Thursday, 31 December 2009

High points

I have been tagged and, for once, I am going to respond to the tag almost immediately (the next morning, at least), because it’s a New Year meme and therefore both relevant and time-sensitive.

The rules are to thank the person who tagged you (thank you Kelly), list your 5 high points for 2009 and tag 5 other people to do the same. Simple, really.

1 Starting this blog

I’d been blogging over at Mummy and Daddy Clark since shortly after Rosemary was born, but decided I wanted something more about me as a parent, than about Rosemary – that blog was (and will be again, now I’ve decided to revive it) aimed at far-away relatives, so they could read about Rosemary and her progress, and see photos and videos of her. I’d started reading some parenting blogs and read a few articles about them and thought I’d like to try my hand. There was a little part of me that thought it could be the way to fame and fortune, but just in the way that you dream about winning the lottery (I’m surely not the only one who does that?), but instead it brought me an amazing circle of friends, some fantastic reading material, and a very enjoyable pass-time. It also somehow put me in the radar of the PR companies, which was very flattering and gave me the opportunity to meet some really lovely people.

2 Rosemary starting playgroup

Rosemary started nursery school last November, but she didn’t start playgroup until May, as she had to wait until she was 2 years 9 months. She loves going to both and gets so much out of it. Playgroup seems to be the one she enjoys the most, though (maybe that’s ‘play’ versus ‘school’?), and that’s where her closes friends (for the moment) are. It also provided me with the opportunity to actually talk to some other parents (well, one in particular – ‘Hi, K!’), which is a relief, as I thought I might never manage that. And it also meant that I was able to work something vaguely resembling normal office hours, with a few extra evening or weekend shifts required now and then. (Of course, all that went to pot in October – see High No. 4 – but never mind, I fit the work in somehow!)

3 Our holiday in France

This was a real biggie. We hadn’t been on a proper holiday since our honeymoon in 2004. We were meant to go on an all-inclusive 2-week holiday to Kenya in January 2006, but found out I was pregnant. Having had an ectopic pregnancy in 2004, the doctor advised us not to go, as we would be there at the point that would be the highest risk of ectopic pregnancy. And I came pretty darned close to dying last time – didn’t want to be away from ambulances and operating theatres, just in case. (Fortunately, it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy, as you probably worked out!) And, in true, sod’s law fashion, we were supposed to be going on a big all-inclusive holiday in Mexico in November this year, but couldn’t do that because we got pregnant again (see High Point No. 4).

Instead, Chris’ parents took us to Normandy for a week. Which, I have to say, was a much more appropriate holiday for Rosemary. We all had a wonderful time and hope to be able to repeat it in the future. Rosemary talks about pretty much every day and asks about when we can go to France again. It was a really wonderful and relaxing week. The only down point was not being able to drink copious (or even teeny tiny) amounts of red wine and eat bucket-loads of smelly cheese. We definitely need to go back, soon.

4 Giving birth to Eleanor

Well, this had to come into it somewhere, didn’t it? It was a long wait, though funnily enough she was actually a few days early. I’d been expecting her to arrive since August, but she held out for a very nice birth date (11.10.09) instead. And she gave me the birth I wanted – in the fantastic midwife-led unit, in the birth pool, with nothing but gas and air and Chris’ hand as pain-killers. It was a truly magical experience, albeit still extremely painful! And, whatsmore, we got us a beautiful little baby girl as a result of it. Eleanor is now almost 3 months old and is truly a little charmer, babbling away and smiling and giggling at us. Though it would be nice if she would go to bed on time a bit more often!

5 Overcoming early breast-feeding problems

Now that we’re at almost 3 months, I wonder how breast-feeding could ever have been difficult. It was the same with Rosemary – early struggles led to a 2-year breast-feeding journey – but the struggles this time were a lot worse and I came extremely close to giving up. I am so glad I didn’t. We’re now exclusively breast-feeding, though there are a few cartons of formula and some bottles still sat somewhere, just in case.

