Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Gallery: Animals

This week’s Gallery at Sticky Fingers is about animals.

For those who know us, you’ll know we have some pets- a dog, cats and chickens.

But I thought we’d get a little more adventurous than that this week, to me this photo quite nicely captures our Bank Holiday Weekend:
Toddler fun at Harlow Carr

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Listography: Seasonal Survival Tactics

With Kate Takes 5 on holiday in Wales (oh by the end of this month!), this week’s Listography is being hosted by the Alexander Residence.

And the theme is Seasonal Survival tactics. Now admittedly, I imagine this is more tailored for those who are facing the prospect of little ones returning to or starting school. We have this to look forward to- admittedly, I am not looking forward to it, this sign of children growing up is not something I want to think about.

But surviving the onslaught of dark mornings and dark nights is something I have got used to since ‘becoming a grown up’ and having the most random work schedule.

So here goes:

1. Invest in a gorgeous coat: retail therapy at its best, once you have purchased said coat you almost look forward to the right (cold) weather to wear it. I find this happiness doubles when you find the perfect snowsuit for your little one:
John Lewis Toddler Snowsuit
2. Invest in a good ice scraper and lots of de-icer: I’m sure the de-icer isn’t strictly ‘friendly’ but leaving the house at 5am isn’t friendly either, so best to get on the road without disturbing others.
Snow in Todmorden
3. Dig out or purchase a slow cooker: Something I’m looking forward to this winter. A good friend introduced me to the wonderful smell of a casserole in a slow cooker. The perfect cold weather food, easily prepared.

 4. Pack away your summer clothes: There is nothing more depressing than facing gorgeous summery clothes as you see how many layers least resembles the Michelin man. Not withstanding the odd gorgeous autumnal day, pack away the summer outfits to look forward to next year.
5. Look forward to Christmas: is it ever too early?
Christmas tree with Shaun the Sheep


Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Gallery: World Photography Day

This is a very late entry for Sticky Fingers Gallery, where the theme was World Photography Day.
World Photography Day was Friday August 19th, and the brief for the photograph was:
It must be a photo from today (or the weekend). Make it a photo to treasure for generations to come; family life, a moment, a precious family member frozen in time, a day out.
My photo comes from August 24th so is slightly out of range, but still it's a photo I will treasure for ever, and I hope my family will too. This is the first photograph I have of me and my boys. I'm not entirely sure why, they're now seven months old. And whilst we are in our pjs, it is nonetheless a precious moment:
Twin boys at 8 months
So, I hope this might just fall into the brief!

Silent Sunday

Flowers at Harlow Carr

Silent Sunday

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

How you've changed

Tomorrow is my birthday.
I'm working.
I never work on my birthday.
As a child it was always the summer holidays, so if I never went to school on my birthday why should I have to go to work.
This logic has served me well for many years.
Until someone started organising meetings for me and I tried flexible working. My flexible working arrangement means I get Wednesdays off.
It wasn't meant to be.

I am still 32, today, so it makes me chuckle to reflect how much life has changed.
When I turned 30 I had no husband and no children.
At 32 I have 3 children and a husband.
Buses I tell you!

I'm hoping that life will stabilise as I hit 33.
I have 3 children.
It's not going to happen.

Birthdays too have changed. Usually I have a list of gift ideas a mile long. This year everything is prefixed by the consideration of the house move or how money could be better spent on spoiling the children, and if I'm not allowed to spoil the children how can I justify the money being spent on me.
So, I have asked my husband for a babysitter from half seven till half nine.
So I can put the babes to bed, we can nip out for a meal, Seren can enjoy being up an extra hour and I can be home to put her to bed.

How come I've spent more birthdays sober in the last four years than I ever did as a teenager (admittedly not the best comparison I could make).

I'm guessing I'll just have to have an extra long list of gifts for Santa.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Moving house

Welcome to Wales sign
With a bit of luck, we'll be moving to Wales in six weeks, maybe sooner if life comes together but we'll see.
We've been on this journey for a while, but it's really only come together in the last few months.

I find it hard to believe we're moving back, I sometimes think I've spent my whole life trying to move away. And I'm now acknowledging that I'll never live in New York or London, that I am a grown up and have three little people who need a stability and a life that brings out their best.

