“No no no, not OUTSIDE.”

My moment of calm.

We made it. We are at Sherwood Forest Centre Parcs, on the first leg of our two week family holiday.

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The supposed 3.5 hour journey up here yesterday was ‘eventful’: Myself and The Boy suffering from motion sickness in our new car in the slow-moving traffic; Pipsqueak struggling to nap as the sun managed to work its way around the edges of the sunshade and directly into her eyes; a wee-wee accident from the boy that soaked through his jeans and the seat mat into his carseat; then a standstill traffic jam just as we were needing to stop for lunch.

But get here we did. And so far, so good.

Pipsqueak went down easily for her morning nap (it’s a miracle!) and I am currently sitting outside on our woodland patio in the actual sunshine. The trees are swaying in the breeze, the leaves rustling and the birds tweeting happily. From time to time, our resident ducks waddle up to say hello, a squirrel hurries busily past or an enormous rabbit pops out from the briars, wriggling its nose and chewing on something tasty.

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For the first time in a long time, I am feeling relaxed and serenely happy.

I know it’ll only last for five minutes, but that’s okay. And yes, the peaceful sounds of the woodlands are punctuated by the cries of a distant baby and the yells of a toddler walking by. But it is not my baby and it is not my toddler.

My toddler didn’t want to go outside.

Yes, you read that right!  We are surrounded by a beautiful forest, it is not raining, there are animals all around, crunchy leaves to kick, pinecones to collect, minibeasts to spot, logs to climb upon and mossy hills to run down. And The Boy wants to sit in his “new bedloom” (bedroom) and watch Milkshake on TV.

Nothing would persuade him to come and explore with Mummy, so when the protest screams threatened to wake Pipsqueak, we gave up. Because we know from experience that he’ll change his mind later (the TV and the double bed in his room are too much of a novelty to abandon quite yet). And because this is a holiday and my mantra for it is ‘no worries’.

And I am enjoying my moment of calm.

Note

As I finished typing this, The Boy emerged through the sliding doors. We went for my desired woodland wander. He collected pinecone “treasure” and we discovered a wildlife lookout on the edge of a lake where we watched squirrels and birdlife and The Boy entertained himself opening and closing the door of his “secret den”.

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Pipsqueak is still sleeping! Life is good.

The Black Hole of Sleep Deprivation

When I started this blog just a couple of months ago, I vowed to keep it light-hearted and ‘on-subject’, focussing on my boy’s fascinating chatter in an effort to provide a bit of escapism from the very subject of this post.  But I’m feeling the need to vent, so here goes…

I’m in the midst of another bad run of nights with Pipsqueak who is now almost 7 months. To be honest, the ‘good runs’ have been few and far between. There have been two. Both blocks of about a week long where she has only woken twice for food, has settled straight back to sleep and so have I.

There has always been something getting in the way of this holy grail of ‘normal’ wake-ups. For the first few weeks it was reflux-associated unsettledness in the small hours. From the 1 or 2am feed onwards she just couldn’t relax enough to go back to sleep, except when upright on me. I coped with this by going to bed early and, once she accepted a bottle, hubby did the first feed with expressed milk, giving me a lovely 4 hour stretch of sleep. Those were the good old days!

Then (just as the self-preserving sleep-inducing postpartum hormones wore off) the Wonder Weeks and growth spurts came thick and fast. Alongside these, daytime napping became problematic and impacted on night-time sleep.

Next, the sudden refusal to feed to sleep and inability to self-settle or easily be rocked or cuddled to sleep. Tears all round.

Then the development of a location-specific daytime feeding aversion (only feeding in dim silence in the nursery, never out and about and not even downstairs on the sofa), leading to reverse-cycling and more frequent waking on the days when we have actually gone out and had a life.

And finally, more recently, having cracked the self-settling, the poor girl’s physical development is playing havoc with her sleep and she is spending hours at night practising her rolling and spinning manoeuvres and doing stomach-strengthening leg raises involving noisy crash-downs against the cot bars.

Each of these can be dismissed as ‘just a phase’ (except for the feeding aversion, it seems), but boy are these phases relentless.

Who me?  Causing sleep problems?
Who me? Causing sleep problems?

People see me and comment on how well I am looking. ‘How’s she sleeping?’ they ask, perhaps expecting a breezy ‘Oh good, thanks, she’s sleeping through now.’ I smile a wry smile in return and reply ‘Hmm not so great, I’m still up a lot in the night,’ then change the subject swiftly before I crack.

Because, behind the fixed smile and mask of makeup, I am always on the verge of cracking. And by that I mean falling into the black hole whereby I break down and sob in despair because I feel so rotten and am finding it such an effort to function and it is just not fair.

Unless you have been here, ‘being sleep deprived’ is hard to understand. And of course there are varying levels of deprivation. Two relatively short wake-ups might sound like heaven to me right now, but is some new mothers’ idea of hell. And their struggle is real too. And they might feel truly exhausted.

