Hello you.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

I've been away for a while. To be fair, life's been pretty busy ...


A couple of weeks ago, after a stop start labour that started on a Thursday evening and ended, finally, the following Monday afternoon, our beautiful son arrived.

Now after a manic couple of weeks that passed by in a blur of cards and presents and flowers and Christmas and visitors and appointments, he is laying on me, feeding, occasionally opening his eyes to peep at me whilst I type one handed.

Parenthood is different second time round. On the one hand it's relentless and tiring and daytime naps are no longer a thing. On the other hand we are more relaxed and more confident in our decisions and the way we are dealing with everything.

I am going with the flow and riding on the feeling of euphoria that is still hanging around after his birth, because I know this time that it goes by impossibly quickly, and that as eternal and difficult as the sleepless nights feel at the time, they won't last long, either. I am happily soaking in him - his little tiny elbows (who knew elbows could be cute?), his noises, his smell. I am storing away precious first memories of my daughter becoming a sibling. I'm not thinking about things very much. Just going with whatever happens.

It's nice. And unexpected.

I took a long time to get over the birth of Jellybean, physically. I'm feeling much better this time round. I think it's half because I've done it before, and half because the midwives were so brilliant, and empowered me to have a very calm, in-control kind of labour, the kind of labour that I'd hoped for but kind of didn't dare to hope for at the same time. It meant that I felt powerful instead of helpless and calm instead of afraid. I keep re-remembering it, trying to cement the weird awesomeness of it into my brain.

When he arrived I felt nothing but pride and wonder and awe. (And, you know, like I'd fallen down a flight of stairs and bruised every bone in my body on the way down, but still).


When he arrived I just looked at him - over a pound bigger than Jellybean was, and weirdly clean thanks to his dip in the pool - and enjoyed the weight of him on me.

I said 'I love you' over and over again.

I said 'I'm your Mummy.'

I said 'Happy birthday!'

I said 'So it was you in there this whole time.'

It was him the whole time - him in the beginning making me throw up, him in the middle fluttering in my belly, him at the end hiccuping while Chris and I paced the silent hospital corridors in the night, trying to make labour start again during one of the longest nights of our lives.

He is one hundred million percent worth it.

Now I'm going to try not to nod off whilst eating stew one handed. 

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas! 

What happens when you hand a three year old a camera

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Yep, that's right. Still no baby.

I'm in limbo land: every day I make tentative plans not knowing if they're going to happen or not. The end of pregnancy is unique in that you actively anticipate pain and get quite excited when it arrives. And then feel disappointed when it goes away again. You also spend a lot of time telling people a date that might not actually mean anything.

But the good news is that every day I get to spend lots of lovely time with my daughter, and building up a few treasured memories of our last few days with just the two of us. Mostly we potter around the house playing. We also go for very long, slow walks in the hope that gravity encourages the baby to start getting a move on.


Slow, muddy, misty walks.

A while back I dug out my very old digital camera for Jellybean to use. She became a photography obsessive. Now, if I need to drag her out of the house for baby-moving reasons, I call chirpily 'let's take your camera!' to try and persuade her out into the cold.

I often wonder what goes through Jellybean's head (especially given some of the things she comes out with). Now I can see what the world looks like from her perspective, which is quite fun. It looks a bit like this:













Girl's got skills!

That's it really. If you need us we'll be here. Quietly waiting. Enjoying each other's company. Reading stories in blanket forts and bouncing on gym balls and scrubbing the kitchen floor (alright, the last two are just me). And wondering what Christmas will look like in our house this year ...

Mummascribbles

Advent starts here - Christmas traditions await!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

It's advent time!

I love the run-up to Christmas. The long, grey, drizzly December days seem so much more bearable when you know something exciting is coming up. Plus the decorations come out, so no matter how dusty or dirty your house is, you can just switch off the main light and enjoy the gentle glow of fairy lights. Ahhh.

Traditionally we light a candle every dinner time throughout December - the idea is that we say a slightly longer/more thought out 'grace' prayer than usual, although with a hangry toddler this sometimes doesn't go to plan. Also at some point in December we try to:

  • Go on an evening walk to look at Christmas lights
  • Make paper chains
  • Make gingerbread men
  • Make Christmas cards

And there is the obligatory viewing of Home Alone/Love Actually/Miracle on 34th Street/National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation/A Christmas Story whilst wrapping presents in the evenings ...

It's actually pretty important to establish family traditions, whatever they might look like. They are an important, identity-forming part of childhood. I mean, I remember our childhood Christmas traditions as clear as day - and it is humbling and quite exciting to know that we are forming those early memories for our kids. Plus, it's nice to enjoy the excitement of Christmas without the main feature being a huge pile of toys under the tree.




(I'm not going to lie though - I was always very excited about the toys).

