If you go down to the woods today…

Walking through the woods with Talitha, my thoughts often drift off into the foliage. I wander at the distinctive beauty of this country I’m adopting.

I am struck by the wild, matchless wealth with which these simple experiences frame her childhood. In real terms, these trees are her history, her heritage and her birthright. They are worth protecting.

Two weeks ago she and I visited Yeo Valley to spend a day with The Woodland Trust. First trimester exhaustion meant the experience took far more out of me than it should have but I was just glad to get Talitha outdoors for a bit.

She’s had to spend too much time at home recently. So a day of romping through the woods and making sure to get every puddle on the way was just what we both needed – topped with gorgeous Yeo Valley food, of course.

The Woodland Trust is a charity that’s been hard at work to protect woodlands and reforest Britain over the past four decades. Yeo Valley is partnering with them this summer to plant 10,000 trees across the UK. With codes under the lids of their special yogurt packs, you could win a tree to plant in your garden or to donate to The Woodland Trust.

The day involved trying activities from The Woodland Trust’s nature detectives, a programme aimed at inspiring children to get out into nature. Bugs were hunted and leaves collected. Not by us, mind. But in time, when her attention span has grown we’ll give this stuff a good go, I’m sure.

For us, the day’s highlights were…

Making a wand,

Finding a “baby snail”,

Scrumptious lunch,

Mum2BabyInsomniac “with a baby on the front”,

And Yeo Valley ice cream!

PS: A couple of the images star Tigerlilly Quinn‘s son – he’s ridiculously photogenic!

PPS: Yeo Valley invited us along to a bloggers day with The Woodland Trust. Talitha was given nature detectives membership and we left with a goodie bag full of yogurt.

Breastfeeding while pregnant – the first trimester

I’m not sure how we got on to the topic but at some point in the midwife’s office, I mentioned that I was still breastfeeding. I didn’t look at faces for visible reactions because I was already clear on what I thought of the matter and slightly anticipated some ill-concealed negativity. I needn’t have worried. Without missing a beat, the midwife congratulated me, “Good for you!” and sounded genuine. She even offered to hand out leaflets for the breastfeeding group I’m a peer supporter at when I mentioned it.

It’s usually assumed if you’re pregnant that you’re no longer breastfeeding. Most people would assume you’re no longer breastfeeding your two-year-old, regardless. The combination is shrouded in taboo and most children in the UK aren’t breastfed long enough for their mothers to face the dilemma of whether to continue after conception. Not that it was particularly a dilemma for me. I happened to get pregnant and I happened to be breastfeeding. I didn’t – and still don’t – really have a plan.

OK, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I would ideally like Talitha to wean when she’s outgrown her need to breastfeed. She’s 26 months now and I’m happy to see where we go. That doesn’t mean I’ve completely ruled out mother-led weaning either. Breastfeeding is a relationship and relationships are too complex to be dictated by rules. At any rate, I suppose some of what I’ve done to make breastfeeding while pregnant more manageable could be considered a form of gradual weaning.

What I’m trying to say, though, is that I’ve been open. Open to her (and maybe me) choosing to stop sooner rather than later and open even to the possibility of tandem breastfeeding. Neither one is a goal. At the moment, the aim is as it has always been: to make it through today. That has become more complicated since falling pregnant.
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Second time pregnant

Last Thursday afternoon, I shifted the duvet off two-year-old Talitha’s chest. She shuffled a bit then fully woke up, smiling at me. “Did you have a nice nap, baby?” I asked her. “Yes,” she replied then returned, “Nice nap, Mummy?” Actually, though I’d spent a portion of those two hours in bed with her, for most of it I was rushing around packing our bag so we could leave as soon as she awoke.

For the rest of it, I did what I’ve been doing so many nights for the past six weeks, lying in bed, worrying and looking things up on the Internet. I didn’t tell her this, of course. I just nodded and told her we were going to see the midwife. “Do you remember what she’s going to do?” I asked her. She said, “Yes, look after baby in Mummy tummy.”
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Toddlerwearing – an Ergo Stowaway review

I recently gave the Ergo Stowaway baby carrier a test drive and am finally getting my act together to tell you about it. Hence the many, MANY layers we are wearing in these photos. I know, I’m boiling just looking at them!

Anyway, it’s a really clever piece of kit. When I took out of the box it looked so flimsy I thought that there’s no way I’d comfortably carry my heavy toddler in it (she was nearly two when I tried it) or that she’d feel supported enough to want to stay in it. I was wrong on both counts.

I didn’t wear it for hours, granted, mainly because I don’t generally carry her that long anymore. She wants to walk at least some of the time. I think I painlessly could do a few hours with it though.

This is a surprise to me because I found the Ergo Performance just got a bit small when she was around eighteen months. No matter how I adjusted it, it would start to pull on my shoulders after 45 minutes. It could have been a stage we were going through, I guess, and maybe it would be OK now but I don’t have my Performance anymore so I couldn’t say. The Stowaway certainly seems cushioned differently in the shoulders which made a difference to me anyway.

I would say that the carrier was quite low on Talitha at twenty-something months. It didn’t feel unsafe but I wouldn’t have appreciated it when she was going through a stage of throwing herself away from me for fun. She is also a lot more likely to fall asleep when a bit more enclosed by her sling but I know that’s not an issue for a lot of children.

As with all Ergo carriers it’s very easy to put on and get the baby in it and a breeze to adjust too. What, of course, sets this one apart is how it “stows away”. It folds itself into a tiny bag which fits beautifully in your bag. I was concerned that it was going to be a faff to figure this out, especially since I don’t always find Ergo’s instructions the most helpful (but then I really need you to spell it out for me) but it was quite intuitive, I found.

