thinking about how to get through the next weeks and months with my sanity intact. I know I'm going to need the friends I made last time and hopefully the new friends I'm making this time. And I hope that they're going to show me support and not judge my choices.

The thing is that sometimes motherhood feels like it has become a competition. It's not so much the mums that tell you their little cherub was sleeping through the night at 2 weeks, crawled at 5 months and was speaking sentences at a year. I know what it is to be so proud of your child that you wish everyone else could see them through your eyes. We've all been there, we're programmed to feel that way. The mums I have trouble understanding are the ones that seem intent on telling you how hard the next part of the journey is going to be or that seem to want to let you know that their journey is harder or even disparage you from the start which unbelievably has happened to a friend recently.

When I was pregnant with Little Monster, people were constantly reminding me to enjoy my last few weeks of freedom and chuckling about how little sleep I was going to get in the near future. Now its "enjoy just having one while you can", "just wait until you've got TWO to deal with" and my personal favourite "make the most of the pregnancy, that's the easy bit!".

You know, becoming a parent is hands down the toughest thing I've ever taken on. Sleep deprivation, frustration, despair, anxiety... All of those things have gone hand in hand with the love, joy, pride, laughter and fun that have coloured my world in the last two years.  I became a parent consciously. Sure, you don't know what specific challenges will come your way but you know it'll be tough, tough enough to feel like you're broken some days. I've been around people who have experienced everything on the scale when it comes to parenting challenges and they get through those times by leaning on the love and support of a great network of people. Whether you have the worst sleeper, a child who is ill or issues with behaviour, everyone needs that support and other parents should be the first in line to listen and empathise and encourage.
This time round hasn't been the most straightforward pregnancy. We've made it to 35 weeks and I'm feeling really positive about that but there are a few hurdles to get over before we know how things will pan out. It's fear and not naivety that are making me impatient for this pregnancy to be over.

When Little Monster's sibling is born, I truly hope that whatever challenges we are thrown, our friends and family are going to help, love and support us.



Friday, 2 August 2013

Does this make me....crunchy?

Remember way back when, at least a year ago now, I said I was going to try my hand at cloth nappies? A year on, I'm really happy to say that I didn't give up. Little Monster has been in cloth for (most of) his 18 months. I really wondered how it would turn out. Would they be less effective? Would I cope with the washing, especially after returning to work? I actually found out that the washing wasn't too bad. Even when I had to send Little Monster to nursery in disposables on nappy wash day, it still meant he was in cloth most of the time. And, for us at least, I found that we had fewer leaks with cloth than we had with disposables - especially in the earlier days before he was on solids. 

When we decided to try cloth it was really to save money and because the pictures of the amount of non-biodegradable landfill from a year's worth of nappies were a little terrifying. I'm not perfect, we still use disposables when we need to, but...eek...it's a scary picture.

Anyway, my U.S. friends have introduced me to the delightful expression 'crunchy'.

Crunchy. Adjective. Used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons. Crunchy persons tend to be politically strongly left-leaning and may be additionally but not exclusively categorized as vegetarians, vegans, eco-tarians, conservationists, environmentalists, neo-hippies, tree huggers, nature enthusiasts, etc. 

I don't think I could ever be described as politically strongly left-leaning..or vegetarian, vegan or eco-tarian...but I guess I have the odd crunch now and again and, ultimately, I'm a mum, and every penny counts. Which brings me to my latest experiment, homemade washing powder. I've been trying to figure out ways to cut back on our monthly spending recently and I've read really good things about homemade washing powder, especially for a family with a history of skin issues like we have with eczema.

After a lot of reading, I've purchased soda crystals, vegetable soap and borax replacement and produced two tubs of powder. (Really easy - grate soap, mix in the rest of the ingredients, voila!).
 

1kg Soda crystals - £1
1 bar of vegetable soap - 60p
1kg borax substitute - £5.27
Total - £6.87

These ingredients have made enough powder for about 70-75 washes. An example own-brand pack of non-bio washing capsules is £4.80 for 24 washes, so £14.40 for 72 washes. 

So...I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Watch this space! And if you have any other miraculous money saving ideas, let me know!



Saturday, 6 April 2013

How children teach adults to speak properly

Over some scrummy coffee and cake yesterday afternoon, the mummies and I got talking about our little people and their sponge-like ability to pick up new information. The perplexing thing is - how do they know, I mean really how do they know to filter out all the good and useful information we're trying to teach them and yet remember every single indiscretion or swear word that we mutter in their presence?


Little Monster is nearly 14 months now. We don't have too many words yet. The odd 'cuddle' has been uttered (how cute a first word is that?). And to my doting parent ears, I'm sure there have been things that have sounded like 'hello' and 'cat' too. Or perhaps that's wishful thinking. But over the last couple of months, it's become clear that Little Monster understands quite a lot more than he's previously let on and I swear he pretends not to understand at his convenience. One of the things that has given away his level of understanding is his new favourite activity - pointing. I'm pretty sure that pointing is the pre-talking version of 'what's that? And that? Why does it do that? Why?'. Oh joy.

The problem is, you never quite realise your child's level of cognitive development until they demonstrate it - usually at the most socially awkward juncture (do they do that on purpose too?). Little Monster has a cool set of bath toys that are like little octopuses which suck up water and let you squirt it out. A few months ago it seemed amusing when we nicknamed the little blue octopus Blueberry Fart. Now that Little Monster's pointing skills have developed and he points to the toy in response to us saying Blueberry Fart, it suddenly seems like a really, really bad idea.


Still, I'm learning my lesson early. If Little Monster says 'fart' at nursery, it'll probably get a few chuckles. If he says some other f-words, they might be somewhat less amused and I will be somewhat more mortified. Perhaps we'll stick with pointing for a while...I think the whole talking thing could be overrated.