My blog is going to be fairly quiet over December due to the new baby, but there are a few posts coming up. Also, throughout December, if you follow me on Facebook, you will find a series of children's Christmas book reviews for the first week of December - so if you need an excuse to go book shopping, this is it!


I'll be posting every day in December on my Facebook page with some craft/food gift ideas too, as well as some great blog posts by other bloggers. So get in the spirit and follow me there!

Also I've got a pretty good advent board on Pinterest going on. Check it out here.

In the meantime: what do you do for advent? Do you have any traditions that you have to follow every year? Let me know in the comments, I love Christmas chat!

Linking up with:

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Mummy Fever - Share With Me

Diary of an imperfect mum

Let's be real: thoughts on the last stage of pregnancy

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

I've become nothing more than a baby incubator. That is the stage of pregnancy that I am at. Bit of self indulgent moaning ahead: I can't walk without feeling our son's head butting into my pelvis, and I need to wee approximately ten times a night (and often I will rush off and then not be able to wee at all). My brain is melting into goo. The other day I cried because I lost at a board game (and I did quite well despite losing. Blaming it entirely on hormones). My daughter is using my lack of energy to get me to say yes to every whim (mostly she wants endless amounts of grapes, which isn't so bad).

I've reached the end. I want him out of me.

That's it.


I've been trying to pre-write blog posts and I've noticed they're all kind of factual list-based posts for the next few weeks. I keep wanting to sit down and write a proper one but I can't. My brain won't concentrate on anything else other than impending birth-giving. But I haven't done a general update-y post in a while, so here's a few thoughts about the last few weeks of pregnancy:

1. Everyone has differing opinions on how pregnant I look

I get a fair few 'wow, you don't look like you're full term!' comments. I also had two random strangers say to me that I looked like I was about to pop at any moment. I had a lady serving me in Morrisons nod sagely and tell me she didn't believe I would have another three weeks without giving birth. Meanwhile, today someone told me my bump didn't look low enough to go into labour at all.

Who knows what's going on? I don't know. I don't know what he's doing in there at all. (Other than kicking me in the bladder)

2. I am trying to remember how miraculous this all is.

But it's hard because a lot of the time I just feel like a big round potato person.

To be fair, growing a person is pretty miraculous if you think about it. It's weird and wonderful to be able to see the shape of feet under the surface of the skin on my belly. However: a lot of it is just downright ... human. And gross. It's all about heartburn avoidance at this stage. And the weird feeling like he might just fall out at any moment. And packing things like nipple shields into my hospital bag. Amongst other things I won't mention.

3. I'm worried my waters might break spectacularly in public

I had to have them broken for me when we had Jellybean, so I've never had that TV-sitcom-burst experience that some people have.

If it does happen I'd quite like it to happen in a shop and have them bestow us with gift vouchers. (That happens, right?)

Also part of me is a bit worried that my waters will go but it will turn out I've actually wet myself. Sneezing is a bit of a gamble at this point.

***

That's it. I'm sure you wanted to know all that. 

I'll be back next week. Unless I have a newborn. But if you see me and ask me 'not had the baby yet, then?' I can't be held responsible for my own actions ...


Linking up with:

Best of Worst

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

A Blogiversary Giveaway: win a book here!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

****COMPETITION ENDED - See end of post!****

Four years ago I started this blog. FOUR YEARS. Which makes me feel proud and old at the same time, because where on earth does the time go?

When I started this blog, I was a full time nursery nurse, working a lot of hours running around after small children, involved in youth work at my church, and was three years into our marriage. Now? I'm not that far away from thirty, SEVEN years into our marriage, and a full time stay at home Mum to our three year old daughter and soon-to-arrive baby boy.

I'm still a bit of a rubbish blogger to be honest. I only manage to blog once a week now. I'm awful at social media and I still don't get all the technical stuff.

But I still love it. 

Here are three lessons I've learned in the last few years of blogging:

1) The internet can be really cool


How supportive is the blogging community? Very, that's what. Yes, there are people who like to start arguments ... but there's nowhere near as much drama as, say, your average hour spent on Twitter. 

Bloggers, on the whole, are pretty supportive of each other. Thank you, fellow bloggers: you make the internet suck less.


2) I can't actually think without writing things down


Turns out I can't process things in my mind without writing them down, whether that be here or in a notebook or something: after a few days I start to feel antsy and fidgety and a bit overwhelmed unless I have time to write my thoughts down.

It's soothing for my brain.


3) My voice actually matters as much as it doesn't.


This is two lessons in one. For me, having an outlet for my opinions on things has been enormously freeing, because for years I lived under the lie that what I thought about things didn't actually matter, or wasn't relevant, or something like that. I dunno. I was weird. I suppose I lived in the fear of people disagreeing or mocking me, which is no way to live. I am now way more comfortable expressing myself. Hooray!

