Our Big USA Adventure

dsc_0002

It’s hard now thinking back to our holiday that we only just returned from two short weeks ago. Times goes too quickly. However, it’s nice to have the opportunity to reflect on our time there. It was possibly an impulsive decision made by Other Half to purchase the airline tickets using the last of the maternity pennies, but we have family that live over there and the temptation to go visit them was just too strong.

dsc_0883

It just so happened that my sister-in-law fell pregnant at almost the same time as me and Little Man’s cousin, Miss Diva, arrived two and half weeks before him. They are special guests featured in today’s blog- Miss Diva and her parents. It never fails to amaze me that two genetically connected babies whom both strongly resemble their parents, who are siblings, look nothing alike. And even though I know that all babies are individual and develop at their own pace, it still astounds me at just how different their developmental leaps are. I guess I’d never actually had the chance to see this in reality before, despite the countless psychology books and courses I’ve consumed. Little Man excels with his physical progression, while Miss Diva is clearly the front runner in the intellectual growth stakes.

dsc_0874-2

dsc_0881-2

Being able to watch the two of them interact together was just something magical. Although they’ve met before, they were both just a few months old and barely aware of their own presence, let alone anyone else’s. Now, they seem to gravitate towards the same tiny space, pawing for toys the other one has and watching each others movements. Will they miss each other? It’s hard to say. But if it is possible, I think Little Man may feel it more. Miss Diva escapes to daycare, you see, Little Man is just stuck with me. Although we go to different groups and have friends with similar ages babies, these two just seemed to me to have a slightly different connection. Something familial, maybe.

dsc_1027-2

dsc_0854-2

We also made sure to pack in as much as we could into our two week trip. We managed to meander around the local areas in Juanita and Kirkland, did the tourist traps including Pike Place Market, The Space Needle, The Pacific Science Museum, Seattle Aquarium, The Museum of History and Industry. We visited lots of parks- especially if they had swings, as this is Little Man’s current favourite thing and took a boat cruise around Seattle harbour. We hiked The Iron Goat Trail and visited the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, hottubbed (while the babies slept- heavenly) and paddled in the Wenatchee River. Happily, we also got to visit extended family and friends, BBQ and **at last** make s’mores over the campfire!

dsc_0956-2

dsc_0946

dsc_0928

dsc_0922-2

But this trip was more than just a holiday. It was the opportunity of time. Time to spend long days and make precious memories with my two favourite boys and our family. Time to challenge and grow Little Man’s experience of the world outside our own little homely bubble. The opportunity to take our sweet time over meals, bath times and bed times stories without having to worrying about rushing to do the shopping, meet appointments or be some other place doing some other trivial task associated with the necessary humdrum of everyday life. Other Half got to be there EVERY morning and EVERY night for a solid two weeks. We got to be a full family of three for two whole weeks. And it was perfect.

dsc_0836-2 dsc_0844-2 dsc_0954-6-copy dsc_0890 dsc_0856-2dsc_0841-2

So the tempting cakes in the coffee shop will have to remain in the display, the takeaway menu’s will be purged from the kitchen drawer and the treats and luxuries will be put on hold. I’ll happily sacrifice those to save for the next gift of adventure with my boys.

Advertisements

Cooking up a Storm

I haven’t always enjoyed cooking- always eating, but not always cooking. I think the change came in my final year of uni when I’d had enough of eating convenience meals (aka junk) and I actually wanted something that was fresh and inviting. Now I’m no Jamie Oliver and I won’t be signing up for the next series of the Great British Bake Off, but I’m pretty happy with my culinary skills and I love having people over for food. But, let’s be honest, sometimes Friday night just wins and our local takeout gets a financial boost; and I can be guilty of returning to the tried and tested recipes out of ease, but I really like cooking.

At times it’s been tough to dedicate the same amount of attention in the kitchen that I could before Little Man showed up, but I’m getting on top of it. And now I am, I want Little Man to develop an appreciation of good, healthy and fresh food. He doesn’t have to love cooking, but I would like for him to enjoy a variety of foods, eat well and just try new things. This will (hopefully) be the foundation for him taking an interest in a good diet and making meals for himself as a surly teenager (in so much as any teenager takes any interest in anything, anyway).

