“What does THAT say, Mummy?”

Wondering about The Boy’s future… 

My nephew turned 4 today.  He went into school for a taster morning this morning, then back in again for the school disco after tea.  This hardly seems possible: four years have passed by in a flash.  Surely he should still be crawling around, babbling and wearing nappies?!

My sister-in-law posted a picture of him in front of his birthday cards first thing and said how proud she was feeling.  And so she should be: he is a lovely, self-confident, caring little boy with a cheeky personality. I have no doubt that he will be well-loved by all who meet him in his next stage in life.

Happy Birthday O!
Happy Birthday O!

O’s birthday also signifies that in little over a month’s time, our ‘big boy’ will be turning 3.  Whilst it does in many ways feel like I’ve been a mum for three years, every day I still find it hard to believe that this walking, talking human being with his ever-evolving personality is the same little scrunched up newborn bundle that we made not so long back.  It sometimes feels as though before I catch my breath, The Boy will be 18 years old and a fully-fledged adult in his own right!

Age 3 days
Age 3 days

I have a very vivid memory of a bit of a tumble-weed moment with my sister-in-law when O was just a few days old.  We had been out for a walk and were having a leisurely lunch in a country pub.  Little O was sound asleep on my brother’s chest in a stretchy sling and I found myself feeling all soppy and sentimental.  I was incredulous that my own younger brother had created a little human being.  And out loud I asked whether they thought about what he would grow up to be like, and what job he might have as an adult.

“No!” was the immediate, almost outraged, response from my sister-in-law, as though I was crazy even bringing this up just days after she’d given birth.  Maybe it was a strange thought.  Maybe I’m a bit of an oddball for thinking it; maybe it comes from being a primary school teacher and having seen hundreds of pupils grow and develop from innocent little children to such a diverse range of pre-teens with their own unique personalities and interests; but I had the same thoughts almost immediately after giving birth to both my babies.

The nature/nurture debate has always interested me but I am certain that as parents and primary carers, our influence on our own children is extremely strong.  And I do feel the responsibility of this. 

My main aim is for my children to be happy and self-confident and I hope to be able to recognise and nurture any particular interests that they may have in order to achieve this.  I find it intriguing observing the little people in my life and seeing how unique they all are.  Little O is such a dare-devil physically.  He was flinging himself down enormous slides at soft play practically before he could crawl; he and his brother have been regulars at climbing walls since they could each walk; and at a beach, you will find O half way up a scree cliff before you can blink.  He has been riding a balance bike since his second birthday and a pedal bike without stabilizers from 3.5.   The past two weekends he has cycled 10 mile rides amongst the peaks alongside my brother.  And yes, my brother has a determined (read competitive!) personality when it comes to sports, pushing himself to crazy limits climbing all around the world before he had children, and nowadays regularly competing on his road bike.  As parents, my brother and sister-in-law definitely have ‘can do’ expectations when it comes to their children’s physical abilities.  I wonder whether, like my brother and O’s maternal grandfather, this aspect to his personality will simply develop into passionate sporty past-times, or whether they will influence his career choice too?

O and his little bro on a cycling break
O and his little bro on a cycling break
O indulging in a spot of bouldering
O indulging in a spot of bouldering

Whilst O is completely disinterested in learning his letter sounds and numbers (and I would be the first to defend him in this – why at four years old should these things be of interest really?), our boy is insatiable in these areas.  I know that this is not through me being a pushy parent, or because of my job.  It is because he is interested and wants to know. From a tiny baby, he has loved books.  As a two year-old, stories still rock his world.  He listens to at least six a day; on average probably nearer eight.  We wouldn’t ever consider going away on holiday without a big bag of them.  Pipsqueak, in contrast, couldn’t give two hoots about books, still preferring to either bash them or eat them at 9 months, much to The Boy’s distress.  But will The Boy still be a bookworm in his twenties?  Might he one day be inspired to become an author himself?

Baby bookworm!
Baby bookworm!
The Boy with one of his favourite characters
The Boy with one of his favourite characters
On the Superworm trail
On the Superworm trail

When we first introduced The Boy to the iPad at about 2.5, ‘Alphablocks’ was the CBeebies game he always chose to play.  He loves playing with magnetic letters and trying to sound out words on the ‘fridge.  He is a whizz at his Leapfrog computer game where you have to match initial sounds to animals.  The ‘Usborne Book of Shapes’ is a go-to book and he even points out shapes in everyday life:

“Grandma, why is Wickham Square called a square when really it is a rectangle?”

