31 Dec 2015

My December 2015

December has been fast-paced, intense and has come and gone way too quickly. Like the whole year, in fact. Without wanting to sound like a broken record, I can’t believe today is the last day of 2015 and another year has drawn to a close. This is nuts! I always feel a little apprehensive and melancholic at the end of each year. I don’t know why, but somehow I always put a lot of meaning and symbolism on the end of one 12 month period and the beginning of the next. Like one era is coming to an end, and another one is about to start, and I’m always anxious what the next one will bring. I can’t help it, but I’m a little nervous of 2016, like I am at New Year’s Eve of every year. It’s silly, really, isn’t it? It’s just another day following another day and so on, but somehow to me it represents so much more. So here’s hoping that 2016 will be a good year and one I can look back on this time next year with fondness and happy memories.

On that note, here are my highlights of December, which has been very much dominated by Christmas and lots of festive activities and shenanigans.

1. Putting up our Christmas tree. This year we decided not to get our usual real tree and opt for a fake one instead. And I have to say, I am a convert, I loved our tree. Becky helped me decorate it and we had quite a few personalised paraphernalia on it that the kids brought back from nursery / school. I will always have a soft spot for real trees, but the practicalities of the fake one are pretty convincing. 

2. Becky went to see Santa and had a lovely time. He must have known that she had been a good girl all year, judging by the amount of presents she got for Christmas!

3. Becky took part in her first nativity play at school, and I can’t even find the superlatives to describe just how cute, lovely and moving it was – and beautifully produced, too! Rarely have I felt more proud and joyous than at that moment seeing my little snowflake.

4. A few days later it was Becky’s birthday and she turned five. We had a party for her at our village hall with lots of her friends and she had a great time dressed as a fairy. 

5. I did a spot of partying myself, don't you know! It was our office Christmas party, and it was lovely. The food was great, the drinks were flowing, and it was brilliant to let my hair down a bit and do some Mum dancing *ahem*. Last year I was on maternity leave and the year before I was pregnant and couldn't enjoy a drink, so I made the most of my rare opportunity to have a social life and to catch up with my friends and colleagues outside of work. 

6. December was also the month we sat down with Becky and watched some Christmas movie classics, complete with a tub of Ben & Jerrys. I think this is the making of a family tradition. 

7. A few days before Christmas we set off for Germany to spend the holidays with my parents. This year we decided to drive and take the ferry. It happened to be a really stormy day, and certainly not the best conditions to be on a boat. But … as a seasoned traveller on all forms of transport, including the ferry, I was up for it and just a little bit smug when John said he was feeling a bit queasy when we first drove onto the vessel. Suffice to say that he got his own back shortly after, when Becky and I were puking our guts out and him and Alex were absolutely fine, riding the waves as if it was a joy ride at Alton Towers, while I just wanted to get off. Thankfully the return journey was a lot calmer, but I’m not sure I’ll want to be on a ferry during a storm – or any other time for that matter – any time soon.

8. We spent Christmas with my parents in Germany, where we celebrate the big event on Christmas Eve. Becky and Alex got lots of presents and were utterly spoilt by Oma & Opa.

9. And finally, John took the chance during some quiet time on Christmas Day to teach Becky how to play chess. And what do you know, she’s a natural. Soon she’ll beat me at it (which, to be fair, is not difficult). I love this picture. John and Becky have such a lovely relationship. They are best buddies and have got so much fun together. I love watching them together and overhearing their fabulous conversations.

So this is it, this was my December. I wish everyone a brilliant last day of 2015 and a happy, merry and healthy 2016!

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30 Dec 2015

My bedroom, my sanctuary


I’ve always had a massive love affair with my bed. Especially since I’ve had kids it is without a doubt my favourite place in the world. Maybe it’s the fact that once you’ve experienced sleep deprivation to the extreme, you appreciate your bed and the value of a good night’s sleep a lot more than when you can take it for granted.

Saying that, it’s not just my bed, in fact, my bedroom as a whole has become a lot more important to me over the last few years than it ever was. As a busy Mum who works full time, my bedroom has become something of a sanctuary to me, my haven of sanity if you will, where I can retreat to when I need five minutes of peace and quiet, or just close my eyes for a couple of minutes and take a breather. And of course, to retire to for a – hopefully – good night’s sleep.

When I was younger and sans kids, my bedroom was mainly a practical room, housing my wardrobe, chest of drawers and bed, and whilst I’ve always liked nice décor, functionality prevailed. This has really changed, and over the years I have put a lot more emphasis on nice interiors, practical but also stylish furniture, nice bedding, luxurious cushions and bedspreads, as well as sumptuous curtains to finish off the room, all to create a cosy, calm and comfortable space.

The pictures above and below show the type of feel and style that I like – a mixture of boutique hotel and real, lived in homes that aren’t just for show, where I can retreat to, but where the kids can also jump and bounce on the bed or come to snuggle with us. I like tranquil and neutral colours, and tonal mixtures of off-whites, creams, greys and lavish metallics, and a splash of colour here and there.


I’ve been lucky enough to have received some lovely new bed linen from John Lewis for Christmas, which fits in well with our current colour scheme. You can’t beat the feeling of crisp, new and fresh bed linen when you climb into bed at night! My Mum also gave me a gorgeous dusky, charcoaly blue throw (read: I loved it so much, I begged her to give it to me, and bless her, she did! you can find similar here), which will complement this well.

