Tales from a tired mummy

A couple of weeks ago Millie was going through a particularly bad sleeping spell during which 4am became the new wake up time. Quite frankly it was killing me, it was like the new born stage all over again and I wasnt prepared for it the first time round never mind all over again just months after things had started to improve. It did however get me chatting to my mummy friends about lack of sleep and the crazy things we do when we are sleep deprived.

One friend on the day we were chatting was having a major panic that she had dropped the back from her earring and the baby may pick it up and eat it only to text me later that day to tell me she had found it! She had put two backs on one earring that morning! Every friend I spoke to had equally ridiculous stories so I decided to write my top ten sleep deprived mummy moments that really made me chuckle (some could also be my own, I couldn’t possible say….)

1. Accidentally putting your phone in the washing machine with the dirty laundry only realising your mistake when the phone starts flashing taking photographs with each spin of the machine. So pleased my friend managed to get a picture of this!

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2. Going to work in odd shoes and not noticing until you sit down in a lunchtime meeting. What makes this one worse is one shoe was flat, the other had a heel and the mummy in question had been wondering why she felt like she was walking a bit wonky all morning.

3. Falling asleep mid night feed then waking up in a blind panic when the baby is no longer in your arms, thinking that you’ve been sleeping on top of them and crushed them. You have in fact already placed them safely back in their crib but you’re so tired you’ve forgotten.

4. Thinking it’s a great idea to make your daughters birthday cake the night before her birthday and realising you only have plain flour. Then going to the shop to buy self raising flour and buying another bag of plain. Too embarrassed to go back to the same shop you go elsewhere and low and behold buy yet another bag of plain flour. Sod it, biscuits will have to do!

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5. Sitting in the middle of a baby sensory class and an elderly gentleman interrupts asking if anyone owns a black VW golf parked out on the street, “you’ve left your front passenger door open, and not just unlocked, its wide open onto the street!”.

6. Turning up to a stay and play session and you’re so tired you can’t remember if you’ve cleaned your teeth and put deodorant on so you have to leave promptly to buy a toothbrush and toothpaste.

7. Buying a fresh cooked rotisserie chicken at the supermarket for dinner and losing it on the way home. Just veg and potatoes that night then…

8. Going to work with your top on inside out AND back to front and thinking it was just your necklace irritating your neck not your clothes label.

9. Putting your child’s coat in the bin at soft play instead of the rubbish you’re also carrying and not realising until you get to your car, by which time there is already two cups of coffee and a load of food scraps all over the coat so it’s too gross to retrieve.

10. Answering the door to the pizza delivery man with your boob hanging out mid cluster feed because you forgot to put it away for the 27th time that night.

All of these are actual events that happened to me and some of my mummy friends. I have so many more I could probably write a book, if only I had the time to do so. And there would be a full chapter dedicated to one very special mummy who after seven years of sleep deprivation really has a lot of stories to tell. You know who you are, let’s just call you “Katrina”….

Easter “fun”

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With the school holidays almost over I was determined to make Easter weekend fun, particularly for Nic who has spent part of his break at Easter school in preparation for his SATS.  Mr H is desperately trying to get the garden finished in time for Millie’s birthday party so on Friday I thought I’d take the kids out so he could get on without any interruptions.

An Easter egg hunt would be a great little treat for them I thought and would burn off some energy. So I bought lots of little plastic eggs and got on with filling them with treats for both children. I decided the local bluebell woods would make the perfect setting too.

So Friday morning came and I was really looking forward to our little bit of Easter fun. In my imaginary world of perfect mummy moments here’s how I thought our morning would go:

– both children would rush around excitedly in the woods hunting out my well hidden eggs, Nic being the proud big brother helping Millie find hers.

– I’d take hundreds of beautiful pictures of them both gliding through the bluebells smiling from ear to ear as the sun beams through the trees.

– tired from all the fresh air and excitement Nic would quietly munch away on his treats while Millie slept all the way home.