Eleanor feeds with pretty much no trouble at all, even when she had a really bad cough. Most feeds are around 20 minutes long and she goes back to sleep straight away after her middle-of-the-night feeds (though I wouldn’t mind if she would sleep through instead – her sister didn’t for a helluva long time, so I won’t hold out too much hope for that). She’s getting big – haven’t had her weighed, but according to my approximations based on me standing on the scales without her and then with her, she seems to already weigh about a stone. Pretty sure Rosemary didn’t weigh a stone until she was 4 or 5 months, though may be remembering wrong!

She’s now feeding in an easier cradle-hold, which means I can feed when out and about without waving my boobs around (not that I have a problem with anyone doing that, I just prefer to cover up if I can) and without needing a cushion to rest on.

I’m considering buying a hand-pump so that she can breast-milk when out and about with my mum (who will be looking after her a couple of times a week fairly soon), so we can throw out the formula completely.

So, getting through those first few weeks was really a major accomplishment that is reaping rewards for everyone now.


Now I have to tag five other people to do this…

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New Year, New WAHM-BAM!

If I had the time, I’d do a redesign to go with the rethink, but…

As I mentioned in my Christmas post, 2010 is going to be a very busy year for work. As you may also have noticed, I had a baby a few months ago, which oddly (who’d a thunk it, heh?) also decreases my free time. And I have a 3-going-on-13-year-old who needs lots of my attention, not to mention a husband and dog, who would probably both appreciate the occasional rub down.

So… I have decided that I will not be doing any more reviews. I’ll keep doing them for The Great Toy Guide, because they have a pattern and don’t require me to try to cleverly incorporate a product into an interesting and informative or funny post. But I’ll not be doing any here. I have a couple left that I still haven’t written up, which I will do, but after that, no more. (Unless someone wants to send me to the Caribbean for a fortnight; I might relax the rules for that!)

This is in no way down to feeling that doing reviews is wrong. I loved doing reviews, and not just because it meant I got a few freebies. I enjoyed the feeling of importance being courted by PR bods gave me. I enjoyed the different style of writing required. I enjoyed the challenge of trying (often unsuccessfully, let’s admit it) to make a sponsored post seem readable and commentable on. And I have absolutely no problem with other people writing reviews or not writing reviews as they see fit.

But since a couple months before Eleanor was born I’ve been feeling review guilt. I’ve felt guilty about writing an ‘ordinary’ post, when I’ve had a backlog of reviews to write. And I don’t want to feel like that. I want to return to just writing posts as they come to me. Writing about whatever strikes me as strange, funny, interesting, odd, or just plain writable on any given day. Not writing out of obligation to PR people or companies.

I’m also going to start writing on Mummy and Daddy Clark again, too. That will be the place for putting photos and videos of the girls and for the weekly or monthly updates that say fascinating (cough) things about pooping and sleeping habits and first words and the like. It will probably also be the place for reporting cute things the girls do or say, though I can’t promise to leave that off here entirely! Feel free to follow it too, but bear in mind that it’s target audience is doting grandparents – and not just any doting grandparents, either, but two particular ones who don’t get to see their granddaughters as much as they’d like.

WAHM-BAM! will go back to being mostly about general parenting issues, thoughts and stories, with occasional moans or celebrations about the challenges and rewards of working from home. That’s not to say I won’t mention the girls or use their pictures to illustrate posts. It would probably be very difficult not to, really.

We also have plans for the ‘corporate blog’, too, which I may or may not link to when it’s ready. But, as you can see, there’s going to be enough writing to be done without including reviews, too.

So, on the penultimate day of the first decade of the 21st century (I think – or is next year the last year of the decade?), I wish you all a happy and fulfilled New Decade and hope you will keep reading the rather back to basics new WAHM-BAM!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Season’s Greetings

Wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas (or belated Happy Chanukah or Divali, or a Festive Yuletide, or just Happy Holidays) and a Happy New Year.

