Saturday, September 29, 2012

A day in the life of a single mother by choice

So, it was Tiara's post that alerted me to Ali's post, then I saw Gille's too. I have enjoyed reading your stories. I thought about posting mine too but its so different as I don't have to go to work as I am now working from home.

However, this morning I get up and see Shannon's. Oh go on then... it is a great idea to have a few of these out there for the 'Thinking about it' Choice Mums to be.

One thing I noticed about the other posts was some very precise timing - you wont see much of that here. I feel very lucky to be free of that constraint! Despite the lack of a precise time schedule, our day is still quite predictable.

My day usually begins around 6 am. As I don't have to go anywhere, I don't need an alarm. My wake up call is in the form a gorgeous 14 month old boy. Since we watched the Sleep DVD he mostly goes through the night and wakes around 6am (occasionally 5, when I give him a quick booby feed and put him back to bed for as long as he can manage - I usually get another half an hour at least).

I go into his room where he is usually standing in his cot waiting for me. We have a cuddle, take off his sleeping bag and change his nappy.

Then  we head downstairs for breakfast. The first thing BB wants is milk, so I get this for him and he sits at the table drinking it while I get him some cereal. BB has a good appetite at the best of times, but he really loves to refuel in the mornings. Breakfast is quite a lengthy affair, with the cereal, followed by toast, followed by fruit.

By about 6.45-7 am BB has usually finished eating and goes off to play. I clear up the mess and then grab the lap top to check our email, see if we sold anything from our online bookstore, (package it up ready to post if we have) and check some blogs.

If the weather is bad, I use this little window of BB being able to entertain himself to rush out and feed the chickens and collect the eggs, but if it's a good morning I can take a little more time. Then when BB is looking for something new we head outside together, he plays on the trampoline or in his sandpit, or more often than not at his favourite game of moving stones around the garden. Our time out there is getting shorter as the weather starts to cool down, but generally, once BB is suitably wet and dirty we come back inside.

We usually strip him at the door an head straight upstairs. He has often done his morning poo by this time too (is that TMI?) so we have a total change and we both get dressed for the day. It's usually around 8am by now.

We head downstairs play together. BB often likes a booby feed around 8.30. Then we both have a drink and a snack about 9.30 - 10 ish (yes is does seem like we are always eating to me too!)

Most mornings we do something. BB has a gym class on Mondays, we often catch up with some mummy and toddler friends on Tuesday's, and if we have nothing planned we go for a walk, do a bit of shopping, maybe pop to the library, call in at the park. On Wednesday mornings BB has just started going to nursery for 4 hours so that I can get some work done (so far I have used the time to do other things, but hopefully once the next couple of weeks are done and I have caught up on jobs, I will actually do some work then). On  Thursday we go swimming, and on Friday we take BB's Great Grandma (97) out to lunch. Weekends are a bit less structured, especially if DD is around.

Lunch is usually around 12 noon.

Around 1.30 - 2 ish BB goes down for a nap, and lately, seeing as I am in the first trimester of my pregnancy with BB2, I try and have a little snooze too. However, it is ideal really if prepare the dinner during this time.

After about 1-1.5 hours BB wakes up. He is starving and comes straight downstairs for some milk and a snack. This time between is nap and dinner is the hardest part of the day. He needs my full attention so preparing dinner is hard. I now know what my mum so often served up something that goes in the oven (sausages, fish portions, vege burgers etc.) with  steamed vegetables - things that you put on and leave. If I have had a nap, we have a dinner like this!

Dinner is usually at about 4.15pm. After dinner we have a little play, then tidy up toys and head up for a bath at about 5.15.

After a bath, a story and a booby feed, BB goes to bed. This is usually about 6pm.

I then clean up the kitchen, mop the floor, put the rubbish out, put the washing on, take a shower, and then I start work.

If I have been efficient, I am usually working by 8pm at the latest. I do 2-3 hours a night, attending to the washing machine and moving things to the dryer somewhere in between tasks. Occasionally I watch a TV show on iPlayer when I'm done, but recently I am too tired even for that, and I head to bed as soon as can.