2016-08-16-19.31.33.jpg.jpeg

I’ve been extremely fortunate thus far that Little Man loves his food. I mean, seriously, LOVES it. We waited until he was six months before we went down the Baby Lead Weaning route (for the uninitiated, this basically means to skip purees and go straight to offering finger sized pieces of fruit and veg for them to feed themselves with), and he’s pretty much eaten whatever we have with pre-packaged baby food being a rarity. Not because we are food snobs or convenience food averse, but mainly because it’s cheaper and easier for me if he eats what we eat. Plus I am not setting the scene now to be making multiple meals when he’s older- just not happening.

Though it has to be said, whatever hard work is put in now, most children will probably (and, quite frankly, annoyingly) go through phases of being picky eaters- in my experience. For some, it won’t last long and won’t be too much of a pain, for others it will be a test of patience and gritted teeth on their parents behalf. Despite this, for the moment Little Man enjoys sampling the delights that I dish up and I genuinely enjoy getting back in the kitchen again.


It’s so important for new parents to get back to doing something they love. To connect their current versions of themselves to their previous ones. I truly believe this helps you to feel you’ve not totally lost your identity, to relieve potential stresses you might experience brought about by a huge lifestyle change and it gives you an opportunity to re-energise yourself by indulging in something that you enjoy. Your passion may have to be adapted to allow for your mini person, but it’s still totally achievable. And this applies to the Papas to! They need to retain their sense of self just as much as the Mamas! So get out, and make sure, every now and again, you make time to nurture yourself!

By the way, I would have loved to get a final snap of the Portuguese-inspired paprika chicken and Mediterranean roasted vegetables. But Little Man was far too impatient for food to allow that to happen…..

First Foot Forward

wp-1474063468350.jpg

I undertook my first buggy run this week. It was somewhat of a shock. The shock being my horrendous level of fitness…..or unfitness, more accurately. Prior to Little Man, I’d say I was fairly fit. Not training-for-the-Olympics-fit, but your more run-of-the-mill-fit. I went to fitness classes three times a week and tried to watch what I ate. Even through my pregnancy I went to pilates classes to keep my hand in. And in my pre-motherhood mind, I would be bouncing back to the gym right after my six week check and stepping straight back into my usual routine without dropping a body combat combo!

** REALITY CHECK**

That obviously didn’t happen. In actual fact, I’ve made it back to the gym once since Little Man showed up. And in truth, I’m pretty impressed with that! But my friend called me this week and invited me out for a catch up and a run, so after saying for so long that I was going to do it, how could I refuse!

I have to be honest, it hit me hard! The ragged breaths and burning of the lungs is something I’ve not experienced in a long while and I’d forgotten how well I had been doing prior to the pregnancy. That said, I managed it. Might not have run all the way, but we went the whole distance of the route that we had intended and I did it.

wp-1474063418562.jpg

And this is something I would recommend to all parents. Not necessarily running, I would never recommend that to anyone- secretly I despise running! But continuing with something you enjoyed before babies came along. Most likely it will be comprised in some why to allow for the fact that you now have mini people to care for, but it’s important to ensure you are doing the things you love to. And obviously exercise to great for us too. I’m not talking about post-pregnancy bodies and being thin, I’m talking about being a positive role model to your children, endeavouring to be in a good shape to keep up with them and being healthy. Both of these things contribute to positive mental health. And positive mental health is beneficial to everyone- especially when you are trying to care for another person.

And being outdoors with Little Man is something that I love. We are lucky enough to be a stones throw from some beautiful green areas and I want him to truly appreciate and love the countryside as much as his parents do. So for as much as I dislike running, there were certainly far worse places to do it that this. Warm sunshine, a green backdrop, deer roaming a few metres away and the babble of meandering stream for a soundtrack. A genuinely euphoric place to be.

My own hope is that this post leaves you feeling motivated to do a small something in the great outdoors with your little people this weekend. Go for a walk, chase some leaves through the wind, have a game of pooh sticks, dig a hole- whatever takes your fancy. Create some memories together and let the very act of it wash over you and a challenge you not to feel refreshed by it!

wp-1474063531118.jpg

And if the thought of it all feels a little overwhelming, call a friend to rope into it with you. I’m sure I never would have got round to a buggy run without my friends encouragement. But now we have conquered the first, I’m looking forward to making it a regular thing- that is the power of friends after all. Here’s to a healthier step forward!

