No more baby days 

I’m on the sofa this morning, after dropping my biggest girl at nursery. The smallest one is fast asleep on me after a rough night of wide awake snuggles and sore teeth. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by how big and clever and grown up the two of them are now. And it hurts. 
I don’t have a baby anymore. The days of having two under two are long behind me, and Iris is very nearly three. She starts nursery class at a school this September, with a tiny school uniform and everything. She’s excited. I’m excited too, because I know she’s going to have such a fabulous time, but I’m also sad and a tiny bit terrified. Astrid is 16 months old now, and like a tiny wrecking ball. She is sturdy and speedy, and charges through life at 100 miles per hour. She climbs and runs and has no fear of hurting herself. I can’t leave her alone in a room for even a minute. Not even if I can’t see a single hazard. She will find one. It’s not unusual to catch her dancing on tables or scaling window sills. 
They are not babies. 
The first year after Astrid was born I went to bed every single night feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. Seriously. While they pleasantly surprised me often and it wasn’t always as hard as I’d imagined, it was exhausting. Iris needed constant interactions at the time, too young yet to create games and play alone while I fed Astrid. Little one was a screamer, and a complete mystery to me a lot of the time. I didn’t instinctively know what she was crying for like I had with Iris. I had PND (I can see now in hindsight) and was having a huge identity crisis when I should have been focussing on my babies. 
I really feel like it’s over now. The hard bit. Obviously I know there are many many many hard bits to come. I’m not daft. But I can’t imagine it being that consistently hard again for such a long period of time. I can’t imagine slipping back into the black cloud I lived in for a long time either. I’ve been making sure I look after myself too, and I plan to keep it up. 
Besides some health issues (for another day) life is really very good at the moment, but I can’t help but feel some sadness at the baby days being behind us.

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Rainbow Run 5km for Tŷ Hafan

My first medal!! Sort of. I’m excluding the Race For Life 2013 one because that was a disaster and I didn’t run much of it. This is my first medal as the new me. 

I had no idea what to expect. I had an inkling that some of the run was on the actual beach, and was pretty nervous about running on sand. It’s not easy to walk on! Turns out, the whole 5km is on the beach. All of it. In a kind of zig zag down to the sea and back up again, twice. It’s a boring route. It’s basically round and around the same area over and over. If it wasn’t for the paint throwing and the general atmosphere of so many people running at once, you would never choose to run that route. It was bloody hard work. Really hard. The first part was really soft, and my ankles turned over several times. One of the times was quite painful and slowed me down for a while. Then there were hard bits that weren’t too bad. But there were really wet splashy bits too! Despite being quite hard going, it was a lot of fun. There were colour stations dotted along the route, and each station had a bunch of volunteers throwing a different colour of powder paint over you. Some of them even had big paint blowing machines. It goes in your eyes and nose and mouth, and I found myself holding my breath quite a bit to avoid inhaling it!

I caught up with a couple of my friends right at the end, who usually run much faster than me but had struggled with an injury, and they started sprinting so I did too! I crossed the finish line completely exhausted and totally out of breath. The paint all over my face hid the fact that I was bright red though. I was actually mostly orange with yellow hair! 

I’d do the run again in a heartbeat. I had such a good time! We raised quite a bit for Tŷ Hafan too, which makes it all feel even better. I finished in 41:19, which is between my two Park Run times. I’m pretty pleased with it considering the sand was so hard to run on! 

We finished off our day trip with chips and a go on the waltzers! 
PS: check out this video of the run! 

The first 5km 

It’s the morning of the 5km rainbow run in Barry Island for Ty Hafan, and I’m nervous as hell. I keep having to run to the loo, and I’m putting off slipping into my running gear. Instead I’m procrastinating by putting laundry on and writing this. 

I’m still quite a long way off running 5km in one go without stopping to walk, but I’m not going to let it stop me trying. I’ve done Park Run twice now and walked a lot less the second time. I can see and feel improvements with every run, and there have been many runs thanks to #OutRunMay for Macmillan Cancer Care. I set out to see how far I can run in just one month, and to be honest I didn’t think it’d be far. I’ve surprised even myself with how often I can run, even if I’m not running far each time. I’ve gone out before 7am almost every morning this month so far, and I’m actually really enjoying it. Ok, so I don’t actually enjoy the actual running at the time. It’s the afterglow that I love. I crawl through my front door as Trev and the kids are just getting up, and the smug feeling of doing over half of my FitBit step goal before most people wake up stays with me all day. To top it all off, I’ve raised quite a bit of cash for the charity too (you can click here to sponsor me if you want to!).