Chilling out with a bit of Alphablocks
Chilling out with a bit of Alphablocks
While Mummy cooks...
While Mummy cooks…

Whilst O is scrambling up slopes at the beach or running into the sea naked, The Boy will be walking alongside the beach huts pointing to and naming the numbers, or pointing at logos and signs and asking what they say.  This is despite our pleas to join us in our sandcastle building or paddling!  As previously mentioned here and here, The Boy loves a logo.  So, is he destined to become a graphic designer like his dad?  He is without a doubt a visual learner, so perhaps something design-oriented.  Or will he enjoy a career working using maths skills?  Perhaps an engineer like both his grandfathers?

Lift me up, Daddy!
Lift me up, Daddy!
"Look, Mummy, a six and a ten!"
“Look, Mummy, a six and a ten!”
"And what does THAT say?"
“And what does THAT say?”

Then again, The Boy is also passionate about animals.  Stuffed animal toys really don’t float his boat, but our cat Miro is his best buddy.  He always notices dogs out and about on walks, smiles at them and wants to pet them.  His favourite day out is to the zoo where he adores the giraffes and (strangely) has befriended the mongoose.  His imaginary friends are two birds called Tweety and Spotty.  Will he have a huge collection of pets as an adult?  Might he become a zookeeper or a vet?

The ZOO!
The ZOO!
Potential zoo keeper?
Potential zoo keeper?
Cat boy!
Cat boy!

If I’m honest, I am a little frustrated about The Boy’s lack of interest in physical pursuits, but put it down at the moment to him simply being a late developer.  He didn’t bum-shuffle until 11 months, started crawling at 15 months(!) and first walked unaided at 18 months to the day.  He has only just started climbing on play equipment without constantly asking for assistance and only recently started coming down slides sitting up instead of on his tummy!  He still can’t properly jump, despite having had a mini trampoline since his second birthday.  He won’t go near his balance bike which he’s had since then too.  He’s just not interested, no matter how much we try to encourage him.  What do the other children at pre-school think of him at during their outdoor play sessions?  How will he cope at school during compulsory PE lessons?  I’m probably over-thinking things: once he masters these skills, he may well be very accomplished in them.  After all, we had pretty much ditched the buggy by his second birthday as he wanted to walk everywhere, no matter what the distance.  He may even be sports mad later in life!

I wonder about how other people subconsciously judge The Boy already.  Although a loud and engaging chatterbox at home, he can sometimes come across as a bit quiet and clingy in certain group situations.  So, while I could see him becoming an actor, presenter or commentator, this might surprise some of my friends.  Amongst his friendship group of little people, I can see a budding comedian, a potential doctor/nurse, a formula one driver and a future politician even!  No doubt I will be proven completely wrong on every count but part of me can’t wait to find out!

Who knows what the future will hold?  I’m really not in a rush to find out, believe me.  I am just enjoying being witness to every new development as and when it happens.  Whilst listing some of The Boy’s strengths in this post, I pondered whether it reads too much as though I am showing off, and I suppose I am guilty of that in a way.  Like my sister-in-law, I am proud of my son – it is only natural.  I am also proud of his loving, caring side, the brave way in which he has approached new challenges such as starting pre-school at just 2.5, and his chatty, completely adorable and entertaining personality (okay so I’m biased!).  He is such good company when he’s on good form.  I’m sure that I will always be proud of him, but that doesn’t stop me indulging in wondering what his path in life will be.

I’m not alone in this, am I?

“I really love YOU, Pipsqueak!”

I’m celebrating: it looks as though The Boy is finally acknowledging his little sister as a possible comrade as opposed to just a nuisance and a competitor. It only took 8 months! And this change in outlook is making my life so much easier.

When I was young (and that there is a loaded phrase as the big 40 looms ever closer!) I had an idyllic picture of my perfect family unit and lifestyle: soul mate husband, two children (older boy, younger girl), all blissfully happy in our seaside home, fulfilled in our stress-free jobs and with no money worries. If this was written as a check list, I’d be doing pretty well ticking them off. The seaside home (with a huge family kitchen where we would spend most of our time) remains a pipe dream. But our jobs are fulfilling (albeit stressful a lot of the time) and with my hubby and children I have hit the jackpot!

