Friday, 26 May 2017

So You Want To Be A WAHM?

One of the biggest dilemmas for parents (especially, and probably disproportionately, for mums) is choosing whether to stay at home or return to work after maternity leave. It's a hugely personal decision and the right answer will be different for each family. Whatever the decision, we're all doing our best by our kids and ourselves (and we're all full-time parents).

I chose to stay at home, but a couple of years in I started to want a bit more. It wasn't just about money, although extra cash is always useful. I wanted to do something other than parenting, andto prove to myself I could still work! So I decided to try being a work-at-home mum - or WAHM for short.

The tricky bit is finding something that works for me. I tried direct sales but discovered that sales really isn't my thing. I switched to copywriting which I was better at, but once Ezra was born it was impossible to find regular time (and energy) for it. So for now I'm keeping in practise by blogging until I have more time and I'm getting more sleep.

So my experience as a WAHM has been mixed so far, but for many women it's a great opportunity to combine time with the kids with a career. Trouble is, how do you find the balance? I asked some local WAHMs about their top tips for anyone considering working from home, and this is what they had to say:

"A lot of my WAHM clients say having a life coach gives them focus, motivation and accountability. Being on your own with your vision can be really lonely but having a life coach who walks along side you and understand what you are wanting to achieve its paramount to success." - Nicola from Nicola Hughes Coaching and Counselling

"Stay on top of your paperwork, invoicing, book keeping etc. Its really easy to put it in a pile 'for later' and then not be able to remember important details when you eventually get round to it." - Jane from Norris Box

"It's a marathon and not a sprint. Especially fitting work around small ones, you've got to go with the flow and find when you can get work done. Set goals, work hard to achieve them, but be gentle with yourself as you're almost undoubtedly doing better than you think. Don't be afraid to take risks or change direction if you see an opportunity." - Rachel from Spider and Fly

"Try not to compare your business to others who are doing similar things! Make it work for you... and know you can't do everything straight away. Like Rachel rightly says it is a marathon, not a sprint.
Importantly don't underestimate your value. I see 
a lot of WAHMs undercharging for their goods or services so it is a good idea to cost up your business when thinking about pricing. Look at what you need to earn, how many hours you can reasonably work a week, what kind of resources you can put in (for example can you build a website or will you need to pay someone to do that), whether you need specialist training, insurance, registrations and then also factor in sick pay, holidays and childcare. You might not actually be able to charge the amount you need to, but this will give you an idea of what you are aiming for. Being a WAHM has to be about passion and drive because it is hard work, but the pros can outweigh the cons if you love what you do." - Lucy from Om Line Training

"Do something your passionate about because working from home needs a lot of drive from you. Also do market research before setting your goals. I love blogging, Vlogging, making films, teaching bellydance and writing press releases - so I really enjoy the variety I get from working for myself from home and my love of my work (I hope) shines through in what I deliver. Beats an office job any day. Go for it!" - Sophie from Mama Mei and Evoke Media Group

"Make sure you take a break when needed and plan them into your calendar. We have found juggling the long summer holiday and children / partners work was just a means to disaster so we 'close our books' for August and spend the time with our families and catching up on admin type jobs without the pressure of liaising with customers and getting goods out. It has to be on the calendar though as otherwise we easily slipped up and would 'just do this one'." - Amanda from Just A Touch Of Magic

"Don't forget to look after you. If you are running your own business you are your great asset but that can be very easy to forget when you are juggling the demands of family life and work, all in the same space. Especially when you love what you do too and there are not enough hours in the day/week/month... Make sure you take some time out that is just for you, doing something that you love - it could be yoga, crafts, walking, running, swimming, going to the gym or meeting friends. Even better if it is something that enhances and improves your health and wellbeing so that you stay strong and healthy (which means less sick days and more energy for your business and your family!)." - Lucy from Lucyoga

"You can get maternity allowance if you have paid NI contributions (if I recall correctly 13 weeks out of 52, voluntary contributions included) and are entitled to income based ESA. Which is something invaluable." Sophie from Footprints on Forever

If you're interested in what being a WAHM entails, take a look at the above links to see what fab and varied work these ladies do!

Are you a WAHM? Do you have any tips you would add to this list?

Friday, 19 May 2017

Fighting the Clutter and Simplifying Play

I've never been the tidiest person, but recently the amount of mess in my house has been getting me down. I was getting dragged into a 'my house isn't big enough' mentality, feeling sorry for myself, when actually the real issue is that we have too much stuff.

The amount of toys our kids have has been an issue for a while - even when Eleanor was a toddler, we already felt like we were drowning in toys. So of course now we have two, it's almost impossible to keep up with the sheer amount of stuff they have.

The thing is, they hardly play with it. Especially Eleanor. Whenever she complains about being bored I'll reel off a list of all the things she could do, but of course she's not interested. And Ezra will happily drag all his toys out of his box then proceed to play with the nearest non-toy item (preferably a dangerous one). I honestly think that the more toys a child has, the more overwhelming they find the choice and the less likely they are to play.

Alas, I think it is too late to get Eleanor on board with the 'less is more' message. But Ezra, being unable to speak and having a shorter attention span, can be merrily forced to go along with this as long as he doesn't see me getting rid of his stuff.

So, one nap time, I emptied out all his toys on the floor.

Yeah. What a mess, eh? No wonder it took me so long to tidy every evening, and no wonder he didn't seem to play with anything - there's just too much going on. So I set to work sorting through the mess.

I piled up all the cuddly toys - he hardly plays with these at the moment so I selected just one for him to keep, a little jingly Peter Rabbit toy. I fished out anything that wasn't actually his, as Eleanor's stuff had snuck in a little. I chucked away one particularly battered toy that we'd had since Eleanor was toddler and was past it's best. I found all the teethers and put them to one side to wash. And I weeded out any toys that I thought he was a bit big for.

I ended up with this.

These are the toys that he will actually play with: a bead maze, his toy kitchen and play food, a shape-sorting bus, two push-along vehicles, a shaker, stacking blocks, soft blocks, a jingly ball and the aforementioned Peter Rabbit toy.

Most of the rest has been shoved in a bag for now and when we get chance we'll go through it and decide what to keep for when he's older and what can go to charity. The teethers are still awaiting cleaning, and will be kept somewhere safe so they can actually be used for their purpose rather than as toys.

I did this three days ago, and he doesn't seem to have noticed the sudden lack of stuff. But he does seem to be taking more interest in his remaining toys now he can find them more easily. And it's quicker to tidy everything away at the end of the day. Win win!

