Three questions this SAHM loves (to hate..)

I gave up work through choice a few months after returning from maternity leave. I’m not the most organised of people, and so managing to be a mum, while also trying to hold down a job,  remain sane and cook edible meals with food that hadn’t yet reached its sell by date was a step too far into the world of multi-tasking for me.

Since becoming a SAHM, I’ve been humbled by the huge amount of concern I’ve received (particularly from other parents) about how I spend my time and how I’m coping with being a lady of leisure. I had no idea that I had such a network of support. The concern is understandable.  After all, there’s only so much housework you can do, and with a pristine bathroom, sparkly kitchen floor and every item of clothing in the house ironed to within an inch of its life, there’s always the risk that I may end up spending a succession of monotonous days lazing about on the sofa with a hot cup of tea, while my toddler plays happily and quietly by herself, tidying up as she goes….

I’ve always appreciated the fact that other people take such an interest in my situation, but I worry that I haven’t always been honest with them. Particularly when I’m asked one of the following three recurring gems.  It’s time to set the record straight:

Question 1: “What do you do with yourself all day?” 

What I usually say: “Ha, ha, I know, I’ve got so much time on my hands nowadays.”

What I want to say: “Are you having a laugh?  You’re having a laugh. Right??”

If I didn’t have any children myself, I’m sure I’d be guilty of thinking that giving up work to look after one mini-human would be nothing short of ‘living the dream’.  In fact, in the pre-baby days, I’m sure this was exactly what I thought. But  what gets me is that this question often comes from other parents, who must surely have witnessed the abject carnage that can be created in record time by a curious little toddler.  Surely they too have forgotten what an empty laundry basket looks like, or what their living room carpet would look like without a peppering of Duplo bricks?  Do they honestly think I’m struggling to find something with which to fill my days?

Question 2: “You’re lucky you can afford to do that!”

What I say: “Well, we’ve had to cut back on our spending a bit.”

What I want to say: “Mind your own bloody business!”

What is it about parenting and child-related conversations that makes people feel they can stray into topics that would be otherwise off-limits? When I bumped into our neighbours just after they’d had a huge extension built, did I say ‘You must be fairly loaded to do that’? No, I didn’t. Why? Because it would be the height of rudeness!

We’re lucky that my husband has a decent income, but at the same time, we’re far from rolling in it. Luckily, we’ve never been big spenders (my husband still has an iPhone 3) and our only extravagances in the pre-baby years were far-flung holidays, but those are now long gone. We’ve had to make a few cutbacks and put a few things on hold so that I can be at home to spend these early years with my little girl, but for me, it’s worth it. And anyway, it’s no one else’s business!

Question 3: “Do you have plans now that you’ve given up work? Are you going to work for yourself?”

What I say: “Oh, I’ll just see how things go. I might look into working from home in the future if I can find something to fit around Little B.”

What I want to say: “Plans?? What do you mean, ‘plans’?? Because my current full time role as mum, cleaner, cook, secretary, driver, nurse, gardener, and teacher might not be keeping me busy enough?!”

Is there something wrong with just wanting to enjoy my daughter’s first years before she goes to school? I know that being a SAHM is not for everyone. As soon as I went back to work after maternity leave, I knew that I wanted to be at home full time with my little girl, but I have friends who were delighted to be back at work and who shudder at the idea of being a SAHM.  Other friends are somewhere in the middle.  It doesn’t mean that any of us are any more or less of a mum. We’re all different, with different situations, needs and wants. Being at home day in day out with a toddler might be a bit mind-numbing for some (and I can completely understand that), but for me, it’s fine.  And there’s nothing wrong with that. OK?

Right, that’s that off my chest. Best get the kettle on before Jeremy Kyle starts!

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Review of bakerdays’ Valentine’s Letterbox Gift Cake

I was two weeks into a surprisingly promising healthy eating regime when bakerdays contacted me to ask if I’d like to review one of their 5″Letterbox Gift Cakes.  Not wanting to jeopardise my first (of probably many) weight loss attempts of the year, I agonised for a couple of days before declining their offer…..

Oh, you didn’t believe that did you?! Turn down free cake? Who am I kidding? I emailed them quicker than you can say ‘Ryvita’, just in case they changed their minds.