I find being a beginner hard. I know that seems a bit silly, but it’s the truth. When I’m on my second lap at Park Run and I see the fastest runners leaving the park because they’ve already finished, I find it disheartening. I should find it inspiring, because if I keep going I can be one of them one day. But I don’t. It puts me off. Talk of 10km races and half marathons don’t make me want to keep going. They make me want to hide. I’ve spent a lot of my evenings recently reading stories of overweight exercise-haters (just like me) starting off unable to run up the stairs and going on to run marathons. I like stories that start where I am. Right at the very very beginning. They remind me that we all start somewhere, and that being a beginner is ok. That’s the lesson I need to learn. It’s absolutely fine to be a beginner. It’s more than fine. It’s great! It’s way better than sitting in the sofa eating biscuits. I’ve been reading ‘No Run Intended’ and ‘Run Intended’ by Hannah Phillips (Hannah the Runner) and she’s really inspired me. She’s just down the road too, so the locations of some of her runs are familiar. Somehow this helps me relate to her. She replied to my tweet about today’s run on Twitter, and I feel like I’ve been encouraged by an actual running hero! 

So, here goes. My lift will be here soon. At 1:30 this afternoon I’ll be doing my first (not including Race For Life in 2013 because that was a disaster) race while being covered in powder paint. It’s also on the beach which means running in sand. Oh wow. I’m so nervous. Wish me luck! 

Running, not running away 

So this is new! Well, not new new. Remember when I tried to take up running when Iris was a baby? Remember when I completely failed to even start my local ParkRun? 

That wasn’t actually the start of my running journey. I used to do a little bit here and there back in Bristol. I even did Race For Life (very slowly) one year. I preferred the gym though, and spin classes. Running in the centre of Bristol made me feel self conscious. 

This time, I’m going to do it. I have no gym. There isn’t one for miles, and I’d have to get two buses and find childcare. 

Running is the ideal exercise if you live in the arse end of nowhere, have limited cash, limited time, and two small children who act like the world might end if you leave the room for a second or two. It requires some clothes, and a pair of comfy running trainers. I know trainers can be pricey, and really you would get your gait analysed in a running shop, but there are pretty decent cheapo ones out there. My old ones, in the picture above, are expensive Nike ones that I bought in Barcelona when I didn’t have kids and I went on holidays and bought shoes on a whim. They’re actually crappy. And they don’t fit anymore anyway because I went up a shoe size having babies (WTF is that all about?). 

I’ve got about 3 stone I want to lose, but it’s not coming off. I’ve improved the way I eat times a million since new year. Vegan is the way to live for me, I’ve discovered. I can cook now, and I think about the nutritional value of every single thing I eat. Roller Derby training is going so well and I love it so much. I’m working really hard and learning every single session. Yet the weight creeps on. Not off. It feels so unfair, and it’s had me in hysterical tears so many times. I hate my useless body. It’s so tired and achey and sore, and sometimes just being awake all day and keeping the kids alive is too much. I have yet to figure out what is up with me, but I have finally convinced my GP to run a blood test to check my thyroid function. It’s a start. She doesn’t believe a word I say though, and keeps pushing anti depressants on me. I’m old friends with depression. I’ve lived with it for about 14 years on and off. I am not currently depressed. My drive to get out and do something is higher than it has been in years. I want to do stuff, and learn stuff, and get on with life, and apart from the physical stuff I feel GOOD. 

Running is hard. Really hard. 

I set off one day, running as much as I could but actually mostly walking, and an hour later I was back at my house and I’d covered 4km. I set out again and did the same route, several times, slowly getting better. Running more and walking less. Still walking most of it though. 

Then a Roller Derby buddy invited me to Park Run, so I dragged my terrified self to the park early on a Saturday morning and somehow completed it in under 40 minutes. I had THE BEST time. Park Run is fabulous. The volunteers are encouraging and friendly, the other runners cheer you on too. It’s a bit disheartening when you’re on your second lap and you can see people leaving because they’ve finished already, but you just have to remember that you’re not sitting on your sofa eating toast with your kids so you are already a runner. The high I felt at the end (ignoring the fact that my legs felt like jelly) made it totally worth the lower leg pain that almost made me cry on the 3rd lap. 

I’ve done another Park Run since then, and I ran almost all of it. I added a few minutes on to my time because I walk faster than I run (ha!). 

Unfortunately a photographer took pictures of my second Park Run and I had a huge wobble when I saw them. I don’t look how I was feeling. I look pretty ropey. I have about 50 chins and I’m bright red. My legs felt strong and unstoppable. They looked like wobbly sausages. I’m wondering if it’s acceptable to shout at the photographers to just piss off? I might try it next time. 

