Balls (and the juggling thereof)

Given my lack of blogging recently, you might fairly assume that I have gone into hibernation, like an old hedgehog, OR perhaps that my embarrassing parenting anecdotes have run dry. Mais non! ‘Edgehoggin I am not (I wish). I continue to embarrass myself and my family on a frequent basis. The only thing that’s run dry is my energy. I’m struggling with time management. Really struggling. It turns out that the juggling of deux children, busy job, a marriage, a relatively new home, family, friends and “other” (blogging) is actually quite the challenge (*imagine “challenge” pronounced in a dramatic french accent*).

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I’m not exactly sure what it is about having two little people as opposed to “just” one that makes daily life 359% more complicated, clearly the maths do not stack up, but it’s a parenting truth.

One —> two does not equal double the work. It equals there is no end to the work.

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The ball juggling skills required are next level magician standard. Quite often you are required to juggle with one hand behind your back, because one of the parenting duo arms are out of action (at work/ at social event/ hiding in toilet… not mentioning any names…). Or, you’re challenged in some other way like being exhausted, or hangry, or both of the above in a cafe with irritable children and you realise your wallet is not where you had hoped…

The balls you are juggling aren’t those cool squishy beany clown ones that bounce back if you accidentally drop one, they are fragile like eggs (smash eggs in shopping whilst trying to carry and grab Big Bro making a break for freedom), and hard like rocks when they hit you in the head (subjected to various head kicks and other bodily abuse with whichever child failed to find comfort in their own bed so came to occupy ours). The balls you are juggling aren’t easily replaceable (can’t readily replace child or house or car if I fail to protect and maintain them…probably best to lock them up then.)

Like most people, our day starts with getting up. That simple task that once used to mean exiting bed – to shower – to kitchen – to door – to commute – to work, with multiple coffees. patisseries and pleasant perusal of interweb en route. Then with Bebe FF I could just about manage changing and dressing and feeding him before myself and, with the help of Mondeiur FF, getting us all where we needed to be, but now, with two, it feels that little bit more like mission impossible. Unless I’m barking orders (which goes down a treat as you can imagine) the chances of both children having everything done plus the adults being anything close to ready are similar odds to Brexit ever making any sense…. It’s like we’ve got an egg timer above our heads and it’s constantly on “one tiny drop of sand to go! Hurry the F up!”

If I’m not jogging through the shower and putting my pants on whilst applying makeup and managing my hair (whatever that means, usually rubbing it against something to maximise the backcombed, never-washed look) then I am unlikely to leave the house on time. ‘On time’ means at any point. Certainly I won’t have coffee or food, and most likely I will forget some element of the necessary equipment for the day (wallet, keys, eco-friendly repurposed coffee recipient….) And that’s on the days when Monsieur FF does the drop. I know. The days that I drop, I’m lucky to have any semblance of warm clothing on my body and there’s little to no chance of the “nice to haves”. I have that slightly dazed, chaotic appearance about me that means the carers at nursery approach with caution. “Do you need a hand?” they kindly offer as they glance furtively at my dishevelled appearance and the children attached to my legs and arms. YES PLEASE you absolute wonder women and menfolk! I am rubbish at the “drop” because it’s more like a reluctant, slow and painful pulling at a plaster, twice, because I have to drop one child in after the other, and on a bad day we are all just clinging to each other. I truly enjoy my job, but it doesn’t make it any easier to be parted from the kids. I don’t like dropping them off.

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But look how cute they can be!

Short interlude whilst I work and juggle a few more manageable balls: load some washing, identify food required, have a hot hot drink, etc. Strangely, work time can be some of the calmest time of the day, especially when I don’t have to commute; I’m relatively in control, I am achieving small things without it causing me or anyone else to have a meltdown, and when I talk people (sometimes) listen, as opposed to having a loud chorus of “I want AN ICE CREAM” screamed at me whilst I explain how good vegetables are for you. Especially runner beans which make you run fast FYI. Btw you can’t have ice cream when it’s blinking freezing outside?!? I digress.

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When the end of the working day comes, it’s another mad rush to get to the kids before they hit the ‘extremely tired and unreasonable’ stage. For the avoidance of doubt, I’ve not worked out when that starts exactly, but it’s almost always well underway by the time we get home. I make food whilst the kids are playing (even though they’ve already had about 5 meals at nursery) and then watch them both spray it around their clothes, faces and the floor, chairs, and anything else within a 2 m radius, excluding their mouths, before I give up. Inevitably a “big boy cup” of something will by now be splashed across the table. I try to “whizz” around with the handy little Dyson and it immediately gets clogged with pasta. Should I wait for it to solidify?! I clean away, to make it look semi-passable for the rest of the grown up evening (lol!), and as I hoist the children out of their seats *merde* another portion of pasta falls from their laps and onto my semi-clean floor.

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Gimme gimme gimme 

Next is bath time which entails reservoirs of water, eczema-friendly bubbles and enough bath toys to amuse half of the United Kingdom. That’s not to say one doesn’t need to add some more, as Bebette did when she casually took some apple into the bath last night. Pourquoi pas. Of course then Big Bro desperately wanted to play with the apple and none of the other purpose-built jouets.

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Pretty much bathtime every night in our house… 

Big Brother generously offers to wash Bebette’s hair but isn’t so keen on doing his own, so we have a small battle/dance trying to get his hair clean whilst Bebette looks on in amusement, nibbling her bath-apple. Then we’ve got to exit both children, dry, cream, nappy-up, PJJ on and all trying to maintain some level of calm and pre-bed tranquility. One of the two-person gang (if we are fully armed) needs to disappear to locate milk/ water and sucking devices, as well as ensure beds are ready to receive children.  Stories are told, multiple rounds of Burglar Bill, “Grandma wolf”, Tabby McTat, and then a negotiation that any further reading is solo. “Ok but I want the big book Mummy!” Obviously the most ginormous book of vehicles is the final literature of choice before sleep time, and sleep is signalled by the dulcet sound of that huge book hitting the floor. ONE DOWN! Bebette has decided she doesn’t like to go down at the same time as Big Brother; I’m not sure if she’s cottoned on to the fact she gets all the attention in the evening or she genuinely just finds BB to be too noisey but she ain’t got time for bed with him. So she nods off eventually with us downstairs as we continue to attempt to nourish ourselves/ render the floor passable for another 6 hours/ catch up on any work that is outstanding and urgent/ generally not speak to each other or relax.

And this is the hardest of truths: with two small children and two full time jobs, the main thing that suffers is your relationship. The “leisure” time to unwind and politely converse about the highs and lows of the day is gone, for now. There is barking of further orders, refusal to follow orders, frustrated unclogging of Dyson, emptying of bins, cleaning of kitchen area, and then it’s time to hit the sack because otherwise there is a real risk that hours of sleep may total less than one hands’ worth. The absolute minimum for healthy survival is really 6 hours. Of late, with sickness and excitement and any other excuse they can come up with we’ve been receiving nightly visits to our bed. BB can wander in and just clambers over us and adopts a comfortable position such that he can headbutt one of us and kick the other. Bebette starts mewing when she wants to join the party and also has a magic ability to adopt the most bizarre positions to minimise the available space for the “growmops”. Real life:

 

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This matin

We wouldnt have it any other way. Of course. We are so super lucky. But jeezlouise, this is not easy! Mega hi5s to all parents out there, as always my understanding and respect levels of all that our parents have done, and all that those around me have been doing (don’t even go there with multiples) you are absolutely AMAZEBOOBS. Now to keep it up!

Awesome photos by the talented Clare Long Photography 💕

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Bébé blues

Gut-wrenching pangs of belly ache, uncontrollable emotions with unpredicatable smatterings of tears, irrational and snappy…. sound familiar? No, I’m not talking about PMS or your behaviour when you get to the end of your favourite Netflix blowout and run out of chocolate… These are all symptoms of what I like to call the bebe blues. When I say “blues”, this isn’t the day 5, post-partum hormone hit that knocks you for 6 (more like 10). Those early baby blues are a good introduction for what lies ahead. The bebe blues I’m talking about is the feeling you get when you are apart from your bebe(s). The sadness that washes over you in continuous waves. The feeling that there is something that is just not quite right in the moment, that you’ve forgotten something enormous, something as important and huge as your underwear (metaphorically). The feeling that nothing tastes or smells or even looks quite how it should.  Something is missing. I’m not going all Mel C on you, I’m just trying to verbalise something that doesn’t feel good. It is a bit like a terrible form of torture, as if torture wasn’t terrible enough.

