Re-claiming Me Time

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If you ask any new mum the one thing they miss about their life pre-parenthood, they’ll probably say the same thing. Alone time. Me time. Silence.

That’s definitely true for me and I tell you, three years of not being able to take a dump without someone peering down the toilet asking you if your bottom is smelly, or shower without being accompanied by your knee-high shadow can really take its toll. Once you’re a mum you never truly feel alone again, and as one who has always been very comfortable in my own company I found this one of the hardest things to deal with.

Sometimes, and this sounds really silly, but I get so overwhelmed with the pressure of making sure my two little mouths get fed three times a day. That’s a strange thing to focus in on, but as an adult you can just inhale a banana or some cake for lunch if you’re busy/stressed/not hungry. You can call your husband for fish and chips, or eat pasta and butter (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it). These two little ones, however, need nutritionally balanced low-fat healthy meals cooked for them and sometimes it takes all I’ve got to think about what I’m going to cook them and then make it. Contrary to popular belief you can’t really feed them fish fingers every day and some days I find myself spending hours and hours slaving over meals for them.

Then there’s the daily pressure of making sure we’re doing fun, educational and stimulating activities, limiting the amount of CBeebies we watch (I find it easily becomes a crutch if I’m not sleeping well) and ensuring we make it to bedtime in a timely fashion and all in one piece. EXHAUSTING. It’s the most full-on flat-out job I’ve ever had. I obviously wouldn’t change it for the world but I do sometimes wish there was an HR department I could hand a holiday form to.

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And that is why I have decided to take a bit of time off. On a whim last Friday night (and yeah, on two glasses of wine if I’m honest) I booked a ticket to New York City, leaving this Wednesday, as in 48 hours time. It’s time to cash in my ‘me time’.

My best friend Kirsty has lived out there almost as long as we’ve lived in the countryside and despite me vowing to visit for all that time I’ve always been a bit preoccupied with being pregnant or breastfeeding. Now I’m neither of those things I’ve decided there’s no time like the present.  The last six months have not been particularly easy for me or my family so I think it’s important to get away and re-discover who I am once again. I hope I will come back a little more relaxed, a little happier and with a little less of a burden on my shoulders.

I can’t wait to spend some quality one-on-one time with Kirsty that doesn’t involve a Skype connection, strolling the streets of New York whilst she’s at work. More crucially I can’t wait to remember who I am again. I’m already anticipating the heartache of missing my children for five days but they will be getting in return a much happier mummy. I can’t wait.

Self-Imposed Writers Block

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The thing about writing a blog that prides itself on its honesty and ‘bare-all’ attitude is that sometimes you have to draw a line. This writing I do right here is so very important to me and has shaped me in a way I never felt possible. It’s helped me through hard times and cheered me through happy ones; blogging is a part of my life that is so important I can barely articulate what it means to me. It’s not only my job but my life, my friends, my happy place.

Because of the nature of my oversharing on my blog I am naturally going to come up against obstacles sometimes. Some things that are huge parts of my life, no matter how much I’d like to write about them, are off-limits because they also involve other people. I hate finding myself in these situations because my default coping mechanism is to write, so when that’s not possible I feel stifled and bunged up.

I’m going through one of those times now. In the last few days I’ve gone through a real spectrum of emotions: heartbreak, anger, feeling alone, sad and despondent. A peek of happiness and relief. I’ve tried to keep away from my computer because all I want to do is sit and write and get it out but I can’t.

So instead I’ve been back in the garden, digging dirt and replacing with the happiness that the colour of spring flowers bring. I’ve been cooking with my beautiful little girl and scooping the crusty bits out my poorly little boy’s eyes (surprise surprise, we’re back to the doctor’s this afternoon). I’ve cried over glasses of wine with my mum and cackled over G&Ts with my friends. I’ve said this many times but it remains true: it takes a really rocky patch for you to appreciate and understand how important and wonderful your family and friends are.

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The Best Things In Life, via lovely Fritha on Etsy

So, in a nutshell: god, things get tough as a grown-up don’t they? These decisions you have to make and experiences you must go through, they can really take it out of a person. I’m consoling myself with the thought at the moment that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and as tough as I may be finding life right now it will make me a better person, one way or another.

