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See posts about: // Isabelle // Parenting // Family //

Saturday, 31 May 2014

My awe for working mothers

I mentioned last week that I had gone back to work for a few days, and how that had affected our little weekly routine. I've mentioned before that, before I became Isabelle's slave, I was a Geography teacher in a really great school. I was there for 3 years and adored every second of working with my lovely friends, and with some wonderful kids. So, when my school rang me before Easter to ask if I would be able to come down and help them out with some cover work, I was really excited to get back to see everyone, catch up with friends, and generally throw myself back in to the swing of school life.

But, of course, going to work meant one huge thing – leaving Isabelle. Until the first day I went down to school, when she was 13 months old, she and I had never been apart for more than 5 hours. And suddenly we were faced with a very long 9 hour day apart. I had hoped to ease her in to this slowly, getting her to stay with my parents for longer stretch gradually, but we never got round to it as I didn't want to leave her, and so we were thrown in with no practise runs behind us.

Luckily, I actually felt pretty great about it. Over the last few months, Isabelle has become even more attached to my mum and dad than she already was. She and my dad, in particular, have struck up a great friendship, and she can’t get enough of him or my mum even when I am there! So I knew that she would be OK for the most part, but did worry about how she would cope without her milk, getting down for her naps, and whether she would get upset and miss me...

She didn’t.

I left for school, and I have to admit I had a few tears as I drove away, leaving Simon to pack her off to my parents. According to their reports, she had the most marvellous day, was in great form, and generally had a whale of a time. When I arrived home, desperate to see her, she gave me a big smile, toddled over, pulled down my top and made it abundantly clear that I am only good for one thing! (OK, two things I guess!)

As for me, I had a fabulous day as well. It was great to be back at school, and even though I wasn’t teaching Geography, I got to wander around drinking tea, chatting to people, and giving the evil eye to kids – all my favourite things!

But…it was one day. One day in a week of 7. And even though I have done more days since then, it’s not anywhere near full time, just a few days here and there. And, to be honest, that is plenty for me. Even though Isabelle is now almost 14 months, I just cannot stomach the thought of leaving her all day every day, and not getting to spend that time with her. I mentioned in a post earlier this month that I had been selectively applying for jobs, and the thought of anything full time is now something I just know I couldn’t handle – even though she will be almost 18 months come September!

All of this leaves me in absolute awe of working mothers - those who don’t have a choice but to work, those who adore their jobs and want to work…all of them. Because even though I loved my time back at work, it wasn't easy in many respects.  My house didn't get cleaned, my dogs were locked up all day, I only had time to make quick meals, I was so tired by the time Iz was in bed that I barely spoke to Simon....trying to be all things to all people is hard. And I can’t imagine doing it 5 days a week. I complained about my workload when I was working full time. I complain about how much I do at home now. I cannot fathom how these incredible women who work and run a home manage to fit ALL of that in, every single day of the year. Having time to make healthy meals, spend time with your little people, do your washing, shopping…just everything. I do not know how they do it.

So, to all working mothers – whether you work full time, part time, by choice, or by necessity, I absolutely salute you! Nobody will ever know – until they are in your situation – how much you do, how hard it can be, how much you sacrifice, and how little time it leaves for you to just be YOU. 

Working mothers often get pretty beaten up on all sides - those who think they aren't as good at their jobs because they have the distractions of kids at home, and those who think they aren't as good a parent as they have the distraction of work. And I imagine they beat themselves up most of all. It's pretty rare that people stop, take stock of all they do and think "Bloody hell. I couldn't do that!" Because I know for sure that, right now while Isabelle is so young, there is no way I could count myself in the same league as these wonderful mothers. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Win a 720 wash Ecoegg!

You might remember that earlier this year I tested some great products from the Ecoegg range. I am so impressed that, despite being used several times a week, I still have loads of my steam fragrance left, and the stain remover has worked wonders on the bottoms of Isabelle’s babygros- which were all looking a bit grubby from her toddling around. It did an amazing job this week on some beetroot she got on her BRAND NEW t-shirt...! 