I am the first to admit that I can cope fairly well on less sleep than many. I’ve had to, as I was a seasoned insomniac well before I had children. I am the type of person who just pushes on through.

My vocation as a primary school teacher has been the root cause of much of my insomnia (I find it very difficult to switch off) yet I have been known to teach fantastic lessons on less than 5 hours sleep.

I am not looking for violins or applause here. But I do want others who are in the same boat as me to know that they are not alone. And I want to raise awareness to others of what it is like to live with severe sleep deprivation. So here’s a bit of an insight:

My eye sockets ache.

My headache is constant. Drinking water doesn’t ease it. The painkillers are reached for more often than I am comfortable with.

I feel nauseous.  Sometimes this leads me to eating a lot of the wrong types of food (chocolate, biscuits, endless slices of toast..anything for a quick pick-me-up).  Other times, like now, I have to force myself to eat anything.

My bones ache. As though I have the ‘flu.

I have a mouth full of ulcers.

I feel dizzy.

I feel weak.

I have hot flushes.

My vision is often affected.  Stationary objects appear to flicker and move, as though I am drunk.

I am clumsy, have a lot of accidents and injure myself daily (usually stubbing my toes, bashing into furniture edges, banging my head on open cupboards or under the stairs, scalding and burning myself). At work, I was renowned for being accident prone. 90% of it was down to insomnia.

My tolerance levels are down. This is something that I work really hard to minimise as it’s not a good headspace to be in with a toddler and baby. I practice deep breathing and make myself count before reacting. Sometimes I leave the room to calm myself. But I do find myself muttering my favourite sweary phrase (FFS) too many times a day. And I do snap at my poor long-suffering hubby at least once a night.

I cry a fair amount. Usually of an evening (poor hubby) as I clock off from mummy duties for a precious couple of hours. Sometimes during the day, I have to leave the children and pop upstairs for a wee and a weep, just to get it out of my system.

I can’t think straight. Thoughts whirl around in my head and I often can’t ‘catch’, them in order to process them.

Decision-making is difficult. Whether to stay in or go to toddler group; whether to return to work when intended or stay on maternity leave for longer; what to pack for our holiday.

I doubt myself constantly. Is Pipsqueak over-tired or just over-excited? Am I being a good friend or do I moan too much? Is The Boy’s behaviour challenging sometimes because of the way I am interacting with him? All normal questions for parents, but I am usually pretty self-confident and I know the lack of sleep is undermining this.

I talk gibberish. I stumble over words, repeat myself unintentionally, contradict myself.

I loose things constantly. The fridge is the first place to look now.

My mind plays tricks on me. Especially at night when I think half the time I imagine The Boy calling out to me or Pipsqueak crying.

I have horrid, realistic dreams. The night before last, when Mr Don’t Say was up and down all night with food poisoning, I had a snatch of 20 minutes sleep and I dreamt that both the children were vomiting fountains and they weren’t close enough for me to hold a bowl under each of them and I ended up slipping in a sea of it. I woke with a jolt. Last night, when Pipsqueak’s cot antics were particularly extreme, I dreamt that she had pulled herself up to sitting and managed flip herself out of the cot onto the wooden floor. I heard the thud and walked in to find her motionless, face down. It was so realistic.

I can’t lead the life I want to. As the time suffering from sleep deprivation increases and the associated insomnia worsens, I am more inclined to take the easy option and stay in and play rather than have play dates or go out. And I am by nature a sociable person who likes to be busy.  Some days it is simply not safe to drive. I desperately want to start exercising again but there is no way I can physically do more than short walks from A to B. I want to cook (hubby has been an absolute saviour on that front), get involved in early evening gardening during the summer, and go out on nights out with the girls. But I am too exhausted.

"What are we doing TODAY, Mummy?"
“What are we doing TODAY, Mummy?”

And, most depressing of all:

I can’t sleep.

Yes you read that right. Even if I didn’t have a toddler to look after, I wouldn’t be able to take that well-meaning advice of sleeping when the baby sleeps. I did in the first couple of weeks when hubby was home and the sleep deprivation was within the bounds of normal. And it really helped.

When I do sacrifice the couple of early evening child-free hours (when I can enjoy some uninterrupted adult conversation, vegetative TV viewing or the opportunity to get some studying or blogging done) and have an early night, I lie awake.

Between night feeds, I toss and turn and wish for the much-needed sleep to consume me. If I’m lucky I drift off for half an hour or so, only to be woken by the sound of the cat coming through the cat flap downstairs or Pipsqueak coughing or hubby snoring or the shift-working neighbour’s car starting or another neighbour’s child crying out from night terrors or the birds singing (one of my favourite sounds but now with such a depressing association). Frustratingly, have always been a light sleeper too.

