Right, don’t panic: the monthly update is over on A Model Recommends. I have started to put the wheels in motion to merge the content here on The Uphill with my main website and so I thought that I’d bite the bullet and write any new posts straight into their permanent home. But don’t worry – it sounds drastic but it’s really not. In all honesty, nothing for you will change. Apart from the fact that you’ll potentially get more regular posts!

Even when you type in the URL to take you to this blog, it will simply redirect to the new home and will pre-filter the content so that you’re just reading posts from The Uphill. Marvellous. I seem to have a severe mental block about posting on here – I think that because it’s a second blog, it feels like double the work – and so I’m looking forward to really getting my teeth into all of the subjects I’ve been dilly-dallying about.

It’s not farewell, then – or even “see you in a while”: the monthly update you’ll have to click across to read, but after that it’s business as usual. The only thing I have to work out is how to deal with the newsletter – at the moment you only receive posts from The Uphill, but after the merge, you’ll get all of the posts from A Model Recommends as well. If you’re subscribed to both anyway, you’ll only get one email going forward (the one from A Model Recommends, which will include content from The Uphill – keep up!) but I need to have a clever think about people who only want parenting/family posts.

On that subject: I have an amazing project on the go that will hopefully delight a lot of you. It’s really quite something and has been a proper labour of love. I’m basically doubling my workload again so that’s good (note sarcasm) but it will all be worth it. It’s a totally new sort of content platform for me and will be very dynamic and interactive and I can’t wait for it to be ready. I’ll keep you very much in the loop, because I will probably need you to test it out for me and give me your feedback. If you don’t mind.

Now, clickety click here for the latest monthly update – you’ll notice it has a new name and a slightly new format. I thought it only appropriate.

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the uphill toddler and baby update

Don’t panic, but this might be the last monthly update on The Uphill in its current form. I’m considering merging my two websites together, so that beauty and style content from A Model Recommends sits alongside life updates and family stuff and posts about being a Mum. I sometimes feel as though I spread myself too thinly across two blogs and there’s so much crossover with some subjects that I end up ignoring them altogether because I can’t decide which site to place them on.

Take, for example, the issue of my out-of-control bush (that was pre-holiday – it’s fine now, I managed to wrestle it down to an acceptable size for bikini-wearing): does that post, which is in drafts and called Night of the Triffids, belong here so that we can all guffaw about pubic hair, or on A Model Recommends where we can all – well – guffaw about pubic hair?

There are so many posts that I know that both audiences would love and it seems such a shame that most of the time only half the people see them. So I’m working on a way of bringing the content together but making it easy to filter out what you do and don’t want to read – with the distinct bonus that there will be more posts to read overall and you’ll possibly see things that interest you that you would never have seen before the merge.

Thoughts?

At any rate, Ted will soon be a toddler – in fact is already a toddler – and so what do I start calling this monthly update? Toddler, Toddler and Me? Two Toddlers and Me? And then – what? – Child, Toddler and Me? Perhaps it would make sense if it was just The Life Update, for example, The Life Update: April 2018. What do you think?

Anyway, onto the main event, which is – obviously – the kids and what they’ve been up to. We’ve just been on holiday abroad for the first time, which was something of an experience; amazing resort (post upcoming) and brilliant weather, but my God it isn’t much of a rest is it? For some reason I thought that once we stepped off the plane into that sunshine parenting would suddenly be a cinch and the children would just sort of happily doze on the beach whilst I read books and sipped Rosé.

Not so. I’ll get back to you with some anecdotal holiday material once I’ve fully recovered my senses.

the uphill toddler and baby update

Toddler

We’ve started to have a bit of foot-stamping and tantruming, which is unnerving as it makes me feel as though I’ve totally lost control of everything – and it flusters me, especially if it’s already a hectic day. Do you ever feel as though the whole weight of your child’s future behaviour is on your shoulders, constantly, and every tiny decision you make (ignore them or shout? naughty step or reassuring words?) will either turn them, eventually, into a monster or the perfect human specimen? It’s such a responsibility – and how the hell do you know whether you’re doing it right? I always thought that if I kept a “stern voice” in reserve for naughty times and spoke in a relatively nice voice the rest of the time, I’d have the whole discipline thing down. Turns out it’s slightly more complicated than that because a) toddlers don’t give a sh*t what you say and b) you end up using “stern voice” loads, for really insignificant things, so it never has any impact anyway.

Hey ho. I shall merely continue to self-flagellate about it and muddle along as I have been doing. Potty training is going well, with no accidents, touch wood. Angelica likes to shout “poo” very loudly when she needs to be taken to the toilet which is great when people are trying to eat their breakfasts at the holiday buffet! She’s an absolute card, if I’m honest – I never thought a toddler would make me laugh so much. She’s been under the weather for a while (they both had a virus and then a sickness bug) so I’m not sure whether the moodiness is related. The rest of the time, it’s role-playing galore and lots of strange dance moves across the kitchen floor…

Baby

Ted has really started to become a little person of his own this month. I probably say that every month, but such is the joy of watching children grow – every month feels so brand new and like such a huge developmental leap. He has an excellent, very cheeky sense of humour and is very sweet  – he gives the best cuddles, really snuggling in if you pick him up and running over to grab your legs if you come into the room after a stint out of sight.

