Sleep tips


I am still alive, I promise, and will be back soon at the weekend with some posts about what I have been up to – life has been exceedingly busy! Who knew that working full time, having a three year old and trying to keep up with real life could be so time consuming. Still, I think now the summer holidays are over we are getting back into the swing of the routine a little, and may actually have one or two weekends at home.

I’m just popping in tonight to say hello though, as I did finally have part of an evening to myself, that I’ve written a little on sleep tips over at Love Boo. I will try and do some kind of longer follow up post here too on sleep as the workshop I mentioned in the post I found to be extremely helpful, and we made progress without having to resort to crying it out. So, there is hope!

Also, I bought a ticket to Blogfest – is anyone else going?

Blouse c/o Mamas & Papas Liberty collection 

#SaveSyriasChildren: Please don’t choose apathy

It could have been my child

It could have been my child #SaveSyriasChildren

Much like many people, the growing, escalating, refugee crisis has been hovering in the periphery of my conscious for weeks. I’ve read articles, signed petitions and debated with my husband, family and friends/colleagues as to what we should be doing personally, as a community, as a country, politically and otherwise. There is no easy answer; and I’ve been particularly disheartened to see the articles saying we shouldn’t give any more assistance; when I’ve encountered frankly disgusting comments on Facebook suggesting that what we need to do is tighten our borders more, to close the Eurostar and Eurotunnel, or that parents were responsible for, even caused, their children’s death and suffering through greed not need or desperation.

It bothers me that it took a shocking photo of a drowned child to turn the media tide, for people to be galavanised in a way that they weren’t last week, but I also accept that is how things work sometimes. Momentum gathers, and at least now movement might start to be made. Perhaps everyone was as paralysed by apathy as I was; deeply upset but unsure what could be done in real terms to assist.

“The U.N. estimates that 7.6 million [Syrian] people are internally displaced. When you also consider refugees, more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders… the U.N. predicts there could be 4.27 million Syrian refugees by the end of 2015″ {source}

This campaign, of course, is not really an answer either, but, it is something. I’ve joined together with parent bloggers across the UK to say please don’t turn a blind eye. Do something to help. Anything. Whatever you decide, don’t choose apathy. #SaveSyriasChildren‬.

TEXT 70008 and the word SYRIA to donate £5 | Web donations can be made here.

Save The Children’s terms and conditions can be found here.

Life lately… {musings on hidden costs}


Can it really be more than a month than I posted? Seems to be somewhat of a refrain, these days. I’ve a whole list of things I want to write about but at the moment they don’t seem to be getting beyond that. I wish we’d been busy doing all sorts of interesting things but aside from a couple of interesting outings and a weekend sailing in Cornwall last week (which I might blog about one day) we’ve actually been rather more tied up with family, funerals and a rather scary episode with Pip in hospital a couple of weeks ago when she was treated for (what turned out not to be) meningitis. We’d been out for our anniversary, came back around 12.30am to a worryingly high temperature-d Pip. To cut a long story short, we ended up in A&E on very little sleep, and lets just say this – it was probably hard to work out which of us was requiring medical attention in the taxi on the way to the hospital…

When not hugely busy with all sorts of things we continue our musings as to whether we should try and buy a house. Or, rather, flat. I wouldn’t be surprised if a parking space is all we can manage once we take into account everything that we need to consider costs wise.

The flat a couple of doors down the road is on the market for £535,000. That’s a lot of money for a technically 2 bed property, even if it is in zone 3. The afore-mentioned funeral has led to a possible potential source of deposit, so conversation has taken a slightly more interesting turn but one of the myriad things that worries me about committing to somewhere we are fully and totally responsible for financially is the hidden costs. Surveyors in the first instance, but then all sorts of problems that whilst might be covered by insurance, would also be costly and annoying to fix. We had a flood in our cellar a while ago and it occurred to me just how annoying paying for the replacement of pipes and in due course, relaying the floor will be. We also haven’t had live TV since April. I’m pretty sure the problem is with the external aerial not our internal equipment but it hasn’t bothered me enough to call the Landlord to sort the problem, yet. If we owned the place though, that would be entirely our problem.

The upside to owning of course would be that I could garden properly. We’ve done our best with our small space this year, and it looks like the tomatoes, radishes and sweet peas might actually start bearing something worth picking. The roses we brought in remembrance of each of our grandmothers have also been doing well. In fact, even the rose which my grandmother sent me as a bare root and I have managed to grow into a plant bore one rose, and now, another.

