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. 

A diary of January’s happy things – part two 


Monday 23rd January

I haven’t written anything down in quite a few days. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been happy. I just didn’t feel like writing. 

Tonight I went to my second roller derby fresh meat session (I missed last week with a rotten cold). There were a whole bunch of new people tonight, and I joined their group to recap a bit. It seems that the only thing I really missed was skating backwards, which I just couldn’t figure out at all! 

Despite that, I had the best time. I feel like I’ve done some real exercise this evening and there’s every chance I’ll be quite sore tomorrow! 

Friday 27th January 

It’s been a weird week. We’ve all been a bit under the weather so haven’t been out of the house much. Plus it’s freezing out there! We did manage to find the energy for fresh air, the mountains and muddy puddles on Wednesday for an hour or so. It was a glorious freezing cold day, and the air was just what we needed. We’re also experiencing our usual end-of-the-month skintness which is another reason to stay home a lot. 

Today both of my little ones are tired from coughing all night so are sleeping the day away, while I lie on the end of the bed reading a book and writing this. Tonight the Roller Derby team are having a bit of a party to celebrate their 4th birthday. I so want to skate to let off some steam, but I’m currently battling with the guilt of leaving poorly babies behind to go out and enjoy myself. 

Saturday 28th January 

So roller skating has become my happy place as to be honest I’m not feeling the happy this week. Iris has been hugely challenging and Astrid has pushed me to my limits too. I’m tired because they both have a cough that keeps us all up all night. It’s partly just me, being hormonal and grumpy. But it’s partly being stuck in the house too. With the little ones having colds and with all the decluttering effort, we haven’t been out much. I have to change that, because Iris needs fresh air and adventures. That’s my aim for next week. Just get out and do stuff. 

The party at roller derby was so much fun last night. We played games, and one of them involved lots of deliberate falling. It was so much fun, I was giggling like a little kid the whole time. I’m a bit bruised today but I can cope with that. Totally worth it. Tomorrow I’m skating again, taking the big girls with me for recreational skating. Then Monday is fresh meat training again. Lots of skating! It’s great, and it’s given me a way to let off steam. 

I can’t stop thinking about buying my own boots already. I know where my birthday money will be going this year! 

A diary of January’s happy things – part one 

Tuesday 3rd January 

Today, after owning her scooter for over a year but showing little interest in it, Iris asked to take it out and after a little lesson from me she mastered it! Then on the way home we smashed up an icy puddle which is one of the joys of winter when you’re wild and two! 

Thursday 5th January 

Last night both Iris and Astrid were asleep just after 6pm, and I was pretty convinced that they’d be up again at 10 and stay up half th night after such an early night. Nope. Trevor and I watched several episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (we’ve almost caught up!) and I did loads of my knitting. Astrid woke a couple of times but was back to sleep pretty quickly, and they both slept until 6am! I feel like a new person! Tonight they were both asleep by 7:30. Having some time in the evening is so nice! 

Saturday 7th January 

Today has been pretty good all round really. It began with the little ones waking up at 5:30, but Trevor took them downstairs and left me to go back to sleep. I slept until 9! Lovely! Then once he’d walked the dog, he took them both out for most of the day. I love those two little stinkers so very much, but it’s very rare that I’m not with them. Having a breather and some silence is really soothing, and I needed it badly. I started off the day by trying out the new Zumba DVD Trevor came home with a few weeks ago. It’s got a twenty minute quick workout on it, so I gave that a go. It’s fast and really great fun! I’m not the most coordinated person ever so I doubt I was doing exactly what the instructors were doing, but I gave it my best shot. After a shower and polishing of the leftovers from last night’s super healthy pasta I set to work on decluttering and tidying upstairs. Not the most relaxing way to spend a rare day off, I know, but I am so set in getting this house in order and I know I won’t relax until I do. Trying to do it with the kids around is a hundred times harder, and actually I quite enjoy it. There’s still quite a bit of junk hiding under the bed and in the tops of our wardrobes, but the bits you can see without really looking now look really great! I’m chuffed with my progress! 