Even before Christmas and those lovely bedroom presents, I had been looking to upgrade our curtains and invest in proper black-out ones, both for privacy and to create the right sleep environment. We currently have a black-out blind, but it still lets in light through the gaps and is getting a bit tired looking anyway, so I’ve been searching for a stylish set of curtains that will do the proper job while also complementing our bedroom décor and finishing off the look. It’s especially important to me to get some proper black-out curtains, as Alex is still sleeping with us in our bedroom until we either move or create the room in our house for his own nursery. And as he’s that bit older now, he is more aware or light changes and prone to waking, so once the nights turn shorter again, I’ll need a decent set of black-out curtains to prevent him from waking at ungodly hours.

Luckily, blackout curtains are every inch as elegant as their regular counterparts and they come in all sorts of shades, patterns and textures. The Yorkshire Linen Company offers a huge amount of choice at great value for money, which is fab when you want to refresh the look of your room frequently with new colour injections and different styles of curtains and accessories. I’ve got my eye on their textured range, I just need to decide on whether to go for a lighter or darker shade of grey (choices, choices!).

Earlier in the summer we bought some new, all white, bedroom furniture, which is handy as most colour schemes go with this and I can change the accessories as the mood takes me. Once I’ve updated the bedding and soft furnishings, all that is left to do is to get a new bed frame with a soft, opulent head board *our current bed frame is a minimalist wooden one, which is nice, but quite dangerous as the kids keep banging their heads on it when they bounce on our bed*, and mission bedroom sanctuary will be all but complete.

*Collaborative post. Picture source: Pinterest.

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16 Dec 2015

Becky's Birthday Party


So it was Becky’s birthday party on Saturday. Last year we had a joint party with her friend at a gymnastics centre, followed by food & cake in the adjacent party-room. This year, however, I wanted to do something different for Becky, so we decided on a Fairies & Pirates party (not so much in honour of this blog, though it is obviously fitting, ha!, but more to appease Becky’s obsession with fairies and to create a male equivalent for her little boy friends).

I hired our local village hall, and after much deliberation about the entertainment, I decided to go with a kid’s dance and party instructor, as quite frankly, the thought of entertaining 15 little ones myself made me shudder. Thankfully it was worth the extra expense, as the lady was brilliant.
For just over an hour she got the kids to dance, sing and use up some energy, as well as played a whole host of popular party games, which all the girls and boys loved. She even got the more shy kiddies involved – no mean feat!

Here’s my little birthday fairy. Meanwhile, Alex kept sneaking off and eating his way through all the sandwiches, crisps and cupcakes when he thought no one was watching, the little tinker!


Here’s Becky blowing out her 5 candles – good job Becky!


All in all, she had a brilliant party and still keeps talking about it. I’m so pleased that she had a day to remember.

This is Becky the next (very early) morning, on her actual birthday, unwrapping her presents. Lucky girl! 


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13 Dec 2015

Birthday Girl


Becky turned five this weekend. Five! It's a cliché, but I literally can't believe that this little bundle that came into our world and turned our lives upside down is 5 already.

It feels momentous. Last year, when she turned four, she still felt small to me, no longer a toddler, granted, but definitely still a small child. Now - well, she is undeniably a big girl. My baby is growing up. Fast. Too fast. But that's life, and it’s lovely to see her blossom all the same.

This year was a big year for Becky. She left her nursery world behind and started big school. It felt like a significant milestone at the time, and it's definitely contributed to Becky's rapid and tangible development. She's learning to read and write, she’s got a large circle of friends, her own style and boy, does she have her own mind!

She is so articulate for a 5-year-old. I always marvel at just how rich her vocabulary is and the complex sentence structures she is using and how colourful her expressions are. And she loves putting on hilarious different accents, especially American, which she has picked up through various TV shows and programmes, which regularly has us in stitches. She's getting good at German, too, which makes me very happy, and she’s generally so eager to learn and absorbs everything like a little sponge.  

She asks a hundred questions an hour, her inquisitive mind trying to grasp the world and make sense of it, while all the while often driving me nuts with constant chitter chatter. She’s our little chatterbox *some might say she has that from her Mum* and she knows it, regularly starting her sentences with: “Mummy, I know I’m being a chatterbox, but …” How can I resist?

She's a proper girly girl. She’s into all things My Little Pony, Barbies and Disney Princesses. She still likes Frozen, though it has moved down the favourites list and now lags behind Monster High, Team Umizoomi and Equestria Girls, and instead of CBeebies she now watches CBBC or girly films on Netflix, because that’s what big girls do, right?

She's so gorgeous and lovely. I often look at her and can't believe that she is mine. She's got a cracking sense of humour and a cheeky side, too, but I wouldn’t have her any other way. Most importantly she is kind, caring and generous; for instance, she loves to make little presents and cards for all her friends all the time. And she's so creative, I adore all the things she thinks up and crafts every day.

She's fiercely independent and wants to do everything herself. She's been like this ever since she was a baby and with every birthday this independence increases. And that’s a good thing, even though her mummy still has to get used to the pace this is all happening at.

My little girl is growing up. But she will always be my baby.