Bakerdays specialise in personalised celebration cakes. Their cakes come in a range of sizes and recipes, including vanilla sponge, chocolate chip sponge, red velvet sponge and fruit cake. They also offer gluten wheat free and dairy free options. The cakes are available for delivery 7 days a week, and for those (like me) who are prone to forgetfulness, disorganisation and leaving things til the last minute, you can even have your cake delivered the next working day if you order before 2pm.  They really do have cakes for every occasion: from birthdays, to Thanksgiving, to Hanukkah, to driving tests!! It’s fair to say that if you have an occasion, they will have a cake.

I was asked to review a cake from bakerdays’ Valentine’s range, and with 78 different designs in the Valentines range alone, there was plenty of choice. I picked my cake design from their website, chose my personalisation and decided to give their new red velvet sponge recipe a try. I then spent the next day or so hanging around the letterbox in anticipation (and starving).

I’ll be honest, I was initially sceptical about the idea of a letterbox cake. My first thought was ‘How the jiggins is a cake going to survive a Royal Mail sorting office, let alone the drop from letterbox to doormat?’.  And my second thought was, ‘Even if it arrives in one piece, surely it will be at the expense of presentation, because it will need to be bubble wrapped to within an inch of its cakey life’.

Anyway, turns out I was wrong on both fronts.

The cake arrived on my doormat in a smart little box like this:

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And on opening it up, I found there was not even a hint of clunky packaging or bubble wrap:

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It was so perfectly packaged that it was hard to believe it had come through the post, and the packet of Love Hearts was a nice little extra that I hadn’t been expecting.

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And had the cake survived?

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Of course it had. And with the help of a nifty little strip of paper, it was ridiculously easy to remove from the tin in one piece.

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I was pretty impressed. All that was left was the eating.

Now, technically speaking, I’d personalised this cake as if it were a Valentine’s gift for my husband, so the taste testing should, I suppose, have been left to him. However, as a woman in the middle of a miserable chocolate/cake/anything tasty -free diet, I had been avidly searching for any excuse to say ‘Sod the celery, I’m having cake for lunch’. And now, here it was. I had the perfect excuse on a plate (so to speak). I was not passing this opportunity up. Valentine’s gift or no Valentine’s gift.

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And so, I devoured the cake (mostly by myself and I am not ashamed…). In all honestly,  I’d had my doubts about how fresh the cake would really taste, but it was just delicious and as good as anything you would get in a decent cafe. The red velvet sponge was really moist and made a nice change from vanilla. The icing was also just the right thickness which was a huge plus, because for a sugar fan, there’s nothing worse than cakes that skimp on the icing.

Overall, I think the Letterbox Cake makes a delicious quirky gift for absolutely any occasion. The fact that you can personalise it with your own words, and sometimes with your own photograph means that your gift can be really unique, and as an added bonus, you can give recipient the impression that you’ve put in a lot of thought and effort into their gift – they don’t need to know that the bakerdays website is ridiculously simple to use and that you can order and personalise a cake within a matter of minutes!

The Letterbox Cake I chose started at £14.99, which I initially thought was quite pricey, but I changed my mind when it arrived. Both the packaging and presentation are of very high quality, the personalisation was exactly what I’d asked for, the cake was in perfect condition and it was absolutely delicious to boot. That, as well as the convenience of having it delivered directly through the letterbox has convinced me that the Letterbox Cake is good value for money.

If you want to know more about bakerdays, you can visit their website at www.bakerdays.com, their Facebook page or their Twitter page.

As for me, I’m back on the diet and snacking on dried apricots and pumpkin seeds for the foreseeable future – although I’d happily give it all up again for cake!

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Disclaimer: I received a free cake in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

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Tammymum

So, how did I do?

It’s been over two months since I’ve written anything on the blog. In hindsight, it would probably have been a bit more professional if I’d announced that I’d be taking a break, but the truth is, I never planned to stop writing. Life just got in the way and before I knew it, we were in the middle of the period that will henceforth be known as ‘Annibirthmas’, i.e. the couple of months where we celebrate our wedding anniversary, numerous family and friends’ birthdays, Little B’s birthday  and, oh, Christmas.

