Friday, 28 December 2012

On a handmade Christmas

I have a confession to make; I made hardly any of our handmade gifts this Christmas. I like to give thoughtful gifts, carefully selected and preferably not mass-produced. So I was delighted to wander around Merton Abbey Mills looking for little handmade presents back in November. I also took advantage of two lovely ladies at our church, producing Christmas decorations, mug cosies and other fabric beauties for my fabulous friends.

But I did manage two blankets for my little nieces & nephews this year. I love this granny stripe pattern from Lucy at Attic 24. (It's available for free but she takes donations to help fund her future yarn projects.) I've used it several times for baby blankets in different colourways and it hooks up so quickly and easily. I used Stylecraft Special DK, a widely available acrylic yarn, which is warm, snuggly and soft, as well as being beautifully inexpensive!

For my first blanket, I used 17 different colours, which can be bought as a multipack at several online retailers (I got mine at Deramores). In the course of making a blanket for my own children, I discovered some fabulous colour combinations and decided to make the second in red (Lipstick), Turquoise and yellow (Saffron). Both blankets had a border in Midnight, a lovely dark blue, which lends contrast and a definite edging. They're approximately the same size though I had to add some extra stripes in Midnight on the second; I ran out of the main colours.

I like to do a border of granny clusters all the way round first and then customise the rest as I fancy. I wanted quite a dense, wide border for these blankets so I used 4 rows of single crochet (US or UK double crochet) with a bit of fudging on the corners to make them lie flat.

And there it is! Finished 2 days after Christmas but in time for my mother-in-law to deliver it to my niece & nephew. The first was ready weeks ago & has been gratefully received. It's going to be a movie night blanket, a perfect purpose I think.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

On the end of breastfeeding

After just over a year, we're done.  Just like that, over the course of two days, she's passed me over in favour of a brightly coloured cup filled with cow juice.  I blame her brother; he's the eldest, a bad influence.  He's been weaned for more than eighteen months.

I've been so blessed; I found breast-feeding incredibly easy.  I meet women every week for whom that isn't the case and my heart goes out to them.  And to you, if breast-feeding was your desire and it didn't work out how you had hoped.  I know there are a myriad reasons why you might not breast-feed, including the reasoned and informed choice not to.  I'm privileged that I have so much contact with new mums and babies, that I've been trained in the teaching and supporting of breast-feeding, that the idea of getting your baps out in front of strangers wasn't that big a step for me, that I knew what to expect and what to do if it went wrong.  As it happened, both my children fed easily shortly after they were born.  I even called someone in to watch me feed Isaac that second day, convinced it couldn't be as easy as all that.

The best advice I've ever been given about breast-feeding (and one I pass on regularly) is that it will hurt, even if you're doing everything right.  The first ten day are the worst, if you can grit your teeth at each latch and hold on until the feed is established and the pain recedes, and you can do that eight to ten times a day for a week and a half, you'll be ok.

I had mastitis when Anna was a couple of months old.  I thought I was hungover but as the paracetamol wore off, I realised I had a fever.  I've never been so grateful to the NHS and modern antibiotics.  A day later, I was back to normal.  Though I completed the full course, naturally.
I've felt my way through this breast-feeding journey.  Letting the babies tell me when they were hungry, ignoring the clock completely after the first weeks with Isaac.  Both children grew well, quickly, losing little or no weight in their first days.  So I've never faced the challenge of being the sole source of nutrition for a baby who's failing to grow.  I can't imagine the guilt or the pain.

Each of them dropped their feeds as they wanted.  But I stopped Isaac, at the end.  I was in my first trimester with Anna, working 48 hour weeks in a busy neonatal unit.  So when evening came, I was so tired, I couldn't sit up to nurse him.  His warm little body combined with my hormone-fueled hot flushes left me overheated and woozy.  So at around ten months of age, we moved him onto a sippy cup of cow's milk before bed.  I expected to have to leave the room, to escape his fits of screaming.  I expected him to refuse, desperate for his mummy.  I expected him to hold out for the good stuff.  I should have known him better.  He tasted his beaker, did a double-take then sat happily on his daddy's lap to down the lot.  Ungrateful little sod.  Daddy always was his favourite.  (We ended our morning feeds two weeks later when a run of nights meant I wouldn't be home until 10am for three days in a row.  He didn't look back.)

