Mother’s Day gift guide

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It can be very hard for the guys to get it right when it comes to Mother’s Day – particularly the first one – when the kids get a bit bigger they will be bringing home hand-made paint spattered cards from nursery, and they will be able to help choose something. For now though, it will fall firmly to daddy to choose something that you might like. In honesty – most mums will be pleased just to have something to show that you appreciate what they’re doing. Being a mum isn’t an easy job – whether you’re trying to balance work as well as bringing up your brood, or whether you’re a stay at home mum (both of which are equally difficult I would say!!) So – a little something to say “thank you” and “well done” and “I know what you’re doing is hard and I love you for doing it” can go a very long way. Here are my top ideas for Mother’s Day gifts – none of which cost a fortune, and all of which will be bound to be well received.

1.Sketchy Muma prints – as pictured above, the absolutely divine drawings by the Sketchy Muma are available to buy – the messages contained within them are heartfelt, and meaningful, and they are sure to bring a tear to the Mama-in-your-life’s eye. Available from the Sketchy Muma etsy shop and costing only £15 – these would be really lovely framed as a gift. http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AnnaLewisArt

2. A relaxation treatment – chances are – if she’s looking after children, she will be tired. Not just the kind of tired that happens after you’ve been out late to a party, or the kind of tired you used to think you felt when you’d been to the gym for a really good work-out – but the kind of tired where you’re not sure what your own name is any more. She will likely still get up ten times in the night (maybe complaining a bit as she does it), but she will continue to do this until the children are grown. Spending the day in bed is not an option when there are small people to be entertained, so some valuable time to herself, and better still the chance to indulge in a massage, reflexology, acupuncture or aromatherapy treatment will go down very well indeed! Those local to Berkhamsted should look no further than the wonderful Roots Therapies, but those further afield should be able to find good registered therapists in your area. http://rootstherapies.wixsite.com/roots

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3. Mother’s Bath Oil – Neals Yard Remedies – this is beyond divine! I have been using this myself since soon after my daughter was born – a great baby shower gift, and not something that I would normally treat myself to – the incredible combination of smells and natural ingredients are a true taste of indulgence in your own home. £15 for 100ml should run to around 6-8 good baths. In my book – 6 to 8 sessions of relaxation has got to be worth £15 of anyone’s money!! Available from various stockists and supermarkets, but also nealsyardremedies.comimg_1838

4. Hand printing kit – Baby Art Family Touch hand print frame. Having thought I had exhausted all possibilities of taking copies of my daughter’s tiny handprints, I was surprised to see this beauty on someone else’s instagram feed. Combining the handprints of all the members of your family – assuming there are only four members (!) this gives you a way of capturing the prints of all of your tribe. I think this is one that I’ll be hoping for myself – and if I don’t get one, I might have to buy it for myself!! £24.99 on Amazon.com or available from other stockists.

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5. Strong Girls Club sweater by Mutha.Hood – I love everything about this brand and Gemma the boss lady behind it. Her Instagram account makes me chuckle, and the clothes and accessories on the Mutha.Hood online store are rapidly filling my wardrobe at home! This new version of the SGC sweater is bound to be a winner with the Mummy in your life – so wearable with any outfit combo, and they wash well for anyone in the process of attempting to teach a toddler not to throw food! £40 available at muthahoodgoods.com

Some of the best…. Valentine’s gifts for the lady in your life

One thing that I’ve been majorly aware of since becoming a mother, is that it’s easy to forget, or for others to forget that you are still a woman – not only a mum, but also a woman, a wife, a girlfriend, or partner. I’m very lucky that my husband is one of the better ones when it comes to remembering me as a person in my own right, and he often brings little treats home – like tasty little chocolates, or sometimes flowers. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and it will be our first since we had our daughter. Normally we’d have gone out for dinner – him rolling his eyes at the whole ‘greetings card ritual’ of it all, but at the same time; not wanting me to be disappointed if he didn’t make the effort.

Valentine’s Day with kids on the scene is bound to be different – finding a restaurant which has availability at a time which is convenient for the babysitter etc is not quite the same as just booking somewhere really lavish and not thinking about the cost… it seems that when you have children you also equate the price of everything with what you could otherwise be spending the money on… for me, this is a rather unfortunate addiction to clothes from Jojo Maman Bebe…

BUT…

that doesn’t mean that on Valentine’s Day, we don’t want to be a little bit spoilt… so I’ve put together my list of gift ideas for the lady in your life.

