Life of a Mum

I am 3- Toddler life in Covid 2020

February 5th- Dorothea turns 3! life is normal, we head to Warwick play village to celebrate Dots 3rd Birthday- a delightful Birthday party at home is planned.

All her overexcited, bouncy toddler friends arrive at home for an afternoon of cheesy tunes, bubbles, water-beads, cake and dinosaurs. The lounge is Decorated with an awesome array of balloons and the most delicious, artististic cake is delivered-if only the rest of 2020 was as stunning.

After an exciting few hours: playing and dancing with friends is over: Dot is left exhausted, full of excitement of a new range of low cost cost but massively appreciated gifts; oh and more bubbles. We even managed a post Birthday family trip to Peppa pig world.

In retrospect- reviewing my diary entries on week beginning February 10th brings me to tears- hope and dreams of the year ahead are clear. Dot starts nursery, the car is booked into the garage for service (how very mundane) an theres a note in my diary to cancel the NHS pension for a few months and ‘order a new baby; meaning book into the fertility clinic to commence a FET. A couple of months prior to this we had already arranged repeat blood tests to start the process.

Although in February it was clear international virus concerns may affect us- at this point it still felt a million miles away. So Mummy continued in her NHS nursing role and life was ‘normal’ – albeit a side eye on the international news.; we certainly felt plans for holidays and expanding our family were realistic.

March brought increasing stresses at work for an immunocompromised Mummy- life became very obsessed with the risks of everyday work and life. The biological treatments and medications Mummy took daily weighed so much more on the mind than they ever had in privous months or years. What were described as rare risk factors, suddenly felt as serious risks upon our safety and family life.

An an immunocompromised nurse; working life quickly became comparable with a warzone; returning home meant undressing in the garden, and showering before i could even kiss my family hello/goodnight. Fearing for my own, and my families mortality became a daily concern- sleep was sparse and anxiety was high.

It couldn’t have been much fun for Dorothea living through February/March of 2020- unknowing there was about to be a pandemic; we planned for Dot to commence pre-school shortly after her 3rd Birthday. We carefully reviewed our local options options, and opted for a preschool which had good reviews, and would also support a slow and progressive integration into preschool life. In the weeks running up to her 3rd birthday, we both supported her in her ‘settling in sessions’, involving both Mummy and Daddy and her grandparents too.

Obviously after 3 years of the comfort of home this brought tears and anxiety; but after a few sessions Dorothea settled well, and developed a fledging relationship with her ‘key workers’ Erin and Emily. Even to this day (in September) Dorothea often says she dreams about the lovely ‘Erin and Emily’ and will ask us to ‘role play’ nursery pretending to be them.

Dorothea had only been in preschool, one day a week, for a few weeks, when i received my letter from the government that described me as ‘extremely vulnerable’ and advised me to shield for 12 weeks. This meant my immediate confinement to home, Daddys return fron the office, to ‘working at home’, and us pulling Dorothea from preschool for the immedaite future.

This was hard; we would all be restricted to life within our home/garden for the next few months. Meaning no visits or childcare from Dots loving grandparents, no trips shopping, or out for meals or visits with friends. Luckily in the first few weeks, the weather was on our side- we enjoyed the ‘holiday vibe’, with family meals, garden play and unseasonal sunshine. Following this my workplace arranged a role for me- meaning I quickly had to learn the life of a ‘ working from home Mum.’

I promptly discovered i could get the family up, dressed and an activity planned ( to entertain Dot) ready to start interviewing nurses for the COVID workforce by 9 am – work life was ‘odd’, sometimes in Pjs- apologising to candidates that they may hear a toddler in the background!

The role of recruiting nurses to the frontline was satisfying; ever grateful that those with a ‘duty to care’ were willing to do a role that i could no longer fulfil – discussing their willingness to step forward to help the country battle a ‘war’, and their eagerness to return to a role which they may have left to answer a different calling. I will never forget those conversations with those nurses which had served in wars, or previous pandemics, or returned from retirement; as they felt it was there duty. Its with a degree of guilt i will always regret not joining them in this unprecedented battle.

After a couple of months my role was no longer required. So i no longer had to explain the difference to Dorothea of a ‘work day’ and a ‘non work day’. Even now Dot will role play ‘interviews’- after months of hearing Mummy do these calls or video calls. Its actually really cute, hearing her interviewing her dolls, or teddies- she really did get a unique view of life during that time.

After my ‘recruitment role’ was no longer required, my laptop was returned to the trust and i felt useless, no form of ‘working from home’ was discussed\available and i felt pushed out and unwanted.

Lucky for me a had an excitable and inquisitive toddler in my face at 7.30 each morning. I’m not sure what i would have done without her: she gave me a reason to get my (increasingly soft) arse out of bed. The battle of lockdown for me was a truly mental one; i went from being a sociable being, in an important role (conversing with 40+ people a day), to being isolated at home: with my (busy- business owning husband) and a chatty 3 year old for company!

The purpose of this blog is to explore Dorotheas experience during 2020- so i don’t want to talk too much about me and my ‘shielding’- but having an understand of that predicament clearly helps to understand how ‘growing up’ in 2020 was so different for her.

For me its feels very easy to think about the negatives; but this extended time together did help us achieve /appreciate so much! Things we achieved in 2020;

  • Potty training ( see blog)
  • sleep training (see blog)
  • Dorothea seemed to develop emotionally in a massive way- so much parental involvement surely cannot be a bad thing
  • A huge improvement in our marital relationship/ reduction of arguments etc. ( IMO. impossible not to when you spend 24/7 together for 4 months- theres either a homocide- or you get on! – insert laughing emoji)

Things that didn’t happen in 2020:

  • i purchased so much paint; thinking id have time to improve the house! didn’t happen- just seems impossible with a toddler constantly attached to your leg
  • we thought we’d save money! Actually relying on the safer option of ‘home deliveries’- means you spend more- after all Aldi don’t do home delivery
  • Time to get fit/healthy- erm, well- cant really explain this one. After fits and starts of activity i’ve gained huge amounts of weight/fat- alcohol has unfortunately helped me de-stress and gain rest/sleep (this is not ideal- and something i aim to change)
  • We thought Dorothea would now be settled in pre-school; the fact that i have extended ‘shielding’ means it would make no sense to send Dot to pre-school (ie. increasing risks to her numerous contacts)

So it’s October 5th- shielding has been paused (extended due to me working in Leicester) and I have 2 weeks annual leave and then I return to work.

We’ll need to get Dot into some sort of routine; workout if and when we’ll get her back in pre-school- and what I want to do long term regarding my job role with COVID hanging over our heads.

Life of a Mum, Other fabulous ladies

Body Image- guest blog

How many of us have suffered from body image issues? *hands go up*.

Since starting my Instagram page back in April, it became apparent to me how many of us women (and men too) have struggled with the image in the mirror. One minute we are young and innocent with not a care in the world and the next – BAM, we base all of our worth on our shape, our size, ‘our beauty’.

We are subjected to a constant barrage of images and inferred expectations of a construed idea of what is ‘beautiful’ and we can’t see past it. 

My daughter is 11. Do I want her to suffer those same afflictions? Hell no. We aren’t born hating our bodies, we are taught to do that. By the beauty industry, by social media, by the imagesthat we see day in and day out. I was about that same age when body image began to have an impact on me, when the words of others started to really cut deep. Then the questions in my head started. Why don’t I look like the ‘perfect’ girls in the magazines? Why are there no models that look like me?
In this day and age with so much social media surrounding our children, we need to build them up. We need to help them to love and embrace their bodies. We are all unique, all different and that’s okay. The world would be boring if we were all the same wouldn’t it?!
Children also need to know that our bodies are not just ornaments to be looked at, they are instruments that support us to do so many amazing things.
Our bodies are great, they help us to walk for miles, talk to our dearest friends, eat our favourite foods, read some wonderful stories and even jump in muddy puddles!! The children all around us are becoming consumed by their appearance more and more and that’s so sad. We need to help them to focus more on their skills, their unique traits and their amazing talents. 
I’m sure that we all want our children to feel happy in the skin that they are in. We also want our children to be good people so let’s support them into putting their energy into being kind, being adventurous, being well respected, being confident, having a good heart. All of the things that have nothing to do with the outside. We are enough, they are enough, everybody is enough and we are worthy just the way that we are.
Useful links for supporting children with their bodyimage;

Follow Anupa on insta Sparrow legs instagram

Baby/Toddler stuff

Sleep Training a Toddler

So we got ourself into a bit of a predicament! May 2019 we went on holiday, the single bed wasn’t in a safe room for Dot- so she slept with us. On our return home we stayed with co-sleeping for ease, but now we really need to regain our bed and bedtime sanity.

Fortunately I met Rebecca from Sleepytime Sleep recently- and she agreed to work with us to get Dorothea to sleep in the own room. (Rebecca kindly gifted this programme to us- so posts related to this on social media will be marked as an AD)

We were totally ‘stuck in a rut’ and didn’t know how to start the process of moving Dot back to her own room, we’re totally used to the routine (of almost nothing routine) of all going to bed together, and part of both of us loved the evening tickles and cuddles. BUT Dorothea is not a delicate 3 year old- she’s a chunky tall girl, and likes to sleep limbs akimbo!

Meaning mine and Daddy’s sleep has suffered massive negative effects; waking up with bad necks/backs from contorting ourselves around her, getting woken up by kicks, face strokes and often a finger up the nostril!

Rebecca’s process begins with a quick 15 minute call – to discuss current issues and end goals, she briefly spoke me though how her process works and gave lots of reassurance that our issue is resolvable with a little work. She then emailed me a comprehensive questionnaire to complete: this covered everything from Dots daytime routine, bedtime and naptimes, her personality and what sleep supports she has.

A few days after I’d completed the questionnaire Rebecca sent the sleep plan, and arranged a zoom call to talk through it. Although the personalised plan looked like a whopper of a document: it was easy to understand and follow. The plan talks you through what to do day by day, with a proposed bedtime and attached routine; the plan changes every three days, to eventually mean you can put your child to bed awake and they’ll settle to sleep independently (sounded like the dream)

Rebecca gave me loads of tips to help get Dorothea, and her room ready for a new way of bedtime. I gave her room a big clean and tidy, decluttering also, to make the room relaxing and less distracting. We bought Dot a ‘gro clock’ which is blue for bedtime, and turns yellow when its time to get up, a set up some dimmable lights and also made up a ‘sleepy spray’ with essential oils.

Night 1

I explained to Dot throughout the day that she’d be sleeping in her own room tonight. We had a busy day, to ensure she was tired and avoided the dreaded nap. Dinner at 5.30, bath at 6.30, jigsaw with Nanna post bath and then up-to bed.

Surprisingly no crying at all- I followed Rebeccas advice to a tee, and Dot was asleep by 8.04.

The next day Rebecca checked in with us to see how we got on; like myself she was pleasantly surprised with how well it went.

Night 2

Dot now knew the process, was happy to jump in bed and have her stories- she was asleep by 7.40pm! so different to her bouncing on our bed til 9pm. That night we did have 2 wake ups, but she quickly settled. And she woke up at 7.45- her clock goes yellow at 7.15.

Looking back at our sleep diary; it seems that Dot is now always asleep within 20 minutes of getting into bed. Having a night of no wake ups is now common place: and if she does wake up and call out to us, she usually settles herself, or we can settle her within a couple of minute’s.

Part way into the plan we made a last minute decision to take a trip away to the coast, because I was nervous about how this would affect Dots sleeping I asked Rebecca if we could have a chat. She advised me to stick to the plan as closely as possible, mimicking bedtime and routines such as stories and sleep spray. Our trip away landed on nights 13, 14 and 15 of the plan- I was worried as she had such busy days she ended up having short naps in the car (unusual for her), but I was pleasantly surprised when Dot reacted well to the same routine, only playing us up a little bit, and we managed to have full nights sleep with no early wake ups!

The week after our trip away I returned to work for the first time in 4 months (due to shielding from COVID). This meant leaving Dot with grandparents, when she had been used to having me at home so much; I was therefore again wary that this may affect her sleep routine as she had become a little clingy. That week she went to bed pretty well, but we noticed a little increase in nighttime wake ups.

We have now completed a full 3 weeks of using the Sleepytime sleep plan. Dot now loves her room and bed, and never complains at bedtime. She is pretty much always fast asleep by 8pm, meaning that me and Daddy can watch a movie or share a bottle of wine. We rarely have nighttime wake ups, but if we do they are quickly resolved. So in turn me and Daddy are also sleeping much better.

I’m so pleased we decided to bite the bullet and speak to sleepytime sleep, its honestly changed our life loads. Although for the first week its quite challenging to adjust to the changes, you quickly find your way and start to appreciate the extra hours in the day.

Dorothea has also shown great changes; with her improved sleep she wakes a much happier girl, less moody tantrums and actually says when she tired and wants to go to bed.

 

Rebecca at Sleepytime sleep offers free 15min calls: so if you are stuck in a rut too, then drop her a message.

Sleepy time web

Sleepytime insta

Baby/Toddler stuff, Milestones

Potty training

People say potty training is one of the most stressful parts of parenthood; so no wonder why I’ve been putting it off!

Dot is nearly 3.5years- so yes we are ‘late’ to the game I think. But our potty training journey actually started years ago! The summer after she was 1 Dot was regularly using the potty and doing a poo, but wees have always been elusive- at the end of that summer she suddenly lost interest.

I vowed not to start again until I thought she was ready; I thought she’d suddenly show an interest, but that didn’t happen. So on her turning 3 I thought I’d start to get the wheels in motion, toilet seats were purchased for each loo (Peppa Pig- in the hope of encouraging her), we slowly started to encourage her to use the loo- starting with morning, bath time and bedtime- but no luck and no interest.

As lockdown started I had every intention to start again and really ‘train’ her- but again I never really found the motivation.

But then one night I decided the next day was it- no more nappies!

That morning after removing Dots bedtime nappy I told her she’d be wearing pants (after all we’d been talking about pants/potties/potty books/songs for ages) …..

MELTDOWN

It lasted about an hour- with her screaming ‘ no thank you Mummy’ (she’s very polite) crying, shutting herself in her room and begging ‘put a nappy on please’. After that she calmed and I just let her wander nude (obviously at home and with summer weather) – soon afterwards she asked for pants.

Since then every morning she asks for her nappy off and to pick out some new pants and get dressed.

Our biggest surprise of potty training has been how quickly Dorothea was happy to leave the house with her ‘big girl’ pants on. Initially our plan was to only potty train at home- and wear pull ups when out, but Dot was super keen and kept with pants from day one.

I’ve been reassuring Dot about accidents; saying they are all part of learning- and if she has an accident she doesn’t get too upset.

It’s totally annoying; but we ask Dot is she needs the toilet every 20 mins, after the first few days you’ll start noticing cues. Dots cues are asking what’s happens if I have an accident’ and doing a little leg cross dance- we then get her to sit on the potty every 5-10 mins until she wees.

Dot loves her cheerleaders! Her grandparents know she’s potty training, encourage her and celebrate her successes. She therefore likes to excitedly FaceTime them when she does a wee or to show them her new pants. Toddlers just love yo be good at something and receive praise.

Tips for potty training a 3 year old:

  • Get loads of pants! Toddlers love being picky/having a choice. We have about 15 pairs- H&M, peacocks and next offer good choice. It’s less pressure to wash everyday too.
  • Dot prefers the mi potty as it’s taller than most (probably very relevant to those training older toddlers) and she says is comfier and shuns the others.
  • Aqua wipes are great for accidents, potty wipe outs and bottom wiping.
  • Get a stock of leggings- supermarket or preloved. In the early days we’d get through 3/4 a day.
  • I can imagine warmer weather is much easier to train in, nudity and the garden have been big helpers.
  • Reward charts and giving your child a goal seems to work really well (Dot really wanted the Ben and Holly castle)
  • Patience – toddlers are very trying- and using the potty can be delaying tactics for all sorts- keep ya cool mama.
  • After a week everything seems to smell of pee! If you have carpets then a stock of carpet freshener (make your own with baking soda and essential oils) is great- and maybe plan to hire a carpet cleaner when the job is done. (We have a vax so I’m planning a blitz when we get her dry)

So as a finish writing this blog we have been potty training for two weeks; we’ve been accident free for 6 days. I’m so proud of Dot and she’s proud of herself.

We still put bed Dot to bed in nappy pants; often in the morning she is dry anyway, and has already asked me when she can wear nappies to bed.

Wishing anyone luck starting potty training.

Life of a Mum

Shielding (from your emotions)

If you’ve read my previous blog on shielding you’d know that I’ve been doing so since March 23rd- this is due to being on medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis that cause me to be immunosuppressed.

