‘Page Not Found’

It’s been a while.

I let my domain subscription thing expire. I didn’t renew it. Where this blog has always sat, a ‘page not found’ message sat instead.

At first I didn’t care. It’s been six months since I posted, and nine months since I recorded anything important about the kids.

I find it hard to click on publish.

What if it’s awful? What if my writing is dreadful and somebody notices and thinks ‘wow, that’s really dreadful’? What if nobody reads it at all? Or worse, what if somebody does read it?

What if somebody I know reads it and wonders if I’ve lost my mind a little bit?

I’m forever doubting myself. I know I’m not alone in that. We all do it.

I feel more confident now than I have since before I became a mother, but this is still really hard.

The thought of not having my little online record makes me sad.

I’ve been questioned recently on how and why I share so much information and pictures of my family and our lives, and I see their point. The internet is a dangerous place, I know.

Then there’s the issue of consent. Is it right to share your children’s lives without knowing if they’d want you to? I don’t know.

I like to think that they’ll read this and enjoy it one day, but I don’t know.

Every year since I started writing this blog has been a life changer. Each one for different reasons.

This is the first year without pregnancy or childbirth in it, and it’s been the easiest one. 2016 almost finished me off, and 2017 has been a year of getting back up and dusting myself off. A year of working out who I am now, instead of just wondering.

And there is no record of it.

I’m beginning to regret that.

Advertisements

Taking a little break

My New Years resolutions list is long and complicated, and there is quite a bit of work to put in. I’m terrible for becoming distracted by the internet, so to make it easier for myself I’m going to be taking a little break from blogging and tweeting. 

For my real life people, my private Facebook and instagram will still be used (mainly because I like looking at old pictures on Timehop – I feel like I’m leaving little gifts for future me!) but I might turn the notifications off. 

I’m thinking of this being like a ‘dry january’ but actually I’m not setting a date to return. I might just stay away for a week or this could last a bit longer. Whatever feels good. 

Happy 2017! 

2016

I actually wrote this post a few weeks ago, with the intention to finish it over the Christmas holidays, but when I came back to it tonight I found that it just didn’t say what I wanted it to say. It didn’t sum up the year at all. 