The Boy
The Boy, 2012
Pipsqueak, 2014

In my daydreams, brother and sister would get along together really well and growing up would become close, with big brother looking out for little sister as per the stereotype.

The Boy has always had a very caring side to his character. For example, he adores his cat and loves to look after him, stroking him, playing with him and putting his dinner out. He was interested in my bump during my pregnancy and enjoyed reading the books preparing him for the big change. He would proudly tell anyone who showed interest that he was going to be a big brother and that in Mummy’s tummy was his baby sister.

My own mum tells me that when my brother was born when I was 2½, I immediately adored him and wanted to ‘help’ or cuddle him all the time. When this wasn’t possible, I would feed my baby doll milk as mum fed him and so on. So I assumed that, particularly if encouraged to do so, The Boy would act in a similar way, thus proving that gender-based stereotypical behaviour is largely a product of society’s expectations. I also anticipated that he would constantly want to hug and kiss her, just as he does with us.

Neither of these things happened.

I do have adorable footage of The Boy on our doorstep grinning from ear to ear when he was dropped back home by Grandma as soon as we returned from hospital. “My baby sister!” he replied excitedly when I asked who was in the living room. He even bent down to kiss her. I wish now that I’d had my ‘proper’ camera in hand as it was over so fast, and such shows of affection were going to be few and far between in the ensuing months!

The Kiss
The Kiss
Welcome home Pipsqueak!
Welcome home Pipsqueak!

Up until the last few weeks, The Boy’s usual form has been to ignore Pipsqueak most of the time and chatter away non-stop to ensure that our attention remains on him. When attention is on Pipsqueak, he has NOT been happy, making life as a mum of two particularly ‘challenging’. Instead of terms of endearment, phrases most often uttered by The Boy in the first few months included:

“GO AWAY, Pipsqueak!”
This being the stock response whenever I brought her into what he perceived to be his personal space!

“No, no, no! Pipsqueak CAN’T come in my bedloom [bedroom].”
Which was always particularly helpful when trying to read him the obligatory bedtime stories, hubby was caught in traffic and Pipsqueak was screaming for milk (this happened often).

“Pipsqueak can’t sleep on MY bed!”
…As I put her down temporarily in order to give him his ‘stand up hug and light out’ before sleep. (Repeat twice daily as this also occurred at nap time).

“Stop crying Pipsqueak. Stop CRYING Pipsqueak. STOP CRYING PIPSQUEAK AAAARGH!!!”
My sentiments exactly, particularly when her hysterical screaming happened to (often) take place in the confinements of the car; but of course not a particularly helpful demand – certainly not one likely to achieve the desired response from a distraught newborn.

“DON’T do that, Pipsqueak!”
Just as The Boy likes to tell us what we can and can’t do (hence the name of my blog), poor Pipsqueak has been dictated to since she first arrived home. Sometimes all it takes is for her to simply look at him!

“That’s MY toy!”
In more recent months, as Pipsqueak has been reaching for things and actively playing more, this has been an all-too-familiar cry. Bless her, I certainly don’t dare to put any of The Boy’s current toys within her reach; it’s bad enough trying to get him to share during play dates with his best buddies. But we have ‘recycled’ his baby toys which I thought he might have forgotten (since they’ve been up in the loft for at least a year). Of course he hasn’t forgotten them. To be fair though, even Pipsqueak’s new toys are snatched away and claimed as his, especially if it looks like she’s really enjoying playing with them.

Improvements Ahoy
The good news is that now, between continuing declarations such as the above, there are some truly lovely ‘moments’ between them.

“I love YOU, Pipsqueak.”

I am still waiting for the elusive photograph of The Boy actually holding or cuddling Pipsqueak (you know, like the ones most folk seem to post on social media within days of the birth of a new sibling; or like the picture-perfect poses of Prince George and Princess Charlotte released to the press a couple of weeks ago). But he now likes to teach Pipsqueak how to use certain toys; enjoys sharing bath time with her and playing peekaboo over the side after she gets out; likes her eating with us; sings to her when she’s overtired; tries to make her laugh when she gets cross; kisses her goodnight most nights and even (the holy grail) lets her sit on his bed for stories occasionally.