Just before bed, I fold the washing and take it upstairs as I go. Everything is clean and ready for BB to make dirty again tomorrow!

I do feel lucky because I am home with BB most of the time, and we have a great time, both at home and out and about. However, I do also wish I had a little more me time - just a half an hour at the end of the day would be nice. After Christmas I am thinking that BB might go to nursery 2 mornings a week, then I should be able to get a bit more work done and perhaps have a couple of evenings totally work free.

I also feel lucky because I have DD. Not many other choice mums have that. When he is here he sometimes watches BB while I get on with other things, he usually does his bath, sometimes he cooks, and sometimes he does jobs in the garden. He even got up with BB and gave me 2 sleep-ins last time he was here!

Hanging out with the chooks

An afterthought - but wouldn't it be worth linking all these posts for future SMC's. If so please add the link to your post

Or if you have just found this and want to join in, write about your day and link it in too





Friday, September 28, 2012

My own URL

Today's exciting news is that I now have my own URL

You may remember me wondering before if it was worth monetising my blog and trying to make this blogging lark part of my livelihood. I decided against it for various reasons, the main ones being that my benefits situation at the time meant that I would actually be worse off, and another significant point for me was that I didn't want to compromise my blog.

Still, now that I am self employed and not on benefits, I have nothing to lose. In fact, I may have a little to gain, but don't need to worry about having to do anything I don't want to do, so no compromises required. I am going to try an improve the blog though, and improve my writing and my readership, and get back into the zone of social media. This will help with my business as well as my blog.

I am feeling all excited too as I am going to have a full day out getting all excited about blogging and hopefully learning a thing or two at Blogfest 2012. BB is going to have a full day with Daddy which will be great fun for both of them, and I get a second day of being "just me" (well, almost - but BB2 doesn't take so much looking after yet!).


small


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Economy Sand Tray

OK, so, as I said, I am going to try and post about the things we do.

Here is our economy sand tray.

I wanted BB to have the opportunity to explore sand. He loved it when we were on a beach holiday earlier in the year (he was a particular fan of eating melon coated in it, but that's a different story!).

When we got home I started to think about getting a sand tray. I wanted a few things that he could safely play with outside while attended to jobs like feeding the chickens and gardening. A sand tray in this neighbourhood (and probably in yours too) requires a cover so that it doesn't become the local cat toilet. I looked at specially designed sand trays with a lid. They were in the region of £60 and way out of our price range.

I got some inspiration when I went to buy an under bed storage box. If you bought one, which I was about to do, you got the second half price. So, in total, the box and the sand cost less than £10.

A few more sand toys wouldn't go amiss though... a little bucket and spade will be a good next addition I think, though as you can see - he prefers the shells we collected from the beach to the plastic anyway!





Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: The Essential Baby Care Guide

The Essential Baby Care Guide is a fabulous new DVD set that has been created by the Essential Parent Company. The 8 hours of content provide comprehensive information on 1. Feeding, 2. Care & Development, 3. Sleeping, and 4. First Aid and Accident Prevention.

The resource has been created with new parents in mind and is designed to provide information on everything you need to know from birth to 12 months, though as the parent of a 14 month old I can confirm that it contains some very valuable information which extends beyond it's target audience.




I have to say that having agreed to review this item I was a tad surprised when it arrived and was over 8 hours long! Not only did I think that sounded very long, I also thought it would need 'expert' reviewers to do it justice. As soon as I sat down to watch, I was hooked. Robert Winston is a great presenter. His gentle voice is easy to listen to and informative. At the beginning of each disc, he describes this resource as a parenting course which you can attend from your living room. That's just what it is: it covers everything, from the very basics, yet without being condescending. The advantage of being on disc rather than a course is that you can watch it again, whenever you wish, or when the information is needed.

If I was expecting my first baby now, I would definitely be buying this. I remember that feeling of getting home with BB and thinking, "right, I have a baby - what on earth do I do now?"  Of course I had books, but, well, when you've just had a baby there's not a great deal of time to read books! Watching a DVD is much more manageable. I could have sat in the nursing chair and watched this quite easily. It's also better than a book because you can see what they are talking about, they show you how, instead of just telling you.