He copies absolutely everything Angelica does and looks at her in a besotted sort of way, his eyes glazing over yet still watchful, picking up on how she holds her spoon or bangs down her cup or – annoyingly – feeds crumbs of food to the dog at the table. Talking of tables; the BabyBjorn highchair has finally been outgrown – Ted is just too chunky for it, really, and throws himself about so much that I worry he’ll tip it over. So it’s going up to the shed to await another baby. Not my baby, I don’t think (NO MORE! says husband) but there’s always someone in the family and friends circle with a new baby and it’s nice to be able to recycle these things. Like the Snuzpod, which is currently serving its fourth newborn…

the uphill toddler and baby update

Ted careers about like a drunken lunatic now that he’s properly walking. He runs about with things in his hands – always has to be holding something – and doesn’t stop until he bumps into an obstacle at which point he usually ricochets off and hits the deck. It’s a constant test of my nerves, which are already completely shot because of my general health and safety obsession and overactive imagination. I honestly don’t know how parents survive once their children leave the house without them to do things like cycling and tree-climbing and driving and gap years in foreign countries and scuba diving and so on. I’m going to be an absolute wreck.

Anyway, a long time until gap years, thankfully, because as much as these early stages seem to be a constant cycle of iPad bribery, temperature-checking, Calpol-administering, sleepless nights and begging small people to eat just one piece of the ham, they are utterly brilliant. I mean I enjoy them through a veil of tiredness and often I feel physically sick with frustration or worry or knackeredness, but the peaks and troughs are intense in an invigorating sort of way rather than a “let me off the rollercoaster” kind of way. Which brings me neatly onto…

Me

Ah yes, c’est moi. Just sitting here at 9pm typing away in my office having just managed to put Ted to sleep (90 minutes tonight, he’s not been well so we’re out of routine), contemplating having a Mint Magnum for the first time in weeks. Weeks I tell you! That’s not to say that my general healthy eating plan is going well – this morning I had four crumpets for breakfast, on Monday I had a Creme Egg for my dinner followed by a piece of toast and butter. It was a new low. I really want to get healthy though – I did a video on my other channel (see! all the things that get missed with the websites being separate!) about the parts of my life I’m making an effort to change. You can watch that here. It sort of sums up how I’m feeling about everything, including diet and work and day-to-day life…

That’s all for now – let me know what you think about websites, tantrums and parenting rollercoasters!

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Angelica’s appetite for pretending to be other people (or making other people pretend to be other people) knows no bounds. It began with a weird Peter Rabbit/Mr McGregor role-play that I was repeatedly forced into but has steadily escalated, with new characters added daily until we reached the point I find myself at today, which is surely the amateur dramatics climax. I know around seventeen hundred different voices, can make a very convincing stew out of invisible ingredients and can, on demand, drop into an Oscar-worthy impression of an old wizard or a lonely giraffe. I’m like a role-play expert. We do so much role-playing that I’m not sure who I even am anymore.

“You be McGregor!” says Angelica, who should never have been given free reign with the bloody Beatrix Potter collector’s book set in the first place. Most of the stories are warped. “Mummy,” she says, getting frustrated even after the world’s shortest pause, “YOU BE GREGOR!”

If I don’t snap into character within a second or two, all hell breaks loose. Especially if Angelica has herself already morphed into Peter which – I should point out – takes a lot less energy than my own change into a convincing, evil Mr McGregor. Angelica merely stoops slightly to indicate a non-human sort of stance and then waits with a manic look on her face waiting for me to chase her.

“YOU BE MCGREGOR!” she shouts, “YOU CHASE ME!”

For some reason I adopt a Scottish accent when I become Mr McG, but it’s soon lost amidst my energetic roaring and the clomping of my boots as I gallop around and around on the wooden living room floor. (Good God, roll on the day when we cover the whole bloody thing in carpet. It’s dusty, noisy and draughty and I wince every time one of them falls over on it. If there’s an underlay that feels like the stuff they put into play parks as flooring, I’ll have that.)

“Did you eat all my radishes?” I growl.

“Yes, McGregor!” says Angelica, unable to disguise her sense of absolute glee. “And cucumberererers, and cherry tomatoes and lettuce!”

“My cucumbererererers?” Sometimes I roar so convincingly that Angelica jumps, which is actually satisfying, though I probably shouldn’t admit it. Not that she ever gets properly scared – even when I think I’ve riled her, and I’m about to catch her with my garden net and put her in Mrs McGregor’s pie, she’s never really fully engaged with the fantasy.

“So!” I bellow. “I have you in my net! Your Mummy rabbit told you never to go in Mr McGregor’s garden, yet here you are, plump with my carrots! Filled with my lettuces! My prize tomatoes are in your tummy, the radishes I toiled over are nibbled and ruined, the apples are spoilt, the cucumbers are all but destroyed!”

“Yeah,” says Angelica/Peter, casual as you like; “sorry about that.”

It’s not just Mr McGregor, either – I have to be witches (“You be witch, Mummy. You be witch – argh!”), wizards, a dragon called Monkey, a monkey called Doodle, a horse, a pig, a woman whose house is a squash and a squeeze. You be Frozen, Mummy, you be Dora. Be Backpack, be Llama, be a sneaky fox!

I’m beginning to perfect the art of mime and modern dance, slinking into various characters with all of the pizazz and smooth flourish of a Covent Garden street performer. With a dramatic grimace and a theatrical wave of the arms, I become the Shape Bandit, stealing spots from the bedsheets and triangles from the ceiling joists and throwing them into my invisible shape belt. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it.