So, decisions, decisions, but it’s not all bad in this little rented place. Maybe we will stay put a little longer.

Photo by me – Regent’s Park Rose Garden – Father’s Day. Post in conjunction with L&G.

Release the bressure

It’s such a middle class, first world, privileged thing to get worked up about, isn’t it. “Mums Feel Intense Pressure To Breastfeed And It’s Been Dubbed ‘The Bressure’” screamed the Huff Post this week. Leaving aside the irritant that everything has to have its own name, I just find it sad that we are still defining our choices in relation to those made by other people.

That said, I have written a bit about breastfeeding before and interestingly, reading back, I see that I wrote about feeling some pressure to breastfeed – from the midwives, I hasten to add, not social media or other mothers. BUT, I would caveat, I am in the exact demographic that I think this campaign is tapping into: middle class and educated, living in a more well off area in a first world country. In other words, in (relative) privilege; lucky to have access to a good diet, clean water and choice.

I did breastfeed. I also bottle fed. I looked through photos and I could find one or two of feeding but not a huge number and the ones that I did find were by and large taken by other people. Just like nappy changing. I rather viewed both as essential rather than photo worthy, although they do feature, just as my own food sometimes features in my photographs and on social media.

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Apparently 2000 mums were interviewed for the campaign. I’d love to see the demographic range. I really think that has a lot to do with expectations; there are still a lot of people living in relative poverty and it is my understanding (especially things like this project) that breastfeeding rates are lower in those areas. I didn’t agree with that campaign either, by the way. I think each woman is entitled to make her own choice about her own body, and paying someone to make a different choice is at the very least patronising, and arguably, tantamount to blackmail.

I do agree with the idea that we shouldn’t be putting mums under pressure, though – I just don’t think making statements such as “most mothers desperately want to breastfeed – but not all can” is either helpful or accurate. In fact, I would argue that this campaign is adding to the pressure, especially when even women supposedly supporting the idea that there is too much pressure say things like “most people know that breast is best and would like to breastfeed their child, but for many reasons they just can’t manage it” (comment from the Huff Post articles comments). I’m not even sure that breast *is* really best – we don’t have randomised trials; groups are self selecting and I’ve not read that babies who are formula fed, for whatever reason, fare worse on average than breastfed babies, not in this country, at any rate.

Even the word “manage” has implications of failure. Personally, I felt I wasn’t up to “managing”, if we’re going to use that word, the logistics of bottle feeding. I was entirely ambivalent about feeding. Pip happened to take to breastfeeding, by luck rather than design, and as she did, it saved me the bother of having to get up in the night and make up formula. But had I been presented with a different set of circumstances, I would have happily not had to be the only one who could do the feeding and have no control over my own body for six months. I certainly didn’t look at photos on Instagram and feel some kind of pressure – or no more than I look at the kitchens of people who live in nice houses and think “that must be nice”.

I also wonder how much of this so called ‘bressure” is a privileged circular self-serving argument; we didn’t realise that we were supposed to feel a pressure from photographs of other people eating until we were told other people did, and we didn’t want to miss out, so we started feeling it too. And as we have money and time and choice, we were able to join in those thoughts. A bit of a ‘bitch eating crackers’ type situation (where once someone does something that you find irritating, the proportion of things they do that you find irritating increases exponentially), if you will?

There is no right answer. How can there be one “right choice” when we all have different needs and bodies? If we accept that, we can then move away from the idea that if we don’t make that same choice, (or can’t, or don’t “manage”) then we’ve failed. Surely we need to release the “bressure” and rather embrace the concept of making our own decisions on our own merits.

Life lately…bits and pieces from May

Do you ever half start writing a post in your head but before you can get to the computer (or should that be “umpewter” as Pip calls it) the post has vanished? I’ve been trying to catch up here with some of the things we’ve been up to recently, but, suddenly it’s nearly June and summer has started and there are a million things to do with living actual life that means very few of them seem to ever make it to the blog. (you can follow me on Instagram if you do like to keep relatively up to date btw).

Anyway, Pip and I managed to go to the opening of KuPP in Paddington a few weeks ago. We (I) like all things scandinavian related, and we also particularly like going out for breakfast. I’ve been trying to take a few random days holiday to spend with her, so we went to KuPP for a quick re-fuel by the boats before heading to the station to get a train to see a friend. The coffee was great, the decor was one of my favourite colours, the staff were lovely and they served pancakes. What’s not to like!?