As it turns out, I’m not the only Ecoegg fan out there. Ecoegg’s original Laundry Egg product recently won Prima Baby & Pregnancy Gold Award for Best Baby Skin Care product – a fabulous achievement which is well deserved. I know lots of other cloth bum mummies who swear by the laundry egg for their little perople’s nappies, and a whole other set of mummies who rely on it for clothes too, because their little one has such sensitive skin. As with all Ecoegg products, there are no harsh chemicals and it’s eco-friendly. Even better for those with sensitive skin, it is endorsed by the National Eczema Society and has a stamp of approval from Allergy UK – what more could you ask for?

To celebrate this great achievement, I am once again teaming up with Ecoegg to give you the chance to win some of their fabulous products. By entering the Rafflecopter below you have the chance to win one of ten 720 wash Laundry Eggs! If you do 4 loads of laundry a week, the 720 wash laundry will keep you going for 180 weeks – that’s over 3 years!!

If you aren’t lucky enough to win one of these super eggs, but fancy buying some of the Ecoegg products for yourself, you can get 20% off a 720 wash Ecoegg at by entering out unique voucher code. So, what is the code? Well…enter the Rafflecopter below and all will be revealed!

Good luck, and happy washing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Us lately...

It's been a few days since I've posted, and I feel like I've been far too busy to get time to sit down and write anything - although at the same time I feel like I haven't done anything much at all! 

The biggest 'thing' over the last few weeks was my working a few days in my old school, helping cover classes. Working means getting up early (6.30am gaah!), rushing around to get myself and Isabelle ready, and trying to condense an hour’s drive into much less time than that, as I inevitably leave late after trying to find my hairbrush, forgetting my phone…But it also means catching up with my friends and being able to sit down for a few minutes and have a hot cup of tea without little hands pulling at my leg (just little voices nagging 'Miss...Miss...Miss...' instead!) As always, I thoroughly enjoyed being in school, and Isabelle and I even headed down on school sports' day to allow everyone to catch up with her while she carried the relay batons about, and allow me to see how my all time favourite pupils got on after the Geography GCSE. I can hardly believe that they have done their GCSE and are ready to leave school - it seems like no time from we all started together, and I am ridiculously proud of them all. And, while I was at work, Daddy decided to play hairdresser...creating the delightful 'style' below...Needless to say, she won't be having anymore pigtails any time soon!

Of course, working days have been in the minority! So we've been filling our days as always with getting out to see friends, to baby classes, and spending time with family. We eventually got round to starting Sing and Sign classes, which are nice and something a bit different. They replace the Baby Sensory class we used to do on a Friday morning, which Isabelle had grown too old for. I miss it so much, but have actually just started Toddler Sense classes on Saturday morning instead. These are great as they have activities much more suited to Isabelle's age, and she is actually the youngest in the class, so it's fantastic for her to see the bigger toddlers and be able to learn from them. There is a lovely park just outside the Sing and Sign class, so we play there every week as well, and she is has a new love for slides - especially climbing up them!

We've also gotten out and about to some one off events. Now it's coming in to summer there seems to be so much more on. We went to the Balmoral Show - a big agricultural show held every May in Northern Ireland - for the day, and it was beautifully sunny and a great day out. Simon, Isabelle, my dad, Helen, Jacob, Isaac and I made quite the little troupe as we moseyed around. Isabelle had her first go on the teacups, while brave big boy Jacob went on the Ferris Wheel with uncle Simon. We saw some animals, petted some baby animals, and Jacob even held a snake - not while I was anywhere near him I hasten to add!

Simon and I also popped in to the Maritime Festival in the Titanic Quarter, and had a wander round the stalls there, getting a dose of churros, which is usually reserved for the Christmas Market.

We celebrated little Isaac’s christening on another lovely sunny day, with a big family get together. Isabelle enjoyed having a little zoom round in Jacob’s Cozy Coupe, and on his trike too.

Other than that, it’s been the usual rush of visiting family, swimming, walking the dogs and trying to keep up with all the house work.