I thought for a while that no year would be bigger (I said bigger, not better) than 2014. That was the year I became a mother. In some respects, that’s still true. I can’t become a mother again. Becoming a mother is the single most exciting thing I’ve ever done and I can’t imagine ever topping that. I became a mum of two this year though, and a mum of two under two. I assumed wrongly that the blissful bubble I lived in after Iris’s birth would be replicated after Astrid arrived. It couldn’t have been more different. I’ve felt slightly traumatised by the birth of Iris. The doctors, the procedures, the room full of people staring at my private parts, the epidural, the forceps, the hospital stay for an infection. It’s all stayed with me. The birth of Astrid was completely different. I refused point blank to go back to the same hospital, and chose to give birth on a midwife led unit somewhere else. A midwife asked me if I had a back up plan in case the unit was full, and I told her that if she wanted me to go back to the hospital she’d have to drag me kicking and screaming. Thankfully it all worked out. Astrid arrived after a day and a night of labour, half of which was at home and half was in a pool in a private room with a midwife poking her head around the door every so often. Just me and Trevor, singing songs by The Smiths and holding each other. She was born in the morning and we went home the same day. I felt healed by the experience and hopeful for a few weeks of newborn bliss. This is my favourite picture ever. Just after arriving home with brand new Astrid, the first time these sisters ever met. The look of wonder on Iris’s face. How gently she’s touching her. Watching the bond between them grow and develop has been the highlight of a very tough year. They belong together. I’m dreading the days when they have real fights and stop talking to each other. I just want them to always love each other the way they do now. The bliss never came and life after her birth was really hard. It wasn’t them. Of course there were moments when I had both of them upset and couldn’t split myself, and it was hard. But mostly I was surprised by having two under two. It wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t as hard as I’d anticipated. Despite that, I was seriously down. I can look back now and see that it probably wasn’t just a normal bit of baby blues. The black dog had come along and clouded everything. My migraines returned, and I went back on medication for both. A combination of Sertraline and Amitryptaline helped me so much, but I couldn’t take good care of myself. I was too anxious and stressed out. I ate my feelings, which didn’t make me feel better. I turned 31 in February, and I reflected on how I spent my birthday (doing housework and feeling like crap) and was scared it summed up who I had become, so I vowed to take better care of myself, to look after myself better. I didn’t though. I just couldn’t find the energy or the motivation. I didn’t like myself. I didn’t feel like I was worth the effort. Instead I just carried on in a fog and gained a ridiculous amount of weight. I kept trying to convince myself that writing stuff down and blogging was making me feel better, that it gave me a release and helped me to deal with things. While that was sometimes true, it wasn’t most of the time. The New Years resolutions I’d had for making my blog more of a thing just put more pressure on my already tired brain. Most of my blog posts contained the words ‘sorry for the silence, please stick with me while I attempt to get better at this’. I gave up on my photo round up posts that were like a diary of my life. I just couldn’t keep up. I tried again to fix my bad eating habits. I’m vegetarian, dairy makes me feel crappy, and the thought of eating eggs repulses me. I tried hard to fix my diet and only eat things that make me feel good. I even mastered vegan pancakes! It didn’t last. I turned to chocolate to make me feel better at the end of the day. It didn’t work but I couldn’t give it up. Breastfeeding was a big part of the year, as well as severe sleep deprivation. I was proud of my ability to walk around and be alive on so little sleep for so many months on end. It was so daft, because my skin was grey, my bones ached, my hair was falling out and I felt so so awful. Breastfeeding was easier second time around though, and we’re still going now. We spent more time with my family this year, and that made such a difference to me. I love seeing Iris run around with my sister’s kids. They’re so close now, and are always hugging and kissing each other. They’ve come over the bridge for sleepovers here a few times and they’ve been wonderful. I’m hoping for lots more of that in 2017! The hardest part of being in Wales is being away from people that I love, both friends and family. I’ve been here for over 2 and a half years. It’s still a constant battle. There’s nowhere to run. I have great friends here now, but it’s not the same as running off to your mum’s when life gets a bit overwhelming. Spring bought us a bit of a heatwave and being outside more was soothing. I had already gained so much weight since new year that I had no clothes that fit me. I bought some from charity shops but quickly outgrew those too. It got me down so much, but being outside on our new decking with my little ones brought me joy and that helped. The warm weather wasn’t consistent, but we kept up with the outdoors fun anyway. I didn’t write a single word on my blog in April, and I can’t even remember why. I probably just couldn’t. I couldn’t face it. I hate to write negative posts but I’ve struggled to find positives for much of this year. This leads to me feeling guilty because the news is full of hate and pain and suffering, and I had nothing solid to blame my depression on. Life was good. I have it good. It doesn’t work that way though. If only it did. Trevor decided to try to cuddle a prairie dog and it bit him. I’m including it because it was one of the funniest things that happened all year. Plus it serves him right. Who tries to cuddle a prairie dog?? If I was going to master getting my life back on track, I had to get the hang of getting around with two very small children. As you can see, I’d already mastered the art of the selfie that hides the weight gain and exhaustion. I did briefly get better at travelling around with them, and we did a few days out on public transport and visits to people we miss. Sometimes it was a huge success, and other times it was so stressful it put me off and I hid us all away for a while again. We went to Barry Island on an average spring day only to find that it was still winter at the seafront. It was so freezing, and I was glad of my tendency to overpack the changing bag for once. We made sand castles and played hook a duck while trying to shelter from the blistering wind. Iris’s unexplainable obsession with chickens and ducks kept growing, and I still have no real idea where it started or what she sees in them. A neighbour keeps them, and we visit them often. Iris even sings to them sometimes. It’s not escaped me that there’s barely a mention of Astrid in this post so far. The