Another huge big consolation to me was the news that this year I have been shortlisted for a BritMums Brilliance In Blogging award, in the Lifestyle category! I am completely over the moon to have been recognised and I would like to thank everyone who nominated me from the bottom of my heart. I managed to drink a whole bottle of Prosecco at the awards ceremony last year before making some very lewd comments about the Butlers In The Buff who were in attendance. If I were to make it through to that stage this year I promise you much more of the same.

If I could implore you to head this way to the voting form and select ‘More Than Toast‘ in the Lifestyle category you would make this over-sharer extremely happy indeed. You can vote in only one category if you like (though you should vote in more as there are some fantastic blogs in there!). Thank-you!

Eye Gunk, Sad Faces and Doggies

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What do you do with two children who have conjunctivitis? Because I have no idea.

Ok, mine don’t have conjunctivitis but rather some other -itis (blepheritis?) which seems to be quite similar. Their eyes are swollen, sticky, itchy and look very uncomfortable indeed. I am dreading Hux’s hourly eye sterile eye wipe; this is the boy who will clock you if you try to wipe a bit of banana from the corner of his mouth. He has an impressive right hook for an 11 month old.

Elfie is over the worst but Hux, oh poor Hux really is suffering. He can’t open his eyes in the morning and for the rest of the day they are red, swollen and itchy. We’ve taken him to the doctors twice since Thursday but they maintain he has a viral infection inherited from the nasty cold he’s rocking so there are no drops or antibiotics that will help. I’m not convinced, I’m no doctor but the bad eyes are accompanied by the third bad chest he’s had in the last three months and the past two have only shifted with antibiotics. I really hope I’m proved wrong but I fully predict we’ll be back at the GPs in two days time.

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I also hope that the next time we go to the doctors Elfie doesn’t get her arm stuck in this contraption. It was touch-and-go for a while as I worked out how to remove it but one swift tug and she was home free. There were tears though. Hers, Hux’s and mine, though mine were possibly from laughter. I had to laugh otherwise I would have cried… I don’t know how she gets in these situations but they are bloody funny.

Anyway, for the moment we’re just to ride it out, keeping Hux topped up with fluids and way too many episodes of Balamory (what can I say? He loves it, and at least it’s not Mr Tumble). He’s also back to having 2 x two hour naps a day which must mean he’s feeling pretty rough and I’m trying to use the time to do special things with Elfie. But every single thing I do with her now also has to involve her new friend Doggie, which is interesting because she doesn’t like real dogs (“don’t like him, he’s too friendly Mummy!”). Elfie insisted Doggie have lunch with us today which was one of those moments you imagine your hypothetical child doing when they’re growing in your womb and then forget about until it actually happens. Lovely.

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Apparently Doggie loved his toast but not so much the avocado or salmon, which works for me as nobody wants to scrub messy food from a stuffed toy. I do suspect this originated from Elfie’s own taste in food though: she loves avocado and salmon and is pretty ambivalent about toast. Lucky Doggie, lucky Elfie.

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We did make it out of the house yesterday to the Garden Centre, my new favourite place. I could have spent hours wandering around if the children weren’t so grumbly (and by children I mean husband). Hux spent a pleasant couple of hours in the Baby Bjorn snuggling into my chest – something I enjoyed hugely – and Elfie was enamoured by the chickens, fish and flowers. I predict we’ll be back regularly, which makes me feel both excited and old. We actually bought compost. COMPOST.

Today begins a week of single parenting for me as Will is off in That Big City working hard on a few shows he has coming up this weekend. I’m feeling slightly hysterical – hats off to anyone who does this on a permanent/regular basis, you’re all warriors – and I predict I will need a Wagamamas by the end of the week to reward myself for surviving. That is, if I survive. If it gets to Friday and you haven’t heard from me, send help (or vodka). I picked the wrong week to pack up my wine habit, that’s for sure.

I just noticed that I put my jumper on the wrong way round this morning. That feels like a fitting metaphor for the day.

Another Post-Natal Depression Update…

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I’ll give one thing to Post-Natal Depression; it certainly hangs around a bit!