I hope that 2010 brings you everything you could ask of it, whether that be a new baby, a new job, a new home, a parent blogging conference, a respite from poo, more time and energy, the trials of dealing with the terrible twos, some sleep, an extra 5 hours in the day, an incredibly long walk, the ability to continue with new ventures, a respite from chemotherapy, a huge reduction in household waste or un petit peu plus de temps. (Much of the above would apply to many of you! Sorry not to have managed to link to every which one of you, but Eleanor will probably wake up soon, and Rosemary might get bored with Disney videos. Maybe.)

2009 has been quite an eventful year for me. I started this blog, which brought me many new friends, an outlet for my writing that was a bit easier to keep up with than any of the many novels rattling around in my head, the opportunity to review toys and books other things, and some kind of small amount of fame – well, I’m in the Tots 100, at least – and a wealth of interesting and funny and heart-warming blogs to read (so many that I can’t keep up anymore). I spent much of the year pregnant, had our first holiday in a long time, gave birth and battled with breastfeeding. The business has continued well, despite the difficulties of fitting in work around a baby and a pre-schooler.

2010 is going to be a very busy year work-wise, which will provide us with even more challenge in terms of juggling children and work, but should help to put even more of a dent in the mountains (or molehills, depending on your point of view) of debt. It will see Rosemary starting school – either Uplands or Stroud Valleys, both of which are lovely, thankfully. It will see Chris turning 35 and me turning 37 – closer and closer to the big four oh. It will see Rosemary turning 4 and Eleanor reaching her first birthday. And it will be full of other firsts for Eleanor, of course – sitting up, crawling, maybe walking, maybe talking… that first year can be such fun, though so can the second, third, fourth… Hopefully, it will see me finding a bit more time to blog – the last couple of months have been a tad chaotic. And I’m thinking planning anything more than that would be silly. If we can keep on top of work, children, housework and fit a little bit of fun in there occasionally, then that will do me for 2010.

I hope you and your families have a wonderful happy time over the next couple of weeks. Oh, and if you’re wondering what to do in between Christmas and New Year, you should take a look into Twixtmas, which encourages you to make the most of that in-between time.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Hours of fun without the TV

As a little bit of a change from seasonal discussions of what toys to buy, I thought I would provide you with a cheap and cheerful activity that has the potential to keep your pre-schoolers amused for hours. Yes, actually hours. Without the help of the TV. Shocking, I know.

This morning, Rosemary has spent almost the whole time between 6am and 9am, playing with some oats. She was baking cakes with them, making soup with them, giving her Snow White doll drinks with them, mashing potatoes with them, cutting them, stirring them, and occasionally even eating them.

And, as an added benefit, you can stick the baby in her chair and have her watch her big sister playing with oats. (Though you might want to point her more directly at her sister, so she doesn’t slump to the side in the chair.)

And then… you can sit back, relax and drink copious amounts of tea (or coffee, if you prefer) to wake up, without having to resort to Handy Manny or Dora the Explorer.

Sadly, I cannot claim to have invented this activity. It was all Rosemary’s idea.

So, do you have any activities like this that will amuse your children for hours on end without TV or spending a fortune?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Emotional baggage

I read Rosemary a bedtime story tonight. It was a library book that she’d picked out herself. She tends to choose a bunch of books from the readers section – so aimed at slightly older children to read themselves. I hadn’t read it before and nor had Chris – or Rosemary.

I was reading through it fine. It seemed like a fairly ordinary story, about a school and one boy in particular. But suddenly, I got to a part of the story and burst into tears. I had to keep reading, but my voice was all wobbly and waving my hands to try to wave away the tears. No-one died. There were no starving children. There was just a little boy bringing his great-grandmother in to school as part of a project – to bring something old and precious in.

I cry uncontrollably at weird things. Applause is one of the worst. I was always crying when watching The West Wing, because, well, people frequently applaud the President – especially when he’s as charismatic and eloquent as Jed Bartlett. People doing something good or nice en masse is another one that gets me. I was in almost constant tears when I went on the march to save Stroud Maternity (though I was pregnant at the time, so had an excuse for excessive lacrimosity). And anything to do with matriarchs, especially when people show love and respect for grandmothers and great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers (my Gran is one of those, amazingly).