Although my son is now 14 months, I still found the resource valuable. For example, after watching the section on sleep I realised that actually we could have a sleep problem. I hadn't noticed because BB sleeps well at night and always has, but having seen the DVD I decided that we would tweak his nap times slightly, and rearrange our schedule on a Friday to make sure he got his afternoon nap. He now sleeps even better.

As I mentioned, I am not an expert on any of the topics, but as the resource is advised and narrated by Professor Robert Winston and includes expert advice from The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health,UNICEF UK Baby Friendly InitiativeSt John Ambulance, Midwives and Sleep Experts, Meningitis Research FoundationThe National Literacy Trust, and the Child Accident Prevention Trust, I think we can be sure that it offers sound advice.

I certainly makes sense to me. A great resource.

There are several  official videos to be found on YouTube, and you may also want to like the Essential Parent Facebook Page to get updates, tips and competitions.

If you would like your own copy, it is available nationwide from John Lewis, Amazon and www.essentialparent.com.  The website also has more information about the resource, plus some videos, tips and previews. You can buy the whole set for £35 or individual DVD's for £10 each.

If you wish to buy the full set, you can get £5 off  by purchasing direct from www.essentialparent.com and entering the code Bliss at checkout.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More on Play - For FREE!

Sorry for the delay in writing this post. As promised there is a second part to the Play story. In addition to finding a couple of excellent books, I also found some great resources online. Mostly in the form of blogs from some great Mummy Bloggers.

One of blogs that I have followed for a while is NurtureStore . This is a really well organised blog which allows you to search by categories in a tab bar at the top of the page. There is quite a comprehensive list of great ideas and activities and you can even subscribe to receive the weekly play planner by email. As with a lot of resources, many of the ideas are for children slightly older than BB, but there is a whole section of ideas for younger toddlers and babies too.

Rainy Day Mum is a new one that I have just discovered. This is another blog which is easy to search by play type or age. Rain Day Mum also has also made Pinterest make sense to me too - check out her 157 boards!

The Imagination Tree is another great new find, and the author's Pinterest page is also awesome.

You may also want to check out the Mommy and Me Book Club. Not that I am getting the same books and following along (yet - I may in the future - some of the ideas look great), but the concept alone has given me ideas. As an ex teacher, the idea of working around a theme or topic and connecting learning to it through a variety of ways appeals to me greatly. BB has a few toys and activities than are focused on farm animals (mostly owing to Gramps being a farmer!) so this week we have been really focusing on these. On our trip to the library on Saturday we collected some farm animal books which we have been looking at every day, we have been making animal noises, singing songs, searching for video resources (such as this one on the BBC Learning Zone) and today we went to the local children's farm. I like the idea of focusing on one animal at a time too, but not all one after another - I will mix it in with some other themes. I like to think I could write a blog post about each topic, like these great Mum's do... but... well I can try, but there are certainly no promises!

Links to all of these blogs and more can be found in the link list at the side. I will add more as I find them. I have also been looking on Facebook, check out Blissful Mama's Like List for more great sources of ideas.

In addition, I have been inspired, and I am now on Pinterest, though as you can see I haven't pinned anything yet - but having seen those great pages from the ladies above I have to give it a go.


Here is BB playing in the sun, on what was most definitely our last day of summer. Hard to believe it was just a couple of Sundays ago. The weather has turned, the heating has kicked in and I have packed the paddling pool away - until next year.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Play - The Book Reviews

So you may recall that I wrote a couple of previous posts (here and here) about my search for play ideas for BB. I have now found heaps of ideas, so I thought I would share.

Firstly, the two books that ordered arrived quite quickly and both were good.

The Encyclopedia of Infant and Toddler Activities pictured left has hundreds of activities organised into different categories (literacy, sensory, outdoor etc) and then further organised by age (infants, younger toddlers, older toddlers). Although some of the activities are obvious and don't need writing down, most are really great. As soon at the book arrived I opened it and the first great idea that I saw was for No Mess Painting. This involved using large (1 or 2 inch) paintbrushes and water and 'painting' on the pavers outside. Brilliant I thought  - that's exactly the kind of idea I was looking for. Simple, easy, fun. I raced out to the shed to grab the paint brushes, only to remember that I recently cleared some space in the shed by putting all of that stuff in the loft! Perhaps that was good thing as I am not all that good at cleaning brushes so there could well be some traces of paint left behind. We went to a budget store a couple of days later and bought 5 brushes for 99p - money well spent I think - though BB was just as interested in sucking the water from the bristles as he was in developing his artistic talents. A new and fun experience of his own making though and so just as valuable as the intended task.