Tu me manques literally means you are missing from me. That’s exactly it.

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I hate being away from the kids. I hate it. Anyone that knows me knows I don’t use the ‘H’ word very often. No need. But here it is necessary and appropriate. I didn’t understand these feelings before I had my own kids. I couldn’t comprehend why someone would want to go home and not go out adventuring. They will be there when you get back?! Enjoy! Go wild!! Forget everything! But now I know. Being away means missing them, missing precious moments with them. Home is where you find your family. Your tree (*stickman*). They want to cuddle you and look at you adoringly and tell you what they did on the potty.  It’s making me smile just thinking about it.

Whatever the reason for the separation from your children, and however long the break, I don’t imagine it ever gets any easier. The endless things to worry about and the “what if” scenarios; it truly is hard to turn off the parenting switch. It’s ironic really. For all the time spent wishing for just a single moment of calm, a toilet trip sans audience, a sleep that isn’t abruptly and rudely interrupted with someone declaring they have finished their “dodo”,… when you actually get that moment of peace, all you want in the world is to be back in the thick of the chaos.

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What chaos?!

Boddler and Bebette have had two parental breaks that were entered into knowingly, and one unplanned break each that we battled through back in November last year with the dreaded Bronchiolitis. I have acted blasée about both the occasions I’ve left my children, all smiles and saying of course it’ll be fine and it’ll do them good etc etc. But inside I’m melting. When the time comes to stretch the magical thread-bond that holds us together, the feelings that sweep over me are just overwhelming. The rational part of my brain (if indeed it exists) seems to close down. Anything could happen. My lungs feel like they are shrivelling up and my hearing seems to mute. I actively accepted this, I say to myself, I chose for this to happen. We needed a moment! But I’m still not convinced … I try to find a way out of the situation and back myself into a corner.

Honestly, occasionally I miss the times when it was, selfishly, just me. I was carefree. I didn’t have to miss anyone  and I could just crack on with business. Now, I’m weaker. I wouldn’t change it for the world, of course, but it’s sad, bittersweet, that it is always going to be so hard.

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Bittersweet facial expression goals 

I realise more and more that when you first have a bebe you’re at the optimal point of your bebe attachment – 0-6ish months, you’re connected, like glue, and they are stuck with you, and often to you. Milky and delicious. From that moment forward your whole life is a very, very long and slow pulling at those magical bonds, until your little bundle is eventually ready to fly the nest and then you have to sit back and watch as they grow their wings and (abw) make you proud. What a journey! And a useful reminder that these moments in life, especially in the early days of parenting, are incredibly intense but are also ones that we will look back on in years to come; the moments we could snuggle our babes so tight, and tell them we love them and enjoy their sleepy gazes and fluffy, sweet smelling heads without complaint. The fantastical thing about missing the kids is the moment you get them back in your arms. There is nothing quite like it.

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Never letting go

 

 

 

Bossy

It has been brought to my attention recently that I am bossy. Bossy! Moi? Shut the front door!!

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Boddler learning my facial expressions masterfully.

You are too fricking right I am bossy. I own bossy, and about 20 million pairs of bossy boots to go with it.

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Just as a quick reminder, I am the eldest of four girls; my mum saw fit to add more kids to the mix as a childminder when we were young, so there were literally hundreds of us. She was our boss and I was the (self-appointed) deputy boss (~Dad sensibly mostly took a pew in the quiet corner of the house). Throughout school and university I jumped at any opportunity to lead and to manage; games, teams, events, projects… I may not always win, or be the best, but I do always do it with a large dose of enthusiasm. And, the very reason I’m writing this and my biggest challenge of all: I’m a mother. I’m a mother of two strong-willed, energetic, feral and fantastic little children. Part of the mum job remit is to be “bossy”, otherwise you simply ain’t gonna get out of the house. You ain’t gonna get kids to bed. And you sure as heck won’t get anything productive done.

Oh please Boddler would you be so kind as to get your little lovely chubby feet into your sandals because we really must go to the shop to get you some milk, don’t you think, wouldn’t that be lovely?” Said no mum ever.

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SHOES ON! COATS ON! STAND BY THE FRONT DOOR!  The command still resonates with me and even as I write it I have to resist the urge to make a mad scramble to the front door, grasping for any stray sister I can en route. That command is how the Mothership got us all to school every single morning, and it mostly worked a treat. Only now am I starting to appreciate the #skillz required to do that.  She bossed us and she got the job done.  Go Mothership!  (Sidenote: for context this was shouted from the top of the stairs, whilst she was still in her nightgown, slowly approaching the bathroom, whilst hoovering and trying to sew a name badge on to something, slurping a cup of tea).

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“Mum, your baby is crying!” I was helpful, even in pint size. Perhaps holding screaming sibling under my arm like a loaf of bread not so helpful.

It is a such a shame that the use of the word “bossy” in this case, by my better half, wasn’t intended to be congratulatory. Or encouraging. He wasn’t telling me I was doing a good job moving a seemingly impossible mountain aka whining children around. It was pejorative (although still palatable with the French accent) and he meant to tell me to calm down and stop being “aggressive” (also his word).

What was it that made my behaviour a negative type of bossy exactly? There are a few factors: (a) Possibly I was hangry.  Fine. That is often the case, I need energy all the time.  I will do better with ensuring I have food supplies.  (b) I was giving instructions without a smile. Maybe. I do sometimes forget to say please and smile when I’m asking for someone to grab a nappy bag, and I am sorry about that. I’m working on it. But most likely it was (c) because I’m a woman. I’m a mum and I was giving instructions about things pertaining to the kids, and clothes, and food, and packing, and family logistics. “Boring mum” stuff. If I had been giving instructions to move a team of army officers, or dealing with an urgent response to a corporate crisis, or something, anything to do with driving a fast car whilst being chased by blokes with guns and dodging bullets (think The Rock), perhaps I would have been told I was leading like a boss. I was being assertive. Winning.  But navigating four people from A to B to C with bags and buggys and food supplies and beverages, on trains and in taxis, in seemingly impossible (sweltering hot) circumstances, simply doesn’t cut it. That’s not a real challenge.  And it doesn’t require bossing.  Apparently. Yes, I physically need help to do it all, I can’t carry a million things and clingy humans, but mentally, I’m juggling it all above my head. Solo.  There simply isn’t room for two people to juggle simultaneously, unless you can mind read, and we certainement can’t, so one of us has to take the command lead.  In this case, me.

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Anyway, it got me thinking again about the clear gender divide, the inherent sexism in the way we use language, still, today; the negative connotations that certain adjectives carry, versus the complimentary and empowering connotations associated with others.  Not surprisingly, the former tend towards women and female “characteristics”, whereas the latter tend towards the men of the world.

By way of example, the Cambridge Dictionary working examples for the word “bossy” (online version) are still largely focussing on an imaginary woman’s behaviour:

“My older sister was very bossy.” <was she indeed.  I hope that wasn’t you reporting me, Fawcett sisters!!>

“Girls of that age can get quite bossy.”  <what age exactly? today age?>

“Stop being so schoolmarmish and bossy!” <what is the male equivalent of a schoolmarm?>

Let’s compare to a few more positive, macho adjectives and their working examples:

Leader: “He’s a natural leader.” <Shocker.>

Powerful: “I get the impression Sheila is the powerful one in that relationship, not her husband!” <Wow. Go Sheila. Perhaps we ought to call the police and a schoolmarm to sort you out?>

Confident“His confident leadership inspired his followers”.  <Presumably referring to our friend Mr T and his twitter team….>

I recently saw a clip of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking at the Chatham House London Conference. Aside from being an eloquent speaker, and a fantastic author, she is also a strong feminist. Strong, I should note, and not “angry” as she finds she is often described:

“In our world, a man is confident, but a woman is arrogant.

A man is uncompromising but a woman is a ball-breaker.

A man is assertive, a woman is aggressive.

A man is strategic, a woman is manipulative.

A man is a leader, but a woman is controlling”

<and I would like to add: BOSSY>.

Well said.

So, what can we do about this?  Ladies, gents, let’s all make an active attempt to think twice before we describe someone’s behaviour using a pejorative adjective.  Let’s also work to take the perj away.  Be gone negative connotations! I want my children to be proud that they are bossy.  Being bossy is good.  I want them to look back, as I am today thinking of my mum, laughing and dashing to the door all at the same time, and be proud of all that we achieve together.  And also to be grateful.  Thank you Mothership for sorting us all out. Thank you for getting us to so many places and giving us so many opportunities.  Often times, it wasn’t in easy circumstances, and I’m sorry that I didn’t give you more credit for it all. Thank you for doing it and keeping it all together, 24/7.  Let’s be honest, most people would struggle getting out of the door with four children, I can confirm I struggle with a mere half the quota, so hats off to you.