truth is that I don’t remember quite a bit of her first few months. I was a mess, and she was one of those babies that screams and screams for a reason it’s impossible to work out. I couldn’t console her no matter what I did, and in trying to I often had to ignore Iris. It was so hard. The lowest moment of the year was the day some police community support officers helped me home on the bus because they found me crying and Astrid screaming while Iris slept in the pushchair. I couldn’t juggle it all. I just couldn’t get us out of the public eye and back home by myself. I felt so judged and so ridiculous, but I can see now that people were kind to me. We did run away to my mum’s occasionally despite the distance, and those times were so good. Sometimes I just need to get away from Wales and away from our life. I feel so bad because as much as I insist it’s not about Trevor and our life here (and it really isn’t) it must be so hard for him to live with somebody like me and then to worry about us when I take us all off for a break. I know if the tables were turned I’d feel abandoned and like I’d done something wrong, so I do appreciate that it’s got to be hard for him. In another attempt to fix my terrible eating habits I bought a spiraliser, and for a while we ate a lot of vegetables. Green spaghetti was Iris’s favourite. It didn’t last that long though. Like every other thing I tried to do for my own health this year, it failed at the first hurdle. There was a lot of rain. Thankfully Iris quite likes it and I’m a fan of it too if we’re dressed appropriately! We jumped in a lot of puddles and didn’t let it keep us indoors. A friend of ours set up an exercise class where you could take your little ones along. Iris enjoyed it, but Astrid kept crying and wouldn’t settle so I found I was barely joining in. When I could take part, I had a great time and remembered how good exercise felt. I even lost a bit of weight. The class didn’t carry on because the instructor was expecting another baby, and I didn’t find another form of exercise to replace it. I tried (and still do!) to keep active by walking the dog. Actually we barely walk at all, because Iris goes so slowly and stops to admire every stick. Astrid often starts to cry and Iris asks to be carried, and I give up. It’s just too exhausting and I’m all out of motivation and energy. We got some tiny baby caterpillars and looked after them until they made the transformation into beautiful butterflies, and then we let them go in local woodland. It was magical, and made me feel incredibly emotional! They were landing on us and hanging around, and when they did fly away Iris was calling out goodbye to them. It’s definitely an experience I want to repeat every year! We hung out at the local lido as often as we could, because we’re very lucky to have such a wonderful facility on our doorstep. Iris discovered that she can swim by herself if she wears armbands and I’ve never seen her prouder. I’ve never felt prouder either. She turned TWO! My tiny little baby was a two year old. We celebrated with a picnic in the park on a quite chilly day, followed by fun in the (very cold) splash park and then a day trip to Cardiff Bay with my mum. I couldn’t believe how much she’d changed from 18 months to two, in the six months since Astrid had arrived. She was such a little person already, with her own ways and preferences.I went blonde in an attempt to like what I see in the mirror. It actually worked! I really liked it. The upkeep was two much in my busy life though, so the roots kept growing too long and I just couldn’t keep up. But for a while, I really enjoyed having super frosty blonde hair. We had a lovely family photo shoot in a strawberry field with local photographer Donna of Sweet Whimsy Photography. I love the results and they are pictures I will truly treasure forever. I had to really battle with myself to share the ones of me though, and could hardly bear to look at them myself. I don’t recognise this person I see in pictures and in the mirror. It isn’t the me I know, and I can’t find a better way to explain it than that. I guess it’s an identity crisis of sorts, and I’m very much still having it now. We did a fair bit of camping this year, which suits me just fine. I love it. It’s so freeing and soothing. Even when it pours with rain there’s just something about that sound on the tent. Even if it does keep us all awake. Our first trip was with all of Iris’s friends from breastfeeding support group and their parents who have become our friends. It made me realise that the support network I have here in Wales now is just incredible. I miss my Bristol friends and I always will, but this bunch are wonderful and have kept me going through so much. We managed to pitch our tents in a big circle around the children’s play area, and we just chilled and watched the kids play for a couple of days. Astrid started eating solid food, and we went down the baby led route again. It’s worked so well for us both times, and I’m so glad I’ve never had to mash food or make up puréed veg. It also means I could sit and eat my own dinner with two hands. I didn’t realise it was possible, but Astrid actually eats even better than Iris did. Iris is beginning to get a little fussy now, but as a baby she ate everything and anything in huge quantities. Astrid is exactly the same. I hoped thinking about meals for a small baby would help me sort out my own eating habits but that didn’t happen. The last few weeks of summer were pretty great. We managed another camping trip, this time with Trevor’s brother and his family who we don’t get to see often, as well as a few lovely day trips. The weather was fantastic, and I briefly felt like my old self for a while. I felt like I might have got a grip of things and it felt good. The sunshine was working for me. In August we went to a wedding reception in Bristol, which we decided not to take Iris to. It was kind of a big deal for her, her first sleepover at Nanny’s without me there to put her to bed. She’d stayed overnight with my mum at our house once before (while I was giving birth to Astrid) but I’d never left her at my mum’s. She wasn’t bothered and had a great time. Astrid came along and mostly ate food and slept in the sling. In mid August Iris declared “no more nappies!” and decided she needed big girl pants. We rolled with it despite the awful timing  (the week before our holiday!) and I’m glad I trusted her and followed her lead. She’s had her fair share of accidents but hasn’t looked back. She’s so proud of using the toilet by herself and quickly moved on from the potty. The summer ended, as it has for three years now, with our long camping trip to Beddgelert in North Wales. Having a potty training toddler along for the ride was interesting but it all worked out and we had another fantastic break away. It’s one of the highlights of my year every year now and I look forward to it all year long. This year my sister gave birth to my new baby niece Effie while we were away and I found it quite upsetting to not be nearby for her. The mobile phone signal is so bad in Snowdonia that we could barely keep in touch, and I couldn’t