Have you found that less is more when it comes to toys? How many toys do you think your child 'needs'?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

'Rhyming Stories: Pip the Dog and Freddy the Frog' by Axel Scheffler

Another bookish post for you this week. In my mission to get Ezra reading books instead of ruining them, I've started getting down to the library more regularly. Last week we picked up this lovely book:

I love Axel Scheffler's illustrations - well, who doesn't? - and I really enjoy reading rhyming text so this is right up my street. It's also a really good choice for Ezra as the two short stories aren't too overwhelming for him - much as I adore them, he's not ready for the Donaldson/Scheffler stories yet.

Ezra's favourite of the two stories is Pip the Dog. Mainly because he thinks it's funny when I bark like a dog!

I'm happy to make silly noises in stories if it gets the kids engaged, and there are plenty of opportunities to practise my dog impression in this story. I'm still working on the difference between a happy woof and a sad woof, but I don't suppose Ezra's that bothered!

He seems less keen on Freddy the Frog - obviously my croaks aren't as funny as my barks - but it's still a sweet little story. There's no real plot to either story but then little toddlers aren't going to follow one anyway, so it's nice to just enjoy the rhymes and descriptions at this age.

Freddy the Frog is a good one to read with your little one on your knee, as then you can bounce them up and down to join in with the race! As I mentioned in my last post, I'm on the lookout for books that you can do actions to, so this is another fun one!

We've both really enjoyed this book - it's colourful, cheerful and gives opportunities for giggles with funny noises and bouncing about. I spotted another 'Rhyming Stories' book while at the library so think I'll be picking that up next week!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.

Read With Me

Laura's Lovely Blog

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

'Clip Clop!' by Nicola Smee

I haven't done a post about what we're reading recently. Eleanor is now a very independent reader (and reads the same books over and over) so I don't have much to say about her reading habits these days. And Ezra is in full-on book devastation mode so I'm ashamed to say I haven't been reading much with him.

Except for one book.

As you can see, this book hasn't escaped his destructive powers entirely, but a slightly bent and nibbled front page is nothing compared to some of the havoc he's wreaked. (I've even had to throw books away - sob!) I think he's sparing this book because he loves it so much!

It's a really simple, short story, perfect for older babies and younger toddlers.

This book is absolutely made for bouncing a baby along to. Every parent has played horsey one time or another, and this story gives you lots of opportunity to make your little one giggle.

The rhythm of the text encourages you speed up your bouncing until ...

This is Ezra's favourite page - I lean back for the HALT and forward for the fly and his face lights up every time!

I love the playful ending - anticipating the child asking for another read of it! Although Ezra is too young to say 'again' himself, he will often turn back to the first page, indicating he wants another 'ride'. It's so short and fun I'm more than happy to do a repeat reading.

I'm now on the lookout for more books that encourage actions - any ideas?

I'm linking up with Read With Me hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

Read With Me

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Review - FotoJet Premium photo editing and collage

You may have noticed my header's changed. I've been undergoing the slow (for me) process of prettifying my blog but I'd been putting off the header. Photo-editing is not my forte at all and I was really worried about doing a bad job of it.

Then FotoJet got in touch to offer me a chance to try out their Premium account. It felt like the universe was telling me to get on with that header once and for all!

So, what do you think to the header? Nice, isn't it? It may not look like much, but to me it was a real challenge! I started out with this photo:

I uploaded it onto the FotoJet Edit section and resized it so it would fit my blog template. (Unfortunately a Blogger-specific header wasn't an option in the Design section, but there were lots of options for social media headers and posts.) It was pretty straightforward to do this, even for a novice like me.

I then set about adjusting the photo a little to make it a little less washed-out. The free version of the website does have some pre-set effects that you can apply, but I thought I'd try out the Advanced features for a more customised look.

After I'd played around with the different settings until I had the look I wanted I added the text. I wanted a clean, fuss-free font so used one of the free options, but there are loads of fancy fonts that are exclusive to the Premium account if you feel like being more creative.

After a bit of playing around I got the header you can see above - not bad for a technophobe, eh?! Just a shame there's nothing that can be done for Eleanor's weird photo pose ...

Overall I found the Edit function really straightforward, so I decided to get adventurous and use the Collage function for my next project. Eleanor is having a half-birthday next month (on account of her birthday being so close to Christmas) so this was a great opportunity to get her invites done.

In the Collage section of the website, there are lots of templates for different occasions, including some lovely invitations. I chose this one, which is only available on the Premium account:

I added a photo of Eleanor (from her actual birthday, just to confuse people even further) and used the effects to brighten it up.

I then edited the text - changing the font and positioning very easily - to include the party's details. I didn't screenshot that bit as obviously I don't want the whole internet knowing when and where the party is, so you'll just have to trust me that it looks great!

I was very impressed with how easy to use the FotoJet browser app is and would recommend it to anyone who needs to do photo editing or graphic design but doesn't know where to start. Whether you're a blogger setting up headers or you need to make a really eye-catching invite or flyer, this app will help you through all the tricky bits. The Premium features are very useful to have, especially if you want to fully customise your work or have a very particular design in mind.

If you're interested in giving FotoJet a try, check out their website where you will also find information on signing up for a Premium account.

DISCLAIMER: I was offered free access to a FotoJet Premium account for the purposes of this review, however all words and opinions are my own.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

YES YOU CAN! A book to fight gender stereotypes

"The boys don't let me play football because I'm a girl."

My heart sank when Eleanor told me that. She loves playing football. She's been going to a football class since January, and long before then would beg available adults to have a kickabout in the garden with her. She's pretty nifty with a ball. But, whatever had been said to her, she was getting the idea that the game wasn't for her.

Encouraging children to find their own interests is relatively easy in the early years, when they're oblivious to stereotypes around them, but as they get older they start to become more aware. I remember her coming home from nursery school saying that, "blue is for boys," despite it being her favourite colour. Luckily she doesn't seem too deterred yet, but I know as she gets older she'll feel the need to conform more and more.

I try to tell her that colours are for everyone, and boys and girls can be interested in whatever they want, but it sometimes feels like I'm swimming upstream.

I recently saw a tweet about a Kickstarter campaign for a new book called 'Yes You Can' by Cheryl Rickman and it sounds like just the book I need to show Eleanor that she really can be interested in whatever she wants. It features three girls, one who plays football, one who climbs trees and one who skateboards and loves to be creative. (There are also boys who love dolls and diggers.) They are transported to a world where interests and hobbies are separated by hair colour - an indirect nod to the absurdity of gender stereotypes.

Cheryl was inspired to write the book after hearing all sorts of gender stereotypes aimed at young children, including her own daughter:

“Football? You should've been a boy!”… “Why do you play with boys' stuff?”… “You don’t want Spiderman painted on your face, that’s for boys…  how about a lovely butterfly?!”… “Boys don’t wear pink! That’s for girls!”… “Boys don’t cry!”… “His hair’s a bit long for a boy!"