I knew it was going to be tough, and so in my last post before going AWOL, I set myself a few goals. And how did I do? Well you can probably guess, but you’re here now, so why not read on anyway?

1. Complete my Christmas shopping well before Christmas

I tried my best with this one, I really did. I bought all my Christmas cards well in advance and almost all my presents were bought and wrapped by mid November, save for a couple of gifts that had to be ordered online.

Unfortunately, however, I fell at the final hurdle.  Having spent mid-November onwards gleefully announcing to anyone who’d listen that I’d never been so organised and that I’d be able to enjoy the run up to Christmas for once, I blindly sauntered into the first couple of days of December, then into the first couple of weeks of December, and then into the LAST ORDER DATES FOR CHRISTMAS. It appears that my best intentions were scuppered by my own smugness.

I got there in the end, but not without spending a full week before Christmas wondering whether to confine myself to the house with Little B and wait for the remaining gifts to arrive, or to venture outside and suffer palpitations every time I saw a Parcelforce van, in case it was carrying our delivery.

Of course we couldn’t stay at home all week so I opted for the palpitations. Luckily, it was only once that I found myself chasing a courier van all the way back through our estate, just in case.

Lesson learned.

2.Hygge our home

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Pine cones, pine cones every(bloody)where…

Yeah, this. Well, this stopped being a priority fairly early on, but I had a slight success in that the Christmas tree lights gave me a bit of a hygge feel  – as long as I avoided looking directly at the tree to see the results of Little B’s daily reorganisation of the baubles.  The homeless pine cones which have been scattered about our dining room/kitchen/landing and EVERY SINGLE OTHER ROOM IN THE HOUSE for a good couple of months also helped create a slight ‘bringing the outside in’ feel, while a power cut over the holidays ensured that there were candles aplenty in the living room.

In all honesty, hygge-ing our home was probably not my greatest success of late 2016…..

3.Work on improving my diet

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Just so much quicker than making a sandwich

…And neither was this. Unfortunately I had no joy in this area before Christmas, during Christmas, or after Christmas. As is tradition, I eventually planned to start a healthy eating regime on 1st January, but that was a Sunday, and everyone knows that it’s always best to start these things on a Monday. But then the first Monday of the year was a bank holiday, which is surely just an extension of the Sunday, isn’t it?  So I decided to start my new regime on Tuesday 3rd,  but by about 3pm, I’d succumbed to the half finished tub of Roses which I’d previous ‘hidden’ from myself.

I’ll be honest, my willpower is somewhat lacking, but on the plus side, I have made it onto the treadmill for my first run in a very long time.  However, while I felt a huge sense of achievement, to coin a local phrase, I managed to ‘knack myself’.  Turns out it’s not advisable to go from couch to 5k in 50 minutes. It may be a while before my next run.

4.Practice making a birthday cake and know my limits

Making Little B’s first birthday cake last year was an absolute nightmare, but despite all advice and my better judgement, I remained adamant that I would make her a cake again this year. And that it would be a scene from In the Night Garden.

‘Oh, what a fool!’, I hear you shout.  But guess what? I actually managed it! And without any crying, any flying utensils or any threats of divorce!  Granted, I recognised my limits and decided against modeling all three Tombliboos, Makka Pakka, Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy out of whatever type of icing you are supposed to use for such things and instead, cheated by buying a pack of plastic figures from Tesco. So essentially, what I made was a green cake with some stones for Makka Pakka’s cave, a lump of unused green icing for the Tombliboo bush, and a few cut out daisies.  But it looked fairly ok, Little B loved it, and I still have my sanity (which I didn’t think would be accompanying me through to 2017 if I’m totally honest).

And here it is:

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So, while I may not have achieved all my goals, I did manage to survive and make a cake, which, in my book constitutes an unmitigated success! And as for the other stuff?  Well…. I can always try again this year!

Happy New Year!

Diary of an imperfect mum
Tammymum
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Come back September, all is forgiven

Now, I’ve already written something about my less than fondness for September, but in hindsight, I think my rant was misplaced. You see, this year, October is really taking the mick.