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My Sunday Photo 13th December 2015

                                                                                                 * Picture: Jeanette Sakel 

It was Becky's school's nativity play earlier this week, and the first time Becky was involved in a school play. She was a little snowflake! Needless to say that I was bursting with pride!


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9 Dec 2015

The Social Life of a 5 Year-old


One of the many realisations that come with parenthood is that from about the age of three, your child will have a better social life than you. Fact.

Not only is grown up social life non-existent because you’re frankly too tired to go out, or what with arranging babysitters and allocated drivers, it turns into a bit of faff anyway, or because you simply can’t afford a hangover the next day (being up with kids on a hangover is a killer, as we all know). But it's mainly because your diary will be dominated by your kids’ social - shall we say - “commitments”.

Ever since Becky turned three, and because she has been going to nursery, she has been a little social butterfly. She’s a jovial and fun-loving girl, and she has lots of friends, so rarely a weekend goes by when we don’t meet with one or several of her friends (luckily their Mums have become my good friends, too, so it works out ok), or where we’re not heading from one kids’ party, soft play or gymnastics centre to the next.

The picture above shows the invites she’s brought home just over the course of the last week alone! I can only dream of being this much in demand! But I don’t mind, I’m glad Becky is forming these bonds and friendships and is making the most of it.

I just have to embrace and organise my expanded role as social secretary. And probably invest in a bigger calendar. 
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7 Dec 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas


Our tree and decorations went up a few days ago, and now it’s starting to look really Christmassy in our house. John and I have had a real tree ever since we moved in together, however, this year is the first time that we have opted for a fake one, as the only viable space in the house for the tree is next to the radiator, and every year, after the initial glorious first impression, the tree starts to dry out (despite watering) and look sorry for itself within a few days, so we decided to go for a fake one instead. I must say, I am rather pleased with how it looks. Becky is super excited, too, and keeps counting down the days – first until her birthday, and then Christmas, so December is a big month for her.

Alex is still a little too young to understand the concept, but I think he does get that something is up. He keeps looking at our Christmas tree and pointing at it, and he’s tried a few times to pull on the baubles and the branches, but I’ve managed to stop him just in time. Hopefully he’ll lose interest soon and the tree will be safe for another few weeks.

It's impossible to get them both to sit still and look in the camera at the same time! 

This year – all being well – we are planning on going to Germany for Christmas. We usually alternate between Germany and Wales on an annual basis, but we haven’t, in fact, spent a Christmas with my parents since 2012. In 2013 we were due in Wales and 2014 Alex was still really tiny and it just didn’t seem right to drag him through planes, trains and automobiles, so we stayed at home and had a Christmas just for the four of us for the first time. We are, therefore, really overdue a visit.

In Germany we celebrate Christmas, or the big event with presents and the full shebang, on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day, so Becky and Alex will experience a different slant on the celebrations this year. I think I will explain to Becky that Santa is travelling all through the night and gets to Germany first and then he’s home in England in the morning. Hopefully this will make sense to her.

Lighting our Advent wreath - a German tradition I'm carrying on in the UK. 

It’s a funny one, really, because the kids will grow up with two different influences from Germany and the UK, so the Christmas traditions we are making as a little family of four are a mixture of both cultures. Hopefully they’ll look back on their childhood and the Christmases we have spent as a family with fondness when they are older.

For John and I Christmas can’t come soon enough, too. Life has been very busy for both of us lately, and I can’t wait to just chill for two weeks and do nothing other than spending time with my family and the kids. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt so run down and exhausted, and I’m struggling a bit keeping going – so I can’t wait to be spending Christmas at home, to be pampered by my Mum and make the most of the precious time we all have together. Because Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it? 


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6 Dec 2015

My Sunday Photo 6th December 2015


Becky's school hosted a Christmas Fayre yesterday, and we got to take an #ElfieSelfie.

Merry Christmas!


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4 Dec 2015

The 12 Best Christmas Jumpers for Kids

One of the British Christmas traditions - if you can call it that - which I have a little soft spot for is the silly novelty Christmas jumper. Ever since John brought home a bright red and green raindeer jumper from a Christmas shopping spree, much to my amusement, many many years ago, I have kind of developed an affinity with the Christmas jumper. Not necessarily on adults, but on kids I find them adorable.

I’ve been looking at what’s available on the high street in terms of kiddie Christmas jumpers, and I have to say, there are so many cute versions out there, I don’t quite know which ones to pick. Above and below is a little selection of some of the best styles I’ve found. There are, of course, a lot more expensive alternatives around, too, but I for one don’t really want to spend a huge amount of money on something that’s just a bit of seasonal fun.  So without further ado … Ho Ho Ho, here we go:



Girls:
1. Next Snowman £12 // 2. JoJo Maman Bebe Fair Isle £21 // 3. F&F Lightup Raindeer £10 //
4. John Lewis Snowman £16 // 5. George Peppa Pig £8 // 6. BHS Robin £14

Boys:
1. Bluezoo #Elfie £16 // F&F Pattern £10 // 3. John Lewis Bear & Robin £18 //
4. George Penguin £8 // 5. M&S Santa £14 //6. M&S Santa £10

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30 Nov 2015

Am I not pushy enough?