But also: I've learnt that my opinion doesn't actually matter that much, really. In the grand scheme of things, if someone wants to disagree with me, that's fine. It's actually good: we're not all the same. Thank goodness. Through blogging I have learnt that I am actually fairly flawed, but I can make a joke about it now. I'm not an expert on everything, and I don't have to pretend to be. I'm just me: sometimes I get things wrong, other times I get it right, and I'm actually comfortable with that.

If you're interested, I wrote a post a while ago called Why I Love Blogging which has a lot more background as to why I started blogging in the first place.

And now onto the fun stuff!

My First Ever Blog Giveaway!

A while back I started thinking about the books that have changed my life. The one that immediately came to mind was this one:


Half the Sky was the book that first pushed me from 'caring in a vague way about women's rights' to 'feeling burningly passionate about women's rights'. Informative, emotional and very readable, Half the Sky takes you on a journey around the world to meet inspirational women trapped in terrible circumstances - and examines the difference that could be made, for everybody, if women were treated equally to men.

I figured it was a perfect first giveaway choice: it sums up so much about what I feel passionate about, and, hopefully, will ignite in whoever wins it a flame of passion, too. A huge part of why I write, and allow people to see it, is because I want my daughter to know that her voice. skills, talents and gifts are no less useful to the world just because she is a girl. So many young girls do not have that freedom: Half the Sky will make you want to kick ass and do something about it.

My copy is battered and dog-eared, so here is the lovely new copy the winner will receive this one:


Not included: my ridiculous face

Interested in winning it? It's easy! Comment on this post telling me something that you're passionate about, something that makes you feel alive: is it painting? Making music? Writing? (That would be me). Running? (definitely not me). Celebrate the things you love doing in life and you could win a book that will inspire and challenge you all at once.

I will then use this tool to pick a comment at random. Spammy comments will not be counted: you have to answer the question!

Important note: unfortunately due to shipping costs, this will be a UK-based competition only: please only enter if you are in the UK!

I will announce the winner in a week from now, and will send off your shiny new copy of Half the Sky!

COMPETITION CLOSED - check your comment to see if you are the winner!

Linking up with:



Talk of the Town


We lose when we fight dirty, or the crazy politics of 2016

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

I'm seriously contemplating becoming a person that doesn't care about politics anymore. The smuggery of some of the winners and the rioting and crazy behaviour of some of the losers this year has made me want to just push all thoughts of world events out of my head and replace the space in my brain for something else.


I mean, I've always wanted to learn to crochet. Maybe I could do that.

I'm only kind of joking.

What's been most disheartening for me about 2016 is not necessarily the political uncertainty or the upheaval that we've felt, but the depth of vitriol that these issues have brought out in people.

People have strong feelings. I understand this - huge decisions have been made this year that will impact generations to come. But the words? The words hurt.

Stupid. Pathetic. Scared. Whinging. Too old to get it. Too young to understand. Uneducated. Stubborn. Narrow-minded. Ignorant. Naive.

Those are the ones I feel comfortable repeating. And they're from both ends of the political spectrum. Twitter is not a particularly happy place right now, but I've heard some of these things said in real life too. Openly.

When you genuinely believe you've voted/expressed an opinion that is true and right and sits in line with your own convictions, to have something like the above thrown in your face really sucks.

Somewhere along the line this year our passionate opinions have turned into something deeper and darker and it's widened the chasm between generations, between members of political parties, between men and women, between races. Somewhere along the line we've forgotten how to do discourse without a) saying outright nasty things or b) implying by tone of voice or words that the other person is utterly stupid.

I read a quote the other day that said 'stand by your convictions, but hold them loosely.' I like that. Be opinionated! I like hearing opinions. It's better than sticking our heads in the sand. Challenge other people's opinions and viewpoints. Ask questions of yourself and other people. Ponder where the facts you believe to be true are coming from and ask people where their sources come from, too.

But hold people in higher esteem than opinions.

In other words: watch your tongue.

***

I find this - being graceful and loving but still maintaining my own opinions, ideas, and convictions - quite a difficult balance. In the past, I've held off voicing my own opinions at all, because it felt easier than treading on people's toes. Or having people think of me as stupid, or wrong. Now, I find it easier to speak out, but less than easy not to get emotional or stressed whilst speaking.

That might be just me. I want people to get where I'm coming from. The thing is, I consider everything, probably a bit too much. But when it comes down to speaking it something happens between my brain and my mouth and it doesn't always come out the way I want it to.

If this year has taught us anything it should be that people are fed up of the norm. They're fed up of empty words. They want truth and transparency from their leaders. Unfortunately, the leaders we're left with aren't necessarily great (alright, some of them really aren't great). But they're all we have.