Perhaps the most taxing type of role-play, though, is being asked to play someone real, someone you know. The favourite at the moment is Grandad.

“You be Grandad, Mummy!”

Now you have to be really careful when you do an impression of a real-life person. I mean, which characteristics do you draw upon? And if you simply make things up, because you’re tired (the lazy characterisation), are you unwittingly creating a whole new persona for someone which will then be really confusing for the child when they next meet them?

Luckily Grandad has many good, solid characteristics to mimic, including a distinct, melodic voice (he’s from Liverpool and so I like to just say words like “duck” (dooock!) and “book” (boooock!) a lot – I told you it’s lazy) and vast amounts of white, cloud-like hair. The sorts of things that small children easily recognise.

So Grandad is a very popular role-play request, not least because he takes Angelica around the (living room) garden and shows her the (armchair) elephant topiary hedge. It only gets weird when Angelica starts to tell Grandad off, mainly for not taking her to see Granny (where the hell do we conjure up Granny from?!) and then I lose track of who I am and what on earth is happening.

Oh, it’s all good fun. It does make me giggle. The only time that it wasn’t so funny was when we were out at the shops and Angelica suddenly decided to be Peter rabbit, with a terrified look on her face, but showing no other real indication that she was, in fact, pretending to be a rabbit.

“Oh, don’t cut me with the knife,” she begged. “Oh please! Oh please don’t cut me!” I tried to shush her without attracting any more attention to us. “Oh please, don’t hurt me! Don’t kick me with boots!” Luckily after a few seconds, she then came out with “don’t put me in the pie!” and I think at that point most of the dozen or so spectators, who I’m sure were all standing there looking horrified, were satisfied that I wasn’t some sort of psychotic killer. But who knows. I’ll look out for my face on Crimewatch
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parenting update

I think, for the first time, my self-imposed monthly update deadline may have beaten me. I do not have a single ounce of energy to type up my thoughts or think of witty things to say about poo (or the fact that the other day I got poo all over my tracksuit bottoms, which is a disaster in this house because I only have one pair of tracksuit bottoms that fit and if I have to wear actual clothes, ones that I could go out in public in, it takes me about eight hours to find something decent) and I have no brain space to remember baby milestones or quirky little things that Angelica has said over the past few weeks.

In short, I have failed you.

Rather melodramatic, that statement, but it’s annoying that for almost three years I’ve managed to give you a run-down of the previous month, warts and all, and now I’m about to let myself down….

…but wait! With all of this waffling, I could have written the update by now! Let’s give it a try, shall we? I’m going to summon up every molecule of energy available (just eaten a whole bar of white chocolate, so that should help things along) and whizz through some important facts. Then at least you have the bare bones of the Month of March and we can flesh things out a bit when I have some more time…

On the whole time thing; I thought that as the babies got older, I’d have more time. “They’ll play together!” I thought, “on their own!” “I’ll just need to peep at them every few minutes to make sure they haven’t started eating the dog food or poking things into the plug sockets or colouring in the kitchen units with the black marker pen. If I just keep half an eye on them, everything will be fine.”

Not true. It’s like trying to look after two very drunk people who very definitely want a kebab and will not get on the bus but can’t find their purse or stand up straight and might very well puke on the glass-fronted counter. Anyway, lots of fun but there is no way in hell that you can get any work done whilst looking after a toddler and a baby. Or a toddler and a toddler. Because now Ted is on the move, which is a whole new world of constant danger…

Toddler

Angelica’s favourite things of the month: “big girl knickers” (she’s pretty much 100% toilet trained, if that’s the right phrase, and is dry at night – I just need to be brave and take the nappy off once and for all!), Peter Rabbit (the obsession with Peter Rabbit and Mr McGregor continues – she went to the cinema to see the new film but it cut off half way through), running (on the world’s most slippery wooden floor – roll on carpeting day), storytime (anything and everything) and Hippo. Hippo is a nightlight that she has at the end of her cot; he glows different colours and then, annoyingly, every five minutes he turns off. Which means that we have to run up the stairs about fifty times a night turning him back on again. “MUMMY! DADDY! Hippo gone off!” A sane woman would just buy another nightlight, one that stays on…

Baby

Ted is walking – running, actually. He went from crawling to cruising to walking in the space of about eight seconds and now can be found quite literally hurtling himself up and down the living room, usually holding something dangerous such as a fork or the rod from the dog toy or a twig that’s fallen down the chimney. (Bloody birds.) He is also saying Mama, Dada, RAAAAH! (if you say “be a dinosaur!”) and Row Row. (Row Row being famous lyrics from the well-known song Row Row Row Your Boat. A mind-numbing song if ever there was one. Although great for bastardising with mildly inappropriate alternative versions. I’ll write them down for you one day.)

Me

Ugh. No energy, no brain space, no emotional space – I need a holiday. Just some sun. Somewhere with a kids’ club. Is 14 months too young for an hour or so in a kids’ club? Do we trust kids’ clubs? I have to admit that I find the idea of them faintly horrifying, only because I have a thing about a) leaving babies alone with people I haven’t met at least nine billion times and b) being abroad. I worry about ice cubes abroad, about health and safety abroad, about sharks, jelly fish, spiders and sand creatures abroad. In short, despite being incredibly well-travelled and very open-minded, I am a terrible worrier when it comes to holidays. Abroad. Add two kids into the mix and it could well end up being less of a holiday, more of an exercise in extreme stress-testing. Discuss…

UPDATE: er, just realised that I wrote a whole update post anyway. Despite spending ten minutes telling you how I didn’t have the time. What a berk. I should just get on with the matter in hand instead of making excuses. Anyway, my Monthly Update Record remains untarnished for now. Ta-ta until next time…

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sports games for toddlers

These sports markers give me such horrendous PE flashbacks; the gym teacher (Miss Lawton) barking instructions at us as we stood shivering in the cold, watching her jog along in her shell suit, throwing the coloured markers down on the grass as she went.

