I love nothing more than escaping into a good book. Even if I can no longer while away a lazy Sunday morning in bed with a book, I still prioritise reading, generally at least a few pages before I go to sleep. And often now during nightfeeds, thanks to the Kindle app on my phone!
These are some of my favourites from the last twelve months…
1. Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor
Loved it, loved it. Devoured it. Loved it. One of the best fantasy books (and series) I’ve read.
2. What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty
I found this a really intriguing, easy and enjoyable read.
3. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
I was a bit late to this party! And had already watched the first two films. But I liked all the series, although maybe not the last one so much.
4. Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier
This was a fascinating read about fossil hunter Mary Anning. It made me want to head to Lyme Regis with Little Miss A to see if we can find any fossils together, and I’d love to poke around the museum there. We don’t live too far away, so one for our days out list this summer…
5. Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
There is something fascinating about the Tudor period and Henry VIII in particular. This is a wonderful peek into the politics of his court, focusing on Cromwell and the masterminding of Anne Boleyn’s removal. I found it much easier to read than Wolf Hall (although I’m determined to revisit that one).
What books have you been reading lately?
#fiveforfriday is my weekly round up of all sorts of bits and bobs – from blog posts I’ve been reading to themed crafts and activities to favourite products to the random things I’ve been pondering!
Being a mum is hands down the best thing I’ve done with my life but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a nostalgic moment or two for my pre-parent days. The ones where I (hardly ever) doubted I was going to get less than a full night’s sleep. When I had bags of time to myself that I could waste without doing anything much in particular. When I could hold an entire, articulate conversation without forgetting what I was talking about half way through.
After a few years of doing this mummy thing, I’ve finally allowed myself to admit there are things I miss from before – and that this doesn’t make me a bad mum or mean I love my children any less. Even while knowing that I would never swap what I have now, there are moments (usually following a few rough nights and/or tantrumy days) when my former life takes on something of a rosy glow.
So, perhaps it’s time to examine exactly what I really miss from that heady, carefree time…
The obvious one but all too true. It’s been around four years now since I had a proper, deep, amazing night’s sleep and oh how I miss it. Even when our sleep settled down after baby number one, it was never quite the same; I will wake at the merest hint of a rustle from Little Miss A’s room these days, or a random noise in the house that could either be the central heating or a burglar/pack of wild animals trying to get in.
2. Huge long lay ins
I was really very good at laying in at the weekend. I loved that luxurious feeling of waking up and realising there was no work to go to and I could just snuggle back down and doze for another hour or two. Or get a coffee and some toast and laze in bed with a book. Or watch a bit of Saturday Kitchen tucked up under the covers. Or cuddle up to the husband for a while. Sigh. I think I might miss my lay ins even more than a full night’s sleep!
3. My boobs
Even when I lost all the baby weight first time round, my breasts stayed about a cup size larger than pre-pregnancy, which was, quite frankly, annoying as I was completely satisfied with their size before. Will they ever be the same again? I’m yet to find out for sure but I fear not.
Aside from the practicalities of flats for running around after a toddler, I physically can’t manage heels for any length of time any more without them killing my back, maybe a legacy of SPD in pregnancy. I wasn’t even your stereotypical ‘love to go shoe shopping and own about a billion pairs’ girl, so it’s surprising how much it bothers me. There are a pair of knee high boots, a pair of ankle boots and some gorgeous sandals that I mourn wearing in particular, all with what now seem to be ridiculously high heels – how did I wear them all day? – and all tucked carefully away in the hope I will be able to reclaim them one day.
5. Spontaneous nights out
The ones when you get home from work and can’t be bothered to cook and decide to just pop out for dinner instead. Or when you’ve gone out for what you think will be a quick drink and it turns into the most unexpectedly, brilliantly fun night ever. When the conversation is witty and the wine flowing (or the flowing wine makes you think the conversation has been witty, at any rate). When the food and company is good and can be lingered over without any thought of your toddler providing a 6.30am wake up call. We still do attempt the odd spontaneous dinner out as a family but it takes considerably more effort and it’s not quite the same
without all the wine when you have to be back by 6/7pm for bedtime.
6. Conversations with my husband
Real, proper conversations about life, the universe and everything. As opposed to attempted conversations punctuated with interruptions to deal with a toddler, where one or both of us end up loosing track of what we’re saying and give up. Or attempted conversations after the day is done when really we’re both so exhausted we’d rather just cuddle up and zonk out in front of the TV.
