Things I Wonder When I'm Watching CBeebies

Things I wonder when my child's watching CBeebies

  • What is Flop supposed to be? Is he a knitted peanut? 
  • What sort of animal is Boj? 
  • Is Everything's Rosie supposed to look like a Lenor advert?
  • Who are all these people reading the bedtime story? Should I recognise them?
  • Does Justin feel like a complete knob bragging that he's "sunny and funny, puts a smile on your face"?
  • Is he a complete knob? Some of those stereotypes on Gigglebiz seem a bit... questionable...
  • How come the male presenters get to be Mr Bloom, Mr Maker, Mr Tumble and have shows named after them but the women presenters only have first names and, with the exception of Nina, don't get a mention in the programme titles?
  • On that note: how come Aunt Polly is the only character in Mr Tumble who goes by her first name?
  • Is there any need for the other eight children in the Baby Jake opening sequence?
  • Is repeatedly telling Wussywat that he's a very clumsy cat helping the situation?
  • What is it about Mr Maker's Shapes that Matilda finds so entertaining?
  • What did Chris and Pui do to deserve Show Me Show Me?
  • Why are all of these theme tunes so incredibly rubbish and insanely catchy?
  • Who came up with the lyric "Make your fingers superduper" and are they proud of themselves?
  • Do Gem's cheeks really hurt by the time they've finished filming?
  • Isn't it ironic that Waybuloo, the new agey, crystals, nature and yoga show, is about the only thing to have ever made me feel violent?
  • Does everyone mutter "crayons" when Squigglet sings "squiggle sticks"?
  • P is for Pig. PIG. Why can I never remember that when the alphabet song gets stuck in my head?
  • What does Matilda think when she sees an animated character or somebody in a animal costume? Does she have any concept at all that they're not real or does she totally buy into it?
  • Is there some red button option to stop Melody talking over the top of the music?
  • Is Nina a real scientist?
  • Why do Nina's neurons sound so sarcastic when they spin around and cry, "Whoop-whoo"?
  • What's with the fake English accents in Kate and Mim-Mim?
  • How often do the presenters mispronounce the bizarre children's names during the birthday card segment?
  • Are Fern and Rory real animal experts?
  • Shouldn't Miss Hoolie be paying attention to the nursery kids instead of sitting gossiping all day? For that matter, should the means of making a boiling hot cup of tea really be sitting within the children's reach?
  • Does anyone else wish Big Barn Farm was run by "the farmers" instead of "the farmer and his wife"?
  • How much does Dr Ranj think all the mums fancy him?
  • How often has Ben Faulks been asked to dress up as Mr Bloom in the bedroom?
  • Do the Twirlywoos know Peekaboo exists? Is he a stowaway?
  • What the hell, In the Night Garden?! What the hell?

On Becoming a Stay at Home Mum

Why I'm Not Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave

It's official: I'm not going back to work after my maternity leave.

I handed in my notice a week ago and, every night since then, I've sat down and tried to figure out what I wanted to say about it.

It feels like it should be a huge thing in my life - I'm going from being a PR professional to a stay-at-home parent; that's a big change.

It definitely feels like there should be a blog post in it. The internet is littered with opinion pieces about whether or not women (never men) can or should have it all, whether or not working mothers (never fathers) are selfish, whether or not stay-at-home mothers (never fathers) are spoiled - I feel like I should have something of my own to say.

Teenage Me would certainly have had something to say on the matter. She was very much of the opinion that women should never be financially reliant on men; she was saddened to realise that, if she ever had kids, she would be morally obliged not to stay at home with them.

Thirty-Something Me doesn't see it that way. Thirty-Something Me believes women should be capable of providing for themselves financially but that it's up to individual families to figure out what approach suits them best.

For Steve and Matilda and me, that means me staying at home.

Even though money will be very tight, living on one income.