– Nic would excitedly rush indoors as we arrive home to tell Mr H all about it and share a few of his goodies with me as a thank you for making him have such a fun morning.

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Fast forward to Friday and here is what actually happened:

– Nic refused to come on the egg hunt because he is suddenly far too grown up for such childish things and would rather stay home helping Mr H in the garden. Even the bribe of loads of chocolate didn’t work “nah it’s ok I already have 7 Easter eggs I don’t need anymore”!!

– Millie refused point blank to walk both up the huge hill to the woods and also while we were there supposedly doing the egg hunt. I had to struggle on my own carrying her, the bag full of eggs, my bag, the camera bag and myself and was a fraught, sweaty mess by the time we got to the top of the hill!

– obviously Nic wasn’t there to keep an eye on Millie whilst I hid the eggs so had to try and hide a few with Millie propped on one hip (still refusing to walk). Inevitably as I gently put the plastic eggs in their hiding place the damn things burst open spilling out treats which Millie caught sight of and went beserk wanting to eat them immediately!

– not only did Millie refuse to walk but on entering the bluebell patches she decided she didn’t want to stand either so kept sitting down on the soaking wet grass.

– Apparenyly bluebells are just as tempting to eat as Easter egg treats so I spent most of the time snatching petals out of Millie’s mouth!

– it started chucking it down with rain!

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When leaving the woods I bumped into another Mummy on her own with her two children, one of which was in the process of throwing himself on the floor having the mother of all tantrums  because his brother had more eggs than he did, while his brother stood kicking the crap out of his bike! The other mummy looked at me, rolled her eyes and said “it seemed like a great idea didn’t it….”

So there you go that is the story behind those beautiful, idyllic pictures of our super fun family day….. I wonder how many other Mummies have posted “perfect” pictures on facebook of their family days out this weekend.

Dreaming of a Montessori bedroom

It’s been a little quiet on the lists front over the last two weeks. With my return to work, biggest child stressing about sats, smallest child starting nursery and a general state of chaos descending on our home I’ve had to put mummy’s little lists pretty close to the bottom of my daily to do list! But yesterday I had a free day, a day all to myself for the first time in almost a year. I was determined not to spend the day cleaning the house but did want to have a big sort out, get rid of some of the clutter/junk and tidy things away that have just been “shoved” in a random cupboard or drawer at the end of each day, too exhausted to care.

I decided toys were going to be ruthlessly culled – with both children’s birthdays approaching and within four days of each other,we are about to get a whole load more toys to scatter across every room of the house while the boxes they came in get more play time.

Millie has masses of plastic tat. Don’t get me wrong some plastic toys are great and I’m not going to pretend that everything i have kept is natural, eco friendly and upcycled  but there’s only so much bright pink, singing, flashing lumps of plastic one child actually needs.

This is Millies room post-cull and with just a few toys out. Oh and of course the hideous giant lion that started as a bit of a joke Christmas present but Larry now feels like part of the family!

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For a while I’ve been thinking that she has outgrown her baby nursery and it’s almost time to move on to a toddler bedroom. Seeing the brightly coloured stacking cups and rings set out has really swayed me towards a nice, bright and fun Montessori style bedroom. So two hours of Pinterest later and I’m officially obsessed with his new theme.

Ive now started a list of must haves that I will be sourcing over the coming months in order to create a Pinterest worthy room for Millie (I fear this is becoming quite my catchphrase and not a single room in my house is even close to being Pinterest worthy!)

1. A reading corner – this one would be top of the list in any theme I went for. Both me and Millie love reading and I am excited for us to have a comfy corner to go to and snuggle up with some books. Ideally it will resemble this one from http://www.littledesigncorner.com but space is limited so a little rejig of the existing furniture will be needed to get even half this space in this picture

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I’m now on the lookout for some lovely big bright cushions, and possibly something hungry caterpillar if I can find it.

2. Grimms Wooden Rainbow – I have a real love for these rainbows and they can be used for so many different play ideas. I will probably get the 17cm one as we don’t really have space for any bigger if we wanted to expand it and create a tunnel or build towers.

