Tips for moving house with a baby

We moved from Bristol to Cornwall seven months ago. We’d just come back from Thailand with six-month-old Delilah so it was a bit of a learning curve. Working with Getamover.co.uk on this post, I’ve put together a few ideas on how to make moving house with a baby a smoother process.

Plan
I find I get easily overwhelmed when it comes to tackling big jobs like cleaning the house, let alone moving house, unless I break it down into little steps. It’s hard to know where to begin otherwise and I get stuck in details that turn out to be lower priority later on. If you’re like me, it could help to write down absolutely everything that needs to get done, working logically, room by room, step by step. Then arrange when things need to be done and discuss by whom if there are other members of your household who can take on responsibility or if you need to call in help from someone else. Then do something little from your to do list so you can tick off something right away. This helps if I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed by all that needs to be done.

Take it bit by bit
Rather than aiming to get everything done in the weekend before you move, if at all possible, spread the tasks. We knew months ahead that we’d be moving so I tried to set myself little tasks that would help in the long run, like organising paperwork or sorting out the many miscellaneous bowls and drawers we’d accumulated. Starting early makes everything much more manageable.

Use a sling
I honestly don’t know how people do life with babies without a sling. For me it’s been a game changer all three times, allowing me to keep my baby close while getting on with things, particularly if they’re in a back carry. If your baby’s not keen on the sling or if you’re not confident about using one, it could be worth checking out a sling library or a babywearing consultant near you as they may have some ideas you could try – a different sling or a different carry perhaps. It’s not for everyone but it could be a real help if you find a way to make it work for you.

Build in time for focused attention
I find it difficult to multitask and often get swept up in what I’m doing, forgetting that my baby needs some focused attention too. The thing is, while I’m saying that I’ll just get this one thing done then play with the baby, the reality is that if I stop and give her the undistracted time, she might be happy to take some time on her own or with her sisters afterwards.

Arrange pet care

We moved our cats to my in-laws when we were moving out initially and then into a cattery when we were doing the move in to our new house, a month later. Seriously, you have enough on your plate trying to keep an eye on the baby while doing a house move. It could be worth taking out of the equation worrying about your pets running away.

Declutter before and after

Having recently done such a major move, I feel passionately that we need to own less. We gave away, donated or sold about a third of what we owned before moving. Then we did the same with another third while unpacking. I’m still filling about a bag every couple of weeks to go to the charity shop. My goal is to get to the point where if we ever needed to move again, it wouldn’t be an utterly daunting task, not just because we’d have less to physically move but because everything would have a place.


Pay for packing and moving

But because we didn’t achieve that (not even nearly!) before this move, we decided to factor paying for packing into our removal costs. Laurence was away working in Cornwall more than half the working week and it just wasn’t physically possible for me to get it all done without help and we could afford it so we paid for it. It really made such a difference.

Accept and ask for help
Even so, I didn’t want to leave everything to the movers or it would have been disaster on the other end as our house was very disorganised. So I said “yes” to any friends and family who offered their help, asking them to hold a baby or run an errand for me. I find it difficult to ask for help, often feeling like I’m troubling someone but, shoe on the other foot, I’d hate to think a friend needed my help and felt like they couldn’t ask so I asked.

Get a cleaner
Having done a house move before when Talitha was a toddler, I knew that the last thing we wanted to do after a move was a time-pressured house clean so I put a shout out for a cleaner on a local Facebook group and booked one to come in after the movers had taken everything. It put our minds at ease knowing that we’d left the house in a fit state for our buyers.

Adjust your expectations
Realistically, it may not all go to plan. It may just be really stressful. You may not be able to pay for much help. You may have to accept that done is better than perfect. Understanding that things won’t always go smoothly is the first step to dealing with these problems. Moving house with a baby is an extreme experience, to say the least, whatever your circumstances. A little self-compassion is certainly appropriate here. Tie in little treats where you can (like a tea break when you’ve finished a major task) and remind yourself that you are doing something big and that you’re doing what you can.