7. Whole chunks of time doing nothing much in particular
What did I used to do with my evenings and weekends? I wasn’t out partying all hours, had a select few hobbies and didn’t spend a lot of time being organised doing practical chores and errands. I can only conclude I wasted a lot of time faffing around, maybe watching some TV, maybe keeping my books and CDs in alphabetical order, maybe taking long hot soaks in the bath with candles and relaxing music. Who knows? Free time now is at such a premium that the idea of not using it productively seems both wasteful and wonderfully decadent at the same time.
8. My really nice coats
I have a couple of lovely winter coats, the kind that are fairly smart and look flattering and aren’t waterproof but that’s alright because you have an umbrella and don’t spend much time in the rain anyway. They are packed carefully away with my heels. Now I wear my ‘mum’ coat: waterproof and warm (i.e. padded and unflattering) as I seem to be exposed to the elements much more regularly these days, usually tussling with carseats and pushchairs. And with a hood because I need both hands to manage the toddler, baby and all necessary equipment.
I know I included this one already but I miss it so much I think it’s worth mentioning twice. Sleep deprivation isn’t used as a form of torture for no reason…
What do you miss (trivial or otherwise!) from your pre-children days?
I’ve been going through a tough parenting phase these last few months, mainly caused by extreme lack of sleep and week upon week of illness. Throw in some dark, cold winter days and add a dash of adjusting to life with two kiddies and you have the perfect recipe for feeling down and dreary.
Thankfully, things are looking brighter again now. At the time, though, it felt relentless; I was struggling to find any enjoyment in my days and I was constantly doubting my abilities as a good mum.
One of the things that really helped me to get through was reading blog posts acknowledging the hard parts of parenting. It’s not easy to admit when we’re finding things tough but, wow, it makes such a difference to realise you’re not alone in struggling sometimes. I found the ones below to be particularly inspiring, so I thought I’d share them here.
1. I came across this blog post on rediscovering happiness in motherhood at exactly the right time. This was the article I needed to read, not least as I could have written the first part, which made me feel a whole lot better and less alone. Plus I loved the ways she rediscovered her happiness; the idea of recognising which season of parenthood you are in was like switching on a lightbulb for me.
2. This is such a moving post on leaving the baby and toddler years behind. I can relate so much as it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot as Little Miss A approaches 4 and school age. I often catch myself looking at her in awe these days, wondering where my baby went and feeling so proud of the girl she has become (despite the exasperating moments!). And it’s a great reminder as we weather sleep deprived baby days second time round to hold onto the precious moments even amidst the tough spots.
3. This post is called When does it get easier and it brought tears to my eyes. First, as I really had been asking myself that same question for a month or so. Then in recognition at the truth of the words of this experienced mum. And finally with the truth that parenting is overwhelming at times no matter who you are and there is a solidarity in the universality of that experience.
4. I love finding posts like this one on when you are tightly wound. The whole thing resonates but this part jumped out at me in particular: “By 9pm, I have no words left. I just want to sit in the dark… and not have to think any intelligent thoughts.” It may be a physical impossibility but I have been both so tightly wound and wrung out by the evening lately that it is all I can do to collapse in relief on the sofa. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this. And: “You can never turn parenting off”. Just so true.
5. It’s their day too is a great post to read when you need a shift in perspective. I often feel like I’ve got to the end of the day (week… month…) without achieving a huge amount. This really made me stop and think about my expectations and what I define as a ‘good’ or worthwhile day. I may not always be super organised and productive. We might not be laughing and doing fun activities from dawn to dusk. But every day has valuable moments. And, if nothing else, I think this sums up perfectly some of the core essentials of a parent’s job: “I kept two kids alive and fed, and we played and both of them are sleeping safely in their beds tonight and that made it a pretty good day.”
Have you read any inspiring parenting blog posts recently?
#fiveforfriday is my weekly round up of all sorts of bits and bobs – from blog posts I’ve been reading to themed crafts and activities to favourite products to the random things I’ve been pondering!
I’ve got that tingly, ‘almost spring’ feeling, the one I get every year as I wait impatiently to cast off winter. It makes me want to run around, find armfuls of daffodils and throw open every window in the house in celebration of the new season.
This is even more the case this year. It’s been a long few months, with lots of illness and little sleep. I’ve got through mainly by eating copious amounts of chocolate and cake…
It can be easy to loose yourself as a mum sometimes, especially when the going is tough and you retreat into survival mode. Well, no more. I’m ready to reclaim ME and have set myself a series of mini missions to find my feelgood factor again.
Feelgood mission no. 1 – to eat more healthily
I’m consciously avoiding the word ‘diet’ as I don’t want Little Miss A to pick up on it. But… I have three stone to loose to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and a family wedding in the autumn!