Rosemary was pretty much unfazed by this. She glanced at me a couple of times, but was really engrossed by the story, so was happy as long as I kept reading. She could obviously tell that I wasn’t really upset as, the few times I have been with her, she’s immediately given me a big cuddle and kiss.

So, have you ever been overcome by tears when reading a bedtime story? Is there anything that particularly makes you cry? Do you mind crying in front of your children?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Climb on board the imagination train

I’ve been marvelling, of late, at Rosemary’s burgeoning imagination. She’s been playing imaginary games for quite a while now – doctor’s, vets, babies and so on – but over the last few weeks it really seems to be blossoming and I can sit here on the sofa of a morning and witness intricate stories of family life, jungle adventure and magical lands.

I did a couple of playgroup duties, recently, which gave me the opportunity to watch (and join in with) some home corner play. There is a plethora of resources there and it’s fascinating watching them play out scenarios they’ve seen at home – putting babies to bed and in high chairs, shopping with the tills and money, doing the ironing (Rosemary doesn’t really do this one – I wonder why?). But what I really love is seeing her (and her friends) using their imagination to create something. For example, during one duty, the doormat at the entrance to playgroup was a doctor’s surgery and a swimming pool at different times. There was a brief conflict when Rosemary wanted it to be a pool and her friend wanted it to be the doctor’s surgery, but they resolved this by having the doctor do his consultations in the pool!

I especially enjoy, though, watching Rosemary create intricate imaginary scenarios with her toys and imaginary friends, on her own. Because that’s something I used to do. I had a protector called Dreaming Dragon. He protected me from the witch who would come out when you flushed the chain at night. In order to avoid the witch, it was necessary to run back to bed shouting ‘Dreaming Dragon! Dreaming Dragon!’ all the way. I let my friends join in sometimes, of course, especially Sadie. Sadie and I made regular trips to fairyland, via her mum’s old Singer sewing machine. We were, of course, fairy princesses there – Victoria and Elizabeth – but had to live in the human world for most of the time (for some reason that I cannot remember).

Rosemary hasn’t yet got quite as adventurous as my childhood fairy tales, but she’s on the way. She likes to go to the jungle quite often, and up mountains and into space. She loves magic. (Doesn’t every child? In fact, I still do.)

And she comes up with imaginative reasoning and ideas, which are often hilarious or sometime disturbing. On one walk to school, we were talking about burglars (I don’t remember why) and she said ‘Burglars are dead, aren’t they?’ ‘Why do you think they’re dead?’ ‘Well, they have skeletons and skeletons are dead, so burglars must be dead.’ Ah logic. Of a kind. The logic did fall apart when I pointed out that we also had skeletons and weren’t dead. But then she saw a pretty red leaf on the floor so we stopped worrying about skeletons and burglars.

When walking home recently, we heard a train horn and started talking about trains (we had been on a couple of train journeys recently). Rosemary was wondering what colour the train was. ‘It might be red.’ ‘Yes, maybe.’ ‘Or perhaps it’s blue.’ ‘Or green?’ ‘I know! I think it’s silver.’ ‘Ooh, silver. That sounds nice.’ ‘Yes. And do you know? Silver trains are magic.’ ‘Are they? Why are they magic?’ ‘Well. You see. They turn you into wizards.’ ‘Wizards? That sounds fun.’ ‘Yes. And, actually. They turn you into giants, too.’ ‘Giants? Goodness! I’d like to go on a silver train.’ ‘Yes. Me too. Actually, mum. You don’t need to be a giant, because you’re big already. But I can be a giant. And you can still be a wizard.’

Have your children started exploring their imagination yet? Or have they stopped now they’re older? Can you remember your own imaginary worlds and stories from when you were a child? Do you still love magic or has life got in the way?