This video tells more about the project:

Cheryl explains, “The aim of this project is to show children how silly gender stereotypes are, and equip them with tools to enable resilience, self-compassion, self-awareness and self-belief to let any gender-specific teasing wash right over them. To tell kids they don’t have to change who they are to fit out-dated expectations.”

Sounds great, doesn't it? The only catch is that money needs to be raised through the Kickstarter campaign in order for the book to be published. So if you can help, and think this is a project worth supporting, you can donate to the campaign here. Rewards for donating range from a free eBook aimed at parents to a school workshop.

I really hope the campaign is a success, I think Eleanor would love this book and it would be great to see lots of other children feel empowered to make their own choices about their interests and hobbies.

Happily the boys now let Eleanor play football with them. But she is still in a minority and very conscious of that. Armed with this book, I think she would feel proud to be herself and follow her own interests.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Six things I love about cloth nappies ... and one thing I don't!

A mini Eleanor stomps beneath a line of her nappies!
This week is Real Nappy Week 2017 and as I've now been using cloth nappies for a total of three years I thought I should mark the occasion! Eleanor was in cloth nappies from 4 months until around two and a half ( when we rather disastrously started potty training) and Ezra has been in cloth to some degree since he was about 4 weeks old.

But why do I do it? Isn't it a faff? Anyone who knows me will know that I rarely do things that make life hard for myself, so there must be some good reasons for using cloth! Here are the reasons I love reusable nappies ...

1. There are loads to choose from

Seriously, loads. When you're first dipping your toe into the world of reusables it can be dizzying. Luckily there are now lots of nappy libraries dotted around the country so you can try different types. I didn't know of any when Eleanor was born but Bingley Nappy Library has since opened up for West Yorkshire people and I got some great advice from there when I was struggling to make cloth work with Ezra. I'd really recommend looking up your local nappy library if you're considering switching to cloth.

The great thing about the variety of options is that there is something for everyone. Babies come in different shapes and sizes (I should know, I make them big) so not all nappies will fit every baby, but you're bound to find some that'll work. And you can use different nappies for different needs: I use a combination of Bumgenius Freetimes for a smaller fit but shorter periods, some very old-school Totsbots cotton nappies with a wrap for longer stints and used to use Totsbots Bamboozles as a night nappy (more on the 'used to' in a bit). I also have a few others if I fancy a change! Here's a picture of most of my stash on a rare day when Ezra hadn't pulled them all down off the shelves:

You can see I use washable liners and wipes too (bottom shelf) - this is in part due to the sensitivity of both my children's skin but also it's just easier to chuck the lot in the wash!

2. It saves you money

Yes, the initial outlay might make you gulp. But then you're pretty much set up for the next two years - more if you use the nappies again with another child. Think about how much you'd spend on disposables in that time! Depending on what type of nappies you buy, you could easily save over £1000 by using cloth. And the variety of options means you can go for what your budget can manage - you can even get traditional terries for a couple of pounds a pop, which are surprisingly versatile if you're good at folding! (I'm not, as I discovered.)

3. They look cute

Forgive me for this, but here's where I admit to being a tiny bit of a nappy snob - I just don't like how disposables look. It's not a big factor for me, but I do think cloth nappies are tons cuter. I mean just look at the wrap on this one!

If you've got money to spare you can really go nuts on the cute patterned nappies as there are loads to choose from. I never did but I do have a few exceedingly cute nappies and wraps that I'm rather attached to!!

4. It's not all or nothing

Remember I said I used to use Bamboozles as a night nappy? Well I don't now. They were great for Eleanor when she was little, but Ezra is the very definition of a heavy wetter. Even with three boosters his Bamboozle was still leaking by the wee small hours (no pun intended). So we've switched to disposables at night.

And that's the great thing about cloth - you don't have to use them all the time. Just using one cloth nappy a day could save you 365 disposables over the course of the year. I also use disposables if we're going out just because they take up less space in the change bag and are a bit easier to change on those scary changing tables. 

And even if you do manage 100% cloth (hats off to you) you can use disposable liners and wipes, or use washable ones. It's up to you. You can decide how brave you feel. But you might just find that actually it's not as hard or scary as you thought so then you can do a bit more. And if it all goes wrong, you can sell on your cloth stash - there's a huge market for second-hand nappies.

5. You can't run out of them

I'm chronically disorganised. If I had to remember to get enough disposables in then Ezra would spend an awful lot of time bare-bottomed while I waited for my husband to pick up some more on his way home. But with cloth you can't run out. Well, you can if you forget a wash, but even then, just bung them in and if they're OK to tumble you can have some ready in a few hours. And actually once you're in a washing routine it's fairly easy to keep on top of them.

6. It's good for the planet

I try my best to be a hippy type, but I'm not very good at it. I use surface wipes instead of cloths. I forget we've got food and end up throwing it away. I have the heating on too much. So with cloth I kind of feel like I'm making up for that.

There are debates around whether the carbon emissions caused by washing cloth nappies are comparable to the emissions created when making disposables, but even assuming they're similar, at least you're sending less to landfill. We tend to use disposables when a stomach bug strikes and I'm always shocked at how quickly the bin fills up. That's an awful lot of waste to stick in the ground, and I'm bad enough about chucking things away without adding disposables to the pile!!

Of course, everything has its downsides, and there is one thing I really, really don't love about cloth nappies ...


There's no skirting around it - poo is horrible. It's not so bad with an exclusively breastfed baby because you can normally chuck the nappy straight in the wash. It's not so bad with a toddler on plenty of solids as it's normally hard enough to just drop in the toilet. But the in-between stage (which is taking a while to get through with Ezra) - well, that's just grim. Sorry. But you're wiping it off their bums anyway, so poo is inescapable with small children!

What do you love about cloth nappies? If you're thinking about using them, what puts you off or makes you worry? 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

We tried Love Bombing and this is what we learnt ...

Eleanor is quite a challenging child. She has many amazing qualities - she is confident, determined, energetic, funny, articulate, bright and has the capacity for great kindness. She is also defiant, stubborn, giddy and hot-tempered. And as much as I love every part of her, the latter qualities often make home life difficult and cause issues at school.

I'd heard of Love Bombing years ago, but at the time, with me at home and only one child to focus on, I didn't think it'd be much different to daily life. Then of course Ezra came along and I couldn't really see how love bombing would work with an infant who also needed attention. But we were running out of ideas, so decided to give it a try.

