This Time Last Year (I Was Pregnant. It Was Sunny!)

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I loved being pregnant.

OK, I didn’t. I really didn’t. I felt sick, exhausted, flat out ill. I never had the pregnancy glow, at least not without the help of a lot of make-up. I looked grey, had bad hair and could not stay awake. One of my lasting memories is that of me at three months pregnant, lying on the sofa. Trying to entertain a 1 year old Elfie but just weeping because I felt so wretched. She was laughing so I think she found the weeping entertaining.

But still, I loved being pregnant and I love to look back on the time when my babies were in my tummy. It’s a pretty crazy and magical thing that we women do, growing people. Elfie has recently learned that babies grow in mummies tummies and I’m trying not to feel offended that she asked me if I had another baby in there when we were in the bath last week. Instead I feel touched that she has been asking to get back in my tummy :) And then she says “oh no! Elfie too big!”. Too right.

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This time last year was my favourite time of pregnancy. I was about 30 weeks pregnant and had finally found some energy, I wasn’t too freaked out yet about being a mum of two under 2 and had stopped feeling so ill. I was completely unable to eat during the first 18 weeks and ended up losing a lot of weight so was all bump. It’s lots of fun dressing a bump!

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One thing I never got on board with was Maternity clothes. I could never bring myself to buy clothes from such a small collection that would last me only 9 months, although even now only a year on there seem to be so many more brands out there to choose from. There’s Vertbaudet for one, Keungzai and good old ASOS Maternity. In fact, looking at all the photos on this page I’m not wearing any maternity wear: only maternity-waistband jeans and leggings (H&M are best for these in my opinion… I definitely don’t still wear them. Ahem).

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There’s absolutely nothing like having your child grow inside you. It’s so freaky and alien-like but also the most natural thing you can do. I often feel a bit sad that this is something men won’t ever get to experience, but then I’m not sure they could handle it. Plus they get to do other fun stuff, like peeing standing up ;)

I’m getting way too wistful about pregnancy here, it’s making me feel quite nervous (and if Will is reading this I expect his balls are slowly retreating at the thought of Harold baby number 3). To balance it out I’m going to remind myself of this: piles. Constipation. Leaky boobs. Pregnancy UTIs. Post-natal depression. Morning sickness.

It’s not working! How is pregnancy so intoxicating?

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Thank-you to Vertbaudet for collaborating with me on this post. Please take a look at their selection of fabulous maternity wear! 

Take Me Back

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Is there much worse than the post-holiday blues? Oh yes, having the post-holiday blues and a poorly child. Or maybe the post-holiday blues, a poorly child and a husband who is working away? BINGO!

The week has been a bit of a write-off, starting with a catalogue of errors on Monday which included filing the car up with petrol when I’d left my purse at home, Elfie weeing in her car seat, the internet not working at the Gym for my only two-hour child-free work window this week… yeah. I nearly went back to bed there and then but persisted with positive thoughts, thinking the week couldn’t get much worse.

It did. We’ve had loads of snow, I’ve been in an absolutely vile mood and then the flu struck. Will is away working which means I’m flying solo (sans car as well, dammit) and there’s been nobody I can share the hell of the all-night toddler illness with. Thank god for CBeebies, eh?

I received a text from Will this morning – he perhaps sensed what was going on from my subtle 4am messages “MOST AWFUL NIGHT EVER!!! ELFIE’S ILL!!! SHE HAS A TEMPERATURE!! WHERE ARE YOU?!!” – and he told me I deserved some lie-ins and treats this weekend. My second thought was (my first thought was “too right, boyo”), what would I do? If I could have any treat at all, what would I ask for? And the honest answer is that I have no idea. A facial? A massage? A nice juicy steak? Maybe. But mostly I’d want to return to last week, when we took a little family holiday.

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Not counting my Sister-In-Law’s wedding in Madrid last year, this was our first break as a family of four. We booked a gorgeous country cottage in the New Forest near Fordingbridge for three nights, hired a car that was fancier than ours and took off with no plans but to relax and be happy.