 

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I have found a really lovely website that sells some amazing wooden toys so will definitely be buying this and possible some others from http://www.littleearthfarm.org

3. Shelving – in all of the Montessori style bedroom ideas I’ve seen, low level shelving seems to be a key feature. We already have this IKEA cube shelving unit so will be utilising this. Rather than stood tall upright it will run sideways so all shelves are low enough for Millie to reach.

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I now need to find a couple of nice boxes for musical instruments and play figures to store on it. I also intend to display toys on each remaining shelf, just one toy per shelf. The idea being that this gives the child free choice of what they want to play with without being overwhelmed and overstimulated. I thought the wooden rainbow would look great on one of the shelves.

4. Colourful bedding – Millie is still too young to switch her cot into a bed just yet but I’d really love a brightly coloured bed set for when we do move on to a bed. Encouraging children to explore and learn through their surroundings is key to Montessori principles and having bright bedding I think will help to make her bed a little more exciting and attractive to her. If I were to really follow the principles I would in fact be considering a floor bed but I think Mr H will need some serious convincing before we get to that level…

5. Low table and chair – I’ve been looking at these for a while as Millie is starting to enjoy sitting colouring and also has a bit of an obsession at the minute with sitting on the bottom stair and getting up and down from it over and over so I’ve been thinking now is the right time to invest in a child’s table and chair. I don’t think most table and chair sets will fit in the bedroom though so need to do a little more research into alternative space saving solutions – cue another two hours on Pinterest!

Who knows when we will get the time to carry out the great bedroom transformation but at least I now know what I’m looking for.

I would love to see some other ideas so please feel free to share a picture or two if you’ve also created a Montessori style bedroom for your little one

 

 

 

Mummy’s First Mothers Day – What I really want!

Everyone everywhere seems to be talking about Mothers Day, so not wanting to feel left out I thought I better jump on the bandwagon and do a very quick Mothers Day wish list on the off chance Mr H happens to be reading this.

As a step-mum I haven’t had a Mothers Day as Nicholas always spends it with his own mum so this year will be my first.  I know friends who have been promised all sorts of wonderful gifts for their first Mothers Day, Rolex watch, spa breaks, mulberry bags… you name it!  There are however many things Id really really like ahead of all these and here is my list:

1. A full night of unbroken sleep!!

2. A coffee brought up to me in bed and the chance to drink it while it’s hot – ideally not before 7am too!

3. A handmade card or picture – Millie had her first attempt with a pen this morning and made daddy a picture… and decorated the sofa in black ink to make it look pretty too.

4. A shower that lasts longer than a minute and gives me the chance to use my lovely Molton Brown set I got for Christmas, followed by five further minutes so I can use the matching body lotion.

5. A day without changing a single nappy – Millie is now impossible to keep still when doing nappy changes and I truly dread them!

6. A clean car – inside and out, all the rubbish taken out of the side pockets that I never seem to get a chance to do, the emergency nail varnish supply bringing back indoors as it never gets used these days and the mud from football boots cleaning out of the boot.

7. A day without any sport on TV – got more chance of a mulberry bag than this one happening.

8. A massive box of calorie free chocolates – Make it happen Mr H, make it happen!

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And last but not least….

9. Diamonds – Any shape, any size!!

I don’t think I’m asking too much…

 

The Social Life of a Baby

Is it just me or do your children have a more active social life than you? I was just sitting thinking of all the different baby clubs, play groups, classes and activities we’ve done over the last ten months and I think it’s safe to say Millie has had more social outgoings in her short little life so far than I have had over the last five years combined!!