At home, Isabelle has been working on her fine motor skills, and her absolute favourite thing to do at the minute is take things out, and put them in, out and in, out and in. We bought her this little pop up toy with some birthday vouchers, and while she can't quite get them to pop up yet, she will spend ages taking the figures out and putting them back in again. She has been playing a lot with her stacker toys too, and it's great to see how much her motor skills have developed in the last few weeks. She's a big fan of the dogs at the minute, and loves patting them, but has developed a bad habit of handing food to them which we are trying to stop! She adores playing outside, so much of our day is spent in the garden, blowing bubbles and playing with pegs! We have played in the sand pit a few times, but a sighting of a HUGE spider in there last week has really put me off...She especially loves playing outside at Granny and Grandad's, as they have lots of grown up toys for Jacob, like his tractor which she loves!

The next few weeks will be busy as well with Jacob’s birthday, a visit from Granny and Grandad from Norfolk, and another trip up to the north coast planned. Plenty to keep us busy and out of trouble!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Keep their smile bright with Brush Baby

It’s no secret that I am super strict with what Isabelle is allowed to eat, and part of the reason that Simon and I don’t want her having anything which is mainly sugar based is for her teeth. She doesn’t have many (only 6, she’s a slow burner!) but we want to keep the teeth she does have in good condition for as long as we can. Hopefully, she will inherit Simon’s super teeth – at 27 he has never had ANYTHING done to them. It’s extremely impressive, and irritating!

However, a friend who is a dental nurse recently told me that they see more children in their practice whose teeth are damaged by eating fruit, than damaged by eating sugary treats. It’s horrible to think that parents trying to do their best inadvertently cause harm to their little one. Isabelle eats a lot of fruit, and so the news was a bit of a blow. Another friend who is a dietician then informed us that if you give your little one a piece of cheese after eating fruit, it regulates the pH in their mouth, and leaves their teeth less susceptible to erosion from the sugar and acids in the fruit – phew! So now, if Isabelle has a fruit snack, she gets a little lump of cheddar afterwards, which is no hardship as she loves cheese.

Of course, since her teeth arrived we have been fastidious about making sure they are brushed twice daily. We started off giving her the toothbrush before she had any teeth, and so she got used to having it in her mouth and seeing it. For a while, we just used water to brush, and she wasn’t overly keen on the whole affair. Once we introduced toothpaste, she loved it. She clearly likes the minty taste, and really loves having her pearly whites brushed now!

So when the lovely people at Brush baby sent us out some toothpaste and a ‘chewable’ toothbrush for Isabelle, we were really pleased to have some more toothy products to add to our arsenal.

The chewable toothbrush is a great little invention. Isabelle chews her current toothbrush, but it’s design means she doesn’t always actually manage to brush anything. The chewable toothbrush is specially designed to allow little people to chomp on it and get their teeth cleaned at the same time. It can be used with or without toothpaste, and is a great ay to get toddler who hate brushing to have their teeth cleaned. It’s also nice for teething time – it can be popped into the fridge to cool it down and then your little munchkin can chomp away, soothing those pesky sore gums as they do. The toothpaste is a non-foaming toothpaste, which has 500ppm of fluoride to help keep little teeth in tip top condition, and along with cleaning the teeth it is designed to help bring the pH of a baby's mouth back to where it should be, giving you peace of mind that their pearly whites will be well protected. 

With 40% of the UK’s under 5s having some form of dental decay, it really is important that as parents we encourage and model great tooth cleaning habits. It’s never too early to start cleaning, so no matter what age your little one is, make an extra special effort this evening to get those toothy pegs sparkling white. Don’t forget you can register your baby at the dentist at any age, and taking them along will help them get used to the process, and hopefully mean that any tooth decay ssues are kept at bay for many years to come.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Mummy skills in the real world

A few months ago, I mentioned that when I finished work to begin maternity leave, I finished teaching in my school for good, as my contract ended that August. Since then, I have been on maternity leave and then, I suppose, unemployed. Now, it's coming up to that time of year when teaching jobs are advertised, and I have been keeping an eye out to see if anything crops up that takes my fancy. There have actually been more jobs for my subject - geography - this year than ever before, but now I have Isabelle, I'm not willing to just take any job, in any place, and so have been very picky. In the process of having a look, I've been eyeing up - and even filling in - some application forms.

