Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Case of Severe Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is something that every new mum anticipates in the first few weeks of parenthood, but despite our expectations, many of us are surprised at just how often that new baby wants to feed. Most of us are amazed at how well our bodies cope with the frequent waking and sleepless nights. Generally the days pass quickly, and soon that new little bundle of joy has grown. Rarely does the sleep deprivation get so severe that we need 3 months of bed rest, though for Rebecca Welton, mum of two, that is exactly what happened.

Rebecca with her children, Alex and Harry

I recently spoke to Rebecca about her experience with severe sleep deprivation and the resulting exhaustion. We discussed how things got so bad she had to be taken off all family duties and confined to her bed, about how she approached her recovery, and how she is now driven to help other parents avoid the situation in which she found herself.

On talking with Rebecca, it sounds like her exhaustion began before her first child was even born. Rebecca suffered with hyperemesis during both of her pregnancies. She was hospitalised and on a drip five times during her first pregnancy. In her second pregnancy she avoided the hospital (she had a toddler to care for!) but she was in bed for four months. By the sixth month of her second pregnancy she was up and around, and everything appeared normal, but she was still very weak.

Then Harry was born.

Neither of Rebecca's children were good sleepers, but it was Harry that really turned the family upside down. At five months old, he was still waking 8 or 9 times a night, disturbing not just his parents' sleep, but his elder sister's too. The whole family were exhausted.

"Everyone said we should do Controlled Crying, but we didn't really want to. We believed it would damage our relationship with Harry, we didn't want to lose his trust in the fact that we were there to care for him. Eventually though, we did end up giving it a try. Once. Leaving her brother to cry really distressed our two year old, as she couldn't understand why we weren't comforting him. We had to find another solution.

"In the end we worked out that the problem Harry had was a sleep association with food. He couldn't settle himself and needed to be fed to sleep. Spending a lot of time settling him without food was not an option with a 2 year old around either, but eventually we created our own solution, which we called the Peekaboo Baby Technique, and by 7 months Harry was over his sleep association"

Rebecca was a member of her local NCT Branch and discovered that many other parents were also having difficulties getting their babies to sleep. They also wanted to find some alternatives to controlled crying. Rebecca set up the Walking Zombies Club as a place where parents could come and discuss sleep problems and share solutions, as she really wanted to help others.

Although Harry was over his sleep association, Rebecca's wakeful nights had not ceased. For then came teething, and illness, and more teething. She couldn't sleep in after a difficult night with Harry as her toddler was always up early regardless. Rebecca's sleep deprivation continued. "By this time I was so tired I couldn't drive. I couldn't even really have a conversation. I certainly had no ability to make even the simplest of decisions. Everything came down to just getting though the next hour. There wasn't much joy or fun in the house. If everyone was fed and had a clean nappy it had been a good day" said Rebecca.

One day in April 2012, when Harry was around 10 months, Rebecca's body finally gave up. "I was walking back from a friend's house with the kids in the buggy. I was so tired my eyes stung just from being open. I closed my eyes and did wonder if I had actually fallen asleep walking. Finally I went to bed that night, but I was so tired I couldn't sleep. The next day I decided I had to get myself to the Doctors but it was so hard, just getting out of bed made me breathless."

Thankfully Rebecca did make it to see a Doctor. The diagnosis was severe sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Rebecca was prescribed amitriptyline and told that she would need to get in someone to look after the kids for a while as she needed complete bed rest. The doctor was unable to tell her how long for, but luckily her Mum was able to move in for a while and take care of the family.

"It was horrible. My kids were there but I couldn't be a Mum. I couldn't play with them or feed them or do anything a Mum should do. My son had his first birthday during this time, and I know I was there, that even I went downstairs for a short while, but I have no memory of it at all. I was determined to get well, to get my life back, and to bring joy, laughter and cuddles to the family again."

Her recovery was very gradual, but after a couple of months Rebecca could go downstairs for 10 minutes or so. Then she started walking, just a few yards at first, and then gradually increasing it. "I only ever did this at night as it would wipe me out for the rest of the day if I did it earlier on, and I wanted to see my children. Doing it at night meant that I could then sleep".

By her own admission, Rebecca's recollection of what happened when during this time is patchy - that is just one of the symptoms of severe sleep deprivation. However, at some point during her period of bed rest, Rebecca began to write a book. "I needed to do something positive with this experience. I couldn't just sit there and watch day time TV or I would have gone even more crazy, this was my way of making sense of it. Also, up until the point where I saw the doctor, I thought what I was experiencing was normal parental sleep deprivation, I had no inkling that what was happening to me was so severe. I really wanted to stop other parents getting in to that situation too".

Rebecca has written her book on sleep techniques with the sleep deprived in mind. It includes advice on dealing with your own sleep deprivation and what to do if you are too tired to even try sleep training with your baby. The short book presents five different sleep techniques, and includes her own Peekaboo Baby Technique. There are five ways presented because every family is different. Rebecca describes them as Trust techniques, by this she means ways to help your baby sleep whilst continuing to nurture the bond of trust between you.  She has also addressed the issue of siblings, an area that many sleep books neglect, as they do alter the family dynamic and impact the options that might work best in any particular case.

In January of this year Rebecca became a qualified Child Sleep Practitioner, and the Walking Zombies Club has evolved into a Sleep Clinic, which Rebecca runs three times a month. She is able to help parents with all sorts of sleep issues, and can recognise when people are heading beyond the normal realms of parental sleep deprivation, therefore helping to avoid the situation she found herself in. "Mainly we talk about what has been going on so I can work out exactly what the issue is, and I find out a little bit about the rest of the family too. I then explain how I see the problem to the parents and talk through different options available to them, so they can make an informed choice about how they want to handle it." 

Her book Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques - Alternatives to Controlled Crying was published as a Kindle Edition in February, and then, by popular demand, she released a Paperback version in May. She is currently working on a second book, Trust Techniques for Toddlers and Children.