Planning ahead for a greener Christmas

This post is brought to you by UncommonGoods. It’s something that’s genuinely been on my mind and I hope we can share some ideas around it.

I know, I know! How can I breathe the word “Christmas” when it’s only August? The thing is, I’ve finally accepted that if I don’t plan ahead for Christmas I end up not just spending more money than I would otherwise but not necessarily making the most ethical choices with my spending either. I reckon planning well in advance makes for a greener Christmas overall so this is what I’m kick starting now, a few months in advance.

Making presents
Every year I say I want to make some decent presents for our family but I wind up leaving it too late! Now’s the time to get the sewing machine and crochet needle going. I’ve started collecting ideas but if it gets to November and I’ve not begun, it won’t happen.

Delegating
Cutting down the cost of Christmas spending goes hand in hand with trying to make more eco friendly and ethical choices because when money gets super tight, we wind up having to go with whatever option’s cheapest, it’s just a reality. So one way we’re getting around that is asking people we’re spending Christmas with to share responsibility by bringing dishes with them.

Spreading the cost of ethical purchases

In the vein of the above, we need to budget well to ensure we buy things we believe in. That may well mean buying some of it now and considering retailers like UncommonGoods, which are committed to sustainability and social responsibility. UncommonGoods features recycled, handmade and organic products and even donates a percentage of its proceeds to non-profit organisations. From quirky gifts such as an upcycled sari robe or a set of tea from around the world to gadgets gifts like wooden brain teasers to gifts for wine connoisseurs like birthstone bottle stoppers, they boast a genuinely intriguing collection.


Contemplating traditions

I’ve started evaluating the traditions we’ve picked up over our last six Christmases with kids and though it’s definitely still a work in progress, I’m fairly certain we’ve been wasting money on stuff they and we really don’t need. I want us to focus on traditions that don’t involve spending or acquiring, like putting together activities to take us through the Advent Calendar or making a Jesse Tree.

Making wrapping “paper”
My mother-in-law has been sewing cloth gift wraps for this year’s birthday presents and though I’m not committed to this as another item on our to-do list, it’s really given us something to think about. Most wrapping paper is not recyclable and we get through so much of it, it can be a real problem. Even if we just potato print or hand print recyclable paper, we’ll want to get an early start and that means scheduling it in at some point, thinking now for the Autumn.

Sourcing the Christmas tree
Every year we are pretty last minute on our tree and don’t give it much thought but this year I’d really like to try to change that whether it means picking up a tree a school is throwing out, buying from a member of the British Tree Growth Association or looking for a tree that can be replanted. The thing is, it bears thinking about ahead of time, even if we’re just telling the kids not to expect the tree as early as we often get it because we’re waiting for a “used” one.

Collect ideas and junk for decorations
I love making decorations with the kids and this year I’d like to rescue more from the recycling for our decorations. We’ve used an old hanger to make a wreath in the past but I have my sights set on a cardboard gingerbread house this year. Hopefully they go for it and don’t insist on the sweets. Maybe we’ll do both if they do.


Still pretty proud of these stockings I made for the girls with Laurence’s old jumpers. I’ve another jumper ready to become one for Delilah

Over to you. Anything you’re planning to do differently this year? I can’t be the only one thinking of Christmas already, surely.


How our third baby changed the way we home educate

Talitha takes books out into the garden on a sunny day. She’s reading about famous artists here.

When I was pregnant with Delilah, I fielded a lot of questions about how I’d cope with home educating then five year old Talitha when she was born. It’s amusing that they considered the new baby more disruptive to our set up than my wildly busy then two year old! How I’d respond depended on how well I knew the person asking and whether I felt energetic enough to explain that we weren’t in fact doing “school at home”, as they probably imagined. People asked out of interest and, to be honest, I also wondered how I’d cope, not just with homeschooling but with three children, in general.