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Mumming isn’t something you can dip in and out of, or that you can turn to mute when you’ve got a banging head or there’s something better to watch on TV.   When you are MumBossing, it’s usually against a backdrop of limited sleep, and questionable sustenance. That alone should render the “bossiness” respect to the highest levels.

I am going to try to be more pleasant as I boss, but I sure as hell won’t stop bossing, and next time Monsieur FF starts to tell me I’m being bossy, I shall thank him, highlight the wins of the day, which may or may not include exiting house and cleaning poo up, and look forward to a congratulatory glass of bubbles.  Go Mamas!  Cheers! X

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cake reward / bribe for all those achieving high boss levels

Boisterous

Boisterous is a word I use frequently to describe Boddler. From my perspective, it’s no coincidence that the word sounds like a hybrid of “boy” and “monstrous”. Boisterous actually means cheerful, noisy, energetic, like “a boisterous group of lads”. That’s a particularly apropriate example in this context.  Lads.

The terrible twos are hitting hard over here in BlablaLand. We’ve gone from cute, monkey-like mischief to full-on kicking, thumping, “go-away”ing madness. Madness because it is actually making me mad. As in, I almost can’t control my temper. It’s one thing to shout “Go away, wee wee!” into the toilet, whilst we frantically wave the little piddle away, but quite another to scream “GO AWAY!” at me when I’m trying to get the little man into bed, accompanied by the odd slap on the face, or worse, to shout it at some poor relative who is trying to say “goodbye” nicely.  Testing boundaries. That is what is happening, it’s normal. But it is hard. I don’t appreciate attitude, especially when it is coming from someone who is a third of my size and 1/17th of my age.  I’ve had to engage in some deep breathing, counting to 3 – for myself – and I can confirm that “Jaymie daddy” has been receiving some of my most deathly glares in the past weeks as we navigate co-parenting this little character.

The thing with toddlers is they are hard to control. There. I said it. I like to be in control and I can’t control my two year old. In fact he is already outsmarting me. That doesn’t say much for my smartness levels, but this really is sinking to a new low.

“Do you want to go straight to bed with no dinner?!”

“Yes”.

Hmmmm.  Plan foiled.

“What did you do at nursery today?”

“I hitting <insert victime name>!”

“Oh no! That makes mummy feel very sad!  That must have made <victim> unhappy.”

“I laughing.”

“Did you say sorry?”

“I say sorry.  I kicking football and played rugby BAM and…I kicking <victim number 2>.”

Nightmare.

“I want a ice cream.”

“What is the magic word?”

“…..”

“Please?”

“Peeeeeeezzzzz I want a ice cream.  MUMMY! I want a ice cream!  MUMMY!!!!!”

“Ok, there you go.”

“I want more!  Mummy, MUMMY!!! MORE!! Mummy, what is that?”

<mummy is discretely trying to eat her much more exciting chocolate covered ice cream…>  darnit.  I can’t even get my sugar hit!

Unfortunately with Boddler, he knows the right things to say. He says his sorry and duly gives his apologetic cuddle, once his crime has been committed.  But what then?  He just keeps repeating the same behaviour. It’s impossible to tell if it is improving as when he stops one mechantise he launches into another.

We have spent some trying to justify his actions as resulting from him being (a) confused – he wants to rugby tackle, or hit a tennis ball, how does he know that you shouldn’t tackle a small baby, and that you only hit tennis balls outside with a racket, and ideally balls that are actually tennis balls and not wooden fruits … (b) disturbed by the arrival of his younger sister… except she just sits there grinning at him… (c) hangry / overtired… well that’s everyone in this house right now (d) a boy… the most likely problem.

Toddlers have a lot to learn at this age, they are absorbing everything like sponges, and the main things they need, as I understand it, are patience, love and support.  And possibly a naughty step.

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Casual meltdown en route to the plane. Papa is on it.

A major problem I have when I’m entertaining both kids is how to look after them both, protect and teach them, at the same time. Sounds obvious but it’s much harder than it sounds when they are little. A kindly health visitor suggested that when Boddler is playing up, or looking for attention, I should “take him out of the situation” and let him calm down.  Sadly I don’t have hundreds of different places that can accommodate a kicking, flailing, aggrieved child, and I don’t have a back up care-giver to keep an eye on him when he’s “out of the situation” and on the naughty step/ in his room.  In fact, I have to abandon a sobbing Bebette (who has likely been man-handled by her brother after giving him a big, toothy grin), take her brother away from her, but put him somewhere safe and secure (?! limited options) and then rapidly return to sobbing sister to give her excessive and loud moral support (that Boddler can hear from wherever he is) “OH POOR YOU SISTER, OUCH THAT MUST HAVE HURT!” – in theory I’m trying to show him if he is doing things to get attention, well he won’t get any attention. The person subject to the wrongful conduct (Bebette in this case) will get it all, and some.  Except in practice, I just have two screaming children, a beeping washing machine, and nowhere to hide…

What should one do when the terrible twos are getting the better of them?

  • first, stay calm.  Most of the time, the issue is that they are two.  That’s it.  The less you react, the quicker they lose interest in their naughty ways.  You can’t do anything except take a deep breath, be consistent in your approach and persevere.  So I am told.  *deep breathing*
  • second, purchase numerous books about child rearing entitled “how to talk to a two year old”. Because you clearly can’t do it so you need a dummy’s guide on how to get there.  Generally snort into the book and ignore most of the confusing guidance (“do not punish your child, do not say “no”,  do not say “naughty”, do not shout, do not reward your child, do not congratulate your child, do not say anything after the event as they won’t remember…do not actually speak to or look at your child for your own well-being.” Ok, these ones are quite good: how to talk so little kids will listen (for parents) and the “< body parts > are not for” series which we read on a daily basis, and they also use at nursery.  Any other recommendations welcome!

Reading quietly whilst someone causes pant-wearing chaos

  • third, consult with all the older wiser more experienced people you know, who will not miss an opportunity to remind you that, actually, it’ll only get worse and the kids will eventually hate you anyway. So, enjoy it! Yikes….
  • fourth, hang out with other parents and children and try to mentally note all the things they are doing that seem to work. Your notes might end up looking like this:
    • Offer choices, but not too many choices: your toddler wants some control but has the attention span of a gnat. Would you like vanilla or strawberry yoghurt?  Oui.  C’est bon. Would you like a yoghurt with fruit, or a french set, or perhaps a fromage frais with a little sprinkle of… zut, you’ve lost them.
    • Do praise your child. Do it quite often.  But not all the time. Not too much praise. Cancel the praise, limit praise to exceptional circumstances. Praise for sitting on bottom. Praise for eating carrot. Do not praise for eating toilet roll.  Praise for tidying up toilet roll.
    • Have a reward chart. Offer stickers for good behaviour. Try to keep stickers on the chart and avoid getting them stuck awkwardly to your bottom.
    • Distract your child. When they start to display signs of terrible twoism, rapidly locate an alternative activity / food type / person to play with.
    • Consistent consequences – actions have consequences and your toddler needs to know this. Bad behaviour means you have to say sorry, you make people sad, and you lose a privilege or you have to tidy up your mess.  Think about consequences that are realistic and practical (no more dinner ever again, for example, is not going to fly.)
    • Try to explain your feelings.  Tell child you feel happy, or sad. Demonstrate to child using dramatic facial expressions. Explain to child you are trying to show your feelings and not actually crying. Comfort child that thinks they have made you cry.  Everyone is crying. *Help*.

Ok, well that’s some food for thought. For me, writing this has helped me to see I need to really stay calm, try not to be triggered myself, and appreciate that Boddler is just being a two year old and probablement isn’t destined for even more terrible things.  However, minor shiver down the spine thinking of the threenagers that lie ahead…

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Usually I send love and strength to you all at this point, but this time I’m asking for a little bit of strength and love back! Merci bien ❤

 

 

 

Boys who (dress) like girls who (dress) like boys who (dress) like boys…

Gender neutrality. The hot topic of the moment. The words that scream equality and seek to avoid discrimination. In the world of bebes, this “movement” (for want of a better word) is increasingly reflected in the way we choose to dress our children, the books we read, the toys we give them, the way we speak to them and the activities we undertake together.  The aim: to encourage our children to think for themselves.  We want to avoid imposing limitations on our little people before they have had a chance to develop their own identity and to decide certain things for themselves.  Like who they are.