Just to summarise our current position, late October: we are recovering from apple purgatory and now find ourselves slap bang in the middle of birthday hell, with regular parties to attend, presents to buy and presents to wrap. Christmas is looming on the horizon, as is Little B’s second birthday and the inevitable birthday cake baking fiasco, meaning that I lie awake each night contemplating how difficult it would be to model an Iggle Piggle out of fondant icing, and how many cake-baking practice runs I can get away with before causing a national egg shortage.

In addition and against my better judgement, I will also be voluntarily throwing a toddlers’ Halloween party on Monday, and as feared, the pumpkin table cloth ordered on Amazon has not yet arrived.

As you can see, I’m being kept quite busy at the moment, thank you very much. So, what I really didn’t need was for October to throw into the mix a chest infection for Little B, an evil head cold for me  (as well as a 2 hour vomiting session which may or may not have had something to do with my over enthusiastic consumption of barbecue pop chips), and a requirement for my husband to work unprecedentedly long hours.

I’ll not lie, it has been a tough month. I have had no time to blog and my ironing pile is now less of a pile and more of a room. However, I have been here before and I am not taking this one lying down. I refuse to be beaten and I refuse to risk a repeat of last year when I spent October and November in a permanent state of cake-baking-present-buying hysteria, only then to become the unfortunate recipient of a free family pass to Gastroenteritis, complete with complementary one-night hospital stay.

Nope, this year I intend to embrace the power of positive thinking, attempt the art of prior planning, and focus on my health.  In particular, I plan to do the following (possibly):

Practice making that birthday cake well in advance and know my limits

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Last year’s horror

Just like last year, it would appear that I have again ridiculously overestimated my abilities and so rather than learning from prior experience and opting for a shop-bought cake for Little B’s birthday, I will be attempting the whole homemade shebang for a second time, whilst desperately trying to cling on to the remnants of my sanity. There is potential for it to end in tears. Again.

To minimise the inevitable trauma, my only option is therefore practice, practice, practice. I’m under no illusion that practice will make perfect. I’m just hoping that practice will make a cake. Of some sort.

Finish my Christmas shopping well before Christmas

Given that Christmas is supposed to be the season of goodwill, it really does bring out the worst in people, and it’s already started: there are hints of trolley barging in supermarkets; female shoppers have already begun passive-aggressively browsing the Boots 3 for 2 aisles while their husbands trail behind them, their wills to live having last been sighted at the perfume section in Debenhams. And things will only get worse.

This year I will not suffer the misery of last minute Christmas shopping. This year I will buy all my Christmas cards well in advance and before December. And this year,  in no circumstances will I find myself in the fridge aisle of any Marks and Spencers store muttering threats of grievous bodily harm towards fellow shoppers. Not this year.

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I’ve read about this hygge thing and I like the idea. I’m all for cosiness, and anything that
purports to make Autumn slightly less rubbish than it already is, is worth a try in my opinion. Quite how I’ll manage to achieve a hygge home is another matter however.  Nevertheless, it’s on my list, and the plan is to be hygged up to the eyeballs by Christmas.

Work on improving my diet (a little bit)

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How I’m currently getting my five-a-day

While the official line was that I had a stomach bug, I’m not entirely convinced that the excessive barbecue pop chip consumption did not in some way contribute to my 2 hour vomiting stint at 2am on that cold Wednesday night. Irrespective of whether or not the sickness was self-inflicted, there’s nothing like lying on your bathroom floor in the middle of the night to make you think that you should probably focus a little more on what you’re putting into your body and try to make healthier choices. It’s not that I don’t enjoy healthy food: I do. It’s just that I also enjoy chocolate and crisps. In large quantities. And in place of meals.

So these are my plans (for the moment, anyway). Wish me luck! I’ll let you all know how it goes, but if you don’t hear from me for a week or so, assume I’m sat in the corner of my kitchen clutching a bag of pop chips, while surrounded by miniature Iggle Piggles and copious amounts of wrapping paper and cake crumbs.

To be honest, it wouldn’t be the first time….

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Whose boobs are they anyway….?