The idea is that for a set period of time (usually a day or two) you let your child choose what you do together and focus your attention on them. I haven't read the book about it, but here's a good article that explains it more. It is said to have positive effects on children with challenging behaviours, so we thought it was worth a shot.

We chose a day when we had nothing planned and my husband was also around so we could tag team the two of them. If we were doing it to the letter, we should really have sent Ezra off with relatives for the day, but he is very sensitive to separation and still feeds to sleep so it wasn't practical. We did suggest that we could take it in turns staying home with Ezra so the other parent could go out with Eleanor but she was adamant she wanted us all to stay together. We called the day 'Eleanor Day' and in the run-up made plans for what she wanted to do.

So what did we do? What happens when you put a 5 year old in charge for the day?

We started the day with croissants and jam for breakfast, then headed to a climbing centre. She got ready surprisingly efficiently but I think knowing she was going climbing motivated her. We went on the train (her choice) and she had a great time, although she soon realised her choice of outfit wasn't ideal as a climbing harness and shorts don't go well together! She was also over-excited which made her clumsy. She got upset a few times when she had accidents or the harness was rubbing but overall she had a good time.

After climbing we went home. I took Ezra upstairs for his nap and Eleanor ate some Easter chocolates she'd been given the day before. A few minutes later I heard Eleanor crying and screaming. She'd wanted to save enough chocolates for us to have one each after lunch but she'd eaten too many. We eventually worked out a plan to carve another piece of chocolate into the same shape (yes, really) and I went back up to try and settle Ezra. But she kept coming up to tell me about the chocolates so I gave up on the nap and came back down to make lunch - sandwiches and crisps, with Easter nests and chocolate for pudding. Then while Ezra finally napped, Eleanor played Minecraft - except that went wrong too and she got upset again.

Next we went to a park about half an hours' drive away. Eleanor spotted an ice cream van and, of course, wanted one. She had a bit of it before realising how cold she was so I ended up carrying it around most of the time. She had a good play at the park, but then she got stuck up a climbing frame and had a massive meltdown. At this point I decided to step in and announce it was time to go. Maybe not in the spirit of love bombing, but we were all cold, she was in a state, and it was getting very stressful.

On the way home we got fish and chips for tea (and Eleanor had a tantrum because we didn't have enough money for a Slushy by this point) then we went home, ate our tea with lemonade and even more chocolate afterwards. Then came bedtime, and Eleanor wouldn't get ready for bed. She read and read and read. Even when she openly admitted she was tired she wouldn't make any moves towards getting ready. We eventually got her up to her room at around 9, and she read until 10 when we gave up and went to bed, telling her 'Eleanor Day' was over so she needed to go to sleep.

So what did we learn from Love Bombing?

Firstly, it's easy to over-hype it - both for the child and the parent. Eleanor was so excited about 'her day' that if anything went wrong she couldn't handle it. And I got over-anxious about how we would get all the practical stuff done like Ezra's nap, bedtime etc. If it had been more spur-of-the-moment then perhaps we'd have all been calmer and it would have gone more smoothly.

Secondly, it's very challenging to suspend all normal rules. I particularly felt uncomfortable letting her eat what she wanted (which was almost entirely junk food) and stay up so late - even for just one day it seemed counter-productive. Although actually it had little impact on her the next day, and we got back to a more normal eating and sleeping routine quickly.

Thirdly, it is inherently unfair on any siblings. As I said, we probably should have sent Ezra off, but that would have neglecting his need for attachment at a time when separation anxiety is a major issue. As it was he ended up getting passed between us like a parcel, his routine went awry and he got cold and grumpy at the park.

Fourthly, trying to do Love Bombing without limits is nigh-on impossible. We literally ran out of money because she kept wanting treats so we should have set a spending limit. We should have agreed how long we were staying at the park. And we also should have said that 'Eleanor Day' finished at 7pm, when she normally goes to bed. That would have stopped us getting so frustrated with the process.

And did it have an impact on her behaviour? Well, yes. A bit. It's tricky to gauge as we'd chosen Maundy Thursday to do it so Easter madness kicked in shortly after, but we had a day of her behaving really quite well before things began to slide again. Similarly, back at school she had a couple of good days before going back to struggling. So it's not the magic cure-all I'd hoped for. But it was a good opportunity to reconnect and make her feel that she's special to us.

Would I do it again? Yes, but not in the same form. There would have to be time restraints in place, and it wouldn't be quite as 'anything goes' as this first attempt. I also wouldn't build it up in my head quite as much, now I know that it doesn't have the huge effect it's purported to have. But I do think she enjoyed being able to make all the choices, so I am making more of a conscious effort to allow her to make day-to-day decisions where possible.

All in all, it wasn't a total waste of time, but Love Bombing hasn't been a wholly positive experience for us, and it definitely isn't a panacea for all parenting challenges. Kids will be kids, and spirited kids will be spirited kids whatever you do. But it did show me that I can allow Eleanor more control in her life without everything falling to pieces - I just need to think carefully about how far that control extends!!

Have you ever tried Love Bombing? Would you consider it?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Bye Bye Baby Stage

I've been clinging onto the baby stage for a while now, but last week I had to admit defeat.

First of all, I switched from carrying on my front to carrying on my back. A small thing to some, but to me it was an admission that Ezra is really quite big now. Too big to fit on my front any more.

Then we moved him to a bigger car seat. We'd held off as long as we could but it was getting harder and harder to squeeze his broad shoulders into the Stage 0+ seat, so we switched to an extended rear-facing one that will hopefully last him until he's 4 or 5.

Then his faltering steps, which for two months had been stuck at a maximum of six in a row, became suddenly more confident. He managed 11 steps. My arbitrary baby-to-toddler threshold is 10 steps. Then a day later he walked across the room. I couldn't deny it any longer. My lovely baby is now a toddler.

I feel very wobbly about it all. Firstly there's the fact that Ezra has just been a wonderful baby. Yes, he's a rubbish sleeper. Yes, he would regularly puke up all his milk for the first eight months of his life. But he was so darn calm. He barely cried and was easily consoled. As soon as he knew what his hands were for he'd happily entertain himself for a few minutes. He learned how to hug - and I mean proper arms-round-your-neck HUG - when he was three months old. He was snuggly and affectionate and laidback. After dealing with a high-needs, often-crying and attention-hungry baby first time around, it was bliss. (I do, of course, love them both equally. But there's no skirting around it - Eleanor was a HARD baby.)

And of course he still is most of those things by and large, but toddler-ness is creeping in. He prostrates himself on the ground crying if you take anything off him. He won't stay still. If you leave him for half a minute he will likely have climbed onto something, or wrecked something, or chewed on something he shouldn't. He's still a fairly easy toddler but, let's face it, all toddlers are exhausting.

