Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Next Step

Almost exactly a year ago, I was clearing out my desk at work. I was huge and I waddled. I had hopes and dreams and thoughts that kept me awake at night and I had no idea what this next step on my journey was really going to be like. I started this blog to keep me sane through the difficult times and to document my ups and downs and trials of parenthood. The blog has really become more than that for me, but that's a story for another day.

Today I walked the 1.5 miles into my nearest town with Little Monster. It's something I've done several times a week for the last 10 months. It's become a routine that symbolises this first year with him; he babbles and chatters or snoozes his way through the ride and I take my time, do a little soul searching, listen to an audiobook, plan my day. Along the way, I'll probably pull faces at him to make him giggle, stop several times to adjust his socks, his hat, pick up a discarded toy. When we get to town, we normally find our way to the post office where the two wonderfully fabulous men behind the counter have a quick chat with Little Monster which involves street style chest thumping and hand signals which perhaps mean more to Little Monster than they do to me. We might have a coffee and Little Monster will snack on dried apricots and mini rice cakes while he's charming the pants off the other residents of the cafe and I steal a sneaky 5 minutes of down time. We'll wander home again, Little Monster a new person from getting out of the house and me feeling virtuous from my 3 mile walk.

It's a routine I've come to love and yet I never thought I would. For the first 6 weeks, even making it out of the house was some kind of Herculean task. Making it out of the house to be somewhere on time was nigh on impossible. And, like all things, now that I'm faced with the thought of giving it up, I know it's something I'm going to miss terribly.

A year seemed an absolute lifetime at the start. Sometimes I wondered how I'd even survive it. But now, as it's coming to an end, I feel sad. Little Monster and I have come such a long way this year. It has been both the best and worst year of my life rolled into one. He and I have grown and learned and changed and got to know each other. Sometimes I think I've grown and changed almost as much as he has. We've got through learning to sleep, learning to eat solid food, trips to hospital for him and for me, trying to walk, figuring out that construction is (nearly) as much fun as destruction, first paddles in the sea, first tastes of cake and so many other firsts that I can't count them.

I know that returning  to work is the right thing for me and I hope that nursery will be the right thing for Little Monster. We've survived the first step. I can't wait for the next one.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Skin and Bones

A couple of conversations with different people lately have left me thinking about family, what it means to be family, how to make and keep those strong, lifelong relationships of love and trust and honesty.

I think my whirlpool of thoughts stem from Little Monster, as they often do. I got to thinking about my blood relationships. What's great about them? What do I want to change? How do I nurture my relationship with Little Monster so that we can love and trust and be honest with each other into adulthood?

That last one is a really hard question. I'm lucky with my blood family. I have strong and loving relationships with them. That's not to say everything about our relationships is always perfect but there are many people out there who constantly struggle to have positive relationships with parents, siblings, extended family. I think there are a lot of reasons for it. Oftentimes, people are just different. They grate against each other and, with all the will in the world, they struggle to find common ground. Other times I think there's such a weight of expectation of what your family should be that it stops people from appreciating what they are.

For most of my adult life, for a number of reasons, I've been a big believer that families can be made, not just born and constructed from the same DNA. There is an urban term 'skin and bones' which refers to when your friends become your family. Some of the people I've met along the way fall in to that category. Some of them have been around most of my life. Some of them I've just met in the last few years. Some of them I've only ever met virtually. All of them are family to me because of what they are and what they mean. They are family because they don't judge me for what I tell them and they're family because I know they'll be there, physically or otherwise, no matter what happens. One of those family recently told me that a friend she met online is going to live with her. The circumstances that led to that inspire me on many levels and just make me believe more firmly in building family. Isn't the greatest accolade to choose someone to be family?

To build that kind of relationship with Little Monster, I know that I'm probably going to have to work harder at it than a lot of people. I'm not naturally open. I tend to keep things internalised, at least until I've resolved them. And there's a reasonable chance that Little Monster will inherit that from me, so I'll have to work doubly hard. But I know that I want to offer him that kind of relationship with me. If families are chosen and not born, I want him to choose me one day.