Hideaway Cottage was brilliant. A recently renovated property, it’s in the chocolate box village of Damerham which is about half an hour away from Bournemouth. We booked through Baby Friendly Boltholes, a genius website that has only child-friendly luxury holiday accommodation on its books, and I can’t tell you how much stress was removed with the knowledge that all our baby crap would be there for us on arrival. We’re talking the boring stuff that you always need to remember: sterilisers, baby bouncers, sippy cups, playmates, toys, baby monitors, DVDs, bath seats… literally EVERYTHING was there, we just needed to take clothes and a bit of food.

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When we arrived there was a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc waiting (my absolute favourite) with some Tyrrels crisps, fresh eggs, organic butter and bread and a home made lemon drizzle cake. Divine. I pottered in the lovely kitchen cooking a lasagne for us all and drinking the wine whilst the kids went absolutely crazy exploring. The toys – oh, the toys! The toys were brilliant. There was a selection of toys for all ages and if we’d spent our four days on holiday in that house playing with them all Elfie wouldn’t have been bored. She was in her element and said she wanted to stay there “for ever and ever and ever”. There’ll be more on Hideaway Cottage at MAMA very soon, but I’d recommend it to anyone with small children looking for a luxurious and relaxing break in the area.

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Because I had some sort of Malory Towers Midnight Feast ideal in my head I said the kids could share a room: I imagined them whispering to each other late at night and waking each other up with stories in the morning. That didn’t happen… they just woke each other (and us) up at 5am every day. Or rather, Elfie did: “HOLIDAY TIME, HOLIDAY TIME!!”. The only thing not included with the cottage? Kids that sleep til 11am.

We didn’t make any plans for our holiday apart from to visit the beach, some family friends and Steph. And MAYBE Peppa Pig World, weather depending. Happily, we did all those things, including Peppa Pig, which was pretty horrendous, especially in the driving rain. Naturally Elfie had a ball and has asked to go back every day since.

We had a great meal at Westbeach in Bournemouth which is beautifully situated on the beach next to the pier – we tried to eat there at the exact same weekend last year when it wsd an unseasonable 18 degrees: it was so busy we couldn’t get in. This year it was approximately 4 degrees so the beach was deserted. The kids had homemade fish fingers and we gazed out to sea. Awesome.


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We met up with one of my blogging BFF’s Steph and family at Christchurch Harbour – a lovely day that involved wine and lobster. And chatting, lots of chatting. She wrote about it much better than I did at her blog. Check out my handsome husband!

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Then there was Peppa Pig World. What is there to say about Peppa Pig world? I appreciated the signs around the park reminding gentlemen to keep their shirts on (seriously) though there was no need for that as we froze our arses off, but Elfie thought it was heavenly. We went on every single ride, including Grandpa’s little train four times, and spend a good half hour in the amazing softplay. There’s a shop where every single thing you can buy has got Peppa Pig on it (E came away with Bubble Bath and a sticker book, Will and I got Daddy Pig and Mummy Pig socks respectively). The food was horrendous and expensive – £30 for two jacket potatoes, a kids meal and a couple of drinks! – but we will definitely be back.

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So yes, if you offered me one thing to get over the awfulness of this week it would be to go back to our lovely family holiday. I’d even go see Peppa again. Failing that, I guess a lie-in, manicure and massage would do. And maybe more holiday Marlborough.

We were guests of Baby Friendly Boltholes and Hideaway Cottage on our minibreak: thank-you so much to them both for an wonderful time.

Stripped Back And Rebuilt From The Bottom Up

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My lovely friend and MAMA contributor Josie has a great feature over at her blog, Oh You Pretty Things, called ‘Mothers on Motherhood’. Each week she brings a different mum’s perspective of Motherhood; there’s not much I find more inspiring than hearing other women’s experiences of pregnancy, birth and beyond and this is no different. It’s interesting and heartwarming

This week is Rachel of The Little Pip gives her take, and I wanted to share because I felt what she said was so hauntingly beautiful and on-the-nose.

The days are long but the years are short someone once told me. That about sums up my experience so far. 