  1. Teething-friendly jewellery from Halia Rose – this fabulous range of necklaces and bracelets are perfect for any new mums, or those with children who are of teething age. Not only are they stylish and can go with most outfits, they serve a double purpose of being handy when your little one needs something to chew on. If the lady in your life is sick of not being able to wear jewellery with little hands continually grabbing and potentially breaking it, then this is a great option! Bracelets start from £6.99 and the full range is available at haliarose.co.uk

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2. The new Sweetpea baby mug from Emma Bridgewater. I have always adored sweetpeas, and own some of the original sweetpea range, but these are so much more lifelike, and the colours are simply stunning. There are lots of more “love-y” designs, such as the heart sampler designs, but for me, it would be this pattern that would win – hands down! The baby mug is available for £14.95 at emmabridgewater.co.uk

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3. My husband can often be heard to utter his confusion when I’m browsing the expensive candles in John Lewis – it’s fair to say that he doesn’t really approve of spending sixty-odd quid on a candle (not that I can justify that either!!). However, if you are looking for something slightly indulgent, but that won’t totally break the bank, you can’t go far wrong with one of these divine candles from True Grace. All of the scents are pretty fabulous, but my personal favourites are Morrocan Rose, and Blackberry Leaf – £30 from truegrace.co.uk

4. Flowers! Flowers! Flowers! It might seem a slight cliche to buy flowers for Valentine’s Day, but I’m yet to meet a woman who said “Eurgh, I wish he hadn’t bought me flowers…” There’s nothing quite so nice as a surprise bunch of flowers, and although the prices are generally fairly inflated for this one day of the year – you could always buy them a couple of days before, or the day after (as long as she’s had a card on the day and you’ve not forgotten altogether!!) Although you’ll be sure to earn extra brownie points if you spend the extra and present her with a bunch on the day – or better still have them sent to her workplace/home for that thrill of the delivery arriving!! My favourite florist in the world luckily does postal deliveries – and you can place orders at the gorgeous Green Parlour through their website. Prices for “The Amelia” as shown below, range from £35-£75 depending on the size you choose. Delivery is additional. They can be found at greenparlour.com

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So.. if you’re stuck for ideas, or you want to be able to point your husband/boyfriend/significant other in the right direction – get sharing this post!!

Space for a little one?

A couple of months ago, I had a shouting match with a man in a Waitrose carpark. It’s not the sort of thing you expect when you just want to pop in for a loaf of bread, but as he was reversing into the mother and baby space next to me, and was about to hit the car next to him – I beeped my horn… I didn’t want him to hit the car, and was just alerting him to the fact he was going to.

He wound his window down and was ready for an argument – slightly unnecessary I felt, as I was just trying to help him out – but as I looked into the back of his car, I noticed that there was a distinct lack of any child, or indeed any sign of a child ever needing to use that car. So I calmly explained ‘those spaces are actually for parents and children’, thinking perhaps that he’d not seen the fairly inadequate signage, and the faded picture of a buggy on the tarmac. It was at this point he started swearing at me and telling me that he did have a child in the back – concerning I thought, as I can only imagine that the child must have been in the boot of the car – quite clearly not in the back seat anyway!

With my own baby safely in her car seat behind me, I drove away – not wanting the situation to escalate. I called the store that afternoon – I explained what had happened and my concerns about the situation – not really feeling it fair to be verbally assaulted in their carpark by someone who clearly couldn’t read or understand signage… they explained they would look into the ‘customer experience’ and what the customer sees when they park.

Upon arrival at the same store yesterday, I noted that they have put a couple of new signs up. They are not behind each of the spaces allocated which I think could cause ambiguity for those thinking they can sneak in. They also haven’t repainted the tarmac which would have hugely helped to make it clearer. As I pulled into the space, the woman next to me walked back to her car – no child anywhere to be seen – got in, and drove away. I rolled my eyes, tutted to myself, and wondered whether things will ever change. People will always be selfish. Maybe she hadn’t even had to battle with a wriggling child – straining to get out of their car seat whilst trying desperately not to scratch the car parked so close next to you. Are these the same people who park in disabled spaces, forcing wheelchair users and those with mobility issues to struggle from the other end of the carpark, or simply not to be able to park at all without the proper space they need? I guess so. I despair that these people exist. I despair that people are so selfish and in such a rush to get into the store to buy their quinoa and avocados that they can’t wait for a normal space, and feel the need to make someone else’s day just that little bit harder. Next time you think about just ‘sneaking into a space’ that’s not meant for you – just think that the mum or dad might have had no sleep for several weeks, or even months… they might have a baby with reflux or colic, and be dashing in to buy medicine to soothe their baby… but no, don’t worry – go ahead and park there.. I mean, what difference does it make?!!