This is not a funny post. If you came here looking for a giggle, please rest assured that normal service will resume next week, unless it transpires that we did in fact leave Makka Pakka in that service station car park just outside Edinburgh, in which case the next post may be altogether more sombre…

I’d never planned to wade into the breast or bottle debate. Articles on this topic tend to provoke strong, polarised opinions. They can often upset, anger and frustrate and that’s not something I would ever want to do. I prefer just to (try to) give people a laugh.

However, recently, I’ve stumbled upon a lot of posts and articles on breastfeeding, and many have made me reflect on both my own experience, and the issue of a woman’s right to choose how to feed her baby.

I’m not going to debate whether breast milk has health benefits for a baby and its mother. I can’t. There’s a wealth of scientific proof and I’d look a bit silly.  Neither am I going to deny that women should be encouraged to breast feed, or that more support is desperately needed to enable those who wish to breast feed to do so.

My issue is not with breastfeeding, but rather with the often simplified nature of the debate surrounding it, namely the idea that ‘breast is best’ and therefore women who bottle feed are not giving their babies the best possible start in life. Nowhere are these views more evident than in NCT antenatal classes*, where bottle feeding is simply glossed over – ironic, given the NCT’s emphasis on women being in control of their own bodies and having choices.

Yes, the content of breast milk has more health benefits than formula. Yes, breast milk is more natural than formula. Yes, breastfeeding also has health benefits for the mother. And yes, in an ideal world, breast would be best. But we don’t live in an ideal world. And breast is not best for everyone.

I struggled to breastfeed my daughter and I’m sure that in many people’s minds (and in my own for a while), I gave up far too early. A fact I was reminded of everywhere I went with her for the first 6 months of her life.  As other women were whipping out their boobs at baby groups, I was unzipping the bottle bag, opening the bottle and pouring in the milk. I could sense the breastfeeding mothers looking away, embarrassed by the poor mum who had to bottle feed her baby. Perhaps this was my paranoia, but I felt as if I almost needed an excuse as to why I was not breastfeeding.  On many occasions I would witter something along the lines of, ‘Oh, difficult birth….painful caesarean…general anaesthetic……should have persevered…..wish I had….’. All the time, apologising for how I’d chosen to feed my own baby.

The truth was that having been wheeled onto a ward a couple of hours after my category 1 emergency c-section and still groggy from the general anaesthetic, I’d fallen into a deep sleep, only to wake at some point during the early hours to the sound of my baby crying. I first had to register that the baby lying in the cot next to me was mine.  I then had to establish how I was hooked up to the various machines, that I’d had a catheter fitted, and that I had a button on one side of me for morphine and a button on the other side for ‘Help’.

I pressed the help button and a nurse arrived. I had to explain that my baby was crying and I couldn’t pick her up because I was confined by wires and tubes to the bed. I told her I had no idea if she’d ever been fed since her birth and I didn’t know how I was supposed to do it. The nurse said that they would get me up in the morning and I could feed my baby then.

They did get me up and I tried to feed her but it didn’t go well, not least because I couldn’t sit in one position for long due to the pain from the prolonged labour and caesarean. My little girl couldn’t latch on properly and by the end of that first day, my nipples had begun to bleed.  I had no idea if my daughter was feeding from me or not.  She would not settle and in the middle of the following night, my 4th consecutive night with hardly any sleep, I broke down and told one of the nurses on duty that I was contemplating bottle feeding as breast feeding was just not working for me.

The following day I was moved to a private room with a team of healthcare assistants at my beck and call in case I was further tempted by the bottle. My daughter did finally manage to latch on properly, but only after having been repeatedly forced onto me by a healthcare assistant, which had caused her to become very distressed.  I found the whole experience incredibly upsetting and I couldn’t help feeling guilty for putting my baby through it. I couldn’t shake the thought of her difficult birth and what might have happened if the doctors and midwives hadn’t acted as quickly as they did during my labour.   While I knew there was a greater good in getting her to breastfeed, I had an overwhelming urge to protect my daughter from any further suffering, however it may be caused.