Because, somehow, money would be tighter, living on two incomes. If I went back to work, after paying for childcare and my bus fares to and from the office, I wouldn't be adding a single penny to the pot. How crazy is that?

We have friends who can't afford for either parent to stay at home. They have higher salaries than us and have taken on greater outgoings - bigger mortgages, cars and so on. They need to both be earning.

We can't afford for both parents to go out to work; it doesn't make financial sense.

There are other reasons for me to go back, of course. It would avoid a longer career break; it would avoid a longer pension break; it would demonstrate to Matilda that mothers can earn money, too. But, right now, those reasons aren't compelling enough. Matilda has plenty of positive female role models in her life and I prefer time with her to time in the office.

In an ideal world, Steve and I would be able to share the parenting and the breadwinning equally. That's a world where we have the same salaries, though. And a world where Aberdeen isn't in the midst of a crisis and we don't have to weigh up whose job is more secure and how flexible our employers are each likely to be.

I get why this isn't for everyone, though. There was a part of me, when I dropped by the office last week to confirm my plans and to pick up my teabags and my steel toecap boots, which was sorry to be making this choice; I get why some mothers want to have mental stimulation and adult conversation and an identity other than "That Toddler's Mum" (also to eat cake without a small child attempting to grab it). I also get why some fathers want to stay at home and be with their child. And I get that some families have different decisions made for them by their personal situations.

But, if it were completely up to me, this is the choice I would have made. I want Matilda to go to nursery when she's older but, right now, it feels too soon; I want one or both of us to be at home with her.

And, from a purely selfish point of view, if it can only be one of us, I want it to be me. Not because Steve isn't up to the job (he absolutely would be) but because I really do feel like the lucky one, getting to spend so much time with our child.


Toddler Togs: Week One

On the 31st of January, Elise messaged me saying that she wanted to see more photos of Matilda's clothes. "Is she too wriggly for that now?" she asked.

Well... yes... getting good photos of Matilda is a bit of a challenge at the moment - she's either curled up asleep in my arms or she's on the move (often straight towards my phone or camera). But I do like a challenge so, every day in February, I'm going to try to get a picture of her outfit.

Here's week one:

Monday
Hanging out with her dad 
Toddler Togs: Upcycled dinosaur dress
Dress: T-shirt upcycled by Elise (I had to start with this one!)
T-shirt: Tu at Sainsburys
Tights: I think these came with a dress from Debenhams which she has long since outgrown

Tuesday
Hiding from a storm
Toddler Togs: Giggle Jumper
Jumper: Nutmeg at Morrisons (boys' section)
Leggings: MiniClub at Boots
Socks: MiniClub at Boots (I think...)

Wednesday
Baby gym (dressing warm as it's cooooold in there!)
Toddler Togs: Fleece dress
Fleece-lined tunic: La Redoute
Shorts: George at Asda
Tights: Marks & Spencer

Thursday
Playdate with friends
Toddler Togs: Heart dress
Dress and tights: MiniClub at Boots

Friday
Very sleepy day at home
Toddler Togs: Cats Rule dress
Dress ("Who Rules the World? CATS"): Next
Tights: MiniClub at Boots

Saturday
Family Outing
Toddler Togs: Caturday T-shirt
Original Outfit
T-shirt and leggings: Next
Toddler Togs: Frankenstein's Monster
After deciding she could wash her own face, thankyouverymuch
Little Monster romper: George at Asda
Toddler Togs: Outdoor Clothes
Outdoor Clothes
Coat: Tu at Sainsburys
Hat: John Lewis
Legwarmers: Cheerupcrafts on Etsy
Boots: Jojo Maman Bebe

Sunday
Hanging out with her dad
Toddler Togs: Handknit Cardigan
Cardigan: Knitted by my mum
"D for Dino" T-shirt: Marks & Spencer (boys' section)
Leggings: M&Co
Socks: No idea. One of the supermarkets.