The fragile hand of friendship

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This isn’t the easiest post to write, because I’m still struggling with how I feel about it all; so bear with me. Having a baby can really change so many things in your life. I expected it to change my waistline for example (not that I really had one to start with) and I knew that my sleep intake was about to dramatically drop, but one thing I wasn’t prepared for, was the affect it would have on my friendships.

Having done an NCT class, I had heard a hundred times how important it was to be making friends who were going through the same thing as us – people who would have their babies at a similar time, and who would be on the end of the phone at 2, 3, 4am with advice or encouragement, or just to sympathise that they too were up in the middle of the night with a baby who seemed allergic to sleep… What I hadn’t heard was that having a baby could have a negative impact on the friendships you already had.

I had naively assumed that the friends I’d always been surrounded by would be just as delighted with our new addition as we were – they would be overjoyed by the countless Facebook posts, Instagram updates and daily texts with pictures and videos of our snoozing newborn. I guess I had thought that if they loved me, they would love our baby and want to know all about her.

Wrong.

Of course, there will be people who just love all babies. More often than not these people will have their own children, and will want to relive their rose-coloured, and time-dimmed memories of those early days with a baby. They will have forgotten all of the minutiae of the first few weeks where all the days run one into another and you can’t remember the last time you went out of the house wearing something that wasn’t covered in snot or vomited up milk, and will instead be popping around wanting to sniff the newborns head (the smell really is just sour breastmilk FYI), and getting all broody about tiny fingers and toes.

There are some people who don’t have children – maybe they never wanted, or couldn’t have them, or maybe they’ve not yet had them and are starting to think about one day being a parent themselves – they might come round with a considerate gift – possibly after seeking advice from other friends who have children, or the store assistant in Jojo Maman…. ‘I need a present which will be useful but not hugely expensive…’ and the store assistant/friend/random woman standing next to them in the shop advises muslin squares… which you add to the growing pile which you think you’ll never possibly need all of, but soon find just how grateful you are that so many people bought them!!

The final group of people – the friends who liked you for you. They enjoyed your company when you were a different person – when you were the person before your baby. The not-mum. When you could do shots of jaeger-meister and sang karaoke at 3am, and smoked vogues like they were going out of fashion. I liked that me too. I liked who that person was – she was really fun, she never said no to a social invitation, and she was always good for a laugh. Sometimes I miss her too – sometimes I think it would be nice to still be that person who could get home from a club after the morning milk had been delivered and who couldn’t care less what others thought – but that girl has gone now. With the arrival of a small person, or rather with the arrival of a heartbeat and a little blur on a computer screen that made my own heart beat just that bit faster – a new person arrived – well – two new people if you count the baby. In place of the girl who spent all weekends driving to the beach to scuba dive, is a woman who wakes in the night to replace a lost dummy. A woman who has to remember to pack snacks for her child without giving a thought to what she will eat herself for lunch. A woman who has a lovely Mulberry handbag, which sits discarded behind the sofa because it doesn’t fit all of the nappies and wipes and teethers that now must go everywhere with her. A woman who above all else, would lay down her life for her baby without a second thought. A mum. Such a small word but which means so much. Something changes in you which is inexplicable. It’s impossible to describe to people why you can no longer do all the things you did before – even with the offer of babysitters – because actually, I just don’t want to leave her for the evening – and no, that doesn’t make me weird, or boring, or that I’ve somehow totally lost the plot – it just means that I’ve changed, I’m different, I have new priorities.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a night out. I love going for dinner with friends, and the occasional glass of wine – but when you’ve got to get up at 5.30, the idea of a hangover is slightly less appealing. I don’t talk about her all the time – in fact I’d love to talk about what your boyfriend has been up to, or the latest holiday you took – I’ll probably go slightly glassy-eyed thinking about the fact that I can’t so easily do all the things you’re doing any more, but it doesn’t mean I care any less that you are enjoying them, or that you are happy.