Probably like most mums we’ve tried it all, some stuff we’ve loved and a few, we’ve errr… tolerated??!! It got me thinking though about the things both myself and Millie really have enjoyed together while I’ve been on maternity leave. Both of us love being outdoors. Millie is very inquisitive and is fascinated by wildlife, trees, flowers, random bits of twigs, lumps of mud… Anything she can look at outside. So we spend a lot of time walking around the fields and woodland near us. We also enjoy play dates with Millie’s little buddies and her cousin. It’s been great watching her develop alongside her baby friends and how as they get a little bit older they are starting to play together. But aside from these we have also done our fair share of baby classes over the months and I thought I draw up a list of those we loved the most:

1. Baby Sensory – we have been going to baby sensory classes with our NCT mummies and babies since Millie was just eight weeks old and both of us LOVE it! The combination of both a structured class and a break in the middle for some free play works really well and isn’t a long stretch for Millie to have to remain engaged. Our leader was excellent and the activities were always really well organised and varied. Millie loves the baby sensory song “Say hello to the sun” and every time we play it at home it calms her and she joins in with the actions.

The classes are tailored to different age groups and both age group sessions we have been to have been perfectly suited to the baby’s age range. Millie has now graduated from Baby Sensory but we are sneaking in a one off Easter special next week. I can’t wait!

2. Jo Jingles – Another class we have been to since Millie was only four months old. It is singing and dancing using the puppet, Jo Jingles, as the main prop. Millie loves making a noise so anything musical is right up her street. Although we don’t go every week, whenever we do I always wonder to myself why we don’t make it more regularly.

imageThe classes are suitable for babies up to pre-schoolers and even if your baby is too young to get involved in all of the dancing, the whole experience is great for them to sit and watch. Each week has a different theme and the leader brings out different props and musical instruments for the children to use and participate. Jo, the puppet, also interacts with each child and it’s wonderful to watch their fascinated little faces as he talks to them. But be warned, it’s very noisy and the theme tune will stick in your head for days!!

3. Swimming – since I was pregnant I have been excited to take Millie swimming. I swam right through most of my pregnancy until my bump was so massive I kept floating to the top of the water and could no longer swim. I figured maybe the baby would love the water as I do if she was used to being swished around in uetero as I swam. I first took Millie swimming when she was 12 weeks old and was so relieved that she seemed happy in the water. I signed up to our first term of swimming lessons straight afterwards. We are now onto our third term and Millies confidence in the water is wonderful to watch. She happily “jumps” into my arms from sitting on the side, splashes and kicks to try and catch toys and is starting to be able to hold herself up on the side unaided and pull herself out of the water.

Each week swimming is the one class that really makes me burst with mummy pride as my little girl learns new skills in the pool and increases in water confidence week after week. Before long I’m sure we will be swimming lengths together!!

As much as we have tried to make the most of everything we’ve done, there are a few we didn’t love quite so much…

1. Messy play – I think we may have trialed this one a bit too early. Millie was only seven months old when we signed up to a taster session and she seemed to think the glue and paint were some new approach to baby led weaning we hadn’t yet tried at home and proceeded to eat everything in sight, feathers, paper, fake mud… My OCD was going wild! Then I kept finding paint on various parts of her body for a good few days! Maybe we will give it another try when she is a bit older but for now I’m filing this one firmly in the no thanks pile!!

2. Soft Play aka Hell on Earth!! – don’t get me wrong soft play generally is ok and Millie really rather enjoys it however it’s all about timings. School holidays and weekends are generally a big no no unless you can drag yourself up and out by 9am you have no hope. Far too many over excited kids drinking cheap fizzy pop, pumped on sugar and their little bit of freedom while mummy and daddy relax with a coffee.  Then there’s the smell of wee from the ball pit and the fact that Millie always seems to get ill within a few days of us going, probably from her licking the floor or some other grubby surface that takes her fancy! Grim… Yet we seem to find ourselves there at least once a fortnight!

If only soft play could always look this…. (9am one Sunday morning just as the doors opened!)

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Disclaimer: no payment or receipt of services has been made in lieu of these reviews, they are written independently of all companies listed in the post

Our Reluctant Reader the Bookworm

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As Nicholas’ step-mum I’ve only been in his life since he was five years old. One of the things I remember when I was first getting to know him, along with being a lovely, well behaved, well mannered, kind, caring little boy, he was also an excellent reader. He was able to read way ahead of his age expectations and loved books. However as the years have gone on his desire to read has slowly dwindled and over the last few years in particular it really has been a struggle to get him to read.