The considerations seem, simplistically, to start around colours and their association with sex: blue for boys and pink for girls.  Yellow, it seems, is the safest of neutral colours, excluding ‘non colour’ white, and its close friends grey and cream (and black, but that seems slightly sombre for a little ray of light).  Now where did those colour associations come from?  All those years ago, did someone from up high declare that “those colours deriving from and the same or similar to PINK  shall strictly be reserved to those of female disposition, and those colours deriving from and the same or similar to BLUE shall be strictly reserved to those of the male disposition.  Thou can use YELLOW if thou art not sure.” Hmmm doesn’t seem quite plausible does it.  This got me thinking, and by thinking I obviously mean googling because, let me be honest, I rarely actually think much anymore, I just ponder how best to get an answer quickly.  SO.  Google and my dear friend Wikipedia tell me that:

“Since the 19th century, the colors pink and blue have been used as gender signifiers, particularly for infants and young children. The current tradition in the United States (and an unknown number of other countries) is “pink for girls, blue for boys”

The leading expert on the topic seems to be a Ms Jo Paoletti, a (now retired) lecturer at the University of Maryland. She said, when interviewed on the topic for Smithsonian:

“It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing,” says Paoletti, who has explored the meaning of children’s clothing for 30 years. For centuries, she says, children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. “What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted” Paoletti says.

Nicely put in the usual direct, and brilliant, American way.  As I read on I’m told that, as well as world wars and women’s liberation movements, another major factor was the advent of prenatal testing, meaning people would find out what bebe they were having before it arrived.  This presented an enormous opportunity for businesses to sell their gender-specific wares, and – true fact, per Paoletti – the more individualised the clothing became, the more was sold. This quickly extended beyond clothes to all the bebe paraphernalia required (which itself continued to develop to take us into the realms of new car purchases when it comes to transportation devices) and – low and behold – those fortunate enough to be able to equip themselves with all the “must haves” bebe items, AND to have bebes of different sexes could then buy everything, twice.  Extreme consumerism. That does not sound familiar to me at all…not in the slightest. AHEM.

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NOT GUILTY.  I don’t even dress my children in clothes, let alone gender specific clothes.  Right, Bebette?

Right, ok so we’ve determined there is nothing set in stone, well not literally, on the colour gender signifier.  So we don’t have to get our knickers in a twist about girls wearing blue.  But the simple issue of colour/gender association has today, in a world of consumerism, intense advertising and new waves of gender expression, extended to all that we do with our children, like how we talk to them and what they play with: should a toddler girl drive a tractor or pretend to be a plumber? Can a boy wear nail varnish and play at being a midwife or a ballet dancer? Then the considerations spiral into personality and even sexuality: are all little girls “bossy”? If a girl wants to behave like a boy is that a bad thing? Are little boys that like dolls and dresses and pink going to be *whispers* gay?  Mon dieu.  Suddenly this topic seems a bit overwhelming.

We have a boy and a girl. The boy, Babbler, wears every colour under the sun, and up until recently his favourite toy was a microwave.  Now it’s a pink hoover. He has long “girly” hair and when we were on holiday, in his green and orange t-shirt and shorts, he was frequently mistaken for a girl. When he’s wrapped up warm and people can only see hair and big eyes poking out from under his hat, they ask if he’s a girl. Not literally, obvs, they say, with that wonderful hesitation “what a lovely… little person… is… sh-he cold??”  I have no issue with it. It doesn’t offend me, why should it. He bombards around “exploring” and discovering, smashing and crashing and hitting as he goes. He likes splashing, and throwing and kicking and shouting. He is loud and shy and cuddly and boisterous all at the same time. He seems, for now, to be quite the little lad. But what do I know.

We also have a baby girl, Bebette, and she’s displaying, one might say, classic characteristics associated with, dare I assume, being a baby girl (highly opinionated, slightly sensitive and lover of soft, snuggly things). Although perhaps those are just characteristics of being a bebe… again, what do I know.  She has already been subjected to tutus and hair bands. She has flowery dresses and pink tights. There are not so many questions about what colour baby she is when she had a big pink bow on top of her wild fluffy, lopsided hair tufts.

I’m a feminist.  By that I mean I recognise that men and women are different, and equally fantastic in their own, special ways.  I believe men and women deserve equal levels of respect and, in some circumstances, should be treated equally.  Not always, that is a very simplistic way to view the world.  But they should be treated fairly.  Women are not secondary to men.  Men do not bring more to a party.  Women can do things men can’t, and vice versa.  I also believe that men and women bring very different things to the table and those differences should be embraced.  Finally, I truly believe that women, in today’s society, are not always recognised for the incredible jobs they do, not least in circumstances where they are juggling careers and families.  It’s not always the case that it is women that deserve to be recognised, but I just highlight that as an example. Anyway, why am I harping on about this? I want my daughter and my son to grow up respecting each other, and believing they can both do whatever they want to do in life.  Whatever they have under their clothes should not hinder that.  Just because one of them, potentially, has a momentous task of building, ejecting and nourishing another human being should not render that one incapable of fulfilling other career goals, or achieving the same as male counterparts. Subject to a few caveats (not really keen on either of them being lion-tamers), and any obvious physical limitations, the world is their oyster.  I don’t want Bebette to feel that, because she’s a woman, a delicate little flower, she can only do some jobs, whereas Babbler who is big and strong and macho can do anything and everything he pleases.  And vice versa for Boddler.

So with that in mind, is there anything I should or should not be doing right now, as they are in the early stages of development? It seems hard to imagine, but is the way I am behaving with them now going to affect that mentality?  Is the way I speak to them affecting their perceptions of themselves and others?  Am I inadvertently rendering them weak and subordinate by dressing them one way or another?  Is Bebette a little fluffy, cuddly doll?  Do I need to get her into bebe power suits???  Why am I worrying?

Jo is already on it:

Some young mothers who grew up in the 1980s deprived of pinks, lace, long hair and Barbies, Paoletti suggests, rejected the unisex look for their own daughters. “Even if they are still feminists, they are perceiving those things in a different light than the baby boomer feminists did,” she says. “They think even if they want their girl to be a surgeon, there’s nothing wrong if she is a very feminine surgeon.”

Exactly. Good.  I’ll put a placeholder here to consider further…

But finally, just a note: as Bebette and I break back into the under 1 social sphere and start an array of jazzy baby classes, I realise that more and more people are dressing their babies “unisex”, or more often, dressing their girls with “traditionally” boyish clothing. This creates a world of worry for me as I strike up conversation. Now I’m the one with the awkward hesitation in my voice, the slightly panicked glance at the child searching for any clue about it’s gender. Dummy chord. Green. Shit. Toy attached to pram; fluorescent yellow. Crap. Can I make an assumption or should I just go with strategic, noncomital conversation starters: “gosh what beautiful eyes!” “That’s such a cute onesie” “how old is your little …. one?….”  Silly.  It doesn’t matter does it.

So, I’ve dabbled in this topic but there’s a lot more to read and to say.  For now, here’s my closing gripe: baby girls are dressed in traditional boy clothing. Where are the baby boys dressed as girls?

Breastfeeding: the sequel

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Love this by Amen Photography

I have blogged before about the mad journey that is breastfeeding and the wondrousness of boobies (here is the first instalment). Since then I have enjoyed the consequences of breastfeeding (read: saggymcsaggerson babylons) and I have produced a second Bebe, that I have also been feeding with my boobs. Even writing it like that reminds me how mind-boggling it is to nourish a human bean with something produced by my very own breasts. Crazy. (Obviously growing the bean in the first place is pretty stupenduous, but this part you can actually see with your own eyes!)

As I alluded to in the first post written last year, I am entirely mindful that this is a very sensitive subject. Plenty of new mamas don’t breastfeed, either out of choice or because it’s not physically possible, or for many reasons they start and then have to stop, or have to modify what they are doing to suit their babe. No one journey is the same and whatever happens, having a happy, fed bebe is all that matters.  

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Pure happiness right there

As I said last time, this is just me talking about my journey.  I’m lucky / unlucky / weird / blessed / happy to have the chance to breastfeed again. However, I must say that living this a second time, it has been decidedly harder than the first time. Strange, as you would think boobs get used to it (they certainly look like they do) and as a second time mum, most likely I am already equipped, mentally and wardrobiley, for the job. Turns out not really.  Well, for me at least, the difference I think is down to (i) the bebe and (ii) the circumstances.  I consider these differences a bit below and then I will introduce you to my favourite breastfeeding clothing, in particular The B Shirt.