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Other things we’ve been doing recently have included a trip to Cornwall, balancing lots of work with a spate of toddler illness and I’ve even managed to read a couple of books on my kindle on the commute. Presently, I’m attempting to (re)read To Kill a Mockingbird – I was convinced I’d read it, but I don’t think I can have done. English degree? Hah. I’ve been trying to follow along with the chapters suggested, but #sorrynotsorry I went away on a hen party and haven’t caught up. Find out more on the Twitter feed or search #TKAM.


I’ve also managed to start a mammoth declutter and have some thoughts on how getting agitated about how and what you feed your child is such a privileged middle class first world problem that we need to get a sense of perspective and stop being so effing smug. Maybe I’ll be back again in a few months to share :)

What to buy the #royalbaby: Don’t buy her flowers

I don’t think I’ve made any secrecy of my like of Kate Middleton. We’re the same age (3 days apart) and she comes from a village near the town where I grew up. I feel some kind of affinity towards her, which is clearly ridiculous. It shouldn’t come as any surprise therefore that I spent a fair bit of time glued to an app called Periscope at the weekend, watching the #royalbaby story unfold. (I like Max Foster of CNN by the way – find him here).

I’ll come back to my thoughts on Kate and that photo and parenting another time. My pressing question today is what do you buy a new mum on the birth of her baby? Especially, when, like Kate, she’s probably got all the baby kit already, particularly if the baby is a second child. Several of my friends have had babies recently and although I do eventually send something for the baby in due course, after the birth, in my mind, the present is for mum. Everyone else spoils the baby; I would have loved it had someone bring a present for me.

So, I’ve made an effort to give my friends nice things – scarves, nice toiletries, that kind of thing. Wouldn’t it be handy though, if you could order them from one place, have them nicely packaged and delivered. As easy as flowers, but in all honesty, probably more welcome. Steph had the same idea and she set up Don’t Buy Her Flowers


The premise is simple – flowers are nice, but the average mum receives loads of flowers. (I did, and they’re lovely, but you kind of want them one at a time, not all at once). These packages that Steph has put together mean you can easily give a lovely treat, which doesn’t have to be used or even dealt with straight away. I imagine you eat the chocolate pretty sharpish though… You can even add Cook vouchers to the parcel; a sort of modern equivalent of taking round a home cooked meal. Bonus; they can choose what they actually want to eat, and you don’t have to worry about getting your oven dish back.

Two packages (one wrapped)

Each parcel comes beautifully wrapped. I tested the service, and the parcel was delivered promptly to my chosen new mum and she texted me to say that it made her day and was “just what I needed”. I chose the magazine and the scarf and Steph did the rest. Between us, we created an excellent present!

Care package packaged 3


Steph also writes a blog called Sisterhood (and all that) which is worth a read.

Don’t Buy Her Flowers prices normally start from £21. Steph is having some family time this week so all orders made Monday to Thursday will receive a £4 discount and be dispatched Saturday 16th May. I wasn’t paid for this post, but I was offered a package to review which I had sent to a friend with a new baby.

Pizza & cupcake party

Pip turned 3 this week. We celebrated with her nursery friends last weekend and then had a family lunch this weekend, which we actually found to be a reasonably stress free way to spilt out the entertaining.

We wanted a fairly low key party for her pre-school friends, but still wanted to let her have a party, so we opted not to hire a venue, or have entertainment for the children, but have them over to our flat instead. We love cooking as a family, so we thought a pizza party would be perfect. In the event, we ended up splurging on a new kitchen table that we’d been umming and ahhing about for several months, having it delivered the day before the party, so we didn’t actually save money as such, but we’re very pleased with it. We went for this one, and I am so pleased with it. (We even seated 16 comfortably for the lunch yesterday).

Neither M nor I are big fans of party bags; we spend our lives (somewhat fruitlessly) trying to reduce the crap we acquire and we didn’t want to add to it for someone else. So, we got the kids mini rolling pins to use for their pizza making which they could take home afterwards. We added labels written by Pip to act both as place settings and to indicate that they were for each child to keep.

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We basically just whizzed up a load of pizza dough in the morning and then gave each kid a lump to roll out. We set out a choice of toppings down the middle of the table and gave them each a saucer to collate them in, hotted up the “pizza” stone (a paving slab which lives in our oven) as well as a cast iron pan, and then put on the grill which cooked the pizzas in a couple of moments. We made up a couple before hand which we started cooking as the kids started rolling, so there was a constant supply of pizza for both kids and adults and that was it. We gave the kids juice and the parents some fizz and everyone was happy.

