Our Shutterflies Photo Shoot

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I don’t like having my picture taken. I think this is part of the reason I’ve found online dating so hard: in most pictures I have of myself I’m gurning in a ‘you might take my photo but I don’t care’ way, or they’re shameless selfies taken in the mirror. And I don’t want anyone’s first impression of me to be a person who either gurns a lot or takes unlimited shameless selfies, no thanks.

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So when Hayley of Shutterflies Photography contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in a photoshoot of me and the kids I was like ‘no thanks, I have enough pictures of me gurning’. But then I thought it over a bit more. I’ve always been the photographer of the house, there are shedloads of photographs of everybody with my kids but none of me with the little cherubs. It might be nice to have something to remember these tired years by?

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So that is the story of how I found myself with the kids meeting Hayley at a local country park a couple of weeks ago, best gurn faces on. I was terrified, mostly because  of the camera, and because I was fully expecting each and every photograph of me to turn out like this:

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But you know what? It was EASY. Hayley made it easy. She told us to just get on with what we’d be usually doing in the park (the kids were in their element) and just snapped away. She’d brought a picnic blanket for us to have a few more ‘posed’ shots on but apart from that it was just about the kids having fun and capturing them as naturally as possible.

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I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but I am over the moon with the shots Hayley got of us. She used two cameras – one film, one digital – and I love the different feelings these lend to the photos. Not only is there minimal gurning from me but there is something so magical about the way she captured Elfie and Hux. She has caught them exactly as they are in real life – their facial expressions, their mannerisms – my babies.

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And me? Well, Hayley must have managed to work some sort of crazy magic because I actually like the way she captured me. I can only put this down to how relaxed and at ease she made us feel throughout the whole process, it was like spending a couple of hours at the park with a good friend rather than a photographer.

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I’m absolutely delighted with the results – so much so that I’m going to make our Shutterflies shoot an annual occasion. How precious is it that we have such beautiful photographs of us all together? Very. I love them.

shutterflies-026 shutterflies-028 shutterflies-009 shutterflies-020Thank-you so much to Hayley for a lovely couple of hours at the park and these gorgeous photographs of us. If you’re looking for some lovely memories I’d definitely give Ms Shutterflies a call; Hayley lives in Bedfordshire but is available to shoot far and wide from newborns to children to families to nuptuals. Just look at this beautiful wedding she recently photographed in Hertfordshire (I may or may not have provisionally booked her for my hypothetical second wedding). You can also take a look at her gorgeous blog here, add her on Twitter, follow her Instagram or like her Facebook page.

 

Hux At Somewhere Around 6 Months

Oh Hux, what do we say about the baby who is pretty much entirely perfect?

Ok, not completely perfect. I could do without the 2am feed, especially as its getting colder and is therefore that little bit harder to get out of bed. But other than that, my boy is pretty wonderful.

 

The poor thing has been suffering with a cold for pretty much forever (real time: 2 weeks) and its been hard on the Harold house. We’ve had throwing up, a throat that was obviously very sore , a snotty nose and quite a nasty cough. Luckily it’s coincided with Will working away a few times so I’ve been able to bring Hux in bed with me for some extra love and attention. Which was all well and good until I realised babies + congestion= snore like their daddies. Don’t believe me? Get a load of this:

No, it’s not Will/a loud dog/dearth vader. It’s my little boy.

 

In Elfie’s eyes Hux is still pretty much the best thing in the whole world ever. As soon as she wakes up she asks for bubby, and he in turn ADORES the sight of her face. He lights up when he sees her and its wonderful. Miraculous, even, considering the torture she inflicts on him. Fingers in his ears, hats (or random lids) on his head, stickers on his face and pretty violent games of peep-o. Her current favourite game is attempting to sit in his lap shouting ‘wiggle” though I have no idea why or where this game originated.

Bubs (it’s Bubby, or Bubs, or Bubster… rarely Hux) is not breastfed anymore. I wrote about it at length here and did all I could to increase my supply but it just didn’t happen. I did the flapjacks, the extra calories, the spending two days in bed snoozing and feeding (this one was fun) but it didn’t work. After a particularly bad week of hunger-related crankiness (Hux, not me!) we introduced the bottle and combination fed. I was gutted, really didn’t want to give up, but then had to think, who am I holding out for, him or me? I wanted to continue to feed by breast but the poor boy just wanted to eat, so we bought some formula. I’m telling you, you REALLY notice that tenner for a box of formula every 4 days when you’ve been exclusively breastfeeding. Ouch. He’s now happy and thriving which is all that matters and on balance I’m chuffed we reached the 5 month mark.