As those birds start singing and it starts getting lighter just before 5am I shed silent tears in the knowledge that my night is done and I can once again count on one hand (and all too often just two or three fingers) the total amount of sleep accumulated.  It sounds so melodramatic and I don’t want it to read that way.  It’s just what happens.

As dire and difficult as it is pulling energy from somewhere every day to cope being a mum and a wife and a friend, I know that I am lucky compared to many. I am hopeful that, as Pipsqeak matures and with recent changes in my life hopefully meaning that work stress-related insomnia will be reduced, there should be an end in sight for me. Others (those suffering from chronic pain for example) are not so fortunate. And they are so strong and they deserve so much respect for coping.

So next time you ask someone who is struggling with insomnia or other sleep-related issues how they are, just take their reply with a pinch of salt. They will probably play down the reality of it. But they do deserve a high-five for just getting through another day.

End note
Excuse the soppiness, but I want to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to my mum, who is so kind and selfless.  She has continued to look after The Boy two days a week throughout my maternity leave and in doing so has saved my sanity, literally. Mum, you are amazing and I don’t know what I’d do without you.  Also my hubby who has been keeping my spirits up and doing all the stuff I’m too exhausted to do.  And my friends – thank you for being great listeners and for your offers of help.  You are all lovely. xxx

Liebster Award

Liebster-Award[1]

Thank you Sarah from Run Jump Scrap for my Liebster Award nomination.  This seems to be a good way to learn more about the bloggers behind new blogs!  Here are my answers to the 11 questions posed by Sarah:

1) What is the most annoying thing you find about blogging?
That I know pretty much nothing about website design and promotion! I set up my WordPress site one day and the next day published my first post, thinking I would refine the site next, learning as I muddled along. But I soon realised that everything blog-related is so fast-moving and time consuming that I am only just learning how to create menus, categorise posts and make my site work harder. This is NOT GOOD for a perfectionist like me!

2) Facebook or Twitter?
I only joined Twitter last month when I started my blog, so I still feel more at home on Facebook. I can definitely see what a valuable tool Twitter is, but it will take some getting used to.

3) What is your favourite drink?
Tea by day; wine or an ice cold beer on the alcoholic front.

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4) If you had a day to yourself what would you do?
I’d go for a bracing walk first thing up a big hill or along a windswept beach, taking my camera to capture nature at its finest. Then head to my favourite coffee shop for brunch, a spot of people-watching and a read of a book or magazine. Finally, I’d book a haircut, massage or some other pampering indulgence that is impossible with little ones. Bliss!

5) What part of your blog are you most proud of?
The concept (each post inspired by something my two year-old has said) and the written content. I think my flagship post is still the one I’m most proud of.

6) Name 3 people dead or alive you would have dinner with and why?
Nelson Mandela – because he seemed the most gentle and courageous man and obviously because he has changed so many people’s lives for the better.  What a powerful legacy he leaves.  I would love to learn where he found his inner strength to fight such ingrained prejudice.

Ben Fogle – because he has led such an interesting life travelling to far-flung places, interacting with people with amazing stories to tell, and pushing himself to his limits physically.  There would be a lot to talk about. Plus, of course, he’s pretty easy on the eye 😉

My husband – bit of a soppy one, but I’m just being honest. He deserves it. He is the most amazing husband and father and is so giving. It’s been a crazy ride, especially the past 6 months since baby #2 who has not been much of a sleeper. We could use the ‘us’ time to actually hold a decent conversation.

7) What did you want to be as a child?
When I was little I wrote on a scrap of paper my life plan. I was going to get married at 23 and have children at 25 and 27 (all that pretty much happened 10 years later than planned!). I was going to be a teacher then own a ‘playgroup’ as they were called back then. By the time I went to uni, the teacher ambition had been cast aside and I wanted to work in the magazine industry. I spent some happy years instead working at the head office at Fat Face.  Then at 27 (after my travels) I found myself back at uni doing a PGCE and now? I teach!

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8) What is your favourite restaurant?
The restaurant I have probably visited the most due to loving the food, staff and atmosphere is bizarrely in West Village, New York where I lived for a couple of months before my teacher training. It’s called Galanga and it’s a Thai restaurant. I love Thailand, Thai people and Thai food 🙂

9) Apple or Android?
Android, although I’d love an i-phone and a shiny new Mac. It’s all about the £££.

10) Tell me about your best holiday.
This has to be my mid-twenties backpacking experience. I went alone which was really character-building albeit a bit risky at times. I ended up spending 14 months away. I saw practically every bit of Australia where I met, travelled and worked with some amazing people and saw and did such mind blowing things. I also experienced some of New Zealand’s North Island and in Thailand spent time in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and even stayed with a practically non-English speaking family in Chiang Rai. I will always smile at the memories made on that adventure of a lifetime and am so pleased that I had an experience like that before ‘settling down’. And the best bit? I first met my now husband in a hostel on the Great Ocean Road 🙂

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11) What are your hobbies apart from blogging?
Reading (books, blogs, magazines)
Swimming
Walking/hiking
Cycling
Amateur photography
Coffee/wine with friends
Travelling and day trips out
Artsy craftsy bits and bobs
Disclaimer: most of these are sadly on hold whilst I concentrate on keeping the baby and toddler alive and entertained.