But I was pregnant again so it wasn't so much stopping as an extended hiatus.  And then lady Anna arrived - and she's mine, all mine.  Only mummy will do.  Which is occasionally annoying, but mostly very very gratifying.  She loves her daddy, she'll settle with people she knows, she'll even stay somewhere unfamiliar but when it all comes down to it, she wants her mummy.

The first time she latched on, the pain was short but sharp.  I swore.  This after 5 hours of intense labour, nearly 3 of them pushing, without a single impolite word.  (Andy will tell you I bit him, it's a dreadful lie.  Sort of.)  And then we were off.  With a toddler underfoot, it's easier to go with the flow and I had a tendency to forget about Anna's feeds, only realising when she wouldn't stop crying that I'd last fed her nearly five hours before.  She took to eating quickly and easily and shortly after, dropped her daytime milk.

Unlike Isaac, she continued to feed in the night from time to time, even after she started solids.  As recently as last month, we were up a couple of times in the early hours for a feed and a snuggle before she returned to bed without complaint.

I started back to work and she took a sippy cup of milk without complaint each time I was working late or overnight.  She likes to drink from Isaac's cups; water, squash, juice, milk, whatever she finds.

The night of her first birthday, she went to sleep without any milk, having refused to settle down and feed.  To be honest, I expected her to wake up complaining but when she didn't, I gave her a dream-feed before I went to bed around 10.  She fed well in the morning, as usual, and I went off to work a long day.  Daddy gave her a beaker as usual that evening.  She settled well.  Then last night, she refused me.  Point-blank.  Giggling, smiling, playing games with me.  And I'm no fool, I know when I'm being passed over.  She drank a full beaker of cow's milk last night.  And I cried a little.

Dropping the evening feed is slightly inconvenient to be perfectly honest.  Our mornings are rushed and busy, it would be easier not to have to feed her then.  But that's the way parenting goes, very often the convenient is not the reality.

So her refusal to feed this morning knocked me off my feet.  She stole Isaac's cup actually, before I got her one of her own.  So you can see why I blame his influence, he's shown her the way the big kids do it.  And she very much wants to be like her big brother.

I wasn't ready for this period of dependence to end.  It's a recurring theme in my parenting journey; for me to be happy with the status quo and my child to be moving on, as children should.  I encourage their growing independence.  That is, after all, my job; to love them and guide them and help them to be all God made them to be.  To be apart from me, dependent on Him.  It starts when they cut the cord, as you lie in your hospital bed, looking at your sleeping baby, not feeling those breaths inside you as you were just hours before.  And now, uncertain if this is to be my last baby, I struggle with the loss of something intangible.  I define myself by my relationships and now one of the most important things in my life involves constant change, in the direction of away, of separate.  (I'm going to be a really annoying mother-in-law, I can tell already.)
And I've lost a part of myself.  The part that proclaims proudly, I'm still breast-feeding my daughter.  Even though I work full-time, and have a toddler, and keep a house.  (It's an annoyingly superior part - I think she needs a bit of losing, to be honest).  That period of my life is over, perhaps forever, before I was ready for it.  So I weep a little.  I remind myself that I am still needed, still loved.  I consider the positives (goodbye nursing bras, sore boobs and leakage!).  I sit in my sadness for a bit, grieving my loss, and then I get up and get on again.  I'm a busy mum, don't you know!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

On a little bit of pink

It's been a busy month but I'm starting to get a handle on working, being a full-time mummy and keeping house.  Either that or the evenings are getting longer!  So here's the pages I've made in October;
I finally scrapped the story of my rings, mostly taken from this post.  Lots of scraps and some lovely new MME tape on this page.
 Making the blind for our kitchen.  It's still not finished though!
 Anna's first cuddles with her daddy, mostly using Bella Blvd Baby Girl.
 I love these photos of Isaac brushing his teeth, especially that last one!  And yes, I like a bit of pink on my boy pages!  Using up old papers on this one with some really simple embellishments.
And using the same set of papers again, getting a different look with some of Anna's baby photos.
 And some more!  Anna's only about 4 hours old in these and she was making the sweetest noises.
This picture illustrates perfectly why my brother gets on so well with my kids, they're just on the same level!  I used some new OA Woodland Park papers, some Elle's Studio tags from last season and some really old stuff from my stash.