Rebecca herself is much better these days, but she still hasn't fully recovered.  She was advised that 10 months of disturbed sleep would take 10 months of totally undisturbed sleep to recover from. But as a mum of two small children, a night of undisturbed sleep rarely happens. She is however very careful about her sleep these days, and regularly goes to bed at 8.30.

Rebecca has also recently launched the Trust Techniques Website

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I love winter clothes!

I thought I would try and write something a bit more light hearted and Blissful today, and have been inspired by getting out my coat and scarves this morning, and by packing BB off to nursery in his little puffer jacket. He looks so cute - he's not quite so impressed though, having a preference for shorts and T-shirts.

I absolutely love winter clothes.  They are one of the things I actually prefer about living in the UK rather than the desert. Don't get me wrong, I love summer clothes too! It's great just to be able to throw on a little dress and be done, but I think you can look so much more stylish and elegant in winter clothes. You can wear styles that flatter your body and hide all the right bits - there's no hiding in a strappy top!

I love coats, hats, gloves and scarves. I am a big fan of long sleeved T-shirts, woolly jumpers and layering. Most of all I think I love the boots, or maybe its the boot cut trousers that magically streamline and lengthen your pins. I find it much easier to look and feel good in what I am wearing in the winter.

My favourite weather is days like today too; the sun is shining in my little part of the world, not a cloud in the sky, the air is fresh and crisp. It makes me want to put on my coat and boots and go and kick my way through some autumn leaves - and that's exactly what we'll do when I pick BB up from nursery later.

Image from Sydney Morning Herald

Do you prefer summer or winter clothes? What is the thing you love most about them, and why?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The decision

A few weeks ago I wrote about the fact that I was considering going to a clinic to see if it is possible for me to have another child. I mentioned that I felt like we gave up too easily. That maybe I should "Try again Mummy", as BB would say. I also noted that I feel there could have been mental reasons for me not getting pregnant. After the miscarriage I really began to doubt that my body is capable of carrying another healthy child to term. I sought confirmation through a Doctor, but could not be seen by the NHS due to the fact that I am single. If I am going to get that I have to go private.

I mentioned to DD that I was seriously considering this, and that I could use the clinic he donated at, so that he could be the donor if he wanted. It was one of those things we were going to talk about, but then didn't. I think he was waiting to see if I changed my mind, and for the right time to discuss it with his partner.

I was a bit surprised by the lack of enthusiasm. Until August we were all committed to a second child. One month later and they didn't seem so keen. The conversation never happened. I began to try and convince myself of all the reasons why one is best anyway. More money, better holidays, easier life, not having to get intimate with a syringe again, or be a huge clumsy pregnant lump... you know! With one I could date, travel, get my body back for me. I met someone who had one, then triplets(!), and was reminded how much work babies are too. One is good!

All of this, plus the hesitation from DD made me think that maybe I should accept it was just one for me. I even mentioned to a couple of friends that was where I was at. Both tried to encourage me to still do it if I really wanted. One of them was even able to quote some IVF prices for me to show me that it could be affordable.

Still I carried on down the path of one and done. On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week I got all the baby stuff from the loft and photographed it all ready to sell online. On Wednesday night I was too tired to list it and went to bed at the same time as BB. On Thursday I did the same. On Thursday though, I couldn't sleep. I was trying to work out what was wrong with me, and then at 11pm I had a thought. I could still have a child with a donor, even if DD is not interested in being that donor!

I had put it out of my mind, thinking that it would be unfair on the second child if BB had a dad and he or she didn't. I wouldn't be the first person to have children with two different Dads though - that happens all the time. People cope with that. And if I were to foster or adopt I'd still have that issue to deal with. It's not ideal. But in an ideal world I would be happily married and have two (or more) lovely kids with a wonderful full time Dad; we would be crazily in love, have perfect health, plenty of money,  holidays in the sun and all live happily ever after. Sadly I didn't draw that card, but I can play the ones I have got however I like.

The problem with me is that I always want to please others, and most often put them before myself. This works fine most of the time, I am happy making others happy. But some times it works to my detriment and then I end up wishing things were different. I have become like that with DD and PP. I want then to be happy, pleased with what I am doing, how I am considering them etc etc. I want our relationship to stay harmonious. It would affect the family dynamic if I had another child that wasn't theirs, but is that enough to stop me from doing what I want? I have considered all this before.  I have come to the realisation that if I did let them influence the number of children I have, I will resent them for it - which is not healthy, particularly as it is not them stopping me at all, but me stopping me because I think that's what they want - if you get my drift!

Once I came to the conclusion that I have no choice really but to give it a go, I felt heaps better. Suddenly my energy returned and was downstairs on the computer comparing clinics. The one my friend quoted is cheaper than the one where DD donated, but just to keep his options open for as long as possible I decided to go with that one anyway. There is a long way to go of course. I have to see if I am healthy enough to do it first, and then if I have any eggs. I know I can't afford donor eggs, so that will be the end of the journey if not. If I am healthy and I do have eggs then I have options to explore, and if the clinic have any of DD's donation left then it could be an option to use him as a donor, if he wants.

Lots of ifs.

Even if I find out that it's not possible I think I will feel better than I do now. At least then I will know that I have tried. My appointment is on 11th November, so not too long to wait.

It's not pretty here though.

I am not very good at being assertive, and it tends to come out aggressive if I ever do try and fight my own corner. I told DD about the conclusion that I came to, and though it seemed to go OK at first, I think I have opened a huge can of worms. I guess he feels like I am giving him some kind of ultimatum,  and he is stuck between me and PP. I probably shouldn't have said anything at all until after I had been for the appointment and found out if it is even a possibility or not, but it wouldn't feel right to do it without letting him know. Sometimes I can be too open though - and if I find out that its not possible I  will have put everybody through this anguish for nothing, so perhaps I should have kept it to myself for a while.