 

Shielding and social distancing aren’t the same 

There are two levels of higher risk—the “clinically vulnerable” which includes, among others, all over 70s, and the “clinically extremely vulnerable” who are people with certain conditions who have been contacted by the NHS. I’m classed as clinically extremely vulnerable: and as such I’ve received two letters from the government advising what I can and can’t do- this is very restrictive. This includes things such as

·        Cannot go outside of the house

·        Must work from home if at all

·        Unable to go to the shops

·        Unable to see family unless I live with them

·        Must try to socially distance from those I live with (i.e. Use different bathrooms and bedrooms)

 

As of July 6th the advice has changed which means I can see groups of up to 6 people outside (hurrah for seeing the grandparents in the garden.) But those a few miles away in Leicester, cannot have these restrictions dropped due to a new lockdown. So in theory I can see people, but in practise can’t see a lot of my friends as they live in the lockdown zone.

From August 1st (unless this changes- likely as I live near Leicester and work in Leicester) advice means I’m no longer advised to shield, and can return to work, but should still socially distance and avoid socialisation whilst COVID 19 is still around. I’m not really liking the sound of the ‘new normal’ – for life as a immunocompromised person is going to be quite restrictive and isolating- TBH I want to rewind a year!

 

I’m a chatty, sociable person, that usually sees up to 100 people a day    

Therefore I’ve found the last 14 weeks very hard. My  only company has been the wonderfully chatty Dorothea (aged 3) and my husband ( usually busy working from home). Social media including zoom has really helped, but really doesn’t cut it. I’m desperate for a coffee and cake with friends, pizza and wine out or a play date meet up at the farm park.

 

Some people don’t care- think COVID doesn’t exist

This is so frustrating; bearing in mind I’ve almost been housebound for 16weeks. So many people simply believe COVID ‘doesn’t exist’, is a ‘big hoax- there’s so many conspiracy theories going around- which rather messes with my head! Should I really be depriving myself of normal, when lots of the world don’t even believe there’s a problem. Of course I KNOW the virus is real (obviously as I worked in a hospital in the run up to lockdown).

 

Guilt- others have it harder

I appreciate that I’m lucky- as a shielder I have good support from family and friends, I have a nice house and garden to spend time in and my health is reasonable. But whoever you are, and wherever you live shielding we be hard. It’s a complete loss of independence- you can’t just pop anywhere anymore, cant just drop something off to family, see people on their birthdays, accept any form of childcare, and have to rely on others to have contact with the outside world for you.

Guilt- should be at work

One of the hardest things initially was the massive guilt I felt for not being at work! As you may know my role is a frontline nursing position, so high risk but very much a ‘keyworker’ – the feeling of suddenly ‘letting my team down’ was immense- I went from working hands on with COVID patients on a Tuesday- but on the Thursday was shielding for at least 12 weeks. From an outsiders perspective you would not expect me to be shielding; I don’t look sick, I’m fairly young (for a senior nurse), slim and fit and ‘healthy’- I expect some people would feel I don’t need to be off at all.

Will people think I’m a cop out? A skiver? Pulling a sicky?

Should I ‘weigh up the risks’ and return to work earlier than advised.

Will the mental impact of shielding affect me way more than the physical aspects of COVID would have?

My mind is busy with so many thoughts; part of me doesn’t know if I can, or should ever return to my previous job. Does our ‘new normal’ mean that a nursing role is just not sensible for a person who is immunocompromised?

 

Emotive- lost my purpose

After working for all of my adult life (apart from maternity leave) the loss of my daily work life is immense. Going from having important role with great job satisfaction to sitting at home day in day out is very demoralising. My employer has offered me limited opportunity to do any ‘working from home’ roles, so I really feel I’ve lost my purpose.

My goodness I love Dorothea, and after trying so hard to get her of course I value my role as a mother- but for me that wasn’t all I was put on this earth for. I’m made for nursing- and not nursing when nurses are needed the most make me feel inadequate, a let down and useless. My weeks are full of ups and downs; some weeks I speak to colleague’s, read emails enthusiastically and keep up to date- but other weeks I struggle to wash and dress, feel tearful and think about my first Gin to early. To be honest my head is a mess.

 

Guilt- get annoyed with myself for not enjoying my ‘time ‘off’

Lets be fair- this isn’t the best ‘time off’ – it’s really not like maternity leave when you can visit friends and family, go to baby groups and out for lunch or afternoon tea. This is isolation- please don’t describe it as time off- it doesn’t feel like a holiday- it feels like a punishment.

Yes some days I feel blessed and really lucky that I have all this ‘bonus’ time with Dotty, but others I’m exhausted! Being a stay at home mum must be the hardest job ever- 15weeks in and I’ve barely been a different room to Dot- because let’s face it- toddlers will watch you wee and they rarely stop asking questions. I can’t even escape fo a few minutes peace to the shop or for a coffee- as that’s not allowed.

Mental health 

I think the mental health impact of shielding is huge – I can’t speak for others; but know for me, that the longer I stay at home, the more anxious I get about returning to the ‘real world’. My bubble feels safe, shopping deliveries feel safe, locking myself away feels safe. Even driving my car (with sole purpose of ‘giving it a run’) makes me anxious- fast breathing, palpitation, paranoia and second guessing myself.

I feel everything in life from now on is going to involve some sort of risk assessment! And how exhausting will that be.

What shop should we go to?

Is the park safe?

Should Dot return to preschool?

Can I take the dog to the vets?

I really need to see the dentist- but that can’t be socially distanced!

Shielding or not shielding, worried or not worried- all I know for certain is life is going to be very different for all of us from now on. Please be kind to others- don’t be condescending or demeaning about their concerns or anxieties- after all, all of us have been through a very difficult few months. 

Some useful links:

Government Shielding advice

Covid and anxiety- NHS advice

COVID anxiety- MIND advice

Playtime

Chalkola – chalk pens and board (AD)

One of the first things we did during lockdown was draw rainbows on our windows- I just wish we had Chalkola pens when we did.

They’re great to be creative with- be in on a chalk board, in the garden or on the windows.

We love the huge range of colours from chalkola (not just for kids- they do a huge range of products, great for creative adults too).

We were gifted this wonderful set of 30 pens by Chalkola; and I’m chuffed with them, I’ll definitely be buying more.

Both me and Dot find these easy to use (pump tip) and Dot loves drawing pictures of her family on the chalkboard and the windows. We’ve only had them a few weeks and have done so much with them- we’ve had fun creating play scenes on Dots curvy board from Young and Learning – shops, flower gardens and vets; and they wipe clean very quickly and easily.

Chalkola pens are great for:

– writing/ drawing on a chalk board

– being creative on windows or mirrors

– can be used on other no porous surfaces; be creative- we love creating play set up on our curvy board (balance board)

– mummy can ‘borrow’ for shopping list writing on a kitchen chalkboard

– paint a wall or door in the playroom with black board paint for the kids to go wild

To buy:

Use ‘kellyn10’ for discount

The 30 pack on pens we have is £28.95 and the board £19.95

Chalkola web {aff link}

Life of a Mum

Fathers Day Gift ideas.

Stuck for ideas?

want inspiration?

I thought I’d write a little list of ideas for all budgets!

Under £10

Loving the fragrances fromEssential Scent recently- great luxury scent with a lockdown friendly price tag- check out Essential scent insta for more info. I’ve bought 6 different fragrances recently and been so impressed with every one- Sue van advise you on what fragrance best suits If you let her know your mans favourite big branded ones!

Under £30

I’m a sucker for a personalised or photo gift- and Photo box have a great Father’s Day sale on; we’ve ordered Daddy a cute photo block.

If you are local (Leicestershire) I can recommend two wonderful bakers that do awesome treat boxes for Dads especially for Father’s Day- Enchanted Pantry (above) and Baked- by Emily Davis (below) – both are absolutely amazing and I could recommend one over the other- they are both super popular though- so get in quick.

A T-shirt from Topsy blossom they are great quality and perfect lockdown attire- also they are just £15 inc postage!

Under £50

Me and the other half both love Warner’s Gin and they’ve bought back their personalised bottles just in time for Father’s Day. Obviously we’ve ordered Daddy one- you can choose from one of their awesome flavoured Gins, or this Harrington dry is the choice of Dots daddy.

Gin isn’t just for the girls- get to try it (and order yourself the rhubarb whilst you’re there- you won’t regret it).

Foodie dad? Again one for locals (Kettering area) Market Graze Inn do awesome graze boxes- with so many different options- brunch, graze (as shown), afternoon tea or chocolate! Perfect for a socially distanced Father’s Day picnic or delivered to your dads door!

Over £50

Another recommendation from the hubby- Ardent leather belts are proper keepers- will last a lifetime, and would make an awesome Father’s Day gift. They are handmade in Scotland too.

I’m ready to splurge!

Amazing watches from DuFrane Watches my husband has 3 watches from these guys and they are amazing quality for the price- I love them so much I’ve pretty much ‘permanent borrowed’ one- so maybe you can do the same too.

I hope I’ve given you some great ideas- let me know in comments what you think, and if you purchased anything what Dad thought.

Guest Blogs, highlighton other fab ladies, Other fabulous ladies

The Lockdown Diaries – Acknowledging Anxiety in Isolation (guest blog)

Words and images by @chameleoninhighheels

When the government (quite rightly) extended the lockdown a couple of weeks ago, I wondered whether this was the perfect ending to a day I’d rather forget. To be brutally honest, it was a shite day. On the surface it was lovely: sunshine, a walk, a socially distant conversation with a friend we met in the park, time in the garden, meals together, family time. Bliss. Only it wasn’t. In my head, it was hell. Doubts about myself and others, returning to normal life, staying locked up, it was all a big, scary, chaotic and scrambled mess.

The familiar lump in my chest and stomach resurfaces, it spreads its claws uncomfortably around my organs and renders me unable to think straight or to see sense. I try to work out if this is related to lockdown, or if there are other demons at work. I think it is both. The fears and doubts have been there a long time, but now are magnified by a world that projects fear and cannot be a safe place for us right now. I try and rationalise my thoughts and talk myself through what I can and can’t influence. I listen to the conversations in my head and weigh them up. I counsel myself and know that the shrink in me is right and wants to kick me off the imagined couch, but I am not ready to leave, not prepared to say: Yeah, I am fine now, thanks for the session.

My thoughts are as stubborn as the monster inside my body. Normally I would schedule a meet up with one of my closest and most trusted friends. Such things have to be talked about in person. But I can’t do that. I would probably also start doing lots of things to distract myself. But today I can’t do that either.

All the dinner is cooked, there is no more food to cook because the fridge is empty, I had my daily exercise and colouring pictures with my daughter gives me more time to think than I can handle. I tentatively tell one of my friends via text and it helps, she is understanding and downright fabulous. She doesn’t try to fix things for me. She is just there. I can breathe more easily. And then I just do something I read the other day by Glennon Doyle: Sit with it. Sit through it. Experience it. And let it pass over.

It’s a bit of a challenge to sit in peace when you have two kids crawling and climbing over you and a puppy chewing on your clothes. But I sit, and I allow myself to feel crap and I endure those feelings of inadequacy, loneliness and anxiousness. And I survive. I still don’t feel great and am far from being a bundle of positivity, but those inner restraints have loosened a little. I am aware that lots of people will be feeling up and down during this time, and many are feeling like this all the time. I also know that everyone’s experience is unique and personal and definitely valid. My feelings may seem ridiculous to some but they are real for me and I have the right to those experiences.

That doesn’t make me weak, stupid or unloved. I am strong – I will get through this day and others; I am knowledgeable – I am aware of my mind and I know that not all feelings are real but they can seem so; and, most importantly, I am loved – not by everyone and that is ok, but I am no less worthy than the next person.

This has been a deeply personal account of what is going on inside me, and I know that I have made myself more vulnerable with this than ever before. I am never dishonest in my blog posts, but there are many things I do not share as freely as others. Whilst I am always scared of repercussions, I am not afraid anymore of revealing a bit more. We are locked up, but we are not silenced. And I have been silent for too long. 

We all have good and bad days, and from now on I will be more willing to openly share the good and the bad, without holding back, in the hope it will speak to other so they know they are not alone.

Read more from Chameleon in high heels here- CIHH instagram

Baby/Toddler stuff, Playtime

Our favourite books

We love books! We always have, from bedtime stories to using them in play activities or discovery baskets. From when Dot was little we attended ‘Story Imaginory’ classes run by the wonderful Freya. These classes are themed around a letter and a book- with the class leader reading the story and guiding you through related songs/dances (with signing) and some amazing play activities- all linked to the original story.

Story imaginory

Since lockdown Story imaginory have gone virtual- with stories being read- and play activities given on a sheet to recreate at home- it’s amazing and Freya (and the other class leaders are awesome story readers).

Attending the Story Imaginory classes have inspired me with how we read and use books at home. As well as just reading stories to Dot, I try to get her more involved by encouraging her to point things out in the book, linking play activities to the book or finding books that are more interactive.

Here are some of our favourites.

The Jolly Postman– this is one I remember from my childhood- and we bought her the Festive one for Christmas. She loved it so we recently added this to our collection.

It’s wonderful as it’s really interactive; with envelopes with postcards, letters and puzzles for little ones to open and explore. It’s written in a way that it’s super easy to read and you can be really expressive too.

Play activities we’ve tried linked to this book.

  • Used it to guide writing postcards to friends and family on lockdown.
  • Made a quick postbox (out of a shoe box) and posted letters which we then delivered to her teddies and friends.

Who’s hiding on the farm. We bought this from one of our not so recent trips to a National Trust property; I find they always stock awesome books. This isn’t a story book; but a great interactive ‘lift the flap’ book, which toddlers tend to love.

We love creating ‘farm’ themed play trays with dry foods/sand/moon sand and our farm animal toys.

Why do we need a potty? Together with the book ‘what is poo?’ We are using this to help our potty training mission. It’s not going well, to be fair; but Dot does have full understanding of the toileting process, and loves to play with her babies on her potty.

Me and Daddy think these are the most bizarre books ever; but she seems to love them.

Read with Fred- local Usborne book lady

Questions and answers about plastic. Another great Usborne book; and if you follow me on insta, you’ll know I’m on an eco mission. Another lift the flap book so entertaining enough for a toddler; but I think Dot will really enjoy this book as she gets older too.

To use this book in play I encourage Dot to sort (clean) rubbish into groups- recyclable and not or plastic/paper/cardboard etc.

Zog – well we love all Julia Donaldson books; and they mostly make up our favourite bedtime books. Zog is our most recent Donaldson purchase; it’s a bit more difficult to read than others (in my opinion) but I think it’s a great story which shows Princesses aren’t just there to be pretty.

We recently read this book and made our own crafty crowns.

Rabbits Nap- another Julia Donaldson book, but definitely lesser well known. It’s a cute short, lift the flap book (so ideal for younger toddlers). We find this one links very nicely with the ‘hop little bunny’ song and dance.

First facts BUGS- a great factual book to get little ones interested in bugs. I didn’t want Dot to be scared or bugs and beasties- so bought this book and some play resources recently to help her understand their importance. She’s now loving butterflies, bees and spiders- and saying hello to them instead of running away.

For a range of awesome play resources check out The future image and use ‘ivfninja’ for discount.

I hope you’ve liked my recommendations of books and simple play ideas follow me on insta for more My insta and drop me a comment with what you think.

Life of a Mum

My advice for coping with ‘lockdown’

As you’ll already know I’m ‘shielding’ at home for at least 12 weeks due to the COVID pandemic. This is because of my immunodeficiency due to treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Government shielding info

It’s challenging being at home with a toddler and limited outside access- so here’s my advice to cope with this. Sending love to all.