Now time to pass it on…
11 questions for my nominees:
1)  What made you start blogging?
2) Which post are you most proud of and why? (Link away!)
3) How did you decide on your blog name?
4) What would your dream job be?
5) TV or a book?
6) What is your fondest memory?
7) Jeans or dresses?
8) Describe your dream home.
9) What is your favourite sweet treat?
10) What is the most adventurous thing you’ve done?
11) Best family holiday?

I nominate the people behind the following 11 new (or new-ish) blogs:
Thirsty Daddy
Ellies Mummy Tummy
Dirty Nappy
Fake Tan to Mummy
Mummy’s Little Helper Blog
Nicola Says
Live Now Blog Later
Days in Bed
Wendy’s Naptime Natter
Happy Motherhood
It’s Mostly Okay

I look forward to finding out more about you all 🙂

“I LIKE the number 10!”

…And other things that rock my boy’s world

How I wish I could get inside the mind of my toddler sometimes!  Yes, toddlerdom is clearly tough at times but the simple pleasures he finds in everyday life are both fascinating and spirit-raising.  I feel so lucky that he so vociferously shares these pleasures multiple times an hour (in between more negative trains of thought, naturally!).

Time for a list; this time a chart countdown:

Top 10
Things that Rock my Boy’s World

#10:  His sister (“I love youuuu”).
Just creeping into the charts, Pipsqueak has waited 6 looong months to gain a space in her big brother’s affections. It has taken much charming on her part; smiling, cooing, reaching out to him and staring at him endearingly whenever he is within eye-shot.

Finally, he now tells her he loves her, tells us he likes her, shows and teaches her things and has even been known on occasion to hold her hand, stroke her hair or kiss her goodnight. We have yet to convince him to actually cuddle her or hold her for ‘that’ frame-worthy photograph, however.

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#9:  Shapes
With the purchase of Usborne’s ‘Lift-the-Flap Shapes’ book a couple of weeks ago, a new shapes obsession was born. He points out shapes to his keyworker at preschool, and to us around the home and out and about.

When we visited Milestones Museum in Basingstoke, he noted on arrival that the building was a ‘semi-circle’. That’s my boy! (This is a lesson starter that I have used when teaching 7 year-olds!)

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Much to our amusement, at the start of our recent potty training mission, he would do a little wee, stand up and declare “That one’s an oval, Mummy.”  Whatever floats your boat, E!

#8:  The Zoo
The Boy likes animals. I like that he likes animals. Maybe one day he could become a vet and earn bucket-loads of money whilst saving the lives of our furry friends.

We are lucky enough to live just 20 minutes away from a really decent zoo, so of course we have taken advantage of this and have bought an annual pass for three years running.  Many a memorable morning/afternoon/day has been spent at the zoo and I’ve loved witnessing how The Boy’s engagement with the animals has grown: From signing ‘duck’ and ‘tiger’ whilst flapping his arms or banging on the glass at 10 months to really observant and detailed descriptions now at 32 months.

The Boy’s favourite animal at the zoo is the giraffe (the same as Mummy’s) and he can tell you lots of facts about them, including that they live in Africa and have black tongues.

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But, just to be a bit different, his second favourite is the mongoose.  I wasn’t even sure what a mongoose was until recently!

#7:  Marks and Spencers (“Can we go to M&S? Peease?”)
Please don’t judge! Honestly, in general conversation with The Boy, you would be forgiven for summising that we have spent his entire upbringing to date dragging him around the shops. This is so far from the truth it is laughable.

However, we do happen to have a rather large retail park style M&S practically on our doorstep and we *might* have made it sound like the most exciting place on the planet, just so that (once or twice a month) we can go and have a coffee in the café there.

The tractor-shaped pasta and the escalators have become particular highlights of this ‘trip’ since the buggy has been ditched (before that it was the lift; before that sitting in a highchair and charming all the elderly ladies with his cutsie smile and baby babble).  Mr Don’t Say maintains that The Boy’s love for this retail chain began as young as a week old, when we went emergency shopping for larger feeding bras and he ‘posed for the camera’ in the lingerie section.

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#6:   The number 10. (“There’s TEN! I LIKE the number ten.”)
The Boy has been obsessed with numbers for a long time, too. This may or may not have had something to do with the rather large IKEA print that featured in his nursery (Mr Don’t Say often pointed the numbers out to him upon fetching him from a nap). I guess as a teacher I have encouraged this interest and we do count things often when out and about or when reading. But I do wonder what’s so special about ten.