Last night, after quite a long text exchange with DD, I was ready to give it all up, cancel the appointment and say "OK, I'll stick with one", just to make the uncomfortable feelings go away. But the cold light of day reminds me that they wont go away - they'll just fester. I just have to ride the waves and see this through.

Writing this post is part of my way of making myself stick with it. To value what I want, both for me and for BB, through the next two uncomfortable weeks. Now that you know I have an appointment, I can't buckle under the turmoil I have caused and cancel it.

Thank you!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fire safety in YOUR home

When did you last check your fire alarm?

I checked ours on Thursday, though not in the way I'd planned.

Thee are three fire alarms in our house. One which was fitted by law when I converted my garage into living space by an electrician. This gets a regular testing - pretty much every time I cook sausages! The other two were fitted about 3 years ago by a very tall fireman going door to door and doing assessments of people's houses and fitting alarms for free. He told me to test them every week. If I'm honest, I've probably done it about once a year.

Early last week though the one upstairs started beeping. "What's that?" asked a small voice. We went upstairs to see and there it was, flashing and beeping, for no apparent reason. And then it went off. Was it testing itself? Was that the battery dying and giving us a warning? Where did I put the instruction book? I made a mental note look it up sometime.

On Thursday we enjoyed some lovely weather for late October. We spent the morning at the veggie patch and then came home to have a quick lunch. My plan was that BB would then have a nap, whilst I did some computer work, and then we would get out into the backyard to do a few end of season jobs. BB had other plans though. He wanted to play outside first.

OK, I thought, lets go with that! The sun was shining, outside did look very inviting at that moment in time.

I left the back door open so that it was easy to come and go, and to get power for the lawnmower etc, but closed the internal doors so that we didn't lose any heat. We then set about our tasks. Maybe an hour later all was done, and we came inside, ready for a drink and a nap. As we were washing our hands I could smell smoke. Like a bonfire. That's odd, I thought, I didn't notice that when we were outside.

It was then that I remembered the beetroot!

With plan A of BB sleeping and me sitting at the desk, I had put some beetroot in a pan to boil and set the timer. Of course I didn't hear the timer outside. Nor did I notice that our kitchen was full of smoke and that the beetroot was actually on fire! The alarm hadn't gone off because the internal door was closed. Once I opened the kitchen door it soon did though. As did the one in the lounge and the one on the landing. I put the burning beetroot in the sink and added water, opened the windows and doors and turned on all the extractor fans. BB was quite scared and needed me to hold him throughout most of this process (not the bit where I was wrestling a can of flaming beetroot though!). Soon the smoke had cleared but we could now see that all the walls and cupboard doors were wet from the heat. My walls are now marked with sooty dribbles like these.

A fire on my cooker is about the worst possible thing that could happen in my house. Although it's brilliantly designed when it comes to making the most of every little bit of space, the cooker is actually under the stairs. If it did go, the fire would start at the top of the stairs, trapping anyone who was up there. What if BB had gone for a nap? What if I was 10 mins later finding it? Though it's unlikely that would have happened - I wouldn't have gone outside if he didn't, and if I do just a little job outside when he is asleep I do stick my head in the door every 5 mins or so to see if he woke up yet. But it is easy to get distracted. I will definitely be more aware in future.

Needless to say I have found the instructions for my fire alarms, and even tested them all again today. I have also been looking online at fire safety equipment for the home - like should I have an extinguisher just in case something does happen on my stove top?  I found the website to be really helpful in terms of looking at what's available and what I could do,  and I urge anyone who hasn't checked up on the fire safety in their home recently to learn from lucky escape and check your smoke detector right now! 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Christmas Dilemma

I posted just a week ago about creating our family traditions for Birthdays, Christmas and New Year. I really thought I had it sussed. Christmas would be spent with extended family, in one country or another, we would have a tree which we would make our own decorations for as part of the lead up, we would both have Christmas PJ's which we would get the night before to sleep in, we will have modest Christmas lists, santa will visit...

Well, it turns out it's not so easy. It seems when you have a very untraditional family, creating simple Christmas traditions is not so easy. Perhaps I should have anticipated that! The problem I am having is how Daddy and PP fit in. I need your help with this as I think I am probably thinking too hard and losing the point.

We spent BB's first Christmas in Australia with DD's family. It was great. It would be awesome to that again. Last year, we were at my house, but DD wasn't there. PP's mum was sick and they spent Christmas with her. As BB was so young, we got away with having Santa come early so DD was here for the whole "Christmas eve" and present opening on our own "Christmas morning". 

I guess I had just assumed that was a one off and that normally DD would want to be with BB for Christmas. It's not something I would consider missing as a Mum, but I was forgetting for a moment that for DD, PP takes priority, and PP traditionally has a great family Christmas with all his extended family in France. DD suggested we do our own early Christmas again before they go, but I am not sure if we can get away with that this year, next year it certainly wont be an option. BB is quite aware of all the things going on around him, the TV and radio, and everyone else in the whole country will be mentioning when Santa is on his way, I really think we are going to have to do it on the day.

DD is OK with that, he said he will just visit and bring presents a few days before and we can exchange gifts amongst ourselves then. That's fine with me for this year, it solves the immediate problem, but how does it impact on what I was hoping to do regarding creating memorable Christmases? Ones that BB can look back on fondly in forty years and tell his family and friends about Christmases when he was a kid. 

I guess the big issue behind my dilemma is that really feel the need (like it's my duty as a Mum) to protect BB from knowing that he comes second. I really don't want him to be sad on the Christmases that his Dad chooses to be elsewhere. I don't want him to form memories of Christmas as being either with, or without, Dad.

One idea is that we just have a separate do, every year. We did have a "French Christmas" a few weeks early, in the year we went to Oz - that could work. Then we could create traditions around two events and there would be no need to feel the absence of Dad at Christmas sometimes. But that also feels a bit like we would be cutting off our noses to spite our face. What about the years we could spend Christmas with DD's Australian family, or with PP's French family, or when they were both available to come and be with us. It would be silly to not spend the time with them when we could, right? But if we do, how do I protect my little boy in all of that?