And I now have this lovely collection of sibling photos to look at when times are tough!  They were a long time coming but definitely worth the wait.

“This is how you play dominoes…”
“You just press the button like this, Pipsqueak.”
“Look at the baby owl from inside its Mummy’s tummy!”
“I’ll show you, Pipsqueak.”
Teaching toothbrushing
A bit of bedtime bonding

Long may the good times continue!

“Where are we going TODAY, Mummy?”

This question is one of the first to be spoken by The Boy pretty much every morning upon waking, and after every nap. Today, it got me thinking.

Are we guilty of spoiling him with activities, outings and attention?

We have just spent an entire weekend based in the house and garden. I honestly can’t remember the last time we did that. Oh, wait, yes I can: it was when we were in chicken pox isolation a few weeks back. But believe me, it hardly ever happens.

This time, we didn’t necessarily plan to stay at home; we were just busy trying to Get Things Done. Going away for a couple of weeks can often have that knock-on effect can’t it? The house desperately needed cleaning from top to bottom; our freezer of homemade meals (that’s how we generally roll folks) was severely depleted and Pipsqueak needed some purees making up; our kitchen cupboards were shouting out for a tidy (every time we opened them, tupperware lids and baby bottles would fall to the floor as we are forever shoving things away with too much haste); the garden needed weeding; the last couple of days of rainy weather had meant that the laundry pile had begun to overflow again…you know, The Usual. The Mundane.

So, The Boy has spent two days in the garden (the sun was out – hooray!). We managed to get a fair few jobs ticked off the list. Hubby deserves an award for his sterling effort in the kitchen. We now have batches of chicken, sweet potato and apple casserole (plus purée form for Pipsqueak); pea and courgette soup (plus chunkier purée version); broccoli and courgette gratin purée; tomato, cauliflower and basil purée; bolognese portions and an amazing lasagne with surprise butternut squash layer… Nom nom!

'Helping' with the food preparation.
‘Helping’ with the food preparation.

The house is clean and tidy, bedding changed and kitchen cupboards given a quick tidy. Three more loads of washing have been line dried, folded and aired. The garden is a bit neater.

But boy was it a juggling act!

It didn’t help that poor little Pipsqueak is suffering from her fifty-millionth cold and cough. She has been snotting, wheezing and grizzling away instead of being her usual smiley self. Naps have involved lots of crying and resorting to rocking for at least 30 mins in the dark a la the Olden Days. But she was happy for a fair while in the Jumperoo and then in the ball pool. In fact, The Boy was infinitely more demanding than her.

To give a flavour:

I present him with a ‘new’ (second hand) Scuttlebug.
He spends 5-10 minutes scooting around and loving it but needs our attention constantly: “This is left, Daddy. And then you go along and you turn RIGHT! Look Mummy, LEFT and RIGHT! Look! Am I right?”

"Left and RIGHT!"
“Left and RIGHT!”
Abandoned bug.
Abandoned bug.

I set up the ball pool for Pipsqueak.
The Boy dives in, sticks his tongue out and demands a photo.

Stock photo pose!
Stock photo pose!

Hubby sets to the weeding.
The Boy wants to help. He disappears into the shed and comes out wielding a garden fork with rather sharp ends. Close supervision is required from then on.

The mini trampoline is brought out.
He jumps and sings for all of 30 seconds then lies down and shouts out for Miro to join him: “Miro needs to sleep underneath with me, Mummy. Mummy, WHERE’S Miro Cat? I WANT Miro! Mummy find him? Peease?” (Despite him admitting tiredness at this point and me offering to fetch his blankie, he refuses to really have a snooze – damn!)

Miro returns to our garden.
The Boy is ecstatic and spends 5 minutes stroking him, tickling him and feeding him breakfast (grass). It’s lovely to see and Miro is very tolerant, but again a close eye is required as he will lash out if his tummy is grabbed or his tail pulled a bit too forcefully.

A toddler version of a nerf gun is brought from the shed.
This backfires (literally!) as he needs help loading it each time and insists on firing the small balls into the flowerbeds: “Where did it GO, Daddy? I can’t see it!”

"Where's my big brother gone now?"
“Where’s my big brother gone now?”