  1. Try and maintain a routine. Getting up showered and dressed each morning really helps. Don’t stay up late watching movies as you’ll just sleep through the next morning. I like to get up by 8- have a coffee- shower and dress and get on with some work or housework.
  2. Eat well – we try to eat healthy balanced meals as a family. Dorothea loves our ‘feasts’ and often comments it feels like holiday. Good is the main topic of communication with us; we are enjoying baking, online shopping for home cooked meals, and we are even making our own sour dough bread.
  3. Plan and list some days I struggled to be productive; so I try and give myself a few daily and weekly goals. What work needs to be done (I’m doing some of my usual role from home), what needs cleaning, writing some blogs, creating some content and sorting play activities for Dorothea.
  4. Self care I’m trying to spend sometime looking after myself; the first few weeks of shielding I was a mess, rarely put make up on or did my hair. So now trying to do weekly face masks- apply some makeup and wash and style my hair (fringe needs a trim though). I’m loving my young living essential oils more than ever- and diffuse them when working and relaxing. I’m loving Albany Aesthetics facial treatments in a bag. Albany Aesthetics insta
  5. Support others checking on friends, sending cards or small gifts gives me a boost (and a nice walk to the post box). It’s good to let others know you’re thinking of them; and as always tough times really show you who your friends are. I’d also include shopping local in this- as supporting your small local businesses is really important at this time; I’m finding so many wonderful doorstep delivery options too. Viva vino wines delivered (Leicestershire) Enchanted Pantry- cakes/bakes delivered (Leicestershire)
  6. Zoom!!! I’m loving so many zoom options- they seem to be my only outside communication. From online workshops and fitness classes, to online chats with friends and family- and even work meetings! Seeing and hearing people really helps to maintain a little bit of ‘normal’. Apples and apps online fitness
  7. Keep active so obvious- but staying in means you’re naturally much more of a couch potato! I’m really making an effort to get out for a little walk (not strictly allowed when shielding- so we ensure zero contact with others) I’m also starting to enjoy some online fitness classes and plan to do more in the coming weeks. Online Barre classes
  8. Find beauty sounds a bit wishy washy- but I’m loving finding beauty in everything-doing some gardening, having fresh flowers every week and taking pretty pictures.
  9. A tipple I wouldn’t be me without mentioning my love of a gin or red wine. Obviously in moderation- I limit myself to 3 drinks and try to have 2 booze free days a week. I’m loving making pretty cocktails, or a fresh a fruity jug of sangria, my fave gins are from Warner’s – use ‘ivfninja15’ for discount (valid in May) Shop at Warner’s  
  10. Having fun thank goodness for Dorothea- having a toddler in the house means plenty of opportunities for silliness and fun. We love planning and playing with play trays, water beads, play doh and doing science experiments. We love the future image shop for play resources- use ‘ivfninja’ for discount- Future image shop

Drop me comments on how you’re coping and any tips.

Guest Blogs, highlighton other fab ladies, Other fabulous ladies

The Lockdown Diary – Fear of Going Out

Words by @chameleoninhighheels

In one of my blog posts I talked about life after lockdown and how I am enjoying the absence of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Feedback from readers was confirming that I was not the only one feeling relief that I did not have to keep up with the Jones’s anymore or feel bouts of inadequacy because my social life sucks and I can’t be bothered to hit the nightlife because a) I am so tired ALL THE TIME and want to be in bed well before midnight; b) I can’t drink anymore since having kids, and a sniff of half a glass of wine sends me to sleep (cheap date) and c) I feel highly anxious and apprehensive in large crowds and gatherings, which is not a reason to be explored in today’s post, but nevertheless a valid reason.

I am OK with being at home, obeying the rules and working hard to make the best out of this abysmal situation, some days better than others. I exercise daily, I make sure we live in the garden if it’s nice and I put so much veg in our dinners that I am sure we may be sprouting some bell peppers and broccoli out of our ears any time soon.

Leaving the house may no longer be a spontaneous event, but it is a right I have not passed on once since lockdown started. I do raise an eyebrow when I see people making up their own rules as they go along, loosely interpreting social distancing with “it’s in the open air, it won’t hurt” whilst standing far too close. But I am not terrified, I am not scared, I don’t feel anxious about leaving the house. 

I am a teacher and before lockdown I was surrounded by hundreds of students every day – in minuscule classrooms, where even the students at one stage pointed out that the 2-metre rule was a joke when they sat no further than 15cm apart from one another (no kidding). I saw a minimum of a third of students in all my classes go off sick or self-isolate and I watched one of my colleagues frantically disinfecting our staff room after another colleague coughed when making her coffee (said colleague was ill the next day).

Despite this, I came out seemingly unscathed. No symptoms, although I am fully aware that I could have been a carrier. But – the Corona Virus didn’t make me ill whilst working in a relatively risky environment although I feel a lot calmer since the school shut down. Don’t misquote or misunderstand me please: I don’t feel invincible or superhuman. I know the dangers and have made sure I did not go anywhere apart from a walk or run for the first two weeks in lockdown, making sure I wouldn’t pass on anything I had picked up at school. What I am saying is that I am not scared to leave the house. I am fine with it. And, until I spoke to two of my peers, I thought most people would be “just fine” with leaving the house, too.

 

As it turns out, not everyone is. FOGO, or fear of going out is real and it is all-encompassing and exhausting.

One of my readers opened my eyes to something I had not experienced. She revealed that going out made her fear awkward social situations when the path wasn’t wide enough to stay the prescribed 2 metres apart or feeling that she was in someone’s way. She also noticed that, although lots of people are being friendly and greeting each other, there is a more serious side to interacting with strangers – a stare rather than a smile or a stern look whilst passing. “I guess it’s people’s fear coming out.”, she opines. I recall my own experience from a few days ago when I went shopping and some customers walked past me no further than 50cm away because they couldn’t wait a few seconds behind me. I remember briefly feeling panicked because I thought: ‘That’s breaking the rules!’ (I am German. I love rules).  Then, slightly bemused yet also slightly bewildered I muttered under my breath how great it was that Covid-19 only attacks from front and back – don’t worry about breathing on me from the left or right, its inbuild virus navigation system won’t know how to attack me from the side – I considered briefly to start wearing a scarf round my face, to protect myself from such idiocy (if anything, I don’t have to witness it…).

My friend, however, can’t find any bemusement in such careless behaviour.  Trips to the supermarket these days are a systematic cleaning operation thereafter, with everything, from shopping bags being disinfected, to clothes washed, to her partner being ordered to shower, to any possible surface being scrubbed within an inch of its life. To many of us the virus is invisible and therefore we may even forget about it.  To my friend, it is everywhere, lingering in the air she breathes, in the should-be-safe-comfort of her home, on her food, the floor in her home, on herself. 

 

For another reader FOGO takes on a different perspective, that of coping with past traumas of infections during pregnancy and having to go through the hell of watching her newborn getting infected. I get choked up when she tells me her story and gives me an insight into what life with an all-surrounding fear of infection feels like during Covid-19. 

Whilst she is not always terrified of going out and sometimes wants nothing more than to leave the house, her fears are more complex than that: “The silly part is that if you ask me whether or not I’m worried that the girls will catch Corona Virus or if it’ll make them really poorly then I’d say I’m not worried really, because it isn’t tending to harm children, but it’s having the idea rammed down our throat that we constantly need to clean everything. I know that’s perfectly reasonable and for a good reason at the minute, but it’s terrifying when your mind already works that way.

Plus there’s all this talk of statistics and which surfaces germs can live on and how long for etc., etc., which plays right into my anxieties.” To cope with this, my reader relies on keeping herself busy, and, BC (before Covid), was glad to go out as much as possible.  Now she can’t. “In short”, she tells me, “the Corona Virus has done two things: Validated my crippling fear of germs, contamination and the need to clean everything and it also made me feel that I am very much trapped inside four walls with my own horrific thoughts. So there is [the fear of not having] the option [to go] out for any length of time to distract myself and [also] FOGO because of all the ‘what ifs’”. 

Opening conversations with two fellow women has underlined what I already anticipated: Life in lockdown may, on the surface, be the same for us all.  The same rules apply to all of us and none of us will be going anywhere anytime soon.  However, this exceptional new way of life is also highlighting that we are all so different.  This experience forms and shapes all of us individually – none of us can have the same experience.  Our past is unique, our fears, or mental health all vary and so what feels good for one is the worst possibility for another. 

Therefore, so I believe, the most important lesson we can learn from this is to be kind to ourselves.  Whichever way we get through this day by day is up to you, not prescribed by your mate who posts 500 activities on social media (that is no criticism, but comparison is also highly dangerous at this stage).  Kindness and understanding of others’ fears and ways to cope is also a must. Don’t try and fix.  Just listen and accept.  No one is crazy.  We are different. All our feelings matter.  The aim is to get through this in one piece.  Mentally, physically and spiritually.  Whatever gets you through, whatever you have to do: Do it. And don’t forget to breathe.

@chameleoninhighheels Insta

Life of a Mum

Lockdown and me- from front liner, to isolated.

For those of you that don’t know I’m a nurse; I have been for 17 years now, I’ve worked through all sorts; swine flu, major incidents, fires, shootings and stabbings. I thought COVID was going to be a little bumpy challenge in my working life.

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At the beginning of the COVID outbreak I was working as normal; my role is to respond to sick or deteriorating patients- so pretty much high risk front line healthcare. I was seeing the sickest of the sick, those requiring respiratory support; whilst being intensely aware of the C word hanging in the air. I’d calmly, treat, swab, isolate and inform my patients when we thought COVID was a potential differential diagnosis.

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March 22nd was my last clinical day; busy with training for COVID and busy with patients, lots that could potentially be C-19. I returned home; stressed, overwhelmed and a little worried. Getting mostly unchanged on the doorstep, shoes In a bag, clothes straight in the wash- shouting hello to a sleepy Dorothea and Daddy as I jumped in the shower before allowing myself contact with them.

On March 23rd I headed to Sainsbury’s for the weekly shop, queued up at 7am with all the NHS staff (some wearing masks and gloves), elderly shoppers getting irate at staff for not being able to join the NHS queue – I realised life was suddenly very different. It felt strange. I returned home to a letter.

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A letter I hadn’t really given that much thought to. I knew as I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, and was only multiple treatments that suppressed my immune system, I was, In theory in the ‘at risk’ group for COVID- and I’d asked my boss for a risk assessment due to this. What I didn’t quite expect was to be one of those in the ‘vulnerable’ group; and that I’d have to stay at home for 12 weeks minimum! I called my boss and explained and she said she’d put me back in the rota from June 16th- it seemed such a long time.

Coming to terms with going from being a key worker, a helper, a hero – to being sat at home was vert challenging. Wracked with guilt that I have the skills to assist, that I should be helping the fight and supporting my colleagues- I felt useless sitting at home. My husband was relieved, he’d been worried about me, not wanting me to go into work- worried that I was going to become one of those patients I talk about taking to ITU.

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You’d think being at home with my family constantly would be a dream; and in some ways it is; I’m loving time to cook, meals as a family and time to create fun activities for Dot. But the isolation is unreal; the last time I went anywhere was Sainsburys of March 23rd- since then just a few walks (which in accordance with my letter I shouldn’t be doing- more on that later), no contact with others apart from zoom and facetime- the monotony is unreal.

Its hard not to be lazy: somedays I can’t be bothered to get showered and out of my pjs. But then the next day I feel guilty for that so I have a day of constantly being busy, and not knowing where to stop! Getting the balance right in lockdown is so hard.
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Luckily about a week into lockdown my workplace found me some tasks to do ‘working from home’ and I had a laptop delivered. This has been really good at helping me develop a diary routine, have some purpose and actually feel like I’m helping out. As it mostly involves interviewing, its also been great at giving me some social interaction, which is great. Its been great to join in with our teams weekly meeting via zoom too, and seeing the lovely familiar faces.

So, the letter. Its surprisingly how restricted and isolated they actually expect people to be- and its so easy to see how this can have massive impact on our physical and especially mental health. Vulnerable people like myself have been advised to stay at home for 12 weeks minimum; this includes not going out for walks/exercise- not even in your own garden. Also not to share a bathroom or bed with family and not to eat meals together. Obviously as a young family with a small house this is near on impossible- I honestly think I would have lost the plot if we couldn’t eat and watch movies together!

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As myself and Daddy are having to both work from home we are actually spending time at opposite sides of the house for most of the day. I’m sitting in our upstairs lounge- which also contains Dorothea’s playroom, and Daddy is sitting in the downstairs dining/lounge, so we have a whole floor between us for most of the day. A much needed break and some degree of peace (for Daddy) which means when we meet for food, or a drink in the garden its really nice.

The social isolation is for me unreal, my husband often takes the mickey out of me for my constant need to be surrounded by people- but i’m just a sociable person. In my daily working life I communicate with 10’s of people each day, and on my days off I like to meet friends for coffee and cake, or take Dorothea to a farm park or children’s group. I going to have to find some coping strategies to help me get through the next 7 weeks.

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I mostly feel thankful- thankful that I’m safe, having time with my family that I’ll never get again; like having 3 months of maternity leave , but with a toddler (less tea and cake and naps- more crafts and giggling). I’ve told my team that when I can safely return I’ll take the baton from them and they can have a break, I’ve also busy sourcing donations for our teams to enable their rest periods to be comfortable (refreshments and reading materials) 

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Awesome print made for my team from Zoe loves letters

I’m going to try and write a couple more blogs about my time in isolation- let me know what you think.

 

Hand me the Gin

Farm Grown Gin

We were kindly invited by Warner’s Gin to spend the day on their farm celebrating inspirational women. Warner’s is based in Harrington in Northants; so a quick county hop for me and my wonderful plus one Raj. AD/gifted experience day from Warner’s Distillery

The day started sedately with a drive through the Leicestershire/Northamptonshire countryside and we were welcomed to the farm with coffee and breakfast pastries. We joined a wonderful bunch of inspirational ladies (it was blogger galore) and the wonderful Warner’s team.

We had a lush box of goodies; including joules scarves and hats and funky rainbow wellies from ever creatures. So we all donned our new gifts and we’re ready for the farm….

The Warner’s team are AMAZING; so knowledgable and full of passion for producing an epic product in epic surrounding. I love the fact that Tom says ‘fuck’ a lot, and this only strengthened his passion when talking about producing an epic gin- with no unnecessary (and nasty) colourings or flavourings. Warner’s were the first to create a rhubarb gin, and its colour and flavour come from beautiful, natural, British grown royal rhubarb!

Warner’s are truly on an Eco journey of trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Growing as much of their needed botanicals on the farm as they can, and importing as little as possible. They showed us their three stunning botanical gardens (they took part in Chelsea flower show) one down the Harrington valley giving us a chance for a brisk blowy walk!

We saw Angelica, juniper, lemon thyme, heathers, lavender, elderflower and more. A queen bee even landed for a surprise feature in our day; and Johnny (Warner’s botanical and bee keeper smarty pants) told us all about the importance of these creatures; and their shocking facts about bee copulation!!!

After that bracing walk we needed Gin- hoorah; so tasted some lemon balm gin in the glorious March sunshine. We then headed off to get our green fingered nails grubby; by ‘pricking out’ some Angelica seedlings, and potting some borage seeds to take home to grow. And then it was time for lunch!

And what a lunch it was; three courses of ‘Warner’s gin themed’ awesomeness in the epic local Gastronpub the Tollemarche arms. Tollemache Arms

Lemon balm infused salmon, a potato, Brie and mushroom Pithivier and yummy slow gin gravy; and the most awesome thing ever; rhubarb gin and Harrington honey trifle. I never knew a trifle could be so epic; and although we all had filling tummies we seemed to polish it off.

Obviously this was accompanied by some of Warner’s tasty gins; for me a rhubarb fizz to start and then a raspberry and soda. During the lengthy delicious lunch we were lead by the lovely Tina; to discuss our inspirational women.

The afternoon the full array of Warner’s gins; from the classic ‘Harrington dry Gin’ (yup sod off London, Harrington does it better), to the Joules collab Apple and Pear and the strawberry and rose (which I’d never heard of).

We then wax dipped and labelled our very own bottle; this day was truly epic, with so much attention to detail- making it such a special day for a wonderful group of ladies.

The day ended with imaginative Warner’s gin cocktails at their bar; my idea of heaven, and an epically stocked fridge. And then off we went into the Northamptonshire sunset.

I thought I’d finish with a few of my favourite Warner’s facts

  • There are 300 elderflower in each bottle of elderflower Gin
  • The distillers name is on each bottle
  • Toms mum Adele creates the idea of their Elderflower gin after picking some on the garden and adding to Gordon’s!
  • Warner’s does 350 distillations a year
  • 91% gin can actually taste amazing
  • Warner’s will be bringing out a spiced rum- using British grown botanicals!
  • Warner’s ask locals to pick Sloes to make their gin, and return the favour by giving gin.
  • Tom says ‘fuck’ A Lot

Obviously the idea of this day was to celebrate inspirational women; and March holds both inspirational women’s day and Mother’s Day- so this month I’m going to be posting about inspirational ladies, and hosting guest blogs from some wonderful ladies too.

Share your stories of the #inspowomen in your life on insta using this tag and @warnersgin too

Family time, Playtime

West Lodge Farm Park

Today we had a wonderful day at West Lodge farm park, near Desborough Northants. It was breezy and post storm; but that didn’t put us off, in fact it had made some wonderful muddy puddles.