A new trainers purchase and signing up for some challenges has helped me to restore my motaivation. With people handing over hard earned cash to charity because of my running, I’m kind of forced to keep it up. 

Today, the first day of May, I began the Out Run May challenge to raise money for Macmillan  Cancer Support. I lost my wonderful Nan to cancer in 2014, just weeks before Iris was born. She told her doctors she was hanging on to meet her new great granddaughter but she didn’t make it. It broke my heart and it still hurts. Everybody thinks of the research charities when they think of cancer, which is obviously a great thing, but the people who actually do the caring get forgotten. Can you imagine being a cancer nurse? I can’t. I’m too emotionally fragile. They are just incredible wonderful people. I’d love to raise £100, and I promise to run as far as I possibly can this month. 

I set out on my first run of May this morning. It wasn’t as early as I hoped, despite being up with the kids at 6am. Trevor slept in and I decided to leave him. He’s tired too and he deserves a lie in. Astrid was up in the night with teeth or tummy ache or whatever (I never can understand when some parents say they instinctively know what their kid is crying about) so what I really wanted to do was drink several buckets of coffee, eat a whole loaf of bread and lie on the sofa watching CBeebies under a pile of small children. Instead, I headed out. 

My first mistake was to try a new route. Today wasn’t a day for change. I didn’t stretch properly because I’m lazy. I wasn’t hydrated. Still, I pushed myself and learnt plenty about who this running version of me is. I wanted to run the whole first kilometre without stopping, and I did. It bloody hurt though. The backs and fronts of my lower legs hurt. I was slower for the second kilometre, and slower again for the third. Then something in the shin area of my right leg began to really hurt, too much to run through. I was about 2km from home and I had to hobble back. It’s not an injury, because it was fine after a little rest and a protein shake. It must be the lack of stretching. 

I will try again tomorrow. 

If you want to sponsor me (please please please – I’m not too proud to beg) you can do it here: Mouse’s Just Giving Page. I need your donations to keep me going! 

I’ve also signed up for the Rainbow Run in Barry Island in a couple of weeks. From the looks of the pictures, I’m going to be attempting to run 5k through a cloud of powdered paint in an attempt to to raise money for Ty Hafan. They are a paediatric palliative care charity, and I can’t think of a better cause. I only have a paper sponsorship for that one,  but please let me know if you want to support the cause. 

It’s 11pm and I’m supposed to be up early for a run tomorrow. Oops. 

Astrid is One!

Astrid’s birthday was almost a month ago now. I’ve been writing this a little bit here and there for weeks! It’s so hard to find time to sit and write these days.  

It’s so weird that a whole year has gone by since my second beautiful little darling daughter arrived in the world. Last year was such a difficult year for me, and so I feel like I didn’t give her the first year of life that she deserves. I fully intend to make up for that this year. 

She’s a funny little creature. Mostly she’s an incredible bubbly little bundle of joy, with a big cheeky grin and an infectious laugh. She loves music, and sings in babble at the top of her lungs while swaying from side to side. When she hears music she dances, and even if there’s no music she usually starts dancing on demand. 

When she’s unhappy, she lets you know too. With an ear piercing scream followed by wailing that sometimes seems endless. She’s mostly been a bit of a mystery to me. With Iris I always seemed to just know why she was crying even if I couldn’t actually make her stop. Most of the time with Astrid I have no idea whatsoever. I don’t know if she’s a more complicated baby or if it’s because I’ve not been myself for most of her babyhood. When she was really tiny she often became completely inconsolable in public, and I couldn’t handle the judgemental stares of strangers or the stress of trying to get us all home with her shouting. It happens far less often now, but it still happens. 

Her first word was ‘cat’ and I wasn’t surprised. She loves the cats. Margot isn’t interested in human affection at all and avoids her, but Galahad loves a snuggle and she loves nothing more than stroking him and laughing at him (and tugging his fur a little bit). He seems to know how she feels about him and he likes to hang around her. She also says ‘hiya’ regularly and loudly. When she spots a big sister, or when people walk into a room. Lots of objects have become toy phones, which she holds around the back of her head (nowhere near her ear!) and shouts HIYA at. ‘Dada’ is said in context, mostly called out when he leaves the room and she’s not sure why or where he has gone. Most recently she’s started saying ‘yeah’ when you ask her a question. She seems to sense the tone of a question even if she has no idea what you asked. 

