Whatever works

Oh my, have I really not posted anything since July?!

I hate using the whole ‘I’ve been busy running after my toddler’ excuse but that’s not too far from the truth! I actually found myself with too many ideas about this blog and not a clue about what to prioritise so the result was not posting at all.

I can’t possibly  recap all that’s happened in the past 6 months but I can certainly give you a snippet.

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What a difference 6 months make!

Co-sleeping saved our life
It was just after our holiday [or during, more like it] that we completely gave up trying to get Frances to sleep in her cot. Up to that point we had made an effort to keep her in her cot at least for the first part of the night and then we would get up and bring her into our bed when she was starting crying around midnight. Failing to do that would result into getting up an average of 3 to 4 times a night to put her back to sleep.

Then, whilst on holiday, one night she fell asleep in our big bed in the hotel room, and we didn’t have the guts to transfer her into the travel cot. That night she slept beautifully, like she [and we] hadn’t done in so long. When we got home from holiday, we carried on with that arrangement and before we knew it we were fully fledged co-sleepers, and still are.

Now, I don’t want to get into the old debate about if or how co-sleeping ruins children and alters all balances in the family. It’s not that I’m in denial, not at all. It’s just that in nearly two years I have now accepted the fact that sometimes you gotta do whatever works for you, your child and your little family as a whole.

My daughter is happy. A happy and independent little 21 months old girl. She enjoys cuddles at night and we love seeing her cheeky grin first thing in the morning [even if she still doesn’t sleep past 6am on a good day]. We will get to a point where this solution is not going to suit everyone and we will find another one, like we’ve always done. End of.

Change is good
Unless it’s nappy-change and that’s still not fun! Around September time [which, like many say, is ‘the new January’] I decided to look around for a new job. I had been in my current place for 5 years, including maternity leave, and I was really in need of a fresh challenge. I had that thought in my head even before having a baby really, but for obvious reasons I stuck around. Then I wanted to make sure that F. was well settled at nursery and we didn’t have to leave work too often due to all her nursery-related bugs.

So, I started sending out my CV to a few places and one evening after work, I had a nearly 2-hour interview which was followed, the next day, by a job offer! I started the new job exactly 3 months ago, at the end of October, and I’m loving it. It’s the same remit I had before but the difference is that I am a one-person-team so all the responsibilities within the HR/Talent Development remit fall on me now. I wanted a challenge and I definitely did get one! I still work flexible hours so I can leave at 4.30pm and go pick up the little one from nursery an hour later.

Blah Blah Blah
Everyone says that, around 18 months, children have a ‘speech explosion’ [I’m pretty sure experts use a different term!] but I’d somehow missed the memo that said that the first word, and the second and the third, would be NO!

Would you like a banana / anything remotely healthy? NO
Let’s go change this stinky nappy? NO
How about we sit here and read a book / pretend to make tea / smear play-doh all over the house? NO [she may actually be up for the latter!]

Jokes aside, it felt like Frances’ vocabulary really did explode pretty much overnight. She started with the basics, Mamma and Papa, and carried on through to naming body parts, foods or names of toys. She can now put two words together, like Papa’s shoes or Mamma’s coat but she still doesn’t say her own name and refers to herself as Tata.

I only ever speak Italian to her and, whilst she speaks mostly English, she can understand everything I say to her and it’s amazing to see already that she doesn’t need any time whatsoever to elaborate that into her brain to understand what I’m saying. She just knows. Very fascinating. I’ve been told that it may take her a little longer to start talking properly because she’s learning two languages at once but I love the fact that for example now she can actually communicate her discomfort, by saying ‘itchy’ or ‘hand’ to point at something that is hurting. It has definitely made our life easier and her less frustrated as she’s now able to tell us what’s wrong.

Meet our new BFF, Peppa Pig
I am certainly part of that category of parents who swore they would NEVER put their kids in front of a TV or computer and I’m quite ashamed to admit that back in the day I also found myself feeling judgemental towards those parents who did.

Up to a month or so ago, I was kind of proud that F. wasn’t really interested in watching telly. We did try and leave the cartoons on, when we really needed a break, but she just wasn’t interested and I was happy with that.