 

 

Hux is on the light side of the weight spectrum and currently weighs in at a petite – though healthy – 14lbs 7oz. This means he’s only just doubled his birth weight and is still fairly easy to cart around in the baby carrier, which works out well for me as its so cold at the moment and he’s so lovely and warm. A portable hot water bottle. We’ve begun our weaning journey and he’s totally turned his nose up at purées (fine by me, that endless steaming and mushing does my head in) and will only eat baby rice if he can do it himself so we’re going down the baby-led route. So far he’s enjoyed carrots, broccoli, toast, avocado and a bit of banana. Clever boy.

 

 

I’m convinced this child is actual perfection in baby form and it’s mental to remember how terrified I was of him arriving . Huxley Harold, I could nuzzle your little neck all day long. You’re absolute magic.

Psst… last week on MAMA:
Welcome!
Inspiring Women Who’ll Rock Your World
Royal Hyperemisis Gravidarum
Bright Young Things
A Little Leopard
The Friday Five
8 Things To Do With Puff Pastry

 

Thanksgiving, The British Way

 

Americans really have the right idea at this time of year. Thanksgiving: a time for family, friends, warmth, love and CARBOHYDRATES. Lots of carbohydrates.  I love the idea of a big turkey accompanied by potatoes and pies, though I still get a little wary of the addition of macaroni cheese. Does it really work?

But most of all I love the idea of sitting down with your loved ones and giving thanks for the good things in your life. It’s so easy for me to get bogged down in the day-to-day routine of no sleep, nappies, weaning, budgeting, blah blah blah that I forget to look at the bigger picture and realise just how good I have it. Thinking about what I am thankful for gives me perspective on rubbish I really shouldn’t be wasting thought power on. So today, in homage to the carbs, I’ve sat down and given thanks to the wonderful things in my life. Here they are.

 

 

My Children – I have somehow managed to give birth to the two most adorable, happy babies who are a total joy to be around. Yes, they may do immense poos that I manage to get on my elbow (?!) and scatter jigsaws in every room of the house but I am so very lucky they belong to me.

My Husband – our next anniversary will be 10 YEARS and although we might bicker and grouch at each other when we’re overtired (so that’s every day, then) I feel so lucky I met him so early on in my life. He’s my best friend.

 

My Family – I am so lucky to have my parents and Mother-In-Law so close by. My mum and dad love the children almost as much as I do and my Mother-in-Law is so wonderful with them. She looked after Hux whilst I tool Elfie into London yesterday; I came home to find the kitchen cleaned, house hoovered, washing done and dinner cooked. It was a wonderful surprise and if I wasn’t married to her son I might have proposed there and then.

The place we live – I appreciate our quiet village more and more as Elfie gets older and we venture out of the house further. I’m really excited for her to make new friends at preschool next year!

My job – I admit to some whinging and moaning because I find it so hard to work efficiently as well as look after Elfie and Hux but I am so lucky to be able to work for myself. I still wish I didn’t put so much pressure on myself to be everything to everyone, the mother, the wife, the businesswoman, the cleaner, the cook… but it’ll fall into place I’m sure.

 

Our health – In the last six weeks we’ve suffered with 2 tummy bugs (Elfie) and food poisoning (me) but overall we’re all live and kicking. We should never take our health for granted.

Our friends – We lost a lot of friends moving out of London: to many people we may as well have moved to Scotland and I almost know how they feel, for me going to Notting Hill from Islington used to be a mission-and-a-half. The ones who have stuck with us are brilliant true friends and I feel lucky to have them.

Salted caramel - whoever invented this is a ruddy genius.

Right. Now that’s done I’m off to roast a chicken, stick some cream on some vegetables and eat some potatoes. Thanksgiving: the British way.

On Breastfeeding Guilt

 

Before I had kids I didn’t realise how much guilt would be involved; guilt and parenting go together like olive oil and balsamic vinegar, like ginger biscuits and a cup of tea, like a glass of wine and my mouth. It’s a given, it’s meant to be.

The guilt is constant, yet not always about the same thing. When Elfie was a baby I felt guilty that I was unable to breastfeed her, then I felt guilty I didn’t do more when it took so long to get her condition diagnosed, I felt guilty that she loved Baby TV more than she probably should and I felt guilty about not reading to her every single day (it didn’t matter, she bloody loves books now).

Hux’s guilt is slightly different and mostly centers around leaving him in his bouncy chair for what I think is too long while I cook, change Elfie’s nappy (she’s not potty trained yet: GUILT) or shower. He doesn’t get half as much attention as Elfie did when she was a baby and it kills me, but he’s getting too heavy and wriggly to strap to me whilst I’m doing the housework. I try and make up for my guilt by taking half an hour out of my day to lie down with him and baby talk, and when I say talk I mean coo and gummy smile.