The second book was Developing Play for the Under Threes. This is quite a different book as instead of listing huge numbers of activities like the previous one, it focuses on the value of giving babies and toddlers natural and household objects to explore and play. As an education professional I am really getting in to this book as I am once again exploring educational theory but at a very different level (I have previously worked as a teacher secondary students, and also in proving teacher trainer training an professional development). The book focuses on what is known as Heuristic Play (a term new to me).  Apparently this term comes from the Greek work eurisko which means 'I find', or 'I discover' and is also where Archimedes exclamation of Eureka comes from. The book focuses on developing a treasure basket,  which I haven't done yet, but I will. If you are interested in finding out more read this.

I am loving this book so far, not least because it is making me feel like I actually am regularly doing many things which are really valuable for BB's learning and development already. He is always playing with real things and natural objects. He loves to explore outdoors and I have no problem with him getting dirty. His favourite activity when we visit my Nana at the moment is to play with the pots and pans in her saucepan cupboard. I will definitely finish the book and then hopefully I'll be able to provide him with opportunities to make his explorations even richer.

On this note I thought I would share some photos of fun he had recently exploring rice.  The hardest part of the day here is that time between his afternoon nap and dinner. He needs entertaining, which makes cooking dinner quite a challenge. On this day I had chicken curry in the slow cooker, but we still had to cook the rice. I gave him a little pot of rice to shake, thinking this might amuse him for a minute or two. It did, but getting the pot undone became his clear goal. When I realised this was going to happen I had a small moment of regret (the mess!) and then got I over it. I got out a metal bowl for him to pour it into as I thought it would make a great sound.
You can taste it 

You can shake it

You can spread it around the floor and lay in it

You can put it in the bowl and hear the sound

You can move it around with your hands

You can tip it all out again

There was a little rice to sweep up when he was done, but to be honest, a few grains of dry rice is fairly insignificant compared to the mess he makes when he eats it! Well worth it as it amused him for as long as it took the rice to cook!




Friday, September 7, 2012

BB2

I thought it was time to dedicate a post to BB2, who seems to be exerting his/her individuality already. When I was pregnant with BB I felt terrible. I was floored with fatigue and nausea. I took great comfort  from this that it was a sign that all was well, that BB was thriving. It is somewhat unnerving then, that I really don't feel too bad. In fact, apart from being a bit tired, I'd even go as far as saying that I actually feel healthier than before I was pregnant. I keep rubbing my belly as asking "are you still there?"

I keep testing, just to check, but of course the hormones would be in my body for a while anyway, even if something has gone awry. I was comforted tonight when the test line was darker that the control line. It's funny too that a week ago my worries were that there could be two. I tested ahead on the conception calculator at both 2 and 3 weeks.  Mostly I am grateful that we don't have all the testing here in the UK that you have in the US - I see so many people worrying about things that we never need to consider here - but waiting another 6 weeks for my first ultrasound seems ages!  Hopefully all is well in there.

There have been a few suggestions as to why I feel I could feel OK and BB2 could still be thriving.

1 - It's all relative. I do actually feel as bad as last time, but as I haven't had a night's sleep for over a year now I have got used to feeling bloody awful and I can't notice much difference!
2 - the fact that I am still breastfeeding could mean that there are less hormonal changes that have to take place so my body doesn't have do much to deal with.
3 - I will, it's just too early (though I have checked my notes from last time and it had hit me hard by this time).
4 -It's a girl (some people seem to think you don't feel sick with girls - but some say you feel worse).