Then during the Christmas holidays, we found ourselves stuck at home for a few days as the weather was so dreadful that it would have been crazy to go out plus F. had a bad cough too. We had a Peppa Pig’s CD and book which she loved and we were listening to it time and time again for weeks. So we just pulled an episode of Peppa Pig up on Netflix and we all watched it snuggled up on the couch and it was so lovely and probably the longest break we ever had all together at home.

Things have got out of hand a little recently as she’s asking for Pig constantly. She watches it before nursery in the morning and when she gets home [and we take turns to sit next to her]. I stressed about that initially but then thought of all the other activities that we do with her during weekends [playgrounds, aquarium, baby orchestra, etc..] and all the quality time that we have as a family.

During the week she spends 8 hours every day at nursery playing, reading, singing, running so if she wants to watch her little friend Peppa Pig and her colourful family I’m not going to stress about it any longer and I’m just going to join her on the couch and enjoy a break that we both need after a long day.

So, here I am! It’s good to be back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we really call it a holiday?

Here I am..I’m back!

Apart from being very busy at work, the main reason why I haven’t posted anything in a while is that I’ve been on holiday! I’ve been away with the little one a few times since she was born but this time it was a ‘proper’ holiday. In a hotel. On the beach. With a toddler..

This time last year, Frances was 3 months old so we went up to the Alps where my parents have a house [see post here if you fancy]. It was fairly challenging but, in hindsight, it was a breeze compared to this year’s holiday!

We went to Rimini, a busy and bubbly town on the east coast of Italy, pretty much opposite Croatia.

Rimini

It’s quite a popular holiday destination mainly amongst the young crowds due to its nightlife but it’s also very handy for families with young kids like us as there are long and wide sandy beaches where the little ones can run around and play.

We were lucky as my parents came along otherwise I wouldn’t exactly call it a holiday. I would most likely call it same daily madness running after a 1+ year old but with less clothes on and in the heat

Recently, Frances had developed a weird fear of water..I say ‘weird’ as up until not long ago she absolutely loved bath time and splashing around in general. Then, one day, she just started screaming when I put her in the tub. We overcame that by putting her in the empty bath tub and then running the water with her in it [personally, that would freak me out more]

Given this precedent, I was so worried that she would be scared of the sea, and understandably so. First thing we did when we got there [after a rather challenging flight!] was go to the beach and give it a try..Well, not only did she like dipping her feet into the sea, but she was trying to drag us forward! It was heart warming to watch and it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Such a big softy 🙂

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First time on the beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the next two weeks, we played with sand..

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Favourite activity: destroying sand castles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

..we splashed around in the sea..

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..and in the hotel swimming pool..

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It wasn’t all fun and games though..oh no no no!

First of all, her routine was all over the place. For the first few days there was no routine, really. We tried to keep her nap times the same as back home and we also let her sleep a bit longer in the afternoon [sometimes, she’d sleep over 2 hours..unheard of!]

Her usual 6.30/7pm bedtime was pushed back to 9/9.30pm which was the earliest we could do given that dinner in the hotel was at 7.30pm. Sadly, her waking time in the morning didn’t shift by even 10 minutes so she was up between 5.30 and 6am regardless. I’m sure she did it so that we could see the beautiful sun rise over the sea every morning. How thoughtful!

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She point blank refused milk both morning and evening and every meal time it was a battle to get her to eat anything other than crusty bread. Whilst away she cut 3 pre-molars so surely that’s got a lot to do with it.

Did I mention how much fun it was to put suncream on her? Let me show you how fun it was..

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Yes, you can see 4 hands in this photo..my parents’ hands. One would pin her down to the bed and the other would rub cream as fast a possible, like a ninja!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those two weeks away also brought a few new things in Frances’ developmental repertoire..Not only did she start saying No no no whilst shaking her little finger in front of her face but she’d also move your hands away with a stern No! if you were in her way.