A couple of weeks ago I went to a meeting at Becky's school where her teacher gave a little talk about how they teach phonics to the children, how this ties in which learning letters and reading / writing, and how parents can support this at home. It was really interesting for me. Even though part of my Masters degree was English and Linguistics, and therefore phonics and phonetics are not an alien concept to me, the way reading and writing is taught in England is very different to how I was taught in Germany, which was more in a “conventional” way, I suppose, based on learning the letters and not phonics. This may have something to do with the fact that the German language is pronounced how it’s spelled, which obviously is very different in English. 

Anyway, I digress. The reason I’m bringing this up is because the talk was followed by a little class-room visit to see the kids learn their phonics in action. We were able to watch Becky’s teacher read a book with the children (Becky was super excited when she saw me in her classroom, bless her), and the kids all took an active part in shouting out the correct phonics. And that’s when I noticed that some of the children – albeit only a few – were a lot more advanced, or shall I say, confident about the use of their phonics than Becky. And this made me think. Have I not done enough to support her at home? Have we not practised enough? Should we have done more before she started school? 

To be honest, this was the first time I had this thought, this little parental wobble with regards to her academic development, if that’s the correct term. Until then, I had always been of the mindset that I would not push Becky into anything, and merely support her in whatever interests her. So no, until she started school, I hadn’t been sitting down with her to teach her letters, numbers or phonics – though she picked up a lot of them via pre-school and through us playing letter and number games at home as and when she showed interest in it, but it was never anything that I forced on her or insisted on.

She is an extremely creative little lady, and she can spend hours beautifully drawing, painting, gluing, sticking and crafting the most fabulous things. It is this that I always facilitated and focused on until now, not phonics, because that's what she enjoys most. 

My attitude to this may also have something to do with the fact that back in Germany children don’t start primary school until they are seven, six at the earliest, so learning to read and write any time before this age has always seemed very young, premature even, to me. It took me a good while to accept and come to terms with the fact that Becky would be entering compulsory and institutionalised education at the tender age of four (I am over it now and can see that Becky is happy and thriving!), so up until that point, I wanted her to be just a child, enjoy childhood without any pressures or enforcing an early curriculum on her, when in my eyes this is the job of the school.

But still, at that moment in that class-room, I suddenly felt like my relatively relaxed attitude to early learning was biting me in the backside. Like I had let my little girl down somehow. Even though we read books all the time and practice her homework every day, I felt like I hadn’t been on top of it enough, or not pushy enough. In my defence, John and I both work full time and by the time we have picked up Becky from after-school-club, Alex from nursery, cooked dinner, eaten dinner and got Alex ready for bed, it’s already Becky’s bedtime, too, so there is little time to do much more than we already do. And I don’t want to exhaust Becky by going on about phonics and letters at 8pm at night, when she should be going to bed. We do more at the weekends, but in the week it’s just the bare amount of homework.

Thankfully, it was only a few days later that it was parents evening at school, and I brought up the subject with Becky’s teacher, who was great, and totally reassured me that Becky is absolutely on track and in line with the other children. The teacher also said that I shouldn’t worry about having been quite laid-back about learning and that in most cases it is better for the teachers to start with a clean slate and teach the kids from scratch.  She also explained that for teachers pre-existing knowledge can sometimes be a downside, as those children can get bored in class easily, because teachers have to teach the curriculum anyway, and often “bad habits” have to be undone when it comes to things like writing, pen holding, pronunciation etc.

I felt a lot better afterwards. I later bumped into my friend, whose son goes to the same class as Becky, and we compared notes. She told me that whilst her son had taken well to the phonics cards she was practising with him – and which Becky isn’t keen on – he on the other hand struggles to hold a pen correctly or draw or write anything particularly well, whereas Becky can write her name very legibly and can draw the most complex drawings beautifully. Which just goes to show that kids really do learn differently and individually and with different strengths.

I know that Becky is a very bright and clever little thing, and I have no doubt that she will be able to read, write and count brilliantly, whether that’s at the age of three, four, five or six. She’ll do it in her own time, and I will support her as much as I can, but my attitude will remain that I’m not going to push her, just facilitate her.

Sure enough, as of last week, Becky has suddenly completely mastered her phonics, and now knows every single sound with corresponding letter - capital and small - and is making brilliant progress blending all the sounds into words and sentences. Something clearly just clicked. Maybe I needn’t have panicked. Maybe every child has their own pace indeed - and I just need to follow hers.

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29 Nov 2015

Alex, 16 months


I’m a little late with Alex’s 16 months update, but on the plus side, there’s lots to talk about this time. Over the last few weeks, he has come on in leaps and bounds - not sure whether his recent spell of night terrors is the explanation behind a developmental surge, but developed he has, and noticeably so.

For starters … *drumroll* … he has started to walk! Finally! His evolution to a homo erectus began about two weeks ago, when he suddenly took a few steps forward towards me in our hallway. Since then, he has managed to walk the whole loop between our kitchen, dining room, living room and hallway all in one go, which is pretty impressive. However, he remains a little lazy (or just very clever) and when he wants to get from A to B fast, he still prefers to crawl. But he is making more of an effort now to walk, and he enjoys holding my hand and walking alongside me, so we are doing this quite a bit to practice.