One of my friends very wisely told me that as you get older and your life changes, you are bound to go in different directions from some of the people you used to spend time with. This is undoubtedly true. There are people who I used to spend time with at university who I barely hear from, and barely contact nowadays, but others who are great at dropping a line every now and again. We all chose different paths in life, and sometimes life chooses those paths for us – and they’re not always going to end up in the same destination.

The arrival of my daughter has bought me many things. Too many things to list here, but above all – an enduring and ever-growing love which astounds me every day and frankly takes my breath away. I have a new group of wonderful friends who have been along the journey with me – our babies growing together and supporting each other every step of the way – not just with baby things, but with life in general – we started as acquaintances but have truly become friends now, and that is fabulous.

There will be people who are fighting their own battles. Maybe they are undertaking IVF, or are unable to have children at all. Maybe they are struggling in other ways, and don’t want to hear your constant ‘life is so wonderful with children’ comments. I guess the one main thing I have learnt is that you should be mindful. Mindful of others feelings, mindful that not everyone is feeling the way that you are, mindful that we all have our own challenges to face and that sometimes people will need a time-out from each other, mindful that things can change, that people change, and that hopefully, in the course of a lifetime, the true friends will remain.

Taking time to self-care

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There are lots of people in life who it is useful to know – it’s handy to know a good plumber for example, or a GP who you can drop a text to when you just want to “check” something but don’t want to actually make a doctor’s appointment.. (I know they just love having friends who are asking them questions out of hours 😉 ) The person who is top of my list of useful to know, is my good friend Katie. We’ve known each other since we were 11 but whereas I grew up to do a job which wasn’t particularly helpful.. Katie became a reflexologist.

I didn’t know a huge amount about reflexology before I was pregnant with Sophie. I knew that Katie worked in a hospice and I always admired the work that she did – trying to make people more comfortable in their final weeks and months, but I didn’t really know what it was that she did. Like most friends, when we met up we talked very little about work, and more about planning weddings, or mutual friends, or anything else. When I fell pregnant with Sophie, I started to become a bit more interested – she explained that reflexology could be useful for lots of things during pregnancy – relaxation being a major one for me during the earlier part of my pregnancy – and particularly helping me to get some much needed sleep.

As I got bigger I found it almost impossible to sleep. Looking back on it now, and having been through those early weeks with a newborn where you ACTUALLY get no sleep – I realise I probably wasn’t doing too badly, but at the time I felt like I was walking around like a zombie. People kept telling me that it was perfectly normal and that it was just my body getting ready for never sleeping again after the baby was born – helpful! No.

So I booked a treatment with Katie – I thought it had to be worth a go. After managing to attempt parking in the wrong carpark and driving my car into a gatepost, I felt hugely stressed by the time I finally lay back in the treatment couch, but within seconds I was in heaven. I felt all of my stresses and strains melt away under her expert touch and I suddenly wished I’d booked to see her sooner. That night I slept. I can’t pretend that my sleep was fixed for the rest of my pregnancy, but I did see her several more times throughout – not only did it totally relax me, but it was also some much needed me-time in the melee of antenatal appointments and scans which can take over the supposed joy of pregnancy.

At each of my midwife appointments, they always seemed surprised at how good my blood pressure was, and how I was putting on such a small amount of weight – like only the weight of the baby and no excess. I can’t help but sound smug when I say that my pregnancy was textbook – I know I was incredibly lucky and I know that should we fall pregnant again we may not be as fortunate, but when it came to my labour planning, I didn’t hesitate in telling them that I didn’t want drugs and I wanted a water birth.

In the lead up to my labour I had several sessions with Katie. I was ready for baby to arrive and I wanted her to be on time. I would always advise you go with medical advise, but I wanted her here safe and well and for me that meant not letting her go overdue. In those final few days I knew she was ready. I was ready. I wasn’t scared of the labour, in fact I was looking forward to it – I wanted to meet our girl.

