Thursday, 25 June 2009

Eight Things ...

Thanks to Muddling Along Mummy and All Grown Up for the tags. As with all these meme things, my disorganisation means I might be the last person in the blogging universe to complete this. I hope my eight things are still worth a read!

8 Things I'm looking forward to

1. Picking up T from nursery tonight and hearing about his day, even if much of his conversation still doesn't make sense

2. Catching up with friends and their children and getting sticky at McGuinness's ice-cream farm in Bolton tomorrow

3. My Alexander Henry bird seed fabric arriving, so I can get started on Amy Karol's Swing Swing Smock for the baby (I can't get in trouble for making clothes, right?)

4. Watching the new series of Ugly Betty on Sky+ (10 pm is way past my bedtime, especially on a school night)

5. Smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches for lunch

6. And looking further ahead, my sister's Hen Night (albeit a sober one for me) ...

7. ... the wedding, especially meeting my new Spanish extended family,

8. and a late August camping trip to the Lakes with good friends and their families

8 Things I did yesterday

1. Brushed up on some old skills at work, and realised I'm not quite as rusty as I thought I was. This is a very good feeling!

2. Emailed a friend I don't see often enough to arrange to meet up

3. Received lots of compliments on my dress (Topshop Maternity, via ebay, and a godsend for hot summer days)

4. Walked to the work carpark and realised I'd lost my car key

5. Walked back to the office (hot and bothered) to find someone had handed it in, and gave thanks!

6. Froze a couple of Mars Bars for the grown ups to chomp on after tea. Please Mr Dentist forgive me!

7. Chair danced (normal for me, highchair for T) along to 'Pet Sounds' as we ate our tea with the windows open and summer music on the stereo

8. Watched T 'read' one of his favourite books (Peace at Last) and make the correct sounds for each page, including snoring, aeroplane sounds, a ticking clock, a dripping tap and a hooting owl. It's like living with a Sound Effects CD!

8 Things I wish I could do

1. Sleep all night without having to get up to go to the loo

2. Reach the plate cupboards in our kitchen, instead of having to ask my husband to put away the crockery

3. Work closer to home. A 100 mile round trip commute is wearing me down physically, emotionally and financially

4. Increase the size of our house by 50%, leaving it in the same position, so we wouldn't have to move

5. Pop round to see my sister (who lives in Madrid) for a long overdue catch-up

6. Cook more creative vegetarian food for my husband. I just can't seem to get excited about non-meat dishes!

7. Start a craft project and finish it before starting another

8. Think before I speak, all of the time

8 Favourite fruits

1. Raspberries

2. Blueberries

3. Strawberries (only perfectly ripe British ones though)

4. Nectarines

5. Cherries

6. Pears (especially what my Grandma used to call 'slaverchop' ones, the really juicy type that dribble down your chin!)

7. Plums

8. Apples

8 Places I'd like to travel to

1. Cornwall

2. The deep Irish countryside

3. Barcelona (a city break with beach access and good weather, my perfect destination!)

4. Orlando (tacky but fabulous)

5. New York (to repeat the trip we took using our wedding vouchers, only this time without hideous early pregnancy sickness!)

6. Pembrokeshire

7. Australia (somewhere I've never been)

8. China

8 places I've lived

(Writing this makes me realise how provincial I am! Excepting my University years, I've always lived a maximum of 30 miles from my childhood birthplace)

1. Urmston (made famous-ish by Victoria Wood's fabulous Dinnerladies, as home to the erm, challenging, Babs)

2. Stretford (shabby suburb of Manchester, centre of my teen universe)

3. Sheffield

4. Prestwich

5. Chorlton-cum-Hardy

6. Withington

7. West Didsbury

8. Ramsbottom

Everyone I'd like to tag has already completed this, so I am going to be a chain breaker, sorry! I do love reading lists like this though, and hope I haven't bored you too much.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


OK, I admit I might have a teensy bit of a problem. Over excited by the thought of having a small pink one in the house come October, I've done a little bit of shopping. My husband frogmarched me up the stairs earlier, and forced me, tail between my legs, to open the drawer where my ebay bargains have been squirreled away, waiting to be rewashed and hung on the line as we get nearer the time. The current total stands at ...