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#5:  Singing & dancing
The Boy’s penchant for singing has been discussed in a previous post; he still declares daily how much he enjoys it. This has been clear to us from a young age: his first ‘sentences’ were heard down the monitor one evening as he finally added the words to his nightly hummed rendition of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.  I am fascinated to know how long this love will last and where this passion might lead him; he is pretty much note perfect nowadays. The school choir? Lead singer in a band? The sky’s the limit.

The Boy’s love of dancing really became clear during a recent trip to a bouncy castle soft play area. This was somewhere we hadn’t been before, but we will definitely be visiting again.  We went with The Boy’s best buddy who, upon entering the room, immediately began scrambling over and jumping off the soft play pieces, running around and generally making the most of the equipment provided. Meanwhile, The Boy stood in the middle of the mats absolutely entranced, swaying his body and staring into the distance.

When quizzed, it became clear that he was trying to work out if he recognised the children’s song currently blasting out of the speakers.  “I LIKE this one!” he declared excitedly as ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ came on, and he immediately broke into all the actions!

Honestly, the amount of time spent on the equipment probably totalled 10 mins (and took some persuasion); the rest of the 90 minute session was spent dancing (often intentionally to the ‘audience’ of other parents: “Look at ME!”) and pointing out the numbers on the gymnastics posters on the gym wall!

#4:  Stories (“Can I have just ONE MORE story? Peease?”)
The Boy is a book junkie.  He is absolutely hooked and extra stories are the ultimate bribe treat here.  This is one boy whose eyes light up at birthdays and Christmases when he gets to open a ‘book shaped’ gift.  Stories have never been reserved just for bedtime in this house, and I hope they never will be.  They are constantly reached for, by The Boy himself, by us, and by his Grandma.  I’m glad: we all get so much pleasure from reading with him.  The staff at preschool did get a bit of a shock though when they asked what his favourite story was: “Anything by Julia Donaldson” was his confident reply!

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#3:   Miro (our cat)
Any toddler who has grown up with a cat, dog or any other pet who is treated as part of the family is going to become very attached.  Miro and The Boy have been hanging out together since he was about 4 months old. Luckily Miro is far more tolerant of The Boy than he is of us and puts up with a lot of rather rough cuddling, stroking and even tail pulling. This is probably mainly due to the fact that The Boy is the only one to really give him any attention during the day, as I can generally be found running around like a mad thing keeping the two little humans of the family alive and out of trouble!

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#2:  Brand and sign spotting (“Look it’s from IKEA shop, Mummy!”)
With a father who is a graphic designer and a mother hung up on displays as a teacher (and, if I’m really honest a bit of a sucker for certain clothing/toiletry brands), perhaps this interest was inevitable. But this interest is actually bordering on obsession! The Boy literally stops in his tracks wherever he is and whatever he is doing or saying if he spots a logo or label that he is familiar with.

When he was just starting to talk, the main interest was in cars. Whenever he saw a VW, he’d point and say “Daddy car!”; for Fords it was “Mummy car!” Navigating car parks became very tricky and time-consuming, especially as he had to go up to a stationary vehicle and actually point to the badge, then circumnavigate it searching for further logos, for example on the wheels or number plates!

Next came a preoccupation with shops. He recognised (‘could read’!) the wording and logos for Marks and Spencers (obviously), Co-op (“Co-op shop, Daddy!”), Sainsburys and TU clothing, IKEA and Next. He still points these out on packaged food items, carrier bags, clothing labels, branded lorries and advertising boards.

Right now, he is also really interested in signs. Yes, any signs. The boy has always been a rather laid back sort (read ‘slow and considered in all he does’) but this makes walks about town infuriatingly slow! In order to ask his favourite question, “What does THAT sign say, Mummy?”, he has to stop, point, make sure that I am giving both the sign and him my full attention, get an answer and often get a detailed explanation! It is exhausting, but he is insatiable.

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Believe me, when we are out and about, we constantly get amused/incredulous/pitying looks from strangers. I do love our quirky little man.

#1:  The garden.
This only just pips brands and signs at the post in the battle for first place in The Boy’s top ten. And only because of the many facets of opportunity for pleasure that it presents. Amongst recent declarations are:

“I LOVE stones!” Well, don’t we all?! Playing with stones was a favourite activity last summer: moving them, throwing them, sliding them down the plastic slide and his favourite – lining them up along windowsills. This year they have become “Treasure!”

“Look at me, I’m running!”
Running, bouncing on the trampoline, throwing the football around; we are all for encouraging these activities since physical accomplishments don’t exactly come naturally to The Boy.

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“I am GOOD at watering!” Which is quite helpful now he’s strong enough to hold his can and use it without soaking himself in the process. #slavelabour.

“Peease can I do some SWEEPING?” Top marks to Daddy who transferred The Boy’s love of the dustpan and brush at toddler group into another pretty helpful job – sweeping leaves from the patio.