As it’s lambing season the main focus of our visit was to see some new borns and feed the babies with bottles. Dorothea loved this. We didn’t managed to see any lambs actually be born, but we certainly got to view some very fresh ones. They do the bottle feeding of lambs x4 a day during this season, with plenty of opportunity for your little ones to have this wonderful experience.

Although it was pretty cool and blustery Dorothea enjoyed some fresh air playtime; her and her friends loved the abundance of tractors, exploring the castle on the hill, playing on the roundabout and swings and even in the sand pit!!!! (Unsurprisingly hands in cold sand meant they wanted to return inside.)

Each and every day there’s plenty of activities for the kids; these obviously change with the season. Today’s were:

  • Lambing talks
  • Bottle feeding the lambs
  • Small animal petting
  • Piglet racing
  • Pony grooming
  • Pony rides
  • Barrel rides
  • Den building

Most of my photos of Dorothea are blurry or of her laughing! This says a lot about the farm park; she really loved it and was absolutely exhausted following 4 hours there!

The old grain adventure barn is pretty epic, with a multitude of slides, (for difference levels of thrill seeker), plenty of climbing opportunities and many places to hide and jump out at your friends! There’s a separate play area for the little ones; which Dorothea loved; with a smaller ‘hen house’, slide, toadstool seating and a mesmerising sensory ‘fish pond’.

And the best thing of all??? At the side of this play area there’s a cafe with does great coffee and cakes.
There’s also a more formal ‘Rickyard restaurant’ and ‘the udder place’ ice cream/snack/hot drink bar. On a nice sunny day there’s plenty of spots and benches for a family picnic.

There’s a lovely little shop at West lodge with some great quality toys and great wellies. Our favourites were the Lanka Kade farm animals/ characters and the hobby horses (now in Dorotheas possession).

Costs:

Varies per season but around £7-9 per person.

Under twos are free

They also have a reduced price late entrance fee (ideal for post school energy burn off)

Annual membership is also available from £42 per person (family of 4 £150)

Parking is free and plentiful

There’s plenty more of the farm to explore than we did in a few hours; and we can’t wait to go again. What we didn’t know until recently is that they allow dogs
So we can’t wait to go back with Woody and explore their many nature trails and walks. The only places you can’t take dogs are the indoor place area and the fenced off outside play park.

We did go in half term, on our arrival at 9.30 the park was quiet but by the time we left at 13.00 it was packed, and the indoor play barn had no tables left- so I certainly can’t wait to go back in term time.

West Lodge website

West lodge Instagram

Family time, Playtime

Play Village- Warwick

For the both Dorothea’s second and third birthdays we have taken her to the Warwick play village. we think for her it offers the perfect day out; she loves pretend play, and this place offers every version of pretend play you could want!

From memory these are the different areas:

  • School
  • Post office
  • Theatre
  • Beauty/hair salon
  • Vets
  • Hospital
  • Fire station
  • Cafe
  • Supermarket
  • Ice cream van
  • Picnic area/bbq
  • Building site

The play village has two available sessions- morning or afternoon; each gives 2.5 hours play. It’s £10 per child and that gives entrance for two adults also. Parking is free and plentiful.

Within the play village there’s an awesome cafe; so you can have coffee and cake with a view of the play area. They do a full range of breakfasts, lunches, cakes, hot and cold drinks. The coffee is pretty good too.

Whilst kids are left to play as they wish, the team at the Play Village also organises activities; singing, dancing, stories and treasure hunts. On both occasions we’ve been for Dorothea’s birthday, they’ve sang to her and given her a card; a sweet touch!

2nd birthday in the beauty salon

Any negatives??? Well one; this place is soooo hard to find, the sat navved postcode will lead you to a services on a nearby dual carriageway. Instead type in Hampton rd and wing it. The play village is down a little Lane; you will think you’ve gone the wrong way, but it’s worth it when you get there promise. ( allow a little extra time for getting lost! The staff informed me they should be getting a brown road sign soon.)

The different a year makes- the shop aged 2

To make a full day trip the nearly towns of Warwick and Leamington are both beautiful; with varied shopping streets and places to eat/drink. In Leamington we recommend https://www.cote.co.uk/restaurant/leamington-spa/ and in Warwick http://www.theoldcoffeetavern.co.uk

https://www.childrensplayvillage.co.uk

Dots outfit from https://jujuni.co.uk

Playtime

Pretend play!

Dorothea loves to pretend to be just like Mummy. Her favourite things are to look after her baby and clean!

She’s just been #gifted this Melissa and Doug cleaning caddy from Hello Baby and adores it.

Dot loves to ‘just pretend’ spraying the coffee table and polishing it up. The cup comes with lots of different bottles and cleAning implements- which enables your toddler to be just like mummy.

Think she’ll be wanting to use this one in the garden in the summer and then we can fill the bottles with water and bubbles.

Follow the link below to buy.

https://www.hellobabydirect.com/melissa-doug-cleaning-caddy-set

IVF, Life of a Mum

January-its all pregnancy and birth announcements! Happy New Year infertiles

So I am a Mum, and that’s wonderful; I’m so thankful to IVF and that I now have a family I thought I’d never have. But that doesn’t mean my ovaries don’t pang and I don’t get insanely jealous when I see these announcement’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so bitter that I don’t feel joy and happiness for these other ladies, but I’m just green with envy.

 

I would love to be realistically trying to conceive,  I day dream about feeling those lovely bump kicks, and it’s my dream to be giving another birth announcement. BUT having IVF standing in the way of us and our ‘frozen in time’ future children is so bloody frustrating; feeling mentally/emotionally stable enough to take the step through it all again is enough of a challenge, but then realising we don’t have the £3k necessary to sign on the dotted line, well it seems to make it an impossible stepping stone.

 

‘There’s never a good time to try’ and ‘ no one can afford a baby, you just have to go for it’ – is all well and good, when the going for it is the simple pleasure of having sex! The reality for us infertiles is stumping up thousands of pounds for just a chance, and sometimes not even a great chance: it’s a numbers game- will the meds work, will my lining be the right thickness, will the embryos defrost okay etc. etc…… and sometimes taking that step is mentally a massive step.

 

It must be awful for those trying to conceive naturally month after month never seeing the pink (or blue) lines, and I genuinely mean that- but even taking one chance for us means ‘life on hold’ tests, journeys, stress, emotions, hormones, poking and prodding, scans and tests, breath holding phone calls and the dreaded waits!!!

 

My biggest fear (isn’t forever being skint and in debt) but how I’d cope with a fail. Yes we have 5 wonderful little embryos raring to go, and I often wonder if they’ll be as cute and full of sass as their big sister, but I’m not sure I could cope with a fail; it was the worst feeling- and I don’t wanna do that again.

 

So many women amazingly go through round after round of IVF, fail after fail, and they’re remarkable, because I know I could never do it. I know that (after lengthy discussions with my husband) I’d never go through with another fresh cycle, that I wouldn’t emotionally and physically put myself through it again.

 

I sincerely hope that, at some point soon; we’ll be ready to take that step- hopefully later this year (and certainly before I hit the big 4-0) I’m sure a money tree will magically grow in our garden, that Dorothea with suddenly start sleeping amazingly, and that we will develop the mental strength and drive needed for IVF. And lets face it, time is ticking; and my stiff joints regularly remind me of my approaching ‘old age’.

 

So new mums and newly preggos; please don’t hate me for getting annoyed with your happy announcement’s- I’m just bloody jealous, and that sucks!

 

Family time, Life of a Mum

Farndon Fields

I love Farndon Fields- I cant believe up until recently I’d never been! A beautiful farm shop and restaurant just outside Harborough; the perfect addition onto a day in the town.

Highlights

  • The most instagrammable green grocers I’ve ever seen!
  • The funniest fish monger- who made D giggle by making a fish talk
  • The Gin section (basically my Christmas list right there)
  • Afternoon tea (I rolled out)
  • Affordable plants
  • A beautiful Christmas zone

Recently we tried out their afternoon tea; and it was amazing. I think me and my mum could spend hours here; browsing the amazing food and gin, picking out special Christmas decorations and partaking in another afternoon tea!

This past week we tried out Farndon Fields Pumpkin patch; I believe it’s the first year they’re done this, and it was AMAZING!!!

We embraced the mud ( it’s rained so much recently) donned our wellies and trudged up to the patch- WOW I’ve never seen so many pumpkins. We pics a barrow full and headed down to wash them (and 1/2 the field off our boots)

I love the effort they put into the Pumpkin Barn- a proper little cafe; yet still keeping it looking like a barn on a proper farm. We tried some delicious pumpkin cake, and grabbed a handful of recipes to try with our squashes (waste not want not).

I think it’s fully booked this year- but for next yeah I really recommend it- put a reminder in your phone now to book up at the end of September.

Farndon Fields Web

Baby/Toddler stuff, Playtime

Autumn Invitation to play

Tuff trays are great for the summer outside, but when we’re stuck inside I love making smaller play trays.

If I left Dorothea to it, she’d probably only play with her Duplo and her babies; but setting up a tray like this encourages her to play with different thinks in more creative ways.

Today’s play tray was made up of

  • A pumpkin ‘lid’
  • Conkers
  • Green play doh
  • A faux grass sample (companies will send for free)
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Chia seeds
  • A cut up gift wrap tub
  • Grimms rainbow pieces
  • Wooden forest animals
  • Autumn coloured beads
  • Autumn colours pegs/pots
  • Orange cutters/ roller
  • Wooden spoon
  • Paper straws
    Autumn leaves
  • Our favourite activities using this tray were
    • Rolling conkers down the tube
      Pressing seeds and oats into dough
      Making fields for the animals and feeding them
      Fitting the beads onto the straws
      Stacking the rainbow/beads/animals
      Blowing the leaves/seeds/oats using the straws
  • I love making random play trays- they truly are ‘open ended’ play and you’ll be surprised at how your little one plays and how long it keeps them entertained.
  • Guest Blogs, highlighton other fab ladies, Life of a Mum, Other fabulous ladies

    Colourful Soles- Guest Blog

    I’m a mum of 2 wonderful and spirited children, from the minute my daughter was born my perspective on life changed completely. This changein me inspired the opening of our Independent Children’s shoe shop in Lutterworth, Colourful Soles.

    Our mission is to support the development of children, support our local economy and communityand for me personally I want to be able to read a story to my children, Ella and Thomas every night. 

    Colourful Soles is a Children’s shoe shop, inside we are a team who are trained to measure feet and fit shoes correctly. We want shoe shopping for children (and those with them) to be an enjoyable experience and for them to go away with a pair of shoes that fits their individual and unique feet and personality.

    Up until November 2012 I had spent all my working life dedicated to a large ‘Blue Chip’ business and became accustomed, if not somewhat addicted to, the long hours, travelling the world, discovering new experiences, the people (not all of them particularly nice) the salary and the rush of landing new contracts. On the 22nd of November my daughter, Ella was born and from that moment on I knew I had changed. 

    I went through the motions for 5 years, going back part time after maternity leave, working long hours, answering e-mails @ 1am, being away from home for numerous nights, knowing deep down though that my heart was not in it. Being a mum was my priority and the compromise was getting too much for me. 

    When my son Thomas was born, I decided there and then that I no longer wanted to be number in a big business, I wanted my family to come first.  I started training and learning about the development of the foot inspired by the fact that I couldn’t find the right shoe for my daughters’ narrow ankle and foot. Re-enforced by my sons’ wide foot and high step and inclination to pronate I decided I wanted to offer shoes for children that I couldn’t find.

    Finally 2 years later the perfect unit turned up and we made an offer, I handed my notice in and started contacting companies that I trusted and believed in. 6 months later the icing on the cake I found the perfect partner, Sarah, to work alongside me who has experienced a very similar journey. Now I love coming to work and I love what I do, I like meeting new wonderful customers and having time for family and friends without secretly checking my phone for an e-mail or message. It’s fun! Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t come without worry but it is absolutely worth it. My family and friends have been more supportive that I could’ve hoped for and without making you want to reach for the sick bucket, couldn’t imagine better.

    Couple of facts you might not be aware of…

    By the time a child is 8 years old they’ve already walked, on average, 11,500km which is the distance from London to New York and back! The right shoes for all that walking is so important, allowing room to grow and supporting those soles!

    The bones in the foot don’t stop forming until 18 years old, the right shoes will help those bones form properly.

    Loving life…loving work and of course loving shoes! X

    Insta

    Facebook

    Guest Blogs, highlighton other fab ladies, Life of a Mum, Other fabulous ladies

    Mums in Business- The Frailty Nurse

    The Frailty Nurse.

    Frailty Nurse- Instagram

    I’m a Mum of 2 girls aged 3 & 5, a wife and a dog owner!!

    Prior to children I worked full time as a Community Matron for the NHS preventing ageing patients being admitted into hospital. 

    When my second little one arrived I decided to try and get a better work life balance so launched my own business to allow me the flexibility to fit in around them while still keeping my independence and registration……….Frailty Nurse Consultants was launched.

    It’s main aim to to support families with their ageing parents by offering advice, support and guidance to keep our ageing relatives safe at home.

    I am passionate about the care of our older generation. Our population is ageing, we are living longer with more complex needs and long term conditions at home.

    Navigating through all the options out there is complex, time consuming and confusing. This is where my business is here to help.

    We offer support to you and your ageing parents, to help plan and navigate the health and social care system taking pressure off you all and put steps in place to keep them ticking along nicely. 

     We do this by completing an assessment at your parents home where all their needs and issues can discussed in a friendly and professional manor.
    We can also help to save money by exploring options and benefits available.

    We also offer a Frailty visiting service if you do not live near your ageing parents and would like peace of mind they are still managing ok, we report back any concerns and work as a team to keep them safe.

    Finding someone to trust and who can help is the key, we are caring and compassionate and champion the needs of our elderly clients.

    Find out more; Website

    Follow on Facebook

    Baby/Toddler stuff, Life of a Mum

    New Boots- review of Colourful Soles in Lutterworthaa

    On Tuesday this week we had our first visit to Colourful Soles in Lutterworth,  wonderful new independent shoe shop for children. We were kindly invited to have Dorothea fitted and gifted a new pair of boots in return for an honest review.

    First impression of the shop were fab- the outdoor signage and window display and neat, tidy and cute! (as any kids shop should be). The lovely Tracy welcomed us and gave Dorothea time to look around and settle down playing before we discussed shoes and boots. Tracy was great with Dorothea, obviously has a natural affinity with kids and made measuring a 2 year olds feet look easy (which I’m sure isn’t the case).

    The shop is beautifully decorated and themed; colourful, without the need for sunglasses. Nicely displayed footwear; so you can see clearly what’s available without being overwhelmed by the amount. The range of brands, colours and designs is fab; with something to suit all tastes- there’s sparkles and bows if you want them but also the tan, navy and black for a more classic look. The shop stocks shoes, boots wellies and school shoes too!

     

    The service was brilliant, Tracy spent an hour with us; measuring Dorothea and patiently trying on 7 different pairs of boots and ensuring their fit. Dorothea was shy at first, but luckily the store has a great supply of toddler friendly toys, so we could coax her around the floor with toys. Dorothea especially loved showing us her sprints to the front of the store, to ‘ping’ the bouncy animals in the window and run back again.

     

    We finally settled on some rosy bronze metallic ankle boots from Ecco (gifted) and also the lovely mustard ones again Ecco brand. I’m very tempted to return and get the beautiful navy boots with sparkly shooting star.

     

    Pricewise, Colourful Soles is as expected for great quality recognised brands- the boots we tried on ranged from £48-52. The shop also has a loyalty card, so you can gain a discount the more you purchase. All of us (Nanna came too), enjoyed the Colourful Soles experience and will certainly be returning.

    Colourful Soles on Insta

    Family time, Life of a Mum, Playtime

    Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park

    Dorothea is a massive Peppa Pig fan- she loves to snort and jump in muddy puddles; so Peppa Pig world was always on our wish list of family days out.

    Paultons park kindly gifted us a day out in return for an honest review.

    We visited on Monday the 9th of September, and although the weather man gave us very bad news our first impressions of the park were great! The park was very well signposted from the main roads so finding it was stress-free, and parking was free and easy too. Being in term time we had very small queues to get in and we were given an easy to use map to get around the park.

    On entering the park there is multiuse lockers for £4, which saves you carrying around your picnic and change of clothes all day; there’s also kids buggy/wagons to hire if you have a full to brim car and no room for your own buggy. If you take your own pram/buggy, then there are plenty of ‘buggy parks’ around the ride entrances. Signs around the park help you to easily find your way around, there’s also a really useful app that’s free to download with an interactive map to plan your day. We were impressed by the pretty gardens, forest feel and fabulous topiary; it is really a more picturesque parks than most.