When my waters broke in the middle of the night, I was calm, and excited. My active labour lasted for four hours, and our beautiful girl was born in the birthing pool. I had no epidural, no stitches and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. We had our healthy baby girl, and I had felt relaxed throughout. I won’t lie and say that there wasn’t pain involved, but I can say that I’m 100 percent sure that it was much less painful, and far quicker due to the reflexology we’d had during pregnancy.

I still see Katie for the occasional treatment now that I’ve had Sophie – it’s the perfect self-care for any mum – some essential time to have a break from the kids, and look after number one. It has a wonderful track record for helping fertility, and all manner of other health conditions from bad backs, shoulders, digestive issues.. basically everything!

Katie sometimes even does treatments on little Sophie – she absolutely loves seeing her auntie Katie, and I’m sure she somehow knows what a big part she played during my pregnancy!

Anyone thinking of trying for a baby, or already pregnant, or other health complaints – if you’ve not tried reflexology; what are you waiting for?!!!

For anyone in Hertfordshire – look no further – and anyone else, try looking up your local practitioner!

http://rootstherapies.wixsite.com/roots

rootstherapies@gmail.com

Top five gift ideas for Mamas this Christmas!

So… I’ve been bombarded with adverts on my Facebook wall for several weeks now of lots of seemingly lovely Christmas items – think matching pyjama sets for the whole family, or cute little hats with Pom poms that you can match with your kids… but when you click on the link, you discover that they’re being sent from China or America, or if you do actually buy something (which I made the mistake of doing before Halloween) – when it arrives weeks later; the quality is poor, the mass-produced feel is obvious, and you’ll probably wish you’d not bothered in the first place. The idea that something so cheap is too good to be true, is normally just that…

Switch to my Instagram feed however, and the likes of Mutha.Hood and other fabulous Mum and Dad bloggers who are sometimes running a business alongside raising their small people, and I am met with a glorious array of divine logo sweaters, silver necklaces featuring your children’s handprints, kits to make beautiful paintings of your children’s footprints, and books aplenty to have you chuckling into your sneaky Christmas port…

I’m a huge supporter of buying local, and especially supporting small businesses. I think the quality of what you buy is in a different league, and the extra finishing touches make all the difference! A little bag of sweets popped in the envelope alongside a teether I bought recently was a huge boost on an otherwise fairly crappy day, and a postcard that arrived with a jumper literally has me smiling every time I look at it. Emblazoned with the words ‘You are valuable’ – I mean, who doesn’t want to have a little confidence boost arrive with their shopping?! You don’t get that when you buy mass produced tat from China!

It’s also worth remembering that if you go direct to the producer, rather than via a bigger branded website that may stock the goods, the seller may be selling the item for cheaper!

So… here we have my top five gift ideas for the Mama in your life this Christmas. Let’s hope Mr Berkhamsted Mama is reading this…

1. The Berry Mama ‘boyfriend’ sweatshirt – I’ve long been a fan of this brand, with their massive commitment to charitable giving. I’ve had my navy ‘Mother’ sweatshirt since just after my daughter was born and wear it constantly! So comfortable, looks good, and you can feel smug in the knowledge that you’ve given to charity through buying it. This particular sweater includes a contribution to Mothers2Mothers – a charity working to eliminate paediatric AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. £50 from http://www.fmlystore.com

2. The Maman necklace. It was virtually impossible for me to narrow it down to just one thing from the gorgeous Mutha.Hood shop, because their Strong Girls Club range could have basically all featured on this list, but I recently treated myself to this necklace as an early Christmas pressie to myself from my daughter, and I adore everything about it! Haven’t taken it off since it arrived and the only problem with it is that my little magpie wants to grab it all the time because it’s so shiny!! £43 for the rose gold version – http://www.muthahoodgoods.com

3. Ruler from the Real Ruler Height Chart Company – To avoid marking your children’s heights on the wall and losing them forever when you either move house, or your decorator accidentally paints over them.. this is a genius way of keeping those special memories forever. Mark your children’s heights directly onto the ruler as they grow. Bespoke rulers with personalised lettering start from £100. http://www.realrulerco.com

4. Personalised bauble with your babies footprint – I have to admit that although I’ve done some DIY versions of these at my local pottery painting place (which are charming in their own paint splattered way), this is in another league and is super classy. Send off the image of your little one’s print, and the text you want featured, and you get this glorious bauble back to treasure for Christmases to come! £26 http://www.libbymcmullin.com