“GIRLS! This will be your star-jumping route – the GREEN markers are for five consecutive star-jumps, the yellow markers are for twenty-thousand consecutive star-jumps!”

Or something like that.

sports games for toddlers

Anyway, these hideous and relatively inexpensive plastic markers turn out to be quite the star purchase. Despite giving me a mild form of post traumatic stress disorder, I have been using them multiple times a week to help burn off some of Angelica’s energy when it’s too cold to go outside. She loves a running game or a jumping game or a chasing game or all the sorts of games that make me want to wee myself (seem to have a pelvic floor issue developing, that’s another story!) but all of these activities are made far more fun by the introduction of the plastic markers.

Chase game becomes “chase through the maze” when we do wiggly lines of markers, races are much more interesting when you have to stop in the “magic blue circle” to do a series of leg stretches before being allowed to continue. Jumping over alternate white and red markers is much more engaging (and probably educational) than merely…jumping.

sports games for toddlers

Look, there’s nothing particularly special about this stack of plastic cone-ish things (I mean, they’re not even actual cones! Just discs with holes in them!) but they do elevate simple energetic running games to another level. We’ve had race tracks in the living room, jumping courses in the snow and a long, wiggly worm of markers that was just a pointless, long, wiggly worm of markers. But it killed some time and burnt some energy! Which is basically my everyday motto. Haha.

I bought my markers from Amazon, can’t see the exact ones but these here* look pretty good. 50 markers, which is plenty to be going on with, and £13.98 which isn’t too shabby…

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parenting highs and lows vlog

I’ll keep the intro short here, because it’s a chatty video below and I don’t want to end up just typing out a sort of inaccurate, truncated transcript. So without further ado: things I’ve struggled with this month and things that have lifted my spirits. The Parenting Highs and Lows for February 2018.

 

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toddler and baby update

I must stop writing these updates at the last minute – although, why change what is now such an established habit? I think that the majority of the monthly updates I’ve written (and I’ve done one a month, without fail, since July 2015) have been hurriedly typed at a minute to midnight, cold sweat trickling down my back and my fingers flying furiously over the laptop keyboard. Tonight I have started at nine pm, but only because I want to finish a Netflix series I’m watching (Manhunt: UniBomber, or something) and I can’t fully relax knowing this needs to be done!

Actually I started at eight, but I got distracted listening to John Martyn songs on Youtube. I had never (shamefully) heard of John Martyn, but my Dad died recently and both my sister and uncle were saying how eternally grateful they would be that my Dad had introduced them to him. This song in particular has had me in floods of tears – isn’t music such a powerful thing?

And so my Dad has gone – although the coroner has been very slow so we’ve had no funeral yet – but life otherwise has strangely and sadly and slowly been moving on without him. Babies have been growing up, snow has been bringing the country to a halt and we have been on the same wheel of breakfast-lunch-nap-Sainsburys-playtime-Frozen-dinner-Magnum-Netflix-bed that we’ve been on for months. I have the odd debilitating stab of grief, but have been trying to keep it deep down for the moment, until I can say a proper goodbye and allow my heart to – probably completely – break.

But enough of sadness for now. What has been going on in the (totally oblivious to grief) lives of little Angelica and Ted? I’ll tell you!

toddler update

Toddler

Angelica (2 years and 8 months) has taken to demanding we act out little roles all day. I’m going to write a separate post on this, but the demands on my theatrical skills are both relentless and unrealistic. “Be wizard! Be dragon! Be Mr Tumble! Be DADDY!” The characters I am forced to play are often quite abstract – “BE PROPELLER!” – but it keeps me on my toes.

The other thing that Angelica has started to do, which requires far less of me, is sing songs. She likes Wind the Bobbin UpRow Row Row Your Boat and Let It Go from Frozen, which we have to watch on a daily basis. (“Be Sven! Be Elsa! Be Olaf! BE ICICLE MUMMY!”) I love listening to her monitor crackle on when she’s in bed and knowing that she’s having a little sing-song to herself – she’s quite tuneful really, although she gets a bit shy when I ask her to sing for someone else. God, I’m a pushy Mum! I’m one of those mums I used to hate! “Darling, do the song from Annie for our guests. Go on! No, do it properly – you’re not hitting the high notes!”

On the down side, Angelica has had a terrible little skin rash that won’t go away. It’s pretty much all over, so I think it’s either dermatitis or eczema, but the nurse at the GP’s didn’t know and wouldn’t refer to a dermatologist or even a doctor (“all kids get something and it’s not infected”) so we’ve had to try and eliminate possible causes one by one until the private dermatologist appointment. So far, we’ve changed washing detergent to Surcare, cut out all cow’s milk products including yoghurt, cheese and milk (swapped for goat’s), cut out tomatoes, cut out potatoes and now we’re going to see if it might be citrus fruit. It’s both frustrating and boring, not least for Angelica who has been slathered in a load of different creams (Cerave seems to be the best so far – better than the one given by the nurse at any rate) and deprived of her favourite pasta sauce! But not long to go until the appointment, so hopefully we’ll know more then.