In the past, I've only done Matilda updates every three months (twelve weeks, six months, nine months) but she's learning so much at the moment that I feel like I could do one daily. It's quite incredible witnessing the speed at which she's developing. Here are some of the things she's learned or started to do in the space of this week alone:
  • Saying "Mumma", "Hiya" and "Hello"
  • Dancing by herself (she currently prefers this to be bounced along to music which is good news for my back!)
  • Feeding me. She has pretended to feed me with a fork, has fed me a slice of toast and has held her water cup up to my mouth for me to drink out of.
  • Pretending to brush Steve's hair 
  • Washing our faces during her bath
  • Trying to wash her own face (see outfit change above...!)
  • Sucking food off individual fingers
  • Pointing at things which interest her
  • Standing really steadily
  • Taking four unaided steps. Four!
  • Fetching her Upsy Daisy toy when she watched In the Night Garden
  • Opening and closing doors and drawers - this can entertain her for about twenty minutes at the moment
  • Not begging for other people's food if she has been told "No"
  • Taking snacks out of the bag by herself
  • Crawling under low tables and chairs
  • Taking a wooden jigsaw apart carefully and studying each of the pieces
  • Carrying one shoe for me when I was putting her outdoor clothes away in her room
  • Sitting on my lap while she's playing or watching TV
  • Picking soft toys out of her toy box (she has always selected hard toys in the past)
  • Pretending to spoonfeed her toy monkey
  • Babbling while she turns the pages of books as if she's pretending to read a story
  • Trying to put the lid on her milk bottle
  • Trying to load up her own spoon
She has also got her seventh tooth this week and seems to be going through her nine month growth spurt (which is good as she is at that point where one set of trousers is too snug on her but the next size up hangs off her). 

I'm so excited to find out what next week has in store.
This Mama Life

Some Ways I Failed to be an Earth Mother

Some Ways I Failed to be an Earth Mother

I think most of us must go into parenting with a mental image of the mother or father we're going to be.

I was going to be serene. I was going to be one of those mums who is calm and unfazed and wears baby-safe jewellery and brightly-coloured-yet-flattering dresses and always has time to bake cakes and prepare elaborate toddler games which I didn't even need to search for on Pinterest. This, despite expecting to be horrendously tired.

Yeah, that worked out the same way as the pregnancy I was going to spend drifting through cornfields in a floaty white dress...

Here are some of the ways I've not quite lived up to my own expectations:

Babywearing

I fully expected to have my baby strapped to me from the word go. I didn't factor in how long it was going to take to build up my strength after having pelvic girdle pain. It was weeks before I could carry Matilda for more than ten minutes or walk further than the corner shop. I managed about four lovely months of carrying her and then she became heavier and my hips became weaker and it was back to the buggy she went.

Breastfeeding

There was never any question of me not breastfeeding. Then it didn't work. Matilda and I were both becoming distressed by the whole thing; it was physically challenging thanks to my PGP; and it was so tied up with me being kept separated from my baby that I simply didn't have the strength to persevere.

Cloth Nappies

We meant to buy them. We didn't. We still could but Matilda's showing such clear signs of... eh... toilet awareness that I'm not sure it would be cost effective at this point.

The Joy of Weaning

To be honest, I always knew weaning wasn't going to excite me much; Steve's the foodie and, whenever possible, we try to ensure that it's him who gives Matilda her dinner - he's the one who can't wait to see what she makes of beetroot and who monitors her salt intake. I want to find weaning fun but... I just don't. It's dull and messy and I find it exhausting trying to come up with something other than toast to give her for lunch.

Fresh Air

We were going to get some every day. She was going to play in the mud whatever the weather. Then there was wind and rain. And deliveries. And exhaustion. Sometimes we just stay cosied up indoors.

Television

We didn't plan to ban television; we don't have a problem with Matilda watching it now and then. However there have been more occasions than I care to admit when "now and then" has become "all day background noise". She's not really that interested in a lot of it but it's a convenient crutch on the days when she's a bit clingy and I really fancy a cuppa.