wait to meet her. The week after our holiday, Iris started at nursery. It was a big decision for me, and I wasn’t sure it was right for a while. I don’t have a job, or any real need of childcare, but Iris is a really sociable girl who doesn’t cope with whole days at home or without the company of other children. The pressure of making sure her days were full was something I could do with easing up slightly. She loved it from the very beginning, and on her first morning when we told her we’d leave and come back in a little while she barely looked up from the sandpit and just said ‘bye then’. She had a lot of accidents there to start with as she was nervous about asking to go the loo, but she got the hang of it in the end. She’s been coming home singing in Welsh (it’s a bilingual nursery) and talking about her new friends and her teachers. Astrid quite often naps while she’s there and it’s given me two mornings a week to do housework or just sit still if that’s what I need to do. One of our guinea pigs, Captain Fuzzywuzzy, had died suddenly before our holiday but although we knew Batpig was lonely we put off getting him a new friend so that we could be around to supervise the introductions. It went really well and baby Robin has settled in nicely. He’s more nervous and jumpy than Batpig so we’re working on getting him used to us. The arrival of autumn was welcomed by me. It had been very hot for a while and I was struggling with it. Iris discovered conkers and our days were filled with finding the best trees to collect them from. It was a great game to combine with Pokemon Go, and we spent a lot of time outdoors. Astrid learnt to crawl, and it made our outdoor adventures more fun. She was less frustrated. She could join in! We had a day out with my sister and her family in Bristol, which was wonderful. However, I realised that I didn’t want to be there. I’m not the Bristol version of me anymore. I was scared of bumping into people because I don’t want them to see me like this. I don’t t even want to see myself like this. I’m so tired and worn down. Even my old river city couldn’t pick me up. Astrid wore a lion costume for an animal themed workshop on the park, and I’m basically just including this picture because it makes me happy. I sold our gorgeous Cosatto tandem pushchair because Astrid hated being in the back, and bought a second hand double off-road three wheeler. It’s great for in the woods and the park, and Astrid is so much happier in it. Scenes like this one make it my best purchase of the year. For the third time this year we combined a train trip to Techniquest in Cardiff Bay with a boat ride to Bute Park, but this time we took Trevor and the big girls. We’ve become so attached to Techniquest that we’re getting annual passes next year! Hooray for science! It rained a lot, so we bought some waterproof trousers and rolled around in muddy puddles. Well, the kids did. I just watched and enjoyed seeing their joy. In October we carved pumpkins and Iris had a wonderful Halloween evening answering the door and handing out sweets. Her nursery had a Halloween disco, and although she refused to wear the witch costume I had bought for her, Iris had a wonderful evening. Astrid loved it too. We went to the big firework display in our local park for bonfire night. Astrid stared at them and we couldn’t make out how she felt about the experience. Iris kept trying to climb a nearby tree and I was too scared of losing her in the dark to enjoy the display. Our good friends Jen and Martin at Barefoot Images did a Christmas photo shoot for us. After not even being able to look at the pictures of myself from our last photo shoot, I decided this would be just the four kids. This is an outtake but is actually my favourite shot. It sums up their relationship so well. There’s a constant battle for the limelight, and they seem to be constantly trying to outdo each other in terms of cuteness. It didn’t get used on our Christmas card, but it might just make it onto the wall in the hallway! The beginning of November was a scary time. Iris had been ill with what I thought was a nasty cold for a few days, when she started wheezing and became difficult to wake up. She ended up being rushed to hospital with suspected pneumonia. She likes ambulances and fire engines so she’d probably have enjoyed the ride if she’d been aware of what was going on. She ended up on oxygen, nebulisers and inhalers and stayed in for two nights. Thankfully it was a chest infection and not pneumonia. The experience affected her deeply. She wouldn’t talk about it for a few weeks, and she relapsed with using the toilet, started crying when we took her to nursery, and completely lost her appetite. She didn’t even want to play, and would just lie under a blanket on the sofa. It took a good month to get our usual Iris back. In December, I’ve discovered Marie Kondo and began a serious declutter. I didn’t realise that the mountains of junk all over my house were affecting my mental health and holding me back. Sending bags and bags of stuff to charity shops and to recycling has been life changing, which sounds cheesy and a bit daft but it’s true. It inspired me to look at other areas of my life too, and to figure out what sparks joy and get rid of what doesn’t. It’s just the beginning of a big adventure that I’m hoping will dominate 2017 and help me to get my whole life back on track. Yes, I’m aware that it’s just a book and I sound a bit silly. I’ve become an empty shell. An unhappy one. An overweight one. I have a lot to change but figuring out what’s good and embracing that might just work better than anything else I’ve tried, most of which involved seeing the negative and being angry about it. Iris was in her first Christmas show as a star, and actually wanted to wear a costume which was a shock. It was mostly Christmas songs sung in Welsh so I had no idea what was going on, but Iris was very proud of her performance. It was so cute it brought me to tears!We went to Puxton Park with my mum and my sister’s family for the fourth year in a row. It’s become our little tradition, and we’ve gone from having three kids between us to having seven in that time! I can’t believe Christmas has come around again so quickly. It’s been another lovely one this year, and the first one where Iris had understood it. Astrid was old enough to enjoy it too. We’ve all eaten too much and lazed around. I’ve been weaning myself off the medication I’ve been taking all year, so I’ve been feeling a little poorly and very very anxious. I’m completely overwhelmed with it all today and it’s made me feel quite ill. I want to enjoy the last few days of the festive season but it’s all a bit much and I’m looking forward to getting back to normal. There’s so much tidying up to do. The house is trashed and it’s making me sweaty and netvous. I don’t seem to be able to just enjoy anything anymore! Despite currently feeling quite bleak and exhausted, I’m determined that next year is going to be different. I’m going to feel better and take better care of myself, which will mean I can take better care of my family too. It’s all going to change. Wish me luck!! Happy new year!
 

