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.

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.  

Astrid at 9 months

designI’ve been so incredibly crap at keeping records of what Astrid has learnt and how much she has grown. I was brilliant at this when Iris was tiny, so obviously I’m feeling all guilty and like I haven’t loved my children equally. So ridiculous!

This year has been such a whirlwind. There has been so much chaos and I’ve been so exhausted, but there’s also been so much fun and laughter. Astrid has completed our already rather huge family and she has bought us all so much joy. And stress too, of course.

She was such an easy newborn. She slept when I put her down. She was really laid back, portable, easy to feed and really cuddly. Once she started smiling she didn’t stop for a while, and seemed so jolly. Then she went through a leap or something and screamed almost non stop for a few months. It pushed me right to the edge and I’m not ashamed to admit that I briefly wasn’t coping at all.

All of sudden, out of nowhere, jolly Astrid came back. Thank goodness.

She’s rarely without a smile now. She has such a round squishy face and big deep dimples in her cheeks. Her fluffy blonde hair quite often sticks up in a happy sort of way, and she just lights up a room. She’s much rounder than Iris was as a baby, and Trevor often says she’s ‘a dollop of baby, like somebody got a big spoon and scooped her out of a tub of baby and dolloped her there’. I can’t argue with that.

Breastfeeding her has been so easy, especially in comparison to how feeding Iris was. She’s never done the cluster feeding thing, or the feeding for hours on end thing. She’s efficient and when she’s done she’s done. Feeding her solids has been so easy too. She loves food. Like Iris, she won’t be spoon fed. She absolutely refuses to be helped in any way. She hates mushy purée type stuff, much preferring stuff she can hold. She literally stuffs handfuls of food in her face, and makes happy ‘yom yom yom’ noises the whole time she’s eating.

She’s been mobile for a while now, and crawls all around at high speed. She pulls herself up to standing too, much to Iris’s disgust. She can reach toys even when Iris attempts to put them out of her reach. We’ve had to go back to being careful what we put on the coffee table, and once I forgot which ended with Astrid wearing a cup full of pink milkshake. I have a feeling she will walk earlier than Iris did, and honestly I’d rather she didn’t. She’s growing up far too fast for my liking!

She has two teeth now, and has started biting me when she’s breastfeeding. Ouch!

Just this weekend, she’s started saying ‘Dada’ and seems to know it’s the word for Trevor. If he leaves the room or she can’t see him she’ll call ‘daaaada’ until he returns.

Unlike Iris as a baby, Astrid likes her sleep. By this age I’m sure Iris had started having two naps per day a roughly the same time. Astrid has lots of naps and is completely unpredictable. She’s usually asleep much earlier in the evening than Iris used to be. Sometimes she’s ready for bed as early as 6:30! At the moment she’s struggling with a cold and her teeth so isn’t sleeping as well, but usually she only wakes once or twice a night for a quick feed and then goes straight back to sleep.

On the whole, she’s now a pretty easy baby to look after. She’s clearly not going to let being the youngest of 4 girls affect her, and already knows how to make sure she gets lots of attention. She’s a joy to be around (apart from when she’s angry – poor thing has my temper!) and has filled a hole we didn’t know was there. Her relationship with Iris is beautiful, and I’m enjoying watching it develop. I’m a bit shocked that bickering starts so young, but when they play together it’s so lovely to see.

A tale of two trips

I think it’s unlikely that anybody will ever accuse me of putting forward a Pinterest-perfect life. I don’t even use a camera and I have no idea what a flat lay is. Besides, most of what I write is about how badly I cope with life in general, and parenting too. This is another of those. Sort of.

On the advice of Cardiff Mummy Says (check out the stuff to do in the summer holidays posts! So useful!) I took Iris and Astrid to National Museum Cardiff yesterday. And again today actually. But not because we had too much fun yesterday and couldn’t wait to go back. Nope. Yesterday, in typical Mouse family style, was a complete disaster.


I’m not even going to go there really. I don’t want to revisit it. Let’s just say Astrid screamed. A lot. All day long actually. On the train, in the pushchair, in the sling, during lunch. All day. We went to the museum but we only really saw the foyer. Oh, and we bumped into a friend of mine and I couldn’t even talk to her because I was a flustered mess and on the brink of tears. So that was nice. The only positive of the day was when the kids finally fell asleep and I caught a Pikachu. Yep. I’m addicted to Pokemon Go. That was on the way home.


So why would I put myself through it all again?

I don’t know. Because I’m not particularly sensible? I’m a sucker for punishment?

Well Iris was a bit gutted she didn’t get to see ‘Superworm’ and Trevor convinced me I was brave enough. I wasn’t.

I mentioned the whole thing to friends at toddler group this morning, and before I knew it we were all on a train. Four mums and five kids. I had backup. I had a TEAM now. I was brave enough after all.

Astrid was happier today. She napped early and Iris napped too. I arrived with well rested babies, and that makes the world of difference.

We had the best time. Especially Iris. Her favourite part was the worm exhibition, in particular the little house that feels like being a worm underground. There were windows containing other underground creatures, and predators peering down from holes above your head. The fox was quite sinister looking. I don’t fancy being a worm.