Friday, 16 November 2012

A Change of Scenery

This post is nothing more than a blatant excuse to share some gorgeous pictures of Little Monster. We bought him a fleecey snowsuit so that we could keep him warm when we go walking with him in the backpack. Last weekend we really needed to clean out the gutters (in a been-putting-it-off-for-months kind of way) and we were a bit worried about getting it done whilst looking after Little Monster. It turns out, though, that a change of scenery was all he needed to keep him pretty content for half an hour and he sat here outside on a rug and played with his toys. Here's the little guy in all his gorgeousness.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A Merry Christmas on a Budget

One minor downside of a February baby is that, by their first Christmas, the statutory maternity pay has stopped. You're living on one (or no) income and trying to figure out how on earth you can pay the bills, let alone give your new bundle of joy their first Christmas in the way you'd like. I've thought long and hard about this. Here are my ideas on how to keep costs sensible and still enjoy a very Merry Christmas.
  1. Don't go overboard. While I can't wait for Little Monster to be old enough to love the magic of Christmas and Christmas presents, in reality he's not there yet. He'll be 11 months old and more than happy to watch sparkly lights and play with boxes. Of course we're getting him some presents. But there'll be a few wrapped empty boxes too, because I know he'll love it. I know that we don't need to go mad on presents for him to have a great day.
  2. Smart shopping. If you're prepared to do a little leg work on the interweb first, you can't probably find your gifts for significantly less than if you buy them in the first shop you see. Sign up to the daily deals websites like Zulily and you might be able to find what you're looking for at a significant discount.
  3. Secret Santa! It's lovely to have met so many great new people since Little Monster was born but buying Christmas (and birthday) presents for so many little people can really add up. A group of us have decided to do a secret santa scheme for all of the 1st birthdays so that we're not all buying loads of presents and you could do the same for Christmas if you're exchanging gifts with friends.
  4. Make It! It's not everyone's cup of tea but I've met a lot of very creative mums out there. Put your creative skills to the test and knit, crochet, sew, cut, stick and bake your way through your Christmas list. Handmade presents can be lovely and unique and they don't have to cost the earth.
  5. Buy handmade... Not everyone can make their own gifts but you can buy handmade gifts and they are often great value. Little Monster is now the proud owner of a lovely personalised stocking from this Etsy store. Etsy is a great place to find something a bit different for those difficult-to-buy-for people too.
  6. Something old, something new? I have to confess that I buy most of Little Monster's clothes second hand and I decided to buy some small Christmas gifts for him second hand too. The thing is, clothes and toys are grown out of so quickly that you can buy them like new and Little Monster will probably only use them for a few months! I stumbled on a great second hand kids clothes and toys stall at the market where I picked up a couple of small presents.
I'm sure there are other ideas out there and I'd love to hear yours. How do you keep costs down at Christmas?

Friday, 26 October 2012

Backward is the way forward

I don't remember who or what first pointed me in the direction of Extended Rear Facing (ERF) car seats. It's not the most exciting topic for today's blog post but it's something that's been on my mind a lot lately. (Such is the fast paced excitement of my life).

Car seats are a slightly controversial topic because it involves safety and noone likes to have their choices questionned. Every parent wants to pick the best and safest options for their child and I'm not here to judge anyone for those choices. One major issue in choosing to go with an ERF seat in the UK is that they are priced from £200-400! Conversely, you can pick up a fully compliant forward facing car seat for £60-£100. Annoyingly, if you buy an equivalent ERF seat in the US, they are similar prices to our forward facing seats. It seems fundamentally wrong that a type of seat which is proven to reduce road deaths should be priced at a point which is unattainable for a large number of parents. Sometime, someday, somehow, it would be great to see a change in the UK legislation on rear facing car seats which would help to reduce the prices but for now, I just want to help raise awareness.

So here's the facts: The law in the UK is that babies must use a rear facing car seat until they are 9 months old or weigh 9 kgs. In Scandanavia and, more recently, some US states, it is now standard for children to stay rear-facing until they are much older (as late as 4-5 yrs in some cases). The reason is simply that, in a frontal collision, a child is five times safer in a rear facing seat. Children are still growing and developing and the force of an impact affects them in a different way to an adult - a rear facing seat cushions those forces and they are proven to reduce child deaths.

If you can afford to consider the ERF seat option and want more information, take a look at www.rearfacing.co.uk which has all of the background and also a list of UK stockists (sadly few and far between). And whether you're going for forward or rear facing, we had a really great experience with www.incarsafetycentre.co.uk, based in Milton Keynes. They have a large range of all car seats and will spend a lot of time with you to work out the best option to fit your car.