That got me thinking. Even though I possess a whole load of skills which are obviously perfect for teaching - having been a teacher for several years - being a mummy has enhanced my skill set in a whole new way. Here are some of the requirements on a recent form I looked at (but didn't decide to fill in), and how my new mummy skills might help me out...

Enthusiasm and energy //
I can always summon the energy to get out of bed, even after wrestling with a 3 hour long screaming match between 1am and 4am. Furthermore, after such an event, I find myself able to be enthusiastic about being handed the same item for the 17th time in a row, or having to shout 'PEEKABOO!' for the 100th time in a row. Moreover, in order to avoid dealing with the 15th tantrum of the day, I continually find myself able to push my own emotions aside to be enthusiastic about singing 'There's a hole in the bottom of the sea', complete with actions, until such a tantrum is diverted.

Flexibility //
During a typical day, I demonstrate my ability to be flexible by making spur of the moments decisions based solely on the mood of a toddler. Despite spending time putting carefully laid plans in to place the day before, I am easily able to throw these out the window and create a whole new set of activities for the day, should said toddler prove to be in an exceptionally bad, exceptionally good, or exceptionally blasé mood, or should the weather suddenly change. Similarly, working with my current 'colleague' requires me to be flexible enough to climb out of the shower - hair unrinsed - should she decide to wake from her nap early, repack her snacks three times depending on what she has decided not to eat that particular day, or abandon all chance of a successfully cooked meal when she decides she must receive milk at that exact moment in time.

Willingness to accept challenge //
I have a child.

Excellent oral communication skills //
Unfortunately, my current colleague has a grasp understanding of the English language, and as such I have carefully honed my skills over the last 13 months in order to ensure that I am clear and concise in all my oral communication, at all times. It would be true to say, however, that this had led to the majority of my communication ending up as short, concise sentences such as "No! That's dirty!" or "Stop! You'll be electrocuted!", as this is all my co-worker currently understands. I do, however, find backing up my oral communication with sign language - such as a waggling finger, or a full body dive to pull her finger out of a socket - to be an extremely effective, and much underused, communication method.

Ability to multi-task and delegate //
My ability to multi-task has vastly improved since becoming a mother. A few examples;
- I can cook a meal to meet the nutritional requirements of both a grown man and a 1 year old, whilst holding that 1 year old in my arms, folding laundry, and picking up toys.
- I am able to change a nappy whilst pushing away a dog, procuring more wipes, passing my child a variety of distraction devices, picking up dropped distraction devices, and texting my husband an SOS
- While driving is generally considered to be a task which requires undivided attention, I am able to negotiate city streets whilst singing "Row, row, row your boat", passing snacks backwards to my toddler, picking up toys which she hurls at me, and swear at other road users.
In terms of delegation, I find it incredibly easy to forget all about household chores during the day when my toddler demands my attention half way through the hoovering, and then guilt my husband in to completing these tasks on his return home from work.

Time management//
I consider time management to be one of my strongest skills. For example, in a typical day I am able to organise my time to ensure if I need to arrive at a baby class at 11am, I am able to fit in a nap, snack, free play, time to get dressed, time for house hold chores, time to travel to destination, and time for tantrums in order to make sure we arrive at our destination in a timely fashion. My time management does waiver in the early evenings, when the work which needs done does seem to far outstrip the number of hours until bedtime, however, I pride myself on always being able to fit in every chore, completed to the highest possible standard (if judged by the toddler).

Working with others - interpersonal skills //
I have great experience interacting with a cross-section of the community, from those who are keen to tell you how you are doing everything wrongly, to those who tell you you know nothing because you only have one child, and from those who ask when you will stop breastfeeding your child, to those who try to get a little too friendly. In order to avoid creating conflict, and in order to allow everyone's opinions to be heard, respected and valued, I have carefully honed my ability to smile, say nothing, and back away slowly. This is a skill which I believe will carry me far, as it allows me to interact with anyone within a work setting in - what they believe is - a largely positive way, and creates an atmosphere in which physical violence to be kept to a minimum.

