Monday, 27 March 2017

March musings

There have been some glorious days this month that just cried out for short sleeves and sandals and sunglasses. The daffodils and tete-a-tetes have replaced the snowdrops and crocuses, the primroses are quietly creeping along the base of the front wall as the aubretia flows from above in a pale lilac-y blue cascade.

Alice is developing at a rate of knots. I can't believe that she's 10 months old tomorrow. She's found her forward gear and is now crawling. She's starting to pull herself up to stand so her cot has now been lowered. She now naps in the cot during the day which is frankly a revelation - you can do so much in an hour! She slept on her front for the first time today. She's developed a love of grated Gruyere cheese and follows The Gruffalo's Child with her finger. Her little personality is starting to come through - cheeky, wilful and loving. She does the most adorable cuddle. She's now on two bottles of formula a day in preparation for nursery. She chatters away to the kitchen flowers (subscription flowers are honestly one of the greatest gifts to receive) and the plants outside, and shrieks in delight at Pickle. My heart swells to the point that it feels like it will burst, and yet it swells more.

As for me, I'm trying to enjoy every minute because it won't be long before I'm back at work with someone else earning her precious smiles and cheeky glances and dirty giggles. I'm not going to lie - it's been hard - some days are brilliant and other days are seriously tough. There are days with tears. There are those where I have to dig deep and patience is lacking. I can't/shouldn't/mustn't complain because she sleeps through the night and is a delight by day. I blame my hormones, frankly - they still haven't quite settled back down to 2015 levels. And perhaps a large dose of unpreparedness. I'd spent such a long time wanting/hoping/trying to have a baby that the focus was only ever to get pregnant/stay pregnant rather than the 'ta-da you're a mother' bit. Perhaps deep down I thought that the sheer amount of wanting Alice would automatically make me brilliant at mothering. Ha! I had no idea that it was such a bloody tough gig. Hats off to my friends who always appeared to be acing it in the early years. With all that said, I love where we're at right now and I go to bed each night knowing just how fortunate we are.

What motherhood has taught me so far:
  • It is not guaranteed (and there's a no returns policy).
  • I am only human.
  • Tears are fine - even over the smallest of things.
  • Speak out when things are hard because it gets lonely - turns out my NCT group were going through/had gone through many of the things I was, but silently. I'm usually the world's greatest bottle-upperer, but tired-based delirium led me to over sharing on WhatsApp and others saying thanks. Sanity restored with the 'me too' messages as they came through. If you don't have an NCT group, it's likely that there are local new mother groups. Sure Start Children's Centres are a great place to start - you can find your local one here
  • Put that idea of wanting to email/ring/blog to the back of your mind. If you don't do it immediately it won't happen. That also applies to texts/WhatsApp and replacing toilet rolls. I honestly don't know how @ modelrecommends does it - she is a legend.
  • You will silently weep when someone brings you a cup of tea, the biscuit tin and remote control and puts them just out of arms reach when you're breastfeeding/have baby asleep on you.
  • 'They' say that the first 6 weeks are the hardest. It really depends on the baby. Alice had silent reflux for the first 4 months - so for us it was the first 16 weeks. The most important thing to remember is that it does get better. You just have no idea when.
  • It pushes relationships to the brink - Mr M and I have never argued so much. In part because I'm rubbish at communicating.
  • Get someone else to write the thank you notes.
  • A glass of red wine post baby bedtime makes everything better, two and half glasses makes the room spin.
  • Try not to compare yourself or your baby to others. Everyone develops at different rates. Ignore those around you who compare you or your baby to others, including those who weren't involved in 'the process' and then chide you for being overly sensitive. 
  • All advice is well-meaning but guess what, you don't have to listen to it. You do however have to perfect your fake smile and 'thank you, I'll take that onboard' line, albeit through gritted teeth, because people get so easily offended if you snap. They seem to forget that you've just had a baby, your stitches/boobs are screaming in pain, you've had 4 hours sleep, your ears are ringing and really the only line you want to hear is "here, let me take her" and not "is she hungry?"
  • The line that will turn the most heads when pushing an apoplectic howling 5 week old around a supermarket is "And this Alice, is why you will always be an only child". 
  • You will want to hug the stranger that calls across the car park that "You're doing a f-king great job being out and about, well done".