An Ode To Daddy


Today saw the Other Half return back to work after our holidays (to the uninitiated, Other Half works away during the week, so it’s just me and Little Man) and our little family decreased by one until Friday night.
Our holiday is more than two weeks off from regular life to us, it’s the chance to spend time together- all three of us. At the moment, there’s no other option than for Other Half to work away. It’s just how it is to keep us going and to keep Other Half in a job he enjoys and wants to excel in. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

Aside from being a part-time single parent and doing the job of two five days a week (in actual fact, I don’t really mind this at all- it is what it is), there’s a bigger reason as to why I feel bad for our current lifestyle. And that’s for Other Half. He’s a fantastic, engaged, loving Dad to Little Man- and Little Man clearly loves having him around. And I feel awful that he’s not able to spend as much time at home with us as he would like to. So, when we are together, we always try to make the most of it. We like to take trips out, go to the park, take Little Man new places, find lots of different ways to be in each others company. And I find it particularly cute that Other Half enjoys their Saturday morning wander walks out that they take around the estate together- their little male bonding opportunity.

It’s not perfect- very little in reality actually is- but it’s our life and we make the most of it and revel in what we have. And we look at it as Other Half going back to work so we can start saving for our next family adventure (you have to see the bright side of life or it would get so cold living in the dark!). So tonight we (well, I, really) decided to choose a Daddy themed book as a little ode to Daddy, because we missed him.

Fooling Tiredness. Or At Least Attempting To….

Following a mammoth journey spanning 14 odd hours, two modes of carriage, two continents and a distinct lack of sleep, I think it’s fair to say we’re suffering from tiredness combined with a little jet lag. The easiest thing to do would be to crawl under my duvet and hibernate for the rest of the weekend. That would also be my preferred option. Unfortunately life with a little person prohibits me from doing this. Ugh.

201609101026963731.jpg

With this in mind, here are my tricks to fool tiredness…..or at least try to….

– Don’t give in the lure of the bed. As comfy, warm and tempting as it is, the bed is not your friend in this situation! Lounging around in bed only leads me to feel more sluggish and groggy. Getting out of bed means it’s more or less a given that I’m going to be awake, reclaiming my body clock and dodging catnaps.

– Shower. Something as simple as this always helps me. It’s like I’m figuratively washing the sleepiness away. And a face of fresh make up helps me out too- this might not work for everyone, but it does me. Getting up and ready provides a burst of energy- even if only for a short time. And it all helps.

– Think AWAKE. The more I tell myself I’m tired, the more I feel it. Try your best not to let your thoughts dwell on the lack of sleep. As soon as my mind meanders down this route, I give myself a quick “Yep, I’m tired. Now crack on.”

– Stay hydrated. I’m not a coffee drinker, never have been, so can’t comment on benefits of coffee to ward off tiredness. However, water has been the key for me. The more I drink, the better I feel. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s magic.

– Leave the house. Getting out and about always helps to perk me up. Being active and getting things done just helps to fool me into feeling more awake. It also helps to pass the time meaning the chance to get back in my bed again comes round quicker! Bonus.

– Routine, routine, routine. This has been especially important in trying to hoodwink the jet lag. I’ve kept our routine as close to normal as possible. Although Little Man waking up 11.30pm last night until 3.30am this morning was not part of the plan. Unfortunately, Other Half indulged in a nice long sleep-in with Little Man this morning cocking things up slightly, but tea, bath and bedtime routine has gone as normal again tonight. So far so good….

20160910229883011.jpg

Of course these tricks aren’t always helpful- I certainly have the odd day of stomping round the house in pj’s mumbling to myself about my insane level of tiredness- but more often than not, it’s enough to see me through the day. That said, if anyone has any other pointers for staving off the effects of your little sleep thieves, I would literally love to hear them!

Never As Bad As You Imagine 

Yesterday, after a 9 hour flight,  we gently bumped down on American soil. It’s true I was slightly lacking on the sleep debt tally and looking a tad crumpled, but we were here! I’m not a confident flyer myself and now there was a living time bomb accompanying me on a long, stuffy jaunt in closely confined quarters. So, safe to say, I wasn’t jumping for joy at the prospect of lengthy travel. Though on reflection, the time spent considering countless numbers of ways the journey could unfold and the vast number of issues that could unfurl, was simply wasted time. 