Working with others - Meeting and working with others who hold the same position as yourself //
Over the last 13 months, I have found it absolutely imperative to meet with my peers several times a week, in order to allow myself every opportunity to reap the benefits of their experience - which always  seems to vastly outstrip my own. I find these meetings are crucial in ensuring I am at the top of my game, allowing me to measure myself and my colleague against the progress of others to ensure that any issues are clearly highlighted, ready to trouble shoot these during the next week. Peer support is also a fantastic way to raise morale among myself and others, and I believe it is vital to the well-being of all. Generally, I have found that these meetings work best when fuelled by tea and biscuits, as these appear to stimulate productivity.

Despite the huge number of, genuine, skills we all develop as mummies, I sadly can't imagine that most employers would actually see these sorts of things as valuable. What do you think your top skill is as a mummy?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Updating Isabelle's playroom - and a personalised name art giveaway!

I posted a while ago about some ideas for when we revamped the playroom. We hadn't actually been planning on doing ti for a while, but the influx of toys and books we got for Isabelle's birthday, combined with the sudden need for new patio doors (the old ones were suddenly found to be rotting along the bottom) meant that it was moved to the top of the priority list.

We chatted over a few ideas about what to do in there to make the space more storage friendly, without compromising too much space. We previously had 2 bookcases along the back wall, a snuggle seat and a coffee table along the 'door' wall, and the toy box and another chair along the third wall. Because of the patio doors, one wall is completely useless in terms of furniture, and the location of the radiator and door have also meant that deciding what to do was a little tricky. I had some quite set ideas about how I wanted it to look, and what I wanted to include, which didn't help matters either! The priorities were storage, comfy seats and having a big open space in the middle for Isabelle to play. I also wanted it to be full of bright colours everywhere, which is exactly what I think a playroom should be like.

I loved the art work we had on the walls, but it wasn't quite what I wanted for the playroom so it was all taken down to be replaced too.

So what did we do with the furniture we had?

- Left one bookcase and took the other away
- Moved the snuggle seat into the empty space left by the bookcase
- Got rid of the coffee table
- Moved the toybox in front of the radiator, between the snuggle seat and bookcase

That was all the existing furniture taken care of, and it left us with one whole wall free for storage. We are huge Ikea fans in our house, and so headed there to buy a 16 square Expedit unit, and some storage boxes. I wanted some nice bright boxes, and some of the patterns too, so we did a bit of a mix and match of 8 boxes. I've put a box in ever other hole, and in between are some of her bigger toys. To be honest, the boxes aren't even half full at the minute, but in the future we are going to get more and more toys, so at least we have plenty of space in which to store them.

On top of the Expedit, I have put the chalkboard from Isabelle's birthday. I was going to hang it on the wall, but actually like it just free standing in the corner, along with some of her Easter teddies. The opposite wall used to have a big photo of our wedding day, but we replaced it with this great painting by a local artist of a mummy and baby giraffe, which Simon bought me for Valentine's Day. It's such gorgeous colours, and is nice and bright for the playroom. Underneath it, I have hung some of the bunting from her birthday, and put a little more on the Expedit as well.

We still have our big button rug from Ikea, which gives Isabelle a nice soft landing when she bumps down!

We aren't quite finished yet though..... Simon's sister made Isabelle a cute fabric alphabet for her birthday which is perfect for a playroom, and I just need to get some ribbon and pegs to hang it. Curtain tie backs will help us keep the window area a bit more tidy, even though Isabelle loves playing 'peekaboo' in the curtains! We are also going to put up some big pictures of Isabelle and her cousins above her rocking horse, and then when she is bigger, we are going to turn the rest of that blank wall space in to an "art wall", by painting a big chalkboard on to the wall, and attaching a roll of paper for drawing. Lastly, Simon's granny cross-stitched this amazing height chart for Isabelle for Christmas - isn't it unreal?! We are going to hang it on the end of the Expedit, once we agree on how to put it up!

It might looked cramped and crazy, but it's perfect for us - a cosy and colourful space for Isabelle to play to her heart's content.

That's plenty of artwork for us for now, but wouldn't one of these personalised pieces of artwork look amazing in a playroom, or even your little one's bedroom?