Bedtime Stories

I was always going to read my baby bedtime stories. I was really looking forward to it. But different stories each night or anything longer than about ten pages turned out to be too stimulating for her right before bed. For the moment, she gets the same two books (sometimes one, sometimes both, depending on how tired she seems) every night.

Nine and a half months in, I've made my peace with all but one of these things. For some reason, I can't seem to shake my disappointment at not being able to babywear; every time I see an Instagram of somebody proudly wearing their baby, tagged with some smug happy babywearing catchphrase, I have to fight the urge to explain that I'm not old fashioned - I'm just in pain.

But the rest of it? I'm over it.

Matilda is strong and healthy and smart and determined and affectionate and amazing. I haven't stunted her growth with formula milk; I haven't destroyed her intelligence with CBeebies (which turns out to be pretty educational).

I haven't turned her into a bad, uncaring person by not carrying her in a wrap for the first few years of her life.

Last week, she and I were looking after a friend of hers for a little while. When her friend became upset, Matilda did the thing she finds most comforting in the world - she reached out and took her friend's hand.

This is not a heartless little person that I'm raising. This is a child with empathy.

I don't suppose any of us are perfect parents. We all make compromises along the way; some of our values change; we screw up when we're feeling stressed or tired; we make mistakes because we haven't figured out better ways of approaching a situation.

This stuff happens.

But we love our children. We're doing our best (most of the time).

I think she's going to turn out okay.


You might also like: My assorted parenting Pinterest boards, a bit more paranoia about other parents on Instagram and some of the silly questions I asked during pregnancy.

February: Past, Present

Bare feet on bare floorboards

Last February was all about preparation. We had the flat rewired so it was a safe(r) place to raise a child and we attended the bulk of our antenatal classes.

Here's what I was blogging about:

Gizmo sunbathing

This February looks like being a fun one. In addition to Matilda's usual groups, we've got a first birthday party, some get-togethers with friends and a couple of long weekends (at home) with Steve.

But today I'm off to my place of work to talk about my plans for the future...

Extra: Ordinary Moment

Matilda eating a toastie

On Friday, we had a family trip into town to (finally!) open Matilda's savings account and run a couple of other errands. We stopped for lunch in the M&S cafe where Matilda demolished her first toastie - she was very taken with the melted cheese.


My weekly Extra: Ordinary Moment photo is my contribution to both Katie's Ordinary Moments linky and Hayley's Living Arrows project. You can see more of my pictures on my Two Days the Same photo blog and my Instagram.

29 Ways to Show Yourself Some Love

29 Ways to Show Yourself Some Love: One for Every Day in February

  1. Stop to savour that tea/hot chocolate/coffee
  2. Watch your favourite film
  3. Strrrrrrrrrrrrrrrretch
  4. Meet a friend for lunch 
  5. Wear something you usually save for best
  6. Muck around in a playpark
  7. Give your skin a break from the make up
  8. Smile at yourself in the mirror
  9. Eat all the pancakes you can manage
  10. Tense up your shoulders as tight as you can. Release them. Repeat.
  11. Go for long walks at lunchtime
  12. Make a list of fun things you would like to do and start actively planning one of them
  13. Celebrate Galentine's Day with your closest friends
  14. Read Tiny Beautiful Things
  15. Pick a posey of snowdrops; arrange them in a shot glass or milk jug
  16. Just have a takeaway, okay? My first choice is pizza.
  17. Crunch through some frost or ice first thing in the morning
  18. Make a list of your own strengths
  19. Lie flat on your back, concentrating on slow, steady breathing
  20. Sing along loudly to your favourite songs
  21. Throw out any clothes which make you feel bad about yourself
  22. And any shoes which cause you pain
  23. While you're at it, get measured for new bras
  24. Make time for your feelgood hobby
  25. Go skating or cycling or skateboarding or skiing. Move really fast.
  26. Go to the health food store and buy some interesting snacks
  27. Get in touch with someone you haven't seen in ages
  28. Roll spiky massage balls around with your feet
  29. Hang something gorgeous on the wall


Dinner at Jamie's Italian

Dinner at Jamie's Italian - Slightly Tipsy

Earlier this week, Steve and I headed out for real food in a real restaurant with a real lack of baby! We were giddy with the freedom - so giddy that apparently we couldn't focus the camera. Still, I look like I'm having fun, right?