I have to be honest, it couldn’t have gone much better. Little Man was an absolute dream. Bar a few murmurs here and there, and the customary wails of displeasure when meal times have come to an end, he was an angel. 

As usual, he was at his best when he had the opportunity to turn on the charm and entertain his public. Coyly bowing his head and sneakily flashing his rakish smile at anyone that would look gained him the attention he so revels and loves to perform in. 

And even my fears over howling protests at sleeping were unfounded. Not long into the flight, we even managed to get him down into the bassinet (never to be repeated after this trip, I think, as it’s fair to say he was rather snug in his lodgings), to the amazement (and probably relief!) of both ourselves and his admirers. He even managed to comically waggle his little foot over the edge of his bed, as if to let us know not to fret as he was perfectly comfortable. 

All in all, I shall celebrate our arrival as a successful trip. And the moral of the tale is that whatever the situation, it’s (usually) never as bad as the scenario worked up in our very vivid and overactive imaginations. Thankfully. 

That said, there’s still the return leg…. But I’ll worry about that in two weeks…. 

Travelling Not So Light

Despite my current employment status (or lack there of), we are going on vacation. My Other Half, in all his wisdom, decided that the best use of my maternity pay would be to purchase airline tickets. In all fairness, we are off to visit family, and I can’t think of a better way to spend what little savings we have than spending it creating memories with our loved ones.

We are going Stateside- Seattle, to be precise, where my wonderful family reside. As fate would have it, they too fell pregnant at pretty much the same time as us and now these incredible mini-people have but three weeks between them. I was thrilled to be sharing my pregnancy journey with my sister-in-law, and am so excited to be going out to visit them soon.

2016-08-21-22.22.12.jpg.jpeg

But with travelling must come packing. This is an experience that I don’t enjoy at the best of times and now, with Little Man, it seems especially more stressful. I find myself becoming anxious at the idea of not having something I need to hand, forgetting that one essential thing and having to plan ahead what I’m going to need without really knowing what that is going to be. This, inevitably, leads to me packing 3 months worth of clothing for a 2 week vacation. The mere thought of having to sort outfits, toiletries and accompanying holiday bits brings me out in a queasy nervousness (and it’s certainly the first time I’ve had to think about packing juggling balls and maracas as part of my holiday luggage). Now, I have Little Man to add into the mix too.

2016-08-21-22.24.12.jpg.jpeg

As a hindrance it would be to forget something for myself, I’m positively fear-stricken at the thought of overlooking something he will need. As a result, packing commenced a week prior to the departure date and probably won’t finish until the case is rolling away down the conveyor belt at the check in desk; leaving me with that “Well, it’s too late now” feeling. I do find it comforting, though, to know we are staying with family and whatever I forget, they will more than likely be able to provide or know where to get hold of it.

2016-08-21-22.30.12.jpg.jpeg

2016-08-21-22.25.38.jpg.jpeg

I don’t know when this anxiety about travelling began, but it always slightly takes the shine off an impending trip. Though despite the sickness that wells up in my stomach, the excitement of a whole two weeks with both my husband and my boy takes over everything. I’m wholly impatient to get Little Man out there, introducing him to new sights, sounds and delights. To be getting to know his darling cousin and for him to learn more about the world and what’s it like to be part of a different bit of it. I sincerely hope that the more of the world we expose Little Man to, the more he will be in awe of it, be respectful of it and want to be part of it’s preservation.

Now all we have to do is survive the packing and journey there…. Tips anyone?

The Social Butterfly

Prior to Little Man making his highly anticipated arrival, myself and Other Half have always had a fairly jam packed social life. Weekends were often booked way in advance, either to visit people, take a trip somewhere, enjoy a holiday (not that this happened often!) or with some exciting venture or activity. And I clearly remember in the early stages of pregnancy someone remarking to me that it would have to stop. I simply wouldn’t be able to do all that with a baby in tow and I would have to fit my life around my child’s. End of.

I am delighted to announce that this was utter rubbish!