The last couple of weeks have been OK, bar a couple of beacon-like lovely days in the middle. Elfie’s back to her tricks of waking me up 2 or 3 times a night and this broken sleep affects my mood like nothing else. I’m getting pretty bored of feeling tired and wish my body responded better to caffeine. Shakes and nausea after too many espressos are Not Cool.

I have to say that I feel about a million times improved since I started on the new medication. I was pretty hesitant about going on Prozac because, well, it’s PROZAC, it’s what crazy people take, right? But at my lowest I really had nothing to lose, apart from my mind. In contrast to the initial medication my GP put me on I have had no side effects, no scary things happening. It’s given me a new lease of life and makes me feel so much more alive. And you know what? I’m totally comfortable with the fact I need to take anti-depressants now. It has made such a difference to my state of mind that I feel no shame, none at all. It has changed my life, maybe saved it, and I think that is amazing.

Earlier on this week I had my assessment appointment by a mental health nurse at the hospital. This was an interesting experience, a little harrowing to speak so deeply and for so long about the way I was feeling, a little scary to be in a locked section of the hospital. I felt very much out of my depth but my assessor was an absolute delight and had a way of making me feel totally comfortable. I think there are some people in this world who you warm to immediately and she was one of those. She was professional yet so easy to talk to, which was a good thing as she probed me for an hour and a half. Our conversation was so revealing, I didn’t realise how many of my personality ‘quirks’ are not that but are a part of my post-natal depression. It was fascinating.

The good news is that I am considerably less crazy then I was eight weeks ago. There’s a test you fill out that scores you on a scale for depression and anxiety and eight weeks ago I scored 18 for both. The highest score you can get is 21, and for a referral to the serious mental health unit of the hospital you need at least a 16. Happily, this week I scored a 7, which means I will be referred to a community team for CBT (yay!). I put this 100% down to the new medication I’ve been taking and the positive steps I’ve implemented myself and am looking forward to my therapy beginning in a couple of months.

I’m in no way fixed at the moment and I think it’s important for me to recognize that. I still have days when all I want to do is go back to bed. I still sleep a lot more than I’d like, a symptom of PND, and it’s taken me a long time to recognize just how much the children’s disturbed nights affect this. I still have bad days though these are few and far between and I hope they will get more so. I still have anxiety though haven’t had a panic attack related to this for 6 weeks (go me!).

The sun and the book and the support from my family are all helping and I’m trying to take my foot off the pedal a little with regards to work, and just enjoy writing. Motivation and a need to work to succeed seem to be a bit more ingrained than I originally thought, but I’m getting there. I’ll get there.

Gardening For Beginners

IMG_9372This weekend the sun came out! So our family, along with (probably) every single other family in the country, put our summer clothes on, dragged the patio furniture out of retirement and made Pimms. We stopped short of a Barbecue – only just – but did the other sunny Sunday activity beloved of people with outside space and kids. Gardening.

I’ve literally never done any sort of gardening in my whole life. I’ve scoffed at people who enjoy gardening because, really, why would you enjoy it? But the thing is, ever since we moved to our new house I GET IT. I really get it. I had a lovely day digging over soil, pulling weeds, thinking about herbs, planting flowers. It was ace.

It helps that Elfie’s in her element outdoors. She’s always begging to go in the garden, loves to play hide-and-seek, kick a ball around, wear her wellies. She delights in the fresh air, goodness knows who she gets this from but it ain’t me.IMG_9382 IMG_9381 IMG_9378

She spent a while moving stones for me and getting mega excited at the sight of worms and ladybirds (“I LOVE WORMS MUMMY!!!”) before getting all industrious and taking her doll for a walk around the perimeter.

IMG_9400 IMG_9399 IMG_9398I got to work (I have a gardening blister!!) on the beds and then I concentrated on the weeds, flowers and herbs.

This was the garden when we started.

IMG_9388 IMG_9387 IMG_9389 IMG_9390Now look! Transformed into a delightful patch of loveliness!

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IMG_9406OK, OK, so it doesn’t look hugely different, but I’m sure it will when things start to blossom and bloom. I planted up some bulbs from some house flowers as well as some Sweet Williams and those blue ones you can see.  I also planted Thyme, Coriander and Rosemary in the sunnier part of the large bed with Mint and Sage arriving to join them later this week. It was brilliant!