Delilah turned one last week, neatly coinciding with the end of the school year. While we don’t really observe term dates, I took it as a marker of the time we’ve survived and in which we’ve even thrived. Looking back on this crazy year, my approach to home education has developed and changed in ways I couldn’t have expected.

I started the year holding tightly to the idea of structure. I had lists and plans, things I put together mostly with the children and while I never forced Talitha to do anything, I was very much the driving force in getting them done. I strongly encouraged her to do the things I thought she should be doing and found it difficult to let go emotionally when this inevitably became a battle of wills. It was frustrating for both of us.

A friend had suggested that in the new baby haze, I might want to consider unschooling, following the child’s lead and allowing her to learn through living, rather than keeping any rigid plans. Since my plans were pretty relaxed, I felt we could keep to a discernible schedule regardless and so I didn’t take the advice much to heart.

But. I’d forgot what having a newborn was like. I’d forgot what having a newborn who woke a lot in the night was like. I’d forgot what juggling the needs of a newborn and a two and a half year old was like, never mind throwing in the five year old who, though independent and rather helpful, still had needs too.

And I didn’t factor in that our lives would be majorly disrupted by Laurence staying over in Cornwall for part of every week or by going back and forth to Cornwall to house hunt or by the trip to Thailand. And I certainly could not have appreciated how thrown we would be, picking up our lives and moving from one part of the country to another.

A lot more than “just” a new baby made this a chaotic year. I think that’s why I clung for control. I felt so overwhelmed.

I began to be at war with myself, feeling we needed to keep to this arbitrary schedule and beating myself up because I couldn’t make it work for us. And I really wasn’t even attempting to sit us around a table with workbooks and a white board, honest.

Finally, I began to face up to the fact that I needed to work with things as they were and learn to live well in the present rather than daydream about what I’d do when we weren’t working around naps or when I had more sleep or when my three year old was more independent or even when my baby was a three year old (talk about wishing your life away!).

I totally appreciate that for some people, coping with disruption means holding onto more routine but for me, I needed to think smaller than that and seek to change myself rather than impose my will on my family – something I hadn’t even realised I was doing.

So, I got down to basics. What was really important in a day? What was the minimum I could leave on that list of things to do. Just as when Talitha was a baby I had to learn that there were seasons where I’d only get one or two household tasks done, I needed to pare the home education to-do list back too.

I arrived at “read books to them” and “get outdoors”. That’s all I was aiming to offer in a day. Anything else was an extra and the girls could autonomously find plenty to fill their time. Sometimes time outdoors would just mean a picnic in our garden, others it would be running about on a rainy winter beach. Sometimes it didn’t happen at all. I had to learn to be at peace with that too.


Above, Talitha decided to fill a calendar with important dates and both were using prompt cards to write and draw in their journals

I channelled my limited energy into making the various spaces we’ve been in as accessible as possible so the kids can create, explore and play without needing too much input from me when I might be stuck under a baby. I still view this as my primary responsibility in home educating – creating an environment that is child friendly and not overwhelming.

As the year went on, I began to relax more and more because I could see that they really were learning. After a couple of months of refusing to read aloud, Talitha was suddenly absorbed in chapter books, understanding what she was reading. She even started reading aloud again with a fluency that no one trained her into. Ophelia’s numeracy and dexterity took huge leaps. Both love books, are full of questions and are always making or experimenting. We haven’t done much crafting together this year but I’m often finding their creations, surprised by the thought that’s gone into it and what it says about what they’ve been exploring.

I began to appreciate learning where it was happening. Talitha might write a letter to a friend or a to-do list or invitations to her teddies, inviting them to a party. They might count for fun or try to logically work something out or play games and put together puzzles. Sometimes they get workbooks out for fun. Every day they’re making connections between experiences and conversations, things we’ve read or seen in a video and answers they’ve been collecting along the way.

Out of curiosity, I had a look at the national curriculum for Year One. Many things we’ve covered by accident or Talitha’s discovered through things she’s doing anyway. Other things I figure she’ll get to when and if she needs them. We’ve delved into yet others that aren’t on the curriculum, mostly guided by their interests though I do also throw things in the way.