2016-08-14-20.55.59.jpg.jpeg

2016-08-14-20.52.44.jpg.jpeg

Outwoods

Undoubtedly our lifestyle has altered to adapt to life with our little red head. There is a certain fluidity to our lives now as we transform from a care-free couple to a considerate and harmonious family of three. It’s still changing, still a case of trial and error and riding a learning curve- and I think it probably will be for some time yet. But there has been no final breath on our former lives, no mournful goodbye to how things used to be. In fact, I think it’s been quite the opposite.

To quote an overused metaphor, it really has been a new chapter. Little Man has brought about joyful and wondrous changes in our relationships with family and friends, shaping them into something different and new. But more than this, I think it’s actually essential to continue some version of your before parenthood life. To maintain the relationships you had before you became a parent. These are your support networks, the people you can call for advice or, more likely, for a good whinge about being up to your eyeballs in poop-filled nappies. These are the people who will surround you with love, joy and comfort; champion you when you are doing well and encourage you when you might be faltering. These are, in short, your key to maintaining good mental health.

Smaller Oscar

Primarily I am a parent. But I am also a wife, a daughter, sister, aunty, godmother, friend and a hundred other things (hopefully all positive!). I am also an individual. A unique person with my own thoughts, needs, passions, ambitions and hopes. So if having a social life similar to what I’ve always had is going to help me continue to nurture these aspects of myself, I’m damn well going to keep it up. And I’m going to include Little Man in it. He’ll benefit from seeing the importance of good relationships being role modelled, from experiencing new places, cultures and adventures – and from having a sane mother!

2016-08-14-21.15.49.jpg.jpeg

Parenthood is such a big life event for anyone with the potential to throw your existence into total disarray. As such, I believe that any grasp we have on normality- on what we are used to experiencing- should be clung to and embraced. So if travelling, being busy, experiencing something new and visiting your nearest and dearest made you happy before, it’s sure as hell going to make you happy when you get to share them with your own little mini-you. So I’ll carry on making my plans, I won’t be becoming a hermit just because we’ve had a baby.

Wedding

I am going to LIVE my life with Little Man in tow and I’m going to mould it into a journey that we can share together.

Moments Like These

Tonight I was feeding my little piglet (I say feeding, it’s more like when they dangle the meat in for the dinos in Jurassic Park…) when I experienced somewhat of an epiphany. Let me set the scene….

Just me and Little Man at the kitchen table- we sit in there to eat when we’re on our own (wipe clean floor, quick access to spillage-mopping utensils and closer to the food for piglet- it’s a no brainer!) rather than at the dining table. I usually pop the radio on low in the background for a little musical accompaniment to our meal. This evening, half way through dinner and on came Fatman Scoop’s Be Faithful (Put Your Hands Up). And if you don’t know this song, I don’t need to be reminded of how old I am, thank you! Now as this particular song reminds me only too much of my late sixth form and early uni days, I couldn’t help but jump up and start crazily dancing around the kitchen whilst bellowing out the lyrics at a somewhat shocked Little Man.

Initially, it has to be said, my poor little boy was somewhat confused, and perhaps even disturbed, by this outburst of activity. But very quickly, pure joy broke out across his face and he was actually howling with laughter at his Mum looking like she was having some sort of fit. This culminated in me laughing at him, him laughing at me and me becoming even more animated to hype up the episode even more.

20160808233496104.jpg

It was then that it hit me.

In a time not too distant from now, I’ll do exactly the same thing to the same song with the same level of enthusiasm and Little Man’s reaction will be to huff, roll his eyes to the heavens and cringe with embarrassment. I know this because it happened to me as well. I’ll bet it happened to you too. There comes a time when it’s just not cool to have your parents singing and dancing at you – particularly in full view of any passers by.

And in that instant, right then, I vowed to myself that I would stop and drink in the pleasure from these little moments whenever I can. When simple words, actions or noises instigate fits of belly laughter, I’ll take the time to prolong it, regardless of who’s looking and secretly chuckling at my unique brand of nuttiness. While he finds me amusing, wants me around and still thinks I’m the best thing since sliced bread, I’ll happily sacrifice my dignity and self respect to create my own little mental memory-box of precious moments.

So I’ll most likely be less fashionable than the next person, have to wait longer for my next holiday and enjoy eating out less frequently, but I’m OK with that. Money can’t buy these opportunities. I’d much rather be at home to have moments like these.