Potty training is almost complete (she says!); we changed Angelica from nappies to “big girl knickers” and she has done quite well for the past three days, with only three accidents. The first accident she hid in the shower for, which I was rather pleased about! Very convenient. No poo accidents, just wees so I do think we’re almost there. To be honest, we should have made the leap to knickers around six months ago, but what with moving and everything, there just never seemed a good time. I have to say that the Bumbo potty has been absolutely brilliant – the seat that swaps from potty to toilet is so foamy and cushiony, and the base of the potty becomes a step for the toddler to climb onto the toilet. Very clever. You can find it online here – it’s £39.99, which is pricey for a potty, but the step is excellent so you can use it for years and years.

baby and toddler update

Oh, one more thing before Ted – Angelica has suddenly become very interested and loving towards Baby Ted. I think because he can react and interact, he has become an adequate plaything. He copies her, coos at her and (much to her annoyance) destroys her brick towers just when she’s built them. Ted sometimes seems a little wary of Angelica’s ever-growing enthusiasm towards him. Sometimes she grabs his cheeks in both hands, grits her teeth and says “AAAHHHH TED! TEDDY! I love you Teddy!” I wonder who she’s copying? Ha.

baby thirteen months update

Baby

Apart from trying to escape Angelica’s love demonstrations, Ted (thirteen months today) has had a very busy month of almost-walking and tipping over the dog’s water bowl. My husband can’t fathom how I can be next to the dog’s bowl for thirty seconds and not anticipate the fact that Ted is 100% going to put his hand in and tip it over, but he obviously hasn’t been sleep-deprived for 48 hours before. (It was work stuff, not babies waking up, but still! I was like a zombie.)

Ted is walking very strongly with just a little support on one side. He absolutely hurtles along! Solid little chap and such an absolute joy to be with. He has started to mimic loads of the things I do, which he carries out with a wry smile, making me thing he’s totally taking the piss. “Nonononono” he goes, shaking his head from side to side, and he does this after doing something naughty before I’ve even said anything! Cheeky monkey. Weirdly, because he can’t actually walk by himself yet let alone perform complicated dance moves, he knows every part of the Hokey Cokey, including knees bend, arm stretch and Rah Rah Rah! He actually pulls me along backwards and forwards and his “turn around” spin is something to behold.

He’s not so keen on Frozen, but I’m pretty sure he knows all of the words inside his head. Oh – I’m sure he said Mama the other day too. I had to provoke him (four hours, straight-backed chair, etc) (haha) but the sounds were there. Dada is well-established. Hahahahah is his favourite, along with Aaaaaa-tchoo and Quack Quack. He’s a terror though, compared to how Angelica was – always into everything, poking about in holes and putting things in his mouth and falling over constantly. The other day I opened his mouth in the garden and he was sucking on a big stone! He was in the pram!!! It’s as though dangerous objects gravitate towards him – maybe he has telepathic powers. Is it telepathic? The one where you can move objects. God, I’d make great use of that power. Power: fetch me a Magnum from the freezer! And some wine, whilst you’re at it.

toddler update blog

Me

Oh, don’t you worry about me. I’ll be alright. I never know what to say in this section – originally I included it to keep track of my breasts when I was breastfeeding, or my postpartum body changes, or general ups and downs I was feeling. But it seems so self-indulgent and I always feel a little embarrassed to harp on. After all, I honestly do feel like the luckiest person alive. Despite the recent loss, which weighs heavily in the back of my mind almost constantly. In a way, losing my Dad has made me feel braver about the world, but at the same time I have a dread, a horrifying dread, about the fact that life is so fragile, and the life that you build around yourself can be changed with a single tick of the clock. That has made me massively anxious and jumpy but – strangely – I also feel calm at the same time. That change is inevitable and there is very little you can do about it. You just have to set your course in life and hope for the best, love the people around you as much as you can possibly manage and appreciate each and every day as it comes.

Over and out, friends, for another month.

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work life balance

I’ve banged on about this countless times on various social media platforms, but the months at the end of 2017 were absolute chaos for me. We relocated to Somerset, moving house twice, Baby Ted wasn’t sleeping and my work life ground to a halt.

In actual fact it didn’t grind to a halt; I continued at almost full pace until a few days before Christmas, but then decided to calm it down for a few weeks because I simply couldn’t do everything I needed to do. But it felt as though things ground to a halt. And I was weepy, felt poorly, felt constantly guilty or useless; the house was filled with boxes, it wouldn’t stop raining and generally being cold and miserable and the world felt completely out of my grasp.

work life balance

But I made three key changes – which were actually quite difficult or time-consuming, in their various ways – and, just like that, order was re-established. Pockets of time fell into my lap as though by magic; nights of (mostly) uninterrupted sleep left me feeling twenty years younger. I began to have an interest in socialising again, in eating more healthily (though this is currently on a backburner due to my ongoing Mint Choc Magnum addiction) and in working in a more fruitful and rewarding way, rather than just panicking to get things done.

Here are the changes that put my life back on an even keel. They seem obvious, but I’m going to write about them nevertheless!

Getting Proper Childcare

If you have to work, or want to work, and you need to do this from home then I’d say that it’s almost essential – both for productivity and your own sanity – to get some form of childcare going. We had a wonderful nanny for Angelica from when she turned one until when we left our old house. We had her for two days a week and it gave me quite a substantial block of time in which to get my work done. (I mean, not enough time, but this is the kind of job that could take up as much time as you can throw at it. I used to, pre-babies, post every day on my beauty website and produced two videos a week as well as creating brand content. Had there been more hours in the day, I would have soaked them up into my work life too. I was insatiable! But there has to be a limit, doesn’t there?)