Safe and happy driving x

Sunday, 21 October 2012


When did the little newborn that I brought home those months ago get so big? When did he find time to outgrow five lots of clothing? And learn to roll? And sit up? And eat? Every day Little Monster makes me smile with some new trick, whether it's a new sound or a new way to play with a toy. It never fails to amaze me how much he manages to cram into a day.

This weekend has been a weekend of change in Little Monster's world. He has migrated to a new car seat. He's going in an Extended Rear Facing (ERF) seat which can theoretically carry him up to around 6 years old. Whether we all survive that long with him rear facing is another discussion...but we're happy this is the safest option for him long term. If you're in the market to upgrade your baby's seat and want to know about ERF seats, there's some great information at http://www.rearfacing.co.uk.

Little Monster also cried for solid food for the first time. I thought he had cried for solids a week or so ago but wasn't sure. Today was the first day that he's rejected a bottle in favour of food when he was hungry. This is really scary. I find it so hard to fit meals in...the eating of them, let alone the preparing...and to find a repetoire of things that he can eat. I guess I'm going to have to spend a lot more time figuring it out! Here's the little guy trying to get my phone when he should be eating:

Lastly, and most significantly in my little world, Little Monster said mama for the first time. I don't think he knows mama is me...but he's made such big changes in his speech recently, I can't wait for the first real word to pop out!

It's strange to feel melancholy at only 8 months in, wondering where your baby went. But I guess the thing is, he's not so much a baby anymore. And that's exciting and sad all at the same time.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Weaning Worries

One thing I've realised so far about being a parent is that it never seems to be the things that you thought would worry you...that worry you. I'm fairly laid back about baby milestones in general. I don't get all angsty that my baby hasn't fully learnt to sit yet or isn't crawling when younger babies than him are already finding their way. I figure he's working on other stuff and as long as he is heading in the right direction, it doesn't matter if it takes him a few weeks longer. The thing that has got me all on edge is weaning, and I really never thought it would.

I started offering Little Monster some basic foods when he was about 5.5 months. I decided a long time ago that we were going to follow a baby led weaning approach so I offer the normal food we eat, perhaps cut into pieces he can pick up, rather than giving him purees. I like the approach. It requires less preparation - which is great in our house as there's really nowhere in the kitchen that I can have Little Monster with me so once he is crawling, I need to spend the minimum amount of time away from him! It also means that the baby can feed themselves from the start so that you can all eat together, rather than spending ages spoon-feeding the baby and then having to entertain them while you eat your (now cold) dinner. I'm not going to preach the numerous and varied studies on this subject but suffice to say it is interesting and has great foundations.

The problem is that Little Monster is now 7 months old and he still eats very little food. He is good with bread-type foods that turn to mush in his mouth but anything that requires him to bite or chew (including, to increase my worry levels) most fruits and vegetables. Don't get me wrong, we have made some progress. In the first few weeks he didn't swallow anything and most times wouldn't pick food up from the mat and put it in his mouth. He is now doing both of these things which are significant skill developments.

But still I worry.

I worry that he's going to be a fussy eater and refuse anything but bread! I know that's a little irrational at this stage but it's so disheartening when I see his peers all happily munching away. I think the worst bit is that it's so hard to know when you should be worried. Now? At 9 months? 10? A year?

I know that, for right now, all I can do is persevere. I have to offer a variety of food every day, even if it all goes on the floor.

And, until he's eating other foods consistently, he's definitely not having cake.  Which is more for me.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Hay Days and Holidays!

Today was the last day of holiday and, in the way of these things when the holiday has been good, I'm a little melancholy and reflective. I wished so much to take Little Monster to the beach for the first time, to see his reaction as the waves washed over his feet and let him squish his toes in the sand. I had that, and so much more. We laughed when a big wave caught us and took photos so we'll never forget.

We went to Dartmouth on the ferry and watched a steam train chunter past. We wandered around Coleton Fishacre, tried a HippyChick Hip Seat for the first time. We watched pigs at the farm and giggled at the monkeys at the zoo. There were lunches and cups of tea in the garden. Ice cream and fresh picked raspberries. Evenings with wine and a good book.