Baking is so often a great basis for both learning and reconnecting

I’m not totally sure what this means for the year ahead. I suspect we will, bit by bit, bring in a little more gentle routine to make sure we’re making the time for the things everybody wants to do. But I’m more aware of the need to keep taking the temperature of our family and working out where we’re at.

I am so grateful to have home educated this year. I’m relieved not to have had to do the school run with a baby and with a preschooler who has her own ideas about transitions. I also love that the girls have all had masses of time together. The older two gain a lot from being around a baby and learning that we slow down and adapt in times of great change.

Check out what we get up to day-to-day over on Instagram, especially in my stories.


Ten things to consider when camping with younger children

We finally managed our first camping trip as a family of five. We were meant to go to a festival when Delilah was six weeks old but Laurence got ill and that just proved one obstacle too many. Then our first trip this year got turned into a picnic since the forecast for the rest of the weekend was dire. So the older girls were desperate for a night under canvas. A couple of weeks ago, we made it to Bude. I’d booked a cute little eco campsite and we were keen to try out a different part of Cornwall.

Talitha was almost three when we first took her camping. It’s since become a mainstay of our family spring, summer and even autumn now. We’ve gone camping with a younger baby as well as while I was pregnant. Our kids are now 6 years old, 3 years old and 11 months old and having done a recent camp, I’ve collated a few things to consider when camping with younger children, should you decide to go for it this year.

A change is as good as a rest
Let’s face it, there are a lot of things about family camping that are not restful. I don’t know whether we’ll ever reach a point where getting ready to go for a weekend doesn’t feel like a total mission.

I also find sleeping with a baby in a tent a bit of a tricky one because I tend to get stuck in one position then need to shift her to the other side of me so I can get into another one. The logistics are trickier dealing with layers and sleeping bags. It’s totally doable but it probably explains the massive bags under my eyes in the YouTube video at the end of this post.

Still, we find as the kids get older that the change of place and pace offers us adults some decent chill time. Even their just running around the field on this last trip, darting in and out of the tent and pretending the sleeping bags were the ocean allowed us time to sit, chat and even read. Better yet if you get to sit somewhere with a view. And there are so many little things that are suddenly less work more play when camping like cooking over a fire or the kids washing the dishes in a tub on the ground.

So while we may not have come home having had a lot of sleep, and we may well have brought more work home in the form of laundry and unpacking, we were refreshed in other ways. I can only see this becoming more fun as we go along, especially as the kids become more and more free range.

Get and stay prepared

Make the idea of going less daunting by working with a camping list and keeping some of the stuff in a ready-to-grab box if you can.

The right kit can make all the difference
Just as there’s no such thing as bad weather only improper clothing, the kit makes a serious difference when camping too. It was a real game changer buying a tent that we could reasonably stand up in and compartmentalise our stuff around.

More recently, Millets sent us four sleeping bags, an overdue upgrade. The girls are lounging about in a couple of them in the photos above. We went for two VANGO Harmony single sleeping bags thinking that they would be spacious enough for Delilah to cosleep with me, which they just about are. We also asked for two VANGO Nitestar 250 sleeping bags because they’re more performance bags which we thought would grow with the girls as they take on their own outdoor pursuits in the future. Both bags are soft, breathable and a great temperature for spring and summer camping, certainly. The harmony feels a bit luxurious even. We’re looking forward to taking them on the boat for our first overnight stay this weekend.

Millets also sent us a fun camping care package as part of their #homefromhome campaign with everything from mobile phone charger to lantern to waterproofing spray to tent repair kit to cup holder. Some things we either hadn’t known they carried or hadn’t known were a thing! They may not have all been bare bones essentials but a few extras can take little stresses you weren’t aware were there out of the picture. It gave a glimpse of the broad scope of their camping range.