Other toys and activity stations such as the sandpit are left untouched.
This is despite much encouragement to engage with them. “I want to do something DIFFERENT Mummy. What can I do that’s DIFFERENT?”

In short, The Boy just isn’t into independent play. Is this a consequence of his upbringing to date?

We have always given him a lot of attention. Partly because it brings us pleasure; partly because we believe this is a good thing for development and self-confidence. He also gets a lot of one-on-one attention from Grandma when she has him. But has this led to an expectation of attention 24-7?

Do we spoil him with experiences? From a tiny baby, he has taken part in a huge range of classes and activities outside the home, as well as trips and outings at least twice a week. He is only 2¾ and has been to:

  • Maracajacks music sessions
  • Baby Sensory
  • Baby signing
  • Swimming lessons
  • Little Kickers football sessions
  • Toddler group
  • Play dates galore
  • Trips to local parks (inc splash pool in the Summer)
  • Soft play centres
  • Multiple trips to numerous local country parks and forests
  • Regular trips to local child- friendly garden centres
  • Rides on miniature steam trains
  • Regular visits to our local zoo, plus 2 other zoos included on the pass
  • Farm visits
  • Aquarium visits
  • Woodland walks
  • Seaside walks
  • Sandy and stony beach play
  • Marina trips (including the local ‘pink ferry’)
  • A trip to London on the train
  • A wedding in Scotland (involving a plane journey)
  • A Dorset camping trip
  • A holiday on the Isle of Wight (ferry trip and lots of cool day trips)
  • A stay at Centre Parcs (including an owl experience, seeing wildlife up close, swimming etc)
  • Our recent road trip (Scotland, Wales).

Just writing this list has exhausted me, and it’s not even an exhaustive list!

Undeniably, these experiences have helped with his learning and development, especially as they are always talked about and analysed afterwards. I also feel that another positive is that he is not afraid of new experiences. For example, starting preschool one morning a week at the age of 2½ was taken in his stride, and during his recent holiday he wasn’t phased by moving on regularly and sleeping in 5 different beds in the space of 2 weeks.

Life is one big adventure!

And don’t get me wrong, he finds a trip to the doctors and chemists just as ‘thrilling’ as many of the items on the list. As long as he has our attention 100% of the time. (Apologies to the doctor today who was constantly interrupted during our supposed 5 minute appointment: The Boy was on a high from playing with the Brio in the waiting room with full attention from myself and another elderly patient).

It is probably one of those nature-nurture questions which could be debated until the cows come home. Or perhaps we should ‘blame’ astrology – he is a Leo after all, just like his mumma!

“THERE’S a Costa Coffee!”

Our 1400 mile road trip with the littlies

We have just returned from a fortnight away. Call us crazy, but we thought it would be a good idea to travel (with The Boy and his 7 month-old sister) from the South Coast up to Scotland to see hubby’s folks for his birthday.

Plane and train journeys, though infinitely more appealing than a car journey in many ways, were discounted due to the sheer amount of stuff we felt we needed to take with us (baby paraphernalia and an abundance of clothes mainly, what with the unpredictable British climate and our track record for instigating unsettled weather fronts whenever we choose to holiday).

So, a ‘road trip’ it was. It sure wasn’t going to be akin to our Australian adventures 12 years previously, but we were willing to give it a whirl.

Welcome to Scotland!
Welcome to Scotland!

A couple of weeks previously, we had finally upgraded our family car from a small but efficient Ford Fiesta to the obligatory MPV in the form of a Citroen C4 Picasso. The extra boot (and behind the front seat) space was a necessity now that the back seat next to The Boy was occupied by a Pipsqueak-shaped cargo.

Rammed it still was, however: Lord knows how we will ever fit in our super sized tent, two-ring camp kitchen and all the other ‘essentials’ required for the future camping trips that I romanticise about!

I imagine that most parents of toddlers (or toddler/baby combos) would experience a certain amount of dread trepidation at the thought of such a long period of confinement journey.  

I admit that perhaps a couple of episodes of night-time insomnia in the weeks leading up to our trip may have been attributable to nightmarish premonitions about what the trip might behold for us. But on the day we left I felt strangely gung-ho about the whole affair.

We had sensibly decided to minimise ‘risk’ by breaking up the journey into more manageable chunks, stopping for a Monday to Friday Centre Parcs break on the way up and a stay with friends on the way back. It was going to be just fine.