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…And then there’s bubbles, the sandpit, the tent, the easel, picking daisies, mud pies, picnics: the list is never-ending and saved our sanity during our recent incubation period necessitated by a double-wammy of chicken pox.

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I am so pleased that my boy is an outdoorsy type, just like his Mummy 🙂

I adore witnessing The Boy constantly evolving in the way he engages with the world. I wonder what Pipsqueak will grow up to love?

I would love to hear what turns your little people on so please do comment 🙂

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The Twinkle Diaries

50 Things that make me Happy

Thank you Mrs R at My Life After Logan for the nomination for this.

I did promise myself when I started my blog that I’d keep it ‘pure’ and simple, with EVERY post being related to something my son has said.  It didn’t take me long to get sucked in, did it?  But maybe it is about time I wrote a bit about myself for a change.

Happiness makes the world go round and I have really enjoyed reading about what makes other bloggers smile.  So here is my list:

happyMy Happiness List

1.  My amazing hubby.  He rocks my world, and is my rock.  I’d be in a constant tizz if it wasn’t for his calming influence and constant love and support.

2.  My gorgeous kiddiwinks.  Especially my boy’s constant chatter (the inspiration for my blog) and my baby girl’s peachy lips, smile and cute coos.

3.  My cat.  Poor Miro – he has been rather relegated to the bottom of the pile of late in our hectic family life, but I love him so much.  He is so handsome and affectionate.
IMG_20130521_1150154.  Family in general.  You can’t choose them, but I am very fortunate in this department and love my family dearly.  The relationship my Mum has with The Boy melts my heart (she looks after him two days a week) and my little nephews Oscar and Rowan are a delight.  I am also lucky enough to have acquired in-laws who I love spending time with.

5.  Family days out.  Particularly if a) It doesn’t rain; b) The Boy behaves and enjoys himself and c) Pipsqueak naps and eats something.

6.  Spending time with good friends.  I am blessed to have many good friends in my life, old and new. As family life ‘takes over’, I know that they are always there for me.  When we do spend time together it is precious.

7.  Me time.  By this, I mean the new luxury (time out from the children), but also just being alone.  I quite enjoy my own company and have never, ever experienced boredom when on my own.

8.  My morning cuppa.  Put it this way, I am not happy without it!

9.  Baby yoga.  The highlight of my week during this maternity leave has to be the Bibble & Bubble baby yoga class that I attend with my now 6 month-old.  Life with a baby and toddler is so busy, but this is an hour where I can completely relax and focus on my baby.

10.  Seeing children learn and discover.  This is the reason why I became a teacher.  And now I am relishing seeing my own children develop and learn.  Bliss.

11.  The Great Outdoors.  It is just such a spirit-lifter and Mother Nature never ceases to amaze and inspire me. It saddens me so much to know that we are slowly destroying our beautiful planet.

12. Fresh air. As above. Preferably administered in big, restorative gulps.

13.  Spring and Autumn.  When it is sunny but crisp/fresh (i.e. no sweaty upper lip but all the feel-good vibes).

14.  Tulips and daffodils.  So colourful.

15.  Birdsong.  But not birds per se.  In fact, I am terrified of pigeons and seagulls.

16.  The seaside. (Seagulls aside).  I love the sound of the sea, collecting shells, building sandcastles and, of course, ice cream.

17.  A good stomp up a mountain. My favourite thing to do pre-sprogs was to head out, often alone, find a hill and hike up it.  I still do it when I can. It makes me feel so alive:  muscles and lungs burning, the sense of achievement and the ultimate reward of the view from the ‘top of the world’.

18.  An exploratory cycle. I’ve loved cycling since I could pedal.  I have such fond memories of being out and about with my brother and school friends, exploring the roads and tracks around where we grew up.  I haven’t done much cycling since The Boy arrived.  We have got him a seat, but then I fell pregnant again.  I’m really looking forward to the summer when we’ll get Pipsqueak on the back of mine and head out as a family.

19.  Swimming.  This, for me, is the ultimate way to keep fit.  I love a bit of front crawl and can get a bit competitive in the lanes if the truth be told!

20.  Colour and pattern. As my current blog theme suggests, I love a bit of brightness in my life!

21.  Orla Kiely.  Her use of colour and pattern is right up my street.

STACKED CUPS - WELLIE'S [Converted]22.  Creative interiors.  My mood is really affected by my surroundings and I love to be in a creative space.  I am really enjoying the current trend of up-cycling and wish I could find the time to indulge!

23. Textiles.  Cushions.  I do love a cushion.  Especially with a bit of appliqué or an interesting pattern.  Ooh and buttons.

24.  Notebooks & journals.  I have quite a collection.  I have a whole series documenting my travels when I was in my mid twenties.  They are in the loft at the moment but I look forward to reading them back.  I have several filled with notes about my babies.  And still more where I note ‘ideas’ – for the books I will one day write, the small businesses I have thought about starting up, craft ideas.  Maybe, just maybe one day I’ll have the time to work on some of these!