Am I just over thinking this, or is it as important as I think it could be? I didn't even really celebrate Christmas for 10 years prior to BB coming along, so It's not like I have any big attachment to it myself, but it seems like it is an important thing for kids - it was for me as a child. That said, we always did the same thing for Christmas, which was go to my Nan's, and when that stopped it was never the same, which is probably part of the reason it became so unimportant to me for a while. So, with that in mind, is creating traditions around Christmas fatally flawed anyway?


P.S. I wrote this while BB napped this afternoon. DD left while BB was asleep, and although they said good bye and BB was all casual, "Bye bye, Daddy, see you soon", when he woke up BB was distraught. He hunted around the house, calling "my Daddy" and his little face crumpled so when he realised he had really gone again. I have seen this coming. It gets worse each time. I ended up crying with him as his sadness makes me sad too. He has also become really clingy to me in the last couple of weeks, sleeping in my bed again, and tonight wanted me to hold him all the time, he even wanted to sit on my knee to eat tea and play with play dough. I guess it's just something he has to get used to. He knows Daddy goes away, and he knows he always comes back in a week or two, but he is more and more sad each time. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

3 Reasons to wear sunglasses in winter

The weather has turned cold and the nights are drawing in. Winter is just around corner. Although many of you may be packing away your sunglasses until next year, I am not. I am one of those people who wears their shades in December, who many of you think are odd (I can tell from the strange looks you give me!)

So why do I wear sunglasses on a winter's day? Partly out of habit, having lived in the desert for 10 years where you know you need your sunglasses all year round, but I do it for other reasons too.

1. Wearing sunglasses can help prevent or slow down the development of cataracts and macular degeneration (and other eye diseases)

Genetically I am at very high risk of developing macular disease, glaucoma and cataracts. Having seen first hand how losing your vision impacts upon your life, I am very keen to do what I can to prevent this from happening to me - or at least to delay it for as long as possible. I have to have my eyes tested every year to check up on all my risk factors. Optician after optician has told me that wearing good quality UV protective sunglasses is vital to slow down macular degeneration. There is also evidence that UV is a significant risk factor for cataracts. Apparently sun exposure can also lead to lesions and tumors in the eye. I'd like to give them all a miss if possible.

2. To drive safely when the sun is low

I actually think you need sunglasses for driving here in the UK more frequently than you do in the summer, due to the angle of the sun. The midwinter sun hovers not too far above the horizon, even at midday, and can shine in your eyes, or at a bad angle on the windscreen, making it really hard to see. Some good quality sunglasses with polarising lenses make driving much safer in these conditions. 

3. Even in the UK, winter sun does create a UV risk

The fact that the sun is lower and shining more directly in your eyes, and that you can get a double dose of UV when it reflects off surfaces such as wet roads, and occasionally snow, means that UV damage to your eyes could be as high in the winter as it is in the summer. I like to get out doors as much as possible during the winter as I need my dose of light to keep me sane. I frequently walk with the light shining straight in my face, just to feel the sun on my skin. 

Some people believe that on these days when the sun is not shining directly in your eyes you should remove the shades for 10 minutes to get a small amount of UV on your retinas to lift your mood. I am not sure if this is true, but I do do it sometimes - just for short periods. Otherwise my eyes are kept protected behind their UV shields! 

So there you have it. Next time you see me, or someone like me, wearing shades on a winter's day, no I'm not on drugs, nor did I have a hard night, and no one gave me a black eye! 

I'm just preserving my my vision and driving more safely.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What to do for New Years eve with kids

One of the joys of parenthood is creating and establishing your family traditions. I think traditions are important for a number of reasons; they can help to create memories, as well as providing some predictability and a sense of stability. Hopefully they will also bring joy and laughter and a sense of belonging too.

For a family like ours, with people spread all around the world, the place we celebrate will be changeable, but the things that we do can be the same. For birthdays we decided on balloons, bunting and birthday cake, all of which are easily transportable to any location. Christmas I hope will always be spent with extended family, either in the UK or Australia. We did get a tree last year, and made our own decorations which is another tradition I would like to foster. I am also planning on creating a little ritual of Christmas PJ's, where we each get new PJ's on Christmas eve to sleep in that night. Also when BB is older, I plan on us each writing a modest Christmas list, of three items; something I need, something I want and something I'd like to do.

The question of what to do for New Years eve with kids is now something I am starting to think about. I know for many families, New Year involves getting a baby sitter while the adults get a rare night out, but I don't think that's for me. Although I won't be starting it for couple of years yet, allowing the kids to stay up to see the clock strike midnight on this one day is a tradition that I will happily encourage. Again the venue may change, and the family and friends that we are with might vary from year to year, but our traditions will be that we that we see in the New Year together as parent and child, and that we set some goals for our year ahead.

I have recently heard about Butlin's family friendly New Years eve breaks. Butlin's is such a huge part of British culture that it almost seems a rite of passage for a child to spend some time there, especially one who may end up living in Australia in the future, and who will look back at his early life in the UK. My own memories of Butlin's are very happy ones. My first experience was a couple of days break at Skegness with my grandparents when I was about 10. We joined my great aunt and young girl that she cared for who was around my age. Us two kids had a great time together, with the freedom to explore by ourselves in a safe environment.

My second Butlin's experience was as a trainee teacher, with three classes of Year 8 Special Needs students in the early nineties. I will never forget the joy that simple holiday in Minehead brought to those students. For some it was the first time they had seen the sea, and for many it was their first residential school trip. I have a really clear memory of some lovely year 8 boys telling me that I should have children as I would be a great Mummy, and so for me it was one of the first times I really thought about how it would be to have kids of my own someday.