He has also started saying “Hiya” and “Bye Bye” while waving, and it’s so adorable. Especially when we’re out and about or at the supermarket or so, he’ll be sitting in his buggy or trolley and waving at people, saying “Hiya” and amusing lots of strangers. He’s so cute, with his cheeky little smile and his angelic blond hair!

My friend recently gave me a baby sign language DVD, and we started to watch it whenever we have a chance, and I have to say, he seems quite fascinated with it. He has slowly started to take more note of the TV and CBeebies, too, and he will now sit quietly on my lap for a few minutes and watch, which is nice, as we are cuddling up together and enjoying a bit of downtime.

On the flipside, he’s been bringing home all bugs going at nursery, so he’s been ill twice this month with chest infection and fevers, and his sleep has been all messed up again, with lots of awake time at night. I’m pretty exhausted – for some reason, I can cope a lot less being awake at night at this stage than when he was a newborn and it was kind of programmed into your system. It didn’t bother me in the slightest then, but now I feel utterly fatigued and am struggling to function properly. Hopefully this will pass. He did manage to avoid a case of Impetigo though, which was going round at nursery and which I was dreading, mainly because I didn’t fancy getting it myself (I can’t help cuddling and kissing him, so would have so contracted it, too) and then being at meetings looking like a freak!

He’s still climbing on everything and anything, and is getting more and more dexterous at it. If something is out of his reach, he’ll find some box or stool, drag it to where he wants it to be, and then grab whatever it is he’s taken a fancy to, so we’re having to move lots of things we thought were safe higher up onto cupboards and shelves.

I can’t wait for Christmas now. Even though I don’t think he will quite understand the concept yet, he will hopefully be aware of the festive atmosphere – whilst most likely pulling down our tree and decorations! – and together with Becky, who is beyond excited, it will hopefully be a very special family time indeed. 
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27 Nov 2015

Life lately


So, blogging has taken a bit of a back-seat over the last week or so, mainly due to the fact that life lately is very busy and stressful indeed. John and I have got quite a lot going on at the moment, so much to juggle and cram into a 24 hour day, and it didn’t help that Alex got ill on Tuesday and has been up and down ever since, with Becky having caught his cold / chest infection since yesterday, too, and been sent home from school – both in the week that I’m on print deadline, as usual. There is a pattern emerging!

Yet again, poor Alex hasn’t been sleeping well at all and has spent most nights either crying, coughing or making a momentary recovery at 2am at night and wanting to play, thanks to the powers that be Calpol. And that just after he was finally starting to sleep a little better and his night terrors were easing slightly, only coming on quite early on in the night. So sleep-wise, we’re back to square one, and I’m knackered, we all are. It’s taking all my energy to look after the kids and keep everything ticking over at work, everything else has to wait  – I’m not even going to comment on what my house looks like at the minute! 

Once again, I’ve been feeling exhausted with working mummy life. Just when you think you’ve got things under control and a routine down, bang, something goes awry and everything starts to crumble. When I came back to work after maternity leave, I didn’t think things would be so hard to juggle with two kids. After all, I had been perfectly capable doing it with Becky. I’m quite capable generally, thank you very much. Or am I? At least that’s what I always thought. That I could deal with any stress, and that nothing could throw me. But adding another little one to the mix is a whole different world, and sometimes, during weeks like this, I feel like I’m constantly chasing my own tail. Constantly failing. Never quite good enough.

At times like this, I really miss having family around who can help. If my Mum was nearby, it would be so much easier. She would love being called upon for some childcare, or even to give my house a once-over. Bless her! But hey ho, that’s not going to happen, so there’s no point musing over this. Our life is in the UK, my parents’ in Germany, so we have to make the best of the situation.

Speaking of my Mum - as if she had an inkling of what a crap week I’ve been having, yesterday a big parcel arrived from my parents, with presents for Becky and Alex in, as well as a huge box of Mum’s home-made Christmas biscuits – a family tradition. If there’s anything to cheer me up, it was that! Now I just need to make myself a nice brew, (try to) put my feet up and hope that the kids recover and we all get some sleep. Roll on the weekend!
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22 Nov 2015

My Sunday Photo 22nd November 2015


Hey, check out my new ride that I got from Nanny & Granchy!

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20 Nov 2015

Why I Love Being a Mummy


I’m the first to admit that I’m not overly maternal. Before I had kids, I had very little interest in babies and kids, and whilst that has obviously changed since I’ve had my own two monkeys (now I’m literally obsessed with babies!) whom I love and care for beyond words, I still feel that I lack that certain mother hen gene that makes other women just so naturally and effortlessly maternal and nurturing.

But even though I have the frequent odd moan about how much life has changed since having kids (you can read all about it here) and the mess, the lack of me time, the lack of privacy in the bathroom (!) and more, underneath it all I truly love being a Mum. So I’ve compiled a little list of some of the many reasons why being a Mum (even if I’m a bit crap at it and moan a lot) totally rocks.

- They make me laugh. Lots. Every day. Whether it’s Becky’s crazy and never ending questions about life and her little explanations with which she tries to make sense of the world, or Alex’s little cheeky face and giggle as he yet again does something naughty and that he’s not supposed to. I could list hundreds of examples of how and why they make me laugh, and it’s definitely the most effective therapy if I’m having a bad day.