And lying here now, curled up in bed on our last night, I realise how much my son and my husband have influenced this trip and are constantly making me want to be better than I am. Little Monster, at nearly 7 months, has adapted so easily to being here and has displayed more patience than I often do. My husband used up his holiday to care for me when I was ill and couldn't be here. He is kind and generous and has never shown a moment of resentment that he couldn't join us.

All in all I'm feeling really lucky. I had a great holiday and a great time watching Little Monster and all his 'firsts'. And tomorrow, I'm going home where hubs is waiting to give us end-of-holiday hugs.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Magic Holidays

Call me an old romantic but ever since Little Monster was born I've had this image in my head of him, me and hubs at the seaside. In my mind's eye, Little Monster is a toddler and he's squealing as the waves chase him and he chases seagulls. Hubs and I hold his hands as he dabbles his feet in the shallows and looks up at us with big, wide eyes. When he's bigger, we'll fly a kite with him and, eventually, teach him to fly our powerkite, maybe even go kite buggying.

                          (image by Karen O'D via Wylio)                                       (image by CeresB via Wylio)

Well, Little Monster isn't walking yet so chasing waves will have to wait but next week I'm taking him to see my parents for the first time at their home in South Devon. We're planning some coastal walks, some ice cream and, most definitely, a little sea paddling for Monster. We'll walk beside the coastal railway and Little Monster can see his first train. We've already determined that he loves tractors. What is it with boys and tractors?

My only sadness is that, since hubs had to use up his holiday to care for me and Little Monster while I was ill, he'll have to stay behind and work. So my job is to take lots of photos for him. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Putting things in perspective

It's taken me a long time to write this post, without really knowing why. I put it down and come back to it, trying to figure it out and put my thoughts in order.

I think the thing is that for the first time, possibly ever, I feel physically vulnerable. It doesn't seem to matter how much you know you're only human, how many lectures from teachers, parents, how many things you see and read about life and death. The fact is that, as kids and young adults, a lot of us just feel somewhat indestructible. 

Two weeks ago, I woke up in the night feeling ill. Several days and a lot of painkillers later, I was in surgery having my appendix removed. Appendectomies are so common now that they're considered routine and it's easy to forget that they can be life threatening and still have the potential to cause quite a lot of misery. Thankfully, so far, I'm making an excellent recovery but the last few weeks haven't been without their low moments. I keep fretting about complications, even though there's really no reason to think there will be any. I get frustrated about the twinges of pain, impatient to get back to my former level of fitness.

And all this, coupled with now having Little Monster in my life, has made me very conscious of my mortality. It's important to be around to see him grow up. I think what I really want to say is that being ill has provided some much needed perspective. If I'm tired because Little Monster has had me up 3 times in the night, or he's teething, or it's raining when we were supposed to go to the park, it doesn't really matter. I have a gift of 4 more months to spend getting to know my Little Monster. I can't promise it will be without moments of frustration or tears or anger but I do know how lucky I am. Hopefully we will make great use of that time. 


Friday, 17 August 2012

Flame for Hope

I wrote this at the beginning of the Olympics but didn't get round to publishing it on my blog for various reasons. I was so impressed with the way that the UK hosted and performed at the games. You did a great job all :)

8000 miles, through cities and dales,
To Lerwick and Belfast, 'cross England and Wales, 
8000 bearers, each story unique, 
Telling tales of our Nation, with action they speak. 
There's celebrities and children, sports stars to be made, 
Heroes of battles, the courageous and brave,
Cub leaders, charity workers and more.
We thank them with cheers and our spirits all soar.
We come to the Games. We come to compete.
To stand as a Nation, the world at our feet.
Our rowers, our cyclists, pool, track and field,
Our hopes for a Team GB gold medal yield.
It is not just our athletes, our country's on show,
We've a chance through adversity, to prove we still grow.
We'll finish each race with our arms open wide.
We'll hold our heads high; one Nation, one pride.
And we know that our actions, our dreams, motivations,
Could alter the future and inspire generations,
So raise up your flags for this is our time,
The Olympics are here, it's our Moment to Shine.

Friday, 20 July 2012

(Mis)Adventures in the Lake District

Hubby and I like to call ourselves walkers. You see, that's what we used to do before Little Monster came. 5 months in and our longest walk is into town and back (3 miles, give or take). Around three times a year, we used to scoot off to the Lake District and tramp the hills, getting wet and cold before landing in a pub with a cheery fire, real ale and steak pie on the menu. Mmm. Heaven.