The easy place to start is to cut out all the sweet treats – well, easy to say, not so easy to do! The more tired I am, the more I crave sugar, and I’ve been bloody knackered recently. I’m slowly reducing the treats, though, and switching to healthier snacks such as fruit and nuts. I think it’s time to follow Slimming World again for some structure, which I found great after Little Miss A.
I’ve also been trying to cook more of our meals from scratch, as we’ve been relying on some ready prepared short cuts for dinner, such as jars of sauces, the odd ready meal, things full of sugar and excess calories. Our meals could do with a bit of a shake up, so I’ve had a look at all those recipes I’ve been pinning and have picked out a couple to actually make – this lemon chicken fettuccine, which looks like a delicious, fresh twist on our usual pasta dishes, and a healthy chicken fricassee.
This month’s challenge: Loose a stone (ambitious, moi?!) and try out those yummy looking recipes.
Feelgood mission no. 2: to start exercising again
My post-pregnancy body is more than a little creaky, especially my lower back. Thanks to some physio work after Little Miss A, I now know all about my core (the muscles around our middles that *should* hold us tight, like a girdle) and how a lack of strength there can cause all sorts of aches and pains elsewhere.
After all my previous hard work, it feels like I’m back to square one again (maybe square two). So, I’ve been trying to slot in just ten minutes in the evening of some of the initial exercises my physio suggested last time, such as this swimming kneeling move (or ‘Superman pose’, as my physio called it!) to challenge my core, the clam to work legs (plus core), the bridge, bringing arms up over the head (more core!) as well as a few squats for gluts (which will help my knees) finished off with some stretches, including this cat stretch.
I fell in love with pilates after having Little Miss A and it really worked wonders for me, so I’ve also invested in this 10 Minute Solution – The Pilates Collection DVD with a variety of ten minute workouts to do at home, until I have time to escape for regular evening classes.
This month’s challenge: Keep up the daily basics plus slot in at least one workout a week of pilates or my Davina postnatal dvd. I’ll be working up to more but for now my cardio will have to come from taking part in running races and dance routines (latest obsessions) with Little Miss A!
Feelgood mission no. 3: to get active outdoors
It’s been tempting to hibernate inside over the winter, especially when we’ve all been battling illness. But we’re really an outdoors family and Little Miss A is absolutely at her happiest when running free! I’ve been adding more outdoors time into our week again but best of all was a family trip to the beach, which really cleared the cobwebs. Little Miss A did some excellent rolling down the sand dunes and we had fun sloshing in the waves with our wellies on. Definitely good for the soul.
This month’s challenge: Get out and about whenever we can, plus visit somewhere new as a family (that should be easy at least as we’re off for a weekend in Cornwall soon!)
Feelgood mission no. 4: to look after my hair and skin
Months of sleep deprivation – check. Tired, grey skin as a result – check. To brighten it up a bit, I’ve been using an instant radiance facial exfoliator (from the Pure range at M&S) in the shower a couple of times a week, which really does leave my skin with a glow and feels lovely. Next on my list is to start using my eye cream (Clinique All About Eyes), which sits on my dressing table untouched every day!
My big obsession this year, however, is my hair. That post-pregnancy hair fallout has started happening and my hair has been feeling and looking noticeably thinner, agh. I’ve started using L’Oreal Elvive Full Restore shampoo, which I’m really impressed with. And I’ve hopped onto the coconut oil bandwagon a little late, investing in a jar of the stuff after reading how it can help improve hair health. We’ll see…
This month’s challenge: Try out that jar of coconut oil. Start using my eye cream regularly. Get more sleep. (The last one is just wishful thinking!)
Here’s to a feelgood few weeks ahead!
Everything looks brighter when the sun is shining.
Today felt like the perfect antidote to the tough slog that has been our winter. Blue skies and sunshine, a mild breeze, birds singing… Spring arrived, bringing with it big smiles and an irresistible urge to be outside.
We didn’t go far. Our backgarden provided plenty to keep the three of us happy. A blanket with a basket of balls and a few other bits for Baby E. The playhouse and outdoor kitchen plus lots of long grass for Little Miss A. A contained play space, easy entertainment and the feeling of warm sun on the skin for me. And the joy of watching my girls.
Little Miss A revels in being outdoors and was so excited to get down into the garden. We had a very short game of catch (she’s loving ball games at the moment) until the lure of the long grass took over. She started pulling up handfuls to ‘cook’ in her outdoor kitchen (which is basically an old cabinet the husband transformed last summer), adding the odd dandelion that she found. This feast was laid out on her little table for her and Mummy to dig in. Mmm!