I persevered with feeding until after we got home a few days later. Then, during the night, I gave up. I just gave up. It’s very cathartic to write this as I’ve never been as honest about my decision. The fact is, I just didn’t want to do it anymore.  It was excruciatingly painful.  My baby wasn’t happy.  I was tired and frustrated with myself and was also becoming frustrated with my little girl and that wasn’t fair on her.  I’d missed the joy of seeing her come into the world and felt cheated.  And now the joy of being at home as a family of three just wasn’t there because I was so focused on why I couldn’t feed her properly.   I wanted to enjoy my little girl and I hated and feared the way I was beginning to feel.

We cracked open the emergency formula milk that night and my baby finally settled.  On seeing her so content for the first time, I became racked with the guilt that would stay with me for the first year of her life. I was letting her down, I was letting my husband down, and I had no idea how I was going to tell our friends and our NCT group, where breastfeeding was a given and no one in their right mind would bottle feed unless it was a last resort.  I had failed at giving birth ‘naturally’ and now I was failing at nurturing her.

What’s more, I was failing at breastfeeding through choice.

No doubt some may read this and consider me selfish for putting my own needs and wants before my baby’s health, perhaps referencing other women who had even more traumatic births than mine but still persevered and breastfed their babies successfully. They will have little sympathy for the guilt I felt because, simply put, I could have tried harder.

But here’s the thing. I’m not asking for sympathy.  I’m asking for understanding. Understanding that for some mothers, for all kinds of reasons, breastfeeding may not be right. Understanding that all the antibodies in the world can’t outweigh the benefit of a baby having a healthy, stable and happy mum. Understanding that women have the right to make educated choices for the benefit of their families, whether or not these choices are universally popular.

Looking back, I’m confident that I made the right choice, not just for me, but for my family. I have a healthy little girl, and we couldn’t possibly have a stronger bond. Maybe I’m not as mentally strong as other women, maybe there was an element of selfishness to my decision, and yes, maybe I could have persevered a bit more.  But in choosing not to persevere, and in recognising that the benefits of breastfeeding were less important than having a mentally and emotionally healthy mum, I chose to do what I now know was right for our family at the time. And I will never, and should never, be made to feel guilty for that.

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*This was my personal experience from the classes I attended.

Tammymum
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Holiday No.2: The one with the elephant and the binge drinking

We took our second ever family holiday a couple of weeks ago. Neither my husband nor I are brave enough to take our little girl abroad yet, so for now, we’re limiting ourselves to the UK and this time it was Perthshire in Scotland. We’d chosen the area because Little B is currently in the midst of an elephant obsession. In fact, she has been captivated by elephants since she saw her first collection of dead stuffed animals in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh a few months ago.

We’d shortlisted all the zoos within a 4 hour radius of our house, and plumped for Blairdrummond Safari Park. It wasn’t too far away. It was open. It had an elephant. It met all our key requirements.

The entire holiday would be based around this elephant. Little B would see the elephant and be off her chops with excitement. Throw in a couple of farm visits and one or two quiet, relaxing days and that would be our holiday sorted.  And it was. Well, apart from a just a few glitches, obviously….

 

1. The cottage and the farm

Our cottage was slap bang in the middle of farmer territory (and on a farm, no less).  We knew this would be the case, but what we hadn’t registered was that it was September (frigging September) and that this was an arable farm. Cue tractors rattling past our cottage at 15 minute intervals. All day and all evening.  And then there was the harvesting of the field, 20 metres from our cottage.  At night.  Thankfully we weren’t woken by this, because we never really got to sleep in the first place. (See below)

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Our view. Yep. Fun, fun, fun on the farm.

2. The travel cot

Yes, thank you Mothercare, for your wonderfully designed travel cots, illustrated with bright jungle animals. Toddlers love bright jungle animals. Thank you for encouraging our daughter to repeatedly remove her sheet and mattress from the travel cot in order to view these animals. Thank you for making these animals look so wonderful that she felt compelled to repeat this action on average 6 times per night during our holiday, before finally going to sleep, only to wake up uncomfortable in the early hours because at 2am her parents had had neither the energy nor the will to replace the mattress and sheet for the 6th time.

3. The binge drinking

I should have seen this coming.  On day 2 of the holiday, Little B was indicating a reluctance to take any nap whatsoever. By the evening she was a bit worse for wear, so quite soon after dinner we bathed her and she had her milk. But she had too much milk. She realised this before we did, and just before we put her to bed, she projectile vomited all over herself, me, the carpet, and finally, the bath. At least last time’s holiday vomit was contained within the cot. I don’t think I need to explain the chaos that ensued, suffice to say that the washing machine was switched on. Again. And yes, I cried. Again.