These name frames are so cute, and are a lovely personal touch to have in your home. And luckily, we have one of these gorgeous pieces of artwork to giveaway! So you can now have your little one's name in their favourite colour, along with a  little race car or flower, ready to hang on your wall, courtesy of Frames to You! All you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter below....good luck!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Bento Box Craze...

I can't be the only person out there who has noticed that the world seems to have gone mad for Bento Boxes?

For anyone who has never come across Bento Boxes, they are based on a traditional Japanese way of presenting food - think of them as a little lunch box of lots of different bits to eat. However, in the UK at the minute they seem to be the way of presenting lunch time yummies to toddlers.

The Bento craze seems to have literally exploded around the UK, and my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds are littered with pictures of what beautiful Bento Boxes people are presenting to their little people.  You give them 5 or 6 small portions of different foods, which are usually separated out into different holders and presented in an overall tub. And it's the word 'presented' which is important, because it seems that presentation is the key. You can't just serve your child a sandwich - perish the thought! The sandwich must be 'Bentofied' (I just made that word up) which means it has to be cut using shaped cookie cutters so that instead of a normal sandwich, you get a crown shape, or a teddy, or a duck. (When I was little, the height of sandwich excitement was getting triangles instead of squares!)

And it doesn't stop at the sandwiches. Little shapes are made out of every food stuff imaginable - cheese, crackers, cucumber, name it. It isn't just shapes either, you can buy special accessories to go with your toddler's Bento Box to give it that extra cool factor, such as food picks with character toppers. I must admit, the overall effect can look great, and I have heard lots of people say that it encourages their fussy toddler to eat a wider variety of food stuffs, which is fantastic.

But...who seriously has the time to stand and cut bunny shaped sandwiches, or make ladybird crackers and cheese, or stick a toothpick in to every piece of heart shaped cheese you've cut? If you do, I am super impressed, and would love your secret of time management! I am a big fan of "bitty" lunches, which is I suppose where Bento started off, but cubes are the height of my presentation method, and I even resent spending my time doing that! I do think, though, that it has probably encouraged some mummies to be more adventurous with what they give their little person, and include a wider variety of fruit and veg in their lunch, rather than just giving them a plain sandwich. And I think that's great, and I try to do the same with Isabelle - so I suppose it's the idea that it has to be presented in a certain way, and all separated out in to little cases which I can't quite get to grips with. Why not just put it on a plate?

Not only do I not have time to stand and create a lunch masterpiece, I also think it's totally bonkers to do so! In our house, we have a very simple attitude towards Isabelle and food - if she wants it and she is hungry, she will eat it. If she doesn't eat it...she doesn't eat it. I think partly this attitude comes from my total lack of interest in food. I hate cooking, I'm not very good at it, and I'm not hugely fussed on eating meals either - I'm by no means a 'foodie'.

Not only am I way to lazy to put it a Bento Box together but I also don't want to set myself up for the inevitable fall when she refuses to eat a sandwich because it's only a square, not a horse, or she refuses to eat her blueberries because there is no Minnie Mouse stick in them. I understand that this might make food more attractive to some little people, but I do worry about what happens when it stops working, or when you find one day you just don't have time to do it, and your little one gets something totally alien to them - normally presented food.

I know Bento Boxes really are working well for lots of families across the country, and that some kids are much happier eating that way, and that's great, but I certainly won't be dusting off the moustache shaped sandwich cutter (yes, I do own one!) any time soon, so poor Isabelle will have to make do with her square sandwiches and cubes of cheese for many years to come.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Our recent getaways...

We have been really lucky over the last month to get away not once, but twice! It was so nice each time to get away from day-to-day life, and get to have some concentrated 'family time', especially for Simon and Isabelle.

Our first trip was quite the undertaking - 12 of my family jetted off to Portugal for 7 days. That would be my mum, dad, brother, sister-in-law, 2 nephews, sister, brother-in-law, cousin, Simon, Isabelle and me.  My sister-in-law had the idea way back last autumn that we should rent a villa in Portugal for a week over Easter, and so on Good Friday we all struggled out of bed at arrive at the airport at 5am. I am still surprised by how smoothly that went, actually, especially with 3 tiny people - and my sister - in tow!