I've said this before but I'll say it again: divide and conquer is a pretty good tactic for political leaders. And one of the problems with both the UK and the US this year is that those leaders have not been afraid of fighting dirty. They encourage rumour spreading, or outright lying; they encourage near-violent hatred of the other side.

The extra annoying thing is that, win or lose, they can then step aside. The emotional turmoil they've put their citizens through is not really their issue: yeah, they might have subtly promoted hatred and anger, but they didn't ask for people to start rioting or screaming abuse at each other. Right? They can just sit in their bubbles and wait for it all to blow over.

Or maybe I'm just cynical that way. But that's how it appears to me. Stirring people up into a frenzy and then not taking responsibility for it. Never mind that, you know, people could end up being beaten or even killed for what they believe to be right.

In an ideal world our politicians would have integrity and honour. They would fight a fair fight. Their policies and ideals would speak loudly enough that the extra crap wouldn't be needed. They wouldn't sink disgusting amounts of money into political campaigns.

But that's not the way it works, I guess.

I don't really think there's a point to this post. It's a 'thinking out loud' kind of thing.

Questions should be asked, particularly after this year, about the way political campaigns are run, and the attitudes of the people that we elect to run our countries, and the role the media has to play in it. In the meantime, I suppose the main thing that we could all probably do with remembering is that you can't just boil people down to their political leanings. People are complicated, emotional, and varied creatures: they change and grow and make mistakes. Including me. Including you. We have to allow each other grace for that.

Grace again above all else. Or else we stand to lose an awful lot.

***

Linking up with:


Mummascribbles

Pink Pear Bear

Christmas Gift Ideas - Small Business Special!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? (I know. I know. I've become one of those Christmas people.)

Every year I say things like 'this Christmas, I'm going to buy from independent businesses.' and I don't. Do you know who I buy from? Amazon. Amazon gets my money. Fact is, Amazon has got some of my money this year. But not all of it!

Avoid getting elbowed in the face or standing in a ridiculous queue this year and get your gifts from small businesses instead. It's win win for everyone!

I asked on Facebook and Instagram for suggestions and recommendations, and here are my favourites. I'm posting these now, because small businesses get super busy at this time of year and if you leave it too late, you'll miss out ...

Homeware/Stationary/Gifts


Things We Left Behind


Things We Left Behind make beautiful, handmade signs for your home. They also do custom orders should you be looking for something specific!

Jackdaw Bindery


Jackdaw Bindery make beautiful leather journals. For, you know, the writers in your life. ;) Chris bought me a similar leather journal a few years back and it is one of my favourite things ever!

The Minty Mountain


The Minty Mountain make lovely trinkets - little gifts, ring dishes, and beautiful personalised Christmas decorations. I may have ordered a tree decoration for our new baby already:


(I removed his name for privacy reasons, but it's stamped along the bottom and it's adorable).

Tabby Rabbit


If you've got a dog lover to buy for, step this way. Dog-based illustrations, tea towels, bunting, gift wrap, and lots more!

Beam designs


Beautiful laser cut clocks, lanterns, and gifts made by a couple in their studio in Durham. Pretty and unusual - check them out!

Jewellery


Mica Peet


If you follow me on Instagram, you know I like Mica Peet. Beautiful, interesting, geometric jewellery. Love it!

Small Bear Craft


Small Bear Craft makes lovely, quirky jewellery. And they're based in Bristol which makes me happy!

Literary Emporium


Got a book lover in your life? Head over to Literary Emporium for some sweet and thoughtful book related gifts!

Mama and Belle


Not going to lie - I'm eyeing up one of these teething necklaces. For myself. When Jellybean got to the pulling stage - you know the stage when babies pull on everything they can grab hold of in their little iron fists? - I gave up wearing jewellery for a while because when I did, my necklaces either broke or she ate them, which wasn't ideal. Mama and Belle make necklaces that are both super strong and safe for babies to chomp on - they are made from food grade silicone and can even be put in a dishwasher or steriliser to make sure they're extra clean and tasty for baby.

Featheroak



Featheroak describe their products as 'raw and refined Earth and sea inspired Eco jewellery' which explains it all, really. They are stunning!

For Kids


PupTart Handmade


If you want glittery, this is where to get it. Bright and colourful and girly and cute bags, purses, and gifts.

Minimods UK


Absolutely adorable handmade children's accessories. Some of these hair bows might make their way into Jellybean's stocking this year ...

Plus, Kirsty from MiniMods has very kindly offered a 10% discount code for my readers to use! To get 10% off, enter the code HOLIDAYS16 (code expires 31 Dec 2016).


That's it for now! Hoping to put up a post next week advertising more lovely businesses that are Somerset based. Enjoy your Christmas shopping!

Linking up with:


Pink Pear Bear

Mummascribbles


Janine's Little World

Diary of an imperfect mum

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com
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