Monday, 12 November 2012

On the 10th of November

This time last year, I was a brand-new mummy to this little girl.  Born at 11.10pm on the 10th of November 2011, 50 minutes before her due-date.  All 8lb 4oz of her.
November 2011
Today you turned one year old.  You have such a sunny disposition, always smiling and excited with life in general.  You love to spend time with people, following us around the house.  You and Isaac are just starting to play together and you watch him so carefully sometimes.  You play a great game, offering us your toys then snatching them back again.
December 2011

January 2012
You still have two naps, morning and afternoon, and you're always pleased to see us when we come to get you up.  Isaac likes to be the one to open your door to say hi first but you cry at him and reach for me.  You sleep in the white cot in your own room, wearing a grobag and covered by a blanket.
February 2012

March 2012
You're just about fitting your 9-12 month clothes now and still wearing size 4 nappies.  You still wear your first shoes.  I bought you some wellies but you think you can't walk when you're wearing them.  You're so beautiful, with curly red-gold hair and big blue eyes.  You have such sturdy legs and a little podgy tummy.
April 2012

May 2012
You still have an amazing appetite - fish fingers are just about the only food you don't like.  You eat apricot wheats for breakfast most mornings.  You like sandwiches for lunch.  You prefer to eat your chicken nuggets cut into small pieces.  You drink from sippy cups and a valved cup with handles though you'd much rather take Isaac's drink!  You've discovered squash and you prefer that to water.  You have cow's milk when I'm working late or overnight.
June 2012

July 2012
You walk like a toddler, almost never wobbling now.  You can climb the entire flight of stairs without help, even without us noticing.  We've put the stairgate back up again.  You like to play with your shape-sorters.  You've started to play using your imagination, drinking from cups (and the tea-pot!).  You put things in and out of containers.  You are opening drawers and cupboards, if you can reach the handles!
August 2012

September 2012
You have a great time with your childminder; she treats you like her second daughter and you are so confident with her and her husband.  Her little boy chases you around, even though he's two months younger than you and only cruising.  You're starting to run away or stand your ground.  You like to go to creche at church, every so often you fall asleep on one of the helpers.
October 2012
November 2012
You babble and chat to us, you say mam-mam-mam and dadda.  You say 'mo' for more food and point at the thing that you want on the table.  You dance when you hear music, bobbing up and down or turning in circles.  You particularly like a book that plays 'The Wheels on the Bus' and press the button repeatedly.  And on your first birthday, you held up my camera and said "cheese", I'm so proud!

We love you so much Anna.  This year has gone so quickly, you are always surprising us with the new things that you are learning to do.  You're growing into a beautiful, sunny girl and we're so glad you're a part of our family.

Love you always, Mummy xxxx

Thursday, 18 October 2012

On my kitchen wishlist

When my lovely friend Leanne first posted her kitchen wishlist and challenged me to do the same, my immediate thought was "but I haven't got anything on my wishlist"!
Chocolate and cherry brownies
Tenderstem and Cambazola tarts (easiest tart ever!)

I really enjoy cooking and don't tend to be intimidated by anything.  If there's a recipe that catches my eye then I'll give it a go.  Cooking, especially baking, is a lot like chemistry; if you add the right ingredients in the correct proportions and carry out the proper processes, you'll end up with the intended result.  Most of the time anyway!!
Mars Bar brownies - I have Leanne to thank for this one too!
But as I thought about it, I realised there are a few bits and pieces that I'd love to cook but I've never really made time for.

These profiteroles from the Good Food Magazine look really yummy.  My mum makes a mean chocolate profiterole so it would take something special for me to deviate from that tried and true combination!
A couple of friends were talking about baking bread on instagram the other day and the finished loaves make me want to start making my own bread again!  We have a breadmaker and at one point I hit on a combination of ingredients and programme that made an almost perfect loaf.  But two kids later, we're out of the habit and I'd love to try an oven-baked loaf, prepared in the breadmaker.  I'm happy to let a machine do the hard work of kneading and rising!!
I bought a bundt tin earlier this year, intending to make some of the delicious-looking ring cakes in the original Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook but so far I've been scared off by the huge quantities of eggs and butter in the recipes.  Maybe the blueberry cake would be perfect for a bake to take to work, Andy's not a fan of blueberries.
And then I have a stack of recipe books with dozens of recipes I'd like to try!  There aren't enough meals in the day!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