I didn’t expect to come face to face with my selfishness, my laziness and my lack of patience so brutally or abruptly. I didn’t expect that my self confidence would wither or that I would battle so much just getting through the day. I didn’t realise that such a small creature could expose me the way Pip has…
 
I thought I could just go on being me. Me with a baby. Turned out, I had to be stripped back and rebuilt from the bottom up. 
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You can read the rest of what she said over at Oh You Pretty Things or visit Rachel’s blog.

The Haircut

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I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes, alone for a while with two kids, I go a bit stir crazy. It usually happens on the weekends when Will is working down in London and I’m at a bit of a loose end; we really miss him when he’s not around for lazy Saturdays with jigsaws and boozy afternoons at the rugby club. And OK, I miss that he’s not there for a lie-in.

The last weekend he worked was especially hard. I have no idea why: I felt restless, like I needed to get stuff done. The house was spotless, the fridge was full. There was nothing to do locally in the pouring rain and the kids were going a wee bit crazy. I tried to do some gardening (my mum has given me some bulbs which I planned to bury in soil and hope for the best) but I couldn’t find a trowel or fork. It wasn’t warm enough to paint the kitchen table so I decided to get on top of another project I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. Cut Elfie’s hair.

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Really, how hard could it be to cut the hair of a two year old who wouldn’t hold still to have her feet measured and who counts her favourite activities as jumping, dancing and wobbling?

Erm, yeah.

It was hard. I started cutting and cutting and cutting and her hair just got more and more wonky. And as it got more wonky I had to cut some more to even it out until I’d hacked about three inches off and I just COULD NOT work out how to make it look good. I burst into (quiet) tears and called my hairdresser. Luckily he could squeeze her in a couple of hours later and very gracefully didn’t laugh or tell me off for even thinking about cutting her hair myself.

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I really should have learned more during the great DIY fringe of 2001 episode.

Elfie loves her new hair. She thinks she looks like a grown up (she does, WEEP) and every time she catches herself in the mirror she says “ooh, love my hair cut mummy”. Me? I was altogether more distressed by the whole experience and spent 24 hours wistfully looking at pictures of her with longer locks. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that although her new do is shorter than I would have liked, her head of wispy hippy hair needed sorting out. And I definitely have not sniffed that lock of hair I saved from the hair cutting carnage. Nope, not at all.

My girl’s growing up…

 

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Voting for the BiB Awards has opened!! As I totally missed the MADs I am shifting my alliance and doing some straight up begging for votes. Last year I was a finalist in the ‘Food’ category and I won (and drank) a bottle of Prosecco so getting there again would be amazing. There are some new categories this year and I’d be honoured to be nominated for any of them, though maybe you could consider me for the ‘Family’, ‘Writer’, or ‘Lifestyle’ categories? You can vote here… thanks in advance!

The Lazy Cook: Alice and Gousto

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There is a new home culinary trend on the block. Screw sitting for hours flicking and clicking through the Ocado site to buy your groceries for the week… that’s way too time consuming How much easier is it to pick some meals you want to eat and have the exact ingredients and instructions delivered to your door?

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Initially I thought this was a pretty lazy way to eat. Who hasn’t got the time or energy to throw a few ingredients together in a pan and serve them to their family?

I’ll tell you who hasn’t: ME. Me, when I have just moved house and am grappling with a weaning, teething dribbly mess (hi, Hux). Me, who is trying to fit in an 8 hour day working day somewhere at being a stay at home mum. Me, who would rather do anything but expel brain power on meal plans. It’s lazy but it’s ME!

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And so I gratefully accepted a trial from the folk at Gousto, who offer what they call ‘Gourmet bags’. It’s very simple: you take a look at their weekly menus, select the meals you fancy and BAM! The ingredients will be delivered to your door with full step-by-step instructions. I really do mean step-by-step too, there’s no messing these meals up if you follow their easy colourful instruction cards.

What I liked about their selection of meals is that they’re all quite ‘out there’: you won’t find a toad in the hole or pedestrian Spag Bol. These are all recipes that you probably won’t have cooked before, for example I now know I love artichoke, and will definitely cook it again.

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We chose two meals: Lamb pasta with Artichoke as well as pistachio-crusted honey Chicken with Sweet Potato.