So, when it got to June and we hadn't been to the Lake District for 8 months, we could hardly turn down the offer of free accommodation for a week in the centre of Hawkshead...could we? To be honest, it was a good thing. Knowing how difficult it might be to take Little Monster away for a week, I could have put off our first week away pretty much indefinitely. To have a set date in the calendar forced the issue.

And the verdict? Well, it wasn't exactly the relaxing getaway that our Lakes trips used to be but it was definitely good to get away from these 4 walls, to surround myself with the fresh Lakeland air, to eat and drink holiday food and to pootle around the shops in Ambleside. And of course, to have hubby around for a week to give me cuddles and share the early mornings ;)

It's funny how you can start to see a place through different eyes. The Lakes just used to be about the peaks for us but this trip we did some really lovely short walks, some orienteering...we tried to see it through kids' eyes. I'm so glad we did. I think the best thing we did was put Little Monster into the sling, facing out, while we walked along the edge of Lake Windermere. His little legs were kicking, his little hands clutched my fingers and he grinned at the people who walked past us. It made me realise that his happiness matters so much more than being able to tramp the hills and sit in the pub. One smile and I'm mush.

Of course, if he hadn't been teething like a trooper...we actually might have had the odd smile for us. :)

Friday, 6 July 2012

Pretty painful parking

I'm no saint and god knows I probably have a million habits that annoy people. But one thing I don't do is park in the designated parking spaces just because I can't be bothered to walk an extra 10m to the supermarket. Now that I've become a parent I really do understand why parent and child spaces are there. Anyone who has ever had to partially reverse out to get the car seat in the back will know where I'm coming from.

A few days ago I needed to 'pop' to the supermarket to get a couple of bits. I say pop in inverted commas because it's really never that easy when you have a baby. You have to choose between lugging 20lbs of baby around the shop while the car seat bashes against your knees and you struggle with your free hand to hold shopping and retrieve your purse OR you lug said child to the trolley bay, hope that there is a suitable trolley, snap them into the trolley, pick up your two items of shopping and then reverse the process. It's pretty much painful whichever way you do it. And yes, there have been several times when I've thought 'I wonder if Little Monster would be ok in the car for just two minutes while I...'. But sensible me always wins, thankfully.

So anyway, I get to the supermarket which is well stocked with around 6 parent and child spaces (considering it's only a small shop I think that's pretty good) and, typically, all the spaces are taken. Now I know I need to be open-minded on this but I tend to get suspicious when the spaces are filled with soft tops and sports cars instead of people carriers and Chelsea tractors. Thwarted by the lack of spaces, I find somewhere where there's two adjacent spaces which gives me enough room to get the car seat out.

On this occasion, I chose the trolley-free option (noone's fault but mine, I know). So when I returned to the car to find that someone had parked seriously badly next to me, preventing a person let alone a car seat from getting into my car and causing me to further break my back lifting those 20lbs across the backseat? Well yeah, you can imagine.

It's just as well that most days I walk into town huh?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

How do you make your tongue do that?

Yesterday I was sitting on a park bench in Oakham with a dear friend who shall remain nameless. Our conversation included whether my breasts had returned to the same size since I went lopsided after stopping breastfeeding (those of you who see me on a regular basis - I will notice if your eyes drift south. You have been warned). We then progressed onto what shapes you could make your tongue into (you know, like whether you can curl it into a roll) and rounded it off with how many pooey nappies my son does now that he's on formula.

It was about this point that I reflected how much life has changed in the last 5 months. When did I become one of those women? You know, the ones that wear their milk stains with pride and no longer think twice about tossing the dirty nappies into the washer with our clothes? There isn't much that hasn't changed to be honest. My priorities have changed, I have new friends, I openly talk about the bodily woes of pregnancy and beyond where previously I was a little...shy.

I look on those things with pretty mixed feelings. I miss parts of my old life. I miss being able to curl up on the sofa and read a book or doze when I'm ill. I miss being my own boss, being able to live spontaneously. But I am also incredibly grateful to have Josh in my life. And there are some things about maternity leave that really aren't so bad.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

I don't know where he gets it

For a number of reasons, namely bounciness (possibly alcohol induced) and an obsession with Winnie the Pooh, I earned the nickname ElliTigg at University. There are unconfirmed reports of a link between that and my tablet accessories business...