One pair of dungarees (Boden, very sweet, and cheap!)
Seven dresses (the small type represents how ashamed I am of this one)
Three pairs of trousers
Three tops
Three bodysuits
Two pairs of tights

There also might be a few things on order from the Boden Autumn preview (20% off with free delivery and free returns, Johnnie I think I love you) too, not figured in the above calculations. Oh, and the silky top and bloomer outfit I picked up in a Parisian sale, before we knew the sex, just in case we had a girl.

My husband was not impressed with my plan to buy T some lovely new things to 'even it up a bit'.

Oh dear.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Look into my eyes ...

There are only 17 weeks until my second baby is due. Every day my bump becomes more wriggly, and the two stone (!!) I've put on means there's no denying I'm Really Quite Pregnant Now. Oh, and that one day relatively soon I'm going to be giving birth again.

My first labour didn't go quite according to plan. Despite months of pregnancy yoga and NCT classes, I failed to remember to keep calm and, yes, breathe. The first half was quick, the second half (after the major drugs) agonisingly slow, and T came into the world with the help of a no-nonsense surgeon with a medical vacuum cleaner, cone headed and letting us know, loudly, just how unpleased with the whole thing he was. I have thought a LOT about what I'll do differently next time (breathing being top of my list!) and planned a home water birth, hoping for a gentler introduction to the world for my daughter. There is no denying though that the thought of contractions, getting stronger and longer by the hour, is filling me with dread.

When I saw a hypnobirthing practitioner was offering a course of free sessions as part of her mentoring training then, I jumped at the chance. I'd investigated classes before, but to be honest the cost made them pretty much unaffordable for us, as did the childcare issue. This practitioner, living a short distance from my inlaws and offering a series of Saturday afternoon sessions, seemed perfect. Ignoring my husband's comments that the efficacy of the classes would be limited to me jumping up and making noises like a chicken whenever someone said a 'trigger' word, we nervously arrived for our introduction to the course this weekend.

I have to admit that I'd misunderstood the idea of hypnobirthing. I'd imagined that a combination of breathing, relaxation and visualisation techniques would be another weapon in my armoury against labour, joining the Entonox, TENS machine, pool and birthing ball in a mass attack on the contractions, a sort of charge of the light brigade as it were, not removing the pain, but putting up enough of a fight to get me to the finish line.

I was intrigued then to find out that this isn't the case at all. Hypnobirthing involves a total rethinking of birth, demedicalising and demystifying the process. Contractions become surges, effacing and dilating become thinning and opening and failure to progress/medical interventions are, rather euphemistically, referred to as 'special circumstances'. All of these terms serve to reinforce that giving birth is a natural process, what your body is designed to do, and that it doesn't have to be a screaming, agonising event. Over the next four weeks we'll (yes, my husband will have to suspend his incredulity for another few hours) reprogramme our existing thoughts and feelings about birth, learning that it can be 'comfortable', a fact which, if everything goes according to plan, should be a self-fulfilling prophecy when the day itself comes.

The figures speak for themselves. Of our practitioner's clients, fifty per cent give birth without any pain relief at all. A further thirty per cent use only gas and air, and the remaining twenty per cent experience 'special circumstances'. I've been furnished with a book to read, and a relaxation CD, which I'll need to listen to every day between now and giving birth. I've been ordered to stay away from 'traditional' books on childbirth with their talk of episiotomies, epidurals and assisted deliveries (all of which I know already very well) and to avoid the post-natal 'my birth hurt more than your birth' sharing that lots of mothers seem keen on. The remaining face to face sessions will teach me all I need to know for my upcoming delivery.