Anyway, I think that having proper childcare where you don’t have to engage with your children at all and can completely immerse yourself in work is essential if you work from home. I quickly found, sans-nanny, that I was just panic working whenever I possibly could and it wasn’t good for me or for the rest of the family. With a nanny, I can work relentlessly all day without interruption (or work for half of the day and use the other half to sleep and browse stupid things on Youtube. Do NOT tell anyone that) and for that time, at least, I feel on top of things. And the childcare doesn’t have to be in the form of a nanny – I have one because I like that the babies are still at home and I can vaguely hear their chattering through the floors! – it might work better if they are at a nursery and you have a completely empty house. Whatever floats your boat.

work life balance

It’s a bit of a step, a bit of a wrench if you’ve never let your cherub/s out of your sight before, but it’s so, so worthwhile if you feel as though you’re drowning in guilt every time you open your laptop, or if you have a burning determination to do something amazingly entrepreneurial but can’t summon up the energy in the evenings, after bathtime and protracted bedtime story sessions have been completed. I’d hazard a guess that finding a nanny is more time-consuming than finding a nursery – it seems pretty easy to book in a viewing at a nursery, though many have waiting lists – but if you use an agency (I used one called Tinies, twice) then a lot of the hard work is done for you. It’s more expensive, but usually the nannies have already been sussed out for their qualifications and certificates and a good agency will whittle down a list to the ones that are really most suitable for you. If anyone’s interested I can do a separate post on nanny-finding and some of the pitfalls – let me know.

But on to the second (hugely rewarding!) change I made, which was…

Getting Some Sleep

I’ve written at length about our sleep problems – you can read the main posts using the links here:

How I’m Getting My Baby To Sleep Through The Night

The Baby Sleep Situation

It took us being absolutely driven into the ground with tiredness for us to make definitive, positive steps towards getting Baby Ted to sleep through the night, and I think you know when you’ve reached that point. Probably the trick is to start addressing sleep problems before you get to that stage – I mentioned in one post how so many of us are too tired to take a step back from our situation and realise how utterly absurd it is, how crazy the habits are that we’re allowing to form. If you’re knackered and you have an older baby that doesn’t sleep, I’d urge you to take a pencil and piece of paper and (now!) write down a few sentences about what happens during the night. Summarise it for yourself. Sometimes reading something in black and white can give you the nudge you need to make changes or identify what it is that is so glaringly wrong.

I met a wonderful woman the other week who specialises in sleep problems – I’m going to try and nab her to answer a few important baby sleep questions, so if you’re interested in asking anything, leave a comment below!

Anyway, getting some sleep has completely changed our family life around. I no longer want to kill my husband, which has to be a good thing, and he no longer looks at me with the same worn, empty expression he had been using for quite some time. We were like zombies. I felt as though I had lost all grasp on reality. Sleep deprivation is monstrous – recognise it, address it, don’t let it carry on without at least trying to fix it.

work life balance

Easing Up On iPhone Usage

I am going to write far more about this, because it’s a hot topic at the moment, but I’ve really eased up on my iPhone usage. It was almost an addiction. And most of the time, when I was scrolling through Instagram or reading someone’s comment thread on Twitter, it was completely and utterly pointless. Hours and hours lost to the black hole of social media – not the useful news and information social media, or the nice catching-up-with-friends social media, but the sort of social media that sees you trawling through the wedding photos of a person you have never met but that popped up on the Instagram home page. Or following a trail of usernames through Twitter to see why such-and-such left an aggressive comment on so-and-so’s blog post that was published back in 2014 but may have contained a sentence that dissed such-and-such’s makeup range. Good God, stop it. It’s worse than watching daytime TV.

I read a really good article by Sali Hughes on The Pool (here) about breaking up with your phone. I then bought the book she recommended* and re-organised my iPhone apps so that my most-used time-wasters weren’t immediately accessible. I then turned off my email notifications so that I wouldn’t get the little red number flag popping up on my home screen every time I had a new email (which is approximately once every ten seconds and I’m not even joking) and all of these things, done together, have cut my iPhone usage by around half. Perhaps more. I’ve stopped idly scrolling when I should be pretending to be an evil wizard with Angelica, and when I watch TV in the evenings I do so with all of my attention rather than a quarter of it. (The other three quarters concentrating on Instagram Stories, which I find absolutely riveting.)

So three steps to re-ordering my chaotic life – freeing up time, regaining my sanity and developing good habits. What would you say have been your own biggest changes when life has become too crazy to handle?