    With an excitable two year old we headed straight to Peppa Pig world; the park has lots more to offer; certainly for families with different aged children, and I can imagine to make the most out of the whole park a two day visit would probably be required.  The entrance to Peppa pig world did not disappoint! Colourful signs, Grandpa/mas house,  Miss Rabbits helicopter ride and giant bright coloured flowers gave us a warm welcome, and Dorothea started to skip about enthusiastically.

    We walked along the path, trying to help Dorothea gain confidence for the day (to go on rides, shes quite shy), we were impressed with the cleanliness of the park and loves all the sound effects and music- it really added to the feel of the experience. Dorothea stopped to have a look at the ducks (not real ones; although there are plenty of those too) and had a beaming smile. We then turned around to see Madame Gazelles school house and to meet Peppa and George. It was really very sweet to see D meet giant versions of her favourite characters, and they spent time saying hello to the kids and giving them big hugs.Between the rain showers we experienced most of the rides; Dorotheas favourite was Daddy pigs car ride, which we went on 3 times. We had very few queues over 5 minutes the joy of a rainy day I think; there’s also a handy feature on the app which shows queue times to help you get around with least fuss. All of the rides had room for parents/guardians and siblings/friends, so even the shyest of toddlers can be supported to enjoy the day.

    Mummy loved Georges dinosaur adventure ride, and Daddys favourite was Grampy Rabbits sailing club. We enjoyed‘Mr potatos playground’ with slides, swings, roundabouts etc. and a lovely rainbow path.

    There’s a ‘Muddy Puddle’ play area which I imagine is great fun on a warm day; with its water fountains, puddles and interactive buttons to press to start the water features. Either way depending on the weather you’ll want to pack a swimsuit, or welly boots and waterproofs.

    The area we ran to during a down pour was ‘Georges Spaceship play zone’ – a fab soft play area for all ages (there’s an under 2s, under 5s and open play areas) with slides, climbing frames and tunnels. This area also has a cafe and seating area for the grown ups.

    The park is beautifully themed, with giant characters, flowers, trees and cute colourful buildings all around; perfect for photo opportunities and there’s also park photographers which can capture family pictures and also ride photos (look on the app for photo offers).

    A variety of food is on offer; the usual theme park fodder of pizza, hotdogs, chips, donuts and ice cream- we took a picnic but the pizza smelled delicious!

    There’s lots of sheltered undercover picnic benches, both in Peppa Pig world and just outside  (just beware of the ducks).  And on a nice day lots of grassy areas (how do they keep the grass there so trim and green???).

    Peppa Pig world has a HUGE shop selling a massive array of all things piggy; with some lovely exclusive products. D went home with Miss Rabbits plane, a back pack, ball and mug; which she’s rather pleased with. There’s also another shop at the exit (which you sneakily have to walk through to leave) with a larger range of items, but less Peppa Pig.

    Toilets and baby changing facilities were easy to find around the park, I liked the fact that the loos had built in toddler seats to help when toilet training, and also seats with harnesses to secure little ones so mummy can wee in peace.

    We were surprised that the many charter ride ons around the park (like you see outside supermarkets and in service stations) were free to ride on- D loves these so was a nice bonus between big rides. Like at fairgrounds there were games for a few quid to win large teddies and peppa soft toys; Daddy spent all his pocket money here, yet failed to win- we did not see anyone carrying their wins around, so maybe these games a near on impossible- who knows?

    Overall we loved the park. We are already planning when to go again; and quite fancy a trip for either their Halloween or Christmas specials. Day tickets are £35 per adult and toddlers under 1 metre are free. I can imagine we will visit at least yearly for most of Dorotheas childhood; it’s quite a drive for us but there’s a number of low cost premier inns for a low cost over night stay locally. Peppa Pig World we cant wait to visit again.

    Peppa Pig World Website

    Dorotheas outfit

    Leggings from Little Stitches Online

    Peppas Bestie Tee from Primrose and Bear

    Life of a Mum

    Twinlakes Visit

    Today we visited Twinlakes theme, farm and water park in Leicestershire. We were kindly gifted our tickets by the park. The park is located near Melton Mowbray, which is about 20 miles from home for us.

    Unfortunately we managed to pick a very windy and rainy day; so a few of the rides/areas of the park were closed.

    Luckily at Twinlakes there’s a good variety of indoor and outdoor activities for the kids; from fairground type rides, adventure playgrounds and soft play areas.

    On a Sunny day we would have been able to experience the water park, beach and many outdoor grassy picnic areas. So don’t forget a picnic, swimmers and bucket and spade.

    During the year the park has lots of different extra entertainment options- for us today it was the circus! Dorothea loved being in the big top with the music and lights and she was happily mesmerised for 40 minutes. There was aerial acrobatics, a clown, singers and dancers and even a bearded lady! Dorothea loved clapping the acts and happily munching on her fresh popcorn.

    Dorothea is 2.5 years, and quite shy- we found that there really wasn’t enough (on a wet day) to keep her entertained for the whole day. I think for older children and/or a Sunny day you could happily be entertained from 10-5, but for us today the park entertained for about 3 hours. There was lots of rides suitable for a brave and adventurous toddler- but Dorothea didn’t manage to pluck up the courage to go on much.

    I can imagine that on a sunny day Dorothea would have loved building sandcastles at the large beach, enjoyed a picnic on one of the many grassy picnic areas and played for ages on the playgrounds.

    Best point: Variety; for large families with different aged kids this park would be great on a good weather day.

    Worst point: Some parts of the park look old/weathered and could do with a fresh lick of paint.

    Life of a Mum

    Familido Air Stroller Review

    We were so excited to win the Familido Air Stroller (black panda) From Baby Lurve- Shop- market Harborough and online in their ‘test and treat competition’

    This stroller is super compact and lightweight- we’ve been looking for a smaller option so this is perfect. It sets up and collapses with just one hand (clever little squeeze and slide on the handle), so can be done whilst holding your toddlers hand or shopping.

    It’s full reclining with a nice big hood so perfect for naps. It’s also lovely for summer as has two netted ventilation holes.

    The stroller comes with a rain cover and also a handy storage/carry bag. To give you an idea of collapsed size; it easily fits in the foot well by Dorothea’s car seat. It’s also just over 5kg.

    I’d definitely recommend this stroller for when you’re ready to move on from your large pram/buggy (although it is suitable from birth). I’m so pleased we’ve won this, I wish we’d discovered it about a year ago; as would have saved us loads of boot space and hassle.

    The stroller is £149- a great price, that I would invest in if I hadn’t won it.

    ‘Get 20% off your own Familido Stroller from Baby Lurve, in store and online using code “20IVFNINJA”-offer is valid until 1st September 2019’ Buy now with discount code!

    Life of a Mum

    Windmill farm park- Kibworth, Leicestershire.

    Well the new farm park in our village has now been open 4 days and we’ve decided to give it a go. It’s still school holidays, and we got here at 11.30; so was expectedly packed.

    Entrance is currently £5 each (with no time limit) and under 2s are free. This is an introductory offer; and I really hope it doesn’t rise dramatically. I’m guessing they’ll be an option of a yearly pass too; which with living only 5 minutes away, and it having both indoor and outdoor play options would be fantastic for us.

    Top tip: remember your socks for the indoor play; we didn’t, but luckily they keep a stock at £1.50 a pair.

    Dorothea headed straight for the indoor play area, themed; wait for it…… on a farm with a windmill; it’s really rather stunning. With a large softer play area for the under twos (but Dorothea loved it), with a slide, climbing areas and lovely houses for hiding in; all carpeted in squashy faux grass and foam mats. There’s also a larger play area for the bigger kids- with lots of climbing and hiding options. Seems lots of the parents were loving it too. The main attraction in here is the beautiful big windmill which the kids can turn a wheel to get moving. The walls are painted with stunning farm murals; so you really don’t feel like you’re sitting in a barn!

    The indoor play area has seating and a small cafe surrounding the faux grass area. There’s more seating upstairs overlooking the play area.

    The cafe seemed reasonable with cakes at £1.95-2.95 and coffee around £3. There’s kids meal boxes for £5.50 too. You can’t bring your own picnic inside, but there’s a picnic area out in the main farm area (and an ice cream shed too). It’s great to see healthy snack options including dried fruit and popcorn, and very little plastic too. Lucy told me the cakes are sourced from a local baker which is a nice touch too.

    Behind the main play barn with animals to see and feed. At certain times during the day there’s staffed sessions to pet the animals; we got to hold a baby chick which Dorothea loves. Next time we visit I’ll make sure we stroke the rabbits and guinea pigs. Although a very new park- the animals seems very friendly and tame. Dorothea loved feeding ‘my friend Henry’.

    Lucy tells me that there’s also some small class rooms that they are hoping to do activities/crafts in.

    The outside play area is large and surrounded by animals to see and feed. There’s a large climbing frame/slide- in a sandpit with a cool water feature. Dorothea loved using the water pump to watch the water move down to each movable dam which eventually finishes in a small pool. There’s also a large swing and an enclosed area with small tractors to ride on.

    There’s a big picnic area by the ice cream shed which you can bring your own picnics too. Some of the ground is a bit rough and ready with some puddles- so wellies or sturdy shoes are probably best. The outside play area isn’t sheltered or shady, so can get breezy/sunny depending on the day.

    What I love is that there’s no shop! Meaning you can really stick to a budget for your day out.

    I will certainly be visiting again, with a few friends for company I’m sure we could spend the whole day her. I think this park will evolve and grow with more animals and activities- I certainly think they’ve made a pretty awesome start.

    https://windmillfarmpark.co.uk

    https://www.facebook.com/WindmillFarmPark/

    Guest Blogs, Life of a Mum, Other fabulous ladies

    Cross Your Legs When You Sneeze? There is a Solution (guest blog)

    Hello, my name is Julie, and I am the founder and campaigner behind the Multi Award Nominated and Commendation Awarded Secret Whispers Brand. I am mummy to two gorgeous sons and wife to a very patient husband. 

    Approaching the big 40 and after 2 pregnancies I was starting to think more seriously about my pelvic floor muscles. I knew that with falling oestrogen levels, my pelvic floor strengthcould start to become an issue. I was not going to let that happen. Kegel exercises are not a new concept to me. I have been doing my exercises for years. But it did shock me just how few products were on the market for women to help them improve their pelvic floors and how there is such a big taboo about the subject. Many of the mums I spoke with told me that they wore pads, no longer took part in sports and that leakage was normal after childbirth. I decided there and then that I had to do something. Most women saw Kegel exercise’s as a ‘rescue’ option when things go wrong, rather than a preventative measure. 

    I was astounded that most women had no idea they could do something about this before it became an issue. 

    I then decided to design my own Kegel Weight Kit. It is a 6 Step progressive weight programme to safely and gradually strengthen your pelvic floor. They are made with medically graded 100% body safe silicone. It’s like a weighted tampon for your pelvic floor.

    Too many women around the world are suffering in silence, crossing their legs when they laugh or sneeze. It’s time to give women back control. I am now on a mission to stop women having to prematurely resort to pads to stop leakage – let’s takedown Tena Lady!

    Now ladies, all you need to do is just be committed and take ACTION! Just get started!!

    Weight Lifting (…for your vagina)

    Let’s talk about something embarrassing shall we? Does a little wee escape when you laugh, sneeze, cough, jump, or run? Is this now your new ‘normal’? 

    Did You Know That 50% of women suffer with pelvic floor issues?

    Unfortunately this figure could be much higher because women are too embarrassed to even speak to their doctor about it, let alone family or friends. Due to the associated taboo many women are suffering in silence.  The physical, psychological and social wellbeing impact for women and their families who suffer with weak pelvic floor conditions is heart-breaking and could be avoided. This is an issue that spans generations. This has to change.

    Did You Know That It Is NOT Normal To Leak After Childbirth?

    I was horrified to learn that women are led to believe it is ‘normal’ to cross their legs when they laugh or sneeze. That urine incontinence after childbirth is almost expected, thanks to the large advertising budgets of companies selling these pads. Secret Whispers exists to present a very different reality and give a very different message.

    What Are Kegel Exercises?

    Kegel exercises consist of repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor. They are essential because your pelvic floor is a muscle like any other and it needs to be exercised. Think of your pelvic floor as your Lady Hammock. It has a very important job to do. It consists of muscles and ligaments holding up your bowel, uterus and bladder. The muscles that surround these organs can no longer fully support these organs when weakened, resulting in the lack of control you have over passing urine, wind or faeces. In severe cases, called a prolapse, there is a dropping down of the internal organs into the vagina. Don’t use it and you may well lose it! So prevention is better than cure ladies!


    “I have tried doing pelvic floor exercises and they didn’t work” 

    Most women do not know where their pelvic floor muscles are and how to engage them correctly. When you use Secret Whispers ™ Kegel weights your pelvic muscles are contracted, which in turn lifts the internal organs and the muscles also tighten the openings of your vagina, anus and urethra. Thus, improving your pelvic muscle tone and reducing the need for future corrective surgery! They correctly engage the correct pelvic floor muscles to contract, taking away the guess work.

    When Can I Fit Kegel Exercises Into My Already Busy Life?
    There really are so many ways for your Kegels to fit easily into your lifestyle that there are NO excuses. Incorporate your Kegel exercises with an activity you do most days. 

     Showering, gym work out, exercise class, walking, school run, yoga, housework, swimming, walking the dog, 

     or even cleaning the oven (honestly:-).

     You just need to be active for them to be effective

     

    “I’ve given birth and the damage is already done”

    Doing Kegel exercises before childbirth helps in the recovery of the pelvic floor and reduces the likelihood of bladder incontinence after birth. However, if you start suffering from a loss of bladder control after childbirth, you can still improve the strength of your pelvic floor by doing Kegel exercises. If in doubt please always speak to a pelvic floor physiotherapist.

    Will Kegel exercises improve my sex life? 

    If you have noticed that it is more difficult to reach orgasm or that your other half has noticed it is more difficult to climax; your pelvic floor may have weakened. An orgasm happens when the muscles in your vagina, anus, and uterus involuntarily contract and then relax. This is the amazing feeling of “release.” Orgasms are bigger and stronger with a strong pelvic floor.

    Special Discount Code for 30% Off

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    Life of a Mum

    Bad days…..

    Where to begin…… and that’s the thing I think; it’s so very hard to explain to someone that hasn’t experienced it.

    Constant uncontrollable worry, mind working overdrive, daydreaming, overthinking, panic, doubt, anger, annoyance………. just wanting to hide away.

    Sometimes there’s a clear reason why it happens; an argument, a bad day at work, a particular stroppy toddler, or just me judging or critiquing myself too harshly.

    My anxiety feels as if everyone in the world is waiting for me to trip up, so that they can laugh at me; it makes me second guess my every move or decision. I therefore overthink everything; I critique myself so heavily- and also I take others comments to heart, a simple statement from them I manage to turn into a criticism.

    Imagine…….

    You are walking down the stairs carrying a pile of washing, your foot slips- the feeling of being about to fall! That’s the feeling……. the breath grabbing, heart pounding, ‘oh shit’ feeling…..the feeling over and over, and over. For no real reason; I can be having a good day and then it comes.

    Throat tightening….

    Heart pounding…..

    Hot and sweaty…..

    Can’t breathe……

    It’s bloody awful.

    And then there’s the fears and horrid thoughts….

    This began when Dorothea was tiny; I used to worry that something horrible would happen in the night. Often I woke- convinced she was tangled in the bedcovers, or that she’d fallen off the bed, I’d rolled on her etc. Etc.

    So many nights I‘d wake hot and panicked; stretch out to told her and be convinced; even if just for a moment, that she was cold- the poor child would generally grumble under Mummies prods- but I would sign relief and try and settle to sleep once again.

    This has been happening more and more recently……

    That same feeling of dread; suddenly waking and thinking something horrid has happened to her. Or other feelings of dread; being woken to a message or call of bad news, having irrational fear of weird things (cranes, driving under train bridges, overtaking lorries…)

    And I’m so flipping tired!!!!

    No not tired; it’s fatigue- it’s a tiredness that sleep won’t resolve. Not that I can sleep- although I’d love to (I’d take a week straight)- when I do sleep I have the funkiest dreams ever! And when I don’t sleep I visit the kitchen and eat custard and drink lemonade.

    I feel exhausted; tired of thinking, tired of feeling nervous, tired or being ‘on alert’ and tired of that feeling of impending doom. Being able to rest would be a real treat.

    All this seems to be driven by my thoughts, anxieties and self critique; but then there’s the very real physical symptoms!

    – regular headaches; always behind one eye, they make me take myself off to bed.