25.  Talented friends.  I have several friends who are super-talented and I am a big fan and supporter of each of them.  Special mentions go to:
– My colleague Jon Senior of 60ft Chicken (@60ftchicken), a band of self-taught musicians and singers who played at our wedding and had every single guest on their feet dancing;
– My colleague Hannah Ross of Little Black Dress (@LBD_Southampton), one half of an uber talented singing duo who are a must-see if you are based on the South Coast.
– My little cousin Daisy Farris, who has set up her own dance collective and has impressed me with her passion and hard work.
– My old school friend Leigh Hodgkinson (@hoonbutton and @TheWonkybutton) who is a successful children’s book author and illustrator, maker of lovely things and all-round very clever creative who must never sleep.
–  Another school friend Lisa Good AKA Chocamama, who makes delicious homemade chocolates from her kitchen.
Whoops – a long entry, but they deserve it!

26.  Chocolate.  In particular, Minstrels.  My son now points to these and calls out ‘Mummy chocolate’ whenever he sees them in a shop!

27.  My man’s cooking.  Especially his lasagne.

28.  Prosecco.  There’s something so decadent about a glass of fizz.

29.  Strawberries.  They make fruit worth eating.  Also good with chocolate/prosecco.

30.  Coffee shops and wine bars.  For the coffee and wine they sell, and for the atmosphere.  I spent a lot of time in my twenties visiting friends in London.  My ‘young, free and single’ days!  Whenever I visit a trendy coffee shop or wine bar it reminds me of these happy times.

31.  People-watching.  I’m nosey.  I just can’t help it.  I just hope I’m more subtle when doing it than my mother is!

32.  Cornwall.  I am so glad our parents took us holidaying in this county when we were young.  The coastline is stunning with its rugged rocks, sandy coves and rock pools.

33.  Thailand.  This is such a special place to me.  I’ve been several times: with friends; on my own when travelling; to meet my now husband (and decide that our future was together!) when he was living in New Zealand; and twice since then with him.  The Thais are so friendly, the scenery breathtaking, the food and accommodation so cheap and the massage out of this world.

ko lanta 1

34.  Camping.  I guess this links back to my love of the outdoors.  I have now successfully persuaded Mr Don’t Say that this is a viable holidaying option, although only since we have kitted ourselves up with a super-sized tent, chairs and camp kitchen!  I’m really looking forward to lots of camping adventures with my little family.

35.  The smell of freshly cut grass.  Lush.

36.  Blue skies and cloud watching.  The ultimate way to relax.

37.  Trees.  They are so beautiful.  I always think about how old big trees are and what they must have ‘seen’ in their lifetime.

38.  A long bath.  Preferably listening to music or reading a book.  Or (my new discovery) listening to an audio book – this way the pages don’t get soggy!

39.  Candlelight.  So romantic and cosy.  Back to basics.

40.  Clean bed linen.  And the smell of freshly washed clothes generally.

41.  Origins ginger body lotion.  In fact the whole Origins range.  And Sanctuary.  That fragrance transports me straight back to South Africa where I was when I first used Sanctuary shower gel.

42.  Music.  I used to spend a fortune on CDs and listened to music all the time when I lived alone.  Somehow, this habit has got dropped in the busyness of family life.  Note to self: play more music!

43.  A good book.  Getting lost in another world – I love that this can happen through simply reading words.

44.  Hugs. ‘Hugs and snuggles’ as The Boy calls them.

45.  Memories (good ones) and dreams.  Definite smile-worthy material.

46.  Photographs.  Photographs are so important to me, especially as I have such a terrible long-term memory.  I love capturing special moments or beautiful things and being able to look at them again and re-live them whenever I please.

47.  Celebrations.  Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, Christmas.  All excuses to party.  All make me happy.

48.  New clothes.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love clothes.  I am a White Stuff addict! This is an addiction I have had to seriously curb since having children due to a lack of funds.

49.  A new haircut/colour. Incidentally, my hair is not red in real life: I applied a pop art filter to my blog photo.

50.  New adventures.  Travelling, living, working.  I am not one for standing still for too long and I embrace new challenges and experiences.  Blogging is my latest adventure, and so far I’m loving it.

Wow.  This is my longest blog post to date.  And I dare to call my toddler egocentric!

I now nominate:

Emma at Tropical Tot
Aimee at Mum Amie
Dad Without A Map

You Baby Me Mummy

Thank you Aby at You Baby Me Mummy for the lovely mention in this week’s #TheList.
Why not pop on over and have a nosey at some of the other amazing blog posts there?

“Let’s talk about ME.”

My boy LOVES to talk.  He may not be able to jump yet, is overly cautious on climbing equipment and is reluctant to try out his balance bike. But he’d be a champ at a 12 hour toddler chat-a-thon.  I don’t know WHERE he gets it from.