A couple of years ago I spent hours researching how to get reluctant readers to develop, or in Nic’s case, rekindle his love of books. We tried all sorts of ideas, I spent ages setting up an online reading rewards system for the whole family with prizes depending on how many books you read. As a keen reader myself I loved this but Nic lost interest after the first book. Then we joined the library’s summer reading challenge thinking a certificate might be a good incentive, again with no success, I don’t even think he finished one book over that whole summer. Someone even suggested trying comics because any reading is better than none at all. Nic just wanted to do the puzzles on the last page and pull out the posters for his bedroom walls!

But over the last year something seems to have clicked, he’s found what interests him and now can devour a book in just a couple of days. Here’s a few of the tactics that worked for us:

1. Mix up fiction and non-fiction books – we tried all sorts of fiction from Shakespeare to Harry Potter but it took me a good while to realise Nicholas really enjoyed fact finding. For his birthday last year we got him the Guiness World Records book and he would read snippets here and there every day, reading out random facts to us. From then on we have tried to mix in some similar type books such as Ripley’s Believe It or Not books which he really loves.

2. Big books – although the reading reward system didn’t appeal to his competitive nature for some reason Nic gets a buzz from finishing a really big hard backed book with a lot of pages but something that at the same time doesn’t take weeks to read. He is particularly keen on Tom Gates books which mix in doodles and cartoon style pictures throughout the text (also similar to Diary of the Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries). It means he can tell us he has read a 400 page book in just two days and is really proud of this. I’ve started buying him mostly hard backs now and for some strange reason it seems to work, a bit of an ego boost at how quickly he can polish them off. Last weekend he read David Walliams, The Midnight Gang in just three days!

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3. Books that are relevant – Nicholas is a massive football fan, Arsenal in particular, so when I saw that Theo Walcott (Arsenal and England footballer) had published some children’s books I quickly snapped them up. Although not as keen on these as the “big books” he still enjoyed reading them as he said he could imagine himself being one of the boys in the books.

4. Reading together as a family – Although I like to get books Nicholas is really into I do think there does need to be a little bit of variation in what he reads. Mr H has a keen interest in history so we have thrown in the odd history book such as Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to mix it up a bit. Some of the story lines can be a bit challenging and often use words he isn’t familiar with. Normally Nic would show no interest in these books but if we read them together as a family, taking turns reading a page, he really enjoys it and it gives us the opportunity to explain things better than if he was reading the book alone.  It also means we get some quality family time away from the tv, phones and Internet.

5. Film adaptations – Again this has helped broaden his book choices by promising we will all watch the film together once he has read the book.

These are the techniques that have worked for us and I do hope Nic continues to enjoy reading. Perhaps it will be War and Peace in a few years if his love of big books continues….

Ikea Wishlist

Before we moved “out to the country” we lived about 10 minutes from IKEA so I always used to nip in for this, that and the other but now we are about 35 minutes drive away I very rarely get to go. So tomorrow I’ve decided to make a special effort to pop down there and pick up some bits I’ve been wanting for ages, mostly baby things but I’ve also seen a few accessories I’d really like to “Pinterest worthy” my house (as per the Maternity to do list ).

Here are a few of the things I have my eye on and think are really great for baby and mummy:

1. Cover-all bibs – I have a bit of an obsession with bibs, mostly because in the early days of weaning Millie was a seriously messy eater and used to stain so many of her clothes. We have tried various sleeved bibs from all over the place but these IKEA ones are by far the best. They don’t ride up or come undone and also manage to catch a good amount of spilages and at just a fiver each they are a bargain.