All in all, I think it would be a brilliant buy, especially if you were going to do a lot of travelling. With a younger baby, it would be absolutely fine carrying them in it for hours. It’s also breathable and lightweight so I imagine it deals with the heat quite well too.

Ergobaby lent me an Ergo Stowaway for two weeks for the purposes of this review. I received no compensation, other than satisfaction of my geeky sling curiosity.

How not to potty train your child in twelve steps

Step 1 – Get really interested in elimination communication and start it with a wilful 17-month-old.

Step 2 – Get early success with lots of catches, followed by toddler running away from any receptacle you bring her way and insisting on wearing nappies.

Step 3 – Give up and put her back in nappies even though she, now at 18 months, tells you when she’s going to go and insists on being changed as soon as she’s been.

Step 4 – When she’s two, feel increasingly like she should be using the potty now seeing as she’s dry most nights and naps, and is showing lots of other “signs”.

Step 5 – Decide today is the day and spend the whole day coaxing her into sitting on the potty. You may have bribed her with juice. You aren’t proud. But hey, she goes six times in the potty!

Step 6 – Realise how idiotic it was to start potty training the day before she goes to the childminder.

Step 7 – The next day she’s with you, lose your cool internally, try hard to get her to try again and descend into offering stickers, juice and nail polish. Shame, shame, shame!

Step 8 – Decide you’re too tired for this and put her back in nappies.

Step 9 – Accept that she no longer wants to wear nappies in the house but will ask for one if she needs to go. Suggesting the potty will just invite a screamfest and you’re too tired for that too.

Step 10 – Wonder what the heck you’re doing. No matter what decision you make at this juncture, it won’t feel like the right thing.

Step 11 – Wonder if there is a “right” way to do this anyway.

Step 12 – Swear you’ll go for elimination communication earlier with the next one.

Blessed is the Peace Maker – Story of Mum exhibition

I’m participating in Story of Mum’s virtual exhibition running over the summer, which gives me two tasks, to curate a piece of artwork from their collection and to create one of my own. One of the statements that spoke loudest to me is the one above. It’s from the “I’m a mum and a…” collection.

“And I don’t know what I am yet…” resonates strongly with me because, if asked to do some soul searching and define myself, I’m not sure I could or should do it just yet. There’s an exciting sense of exploration and openness in that statement, like she’s looking forward to years of experimenting, mixing and matching. Her life doesn’t start and end with her children but they are a very important part of who she is.

It’s interesting too, because when you become a mother that, to many outsiders, becomes your whole identity, especially if you stay at home with your children most or all of the time.

I think that’s why it irks me when someone insensitively asks if I’m “just” a mum and to top it off uses the word “mummy”. No one should call me “mummy” unless I’m theirs. It’s just an error of language. They’re asking whether I work outside of the home. But language carries power. I’m not about to call myself as “just a mother” and I won’t let you either.

Motherhood can require of you the greatest creativity you can muster. It can call out of you a place of peace you didn’t know existed. A mother’s patience is a powerful energy. There is no “just” about any of this.

That’s why for the create bit I added to Story of Mum’s poem describing mothers one of the most solid definitions I have for women who give themselves to this exciting and exhausting life:

Peace Maker

Then after I added it, I realised it should be one word. But no, I like it like that. In many ways, mothers are both, especially in the earliest days. We’re both the peace and the ones enabling it. It’s a gift to us as much as it is to our children.

World War D – When date night goes oh so wrong

It sounded spontaneous, romantic, an opportunity to do something we don’t usually do. Laurence booked a babysitter and we were going to get out of the house. Then the comedy of errors began.

First, being as stingy as I am, I insisted we went out on Wednesday, not Tuesday as he’d proposed as we never take advantage of Orange Wednesdays. And now I think we never will.

We got to the cinema and it was ridiculously packed – with people I’m sure were not paying a babysitter in a desperate attempt to get out once in a while. We’d not been able to book online and get the two for one deal for some reason so we laid our fate before the entertainment gods. They were not with us.

It could have been OK if we’d got there earlier but of course, if you ever depend on your child going to bed at a certain time, they won’t. I spent 45 minutes of the sitter’s time at our house, feeding, rocking, willing Talitha to sleep. We eventually left her wide awake with the sitter whom she didn’t know (another error as it meant I left worried – though she was fine) and hoped for the best.

Well. The film we’d wanted to see was This is the End. It was sold out for the next few viewings. I didn’t want to see Despicable Me 2 as I’ve not seen the first one. It came down to a choice between sitting on bean bags scrunched up at the very front of the theatre watching the unpromising The Internship or going to see World War Z in 3D.

If only one of us had taken a moment to think about what the Z stood for. If I ever watch another zombie film it will be too soon. I spent the whole time jumping or on edge. Laurence kept asking if I was OK and suggesting that we could leave. But we’d paid so I felt committed to the course.

I’ve come out of that with two things. 1. When paying for childcare, make sure you get all the other details right. It’s worth paying a bit extra to do so. 2. All these zombie films are the same.

I mean, how, how, how do they keep getting made? Does someone go to investors and say: “Man, I want to make another zombie film but this one is totally different because the cure is X” and do they say: “That is TOTALLY original! Let’s book Brad Pitt”?

I want to say at least it was a bit of escapism but it’s not a world I would’ve wanted to escape to. On the way back I tried to console Laurence: “We’re not always going to get it right. These things happen.” He replied: “Zombies happen.” I think that’ll be our new turn of phrase for really rubbish dates.