It makes sense then that my third visit should be with my own family. A Butlin's New Year break would definitely fit all the necessary criteria of our soon to be established New Year traditions, so it's definitely on the cards for the future. We just need find some pals to go with, and to save a few pennies.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Things BB says and does

I have been meaning to write a regular post dedicated to BB's developments,  but as you will know it hasn't really happened. I am finally getting around to it. My sister came around this week with a second hand note book she had found and told me I had to write down the things he says in it. Great idea in theory, but I declined her suggestion rather than take on another thing I know I'll fail at.  This upset her, but I managed to stand my ground. I already have two books especially designed to write in that I haven't updated for ages, making me feel guilty enough already, I don't need a third. She tried harder to convince me by saying it was for my Nan, but my Nan is blind, so she wont be reading it. I do make little voice recordings every now and again for my nan - I should do something with them, like play them to her! 

The good thing is that the guilt and the prod has made me sit down this morning and write. That, and the fact that BB jumped out of bed this morning and then grabbed my hand and said "Follow me please Mum" which was so cute. Yesterday in the supermarket he told me I was his favourite Mum (not sure who the others are!) and last night as he went to bed he said "I - love - you - Mum", with a big space between each word.

He is currently laying on the stairs in the dirty washing! He likes to do this. I always drop the washing down the stairs so as I don't have so many things to carry down. Today he went and sat in the space and asked me to drop it on him. He has been there, quite content, for a while. The sheets are from the bed DD slept in last time he was here, so I am guessing it is the smell of Daddy that he likes - though I am not sure that he realises that himself.

He also likes to do grown up things, like driving the car. Whenever we get home he likes to get out of his car seat and climb through to the drivers seat, where he is happy to sit for a while. He especially loves it if I get in the passenger seat, then he tells me where we are going (usually to see Nana, or to London).

He loves playing shops from his little house, selling fruit and veg, ice cream and "coffee tea". He loves wearing my shoes. I have a pair of slip ons that I keep by the back door so that I can easily pop out into the garden, but invariably they are halfway across the yard and full of water when I need them. He loves to wear my sunglasses too, though I get nervous as they are prescription ones. When I tried to buy him some of his own he "No like it"!

He misses the chickens. He tells me to get more all the time. When we go and see his friend T though he loves the big garden. So last time when we came home to our small one and he declared he wanted to go back to T's house and play on the slide, I tried to have a grown up conversation with him about what we should do with the garden. I explained that we could have a bigger garden and a slide or more chickens. He stood by the gate to the chicken run looking contemplative for a moment, and then said "Slide in there!" I am sure BB would be more than happy with a slide in the chicken run. Not sure about the chooks though, or the salmonella, or the washing! I was blown away by his creative thinking and problem solving skills though - genius surely!

Other things he says which I must note are

Frogosaur - dinosaur
Rocket Sam - Fireman Sam
My helping - I must help you, now!
Floff - fell off
Mout - come out

I also love how he says "Try again Mummy" if I do something wrong, or not to his liking. He often said "Ooops, mess - [BB] did it!" "Help! Mummy, help!" is also a common phrase when he gets himself in a pickle.

He has impeccable manners at the moment too, and uses them to his advantage. "Would you like a clean nappy?" usually invites the response, "No thank you Mummy", as does giving him food he doesn't fancy right now, or putting him in the pushchair when he wants to walk. He also uses thank you in advance, a trick I learnt as a teacher to get kids to do things by acting like they already did. He must have learnt it from me, but it is funny to see none the less.

I'll leave it there, but now I have started, I'll try and make this a more regular feature.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Different Perspective


Have you ever had one of those weekends where you realise on Monday that you are a different person to the one you were on Friday? This is what just happened to me. OK, so it's not major. You probably wouldn't notice the difference, but it feels like it might be significant.

BB and I drove down to London on Friday to spend the weekend at DD and PP's house. On the way, we called in at Daddy's school to collect him. It does seem like a lovely school. BB knew his way around as he has been with Daddy before, but it was my first proper visit. I got chatting to some of the teachers, from all over the globe and had quite a pleasant time.

There was huge life affirming moment though. I was talking with one teacher, perhaps not out of the ordinary in her commitment, but with a senior role. She is totally married to her job, no kids, working all hours and drinking too much wine. That so could have been me! She was quite happy with her life I have no doubt, but still I found myself feeling incredibly grateful that I had the guts to quit teaching and choose single motherhood. There is no doubt that decision totally changed my destiny and I am so much happier in this life than I would have been in that one.

On Saturday and Sunday I attended a fabulous course organised by Mumsnet Academy on Becoming a Freelance Writer, taught by Joanna Moorhead. The course was amazing on all levels. Joanna is a brilliant facilitator and gave us lots of really useful information on how to find our way into this type of work. She was also great at drawing the best out of all the participants, giving us confidence as well as tips.

Our group was quite small and full of interesting people, all of whom are already writers in some capacity, and each person brought heaps of great life experiences and expertise to the group. We are all planning on staying in touch, and on becoming freelance writers of course.

The weekend brought me more life affirming moments too. We attended a one year old's party. This was a reminder of how much work a one year old is. Two year olds are so much easier, and more interesting! (one year old was very cute with amazing eyes though - not saying he wasn't beautiful, just that he was a reminder of the hard work of babies!). Most of the parents there were my age too - it's funny, as I usually feel really old amongst younger mums, which is generally how it is, but this time with everyone else being my age, it seemed to reflect back to me just how old I am.

One of the people on the writing course was single mum of one plus triplets (she blogs at Me and my 4). She had one child and desperately wanted a second, and then got three! That would be so tough as a single mum. She was talking of writing about giving herself permission to do things for herself again, now the triplets are at nursery, and actually made me cry. I can't imagine how that would be for her - I lost myself in motherhood a bit, but with four... she was very inspiring too.

Both of these two interactions made me think that one is just fine. So this week, I am very happy as a mum of one.