I can't help listening to the little niggle at the back of my mind, the one that can spot a Nigerian Lottery email scam at one thousand paces, that says that this might all be a load of bunkum. BUT what other choice do I have than to try? The thought of repeating my first birth experience makes me cold with fear. Surely even what my mother refers to as 'one of these newfangled ideas' has to be better than this? If it doesn't work, the rest of my armoury will be in reserve, backing up the infantry with their buzzing back pads and plastic mouthpiece. But perhaps there's just a chance that I might be one of the eighty per cent for whom hypnobirthing brings a better birth, and that's worth putting my heart and soul into, at any price.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Halo update

A mini update on the Halo testing! We have been putting the buggy through its paces, with trips this weekend to Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, and the beautiful RHS garden, Harlow Carr, in Harrogate, where we met friends for a walk and picnic lunch.

I LOVE (yes, shouty love, capital letters) how easy the pushchair is to collapse and assemble, and it does fit in the boot without issue. I like the look (yes, I'm vain, and it does attract admiring glances). I'm getting used to the extra weight (not my pregnancy fat, it's a significant amount heavier than my Micralite) and now I've figured out both the brake and the swivel front wheels it's lovely to push.

I'm still not 100% sure that, if faced with it in a shop, I'd instantly have 'had to have it', but I am becoming more convinced that it might well be the answer to the 'transporting two' issue.

In the mean time, I have crossed my fingers that Silver Cross understand that a proper testing involves biscuit crumbs.

A full report will follow after some more pushing.


OK, I tried, really tried, to do the patient thing, but that probably got the better of me. It niggled at the back of my mind, a web of 'what ifs' and not quite daring to get my hopes up, and I caved. In a pathetic heap of credit card guilt, at the end of last week I sneaked into Babybond in Manchester for a gender scan.

I lay back on the bed in the darkened room. The sonographer's screen was projected onto the wall in front of me, a giant reflection, a 10 foot high view, of what's going on inside. 'This baby's very active' she said. In fact it was almost the polar opposite of my NHS 20 week scan as the baby sumersaulted, waved and flipped. It took seconds to locate the relevant information and magnify it. And after all that, the baby IS a girl, I've seen the evidence with my own eyes.

I didn't know how to feel. Relieved I suppose that the excitement I'd allowed myself to start feeling over the last couple of weeks (thoughts of small stripy tights and pretty dresses) could continue, but also a little disappointed that I'd needed that extra reassurance, and spent the extra cash, when I should have just trusted the first sonographer, and of course my husband's, instincts.

There's no denying though, that 'knowing', as distinct from thinking that I know, has helped me to bond with the baby. She's now a she, she might even have a name, although to be honest it changes every couple of days, something which I believe is my right as a hormonally challenged pregnant woman! Of course I'm not insinuating that couples who would like a surprise don't bond with their babies in utero, it's just that this is the right way for us.

So the pink bump continues to grow. T has learnt to say 'sister' and in less happy news, my morning sickness seems to have made an unwelcome, and I hope temporary, return. In around 18 weeks time, I'm going to have a daughter.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


I am not, by nature, a frugal type. My credit card seems to have a mind of its own, insisting on jumping out of my wallet at the first sign of the Boden sale, cheerfully tapping in the digits and sitting back to await the postman, his arms full of lovely parcels.

It's surprising therefore that, unlike nine out of ten of my parent friends, I have been remarkably restrained in the buggy department. Before T arrived we coveted a Bugaboo, but pretended we didn't as we couldn't really afford to spend the best part of £800 on a travel system. Anything three wheeled was dismissed by my husband, and finally after months of test-pushing we settled on the wonderful Micralite Fastfold. It was only afterwards that I realised the pushchair element is top of the Consumer Association's 'Best Buy' charts. It kind of explains the secret smug smile us Micralite parents give each other whilst negotiating around shopping centres, museums or parks.

The buggy is still in daily use for T, and has survived the first almost-two years intact, from carry cot mode, to travel system and now as a lightweight pushchair. Whilst friends abandoned their unweildy prams and joined the Maclaren club, we pushed onwards, on more than once occasion chased down the street by people anxious to get a closer look at the Micralite.

But, no matter how much I love our current wheels, there's no arguing that they're not entirely suited to our extending family.