 We flew to Faro, and stayed less than 30minutes away from the airport near Almancil. Helen sourced us a great villa, which came complete with everything we needed to house ourselves for a week (apart from a slight bedding issue which wasn't ideal at all) and keep us all happy. It had a great big garden for the kids and, best of all, it's own private, heated pool. The little people loved being in the water, and I'm pretty sure Jacob spent more time in that pool than he has ever spent in water in his life! Isabelle is a big fan of swimming, and with Simon's special camera 'things' we were even able to get an underwater picture of her in the pool!

We had a few days round the pool and lounging in the villa while we all unwound and enjoyed just being away, and had the chance to spend a relaxed Easter Sunday together complete with an egg hunt and egg and spoon race courtesy of my sister. Then, we spent another few days out and about in the local area. We visited Vilamoura a few times - a beautiful little beach/marina town which had lots of places to eat and get ice cream, yet wasn't horribly touristy. It was nice for a stroll and a bite to eat, and also had a great beach which is where we spent my dad's birthday. Of course, we left the buggy firmly at home and took a selection of slings instead - and Simon was thrilled to get the chance to try out his newest carrier, which both he and Izzy loved!

Isabelle loved being with the whole family for such an extended period of time. She adores her grandparents and Jacob in particular, and was in her element being surrounded by them 24/7. Sadly, the travel cot in the house left a little to be desired, and so she wasn't very comfy at night, so didn't sleep very well. Luckily, we had a nice big bed in which she made herself very comfy indeed!

Overall, despite some reservations, I think that the whole holiday went well - nobody murdered anyone which was definitely a good starting point! Having so many people in such close quarters for a week is bound to get a bit much, and I think we were all glad to say goodbye when we returned to Belfast...but it was only a day or two later until we saw one another again!

You might think that after such an intense holiday we would want to steer clear of my family for extended time periods...but last weekend my parents, brother, sister-in-law, nephews and the 3 of us spent the weekend up at our new family holiday home on the north coast of Northern Ireland. We have just bought it, and it's going to be a great place to escape to when we all need a break. Simon and I, along with my brother and sister-in-law, went up on Saturday, and we were joined by my parents on Sunday.

Cheesy selfie alert!

We didn't do much except relax and walk the dogs on the various beaches, but it was nice just to get away and again have that time together without interruptions at home. The great thing about the new house is that we can take the dogs with us, so Roxy and Dexter were exhausted from their runs along the beach, splashing in the waves and chasing balls. Have you ever seen Marley and Me? You know the scene where Marley poos in the sea at dog beach?....................that was us this weekend. Dexter has found a new love of pooing in the ocean on Portstewart Strand. So, to anybody swimming up there, enjoy!

While the others left on Bank Holiday Monday, the 3 of us stayed another night by ourselves. Simon doesn't work a million miles away, so headed straight to work on Tuesday morning, while Isabelle and I took our time getting up, before another walk on the beach and the drive home, which is about 1hr 15minutes.

We're really looking forward to spending a lot more time 'up the coast' as Isabelle grows up - both with my family and just the 3 of us. It's so lovely to get away, and be able to relax and enjoy some quality time together as a family.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Those never ending tasks...

You know the way there are just some tasks that just seem never ending? You have barely finished doing it...and it's time to start again. Or you could swear you JUST did it...and yet it needs done again. Like the painting of the Forth Road Bridge, some tasks just seem to never, ever end.

Here are some jobs in our house which always seem to need done again...

* cutting Isabelle's nails - I am pretty sure I just cut them, so why is she stabbing me again already?

* the washing - every mother's nemesis

* hoovering - as I put the hoover away I see dog hair piling up already

* sorting Isabelle's clothes - just when you think you have weeded out all the bits she is too small for and packed them safely away, you suddenly realise there is a whole new set of clothes she has just grown out of

* cutting the grass - I don't personally do this, but it seems that Simon is forever outside with the lawn mower

* emptying the bathroom bin - a job I hate doing, for no real reason, but one which always seems to need done. Where does all that rubbish come from?

* cleaning the patio doors - I clean them, which attracts Isabelle's attention so she comes over with sticky fingers. I clean them, which attracts Isabelle's attention....