We were guests at Jamie's Italian in Aberdeen city centre and very excited we were about it, too.

Our old flat was so close to Jamie's that we watched the entire renovation (from tatty old department store into glossy, funky new restaurant) out of our kitchen window. Because of this, we've got a special fondness for the place: "Aw, look at its light fittings! Remember when it first got them? It looked so proud in all its shiny brightness..." etc.

So we had both been to Jamie's Italian before but not for quite some time. Fancy meals out haven't been happening for a while...

Dinner at Jamie's Italian - Craft Beer

We soon discovered that the menu has completely changed so everything we ordered was new to us.

Steve had been pondering having one of the signature cocktails but when he found out that Jamie's has its own craft beer, he had to give that a try.

Meanwhile, I had a lovely, spicy montepulciano (that's red wine for those of you - like me - who only pretend to know which wine glass is which).

Dinner at Jamie's Italian - Starter

The Starters
Crab and Avocado Bruschetta (above)
Ultimate Garlic Bread (below)

I am not above eating nothing but a stick of garlic bread for dinner when nobody's around to judge me so I had to find out what made the Ultimate Garlic Bread worthy of its name. Using my in depth culinary knowledge, I established: "it tastes more garlicky than buttery - it's good".

Dinner at Jamie's Italian - Ultimate Garlic Bread

Dinner at Jamie's Italian - Mushroom Risotto

The Mains
Wild Mushroom and Winter Greens Risotto (above)
Turkey Milanese (below)

It's not often I struggle to choose what to order; I always say easy decisions are one of the benefits of being vegetarian. At Jamie's, I was swithering between five different things... but it didn't surprise Steve that the risotto won; I do love a good risotto.

Steve, meanwhile, was surprised when his dish turned out to be a slab of meat rather than some delicate little thing surrounded by greenery. Once he got past his guilt at not having much salad, he really enjoyed it.

Dinner at Jamie's Italian - Salmon

Dinner at Jamie's Italian - Desserts

Desserts
Sour Cherry Frangipane
Lemon Cheesecake

We had both narrowed our dessert options down to the same two possibilities so ended up helping ourselves to forkfuls of each other's food.



We had a great time at Jamie's. The food was fantastic but, more than that, the staff were all absolutely lovely, the music was good and clever lighting made our table feel nice and private.

We were at the restaurant for a little under two hours and talked about all the things - big and small - which we don't often have the uninterrupted time (or energy) for since becoming parents.

It was so nice to get out on a proper date again - thanks so much to the team at Jamie's Italian for giving us that treat!

DISCLAIMER: Our meal was provided for the purposes of review but all opinions are our own.

The Eight Month Sleep Regression and Us

On dealing with eight month sleep regression

I had an idea, when I sat down to write this, that the four month sleep regression hadn't been that bad. I remembered Matilda needing to cry for about five minutes before going to sleep and I remembered that that felt absolutely unbearable, but I didn't remember any major changes to her sleep patterns or middle of the night struggles.

Steve soon put me right. A quick look at what I wrote at the time backed him up.

I found that reassuring, though. If I had so completely forgotten the trauma of the four month sleep regression, I would forget about the eight month one, too.

And, actually, it helped to put the eight month one into perspective. Comparatively, it hasn't been that bad. I'm not convinced that it's over yet (so there's still the potential for things to get worse) but, so far, we've been getting off fairly lightly.

Somebody remind me of that at four in the morning, please.