Throw out the routine
Every time we go camping we get into a debate about whether we should be encouraging bedtime or let the kids take the lead. Laurence is always for the latter and always proven right about it too. With the excitement, noise and light, the kids are never ready to go to bed at the normal time, however worried I might be about how tired they’ll be the next day, as they don’t lie in either.

And yes, they’re more tired, but it all tends to work itself out in the end, either by them taking themselves off to bed a little earlier the following night, opting for an afternoon nap or, hey, just being a bit tired, which isn’t the end of the world after all. I reckon late nights and all sharing the sleep space are key parts of the memories we’re making.

Let camping be the main event
I made a bit of a mistake with this latest trip by choosing to camp in Bude, an hour and a half away from where we live near Falmouth. It meant that I felt like I had to justify the journey by planning to see things. As it turned out, we would have all preferred to have just hung out around the campground, maybe venturing out on just one day, rather than both. As usual, slow and simple makes for a happier time with younger kids.

Take a few activities
In times past, we’ve just brought a few books and bubbles and called that that but a year on, I think we need to add to a few things to the list. Certainly if we were going any longer we might bring sketchbooks and pencils, a card game, a chapter book for Talitha, water pistols and maybe something active like a bat and ball.

Choose the right spot
OK so maybe Bude was a bit further than we needed to go, since we live in Cornwall and are surrounding by great outdoor spaces but I couldn’t recommend Cerenety eco campsite enough. The facilities were perfectly comfortable. The compost loos were extremely well kept, there were hot solar showers and we were encouraged to build fires.

They run a quirky caravan cafe, offering coffee and crepes for breakfast and take children around to see and feed their rescue animals mid-morning. The alpacas left a lasting impression on Talitha and Ophelia. There’s even a pond and a permaculture forest garden. The site is conveniently located for Bude but far enough away to feel a bit wild.

A big highlight was going over to Crackington Haven, pictured below. It is such a lovely little beach, perfect for chilling on while the kids play, build and paddle and there was an amazing surfer making good use of the waves too.

Less might well be more
I used to want to pack our entire house, feeling that the kids needed so many clothes, especially jumpers but they run wild, don’t care about the wet or cold and won’t let me dress them. Even when I pack what I think is too little, we never use it all!

Let your children rewild you
Camping used to reside firmly in the category of things I did for Laurence or the kids. I’ve often forced myself to be more outdoorsy or adventurous than I’d be inclined to be on my own.

Bit by bit, I feel things changing inside me. I get braver, more willing to try things, to trust myself, to stop worrying, to let go, to have fun.

I probably still wouldn’t go camping if it weren’t for my children but every time we go, I find I’m doing it a little more for me too. This time, I felt I could have stayed days beyond a weekend, even with the rain.

Capture the moment
There’s a fine line between missing the moment and gently documenting our experiences. I don’t always get it right. I try to take a few snaps and clips on my phone unobtrusively and hope I’m not distracting anyone, including myself. In future, it would be great to add sketching or even flower pressing to the mix. I’d love for the girls to look back and smile at the memories. They loved this video we made of our first camping trip with three children. Do take a look.



Thanks to Millets for the sleeping bags and camping care package


Win a family ticket to Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom live on stage

With all the craziness of moving from Bristol to Cornwall earlier this year, I told the girls that we’d do birthday parties next year. We had grandparents come over for Ophelia’s and they’ll come again for Talitha’s but that’s about the height of excitement and organisation I was and am up to.

But with little Delilah’s first birthday looming in just two months, I still wanted to plan something special. Of course, she’s not going to know what’s going on but first birthdays are fun landmarks for the rest of the family so I thought that making it a treat for the older two as much as for her could be the way to go.

After all, they’re excited about every little thing she does, whether it’s learning to turn very slightly as she begins to bum shuffle or making a new sound. They’ll definitely make a fuss over her turning one. Isn’t that a brilliant thing about subsequent babies? This time around you have at least one person who’s as excited or more about every little detail as you are!

As it turns out, it’ll be baby’s first theatre show, a trip to the Hall for Cornwall in Truro to see Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom live on stage.