On the boy/girl thing, I have no idea. Last time I was convinced that BB was a boy right from the moment I found out I was pregnant, this time I don't have that. I would be equally happy either way. A boy would be a great playmate for BB, we have heaps of boy stuff, I love having a little boy and relationship that I see between boys and their mammas throughout life is amazing. I would also love a girl, it would be great to experience parenting a girl too, and to have a daughter to share girly things with, and I am sure BB would be lovely to a little sister. I will find out at the 20 week scan, because I couldn't possibly wait!



Here is the list of boy/girl signs copied from last time. As before I will highlight in bold any symptoms as they occur and keep a tally.


  • It's a boy if:
  • You have nausea in the morning
  • You did not have morning sickness
  • Your baby's heart rate is less than 140 beats per minute
  • You are carrying the extra weight out front
  • Your belly looks like a basketball
  • Your areolas have darkened considerably
  • You are carrying low
  • You are craving salty or sour foods
  • You are craving protein -- meats and cheese
  • Your feet are colder than they were before pregnancy
  • The hair on your legs has grown faster during pregnancy
  • Your hands are very dry
  • Your pillow faces north when you sleep
  • Dad-to-be is gaining weight, right along with you
  • Pregnancy has you looking better than ever
  • Your urine is bright yellow in colour
  • Your nose is spreading
  • Your face gets thinner
  • You hang your wedding ring over your belly and it moves in circles
  • You are having headaches
  • You add your age at the time of conception and the number for the month you conceived and the sum is an even number
  • Ovulation occurred between a full moon and the day before a new moon
  • Hang a needle on a thread over your belly and it goes side to side
  • Insemination was close to or on the day of ovulation

  • It's a girl if:
  • You have nausea in the evening
  • You have morning sickness
  • Your baby's heart rate is at least 140 beats per minute
  • You are carrying the weight in your hips and rear
  • Your left breast is larger than your right breast
  • Your hair develops red highlights
  • You are carrying high
  • Your belly looks like a watermelon
  • You are craving sweets
  • You are craving fruit
  • You crave orange juice
  • You don't look quite as good as normal during pregnancy
  • You are moodier than usual during pregnancy
  • Your face breaks out more than usual
  • You refuse to eat the heel of a loaf of bread
  • Your breasts have really blossomed!
  • Your pillow faces south when you sleep
  • Your urine is a dull yellow colour
  • Your face gets fatter 
  • You hang your wedding ring over your belly and it moves from side to side
  • You add your age at the time of conception and the number for the month you conceived and the sum is an odd number
  • Ovulation occurred between a new moon and the day before a full moon
  • Hang a needle on a thread over your belly and it goes around in circles
  • Insemination was a few days before ovulation


So, today, at the time of posting, it was 4:1 to the boys team.


If you have any predictions please comment.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rhythm - yes that's a better word!


This is really a reply to Rachel's comment on the previous post. I started writing it as a reply but it got too long, and then I wanted to add links... so here's a new post.

Rhythm - that's a better word! I was thinking I need a timetable but thought perhaps that was just a throwback to my teacher days. We do kind of have that I guess, but it could be better too. BB does do lots of stuff with me, he has become particularly 'helpful' in the garden, picking the tomatoes for example,  and he's learned how to turn on the tap on the water butt (we always do these jobs in pjs these days as he inevitably ends up soaked and covered in mud, so that at least saves us one change of clothes - as the weather gets cooler though we will soon be in need of a new plan!). He also helps put the washing in the machine, and take it out, and into the dryer. I don't think he is quite ready for the cooking lessons yet, although he does sit in his high chair and watch sometimes, and helps by holding a carrot, or the wooden spoon or something, but he hasn't done any mixing yet! Maybe we could make some scones!

So, our rhythm and flow - We get up, have breakfast, feed the chooks, collect the eggs, and do a few chores outside - BB plays or helps. The we come in and get toys out for a bit... I get him started then do  jobs like check the emails, mail etc. make any necessary phone calls...  then it depends on what we are up to that day. We are out at some point most days with his gym and swimming lessons, and we take nana out, go to a play group, now nursery one day, catching up with his friends, or simply a walk into town and a play on the swings and slide... so he is getting out and about and experiencing lots of things. Then our evenings are all very predictable too, some play while I get food ready, a long meal (it often takes a hour), we tidy up the toys (sort of) and then is bath, books, booby and bed. So yeah, I would say we have rhythm, and it flows pretty good most of the time.