I had recently read a couple of blog posts about travelling with littlies. They recommended packing snacks galore, carefully planning service station stops timed around usual naps and eating routines and investing in seat-back DVD players.

None of these survival strategies were executed here I’m afraid. For a start, we are (frustrated) owners of possibly the only toddler in the world who has not napped in the car during the daytime since he was approximately 6 months old. But he still typically snoozes for a couple of hours in his bed after lunch when we’re at home. He also never says that he is hungry so snacks are not a primary distraction. Furthermore, with Pipsqueak’s sleep all over the place, her daytime feeding aversion and being only recently weaned, predictable routines are non-existent.

On a wing and a prayer, with our boxette of Julia Donaldson story CDs, a CBeebies magazine and a handful of music CDs selected to help us reminisce about our carefree days of freedom, we were off. The breadsticks were mistakenly left in the boot with the bag of essential foodie provisions (ie. proper coffee and tea bags plus a colourful array of Ella’s Kitchen purée pouches).  As advised by the ‘experts’, the recently potty trained boy wore pants not pull-ups.

An hour later, the traffic has been sluggish, we’re half the distance from home that we expected to be, the boy is white as a sheet and sobbing that he doesn’t “feel vewy well, Mummy,”  and Pipsqueak is loudly complaining (screaming) about being restrained in a backward-facing car seat. We pull up at a petrol station praying for car sickness medication to find a boy with a very wet trouser area and sopping car seat cover (despite the well-placed waterproof sheeting).

Happy holidays!

Things could only get better. And luckily they did. Pipsqueak relaxed and realised that naps were indeed possible in broad daylight, the boy felt better after some homoeopathic sickness remedies and a change of clothes and the ‘fun’ started.

The Boy is renowned as being a huge chatterbox. This is the premise on which my blog is based. Granted, journeys always pass more quickly when there is some good banter, and he was pleased to oblige with the conversation starters and entertainment.

However, we did encounter a bit of a technical issue which we didn’t really foresee. Namely, the inability to hear The Boy easily from his seat in the back. This meant that his chatter was punctuated regularly with us asking him to repeat himself more loudly; him repeating himself over and over as we craned and concentrated with all our might to fathom what he might be asking/saying and me (as passenger due to ongoing sleep deprivation) ending up with a cricked neck and strained side as I regularly manoeuvred in the front seat to lip read.

Still, The Boy had a ball.

He counted lorries. He spotted his favourite logos on said lorries (on the return journey, Kimberly Clark of all brand names could be added to his ‘wow’ list: a legacy of all his public toilet trips whilst out and about). He named transport types (including car transporters, coaches and caravans) and pointed out VWs, Fords and Citroens. He even enjoyed the miles of slow-moving roadworks (where he learnt to distinguish JCB and CAT diggers, rollers and bulldozers).  He was in heaven when, on a services advertisement board he spotted M&S, Costa, Starbucks or McDonalds logos; if he spied the buildings themselves it was as though he awarded himself extra bonus points: his grin said it all.

"MY turn to drive!"
“MY turn to drive!”

We were kept entertained with his unique two year-old perception of the world: “Look! Sliding doors!” (he’d noticed how the sun visors on the C4 can be moved far back to reveal a sort of semi-sunroof). He had us in stitches with his application of ‘new’ vocabulary: “Have we arrived yet, Daddy?” and melted our heart when he spent a good twenty minutes at one point trying to make Pipsqueak laugh when she started grumbling, finishing with “I love you.”

Between chatterbox moments, The Boy could be found reading his magazine in such a grown-up way (holding it like a commuter might on a train journey) or listening avidly to our music and asking about the track name and artist. (“Jack Johnson is a little bit similar to Bob Marley, Daddy.”) It is sometimes really hard to believe that he is only two years old!

All in all, would we contemplate such a journey again? Yes definitely. On the way home, totally exhausted from all the excitement and exertion and an almost complete absence of naps throughout our trip, The Boy even slept in the car for over an hour.

I could get used to this!
I could get used to this!

Next time, though, I quite fancy the South of France for its weather!

“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.



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.



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.


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”.






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


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.


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!


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 🙂

12 apostles

11) What are your hobbies apart from blogging?
Reading (books, blogs, magazines)
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 🙂