When Trevor and the kiddos returned, I had just about finished off what I wanted to get done today. The little ones were both asleep pretty early and I even got some knitting done. I started a jumper for Trevor when I was pregnant with Iris, so over two and a half years ago! I didn’t anticipate knitting being really difficult to do once you have babies, so it sat untouched for a long time. I did have a moment of panic this evening, that almost turned into an outpouring of anxiety about everything and anything. It started with the realisation that I’ve got a hall booked for a party for Astrid next weekend, but I’ve done nothing else to get ready for it. Before I knew it, I was stressed about everything. I, including it here because I managed to successfully get a handle on it, and I’ve come up to bed without getting upset or angry and taking it out in Trevor. It’s a small win, but it’s still a win. I’m writing this in the dark in my lovely reading chair that was piled high with junk this morning, and listening to my girls snore. 

Monday 9th January

Oh. My. Word. Roller derby is just awesome. 

I’ve had a fab day. Roller derby was just the perfect finish to a day spent hanging out with my girls and my mum. 

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! 

New Years resolutions

Photo credit: Jen and Martin at Barefoot Images


Last year I tried to dance around this by saying they were not really resolutions. That probably isn’t the reason I couldn’t stick to a single one, but I do think that making them more concrete plans might help. This year, I’m calling them what they are, I’m writing them down, and I’m going to come back to them and reflect often. They’re big, most of them. Big things. Life changing things. I can’t do them all at once, but do them all I will. At least I hope I will. 

  1. Make peace with my body and change my relationship with food. I really need to stop eating my feelings. It doesn’t actually help with the feelings. I need to listen to my body and eat what makes me feel good (it’s not chocolate!). I need to stop looking in the mirror and hating what I see. I need to look at my body as the incredible thing that made two whole humans, and start treating it with the respect it deserves. 
  2. Self care is a biggy. It’s related to the first resolution, but by this I mean other things I (don’t) do that help me to feel more like me. Exercise, taking care of my hair, putting on make up when I feel like it and not feeling guilty about wasting make up on a face like mine, not weighing myself, being outdoors, enjoying myself at events instead of just trying to avoid cameras, making time for knitting and reading and other things that soothe me, being present with my kids and not miles away in social media land, taking a break from the Internet regularly, hanging out with friends, trying new things. That’s not the whole list but you get the point. 
  3. Tidying up. I’ve made a massive start on the house full of stuff that we live in. So much of our unwanted junk has been recycled or donated and it has felt so good. The reason I have battled so hard to keep our house clean and tidy but failed is because there’s just way too much stuff. Nothing has a home. All the storage is full and overflowing. It has to change. Christmas has undone much of my work, but as soon as Trev is back at work and the kids are back at school I’ll be diving in head first and getting it done. Starting with the Christmas decorations that are suffocating me! 
  4. I’m quitting shopping. Yes, I know that sounds a bit silly. How can I quit shopping? I don’t mean completely. What’s the point in decluttering when we bring in more than we take out? I can’t stop my family from buying things, but I can stop myself. No clothes. I don’t need them. I’m not getting any bigger (see 1) and I have clothes in the size I am now down to the size I was before babies. I’m not buying any more. I don’t need to pick up things like lip balm or make up. Tidying up has shown me that I have tons of the stuff, I just can’t ever find it because it’s not all stored in one place. I’ll buy food (the healthy kind) and essentials, and the occasional thing that really sparks joy (like the cat astronaught bedding I’ve got my eye on in the Asda sale). I’m just going to avoid shops. Wandering around shops is no longer a thing I do to fill time. There are lots of other places, parks and libraries and museums. 
  5. Save some money. Number 4 should help. I should be able to get to the end of the month and not be completely broke and have to turn down invitations or stay home because I don’t have the cash for bus fare.

It’s just 5 things but they aren’t small things, and each one will affect my life greatly. I’m finally starting to come out the other side of the medication withdrawal, and now I’m ready to do whatever it takes to live without it and be happy. I need more happy. 

Happy new year! 

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!