In the afternoons when I go in to get him up from his nap, as long as he is already awake, he often likes to instigate a conversation (otherwise, of course, he is a right grump).

One much-rehearsed conversation point is a(nother) recount of his day so far:  “This morning we…”.  This is a prompt for me to talk about the highlights of the morning; a story peppered with plenty of questions for him to answer – posed by me and by him. He positively digs a question and answer session: he’s going to be a right teacher’s pet when he gets to school.

I like this one as it makes me realise how much learning is going on in his little head-nod.  It also allows me an imaginary pat on the back that he is enjoying lots of memorable experiences at such a young age.  It’s often a great opportunity to praise him again for good behaviour, talk to him about bad behaviour and consequences and also of course to help him to make sense of the world.  Once a teacher, always a teacher!

Yesterday he surprised me with “Let’s talk about Daddy.  I like Daddy,” which I found endearing (but what about Mummy?!).  In response to my question “What does Daddy like?” he replied, “Going to Marks and Spencer shop and going up and down on the moving stairs!” which is, of course, one of the things HE likes doing on a rainy day with Daddy.  (Daddy just so happens to rate the M&S flat white.)

But my all-time favourite has to be the totally innocent and self-indulgent “Let’s talk about ME!” (said with the world’s biggest grin).  He loves to be reminded about how gorgeous and handsome he is; he is his father’s child through and through. We talk about his likes (currently preschool, sharks, dinosaurs, the zoo, singing, numbers, letters, shapes, digging, our cat, hugs, Julia Donaldson books and Tinga Tinga Tales on CBeebies) and dislikes (the duvet cover being on his bed, doing anything under time pressure, his sister crying and getting dressed). We talk about family and who loves him and he recites his home address. We talk about how brave and confident he has been starting preschool and how clever he is that he knows all his shapes and can count so well. And he smiles and smiles and smiles.

And so do I.

Blog post 6Yes, toddler egocentrism can be downright frustrating at times, but I can’t help but love this side of it. Long may his self-belief and confidence last before self-consciousness and social conventions squash such natural, unrestrained self-adoration.

Mummascribbles

“It is NOT breakfast time. It is lunch time.”

Swearing Black is Blue

In my last blog post ‘Planting a Seed’, I talked about the importance (for toddlers) of feeling in control. This desire is guaranteed to lead to regular altercations, frustration all round, tantrums (mostly from the little person) and sometimes, just sometimes, amusement (definitely only from the parent’s point of view).

Alongside ‘planting a seed’, a favourite strategy of mine is ‘reverse psychology’.  This ignites The Boy’s natural desire to object and want to do the exact opposite to what is being asked of him.  For example, the old trick of “So you’re not hungry; can I eat some?” when mealtimes are particularly slow, or “I don’t think we should go to playgroup today,” to spur him into getting his shoes and coat on.  I always allow myself an inward snigger when this works.

Our boy’s need for complete control has really stepped up a level now though: he is actually redefining reality! And it can pretty entertaining (when it is not completely tiresome of course).

His latest habit is making statements which he knows are untrue but that, importantly, are the exact antithesis to what we have just said. I’m not sure if this in itself is a toddler ‘thing’?  None of my real-life mummy friends seem to be experiencing it. Here, it is invading every aspect of life!

Let me provide some further examples (my personal top 10):

1.   Upon opening the curtains:
“Oh no! It’s raining!”
“It is NOT raining. It is a sunny day.”

2.   At preschool:
“The doors aren’t open yet – we’re early.”
“The doors ARE open. Everyone is inside. I want to go in NOW.”
(Everyone is actually standing outside within earshot).

3.  Reading a story:
“Can you find the toadstools?”
(Pointing to the toadstools) “Those are NOT toadstools! They are helicopters.”

4.  At lunch time:
“It’s pasta – your favourite!”
“It is NOT pasta. It is BEANS!”

Blog post 5a

5. Going up the stairs at nap time:
“Hurry up because your sister is getting overtired.”
“She is NOT tired. She is dancing.” (She is 6 months old and definitely not in a dancing mood.)

6. On the motorway:
“There’s the sign for Junction 9.” (As previously mentioned, The Boy is a number spotter.)
“It is not 9. It is ten. Ten! TEN!”

7.  Playing in his sandpit:
“Wow, that’s a big hole – have you hit the blue water [plastic] at the bottom?”
“It is not blue, it is ORANGE!”

Blog post 5b

8.  At 7pm:
“Daddy’s home!”
“Daddy is NOT home. Daddy is at work.”  (Actually Daddy is standing right in front of him, looking rather dejected.)

9.  As darkness descends:
“It’s morning time! I LIKE mornings.”

10.  At bedtime:
“Mummy loves you.”
“Mummy does NOT love me. You are NOT my mummy.”

You have to laugh…don’t you?

 

You Baby Me Mummy
Friday Frolics