Then there's the fact that I know he's my last. I'll never do the baby stage again. I've always wanted more than two, but realistically I know my body can't take another pregnancy. And our finances probably wouldn't stretch to a third child either, especially if I continue to stay at home. I know that this is the right, the practical decision for us. But at the same time I can't quite believe I'll never give birth again, never hold a seconds-old baby, never spend hours just snuggling with a little person.

Eleanor, knowing I'm struggling with this change, has helpfully reminded me I can look at photos of Ezra as a baby, and has said I can play with her baby doll any time. She's said she'll have a baby one day and then I'll be a Grandma. She's even suggested we could keep calling him a baby until he's two. Bless her heart, she wants so much to make it right for me.

But for now I'll just have to console myself with the things that haven't changed. He still gives amazing hugs. He still wants my milk (he's even learning to sign for it now). He still sleeps in a cot adjoining our bed so I often wake up to find he's snuggled up to me. And he's still my baby really. Always will be.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Why I Hate Doing Kids' Crafts

Before I had kids, I loved crafts. Knitting and crochet were my favourites, but I would happily have a bash at other crafts. So I naturally assumed that I'd be one of those crafty mums, always happily creating beautiful artwork with my little ones.


Turns out there's a reason I liked knitting and crochet. They are, in essence, tidying. You start with a big ball of yarn and you make it neatly into something pretty and functional. Kids' crafts are the exact opposite. You take a nice pile of paper, glue and paints safely in their bottles and sequins neatly in a little pot, and you make a horrendous mess in order to be left with a product that has no discernible use and, let's face it, often looks a state.

I know, I know, it's about the process, not the product. Except the process doesn't exactly feel enriching either. Not when I'm getting so stressed out I end up yelling.

Take the above, ahem, creations. These are, apparently, Easter Bunny eggs. They were completed today, but were started a whole nine days ago. That day, that fateful day, the Friday of the first week of the holidays and my last day of solo parenting before the husband went on holiday, we had nothing to do and Eleanor insisted on crafting. Specifically, she insisted on decorating eggs, an activity she'd found in an arts and crafts book. Here is a brief breakdown of the process:

1. Crack the eggs and empty the contents into a bowl. (To make scrambled eggs, literally the most enjoyable part of the endeavour.)

2. Attempt to remember which shells went together and glue them back, which is every bit as fiddly as it sounds and results in wonky, gappy eggs.

3. When the glue has dried, start layering on watered-down PVA glue and pink tissue paper. You'd think this would be easy - they're only eggs, not exactly big. But attempt to papier-mache an egg and you'll realise it's actually quite tricky. Try to show a five year old how to do it, it's a headache. Get a five year old with a short attention span to do it whilst you attempt to calm a very grumpy toddler who is trying to escape out of the ring sling, it's suddenly the most stressful thing in the world and you end up barking at your five year old to DO IT FASTER BUT NOT SO MUCH GLUE CAN YOU NOT SEE IT'S DRIPPING IN IT OH LET ME DO IT OH I CAN'T BECAUSE THE TODDLER IS TRYING TO GRAB IT AND IT'S TAKEN HALF AN HOUR TO DO A SINGLE EGG AND ... ahem. Sorry.

4. Leave eggs to dry,

5. Ask the five year old if she wants to finish off the eggs. Repeat daily only to be met with refusal, presumably because she's mentally scarred from step 3.

6. Manage to persuade the five year old that, as it's Easter Day, it's a good day to finish those Easter Bunnies. Let her paint the faces while you cut out the ears, only to realise that her paintbrush skills are such that the poor bunnies have ended up looking like something from Watership Down.

And this is just one example of what happens when we attempt to craft together. It almost always ends up with me getting frustrated and turning into a shouty mess, grumbling that this is why I never do crafts. Is it really worth it?

Maybe it is. Maybe Eleanor really does forget the shouting and just remembers the joy of creating something. But I can't help but think that the stress it causes both of us is counter-productive.

Even as I type this I can imagine the wonderful crafty mummies out there preparing to advise me on how to Do Kids' Crafts Better, how to make it an enriching and enjoyable experience. But the truth is, I can't do it. Surely everyone is allowed a couple of areas of parenting where they just suck, right? Well, this is one of mine. Just let me be.

From now on, I will select only craft activities that require minimal input from me. Ones that I can more or less leave her to do herself. She does crafts at school anyway, surely that'll be enough, right?

Tell me I'm not alone here - surely there are other uncrafty parents out there who turn into balls of rage over papier mache?!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Smarty Pants Baby Leggings Review

We've bought very few clothes for Ezra so far - he generally wears a combination of hand-me-downs from his sister or a friend's son and gifts from relatives - so we haven't really had chance to inject any individuality into his wardrobe yet. So when I was offered the opportunity to review a pair of leggings from Smarty Pants, I jumped at the chance!

It was a real challenge choosing just one pair of leggings because I loved them all. The concept of Smarty Pants is great - bringing a bit of culture to our little ones' wardrobes with super funky photographic or artistic prints. There's something for everyone: literary figures, high art, feminist icons, even science-themed leggings. In the end I settled for 'Buzz Aldrin On The Moon'. I chose them with Eleanor in mind a little bit - she wants to be an astronaut so I thought she'd like to see her little bro with an astronaut on his leg - but I figured there's no harm in encouraging Ezra to reach for the stars too.

*fights back daydream of the pair of them becoming the first brother-sister team in space*

Anyway, back to the leggings. I was very impressed at how quickly they arrived - it took just five days for them to get here all the way from Canada. They felt lovely and silky and looked even better in real life than they do in the photos online. But were they any good on? I decided to road test them on a trip to playgroup - if anywhere will test the flexibility of a pair of leggings, playgroup is the place!

One thing that really struck me was the length - I'd opted for the 1yr size and was a little anxious as Ezra is 13 months now and not exactly small for his age, but there is still some length in the leg so I think he'll get a few more months wear out of them.

As you can see, he certainly bent and wriggled a fair amount in the leggings and they moved with him really well! They are made of a polyester/spandex mix which I've not come across before in baby clothes. I was a little concerned they would bunch up but they stayed nice and smooth despite rigorous testing.

I was also very happy with the size around the bottom - I tested them to the limit with Ezra's biggest cloth nappy but they held their own! They are not specifically 'cut to cloth' but the stretch in the fabric means they would probably be able to fit around pretty much anything.

Overall I'm really happy with the quality and flexibility of the leggings and absolutely in love with the print too! These are seriously cool leggings. You can buy them directly from the Smarty Pants website or from the Etsy store.

DISCLAIMER: I received these leggings free for the purposes of this review, however all words, opinions and images are my own.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Why Take A Positive Discipline Course?