As soon as I finished my finals I left Wales, I didn't even wait for graduation- I was off. I'm not sure how much thought went into this, but in my head I always knew that if I couldn't work in Cardiff I'd have to leave for London.
I never made London, I took a job in Slough. Now admittedly in my head this was London, being from Wales I really didn't appreciate England's geography. I worked in Uxbridge after discovering Slough really wasn't London. At least Uxbridge had a tube station.
M25 map
My next move was the result of a career change, and I was based in Luton.
Life took a number of changes on a personal level and I took a transfer to the North West and bought an apartment (that's what the property details said- I thought it was a flat) in Manchester.
An 18 month secondment meant I hardly saw the flat, spending most of my life on the road and spending weekends with friends or travelling back home. Towards the end of my secondment I met Tony and life took another unexpected turn -We decided to buy a houseboat. My new home was to be Todmorden in West Yorkshire:
Map of West Yorkshire
Todmorden has become the place I have lived the longest since leaving home. We have been in this house for at least five years- which is good going for me.
In 2009 our lives changed completely when Squeaks was born. Whilst we thought about moving to Wales at this time it really didn't make sense, but the day we found out we were expecting twins this was the only reality.

We put the house on the market in June hoping we might be in Wales for the following February- we had spent nearly a year watching house prices and sales, we lacked confidence. So, we were completely overwhelmed to sell the house within the week. We took our next leap of faith by putting an offer on a house we have only seen once, but fell in love with. Our offer was accepted. We will be living in the house identical to the ones I used to draw as a child!
A perfect home?
And so at the end of September, all things being well, we'll be living in Rhoose:
Vale of Glamorgan map
We will be trading our view of the Pennines for a view of the Bristol Channel.
Views over Todmorden

Views over Rhoose
And I can't wait!!!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Product Review: Baby Blooms Pyjamas

Baby Blooms
We were fortunate enough to get the opportunity to review some gorgeous pyjamas for Baby Blooms
There is nothing like a surprise package in the post, "what have I ordered?" being checked out in your mind- I couldn't remember, and absolutely fell in love with the contents of my parcel:
Baby Blooms packaging
Instantly recognisable as a wonderfully imaginative gift, for me this would absolutely be a first choice for friends having babies. The pyjamas are uniquely presented, offering an alternative to traditional flowers and chocolates, an excellent gift for parents either not knowing what gender their child is, or when you don't know a parent's taste in babywear well enough. The gift is well thought through and really signs up to the cup cake trend as well as the final gift, the pyjamas being of excellent quality:
Baby Blooms
The gift itself, for obvious reasons, even goes so far as to highlight the tiniest downfall of such a gorgeous concept:
Baby Blooms
But with most parents washing baby clothes before the first wear this is not really an issue.

After being wow-ed by the gift itself, the big test is the product, and how would they fare under the scrutiny of the twins.
Our two cupcakes revealed themselves to be a pair of cream 0-6mth pyjamas, they are generous in size, and  as they are 100% cotton they are more than soft enough for babies. With the twins being 7 months and probably a bit on the small side. I wouldn't hesitate in them being fine at 6mths and lasting until they are 12mths.
Baby wearing Baby Blooms Pyjamas
I have to confess we're a babysuit bedtime family, rather than pyjamas. After trialling them on both babies at night I'd have to say, as a personal preference, we're sticking with babysuits as the babies are so active in the night. But that doesn't prevent the gift being an entirely useful item as I much prefer these as daywear for the babies- a second confession is that I leave the babies in their babysuits on days we know we're staying at home because I don't think all their babywear is comfortable enough for their pursuits- but this gift from Baby Blooms sorts this dilemma out! The pyjamas are so gorgeous that I have no qualms in the boys wearing them during the day.

The product, the pyjamas, does live up to Baby Bloom values of quality, and are as promised soft, practical, hard-wearing and washable.
I'm not sure if this makes sense, but they really do feel like good quality clothing, they were so soft to touch, and they did wash well. The boys are comfortable in them and happy to roll around the floor and generally make chaos.

I will definitely look to Baby Blooms for future gifts, the pyjamas are reasonably priced at £14.99 with lots of other gift ideas available, from socks or bibs cup cakes for under a tenner or an absolutely gorgeous range of baby clothes bouquets in a variety of price ranges.

Disclosure: I was sent a pair of pyjamas for the purposes of writing this review. The views and opinions contained are my own.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Sleep Deprivation Vs PND

I want to start by saying this is my experience, and by no means reflective of the norm, or reflecting on other experiences.

I was talking to some friends the other day about the change when you become a mother and also then as a second time mum, when you are trying to balance the needs of your first child with that of a baby.

The start of this is simple, most mums are now asked to complete a questionnaire in the weeks following birth, usually I think around eight weeks. It's usually the Edinburgh Scale (EPDS).

I'd also like to talk about my health visitor. I think she's amazing. Everyone really appreciates their midwife, but for me I was not only grateful for my midwife but also my health visitor- Charlotte. This may be a reflection of the investment where I live but probably just that fantastic people work for the NHS. Health visitors are clever, Charlotte came to see me before I gave birth to my first child. This is genius, see a woman before she becomes a mum really allows some one to assess how well you're coping with motherhood.