4. My near death experience

Despite having travelled to our cottage looking like we’d just designed and entered a ‘How much crap can you fit in an Audi A3?’ competition, we still managed to forget a few essentials which necessitated a quick shopping trip to Perth.  While there, we decided to have lunch at the M&S cafe which was on the first floor of the store. We waited patiently for the lift, and as the doors opened to reveal what felt like 200 people, our 22 month old shouted (in the clearest and loudest voice I have ever heard her use), ‘EVERYBODY OUT!’. The people in the lift laughed. I almost died.

5. The elephant

Ah, the elephant. This was to be the highlight of our holiday. We arrived at the Safari Park (later than planned and having forgotten spare nappies obviously) and worked out our route so that the elephant would be one of the last things we would see. Imagine how excited Little B would be when, after seeing a whole host of mediocre animals, she would be presented with what in her eyes was the veritable King of the Jungle.

We wound our way through the goats, ponies, pigs, sheep and alpacas, before moving onto the penguins and sea lions. Then, after lunch, we made our way to the bigger animals: the giraffes, lions and tigers. We passed a huge play area, the likes of which I have never seen before (and I’ve seen a lot of play areas), and Little B stopped to play in the sandpit with the buckets and spades. It was a beautiful sunny day, she was happy building sandcastles, and we were looking forward to showing her a real-life, non-stuffed, breathing elephant.

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After 20 minutes or so, it was time. I can’t express how excited I was at this point.  We headed off to see the elephant. We walked up the path to the viewing area in anticipation, talking in excited tones to Little B about what she would see when we eventually got there. As we neared the end of the path, there it was. The elephant. Trunk, tusks, the whole shebang. And this time, it was even alive.  As I pointed  towards the elephant, I admit, I may have let out a slight squeal.

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Little B looked at the elephant for a few seconds, and as a smile slowly developed on her face, she turned to me, and in the lovely voice she uses when she’s really happy and amazed by something, she said three words that will stay with me forever:

‘Play sand pit?’

Play. Sand. Pit.

I did not cry. Not until we got back to the cottage anyway.

Harvesting, projectile vomiting and sleeplessness aside, we did have a lovely time on holiday and have now reached the point where we can look back and laugh. The Safari Park was a great day out, even if the elephant wasn’t the success I’d hoped for and Little B fell asleep before the start of the Safari Drive.

We managed some other day trips and had a great time at Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre which has the most beautiful view from any play area I’ve ever seen. We also enjoyed a morning at the Beatrix Potter exhibition at Birnam Arts Centre, where Little B had a fun time making cups of tea in their Beatrix Potter-themed play room.

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Gorgeous view at Auchingarrich

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Knocking back the much-needed caffeine at the Beatrix Potter exhibition

I’m learning to accept that holidays with a toddler are never going to be the most relaxing, but they’re a rare chance for the three of us to spend uninterrupted time together and for that, I’ll take the stress and sleeplessness. But I’d rather not have the vomit next time, if that could please be arranged.


 

 

Two Tiny Hands

 

Island Living 365
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

For the love of tea

I love tea. I’ve always loved tea. I love tea so much that when I left my last job, they bought me a teapot and tea bags (which I’m sure is because of my well-known fondness for tea, and not some sarcastic dig about how long I spent chatting in the kitchen).

The thing is, nowadays, I don’t get to drink much tea at all, and it’s not for the want of trying. I actually almost gave up daytime tea drinking a few months ago, until, out of sheer desperation and a blatant disregard for the health of my internal organs, I discovered the Art of Microwaved Tea.

Before I try to convince you why you should also consider embracing the Art of Microwaved Tea, let me just explain the tea cup travesties which led me to this point.

Firstly, this little gem: The floating tea bag

While ‘floating tea bag’ may sound like some kind of mystical zen-like yoga move, it is in fact anything but.  For a person charged with the care of a toddler, nothing symbolises the abject futility of making a cup of tea quite as well as the floating tea bag. If you don’t have time to remove the tea bag, you don’t have time to drink the tea. End of.