Luckily for the Forth Road Bridge painters, they have found a new paint type which gives them a bit longer between paint jobs, so they can finally have a break. I wonder when someone will invent something to ensure the same happens in our house?

Friday, 2 May 2014

Surprising things about having a daughter

I will be honest: I never envisaged myself with a daughter. Even more honest: I was never really that fussed about having one.

I know some women crave a daughter, but for me, it was never something that seemed that appealing. I am not a girly-girl at all, so the idea of having to play dollies, and tea parties, and use little clips, while everything round me turned PINK was pretty horrifying; I have always detested the colour pink.

Then, when we found out I was pregnant, I just knew I was having a girl, even though we decided to keep the gender a surprise. People say that, and you think they are crazy, but it's true. I just KNEW my baby was a girl. I never said anything - just in case I was wrong and looked like I had the worst mother's instinct ever! - but from the start I believed she was a girl. Even later on, when everyone round me was telling me I was having a boy, and I half believed them, every time I imagined having my baby here...she was always a girl. And I panicked a little! What do I know about the ways of the girl?! Much safer to just go with the general consensus that I was having a boy, like I had always planned...

So, imagine my surprise when my little bundle arrived - pink in more ways than one!

In the most beautiful babygro ever
And it began. everywhere! But, to my surprise, mostly I didn't hate it. In fact, even more surprising, most of my favourite little outfits from those early days were shades of pink, and frilly and gorgeous. And somewhere along the line, I found myself enjoying it all. Somewhere else along the line I stopped to take stock of my new life as a mummy and realised some pretty surprising things - things which I thought would never happen...

*I buy PINK. Never hot pink (bleeugh), but I buy pink, and I like dressing her in it! She looks so cute, and so I buy more. I never thought I would do that, and I do still recoil in horror at some shades of pink, but overall, I love Isabelle in pink.

*I buy DRESSES. Ok, so I don't buy lots as they aren't hugely practical for a baby, but I buy them. And she looks adorable in them, and I fully intend to enjoy every party-dress-buying-day I have to come! And, really, it's not just dresses. It's all girly clothes, like romper suits, and frilly sun hats, and pretty much everything else.

*I buy DOLLS. I never liked dolls. I never saw the point in them and wasn't interested at all. Yet, for Isabelle's first birthday I got in to my head that i wanted to buy her a rag doll, and so Katy doll came to live with us. And I love it! Isabelle cuddles her, and I cuddle her, and I feel proud carrying a doll around, as if I am saying to the world "Look at me and my daughter having fun!"

*I buy HAIR CLIPS. This was something which required a bit of a push from Simon, but they are just something that became essential for our hairy beast. But, to my utter surprise, I adore them. She looks so sweet with them! I will buy many, many more in the future, and I don't mind at all. I even made a little hanging decoration of pink hearts to keep them all tidy.

*I want to buy a TEA SET.  Katy doll, Isabelle and I will have many beautiful tea parties together. Isabelle can wear a pink party dress and wear clips!

Hair clips, bunting, ruffles, pink....girly central!
So, here I am, one year on from having a beautiful baby girl dropped into my lap, and I find I am enjoying almost every second of the girly ways. When I was planning her birthday party, I couldn't believe that I was making bunting, and pink letters, and buying pastel coloured balloons - but I was so thrilled when it all looked so girly and pretty. And I am surprised constantly by how excited I am for all the girly things we can do in the future. Buying a little bike with streamers, pigtails, even cuter dresses...

Mostly, I am surprised by how PROUD I am to have my beautiful little girl, who looks so much like me, and is so like me in her personality. I always wanted three boys and couldn't fathom what I would do with a baby I wonder if I would be able to survive with boys at all, and have even wondered a few times why on earth I ever wanted a boy to begin with, since my baby girl is just so wonderful!

At the end of the day, boy or girl doesn't really matter to any mummy - babies are always loved just the same. But, having never imagined I would have a baby girl, I have been so amazed by just how wonderful having a daughter can be. And I am just continually surprised at how much I have changed, in order to accommodate this tiny, pink and most special girl who stormed in to our lives.

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