I am also feeling happy about lots of other things. I am confident that I am going to be able to earn enough money to give my son a great life. I am happy with the direction that my career seems to be taking, exploring work that I enjoy. I am happy with our house, which seems quite adequate for just the two of us. I am happy with the life I am carving out for us.

In addition, I am really happy that BB had a great time with Daddy and PP. Not only does it allow me time to pursue things for me, I really value, on BB's behalf, the fact that he gets to spend quality time with them without me.  It makes my heart jump for joy when he calls PP "My [PP]" (akin to "My Mummy" and "My Daddy"). I think PP realised this weekend just how important and special a person he is this relationship too. I feel so lucky. It was hard though, when BB cried after we said goodbye.

So, I feel like a different woman to the one I was on Friday. I feel like I am doing it right. That I have arrived in some way. That I am qualified as a parent and able to take care of my own dreams and interests, as well as those of my child, whilst being a working mum. I think that with the writing and my other interests in facilitating workshops and the VA business, I can create an interesting and fulfilling career for myself, whilst being a great role model for BB.  I have a sense of having reached the next level in the game of parenthood.

And life is good!

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Vanish Test

Do you remember those ads 20 years or more ago, where an over enthusiastic housewife used a certain washing powder on her kid's grubby clothes and then badly acted over enthusiasm and disbelief at how white they were? These ads probably still exist, but as I haven't watched regular UK TV for 15 years or more, I have missed out on the modern version.

Today though, I get to be that woman!

I recently received two Vanish stain removal products to put to the test. BB is good at making things dirty, so we were able to test out grass stain removal, along with some chocolate and paint. I also grabbed one of his vests which has a poo stain (Vanish use the term body soil!) that has been there for few washes, and a jumper that he got covered in 'black stuff' after rubbing his back on a friends car and tyre yesterday.

Here are my results (minus the badly acted astonishment!).

Paint and chocolate were easy. I just put some of the vanish powder in with my usual washing liquid and they were gone.

For both the grass stain and the car grime stain, my first attempt was to just add some of the power to my regular wash. They did OK, you can see a definite improvement, but it wasn't perfect. So I then soaked them in the powder for an hour and then put them in the washing machine again, with another scoop of the powder added to my usual detergent. This did the trick and they both look completely stain free now. 

For the poo, I sprayed on some of the liquid and left it for 5 minutes as directed, and then washed in the machine with a scoop full of the powder plus my usual detergent. Not good, a slight improvement maybe, but it definitely needed further work! So I then soaked in the powder for an hour, then sprayed some more of the liquid on it, and then washed in the machine with a scoop full of the powder plus my usual detergent again. It faded considerably to the point where you probably wouldn't notice if you weren't looking. I was actually surprised by that. In fairness to the instructions do say to soak whites for 6 hours (I just did it for 1 hour as I did at the same time as the colours - I know - huge washing faux pas!). I'm done with washing for the sake of it now, but I will give it another soak before the next wash and I think there really is a high chance it will have vanished!


My conclusion - it's not without effort, but it is definitely possible!

Disclaimer: This post is in association with Vanish

Friday, October 4, 2013

Thomas & Friends Small Talking Thomas Engine - Review

Thomas and Friends Small Talking Thomas Engine
Thomas and Friends Small Talking Thomas Engine

Thomas the Tank Engine has long been a favourite in our family. The author, Rev. W Awdry, was the vicar at the church in the village where my mum grew up, and she had a great friendship with his daughter. Naturally then, even though I was a girl born in the days before we got upset about gender stereotyping, I was raised with Thomas.

BB loves trains. Thomas is top of the list. We have a Thomas toy box, and Thomas shelves, and a few Thomas books. Each time we go to the library, one of the books (rationed by me or there would be more!) is a Thomas book. We watch at least one episode of the TV show on Milkshake every day, and his train set is by far his most used toy. He has recently started to play out little Thomas scenes with his own train set which is a joy to observe.

You can imagine then, his excitement  when a new Thomas came to live at our house earlier this week. A Small Talking Thomas engine to be precise. The look on his face when he opened the box and and the little blue engine said "Hello, I'm Thomas" was delightful.

The talking Thomas has a few other phrases, such as "Bust my buffers!", and "I'm a really useful engine", and a couple of whistle sounds. He also makes a train noise as you push him along the floor, or over your tummy and down your leg as BB likes to do. It seems quite robust and durable too.

It comes with battery already fitted so it's ready to go. The box is quite cute too, and although I did put it in the recycling bin, I had to get it out again as it is apparently "Thomas' shed" where he sleeps at night!

Hours of entertainment ahead, this Thomas is quite affordable and would make an ideal gift for any little boy with a love of trains (that seems to be most of them, right?).

Thomas the Tank Engine is available at Argos online.

Discalimer: This post is in association with Argos

Thursday, October 3, 2013

10 Great Gifts for a Two Year Old Boy

Thinking of what to buy a two year old for their birthday can be hard! As BB received some excellent presents for his second Birthday, I thought it would be worth sharing a list of the absolute best gift ideas for a two year old boy. Prices vary from very cheap, to quite pricey, so there should be something here to suit your budget.

Little Tikes Play House
Little Tikes Play House BB gets hours of joy from this little house. It is frequently a shop, selling all manner of things, usually imaginary ice cream or coffee, but also sand, stones, toys, and fruit and veg. Sometimes it's a kitchen where he cooks, occasionally its just a hang out for friends, practically its a
great place to store the outdoor toys overnight! BB has had good use from this as his Grandparents gave it to him a couple of months before his birthday (when it was on special offer!) so that he had it for the whole summer. I imagine he will spend some rainy winter days in there too! 

This was another big purchase. Whenever anyone asked what he wanted for his birthday I asked for money towards this - my Nana and sister ended up buying it between them. It's great in that it stands in my office so he always has something to do for a few minutes if I get called to the computer to work at any point. It is also very portable so we have been using it outside frequently during the nice weather we have had. The one we chose has a black board, a white board, and a paper roll, as well as trays for standing you paints and storing your pens and chalk.