- My kids’ affection. Being loved by your children has got to be the best feeling in the world. Their love is so pure, innocent, genuine and all encompassing – no one will ever love me like my children do, and vice versa.

- Holding my sleepy baby and soaking up the smell of his hair. Or gazing at my gorgeous Becky as she peacefully snores away for the night. I can’t go to bed without staring at both my kiddies (is that a bit weird?) and absorbing all of their beautiful features over and over again.

- Seeing the world through the eyes of my kids and discovering the magic in even the simplest of things.

- Rediscovering old stories, toys or other things from your childhood and enjoying them all over again.

- Being able to be utterly silly in public without looking like an absolute loon.

- Discovering my kids’ little personality traits, some inherited from John, some from me, and some just their very own, and seeing their characters develop. It’s as fascinating as it is humbling to be part of their evolution.

- A whole new world of Mummy friends. Thanks to my kids, I have made so many great friends and formed such close bonds with some great women and men whom I probably would have never met otherwise. Definitely a nice bonus.

- The sense of pride I have about anything my little ones are achieving and the milestones they are passing. Nothing makes me prouder.

- All the lovely clothes I get to buy, and both in pink and blue!

- Having a sense of purpose and perspective: Once you have kids, nothing else matters as much, even things you thought were important before don’t even come close. It’s quite cathartic and liberating in many ways, and definitely one of the best life lessons in being self-less and putting others first.

- The knowledge that we have created these wonderful two humans and the miracle of watching them grow.

So here are my personal reasons why I love being a Mummy – I probably missed out loads. What about you? Would love to hear your thoughts, so let’s expand this list.

*Linking up to #ShareWithMe and #BestandWorst 


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17 Nov 2015

The ultimate super moist carrot cake


I bloody love carrot cake. It’s my favourite cake in the world. I also love discovering recipes on other blogs, and over time I’ve tried various cakes, bakes and meals that I have come across in the blogosphere.

So when I recently successfully – if I say so myself – baked this amazing carrot cake, I thought I’d share it, so more people can have the pleasure of this delicious, super moist treat.

I have been on a bit of a carrot cake mission lately. We have this lovely deli in our village, and the lady who owns it makes one of the best carrot cakes I have ever eaten – and trust me, I’m a connoisseur when it comes to these matters. However, even though I tried to convince her many times to share her recipe, she’s just not been very forward coming; not out of malice or because she doesn’t want to give it away, I might add, but simply because she says she’s been doing it in a certain way for years and never even thinks about the method or quantities she uses. Fair enough.

So I set out to find the ultimate, super moist carrot cake recipe that comes as close to it – or even beats – my local deli’s version. The below is a concoction of various recipes I have tried, and I find it really works. John took the cake to work the other week and it was gone in minutes, with one of his colleagues even saying it was the best carrot cake he’d ever eaten – granted, I don’t actually know how many this guy has eaten, but I take the compliment, thank you very much.

So, without further ado, here goes:

INGREDIENTS

Cake Mix:

200g light brown sugar (dark brown sugar is fine, too)
180ml vegetable oil (I used sunflower, as that’s what I had)
60g yoghurt (full fat or low fat, doesn’t matter)
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour (make sure this is the exact measurement)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
260g very finely grated carrots
A cup of grated nuts (pecans, walnuts or a mixture of all sorts of nuts)
Walnut or pecan pieces to sprinkle on top

Cream Cheese Frosting

225g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
115g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
300g icing sugar
2tbsp double cream
2tsp vanilla extract
A dash of salt (optional)

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Coat a 9 inch spring form with cooking spray or butter / margarine and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the brown sugar and oil with an electric whisk on medium speed. Beat in the yoghurt until fully combined. The mixture will be quite gritty and thick. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix in the vanilla.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until all is combined well, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Fold in the grated carrots and the grated nuts.

Pour into the form and bake for ca. 35 minutes, checking the cake mix after 30 minutes whether the centre comes out clean. You want the dough not to stick anymore, but you also need to time it right, so it retains its moisture and doesn’t overbake, so hang around and keep checking.

Allow cake to cool before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat the softened cream cheese and butter with an electric whisk on medium speed until it becomes a soft and creamy texture. Add the icing sugar (carefully, or you’ll be covered in it) and beat until it’s thick and combined. Add the cream and vanilla extract and beat again for another couple of minutes. Add more sugar until you’re happy with the thickness of the frosting. You can add the salt at this stage to cut some of the sweetness.

The cake tastes best the next day once all the flavours have had the chance to mix and develop together. You can keep the frosted cake in the fridge for around a week, or the cake without frosting in the freezer and defrost when the mood takes you (and make fresh frosting, of course).

Enjoy!

* Linking up with Lets Talk Mommy and #ShareWithMe

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16 Nov 2015

Pregnancy and I


Don’t worry, this isn’t a surprise announcement or anything! But, for some reason or other, I have been thinking a lot lately about pregnancy and the times when I was pregnant. A number of bloggers I follow are currently pregnant, and their posts are obviously focused on their exciting news and week by week progress accounts. My Instagram and Facebook feeds are also awash with baby news and growing bumps, and you can’t help but feel so happy for these ladies and share in their excitement.

But, whilst I’m genuinely delighted for everyone and love reading their updates, I am also a little envious of their enthusiasm, their baby glow and how much they are loving being pregnant.