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baby blog nappy changing tips

This is my third and final post with Huggies Pure Wipes and I wanted to talk about how nappy-changing time can be one of the most important times of the day in terms of connecting with your baby and having a bit of fun. If you have an absolutely jam-packed schedule of child-watching and food-cooking and house-keeping and admin-doing and all of the other stuff that we typically have to squeeze into the waking hours, you can sometimes forget to stop and stare at your baby. Really look at them and engage. I don’t mean to say that if we’re busy we neglect them the rest of the time, but nappy-changing means that we are really close to them and, unless they’re wriggling off the mat every two seconds (Ted) or flipping over onto their fronts (also Ted) we get to look at them straight in the eyes. One on one. Hello baby!

baby blog nappy changing tips

Instead of just rushing through the nappy-changing process, here’s what I try to do to have a bit of time out and make it more fun. Because Ted hates having his nappy changed, up until the point that I put the new nappy on and start doing his vest poppers back up! The only time he laughs during changing is if he wees on me and I scream, so I try to do the following things to keep it enjoyable. Usually after the dirty nappy has been removed and the new one has been done up, to spare me from the aforementioned wee incidents.

baby blog nappy changing tips

Play “This Little Piggy” with his toes. Ted has just about started to enjoy the piggy-toe thing. Angelica never got it and won’t let me do it now, but Ted has a good giggle when the piggy goes to market, or stays at home, or has roast beef. Can I raise an objection to this game, though? NONE does not rhyme with HOME. I don’t know whether it’s supposed to, but it sounds as though it should, and the fact that it doesn’t bothers me a lot. This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at HOME. This little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had NONE. Every time I do it, I want to rhyme none with home – sort of like knownThis little piggy had no-wun. It annoys me every time. I need to get out more.

baby blog nappy changing tips

Improve his co-ordination via potentially frustrating means. I used to like to place objects around Ted’s person so that he had to turn to get them, or dangle them above so that he had to reach up – it kept him occupied for minutes on end, which was useful if it was a particularly bad nappy. Now that he’s on the move, I definitely don’t want him twisting about to reach things so I dangle them above and let him keep them (ie gnaw on them violently before bashing himself in the face with them) which buys me a bit of time when I’m performing the potentially hazardous old-nappy-out-new-nappy-under manoeuvre. Quite often he’s happy with the wipes packet, because he likes to rustle the plastic and it’s a good chunky size, but I keep things fresh with various spur-of-the-moment accessories. A slipper. A clean nappy. The handle from a wardrobe that is missing its handle (oh that’s where it went).

baby blog nappy changing tips

Do long-hair Peekaboo. You don’t actually need long hair to do this, you just need enough of it to form a face-veiling curtain when you drop your head down. The hair hides your face and then you pull your head up straight and – Peekaboo! Oh God. I saw myself in the mirror doing this and I realised that I look really freaky when I do it – a bit like the girl climbing out of the well in The Ring. Especially if I’ve just washed my hair. Poor Ted. I need to smile more when I do Peekaboo, otherwise it’s all a bit sinister, isn’t it?

In all seriousness, it’s a good time to do little games when they are lying prone on the mat. Perhaps not once they are older babies, because they just want to get crawling or rolling or whatever crazy movement it is they have mastered, but for newborns and young babies it’s a lovely time to have a little tickle and sing stupid songs. (“Look at your poo-poo, look it’s so brown; look at your poo-poo, let’s flush it down!” That’s one I do especially for Angelica, but I have more. Lyrics available on request.)

baby blog nappy changing tips

It’s also a good time, at any baby stage, to give them a good check over and make sure that the skin in the nappy area is well cared-for. I mentioned some of my most-used baby products in the second post with Huggies Pure Wipes, including some brilliant nappy creams, but the choice of wipe itself is also really important. This whole post series came about after discussing with Huggies the idea of caring for the skin with wipes, not just cleansing it – making sure that the wipe is soft and gentle. After all, if you’re using wipes then it’s multiple times a day and you want to make sure that they are kind to babies’ skin. Huggies Pure Wipes are made with 99% water and with natural absorbent fibres** – they’re also free from parabens, phenoxyethanol and perfume and can be used on newborns from day one.

So a gentle wipe and a lovely cream to keep the skin protected (I use Weleda Calendula, see the second post) and a check over the creases and bits and bobs to make sure that everything is dry and fresh and there’s no redness or soreness. It’s like a mini Baby Body MOT. And that’s my little routine!

baby blog nappy changing tips

What do you do during nappy-changing? Are you a rush-through-it-as-fast-as-possible sort of person, or do you take your time, staring into their lovely little eyes as you do up all of the poppers on the sleepsuit the wrong way and then curse when you have to start all over again? Do you sit there, slowly caressing their little legs as you try not to fall into an exhausted stupor, or do you have everything done within thirty seconds, nappy changed with almost military precision? Tell me. Along with more poo anecdotes, because I greatly enjoyed those last time, thanks.

**65% pulp.

 

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cosy babies

Just a quick post: some higher-tog sleepsuits for those with f-f-f-f-freezing houses. (To be fair, it’s not that bad now that we’ve worked out the heating, but it still gets a little bit nippy in the small hours!) Most babies and toddlers are just fine in the 2.0 tog sleeping bags in winter, especially with a sleepsuit and vest or whatever beneath, but if your room temperature is hovering down at the 14/15 degrees mark overnight then you might be interested in something a little more substantial.

warmer sleepsuits higher tog

If you’re not au fait with the baby sleeping bag, then let me introduce you: it’s basically a sleeping bag that fastens at the shoulder and that usually keeps the arms free to allow good heat circulation. The idea is that it replaces blankets and is more convenient – it can’t slip off, be kicked off, and a baby can’t slip down into it. I’ve used them with both babies from around two or three months (I was later with Angelica because she was born into a heatwave) and before that age, just tucked cellular blankets around them.