The Bebette journey is not the same

The bebe part: No pregnancy is the same, “they” say (the older wiser types) and the same goes for all that follows. This Bebette that we have, this little ray of light, is a petite lady who doesn’t gobble like her big brother. She is delicate. It’s more like she’s taking afternoon tea, or a small glass of champagne, than glugging a gallon of milk; I can almost see her little finger up in the air. Bebette can’t easily cope with the fast flow of milk that I have. She wants a skinny pizza with a side of dust, not the Super Mega menu with XL stuffed crust and extra deep-fried cake, and a beer or 10….

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The problem is that boobie milk systems need some sort of regulation – if Bebe is fussy, you end up with your boobs getting very confused about all this nibbling and they lose track of how much milk to actually make.  This, in my case, led to a bout of (very painful) mastitis (more on this below).  It has also resulted in the washing machine going into overdrive with milk-sodden clothing.  Poor Boddler has had the shock of his life a couple of times when he has come to inspect “Sista mulk” and been sprayed in the face himself. Luckily he has goggles.

After the double whammy hospital adventure we enjoyed last month, I’ve also spent a lot of time pumping this time round. Jeez, the hospital pump is hard.  Massive shout out to all the mamas out there that have had to pump, whether to encourage their milk production, or because their babe is hospitalised at birth or afterwards, or because their babe simply won’t latch. It is harrowing.  But massive cheers to the NHS for providing nourishment for hospital mamas, this really makes a huge difference.  Also, whilst pumping is hard, it is a little intriguing to see how much milk you are making – as a mildly competitive person, I kept challenging myself in hospital to make more and more, gallons of milk, feed my Bebette until she rolls out of hospital…. FYI I lost, but it was a good challenge.

As a side note, any newish breast feeders reading should be aware of the symptoms of mastitis (NHS link here).  When it happened to me, it escalated quickly, my boob felt bruised and sore in the morning, it was a bit red, then more disconcerting was the crazy headache and flu-like symptoms I developed that afternoon: I got fever and the shivers and ended up calling 111 the next morning, a Sunday (again!) and was able to get a prescription for antibiotics very rapidly for later that day. Hot showers, continuous feeding if you can, and massaging helps, but as soon as you feel fluey or sick, you need to get medical help asap, as it can be very painful.  *Shout out to my GP mama friends that helped me (and continue to help) with sound advice through these struggles.  Legends.*

The ease with which you can breastfeed may also be influenced by the circumstances, like whether you already have a child running around, and the time of year: last time I was breastfeeding it was spring – summer; I had little vests I could pull down, and limited additional clothing required in the warm weather (yes, yes, U.K. warm so you still needed a second layer…). I also had the time to sit down and wasn’t likely to get a ball lobbed at my head whilst I was feeding.  Shocker! Back then, Boddler was so greedy I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hand in pulling my top down to get to the food himself. There was almost no spillage or regurgitation. The whole feeding process was quite straight-forward and manageable, except for the odd leak and the teeth *panic face*.

Bebette is quite a different kettle of fish. She likes the warmth and comfort of my boobie area but is less bothered about the actual milk. She also feels more delicate, has a sensitive stomach and needs to be carefully positioned for her feeds.  This is in contrast to Boddler who was like a magnet to the nipple. Bebette needs a compass and guide dog and tends to fall asleep whilst feeding.

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Like my maternity wear this time round, I was armed with a bit more knowledge of what was required for nursing a babe. However when I went through my box of neatly organised maternity clothes (read: pile of clothes shoved in a corner that I wasn’t expecting to see for a loooong time) I couldn’t really find any good feeding tops in there. Just a lot of vests and the odd mamalicious or seraphine number. I had a couple of big shirts but, I confess, I hate ironing. So I am not wearing those.

the B shirt

A good feeding top requires stretchiness and also must be a material that can be scrunched up (or down) without being too thick, and without preventing bebe from breathing or making her get too hot. This time round I also have a decidedly more flabby tummy, and it certainly looks more traumatised with my new tiger stripes second time round. I am acutely aware when I try to cobble together my own feeding clothes (ie two tops on top of each other, one pulled down and one pulled up) there is a very high chance of embarrassing flab-flashing.  I am already getting my boob out, I don’t particularly want to extend the nudiness any further.

So, there’s a legit need for something new – where can I find a good breastfeeding top? After lots of googling in the middle of the night I found my answer.  Say bonjour to The B Shirt. The B Shirt is a breastfeeding dream – it keeps your tummy covered whilst you discretely locate your milkers and latch your bebe on. The B Shirt is stretchy and warm, long enough to cover you and your bottom, and it washes well. And it can deal with frequent washing too. But best of all, the B Shirt does good things.  It supports women that are struggling – more on this below.

The top comes in three basic colours; white, grey and black. No garish flower patterns or bold horizontal stripes that make you feel even more ginormous over here.  The boobie “flap” opens upwards discretely, without a full-on untangling or déshabille exercise, revealing two neat little boobie holes, so you won’t be flashing side boob either. It’s not rocket science and yet it is genuinely so hard to find anything even close to suitable for the job. This has been my saviour.

I particularly like the B Shirt because: (a) a couple of real mamas, who themselves have breast fed and supported numerous other mamas with breastfeeding, set up the business not only to help nursing mamas generally;  but also to raise awareness, funds and provide tops and support to breastfeeding mamas out there who are statistically less likely to continue to breastfeed. According to their research, a major reason women stop breastfeeding is embarrassment. Isn’t that sad?

81% of new mothers start off breastfeeding when their babies are born, however when their babies are just 6 weeks old only 36% are still breastfeeding. This means that the UK has some of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world.

Breast milk with all its magic properties is sitting in boobies, ready to go, like a cup of fresh water in the desert, or (more relatable) a delicious steaming pot of coffee on a grey Monday morning, and yet it’s not being served because the barista is embarrassed about the cups he is serving it in. Meanwhile there’s a ginormous advert for Starbucks, with a cup that runneth over, right outside. You get the point.

Money from the sales of the B Shirt and donations will go towards getting those mamas in need the right clothing to do this important job, without feeling embarrassed.  I concur that this top has reduced my embarrassment levels, which are all the higher when there’s also a toddler running around and therefore the possibility of large scale accidental flashing, and much more rushed boob-accessing. A comfortable, affordable top that does good beyond helping you on your breastfeeding journey – pretty epic. (b) it’s called the “B” Shirt – the logo is boobs – it’s like we were destined to be together! And (c) the ladies that came up with this beauty are located in Totnes, which is a magical place in Devon I happen to know thanks to my musical sister and her man who are very happily located there. Side note: it is glorious and definitely worth a visit. (d) they also sell reusable bamboo breast pads which are great.  Another winner, comfortable and environmentally friendly.  Boom.

The one thing missing at the moment with the B Shirt is sleeves, although I expect sleeves are in the pipeline along with more colours.  I also don’t think the lace trim is particularly necessary, but equally it adds something to remind you where the flap is – tired mamas need all the help we can get!  The only good feeding top I’ve found with sleeves is a Seraphine bamboo top, which is super soft, but I can’t find the link to that now, and as far as I’m aware Seraphine doesn’t boast the same mission and aims as the B Shirt so I would rather spend my money with the Totnes ladies.

I’m teaming my B shirt with the Bravado Seamless Nursing Bra, available from John Lewis.  It’s a bestseller and I can see why – super comfy, supportive, and easy to get up and down. Also very easy to wash.  Feeding bras have caused me as much angst as the tops, but this bra has done the job and even comes with conversion kit so when you are done feeding you can continue to wear this.  Unlikely, for my fried eggs, but I appreciate the opportunity.

So, that’s me done on breastfeeding take 2 (so far) and what I’m wearing.  I hope this is helpful and good luck you wonder mamas!

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I leave you with this thought of the day.  Really orange carrots.

 

Bebe to Big Bro

As this shock 2nd pregnancy rapidly races towards the inevitable finish line (panic face) I want to take stock of my beautiful Bebe FF and get lost in his joyousness for one last blog. Ok I know *technically* this whole blog is thus far dedicated to him, but so much has happened since he was a little crumpled ball of milky goodness – now he’s a proper little human bean. He can talk and throw tantrums and eat grown-up food.