    – racing heart/palpitations/chest tightness

    – throat tightness and difficulty breathing or talking

    – flushing/overheating/sweating

    – hormonal imbalance; disappearing and then heavy periods, mood swings, loss of libido

    – bladder issues; peeing more with increased urgency

    ( I’m a nurse so I get that although these are actually very real physical symptoms- they are very stronger linked to my mental health).

    I feel lost; unappreciated, silly, foolish- I take comments and criticism too harshly. Somedays I feel I’m useless at everything; others I can see my talents and strengths and have confidence.

    But it’s how to take control?????

    – I know I’m not everything I sometimes judge myself to be

    – I know I have skills, knowledge, gifts and areas of expertise

    – I know I’m appreciated, loved, cared for, trusted and wanted

    – I know I’m kind, honest, genuine, social and loving

    But how can I be all that…….. how can I be everything I know I can be, at my best…… when right now I feel at my worst?

    For now I need time…..

    time to rest

    – time to be selfish and prioritise me

    – time to think AND time not to think

    – time for family and friends

    – time to make decisions

    – time for fresh air and exercise

    – time for talking, for listening, and for being quiet

    – time to make the right decisions for me

    Got milk?, Milk, weaning and more

    Boob- who knew?!?!?

    When I was pregnant I was determined to breast feed; I tried to read a few book, go on the Facebook support pages and subscribed to mother and baby magazine.

    I thought I knew enough to get me by. But I felt anxious about it all; it’s one of those things you don’t really ‘get’ until you’re doing it. And even then everyday is a school day.

    Here’s some interesting (or weird things I never really knew).

    1. Breastfeeding doesn’t mean the delay to your periods returning.

    Yes this one really sucked; I was led to believe that one of the lovely benefits from breastfeeding was that your got a nice break from periods, this was supported my comments from friends when they were gutted their monthly friend returned after a year!

    Well I had a two week post-partum bleed and then lo and behold- 28 bleeding days later Aunt Flo returned! What the actual fuck- I mean how unfair is that?!?!?!?

    Not only that but whilst I was breast feeding my monthly visitor only arrived every ruddy month perfectly on time! couldn’t do that when we were trying to get pregnant and go through fertility treatment could it???

    Ready for some even more shit news; (and this is a bit gross) when you are actually feeding your uterus contracts meaning that you sit their feeling the blood flood out. I mean lovely- totally wonderful. Mother BLOODY nature!

    ( slightly pissed off infertile woman here)

    2. Let down

    Well where to begin with this one; I’ll just go for it, imagine 37,500 ants crawling all over you tits. Well this is what ‘let down’ feels like. What???? You ask…..

    Well did you know you milk just does sit ready to come out (otherwise we’d all just sit in puddles of milk); your babies first few sucks stimulates you boobs enough to ‘open the gates’ of your ducts- this is called ‘let down’, and let me warn you- that is a bloody weird feeling!

    3. Porn star boobs

    Ever contemplated getting a boob job, or wished you were curvier to help you feel sexier?

    Well about 3 days after birth you’ll get a ‘free trial’ of those huge, rounded, stuck on looking bazookas- and you’ll feel sooo sexy!!! Er nope, they’re huge, they hurt, they feel like they’re going to explode, they’re hot, they’re leaking; and now you have to try and attach a baby onto them. Trying to attach a soft mouthed tiny new born onto a huge, hard, rounded football is flipping hard. And you’ll also decide you don’t want a boob job.

    4. It’s good for your mental health.

    I definitely struggled with my mental health more after weaning Dorothea off the boob. So I did some research and found your brain releases the hormones prolactin and oxytocin during breastfeeding, which help you to bond with baby and ease those normal feelings of stress and anxiety.

    5. Breastfeeding burns loads of calories

    Breastfeeding burns between 500-600 calories a day. That means some mums might end up losing weight without any additional exercise! But in reality it also makes you really hungry- I remember stuffing my face with flapjacks in the middle of the night. Also breastfeeding mums will generally spend more time sitting down- for me this signals ‘snack time’ – so don’t count on losing that weight; but in reality who cares, breastfeeding is great and so are flapjacks.

    6. Rainbow milk. Milk is white right? Wrong!

    When expressing I found that the bottles of milk in my fridge could be different colours- sometimes with a blue tinge! Apparently this change can be due to what you’ve eaten or your babies needs (milk constituents can change daily- clever eh?)

    7. You produce milk long after feeding stops.

    I figured that soon after I stopped feeding that I would ‘dry up’. Not the case- I found in the months following I would leak milk when emotional, and now (over a year later) milk is still there if pressure is put on my boobs.

    8. Breastmilk jewellery

    You can get gorgeous jewellery made from your milk! This one is always controversial, with many thinking it’s weird, but I love my milk pendant.

    Check out:

    https://www.forevernurtured.co.uk

    https://milkdiamonds.co.uk/

    9. Flapjacks!

    Oats are supposed to be good for milk production and flapjacks are yummy! This was a recipe I created; these are great for devouring during night feeds (lots of good ingredients too)

    ⁃ 1 cup coconut oil

    ⁃ 3/4 cup agave syrup

    ⁃ 10 dried dates finely chopped

    ⁃ 1 apple finely chopped/grated

    ⁃ ( melt down the above in a pan until a gooey syrup- then add)

    ⁃ 1 cup chopped off nuts( I used cashews)

    ⁃ 4 cups oats

    ⁃ 1 cup milled flax seed

    ⁃ 4 tablespoons brewers yeast

    Mix well, bake in flat pan for 15 mins at 180 (or until firm and browning)

    10. Breastfeeding is amazing

    It’s also hard work, often awkward, sometimes painful and welcomes some negative opinions. Next time you see a breastfeeding Mum be positive; a smile, compliment, cup of tea or biscuit.
    IVF

    IVF- the beginning…..

    Well it’s May- the month that always reminds me of IVF! It was the May 2016 was month Dorothea was created. But our journey started long before that.

    As an ‘older’ couple we didn’t want to hang around waiting for the ‘right time’ to try for a baby. So we decided early on in our relationship to come off contraception and let ‘nature’ run its course. And we waited……

    Nothing happened- so we decided to be a little more planned; using a Fertility app and peeing on ovulation sticks (oh and obviously having sex) – but still nothing. A year had passed.

    So we visited the GP and had some basic fertility checks; blood tests and a semen analysis. We were referred for fertility treatment April 2015 after tests revealed malefactor infertility; analysis showed a near normal count but low ‘normal forms’- meaning that although natural conception was possible, it was unlikely.

    Following some more tests; more bloods and tests ruling out STDs and other infectious diseases, specialist fertility blood tests and ovarian scans- we were played to go ahead with a funded IVF cycle.

    We were referred to a local fertility clinic to commence the process. I was told my AMH levels were high (indicating a good reserve of eggs)- but that this possibly indicates PCOS. Further sperm analysis revealed a range of figures- which confused us an didn’t seem related to any health or lifestyle changes. Due to sperm quality we were told we needed to have ICSI- this is when the sperm and egg are not simply put in a dish to do their thing- but that the selected speed is actually injected into the egg.

    Our cycle started in October 2018- a few days after a lovely holiday and my birthday. I felt stressed- I wasn’t feeling optimistic or positive, I felt badly prepared and was having increased responsibility at work increasing my stress load further. I hadn’t done that much research and was just trying to ‘go with the flow’. Every appointment was met with nervousness and anxiety from me- my partner tried to help relax me- but there was a lot of tears.

    IVF treatment can involve a range of drugs/treatments- from self administered injections, to tablets, nasal sprays and vaginal pessaries or rectal suppositories. The box of drug supplies for a cycle is overwhelming- a huge amount of unfamiliar drugs with a scary amount of needles and syringes! I was fine with the needles and drugs; I’m a nurse, so this part of the process didn’t bother me at all.

    It was the mental side of it; after wanting to be a mum for so many years I was so nervous it wouldn’t work. Anxious at every stage and felt it was hard to relax and get rest.

    So the injections were ongoing (to grow the follicles and mature the eggs) at each appointment they were counting 30-40 follicles! This was a high number; and they said I was at risk of OHSS ( ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome)- and wanted to monitor me closely- they reduced my dose injected stimulation drugs to help reduce the risk. (Normal amount of follicles is expected to be approx 10-20). I can not describe the feeling of huge fluid filled ovaries; it was certainly weird and uncomfortable!

    The nurse told me ovaries are around the size of walnuts- but after 7 days of stims mine were now the size of large oranges. When I walked quickly I could feel them ‘bouncing’ inside me; and I was told no running or activity due to a risk of torsion.

    So I had a scan and blood tests in a Friday; and was due to return on the Monday, on the Monday my scan revealed a shock- massive follicles! The nurse was shocked and said she was unsure how they’d grown so much on a reduced dose- I was surprised, I’d had no dose adjustment. It turns out they left a voicemail that I never received- to half my stim dose!!! I was told to stop stims and await blood results; a call came later that my hormone levels were dangerously high- they were 21,000 and should be less than 17,000. I gad to return to the clinic- I was given a drug called cabergoline to counteract the effect and hopefully stop the likelihood of hyper stimulation syndrome. I took the drug- but was scared; and I had to return to work.

    I quickly felt very unwell; I collapsed vomiting at work in the corridor, Nick had to come fetch me. I had such severe vertigo and sickness that I could only lie flat or crawl; I’d never felt so ill. The clinic said it was a severe allergic reaction to the drug; and that I needed to try and drink 3-4litres of water a day.

    After 2days of being poorly; with severe sickness and inability to drink- I had egg collection. We retrieved 20 eggs from 31 follicles. To retrieve the eggs they insert a dildo like implement into your vagina- poke a needle through your vaginal wall and into each ovary; sucking out the contents of each plump follicle. In my clinic I was sedated, so don’t recall a thing; afterwards just a little period type pain and spotting of blood.

    After the great news of 20 eggs- 17 were mature and yet only 7 fertilised. This was gutting!!!! We had hoped to get at least 50%. Then came the wait; we had to wait for a call, hoping that day by day our cells would divide normally. The aim is to get them to a 5 day embryo; called a blastocyst.

    On day 3 we had a call- we only had 3 embryos left in the running- and they were not brilliant quality; we were advised to come in for transfer. The risk was if was waiting til day 5 there would be no embryo to transfer. We were gutted.

    I remember crying en-route to the hospital. Nick played my ‘relaxing IVF app’ but it didn’t help- I was in pieces. So two embryos were transferred; a ‘good’ 8 cell embryo and a fragmented 10 cell (you can tell from the pic that the top embryo looks more equal and the cells are similar sizes).

    I remember Nick asking the Dr what we could do to improve our chances; should I rest etc.- she replied ‘either you get pregnant or you don’t’.

    Then came the dreaded two week wait- the most awful time; questioning every potential symptom- do I have sore boobs, any pain, is my period coming. 11 days later we got our answer.

    We returned to the clinic to have our thoughts confirmed- it hadn’t worked! A urine and blood test confirmed this cycle had not worked. We went home to cry.

    Not only had this cycle not worked- but it was our only funded cycle- our only chance of getting pregnant on the NHS. What millions of couples take for granted- having a family- we were going to have to find thousands of £££ for.

    Yes- infertility sucks!

    It affects you mentally, physically and financially. It challenges your relationship, can make you seriously ill and makes you feel like a total failure! Why can’t I do the main thing we were put on this Earth to do. I just wanted a baby- a family!

    Our Ivf fund

    Life of a Mum

    Post natal lows!

    This is me.….Married, Mum to a fab little lady, sarcastic, tired, matron to an awesome team of nurses.

    I look happy right???

    I am; I have an awesome life- my dream family, an amazing job and some fab friends. I’m also on anti depressants, I know my head isn’t entirely organised, often paranoid and over emotional.

    If I’m totally honest I’ve probably experienced post natal depression; but it certainly took me more than the ‘post natal’ period to recognise that I was struggling.

    I remember the midwife and health visitor doing the required mental health checklist; and telling me I was high risk. Apparently ‘older’ mums that are previously successful and career driven struggle with the transformation to ‘mum on maternity leave’.

    I totally get it! You go from being a functioning and productive adult; to a tired Mum who finds it difficult to leave the house by midday.

    Also the mental effect of IVF seems greatly underestimated. It has changed me forever! As a woman I feel my main role on this earth is to Mother; and I felt that was stolen from me. After going through years of fertility treatment, pregnancy then feels like a great pressure, and parenting an IVF miracle even more so.

    Comments that I’m really lucky to be a Mum, that I should be grateful to have one child, and not be greedy in wanting more! No one says these things to the fertiles!! (more on this in a separate blog).

    I remember feeling emotional, unable to cope, frustrated- I felt like a ‘beginner’! I felt I was crap at motherhood- from leaving work as a confident and skilled nursing sister- I felt that I was failing.

    But …. I didn’t want to admit it.

    Dorothea had some early weight loss- it took weeks and weeks of a tiresome breastfeeding, plus expressing and top up feed routine to get her weight up. I blamed myself – felt my milk wasn’t enough; luckily I had a great health visitor who supported me well.

    Dorothea also suffered from reflux; if you’re a Mum of a reflux baby you’ll know the emotional effects of this. Reflux means everything takes more; more time, more patience, more washing, more packing, more understanding. Constant small feeds, followed by extended periods of sitting upright and winding, followed by a mess! Followed by numerous Muslins, outfit changes for both of us and daily loads of washing. Not to mention cleaning of carpets, furniture, the dog! Where spillages had also occurred- it felt endless.

    Of course I blamed myself– also second guessed my choices and actions. Should she be going to the Drs, should she be on meds, were the meds making it worse, should I go dairy free, gluten free, spice free, should I stop breast feeding….. the list went on!

    With both things I convinced myself they’d get better with time; and they both did. But in the meantime I judged myself- lots

    I also had the return of my rheumatoid arthritis to deal with. Throughout pregnancy my condition went into expected remission- and I experience 9 wonderful months pain free. I actually felt more healthy when pregnant than I had for a few years prior to this. I struggled to deal with the pain and stiffness, on top of being a tired new mum.

    I returned to work when Dorothea was 9 months- initially part time (using my holiday allowance to wean myself back on). I enjoyed this- felt it was a great balance! I loved being at work 2 days a week- I felt it gave me great purpose and helped me feel like a contributing adult again(being on Matty leave and heavily reliant on your partners wage makes you feel pretty shitty too). But it also made me realise and appreciate how much I loved being a mum! I missed my little lady when at work and always couldn’t wait to see her at the end of the day!

    Three weeks after my return to work a tragedy struck; my friend and boss died suddenly! A major shock; a 31 week pregnant healthy mum to be, amazingly her angel daughter survived this. Obviously this was a emotional time; personally and also career wise. This meant increased pressure on me at work; both emotionally and workload wise, and I’d lost a friend and my biggest career cheerleader. Emma had great belief in me; and always supported me- she was a fabulous boss and made going to work much easier! This also made me look at life differently, as these things always do, wanting to live life to the fullest as you never know when that life can be taken.

    When Dorothea was 15 months old I made the difficult decision to stop breastfeeding. Difficult; as I truly believe breast is best, and after my body failing me with infertility I actually felt feeding was something my body had succeeded with. But my body was failing me in other ways- my rheumatoid has returned with vengeance, and I felt my ability to be a ‘good mum’ was being affected. I therefore had to start on some new medications- medications that were not safe to breastfeed in. Again- this made me feel pretty shitty!

    Let’s be honest at times I was bloody exhausted; Dorothea has never been a good sleeper, and pretty much woke 2 hourly until she was about 1. Even now ‘sleeping through’ is rare- and when it happens my body doesn’t adjust and I wake up anyway!

    So to sum that all up! I struggled; I’m still struggling. I felt an enormous amount of pressure, that in reality I really only created myself. I judged myself, I felt inferior, I didn’t feel myself, I felt lost, I felt isolated, and I felt anxious.

    It all came to a head last summer when myself and my partner (now husband) we’re having relationship difficulties. We were both having difficulties- and instead of opening up with each other and helping each other we fought. During one of the many arguments I admitted I was struggling.

    I felt sad, not a bit down, but inherently sad and anxious everyday. And my biggest feeling was GUILT! I felt guilty, that although I finally had the family (and an awesome career) I’d always wanted, that I still felt sad. I knew I wasn’t right. So off I trotted to the GP (although in practise it felt a major accomplishment to admit I needed help- so not a ‘trot’ at all).

    I’ve now been on antidepressants since August- upped doses and a drug change. I’m feeling better, I’m feeling okay, but still not feeling back to being ‘me’. And that’s okay- I’m still on a journey.

    So the point of this blog? Quite selfish, a little therapeutic for me, helpful for me to get it on my head and on paper. But hopefully a message for you too- it’s okay to not be okay, it’s okay to admit you’re struggling, it’s good to ask for help, and it’s necessary to be honest with yourself and your support network.