Anyway, I couldn’t be without sleeping bags – I’m not sure I’ve talked about them before but they are definitely one of my non-negotiable essentials. I have two per baby/toddler, though Ted has inherited a few from Angelica to add to his future stocks! If you’re unsure about what the baby should wear beneath the bag, Gro have a really helpful guide on their website here – I always think that these guides err on the cool side, in that I would probably have an extra layer on, personally, but there we go. The rule is supposedly that the baby should have on one more layer than you do, and at 18 degrees I’d be wearing a bloody tracksuit, woolly hat and gloves under the duvet, but perhaps that’s just me!

baby sleep tips

The first sleeping bag we’ve been testing is the 3.5 tog Baby Cosy Sleeping Bag from Jojo Maman Bebe* and it’s basically the Michelin Man of wearable duvets. Ted is about three times his usual width when I put him inside it, but I love it for the detachable arms (unusual to have arms, most don’t) and the soft, bouncy feel of the padding. For smaller babies, this could be a great sleepsuit for popping them into if you’re going to be taking them out in a pram in the cold, especially if you don’t want to invest in a separate snowsuit. It’s quite an outlay if you’re only going to use one of those padded suits a few times, and small babies grow so fast – if you’re at the tail-end of winter and don’t think you’ll get a lot of use out of a dedicated snowsuit then a higher tog sleeping bag could be a nice option. This one is £35 here* – biggest selling point is definitely the detachable arms, but it’s great quality and comes in a few different colourways and patterns. Magnifique!

3.5 tog grobag

Angelica has been sleeping in the 3.5 tog Twinkle Twinkle Grobag and it has kept her toasty warm even when we’ve had those quite vicious, stormy cold spells. I wish we’d had it when we went “glamping” last year  and it rained solidly (still emotionally scarred) – so much easier than layering up blankets, especially with a wriggly toddler! This one has a plush, velvety feel and comes in a few different sizes – it’s £45 here*.

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This is where I’m supposed to write “how time flies!” “I can’t believe Ted is a year old already!” or “it seems like only yesterday that Ted was a tiny newborn wrapped in a little blanket!” But actually, the past year has felt exactly like a year.

Perhaps it’s because so many other things have happened at the same time as having a new baby. We sold our house, had a house purchase fall through, moved over a hundred miles from London-ish to Bath because we had nowhere to live and our friend had his rental house untenanted, found a new house to buy and relocated again to the depths of Somerset. Ted’s first year has taken place against a backdrop of constant house viewings and piles of packing boxes – with Angelica, each little development stage melded into the next before we could even blink, but with Ted, I can remember the first time he smiled (second viewing of the house in Epping Forest), the first time he took a bottle of formula (front bedroom of the rented house in Bath) and the first time he stood unaided (in the living room of our new home). When I think of him as a tiny newborn, I think of some of the crazy journeys we did in the car to go and view houses in Essex, in Suffolk, on the north Norfolk coastline, in Oxfordshire, in Buckinghamshire. What the hell were we doing? How did we end up here?

Ha.

So yes, perhaps the constant stressful activity has meant that the year has gone by at a steadier pace, with a myriad of memories to mark each passing month. Or maybe it’s possible that I was forewarned about the speed at which the first baby year tends to go by and made a conscious decision to savour it more, to really take note of changes and developments. To appreciate every tiny moment, even if that tiny moment was being at the very end of my tether – acknowledging it, committing it to memory.

Whatever, a year has gone by and here I am with a one year old and a two-and-seven-ish-months old. And it’s great fun. I mean exhausting (I had no idea that such a constant feeling of tiredness was something that existed) but on the days that I crave a few hours for myself, I also find myself itching to just have a peek and see what they are both up to. Trying to eat crayons, or making a beeline for the most dangerous electrical wire they’ve managed to sniff out.

This update takes a slightly different format to usual because I’m off out to dinner! We’ve had a little mini party for Ted with cake and grandparents (they were attending, we didn’t eat them) and now we are going to be all social with adult people which – quite frankly – terrifies me. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve forgotten how to effectively communicate with people my own age. I say stupid, inappropriate things at the wrong time but then after stressing about it and having those dark, paranoid moments, I realise that they probably weren’t stupid or inappropriate at all and that it’s likely nobody was listening to me anyway.

So yes, we’re off out and there may be wine, so I’m not banking on being able to write this later. I also feel as though I’ve covered quite a lot of what would have been in this update in my sleep posts (find them here and here) and as some of my Angelica updates are in upcoming posts, you’re not missing anything if I just show you – brace yourselves – a pictorial representation of the past twelve months.

This time exactly a year ago I was in absolute agony after my c-section (I vommed straight after my stitches had been done and it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced – you can read my birth story here) but I had the most beautiful brand new baby beside me. (Honestly, I was so drugged up I could barely recognise my baby, but you’re not supposed to say that are you? Ha.) Here’s how he’s grown into a solid, cheeky little one year old – with some photos of Angelica thrown in for good measure! (She can have a mammoth photo post in June, when she’s three.)

My Birth Story: Elective C-Section

newborn baby sleeping

newborn baby asleep

newborn baby

newborn and toddler

ruth crilly and family

Toddler, Baby and Me: The Four Month Update

ruth crilly baby blog the uphill

toddler baby 5 month update

breastfeeding multitasking

toddler and baby update diary

7 month baby update

7 month baby update

baby blog development diary

fisher price jumperoo review

christy junior infinity and beyond

toddler and 9 month baby blog

baby and toddler update

toddler and baby development diary

vicks babyrub for babies

Well that’s the longest page I’ve ever produced on here! Well done if you made it to the bottom. See you in the next update…

 

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