Baby E spent a while going through her box of balls and giggling at her sister, sitting contentedly on her mat until she realised there was a whole new area to explore. She’s just started crawling so set off to investigate the grass, running her fingers through it, pulling up clumps (copying her sister I think!) and inevitably trying to eat some!
I took her socks off so she could feel the tickly sensation of the grass on her bare feet, which she loved.
How cute is that little foot?!
Little Miss A set off round the garden to see what’s growing. Our daffodils aren’t flowering yet, so we looked at the green stalks with their buds and talked about where the petals were hiding. One patch is weirdly growing without the flower heads for the second or third year running so I think it’s time to put some new bulbs in!
We also talked about what we might plant this year. Little Miss A is very interested in this idea so I need to start pondering some easy garden projects we can do together. I’m thinking sunflowers and maybe a vegetable or two and some herbs…
We had a little picnic snack and finished off by topping up the bird food on our table, hoping to spot some birds visiting once we were back indoors. We didn’t have to wait long. One cheeky pigeon was checking it out before we’d even got our shoes off!
Our garden is a lovely suntrap and the afternoon was without a doubt the most relaxing and fun time I’ve had on my own with the girls so far. It felt like coming out of hibernation. I can’t wait for more beautiful spring days to come!
We headed up to our local university this weekend to join the celebrations for Chinese New Year.
The university’s Chinese society did a great job, putting on a whole host of activities to welcome the Year of the Sheep (also somewhat confusingly known as the Year of the Goat!).
To start it all off, there was dragon and lion dancing. We only caught the tail end (literally!) of the dragon, which was a shame as it looked amazing. But the lion dance was really interesting.
Little Miss A was fascinated, getting up as close as she dared and even joining in, dancing along to the drums.
The dancers swapped over a few times; we guessed that it must have been hard work crouching down inside the costume, especially as the routine was so physical with the lion rolling around and rearing onto its hind quarters.
Afterwards, we headed indoors to look around the Chinese market. We treated ourselves to a very untraditional hot chocolate to warm up, as, despite the gorgeous sunshine and blue sky, it was decidedly chilly outside. Then it was time to explore. Little Miss A loved dressing up in a traditional Chinese gown, examining the beautiful parasols and receiving her very own pink paper lantern. She also waited incredibly patiently in line to have her face painted (Hello Kitty!). Baby E liked bouncing along to the music and I enjoyed a sneaky spring roll, yum!
We had to leave to get home for tea and bed so didn’t get to see the fireworks display unfortunately – I am already plotting staying later next year so we can catch them next time!
It’s been a tough day.
It started tough, with me feeling rotten after too little sleep as usual and fighting some bug that I seem to have had on and off for a couple of months that’s flared up again this week.
Baby Girl E has been difficult. Tired from a bad night’s sleep and not able to catch it up with any decent length nap. Unhappy at being left to play for long but equally unhappy to be held.
Little Miss A has been difficult. Cross with me, I think, for having too much of my attention diverted by her grumpy sister. Tired herself as she’s not been sleeping brilliantly lately. More than a little fed up to be milling around at home, as I have neither the energy or the clean hair required to go out.
Even with me managing to slot in some activity time with both girls – Little Miss A and I made cardboard butterflies with paint, sequins and glitter, for heaven’s sake! – nothing has felt enough. I haven’t felt enough.
I’m in a low mood and questioning everything about my parenting. Feeling like I’m not doing a very good job of being a mum to two. Trying to remember if I ever felt this emotionally drained and squeezed first time round (no, I don’t think I did). Wondering how I can get us out of this loop we seem stuck in, where it all seems so hard all the time. Feeling very alone and inadequate, as surely everyone else seems to be able to cope better than me.
At 4pm, I was feeling pretty bleak.
Yet, by 7pm, things don’t look quite so bad. It’s kiddie bedtime. It’s Friday. I’ve survived my tough day – and a long week with illness, little sleep, bad weather and no preschool.
I have a wonderful husband who bought chocolate and gave me a pep talk just when I needed it.
I have two beautiful girls who test me to my absolute limits, there’s no doubt of that, but who also give me more joy than I could have imagined before I had them.
A quote I heard recently about having young children springs to mind: “The days are long but the years are short.”
Yes, this was a long day. This was a tough day. I have been feeling this way about too many of my days the last couple of months and I don’t like it.
Somehow, I need to find new ways to accept and deal with the not so good days without letting them swallow me up. Because I don’t want to just be in survival mode all the time, focusing on the long days now and then looking back later wondering what happened to those short, precious years.