She’s crawling at high speed, and there’s no escaping her now! She follows me all around the downstairs and the days of being unable to go to the loo in peace are back. She also climbs, and it’s often really scary. I don’t want to be right behind her undermining her all the time, because climbing is clearly her thing and she’s good at it, but it terrifies me! I have to secretly cringe in fear from a bit further away. Rearranging furniture to stop her from climbing anywhere really dangerous takes up a lot of my day. I think walking is a little way off, which I’m a bit relieved about. She took her first steps on the afternoon of her birthday, and the odd step since, but doesn’t seem particularly bothered. She does let go and stand unaided for a long time quite often, and she whizzes around at high speed pushing a sit on ladybird that she can’t sit on because her feet don’t reach the floor. She’s my last baby, and I’m happy that she’s in no rush to stop being a baby! 

Her sleep is fantastic compare to Iris as a baby. Compared to Iris now actually! She mostly sleeps all through the night, unless she’s got a cough or something or she’s disturbed by Iris being noisy. To the parents out there with babies who never sleep, please don’t think I’m boasting. I’m not. I haven’t done any sleep training or tried to make her sleep through. It’s just who she is. I can’t say I’m not relieved, but I do know your pain at the lack of sleep. Iris never slept as a baby and is still rubbish at 2 and a half. Unfortunately Astrid is an early bird and I am not. When she pokes me awake at 5am I am not amused. 

Day time naps are down to two, usually around 10 and 2 but currently less predictable, which I think may mean they are about to change. If she’s up early (she usually is!) she’ll sleep at 9am and on a day when Iris goes to nursery in the morning there’s no noise to disturb her, meaning that sometimes she gives me a full two hours to get some housework done without her ‘help’. 

Astrid eats like she’s got a bottomless stomach. Iris was the same but I think Astrid’s appetite is even bigger. She will literally eat all day if there’s food available. I have to be careful that she doesn’t, because when she overeats she gets tummy ache and trapped wind which really upsets her. Thankfully she will eat all of the healthy stuff. Apart from bananas, which she won’t even consider eating, I’ve not found another thing she doesn’t like. Over Christmas she even enjoyed a pickled onion or three. 

Astrid loves being outdoors, especially now she can crawl. I’ve let her down a bit by not being outdoors enough lately, but I plan to rectify it. I’ve invested in waterproof trousers for her, and have no problem at all with her crawling around in the mud and wet grass. I was so looking forward to the crawling stage so she wouldn’t have to be restricted to the sling or pushchair while we were out, but I haven’t made the most of it at all. 

She has just two teeth, the bottom front ones. The same two Iris had when she turned one. It seems I make slow teethers. It doesn’t hold her back from eating crunchy foods, and they came through without too much of a struggle. I’m half expecting her to get a whole bunch more all at once now, like Iris did. Her hair is getting long now, and hangs in her eyes. I can’t decide if I should trim her fringe or keep trying to sweep it to one side until it tucks behind her ear. She will not tolerate a clip for more than a few minutes! I was expecting another bald baby like Iris, who has only really grown hair since turning two. I’m amazed at how blonde Astrid is too! 

She’s a much bigger baby, and is wearing clothes that Iris was wearing this time last year at 18 months. Unlike my long limbed Iris, she’s sturdy and more compact. She was weighed when she had her vaccinations recently, and weighs 20lb. That’s her first weigh in since she was tiny and probably her last for a long while. I’ve never really understood the point in constantly weighing babies unless you have concerns about them. She’s energetic and eating well and growing. 

I really hoped we’d still be breastfeeding, but yet again we didn’t make it to the first birthday. It went exactly the same way it did with Iris, only I couldn’t blame it on pregnancy this time. She just lost interest. She was down to one feed in the evening at around 10 months, and then gradually lost interest in that feed too. Her last feed was a few days before her birthday, and I had no idea it was going to be her last feed. I offered several more times but she just didn’t care. I’m gutted but also relieved. I have so many friends who would happily wean their older children off the breast but can’t without a battle and upsetting the child. At least I won’t have to go through that. I think feeding older children is amazing, but I’m not sure I could handle it. Once they start wriggling I start feeling uncomfortable. It feels like an invasion of my personal space when they start trying to put their big toe up your nose during a feed. Astrid also liked to attempt to pick a mole off my neck while feeding which was painful, and she’d get cross and cry if I tried to get her to stop. She scratched too, and hit me several times. Our no-boob cuddles are much nicer. She’s a very snugly girl and loves a cuddle! 