Monday, 20 February 2017

Tweet - in the classic sense of the word

Our apple trees are a-flutter with blue tits, great tits and coal tits currently. Every so often we're treated to a flock of long-tailed tits. This feeder was a brilliant Christmas gift for Mr M and has been an immediate hit with the cheeky little blue tits. One did get a little too cocky for his own good today and flew into our 'full to the rafters' conservatory. Mr M managed to coax him to an open window with the lure of a mighty fine peanut. Luck was on our feathered friend's side as Pickle was gently snoring upstairs having abandoned her usual conservatory spot for the freshly laundered bedding.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Winter's beauty

Our front garden is in a delightful state of decay and dormancy. The stepover apple trees are fast asleep. The whiskers of the rose have survived the snow, frost, wind and rain. The hydrangea petals are slowly turning into lace. Delicate seed pods could be mistaken for an insect wing snagged on the tip of the acer branch. Hard frosts of late have slowed the allium and daffodil march. But there are tiny colour pops of promise. The crab apples are a brilliant red that the blackbirds have been merrily gobbling having stripped the orange pyracantha berries, whilst the witch hazel teases with a taster of what's to come.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Butterflies at Wisley

It was always going to be a steamy affair in the glasshouse at Wisley, but the chill in the air this morning accelerated the fogging up of glasses and cameras on arrival. Our little NCT group decided that butterflies and babies were a match made in heaven, so six of us rocked up with our almost 8 month olds (?!) in baby carriers ready to be dive bombed by butterflies almost too pretty to be believed. It was busy, despite being ticketed, but then it has only just opened. The butterflies were incredible - some, the giant owl butterflies, were the size of saucers, others looked like they'd flown too close to the MAC eyeshadow counter. Quite a few looked as though they'd been in a fight, but were still able to fly and feed despite chunks missing. I'd forgotten how bat-like they are whorling around you as you follow the trail. If you're planning to visit, wear bright clothes and you're in with a chance of being a resting place for one of these beauties, albeit fleeting.

Monday, 23 January 2017

My little dhaling


Late night dhal for my little darling last night. I've been using the Ella's Kitchen app as a rough weaning guide and this dhal recipe is a winner. The recipe wanted mild curry powder, which we naturally didn't have, like the time I needed ground cardamon for a pudding and had to dig out the pestle and mortar *sigh*, so after a quick google search I concluded that a tsp of cumin, turmeric and coriander and a clove of fresh garlic would do. I quadrupled the recipe in order to use up some leftover coconut milk and have enough to turn into soup for Granny Monday.

Baby dhal (with enough for 4 ladles of grown up soup): 
200g dried split red lentils, rinsed
450g potato, peeled and diced
240g carrot, peeled and sliced
8 tbsp coconut milk
8 cardamom pods
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 clove of garlic, grated

1. Pop lentils and potato in a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the carrot and cardamom. Cook for 15 minutes until soft, skimming off any foam. Fish out the cardamom pods then drain, reserving the cooking water. 

2. Return the lentils, potato and carrot to the pan, together with the spices, garlic, coconut milk and enough of the reserved water to combine. Blitz until smooth. 

To turn two ladles into grown up dhal soup:
1 tbsp tomato puree
100-200ml chicken stock
Black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Small bunch of fresh coriander and chives, chopped

1. Add all of the above, bar the fresh herbs, to step 2 of baby dhal. Serve and sprinkle herbs on top. Enjoy, marvelling at how brilliant you are for having made fresh soup and that it actually tastes good. 

2. Get Granny to feed daughter baby dhal whilst you finish your grown up dhal. What's not to love? Realise grown up dhal soup could be served up to best friend's vegan boyfriend. Remind yourself to make a note.

3. Remember to freeze baby dhal in ice cube trays before it goes 'off'. This will invariably involve getting cross at the ice cube trays which will already be engaged with another unidentifiable orange-ish puree that won't just 'pop out' into the freezer bag, requiring much banging, a sharp knife and swearing, the uttering of 'I'm fine' when asked if everything is under control and then need washing up. Because life's irritating like that. 

We're slowly starting to get somewhere with this weaning lark. It was the red cabbage and apple combo that did it. Thanks to that, Alice is now opening her mouth like a little baby blue tit. Even when it's mixed with other things - last night it was added to; aubergine, sweet potato, red pepper, red lentils, carrots, orange and tomato. The colour was interesting but the bowl was empty. Little baby Yeo yoghurts also seem to be a winner. And she will eat your hand off if it's holding a carrot puff stick (a little like a wotsit). Three meals a day are a little way off. Teatime is set, but breakfast and lunch are movable feasts depending on the diary. For example, she had lunch and tea today (two lots of dhal with chopped up roast chicken in the second sitting - am slightly dreading the output), but yesterday just her technicolour tea.