Brio Train Set
Brio Components
Trains, trains, trains! BB loves trains. His Dad gave him the My First Railway pack for his first birthday and then added to it this year. I have seen lots of people that have lots more than us - including those with specially designed coffee tables. If you have the space I guess that's fine, but actually I think the tables are quite limiting. BB designs and builds a new track every day, we have added rivers from tissue paper and boats from match boxes. We have also picked up second hand engines and track components from our local second and toy traders. This is definitely a great present with so many possibilities and has provided hours and hours of entertainment.

Magnetic Colours Book
Magnetic Colours Book
If you have a smaller budget, then check out this book. It's a board book with pages organised by colour, with 36 picture magnets to stick in place. Its a great interactive way to learn colours and some new vocabulary and is good as an activity to share with a parent or older child.

Ready Bed
Toddler Ready Bed
A friend visiting from Australia bought BB a fabulous Ready Bed. It's a great novelty and practical for when you go away on your holidays, saving you money on hotel rooms. They also pack up quite small and so fit in your suitcase.

Play Dough Bakery
Play Dough Bakery
As you know, BB loves cooking, so he was really impressed with this Play Dough Bakery. Up until now I have always made our own play dough, but recently we got to see all the gadgets that you can get to go with Play Dough and so added a set to our wish list. This set includes Play Dough Plus, which is softer and used for the frosting. The Play Dough set is something else we will add too, and we can always make more dough of our own too.

Trunkisaurus Rex

Trunkisaurus Rex Ride on Suitcase
This is another great novelty gift with very practical applications. BB uses this when ever we go on holiday to take his toys. If you travel by plane it fits within the carry-on luggage dimensions, your toddler can ride on it and be pulled along for the log walks through the airport, and they have things to occupy them when on board. (BB actually got this for his first Birthday, but it's really just coming into it's own now - manufacturers guidelines say that it is most suitable for 3-6 yr olds).

Little Tikes Car and Trailer
Little Tikes Trailer
Last year BB got the Little Tikes Car, this year the trailer was added. He has hours of fun with the car. I was personally disappointed as it doesn't seem to do much, but he is happy to sit in it and just watch the world. He also like to have a picnic at the wheel. the trailer has added a new dimension to his play as he  transports sand and stones around the garden. Here he is giving the car a well earned wash.

Animal Snap Cards
Animal Snap Cards
BB was given some fun Animal Snap Cards for his birthday too. Although he can't quite understand the actual game of snap yet, he loves the cards and we have created all sorts of other games. First I placed two of each on the floor face up and his job was to find pairs of the same animal. Then we soon moved on to finding four of each. We practice counting with them, as well as the animal names, and colours. We recently played it with his Aunties and Grandma, where he made the rules and told everyone which animal to collect. I have also taken just 8 cards (4 pairs) and placed them face down to play a traditional pairs game. Although he can do this on the iPad, he's not quite getting the fact that you have to turn them back when you have looked at them yet. We have also played where we each have a hand and I ask him if he has a frog, he asks me if I have a duck etc, and we swap. This is a really cheap present with lots of potential if you are looking for a little gift to take to a birthday party, or that is easy to send in the mail.


Frugi Clothing
Our absolute favourite brand of children's clothing is Frugi. As
well as being ethically manufactured using remarkably soft organic cotton that washes and wears incredibly well, they also have some amazingly cute designs. I seem to have done my job at letting everyone know that these are the clothes we like the best as BB got 2 T-Shirts, some PJ's and a jumper this year. Without a doubt they do cost a little more than some brands, but I have found that the quality and durability actually makes them really worth the extra initial outlay.  The sizes are also quite generous and they somehow seem to fit for longer than most clothes too. There are often sales on the website and you can sign up to be sent information about offers by email.

Disclaimer - many of these links are affiliate links, as explained here, but as always, they are our genuine opinions and we only promote the things we truly love!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Personal Update - Life after TTC

Firstly thanks to everyone who commented or PM'd me through some means after my last personal post. It's great to have a support team out there watching out for me. I know this post is long overdue. I have stalled at writing it a few times, partly because my thoughts and emotions are still changing, and partly because I am a bit afraid to go there. I have been doing OK. In fact I am actually feeling quite content with life in all other respects. Maybe there's a bit of 'head in the sand' going on, and life has been busy, with family members home from overseas, and my business is really taking off this last few weeks too. But, I need to sit down and write about this, and as today is the anniversary of the miscarriage of BB2, it seems only fitting that I dedicate a bit of time to this topic now.

Initially, once I knew it was all over and that our last attempt had failed I was quite accepting of it. Just to have an answer and know the future was a huge relief. To not have to take loads of supplements each morning, or worry about having a second cup of coffee. To be able to do some exercise without worrying that I might jiggle the egg off (silly I know, but I am not the only one that worries about these things!). The pressure had been released.

I became much more present with BB too. Rather than being distracted with what may or may not be, I relished in his games. "Mummy, roll" was one of them, where I had to roll on the floor (he has just got into rolling big time!). Each time I rolled I thought about how I couldn't do this if I was pregnant. Sometimes I wonder if he has a sixth sense that makes him do these things too, like he knew that rolling on the floor was what I really needed at that time.

Within a few days, the fact that I felt so much better made me feel like I could do this. Whereas for the last couple of months I have been really thinking that I can't, that my body is too old and can't take it, that I am not always the best Mum to one, how could I ever cope with two. Suddenly with all the pressure off I felt like a capable person again, like I could do this, that I am pretty damn good at this Mum thing most of the time, and maybe I'm not done after all.

Then I started to think that perhaps we shouldn't give up yet, and that what we should have done is have a break a couple of months ago rather than give up completely. I was really sad and emotional there for a few days as I felt like I had been really weak, lacking endurance. Like I hadn't tried hard enough. Most people have more attempts than us, lots of people get help with the process. We just gave in. I felt guilty, BB doesn't deserve to be alone with three odd parents. And I have always thought there would be two. There should be two!