Because for me, pregnancy was not like that.

I know you’re not supposed to say it, but… I hated pregnancy.

There, I said it.

I was grateful that I was pregnant, of course, and in awe of the miracle that my body was performing; I couldn’t wait to hold my bundles of joy each time and did everything I could to keep them safe and well for the duration of the nine months. But the process itself was hard for me, both physically and mentally.

Even though my pregnancy with Becky was relatively easy and straight-forward physically, apart from a spell of SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction) in the late stages, it was also the time I had to face up to 17 years of eating disorder and had to seek help for the sake of my baby and to ensure that I was healthy and well to carry her until full term. This was not an easy process to go through, even though it was definitely the right thing to do, and in hindsight, this pregnancy was probably the thing that “saved” me, even if this sounds a tad dramatic and for want of a better way of explaining it. 

When you’ve had body issues most of your life, embracing your changing physique is not easy, and whilst I can look at other women’s baby bumps and think they look cute and lovely, my own made me feel heavy, unattractive and alien, and this feeling tarnished both my pregnancies.

With Alex, I had a much tougher pregnancy, physically speaking. From extreme nausea for weeks on end to heavy nose bleeds, unexplained itching and allergic reactions to a much earlier onset of SPD around week 20, which eventually led to full on sciatica by week 30 and left me unable to walk and on crutches by week 32 – it really was awful. And when you don’t feel well, it’s hard to muster up the enthusiasm and convince yourself that pregnancy is brilliant. In fact, by week 34 I was so fed up, that my mind was playing tricks on me, and even though deep down I was praying that this pregnancy was going to be full term and that my baby was healthy, I was obsessed with the one ubiquitous, overwhelming thought that I just couldn’t shake: “I hate pregnancy!” I thought it first thing when I woke up and last thing I wiggled into bed, heavy, uncomfortable and in pain.

And forget the proverbial baby glow. Ok, my hair, nails and skin were amazing, I’m not going to lie, but apart from that I looked like a massive, red-faced, puffy walrus with feet and ankles so swollen that I couldn’t even get into my Uggs (with Becky, who was a winter baby) and my Birkenstocks (with Alex, in the summer). And that's saying something!

Of course I, too, loved the little precious moments when I could feel my babies wiggle, move and kick me, of course I, too, marveled at the scan pictures, and I, too, would stroke my belly and feel an overwhelming sense of love for the little beans in me. But, for the most part of pregnancy, the other feelings prevailed. 

So when I see all these happy pictures of pregnant ladies, I feel a tad sad that my own experiences were just not like that. That I couldn’t embrace it in the same way. Because it is such a blessing, I am totally aware of that and I count my lucky stars indeed.

Now, looking at my two babies, I can see and appreciate what an amazing thing my body has achieved, and I am so unbelievably grateful that I have my two gorgeous kiddies. And even though for me pregnancy was not the wonderful process it probably is for most, it was totally, absolutely, 100 per cent worth it. And I guess, that’s all that matters. 


* Linking up to Lets Talk Mommy and #ShareWithMe

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15 Nov 2015

Siblings November 2015


Over the last few weeks Becky’s affection for Alex has hugely intensified. It’s not just noticeable in the big giggles she shares with her brother when she chases him around the house, or when she praises him when he’s learned a new skill or sound or even his first few (fairly inaudible) words.

It’s the little, spontaneous gestures, those that I often only catch a glimpse of from the corner of my eye, that are really showing me how much she adores her baby brother – when she goes up to him just like that and gives him a big hug or kiss, when she rushes over to him to help him grab something he’s struggling with, or the protective arm she puts around him when he’s just about to do something silly and potentially precarious. Or when she makes him laugh when he’s upset and reassures him when he’s scared of being separated from one of us, as he is currently going through a nasty spell of separation anxiety. And frequently she will just say to me: “Mummy, I love Alex. He is so cute!”


I took these pictures during a recent visit to Nanny & Granchy, and Becky and Alex played beautifully together. Becky was very patient with Alex, even though he kept snatching the wares from her pretend shop, and she tried to involve him, even though the concept of shopkeeper and shopper was a little lost on him.

Their growing relationship makes my heart jump for joy – as an only child, I can only imagine what this bond between siblings must feel like, and while it makes me a little melancholic that I never had the chance to experience this, I am unbelievably happy that my kids do.




dear beautiful
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11 Nov 2015

Thank you softplay!


Weekends in our house are normally very busy and not at all relaxing, mostly thanks to my little high-energy monkeys. And this weekend was no different – except for Sunday, which kinda was, thanks to a new softplay centre that we visited. We went with my friend Hannah and her two sons, who funnily enough are the same age as Becky and Alex and are also their little buddies, as Becky goes to the same class with Harrison, and Franklin goes to nursery with Alex. Win win!

The softplay we chose was honestly one of the best ones I’d been to. Usually, I’m not a big fan of soft plays (though I gladly go there when we are running low on rainy-day options), but this one was spacious, well organised, secure so that the kiddies can’t get out without the adult they came with, and best of all – it had the nicest and biggest baby section ever.

And Alex absolutely loved it! It was the first time I took him to a softplay, and I’ve never seen him having a better time, climbing the various toy towers, slide and other elevations, diving in the ball pool, pushing oversized toy lorries around and generally crawling around and bashing things like a maniac and without me hovering over him saying “no!” all the time. You could tell he was loving his freedom!