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The floating tea bag can typically be attributed to one of the following:

  • Unexpectedly airborne food of the tomato-based carpet-staining variety
  • A toddler suddenly placing themselves at height and threatening free fall
  • A meltdown caused by the sudden removal of Hey Duggie from the Cbeebies schedule
  • Some other equally catastrophic occurrence

The floating tea bag will create a stewed, industrial-strength lukewarm treacle-like beverage.  Aware of the pointlessness of attempting to make a further fresh cup of tea, many will proceed to imbibe the now vile liquid, sip by sip and wince by wince, because, at least it’s tea. Sort of.

And secondly, this one: The full cup (of false promise)

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A lucky few embarking on the tea-making process will manage the whole shebang.  Tea bag out, milk in, the whole lot.  These oblivious fools will admire their work and look forward to their first sip. They are basking in the mistaken belief that this full cup of hot, caffeinated loveliness will be consumed in its entirety.  Initially, they do not even entertain the possibility that it will be a complete waste of water, milk and a tea bag.

However, as early as 30 seconds after adding the milk, when it becomes more than apparent that today was not the day to introduce a different breakfast cereal to their highly strung toddler, who is now three quarters of the way through a successful Houdini-like escape from his highchair, the same people will curse themselves for being very silly indeed.

This abandoned cup of tea will stand alone in front of the kettle for the remainder of the morning, a stark, miserable reminder of what might have been. In three hours it will be poured down the sink and the futile act of tea making will begin again.

Sound familiar? Please do not despair. I was in the same predicament until a few months ago, when suddenly, this began to happen:

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I am now an avid follower of the Art of Microwaved Tea. Eventually, even the most determined tea-loving toddler parents will reach this point.  It just takes some longer than others to get there. A willingness to microwave your tea signals an acceptance that fresh tea is no longer something which is within your grasp, at least not during daylight hours. I don’t think it’s too unreasonable or dramatic to call this acceptance ‘Enlightenment’.

The difference between a person who has chosen the path of microwaved tea and the non-enlightened, is simple. The non-enlightened still believe it is possible to enjoy a hot, freshly made cup of tea during the day, while in charge of at least one toddler. The Enlightened know that there is not a cat in hell’s chance of this happening.

The Enlightened will make a cup of tea, fully aware that they won’t be drinking it any time soon. Typically, once made, it will remain on the kitchen bench for at least one hour, while they busy themselves with removing fragments of crayon or sticker from their toddler’s mouth, retrieving their toddler from the window sill or wiping an emulsified Ritz cracker from their sofa.

The Enlightened do not feel disappointment when they realise that their cup of tea is now cold and undrinkable. They simply pop it into the microwave for a few seconds, et voilà: a hot cup of tea.

It may be the case that having heated it up, they take just one sip before again leaving their cup of tea on the side to pick up the entire contents of their Tupperware drawer from the kitchen floor (again), to extract their toddler from beneath their dining room table in response to frantic screams of ‘stuck’, or to Google ‘how many crayons can a toddler safely eat?’ (just in case).

The tea will go cold again, but do they worry? Of course not! They simply microwave it for a second time and enjoy a further sip, before the next inevitable crisis occurs. They repeat this pattern for the rest of the day (or until they become ill).

The benefits to following the Art of Microwaved Tea are endless. For example:

  • Time savings: You can have a piping hot cup of tea in a mere fraction of the time it takes to boil a kettle!
  • Less washing up: Why use four cups to make four fresh cups of tea when you know you’re never going to drink them? One repeatedly microwaved cup can last you an entire day!
  • Less cost: One tea bag and one splash of milk is all you need for your entire daily tea needs!
  • Improved tidiness: No more pesky full cups/half cups of tea scattered around the house! And chances are you’ll even forget to take your reheated tea out of the microwave to drink, giving you the added benefit of a tidier work surface!

What’s not to love? Join the Enlightened ones and start microwaving today! I guarantee you’ll never look back!*

 

*Unless you get really sick, then you may regret it. But for the love of tea, it’s worth the risk. Probably.

Tammymum
DomesticatedMomster