So I started to really think about why I didn't get pregnant, and what I could do about that now. Firstly I am convinced from all the temperatures and hormone checks and other signs that I am ovulating regularly. Hormonally I think it's all OK. I am fairly sure I could get pregnant. I think the reason that I didn't is all in my head. I have a fear that my body will fail me. It sounds daft I know but I am worried that my body can't hold the baby, that it will fall out! I suppose that's not so unusual a thought considering the miscarriage, but it's not entirely rational either. I also worried about other parts of my body, like could my heart stand the strain, I felt I wasn't as fit as I was before I had BB, just because I haven't been jogging or swimming as often.

That said, I haven't smoked for 3 years, I have drunk less alcohol too, and recently the change in my diet has greatly improved my health. I am also more active on a daily basis chasing a toddler, rather than sitting on my butt and then exercising a few times a week - perhaps I am just as fit, if not fitter now.

It was also getting to be a bind for DD. He made it clear that he'd had enough of it when we put the time limit of the end of August on the whole process. He was travelling here after work when necessary, which is very draining I know as I travelled to his when we were trying for BB. He also has a partner to consider, a partner who, incidentally, is an only child and very happy with that and so can't understand what the fuss of needing a sibling is all about anyway! This is a handy perspective to have in our mix right now.

A few months ago I did get a referral from my GP to go to a fertility specialist, but when it came down to it they wouldn't see me with out my 'partner', so that became a no go. I think I just need someone to tell me that it would be OK and that my body is all in order and it could do it. I have contacted a couple of private clinics to see if they can help. I have been offered an appointment with a specialist in recurrent miscarriages (not my issue, which I did mention, but they said this was the man), for around £300. I figure if I chose the clinic where DD donated then I could (with his permission of course) possibly give it a try. That would cost up to £4000 a go...

I have to talk about it all with DD this weekend. I am not making any rash decisions either, as my thoughts have changed so much in the last couple of weeks I think its only wise to wait and see where they go next. I am also really happy with my life right now. Do I want to upset that balance?

Is it just that a bit of my identity, the bit that is TTC has gone, and that I am not used to that yet?

Am I just thinking that I might try again to stop myself from having to accept that it is all over?


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cheese Biscuits

Cheese Biscuits

My sister is here at the moment doing a little cooking activity with BB. She has adapted this recipe but instead of creating them in a straw shape they've used the cookie cutters to make some more appealing shapes.

Cooking with kids - rolling pin

BB has been able to help at all stages of the process from measuring (he showed her how to zero the scales) to rubbing in the flour, mixing in the cheese, adding the salt and pepper, rolling, and cutting out. He particularly enjoyed sprinkling the flour on the bench! He also helped with sweeping the floor!

Cooking with kids - novelty shapes

They smell absolutely delicious - I want one! I found myself thinking about making a paleo version of these using almond flour. A little internet research led me to this recipe - might just try it in 29 days time!

Whole30 October


Yes I am at it again. Another Whole30.


I just feel so much better when I am doing a Whole30 than when I'm not, even though I have been quite good and more or less stuck to a paleo diet in the meantime. I also feel the need to focus once again on eating proper meals. I am eating more meat and fish, I am cooking with coconut oil, avocado oil and ghee only, I am avoiding dried legumes (but do occasionally eat fresh peas and beans). I am totally convinced beyond any doubt that my life is better without grains, but I am still not sure about dairy, so that is the real test this time.

I have also been eating several 'paleo' things of late that are not whole30, in particular almond flour. I love almond flour and it's great that it is there for an alternative to wheat flour when needed, but I have come to the conclusion that it is best not overused. I managed since April without any bread at all, but made a couple of loaves of almond flour bread in the last month. My query is that it's not natural to eat that many almonds either. It feels heavy in my belly.

I found this interesting article on why you should avoid almond flour, and this one which rebuts all the arguments raised saying that it's ok if you eat sensible portions. I think that's where my problem lies. Did I just eat one slice of bread? No? Just one almond flour cookie? No. The problem is not the almond flour but the eater! The thing is if I make a loaf of bread or a batch of cookies, they do need eating in a certain period of time, so even if I could control myself there would be the problem of wastage. I guess I could try freezing things, but really, it's not worth it. It's great to have some recipes up my sleeve for when I have guests coming, or if we are visiting friends and taking something I can eat, but in general, I think those kind of foods should be special occasions only.

The other evil thing that has crept back into my diet it sugar.  Sugar is the work of the devil - enough said!

I am also hoping to get a bit of portion control sorted this time. I struggled to eat three meals a day last time - but I figure that if I had smaller portions that wouldn't be so hard. Indeed it would be a huge step for future management! That said, I am going to allow myself a 'cheat', and that is that on occasions when I really don't want to eat a meal I will make myself a healthy vegetable juice instead (juicing is officially not allowed on the Whole30, so if you are following me for advice on how to do it - please don't juice anything - just eat real food!).

I am not planning to blog about what I eat everyday. Partly because I don't have the time, but also because it's not that interesting to lots of my readers. The reason I blogged the previous two times was that it kept me accountable - I had to eat Whole30 compliant food if I had to blog about it. I have fallen off the wagon on the times I have not had that accountability - that's silly I know but true. I intend to use instagram instead, and hope that keeps me in line. If I create a delicious recipe that's worth sharing I will try and post that though.

So, if you came here for ideas on what to eat, you may be interested in my Whole30 Daily Pinterest Board or Whole 30 Recipes, and perhaps my archive of Whole 30 Daily and Whole 30 posts on this site.

I know several people doing the Whole30 this month, through Google+,  Instagram, Twitter etc. and it's great to have the connections and moral support. If you are doing the Whole30 and you would like to share a link to your profile, please email me and I will add a link to it at the end of this post.