I'm finding this weaning lark is forcing me to cook things that we don't normally use - like red lentils. Which have turned out to be surprisingly easy to cook. Who knew. I assumed you'd have to soak them but no, quick rinse and into the pan they go. The soup was so good that Granny asked for the recipe and I might actually cook it again just for grown ups. As silly as it sounds, it's these little milestones - late night cooking and managing to turn something into grown up soup in daylight hours for the first time that keep me sane. I struggle to email but manage to IG. Phone calls are a no-no but I'm pretty good at WhatsApp responses. Staying up late to write a blog post once a week is empowering. How I laugh when I think of the many pre-Alice hours I frittered away. We're slowly finding a rhythm.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Fresh

Flowers - having fresh flowers in the house is a real antidote to the gloom outside. My first bunch of Bloomon flowers from Mr M are still going strong on the butchers block in the kitchen, whilst these sumptuous anemones were a couldn't-help-myself purchase from my local M&S. I've always been a sucker for anemones and ranunculus at this time of year, although the latter is phenomenally expensive around these parts.

Air - I've fallen out of step with our daily walks of late but the walk along the river on Monday was bracing and brief and so very needed. It blew away many of the cobwebs that had settled in over Christmas and reminded me how much I like being outside, and how much I like walking with friends. All the more so because soon enough I'll be back in an office ruing the time I could have been spending outside.

Scent - I'm finally lighting the lovely candles that I've received as gifts over the last year or so. I'd been squirrelling them away until rooms were decorated. They smell divine. I seem to have developed a leaning towards geranium and citrus. So sharp and fresh.

Produce - this weaning lark really is quite boring. I'm not going to lie. So much chopping and washing up. It does however mean that the fridge is stocked with lots of fresh fruit and veg. You would think that this, coupled with the usual new year mantras, would have me eating really healthily. I'm still on my sugar fix - I'm blaming/using the excuse of breastfeeding. My daily biscuit eating competition has reduced significantly (the bourbon biscuit/custard cream sales will be significantly down as a result) but I'm not yet ready to say no to a slab of cake in a cafe or a mini magnum.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Sleep

Oh to sleep this deep. Alice isn't one for scheduled daytime in-the-cot-like-the-books-say naps. She prefers the floppy-limb-pin-me-to-the-seat type. If I'm lucky she might doze in the pushchair but that does require me taking her out in said pushchair, for roughly 4 miles without stopping, of which I have been somewhat lax of late. I get nothing done during daylight hours. It has taken me a long time to accept this. I have NCT friends who manage to cook dinner and bake cakes and do chores like folding pants. Daily. I'm chuffed if I manage to make a sandwich, feed the cat and replenish the toilet rolls. We are however very good at external activities - notably coffee and cake, shopping (still requires multiple fly-bys - gone are the days of standing in the same spot to ponder a purchase) and our new weekly 'baby tar and feathers' class, I mean, art class. Yes - this 7 month old is now taken to a regular 'eat as much paint, glitter and paper as you can' class. I'm hoping that she will be included in the RA Summer Exhibition this year. On our fridge.

I can't complain though. We have a bedtime routine in place, and we've been lucky. Whilst Alice doesn't really do daytime sleep she has, for the most part, slept through the night since she was about 4 months old. She is usually in her cot by 7pm - which then gives us roughly four hours to do chores, cook, wash up, collapse on the sofa, flick through Instagram (me), read football news/play iPad games (Mr M) and get cross at the things that we should be doing - like going through the boxes gathering dust and taking up space in the conservatory and spare room, emailing friends, knitting, planning the future, world peace. Late to bed, always making time to read by shortening sleep time (me - stupid) we get woken up by Madame either shouting, coo-ing or filling her nappy (the video monitor microphone is crystal clear) from 6am onwards. She has however taken to waking up at 3.22 every so often. Oddly, I used to wake up daily at 3.21 when work was especially horrid back in the day. I know we've been fortunate - some of the NCT babies are still waking up every couple of hours which is just awful. I am, however, finding the inconsistency a bit of a killer. Some say it's teething, others weaning. I just know I'd like a sleep week - a little bit like reading week at Uni - just to catch up, and then the merry-go-round can start again.

Activities for this week:
Riverside walk with coffee and cake
Coffee and cake followed by the 'loud music and enthusiastic people' baby class
Walk with new friend and baby followed by coffee
Tar and feathers baby class followed by hose down and weekly germ-fest and possibly coffee
Baby yoga class followed by jasmine tea
Finish brilliant new read - Golden Hill
Work out how to free up the storage blockage on my iPhone
Persevere with weaning despite Alice's clamped-shut-bottom-lip-sucked-in-spoon-shall-not-pass mouth
Go to bed early

Important points to note:
All coffee is decaffeinated
All cake is full fat, preferably with icing
Most classes require my 'isn't this fun' smile, when sometimes it really, really isn't
Germ-fest is our local playgroup - it is astonishing the speed with which green snot forms following attendance

Have a great week!