On a paper-related note

Life is still crazy round here, so I thought I'd just pop in with a few crafty things I've been up to lately.  I made all these pages in September, before I went back to work.  Oh how I miss my free time!!
A simple page to use up some leftover OA Cherry Hill papers.  We call Anna all sorts of things, including Annabella and it reminded me of the rhyme 'Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater'.  She can find a small scrap of paper on the floor in the middle of a room in a matter of seconds!  (Though actually, in this shot she's going for Isaac's cup, it's hiding behind the banner.  A nice example of using a generic photo to illustrate a bigger story.) 
Each year, on Facebook, you can use your status updates to customise a square print.  I used this to do a 2010 summary page last year and did the same again with 2011.  It wasn't as representative of the year's events, partly because I've moved away from Facebook as my main social networking platform, so I added a short list of highlights next to the photo.
My brother and his wife on their wedding day.  They rode in a golf buggy to take their posed photos.  Cue some amusing shots!
Isaac and Andy riding the escalators in the shopping centre near my parents' house.  I used to work in Waterstone's here and came shopping with my friends when I was a teenager.  I think this was Isaac's first time walking on an escalator (we usually have a buggy and take the lifts).
Using some new stash in the week it arrived!  Just a bit of documenting our everyday routine before it changed again.  I like having the little details of our lives captured like this.  Again, I used a couple of generic photos, love that one of Isaac having a tantrum!
Finishing up the pages for Isaac's 2nd birthday - this one is his birthday lunch with our Mummy & Baby group.
I love this shot of Isaac on the morning of his birthday.  The journalling tells about our routine that morning.  It faces the page below, so the photos of him and Anna opening gifts sort of go with it.
The other half of this page is about the star decorations I put up in our kitchen.  There's not much here, I wanted to get these pages finished and get the stories written down.  I like how simple it looks though.
Photos of Isaac playing with his birthday presents and a list of the gifts he received.  All supplies are Echo Park Little Boy (I think).
And last, but not least, an everyday page about the simplest meal I make, that the kids just adore.  And a cute pic of Anna covered in tomato sauce!  Supplies are Echo Park Summertime and it's based on a starting point by the inspirational Shimelle.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

On silent sunday

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, 11 October 2012

On the 10th of October

I was at work looking after other people's babies!  My first night shifts since I went back at the end of September.  I didn't register the date until the clock turned and I had to start writing the 11th on all my notes entries, despite the fact that I worked the night of the 9th as well.
She's walking everywhere, with confidence and speed.  She falls over a lot and runs into things.  But she's happy.
She goes to a childminder 3 days a week, with Isaac and their two children.  Their little boy is two months younger and just on the move.  He loves her and like to cuddle and squidge her.  She is not impressed but is only just learning to run away!
She's still in 6-9 month clothes but we've just moved up to 9-12 vests and sleepsuits.  She sleeps in Isaac's old grobags with my (unfinished) granny squares baby blanket draped around her.  She sleeps through almost every night, with occasional feeds around 4am after which she falls back to sleep for a few hours.
She still eats everything in sight - Laura (our childminder) tells me she'll wolf down everyone else's leftovers at dinner time.  She's started to pull sandwiches to pieces before eating them, one of Isaac's more irritating habits as a baby.  She throws her food on the floor when she's had enough or wants something different.
She still breastfeeds morning and evening though she'll happily take milk from a beaker if I'm not there.  She finishes her bedtime feed then we have a cuddle before bed.  She puts her finger in my mouth and turns her head away to the side, grinning like a loon.  After a couple of repeats, she puts her head in close to mine to press a bit of her face into my mouth or nose.  She giggles and I laugh at her.  She loves eskimo kisses.
She's shy and coy, turning her head into me when we meet new people.  She prefers me to her daddy and (so he tells me) cranes her head around him to look for me if he gets her up in the morning.
She loves to play with balloons, especially chewing the ends and biting them.  She hasn't popped one, yet!  She shrieks when Isaac sings.  She finds him entertaining and irritating in equal measure but isn't often upset when he sits on her (by accident).  He picks her up under her arms and 'carries' her around the house, her little legs waving frantically as she tries to wriggle away.  She giggles when he plays hide and seek with her.  She's discovered 'peepo' and loves to pull a blanket over her head.