Being Mum 

It’s 2am and I can’t sleep. This is a regular thing for me, always has been. Even before kids. My brain whirs and clicks and I just can’t relax. In a past life I spent these hours reading books, watching films, baking or out dancing in a club. Tonight I’m cleaning out the fridge. Times have changed. 

It’s hard to put my finger on what’s keeping me up. It’s not just one thing. It never is. 

Years ago, during a period of suffering very badly with anxiety, I did a course on mindfulness. It was a freebie, put on by some charity. My GP recommended it. It was bloody brilliant actually. I learnt lots of coping strategies, and that although I can’t control my thoughts I can control how I feel about them. It sounds so simple, but I was bogged down so badly that it felt like a huge revelation. 

One thing that they told me that stayed with me was the full glass theory. That’s probably not its real name but it’s what I’ve called it. The little things aren’t so bad. One their own they can’t do much to bring me down. But I’ve only got so much room in my glass for water. Put too much in and it’ll overflow. 

I’m overflowing. 

Although I always kind of thought I’d be a parent one day, this isn’t quite the circumstances I imagined. Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m lucky. I know I’ve got everything most people dream of. I am grateful, honestly I am. 

I just pictured it differently. I think we probably all do that. 

Wales was never on my radar. There’s nothing wrong with Wales. I love it here now, and think of it as home in the way Bristol used to be. If everything fell apart and my family broke up now (oh how I hope that never happens) I would probably still stay around here. I miss my few close friends and of course my family so very much. But I’ve worked so so bloody hard on life here that I couldn’t just quit. 

My two closest friends hooked up, got married, and had a baby before I met Trevor. I remember thinking that if I had a kid, we’d raise our kids together. They’d be close, like cousins. Of course they are still my closest friends and the people I love most dearly, and their kids are ace too, but I don’t live nearby and our kids are best buddies like I dreamed. My sister’s kids aren’t around my kids all the time like I pictured either. It isn’t what I hoped for, but it is ok. 

It’s been almost 3 years since I made the move across the bridge now, and I’m still not over it. It’s still hard. At the best of times, parenting can be completely isolating. I can be quite socially awkward, and if I don’t click with new people pretty quickly I tend to feel anxious and then avoid them. It’s so hard trying hard to make conversation, and I think how hard I’m trying shows on my face. I come across as a bit weird then, and possibly a bit rude too. I can’t help it. 