I think I just feel that I could do more, to stimulate his brain, start some learning and discovery experiences, structure things more. I did some research online as to what to do with a toddler and I found little that I don't do already - most of it seems really basic, like talk to them about things you are doing, count objects, observe colours, animal names and noises, name objects... well der! of course! we do that all the time. What I am wanting really is to be sure that we do one special thing together every day that is fun, worthwhile, stimulating, a learning experience, however small.

I ended up ordering two books that had good reviews and were available second hand at a good price; The Encyclopedia of Infant and Toddler Activities and Developing Play for the Under Threes. I'll let you know how I find them.

As for today - I have done no work at all - not a scrap. We had a fab time. Our 'together' activity was to create a picture together with his crayons, which ended when he threw all the crayons on the floor, but I think I did like it up until then (I look forward to the day he can communicate that he has had enough with words - he uses the same 'floor technique' when he has finished eating). We have also been swimming, and played in the play area both before and after the swimming lesson, and went grocery shopping, and then called to buy him some new sleeps suits. We bought these!


Well, how could I resist!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Playing Catch-up

For the last few weeks I have been feeling like I am always behind with everything. I'm tired and there's loads to do. I am permanently in catch up mode but never quite get there. There is so much I haven't blogged about lately too.

What's bothering me most is that I feel like I am being a Crappy Mama rather than a Blissful one right now. I don't feel like I am playing enough with BB, or giving him enough attention. I feel like I am always trying to do something else, either at the same time as 'pretending' to play, or I am thinking about when I can get away for a moment to do the next thing, or of something I can give him to amuse himself with for a minute or ten. This is not how I wanted my Mummyhood to be. I am not the Mama I want to be. Things have to change.

A major part of this is the fact that I am now working. Hopefully this will get better soon as BB went for an hour trial at nursery today and he seemed to really like it. Next week he's going for 2 1/2 hours and then after that he will be there 4 hours a week. Hopefully I can get lots of things done while he's there and be a little more present when he's home.

Another issue is that I am so tired. As well as first trimester fatigue, I am staying up too late.. I know this, but I am trying to work, which I don't start until BB is in bed, the washing on and the house in order. After working, I don't really want to go straight to bed. I have no ME time at all at the moment. I think that's important for recharging so that I can be present for others

So, I need to get everything done, work, make time for quality play and interaction with BB, make time for me and get a good night's sleep. I think need to blog too, as it helps me reflect and stay sane. So, all in all, I need about 6 extra hours in a day!

As finding an extra six hours is unlikely, I need to think of ways to be smarter with my time. I've been having a few ideas, but I would welcome yours too.

Firstly I want to plan for at least a half hour session of really good quality interaction with BB every morning. Half an hour is realistic, and hopefully by having that special time he will be more content in the times when my attention is being shared with tasks like cooking lunch. I am looking around for good play ideas so if you have any, or can recommend any good books or websites please do let me know.

Secondly I want to spend less time cooking and eat better food. That sounds like a tall order I know, but I think it's possible. I am one of those people that cooks 'what's in the fridge'. The reality is that what's in the fridge is very similar week to week, and I cobble stuff together from it. I think I could plan our meals, giving us more variety, wasting less food, and saving time on shopping trips (we go several times a week for a few bits), and on working out what we can eat. I keep hearing about people who do menu planning, it sounds like a great idea, but where do I start? If you have any pointers, again please let me know.

Thirdly, I am going to make time to relax. I have a love film subscription for 3 DVD's and an online movie a month, lately I have only watched one or two of them. I am going to try and have one evening a week where I don't work, but watch an indulgent film instead. Tonight I watched Romantics Anonymous and it was lovely. I am also open to film recommendations if you have seen anything good lately.

Finally, I am going to bed earlier - starting now

I will be back soon to blog about walking boy and his new shoes, and the Christening, and BB2, and my day at the Paralympics, and maybe more.

But for now...

Goodnight

Blissful Boy dining al fresco in the Cotswolds