I don't want a double. I spend enough time pushing my changing bag around in the empty buggy to know that T wants to walk a lot of the time. I do however know that he has little legs (meaning getting anywhere takes an age) and gets tired quickly. So what to do for the best?

The Micralite isn't officially compatible with a buggy board, although there is advice online on how to make one fit (this doesn't fill me with confidence, my husband not being the best at DIY!) and I've bought a cosy newborn sling for the baby. T is fond of jelly-legged tantrums though, and I can almost feel myself struggling along, wriggling toddler under one arm, whilst pushing the pram home on those dark winter afternoons. Abandoning the carrycot and putting the baby in the buggy isn't an option, as it doesn't recline completely flat. I have a toddler sling, a kind loan from a very generous friend, which would make a great backup, but having to remember the pushchair, buggyboard and sling on every journey out, plus all the assorted paraphenalia that comes with two children, is filling me with dread.

Sorry, reading that back has made my head hurt, and it's MY pushchair dilemma. If you're still here I promise I'm getting to the point right now.

A lovely big box arrived this morning by courier. A box which may well contain the solution to my buggy woes. I've been kindly loaned a brand new Silver Cross Halo to try out in return for telling the company what I think. The pushchair reclines fully, meaning it could hold either of my children (no carrycot required) with the other walking alongside or slung for the journey.

First things first, the Halo was super easy to put together. On clicked the two front swivel wheels and the hood and ta-dah I was ready to go. Bonus points to Silver Cross for providing two sets of instructions, one with pictures and one with words. It's a stylish looking thing, although a little heavier than the Micralite, and folds up into a neat square which they claim will even fit in the back of an old-style Mini Cooper.

We've had a little dance round the dining room, the Halo and I, and in its current state it's remarkably easy to push and steer. A full review will have to wait though, as T is at nursery for the rest of the day! In the mean time I keep sneaking a little peek, and sniffing that lovely 'new buggy' smell and wondering whether it might be time to say goodbye to the Micralite which has served us so well in favour of a more flexible, and younger model.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Daddy FM

I think my husband is one of the last people in the world making mix tapes. No Spotify or iTunes playlists for him, he peruses the CD cabinets (yes, plural, you try hiding more than 3000 CDs in a small terraced house), makes his selection of songs from albums and those old-fashioned CD single things and combines them in one place. I think if we still had a cassette player in the car he'd insist on his tape actually being on tape, if that makes sense.

You're never too young to start your musical education Daddy style. We lived apart whilst I was pregnant last time, with my husband working Monday to Friday first in Newcastle and then in Luton. I spent much of my weekdays on the M62, willing the traffic to let me through to work, and he on the M1, fighting the Friday afternoon and Monday morning rush hours as he travelled to and from our home. He made two mix tapes for 'Baby Bean', my growing bump, in this time. Well, I say two, he actually made four (two copies of each) so he could listen to the songs he'd chosen, thinking about his son as I was directing the in-car speakers towards my bump.

Now T is grown and on the outside, his musical tastes need a bit of honing, at least before we're forced to listen to 'Music from In the Night Garden' on repeat on every car journey we take. The tunes themselves don't actually offend me, but they do have a worrying soporific effect which probably isn't particularly safe whilst travelling at speed on the motorway.

Thus a double mix tape, two full CDs, a massive 42 tracks, have been produced, featuring some of Daddy's favourite songs.

There are educational songs - '12 Reasons Why I Love Her' by My Life Story (for counting) and 'Yellow Submarine' (for colours. Is it any wonder that 'ellow is the only colour T reliably gets right?)

There are silly songs - 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport' by Rolf Harris, which makes him howl with laughter.

There are songs for singing along to - 'Song 2' by Blur and 'Wake Up Boo' by the Boo Radleys.

and songs to wind the windows down to - 'The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count' by the Divine Comedy.