Despite that, I’ve chucked myself right into valleys life and have an excellent supportive network of other mum friends that have been life saving. I mean that quite literally. They may not keep me alive, but they are essential in me maintinaing any kind of life outside of our home. 

I imagined myself as a working mother. I thought I’d maybe go part time at the nursery I worked at, and take my kids with me on work days. I couldn’t see myself as a stay at home mum at all. I am so rubbish at the whole maintaining a house thing. I’d be better off earning some cash and employing a cleaner. There’s not really any jobs here though, and definitely not ones where I could take my kids to work. I’d never earn enough working with children to afford childcare for both of my little ones. I’d work simply to hand the money over to a nursery or childminder and that seems so illogical. I’d do it for a great job, but not for just a job. 

So I am a stay at home mum and, although I never doubted that it was hard for a second, it’s much much harder than I thought. It’s constant. It’s a 24 hours a day thing. Obviously it’d still be 24 hours a day if I had a paid job too,  but spending 24 hours a day constantly with my children exhausts me. I literally can’t do anything without them. If I try to do housework at least one of them will cling to my ankle and cry until I stop. If I want to go out we go to the child friendly places because they are always with me. If I go to the loo they watch, if I take a shower they cry. I love them dearly but they are like little cheese graters, just grating away at my very being. 

I’m not too ashamed to admit that I don’t always enjoy every minute. 

I am only a human being after all. And a human being in near constant pain too. I still can’t get to the bottom of my aches and pains, and my doctor isn’t interested. I should move surgeries or get a second opinion but the very idea of it fills moth dread and makes me feel tired. I’m exhausted. So painfully run down and exhausted. The medications that work for me are starting to lose their power. I should up my dosage but they are making me gain weight so rapidly, and the weight gain is making me unhappy. I’d love to stop taking them all together, but the fear of migraines returning and having panic attacks in public makes me doubt that idea. 

The guilt is a horrendous. I feel guilty every single day for almost every single thing I do. I can’t do a thing without worrying endlessly about how it’ll affect my kids, Trevor, my step kids. To make up for it I work hard on trying to make life all fun and games, but I just don’t seem to be able to win. I thought we were having a ball as a family, but apparently everybody was annoyed that we don’t relax around the house enough. So I try to make the house nicer for us to be in, and that causes fights too. I just don’t understand what I’m supposed to do. 

In a few short weeks Astrid turns one. I don’t have a tiny baby anymore. My days of being a parent to two under two are long gone, and I’m running out of excuses not to sort my life out. 

I feel so pathetic. 

Writing all of this down makes it feel even sillier, but it also gets it out. I can’t talk. I can’t talk to anybody. The people surrounding me don’t understand, and the people who do understand have their own things to worry about. I can’t offload without feeling guilty, so the writing is essential. I don’t worry that nobody reads it. It doesn’t matter. 

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. I know it’s all quite normal stuff really. It helps to know that I’m not a weirdo, even though I regularly feel like one. 

I’m so many ways, for so many people, 2016 has been awful. I’m trying to have hope for 2017 but it’s so hard to imagine it being all sunshine and rainbows. I’d settle for less guilt and more sleep. 

What’s new in the mouse house

photo-23-10-2016-14-41-28

Actually, not much really.

I’ve just renewed my domain thingy which costs actual real money, and it made me think that maybe I should try a bit harder with this blog thing. I’ve been saying that for months actually, but I can’t quite find enough balance in our busy life. There’s just not much room for this, but I wish there was. I’ve always found writing about my life very therapeutic, and I still do. I really love having things written down to look back on too. I quite often read my old posts when they pop up on Timehop.

On the whole, life is really good right now. Apart from the usual money worries (how is Christmas so soon??) we’re doing really well. My mental health was worrying me for a while, but I feel like I’ve really got a grip of things at the moment. I’ve been feeling quite a bit better physically too, with migraines now a very rare occurrence and they’re mild even when they do appear. A combination of amitryptaline and sertraline seems to really work for me. I’ve had no aura, no flashing lights in my vision, and much less neurological pain. I’m tired though, and I haven’t been looking after myself. I still eat too much junk food. I really don’t need a big bar of chocolate every evening, but somehow I feel like I do. I’ve put weight on, I’m sure. Which isn’t great because I want to lose quite a bit, but it’s not the end of the world.