5. Beautiful foil prints of your baby’s hand and footprints – having thought that I had purchased every single possible way of capturing my little ones feet for eternity (I’ve done necklaces, canvas painting, plaster casts – the lot) I was absolutely delighted to discover that there was a really lovely and simple way of putting them on the wall in a classy way. With various options, including a rainbow style which I think would be very special if you have had a rainbow baby, the lovely people at Hold Upon Heart are not only really helpful with their customer service, but they’re still taking orders for delivery before Christmas (check their website to be sure though). The print is just £18 and there are options for buying with a frame too. http://www.holduponheart.com

So there we have it – looking at these I realise it’s just become my own Christmas list because I LOVE everything that’s on here! I think if you get one of these for any new Mama this Christmas, you won’t be going far wrong!! Happy shopping!

Who am I?

And no… I’m not about to burst into a heart-wrenching rendition from Les Miserables (although that song is currently spinning around my head..) but I did want to write something about who we become after we become parents. I was thinking about this earlier this morning, after I’d had a night of very poor sleep (we’re teething)… see – not ‘she’s teething’, but ‘we’re teething’, because apparently, once you have a child nothing is just you any more… So anyway; I digress… I was sitting on the loo – door open of course because you can’t possibly have any privacy anymore.. and I could hear madam starting to whine in her room because she was waking up… again… so I call out, as I probably do a million times a day ‘Mummy’s coming’ – yep; I’ve become someone who speaks about themselves not just in the third person, but also by the name ‘Mummy’. The worst thing is, I don’t even do it just to my daughter, I sometimes find myself saying it to my husband (and not in some kind of Bridget Jones way..). It sort of makes me proud to think of the new person I am, and it’s strange to think that for the first 33 years of my life I was one person, and now I have sort of become another. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I sure as hell know that I feel like I’ve found the thing I was always supposed to do – motherhood kind of fits for me, like a lovely old handbag that just sits comfortably on your shoulder… except that the bag weighs about a stone and a half, and constantly seems to be dripping fluid of one sort or another onto your favourite jumper…

So I think it’s important to remind ourselves sometimes who we were ‘before’ – it doesn’t mean we don’t adore being ‘Mummy’, or that we don’t happily give up every minute of the day to our small person… but it just means that in order to give that person the best version of yourself, and to teach them to grow up strong, independent, adventurous and kind… we should probably check in with who we were before they arrived every now and again.

Before my daughter I spent a lot of time indulging my hobbies – a lot of money too. I love to Scuba dive, and would think nothing of spending a weekend planned around a good dive or two, and would often be bombing up and down the motorway with my buddy Matt. I’d spend time making playlists for the car and planning what snacks we’d take with us, rather than checking out soft play prices, and zoo memberships… the idea of spending £100 on a day out diving now seems ridiculous… although I think nothing of dropping that kind of amount in Jojo Maman (and then feeling incredibly guilty afterwards). I’ve got a black belt in taekwondo – I fear I’ve become one of those guys on dating profiles who say ‘I play rugby’ and when you meet them it’s clear that they played once… at school.. twenty years ago – but I hold onto that achievement because I worked damn hard for it – and before you ask; no I probably couldn’t still break a piece of wood suspended a foot above my head with a jumping front snap kick.. but mess with my daughter and you’ll find out whether I still have that fire in my belly!

So I think the thing we have to all remember, is that when you look at a mum (or dad) friend and you think they’ve totally morphed into someone you don’t recognise – they’re still in there, and they’d probably desperately love to spend some time doing all the things they did before, but somehow, when you are handed that bundle of wriggling pink mess in the hospital – your whole being shifts, and it becomes less about who YOU are, and more about the person you’ve created.

The ‘C’ Word.

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It’s coming. Whether you want to accept it or not – Christmas is coming. With it there will be a raft of stress, a jam-packed diary of invitations (lovely, but stressful), and no end of people pulling you in all directions because they simply ‘must see you because it’s Christmas’. With the big day looming large, it’s got me thinking about what is really important. It will be our daughter’s first Christmas. As with many families, ours is slightly dispersed – which means having to try to fit in seeing everyone over the course of the day rather than all being in one place. Add friends into the mix and I fear we may need a Harry Potter style time turner to get to all the places we need to be… BUT I’m thinking there must be a way around this – sadly I fear it may be that I’ll just have to put my foot down and say no to people. I’ve had a couple of invitations already that we would have loved to attend, but I’ve gratefully declined. This first year with our little lady is special. I want us to be able to make it about her, and not about everyone else. It’s important to me that we get time to take her to church on Christmas Eve – that she can see the twinkling lights on the village Christmas tree and hear the carollers sing. I want to drink in every second of it with her and my husband – just us – our new little family.