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I need to document one more time the utter joy that he single-handedly brings to our lives, before Bebe #2 comes on the scene and things forever change again.* Call me hormonal (fair) but considering I’m about to eject a second Bebe I am feeling emotional about the changes that are ahead and leaving him, even for the ejection period …

*just a little side note for anyone reading that’s on the mad journey, dreaming of becoming a parent but not there yet ~ big love and courage to you. We have been there and it’s difficult. It makes you strong. Don’t give up. Miracles happen. 

Everyone keeps telling me not to worry, he will get used to it, he will survive not being the only child etc etc which of course is true – but – it is still a big shift from the status quo. Our status quo. However, my only experience in this area is when my own little sister (the first of three) came into the world around a similar age to the age Bebe FF is now. And yes, to be fair, in actual fact, I can’t remember a single thing about it other than I am delighted to have the three best sisters a girl could wish for. And we are super close. So probably true that it didn’t cause me (or her) any harm and for the long term, I’m confident this will be a very good thing for all concerned. However, short term, Bebe FF is at a stage where he requires approximately 130% of our attention. And we also like (/need) to give him ( – for risk of all manner of accidents occurring) exactly that amount of attention. So how the heckers do we manage to maintain that AND introduce into the mix the all-encompassing experience that is having a newborn? Oh la la la la la. I suppose that may well be my next blog… for now, let me focus on the centre of the universe for the last few weeks whilst he retains that title alone.

If you are lucky enough to have a toddler, I’m sure you can relate to these amazing things about having a mini person:

  • your heart feels like it might explode every time they laugh or cry or sneeze or attempt to say a word or run or basically breathe… basically you’re on the cusp of a heartattack 24/7.
  • listening to them learning to speak is just fantastic. Even if my name is “daddy” I couldn’t be more delighted every time he utters a noise which sounds like a real word. “Poo” made me disproportionately smug; doubly so when he indicated there was a smelly nappy present to accompany the word, so he wasn’t just saying it for shits and giggles. Genius. “EnCCore” confirms to me his bilingual abilities, even if it is often followed by a cheeky grin and a spluttering “peeeeez” <“please”>. Less happy about the declarative “mine!” but in the specific context it was actually his, so….”NON” is another naughty one but somehow in French it sounds … not as bad. So impressed.
  •  The nappy bum makes the running and tumbling all the more amusing. To be fair, I can hardly criticise when I’m adopting a similar waddle, however rather than a comfy large nappy, I have a head down there compromising my usual ability to strut. Ahem.
  • The extreme moods; epic thirst levels upon waking which require visual confirmation that milk is actually about to enter his mouth, otherwise the world could possibly end. Hyper energy when it is time to urgently run in and out of the playhouse 3,568 times just to confirm the doors are all properly affixed. The post-nursery, pre-bedtime hanger and tiredness than usually requires a fromage frais and a good cuddle and story, before the rapid revival effected thanks to a playful bath time.
  • Mealtimes: there is nothing quite like being sprayed with beans and watching a compote being sloshed all over your babes face and the surrounding walls. Once I got over the frustration of food rejection I started to enjoy the challenge of finding something that would make Bebe cheer when presented with his plate. Cheese is a guaranteed winner in our house – so français.
  • The sheer delight in his eyes as he turns the pages of the Gruffalo and Tabby McTat, examining every image and pointy-fingering endlessly. Now he actually likes to be left alone with the books, once we’ve read them 4 times, so that he can double-check we are actually telling the correct story. Takes after his mama.
  • The utter magic that is bubbles. Whether it’s actual floaty bubbles, bubbles in Peppa Pig or bubbles in the bath, “BUBbbbles” bring serious levels of happiness and should probably never end. Like so many “unique” things that Bebe FF does, I privately spent a few moments congratulating myself on my child genius and wondering if it’s Papa or me that gave him the extremely advanced linguistic skills… Then we saw a bubble-maker in the park and the chorus of “BUBELLLLS” from all the little human beans within a 20m radius made me realise we are not alone. Kids are just amazing.

So Bebe FF, as mummy frantically points to her giant belly and repeats 67 times “where is the Bebe??” And you grin and deliberately point to your own little belly, I’m curious to know how you will react to having such a noisy, tiny little distraction in the house. I’m nervous about the short amount of recovery time I’m going to get before you expect mama to be back in working, bending, cuddling order (I anticipate about 5 mins). I’m intrigued to see how Papa takes on this additional challenge and how you will bond and build new memories together as we expand into a family of 4. In short I want to pause time and enjoy you just a little longer – right now I’m watching your little naked bottom squeal with delight as Papa sprays you with water and it’s just the best… , but I also want to jump in to the next level of this adventure. I confess I also – selfishly – just want to not be a beached whale anymore. Pregnancy in quick succession is quite the challenge. But I still remember thinking I would never get to experience this feeling, so I do take a moment to remind myself of that fact when I’m silently muttering expletives. We can do this!

Bebe FF you made all my dreams come true. You make every day magic. I don’t have words for how you have changed our lives and our perspective on what lies ahead. Thank you for being such a delight.

Bumping and Groaning

OOF. I want to start by noting that time is absolutely flying, so much so I will have to interrupt my third instalment on Texas travels to blogulate about being preggo. Sorry about that. Mais why? Because I’m seven months in to this surprise pregnancy already. SEVEN MONTHS. Once Bebe FF2 arrives I suspect, for a short while at least, I will struggle to find the brain power required to even find my blog, let alone write it. So I need to get a pregnancy blog in pronto. Especially since this blog didn’t exist last time I was up the duff, so there’s a fairly important part of the mamahood journey missing from our story. HOWEVER – important note – seven months in I may be, but as you probably well know, that means I’ve got a good 2-3 months to go. Even writing it makes me want to cry a little bit. That’s right people, pregnancy isn’t just 9 months! It’s more like Harry Potter style 9 3/4. And what’s the big deal with those last months? Well it’s hot. We live in a country that is not accustomed to very much heat and that’s problematic when you’re lugging around a hot water bottle in your belly. I’m melting and sweaty and bloated *already* and it’s only going to get worse. I don’t remember it being this crazy last time – but that’s probably because Bebe FF was born at the end of winter, and the only complicated thing about that was finding a jacket and warm shoes that could circumnavigate the belleh and cankles. I could hide under layers and enjoy hot chocolates and mince pies galore. This time I need to find things that are floaty and light, but keep me decent and cover up the numerous areas of my body that are trying to compete with our forever friend Free Willy.  That essentially means the clothes can double up as a (king) bed sheet or a mammouth tent for Bebe FF to play with. (Side note: I should start calling him Boddler FF now.)

Trying to explain to Boddler FF that there’s another Bebe coming to join him is quite a challenge at 17 months. When I ask “where’s the Bebe?” he gleefully points to himself. Specifically his belly (I guess it does sound like “Bebe”) which btw isn’t totally disproportionate to mine considering his tiny stature. Eek. Non little guy – you’re going to be a BIG BROTHER! He grins again. Super. Don’t know what that is but it sounds like it will be delicious.

How can we prepare for a new Bebe with a Boddler requiring all our attention and full time jobs “in-between”?! I think it’s fair to say you can never prepare for a bebe. First or fourth it’s going to be a shock to the system and a momentous life changer. We are trying not to get too lost in the specifics and just take one step at a time. At least we have a vague idea of what lies ahead…

One advantage of the timing here is we have a lot of  the critical equipment  required that’s still in good working order and has not accumulated too much dust. Bottle sterilisers, baby sleep devices, slings… I almost have no excuse to shop… *almost, Monsieur FF, but not quite*.  There is the rather mad question of double buggys. Those things do not fill me with joy. The idea of lugging one around and trying to get in a shop door and not quite being able to make it through is quite traumatic. Imagine if it was a cake shop??! That would be like a form of torture. Sorry no cake for you lady, if you can’t get in you can’t get served. Panic face. So no, I have not got a double buggy and I intend to try and avoid having one at all cost. If I did get one it would be the baby jogger city stroller. But what I’m going to try to do is wear the new Bebe and push the Boddler. And the Boddler will have a little buggy board so in alternative circumstances Bebe will be in the Babyzen Yoyo+ 0+ (can’t wait to test it with a new Bebe) and Boddler will be boarding along. Obviously I will update on how that works out.