I had a really tough time breastfeeding, that in itself is a topic for another post, but by six weeks I was at my wits end, I was crying, anxious, it was horrible. Charlotte asked me to complete the EPDS, and I was at the high end of the scale. When it came to thinking about triggers, everything came down to my anxieties over Seren's response to breastfeeding. I took the decision to wean her onto formula, and in my case by ten weeks Seren was fully formula fed and I was on the low end of the EPDS. I wish it hadn't come to that, I wish I had been brave in earlier decisions and trusted my instincts a lot more. But it was what it was.

With the second pregnancy I was determined to learn from this experience, to write the first six weeks off. Knowing we were having twins meant I couldn't rely on previous experience, I was having two babies and Seren would have only just reached two, this was not going to be a walk in the park... well, actually, always good for getting a baby to sleep!

I took the decision on leaving hospital to stop breastfeeding. Many mums successfully breastfeed twins with young children, it just wasn't something I could do. I stressed too much and feeds took so long I couldn't expect Seren to keep herself entertained.

Surprisingly, life was amazing. We were amazing. We were managing to get out and about: the park; the Children's Centre; soft play; a week in Cardiff; we even spent the boys due date at Eureka! and I was so grateful that having no expectations meant it was easy to feel we were achieving little goals. Charlotte commented that if we had enjoyed Eureka! there was no chance of PND.
But by six weeks things started to change, going out was no longer as enjoyable for fear of where Tom's projectile vomit would land, we started to do lots more around the house- messy play, the weather wasn't bad so Seren did laps of the garden to rid excess energy.
At ten weeks Tom was admitted to hospital for six days and as we were transferred to Sheffield seeing Seb and Seren wasn't an option.
When we got out of hospital the focus was on Tom gaining weight but things were improving. We managed another trip to Cardiff.
After driving back from Cardiff, a 'normal' night of feeds with the boys, I had the boys check up. And this was accompanied by the questionnaire.  The check up didn't go so well. Tom was gaining an exceptional amount of weight, but then the health visitor commented that Seb wasn't doing so well weight gain wise. I burst into tears. After just getting Tom back on track I didn't think I could cope with Seb being ill. And then I did the questionnaire, and sure enough, on the high scale for PND.
As a positive, this was a trigger for getting the house on the market to move to Wales.
But with hindsight, I do wonder about the thought putting the thought of PND into my head. In the words of the BBC 'other options are available'.

Charlotte came round to see me a few weeks later. Things were fine, at 16 weeks the boys at decided to start sleeping for 13 hours a night. The house was tidy. I had been sleeping.

Charlotte looked at Seb's growth chart and commented that she wouldn't have mentioned the 'dip' in Seb's weight- this is of course, because she knows me, she knows that my biggest problem is that I am a control freak, that my biggest anxiety is the well being of my children. Nothing came of Seb's weight dip, it was just a glitch he went back to a 'normal' growth rate.
When completing the questionnaire, the boys were 14 weeks, therefore I had 14 weeks of sleep deprivation under my belt. And just because it is a factor, it was getting up to feed two babies, when they needed feeding it was more likely to be them acting as a tag team than in tandem.

And to cut to the chase, the point of this post, especially when talking to other mums:
I do wonder if more could be done to acknowledge the effects of sleep deprivation, whilst you can try to get extra support in the day nothing substitutes a good night's sleep.

Both my experiences, I would think would conclude I didn't suffer PND, but high levels of anxiety and sleep deprivation. I found both to be the most horrible experiences, especially when accompanied by the wonderfulness that are my children.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Listography: Guilty Pleasures

The theme at Kate Takes 5 for this week is Guilty Pleasures, where to begin! Although if everyone else is confessing, it's probably good for the soul! Here goes:

1. Paperchase- cannot walk past, have to go in, and have to buy something. And I am cleansed!

2. Stationery- sort of following on from Paperchase, but happy to shop anywhere, recently fell in love with Moleskine, it's more an obsession, I have far too much, but it's sooooo nice, to write with a good pen, to start a new notebook.

3. Organisation- I have the perfect job for this obsession- project management means I get to demonstrate how anally retentive I can be (in this regard). But at home it verges on compulsive. There is nothing better than putting books, cds and dvds in alphabetical order, or making sure my wardrobe is organised by outfit type, colour, length. And then I feel better.

4. The Hills- the ultimate in crap tv, still somewhat addicitive. I'm ok with admitting how much I enjoy some reality shows, but this one, I just can't believe how I sit and watch it (even when I've probably seen it before).
The Hills

5. Reading the end of books: and this is whether I've reached the end or not. I love reading a good book. And when I find a really good book I'll stay up as late as it takes to read it, even if that means I'll be a grouchy monster the next day. But the one thing my kindle has taken away if my pleasure of reading the last pages half way through and trying to figure out for myself how the book gets you there (with a really, really good book you'll never figure it out!).