Becky also had a great time and even though she is normally not the bravest when it comes to heights and really big slides etc, she embraced it all and even went on all the scary things – she was so hot and flushed from all the running around!

Meanwhile, Hannah and I watched on from the side lines, chatting away over a cappuccino, while our little ones released all their energy – while we relaxed. And much needed it was, too. 

Thank you, soft play!
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8 Nov 2015

My Sunday Photo 8th November 2015


This picture was taken last weekend by my talented friend Jeanette (again! thanks lovely lady!). Seeing that I've had a pretty bad week and didn't take many pictures, plus the fact that I absolutely adore this shot, I thought I'd use this one for this week's Sunday Photo post. It totally captures Alex's favourite thing to do - take his food and instead of eating it himself, feeding either of us *read: shove it in our mouths whether we want to or not*. 

OneDad3Girls
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7 Nov 2015

Night Terrors

 The calm before the storm. 

I’m writing this post with a fuzzy head and foggy brain. For the last two weeks Alex has been waking with night terrors, and slowly but surely the sleep deprivation is starting to get to us.

On the first night it happened, we were actually in Wales visiting the in-laws and Alex had a bad chest infection and struggled to breathe, so I put down him waking just after 1am and being wide awake until nearly 5am to his illness.

However, in the days that ensued, and despite his infection getting better on antibiotics, he’s continued to rouse. The pattern is either for him to wake up screaming and shaking and obviously terrified of something, and subsequently being awake for prolonged periods, or screaming and shaking for a few minutes, not quite or not at all waking up, settling himself eventually only to wake-up in the same state in ten or twenty minute intervals throughout the night.

Alex is still sleeping with us in our bedroom, so John and I stir from the smallest of whimpers – though this is actually hugely noisy and quite scary to witness – so to say that we are knackered is the understatement of the year. Strangely, Alex seems to be fine during the day and unaffected by the considerable sleep deprivation he suffers, too.

At first it didn’t even occur to me it could be night terrors. I remember Becky going through the same, but I believe she was quite a bit older, and I can’t recall that it was quite as dramatic. I thought it was a combination of illness and teething, but despite giving him Calpol at night, it continues. And I don’t think teething would be causing him quite so much distress. So judging by the sheer panic in his voice and cry, as well as having read up on it, I do believe that it’s night terrors. He is inconsolable, and picking him up and trying to calm him actually makes it worse – it only works once he’s settled himself, at which point John and I are wide awake anyway.

Everything I’ve read on various advice sites and forums states that it’s best to leave them to settle themselves and not pick them up, because this can scare them further and escalate the situation, and that does match his symptoms. But it goes against your instinct to not pick up your crying and distressed baby.

I’m at my wit’s end. Not only because I’m not used to the sleep deprivation anymore as ever since he was tiny he’s spoilt us with sleeping really well – bar the occasional rubbish night - but more importantly, because it’s actually horrible to see your baby in this kind of state.

I really hope it’s just a short phase and will pass soon. If anyone has any tips, please share them, I would love to hear from you! 
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4 Nov 2015

Our Day at the deer park


On Sunday we took a little trip to a deer park, as the weather was gorgeous - warm and sunny, and just a little bit foggy. At first Becky wasn't fussed about going, as she's not a keen walker, but in the end we convinced her and she actually ended up being a great sport and managed to walk loads on the day and through the vast grounds of the estate.

Because the area is mostly woodland, I decided to leave the buggy at home and instead to dig out Alex's baby carrier (a Beco Gemini, if anyone is interested - I can thoroughly recommend it), which I hadn't used in ages. As Alex is now a lot heavier than when he was a tiny baby, I decided to try carrying him on my back instead of the front, something I had never done before, and I was pleasantly surprised just how comfortable it was - for me anyway. Alex, however, wasn't quite so keen, at first at least. I think he was a bit bothered that he couldn't see me and that he was strapped in without much room for wriggling, as he prefers to do. But after a while he got used to it, and I "bribed" him into being accommodating with some biscuits and a couple of marshmallows, and he was happy enough in the end (which explains his messy face in some of the pictures below).

The setting was gorgeous and John managed to take some lovely shots of us - well, of us three, as he is always the man behind the camera and rarely gets a chance to be part of our family shots, probably because I'm so rubbish at operating his pro camera and literally haven't got a clue what I'm doing, and he always hates the snapshots I take.

The deer were beautiful, such stunning animals, and they were so used to being exposed to humans, we managed to get really close-up and almost able to touch them!

I managed to get at least one nice shot of John and Alex - I'm actually really pleased with this shot of my two men.

I'm really happy that we managed this family selfie at least - sometimes phone cameras are just so handy!

We ended the day at the on-site playground with some old tractors, which Alex and Becky thoroughly enjoyed sitting on. Alex clearly felt like a big boy, pretending he was steering the wheel - such a proper little boy! And Becky was happy goofing around, as always. By that point (ca. 3.30pm) it was getting seriously foggy and a lot colder, so we decided to make a move and head back to the car park, which was another twenty or so minutes walk away, taking in the stunning autumn scenery and the atmospheric foggy backdrop.


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