I was a little surprised that they were both pretty brilliant. All ingredients for a full meal were included (bar some greens I added myself to go with the chicken) and they were quick and easy to throw together. But most importantly they were delicious. They tasted like the sort of meals that I like to plan to eat a couple of times a week and that take planning, strategic shopping (usually in the large supermarket 10 miles away rather than our local Co-op, butcher or greengrocer) and effort.

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The one thing I didn’t like was how far in advance I had to order my box, about a week and a half, as Gousto need time to prepare their ingredients so you won’t get the 2-3 days lead time you get with an online supermarket shop.
Yes, this is an expensive way to eat. Three meals will cost a couple £42 a week and a family £67, but if we aren’t making an effort to plan and be frugal when it comes to supermarket shopping then I would not be surprised to find that we spend around this amount. The food is organic, locally sourced and seasonal and all packaging is eco-friendly and sustainable. For the times when menu planning is the last thing on my mind – and that’s been the case recently – I will definitely order from them.
Gousto have kindly offered up a two meal couple box up for a reader of More Than Toast to win. All you have to do is enter using the Rafflecopter below, and tell me what YOUR favourite meal is.
Terms and Conditions
All entrants will be automatically subscribed to the Gousto newsletter
This is open to readers aged 18+ who are UK residents. Sorry, Gousto is unable to deliver to the Scottish Islands, Channel Islands or Northern Ireland.
A winner will be randomly selected next Monday, 1st April 2013.

High Five For PND!

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I expect you have all been waiting with baited breath to find out how my week of medical professionals has gone. Yes? Yes.

It has been a tough week, I won’t lie. Very hard. There have been emotions, discussions, realisations. Man flu. Tiredness.

My Health Visitor came to see me on Monday and she could not have been more supportive. She listened to me and asked all the right questions to get me talking. She was at our house for over an hour and had a chat with Will, too. I felt like she heard what I was saying and made all the right noises, offering me different kinds of help.

She had me do a test which apparently I scored highly on for both Depression and Anxiety (the first test I have not felt proud for getting a high score on).This was a bit of a revelation to me as I really didn’t think the anxious thoughts I had been having were anything out of the ordinary. For example, I fear a lot for mine and my family’s personal safety when we’re out and about and until Monday I really thought this was quite normal. Apparently not!

The Health Visitor wanted to refer me immediately back to the GP to discuss medication. I didn’t want to return to my old GP and the old medication (Citalopram) as it gave me so many side effects before – most notably leaving me exhausted – but she was the first GP available. She tried to prescribe me Citalopram over the phone but I refused. And so I visited my doctor’s surgery on Wednesday with a list of medications (mostly suggested by you helpful lot and then researched by me – thank-you!) and came out clutching a prescription for Fluexotine (Prozac). My Health Visitor really gave me the confidence to stand up for what I thought I needed, as did everyone who commented here.

I’ve also had an urgent referral to a local department called the Access and Short Term Intervention team who should be calling me in to see them for an assessment in the next few days.

On top of this all Will, Hux and I woke up with a stinking cold on Tuesday: poor H isn’t sleeping much and sounds very Darth Vader-esque, my throat and sinuses are torturing me and I have a bright red nose that’s been rubbed raw by tissues. I’m an all-round mental sexy snot bag at the moment, but despite that I feel so much better already. I managed to drag myself out the house last night for a long-awaited double date with some good friends for Steak and BJ day and it felt so good to not think about how I am feeling for a while, to just laugh and enjoy the company of other people. I’m on my third day of medication and so far there have been none of the nasty side effects that Citalopram gave me (insomnia, shakes, jaw clenching, exhaustion).

Admittedly I have been left feeling quite bonkers this week. The urgency with which the Health Visitor treated my case, the referral to ASTI (it has the word ‘intervention’ in the title therefore it sounds serious) and the Prozac.  I kind of feel like maybe I should be expected to run round the village screaming ‘faeces’ with my pants on my head or something. But you know what? That is fine with me. I have finally realised that the way I feel is a product of experiences I have gone through: two pregnancies in two years, two young children. Breastfeeding, a complete upheaval of our lives.

I am not ashamed any more of the way I feel  - I have Post-Natal Depression and Anxiety and it’s OK. High five for mental health!