The Gallery- Black & White

This week's theme at Sticky Fingers is Black & White, and I was tempted to go upstairs and scan some old photos. Then I remembered my camera has a black and white setting, and given I seem to spend so much time missing my little people I thought I'd capture them, as the babies reach seven months.

I took individual photos of the boys first, but I thought I'd prefix it with one of the two together. I do find it easy to see how different they are when they're together- they are after all non-identical- but when they're apart, to me, their similarities are more obvious. The thing is, when I look at pictures of big sis at their age she looks identical to our youngest twin so, yep- they're three very similar siblings!

So, here we are:
Twins at 7 months

Little, older brother:
Twins at 8 months

Everyone's little brother:
Twins at 8 months

And, not forgettting, big sis, all that time ago:
Blue eyed baby

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Product Review: Little Baby Bugs Duckies

I thought I'd attempt my first product review. I thought I'd start with this particular product as it was such a random find and now, I'd like to say we couldn't live without it- that would be a stretch- but the boys love them and we don't go anywhere without them.

The randomness of the story, back in the day we couldn't go anywhere without our trusty muslins for fear of the vomit (TMI!), even after Tom's op the boys were so attached to them that they still accompanied us everywhere. In June this year, when a lovely lady in Tesco complemented them on 'their little blankies' I knew the time had come for a replacement- in my eyes 'their little blankies' were more conveniently known as 'sick blankets'. The boys needed something they could be proud of!

Whilst browsing Facebook (stalking- browsing- you decide!), my side bar highlighted a page a friend had liked and the name caught my attention: LittleBabybugs sounded like somewhere I'd want to shop!

The shop sells a variety of handcrafted and bespoke baby accessories like cloth nappies, footmuffs, blankets, bibs and car seat covers. And I found 'duckies'- gorgeous little blankies which could be customised by their ribbons and choice of fabric.
Twins and Little Baby Bugs
I fell in love, the price- although very reasonable at £12.50- scared me, as every thing does when you have twins- could I justify this purchasing two given the boys might just still prefer their 'sick blankets', and, of course, I couldn't buy for one without the other. And the second, greatest risk- my mother- my mother is craft personified- I grew up with handmade school uniform, hand knitted cardigans and jumpers- would my mum take one look at them and say 'could have made them for a fiver'.

I took the risk, having had a good weekend selling on ebay I decided to re-invest and contacted Becky. Becky is one of the owners, along with Louise they are WAHM's and have 4 children between them. Based locally to us in Rochdale.

Becky was fantastic, understanding my 'same but different' request and due to her holidays even arranged for them to be prioritised so they were with us in record time.
The boys loved them, the are amazingly soft, the ribbons are exquisite (never thought I'd hear myself use that term to describe ribbon)- but the quality and variety are gorgeous. They really do accompany us everywhere as the variety of photos show. I wasn't looking forward to washing them the first time, not because I don't enjoy washing (well I don't actually) but I couldn't face the idea that they might loose their quality- they didn't- they remain soft and lovely to handle.

And, as the best recommendation ever- my mum loves them, thinks they are gorgeous, and given the quality of materials used assures me she couldn't have done them for less- nuff said!

Little Babybugs

Little Baby Bugs Duckies



Water- The Gallery

Catching up on blogs and I couldn't resist the opportunity to dig out this photo from our 'honeymoon' last year for this week's Gallery on Sticky Fingers
It's quite odd to think about how much has happened since this photo was taken last May.
One year old water baby
Although, if one thing hasn't changed, it's how much Seren loves the water!

It feels like it's been a while

As much as I am, to an extent, enjoying being back at work, I find myself missing so much. And, as much as I am missing writing on this blog and reading others, it does fall quite some way behind spending time with the little people.
Three under 3
I thought I'd be easing my way back into work quite gradually, promising the team we'd spend August doing all those niggly things that we never get round to doing whilst (ssshhh!) nobody knows I'm back. Only doing 3 1/2 days a week was meant to demonstrate that I'd be taking it easy.

But the last week exhausted me with the luxury of 1/2 day working from home and 2 days in London and one in Leeds. And this week it'll be Liverpool, Leeds, Warrington and our lovely head office in the deepest darkest Norfolk.

I predict I'll be falling asleep when I put Seren to bed a lot.

It is already so difficult balancing working with spending as much time as possible with the little people. I am already thinking about mid-September when I go back to a 4 day week, and am not sure 2012 and full time is worth thinking about.
I have now moved my thinking from 'no-one knows I'm back' to 'whistle-stop tour of everyone I haven't seen since 2010' and then back to plenty of working from home days.

The best moment however was when a colleague asked me about my blog... but how would they know about this secret side of my life? I had forgotten that at some time in the past I had created a link between twitter (which I never got round to using) and my Linked-In account. And then when I created this blog I remembered my twitter account and created a link.
So yes, my contacts/ regular visitors to Linked-In have seen my blog posts popping up... hey ho!
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