The older two were ecstatic when I shared the news, planning already how it was going to go and insisting, of course, that we watch a few episodes in preparation. They love Ben & Holly, love the theatre and love birthdays so it has the makings of the best family outing in their view. We took Talitha to her first play when she was a tiny toddler and Ophelia has been going to the theatre since she was a babe in arms.

We’ve never been to see a cartoon favourite taken to the stage, though, so this will be a fun first. With masks and music, the show promises to offer a gentle, colourful and interactive theatre experience, perfect for young fans of the BAFTA-winning show, especially those in need of a theatre introduction. Take a look at the trailer…

It’s currently on tour visiting theatres throughout the UK and Ireland, and probably near you, should your kids love the little fairy and elf too. You can check out dates and more information on the show over on the Ben and Holly live show website.

The show is offering readers of Beautiful Tribe the chance to win a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) for any show on the tour. To enter to win, leave a comment on this post answering the question the following question:

Q. What is the name of the ladybird in Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom?
George, Gary or Gaston?

Good luck!

The prize will be fulfilled by Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom live on stage. Entries close on June 6th at 10pm. Winner will be chosen at random by number generator.

We have been given tickets to the show in exchange for hosting this giveaway.

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED


Ten Charlie and the Chocolate Factory activities for younger children

This post was originally published in November 2015. It reappears here in collaboration with million eyez.

We’ve just finished a happy romp through the wonderfully bizarre world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Having realised from page one that this chapter book was going to be a hit, I gathered a few ideas for activities we could try alongside it. For my four-year-old, it was delightful to dig deeper into the experience of the story. For my 21-month-old, it meant she didn’t keep trying to pull the book out of my hand or take me some place else.

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Make a family tree
The book opens by orderly naming the people in Charlie Bucket’s family. I’d been wanting to do a family tree for a while so we took the opportunity to print out photos, cut and stick them and draw lines to show relationships. I helped Talitha with ours but she went on later on to draw Charlie Bucket’s family tree on her own.

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Sweetie Swoop game
We’ve been having fun with the whole sweetie theme by playing a board game called Sweetie Swoop which Talitha got for her birthday this year. It nicely accompanies chapter 11 where he goes into the sweet shop. It’s such fun. In general board games and card games are a brilliantly easy way to develop maths skills while doing something together that we both enjoy.

Drink hot chocolate
When you finally make it inside the chocolate factory, meeting the chocolate river calls for a drink. Preferably one offered in a cup by Mr Willy Wonka and not risking falling in!

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Make playdough sweets
Most of the time we read, we got out the playdough. Talitha made playdough sweets and both girls generally had fun squishing and making while listening to the story.

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The Inventing Room
This was an idea I came across on The Imagination Tree when looking for birthday party ideas. I put together an “inventing room” the night before which was the source of much excitement and creativity. I wish I’d taken more pictures because she got the stapler out and put together some 3D sweets later in the day.

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Make real sweets
Of course, who can read about all these amazing sweets and not want to munch something sweet. Better yet, make some! We tied this in with learning about Diwali by making coconut barfi. They were too sweet for the girls, though, so I wonder if we should have gone for biscuits in sweetie shapes instead.

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Play with fizz
All the experimentation you observe in the Mr Willy Wonka’s factory certainly tickles the imagination. The science fiction elements of this book are the bits that shine brightest. Talitha was quite taken with the fizzy lifting drinks that make you float upwards unless you burp to come down again. Inspired by this fizzy fun experiment, we got the muffin tin out and had a messy go (should have put a tray underneath as suggested in that post, mind!).

Here are few more ideas I came across but we didn’t get around to:

Make lickable wallpaper
Pipe cleaner lollipop craft
Chocolate play dough recipe

Do follow my Learning to Love Words board on Pinterest:

Follow Adele’s board Learning to Love Words on Pinterest.