The big kids are doing great, with the eldest being made house captain at her school. Their days with us have been full of fun, with lots of train trips and boat trips and days spent in Techniquest doing science. Second kid made a gorgeous crown for a school project, and biggest kid has got really into photography. She turns 11 next week and has asked for a fancy camera.

Iris is still going to the local nursery two mornings a week and absolutely loves it. It’s a bilingual setting, and she keeps singing Welsh songs at home! She’s starting praising me in Welsh when I’ve done something ‘clever’ like using the toilet. Da iawn Mummy! I have no idea what she’s been getting up to there, but there’s a coffee morning coming up where I can talk to her key worker about how she’s doing. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s half term now, and I know she’s really going to miss it. She does have a Halloween disco to go to on Friday though! She’s got a witch costume but keeps telling me she doesn’t want to wear it, so she’ll probably go in her usual clothes.

We’ve not been letting the colder weather keep us indoors, which is lucky really as Iris now knows there’s a whole tv channel that just shows Peppa Pig all day every day and if we stayed at home she’d insist on watching it constantly. Because it’s been colder, we often get the big park in Pontypridd all to ourselves. If we go towards the end of the day there’s a tannoy announcement about the park closing, and Iris takes it much better from the tannoy than from me. This has reduced the amount of public tantrums by quite a few!

Astrid is doing really well. I planned to use the time Iris spends at nursery to spend some time with just Astrid, but she’s decided to sleep all morning nearly every time. It means I get some time to myself, but also means I have no excuse to ignore the dishes and laundry!

After struggling to dye my roots I decided that bleachy blonde hair was way too much hard work, and this week I went brunette. The plan is that it’s similar to my natural colour and so I can just stop dying my hair now. It’s just too much work and I can’t be bothered. I’ll probably change my mind. I have trouble committing to one colour!

With Astrid going to sleep pretty early in the evenings with Iris not far behind, I feel like we’ve got a little bit of time for us again. It’s nice. We’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning again. It’s weirdly nostalgic for me. Even though I was very late to it as a series, I watched it all when Iris was a tiny newborn. She never slept so I gave up going to bed. It’s such a good series and it kept me from getting really down during the worst days of sleep deprivation. Trevor caught the odd episode here and there, and he’s now enjoying filling in the gaps. I feel a bit bad about all the hours we’re spending watching tv because I really want to read some of my pile of unread books. I guess they can wait. One benefit to tv over books is that I can do something else at the same time. I’ve been crocheting loads, and finally finished Astrid’s star blanket that I started before she was born. Iris has one I made two years ago, and it’s nice that they’ve got one each now. I also made Iris a doll, which she has named ‘Jo with the bow’, but she refuses to play with it and says she doesn’t like it. I’m trying not to let that upset me!

My sister had a new baby when we were away camping in August, and we’ve been trying to get together as often as possible so we can all get to know my new baby niece. It’s great to get all the kids together anyway, as our little two and my sister’s three are all similar ages. I think cousins should be your first friends if possible, and I didn’t spend much time with mine as a kid. Now we’re not in contact at all, and I’d love for my kids and my sister’s kids to be there for each other even when they’re all grown up.

There’s been talk of getting a new kitchen here, even though we’re a long way from having the cash for it. I’m trying to convince Trevor that we need a dishwasher, but I don’t think he’s persuaded yet. We have a fairly good size kitchen, but it’s poorly designed and laid out in such a way that we actually don’t have much surface or storage space. If it was shuffled around we could easily fit a dishwasher plus more cupboards and more worktop space. Our bathroom needs doing too, plus we have a small hallway with a bare concrete floor that needs carpet or something. Our daft dog Seb has a thing for eating underlay and will happily rip up carpet to get to it. Thankfully that tiny hall was the only bit of carpet downstairs. Perhaps it might be better to put laminate in there.

I’ve started to think about what I want to do when it’s time for me to go back to work. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything anytime soon because childcare for two is too expensive. I’m thinking about not going anywhere to work at all, but childminding from home. I have a couple of friends who do it, and although hard work it does look like a good way to make some cash. I’ve worked with small children most of my adult life and have the relevant qualifications already, so it makes sense. I don’t plan on doing anything at least until next September when Iris will start nursery class at school. We applied for her place last week, which felt like a parenting milestone I was not ready for. She’s only 2!