    TALK, ask for help don’t see it as a weakness but a strength.

    Family time

    National Trust

    Yes I admit it we are national trust geeks. I don’t know anything else you can pay £100 a year for and have so many fab days out.

    Here are some of our favourites- with pics of course.

    Trelissick is probably our number one. It has a little bit of everything. It’s always on our ‘must go to’ list when we head to Cornwall; which is at least twice a year- and even though we’ve been about 6 times now we still want to revisit.

    Trelissick Gardens- Cornwall

    Stunning gardens, gorgeous house (especially at Christmas), beautiful views, massive trees, fragrant flowers and bugs to search for!

    One side of the estate you have a glorious view out to Falmouth; if you’re really lucky you may have the little wooden folly all to yourself to admire the view. The wide open grassy areas mean there’s enough space to create your own picnic area and sun spot, but still be close enough to other families to make new friends.

    A very close second place- bonus points for us as it’s within an hour of home. This estate is huge with a massive variety of things to see and do.

    This one is perfect for families with little ones; as they have an awesome farm and play area. But grandparents won’t feel left out with the stunning country house and impeccably kept gardens.

    Plenty of picnic areas- and a shady garden with deck chairs to sip a cold wine while the kids make new friends and run around in the trees.

    There’s loads of areas suitable for cute photo opportunities; wagons, beautifully painted benches, expertly symmetrical topiary and shady woodlands full of places to explore.

    Another one down in Cornwall. A beautiful castle on an island. The novelty is that it’s a tidal island; get there at the right time and you can wander across (but hurry otherwise you may be paddling), it was also fun for Dorothea to experience the short boat ride home.

    This tea room is quaint with beamed ceilings and unbeatable views, the two shops are also a great browse.

    The trek up to the castle is not for the faint hearted (they provide hip carriers to help with the little ones)- and probably wouldn’t suit anyone with any degree of mobility issues. But if you can get up there the castle is certainly worth a look!

    If you can’t the gardens and small hamlet are pretty special to wander round. The little town of Marazion is also worth hanging around for; some pleasant independent shops and a nice play area and beach too.

    Do be aware; this is one where you have to pay extra for parking.

    Who can resist a national trust property with an epic maze!!!!

    This one is perfect for sunny photo opportunities; and would also keep the kids busy.

    This one made me feel like we’d been magically transported to a tropical country- the whole place was like a sun laden playground for the most awesome plants and flowers.

    Again this one is in Cornwall; but surely all these spectacular recommendations must make you want to visit the best southern county!

    Almost didn’t want to tell you about this one!

    We just want to keep it to ourselves; the most glorious, picturesque and isolated beach. We’ve been lucky enough to have it all to ourselves.

    Again this one is like being transported to a different country. Here we were making sand castles, splashing and stripping down to T-shirt’s in December!

    The waves and rocks are amazing for the little ones to see. Rock-pools are to be explored, sandcastles to be built and pebbles to be skimmed.

    Just above this beach hidden in the rocks is the infamous Minnack theatre- so Porthcurnoe is a cool place for a pre theatre picnic! (Or swim in the Summer)

    Also called ‘church cove’- this ones quite a drive out in the sticks but certainly worth it. Another gloriously isolated beach and church.

    This area seems to be bustling with wildlife; and there were plenty of birds for Dorothea to admire.

    A lovely little stream runs down to the water. We loved donning our wellies, having a good splash and practising our pebble skimming.

    There’s no facilities; so pack a picnic (or cream cake and flask of tea) and sit for a little while.

    Back near home now. We were lucky enough to find this one by accident at Halloween!

    The great thing about national trusts, is that the soon familiar leaf symbol pops up on all the road signs, and gives you a great few hours that you were not expecting!

    Calke Abbey tends to have quite a lot of food fairs, which adds a little bit to your day out. The drive through the estate to the house is impressive- and must be at least a mile long!

    The gardens here are awesome; we were so impressed by the Halloween pumpkin display- and again there’s lots of spacious picnic areas, and great big trees to play hide and seek.

    Stowe is one of the most impressive of the national trusts! The architecture is outstanding and the grounds are huge.

    The massive archways as you approach set the scene well, for what is about to follow.

    This is certainly one you could spend the whole day at. Wandering around eager to see the next impressive monument or statue would impress anyone. Again great for picnics, picking daisies and off course making wishes by throwing pennies in the water.

    We’ve only been here once- but it’s stayed in our memories. A beautiful but very long and wising walk down to a stunning country house and pretty gardens.

    Yes another in Cornwall! I know, we are slightly obsessed!

    Now there’s very little at Lizard point! But the trip is worth it for the epic views and the isolated chance of seeing seals in the wild!

    Just look at the colour of the water!- yes it’s in England!

    There’s a cool little shop that sells, earrings, socks and glassworks too!

    Well I hope these ten have given you something to think about. What else can you get for a tenner a month???

    We are long-standing national trust geeks and proud! So I will be showing you more- as there’s loads of our favourites to explore more and photograph.

    NT web

    There’s a fab app too!

    Eco Mum, Guest Blogs, Other fabulous ladies

    5 eco-swaps for parents- Guest blog

    Whether you are a first time Mummy or Daddy or are experiencing parenthood for the second or third time, looking after a baby is all consuming and whilst it is a magical time, caring for a newborn can also be exhausting! However, you can still be your best eco self whilst caring for small children, it just takes a little thought and planning. Anything you can do to cut back on plastic usage and overall waste is better than before and models the way for the next generation!

    Not sure where to begin?

    Here are my top 5 eco swaps for new parents.

    1 .Toys, Clothes and Baby Equipment 

    I would personally find it impossible to cut out all plastic toys from my children’s lives! On the other hand, cheap plastic tat is simply a waste of money as it ends up breaking and being thrown away, where it then ends up in landfill. I dread to think how much plastic landfill waste is made up of discarded toys. To reduce your plastic toy footprint, there are a few things you can do:

    -Make a list for family and friends when it’s birthday time. On it include wooden toys, gift vouchers, experiences and money for the children’s piggy banks. One of my 5-year old daughter’s most prized possessions is a fabric sparkly sequin bag she asked for last Christmas. It has had so much more use than some of the plastic toys she was gifted.

    Shop preloved– my 3-year old son absolutely loves our local charity shop! (And so do I!)

    Opt for wooden toys. We have lots of wooden toys from push alongs, building blocks and drums to our much loved wooden play kitchen. We also have a handmade mud kitchen in the garden which my Dad and husband put together one weekend out of old pallets. Check out Pinterest for ideas! (Note: they are not builders and it looks fantastic!) Once you use your imagination, the sky is the limit!

    For clothes and equipment, check out Ebay, local Facebook selling sites, charity shops, and nearly new sales. All offer excellent quality second hand items. If friends and family members offer you hand me downs, take them and say thank you! Babies grow at an extraordinary rate, so are in their clothes for approx 3 months before they outgrow them. This means that second hand items are almost always nearly new and will have plenty of life left in them. You can buy baby bundles for a few pounds on Ebay. When you are finished with them, sell them on or donate to charity. 

    Equipment-wise, you can pick up buggies, Moses baskets and play mats all second hand, which will do just as good a job as brand new items. (Note: If buying second hand cots or Moses baskets, it’s worth buying your own new mattresses.) If you are having a baby shower, why not ask for handmade gifts, bunting for the nursery, money or vouchers for a pre-baby spa day!

    2. Bathroom productsBathrooms can be absolutely full of unnecessary plastic bottles. Mine used to be, but with a few tweaks, we have cut back on loads of plastic waste. Instead of bottles of children’s bubble bath, we swapped to bubble wands from http://www.lush.com.

    They last ages and smell fantastic! To my children’s delight, we also swapped out liquid soap in a plastic bottle to a chocolate flavour shampoo bar by Lamazuna. We also got rid of our plastic sponges and swapped to linen and cotton versions. Shampoo bars and sponges are available at: http://www.plasticconsciousmama.co.uk/shop.                                

    3. Drink bottles and Cups

     

    We never leave the house without Mummy’s reusable coffee cup or the children’s metal water bottles from http://www.kleankanteen.co.uk. As they are metal, they are more sustainable than plastic and do not contain any of the nasty BPAs found in plastic alternatives. We also try to sit down rather than take out at cafes so we can have drinks in reusable cups. Don’t get me wrong, my children love a plastic bottle of juice as much as the next child, but it’s all about reducing consumption wherever possible. The amount of disposable coffee cups I have saved from landfill since starting my plastic conscious journey is amazing!

    4. Nappies and wipes

    This is perhaps the most obvious one, and the one people seem to struggle with the most. I didn’t switch to reusable nappies until the birth of my third baby, but I really wish I had swapped sooner! 8 million disposable nappies are sent to UK landfill EVERY DAY. 8 million! With each nappy taking an eye watering 400-500 years to break down, it’s never been a better time to make the switch to cloth nappies.

    People always ask me whether or not washing reusable nappies is eco-friendly because of all the water, the short answer is yes! The process of making disposables uses an astronomical amount of water – according to Baba and Boo, washing three loads of nappies a week uses about 200 litres of water whereas manufacturing enough single-use nappies for a week uses 1,550 litres.

    Cloth nappies really aren’t that scary to switch to. Once you have your stash of nappies (around 15-20), washing them just becomes a part of your normal routine. My advice is to start small, why not trial cloth nappies before making a permanent commitment, or agree to use them during the day until they become more familiar? Many councils offer money off or free nappy schemes. Why? Because it is in their interest to reduce waste, particularly the smelly nappy kind! There are lots of nappy libraries and preloved groups on Facebook. I would definitely recommend giving them a try before you dismiss the idea of trialling cloth nappies. Like me, you may surprise yourself!

    One of my most favourite swaps was to ditch disposable wipes for washable cloth wipes. I cannot emphasise enough how much I love this swap, mainly because I was SO sceptical about it to begin with. After a few of my friends telling me how much nicer cloth wipes were I dubiously decided to make the leap myself and have never looked back. I had to try them to believe them!

    To get set up. I spent just under £40 on an all in one kit from http://www.cheekywipes.com. The kits have everything you need to get started – 25 wipes, 2 containers (for clean and mucky wipes), essential oil and 2 out and about wet bags for wipe storage (clean and mucky.) The system makes it so easy and you will soon discover that you use far less cloth wipes than disposables – yes even for messy poos! Each day, I pop used wipes in the wash with my usual load of washing. If there are poo wipes, you can either give them a rinse under the tap first or save them up in a mesh bag and do a special nappy and wipe wash. I like to wash my soiled cloth wipes at 60 degrees, but 40 also does the trick if they have just been used for sticky hands and faces.

    If this swap seems unrealistic, why not do it in stages, first transition with one pack of back-up disposables alongside your cloth wipes until you are ready for a complete switch. If you need any further convincing, why not calculate how much you spend on disposable wipes in one year? £3 per week adds up to £156 a year – a lot more than £40!

    5. Host Eco-Friendly Birthday Parties

    Children’s birthday parties can create a ridiculous amount of unnecessary plastic waste. Plastic cups, plates and cutlery can all be easily swapped for paper and wooden versions. Cheap paper bags can also be bought online to replace plastic loot party bags. Sustainable wooden party bag fillers can also be found online. Even better, than party bags, why not buy a pack of books to divvy up?

    When choosing sweets, think about those that come in cardboard tubes or boxes rather than plastic bags. All these swaps are eco-friendly, easily recyclable as well as being cost effective.

    It’s also worth investigating whether or not there are companies who offer eco-friendly parties in your area. In Hertfordshire, you can hire reusable plastic cups and plates from The Little Green Party Company (check them out on Instagram.) They deliver to your door and take away all the dirty plates afterwards. Zero waste and super easy!

     

     

    Eco-parenting needn’t be much different from any other kind of parenting. With just a few mindful swaps, you could save yourself money whilst helping the planet at the same time. One of my favourite quotes goes something along the lines of:

    “The world needs lots of people making a few swaps, rather than a few people making lots of swaps.”

    It’s far better to work your way up to something that will last and become a habit rather than setting yourself unrealistic expectations. My advice is to start small, make swaps where you can, one at a time and be kind to yourself. Aim to be better than before and just keep going! We can all make a difference if we try.

    For more eco advice, tips and ideas check out my blog and plastic-free online shop

    www.plasticconsciousmama.co.uk.

    You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

     

    Eco Mum, Guest Blogs, Other fabulous ladies

    Plastic no so fantastic- guest blog.

    Why should we care about reducing our plastic waste?


    If, like me, you’re a parent with children under 10 – by the time your kids are in their 30’s the oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish.  Shocking eh?  

    I like whales and turtles, and I want to make sure that my kids, and theirs too, get to appreciate beautiful sea-life but more than that – I’m pretty scared about the mess that my generation will be leaving behind.  We’re using up, and throwing away valuable resources like crude oil, with total disregard for the fact that they are finite.  We’re buying one million single use plastic bottles every minute of every day and they’re not all being recycled. Less than 10% will be recycled and that’s a fact!

    We’re also consuming plastic – they’ve found traces of it in our poo 💩 and that can’t be good can it?! 


    So, what can we do to reduce the amount of plastic we’re using (and throwing away)?  We all carry our own shopping bags now – right?!  Here are a few more easy swaps: some wonderful things that I honestly wouldn’t be without. 


    Washable wipes: We’ve used them for almost six years now for faces, little bottoms, hands and countless other emergency wiping situations.  There are loads of great options out there for different budgets. Cheeky Wipes and Alva are both great. Not only are the disposable wipes wrapped in plastic, but I’m yet to come across a brand which is truly biodegradable. Once you’ve used cloth wipes you won’t look back!


    Reusable water bottle: Forget spending your hard-earned money on single use plastic water bottles.  Instead, spend around £15 on a reusable. I love One Green Bottle or Kleen Kanteen and there are great options for kids too.  Stainless steel keeps your water tasting fresh and, if you’re partial to a cold drink then there are options for you too. 


    Snack pouches:  My eldest rates her day based on the quality of the after school snack I bring her – I daren’t disappoint!  I use her Fluf snack bag every day to carry snacks to school.  Sometimes it’s a peeled and segmented orange which she can easily gobble as we walk home, a handful of nuts and raisins, popcorn or a cold sausage – whatever I manage to throw in as I leave the house.  These bags save me from using plastic bags. They wipe clean easily and take up no space at all when snack time is over. ( these pouches are even made locally)


    Finally, try to choose wooden toys, buy pre-loved and avoid plastic tat.  Hard plastics used to make toys are among the most difficult to recycle. Many local councils don’t actually recycle them at all so they go to landfill or for incineration.  If you must buy new, try going for (sustainable) wooden toys – like Tender Leaf, Bigjigs or Lanka Kade.  Many of the toys we use are pre-loved and we actually buy very little for the kids on birthdays and Christmas. 


    If you’re a Harbs local and want to learn more about how to reduce waste, pop along to see me for a chat.  Refill Revolution is in the Indoor Market on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. 

    Beth 
    Copyright © 2018 Refill Revolution 
    Eco Mum, Weaning

    Veggies – eat more, waste less

    In the U.K. we waste so much food- most of it fruit and veg which has ‘gone out of date’- but really??? Has it???

    Think before you throw- droopy celery can be perked up by trimming and putting in water (carrots too), cut squashy bits of of bruised fruit and veg, freeze things before they ruin.

    Veggies in fruit can be thrown into so many recipes- pancakes, cakes, frittatas, savoury muffins, casseroles, curries and more……

    You loved my last weaning recipes. So here’s some more that I made up when D was small; we’re veggie, but they can be adapted to your own diet.

    Batch cooking should be quick, simple and cheap.

    Give these a try.

    Beetroot and goats cheese muffins

    1 cup sr flour

    2 eggs

    1/4 cup butter

    1/4 cup milk

    1 large coated beet

    1/3 wheel of goats cheese

    Mix flour, eggs, butter, milk into smooth mixture. Grate in beetroot, add chopped goats cheese- mix and put into mini muffin tin

    Bake 180 for 15-20 mins

    Butternut and chickpea ‘burgers’

    1/2 large butternut

    1 tin of chick peas

    3/4 cup of milled flaxseed

    3 teaspoons herbs

    1 teaspoon turmeric

    For coating

    1/2 cup milled flaxseed

    2 tablespoons sesame seeds

    Mash together the chickpeas with the cooked butternut( boiled or roasted is fine) mix in herbs, flaxseed and tumeric. Shape into small burgers then coat in the ‘crumb’

    Bakes at 180 for 25 mins turning once ( can freeze)

    Asparagus and butternut frittata fingers

    50g chopped asparagus

    125g butternut squash ( I used spiralised as was what I had in the fridge- but you don’t have too)

    5 eggs

    25g cheese

    2 teaspoons mixed herbs

    Pre cook the veggies- microwave is fine- then lay out in a silicone baking square.