Iris, in her usual style, embraced the whole experience and even got into the worm and caterpillar costumes to wriggle about for a bit. She was squealing with excitement at the animals all around, and was extra excited by any animal that features in The Gruffalo’s Child. A tiny stuffed mouse was THE BIG BAD MOUSE, and the fox prompted her to recite a big chunk of her favourite book. Another of her favourite books, Superworm, was available to read in a little book corner with a shelf full of stories about worms and other wriggly creatures. We spent a while in there on the cushions. A relief for me, because I’m constantly exhausted.

 

The exhibition is really great! I hope we can get back and see it again soon. I actually learnt quite a bit too. I had no idea there was a worm called the Bone Eating Snot Flower, for example. But I’m glad to know now. Our friends dashed off, but with nowhere to go I followed Iris as she wandered around some of the other exhibits. I’m sure we only saw a small chunk of the museum as we walk slowly and linger for ages at the interesting stuff. A tree with a stuffed owl inside, whale bones, sparkly rocks, hairy dinosaurs, a huge screen showing volcanoes erupting. So much to see.

 
Plus the cafe is quite nice.

We’ll be back, for sure. And not just because Bute Park is full of Pikachus. On the way back to the train station I decided to treat myself and Iris to an ice cream. Astrid stole mine. As usual.

Our Insect Lore butterflies

img_4580

Back in Bristol, before having kids, I worked in nurseries with little children. One of the hardest parts of the role is trying to come up with new, exciting and educational activities all of the time. Yet every summer, year after year, we’d order caterpillars from Insect Lore and spend the next few weeks watching and talking about the life cycle of the butterfly. It was always one of my favourite things to do, and the children were always mesmerised! So when a relative gave me some cash and asked me to spend it on something fun for Iris I knew exactly what to do.

I saw a TV advert with an offer for 10 caterpillars for the price of 5, and ordered immediately. The caterpillars arrived in their little tubs within a few days. The food they need is already contained in the tubs, and the rate that they eat and grow is almost unbelievable! I had to be very careful because Iris can be quite heavy handed and I was worried she’d shake the tubs. All of the caterpillars survived life with Iris, and once they were huge and the food was gone they transformed into chrysalides overnight. A few days later, we watched in awe as the butterflies emerged and stretched their wings. Iris couldn’t quite believe it, and insisted on standing on a chair in the kitchen and watching them flap around.

As wonderful as the caterpillar and chrysalides stages are, they’re difficult to photograph. I managed a few poorly lit snaps, but nothing worth sharing. Really it’s all just a countdown to release day. The best part of the whole process!

We headed into the wooded area where we walk Seb the dog near our house, and we let them go. They seemed almost reluctant at first, landing on our hats and arms, but then off they flew one by one. I have no real idea why, but it made me feel quite emotional. Maybe it was Iris’s cries of ‘bye bye butterfly’ that did it. It’s quite an experience, and weeks later Iris still talks about it. We’ll definitely be doing it all again next summer!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*We paid for our caterpillars and haven’t worked with Insect Lore for this post. We just really enjoyed the experience and wanted to share!*

 

 

 

 

 

Our family photo shoot with Sweet Whimsy Photography

IMG_5547.jpg

After writing our our #sweetsummerchallenge summer to-do list, we arranged to meet up with the lovely Donna of Sweet Whimsy Photography for one of her out in the wild photo shoots. I’ve never been a big fan of a studio photo shoot. They make me feel nervous and then I can’t manage a natural smile. The little ones are the same. I took them for a studio shoot quite recently and Iris went all shy while Astrid got upset. They managed one decent photo but neither kid is smiling. It was good enough for a grandparent’s mantelpiece, but not the kind of picture that brings back memories and makes you feel warm inside. For that you need to capture kids in their own natural environment, doing what they do best. The great outdoors!

We headed to Hendrewennol Fruit Farm near Cardiff to tick strawberry picking off our summer bucket list. It’s a favourite of ours, and a place we often pop into after a visit to the nearby Warren Mill Farm Park. As well as fruit fields, they have a lovely play area and the coffee is pretty good too. Donna had never been before, but was happy to meet us there and I’m pretty sure she’ll be going back with her own daughter!

Iris really got stuck in. Once we convinced her to only pick red ones and not the green ones, she filled her basket pretty quickly. It was a damp drizzly sort of Saturday morning, but we’ve never been the sort of family to let the weather hold us back. Even Astrid was happy to sit on (and eat!) the wet grass, and she really enjoyed her first taste of strawberries. You’re not really supposed to eat them until after you leave, but Astrid is too little to read the signs! It didn’t take long for the little ones to completely forget that Donna and her camera were there. I’m pretty sure Trevor had forgotten too. If I wasn’t so self conscious I could have done the same, but cameras pointed at me make me feel nervous! I needn’t have worried. I don’t look nervous and I’m pretty pleased with the shots of me. I have to admit that my favourites are the images of Trevor and Iris, who were having a really great time together!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The big two kids were in Lanzarote with their mum, lucky things, so they couldn’t be a part of the shoot. It’s a huge shame, but we’ve already decided that we’ll be doing another shoot with Donna in the future and they’ll be included next time. I think we’ll wait until Astrid is walking, so that they can be captured all running together.

I highly recommend Sweet Whimsy Photography if you’re in South Wales and want a family photoshoot that’s a little bit different!

*Donna photographed us for the purpose of this post and for images for her website/blog. We weren’t charged for the shoot.*

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!