As a lifelong bookworm, I tend to think that the answer to every problem is in a book. From quite early on in my life as a mother, I've turned to parenting books to try and solve the challenges we've faced. I'm quite picky in what I read - I'll happily admit that I only read books that align with my gentle parenting style - but I've lost count of how many I've read over the last five years. And if it's not books, it's articles, websites, blog posts ...

So if I've done all this reading, why did I sign up to an online parenting course? Surely I've come across all the answers already?

Well, yes and no. When I heard about the Attachment Parenting UK Positive Discipline course, I was interested to see how it differed from the many, many books and articles I'd already read. Because, of course, I don't have all the answers, so I'm always on the lookout for new ways of learning more.

The course is broken down into ten modules, each starting with an introductory video from APUK founder Michelle McHale, and including written information and reflection questions for the participant to answer for their own personal use. There is then a quiz to test understanding at the end of each module.

The main difference I found between taking the course and reading a book was the mindset it got me into - the video, reflection questions and interactive quiz led me to actively engage as a 'student' rather than just a reader. I could copy and paste useful quotes into a separate document for future reference, and the reflections got me thinking much more consciously about how I parent, and even how my childhood affects my parenting. I've written before about the parenting style questionnaire which is part of the second module - for me this set the tone of the course, encouraging me to look at my situation rather than passively reading other people's views and experiences.

As for the content, even a parenting book junkie like me could learn something new, and it would be a great starting point for someone who hasn't read half a library's worth already. The course combines information from many different sources, making it a 'one-stop shop' for getting you going with Positive Discipline.

Has it changed me as a parent? That remains to be seen. I'm certainly more consciously committed to making my actions match my beliefs, and I have used some techniques discussed in the course in the few weeks since I started it. And I'm not alone to figure it all out myself - the course includes access to a Facebook support group and a session with APUK's in-house parenting coach. This means that if I come up against challenges I can't figure out, I know I have options for further support that a book on a shelf doesn't necessarily offer.

If you like the sound of this course, you can get 50% off the usual price with the code theishmother50 (I'm not on commission, but if you do use this code I'll get the rosy glow of knowing that I've helped someone else to learn about Positive Discipline!)

Disclaimer: I was offered free access to the course for the purposes of writing this review, however all words and opinions expressed are my own. 

Friday, 31 March 2017

Taking the Positives From The Disney Fairies films

Image credit: Flickr (Ben Sutherland), from 'Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure' (2009) Dir. Klay Hall
Eleanor has a slight obsession with Tinker Bell and the Disney Fairies at the moment. I say slight, I mean that she insists on watching 'Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue' on a near-daily basis and will only read the Disney Fairies stories out of the book of Disney-based short stories we read for bed every night.

I'm trying to contain my eye rolls over this. I'm not a massive fan of Disney, I have to admit. And the snob in me was ready to dismiss these films as contrived nonsense. But actually, there are some positives to be taken away from them. For instance ...

Tinker Bell is basically an engineer

She mends and makes, she problem-solves, she thinks logically and creatively. In 'Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue' we see her trying to work out how a car works and fixing a leaky roof with great ingenuity. She's practical, methodical and curious. She's actually a pretty good role model.

There are far more females than males

Despite the proliferation of princess films, Disney often don't do brilliantly on the female representation front. A report from last year showed that, in most Disney films, male characters get more than half of the dialogue. But in the Disney Fairies films, you have a female lead with five female co-stars, and much of the action is centred around them. I don't know what the line-count-by-gender is but it seems very balanced, possibly even tipped in the favour of females.

The female characters can rescue themselves

In 'The Pirate Fairy', the fairy friends go in search of Zarina who has become a pirate, are captured in the process and manage to escape. In 'Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue', Tinker Bell's friends go to 'save' her from a human house - then must rescue Vidia when she is captured whilst pushing Tinker Bell out of danger. In the latter example they are helped by Bobble and Clank, two 'sparrow men' (why the males can't be fairies too I don't know), but they are mostly there for comic relief and it's the girls who do much of the work. These are resourceful and brave characters who work together.

There is very little romance

I still feel a bit iffy about Eleanor watching romantic films, she's too little to be thinking about that in my eyes. Luckily there isn't an awful lot of romance in these films. There is a romantic sub-plot in 'Secret of the Wings', and Rosetta has a tendency to swoon over sparrow men. But other than that it's all very innocent. Tinker Bell even has a male friend, Terence, and their relationship appears to be platonic despite him having what would typically be a 'love interest' appearance.

It's about positive female friendship

The fairies are all good friends despite having different talents and personalities. Even Vidia, who started out as an enemy to Tinker Bell and often loses her temper, is welcomed into the group and learns to be a good friend. It shows girls making mistakes but being helped to learn by their friends. And it shows that you don't all have to be the same to be friends.

All in all, for films to get obsessed over, the Disney Fairies films aren't too bad. And talking about these positives is a good way to draw Eleanor's attention to them, and to encourage her to see girls as creative, brave, and loyal friends.

Friday, 24 March 2017

What Kind Of Parent Are You?

There are so many labels put on parenting styles these days. Tiger Mom, Helicopter Parent, Yummy Mummy ... It's hard to know which labels are meaningful and which are just a stick to beat parents with!

I've been offered the opportunity to take part in the Attachment Parenting UK Positive Discipline online course, and so far it has been fascinating. The second module of the course involves filling in a questionnaire to identify your parenting style. This gets away from all the animal/transport comparisons and snappy monikers and focusses in on three major types of parent - Autocratic, Permissive and Democratic.

I don't want to go into too much detail here as the course does a far better job of explaining these styles than I could. But in simple terms, Autocratic parenting involves lots of rules and 'tough love' without much warmth; Permissive parenting is all about the love but falling short on the boundaries; and Democratic parenting is a respectful combination of warmth and boundaries. You'll probably have guessed that option 3 is the one to aim for.

When I was filling in the questionnaire, it was tempting to put down what I thought would be the 'right' answers to get the result I wanted - namely, saying that I'm a wonderfully democratic parent. But I stuck to the truth and found it to be revealing.

The good news is that Democratic came out on top! Yay, maybe I'm not doing too bad a job after all!

However, it wasn't as straightforward as that. The questionnaire was split into 15 questions on parenting beliefs, and 15 questions on parenting behaviours. While my beliefs were predominantly in the Democratic camp (10 points ahead of both Autocratic and Permissive) my behaviours were far more mixed. The scores here were very close together, with Permissive coming out on top and Democratic bottom. Oops.