She also started blowing kisses with her hand and smile on command when having her picture taken [that only happened on a few occasions but it was hilarious!!]. She also started saying bau bau every time she saw a dog as that’s the dog sound in Italian, as opposed to the English woof woof

All in all, it was a good break..break from the usual routine, from the rush in our every day life and from the same old toys back home. It wasn’t a breeze and it wasn’t the holiday I was used to [sunbathing and reading books. End of]. But even if I literally spent about 2 hours in total in the whole holidays lying down in the sun, I got to see my little girl discovering so many new things and that will never tire me out.

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I *had to* document the only time I lied down in the sun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before and after

I’ve been neglecting my blog a little in the past week or so. It has been a manic few days at work coupled with terrible sleep-lacking nights.

One word: teething.

Premolars. Ouch.

Poor little baba.

As you can imagine and may have experienced first hand, teething comes with a range of challenges, including poor eating,  for obvious reasons.

So I just wanted to show how fun these past few dinner times have been..

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….

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Sorry for the speedy post but that’s all I have time for before going to clean the kitchen!

A week of [homemade] desk lunches

Since I got back to work from maternity, I’ve made this promise to myself that I would try and bring more packed lunches to work rather than spending £6-7 every day for a ready-made meal.

It’s quite hard work [especially to remember to put the lunch in my bag before leaving the house!] but, once I got into that mindset, I enjoyed preparing my lunches the night before, even if that meant losing 10-15 minutes of my oh-so-needed rest once the little one is in bed.

I’ve recently fall in love with mason jar salads, where you stack all the ingredients starting from the dressing at the bottom and generally the greens or more perishable foods at the top. As I walk quite a distance every morning, I can’t possibly carry a heavy glass jar in my bag so I settled for a much lighter plastic jar. The result is the same but visually it looks far less cool than a layered salad in glass jar 🙂

So here’s what I made last week:

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Starting from the top layer..

* Fresh spinach
* Steamed baby potatoes
* Avocado chunks
* Grated courgette [zucchini]
* Grated carrot
* Balsamic vinegar

 

 

 

1432891069022Now you understand what I meant when I said that my layered salads didn’t look very cool in a plastic jar!
That day I was so hungry that I didn’t even take a photo of the salad in the plate.

* Fresh spinach
* Sunflower seeds
* Mozzarella chunks
* Sweetcorn
* Plum tomatoes
* Mayo [3 tsp] and balsamic vinegar [1tsp]

 

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This time I didn’t stack the ingredients in the jar but just brought them to work separately

* Avocado
*Plum tomatoes
* Goats cheese
* Seeded pitta bread

 

 

 

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* Fresh spinach
* Grated cheddar
* Cherry tomatoes
* Pearl barley
* Pesto dressing [made with 3 tsp of green           pesto and 1 tsp of rapeseed oil]

 

 

 

 

1432891200215This was definitely my favourite lunch last week.

* Rocket
* Basmati rice
* Sunflower seeds
* Grated courgette [zucchini]
* Green olives
* Sweetcorn
* 3 tsp of creme fraiche and 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar

 

Hope I gave you a little inspiration for your next desk lunches 🙂

What do you normally eat at work?

Now and Then

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This photo was taken exactly a year ago

I often think about what life was like a year ago. It happens especially when I bump into people who’ve just had a baby and that triggers the ‘aww bless, I can’t even remember Frances being that little!’

But I do. I do remember Frances being that little. I may not recall every single detail but those days, weeks, months are imprinted in my memory forever. One thing that often pops to mind is what most already-parents kept saying to me soon after I had a baby [and I say this to my parents-to-be friends as well now].

“Don’t worry, this is the hardest part”. They said.

Was it? Was it really the hardest part?

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SLEEPING

A year ago

Frances wasn’t even 2 months old then and was waking up about twice/3 times a night to feed. I was still recovering from giving birth [more mentally than physically] and I was absolutely knackered. Every feed seemed to last forever and afterwards, due to her having reflux, I had to keep the little one upright for at least half an hour to make sure that the milk stayed down.

Now

As I said before, Frances has never been a very good sleeper. We have been co-sleeping since the last bout of illness / teething over a month ago and have made no effort or plans whatsoever to stop this, as it’s working well for us, for now at least. She sleeps in her cot for the first part of the night, then starts crying, pulls herself up and keeps standing in her cot until we go in and bring her into our bed. Some nights this happens around 11pm, some nights she sleeps just fine until 2/3 am or some other [rare] nights she actually sleeps through [until 5 – 5.30am, of course..]