Today’s guilt is all about breastfeeding. I went away for two nights last week (I left my kids! The guilt!) so daddy was in charge of bottle feeding – something we’d practiced before I went away. I was desperate to return to Hux so he could nurse properly again but I was surprised to hear how contented he had been whilst I was away. Apparently Hux likes the formula, and he guzzled it down like nobody’s business. He slept 50% more and grizzled 50% less. Oh :(

Breastfeeding for me was a challenge at the beginning but I’d thought it had gone swimmingly since then. I was pretty amazed at my weightloss (back to normal weight in 5 weeks and still steadily losing 1lb a week without really trying) but now I’m not thinking this is a good thing. I don’t think my body is producing enough milk, it’s gobbled up most of my fat stores and I don’t know how to produce more. I eat a very healthy and balanced diet, always have, and find it a bit of a challenge to eat when I’m not hungry. I don’t like particularly fatty foods (apart from chips, burgers and the occasional McDonald’s breakfast) and always drink a lot of water. What is there to do?

I’ve kept Hux on a combination of breastmilk (as much as I can make) and formula milk before his morning and afternoon nap and once at night. He’s been sleeping much better than pre-formula Hux was and generally seems happier but I still feel incredibly guilty. We’ve only been breastfeeding for four months, I’m not ready for it to be over! As we’d got this far I didn’t expect to not be able to meet his demand.

Aside from the guilt I’m also really missing cuddles with my boy: let’s face it, this is the last time I’ll be able to hold him so close for 15 minutes five times a day before he becomes a rambunctious toddler with smelly feet.

Internet, what can I do? I’ve tried eating a Snickers a day since I returned from my trip to kick-start my fat stores but it doesn’t seem to be helping yet (tastes good though). I want more milk!

Hux At 14 Or 15 or Maybe 16 Weeks?

 

Every time someone asks me how old Hux is I feel terribly guilty. I look a bit crazed and panicked and say “uhhhh” a lot, because I don’t really know. When I had Elfie I knew exactly how old she was down to the weeks and days, but now all I know is Hux is somewhere around 14 or 16 weeks. Sorry, Hux.

 

 

Anyway, despite me being a bad mother for this part Hux is pretty much still an absolute dream baby. He is so relaxed and chilled and is lovely to see how happy he is. He rarely cries and only really grizzles for wind and hugs, and also if his big sister pokes him a little bit too hard.

Hux is still exclusively breastfed which I am mega proud of, bar 3 bottles of formula he had when we were at a wedding last weekend which I was initially pretty gutted about. I busted my bum expressing for a week and a half beforehand to the extent I was constantly starving hungry and knackered (and I lost an extra pound?!) but it just wasn’t enough. I’ll be leaving him soon for a whole two nights (SOB!) so as we know he will take formula I’m not going to get myself worked up about expressing as much and will chill out about him having formula for those two days. I’m more concerned about expressing regularly whilst I’m away to maintain my supply as I seriously don’t want to give up breastfeeding just yet. I love it.

 

 

Initially bottle feeding was a bit of a nightmare and we had a terrible time at a (different, local) wedding reception a few weeks ago: we had to return home after an hour and a half as he wouldn’t take the teat. We have however discovered that he’ll take a bottle if we gently warm the teat in a bit of boiling water first (and let it cool, obviously), which has been a lifesaver. It’s a big load off my mind to know that if we fancy going out for a bit of couple time then we don’t worry about him not eating.

Hux is hugely loved by Elfie and we all call him ‘Bubby’ as that is what she insists is his name. She hugs and kisses him every morning and he is the first thing she asks for when she wakes up. She gets a right strop on when you tell her she’s not allowed to carry him and she’s always putting her toys in his lap. It’s very cute. She also loves helping to change his nappy (“Bubby poo! Bubby wee wee!”). He’s just started being more aware of her and give her huge gummy grins which we all love and I hope they’ll have a close relationship as they grow up.

 

Sidenote: he’s discovered his hands! (See above). He was soooo thrilled the first time he noticed them. As you would be. 

Speaking of poo, weirdly one of the things Hux LOVES is to have his nappy changed. As soon as you undo his clothes he starts to giggle and if you take his vest off to change his clothes – wow. The boy likes to be naked, that’s for sure. Unfortunately as much as he likes a cool breeze on his skin he hates water so bathtime is pretty traumatic, so at the moment I’m limiting him to a quick dunk in the kitchen sink (though Elfie’s desperate for him to bathe with her).

 

 

So aside from the bathing he’s pretty much a perfect baby. Now if we could just crack sleeping for more than four hours I will be ecstatic. At least for now he does it in his own bed. Erm, mostly.

PS: I just looked it up. He’s 15 weeks old!

 

Me And My Boy

Despite this little ball of chub repeatedly waking me up all night because Mummy I don’t like my bed, I want to sleep in yours, his little gummy smile is still a delight to wake up to. I guess I can sleep tomorrow night?

Today is Huxley’s conception anniversary. A year ago today we were at the wedding of Paul and Jo where we were so full of love, happiness and vodka shots that we made another baby. Happy conception, Hux!