If I'm honest with myself, this doesn't surprise me much. I think it's very easy to doubt your parenting beliefs and instincts when push comes to shove (sometimes literally). Much as I would like to respond with empathy every time, when I've just been hit or called a name I'll waver in my convictions and think that some 'tough love' is needed. And sometimes when energy is lacking I'll give in rather than sticking to a boundary. While gentle parenting (or Positive Discipline, or whatever you want to call it) sounds wonderful in theory, in practice it is easy to get stuck in a cycle of letting things slide for an easy life then clamping down when things turn nasty.

I found the questionnaire really useful in highlighting how I'm muddling my parenting styles up at the moment. But as the course leader Michelle says in the introduction, this isn't a tool to beat ourselves up with - it's a way of understanding where we are right now so we can know how to change.

I'm really looking forward to taking the rest of the course, hopefully it will help me to unmuddle my parenting styles and become a model Democratic parent! OK, probably not model ... I'll be writing about my progress on the course in the coming weeks so watch this space!

Would you be interested in taking the Attachment Parenting UK Positive Discipline course? APUK are kindly offering my readers a 50% discount on the course! Just use the code theishmother50 when signing up through the above link.

DISCLAIMER: I was offered an opportunity to take the Positive Discipline course for free, however all views and words in this post are my own.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Is There A 'Perfect' Age Gap?

When I was expecting Ezra, I thought we'd figured out the perfect age gap. There are just over 4 years between him and Eleanor - which meant that she was in nursery two and a half days a week when he was born, and she started school when he was six months and properly waking up to the world. So I've been able to have time alone with him that I wouldn't have had if Eleanor had been younger, plus she was already toilet trained, dressing herself independently and generally less in need of practical help which made life easier.

But I'm discovering there are downsides. Toys, for instance. With two children close together, you're unlikely to have many toys around that could pose a significant risk to the younger one. But Eleanor is older, so loves things like Lego and tiny little plastic toys I mentally file under the umbrella term of 'tat'. And she rarely remembers to keep them all upstairs, so I have to be ultra-vigilant. Plus it means they won't be able to play with the same stuff for years, if ever.

And bedtimes. Ezra is tired about an hour before Eleanor, which means we have to try and keep her quiet once he's asleep. Which is impossible because it turns out five year olds are still very loud and not always very considerate. I keep thinking it'll get easier when Ezra can stay up later but realistically by then Eleanor's bedtime will have shifted again.

Then there's the impact on my life. I've blogged before about my worries about being a stay-at-home mum for so long so I won't repeat myself, but I do sometimes wonder if getting the early-years stuff out of the way quickly would have been a better idea.

So is there really a perfect age gap? I asked some other bloggers and they said ...

My age gap between all mine is 2 years. It can be really tough going but they are all so close. My gap between my youngest and oldest is 4 years and they sometimes struggle to play well. - Jaymee, The Mum Diaries

The gap between mine is 3 years. It worked well for me as I had the oldest out of her cot, pushchair, highchair and nappies before the younger one came along. They are close enough in age to still play together and be close too. - Kelly, The Best Version of Kelly

My kids are 21 months apart. At times I think it is perfect and other times I feel the major mum guilt because I'm worried the eldest spent too much time in front of the TV when I was feeding baby, or I don't get enough time to spend with her on learning to write, for example, because the youngest is still quite demanding and wants to be doing whatever the eldest is, and often ruins it! But then I see them together and they're so close and I think perhaps it was the right gap after all! - Lauren, Belle du Brighton

Mine is 3 and a half between my son and daughter. To me it works perfectly-he was at nursery part time so I had time with my daughter as well as a go at getting used to two under 4. He's now at school and she's at nursery and it works really well. - Jemma, Mayflower Blogs

I had my twins when my son was 4 and a half. I had them in June so he was at nursery and started school in the September. It was lovely to have this gap as he could help me out and also he had his own thing with school meaning he never felt left out. He's 8 & the girls are almost 4 and the relationship together is amazing as they play together all the time. For me, it was perfect and I'm glad I waited as I got 4.5 years with him alone and we are so close for it. - Beth, Twinderelmo

I have a 10 year gap between my eldest and middle child and it was so hard going back to the baby days after such a big gap. My eldest loved helping with her little sister though, they have nothing in common now and never play together now they are 14 and 3. I also have a really small age gap of 14 months between my middle and 3rd child and that was really hard! I felt like I did not spend enough time with either of them when they were small as they were both still babies who needed me a lot. Now they are 2&3 they are the best of friends and like the same things. Personally I don't think either of the gaps between my children were right as they were too big / too close. - Lindsay, Newcastle Family Life

I have 16 months between my first two, and 25 months between my second two, so at one point I had three kids under 3.5 years. It was difficult at times, but they're really close now and I'm really glad we had them close together. We are now coming out of the baby/toddler stage (the youngest is 2 and a half) and it was nice to get bottles/sleepless nights/ tantrums/potty training all over in a short space of time rather than doing it every few years! - Rachel, Coffee, Cake, Kids

I have a 20 month age gap. They're currently 2.5 years and 8 months and it's hard because the toddler is still a baby herself so the tantrums are difficult but I can always see they're going to be so close. My brothers are 6, 10 and 12 years older than me and I'm hoping they have a closeness together that I never had as a child. - Vicki, Tippytupps

I have a 14 year gap between mine. I'd kind of given up on the idea that there'd be another. We'd started travelling and the Teen was getting quite independent. Along comes Dinky & 13 months of maternity leave, a house move, breastfeeding & sleepless nights! The Teen found the adjustment particularly hard to begin with, but now he adores his little sister. He still hasn't changed a nappy though We've just continued as we did before, especially with our travels. - Emma, Canny Food

We only have one so far but I grew up with a gap of four years to my brother and eight to my sister. I wouldn't want a similar gap for my children. It was nice in that we each got a bit of alone time with our parents when the others went to school but definitely difficult to play together or bond as children. When you're 16 there's nothing less cool than an 8 year old who wants to play with you all the time! Now we're adults it's not an issue at all although I still find myself mothering my little sister, she's still a baby to me! - Hayley, Devon Mama

What do you think? Have you found the perfect age gap? Does it even exist?

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Small Hypocrisies of Parenthood

Yesterday there was a familiar scene in our house. After bedtime stories on the sofa, I told Eleanor it was time to go bed.

"But I'm toooo tiiiiired!" she protested, sprawling on the sofa.

We got annoyed. Every night this happens, no matter how early we get things done. Why can't she just go upstairs when she's told?

Fast forward a couple of hours and I'm sat on the sofa, quite frankly, messing about on my phone. I know I need to go to bed. And yet still I sit there, because I simply can't face the effort of getting up and climbing the stairs.