Anyway, with such a gene pool to draw from, you can imagine my parental disappointment when I introduced my son to the door bouncer.

That's right, mummy, I prefer the pattern on the rug to your door bouncer toy. Must take after daddy.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Am I ready for independence?

Yesterday Little Monster decided he was more than capable of holding his own bottle thank you very much. Need I remind him and you that he is only 4 months old? Where did this sudden independence come from? Surely, surely, the start of independence is reserved for the domain of toddlerhood, the terrible twos and all those good things?

I know, I know, I can hear you saying 'he's only holding his bottle, stop being a neurotic mother'. But that's how it all starts. Today it's a bottle, next week he wants to go on holiday by himself with his girlfriend (she's a lovely girl). It's not that I'm adverse to him growing up per se. But the point is, I still have to deal with the bad bits of him being a baby. Him needing me, the cuddles, the clingyness - they're the good bits and they last such a short time. I'm just not ready for him to give me up. Not just yet.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Exploring the World

Little Monster is a huge fan of his hands, particularly his thumbs. While he has been sucking his thumb for a while, he's only recently started exploring the world with his hands, from holding rattles to pulling teddies into his mouth. This is Jelly Bear. He may soon sacrifice an ear to the cause of teaching Little Monster about textures.

When Jelly got tired, we did a little exploring of our own to the nearest cafe. Little Monster looks a bit shocked by daddy wielding a camera.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Truth About The Deep Blue Sea

We've all had those moments (haven't we?) where, unwittingly, you manage to cast yourself into the role of the Bad Mother. Oh you know the ones I mean, where someone finds out that you plonk your child in front of the TV in order to get the chores done or that you haven't read to your baby every day since they were born or that, shock horror, you haven't given your baby tummy time today. (Let me just pause and qualify that I have been guilty of all of the above to a greater or lesser extent. I'm not perfect and sometimes life isn't either). My point is that regardless of how good a parent you are, there is always someone or something that makes you stop and question yourself.

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For me, it was the moment when we were singing The Deep Blue Sea at playgroup. Now, in the version I was taught, it goes "When I was one, I'd just begun, the day I went to sea. I jumped aboard a pirate ship and the captain said to me - We're going this way, that way, forwards, backwards, over the deep blue sea. A bottle of rum to warm me tum and that's the life for me". Only it turns out that, nowadays, they skip the part about the rum. And no, I didn't know that when we started singing. You can practically see the tumbleweed can't you?

So there's me, singing away to a different hymn sheet, so to speak, and unwittingly falling into the Bad Mother pot. Obviously, my child will grow up as an alcoholic miscreant or something because I sing about pirates drinking rum. The thing is, I don't mind if other people choose not to sing about rum. Equally I don't mind if they choose to sit their children in front of the TV for 12 hours a day. And to be honest, I doubt any of the lovely ladies at my playgroup would judge me for singing the rum version but I feel bad nonetheless.

I suppose the point of my post is that our perceptions of what society deems to be good and bad and right and wrong impact the way that we parent our children. Sometimes those perceptions can be healthy and motivate us to do some things differently. But sometimes we worry too much what other people think. The question is, will I sing about rum next week?

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Embracing Change

Little Monster has been going through a 'phase' for the last few days. I'm going to use the word phase in the belief that this is a time-limited affair and that, like all things children, this too shall pass. (Anyway, I refuse to believe that any child can be cranky and fussy forever...can they?). 
This particular phase is known as I-used-to-think-I-was-indecisive-but-now-I'm-not-sure: If you put me down, I scream. If you hold me, I scream. Sitting still is for sissys but I only want to move around if I can do it by myself. Yes I like that toy but no I don't want to play with it. And really, mum, that song you sing that used to make me giggle? That's so 5 minutes ago.

There's an interesting book called The Wonder Weeks which philosophises that babies go through 10 major mental leaps which are akin to the body's growth spurts. During these periods, which seem to occur at predictable weeks for the majority of babies, significant changes occur in the child's understanding and perception of the world. The theory goes that these changes are so significant that they can be quite bewildering for bub, leading to a period where little angel becomes Little Monster. Since there are a thousand and one theories and books on baby development, it seems sensible to read widely, take everything with a small pinch of salt and to remember that, ultimately, all monsters are different. Having said that, The Wonder Weeks suggests that one such fussy period is Week 15 which happens to be where Little Monster is so perhaps there's something in it...?