 

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2. Toy saucepans – recommended by a friend as a good way of including the little ones when you’re cooking plus they make a huge amount of noise when bashed together so double the fun! They are a really good price of £6

 

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3. Hammer and peg set – I really do love IKEA for lovely little, reasonably priced wooden toys. There are loads to choose from in store but I thought this peg set was age appropriate and such a bargain at only £8. Millie really loves banging things and this set looks really sturdy and durable.

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4. Corner guards – I have a real phobia of Millie falling and bumping her head on one of the corners of our furniture so have been looking out for some plain white corner protectors. They are all really ugly and spoil the look of the furniture but as I know I need something I thought these hand ones were quite quirky. Just £3 for a pack of 8

 

And now for a few little treats for Mummy too:

1. Cream metal tray – I’ve been looking for a lovely centrepiece for our kitchen table and wanted something that is both beautiful but also easy to take on and off the table at meal times. I found inspiration on another Blog post , showing really pretty vignettes (basically a tray with a load of stuff on as Mr H would say!). I thought this metal tray would be a perfect starting point and only £7, now I just need some pretty bits to add to it

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2. Mirror – I really love this mirror! No idea why as it matches nothing else in our house but I do rather like it. Probably won’t buy this one as its £60 and I have nowhere to put it but it’s definitely on my wish list

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AND… Last but not least….

3. Meatballs – just because I’m at ikea and that’s what you do, right??

Milestone cards for Mummy

image.jpegWe’ve all seen them, most of us probably have a set and gloriously post pictures of each and every milestone all over Facebook but what if those milestone cards were also available for mummies??

Over the past ten months since Millie was born I’ve had various milestones… First birthday with my baby girl, first time Millie and mummy went shopping together, first hot coffee drank without any baby interruptions etc etc so here are my top five “if milestone cards were for mummies…”:

1. First day daddy doesn’t irritate mummy moaning how tired he is – this one really had to be top of the list. I think I can count on one hand the number of times Mr H has seen a day go by without complaining he’s tired. Really?? How can you be tired when you managed to sleep (and snore) your way through every night feed, remain in bed an extra hour after me and fit in an afternoon “power nap”! No darling, you aren’t tired!!

2.  First pee without feeling like you’ll split in half – this one primarily refers to the agony of trying to sit on the toilet after a c section and get back up without feeling like your intestines may fall out from under your scar at any given moment! But I’m guessing this could also be applicable after a natural birth too??

3. First day I haven’t been shat on – no further explanation needed really! It does remind me however of an occasions a few months ago when I walked round the supermarket doing the full weekly shop only to glance down at the checkout to see the arm of my jumper was totally caked in bright green baby poo and I hadn’t even noticed!!

4. First time wearing non-maternity clothes  – this one would still be sitting in the packet for me ten months down the line. I just can’t give up those comfy non-wired bras…. (See previous post on things I miss about being pregnant )

5. Today I shaved my legs – also applicable to all other forms of hair removal. Seriously who has time for that?! Im lucky to even have time to get washed in the shower these days never mind beautify myself. Long gone are the days of fake tan and weekly hair treatments, if the shampoo and conditioner don’t come in a two in one variety they won’t be making it anywhere near my shopping trolley!

This list really could go on and on, there’s nothing quite like a mummy’s initiation! I’d also love to hear any of your mummy milestones too….

You Baby Me Mummy

Maternity Leave To Do List

With precisely one month left of maternity leave before I return to work (albeit for reduced hours for the first two months) I thought I’d revisit the original maternity leave to do list I had planned to both execute fully and be on to at least my second, if not third list by now… Hey ho, no one can quite prepare you for the reality of having a (rather demanding) baby and realistically maybe only a quarter of the list has been ticked off!!

I thought I’d decide on a maternity leave top ten. In no particular order these are the things I really want to (but probably won’t) achieve in the next 31 days:

1. Clear out the garage – this one has been kicking around since way before Millie was even born and the reality is it is now filled with even more junk than before!