It's a diverse CD, including 'Hare Krishna' by Boy George, 'because I thought he'd like it' and my favourite, track one on CD one, 'After All' by the Frank and Walters. Well yes, it's about a girl, but who could argue with a father saying the following about his son:

'There are times I get distracted girl
By the ways and workings of this world
Yet I think of you as my life's shrine
And I'm glad that I'm yours
and you're mine

When I'm far from home and lonely
And I think about my life
I think about you
All the little things that you do
And I'm glad you're mine'

Thursday, 4 June 2009

For baby ...

Although T now kisses my bump without prompting, talks about and pats the baby, I'm still not sure how much awareness he has that in around 20 weeks there will be a small, screeching sister taking up Mummy's time, and his prized spot on my lap.

We went to visit a friend whose daughter has a Baby Annabel, a life-sized doll with a squashy body and slightly terrifying rubber head with realistic closing eyes. 'Baby!' said T, 'ahhhhhh'. He rubbed his hand over the doll's tummy, in a half-hearted attempt at a stroke. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to illustrate life with two children. I picked up the doll, forgetting to hold the back of her neck. Luckily Baby Annabel has better head control than a newborn, and didn't scream. Maybe it's me who needs the education. I held the doll, the tip of her rubber skull lying in the crook of my arm. 'It's a baby, like the one in Mummy's tummy'. I gave Annabel a rock. 'Ahhhhh'. T looked at me like I was a loon. 'No mummy' he said, incredulously. He pulled the doll from my arms, threw her unceremoniously to the floor and climbed into my lap. He sat sideways, leaning his weight against my full crooked arm and flopping his legs over my crossed knees. 'Rock!'


It's not all bad news though. T has already started to share his toys. Well, I say toys, really it's anything that he's holding that he's bored of or wants to put down, especially if it's something he's not really supposed to have, like that 1p piece that fell out of my husband's trouser pocket, and which I've caught him sucking more than once.

He approaches me, his head just level with my knicker line, lifts my top and stuffs the offending item inside ... 'for baby'.

So far the baby has been the lucky recipient of:

two bites of soggy toasted teacake
one plastic Thomas train
that 1p piece
an empty bottle of coke, pilfered from the recycling bin
a Mickey Mouse cocktail stirrer
a variety of stones from the garden
one yellow feather

There were tears and tantrums when, whilst out in Morecambe at the weekend, I refused to let T lift my dress, his sticky fist full of sand 'for baby'. As well as making a note to concentrate on separates from now on, I regretted eventually allowing him to put it down my top, especially as the grains continued to trickle down my belly from mystery sand-holding pockets in my nursing bra on the long car drive home.

The cocktail stirrer caused the most kicking from baby. Maybe I will be able to sneak a naughty G&T during those early breastfeeding around the clock days?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

It's a ...

I should probably start by saying that I don't do surprises. I realise this makes me sound a bit Verruca Salt, but it's the truth. Yes, I'm almost 30 years old and still, when my husband has gone to bed, carefully unwrap my Christmas presents, peek at the contents and replace them under the tree so no-one will ever know. Pathetic? Yes. Satisfying? Most definitely. I managed to ruin my husband's proposal plans by finding the ring he'd left in our joint rucksack whilst we were on holiday. This was an accident, and I lasted around two hours before breaking down in floods of tears and admitting what I'd seen, but deep inside I was probably a little bit glad that I'd not had a 'shock' moment.

There was no argument then that when I was pregnant with my first child we would find out the sex. It was bad enough waiting a full 17 weeks or so until the scan which confirmed my 'gut instinct' that our first baby was a boy.

I barely had a bump by the time we found out we were expecting T (something definitely not due to 'strong stomach muscles' like the midwife suggested!) but was already fed up of the public property aspect of pregnancy. It was very kind and generous of my inlaws to furnish us with enough babygrows and vests to clothe a particularly sicky batch of quads, but in my petulant hormonal state I moaned to my husband in secret that I wanted to go out and buy things myself. Then there was the rubbing, it seemed like every Tom, Dick and Aunty Mary wanted to give my abdomen a quick stroke, something which felt strangely intimate, especially when the far reaches of my family-in-law leaned in for a quick feel, Great Uncles who've only met my husband a handful of times and don't know me from Adam.