And it dawns on me. I'm a hypocrite. I expect my daughter to go upstairs the moment she's told, and yet when I know I need to go to bed I faff about on Twitter for 20 minutes.

Of course, parenting involves a lot of these petty little hypocrisies. Such as ...

Me: No you can't have biscuits, that's not a healthy snack, we've got plenty of fruit!
Also me: *secretly eats biscuits in the kitchen, standing next to the overflowing fruit bowl*

Me: When I ask you to do something, I mean to do it NOW!
Also me: I'll get you a snack in a minute, I'm just busy. *continues looking at Facebook*

Me: You've spent far too long looking at screens today, you need to do something else.
Also me: *checks phone every 2 minutes*

Me: Hurry up, we're going to be late if you don't get ready!
Also me: Wait, don't go yet, I've just got a few more things to do!

Me: It's important to share with your brother/friends.
Also me: Get off, that's my phone!

Me: No isn't an option, this needs doing whether you like it or not.
Also me: Oh do we *have* to play schools again??

Of course, I'm the grown-up, I have a better understanding of priorities and it's my job to instill good habits in my children. But quite often, it's just a case of double standards. I wonder if Eleanor would be more cooperative if I cooperated with her a bit more?! Or maybe I should just stop expecting a higher standard of behaviour from her than I can manage myself most days!!

What small hypocrisies have you indulged in? Please tell me I'm not alone!

Friday, 10 March 2017

What I've Learnt From A Year Of Having Two Kids

So now Ezra is one year old, that means I've been a mum of two for over a year now. Surely that makes me an expert, yes? Pahaha, nope. I'm still winging it just as much as before. But having two kids has taught me a few lessons. Such as ...

The second time is easier

Not easy, please note. I would never call parenthood easy. But with your second, you kind of know what you're doing to some extent. You're not having to learn the basics of feeding, changing nappies etc. You've learnt all the shortcuts first time round. Yes, there's the challenge of juggling two and at times that feels impossible. But so far it hasn't been. Then again, so far I've been able to strap Ezra to me while running around after Eleanor. I suspect in a year's time I'll be a broken woman after trying to keep up with two mobile children!

It feels unfair - but not in the way you'd expect

Before Ezra came along, I was so worried about the impact he would have on Eleanor's life. I worried that we were being unfair by taking our undivided attention away from her. Actually, most of the time it feels like Ezra has the raw deal. He has to fit around the school run. He has to wait for attention while I deal with the bigger, noisier one. He gets his toys snatched off him far more than he snatches toys off her. Even when Eleanor is at school I'm more preoccupied with housework than I used to be - because of course two kids means more washing up, more mess and let's not mention the constant battle that is keeping all required items of uniform clean and ready at all times! It's all he knows so he probably doesn't realise the injustice yet, but Eleanor definitely had it easy when she was a baby!!

Every child is different

You'd think this was obvious, wouldn't you? And it is. But it's only when you have your second child that you realise they really are born different. Unless you drastically change your parenting style for the second, they have similar upbringings and environments, and yet still they turn out unique. I used to worry that Eleanor's more, ahem, spirited behaviour was somehow down to me until I was pregnant with Ezra and noticed that even then he moved less. Not that his movements were concerning, they were just more gentle and interspersed with rest times - whereas Eleanor would kick me so hard I'd actually gasp and never seemed to stop wriggling! Sure enough, Ezra is now the calm to his sister's storm. So it's probably nothing that I did - she's just who she is, and he's who he is.

Fatigue is relative

When I had one child, I used to scoff ruefully at memories of ever complaining I was tired before. Now there are times when I wonder why I was so tired with just one! But here's the thing - I really was tired sometimes before I had kids. And I really was tired when I had one. And I really, really am tired now. But still I seem to be coping, just about. I wasn't a wimp before, my circumstances were just different. I'd be shattered if I went for a 1k run, but that's nothing to a marathon runner. Our bodies respond to the situations we put them into. So don't go rolling your eyes when someone with fewer children says they're tired - they really are!

Love grows

I think all parents who are expecting their second child have that worry that they couldn't possibly love them as much as their first. I know I did. But honestly, you will. Every bit as much. In fact, you'll love them both even more when you see them together, loving each other. When I look at them together, with the beautiful bond they have, my heart could burst. I believe the more love you give, the more you have to give. So bringing a new child into the family won't mean there's less love to go around - there'll almost certainly be more.

If you have more than one child, what have you learnt from them?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

To my son, on his first birthday

Sampling his baby-friendly birthday cake!

So, baby. You're one. Where did that year go, eh?

It doesn't seem like a year since we welcomed you into our living room. And yet at the same time I only have the fuzziest recollection of life without you. You've quietly and calmly carved out your place in our family like you were always here.

And that's you all over isn't it? Quiet and calm. Not always, of course. Like all babies you have a good cry when you're tired, or ill, or just frustrated by your limitations. And you have a good line in babbling too. But in comparison to the whirlwind that is your sister, you're a pretty laid-back kid. You're our gentle giant.

It's interesting watching you develop. I thought I'd seen it all before with your sister but then you're a different person so of course your path is already your own. You crawled earlier - five and a half months - but stood unaided later. You took your first steps just over a week ago and have been persisting with a quiet determination despite not getting any further than two steps. You may be quiet and laid-back but you still wreak havoc, just more stealthily!

You were an 'easy baby' from the start. You fed well despite having tongue tie (I suppose my experience helped there) and rarely cried. At first it looked like you might be the better sleeper but no such luck. That's the one sticking point in an otherwise glowing report actually - seriously, kid, you need to sleep. If the time starts with a 4, that's not morning, OK?

But you get away with being a sleep thief because you're so darn cute. You have a cheeky little smile, and a way of looking at me that reminds me of the heart-eyes emoji. You learnt to cuddle at 3 months and will wrap your arms round my neck and plant a big 'sploshy kiss' on my cheek (your sister's phrase) many times a day.

I'll write more another time about your relationship with your sister, but it's heart-melting. I love you. I love her. But you and her together - well, it blows me away. I'm so happy you have each other.

So baby. Another year is ahead of us. One in which you'll stop being a baby. I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of the baby stage yet seeing as you're my last one, but your persistence in learning to walk tells me it won't be long before I have to admit you're a toddler. Eleanor keeps asking me if I'll cry when that happens. I probably will. You've just been such a lovely baby to have.

OK enough of this soppiness. Here's to being one, baby, and may your gentle and calm personality continue into toddlerhood. Please. I can't cope with two livewires!

P.S. In case any readers are wondering about the cake in the photo - it was adapted from this recipe by Clare from A Wee Bit Of Cake and tasted yummy. I also attempted banana cream cheese icing but that wasn't so yummy!