My theory is that Little Monster will be so sick of the 50,000th rendition of She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain that he'll give up fussing for a more peaceful life. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I'll look forward to the new tricks he'll be learning on the other side.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Calling it a Day

It makes me sad that there are so many people out there who want to judge the way we parent, who feel the need to comment, "advise" or simply to thrust their ideal world at you as a poignant reminder of your failings.

Some days it feels like there is no more controversial parenting topic than breastfeeding. From the breastfeeding zealots to the breastfeeding specialists to the health visitors, there is a lot of pressure to feed your baby this way. I don't disagree that breastfeeding gives your little ones a great start in life. But breastfeeding is just one piece of the jigsaw and every parent needs to look at the big picture of what is right for their child, not just feeding in isolation.
I have breastfed Little Monster almost exclusively for 3 months and have now made the decision to stop. There are lots of women who manage more than that and I take my hat off to every one of them. I have done a lot of soul searching about this because I really did want to feed for longer but, in the end, the other pieces of the jigsaw didn't fit.

When Little Monster was first born, I had issues with overactive letdown. It made feeding quite difficult sometimes. Little Monster would break off choking or get bad gas. We started to get past this and then I got a stomach bug for a few days. I was so off my food that my supply was badly affected and it never recovered. After that, I would spend every day stressing about eating and drinking enough and, despite that, the early evening feeds became really difficult. Little Monster wasn't getting enough milk and he was difficult to settle. My anxiety about this was a contributor to my insomnia.

So for all the right reasons I decided to call it a day. In our big picture, I can be a better mum to Little Monster by stopping and, honestly, he seems happier for it.

I know that I have been and will be judged for my decision. Our breastfeeding specialist reacted with a 'hmm' and tried to hide a disapproving look. Actually, it would have been nice to get some support with stopping; physically and emotionally it's not that easy to do.

Do I think I made the right decision? Yes. Am I just a little bit sad? Absolutely.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Nature's Play Gym

Ah, how much better life looks when it's 25 degrees and sunny outside. I mean, this is what maternity leave was made for surely? Balmy summer days, relaxing with a glass of vino over a late lunch with the other yummy mummies while our perfect children play nicely together, their happy laughter a wonderful backdrop to a mellow summer's day. Look, can you see little Johnny and little Rosie sharing toys?

Alright, alright, perhaps mummy meet-ups are a little more milk and cookies than wine and olives. And we can probably trade the happy laughter for sporadic screaming. But still, sun does make everything better.

Today it made things better by allowing Little Monster and I to walk to baby massage. And to take a detour via the ice cream shop on the way home. The sunshine made all the baby massage mums optimistic that we're not really in for a wash-out summer and we organised a weekly walking group. When we got home, Little Monster and I lay on a rug in the garden and the sun and breeze turned the trees into a play gym that money can't buy. The sun made things better by allowing Little Monster to trade his vest and babygro for a little romper suit so that he could feel his toes curling into the grass for the first time.

Of course the cat decided to join our party, but that's ok. It's sunny, I was feeling generous.

Friday, 18 May 2012

See It Snap It Love it - Reflection

Little Monster considerately offered to have a little nap to let me participate in Dear Beautiful Boy's "See It Snap It Love It" linky. This week's theme was Reflection which I loved as it got me thinking. Using some props I had to hand *cough*, I took this snap of a wine glass reflected in a wine bottle. Touched up with a little HDR effect in Picasa.

If you'd like participate, click on the badge below to link up!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A Roleplay A Day Keeps The Doctor Away?

Some of my readers (actually a lot of them) are probably unaware that when I get a spare few hours, I am an avid online roleplayer. I know this sounds pretty off topic for my blog, but bear with me, I'm going to bring it back :)

Firstly, let's address what I mean by online roleplay and roleplay in general as it tends to get a bit of bad press. The basic premise of roleplay is that you create yourself a character with a background, personality and skillset appropriate to the imaginary environment that you are roleplaying in. As your character, you interact with others, to create and develop storylines. In many cases you are subject to the rules of a roleplay system which add an element of chance into whether your actions succeed or fail (and let's face it, too many infallible superheroes gets a little tiresome). Online roleplay, in my case, is through virtual 3D worlds. There is something for everyone out there but the majority of time, I play in gritty, urban environments set in the present day. The premise is the same as in-person roleplay but the system is more relaxed. Within certain boundaries, your character can follow any storyline. Any major outcomes would have to pre-agreed with those involved but the 'how' is up to you. Taking turns, you write in real time the actions of your character and respond to the actions of others.