I don’t know why I had such a great time in the garden. Maybe it was a combination of the peacefulness, being able to concentrate on such a physical task with a beginning and an end? My lovely helper definitely contributed of the enjoyment of it, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to get my hands blistered and dirty again.

And as for Hux? Well, he enjoyed some of the gardening. He spent the first two hours asleep and the last hour eating grass. A success for sure.

slugAs I’m a total novice at this – I have been Googling “How do you do Gardening?” – I’d love any recommendations for blogs or resources I can use with my garden this summer.

 

 

 

 

Ramblings On Love For My Children

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It’s no secret that I spent a lot of my pregnancy with Hux worrying about… well… my life with Hux. I was terrified, TERRIFIED, about being a mother of two. So much so that I didn’t enjoy the pregnancy as much as I should have done, regardless of that 6 month ill-fest I endured.

I remember not only being knee-quakingly worried about looking after two children under two at once but also very hesitant about how my heart would fare. I love Elfie so much, I wondered how on earth there would be room for more love. These worries were probably in part down to how long it had taken me to get that thunderbolt of love with Elf, though luckily it happened much sooner with Hux. Despite not being thrilled at the idea of having a boy I fell in love with him HARD.

After Hux came home I felt such a relief; he’s always been a good baby so my worries about juggling two kids went out the window. Though now he is an enthusiastic army crawler with a penchant for putting dirty potties on his head life is a bit tougher, but hey, I’m not breastfeeding any more so wine is a viable relaxation tool.

Hux has fully established himself in the lives of not just me, but his dad, his grandparents and sister. We have our routines, our nicknames, our games. We all rub along together very nicely and it’s only now that I’m starting to think about the relationships we all share. And it’s funny that, although I used to worry that when Hux came along I might not be able to love him as much as Elfie, I never used to think about what would come next. Once I was no longer worried about making room for him in my heart I didn’t think about our evolving relationships 6 months or a year down the line.

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Because the truth is that the relationship I have with my children is quite different. I love them both til the ends of the earth but the love I feel for one is not the same as the one I feel for the other.

When Elfie was younger I was a bit scared of her. We went through so much with her illness and diagnosis… I feel like I backed off a bit when she was so poorly. I didn’t want to lose her, I didn’t want to be heartbroken.

Hux has always been different. He’s a total mummy’s boy, happiest in my arms, being toted around on my hip, with my nose on his. He loves anything I do and thinks I am absolutely hilarious (that makes one person). Each time I pick him up he does this little wriggle and chuckle of happiness and snuggles onto my shoulder and I swear it makes my heart sing. It’s divine.

On the other hand my relationship with Elfie is slightly trickier. I love her no less than Hux but she is very headstrong, more volatile with her emotions. I had the happiest hour yesterday on the sofa talking and reading with her, spending most of the time sniffing the top of her head (childless people: there is nothing like the smell of your kid’s head), but she’s a difficult one. If she spends a long amount of time with her daddy she will return home to me and be 100% her Daddy’s girl. Daddy has to do EVERYTHING. Ditto with Grannie. Fine with me when there is poo involved but in other situations it does make me a little sad. For example, one lazy morning in our bed she hugged Will and said “I love daddy” and I asked if she loved mummy too. She said “no, me just love daddy”. Waaah!

But then this morning she snuggled up under my armpit, totally unprompted and said “Mummy, I love you soooooooo much”.

See? Totally fickle.

I get it, she’s a girl, we have complex emotions. God knows I’m as fickle as they come. But faced with the undying, unconditional love I get from Huxley, it is sometimes hard that she pushes me away.

But then we walk hand-in hand for a bit and I give her head a good old sniff and all is forgotten. No matter how much she tells me she would rather not eat my slaved-over spaghetti or she wants a hug only from her grandma and not from mummy my feelings don’t change. I love her just as much as my mummy’s boy.

Having kids has taught me so much but one of the most important lessons has been about love. Pure, wonderful, unconditional love that you have only for your children; the love for your husband that grows and evolves as he becomes a father; the love for your own parents and the family you married in to. It’s a lovely, scary, humbling, heartwarming lesson.