FEEDING

A year ago

I breastfed until Frances was over 10 months old. In the first few months, she was feeding between every half hour [growth spurt anyone?!] to two hours. She suffered from reflux until not long ago so feeds were often accompanied by screams and back-arching and always followed by a fountain of milk coming out, pretty much straight away

Now

Like all kids who haven’t learnt how to eat with a spoon yet, Frances eats with her hands and food goes absolutely everywhere. That is a result of food naturally falling on the floor while she’s stuffing her face AND of her just throwing food on the floor FOR FUN.

CRYING

A year ago

Apart from reflux / colic related episodes, Frances never cried just for the sake of crying [is there such a thing in small babies though?]. We did have to go through weeks and weeks of crying at dinner time every single night but got so used to dealing with it that we didn’t really notice when that actually stops

Now

One word. Tantrums.

Yes, we’ve entered that phase. And it’s hell.

She can’t touch the plugs. Non-stop crying until you distract her with the Xbox remote control

She can’t play with the toilet brush. I’m going to pierce your ear drums with my super scream

There’s a new safety gate in the kitchen. Why oh why are you doing this to meeeeeee? [She doesn’t talk but that’s what she would say in between tears if she could]

GOING OUT

A year ago

I felt quite apprehensive about going out initially. I didn’t particularly enjoyed breastfeeding whilst out and about. Not because I’m a prude or anyone else around me seemed to be, but because the combination noisy feeder + reflux baby didn’t fill me with confidence that we would be able to have a feed without making a bit of a scene.

Regardless of the above, I still went out pretty much every day, trying to time it around feeds. Whilst Frances was happily sleeping in her pram or just staring at the little owl we hang on to it, I could enjoy a cup of [hot] coffee and catch up on what was happening in the outside world.

Now

Frances has reached that phase where she’s only happy to be in her buggy if and when she’s asleep. Keep her in there any other time and you will have an unhappy baby [see the crying section]

Anywhere we go and anything we do whilst out is absolutely 100% limited to whatever reason we went out for in the first place, being that grab a bite or buy washing up liquid.

We just keep it short and simple. And if we can’t, we bring A LOT of distractions [which never work, but there will always be a straw or a napkin to keep the little one entertained]

IMG_20150526_125259ACTIVITIES

A year ago

The range of activities back then was quite limited. It involved staring at a non-identified point on the horizon, slapping toys in the play gym and generally stay still wherever we put her, being that a changing table, a sofa or a bouncer.

The range of activities that I could do was fairly extensive. It involved watching two seasons of Orange is the new black in a week [what else to do during breastfeeding marathons?] or going to the loo without being followed.

Now

Frances is a ball of energy. She NEVER stops. She’s now almost ditched crawling and is 90% walking everywhere. Her favourite activities include walking whilst carrying one of my shoes or the heaviest toy she can find, throwing DVD’s on the floor or taking all of her clothes out of the bottom drawer in her room and then randomly putting them back in [this morning I even found my mascara in that drawer!]

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All in all, I think every new phase is the hardest. And that’s because it’s all new and mysterious and scary. Having a baby has taught me that everything is [relatively] easy once you’ve done it for a while. It doesn’t mean that you enjoy that particular phase but it just means that you get on with it!

 

 

A day in the life of a [full-time] working mum

One of the questions I get asked more often now that I’ve gone back to work is how I manage my full-time day job AND being a mum.

To be honest, I’ve found it easier to go back full-time from the start, rather than starting gradually with just a 2/3 days a week. Once I got into the mindset that I was now a full-time working mum, I could just focus on creating a good routine that would allow me to do it all, without pulling my hair out.

The intent of this post is just to show how my average day is like – I don’t have any super-powers and I wear no cape. It is all doable, it just needs practice, like everything else in life..like having a baby in the first place for example!

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Despite all possible efforts, Frances is still waking up between 5 and 5.30am. We have just given up trying to figure out why that happens and we just accept it. First things first..MILK!