    ( any veg could be used- whatever you have in- frozen peas and sweet corn work well)

    Pour over the eggs/herbs mix. Top with grated cheese. Bake at 180 for 20 mins or until cheese is browning

    These were some of Dorothea’s favourites and she still enjoys them now. They’re a great way of getting veggies and other healthy ingredients into picky babies and toddlers.

    Life of a Mum

    Just like Daddy!

    Seeing Dorothea with her Daddy is awesome; they have the best time. It’s all tickles, farts, hide and seek and raspberry blowing!

    They are very alike; Dorothea seems to reflect her Daddy’s looks more than mine- the piercing blue eyes, the delicate nose and the cute butt!

    She’s also very similar in personality. Loving and sensitive, but also impatient and stubborn!

    If she wants something she wants it- she won’t accept no for an answer; much like Daddy- I’m sure this will become even more obvious as her vocabulary improves.

    She’s creative and bright like Daddy, she also doesn’t talk much 😂😂😂 Daddy is the silent strong type and D seems to be the same.

    She grumpy when hungry and tired- something that both Daddy and Mummy are guilt of too!

    Like, I’m guessing most families; Daddy is the fun one and I’m the strict one! Daddy does all the silly stuff, the mess making. Mummy is the one that tries to insist she tidys it up!

    Dorothea is cheeky (I think Daddy is too) always has a sneaky way of getting their way, mostly without you even realising you’ve let them get away with it!

    Like Daddy, D seems very sensitive to others feelings- already shows sympathy and kindness when others are sad. She’s a sensitive little lady, and likes to give attention to others as well as receive it when she’s sad.

    How is she like me????

    Well she eats anything and everything!!!

    She likes to laugh and be silly.

    She has ‘those looks’ that say a million words- I’m sure she’s soon develop Mummies infamous eye roll, she already has an epic side eye!!!

    She’s a good sharer; will happily share her toys and is kind to others.

    I’m excited to see how’s these traits and her fun personality develops further.

    Life of a Mum

    10 year challenge- my version

    f6f725b3-1ddb-4c26-98f4-192a824804efThis was me in 2009. 27, married, great job, homeowner – but happy????? ( weirdly the two fringes in my life are ten years apart too!)

    Well I certainly look it in all my pictures from that time; but I was a very good actress I think.

    I don’t know whether it was immaturity, or thinking I couldn’t do any better or that was just what married life was like. I married quick and young– engaged after 12 weeks and married at 23 after 18 months today. It feel ridiculous to write this down and admit it; but on my wedding day I knew I was doing the wrong thing. Weirdly en route to the church my Dad questioned whether it was what I really wanted and offered to fly me away! Looking back, I’m not sure what made me go ahead.

    It’s difficult to put into words what was wrong; but the simple fact it I knew something was very wrong for the majority of that relationship. Being with someone that puts you down frequently is soul destroying, and makes you lose self confidence day by day. Being told I was fat- I wasn’t, insinuations that I wasn’t a ‘good wife’ if I didn’t do exactly as he wanted or agree with his opinions- but I always tried to be kind and honest.

    Madness looking back! I always wanted a family- and he told me he did too; but ‘just not yet’ was used for years. Until he wanted something- a bigger car; ‘oh we can get this car and then start a family’ , a ‘lads holiday’ always because- well it could be the last before we had a family!!! Well there were lots of lads holidays, and lots of cars, but I can’t really remember fulfilling many of my wants during those years.

    I’m not sure why I put up with that sort of ‘relationship’ for so many years (nearly 7) – why I put up with the flirty behaviour, the lies, the verbal abuse, the criticism and the isolation.

    What I do know is when the relationship ended- the feeling I had was surprising! It was a feeling of relief, I instantly felt like me again, happier and more free. I struggled in the months following the break up; felt like a failure, after all the way I was brought up you were married for life. I questioned my decision, I often felt alone, I felt depressed. I developed a (possibly unhealthy) gym habit, strangely mixed with drinking a little too much – and I needed antidepressants for a while. I really felt they helped- and would never regret taking them, or feel ashamed to admit that.

    I learnt a lot about myself in those two ‘single years’ – I became confident and ambitious, I stuck up for myself more, and decided I wouldn’t stand for any crap!

    I started internet dating; decided on a ridiculously rigid set of credentials that I was looking for in a man. My friends found it amusing that I set these silly standards, and thought I should be more relaxed. But it worked- one dull nightshift was brightened by a message from my, now husband!!!

    So for the 10 year challenge! A lot has changed in 10 years for me– I’ve certainly grown up, been through a load of ups and downs. A marriage breakup- moved house and jobs several times, dealt with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, been through the struggle of infertility.

    On the positive side I’ve met my husband, had a baby girl and found a completely different, new and happy life for me, for us, our family.

    Don’t get me wrong; life is not a fairytale, we have our ups and downs, parenting is challenging, Work is stressful and every successful relationship takes a lot of hard work. If you follow me on insta, you’ll know I have a no bullshit approach to life, and how I share it on social media.

    I’m far from perfect; I’m still often screwy from my previous experiences, sometimes build my walls up, get defensive and cold to protect myself. Often I need to give myself a bloody good talking too….. often my other half gives me a bloody good talking to also!

    So my ten year challenge; this is me.

    Certainly more wrinkles, I’ve also recently found my first grey hairs, my body isn’t as tight and toned as it was, I look my age- but frankly I don’t really care about any of that. Looks are not what really matters…..

    I am a Mum- what I count as one of my greatest achievements; especially after going through fertility treatment. I am truly happy, content and honest in my relationship.

    My lovely husband can be a total pain in the ass; is impatient, unsociable and gets terribly ‘hangry’ – but the good bits make the bad bits worth it. I still get ‘that look’, get told I’m sexy when my undies aren’t matching and I haven’t shaved my legs for weeks (and I believe him), get told I’m a fab mum and I truly feel loved.

    I’m especially grateful that like me, his wish was to have a family, and a simple family life- something that was dangled in front of me like a metaphorical carrot for so many years.

    So not much of a ‘challenge’ for me……. much happier with the 2019 me; bring on the next ten years!

    Life of a Mum

    Head sniffing weirdo!

    Mums are weird, fact! I often find myself sniffing Dorotheas head at 2am- enjoying her unique stinky baby smell. I’m sure it’s a mix of delicious things; sherbet smelling Boep shampoo (a German brand which you really must try https://dasboep.de/?lang=en )a mix of fragrances from her cuddlers that day, yogurt/ porridge/ fruit she’s decided to use as a hair mask and her own brand of yumminess.

    I’m sure most mums are secret ‘sniffers’ – or have other guilty pleasures related to the overwhelming love that motherhood causes.

    I will also admit I love the ‘wee hours’ cuddles- as much as I’m a sleep deprived zombie, with a brain functioning at 22% and a blood stream mainly consisting of coffee! There’s something special about those dopey snuggles- especially from a toddler who is become increasingly independent and won’t sit on Mummy’s knee anymore. Although I’m craving the feeling a full nights sleep would bring- I’m sure I’d also miss those moments.

    I’m not sure I’ll ever get bored of washing, folding and putting away tiny clothes. As much as washing sucks ( and no I don’t iron, a skill which my husband cannot believe I don’t possess) and seems a never ending story of sorting, washing, drying, folding, putting away etc. – there’s something different about it when it comes to baby clothes.

    I remember very clearly being about 34 weeks pregnant; feeling the intense joy of seeing a clothes drier full or tiny pink and white items. After waiting years to becoming a mum, thinking it would never happen due to infertility and a failed IVF cycle- this washing load felt like a truly special milestone. One of the moments I felt I really became a mother.

    The intense love being a mum is immeasurable; looking at your child and thinking they’re literally the best thing in the whole world. There’s something quite narcissistic about it; looking a creation from both yourself and the one you love most and thinking it’s the most glorious thing ever! Being a Mum is truly knackering, totally overwhelming but also the best job in the world.

    Dads are weirdos too- they generate pleasure from farts, toe fluff and nose picking! …… but that’s a whole different story

    Life of a Mum

    Sleep… what’s that???

    Most people talk about lack of sleep in parenthood related to having a new born. Believe me that was nothing!

    At least when Dorothea woke as a new born she wanted milk and would go back to sleep. Plus when she was tiny my hormones seemed to support my needs, and I was off work so could wear pjs and not brush my hair all day.

    Although at 22 months she has slept through the night; it is not a regular occurrence. I want routine, stability and most of all sleep!

    So many things seem to affect her sleep routine; we blame holidays, illness, late nights, jabs, too much sugar, growth spurts and being overstimulated. It seems so hard to maintain the right routine to help her sleep, but to be honest I think there’s no simple answer!

    To be fair this blog is very ranty as I have not slept for two week! Two weeks! It’s ridiculous- and I have to hold down a job as a responsible human. Most days I’m staring into space, trying not to dribble, making horrendously long to do lists that I don’t have the energy (or mental capacity) to complete.

    Last week Dorothea was Ill, the copious amount of snot she was producing was regularly waking her from sleep, and her rattling cough was keeping us awake too. This meant frequent wake ups which she needed settling after- and this meant she spent 5 nights in bed with me after midnight.

    Cue Friday- she slept through! But I didn’t as was so used to being awake at regular intervals.

    Then on Sunday she mastered the art of climbing out of her cot; rumbling the whole house (and making Mummy and Daddy shit themselves). So Sunday night was the first night of ‘big girl bed’. It’s fair to say it has not gone well since!!! (My eye bags support this)

    So after nights punctuated with cries of ‘mama’, random 2am requests to stroke the dog, a bizarre amount of 4am yogurt eating- I am now beyond tired! I never thought I could fit on a cot bed with a toddler, a doll and 15 teddies but I can (and it bloody hurts!- my neck and back are in bits).

    Yesterday brought a new idea 💡a bed guard- we thought this may help- it didn’t!

    Please send coffee- I’ll post our future sleep deprived adventures. Zzzzz

    Life of a Mum

    Birth Story

    This is my very honest account of Dorothea’s birth story.

    My induction of labour was planned for the Friday of my due date; this was due to being classed a ‘high risk’ pregnancy due to many issues ( IVF pregnancy, family history of maternal hypertension, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis). Although realistically I was a ‘fit and healthy’ but slightly older Mum to be.

    The first Induction pessary was given at 11.30 on the Friday and at this point I was 1cm dilated with a soft cervix!

    There wasn’t much movement during the day; lots of walking the corridors, visiting the coffee shop and colouring in books. I must say I didn’t realise how bloody boring induction could be! I really expected things to happen more quickly. There were several other women in the hospital bay with me and in the same boat; which helped.

    Some mild practise contractions started in the evening; like mild tummy cramps that gripped the whole of my lower abdomen. Luckily I made a friend, ‘Katie’, in the next bed – who was on her fourth baby – being induced due to lower water levels; it was nice to share a chat and bounce on gym balls together. Katie was a great help reassuring me when my contractions started shortly afterwards.( Katie still hadn’t given birth when I left hospital 4 days later! Poor thing)

    A lady in a nearby room was having a very very noisy labour (think stereotypical screaming!)so sleep was a stranger; and anxiety was increasing.

    At midnight contractions started coming thick and fast (well I thought so at the time!), every two minutes lasting for a minute each, meaning very little break. The ‘kind’ midwife suggested some pain relief- I had some paracetamol and codeine for this which helped slightly (it was still fecking painful).

    I never managed to relax, or be pain free enough to sleep at all; at 4am the contraction pain was really ramping up. The midwife offered more pain relief and suggested a warm bath. Yes a warm bath!!! (For fucks sake)

    So I followed her advise and reclined in the hospital bath with a nice smelly bath bomb – THIS DID NOT HELP – I remember lying in the bath moaning and groaning, saying “oh my god, oh my god” and “ouch this hurts” over and over- yes I was that woman! I felt like I’d lost the bloody plot- felt like an animal wailing and groaning with every gripping pain. Fair dos do the ladies who do it sans analgesia- I really have no clue how that’s even survivable.

    At 5am the contractions were very painful – I mean VERY painful – I couldn’t control my loud moans and the pain relief was doing nothing! The midwife examined me and broke my waters (at 3cm dilated)- honestly it was the weirdest feeling in the world- but the contractions felt less ‘pressured’ afterwards. She then moved me to a delivery room where I started using gas and air. Worringly the waters were slightly bloodied.

    My partner was called in when I was settled in the delivery room – I think he was shocked that I went from calm, cheerful and happy at 23.30 to a deranged crazy shouty woman by 06.30! (Although this was maybe exacerbated by him saying she was ‘just’ going to get a shower, and grab a coffee first!)

    At 8am contractions were very intense; they examined me again and found I was only 3-4cm- I felt like I’d gone through so much pain to get nowhere! It was at this point I requested an epidural (something I was quite determined not to have during pregnancy – for no other reason than fear!) this was the best decision I’d made!

    I then had a nice relaxed morning/ afternoon and managed some naps- my partner and mum were present- mainly watching rugby and feeding me mints (I wasn’t allowed to eat- but was very hungry).

    I was still regularly getting strong contractions two mins apart still (only felt as mild tightenings due to epidural). My cervix was showing little progression so I was started in a syntocin drip to speed up labour.

    Unfortunately, Little Miss had decelerations of heart rate (to 80-100bpm) when I was sitting/ lying on bottom/back – so whole of labour I had to be on my sides – this was very uncomfortable and gave me hip pain (something I suffer with anyway due to rheumatoid arthritis).

    In the evening I started to show signs of sepsis – a high temperature, heart rate and breathing rate, although I felt okay; I was started on antibiotics and told I would have to stay in hospital for at least 24 hours. I was really disappointed by this as wanted to get home with my baby ASAP.

    I reached fully dilated at about 10pm and by this point Dorothea was having increased heart rate decelerations so was told to be prepared for a c-section! They decided to give an hour for the head to descend and at 11pm request I started pushing in the hope of delivering vaginally.

    The joy of the epidural I had was that it was a ‘mobile epidural’ so was actually able to move onto all fours etc to push which really helped – it was due to this I was able to have the birth I wanted.

    I was told I was doing really well pushing, but Little Miss dropped her heart rate to 85, so the drs were called in to assist (by called in I mean an emergency bell was sounded and my room suddenly filled with a whole team of people) I was told we had 3-4 contractions to move her or would have to have a c-section – I was super determined not to go to theatre!

    We managed to get her out with the Drs assistance with a kiwi (suction cup device) and an episiotomy (also tore a little). I must say the pushing and actual birth was nowhere near as bad as I’d imagined – although the epidural must have helped loads! The pushing part went so quickly and afterwards I couldn’t believe it was 65 minutes.

    During the end stage of labour I was told that I would be unlikely to be able to hold the baby as due to decelerations she was going to be tired and would be whisked away! Fortunately this didn’t happen- she came out screaming and was put on me immediately.

    It took about 35 minutes to stitch me up, but to be honest, at this point I was breast feeding my daughter so really didn’t care.

    My partner got to cut the cord (we had delayed cord clamping) and we both had skin to skin for the first hour. She fed within a couple of minutes; I was shocked at how simply she latched on.

    My estimated blood loss was 600mls, but my partner said it looked like a horrifically gory horror movie – I guess we women don’t see the worst of it.

    I was told afterwards that her cord gas showed her oxygen levels were really dropping and that we’d got her out just in time. Also my placenta was quite ‘gritty’ according to the midwife. I was so relieved that I didn’t go too far overdue as this is a first sign of deterioration.

    Top tip from me? Don’t be brave – take the epidural!

    I would never have been able to push her out if it wasn’t for the rest the epidural allowed me to have in the afternoon.

    Also, try not to worry; your body does so much naturally and you don’t remember the bad bits afterwards! ( I know everyone says that- but honestly; it was the most excruciatingly painful experience of my life- but I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again).

    Our IVF fund

    Milk, weaning and more

    Got milk???

    Breastfeeding, I could write all day about this….. (and will share my personal experiences and controversial opinions soon) but for now I will make just a few points…..

    The UK has the actual lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, 81% of babies are breastfed immediately after birth, which drops to 24% of babies that are exclusively breastfed (this means no formula) at 6 weeks and then a scary 1% that are still exclusively breastfed at 6 months.

    In Scandinavia, 98% of women breastfeed immediately after birth and 80% are still exclusively feeding at 6 months.

    In a current UK survey, a greater percentage of people said it was more acceptable to breastfeed a baby in a public toilet rather than at a restaurant table!!!!