Matilda's "eight month" sleep regression started a little before eight months and was clearly related to her learning to crawl and stand. Suddenly, she was waking up at night a lot and pulling herself straight up to standing; she was doing this more or less in her sleep then crying because she didn't know how to get back down under the covers. As exhausting as it was having to get up every hour to deal with this, all she needed was a quick kiss and to be tucked back in; she would fall asleep again instantly.

Well, most of the time... There were a handful of hour long sobbing fits and one evening spent scrolling through Twitter in her pitch black bedroom with a sleeping baby slung over my shoulder because she wouldn't sleep lying down. For one week, she ended up in bed with us six nights out of seven because it was the only way she'd sleep through.

Meanwhile, her usual predictable 7:30 wake up became a thing of the past.

But none of this was (or is) that bad. Not compared to the four month regression. Not compared to what some of our friends went through at this point.

No, the tricky bit was the daytime.

The eight month sleep regression often ties in with babies dropping down to two naps a day. Matilda had dropped down to two naps shortly before seven months and I remember feeling so pleased about this - "this should be her into a routine for at least six months!" I had crowed to myself.

More fool me.

Matilda plunged down to one nap a day. To be honest, I would have been quite glad if this was a permanent change - we currently have to squeeze all of her activities in between 11am-2pm which is tricky when you don't drive and all of the baby groups start at half ten - but it doesn't seem to be; she seems to be back to two naps now.

On the plus side: at least she's no longer exhausted.

While all of this was going on, naps became a real battle. Half the time, no amount of writhing and wailing and jiggling would get her morning nap to happen; the other half, it would last ten minutes. Her afternoon nap could only be achieved by knocking her out with a bottle of milk (in the "having her drink herself to sleep" sense, not "caveman club style") and would last either thirty minutes in the cot or two hours in my arms (although it was quite nice to cuddle a sleeping baby again!).

Because her naps were all over the place, she was often worn out by bedtime. For the first time since she was tiny, she was falling asleep on her after-dinner bottle of milk; this made putting her to bed really easy but always, always meant a very broken night. On the nights when she didn't conk out on the bottle, she would sleep much better... but only after an hour and a half of battling against being put to bed.

I reached the point where I was dreading trying to get her to sleep - whether for naps or at bedtime. I was so damn tired of having to fight a so damn tired baby who would much rather use her cot as a trampoline than a place to sleep.

I was also exhausted from getting up multiple times a night to tuck her back in. There were a couple of crying fits because I didn't think I would cope while Steve was away at work. Luckily, Matilda had always reached her own limits on those days; we would crash out on the bed together for luxuriously long naps.

But there was a bright side: in the midst of all this, Matilda dropped her last night feed.

Oh, sure, she was still waking up overnight. A lot. But she wasn't wanting fed.

People seem to be in two camps when it comes to sleep regressions: those who believe you should do whatever you need to get through them with your sanity in tact; and those who believe you should stick to your usual routines and sleep training methods so as to avoid creating bad habits.

Steve and I are definitely in the first group; we would much rather spend a week getting a calm baby back into good habits than (potentially) months battling against an unhappy child in the middle of a sleep regression.

And, in the mean time, there were those lovely sleepy snuggles to enjoy.

You see: I'm forgetting how bad it was already...


Extra: Ordinary Moment

Matilda Rooftops in a cardboard box

Matilda and I have both been a bit snottery this week so we've spent a lot of time holed up at home, making our own fun. There has been bouncing on beds, crawling under blankets, drumming on biscuit tins, squishing Ziploc bags full of (rubbish, frizz-inducing) hair mousse, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star roughly five thousand times, watching Bing (source of almost all my parenting knowledge) and, of course, sitting in a very big box.

What have you been up to?


My weekly Extra: Ordinary Moment photo is my contribution to both Katie's Ordinary Moments linky and Hayley's Living Arrows project. You can see more of my pictures on my Two Days the Same photo blog and my Instagram.