I hope that being in my dark cloud for the whole of her first year hasn’t affected our bond forever. She seems pretty attached to me, which is a good sign. I will forever feel awful that I’ve been here physically but not really in spirit for her months as a baby. 

She’s a joy. She really is. Her big round squishy face makes me so happy, especially when she gives me one of her big beaming smiles and shows me her dimples and her two teeth. She’s lots of fun and already has a great sense of humour. I can’t imagine life without her. I barely even remember what it was like to just have Iris. 

I’m determined that this next year will be a much much better one, and so far it’s going well. 

Happy first birthday Beanie. We love you.  

#Veganuary – the end is not the end 

I can’t believe January is over already. It’s usually a month that stretches far into the future and never seems to end. I think because I had focus and started new things it didn’t feel like that this year. 

I’m starting to become obsessed with my weight and body shape again, and it’s really hard to take my mind from that and onto the important stuff. Like eating for nutrition, and eating things that actually make my body feel good. I’ve lost weight in January, but not loads. That wasn’t my main aim. In fact it wasn’t one of my aims at all. 

Eating vegan food has been pretty life changing for me. I never really cooked before. When I had to I really didn’t enjoy it. Now I’m cooking all kinds of different meals from scratch, using ingredients I have never ever used. And what’s really stunned me is that I absolutely love it. I enjoy my time in the kitchen before dinner every night, even if Astrid hates me cooking and has to be nearby eating breadsticks or I won’t get away with it. 

I’ve made pasta sauces and curries and sweet potato fries and casseroles. I’ve loved eating without feeling any guilt, and I really love knowing exactly what is in my food. I know what’s there because I put it there. 

I tried to make a pros and cons to vegan eating list the other day and I just couldn’t. There are so many pros, and the only con I can think of is that lots of restaurants and cafes make it very difficult to eat out. I rarely eat out so it’s no biggie, and I think it’s something that is slowly changing anyway. There’s also the people who insist on commenting, but as most of their comments are either dumb (like “mmm, bacon” as if that’s going to upset me) or are from people concerned about my calcium or iron intake, I can handle it. With the amount of spinach I’ve been eating I’ve got no worries! 

I barely ate any dairy or eggs anyway. I’d been veggie for years and years and years with just the odd hiccup, and I didn’t like dairy and eggs. They just taste slimy to me. I only had them as ingredients in things, like cakes and biscuits, and I’ve discovered that I can find alternatives easily for all of those things. 

With so little left to actually give up, I wasn’t expecting to feel major benefits. So I’ve been surprised to find there are so many. It has had an impact on literallly everything. 

My skin has been dry and flaky whilst also spotty for a while, and I was regularly getting great big horrible boils. Gross. My skin is clearing up rapidly, and while it’s still not brilliant it is getting there. My stomach doesn’t bloat and feel uncomfortable after eating anymore. I have totally over eaten a few times in January, but it hasn’t been as uncomfortable and horrible as it used to be. Once I’d got past the excess wind (soz -tmi!) of the first few days my digestive system seems to be working so much better. I’m not reaching for the peppermint tea to relieve tummy ache every evening. My energy levels have increased greatly. I still get very little sleep thanks to a combination of babies waking up and my own insomnia, but I’m coping with it so much better now. I think I’m less moody, although you’d have to ask Trevor to be totally sure on that one. I definitely feel less moody, and less anxious too. My mental health has definely improved and that was the biggest surprise. I guess there’s some doubt that it’s definitely eating well that has changed it, as it could also be because I quit my medication over Christmas. A friend told me today that she’d been quite concerned about me last year, and that I seem to be in a better place now. That’s good to hear. I’m glad I seem better on the outside too. 

There’s no way I’m going back. 

In fact, I think I’m going to take this further. I think my sugar addiction (I reckon most of us are addicted) is holding me back. Instead of feeling pretty good, I could be feeling amazing! I don’t think I’m ready to quit it all together, but I do plan to be more ‘sugar-aware’. When I eat sugary stuff I don’t notice when I’ve had enough and end up binging. I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve had the odd bar of vegan chocolate recently, and I’ve been making myself eat it slowly and stop when I’m satisfied. I’ve found that I can leave a half eaten bar in a kitchen cupboard for days and days now. Previously I couldn’t know it was there and not eat it. 

I’m really proud of myself for completing Veganuary, and for sticking with it too. I’ve saved animals, contributed less to global warming, spent far less on food every week, learnt to cook, provided my family with healthier meals than before, lost some weight, improved my health, made big steps in improving my mental health, encouraged a friend to change her ways, and learnt to like myself a bit more. That’s not small stuff.