It’s getting colder and the heating has been on a little bit for the first time this season. It feels like winter is finally on it’s way and I’m relieved for a change. Halloween has been spoilt a little bit this year by those stupid idiots dressing as clowns that we keep seeing on the news. The big kids have said they don’t want to go outside on Halloween, and I don’t feel much like it either. There have been quite a few clowns reported to police around here. Hopefully bonfire night will be better! We went to the display in Ynysangharad Park last year, and it was great. We’ll probably do the same this year. I love the big organised displays, but seeing fireworks for sale in supermarkets makes me nervous. How can it be right that anybody can pick up explosives when they’re just popping in for some bread?

We’ve started thinking about Christmas here, and like every year we’ve decided not to buy as much, even though we never manage to stick to any kind of budget. I want to buy Iris a balance bike and perhaps a Lottie doll but other than that I have no idea. Astrid has all of the old toys belonging to three big sisters to play with, so she really doesn’t need anything. Plus she’ll turn 1 just a couple of weeks later, meaning she’ll get even more presents she doesn’t need! I think we’re going to need a serious sort out before we do any shopping.

I don’t have any more news I want to record, so I’m signing off here. I’ll probably think of something else in a minute!

Our summer bucket list with #sweetsummerchallenge and Sweet Whimsy Photography

I was recently put in touch with Donna Loring of Sweet Whimsy Photography, a family photographer based nearby in South Wales who is challenging families to write a to do list for summer and then get outdoors and do all the fun stuff! I’m a big fan of a list. Especially a fun list! Definitely preferable to my usual stuff-to-do-around-the-house list. I set to work straight away writing a list, and in the few weeks since we’ve actually managed to do quite a few of these already! It’s been a lot of fun!

Go camping with friends

Splash in the sea

Search rock pools for creatures

Eat chips on the seafront

Go strawberry picking

Paddle in a lake

Climb a mountain

Go geocaching

Walk the dog in the woods

Visit Castell Coch

Take a boat bus from Cardiff Bay

Visit the splash park

Have a picnic

Pop bubbles in the garden

Build sand castles

Ride on steam trains

Camp in the forest

Visit the lido

Fly kites

Wander around a harbour

Painting in the garden

Play in the paddling pool

Have a BBQ

Visit Folly Farm

So if you’re finding yourself stuck for ideas when you wake up on these summer holiday mornings, try sitting down with your family and writing a similar list. Join in by tagging blog posts and pictures with #sweetsummerchallenge on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information and some great free print outs and ideas head to Donna’s page here and sign up!

Pop back here tomorrow and I’ll be sharing the wonderful photographs from our shoot with Donna!

Life lately (again) 

I’ve done this before, returned to blogging after a break only to find it hard to write. There’s been such a big gap, and I know of only one way to record what happened in that time. A list! 

We tried to rekindle our love for geocaching, but it was freezing cold, the geocaching app wasn’t working, Iris fell over, and none of us had any fun. 

 

Trevor finally finished wallpapering the living room wall. (It only took him a year.) 

Sub Zero ice cream parlour opened and we visited several times. 

Spring finally arrived! 

My migraines returned. I went back on amitriptyline to prevent them. 

We visited the steam railway at Blaenavon. The Easter bunny was on the train and Iris was terrified. 

We went back to Warren Mill Farm Park. Trevor tried to pick up a prairie dog and it bit him. 

We ventured to Barry Island on the train on a really cold day. Just me and the little ones. It was scary but I was brave. 

Iris did quite a bit of cycling. 

Iris started learning Welsh at a Welsh mum and toddler group, but it only lasted 4 weeks before they decided it wasn’t successful. We were gutted. 

We went to stay with my mum over the bridge, and hung out with my niece and nephew at soft play on a rainy day. 

We got the train to Cardiff a couple of times. We visited Parc play centre. Iris liked the sandpit and huge wooden boat. 

We bought a spiralizer and ate a lot of ‘green spaghetti’. 

Iris became obsessed with a book called ‘Cat’s Colours’ that she borrowed from the library. She learnt to recognise red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple and black because of it. She also started trying count, a skill she uses mostly to count horse poops when we go out to walk the dog. 

Summer arrived. The paddling pool came out, and the sandpit was filled. Iris started painting all of the stones in the garden. 

We went to Barry again, in better weather. 

Life rumbled along nicely in much the same way it always does, and we all got used to Astrid while she got used to us. 

I ate way too much chocolate.