2. Create a memory box frame for Millie’s room – I saw a few really lovely memory picture ideas on Pinterest while I was pregnant and was determined to recreate these to make a beautiful memory picture to hang on Millies nursery wall. Fast forward almost a year and I have the newspaper from the day she was born, her hospital identity band and a few new born pictures all sorted ready to go but just haven’t found the time to make it into a frame yet! This is an idea I saw in Mamas and Papas and I love it

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3. Decide on a suitable home office space – I work part of my week at home and as a result need a full blown office set up somewhere in my house. Millie’s nursery used to be our home office but that obviously is no more so I now need to decide where I’d like my office space to be. Currently a toss up between a small desk on our landing which is quite large with lots of natural light from a big window on the stairway or in the garage which would involve some building work to add windows,flooring etc but I quite like the idea of a little project…

4. The garden – this is a huge one! We moved into our house exactly two years ago. It was brand new when we bought it and the garden is really bad! It’s on a steep slope and really needs levelling before it is even safe for Millie to play in. Along with paving that needs doing and additional fencing… I can see this may still be on the list this time next year!

5. Take Millie to The Nurture Barn – this is a highly recommended play centre about 30minutes drive from home. We have been to many different soft play and other stay and plays but not only does this one have excellent reviews for its play equipment both indoor and out, it also has an allergy specialist cafe. Anyone who has kids with allergies will understand why I want to go here. It can be so hard to find anywhere that caters for allergies especially both dairy and soya free but also that offers food suitable for baby led weaning.

6. Sell some stuff – we literally have boxes and boxes of baby stuff we no longer need. Also see point 1! A little while ago I decided I’d like to try chalk painting and that it would be a great idea to buy a load of junk, paint it, turn it shabby chic and sell it on. Said junk is now cluttering up the garage and Mr H is ready to take it all to the tip! Me, determined to prove a point, I’ve promised I will sell it AND make a profit!!

7. Get fit – ok realistically this isn’t going to happen in a month but my fitness is shot after 18 months of no exercise other than pushing a pram! I need to work on losing the baby weight too but that’s a whole other story….

8. Make my home Pinterest worthy – when we moved into our house it was a blank canvas, I envisaged spending the first couple of years getting it exactly how I wanted it but within five months of living here a baby bump started to take priority. I now feel like every room is half finished.

9. Take Millie to the beach – I grew up living very close to the coast and took it for granted until I moved to London 15 years ago. I now really really miss walks along the beach on a cold winters day or eating fish and chips with the smell of sea air. Our nearest beach is probably just over an hour away so it realistically is a day trip for us but something I’d really like to do before returning to work.

10. Make a return to work list – honestly this is the one I’m avoiding doing the most!!!

I will revisit this list as I return to work and will update on how I’ve got on….

Raising girls in a world of gender stereotypes

When I found out I was pregnant I never for one moment thought I would have a girl. I don’t know why but for some reason me and Mr H (and pretty much everyone else we know) were sure it was going to be a boy. So you can imagine our amazement when the sonographer announced he was a she!! Fast forward 9 months and the thought of another boy seems just a distant memory.

But the prospect of raising our precious little girl has really made me stop and think about both my own behaviour and ideologies and also those of the world around us. I think of myself as a fairly strong willed and independent woman yet I have learnt that it can be pretty tough for women out there. I would love Millie to grow up knowing she can do or be anything she wants to be in this world and be able to expose her to as many opportunities and experiences as I possibly can. I am by no means any kind of staunch feminist promoting equality for women but I have been asking myself if it is possible to raise my little girl without being bogged down by gender stereotyping  – quite frankly I can’t answer that question!

Last week I got invited to a networking event promoting women in business. Super idea I thought, I may even take the time out to attend. But something really got under my skin about the event – it had been called “Bubbles and Beauty”!! Now to me this seemed like a huge contradiction. Surely offering a free manicure and champagne was simply playing to the stereotype and even possibly saying “come on successful women out there let’s make ourselves a bit more glamorous so we can achieve even more”!! Don’t get me wrong the thought of a free manicure was tempting but I really had to resist the urge to reply to the invite with something along the lines of “thanks but no thanks, I’d rather network over a pie and a pint”.