Here's me with all my online friends

For me, online roleplay fulfills some of the same things as blogging. I love love love the creative writing side of things - over time constructing events which change and shape my character. Sometimes the events are dark and traumatic like a good crime/thriller novel but just as often I have a completely spontaneous funny roleplay with a few friends.

The thing is, as you can imagine, there really are online roleplay environments to cater for every...eh-hem...preference...and while it's a great thing for adults to be able to express themselves in whatever way they like, there's always the ongoing debate about suitability for children. To be honest, while I keep my roleplay relatively tame, I wouldn't even want Little Monster to be exposed to some of the storylines I have been involved in - in the same way that I wouldn't want him to watch films rated 15 when he's just a baby. The fact is that our children are going to be computer literate from a much earlier age than we were and, with that, there is going to be the desire to copy whatever you do. Even if I never roleplayed around Little Monster, you just know he's going to find that icon, double-click and away he goes!

So what's the right thing to do? How do we protect our children from unsuitable online content but still allow them to have access to the amazing expanse of information that the web has to offer? Because, as with virtual worlds, it is not just about webpages that we can choose to block. I don't have all the answers, or any actually, but I'd love to know your thoughts. As your little ones are getting more technology literate, how are you controlling or monitoring their access to online resources? Or even apps on your phone?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Soul Searching About Nurseries

Even before Little Monster was born, I was already thinking about what would happen to him when I return to work. Child care is a minefield. There are a lot of options and as a rookie to this whole process it can be really overwhelming. Do you go back to work full time? Part time? Are there grandparents who can help with childcare? Do you use a childminder? A nursery? Close to work? Close to home?

You mull over all these options and none of them really seem good enough. Pretty much every day since Little Monster was born, I have craved a little bit of me again. I want to be back at work or have time to myself but at the same time, I can't imagine anyone else looking after Little Monster. He is our baby. Noone knows him like we do and noone else should get to experience his 'firsts' before us. What if he starts giving someone else the smiles that today are reserved for us? What if he needs us less?

Despite my neuroses, child care is a necessary evil.

Initially, I loved the idea of using a childminder...just putting Little Monster with one or two key adults who he will get to know.  We definitely wanted Little Monster to be in child care near home because we moved to the country for him. After looking into the options in our village and the local area, we found none of the childminders were viable - they only worked 3 days a week or only during school hours or they wanted a massive retainer to hold a baby place until next January. In the end, reluctantly, I started investigating local nurseries and, after a recommendation from a friend, we went to visit Simba's Den Day Nursery in the village of Bulwick.

Simba's Den only take 6 babies under the age of 2 and 22 children in total - in comparison to a total of over 100 at one of the other nurseries we looked at. As we arrived at Simba's Den, the older children were all going off to an optional ballet class (including the boys!). The atmosphere among the remaining children and the babies was lovely. They operate an outdoors philosophy which very much echos the lifestyle we hope to raise Josh in. The older children have regular trips to the nearby woods, they try to take at least 1 walk per day for each group and they even go Gruffalo Hunting! (Win!)

So, although I'm not happy about the idea of someone else taking care of Little Monster, Simba's Den felt good and I could see him being happy there. Sadly, I guess mum will never be quite as exciting as a nursery full of activities and other children to play with!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Blogging for Madeleine

Today I'm joining the collective endeavour of A Mummy's View and Tea&Biscotti to raise awareness about the continuing search for Madeleine McCann on this, her 9th birthday.

Madeleine went missing from her bed when she was on holiday with her family in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007. Everyone knows this story so it hardly needs saying but Madeleine still needs to be found. I don't pretend to know what happened to this little girl or who is responsible but whatever you and I believe, someone out there knows where she is and she deserves justice.

The Metropolitan Police have recently released this age progressed photo of what Madeleine would look like now.

If you see a young girl who looks like this, please contact:
Your local police force immediately and 
Operation Grange on              0207 321 9251       (in the UK)
                                                         +44 207 321 9251       (non-UK) 
OR Crime stoppers in confidence on             0800 555111       or www.crimestoppers-uk.org