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Once all the pizzas had been eaten, we handed out plain cupcakes that I’d made that morning, and little individual tubs of icing which I’d prepared beforehand (just a simple vanilla frosting I zapped up) and a small child’s knife. I then put out some mini marshmallows, fruit and little cake toppings and each child created their own pudding. They loved it, especially having their own little tub of icing for their own cake, and it was far less work for me…!

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Her little face when we presented her with a second cake with a candle in and sang to her was absolutely priceless. She has several friends with slightly earlier birthdays and it seems she has been practising playing birthday cake/singing for months. She could hardly believe it was finally her turn!

The kids then all played for a bit with some of Pip’s toys and we hung out with the parents for a while and then everyone departed for their Sunday afternoon. Whilst there was a little bit of organising to do, it didn’t feel overly onerous and everyone, especially Pip, seemed to have a great time.

Life recently

I took these photos at Easter; I was planning to write a post about the Easter egg hunt that we did and that I attempted to document. As usual, life re-entered rather abruptly the moment we returned from my parents in law and then I never managed to find time to write the post.

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We spent Easter at my parents in laws house, along with M’s brother, his wife and their son. Now the cousins have grown out of their cots and both have their own beds at home, my parents in law have upgraded the sleeping arrangements to bunk beds. The kids are a little young to actually use them as bunk beds, so they have them in my parents in law office like a dormitory, but they do handily stack out of the way for the times when the kids aren’t visiting. I thought it was a little late for the Easter egg post, but I did like this one of the sad looking rabbit which hid one of the eggs in the series of clues!

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Pip sleeps in a lower, toddler sized bed at home, so I was interested to see whether she’d take to this one – which she did, after a bit of cajoling the first night, and pretty well after that. I was also interested to see that she didn’t seem bothered by her cousin’s presence in the room, and neither seemed to disturb each other during the night, which bodes well if we ever get around to thinking about a second.

In conjunction with Beds on Legs. 

I’ll eat you up, I love you so (Make your own Max crown)




One of Pip’s favourite books is Where the Wild Things Are, so naturally for World Book Day she had to be Max.

I couldn’t find a wolf suit very easily, and knowing that she also adores Peter Rabbit, I got a multi functional brown animal suit from EBay, which is technically a bear. I meant to make a wolf tail for it, a la Max, but I didn’t realise pre-school were doing costumes on the Thurs, not the Friday.

The crown was one that I made for her first birthday and is really easy to replicate if you’re making your own Max outfit. I made it out of felt. Don’t do what I did though and accidentally buy half sew half glue, and then sew both parts. Ruined a sewing machine needle clogging it up with glue before I realised what was going wrong. The crown really needs extending before her birthday in a couple of weeks, but we managed to get it done up over the ears albeit with an ugly bit of velcro showing. (Something I’ve learnt over the years is that costumes are about effects, not perfection!)

To make your own crown you’ll need:

  • 2 squares of felt (I bought mine at a haberdashery and they were a standard size square)
  • enough bias binding for the circumference of the head the crown is intended for (1m should suffice),
  • thread (I used grey to give a little definition to the mustard colour)
  • sewing machine or needles to hand sew
  • pins
  • scissors
  • tracing paper to make the template
  • velcro

To make your crown:

  1. Measure the head of the child and add a 5cm overlap. This crown measures 52cm in total circumference which includes the overlap.
  2. Draw a half crown pattern out onto your tracing paper, from middle point to the outer edge. This crown is 8cm at the tallest point and 6 at the shortest. Make sure you have a point right in the middle of the pattern so that it is even. This will be half the crown. Cut out.
  3. Pin the pattern to the felt and cut out 4 identical pieces. Using double weight of felt gives the crown enough structure to stay upright on the head without flopping over.
  4. Pin together two pieces with the highest points together and sew down the short side (middle seam)
  5. Repeat with the other two pieces.
  6. You’ll now have two identical whole crown pieces, which you need to stitch together along the top edge, keeping them lined up carefully and stitching only a couple of mm in from the edge, making sure that the points all line up.
  7. Sew bias binding down each of the short edges.
  8. Sew bias binding along the bottom of the crown.
  9. Sew on your velcro to the short edges which will be the back of the crown, one on the one side and one on the other, so that the velcro will form a closing. I did two pieces on side, and one on the other, so the crown could be “let out” as Pip’s head grew bigger, although that does mean that some of the velcro shows now her head is bigger.
  10. There you have it!