As to the pregnancy, for someone that loved every moment first time round, this pregnancy has certainly been a different adventure so far. It’s an absolute miracle, but it’s strange when you have someone you want to devote all your energy to, and yet you are being zapped from the inside in order to build another human being. It’s bloody brilliant that I can do this. I still feel rather superhuman.  But I was not prepared for this on any level. So despite being 7 months in I confess I’m still in shock. I also didn’t have time to kiss goodbye to wine, carpaccio and goat’s cheese so that’s been a bit harder this time round. Right now Bebe is growing into the rather alarming winter squash size, and is almost at the point where a good jab in the ribs and bladder are possible simultaneously. My actual size is probably at least a month bigger than I was with Boddler FF. I am generally more swollen and don’t know if that’s the summer, the type of Bebe or the fact it’s number 2. In all cases I’m not at my most beauteous… The nausea has been more constant and the cravings less severe which is actually a bit less fun – who doesn’t want to do a KFC dash for chicken and gravy on a Sunday afternoon?! This new Bebe apparently.  But I tell you what’s really annoying and got me last time as well: maternity clothes. That’s right, the tents with the tapered side to “flatter your bump”.  Just to be clear, ‘bump flattering’ clothing doesn’t magically transform you into Kristen Cavallari. It makes you look a tiny bit more like a half human half whale than just going for two dress sizes bigger and looking potentially pure whale.

There are some people in this world that are pregnancy unicorns. I’m talking in particular about the media savvy, possibly photoshopped beauties that grace the pages of women’s mags, that women with high hormonal levels naturally turn to for comfort “reading” (why do we torture ourselves?!). True unicorns. They don’t swell or bloat or get extra cellulite. In fact, because they are pregnant they are even more radiant than ever and no doubt have a special healthcare regime, including having a minion work moisturising bear cub milk into their eyelashes, slowly massage placenta-boosting, ultra nourishing essential oil-infused baby dinosaur sponges around their lower backs whilst they are fed omega 3 rich nutrition cookies. These are the ladies that work out happily throughout their pregnancy, and naturally have the full extra-stretchy new gym kit to accommodate their tiny, neat baby bumps, as well as the requisite energy levels. These ladies lose weight and gain muscle during pregnancy. At least that’s what we are led to believe. Not to mention they spend their spare, non-workout time walking around the luxury babe shops in vertiginous heels which for most people on a good, non-pregnant day would require at least serious blister protection. But not for these ladies – they are practically dancing whilst toting the latest must-have bag no doubt filled with healthy almond-based energy balls.  Here are a few examples:

Urgh. Beautiful. Now let’s talk about reality.  At least the experience for most of the normal human population, myself included. My thighs don’t normally rub … well, they didn’t. Pregnancy gives me a special extra layer of thickness all around my thighs. “Pregnancy” or perhaps the food I’m eating or exercise I’m not doing…. it’s all same same. Why? Does the baby swim down there occasionally for a change of scenery? Er NO. Is it providing extra warmth? Yes. In summer. Just what I need. And what about my arms? Previously manageable bingo wings are now like giant eagle wings, they could knock a person out if they get too close. Am I storing milk in them? Not that I’m aware of. And a new one for me for the summer: double cankles. That’s right. I can’t blame pregnancy for my cankles which I proudly inherit from a line of strong (therefore thick-ankled ladies), but I had not appreciated they could expand further and start to engulf my feet. Heat plus pregnancy = canklesquared. So those shoes that the ladies above are trotting around in would literally not go over one of my toes right now. Not to mention the fact the heel would immediately splinter into a thousand pieces. Boom.

Maternity clothes for the normal pregnant lady that are big, floaty, eagle-wing, cankle-covering…. where does one find these delights? Can someone please tell me why maternity clothes are not available to  try in stores? Is it because they take up too much space in the store? Is it because they are so horrific and eye-offending that it’s best to make them available only online? Is it because stores are embarrassed about the lack of effort they’ve put into their maternity range? Or perhaps it’s because it’s not the most lucrative product in store – after all it requires double the amount of material and triple stitching to prevent popping. Perhaps that’s why they use the worst, most garish fabrics in the history of the world? I did a brief stint as a fashion lawyer but surprisingly I don’t recall particular legal battles around this highly important issue. That said it was for one of the few stores that actually bothers to stock clothes in store so big kudos to Topshop.

The one time I really need to try stuff on because I have no clue what maternity size I am, I can’t. Maternity size may mean the same size as pre-pregnancy but just with the elastic magic, ot you could suddenly find yourself going up 1-3 dress sizes. Luckily I’ve never had an issue with the number inside my clothes, provided it fits right and is comfortable I don’t care if it says 8 or 18. However in pregnancy attire, at a time of particular self-consciousness, going for maternity XL does make me rather nervous… have I really gone too far this time with the peanut butter on butter on toast? Am I growing a giant… logical next thought is how the heck do I get it out?!

This time round I’ve learnt to spend a bit more on a few nice pieces and accept the fact I will wear them repeatedly. Last time I made some bad choices late into my pregnancy, panic buying items that were nasty material, colours (poo brown anyone?) or that bobbled straight away. Last time I lived in H+M jeans, another store that, at least in London, bothers to stock in store. Thank you H+M. I also had a lot of GAP shirts and tees and Seraphine work items. The GAP stuff in particular was very comfortable and durable. Useful as this is the most effort I’ve ever put my clothes through!  This time I’ve tried out the pricey but high quality Isabella Oliver and got some more Seraphine dresses, as well as one of my favourites Mamalicious available on Asos. I have to say I don’t really recommend the Asos branded stuff itself as it seems pretty low quality, not up to the job, although I don’t love Asos generally so that could just be me. Asos is however very easy and it does provide helpful essentials like bump bands, tights and tees. It’s also the one stop shop for plenty of other brands e.g. New Look which also has some good basics – I’ve often been recommended their jeans.

If anyone is reading this in the fashion biz, please take note. We may only be pregnant for a short period of time in the grand scheme of life, but anything you can do to make this crazy time more comfortable and less eye-offending would be amazing. Merci!

Ps Happy Bastille x

BBQ, Boots and Bucees: Texas Baby! (Part 2)

Ok, now for the part that’s actually about Texas. Not the most obvious holiday destination, I accept. Beaches are few and far between, the only sand we played with was in a pit in the middle of the city, and I didn’t see one single coconut. However if you like to adventure and experience different cultures, and you have a fidgety boddler AND husband, it’s a fairly superb option. Pourquoi pas?

When you think about Texas what do you imagine? (If you’re from Texas obviously skip ahead!…) Cowboys? Guns? Wild West style desert lands? Horses? G W Bush and his predecessors? Atronauts? Did you think of Beyoncé? That fierce woman that has taken over the world? Texas is full of surprises. One thing that is definitely confirmed from our trip is that “everything is bigger in Texas”. Cars, the road, the food portions, even the human beings… and by that I mean taller, stronger, and generally appearing to be extremely healthy. I guess that’s partly thanks to the glorious Texas sun (which apparently transitions to hellish over the peak summer months but for our purposes was more than enough). There’s also the awesome food that keeps them functioning. We learnt the hard way that the trick in Texas is not to actually eat ALL the food. In fact, you take half away at the end in a “doggy bag” for you meal the next day or whatever. As diligent eaters brought up to finish our plates (otherwise no pudding – PANIC FACE), we had to reassess our manners and eating skills. Luckily Bebe FF is upping his eating game and was able to provide some limited assistance: even if he didn’t actually eat the food, he played with it and tossed it on the floor such that it felt like it had had a worthwhile journey to our table.

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So where did we go with our bundle of energy and bunnette in the oven? First stop was a flying visit to Houston, and a baseball game thanks to our legendary GOMO. Full on Texas experience within 24 hours of arriving; we came away kitted out with ball caps, sticky Blue Bell ice cream hands and a win for the Houston Astros. BOOM. I already mentioned Papasitos too – epic TexMex. We started and ended with it and it was ultra-delicious. Dammit every time I write the name I dribble a lottle.

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Then onwards to Austin, a couple of hours in the mega- mobile and a hotel right next to the Texas university campus.  In Austin we were lucky enough to have a hit list of restaus and things to see. We sampled the Texas staples that are “biscuits” (scones to you and me), traditional TexMex breakfasts of Huevos Rancheros, the famous Franklins BBQ (2 hour wait with a boddler was a challenge but we powered through with snacks and games) – when we made it to our steaming heap of meat, Bebe FF pounced on… the white bread?! (used to mop up the BBQ deliciousness). We had two super brunches at Snooze, and their OMG french toast came out as a top fave. We were impressed with the welcome reception we got almost everywhere we went with Bebe FF – restaurants went out of their way to accommodate him with crayons and colouring and special Bebe-friendly drinks. Often the former ended up in the latter but no one seemed to care too much. Everyone had baby seats and they were happy to use them. TexMex was a staple for him too, the rice and beans in particular warranted a hearty eyes-closed “MmmMMM”.