The expectant father and I hatched a plan then, we would find out the sex at the scan and not tell anyone. It would be our little secret, and the perfect antidote to a pregnancy which had become not just a family event, but one to be shared with neighbours, friends and even the man who runs the corner shop. For 20 weeks, choosing the name, buying outfits in the 'correct' colour and planning life with our son would be just ours.

We claimed that, despite wanting to know, T had been unwilling to play ball and had kept his legs crossed throughout the scan. My inlaws were disappointed, but continued to buy small items in white, lemon and green with gay abandon. My mum looked at the picture and said that after 25 years of teaching small children she could 'recognise a boy's head anywhere', and would be very surprised if she was wrong. Of course she wasn't.

Earlier this week I went for my second scan for my second baby. It was a long process. Evidently I am going to give birth to a lazy one. Despite being prodded with the sonographer's probe, and some earth-shaking contortions on the hospital bed, it wasn't until I'd run up and down the stairs a couple of times, eaten a packet of Fruit Pastilles and drunk a bottle of ice-cold Coke that the baby consented to having measurements taken. We asked about the sex, but guess what, the baby really did have their legs crossed. There was more poking, turning to the left and right, and prodding. I'm not sure that cool jelly is ever going to come out of the lower reaches of my navel. Eventually the sonographer conceded that the baby was 'probably' a girl. Her instinct and the evidence on the screen suggested so. 'Don't buy everything pink though, just in case' she warned. 'It's really not that clear'.

As luck would have it, much less precious and self-centered in my second pregnancy, we had decided to share the news with family and friends this time. I'm not sure I'd stake a wardrobe of baby-girl clothes on a 'probably', but I know 100% definitely, certainly, without a doubt, that this is karma and the uncertainty well and truly serves me right!

Monday, 1 June 2009

I love my Mummy ...

I have been enjoying T's learning to speak much more than any other phase of his development, something probably evidenced with the number of posts on the subject! His learning to walk filled me with stress after he took his first steps and then went back to crawling, not just once but a number of times, and although of course it's been amazing to see him grow exponentially over the last year and a half, this has really happened without me noticing. One day he was a babe in arms, the next he was standing tall. I must have had my back turned for five minutes and didn't notice until it was too late.

There are still new words at a rate of knots. He's made up his own name for Grandpa (my husband's father) - papa. He has been saying 'pandpa', a much closer attempt at the 'proper' word, for months now, but this version seems to have stuck.

I only have to tell him something once or twice before he can repeat it ad nauseum. Current favourite words are carpark (which, very sweetly, always comes out as parcark) and helicopter (hey-co-ter). I imagine he likes the feel of the words in his mouth, rolling the letters around on his tongue and enjoying my repeating them back to him. All we need now is to get him to remember that you always keep hold of Mummy's hand in the aforementioned carpark, and to actually do it!

There have been some words I have longed to hear, although I honestly didn't realise they'd come not from the mouth of my beloved son, but from Martin Waddell.

Do you know the story Owl Babies? It's one of T's favourites, evidenced by the fact that I can now recite it from start to finish without looking at the pages, and often do to calm down a fractious toddler whilst out and about. T joins in of course. I leave a blank and he fills in the words he knows.

Once there were THREE baby owls, Sarah, Percy and Bill. They lived in a hole in the trunk of a TREE with their owl mother. The hole had twigs and leaves and owl feathers in it. It was their 'OUSE!

We read it again yesterday. T laughs at my 'Bill' (baby owl) voice, doing a great impression of 'I want my Mummy' at the appropriate points. We turned to the last page, owl mother safely returned to the children who had missed her too much.

What's all the fuss, their owl mother asked. You knew I'd come back.
'I knew it' said Sarah
'and I knew it' said Percy

'I love my Mummy' said T, clear as a bell. But just in case I misunderstood who was actually saying these words he followed it with the last two from the story ...

'said Bill'

I think in years to come I'll edit this memory, changing it in my mind, shortening it slightly, topping and tailing it as it were and stopping just a second or two early. The first time T told me he loved me, just before those eight extra characters spoilt all my fun!