6.00am. I get ready whilst my husband gets Frances dressed. He’s got the worst job ever..dressing a wriggling screaming octopus! I take a shower in the evening [and choose clothes for the following day], once I’ve put Frances to bed, so in the morning I just have a quick wash and I can be ready in half an hour.

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While hubby is in the shower, it’s play time with Frances. These days she loves to look at books and chases after us with a book in her hand so that we can read it / turn the pages for her. Cuteness overload.

7.00am. I leave the house while hubby and Frances settle in the kitchen for a little breakfast [toast and peanut butter]. He then takes her to nursery at 8.00am. I’m very lucky because we have a bus stop exactly opposite our building so within minutes of leaving the house I’m already on the bus towards the tube.

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As soon as I come out of the tube, it’s Pret a Manger time. It may not be the finest coffee on the market but their soya flat white keeps me going at least until I get into the office!

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I get to Hyde Park, one of the most gorgeous parks in London town, and walk along the Serpentine river which takes me very close to my office. I started this about 5 years ago and it’s still my favourite part of the daily commute.

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We have free breakfast at work between 8am and 9am (although we don’t officially start until 9.30am) so I take full advantage of it. I modified my working hours when I got back from maternity so I start one hour early and can leave one hour early as well, at 4.15pm.

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The hours spent in the office are still very much of a blur. I work in an advertising agency so there’s always an energetic buzz around and plenty of running like headless chickens all the time! Before I know it, I’m waiting for the tube back home.

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As soon as I pick Frances up from nursery, we go home [only a short walk away] and she has a little dinner. Nothing too big as she has a snack at 3.30pm which is normally jacket potato with beans so she’s not very hungry at dinner time!

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More play time after dinner. Frances has been getting more and more cuddly and often snuggles herself up to me and sits in my lap.

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Bath time. She kept climbing out of the basket we had inside the bath tub so we just scrapped that and she’s perfectly happy to sit in the tub like a grown-up! The rubber mat underneath is essential as she tends to pull herself up after a few minutes and just stands up.

After that, it’s PJ’s and straight on to the mini sofa in her room with a bottle of warm milk. Little red light on. She holds the bottle while I read her a story. Until a week or so ago she would still be awake after the bottle so we would go back into the bathroom, brush teeth, put sleeping bag on and then beddy-byes.

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Now that she’s started walking and is visibly more tired she just hands me the bottle when she’s done and snuggles up to me. She’s asleep within minutes. I don’t even have to turn the light off!

I stay in the room with her sleeping on me for 20/30 mins. This is a habit I got during her reflux days, when I had to keep her upright after each feed for as long as I could. Now that the reflux is gone, I still hold her in my arms for a little while. This is the first time in the whole day that I can finally relax.

I spare you any photos of my oh-so-glamorous evenings which involve a shower, like I mentioned earlier, waiting for hubby until just after 8.00pm so that we can have a quick meal together [slow-cooker rules!] and a snooze on the couch before going to bed at 9.30pm!

 

 

Itching for a change

An old boss once told me that I was resistant to change as I didn’t know how to adapt to it.

I do like change but yes, I need time to process it.

Having a baby brings a lot of change into your life and you simply don’t know what’s hit you. At least for a [long] while. There’s no time to process it, you are thrown in the deep end from day one.

So much has happened in the past year that now change no longer scares me and what’s more curious is that I’m chasing it. As if I hadn’t gone through enough!

Going back to work after maternity has somehow helped me regain my ‘identity’. I absolutely love being a mum but I’m not just that.

My head has filled up with lots of projects all over again. Like the good old days, where my brain was constantly buzzing with ideas and not just thinking about nap times, milk bottles and finger foods!

I’m starting small..For example, I cut my hair [and dyed it dark purple!]. And now it this blog’s turn. My little creature, come to life to fill an incredible sense of sadness, and bit by bit it has become a little pregnancy diary and then a celebration of life, happiness, struggle, change.

I have been very inconsistent in my writing and quite monotonous too. So over the next few weeks this little creature of mine will get a bit of a facelift and hopefully will be able to contain my ever-changing interests and activities!

Watch this space x