I’d love if we could share our ideas on how to help kids get into books and this million eyez Photobox offers the perfect medium. With million eyez you can start a photo box in a topic to receive authentic photos you can’t find, just as I’m hoping to do here, curating, communicating and organising to cleverly crowd source what you need. Just upload your photo of your literary kids activity, whether it’s a dress up, craft, baking, creative writing prompt or invitation to play. Let’s inspire each other!

via million eyez

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Baby X and other fiction must-reads: review and giveaway

I get a little worried when people ask me to review books here. What if I don’t like them? What if I never get to them because I take an extremely long time over the simplest tasks nowadays? Yet here I am, with a review and giveaway of fiction you really shouldn’t miss.

The former hasn’t been a concern when offered books by independent publisher, Mother’s Milk Books. I’ve been repeatedly stunned by the quality of the work emerging from such a small operation, running out of founder Dr Teika Bellamy’s home. Unfortunately, I have taken a long time over this review.

The reading actually mostly came quickly. I consumed Rebecca Ann Smith’s Baby X in one go, breathlessly reading it over the course of a week, starting the day after Delilah was born (would you believe?!). It was a welcome companion as I bedded in with my newborn. Thriller meets medical ethics wouldn’t have struck me as an apt choice for exhausted postpartum reading but the driving force alive in this book wouldn’t let me let go.

The story takes us through the conception, gestation, birth and kidnap of the first baby grown in an artificial womb. Chapters flit between the perspectives of three women: Alex Mansfield – the genius doctor overlooking this landmark medical feat, her research assistant Dolly and Baby X’s expectant mother, Karen.

So much energy, heart and research has gone into this book. The science underpinning it appears thorough and the story raises genuine ethical questions about egg donation and about the future of reproductive medicine. Karen’s losses and struggles to conceive are utterly agonising and the bond she forms with Baby X does not feel at all contrived. Smith has here written pain and love in terms we can all access.

Alex’s story of bonding with this baby with she has artificially grown is surprisingly touching and relatable. She finds herself emotionally invested in the project, psychologically and even physically connecting with this history-making baby. As I read him, book in one hand, Baby X felt as real as the newborn I was nursing and cuddling to sleep.

I can scarcely believe this is Smith’s debut novel, it’s that accomplished. I’m looking forward to her next work and, also, someone needs to bring Baby X to the big screen, OK?

I took a bit longer over the second in the series of The Fantastical and the Forgotten, edited by Teika Bellamy, but only because I prefer to digest short stories like these an evening at a time, preferably with a bath or as a last thought before bed (a grown up’s bedtime story, if you will). However, I felt it made for such compelling reading that I actually gave my copy to a writer friend of mine and bought myself another copy. I’ll soon be buying the third instalment too.

The collection consists of eclectic rewrites of fairytales and mythology for adult readers, bestowing new meanings on familiar tales or introducing haunting new stories. They ask searing questions about where we come from, how we love and who we are. Themes of motherhood and femininity are recurrent but neither have to be your experience for these stories to inhabit your imagination or feed your mind.

Finally, I’ve recently enjoyed Alison Lock’s debut fantasy novel Maysun and the Wingfish. Towards the end, I wondered what it might be like to read it aloud to my eldest daughter (though it may be a little too exciting for her just yet), both because it’s really aimed at a younger audience and because the text carries the sense of an oral tradition, in keeping with the tribal world it depicts.

This is an ecological fairytale about people living at odds with and desperately seeking to survive in an environment that has grown increasingly menacing toward them. A young girl, Maysun, has been chosen to lead the way to restoration but her path is littered with danger.

The foundations of this world are convincingly laid. Animals come alive with character and the images throughout are remarkably alluring. The novel carries an almost poetic quality that makes it enjoyable reading for anyone.

Mother’s Milk Books is offering Beautiful Tribe readers a chance to win a copy of Baby X and The Fantastical and the Forgotten.

To be in with a chance to win, comment on this post, telling me how you make time to read, whether it’s a few hurriedly snatched minutes or a decadent session of hours, and enter the Rafflecopter widget below.

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