We visited the Bullock Texas State History Museum, which was my first experience of really trying to concentrate and Bebe FF doing everything in his power to prevent me from succeeding (along with the 500 school children that were also touring the museum). Bebe FF obviously decided that he would rather be hanging out with them, especially the girls, and delighted in stumbling after them, peering into their faces (or more accurately necks) and offering them his slobbery dummy. At least he’s learning how to share! He also realised he can actually make quite a lot of noise, and if he does he gets even more attention: cue large amounts of shouting “PAPPPAAAA” “DACKKKKKYYY” (any animal, mostly shouted at model horses in the museum) and “OOoOoOoo” (at girls and boys). I didn’t realise until that specific trip quite how noisy he can be. Luckily I’ve got a particularly loud “Shhhhh” response, so together we were by far the most annoying in museum. Btw during this time Papa FF was happily, and peacefully, watching the history of Texas in some quiet corner of the museum. When he emerged he seemed surprised to be faced with a frazzled wife and exhaspersted boddler. Bizarrely I was somewhat unamused by him recounting all he had learnt, because by this time I was seriously hangry. Mais quoi? Classic.

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We also visited the Thinkery which is as awesome as it sounds. A haven for little ones, but equally as mesmerising for the elders, this place was a hotbed of stimulants and safe playing opportunities. Suffice it to say the key sign of success was Bebe FF clambering into his own pushchair as we headed to the exit and immediately nodding off. THAT is what I’m talking about.

Next instalment we hit San Antonio and Dallas…

besos x X

BBQ, Boots and Bucees: Texas baby! (Part 1)

You may remember that last September, aka a lifetime ago, we went on a long haul voyage with Bebe FF (aged 7 months) to Mexico. It is fair to say we were somewhat apprehensive about the trip, navigating the journey, the heat, the bottle sterilisation… but it went swimmingly (literally 70% of the time spent in water) and we came away thinking “we should do this more often!”. Of course we didn’t because we are not made of money, but it gave us the confidence to book another long haul holiday; we were feeling empowered. We are parents and we can continue to travel!

Being in the very fortunate position of having our own Lone Star State family that were long due a visit, we decided we could do Texas. “Do Texas” we did… but boy was it a different experience with a boddler!

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Challenge un: finding out you are pregnant with Bebe #2 shortly after booking. Que?!! I will blogulate separately about the mind-blowingness of falling pregnant after a long journey of fertility drama, and when your first bébé is still… well, a bebe. For the purposes of this blog, you just need to imagine a tired, bloaty, nauseous, shocked Mama FF, at that stage of pregnancy where you are incapable of thinking beyond the end of the day, let alone for a 2+ week tour of the great Lone Star State. I would just like to sidenote that I was particularly looking forward to some giant margarita action with my Texas crew, which naturally had to be sidelined….*liver sighs in relief* …. I did however manage to maximise all my food dreams including eating TexMex for approximately 10 days straight and ordering multiple sides and additions “for the Bebe” (either the one on the outside or on the inside, and in any case all ending up in my belly: #win). Our Texas family started and ended our trip with Papasitos and we are still dribbling thinking about it.  SO GOOD.

Challenge deux: getting ourselves and our shizzle to the airport. You may be masterful at packing but I challenge you to pack effectively for yourself and a boddler when you are tired, fat, and from a country that is notoriously rainy going to a country where it’s insanely hot.    Turns out I’m truly terrible at packing expandable, hot, decent clothes and also not so great at packing for my Bebe. Mr FF did a pretty strong job on his side, but he hasn’t doubled in size and his wardrobe choices are approximately 0.3 of mine. For Bebe FF, even though he’s little, he needs a lot of paraphernalia and you kind of think the more of his own stuff you bring, somehow the more familiar it will seem and, therefore, he *will* be happy. Yes we need to take his cups, and bedding, and towel, and those 3 extra large teddies he once played with, 15,000 long sleeve tops (air conditioning is cold!) and every variety of Ella’s pouches *just in case*…. So all of this to say we basically had a shed load of stuff. We also have the actual Bebe.  Bebe FF is now getting big for carrying on me, and I also have a growing barrier to front carrying, aka Bebe #2, so we for sure needed the Babyzen yoyo (best thing ever). I’m also not enormously helpful as a bag carrier nowadays, so whatever we took, Mr FF essentially had to single-handedly get it from A to B and then to TX.

We decided on the basis of the  simple drama of packing that we would need to get to the airport in the car, and in that case we might as well just get a hotel by the airport the night before to give us some leeway before travelling. It was an excellent (and very grown up) plan (Mr FF gets full cred for that) and meant we had some sleep before our morning flight. Mr FF also got to enjoy loading and unloading the baggage a few extra times… trooper. Naturally Bebe FF was keen to show us what joy lay in store so decided he probably wouldn’t sleep in the hotel bed and would instead make loud banging noises throughout the evening. So “some sleep” is an accurate description, not all the sleep.

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brothers from another mother

Challenge trois: flying. I’m one of those people that doesn’t look forward to stuff until it’s pretty much happening. For holidays, I only get excited when I’m actually on the plane. However, that experience has recently changed. Once on the plane I suddenly realise the scale of the potential unknown that lies ahead… perhaps it’s the look of fear in people’s eyes as they glance in my direction, just at the moment Bébé FF loudly catapults out of my lap and onto the floor in a cloud of snot and food particles. Ten hours with that little monstre?! TEN HOURS. Even for a “normal” human being that’s a long time to sit relatively still. But we don’t have time to think about ourselves: Bebe FF doesn’t do sitting. He actually doesn’t do any one single thing for any extended period of time. He has recently realised that sitting still is for statues, and actually the best way to use every ounce of energy is to wriggle endlessly around, up and down, shaking his head whilst simultaneously making loud noises and – if possible – also pointing his finger. If you’re lucky he also throws in a slap.

The only distraction that is even remotely effective is food. The prospect of feeding him non-stop for 10 hours did occur to us and we ensured that one of the 17 carry-on bags we had was stuffed with copious amounts of relatively odourless and colourless “food”. Probably the best tip in this whole blog is the following: take Rice Krispies and other small cereal with you to travel. Take plenty. Fill little pots and even toys with the things. Watch with joy as your little one puts all their concentration into picking up a single one of those beauties and remind yourself there are 27,459 to go. There’s no stickiness or staining and they eventually just melt away, they aren’t bad for Bebe and shouldn’t hurt his teeth or belly. Voilà. Those ten hours quickly disappear into… erm eight. Ahem.

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Another important tip is get the bassinet friendly seats at the front. Get them, whatever you have to do. I wasn’t sure if Bebe FF would even fit in the seat still, but he did (didn’t look very comfortable but he was secured at least and not trying to squish Bebe #2) and he managed to nod off a couple of times much to our delight. Four more hours gone! The only annoying thing was when there was turbulence we had to get him out and back onto the lap – mildly traumatic when you’ve just spent the best part of an hour encouraging him to sleep.

Anyway, all in all, the combo of snippets of sleep and Rice Krispies saw us through and we got off the plane with smiling fellow travellers, including a grandmother who was fully prepared to take Bebe FF away with her, after he graced her with numerous cuddles and dribble-kisses.  This was in slight contrast to the return, where we were slightly less popular with the chaps who had opted for beds for the night flight, Bébé FF having missed the critical indication it was a “night” flight…

Challenge quatre: Getting three.5 tired bodies into a car and somewhere safe in Texas. We are going to a place where the roads are quadruple normal European size. They say everything is bigger in Texas, they are right.  So as relatively average-sized Europeans (pretend I’m not pregnant for a moment and ignore Brexit), the natural choice for a vehicle is the Suburban.  You can fit about 20 Europeans in there, plus the 95 bags that we have, with enough space for a couple of giant US portion drinks.  Mr FF was delighted with his monster truck.  Bebe FF immediately snuggled into his car seat of joy (which by the end resembled a giant Rice Krispie) with endless space to kick and throw water. After a few difficult discussions with the Sat Nav, which was in fact a human person kindly trying to provide directions, we were off towards Houston, our Texas friends, and a place where the sun shines and we, for a short while, don’t have to worry about the dramas left back home and can simply observe the drama around us.

Well, I haven’t even got into the juicy stuff yet: you will have to wait for the next instalment…. Bises x