And that was it. Add a two year old temper and tantrum skills and your transformation to Max is complete.

On June 13th Wild Rumpus and Random House are holding a nationwide event to celebrate the nation’s love of Where the Wild Things Are. They are inviting people to host their own Wild Rumpus (no idea what the plural is!) and join in with reading the book aloud starting at the rumpus. Clearly we will be joining in…


Shared Parental Leave

20130123-175904.jpgI write a lot here about being a working mum, but only occasionally do I mention my work specifically on this blog. A few of you know I am a lawyer, and some of you know that I now work full time doing content marketing in the legal industry and that I write and curate blogs and manage a think tank, but I guess I only mention the details when there’s relevant cross over. 

And guess what? There is! Shared Parental Leave comes into force after Easter. (Although, if your baby is due this April, you would have needed to make your application under the transitional arrangements as you have to give 8 weeks notice, so this is probably of most relevance to anyone due say June onwards). So, good news! In theory, we now (or will, come April 5 2015) have a system where someone other than the mother can take a decent proportion of parenting leave.

I say, in theory, that this is good news because it is good news. Caveated good news, but good news all the same (as long as you qualify, but that’s always been the case).

We are never going to have a society where we can have workplace equality if men aren’t able to do their share of the parenting and childcare. Promoting gender equality is business critical as well as being essential to society. This is a much needed first step to normalising and allowing both parents potential equal involvement, and sends an important message to men that they could and should be involved. Also, the scheme theoretically allows more choice, more flexibility and, best of all, I think, allows you to take a longer period of leave at the same time (subject to getting all your dates and applications right, see below) so instead of being limited to the first 2 weeks together, you could potentially have nearly 6 months (if you can make it work financially).

I do have concerns with the scheme though. I’ve spent several weeks working on some free content on the scheme (which I’ll link to when we release it next week) and it’s a complicated scheme. I am used to reading and analysing this kind of thing, and I found it tricky to work out. My concerns include:

  • Both parents have to qualify for it. I know that seems obvious, but it’s not extending shared parenting leave rights to all parents. The mother must qualify for maternity pay and also have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date and be employed by that employer during SPL & the father/partner (etc) must have worked for 26 of the last 66 weeks, earning at least £30 on average for 13 of those weeks. To receive an income through the scheme, you must both qualify (i.e. by being employees for a qualifying period).
  • The scheme is confusing. Even working out whether you qualify takes a bit of working out, and it occurs to me that the intricacies of the scheme could appear off-putting, especially to more old fashioned types who might not be so interested in doing their share of childcare.
  • It’s a complicated scheme with irritating consequences for all parties if it is got wrong. Miss the dates for application, or not do it correctly, and it *is* a problem. The shared parental leave part can only start once the maternity leave part has either ended, or you’ve given binding notice. So, the mother has to take a compulsory 2 weeks maternity leave after birth. She then either has to have returned to work, or, has to have given a precise date for her mat leave period ending for the shared parental leave part to commence.
  • Realities of the scheme in practice for partnerships where the lower income earner is entitled to enhanced maternity pay but the higher wage only statutory. I don’t have the stats to hand, but at present the higher income earner is still more likely to be a man in 2/3 of families, and it therefore makes no financial sense for him to take a proportion of the leave if it leaves the family worse off. So, excellent if the higher wage is earner is the mother who wants to return to work; a bit trickier if not.

Personally, if I did have another child, I’d love to see whether we could make this work. I’d love to go back to work after 6-9 months and let M have the next 3-6 months as primary carer. Add in holidays I would have accrued, and we could probably have a day or so a week both being at home in the cross over period.

The reality is though that I earn less than M, and I’m entitled to enhanced maternity pay, whereas presently his company only offer the mothers SMP. We lived on SMP last time and it was tough. So, it would be crazy for me to not take the whole period of enhanced pay. We could theoretically run some of the leave in tandem, or we could do some blocks of leave, but I think my enhanced pay is only available for a specific number of months. Basically, we need M’s salary, so he is limited to his leave not by what he is allowed to take time wise, but by how long we could afford for him to only earn £138.18 a week. Chances are, that’s not going to be much longer than he took when Pip was born. Even if I went back at 6-9 months, realistically, we just can’t afford for him to take the rest of the entitlement.

So, as I said, good news, in theory, and good news, with caveats, generally, but personally, based on a financial decision, as sadly, rent and bills and nursery will still have to be paid for, one from which we personally won’t be able to benefit.

What are your thoughts?

Me and Pip, 10 days old (photo by Cara)

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