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

Get into board gaming. You know you want to.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

So if you know me in real life at all, you'll know we have a board game collection in our house.

It looks like this:


Some people have a fireplace ... ;)

Board games are our main hobby now. We have one for every occasion (and, sometimes, we make up new occasions just to be able to play them). If we have friends round nowadays, it's almost unthinkable that we won't actually play a board game.

From little ten-minute card games to epic three hour marathon games with fifty-page rule booklets, we have ... a lot. Different genres, different gameplay styles, different themes. We're pretty sure we can match anyone we see to a board game they will like at this point.

To give you a quick run down in case you haven't heard about it, board games are absolutely booming in popularity right now. The website Board Game Geek holds a database of over 84,000 games with in-depth reviews, and a thriving community of over a million users, discussing tactics, arranging meet-ups, and swapping games. There are some big YouTube channels and podcasts dedicated to board games (The Dice Tower, Shut up and Sit Down, and Watch it Played are good places to start). Meanwhile, there are board game cafes popping up all over the place.


(In fact if you're in Bristol I highly recommend visiting Chance & Counters if you can. The staff are really friendly and knowledgeable, they have great food and drink and an absolutely huge selection of board games to choose from - and if you're not sure about the rules, the staff will explain everything to you. We've been a few times now and really enjoyed every visit).

What I like about board games is the sense of community - they are by their nature a social activity, and the online community seems particularly friendly to me (in comparison to other online communities!). But what I love about sitting down to play them is the excuse to have a get together that doesn't involve screens or technology in any way (unless you count my husband taking pictures for his Instagram). Just a table and a game and some snacks. Total time out with people you love, in a life of non-stop buzz and activity. Tempers sometimes flare, and competitive personalities come out, and sometimes you end up surprised at how easily one person can lie to everybody else round the table if needs be ... but it's always a fun experience.

There's just ... something about it. I can quite happily play games with my closest friends on a girly catch up night, and we can have dinner-followed-by-games wind-down evenings with our fellow friends with little kids (after we've finally wrestled all our stubborn kids into bed). We play games with my mother in law after a Sunday roast. We play complex, ongoing games over weeks and weeks with groups of our most dedicated gaming friends. We play games with the kids in our family, we play games with our three year old (alright: she plays with all the pieces and makes towers from dice).

Plus, nearly everyone we have played games with have gone on to buy and play games in their own time, too. It's sort of infectious. Like a lovely disease. Maybe it's a combination: of the power of an activity that draws people together and allows you to interact with people you love in new ways, and the high quality, love and care that game creators pour into their work in order to create the best possible experience for people.

I get a lot of blank stares followed by 'what, do you mean Monopoly?' when I tell people about our board gaming obsession hobby. Which is fair enough. If you are the person that only ever dusts off the Scrabble box once in a blue moon, but you're looking for some new ideas for get togethers, here are a few games that are way more fun than the ones you played as a kid:

1. Pandemic




Wanna save the world?

Pandemic is a co-operative game, so you will be working together to journey across the world, curing diseases before they outbreak and the world collapses into chaos. It can be really flipping hard and frustrating at times, but you will keep trying until you beat it just to get that sweet taste of accomplishment. And then you will play it again. And again.

2. King of Tokyo




In the total opposite to the last game, King of Tokyo sees you taking on the role of a monster invading Japan. Except you'll have to fight the other giant apes, robots and aliens to gain control ... a fun game that our niece and nephew really enjoy and pretty competitive too.

3. Ticket to Ride




Ticket to Ride is a modern classic of a board game: a lot of people I know who are into board games started with this one. Your goal is to collect cards of a certain type, which allow you to build train routes across North America. You get extra points for having the longest track, and for connecting certain cities - it's super easy to learn (and teach others) but there's quite a lot of strategy involved. Plus it feels like a calm game you can chat over, but occasionally you get the opportunity to really screw over another player, which is fun.

4.  Loony Quest




If you've got a kid interested in platforming videogames whom you're trying to tear away from the screens this Christmas, this might be the game for you ... each player is given a sheet of clear acetate and an erasable pen. You look at the stage in front of you, and then you attempt to draw a line on your acetate, collecting treasure, and avoiding bad guys. When the time is up, you take it in turns to lay your acetate down and see if your spacial awareness/fine motor skills are as good as you think they are!

This game is surprisingly tricky at times but has loads of replayability because of the multiple levels - and again, a brilliant game for families.

5. Mysterium




If you like Cluedo this one might be for you ...

You are called to investigate a murder, with one opportunity to communicate with the ghost, desperate to tell the true story of his death. One player is the ghost, only allowed to communicate via handing out clues and occasionally knocking on the table. The others have to work together to figure out the clues the ghost is giving them, trying to figure out the suspect, the murder weapon, and the location.

Mysterium has the added bonus of looking beautiful - the artwork is lovely. We play this a lot with different groups of friends and it always goes down well.

And a few more ...


Throwing in a few more recommendations: for a party game that always ends in laughter, try One Night Ultimate Werewolf. For a quiet, calm, game-over-a-coffee-and-a-chat, try Splendor. For some more modern classics, try Carcassonne or The Settlers of Catan. Takenoko is an adorable game that's great for families involving a little tiny panda (what more can you ask for?). And for a quick 15-minute fix, try Bang! The Dice Game or Biblios or Love Letter.

So there we have it! Buy one of these for Christmas to play after you've opened the presents and eaten your weight in food. An afternoon of fun awaits you. You won't regret it. I promise!

Linking up with:


Mummascribbles
Pink Pear Bear

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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