Of course there will be times when we are with everyone else too, and everyone wants to see the baby at Christmas (and rightly so), but I think it’s important to make time for spending just together – there will hopefully be Christmases for years to come where we can meet with friends at the pub, or attend every Christmas fair and play – but this year, I want it to be about time for our baby (and the baby Jesus obvs – He is the reason for the season after all!)

The impending festive period also lends another quandary – and one which is rather more costly on the purse… the issue of presents. I’ve been dutifully buying second hand clothes and toys over the last few months and putting them away to wrap for Christmas. I often dress our girl in second hand bargains and she certainly doesn’t distinguish between which toy has been preloved and which cost a fortune to buy new.. but when I came to look at the bag, I realised I’d rather over-estimated. I managed to halve the bounty, and put half away for her birthday in the Spring. Everyone always tells you that in the first year they’d rather have the wrapping paper anyway, and I know this will be true for Sophie – she adores paper! Relatives and friends keep asking what she’d like for Christmas – I’ve tried to be practical and say things that she needs or will use, like pyjamas, but I feel sure she’ll also receive a mountain of toys – some of which I’ll put away to give throughout the year when she tires of the ones she already has.

I saw a wonderful thought recently – that you get – something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. Really four presents is all any child needs from their parents, especially when they are bound to be lucky from other family members and friends. It’s so hard to limit yourself though when everything you see in the shops is so adorable and you know she’d look gorgeous in it, or love to play with it.

I’ve tried where I can to make our cards and gifts, or at least to not spend as much as we sometimes do. I fear I’ve still ended up spending a small fortune, but I guess the conclusion I’ve come to, is that the only thing that matters this Christmas, is that time is precious – more so now than ever, and that you should spend it wisely.

Dustpan… and brush.

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Anyone who’s had a baby will tell you that there are things about them which are unexpected. My daughter is now seven and a half months old.. or thereabouts. I wish I could tell you that I knew exactly how many weeks old she is – but I’ve got no idea – I stopped counting at about 16 weeks, or whenever the last injections were that she had (it feels like a lifetime ago so I can’t remember).

Of all the things that I thought might surprise me, noise was not one of them – when she was a tiny baby, noise didn’t bother my daughter. You could have happily walked her through the centre of a hurricane and she wouldn’t have stirred. She’s not the kind of baby who gets bothered by loud music, and she barely notices when other babies in our baby group scream at her… there’s one thing which she can’t handle though – the hoover.

You’d think it was a nice excuse to have hey? “Sorry, I can’t clean the house today darling, but the baby will cry, and maybe we need to get the cleaner back…”. I was one of those very lucky people who’s husband declared that we would get a cleaner when I fell pregnant – I was still working for the majority of my pregnancy, and coming home to clean was the last thing that I felt like doing. After our daughter was born, and I was on maternity leave, I felt like I should really be doing the cleaning myself… no problem (other than trying to look after a brand new baby and get the cleaning done, which to any mum/stay at home dad will know… is virtually as possible as completing the tasks of Hercules!!) Fast forward six months, and my baby decides that she can’t abide the noise of the hoover. When I say she can’t abide it – I mean like full on torrential tears and screaming can’t abide it… what’s a girl to do?? So the house starts to look like a total tip… and I have to explain that I can’t get the hoover out because it upsets my daughter..

So of course what does a mummy do? I’m sure I should be making her put up with it – she should have to learn that she can’t make a fuss every time the hoover is turned on… but no – I did what any other self respecting 34 year old would do.. I got on my hands and knees, with the most pathetic brush and dustpan you’ve ever seen – totally didn’t do the job and made me realise I need to buy a better brush… and brushed the upstairs of my house. As a child I remember my mum having one of those weird push around dust sucker things – it wasn’t electric and it didn’t make a noise, but it somehow cleaned the carpet… thing I might be off to ebay to see if you can still buy them…