The Alternative View to Becoming a First-Time Parent

So this post will either draw up a feeling of solidarity or stir up a cauldron of anger. Here goes….

I am losing count of the amount of blogs, articles, books, memoirs and other jottings detailing the “real” experiences of becoming a first time parent. And, usually, more specifically about becoming a first time mother. They are grating on me and I can no longer hold my tongue.

Why does this provoke such a reaction, you may ask? Well, let me explain…..

Firstly- first time mother. Do women have a monopoly on being affected by becoming parents? Granted, we go through the actual pregnancy, our bodies are assaulted with an influx of hormonal concoctions and usually we are the ones staying behind at home holding this writhing lump of loveliness.

But men are wildly impacted as well. It’s just as much a life changing event for the Dads, as it is for the Mums. In some ways I think it must be an even stranger experience for them. Nothing much changes for the Dads in the run up to the arrival- kinda life almost as normal. Until…

*BAM* –  it’s action stations and suddenly your little dependent is here and there’s no accompanying Haynes manual!

They’ve got two weeks (that’s if they are lucky enough to get two weeks paternity!) of adjustment after being catapulted into their completely new world, then it’s back to work regardless of sleep deprivation, worry about leaving the new family or that trail of spit up down the back of the shirt that just appears from nowhere.

My own dear Other Half was impacted more by Little Man’s arrival than I was. In fact, I clearly remember there being a day where I sent HIM to bed for a nap as, in his sleep-deprived delirium, he was absolutely no use to me whatsoever. During night times, he struggled to wake up and got frustrated when he couldn’t stem the crying. He’s an amazing Daddy but, and I’m sure he’ll agree, parenthood hit him smack between the eyes and left him dazed. And I’ve not come across any blogs forewarning prospective Dads about constant crying (their tears, not the babies), days in PJs and unexpected emotional outbursts.

20151029_125251.jpg

But probably my biggest issue is that the vast majority of these accounts provide a fairly negative view of those first few weeks of parenthood. Perhaps I’m being a little unfair- I concede that each of these viewpoints will usually end with the underlying point that actually being a parent is great and the rubbish bits will pass….eventually. But not before impressing the point that, in real life, its an awful, stressful time and you should basically expect and accept this.

I don’t wish to dismiss any of these accounts or belittle them. Everyone’s experiences will be different, no two individuals or families will experience anything in the same way, and for some, it can be an incredibly turbulent time. However, I do want to provide a different account. One that I feel has largely been immeasurably positive, and I want to do this to empower those thinking of, or who are on the cusp of becoming parents. It was so much more positive that all the anecdotes I had been given. Yeah, I got tired, but it wasn’t awful. Yep, there were occasions where we were at a loss about what was upsetting Little Man- but these were very few and far between and normally solved fairly quickly. And yes, there were the odd nights where sleep was more of a concept than a reality. We enjoyed having visitors and people cooing over our newborn and didn’t feel overwhelmed or the need to tell them to leave. There weren’t any moments of hair pulling, tears behind locked bathroom doors or even a day when a shower wasn’t achieved. This really isn’t intended as a boastful crow of our parenting prowess (believe me, we made our own mistakes), but a reassurance that we need not accept the tear-stained, snot-streaked hell version of parenting that we may fear awaits us.

I understand the need to highlight the real side of parenting and to pull back the veil on the perfect one so often portrayed in the movies, but has the pendulum swung too far? Are we at risk of painting a picture that, in reality, really isn’t all that bad and creating an unacknowledged competition to be the parents that had it the worst?

Yes, there are scary bits, and it’s full on hard work, but it’s amazing and rewarding and the positives completely outweigh any negatives. I just want parents-to-be to know that, no, it’s not Hollywood, but to have confidence, that parenthood i

s not a bleak outlook and to have an adventure to look forward to instead of be apprehensive about. Seriously, wouldn’t it have been nice to hear “You can’t even imagine the countless hours of joy you’ll experience, just by watching your newborn!” repeatedly, rather than “Well, sleep as much as you can now, because you won’t once the baby is here!” from every second person???

I mean, we even managed a whole adulting lunch out to commiserate the Other Half on the end of his paternity leave where we appeared all normal, except with the addition of a mini person- just two weeks after the birth! And if we could do it, I have the faith that there’s hope for us all!

20151109_143353.jpg