This got me thinking, we really are surrounded by so many direct and indirect gender stereotypes and I have already fallen into the trap with my daughter! So here are my top four observations I’ve already stumbled across in the short 9 months I’ve spent raising my girl:

1. Clothes – Millie is a little adventurer and loves nothing more than climbing around and getting herself into mischief. She has been crawling since 5 months old and there’s been no stopping her since then. On a regular basis I am asked when will she start wearing pretty dresses. Well here’s the thing, if she wears a dress she can’t crawl, it gets trapped under her knees and she topples forward. I have no objection to beautiful clothes of any kind and do like lovely dresses but quite frankly they aren’t at all practical for an active baby and can in fact be a little bit dangerous. I’m not too concerned that people think she is a boy sometimes as long as she can get around and explore as she loves to do. I personally don’t think it’s necessary to dress her as perhaps some people out there think she should be as a girl, I dress her for comfort! I have noticed that quite a few of the big department stores are starting to stock unisex baby brands and I think this is great. It means active little girls can also wear comfy and durable clothes too!!

2. Toys – a few weeks ago I was chatting to a friend about our child’s development and the toys they enjoy playing with most. During the conversation she made the comment “I don’t mind my son playing with girls toys, it’s important not to stereotype at this young age”. Now is this comment not stereotyping in itself by classifying toys by gender?? I am already massively guilty (for want of a better word) of this. Millie has a dolly’s pram baby walker, pink cars and books titled “that’s not my princess” and “that’s not my dolly” but none about trains, tractors or cars!! On reflection I was probably drawn to these toys in the girls section of the toy shop! It has made me think I really should look at widening her toy collection beyond all things pink and dollies because a variety of toys helps broaden her development and will help promote a variety of interests. The campaign Let toys be toys makes a very interesting read around this idea.

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3. The things we say – when I was pregnant I read a really interesting article about things to be mindful of as a white mother raising a mixed race child. The key point of the article was a reminder to choose your words carefully! Although as parents we should be doing this anyway I do think the things we say to our girls can be a lot different to how we speak to boys. I regularly tell Millie how pretty she looks or how beautiful she is, but I don’t think I would do the same to a baby son. However I also ensure that I constantly remind her she is clever, she is funny, she is strong because I don’t want her from such a young age to become used to only hearing references to her looks and believe that is what defines her. I’m sure some people reading this will think I’m being a little OTT but I hope to raise a well rounded little person who has confidence in all of her abilities yet still knows she is the most beautiful girl in the world to her mummy.

4. Roles in the home – Mr H is a wonderful cook and equally he cleans the house with just as much (OK, probably more) precision than me. We have also taught Nic from a young age how to keep his room clean and given him his own chores to do, pack the dishwasher and match up the socks into pairs (this one he truly hates). He is also learning to iron in preparation for ironing his uniform for secondary school. Equality is a given in our home and this definitely applies to cooking and cleaning. No doubt before too long Millie will have her very own toy Hoover and dustpan and brush (she already is fascinated by the sweeping brush). But I’m proud that she will grow up seeing the first men in her life taking an active and equal part in taking care of our house and if one day Millie decides to move in with a man I hope that she can instil the same equality in her own home.

When I started doing some reading around gender stereotyping the classic nature versus nurture argument came up a lot. It did make me wonder that no matter how conscious we are to avoid categorising our children by gender is there actually a natural tendency for girls to be attracted to pretty pink dollies and for boys to climb trees and roll in mud??!! It is widely understood that boys and girls brains are wired differently and does that in turn make them more inclined towards certain aspects of play? Are girls naturally more empathetic and boys prefer systems and structures? I guess that’s beyond my own knowledge and understanding and Im sure someone somewhere has done some indepth study into it. But in the meantime I am going to continue finding what interests my little girl, encourage her to explore and be adventurous and not force her to confirm to what is expected!

You Baby Me Mummy